My exciting life with a house full of boys

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm A Liar. Are you?

I'll admit it. I'm a seasonal liar. At least to my children. I'm also a magician (at least when my children are young) and magicians perfect the art of deception. It all began one summer at the grocery store. My boys liked water melon but didn't like the seeds and therefore wouldn't eat it. I bought a seedless watermelon and took it home. I called them all to my attention and performed a fantastic abracadabra blah blah blah and Voila! The proof of my magic was exposed as soon as the knife cut into the juicy meat of the watermelon. No seeds. I was not only a magician but I was also a hero. This lie magic trick went on for several years. But one day the unthinkable happened. One of them learned to read. And I had been foolish enough to take that one with me to the grocery store. "You mean they make seedless watermelons!" he exclaimed with a hint of disdain in his voice. I was had. He wasn't willing to keep this secret from his brothers. As soon as his feet hit the driveway he was running in the house to expose his fallen hero.

I got my talent from my mom. She was a magician too. With the toaster. She had this great ability to know just when the toast was going to pop up. I still don't know how she did it. But I guess it wasn't lying magic like mine.

A new season is fast approaching and I giggled to myself as I listened in on a conversation between my twins as we walked through JCPenny's. One was acting up and the other was very quick to remind him of the Santa Cam's. They both looked up and simultaneously pointed. "He's watching you ya know." And the bad behavior immediately stopped and they were absolute darlings the rest of the shopping trip. I confess to another lie. No not Santa. We all do that. Several years ago I told my tantrum throwing toddlers that the spy/security camera's in Walmart was Santa's way of watching them.

I mean really, how else can he know what you want and if you are being naughty or nice I told them. And since I'm the mom and they are supposed to trust me I used it to every advantage and they believed in me- in Santa - in Santa cams. Take a look up the next time you're in a store with a rotten kid. Your chances of having a Santa cam near you is pretty good. And whether that makes me naughty or nice it's a lie I'm sticking to until they find out that the universal lie - Santa - isn't true.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

9 EPT's (I did get a 2 for 1 deal)

I'm linking up to one of my favorite bloggers at the Denton Sanatorium. How did I end up in this house full of men? I never really thought much of my future. Of career, college, family. Maybe I didn't have enough time. I just went with the flow. I think that my lack of "future planning" has aloud me to ride the waves of life a bit easier. I met my love while I was still in high school. We fell in love and with a letter from my mother giving me permission to marry, we were on our way to the beginning of the next 25 years. No easy years but oh what an adventure.

My first son was born soon after. A three hour labor. No problems really. Mothering came naturally to me. I never felt inadequate or ill prepared. Okay maybe a little but I wasn't afraid. I wasn't intimidated by this new calling in life. I think that both of us being the oldest in our families and my coming from a single mother with 6 small children gave me the experience I needed to be comfortable. I thought my #1 was a breeze. I didn't realize what a fussy baby he was until I had others. I loved him so much. I would watch him sleeping in his cradle and morn for the emptiness I felt inside by not feeling him kick and squirm. Now I had to share and I didn't want to. My Danny. "Danny doo with eyes of blue", silly I know. I wasn't ready for another one anytime soon. I was still in high school and my husband was working three jobs.

I remember very well the moment I realized #2 was created. Sounds strange but I knew immediately. I just knew. I fell to my knees and with tears streaming down my face in the quiet darkness of my room I asked God to give me the ability to love another child. That was my biggest fear. How could I possibly love another child as much as I loved the first. I knew instantly when TJ was placed in my arms after my hour and a half labor. Hearts grow.

Spencer was my only planned. My heart knew it was time for another. My first two were 20 months apart but more time had passed and I was ready. It was a Sunday evening and we were sitting at the dinner table when I realized I had my birth control prescription to pick up. Bret looked at me across the table and said, "don't go" Those two words were some of the most romantic words he's spoken to me. Ten months later and my longest labor ever - 4 hours - my sweet dimple faced Spencer was born.

I hate to say that number four was a mistake but I will say that a contest and a bit of adventure brought us Taylor 33 months later. How much of that plays into his personality is a guess. I had four boys and life was good. Bret had his own business, we loved our little house and the boys were growing up.

I loved being pregnant! I joked with my sisters that I would and could easily be their surrogate if ever the need was there. I became pregnant easily, I was never sick, I felt fantastic, my deliveries were FAST and my babies healthy. So two years later we were expecting number five.
I felt fantastic even with four little ones. I was showing enough to have purchased and been wearing new maternity clothes and I had just begun feeling the tiny flutters and movements that mother's cherishes. I remember waking up in the early morning feeling the need to use the bathroom. I returned to my bed only to have the feeling again but before I could get back up my water broke. The rest is to sacred and personal but I had lost my fifth son. I had never felt my soul ache as I did that morning. My heart was forever scarred with that loss. But I knew I wasn't done. Our family wasn't complete.

A few months later I became pregnant again. Early on I started to spot and was put on immediate bed rest but at 8 weeks we knew that it wasn't to be. Mother's Day at church I went into labor and my husband took me home. I labored all day long until it was finally over. This one wasn't as hard to lose. Not to say that it wasn't hard but we knew the chances of loss so early on that I think we were mentally prepared for it.

Then number seven. That sounds weird and is strange to even read. We were excited. My doctor but me on total bed rest. I could shower, bathroom, fix my lunch if no one else was there to help and check the mail. My OB diagnose me with an incompetent cervix. I had damaged my cervix when I delivered #1 by pushing to soon which caused lots of tearing and thought that this surely contributed to the weakened muscle. I went in at 12 weeks to have my cervix stitched. At 16 weeks, after cute maternity clothes and those blessed feelings of movements inside, I went into labor. My husband was working out of town three hours away. My mom had to take me to the hospital. I can't imagine how my husbands heart must have hurt and how agonizing that trip home must have been for him after he received my call. I will forever be grateful to a tenderhearted ultra sound tech. The tech couldn't tell me anything. Hospital rules. But I needed to know. "Do you know what a Doppler is"? he asked. "I do. It's on isn't it"? He nodded his head. There was no sound. I had my answer. How could this have happened?

But it wasn't over. Once again we tried. Once again we lost. Identical scenario as five and seven. I lost number eight. The most painful experiences I have ever gone through. But. I learned through it all how much my Savior knew me, loved me, and was capable of comforting me. I wouldn't trade that knowledge for anything. People thought we were crazy. Crazy to have tried so many times to begin with and even more crazy , some said selfish and even foolish to try again. But as hard as I wanted to feel I was done, it wouldn't come. I prayed. I prayed a lot. I told God that I had it in me to try one more time but that was all I could do.

I didn't get pregnant. That never happened to me. But after several months and a positive test I was beginning my next ride. Bret went with me to the doctor. The same doctor that had cried with me the last 4 babies. With the ultra sound on, he looked over me and directly at my husband. Do you see what I see? They look like owl eyes. There are two in there! The three of us cried. With great excitement my doctor told me how in the past few months he had been caring for a patient that had similar experiences as me. He immediately ran some blood work and I tested positive. Had I become pregnant immediately he wouldn't have known how to treat me or to even test me. I have a genetic blood disorder called hyperhomocysteinemia. My blood is thick like pudding and I don't absorb B6, B12, and folic acid normally. So as my babies grew #1 my cervix wasn't strong enough to hold them and #2 my blood would clot, cutting off life. So at 12 weeks I had my cervix stitched for the third time, I was put on very strict bed rest, and I had to inject myself in my tummy, twice a day, with blood thinners. Too many blessing happened during this time of my life to even refer to in this post. At 36 1/2 weeks my twin boys were born. Healthy. Alive.

I knew we were done. The feeling was so precise. So definite. So final. It's been eight years since my last child was born. Eight years is the difference between my number four and five and six. Strange. It seems like a life time ago and yet the memories are as fresh as yesterday. Loss hurts oh so bad. I can't comprehend what those mothers who have lost living children must endure. Yes, my children lived. I felt them move. I saw and held their perfectness. But lets put this in proper context. I didn't nurse them, I didn't rock them to sleep or bathe them or comb their fine hair. Loss is personal. We can share but we can't truly understand and feel the pain of another. Not fully. To my friend and acquaintances who have suffered and endured so graciously - I honor, admire and respect you.

What has motherhood taught me? I am strong. I am brave. I am resilient. I trust. I have faith. I am loved. God is good. God hears prayers. God knows me. Personally. God knows my children. Personally. God knew what I needed to learn from motherhood. From physical pain, from emotional pain. God knew I would enjoy the journey and that I would trust Him. I am learning to trust myself. My greatest honor in this life is to be the mother of six boys. This is what I was made for. This is where I am supposed to mess up, to learn, to grow, to be. I've got my true love by my side to do it with and my Heavenly Father to guide me through it. I wouldn't trade a minute of it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Real Me

We never really know what people's perception is of us. How many know the real us? I mean the real us. I don't have a clue what people think of me, I hope it's positive. I decided to participate in Jenny's challenge. You can read about it here. In my defense I am a really really hard worker. When I put my mind to something I give it 200%, however I tend to neglect everything else while working on said project. I'm not very focused and disciplined. I haven't always been that way but 4 years ago this month that all changed. I'll blog about that another time.

Just remember lazy:

Lacking motivation-rAn out of time-Zomething better came along-no energY

I hate mornings but each one starts with my 16 year old waking me up at 6:40 to take him to school. I have just enough time to go to the bathroom and find my usually misplaced keys and sunglasses. Yes I wear my sunglasses even if it's not sunny. I guess you can call it my disguise. As he gets out of the car he often times has to pick up whatever fell out of the car onto the parking lot and throw it back in. Junk mail, water bottles, fast food bags, shoes, you name it. I drive back home and listen to the twins get ready for school. Notice how I said listen. A good perfect mom would make them a nutritious breakfast, comb their hair, and have a great morning conversation with them. I check my e-bay, face book, blogs, and e-mail while they are fixing frozen waffles, cold cereal, or peanut butter toast. In my defense I am in the other room within listening distance and I do gather with them for morning prayers before they rush out the door. At this point I often climb back into bed.

Once I wake back, I shower and get ready for the day. I rarely make my bed. I was not brought up this way. I don't remember a single day when my mom's bed was not made. I do know that it makes the day start off better but honestly I am just lazy. See the pile of shoes next to my night stand. Lazy. I think I a rebelling from my upbringing and so perhaps my children, in their lack of example from me will rebel and have perfectly neat and tidy rooms and made beds when they are adults.

I spent the last week at my sisters house a couple hours away. We spent hours and hours cleaning, sorting and organizing. She is incredibly talented as a musician, mother and more. But she needed help in the organization area where I have my talents. So if you were to come to my house after seeing and hearing all that I instructed and did, you would call me a hypocrite. I like to think of myself as a coach. A very good coach but a lousy player. I'm great at telling other people what to do and how to do it, but am terrible at implementing that said advice for myself.

I usually run errands and go to the office (self employed lets me work flexible hours). If I were on top of things I would do a little bit of house work before I left but again, I am lazy.

We are short people and I can't see the top of this shelf. But I am sure that most of the adult population that comes over can. Sorry mom I know you didn't raise me this way but you're really short and never would have known.

I generally eat while I am out. I am a confessed junk food/restaurant junkie. It's seams like such a waste of time to stop and fix something at home. Lazy. I did have a goal a little bit ago to eat healthy, and save money by eating at home. I went to the grocery store - a chore that I HATE - and brought home some things that would make for great breakfasts and lunches. And here it sits.

I know that many of you take time for yourselves during the early afternoons. A pedicure would be nice but the real me is missing too many toe nails. 3 1/2 to be exact. I lose them after big hikes and yes I've tried all kinds of boots and shoes. Here is the confession. My gross big toe has a fungus. Yes, FUNGUS. So gross to even admit. I'm that lady who you look down at and say, "Oh dear you need a pedicure." Yeah right. I know what would be said about me in a language I don't understand if I came in with my missing toe nails. I do know that I can get tips. Tips on toes. Sound really ridiculous but according to the Dr. it will only slow growth down if not stop it completely. I live in Arizona for heavens sakes where sandals and white have no September rules and I have ugly toes. I do occasionally paint my nails (skin). If you look at my painted right toe you will see a blister. That's from my 8 year old pair of Payless shoes that I danced the night away in and walked the Las Vegas strip till three in the morning (remember Karen?). Sunday church gave me a blister. Then there is a little nick on the next toe over - I don't know if you can see it but that's from shaving my toe hair. Yep fungus and toe hair. That's the real me.

I try to make it home in time for the kids to get home from school. We do the normal after school stuff, watch to much tv, play to much on the computer and realize when it's too late that it's time for dinner. We try to gather together as a family before bed and say our family prayers. Then the little ones are tucked in with a prayer, a song and a drink. And it must be in that order. I fall in bed about 10:00 and generally think of all the things I should have accomplished but didn't because I was to lazy to get it all done.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Can you feel your eggs crack?

I remember well the day my first born discovered my band-aids. He was four and had been quietly playing in his bedroom. Wrong. He was quietly playing in the bathroom. When I went to check on him he had covered himself and the walls with Carefree pantie liners.

"Mommy, look at me!" He said innocently
"Honey, these are mommy'" So I lied. But if you read the band-aid box it clearly states, "large adhesive pads comfort-flex, greater comfort and flexibility, improved material for better protection". Sounds like a personal hygiene product to me.

Years later another son had his first encounter with feminine products. A bloody nose during football lead the coach to shove a tampon up said sons nose to stop the bleeding. Who knew they had such a dual purpose!

This leads me to my next moment which has caused me to ponder whether or not I have failed my sons in the full disclosure of human female anatomy and our functions.

I love to pull weeds - for several reasons.
1. NO ONE BOTHERS ME! If you ever want some alone time, pull weeds. No one else wants to do it so they won't come close for fear of being asked to join in the chore.
2. When a victim does make the mistake and comes close, I will often times ask them to join me. They quietly obey and grab a seat near me. This usually leads to great conversations that otherwise would not have happened.

This was when my next moment occurred.

The discussion was with another son. (I have 6 remember). He is currently taking a human development class at the local community college. With great enthusiasm and the excitement that he was really teaching me something new he said,

"Mom, did you know that if a woman can figure out when her cycle is, she can decide when to have a baby?"

I was a bit stunned and tried so hard to hold back my giggles. This was my 19 year old that had just discovered the solution to all conception problems. If only we ladies could figure it out we could have a baby. I explained to him the obvious and the conversation continued.

"Yeah, I also learned that if a woman pays close attention she can feel her eggs crack."

Seriously! Do you mean ovulation? How was your teacher teaching this and where did your mother go wrong? Oh wait. I don't think your mother ever taught you any of this. Or any of your brothers for that matter. It never crossed my mind.

I had a hysterectomy (or what I like to call a hersterectomy, since I am a her,) and a bladder suspension last fall. Yes, it CHANGED MY LIFE and was worth every ache, pain, and inconvenience to have done! But I digress. One of the twins asked me what was wrong as I was resting in bed. I told them I had some mommy parts fixed. None of the older ones showed any interest or paid any attention when we tried to explain to them what was done. They just knew that there wouldn't be any more babies (I don't think they really understood/cared why)and mom could now jump on the trampoline.

I asked myself. Have I failed my sons and future daughter in laws by not educating them in all this female ick? Do they really need to know? They do know the basic birds and bees but....

So I went to my oldest who is married and has a daughter,
"What do you know about a woman's menstrual cycle?"
His response, "Mom!" and he walked away.
So I asked the tampon up the nose son the same question.
His response, "Mom. Seriously. Most of my friends are girls." and he walked away.
I didn't bother to ask my college son. He obviously knows it all now, our eggs cracking and everything, so I asked my second to oldest.
"What do you know about a woman's menstrual cycle?"
His response, "I know enough to stay away when they're on it." and he walked away.

Maybe I did teach that one something.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Where is Your Sanctuary?

I came across the word sanctuary the other day. The word has several definitions but what struck me were these:
*A place of refuge or asylum
*A reserved area where wild animals are protected from hunting and predators.
*A place for worship

I was cleaning my shower the other day and I realized that this ugly 4' X 7' box had become my sanctuary.

Background: Six years ago we bought our home. However, prior to moving in we spent four months tearing down walls, ceilings, ripping out carpet, breaking up tile, knocking down cabinets - we completely gutted the place. Except for the master bath. My husband's a plumbing contractor. We wanted something awesome. We didn't want to charge any of it. We didn't have plans drawn up. So we waited. And it's still the same. On the outside of this shower, the paint is holding in the water. On another side we occasionally pick a mushroom that has grown from underneath the baseboard. Gross! I know. I am a relatively clean person or so I like to think. To clean the mold that grows inside this unventilated box takes an entire bottle of cleaner, a naked body (You don't want the cleaner to drip on your clothes), a step stool, open windows (yes, I lock the bedroom door), a sponge, and an hour of precious time. The ceiling is much more difficult. I use a cleaner soaked mop. You'll see in the picture that I haven't cleaned the ceiling yet. Please don't write me about the dangers of chemicals and black mold. I already know.

Your private tour:

24" door. I'm so glad I didn't live here while pregnant with the twins. Single light bulb. No fan. No air vent. Ceiling mold.

From left to right: Cool mechanism to hold razors, soap, hang sponges and press of the button shampoos and conditioner. I always forget to fill it. Miscellaneous toiletries. Five people are using this shower now. TJ uses it because it's easier with his broken, trash bag taped arm to maneuver in. The twins love it because its big, loud and all their cars fit in it. And of course me and Bret. Next you will find the phone jack. Why? I have no idea. Ask the previous owners. I have been in the shower with several phone jack repair men as the moisture does funny things to our phone lines even though this one is "dead". Go figure. The door.

Door, more miscellaneous toiletries, cracked caulked leaking handles, concrete patches where the tile has fallen off. What you can't see is the bulging tiles that are ready to fall off and the hole where the sauna wire used to be. Yes, this shower used to double as a sauna. Previous owner. Perhaps explains the phone jack?
But you ask why is this my sanctuary. Can't I find better? Not conveniently. This is the only place where I can be alone. Doors locked. I can't hear a sound and they can't hear me. (I know this for a fact as the hot water turned cold one day and I was covered in soap and shampoo. Plumber husband down the hall had no idea of my situation as he couldn't hear my screams for help.)

This has been my place to run away. To relax. This place knows my secrets. My flaws. I have been able to seclude myself here and pray from the deepest recesses of my heart. I have been able to receive answers to my prayers in the quiet uninterrupted setting. I have cried so hard that my sobs shook my whole body but not a soul knew or heard my turmoil. I've slept on wet towels covering the cold floor with cool water spraying over my heat exhausted, dehydrated body. I've cut myself with my husbands dull razors as I've rushed to make it to appointments. I've stood at length to escape from the world of chaos wondering when they will notice I am gone. I've come to love this ugly box. I think I will be sad when all it knows of me will be buried in a pile of rubble after a few swings of a sledge hammer.

I think we all need a place like this. A place to run for peace and quiet, a place to vocally express our deepest feelings knowing that they will never be heard. A place so still and calm that we can hear the things and feel the inspired things God wants us to know that we can't here when we're rushed, preoccupied, interrupted, and other wise engaged.

Do you have a sanctuary?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Do I Laugh Or Cry?

Taylor is pretty good about doing the yard work when asked. This past Saturday I asked him to mow, weed and feed the grass as well as trim up the two bushes in the front. He was pretty proud of himself when he was all done. He came into the backyard where I was working and said, "Mom, I'm finished. Come see."

I'll be more specific next time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

If it's not broken, bleeding or on fire I don't want to hear about it!

I use my title phrase occasionally however with caution these days. The first time I remember saying it was when we were returning home from a family trip. I don't even remember where. But the car was packed with people and belongings and we had probably spent to much time together. The boys were fighting, bickering, and tattling and I had had it. I turned around and in a not so kind voice yelled, "IF IT'S NOT BLEEDING, BROKEN OR ON FIRE I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT!" Two minutes later it started up again . I turned around to spew my wrath only to see blood coming out of one of their mouths. A strong wiggling rearrangement of bodies had busted open a lip. Six boys.

I do wonder sometimes what I did in heaven to deserve six boys. Sometimes I say that with pure sarcasm but other times I say it with such complete joy I think my heart will burst. This past year with them has been frightening and gory to say the least.

A warning to my readers. This will be a long post. Mostly for my memory sake as it is failing quickly. But a serious warning. There will be pictures that may be difficult for some to view so proceed at your own risk.

My dear TJ. How he has made it this long doing all that he does is really a question for the heavens. The only set of stitches or injury that he has ever incurred was when a neighbor boy threw a piece of wood up in the air and it landed on top of TJ's head. With my 3 day old baby in tow we headed to the hospital for stitches. Poor boy yelled and screamed. The anesthetic didn't seem to take hold as the doctor pierced his skin.

He has been home one month and 21 days.

This is his right arm. His riding glove had to be cut off.

He broke his radius bone which shortened his arm, dislocated the ulna at the wrist joint shoving the joint through the skin. I can't even comprehend the force of impact that he took. How did he do this one asks. On his brand new, working hard, saving for dirt bike. He is proud to say she doesn't have a scratch on her. There was a new jump he wanted to try. And being the fearless leader and excellent rider that he is, he was the first to try it. He over shot the jump by about 20 feet. He landed it with both tires hitting the ground at once. He new immediately something was wrong as his arm was hanging low but his hand was still on the throttle. That's when he saw his bone sticking out. He proceeded to ride out the jump, came to a stop, gingerly laid down his bike and yelled out, "I need an ambulance!" At which time his quick brain realized that he is our only kid uninsured, an ambulance ride costs money and his friend could just drive him to the hospital that was a mile away.

These things never happen at a convenient time. Bret and I were on the stage getting instructions for the upcoming Mesa Easter Pageant. We weren't supposed to answer our phones but when it rang a third time Bret figured something was up. I took off and got to the hospital in time to be in the room when they relocated the joint in order to get the bone back under the skin. He was supposed to have a twilight sedation. "He won't feel it or remember a thing, but we have to do it quick." As soon as the medication was administered they began but...He decided to quit breathing so they had to stop and connect him to oxygen. Then they proceeded but...enough time had lapsed that he did feel it. He was yelling and swearing and pulling but it only lasted a couple seconds and it was done. At least he doesn't remember it. That part did work. This is when I remembered his stitches from years ago. This may also explain why the Morphine and pain pills aren't helping a hole lot. He had surgery two hours later, spent the night in the hospital and is now recovering at home catching up on movies that he missed over the last two years.

139 days before this we were in the hospital with Dallin.

We were at Grandmas house celebrating October birthdays. Grandma loves to play competitive games when we get together. Dallin was really getting into it as we all were. No one was paying attention to Dallin who was standing, I mean jumping up and down with excitement on grandmas coffee table in order to see the contest. Half of this table is wood the other half is glass. We always assumed it was tempered. We learned that it wasn't when we all heard the glass shatter. I knew instantly. Bret carried him to the car. I couldn't. I wasn't supposed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. 12+ stitches later (the doctor didn't count the first layer that she did) we were done. He was lucky as the glass slit between his toes and not any tendons or ligaments. If your going to do it - Do it right.

4 days before this we were in the hospital with Taylor

He was trying to make a paintball canon. I won't go into a lot of detail because I don't want another stupid teenager to try and copy a stupid idea. Let somebody else be responsible . Let's just say that it didn't work. This was by far the most traumatic injury/mother experience to date. Maybe it was the sound of the explosion as it rattled my windows and woke up our deaf neighbor from his nap. Perhaps it was the expressionless look on my otherwise joyous child as he walked toward me. Or maybe it was the blood, bulging out with every pulse streaming down his neck, back and chest. The thought was real as I thought my child may bleed out here on my kitchen floor as I cradled his head in my hands waiting for the paramedics to arrive. It took 10 minutes. We didn't know how severe the injury was or whether or not there was still metal in his neck. I held a blood soaked towel, refusing to show it to the ill equipped policemen (all 10+ of them) until real help arrived. Three hours later we left the Trauma 1 hospital with a neck full of stitches and a severe powder burn. The doctors told him that he had angles watching over him that day. The policemen told him he had angles watching over him that day. The firemen told him the same. As a mother, I know he did. He was centimeters from his spinal cord and other main arteries.

13 days before this we were in the hospital with Me.

No pictures. They really wouldn't be appropriate. Hysterectomy and bladder suspension. Ladies! This is the best thing I have ever done for myself! I can run, jump, laugh and sneeze all at the same time if I wanted to. Recovery was no bad. If you've ever considered it DO IT! If you're afraid of it DON'T BE! It truly changed my life and my lifestyle of which I didn't even realize was being hindered.

138 days before this we were in the hospital with Danny. Looks like the state of Utah. It's his skin graft. This was a long, very long ride that I will record later. Let's just say for now that I am glad it is over.

101. That's how many days a member of our family has been in seven different hospitals.

It has been hard watching my children suffer. But I have truly enjoyed taking care of each one of them. I have loved them more deeply. I have prayed with more gratitude, thanking my Father in Heaven for them. I have also prayed with more gratitude, thanking my Father in Heaven for allowing me to be their mother. I am so very proud to be the mother of six boys. I just hope I can live up to that responsibility.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'm An Addict

I don't care for water. Quite honestly I don't even think about getting a drink of water except when I am brushing my teeth. After running or working out in the yard in 100+ degrees and I have stopped sweating and things are blurry and my head feels like it's going to explode do I think to myself, Hey, I might need a drink of water. As I have mentioned before, I'm slow. So my beverage of choice is an ice cold Diet Coke. I hate the real stuff. It's too sweet.

I think my addiction started 20 years ago. I moved next door to my friend Julie (No I am not blaming you). Both of us babysat for a second income. Between our own children and the ones we watched from 6:00am to 6:00pm this added up to about a million little rug rats. Conveniently around the corner was a Circle K convenience store and a cinnamon roll/cookie shop. Our mornings would begin with one of us watching the kids while the other walked the few steps to grab two 44 ouncers and a couple of warm delicious rolls to start the day. I remember vividly when the insulated 54 ounce mugs came out. This routine carried me through my days. I didn't really think anything of it. I figured I deserved this special daily treat.

Now years later I realize I might have a problem. My big clue was when I stopped by a neighbors after church an asked if he had any. He grabbed a can from a dark cabinet and gave it to me. I took it home and poured it over ice. It tasted terrible. It was past its expiration date. I didn't know soda could expire. But I drank it up anyway. I justified it as needing something to wash down the spicy cheese crisp my husband had made me for lunch.

When I started running earlier this year I was surprised at how my bones felt. Not my lungs or my muscles but my bones. I wondered, silently of course because I don't want to ever be wrong, if there could be something to the Diet Coke drinking and the pain. All I ever really hear when someone (husband, mother, sister) preach to me about the evils of drinking this stuff is blah blah blah blah blah.

Wednesday February 17, 2010. Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. I never really knew what this day on the calendar meant. I thought it was another foreign obscure holiday that know one could explain. I've since been educated. I'm not Catholic. I respect those that are. We have so much to learn from one another but that is for another post another time. I decided that I could at least participate in Lent for myself. What did I give up? Diet Coke.

My headache only lasted three days. But I am starting to cop an attitude. All I've been told (maybe I do listen a little) is how wonderful I'll feel. (say it with a high pitched sarcastic voice) I'll sleep better, my skin will be so nice, I'll notice weight loss caused by bloating and water retention, you will be so surprised by all your energy, you'll quit wanting it after a few days, your cravings for carbs will go away because we all know that they are caused by drinking soda. Poppy Cock! (polite way of not saying what I really want to say) It's been 2 weeks and I feel horrible. I toss and turn at night, my face looks like I'm 16 again, and I've put on 5 pounds from all the carbs and goodies that I am eating. I'm crabby and I am SO VERY VERY tired. I haven't been able to run since I quit drinking it because I am so weak and tired. Did I mention that I am crabby and I really really want an ice cold Diet Coke from McDonald's (they have the best).

I was at my chiropractic visit yesterday and he asked how I was feeling. I told him. With attitude. He asked how many addicts of other substances I have in my genes. I said lots. Well, what makes you any different from them? he asked. Ouch. Then he suggested to his assistant that he should give it up as well. The assistant stated that Diet Coke was garbage. He drinks Diet Pepsi. I replied that Diet Pepsi is nasty. I'd drink water before I drank that pinesol tasting poison. For some reason my chiropractor thought this was a very funny, ironic, if not ridiculous debate. He handed me a bottled water. It took me all of three and a half hours to finish that drink.

I am not going to stop. I mean with my goal. I have to see it through. If anything it has made me grateful that I don't have an expensive addiction. Maybe admitting this personal problem to the world will help. I will try to learn to like water. But if dehydrating in an Arizona summer doesn't make me want it, what will?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Is Fast Food Really Fast?

Again, I hate to cook. It takes to much time to fix, it's not that great, and then there's a mess to clean up. So unrewarding. I admit I got myself and my family in a teribble habit of eating out or bringing in. I'm sure this is one reason for our bellies spilling over our waist bands. However, we have been doing much much better over the past year abought eating at home.

With so many capable people in our household we have divided up the "make dinner chore". Bret has Sunday, Monday - Ashley, Tuesday - Cindy, Wednesday - grabits (basically leftovers - you better grabit before it's gone), Thursday - Boys, Friday - Whoever feels like it, Saturday - you better take me out.

Last Thursday, TJ didn't feel like cooking so he ordered pizza. He did save himself the delivery charge and the cost of the tip by picking it up himself. When he returned home he said, "It took me three hours to make dinner tonight!" I thought he was being sarcastic since it took him no more than five minutes to pick up what he had phone in. Then he explained that he had to work three hours just to pay for the pizza and wings.

I guess that a fast dinner isn't really fast after all. I hadn't thought of it that way before. Maybe I'm slow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

National Pancake Day

Who knew that I would have my third child on such a fabulous holiday?

Happy Birthday SPENGER!
(no, that is not a typo)

I thought I would share my favorite pancake recipe. For those of you that know me you know that I hate to cook and I am not very good at it. The last is most likely the reason for the first. But Captain Dirt found a recipe that I love and I can actually make. It's not as easy as the "just add water" but if I can do it.....

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 T. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs, seperated
2 T. vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
(make your own using 1 T. vinegar and enough milk to equal 1 cup. Let stand 5 minutes)
1 T. + 1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Pinch cream of tartar
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks, oil, buttermilk, lemon zest and vanilla.

Make a well in the center of the dry inredients and pour in the liquid mixture. Mix together until flour is just incorporated.

In a small bowl, using a hand-held mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter just until incorporated. Let sit for 15 minutes, then gently fold in the blueberries.

Scoop out 1/3 cup of the batter onto pan or preheated griddle. Cook as usuall. Makes about 9 pancakes

My favorite gadgets for this recipe: A cuisinart hand mixer and a $5 zester

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Don't Believe In Coincidences

Each morning and night when I say my personal prayers, I ask the Lord that I might be able to be of service for him that day. Some may see events as simply circumstances. I see them as answers, tender mercies if you will.
I decided to take my twins and their cousins to play in the snow. My teenagers and their friends were going as well but they left 2 hours before I was ready. Those that know me know that I never meet my time goal. We figured we would try to meet up but there was no planned destination, just looking for a good hill and a safe place to pull over. As I was driving the mountain road, I noticed my suburban parked tight against the side of the road. Go figure, I found my boys. There was also a car parked on the opposite side. Hmm. Must be a good spot. I found a place where I could U-turn and drove back. This is when I noticed the driver of the parked car. He had been tucked behind it digging but as he stood I saw that it was my neighbor from 5 houses down. I pulled over and got out. With a big smile, he said, "Hi Cindy". He was dreadfully stuck in the snow bank and digging out with his bare hands as his kids were patiently waiting to play. He too had been looking for a fun place to play with his kids and recognized my parked car and pulled over. He was unaware that my 3 big boys were off over the hill playing. I offered him a shovel and yelled for my boys. They came and with lots of umph and help from another group, we were able to dig, push, pull and lift him out. Had I arrived earlier on time with my big boys, my neighbor wouldn't have know that we were right there over the hill in easy yelling distance. Strong bodies able to help. He wouldn't have known that I had shovels in the back of my truck.

It ended up being a fun afternoon and I was grateful that I was able to help someone who, I wouldn't be surprised, was throwing out a few prayers as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mine Cut Their Own

Maybe I was lucky. Maybe normal. But out of my six boys I only had two cut their own hair. Danny decided to do it when he was 6. Six. I figured at that age he new better but apparently he didn't want bangs. A buzz later and he looked fine. Taylor was a little more age appropriate at two and a half. Another short boys cut from the barber and viola all better.

Yesterday we found a disaster in the bathroom . A container of "eyebrow" wax had flipped over and spilled all over the bottom of the cabinet. This is not an easy mess to clean up. But after a lot of heating, scraping and wiping up the sticky goo, it was clean. This gave me the much needed opportunity to sort out this particular cabinet. I had already been using small baskets to organize so I asked Taylor to print out a couple of labels to make it more manageable. (Like that will really work - Not - but it looks nice). I needed to cut down one of the labels so rather than get up from my awkward position I yelled down the hall for someone to bring me the scissors.

Ellie walked slowly down the hallway to bring them to me. I was in the middle of rearranging so I didn't look up from my "face in the cabinet" position. Then I heard it. That dreadful snip. She had cut something. And then it happened. Hair fell down into my crisscrossed legs. My hair. Not her hair. Mine. I let out a slight squeal. Danny and Ashley quickly came down. "Oh no! Did she cut her hair?!" Still to afraid to look in the mirror, I screeched, " No! She cut mine!" "Oh, okay. We thought she cut hers. It's okay Mom, you can't tell. Come on Ellie, let's leave Nana alone." I got up and looked in the mirror, ran my fingers through my hair that I have been trying to grow out for a year and gathered up all the strays lying about. Fortunately I couldn't find the snip. I did get my hair trimmed the next day. My hairdressers response - "Oh yeah. (giggle giggle) I see it. Don't worry. I can blend it."

Whew. This could have been bad.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Our Family Cake Boss

The twins turned 8 this week. Wow! Where does the time go? They are huge fans are many of the Food Network cooking shows - primarily ones that show the extreme cakes. Several weeks ago Dallin presented his dad with a drawing. "This is what we want our cake to be".

Bret pondered on this for a while. The night before their party, the baking began. He's not an organized, neat cook. But he is a good cook. And he likes to challenge himself and try new things. This is his second cake. (His first one, believe it or not, was a three tiered red velvet fondant wedding cake for DAsh.) I think he did a pretty good job. Everything but the cars and flags were edible and we've been snacking on the grand stands now for three days.

Unfortunately the pictures don't do it justice. It was much larger than it appears. A side note - After the party the twins were having a great time eating the "dirt"(graham crackers and oreo's). Their Uncle Geoff came over later in the afternoon and scooped up a bit of the "dirt" to eat. Just as I was saying "NO DON'T EAT THAT!" It was to late and he dropped it in his mouth. You see, the boys way of eating it was to stick out their tongue and drag it through the dirt. You know, like a wet sticky finger in a sugar bowl. Sorry Geoff.

Monday, January 25, 2010

So...We're Indian

Latest TJism:

"Mom, do I look Italian?"

"NO. Why?"

"Four people asked me today if I'm Italian. Maybe it's my bushy eyebrows."

"Your eyebrows aren't bushy. Just dark. (He turns his hat backwards) Hmm Maybe you do look a little Italian"

"Where do we come from?"


"No. I mean where are we from?"

Taylor chimes in, "Aren't we German or something?"

TJ responds, "No, it's Austrian right?"

"You're about 1/16 Austrian. Really, you're from here. We've been here since the early 1600's"

With great enlightenment TJ responds, "Wait! So we're Indian!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Real Desert Dwellers Don't Need Umbrellas

Last night Spencer went to Walmart to buy an umbrella. Why, I'm not really sure since we typically get so little rain. But, it has been raining for a day and there is more in the forecast. This is a rare treat for us in the desert. We usually have a 5 minute fly by. A downpour for several minutes and then it's gone; blown away, not to be seen again for several months. I am sure that if a survey was taken of most desert dwellers, the only ones owning umbrellas would be snowbirds and Utah travelers.

Spencer parted with his $2.00 and placed the umbrella in the shopping bag. He then set out through the pounding rain, head ducked, dodging puddles, hurrying to the car. It was then he realized that only minutes ago he had purchased an umbrella that was securely in the dry protection of the shopping bag. Oh well. Maybe it will get used in the next storm.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Old Is Good. New Is Better.

This post is for the grandma and family that couldn't be here. The morning started out smoothly. I slept in, Bret took the twins to work for a quick job, Spencer and Taylor were still asleep and DAsh and Ellie were getting ready for the day. We had time. Until the phone rang. TJ's plane was arriving 45 minutes early. What! That doesn't happen in the airline business. We kicked it into gear and made it to the airport as his plane was landing. Then we waited. And waited. 50 minutes later they finally deplaned.

I don't think I've ever hugged him so hard or so long. Even when he left. It was a sweet reunion. His long time friend Mikey K was there along with his Grandma and Grandpa Branch and all of us. Grandma, Twins and Ellie all made signs to welcome him home. We set off to get his luggage. I was surprised it was in such great shape. Only one small pocket zipper was broken. He lugged 300 pound weights in this luggage through all of his transfers. Thank You Pomeroy's for a worthwhile purchase.

When we got to the car, he wanted to drive. He said he likes driving. The twins were scared. He of course got us home safely going just over 60 mph apparently still following mission rules. He kept commenting on how clean everything was and how nice the roads were. No pot holes here.

We went to the stake center to meet with the Stake President so that he could officially release TJ from his misson call, however he wasn't there yet so we gathered for a spontaneous family pic.

We then headed back to the house to wait to hear from Stake President. There was one problem. TJ had said that he was not going into the house until he road his bike. His loyal brothers dutifully responded to the situation and cleared a path from the garage to roll out the ride.

I am just sorry I didn't get a picture as he took off. One wheel on the ground, the other in the air. He pulled a wheelie half way down the street and the other way back up. Yes, he is still in his suit and tag and smiling ear to ear.

One thing to note. This is his only suit. In fact what he is wearing are the only articles of clothing that he brought home with the exception of his ties, 2 pair of basketball shoes, and souvenir t-shirts. $2600.00 worth of suits, coats, hats, gloves, scarves, clothing, bicycle, bedding and towels left. He says he wore it all to threads. If you remember his return from the Boy Scout Jamboree you know that we are accustomed to this. That time we had to throw it all away. This time it was at least left for the less fortunate to use. Thank goodness we kept his clothes from pre-mission
The twins were so excited about their t-shirts that they wore them to school today. TJ will be proud. Dallin loved teasing Hunter this morning, when he zipped up his jacket it looked like he was wearing a skirt. This of course ended up in a wrestle on the floor. Dallin had already decided he wasn't going to wear a jacket in order to avoid the skirt issue. I convinced them that they could still be warm if they left their jackets unzipped and they wouldn't look like they were wearing skirts. They agreed.

TJ had spent the night at the mission president's home. He and two other missionaries went to sleep about 1:00am only to awaken two hours later to prepare to go to the airport. We had a wonderful evening with food, family an friends stopping by to welcome Tee home. He decided to crash on the couch for the night (we don't know which room he wants to sleep in yet)around 10:30 pm. That's 12:30 Michigan time. He was exhausted. But this morning he got up with Bret and went to work. He's using a sledge hammer to break up a concrete floor. He was excited to return to some physical labor. To my most pleasant surprise, this is what I found

His bedding neatly folded along with his clothes from the day before.
This is new!
Throughout the day we had a wonderful time listening to some of his stories. I know there are hundreds yet to come. He kept asking me if there was something he could do.
This is new.
He found our guitars that know one can play and started playing a few songs.
This is new.
He went over to the piano and started playing songs that he made up.
This is new. (apparently he stole the mission electric piano from the mission home and tinkered around with it. Thank You Jenny D for your elementary years of training. Eventually the mission presidents wife stole it back but he enjoyed it while he had it.)
He saw a book I am reading on the counter, "Jesus the Christ" and asked where I was in it. He then explained that it's a hard read but it gets easier. "Hey, have your read the book Charly? It's sad. I didn't cry but my companion did. It's a really good book. You should read it." A Little while later conversation brought up another topic of which I brought out another book to show him. He excitedly took it from me and said, "Cool. Now I have my next read. Oh yeah Mom. I really like reading now."
This is new.
I am finding myself excited for him to come home from work today. I just want to look at him and listen to him talk and giggle and maybe find out what else it new. This is FUN!

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'll Smile 'Till Wednesday

I need to give some background. Several months ago I received a call from Elder Branch that his wallet had possibly been stolen and he needed me to cancel his bank card and reorder his AZ driver's license. I cancelled the card immediately but put off the driver's license reorder. Okay - so I forgot. A week later I received and e-mail from him telling me that he found the wallet. It had been somewhere in his apartment. I didn't need to reorder the driver's license after all however, I wasn't able to reorder his bank card. He would have to do that himself. He never did. This left him without access to his account unless he went into a bank branch, which he never thought to do.

Fast forward to today. I sent him an e-mail to let him know how much money was in his account. Today is his last P day (preparation day), and I thought that he might want to get a few things before he heads home on Wednesday. I told him that he would need to walk into a Bank of America and show them his ID. About 8:00 I receive a phone call. The conversation went like this:

"Mom, hey I got your e-mail. I'm at the bank. What do I do?"

"Tell them you would like to make a withdrawal but you don't know your account
number and you had previously cancelled your card. You'll need to show them your driver's license."

"Okay. Thanks. Bye. Oh Yeah. See you Wednesday!"

Even though I know I'll see him in a little more than 48 hours (I'm not counting), it made me smile ear to ear and get a tear in my eye just to hear his voice.

The phone rang again. It was Elder Branch. The conversation went like this:

"Mom, what's my social? I know it starts with a X but I don't remember the rest of it."

"It's XXX-XX-XXXX. Who is that giggling so hard in the background?"

"The bank lady. I guess she thinks it's funny that I'm almost 22 and I have to call my mom for my number. (giggles himself) Thanks Mom. See you in a couple days. I love you"

"Call me if you need something else. Love ya, Bye"

I haven't heard back so I am assuming he got what he needed. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has more than 13 million members. Many have been taught by boys/men just like this. It's not the boy that converts. It's the simplicity of the spirit that they have and the power of the Holy Ghost that they share. He may not know his social but he knows his Savior. And he knows the fullness and truthfulness of what he has taught. He has a strong testimony and believes it with all he's got. what more could a mother ask for. I'll be smiling 'till Wednesday.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

He's Almost Home!

I can't believe that our missionary is almost home. Elder Timothy Jackson Branch returns from the Michigan, Detroit Mission next Wednesday at 10:15am. I remember the day he left. I thought my heart would break. I figured it wouldn't be as hard as it was when our first son left but it was. For the first year I would find myself tearing up as I saw something that reminded me of him. Holidays and trips left us feeling the hole that was there. The first year seemed like it would never pass.
But then Danny became sick and we were able to focus our time and energy on him. It was a blessing really, knowing that TJ was where he was supposed to be, doing the things he was supposed to do, and being carefully watched over by a parent greater than ourselves. I didn't need to worry about him. The second year flew by. Now I find myself with mixed emotions. I am asked quite often, "Aren't your getting excited?" My answer is of course, "Yes!" But the honest answer is, "I don't know". Yes, I've missed him. A ton. I miss his giggle, his help, his absent minded "blond" moments, his adventures, his very presence.

BUT. I will miss having a missionary. I will miss the spirit that it brings to our family. I will miss the blessings that it has brought. I don't want that to end.
AND. I know TJ. I know that he has grown and that he has matured. But I also know that he is still the sometimes absent minded adventurer who will indeed bring more "excitement" into our life. I know that he is now an adult. Not my teen aged boy. I don't know that I am excited for the adjustment that is coming. But it is coming. He is coming. Hopefully he has grown out of his messes and learned to fold his own laundry.

I do know that he has been a great missionary. He has stayed focused on his purpose and his call. He has loved the people that he has met. He has been obedient and has been blessed because of that obedience. He has taught many. He has baptised some. He has learned to lead others in a positive way. He has learned to read fluently. He has learned to really love his family. But most importantly, his testimony of the savior has grown. And that is what I am most excited to see.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Year Supply Collecting Does Not Equal Preparedness

I have a theory. I hate to cook and I am not very good at it. If the need ever arises and necessities are hard to come by and I have things others want, I mean really want, then maybe I could have some bartering power for a loaf of bread or a good meal. I have taken pride in the fact that I have an overly ample supply of sugar, cocoa, tampons and toilet paper. But then the dreaded day came.

Nine people go through a lot of toilet paper and then to have two house guests for the weekend really increases the quantity used. I store my TP in the attic - out of the way - but very inaccessible, especially in the cold of night. So we resorted to other means. Unfortunately we were short these items as well and some tend to result in the need of a plunger or a good plumber. Thank goodness I have both. You would think that with all the drivers in my house that someone would have had the time to run to the nearest Walgreens or even climb up an retrieve the "I am prepared" attic TP. Not the case. Eventually the following day, late afternoon, we headed to Costco to purchase our modern day convenience.

I must say that I was shocked to see that the price of this luxury has risen over the year from $11.99 to a whopping $17.99. Perhaps with the economy the way that it is I should plant my own garden of lambs ear.

Moral of the story: Being prepared is not always enough.