Elijah- FIVE!

Elijah makes sure everyone knows his birthday was “cancelled” last year. It’s true that his party and cake were cancelled because of Covid and “Safe at Home” orders, but I assure you, we celebrate this ball of energy every day!

Elijah’s enthusiasm is my favorite thing about him. He gets excited about almost everything and his volume only knows one level- loud. Even though there are days I say “inside voice, please” more times than I can count, his zest for life is a gift and he simply wants to share it with others.

I love how much Elijah loves other people. He will talk with anyone and is sure to do introductions- “My name is Elijah. This is my sister Josie…etc.” He is well spoken and has an incredible vocabulary. His friendliness and energy are magnetic for most people. I did have to explain to him what “shy” meant when we were with another family of kids and his energy was met with wide-eyes. His compassionate heart understood and he later said, “Why didn’t they just tell me they were shy?”

Elijah loves dinosaurs and has a great imagination. He is drawn to books and will run over to join me if Josie and I are reading without him. He loves playing games and continually beats me at Memory, Mouse Trap, and Sequence.

Another milestone met during Elijah’s fourth year was riding his bike without training wheels. He can successfully make it all the way around the neighborhood. I’m excited to take him with me on future trail runs while he rides ahead and encourages me to run faster and keep up!

Keeping up is a theme when hanging out with Elijah. I pray no one ever tells him he’s “too much” because they can’t handle his passion for everything. I also pray for the energy and patience to encourage him to be the ambitious and curious kid God created him to be.

I’m so thankful God chose me to be Elijah’s mom. While many might think it’s impossible that he’s already five, I’ve learned so many life lessons in his existence that it’s hard to think of a time before he arrived. He recently said, “Never underestimate the power of me.” And I laughed and said, “Oh buddy. You have no idea. I know your power” and I’ve known it since that fateful Holy Week five years ago.

I hope he never forgets his power and uses it for good. The world needs him.

Five is a big milestone. It’s a whole handful, after all. We’re celebrating with dairy-free dinosaur cupcakes.

Mikayla

Mikayla entered my classroom like she had already given up. She wasn’t interested in designing a yearbook but she was even less interested in taking Spanish IV, which is what she dropped to land in my class.

God knew we both needed each other.

I remember Mikayla arriving late and slouching down in a blue chair in the back of my classroom on that first day. Day after day she slowly started sitting closer and closer to my desk in the front of the room. It wasn’t long before her regular spot was on the floor right next to my desk.

Mikayla read my blog and would email me about it, so it feels fitting to include her in a post. She’ll grin reading this post, shaking her head, and maybe even throwing her head back with a contagious laugh at certain lines.

Back then classes occurred every day. There was no block scheduling, and I told her on more than one occasion that we needed a regular schedule where we saw each other every day because I needed my daily check-in with her Monday-Friday. I need to know she was okay.

Mikayla was dealt a tough hand in life. While she could have used that suffering in a variety of ways, she chose to make her mess her message. She was open about her battles and it gave others the courage to share their own struggles. Mikayla went to college to earn a degree in adult and family services. She worked full time while taking classes full time to pay her way through those courses in less than four years. She would visit my classroom on weekends back in Cedar Rapids and show me the bruises she encountered at work while training to restrain an aggressive youth trying to work through their anger.

She had so much love to give those kids and she showed up for them. She gave them consistency, even if it took too many Redbulls a day to get her through.

While I have many stories, I want to share this one. Mikayla told me she was going to go get a tattoo but wasn’t going to tell her mom. I threatened to not talk to her anymore if she lied to her mom. (As if a teacher can really not speak to a student…my threat was empty but I sounded serious.) She left my class mad at me for giving her the cold shoulder when I knew deep down she didn’t want to carry around a lie. I opened my email the next morning only to find a message that came through in the wee hours of the morning from Mikayla. Her email explained that she couldn’t stand the thought of us not talking like we were used to so she told her mom about the tattoo. The tattoo read G>^v. (Meaning, God is greater than the highs and lows.)

Mikayla taught me more than I ever taught her. The biggest lesson she taught me was that everyone has a story. Take the time to learn other people’s stories. It will change your life.

It has been a month, and I miss Mikayla’s social media updates, her snap chat sobriety chip notifications, and her “life update” emails.

I know God had a good reason for calling Mikayla home early because G>^v.

Arizona

After quarantining and negative Covid tests, Elijah, Josie, and I made the trip to Arizona. We felt great about trading the snow for sand for a week.

Elijah swam every day and even three hours wasn’t enough time for him by the water. He’s getting so good at swimming without a life jacket and easily swims the length of the pool without stopping. His next session of swimming lessons begins next weekend at our YMCA, so I’m excited to encourage his growth and awareness in the water before summer.

Even though we returned to below zero temperatures for almost two weeks now, all of our flights were on time and went relatively well considering the fact that I flew alone with two kids during a pandemic! I’m also especially grateful for people who are overly kind to people flying with little kids.

As much as the warm temps boosted my spirits, the colors (green grass, pink flowers, and even the brown mountains…etc.) were so aesthetically appealing.

I’m trying to figure out the age requirement for being a snowbird. I better call my financial advisor.

Snowmen and Sledding

My cousin Casey and her daughter Lillian gave the kids this awesome snowman kit last year for Christmas. We finally had the perfect snow to use it and Elijah enjoyed changing the face to represent different personalities. The kit is like a Mr. Potato Head. It comes with various plastic pieces for the eyes and mouth. It even has some goofy glasses and of course the top hat. A few pieces fell off in the most recent snowstorm and I have a feeling we’ll be finding Mr. Snowman’s buttons and mouth in the grass this spring.

We were gifted a January week with temps in the upper 30s so we made the most of it by sledding every afternoon. Elijah was instructed to steer the sled and hold on to Josie, but they hit a tree. She hasn’t been a big fan of the hills since then but she loves to be pulled around the yard and down the street. It was my daily workout! Unfortunately, temperatures are below zero this week, so we won’t be sledding any time soon. Staying home with kids in the winter is tough enough but add a pandemic (where the standard places like the library and YMCA are closed) plus negative temperatures where you can’t even play outside in the snow and you really start to feel trapped. Spring, you can never arrive too early.

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Finding a Groove…again

Just when I start to make progress on my to-do lists and think about logging back in to publish my thoughts on this blog something changes and my time is no longer my own again.

Days and weeks can change to quarantine and home learning with just one phone call from the school.

Elijah has been out of school more this year than he has been at school. Two of the months he was out of school he logged in for virtual learning, but a majority of the time just includes lessons and crafts I come up with for him at home. Thankfully he loves experiments, art projects, and baking- all of which provide great learning opportunities.

I know God’s plans included me being home this year to navigate caring not just for Josie but to provide Elijah some routine when his school closes for days, weeks, or even months at a time. Each time he completes a quarantine period and walks away healthy I pray his next round back at school will feel more routine for him. Yet, each day Elijah loads up his backpack for school I have to wonder how long he’ll be in session. One day? One week? One month? We have yet to make it more than a month but maybe, just maybe this stretch will beat the record.

I’m so thankful Elijah enjoys school and the start and stop haven’t had lasting effects yet. I know not every parent can say the same and my heart goes out to them. Kids are surviving a pandemic and just because they are resilient little humans doesn’t mean they will all walk forward unaffected. If your kid is struggling now or shows the impacts of this pandemic later, just remember they are not alone and neither are you.

So for now, Josie and I just keep our schedule adaptable so that we can easily adjust in a year where little seems to go according to plan.

On the Ice

Last weekend I heard a snowblower going outside even though we hadn’t had any new snow in weeks. (Thank God!) Our neighbor was taking his snowblower down to the lake to create a skating rink and a cross country ski trail on the ice.

After he was finished getting the layer of snow off of the ice, Elijah and I decided to check it out. I hadn’t been in ice skates for over seven years, but I decided to dust them off and take advantage of the plowed area on the lake. My one rule for Elijah- “No laughing at mom!” Thankfully it was like riding a bike. It all came back to me, and it felt good to get some exercise and fresh air in a new way. 

I’m not the only one enjoying the lake this winter. Elijah was able to experience ice fishing for the first time with our neighbors. They didn’t catch anything, but he liked watching the monitor to see if any fish were swimming nearby down below. Add ice fishing to the list of things Elijah has done but I haven’t.

We’re doing our best to embrace winter in Wisconsin while we know every single day is one day closer to spring.

Sledding and Starbucks

Elijah and I had a New Year’s Eve day date.

The park was new to both of us and we were both a bit excitedly overwhelmed at the size of the hills. In addition to the hills, there were two ice skating/hockey rinks and a playground. It’s a great spot!

Elijah could have spent all day at the park, but I knew we needed a little downtime before our neighbors came over for pizza and an early evening New Year’s Eve celebration. I accomplished getting us off of the hills after two+ hours by pulling Elijah to the car in the sled (while he yelled “faster mom, faster”) and promised dairy-free hot chocolate from Starbucks. They make a “kid-size” with the option of making it warm instead of hot so your child can enjoy it right away.

It was a day filled with joy and exactly what my heart needed to close out a really challenging 2020.

The Bible in a Year

I made 20 goals for 2020. Some were exciting, many were challenging, and a few were on the list just to hold me accountable.

And then a pandemic hit.

I accomplished 50% of my list, and for once I’m not even mad I didn’t meet my goals. The year was hard, and some days my mentality was one.day.at.a.time, and that was enough.

That was enough.

I have goals and ambitions for the year ahead, but I’m making one a priority. I plan to read The Bible from cover to cover in 2021. I’m setting aside the first moments of my day while my family is still asleep to read the verses Father Mike suggests in his schedule. After reading it on my own, I’m listening to Father Mike’s “Bible in a Year” podcast where he not only reads the scheduled verses but also explains the importance of the words we just read. If you’re an auditory learner, you might be able to simply listen to Father Mike read and explain the verses on the podcast. Episodes are roughly 20 minutes and the subscription is free.

“The Bible in a Year” podcast was the #1 podcast in America yesterday. People are hungry for a relationship with the Lord. It’s not too late to join. 

Christmas in Chippewa

All I’ve ever known of Christmas Eve is the tradition of Mass, food, and family in Manchester. Everything except the food part of that sentence had to go this year.

John, Elijah, Josie, and I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as a family of four in Chippewa Falls. While it was wonderful not loading up the car and getting to wake up in our own beds on Christmas morning, it didn’t feel like the holiday without Mass or the hustle and bustle of family gatherings. We saw our families via Zoom and Facetime, and we don’t know when we’ll be able to connect again in person. Since John received the first dose of the Covid vaccine last week (wahoo!!), we do see a light. We’re anxious to make plans and put things on our calendar that include seeing friends and family.

As for the joy of Christmas and the excitement of presents under the tree, Elijah’s words to me mid-hug were, “Mom, I don’t like the gifts, I LOVE THEM!” He and Josie are at such fun ages for the surprise elements of Christmas. Their joy was contagious and it really helped make this unpredictable year brighter.

Gift highlights included anything dinosaur or LEGO for Elijah. Josie was focused on the Goldfish crackers in her stocking. Simple joy.

Merry Christmas! I hope that no matter how you spent the holiday that you felt even a moment of the “magic” this year. The twinkle of lights, your favorite Christmas song on the radio, an unexpected Christmas card in the mail, or simply a holiday text from a friend. Let God’s love find you.

Hockey

Our social circle these days includes just one other family- our neighbors. They have been teaching us the ways of Wisconsin- boating, hockey, and of course, the Packers. I’m still not so sure about that last one. 

Once the boating season was over, our neighbors were immediately talking about ways to make the most of winter during a pandemic. As hockey lovers, they put up a hockey rink in their yard for a winter activity. Elijah’s first experience on the ice was without skates, but thankfully it included a helmet and padding. He only knows one speed. “Cheetah Speed”. He was all over the ice trying to score goals, no matter how many falls it took in between. (Picture me on the sidelines praying for no broken bones.)

We’re excited to have a reason to get outside this winter and socialize with our friends while introducing Elijah (and Josie) to a new sport. Our neighbors have been warned by John that since hockey and basketball overlap seasons, this can only be a temporary sport for Elijah.