War Bonds-A Good Book

War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation

This was such a good book!  
I read it in two days-little stories of war time romance-dating and marriages that have lasted a lifetime.  Each story gives a glimpse into the hardships of war these couples endured, building a life together from scratch (often in tight, tight times) and then a few secrets or advice to a long marriage.

It's beautiful and inspiring.


And Then There Is August

This post will be all over the place as August is.

An overwhelming sentimental feeling came to me this afternoon as we celebrate Andrew's 13th birthday today (post written days ago but just finished today.).  Birthdays are always sentimental for moms I think, but mixed with back to school sentimentality also, as Andrew's and Janey's birthdays are, I can get some pretty funky feelings going.  I have a good friend that feels the same as me (hi Kitty) so we often commiserate this time of year as we stem our weeping (or alternate between tears and stuffing our feelings with dessert.;)

This is one of Kitty's desserts, isn't it gorgeous?

I love so much about school from the supplies to the uniforms to the fresh start, and I can almost cry with gratitude over the little Catholic school my children have and are attending-there is absolutely no trepidation facing the school year there, the staff, the teachers, the little bubble of specialness that exists on the side of the river that runs through our town is perfection.  I would keep them there from preschool to college if I could.

In our weekly newsletter the principal outlines, because of the Year of Mercy, the school's monthly themes-one spiritual work, one corporal work.  I just love this.

August and September Works of Mercy:

Shelter the Homeless and Welcome the Stranger  
Bear Wrongs Patiently

I have plans to talk about these at home each week too, at the dinner table together. I have a lot of plans right now but first I am going to get through these birthdays and Janey's preschool start day and I will have some time to make my plans "come true".

(I have made a super effort to eat dinner every night together, even if that means eating at 7:30 pm. This usually means an after school snack that is like a dinner, and then the dinner itself. It's not my favorite way to do it, but right now the boys are doing cross country and soccer on alternating days, and I have Matt's work schedule and Isaac's schedule also to work around.)

Backing up:

Janey rode a bus to drop Andrew off at camp and was in heaven.
This purple outfit was her favorite and she wore it every other day all summer long.

Bunk mates.

A beautiful old-fashioned camp.

Andrew went to a "reunion camp" for a week-the 6th graders go for a short week during school and have a blast, and then are invited back for a next to nothing fee during the summer months. Abbey and Matt wanted to go and loved it and Andrew did also, although we worried about him because he was coming right off his Hawaii vacation and felt a little worn down and heck it was hot that week. I worried all week and missed him and then went to pick him up and he had SO MUCH FUN. Big sigh of relief. He lost his soap on the second day, he told me which made me laugh and send him right to the shower as soon as we arrived home.

Andrew in Hawaii-he had a wonderful time and was so grateful for the experience. The father of the family who took him texted us and said something about how Andrew is so fun to be around because he is excited about every new experience.  I was so so happy when I heard that because I don't ever want my kids to lose that grateful wonder as they experience new things-which I think only comes from not experiencing new things all the time. I worry about it as they have so much more than I ever did and don't want to "spoil" them.  I don't think this is some barometer of good parenting at all, but I do think it's fun to be around someone who appreciates getting the pop when out for pizza instead of expecting or demanding it, or appreciates eating out period, or going on a vacation, or staying in a hotel room and it is HARD to do these days because I think most kids including mine are given so much than both Jeff and I were as children.  

Abbey at the airport with my mom going off to visit my brother and his family in Ireland, a long-awaited trip.  She had a wonderful time and got her feet wet so to speak with some travel abroad experience,which she is hoping to do more of through school.  Ireland is beautiful, she said again and again.  And she enjoyed spending time with family and had so many cute funny stories about her Irish niece and nephew which just cracked us all up.  

And then she came home and packed up and we dropped her off for her second year at college.

(photo thanks to Janey, the other ones we have no heads, this will have to do, Jeff was parking the car)

She is rooming with the same roommate as last year and they were at first disappointed at the dorm they were assigned-there are only a couple old dorms left on campus and both years they managed to get those both years.  But they get to share two small rooms and although it's not new I'd take that over one small squishy non-air-conditioned room like they had the year before, with shared bathrooms that smelled of vomit.  They also have one tiny private bathroom.  It IS old, and cell-like but heck it's college, what can one expect.   (This leads us old people to often discuss what it was like back when we went to school, which makes young people's eyes roll I am sure.) They've already made it look so cute, in simple ways.  It will be a fun full year for her with a full course of classes, mostly art classes which are 3 hour blocks so most of the day from 7-7 she is busy. 

(She sent me this pic later.)
We went to a little restaurant after we moved things in and then dropped her off and headed back.  I had a sick feeling leaving more so this year than last.  First there are a lot of weird people around and I get nervous so I lectured her on the no walking alone thing again just to make me feel better, and then I felt like she is never coming back.  I know she is stifled in our little town and wants to be let loose, I SO get it, I was that age once too. I want her to do what she wants that way, but her room looks so empty and I don't know if it will ever be full again and that's sad. It is the pull of independence and heck it's supposed to happen.  The first summer home after college is like that I know, I've had many chats with friends-the kids had the independence and then they come back and have the rules and the obligations and that's good too-that reminder of family life etc. There is a period of adjustment and sometimes it's not easy for them and for us but I think it's natural and makes so much sense (when not in the moment of "why are you late?":).  I am so proud of this girl though, I am proud of how hard she works, I am proud that she recognizes that it is important even though it's difficult to grow up in the culture she is growing up in.

Speaking of dorms,
Matt and visited University of Kentucky when we went on a little one-day road trip of college visits and heck the dorms!  They have GRANITE counter tops in the bathrooms!  UK just rebuilt most of their dorms I believe, and they look like large hotel rooms.  We had fun, lots of driving, but ate some great hamburgers and then I had to stop for chocolate on the way back (I drove 9 hours in one day, my aching hips!) and needed the caffeine.  

Isaac tolerating a picture on his way to his first interview.  And he got the job.  A real job!  Today was his first day and he came home totally energized and happy and ALLELUIA ALLELUIA!  That is what parents everywhere say when their college graduate gets a job I believe.  

In other birthday news, Jeff turned 50!  I gave him a small party and this is the cake I ordered. I saw it on Pinterest and it even said Happy 50th Jeff and so I just knew it was meant for us.

I wish I had more photos of it all but I only took a few, most of them are blurry because the lighting was terrible.  It was fun to plan from invitations to dessert.  Pinterest was a great help all the way around. :)  I made sliders and scalloped potatoes and two salads and then had the cake and a candy table (of Jeff's favorites).  It seems simple but heck I was exhausted after it all as I was pulling that off during back to school shopping and kids coming and going.

Little bits of summer:
Someone took this random snapshot and it is perfect, from Gatorade water bottle to Patrick talking to Janey twirling to Jeff and I trying to coordinate plans for something I am sure.  That is summer.

Coming home from a run very early and seeing this early riser peeking out at me as I water the flowers.

Cookie making is popular here as always.

We had a family birthday party for Andrew and Janey.
Andrew chose an frozen oreo pudding cake.

Janey and I found these sunshine cupcakes earlier this summer and fell in love with them.

I love her looking at Patrick (she still calls him Bubby.)

Not crazy about being the center of attention while everyone sings.


Presents early in the morning.

And walking down memory lane:
Mr. Spiffy.

First steps.

At the preschool picnic for Matt, Andrew was just born.

Which leads me to the preschool picnic for Janey which I had to literally pinch myself to stop the tears from all the memories.  So many babies!  That was me once, and here I was with my last baby and I wasn't burning hot, sweating, milk coming in, elastic pants on, like the days of yesteryear, which was nice, but not nice as all because it's the end of the era and honestly, the best "era" of my life, as I really felt like there is nothing else I'd rather do.  It's all a blur though honestly, and I guess it's good that I'm still so busy or I'd be wallowing in my sorrow for years.

This is the second crib I've seen in August in front of an old beautiful house for sale.
Mothers can't get rid of their crib, too many memories.
Mine is in the attic and will stay there till I'm gone and I won't know or care if someone sets it outside for the trash.
Do what you will with it then, but I can't part while I'm here on earth.
It's a symbol of the preciousness of motherhood.

We have a grocery store near our house, not the one I usually shop at, that has pint sized carts.
We have found this store has excellent bagels, Janey and I, and we go there about once or twice a week just to pick them up...and of course to use the little cart.  The boys went with me once and I had to fill them in on the danger of a cart pushed by a three year old.  It requires some quick movements, and excellent peripheral vision and awareness of space and time.  If not, major Achilles pain, we all learn the hard way.  I told them, think of the cart as a weapon, stay light on your feet, and you'll be fine.

And finally, some four year old birthday pictures.  It really is true that the last gets the least pictures, I thought it wouldn't be, I started out pretty strong, but life takes over and I can't record and live in the moment at the same time, or remember to charge my batteries.

Hard Goodbyes

I just dropped Janey off at preschool.  She is going three mornings a week for 2 1/2 hours.  We went to a mom/child orientation for an hour and she wouldn't let go of my hand so I have been up the last two nights letting all the fears of a bad parting grow in my head. 

But today she woke up excited to go, and when I took her out of the car and the helper came to take her to the preschool line, she turned and said, "Mom I want you to take me in."  I said, "Only teachers are allowed, and this nice lady is going to take you to your classroom."  She said, "OK"  and walked to the line.  I watched her little hands covering her little eyes-not from tears but from the bright sun.

And I told myself I would not lose it, I would not cry, it's 3 fast mornings a week, it's so good for her, she wants to be around other little friends, all the kids have done it and loved it, I have been home with her for all this time, I will still get her all the other days, her teacher is one of my mother mentors for God's sake, it's a long road till she leaves for college, GET IT TOGETHER.

I got in the car and lasted till the end of the building
and now it's the ugly cry.  Driving home without tissues and thank God it's a route I know well.

I prepared a list of things for me to do, vacuum therapy is what I call it.  It works for everything.  Cookie baking therapy does too but that has repercussions, some of which I am still working off.

Because it's been so many years of this.
And I love it.

And I want it to last forever.  I am not ready to let the little years go, but I have realized I never will be.

I said on the way in to school "I wish I could have babies forever.  But that would be weird because I'd be like an old Grandma saying "Look at my newborn!"

And Andrew said, "Yes and you would die and that wouldn't be fair to the kids."  

This is such an Andrew thing to say, that right brained, logical way of thinking, straight up and out of his mouth.

But I mean it. I love it. And I don't want it to end. Or change, I should say, because mothering never ends, I know that.  I want a toddler in my house forever.  I want a little tiny soft hand to hold, and toys in my living room, someone "helping" me bake cookies, and all of it.  I dragged this out as long as I could, I will give myself credit for that at least.  

I cried when I dropped off Abbey too at college this year,  It feels like she is never coming back.  And it seems like yesterday that I dropped her off at the same preschool. And maybe that's why it's so hard.  This perspective of having young adults all the way to a little ones, seeing the warped speed of time and asking yourself so many times, "How did we get to this point so quickly?"

I am so grateful for all the years I've had with these kids at home.  I'm grateful that I can't regret a moment of not being here, and that goodbyes are hard, especially with little ones, because I haven't said them very much at all.  

Off to vacuum.


July Ordinary Days

I am going to try to pick up where I left off in June, but honestly I have waited too long and July was a blur of fun and busyness and combined with my terrible memory I will just have to do my best.

The above pics were left off last post from June but are from the fishing derby the boys participated in and I wanted to make sure I got them up on the blog. 

I have not one picture from the 4th of July.  We went swimming out at Grandma's and Janey and I decided to stay home for the fire work shows this year-we will stay up late next year I am sure. Of course the boys loved them.

We had an old-fashioned parade in our little town that we rode our bikes to:
I loved these tap dancing ladies.

The kids loved these dogs.  I can't even imagine the fur flying around the house.  I always tell the kids they can get whatever dog they want when they grow up, but Sammy is my first dog, and my last dog.

Janey's little friend covering up her ears for her when the fire trucks went by. So cute.

Grampy at 78 working on the hay wagons on a steaming hot summer day.  I think he still does work that makes twenty year old guys cry.  Typical farm boy + Marine.

Janey helping me choose new shower doors.  We redid our old master bath-well not "redid" but just tiled the floor and fixed some drywall issues and painted and cleaned it up here and there.

Farmer's market.

Riding home from farmer's market.  Popcorn and sunflowers are our old standbys.

What our grocery cart always looks like.  I think the grocery store should give me a permanent discount for the amount of money I spend weekly. 

Isaac is home!  He had such a great time and it was fun hearing about all his travels.  He went to Dublin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Rome, Florence, Barcelona.
He did half hostels, half Airbnb, always felt safe, and everyone was friendly and helpful to them.  We would get random texts here and there to let us know he was ok, most of them were pictures of "the best food I ever ate" which made us laugh. The back pack made it through, as good as ever (I think I should send that story to Land's End-Abbey looked at the picture I posted of him while reading the blog and said, "Hey, that's my 4th grade backpack, what the heck?")  He bought postcards as souvenirs and a new pair of tennis shoes and that's all.  What a great experience.

A certain teenager signed up to earn extra money washing all the windows in the house, but when it wasn't finished by mid-July I took the task on myself because I couldn't stand it anymore, and I decided this is a job that is going to be completed every May because what a DIFFERENCE clean windows make of course.  Half the windows are such a huge pain-storm screens and up and down and up and down and broken nails and climbing through scratchy bushes to get to the windows but so worth it.  I still have the old upstairs windows to get to, but that will have to wait a week or two.

Patrick has wanted to ride a horse so badly.  I called up Jeff's cousin and Jeff took the kids out to see her and her horses and Patrick was thrilled. Thanks Joy!

Andrew loved it also.

Swim team!  Both boys had a great season.

Andrew received the Coach's Award and Patrick received the Hardest Worker Award or maybe it was vice versa but we were so so proud of them. I loved hearing that they asked how to improve and then put in the work every practice.  

Patrick with his coach.

Andrew with his coach.

The coaches at this little club are just amazing-mostly college students, and so good with the kids and well-spoken and self-assured.  I know there is so much talk of these "Millennials" (or maybe they are too young for that generation, I don't know what they are called today?) but I can attest that I have met some pretty darn amazing kids.  The bad eggs get all the media news today, but there are many that are just outstanding people as young as they are with really bright futures.

I have deemed this summer "The Summer of Andrew".  Going into 7th grade, and having the time of his life.   He bikes with his friends all over town, to play basketball and tennis at the park, or to visit Abbey at the ice cream shop.  He has done a few fun camps.  He has been invited to friend's cottages on some weekends, went to Chicago with me, is presently in HAWAII!!! with a friend's family, goes to his 6th grade reunion sleepover camp coming up.  He has had an absolute blast this summer.  Every day he wakes up with a plan of attack.  He has been the most helpful child this summer also, always saying yes to "Hey, Andrew can you do me a favor?" which I say every day. 
Andrew and I took our "mom and kid" trip to Chicago.  He has been waiting awhile for this and it was so so fun. I loved spending time one-on-one, something that never really happens here that much.  I loved seeing his reaction to the city and listening to him tell me what he thinks about it. (It's ok for a day or two, but he'll pass on living in one, he wants lots of land. :)

I said, "Let's take a selfie" and he jokingly said, "I don't know if you are really my mom."

Nike store where we spent lots and lots and lots of time. 

We saw this Pokemon trainer and Andrew about died that I took a picture of him, but I just had to. It's so funny to me!  I love the Pokemon Go rage by the way, it cracks me up how many people are out and about at parks and downtown riding and walking around.  Isaac and Abbey loved their little Pokemon figures and the cards and the movies when they were little so maybe it's a bit nostalgic for me also. 

We walked and walked and walked and walked.  Miles.  Even at our hotel we took the stairs and we were on the 18th floor.  (The elevator was painfully slow.)

Trying the deep dish, which I loved but he just said it would be a good once a year thing,not more than that.

They took the big Lego store out I guess?  We found this little one, but he didn't know the difference and still loved it.  I couldn't help saying yes to a small set when he asked for one, because heck, I that this is all he wanted to do when he was little.

I just had to spend five minutes in the AG store.  I have one more crack at it, thank the Lord. I sent the pics to Abbey, knowing she would appreciate it.

It was HOT.  On our long walk to the museum he cooled off for a little while.

  He really liked the hands-on displays at the Field Museum and there were some young museum educators in the middle of the museum with animal bones that he talked to for a long time-such impressive kids who really knew their stuff.  He had studied the Terracotta Warriors this year in Social Studies so it was fitting that it was their special display.  We were both ready to go at the same time-we walked all the way to the Ferris wheel!  It looked a lot closer than it actually was and we were both regretting it about halfway through.  (And then the Ferris wheel closed right when we got in line darn!)

We split Cheesecake Factory twice.  (He ordered, I ate the leftovers.)  We chose a cheesecake the last time and then saved half for Abbey because he knew "she would love it."  That's Andrew for you.

I did manage to eat a LARGE bag of Garrett's caramel corn all by myself.  It rained the night we stayed but not till we were ready to retire anyways-it was fun to go back to a dry cozy hotel room and relax. 

Cottage fun.

Saying goodbye, SO excited about his first plane ride (and yay, no motion sickness!)
I can't wait to hear from him.

August is busier than ever.  Jeff turns 50, I have kids coming and going but then having to be ready for school/college within days of arriving home, Andrew turns 13, Janey turns four the next day,  My notebook has lists galore, and I am so far so good staying ahead of it all. It is so fun.  Even when it's not, it's fun if that makes sense.  I get sick thinking about my empty house in 3 weeks, and how quiet it will be, and also a little excited at the thought of cleaning it from top to bottom.  We will have soccer and college visits, and cross country and it will be so busy but three mornings a week for a two hours I will be alone!  The last time this happened I was pregnant with Patrick in December, and Andrew had started preschool September so I had three months of four mornings to myself.  Something about preparing for another baby makes that time seem different than now.  :(

I will end July with this gorgeous picture of the docks down by the river on a bike ride a few of us went on one evening.  Every time I take my bike out in the summer here I come back filled with gratitude for this little place I live and my house I love, and this lovely life I lead.  I wouldn't change a thing for the world.