By Mallory Schlabach, Editor in Chief
Inside the living room three little boys, stair-stepped in height, run around the suede couches playing football. The smallest two double team Isaac, the oldest of the three, and soon the game turns into a pileup of giggling boys.
Jackie Hughes just shakes her head as she walks past them in the hallway and shuts the door to the den. The French door only muffles their gleeful sounds.
“The problem is Noah and Langston had naps today, so they’re wired right now,” Jackie says laughing.
No one would guess as she sits on the plaid sofa in her sweats, that she’s a mother of five who’s working on her second college degree. She also works full time at ACU in the Computing Services Department. For her, juggling is a class act.
For the Hughes and their five children: Jchon, Samantha, Isaac, Langston and Noah, the madness begins at 6 a.m. each day, when Frank, Jackie’s husband of 10 years, gets off work at Dyess Air Force Base as a security guard. As Frank sits next to Jackie on the couch flipping channels, he says days go by fast.
“Yeah, they’re fast-paced,” Jackie says.
“There’s a lot to get done around here,” he says, finishing her sentence. “But it’s fairly routine. Every Monday is the same, and every Tuesday is the same. Frank works third shift, so he’s the first one up each day.
“So he gets home at 6 a.m. I get up at 7 a.m. What time does every one else get up?” Jackie asks.
“Noah gets up at 6:30 a.m.; he wakes up by himself. The rest of the boys are up at 7 a.m.,” Frank says quietly, as Jackie jumps in again.
“He gets everybody ready, which gives me a great day. Usually you can get irritable in the morning trying to get everyone ready. But since he’ s already up and not in a hurry, he can get everyone ready without getting irritable,” she says smiling at him.
Jackie’s a computer programmer, which means she mostly works on ACU’s Banner or perfecting the Police Department’s parking ticket computer system when she gets to work.
“But don’t call me if you get a parking ticket to get you out,” she says laughing. “Frank got one the other day, and I thought it was hilarious.”
She takes a break around 3 p.m. when her three youngest boys get out of school down the road at Taylor Elementary.
On days when she can’t take a break, Jchon Bahl, her oldest and a freshman graphic design major, picks them up and drops them off at home near Riatta Ranch, two miles away. From there, Samantha, a sophomore at Abilene High, takes over baby-sitting after school until Frank wakes up for the evening before going back to work at 8:30 p.m.
To those outside the Hughes family, they seem like superheroes to be able to accomplish everything.
“I really think God gives us more minutes in our day to get everything done,” Jackie says earnestly. “Because there’s no way we should be able to get everything done. But our family works as a team.”
She explains she and Frank take a night class together at ACU on Tuesdays, and that Samantha makes sure she comes home early to watch the boys. If Samantha has to work at Target, then Jchon watches them.
“That’s an example of how we manage everything,” she says. “But having a routine helps. After church on Sundays when everyone gets home, everyone cleans up like an automatic thing. I don’t have to tell them because they know we’ll have company at noon.”
Jackie says she’s learned the most important thing about teamwork is the team leaders have to be strong, which is why she dedicates so much time to keeping her marriage strong with Frank.
She says she’s heard most couples fight about finances first, then kids. Other than a few disagreements, she’s says it has never happened to her and Frank. She asks herself out loud why that hasn’t happened and Frank answers.
“We have the same goals for them to be respectful and disciplined,” he says.
“The husband and wife come first before the children because they were there first before the children,” she adds. “It takes a husband and wife to have children. I think him and I, [and] our relationship together is very important. We’ll try to honor each other’s ideas and thoughts. It really doesn’t matter if they’re grounded for a week or not. Our unity matters more,” she adds.
“As they are yelling and screaming in the background,” Frank says as he looks behind the couch to the door.
“Yeah, they’re playing football. You hear all that yelling in there? Usually dad is involved in that too,” she says, giving Frank a look daring him to question what she’s said. He just smiles back.
“We had to get a bigger house, so we’d all have our space. And I’m glad we did cause I couldn’t tolerate that in the same room as me all the time,” she says, grimacing as the yelling gets louder.
Spending time together
Although it’s a weekend, the Hughes family is at home, except Samantha. Jackie and Frank aren’t sure where’s she’s off to right now.
“That reminds me,” Jackie exclaims, “I need to call her cell phone and see why she’s not home yet.”
Frank laughs at Jackie and tries to recall where Samantha’s supposed to be today.
Between five kids and the oldest two both working at Target, he says he can’t remember where everyone’s supposed to be.
With both Jackie and Frank working at opposite times, Jackie says they don’t see each other much during the week. So they try to spend time together taking classes at ACU.
Jackie’s been taking classes since 2003. In December 2007 she’ll finish her second bachelor’s degree, this one for digital electronic media. In 1993 she graduated from Farris State in Michigan, with a degree in office automation.
She originally wanted to get a master’s degree in electronic media, but said the department dropped the program before she could begin.
“At that point, I had already looked through all the classes and they were fascinating. I decided the bachelor’s degree was similar, so I went ahead and did it,” she said. “I actually think it’s a blessing because bachelor level classes are easier than the master’s level classes.”
Just a semester after Jackie began taking classes, she encouraged Frank to join her.
“He needs to get a degree and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. I had been taking classes for a semester, and I would come home and tell him how exciting everything was. So he started taking them too,” she says laughing at herself.
Both take two classes a semester, but because of Frank’s work schedule, he can only take 8 a.m. classes. He says he wants to graduate in the next four or five years.
“By 2011, hopefully, but we’ll see. Hopefully you’ll graduate before Samantha does,” Jackie teases.
Frank will already graduate behind Jchon, which Jchon finds funny.
Jchon wants to design board and card games, an interest he’s developed after spending many years playing games, he says. He also thinks his mom’s creative side has helped him.
Jchon’s features favor Jackie, with his light brown skin and black head of ringlets.
He visits her every other day at her office, but talks to her more than that, he says.
She says if he doesn’t stop by, he’s usually text messaging her just to say hi.
Frank interrupts her to say he saw Jchon for the first time on campus Wednesday.
“Really? Oh yeah, he told me about that,” she says. “It’s amazing that you actually saw him.”
“He was leaving to go to his class and was late,” Frank said laughing. “He was walking and looking around. I thought he saw me, but he was half asleep and walking along groggily,” Frank says, imitating Jchon with halfopened eyes. “So I bumped into him before he realized it was me.”
Jackie laughs at his imitation, and then begins talking about going to school with Frank again. Frank just shakes his head at how she jumps around in conversation.
“I enjoy taking classes with him. I just enjoy being with him,” she says suddenly. “It doesn’t matter what we do. We’ve been fortunate to take about four classes together so far: history, art, golf and health.
“We had fun golfing together. Whatever we’re doing together is fun. We’re not even watching anything right now,” she says, as she points the remote at the big-screen TV. “We’ve been flipping channels for an hour, haven’t we? I enjoy that mostly because all week long we’re busy, and we don’t see each other. When we are home, we enjoy each other’s company.”
Going all the time
Frank rubs the top of his head; his hair is cut close to his scalp.
He says he’s used to her going all the time. She’s involved at work, at church and with the kids in whatever they do.
“She’s just always going,” he says laughing. “I’m used to it now. I just tune it out.
“At first it made you tired watching her do stuff and not sit still. Now, I just ignore her and let her run around and do what she does,” he says as she gently slaps his arm.
“Now he just looks at me with this blank stare and I never know what he’s thinking,” she says. “I’ve had to learn to try to sit down and do nothing for a little bit. He needs me to sit down. He won’t admit it, but he does.”
Jchon, too, was surprised with how much Jackie accomplishes in a day.
“I don’t know how she doesn’t have a brain trauma from all she does,” he says laughing. “I really don’t know. She’s really spontaneous, but she gets everything done. She must have a planner built inside her head.”
Joking aside, he says one of his favorite characteristics about his mom, is to see how much respect others have of her because of what she does.
“It’s cool to have so many people talking to me about her, how good of a person and lady she is. Everyone likes her. She’s loving and caring and would do anything for anyone, even if she doesn’t have the time. She’ll make time.”
Frank and Jackie don’t necessarily want their kids to grow up to be just like them, they just want them to learn a few things from them.
“I want them to work hard and be dedicated in what they do,” Frank says. “[I want them] to find something they like to do and give every effort to do it. If you’re not doing what you like to do, it makes life more difficult.”
“That was good,” she says.
“I want them to learn to make good choices and be responsible for their choices. Not to be a whiner, not to make excuses, and to keep trying,” she says. “I think most of all between those two things, we want them to put on the Lord and to have a strong faith because without that, everything else falls apart.”
Frank nods his head in approval.
Jchon says if he’s learned one thing from his mom, it’s to rely on the Lord for everything.
“She brings up God in every situation,” he says. “She’s told us if we’re in need of something, to go to God first. To pray to God first, to trust in him first. It’s true. His love never fails.”
Jackie’s lesson is something, she too, takes to heart. She has big dreams of what she wants to do one day, but that is not what’s important.
“I really believe God has a plan for our lives and whatever that ends up being, it will make us happy,” she says.
One day at a time
She just wants to do something in life that not everyone can do.
“I worked at a gas station one summer, and I remember one weekend doing the cashier and all these people came in with their boats and jet skis and all that stuff,” she recalls. “All I’m thinking is, they could do this job. Anyone could do this job. But they’re out having a good time. I like having a job that not anyone can do.”
She says it doesn’t hurt to dream though, so it would be cool if she could work for an NFL team one day. Frank agrees, and wants to be on the sideline during a Super Bowl game doing anything.
For now, they’ll settle on watching their three youngest play football in the living room, or watching football on TV on Sunday afternoons. Jackie says to do so much in life, they’ve had to realize there is always a way to balance things.
“A lot of times I am not afraid to say no, but I try not to take on more than I can handle. During midterms, I’ll start freaking out, like ‘I don’t know why I told someone I would to this because it’s too much,’ but what I’ll end up thinking about is that it isn’t too much. I’ve been doing fine all this time except for this week. I can handle it.”
Frank jumps in.
“If you think about it, it becomes overwhelming. But if you just do it, one thing at a time, it all happens. If you schedule your whole semester and see everything you have to do, you’d always say you couldn’t get it done.”
“Frank’s right,” Jackie says. “We just look at it one day at a time.”
Jackie enters the living room and checks on the three boys. They surround her laughing, panting and peppering her with questions.
“Mom, they got me good today,” Langston, who’s 7, says panting as he surveys his brothers smirking on the fireplace.
“Mom! I need a cough drop,” yells 10-year-old Isaac from the couch.
In an instant, they’re running around with the ball again.
“Boys, slow down! One of these days they’re gonna hurt themselves on the fireplace.”
She opens the front door and in a second all three are outside in the 40-degree weather without coats setting up in formation to hike the ball.
“Oh, boy. They’re really putting on a show now!”
Dressed in athletic pants and a white long-sleeved shirt, she shivers and jumps in the air, shifting her bare feet off the concrete sidewalk.
“OK. Enough football tonight. Everyone in now. Bedtime. One, two, three go,” she says.
In a line, they file in. The day is almost over.