Another School Year Begins

I’m sitting in a quiet house — all children have taken off for their first day at school — and decided to sit down to write something today. I’ve had several ideas the past few days, so if this is disjointed — well, I guess that might have to be too bad. πŸ™‚

One of my thoughts this morning was, “Oh gosh, Gregory would have started Kindergarten today.” Now, whether he would or wouldn’t have may been up for debate as his due date was July 27 and cutoff to enter school in Missouri is August 1. But, his cousin, Gunnar, who was born in April the year we lost him started Kindergarten homeschool, so I often track Gregory’s place in life with Gunnar.

So much would be different if Gregory would have been able to join us and live with us here on Earth. I have no doubt I would be a completely different mother to Vincent and Vincent would likely be a different boy — having someone to model to. But…maybe not. Oh well, that’s not the life we have, so it doesn’t make sense to pine too much for it, but every now and again, I get hit in the gut with questions and pondering.

My oldest had her last first day of school today. It’s weird. I’m not all that emotional about it. Maybe that’s because I’ve had so much emotion related to her in the past couple of months that I’m all “emotion-ed” out. I bought this book titled, “Letting Go” sometime mid-summer. I bought it because I thought that maybe I would have a hard time letting Sarah grow up and move on with life and I wanted to keep her in my life, keep her coming to me for conversation and advice and anything else she needed and I thought maybe that book would do that for me. But, I haven’t made it past the middle of the first chapter. I don’t know if that’s because I don’t need it or because the book isn’t going to provide what I thought it would. But what I have witnessed during the past summer is a young woman who is absolutely ready to take on everything this world will throw at her and handle it with grace and love. She had volleyball workouts most of the summer and made almost all of them. She worked her job at the movie theater (where she was promoted to a shift leader the beginning of May) and continued to thrive where that’s concerned. She attended a Nursing camp at an area nursing school which solidified her discernment that nursing is the path for her. She took a road trip to Minnesota with her two best friends (and one of their moms) and got to see her favorite performer (Harry Styles) in concert. She road-tripped with us down to Texas had a great time with her Aunt and cousins there, whom we hadn’t seen in a couple of years. We made it home in time for her to leave for Team volleyball camp with her high school varsity team — where she learned so much about herself and her team with regard to volleyball and had excellent team-building opportunities. She got back from that in time to take off to attend Β LEAD retreat ahead of the Steubenville conference in Springfield, MO. Then returning from Steubenville, she worked and arranged for a transfer to a different location for work. She even worked in her first trip to her Grandma’s on her own (driving about 45 min away…on the interstate!). Β And her growth in her faith is phenomenal! I remember when she was nervous and not as committed to participating in the young women’s group that meets every Wednesday at our parish. But now, it’s the highlight of her life and she looks forward to it and reaches out for what she can receive from it. Now, she is one of the leaders — someone for the younger women to look up to and see what proper prioritization of values can do for them.

img_9992

I know I have written it many times here on my blog, but I’m simply amazed at this human being — my first born daughter — and all that she does…but mostly HOW she does it. Her disposition is beautiful, she seems to try to see and love others the way God sees and loves them — be they her siblings, her parents, her friends. Her approach to everyone is always the same and always loving, respectful, humble. I cannot put into words how much I love her and admire her and how grateful I am for her example to her siblings and to me, her mom.

Okay. So something else to write about…

My second child started high school today. At a different school (boundaries changed and now my younger four will attend a different high school than Sarah did). I’m thrilled for the things she is taking on! She has a full schedule with Honors ELA and Honors World History along with her choir and theater classes. She’s playing Tennis. She plans to do Competitive Drama (she enjoys doing Improv with a partner). All of these great things ahead for her! And yet…so much growth has happened for her in the past year, too. I’ve seen her reclaim her innocence — when I swear it was being challenged from places both earthly and spiritually. She, too, grew in faith this past summer as she attended a camp for a week that is run through the Archdiocese of KCK. She came back from that camp recharged in her faith and ready to learn more. She told me she felt as though she truly learned how to pray there. She also attended the Steubenville conference and had an amazing experience there — specifically, she was touched by Adoration. She performed in her first Community Theater production and had a great experience — albeit, many late nights in the month of July for rehearsals — but all worth it!

img_9976

As she has grown, Dani has been my child to always think of the impact of things on the whole family. She often downplays any of her needs in favor of ensuring there is enough money or time for the other kids. I sometimes have to force the issue with her that she DOES need new shirts/shoes/whatever it may be and that it’s okay…we budget for these things. πŸ™‚ But I see this even in her attentiveness to her siblings whether it be at home or at Church. She is truly present with them — rough-housing with the boys, hanging out and laughing with her sisters — I rarely find Dani with her face in her phone or distracted by something when someone is trying to talk with her. She looks up to her sister and while she absolutely does not want to do the same things (i.e., volleyball or nursing or college perhaps, for that matter) she does try to love her sister and others with the love of God. It makes me excited to see where she takes this in her new high school adventures!

Helen is in the midst of what I think is the toughest time in raising daughters. Sometime at the beginning of middle school/6th grade year through about the midway point of 8th grade, everything is a struggle — emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially. Helen’s really probably doing a great job with it all, but it’s hard for me as Mom. My experience is that this period of time is a very self-centered time for the girls and I have a hard time enduring it and continuing to parent through it. I get tired of correcting and yelling and reminding the girls. I get tired of them being mad at me when I’m just doing my job as their mother. I know it will be worth it in the end and I can’t wait to see the day when “my Helen” returns and we can talk to each other (without it feeling forced or either of us feeling ignored) and hug each other (without her “half-assing” it.

img_9974

The good part is that there are little “lights” in the darkness of this time — Helen hangs out so well with her brothers, she’s actually quite close with them. And, Helen is playing volleyball — she’s grown in her skills and her perseverance over the summer, and will be playing with an excellent club and she’s also survived the first cuts at middle school. She’s signed up for choir, too, so that will be excellent. As for her anxiety, it rears its head in different ways at this point, but I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying when she’s going out of control and reminding her that she needs to remove herself from the situation, and use her tools, get her head straight and then return. sometimes that goes over well. Sometimes it doesn’t. But we’re working through it.

The boys started 4th and 2nd grades today. Dominic’s such an easy-going kid and was excited to get back to school. He was really excited that he was getting one of the male teachers this year. His goals include reading “a whole lot.” Vincent is still hard to read and completely different than all of his siblings. He “hates” school (even though I think he likes it…at least a little bit) and regularly asks to be homeschooled. I’ve asked for a referral to have him evaluated for the gifted education program through the district to see if that might help. If he doesn’t qualify, we’ll have to figure out new ways to motivate him — may have to do that anyway.

I missed the soccer signups (bad mom!) so I may be putting them back in swim lessons even though they don’t want to. Dominic said he for sure wants to play Basketball with the parish school, so maybe we’ll put Vincent in that, too. As much time as we’ll be spending at the club volleyball gym, though, maybe we should start them learning volleyball. πŸ™‚

On top of all of that, the summer and vacationing has not been kind to me on the weight-loss front. I’ve lost some ground. But I’m planning to get back to dedication as this school year gets going. I have a great friend who is also doing Weight Watchers and we’re trying to keep each other accountable (on top of the meetings and such) so hopefully we can challenge each other and meet goals around the time our birthdays arrive (she and I have birthdays 5 days apart). I’ll update on that some other time…just know that summertime is not my favorite time to pay attention and track and all the things I know will lead me to lose weight and maintain it. I’m just gonna own it. It is what it is, but I’ll have to get back on it.

So, now I’m going to go watch my Redbox movie I got for free (thanks T-Moble Tuesdays!) and snack on popcorn…since it’s quiet around here and no one will ask me for anything!!

 

 

Advertisements

Happy Birthday to Sarah!

My last post lamented the passing of the seventh birthday of my baby boy. And now, less than a month later, I am facing the seventeenth birthday of my oldest baby girl.

img_9804
This is what 17 looks like…

We all see it, everyone posts a picture of their growing children and asks, “Where does the time go?”

And here I am wondering the same thing! For the first 10 years of Sarah’s life, I had my stair-stepped children arriving into this world — marking the passing of time in a real way. But now, having gone 7 years without adding to the population at all, I find myself stymied by the realization of being mother to a child who is 17.

img_9800
Sarah with her Great-grandparents about 2.5 months after she was born

Her birthday falls on a Monday this year, too. Ah…it takes me back to that Monday, seventeen years ago — arriving early in the morning at North Kansas City Hospital to begin the induction process, including my sister in the day. After my water broke and I received my epidural, we spent most of the time playing Cribbage and listening to Sports Radio waiting out the labor. We had a scary moment, when Sarah’s heart rate dropped and I had to be re-positioned in order to ensure an internal heart rate monitor could be placed on her. I remember the “pushing phase” that lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes. I remember hearing the doctors indicate whether staff was on site for a c-section if I was unable to push her out. (FTR I made it through not needing a c-section.) It’s still so fresh in my mind, the last second switch for Craig from NOT wanting to cut the umbilical cord, to him grabbing those shears and doing it the first time.

Once she was born and laid on my stomach, I marveled. I seriously can’t think of a better word for what I did…I looked at her and marveled at how beautiful she was. I said I couldn’t believe how quiet she was (I asked why wasn’t she crying?) For probably just a minute, but what felt like a forever-moment, Sarah looked at me, right at me, with big, brown eyes. I remember asking, “Are her eyes really brown? Aren’t they supposed to be blue?” But I fell deeply in love in that moment. It kind of makes me choke up now thinking about it. I could not believe (and nor can my description here do it justice) how much love I felt right then. It was incredible.

Over the years, my baby girl, Sarah, has taken my breath away many times.

img_9791

 

Being her mom is the most wonderful gift in this life.

Thank you, God, for giving us Sarah. Thank you, Sarah, for being one of the most special human beings ever created.

I love you! Happy 17th Birthday!

Vincent is 7. Years. (Yes, SEVEN)

My youngest living child turns 7 on June 30. I’m processing. Hold Please.

Vincent is 7. Today, June 30.

IMG_9165

First of all, happy birthday to you, Vincent — my babiest baby! Yes, your sisters say you’re rotten and it’s all because you’re “the baby” but we know that you deserve it all, sweet boy. After all, you put up with their incessant bossing and just because mom made them eat all their vegetables…well, it isn’t YOUR fault that she learned (on them!) that suddenly around the age of 8 or so, kids eat things and it’s not worth the fight at the younger ages.

Besides, your sisters may call you “spoiled, rotten” but you know they love you to pieces. They are always falling all over each other vying for your attention, your giggles and your affirmation…so, we know the “joke” is on them anyway.

Lucky you (!!) to have had seven years with your best buddy, Dominic. You won’t do a thing without him…ha!! …and you won’t let him do much without you either. As much as he might try to act like he wants some independence from you, we all can see how much he enjoys your love and admiration for him. Just a couple weeks ago when you insisted that you needed new summer pajamas with Pokemon on them — I saw how you two gave each other high-fives as we walked into the store knowing your desire would be granted (yeah, momma is a sucker for new pajamas, too.)

Vincent, I hope that this next year helps you continue to grow in intelligence, compassion and spunk. Well, you have always had enough spunk. πŸ˜‰

If nothing else, I do hope you figure out the whole smile-in-every-photo thing…the frown gets old and it’s far more fun to show how happy we are in photos, don’t you think? Well, maybe you just don’t like your photo taken — I can relate.

To this point where you turn age 7, you’ve completed 1st grade and proved yourself to be a “math whiz” who reads well above grade level, but who would rather stick a fork in your eye rather than practice and/or perfect your handwriting (hmmm, maybe you’ll be a doctor??) You have also completed a year with Cub Scouts only to realize it probably isn’t exactly your thing — and that’s okay! You’ve also become a good enough swimmer to play with your brother without too much hands-on supervision, which is awesome!

Several times in the past year, you have made it clear that you “can do it” yourself and that you are “not a BABY!” and that we should all stop “treating (you) like a baby!!”

I understand. I am a terrible offender. You see, it’s just been so terribly long since I didn’t have to do some of these things I’ve tried to do for you for at least SOMEONE. This is new territory for me. I don’t see it as though I am treating you like a baby, I simply do things because I’ve done them for so long. But I do want to thank you for the reminder that I need to let YOU grow up, too. Just like your sisters and your brother — you need to be given the space and the time to attempt everything on your own and figure it all out.

So, during this next year, I promise that I will try hard to stop myself from doing things for you that you are perfectly capable of doing for yourself. I might cry a little and maybe die a little inside, but that’s okay. It’s part of my job to make sure you grow up to be independent and capable. I never forgot that, it’s just that life kept on moving and I didn’t have any more babies coming behind you. But I promise to focus and remember that you CAN DO IT for yourself and that you are definitely NOT a baby (even though you will always be MY baby).

fb3e4-5weekvincent

d2f3c-mommyvincent

IMG_7130

 

Updates — It’s Crazy Up In Here!

It’s been awhile! And it is NOT because there is nothing to write. On the contrary, there is so much going on that I find myself overwhelmed with things to write.

For now, I’ll just stick to some updates. The end of the 2017-18 school year is upon us. I’ve thought many times over the past couple of weeks about how I could not be more proud of my kids. Each of them has done something recently that has made my heart burst! It’s exciting to watch my little-people grow into these incredibly awesome big-people. I don’t even know where to start…and so, whenever I don’t know I just start I do the updates top-down. πŸ™‚

Sarah is amazing. Still. That girl works so incredibly hard at everything she does. Even though she doesn’t HAVE to work hard at some things, she does. Her work ethic is one of her best qualities that will take her far in life.

img_9033
Junior Prom night photo

She accomplished the feat of scoring a 4.0 GPA for her entire Junior year. The 4.0 GPA isn’t anything new to Sarah, per se, but to maintain it during a year when there was ever-increasing pressure heaped upon her shoulders (both self-inflicted and other) is a feat that I don’t think she truly realizes. She takes Honors courses, took an AP course, and rocked her Honors Biology so hard that it was probably the highest percentage A she’s gotten in an course so far. She started visiting colleges, took the ACT a couple of times, and then took on a 26 hour ACT Prep class at Sylvan to prepare her for what we hope will be her final attempt on the ACT. She played volleyball for school and then club through the winter/spring, was on the high school swimming team, completed all her requirements for membership in National Honor Society and continued to serve the community at the local elementary school. Oh yeah, and she picked up a job at the nearby movie theater at the end of January…AND just got promoted to Shift Leader after only 4 months. Simply Amazing. Through all of this she has maintained an active faith life attending Mass with our family, attending our parish’s youth program on Sunday nights and also attending the weekly young women’s group, Sanctimonia, almost every Wednesday. She applied for Lead this year at what will be her fourth Steubenville conference, and was selected. In the midst of it all, her brakes went out on her car and she was financially fit enough to pay half of the cost of replacement. On top of that, she applied for and was accepted to a local university/medical center’s “Nursing Experience” — a week-long seminar where she will get to experience some real-life stuff to help her continue to discern her path to and through nursing school.

30814007_10156580859669739_6378188399116158238_o

Words don’t do justice to the emotions I have for this girl. I’m proud, yes, but I feel so lucky that God gave me this child. She has truly been one of the many joys of motherhood, and I can’t wait to see all that she will accomplish in the future.

Dani is incredible as well. And in a completely different capacity than her sister which I love! Dani works as well, though she is more choosy about the things she works at than her older sister.

32536883_10156645901129739_8682620016312451072_o

Dani loves to perform, okay? All school year, she’s been involved in theater, choir, honor choir, and musical. Every time I see her perform, it fills me with joy at her happiness. She exudes energy in everything. Earlier in second semester, the kids were getting set to enroll for high school classes, and Dani auditioned to join Treble Choir, which is an all female show choir (class) at her high school. She was selected and the director said that her sight-reading was “almost entirely perfect.” What a compliment! And it’s so incredible because when Dani auditioned for Honor Choir in 7th grade, she didn’t make it and was given feedback that her sight-reading was lacking. So, Dani spent time at the computer, with her guitar and on the ipad with apps that could help her improve her sight-reading. To get that compliment this year on her sight-reading was a testament to all of her hard work over the past 18-24 months on that area. Dani was one of the leads in the musical this year, which was an incredible experience for her. She took theater all year to continue to work on her stage presence and other theatrical skills. She also participated in Competitive Drama this year and ultimately earned medals at the District Middle School competition! She took 2nd with her partner in Improv and took 3rd with her (serious, I’ve heard) Prose piece. Dani also went to the 8th grade dance last night, which was kind of her “send-off” event to high school. She looked so pretty!

img_9303

Back in April, she decided to audition for our local Theater in the Park production. They do two productions and the first this year is Oklahoma!Β and the second is Big River. Dani knew with her taking two online courses (P.E. and Health) to make room in her schedule for Choir and Foreign Language in the school year, she couldn’t make the rehearsals for Oklahoma! so she auditioned for Big River. They only take adults (age 19 and up) for major roles in the productions, but they cast Dani in the Young Adult Ensemble. How exciting for her! The final 8th grade production for the Choir program at her school is their Spring Fling and they had a Broadway theme this year. Dani was able to sing a duet with a good friend of hers: they sang “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun. It was great! For all of the numbers with choreography, Dani was on point for everything and provided such a great amount of energy! This past week, she received an invitation to join Treble FX, which is the competition all-female show choir. She will be a busy girl next year and doing things she loves. She is also planning to play Tennis. I can’t wait to watch her perform on stage in choir, theater and most likely the musical productions.

Helen has had a good year, too. She is in the AVID program, which has been an incredible help to her with regard to readiness for ongoing learning. She played rec league volleyball this year and improved greatly. She’s now been offered and accepted a position with a local travel-volleyball club and is excited to work with the coaches there. She did band first semester, but discovered it wasn’t really for her. So, she did theater second semester and I really enjoyed their 6th grade theater class plan they did at the end of May. She was also in the musical and had a little cameo role which was cute. She looked like she enjoyed performing, too. πŸ™‚

img_8580

She’s grown up a lot this year and it wasn’t without some pains. Something always seems to happen to my kids around 6th grade — I literally wonder just where my kid went and what alien has taken her place…I mean, I see glimpses here and there of my sweet girl, Helen, but we’re going through the typical puberty type behavioral and relationship issues that I have figured must be par-for-the-course at this stage of development. She’s a good kid and she’s made great strides with her behavior and in her choices for friends and such. I’m excited to see how things pan out with the volleyball and with all her activities next school year.

img_8579

Like her sisters, Helen is taking Health/P.E. in summer school to keep room in her school schedule for choir and AVID. So she’ll be really busy through June with that and with private coaching sessions in the evenings with volleyball (since she can’t make the camps they are having during the day). But stay tuned…volleyball and choir and everything else is on the horizon for Helen!

Dominic asked to do Boy Scouts this year, so we did. And…we found out why we hadn’t done Boy Scouts before and why it’s unlikely to be something we commit to going forward. It’s a lot of time and other commitment. Dominic’s interest level isn’t where it should be to commit that much time and effort. He would prefer to spend that time at a Google Coder Dojo and learning to code or something. He is still reading at a high level, but I’ve noticed his interest has waned a bit, but maybe that’s just because we haven’t hit the latest gold mine as far as books he would be interested in. He’s still that sweet, sensitive kid he’s always been and smart, too. πŸ™‚ He’s progressing through swim lessons and starting to learn a little bit more than just front and back crawl. When it’s all said and done, though, his major interest is with computers and coding and all the things he can do in that realm. He spends his free time watching You Tube videos. I just caught him watching one on how to tell if your computer or phone has been hacked and what to do about it. hmmmm

Vincent did Boy Scouts, too. He seemed to enjoy it more than Dominic, but it is still a difficult commitment to make going forward. He really wants to play soccer and basketball, so in place of scouts, we may stick to sports next year. I can’t believe he will be in 2nd grade next year. Crazy. Here’s the thing about Vincent: he dislikes school. None of my other kids have ever actually disliked school. But Vincent is regularly making sure we know that he “already knows this stuff” and that school “is so boring” and has asked me to homeschool him. Oh my word! Home school will not work for us, so I need to figure something out. Here’s the thing…they do “Mad Minutes” for math facts and Vincent had progressed all the way into 2nd grade level “Mad Minutes” before the end of December. By the end of this school year, he was in 3rd grade “Mad Minutes” and working through multiplication. I think I need to keep those going during the summer, because he LOVES them so much. If you ever ask him his favorite thing about school, he might say “Nothing! School’s boring!” but he might say, “Braden” (his best buddy at school) and then he would say “…and ‘Mad Minutes.'” I have asked for a referral for Vincent for SAGE (Our district’s Gifted Education program) and they will likely evaluate him at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. Perhaps that one day a week in an environment that’s more enjoyable for Vincent, will make all the difference in his attitude about school. We’ll see. He’s also progressing through swim lessons. He wants to have a birthday party this year, so I really need to get on that. :/

33436583_10156669234884739_1578302564615585792_n

So, that’s what’s up in our family. As for the parents, we’re working hard to fund all these shenanigans. I do have my two-week vacation coming up, which will entail a trip to MN and another trip to TX. My sister, whom I haven’t seen in FOUR years….(!!!) is moving to TX and I can’t wait to go and see her and her family.

32327067_10156639753579739_8293693491955892224_o

I’m still weight-watching, maybe I’ll blog on that soon. It’s going well. I’m working on some skills at Crossfit and enjoying the benefits of that and walking as far as my activity goes. Our dog is still cute, though, he’s wearing us out lately with accidents in the house so we’re trying to figure that out.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Maybe I’ll blog again before end of summer. πŸ™‚

Can Kids Be Taught to Communicate Effectively? (I think so!)

Over the past several months, I have noticed (in hindsight) ways I have worked with Sarah to develop strong communication skills. It hit me with the most recent occasion, that perhaps I could share what we’ve been doing, in case it helps someone else.

jameshumes1

Middle school and high school are, quite possibly, some of the most awkward times in life. My oldest is about to become a senior in high school — after which, she will be considered an adult and expected to communicate and behave as such. My next daughter is about to become a freshman in high school. Both girls, over the course of this school year, have grown in their communication skills, but it hasn’t been without concerted effort on my husband’s and my part as well as work from them.

For perspective, I manage a team of people in the banking and finance industry and that is probably why it is at the forefront of my mind to prepare my children to communicate as they grow up. I work with people who are afraid to give and receive feedback of any kind because they don’t want a confrontation. And they perceive a simple, straightforward discussion as a confrontation. I often receive verbal and written communication that is vague and ineffective. I am the type of person that operates in a straightforward manner with my peers and my team, because I don’t know any other way. I strive to maintain a respectful approach at all times, and have discovered that people respond well to this approach, even if they don’t have the tools to reciprocate the style.

98b27612dddb8a5ff6cb2547adae6e27

Because Sarah is a junior (soon to be senior, gah!) in high school, her teachers have required a bit more mature communication. Thankfully, Sarah has been up to the task most of the time. When she has struggled, we’ve worked through 1) what she doesn’t understand about the teacher’s expectations, 2) what she hopes to accomplish by talking with the teacher to get the information she needs and 3) how to ensure a desired course of action (both from her and her teacher/supervisor/etc).

Dani has been cruising through 8th grade and her communication issues are different. She is still at the point where we are trying to increase her communication with us (parents). She’s come out of her shell a little bit with us this year, and I hope that as time moves forward, she’ll continue to trust us with her questions and struggles so that we can help her.

At times, I’ve reflected on how important it is for the girls to learn how to be straightforward so that they communicate clearly, while maintaining a respectful tone and ensure they don’t lose sight to the purpose of the conversations they need to have with their teachers or even their peers. It seems as though there is not enough emphasis on face-to-face communication these days. Many people prefer to text even over a phone call. I have had to re-train myself, even, to pick up the phone and talk to someone rather than send e-mail after e-mail trying to get an answer to a question. Sarah even acknowledges this challenge among friendships because kids seem to be more interested in developing a friendship via Snapchat than just sitting down and grabbing a coke and talking.

I’m sure there have been nerve-racking times for both of my maturing daughters as they have explored the world of effective communication. If it hasn’t happened yet, it probably will, that they will find themselves with the “upper hand” with regard to communication skills and they’ll experience all of the frustration that can bring. But I’m glad they are working through those circumstances now, with a strong support system at home to help them sort through all of that. My goal is to set them up for success in work life and personal life — being able to communicate effectively is so very important!

Happy Birthday, Helen!

On this day, 12 years ago, my “mommy’s girl” entered this world. I prayed throughout the pregnancy that this baby would be all mine, that she would want me over everyone else at all times. It’s interesting when I think about that, because it had never occurred to me to pray for something like that before my first two babies. Sarah was born ready to rock and roll and be li’l Miss Independent. Dani had special affection for her dad from the get-go. So, I often found myself wishing for someone who gave me “those eyes” — the looks of love and happiness that only came my way.

img_8565

And, so God answered this prayer thousand-fold. As a baby, Helen was forever on my hip (when I wasn’t at work). She cried if I put her down. Helen was the one baby that was content to nuzzle and snuggle at all times. She was the kid who never understood why (oh why???) I had to leave her every day to go to work and spend my days away from her.

856270_10151527085644739_661419112_o198642_10150325992794739_2765442_n

 

 

 

 

 

858365_10151527085834739_1780361974_o

Now, she is 12, and from the moment I woke up this morning, I had a smile on my face for this day that commemorates her entrance to this world. Helen has deep, dark eyes (we think they are actually black now) that penetrate your soul with her love and her smile. And oh, that smile! From her earliest smiles, she could light up an entire room.

22135773_10155956045814739_8653179877509424389_o23406134_10156073354434739_6648544784757058848_o26114740_10156242092849739_3162881869462964774_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make no mistake, she is fun-loving and can be quite ornery. She’s learned which behaviors are acceptable and not. She’s challenged me like none of my other children so far. Her heart is gold, though. She loves to make other people laugh and enjoys showing her friends how special they are to her. She is one of the best sisters to her siblings. (As Dani made her cake last night, I mentioned how great it was that she was doing that and Dani said, “And it has to be perfect. Helen deserves the best cake ever!”) This school year, as Helen moved on to the middle school, she has spent most afternoons ensuring the boys have someone there to pick them up at the bus stop and walk them the short way home. She has had stints of making Sarah’s lunch for her — all because she wants to.

A few years ago, we discovered that Helen dealt with a bit of anxiety. Being away from me triggered it, or interactions with others in her class could trigger it, sometimes it was struggling with a school subject that triggered it. We’ve learned to handle her anxious feelings and now she can be away from me for much longer than she used to stand. She’s a straight-A student and part of the district’s A.V.I.D. program. She’s had some growing pains as she transitioned to middle school (what kid doesn’t?!) But the growth I have seen in her during this school year is amazing. She took personal responsibility for her words and actions, understands there are consequences when choices are made and has worked through how she chooses to behave and more often than not, makes good choices.

I pray that Helen has the best birthday ever today. Every day that I celebrate my childrens’ birthdays are my favorite days. Being a mom to these precious souls is the absolute best gig ever.

Happy Birthday to my Baby Girl!!

25626894_10156225739864739_441899444761416758_o

Last Take — So Far So Good

It’s been a little over a month since I blogged about my weight loss. I’ve posted a bit on Instagram (and therefore onto my Endless Strength Blog on FB), but nothing with some real meat to it.

Since my post here on the blog, I decided to suck it up and rejoin Weight Watchers, which was the best move. They’ve done a reboot again and the program they have now is called Freestyle. I really like it. When I posted via Instagram how much I liked the changes to the program, I received a few inquiries and decided to post a little about the differences here.

Just a few of the changes that impact my use of the program are listed here:

  • Weight Watchers unveiled ZERO point values for some foods that used to have points associated to them. AND…they were things I really like to eat. AND…they are healthy things that I would choose to eat more of if they didn’t cost me points. Here are just a few: Eggs (Yes!!! EGGS ARE FREE now!); Chicken Breast (only the breast!); Turkey Breast (only the breast!); Shrimp (THIS JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER!); Crab (not the imitation kind…only actual honest-to-goodness, dug out of the leg/shell Crab); Plain, Fat Free Greek Yogurt. Those are things I eat and will eat more of because they are zero points. I think there are more, but I haven’t found the need to go searching for them probably because I don’t eat them all that often.
  • There are fewer daily points assigned also. For example, I used to get 30 points per day, and I now get 23 and I weigh more now than when I was on the program at 30 points per. I happen to think the change in point values for those healthier foods must be part of it, but I haven’t felt the need to dig into the program materials to discover why daily points were lowered.
  • ROLLOVERS! So, we have always had this batch of “weekly” points that could be dipped into if we go over our daily points. As of right now, I get 42 every week, but I foresee that dropping when I get down another 10 pounds or so because i understand that a person’s weight/age/etc. all impacts the number of weeklies they are assigned. And I remember that the number would go down at various points in a person’s journey. So where do the rollovers come in? Well….let’s say you don’t use all 23 daily points. It used to be they really encouraged you to eat ALL of your daily points (something about metabolism, avoiding starving yourself, etc.) Well, now if you have up to 4 points remaining at the end of the day…rather than try to find something 4 points to use your remaining points, if you’re not hungry, just go to bed and the next morning, those 4 points will have been added to your weekly points! LOVE this, by the way. More later.
  • Recipes have been adjusted to reflect new point values and that makes it all easier (love love love the WW app, by the way, it’s my lifesaver).

Tomorrow is my next weigh-in and it will be my fourth week in a row. I’ve lost every week. I anticipate that I will lose again this week.

I’ve tracked every day for the last four weeks. It’s crazy. When I was struggling and not focused, I would miss a day tracking all the time. Of course, that didn’t help me achieve my goals and I fell completely off the wagon. Now I’ve tracked stuff all day every day for four weeks and I think how crazy it would be to go a day without tracking. That just means I’ve reestablished my good food-tracking habit.

I’ve stuck to my activity plan all these weeks, too. Now, last week on Monday and Tuesday, I didn’t make it to my 5:15 a.m. Crossfit, but I made sure and walked 45 minutes both of those nights to still get something in. I’ve learned that walking really IS just as good as running. Sure, it’s slower, but I am a fast walker, so it’s not that much slower. πŸ™‚

Craig and I have food-prepped for the week on the weekend each of these weeks. It’s been wonderful to rush out of the house for work while simply grabbing a meal container out of our extra refrigerator and knowing that lunch is taken care of. No Jimmy John’s or Subway or workplace cafeteria food! A healthy, pointed-out, delicious lunch every single day. What’s awesome is, we usually make enough that I can have one of them for dinner, too, if I don’t want to use the points it would take to eat whatever the kids are eating.

Here are a few of our recipes we have used:

  • Bacon and Swiss Quiche (this was surprisingly delicious and we fixed it two weeks in a row) — 4 points per serving

img_8407

  • Ham and Cheese Quiche Spiral — 3 points per spiral
  • Slow Cooker Italian Chicken and Tomato Soup with Spinach — 1 point. If you add 1/4 cup orzo pasta when heating up in the microwave, it’s delicious and it’s 5 points.

img_8487

img_8488
I didn’t use Parmesan either…
  • Spicy Turkey-Cheddar Enchilada Pie — 9 points (usually saved this one for dinner)
  • Tuna Salad Flat-Out Wrap — 4 points and YUMMMM!
img_8432
I had points to give that night so added the mozzarella cheese for 2 more points
  • Chorizo Beef and Veggie Enchiladas — 7 points. Truth: The WW recipe was Chorizo Chicken and Veggie Enchiladas for only 5 points, but we couldn’t find Chorizo Chicken. :/ But they are delicious — it’s more like a casserole and made 12 servings. I’ve also reserved this mostly for dinner. I even let Dani try one because she loves enchiladas. I didn’t get a chance to ask her how she liked it though.

img_8472

img_8473
We put a little Cilantro on top and then also when eating a small amount of light sour cream (it is spicy!)

img_8474

So, there you go for a little status update on how this whole recurring weight loss thing is going. I’m feeling better, my pants are looser (well, the larger sized ones that I bought a few months ago), my stamina is getting better during workouts and…I’m overall happier knowing I am doing something to get myself healthier again.

img_8491
Gotta Love Snapchat Filters πŸ™‚