Monday, December 31, 2012

Weekend Top Five 12/30/12

So now I think I'm caught up, at least for now :)

This weekend was the come down from a crazy holiday week and it was a good one as well. It certainly was nice having Hubby home fro the entire week following Christmas and by this weekend we had definitely settled into a comfortable pattern...Daddy and mommy sleeping in and the boys even sleeping in as well. Noah slept in later than ever before and woke up Saturday in what was probably the best mood he's had in five years. It's amazing how nice a household can be when everyone is being nice to each other.

So Saturday was a laze around kind of day for the most part. Both boys were able to accomplish something that a year ago each was unable to do. I will explain below.

5. Pajamas All Day Saturday
I didn't even realize until bedtime that none of us had gotten dressed fully. I had put jeans on to run to the store an Steve had put jeans on when they went outside but for the most part it was just a snuggle in kind of day

4. Outside Fun
We FINALLY had enough snow for sledding and the boys bundled up (yes, in their pajamas) and headed over to a tiny sledding hill by our house. Last year Noah could only make it down a hill maybe two or three times on his snowboard in an entire sledding session. It's amazing the difference a year makes. He took that board up, sailed down the hill his very first time and was even taking jumps by the end of the time at the hill.

3. Undecking The Halls
I usually always wait until New Years Day to take down he majority of the decorations but with the tree already down  it seemed just natural to finish up the job. we are keeping the outside lights up for awhile, just because I love the look of them when I come home. The boys have both had fewer allergy issues since we took the tree down and I wonder if it's because we got a different kind of tree than ever before of because they are truly allergic. I guess we'll wait until next year to find out.

2. Skating Rink
Since I had a commitment Sunday afternoon Steve took the boys to a skating rink that had free open skating on Sundays for Christmas Break. A year ago on New Years Eve I took the boys skating and although Noah was rocking the rink, Aaron spent the entire time last year whining on the side crying that it was too hard, even though the time before that he had done great. THIS year however, after we discovered that the kid now wears a SIZE 7 shoe and he's bee wearing 5s and 6s (yes, I have to find a way to buy new shoes for the 8 year old giant),  he went out onto the skating floor and continued the entire time, even participating  in the special skates like limbo and Dead Bug.

1. Final Good Bye
Although I was done teaching classes at Gymboree, I had committed to running a birthday party for a little girl's second birthday who was the very first little one I had "graduated" at 6 months old from her first play class. It was bittersweet as I have come to know the family very well over the last 2 years. However, the owner pulled another frustrating stunt right when it was time to leave, which was just a reminder about why I am so happy to be walking away from that job. So Steve had been itching to have a campfire in our backyard all week so we decided that the perfect kindling would be the stack of my lesson plans for the last 2 years. Steve and Noah had a blast making a fire and burning every last note card.

The Week Ahead
Tonight is New Year's Eve and we have bee treated to free tickets to a Hockey game tonight from Steve's work, followed by an indoor fireworks display, whatever that means. The rest of the week Steve will return to work and we will enjoy a week at home before the boys go back to school and I start my new career. I am getting very nervous about the new job for so many reasons. this week will also see my boys get a sleep over at their grandparent's and Steve and I will finally go out for our anniversary dinner. There are a lot of issues that need to dealt with around here as we transition into a new family plan. The boys also have their first basketball games next weekend so that should be an experience as well.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Weekend Top Five 12/17/12

Found this post from a few weeks back and need to  publish it for consistency.

5. Starting to Say Goodbye
Friday was the day that I started to let my gymboree families know that I was leaving. It was  a nice thing though because the moms and grandmas were all so happy for me that I was moving on to bigger and better things that it felt really good. Gymboree was very good for me when I got the job. When I started that job, our house was in full foreclosure and we didn't really have any hopes of getting out of it. Two years later, (with a little help that has now been paid back due to gymboree) our house is ours for good again. Also, if it wasn't for that job, I never would have thought about returning to teaching in the capacity of early childhood education. Not too back for a part time job, huh? Oh, and I got to practice my artistry on the front windows :)

4. Warehouse Sale with Sisters
Scholastic has a huge warehouse nearby which opens its doors several times a year to the public for shopping. Most items are half off and I love to go and stock up for the boys (and myself I have to admit). Last year I invited my SIL along and she made out quite well also. So this year my sister and sister in law decided we would make a threesome and head out together. It was a nice time of just the three of us shopping together and we even got to visit with Clifford the Big Red Dog. It's a good thing these sales are only periodically...they're too dangerous otherwise :)

3. Elf Hunting at the Museum

 My brother's family was in town for our annual family Christmas on Sunday so we packed the cousins up and headed to our local museum for some Elf and Santa Hunting. We had a great time and the kids actually found all of the Santas and Elves. My seven year old niece was the champion elf finder for sure, even finding the really well hidden ones (and one creepy looking one I must say).

2. Soundboard Duty
Noah is becoming quite capable of running the soundboard on the first and third Sundays of each moth fir children's church. He is getting more independent and his friend from church ha now decided to join him one Sunday a month running the computer while Noah runs the sound. A week later while we were at the big church service, Noah looked at the huge soundboard and says, "Someday I'm going to run THAT one!". I love that he is learning this skill as it could actually lead to something someday if he wants it too. Otherwise, it's just a cool thing to know and a way for him to serve in church and be proud of himself as well.

1. Family Christmas
We are a blended family and we are also lucky that we are able to get everyone together to spread Christmas cheer. There are 15 grandchildren, at least one born every year since 2001 until last year. It makes for fun and  craziness that the kids look forward to so much each year. Their cousins are truly some of their best friends and I hope it will stay that way for a very long time. I had forgotten my camera so I only got blurry pictures with my ipod but the funniest picture of the day was Noah opening his presents. He received a sock monkey hat from my MIL the week before and has not been seen without it very much over the last two weeks. So naturally, he was wearing it the entire day at my parent's house. While he was opening his presents, he was looking down and I snapped a picture. Then I started laughing. Upon looking at the picture, it looked as if a monkey was opening the gifts. The picture still makes me giggle every time I see it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

What a Week!

Whew! It's Friday night again. It seems like a month since last Friday night because it has been so eventful. I guess the only reason for this post is because I want to remember pieces of it to jog the many memories we've made.

I should really back up even more but that would be out of control so I'll just go back a week.

A week ago was Friday night, December 21st. It was also my hubby's and my 16th wedding anniversary. Rather than dinner and a movie as is our custom, we stayed home with a sick child, whom we now have decided that he has had the full blown flu...poor kid. Apparently so did the majority of his class so we are just glad it happened now instead of after school starts up again. Now if he could just get rid of this nasty cough it would be a good thing.

That day was also my last day at the job I've held for two years teaching mommy and me classes at gymboree. It was bittersweet and I will keep the rest of the thoughts about that day inside for awhile longer.

The next day was technically the first day of Christmas vacation. Since Aaron's cough was really sounding awful I remembered someone once saying that if a baby has croup to take them outside, so why not an eight year old? I found a very neat place nearby called the Critter Barn that not only had TONS of live chicks, bunnies and cats to hold, touch and play with, but also a live nativity performance and sheep shearing. Best of all, it was FREE. We went and had the best hour and a  half ever. Noah was in heaven picking up and playing with baby chicks, some of whom were only a few days old. The Nativity was interesting and I  learned a few things I didn't know about the manger itself. It was just a really really neat place to visit and I can't believe I never knew about it before now.

Sunday we had planned to go to the "Christmas Eve" service since our church was doing five identical services on Sunday and Monday and encouraging all of the regular attendees to come Sunday to leave space on Monday for visitors.  But sometimes even the best laid plans go awry and we decided to go on Monday night instead since we were heading to Detroit for the day for an impromptu visit with the bulk of the Wheelz Clan. Surprisingly enough, it actually ended up being a pretty good visit and the kids had a fun time playing with their cousins that they don't see as often. The boys' favorite part was eating their traditional Pile Of Cream, courtesy of my SIL.

Monday was Christmas Eve and due to (yes again) finances we had to skip our traditional dinner out after Christmas Eve services but we still had a memorable night. After church we came home and opened our Secret Santa gifts from each other and got some giggles out of the things the boys had picked out for us. I spent the day getting baking done and the boys spent time making a welcome sign for Santa.

Church was amazing as always, including the first time the boys got to hold their own candles for the candlelight service.  The opening was crazy rocking and rolling a la Trans Siberian Orchestra and ended with it "snowing" in the sanctuary.

So as the boys get older it gets a little more difficult to keep the element of surprise for Christmas morning but I do believe we achieved it :) After the boys finally fell asleep and we got the presents under the tree, we got silly and decided to cover the entire doorway to the living room with wrapping paper, to keep our very curious boys from creeping in before we wake up.  It definitely achieved it's goal.  We were greeted in the morning with the boys jumping on our bed saying, "Mommy, Santa didn't just wrap our presents, he wrapped OUR ENTIRE LIVING ROOM!" It was funny when the boys were jumping through the paper until Noah decided to PUNCH through the paper and missed, hitting the wall instead. Gift opening was delayed by a tearful boy getting a band aid on a knuckle that had three less layers of skin.

Present opening went fine and the kids liked what they got. They funniest was that when I was wrapping this year, I was determined to put things in boxes for more uniform packages. I ended up putting each of the video games that they received in cereal boxes, stuffed with newspaper. By the time Noah was opening his last gift, he said, "Oh wow, this is a cereal box so I know it's going to be a great gift!" I can't fool these kids at all and I think I am going to have to work even harder next year.

We continued our Christmas Day tradition and took the boys to Rise of the Guardians that afternoon. The boys were blown away at how crowded the movie theaters were but our movie was old so it wasn't crowded. Santa was so smart he even put movie theater style candy in the stockings. It was a very good movie.

Wednesday morning was the day for playing with all the new stuff, putting stuff together and just relaxing.  And the best thing was that it FINALLY started snowing...and hasn't stopped since so we can finally go sledding at some point this weekend. The funniest present of the day was the sumo boppers we got the boys. They tried to head outside to play with them but the cold kept deflating them so it looks like they'll have to wait until spring. But while they had them, they were hilarious!

Thursday morning began our planned adventure for the week. We packed up the stuff and headed out for our road trip to a suburb of Chicago. We found a hotel nearby with an extremely low rate and checked in with about an hour to spare before our big event. I saw an IKEA and had never been to one before. We wandered the store and I think I'm glad that we don't have one of those near us or it would be hard to not spend money that I don't have there.  It was pretty cool since the colors are blue and yellow and Noah said "It's Michigan Everywhere!"

Then it was finally time! We got a really good deal on Cyber Monday and took the boys to Medieval Times. It is a dinner and tournament  where they serve you a multi course meal with NO utensils while a tournament on horses is played out in front of you. It was pretty cool and the boys LOVED it. They especially loved the battles with swords at the end. The pageantry was fun and watching Aaron attack and destroy his huge chicken slab was extremely memorable. Afterward, we returned to the hotel and let the boys swim for awhile before turning in.

So here we are Friday again. We got up and let the boys swim again before we hit the road to come home. The drive home certainly felt much longer than yesterday. Aaron's cough is still so prominent and even though I know it's a virus that the doctor can't do anything for, it still makes me sad when I hear it and I know that he's still feeling yucky. I heard that the tree might be aggravating it though so given that, plus the fact that we got a bad tree and it was pretty much dead already, I decided to take it down while the boys were out playing in the snow. Because it was so painful, we decided to clip the branches rather than try to take it out the door so it was definitely a memorable tree un-decking this year.

One thing that Steve and I agreed on was that since we had such a fun adventure planned for a couple of days after Christmas, it took the "let down" feeling that is inevitable after Christmas away and I will definitely remember that for future years if possible.

So that was our week. Another weekend ahead and another free fun family activity planned for New Year's Eve which should be fun. Next week is off school  and work but also money-less since I am now between jobs so it will be a week at home for sure. The best thing is that after I start this new job in January, I look forward to never having to post again the words "...since we couldn't afford to...". It's been a long ten years of being poor and I am sick of it and ready for it to end.

We can make it two more weeks. I know we can. We have to. At least there's finally an end in sight...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Weekend Top Five 12/10/12

I am sitting here with a tummy that'schurning but I can;t decided if I am actually sick or not. How weird is that, huh?

It was a whirlwind weekend after a crazy busy week. By the time we tucked the boys into bed last night, I felt like it had been forever since I had seen my kids at bedtime.

This weekend was busy but it really was the end of several weeks of craziness. We had major school projects due, the start of basketball practices on two separate nights, my symphony week, which makes me gone every night until after 10:00, and, I'm sure as a reaction to the craziness, both boys were acting out in school. Very frustrating week. But the weekend was a culmination of it all.

5. Projects, Projects, everywhere
Noah handed in his diorama about the Iroquois Native Americans and Aaron started working on his diorama about the Tropical Rainforest. These alone have taken a lot of time in preparation as well as construction.  On top of that, Noah came home from school on Friday having learned to make these REALLY COOL snowflakes in art class. He continues to make a ton of them throughout the weekend. I love his artistic mind and hope I can keep finding ways to nurture it as he gets older and becomes more hormonal :)

4. Symphony Weekend
I sing with the Grand Rapids Symphony about three to four times a year. The Holiday Pops is the largest money maker for the symphony, but also the most demanding of performances, not because of the music itself, but because of the amount of TIME that is required. Rather than two performances and two rehearsals, we have two rehearsals and FIVE performances (one of which we are allowed to opt out of). Despite the very tiring schedule, I really enjoy the series, especially this year. The first night my parents came to the performance, the middle performance had my sister and her family in the audience, and the last night my in-laws brought Steve and the kids. There is something really awesome about standing on stage and knowing that people you love are in the audience SOMEWHERE. It always cracks me up on the performance that the boys come to because they jump up and down from way out in the mezzanine to make sure I can see them.

3. In-laws Christmas
It is always an adventure when there are gatherings with the in-laws. I will not go into details about the drama. Instead I will focus on the good, which is the happiness of the kids. After the concert, we went out for dinner to Chili's, which the kids love. Then we went back to our house so the kids could open their Christmas presents from them. My MIL has finally listened to me about requests for Christmas presents and the boys were quite happy. She got them character hats that they loved, including going to bed with them on that night. I am glad that they will have warm hats IF we ever get some snow for our Michigan winter.

2. Operation Christmas Child
I have wanted to have the boys be more involved in giving than receiving this year and one of the ways we did this was to participate in Operation Christmas Child at church this year. The boys fill boxes with toys for a child in a poor country that the child will receive for Christmas. If you pay for the shipping online, then you actually get to follow your box and find out where and when it gets delivered. The boys had a great time filling their boxes and also writing the paper about themselves that will go to their new "friend" overseas. At least it is one way for them to start thinking outside of themselves this holiday.

I have applied for what feels like a million jobs during the year 2012. I have worked every night for the entire lives of my children and it has become clear that they NEED momma home at night. We knew that the only way I could ever be home at night is if I could get a decent paying full time job during the day. Our other worry had been if I get a job, what do we do with kids during the summer? The week before Thanksgiving I got a call for an interview for a teacher position. Then I heard nothing from them so I was quite sad that I was again hopeful for nothing. Then, last Thursday, I got a call asking me to come in for a second interview on Friday afternoon. After much finagling of kids schedule after school, I made plans to go for the interview. About an hour before the interview, I got a call on my voice mail saying that they were going to cancel my interview and were comfortable enough from my first interview to go ahead and HIRE ME and they would be calling Monday (today) with details. The job is on the lower paying side until I get the continuing credits to make decent money but we always knew that if we were going to ever make decent money, one of us would HAVE to go back to school. It's very exciting to know that the year 2013 will most likely be the start of a whole new life for the Wheelz Family.

The Week Ahead
This week is another doozy, but that's a given being that it is two weeks until Christmas. Luckily, Christmas shopping for the boys is done and almost everything is wrapped. It is gong to be a busy week though. Aaron's IEP review is Wednesday and he is worried that he will "graduate" since he loves his speech teacher and is sad that he won't see her anymore. We also have Aaron's Christmas concert at school and a field trip to a nursing home on Friday. Both boys have basketball practices again and we have to somehow figure out a way to finish Aaron's diorama in the next three days. (I am sooooo looking forward to being home every night so that these projects aren't such a stress anymore). Next weekend will be a wonderful one, since I will have some time to hang out with my sister and SIL at the warehouse sale, take my nephew's Flat Stanley to see Grand Rapids, and our family Christmas on Sunday.

I love Christmas. I love that there are so many more lights on or street than in past years. Now we just need some snow.

Have a good week.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Catch Up

So Hubby came in tonight and said, "You know, it's been two months since your last blog post.". This kind of cracked me up since I figured no one ever reads it anymore but I figured that it has been nice having the journal of our weekends so I will try to pick it back up again. I did find two posts that I had written and never posted so I went ahead and posted those. This past week and weekend have quite eventful but I will wait until Monday to post about it.

Lots has been happening, that's for sure so stay tuned :)

Weekend Top Five A Big One 10/22/12

So as boring as last weekend was, it was the complete opposite this past weekend. I am actually having a hard time getting anything accomplished today as I come down off of the busyness. Noah too was in quite a doozy of a mood this morning and I am sure he is feeling the effects as well.

But as busy as it was, it was all GOOD busyness so that's a bonus. I think I could do a top ten from this weekend but I will stick to the meme of Five just to be consistent :)

5. Friday Night Barbershop
Hubby has been a barbershop singer since he was in middle school and has finally found a quartet to help him reach his dream of becoming  district champion, followed hopefully someday by becoming an international champion. About six months ago (I think) he was approached by three guys were looking for a fourth to complete their quartet. They have worked very hard to prepare and this past weekend was the District competition. Steve had to spend the entire weekend in Battle Creek (about an hour or so away) for the full convention but after much discussion, I decided to take the boys over for the preliminary competition on Friday night, given that the rest of our weekend was booked and I really felt it was important for us to  be part of this event.

We only stayed for the first half but Daddy's quartet blew the rest of them away. they were so much better and really in a completely different league than the rest and it was exciting to hear that they had made it into the finals the following night.

BTW...twenty four hours later, my hubby became a DISTRICT CHAMPION and now will be completing in April to perform on an international stage in Toronto next summer. We're so proud of Daddy!

4. Saturday morning at the Farm
We have had an annual trip to a local Pumpkin Patch with many of the cousins for quite a few years now. This past Saturday was our trip. All fifteen cousins were there and all over the place. I can't believe how much easier this trip is for the Wheelz Family now that the boys are older and don't need quite so much supervision. I had to laugh when, given all the activities and farm animals, the boys spent most of the time trying to pet a farm cat that was lurking around the entire time. The kids picked out excellent pumpkin choices and I am looking forward to getting them carved this afternoon with them.

3. Cousin Fun and Football
We all headed back to grandma and grandpa's after the farm to celebrate the cousin birthdays from this quarter, of which Aaron was part of. It was also a time to watch the first half of the football game (Go Blue!) between Michigan and Michigan State. The kids did pretty well playing together and we stayed until halftime before the boys and I had to head home, knowing Sunday was going to be a busy day as well. Oh, and it was good to be home to watch the last nine seconds of the game, where Michigan kicked a field goal to win the game 12-10. Go Blue!

2. Church
It is so weird t go to church without Steve. I had planned to stay in children's church to watch Noah run the soundboard since I hadn't seen him in action yet, but I decided against it. One thing that made me so happy was being approached by another mom form a boy in his Sunday school class saying how eager she was for her son and Noah to get together for a play date outside of church. I have never been approached by someone that way and it is exciting to finally make a connection at church beyond the superficial stuff. I am planning to take a Monday night off of chorus in a few weeks and attend the event to find a life group in a few weeks, which will helpfully help me o dig deeper into some relationships that might help me o become stronger spiritually. And already this morning that mom texted me inviting Noah to a birthday party for that boy next Saturday, a first for Noah as well.

1. Family Memories of Grandma
As you know, my grandma passed away a couple of months ago and my aunts had asked my siblings and me to come to their house for an afternoon to go through the remaining items from her apartment to see what we would like to have as heirlooms/mementos. Truthfully, my siblings and I were all dreading the day, not knowing what to expect.

But it was a wonderful afternoon. The visits were relaxed and enjoyable and the divvying up of items went well.  We all received a nutcracker from grandma's very large collection. Of course, we made the mistake of letting Aaron hold his and it is broken already but that's to be expected :)

I also came home with some baby pictures of mine. Before yesterday, I had NONE. Grandma had letters that we had written to her from when we were little, as well as pictures I had drawn when I was only three years old. It was really neat.

The Week Ahead

We have Aaron's birthday on Thursday, as well as some extra things I need to do at Gymboree this week which is causing some nerves. I haven't figured out how we're going to do Aaron's birthday yet, given that I have to work that night. He is a very excited boy about turning eight.

Weekend Top Five 10/14/12 Boring Weekend

It was quite a dreary sloshy wet weekend.  We only left the warm dry confines of our house briefly each day. Otherwise, it was a weekend in for the Wheelz Clan...including missing church. Bad Wheelz!

5. Movie Marathon begins with Muppets
It was definitely a movie marathon weekend, given the rainy weather. A better mom would have spent more time with games than movies, but I am NOT a better mom. I enjoyed snuggling under blankets with the boys. Part of this was also related to #3 below, though. I was a muppet kid, as was Hubby so it is fun to have kids who are muppet fans. We watched the movie twice more this weekend and the Aaron got settled in on our mini-pullout sofa and slept out in the living room for the night. He has actually ended up in the living room almost every morning for a week now. We're not sure why he does it but as long as he's getting sleep, we're not going to push the matter for now..

4. Organizing
Saturday morning found a rainy morning and kids who had no desire to get dressed. As a matter of fact, momma wasn't really in any hurry either and since Daddy was gone to work, that seemed just fine. As I was wandering around the kitchen aimlessly, I again got frustrated with the clutteredness of our little house. As I was sitting in the kitchen, I espied the to cabinets we have had in there for filled with various unmatched plastic dishes, and other various junk that has been thrown in there throughout the years and the other our "craft cabinet".  I realized that the days of preschoolers doing various crafts are kind of gone, replaced by two boys who enjoy doing their own thing at their desks in their rooms. And having one of the cabinets with a door falling off, even after Steve replacing it countless times, created a drastic decision in my mind....time for a change. So after much much much rearranging, re-rooming, and yes, throwing stuff in the garbage, we had a much less cluttered, much more roomy kitchen.

The mania continued on Sunday when I attacked Aaron's room with a garbage bag.  The kid just doesn't know how to clean and there were various bins full of junk everywhere. So armed with a garbage bag and a plan, we went to work on Aaron's room. It ended up going pretty quickly and Aaron was a happy boy to have a place for his stuff again.

3. Noah's Legs
Noah came home from school Friday afternoon complaining of his legs hurting. By Saturday morning, he was limping around saying the top of his thighs were sore. This was a theme for the rest of the weekend and he spent much of the weekend on the couch with icy hot on his legs. I emailed his gym teacher to give her a heads up and she said that it is very normal for his age and he probably is really experiencing pain. Poor Kid!

2. Dinner experiments
I am trying very hard to broaden our meal horizons, given that I am home very few evenings of the week for dinner. We have failed miserably at getting the kids to eat casseroles of different sorts, which would actually make our lives much easier as evenings start getting busy with sports in a few weeks. So I tried a new experiment, which had wonderful potential.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out too well and there was much complaint from the boys, who are usually pretty good about NOT speaking too loudly out against foods I make. It's not going to stop me and I will stick to my plans of making something 11 times before the kids are allowed to say they don't like it. Personally, with a few adjustments, I think it was a great dinner and I am definitely going to make it again, whether they like or NOT.

1. Weekend Plan Rain Out
So yes, we didn't make it out of the house much this weekend and the one thing we had planned did get rained out. A community Trick or treating event got cancelled for rain, so we really did pretty much laze around the entire weekend. I guess it's pretty good thing though, given that next weekend is going to be a doozy.

The Week Ahead
Not much, especially given that next weekend is going to be absolutely crazy. have a good week.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekend Top Five 10/7/12

So Fall has arrived in Michigan. After going crazy trying to purchase long sleeved shirts for the boys that fit both my standards of appropriate clothing and the boys' standards of "coolness", I was ready as far as children's wardrobe.  What I was not ready for was BEING COLD. Steve was gone for most of the day on Saturday and I broke down and turned on the furnace. We didn't even come close to making it until November before turning it on.

So the weekend was okay. We got out and about a bit but there were some overtones that kind of hung around over our heads for the weekend, as I will share below.

5. Friday Bullying
Noah came in the door Friday saying some pretty unpleasant things about the kindergarten girl that we share carpooling with. The girl has always been mean to him, kicking him, punching him, etc but since she's a "little girl" everyone just kind of laughs it off, which is quite unfair to Noah who has had enough but has had absolutely no recourse whatsoever. So he comes in the door Friday with blood dripping from his eye, The little snot girl came up to him during the walkathon while he was tying his shoes and poked his face, causing a scratch very close to his eye. As usual, he never told anyone in authority and the mom of course did not require an apology. I know Noah has had enough and I don't blame him. So we spent much of the weekend struggling with whether we continue to carpool with this family, given the out of control nature of the children, yet the very much needed savings in gas that the carpooling provides. The older girl in that same family is the one who caused so much pain to Noah and his friends last year so we are just so sick of it all and it would be nice to be separated from them even a little bit.

Meanwhile, while I was dealing with the fallout from this, I get a text message from a mom who has a child in both Noah and Aaron's classes saying she heard that Aaron got hurt again that day. I had not heard anything about it from school OR from Aaron so I kind of  fluffed it off until I started asking Aaron while she continued to shoot texts my way. Apparently the same boy who PUNCHED him in the jaw the second day of school shoved him into a locker after assembly Friday morning. NOW I was livid. This has got to STOP!  I don't know if I am most upset because it happened again or because I had to hear it from a mom's text versus the school. 48 hours later and I am still steaming about both of these situations. The school that I thought would never allow bullying has allowed BOTH of my children to be physically assaulted in the same day. I am still so angry.

4. Aaron's First Party
Aaron got invited to his first school friend birthday party on Saturday. And it was a girl's party as well.  He was so excited and talked about it pretty much non-stop all week. Saturday morning arrived and he kept quite the vocal tabs on the clock all morning until 11 when it was time to go. He had a great time and when I picked him up, he had a pile full of candy (and the psycho behavior that accompanied it) and a smile on his face telling about how much fun it was to dance with everyone in the basement with the lights off. Got to say...not really ready for my 7 year old to be at a boy-girl party in a basement with the lights off. Hmmmm.

3. Single Dates
I am trying to make good on a commitment to having individual time with each of the boys at least once a month. I figured that we would switch off...Daddy/Noah and Mommy/Aaron one month and then switch the following month. It actually worked a little differently since Aaron had a birthday party so I was able to take Noah out for lunch just the two of us for our one-on-one while Steve was at work and then after Steve got home, he took Noah out for a movie just the two of them. Noah was in Heaven with the special time with each of us. Aaron spent most of the afternoon in a pretty unpleasant funk, either because of the down after the party hype or in reaction to the abuse he took at school the day before. We're actually not sure since his nasty mood continued for the remainder of the weekend. All in all though it is clear that these one-on-ones are so important so we need to definitely make an effort to continue them.

2. Church
We had Aaron come to grown up church with us again this week while Noah went to children's church, where he was thrilled to get to run soundboard again. He is so excited about that and has begged to do it every week that no one is scheduled, which has been okay'd by the man training all of the kids. The series we finished today was about "modern families" and each week has started with a slide show of the families of Cornerstone that we all took in photobooths in our lobby at the beginning of September. Our pictures of course were odd, but it was exciting to actually see ours show up on the big screen before church today. Something of a feeling of belonging when you see our family up there,

1. ArtPrize Finale
It was the final day of ArtPrize 2012 and Hubby had not been down to see anything yet so we headed down Sunday afternoon. It was cold and drizzly, but we still walked quite a few miles and covered a good chunk of the venues. There was a two hour line to get into the museum with winning piece but I think we covered all of the other finalists around the city.  There were definitely some amazing pieces of art that we saw and I was glad we got one more trip down to see some of it before it ended.

The Week Ahead
Not sure about this week. I have some decisions to make regarding how my kids are being treated at school and how we are going to handle them. There were a few other little things at school that came up Friday that we may need to tweak this week as well so I guess we'll just see what happens. Last week on my two days off I took care of a million things out of the house that needed taking care of so this week's two days off will be more internal, hoping to get my house in order. We're kind of getting Christmas Fever around here after turning on the furnace so I am getting itchy for Black Friday ads to come out and to start figuring out the holidays ahead. I know it's the beginning of October but that's just the way we are:) I need the cheer that the season brings.

Have a good week.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekend Top Five 9/30/12

What an absolutely beautiful weekend in West Michigan. As you are about to read, I spent a good deal of time in the car this weekend and the drive both days were so incredible with the changing trees. The colors this year seem to much more vibrant than in the past few years and even the boys commented a few times on how pretty they were. I can't imagine living in a climate that didn't have changing seasons. That's one of the nicest things about Michigan...just when you get sick of the weather, it changes to another season that holds all new experiences.

So it was definitely a busy-ish weekend. Hubby was gone for some of it with his new quartet so the boys and I were on our own, which is always fun.

5. Paper Lanterns
As I mentioned last week, the three week art competition that takes over our city is in full swing. One of the entries was a person who purchased 20,000 lanterns (like in the movie Tangled) to be released on cue Friday night. We headed down to face the crowds and found our spot in the grass to wait. The experience was a mixed bag. In one way, it was absolutely stunning and beautiful to see them all released from four sides of the river and see the sky FILL with lit lanterns. Absolutely breathtaking! Unfortunately, we didn't get to enjoy it as much as we could have since I had two little boys FREAKING OUT over the fire that was in close proximity on all sides of us, since people weren't waiting for lanterns to fill before releasing them and people's hair around us was getting singed. Either way you look at it, it was definitely a memorable experience. It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

4. Glasses Fiasco
Hubby and first born are both spectacle wearers and that does cause a bit of stress once in awhile. Hubby sat on and broke his glasses Friday and came home to find that his "spare" broken set are also missing since Noah had been trying to use them when HIS glasses were lost. So take a family with a checking account balance of less than five dollars and try to buy new glasses for the head of household and that was our dilemma Saturday morning. For now, the glasses are Jerry rigged and we will go without buying food this week so daddy can get them fixed. At least one more week of mac and cheese and hot dogs for dinner every night for the Wheelz Home.

3. Road Trip One
Saturday afternoon my sister held a grand opening of the preschool she has been working so hard to create for a very long time. The facility is very nice and I took the boys over to the center for awhile. The boys were all excited to do face painting and then disappear to grandpa and grandma's house with their cousins.  It was a beautiful drive north and home. I am so lucky to have so much family close and part of the boys (and mine) lives.

2. A Friend Reunion
The campus ministry in which Hubby and I were involved held a reunion on Saturday but given the other conflicts, I was unable to go but still had wanted to spend time with a friend of mine from college who was in town for the reunion. Her two boys are the same age as my two boys so we drive down to Kalamazoo to spend some time with them Sunday morning/afternoon. It was a wonderful visit. We took the boys out to a local nature center and hiked on a couple of trails, including finding the place that Hubby and I spent MANY weekends together while we were in college. Afterward, we took the boys to Steak and Shake and they had more fun playing with cardboard cars than I ever believed possible. It was just such a good visit and all three of us are anxious to have another visit with them before another three years passes.

1. Family Business
After meeting with my friend (she had a six hour drive ahead of her back to Wisconsin) I drove down to my aunt and uncle's house in which I lived for a couple of years in college. We had a really nice visit for a couple of hours and we took care of some business left over from my grandma. I came home with another box of piano music from my grandma that I am looking forward to sifting through and a few other things that will make life a little better for a little while. The rest was just talking more about grandma and her final days. Another part of this that came from this weekend was scheduling a final day for my two siblings and I to get together in a few weeks and go through the remaining things from grandma's apartment to see what we would like to keep as heirlooms to pass on to our kids and grandkids.

The Week Ahead:
I have two mornings off from work this week in which to take care of some needed business in several areas of my life and get my house in order.  I have a lot of things on the list and I am so thankful to have some time without kids to try to cover as much as possible tomorrow. I am also hoping to make it downtown for one more visit to try to see more of the art I've missed. I keep hearing of more and more things that I've missed in the two times I've been down, probably because I had kids in tow.

All in all, a beautiful fall weekend in Michigan. Have a good week!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekend Top Five 9/24/12

It was a cool weekend finally for the start of Autumn. We are fighting the urge to turn on the furnace and so far so good.

It was an okay weekend for the most part.  The weather was actually an interesting part of the weekend since it was so weird. It was bright blue skies and sunny at the exact same time as dark gray rain clouds, depending on which direction you were looking. We never knew when it was going to start raining or be sunny and hot, and it changed in the matter of seconds. Kind of spooky but cool at the same time :)

5. Gymboree Kids Day
I had to work an event Saturday morning that we do each year at my day job. We held a "Kids Day" to try to bring in more awareness of our classes and play facility. It was huge and we had over 200 kids in and out within the two and a half hour event. I was done by 1:00 and was even more happy to hear that the three "boys" (Daddy and boys) had gotten along fine while I was gone (which hasn't been the case much lately).

4. Football and a Bit of Maturity
I missed the deadline to be able to sign Aaron up for flag football this year but that hasn't stopped the interest. He has been trying so hard to kick and catch our football lately so when I got home, we headed over to a local park to play. It was a really fun time. I was proud of Aaron because not only is he trying very hard to kick the ball, he is trying very hard to catch them, even when they are super high and coming at him at pretty fast speeds. As a matter of fact, he got NAILED in the cheek while trying to catch one and after a small amount of whimpering, he got right back up and tried again, which is a HUGE improvement that we have seen in him since school started this year. Up until now, he has always just given up when things got discouraging. But since school started this year, Aaron seems to be more brave in giving things a second try. I am not sure why, but I know how much Noah improved in effort and positive attitude when he was in third grade with this teacher and I am wondering if that is the same thing with Aaron.  Whatever the reason, it is a fun change to watch in him.

3. Church
Noah was completely bummed that it wasn't his turn to run the soundboard at church this morning and then after church he said, "Mom, nobody ran the board today" so I encouraged him to ask next time if there is no one there and he was so excited at the idea that he could show some initiative on his own and is excited to ask next time. Aaron attended grown up church with us this week and did really well. Not sure which he will go to next week.

2. ArtPrize Round One
Grand Rapids has an annual event that completely takes over the city for about three weeks each Fall. Over 1500 works of art, both huge and small, of all various types are installed all over the city. So I took the boys downtown for a small viewing Sunday afternoon while Hubby was gone for a rehearsal. The weather kind of shortened things but we did see a few fun things that stood out. ArtPrize really is such a good thing for our city and I love just walking around downtown and being part of it. Both boys brought a small sketchpad to draw things they saw, which they do each time we go.

1. Sunday Night Stresses
School has been in session for a few weeks now and we are still trying to figure out the school routines and the changes it creates in family dynamics. Sunday night was a bit of a stress trying to figure out the week ahead and Noah had a rough time settling in for the week ahead. It was a first peek at the social stresses that we may be facing this year, which I was wondering when they would start. We'll keep working with him to help him the best we can and we also need to work better at hiding our own grown-up conflicts because I think it just exacerbates a difficult situation for him.

The Week Ahead:
We'll get through the week ahead, one day at a time, just like we work our way through every other week. I look forward to the day when we are actually "living" rather than "surviving" each day. There will be one fun day (hopefully) on Thursday when I go to the field trip with the classes to go see ArtPrize again.  Hopefully other happy moments will show their face as the week progresses as well. That would be a really nice thing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekend Top Five September 19, 2012

So I've decided to try to bring the weekend top five back. I realized as I look back that I like having a kind of journal of our weekend activities through the years. There have been so many times that Steve and I have wondered "when was that?" and he is the one who usually says, "look back at your blog and check".

I am working to figure out how to structure this blog going forward, knowing that I kept a private one this summer as well. I think that I will keep the private one for my biggest struggles (of which there seem to be quite a few at the moment) and keep this blog as my family journal of sorts. I imagine there will be some overlap at times but that is just because life is not easily separated into neat sections :)

5. Bike Ride with a Purpose
Aaron and I got some one on one time in a physical capacity Friday night. It was a very stressful week and I decided that I needed to get some exercise and I told Aaron to grab his bike. We took a ride together to a local video store. The ride had some challenges for Aaron but I just reminded him that the more he rode, the less difficult the ride would be next time. We didn't ride much this summer since Noah doesn't have a bike but I really DO enjoy that mode of exercise and I am committing to riding my back much more as I find time

4. Steve Back Discussion
Hubby stayed home all week due to a pinched nerve and caused much stress to the household. So after a bit of bickering and not so nice words, we got through it and he ended up cancelling the performance in which he supposed to attend Saturday night. As I was driving home late Saturday night (see below) I called him after the kids had fallen asleep in the car and we finally had a decent (and calm) discussion about the back situation and I think we've come up with a plan of attack for the week. At least, I hope.

3. Flea Bomb
This week, on top of all the other DRAMA in the house, I found  fleas on the dog. So, after a trip to the vet for flea treatments, we knew we needed to fix the house as well. In the past, I've always used the flea carpet spray but I really don't know how well it actually works so we broke out the big stuff this time. Since the boys and I were going to be gone for the day (see below) it seemed like the logical day for it. So after we left ( or got kicked out by hubby the Nervous Bomber) Steve set off the foggers and left for a few hours. After church Sunday was spent vacuuming every inch of the house and I was happily surprised that I found no fleas and a very small amount of "dust" on the dog when I checked her Sunday afternoon. As cute as Lily is, I will definitely NEVER have another dog and I would re home her in an instant if I could find the right family for her. She is alone all day every day and would be much happier with a family that could sit and snuggle/play with her much more.

2. Saturday Road Trip
We went to Illinois (with a spoken"S" when Aaron says it) for the day for my niece and nephew's birthday party. The kids had a blast playing with their cousins all day and the drive was somewhat uneventful both directions. One kind of cool thing was that as we were hitting the road to come home, a good Samaritan paid for my toll for me as I got onto the highway. That was kind of neat. I dealt with my bio mom without any difficulties and even came home with some glorious sparkly tattoos on my arm thanks to my seven year old niece.

1. Noah's New "job"
All of the fifth graders are expected to perform some sort of service at church and Noah had decided that he wanted to learn how to run the soundboard at church. Beforehand he had been quite nervous about it but we got there today and a nice man was there ready to help him out. Noah had a blast and is disappointed that he has to share the job with other kids :) He will "graduate" from this small board to one twice it's size next year in the middle school wing but the man helping them out said he did great and that all of the kids are ready for the bigger one by the time this year in the kids' church is over. I am just happy that maybe we found something that he will embrace and could do something with in the future. I guess we'll wait and see.

The Week Ahead:
School adjustments are definitely not smooth sailing yet so we'll hope for a better week in that front. I am working four out of five days at Gymbo this week as well as an extra event Saturday morning, which will most likely do me in. Hopefully Steve will be back to work by Tuesday so I can get my house back in working order, sans fleas finally.

Here's to a good week :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thursday Thirteen Summer 2012

I sit writing this on Monday night. Kids are in bed, backpacks are full of supplies, clothes are laid out, and two young boys are anticipating what 3rd and 5th grade will be like beginning tomorrow morning.

I have had a child in school of some sort for 7 years now (starting with Noah in preschool in 2006) and I think the first days are actually getting more difficult, rather than easier. Each new school year means one more year closer to the time when I am no longer an important part of their lives. And each year I cry as I send them off.

I had wanted this to be the "best summer ever" but due to financial constraints, I was unable to make it happen...AGAIN.

Although Noah spent much of the time this summer explaining just how awful his summer was, when we sat down this weekend and talked about what we DID do, he was the first one to say, "We really have fun this summer". I'm not sure if he was just trying to be nice or being honest, but it was still nice to hear.

So this summer was quite a bit different than summers in the past.  There were quite a few things that used to be part of our summers that really don't factor in anymore, mostly because the boys are just older now. We didn't spend every other day at a new park like in past years. As a matter of fact, I think we only actually WENT to a park maybe a half dozen times the entire summer. I think one factor of that was because it was just really really hot this summer. 

We also spent fewer days at the beach this summer. We didn't even go to the tiny local beach a single time. We did get to Lake Michigan a handful of times this summer, but gas costs reduced our trips.  We also made it a new Lake Michigan beach (well, new to them, not to me) and it was our favorite beach day, despite the icky biting flies. We'll go back there next summer but earlier in the summer.  We also did not go to a couple of festivals that we have ALWAYS gone to in summers past, such as the Coast Guard Festival and Byron Days Festival. We also didn't spend a single night in a hotel this summer, which has always been a favorite of the boys in summers past.

Okay, so enough with the negativity. What DID we do this summer?

Well, after asking the boys what they will remember from this summer, and adding the things that I will remember the most, here is how the Summer of 2012 will be remembered:

13. DUNK TANK...Aaron's Dream Come True
I will never be able to explain why my youngest child has such an incredible OBSESSION with dunk tanks. I have no idea when it started or where it stems from, but it is real and it is here to stay. So when I found out that there was a fund raiser where kids got to be in a dunk tank, I would have paid an extraordinary amount of money for him to have the experience. Even better, it only cost a dollar and he spent an entire afternoon climbing into a very gross grass filled tank and getting dunked. His dream come true. Did it quash the obsession? Nope!

12. Birthday Parties...Noah's Dream Come True
Given a summer AND holiday birthday, a birthday party with school friends has never happened and he has always wanted one. So this summer was the year, in honor of entering Double Digits, we let Noah have a birthday party at a local game type place and also had a blast at a birthday party with all of his cousins at a local park. Definitely a memorable birthday for him. Even better, he got to spend fireworks with his gal pal as well, which he also talked about the rest of the summer.

11. Gymboree Summer/ McFlurries
One of the most obvious things of this summer was how much time the kids spent at work with me. As I was teaching 2-3 days a week, the boys spent a LOT of time in the little tiny office of our owner, with a minuscule DVD player and their handheld games in the dark. Real fun, right? Here's the funny thing...I figured it would be the WORST part of the summer. But not one single day did they complain about it the entire summer. To them, it meant a day of sitting watching TV and playing video games without mom regulating them. And even better, every Friday, since it was the longest day they had to be there (5-6 hours) we stopped for McFlurries on the way home. They thought it was the coolest thing ever. Who says you can't entertain children on a shoestring budget? :)

10. Camping, Cabin Style
Perhaps the best job I've ever done at planning ahead. Back in January when I got an email saying that you had to reserve (and pay for) summer camping sites for cabins at the campground we like in February. After some discussion, we took the small amount of money we got for tax refund and went ahead and scheduled our camping weekend. In hindsight, the best thing we've ever done since we would never have been able to do it otherwise. So even though we never took a "vacation" per say, we did get our weekend away and didn't have to "rough it" as much as in previous years since we rented a cabin at the campground. There were definitely ups and downs to our camping adventure this year, but it was a memorable weekend away as a family. Not sure if we'll do it again next year but we had an experience that hopefully the boys will remember fondly in years to come.

9. My Grandma
My grandma passed away in July, just four days shy of her 96th birthday. She was an extremely important part of my life and I am tearing up so this will be the most difficult paragraph to write. I wrote an entire tribute to  this woman on the private blog that I kept this summer so I won't elaborate here. In short, I was so grateful that I had some warning and was able to take the boys to Kalamazoo a few weeks before she passed so we had a short time with her to visit and say goodbye.  A couple weeks after her passing was a small gathering at the cemetery as her ashes were buried, followed by another gathering of family and friends the next day. The kids remember the weekend as time playing with their favorite cousins. I, however, had a very difficult weekend on so many levels and I am still hurting and very raw. So even though it's not a happy memory, it was a very huge part of my memories of the summer of 2012 and it needed to be part of this list.

8. The Grandmas, Grandpas, and Rebellion
My boys have the best grandma and grandpa ever in my parents. They will be the first to tell you that if you ask :) When asked, their first response is their favorite parts of the summer were the days they spent with the grandparents and cousins, playing in the forest, swimming at their aunt's pool and just being loved and doted upon. Every kid should be lucky enough to have these special people in their lives!

The flip side of this was the assertion of Noah's independence as he outright REFUSED to go for two overnights to my in-laws. It was a very difficult and awkward situation but we backed up Noah's decision and Aaron went to spend a couple of days alone with the in laws while Noah stayed home for some one-on-one time with us. Both boys had a fun time apart from each other. My MIL keeps asking about if Noah will come next summer. I know the answer but I will certainly not face that until it comes next summer. Anything can happen between now and then.

7. Reading, Writing, 'Rithmatic
Aaron is younger than everyone in his class by quite a lot, so with some encouragement from Aaron's teacher, it was very important to keep Aaron up to speed and even help him improve in some ways. So I did require the boys to keep up with reading , writing essays, and math worksheets this summer, including reading aloud to me.We also followed through on several local reading clubs, including the library one that treated us to a free trip to the local minor league baseball game. The game included a free kids meal and safety goggles night and was a lot of fun, even when it got rained out in the fifth inning and we went running for cover, soaked to the bone. I think (or at least hope) the work we did this summer paid off and I do feel like he is more prepared for third grade than he would have been otherwise. 

6. Michigan's Adventure
We had decided that there was no way we were going to be able to make our annual trip to the only amusement park here in Michigan. But after much discussion and a very honest and sad plea from our firstborn, we squeezed some blood from lemons and made it happen. Aaron got to go on his first corkscrew. The biggest part of this day however was Noah's experience. He was determined to ride the one ride I had denied him in previous years...despite me saying that I still didn't think he was ready yet. 

Sometimes it stinks to be right and this was one of those times. The poor kid got jolted and jostled around, scratching up the entire side of his temples, and then losing his glasses completely, never to be found again. He came away crying and wishing we had never come in the first place.

We salvaged the day for the most part, but after quite a few other icky mishaps, Michigan's Adventure will probably not be our summer destination again for a very long time. 

5. Day trip to Lansing
This was probably the best family day of the summer. We took one Sunday and headed to the state's capital. It was a great day and one of the very few activities I actually posted about this summer.

4. Summer Bowling
 A national website, Kids Bowl Free, sponsored 2 free games of bowling every day for kids all summer long. We have signed up for three summers in a row, but this was the first summer we really took advantage.  Our local bowling alley, in additional to participating in this promotion, also offered dollar shoes, dollar games, and dollar pop days on Mondays so with both the free bowling coupons and the specials, the boys and I went bowling almost every Monday all summer long for only $8 a day. Pretty good frugal planning if I do say so myself. Noah achieved his high score of 115 and Aaron's of 98. These of course were with bumpers but by the end of the summer, they were trying to do one game without bumpers and one with each time we went. Noah is even asking to be part of a bowling league this fall. We'll have to see about that.

3. Chili Dogs and Slurpee's
Perhaps again because of the extreme heat this summer, Slurpee's became a treat often this summer. For $1 I could get a 44 oz Slurpee, divide it between two cups and make two young lads super happy after a hot day playing outside. Not exactly nutritious but still fun for them to go make crazy concoctions. In addition, Noah was determined to try his first chili dog. He loved it and asked for them almost daily for the rest of the summer. And they were really yummy!

2. The Swing
Boys grow up and the day came when we realized that the small swing set we had for the little boys doesn't really cut it anymore when little boys become big boys. So after a sad farewell to the swing set (selling it to the people across the street) we needed an additional outlet for our active boys, besides the trampoline we had gotten them earlier in the year. I had actually begged Hubby to hang a swing from our tree out front for  several years and after quite a bit of nagging begging requesting, he obliged. The kids spent hours on the swing for the entire summer. Given the construction, it is amazing that there were as few injuries from it as there were, even though the most serious of them happened just a few days ago, with a head gash to Noah. But he recuperated and was back on it the next day as if nothing had happened. And yes, there are bets going around  the neighborhood about how long the limb will actually hold before falling. Hopefully it won't happen while one of them is airborne.
1. Weekends together
Another thing that was different this summer was Daddy being home. He did work a few Saturdays in order to try to beef up his paycheck since things were really really horrible this summer, but at least he had the CHOICE for the first time, which meant many more weekend sleeping in together than ever before. Another nice change was that our church holds Sunday morning service "encores" on Monday nights during the summer for all the many Michiganders who are out on the water on the weekends. We attended many of  those Monday night services instead of Sunday morning and I liked the change. It made the week shorter as well :)

So, I guess we did make the best of our summer. The one biggest thing I learned this summer was that I don't ever ever ever want to have another summer where I feel like a complete loser as a mom again. The only way to change this is for me to make money....REAL MONEY. So for that reason, the decision was made this summer for me to head back to school come January.  I feel that this decision came directly as a result of truly feeling the poor factor this summer and I had to stoop lower than ever before to even try to keep food on my children's plates.  I hope the struggle this summer will pay off and after I am done with classes in a couple of years, then my summer post will have a very different feel to it. I don't necessarily want to be able to say yes to everything the kids ask for, but I never want another summer when the answer is always no.

I am so lucky to have had yet another summer with the boys, despite the circumstances. I have limited time left when the boys want anything to do with their mom so I will take each day as it comes and work to be grateful for each and every moment.