The night we found out about what happened with Ryan and Bailey was so chaotic and I think I experienced almost every range of emotion. I was angry of course because I had just found out that a young man had hit my daughter hard enough to cause major bruising. I was scared because my sons were ready to confront him and I didn’t want them to get hurt. I was confused because I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. As a mom, we know the usual issues that we can expect with teenagers but I was not prepared for this. I wanted to handle this situation correctly but I wasn’t sure how. Thankfully, Todd got home and settled us down. I knew we had to contact Ryan and his parents and a text or a phone call didn’t seem to justify the gravity of the situation. When Todd hung up I had a pit in my stomach still. I was anxious to arrange a face to face meeting. I wanted to make sure they knew the whole story and I wanted us all to be there so there wasn’t any “he said/she said”.

When we arrived at their house the meeting started out fine. Ryan apologized and admitted that he went to far but then somehow the direction of the conversation changed and the parents seemed to be minimizing the situation. I can understand how we as parents want to protect our kids but I was very frustrated by the way they were questioning Bailey. Bailey started to shut down because she felt like she was being accused. As a result, Ryan returned to school the next day saying that Bailey blew the whole thing out of proportion. It was hard for Bailey to even go to school because everyone seemed to side with him and she was an easy target since she didn’t want to even talk about it, let alone defend herself. Her way of coping with it was to keep it inside which is why I quickly scheduled an appointment for her with the same counselor that Todd and I went to, Dr. Lopez.

Dr. Lopez was so wonderful with Bailey. She validated Bailey’s feelings and talked through the incident with her. She explained to her that anatomically, men are stronger than women, period. It is never okay for a male to hit a female hard enough to cause bruises, let alone pin her down on the ground and shove his knee into her chest so she couldn’t move. The fear that she felt for those few minutes was real; she should have been scared. She was obviously confused because it started out playful and she couldn’t understand why a switch seemed to go off inside him; she wondered if it was her fault.

In the end, I think that Bailey has become a stronger person through this ordeal. With God, all good things come, even when it doesn’t seem possible. My prayer is that Ryan has internally taken responsibility for his actions and he has gotten some kind of help. I pray that he will use this situation as a learning experience and never put his hands on a woman or a child the way he did to Bailey. I truly wish the best for him, he is God’s child too.

If Rex decides to leave I’m not sure how things will be around here. He is my baby boy (the youngest boy in the family and youngest triplet). I knew that of course someday he would leave, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so soon. My rational side says he needs to go; free college and chance to start adulthood debt free but my heart says every child is meant to be at home until 18 for a reason. I brought him into this word and I feel like I am breaking my commitment by cutting his term short. Unfortunately, sometimes in life we have to take risks but I am a self proclaimed worrier; what if this ends up being a mistake. I will pray about this and I have faith that in the end, the right choice will float.

On top of everything that has been going on, we are facing a huge milestone; our daughters are about to graduate from high school. I could probably write a book about all the feelings that I am feeling right now. Such a range of emotions; relief, joy, pride, worry(of course) and sadness. What happened to these little girls? Where has time gone? I was hopeful that when this time came I would be ready for them to leave and start their own lives but I haven’t gotten that feeling yet…,in my eyes they are still those 11 year old girls with braces learning how to be sisters; sharing their room and their dreams.

When Todd came home with his “new” truck I was a little surprised. He had mentioned that he was looking at trucks but I guess I didn’t realize how serious he was about it. I figured it would be the same situation as usual; he would talk about getting a truck but then never actually get one. At first, I was a little upset as I would never go and purchase a vehicle without him however after further thought I realized that it wasn’t the same. I admittedly do not know that much about cars; of course I would need Todd’s approval. Todd knew what he was looking for and he did tell me his intentions. It’s not his fault that I didn’t take it seriously.

Marital counseling is something that I truly believe any marriage can benefit from. I think having an impartial third party can sometimes keep a couple in line and a counselor can offer insights that were never considered. When we first got married and blended our family we had a counselor from our church come over once a week to conduct a family meeting. I truly believe that this was one of the best decisions we have ever made because that investment in our family helped form a strong foundation. I think that with Todd and I, things started getting busy, we started going different directions and our communication was compromised. Going to a counselor doesn’t always mean there is a problem; sometimes it can be very enriching. I like to think of it as a glorified date.

I remember seeing Bailey’s bruises for the first time. My first thought and concern was the possibility that Ryan put them there but since they were only dating for a week I quickly dismissed that idea. When I asked Bailey how she got the bruises she said she got them from bumper cars at an amusement park that she and Ryan went to. I thought it was odd; Bailey doesn’t bruise easily and I can’t even recall her ever having any significant ones in the past (at least as large as these). I had no reason to question her so I didn’t really harp on it. When I found out from Levi that Ryan was responsible for the bruises I instantly became very angry but mostly concerned about Bailey’s discernment. In the time between finding out from Levi and then confronting Bailey, I kept asking myself why she didn’t say anything. I just couldn’t believe that she would make excuses and stay in an abusive relationship. It was something I had absolutely no experience with; I have never been hit by a man before.

When she shared the whole story things became a little clearer. Bailey and Ryan were both wrestling and joking around. Bailey thought they were being playful but then Ryan took it too far. She questioned herself because she was hitting him too but then something changed and Ryan seemed angry. I can understand being 17 and having feelings for someone and being confused. She felt like she could change him.

I am kind of bummed that the whole car driving thing ended up “making the show.”  Whitney is such an amazing kid. I wish we could have focused more on her talents than her challenges but then again this is a TV show; you get see the good with the bad.  I’m not sure why, but driving is just not her thing so far.  I think everyone has their right time; when it all comes together.  The boys took to driving quickly, but I don’t think you have to get your license when you are 16; you get it when you’re ready.  The only issue is that when you have two others who seem to get it, things get pretty competitive and it is easy to get frustrated.  It’s one thing to struggle with driving, but it can make you crazy when your two brothers are breezing through it like it’s nothing.  Since the kids are working now, it is really important that they get a license to get to and from work.  It’s one thing to provide rides to work for one or two teens, but when you have six working teens it is next to impossible to get them all there… especially when the parents have jobs, too!

The Gold Party was a lot of fun.  What a cool concept! I have seen jewelry stores advertising that they buy gold but I never felt comfortable going in.  Since most of my jewelry was fake, it didn’t end up making me a ton of money, but I had a few friends make over $1,000!  In the end, it was really good to get together with friends and share the excitement of making some extra money!

When the van started “kicking” I almost wanted to laugh (more of a psychotic laugh).  Just when things seemed to be getting easier again, another crisis!  I guess it’s true what they say, “When it rains, it pours.”  Spending another few thousand dollars on repairs was just icing on the cake.

I understand why Todd needed that truck, but I was just a little surprised when he actually came home with it.  In the past, when Todd would consider something, most of the time, he never acted on it.  I guess I thought he wouldn’t go through with it.  I started comparing my female mind with his alpha male mind.  How could he buy something without me?  I would have never in a million years gone and bought a big purchase without bringing him with me.  This makes me think of another quote: “If you want to be married to a man, don’t expect him to think like a woman.”  There will always be a serious difference between the way a male and a female think; it’s a brain thing.

When I found out that Dylan’s blood pressure was high, I started to panic. He had started gaining some weight, but sometimes it’s hard to notice when you live with a person and see them every day. The doctor suggested that he needed to eat less sodium and less processed foods. In addition, he should do 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity 5 days a week (baseball doesn’t count).

I remembered my friend Michelle (from the MS walk) saying that she had success on a raw diet that consisted of natural foods that were not cooked or even heated. I knew it would be hard but I decided to give it a shot since something radical had to happen. In addition, the entire family would have to participate if Dylan was going to take it seriously.

Well, it was no surprise that the meals were not a hit with the family. Also, eating raw was way more expensive than I expected! It’s one thing to buy 1 avocado at $1 but another thing to buy 6 of them for $6. Add 6 tomatoes and 6 cucumbers and the bill went from $3-5 to $18-20 for our large family; that’s just the produce!

As a result, we have decided to incorporate more foods that have less ingredients into our diet. I think balance is the key and now we have removed almost all processed foods from our diet.

As for the exercise…, in this episode Dylan is not that motivated but I am proud to report that since then, he has lost almost 20 pounds and he is exercising almost everyday!

I was very reluctant to tell the PTA about the hypnotist idea. I had never spoken at a meeting like this before and I was very nervous since hypnosis is not exactly a standard fundraiser idea. I was happily surprised that the PTA loved the idea and were willing to start the process right away. The whole experience was more involved than I thought it would be. Selling tickets to neighbors and friends was not a piece of cake and most businesses were unable to donate since times are slow these days.

I held my breath on the day of the event. I was so nervous that people wouldn’t show up and then there wouldn’t be a show without the audience. I was so relieved when I noticed a huge line forming outside of the double doors. The show was hilarious and everyone seemed to have a really good time. As a matter of fact, I am already starting to plan the next one for the 2011-12 school year!

When I first found out that I had Multiple Sclerosis, I assumed my health would start going downhill quickly. Thankfully, my symptoms have not progressed since my diagnosis and the issues that I deal with are mild compared to so many thousands of people who suffer with chronic pain and paralysis. I think suppressing the fact that I have MS was something I did to protect my family. I feel like my kids have been through so much and the last thing I want them to do is worry about my health.

After meeting Michelle, I realized that not accepting my disease and not being proactive was in some way not only cheating my children but it was cheating the people around the world who are unable to fight and raise awareness for MS. Subsequently, my kids need to understand that life isn’t always fair and that health is a blessing; never to be taken for granted. Being in a wheelchair would not be the end of the world and I would never want them to give up if they were afflicted with something that chronic. I would want them to look at the big picture and the divine purpose.
When I was running at the MS walk, I passed an older woman in a wheelchair. I felt so guilty and I even contemplated slowing down or taking in a different route because I didn’t want her to feel bad. Instead, as I ran by her I looked at her, smiled and gave her a “thumbs up”. What she said to me changed my life forever. With complete passion and sincerity she looked at me and said “run!” It was then that I realized that I have a responsibility to people with MS. God has given me the ability to still run and I need to use that gift to raise awareness and try to raise money so that so we can find a cure for this wicked disease. They are counting on me.

One more thing: MS runs are usually only 2 miles. When I first realized this I was a little disappointed. Why would they hold a race and have people raise money only to run or walk 2 miles? The answer was loud and clear as I waited at the finish line and watched the other participants with MS finish. These people with braces on their legs and canes in their hands were walking 2 miles. For them, those 2 miles were like a marathon.

I think being a parent is a constantly evolving job. Just when you think things are going to get easier, life never ceases to surprise you with new obstacles and new lessons to learn. I kind of figured once Bailey and Heather started inching towards adulthood (18), we could start relaxing and concentrate more on the younger kids; especially the 4 new drivers. Not so much. Along with having children approach adulthood comes their own often rebellious views and ideas. I completely understand that they are stretching their wings and that they need more independence but it’s not that easy to switch off the parent button. Todd and I are expected to just flip a switch and let them have more freedom but that is so difficult when you feel like you were just holding them in your arms.

Yes, having them experience life lessons on their own is part of growth but no one prepares parents of young adults for this. We are programmed to protect them and lecture them because we love them to death but Todd and I are starting to realize that the journey is sometimes met with frustration and sometimes bitterness.

Having the kids “fend for themselves” was not an easy thing for me to agree to. It is a mother’s instinct to want to provide her kids with their basic needs and it totally goes against her nature to deprive them of that. When Dylan started to cross the line and get “lippy” with me, I realized that I had to do the right thing and let them experience the feeling of being worried. Sometimes being a good mom means you have to be tough on your kids but it’s true what they say; it hurts us more than it hurts them. I think we sometimes let our kids get away with things because we don’t want to see them hurt and we are selfish like that but in the long run they will suffer more if we don’t invest the time now to teach them important lessons.

We were only married a month or so when Cody came to live with us from Kansas. At first, I was extremely supportive because I knew how hard it was for Todd to be separated from him and I knew about the guilt he carried about not making Cody move to Arizona with the rest of the family.

I was not expecting the transition to be so profound. Immediately, there seemed to be a Rumsey/Bruce division and Cody seemed to enjoy pushing my buttons. In retrospect, I wish I would have been more aware of this kind of behavior and maybe I could have handled the situation differently. At the time I was overwhelmed with a new husband, 3 more kids and a new house. Also, I was beginning to show signs of MS but I didn’t know that was what was wrong with me.
I felt very torn. I have always taken being a mother very seriously and I wanted to be a mother figure to Cody. At the same time, I was worried about his influences on the other kids; particularly my five. He didn’t have the same tolerance for them as he did Heather and Levi and he would sometimes be pretty cruel to them. We tried to make things work but in the end Cody decided to move back to Kansas. That was a bittersweet time because although things seemed less stressful, his exit left a hole in our hearts; especially Todd’s. This was one of those times in life when there didn’t seem to be a “right” answer.

It was really neat having Cody back in the house. Although he appeared to be “rough”, he had a maturity and wisdom about him that I immediately picked up on. Seeing him and Todd laughing together was so cool. All the kids seemed to be enjoying his company and there was a mutual respect for each other. Even though things seemed to be moving right along, I was still stunned when I heard that Cody was thinking about moving back in with us. I couldn’t help but wonder if this “honeymoon” stage that we were encountering would fade away.

In the end I realize that life is not always easy and that some things are worth the pain. If Cody does move in with us it may be difficult sometimes but I think we could all benefit each other. More than anything, it would be a chance for healing and a chance for Todd and Cody to make up for the time they lost.

Actually, I think life can be more complicated when we have money. When Todd and I hit rock bottom, we did everything in our power to make things work. We gained strength from each other and tackled our obstacles. It was a relief that our lives could be fulfilled without depending on material things. Now that we have a little money, major decisions have to be made. Getting a house just doesn’t seem like a logical decision when we have a hospital bill hanging over us. When there wasn’t any money there would have never been a choice to make. This has been a new source of stress on me and Todd’s marriage. I understand why he wants a house so badly but I want to be an active participant in decisions about our finances. I want to speak up when something is worrying me.

Danielle develops some anxiety and starts to wonder about why her dad and I got divorced. She was so young (barely 3) when we split so she really doesn’t remember us together. I guess she is starting to become curious now that she is becoming more aware of relationships. That mixed with me and Todd’s recent disagreements makes her extra sensitive and insecure. I think it was pretty smart of her to take it upon herself to try and create a spark between Todd and I by planting little gifts that we thought was from one another. I am so thankful that we figured out it was her and that we were able to have conversations about her apprehensions.

Feeling such sadness when my Mercedes was towed away really surprised me. Although I think about my mom every day I rarely let myself go back to the dark place; when she got sick and passed on. This was the first time in 10 years that I let my memory go back to the time when she was trying to fight the cancer. She was so sick; receiving chemotherapy and surgery which ultimately ended in her death. I was by her side when she took her last breath; along with my dad, 2 brothers and my sister. It was the most devastating day of my life and for some reason, having her car be “laid to rest” brought me back to that dark place.

Having Rex in intensive care was pretty darn scary.  Once he was stabilized, I was able to relax and concentrate on getting him out of the hospital.  There was no way that I was going to leave him there, so thankfully, I was able to sleep next to him in his room for all 4 days.  I didn’t want to miss anything and I wanted to be able to talk to all of the doctors and nurses.  Although this wasn’t an ideal environment for “mother / son bonding” I feel like we managed to make the most out of it.  I actually was able to have unlimited one on one time with him and we laughed and talked all day.  At night, the entire family would come to see him.  One night, we ordered pizza and had it delivered to his room.  All of us sat on his bed and on the chairs that were in the room.  Even though it was a stuffy sterile hospital room, we still enjoyed each other.  I think it is important that all the kids went to visit him.  Rex needed their strength and support while the other kids learned to sacrifice their time to be there for him.

When the contract fell through for the Missouri job,  I was of course relieved that Todd would not be leaving.  Ultimately, I would have respected his decision to go but that needed to be his decision.   When you are dealing with a blended family there are different kinds of issues.  More specifically, if Todd had gone to Missouri then Heather and Levi would have most likely gone to live with their mom (and understandably so).  This would have been difficult for all the kids to deal with since they feel like they are “real” sisters and brothers.

When Bailey went out and bought a car without us, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I thought it was great that she was showing independence but on the other hand, it would have been smarter and more responsible to have Todd look at it first.  Bailey is not usually this impulsive but I am learning that teenagers that are about to graduate start to exhibit new behaviors.  More specifically, they start “fighting” for freedom and authority.  In the end, a natural consequence just might be that the car ends up being a lemon and her money goes down the drain.

Rex’s asthma has always been a major concern to me.  When he was younger he would have breathing issues when he would get sick but nothing like this episode.  The worst part was seeing him struggle to breathe even after receiving several kinds of treatment.  It is a nightmare for any parent to see their child struggle to take a breath.  The only thing that could be positive about this situation is that Rex is now aware of how fast these attacks can creep up on him and I am hopeful that he will be better able to monitor his health and be able to recognize when he needs medical attention.