Thursday, September 1, 2016

That Old Melancholy

Here we are at the first day of school again and I am feeling that old familiar melancholy. 
(I am loving the reflection of the American flag)

I was doing well this morning. We had our ducks all in a row and everything ran very smoothly. We even arrived at school early and had plenty of time for extra photos. The kids were thrilled with the extra photos part. I jest.

But they did oblige me with more than a fair share of pictures. I just had this urge to take as many pictures as I could. After all, this is the last first day of school with ALL of my kids at the same school. It was kind of a big deal. 
The last year all of my kids will ever go to the same school together. Wow. That really hit home. My kids really do enjoy each other so much. They hang with each other at lunch. They play together at recess. They are always searching each other out. I used to worry about it. I wondered if they would ever form strong enough bonds with friends their own age if they constantly stayed within their sibling group. I don't really think about that anymore. They have friends, but honestly? I think they still prefer each other's company.  I wonder if they will ever know how lucky they are to have that. And I hope and pray it stays that way.

One by one I followed the kids to their classrooms. I watched Joey and Tommy set their backpacks in their lockers and head into their classrooms. Moments later a nervous Tommy came out and asked me what I thought he should do. I told him that maybe he could organize his books into the order of his classes. Or maybe ask the teacher. Tommy marched up to his new middle school teacher and said, "Excuse me, what would you suggest I be doing right now?" I had to turn away quickly to stifle my giggle. It was adorable. 

As Tommy and Joe organized their books I walked Ben and Grace downstairs to their classrooms. More pictures were taken and good-bye hugs and kisses were given. Though the kids seemed fine I had a hard time pulling myself away from their classrooms. 

I hung around in the hallways at school far longer than I needed to. I kept peeking into classrooms. Checking in. Tommy caught my eye and came out to show me how he had arranged his notebook for optimum organization. The kid was nervous for his first day of middle school. So many changes. "It's a little overwhelming, actually." he told me in the hallway before heading back into the class room. 

For me too, Tommy. Me too. It is all just overwhelming. Watching these little people grow by leaps and bounds every day. It is overwhelming how my love for them just continues to multiply. It is overwhelming trying to learn to let go little by little. Wanting to hold on tight but knowing this is what is right. What is meant to be. It is overwhelming watching them be brave and independent and strong and kind. It is all just overwhelming.
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.

Amen

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Full Circle

Summer has, once again, flown by way too quickly.  And this time it comes as somewhat of a surprise. The last few summers we traveled and jammed our summer full so it made sense that the time sped by. However, this summer has been fairly relaxing with no major travels or trips. And yet still, here we are, the last day of summer already.

It truly has been a summer of growth. The kids have not only grown physically but mentally and emotionally as well.  This summer the kids learned and honed a few new skills. Not only have they been helping me cut my mom's grass every week but they have also been a big help in maintaining our yard and garden. I am very comfortable asking the boys to cut the grass and know that it will be done well.

The kids have also expressed an interest in cooking this past summer. Ben has been especially obsessed with making his own food. Omelets have become his specialty. It has been fun watching the kids become more comfortable in the kitchen and more self sufficient. Now if I could only get them to clean everything up when they are done.

This summer the boys enjoyed a bit more freedom from me as well. The three boys hop on their bikes and take off for a couple of hours on their own adventures. It does make me a bit nervous but knowing the three boys are together makes me feel better.  

Recently, we were on our way home from running some errands when the boys begged me to stop at the lake by our house so that they could show me what they have been up to on their biking adventures all summer. I parked the car, walked across the field, and followed the kids down the path to the lake. It was a spot I was very familiar with. Not only had I been taking the kids here since they were tiny but I also came to this spot when I was a kid.
The kids led me to the fort that they had built in the trees. Little rocks were gathered around a "fireplace". They even had a spot to put their bikes.
It was a pretty amazing thing to see my boys had discovered the very same spot that I used to play in as a child. The same gathering of trees, though much better built up than when I was a kid, was now their shelter.
We walked on, winding through a path in the woods to another outcropping of rocks.  The kids were kind enough to oblige me with a few pictures. On our way back to the fort Joey found a little buddy.
Back on the beach side of the lake we decided to search for rocks like we used to do when they were little. Grace and I were very successful and soon our pockets were full of smooth colorful rocks.
The boys found smooth, flat rocks and skipped them into the water.
Clearly they spent a lot of time doing this during their biking adventures. They had gotten good! I couldn't help but join in. It had been a while since I'd last skipped stones but it didn't take long to remember the skill.
We stayed far longer than I'd planned but it was hard to leave.  It was so nice to be back at this beautiful spot. It was the perfect way to round out our summer.
Yes, this summer has flown by quickly.  Again. But we will have plenty of warm memories to carry with us as we start another school year.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Celebrating 40

For the last two years my best friend has been talking about doing something special to celebrate her 40th birthday. She REALLY wanted to do something big. Las Vegas was mentioned. Neither one of us had ever been to Vegas and it seemed like a great place to blast in her 40s.  

This past spring Todd and I stopped in Vegas with the kids for a couple of days when we were visiting The Grand Canyon. The entire time we were there we did not have one drink or place one bet. It was a strange way to visit Vegas for the first time, but we didn't even notice that phenomenon until we were leaving.  

With Sarah's 40th birthday quickly approaching we had to get something planned quickly before school started. The chance of me leaving the kids during school is always nil. Too much going on and too much I don't want to miss. It turns out the only time that would work for me was for a couple of days in the middle of the week in August. I would leave on a Tuesday morning and be back on Thursday evening in time to watch football practice. Perfect! Or not.

As it turns out Grace got sick right before I left. No!!!! I can't leave my child when she is sick! I also discovered that the kids' open house for school (bring all your supplies, set up your lockers and desks, meet teachers) was scheduled for the Wednesday I would be gone. UGH! I don't want to miss that!  I am loathe to miss ANYTHING. I was not pleased. But my kids were more than gracious. Joey told me not to worry, he would take care of Grace (Todd would still have to work these three days but stop home often) if she was still sick. All the kids assured me that they would miss me but they'd be just fine at the open house. Hubby said he would handle it all. I have a very sweet family.  

So, despite Grace being sick and me missing out on open house I left very early on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday afternoon Sarah and I were poolside enjoying the heat and the view. 
Right about that time I received a text from Todd telling me that when he came home for lunch he discovered that the boys had cut the grass in the front and back yard (and did the trimming), cleaned up their rooms, vacuumed the living room, and took care of Grace who still wasn't 100% recovered. He said you could have knocked him over with a feather. Amazing. My sweet boys. I was feeling pretty lucky.

That evening Sarah and I got dressed up and hit the buffet at Caesars Palace. It was a wonderful buffet but it may not have been the best decision we've ever made because afterwards we really couldn't move. We went outside and sat by the pool for at least an hour or so until we felt we could function again. 
Finally, we were able to drag ourselves up off the lawn chairs and wander around outside by the Bellagio fountains. Eventually we made our way into the Bellagio and walked through the casino. A gentleman in a suit asked us if we'd like to come to a brand new club. He said he would get us to the front of the line and would give us 4 free drink tickets each. We were wondering what the catch was but there was no catch. We got into the club free, no line, and free drinks. Suckers! We couldn't help but laugh. They had no idea what they had just done, letting two 40 year old HUGE nerds with no shame into their brand new club. It was hilarious. We spent the entire time out on the dance floor laughing our butts off as we danced like morons in front of kids that could have literally been our kids.  HA!!!  It was awesome. 

Much of the time in the club was spent with Sarah and I watching this group of young ladies sit in the corner and take selfies. It was highly amusing. The beautiful young girls never danced or appeared to have any fun, they just sat there making duck lips at their phones all night. Later that evening we discovered that selfies are truly an art and Sarah and I just can not master it. We attempted quite a few selfies during our trip and they were all pretty much hideous. I think we got one good one. This one.

And it's not even that good. Perhaps those girls in the club really were talented and not just self involved. Regardless, Sarah and I had a great time laughing and being goofy and getting a good many blisters on our feet.

The next morning as I logged on to Facebook I found out that the kids' school pictures would be taken at the Open House that day. Ohlordhavemercy!!!!!!  This may not seem like a big deal to anyone else but it is to me. I hate to miss ANYTHING, remember? Plus, one more thing for Todd to take care of. PLUS, Grace is growing her bangs out and they are at a horribly awkward phase and Todd doesn't exactly know how to fix Grace's hair. Drama!!!!  I called Todd asap and they were just walking out the door to the Open House. They had to turn around, change clothes, and fix hair. They all were champions about it (including Todd) and it all turned out to be fine. But it was one more thing to make me feel guilty for being gone. Now we wait and see how the pictures turn out. hehe

After that mini drama Sarah and I wandered over the the attached hotel (the Paris hotel is attached to Bally's so it is kind of a two for one). It was so charming! So many cute shops and cafes and the casino was lovely too. We decided to hang by the Paris pool for the majority of the day. It was perfection. We attempted another selfie. It was so-so. But I did get another text from Todd telling me that the kids had cleaned out the entire garage and vacuumed the whole house while he was at work. The kids were killing it!
With that lovely news I was able to sit and enjoy the gorgeous view at the pool. It was outstanding. Beautiful pool and the Eiffel Tower in the background. Nice. 
That evening was our gambling night. Sarah deals cards in Oklahoma and has never been to Vegas to play her favorite game, Craps. It was a very exciting night for her and it was super fun for me to watch her in action. It was a blasty blast. And by the end of the night I had even won $100 on poker. Score! (ok, it was video poker, but that sounds so much less cool)
The next morning I was up bright and early to catch my 10 o'clock flight. It had been an amazing little vacation but I was very much anxious to get home to my family.  I am not used to being away from them. It rarely happens. As a matter of fact in the 35 years that Sarah and I have been best friends this was our very first vacation together (without kids). What? Long overdue and much enjoyed. But it is good to be back with the family.

And I must have brought a little Vegas craziness back with me because the day after I got home I decided to go out and get my nose pierced. It is something I have wanted to do for a while and I figured that now that I am 40 I can do whatever I want without caring if people think it is crazy or not.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

7th Heaven

Grace turned 7 yesterday and the whole weekend was spent celebrating her birthday. She was in 7th heaven. 
The weekend started out with a trip to the local indoor waterpark. Grace was finally tall enough to play in the big pool with her brothers. She also decided, on her own, to try out the big waterslides by herself. It was a big day for her. 

Then there was cake with the grandmas and presents, too.
Monday, on her actual birthday there were even more presents! Grace was thrilled with her doll twin and her angel necklace.
We even went to Bay Beach for the day. It was a blast. Grace added another first to her list and went on the Zippin' Pippin for the first time.
 It was a great birthday weekend for Grace. And I didn't even have time to get melancholy at how quickly my little lady is growing up.
Happy Birthday, my darling girl. I am so proud to be your mumma. I love you!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mobile

As you all know I frequently lament how quickly my children are growing. I will always miss my kids as babies and toddlers but there sure are benefits as the kids age. They are definitely easier to travel with now as opposed to when they were babies. Far less stuff has be dragged here and there. As my kids grow their humor has certainly kept me laughing. I can reason with them. They help me carry in the groceries. Heck, the benefits are endless! 

Today we discovered one more benefit. We are much more mobile now. This afternoon we went on our first family bike ride. Well, I suppose we've had them before but this was the first time that everyone rode his/her own two wheeler. No carriers, no carts, no training wheels. It was awesome!

We ended up riding to the cemetery to water my sister's and dad's flowers. The ride was a little over two miles round trip. We took it pretty easy as there were many hills and we didn't want to wear Gracie out on her first family bike ride. 
It was so much fun! I know we will be doing much more biking as a family in the future.

Yep, This having "older" kids thing is feeling pretty good.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Little Break

Last week I was in Mexico. Beautiful, gorgeous, sunny, hot Mexico. It was fabulous. A great little break. 

The trip was a Christmas present to LaVerne (my mother in law) from her children. Vernie loves hot weather and had never been to Mexico. Her kids thought it would be fun to give her this trip with her daughters as her travel mates. I am so fortunate that I have always been fully included in this family and treated as family from the moment I met these wonderful people. So many people dread being with their in laws but I just love mine. I am so lucky. The four of us had such a blast on this trip. Four women traveling together for 6 days and there were zero issues. So good.

We drove down to Chicago on Saturday and stayed overnight so that we didn't have to wake up so early on Sunday morning to make our 10 o'clock flight. It also gave us the opportunity to meet up with my nephew (my sister in law Kris' son) Nick and his girlfriend and have dinner with them. It was great to be able to catch up with Nick before he moved to Boston for an internship. Such a good, smart "kid".  It was a great way to being our trip.


The next day we caught our shuttle to the airport and hopped on our flight to Mexico. It was an uneventful flight (thank goodness) and we arrived at our resort just before 3 in the afternoon. We had two ladies to a room and the rooms were right next to each other. This was the view from the balcony.

We quickly dumped our luggage off and hightailed it down to the beach to check out a bit of the resort. This was our first stop. The first drink was a nutty monkey.  Yum!

We were VERY excited to be among the hot weather, palm trees, beach, and ocean. We had arrived!

A short time later we were sitting by the pool with more fruity drinks in our hands. We were at the pool again bright and early the next morning as well. This was our happy place.  

Michele and I had fun making friends with all the lizards and birds. They weren't quite as fond of us but they let me snap a few pics anyway.
We even got our pics with them. The sassy little bird next to me kept trying to take a bite out of me but I'm sure they were just love bites.  :) 

 We actually did make friends with quite a few other guests. Everyone was so friendly. Here were are having a little fun with our new friends (although they aren't in this pic with us) at one of the resort's nightclubs. Fun!

More swimming the next day. I think at this point I was sticking mostly to water.  :)

The infinity pool! It was gorgeous!

Playing around in the ocean. These ladies crack me up.

One of my favorite pictures from the whole vacation.

On our last night at the resort we went out to dinner and when the waiter found out that this trip was a Christmas present to Vernie he brought her a special dessert that said, "Merry Christmas!".  It was very thoughtful and the dessert was delicious.

It was a great way to end our wonderful vacation.
It was an amazing getaway. The resort was fantastic. Todd and I had stayed at this resort a couple of years ago and I knew we would all enjoy it. It is a great place. However, staying at the resort did make me miss Todd. It was odd being there without him. This was the first time I had been on a vacation without him and at a place we had enjoyed together previously. It felt very strange. And it felt like a LONG time being away from my family. I missed them terribly. WAY more than I thought I would. I knew I would miss them but it was much more than that.

Todd sent me pictures and updates of what he and the kids were up to.

Todd took the kids to the free zoo close to our house.

They had a Top Chef cooking competition at home. Points were given for nutrition, presentation, sportsmanship, and cleanup. A genius way to get the kids to make their own lunches and then clean up the kitchen.

They even went to Green Bay and toured Lambeau Field. I have to admit, I was jealous. I never had a tour of Lambeau!

I know it sounds ridiculous but I was a little sad. I hate missing out on family fun. I really, really missed my family.
And I think that is a good thing. My little break was a good way for all of us to remember how lucky we are. I came home so thankful to be with my family again. And they had missed me too. The kids said it just wasn't the same without me and Todd was very grateful to have me home again.

It was a fantastic little break and I'm happy to be back.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Let's Hear It For The Dads

A good father is immeasurable. I had a great father. He was a constant strong, loving force in my life. He was the person who gave me confidence and taught me to trust myself. He made me feel valuable. Priceless. He showed me that I deserved love. There is nothing like the unconditional love of a father. It is something I will carry with me throughout my whole life even though my father is no longer with me. I can still feel his love. I always will.
It is no wonder that I married an incredible man, eerily similar to my father, who is an amazing father to our children. I am so blessed to have these men in my life. My children are blessed. They too know the strong, unconditional love of a great father (Todd learned from an amazing father as well). I am so so grateful for the loving fathers in my life.
It was a great day to celebrate fathers. A little melancholy, as always, but wonderful nonetheless. 

Todd came home from up north this morning and the kids were super excited to give Todd his Father's Day gifts that they had thoughtfully and carefully picked out and paid for. Todd received peanuts, a beer bottle cozy, a non-leaky travel mug, his favorite lemon cookies, and many packs of gum. I gave him a watch with the kids' picture as the background on the face. It's pretty cool. The kids were pleased to see how much Todd liked his gifts and they insisted that he begin using them immediately. So, it was peanuts and beer for Todd at 9 o'clock this morning.  


Yay for Father's Day!

I hope all of the wonderful fathers in your life had a special Father's Day too!


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