Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sweet Potato is 11

Sweet Potato turned 11 years old. . . . . . .23 days ago!  There have been numerous times I was going to sit down and record some thoughts about his birthday, but I always wound up doing something else.  So tonight, I sit here, by myself (the kids are outside playing, Monkey is working in the garage, Sweet Potato is at his uncle's house watching football, and Grandma is in her room viewing EWTN).  No more excuses.

Sweet Potato's birthday fell on a Friday.  I woke him up that morning and he smiled at me very sweetly.  As I was preparing breakfast for the Love Bugs, Sweet Potato came into the kitchen and announced, "Hey everyone.  Today's my birthday!"  Yes, I will admit that this little fact escaped my mind that morning, however, I DID remember to order treats from the bakery for his class.  I think that redeemed me!

One of our birthday traditions is to let the honoree choose a special dinner.  They can pick whatever they want (all carbs, all the same color foods, etc).  Sweet Potato had a difficult time deciding, so he asked if he could just dig around the kitchen and make his own supper.  Of course I allowed him to do this.  He found some spaghetti, sauce, and garlic bread.  His birthday dessert was Ice Cream sundaes.  He was allowed to stay up as late as he wanted (he made it until 11 PM).  His "real" celebration took place the following Sunday.

Sweet Potato shared with Monkey and I that for his birthday, he wanted all of us to watch football with him.  He asked if we could have Godfather's pizza, hot wings and chocolate cake.  He was pretty easy to please.

Vikings colors, of course!
Birthday gifts included The Game of Life, Apples to Apples, a loaf of banana bread, strawberry rhubarb jelly, cash and 4 tickets to a Twin's game.
The Twin's game tickets were for the following week.  Sweet Potato agonized over who to invite.  I think he felt obligated to ask me and one of his cousins.  Monkey and I told him that he didn't have to invite family. He decided to bring Monkey and two friends from school.  He was thrilled!

Sweet Potato is a great kid.  We often tease him about his coordination challenges and the fact that the two messiest chairs at the kitchen table belong to him and Pumpkin.  He may not be the best at everything, but no one can accuse him of not having heart.  His passion definitely shines through in all he does.  He loves to be involved.  This year he is participating in football, band, piano, school patrol, altar serving, golf and basketball.  We have had to set some limits to his enthusiasm, or else he would have also signed up for 4-H, Boy Scouts and guitar lessons.  He loves to "host" gatherings and few things make him happier than when he is surrounded by all of his family - Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins.

One of my favorite memories of Sweet Potato (not favorite at the time it occurred), was 5 years ago.  Sweet Potato was six years old and I was working as the DRE for our church.  It was the morning of First Communion Sunday and I was a little anxious about the happenings of the day.  As I was getting ready to leave for Mass, I received a phone call from my sister-in-law, wanting to know what I wanted her to bring for dinner.

Me:  What do you mean?
SIL:  Aren't you hosting dinner at your house later?
Me:  Well I have to work today and I wasn't planning on having anyone over.
SIL:  Really?  Sweet Potato called us yesterday and invited us over.

I soon discovered that he had called all the family and invited them over for a BBQ.  How, you may ask, did a six year old accomplish this?  Well, hung on the wall by our telephone, were family members phone numbers.  Enjoying a good party, Sweet Potato decided to throw a gathering himself.  The family just assumed that Monkey and I knew about this.  I left for work that morning with a list of instructions for Monkey Toes:  tidy up the house, go grocery shopping for meat and other items, and stay calm.  Needless to say, we had a party at our house later that day.  Spontaneity worked well for us, or rather, it worked well for Sweet Potato!

Sweet Potato bar tending with my cousin at a family reunion camp out.  Ever the host is he!

So to my oldest Love Bug, Happy Birthday!  You are such a blessing to us.  I am proud of the young man you are becoming and the heart with which you do so many things.  Know that you will always have a piece of my heart.  I love  you!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Hall of Fame

One week ago tonight, my Dad was inducted into his high school Alma mater's Athletic Hall of Fame.  Our family attended the perfect fall evening's football game, at which the Hall of Fame honorees were introduced at half time.

Pictured above are Fr. Gross (one of my Dad's classmates), Sissy #1 and my mom. Those three accepted the award on my Dad's behalf.  The following was read aloud as the award was presented.

"Duane Benoit was a 4-sport participant at KHS participating in football, basketball, baseball and track.  Duane was a right tackle in football, center in basketball and threw the shot in track. In baseball, he played first base.  He was a letter winner in 4 sports for 4 years.  Duane served as football and basketball captain, was the team MVP in basketball and football his junior and senior seasons.  He was also selected to the All-District team in 1948 and 1949 seasons.  He averaged 19 points per game and had a high of 37 points his senior season.  He was also one of the leads in the junior class play, "Little Men."  He also participated in FFA and 4-H.  After high school he continued to play basketball for the National Guard 147th infantry."
Sitting in the bleachers, listening to my Dad's accomplishments, was emotional for me.  Yes, I am extremely proud of my Dad, but what struck me the most was how many of his accomplishments I was unaware of.  I knew my Dad played basketball and a little football, but the rest was a surprise to me.  Proof once more of my Dad's humility.

Dad's display at the Hall of Fame reception.

Dad encouraged all of us to be involved, join teams and clubs, play honest and play hard.  He never placed pressure on us to be the best, but he did watch to see that we gave our best and played with heart.  That is what made him most proud.

I wish Dad could have been here to receive this honor himself.  But then again, he would have been slightly embarrassed and certainly emotional (for a big guy, he had a very tender heart).  And so, we celebrate his accomplishments, but more importantly, the character of the man being honored.

Dad, #19

Dad, #41
Dad, 1st in bottom row.  National Guard 147th infantry.
My lovely Mom.
The plaque that hangs in the KHS Hall of Fame.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sweet Pea's First Day of School

Our #5, Sweet Pea, began her first year of school today as a full-time Kindergartner.  She has been asking, "when does school start?" since January.  

After a lecture to her siblings having to do with acknowledging Sweet Pea during school hours (give her a wave or a smile or even play with her at recess), everyone paused long enough to stand for a picture (in birth order I might add!)

I watched this small child of mine, walk confidently into the school, hang up her backpack and find her seat, with little more than a flash of a smile over her shoulder towards me.

I tried to stay out of the way as her teacher explained a few things to her.

Sweet Pea's teacher walked away, yet I remained.  Why do I find it so difficult to leave each of my children on their first day of school?  I know they are in very capable hands, and yet, a great emotion stirs within me each time.  They're excited.  I'm excited.  But there is that little piece of surrender that gets me every time.

A lump formed in my throat and I figured I better see myself out before I erupted into an ugly cry.  I gave my little girl a long hug and hung on longer than I normally do.

I counted the hours today, until I could pick up my Love Bugs.  This is how I was greeted in the parking lot - big smiles and even bigger hugs and the reassurance that Sweet Pea wants to go back tomorrow.

Her work sheet above says it all.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Back At It

Imagine this; waking in the morning to the sun shining through your bedroom window.  You stretch and say a quick morning prayer.  Then, while still lying in bed, you reach for your phone, or computer, and check your daily calendar, the weather, and the latest happenings on your social media of choice.  Then, still in your pajamas, you wander into the kitchen and pour yourself a cup of coffee.  You drink this while sitting in your favorite chair, feet up, gazing out the window.  Slowly, your children begin to wake and one by one they come to you for a morning snuggle and all together you watch a few morning cartoons.  Eventually, someone states they're hungry, so you head back into the kitchen, pour a second cup of coffee and work as a short-order cook; two want oatmeal, one wants an egg, one wants peanut butter toast, and two want yogurt and granola.  After breakfast, you determine what to do with the day.  Some of the children want to go to the library.  Some want to go to the park.  A few want to ride their bikes.  One just wants to have a "pajama day."  You walk to places more than you drive.  Somewhere in your day you take the time to do a load or two of laundry, maybe even push a vacuum around.  Your biggest concern is what to prepare for dinner, which happens to be served late in the evening.

Now, fast forward a few months and this serene picture is painted very differently.  You arise to a very annoying, screeching alarm to which your body revolts.  You stumble around haphazardly, trying to pull yourself together for the day.  Should you dress warm for the cool morning or cool for the hot afternoon, since you didn't have time to check the weather report.  You walk into the kitchen, make a pot of coffee and proceed to wake up the children.  Two of them jump right out of bed in great anticipation of the day ahead. Two hide their heads under the blankets, trying to squeeze just a few more minutes of sleep into their morning.  The other two wake up to all the commotion, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes.  You quickly pour yourself a cup of coffee and begin to take a sip when one of the children shouts that she can't find her shoes.  Another needs help pouring her cereal.  No breakfast choices today. Everyone gets cold cereal and juice.  You yell to the two sleepy-heads that they have 5 minutes to get upstairs and to the table.  You reach for that full cup of coffee once more when your youngest spills her juice.  You run to the table in an attempt to corral the mess before it drips down to the floor.  With minutes to spare, miraculously everyone is ready to head out the door.  You load up the van, only to find out that someone has left their mid morning snack on the counter.  You volunteer to run back into the house to retrieve the item and find your un-drunk, now cold cup of coffee sitting alone. You nuke it, because it is better than nothing. Somehow, you leave on time and head to school.

After school, there are a few papers the kids bring home that need to be signed.  You have had to plan an early supper, because football practice begins that evening.  Once again, your loading up the van, making sure that everyone has their proper equipment, water bottles and other necessities.  When all is said and done, everyone is back home, showered and in bed by 9:00 PM and in one day you have put 120 miles on your van.

Welcome to a brand new school year.  Although the first scenario may be slightly exaggerated, the point is that it feels as if we went from zero to mach sixty in just a moment of time.  As it took us a little while to get used to the freedom of summer vacation, so will it take some time to get back into the routine of school and schedules.  And I have great expectations of drinking a fresh, hot cup of coffee each morning too!

Honey Bunches - 4th Grade, Sweet Potato - 5th Grade, Gummi Bear - 3rd Grade, Cucumber - 1st Grade

Sweet Pea begins Kindergarten tomorrow, but her and Pumpkin still wanted their picture to be taken.  Pumpkin had a major meltdown (we're talking kicking and screaming) because she didn't want the kids to go to school.  Let's hope she handles Sweet Pea's departure better.