Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Vacation Journaling 2014: Day 2 - Northwoods Children's Museum

Monday, August 18th

We woke up this morning and checked the weather. As predicted late last night, it didn't look good. Rain. Possible thunderstorms. Kind of chilly.  We had tentative plans of going to Paul Bunyan's for breakfast followed by Wildwood zoo, but we quickly abandoned those plans in favor of an indoor activity.

Kira had told me about the Northwoods Children's Museum, she's taken the kids there a couple of times this summer and said they really enjoyed it. I know how our boys love the children's museum in town so Em and I figured this would be a good bet.

And it was.

So many little exhibits in this building. Log cabin, miniature town/train (I might have fallen in love with these two), telephone booth...

...tree house, ice fishing/snow mobiles, Wisconsin fishing, a coal mine, market, ambulance...

...camp fire, bubble machine, shadow room, dress-up area, art center, the list really goes on and on.

The kids' favorites were:

Lucy - Everything!
Keaton - fishing
Nolan - FEESH!!! (fish)
Hutton - Neon room
Lily - putting on the skirt (dress-up room)

The kids played hard for an hour or a bit more and then we headed for lunch followed by a little time spent in town, in a couple of shops.  We were in search of some locally made wooden trucks for gifts - we found them and got two and I'm afraid I'm going to regret not getting more - and on the way found a cute little toy & rock shop where Lucy found some really pretty little rocks for her collection.

The kids fell asleep on the way home and I might have joined them for a long nap when we got back to the cabin. When naps were over no one really felt like cooking and so pizza pick-up it was. After a quiet movie we headed back up for kid bedtime; while I laid with the boys Collin was outside on the porch when he came back up to our room to tell me he heard a bear walking around outside crunching leaves and sticks, but it was the long low guttural moan that confirmed for him what he was hearing. 

Storms rolled in late at night and Em and I sat up late talking and drinking tea. It was pitch dark outside; the only source of light coming from the intermittent flashes of lightening - we were enjoying our talk until we started hearing crunching and odd noises; both of our minds started turning, picturing a bear coming right up to the patio door and we decided pretty quickly it was time to shut the cabin up and head up to bed.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Vacation Journaling 2014: Day 1 - Swimming at Lake Mildred

We're up in the Northwoods this week with Ember and Drew and their two little girls; spending some time at my family's cabin. Last night after we all arrived the kids jumped on the trampoline, fed the fish, and watched the movie Brave after dinner.  We put them into bed Saturday night with promises of swimming in the morning.

Unfortunately, we woke up to an overcast and rather chilly day.  Instead of grabbing the swimsuits we grabbed the sweatshirts. But after breakfast we headed back outside to the trampoline and they jumped and jumped and jumped and then we took a walk down to the dock to see and feed the fish before coming back up for some more jumping.  By noon the sun was coming out and sweatshirts were being tossed aside and we promised them, after naps, after naps we will go swimming. We promise.

While the kids napped Em and I ran into town for some groceries and by the time we got back (there may have been a detour to the book store) the kids were awake and jumping again.  We called them all in for swimsuits and crocs, gathered the towels and beach toys and we headed out to the big lake.

The water was really chilly.  Really chilly.  At least for adults.  I didn't hear a single child complain about the temperature. In fact, Hutton didn't even dip his foot in before sprinting down the dock and jumping straight in.

They swam and swam and swam. Jumped and swam.  

And then all headed to the sand to dig and build castles and apple pies.  

The last 20 minutes the kids played so quietly on the sand that the four of us adults just stood back, waist deep in the water, and talked.  The sun was warm on our backs as the waves lapped in and it was so relaxing.

We came home in time for dinner and while the kids ate I asked them the traditional vacation question: What was your favorite part of the day?

Lucy - Swimming
Hutton - Jumping on the trampoline
Nolan - O'line! (trampoline)
Lily - Bouncing. And also jumping.
Keaton - "Ummm, I have a few things...are we going to have ice cream tonight?" Collin: No, tomorrow night. "Okay, I liked swimming, jumping on the trampoline, and my other favorite thing is something in the future." (tomorrow's ice cream)

Ember and I agreed that our favorite part was that peaceful time spent in the lake.  My other favorite part was watching the weather for tomorrow and seeing that it is going to rain (a bummer since we had out door plans) and Em looking at me a saying, completely straight-faced, "well, the good news is we have lots of bacon."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

after the storm

Last Thursday evening, just before 6 pm, the sky grew dark. The black rain clouds looked menacing as they made their way east and without much of a warning the sky opened up and unleashed its fury.  Hard, hard rain, hail, and cracks of thunder.  We stood at the door and watch it unfold and then hurried to the tv, just to make sure there wasn't a bigger threat. Severe thunderstorm warnings were scrolling across the bottom of the screen and yes, most definitely, these were severe. But it only lasted a matter of minutes, maybe 10 - 15 max, and then it was over. 

The sun didn't come out but it was apparent that the storm had moved on and so the boys went out to play in it. The puddles that is- jumping and running and screaming. As I stood there watching them I realized this is a good metaphor for our lives right now. 

The storm. 
The aftermath - getting wet and dirty in the puddles.

As many of you already know, just over two weeks ago Collin's dad (the boys' beloved Papa) had a heart attack.

Thank God it happened at home and not when he was alone at the job site.
Thank God his mom was able to get him to the ER quickly.
Thank God the ER staff was quick and diligent in their care.
Thank God we have a hospital with a reputable heart and vascular center within driving distance.
Thank God that hospital has amazing surgeons.
Thank God it played out as it did.

As always there was/is so much to be thankful for, even in the midst of the storm.

But every storm, every crisis, brings puddles.

Collin is now back to work full-time, finishing the house his dad has been working so hard on this summer and working up bids and prices for work on potential future projects that have been coming in these last few months. It all makes sense now, why the decision to have Collin quit his job at the beginning of the summer came so easily to us. Yes, it was because of the hours of his last position. Yes, it was because we wanted the kids off of the rigorous schedule. But most of all, we made the decision because it felt right, even if we didn't fully understand it. As Ember said to me last week: "He knew, Kate. He knew that Collin would need to be free'd up." And she was absolutely right.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful that Collin is in a position to step-in and take over. I'm thankful that he is being called back to doing the work he loves. After all, this was our plan all along. 

There's always a but, isn't there? 

We weren't ready yet. I'm not in a position to quit my job. I'm not even in a position to scale back my job. This is all happening at lightening speed and we weren't ready.  

What this all means, of course, is that now we have to find someone to watch the children during the day while we are working.  It's hard for me to put into words what this is doing to me mentally, emotionally.  It sounds melodramatic but I feel like my heart is breaking in two.  Six summers ago I remember walking down to the end of our road, newly pregnant, trying to convince myself that it was okay to be a working mom.  But here's the thing, not once in six years has this ever felt right. 

Not once. 

Sure, there have periods of time where I've accepted this, this working mother roll, as my lot in life, but not once has it felt right.

Last summer, our first taste of a true "summer break" it felt the worst. It was a horrible time for me full of guilt and anguish. This summer, although I'm still working, just having them in the house with Collin has put my heart at ease. Sure, there have been some rough moments  and of course we didn't get nearly as much accomplished around the yard/house as we had hoped but the kids were here, at their home, on a leisurely schedule, and our family life has improved dramatically because of it. And now it all has to change again and we're not ready.

Last week I was so sick over all of this that I just wanted to scream and throw things and curse God. And I'll be honest, I did every single one of those things. I lost it.  It was not pretty. And then I sunk down to the floor, wrapped myself into a tight ball and cried.  I cried so hard.  I cried and cried and cried until I had nothing left in me. I was left feeling hollow, but it felt better than sad or mad.

(I'm feeling better this week. I've done some praying (and listening!) and I know things will be okay. I don't know yet what we are going to do for daycare but we're meeting with a potential nanny next week. I'm praying it will all work out - at least then they would be in the house and I feel like that would be the next best thing to me being home with them.)

Last Thursday, an hour or two after that storm hit, I backed the car out of the driveway and realized the puddles had already dried up; there was hardly any trace of the rain left. I know this too, these struggles, will eventually dry up and disappear but for the moment I feel like we are still outside splashing around in them.  For the time being we are still running, jumping, and soaking wet.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happy Birthday, America!

It's been four years in a row now that we've spent the 4th of July holiday up North, at that cabin with my parents, aunt and uncle, and cousin - I think that's a solid start to "a tradition."

We've been talking about this long weekend getaway for awhile now and the boys were so excited.  The Parade! Snowshoe Baseball! Fireworks! They remembered it all and couldn't wait to get up there to celebrate. We couldn't either.

We've learned the tricks-of-the-trade over the years and early Friday morning Collin and my Dad headed into town with a blanket and law chairs while Uncle Bryan and Kylee headed to Lake Tomahawk with sleeping bags and duct tape, all for the same purpose: to claim our spots.

The parade was great again this year; the bands, the candy, the icy pops and bottles of water (it's usually hot!), and the logging equipment, are among our group's favorites. Oh!  And the coffee.  Every year before the parade starts Kylee and I go stand in line with everyone's orders for iced coffee from the cutest little coffee shop in town. The coffee never disappoints.

After the parade we headed back to the cabin for lunch and a loooong family nap for our crew.  We woke up just in time to have a snack and get packed and head to Lake Tomahawk for the annual 4th of July Snowshoe Baseball game against the Chicago All-Stars.  Our team lost again this year, which was a bummer, but it was still a fun time and the boys sat pretty well considering we are all packed into the stands like a can of sardines.

After the game, and just before fireworks, we walk down to the local ice cream shop; we made it back just in time for the show.

When I asked Keaton what his favorite part of the day was he told me: The parade. THE CANDY! The melon.* The fireworks.

My favorite memory: During the fireworks show they let off of couple of fireworks that made shapes in the sky.  "Oooh, that was a heart!" the crowd chanted, "that was a shamrock!" Then the shapes stopped and the next firework went off and Keaton shouts out: "Oooh, that was a CIRCLE!"

*In the 7-inning during the snowshoe baseball game tradition has it that the home team throws out a melon that is spray painted to look like the ball and when the batter swings he smashes it and it ends up all over him. It's a crowd favorite.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Burger of the Week: The Jalapeno Burger

I apologize for the silence around here this week, I have posts to write and things to tell you but it's Birthday Party Week, which means I'm up to my eyeballs in Paw Patrol print-outs and assorted rainbow colored decorations.  Hutton's very excited though, which I suppose makes all the work worth it.  Coincidentally he has a tendency to make his r's sound like w's so he keeps asking about the details of his Paw-ty which is spot-on and pretty adorable. 

We're still doing the Burger of the Week around here; last week's burger choice was the Inside-Out Burger by Kraft but see how their picture is oozing of cheesy goodness....well...ours weren't quite that picture worthy. We've been struggling this season with our burgers falling apart a bit on the grill and I thought after the Inside-Out Burger experience Collin was going to cancel Burger of the Week altogether....it was not pretty. Instead! we purchased a flat tray to use on top of the grill grates and Burger of the Week is back with a vengeance and just in time for this week's choice...

The Jalapeno Burger

Oh man, what a comeback this was! This picture was taken before I added my normal toppings: lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup because I wanted to make sure you could see all that jalapeno-y deliciousness.

Making a Jalapeno Burger
 To your ground beef add:
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Minced Garlic
  • Chili Powder
  • Diced jalapenos
Top with:
  • Pepper jack cheese
  • Grilled jalapenos
Don't forget to:
  • Slightly toast that bun!
I can't give you measurements of any of these things because I just kinda shook stuff in - they were warm but not too hot by any means.  Next time I'd probably dice up some more jalapenos to add into the burger itself. The jalapenos were out of a jar but roasting your own would make it even more delicious (and time-consuming, which is why I didn't!) and we used a smaller version of the burger tray to grill our jalapenos for the topping.

Have a great weekend, everyone! I'll be back next week with some pictures of Hutton's 4th (4TH!!!) Birthday Paw-ty!

Friday, June 20, 2014

The First Lesson

He sits at the table with his arms crossed, "Why did you have to sign me up with a teacher, Mama?"

I try to explain that he is almost 4 now; the Mommy and Me lessons only go to the age of 3.

He throws his napkin on the floor in response and picks up a blueberry, aiming it at me. I pull the snack plate away, "Okay, all done!" I tell him. I know this routine.

This child, this almost-four-year-old of mine, is a spittin' image of his Mama in so many ways: the tight blonde ringlets, the blue eyes, the desire for things to be put away and clean. Oh, and the manifestation of all emotions into anger.  
That one, especially. 

You'd think it would be easy, but the truth is I'm still figuring him out. I'm still learning to hold my tongue and dig to the root of the problem, the real emotion, when his anger comes out.

We move into the bedroom, looking for swimming trunks when he bursts into tears and wraps his arms as tight as he can around my neck. 

"What if I can't see you?"
"What if Keaton's not there?"

Ah ha! 
He's scared.

"I'll be in the bleachers," I assure him. "You can look up and see me; and Keaton will be by your side."

We get everything packed and head to the door under the agreement that he doesn't have to do the lesson if he doesn't want to, but Keaton does so we have to at least go watch him.

About a block from the YMCA I hear from the backseat, "Are you going to swimming lessons, Hutt?"


"Ellie, Keaton, Hutton." 

The instructor calls her pupils to the pool and without a hint of hesitation he takes off his shoes and socks and joins his brother on the edge.

He looks back at Nolan and me a couple of times throughout the lesson, but only to smile.

Forty-five minutes later he bounds out of the shallow area after the end-of-session-free-time and wraps himself into the towel I'm holding out for him, "That was so fun, Mom!"


Collin is having oral surgery this morning at 9 am - any good thoughts and prayers you can spare for an easy surgery and a speedy recovery would be much appreciated.  Thanks, friends!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Me and My Dad

Before school was out both of the boys made something for Collin to give to him on Father's Day.  Along with those items came home this "Me and My Dad" worksheet. I was reading through it real quickly while repacking Keaton's backpack one Friday morning; the fact that he said is Dad was 5 years old made me laugh a little, he had gotten my age right on the "Me and My Mom" sheet he filled out just a month earlier.  But that's not what had me practically rolling on the floor with laughter.  

Do you see it?  Blow up that picture if you have to.

A couple of lines down...My dad's job is.......

"setting beaver traps and working"

Setting. Beaver. Traps.  


The funniest thing is, he knows exactly what Collin does...did (home building...reconstruction...restoration). He and Hutt used to pretend play all the time...we've got a water damage today!  But yet he told his teachers that his dad "traps beavers" for a living.

"Keaton!"  I exclaimed.  "You put that dad sets beaver traps??"

He looked at me and without an ounce of humor said 
"What, Mom? He's a Mountain Man."