Monday, August 26, 2013

Happy Birthday Monkey Toes

Happy Birthday to the one I have loved since I was 18 years old.  

Over the past 21 years, we have had some amazing adventures.

We said, "I do,"

And then started a family; our legacy.

I wanted to make your birthday special, but as life goes, it was extremely imperfect.  You simply asked for brunch at home after Mass, to which you were served dried out eggbake, and burnt on the outside and raw on the inside monkey bread.  You still ate it and said it was delicious.

I wanted to make it up to you by having a nice dinner tonight, but due to a sick child and a sleepless night, we had BLT's and the half eaten birthday cake you brought home from work.

You still blew out your candles with a smile on your face, letting your children know that just being home with them was the important thing.

So over this past year, I say thank you.

Thank you for helping the kids with school projects.

Thank you for taking the time to play.

Thank you for teaching our children skills.

Thank you for taking the time to relax.

Thank you for being true to you.

Happy Birthday Monkey Toes!  I love you!

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Last week, my mom ran into an old neighbor of ours up town.  She came home and told me who she saw and we then began reminiscing about the days we lived next door to each other.  We laughed until we cried and the following story will explain why.

The majority of my "growing-up" years took place in the same little town we live in currently.  My family has lived in this community since 1982.  When we first moved here, my parents bought a 100 year old house.  It was big and it was lovely.  It had a walk-up attic that seemed magical to me.  I had my own room for the first time with plenty of space to play.  I loved that old house.  Well, except that utilities were costly, so in the wintertime, the house was very cold, and in the summertime, the house was very hot.  In the winter, I dreaded getting out of my warm bed each morning and having my feet touch that cold, cold floor.  I would complain that I could practically see my breath and routinely my mom would tell me, "well get up and start moving and you'll warm up fast enough."  That, and "wear layers."

In addition to a great house, we were blessed to be surrounded by awesome neighbors too.  To the west of us, was my childhood best friend and her family.  We were at each other's homes so often that some referred to us as the "Bopsy Twins."  Directly north of us, was a first grade teacher and her husband.  Many evenings they and my dad would stand by the rhubarb patch, shooting the breeze.  To the northeast, was Dorothy, a retired school teacher.  My friend and I would visit her often, and each time, she would invite us in and dig out a treat from her freezer.  It was usually an orange push-up or a drumstick.  Dorothy loved to travel and from one of her trips, she returned home with a wooden train whistle for me.  I still have that whistle and my kids are now playing with it.  The neighbors to our east had two teenage girls who I admired.  They were both in the marching band color guard; one did rifle and the other flag.  Whenever they practiced their routines in the backyard, I would quickly grab the kitchen broom, run outside, and attempt to imitate what they were doing.  I thought they were "cool."  These were also the neighbors that would watch our house when we were out of town.  We would return the favor to them when needed, as well.

During one of the winter months, the neighbors to the east had planned a week long trip and had asked if we not only would keep an eye on their house, but if we could also bird-sit for them.  We, of course, agreed, and their parakeet took up residence in our living room for the week.

It was during this same time that our furnace went out.  A harsh reality of living in a big, 100 year old house is that things are often in need of repair.  So to supplement until we had heat once more, my Dad brought in a kerosene heater.  It certainly didn't warm the whole house, but at least it helped a little.

My parents and I enjoyed watching the parakeet.  It did provide some entertainment, as none of us were bird experts, and the living room was the only room that had a heat source at that time.  My mom had even commented that the bird must be cold too, because it kept its beak under its wing.

On one of the final days of our neighbor's vacation, I heard a scream from downstairs in the early morning.  I jumped out of bed to find my mom, standing on the steps with her hands covering her face.  I yelled, "mom, what's wrong?"  She pointed in the direction of the bird cage.  As I turned to look, I, too, gasped at what I saw.  The parakeet was on its back with its little feet in the air.  The neighbor's bird lay dead and it happened on our watch.  We concluded that it was probably the fumes from the kerosene heater that killed the winged creature.  It also became obvious that it wasn't burying its beak because it was cold, but rather to escape the nasty fumes.

My Dad disposed of the bird and my parents discussed what to do next.  A few hours later, my mom and I were in a pet store, looking for fowl that resembled the one that took its last breath while in our care. We selected one that looked similar to its replacement.  We brought it home, placed it in the cage, and dreaded the ordeal of having to fess up to the neighbors what actually happened to their feathered, family friend.

We watched through the windows as our neighbors arrived home the following day.  They unloaded their car, and made a few trips back and forth inside their house.  We sat, watched, and waited.  Eventually, the Mr. and Mrs. knocked on our door.  I hid in our kitchen and peeked around the corner as I listened to my mom explain contritely to them the events that had occurred the day before.

The Mr. and Mrs. looked at each other and then looked at my mom and the room grew silent, but only for a moment.  The Mrs. began to laugh and Mr. followed.  When they caught their breath, they explained that the bird belonged to one of their daughters (who was now off to college).  They didn't even like the parakeet.  Because of its advanced age, they were actually looking forward to its passing.  They also enlightened us that the bird probably didn't die because of the heater, but because it was so old.

My mom had bought them a new, very young, and very spry nestling.  One that she hoped would bring them years of enjoyment.  I don't recall if they left our house laughing or cursing, however I know for a fact that we never bird-sat for them again.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Movie and Parade

The end of summer offers many opportunities for us to participate in area small town festivities.  Being a small town girl myself, I LOVE these gatherings.  I love parades.  I love the occasional corn-dog and cheese curds.  I love randomly running into people I don't normally have the chance to visit.  I love being out in the fresh air and sunshine.  And, I love passing on these small town traditions to my kids.

Last night, we attended a "Movie in the Park."  A neighboring town was showing Puss in Boots on the big screen, but first, the evening opened with a magic show.

Look who was called up on stage to help; that would be Sweet Pea.  She did a great job!  I had just made my way back to our seats when I heard the magician say, "What's your name?"  And then I heard this little voice say, "Pumpkin."  So I turned around and took another picture.

No kidding, I was about to sit down when Cucumber was called up to assist.  Monkey said, "Sit down.  I'll take this next picture."  I had no sooner settled in when I saw this.

Yep.  Monkey was coerced up on stage as well.  This magician guy was good.

Eventually, it was time to show the movie.  Sweet Potato was the only one not with us, as he was spending the night at a friend's house.

The fresh air and late night knocked the kids out well into this morning.  We ate breakfast, got dressed, and headed in the opposite direction to another neighboring town to celebrate "Twine Ball Days."  Seriously.  This is some good stuff!

Settling in for the Twine Ball Parade.  Grandma (under the umbrella), Honey Bunches, Sissy #2, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Cucumber (giving the peace sign), Sweet Pea and Gummi.
The world's largest twine ball (rolled by one man), sits encased behind our group in the photo above.  The number of people who show up for this festival is remarkable.  The parade was fun and the kids collected candy equivalent to their body weight.  In years past, the parade has passed by twice, but the number of units increased so much this year that we only saw each unit once.

The giant Twine Ball even offered a shady spot to eat a "walking taco" for Sweet Pea.
A final note to our day. . .

We made our way home from Twine Ball Days, mid-afternoon, and the kids were exhausted.  After naps, we had planned on attending Reconciliation.  On the way to church I asked the kids if they wanted to recite the "Act of Contrition".  I explained that they can always write down what they want to share within the sacrament. Sometimes it helps us to remember all we want to say if it is written down.

Honey Bunches:  You mean like what Dad did the last time he went to Reconciliation?
Gummi:  Yeah.  He had three pages that he brought into the confessional.
Cucumber:  Whoa!  What the heck has Dad been up to?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Our Summer Review

Talk to just about anyone and the consensus seems to be the same; no one can believe that it is already August.  Where did June and July go?  What happened to gazing at the summer months ahead with all of their potential and endless possibilities?  Weren't we going to do this and accomplish that?  Now we are left with a few short weeks before (gulp) school begins.  Don't even get me started on school supply shopping.  I'm in denial.  At this rate, I'll be lucky, rather my children will be lucky, if they show up to school on time the first day, with a uniform that fits and their backpacks full of the necessary supplies.

A common response I have used lately when asked how summer is going is, "fast and I feel we have nothing to show for it."  We didn't take any family trips or vacations.  Monkey has actually been gone more this summer than I/we had planned.  We had very little structure to our days.  The long list of home improvements was barely touched.  Supplies were gathered for a few organizing projects for inside which were begun, but not finished.   So what have we done for the past few months?

The boys spent 5 days with their Grandpa at the cabin.  We attended a mini-family reunion on my mom's side.  Monkey and I volunteered at Winstock (a fundraiser for our kids school).  We participated in Relay For Life.  The kids attended Vacation Bible School at the school they attend.  Through Community Education, the kids participated in gymnastics, swimming lessons, golf lessons and football camp.  I met my college friends for our annual get-together.  The kids attended VBS through our Area Faith Community.  I snuck away for an evening (and well into the morning) to meet up with some friends from high school.  The girls spent a few days at the cabin with Grandpa.  Sprinkle in a dinner out or a visit here and there, and summer hasn't been too shabby for us.

A Wednesday evening at the Mushroom Building - The Kingery Family
An afternoon of kite flying
A "from scratch" chocolate cake made by Sweet Potato
A day of fun at a neighbor's pool
A beautiful woman's birthday party
Sweet Pea giving Dad a haircut
Games of 500
An afternoon at the lake with dear friends
8 of the 9 kids enjoying the beautiful evening (#9 was only 10 months old)
Monkey Toes playing a gig
Sweet Potato
Honey Bunches is my deep-thought boy.  After trying on his gear he told me, "this makes me feel like I'm part of something bigger than me."                                       
National Night Out - Gummi
Camp-out in the backyard
My air mattress buddies the morning after our camp out - Sweet Pea and Pumpkin
Lot of giggles with Grandma
So although, at first glance, it doesn't seem or feel like we have accomplished much this summer, we certainly have made some lovely memories and enjoyed some great company.  With a few weeks left, I want to immerse myself in this down-time and take full advantage of this gift of time.  It goes all too quickly.