It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

DJ, Coley and Jacob are heading to Michigan at the end of the week, so we decided to spend a day with some friends at the park before they go. We met up with some good friends of ours, the Aiminos and the Skamais and headed to Mahoning Dam. There is a big pavilion where we ate lunch and then the kids hit the playgrounds. It was so nice to spend some time with some good friends.

The kids had alot of fun playing volleyball, basketball and tag. Between the 7 Hough kids, 5 1/2 Aimino kids and the 3 Skamai kids, we were quite a crew! It’s great because if there are other people at the playground when we get there, they usually leave because there are so many of us! We have been asked more than once if we were a daycare! Lots of fun, lots of giggles and lots of running. My kids took a great nap when we got home!

This is the beautiful Miss Maddy!

Silly Sammy

Good friends, Coley and Aislinn

DJ, He’s the man!

Here is beautiful Ellie

My goddaughter, Grace…She’s electric!

This picture requires a little bit of an emplaination…The white thing that Noah has his hand on is actually his diaper! The tabs on his diaper were sticking to eachother, but the diaper itself had come out from unerneath them and was sticking out of the back of his shorts. It looked like he had a tail! Too funny! Like any responsible parent, I grabbed my camera and snapped a few pictures, before I fixed it. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a Kodak moment!

Gianna Marie

Jake was all smiles

Bubba had a great time

Dom loved playing tag!

Hannah and one of her favorite people, Lizzy. Hannah has loved Lizzy since she was born! She loves to go to church to show Liz her church clothes!

Hannah, the original!

Ice cream for dinner…Have we lost our minds?

Kids in the van

Yes, we did it! We threw caution to the wind and went a little bit crazy and took the kids out for ice cream for dinner. It was great because we just told them to wash their faces and hands and get shoes on and get in the van. They asked about a zillion questinos, but we wouldn’t tell them where we were going. They had been playing playing outside all day so they had scrubby play clothes on and the big kids were kind of freaking out about going to a restaurant like that. It was great. The whole 25 minutes into town they specualted, but nobody had a clue. When we pulled up to Jordan’s Soft Serve they all started yelling. They were pleased…very, very pleased. Everyone ordered whatever they wanted which ranged from Jake’s banana split (which he did NOT finish!) to Noah’s teeny cone with sprinkles. We headed to a nearby playground to eat our “dinner.” The kids had a blast and Brian and I enjoyed watching them. Sometimes it’s fun to break out of the regular everyday mold. Sometimes you just need to have Ice Cream for dinner!

Mama Mia Gia!

This youngest girl child of mine cracks me up some days…well OK, most days! Gianna Marie is this wild, beautiful, messy, squeaky little wisp of a thing. She desperately wants to be a girly girl all neat and perfect. But despite her best efforts, her hair is always a little bit messy and her clothes are always a little bit rumpled. Her squeaky little voice sounds a bit like a chipmunk that smokes a pack a day. But if you look into her big beautiful green eyes, you will see that little glimmer, that little spark that hints of mischief and intelligence. She is one smart cookie with a mind of her own. She has known all of her letters and their sounds since she was 18 months old. She knows her numbers, her colors and her shapes, not to mention all of the words to several High School Musical songs. But she adamantly refuses to use the potty! She just doesn’t feel like it. She is also physically attached to her Lamby. Lamby was a beautiful snow white blanky/stuffed animal. Lamby is now a sort of mottled gray color, despite being washed and often bleached several times a week. But Lamby’s shortcomings in appearance are more than made up for by the comfort that Gianna gets by dragging him around, thumb in mouth. She is a momma’s girl. She throws a fit if I leave her at home with a sitter, even if it’s her Dad or her beloved Sissy.

Today, Miss Gianna took a huge leap forward. Once a month after Mass we stay for Generations of Faith sessions. This is a faith formation for the whole family. Normally I am one of the teachers for the little kids groups, but this month because of Vacation Bible School (which I also teach) I actually got to attend the session. I always try to get Gianna to join the preschool class, but she always refuses crying and clinging to me. It’s not worth the fight, so she usually just hangs out with me while I teach. Today, however, things started to change. During the luncheon that begins the session, she got up from our table and joined the ladies at the table behind us. I could her just talking away to my friend Becky. Darlene, who is one of the preschool teachers, jokingly said, “Until today I didn’t think that she could really talk! Now I can’t get her to stop! She’s a regular Chatty Cathy!” Gianna just kept chattering away, I heard her telling them about swimming the day before as well as different stories about her imaginary friend, Therese. She was happily eating her lunch, which is a rare thing, so I went about my own thing eating lunch and helping the other kids. All of a sudden I heard the ladies erupt in laughter at something that Gianna said. She said, “Mommy is the boss of us, but she is NOT the boss of the cross!” I’m not sure where that came from exactly, but it is definitely true! At least some of things that I’ve been telling her for the past three years have sunk in! And the biggest shock of the day…she went AND stayed for the entire preschool session! She loved it. I am hoping that this means that she will continue to participate. She told me that she will because now she is a big girl. She is definitely growing up. I only hope that she doesn’t do it too fast.

The first day…

Well… today was THAT day…the day that children anxiously await and parents dread, the first official day of summer vacation! Ok, so I don’t really dread it, but having the three big kids at home definitely changes the vibe around the house. We need to find our new routine, our new groove, if you will. The key to this new routine is flexibilty. Summer is full of all kinds of activities and diversions from the normal everyday stuff. So bascially, our new routine isn’t really a routine at all, it’s really just figuring out how we are going to get accomplished the tasks for the day with a little bit of time for some fun. With seven kids at home a normal day begins with everyone waking up. Sounds simple enough, but not so much with 7 different kids with seven totally different personalities. DJ for example likes to lounge in bed for a little while, but is usually up and ready to roll by about 7:30. Coley an the other hand would sleep until noon if I let her. But thanks to her sisters, I usually don’t have to wake her up. They take care of that for me. That makes for a VERY CRANKY Sissy! Jake is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. He would be up, have breakfast, be dressed and have his bed made by 6:00 if I allowed him to get up that early! Bubba is a casual waker. He is usually up by 7:00, but he’s generally happy when he gets up. He’s never in any major hurry, but he’s ready to go if anyone has something fun to do. Hannah has a split personality. She sets the tone for the whole morning. The hapiness of the family hinges on which Hannah graces us with her presence. If it’s a good day, we get the smiling, happy, sweet as pie Hannah, who just beams goodness. I swear sometimes birds and butterfiles flutter around her! (OK…maybe a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.) The other Hannah…well…she could scare the begeebers out of the incredible Hulk. Shrieks and other unearthly sounds come from her and well, it’s just really bad. Gianna is a quiet waker. She just silently walks around the house following my with her Lamby in one hand and her thumb in her mouth. Noah is the best though, because he is stuck in his crib, depending on me to rescue him. This is great because even if he wakes up crying, he is so happy to get out of his crib that he will stop mid-scream when I open his door and great me with a big grin. That’s my favorite way to start the day.
Waking up is followed by breakfast. This could range from toast or a bowl of cereal to (only if I’m feeling really energetic) eggs and pancakes. Which is of course followed by cleaning up the kitchen. Then I grab clothes for the little ones and everybody gets dressed. That’s when the real fun starts…Chore Time! Woo-hoo! I am pretty pleased with my chore organization this summer. I always make big elaborate charts that we use for about 3 days and then they get lost or ripped. Even with a chart there was always whining and fighting. No more! I saw an idea in a magazine and I have adapted it for our family. I am writing all daily chores onto popsicle sticks. There are about 8 things that need to be done daily, so each of the big kids will pick three chores. (There will be a blank in there too as a freebie.) Each of the little kids will be partnered up with a big kid to “help” with the chores. Since the jobs will change daily, it should help with whining and we will always know whose turn it is to do what. We are putting that into practice on Monday. I can’t wait. After chores, everyone just kind of does their own thing. That could be anything from playing video games, doing crafts or coloring, playing Barbies or going outside. And then it’s lunchtime. Time to feed everyone again and then clean the kitchen again. More free time and my favorite! favorite!! time of the day…Yes, I know that all of you Stay-at-home moms know what I’m going to say…NAPTIME!!! This is the only time of the day that I can fold laundry without Noah unfolding everything as soon as I put it down. I can also do the banking, make grocery lists etc…fun stuff! After that it’s time to cook yet again! (these kids think that they should eat at least three meals a day! ) More dishes and kitchen cleaning, followed by bathtime, some stories, snacks and then bed. Well there you go…that’s a normal day at home, not too bad, at least not until you start adding stuff like doctor’s visits, grocery shopping etc into the mix. But honestly crazy or not, I wouldn’t trade it for the world…well at least not most days!

Introduction to the Houghlings

These pictures were taken over Memorial day weekend. I can’t even begin to tell you how fast these kids are growing! I just look at them and want to cry. The twins will officially finish up their elementary school lives tomorrow. They will be attending the highschool next year! I am just not ready for this. It is really a bittersweet thing, as a mother anyway, to watch them become little adults. They are becoming so independent and (at times anyway) responsible. That makes me so proud, but it’s hard to not be needed as much. But just when I start to think that I have this whole “big kid” thing figured out and I start to give them a little bit more freedom and independence, they act like two year olds! Hormones! You gotta hate them! Look out West Shamokin! The Houghs are coming your way! Jake will be right on their heels as usual! Luckily though, he still has one more year at Dayton. He will be there to help Isaac make his debut into the elementary arena! With both Jake and Isaac there, Dayton Elementary will never be the same! We are going to try and really enjoy this summer together. I know that once school starts again in the fall, everyone will be heading their seperate ways. The older the kids get, the busier their social lives get and the less we see them! I’m just going to try and soak it all in! Hannah, Gianna and Noah, aka the “little ones” (Isaac has officially been bumped up to big kid rank now that he will be going to school.)are all getting bigger too, so playgrounds and parks are a great place for famly trips now. Noah has no fear and will take on any slide or rock wall! (or at least any slide that I allow him to…he is only 1 1/2!) Gianna is a tube slide kind of girl. She likes to crawl up inside and just hang out. Hannah is more of a swing and see-saw girl. She likes to feel the breeze in her hair! Like I said before…It’s going to be a busy summer!Lots of fun…lots of food… and lots of sunscreen! Stay tuned!