Tuesday, December 31, 2013


 The end of the year always makes me a little sad and I've been sadder this December 31st for obvious reasons.  I'm saying goodbye to the last year my brother ever saw.  I'm thinking of my mom, who next week will experience her first birthday without a call from him.  And we're all coming up on the one year anniversary of the day that changed our family forever. 
But, of course, time marches on.  And I'm trying to focus on the new beginning we will all have at midnight tonight.  I like to think that the upcoming year will be better and that I, as a person, will be better, too.  Here are the ways I would like to improve in 2014:
I actually read this book in 2012 and haven't been able to consistently stick to spending 15 minutes outside each day, but the ideas have stayed with me.  I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially moms, because it shows the many ways getting outside is good for the soul no matter what time of year.  Of course this is especially difficult during these tough Wisconsin winters (it was 8 degrees outside this morning!) but I really want to make the effort this year.
I am soooo excited about this little gem I picked up last night.  I want to work on organization and my time management skills and this calendar posted in the kitchen should help tremendously.  I still love and use my Erin Condren planner faithfully, but this will help with the schedules for everyone in the family, not just me.  I like how the side of it has Post-it notes that I can grab whenever I need one.  (Hopefully the kids won't figure out what those are!)

No list of New Year's Resolutions would be complete without the resolution to lose weight.  I say this every year, but this is really going to be THE YEAR for me to get to my ideal weight.  That's 20-25 lbs away, but I just know I can get there by summer and maintain for the remainder of the year.

In addition to the general resolution about getting outside more, I also want to start running again.  I was running 2 miles a day for about 6 months when William was a baby, but stopped that winter and never started up again.  This is the year I WILL run a 5k!  I can hardly wait!

Thursday, December 26, 2013


We are thrilled with the amount of snow we have.  (For now, anyway.  Ask me again how thrilled I am in March when we are still knee deep in it!)
Today we went sledding at a cool hill in Elkhorn, about 10 minutes from our house.  It's a little ways off the road, as opposed to the other (more popular) hill around here.  I prefer to not have to worry about cars at the top of the hill if I decide to sled down with one of the little guys. 
It was really cold and windy so we only stayed about an hour.  We met a new-ish friend up there - she has three boys, ages 9,8 and 7 and homeschools them all, too.  Needless to say, we always have a lot to talk about!
Here are a few pics...

Christmas 2013

The children were nestled all snug in their beds....

But Chris and I, who hadn't gotten to sleep until close to 1am couldn't sleep from the excitement, so got up at 6:15am.  Chris kept wanting to wake the boys up, but I insisted we wait.  At 7:30am, we finally heard voices and eavesdropped from the hallway for a few minutes.  They were so cute, excitedly talking about what might await them in the living room.  They were a bit disturbed by the fact that I had sealed their doorway with wrapping paper, but loved that moment when we told them they were free to rip through it. 
It only took about 10 minutes for everything to be unwrapped and, as suspected, the tablets were a huge hit....

We settled on the Nabi 2 for both the little boys and the older boys got the Samsung Galaxy Tab in the 7" size.  William is perfectly content with his "kid" tablet, but Luke is frustrated that his won't do exactly what Owen and Sammy's do.  For instance, the Nabi has no voice command but Luke keeps yelling things at his tablet anyway because he sees his older brothers doing it.  Maybe he just thinks his is hard of hearing.
I got the warm socks I've been wanting/needing for so long. But the best part was the homemade tags William made when he wrapped them.

Chris asked the boys to wrap the gifts without me seeing the day before and as soon as they were done, out came Luke.
Luke, whispering:  "Mama, we got you new socks for Christmas."
William:  "NO, Luke!  You weren't supposed to tell her we got her SOCKS!"
Luke:  "Sssshhhh, William!  It's a SECRET!"
They are so funny!
All the boys got toothbrushes in their stockings, but only Luke's plays a song.  He loves that song "Dynamite" so when I saw this toothbrush that plays it, I had to get it for him.

The only problem is that he wants to listen to the song so badly, he walks around the house holding like a phone with the bristles in his ear.  Pretty gross.

We had such an amazing Christmas, especially because Chris was ACTUALLY off work.  Hallelujah!  That almost NEVER happens and we were so lucky it did this year, especially with all the other people at his job having time off.  He will likely have to work on New Year's Eve, but that's really no big deal.  We don't do much on NYE anyway.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Eve

I have always loved Christmas Eve.  When I was a kid, that was the night we would go to my cousin's house (we called her "Aunt Sue" because she was quite a bit older, but she was really my cousin).  My memories of her house on Christmas Eve are primarily of candlelight and soft Christmas music playing.  She had two kids, but her house always seemed in perfect order.  The food was not at all fussy; mostly just hors d'oeuvres.  She had a few things to do in the basement (shuffleboard, an arcade game and a pool table) so we were never bored.  I also loved driving home and seeing the lights, with the anticipation of Christmas morning still in front of me.
Chris and I were just comparing our childhood memories of Christmas Eve and his were very different.  He and his family went to his Aunt's house, where there was NOTHING to play with and he and his sister were bored to tears.  He dreaded it every year and got out of going as soon as he became old enough to beg out and stay home alone.  Funny thing is, his aunt's house and my cousin's house were/are separated by about 2 blocks.  Isn't that so strange???  So even though Chris and I didn't meet until high school, we were within a couple hundred feet of each other every Christmas Eve for our entire lives.  Even after 12 years of marriage, there are still new things I find out about him all the time. 
This Christmas Eve, I believe the kids and I discovered what will be a new tradition for us:
After dinner, I told them to clean their room and they would get to open one present.  They were able to correctly guess it would be new pajamas, since we did the same thing last year.  I love the idea of new pajamas - sure wish I'd gotten some myself!  The boys also got new slippers, since they have been wearing holes in all their socks running around the concrete floor in the basement.
They were quite excited to open the PJ's and then they all showered/bathed and got into them.  I had them zip on sweatshirts and we loaded up the car to take a tour of the lights.  The Grand Geneva does "Christmas in the Country" lights that are really something to see.   My plan was for the two little boys to fall asleep, but that didn't end up happening, so when we got to Grand Geneva we ended up going in.  Yes, in their PJ's.  (I was dressed, of course.)
The resort was teeming with people who were enjoying all the many decorations they put up.  Each year is a different theme.  I'm sorry I didn't get any pictures of the displays but the lighting was bad and I only had my phone.  I did snap this one of the boys, though:
The Grand Geneva also has a gingerbread house competition.  Each entry is numbered and you get to vote for your favorite.  We all loved looking at the 50+ creations, most of them VERY creative.  Here are a few of our favorites...

After we were done walking around, we stopped at the little café and each of the boys wanted a scoop of gelato.  I grabbed myself a hot chocolate and reveled in getting to spend a snowy Christmas Eve at such a beautiful place with my four beautiful sons.  We had such a wonderful time!
Chris didn't get home from work until 11:30pm but we will be happy to have him accompany us next year.  We all decided it would be a wonderful tradition to start and are already looking forward to doing it again in 2014.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


As I'm sure you can guess, Christmas Eve seems like an extra long day for us.  Anticipation and excitement runs high on both sides, for both the givers (us) and the gives (them).  Chris and I are so very excited to give the boys their gifts tomorrow morning but are a little worried that we may never be able to top this Christmas.  The $500 Best Buy credit we got when we bought our furniture in February is going to make this Christmas VERY memorable for the boys. 
To add to the length of the days, I've practically become a single parent.  Chris has been working 7pm-7am for the last 10 days and even when he had a couple of days off, he still had to sleep during the day to maintain his body's schedule.  It's been soooo difficult to keep the boys quiet all day while he needs to sleep.  Between being cooped up inside and the excitement of Christmas, they have been nothing short of obnoxious.  Gotta love little boy energy, right? 
In an attempt to keep them quietly occupied, I've been enlisting their help in baking a lot of seasonal goodies.  This morning we made Peanut Butter Balls using this recipe.  I prefer the ones that use graham cracker crumbs to shredded coconut or any other filler. 
As my three elves rolled the balls, we debated whether or not these
should be considered a cookie or a candy.  What do you think?

Unfortunately, I have no "after" pics of the tasty little morsels, but suffice to say they are a HUGE hit.  I remember going to my grandmother's house on Christmas Day as a child and she would have plates of assorted cookies set out to much on;  these peanut butter balls were my absolute favorite!  I have only made them once before in my life YEARS ago for a work party, but am going to try to make them more often now that I know I have such enthusiastic helpers.

White Christmas

This is our eighth Christmas in Wisconsin and I think only one of them so far hasn't been "white."  Most years, we start building up snow that first week in December and by Christmas we have a few inches.  This year, we had snow starting in mid November and haven't seen much of it melt, so by this past weekend we had about 4 inches on the ground.  But it needed to be freshened up for Christmas and boy, was it!
We watched for the storm all day on Saturday - oh, the excitement around here!  But it really didn't hit until early Sunday morning. When all was said and done, we had about 7" and the boys were thrilled!  Here are some pictures of them enjoying the snow...
Owen, age 10

William, age 6

Sammy, almost 9

Luke, age 4
Luke never was much of a fan of the snow.  Remember this post?
I took Scrabble for a walk and let me tell you, he is not a fan of the snow either.  He sure looked cute in his little coat, though, and I enjoyed the walk. 

More than the snow itself, I love the excuse to stay home.  I've become quite the hermit in the last few months; I don't think I've ventured out in almost a week now.  It's just so nice to hole-up when it's cold and snowy and focus on what I love most.  And that's all right here in this house.
Merry Christmas!

William's 6th Birthday

 Not my most timely post ever, but I write this blog more for myself than anyone else just to record all the moments that make up our life as a family together.  Birthdays are always fun for us to celebrate being a family and what the birthday boy brings to it.  We celebrated William's birthday a day early because Chris had to work on Saturday the 14th.

You can see our neighbors, Nick and Erin, in the background.  I think they like the invitations they get six times a year to come over for cake and ice cream.  No gifts allowed, except this time they brought William an obnoxious prank hand buzzer.  I just love it.  (sarcasm)

We got to Stonefire Pizza Company around noon on Friday and my friend, Darcy, met us for lunch.  She adores William and works just down the road, so it was a nice chance for us to see her and vice versa.  William felt VERY special that she took the time to come see him and wish him a happy birthday.
This is the only picture I could get of the boys together, as they watched a cartoon on one of the TV's.  We had the place practically to ourselves, so we made a day of it just running around playing and munching on the buffet.

One last shot of the birthday boy.  Ain't he a cutie?  Hard to believe it's been six years since I fell in love with this little guy. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Memories...of chocolate

 I am a certified choco-holic.  There's no getting around it and I'm not at all ashamed to admit it.  My brother has a funny story from when I was in high school and his girlfriend knocked on the door to my room, only to hear me yell "Don't anyone dare coming in here unless you have chocolate!"  (I was a little, um....moody...in high school.)

But my love of chocolate goes way, way back to before high school.  It may have started the Christmas when both my sister and I received Whitman's samplers for Christmas.

Looking back, this may have been one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever.  I felt so "grown-up" to think that I had an entire box of candy all to myself, to eat whenever I wanted. 

I love how the inside of the lid had a diagram so you could easily find your favorites.  The caramels were first to go, then the ones with the nuts.  I would eventually (and by "eventually" I mean within a few hours) get to the fruit crème ones.  Those candy coated almonds in the center?  Those were last.  I only ate those once all the chocolates were gone AND I had already licked all the wrappers.
Being the chocolate fiend I am, my box was gone pretty quickly and it didn't take long before I started eyeing my sister's.  She tried to dissuade me from eating hers by taking each remaining chocolate out of the box and licking it right in front of me.  I was undeterred.  Seriously, she would have had to pee on them to stop me.  I stole quite a few.  Sorry, Katie!
I did get a little bit of candy and gum to put in the boys' stockings this year, hoping they will love it as much as I did.  I'm so very excited for Christmas this year - perhaps more so than the boys!  It's going to be EPIC!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Homeschooling Group Christmas Party

I took a couple of pictures, but nothing I care to post.  We went to our Homeschool Group's Christmas party this morning.  The boys were cranky about getting dressed and out the door so early (9:30am is early for us these days) but eventually got in the car. On the way there, I gave them all a lecture about how I do this stuff NOT for myself, but for THEIR benefit.  They listened (I think) but didn't say a word.

Our Homeschool Group is FABULOUS!  They had presentations done by some of the kids on Christmas around the world (Japan, Norway, Columbia and Italy) and then the kids all got to make ornaments.  After that, they had a wonderful hot chocolate bar with tons of homemade cookies.  It was so nice! 

Afterwards, the boys got to run and play - the highlight of their morning, for sure! - while I chatted with a fellow homeschool mom with three boys, ages 7, 8 and 9.  It was great to connect with her and we're already talking about activities for the kids in the new year. 

Apparently there are going to be a bunch of free homeschool classes offered started in January:  science, canning and cooking are a few of the subjects.  I'm so excited!

Tomorrow afternoon, I'm taking the boys next door for a class on deer, presented by our neighbor.  He is an avid hunter and self-proclaimed "deer expert" so I told him he needs to talk to the boys.  I've had them jot down a few questions for him and he has lots of props:  deer heads, a ton of antlers and even venison jerky for them to sample.  I'll take some pictures there.

Chris has his schedule for the next couple weeks and it's insane:  lots of 12 hour shifts and almost all of them 7pm-7am.  It's so hard on him to try to sleep during the day when he has to work the midnight shift and it's also hard on me, trying to keep four active boys quiet.  I told Chris I will pray for him and I'm praying for me, too.  Life would be so much easier if he had a regular day schedule, but it's not to be for now.  At least he does have Christmas Day off and we're so excited to spend it together as a family.

Christmas Cards

I've always had a hard time with Christmas cards;  I never know quite what to do with them!  This year I found an idea on Pinterest that I thought might work and now I don't think I'll ever display them any other way!
I found a package of mini clothespins in my craft box and now I just keep them inside the cupboard so I can easily attach any cards that come in. 

I love that now I can see all the beautiful pictures everyone is sending out these days!  It will be difficult to take them down at the end of the season.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snowy Day

What could be better than spending a cold Saturday morning watching the snow fall?  Watching the snow fall on a bunch of guys working.
A long time ago I had a sweatshirt that said "I love work: I could sit and watch it for hours."  Ain't that the truth? 
Three guys with chainsaws made short work of that tree that came down at the
 neighbor's house last month.  The trunk is still there, but they cut through all the branches
 and had a big fire going in the middle of the snowstorm. 
It was quite entertaining from the warmth of my living room.  Thanks for the show, guys!

Happy 6th Birthday, William

I can hardly believe it's been six years since I sat in this house holding my new baby boy.  Even though I had spent nine months dreaming of a girl, I fell in love with William immediately.  He was the most peaceful baby, totally content to lay on my chest for hours and hours while watching his brothers play.  Those first few days with a newborn are so special and with William perhaps even more so, since those days were spent at home rather than in a hospital.
But as wonderful as he was as a baby, I couldn't have begun to imagine what he'd grow up to be:
My William has the sweetest, most generous heart of just about anyone I know.  Everyone who meets him tells me what a sweet soul he has.  He is on fire for Jesus and has been for a few years now.  He is in Sparks at AWANA this year and has already ripped through over half of his first book, a book that's supposed to last all year.  He already knows all the books of the New Testament in order, which is amazing for a little boy of barely six years old.
He is driven to learn and that makes me think he will be a huge success in life.  He tries to keep up with his older brothers in school, so has jumped onto the two computer programs they use daily:  Seterra.net and Xtramath.org.  If you ask him where Kansas is on a map he can point it out and can also tell you what 6+5 is.  Amazing.
For his birthday we spent Friday at Stonefire Pizza Company and that was fun for all of us.  Our friend, Darcy, stopped by for lunch since she works just down the road.  She adores William - always has - and couldn't miss the chance to see him on his birthday.  The boys all had a really good time.  I just love that we celebrate birthdays as a family and don't spend a bunch of money on toys.  Really, when you have three brothers you don't even need any toys.
But we had to get him a little something...

We screwed up by not getting ANYTHING for Luke for his birthday back in September and thought because he's only four, he wouldn't notice or would forget.  Boy, were we wrong!  Pathetic comments from him here and there over the last couple months guilted us into getting him something and giving it to him yesterday.  They just love playing Superheroes together!
Happy Birthday to my Sweet William!  I love you more than you'll ever know!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Time to Party!

I'll do a sappy post tomorrow about the six wonderful years we've had William, but today is for celebrating.  We are headed to Stonefire Pizza Company for the day, which is where we went last year, too. 
But for now I'll leave you just with a couple of my favorite pictures of the day he was born, December 14, 2007.


I can't begin to tell you how happy I was when Chris pulled out the clippers yesterday.  All four of the boys were WAY overdue for a "mowing," as my neighbor calls it.  It's not the best picture, but they are all looking fantastic now.

What a blessing it is that Chris cuts their hair.  It literally saves us hundreds of dollars a year! 
Add to that the savings that my wonderful friend, Darcy, does my hair (color and cuts)
at no charge and we are very, very blessed indeed!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Some last minute Christmas shopping

I was so glad to have most of my Christmas shopping out of the way before Thanksgiving.  Going to Michigan gave me the push I needed to at least buy for the relatives there so I could take the wrapped gifts myself, rather than pay to have them shipped. Gift cards seem so impersonal to me, so I prefer to have a wrapped gift for everyone. 
I think I did pretty well with the custom address stamps I had made for the adults in the family.  My sister and brother opened theirs while I was there so I'm hoping to see them put to use if/when I receive their Christmas cards in the mail.  (Mine already went out - sometimes I amaze myself!)
  Since the big gifts for the boys this year is actually kind of small in size (tablets) I was looking for something to bulk up the presentation for Christmas morning.  I know the boys will absolutely LOVE the tablets and that we probably couldn't have gotten them anything they'd want more, but both Chris and I agree that we like to have a WOW pile for them under the tree in the morning.  We will wrap the tablets in really large boxes he's getting from work, but I needed a little more. 
Enter, the LL Bean Catalog with these little beauties:
They're called Slope Sliders and it was only $24.95 for ALL FOUR of them!  Plus, my catalog came with a $10 off promotional code AND free shipping!  Can't beat that!!!  I read the reviews and people loved that they're so light kids can carry them up the hills by themselves with that handle.  That was all I needed to know!  This might actually be our first year that Chris and I won't have to drag a kid in a sled back up the hill.  We're getting WAY too old for that!
I think both Chris and I are more excited for Christmas this year than the boys are, but that's because we already know how THRILLED they're going to be with what they get. 
Giving is soooo much better than receiving!
Chris is allowing me to go shopping tomorrow afternoon before I have a work appointment and that's when I will pick up William's birthday gift; we're celebrating his birthday on Friday.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A New Christmas Tradition

I have never in my life built a gingerbread house, so I'm not entirely sure what possessed me to purchase a couple of kits at Walmart today.  Perhaps it was because I had the older boys with me and they were nagging me about EVERYTHING so I thought that would shut them up for a bit.  Or maybe I knew I needed their help cleaning the house and I thought this would be a good bribe:  "We can't do the gingerbread houses until you pick up all this junk."  Whatever it was, I'm so glad I did it.
I bought two kits and had the boys pair up into teams.  Owen grabbed Luke for his because "I never get Luke" and Sammy was happy to get William.  (William has been playing a lot with the older boys these days and is LOVING being included in their activities.  He feels like SUCH a big boy!)
I love this picture because you can see the concentration in Luke's eyebrows eyes.

These kits are so great.  They were super easy, even for the little kids.  I did most of putting the frosting on just because it was a little stiff and, of course, they never do understand how to squeeze from the bottom of the tube.  But the decorating was 100% their doing.

You can probably tell from Luke's expression that not ALL
the candies were going to end up on the house.

The kits came with a little packet of yellow fondant to roll out and cut shapes, which was my job.
I had a lot of fun cutting it - so easy to work with!  I made their initials to put on the houses so we could easily remember which one was which.

And in addition to a being a really fun activity, they also look really cute displayed on my shelf!

The boys all loved making these and thanked me several times.  They sat focused for a full hour on this but the minute they declared them finished, all four of them RACED downstairs to play on their Rip Riders.  Homeschooling four boys has really taught me a lot about the differences between boys and girls.  My boys can focus but only for a certain amount of time before the energy inside them builds up and they HAVE to let it out.  This is why boys typically don't do very well in conventional schools when they're younger.  I understand now that they NEED to jump and run and yell and be totally obnoxious - it's just who boys ARE!  I'm so thankful I get to spend so much time
with them so I can begin to truly understand and know them as people.