Friday, May 28, 2010

Field trip...



We went to the zoo today... me and the entire first grade from Colton's school.  Can you say, exhausting?  I think all first grade teachers are saints.  And Kindergarten teachers and second grade teachers and well, you know what I mean.





This is Stan.  He is a white-naped crane who scared the pajeebers out of us when he pecked the plexiglass.  All we wanted was a close up view of him... so he crouched down and then snuck up on us and when he stood up he was literally face to face with us.  And when Colton put his palm up to the glass?  He pecked at it!



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Do you see his eyes?  Yeah, he is an omnivore...  he eats plants and small mammals...  and if you look closely at his eyes, you'll see small boys just might be on the menu! 
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 He pecked and pecked and us.
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Until little Aubri said "he is creeping me out, lets boogie."  So long Stan.
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The ducks were not enclosed however.  No cage is necessary when you install a machine for duck pellets and charge a quarter for a handful.  These are some well fed ducks.
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And one big canadian goose.
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"Did ya hear the latest on the missing prairie dog?  You know, Stan is just two exhibits over... I'm just sayin..."
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"I'm telling you... second grade is a piece of cake..."  

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The best kind of horseback ride to end our day at the zoo.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How well do your shoes fit?



We took the boys shopping last night. I know! Boys and shopping, theres an irony if ever one existed. Unless we're going X-BOX game shopping, or new hockey-stick shopping, boys and going to the store really don't mesh well.

It was pretty much necessary, considering what happened when I looked at Nolan's feet last week. We were sitting side by side on the couch, with our feet propped on the ottoman. In utter disbelief we merged one foot each, back to back with the other's foot. I kid you not, they were the same size! No wonder he has been complaining of heel pain.

So we bravely headed to the mall with the boys reluctantly in tow. I remember at his age that Nike was just coming on the scene. By the time I hit jr. high school, I would have given anything for a pair of Nikes. I think I landed my first pair sometime in high school, when I could pay for them myself.  In the meantime I wore the standard store brand from Tempo, or JcPenney.

I still feel a trace of awe and reverence every time I go to try on a new pair of Nike running shoes.  But trying to impress upon the boys how "lucky" they are to have parents who can buy them Nike?  Insert eye-roll here.  Nolan in particular was not swayed to look at Nike. With Sidney Crosby obsession running through his veins, Reebok, was the shoe de jour.

He found the one he wanted almost instantly. It was mostly a light gray, with purple accents. We all agreed it was a great looking shoe, in a budget friendly price. Perfect. Except for the size. Not a single pair in his size. Now there were plenty of other shoes in his size, but they came with manly sized prices, or all the wrong colors. He started to deflate.

Until Mommy stepped in. With an idea brewing in my head I set out in search of the same shoe, in a different part of the store... and there it was. Gray Reebok shoe with purple accents, and an affordable price. He instantly loved the shoes... and they had his size.




The only drawback? It was a woman's shoe. Steeling myself for the big rejection I was sure was about to follow, I broke the news to Nolan. At this time the brilliant sales woman stepped in an attempt to rescue her quickly evaporating sale. Why weren't those the colors of the Minnesota Vikings? Didn't they look like the shoes Brett Favre might wear? Nolan is taking all of this in, and then she goes in for the kill. I tell you what, she says, you wear these shoes, and someday when I come watch you play in the big league, I'm going to ask you for your autograph.

I saw Nolan slowly smile, walk around a bit in them, shrug his shoulders and heard him say "I'll take them."  Insert jaw drop here.

I hate to admit, but the rest of our shopping trip was smooth sailing.  It helped that we found a sale on none other than a Brett Favre purple Minnesota Vikings jersey.  Maybe we'd "masculinized" the shoe situation well enough for it not to be an issue.

Upon arriving at home, Nolan quickly took off for his friend's house, completely decked out in his new shirt and shoes.  But leave it to Nolan, without skipping a beat, when his friend inquired if he had gotten new shoes, he replied, yes, and they're girls!!  Insert head shake here... mine!

He wore them to school today.  Who knows, maybe he'll start a new fad?  Or maybe he just possesses enough self esteem to know it really doesn't matter what kind of shoe you wear.  Hmmm... there's a novel idea.  It's the message my parent's tried to instill in me.  Too bad it took my own kid's wisdom for me to finally get the lesson.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

but then the tree rescued me...



                                            The tree is more than first a seed,


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then a stem,
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then a living trunk,

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and then dead timber.
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                               The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.  


~Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, The Wisdom of the Sands, translated from French by Stuart Gilbert



Friday I arrived at my parent's house, accidentally, over an hour early.  So I went down the block to our empty rental house.  In a few short days it will once again house a gaggle of college girls.  But in the meantime I took full advantage of the tranquil setting.

I sat.

With my back to the tree.

Feeling its sturdiness against the spine of my back.

I felt the forgiveness of the tree ooze through her bark.  The scar from the pick up truck that had run into her several years back was just above my right shoulder.  Remarkably, the tree had only been bruised and quickly sent shoots of new growth reaching out around her.   The truck bore the brunt of the damage.

I could see the resiliency in her leaves.  The Dutch Elm Disease that has claimed so many other Elm trees on the street, has not gotten a grip on this one.

I felt the warm embrace of her branches.  Spreading out around me, shielding me from the wind and sun.

I drank in her strength and left transfused with her vitality.

I went back to my parent's house.

With the tree's whispered promise of hope playing through my mind, we signed my dad up for hospice.

Secure in the wisdom of the tree, I see my dad, he is "a slow enduring force, straining to win the sky."  I am the offshoot of that tree, straining right along with him.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A tale of two ducks...

Once upon a time there was a Mama Mallard and a Papa Mallard that lived in our neighborhood. They could be seen on any given day hanging out by the fire pit in our back yard. Or they'd recline on our front steps till we'd open the door for the newspaper in the morning and scare them off.

Then one day Mama duck crawled under the bush of the Mohr's house across the street from us. A nest in the bush was soon made by Mama. Rumors began to run rampant. While some accounts had her laying as many as 16 eggs, others were convinced there were only 10-12. As for Papa Mallard, once the eggs were deposited in the nest and Mama began incubating them, well... sightings of Papa were scarce. While most everyone preferred to believe he was down preparing the water for his babies, others were convinced he had taken up with ... well... another... duck.     Anywho... Mama was left to fend for herself.

The countdown was on! Mama faithfully laid on her eggs. On occasion she'd be seen leaving in the direction of the pond, but only for 45 minutes or so and she'd return. Oh the suspense as the neighbors counted down the days till the babies would hatch out of their eggs.

Concern grew one day as a single egg was discovered outside the nest. But the other eggs seemed secure and fingers were crossed for the survival of the rest of the baby ducks.






Finally the big day arrived. On May the 18th,in the late afternoon, out from under the bush Mama appeared. Within minutes, with some beckoning quacks from Mama, 5 little ducklings emerged!!

With glee, the neighbors took turns staring out the front window attempting to catch a glimpse of the new babies. But Mama quickly corralled them back under the bush where we could see that there were 5 or 6 more eggs left to hatch.  We watched and continued to worry about when she would attempt to move them to water.  Our streets are so busy we wanted to help her on the journey if we could.



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But nature had other plans for Mama and her brood.

Yesterday was the last time Mama and her babies were seen in their nest under the bush.  Under the cover of darkness last night, Mama led her babies off to destinations unknown.  Some think she went to the pond by the park.  Others think she may have went down to the coulee.

We may never know.  We'll simply be left with a few scattered eggs, a nest, and a tale of two ducks.

 




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Monday, May 17, 2010

Everything in between...

By all accounts the boys had a great Birthday week. It was filled with:

baseball simulators...

pizza...

ice cream...

a first camera...

a visit from Uncle Lee, my brother...


In other words, "boy nirvana."




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But the heart of the story is everything that happened in between these activities, these photos.

Its about a couple, a mom and a dad, nearing the time they need to leave their home of 44 years.

Its about transitions.

Weakened hearts.

Faltering steps.

A journey coming to its final destination.

Its also about finding your own voice... of reason, compassion, and encouragement.

About gently assuming the role of leading, those that one day used to lead.

Its about moving, both away, and forward into the unknown, the uncertain.

Its also about finding, that together, it doesn't however, have to be as scary.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My baby is 8 today...

How the heck did that happen?  I can accept myself getting older, and clearly one look at your brother and I know he is 10... but when it comes to my baby I  want time to stand still.  Can we just visit age 2 for a day?  Yes, 2, or 3 or 4.  I loved every second of them.  I suppose I will come to love 8 as well.  I mean, I can hardly comprehend all of the things you can do. 




Today, you made me a list of what you wanted on your Subway sub that I am to bring to you for our lunch at school. Staying true to your vegetarian roots here is what you listed:  




white bread


no cheese


tomatoas


greem peppers


lettce


pickles


black olips  (!) 




Oh how you crack me up.  


You also gave me a detailed explanation of how many cupcakes to buy.  Realizing you needed 25, and that they come in packages of 6, you clearly indicated 5 packs...  I was the one who had to stop and do the math... you just go inside  your head and pull it out like magic. 


Your big brown eyes are soulful, and the way your nose crinkles when you laugh brings joy to my life.  You could not be more opposite of your brother.  While Nolan is here to lead me into uncharted territory and expand me, your calm demeanor is the honey that both sweetens my soul and anchors me.  


You're smart, funny, stubborn, sensitive, imaginative, loving, and a complete Mommy's boy.  You wiggled your way into my heart and have notched out your own way in this world.  


I realized the other day, I can barely lift you up these days.  It occurred to me you don't really need me to anymore.  But in your wise beyond your years way, you seem to know, it is I who needs to for just a little bit longer.  


I look at Nolan and I see all the things he can and will most likely do with his future.  I look at you and have no idea.  I can't dream a big enough dream for the things I think you will one day do.  






To the moon and back, Bubba Jack...  I love you to the moon and back.  Happy 8th Birthday Colton! 




























Tuesday, May 11, 2010

He is 10 years old today...





Nolan  5-11-00



Where did my little boy go? 


Ten years ago today Nolan first graced us with his presence.  One thing we can all agree on, he has a flair for the dramatic. His arrival into this world could not have been any more of a cliffhanger than it was. I am convinced my grueling labor and delivery fraught with emotional turmoil was symbolic for the unexpected rollercoaster that is our son.

To this day, he is intense, persistent, kind, unrelenting, demanding, loving, spirited, loud, smart, funny, caring, passionate and has boundless energy.  But that smirk on his face?  Is the biggest indicator of who he is.  Its the devilish grin at the edges of his smile on an otherwise angelic face, that give him away. 



You can't help but love him. He has many friends. Many. He does well at school. He is a really good athlete. And he has a soft heart.  He struggles each year with who to invite to his party.  He doesn't truly want to leave anyone out.  Like the year he came home wanting to invite "Taylor" to his party. He kept asking if it was okay. I kept saying yes without understanding what he was asking. So I asked his teacher. I'm not kidding when she teared up. It just so happens that Taylor, is the girl that sits in a wheelchair. She can't talk although she does make vocalizations. She clearly would not have been able to bowl.

Nolan didn't care. His reasoning was that if he were the one in the wheelchair, he would want someone to invite him to their party, so why shouldn't he invite Taylor to his? She could watch and just be part of it, couldn't she? So I called Taylor's mom. And she was both excited and disappointed. They were going out of town. But she was thrilled that Taylor had been asked, and she thanked me. I assured her it was all Nolan's doing.

I have an entire journal filled with "Nolan" stories. If ever there were a book to write, it would be about my journey with Nolan. No story however, comes close to topping his story about God and the sunburn.



When Nolan was three he had gone to play the Sunday golf game with his dad one April day. It was unusually warm that day and got up into the mid 60's. It was just warm enough to catch us off-guard and Nolan experienced his first sun burn. He howled when I gave him his bath that night. He could not fathom how that red got on his skin. We put some ointment on it and put him in bed and he was much better in the morning.



A few days later after his bath he came to me. We'd had one of those days. I was in bed, emotionally drained and exhausted. Its hard to be three. Its even harder to be a parent of a child who is three. I was startled to see him creeping into my room. His eyes were downcast. His voice was somber and serious. "Mom, he said, his voice filled with resignation, "I think I'm dying." I got up from the bed. My mind started to spin.


I said "Nolan, what is wrong?"


"My skins coming off," he said. "I must be dying."


I said, "Nolan, what have you been doing? Did you get into something? DID YOU PUT SOMETHING IN YOUR MOUTH?"  I was so unprepared for his confession.


"Oh mom," he said, "Every day I do. You tell me not to, but I do. I just can't help it."


"What Nolan, tell me what you put in your mouth?"


"I ate grass once," he said. "I eat dog food all the time. Oh, and I licked the bottom of my shoe. Yesterday I tasted the side of the car and its pooey mom, don't ever put your tongue on it!"


By now I am trying to hold my sides that are jiggling from the laughter trying to escape.


"Now my skin is coming off. Mom, I'll probably be going to heaven tonight. Don't be sad.  I'll miss you!"


I am leaning over inspecting what I realize is his skin peeling from the sunburn and hugging him at the same time.


"Oh Nolan" I managed to choke out.


As I go to get some lotion he tells me he has to use the bathroom. I holler at him to close the door.  He is in there a long time then suddenly comes around the corner and he is smiling. "Mom! I've got it," he says. "Do you think God goes potty? Because if he does, and he closes the door, I'll just sneak down from Heaven when he isn't looking and give you a hug so you won't miss me too much."


And with that he ran back to bed.






He is a keeper that one. He tries our patience, and manages to find our last nerve. But the joy he brings, the laughter, the unique way of being in this world. He is more, and with that, we are more too. I can't wait to have the rest of this journey with him.


We love you Nolan! Happy 10th Birthday Peanut!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Winner of my first giveaway!

But first... I thought I'd share a bit about my Mother's Day.  I never thought that I'd be so happy to be loved for my tuna noodle casserole, but it turns out, I'm thrilled with that.


My mother always said it was the time she spent with us that mattered the most to her, and I see now, exactly what she means.



I could tell Nolan worked hard on his card for me... it had a big surprise inside...




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The three inner hearts popped up when the card was opened. Plus, there were "love" tickets inside and I collected right away on the bear hug. I hope that one is good for repeated use... Nolan gives hugs that literally take your breath away.

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Colton, well he just cracks me up...
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Its the words he conveyed to his teacher about me, that had me rolling with laughter. Obviously there is a "plug" for his upcoming birthday celebration.  Although, I think we are saturated with both Lego sets and Hot Wheels... but gotta love him for trying!
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The wait for Mother's Day brunch was 1 hour... so we went shopping and came back... this was well worth the wait!
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So yummy...
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Thank you Rick, Nolan and Colton for making my Mother's Day so Happy!  Thanks also for allowing me time to pick out potted plants for my own mom and spend some time with her.



Finally! The long awaited news!  The winner of the $50 gift certificate  to CSN Stores is...



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#27= HHLSS!!!!  You have 24 hours to email me at vwestra14@gmail.com to claim your prize!

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Her hands.

I don't know what I was doing when I made the discovery.   I glanced down and maybe the sun danced across the top of them.  But there they were, my mother's hands.  How did that happen?  Funny how we see the same parts of ourselves daily, and yet, they change, and transform until one day they are no longer your own.  So now I have my mother's hands.  I still have the long and skinny fingers.  But the bones and joints are more prominent than ever.  Plus the blue and ropy veins are nearer the surface, crisscrossed like a web across the backs of my hands.  Old lady hands.

I was afraid this might happen.  I'd often looked at my mother's hands as a portrait of what mine would hopefully never be, while knowing one day they probably would.   My mother's hands are aged, wrinkled, and filled with battle scars from having used them in rugged conditions.  My mother has worked in food prep for 33 years at Concordia College.  She retired in December.  Her last job was preparing over 250 dinners daily, for our community Meals on Wheels program.  Her hands bore the brunt of her labor. At times as many as 4 or 5 fingers have been bandaged, with nails split and peeling, fingertips with deep cuts, and dry skin that cracks like eggshells.  

A few weeks ago I went with my mother to an appreciaton dinner for staff and retirees at the college my mother worked at.  We were escorted to a table at the front of the reception hall.  We sat with the Director of Dining Services and all the top managers.  My mother was the only one to receive an exquisite bouquet of flowers.  She was treated as though she were nothing short of royalty.

I had prepared for small talk and polite conversation.  But when the director opened up about the struggle she was having with her teenage daughter, I realized, these weren't just co-workers, they were extended family.  I listened with interest as she sighed with the frustration of her daughter wanting to attend college, but not at Concordia. The best perk for  working at the college, is the tuition discounts that you can earn after 10 years of service.  With the cost of tuition, room, and board currently at 33,000 dollars a year, a waiver of nearly 90% of those costs, is an amazing benefit.

The rub comes in the fact you have to attend Concordia.  If you choose a school not in this area, it doesn't apply.  If you start school at another college and then come back, it doesn't apply.  I know this so well, because I was like the Director's daughter, 20 years ago.  Even with my mother's huge tuition discounts looming, I did not want to attend Concordia.  I wanted away, out, far off, any place but here.

With growing pressure from all sides of my family, I eventually caved.  Even though I resented feeling like I had no choice.  I could relate to the Director's daughter.  I knew she wanted to make her own decision.  She wanted to control and choose her future.  I could see her, as I had once seen myself.

20 years have passed since then.  What I would tell her now, is that I wasn't truly as ready to be away from family, as I thought I was.  I saw my roommate suffer from being homesick, far from family, removed from any comfort or familiarity.  I, on the other hand, was confident.  I was at ease in my familiar surroundings and unfazed by the rigors of college life.  I thrived at college.

I don't think my mother used this as an argument to sway me back then.  She used an iron-clad fist of resolve. Those hands.  I noticed them again at the banquet that night.  A glint in the light caught my eye and I noticed she had painted her nails with a clear shiny coat.  Her nails are longer now, smoother.  Retirement has softened the rough appearance.

But what can't ever be taken from them, is what lies under their appearance.  Their strength, their ceaseless work, their labor.  I sat amongst a room filled with people who would testify to the trials those hands have been through.  And there I sat, the one who had reaped the biggest  benefit from her hands.

Its true.  My hands are beginning to look just like hers.  Yet, once you get past the wrinkles and the purple-blue veins, I've come to see they have an understated grace to them.  An elegance really.   I can only hope 30 some odd years from now, my hands have their own story to tell, as worthy as my mother's story.







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Happy Mother's day to all moms everywhere!



Giveaways Galore!


*** Last chance to enter my CSN Stores giveaway for a $50 gift certificate here... contest closes at noon Sunday, on Mother's Day! ***


To enter one of Robynn's three giveaways for Chipotle, Great Harvest Bread Co., and/or the Dvd, Food, Inc., please go here.


One more, Megan over at Polish the Stars has just opened a brand new Etsy shop with beautifully hand crafted totes, belts, and hair ribbons to name a few.  So head on over to Megan's for your chance to win a gift certificate to her store!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

CSN Stores Giveaway... and Only Nolan could come up with this...

In case you haven't heard and want to enter... I am hosting my first giveaway ever for a $50 gift certificate to one of 200 CSN Stores! To enter, please go here to the giveaway post for all the details. You have until noon on Sunday, May 9th, to enter!   Thanks to everyone who has already left a comment and to all the new readers to my blog!


In case you are looking for another amazing giveaway, please head over to Robynn's Ravings for 3 different giveaways she is hosting.  They all have to do with food and I should mention Chipotle, and Great Harvest Bread Company are both involved!




So next week happens to be "Birthday Week," in our house with Nolan turning 10 and Colton turning 8, just threes days apart from each other.  Since we skipped parties altogether last year, we promised each boy could do their own friend's party this year.  So the boys have been making invite lists, and throwing out party ideas.  Yesterday Nolan decided he should put together a gift idea sheet.  He cut out ads from the newspaper just to give us some ideas of what he might like for his Birthday.

His "gift ideas" fall under the category of "Only Nolan..."








Only Nolan, would figure out, if what you really want is a Guinea Pig...





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Just ask for a SNAKE!!! A Ball PYTHON to be exact. I mean for starters, they're cheap right? The little stinker even managed to not crack a single smile when he generously offered to let it sleep in our room.


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Or, if what you really want is an Ipod Touch...

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Just ask for a 46" HDTV. I mean look at it... the price dropped 1,000 dollars already!
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That, in a nutshell, is Nolan. Gosh I love that kid!!

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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