Skies….

It’s a bird!…It’s a plane!…It’s SUPER AIDEN!
In following Thursday’s Theme: Skies, I immediately thought of this picture. It is one of my favorites of Aiden. It was taken at a family reunion a couple of years ago. The look on his face is one of pure trust and joy. He knows without a doubt that his dad is going to catch him, in the way that only a little one can. There is no  worry or fear because he knows that his dad is there.  This is a good reminder to all of us. We can take that leap, fly through the air and trust that our Father will always be there for us. We have no need to worry, He will always catch us….Amen. 🙂

My other favorite sky picture was from last week. We were on our way to the church for Isaac’s Confirmation and this was what we saw…

I said to my husband that it looked like the Holy Spirit was literally streaming down from heaven. It just felt like it was God giving us a little preview of what was coming.  It was a subtle reminder that his grace and guidance are always present, streaming down from heaven. We have only but to look up to be reminded. 

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Quick Take Friday…

In an effort to write more, I have started to try and follow along with the different themes from Cari over at http://www.clan-donaldson.com/.  I am two days in (I know, I am soooo committed! 2 whole days!) and I am loving it. Ok, so 7 quick takes…

1.) The good news is that it is now 8:05 a.m. and Jonathan hasn’t bitten anyone yet today! This is a major accomplishment in light of the last few weeks… (  http://daytonhoughs.blogspot.com/2013/04/i-have-given-birth-to-bitezilla.html )

2.) I am on a baby snuggle high. My dear friend from high school, Corina, came for a visit and brought her teeny, tiny, sweet, pink, chubbalicious, little angel, Norma LaRue. I loved the rare opportunity to visit with Corina and her hubby, Ian, but I have to admit that I was in a baby-lovin fog. I swear, holding that baby was better than the Prozac. Oh my, that girl was so snuggly and sweet…sigh. I miss that.
3.) I survived a near death experience yesterday. Because Corina was coming for a visit, I felt that I should probably hose off the overwhelming amount of sidewalk chalk art that had taken over my porch, so that when they came into the house, their shoes weren’t covered in chalk. (I am really thoughtful that way. lol) I was in my bare feet (because I hate to wear shoes. I love shoes…reallllllly love shoes, I just don’t like to wear them when it’s nice out.). I ran around the side of the house to grab the hose and it happened. I felt something on my foot and looked down and a giant, 4 foot long, fang bearing, venom-dripping snake was slithering over the top of my foot! ( Ok…maybe a teensy exaggeration. It was probably only 1 foot long and I didn’t see fangs or venom. I’m pretty sure that it was just a common garter snake…but still!) I shrieked and ran back around to the front of the house. Took one look at the chalk art and decided that it was beautiful and who was I to deprive my guests of seeing the creative genius of my kids.
4.) It is Friday and the weekend is here and I am fairly certain that we have no plans. Woohoo!..oh wait, the girls have their Children’s Community Choir concert tomorrow night, and of course church on Sunday, and Coley works, and DJ and Jake have lifeguard training…never mind. I am tired already.
5.) Today is the 2 year anniversary of the day that one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is still here and cancer-free and fabulous!! We are all blessed to have her in our lives! We love you Lori!!
6.) I managed to trim my dog’s toenails without hurting him. The poor dog’s nails were kind of long and he got one of them caught in our carpet and his foot started to bleed. Yuck. He is nice and trimmed up now and   hopefully that won’t happen again. 
7.) Tonight is the American Girl Tea at the little girls’ elementary school. Saige is the featured doll and she is from New Mexico. Therefore we are supposed to wear “Western wear.” Hmmmm, not sure what we are going to wear, but it should be fun. I am looking forward to spending a little bit of time with my little ladies. I can’t think of anything better to do on a Friday night.
Ok, so Jonathan just tried to bite me…scratch off number 1.

I have given birth to Bitezilla!

Ugh…This adorable, smiley, funny baby of mine has become a little monster! He is biting EVERYONE!! I seriously mean everyone, all of his siblings, especially the smaller ones, his cousins and unfortunately even the kids that I babysit. It is bad enough that he is gnawing on our kids and even my sisters poor little ones, but the fact that he has chomped down on kids that I am being paid to keep safe is bad, really really bad. I am just at a loss. I have tried everything. I have tried to talk to him about it. ( Yeah that one got me really far! You know how easy it is to reason with a 2 year old!) I have tried timeout. I have slapped his hand. I have even…bit him back (Please don’t judge! It was very gently and more for reaction than anything. I am not proud of this, I am desperate!) I make him hug and apologize to his victim. He does this very willingly and enthusiastic. I am starting to wonder if he is merely hugging them to find the juiciest place to nibble.  I must admit that he comes by it naturally. He is the product of a long line of biters. My mom was a biter and… I admit it…I, too, was a biter. In fact I drew blood (more than once) when I bit my cousin Tara as she was climbing the stairs in front of me. (I am so sorry Tara. 30 some years late, but none-the-less heartfelt and sincere!)

He is a sneaky biter too. He snuggles up to you and you think that he is being sweet and then CHOMP! What in the world?! I know that a few of our other kids went through this phase as well but stopped quickly. Leave to Jonathan to be the picture of endurance and persistence when it comes to this!

I am wondering if it has anything to do with his mild obsession with dinosaurs. He carries his “Sauries” around all day. He is always making them battle and eat each other. Oi. I have no idea.

Here is the other problem…

Look at how darn cute the little bugger is! 
I am now going to start praying to St Appolonia, patron saint of teeth problems. It can’t hurt! (Not as bad as his biting does, anyway.)

My boys…

In the interest of following Theme Thursday…Boys…Here is a picture of my favorite boys ever!

They are wild and funny, intense and sweet! My boys are amazing. I am loving the front row seat that I have to watch them grow and become the people that God has intended them to be. I pray that as their mother, I am teaching them how to treat women. I strive to teach them how to cherish and respect the opposite sex. I am teaching them how to be men that can do dishes, diapers and laundry. (You are welcome future daughter in laws!) I always joke that I used to pray for patience and God kept giving me boys so I stopped. I think that with each of my boys, and the messiness and busyness that accompanies them, I have learned to appreciate them all a little bit more. They are loud and rambunctious, but sweet and protective. I am blessed. 

Isaac’s Confirmation

Watching my children grow is one of the greatest privileges that I have been blessed to experience. While I try to remind myself of this everyday, when a milestone comes about, it is even more apparent. My baby boy Isaac is a constant reminder of this. Although he would be quick to remind me that he is most definitely NOT a baby or even a boy. He is, at the old age of 10 1/2, almost a man. (His words, not mine!) I am just not ready for that. To me, it was only yesterday that I held his soft sweet newborn body close to mine. It was just this morning that I wrestled with him to keep my energetic toddler quiet during church. It was just this afternoon that I watched him receive his First Holy Communion. I swear, I just blinked and we were sitting in  church watching the Bishop lay his hands on Isaac and Confirm him. Wow. Where in the world have the last 10 1/2 years go?
Isaac David at his Baptism
When I was pregnant with Isaac, his dad and I very carefully chose his name. We went back and forth and settled on Isaac David. A beautiful, strong, biblical name.( Of course we don’t actually call him that. We have managed to saddle the poor kid with the nickname “Bubba.” It is a loooong convoluted story about how that came about,  a topic for another blog someday. ) Isaac means laughter. And  David means beloved. Since he has joined our family,  he has filled it with laughter and love so we pretty much hit the nail on the head with his name. (Yay us!) Part of the sacrament of Confirmation, is that the candidate gets to chose a new name. It should be a name of a saint or someone that they want to emulate. Isaac chose the name Michael, which means, “Who is like God?” St Michael was an archangel that defeated and cast out demons from heaven. He is the warrior angel. The protector. St Michael is a favorite here in the Hough house. As I reflect on his choice it makes sense, at least to me. Isaac is and has always been a very active and intense boy. He is the oldest of the middles and definitely a leader among the little boys in our family. They look up to him, and he looks out for them. For him to try and model himself after St Michael seemed a very natural fit. 
During the Confirmation, the Bishop talked to the kids about the meaning of the word “confirm.” He pointed out that to confirm something is to strengthen one’s resolve, in this case to strengthen their faith. The gifts of the Holy Spirit include fortitude and understanding. Both of these things are very necessary to live out the faith. I pray that Isaac will  use these gifts to grow in and defend the Catholic faith. I pray that he uses the gifts of wisdom and counsel to share his faith with others. I pray that the gifts of piety and fear of the Lord are quiet examples to all those he meets. Most importantly, I pray that he continues to grow in his love of God. I pray that Jesus is always his best friend.  And on his Confirmation day, I pray that the Holy Spirit dwells in his heart and is a loving and welcoming example to all he meets. 
Isaac and his sponsor Robb and Bishop Brandt 
 Isaac and two of his buddies, J and Evan
 Isaac and his godparents, Uncle Robb and Aunt Jess
Isaac and his very proud parents

Mercy

Our children will fail us. They will be willful and stubborn. They will be disobedient and defiant. We will fail our children. We will expect too much. We will be demanding and unforgiving. The fact is that nobody is perfect. Why do we do this? Why do we expect so much from those that we love? I think that it is because we see in them the potential that they have. I think that as parents we do this, maybe a lot (?). There was a time that we were going through a very difficult time with one of our children and I was beyond frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, and hurt. I went to confession to one of the best confessors ever and poured my heart out. He listened and looked very thoughtful and said the one thing that I needed to hear. He said, “Your child needs to know that you love him/her no matter what.” I was kind of indignant. Of course our kids know that we love them. But he continued. ” He/she needs to know that if they never get through this and continue to behave in this way until the day that they die, even if this is ultimately what kills them,  you will love them.” Wow. We love our children. That is an absolute. Even in the middle of the hell that we were going through with this child, I never doubted my love for him/her. But do our children know, I mean really know that our love is not contingent on their good behavior? We say it, but do they believe it? I would hope so, but sometimes in the middle of badness, maybe they need to be reminded. Maybe we, as parents, need to be reminded of that too. You don’t always have to like your kids. You won’t always like them. Trust me. I  know that it sounds bad, but they are only human, and my dear friends, so are you. Our feelings get hurt. Our pride takes a hit. They are so stubborn and just won’t listen. And sometimes we are just so stubborn and won’t listen either. But you will always love them and that is what makes it so difficult. They will hurt your heart in ways that you couldn’t imagine, not in spite of your love for them, but because of it.

In my relatively short time as a parent, I learned early on that we must pick our battles. Is it worth the frustration to fight with a toddler over mismatched shoes when you aren’t going anywhere? Is it ok to occasionally give in and give them a treat despite the fact that what they deserve is a time out? Is it worth the battle to get your teens to make their bed before they leave for school? Is it worth the anxiety it causes to remain silent when an all out war hastaken over because a certain teen refuses to apologize for something that was very much their fault? The answer to all of these is, sometimes, yes. Sometimes you just need to give in. Sometimes you need to be the one to break the silence. Sometimes you need to forgive, even if they don’t deserve it. It isn’t being weak. It isn’t being a wishy-washy parent. It is being a good parent. It is teaching mercy.  That is pretty much what mercy is, right? It is basically forgiveness even if you don’t deserve it. That is not to say that we don’t punish our kids when a punishment is warranted. Of course we do!  Otherwise we would have a houseful of self-absorbed monsters. But it is to say that if all that we do is to punish away every bad thing that our kids do, when can we teach them about mercy and forgiveness? When can we teach them about sacrifice? Sacrifice isn’t only about giving up things. Sacrifice can also be about giving up a little bit of your pride. It can be about your ego taking a hit. It takes so much more energy to stay angry. (Trust me I have tried.) And honestly, the forgiveness and mercy is a grace to us as well. We need to teach our children about forgiveness and mercy. We need to teach them about sacrifice. When we need a little reminder of exactly what that means, we need only look at the crucifix to see the ultimate act of sacrifice and mercy.

So, I say, let them wear two different shoes, give them dessert when they haven’t earned it. Give them the second or third or fourth chance. Don’t look at the messy room for a day.  Break the silence. And most importantly…be merciful.

Ok, I’m done now. Someone needs to remind me of all of this the next time I am in a battle with one of my own. Thanks!

Jake, the birthday boy…

My son Jake has complained that I NEVER write blog posts about the older kids, especially him. I beg to differ, but since this is his birthday I am going to let it go and write him a little post dedicated completely and entirely to ONLY HIM! That is something that doesn’t happen a lot here. Very seldom does anyone have anything all to themselves, but this my dear son is about you and only you!  So here goes…

When Brian and I started to date Jacob was almost three. He was this scrappy, funny, little guy with strawberry blond hair, big blue eyes and freckles. He loved anything sports related and was super competitive. Anytime we played anything, he would constantly ask, “Did MY win?” He was so funny and really cute. He stole my heart right away!

Although I didn’t have the privilege of giving birth to Jake, I very distinctly remember the first time that I truly felt like his mom. Brian and I were engaged and a few months from our wedding and Jake got sick. He had been running a fever and throwing up and was basically dehydrated and miserable. All that he wanted to do was crawl up on my lap and have me hold him. And that was exactly what I did. That was all that I wanted to do then. I just wanted to hold him and cuddle him and some how make him feel better. My heart broke a little bit and for the first time I felt like his mom. I knew right then and there that he was mine. Period.

We definitely had our adjustment period, and at the time I thought that it was because I was new to the whole mom thing. But 13 years later and 6 more kids in, I realize that it wasn’t an adjustment period as much as it was parenting. I just didn’t know that. It took me a little while to figure out that each child was different and the same tactics didn’t work with each kid. Jake was a perfect example of that. With the twins, all that I really had to do was say, “Don’t do that!” And they would stop. It was that simple. Jake on the other hand, required some creative parenting. More than once I had to leave a cart full of groceries in Walmart and drag his temper- tantrum-throwing-butt to the car. He could pitch a full blow fit like a champ. I am talking kicking, flailing and screaming like a crazy person! I could put him in time out forever. I could ground him from the TV and his toys. I could even spank him and NOTHING worked. And then I figured it out. Cleaning! The kid hated to clean! All that I had to do was give him a soapy bucket of water and a rag and assign him a section of the wall to scrub. Success! Let me tell you, I had the cleanest bottom 3 feet of wall up and down my hallway. Lesson learned…for both of us.

One very funny story that we love to retell shows Jake’s true character. I can’t remember where I was but I wasn’t home. Brian was trying to get the kids in bed and DJ and Jake were not cooperating. He finally told them to grab their toothbrushes and a bucket of water. He filled the bucket up with soapy water and led them out to the garage. He told them that they had to stay out there until they had scrubbed the whole garage floor with their toothbrushes.(Don’t worry , we had extra toothbrushes!) They tried to act like they didn’t care and  started scrubbing. What they didn’t know was that Brian was standing right outside the garage listening to them. Obviously he wasn’t going to leave them in the garage at night alone, but they didn’t know that. I came home shortly after they had started to scrub the floor. We literally stood outside trying to stifle our giggles. They started out strong saying things like, “This isn’t bad! Who cares! We can just have a sleepover out here!” That quickly changed to, “We are NEVER going to be done! It is creepy out here! I want to go in the house!” And then Jake’s true self came through. He had accidentally splashed some of his water out of his bucket onto the floor. When he saw the water on the floor, the light bulb went off. He looked at DJ and said, “Hey! All that we have to do is just pour the water onto the floor. It will look like we cleaned it because it is wet! They won’t know!” By then we were practically rolling on the ground listening to them. We eventually let them off of the hook, but we still laugh about Jake’s creative cleaning.

But hands down the absolute funniest Jake story EVER happened a few years ago. We were in pretty desperate need of a new van. I was pregnant with Noah and we had outgrown our current vehicle. We were driving around looking at used car lots to try and find a used 12 passenger van. No easy task, my friends! We pulled into a car lot and there was a large van. At first we thought that it was a 12 passenger, but when we got closer we realized that it was actually a conversion van. We pulled back onto the road and Jake says very seriously, ” Well it must have been an Amish van.” We looked at him, “Huh? What do you mean?” He shakes his head as if he is annoyed that he has to explain something that is so obvious. “Obviously it is Amish because it has curtains and they are all pulled to one side.” Hmmmm, apparently he missed the memo stating that Amish don’t drive cars or vans or anything motorized. We were literally laughing so hard that we were crying, tears rolling down our faces.  Oh Jacob. My funny funny boy.

As I think back on these funny moments with Jake, I am amazed at how much he has grown (literally! He is over 6 foot now!) and matured. He is still very much that little guy that is super competitive and loves sports. He not only plays both soccer and basketball, but he excels in them. He is also a dedicated student and makes very good grades. But even more than all of that, he has become a good person. He is a really good big brother. He usually has at least one or two of the little boys in tow, engaging them in games and sports. He spends time teaching them how to dribble and shoot and play pretty much any sport. He also helps his dad and I out, whether it’s helping to get a little person ready for church or just to taking them out to the trampoline to give us a minute to ourselves. I know that if I have to leave him in charge, everything and everyone will be fine. His willingness to help out is something that I am sure that his dad and I sometimes take for granted, but we really do appreciate it. He does many things to make us proud, but as a parent one of your primary goals is to teach your child to love God. In this area he has never let us down. I have witnessed  his faith grow in importance to him and I have seen him really challenge himself to learn more and to dig deeper. For a 16 year old boy, I am amazed at how he truly tries to live out his faith. I am a proud momma and I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to be his mother. Happy Birthday Jake!