Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Beginnings

Don't you just love the new year?  It feels like a fresh start and who doesn't love those?
I don't want to make resolutions per se, but just think more before I do things (or don't do things.)  I said that in 2012 I wanted to be more deliberate, and I am going to stick with renewing my commitment to that in 2013. 
One of the things that's becoming increasingly important to me as my children grow is teaching them about God.  Especially with the older boys being 9 and almost 8, I know I am facing my last window of opportunity to really impress on them the need for faith in their lives. 
Several months ago, I got the idea to make these off Pinterest:


Prayer Pail with printable prayers

I love these things!  They are the centerpiece of our kitchen table and every night when we have dinner I ask the kids to draw a prayer stick if they want to.  William is always the first to do so and it's really improved his reading skills.  The 7 year old neighbor girl, who is often here for dinner, also loves these.  She started out barely able to read them, but she's gotten a lot better and is a more confident reader now.  By having this in the middle of the table, we have a visual reminder to stop and give thanks to God for all that we have.

Since my husband works afternoons and I'm primarily in charge of bedtime, I've started spending 1/2 hour or so reading from a childrens Bible.  We got one from our church library a few weeks ago and have gotten through most of it.  In the new year, we are going to start devotions.  I've ordered these two books from Amazon and am excited to get them!

I've never consistently done devotions in my own life, so this will be new for all of us.  I love that time spent with the boys because I get to learn right along with them.

What about you?  Anything new you're doing in 2013?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Unanswered Prayers

Five years ago today, I was crying.  I cried for all the things I knew I would never have in my life:  frilly dresses and hair bows, dollhouses, first pedicures, secrets about cute boys in school, lunches at Olive Garden, helping someone pick out a dress for prom.  I'm embarrassed now to say that I was crying five years ago on December 14th because for all the things I didn't have, here's what I did have:
He was beautiful and perfect and I wasn't as grateful as I should have been for him because I had been wanting something else so very badly.  What I got wasn't expected, but it didn't take me long to fall in love with this little blue-eyed boy.

 Although I had a hard time adjusting to the idea of another boy at first, his brothers were instantly thrilled.  Sammy wasn't yet three but LOVED babies and was so happy to have one in the house. 
 They say little boys love their mamas, but I've never known love like he has for me. He ADORES me and the feeling is mutual.  Who wouldn't love this face?

Another reason I'm so grateful I had a boy on December 14, 2007 is because if I'd had a girl, I would have been done.  So without William, there would be no Luke.  And, oh, how the world would be less beautiful without that little sweetheart! 
Although I still get wistful thinking about all the things I'll miss not having a daughter, I am blessed so much more than I could have ever imagined being.  They are my whole world.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bringing Home the Tree 2012

We try to wait for it to snow, but for the second year in a row it looks like we might have a green Christmas....or at least won't get snow until just a couple days before.  So we went to cut the tree down today at our favorite tree farm near our house.  The sledding hill used to be our boys' favorite part, but for now they have to settle for Sydney, the friendly old dog that hangs out and greets people.
They told me they had been hard hit by the drought this summer and had lost between 6,000 and
8,000 trees.  The trees we chose from were from their second planting of the year but I couldn't really tell.  They all looked pretty good to me, but ultimately we chose this one:

 We looked around for a while, but when I saw this one I was inexplicably drawn to it.  I couldn't say why, but I immediately knew it was the tree for us and refused to look at any others.  Chris started to cut it down when we realized it had been inhabited.
I heard somewhere that finding a bird's nest is good luck.  I definitely took this one as a good omen for the upcoming year.  I am going to put it back in our tree once it's all decorated.  Maybe I'll even find a little bird for it.
Tomorrow will be a busy day celebrating this little guy's 5th birthday...

Happy (almost) birthday to my sweet William!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Christmas Reminder

Our pastor read this poem at church today and I thought it was a great reminder to make sure we focus on the true meaning of Christmas, which is "love."  I have a million things to do, but the most important thing I can do for my kids is slow down and be present with them every day.  As Sharon says in the poem, toys come and go, but it's the time spent with my kids that will remain in their memories forever.  Lasting traditions are born from time spent together.
1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style
©By Sharon Jaynes
If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family – I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family – I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family – it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never fails. Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When Should I Stop?

"It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings." - Ann Landers

I have a question for all those moms out there, particularly those who have older or grown children:  When should I stop?  As in, when should I stop putting toothpaste on their toothbrushes to make sure they ACTUALLY brush their teeth?  When should I stop making EVERY. SINGLE. meal and pouring EVERY. SINGLE. drink for them?  When should I scale back on the one-on-one attention when it comes to all schoolwork?  When should I stop doing their dishes and laundry and expect THEM to start doing things for ME for a change?  When (if ever) will I stop feeling so incredibly overwhelmed?

I don't remember a single morning in my childhood when my mother got up and made us breakfast.  She certainly never reminded me to brush my teeth.  I can probably count on one hand how many times she made me lunch to take to school.  (Which is how I ended up with a horrible sugar addition, packing myself nothing but King Dons and Ho Ho's all those years!)  What I remember of those hectic school mornings was the four of us getting up and ready all on our own and she coming down the stairs just a few minutes before we left for the bus stop to watch us out the window as we ran down the street.  And if we ever missed the bus???  Let's not even talk about when THAT happened!
Having to actually DRIVE us the five miles to school?  Oh, the HORROR!

William will be 5 in a couple of weeks and Luke is only 3, so I get that they have a few years yet before they start stepping up.  But Sammy is almost 8 and Owen will be 10 in July - isn't it high-time they start fending for themselves a little bit?  What's a mom to do, when I know that without me to remind them to brush their teeth they will literally NEVER do it?  I don't think they'll starve without me to prepare their meals, but do I really want them eating nothing but Animal Crackers all day?  And school....don't get me started on the school!  It's 5:30pm as I type this and Owen is on his 4th hour of working on his writing assignment.  He had to make 30 index cards, each with one fact about speedskating, and it took him over 2 hours.  I feel like I can't get ANYTHING else done these days and it's affecting my psyche.

So, please weigh in here.  Should I expect more of them?  If so, how do I get started?

Friday, November 9, 2012


Once upon a time, his name was "Opie."  He quickly became "Ope a Dope," and then simply "Dope."  He was Dope for years, but the kids recently started calling him "Bushy."  I think it fits him, don't you?
My beloved Scrabble, the best dog in the WORLD!  It's hard to imagine life before he came to live with us.

Owen's birthday present this past year.  He also went through a first name:  Milo and Pickles at first, then Owen settled on Toonces.  We brought him home from a barn near our home in July and he's growing fast. 

If you ask me on a good day, I will tell you we have three animals living in our home.  On a bad day, there might be as many as 7 or even 8 (sorry, Chris!)  Having animals and children at the same time is a lot of work and sometimes aggravation, but I think it's worth it to teach kids about respecting life in all its many forms.

Owen, especially, really loves animals.  He doesn't always handle them as gently as Chris and I would like him to, but in his heart he would never want to hurt them.  He's completely enamored with his kitten and the feeling is mutual.  Every night as I'm settling the boys down for bed, Toonces shimmies up the bunk bed rail and snuggles in with Owen. 

 In addition to our pets, there are lots of other critters the boys play with outside.  They really love catching toads and frogs in our basement windows and there's never a shortage of them when it's warm outside.  Salamanders are also popular.  I don't even mind when they catch the occasional snake, as long as none of these things come in the house and they are sure to release them from their containers before they come inside for the night.

I had a few pets growing up.  My first pet was a guinea pig named Herman.  I was 7 when we got him and I loved him so very much.  He caught a cold and died only about 1 1/2 years after we got him. 

The next pet we got was a cat named Martha, a stray my dad brought home from work.  We only had her for about 2 years. She went insane and started attacking my sister and brothers, so my parents had her put down. 

My parents finally relented and got me a puppy when I was 11.  Her name was Anna and she was a purebred Lhaso Apso.  Oh, how I adored her!  I put little barrettes in her hair and walked her up and down the street and EVERYONE had to stop and tell me how cute she was. She bit my brother so my parents had her put to sleep after we had her for about 4 months.

We had a cat and a dog during my high school years that my parents also put down.  The cat had urinary issues and was having a lot of accidents in the house.  The dog we had for 4 years until my parents moved into a new house that didn't have a fenced in yard.  And my dad refused to get him neutered so he growled and snapped. Goodbye to both of them.  There was another cat they were going to put down, a beautiful black one, but I found her a home with my friend.  Thankfully, she finished out her life happily on a farm.

Only one animal - other than the guinea pig - actually made it to die of natural causes at our house.  It was Muffin, the cat we got when I was 11.  She was beautiful and sweet and, honestly, an angel here on earth.  She was in my senior pictures, that's how important she was to me.  I cried almost every night at college for the first month, I missed her so much. 

I was on my way home from work one day and my brother called to say that she was going into liver failure and my mom was going to have the vet come to put her down.  The whole family met at my parents' house to say goodbye.  I remember crying to my boyfriend at the time and he said "You'll have other cats."  (Super sensitive, I know.)  But I said, "I will never have another cat from the age of 11 till 24." 

Pets in your formative years are so very, very important.  They teach you how to love and take care of someone and put their needs before your own.  They listen quietly and attentively when you tell them all your secrets, all your problems.  I can't tell you the number of times I came home from bad days in high school and buried my face in Muffin's fur, crying as I listened to her purr.  She taught me that just being there for someone is the best comfort in the world.  I counted on her to be there for me and she always was. 

I hope my kids learn lessons like this from our animals.  And I hope Chris and I are able to teach them about the responsiblities and commitment that comes with pet ownership.  The payoff for all of us is well worth it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Zoo Day

We took the day off school on Friday and went to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison.  I love this zoo, even though we've only been there once before.  It's got lots of animals and is small enough for little legs to not get too warn out, plus it's FREE!  You just can't beat that when you have four little ones!
My friend also has four kids and homeschools, so they went with us.  Here's a picture of all of them as we got off the carousel.  I splurged on this - $1 a person.  What a bargain!
Luke LOVED it!  He picked out the "gullilla" to ride on and refused to let me lay a hand on him to steady him.  He's 100% independant now.  I asked him once if he needs me at all anymore and he said "I need you for to kiss."  (not a typo, that's what he said.)

It was semi-cold and rainy, but guess what?  The kids didn't care one bit. 
I love it when they show me how little those things matter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Totally Random Update

Just a brain dump today:

1.  Love, love, LOVE that I befriended the librarian.  Not only is she super funny, she recommends the BEST books!  I am friends with her on Goodreads and FB now, so she can let me know the minute something new comes out that I have to snatch up immediately before others get wind of it.  (Such as "Gone, Girl" which I've been waiting for to come in FOREVER!!!  People, PLEASE!  If I, the mother of 4 with two jobs, can finish book in 2 days and get it right back into circulation, YOU. CAN. TOO!!!) ***I will do a post soon with the most recent books I've read and loved.

2.  All 3 of my older boys are LOVING their schooling.  Virtual school is absolutely wonderful and I'm soooo glad it's an option for us.  Owen and Sammy are thriving and actually starting to take responsibility for their own learning.  Self-motivation = MAJOR WIN!!!  And William is absolutely LOVING preschool.  He prides himself on being the best-behaved kid in the class and his teachers adore him. 

3.  Double cortisone shot to my foot today.  The pain comes and goes and now (hours after the shots) the pain is gone and I just feel like my foot weighs 80 lbs.  Hopefully it will loosen up by tomorrow.  The dr told me some people live with these neuromas forever and just come in every few months for the shots to keep the pain at bay.  Lovely.

4.  I'm trying to chip away at redecorating in the quickest, easiest and CHEAPEST way possible.  Painting the foyer, hallway and small bathroom are first up on my list.  Then maybe new curtains and covering my beloved red bench, which is COMPLETELY wrecked now thanks to our kitten.  I did hang a printable I found on Pinterest today.  It's got me so inspired!

5.  Two weddings signed so far for 2013, with two more "in the hopper."  And I still have two more to work before the end of 2012.  So it's still busy, even as we get into the off season.

6.  I am considering, despite my rigorous reading schedule, to get into this new show "Nashville."  This fall, I have only started watching "Survivor" and "Revenge," my two favorites from last year.  I am somewhat keeping up with "Revolution" but it's not a big deal to me if I miss it.  Oh, and I do also love the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders show on CMT, but that's a short season so it won't be on much longer AND it's forever in reruns if I miss an episode. 

Overall, life is good.  The boys are at such amazing ages right now and I'm frantically trying to record everything cute/sweet that they do.  The other day Luke told me "Your kisses make me happy."  Likewise, Luke.  Likewise.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


My boys have always taken naps - always.  I have people say to me, "You're soooo lucky your kids nap.  Mine haven't napped since he/she was X months/years old."  Really?  Am I "lucky" my kids nap?  Or have I actively promoted naps so that they actually ENJOY them? 
I'll be the first to admit that getting Owen to nap - and in his own crib - was challenging.  But we had NO CLUE what we were doing with him.  They give classes in diapering and changing a baby, but where's the class in getting a baby to sleep without rocking him?  I didn't get that mastered until he was close to a year old and I already knew Sammy was on the way.  I DEFINITELY needed to get my act together!
So with Sammy, we had him on a schedule from the time he was just a few weeks old.  This was not a regimented schedule, but we had a general idea of when he needed to nap during the day and he was very secure in knowing what to do. We'd put him in the crib, pull the shades and he was out.
Napping babies in a crib (cage) is one thing, though.  Getting them to nap in a bed without getting up is what I think a lot of parents struggle with, which is why you hear of people who don't even nap their two year olds.  I can't IMAGINE not giving a toddler a nap - please note that I said "giving" a nap, not "making" him take a nap.  It's just not a forced thing in my house.  My kids know that and they actually LOVE laying down each day after lunch.
I have each of the little ones select a book of their choice and meet me in my bed.  We throw a blanket over us and I cuddle in the middle.  This is where we do most of our reading and how I taught William to read so early.  We spend a good 1/2 hour reading and then we nap together - yes, TOGETHER!  I give myself permission to sleep with them in the middle of every day, even though of course I have a million other things I could be doing.  I deserve a nap, too, and I take it.  Sometimes it's 10 minutes, sometimes it's an hour.  But I need it as much as they do, and it makes me a better mom to them for the remainder of the day.
So to those people who say their kid won't nap, I ask them if they've ever tried laying down with them.  Instead of making it a part of the day that the child feels isolated and abandoned alone in their room, make it a wonderful quiet time to cuddle with and talk to your child.  And if you get a little rest, too, well that's just a bonus.  I have always enjoyed my naps with the boys and will be VERY sad when they come to an end.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I'm on Pinterest Crack

Is everyone out there on Pinterest now?  I try not to get too caught up in it, but it's difficult.  I am especially exasperated by all the perfect, organized homes out there - how on earth do these women do it?  I don't think they REALLY have kids, or at least not kids who make messes, refuse to clean up, fight, spill food/drink, pee their beds, etc. 

I know that I had a VERY different expectation of what staying at home would be like.  I would sit at my desk all day, dreaming of menu planning, clipping coupons, organizing every last inch of every closet.  Yeah, RIGHT!  It's a struggle to keep up with the gobs and gobs of laundry and TRY to make a meal that doesn't make the kids GAG!  (The spaghetti tonight went over pretty well, which was surprising.)

But one thing I am LOVING about Pinterest is all the wonderful gift ideas for Christmas.  Money is tight these days (probably for everyone) and homemade gifts are the way to go for us.  I'm not going to go into details because my family, who may be the recipients of these gifts,might be reading but I'm getting excited to get going on them.  Sure, it's going to be challenging to find the time to make them, but that's part of the gift - my time, which everyone knows is so very limited. 

I still can't wrap my brain around the fact that summer's over and Christmas is just a couple of months ago.  Where has 2012 gone???

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"The Babies"

We still call them "the babies," even though they're really not anymore.
Luke insisted on a big boy bike for his 3rd birthday and I must tell you, it's hard to deny that brown-eyed boy anything.
He races around the driveway faster than William who will be five in just a couple of months.  But I guess that's how it works, the younger one always trying harder and then succeeding in keeping up with his older brother.
We've seen it before...

Look how proud our little Sammy was!  He was more like 2 1/2 here and Owen was just past his fourth birthday.  It will forever kill me that I was at work too much to really appreciate them at this age, so that makes me even more determined to soak in every moment I have with William and Luke. 
They all say it and it's so true:  It goes by too fast.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Goodbye, Two-Year-Old

I'm feeling a little nostalgic today, as I say goodbye to having a two year old in the house.  Although I'm ready to be done with having babies:  loooong pregnancies, peeing every 15 minutes, OUCH labors, nursing (well, really it was the pumping I could have lived without), sleepless nights with a sick little one, etc, I'm not ready to be done with having toddlers.  Especially this one...
It figures that when you get to #4 he ends up being the sweetest, most good-natured child EVER.  I don't know why he's so good and so laid back.  Maybe it's because he has 3 older brothers so he just kinda goes with the flow.  Or maybe I'm different with him than I was with the older ones.  Either way, I have enjoyed EVERY SECOND of him being two years old and will miss my two year old tomorrow when he turns three.
To celebrate, we went for his very first dental exam.

Look how tiny he looks in that big chair!  He wasn't scared at all.  He watched her clean William's teeth
and then hopped right up in the chair and opened his mouth.  The hygenist was pretty impressed! 
As expected, the dentist told me to try to get Luke to stop sucking his thumb, as it's messing up his bottom front teeth. 
I guess he has a bit of an underbite, too, so they're gonna keep an eye on that in years to come. 
No cavities, though, (for any of the boys, actually) so I was happy about that.

Tomorrow we will spend the day as a family, celebrating the miracle of having this little guy in our lives.  We honestly don't know how we could have ever lived without him. 
Happy Birthday, Luke!

 Smiling for the picture, but I don't miss being this big.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

I'm Not a Dog Person

I'm not a dog person, but I am a Scrabble person...

Dogs do annoying things:

1.  They beg for whatever you're eating
2.  They hog the bed
3.  They slobber and lick WAY too much
4.  They jump up on people
5.  They "crotch" people (OMG, the lab mix I had in high school was the WORST crotcher EVER!)
6.  They never just lay around and relax

Scrabble is NOT like a normal dog.  He does NONE of those annoying things - never has - and I love him for it.  He is the most wonderful dog I could ever hope for and I can't believe how attached I've become since we got him from the shelter 18 months ago.  Best Valentine's Day gift (to myself) EVER!

I had just one complaint about him and it's been remedied.  If we opened the door he would run out like a bat-out-of-hell and we'd have to chase him around the neighborhood, fearing he would attack any oncoming motor vehicle.  He's not a chaser - he likes to jump at them head-on. 

A few weeks ago I learned through one of my clients about these wireless pet containment devices and after a few days of begging, Chris allowed me to order one.  It took about 5 days of working with him, but now Scrabble is perfectly trained.  He stays in our yard and has fun playing with the kids outside, as opposed to the pathetic 10' lead we've had  him on.  It's an absolutely wonderful invention and I can't get over how much happier it's made me - and him, too!

Besides being a wonderful companion for the whole family, he sure is a handsome devil, isn't he?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

40 is the new 80 - Part Two (complete with pictures)

I would never normally put a picture of my ugly feet on the web, but I guess you have to see the toe to appreciate my pain, so here goes....
See the right foot, the middle toe?  I just woke up with it swollen like that one day!  Seriously, it was the weirdest thing.  The "splaying" between that toe and the 2nd one is what convinced me that Morton's neuroma was the culprit (after some Googling, of course).  The picture doesn't show the full amount of swelling, both on the top and the bottom of the foot.  As stated in the last installment of the saga, my limping was so pronounced that within 10 days this is how my left knee looked...
As you can see, the left knee was none too happy with the added pressure I was putting on it.  These pictures were taken at the height of my depression, when I literally couldn't do ANYTHING but sit on the couch and MAYBE get to the bathroom on crutches.  But even that was such an ordeal, I stopped drinking more than the bare minimum amount of water to get by.  After a few days on crutches, the swelling subsided enough that I was able to get by with just wearing a brace.

This was in late May.  I was VERY concerned that I wouldn't be able to enjoy the trip to the cabin I had planned since January.  We ended up going, but I was certainly not at 100% that weekend.

My other concern was that I had two weddings to work, one on June 16 and another on June 30.  The one on June 16 almost killed me.  It was the longest night of my life and I walked away from that wedding feeling like a failure - I knew I hadn't given my best service possible to that bride.  Even though they thanked me, I was completely unhappy with my own performance and couldn't have that happen again.

I finally went to a podiatrist in late June.  After spending $500 in one week at the chiropractor for cold laser therapy that didn't really work, I figured I might need to see a "real" doctor.  When I got there, he agreed with my self-diagnosis and gave me a cortisone shot.  YOWZA, it hurt!  (But all pain is relative after having kids, so I was pretty brave about it if I do say so myself.)

That cortisone shot fixed me up to be able to function for that June 30th wedding but there was still pain.  In fact, there's still pain every day.  I haven't gone back for more cortisone injections, but I will if/when it gets unbearable or if I have a wedding and I don't think I'll be able to make it without medication.  The doctor told me the cortisone is just a temporary relief and that the only permanent fix is surgery, unless the neuroma subsides on its own.  So I keep praying for that.

I did read on some blogs about this "miracle" supplement:  serapeptide.  I ordered those pills and continue to take them every day to keep the neuroma at bay.  My toes now look normal - little swelling and no more seperation between them - but the top of the foot is still too swollen to wear closed-toe shoes.  My niece is salivating, thinking she might be the lucky recipient of my current shoe wardrobe!  It's a good thing this happened in the summer so I can wear flip-flops but I'm getting nervous as the colder weather sets in.

So I will continue to update the blog on how this ailment progresses.  Right now I have good days and bad days.  Today would be maybe a 2 or 3 on the pain scale, whereas last night was about a 6 and it was showing in my lack of patience with the kids.  Being old is NO JOKE!!!  :(

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Early Reading

I always knew that teaching my kids to read would be an amazing experience for me.  I think I looked forward to it my entire life.  I was never one to dream of being a mother, never played with dolls or dollhouses as a child.  But, oh, did I love to read!  I can remember my very first book that I read all by myself:
It was published in 1971 and had these scratch-and-sniff stickers in it that I loved so much.  But mostly what I loved was the sense of accomplishment at reading it all by myself.  I was probably around 4 years old.
My mom claims she never taught me to read, but I think she MUST have read to me as a child.  How else would such a young child learn?  It's that closeness that toddlers crave, they say.  That's what makes a child learn to love books.  Since I was less than 3 years old by the time my mom had two other kids behind me, I'm guessing that if she ever DID stop for a moment to read me a story, those few moments of her undivided attention must have made a big impression on me.
So here I am so many years later, a mom myself with lots on my plate.  From the time my kids were little I had one rule for myself:  no matter what I was doing, if they came to me with a book asking to be read to, I would stop and do it.  That's a difficult rule to adhere to, but I've stuck to it (ok, maybe a few minutes of delay a couple of times depending on what I was elbow-deep in.)
William starts preschool in a few days and he's so excited.  (I will do another post soon about all the schooling that's happening this year because we're trying something a little different.)  Anyway, he will go to preschool five days a week, but for less than 3 hours each day.  That's a lot of driving (20 minutes each way) but I think it will be worth it.  He will absolutely LOVE the interaction with others, especially adults, and hopefully they will give him lots of praise and accolades for how well he reads.  So far, these are a couple of his favorite books:
I loved this one as a kid, didn't you?

William has read every book in the "Elephant and Piggie" series umpteen times.  He loves when he reads the Gerald lines and I read Piggie's parts.  He's even got Luke to do the Piggie parts when I'm not available.  (Luke has memorized most of them by now.) 

I was right in my belief all those years ago that teaching a child to read is the most amazing feeling.  I love that he knows that street signs actually say something now and that he can tell me what store we're going in before I even stop the car.  Four year olds are such little sponges and I think this is such a magic age.  Once again, I'm so glad I'm home to experience this stage with my two younger boys. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Heart Gardening - NOT

My story about my foot/knee problems will continue in a bit.  But first I want to comment on the lovely timing of these physical setbacks.

It was May.  Yes, MAY!  I really don't think it could have come at a worse time.  Not only was I just a month away from serious wedding season, it was also that month when if you're going to have a decent yard it's time to get out and work for it.  Well, not me!  And our yard has looked AWFUL for the last 4 months....until today.

See the above clip?  That's how I felt today when I went out there with my gloves on and hacked at just about every living thing in our yard.  It felt soooooo good after 4 months of doing nothing but staring at the weeds as they took over.  Ha ha, weeds!!!  GOOD BYE!!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

40 is the new 80

I turned 40 in March.  Yeah, I know...FORTY!!!  UGH!  It kills me to even admit to that.  I remember at 19 thinking that 27 was about the oldest I'd ever want to be.  But here I am.  Forty. 

It wouldn't be so bad if my health, which has always been fantastic, hadn't gone downhill pretty dramatically starting in May.  I went to bed one night feeling just fine, but woke up a few times feeling a weird cramp in my right foot.  By the time I got up in the morning, my middle toe was completely swollen and I couldn't apply any pressure to the bottom of my foot at all.  What the heck could it be???  I hadn't hit it against anything so maybe it was a bug bite?  I limped around, waiting for it to get better.

It didn't.  After about 4 days of no improvement, I went to my stand-by medical plan ("Google") and had no problems finding out what it was:  Morton's neuroma.  It's an irritated, swollen nerve between the bones in the toes.  It's most commonly between the 3rd and 4th toes, but mine felt like it was between the 2nd and 3rd toes.  Most people on the internet talked of invasive treatments, such as cortisone and/or alcohol injections or even surgery to have the nerve removed.  I did find a couple bloggers who discussed cold laser treatments done at a chiropractor's office.  I decided to take the route.

By the time I got the appt with the chiropractor and the first treatment, I had been limping for about 10 days.  The treatment did start to loosen up the toes a bit, but by then I had an even bigger problem...literally!  My left knee, which had been bearing the brunt of all my limping, was swollen to about 3 times its normal size.  YIKES!  Now I was unable to bear weight on EITHER leg!  I was so miserable,  I can't even begin to tell you.  I ended up on crutches for about a week, trying to get the knee back into working order.  We had to have Chris take a bit of time off work and hire a sitter for the other days to help take care of the boys.  I could hardly get to the bathroom, take a shower, etc.  Everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - took a Herculean effort to get through.  I was depressed because I felt so incredibly useless.

Chris joked with me that "40 is the new 80" but I wasn't laughing about anything. 

Stay tuned for part two....

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Finally...a break...


That's how I feel after these first three weeks in August where I had one wedding after another.  I'm still busy now - don't get me wrong - but it's nothing like being so "in demand" with brides who are getting a little nutty.

I think back a lot to my own wedding eleven years ago and am soooo glad I knew virtually NOTHING about weddings.  Sure, I had been to a few at that point in my life (I was almost 30!) but had never really paid much attention to them.  The internet was a new thing back then and nobody had even begun to dream up Pinterest. (THANK GOD!)  So I was pretty happy with my hokey little bud vases on the tables, never considered how many servers I should have based on my guest count, didn't even bother with a contract or anything in writing from the restaurant.  I basically just told them we were coming on May 26th at 2pm and there would be about 60 of us. 

Thankfully, I did have a friend at work who talked me through a few things.  She asked me what music I would walk down the aisle to.  You mean I have a choice???  Seriously, I had NO idea!  But that's good, because I see a lot of brides knocking themselves out, overthinking every single little detail.  Really?  Is this how you want to remember the weeks leading up to your wedding?  Do you want it to be stressful and crazy and to feel like you might regret choosing one flower in the bouquet over another?  Ultimately, those of us who've been married a few years know that NONE of it matters. 

The only thing that REALLY matters is that you are surrounded by the love and support of your family and friends as you say the most important words you will ever say.  If I could advise my brides any way, I would tell them to spend more time mulling over the BIG decision of the marriage and don't worry so much about all the little wedding decisions.  No matter what it looks like, as long as there is love and commitment a wedding is a beautiful thing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's here!!!

Hi!  I did my very FIRST vlog today, reviewing my new Erin Condren planner!  I've been lusting after these planners for over a year but finally bit the bullet and ordered one on July 30th.  It took three long weeks to get here, but it was totally worth the wait.  I didn't plan on the video being 14 minutes long, but there was a lot to cover! 

As I mention in the video, I have not been a very organized person in the past but now I really need to be.  September is always a great month to start fresh, don't you think?  What are you doing to get organized this month?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Great wedding, great job

Here I am, living the dream. (And I don't say that with one iota of sarcasm!)  This life is what I dreamed of for sooooo long and I need to appreciate every last minute of it.  I try to, but it's been so busy that it's hard to really step back and see it for what it is/has been for the last year +.

I never thought this would happen for me.  I really thought I would work a regular, full-time job for the rest of my life.  The only way I ever saw my life getting any easier was when the kids started helping around the house so that I wouldn't have to do as much on my weekends at home (when I had them; I did work a lot of Saturdays). 

And then almost exactly two years ago at this time, God spoke to me.  People are sometimes skeptical of a statement like that, but I know for a fact that's what it was.  I literally woke up one morning with the clear vision of what was going to happen:  I was going to start my own wedding planning business and get to stay home with the boys.  I even knew that it would happen within a year.  I was GIDDY with excitement, even though it was months away, and immediately started a small notebook to hold all my thoughts and ideas for this new stage of life that was on the horizon. 

As the time to quit my job neared the following spring, I got less excited and more nervous.  How on earth were we going to make it financially?  Chris didn't even have full-time hours at his job, just his weekend gig with the possibility of picking up extra shifts.  How was I going to get my name out there and afford marketing materials, etc.  I was walking towards the cliff and peering over the edge.  But I knew God was there - not at the bottom to catch me, but standing next to me holding my hand.  He said "I'm jumping with you."  And I took the leap of faith.

I knew the first year would be the hardest and it was.  Chris worked every single minute they would let him and somehow kept us afloat.  (Thank you, Chris, for being so supportive and working so hard for our family!)  And I used my connections to get a few weddings...then a few more.  In January of this year, a friend of mine who owns a ministerial business needed an associate minister to help with the overflow of ceremonies in the summer.  I started training, got ordained and have really enjoyed performing wedding ceremonies for the wonderful couples I've met.  (It's helped us tremendously in the financial department, too!)

Yesterday I had a wedding at a local golf club and it was BEAUTIFUL!  God took care of the weather (80, sunny, no humidity!) and I took care of the rest.  I left the house around 9am with a lot of excitement, not dread, for my 16+ hour day.  I enjoyed every last minute of it!  Performing a truly valuable service and being APPRECIATED for it is all anyone can ask for from a job.  I'm so very, very happy God spoke to me two years ago....and even more happy I actually listened!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to School...sort of

Last year at this time, I was really excited to start the adventure of homeschooling Owen and Sammy (grades 3 and 1).  I looked forward to learning with them and really allowing them the freedom to explore their individual interests and learn at their own pace.  However, it didn't take long for ME to learn a few things:

1.  I bit off WAY more than I could chew, with the business getting started and the two little boys needing attention.
2.  Owen and Sammy's main interest is electronics:  TV, the Wii, computer games, etc.
3.  I had no idea what I was doing with creating my own curriculum.  What was I thinking???

So I sent them back to traditional school after Christmas last year.  It was a knee-jerk reaction and one I felt guilty about almost immediately.  It was the easy way out for sure, and neither of them benefited from it.  (The only one who DID benefit from it was William, who learned to read since I had so much more time on my hands! YAY!)

At the end of the school year, I was frustrated - VERY frustrated - especially about Sammy's situation.  He has ALWAYS been incredibly smart but that has been a detrement to him in school because it makes him very BORED.  When I met with his teacher after he started back to the school, I told her he was bored and she seemed so surprised.  She told me I could nominate him for the Gifted and Talented program, which we had never been told about before.  I was pretty surprised that neither his kindergarten teacher or this first grade teacher had nominated him - didn't they see what was so plain to us and everyone else we knew?  So I nominated him and they were going to test him.  I waited...and waited...and waited.  THREE MONTHS later, I got a call from the lady who runs the program.  They FINALLY tested him and he was pretty much off the charts.  But by then it was May and the school year was all but over.  He would get more testing in the fall to see if they need to even potentially bump him up into 3rd grade, but there was nothing they could do for him until then.  By that point, Sammy was practically BEGGING me to not have to go back to school.

And Owen...well, that's a different story.  He is also bright academically, but has a lot of problems focusing.  He has been having social problems as well, mostly because he's a bit immature for his age (plus he's one of the youngest kids in his class due to his July birthday).  He was all gung-ho to go back to school, but Chris and I were very concerned about him being bullied in the 4th grade.

Because of all this, we are going to try virtual school this year.  I am hoping this is the solution to both boys' issues.  I am to be their "learning coach" so I won't have to come up with lesson plans or anything, but am just to help them complete their schoolwork every day.  They are excited about the idea of being able to finish sooner each day and then have their own time.  This is something they struggled with - no matter how quickly they breezed through their work at school, that bus wasn't coming any earlier, so they would get bored and weren't motivated.  (I can totally relate from my past job, where I would sit and watch the clock for the last two hours of the day sometimes.)

We have enrolled them with Wisconsin Virtual Academy and they start after Labor Day.  Soon, we will receive computers in the mail, as well as all other supplies needed.  I just need to get our school room organized and ready for them so they feel like they have a designated classroom here at home.

I have decided to take William to traditional preschool this year, mostly to give us a quieter atmosphere for the boys to do their work.  It's 5 days a week for 3 hours in the morning and he will most certainly LOVE it!  I hope he will be going to traditional kindergarten next year, but he might be alone on the bus if his older brothers prefer to stick with virtual school.  We are taking it one year at a time now and just trying to find the right fit for each of them. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Reflections

Last summer was pretty epic.  For the first time in my adult lifetime, I wasn't working 50+ hours a week.  I actually had a REAL tan (not from a bed) because I took the boys to the beach 3 or more times a week.  Chris was working a crazy schedule with a lot of overnight shifts, so it made sense for us to spend a lot of time away from the house so he could sleep. 
This summer hasn't been quite as fun as last summer, partly because I'm busier and partly because Chris is working a crummy afternoon shift that really puts a damper on beach days - when they have to end by 2pm, they really aren't much fun.  However, we did get to take a trip to northern Wisconsin for Chris's birthday in early June.
It was a surprise I had started working on back in January, when it was comforting to think of a warm summer weekend spent at a cabin on a lake.  On the morning of his birthday, Chris opened several clues:  sunglasses, a map, Corn Nuts and Coke (his favorite roadtrip snack) and, finally, a brochure from the cabins.  It was soooo hard to keep the secret for all those months, but totally worth it!
We took the kids out of school for their last two days and drove 7+ hours to the Delta Lodge.  It was just as I had imagined and the weather was perfection.  It truly couldn't have been better.  The boys spent a lot of time kayaking and swimming and the little guys just loved playing on the beach.  Even Scrabble had a good time running loose for the weekend, something I'm sure his little doggie mind has always dreamed of.  Here are a few pictures:

This was definitely the highlight of the summer for us this year.  What was your favorite 2012 summer memory?