Monday, December 31, 2012

Into the New Year

2012 was the absolute worst year of my life.

2012 was the absolute best year of my life.

Life is full of antagonistic situations and for that...I am thankful. Without the opposing view, I would take for granted all of the amazing things in my life.

Without trials, I would not recognize times of strength. Without conflict with some, I would not appreciate the steadfastness of others. Without heartbreak, I would not realize my power to overcome. Without pain, I would not be aware of healing moments. Without sadness, I would not be grateful for the times of happiness and peace. Without mistakes, I would not understand the capacity of forgiveness.

However, I'm happy to see this year go. It can take with it all of the times I cried over people who don't care and the nights of stress that kept me awake long into the early morning hours. It can take with it the anguish of not feeling good enough and the pressures of trying to be. It can take with it my mistakes and bad decisions.

I'm heading into the new year with a resolve to be better and do better. I hope the issues, problems and struggles of 2012 will be resolved and by this time next year I will be at peace with my decisions. I'm taking into the new year all of the happy memories of this year, surrounded by the unwavering love of those close to me. I'm thankful for the people that I can depend on and who's friendship is enduring. I'm giving the new year the best of me, remembering the lessons I've learned.

Happy New Year, my friends. May 2013 bring to you all you hope for...and if it doesn't...go and find it. :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Eve/Day 2012

How is Christmas already over? There was so much build-up and now...it's gone. :(

We had a fantastic couple of days, spent with quite a few family members and friends. We miss those that we weren't able to see, but we understand the challenge of dividing up time everywhere. Thank you, to those that shared in our days, with us!


New pajamas are a fun tradition that always brings smiles to their faces.


Nana and Papa spoiled them rotten!

The kids had a gift under the tree, from Grandma Pat. While she can't be here physically, she is always here in spirit. <3>
 
Most of my family. :)


At midnight, I told the oldest three girls to go back to bed. At 4 am, I told Luke to go back to bed.
They got smart...at 6 am, they sent Peanut to knock on the door. We couldn't tell her cute little voice no... :)

It takes a lot of coffee to wake the sleeping dead. ;)

Avers loved her fact books, DSi and games. Peanut, however, apparently wanted her to hurry up... ;)


Ry FINALLY got her American Girl doll. And clothes for her American Girl doll. And a bedroom set for her American Girl doll. She has been on cloud nine, ever since!

Lukey was so excited to get a magic kit, DSi and games. I wish I would have gotten a good photo of him jumping up and down, in excitement!

Every little girl deserves a pony. And books. And an Innotab2. ;)

I've never seen a kid so in shock. She was actually speechless!
(For a moment...)

New iPod cover, from Bek.


Cover your eyes...HOLY CRAP...POGO STICKS!!!

My Fabulous Five

I forgot to take photos (blame it on exhaustion...I was running on 4 hours of sleep and sugar), but some of Josh's family also made it over, to spend some time with us, Christmas night. The kids loved their gifts and so did we!

I hope that your Christmas was half as amazing as ours was. I'm sad that it is over, but I am looking forward to a new year and new beginnings. :)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

I'm sure you can understand that our lives have been extremely busy these last few months! My choices came down to spending time with my kids over Christmas break, or sending out our usual cards and Christmas letter, by snail mail. You can see which one I chose, below... ;)

Dear Family and Friends,

     If you are reading this letter...congratulations! The Mayans were wrong! :) As we close out another year, we have so much to be thankful for. We are surrounded by so much love and amazing, supportive people; but we'll get to that in a bit. First, let us catch you up on what our little family has been busy with, this last year!

     Bailey turned 11 this year and started 6th grade. She is still attending charter school and is doing fantastic! She was placed in Latin, after testing out of spelling and while it's not her favorite class, she is doing well. When we got her placement scores back from the end of 5th grade we were shocked to see that she tested at a 10th grade level in math problem solving and post high school level in math procedures. She still needs to work a bit in vocabulary and reading, but we are extremely proud of her. She started dance this year and just performed in her first recital a couple weeks ago. She is a very social girl and loves spending time with her friends. Bay has grown up a lot this year and her insight and mature attitude still catches us off guard from time to time.

     Ryleigh turned 9 this year and started 4th grade. She loves school and plans on being an orthopedic surgeon when she grows up. She has loved being able to watch eye, heart and lung dissections as part of her science class, at school. She was placed in math and reading classes above her grade level, and we know that with her brains and drive, her dreams can be accomplished! She started gymnastics this fall and has loved working with their pre-competition team. She is in the gym practicing four hours a week and then practices at home for countless more hours. Ry is a happy kid, who likes to be helpful and brings so much love to our family.

     Avery turned 7 this year and started 2nd grade. She is also doing really well in school and although she needs to work a bit on her reading, she tested at a 5th grade level in math procedures. We are truly impressed with what she is able to accomplish. She started Taekwondo this year and recently moved up from a white belt, to a yellow stripe. She took first place at her recent tournament, even after taking a pretty hard kick to the face! She is still in therapy and taking medication daily. We realize that this may likely be a lifelong struggle for her, however it doesn't define her. Avers is an amazingly bright, thoughtful, determined little girl, who will one day change this world, with her independent spirit.

     Luke turned 6 this year and started 1st grade. He loves school and has been bringing home all A's and B's. He was just recently moved up in his reading group, to a 2nd grade level, and we are so proud of him. He is our typical rambunctious boy, with an overabundance of energy. He also started Taekwondo this year and just like Avery, recently moved up to a yellow stripe belt. Due to the limited number of white belts at the recent tournament, he had to spar with a higher belt and still took third place. We were so happy for him, even though he was a little disappointed. Lukey loves playing computer games and is constantly inventing contraptions all over the house.

     Presley turned 4 this year and started preschool. She has mastered writing her name and several other simple words (mom, dad, cat, ect.). She loves going to school and while we worried there would be some separation anxiety at first, she has done amazingly well (and so has her Mommy!). She started taking dance this year and participated in the same recital that Bailey did. She was so adorable up on stage, with her teeny, tiny bun and itty, bitty dance shoes. Peanut may be the baby of the family, but she makes sure her voice is heard, loud and clear. She loves animals and does a great job of making sure our pets have food and water, every single day.

     Josh ran his first marathon this year! He loved it and he plans to do more in the future. He is still working for the same company, working crazy rotating hours. He is still in school, as well, working on his Associates Degree. He recently finished up a math and English class, putting him about halfway done. He is working toward a business degree for now and then plans to focus more in finance. He was able to go hunting this year, although sadly, he didn't get anything.

     Leeann received her acceptance to nursing school in March and just finished her first semester with a 3.8 GPA! She did her clinical hours at a long term care facility this semester, but she looks forward to working in the hospital next spring. She is still working part time, from home, along with school, so it seems that she spends the better part of every day in front of a computer. If it weren't for an amazingly patient family, there is no way she could have survived.

     One of Leeann's best friends, Bek, has been living with the family this year and they could not have endured these last few months, without her. When Josh is working 12 hour shifts and Leeann is doing a 12 hour clinical shift, Bek steps in and runs kids to school, to extracurricular activities and to playdates. She graduated with a Bachelors of Psychology this spring (probably the only way she survives this crazy bunch!) and is currently working on her personal fitness certification. She also works full time, from home, so along with everyone else, she has her plate full!

     This has been a year of changes, stress and adaptation. It has not been easy adjusting to everyone's demanding school requirements, new extracurricular schedules, and Leeann's nursing program. It has taken a lot of careful planning and extreme amounts of patience from everyone. Without the love and support of many friends and family, there is no way that it would have worked out. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to those that have brought dinners over, driven our children to activities, taken various children for the night, or simply called to check in. We can never repay you for your kindness and love.

      We hope you and your family are doing well, and you are all happy and healthy. We hope this coming year brings you all the love, peace and comfort, that you desire. Thank you for being a part of our lives and for allowing us to play a part in yours. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's The End Of The World, As We Know It...

...and I feel fine!


The world is supposed to end today. (Let's leave out the obvious facts that leap year wasn't figured into this, so technically the world should have ended some seven-ish months ago. Or that it is already past doomsday on the other side of the world.) So, for fun...let's play pretend.

Good-bye, cruel world! Good-bye, $30,000 in student loans that were going to forever haunt me! Good-bye, professor that gave me an A-, (even though I went into the final with a 96%) and never graded a single paper I wrote for the class! Good-bye, laundry that never ends and stubborn stains on uniform shirts. Good-bye, bills that come every. single. month. and dishes that multiply in the sink, while I sleep. Good-bye, tantrums, running out of milk, gas prices, ear infections at 2 am, and no 24 hour pharmacy within a 30 mile radius. Good-bye, dusty shelves, carpet stains, and grocery shopping. Good-bye, pissy people in long lines and hold music. Good-bye, guilty feelings for eating chocolate. And chips. And ice-cream. At 10 pm.

Good-bye, job! This means I don't have to work today, right? Boss? Right...?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Spreading Christmas Cheer...and Killing Germs

I usually make plates of goodies for my neighbors and the kids' teachers. This involves a day of making batches and batches of white chocolate covered popcorn, mint fudge and sugar cookies. Well...not this year. I just didn't want to spend all day in the kitchen and send around the same treats that everyone else does. (Not that I don't LOVE and APPRECIATE our wonderful neighbor gifts. I truly do! I just wanted to do something different!)

While visiting the mall earlier in the month I saw these yummy scented soaps at Bath and Body Works and my mind started ticking. Who doesn't use soap? Who doesn't like an amazing smelling soap?


Thirty soap bottles and some tags later...Christmas gifts were born! :) 

It reads: Merry Christmas! We hope your New Year is filled with Faith, Love & Hope Soap!

Now, I just have to enlist the help of my little elves to hand them out! :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Just. Sit. Down.

I don't do well with "down time". My body doesn't know how to relax. I don't know how to sit still. I don't stop and smell the roses (they would be blown away with all this dang wind we are having anyway!). I don't chill out.

I've been done with the semester for about 48 hours and I'm antsy to...do...something.




What I really want is to not work and to organize my house. Do you know how much cleaning, organizing and painting I would love to get done??? Next week, I keep telling myself. I have the entire week off work and this house is going through an overhaul.


(My children, I'm sure, have already planned out their hiding places.)

I'm already making up for all the of working out I missed out on, during the semester. This old body is being shocked by two work outs a day, right now. (Read that as: my shoulders, back, butt and legs are pretty damn sure I threw myself in front of a bus.)










I really wish I could just. sit. down. and do nothing for a good week...and rev myself up for the upcoming semester. I have a feeling that it isn't going to get any easier and my stress level isn't going to dissipate at all. Buuuut...that isn't me.

I'd much rather run around like a chicken with head cut off...and then spend the next few months complaining that I never get any down time. ;)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sugar Cookies Madness

Nothing is simple in my house. Here's the steps for sugar cookie madness...

1. Lose the recipe you've used for years...spend an hour trying to find it online. End up on facebook, playing bejeweled.
2. Reign in your A.D.D. and decide just to try a new recipe.
3. FOURTEEN cups of flour? Maybe doubling it wasn't such a good idea...
4. Seven cups of flour added to mixer...turn it on...POOF!!! Flour e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.
5. Transfer mixture back to big bowl that has the other seven cups of flour...and attempt to hand mix it. You might as well be mixing cement, with a plastic spoon.
6. Put half the dough back into the mixer until blended (splattering cookie dough all over yourself, the cabinets and the wall), then put into another bowl. Add the last half of the dough into the mixer until blended, then knead both batches together, by hand.
7. Notice that the puppy is coated in flour...a victim of the POOF!!!
8. Break your rule of not eating raw cookie dough and lick the beaters. (Let's be honest for a moment...you made up the "no cookie dough because of raw egg rule" because... you don't want to share the beaters. Those darn kids came along and wanted you to share and well...You. Don't. Want. To. "Umm, no cookie dough for you...there is raw egg! You'll get salmonella! *hide behind open fridge door and pops some in mouth, giggling*)
9. Kids fight over who gets to color the sugar, grease the cookie sheets and sprinkle the cookies. You love being a referee. "For the love of all that is holy...you will all get a turn!!"
10. Contemplate drinking the cooking wine. No, the cookies don't requiring cooking wine...but you could probably still find some...
11. First batch comes out and child whispers, "No offense...these are much better than last year..." Huh. Well maybe a lost recipe is a good thing.
12. Tell your kids no more cookies until after dinner.
13. Trip over five kids and two dogs, while trying to coordinate the rolling-out-cookie-cutting-sugar-sprinkling-baking-cooling madness...in a kitchen far too small for this delicate dance. You vow that your next home WILL have a double oven. At least.
14. Tell your kids no more cookies until after dinner.
15. Your best friend is a cookie-rolling-out-cutting-out mad woman. You fall 4 dozen cookies behind, while waiting for the ONE oven...and turn around to see her and a child eating the raw cookie dough. So much for your rule...
16. Your back, knees and feet will hurt. You will contemplate starting a new workout regimen. It will be called "One Tough Cookie" and it will last for hours and hours and hours...
17. Tell your kids No. More. Cookies. Until. After. Dinner.
18. Seventeen-ish dozen cookies later and you'll realize...you're too tired to make dinner now. You actually find yourself thinking, "The cookies have eggs, milk and flour in them...and the tree ones are green...that's a well rounded meal!" ;)
19. You decide to  leave the clean up for the kids and hubby to deal with. They just got seventeen-ish dozen cookies made for them, after all.
20. You walk away from the kitchen...covered in flour, sugar and twitching with anxiety...knowing full well that you'll be doing the dishes in the morning.


Sugar Cookies (not doubled)
2 C Sugar
2 C Margarine
2 Eggs
7 C Flour
1 tsp. Salt
4 tsp. Baking Powder
2 tsp. Baking Soda
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 C Milk
Cream sugar, margarine and eggs until fluffy. Mix dry ingredients together. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk and vanilla. Blend thoroughly and chill ( I only chilled for 30 min...impatient bunch in this house). Roll out to 1/4 inch thick; cut as desired. Place on greased backing sheets and bake at 375 for 5-10 minutes. (I found that 7 minutes was perfect, for us.)



21. Realize while typing out this recipe that you completely forgot to add the Baking Soda.
Meh. They were still "better than last year". ;)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I'm Going To Be Better

This morning I woke up and unlike every other Saturday morning for the past three months...I didn't plan my day. There was no working around homework, there was no stressing over an upcoming test, there was no papers to write.

As of yesterday, I have completed my first semester of nursing school...and I rocked it! (If I do say so, myself!) ;)

Perfect timing...because all I want to do today is be with my kids. Soak up their giggles, hug them close and listen to every little thing they have to say...even if I've heard it before.

Yesterday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary has shaken me, to my very core. It's not just that twenty innocent babies died...it's realizing all the things that were stolen from them and their families. Saturday morning breakfast. Movie nights. Playing soccer in the yard. Christmas morning excitement. Building a snowman. Their first crush. Their first kiss. Their first formal dance. Learning to drive. High school graduation. Excitement over college acceptance letters. Fighting with their college roommate. Falling in love. Buying their first home.

Having children of their own.

Today, I am not going to worry about work. I'm not going to worry about homework. I'm not going to worry about cleaning. I'm going to worry about running out of hot chocolate and baking cinnamon-pull-a-parts to perfection. I'm going to worry about what Christmas movie to watch next and not letting the popcorn bowl go empty. I'm going to worry about doing the science experiments that my son has been begging to do and forget about the mess it will make. I'm going to let my daughter do my hair and not worry about how I look (and try to ignore the hair pulling).

I'm going to be a better parent, because too many parents don't get the chance today. I'm going to be better and enjoy my children, rather than stress over my to-do list, because 20 children will never get that chance. I'm going to be better about being thankful for every crazy, loving, stressful, chaotic, loud moment. I'm going to be better about letting go of the things that don't matter.

I'm going to be better.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I Will Say A Little Prayer

In the middle of the terror, confusion and chaos of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut today, my thoughts obviously turn to my own children. In a small town, much like mine, parents woke their children up for school, just like I did. There was squabbling among siblings, there was a search for a missing shoe and a quick check that homework was done, just like in my house. There were hugs given and "I love you's" said, just like we do every morning.
Today, at 3:30 I will pick my children up. I will see their rosy, cold cheeks, from the weather storm creeping in. I will laugh at their mussed hair, that no amount of hairspray can prevent. I will listen to them, all at once, tell me about what their teacher said during math, what their friends did in the hallway and what they had for lunch. I will ask them what homework they have to do when we get home and hear the groan, "But, moooom...it's Friday!" They will remember that tonight we are doing chocolate fondue for dessert and scream in excitement, begging to do it as soon as they get home. As soon as we walk in the door, they will shed shoes, coats, hats and backpacks, effectively making my office a hazard zone. They will run to the kitchen, tearing through it, in order to prepare an after school snack.
Tonight, at 8:30, I will tuck each of them in. They will each smell like toothpaste and Suave shampoo. I will tell Avery the "spider" story...tickling her as the "spider" moves from her feet to her belly. I will pull the covers under her chin and tell her I love her. Peanut will tell me she loves me "thiiiiiiiiiis much", spreading her arms wide. I will shut Luke's door with a "See ya later, alligator" and hear him giggle and respond "After while, crocodile!" I will make sure Ry's glasses are on her headboard and snuggle her in tight. I will hug Bay, shocked once again that my baby is getting so tall that I can rest my chin on her head, and she will climb to the top of her bunk bed to work on Latin homework.
Then...I will say a little prayer. I will pray for the families that were robbed of tucking their babies in tonight. I will pray for the babies that were robbed of having their mom or dad, kiss them and tickle them, before they fall asleep. I will pray for the witnesses, police officers and medical personnel  who will forever have the vision of massacre etched in their minds. I will pray for the parents who's son took matters into his own hands today, stealing lives that he had no right to take.
May they all find peace. Some how.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ups and Downs


Things have been rough lately. I don't know if she has outgrown her medication dosage, or what. She isn't sleeping like she should...I awaken often to find her up at 4 am...2 am...and it is rare for her to fall back asleep, meaning that she is difficult the following day. The yelling, the backtalk, the anger...that drove us to seek help in the first place...is back.
She was upset today, because I told her that she was having $0.50 from her weekly allowance deducted (the same as her siblings), because the children's television room was not kept clean all week. She then proceeded to kick a hole in her bedroom wall.
If this were any of my other children, I would know how to solve this. I would know what to do and say, in order for them to understand that this kind of behavior is not acceptable in our home. I could rationalize with them.
But...she is not my other kids. She is Avery. To anyone else, she is being a brat. To those who really know her, she is cycling through her moods. It is hard. It hurts. I feel like a bad mother, because I can't make it better. Fix it. Fix her. I just have to hope that what I am doing, is what is best.
I opened up to her teacher a few weeks ago, regarding Avery's difficulties. She didn't respond. At all. I got no acknowledgement. Not even a "Thanks for letting me know." I had decided to alert her to Avery's needs, because of a note I got regarding her behavior at school. Since that day, when I sent the email, it seems that Avery has pulled a card nearly every day. I am trying not to feel like she is being singled out or picked on...and I probably wouldn't feel that way if her teacher had just hit the "reply" button. Does she think it's easy, for a mother to open up, like that? Does she think it's fun for me, to explain that my child is different?
It's hard for me to remember that Avery is a little girl, struggling, when things get like this. When she is in a good mood, she is fun to be around. She is giggly and well behaved and aims to please. I try to hang on to those memories, for times like this.
I've placed a call to her therapist, reaching out for help again. I don't know if just a therapy session will solve this, or a change in medication is needed.
I. Just. Need. Help.
It's frustrating, too. Every time she cycles down like this, I am reminded that this will most likely be forever. It won't go away. It won't be outgrown. It may be managed more effectively, but she...and I...will forever struggle with her behavior and moods.
There is no cure...but there is love.
Love will not fix it. Love will not change it. But, love will get us through it. Somehow.
And I LOVE this little girl, more than she will ever understand.

We're All Mad Here

FINALS WEEK. Woah. Where did that come from? Where did the last fourteen weeks go?

Let me put this into perspective for you...in fourteen weeks I have attended 5 lab days, finished 90 hours of clinical hours, completed approximately 53 assignments, written approximately 14 papers, taken 17 tests and worked about 420 hours. Then there is that whole "Mommy" gig I have going on. ;)

Woah.

It's amazing to take a moment to focus on how far I've come...rather than on how far I have yet to go.

Now? I just have to push though this week. Comprehensive tests that are worth 20% of my overall grade?

I got this. 



Friday, December 7, 2012

Roo - I Am

If there was any concern over who this kid's mother is, this poem she wrote at school, should make it blatantly obvious.
Stressed.
Worried about school.
...
Creative writer.
;)

Darling, you are going to be the most amazing doctor one day. I love you, Ryleigh-Roo.




I Am

I am funny and nice.

I wonder what I am going to be when I grow up.
I hear my sisters and brother laughing.
I see me doing a back handspring in gymnastics.
I want to be a doctor when I grow up.

I am funny and nice.
I pretend to go somewhere.
I feel me doing something.
I worry I am not going to be a doctor someday.
I cried when my Grandma died.

I am funny and nice.
I understand you can be nice to people.
I say people are really nice.
I dream of me being a doctor.
I try to help people.
I hope I will be a doctor.

I am funny and nice. 



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

*Insert Scream Here*

I'm almost done. I'm almost done. I'm almost done. I'm almost...

Just have to make it through this week.

And Finals Week next week...

*sob*