Friday, December 20, 2013

Sittin' with Santa: 2013

A couple of weeks ago we took the boys for our church's annual "Buffet in Bethlehem" to have dinner and see Santa. I realize it probably makes me a terrible mother, but I LOVE this picture.  I had no expectations this year and figured it would probably look pretty much exactly like this.  I was so sure in fact that I prepped the big boys while we were standing in line. "Now listen, guys, Nolan is going to scream so you just get up there and smile, okay?"

Keaton did a great job, he looks oblivious to the screaming.  Hutt...well, Hutton looks a little shell-shocked, but you can tell he tried.  

We only left Nolan up there for a second to snap this shot and then I swooped in and rescued him. The other two had written letters to Santa and sat up there nicely declaring all of their Christmas wishes: a bow and arrow and a shoot gun (times two, the nice part about having children so close in age is they always want the same thing. And actually, you might as well make that times three because otherwise we are bound to have fighting.)

When Keaton jumped down and ran over to us he was very excited to share that he asked and "Nolan's not on the naughty list!!"  - Nolan had broken one of Busha's ornaments that day.

Next year I think I'll dig up all of our Sittin' with Santa photos from the years gone by and put them in to one post.  That sounds like fun.  I'd do it this year but I am OUT. OF. TIME.  

This shouldn't really surprise anyone, I'm always running around like crazy in the weeks leading up to Christmas; I'm sure most of us are.  I had said this year would be different but with 5 children's gifts left to make, all of my wrapping yet to be done, and no cookies yet baked for Santa...well it looks like 2013 is going to go down  like all the rest. 

I'm hoping for a productive weekend and wishing you one too! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dear Nolan: 12 Months

Dear Nolan,

Well buddy, you are officially the winner!  Yay!!  What was that?  Oh, you want to know what it is you have won?  Oh well, let me tell you….you are the winner of the Most Delayed Monthly Post written by Mama!  Congratulations!  What?  Oh, you don’t think that sounds like a good thing? Well, I suppose you are right, maybe Winner is a bad choice of words.  The truth is, you are now (over) 18 months old but I have yet to write your 12-month letter.  I was behind on some of your brothers’ monthly letters too, writing them when they were nearly turning another month older, but I can honestly say I have never been 6+ months behind on these letters during your first year.  I could skip this one all together but then there would be a hole in your first year book and, well, we just can’t have that. So instead I will rewind my mind six months, back to May 2013…
Photo by Natural Intuition Photography
 If I had to choose one word to describe you at one year old it would be a Delight.  Yes, at one year old you were such a delight.  The weekend after your birthday I got the pleasure of spending an entire two days with just you.  Your Daddy took the big boys up to the cabin for the weekend and you and I spent some alone time at home and it was one of my absolute favorite weekends of the entire spring.  We worked outside, filling bird feeders and pulling weeds, as you stuck your hands in those big bags of seed I found myself just sitting and watching as you repeatedly dug in and then let them fall from your grasp - your eyes intently watching and your hands feeling the sensation. Inside we played on your bedroom floor – stacking blocks, pulling your new truck, and going for “horsy rides” on the rocking horse you got for your birthday. At night you snuggled in and as I rocked you to sleep I remember thinking of a friend of mine, due with a baby boy, and hoping her son would be as wonderful as you.

Photo by Natural Intuition Photography
Now just because you were wonderful does not mean you were not busy.  Oh no.  Oh no, no, no.  You are a child of ours. A boy child of ours and that fact alone means since day one we have been unable to keep up with you.  Just like your brothers you are busy, busy, busy.  Into everything, always on the move, never content to be still.  Not once have we been blessed with a child who liked to be still! At 12-months old you were officially walking.  Toddle walking, yes, but walking.  At your birthday party I remember pulling your jeans straight so they reached the top of your shoes, setting you on the ground, and there you went -  arms in the air to steady yourself, I set you down and you walked away.

Photo by Natural Intuition Photography
And speaking of that birthday party of yours… Oh wow, Nonie, do you know how much you are loved? As a third child I’ve often been afraid you’d get slighted somehow in the attention department, but that has never happened.  On your first birthday our family and friends came out in droves.  There were so many people here that your brothers were a bit shell shocked – they didn’t know what to do with themselves. And we celebrated.  Oh, did we celebrate!  Being that you were born on May 5th we knew from the very day you arrived that your 1st birthday would be celebrated Cinco de Mayo style. With the help of Mommy’s friend, Sarah, who lives close to Mexico we were able to pull this off.  She sent up blankets, and sombreros, and tiny little guitars.  It was perfect. Your Auntie Kira made your cake and you DEVOURED that thing.  You ate so much I was concerned you were going to end up sick; and not just frosting, you ate the entire cake!

Cake Smash Photos by Natural Intuition Photography
At one year old you weighed 19 lbs 1 oz (5%) and were 28.25 inches long (8%) – a tiny thing, but just like your brothers you had a monster head: 46.8 cm (63%). You wore 12 month clothes until about the time you turned 16 months old, and you are still wearing a size 3 diaper.  At 12-months you were still pretty bald, continued to be a thumb sucker and you loved baths, your brothers, and your dog, Maia.  I can’t get over how quickly these months have flown by, but I’m grateful for each and every one we’ve had with you.

Photo by Natural Intuition Photography
I love you,


Thursday, December 12, 2013

December 11th marked two years (and a Thank you!)

We were standing in the back yard, Collin and I, the coat someone lent me was hanging, unzipped; my shoes, the ones Busha threw on on the way out her door, were meant for summer wear; and I was wearing the most hideous blue pajama pants you have ever seen.

The memory of that moment is crystal clear - the snaps, the crackle, the explosion of windows - the instant when the flames, which up until then had been contained to 1/3 of the house, raced through the roof line, engulfing the living room and destroying everything in its path.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the fire; two years have passed. I wish I could say with time the memories have faded or the post-traumatic fears have lessened.  But the truth is, when Yes, Virginia came on the tv last week my heart started to race.  And last night while I put kids to bed, solo as Collin worked late, I worried about how I'd carry all three if we needed to run again.  What if the electricity goes off before we get out and I can't find one of them?  What if this time we can't get out?  Sadly, it's not just fears about fire that I struggle with, it's fears of car accidents, dog bites, drownings. It's fears that The Bad will happen again.

But with all the bad reminders this time of year there are also good ones.

"Keaton!  Here's your baby's first Christmas ornament!"

Collin looked at me, puzzled, he didn't say it but his face asked "How is that?" He forgot about the friend who replaced all of these for us.  And the boys wardrobes, oh, the boys wardrobes.  Keaton and Hutton were wearing sizes 3T and 18 months at the time of the fire, the exact sizes that Hutton and Nolan are wearing now.  I can tell you from which donation or gift 90% of their clothes came from.  Yes, with the bad there are so many good reminders.  I can not think of this time without being reminded of how wonderful people were to us, how gracious and loving.  This experience has forever changed me, both bad and good.

It's been 2 years, 24 months, 730 days, I had no idea two years ago that this much time would pass without me properly saying Thank you to everyone who helped us.  The cards have been, long-ago, purchased and I still have my lists with names and addresses, but I have been unable to find the time.  So while those notes sit, unwritten, I wanted to take a chance to say Thank you.  Thank you for the generosity, thank you for your heart, thank you for your love.  It was because of all of you that a really bad experience brings really great reminders.


Monday, December 9, 2013

First Snow

Winter is here!  Okay, maybe not technically, but the last of the fall decorations have finally been put away and more of the Christmas decorations have found their way out (not all of them yet....) and, AND we have SNOW!

I have varying feelings about snow.  There are things I love about it, like snowshoeing and cross country skiing, and things I detest about it, like driving in it.  Seriously, I age like 60 years behind that wheel when the snow falls.  

But the kids?  The snow brings them pure joy.  

The temperatures were too cold to go out in it this past weekend, which made me happy that we had spent some time outdoors last week.  There was shoveling (so much shoveling because these boys like to Work) and snow angel making, and sliding to be done (poor Nolan would slide right down and onto his back and every time look a bit shell shocked - but he'd climb right back up there and do it again).

At the end of the day we came in for hot chocolate with candy canes - a tradition I remember as a kid and one the boys embraced with open arms.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Celebrating St. Nicholas

image from Google
Today is the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, Patron Saint of Children (among many other things). I've mentioned on here before that we never celebrated St. Nick's Day as kids, it wasn't "a thing" where we grew up.  But up here, in Wisconsin, children await the coming of St. Nick and while, yes, it's the goodies that get them excited, we're trying to make sure that it's the lessons that stay with them.

So, who was Saint Nicholas?
"In the West Nicholas is most widely known as the patron saint of children. Many of his stories tell of children rescued from calamity and returned to the care and keeping of their families. In France the most familiar story, both told and sung, is of three little children lured into the clutches of an evil butcher and rescued by St. Nicholas. Other stories, as well, tell of children who disappeared, were kidnaped, fell into a well, or suffered some other disaster-all to be delivered through the good offices of St. Nicholas. These accounts of a child forcibly taken from parents, followed by a time of grieving and despair, then the miraculous return of the child, have profound and universal appeal which makes Nicholas the much valued Guardian of Children. It is no wonder he is the beloved patron saint of children." Source: St. Nicholas Center
image from Google
And why does he bring gifts?
"Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need. One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver." Source: St. Nicholas Center
image from Google
The boys put out their shoes (and ours!) by the fireplace last night (Hutton put out three pairs "just in case") and were delighted to see that St. Nick left some treasures for them this morning - an orange, a piece of chocolate, a new book for the family, and in their stockings, Christmas jammies. 

This tradition is relatively new to me, but as the kids are getting older I see the importance of linking the magical gift-bringing Santa Claus to the miraculous gift-giving St. Nicholas.

Happy St. Nicholas Day, everyone!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas concert

Hutton's class - he is in the bottom row, right side

Keaton's class - he is also in the bottom row, right side

For the past several weeks the boys have been hopping in the car at the end of the day and before I can even ask if they had a good day there are two little voices coming from the back seat..."who has a beard that's long and white?  It muuuuuust be Santa. It muuuuuust be Santa!"

I remember Christmas concerts from my childhood, getting all dressed up, waiting with anticipation, seeing the crowd of's been an exciting time for them.

We were lucky in that Hutton's 3-year old preschool class and Keaton's 4-K class (and four other preschool/4-K classes) put on one, combined concert. Next year we'll have kids in the "preschool" concert and the "big kid" concert, but for this year we got to watch the boys sing together.  Christmas Bells, It Must be Santa, Rudolf the Red Noised Reindeer, and Mele Kalikimaka (I was impressed with them actually being able to SAY this!) were among the list. They both did great, singing and dancing, and were pretty excited when it was all done.  "I saw Papa peaking at me!" Hutton told us.

We celebrated with dinner out, pizza and Italian fries at Springville Warf, afterwards.

These boys are growing up before my eyes.  I swear it was just last year we were expecting our first little baby and, oh my!, he is now almost FIVE and we're going to Christmas concerts and...oh, where did the time go?

Monday, December 2, 2013

saying goodbye to fall

October Nature Table
We seem to be in that somewhat awkward, transitional phase where the Christmas decorations are coming out (the tree is up, the mantle has been started, and the evergreen branches and sled are in the front entryway) but the fall decorations haven't been entirely packed away (the November nature table hasn't been dismantled, there is a turkey hand print card in the kitchen window and a random, almost-forgotten, pumpkin on the coffee bar). 

November Nature Table
The weather was nice yesterday, not sunny but 40+ degrees and pleasant, especially with a winter hat or scarf, so while Nolan napped the rest of us headed out to play and work - disposing of the last of the pumpkins and gourds, wrestling with some tree branches and wire, putting up lights (for the first time ever, we have outside Christmas lights!!).  And of course, there was snow ball throwing and snow shoveling (for fun) and I think at one point I remember yelling, No!  Don't pick up the dog poop with that!  But it was already done, and done, Mom.

Thanksgiving Table
It was a nice (long!) weekend celebrating with family - Thanksgiving on Thursday, Great Grandma Lu's birthday on Friday - that was a nice mix of fall and winter - Christmas tree hunting on Saturday and decorating on Sunday. And with the beginning of Advent yesterday, a new church year, it kind of feels like a fresh start; something I've been in need of lately.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and a nice start to the Christmas season.

(Any and all attempts at a family picture this Thanksgiving were totally fruitless.  These three are trouble, trouble! I tell you.)

(But totally worth it.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

don't give up on us

“I think I’m done; I called her and she never returned my call. I give up. I mean, what do you think, would you keep trying?”

I knew the woman she spoke of, I haven’t seen her in years but I remember her when I was a child and I know just enough bits and pieces of her life now to guess that she is tapped out, emotionally speaking.

“I don’t know, Mom, maybe she is just stressed out, drained. Maybe it takes all of her emotional energy just to survive the day; maybe she just doesn’t have anything left to give right now. I wouldn’t give up on her yet.”

As the words came rolling off of my tongue I recognized it as a plea, don’t give up on her, I thought. But what I really meant was, don’t give up on me.

I have been a crappy mom lately; the stress of these last few years has just had me at rock bottom. I’ve always had a quick temper but I seem to lose it even faster now. I’m working on it, every day I vow to be better but the energy it takes leaves me completely spent in almost all aspects, physically, mentally, emotionally. And because of it, because of the drain, I’ve also been a crappy friend lately. I’ve never been great at returning calls/emails/texts but, as most of you know first-hand, these days I’m downright horrible. I have missed birthdays; I’m a million years behind on thank you cards. The list goes on, but please, don’t give up on me – it doesn’t mean I don’t think of you guys all the time and it surely doesn’t mean I don’t care.

Thank you all for your messages and calls last week. I haven’t had the chance to get back to most of you yet, but I will.  I promise I will. I am so grateful for your friendship and your love. Truly, I couldn’t make it through all of this without your support. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, Thank you. xoxo

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

searching, hoping, twinkling

Standing at the kitchen island chopping onions the tears spilled out of my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.  Sitting next to me in his favorite green chair he looked up with wondering eyes and questioned, Why you sad, Mommy?  Why you sad?

This wasn’t the first time this very question came from his lips.  On Wednesday I crumpled into a heaving mess on the dining room chair after answering the door to an unexpected visitor. Why you sad, Mommy? Why you sad?

Later that very night, after a time-out was issued for not joining us at the dinner table in an acceptable manner, one of them turned and squinted his eyes, you’re a bad mom, he spat. And again I crumpled, this time on Collin’s shoulder, because the words cut straight to my heart like a finely sharpened knife; they hurt because they were true.

I have been a bad mom.

I’ve been a fucking shitty mom, lately.

As I cried he looked up sheepishly from the dinner table, where he now sat eating nicely, I’m sorry Mom, he said. And again I crumbled, slithering down the kitchen cupboards until my butt was sitting squarely on the floor.  Within seconds all of my boys were there showering me with kisses and hugs while the tears spilled all over, again. And in this happy union he looked up as asked, Why you sad, Mommy? Why you sad?

The boys moved into the living room as I finished up the onions.  A quick glance at my recipe told me the next item was mushrooms; as I pulled them from the refrigerator the thought came to me loud and clear, like a message from God, except my head is still above water enough to know that this message was not from God, the very opposite in fact. 

Call Tanya. Call Tanya. Call Tanya, my mind chanted. Make a therapy appointment, do anything. Do something.

He is chopping carrots next to me when the thought on my mind escapes my lips: I can’t hurt them if I’m not here.

The past couple of months have been difficult, fuck; the past couple of years have been difficult. Raising children, working full-time, trying to keep a house and put good meals on the table; I haven’t had the chance to focus on healing, post-fire, when we’ve been thrown back into disaster mode – this time financially. We’ve finally said goodbye to a bad investment, a blessing for sure, but at the cost of any and all liquidity. That coupled with some stress at the work-place and I’ve fallen into that black hole again.  I feel like I could handle one of these things: the money stress or the work stress, but I’m not able to manage both.

It hits me, the familiarity of that feeling; I remember thinking the same after the fire: I could handle one of these, fire or new baby, but I’m unable to manage both. It makes me wonder, is depression me? Am I depression? Is there no hope but to be at the bottom of a black hole each and every time the going is tough?

My head is laying on the pillow while the events of the day are playing a soundtrack in my mind.  The disagreement between the boys, my yelling, screaming, exploding, and eventually crumpling on the closet floor, tears soaking the carpet; I get up only to repeat the scenario, but this time my fury is directed at Collin, I can’t handle all of this! I yell, and then I crumple again. The chopped vegetables turned into the most delicious pot pie but all I can remember are the thoughts that came to me in the process.  The tears fall again. He hears me, turns his Kindle to illuminate my side of the bed, it’s going to be okay, he assures me. But I just don’t know, because at the end of the day I lay my head on this pillow and shortly after I drift off the nightmares begin, usually three or four a night, of all varieties: car accidents, lost children, attacks by wild animals, my mind has no limit.  Each and every one wakes me up breathless and shaking, not even sleep is safe.

In the morning he holds our middle one in his arms and asks: Do you love, Mommy?  Yes! He nods his head enthusiastically. I lean against the door jam of his room, they know I am here but I pretend they don’t.  What would he think, I ask myself? In my tormented mind, it would be because I loved them too much to stay, but for a three-year old I know that would translate to she didn’t love me enough to stay. And so I know I must continue this fight. I must take the challenges of the work-day and face them head on, without fear and with hope that someday things will be different.

We’re sitting in the chair, all four of us, although the youngest can’t sit still for the life of him, up, down, up, down he goes throughout the entire story, and when it is time to turn out the lights he asks, Mama, can you sing Twinkle, Twinkle?

It’s his favorite so of course I do but as I belt out those words I realize they are filled with a lot of passion for a lullaby; a passion that is a call to Him – Him who I believe sent me here with the purpose of raising these children - and a hope for a brighter tomorrow, and as I sing I realize I’m not quite sure who I’m singing for, him or me?

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Then the traveller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveller in the dark,—
Though I know not what you are,
 Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!

Please don't worry, I write this only because I am in a better place now and because I'm a talker and a (over)sharer and verbalizing my thoughts/fears help me to process them.  A call from a good friend this morning reminded me again that I have a strong support system. I am okay. I will be okay.

Friday, November 1, 2013


When I transferred my pictures off of my camera and onto my computer last night I was SO THRILLED to see I got that shot above.  It was the first one I snapped in our pre-trick-or-treat photo session and I had no memory of taking it.  It was before Keaton was in full garb - a deer cape and antique trap transformed him from last year's lumberjack to this years Mountain Man or Trapper, depending on the day you asked. His costume was inspired by one of his favorite shows: Mountain Men on the History Channel.  No, I'm not kidding, he asks for this. The other morning we were on our way to Busha's when he said: Mom? Tonight can I watch one of my favorite shows? Duck Dynasty, Pickers, or Mountain Men? The little boys were not fans of the deer capes and chose to be lumberjacks again this year. But Keaton?  He was all about being a Mountain Man.

The only other picture I got of all three boys in the same frame from our Trick-or-Treating was this:

Which is really a much better representation of how our pre-trick-or-treat photo session went. ::Sigh::

To be honest, I was a tad bit nervous about how the evening would play out, given our getting ready show of attitudes, but I shouldn't have fretted, as soon as the boys were out and about and ringing doorbells the smiles appeared.

Nolan didn't do a whole lot of Trick-or-Treating but he did partake in some candy along the way.

And he did get down from Collin's arms to walk for approximately 30 seconds...

...before asking to be picked back up and promptly passing out.  

The poor guy was just not feeling well.  In hindsight, we shouldn't have taken him with, hours later he'd end up in the ER was another bad case of Croup, but at the time he still didn't seem that bad.

The boys' spent the evening running up to houses, ringing doorbells, and collecting candy with their cousins - a tradition they look forward to. In the future Kira and I are thinking of making it a Halloween weekend, full with a slumber party and holiday festivities and I have to admit, I think I'm probably looking forward to that as much as the kids will be.

About three quarters of the way through Hutt got tired, he still wasn't feeling well either, and asked if we could just go home.  Mimi carried him most of the rest of the way.

Keaton would have liked to go all night long, but by the time we made it back to the car it was starting to get chilly and darker and we told him "Two more, that's it!" He obliged and as we were rounding everyone up the adults were standing in the road talking when we noticed that the kids had set up camp, right there, smack dab in the street, to look through their goodies.

I suppose that's a good sign of a successful Trick-or-Treat.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

pumpkin carving

Happy Halloween!!

I am a little saddened by how quickly this holiday seems to have crept up on us and, at the same time, grateful we have made it this far through the year.  If my memory serves me correctly (in this case I think it does, though mostly it does not) we never got around to carving pumpkins last year.  So on Sunday, when we put the big 'ol round guys on the table and promptly cut their tops off, it was Nolan's first experience with pumpkin guts and the big boys' first experience in quite awhile.

Nolan wasn't quite sure what to make of it and kind of found the whole thing gross. But this kid is nothing but determined and kept right on scooping those seeds out regardless of his feelings. This is pretty indicative of his personality, we often call him an ox or a bull, a little force, because he is always charging on ahead, plowing through life.

Hutton couldn't wait for Collin to chop the top off of his big tall pumpkin and as soon as the coast was clear he was digging in as far as his arm could reach. He loved every second of it, cackling with glee.  This is also a pretty good indication of Hutt's personality; he is a thrill seeker. We fully expect this one will leave home in search of mountains to climb and seas to explore.

Keaton was also waiting with anticipation to dig in, but he took a little different approach. Sorting his pulp meticulously he make sure he got each and every seed out and in a bowl to be baked to perfection.  That entire bowl was full by the time he was done.  I'm sure you can guess, this is also representative of Keaton's personality: detail oriented, perfectionist, and organized.

After we got all of the pulp out and seeds sorted it was time to draw on some faces...

...and start carving.

The boys were really happy with their end results and this got them in the Halloween spirit; a couple hours later it was time to don the costumes and do a little Trick-or-Treating.