Happy Mother’s Day 2020

Dear Mom,

When you brought us into this world, I’m sure you weren’t prepared for what kind of damage and destruction we had in store for you. After all, being a good parent doesn’t come with instructions (or safety gear), but nothing kept you from loving and protecting us.

No one ever knows what life has in store for them and yet look at us. We made it! You were able to raise us and keep us safe (and let’s face it, dad is basically a toddler too, so essentially you’re raising three boys!!!) Even in a house of all guys, we all are growing up strong, happy, and caring.

Being a mom means being patient when your little boys want to run around and put stuff in the shopping cart when you just want to get the groceries and get out of Big Y. Being a mother means answering every dumb question we ask when you just want relax. Being a mother means watching “Trolls World Tour” over and over and over again even though your DVR is overloaded with Beverly Hills of Something shows. Being a mother means being able to take good care of your kids, (and dad, and Busty and Max), while still working 700 hours a week. Lastly, being a mother means being the never ending source of love and support for your kids.

You are the best mom anyone could ever ask for! Thank you for loving us and letting us grow up and learn how to be a good person from you. We love you very much!

Love Always,

Jackson and Oliver

And Buster and Max

Emails to Babies; A Guest Blog: Allison Berlin

Every so often I’m lucky enough to come across someone as nuts as I am and even more rare is someone who is willing to admit it. Allison Berlin is a great friend who has an interesting way of recording her children’s life events, so I asked her to write a guest blog to share her story with everyone…

Allison and her boys

On a recent weekend when pigs flew and 3 couples escaped together, kidless, to the mountains of Vermont, I shared an email with Peter that I had written to my 3 year old. Once he stopped laughing at said email, I explained the story of how and why I first started emailing my young kids, and he asked if I would share that story here.

When I was pregnant with our first son, my mother in law shared with me the journal that she kept when she was pregnant. I was immediately inspired – she wrote such thoughtful entries about her feelings as a new mom and current events. The entries were incredibly entertaining to read up on 30+ years later – a real-time look back to Reagan’s election and my father in law’s trip to the library to research the family’s first VHS player (seriously).

The day we found out we had a little boy on the way, I bought a journal, left it on the coffee table as an invitation for anyone to contribute, and vowed I would have something similar to give my son and his family to look back on. I was diligent – I wrote often, with my feet propped up, exactly the way a naive first time pregnant mom would. I passed that journal on to grandparents and my husband, prodding them to share their thoughts with their future grandson / son.

Fast forward to this new mom drinking coffee standing up at the kitchen counter, stuffing some semblance of food into my face to sustain any energy possible. With an actual live baby to now take care of, it became increasingly clear how little time I would have for those uninterrupted sessions of reflective journal writing. So I did what any (borderline) millennial would do – I made a new vow to continue the written journal up to his first birthday, then turned digital. I created an email address for my son that would allow me to jot down a quick message or send a photo “to him” on the fly. Stuck in a boring meeting at work? Shoot your 1 year old a funny picture from the night before with a note about a fun bath time (and maybe some life advice to find a job in his future that will not result in endless, boring meetings). Now this I could do.

My boys are now 5 and 3. They each have a written journal to account for their first 12 months (and admittedly a bit beyond, as my mother in law has not made the digital jump and continues to write) … and an email address that has kept up with them for the remaining years. I started these emails to give them the memories (and let’s be honest, maybe exactly the content they’ll need for future therapy sessions). Though, every so often, I take a look back at the emails I’ve sent these boys and realize they’re a small gift to myself.

Some subject lines along have the ability to elicit those mom tears of time moving entirely too fast: “Brudder,” followed 1 1/2 years later by “Brudder no more.” An account of my love of our youngest solely referring to his brother as “Budder”, and the sadness when he inevitably learned his actual name.

Others remind me that what you think is so trying at the time, truly is just a phase. You know – those times that prompt people to remind you, “this too shall pass”, while you smile kindly back, though make a mental note that this person is clearly deranged. “Is this a test?”: A quite lengthy letter to my youngest, wherein I find myself pleading with a young child’s email to PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SLEEP for at least a few hours at a time!!!

Then there are some of my personal favorites – the ones that contain those little moments of life that are so easily forgotten, but oh so precious.”Mustard”: Conveying my son’s deep (if not sincerely confusing) love for mustard, accompanied with a picture of him eating, you guessed it, straight up mustard.”Your dad”: A moment in time when my husband was setting out to really wow, and inspired an email detailing why these boys should set husband / dad aspirations to their dad’s level.”Top bunk”: Because seriously, who knew how happy a surprise bunk bed at our vacation rental could make a kid.

Lastly, not to be forgotten… “Wobbly pants”: The email I shared with Peter that inspired this guest post, as he realized I had written a summary of my son’s love of skin tight pants (and relative hatred for what he refers to as “wobbly pants”, also referred to as simply “pants” by the rest of human kind).

It is these look backs that make me keep going and remind me how to answer the question of, “why the heck do you email your children?”. I picture them with their own babies on the way, gifting them this treasure trove of emails from their youth where they will find memories of wobbly pants and mustard alongside annual Christmas summaries. Then I remember I’ll be doing the same. I fast forward to a time when quick meals with kids running under foot are a faint memory. I’ll be all too aware of how fast time moves. Though I know I will have gifted myself these same distinct memories – and man, do I know those mom tears will be flowing.

A huge thank you to Allison as I am reviving the Chronicles Guest Blog Series, where we will “attempt” to show off some other authors and their thoughts on parenting, children and life.

“Wizards and Rollercoasters and Sun, Oh My”

Wizards:

Walking through the Brick Wall to enter Diagonal Alley is always memorable, but experiencing it for the first time is special. I’ve done it (multiple times) and Jax did it last time we visited the sunshine state (although he had been there before). This time though it was time for Oliver to walk through the fabled brick archway that leads to one the most magical places in the Wizarding World.

I love the picture above because not only is Oliver sitting in the exact place that both Jax and I took photos in years prior, but in the background you can see the Quidditch Supplies Store in the background. Remember, Oliver was named for my favorite character in the series, Oliver Wood, who was a Quidditch junkie and Gryffindor superstar keeper.

Of course there is no Wizarding World without a couple of mandatory stops… when in Rome right?!??? First to grab a few of the required readings for first years like Ollie… and Flourish and Blotts provides just that. And then off to Knockturn Alley where Oliver was able to vanish a bird a lot quicker than Draco was ever able too. This Syltherin was all smiles when she met Ollie and I’m pretty sure they’ll be exchanging owls over the summer.

Both Jackson and Oliver LOVE trains so the trip to Hogsmeade on the Hogwarts Express was that of fantasy for them! Between Oliver yelling “choooo-choooo” every five seconds to Jackson building the LEGO Hogwarts Express this was a dream come true! I love that Jackson is still innocent enough to follow along with the CGI and really believe in what he was seeing, “dad, it’s Harry Potter he’s outside, LOOK!!!”

Bottom line with Harry Potter… it’s Hogwarts or Bust!! In a weird way for me this place feel like home.

⚡️⚡️⚡️

Rollercoasters:

I’ll say it now and I’ll say it again later… I do not like rollercoasters. I don’t like heights and of course I married a daredevil. Luckily for the boys they have their mom to take them on anything that goes above 20 feet high.

When you’re a parent and your child asks you to have a tea party, you sip that pretend tea like it was the best you’ve ever tasted. When they ask you to give them a horsey ride you neigh like you’re part stallion even though your back is shot and when your kid asks you to go on a wooden rollercoaster of course you swallow your fears and agree.

However I have to draw the line somewhere. So when my five year old strapped himself in the seat for his first rollercoaster ride ever and asked me if I was scared… I did what any respectable dad would do… I held him so tight and told him I wasn’t scared at all (I peed in my pants just a little on that ride). Damn you Buckbeak and The Flight of the Hippogriff for making me fake this smile:

Mom took our daring adventure seeker on the next ride while I wandered Hogsmeade with Oliver. Jax was just under the “you just be this tall sign,” but dive Steph was with him they waiting in a 75 minute line. Now I don’t know how many people have attempted to keep a five year old standing in a sow moving line for over an hour, but I would assume by the texts I was getting that it was not easy!

⚡️⚡️⚡️

And Sun, Oh My:

Listen there isn’t much I can say for this one. It was hot. It was unbelievably HOT. Orlando in July… extremely hot!

Don’t let the snow topped roofs fool you… it’s hotter than the Face of the sun out there!!!

A few years back we visited in mid December and even then as we escaped a winter snow storm In the northeast it was about 85 degrees in FL, which isn’t terrible, but factor in humidity and it was sweltering… IN THE WINTER. Fast forward to the spring and especially summer and you’re looking at unbearable heat. I always wondered why they made the Wizarding World at Universal look as if it were winter… fake snow on the roofs in Diagon Alley do not equate to cooler temperatures for visitors, as a matter of fact it’s like looking at a mirage in the middle of the desert! Here’s the thing, when you sign up to visit Hogwarts in Orlando in July… the heat, but more importantly the magic are a package deal.

Until next time… Mischief Managed.

Scott’s Brats (The Lambeau Field of Aruba)

I feel like it’s been about 100 years since the last time I visited Scott’s Brats, a small beach front stand that serves authentic Wisconsin food. The best part is Scott, the owner, is a HUGE Packers fan.

His stand covered in Palm leaves and surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, but what stood out most (besides the amazing brats or Italian sausage on a Italian bread) was the Packers memorabilia and amazing license plates from all around the world, most depicting some sort of Packers saying. I took a picture with Scott before we left and told him we’d be back one day. I also asked him if I could buy one of his license plates. He told me he was still collecting them and the next time I came he’d give me one.

Well years later we came back. I had been telling the boys all about the guy in Aruba who loves the Packers. They were exited to meet him. Scott’s Brats is still standing, unfortunately no more Scott (he sold it to retire to beach life a few years back) and now that authentic Wisconsin food has a with a touch of Aruban flavor).

Matt, the new owner has kept the Packers memorabilia up and has added more license plates from all over Aruba. When I told him the story about the first time I met Scott, he grabbed a hammer, took down that Packers license plate from all those years ago and gladly handed it over to me. That golden “GOPACK” plate from “One Happy Island” will display nicely in the basement and remind me and the boys of our first vacation together, of the warm ocean, the hot sun, some great food and the fact that Packers fans are everywhere.

#GOPACKGO

Happy Valentine’s Day

In what seems like 100 years ago I met a young lady with the whole world in front of her. She asked for some help carrying things up to her dorm room and of course the gentleman that I was… Could not leave a damsel in distress. In all reality I volunteered to carry some water bottles up to her room… but so started what would become two children, two dogs, a house, some laughs, some tears and a whole lot of love.

There’s been work. There’s been more work. There’s been interviews that have led to more work. Work that’s lead to more work. And then after that there’s been work because the work we do needed more work to be done. And all that work sometimes leads to frustration, short tempers, and the need for a quiet peaceful night. And then you get home to these two amazing, loving, kind, beautiful children and everything is right in the world again.

There are times that are tougher than others, there are times where you can imagine where the last 18 years have gone. I remember continually limping into the orthopedic on crutches and depressed that my track and field career could be over… I remember her accompanying me time after time comforting me helping me through one of the worst times of my life at that point. I knew then she was the one… She was less confident for a while as she wouldn’t agree to be “my girlfriend.” That was until the cast came off and I thought things couldn’t get any better.

I remember sitting on the rooftop of the hotel in Wildwood. I remember being on the phone with my buddies, I remember the butterflies I remember the nerves I remember walking downstairs and being told by Jay and Brea that I better shave and put on something nice I remember sitting on the rooftop of the hotel in Wildwood. I remember being on the phone with my buddies, I remember the butterflies, I remember the nerves, I remember walking downstairs and being told by Jay and Brea that I better shave and put on something nice.

I shaved, I put on a purple Abercrombie polo, and I wore sandals. I was such a dork. I walked on stage, got up in front of thousands of people and asked the most amazing woman I’ve ever met to marry me. I’m still not sure if she actually said yes… but all these years later we’ve made it through a whole lot of stuff… good and bad… a couple of houses, multiple roommates, doggie hospitals, knocked out teeth, multiple wetlands violations, wiggle ball tournaments that led to broken vertebrae, parties that led to getting “iced,” winter power outages that led to sleeping like revolutionary war soldiers in front of a fire, baseball games, Football games, Backstreet Boys’ concerts (not my idea), glasses, contacts, Lasic surgery, great friends, great neighbors, great family members, a marriage that is stronger than ever… and most importantly… two of the most amazing children any parents could ask for.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” -Ferris Bueller

I’m glad we’ve taken the time to stop and look around a bit. You’re a better mother than I ever thought possible, you deal with my annoying personality daily and you’re not so bad to look at.

I love you more now than the day we met. Thanks for letting me carry your water bottles up to your room.

Love Always,

Me

…and Jackson

……and Oliver

………and Buster

…………and Max

A Christmas Miracle

Christmas. It’s a time to appreciate what you have and reflect on the important things in life. It’s a time for giving and a time to enjoy the most important people in your life. That is unless your have kids. Then it’s about winning. It’s literally about winning Christmas (obviously winning is about being the best present giving “parent” since Santa is the best overall).

Setting aside all the magical gifts that Santa delivers down the chimney and under your barely standing, brown five week old Christmas tree, parents often both agree on an amount to spend on their children, or at least decide together what gifts will be bought for the kids. The thing is… if your anything like us it’s not just about the season of giving. It’s about the season of “who got the best gifts.” You want to try to take it easy… you know, just get little Susie an Easy Bake Oven, but it’s easy to want to go overboard and become the favorite parent. It’s amazing how fast that Easy Bake Oven turns into a live unicorn.

Although, the other side of this… Just understand you may wind up sleeping on the couch once your partner catches wind of your plan. Steph and I haven’t gotten to that point yet, as long as the kids are happy on Christmas morning… that magic of the holiday twinkling in their eyes… that’s the real gift.

Buying for the little one is easy. Oliver would go nuts over a toilet paper roll, or a box of tissue paper. Put a few random legos in a coffee can and you have created the greatest gift of all time. You can’t measure happiness in money or gift amounts, but you can however measure happiness in laughs and smiles. We all want to make Christmas morning as magical as possible, so it’s best to take advantage of how easy it is to please the little ones now.

We try to take it easy. We (Santa) buys lots of books and puzzles. This year we are going to have Jackson pick a few old toys to donate to someone in need, as he replaces those he donates with new ones Santa brings him. We aren’t naive to think that Christmas isn’t about presents, but I think this mom and dad also relish in the little things as well… a healthy and happy family. Two little boys who love each other and most importantly the fact that we got them to sit long enough with each other to get a decent Christmas card! It’s a Christmas miracle.