Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Time Gone By

It's almost the beginning of December. Months have gone by and I haven't written at all. It's not that I didn't want to, or that I didn't have anything to write, but spare time has been in short supply these days.

Football season ended and the boys moved on to basketball. Joe tried something new this year and ran with the cross country team. He loved it. I think he found a new passion, and a great way to make good friends at a new school. Grace has been enjoying her contemporary dance classes and has been kicking butt in school. They all are, actually. The parent teacher conferences were so much fun. The teachers couldn't think of anything negative to say about my kids. All positive. Meeting all of Joe's high school teachers was fun too. They all had to tell me how hard working, polite, happy, and funny Joe is. "He's one of my favorites." a few of the teachers whispered to me.  

Good stuff all around.

School is going well for me as well. I am getting grades I only dreamed of when I was a kid. And I really look forward to going to class every day. I am enjoying it all far more than I thought I would. Of course the work load is extensive and I really don't have any spare time but that's okay. It is working out fairly well.

And time marches on. My kids are just growing up so quickly. This year was the first year that all three of my boys went up to deer camp. It was an amazing experience for all of them, including Todd. All of them just treasured their time together. And it was a successful hunt as well. All three boys got a deer. It was a first for both Tommy and Ben. Very exciting stuff. And our freezer is finally stocked again. 

While the boys were gone Grace and I had some quality one on one time too. We went to the library, the movies, shopping, out to dinner. We snuggled in for a day and watched movies and hung out. It was fantastic.  I'm all for equal opportunity but if Todd ever talks Grace into hunting I think I'll be pretty sad.

Which brings us to Thanksgiving. I normally host two Thanksgivings for each side of the family, one on Thursday and one on Saturday. This year Todd's sister volunteered to host on Saturday so I was only hosting my side of the family on Thanksgiving. I did a bit of cooking the day before but left most of the work for Thursday. However, it was the most relaxing and fun Thanksgiving I have had in ages. Tommy cleaned the whole house for me. Ben made the stuffing. Grace peeled all the potatoes, prepped the green bean salad, and set the tables. Todd, of course, is always a big help too. He likes cooking so we both have our hands in on the turkey but he makes the mashed potatoes and gravy.

Anyway, the kids were such a huge help that the whole day just felt easy. And then after dinner Joey, without asking, began clearing up all the dishes and helping me put everything away. It was all done so quickly. My kids are awesome.

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving. And the next day was absolutely gorgeous. It was a lovely 60 degrees and Joe wanted me to take a run with him. I warned him that it would be more like a slow jog for him if I came along but he was all for it. We ran from our house to a nearby quarry where he showed me his favorite running route. He took me through the woods and around the quarry. The whole time he was pointing out roots and stones and branches he wanted me to be careful for. I was overwhelmed by his encouragement, his chivalry, and his sweetness. It did not escape my attention how lucky I am that my teenager not only wants to do these things with me but it such a gentleman and a cheerleader for me as well. Dang. It gets me all choked up.
It was a lovely Thanksgiving break. Two wonderful get-togethers with both sides of the family. Lots of fresh air and exercise. Plenty of relaxing. And for some crazy reason I even got some Christmas decorations up. That is so NOT like me. I am a stickler for waiting on the decorations until at least the first week of December. However, the weather was so warm, the kids were so helpful, and I finally had time to spare, that I decided to go for it. Having the kids help me take all the fall decorations down and haul up all the Christmas decorations made it so easy. The outside decorations are completely up. I didn't do the inside decorations as yet. I had Todd bring up the Christmas trees but we haven't decorated them. Right now we are just enjoying the glow of the lights. But, I am certainly in the Christmas spirit early this year. It seems to me that the warmer the weather the more jolly, and festive, I feel. I know it doesn't make any sense but, oh well. I'm silly that way.

I hope you all have had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope you have more blessings than you can count and I hope this holiday season fills you with unending joy!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Be Brave. Be Kind

Bit of a mess last night.
I always loathe the start of another school year.
It just drives it home.
These kids keep getting older and older, faster and faster.
Tomorrow, high school.
And there is only so much I can say and so little I can do.
I just hope they know.
All of it.

I had all the feels this morning. All of them. Too many. So many that the lump in my throat barely allowed me to croak "Be brave and be kind" as he exited the car. It didn't help that the whole way to school the kids talked about how weird it will be at Seton without their big brother there.
Oh help.
Be brave. Be kind.

Dear God in heaven,
please be with my children as they start a new year.
Help them to work hard and do their best.
Keep them safe, happy, and healthy.
Give them a love for learning.
Help them to grow in confidence and independence.
Show them how to be compassionate.
Let them be a friend to all, kind, and loving.
Let their failures motivate them to try harder.
Let their successes humble them.
Help me, Lord, to be patient, understanding, loving, and wise
in guiding them through this school year.
Be with my children, Lord.
Let your light shine in them and through them
and keep them close to You.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Summer Reflections

We have quickly come to the end of summer. It seems like I barely got to feel summer's warmth and it was already gone. Because so much of my focus was on school this summer I was feeling guilty thinking that the kids didn't really get a funfilled summer as I'd hoped. As I looked back on my pictures I realized they did do quite a few fun things.

We spent a bit of time exploring our city at the farmer's market, parks, and arts festivals. We had smoothies and tried bubble tea!

We hung out at our favorite spots on the lake, skipped rocks, climbed trees, and walked out to the lighthouse.

We went on bike ride and walks around the neighborhood.

We even got to hit up our favorite swim spot a few times, though not as often as we would have liked seeing as how the weather didn't really want to get hot enough for us.

It was a cool, rainy summer but that didn't stop us from taking a couple of road trips. I took the kids to Madison for the day and showed them my old stomping grounds. It was certainly bizarre being there with my FOUR children. We toured the capital building and the kids saw the Supreme Court where their dad has appeared a number of times, we ate at a popular restaurant, saw Camp Randall Stadium, and of course, did a little shopping on State Street. 

We had a very special treat at our very own county airport. Many of the war planes that were going to the EAA stopped at our airport and put on a show. The boys, being the huge plane fans that they are, walked right out onto the runway and started chatting with the pilots. 

The pilots were so impressed with the boys' plane knowledge and enthusiasm that before long the boys were getting private tours of a B-25 (one of only 20 in the world). Grace and I hustled out there to join them and soon we were all getting our turns sitting in the pilot's seat. It was pretty amazing.

Of course we made it up to the cabin a few times. One of those times it was good and hot and windy. A perfect day for playing on the lake. 

And in the lake.

And a perfect day for relaxing.

Not only did we see planes at our county airport we went to the EAA Airventure and saw the Blue Angels. It was quite the experience. One the boys will not soon forget.

On a personal note, Grace got her ears pierced on a whim. Her cousin, Hannah, happened to be working one day when we stopped in at Walmart and Grace decided right then and there that she wanted her cousin to be the one to pierce her ears. Hannah did a wonderful job and Grace was a happy girl.

Both Joey and Tommy got their braces off this summer. Tommy had his off at the beginning of summer and Joey got his off last week (just in time to start high school).

Ben played baseball again this summer and though his team struggled to win games Ben had a pretty great season. One of the first games of the season Ben's team was losing by a couple of runs. In the last inning Ben went up to the plate, with bases loaded and two outs, and proceeded to get two strikes. With two strikes and two outs Ben took his pitch, swung the bat, and hit a massive ball into the outfield for a GRAND SLAM winning the game. The team and crowd went wild. What a moment! I was so proud of him for being brave enough to swing even though he already had two strikes. Such a great lesson.   

As summer wound down so did we. One of the last trips was up to Green Bay to visit the Wildlife Sanctuary and then hop on over to Bay Beach. It was a relaxing and beautiful day to hang out.

Looking back, I guess we did have a good summer. But it still went far too quickly.

I guess all we can do know is try to enjoy the fall. Just thinking about the upswing of school, football, cross country, dance, and everything else makes me tired.

Welcome back, fall, you beautiful beast. Please be kind. I'm already exhausted.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Here Goes Nothing

This is what's known as payback. Tommy insisted I pose for a "First Day of School" photo. He is normally the one that gives me the most grief on having to pose for pictures so he really gave it to me this morning. He kept saying, "Wait, I think that was a little blurry. Let's try another on. Okay, I think you should fix your hair. Let's take another one. Let's try one with a big smile."  Little sass. I was seriously getting nervous that I would be late for my first day because of all of his shenanigans.

The first day was interesting. I may have overdone it a bit. A combination of nerves and stress, trying to fit in a run after class with not much food, and then getting Joe to his ortho appointment managed to bring on a migraine for me. Not the best way to kick off the school year but a good reminder not to pack in too much.  Luckily, it wasn't a horrible migraine. 

My first class of the week was psychology. The teacher seems lovely even though the work load seems a bit much. I think I will really enjoy this class despite being the oldest (by far) in the class. Tomorrow I have Anatomy and Physiology and then later in the week I have Oral Interpretation and Sociology. It is going to be a busy semester. I hope I can keep up. 

Here goes nothing!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Still There

It's still there after all these years. During my 4 years at North High School I don't think a week passed that I didn't walk by that picture and announce to all of my friends, "That's my dad!" Eventually, when my friends and I would walk by they would quickly say, "We know. It's your dad."

I can remember my mom and dad coming to high school to watch me in some play or show or game and I took them down the hallway where dad's picture was hanging. He got such a kick out of seeing his football pictures and his track picture. He doesn't remember ever seeing the hurdle picture before and seeing it up on the "wall of fame" was quite a treat. I'm so glad he had a chance to see his picture. And I was always so glad to walk down that hallway feeling a little of my dad there with me. Now, especially, that he is no longer physically with us.

Joe will be starting at North in 2 weeks and the rest of my kids will follow all too soon. I have a feeling their friends will eventually be saying, "We know. It's your grandpa." And I can't help but feel dad will be smiling down at his grandkids, watching over them, and enjoying every minute of it.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Feeling Anxious

I spent much of the week running to the store, one kid at a time, buying school supplies. After each kid had the supplies they needed we went through, labeled everything, and packed it into a bag to take to the Open House at school. 

But this year is definitely a first.

This year I had to prepare my own school supplies. I didn't have a huge list like they did but I did have to get my books (good grief, was that expensive!), a backpack, and a few folders and notebooks.

Today we finished up the school supply prep and lined up everyone's supplies neatly in the library. My supplies were right in the middle of it all. It kind of gave me a momentary freak out. This is happening. It's getting real.

It is a year of change with Joe starting high school and me going back to school. There is so much going on that I question how well I will be able to keep up with it all. Joe is on cross country, Ben and Tommy are on football, and Grace is starting dance. Not to mention all the school activities. I don't want to miss any of it. It makes me emotional thinking about it. I don't want my stuff to get in the way of soaking up as much of my kids, while they are still kids, as I can.

So much going through my head. I just hope I'm up to the challenge of it all.

As much as I dreaded taking Chemistry this summer it really did turn out to be for the best. It was a big self esteem boost to do well in something that I always thought I was bad at. I did so well that I got an email from the college asking if I would be a tutor (a paid position) for other Chemistry students. That was somewhat of a shock. A happy shock.

So this is happening. It's coming. I have one full week left of summer and I hope to use that week well. Hanging with the kiddos, relaxing, swimming, maybe even a few little day trips. I want to make the most of this week.

It's getting real.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Great To Be Eight

Today Grace is 8 years old. Eight years of having this lovely lady in our lives.

The boys did a great job trying to make Grace feel special on her birthday. While Grace and I were running errands this morning the boys hopped on their bicycles and biked to the store to buy her presents with their own money. They picked out such thoughtful gifts. A journal, colored pens, and her favorite candies. Grace was so surprised when they each lined up and handed her their gifts. It melted this mama's heart. And it didn't stop there.

Grace got a new bike for her birthday since she had outgrown her current bike and the boys took her on a bike ride to try out her new present.
They were so excited she finally had a bike that could keep up with their bikes. And keep up she did. Keep up is her middle name.
I tell ya, having three older brothers is gonna make this girl one tough chick. Round trip I think we biked about 4 miles.
I think it was a good birthday.

Yes, today is Grace's 8th birthday. I can hardly believe it. It feels like just yesterday I was trying to get her to sit still so I could get a good 1st birthday picture. 

This young lady is spunky and tough, and goofy and smart, and silly and sweet, ad independent and kind. She is the perfect combination of tough and girlie, outdoorsy/adventurous and laid back/chill, of opinionated and understanding. She is my buddy, my snuggler, my kindred spirit. I could not be more proud of this lovely soul. I am so lucky to have her in my life. Of all the little girls in the whole world I got the best one.

Happy Birthday, my favorite girl. I am so proud to be your mama. I love you!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Where I've Been

This summer has not been a typical summer around here. Normally the kids and I are crazy busy living it up and doing as many fun things as we possibly can. If the kids are excited to go back to school at the end of summer I feel as though I've failed my job. Summer should be both relaxing and fun and you should want it to last forever. This summer has not been like that.

In spring I began looking into going back to school. I ran around getting my transcripts from high school and my one year of college and sent them off to the local tech school. I met with advisers and counselors, updated my vaccinations, reviewed my medical records, and looked into classes. I went back and forth trying to decide if I should go into the LPN or RN program. It was pretty cute how interested Tommy was in the process. He asked me questions and helped me to work through the pros and cons of each program. Ultimately, I decided to go into the RN program at a local technical college. Nursing is something I've always wanted to do.  It is a decision that was met with not only excitement but extreme apprehension. 

As I was going through my transcripts I was brought back to high school and what a struggle school was for me. I had forgotten just how difficult it was until I saw my grades again. Knowing I had such a hard time the first time around I was very nervous to try schooling again. I know that as an adult I would be able to apply myself better than I had as a teenager but I still struggle with some of the same issues (dyslexia) that made school difficult for me in the first place. 

In order to even begin the prerequisite classes for nursing I had to first take a Chemistry class. That meant I had to take Chemistry in summer (a condensed 7 week class) so that I could begin my classes in fall without delay.  Chemistry had always been one of my biggest struggles. And not only did I have to pass the class but I had to get better than a C. Class was 4 hours a day, 3 times a week. And when I was done with class I would come home and study for another 3 hours or so. I studied for hours on my days off of school as well.

This little spot in my library became my study spot (and my praying spot). I would go in, pray, and then spread out all of my millions of papers and notebooks and textbooks and get to work. The kids were super supportive and tried their best to be quiet and entertain themselves so I could study. Each time I had a test the kids told me they were praying for me. They were so wonderful. And Todd was just as supportive and excited for me. 

The class was rough. A third of the people in my class were taking it for the 2nd time because they didn't pass the first time. I was told that only 10% of the students pass the first time. And apparently the summer course was even tougher because so much was crammed into such a short amount of time. Every time I would mention my Chemistry class to friends who are nurses they would tell me they had to take it twice and it was the hardest class they took for the nursing program (and they never used it as a nurse). Needless to say it gave me much anxiety.

All this to say that yesterday was my last day and final test. I got an A on the test and ended up getting an A in the class. Part of me still can't believe I pulled it off. I hadn't even told very many people that I was taking the class because I was so afraid that I would fail and then have to tell everyone I didn't make it. And here I not only passed but I did well. It has definitely given me more confidence for my upcoming fall classes. I am still apprehensive about making it through this 3 year program but I think I can do it. 

And it is amazing to me how everything happens for a reason. The first day of class I sat next to Jen. I was meant to sit next to Jen. We had very similar study styles, the same anxiety, and really helped each other through the class. When I was confused on something she would explain it for me and vice versa. We were also good stress relievers for each other. Yesterday after we both aced our final test (she got an A in the class as well- we may be the only two who got A's for the class) we went and celebrated with drinks and lunch. I am truly grateful for this lady.

So here we are in August already and it hasn't really felt like summer. Sure we've been able to do a few fun things this summer but no where near what we usually do. The kids have been awesome and haven't complained or even really noticed but I still feel guilty. My classes start in three weeks and I'm going to do everything possible to make the next three weeks fun for the kids. Hopefully we can really enjoy this time before we all start back to school.

I hope you are all well and enjoying summer. I've missed connecting with my bloggy friends and can't wait to read up on what you all have been up to.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Light Speed

It has taken me far too long to write this post. I think I have been avoiding the topic (and the photos) on purpose. The last few weeks have been so full of melancholia for me that I have a difficult time putting it into words.  

Of course, last week was the kids' last week of school. Because Joe was graduating on Wednesday his last actual day of school was on Tuesday. I took the obligatory "last day of school" photo on that day since it was the last day that all four of my children would ever be attending the same school all together ever again. It was momentous. And sad.

I also had to do my familiar side by side comparison. The first day of the school year and the last day of the school year. Looking at the growth not only shocks me it also makes me sad. So much making me wistful these days.

On Wednesday evening Joe's 8th grade class had their graduation ceremony. More pictures were had.

I am just so proud of this young man, I can't even put it into words. He is such a quality human being.

His siblings were very proud of him too, and they too, like me, were feeling a bit sad about it all. They really enjoyed having their big brother at school with them.

The graduation ceremony started with mass at church. After mass there was a brief ceremony and Joe delivered the class farewell address. It was a gorgeous speech, very well delivered, and very well received. Safe to say there were not many dry eyes in church as Joe finished his speech. It was beautiful. He received MANY compliments. Proud mama, right here.

The kids were then called to the front of church to receive their graduation certificates.

Usually the graduating class performs a class song that they chose. Because it can be difficult to get 8th graders to sing the song is usually performed by the class on chimes. Not this year. This class is a class of singers (one of the reasons that the school musicals have been such a success). The class performed "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" (the Hawaiian version) and it was gorgeous. Joe had been telling me to prepare myself for weeks because he knows that song and that version is my all time favorite. Yep. I cried.

Joey knew I would be emotional. He gave me a little smile of encouragement on the processional out of church.

This vast majority of kids in this class had all been together since 4K. They really grew up together. And they were closer than any other class I've known. They were always hanging out together outside of school. Lots of bonfires and movies. Sometimes they fought like brothers and sisters but they really did love each other. It will be difficult to see these kids split up to different high schools.

Some of Joe's good guy friends. So many good memories together. I have pictures of these boys together when they were 4 years old!

The boys. Again. Such a great group.

I was surprised that I held it together as well as I did. I cried but I was discreet. I thought for sure I would lose it and wail and sob.  I'm sure Joe is glad that I did not.  

Such proud parents.

And the grandmas were so very proud too. My mom is still bragging about the speech Joe made. She really sobbed. She must have been taking over for me.

After the ceremony there was a reception across the street at the school. A video montage was put together with the kids' baby photos and then a whole mess of pictures of the class over the years. Man. That really drives home just how quickly this has all gone. Like light speed it seems.

It was an emotional week. The last few weeks, actually. But it all came to a peak last week with graduation and then school ending. I just don't know how to slow this beautiful life down. 

On the evening of the last day of school Ben had baseball practice and Tommy went along to help out. That just left Joe and Grace back at home with me. With the 6 year age gap those two don't always connect quite as much as I would like. But when they do it is magic. On this night I was washing up the dinner dishes after Todd, Ben, and Tommy raced out to baseball practice. When I finished cleaning up I looked out the front window to see where Joe and Grace had gotten to. This is what I saw... 

Magic. Pure joy and magic.  Oh, this mama's heart. Seeing this on top of being so melancholy was just too much. So sweet. 

The next day the kids and I were out running errands. We drove past the lake to take a look at all of the pelicans that our visiting and we passed a park that I used to take the kids to every day when they were small. I mean EVERY. DAY. The kids all shouted how they wanted to stop and play at the park and I just couldn't refuse. The kids and I got out of the car and ran over to the park. It was surreal. Joe now hit his head standing under the monkey bars that the boys used to struggle to make it across and Grace was skipping bars. It just blew my mind how big they had gotten so quickly. So much had changed. And yet so much stayed the same.  Joe began a rousing game of tag with some kids on the playground and his brothers quickly joined in. Soon the entire playground was in on the fun. Grace was busy showing me all of her skills. "Mom! Watch this! Watch me!" 

Some things never change. And that's a good thing. A great thing. There's only so much change I can take at one time.  

Yes, these days have brought into focus how quickly it is all going. As fast as the speed of light, it seems. Too fast. But I'm trying my best to enjoy every moment.

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson