Nostalgic Pondering

She’s getting more independent these days. All I have to do is ask, “Is your homework done?” or “How much more do you have?” There is not a lot of help required on my part.
She does her own laundry. All that’s needed from me, for the most part, is a reminder that it needs to get done and a suggestion about when would be a good time so that it’s complete in between the many commitments she sometimes has on a weekend.

Four years old?
She eats meals with the family, but often requires nourishment outside the regular meal times and is able to handle this on her own.
When I put things on my calendar to ensure we get her to appointments of all sorts – I “add” her via her e-mail address and the schedule on her phone is synched. She is able to accept or turn down babysitting jobs or social outings. Often, she will sit down with me for 5 minutes on a Sunday evening and the two of us will go through the week touching base about where she needs to be and when – and what will still be required of her at home.
Gone are the days when I must keep track baths, hair combing and teeth brushing. She took over self-care with pride when we established the time had come. And now she helps me get the younger ones ready to take over their own…we’re really only down to the boys now.

Yes, my girl is growing up. Time flies. She looks more like the woman she will be and less like the little girl she once was.

Five Years old
But yesterday, on a break during pool play, soon after her team had just won their fourth (or was it their sixth?) set in a row, my baby girl came back to me. Her excited, beautiful brown eyes smiled at me. I heard my little girl say, “Mommy, did you see…?”

It was almost as if I was seeing my six-year-old Sarah after she got her first hit in softball and rounded the bases to score a run; or my third-grade Sarah searching the stands after making her first basket in a basketball game; and then my fourth-grade Sarah approaching me after she remembered all her lines in the Christmas pageant; and even my seventh-grade Sarah after she earned the “A Honor Roll” the first time.
I saw my eighth-grade Sarah and heard her five-year-old voice ask me if I saw one of her kills in that last set.

After a day of volleyball

My heart melted. You see, she’s my big, teenage girl, who just last week was telling me how she hopes to attend a university far away. Yet, she is still my young baby girl who thrills for me to see every accomplishment.

She’s spreading her wings and getting ready to fly. And her heart yearns still for her Mommy and the approving affection she’s known since her birth.

So, as she called me, “Mommy” and asked “did I see?” I answered her the way I always have – with a smile and a hug and my words “Of course, I did. You did such a great job. I loved that play.”

We went to the KU-KState game together over the weekend


Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Today, my oldest turns 13 years old.

I have allowed that to sink in for the past few hours (since I woke up). Wow.
The oldest child is always new. Everything about her is a first time. The first steps, the first cuts and bruises, the first time she said, “I love you” and the first days of school—and now the first time she goes on a plane without an escort and we are barreling down the road towards first high school days, clubs, sports, first dances and dates and….just everything. She gets so much focus because we want everything to go as we planned. 
It is true, I struggle with how much space to give her to screw up socially and how much I protect her from the inevitable mean-girl things that happen at this stage of life. She handles everything so much better than I anticipate. Over and over again, I am forced to realize that she is even more mature than I give her credit for (and I actually give her a lot of credit). The things I see that remind me of my own trials in middle school are things she handles with grace. She is loyal to a fault, but I realize that is something for which I can’t help but love and admire her, no matter the tears it can cause along the way.
As the firstborn of five (+1) children, she is an incredible big sister. I remember when I found this in her school bag in 4th grade, as we were preparing to welcome Vincent that coming summer.

“Heaven is more beautiful than the big Christmas Tree at Zona Rosa
Heaven is more awesome than going to Disney World
Heaven sounds more fun than going on a play by myself to New Jersey
Heaven feels like getting another sibling and being loved forever.”
I was so touched, as a mother can be when her children admit/show their love for each other. Now she is a fantastic babysitter for us and for other families where she can earn some money. She knows how to play with little kids. Often, it is Sarah who initiates the play with her siblings that doesn’t involve electronics or anything. She has a knack for that, coming up with fun and engaging play activities in which all ages of her siblings will play and enjoy.
I am excited to watch as our next “Firsts” unfold. She will be in 8th grade this year, preparing for high school, playing club volleyball, discovering more about herself. I love learning how she feels about the books she reads and the movies she watches. I enjoy following her Tweets and Instagram photos and really love it when her loving personality shines through.
Sarah has always had a contemplative faith-life, understanding things earlier than I anticipated. She is the reason Craig and I delved in and learned more about our Catholic faith. She is the reason we embraced NFP and ultimately became open to more children. Her baptism was the turning point for me and promising to teach her our Catholic faith and raise her to be Catholic was the best thing I ever did.
So, off we go, into Teenager-land. Happy Birthday, sweet Sarah!
Birthday Girl!

Middle School Word Vomit (Fair Warning)

I don’t think it would be an earth shattering revelation to anyone for me to say that middle school rates probably the worst ever time in many people’s lives. I know it really was a stinker for me.

And, I don’t think I’d be telling mothers of middle schoolers anything they didn’t know by saying watching your kid go through middle school is probably rated right around the same spot.

I am having trouble with this tonight…it’s weighing heavy on my heart. I’m writing about it so maybe I can go to sleep at some point.

Sure, everyone hates middle school and everyone hates watching their kids go through middle school, right? Except. I don’t think the experience is created equal for everyone. Sure, it’s not the most fun time in life for pretty much anyone, but let’s be honest…for some it’s worse than for others.

I’m thinking there must be something in my genetic makeup that makes it particularly awful for me. And what really stinks is watching my sweet daughter go through it and knowing it must be my fault that it sucks so bad for her.

I mean, surely the moms of the girls who are invited to everything, included in all the pictures, have girls texting and calling to arrange “hangout” dates — it can’t possibly be THAT difficult for them, right?

And of course, the moms of the girls with all the confidence, the moms of the girls whom all the other girls in the class want to be like…it can’t be THAT hard…you know, to watch your girl “rule the roost” and even watch your girl be kind of mean to other girls, but those other girls want so badly to fit in that they don’t even get all that mad at your girl being mean to them. Shoot, watching THAT daughter go through middle school can’t be all that terrible.

Here’s the thing. My daughter is one of those steady-eddie girls. She is honest with others. She sticks by her friends through thick and thin. She doesn’t have a bad word to say about anyone (unless or until they’ve been mean to her…then she’ll at least speak her opinion, even if it is negative). She is smart and kind. Sure, I’m her mom, so I am sure there are some faults I would forget…but for the most part, even the things I correct her on, are pretty minor. (Well, Sarah, I might not have said it quite THAT way….an example of something I might say these days.)

And, to my knowledge, there’s not a big reason anyone dislikes my daughter. I think she suffers from about the same sort of thing I do, socially. She’s not the first person on anyone’s mind. No one is clamoring to be her friend. She’s the last one picked when they are picking teams, right? She’s the one left off the party invites (and has been throughout middle school). She’s the one who would be left off the table if the girls were allowed to pick where they sit at lunch. Yes — I’m the grateful mom for the lunchroom seating assignments because I know my daughter would most likely be one hurt without it.

Even the girls who claim to be her friends…when the oh-so-glam girls beckon, they drop my daughter like a hot potato. They aren’t mean to her, but they don’t bring her along. 

The only thing that makes seventh grade better than sixth grade is the fact that Sarah has matured and just kind of shrugs it off and expects it now. When it started happening in sixth grade, she clammed up and stopped talking to me altogether and went through some depression type behavior. Now, she talks to me about it, admits that it bothers her, but seems to figure it’s par for the course. Sad.

She admitted to me over the course of this year that it has bothered her when the only reason certain people texted her was to get help with homework. Apparently, she’s put a stop to that somehow. But then it bothers her that people will say to her individually that they are good friends, but will never allow a public picture of themselves with her. These kids are new teenagers and are on Instagram and Twitter…and I know it bothers Sarah to see that no one takes a “locker pic” with her. And even when she has a friend over to hang out, no pictures are posted or mention is made publicly that anyone’s hanging out with Sarah and having fun. It all seems so stupid and trivial (I KNOW!!!) but when you look at it through a 12/13-year-old’s eyes…THIS is the sort of thing that can suck the most. The adult in me says to Sarah, “In the grand scheme of life — this stuff doesn’t matter.” But the rejected 7th grade girl inside of me cries a heavy cry over it that night.

Sarah and I had a great conversation a week or so ago about setting realistic expectations with the kids she goes to school with. I have a hard time calling them her friends, because to be quite honest, once high school begins, the current crop she attends school with will change and, I would imagine, so will whomever she calls a friend. But it was hard to say, “Sarah — we’re almost through 7th grade and you haven’t been invited to stuff…let’s not expect it. Then it doesn’t hurt so much.” It was hard because I wish I had a more positive message to give her. But this was how I coped (eventually) and it’s all I know how to do.

Sad, isn’t it? I’m teaching my child how to build walls to protect herself. I wish it weren’t necessary. But, the sooner she learns not to expect people to invite her or include her in things, the better off she will be. Is that just a jaded mother speaking? Perhaps. But, I think with two middle school years under my belt, and the experience I’ve witnessed so far…I’m not too far off the mark.

Will teaching her to build walls and protect herself make watching her finish middle school any easier? No. Even if she protects her heart from the crushing blows of exclusion, there will be something, I am sure. 

And, I have heard people say it’s this way for everyone, but I have a really hard time believing that. I think it’s difficult for everyone for sure — difficult in that, everyone’s going through puberty and adjusting to new/different expectations in the classroom and all of that. But I believe it’s harder for the kids on the “outside” — the kids no one thinks of, the kids who feel like an afterthought inside. 

It’s difficult for me to put a finger on how it’s happened that my daughter finds herself on the “outside”. It really must be a genetic “gift” I’ve bestowed upon my children, yay for them . Regardless, I sure wish I knew how to make it easier. Maybe I could write a book and become wealthy. 

Or not — because that’s the thing about when middle school sucks for you — you feel like you’re the only one having such a hard time.

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

I’m not sure I could say much more than I’ve said before about my first-born. She turned 10 and I about cried writing about that. Then she turned 11 and we were no worse for the wear.

Now she turns 12. One lone, last year before the ‘teens. Yikes! How did we get here so fast?

What I will say is…she has grown up so much in the last year.

Physically — just take a look at the outdated pictures in my header (which were taken about a year ago) and then look at these…

She is getting taller!
Birthday Card from Gammer and Grandad!

 Lately, I have been balancing a new kind of relationship with Sarah. I’m still the parent, of course, but we talk more and she helps more without me asking her to do so. We get an extra hour or so each night after the other kids are in bed and we read or we watch movies or we just talk. She loves to tell me about funny parts of books or movies…or the latest “Dance Moms” episode she’s watched.
Happy Birthday, Sarah! I love you more than you could ever know!

7 Quick Takes — 55

Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting!
— 1 —
It’s been a crazy week for us in the Hughes household. I’m surprised by the fact it is Friday as it seems the week went by in the blink of an eye. I guess that’s what happens when there is a lot of activity in the evenings. This week I had a school board meeting Monday night, Tuesday I made it to Crossfit and then Sarah had a late volleyball game (thank God for friends willing to take her — Vincent would have been a TERROR at a 9:05 p.m. volleyball game!) Wednesday night didn’t really have much going on, but then I got out of work late, so couldn’t go to Crossfit until 6:30 instead of 5:30. Thursday I tried (in vain!) to get a little shopping done, but ended up really just taking Dani and Helen out for dinner.

— 2 —
As for the aforementioned shopping…I need to get Helen her new color leotard for Ballet, so before we left I had Craig check the hours of the Dance Shoppe and it said they were open until 7:30, so we headed there first. Only to find out they run summer hours and they closed at 6:00 and we arrived at 6:05. Boo! So now Craig has to take her today sometime so she has the appropriate color for class tomorrow. 

Speaking of Ballet for a minute, I really need to just sit down in front of a YouTube video and practice a ballerina bun over and over again until I can do it easily. I think I should put her hair in the bun for class each week and not simply wait until pictures and/or production and beg Sarah to do it for me. Sarah does a fantastic job, don’t get me wrong, but I know there’s a way to make them flawless…so I really just need to figure it out, I guess. 

— 3 —

The other shopping we were going to do involved getting some last minute things for Dani to take on her trip. She was planning to head out to SC to visit a cousin and they were going to go to a summer camp together. I say that in the Past Perfect tense because…we found out last night they have to cancel the summer camp! There was a septic/sewer type problem and the Park Rangers said they were not going to be allowed to have the camp on the campgrounds. Oh, Dani was so disappointed!! After her initial episode she reiterated to me that not going to camp wasn’t the most disappointing part. The most disappointing part was that she was going to see her cousin and get to hang out with her and now…we didn’t know if we were going to do that anymore. The good news is that my sister and I are still swapping kids (the cousin that is Helen’s age is coming here for a week while Dani goes there for a week). So, I think we are going to be able to salvage some of the fun. 🙂

— 4 —
Sarah got to spend the night at her Grandma’s last night so they could go shopping for her birthday. I can’t believe my girl is going to be 12 on Tuesday. 12. Twelve. She is such a good kiddo. She’s been so helpful for us this summer helping the kids stay on task at home about cleaning their rooms and the bathrooms and all that jazz. She ensured all the kids got done with summer reading and projects that are due the 1st day of school before the end of June. She helped take care of Vincent the week the daycare was on vacation. She comes and talks to me every night before she goes to bed. Sometimes we talk and sometimes we just play Candy Crush and sometimes she just gives me a big hug before she goes down to her room to go to bed. She is growing up too fast and I feel myself getting attached to her in ways I didn’t think would be possible for me with a daughter. I am blessed far beyond anything I have ever deserved with regard to my kids.

— 5 —
Oh, I DID do some online shopping last night to get Sarah’s birthday present. Shh, we got her a Kindle Fire! Well, you don’t have to “shh” too much because she knows she is getting it. We’ll have to talk about online usage again…although, she’s had a good run with online usage with the iPad — Facetimes a couple of friends, texting has been reasonable and no Instagram, which I am happy about. Every time I check her account on Instagram I think how happy I am she is not active. And I start thinking I check up on her too much because I think I wouldn’t allow some of the stuff I see posted by kids in her age group that show up in her feed. As a matter of fact, she would lose all online connectivity privileges if she posted some of the stuff I see. *sigh* I’m such a prude-parent, I guess.

— 6 —
I wrote my little blogpost on Sharing Fertility Awareness with my Preteen earlier this week. It got a lot of hits! I will go ahead and let you know, it spawned ANOTHER post that I am working on. Because…sharing Fertility Awareness is different than sharing the tenets of our Catholic Faith. And Catholic Church teaching on marriage, sexuality, etc., is a LOT more involved when discussing with my preteen. I’ve had THOSE conversations, too. And will continue to have them. Teaching my kids about monitoring Fertility and teaching my kids about our Faith do go hand in hand…but it is a lot more complicated to talk about marriage, sex, babies and all that goes with it than to tell my kid how to figure out when she will get her first period. So…I’m not finished yet. 🙂
— 7 —
I’ve been spending a large amount of my quiet and prayer time contemplating whether our family is complete at this time. I had a doctor visit for something I plan to have addressed in the next few months and the question was asked whether I was finished having children. You see, my treatment options would be different if I would ever be interested in pursuing pregnancy again. I’m thinking about so many things related to this, and I admit that it’s kind of bad timing that this is something Craig and I need to pray about and think about right now with Gregory’s due date just 2 weeks away. I would imagine I’ll be writing a bit more on this as we round out our discernment and discover what God is calling us to for our future.

Have a terrific weekend and be sure to go check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes Posts!


Monday Mumbles – 37

It’s Monday again! Funny thing about Mondays…they always come back around. I haven’t mumbled in a few weeks, but we had a “happenin'” weekend, so I thought I’d share!

1.  At 8:30 a.m. CT today, I’ll be having my first OB appointment.  Pray that the heartbeat is strong and easy to find?  🙂

2.  Our weekend was crazy!  Crazy! 

3.  Sarah’s first club volleyball tournament was Saturday.  First and foremost:  it was a blast!  I had so much fun watching her play.

4.  I’m very proud of her with how much she’s improved since the end of our school league play.  She’s now serving overhand (regularly and reliably) nice and strong.  She’s also getting a good feel for setting the ball and giving her teammates good looks for hits.

5.  Pool play was 2 games against each team in the pool and I will do a little bit of momma-bragging and say that the three losses did not come when my baby girl was on the court.  (is that wrong of me?)  And, the last game in pool play that they won, Sarah was the player serving 3 straight points for the win!!  I was so proud!!

6.  She was exhausted Saturday.  Just to give you an idea:  we arrived at 7:00 a.m. at the venue, they started pool play at 8:00, they played all through pool play and made it to the playoffs, they played the playoffs and then had to referee the next game after they lost and we were finally on our way home around 5:30 p.m.

7.  I was exhausted, too!  It’s hard to sit on those benches all day long.  I loved watching my kid play, but my butt was sore from those bleachers.  Note to self:  Must get cushy-seat-thingy.

8.  Sunday, she still had volleyball practice and her coach worked them hard.  (I have a girl-coach-crush on her coach:  she is the kind of coach I want for my daughter because she is tough and she works them hard and she doesn’t take any nonsense!)

9.  My volleyball player!!

10.   We booked our lodging for our vacation over spring break!  We are actually going to have a family vacation for the first time in 3 years!  I’m excited!!!

Pre Teen Cuteness

My last post kind of stuck in my craw for a bit. I don’t like writing about the hard parts of having children. I don’t like acknowledging publicly that I have a hard time with these crazy pre-adolescent years. But the fact of the matter remains that it’s a big unknown for me, and just like the ages that come before, there will be parts that I like, parts that I could do without and overall, I’ll be glad when the teenage years for each of my children are finished.

So, there are a few cute things I have noticed lately that I wanted to share.  Namely, how cute is it that Sarah has a crush on someone? 

Quick Side note:  It was NEVER considered “cute” to have a crush on a boy in my house when I was growing up.  I had crushes on boys but I NEVER admitted it publicly where my parents were concerned.  They were always adamant that I “didn’t know what I was talking about” when it came to my feelings for boys.  They could never see a crush for what it was — a crush.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I thought a boy was cute, I was way too shy to talk to him face-to-face, but was thrilled to have a regular phone conversation with one boy during 7th grade. When  my mom found out that I actually liked the boy that was calling the house every evening,  she did a lot to try and persuade herself – and in due course – me that there was nothing serious about it, it didn’t mean anything, it was just silly childhood games, etc.  Of course, looking back, I don’t necessarily see my parents’ attitudes on the subject as the most healthy way to address it with me, therefore, I have chosen a different tactic with my Sarah, so far.

Sarah has a crush.  She admitted as much on Instagram one day.  I informed my sisters and Craig.  Then I asked Sarah if she realized she’d been rather public with her declaration — to the point that her mom and dad knew who and all that stuff.  She affirmed her knowledge of this fact and left it at that.  She’s pretty private that way.

As the kids get older, I am always looking for those things where I can relate to them a little bit.  Even though their lives are their own, their experiences are their own, I want to be able to remember what it was like to be in that place.  I realize that I, too, experienced some of those things (the good and the bad unfortunately) and try to walk with my children through these times in their lives. 

So, I have to admit that knowing Sarah has this crush on a boy thrills me in that part of my heart that yearns for similarity with my daughter. I remember my crushes when I was 11 and 12 and 13 and….well, you get the picture.  I remember being too shy to talk to anyone about it.  I remember how my heart pounded when I got phone calls. 

I also remember how my heart felt when the boy that called me during 7th grade told me that he wasn’t going to call me anymore.  Interestingly enough, as I look back, I realize that I got over that pretty quick, but I do remember that little twinge I felt at rejection.

And so…there’s that.

Another thing that really warms my heart recently is how much love is being shown to my 3-year-old Dominic.  He is in preschool at our parish school so he has the opportunity to interact with the boys in Sarah’s class.  And they sure do seem to enjoy him a lot. 

Here are a few of the things:

1.  Sarah told me that the kids in her class have her bring Dominic to where they can see him as they pass through the hall to go to their carline in the afternoons after school.  They like to wave at him.  I have no idea what shenanigans he is doing as they wave and call to him, but I’m sure he’s entertaining them somehow.

2.  When we got out of Mass Saturday, Dominic left the pew and received hugs from one girl in Sarah’s class, then another girl came up and asked Dominic for a hug, too.  He then paraded around the parish hall getting high fives and hugs from older kids in the school who were at Mass.

3. I was checking stuff on the Sycamore site for school. They have a section that says “blogs” that is NOTHING like a real blog. Anyway, one of the boys posted this:

My son – a boss, LOL

4.  And finally, Sarah has been collecting Dominic’s autographs for kids in her class which cracks me up.  I am not sure which I find more interesting – the fact that Dominic is able to write his own name so well or the fact that a bunch of 11 and 12-year-old kids want a copy of it.  Additionally, she’s been taking lots of pictures of Dominic and putting together cute pictures collages of him. 

Here is one:

What warms my heart the most is that she is spending quality time with her 3-year-old brother (okay, he’s almost 4 now) and they have a lot of fun together. 
That’s really cute.