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December 31, 2012

2012 "in review"

I saw Rebecca put up a year in review

 I did one last year and afterward thought, "well that's kind of silly because if people want to read those, they'll read them regardless of whether I put them up there in one post or not." But then, I did like having a "go-to" spot for myself where I reflected on the posts of the month and put them in one place. 

Therefore, again this year, I will post a year in review for 2012.

January -- In January, I found myself Pondering the Unknowable Future, ranting when I'm really not a ranter, but then settling down and reflecting on the grace that comes with midnight cuddles, and how quickly the first year of a baby's life flies by and that I really don't dislike what I always think I will.

February -- I laid it out there and explained why I prefer to kneel to receive the Eucharist, and Rebecca and I (and others) shared and declared that we were "The 98%"

March -- I took my civic responsibility to correspond with my elected representatives seriously as I wrote a letter to Senator Claire McCaskill taking her to task over her support for Planned Parenthood, the HHS Mandate and attacking the Catholic Church using her public office.

April -- I wrote a blogpost for iusenfp.com regarding the Marquette model of NFP and followed it up with a post exploring all the curiosity I experienced in the aftermath.

May -- I was a mess in May:  First I was discerning and pondering all things about NFP, Marriage, babies...then I was declaring that I didn't want any more children (see how that worked out, huh?)...then I was backtracking and revisiting and clarifying my stance on that.  Can we say...hormones???

June -- I guest-posted, and my Catholicism Nerd returned waxing philosophical on Altar Rails and Vincent turned 1!

July -- I used NFP Awareness week to its fullest! 

August -- So began my new role at my company and I was busier than all get-out.  Blogging time was few and far between!  But I managed to write about the changing needs of children and mothers as the family grows and grows up.

September -- I admitted to being an over-worked Mama!

October -- brought the revelation that I really was suffering some mild stress anxiety.  At the same time I was struggling with how to reach my pre-teen but also having fun with how cute she can be.

November -- crazy month at work and at home!  But the conversation happened:  Just how DO people afford to raise a large family these days? And, in the end, I announced that my large family was growing in 2013!

December -- I shared my Anxiety and Peace and ultimately addressed the elephant in the room about whether I was surprised at #6.

Off With the Old, On With the New -- Hello 2013!

I've been mulling an end of year / beginning of year post all day long.  A new year brings along...well, newness.  It's like a blank canvas and we're anxious to paint our story once again.  A new year is like a brand new coloring book and we can flip through all the outlined pictures and see that no one has scribbled all over this one or already colored that one.  We get to pick!  

There's so much about 2013 that will be the same for me:  Still a work-outside-the-home-mom; Still trying to figure out the preteen years, but potentially adding a second girl to hit those phases in this house; Still trying to grow closer to Christ -- whether it be continuing to attempt a Rosary every morning as I get ready for work, or making it to extra Masses during the week; Still confused about my relationships with my parents and how they impact the kind of mom I am.

There's so much that will be new in 2013, too.  The biggest new thing is another baby -- one thing I know from experience is how you can hardly remember what life was like before that baby once s/he is born.  Other new things include my first year as an officer at my company, my first year completely as a spectator with regard to my kids and their sports/activities.

I love to make New Year's Resolutions.  And I love to break New Year's Resolutions.

This year, I am really going to make a much better effort at making and keeping the following:
  • Stay caught up on my Reading the Catechism in a year.  I'm terrible about getting about 8 days behind and then catching up all at once.  So, every morning, I'm going to read that e-mail and stay caught up!
  • I'm going to blog on Wednesdays and Fridays.  If  a Monday post sneaks in there once in awhile, we won't cry about it.  But I think I can get something up on Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • I'm going to stay on the budget I create.  I was doing really good at this until about May of 2012.  Then, I started going all willy-nilly.  While we were able to absorb this, I just want to say...the picture ain't pretty when I go all willy-nilly on the budget.
  • I have a few private ones having to do with my food issues that I'm just going to keep private for now.  I've written enough by now that you probably know I have real issues with food.  Just because I'm not suffering from anorexia nervosa or bulimia does not mean I don't struggle with an eating disorder.  Mine just happens to be more socially acceptable for some reason.
I think I'd be a little bit untruthful to say that I wasn't nervous about what 2013 will bring.  I haven't had my first prenatal appointment so I haven't heard the heartbeat of this baby.  But, I've been religiously taking my injections like a woman (sitting here with ice packs on my bum as we speak!!) and I'm 10 weeks along.  I've finally stopped watching for my period to start and I think I've finally gotten a good grasp on the idea that I have 6 children.  

I'm anxious that I will have a newborn who is up at all hours of the night while I still have a just-turned-2-year-old who isn't a reliable all-night sleeper (yes, still have problems with baby boy Vincent these days).  I worry as I discern with Craig whether we should trade in our van for a vehicle that will seat everyone in our family or if we should just keep the two paid-for vehicles we have and carpool whenever the whole lot of us need to go somewhere.  

The new year brings excitement, joy and shiny newness.  

And the new year brings some anxiety.  

But one thing I've tried to do over the years is put all of that -- the joy, the excitement, the anxiety, the discernment -- at the foot of Jesus and trust that He will see me through it all.  

Photo Credit

December 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes - 36

--- 1 ---

So, the world didn’t end today. Or at least mine didn’t. How about you? I suppose we still have about 12 hours left in my world. I don’t think I’m going to worry too much about it.

**You know, it just occurred to me that I didn't respond in any way on this blog to the horror that occurred in Newtown, CT last Friday.  Truth be told, I just don't think I have it in me.  It's unfathomable, unspeakable and utter tragedy and I look at my baby girl, Helen, and can't imagine a world where it was possible that she wouldn't come home from school one day and we'd have to go on without her.  So, literally, I continue to pray for the children who died (and the staff), the families trying to go on without their family member, and all the people in Newtown, and in our country.  What a sad, unspeakable day in the history of our nation.

--- 2 ---
Truth:  If you allow your child, who is only 11, to view Instagram, chances are that something like this
(posted by a friend, that you know, who is someone she interacts with every day in person) will pop up in her feed...at which point, you will most likely end her access to Instagram because between this and other things that kids too young to handle social media do while using Instagram, you realize it is JUST. NOT. WORTH. IT.

--- 3 ---

On Sunday last weekend, the kids got to see Santa.  I was very surprised that Vincent walked right up to Santa and sat on his lap and played with the bells he was holding.  Not scared at all.  Makes me wonder if his interactions wtih my dad recently (who maintains a very Santa-like beard) had anything to do with it.

Dominic was his usual forthright self and talked with Santa with no problems.  At least this time we were able to get him to come on down when his turn was over.

Even Dani is still good with Santa.  :)

--- 4 ---
Sarah may not do the sit-on-Santa's-lap deal anymore...but she does like fooling around with the iPad and taking funny pictures.  The first one she took of herself.  The second one, I snuck in the other day as I noticed she was holding her volleyball while watching T.V. and I thought it was way cute.

--- 5 ---

Lately, Helen has been open to me messing with her hair.  At least sometimes.  In small doses.  The other night she let me braid her hair in two french braids.  I think she wanted the kinky-curl that comes from that, but I really like her hair braided regardless.  She is growing her bangs out, so I was able to get them into the braids, too.

--- 6 ---

Fatigue.  That is what I have in large doses these days.  I am trying to keep a few workouts each week going, but last night was not one of those and I literally fell asleep on the couch almost immediately as soon as I got comfortable.  Craig had taken Dani to swim practice so it was just me with the rest of the kids and I literally was just laying there unable to keep my eyes open.  Mother Mary, please help me get through the next 6 weeks with some coherence.
--- 7---

Christmas shopping and shipping has been complete for over a week.  Guess who's been procrastinating on the wrapping part of this season?  Holy Moly, this weekend is not going to be too much fun because I have GOT to get my wrapping done!!  I really don't want to have to do it on Monday.  Really. 

Our Christmas Eve will be spent with Craig getting some sleep, putting together a Ginger Bread Train, baking some cookies and/or pies, heading to 4:30 p.m. Mass and then heading to Grandma's.  Poor Craig has to work Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day night.  :(  But it's just the way the ball bounces sometimes.  *sigh*

Have a great weekend!  MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all!!!

Thank you to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting and be sure to go check out Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

December 19, 2012


So...is baby #6 a surprise?

Yes...and no.

If there is one thing Craig and I have understood since learning Natural Family Planning, especially if we weren't 100% sure before -- it is what causes pregnancy.  Truly understanding that to engage in intimacy during fertile days is to basically "ask" God for a baby is something we've been keenly aware of over the past 11 years.  Over the years, we have also learned that to simply "ask" God for a baby in this manner does not necessarily mean God will grant the request.

So, no...I'm not surprised in the "Oh. My. Goodness.  I can NOT believe I am pregnant!" way at all. 

We "asked."  

This time, God granted.

Over the past 4-5 years, I can think of numerous times we "asked" and God did not grant the request.  It's a fact that God doesn't grant the request for a baby for everyone every time they "ask."  As painful as it was at those times that God did not answer our request with a baby, I have often thought that it was a good thing that there were multiple months of openness before conceiving each of our sons -- it provided a window into what it is like to wait.  A small window, I will grant, and no -- I don't equate our waiting period to anything like infertility -- but it was a good lesson for me just the same.

I recognize a level of pride I held earlier in our childbearing years -- that simply engaging intimately during fertile days guaranteed a baby; believing I was pregnant before even half of the two-week-wait was over.  This is not healthy.  I was humbled by months of waiting only to find out I was not pregnant as we waited for Vincent.  

Over the years, I've often heard people call a surprise baby an "oops" baby.  As if a human being coming into existence was a mistake.  As children, we got two different takes from our parents about the children who came along after me.  My mother would often say that she never planned to have #3, #4 or #5 but that she couldn't imagine life without them.  My father simply stated to my sister when she asked him if she was planned that, "you kids were neither planned for or prevented."  Over the years, I have found comfort in my father's statement because it provides a level of honesty and responsibility without sounding like he wished he'd done something different.  At least the way it hits me it seems that way.  And as an adult, I come into contact with people who proclaim they knew they were not "planned" by their parents -- it was a mistake, or an "oops".  Maybe I take it too seriously or have just grown too sensitive to the matter, but it really breaks my heart to hear anyone refer to a person in this manner.  No matter what was planned by humans, each soul was planned by God -- for that time and that place -- with a purpose that only He can reveal.

I think I could safely say, though, that an element of awe, wonder and ... yes, surprise seem to accompany the revelation of a positive pregnancy test.  It is more a testament to the miracle of life than anything else.  In the instant that I see a positive pregnancy test, a flood of varying emotions hit me -- joy, excitement, trepidation, worry, disbelief, anxiety -- I could go on. 

This miracle changes everything from the minute we know about it.  My family dynamic has completely changed; Craig and I are the parents of six children; Sarah as a preteen and Dani as a "tween" are big sisters to another little one; Helen is no longer THE middle child, simply one in the middle.  Dominic is a big brother to more than just Vincent.  Vincent is now a big brother.  It changes the way I see each member of my family... instantaneously.

I think most people we know are over the surprise that we'd be open to another baby.  I feel some sort of exasperation from certain people.  I feel the worry from others.  I worry how my children really feel.  (For the record, I asked Sarah recently, and she said - in typical preteen fashion - "Well, I kinda thought we had enough kids..."  I simply responded to her, "Yeah, me, too, Sarah.  But I guess God planned at least one more for our family.")

I haven't said anything at work yet.  I plan to next month as the first trimester comes to an end.  WE have another very stressful busy year planned in my department, but I am sure we'll be able to get things in place so it will all run smoothly, even if it means I work from home during half of my maternity leave.  The best part is that I'm not really nervous about my boss (she's one of six and she is a twin!  She seems to be really down to earth about this sort of thing) and I think my work group will be excited.  And as I type that I think, "Yeah, who ISN'T excited about babies???"  But, I've experienced that side of it, so I know those people who don't really appreciate it are out there.

The questions will come.  People will ask if I "meant" to (get pregnant).  People will stare at me as I walk into the store with my five kids in tow and a bulging belly and make some mention that I must idolize the Duggars.  People will stick their nose where it doesn't belong and make value statements they have no business making.  It's part of the life I lead that I will be subject to that stuff.  Interestingly enough, I laugh it off so much better now than I did when I was newly pregnant with #4.  Back then it really got my back up to know people thought it was "too much" to have 4 children.  

No, I don't have all the snappy comebacks.  Although, I do like it if we're all out somewhere and someone asks me "Are they all yours?" and I am able to point to Craig and say, "Yup!  And all his, too!"

I guess I started rambling here...but in case you readers were wondering if baby #6 was a surprise -- I just wanted to say...this baby is one glorious, loved and expected...surprise.


December 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes - 35

--- 1 ---

Cute Story.  Monday, I picked the kids up from school.  The preschool kids line up outside of the office and when they saw I was outside to pick up the kids, they sent Dominic on out to greet me and wait for his sisters.  We were walking around and he says, "Mommy, guess what!?  It is December!"  I said, "That's right, Dominic, it IS December."  And then he says, "I'm so excited because Santa Claus is coming!!"  Oh my goodness, I love my little boy.

--- 2 ---
So, Craig and I went on our trip without kids last weekend!  It was so great to spend the weekend with Rebecca and The Man.  Spending three full days with Rebecca completely convinced me that we were meant to be sisters, but the geography didn't work out.  She has the gift of gab to match my own, she is competitive, passionate and doesn't mince words.  She married a man who can handle her, just like I married a man that could handle me.  I am so very glad I brought Craig along, instead of going by myself. 

--- 3 ---

On Friday, we walked through her part of Morgantown.  Walked onto Campus and saw some of the sights.  We were fortunate that we happened upon The Mountaineer (WVU mascot) in the Student Union!  Of course, we got our picture taken with him.  :)

--- 4 ---
We went to watch KU get slaughtered at the hands of the Mountaineers in football, but I must say, the fans were friendly and didn't get their noses out of joint because I refused to high-five their team's touchdowns.  They all seemed to understand that I wasn't going to be happy about us getting the raw end of the calls or getting trounced even though it was to be expected.  Many of them acknowledged that we (KU) would get them back in basketball.  I'm not going to lie, I enjoyed saying, "I think you're right." 

Oh and Rebecca has killer tickets:

--- 5 ---

Sunday was a fun, hang around and do nothing day.  Let's face it, Craig and I don't get those days...EVER.  So, we went to Mass, then had some breakfast and played Mexican Train Dominoes (way fun!), then watched some football and had some dinner.  Rebecca and The Man were great about taking us to local places that we wouldn't be able to experience anywhere else.

--- 6 ---

Of course, while we were gone, the kids were well cared for. I felt terrible that a stomach bug hit our house just as we were leaving.  Helen was home sick from school the day we left.  Dani had to stay home from school on Friday.  And the couple who was watching them saw their daughter succomb to the nasty bug over the weekend.  :(  I guess I am glad that my baby boys got it on the bookends -- Vincent suffered from it before we left and Dominic got it when we got home.  We only had one incident where a kid needed to talk with us to get through the day.  I got a text from our school office Friday afternoon to call if I could to talk with Helen. She was in the office, crying and "missing her mommy."  So, I talked to her for a few minutes, told her I needed her to be my "big girl" and take a deep breath.  School was almost over.  I'd see her Monday.  I guess it worked because I didn't hear from her again.
--- 7---

Monday brought our trip to the doctor for Craig to be refreshed on how to administer progesterone injections.  I'm happy to report that since I've treated the progesterone deficiency (beginning with Prometrium while still on our trip) the level of cramping has decreased to pretty much non-existent.  So, that makes me happy and relaxed.  I think the "shock" (for lack of a better word -- because let's face it, as well as I monitor things, it's hard to be shocked that we get pregnant...) of the pregnancy has lessened.  I'm not necessarily overwhelmed anymore at the thought that I've moved on to needing 2 hands to exhibit the number of children I have.  I'm definitely thinking a lot about the vehicle situation and room organization.  My kids are intent on picking a name even though we don't know the gender yet, and Sarah's made it clear that a baby really need not be a reason for us not to get a dog.  I'm mulling that as well. 

I feel a post coming on about what an additional baby means to the rest of the family, i.e., the older kids.

Have a great weekend!  Thank you to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting and be sure to go check out Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

December 3, 2012

Anxiety and Peace

Pregnancy can be filled with anxiety.  Especially in the early weeks.  Before I published last week's post, I was starting to feel happiness and anticipation about this baby -- which is why I just decided to let the whole world in on the news. 

But then, Tuesday came the next day.  Along with some cramping.  It wasn't "oh-I'm-doubled-over-in-pain" cramping.  But it was "hmmm-that-wasn't-like-that-before" cramping.  And then it was "this-is-ever-present-and-not-going-away" cramping.  So, I called the doctor and he recommended another blood draw the next day, which was Wednesday.  My doctor is not in the office on Wednesdays.  So, I knew results would have to come after that day.

Finally on Friday morning, I called and left a message for the nurse and Friday night, my doctor called with the (un) expected news that my progesterone level had plummeted in 2 weeks. Since we were out of town, we decided to get through the weekend with Prometrium suppositories and Craig would get a refresher on administering injections today.

Hence, there has been some anxiety within my heart for the past 72 hours.  Thankfully, I'm not someone who acts out anxiety with any sort of frantic measures and I am able to keep it mainly self-contained.  Perhaps it is because I have been here before.  Regardless, it is by the Grace of God I am not consumed by it.

I asked our priest to administer the Annointing of the Sick for me because of my progesterone-deficiency-induced state of risk.  I asked him to do it 2 years ago when I was pregnant with Vincent under similar circumstances and it brought peace as I finished out the first trimester and moved on to the point where my body wasn't responsible for producing the progesterone required to maintain the pregnancy.  Today, receiving the Sacrament brought peace again.  We're not out of the woods of course, and we have to do our part by administering the injections. 

There is something relaxing and peaceful about the prayer said at the beginning of the Rite, the oil administered to my forehead and hands, the laying of the priest's hands to my head and the blessing that follows.  I think it goes without saying that God knew what He was doing when He instituted these Sacraments as a physical way for us to experience His mercy and love.  We as Catholics are so blessed to have these physical encounters with Christ in those times we need to feel His presence the most.

And so, while the anxiety may very well return -- perhaps later today as we administer the first of the injections -- I will attempt to return also to this state of Peace made available to me through the Sacraments of my faith. 

I will offer up the anxiety and suffering that may result for all of those struggling to conceive or suffering from miscarriage.  I pray that by uniting my suffering with that of our Lord on the Cross, the good of the relief of suffering and struggle from infertility may be achieved.

November 26, 2012

Monday Mumbles - 36

It's another Monday. Mumble much? Yeah...me neither. :)

1. Remember TOOJE? the friend that started Monday Mumbles? Yeah, she doesn't blog anymore and I miss it, but I totally understand why. It's a commitment that I don't really have time for either sometimes! But...every so often, I think, "Man, I wish she'd post" and then I go check to make sure I didn't miss something...and find out that I didn't.

2.  So, I've been sitting on something for...like...12 days.  And I realize that I just can't sit on it any longer.

I'm pregnant and due late July.  (I told you...it's only been, like 12 days since I took the test!!)  I'm such a bad secret-keeper.  (more on that later)

3.  I'll have a more in-detail post(s) on the impending arrival of Hughes baby #6 I am sure.  But for now, I have to tell you how crazy it feels to be so open about this so early.  It's not really all the crazy, I mean, the baby exists whether I tell the world about him/her or not.  My last pregnancy was tumultuous through the first 12 weeks, trying to balance progesterone and maintain the pregnancy and all that jazz.  So far, I have had no issues with progesterone this time.  I count this a miracle, but I'm not out of the water yet.  I will have another round of blood work on December 3 that should give us a better idea if high levels of progesterone are here to stay with this little one.  I will gladly accept your prayers.

4.  Low progesterone and the accompanying fear of miscarriage was one reason I kept the news of Vincent's impending arrival quiet for 13 weeks.  Another was that I was in a very unfriendly inhospitable work environment when the topic of openness to children surfaced.  And, my insecurities re: family size and my state in life as a work-outside-the-home mom were still fairly intact.

With this pregnancy, I had strong showing in progesterone in my initial blood work, my work environment is completely different and I have shed my skin of insecurity to don a far more confident outlook on God's call to work-outside-the-home-motherhood.

5.  Furthermore, I wondered to myself, why do I want to wait until the first trimester is clear before announcing publicly that I am pregnant?  The baby is no less of a baby just because I am only 4 weeks from conception (6 weeks gestational age).  And if I were to miscarry, I would be very sad (I know that probably doesn't even touch how I would feel about it, but words probably can't describe, so "very sad" it is) to lose our little one, so I may end up explaining to people anyway about the pregnancy.  So, I decided that I just want to be happy about the baby and tell anyone about the baby and let them see and feel our joy.  Honestly, very few people are sad at the news of new life, I have found over the years.

6.  So...do the kids know?  Why, yes, I am so glad you asked!!  We took the fam out to get family portraits done Friday night and afterward, at dinner, informed the kids of their new sibling.  I could see the wheels spinning in Sarah's head.  I couldn't tell if she was calculating just how a new sibling impacted her personally, or if she was just trying to process the whole thing of being the oldest of six.  Dani and Helen immediately informed us that they hope they get a baby sister.  Dominic told me that he needed a baby brother.  Then he said, "I need a baby brother named Vincent."  So I told him, "Well, Dominic, you already have a baby brother named Vincent."  And he said, "Well...I need another one."  haha

7.  Last night, though, Dominic said to Craig, "I hope we get a baby girl.  hmmm.  I think we should call her Rebecca."  I thought that was so cute that I texted Rebecca to tell her all about it.  Then I thought about the fact that my Sarah is "Sarah Rebecca".  :)

8.  So...do my parents know?  Why, yes!  Yes, they do!  They were both thrilled to hear the news.  Here is how I told my dad when I called him to wish him happy birthday on Saturday.  As I was relaying all that was "up to date" in Kansas City, I said, "Well, we're gonna have one coming off the bench next summer."

My dad:  <silence> then, "huh?  what?"

Me:  "Well, you know, we got the basketball team covered, and now they'll have one coming off the bench sometime next summer."

My dad:  "Ha!  Really!  Wow!  What a surprise!!"

So, then I agreed...what a surprise, indeed.  A blessed surprise.

Following that phone call, I called my mother and let her in.  She was excited as well, and she said..."Wow, you're just going right on past 5 and having 6, huh?!?"  Yes, yes we are.

9.  So...does Craig's mom know?  Why, yes!  Yes she does.  Craig shared the news by phone with her last week.  He tells me that he thinks she was very surprised and she said, "Congratulations!"  Which, by the way, is really the only proper response, IMO!

10.  Oh and about those family portraits, let me share a few with you:
Our First Family Portrait including Vincent
Love our Jayhawks!

Sweet pic of my boys
Me and my girls

My girls!
All of my children

My girls!



Dominic and Vincent

First pic with Craig taken in probably 4 years
Vincent -- the best photo of him ever!

My five children




 I hope you all have a fabulous Monday!!


November 23, 2012

Quick Takes - 34

--- 1 ---

How was your Thanksgiving Day?  Are you the sort of person able to control yourself on days like that and -- even though you NEVER eat anything so good as cheesy-corn casserole or green-bean casserole -- you stick to the 1/3 cup serving and you leave the extra on your plate and you don't doze off into a carb-induced coma about 30 minutes after dinner? 

Yeah....me, neither. 

--- 2 ---
I spent most of my day (outside of the few hours in which I gorged myself on turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, casseroles and pie) cleaning my daughters' (#2 and #3) room.  That room had gotten beyond ridiculous.  They had trash everywhere.  And my laundry pile!  Oh my!  I pulled furniture out from walls, looked under beds and dressers and opened closet doors and my 3-load day turned into a 6-8 load day!!!  But, I just forced my way through, asking the girls questions ("Do you REALLY need this tattered piece of artwork you did 3 years ago?") and giving exasperated feedback ("No, we are NOT keeping Katy Perry posters on the wall!") and "Seriously?!?  NINE tootie rolls in your bed???").  I am VERY proud of how it looked when we all went to bed last night.  I was too tired to take a picture, though.  Maybe if, by some miracle, when I get home tonight it looks as good, I will take a picture.

--- 3 ---

No Black Friday shopping for me.  We did see that Walmart was going to have a 40-inch TV for less than $200.  We considered it and we measured our entertainment center to see if it would fit.  But in the end...we just don't need another TV.  Besides, Craig couldn't find the specs on it anywhere and he didn't want to go stand in line without knowing more about the product.  All in all, though, that's okay (about the shopping).  I am just not a very good shopper anyway.  I don't like crowds and I don't get "into" all this Black Friday stuff.

--- 4 ---
I REALLY like Sarah's volleyball coach.  First of all -- she's a mom of 5 daughters, so I think she's been-there-done-that with teenage girls, so she seems to have a very good way with the girls.  Secondly, she is tough.  The first practice she was preparing them by saying, "Well, this practice, is kind of a warm-up, but starting Tuesday, if I run out of balls in my cart - you run."  Or, "starting Tuesday, if you let the ball fall between you and you don't even try for it, we're doing push-ups."  Then, on Tuesday, she delivered.  I loved watching her work those girls hard, especially, Sarah.  I have a feeling she is going to get A LOT out of playing for this coach and from club volleyball.  she's already getting most of her overhand serves over -- and not even *just* over -- she is getting them to the back row!  I love it.  Her extra Conditioning workouts start this week.  It's going to complicate things since Dani has swim practice at the same time, but we'll figure it out.

--- 5 ---
Dominic is such a funny little boy.  Two things happened this week that brought this up.  First of all, I have a dear friend who has a son Dominic's age and she often will offer to take Dominic on Tuesdays (his day off preschool) to play with her son so Craig can rest.  She sent me an e-mail Tuesday night this week and said that she didn't think she'd take Dominic with her if she ever wanted to go anywhere "in cognito" because it seems that he knows people (or people know him) just about everywhere he goes.  They had stopped at a McDonald's and saw some people from our parish/school and she said the people approached them and she felt like perhaps they had looks on their faces like, "Hmmm, who is that strange woman with the Hughes boy?"  Of course, it wasn't a huge deal, but it made me think about the fact that we do seem to go lots of places and Dominic will get "high-5's" and hugs from people that I only very vaguely know.  He's such an extrovert. 

The second thing that happened was that a niece of mine called Dominic a "dude" and he told her, "I'm not a 'dude' I am a 'bro'!"  He is something else.

--- 6 ---
I need to get all sorts of things together for our trip next week.  I need to get medical power of attorney for the kids done, schedules for each kid made up, an over-arching schedule of our lives made up so that the family helping with our kids aren't too lost.  I can't imagine how it will feel for them to go from caring from 1 child to 6 for a few days, but they seem up for the task!
--- 7---
Looking forward to the whole weekend off with my husband able to be off, too.  I am working today, but Craig has time off through Sunday night!  What a blessing!  We are getting family portraits done tonight, probably get a little shopping or just dinner out done, too.  We'll do more housecleaning this weekend (I can't have someone coming in to care for my kids and leave a messy house!!) but we'll also be able to go to Mass whenever we want (we actually like Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m., but we often go to the Saturday evening vigil Mass.
Have a great weekend!  Thank you to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting and be sure go visit Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

November 20, 2012

Afford to Raise a Large Family?

It happens more often than I like.  The non-work conversation at work turns to kids and how many people have.  And if I choose to participate in this conversation and offer up the information they are dying for, that I have FIVE children...all of a sudden SOMEONE pulls the OMG! face. 

Photo Credit
The conversation can take a number of directions once my family size has been established and publicized.  

ONE:  "You don't look old enough to have that many kids."  This direction is ABSOLUTELY a BIG thumbs-up.  I highly recommend it to anyone searching for something to say to the lady who just admitted that she has 5 or more children. 

TWO:  "My hands are full with the two I got!  I don't know how you manage that!"

THREE:  "Are you <insert Catholic / Mormon / Crazy>????"  And be assured the answer has a 90% chance of being YES to any or all three.  ;)

FOUR:  The most recent discussion at work came from a well-meaning and most definitely not insulting question about just how people can afford to raise a large family.

I'll go ahead and tell you that if you think you're about to read an earth-shattering post about how we're raising our family, paying for activities and going to retire at 55 with plenty of money to live on, then you might want to move right along to the next pie-in-the-sky-dreamland blog you can find.  We are, by no stretch of our imaginations, wealthy.  We're only marginally self-disciplined with money.  We make ends meet and we work our butts off in the process.  We sweat out the bills from time to time, and there are those days we have to say "no."

But -- somehow, we have enough money to keep our family in clothes and shoes that fit, feed everyone enough to stay healthy, keep a roof over our heads, beds to sleep in, keep the lights on and ensure we are toasty in the winter and cool in the summer.  Sure, we do some things to keep our costs from getting out of control.  We keep the thermostat at 65 degrees in the winter and make sure everyone has some layers on.  We keep the thermostat at 76 in the summer and try to stay cool by going swimming, or just getting out of the house for activities.  I do hand-me-downs where I can (although my girls and their unique body types have made this difficult to do), consignment and thrift shops, and watch the sales.  At the end of the day, though, I'm sure there are many moms out there that could put me to shame with how much further they could stretch a buck.

The conversation at work started innocently enough.  I mentioned that I needed to buy Sarah size 9 Women's shoes when only 3 months ago, I bought her size 8.5 women's shoes.  (Yes, I checked and her toes were at the end of her shoes, and when we bought them 3 months ago, she had 3/4 of my thumb width of room to grow.  The girl just keeps growing and growing and growing.)  So, the question was asked, "Just how do people afford to care for a large family of children?"  This woman followed up her question with a back story that she was 1 of 6 children growing up and she had no idea how her parents did it either.  She also shared that most days, now as an adult, she can barely seem to keep herself in clothes, maintain her health with doctor/dentist visits and such.

Now, I'm the first to admit, there ARE financial reasons serious enough for some folks to limit their family size.  I'm not the person that's going to tell anyone who says they are avoiding pregnancy due to financial strain that if they would just manage their money right and make the right sacrifices, they could afford to have another kid.  That is irresponsible.  My husband and I have been at that point a couple of different times in our marriage -- it would NOT be a good time to be open to a baby because our finances were in shambles.  We were sad that we couldn't be open, but we worked hard to get to a point where we could.  And if we would not have been able to get to that point, we might not have the children we have -- but somehow, it worked out.

Sometimes, the finances aren't spectacular, but it's not a dire situation, and God blesses a couple with a baby.  And that has happened to us.  And this is what I said to the woman at work and what I've said to others who have asked me.

We're not rich, but we're making it.  We do what most people do and just put one foot in front of the other every day.  We go to work, we come home and care for our family.  We're blessed to have our jobs and we're blessed to have our Catholic parish and school that is supportive of large families.  Yes, the big expenses come about -- Orthodontia, Glasses/Contacts, Club Volleyball, Club Swimming, Ballet Tuition, etc -- but we still just take it one thing at a time.

Our orthodontist has a program that allows us to pay for subsequent children and their orthodontia at the rate of the first child.  So, even though their prices may increase, we are locked in for the rate we paid with our first child through their services.  Vision insurance is a steal when it comes to a family the size of mine.  The co-pay for annual check-ups is only $10 and then the co-pay for frames is $35 and they pay for lenses (up to $150) every 12 months.  Now that we have my husband, me, and two children in eye-wear, we're reaping dividends from having vision insurance.  The medical bills for actually having a baby is still pretty steep since we have a QHDP insurance program and pay 100% out of pocket for non-preventive services up to our deductible.  But once the deductible is hit, the insurance picks up everything 100%.  I'd like to see the Catholic high school come up with a better discount program for 2nd child at the school and plan to negotiate that should we seriously consider sending our children there, but there's always the option for public high school and we live in an excellent school district.  

And honestly...college is just gonna hafta be on the kids.  First of all, who knows if college is the right direction for all of our children.  My husband wasn't cut out for college and he has a great job making a good living without having gone through the expense of college.  I put myself through college (albeit ending up with some debt along the way) and it didn't kill me.  Perhaps there will be scholarships available or military academy appointments...you never know!

All of this to say that it's not impossible to raise a large family.  Sure, it's expensive, but it's expensive to live anyway.  No, my kids don't get EVERYTHING.  They have to pick and choose the one or two things they really want to do.  Just like anything else in life, raising a family and how we all pay for it is rooted in our priorities.  And my kids will live if they don't get the high school prep education that costs a small fortune.  Or maybe I can negotiate that steeper discount and make that work.  

And the most important thing I hope my kids learn growing up in our family is that family is the priority.  Family will be there for you whether you have money or you don't; whether you get to play special sports or you don't; whether you go to college or you don't.  We were poor when I was growing up, but I don't remember being unhappy about it.  I have more happy memories of sitting around playing cards with my siblings than I do griping about what I didn't have or get to do.  

And that is my prayer for my family.


November 19, 2012

Monday Mumbles - 35

Well, with an end to the blog break, and it being Monday and all...here are 10 random thoughts to begin your day. Enjoy! 

1.  Am I the only person who notices when families at church seem to have children that match up in ages to most of mine?  I think it's cool, but I wonder if I'm kind of a dork to ever take note or point it out.

2.  Speaking of that...a family that had their first four around the same times we had our first four, then had #5 nine months before we had #5, just had #6.  

3.  Another family that has multiple children that fall right where our children fall (got one in Sarah's class, one in Helen's class, one that will be in Dominic's class and one that will be in Vincent's class) invited our family over for after school play on Wednesday.  I have to work, and Sarah has a Challenge thing to do, Vincent will be at daycare, but Craig and the other kids will go over.  That should be fun!

4.  I'm having a hard time believing it is time for Thanksgiving already.  This year has gone by so fast.  I know it just gets faster the older we get, but sometimes I just want to make time stand still for a bit so I CAN enjoy the moment!

5.  It is just under 2 weeks until Craig and I are taking a trip.  With no children.  That is going to be so crazy.  We are so blessed to have good people that we trust who offered to swap child-watching duties this year for trips without children.  (We kept their daughter while they had a trip earlier in the year.)

6.  The last time Craig and I went anywhere overnight without children was when Dani (who is now 9 years old) was 6 months old.  It's been far too long.

7.  I'm debating whether to take odds on which one of us cracks first and admits 96 hours was just too long.

8.  One of my most favorite parts of the upcoming trip is that I get to also spend time with Rebecca (The Road Home).  Yes...we are flying out to spend the weekend in Morgantown, WV!!  Wheeeeee! 

9.  Another added bonus is getting to see KU play football.  I'll grant you, watching KU play football is nowhere near as fun as watching KU play basketball.  But we'll just not talk about that.

10.  I'm off for another busy, fun-filled day at the office.  I really do enjoy my new job -- my new boss, my new group, the work itself -- all are wonderful.  I just hope someday, the e-mails and meetings slow down enough to enjoy what I've got!!


November 18, 2012

Unintended Blog Break!

I didn't mean to be absent for this long. But I think it was inevitable. There has just been too much going on and I have not had time to devote to anything but what was right in front of me for the last few weeks.

By way of update:

The big conversion at my job went down.  It wasn't as smooth as I would have liked, but it was done.  And we are still having to deal with some ramifications of "hosting" a system rather than owning the system we work on, but all in all, the transition was a success.  It required quite a bit of heavy hours for the first 10 days of November.  Actually, I worked so long on November 1 that it felt like 2 days instead of just 1!  (This bit of information will be helpful in future posts.) Honestly, I don't think all of the long hours are quite over yet.  My days are still full from beginning to end.  And the never-ending influx of e-mail is something I have not gotten used to.  I have remote access now at home, but I find it difficult to actually sit down in the evenings to get anything done.  The weekends are iffy, too, but more likely than the evenings during the week.  And, as my company no longer issues blackberries, they have given me an app for my iPhone so that I have unlimited access to my e-mail right at my fingertips.  I'm still trying to figure out if this is a good thing or not.

I couldn't have made it through any of it without my husband.  He's been wonderful.  He has helped keep me sane by keeping the house mostly clean (at least the common areas), helping get the kids places and providing me solace when I do finally make it home.

Sarah made a volleyball team!  I am very excited.  She will practice 3 hours a week, plus get some conditioning one-on-one with a personal trainer once a week.  She will play at least 5 tournaments.  I am impressed with her coach, too.  It made me feel good to watch their first practice while she required running, pushups, two-foot jumps and wall jumps from the girls -- because I tried to get the girls to do that on my team, but was often met with resistance.  Sarah also made the "B" honor roll for 1st quarter.  I am not necessarily displeased...but I know she can do better.  And, wonder of wonders, this girl just keeps on growing.  She crossed right over the 5 foot mark in the last 6 weeks and stands at 5 feet plus 3/4 of an inch.  Her feet grew another half size.  I had to buy her some volleyball shoes and I checked the size 8.5 women's I bought her for the beginning of school (only 3 months ago!!) and her toes were right at the end.  So, up a half size for her! 

Dani got excellent grades 1st quarter and continues to do well with swimming.  I took her to a well-child check-up this past week and we discussed with the doc her ongoing tummy troubles.  She had put a check on her calendar on every day she had a tummy ache.  Over 35 days, there were only 4-5 days with no check mark.  :(  Poor baby.  They took a blood sample, a urine sample and an X-ray.  Nothing came back on the blood, but the X-ray showed a problem in her colon.  So, she's going through a 9-day colon cleanse.  On top of that...while we're cleaning her out, I decided we probably ought to officially take her gluten- and peanut-free.  So, I spent some time Sunday at Trader Joe's picking up some gluten-free things that could help us transition for her and then cleaning out our pantry and making a special "gluten-free" shelf for Dani.  Everyone knows that anyone can eat from that shelf, but Dani knows that is "her" shelf where the "safe" stuff for her is to be found.  She's being a really good sport about this and I keep reminding her how much better she'll feel after it's been a week or two with no gluten or peanuts.

Helen has been the social butterfly this month.  There have been multitudes of birthday parties for kids in her class and she has had a blast!  And recently, I have noticed just how long her hair has gotten.  She's been growing out her bangs...which now come to right above her chin.  But the bulk of her hair hangs to her waist! 

Dominic is reading.  I was typing a bit this weekend and he came up and asked me what several of the words meant.  Not "what is that word" but "Mommy, what does (word I was typing) mean?"  Crazy.  He will be 4 in January!  He's a very sensitive and loving child and seems to have adjusted very well to preschool.

Vincent is as crazy as ever.  I am finally getting him into his crib around the same time all the other kids go to bed.  Most times he still fusses for a bit, but at least he eventually gets himself to sleep.  He likes to walk up to just about anyone and hit them.  I think he thinks he is being funny or that these are love pats or something, but they really do seem to hurt and I need to get him to stop doing that!  He will say, "Ma-ma!" or "Whoa!" but not much else.  He is a squawker and he gets what he wants because "Ma-ma!" just wants him to be quiet!!!

So, there's an update.  I am not sure if regular posting is in the future or not, but I have a couple of posts started with ideas for others popping into my head, particularly around the WOTHM vantage point.