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!

Big Time

This. Seriously, this happened this week.


This is the first day of school. I know what all you fellow parents are thinking. Praise Jesus! School! Don't get me wrong, I am too, but this wasn't just a normal ho-hum first day of school. This was Joey's, my baby's,  first day of Kindergarten. KINDERGARTEN. That might as well be college in my delusional head.

There is so much prep for school to start, all the supplies, new backpacks, fancy new shoes and haircuts. We talked about it for weeks and then when it was here, I was like Whoa, slow the heck down. What's the rush? Getting back to a routine is great, early bedtimes mean more kid-free time on the couch for me each night, but then the trade off is - lunches. No one likes making lunches.

Then the day came and it was so exciting and boy, was this kid ready. I asked if he was nervous, no. I asked if he was sad he'd be away from me at school each day, nope. He was totally and completely fine with going. This was so unlike Jack's feelings about kindergarten that I was partially relieved and a little sad. What kind of kid isn't a little nervous on the first day of school?


Just as predicted, he waved, said see ya and walked right in. I tried to sneak one last hug and kiss and he kinda swatted me away because, Mom, people are watching! 

I couldn't help but tear up. I mean, this is it. This is my baby walking into his first day of kindergarten and I will never have another kid starting kindergarten. I may or may not have been the mom hiding by the tree crying with oversized sunglasses on. It is all downhill from here. I know all too well that the time is flying by.

Like the famous quote says, the days are long but the years are short. This statement sums up my life as a parent. I find myself struggling each day with the ins and outs of raising these boys. They make me crazy each day only after reminding me in some way, no matter how small, how much I adore them.

On the same day Joey walked into school for the first time, Jack headed into 2nd grade like he was an upperclassman. He admitted to being a little nervous, because that's the kind of kid he is. Unsure until he gets in there and sees what something is all about. He walked in a little apprehensive and walked out like he owned the school. He just seems so grown up to me.


As much as every parent loves when their kids head back to school, there is always a sadness with the first day of school in terms of it reminding us that another year is starting. Another year is quickly slipping away. I'm hanging on tight to these two.


Happy first day of school!

Too Much Talking

Have you ever had someone tell you something, like sharing a deep dark secret or just an embarrassing story, that you wish they never would have told you? It is as if people sometimes forget that once you tell someone something, once you actually let the words slip from your lips, you can't take them back.

There is no do-over once you let the words fly.

Instead the listener is left with the words in their head, thinking about what you said over and over, wishing they didn't know what they know. Wishing they never heard what you said. Wishing you wouldn't have over-shared.

I think people tend to tell too much for many reasons. Maybe they are really comfortable with you and trust you to be a good listener without judging (hard to do, people judge others even if it is unintentional.) They could also spill the beans because they have had too much to drink - it seems alcohol always causes people to open up, to over share. It isn't until the next day, while nursing a hangover, that you think to yourself, Oh shit, what did I say last night?

I also think people tend to tell all when they trust you so completely that they really believe that no matter what they might say, you will feel the same way about them.

I have had people tell me things about themselves, their marriages, their family life or sex life that I wish I didn't know. Not because I don't like the person telling me, but because I can't think of them without thinking of the things they said, the words they shared. Some stories are obviously way worse than others. Some just literally get stuck in your head and haunt you.

The thing is that you may adore the person doing the talking, but then be so wrapped up in what they said that you can't help but look at them differently. You just can't get past what they told you and you don't know how to process it, how to make yourself unhear it.

I am pretty certain everyone is guilty of over-sharing at some point in their lives. It happens to the best of us, but making sure what you saying is not too much is key. Next time you are sharing your deep, dark secrets, or when you are rambling on and on after a few two many drinks, remember that sometimes saying nothing is better than saying too much.

The key is finding the balance of just enough said.

Here One Minute, Gone the Next

This past weekend my friend had to do something that I find unimaginable. She had to give her baby back. Now when I say her, it's all relative. It was her baby in the sense that she brought him home from the hospital at just a few days old. It was her baby in that she has loved him, rocked him to sleep, snuggled him and cared for him for the past two years. It was her baby because she was the one mothering him.

She, along with her husband, don't have any biological children so signing up to be foster parents with the hope that they could adopt a child who needed a home made sense. She is adopted and knew first hand the difference an adoptive family can make to a child.

They also knew there was no guarantee that they would get to keep this baby, their baby, but they loved him as if he was their own all the while praying he would stay with them forever. Yet they knew that he might not.

This is the part I can't imagine. As a mother, I can't imagine loving my baby with all of me while knowing that there is a greater chance than not the baby will be taken away. That the baby will be returned to his birth mother. This is the most self-less thing, and my friend did it regardless.

I believe in second chances and the truth that you can make a bad choice and still change your ways and make good on things. This baby's birth mother made some bad decisions. She chose drugs instead of what was best for her baby. It was because of these choices that her sweet baby, who she no doubt loved, was taken from her.

She should feel beyond lucky and blessed that her baby was cared for and loved by my friend for the past two years. I hope that she understands that she missed some of the sweetest and most difficult times in having a child. The long sleepless nights, the sweet cuddles, the temper tantrums and the first everythings (steps, words, kisses, etc) that my friends relished in as if it was their baby. This birth mother's poor choices led her baby to a family that adored him every single moment of every day.

It is a bittersweet story though. Amazing for the birth mom that she got clean, made good on the poor choices of her past and worked on changing her life so she could regain custody of her son. As a mom, I can't imagine anyone taking one of my kids and me not doing anything and everything in my power to fight to get them back. It is just instinct for a mother to want her children. I am happy for this mom, that she was able to do that if not for her son, for herself.

I also know there are millions of mothers who are brave enough, who love their babies so much, they know in their hearts they aren't the best mothers for their kids. They do the least selfish act of all, they give their babies up to parents who might not otherwise get to be parents. I know giving your child up for adoption and losing your child to child protection services are two very different things, but I also know if it wasn't for this mom's life choices, my friend would have never known the joys of being a mother.

I can say that I've seen my friend change so much in the past two years. She has told me repeatedly, usually when I am wanting to cry at the thought of her returning her baby, that she knew this was a possibility when she agreed to foster him. They are heartbroken and will most definitely have a whole in their lives and in their hearts that their little boy once filled. I also can't think of two more giving people and am so proud of my friend for always doing what was best for that baby, even when she knew it would leave her without him. She not only cared for the baby, but she supported the birth parents in their journey.

I wish I could say I would be able to give my baby up for adoption or be a foster parent, that I could be that altruistic, that good of a person. I know I couldn't be. For that, I am thankful for all the parents and families that are. For the parents who have given their babies to so many of my friends, making them parents and allowing them to know the love of a family. To the people who take these babies and children in and foster them, that love them with all they have, knowing that the time may be short and they will have to eventually go home, these people make this world better. They also make me appreciate my kids and how lucky I am to have them.

To my friend, I hope you find peace knowing that you changed that boy's life. You made it better and he will know what it feels like to be loved because of the two of you. xoxo

Nine

Nine years ago today I walked down a very long aisle towards my very best friend.


Nine years ago I said some of the most important and meaningful words I will ever say. I said them with more happiness than I have ever felt, with more faith than I have ever known and with so much love.

I, Jana, take you, Jason....



I remember feeling like everything was right that day. That I belonged with Jason and that, together, we would never lose our way.

We have been through some serious stuff in the last nine years of marriage and fifteen together (holy Jesus fifteen years is a long time!) and never have I ever doubted that next to Jason is where I belong, where I am my best. I married someone who makes me a better person. I still, all these years later, can't believe how lucky I am.


Today isn't just special for us though. Today, the Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, which it was. This ruling means marriage equality for everyone. It means that no matter who you are or who you love, you have the right to love them. To marry them. You get to fight with your husband or wife just like I do mine. It also means that you get to love someone and share the same words I shared in a marriage ceremony and they will be taken as seriously as mine, as they should be. No one should be condemned for who they love. They should get to wake up to the face that makes them happiest each day, like I do.

So yes, it is a happy anniversary for me. I am thrilled to share it with so many people who deserve the same rights I have. I wish them as much happiness as I have been blessed with. Here's to ninety more....

Catching Up

It has been awhile, I know. I hate not writing on a semi-reuglar basis because in all honesty it is good for me. This here little blog is a form of therapy for me. Taking the time to hash out all the shit running through my head is usually just what I need to get my attitude adjusted and head clear.

Last time I wrote I shared the story of the recent flooding and how that affected our lives and I also wrote about our incredible friends that stepped us and showered us with so, so much love. An update on all that is...we are still not back to normal. We have walls, they are painted and we finally just got a working dryer, but we are still without a finished floor in the family room. This sucks because it is a mess down there but then again, even if there was a floor I wouldn't be putting my stuff down there so it isn't really going to matter to me one way or another. We are still living out of a few boxes / bins and are literally packed into the non-flooded living space in the house.

We had an interview with FEMA workers and they denied us within hours. It turns out FEMA doesn't really care about 99% of the stuff you lost and I feel like I had my hopes up thinking they would offer us some help. I really, really hope they are more supportive of families that lived through storms like Sandy and the devastation like the OK tornados because they did nothing for us. So we are slowly replacing the things that we lost that are replaceable. I would be lying if I said I wasn't still sad about the things we lost that I just can't get back. Slowly but surely we are recovering.

The house hunt has been kind of slow and we found a house, put an offer on it (along with a bazillion other people) and didn't get the house. Bank owned properties suck to bid on since there is literally no negotiating. Needless to say, we were really disappointed - again. The search continues. It is hard because we live in a community when a lot of the houses are over $500,000 on average. A friend called me the other day to tell me about a house that was on the market in our area and when I looked up the listing I learned the house was $724,000. What is even more difficult is having to say to my friend that the house was over our budget and her seeming shocked that it was.

Jason and I don't agree on everything but one thing we do agree 100% on is NOT being house-broke. We want a nice house, and I am certain we will find one someday, but we will not buy a house that will require us to be broke paying for it. I want to be able to buy clothes and shoes and take vacations. Yes, I want a nice house too but that means I will have to settle for a nice house that isn't almost a million dollars. We have a lot of friends who have houses that are in that price range so it can be hard to explain that we can't find a house because we can't just afford everything on the market. I will admit there are days this depresses me because then I end up wishing I had what other people have. This is not a healthy way to live.

I have been stuck in the bitter barn lately. We have had plenty of struggles and I can't help but feel a bit defeated by them. I have just had enough and would really love for something to go our way. In the meantime I am trying hard to not feel resentful for what others have and trying to remind myself that although things aren't perfect right now, I am blessed with what I do have. I know that just because someone lives in a fancy house and drives a new car doesn't mean that they aren't fighting their own battles or going broke doing it. We may not have it all, but we are damn lucky for what we do have. So I am working through all that crap and hopefully we get a little luck our way soon.

The boys had their last days of school last week and they were bittersweet. I can not believe Joey is done with Preschool. We have made some incredible friends because of that school and I feel very sad leaving. I am thankful that we had amazing teachers there to get the boys ready to move on to Kindergarten. Joey is going to be a rockstar next year, thanks to those amazing ladies.

I expected Jack to come flying out of school, thrilled summer break was starting. Instead, he came out with his head down seeming sad. By the time he got in the car, there were tears. This is what happens when you have an amazing teacher, the kids don't want school to end because they don't want a new teacher! My 7 year old boy wanted school to go on because he doesn't want a new teacher next year. I wish everyone was as lucky as we were this past year with Jack's 1st grade teacher. She is one of the best, hands down.

So now summer is underway and I am trying hard to not want to kill the boys already, but they might be driving me a little crazy already. Thankfully we start our schedule of summer sports camps, nature camps and the much anticipated super fun Brookfield Zoo camp this week.. These boys have taught me the busier they are, the better off we will all be. Bored boys = whining, fighting, making mom crazy boys. If you add in our baseball schedules and trips up north, we are staying busy.

I think that is all that is new with us...oh yeah, Sugar. Her and I have been attending advanced dog training class and she is pretty much an asshole every week in class. She listens 85% of the time for Jason at home and about 10% of the time for me. She has perfected flipping me off before running away from me. God help me, but I will train this damn dog if it is the last thing I do. Her training test is Wednesday, so wish us luck. Also, I have already got my name on the list to repeat the class. Yeah, she's a special one!

One last thing, since moving I think I have gained almost 10lbs, which sucks because that's the crap that is a bitch to lose. So in addition to my workout schedule, I am thinking of getting my (horrific) diet back on track with the 3-Day Military Diet. It sounds brutal and involves me starving, I am pretty sure, so we'll see if I can swing it. I know I will have to modify it some because it involves eating both tuna and hot dogs and let's be honest, I would rather be chubby than eat those things. Anyone else ever try this diet? Just curious how bad it sucked...

Okay, that's all for now! I missed this and feel better already. Thanks, friends!

Blessings. Count the Good Ones, Twice

When things are going bad in your life, it is super easy to be a negative nancy. It is only human nature to think things like why me and can't I just get a break.  Things have been trying for our family the last few months. We thought selling our house so quickly was a huge blessing, but then the actually process to get to closing were hard, extremely long and time-consuming, and just draining, in general. I wasn't sure we were ever going to close. We did, it took months and a whole lot of hoop jumping, but we did.

Since I believed selling my house was going to be the difficult part of moving, you can only imagine my surprise when we sold the house and our biggest issue became us not finding a new house to buy. It is like the housing market started booming the minute Jason and I were actually looking to buy. Still, we were positive about selling and knew we had Grandma's house to stay at until we found the perfect home for us.

Then the flood came. It was too much for me and at this point, after weeks of packing and moving, I couldn't find one single positive thing we had going for us. We had no where to live, our cars were severley damaged, if not totaled and all our stuff was destroyed. Yes, I know we were all safe. Yes, I know we were all healthy and alive. Yes, I get it, logically. But emotionally? I was done. I had been putting so much into getting our house to close and then to packing up and moving and then for the house to fill with water destroying all our stuff? No, no, no, no. That I couldn't do. I just kind of went through the motions and was kind of unable to deal. I threw my stuff out, I cleaned and bleached and we ripped out walls. It was like I was living in someone else's nightmare.

I felt helpless, sad, angry and frustrated. In my mind I wasn't sure how we were going to figure this all out. I needed to buy a house, possibly two cars and replace 75% of the stuff I had stored in the basement (which was so. much. stuff.) It was just too overwhelming.

But then....then I received an email from a mom at Joey's preschool that was sent out to all the preschool parents stating that she was hosting a "shower" for my family to help us replace the things we lost. I was shocked. This mom, who I am friendly with but by no means knows me enough to think she needs to throw me a shower, took it upon herself to help us. Then she got the whole class to rally around us.

It was nothing short of spectacular. They threw us an amazing party complete with a bounce house and babysitters for the kids. They brought food and wine and so, so many gifts. They saved me a little that day by reminding me that no matter how bad things may seem, there is always good.

Their generosity and support is something I will never forget. They donated books for the boys, houseware items for us and toys. They gave us gift cards to replace things that were lost and mostly they came and hung out. They offered hugs and comforting words and just overwhelmed me with their kindness.

There were people that came, donated and supported my family that I had never even met. That is amazing. That is proof that there are good, even great, people in this world. I am so blessed that my son gets to go to school with some of them.

I will pay this forward someday. Someday I will see someone, or a family, like mine, that is going through something rough, something hard. I will step up and I will rally around them and if I can make them feel even the slightest bit like our preschool families made me feel, then I will have succeeded.

So when you are in line at Starbucks tomorrow, consider picking up the tab on the coffee for the person in line behind you. When you are at the grocery store and the person in front of you is short a few bucks, offer to help. It may be the best part of their day, and yours.

To all our friends who have supported us, taken the boys for playdates and bought or donated so much stuff to my family, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thanks to you, I am back to seeing things in a more positive light.

xoxo

When it Rains....it Pours

One week ago today we moved out of our home and into Jason's grandparents house. Our house sold quickly and since we have not been able to find a new home in the area of our town we want to live in, we decided to camp out in his grandparents' (who are both deceased) empty house across town.

It was not an ideal situation, but we were thankful to have a place to call home while we continued our home search. So we packed up and moved in. We also rented a POD that would hold our non-necessity items such as a few pieces of furniture and things like garage items that we wouldn't be needing during our short stay at grandma's house. Everything else came with us.

Grandma's house is big enough to fit us in terms of bedrooms, etc but not all of our stuff was going to fit so most of it stayed packed up and was stored in the basement. The house is a split-level with the garage going under the house. There is a family room even with the garage (which is half underground) and then a sub-basement that was unfinished where the laundry was. That is where we stored all of our crap.

I will admit, we were well aware of the times grandmas house had flooded in the past. The last time it flooded was in 2010 and it was bad enough to cause damage to the sub-basement, family room and garage. As we were carrying all of our possessions down into that basement when we were moving in, Jason and I both kept repeating this basement better not flood. I know, we are stupid. Why would we ever move all our stuff in a basement that we knew had filled with water in the past? Well, honestly, we had no choice. There was no where else to put it and it hadn't flooded in years and the city surely had better control of the faulty sewer system by now....I know. We should have listened to our gut.

When the weatherman warned of the rain coming and of the possibility of flooding, Jason and I went down and made sure that only our rubbermaid bins of items were on the floor and that all our boxes were stacked on top of the bins or on tables. I made sure that all our super important, precious items were in bins, such as pictures, kids artwork, Christmas decorations, all our personal "office" documents, etc. I figured if we got any seepage, our stuff would be dry in those bins.

We moved in on a Saturday. The very next Wednesday the rain started. It was pretty much non-stop and we kept a close eye on the basement and it was dry. We went to bed at 1am on Wednesday night feeling confident that we would be okay since there was no standing water in the yard, the street or pooling at the bottom of the driveway by the garage door (remember it slopes down to the house like underground parking.)

Joey woke us up at 5am on Thursday morning telling us that we were flooding. Obviously with us both being half-asleep we told him we weren't and that he should go back to bed. He just kept telling us he could hear water. We told him it was just the rain. At 5:20am Jay's cell phone rang and as he ran downstairs to answer it I have never heard him scream like he did that morning. Needless to say, by then the water was pouring into the family room through the garage and the entire garage, family room and sub-basement were under water. The street and both our front and back yard were completely filled with water. We had both our cars parked in the slanted driveway and both of those were also filled with water.

I have never seen anything like it.

Our garage.

Our cars after Jason tried to save mine by pulling it up out of the driveway.

Jason's car after he rescued mine.

Our street.

 Looking into the family room.

Family room

 Pumping out the driveway, then garage.

 Starting to pump out the sub-basement.

 All my stuff floating around the basement.

 What was left after the water was gone.



The first (there were two like this) garbage haul. 

Needless to say, the weathermen were right. There was a great chance of flooding. Once again, Elmhurst's city sewer system couldn't keep up with the amount of water we had and the result was total disaster for many, many people around town. 

The kids were scared and freaking out about their toys floating by in the family room, unable to save any of them. They knew all their toys, books, Wii and Legos were all down there. I knew that every art project they ever made, every journal I ever wrote in and every photo I had saved since junior high on were in that basement. My computer and both back-up hard drives were down there and every piece of sports memorabilia Jason had from all his years of playing and coaching were trapped in the water as well.

There was 6 1/2 feet of water in our sub-basement and between 3 1/2 to 4 feet in the family room and garage. We had to haul the kids out of the house through the deep, cold water while Sugar just splashed and swam along with us. There was nothing but the sounds of sirens and helicopters in the air and people were being taken out of their homes by boat. Like I said, I never have seen anything like it.

By the time the water went down in the street we still had several hours of pumping to do in order to reveal the disaster that was now our house. We lost 80% of our stuff and both cars were badly damaged / totaled. To make things worse, our insurance company gave us the blow that the renters policy I secured for us prior to moving in did not cover flood. If I think about it in terms of all we lost, I literally feel like I am having an anxiety attack.

Instead, I am thankful that between my Mom and I, we were able to lay out thousands of photos and dry them. They aren't perfect and many were lost, but we saved most of them. We were able to wash most of the boys plastic toys and could save items like dishes that could be washed.

I am still heartbroken that I lost the contents of my computer including the videos of the boys first steps, first words and clips of them with their beloved Papa that we all loved watching so we could hear his voice again. I lost every Mother's Day and Father's Day project my kids had ever made amongst a ton of other special projects I had saved through the years. 

It sucks. It was the worst timing for us and although so many people had flooding in their basements, they didn't have their entire life stored in it as it filled. 

We are slowly getting back to normal and we were able to move back into the house last night. We are still cleaning up the mess and figuring out what was lost and how we can replace the necessities. It is physically and emotionally exhausting.

As always, we are feeling the love of our family and friends who have done so much for us. I am certain I would be curled up in the fetal position in a corner in my wellies if it wasn't for all the support we have gotten, so thank you so very much.

Next up for us, find a new house so we can start to rebuild ourselves a home. Hopefully one that does not require the use of my duck feet!

Five

Dear Joey,

You are five. Five. As in years old. Gah, saying it out loud kills me. You are that kid. You know the one that you love so much you want to squeeze him to death but at the same time you realize he might be trying to kill you. Yep, that's you.


I adore you. I really do, you are my sweet face, my baby and my shit-wrecker all wrapped into one gigantic force to be reckoned with. You are so big and strong and you remind me more of your Dad each day. You are also so, so difficult. Your personality is demanding and you do everything 110%. I wonder if you actually hear me when I am screaming at you for the 10 millionth time each day.

I really think God gave you to me to teach me how to be more patient and also to remind me that parenting a head-strong boy like you is hard-work.

Some of the greatest things about you are the hardest to deal with. You have no filter and although your Dad and I really get a kick out of some of the hysterical things you say, we have also both been extremely embarrassed by the random things you spew out whenever you feel the mood strike.

No matter how hard some of our days together might be, you still have the tendency to crawl in bed with me and snuggle up. You lay so close to me, touching me at all times and even though I want nothing more than to sleep untouched, I cling to those moments. I know they will be over all too soon. I am not quite ready for you to be an actual big kid yet. I still want my baby around.

You are smart, athletic and one of your favorite things to do is color. You are hug into sports and love playing hockey, flag football and swimming. You start baseball next week and I panic at the thought of you and a bat, but you are super excited to start playing. You are a hard-worker and always try hard at everything you do. You are not a quitter, instead you are always determined to be good at whatever you put your mind to. I could not be more proud of you.


I Hope this year brings you all you dreamed and that you have the greatest birthday yet. You may be my big guy, but you are also always going to be my baby.

I love you to the moon and back,
Mama
xoxo


My Joey

My youngest son is well, let's just say, special. I have talked before about the lovely things he says here.  He just says whatever he is thinking. He has no filter and doesn't understand the concept of things being rude or what "private family" things means. Once he starts, there is little you can do to stop him.

He brings a whole new meaning to the phrase kids say the darnedest things. 



I head up to bed last week around midnight and within a few minutes my bedroom door creaks open and Joey comes stumbling in. I instantly go through the checklist of things that might bring him in. Do you feel sick? Did you pee your bed? Are you wheezy? Did you have a bad dream? It is mostly, always, one of these things prompting the visit.

This night he said he couldn't sleep. Since Jason was still downstairs watching TV I told him he could climb in to his Dad's spot in the bed and snuggle until Jay came up.

Just when I start to lull off to sleep this conversation takes place.

Mom, I saw this medicine on TV that you can take to help you get pregnant. It can even help you have two babies, which means you could have a baby brother and a baby sister growing in your belly at the same time.

What? Honey, there is no medicine to give Mom's babies. I already told you, bud, we aren't going to have a baby brother or sister.

I really want a baby brother and sister, Mom.

Why don't you snuggle up with me and let's get some sleep?

*He scooches over closer to me and snuggles up. I still can't believe he is talking to me about getting pregnant.*

I don't know what I am going to do when you are too big to snuggle with me.

I will always snuggle you mom. Although this is another reason you should take that medicine and have another baby.

Touche, child, touche. Also, I am pretty sure we are done taking that medicine around these parts.

It was only a day or two later that I overhear him talking to an HVAC guy we had in the house. I was carrying groceries in so I was going in and out of the house. On one of my trips in, I hear this....

I clog to toilet.

Oh no, I hope you don't put toys and stuff in the toilet. That's not good.

No! I don't put toys in the toilet, I clog it with my huge poops. My mom says I poop like my dad! 

He was so proud to be telling the guy this that as I was dropping dead from embarrassment in the kitchen, I just couldn't bust in and ruin his proud moment. The kid works hard for those poops, after all.

Needless to say, we have been talking alot about what we say to strangers and what is considered private family talk. I also asked him to never talk to me about getting pregnant again. It creeped me out and I clearly need to start paying closer attention to the day time TV he is watching. He'll be asking me about ovulating next.

Forty

I can't say for sure, but I would assume that every girl dreams of having a sister. I mean, yeah they can be a royal pain in the ass sometimes, but having a sister is like having a built-in, ready made best friend.

Today is my sister Joy's fortieth birthday. I am not sure how that is possible because I swear we were just sharing a bedroom last year.

As an older sister, I know it could have been hard for her to always have me around. I always wanted to hang out with her and her friends. Most older sisters would have told me to scram, because no one wants their little sister hanging around all the time. She never did.



She took me everywhere with her. I went to the mall with her and her friends, out for lunch or ice-cream (we have a memorable trip to The Farm for custard that I will never forget) and she even took me to a high school dance with her. For real, she let me go with her to a high school dance with her friends when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. She was, for the most part, always nice to me.

I loved spending time with her.



She is one of the most caring people I know and she has changed her life in ways that I don't think many people would be able to do. She is strong, she is brave and she is loving.

Most of all, she is reliable. She has never let me down.

If I am feeling down in the dumps, need help putting things in perspective or just a good ol' talking off the ledge, she is there. I am so proud of who she is and how, no matter what, she is true to herself and fights for what she wants.

I am beyond lucky to have her as my sister, my much older sister.




Happy Birthday, Yoj!

I love you! xoxo