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August 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dani (2013)

I promise this is not a birth story. I already did that, Here.)

Dani at dinner with her Fried Ice Cream last night
Ten years ago today, it had rained beginning on a Friday night and had rained non-stop Saturday. It actually continued to rain through Monday that Labor Day weekend. It was that heavy, rain that is heavy enough you know it is going to last a while, but not torrential or anything (in our region).

I found out from my doctor on Friday, August 29, 2003 that my pregnancy was continuing fine (due date was September 11) but that I had low fluid. He said if I didn't want to drive to his office every other day for the duration of the pregnancy to get that checked, he was okay with inducing -- the baby looked fine and ready for that. So on Saturday, I set about grabbing the last few things we needed from the store (in the heavy rainfall), toting Sarah around with me. Craig was working his part-time shift so it was just the two of us. We went to Mass, then dropped Sarah off at her Grandma's and headed to the hospital for induction.

Dani was born on a Sunday. And it was Labor Day weekend and I got so much attention at the hospital that I wondered if I was the only person who had a baby that weekend. :) 

Raising Dani has been my first experience with the mommy-guilt associated with splitting time and attention between two children. Of course, since we've gone at this having children thing a total of six times now, you can see I got over it. But a wise man, a father of eight, calmed my fears one day when I mentioned to him how I felt guilty that Dani wasn't getting the one-on-one attention Sarah had gotten and wasn't learning her letters and colors as fast as Sarah had. He said, "Michelle...Dani was born into a situation with a built-in best friend. She doesn't need 100% of your time and attention because she has Sarah." There was more to what he said, but that's the gist of it and I couldn't be more pleased that I adopted this mindset because having more children has never caused me the anxiety that I could have imagined back then.
A couple weeks ago, holding her cousin, Gunnar
At 10 years old, Dani is my child that most loves just BEING who she is at the time she is. She doesn't aspire to be five or ten years older than she is. She doesn't WANT to grow up quickly. She enjoys the present more than anyone I know. She teaches me daily what it means to live in the present, to eschew the past and not pine for the future. It's such a blessing to watch her enjoy playing with dolls, reading fantasy books, continue the imaginary play long past the point that Sarah did. 

Dani's faith seems to me that she truly embraces the idea of a "child-like" faith. She is not as serious as Sarah always was. Dani has the element of joy that comes with her faith experiences. 

Unfortunately that means that when the less pleasant aspects of our human lives infringe on the joyful, Dani takes it harder than the others. The funeral for Gregory was something that touched Dani in her sad realm. It destroyed just a tiny bit of her innocence, but I like how she found the positive quickly thereafter. I remember taking Dani and her sisters out for dinner the Sunday after Gregory died. Dani was talking about sharing with a friend at school her sorrow at losing her baby brother. But then she said, "And then I realized, it's really a great thing...I have a brother in Heaven interceding for me directly to God! Isn't that really cool, (friend)? My family has our own little Saint!" And it brought tears to my eyes then and sobs to my chest, but now it still brings tears to my eyes but a smile to my face.

My sweet, serious, sensitive, smart girl. I love her so much and am so amazed at the beautiful young lady she has become!

Happy Birthday, Dani!!

Happy Birthday!!!!!

August 26, 2013

Monday Mumbles - 53

Let's try to get back in this groove...it's Monday, so let's mumble.

1. I am really out of touch about football this year. The Chiefs have been playing preseason games, but I have no idea how they look. I usually like to watch NFL, but I am really out of it this year.

2. We hung out with some friends Sunday and seeing as there were lots of girls around, there was a spa set up in someone's room. A spa that did pedicures and also styled little boys' hair. :)

hair all slicked back (or over, or whatever they did)

Here's the top view
3. I really slacked on the running last week. Goodness, not a run at all the whole week! I don't think I should count doing the cross country workout Dani did Thursday because it was only a few hill repeats and I skipped out on some of the stretching and such.

4. I did, however, get a long walk in with a friend on Saturday morning. Then I came home and went with Dani on a run that was just over a mile. And then Dominic wanted a turn to run with me, so we did a half mile run. It was fun!

5. I feel like doing one of those "let's get real" posts where I take a picture of my house as-is and then I clean it up and do "after" shots. It's always a lesson in humility, isn't it?

6.Two things I was really good about getting my kids as they got ready for school: shoes and haircuts. Sadly, those are two areas where I really need to do something for myself (running shoes and a haircut/style), but I'm not sure the schedule or the budget allows just yet. Sigh.

7. Oh! I don't think I mentioned...not enough girls in Sarah's class went out for volleyball this year, so she is playing "up" to an 8th grade team. I think she'll do just fine, it may be a  good experience for her.

8. I'm glad there is a long weekend headed our way. I'm feeling kinda burned out on work right now. Nothing specific, just in general.

9. Maybe that will change when I have lunch with my new-found Mentor this week. I'm excited to finally have this because I am hopeful it will provide some much needed direction for me in how to approach the coming years at my company.

10. What's up for your week? Kids back at school? Or did you start your home school yet? Any plans for the upcoming holiday weekend?

Here's a picture I snapped of Vincent. This kid is SO BUSY!! He is always into something!!

Have a great Monday!!

August 25, 2013

Saturday Evening Blogpost?

It is time for the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther

It's been over a year since Elizabeth Esther hosted (and I participated in) a Saturday Evening blog post. I actually had stopped looking for it on the first Saturday of the month! I'm so glad she's doing it this weekend and am participating by sharing my favorite non-Gregory-related post from 2013.

Please go visit Elizabeth Esther to meet some other fabulous bloggers!

August 24, 2013

What Now?

All week, I have come to this blog thinking it was time to write something. But then, nothing would come, so I just left it alone. There seems to be something boiling just under the surface right now and I can't figure out what it is. I have the feeling that I want to write something and share something, but I just don't know what it is!

Last week, I ran a half marathon with Rebecca in Mahomet, IL. It was a lovely weekend. I really needed the time with her. It's crazy how much we have in common and we continue to find so many similarities in our upbringing. It often amazes me how she and I have this relationship where we talk about things like we've known each other all our lives. I don't know if she feels that way, but I thought about it on the drive home Sunday. It's not JUST like when I get together with a sister, of course, but it's really darn close. And, I see a lot of myself in her with her journey. I admire the way she has handled her challenges in life, knowing that I would have a really hard time handling it as well as she has.

Arriving to the area
Before the race!
It was really cool that she got a PR in the race. I decided that I really should accept it as a PR for myself, too. Because the last time I had run a half marathon was almost 5 years ago, so I think it counts that I could start over with PR's. :) We walked everywhere throughout the day which helped our muscles recover. We got pedicures, ice cream, went to Mass, I even got to go to confession beforehand!

Anyway, now that I've run that race, I am not as motivated to get my miles in it seems. I had a hard time getting out of bed this week. But, I got a walk in with a friend this morning and a run with Dani and then a little half mile jaunt in with Dominic. So maybe I'll get going again.

School started this week. I am glad we are back to the school routine. There's something about getting everyone up and out of the house for the day that feels....cleansing or something. There's something about missing my kids in the evening because they are busy in an activity or doing their homework that feels strangely -- right.

My school kids on the first day
Maybe it is the aging of our family that occurs every single day. Sarah has continued to mature physically, emotionally, and maybe even spiritually. We don't have big discussions on the meaning of life or anything, but she enjoys adult humor a bit more and she recognizes the wrongs and the rights a bit more readily. Dani and Helen are getting better about keeping their room tidy, taking responsibility for their things and even getting along with each other. Dominic is reading and startles me at times with his ability to start a conversation. Vincent is talking more and although it is very clear he knows what potty-training entails and could be quite successful, he has made it very clear that he will be calling the shots on that.

I still feel like we have a gap, with Gregory gone. Although, to be honest, it's gotten MUCH better since the due date passed. I've even thought that I feel good enough to stop counseling. I'm not crying at EVERY Mass, though, last week as a lovely family with four boys sat in front of Rebecca and me at Mass, one of them seemed so much like Vincent and there was a baby the mom was wearing and it reminded me of what I don't have right now. So the tears came then as I thought about my empty arms and the hole in our family where Gregory would have been.

Sometimes I wonder ... will that hole be there, even if we were to be blessed with another baby? I guess I'll only know if that happens. Obviously, there's no replacing Gregory. I get that. But I wonder how my feelings about everything would be different if we had another baby or if we never had another baby. Of course, it's up to God and our discernment as far as that goes, but it's something I've thought about over the past few months. It's kind of like my questions before about how I might know our family was complete? and is "complete" a moving target? I know these are the sorts of questions that I am left to ponder with Craig and with God, so writing them here is mostly a rhetorical exercise. But perhaps it's at the root of why I have had a block recently in my ability to write anything.

Dani holding my nephew, Gunnar
(Rebecca confirmed for me what I was thinking -- that I don't get enough pictures of Dani on this blog. She shuns the camera for the most part, but every now and then, I get a good one.)

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a twitter chat with several folks (using hashtag #nfptalk) when I realized there are a few posts left unwritten with regard to NFP as far as I am concerned and I'd like to share that. But, the concepts remain spread out all over my brain with no order to them, so they remain unwritten. 

Sometimes a little blog break is necessary. I think I've come to accept that this blog, while read by a decent-sized audience, will probably never be like some of the blogs I really admire (Conversion Diary, Moxie Wife, Camp Patton, Shoved to Them, to name a few). So, it's really not that big a deal if I go a few weeks with little to no action around here.

I do want a new design though. About two weeks before we lost Gregory, I had reached out to Kelsey about that, but then everything happened and it completely fell off the radar. So, while I'm at it -- anyone have any opinions on Blogger vs. WordPress? Or Design recommendations? And...I'd really love to figure out how to do it myself instead of paying someone, but when I tried that before, I realized it was NOT my strong suit. :)

Okay...time to end the rambling. This post is all over the place!! Perhaps I'll be back on my game and you'll get some Mumbles out of me this week. :)

August 16, 2013

7 Quick Takes 59

Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting!
--- 1 ---

I am really excited as I write this post. You see, I will be leaving in about 12 hours to drive to middle-of-nowhere (Mahomet) IL to meet up with Rebecca from The Road Home to run 13.1 miles on Saturday morning! Yay!

--- 2 ---

I know, I know...celebrating the opportunity to run 13.1 miles on a Saturday morning might be poor form. But seriously!!! How cool is it I get to see my sister-from-another-mother this weekend??

--- 3 ---

Turns out that Sarah will have to play "up" to play 8th grade level volleyball for parochial league this school year. It won't hurt her any...it will probably help her to improve even more, but it was a bit unexpected. Go Sarah!!

--- 4 ---

On Jen's recommendation, I began watching Breaking Bad this week. I watched the Pilot episode Wednesday night and I am planning to watch the rest in short order. It looks very interesting and I am hooked, I guess!

--- 5 ---

While discussing NFP on Twitter last week, I realized that I had never written a post on the things I do that make using NFP to space pregnancies easier! So...yeah, that's in the works. :)

--- 6 ---

I realized middle of this week that we got an extra week of summer vacation this year! Oh yeah!! I think that's good. It seems that school has started way too early these days for elementary, anyway!!

--- 7 ---
Looking forward to a blog post full of updates and pics of Rebecca and me doing our half marathon this weekend!! yaya!!!

Be sure to go check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes Posts!


August 15, 2013

How This Mom Survived a First-Ever Pageant Weekend

I had no idea what adventure was about to begin when we received an invitation in the mail for Helen to attend an “open call,” back in April. I filed the paper, went to the online web address and entered the information accepting the invitation. When we found out Helen had been selected as a “State Finalist” and would indeed have the opportunity to participate in the pageant, it changed the game up a bit.

Ribbon and Certificate of NAM State Finalist
Here are five things I did to survive this experience with my daughter's self-esteem and dignity intact: 


I decided to work with Helen to settle into our definition of success. Of course, if Helen won the pageant, it would be a huge success by any standard. But given the fact we had never participated in something like this before, I didn't want that to be how we determined success. I decided early on that this would be a successful endeavor if Helen had a positive experience. 

I didn't think about this initially, but over time, I decided I wanted to avoid disappointment and tears. Based on the ways Helen's overall score would be determined (Personal Introduction given to a room full of people she would not know, on stage, with a microphone and a spotlight; Interview; Modeling a formal dress onstage, again with a spotlight), I was sure to let Helen know that I believed the simple fact she completed each of these tasks was a success story!


I wanted Helen to come up with her own words to introduce herself because I wanted her to fully commit to whatever she was going to say on stage in front of many people she didn't know, with a microphone in her hand and with a spotlight shining on her face. I also wanted her to be able to remember it. 

While we prepared for the interview part of the pageant, we focused on the interview questions provided to us in pageant information packets. I encouraged Helen to come up with answers that kept a conversation going. For instance, one of the questions was, "What is your favorite animal at the zoo?" When Helen told me the zebra was her favorite, I encouraged her to come up with an answer like, "My favorite animal is the zebra because..." and she would tell me why the zebra was her favorite. 

And, as far as formal wear was concerned, I knew the First Communion Dress that Helen would wear this coming school year was formal enough and would look fabulous on her. I also figured she would be most comfortable in socks and shoes she is accustomed to wearing, which meant cute, lacy/frilly socks and white shoes with little-to-no-heel that covered her toes. Items appropriate for a 7-year-old, in other words.

The point of all of that was to help Helen feel as much like herself as she could while doing some things that fell very much outside her comfort zone. 


When working with Helen in the days leading up to the pageant, we talked about how she would be successful if she spoke loudly and clearly -- enough so that I could hear and understand her -- and confidently. We didn't strive for entertainment, but simply to showcase Helen's ability to speak publicly and cultivate her sense of poise.

Throughout the day of the competition activities (Friday), I continued to affirm Helen and tell her how proud of her I was. What she was doing was NOT easy. There were many little girls who didn't say much more than their names into the microphone for their personal introductions. A few girls forgot the very carefully written/prepared bits that someone had worked with them to memorize. One poor little girl had an older brother escorting her during her formal wear exhibition that very clearly wanted nothing to do with a pageant. She was unable to maintain her composure while he sneered and yanked at her trying to get off the stage as quickly as possible.

Friday evening, after dinner and as Helen was about to fall asleep, I told her again how I was proud of her. I reminded her that the next day, no matter what, I wanted her to remember all she had accomplished and find no reason for crying or disappointment. I spoke to her of this at breakfast Saturday morning. And again, during and after the rehearsal for the dance number they taught the girls to perform at the beginning of the pageant finale, I reiterated how much success she had on Friday.

The National American Miss Pageant named 30 "semi-finalists" and those little girls were called to the stage and given a rose by the reigning Miss Missouri Princess. One of those 30 was to be named the 2013 Miss Missouri Princess. 

Helen was not called to be a semi-finalist. I watched as she looked around to see other little girls who were upset not to be called to the stage. I wondered, briefly, if Helen would join them with the tears. 

But she looked up at me, and took my breath away with her sweet smile as she said, "Mommy, I love you so much." I gave her this huge hug and I told her I loved her and that I was so glad she had fun over the weekend.


We made the weekend all about Helen. We did not bring the entire family. The National American Miss Pageant people said the weekend was "fun for the whole family" but the cost of everything made it pretty clear they weren't talking about a family of seven. 

But that is okay. Helen is the kind of kid that needs complete focus and attention from her parents once in awhile. This weekend provided an opportunity for Craig and me to give every bit of our attention to her for 48 hours. 


In the end, our goal was to have a positive experience, which meant it had to be all about the fun. I'm not going to say it was easy to do it this way. It took diligence on my part not to get caught up in the competition aspect of everything. 

Ultimately, I am glad we did the pageant. Every time my baby was up on the stage doing something, AND BECAUSE SHE IS MY BABY, I thought she was the BEST one of them all! Even though her personal introduction was not designed to entertain, I grinned and laughed and was entertained! Even though we hardly practiced walking around in formal wear before the pageant, I watched and saw my daughter confidently walk out on stage and smile confidently at a panel of judges whom she had never met in her life, AND BECAUSE SHE IS MY BABY, I thought she looked the most comfortable on stage of any of the girls I watched!

For 48 hours, her star shined the brightest and reflected the most in her mommy's eyes.

That is the only thing that mattered to her anyway.

August 12, 2013

Monday Mumbles - 52

Happy Monday everyone! Hope you had a great weekend. How 'bout a few mumbles?
1. We had a good time at the pageant this weekend. I have a post I'm working on about how this non-pageant-mom-person survived complete immersion in pageant weekend.

2. For a first time pageant contestant, I thought Helen did extra-special awesome!

3. I think she really enjoyed being the focus of her Mommy and Daddy's world for a couple of days, too.

4. The little girl who was right next to Helen all weekend long was the girl who won! Helen really liked this little girl. Her name was Sienna, and she and Helen had a blast together all weekend. When everything was over and I got Helen changed out of her dress, she wanted to stop and give Sienna a hug and tell her congratulations.

5. I am going to brag on my Helen, here, too. She didn't cry at all when she wasn't selected as a semi-finalist. (Yes, the fact I mention it means there were plenty of tears around us.) We came to the weekend to have fun and to have a positive experience and that is exactly what we did.

6. I told Helen all day Friday and afterward that I was proud of her. I mean, she got up in front of a huge room full of people, with a spotlight on her and a microphone in her hand and she introduced herself. She may not have had as snazzy an introduction as some of the girls, but you could hear and understand her and she gave a beautiful smile all the while!

7. Some pictures...
Ignore the red in my eyes... :)
At the formal wear competition
Oh goodness, this is one where she looks A LOT like me when I was a kid
With her godmother after the Pageant!
So proud of my baby girl
Helen with her Daddy after the Pageant
8. okay, seriously, more in my post I'm writing later.

9. T-10 days until the first day of school! My kids are definitely enjoying the waning moments of summer.

10. I'm a little disappointed that no one commented on my story about Dominic from last week. Maybe it wasn't as funny/cute/awesome as I thought it was. 

August 5, 2013

Monday Mumbles - 51

Wow...almost a month without the Mumbles (that my friend Jess started, truth be told...)? I am a little shocked! Well, it's Monday, so let's mumble, shall we?

1. I fried up some potatoes and onions in some olive oil last night for dinner. Yum.

2. I got out for my long run yesterday and actually completed it! 

2a. My runs have really been horrible the last week and a half. If it's not breathing, it's the heat or something. So, I had to keep telling myself throughout my run yesterday that I was going to go at least 9 miles. I have a half marathon on August 17 and I really needed to go at least 9 miles to feel like I had any chance of completing the half.

2b. So, I continued my pep talk through the first 5K loop, got started on the 2nd 5K loop and pep-talked myself into starting the third one. It was a decent run, but not one I wanted to be like, "woo-hoo! what an awesome run!!!" Yeah, not like that.

3. It started raining about an hour after I got done, so I would say my timing was good. I like to run in the rain, as long as it's a light rain. I don't like to run in the heavy stuff.

4. Yesterday was also Operation: Clean Dani and Helen's room. Oh goodness. I try to get into the kids' rooms every 6 months or so and do a deep clean-out. This time, I had a humongous yellow trash bag full of...trash. I started a donation bag, but didn't have much for that one this time.

5. This story is just too good not to share...so I'll share it here.
After Mass Saturday evening, Dominic asked Craig if he could watch "Spongebob, the Movie". Craig said, "No, Dom...it is on Netflix. You can watch later." (Craig wanted to watch the Sporting KC game and figured this would put Dominic off the subject for another day.

So, Dominic gets on the "kid" computer, boots up Netflix.com and goes to our account, does a search and calls to his dad to come over. He was very eager to prove to his dad that "Spongebob, the Movie" is NOT available on Netflix.

So, Craig, chuckles ("oh....all right, Dom..." with a sigh) and being properly chastised, allowed Dominic to watch the movie on the TV in our room until it was time for dinner.
6. Looks like the last time I did a Mumbles post, Vincent was cooperating with potty-training. Well, he's not anymore.

7. Well, all the talks with the kids about the cutbacks in activities went as well as could be expected. Dani and Helen seemed properly disappointed, too. *sigh* But...it didn't linger, so I appreciate that.

8. Sarah wrote the sweetest e-mail to her coach and her coach was awesome in her reply. I wouldn't have wanted Sarah to play for any other club because I would have wanted Sarah to play for this lady. She is a hard-core, no-nonsense coach. Sarah improved DRAMATICALLY under her. Sarah even finished her e-mail saying, "I can't wait to show all my friends how I can serve overhand and everything now!"

9. It's Pageant Week! I can't believe it's here. I'll be spending a lot of time getting Helen ready (packing all of what she needs, etc) to go in the wee hours Friday morning. We have to drive to Columbia and all the "pageant" hotels were booked up, so I just got one night stay (for Friday) at another hotel and we're driving there Friday morning instead of Thursday night.

10. And a few silly pics from my girls...

someone was having a little too much fun, LOL
Looks like one of the girls got her little brother
Silly Helen
Someone got her sleeping...

There's my girl...

None of Vincent this time, but that's okay. You get plenty of photos of him. :)


August 2, 2013

7 Quick Takes - 58

Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting!
--- 1 ---

I need to have a challenge every week if I am to get a  post up here all week! Goodness. But I think I was plum out of ideas. I don't have any drafts right now. But I do have some ideas percolating. But, summer is winding down. In just under 3 weeks, the kids will be back at school and the craziness of our life will begin at the school year level. Wow. I just started three consecutive sentences with the word, but. I must be tired.

--- 2 ---

It was a week of discernment around this house. I think when school starts, I always find myself reviewing what else is going on in our family activity-wise and do a bit of an assessment. And this year...it was giving me a panic attack. Sarah had already tried out for, and made her club team for next club volleyball season. Helen had begun a new year of ballet and Dani has continued to take guitar lessons. Craig and I had been doing Crossfit. And Dominic has been asking if I was going to put him in soccer.

Well, Craig and I discussed things and we've decided that our family is not going to do non-school / non-community center activities for this school year. It's a tough decision to cut back. I hate the feeling that I am disappointing my children (well, let's face the music here -- I don't like the feeling that I've disappointed anyone). But, basically, everyone is sacrificing a little bit to maintain the sanity and a reasonable level of money in the bank account around here.

--- 3 ---

The talk with Sarah about no more club volleyball went about as well as I could expect. I started crying because I saw what I interpreted to be that disappointment in her eyes. I don't know if I was projecting my fear of her reaction or not. But sometimes I forget that she's such a good girl, so responsible and smart. I know she understands, even if she's not happy about it. She'll still get to play Parochial league volleyball and if she wants to play rec league volleyball in the winter/spring, we can do that. Or maybe she'll really focus on her grades. She can workout at the community center (although, she doesn't seem to care to do that...)
There is a part of me that fears raising kids who resent the fact that they were born into a large family. I think I am too in tune with the outside world and what they say or write on the topic and I just need to check out of that. Craig and I haven't raised our children to be that way and they've never shown the tendency. But I sometimes wonder if there's going to be some sacrifice we ask our kids to make that's going to "put them over the edge." So I guess that's where my anxiety on this sort of stuff comes from.
--- 4 ---

The expense of some of this stuff is really mind-boggling. I am sure this is why we never did stuff like club volleyball growing up. And we only did the swim team as long as it was mostly run by the YMCA -- because they never turned anyone away for inability to pay. As soon as the swim team turned into swim club, we were out...

I had always considered the club volleyball the bigger expense, but I realized I spend the same amount yearly on ballet and on guitar lessons -- it's just that those are monthly payments and the volleyball payments are all at once. The Crossfit cost for Craig and me to participate was triple what we paid monthly for a family community center membership. So, the community center it is!! But, when we sat down and crunched the numbers, I kept wondering how I had juggled things to make it work for so long...but juggle no more!

--- 5 ---

Helen's pageant is next weekend. I'm really happy to have it over with, mainly because it's been one of those "looming" things all summer. She's been practicing her personal introduction and she is very cute. I'm not sure she's Miss Missouri caliber, but she wins my heart every time.
I was going through the material and there is a WHOLE PAGE dedicated to counseling parents on how to behave through this ordeal. Really? I know I see this stuff in reality shows, but I thought that was all just for T.V. I'll be interested to see how it all pans out.

--- 6 ---

I was looking through old photos in my iPhoto app and came across this one from Easter 2012:
not sure where that date comes from...
It's really in Sarah that I can see the biggest development, of course...she looks like a baby in these older photos, compared to how grown up she is now...

--- 7 ---

This weekend will be full of school supply shopping and all that other good stuff. I hope you all have a great weekend, too!

Be sure to go check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes Posts!


August 1, 2013

An Update In Pictures

Sarah is getting good at braids

My nephew, Gunnar

Dom fell asleep with Garfield

Dominic having fun at Craig's work picnic

Craig, Sarah, Helen and Dom at Craig's work picnic

Dominic and Dani sharing fruit punch

Vincent set up his own personal space

Dominic playing around on big sister's bed

Dani -- almost 10 years old!

Dominic -- getting so big!

My Sarah-Bear!

Sarah's summer league team took 1st place

Vincent insists on walking up (and down) stairs like a big boy.

This boy is growing up so fast!!

Finally...I stumbled across this picture that was taken at my grandmother's funeral in November 2011:

And this is my most recent photo of all five kids together:

Kids sure do grow up fast. :)