Little Boy Blue

After my marathon day in the basement yesterday, I was actually quite happy to take a little break from the underworld and go grocery shopping. We were WAY overdue. It was so bad that my friend actually called me Mother Hubbard!  So as I was typing my post last night, I was yearning for sleep. I was tired from the crazy day in the Abyss and I knew that today would be crazy busy as well. As usual, I had plans of going to bed early and the kids had plans of never allowing me to sleep again. So at 8:30, I was ready for bed so I tucked in the middles and the littles pleading with them to close their sweet little eyes and drift to sleep, so I that I could do the same. Instead of quietly sleeping, they were loudly shrieking! I went back to their rooms and told them to go to sleep and found that the main culprit was the littlest one, Jonathan. He would not be quiet and was keeping all three of the other boys up. Grrrrr. I made him come out and sit on the landing. This is one of the most dreaded time out places. They hate to sit on the landing, mainly because my kids are nosey and like to see what is going on. After a few minutes of him sitting (relatively) quietly, I allowed him to sit on the couch with me for a few minutes. I figured that it would give the other boys a chance to fall asleep before he went back to his room. Well, the other boys did fall asleep so I tucked my wee one back into bed. He started yelling again, so we did it all over again. This time, he kept saying, “Mommy pweese I can go to bed? I be good boy, pwomise! Pweese!” After a couple of minutes I took him back to his room…again. I tucked him in…again. I figured that I should wait a few minutes to make sure that he was actually sleeping before I (finally!) went to bed. By this time it was pushing 10. I admit that I was beyond cranky at this point. While I finished up a few emails, wistfully thinking about my bed and my pillow, it was quiet. Finally! The little booger finally fell asleep. I could go to bed! Woohoo! And then I heard those words that strike fear in the heart of every mother. “Uh oh…MOOOOM! Look at your son!” Jake had walked back the hallway and came across this:
So much for going to bed early! I put him on the landing again (!!!). This time it was for his own safety. I was ready to snap. It was now after 11:00 and I had little boy blue to deal with. Let’s just say that he is lucky that he is cute. After I had calmed down, I walked over to the steps to get him so that I could clean him up and he was gone. I looked in his room and he was sound asleep in his bed. The thought of waking him up never even crossed my mind. I was so happy that I could finally go to sleep that I never considered that leaving him covered with marker probably wasn’t the best move. 
I was regretting that in a BIG way this morning. He stumbled down the hall like a little wayward Smurf. He kept looking at his arms and legs and saying, “Mommy, I have owies?” I reassured him that he was fine. He had just colored all over himself. I filled up the tub and plopped him in. The marker had just been a regular old crayola. Nothing major, or so I thought. It would not come off. I grabbed a washcloth and used every type of soap that I could find in this house: Dawn dish soap, J&J baby shampoo, Head & Shoulders, Zest, Noxema. I even tried astringent. Nothing was helping. I even placed a frantic call to my mom. She went on line and read me the suggested way to remove the marker. Apparently I was not supposed to scrub him. I was supposed to dab at the marker. Seriously?!?  The first thing that I did was scrub him. I am pretty sure that I may have accidentally removed a few layers of skin. Don’t scrub…right!The water had turned blue but his skin still looked like, well, it looked like someone had attacked him with a marker. Of course, we had a million errands to run today. Not the ideal day to be carrying around a blue kid. Oh well. It was, what it was…and it was blue.
After soaking him and scrubbing him again, I gave up. He was my little booger, whether he was blue or not. We had errands to run and he is pretty cute no matter what. Everyone had left for school and I got the other two dressed and ready to head out. We went to the YMCA and then I had to drop off a few bags of clothes for my mom and my sister. We went grocery shopping and stopped to fuel up. I made another quick stop at my mom and dad’s. I was having a quick chat with my parents and Aiden and Jonathan went downstairs to play. After about a half an hour, I went downstairs to tell the boys to pick up because we needed to finish our running around so that  we could go home. Guess what Jonathan was holding…a bright pink highlighter. Come on kid! Really!?! Only this time instead of writing all over himself, he had written on the wall, the computer desk, the printer/fax/scanner. Sorry Mom and Dad!  I made Jonathan help me wipe everything off. Thankfully the  Windex got the highlighter off of everything. Maybe I should have tried that on him…just kidding… or not. hmmmm. We had yet another discussion about what is ok to write on, which is paper, and what is not ok to write on, which is everything else, face, stomach, walls, computers…
I guess that it was God’s way of teaching me a lesson. Humbling me a bit, maybe. Trust me, when you have to shop all day with your blue baby, you get some funny looks. He was blue, I get it. Whatever people! Take a picture it lasts longer. I did! Haha!  But, on the plus side both Aiden and Jonathan were very good while we were shopping. That was no small miracle my friends. So, in conclusion, I will keep my blue baby and love him and take his picture and laugh about it. And besides, if all of my kids were good all of the time, what  would I have to write about. 

The long, long, long day…

It has been a looooooooong day. So long that if there was any way that I could go to sleep right now (at 8:30) and know that all of the middles and littles were actually asleep and not burning down the house or hosting a kegger, I would totally be in bed. I’m not going to lie. I am tired a lot. (After all, I spend all day chasing around Frick and Frack. And cleaning up the remnants of their tornadoes of destruction.) But today I am feeling a whole new level of tired.  I spent the day in the beastment, I mean basement. I do this every so often. I get all “I’m going to be super organized” and I decide that I am going to simplify our lives and declutter. A great idea in theory. Not so fantastic when I am actually doing the decluttering. It is, as I have already said, utterly exhausting. I am always amazed at the amount of…well, crap, that we have accumulated.
I have bins full of clothes, bags full of shoes, boxes full of toys, piles of “stuff” to go through. It is all important. It is so important that it has sat in the basement for months. The clothes are things that the older kids have grown out of and I am hanging on to for the little kids. Or things that other people have graciously given to us.  Same goes for the shoes. I hate to get rid of things that I am sure we will need down the road. I think that it is the practical thing to do, responsible even. But there is a point when being prepared becomes overkill. I will admit to you that I had over 40 totes of clothing. Yep, 40! Seriously?!? And this is after I had already given my sister all of my (numerous!) maternity clothes and baby clothes. I know. I KNOW! I have a problem.( And that isn’t even taking in consideration the many bins of shoes. ) Go ahead and judge me. I have it coming. But know that I am paying for it, with my blood, sweat and tears. (Ok, I didn’t actually bleed, but I did sweat  and I was very close to tears.) I have (so far) donated  9 garbage bags of clothing. I have 3 bags of clothing for my nephew, and 4 bags for my nieces. I have also thrown away a ton of junk. My 40 totes has dwindled to a mere 20. I know that is still a lot, but I cut it in half! Everything is sorted, labelled and stacked neatly. I even sorted our sheets by size and labelled them as well. Shoes have been arranged by size and gender ( Of the wearer, not of the shoe, just in case you were wondering). I was working on the “tool” section of the basement when I finally called it a day. The basement is a mess right now, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I must say that even though it has been a ton of work, it is rewarding. Or, at least, it will be when I am finished. There is something so liberating about throwing things away. I mean, come on. What were we going to do, hang on to all of those audio cassette tapes and VHS tapes? We don’t even have anything to play them on now. Bye bye! Do we really need to have two cribs? I don’t even have a uterus! No more babies here unless someone leaves one on my doorstep (which I would totally love, by the way!). Besides that, apparently one of our cribs is now illegal to use. It has a side that slides up and down and is now considered unsafe. So guess where that one went? Garbage pile! Bye bye! Brian’s accounting text books from college…Bye bye! Isaac’s (yes, I said Isaac’s) potty chair…Bye bye! Adios to the junk! As for the other stuff, I hope that it will get to someone that needs it. We have been blessed, beyond blessed and nothing is better than sharing that with others. Besides that, I can almost see my basement again.

To make things even better, my sweet hubby brought home dinner. I called him at work and pitifully asked him to help me figure out what to make. After he realized the sad state of affairs here, he offered to pick something up on his way home. Even after I warned him that I smelled like the basement and was covered in dirt and cobwebs. He is a good, good man. Like I said, I am blessed beyond blessed. But I’m not sharing him, ladies. Find your own!

A good day

This whole motherhood thing can be pretty rough sometimes. (If you need to be reminded of this please read..School shopping) It can pretty much suck you in, chew you up and spit you out. But still, there are those days when everything goes pretty well. At the end of the day, you can put your feet up and relax with a sense of peace and contentment. That was today. We got up and got ready for church, as usual on Sunday. We were actually there on time (!) and got to park in an actual parking spot (as opposed to the made up ones where we try to squeeze our 12 passenger beast into a spot the size of a scooter). The kids were pretty well behaved. (If you were there, please pretend that you did not hear Jonathan tell Father Doug to “Shut Up!” in the middle of his homily.) After mass, Hannah was being trained to be an altar server. Brian took all of the other kids home and started lunch, while I waited for Hannah. Just sitting there, watching her so intently take in everything that Ron (the guy that was training her) was telling her made me smile. I just kept thinking about when we had her baptized. She was such a smiley, sweet baby. And here she was, wearing an alb and lighting the candles on the altar. She was just grinning from ear to ear as her feet swung an inch above the ground. She was growing up right in front of my eyes.

After her training was finished, we headed home. I was sure that the house would look just as I had left it, (like a tsunami went through) if not worse. I got out of the car and I heard it. The faint sound of the vacuum running. What?!?! The husband was grilling hot dogs, the table was set for lunch and the house was clean! If that wasn’t enough, the kids were all being relatively cooperative. There was little whining and complaining. And even Noah, who has a tendency to push every one’s buttons, was being angelic. He had actually arranged all of his “Jesus and Church stuff” on his dresser to look “fancy like church.” He had even made his little brother’s bed. All of this without being asked! I almost made a snotty comment about my family being abducted by aliens, but I caught myself. I decided to just go with the flow. Lunch was good and everybody seemed content. Brian, Dj and Jake left to go and play “Geezer football” with some of Brian’s friends from college. At the girls’ suggestion, the rest of us loaded up in the van and went to visit Mema and Poppy. It was such a nice visit. We sat out on the porch and chatted while the kids ran around the yard. We even got to visit with a couple of my aunts and my parents. My sister and her crew showed up too. All in all, it was a very pleasant visit.

Once we got home, I quickly got dinner ready to go into the oven and left it in Coley’s capable hands. I headed to the basement to workout on the elliptical. I was disgusting and sweaty and very happy by the time I was done. The kids had already started to eat dinner. It was a new dish and you never know how those will go over in this house. Let’s be honest, there are 11 of us. Mathematically speaking there is a better than average chance that at least one person will not like dinner. By “not like” I mean comments like, “EWWWW! How can you expect us to eat this?!” or “Is this even food?” or ” You know that I HATE (fill in the blank)! Why would you make me eat this!” Yes, this is an everyday occurrence around here. I have very thick skin, so I can take it. I usually just tell them to be quiet and eat it. But today, none of this happened. Every, single, solitary, one of them, not just liked dinner, but loved it! Thank you pinterest! My faith has been restored.

Baths went relatively smoothly. Everyone was jammied up and ready for bed. I took Jonathan back to his room to read him a few books in the hopes that I could get the little insomniac to sleep before everyone else needed to go to bed. (For the record this NEVER works. I usually end up sitting on the floor in the doorway of their room for at least 15 minutes until he finally falls asleep.) Well, tonight was the night of miracles. I finished the books, said prayers with him and kissed him goodnight. He stayed in his bed and actually fell asleep. Yes, folks! He fell asleep! (Of course, when Aiden and Noah went to bed, they woke him up. But even more miraculously, he went right back to sleep again!) The icing on the cake was when everyone else went right to bed. There was no screaming or chatting or fighting….just sleep. A.Maz.Ing!

So that leads us to now. I am in fact sitting here with my feet propped up and smiling. It is even a real smile. Not a delirious smile or one of those “I am so tired that I can’t even make my mouth frown because it takes too much energy” smiles. Nope. It was a good day and I am just going to revel in it for a minute. Ahhhhh

Besides we all know that tomorrow is a new day and anything can (and will) happen. Good night all!

I might be the only one…

I might be the only one. From what I have seen on facebook, I am. From what some of my other mom friends have said, I am. I feel kind of ashamed to admit it. But, I am pretty sure that I am the only mom that was very happy to see today come. By “today” I mean…da da da duhhhhhhh…the first day of school! Please know that I love my kids. I really, truly do. My kids are my world. Pretty much everything that I do is for them. But I LOVE routine, I NEED routine, I THRIVE on routine.I am not talking about strict, rigid, unchanging routine. Come on people, 9 kids equals flexibility! I am talking about a basic, “This is how most days will go” routine.  School requires routine. Bus schedules require routine. Nine kids require routine. Summer vacation is pretty much the exact opposite of routine, the antithesis of routine. Summer vacation and routine, not friends. We had a great summer. I really enjoyed spending time with my kids. I honestly did. We went to the pool and the playground. We went to the library for the summer reading program. We went to Vacation Bible School. It was a good summer. But, there was no consistency or routine. I guess that is what summer is all about, a  break from the routine. My oldest three kids worked two jobs a piece, so I never knew if they would be around or not. Jake played summer basketball, so that added another level of chaos. And let’s not forget the doctors and dentist appointments that we all had. And the fighting, the constant arguing and fighting. Yes, let’s not forget about the fighting. After reminding them for about the zillionth time that they actually do like each other, they sort of seemed to get it. (I hope!) Basically it was crazy, a good crazy, but an exhausting crazy all the same.We were all ready to get back into a routine.  Soooooo, anyway, today is a good day. Yay for school!

Here he is. My little boy is not so little anymore. Dj is a (gulp) Senior!

My beautiful, smart Dippin Dot…Coley, also a Senior!
(For the record, it is so extremely unfair that as a mom, the first time I have a senior, I have TWO of them. Really, really, really unfair.Just saying!)

The man, the myth, the legend…my Junior, Jake.

Wow…where has the time gone? 

An hour later I loaded another batch of little Houghlings onto a big yellow bus.

Noah, my big First grader. He was a little bit nervous about going all day, but I know that he will be fine.
My Third grader, Miss Gianna, was so “pumped” to go back to school. She cracks me up.

The always lovely, Hannah, heading to Fourth grade. She was super excited about meeting her new teacher.
Isaac, the big Fifth grader, was so happy that his best buddy, Gavin was in his class again. 

The crew

Look out Dayton Elementary…the Crazies are coming!
Ok folks, there you have it… the first day of school. Ta Da!  
In conclusion…Summer was great. I love my kids. School has started. I have 2 seniors (!?!?!). I only have two “littles” at home. Time for a new routine! Love to you all!

I barely survived… otherwise known as School Shopping Hough Style

I did it and I survived. Ok, I barely survived, but at least I have lived to tell about it. I bravely, (or stupidly), undertook the monumental task of school shopping with my kids, alone. Yes folks, ALONE! I know that many of you have taken your kids school shopping and have come out of it just fine, but let me remind you that I have 9 kids, 7 of whom needed  school clothes and supplies. I would also like to further explain that the older three did not come with me. They all had to work. Yes, that cut the number of kids from 9 to 6, but, (and this is a BIG BUT!) that meant I had no big kids to help out with my middles and littles. Just me, on my own, all by myself. Are you feeling bad for me yet?

After getting everyone up and fed and dressed we were in the van at 9:45 am. We had to make a quick stop at the library. We miraculously made it in and out in under 10 minutes, with a new book for everyone! We then headed to my mom and dad’s house. I had a “quick” doctor’s appointment and my mom had kindly agreed to watch the kids for me. My 6 minute appointment involved sitting for 60 minutes in the waiting room. (Typical at this doctor’s office. Some woman had the audacity to give birth at the same time that my appointment was scheduled! Can you believe it?! Some people sure have nerve… I am totally kidding of course. I made my fair share of women wait while I gave birth to my own little brood.) While I normally love the opportunity to actually sit and read, uninterrupted, I kept thinking about what the rest of the day held and I started to get  nervous. I was finally called back and saw my doctor for my super-quick appointment. Once that was over with, I went back to my parent’s to reclaim my kids and get the real “fun” started. They finished up lunch and I suggested that everyone make a quick bathroom stop before we left. Jonathan (my 2 year old who is starting to show some interest in potty training) jumps up and runs to the bathroom yelling, “I go bafroom Mommy! I do it!” I followed him to the bathroom and put him on the toilet. He sits with his legs sticking straight out, kind of like he is doing a split. It is quite a sight. lol Well, then my little angel face looks me right in the eye and says, “You get out now Mommy.” I said, “What?” He said, “You get out now Mommy, please.” I was torn between laughing or crying. I had never been kicked out of the bathroom by a two year old before. I shrugged my shoulders and walked out to the kitchen laughing. I told my mom what he said and figured I should check on him. I walked in and he is grinning, “I did it Mommy! I did it! I say, ‘Poot get out!’ and it did!” I looked in the toilet and sure enough, he had “poot” in the potty. I was impressed and he was ecstatic. I wiped him and helped him put his pants back on. He kept throwing his little fists in the air yelling, “WooHoo, I did it!” My mom and I were cracking up. I don’t think that any of my other kids have been so happy about going potty.

After the excitement of the potty experience, I was starting to feel like maybe, just maybe, shopping wouldn’t be so bad after all. The day was off to a good start. We had made it in and out of the library in under 10 minutes, the building was still standing. My doctor’s appointment had gone well. And my 2 year old was basically potty training himself. I was feeling a little bit cocky, I’ll admit it. I should have known better, but of course I didn’t. I loaded the kids into the van and we were off (like a herd of turtles). The plan was to head to Old Navy because their jeans were on sale for $10. Unfortunately the only Old Navy around is at Waterworks Mall, in Fox Chapel. (As a rule, I don’t drive to Pittsburgh unless it is absolutely, positively necessary. For example, when DJ was undergoing chemo, it was necessary. School shopping, not so much. But Waterworks is before you actually get to Pittsburgh, so it was onward and forward. ) We were heading down 28 and I saw the exit for Fox Chapel, number 8. I knew that exit 6 was the one that I had taken to get to Oakland to go to Children’s. And I thought for sure that the exit for the Mall was marked. So I figured that I would just take the next exit, number 7 and if it wasn’t right, I could just turn around. Well, here’s the thing. There was no exit 7 going toward Pittsburgh. Exit 7 was only coming the other way and I had missed the right exit, number 8 of course! We were heading right to Pittsburgh. Great. Thankfully, I am vaguely familiar with that area, because of all of the trips that I had made with DJ. I knew that there were a few places that I could turn around and head back up 28, the state police barracks being one of them. I pulled into the parking lot and turned around and my kids started to freak out. They were convinced that we were going to get arrested. It certainly didn’t help that a trooper pulled in right behind us. They were yelling, “Don’t speed Mommy! We don’t want to go to jail!” Thankfully we were not arrested and managed to find our way back onto 28 heading in the right direction this time. (Insert sigh of relief here.)

We pulled into the parking lot of Old Navy and I was faced with a choice. Umbrella stroller for Jonathan, or double stroller for Jonathan and Aiden…hmmm. The umbrella stroller is much easier to maneuver, but I wasn’t sure how cooperative Aiden would be. He promised me that he would stay right with me and behave. I, foolishly, believed him. Not only did he not stay with me, he was making a game out of hiding from me. My cockiness had pretty much dissipated by this time. After wrangling Aiden for the thirteenth time, I got a cart and made him sit in the front of it. Hannah offered to push the stroller, but Jonathan screamed if anyone but me pushed him. So she pushed the cart, much to Aiden’s protests. We went to the girl section first. We found a few pairs of jeans and some cute tops for each of them. Hannah even scored a couple of little dresses that looked adorable on her. We were making progress, but the entire time the boys were complaining about being stuck in the “lame” and “stupid” girl section. I was reminded several times that they are “men” and as such they do not like anything about dumb girls, especially their clothes. When the cart was about half full, we headed over to “man land” also known as the boy section. Again we hit the wall of jeans like it was our job. We found a couple of shirts for Noah and Isaac and then we went back to the (gulp) fitting rooms. Hannah and Gia had no problem going into one fitting room. I gave them all of their stuff to try on and they went to it. The boys were less enthusiastic. They absolutely refused to go into the same dressing room. (Apparently “men” don’t do that either.) Isaac grabbed his pile and headed to the only other open fitting room, which was of course as far away as he could possibly go and still be in the same store. I had to stand in the middle of all of the rooms with the cart and the stroller and supervise. Hannah came out with one thing after another that worked. Gianna didn’t have such good luck. The jeans that she got didn’t fit.(They were the wrong size, of course.) This shirt felt weird. That shirt looked dumb. blah, blah. After a few adjustments, she was happy too, for the moment at least. Noah found quite a few t shirts that he liked. But the jeans…that was another story all together. He couldn’t get them off. They were straight leg jeans and they were too skinny around his foot. I had to go in and yank them off of his feet because he had gotten them stuck. (Only Noah.) Isaac found a few things that he liked, so he was relatively happy. At least he was until I asked him to take Aiden into the bathroom. Sheesh, let’s just say that this 11 year old has perfected his exasperated sigh/eye rolling technique. I had had enough of Old Navy and I am sure that the feeling was mutual. I corralled my crew and we marched to the check out counter. I was trying to keep track of how much I was spending on each kid, so I asked the girl to ring them up separately. She asked me (each time) if I would be interested in signing up for an Old Navy card. To which I politely declined (each time). She also informed me of the return policy with all four purchases and told me to go online to fill out a survey…all four times. Ok, then. I am not sure if she has 45 second amnesia and forgot that she had just told me the same thing or if she was trying to annoy me as much as I am sure that we annoyed her. Either way, we were done. Adios Old Navy!

We were then off to the Mills. I managed to find my way out of the parking lot only to miss the ramp to get back onto 28…again. This time we pulled into a municipal building to turn around. By this time the kids were probably hoping that I would get arrested just so we didn’t have to shop any more. As we pulled into the parking lot of Walmart, I patiently (at least I was really trying to sound patient) reminded them that the only way we were going to have fun while we shopped was if they were patient. I reminded them that there was only one of me and there were 6 of them. So they would have to wait patiently while it was the other persons’ turn. What a waste of breath. Asking my kids to be patient is like asking a mosquito not to bite or asking a frazzled mother of 9 not to have a glass of wine at the end of her day. It just isn’t going to happen, folks. Not going to happen.

I strapped the baby into the cart and made everyone grab on to the cart and we were off…again. We walked through the maze of school supplies and picked up a few things and made our way to the clothing. We went to the boy section first this time. They each picked out socks and underwear. All of the basketball shorts were on sale for $4 so they each grabbed a few pairs with coordinating shirts. We then went to the girl section. The girls were looking at underwear and debating over the different types, boy shorts, briefs, bikinis, hipsters. Once they each decided what type of underwear they wanted, they had to decide what kind, Hello Kitty, days of the week, Tinker Bell…etc. Holy moly, what a life altering decision! After about 10 minutes of listening to the girls go back and forth between the this pack or that and listening to the boys moan and groan about being surrounded by (gasp) bras and girl’s underwear, I grabbed two packs, threw them in the cart and moved on. The girls each found a couple of cute things and we were satisfied, at least momentarily. I was starting to breath calmly again. Maybe we could get through this day after all and then I heard it. The growling moan that always comes before Aiden lets out a blood curdling scream. I turned around and he was hiding under a clothes rack shrieking. He wouldn’t look at me. He just kept hiding his face and screaming. Apparently Isaac and Noah had called him an “old grandma” and said that he was a girl and that I was going to make him wear girl clothes. Thanks guys, thanks. Walking through Walmart with six kids under the age of 11 isn’t enough to make people gawk and stare at us, so apparently they felt the need to torment their little brother to get the job done once and for all. While I was crawling under the rack to extract a devastated Aiden, Isaac and Noah were pushing each other around and Noah fell into a four way display rack and knocked off a rack of shorts. Seriously?! I said a quick prayer to the Blessed Mother asking for the grace to not commit murder in the presence of so many witnesses. I somehow managed to fix the rack of shorts, sort of. I turned around and all 6 of them had gotten very quiet. They were all looking at me and seemed kind of worried. I think that the fact that I hadn’t flipped out on them was scaring them. But I was determined to finish school shopping no matter what. I certainly didn’t want to have to do it more than once! I took a deep breath and said, ” We are checking out now.” They followed behind like little ducklings. Although they were cooperating I knew that it was only a matter of time before they all hit the wall and I lost control of the situation for good. I grabbed a few packs of crackers and a box of juice boxes. I needed some reinforcements. We got to the check out counter and started to unload our cart. I noticed that there were a few extra things that the girls had managed to slip in while I was distracted. One of them being a hideous shawl top thing. When the cashier tried to scan it, there was no tag. he asked me if I knew how much it cost. I told him not to worry about it. We didn’t need it. Well, apparently Hannah disagreed. It was her favorite shirt ever! Why couldn’t I go and find the price? Why was I so mean to her? blah blah blah. I just tuned her out because it was really ugly and very cheaply made. I paid for our things and we started to leave. Let me rephrase that. Most of us started to leave. Hannah was sitting down on a little bench outside of the bathrooms pouting. She refused to come. I again prayed for strength and walked back to her. I calmly informed her that if she did not follow me out to the car I would be returning every single thing that she had gotten and that I would make her wear sweatpants and a turtle neck to school on the first day. ( I know, I am the meanest mom ever, but I needed results. Don’t judge me.)  It worked and we made back to the van. We had one last stop. We were going to go to the main mall at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall.

I pulled my 12 passenger beast into a parking spot and got out the double stroller. I wasn’t falling for Aiden’s promises of good behavior again. My momma didn’t raise a fool! I strapped Jonathan in the back seat and Aiden in the front and we were off yet again. JcPenney’s was our first stop. The girls found a couple of things there and then Jonathan started to get bored. His little pack of cheese crackers became a weapon and he was chewing them up and spitting them at the kids. There were soggy crackers all over the floor. I told the kids to help me pick them up quickly and we checked out. We went into a shoe store and I managed to knock over a stack of shoes with the front of my stroller. Hannah restacked them for me and then tripped and knocked them over again. Once we managed to re-restack them we made our way to the kids section. Isaac and Noah each found a pair of shoes and we happy. While the girls looked for shoes Jonathan managed to scrounge up a few stray crackers and started spitting again. We cleaned them up, again. It was getting old and I was getting weary. We went to the check out counter and I spied them. My last ditch effort to bribe at least mediocre behavior out of them for a few last stores… lollipops. Could go either way. Keep them happy and quiet or cause a sticky mess, the likes never before seen by mankind. I was desperate and I bought them. Turns out it went both ways. The lollipops did manage to keep them happy and quiet for about 10 minutes and then it quickly disintegrated into a sticky apocalyptic disaster. Jonathan decided to use his lollipop and hit Aiden on the head with it. It was stuck in Aiden’s hair and when he pulled it out, several hairs came with it. It was getting really ugly really fast. I needed to kick it into high gear. We ran into Payless Shoes to try and find black flats for the girls. The sales girl in there asked me if all 6 of the kids were mine. I looked at her and forced a smile and said yes. I then told her that nobody in their right mind would take 6 kids that didn’t belong to them shopping…ever.  She thought that was funny and went on to tell me how exhausting it can be to babysit for her two nephews. I smiled again and said that I was sure that it was exhausting.  Seriously girl?!?  Whatever.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that anytime we passed a section in any store that had bras or women’s underwear, Isaac and Noah would scream, “EWWWW Disgusting! We can;t look at those gross girl things!” And close their eyes and grab onto my back. That was particularly fun when we walked past Victoria’s Secrets. The boys were shrieking and covering their eyes and the girls (who are sooooo much more mature) were saying, “They are just bras and underwear! You guys are so stupid! We don’t care if we see guys underwear!” Hmmm, that doesn’t really make me feel any better.

Our finally store was Sears Grand. It was the last chance for Noah to find a backpack. He was pickier than the girls were when they were picking out their underwear. He had to try each one on, and inspect each one carefully, every zipper, every pocket. It would have been comical if I hadn’t been so tired. The one that he really liked had skulls on it, which we do not allow. He tried to convince me that the skulls were barely noticeable because it had the absolute best pockets ever! Finally it was like the sky opened up and the heavens sang. He found it, the holy grail of backpacks. It was big enough, without being too big. It had tons of pockets and compartments. There were no skulls or creepy things on it. He looked at me and grinned. We have a winner! Thank you God!!! We were checking out the girls shoes and my cell phone rang. It was Brian calling to find out where we were. I didn’t even realize that it was almost 7:00 at this time. I told him that we were just finishing up and that we would get something to eat on our way home. He would need to fend for himself. I asked him if there was anything that he needed me to bring home. He sighed and said, “Just you.” I told him, “Trust me I want to be home a lot more than you want me to be home!” I hung up and  we paid for our final purchases made a last stop at the bathroom and headed out to the van.

When we got to the row that we were parked in there was a police car blocking the way and a couple of police officers standing around talking to a few people. The kids looked at me and Noah nervously asked if it was the same police officer that had been following us when we turned around the first time. I assured them that it was not. Apparently someone had tried to turn into the row and misjudged it. They hit the car on the end and pushed it into the car beside it as well as the car behind it. All three cars had been damaged and the driver just took off. What a mess. I got my kids loaded into the van and buckled. I unloaded our purchases and folded up my giant stroller. As I got into the van, a couple pulled in beside us. They got out of their car and stood right behind our van, which was running. They just kept standing there. We were stuck because they wouldn’t move. Aiden took matters into his own hands and yelled out the window, “Hey people move! We want to go home! Oh yeah, I mean please move!” They looked a little bit startled, but finally moved. At least he used his manners and said please, right? As I was backing out, I could see the policemen and the people that they were talking to all stopped talking and turned to watch me back out. I must tell you, I drive that van all of the time, but it is more than a little unnerving to have 6 people staring at me as I was maneuvering my beast out of our parking spot. Thankfully I didn’t have any problems.

We went to Sonic for a quick dinner which, thankfully went smoothly. I think that the kids were as happy as I was to finally be finished shopping. We were successful. It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done. We unloaded our purchases and the kids sorted out their things so that they could show their dad what they had gotten. The smiles on their sweet little faces made me almost forget what a disaster the day had been…almost. I poured myself a glass of wine and collapsed onto the couch, feeling productive and exhausted and thankful. I am thankful that the kids have some new clothes and shoes for school. I am thankful for new socks and underwear for everyone so that we can throw out the old holey ones. I am thankful for brand new book bags carefully packed with new pencils and crayons. And mostly, I am thankful to be done. At least I was until Jake asked me when I was taking them school shopping….a mother’s work is never done. Maybe the big kids can take turns pushing me in the stroller this time.

Three little words…

It’s just three little words…teeny, tiny words actually. So small, but SO very powerful. We can yearn for them, beg for them even, but they are meaningless unless they are given freely. As a mother, there are days when all that I want to hear are these three little words from my kids. It would mean so much, but often they go unspoken.

I am sorry.

 That’s it. I AM SORRY. What a difference it would make if we could all acknowledge when we have done something wrong or hurt someone. If we could just claim it and take responsibility. The simple act of saying your sorry is like salve to a wound. While it won’t necessarily undo what has been done, it is still so powerful, so healing. It is like saying, your feelings are more important than my pride.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. People (certain ones living in this house for sure!) by nature, don’t like to admit when they are wrong. They don’t like to think that something that they have said or done has caused pain or anger. I know that I certainly don’t like to admit when I am wrong, especially to my kids. But I like to think that by owning up to my mistakes, it might actually give me some credibility. If, as the mom, I not only take responsibility for my mistakes but also seek to right them, maybe just maybe, when I am sure that I am right, they will actually listen to me. Who knows, maybe not, but at least I know that I am trying to be a good example.

I remember being a teenager (well vaguely at least). I know that apologizing was certainly not at the top of my list of fun things to do. And, let’s be honest, nobody likes to think that they have hurt someone, especially somebody that they love. But it happens. We say things that we don’t mean and do things that we shouldn’t. Nobody is perfect. But the important thing is that we learn to acknowledge when this happens and step up and do the right thing.  It is never to late to apologize. In fact I still apologize (sometimes daily) to my parents for my behavior for the ages of 12 through 23.

There are many ways to say that you are sorry. You can write a note or a text. Give them a hug or a certain look. You can do something special for the person that you have wronged. These are all nice. But honestly, for me, nothing beats a heartfelt, look you in the eye, spoken apology. I am sorry. It takes so much to say those three little words. So much humility and honesty is required to utter those three little words. But in that moment a corner has been turned. The “power” so to speak has shifted.

There are three other little words that are equally important. They are also meaningless unless they are sincere. And they are just as powerful.

 I forgive you.

 Again, it is like saying, your feelings are more important than my pride. You are essentially saying, “Yes, you have hurt me but I have let it go. You are more important to me than being right.”

As a mom, I struggle to make sure that my kids learn how essential it is to not only own up to their mistakes and apologize, but on the other hand, to be merciful and forgiving. Hugs and apologies are a constant occurrence in this house. (Seriously, with nine kids someone is always wrong!)  But just as important and (almost) as frequent, are the returned hugs and the other three words. I forgive you. Sometimes you have to offer forgiveness first. And the apology comes later. It can be very difficult to get a two year old to apologize. Sometimes even more so with a 17 year old. It can be uncomfortable and embarrassing to apologize. But in that moment, we try to teach our kids that it isn’t always about them. We are called to put others first, even when it’s hard.

Statue for Theme Thursday…

I have been wanting to write a new post for a while, but it has been so busy around here and honestly my brain has been tired. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to write about and our stupid internet has been going out off and on forever! So when I saw that Cari’s theme for Theme Thursday was statues, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to get back in the writing saddle again, so to speak. Statues may be a kind of random topic, but I seem to have Cari’s addiction to statues and being Catholic is the perfect reason to feed my addiction. So many wonderful saints, so little empty space! lol

This is the statue that I chose for this blog. It is a statue of the Blessed Mother that my grandma, Mema painted. It is in her backyard nestled among her wild flowers and plants. It is in the center of her yard, much as she is in the center of our lives. I always feel as if she is watching over all of us.

One of my favorite parts of the statue is the way that the Infant Jesus is clinging to His mother’s hand. I have had my own little ones do that very thing. It serves as a gentle reminder that Jesus allowed himself to become not just a human, but a human in the most vulnerable form, a tiny baby. WOW! 

I just love it.
To see more amazing statues…head over to Cari’s.