7 Quick Takes – 76 — A Very Special Birthday Girl Edition

Thank you to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting! 

— 1 —

Sunday is my sweet baby girl, Helen’s birthday! She will be 8  years old. Oh my. Let me say type that again: She will be 8 years old.

Do you see this precious 4-year-old here? The bottom pic was Helen’s pre-K pic. She has such a sweet smile.

— 2 —

I’ve written before about the fact that I claimed Helen as “my baby” from the earliest onset of pregnancy. I prayed for her to be a “momma’s girl.” I loved the independence of my oldest and cherished the relationship my second-born had with her dad, but I wanted a child who had eyes only for me.

And…well, God answered that prayer 100 times over I think. 🙂

First day of pre-K four years ago

Playing with her little brother…

Sitting by a fountain

Such a good big sister — reading to her brother
— 3 —

She has grown so much since then. Here is her Kindergarten pic:

— 4 —

Helen is in 2nd grade and therefore is in the midst of preparing for First Communion after having participated in First Reconciliation a month ago. Helen takes her preparation very seriously: she studies her questions and she successfully badgers her over-committed mom to work with her once a week. I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that her teacher told us at Parent-Teacher conferences this year that she is a “hard worker.” 

It made me proud because I was always described as a “hard worker” too and I love it that Helen has taken that trait and made it her own.

— 5 —
 Here are some recent pics from basketball season:

— 6 —
Being in 2nd grade also means the first year of eligibility to play basketball for St. Andrew’s. Helen had so much fun playing with her friends and I think she grew to like the game of basketball. Like many kids her age, she could probably do without the running, but I also think she realized how critical that particular movement is to playing basketball well.

2nd grade basketball pic
— 7 —

So, Happy birthday baby girl! You are a sweet, sensitive, smart girl. Your face lights up my world. You are Amazing! And…I love you.

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



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.

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. 

Helen Told Me She Wrote A Book

Helen told me from the back of the car last night that she wrote a book. I said, “That’s so good, honey, I can’t wait to read it!”

And then she gave it to me.

I will translate: 
The Book About My Mom
She loves me. She loves the tangs (things) that I mack (make) her. Your mom loves you, too. And all so (also) mee (me) too.
I miss you wean (when) you are goan (gone). She’s tha (the) Best Mommy ever maid (made) and I am so glad that she is my mommy.
Love Helen

The Book About Mommy
Your Mommy ❤ you too
so mush (much)

This one doesn’t really need a translation.

I thought it was cute she made it into a book and made sure to tell others that their mommy loves them, too.

This is standard fare for the kind of stuff Helen draws up for me almost every day. I am so blessed.


Happy Birthday, baby girl!

Today is Helen’s 7th birthday!

Helen and I have an intense relationship.  It was so from the beginning.  She was the baby I was determined to breastfeed.  And I did.  For about 5 months.  

Things were different with Helen from before birth actually.  I prayed for a baby that wanted her momma.  I did.  Sarah was my oldest and far too independent to “cling” to anyone.  Dani was a “Daddy’s girl.”  I told people throughout, “This one is MY baby.”  I was quite possessive of her future emotions.  I wanted her to want me like no one had ever wanted me.  I needed it.  I needed to have a close bond with a child from the get-go.

And…I got it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a strong relationship with Sarah and Dani and Dominic and Vincent.  But I also have a different relationship with each of them.  And the intensity varies.  And Helen’s and my relationship is, by far, the most intense of them all.

The nursing relationship was interesting.  We co-slept and she reverse-cycled and nursed and slept with me in my bed until 6 a.m. and would often sleep until 2 p.m. in the afternoon while I was at work.  I ended up needing no pumping because she never took it anyway.  She only wanted me to hold her and I never objected.  I carried her around in a sling, I carried her around making dinner.  From the time I got home in the evenings until the next morning basically, I would hold her and she would fuss and scream if I had to put her down (which of course, I did have to do, to take care of the others).

The toddler years maintained the intensity.  Helen would cling to me.  She had eyes only for me.  She loved me “the most.” She had (and still has) a direct connection to my heart.  

As she has moved into the schooling years, I marvel at her because I always thought her need for attention from me, displayed with her defiant and often ornery behavior would spill over at school and the teachers would have to send notes home telling me that she needed to behave better or something.  But instead I get lovely notes from the teacher saying she is a “great example to others” and parents of other children who tell me how cute and sweet my Helen is and the kids seem to love her as well.  

I’m very over-protective of Helen because of my own body-image issues.  I build her up as much as I can because I don’t want her to think or say that she “has fat thighs”.  I want her to understand that God made her beautiful and she has a strong, athletic body that will never betray her.  

Today we have a birthday party scheduled at the skating rink.  Helen got an American Girl look-alike doll (which she named “Jessica”) for her birthday and literally fell in love with her.  It’s so cute to watch her carry Jessica around with her through the house and play with her and take care of her.  

I am so blessed to have this sweet, beautiful baby girl in my life.  I never deserved such a complete answer to my fervent prayer for a baby who loved me and needed me.  But I’m so thankful God saw fit to send her anyway.


An Update!

I guess I took an unintended Blog Break!  I’m not sure how regular I’ll be here as we steam-roll into school year 2012-13, volleyball and everything else that makes blogging appear to be exactly what it is — a hobby I do if I have some “spare” time.

But here’s an update on the family.

Craig — We are very excited that Craig will have new days off starting the middle of this month.  He actually gets Friday nights off!  I knew it was too much to hope he’d get any weekend nights off…the Hospitality industry just doesn’t work that way.  But, he will have Thursday and Friday off every week!  This is totally awesome, OMG, I just have to SQUEEEEE!!! excellent for our family, I think.  You see…for the last 9 years, Craig’s regular schedule has included all weekend nights.  I just accepted it as part and parcel of his job.  So, when they asked for preferences and he asked for Friday as his one day off during the week he’d like to get, I was skeptical he’d get it, but…he did!!  This change effectively gives us about half the weekend together, as a family, each week.  Since Craig won’t be working until 3:00 a.m. or even a graveyard shift on Friday nights, he will be up and about and able to help with the humongous amount of running around a Saturday requires for a family like ours (Ballet lesson at 9:00, Guitar lesson at 12:00, volleyball games, potentially Mass, birthday parties, etc. etc. etc.)

And, Craig is also training to run a marathon.  I’m not sure which one he is training to run, but he wants to do it, so I am supportive.  His new schedule should be helpful for his long runs.

Sarah — Entering 6th grade on the 15th, and her volleyball practices start Wednesday.  I measured her last night after having her stand back-to-back with me and discovering she was to the top of my neck and she is 59 inches!  I am not sure why that shocks me.  I mean, she’s 11.  But she has done some serious growing this summer.  I have been tracking all the girls weights and heights every 3 months or so.  July 29 was the last “weigh-in” date and Sarah had gained about 2 pounds in 3 months.  I figured that was about right.  But Saturday I noticed that Sarah looked different in a skirt she has worn all summer to Mass.  And then I was observing her yesterday afternoon and I just thought, “Wow, she looks so different…”  So I asked her to go weigh herself and let me know what it said.  Do you know, that girl gained almost 4 pounds in a week?  So, I’m not sure how much of her height happened this week, but that just blew me away.  

Of course, along with physical changes come the emotional changes.  Sarah really is a good girl.  I fear that I react to that entire age group so much differently than she does.  I find that certain things said (or not said) to Sarah by her peers make me sad/worrisome/angry and she doesn’t see it the same way I do.  I’m not sure why that is.  But this is my first trek into teenage-girl world with my daughters, and I’m learning as I go.  I am definitely witnessing the generation gap.  *sigh*

Now that Sarah has her iPod, I realize that I hardly get any pictures of her.  Hmmm.  need to fix that.  But here’s one of her with her siblings and some cousins from this summer.

13 of the 18 Poliquin-side kids

Dani — Entering 3rd grade on the 15th.  She has shot up this summer, too, though I didn’t measure her yesterday since she wasn’t feeling well.  She seems to feel her physical growing pains a bit more accutely than Sarah.  And, I think we have a little bug moving through the house as each of us has been a little bit “under the weather” recently.  Dani gets to start learning volleyball this year and she is excited about that.  Add that to the huge leap that occurs from 2nd to 3rd grade academically and the next few months will probably be big for her.  Dani is getting better at swimming, too, as she progressed to the sessions where they start working on actual strokes.

Dani with her cousin that’s her age from SC

Helen — Entering 1st grade on the 15th.  Just like the rest of the kids, she’s grown, but I haven’t checked her height (I think I was just so shocked at Sarah…)  She is a reading fool!  She really enjoyed The Magic Treehouse books this summer.  She wears a skirt every day.  I think it is because they are more comfortable for her.  Most shorts and pants just don’t fit her body type too well right now.  She began taking Classical Ballet last Saturday.  She’ll have a class every Saturday with other 6-year-olds.  She is very excited about it. She’s become a better swimmer all summer with her lessons.  She was all over the pool like a fish last week when we went to hang out with some friends.

Ballerina Helen

Dominic — Entering preschool next week.  He will get to go three full days a week.  He is very excited about it. His favorite things to play with are his cars — specifically his Lightning McQueens (he has a few of them…ahem).  He’s such a sweet little boy.  One night he came to me with one of the girls’ Nintendo DS things and asked me if he could play with it.  I told him to ask Dani (it looked like Dani’s).  So I hear him go in the other room and ask Dani (very nicely…with “please” and everything).  I hear Dani tell him that he can play with it.  So as he is walking back toward the room I was in, I hear him say, “Dani, you are too good to me.  Yeah, you are SO too good to me.”  🙂

Future’s So Bright — He’s gotta wear shades

Vincent — is 13 months!  Oh my.  And he is walking all over the place now.  He still has that funny gait where he kind of flings his feet out as he walks.  Soooo. Cute.  I walked in the door yesterday and he comes at me all feet flinging out with his arms up with the “pick-me-up now” grunts.  Be still my heart.

Found a spot just for him — haha
My baby boy and me

I will begin a new role at my company this week.  It’s exciting and scary all at the same time.  Regardless of how scary it might be…there’s nothing to complain about with forward motion.  I will tackle it with the same zeal I tackle other things in my life:  Bring it on!

Have a great week!


Monday Mumbles – 19

You know, I think TOOJE needs to make a button for her mumbles.  Then all of us who participate every so often, could have something that would pop up in your little window and you’d say, “Ahhh!  It’s Mumbles time!!”  🙂  What do you think, TOOJE?????
1.  Dani’s team didn’t win the championship in their tournament.  It’s okay.  The other team was WAY aggressive and wasn’t really following the rules.  It’s supposed to be ONE-ON-ONE, not THREE-ON-ONE, but whatever.  Our girls played together, played as a team and were still positive after the game where the other team hacked/bullied/ganged-up-on them the whole game.  They played the consolation final the next day and did well.  I think Dani is just happy to have played and hopes to play again next year!
2.  Now, we are getting ready for Spring volleyball to start.  Sarah’s registered for “Semi-competitive” and I must say, I cannot wait to actually see how much she improves with someone else coaching her!  It’s really hard to coach your own kid (my opinion) and so I am excited to see what a different coach can motivate her to accomplish.  A couple of other girls from Sarah’s class are playing in the league, too.  Good for them (I think) to learn to play with other kids.
3.  Saw this in the paper Friday:

It reminded me immediately of Helen.
4.  Speaking of Helen…she turns 6 on Thursday.  Wow.
5.  I spent this weekend doing a lot of writing about my experiences with Natural Family Planning (NFP).  Rebecca at The Road Home and I are collaborating on a piece to run this week and we hope to get many other bloggers involved.  Keep an eye out!  We want your stories!  We are the 98%!  🙂
6.  Craig got a promotion recently at work.  Yay!  Actually, they offered him this promotion a year ago and he backed out at the last minute.  We had so much going on last year (that whole adding a member to our family thing) that it wasn’t a good time.  But then they offered it to him again and now it’s official!  I am very proud of him.  This means that his schedule is changed up a bit and he will be going into work at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon a couple days a week.  It will be a new adventure of later-day daycare for the boys and after-school care for the girls.  New adventure of Mommy-better-leave-work-on-time-or-else, too.  Crazy.
7.  It’s a Pillow.  It’s a Pet.  It’s a Pillow-Pillow-Pet!
8.  This baby boy is almost 8 months old.  Crazy, I know.

9.  You know what’s crazier?  He’s scooting around and trying to crawl.  He mostly goes backwards, but it’s only a matter of time…methinks not very long actually…until he’s a roaming terror.

10.  Oh!  I don’t have to go to work today!  I like Monday-Off-Mumbles!  Have a great day!

If you like the Mumbles…and if you want to badger TOOJE into making a Mumbles button, go visit her and see what she’s got going on today.