Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Now is Right On Time

Hi Friends!

I ran across this Asha Tyson quote over on Pinterest and I can't seem to get it out of my mind.  I have long believed that everything happens for a reason.  And I am positive that people have come into and out of my life for very specific reasons.  I've got to admit, in the grand scheme of life, I've got it good.  Really good.  My sorrows have been few.  My joys have been many. 

Which leads me to wonder;  why is it that some people's journey seems so much more difficult than others? 

A sweet lady friend of mine has been going through one heck of a summer.  Her daughter is going through a divorce and her husband has cancer.  This friend has the biggest, kindest heart, and she gives the BEST hugs.  Why is her journey so different than mine?  And is there something I can do to make her "now" be a little easier? 

I think I'll start with saying a prayer.  And then I'll send over some dinner.  Hopefully her "now" will seem a little easier if she doesn't have to cook a meal.

Here's hoping your "now" is happy.



Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fall Inspiration

Not that I'm wishing summer away or anything...but the shorter days and cooler nights have me dreaming of fall (my favorite season!!).  I can't wait to try out some of these ideas...especially the monogrammed pumpkin and the tulle wreath!



Photo credits:

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Hi Friends!

As most of you know, I have been a swim coach for the last 4 years.  I have been an assistant coach and a head coach, but always on a year-round club team.  Up until 3 weeks ago, that is.  Three weeks ago I started coaching the girls swim team at Neenah High School.  The high school season is relatively short--it runs from mid-August through the end of October, although the Varsity team goes on to compete at conference, sectionals and state until mid-November.  Unlike a club team where I had the luxury of time, the NHS swimmers hit the ground running and swim like crazy from day one.  We started our season on the 8th of August and had our first meet on the 19th.  For those of you counting, that's 12 days. 

Now for our upperclassmen and those freshmen who swim club, 12 days of practice before a meet is no problem.  They come into high school season ready to compete.  But for 10 of the freshmen and sophomores who joined the team not knowing how to swim, 12 days is not a lot of time.  In the first 12 days they learned how to swim freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.  They learned how to do flipturns and how to dive off a block.  It was crazy.  Seriously.  But through it all, those 10 ladies listened and worked and tried incredibly hard.  Last week, all 10 represented Neenah High School at their very first swim meet.  I couldn't have been more proud.  Oh, sure, there were some missed flip turns and a few DQ's, but the whole time I kept thinking, "I can't believe these girls are competing 12 days into the season!"

Yesterday we were at day 17.  On day 17, the entire swim and dive team competed in a triathlon.  They swam 1,000 yards, biked 6 miles and ran 1 mile.  One thousand yards, non-stop, is kind of a lot.  Especially for a new swimmer.  Coach Raeth gave the new girls the option of swimming 500 yards or 1,000.  Two of the new girls chose to go ahead and swim the whole 1,000.  It wasn't easy for either of them.  I watched them swim, touch the wall, push off and continue on.  Swim.  Touch the wall.  Push off.  Continue on.  About 3/4 of the way, both girls looked close to tears.  Both girls were the last two in the pool, long after everyone else was out on the bike route.  But both girls kept going and finished all 1,000 yards.

Later, I watched those two girls run their mile around the track.  Neither girl stopped, they just kept running.  At the end, one of the two girls was all alone running around the big, black track long after the rest of the team was back at the pool eating Snocones.  She just kept running.

At the end of the practice there were lots of cheers for the girls who came in first, second and third.  And there should be.  Those girls worked hard and finished strong.  They have a lot to be proud of.  

But, honestly, I can't help but be most proud of those two new swimmers;  the two who chose to take on the extra challenge.  Those two swimmers showed me what they are made of yesterday.  They didn't finish first, second, or third, but to me, their legacy will always be so much more.

To me, they will always be the two new swimmers who came through day 17 like champions.

Congratulations, Marissa and Stephanie.  You two are ROCK STARS!



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Life Is Good

Hi Friends!

As promised, here is the awesome collage Jack made this summer.  Isn't it fun?  I love that Jack picked "Life is Good" as his meaningful phrase.  When you're a 10-year-old boy, life should be good, right?  I love the bright colors and textures he put together, and I love that he used part of my bottle cap collection to decorate the sides.  Jack's art looks fantastic on his wall.  It hangs right above his bed.  My not-so-secret wish is that he goes through each day thinking Life is Good.



PS  Don't you just love the "cool dude" in the yellow "o"?  : )

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Be Yourself

Hi Friends!
I thought you might like to see the collage Ms. Maddie made this summer.  Isn't it amazing???  I love, love, love it--every single part of it!

Remember my quest to be intentional with activities this summer?  Well...things didn't really go according to plan;  too many things seemed to get in the way of keeping that schedule.  However, one big summer project did work--at the beginning of the summer I bought 5 huge canvases and told the kids they could each make a piece of original artwork for their room.  I asked each of them to think about a phrase that meant something to them.  Then I let them choose their colors and papers and embellishments from my stash.  The canvas above is what Maddie designed. 

As an 8th grader, Maddie is knee-deep into middle school "girl drama."  I tell you what, I thought middle school was bad enough the first time around, but watching my daughters navigate through 6th, 7th, and 8th grade has been darn right heartbreaking at times. Through it all, I've tried to let my girls know that it's okay to be themselves.  They've learned that sometimes the best thing to do is just stay true to who they are.

I loved that Maddie picked this phrase for her artwork.   She really is an amazing, unique, lovely young woman, and I hope this collage always reminds her to trust in her own fabulous self.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Jack's canvas!



Linking this up with Heather over at Life Made Lovely!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Becoming a Triathlete

Hi Friends!

Did you have a wonderful weekend?  I sure did!  Friday was our first high school swim meet and Emily and the rest of the team did awesome.  It was my first meet as a Neenah High School coach.  Yahoo!

Bright and early Saturday morning, I did the bike portion of the Waupaca Triathlon (20 miles).  I started doing triathlons about 10 years ago.  After injuring my foot during my half-ironman in 2006, however, my triathlon career came to an end.  I can no longer do the run, and while I do not miss running (at all), I sure do miss the thrill of completing a full triathlon.  There's something about doing an open water swim, running soaking wet into the transition area, shifting to bike clothes, strapping on shoes and a helmet and then hitting the open road, only to circle back to the transition area to jump off the bike and run on wobbly legs to hang up the bike and tie on running shoes.  By the time the run is over my whole body would be sweaty and salty and fatigued but I would feel like Superman.  Seriously.  Completing a triathlon is the best natural high in the whole, wide world.  Saturday I teamed up with one of my former swimmers, Morgan, who did an awesome job on the swim portion, and a friend, Jane, who rocked the run.  We finished in 6th place, and besides a little snafu at mile 11 of the bike portion, everything went well.

As fun as it was to be part of a tri team, my very favorite part of Saturday was watching my neighbor, Christine, finish her first triathlon.  Christine decided a while back that she was determined to complete a triathlon this summer.  Late last winter, Christine asked me if I'd help her out a bit with her swim.   Saturday she swam and exited the water like a pro and then went on to complete the bike and run.  I got to see her big smile as she crossed the finish line.  She gave us all 2 thumbs up as she ran by.  It was one of life's little magical moments.  There's nothing like seeing someone accomplish a big goal, is there? 

I totally remember what it was like to cross that first finish line.  I remember thinking that all the training and hard work was totally worth it.  I'm positive that Christine feels the exact same thing.

Congratulations, Christine!  You are a triathlete!!!



Linking up Christine's success over at Life Made Lovely!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Go See The Help!

It was AWESOME!!!

Go see it, even if you haven't read the book.

I dare you not to fall in love with Minnie.  Octavia Spencer is a shoe-in for Best Supporting Actress.

Two thumbs up.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Help

Hi Friends!

Have you read Kathryn Stockett's The Help?  I read it last year and loved it.  I'm going to see the movie tonight with my Bible Study friends, and I'm hoping it's as good as the book.  Does that every really happen, though?  I can't think of too many movies that are as good as the book.  I wonder why that is? 

Have you seen any movies that are as good or better (gasp!) than the book?



Monday, August 15, 2011

Super-Easy Back to School Craft//Backpack Tags

Hi Friends!
Looking for a super-easy back-to-school project to do with your kiddos?  These backpack tags are just the thing!  What kiddo wouldn't want to sport their very own handmade tag hanging from their backpack this fall?  : ) 

Yesterday was our annual neighborhood block party, and I was asked me to come up with an easy kids craft.  These tags are about as easy as it gets.  All you need is some cut-up cardstock, self-sealing laminating sheets (I found mine at Target), a hole punch, scissors, 1-inch rings (40 for $5 at Office Max) and colored pencils, markers and crayons.  I also brought some ribbon scraps for the kids to tie around the rings.

The kids had lots of fun decorating their tags.  We had a whole variety of designs.
Sam spent forever making his "Luigi" tag--isn't it awesome?

Check out all the awesomeness:

After making tags, the kids zipped over to play on the huge inflatable maze:

And they ate all kinds of yummy treats:

There was no shortage of adorable neighborhood kids:

Check out the cute banner they made:

I brought down all the leftover squirt guns from the reunion.  They were a HUGE hit!!

Even with the big kids:

John stayed busy at the grill with the guys while kids chased me with their water guns.  : )

And a good time was had by all!

I love my neighborhood!



Linking up with Heather over at Life Made Lovely

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday Morning Blueberry Muffins

Hi Friends~

It's Saturday morning and for the first time in for-ever, we have no plans.  Nothing.  It's awesome!  To celebrate, I decided to start the day out making a batch of my very favorite blueberry muffins. I do love fresh blueberries.  And these are seriously yummy muffins.   They are yummy right out of the oven, and even better the next day.

Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
3/4 C. white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 C. vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 C. milk
1 C. fresh blueberries

1/2 C. white sugar
1/3 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. butter, softened and cubed
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin pan or use cupcake liners.

Combine 1 1/2 C. flour, 3/4 C. sugar, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, place oil, egg and milk. Wisk together. Add liquid mixture to flour mixture. Stir until blended. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top and sprinkle with the crumb topping mixture.

To make the crumb topping, mix together 1/2 C. sugar, 1/3 C. flour, and the cinnamon. Cut in the softened butter with a pastry knife or the back of a fork. Sprinkle over the muffins before baking.
Bake for 22 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool on wire racks.




Friday, August 12, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crazy Hair

Hi, Friends!

All I can say is...oh, my!  : )  The girls were outside jumping on the trampoline last night and came running in to show me their fancy "up-dos".  It was so random and funny, I just had to grab my camera and capture the goofiness.   As you see, the girls were totally into the "photo shoot."  I love these pictures.  I love that they let me capture the silliness of the moment.

Yay for random fun on a Wednesday night.



PS  I can't believe they let me post these pictures!!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Heart Celeste

Hi Friends!

So today I want to introduce you to my blog friend, Celeste.  Celeste writes one of my very favorite blogs,  "On-Hand Modern."  She's a way-hip homeschooling mama of three adorable kiddos.  I've never actually met Celeste in real life, but I just know if she lived next door, we would be best buds.  Not only is she completely adorable and kind and completely creative, she can totally pull off red lipstick (yes, I'm jealous).  :)  Yesterday she wrote this blog about her experience with a crabby lady at the library.  I absolutely loved the way she handled the situation.   It kind of cemented her place in my heart as favorite-friend-I've-never-met. 

You rock, Celeste!

Sending you virtual hugs (and donuts with extra sprinkles!).



PS  I totally swiped that gorgeous picture of Celeste off her blog.  Her husband took it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Hi Friends--

Here I am again, feeling like I need to apologize for my lack of posting.  I don't know what has gotten into me lately.  Okay.  That's a total lie.  I do know what's gotten into me.  Somewhere along the way I've lost touch with my one little word for 2011:  balance.  Between the big fundraiser, the even bigger family reunion and daily coaching, summer 2011 has left me feeling a little a lot out of balance. John is about ready to tattoo "balance" on his face so that I can be reminded of my OLW.  Unfortunately, I hardly see him these days, so I don't think that would help.  : )  Seriously, though, I  know I've got to make a change.  I'm much happier when I feel balanced, and I haven't felt that way in a while.  My problem is, I'm having a hard time finding my balance.


Here's what I'm going to do;  I'm going to write down three mini goals and then make them happen in August.

1.  2 Date Nights with John.
2.  Bike 4X/week.
3.  Get Back to Blogging M-Sat.

Seems easy, right?  The good news is I love doing each of those three things.  The sad news is that I have to actually schedule & blog about those three things in order to make them a priority in my life.  The good news is that if I pull off those three goals, I can probably save Summer 2011.  : )

Wish me luck.



Thursday, August 4, 2011

Family Reunion Fun!!

Hi Friends!

Sorry about the lack of posts around here the past week.  I'm happy to say that the big family reunion was a big 'ole success!  The camping members of the clan were in heaven and the non-campers all left saying, "that was so much more fun than I thought it was going to be!"  : )  Bless their hearts, Tom, Tommy, Christy and Michael are not used to "roughing it."  They did great, though, although I'm not sure staying in an air-conditioned, bathroom-equipped cabin really counts as "roughing it". : )

I spent the entire weekend being the obnoxious (but well-meaning) Cruise Director.  My goal was that everyone would leave  the reunion knowing everyone else.  I'm pretty sure I made that happen.  In order to accomplish that, I really worked hard at getting people to mix and mingle.
(My handsome Dad!)

On Friday night I kicked off the weekend by making everyone stand in two lines facing each other.  I then gave all kinds of prompts, and if they identified with the prompt, they were supposed to step forward.  The goal of this game was that people see who was like them (or different from them!).  The game was a huge success--especially with the non touchy-feely members of the family.  They got to share without being uncomfortable. 

(My beautiful sister, Christy, and her fiance, Michael)

After breakfast on Saturday (at which I made people sit by their birth orders), we painted plates. I tried to come up with an idea that  A.) Didn't require exceptional crafting skills, B.) Everyone could do, and C.) People might actually want to take home and use.  I bought plain white ceramic dishes at The Dollar Tree and picked up ceramic pens at Michael's.  Then I had everyone put their name on their plates and then go around and sign everyone else's plate. 
(Maddie signing a plate)

The end results were pretty darn cute, and I'm hopeful that everyone will use their plates at home and remember all the fun of the reunion.

I think my favorite part of the weekend were the "Old Fashioned Games."  My Uncle Ken only had one real request as Reunion Chair:  he wanted everyone to play Old Fashioned Games.

(My sister-in-law, Sheryl.  Isn't she cute?)

We had a huge watermelon eating contest (extremely messy, but fun!), played ladder ball and bag toss,

and of course, we had to do a water balloon toss:
(Jack getting soaked by an exploding water balloon)

which led to a massive water balloon fight. 

We also did egg-on-a-spoon-relay-races which were a hoot.  It was so fun seeing everyone get into the games.  I put together prize bags that had "Old Fashioned" prizes (vintage sodas, chattering teeth), and gift cards for Target, BP and Subway.  You wouldn't believe the way people competed for those prize bags!

(One day I'm going to be good at the long-arm shot.)

John became "Jr. Cruise Director" at the reunion.  He took a group of family members over to a nearby disc golf course, and set up a fishing trip, too.

(I love this shot of Mark Jr.  He loved the silly string fight!)

Christy and I managed to sneak in a couple hours on Saturday to lay by the pool and catch up.  Bliss!

(Dad, Uncle Bob, Uncle Ken, and their cousins, Jerry, Shirley and Alice)

(Mom and Dad with David, Sheryl and Jason)

(Uncle Ken, Dad, and Uncle Bob)

(Me and my girlie-girls)

I'm not going to lie, I'm glad the reunion is in the books.  But I'm more glad that everyone enjoyed themselves.  It made all the planning and endless e-mails and phone calls totally worthwhile. 

Families are so important.  And family reunions connect us in ways that Facebook and phone calls can't. 

I love my family.



Linking up with Life Made Lovely