Our grand adventure…also known as the Houghs and their lack of good sense

Today was the Sunday of the long Memorial Day weekend. We had plans to do…well, nothing! By nothing, I of course mean a million kid-related things, like breakfast and lunch for 11, mass and a little adventure that was nothing short of the usual Hough-craziness. 
We should know better, we really should. But I am starting to think that 14 years of marriage and parenting have numbed our good senses. All three of the older kids had to work, so they couldn’t join us, but Brian and the younger 6 and I loaded into the 12 passenger beast and were off! There was of course a lot of arguing and whining because heaven forbid that the kids all agree on something fun to do. In true Hough fashion, the trip started off with a bang. We were just chugging along, minding our own business when Brian started to yell and pulled off of the road. As we were driving a giant bee flew in the window smacked Brian on the neck and landed in his lap. This man of mine can attract a bee from miles away. Seriously! I cannot even tell you how many times this has happened to him. Thankfully it didn’t sting him, so once the bee was removed, we were again on the road. We headed to Crooked Creek…
Sunscreen and Bug Spray for all!

We decided to take on the fitness trail…we were off like a herd of turtles!
The crew stretching out. This is serious business y’all!

Karate kid doesn’t have anything on these kids! 
This was a very failed attempt at a group shot. I cannot even tell you how painful this was. The wailing and gnashing of teeth that went on to get this was ridiculous. About .2 seconds after I snapped this picture they all came tumbling down.

Ahhhhh, much better. There was still a lot of complaining and Noah was still not cooperating, but it worked. 🙂
After we finished up the fitness trail, we decided to go on a little hike. We parked along the road and took a trail that was supposed to go to a fishing spot. We (wrongly) assumed that it would be a short little trail….Umm no… 17 miles later we finally managed to get back to the van. Ok, it was probably only 10 miles, or maybe closer to 2 miles, whatever. Anywhoooo, we took the trail, edged by who knows how many different kinds of poisonous and itch causing plants, down, down, down a steep hill. We came a cross a little bridge that Isaac, bravely, ventured across. After we witnessed his safe crossing, the rest of us followed suit. BTW, We truly thought that it was safe or we never would have sent a kid across first, just in case you were wondering. 
After the safe passage across the bridge, we were on another narrow twisty path and came across a “bear cave” and then a “fox den.” Noah was not convinced that there weren’t angry critters watching us, so he refrained to climb up the cliff for this picture. It took about five minutes to convince him, along with the other kids, that he was not in fact “chicken” but rather “cautious.” 

After 5 hours of walking uphill the entire way, through 18 feet of sleet and snow, we finally got back to the van. Instead of hiking to the water, we just drove there. Much easier. Again, let me point out that our good sense is gone. There were a ton of people there swimming. We did not have our suits, but we told the kids that they could take off their socks and shoes and get their feet wet. (Numbed good sense, it is a reoccurring theme today…)
Splish Splash!

We had a very hard time convincing Jonathan to wade in the water. Finally Brian just carried him a little ways out and plopped him down. 

He wasn’t impressed and ran back out of the water to his mud puddle. He was very content in his puddle. 
We had enough of Crooked Creek and headed back to the van. The next phase of our grand adventure was a stop for some yummies at Speedy’s for ice cream! 
Peezy was loving his cone “wiff brinkles.” I mean seriously, what more could you ask for?

Gia and her shake. 
We finished our adventure at a playground just to make sure that the kids were as filthy and tired as possible. 
Aiden on the slide

Yes Folks, That is Spiderman. 

A future tennis star? Maybe if she can stay outside for longer than ten minutes without whining that she is hot…

And of course, a playground favorite, the merry go round, also known as: spin your kids until they are ready to puke and then set them on the ground and watch them try to walk a straight line.  (Come on…you know that you do it too. )
By this point, we were whopped. The kids were exhausted and hot and thirsty. Brian and I were exhausted and hot and thirsty. It was time to head home. Back to the trusty 12 passenger beast we went. It was fun and it was an adventure, especially the 38 mile hike through the wilderness.
 Happy, dirty, tired kids = mission accomplished. 

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My kids are really mean

Wow…My kids are mean. I am sitting here just listening to them. They are so mean to one another. The way that they talk to one another is slightly horrifying. Why? Why in the world are they like this? I know that they learn from watching their parents. I get it. They can be the little mirrors that reflect the very worse parts of ourselves. But, I must say…I can be sarcastic and sometimes a little bit snarky, but I don’t really think that I am mean. So what do I do? Ban all TV? Ban all internet and video games? Ban them from all mean people? As it is, we would have to ban them from each other… So, let’s see… 9 kids, 3 bedrooms, to keep them away from one another we would have to make a few of them sleep outside at different corners of the yard. Probably not very feasible. I have been known to make them sit on the couch and hold hands for a half an hour and then have them tell each other 5 things that they love about each other. I must admit, I get a lot of joy watching that particular punishment. (Maybe I am mean?!?) I don’t know. I just don’t know….

Thinking back to when my brother and sister and I were younger, I guess that we fought a lot. I remember a few times when I was babysitting them that they locked me outside. (I had to go to our neighbor’s  house to call my parents so that they could come home and unlock the doors.)  I remember my mom throwing my sister’s baton over the hill because my sister had hit my brother with it. I also remember (I am horrified to admit this…) my brother and sister and I intentionally being mean to my mom to make her cry. (What was wrong with us!!!!?) We would scream at each other, proclaiming our hatred for one another. In fact, my brother and I used to make my little sister cry because we had her convinced that she had been abandoned in our mailbox by Eskimos. Ok, so maybe I am not mean now, but clearly I had a streak…

The good news…I like my brother and sister now. In fact, my sister is one of my favorite people in the world. I cannot imagine not being able to talk to her everyday. She knows me better than most people and still likes me. Probably because we are so much alike. We talk to each other about everything, kids, husbands, family, whatever. She lets me vent to her and she helps to keep me balanced. She also laughs at me when I am taking myself too seriously. She is the best thing that my parents gave me. I am hopeful that my kids will feel the same way about each other when they get older. Occasionally I see little glimmers of that now. Every once in a while, I catch them doing something nice for each other. My heart gives a little sigh of relief. I catch a little kid give a big kid a hug. Occasionally, I come across a big kid helping a little kid get a snack or a drink without being told. I guess there is hope yet. Only time will tell, but I am keeping my fingers crossed and my hands folded that eventually they will realize that the best gifts that their dad and I gave them were each other.

Our Little Getaway…part II

Brian and I pulled into the parking lot of a building that looked nothing like what we had imagined a TV studio would look like. In fact it was just a warehouse, but when we entered the building we saw where the TV magic happens. We were immediately greeted by Janet, Dr Ray’s audience coordinator. She looked familiar and Brian realized why first. She is one of the “regular” audience members on the show. She was so welcoming and sweet. There were about 20 or so other people in the room waiting to be told what to do. There were older couples and younger couples. There was a young couple with their two children and another family of 9 with children of ages ranging from 12 down to under a year. I was feeling slightly guilty for not bringing the whole gang. To be honest, in this environment of other Catholic families, I felt kind of naked without all of the kids. We were finally in an environment where we wouldn’t be looked at as weird or crazy. We would just be a normal large Catholic family and instead of the 11 of us it was just Brian and I. A very weird feeling. I sort of felt like I had to justify the fact that we were alone. Kind of let everyone know that we had a lot of kids, we were just enjoying a little break from them, but even that felt wrong. Why should we need a break? Don’t we want to always be with our kids? Don’t we love our kids? Surrounded by these beautiful families, I began to miss mine. Of course we love our kids and yes we love to be with them. But I also love my husband and to have some uninterrupted time with him and only him was a very rare treat, so I pushed my guilt and insecurities aside and settled in for the ride.
 A peek into the studio…
Janet asked all of the people in the room if anyone had a question for Dr Ray for the question and answer segment at the opening of the show. Brian and a few others raised their hands. Janet wrote down their questions and took them to Dr Ray for him to look over them. Brian’s question was one of the ones that they decided to use! Because of this we were one of the first people seated and we had really good seats right up front! They seated all of the other audience members and gave us a few instructions and told us what to expect and then the filming began. It was really neat to see all of the behind the scenes things that go on. The studio is much smaller than it looks on tv. They were constantly moving people around to make the audience look “fuller” depending on where the shot was. I was also surprised by how much of the show is filmed just on the fly. Dr Ray was so engaging. He had all of the audience members so involved that you really forgot about the cameras. There were a few times when he would interact with the kids in the audience, claiming that he was a “trained professional.” We were there for the taping of two shows. In between shows, they fed us lunch and we had a chance to mingle with the other audience members again. For the second show, I got picked to be the microphone holder. I held the microphone until Dr Ray needed to give it to an audience member to talk into. Oh yes, hold your applause please! If you see that episode, you might recognize my hand. Well, actually you probably won’t. My normal hands look like a mother of 9 hands. My nails are short and stubby with a coat of clear polish that is at least two weeks old. My “romantic getaway” hands had beautiful (read fake) french manicured nails that were long (read “short/natural) and flawless. Yes, they lasted about a minute once we got home from church on Sunday. Come on, I couldn’t even button my pants with those stupid things. Anyway, if you see beautiful  manicured nails, those would be mine! lol 
Here we are with Dr Ray at the end of the taping.
So now that we are famous and all that, we are available to sign autographs or whatever. Just talk to my agent…Anyway, Brian and I had such a great little getaway. From beginning to end, it was amazing. It was the best 36 hours that we have had in a long time…over a decade to be exact! 

Our little getaway…-part I

Brian and I recently were blessed to be in the studio audience of a taping of Living Right With Dr Ray. Dr Ray is a psychiatrist with a show on EWTN.  His show touches on different topics that affect families and people of the faith. He does it in a way that is funny and “real.” They film the show in Cleveland so Brian and I decided to make a little getaway out of it. We booked an overnight stay at an adorable little B&B for ourselves and an overnight stay at my parents’ house for the crew. (THANK YOU Mom and Dad!) We left Friday morning and got back Saturday evening. It was 36 hours of wonderful relaxation and coupleness. (On a side note, B and I figured out that the last time the two of us went away alone, not counting surgeries or childbirth, was when I was nursing Hannah…she is now 10 1/2…To say that it was overdue is a bit of an understatement.) We arrived at the B&B around 1:00, but it was too early to check in so we took a little stroll down the street and had lunch at the Market Garden Brewery. It was a very hip and trendy little lunch place. Totally not somewhere where we would normally eat. Let’s face it folks, hip and trendy are not words usually used to describe the parents of 9. Tired and respectable or even frazzled and pleasant…but not hip and trendy. However, we were in disguise! We were driving our cute little car instead of the twelve passenger beast. There wasn’t a car seat or sippy cup to be seen! The only hands that we were holding were each others. It was so nice and so needed.
 We enjoyed our lunch and went back to check into the B&B, the J Palen House. I cannot say enough nice things about this place. It was cute and clean and within walking distance to pretty much anywhere in Ohio City that you could want to go. The hostess was so sweet and gave us tons of suggestions of things to do. The breakfast was YUMMO!
Me at breakfast.
But to be honest with you, our favorite part of the room was this:
Ahhhh, I can almost feel the jets now…. SOOOO nice!
One of the best parts of our little trip was that we didn’t really have to go anywhere or do anything specific until Saturday morning. We had the afternoon and evening open to do whatever we wanted to. That is a very rare treat for us.  After perusing the map of nearby things and checking things out online, we decided to go to the Christmas Story House. Wow…so romantic…no not really, but it was a lot of fun! Our whole family loves this movie and it has become a Christmas tradition to watch it each year.
My 6′ 3″ husband crammed under the sink, too funny!
Don’t worry, he didn’t shoot his eye out!
No worries folks, there was no “soap poisoning!”
Me and my love, Brian
The House!
As you can see, we had a good time. After that we tried to go to Little Italy. We were told that there were lots of little shops and restaurants. We thought that it would be a fun place to walk around. Well, from what we saw, I think that we would have liked it, however, all of the parking was residential permit parking. There was nowhere to park unless you used valet parking for the restaurants, but we had no idea where we wanted to eat…so after driving around for 30 minutes we decided to bag it and head back to the B&B. Parking spots were few and far between there too, but thankfully our spot at the B&B was still there. Once we were parked, we decided that we weren’t going to drive anywhere again until we had to leave in the morning. There really wasn’t any need to with so many places within walking distance. While we were deciding where to go we did something that we NEVER get to do. It was a little bit naughty, but I will admit it because I believe in honesty… we took a nap. Yep, you heard me right. We laid down on that ginormous king sized bed and while it was still light out, we dozed off. Oh my word. I cannot even tell you how nice that was! It was only for about 30 minutes, but wow! Once we woke up, we got ready for dinner and headed out for our night on the town. We went into one place that had looked promising online, but was very dark and VERY loud. After eating dinner with our crew, you would know that it had to be pretty loud for us to think so. I looked at B and shook my head. He agreed ad we headed right back out. Luckily where we were staying there were tons of options. We ended up eating at the Great Lakes Brewing Company. Again the food was delicious! The atmosphere was comfortable and fun and we didn’t have cut up any body’s food but our own! Win-Win! I love my kids, but there is something really wonderful about being able to sit across from my husband and have a continuous conversation. There was nobody interrupting us for ketchup or a drink. Nobody was poking anybody with their fork or spilling their drinks (at least not at our table).  It was pretty darn close to magical. But the best part of the evening (aside from the bubble bath in the humongous tub) was the ice cream that we got for desert at Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream. All of the ice cream was homemade hard ice cream in a zillion different flavors and the waffle cones were homemade! Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering as I type this. It was pretty close to heavenly. 
We got back to our room around 9:30 and I checked my phone. There was a very odd text from my dad. He had taken Isaac to his baseball game for us, so I called to make sure that everything was ok. He didn’t realize that he had texted me, but he was still at the game and was so cold that he figured that he accidentally butt-texted me because he was shivering so much. lol Sorry and Thank You Dad! The game finished up around 10:00 (ugh!) but they got a much needed win! And yes, Dad eventually thawed out.
We got to sleep in until 7:30 the next morning, another delicious treat (especially for B who is usually up by 4:00 am). Once we were dressed and packed the car up, we headed downstairs to the dining room for breakfast.  Again, the food was really good. No wonder I gained 4 pounds! We enjoyed fruit and yogurt, coffee cake and quiche. The other people at the B&B ate with us and we really enjoyed talking with them during breakfast. It struck me as funny that even though none of the couples had their children with them, conversation eventually turned towards our families. A little break is nice, probably because it reminds you of how wonderful the chaos can actually be. We finished up our breakfast and checked out. As we walked out of the front door of the J Palen House, I have to admit that I was a little bit sad to leave our little piece of quiet behind, but I was very excited for the next part of our trip, the Dr Ray show!
Check out Part II to see how I may have become a famous TV star…or not.

"Mom Craft"

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers out there! It is a pretty neat thing that we have a day to celebrate being a mother. Being the mother of 9 makes for some very interesting Mother’s days. Today was no exception… I woke up to this:
The kids made me this “Mine Craft” board game. Each block around the center was labelled for a room in a house. Each room had a gift associated with that room for me. It was so fun! 
These were my gifts: A pedicure and nail wrap set for the bathroom, lotion and body spray for the powder room, new skillets for the kitchen, a snuggly blanket and yummy smelling candle for the living room, a travel coffee mug, a car charger and an air freshener for the car for the garage, a beautiful nightgown for the bedroom, some super cute workout clothes and dvds for the exercise room, stationary for the study and finally a beautiful rose for in my rose garden. So much thought went into each gift. I loved it! There were also some beautiful homemade gifts, some jewelry, some pottery and mom coupons and a marigold plant. I know that you are probably super jealous at the awesomeness that is my husband and kids. I know that I sure would be. 
But there was one thing that I think that the kids were wrong about. The game board reads : You are Mine, the mom that Crafted me. That isn’t really true. When I think about it, they have actually crafted me into their mom, not the other way around. The kids’ Gramma Rose, from Michigan has said, ” I am exactly the kind of mother that I thought that I would be, I just didn’t get the kids that I thought that I would.” She said this jokingly, of course, but there is some truth to it. As I was growing up and I would think about my future family, it was nothing like the reality. First of all, I never, ever, ever would have thought that I would have 9 kids. Now, I cannot imagine what our lives would be like without each one of our kids. This will probably sound unbelievable, but if there is one of the kids missing, either for work or a playdate, the house seems very off balance and weird. (I am not looking forward to the kids leaving for college!) We function as a unit, a very large, somewhat chaotic unit, but a unit none the less. 
 Secondly,I could have never imagined the mess, the laundry, the noise, the utter chaos. It can be extremely overwhelming. But as a mother of nine, these kids of mine have taught me the importance of both flexibility AND structure. Organization, (which I am still trying to figure out), is very important. There absolutely has to be a system in place to keep things running smoothly. BUT you cannot live and die by the plan. Flexibility is NECESSARY! I cannot tell you how many times I have had things all worked out only to have a sick or cranky child throw a monkey wrench into the whole day. I am sure that you have heard the saying, “Man plans and God laughs.” Well folks, God may laugh, but kids shriek hysterically at your plans. Ask any parent how quickly a trip to the grocery store can turn into a meltdown resulting in tears and screaming and the desperate need of a nap, and that doesn’t even address the kids behavior. Flexibility is key or you will end up in a puddle of tears and anguish. Trust me, this I know from experience. 
Thirdly, I am astonished at the amount of patience that I actually do have. I used to joke that I kept praying that God would bless me with patience and he kept blessing me with boys, so I stopped asking for patience. Well, I can honestly say that being the mother of six boys and three girls has definitely brought out a level of patience that I never thought was possible. Now please, do not think that I walk around in a haze of contentment and peace, just relaxed and calm. Oh my no! That is about the furthest thing from the truth. I am usually gritting my teeth and clenching my fists. But I have definitely mellowed out over the last fourteen years. (Or maybe I am just too tired to put up a fight now?!) Over the years that I have been a mom, I have realized that sometimes the frustration and annoyance of dealing with a cantankerous little one can be diffused if I take a deep breath and stay calm. If I allow patience and peace to be my initial reaction, 7 times out of 10, my child will calm down too. That doesn’t mean that is what I always do , but I try. If a deep breath doesn’t help, some Bailey’s Irish Cream in my coffee or a glass of wine usually does the trick. HA!
Finally, my kids have taught me the importance of humility and humor. Nothing keeps your self esteem in check like a three year old’s critique of your appearance. (As I said in my facebook status this past week Jonathan patted my arm and said, “Oh Mommy, you hair is…not nice.”  Or Aiden pointed out that when I was exercising my tummy was very jiggly. Ummm, thanks?!  I get it. Time to focus on the abs. ) These kids keep me humble. They squash any flare up of vanity by pointing out the …not nice…attributes that I might be sporting at the moment. But at the same time, I can see the unconditional love that they have for me. Whether my hair is a mess or my belly is wiggly or my breath is stinky, they still love me. They don’t care what I look like, they just want to snuggle up and give me a hug. These kids of mine have taught me not to take myself too seriously. Sometimes the best thing for a stressful situation is just to laugh. This life that we have been blessed with is too short to waste it being angry and stressed. A good laugh can be just what we need.
I firmly believe that God blesses each of us with the children that we need to grow closer to him. Apparently God feels that I need a lot of help, hence the 9 kids. So each day I wake up and look to my God-given helpers to “craft” me. 
Happy Mother’s Day!

May the Fourth be with you also known as Gia’s Birthday…

Today is Gianna Marie’s 9th birthday. She is number 6 of 9 but never gets lost in a crowd. She may be tiny, but she is hands down the loudest kid that we have if you go by a pound per decibel measurement. She is sassy and spunky, smart and funny, not to mention pretty darn cute!

Sadly she is celebrating her 9th birthday in bed. She seems to be the second kid to have fallen to this annoying stomach virus that is going around. Happy birthday…NOT! I assured her that we would celebrate her birthday with the traditional birthday dinner/cake and ice cream, once she is feeling better. I honestly think that she is more worried about missing school tomorrow and not being able to take in her birthday treats.

Anywhooo, in honor of her birthday (and because I don’t have time to write a proper birthday blog, with all of the bucket emptying and cracker getting that I am doing) I decided to post links to some of my favorite Gia posts from years past…Enjoy!

This was one from when the Little Miss was three…Mama Mia Gia

One of my favorite posts about the dynamic duo…Hannah and Gia: Crime Scene

Another Gia/Hannah post….Toilets…

Gia’s past birthdays : Gia age 5  &  Gia age 6

And one last one:  Gia’s 1st Communion

I hope that you liked them!

Aiden is 5…

Aiden is 5. Yep, the little bugger went and grew up on me. What the heck?! He had his kindergarten screening the other day. That was when it hit me that he really was growing up. He is going to go off and leave me to go to school and make new friends. His world is going to grow and I won’t be a part of it. He will have a bit of life that has nothing to do with me. And that is how it is supposed to be. Wow. This parenting thing is tough.
Ok, so now that my pity party and whiny-pants have been shamelessly exposed, i will shift the focus of this birthday blog about Aiden off of myself and onto the birthday boy. 
He has fuzzy blond hair that despite any amount of hair product will not lay down. It simply stands straight out. It vaguely resembles a finger in the light socket sort of hairdo. He has sparkly, twinkling blue eyes. They are just beautiful and when you ask him where they came from he looks at you as if you were an idiot and says, “Duh, God gave them to me.” Well, excuse me! Duh, it was God. How would I know? lol He has a deep raspy voice and he talks very quickly. Usually with his head down so that he doesn’t have to actually look at you. He is sweet and silly. He makes me smile. 
The other day, we were in the car and he looked out the window at the numerous cows in the field. He exclaimed, “Mommy, I am going to be a farmer when I grow up. Is that ok?” “Of course,” I said. “Farming is hard work, but good work. If that is what you feel that God wants you to do…then you do it!” “Good,” he said. “I am going to be a cow farmer, because I like cows. I will have a river in my farm so that my cows can take a bath because I don’t want my cows to be stinky.” Hmmmm, we may need to put a little bit more thought into this “cow farmer” thing if he thinks that cows will actually bath and will not be stinky. 
Seriously, look at this! He is cuteness and a smile all rolled up into a four…oops, FIVE year old little boy. Happy Birthday Aiden! You are loved!