A New School Year

I had so dreaded the summer.  We weren’t going to go anywhere, and my husband was going to be out of town a lot, so I was facing cabin fever with not much help with the little kids.  But oh my, was it different than I anticipated!  I set a flexible schedule for our days, with some planned time out of the house.  I structured my mornings around coffee and bible study and threw in a little exercise for good measure, and darn if it wasn’t about the best summer I have had yet.


And now it is over.  Back to school for most, first time to school for Lily, and days at home with just two babies for me.


Our transition into school was a bit tough this year. It was dragged out for three weeks.  The first week one school started.  The second week the other two schools started, but one had half days all week.  The third week all three schools were on normal schedules, but there were school meetings almost every night.  Now we should be on normal school time and we are adjusting as unsmoothly as we normally do.  The house is a mess, the toddlers are crabby, and the calendar changes faster than I can let everyone know.


Anyway, here is a brief update on the crew:

-Paisley: Working for Lancome and loving it!  She visits at least once a week just to spend some time with us.

-James: Working at Cousins Subs, running sound for masses at church, and playing music around town.  He’s a busy guy these days and he seems to be thriving.

– Posy: A senior this year!  She scaled back her work hours at Cousins Subs to the weekends so she can focus on her studies and college applications. She’s driving a long distance to school each day and still finding time to spend with the little girls for combing hair and doing nails.

– Ben: A Freshman in the same school as Posy.  He is thriving in his 3rd year of Latin, interested in his studies and facebook.

– Tessa: 5th grade sweetheart.  She can’t really be called one of the “Littles” any more in our household.  She is shouldering more responsibility around here and made the volleyball team at school.

– Max: 2nd grade!  Max would play piano 24 hours a day if we let him, stopping only for a break to watch America’s Funniest Home Videos.

– Lily: Kindergarten girl!  Lily is loving school and seems to be doing very well there.  Since she turns 5 this month, she will attend kindergarten at her preschool this year and then kindergarten at the older kids’ school next year.  I think it will work very well.

– Molly: Every bit a 2 year old.  Molly is still the family firecracker.  Most prone to scream in both happiness and distress, she lets you know how she feels.  She misses Lily and loves to “help” me around the house.

– Gus: 10 months, still not sleeping.  Gus is walking well and starting to pick up a word or two and some baby signs.  He doesn’t use them frequently though, so you always find yourself asking, “Did he just say…. ?”  He’s also huge (for a Groft baby), weighing in at 22 lbs.  We joke that God made him big to protect him from Molly, who only outweighs him by about 3 pounds and loves to sit on him.

– Jay: is working hard at both jobs, and praying for cooler weather.

And I am just trying to stay one step ahead of this crew and their needs, their meals, and their mess.


So Happy New (School) Year!  I hope it will be just as blessed as the summer was!

A Friday in the Life: one picture an hour (or so)

Today I am going to try to take a picture or two each hour and give a snapshot of the whole day.  Forgive the pictures, please, most are just quick shots with my phone.

7am. Coffee and kindle. Yes, I really do have that much cream in my coffee, it’s not just a trick of the light.


8am. Kids playing in the family room I cleaned last night. It’s so much easier to play when the floor isn’t a minefield!


9am. Finish the great backpack hunt, laundry is moving along, Now kids are on to Kinectimals.



9:30. What’s this wet stuff falling from the sky? And in the daytime too!


10am. Still raining! Lily’s turn on xBox. Molly following Posy around.


11am. Posy leaves for work, the desert rats play in puddles!

12pm. James plays piano. Peanut butter sandwiches for everyone.



1pm. Tessa reads the kids a pre-nap book while I nurse Gus to sleep.


2pm. Molly’s still napping. The kids are taking turns with Gus while I fix and arrange the bookshelves.


3pm. Sew buttons on two pair of James’s pants. Then off we go to Costco!

4pm. Finally made it to the store. Settled on Safeway since it took us a full 45 minutes just to get shoes, go potty and get out the door. Thus, there is no picture for 3pm. But by 4, we were busy at the store. I forgot ice, as usual.


5pm. Gus naps while I make dinner.


6pm. Dinner is done, time to clean up and get ready for company!


7pm. Molly has been coughing that tell tale cough all day and has been prone to melt downs. Time for a breathing treatment while she plays on my kindle.


8pm. Swim time.

9pm. Saved the best for last!  Friends are here and the music is flowing freely. We finish up with Mumford and Sons done by Jay and sons. Jay and max are on the piano, Ben on mandolin, and James on guitar.  Poor video quality, I know, but hang in there after the first minute and the sound gets a little better (and Molly stops drumming.)

Jay and Sons play Mumford and Sons


The Children’s Museum (A Picture Post)

We bought a membership to the children’s museum this year and have been enjoying it so much.  On Friday my mom went with Max, Lily, Molly, Gus, and me and we all had a very fun time.

Max and Molly, high up in the climber.


Really high up!


Even Grandma got into the climbing action.


The whole crew, about two stories up.


Gus crawled around on the floor while the kids were perched up high.


The girls picking flowers. You can see both of their curls so well here. Molly has big soft waves. On this day I had twisted Lily’s hair into big ringlets instead of the wild tiny ringlets she usually sports. This helps to keep her hair from tangling as easy.


Max went up to these chimes and started playing Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring to the astonishment of many of the parents around. He walked away frustrated because it wasn’t a true scale and he couldn’t get the song in tune.


Gus is old enough to start enjoying the exhibits as well.


Molly painted ricks with water while the other kids ran through the noodle forest with Grandma.


Next up was the Fort Room.


We ended the morning in the Art Room. Molly painted the rocketship.


Lily and Grandma made letter art and a collage, and Max held his very own puppet show.

And then we headed home, tired and hungry for lunch and naps.  But we will be back another day!

Clumsy Jesus

During Holy Week, the 8th grade class at our parish school puts on a dramatic presentation of the Stations of the Cross.  It is beautifully done, and a nice way to bring the children into the Triduum.  At the stations when Jesus falls, they drop the cross very loudly and dramatically.  They definitely got Molly’s attention with the loud, sharp noise.  In the weeks following Easter, Molly would often point out that “Jesus always falls.  It hurts.”

A few weeks ago, Posy was headed out to the 11am mass by herself.  Molly wanted to go with her.  So this loving big sister brought her 2 year old sibling to mass with her (on purpose!).  Molly fell asleep during the mass and Posy let her lay down on the pew.  At one point, a nearby parishioner let a kneeler fall, making a loud noise.  Molly sat up and asked, groggily, “Did Jesus fall?”

The Large Family Age Shift

The Age Shift: it happens every couple years. The older kids are a huge help around the house and with the younger children.  They fill in when Jay is out of town and even babysit at a moment’s notice.  They really are great about sharing the burdens of being a large family.  Family life flows smoothly during these times,  or at least it feels smoother to me when I can get a break now and then and have someone to hold the baby while I make dinner.

Then all of the sudden, they get jobs, get involved in ministry at church, or find themselves in very challenging classes at school, or even all of those things at once.  Suddenly I find that I am mostly on my own again with all the small children in tow, no babysitting availability, and no chores done.  I’m overtired from a baby who doesn’t sleep, and I realize that I have kind of forgotten how to do this on my own.  How did I manage before there were older children around to help out?  In my memories I return to that time when I had four children, age seven and under and I realize…


That I can’t remember a darn thing about that time.  In fact, I have little photo evidence that it occurred.  I was thoroughly overwhelmed.  For one straight year, almost all of the pictures I have of our children they are either sleeping or in the bath.  Those were the only times that I could take a breath and think, “Oh look!  They really are sweet!”  But the rest of that time I think I blocked out – either through exhaustion or just the trauma of it all.

Here I am again.  My older children have matured and gotten all responsible and have their own lives.  Sure, they help out now and then.  A couple even do their own laundry.  Jay has quite the work schedule, and even with that, he jumps in and works in the family the moment he walks in the door.  But for the day to day minutiae, I am wading through this on my own.


I keep thinking that as a mother of nine, I should know how to navigate these waters.  I suppose I am doing better than the first time around with a group of little ones, but that isn’t saying a whole lot.  I recently have been working on my bad attitude about some of these issues.  And I have been actively trying to find a way to live through this part of our family joyfully.  Just because we have several small children at once, doesn’t mean we can’t still thrive.  I know other families who can do it, so there must be a way for me to do it too.


I started this journey when a friend posted this article on Facebook: How to be a Good Mom on a Bad Day.  I realized that ALL of my days could be summed up with her definition of a “bad day”.  There was just never a time when I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed and crabby.  That couldn’t be a good sign.  So I started loosely following those steps and trying actively to move myself from that bad attitude into a better one.  In reading that blog and a few others I found a treasure trove of mommy-blogger books and have been relying on them to help me adjust my attitude and reorient myself in the right direction.


Here are a few that have been so helpful: (Some are available only in ebook format. Links follow list, turn off Adblock if you don’t see them.)

  • Maximize Your Mornings: Very specific tools from Inspiredtoaction.com on getting moving towards treating yourself right so you can treat your family right.  This one is free, only about 30 pages long, and available on their website.  I’m not going to give you the direct link because I want you to go to her website and find it.  One of the steps in this program is a morning Bible Study. I have been using reading plans I find on the YouVersion app (free for iphone, android, and Kindle).
  • Loving the Little Years: because I just wasn’t loving these little years.  I was spending all of my time fantasizing about the days when they will all be older, past diapers, past bedtime fights, past carseats in the summer.
  • Steady Days: A Journey Towards Intentional, Professional Motherhood:  Motivation to get my act together and the practical tools to do that.
  • 31 Days of Prayer for our Daughters, and Warrior Prayers: Praying Scripture for Our Sons: Both of these gave me specific ways to pray for my children and helped to open my eyes to them again as something more than work generators.
  • Hope for the Weary Mom: Exactly what it says.  I read this one evening when I had practically run out of the house, desperate to get a few minutes on my own to collect my thoughts.  I was thoroughly weary, I needed some hope.  And I found a good dose of it here.
  • Mindset for Moms:  This is a different author that Hope for the Weary Mom, but feels like a very expanded version of it.  This one has one short chapter for each day of the month, although I didn’t read it slowly.  I may use it to review a little at a time like that though
  • First Steps Devotions for Families with Small Children: This has been a nice way to reconnect to my children spiritually and the devotions are short enough that no one even has the chance to get squirrelly halfway through.  We’ve added these to our bedtime prayers a few mights a week.


By changing some habits and seeking out encouragement I found, not so suddenly, that I’ve been having fewer “bad days”.  I even find myself smiling for no particular reason.  And, as much as I still really need sleep, I am less likely to feel overwhelmed and overworked and more likely to just have fun in the busyness of my days.  Oh, its still a ton more work to not have extra hands to help as often as before, but one day at a time we’ll get through it, and I am very sure I will miss it when this time is past.


The days go so slow but the years go very fast.



No Time to Write

There is no time to write these days.  I have revised my goals multiple times since the year started and have not made any of them.  Today, I am sitting at the computer with the desk piled so high with papers I can barely see the bottom of the screen.  So scratch the idea of waiting until I get the desk clean.  But last night we sat down to dinner and the clamor around me was all I could hear.  The baby was hollering in the high chair and banging his toy, the toddler was whining about having a drink or not having a drink- I can’t really remember, several things forgotten in the setting of the table were being remarked on by others.  It was a relatively happy chaos, but in my frazzled state all I could hear was the chaos part.  And I realized that I had not had a moment of uninterrupted thinking since the night before, when I had forced myself to stay awake (nursing the baby of course, so even then I wasn’t truly alone) just to have a few moments to hear myself think.  This lifestyle can, at times, be pure torture for an introvert.


I found myself getting crabbier as the day progressed, never being able to finish a thought without another little person coming to talk to me again.  In conversations that mostly go like this:

Molly: Mommy!
Me: What?
Molly: Mommy!
Me: What?
Molly: Mommy!
Me: What?
Molly: Mommy!
Me: WHAT?!?
Molly: I love you.
Me: I love you too.

I have these little exchanges with Molly about 10 times a day.  It is cute, but it can get a little grating.

So I figured that maybe, for my own sanity, I should write a little <insert phone call from one child, extricating a child from the tangle of scotch tape, and breaking up a fight between two others here>
Oh, and Molly please take your dolly away from the piano, she doesn’t know how to play.

What was I saying… something about finishing a thought…
Oh well, it’s gone now and the vacuum is making a very strange sound in the other room, so I guess my moment of sanity is over.

<An hour or so goes by.>

I’m returning to try to finish this post.  <How did she find another roll of scotch tape?>  Ahem.  My realization was that <NO, YOU CAN’T HAVE CAKE!> I need to carve out some time to finish my thoughts before I go completely catatonic.  I am at one of those stages when children begin to decide that all adults are idiots.  The first stage happens when they are learning to talk and tell you they want “Um gick!” forty three times before you figure out that what they really want is ” Some milk!”  Then next stage is where I am right now.  My brain is trying so hard to finish a thought that my kids will come and say something to me 4 or 5 times before I can register what they are saying to me.  And I can see the idea forming in their heads: Idiots are in charge!  Tired idiots! We can get away with ANYTHING.


This is no new revelation, that I need time for myself.  It just keeps getting harder, that’s all.  But it also becomes more vitally important as more of these people are relying on me to make important decisions and do things like use electricity to cook.


What I need now is for the baby to sleep.  And by that I mean to sleep while not touching my body, which he hasn’t been so hot on so far.  No swaddling, pacifiers, swings (we bought two out of desperation), or crying (his or mine) seem to do the trick.  So we are just going to have to be down to emergency measures: letting other things go so I can grasp a moment here or there to think. Typing things out, maybe that will help my disjointed thinking to become thoughts and thoughts to become ideas.  And this desperation will release its grasp on me just a little so that I am a little better to focus on these little people.  I love them so very much.  I just need them to LEAVE ME ALONE FOR ONE MOMENT PLEASE!!!



Nerf Shotgun

Nerf shotgun

Poor quality picture, great story.

Max told Jay on Sunday morning that he wanted a nerf shotgun.  He got two nerf guns for Christmas – one shoots the big green balls (the gun in the picture) and one shoots the little nerf darts with suction cups on the end.  But he wants a gun that shoots a spray of “bullets”.  Can you even imagine the mess of a tiny nerf shotgun pellets shot all over the house?  Thank you, Nerf, for not doing that.

Max just couldn’t take no for an answer.  He figured out a way to do it.  He took the gun that shoots the bigger balls, loaded a plastic Easter egg full of smaller soft toys (Squinkies) and closed the egg loosely.  Then he carefully loaded his gun with it and *poof* he had his shotgun.  The egg popped open when the gun fired and little soft plastic toys sprayed all over the floor in front of him.  He was quite pleased with himself!

That’s imagination, I tell you!

Milestones in Gus’s Life

At two and a half months, Gus weighs in at a whopping 14lbs, 5oz.  Which is somewhere around the size most of the kids were at 4 months old.  Big guy.

He still wants to be held nonstop but this week both of these things occurred, even if they were short lived:

Gus with paci
I bought just one more pacifier type to try, and he likes tolerates it more than the others.  So that is something…

Then this – with the help of the above pacifier:

He sleeps
You can’t see his face, but he is sleeping.  Sweet, sweet naptime, while not even being held.  Yes, he is sleeping on his tummy.  I know, I know.  But that is how my children sleep.

He is starting to enjoy a little (very little!) bit of down time trying to bat at his toys or watch his brothers and sisters play.  But mostly he wants to be held BY ME and jiggled or nursed all day and night.

Stocking up for the Global Pillow Fight


My big gift this year was money for a new comforter. The trick was finding one that matched the red in the curtains and the blue in the cosleeper. (Which will probably be set up in some way in our room for at least the next two years, so it may as well match.)

The shopping for it was a bit of an event.  Gus hates shopping and seems to scream through every attempt I make at it.  We wandered the bedding area at Dillards, only finding things that had red but not blue or blue but not red or that had both but were really ugly.

But we found it! We even added some decorative pillows to top off the look. There are positively piles of fluffy stuff on there now!

Happy New Year 2012!

The new year began for me with picking up kids from the family New Year Party.  But then came sleep in a toasty bed.

New Year Morning

In the real morning (not just counting when the clock turns to AM) I found the little ones (mostly) happily coloring and keeping (mostly) quiet while the older kids slept in.

Around the lunch table, we toasted the new year with sparkling cider and a “Please, let it be better than 2011!” and everyone shared their resolutions.

Molly: Nurse
Lily: Say a Hail Mary Every Day
Max: Be more careful to be neat in his seat work at school
Tessa: Pray a decade of the Rosary every day
Ben: Run more
Posy: Get a job
James: Purposeful practice of his music, eat healthier
Jay: Go on a date night once per week (I like that one!), keep his truck cleaner
Me: Read 12 books (1 per month – or more if possible), and blog more

Last year I tried the Picture a Day challenge and didn’t last very long with it.  This year I am trying a more modest approach with a goal of 2 picture based blog posts per week.  I think that will be much more doable.