Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Grace

Dear Grace,

Today you turn 8 years old. This year has been one of immense growth for you. When I think of the little girl you were a year ago, when you turned 7, I'm amazed at how much you have changed. They say that 8 is the age of reason, the age at which kids start to really figure things out. That seems right on for you. You've come into your own this year. You've grown, you've changed, you've learned so much. You're your own person. And I am so proud of the person you're becoming. You're funny and smart and caring and sweet and bold. You're eager to learn and explore. You're the most amazing (and patient--most of the time) big sister. We love you so much. 

And so, my beautiful little girl, my first baby, my heart, Happy 8th Birthday. Each day with you is a joy and a gift.






















Love,
Mama

Thursday, March 1, 2012

34

Dear Diary,

Today is my 34th birthday. 34. The mid-thirties. Whoa. I remember my mom being 34 and she seemed SO OLD to me. (Sorry, Mom. I'm getting a taste of my own medicine now.)

The truth is, I don't feel old, and I shouldn't because 34 isn't old. In fact, I feel great. I am in the best shape of my life. I am strong. I am fast. I run half marathons and marathons. I eat well. I run 20-30 miles per week on average, and when I'm not running, I'm doing strength training or yoga or other cross training. This past year I have focused on taking care of my body, through exercise and a healthy diet, and my body has taken care of me. Yes, I'm tired, like, all the time, but I have two young children and a very busy life. But, despite the fact that I get up every day at 5:00am to exercise and then run myself ragged until my head hits the pillow at night, most of the time I feel really, really good. I remember a time in my life when simple things like walking up stairs or vacuuming or going for a walk would leave me feeling sluggish. Now, I can crank out a 13-mile run on a Saturday morning, just for fun, and then spend the rest of the day chasing my two kids. Boom.

Speaking of those two children, yeah, I have two fabulous kids. They are a lot of work, yes, and some days I find myself fantasizing about being able to just go to the bathroom on my own or lay on the couch for hours on end and watch whatever I want to on TV...you know, things you can't do when you have young children. Some days they drain every last ounce of energy and patience out of me. But, they are the loves of my life. I love being a mama. I love taking care of these two, watching them grow, and guiding them along the way. When I look back at this part of my life, these wonderful and exhausting early years of my kids' lives, I will remember them with fondness and love. I wouldn't trade them for anything.

And, I am so very lucky to have Aaron as my husband and partner in all of this. I have been in some shit relationships. I have made some really bad decisions about my love life in the past. But that is over now. Our marriage isn't perfect (show me one that is) but when I look at Aaron, I see my very best friend, someone who knows my secrets, someone who I trust with absolutely anything, and someone who is truly a partner. I love him dearly. I know he loves me as much. My little family is why I look forward to the future. I see so many adventures and fun ahead. It won't always be easy, and that's ok, because we are strong and we will make it through what life throws at us.

When I look back at my life ten years ago, I wish I could tell that 24-year-old me that things would get better, because man, they have. My life now is barely recognizable from what it was then. I consider myself so lucky to be surrounded by a wonderful family and fantastic friends and what is a pretty great life. I don't have everything figured out. Some days I royally screw up. But I am HAPPY. I'm so very, very happy. Sometimes I have a hard time believing this life is really mine. I'm so glad it is.

34...bring it on.

--Sara

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Happy Birthday H

Dear Harrison,

Remember the days when I had time to sit down and think through and compose long, heartfelt birthday newsletter posts, complete with a year's worth of pictures? Well, those days are OVER. Our lives have become so busy lately and so this year, I didn't have time to sift through twelve months of photos (trust me, there are HUNDREDS of them). I didn't have time to write several drafts for your birthday blog post. I have time to sit down now and write this one post and I'll even include a couple of pictures. Sorry about that. If, years down the road, you end up in therapy and you're looking for a reason for your psychological pain, you can point to your third birthday and blame it all on me.

Seriously though, just because things are nuts and I don't have three drafts already written for this post, it doesn't mean what I'm about to say is any less heartfelt.

Three years ago today you came into our lives. Thinking back on that snowy February afternoon, when I first met you and held you, it's hard to believe that frail, tiny little preemie was you. Because now, you are all life and laughter and craziness and energy. One of my friends recently referred to you as "an adorable little bomb" and that is the perfect metaphor for you. You are without a doubt the cutest, most adorable little boy on earth, but yes, you are a little bomb. I'm not sure where all of your energy comes from and some days I have a hard time keeping up with you. You're always on the move and looking for new stuff to explore. You love to run and jump and climb. You love making music and playing basketball and turning somersaults. You are a little boy, through and through.

Every now and then, though, you sit still long enough to snuggle with me. You love to sit on my lap and listen to me read book after book and you've gotten to the point that if I make a mistake or skip a word in a story, you stop me and correct me. During these quiet times, you also love to assemble puzzles, play board games, play with Play-Doh or color pictures. I love these times with you, sitting in the sunny dining room and just hanging out and chatting while we play. You're so smart and you impress me everyday with the stuff you've managed to figure out at such a young age. I just can't wait to see what the future brings for you.

You have brought so much joy into my life. Before you were born, I remember feeling nervous about being a mom to a little boy. After all, I didn't grow up with a boy around and your sister was my only child until you came, so I had no idea what to do with a little boy. But, you introduced me to a side of myself that I didn't know existed. It's a playful, rambunctious, loud, and crazy side, and I don't recognize the person I was before you were here. You and your sister have brought so much love and happiness into my life and I am so, so lucky to be your mama. Thank you for another wonderful year of you. Here's to the beginning of yet another awesome year in your life. I love you, my little Har Bear.





Love,
Mama

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: In Review

Hey, just like that, 2011 is almost over. It really was a fabulous year in the life of Sara. I'm loving my mid-30's and life is good. I've been thinking a lot about this past year and looking ahead to 2012, and I thought I'd highlight some of the more exciting, fun things that happened this past year.

2011 was the year I became a runner. I started running and racing in 2010 but I came into my own in 2011. I ran my first half marathon on January 7th at Disney World, then I ran three more half marathons in the spring. All of that training proved to be a little too much at once, though, and I was sidelined for six weeks with a foot injury. I came back strong, though, and spent my summer training to run Lakefront Marathon, which was my big running goal for the year. I ran it, I loved it, and I learned so much. I learned the joy of running alone on the Oak Leaf Trail, watching the shadow my ponytail swish back and forth in the sunshine. I learned to love those hours of solitude, thinking, listening to music, pushing my body further than I thought it would ever go. I also learned to love running with others. This fall I met and started running regularly with Renee, and the highlight of our running friendship came when we tackled the Tyranena Half Marathon in early November. I also enjoyed running with my friend Tracey, who helped me through my longest (at that point anyway) training run for Lakefront Marathon. I am so thankful for the friends I have made through running and I'm thankful for the places running is taking me. I love being a runner, a marathoner. I'm proud of myself. I can't wait for the challenges and triumphs of 2012.


2011 was also the year I decided to head back to school. Being a stay-at-home mom for the past three years has been so wonderful, but Harrison will be heading to school in less than two years and I'm not the type that would be content to stay home after that. So, after lots of deliberation and talking with Aaron, I decided to start taking classes to earn my Bachelor's in Nursing. It's going to be a long, slow road, at least until Harrison starts going to school full time and I can handle more than one or two classes per semester. But it's going to be worth it. I'm excited about my future. I know it will be good for me and for my family. I'm no longer looking at the end of my time as a stay-at-home mom as a sad thing. Rather, it's going to be a new beginning for me.

We bought a camper this year! Camping with Aaron and the kids was one of my favorite things about 2011. My only regret is that we didn't do it sooner...we bought the camper in August, so we only had a chance to try it out twice but both times we camped, we had an absolute blast. We spent both of our camping weekends at Peninsula State Park in Door County, and we enjoyed taking our bikes out on the beautiful trails, hiking through the woods, playing, having campfires, and just being outside. We're looking forward to lots more camping adventures in the years to come!

Speaking of my family, 2011 was a year when Aaron and I really focused on our little family of four. We've both been so close to our own extended families over our lives that it's been very tempting for us to drop everything here at home and scurry off to visit with our parents, siblings, and extended families. And while we did plenty of that this year, we also made a more conscious effort to stay home and spend time as a family, just the four of us. We've had some really, really good times because of it. We've discovered some cool places around Milwaukee that we'd never visited before. And I feel like our family is stronger because of it. This year Aaron and I also decided that we're not having any more children, and although that decision was initially a sad one for me, it's been freeing. We can look ahead now and plan family trips that we weren't able to take with babies around. We can make plans for our house. And we can focus on these two little treasures with all of our hearts and minds.


2011 was a year I will look back on with fondness. However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the year's sad start. One year ago today, on New Year's Eve 2010, we had my Grandma Betty's funeral. And then, a few short days later, on January 3rd, we lost Grandma Faye. Learning to cope with these losses consumed me for much of the early months of 2011 and I don't know that I will ever really recover from losing them. I think this time of year will always be difficult for my family and for me. But, 2011 has taught me that families are strong and they carry on and that you do eventually come out on the other side of the grief with the ability to look back at the memories of your loved ones with joy.

Cheers, everyone, to a wonderful 2011 and here's to an even more wonderful 2012. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

For Jenn

I know. A blog post. Here. Can you believe it? It's been, like, more than six months since there has been anything here. Life is busy, and as much as I used to love blogging, it became a chore, and I didn't want to end up a mommyblogger cliche, so I stopped doing it for a while. Every once in a while, I would feel inspired by something but inevitably, life would get in the way and when I finally had time to sit down and write, the inspiration would have already drifted away as quickly as it came.

But I have exactly ten minutes right now, and I feel inspired. Here goes...

Readers of my blog and friends know that right around this time last year, we lost both of my grandmothers. It was a terrible way to pass the holidays, and now this year, there's a sadness, a mourning, a re-grieving, as this is our first Christmas without them. Every year, I looked forward to receiving my lovingly handmade gifts from Grandma Faye and knowing that this year there would be no gift, no grandma...well, at times it's almost too much to bear. In fact, one day recently I was sitting alone at my dining room table addressing Christmas cards, listening to Christmas music, and a version of Pachelbel's Canon came on. I broke down in sobs. I miss them so much.

Damn you, Transiberian Orchestra. Damn you straight to Christmas music medley hell.

Anyway, my sister Jennifer recently confided in me that she's feeling down right now, too. She has her own reasons, but a big part of the reason she feels the way she does is because of missing our grandmas, too. Losing them has been so hard, but if there is any silver lining, is it that Jenn and I have grown so much closer this year. We've wept together. We sat down and created a beautiful scrapbook of memories of Grandma Faye for our mother. We've talked more. And, for that blessing a midst the sorrow, I am so thankful.

Jenn sent me an email today and one line said something like, "I know Grandma Faye would be so ticked at me if she knew I was dwelling over her passing and feeling sad." It's true. Grandma would be PISSED OFF if she saw me crying into my hot chocolate and Christmas cards instead of enjoying this time of year. She loved Christmas. She would have hated the fact that I'm feeling sad. And so, thank you Jenn for reminding me of that.

This year I have spent a lot of time making homemade gifts for friends and family and it took me until today to realize that Grandma is with me as I do this. She inspired me...she continues to inspire me. Creating things for family was something Grandma loved to do and I love it, too. It took some words from my loving little sister to help me realize this.

My ten minutes are up. But thank you, Jenn, for everything.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

7

Dear Grace,

Today you are 7. I was just saying to Daddy a couple of nights ago that I feel like I'm too young to have such a grown-up girl, yet here we are. You've gone and grown up some more, despite my pleas to slow it down...just a little bit.

This has been a year of immense growth and maturity for you. Being a first grader has really changed you in so many ways. I don't have to read books to you anymore--you can read them to me, and not just the easy books, either. (Incidentally--comic books are your new favorite. Some of the best times you've had with Dad this year have been at the comic book store, geeking it up, and then bringing your new treasures home to read.) I'm constantly impressed at what you know and what you can figure out without my help. Math is a breeze. Science? Easy peasy. Violin? You are totally nailing it. I shouldn't be surprised, and honestly, I'm not. You've always been a smart cookie. But, it really seems like this year you've really come in to your own. You're confident. You can do so many things, and the great thing is that you know you can. It's been an awesome thing for me to witness.

You've matured in other ways, too. You're beginning to understand the world around you. You see sadness and hurt in this world and you want to do something about it. When one of your friends is sad, you go out of your way to help them feel better. You have a strong, deep concern for the environment. One of your favorite things we do in Girl Scouts is a neighborhood cleanup, because to you, being kind to the earth is one of the best things a person can do. You also are starting to see how family members pitch in and help to keep a household functioning. You're figuring out the chores you can do to help Daddy and me around the house and, a vast majority of the time, you're more than happy to do them. And, you've learned about loss this year. We've lost two of your great-grandmas in the past six months and you've seen me grieve--but, rather than be frightened or put off by my tears, you've somehow understood my sadness and you've let me know in your own special way that it's ok to be sad. You have been a comfort to me and to others in more ways than you know.One thing that hasn't changed, though, is the love that you show for your little brother. I know that I have said this before, but one of the greatest joys in my life has been watching my two babies live and grow up together. You are SUCH a good big sister. One of my favorite things to do is take you and Harrison to the park when you're done with school, sit on a bench, and watch the two of you play. You encourage him when he's feeling hesitant. You hug him if he's afraid. You chase Harrison around and giggle with him. You stand at the bottom of the slide, arms stretched out, and scoop Harrison up when he comes down. And if another kid should knock your brother down or even look at him wrong, Big Sister comes to the rescue. I know sometimes having a younger sibling is a challenge, especially when they play with your toys or rip the artwork that you worked so hard on or monopolize your parents' attention at times, but you are so amazing with your brother. He's lucky to have you for a big sister.


Even though you've grown up so fast, and so many things have changed in the past seven years, a few things haven't changed so much. You still ask me to wrap you up in a towel after your baths and hold you on my lap so you can warm up. You still ask for a back rub before I tuck you in bed every night. You still hold my hand just about everywhere we go. You still call me Mama, the very first name you ever called me, despite all of your friends calling their moms Mommy or Mom. And every now and then, we'll be chatting and I'll look into those big brown eyes of yours and catch a glimpse of my little baby girl. I hope I can always see her in there, no matter how big you get.

Happy birthday, my first baby. Make this year even more amazing than the last.


Love,
Mama

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sew What?

Dear Diary,

I have two sewing classes under my belt now. The first class was really exciting at the beginning--I was thrilled about all of the things we would be learning--but then as the session wore on, I started to feel overwhelmed. I felt like everyone else in class had waaaaay more experience than me, and as I was still clumsily threading my machine, everyone else was breezing along, handling their machines with ease. I have never been super creative and I'm not one of those crafty people that can make beautiful things with seemingly no effort. Sewing has always been tough for me, although to be fair I've never given it an honest shot. I left class feeling like I was always, always going to suck at sewing. But then on the drive home, I resolved to not give up so easily. I WOULD figure this out. I would get my hands on a basic, used machine, and practice, practice, practice. And I would chill out about the whole thing.

Fast forward to last night, which was our second class. I had made up my mind that I was going to focus, not get flustered, and figure this out. And I did. We learned shirring and how to sew elastic into garments, and I did really well during our practice time. Then, we spent a big portion of the session taking measurements of ourselves and making a custom block pattern that we will use in future sessions to make garments for ourselves. I left feeling more confident than I did last week, and most certainly ready to try something on my own.

During the past week I managed to get my dirty paws on a used, very simple machine and today I set it up. I threaded the machine, wound the bobbin, and got ready to sew. During the first class, our instructor gave us two pieces of material that were cut into a pattern for a cell phone case, and all we had to do as "homework" was to sew them. I did that today. Here's the final result. They are NOT perfect by any means. And I think I used the seam ripper just as much as I used the sewing machine as I made several errors along the way. But I made them, by myself. No one helped me. And that's pretty cool.

I know...it's really no big deal. I'm not making world-class couture garments here. But it's a start. Next I'd like to try making a skirt for myself or for Grace and some other small, easier things. And eventually I'd like to actually be GOOD at this.

There's something else, too. Grandma Faye was an excellent sewer. She made countless things for family members. Part of me wants to learn to do this as a remembrance of her. Today, as I was sitting at the table in my dining room (the table that was my great-grandmother's), sewing on my machine, listening to my Gipsy Kings station on Pandora, dog snoozing at my feet, it was almost like Grandma was sitting across from me at the table, sewing at her own machine. I could imagine she and I chatting as we sewed, laughing and gulping gin martinis. I could almost feel her there with me. It was a great way to take time and remember her. And that made the whole thing even more enjoyable for me.

--Sara