Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Out of the box...

This tradition has stood the test of time.  These photos were taken in 2008 - two boys jammed into our Christmas tree box, their arms in the air in an homage to their cousins for teaching them how to ride the rollercoasters that summer at Hershey Park.  I laugh at the things they choose to remember.  I'm just glad I'm learning to watch for the things they choose to love.

Our traditions aren't necessarily the ones I envisioned. Decorating for Christmas doesn't revolve around a background of Christmas music and cookies baking in the oven.  You are much more likely to hear a hockey game coming from the tv, and smell chili cooking on the stove.

But the box has stood the test of time, thanks to the genius of Grandma.  Flash back to the year 2002/2003.  As we went about setting up our tree for the first time, Nolan either 2 or 3 at the time, kept climbing in the box.  He rattled on and on about Grandma and something about the box.  We tried to distract him.  But then he'd start unwrapping the glass ornaments.  While we snatched ornaments out of his busy little hands and put them out of reach, he headed for the lights, managing to tangle himself in the strands.  We repeatedly tried to discourage him from undoing our efforts while including him in the process.  This was not the vision of "Christmas decorating" that I had in my head!

We were also fairly focused on figuring out how this tree went together.  Our frustration grew. Nolan persisted, raising his voice now to get our attention, "Thats NOT how Grandma does it."  he insisted.  I remember thinking, great, now my two year old is giving me tree decorating advice!  Finally, I called for reinforcements.  Grandma laughed when she heard the exasperation in my voice.  She teased me with "why, he was just as content as could be at my house when we put up OUR tree!"  "Fine,"  I said.   "Raise the white flag, I surrender.  Just please come help."

Want to know what her secret was?  She grabbed a marker and got busy with the tree box.  She helped Nolan draw the steering wheel and the levers.  Next they got to work on the pedals.  Voila.  Through the magic of Grandma, one tree box transformed into a two year old dream car.  I bet he sat in there for the next 30 minutes straight, which in toddler time is extremely long.  It was awesome!  Mother always does know best.  Without her thinking "out of the box", we would have missed the magic of "inside the box."

Christmas decorating 2010

I have no doubt one day there will be two grown men trying to jam their extra long legs into a ratty old tree box.  Its one tradition I hope never dies.  

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What remains...

We went decidedly low-key for our Thanksgiving celebration this year. I made one simple decision to yield to whatever the moments were going to be.  Yet I tiptoed around each corner now knowing when that "missing Dad ache" would try to sneak up on me.

Dad was always the one to call weeks before Thanksgiving to see what "the plan" would be.  He would tell me whatever we decided was fine with him, but then secretly hint that if it were HIS decision, he'd like a home cooked meal at our house, but no pressure or anything.

As a Daddy's girl?  I did my level best to grant his wish.  Afterall,  he 'd eat like there was no tomorrow, and be sure you knew he thought it was the best dinner ever.  But his wish, had to encompass my mom's wish.  Due to her digestive challenges, she required strict adherence to low-fat, gluten free, sodium free, and spice free... or bland and boring.  It was always a tightrope act planning the meal and I teetered between wanting to soar, but feeling like I was one stumble away from an undignified fall.

So I avoided the whole cooking scenario this year.    I opted for dinner at a local hotel.   My kids will probably grow up thinking the way to celebrate holidays is to go to a buffet... sigh.  But while there was still that familiar ache of one less place setting at the dinner table, I didn't associate Holiday Inn with Dad.  The threat of the grief grenade exploding in the midst of dinner,  avoided.

It was snowing and windy the day of Thanksgiving.  I think I gave thanks three times for "safely" arriving at the hotel for dinner.  We ate a delicious meal and headed for home.  While the streets were fairly devoid of any heavy traffic, it was crossing back into Moorhead that we encountered the big semi truck.  It kicked up all kinds of snow and left us in a cloud of a billowy snow tornado.

Rick gripped the steering wheel as the truck swayed in the wind.  There is a collective holding of breath when visibility is reduced already, and a big truck is crowding your lane as it attempts to pass you.  It seemed like an eternity as we clipped along locked going the same speed, the truck just slightly ahead of us.  As we were about to exit the truck finally pulled ahead of us.  With out headlights beaming at the back of the truck, in plain sight,  was the location the truck hailed from... New Salem, ND... my Dad's beloved hometown.  We all got a huge chuckle.  Leave it to Dad to get our attention and remind us he is never far from us.

But that isn't the end.  I knew it would catch me at some moment.  Walking into mom's apartment and seeing Dad's empty chair was when it grew hard for me to swallow. I will forever miss not having Dad there, waiting to hear about my day. As the heaviness set in, perhaps as a means of distraction, I picked up my phone.

And there you all were, all of my friends, and blog peeps, with emails, and texts, and fb messages, thinking of me. Your kind thoughts, words, and prayers lifted me up and held me together. No, Dad, wasn't there anymore to share in the moments of my day. But in yielding to those moments, underneath the sadness and loss, what I realize remains... is love.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Making the list...

Do you remember the girls, E and L, who came to my house for daycare last fall?  They came to spend the day with us today.  Can you believe how big they are now?  It took 2.6 seconds for me to tap back into their giggles, warmth and girly fun.  How I have missed them.

Miss E just turned 4, and yes, that is lip gloss on her lips.  While her mom was on the phone this morning,  she applied the lip gloss a bit "liberally" to most of her face.  I cracked up remembering all of those busy days when a turned back resulted in all kinds of shenanigans with little ones. 


Miss L, who was just 8 month old when she first came, is now a full fledged toddler, and part time ham.


She walked right in and plunked herself down on my lap to get her coat and boots off.  But lickety-split she was off and running when she saw the toys beckoning to her from the other room.

I was told my pb and j sandwiches are the best she has ever had, shhh, don't tell her they are from Smuckers and come in a box...  


Ham 1 and Ham 2


My favorite part is seeing what an amazing big brother my baby boy would be. Gets me every time.


But some things haven't changed at all.  With all the dancing, riding on Colton's back, running and playing, she was tuckered out by 12:00.


All too quickly it was time for them to go.  They were here just long enough to fill that girl sized space in my heart.  As they got ready to leave, their mom shared with me that I made the list of things E was grateful for... it started with Grandpa's and Grandma's and ended with me.  I made the list! 

And this is where my gratitude lies this Thanksgiving.  These little things... like two little girls.  A whirlwind day filled with girly goodness.  And making her list.  

Whose on your list this Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hello Winter...

Happy Monday morning everyone... we awoke to at least 3 inches of snow on the ground and no let up in sight. Enjoy :)

Thought I would shoot a little video of the tranquil snow coming down... mind you this is just 13 seconds of what my life with boys is like... never a dull moment.  

Welcome Winter! from Vicky Westra on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Wild" for Minnesota

What are the odds?  I can never fully wrap my brain around the statistical odds of not one, not two, but three professional hockey players, all hailing from the same home town.  Not just any town, but our home town.  Three players, three different teams, one small hometown.  Plus, any day now, we fully expect a 4th player to get called up by the Edmonton Oilers.

It was a complete fluke when Rick asked for a press pass from the Wild last summer in June to shoot photos.   His thinking was, if the Wild are playing Carolina, Anaheim, or Ottawa, he would have access to shoot photos of at least one of our guys playing on one of those teams.  A week later we heard the news that Matt Cullen had been traded from Carolina to the Minnesota Wild!

The Wild media guy made good on his word last week. On Wednesday, the Anaheim Ducks came to play the Wild and Rick, with a full media pass, drove down to the game.  He got some great hockey action shots and left excited to return again.

Matt Cullen, #7, of the Minnesota Wild.  Matt Cullen drives through center ice against the Anaheim Ducks in the first period.  

Jason Blake, #33, of the Anaheim Ducks.  Blake curls in towards the slot looking for a pass from a teammate against the Minnesota Wild, Wednesday, November 17th at the Xcel Energy Center.

Martin Havlat, the intensity in his eyes is undeniable.

George Parros, #16 for the Ducks, taking aim at Rick as he stood on the bench shooting photos during pregame.    He came at him full speed then stopped short, sending up a spray of ice...  pretty sure he smirked as he skated away.  

After the game, the players got a few minutes to chat with family that came to see them play.  Jason allowed Rick to stay and snap a few photos of him sharing a few personal moments with his family and friends.  

For more hockey news and all of Rick's action shots, check out his site at Spudsports.net. 

The Wild won the game 2-1 in overtime.  Our hockey fever is officially ignited! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Driving blind

Entering the ice arena this weekend, I had been preparing myself for the busy hockey season.  My warm coat came out of storage.  I layered shirts underneath and remembered some warm socks.  What I hadn't anticipated?  The flood of emotion that hit me upon walking through the doors.  My mind flashed back to June and the month long hockey camp. Camp coincided with the weeks leading up to Dad's passing.  The uncertainty of that time period, the queasy, sickening feeling in my stomach that was my constant companion.  I even remember praying for help in keeping my attention focused. I needed to pay attention while driving with the car load of boys I carted to and from the rink on a daily basis, knowing, most days I felt like I was driving distracted, and blind.

Now as I look back, talk about answered prayers.  I recall how frustrated I was finding out there would be all kinds of  road construction.  I was worried about how quickly I would be able to get to Dad if I needed to.  All, and I mean every, single, route, I normally travel to the rink, was blocked.  I had to use alternates that were congested and tacked on more tedious minutes in the car, weighing me down.  Answered prayers, via road construction that forced me to focus.

This week I am back traveling my familiar routes to the rink.  With my husband moving into his busy season, I am flying solo and hockey rests on my shoulders.  But as my schedule suddenly begins to fill, I notice I am distracted again.  Consumed with the "busy-ness" of the next few months, I am scattered.

Driving the boys to church last night, my mind a million miles away, it was Nolan who literally, brought me back from distraction.  Smile.

Mom, what happens if you don't turn your headlights on while you are driving in the dark?

Well, either you won't be able to see the road or another car won't see you and will flash their lights at you to remind you to turn them on.

Oh.  But what if you are blind and can't see that you don't have your lights on?  

Ummmmm... snicker, chuckle.  Nolan?  Do you really think a blind person should or would be driving?  Uhhh, close your eyes and tell me what you see right now?

Mom, I can't see a thing, but you could TELL me to turn the lights on and I could HEAR you and then I would turn them on.

The sound of my laughter carries me the rest of the way to church, my eyes, my attention, razor sharp once again.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where to find me the next 5 months...

In case you'd like to find me over the next 5 months I thought I'd give you a hint.  It starts with the letter "H" and indeed involves two hockey sticks...  but based on how cold it is?  Yeah, its so not h*ll. But it is our winter home away from home... the hockey arena. And with both boys playing at different levels? You know the rink is where to find me every day of the week, except Wednesday, when you will instead find me at church.


Our 7th hockey season is in full swing. We capped off 3 weeks of clinics and tryouts with a jamboree this weekend. My stomach remained in knots, flip-flopping from the will he? to the won't he make it? We breathed a sigh of relief late last night. He will. He made the Squirt A's which is what Nolan longed for and worked very hard for. It was his father's birthday yesterday, and Nolan said "Dad, is that a pretty good birthday present?" His dad, said, "yes, but the best part of the whole weekend? Was watching you work so hard and give your best effort, regardless of the outcome, that was the best present." My stomach that had been churning, calmed, as my heart now lodged in my throat.  I could only nod in agreement.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I am, I think, I know...

I'm reflecting today and comparing my answers to the first ones I gave almost a year ago to this meme.  Round two, here goes...

I am: growing into more of myself every day.
I think: way too much about things that matter far too little sometimes.
I know:  I have the best blog peeps ever!  So grateful for everyone who chooses to come read here every day!
I want: to make sure I really live each day.
I have: to be reminded sometimes of how much I have... so blessed.
I dislike: the need to put anyone down for any reason, in judgement, word or action.
I miss: Dad, yelling at the Vikings games.  Dad, asking me to bake him an apple crisp.  Dad, wanting to go to Village Inn for pie... Dad, I miss Dad.
I fear: when my old friend fear gets too overpowering sometimes and I forget to be afraid but do it anyways.
 I feel: everything.  I have very little filter for not feeling.
I hear: nothing but the sound of my fingers flying over the keyboard... ahhhh bliss.
I smell: freshly baked banana bread and the remains of my morning coffee... more bliss.
I crave: a new adventure and wonder at the same time how I would fit it in?
I search: for the questions I should be asking.
I wonder: Who loves you?  Who inspires you?  What keeps you going? Will you share with me?
I regret: not knowing now what I will grow to regret...
I love: story, in a story, searching for the story, living a story.  
I care: deeply, even when I shouldn't.
I am always: a very curious girl
I worry: why yes, I (still) do.
I remember:  the way I felt at the time, over most everything else.
I have: so much I still want to do...
I dance: like I am 20 all over again but because I am 40- ish could care less who thinks I shouldn't anymore. HA.
I sing: no, really I don't, you're welcome
I don’t always: want to be so darn responsible
I argue: with my kids about NOT arguing :)
I write: to make sense of my world
I lose: myself in stories
I wish:  I could come and spend face time with each one of my blogging friends.  Each one.  
I listen: well I try, to listen less to the voice in my head, and more to the vibration in my heart.
I don't understand: Fourth Grade Math!  
I can usually be found: near my family, my home and my heart.
I am scared: but I keep trying anyway
I need: less and less things as the years go by.
I forget: sometimes that this moment is really all that any of us have... so... 
I am happy: to be exactly where I am, in this moment, and happy you are here with me.

How about you, care to answer?  If so, come back and let me know so I can read your answers too... 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Being thankful in everything... even pink vomit.

Maybe it was reading about the teenage suicide in the newspaper Friday morning.  Cassidy Andel, another victim of "cyber bullying."  She was 16, from a small community not far from here, and she left her suicide note on her facebook page.  I stared at her picture all morning in disbelief.  She was beautiful.  And had to have had harbored deeply felt pain.  A haunting sense of having failed yet another child who didn't deserve this fate, sits uneasily within.  My words fail, while my emotion runs high.  You can ead more about Cassidy here

I awoke Saturday, with high hopes of a fun day.  

The day held such promise.  We made big plans.  We'd road trip to the high school football game 3 hours away and then we were given tickets to attend a St. Cloud State hockey game in the evening.  

The sun streaming in through the windows was blindingly bright.  Nothing however, that a pair of shades wouldn't fix.


 A nap in the car is always a good thing.  Although this would prove to tell an entirely different story later in the day.


We were all excited to visit the campus of St. John's to watch the section final football game.  The winner would advance to the state tournament. 


The campus was... gorgeous. Photobucket

A football game in November in Minnesota can be a miserably cold experience.  With the temps in the 50's and the sun shining down, this was one of those experiences you savor.


Our first glimpse of the Orange and Black.

Sitting in the warm sun, on the side of the hill waiting for football to start.

The Spuds as they take the football field. Photobucket

And this is where we stopped having fun.  Midway through the game,  Nolan started to throw up.  I ended up in the car with him in the parking lot for the second half of the game.  The team lost... badly.  Nolan was miserable.  I was hot with way too many layers of clothes to be stuck sitting in the car with a vomiting child.  Our hopes of attending the hockey game were slowly dashed.  

And yet, I was thankful.  Thankful it was only a 24 hour bug that ravaged that poor kid all night long.  I was thankful for Ziploc bags, disposable wipes, Pepto Bismol and Motrin.  For pink vomit, yep, even that.  For the whole messy, gross, long day.  I was thankful.  

A really wise friend once wrote, "I've learned that being thankful in everything is more important than being thankful for something. I want to be grateful for everything in my life, not just the special moments."  Sara Frankl  

What are you "thankful" for today? 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tiny regrets

I hope its all I ever have, tiny regrets. This photo is one of those. Its the only year we didn't send out a Christmas photo or letter. It is the only semi-acceptable photo we got, but we couldn't get past the look of our oldest strangling his younger brother.

But its classic for who they are as brothers.  Even with scribbles over the top of it,  this photo has  become one of my favorites.  Nolan's love is big, fierce actually.  His hugs leave you breathless, and he won't let go until you hug him back equally hard.  And Colton has been the unwitting recipient of these overly exuberant hugs for years now.

It's Dakota's eyes in this one however that are the most telling. She is already panting, her sure-fire sign she wants to bolt from sight, and there is this pleading quality to her big brown eyes, "pleaassee can we be done before that boy wraps his arms around my neck too?"

At some point Colton started to fight back.  They had epic battles of each one asserting their will over the other.  Separating them was our only respite.  But they're growing in their relationship. The harmony doesn't last long, but in the quiet moments, I witness it occasionally.

Last night in the car, Nolan was  having a heated discussion about his future hockey career. With 7 years of hockey under his belt now, I do think "career" is a valid term, even when you are only 10. So I overhear Nolan say "Maybe in high school I'll go and play at Shattock St. Mary's." Two things about this school, we're not catholic, and even though Sidney Crosby attended and played hockey there, we don't have 40 grand a year to throw into it.   So as we gently break it to him that we'd have to sell the house just for tuition, Colton chimes in with, "yeah Nolan, that wouldn't work, mom and dad could not just sell their house and come live with you."

At this point I am thinking to myself, ahhh, they are finally starting to grasp the concept of money, and the idea they will be independent of mom and dad one day. I look back to see Nolan nodding his head... "yeah Colton, you're right. Mom and dad could never come live in the dorm with me and all the guys... because..."

Colton is nodding in total agreement, as Nolan says... "it'd be too stinky." "Oh yeah," says Colton, still nodding, just what I was thinking, way too stinky with all of those hockey players, for mom and dad to live there."

Yeah, well okay, so maybe we still have some work to do on that "understanding" of the world. I'm just going to go with the fact, they were in total agreement with one another for 3.5 seconds. Sometimes you just settle for that.

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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