My Mom asked once, "What happens when you run out of things to write about?  What if you come to your last blog?"
    I thought about this...and then it hit me.  As long as our house is (ahem) as calm and peaceful as it is, I can't imagine having nothing to write about.
    Take today for instance, it was a lovely afternoon.  My Dad and husband closed in the staircase of our basement a long time ago to make a clubhouse.  I'd started painting the two main sides, one being for the boys and the other, for girls. 
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   It's a perfect hangout for the kids and they spend hours playing and goofing off inside.
     I finished painting the boys side awhile ago, but haven't gotten around to painting the girls.
     Our five year old daughter asks constantly, "WHEEEEEEN can we do my side MOOOOOOOMMY?"  I always tell her how we'll do a fancy castle and have the door open where the tunnel under the stairs comes out.  (I've had the whole thing planned out in my mind and have been excited to do it.)  
     I've held her off for quite sometime.  I always mean to get around to it...I really do.  One thing leads to a hundred though, and well, you get the idea. 
     So now, today comes into play.  When the kids are together, it's usually about the equivalent to sounding like a circus or any given episode of WWF.  Today though, things were different.  
     There were no high pitched squeals from a crazy person running around.  No particular screams that would shatter glass.  Our daughter was completely silent.
     (Oh no.)
     Going down to see what was happening, I turned the corner and completely freaked when I found this...
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    My first thought was how was I going to paint over it all so I could paint the castle I had planned on, and HOW did she paint that high?  (table.)
     Then I took a second to breathe.
     She was so proud of her work and had planned her castle out in her very own mind.  The more I looked at it, it was far better than anything I could of done.  It was hers.  Hers to play in, dream in...and create in.  I couldn't paint over it and "redo" my own castle for anything in the world.
      When she's older and looks back to her castle, I don't know if she'll remember painting it by herself or not.  I'm glad to have the pictures to remind her of it though...and until I do come to that very last blog I write...I'll be happy knowing that the kids will be able to write their next new chapters, all on their own. 
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    Being a therapist, I'm able to work with patients from all walks of life.  On any given day, you wouldn't believe some of the personalities and stories I come across.
     Recently, one woman in particular has effected me.  She's in her 90's and is as sweet as she can be.  A nurse and I were in her room when she reached out and took our hands.
     "I want to go home," was all that she said.  Squeezing her hand, I nodded.  "I know you do.  You keep getting better and stronger and we'll work on getting you back."
     Shaking her head, she lifted my hand slightly while pointed up.  Piercing through my eyes, she repeated, "No.  I want to go home."  
     Taking a deep breath, I raised my glance to the nurse across from me.  Confirming my concern, she nodded and whispered, "Send flowers to the living". 
      I'd never heard this expression before.  Later, I asked what it meant.  Smiling, the nurse answered, "My Grandmama always used to say it.  It means to take advantage of loving people while they're here.  Don't send flowers to their funeral, because they're already gone.  Spend time and show them you care while you have them before it's too late. 
     It's stayed with me.  How simple really, but it means so much.  
     In my job, I see death more than I'd ever care to, so it's taught me some very important lessons about life.  
     One being, to embrace it.  Live to the fullest extent while loving and appreciating those in this life with you.  It all goes by too quickly to wait until the end.
      As of yesterday, our patient was still was with us.  She reached for my hand again and wanted to make sure that I told her boys how much she loved them.  They're on their way to see her which will make her heart sing.
      Reassuring me that she was ready to go home, she told me how she wanted to be with the Lord.  "Being on this Earth for almost 100 years is more than enough," she grinned.
      I'm getting ready to go into work now with hopes that she's there.  I want her to be able to spend time with her sons before she moves on.  They are her pride and joy on this Earth and truly, her most beautiful bouquet of flowers to cherish.  
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     Growing up in a small Ohio hometown, I LOVED the Winter.  Our neighbors behind us had a beautiful pond that we'd skate on each year when it froze over.
     My Dad played hockey in his younger days, so he and my Mom would take my big brother and myself to the pond or the ice skating rink from when I was about the age of three.
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     (Thanks Mom, for the cool 70's duds.)
     Now that I'm in my (ahem) forties, I'd love to take my kids skating too, but I just don't feel the desire to kill myself in the process. 
     One of the last times I donned the old skates mind you, was in my twenties with two of my girlfriends from home.  (Hi Amy and Michelle!)
     We had the fabulous opportunity to bond over good times while home on our first winter break from college.  Our togetherness was short lived on the ice however.  It mainly took place in route to the hospital where I was gleefully wisked away for a nice surgery to put my whole left ankle back together after I snapped it in half doing what?  Oh yeah, ice skating. 
     You can understand my hesitation then, when one of my favorite friends from work named Alicia had the idea of a skate date for our girls.  She has a five year old that my daughter adores so it only seemed right to put them together on the ice.  Them, as in the two five year olds.
    When Alicia smiled and said, "Oh, we can go too!" a wave of panic mixed with a little sickness covered over me.  The paradox between self preservation and ferocious maternal prowess over your child, is at times a complex and challenging beast.
    Half of me thought the girls would be fine as long as they were together.  Alicia and I could stand smiling through the plexiglass wall cheering them on.
    The other half of me knew better.  When we got there, there were big kids zooming around the rink and our two little girls would've been terrified.
     Nervously standing to pay for our rental skates, it was difficult to silence the battle raging in my mind between the possibilities of an afternoon of beautiful memories for my child, versus how long the wait time would be at the emergency room on such a fine day.             
     That's when it hit me.  Tightening Lauren Elizabeth's skates wasn't too hard to do, minus her wiggly squeals of energy.  My skates however?  To bend over and tighten them lace by lace made me realize that I was indeed not a youngster anymore.  I began to really second guess the decision.  In fact I think the words, "I'm going to die.  I'm going to die," began pulsing through my brain. 
      The four of us stood and I tried to convince myself that it would be just like riding a bike.  Um yeah, no.  You can take your bike.  Lauren Elizabeth and her cute friend, Adriana were already off and running while I looked for each object I could hold onto for balance.  If it was someone's head at the nearest bench, I didn't care.  
     Alicia and I gathered the girls and made our way to the rink as my heart pounded through my chest.  I couldn't help but wonder what color my hospital gown would be this time.
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     The rink was huge.  It stood there taunting me while I knew it could only seem bigger through the eyes of a child.  
     As the four of us took the ice...well...the wall, we began to feel the uncertainty under our feet.  The ice somehow felt more slippery in North Carolina than it did in Ohio.
     We held onto each other for dear life.  The good news was that we had five year olds with us and were able to go at their pace.  
     I was using muscles I didn't know I had, but settled on the fact that I'd rather have soreness from that, than a hard fall with all of its glory.  
     What went from a day of fear and anxiety eventually turned into one of ridiculously funny slow and steady balance between the four of us.  The little ones had a ball and believe it or not, Alicia and I did too.
     If it weren't for her, I never would've gone.  Everything from my shoulders to my calves are screaming at me in pain now and it even hurts to type.  That will fade though.  
    My daughter has asked a hundred times since then, when we get to go again.  She doesn't even have the concept of how much it worried me and for that, I'm grateful.  
    Because of a good friend and the love of a child, it taught me that you're never too old to have fun, no matter how much it might scare you at first.  
    Sometimes you just have to lace up your skates and go for it.  You never know what memories might lie ahead.
    Now if you'll excuse me, I have some bags of frozen peas calling my name. 
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    I'm usually not one to talk trash, but seeing that it's past midnight and I'm watching the post-game coverage from the Buckeyes winning the National Championship game, you'll have to forgive me.  
    People from the state of Ohio who were born and raised as Buckeye fans would like a word with you, Mark May.  I believe I can speak for all of us when I say, enough is enough.  You, and those who think like you in regards to the credit of the Scarlet and Gray and the entire Big 10 for that matter, will hopefully stop hating now.
    It would be impossible to dispute the results and yet somehow I'm sure you will.  How could you argue that even when using our third string quarterback, the final score wasn't justified?  Can you even name a third string quarterback from any other team?  
    The fact that Cardale Jones stepped up to perform during such a challenge after having only two games under his belt this season, is nothing less than extraordinary.  He, Coach Meyer and the entire team and staff came together to clearly surpass your expectations, yet knowing you, it won't matter.  When next year rolls around again, you'll begin doing what you do. 
     If tonight didn't convince you, Mark, I don't know what else will.  I'm sorry that you can't comprehend the pride and compassion that Ohio State fans hold dear, but surely you must know by now - it's not a bear that you want to poke. 
     My grandfather was friends with Woody Hayes and I was raised to bleed Buckeye blood.  I can't tell you how it makes that blood boil when I simply hear your voice.  
     So please Mark, from here on, even though I'm sure this will fall on deaf ears...at least try to think before you speak.  For once, take an unbiased account of what this team has done and give credit where credit is due.  
     And one last thing...O - H.
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    Having three older boys, we've been through any type of sporting event and practice you could think of.  Football, baseball, soccer, karate and basketball...but tonight?  Tonight was a practice filled with pink.  Pony tails and cartwheels flipped through the air as we watched our five year old little girl take her very first gymnastics class.  
     When we arrived, Lauren Elizabeth's little heart was racing and she could hardly stand it.  She's wanted to take gymnastics for so long and was ridiculously excited. 
     Within a minute, she was happy to run into one of her best friends and we couldn't help but giggle as we saw them watch the older girls through the window.
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     In no time, our three boys began to grumble about being stuck at the miserable practice.  Quickly reminding them of the countless hours their little sister had to sit during theirs, they reluctantly nodded in unison until it was her turn to enter the gym.   
     She couldn't run in fast enough.  Her instructor was the most outstanding person on Earth and was the best thing we'd ever seen.  Knowing it was Lauren's first practice, she took the time to teach her how to do things the right way and was truly amazing with helping her understand.
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     It was beyond anything we could've hoped for and Lauren couldn't stop smiling the whole way home.  We'll see where it goes from here but couldn't have asked for a better first practice.
     Here's to many, many more -  with pony tails, cartwheels and all.  
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     There's something about being in the delivery room, hearing your baby's first cry and the doctor's announcement of, "It's a Girl!". 
     We never thought that day would come, especially after having all boys.  
     Normal people want to put their new baby girl in her first cute dress.  Me?  I wanted to drop her in a vat of sparkly glitter and paint her toenails pink.
     Images of ballerina shoes, figure skates and fairy wings filled my heart and I couldn't wait to take her home.
     It's been five years now and guess what sports and activities she's been in?  Yep.  T-ball and soccer mixed in with more football and basketball practices with her big brothers than you could shake a stick at.
    Dance class?  no.  Cheerleading?  yeah, no.  The funniest part is that she wouldn't let you paint her finger or toenails for all the candy in the world.
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    Whether it's from keeping up with three big brothers or simply just her personality, she has an intensity and drive to compete like none other.  
    The one thing she's BEGGED us to do though, is gymnastics.  For whatever reason, this child would rather cartwheel herself down the hallway, than walk on her own two feet.  She constantly flips around the house and off the couch while desperately pleading with us to let her "learn how to do more".
    Tonight is the night.  With complete giddiness, I've called a local gym and she has her very first class.  I don't know which one of us is more excited but more than anything...I hope that she loves it.
    We'll let you know how it goes!  :)
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    You know how they say, "Opposites attract"?  Nothing could be more true when it comes to my marriage.  I live somewhere in the clouds and worry very little about a lot...while my husband is planted firmly on the ground and will consider a thousand different things at any given second.
    Take going to the movies for instance.  When he and I sit down, he immediately begins to scan.  He starts by locating the exit signs, then plans through his mind in case of an emergency.  Next he looks around our immediate area and surrounding environment to ensure of no threats or situations.
    All this mind you, while I'm sitting beside him thinking, "Yay, popcorn". 
    The same held true for our 40th birthdays.  When mine came around, no party could be big enough.  Family and friends together with food and fun was my idea of the perfect day.  (Rainbow flying unicorns were optional.)
    Adam?  Well, when planning for his 40th, he said only this..."I want nothing.  No party, no trip, no surprise.  A cake with my family would be perfect and that's all."
    hmph.  
    Not exactly what I had planned. 
    Round and round we'd go, but he wouldn't budge.  It was hard for me to imagine a big birthday with no big celebration.
    It wasn't my birthday though, it was his.  
    Yesterday was the day and we did exactly what he asked.  We gathered together as a family for cake and ice cream...but I had an idea.
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     My parents were with us and I asked them to stay.  Adam didn't know it, but I'd booked a room at a fancy smanshy hotel nearby that was surrounded by stores, restaurants and a movie theatre.
     I secretly packed a bag for both of us, hid everything in the car then simply said, "It's time to go".
     This would've been exciting if it happened to me...but with Adam?  Well, not so much.  His face turned white.
     "Go where?  What are we doing?"
     "Don't worry about it.  Just get in the car."
     "But where?  Where are we going?"
     "Don't worry about it.  Just get in the car."
     You could actually see his mind race and the simple fact that he didn't have control of the situation, made him completely uncomfortable.
     It was a short car ride that seemed very long.
     Finally reaching the hotel, his color began to return as he realized I wasn't taking him cross country, or to a surprise party with tons of people.  It was just the two of us, with dinner and a movie and night alone.
     It turned out to be a wonderful time.  
     The craziest thing about it all was when this morning came and nothing woke us up.  No alarm clock blaring, no kids screaming, no dog barking, no herds running...just peace and quiet.
     In the end, forty years seems like a long time to be on this earth but it's really not.  There's so much more to do and learn about ourselves and each other.  You have to take chances and have fun, while still considering and respecting the feelings of those that you love.  
     No matter if you're with your exact carbon copy or your complete polar opposite in this life...it's not going to matter.  It will always be a wonderful journey as long as you have each other, making you the perfect match. 
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      It's hard to believe that this little guy is 40 years old today.  The kids and I have a surprise planned for him and he keeps trying to figure out what it is.  
       I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow! 
       Happy Birthday Adam!!!  We Love You!!!  (Forty isn't so bad.  Trust me.)  :)
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    In our younger days, the New Year was spent with a night out having fun.  Good friends gathered without a care in the world as the endless possibilities of the year ahead beckoned.  The whole world celebrated and the excitement of it all brought each freezing cold night of our annual tradition to an end...and a beginning.
    Fast forward to this year.  Fancy party dresses with sequins and sparkles have been traded in for yoga pants and t-shirts.  The excitement has been refocused on who can stay up until midnight (parents included) and the still freezing cold night has been made even more painfully brisk while waiting outside to take the dog out. 
    We all made it through though.  At the stroke of midnight, screams and cheers rang through the house as we watched the ball drop.  The more I think about it though, things haven't really changed that much.  
    Family gathered without a care in the world as the endless possibilities of the year ahead beckoned.  The whole world celebrated and the excitement of it all brought the freezing cold night of our annual tradition to an end...and a beginning.
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    Happiest of New Years to you and Yours and may God Bless You in the days to come.  XO
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     The last pieces of wrapping paper are tucked away in the corner.  Toys are here and there with empty boxes scattered about.  Another Christmas has come and gone. 
     Even though it seems that each year of Christmas becomes my new favorite, I'm surprised at how much more fun it is to watch the magic of it all through the eyes of our children as they get older.
     This year was no exception.  From the Christmas Eve service at church, to running to my parent's house to make cookies and feed the reindeer...
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     ...it's hard to imagine what it will be like when they outgrow it all.  
     Will Christmas morning be the same when they don't wake up before the sun and race to see the tree?
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     And will it mean as much to enjoy a full day away from the hustle and bustle of life, staying only in our PJs while there is peace and harmony throughout.  
     A day where toys are played with and the kids are content. 
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    For now I'll be happy to take it in and enjoy their childhood, knowing it will be all too soon before it's gone.
    We hope that you and yours had a Merry Christmas with a day full of happiness and peace...and that your years to come will be even better.  
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