Friday, February 28, 2014

Here comes the sun

As the garage door was coming down behind us he turned the key and took it out of the ignition; we looked at each other and simultaneously sighed. Two of our three were sleeping in the back seats, the third was sitting quietly.  The sighs were one part relief, we made it through both church and lunch out without any major meltdowns, and one part dread of the project that awaited us on the other side of the door. It's not so much the project itself, organizing the storage room, that is causing the emotional unrest (though it is difficult to make much headway with three small ones under feet) it's the meaning behind it. If it is God's will, this project is a first small step in the giant leap of what is to come.

"If you could fast-forward 10 years, but still have all the good memories, would you do it?" he asked me.

"And miss the next 10 years of these guys growing up?  No way" I told him.

"You wouldn't miss it, you'd still have all the good memories of those years, it'd just be 10 years in the future."

I sat and thought, it's an interesting proposition - I'd be 44, the boys 15, 13, 11, theoretically we should be through these challenging toddler years where we have absolutely no time for ourselves, the economy should, hopefully, be better and, if things go as planned, we'd be living the future of our dreams. Plus, I'd get to keep all of the good memories of the last 10 years.

I looked at him and shook my head, "No. The lessons come from the challenging times. This is when we learn the most."


Happy weekend, everyone!
(sunrise pictures from two Saturday's ago - Keaton and I sat in my office for over a half hour just waiting for this to come up.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Digging Deeper this Lenten Season

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, is in exactly one week.  Each year when Lent rolls around I tell myself I want to do more this year: I want to spend more time in prayer, I want to strategize and step-up our almsgiving, I want to get more out of our Friday fasting (more than just a fish fry, hahaha....that was a Wisconsin joke....see in Wisconsin fish fries are a thing on Fridays....oh, never mind). Most importantly though, at the end of these 40 days, at the end of the Lenten season, I want to feel closer to Him.  Sadly, most years I fall short.  The Easter season and the Triduum masses never fail to touch my heart, I feel so alive after the Easter mass, but in the days leading up I never feel like I've done enough.

Every year, just before Lent, our church bulletin includes an announcement of a Lenten Bible Study.  Every year I think, "man, I wish we could do that", but the truth is, we can't right now. At this stage in our life, with young kids, (and okay, fine, because we are lazy and never made contact with the babysitter who already said she would be interested if we wanted her to come out once in a while!!!!) we just can't swing a night out every week. 

I saw the announcement again this year and then I received an email with a Lenten book recommendation and I thought....hmmm....this might be a long shot but I wonder if anyone would be interested in doing an online bible study, type-thing?

Would you?

I'm thinking it would work something like this, we pick a book and have a once a week discussion on here - I could write a post and the discussion could take place in the comments, or you (only if you are interested) could do a guest-post and the discussion could still be held in the comments.  Or, we could do an email thread if people are uncomfortable with doing this out in the open, online. It wouldn't have to be overly organized, we could schedule the initial post/discussion for a certain day (Sunday?) and the discussion could take place over the course of the week, as your time permits. And if you miss a week or don't want to discuss publicly at all, but want to still read and follow along, that's absolutely fine.

If you're still with me and at all interested, I've included two book possibilities below.  

The first one, What Jesus Saw from the Cross, was that recommendation that came through that email I mentioned above.  Amazon includes the following description:
Photo from
"Written early in this century by Rev. A. G. Sertillanges, a priest who lived in Jerusalem, this acclaimed devotional classic gives you vivid and dramatic details not included in the Gospel: With Jesus, you'll be jostled by crowds as you enter Jerusalem, choke on the dust of the narrow streets, experience the exotic oriental smells of the city at festival time, share the Last Supper with the disciples, stare into the face of Jesus' accusers, and be there as He dies on the Cross.
Read it slowly and prayerfully. The vivid details and the gripping narrative will soon take over: you'll find yourself engaged in a personal retreat, an interior pilgrimage, and a profound meditation on the love and sufferings of Jesus on the Cross."

This book struck me as a good option because I feel like those "vivid details" and "gripping narrative" would make me "dig deeper." The price is about $17 for a paperback but only about $10 for a Kindle edition. Based on the Table of Contents it looks like there are 10 chapters which we would divide up between the weeks.  So, for example, our Week 1 discussion would include Chapters 1 & 2, or something along those lines.

The second book, Lenten Reflections from a Father who Keeps His Promises, is described on Amazon as follows:
Photo from

"From Genesis to Jesus, these Lenten reflections based on A Father Who Keeps His Promises highlight biblical characters such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David that lead us to Christ and his sacrifice for us. Delving into the rich history of God's covenant with us, each day's reading gives the reader much to reflect on throughout Lent, culminating with Easter and ending with Divine Mercy Sunday. In addition to the reflection, there is a daily Scripture verse, a prayer, and a relevant question, all designed to deepen the reader's Lenten experience."
If you take a look at the Table of Contents, this book is basically short, daily devotionals for Lent through Easter. I've taken Bible studies in the past that are based on things written by Scott Hahn and have always liked his work (don't be scared if you see that he is Catholic and you are not, it's okay). The price for this one is about $12 for the book, $10 for the Kindle addition and they also have an audiobook option, which I thought would be nice for anyone that has a daily commute.

Several times in the past I've thought of proposing something like this on here but have always shied away. But this year, maybe more than any, I need to dig deeper so I'm going to be choosing one of these books/devotionals to read in the coming weeks and if you're interested I'd love to do it together.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Did I mention that this happened?

We had a nice, low-key weekend.  A lot of puzzle doing, Candyland playing, Olympic watching, and magazine reading, kind of a weekend.  Interspersed in there was some kitchen cleaning, basement organizing, and tax completing (ONE item left before I can drop them off!  Woo!  Let's not talk about how I said I'd drop them off the first Wed. in Feb....) (There was a whole lot less of this second list than the first, which puts us behind, but it was worth it.) I was going to post a couple of pictures of the boys from the weekend but as I was looking at them I realized....I don't think I ever told you about this....

Nolan got his first haircut!!  

This happened a couple of weekends ago and just like his big brother Hutt, he was ready. Oh, he was ready.  For a couple of months each time Collin cut the big boys hair he'd ask Nolan, do you want yours cut?  And every time he'd run his hands through his hair and nod with anticipation.  But Mama wasn't ready.

Those curls!  I knew they'd be gone once we gave him his first cut so I held off as long as I could.  But a few weekends ago Collin asked him again, you want to get your haircut?  And this time he ran back and got the clippers out himself.  It was time.

He did great; sat patiently and still, didn't get scared at all, but what surprised us most was the color.  He's BLONDE!  I mean, we knew he was lighter than Keaton but his long curls always gave us the allusion that he was more of the strawberry blonde variety....with the exception of texture, because his is definitely straight and Hutt's is definitely curly, his locks were the exact same color as Hutton's laying on the floor.

For days afterwards I'd ask him, Nolan?! What happened to your hair??  And he'd put his hand to his head and grunt a little, eh, eh and then he'd point at Collin.  Did Daddy take them?  I'd ask and he'd get a huge smile on his face and nod enthusiastically - yes.

The curls are gone and in their place they left me a Big Boy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


There is a storm coming but for now the driving conditions are nearly perfect. I just dropped off the kids, the radio is playing and my mind is wandering, thinking about our decision to enroll the Keaton in Catholic schools next year.  As I come up on the intersection I see the cars; one at the stop-sign, waiting patiently to cross and continue his journey east, another at a standstill in the middle, his blinker is flashing and I know as soon as I pass he, too, will head east. As I get closer I can tell the SUV is brown and I can see lights on the roof of his car; as I pass I see the writing on the side and confirm that it is a county deputy.

A county deputy.

Becky told me she saw the deputy come pealing down the road that night.  She was up, nursing a 3-mo old V. and by his speed alone she knew something was wrong.

"911 what's your emergency?"

"Our house is on fire."

The deputy was there within minutes and it was his arrival that prevented Collin from going back in.  

"What's your wife's name?  What's your birthday?  Do you have kids?  What are their names?"

He badgered him with questions; I assume this was for two reasons: make sure he was coherent/not in a state of shock; and keep him busy/stop him from doing something stupid.

I am several miles down the road before I realize I am audibly crying; sucking in big gulps of air just trying to catch my breath.

As I drive past the garbage man, pulled over on the side of the road and picking up a recycling bin, I wonder if he can see the tears rolling down my face.

It's 37 degrees and the sun is shining. The big boys and I wait patiently for the littlest to wake so we can don the snow pants and hats and mittens and head outside.  I tell them before we play, we have to take a walk - a practice for the many we hope to take again come spring/summer. 

Nolan drags the sled the whole way down the road and we drop off some oils and books at Becky's. We chat for a second before she piles her two youngest into the car and we stomp through their yard to get back to our street. The beef jerky she gave us is welcome by all and each of the boys finds a place on the sled with a stick in hand.

It's not easy pulling all three, my legs can feel it, but it doesn't hurt so much as it feels good to use these muscles again.

I'm leaning at an angle as I pull and their legs dangle, bumping along the snow covered pavement when suddenly it is no longer winter but summer. 

Summer of 2010.  

I have an 18-month old and an infant and every morning we pack into the stroller and walk to the cows. Baby Hutton mostly sleeps but once in a while he screams and cries and I pull him out to carry him while pushing the stroller with one hand.  The sun peeks over the trees and is shining bright as we pull back in the drive and head home for lunch. I could spend all of the days of my life just like this.  Everything is right in the world.

As I pull the sled up over the embankment I look up and before me is our house.  Our home.  

The boys have run off, racing up the driveway to the shovels. My heart sinks a bit as I'm brought back to reality.  We had so many plans. So many dreams.  Three and a half years later....what happened?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

the time I chiseled a pretzel rod

Is this year flying by to anyone but me?  I can't believe Valentine's Day is already over and we are now officially in the second half of February.  I'm sure it's because I have so many things on the to-do list that I want done before spring, and so many of those things (nearly all, if I'm being honest) are still yet to be done. 

Even though it's over, let's talk about Valentine's Day.  I'm thoroughly disappointed in the results of the boys' Valentine's this year; I made a critical error at the get-go, but we did do some crafting in the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day that went okay...

When Mimi was up in January I made a run to Michael's to get the supplies for these arrows. We sat down with the big boys while Nolan was napping and from start to finish this project was a success.  We improvised the design a bit, but from cutting to gluing with just a bit of help they were able to make these all on their own. I know I'm biased, but I think they are adorable.  

I also did a bit of crafting on my own this holiday. I made this banner and these bath bombs (a couple of changes I made to the recipe: added quite a bit more essential oils and some epsom salt). The original plan with the banner was to make two - one to keep and one to give away on here, but when I got it done I wasn't quite sure I even liked it.  It has since grown on me, but by the time I decided I liked it, I was out of time to get a second one done (running out of time, this is a recurring theme in my life.) 

With the crafting out of the way the weekend before the holiday we set aside to be "all about Valentine's" We knew the boys would do best with tiny increments of work rather than long-drawn out projecting.  For the Grandparents and Godparents we made these birdseed hearts. And now the Godparents are reading this and tilting their heads to the side while scrunching up their noses a little: hmmm?  I didn't get a birdseed heart?  Well, no, you didn't. Not yet. Because they are still sitting in my pantry.... This project was super easy, it only required two ingredients: birdseed and gelatin and from start to finish (minus drying time) was done in about 10 minutes.  

The boys' Valentines however were a different story.  Let's just go ahead and get the elephant out of the room right now...yes, this year I was that asshole parent that made her kid's Valentines.  There it is.  I'm not proud of it, but there it is. I'm convinced that my critical error was this: I decided what the boys would make without asking their opinion on the matter first.  Let me back up a the kids are really into hunting right now.  Their Christmas wish lists were shoot guns and bow and arrows (both of which they got) and I thought their love for bow and arrows tied nicely into Valentine's Day; specifically into Cupid's Arrow. So I started my search there and found a bunch of different options but ultimately landed on this one as my source of inspiration. A pretzel, marshmallow, and dove chocolate - that's easy right? I mean, even kids can make this. But I think in making this decision is where I went wrong.  I mean, if I had asked them what kind of Valentines they wanted to make maybe they would have chosen arrows, but maybe not.  Last year they insisted on deer valentines and while I was absolutely stumped as to how to do this I think they actually turned out pretty cute. So, that's where things started to go wrong and from there, they only got worse.

The directions said to melt the chocolate on the pretzel.  Hutt and I set about doing this, him unwrapping the chocolates and placing them onto the pretzels, me sticking them in the oven.  This was working well until I pulled them out of the oven and realized half of the chocolates had fallen OFF of the pretzels and melted.  Have you ever tried to shove a pretzel stick under a melted piece of chocolate?  Results were not good.  I was a little concerned about my ROI (return on investment) at this point, 50% that's.....less than I'd like.  But I trudged on and decided that while they were cooling we could at least test out the marshmallow portion of the project.  I figured this part, at least, would be easy and so I picked up a pretzel rod and a heart shaped marshmallow and I showed Hutton how we would do this: see Hutt, we just crap, that doesn't look like an arrow fletching at all.  It was all squished and bubbled up into two little balls....on the end of a pretzel stick...I don't need to describe this any further, do I?

The pretzel rod was too big.  But I had already test run the small pretzel sticks and they were too small. I needed to somehow make the big pretzel smaller and this is what led to my experience in chiseling a pretzel rod.  Put that on your resume.

This story is already too long so let's just skip to the end....I used frosting to "glue" the chocolate and marshmallow onto the pretzel (Keaton's party was later in the week so I actually cut his marshmallows in half before "gluing").  Then I froze them so they wouldn't be in three pieces by the time the kids handed them out.  I think it worked; I'm not quite sure they actually looked like arrows but whatever, BEHIND US.  The kids did look cute writing their names on 17 different Valentines - which, come to think of it, was probably PROJECT ENOUGH.

Blow that picture up and you can see the arrows a little closer.  I'm too tired to post full size pictures here.

Our celebration did end on a good note, thankfully. Strawberries and waffles for breakfast Saturday morning, seafood alfredo and crab cakes that night (which the boys don't like, be WE DO so yay! Happy Valentine's Day!!)

Hope you guys had a good celebration! This weekend the red will be put away and soon, soon, the green will find it's way out.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

things they said (this week)

"Mom?  Can you please change Nolan's diaper?  He smells like a Chicken & Poop sandwich."

It was early morning and he was tucked in between the two of us when he suddenly jolted awake in bed, "Dad! Dad!" Whatever he had on his mind it was urgent, but before a groggy Collin could respond he belted out, "Do chickens fly??!!"

Nana (banana)
Da Da (which sounded more like DA DAAAAAA! as he yelled down to the basement)
Punxsutawney Phil 

(hahaha, kidding. The running joke this week by the big boys is that Nolan said "Punxutawney Phil" Say it again, Nolan, say it!  Mom, he said Punxutawney Phil!)

Monday, February 3, 2014

6 more weeks of winter

Was anyone really surprised by that prediction?  Six more weeks of winter, says Punxsutawney Phil.

In honor of Groundhog's Day I made the boys groundhog pancakes yesterday morning (inspired by The Joys of Boys).  I realized afterwards that my cheeks were too big and I forgot the nose, but whatever, they were excited.  Bouncing up and down on their knees they waited as patiently as they could, What is it, Mom?  What's our surprise?  

I set the plate down in front of Keaton and the bouncing stopped.  He went eerily still.  Cocking his head to the side he it...a....deer?

No, Silly!  What day is it?  

He threw his head back in manic laughter, Groundhog's Day!  It's a groundhog!

Can I cut your pancake?  I asked Hutton (because if you know my children then you know that you must always ask. before. you. cut.)

Yes. He said.  It's a groundhog, but it kinda yooks yike a deer. 

(Apparently my ears looked more like antlers.)

In other weekend news the boys have officially moved into our bedroom until either 1) this weather breaks or 2) gas prices drop.  And by move in, I mean move in:

They brought their blankets and their pillows, every single stuffed animal they owned, they brought their (empty) suitcases because, of course, this is what is required on a "camp-out."

They also brought their hunting set-up. 

But, they had a ball in there, playing and coloring almost non-stop.  It was an adventure.

As for Collin and I, we had a busy weekend.  Sadly, even when we are home these days weekends are busy.  With out weekday schedule having us out of the house from 6:30 am to 6:30 going on 7:00 pm there is just always so much to get caught up on on the weekend.  I didn't get to cleaning my office but we did clean the house (minus the bedrooms), we devised a plan for tackling the storage room, I got about 80% of the way through our taxes, and we worked on Valentines (that, sadly, need some re-work...didn't quite work out...)

We also made Punxsutawney Phil pudding cups for our pre-Super Bowl Game dessert last night (inspired by Family Fun). The boys thought these were fantastic.

Especially Nolan.

Hope you all had a nice weekend.