Six

Dear Joey,

The inevitable has happened. You've grown-up (some.) Six years ago today I was laying in bed, snuggling you, in awe of you. You were so tiny and yet already so big. You were born with such personality and have always been a force to be reckoned with. 


I am amazed by you most days. You are incredibly stubborn (just like your Dad) and you will fight and fight and fight some more about what you think is right or what you want. There are days that you exhaust me beyond measure because you just don't let up, ever. You are confident and strong-willed. I am also so proud of you because all I hear about from your teachers is what a kind-hearted boy you are. You are the first to help your friends and classmates out in school and are always concerned about others. I love how much you care about others.



You are so passionate about the things you enjoy. This includes hockey, but also things like watching certain movies. Recently you have watched all of the Rocky movies (I thru V) over and over. You are obsessed with this movie and you think Rocky is the greatest guys ever. In the meantime, I never want to see another minute of Rocky for the rest of my life! You are the same with the movie Miracle and I love listening to you chant "USA, USA, USA" during the US match against Russia. You've seen the movie a hundred times and you still are on the edge of your seat cheering like you aren't sure what is going to happen next.



You love sports and between hockey, football and baseball you stay busy! Your love of hockey is so fun to be a part of. You bed each day to skate and always, even when you aren't feeling your best, skate with everything you have. Dad and I are so proud of you and all the effort you put into hockey. I am so glad you found a sport you love so much.




You also love books and I am enjoying listening to you read books to me now. I love the time we spend together reading and snuggling. You still like to snuggle in and take naps with me and each time I ask you what I will do when you are too big and don't want to snuggle anymore with me and you always respond the same way by telling me you'll always snuggle with me even when you are grown and in college. I know this will be too good to be true.

You are in a rush to be bigger than you are. Just yesterday you told me how excited you were for your birthday because you have been waiting your whole life to be six. It seems I have been feeling the exact opposite. I can't believe my sweet baby boy is already six. Your independence stops me dead in my tracks sometimes. 


We taught you to always stick up for yourself and never let others treat you poorly and you have already had a few scuffles that reminded us that you will not be someones doormat. You don't take any crap and although you need to learn boundaries on what that means as you grow, I am most proud of this. 

You are one of the greatest parts of me and I am so grateful to be your mom. It turns out you were supposed to always be my baby so whether you are six or twenty-six, that is forever what you will be. 



I wish you the most blessed year. I know you will do great at all you set your mind to.

Happy 6th Birthday, my sweet face.

I love you always, to the moon and back.
Mama
xoxo

Eight

Dear Jack,

Each year I ask myself how is it you are already six or seven and now you are eight. This past year you have changed so much. I see less and less of the little boy I've grown to love and so much more of a big kid in you. You are somewhere in the middle of a little kid who relies on his parents for so much and an adolescent who wants to figure things out on his own, or thinks he already has figured it all out on his own. Some days it is painful to watch you fight yourself so you can work through what you need to, but I know in my heart it is what is best for you.



You are a second grader now and you do great in school. You still fight me to do your math homework but you are eager to read and you love science so much. You have a whole bunch of friends, but you spend most of your time with your brother. This year I have seen the way you and Joey play together change and although there are days the two of you can hardly be in the same room without fighting with one another, more times than not you play together nicely for hours at a time. I know you don't believe me now, but someday you will realize how lucky you are to have the greatest best friend as your brother.



I can't explain to you how much you changed my life eight years ago today. Your arrival changed who I was as a person in a way nothing else could. You made me a mom and it was something I had dreamed about forever, so thank you. You came into this world and instantly your Dad and I were different people and head over heels in love with our sweet little turkey.



I believe you were sent to me to teach me things I would not otherwise learn and you do that each day. It is not always easy, our relationship, but it is always full of love (even when I am yelling at you to do homework or to get out of bed for school.) You make my heart full.

I wish you the happiest of days and I dream of year full of happiness for you. Just remember who you are, what is important to you and what is right in your heart and you will continue to make good choices.

I am so proud of you and hope that eight is better than seven before. Also, you could slow down in the growing department. I am in no rush to see my little turkey grow up. No matter what this world brings you, Daddy & I will be right beside you.


Happy Birthday Turkey. I love you to the moon and back, twice.

Love you,
Mom xoxo

Mediocre, At Best

I am not sure how it is where you live, in your town, in your part of the world, but here in my part it can be like one big contest. It is like there is a running tally of who is winning it all. It might not really be that way, but it sure does feel that way a lot of the time.

I've talked before about the whole keeping up with the Joneses thing. How I try so hard to not get wrapped up in the what other people have and what other people are doing and instead truly focus on what is best for my family, for myself. Sometimes it is just so damn hard not to get sucked in, chewed up and then swallowed whole by the damn Joneses. Nobody really likes them anyway, why must I keep running head on with the dreamy idea of them?

There are a million things you can compare yourselves to others about. You breastfed your baby for 2 years, you make your own organic baby food from vegetables you grew yourself in the backyard AND your child is gifted, made the best soccer team and you already have your European vacation planned for summer? Well, la ti da. 

I know this sounds over the top and completely ridiculous, and it is, except it really isn't all the time. I know women who are like this. I don't even dislike them, I admire them, but mostly I am nothing like them.

The truth? My kids had a hot dog for lunch, are most likely wearing some piece of clothing they wore yesterday and I had a 20 minute battle with my eldest child over his math homework EVERY NIGHT THIS PAST WEEK.

My house is usually in shambles where you will find some sort of dirty laundry on a floor in at least one room and there is sure to be pee on something near the toilet in the bathroom with dog hair scattered throughout the house for good measure. It is not tidy or perfect, but it is lived in and there is always a blanket on the couch perfect for snuggling (if you don't mind the dog hair on it.)

I go through stages where I find myself comparing myself, my house, my children, my LIFE to other people and it does nothing but stress me out. I need to keep reminding myself I am not them. I might not ever be the mom that makes fancy dinners or has it all together all the time. I will most likely always be the mom running into hockey yelling at my kid to hurry up because we're late while I am wearing my workout clothes from my visit to the gym hours earlier (if you've ever been to a hockey rink you know no one can tell if I smell bad...the whole place stinks.) I do the best I can. Sometimes I wish I did better. Sometimes I wish I was more like them.

My friends & sisters always joke with each other when one of us screws up as a parent by calling them out as "Mother of the Year." I am not trying to be mother of the year...I'm striving for mediocre mother. I'd be happy with just above average.


At the end of the day my kids are fed, clean (or clean enough), safe and above all, loved. I'll take that as a win in my book.




Hockey Dreams

Every winter when the lake I grew up on would freeze over, I would spend hours outside ice skating. This also included hours of watching the neighborhood boys play hockey. These boys were some of my closest friends and me watching them play on the ice in the backyard also turned into me watching them play on their hockey teams at the local rink. I loved watching them play. I loved the fast pace of the game and was never bored watching them. I think back and just remember loving the game.

It was not long after we moved to WI that I remember my cousin calling to say he had two available tickets to that nights Blackhawk's game. I remember wanting to go so bad but thinking there was no way my Dad would drive from Kenosha all the way back to Chicago after working all day. When he asked me if I wanted to go I remember being ecstatic. I can't recall exactly how old I was but I am guessing maybe 10 or 11. I can remember everything about that night from the drive into the city with all the buildings lit up, the old Chicago Stadium full of crazy fans to the sound of that old organ as the National Anthem was played and the fans were so loud I could feel the noise shake through my little body as I put my hands over my ears. I remember Belfour playing goal and the game being incredible. The Hawks won and although I was so excited, I still remember feeling so sad for the other team (specifically the goalie) because they looked so disappointed. It was the first professional sporting event I went to. It is to this day one of the greatest childhood memories I have, especially just one with my Dad and I. I loved that everything about the game that night.

*****

Joey loves hockey. He plays his heart out and can't wait for his games and practices each week. He watched the Hawks games with Jason and I and knows all the players. He watches the movie "Miracle on Ice" about the 1980 US Hockey Team at least once a week. His passion is hockey.

When my friend asked me to sign up for the Hawk's promotion to "Make Your Kid A Captain," I didn't think much of it. Fine, I would enter but never in a million years thought I would actually win.

But then, I did. We got the call on Tuesday that we had won and we were going to that Sunday's game. The prize included two tickets in the 9th row, a Hawks jersey, the child to sit on the bench during the teams warm-up, their name on the jumbo-tron they get to walk through the locker room while the team is getting ready. Needless to say, it was amazing. When Joey learned we won he cried, he was so excited, he actually cried. He counted down the week and could not wait to go to the game.

The Blackhawks did not disappoint. The entire experience was a dream come true for my little man.




The fact that he got to sit on the bench while the team warmed up right in front of him was unreal. I was in awe standing at the glass while they skated right by me!




Yes, that is my boyfriend Patrick Sharp! (Watch the video for footage of him up close and stretching!)

The guys were so nice to Joey and Seabrook skated up and gave him a puck they were practicing with and as each guy left the ice they gave Joey bones, patted his helmet and he felt like he was a part of their team. He then got to move to his awesome seats to watch the Hawks win. The night could not have been more special for him.



I loved having the chance to stand with Jack as the National Anthem was sung and the fans went crazy. The sound rattled through me again and I felt like I was that little girl again. I am so happy I got to experience the night with my boys and I hope when they are as old as I am they remember this night with as much fondness as I do the game I went to so many years ago with my Dad.

I recorded him on the bench and his interactions with the team that he will probably re-watch every day for a long time. If you want to watch, I apologize for the less than stellar videographer skills and the length.



Both the boys had a great night, as did Jason and I. When I tucked Joey in that night he told me it was the greatest day he had ever had and he would never, ever forget it. He said it was a hockey dream come true! There is nothing better to hear as a mom.

I have to say an extra huge thank you to my friend Michelle who not only dragged me to the Jewel (to buy the toilet paper and kleenex required to enter the contest) but for telling me about it and insisting I enter. Then, she shared two of her amazing  Hawks tickets with us so that all four of us could go to the game. She even came to the game, brought her son so Jack had a buddy and celebrated our win with us! (I am happy to say her kid also won the promotion!) So, thanks Michelle for everything!

Be Thankful

It is Thanksgiving week and all month there has been talk of being thankful. If there is any time of year that reminds us to be thankful for all we have, this is it. I've noticed people writing a daily thankful post on Facebook each day and although I've enjoyed reading them, I haven't posted a single one.

It is not because I can't think of things I am thankful for, I have plenty. More than plenty. I guess every time I start to write what I am thankful for my answer is always the same. My kids, my husband, my family.

Sure, there are a million other things, smaller things, that I am thankful for. My incredible friends, my Starbucks Chai Tea Latte's, my job, my health, and so forth. They just all seem trivial compared to these two.


These last few months I find my self obsessing about the bad things that people go through. It seems like people die that shouldn't. People who left us all too soon and who deserve to be here, enjoying their lives. My dear friends lost their sweet Angel Baby. Two of my sisters each lost one of their dear friends. My Dad lost his best friend and I lost a "second Dad." I know loss is part of living, but sometimes it doesn't make sense and it is nothing but unfair.

I recently mentioned how my friend's 10 year old niece passed away last month and then I came across a story of a 4 year old boy who also lost his battle with cancer. I find myself reading the Facebook posts and blog posts about these children and feeling sick over their death. I'm sick for their parents, siblings, family and friends. I am so sad that they are gone (although I didn't personally know either of them.) I find myself sobbing through the parents words, trying to imagine their hurt. It is torture. Why do I keep doing this to myself? Honestly, I feel like it is the least I can do. I feel like the are living in the hell of losing their sweet children so how dare I complain that it is too hard to hear their stories or share in their pain.

I know that sounds crazy, but I feel like I am so lucky to have my amazing husband and boys that the least I can do is listen to their words and share in their pain. I feel for them and I don't want them to feel alone.

In the grand scheme of my life, nothing makes me more thankful than my family. It doesn't matter how much money I have, what kind of car I drive or what size my jeans are. The only thing that matters to me as they are with me when we say goodnight each night. In the end, I am not me without them So, for them, I am oh so thankful. Today and every other day.





For those of you who have lost someone you can't imagine losing. I wish you strength, peace and love....with a simple reminder that you are not alone. Happy Thanksgiving. xo

Missing in Action

Well hello there! It has been so long since I've written anything I almost don't know where to begin. I think when I last checked in Jason and I were planning our trip to Germany.

We made it there and back without any issues and only some minor harassing regarding my water-logged passport. I can confirm that the German customs agents can be very scary and intimidating. It was an amazing week that Jason and I enjoyed so much (even if he did have to work for part of it.) We did so much and Cologne is a beautiful city that I would suggest you visit if you ever get the chance.

Cologne is located right on the Rhine river and as you come into town on the train the first thing you see is the Dom Cathedral. It is breathtaking. It is one of the oldest and largest cathedrals in Germany and is what Cologne is known for (well, besides Eau De Cologne...the birth place of cologne!) The city is full of amazing history including how the entire area was bombed and destroyed during WWII, except for the Dom. It was used as a beacon all lit up in the sky so the allies would know where to bomb. They destroyed the city but never bombed the cathedral.




Looking down the aisle in the Dom.




It really was incredible to visit and our hotel was right around the corner so I spent every morning having a coffee overlooking the cathedral. It is free and open to the public and although it has thousands of visitors walking in and out all day, it has a stillness you'd expect to find in a church. I found myself sitting in a pew almost daily just enjoying the peacefulness and craftsmanship found inside. There are no words to describe it and these photos don't do it justice. I am so thankful I was able to experience it.

I walked for hours each day enjoying the city, taking in the sights and the river, the hustle and bustle of it all. The people were incredibly friendly and I hope I get the chance to visit Germany again. I ate a lot of pretzels and strudel while Jason enjoyed the sausage and Kolsch beer (his new favorite!)

One of the traditions is to "lock up your love" on the bridge that crosses the Rhine. You put a padlock on the fence and then throw the key into the river. I know this is done in London and Paris as well. I walked this bridge almost daily and loved looking at the locks. Jason and I bought a small lock and locked it up on our last day there.





It was a wonderful week away and by the end of our trip we were anxious to get home to see the boys and honestly, I couldn't eat another pretzel and still zip my jeans!

Germany wrapped up our September and then we were full swing into October. We still had baseball, hockey and flag football seasons to finish up so Fall was busier than ever. Work in a trip to the pumpkin farm and regular work / life stuff and the month literally slipped away.

October ended on a sad note as I learned of a little girl whose journey I was following had passed away from brain cancer. Gabriella Miller was 10 years old and she is the niece of one of my friends / parent at our school. I had been following Bri's story since I learned of her diagnosis from my friend last November. She did amazing things in the year after she learned of her inoperable tumor and fought until her last days to make a change in pediatric caner research. I urge you to visit smashingwalnuts.org to learn more about Gabriella and how we all can help make a change. This incredible girl deserves to have us all continue this fight, she was inspirational.

The hard part, besides learning that a 10 year old has died, is that anyone who knows me knows I don't easily process things like this (not that anyone does.) I had a rough week trying to work through why things like this happen and trying to logically talk myself into understanding that just because bad things often happen, it doesn't mean they are going to happen to me or my family. I just can't help but think that this could be my life. I know I should focus on how blessed I am to have healthy children but I just keep thinking about Gabriella and her parents and know that this could happen to me, or you. No one is off limits, unfortunately. It is a hard lesson to learn and has reminded me to be thankful for all I have. I am trying to work through my anxiety and to not literally panic at the thought of such a loss. For me, this is easier said than done.

The boys were super excited for Halloween and although we had rainy weather they trick-or-treated until they were soaked to the bone. I would love to show you pictures of Jack as Jason the psycho killer from Friday the 13th or Joey as a ninja, but I didn't get a single picture. It was pouring and they were rushing to get out the door with their friends and I was lucky I even caught up with them at all. I missed the opportunity and by the time we got home they were too wet and cold to even consider taking a picture. Take my word for it, they were creepy and ninja-like! I am enjoying the candy that they worked so hard for.

I am happy we are into November and I'm  looking forward to some family time in the coming holiday season. Tis the season to be thankful!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

This week has arrived and although I've been thinking about it and sorta preparing for it for a few weeks now, my anxiety has kicked in to overdrive every time I really sit down and think about it.

Jason and I are headed to Germany on Friday. I know, poor me, right. In all honesty I was not gung-ho about this trip. Jason has to go for business (since his last trip was cancelled after the flood) and he asked me to tag along with him. At first I said no. I just didn't think it would be a good idea. The kids are in school, they have busy sports schedules, homework is a royal pain in the ass and so on. It would be harder to go than to not.

After a few discussions with my mom, she said I had to go and she would come stay with the boys for the week. My dad reminded me that I may not get a chance to travel to Germany (at least not this cheap) again and I should take full advantage.

So Jason booked me a ticket and that was that, I was going to Germany.

We leave Friday and come home the following Saturday. Just long enough for my mom to be left to deal with basically two full weekends of hockey, baseball and a birthday party thrown in for good measure. She will be run ragged after a week of sweaty hockey pads with Joey and math homework with Jack. I just hope when it is all said and done she still loves her grandchildren and they still like her.

My parents left my sisters and I with my grandma (who was less than grandmotherly) when I was little to vacation and I hated them for leaving us with her. It was a week of her yelling at us to "get your feet off the davenport" when in reality none of us even knew what the hell a davenport was. She wasn't an overly affectionate woman and was definitely not the same as having our mom home with us. It was the longest week ever and although I was only 6 or 7 I remember that hell to this day.

In all fairness to my mom, she is not at all like my grandma in terms of her nurturing at all,  but she will nag the living daylights out of them, I'm sure. It's what mom's (and now grandma's) do. I also know she will take great care of them....even if they all want to kill each other by the time I return. My mom raised daughters and although she has spent tons of time with my boys, they are always surprising in only a way boys can be. (I have bets she falls in the toilet at least twice during the week due to the seat being left up.)

Speaking of returning...we have a slight technical difficulty with my passport. When the house flooded, both Jason and I had our passports stored in a bin in the basement. I found them when cleaning the basement out. They were stuck to the cement floor, covered in mud and obviously sopping wet. I cleaned them up the best I could and I laid them flat to dry. Then we planned this trip. My passport was wrinkly and a bit dirty, but you could read all the information and still see my picture enough to recognize it was me. I didn't think it was worth the few hundred dollars to replace it. Then I learned it had to be scanned....obviously I am not much of a traveler.

I was less than certain my passport would scan. It resembled a 10 year old dollar bill that had passed through a million hands, half a million vending machines and at least 50 wash cycles. I was confident you could read it, but scan it? Not very likely.

After calling some place in the city they suggested we drive downtown, pay $200 a piece, wait for god only knows how long and then hopefully get new passports. I was feeling like that was a bad idea since we leave on Friday and what if they told us they were no good and we couldn't get new ones in time...and honestly I am cheap (and did not want to fight traffic downtown, yadda, yadda, yadda.) We decided to instead drive to O'Hare (much closer to our house) to see if they would scan.

Jason dropped me at the United curb and inside I met Gil, a manager at the United counter. He was incredibly nice to me and he scanned Jason's first. It scanned with no problems. Then he tried mine (admittedly, mine was in much worse shape than Jason's) and no bueno. It would not scan. He tried 5 scanners before getting it to scan, once. He told me I could look for him on Friday and since it was obvious I hadn't defaced it and the information and numbers were still legible, he would get me on the plane to Germany.

I was just about to hug him when Gil uttered the word....But. But what? I thought. He then explained that he could get me out of the country, but he could not guarantee they would let me home. Whaaaa?? Obviously me getting home is a crucial step in the logistics of this trip. I have to get home...I am freaking out about leaving! I will be dying to get home to my babies!  Gil explains that hopefully they will enter the information in manually if it won't scan in Germany, but again there are no guarantees. There is the chance that they won't let me on my flight and I will be detained until they can run further security information on me and I get "clearance" back in to the US. I just went from a US citizen taking a vacation with a wet passport to being detained waiting for clearance....holy shit. I then explain to Gil that I will be bawling my damn head off if they won't let me go home because I have kids to get home to and ohmygod, what if they keep me there and surely they will see me crying and realize I really need to go home....and while I am rambling on, Gil calmly places his hand on my arm and explains that trying to get through customs into the US is not like getting out of a speeding ticket. He simply said, "they could care less if you cry." When did Americans become such a-holes, people. A crying mother detained waiting for clearance to get home to see her children and they could care less? Geez...tough crowd.

So here's the deal. I'm leaving on a jet plane on Friday and everyone needs to pray to the sweet baby Jesus that I get home the following Saturday. I do not eat meat, or any type of schnitzel product or kraut, I don't drink beer and my figure would not look good in a Drindl. I do not belong in Germany! Jason has already informed me he will leave me there if I get detained. As if my anxiety was not already kicked up a notch worrying about my kids for a week...now I have the worry of leaving them motherless, with their father. Pray for me!
 
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