Thursday, November 18, 2010

I just love this family....

Sometimes when you have a large family, it can be a bit nerve-racking when you have to announce to family and friends that a new baby is on the way.  You know that not everyone supports your decision to have more than 3 kids, and so you worry just a little bit about the comments you might get when they learn baby #6 or #7 or #12 is on the way. 

I love how this family chose to share the news with their family & friends.  What a neat family.  It makes me wish they lived nextdoor to us!  (and NO...I am NOT pregnant!  I just came across this video and thought it was neat!  This is not MY announcement, LOL)

Don't forget to scroll down to the bottom of this page to turn OFF my music before watching this video!
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Spread Love

Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor... Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.

Mother Teresa

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quick Update

I keep meaning to do a blog post but just can never seem to find the time.  I, the notorious insomniac-by-choice-no-sleep-necessary-just-call-me-a-Cullen, has been going to bed at 9:00pm and sleeping until 7:00am for the past three or four days, which totally cuts into my blog time.  But wow, it feels good to sleep!  Who woulda thought?

So here's a quick update on me and mine:

1)  Rich is off work for about 2 weeks -- yay!  We are going to enjoy a lot of family time, especially over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I see some motorhome time in our very near future!

2)  Aria is into "spelling" lately.  She will get a piece of paper out, with her pencil or crayon in her hand, and will "write" on the paper and say letters.  She says, "I....R...A....I...."  and then hands the paper to me and says, "Here, Mommy.  I write your name!"  She's so funny! And right now her favorite book is "If You Give a Pig a Party"  Oh my gosh, does she love that book.  She asks for it at least 3 times a day, by saying, " read gibpigpardee to me?"  She says is like it's all one word: gibpigpardee

3)  I'm reading for the second time  "The Shack"...and I'm getting much more out of it this time around.

4)  I have some kind of lump/bump under my left eye on the lower can't really see because it's under the skin, but I feel it each time I put on my eye cream.  Hmmmm...wonder what it can be?  It doesn't hurt and is not sore in anyway,  so it's not a stye.  So what can it be?  It's been there for about 3 weeks....I need to get it checked but I keep forgetting to make an appointment.  Now, see, if it was my kid who had this, I'd have them to the doctor yesterday.  But for myself?  I neglect myself sometimes.  Everyone always comes before me.  I know, that's not a good thing.

5)  Avery decided to take violin as her 4th grade music study.  I'm thrilled!  At first she was going to do general music but then at the last minute changed her mind.  So now both she and Alex are taking violin in school and private piano lessons here at home.

6)  Rich took a course study with WOWGREEN to sell commercial accounts.  He needs to test and get his certificate...and then he can go out and work some accounts!  We are very excited for this.  There's lots of opportunity for commercial accounts.

7)  We officially have ZERO Halloween candy left in our house.  It took longer than I was hoping because the big kids were hoarding.

8)  We dismantled the crib and put it into storage the other week.  I admit it hurt my heart to do it, but the fact is it became an eyesore in our bedroom--just became a place where we put clothes and clutter.  Aria hadn't slept in it for months (she sleeps in our bed) and there is no baby on the way,  so I told Rich to just take it down and put it up in the garage rafters.  So he did.  And I sat there watching, with a sad face.  That crib has been up and in our room since 1999.  I hated to see it taken down. Rich said, "Awww...don't feel too sad.  Now that I've gone through the trouble of putting it away, watch--you'll turn up pregnant!"  

9)  Yesterday I made a killer 16 bean soup.  I got the idea from my mom last Sunday when she had us over and served it.   I'm not much of a cook but this is done in the crockpot and for the most part it was easy!  And it came out good.  Most of my kids loved it (I have about 3 picky eaters, which is why I also made grilled cheese sandwiches to go along with the soup)  and Rich loved it. So I guess this meal will go on the short list of my regular meals, right in there with bean & cheese burritos and Mac & Cheese with hot dogs.

10)  Audriana and Aria are the best of buddies lately.  Ari loves when Audriana comes home from high school.  She runs up to her and says, "Aw watch Lion King wit me?"  and Audriana will say, "Sure, I'll watch it with you!"   Audriana sets up her laptop with the movie The Lion King and she and Aria will sit on the couch and watch it together.  They've seen it together now about 27 times.  No exaggeration.  I love that my oldest daughter and my youngest daughter are developing such a great bond.  It warms my heart :)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

naptime you hear that?  It's the sound of a quiet house.

Well, not really.

I can still hear children talking.  Aria is talking to Aislynn.  A.J. is talking to Aria.  The three of them are holding a cute conversation.

But the house is calm and semi-quiet....because you know who is taking a nap?  Andrew!  I swear, when that boy goes down, I can just about hear the entire house sigh with relief.   He is a whirlwind of energy, that kid.  I need to run him around the block every morning or else he's bouncing off the walls.  I love that boy to pieces, let me tell you...but he really wears me out!

God sent him to me to grow my patience :)
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mother vs. Father

I've had an especially trying week.  Rich started back to work on Monday and didn't get home until 8:00pm Friday night.  So that was five full days with me having all the kids and doing "it all" without his help.  Everything just runs much more smoothly when he's here.  Two parents are better than one, afterall.

Now, being the wife of a fire fighter, I will say I'm used to this doing it alone stuff.    I don't mind being alone with the kids, really.  I can handle things just fine.  But what I'm struggling with lately is the way the kids, especially the boys, respond to me verses how they respond to their father.  There are simply too many of them for me to follow each one around to make sure they are doing what they are told to do.  If I hand someone a pile of their clean laundry and tell them to put the clothes away, I then have to add, "Put them AWAY away...not just on your bed.  Put them in the correct drawers and hang up the shirts."   (am I the only one out there who actually has to be specific like that?  I swear, if I don't...all the clothes end up on the bed, and then later fall to the floor, and then where do they go after that?  Right back into the dirty clothes pile!)  Even after I say that, half of the time they ignore me or forget or whatever the case...and I later find the clothes in a pile on their bed.    If I ask them to clean their rooms, they tell me "It's clean.  I did it already."  and then when I go to check, the room is a mess.  Then they whine and drag their feet when I call them back up to clean it.  If I see a dirty sock on the floor and tell someone to pick it up, they whine, "It's not my sock!"  If I ask someone to help clean up the toys on the floor, I hear, "I didn't get them out!"  or  "So-and-so played with them too!  How come he isn't cleaning it up?"  or sometimes simply get the, "I'm not doing it!" response. When I send them out to the backyard to clean up after the day's play, they will go out there, but nothing will get done.  They will come back inside when I'm not looking, and then later I will see that nothing had been picked up.  Then I call them all back out again to do it, and I get whining and dragging their feet, and they come back in and the job is only about half done.  If that.

Okay...but when Rich is here?  I have a completely different set of children.  When he says, "Go pick up your room."  they run upstairs and get it done.  When he says, "Pick up this dirty sock and put it in the laundry hamper."  the sock gets picked up right away without another word, no matter if it's that child's or not.  When he says, "Go out into the yard and pick up all the toys and any trash that you find."  then they all go out and it gets done quickly.

He doesn't yell.  He doesn't even raise his voice.   But yet they respond to him so much better than they do me. 

Now, why is that?  I askt nicely the first time.  So does Rich.  But the thing is...they listen to him the first time. Me? Not hardly ever.  I have to say it again and again and then I yell.  And then it gets done.  But even then it won't be done the way it's supposed to be done.  That takes even more follow up on my part.  Getting them to do it is one struggle.   Getting them to do it correctly is another struggle all on it's own.

The fact is this: I cannot be in 9 places all at once.  Our house isn't huge but it's big enough that I cannot see into all rooms to be sure every child is doing what he or she has been told to do.  I get distracted a lot by different kids, and then those who were told to do something just won't follow through...and I find out later that the job wasn't done, and it's just a cycle of frustration on my part.  What makes it worse is that Rich will come home after being gone for almost a week and will get upset at the way the house looks.  He doesn't understand why I can't get the kids to do what they are supposed to do.   For him, getting them to clean up after themselves or to do their chores is never a problem or a struggle.  So he just doesn't get my frustration.  In his mind, I must have a time management problem, and that's why the house isn't as clean and tidy as he'd like it...because I'm not "managing" my time right.   Ha!  If only that.  That would be an easy fix.  (and hearing this critique from him doesn't exactly put him  as my favorite person at that time, and can you blame me? when I'm trying my best to keep up around here and I have to hear that?  Please....)

So my question is this:  Do kids typically respond better to a male authority?  Do they naturally respect the man of the house more?   Or is it just ME?

I will admit that Rich has a tone that clearly says  I-mean-business-so-do-as-I-say-when-I-say-it....while I suppose I have a tone that says I-am-mommy-come-here-and-give-me-a-hug.  But even when I try to sound like Rich, it doesn't work.  When I try the no-nonsense, stern voice...they still don't respond the same to me.

We used to have a Rottweiler named Bogie.  We had him for about ten years.  He was a great dog.  But even Bogie would listen to Rich better than he would to me.  If Bogie ran out front and I yelled, "Bogie!  Come!" he would look at me, tongue hanging out of his mouth, and continue on his way.  If Rich said the exact same thing, he didn't even have to yell the words... that dog would cower, head drooped, and come right to Rich's feet.

It's not fair.

Now, my girls listen to me so much better than my boys do.  I really think that if you are going to be a single mom, even if for just a week or two here and there,  it's best to have all girls.  I have found that boys really, really need their father around daily. DAILY! At least my boys do.  Right now what I have going on is a 4 year old boy (yes, my sweet Andrew)  who thinks it's okay to mimick me when I tell him something. 

"Andrew, please put away your shoes.  Put them in your cubby right now."

He'll look at me, smile, and then say, "No. I don't want to."

I'll say, "Andrew...don't tell me "no" -- do it right now."

and he'll say, "Andrew... do it right now!" and giggle.  He might even run off, and I'll have to chase him down.  Should I not chase him down?  is that a game that I am being tricked into?  I hate that he tells me "no"  so I go get him and make him do what I say.  Should I not be doing that?  Seriously, what do you do when kid does this?

Sometimes I feel like a first-time parent.

A.J., who is 7 years old, is one of the better ones about doing what I say.  If I tell him to go tidy up the garage entry way (his chore) then 99% of the time he will do it.  He's good like that.  Where he's disrespectful is in his anger management.  If he gets angry at something, he will kick the wall or slam a door.  Or hit the child that upset him.  But when Rich is home? He would never do that. Never in a million years would he kick a wall or slam a door when his father is around.

Alex is 11 years old. Where I am having trouble with him lately is that he will only do his chores half way.  His job is to empty ALL trashcans throughout the house.  This means all bathroom trashes (there are 4 of them)  the kitchen trash, and the trashcan in the office.  Sounds simple enough.  But 99.9% of the time he will only do a few of them but yet claim that he has done them all.  His other job is to pick up the dog poop.  We have a Pooper-Scooper and 99.9% of the time he will leave the poop in the scooper instead of putting it into a bag and throwing it in the outside trashcan.  But when Rich is home?  He does his chores completely and correctly.  With me, I have to constantly follow up behind him to see if he did it correctly, or I find out later on in the day that he did not.  By that time, he might be outside playing or at soccer practice or something.

And Anthony? who is 19 years old and you'd think shouldn't need to be followed up on?  Well, that kid gets to me, too.  His daily chores is to wash the kitchen floor every night, clean the downstairs bathroom, and hose down the backyard sidewalk.  Then once a week he also mows the lawn. (remember, this is an adult child who lives at home for free so that he can work and save all his money and go to school - so we don't feel this is asking too much of him!)   What he does that drives me crazy is that unless he is told, he will not hose down the backyard.  He will conveniently "forget" to do it.  Unless he is told, he will sweep the kitchen floor instead of mop it. He will say, "Oh, well...I mopped last night.  I didn't think it needed it again." even though I've told him time and time again that it needs mopping every single night no matter if he thinks so or not (sidenote: our floor always needs to be mopped! It gets sticky every single day!)    Unless he is told, he will not do the bathroom each day, but will skip a day here and there, or just do a lazy wipe-down of the sink.  (with four boys, believe me when I tell you that bathroom needs to be cleaned everyday!)  It drives me crazy that this 19 year old boy has to be TOLD to do his chores each day.  What the heck?  But if Rich is home, it's a different story.  When Rich is home, Anthony is getting it all done. And done correctly.  No half-jobs when Rich is home.

I'm frustrated with all of this.  I feel like it's so much more of an effort for me to run this house because I have to work 3 times as hard to get the kids to do what I say the first time.  The kids don't listen to me like I want them to.  They don't respond to me like I would like them to.  Chore charts, reward charts, discipline charts...I've done and tried them all.  Outside of beating them all with a stick, how can I get them to mind me?
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

No Cavities and Halloween Candy

After four long, long years of waiting....after watching his older brothers and sisters go to their appointments year after year and having to stay behind in the waiting room....finally it was Andrew's turn!  He was SO excited to get up in that chair to get his teeth "counted" and cleaned! 

He opened up wide, wider, widest....and sat very still in the chair

And I'm happy to report that this sweet little boy of mine had ZERO cavities!  Yay!!

So now for a complete contradiction in post subjects:


Halloween = CANDY  and that's almost the opposite of  NO CAVITIES, don't you agree?

We love Halloween.  We always seem to have such a fun time on Halloween.  How can you not have fun on this holiday?  Dressing up is fun.  Going door to door collecting candy is fun.  And hey, eating the candy is fun, too!  Halloween is just fun all the way around.  Rich and I look forward to Halloween every year.  You know, now that I think about it, I've been dressing kids up and walking them around door to door on October 31 since 1991.    That's a lot of miles!  That's a lot of candy!  

Candy. I am always dipping into my kids' candy loot.  I have no will power when it comes to candy.  Nope, none at all.  My favorites?  Smarties.  I love, love, love those little candies.  That, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  My kids know this and they are so smart about it.  They will use it to manipulate me into letting them eat their candy, even if it's at 7:00 in the morning and they haven't had breakfast yet.  All they have to do is hand me one of these candies and say, "Here, Mom...I saved this for you!"  and I'm like, "Awww...thank you!  You know that's my favorite!"  and they smile, and I smile, and I pop the candy into my mouth...and that gives them the green light to get into their candy bag right then and there, because they know I won't be a hypocrite by saying, " eating candy before breakfast!!"  when I'm standing there with a piece in my own mouth. 

Actually, let me tell you the way I handle Halloween candy.   I hate having all that candy in my home, to be honest...and do you know why?  Because I end up eating waaaay too much of it!!!   (remember, I have no will power)  So I want it GONE as fast as possible.  So instead of making the kids put their candy away and allowing them just a few pieces here and there throughout the day....I let them eat it all day long without boundaries, without rules, without limitations. Just whenever the heck they want.  Before dinner, after dinner, during dinner.   Whenever!  Until it's all gone.  It only lasts about 2 or 3 days this way.  I swear by this custom, let me tell you.  Because if we don't do it this way, then the candy lasts and lasts and lasts for weeks and weeks, even months.  I don't want candy in my house forever!  No way.  It would cause nothing but trouble.  Kids would always be asking for a piece.  There would be the sneaking of candy and me finding candy wrappers hidden behind beds, under the sheets, in the couch cushions -- it's just a bad idea to have candy in this house all the time.  So I say eat it all up in two days!  What's it going to hurt?  So long as we brush our teeth extra during that time, and so long as I serve up healthy meals to compensate for all the yuck...seriously, what's it going to hurt?  This is how my mom did it with me and my sister when we were growing up. We would take our pillow cases full of candy up to our rooms and it was a done deal.  Just candy whenever we wanted.  It never lasted past a week.  Now that I have  kids of my own,  I have always handled the Halloween candy this way and no one has yet to get a tummy ache or  get sick or any other adverse reaction from it.  And the candy is virtually non-existant in the home after about 2 or 3 days.   It's seriously the perfect plan for not having lingering Halloween candy in your house week after week. Well, except for throwing it all away. I suppose you could do that.  But I wouldn't do that to my kids.  Are you kidding me? They walk a lot of miles to get all that candy! 

Speaking of  that, let's talk about Trick or Treating.  This is always a favorite for Rich and I - walking the kids around the neighborhood on Halloween.  We just love it!  Especially when we have a toddler who is just beginning to understand the whole concept of Trick or Treating.  This year it was Aria.  She was so darn cute! 

I loved hearing her little voice shout "Trick or Treat!" as she walked up to the doors,  and then hearing her say  "Thank you!" after the candy was put into her bag, and then to hear her shout, "Wait for me, guys!" as she ran to catch up to her older siblings...she was just so precious!  After every house she visited, she would stop and retrieve the new piece of candy that was just put into her bag, and she would excitedly hold it up to us and say, "Look-it what I got!!"  It took extra long Trick or Treating this time due to that little habit of hers, and that is why she was always two steps behind her siblings.   But oh...she was just so cute.  We loved every minute of it.

We enjoy Trick or Treating with our kids every year.  The only thing is, as the years go by, we keep losing them to friends.  They grow older and pretty soon it's no longer a thrill to walk door to door with your parents and your younger siblings.  First Anthony strayed away from us, then a year later Audriana, and then a couple years after that it was Afton's turn to go off with friends.  And so for a few years we had the younger six with us all the time.  But this year both Alex and Avery went Trick or Treating with their friends.  And so  that left us with just our youngest four.  Just four!  Not much of a crowd for us, that's for sure.  And I although I was having fun with them that night, I found myself thinking about the older five ... and wondering just where the time went?  Life just goes too quickly sometimes.  Makes me sad when I think about it. My Trick or Treating crowd is getting thinner and thinner. Whatever will I do when there is no one to walk door to door with?  Hopefully by that time I will have a few grand-babies to Trick or Treat with! 

Avery in her witch costume

Aislynn was "Ariel" the mermaid and Aria was "Pocahontas"

Alex was a boxer, complete with black eye

Andrew was a Power Ranger - 
but kept misplacing his mask -
and he insisted on wearing his fireman boots.

and A.J. was a skeleton. 
Here they are lining up for the neighborhood costume fashion show.  Aria would not walk down the red carpet runway unless Alex held her hand.  Big brothers sure can some in handy during times like these, because I didn't want her to miss the fashion show!  She looked too cute in her costume not to show it off :)

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Everything is going to be okay....

Not to spoil the ending for you.....
but everything is going to be okay.

I love this!  I just saw this saying on another blog, and just really hit home.  It's not like I'm going through a hard time right now or anything like that.  But I can just remember back to a time when I was at my lowest, at my most saddest and most vulnerable time...and I felt his message clearly in my heart.

This was back in 1997 when my daughter was brain injured in a car accident and I felt that life would never be happy for me ever again.  I was beside myself with grief and worry:  would she wake from the coma?  if she did, what would be left of her brain function?  what kind of life will she have? would she have memories of her old self?  would she be severely handicapped?  will she be able to think, smile, or laugh?  will she know me?  what kind of future will she have?

I remember having all those thoughts as I sat there by her bedside in the PICU just a week or so after her accident.  I was holding her hand looking up at her swollen face, her swollen head all wrapped in white gauze.  Tubes were sticking out from all over her body.  Monitors were making clicking sounds, beeping sounds, and of course the "whoosh, whoosh, whoosh" of the machine that was breathing for her. I was alone in the room, just me and my daughter,  and I thought, "This is my child.  How could this be?  She was just fine a few days ago: laughing, running, going to preschool, learning to tie her shoes and write her name.  She had just celebrated her 4th birthday a few days could she be here now?  Like this?"  At that moment, I was the saddest that I had ever been before in my life.   I remember it so clearly.

I remember looking over at the table next to me.  There on the table were a few items that had accumulated during the week:  the journal that I had been writing in, a pen, a tissue box, a few cards and stuffed animals from people.  And then I noticed a small box.  It was clear and I could see some beads of some sort inside.  Rose-colored beads.  I reached over to see what it was...and saw that it was a Rosary.  I took it out and held it to my nose.  It had the sweetest roses. And then I remembered where it had come from.  My mom's best friend had just come back from The Holy Land and had brought a few of these Rosaries home with her.  When she had heard what happened to Audriana, she brought one to the hospital for me to have.

Now, being raised Catholic, I of course knew what a Rosary was, and I had prayed the Rosary quite a few times at funerals or various other times when I was with a large group of people at church.  But I had never prayed the Rosary by myself.  Never.  I didn't even know if I would remember how.  But at that moment, I wanted more than anything to pray the Rosary for my daughter. So I held it in my hands and ..... I just began.  It was like all the years since my childhood, all the times I've seen and heard it done, just flooded into me and I just knew every prayer and the order that they went and everything.  And I got such a peace over me, as I prayed the prayers of the Rosary.  I have never felt such a peace before.  Just complete calmness ... and there was not one speck of sadness in my heart at that time.    I remember it moved me to tears, the feeling I was experiencing.  I got a very strong, unmistakable message at that moment:  Everything is going to be okay.  Don't worry....everything is going to be okay.  I didn't hear those words, but I felt them.  I felt them!

The next day was the day when Audriana began sticking up one finger or two fingers to communicate with us.  We knew at that time that she was still "in there" and that she would come back to us.  And she did.  It took an incredibly long time, but she did.  Everything is going to be okay, I was told.  And I believed it. And it came to be.

This, to me, is an example of why my husband and I want to raise our children in the Catholic faith.  It will give them such an important foundation.  See, at the time of our accident, we really weren't going to church much.  We didn't read the Bible or pray together, but would go to Sunday mass every now and then, and of course on Christmas and Easter.  I was, afterall, an adult and didn't have to go to church if I didn't want to.  Not like when I was little, when I had to go to church every Sunday with my mom, my grandma and my little sister. We were raised Catholic, and church on Sundays was a constant in our family.  I knew the mass word for word because I went almost every single Sunday.  Then, once I married and moved out of my mother's house....I was FREE!  I could sleep in on Sundays if I wanted to.  I began only going to church on Christmas and Easter.  I was still Catholic, of course...but not really involved in the church at all.

But then....when the accident happened, and my life was turned upside down -- where did I turn?   My upbringing in the Catholic faith gave me a firm foundation to stand on when my life was shaking and falling apart.  It all just flooded back to me and comforted me.   It started with praying that Rosary on that one day when I was at my lowest point, when I had almost lost faith and hope.

I have learned that if you raise your children in a faith -- any faith -- and you make it a constant in your family life, then that gives your children a foundation to build their lives on.  Even if they stray away from it for a time....when life happens and they really need something to count on, they will be able to turn to their faith.  It will have become a part of who they are, and it will be there for them when they need it.

Sometimes my kids will complain when I wake them up early for church on Sundays, and then there are times when I am tempted to sleep in, too.  But I just think back to the way I was raised, and how our Catholic faith was a constant in our family life, and how my mom made sure we were at mass every Sunday...and I know that it benefitted me so much.  And I want that for my kids, too.
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