What a whirlwind life is while raising children! The time goes by so quickly and every so often, I stop to take account of where we are and I realize they are growing up so quickly right before my eyes!

I go back to work Tuesday this week and my children go back to school Wednesday. They begin the second semester of the school year. In five short months, Sarah will be halfway through high school. And this summer, we will be embarking on life with a high schooler, two middle schoolers and two elementary kids. When I look at my kids, I see them growing, but my brain still thinks of them as little. Sarah is on the brink of womanhood and yet, I keep thinking, “How can she be much over the age of 8?” Dani is moving quickly through young adolescence and establishing herself firmly in things different from her older sister. I love this, because it shows how unique each of our children is. And it’s exciting to think about the new activities I’ll be entrenched in a couple of years from now (choir, theater…). And Helen is getting better with her cheer and showing me yet another path for raising a daughter — one completely unexpected due to my lack of participation in something like cheerleading. Dominic will receive Sacraments of Reconciliation and First Holy Communion this spring. He is a lot like his older sister, Sarah, in that  feel as though he has been ready for these Sacraments for ages, he is so mature for his age. As we were discussing receiving the Holy Eucharist recently, his innocent face made wide eyes as he told me how he “cannot wait to be united with the Lord” in this way. What 7-almost-8-year-old talks this way? I love it. Finally, the baby boy, Vincent, is progressing through Kindergarten quite well. He’s quiet, yes. But he is smart and he works hard and wants to do his best. I don’t remember noticing the growth that happens in Kindergarten with the other kids. I have determined that it must be due to the fact that I don’t have any more children behind him that I can pay enough attention to notice!

At the beginning of the school year, Sarah didn’t have a clue as to what she might want to do after high school. She only knew that whatever it was she wanted to do, she needed to get through it without incurring debt. So she started thinking about the options. Recently, she’s become a bit more aware of some options available that will help her in this quest and I am pleased she is considering them. She worked her tail off during the entire semester, which included volleyball (fall sport) and maintained her excellent grade point average and is well on her way to an academic letter for the second year in a row. She also lettered in volleyball this past season, so she received a Letterman Jacket for Christmas. It thrills me to see how much she loves it.

Dani discovered midway through the fall semester a love for Choir and a continued love of performing music. Her school provides the opportunity to switch electives every 9 weeks, so that is why she was introduced to Choir midway through. Her school also allows a switch to “year-long” choir, should a kid find their true love, so she’s now switched her schedule to be a part of choir the remainder of the school year. She tried out for her school’s musical, High School Musical, Junior, and was cast in a couple of different roles. I think that is awesome! She’s very excited. She recently told me that this year’s musical at her school is the VERY FIRST musical the school has ever put on, so this will be a great learning experience for her. It will also keep her preparing to continue in these Fine Arts into High School. It looks like it will be over in time for her to still participate in the swim team in the spring for her school as well, though we are not 100% sure on that yet.

Helen has adjusted very well to her new school. She has been in counseling since last January and I am impressed with her improvement in confidence as well as a reduction in her physical ailments that we figured must have been due to anxiety. She started running this fall and really enjoyed doing that. She also continued to participate in a Cheer Program through the school district that is giving her experience in doing some things that will help her, in the future she hopes, to do cheerleading in high school. Recently, she told me that she thinks the help she has received through counseling and the environment she experiences at school has helped her to be a more outgoing person and that she is happy.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see her happy. We weren’t sure what was going on with her when she was suffering so much pain and not knowing the tools to deal with it. When we decided to attack her issues as though she had anxiety and got her some counseling, it made a world of difference for her. Now, she keeps a journal for herself that she can review with her therapist and she and I keep a journal between the two of us. It’s helped our communication and given her an additional outlet if she wants to talk about something that might be too uncomfortable to say out loud. She even bought a journal for Dominic for Christmas so that he “would have a place to write down his feelings.” She is playing basketball and enjoys that as well. She is receiving some extra help on reading at school, but she doesn’t feel like it is a bad thing. She understands she needs the help and therefore commits to it fully.

Dominic is also playing basketball. I am not sure it’s going to be “his thing” — much like any physical sport might be difficult for him — but I am so happy he wanted to try. He and I finished the Harry Potter series about a month ago and he loved the story. He and I are reading the Chronicles of Narnia together now. He continues to do well in school and has made a few new friends, but he also keeps in touch with friends from his old school. I love that they can pick up right where they left off and talk about things like they did when they saw each other each day. Dominic also has determined that after he is an FBI agent, he will be a best-selling author. He is already writing comic books in the mold of Dav Pilkey (the Captain Underpants series is a favorite of his, as is Dog Man). This kid used to hate to try drawing, he would get so frustrated. But now he is trying his hand at new characters and thinking up fun stories! I love that.

Vincent is in Kindergarten and that is enough for now. He tried gymnastics in the summer, and I think he would be good at it, but he lacked the attention span needed to get into it more seriously and the cost didn’t justify his lack of interest. He is reading like a pro! He doesn’t like it much, but he can do it. He really enjoys math and science. So maybe that will be his niche. Honestly, if he could spend every day hanging out with Dominic, that would be his ideal life. Thankfully, Dominic feels the same (most of the time) so they have a good time playing together.

Craig and I keep plugging along. Craig will continue working nights for the foreseeable future. Since that is pretty much what he has always done, it’s not a huge deal, but he does end up missing some things that I know he’d rather not miss. But for really big deals, he can ask for an evening off (like when Sarah was confirmed last spring, for example). I have been back at my new/old job for a couple months and I am happy there. Sometimes it takes doing something else to realize that you were where you were supposed to be. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to return.

I still Crossfit and of course, with the new year, I am focusing yet again on cleaning up my diet and losing weight. Last year was rough on the routine and I didn’t stick to my healthy habits. But I’m committed once again and I know I will get back to my “fighting weight” at some point this year. Sarah does crossfit, too. It’s done wonders for her power, quickness and confidence in volleyball. It’s also given her an outlet to keep working hard. One thing I know is that there is no one out-working my girl. A few may match her, but no one is working harder.