Saturday, June 17, 2017

See You Later

This has been one of those weeks. A week that seemed to go on for a month. A bad nightmare I couldn't wake up from. Yet, here we are at the end of it. A finish line with no prize.

My grandpa died just shy of a week ago. A night I'll never forget, and one I'm not sure I want to remember. There's no preparation for that phone call in the middle of the night telling you that your grandpa is gone. There's no cheat sheet for how to drive over to your dad's house to wake him up from his sleep to tell him his dad is gone. It's not fair, and yet it's life.

You know, my grandpa and I weren't terribly close in adult hood. We were two very different people. He- stoic, reserved, a man of few words. Me- very relational, wear my heart on my sleeve, forward. And while we didn't speak much, I know he loved me. And I him. I can't help but feel regret that I didn't find out what made Grandpa - well, Grandpa. I wish I'd asked more questions, had more conversations. I don't know that he would have answered all of them, but maybe I'd feel less empty if I had known more about him. Maybe not. Either way, he's gone, and my heart still hurts. Not only for myself, but for my dad. For Marilou-his wife of ten years. I don't like seeing people in pain. It's hard to see it and not be able to fix it.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. A day where I get to celebrate so many important men in my life who have molded and shaped me or my kids. A day where we get to shower love on all the men who have done their part in fulfilling their part of our tribe. While some of these men I no longer get to hug here in the flesh, I still have the honor of sending up a little prayer of thanks to the ones who have gone before us: Grandpa Dick, Grandpa Teddy, Grandpa Irv, and Grandpa John. How lucky we were to have been loved by them.

It's ironic that I should feel such regret at not having spent more time with my Grandpa before he passed when right before the end of the school year, I felt this urge to find out all the stories I could get my hands on. I told my mom I wanted them written down, and I wanted to sit and hear them from my grandparents- from my parents, and I vowed that when the school year was over, I was going to make time to do that weekly, but now it's too late.

We aren't allotted a specific time here. We can get called home at any moment. The time is now. Visit your grandpa. Call your mom. Ask your Grandma to lunch. Send your dad a letter. Get to know them more than you already do. Ask them to tell you stories. Lay your head in their lap and tell them you want to know it all. I'm sure most are more than willing to oblige. All anyone ever really wants is to be heard. Validated. Seen. Loved.

I read a blog about a month ago where she sponsored Story Worth, a website that e-mails prompts to a person of your choosing each week for an entire year. You get to choose the prompts and each week, your loved one will answer their prompt, and their response can get e-mailed to as many people as you'd like. At the end of the year, all the responses will get bound into a book that will get sent to you in the form of a keepsake. Check it out! It may be a perfect Father's Day gift. We plan on using it as well!

In the mean time, I've made plans to sit with my Grandma Van and reminisce with her every week this summer. I can't wait to fill my memory bucket with her stories and some quality time.

I had some people ask to read the eulogy I gave for my grandpa's funeral, so hear you go!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mandi, and I am the 5th of Dick’s nine grandchildren. Many of you are here to honor a man that you knew as a friend, a peer, a neighbor, or maybe even a co-worker.  But to us – his 9 grandchildren and many more great-grandchildren – Dick was known simply as Grandpa. On behalf of our family, I would just like to say thank you for coming here today to help us celebrate Grandpa’s life and say our goodbyes.

It is an honor to be here before you to share stories of this extraordinary man, but it is daunting to do justice to a life that has spanned 86 years. Do I know enough about the whole of Grandpa’s life? Probably not. I couldn’t tell you about him as a young boy living in the 1930s. I don’t know much about how he met my grandma or their wedding. I know very little about him as a young father. But I, along with my cousins and siblings, CAN tell you what it was like to know him as a grandfather.

Grandpa was a great many things. He was kind, patient, reserved, funny, hard working. He was humble, dedicated to his family- a man of faith, but also a man of few words. In fact, I don’t think Grandpa and I ever had any deep or profound conversations, yet my memories are chalk full of the impact this man and my grandma made on my life.

My most treasured memories don’t surround any extravagant event or particular day. They were simple, but they will be memories I will cherish forever. These include:
-numerous weekly visits after school or church to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where we would grab a glass of Diet Pepsi and tell them about our day.
- riding along in the truck with grandpa
- camping at Round Lake….bonus if you got to ride to the campground with them and not with mom and dad because that usually meant a trip to the Sather’s candy store and breakfast at a hole in the wall cafĂ© in a po-dunk town in the middle of nowhere.
- catching carp with our bare hands by the spillway and fishing with Grandpa off the dock.
- walking down to the store after breakfast so grandpa could have coffee with his friends while I fed Grandma quarters for the claw machine and if I was really lucky, leaving the store with a rainbow sherbet ice cream cone
- driving the golf cart around the circle, making sure to slow down past grandpa or we knew we’d be in for a lecture about being responsible drivers
- how he would check in anytime we were on a road trip to give us a weather report or make sure we were alright and telling us to call when we got to our destination safely
-his love for pens
-his infamous chocolate malts that he would only make if I begged real nicely or if I got to have a sleepover at their house

And maybe the most subtle memory I have…the one that has made me reflect a little harder this last week are the ones of us out for a Sunday afternoon drive with grandma and grandpa. It was typically a silent drive. Not a lot of talking. I can remember getting bored extremely fast and always telling myself I would NEVER take my grandkids for Sunday afternoon drives and go 20 miles per hour under the speed limit.

But you know what….I get it now. Grandpa had it right all along. Life passes us by so quickly, and if we’re lucky, we get 86 years on this Earth, so sometimes we just need to slow down, drink it all in and take a little time to be thankful for what we have.

By many accounts, Grandpa was a very stoic man, reserved in his speech. But years of grandchildren have chipped away at the gruff exterior, and it doesn’t take long if you look through our family pictures to see that Grandpa was a family man at heart.

I know that this week has been hard. It’s been a week full of sadness and tears, and we are feeling the emptiness of man who has impacted our lives in such a great way. But to my cousins and siblings, Marilou, my aunt Gloria and my dad- you need only look around you right now. Look what Grandpa gave you. It’s not money or’s family. This beautiful family is his legacy and every one of you are a part of it. How did we all get so lucky?

And to our Grandpa, we’ll miss you. Send our love to Grandma and Glenn. Don’t forget how much you mean to us. We love you. Rest peacefully. You deserve it.

Happy Father's Day! 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

You are Enough

Happy Mother's Day to all you beautiful women out there. I know that this day can be bittersweet for some of us, and it can just be painful for others, so I want you to know that not only am I rejoicing for those of you who are celebrating this day, I am also grieving with those for whom this day is incredibly difficult. Know you are being kept close to my heart today. 

With that being said, I had intentions of writing an inspirational Mother's Day post on the blog and sharing wonderful pictures on Facebook, but the truth of the matter is that today I'm just not feeling it. Motherhood is no easy feat man. In fact, there are moments it's downright painful. Difficult. Draining. Exhausting. This has been one of those parenthood in the trenches kind of weekends. I've had moody, mouthy children. Lots of driving in a car with those moody, mouthy children, and honestly, it's just been hard. 

So can I be honest for a moment? Today...I felt kind of jipped. I can't believe I'm typing that because it feels kind of selfish. But on the same token, I think it's important to be able write authentically and the show the ability to be real, and since this is my space for my feelings, I feel like I can be truthful, and know that I'm probably not alone. You see, I'm not a high maintenance person. At least I don't think I am. Maybe my husband would disagree, but for the most part,  I'm a go with the flow kinda gal. My love languages are not planted in gifts or acts of service or even words of affirmation (although let's be honest...they are all very nice). They are rooted firmly in quality time and memory making and relationship building. However, on days like today.....there's always this hope and prayer that maybe today my kids would be perfect angels. It would click for them. They would shower me with love and adoration. They would tell me how much they love me and how thankful they are that I'm their mom. They wouldn't let me lift a finger and tell me to go enjoy some time to myself while they cleaned the house and then we'd  all end the day with snuggles and time together and another memory jar would be filled up, and I'd write Mother's Day 2017 on the mason jar with my sharpie and stick it on my shelf next to all the others. I'd smile and say, this is what life is all about. Anyone else have these fantasies?

Needless to say, that isn't my life. Not today anyways. Only one child said Happy Mother's Day this morning. It was right after he was being scolded about something, so he came up to me, and through gritted teeth said, "Happy Mother's Day. When are we leaving for church?" That was that. One couldn't find any church clothes (because he literally has nothing that fits anymore), and we all left for church crabby. Arms folded. Giving each other the silent treatment. The rest of the day hasn't been much better, and even though we've enjoyed slivers of it spent with family, it's been hard to have a lot of fun when you know that you're kind of faking it til you make it. 

The ride home was spent doing a little self reflecting. I didn't raise them this way. Why are they so ungrateful? What am I doing wrong? Is it because they don't feel like they have a reason to celebrate me? What's wrong with me? 

And then it kind of hit me. There's absolutely nothing wrong with me. This is life. Not a movie. Not someone's social media page. This is the nitty gritty. The trenches. The hard stuff. My kids aren't ungrateful (well mostly), and I'm not doing anything wrong. This was just a bad couple of days because that's life. A constant ebb and flow. There's no planning for which days those will land on. We have equally if not more days of laughter and happiness. Just last weekend, they surprised us for our anniversary with a homemade romantic supper with music and pictures and waiting on us hand and foot. They did that with no prompting. That was all on their own. We are raising good, grateful, kind human beings, but they aren't perfect, nor are we. We, too, have our days when we seem ungrateful or aren't blissful. I am enough. You are enough. I just need to be reminded once in awhile. 

Here are a few happies to help me remember.....
Kulinary Kings with Rifly

Mini reunions with my high school besties and some of our kiddos

My baby girl's first dance

Traditional shopping weekend with my besties!!!

Monthly date nights with our tribe

celebrating this soon to be mama with a baby shower

My brother's last prom!

A first place win for Jaedyn's track team

Participating in the Siouxperman Triathalon with good friends

Celebrating 12 years of marriage with this hunk

At Calico Skies because he just gets me

Celebrating 11 years of this dude

POPS concert was "Out of this World"

Finding this gem on my walk at sunrise. I think I'll be using this to watch the sun come up more often.

Miss Hailey graduated from Iowa this weekend. So proud of her

So there you have it. Bad days don't outweigh the good ones. Even on Mother's Day. And remember. 

You are enough. Always.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring Beginnings and a Bucketlist

Hi friends.
 I already have 5,703 steps and it's not even 7:00 am. Yay for husbands who wake up with me to workout. The sun is supposed to shine today, and the forecast for the weekend looks amazeballs (70 degrees on Sunday. Holla!!). We've been dandy the last few weeks. Enjoying our little chunk of freedom before softball/baseball starts. Jae did decide to do track, so I suppose she's busy with that, but at least she can walk right home afterwards. Also, there's no AAU practice at night, so that's a bonus for her.

Not a whole lot has been happening around here, and I'm kind of okay with that. We've had some lazy weekends with a few plans sprinkled in here and there, but for the most part, we've been able to regroup and relax. I'm looking so forward to full blown spring. I can't wait for fires, Easter break, girls' shopping weekend (woot!!), and many more days outside.

The past few weeks I've been researching this Keto diet. I've been looking for something to kick start this weight loss and also target other things that would be beneficial for me. It's very low carb and no sugar, but higher in fat. I was terrified to start but soon realized it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I think that knowing I can't have a lot of the foods I would have normally eaten makes it easier to say no altogether. I feel full all day on much less food. Paired with my Plexus slim and my probiotic, I can safely say that my sleep has been amazing. My depression hasn't reared it's ugly head in awhile. My anxiety is manageable. Brain fog is almost gone. Hanger isn't a thing. It's been quite nice. The cherry on top is that I'm actually losing weight. Down about 6.5 pounds, and it feels so good to know that something is working. I know that's not a lot, but for someone who has been CONSTANTLY gaining for the last two years with some steady stalls in the middle, this literally has been an answer to prayer.

With all that being said...I don't talk about it because I think that this is the only way to be healthy....because it's not. There are millions of ways to eat "right" and lose weight and feel good and yada yada. There are lots of skeptics out there, and I don't blame them. It goes against all of the the things we were ever taught about high fat diets. Know that I have done my research, and am constantly continuing to do so. People are living very sustainably (even on doctor's recommendations) with this way of living with no plans to ever change. Many people in my Facebook groups have talked about going into remission with very serious cancer diagnoses, getting rid of T2 diabetes, and other amazing medical things just by cutting out sugar. (Don't think that I could ever cut out sugar, bread, tortillas, or chips for life though....sorry that can't happen). My plan is to be pretty consistent and strict on it for awhile so that I can see some changes and get rid of the cravings, and then I'll let myself have room to breathe a bit. I don't want to have to say no to things all the time when my friends and family are celebrating or out together. I just want to learn new habits and make sure I'm eating well most of the time. Anyways, enough of that.

I'm also training for a half marathon with my sister in law and my someday sister-in-law. It's completely crazy starting back from square one. I'm only running three minutes at a time, but I'm feeling great about it, and I'm finally running outside. I'm also doing the Siouxperman Triathlon again this year with my friend Dave who is biking and my little buddy Carson who is swimming. I'll be running the 5K. The last time I participated was three years ago with Dan's brothers and their wives. It was super fun and rewarding, so I'm excited to do it again. :)

With all this nice weather in the forecast, I thought it would be appropriate to throw out a spring bucket list. So, without further ado..... here we go.

1. Buy flowers and decorate my house with their beauty.
2. Fires with friends and smores
3. Train and participate in Siouxperman
4. Manage a 10K in practice
5. Blog more
6. Take a photography class
7. Talk Dan into building some raised gardens and plant some yummy things. :)
8. Play in the rain
9. Wake up early on a Saturday or Sunday and watch the sunrise
10. Wear spring colors
11.  Go to baseball/softball games
12. Spring clean
13. Make spring crafts from pinterest
14. Ketofy some yummy lemon desserts
15. Hike at Oak Grove
16. Watch my brother and Hailey graduate
17. Host a spring get together with friends
18. Go to the Tulip Festival
19. Read a book outside on the deck
20. Go geocaching with the kids
21. Write a birthday blog post for the boys
22. Plan a birthday party for each of the boys
23. Listen to music that makes me happy
24. Go garage saling
25. Go barefoot
26. Look for shapes in the clouds

I'm smart enough to know that the likelihood of all of this happening is pretty slim, but there's something about the shift from one season to another that signifies a clean slate. A new beginning. The thrill of making a bucket list even if all of the things don't get crossed off is exciting for me. It gives me something to look forward to. Spring is something I look forward to from the day after Christmas until it's here, but it's also in the middle of the toughest part of the school year. We are getting to the end. Once it gets nice for good, we will lose the focus of our kiddos, and that makes it so hard to teach. Therefore, bucket lists are a necessity for me. I need my list of things to look forward to.

Ending with a few pictures of our happies from the last few weeks!
Found some time to get together at Sfumato!!
PBR (Professional Bull Riding) with the Wolfswinkels
Springifying our toes

Jaedyn attended the Middle School retreat in Dayton last weekend. The theme was "Testify". She's loved it both years, and I think it's had a huge impact on her spiritual growth. :)

Happy Tuesday!! Enjoy this sunshine!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Making History

I can finally see the finish line after a two week stint of crazy. One more day of busy tomorrow, but today....finally a day off. Not a day off to go to an appointment or leave on a trip, but a day to have no where to go. Nothing to check off. No agendas to be had. Splendid indeed.

Last week we were able to witness some history in the making for our amazingly talented Sioux Center Warrior girls. Our family minus Sawyer traveled roughly 24 hours over the span of 3 days to watch our ladies tear it up at the Well. While the ending wasn't what we had anticipated or welcomed, we are proud of our girls nevertheless. If my information is accurate, it's bee 90 years since our girls have made it to the state championship game. In 1927, the first year the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Association was even a thing, our girls made it to the championship and lost 38-37. Last weekend, we took home a 2nd place win again. We are so proud of their tenacity and determination. Watching them on the big screen as they held hands praying a version of an athlete's prayer, I teared up knowing that this week will forever be etched in their memory. 

I can still remember my junior year of high school, when our boys basketball team made it to state. I, alongside many of my friends cozied up at the Embassy Suites, fitting nearly 7-8 girls in one hotel room. Memories of hair braiding, doing make up, making up shenanigans in the bathroom, and lots of laughter were had although the details are fuzzy at best. What I can remember the most is the championship game. Boyden Hull was playing the 1A game first, and their crowd was kitty corner from us. This is when state games were still played at "The Barn". Many of our fans were wearing Boyden Hull shirts, and I can remember cheering them to victory. When the hoopla of their win was over, their crowd took of their Boyden Hull shirts and orange and blue took their place. They cheered us on to our State Championship win as well, and I can remember this feeling of unity that I had never felt before. Here we were, two teams from NW Iowa. Two teams that rival one another in the regular season, coming together to cheer each other on and make our corner of the state proud! To date, this is hands down one of my top five favorite memories from high school. I'm so glad my older kiddos got to experience their first glimpses of state. It's planted some dreams in the heart of my daughter, that's for sure. What a cool experience.

We even got to reunite with some long lost besties on Saturday night after the game. Brent and Ashley were neighbors of ours when we first got married, and I was still in college. They moved away about a year after we moved in, and for many years, we were able to make trips back and forth to see each other, but such is life. Our kids grew up and became more active. We decided that it had been close to three years since we have seen each other without the use of social media, so it was LONG overdue. How I do miss them. 

Anyways, with three days of state, a Friday night in Emmetsburg for show choir, and a Sunday adoptaversary date for my husband and my daughter, we finally parked the van in the garage and decided to let it sit there for awhile. :) That didn't make this week any less hectic, however. This week I had two days of conferences, a band concert and a choir concert to attend. Tomorrow will be Jae's last show choir performance, so today was a day of relaxation. I finished The Shack. (Loved it is an understatement), ate lunch with my hubby, took a bath, and now I get to finally blog for a bit! Loving every moment of this freakishly cold day. However, Spring can come at any moment, please. We are waiting impatiently for you! 

Sioux Center 7th and 8th grade Adrenaline (photo courtesy of  Mel Pottebaum)

10 year Adoptaversary date
Here's to the weekend! Crossing my fingers that the snow misses us COMPLETELY!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Great Wolfswinkel Steak-off

Schedule on any typical day can be as follows:
6:30- Wake up for the day
7:30- Get kids and myself to school
4:30- Run errands
5:15- pick up Jae from practice
5:30-get everyone fed quickly
6:00- Sawyer practice
7:00- Pick up Sawyer from practice, Get Carter to practice
8:15-Pick up Carter from practice, get Jaedyn to other practice
9:30- Pick up Jae from practice
9:30-11:00- dishes, pick up, collapse on the couch exhausted

Our days are chaotic and busy, and I love them most of the time. It reminds me to be thankful that we live in the same town all of our activities are in right now. I'm still able to throw in a load of laundry in between my chauffeuring duties, and I'm blessed to have a husband who is home at night to tag team pick up and drop off schedules, and I know that 10 years from now, I'll be a little sad that these moments are coming to an end, and my kiddos won't need me to do as much for them. So while I'm exhausted, my heart is still full. It just means that we don't get to have as much quality time as we used to when they were younger. Our days are a different busy now. Ones that don't have us all under the same roof as often, so when we can make family night happen, we are all in.

Dan and I had been talking about doing a family "cook off" for Valentine's Day. We don't really buy into the holiday in a couple sort of way, but we love using it as an extra day to show our kiddos how much we love them. However, last week, we got an e-mail saying that Jae had an extra show choir practice, and Carter had basketball practice anyways, so we knew that the evening would be short-lived. Dan e-mailed me on Friday asking if we had plans, and surprisingly we had none!

Dan came home, and we told the boys to get into the truck, so we could pick up Jae. She hopped in the truck, a little baffled at what we were doing. When we told her it was family night, and we were headed to the grocery store to pick up some grub, she rolled her eyes (typical teenager behavior), but then ever so slightly, a small smile curled up on her face, and I knew that she was just as excited as we were, even though by teenager law, she had to pretend like it was ridiculous. So we headed to the store to grab our steaks. We had decided earlier that day that we were going to all do a different steak marinade/rub, cook them all, and cut them up so each of us could try each others. Everybody had to pick their own, help get the ingredients needed for them, and put them together at home.

She's thrilled. I promise. :)

Putting them together was so fun. The kids were very serious about doing it correctly and didn't want to screw them up. Music was blaring, kids were laughing, and I was in my happy place. Dan and I were talking earlier that day, and he was saying how just for a moment the other night, he found himself tearing up at how grateful and happy he was to be right where we were in life. We are busy and our lives are chaotic and full, but we are so grateful to both have jobs that allow us to live in this place. Grateful that our kids are happy and healthy. Thankful that we have amazing family and friends to do life with, and sometimes that is overwhelming in the heart hurts so good kind of way. The little things ARE the big things, and so one free night at home, making supper together, dancing, watching a movie, and laughing was like hitting the jackpot. My family. My heart. My home.

If you are interested in having your own family steak-off, here's the website where we got all of our recipes.