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.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Flying High

Last week was a week that Joe will never forget. 

At this time last week Joe was on his 8th grade class trip to Washington D.C. All year round his class held car washes, bake sales, a massive rummage sale, and a few cookouts to help raise money to go on their trip. It was a ton of work. And it all paid off. The trip was something I'm sure none of those kids will forget. 

Joe was fortunate enough to be picked to represent his school and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Joe has been a history buff and interested in the military for as long as he can remember so this was a huge honor for him. He took it extremely seriously.

I have a amazing video of the whole thing but I couldn't get it to upload to my blog for some reason. I think the file was just too big. I'll try again later.  Listening to Taps being played as the kids stood with their hands on their hearts makes me emotional every time. 
In order to place a wreath you need to sign up at least a year in advance. Luckily, Joe's teacher has been taking kids on this trip for the last 7 years or so and she has it down to a science. 
Joe was so thankful to be able to participate in such an honor. 
The kids were able to visit just about every major monument and museum in DC and they were only there for three days.

It was nonstop walking. In those three days they walked almost 50 miles.
Todd was more than happy to be the group navigator.

On Wisconsin!
They visited and took tours of the White House, the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, Arlington Cemetery,

 all the veteran memorial walls,

saw many veterans tear up at the memorials,

shook hands with veterans visiting on honor flights and thanked them for their service,
and helped them when their wheelchairs got stuck on the cobblestone.

They visited Ford's Theater, Union Station, and the Library of Congress,

the Holocaust Museum,

 the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument,

 the Lincoln Monument,

they went to the zoo,

they went to mass at the Basilica,
and posed by the statue of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the namesake of their school.
They even went on a ghost tour.
It was an absolutely amazing trip for all the kids, and the chaperones as well. Todd was lucky enough to be able to go on the trip with Joe and they both had an fantastic time. 

Joe even got to room with his best friends! 

I am so grateful that so many chaperones took a ton of pictures (far too many to show here) and sent them to me because Todd didn't take ANY. Can you believe that? I am a photo freak and the dude doesn't take any pictures. So glad I have all of these fantastic pics. I even have pics of them eating (and praying) at The Hard Rock Cafe and Gadsby's Tavern Museum.

It was a fabulous and also an exhausting trip. They walked until almost 10 o'clock every night and they would get up at 5 o'clock in the morning to start walking again. They got home at midnight on Friday, happy and exhausted.

Of course there is no rest for the weary. Saturday morning Todd was up bright and early to head up north and plant 200 trees across the road from the cabin with Ben and Tommy. Joey was also up bright and early for his Young Eagles meeting at the airport.

To Joe's pleasant surprise it was a meeting in which the kids would be able to actually go up in a plane with an instructor. Joe was super excited, to say the least.

Joe was even more excited that he got to sit up front. AND he was BEYOND excited when he got to FLY THE PLANE. That's RIGHT! JOE FLEW THE PLANE. And he flew for a good 15 minutes, up the Lake Michigan coast, over our house, and back to the airport. He wasn't expecting it at all but the instructor handed the plane over to Joe with complete confidence. 

I wasn't expecting it either and when the pilot told me that Joe did a great job flying the plane my jaw dropped. Amazing. 

The Young Eagles club is such an incredible program. It only costs $5 per meeting (they meet once a month) and going up in the plane is FREE. Can you believe that? What these kids are learning is invaluable. They get flight experience and log hours for free. Incredible! 

Joe earned his Young Eagles certificate and is officially logged in to the EAA logbook in Oshkosh, WI. So very exciting.

It is definitely a day Joe will never forget. He bought an aviation hat to remember his first flight ever and I wrote the date and time on the back of the hat in permanent marker.

It was a completely amazing and wonderful few days for Joey. He is so grateful for that week of his life. I know it is something he will never forget.

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