The Countdown!!!!

6 more days…Do you hear that? 6 MORE DAYS!!!! 6 days? I know that you are wondering what in the world I am talking about. Come on, admit it! Ok, I’ll tell you! In 6 days I will be boarding an airplane with my mom, dad and sister and flying to Florida. Yes folks, Florida! We will be laying on our cabanas on the gorgeous beach, listening to the melodic sounds of the ocean. I can read, swim, even sleep if I want to. I will not be applying gallons of sunscreen to wiggling, squirming, impatient kids. I will not be constantly counting heads to make sure that all 9 of my kids are accounted for. I will not be rinsing sand out of a screaming toddler’s eyes, mouth, or ears. (Feel free to substitute any orifice here.) I will not be picking sand out of PBJ or rinsing off a dropped lollipop. Nope, I won’t be doing any of that. I will be peacefully basking in the glorious sun, without a care in the world!

Well, I might have a few cares. I am frantically trying to get my house super cleaned (no easy task with all of the “help” that I get from the three stooges, Noah, Aiden and JP), laundry completed (pretty much an impossible task here, but I am getting soooo close that I can smell the  fabric softener), menu planned and some meals prepared. I am committed to making things as organized and as simple as possible for my husband. (I am sure that his spot in heaven will be solidified by the time that I get home.) Normally things are crazy and chaotic around here with both of us going full speed. I can’t imagine what it is going to be like for him to man the fort by himself for 6 days. The thing is that even if I get my entire 4 page to do list finished before I leave, he will still have to keep things going. Not to mention the fact that we are in the tail end of baseball season for two boys. Everyone will be out of school for the summer. All three of the big kids, ( ie. the relief staff)  have not one, but 2 summer jobs. We are in the middle of a complete bathroom remodel. ( I mean seriously complete remodel. We are talking new walls, ceiling, tub, sink, toilet. If it was in there two weeks ago, it is now in a pile on our driveway.) And to complicate things even more, my two oldest, the other drivers, have both been selected to attend a week long leadership conference at Westminster. (A HUGE honor! We are very, very proud of them!) Guess when…Yep! They have to be there for three of the days that I will be gone. Oh yeah, and it’s basically the worst possible time for Brian to take off work.

(Insert long drawn out sigh here.)  I am trying really hard not to think about the insanity that my husband will be going through so that I can have a little vacation. I need this vacation. I need a few days away from my crazies. I love them to pieces and I wouldn’t change one thing about my life, but a break would be really nice. I am so very, very grateful to my parents for inviting my sister and I. I am really looking forward to spending some time with them without the kids around. I am excited to get to hang out with my sister without  the constant interruptions of “Mom, he touched me!” or “Peazy bit me!”   I am really looking forward to a queen sized bed all to myself! (Holy Moly!) I will get to eat a hot meal without having to cut up food for someone else. (As long as my dad doesn’t need me to. 🙂  ) The feeling of sand between my toes, a morning walk along the beach, the warm sunshine on my shoulders (There is a reason that John Denver wrote a song about that!), those are the things that I am looking forward to.

But if I am being completely honest, I am also looking forward to missing my kids a little bit. Being a stay at home mom is such a blessing, but it can be overwhelming and exhausting. There are days when I think that the best way of parenting would be to duct tape my little kids to the wall to keep them from getting into everything. There are days when I would like to duct tape my big kids mouths shut, for all of our sakes. There are days when it seems like all that I have done all day is change diapers and wipe lipstick hand prints off of the walls after cleaning up a box of dumped cereal. There are days when I could get in the van and go far, far away and never come back. So it would be nice to start the summer off on a good note. I will be refreshed, relaxed and missing my little munchkins and my big ones too. It will be nice to appreciate them for the blessings that they are. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all of that. I am looking forward to getting them little souvenirs or t-shirts or in Aiden’s case a coconut. I am excited to call them and face time them and feel that little tug at my heart when they squeal “Hi Mommy!” I am excited to be excited about being at home with them for the summer. Sooooo to prepare for a summer of Popsicles and trips to the pool, to get ready for bug bites and camp outs, in preparation for trips to the park and summertime chores…here I come Florida!!!! Bring on the cabana!

Please pray for my husband. Amen.

Theme Thursday: Self portraits…yikes!

Ok…here we go. I am linking up with Cari for Theme Thursday…the theme, Self portraits. Hmmm, not fun. I am too lazy to take a new picture so here are a couple of recent ones. Of course there are kids in them with me. I have really been trying to be better about taking pictures of myself with the kids. I am trying to let go of a ton of body issues. I don’t want my kids to look back and wonder where I was when in fact I was hiding behind my camera. I am also trying to practice what I preach. My daughter has battled serious body image issues, to the point that she had to be hospitalized for her health. When I look at her, I see beautiful and kind brown eyes, I see to die for red curly hair and I see a warm contagious smile. But more importantly than all of that, I see the true beauty in her…the beauty of her soul, thoughtful and sweet. I don’t see what she sees. As I looked through the other self portraits, I was amazed at how honest all of you women were about your insecurities. When I saw all of  your pictures, I thought the same thing that I think when I look at my lovely daughter. “She is so pretty! She looks so sweet! What in the world was she worried about? She is gorgeous!” So I am going to bite the bullet post the pictures. Besides, true beauty comes from within, right??

Mommy sandwhich

Kindergarten celebration with my big boy Noah

My gorgeous teens (I told you she was beautiful!)

Me and my mini-me Gia
There you have it folks…some pictures of yours truly.
Check out lovely ladies over on Cari’s Theme Thursday link up!

Caught red handed…literally!

It has been a looong week. We are in the middle of a pretty major, MUCH needed bathroom remodel. For the sake of our friend and contractor, David, and my own sanity, I have tried to have some where to be during the day with the little monsters….oops, I mean little darlings. Monday and Tuesday were spent at my mom and dad’s house. Wednesday morning was spent shopping and going to 2 doctor’s appointments and then back home just in time for naps (sadly, not my nap). Thursday, we hung out with Missy and Jonah in the morning and again came home just in time for naps. All of this running around has made for a pretty crazy week and some pretty wound up kids and a VERY messy house. I spent Wednesday and Thursday afternoons tackling laundry and the infamous unmatched sock basket. Eleven people with 2 feet each, let’s just say that’s A LOT of socks. Soooo today I decided to brave it. I spent the morning at home. I did the unspeakable and plopped Aiden and Jonathan in front of the tv and popped in Wreck it Ralph. (Side note: I love this movie. Super cute! If you haven’t seen it, watch it!!) I proceeded to bake cookies (not because I am a super cool baker mom, well at least not today. It was because I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to take a dozen cookies to the school for Noah’s Kindergarten Celebration.) After that, I cleaned the kitchen and dining room and mopped the floors. I cleaned all of the bedrooms and living room, dusted and  vacuumed. By then the movie was over and it was time for lunch and to get dressed for the previously mentioned Kindergarten Celebration. I managed to get the baby to take a quick nap. That was a calculated risk. If it wasn’t long enough, I was risking a supremely crabby baby in a very public place. But the alternative, a baby with absolutely no nap, was a much scarier prospect. 
We went to the Kindergarten Celebration for Noah. (which was really cute, by the way!) Jonathan and Aiden were pretty good, relatively speaking. We came home and then it started. That calculated risk that I mentioned. Let’s just say, I am questioning if it was worth it. Jonathan was rested enough to be extremely energetic, but he didn’t have enough sleep to be, hmmmm well behaved. But, let’s be honest, he is only two. Two year old boys aren’t exactly known for being well behaved. From the time that we got home from the school, until we finally put him to bed at 8:00, he managed to dump half of a box of rice krispies cereal on the carpet, unmake my bed by jumping on it, dump a basket of laundry out, dump a bin of megablocks all over the living room floor, climb onto the kitchen table and dance on it, and rip every dvd and book off of the shelves…and then he committed an unspeakable crime…He stole Gianna’s most treasured possession…her bright red lipstick. 
The crime scene…
Caught red handed. He certainly doesn’t look very sorry!
After all of this, Brian gave him a bath and put his jammies on. He didn’t know that I was watching him. He grabbed my ipod and hid behind the recliner so that he could watch Hulk Versus Superman on youtube. No, I am not kidding. He actually knows how to turn on my ipod and scroll to youtube and find Hulk videos. He is amazing. My prayer for Jonathan is that he learns to use his powers for good!
Here he is hiding behind the recliner with my ipod. 
It has taken nine kids, but I think that we may have finally met our match. Brian and I are in trouble!

The club…

It’s kind of like a club, this motherhood thing. It’s a club that requires you to give up everything from sleep to privacy. But the perks are unbeatable! The benefits can range from one of a kind artwork (of the crayon variety) to super tight, slightly sticky, magical hugs. The members of this club are honored once a year. This day is called Mother’s day.
As the mother of nine, I have given up countless hours of sleep to sit with sick or fussy little ones or to wait for a certain teen driver to make it safely home before curfew. I have been pregnant or nursing for over 10 of the 12 years that Brian and I have been married. The last two pregnancies required daily shots of blood thinners in my stomach, at times up to 6 shots a day. I have suffered through morning sickness for over 2 years. I have had mastitis three times, along with cracked and bleeding nipples from nursing. (Too much info? Sorry, but it’s true.) I wash at least three or four loads of laundry a day. We spend obscene amounts of money on groceries, usually at least $100 a month just on milk.  We have had more stomach bugs and colds than I can count. I have wiped thousands of snotty noses. I have changed approximately 30,000 diapers (a friend of mine and I actually figured that one out!). We have had a broken arm, a twisted knee and stitches. We have had a tonsillectomy and a bronchoscopy. We have battled leukemia and an eating disorder. We have dealt with toddler tantrums and teen angst. It has been difficult, exhausting and heart breaking.
So, after hearing all of that, why in the world would anyone in their right mind even consider joining this “club”?  Why would any sane person, knowingly, sign up for this one time let alone two or three times, or in my case 9 times?  That is the question, my friends. 
I had the privilege of falling in love with and adopting three little ones. I have had the honor of carrying 6 little souls under my heart. I have felt a tiny hand slip into mine and give a little squeeze. I have felt the flutter of new life within me and I have seen the tiny arms and legs moving on the ultrasound monitor. I have held a tiny  newborn body close to me and gazed into those big gray-blue eyes for the very first time. I have seen the transition from baby to big brother or big sister happen in a blink. I have had the privilege of watching my little family grow and grow and grow. I have snuggled warm little bodies in the middle of the night. I have watched my little ones miraculously turn into kindergartners and elementary school students and then high school students. I have cheered my little athletes on during football, soccer, tee-ball, baseball, softball, and basketball games. I have watched swimming lessons and dance lessons. I have seen the pride in their eyes when they bring home an excellent report card. I have been blessed to watch them grow in their faith as they have participated in Baptisms, First Reconciliations, First Holy Communions and Confirmations. I have watched my oldest four serve the church as Altar Servers. I have seen my son face down cancer and win! I have seen my daughter struggle with her self image and finally start to see the beauty in herself that we all see.  I have had a front row seat for dances and proms. I have even survived our first two new drivers. I have seen these children of mine grow and succeed.
These were all things that I expected from motherhood. I expected to see my children develop and grow and change and succeed. What has come as a shock to me, is that I too, have grown and changed. I have become harder and softer, if that is even possible. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do to keep my kids safe. Nothing. That is the harder part. As for the softer, I am moved in ways that I didn’t know were possible. My heart breaks and soars along with theirs. I feel their pain and their joy as if it were my own.
As their mother, I am their teacher. But I am also their student. I have learned things from each of my  kids. I have learned to listen, I mean really listen when your kids speak to you. It means so much to them to give them your undivided attention. I know that it is not easy to do. Trust me! There are many times when one of the kids is saying something to me and I have to ask them to repeat it, sometimes more than once. I have a hard time shutting everything else out and focusing on that one child for that one moment. But when I actually manage to do that, I can tell that they notice. I can tell ( at least for a second) that they appreciate it. 
I have also learned not to put a lot of importance on things. Things break (especially with 9 kids!). Couch cushions get ripped. Walls get drawn on (with sharpie of course!). Favorite Christmas ornaments get smashed. Walls get holes in them ( especially if a certain kid drops a chair down the steps). And toddlers can put their head through a window (true story!). Shower walls need to be duct taped because someone tried to use the tiled in soap dish as a step ladder (sadly another true story!) The point is that it doesn’t matter. Obviously it isn’t ok for your kids to go around intentionally destroying things. That is a definite no-no! But accidents happen, sometimes a lot. Things can be replaced, but your kids can’t. And if they feel that a thing has more value to you than they do…well then you are dealing with a broken heart along with a broken thing. Broken hearts take more than super glue and duct tape to fix. 
It is important to do as you say and say as you do, because you are ALWAYS being watched! That can be anything from “Eat your veggies!” to “Put a coat on!” The one time that you don’t do said thing…you will be busted. I promise! There goes your street cred. And I also promise you that the one time that you don’t wear a coat, you will get sick. No doubt.
There are many things that you have absolutely no control over. Your child’s bladder is the perfect example of this. The same kid that can play outside all day without a bathroom break will need to pee 15 times during a 60 minute mass at church. (Been there, done that!) You have no control over your child’s mood. They can be sweet as pie at home and a little terror at the doctor’s office. You have no control over your child’s taste in food. Something that they love and can’t get enough of on Monday will be the “nastiest and most disgusting thing ever in the entire world” on Tuesday. The same goes for your child’s taste in clothing, music, books and movies… and pretty much anything else that they can have an opinion of. 
The work will always be there. Always. The laundry, dishes or dusting will be right where you left it. (Trust me. I have hoped that it would just disappear. Nope. Still there.) Your kids, however, will not be. They will keep on growing up. Time will not stand still while you fold that 5th load of laundry. But you can let the laundry sit for 10 minutes and read your little one a few stories or take the kids to the playground. It is worth it. I promise. And the bonus is that the kids will get tired and take a better nap. 
It is important to apologize when you are wrong. It might be hard to believe, but even parents make mistakes. I know that there have been many (many, many, many) times that I have messed up. I may have accidentally accused an innocent child of a wrongdoing. (In my defense, I do have 9 potential suspects. The odds are not in my favor.) I can occasionally be a tad too sarcastic. (No, seriously, I can.) This can sometimes lead to me being a little bit mean or unnecessarily snarky to my kids. I have even been known to…wait for it…punish too harshly. I may have a tendency to take things a teeny bit too personally and over react. But, the important thing to take from all of this is not that I suck as a mom. No folks, you have to let that go. The important thing is that I will own my mistakes and apologize to my kids. It isn’t fun, actually, it’s sort of painful. But it is necessary. Kids need to know that you aren’t perfect and that is ok. But, you have to know when to say that you are sorry. Sorry can go a loooooong way. (It’s pretty much the only thing that can fix that broken heart that I mentioned above.)
These are just a few of the lessons that I have learned on a daily basis as a parent. Everyday brings new problems and obstacles, but through each challenge there is something to be learned. You just have to look for it. The last lesson that I will leave you with is this. You cannot take things or (most importantly) yourself too seriously. Sometimes a good laugh is the best cure for what ails you. Having kids gives you unlimited entertainment potential. Given a little bit of attention, kids can crack you up!  See photo below…
See…unlimited smiles!
So…this motherhood club thing is pretty hard core. It is intense, exhausting and worth every second. Besides, how many clubs have their own special day??? Happy Mother’s Day Ladies!

Gianna’s big day!

Wheeeew! What a weekend! It started out with the Prom for the older three on Friday and finished up with Gianna’s First Holy Communion today with a few baseball games and a birthday thrown in for good measure. It was crazy, busy, chaotic and worth every minute! (Kind of like my family!)  It is Sunday evening and I am finally sitting down for the first time today. I just want to take a minute to reflect on the day.

As Catholics we are blessed to have the sacraments. They are gifts from God that allow us to receive His grace and mercy in abundance. As parents we are blessed to watch our children participate in these sacraments. To see our little ones join the body of the Church through Baptism, receive God’s mercy and forgiveness through Confession, and then fully participate in the mass as they receive the Holy Eucharist, is such a privilege. It makes all of those masses spent swaying in the back of the church attempting to quiet a little one, completely worth it.

Gianna received her First Holy Communion today along with her 6 Faith Formation classmates. The excitement was obvious in their smiles and giggles. The spiffy suits and beautiful dresses, were outward symbols of the importance of the day. Oh my word, were they ever cute! Fancy clothes or not, they were still second graders and were bouncing all over the place as their teacher, Ms Roseanne, herded them into one spot in the basement of the church. I chuckled as I walked through the room. The two little girls were squealing and chattering to each other and the boys were zipping all over the place. I went upstairs and took my seat beside Brian and waited for mass to begin.  We heard them come up the stairs and then it happened. The giddiness and giggles were replaced with quiet and reverence. They were still smiling, but they realized the importance of what was going to happen. 

Gianna processing in.
From my seat right behind Gianna, I was able to watch her throughout mass. She sang each song, recited each prayer and knew all of the responses. She had spoken excitedly about receiving Communion. She had mentioned that she wanted to be a part of ALL of the mass. She was FINALLY going to fully participate in the mass, especially the most important part of it, receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus. 
Hearing her “Amen!” brought tears to my eyes. 
She was so excited that she couldn’t stop smiling.
She knelt in prayer, still smiling when she returned to her seat. 
Gianna and her classmates
The Hough family 11
Gianna with her dad and I
Gianna and her godparents, Bob and Peggy. 
She just loves them and without a doubt the feeling is mutual.
It wasn’t only First Communion at our church, but also at St Lawrence. My cousin, Shannon’s, little boy Ben received his First Communion today also. We had a joint party for both of them in the basement of our church. Thanks to our family and friends, we had tons of food and good company.(A special thank you to my sister, Jess and my friend Missy for getting all of the food ready while we were at mass! you are angels!!) It was a wonderful way to celebrate the day!
Gianna and Ben…they would not stand too close to each other!
Our nephew, Chase, also received his First Communion today. 
Gianna trying, rather successfully I might add, to look holy. 
My beautiful baby girl, Gianna Marie
You can dress her up, but you can’t keep her off of the trampoline!
This is Gia at her finest. 
I love the dirty bare feet. 
Well, that was my girls’ day. It was beautiful and special and memorable. 
 Thank you God for the gift that is Gianna. 
She is a blessing to us all.

The Prom 2013…one mom’s version…

Twelve and a half years ago, I dressed DJ and Jake in two tiny tuxedos and Coley in a beautiful little dress. That was the day that our family “got married.” On that day I became a wife and a mother. On that day these three little ones became  part of my life and  part of my heart. 
(Can you even stand the adorableness?)
Today I helped DJ and Jake get dressed in two not so tiny tuxedos and Coley in a beautiful dress. As I was straightening ties and lacing up Coley’s dress, I was brought right back to that moment. The difference was that instead of me being the one to bend to reach them, it was the other way around. 
 It is such a privilege to have a front row seat to witness their journeys into adulthood. This has not been a journey that has been without bumps and bruises. Heck, being a teenager is its own kind of craziness. But the important thing, the really special thing, is seeing the grace and integrity that they demonstrate throughout it all. I am blessed to have three teenagers that are kind, funny, hardworking, respectful, smart and passionate about their faith. They are pretty much the opposite of what you expect  teenagers to be. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely have their teenagery moments, of whining and snarkiness. But for the most part, they are pretty good kids. Actually, they are really good kids. I am so proud of them. Like I always tell them, I chose to be their mom, we got stuck with the other six. (It is just a joke. I don’t feel stuck with the other six…well, at least not today. Haha!)
Now I will stop going on and on about how fabulous my kids are and share some more Prom pictures.

My sweet “faux niece,” Aislinn, came and helped Coley with her hair and makeup. I kept calling her “Coley’s hair and makeup people.” She did a great job! 

Jake was actually sweeping out the car…definitely worth documenting. 

What is the best part of Prom??? I get a nice shiny clean car out of the deal! Woohoo!

Here it is…the finished product: The lovely and fabulous Miss Coley!
This picture is a remake of DJ and Anna’s first dance in 9th grade. DJ didn’t feel comfortable putting his hand on Anna’s hip. He didn’t think that it was appropriate. (I told you that my kids are awesome.) It became a big joke because in all of the pictures his hand is hovering over her hip. Jake and Hannah thought that this was funny. I must say that I agree. 

Here is the original. Notice the hovering hand. Oh DJ…you are so sweet. 
Here are DJ and Anna this year. A big difference from 9th grade! 🙂  I can’t believe how they have grown up. What a great looking couple! She is such a sweet girl. I am so happy that she is dating my son.
Here are Jake and Hannah in their “real” picture. They look amazing! Hannah is also a very special young lady. I am so glad that she is friends with my kids. Jake was looking forward escorting Hannah to the prom.
Coley and Kyle have been friends since elementary school. She was really excited to go to the prom with Kyle. She was sure that they would have a blast dancing the night away.  Another gorgeous couple! (I might be a bit biased, but I don’t really think so. )

I couldn’t help but put this picture in too. This picture is from the 7th grade Christmas dance.  Can you believe how young they all look?! They were beautiful, sweet 7th graders… 
and four years later, they have become beautiful, poised, graceful young ladies (and gentlemen.)

DJ was chosen to be on prom court. He is on the far left. So exciting!
Ok… one last picture. A super proud Mama and her babies! 
How in the world are my kids old enough to go to the prom?!? And maybe more importantly…how in the world am I old enough to have kids that are old enough to go to the prom??!?!?


The subject for Theme Thursday is “play.” No problem there! We have lots of kids which equals lots of playing. We play sports, (basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball), we play instruments, (ok, so only one of us) we play cards, (does UNO count?) we play dress up (princesses and superheros) we play “guys” (hulk, ironman and spidey ). We play hard and we play often. I read  Cari’s “lecture” on play and how important it is for our kids. I absolutely, whole-heartedly agree! Playing is so important for our children;s growth and development. But I think that she overlooked the most important reason that play is necessary. Playing, and I mean “good-hard-run-until-you-collapse-in-a-pile-of-giggles” is the best way to ensure a nice loooong sound nap!! Woohoo!
Trampoline fun!
Such a goofball!
He loves to “jump, jump, jump!”
Yes he has his backpack on. We were passing some time before it was time to catch the bus.
Aiden and Jonathan were trying out Aiden’s new tee that he got for his birthday.
And finally….nap time!
And now that I my playtime is up, I must go and attack this house that is…well, let’s just say, it’s not good. Have a great day!

Happy fourth birthday Aiden!!

Happy happy birthday to my sweet boy, Aiden Joseph! You are the Aideiest of all of the Babiest! I cannot believe that you are 4 today! You were hands down the toughest little bugger to deliver but you haven’t stopped making us smile and laugh since you joined our little family. You arrived on a very difficult day and you were the ray of sunshine that we so desperately needed. (  Aiden’s arrival  )  
Your little voice makes me smile with its deep raspy tone. You have such a funny way of talking, very low and fast with a smirk. It cracks me up. Your soft blond hair, still reminscent of duck down, grows straight out from your head, earning you the nickname of “Fuzzhead.” (You can thank your dad for that one.) Your big blue eyes are so clear and expressive. It is easy to see the pride that you feel when you master another “big boy” skill, like putting on your own socks (always inside out) and shoes (always on the wrong feet 🙂  or making your bed all by yourself, or being a good boy in church.  You waver between wanting to be big and independent  and wanting to crawl up in my lap and be my little boy that just needs a snuggle. Ahhhh, the mysteries of being four! It is such a joy to be your mom. You are so funny with your little “You’re it!” game. (You are still the master. ) You are such a watchful and protective  big brother to Jonathan. You make sure that your little “Peezy” is safe and sound. You are always willing to share your toys and snacks with him. As you take care of him, you take care of me too. You always seem to know when I need an extra hug and kiss and are always willing to give it. You love to crawl up on your perch beside me on the chair during family prayers. You rest your head on my shoulder and I feel it get heavier and heavier until I hear your soft snoring. It is when you are in my arms as I carry you back to bed, that I am reminded that you are still my little baby boy. As hard as you are trying to grow up and away, you aren’t there quite yet. And I am good with that. 
Here are a few of my favorite pictures of Aiden,  my funny, silly, little guy!
Here you are precious and new…
My big 23 inch boy…
Aiden’s Baptism
Hey Mom, I have feet!!
The eyes…love them!
Eeeeew, sand is NOT for snacking…
Daddy and Aiden
At the beach…
I know that I have posted this a few times, but it is one of my favorites.
The sulky side of Aiden
The exploratory side
The silly side of my crazy boy.
The “no fear” side
Happy birthday Aiden. You are loved.