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!

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.

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.

More About Laura BruceI was so excited for my sister, Cathy, to come visit us in Arizona. Since our mom passed on, 10 years ago, we have become much closer. As a matter of fact, she is now like a mother figure to me. She is very successful and she has a great head on her shoulders (I know what you’re thinking… what happened to me?). Whenever I ask Cathy for advice, I know I will get her “straight-up” opinion. She never sugar coats anything and I truly respect her wisdom. I am very blessed to have a big sister like her! More than anything, I was finally able to pay back some of the money we owed her.

Bailey and Heather have a relationship much like full-blooded sisters. They can fight and get annoyed with each other easily but in the end they love each other. Through the years they have had their phases when they are the best of friends and phases when they say very little to each other. The coolest thing is that they are each others’ back up plans. Whenever their other friends drifted away, they had each other to lean on.

There is a lot of security in that. The best thing that has happened to these girls is the balance that they brought to one another. Bailey started out as the shy sensitive one who didn’t know how to stick up for herself while Heather was sometimes abrasive and confident. Bailey taught Heather how to be more compassionate and Heather taught Bailey how to be more assertive. They have been a blessing to each other.

When Todd told me he was considering a job is Missouri, all I could think about was our children. I never doubted the strength of our marriage but I knew the dynamics of our family would be in jeopardy. Obviously, Heather in Levi would more than likely move in with their mother (understandably so). It broke my heart to think that after all these years our family would be torn apart. We had come so far and this was Heather and Bailey’s senior year. More than anything, I wanted to cherish the last year that all 9 of us would be under one roof.

As we drove to the airport I couldn’t help remembering the years we spent together since Todd and I met. The kids have grown up together and they have overcome so much. It was not easy blending this family; the odds were against us. Now that we had come so far, everything was about to change. I couldn’t help wishing Todd never answered that phone call. I knew this could mean financial stability but we have actually learned so much over this past year. More than anything, we learned that life is doable without money and that the love of a family is all that matters. How can we split the family for money? What are we teaching our kids? On the other hand, you have to do whatever is necessary to provide for the family. I guess there is not a clear right or wrong answer. Prayer works when life decisions are so difficult!

More About Laura Bruce When Todd and I first started dating I wasn’t sure how long it would be until we revealed to the kids that we were a couple. As stated before, the kids, especially Rex, Dylan and Levi, were not fond of each other. I was surprised that Todd, after the 2nd date, thought we should get the gang together. I have to admit that I was relieved that he was willing to work through the animosity that the kids had between them. The relationship between the kids was surprisingly “workable” once we got them all together a few times. I think all of them were thankful to see their parent “giddy” and happy. The only one who was never at peace with our marriage was Whitney. She was fairly young when her biological dad and I divorced (7) and she was unsure as to why it all happened. Consequently, it was hard for her to trust a different man in my life and she was very protective over me. She was also very guarded and serious.

I would say it took at least two years for Whitney to slowly open up to Todd but once she did amazing things happened. She developed a sense of humor and she allowed herself to trust a male.

Todd has been someone she could depend on and he gave her the stability she was craving. I will always be thankful to Todd for that. He gave my kids something they never had before; a father that they could depend on.

When Whitney told me that she wanted to call Todd “Dad” I was surprised. Not because she thought of him as her dad (I already knew that) but because we were all so used to my kids calling him Todd. It’s kind of like going your life calling someone a name and then all of a sudden that person tells you to call him/her something else. She continued to tell me that she longed to call someone dad and that she wanted to be able to say those words to someone she felt deserved them. To this day, she refers to him as her Dad and us as her parents but when she addresses him she still calls him Todd. It was just too hard of a habit to break.

I can’t believe the time has come for Bailey and Heather to graduate. They were in 6th grade when we became a family and they have been through so much together. It would be so comforting if they choose to go to the same college but I realize that it unlikely. When Bailey asked if we could go and tour the ASU campus I was frustrated. When I toured the campus when I was 17 I instantly fell in love with it and I didn’t want her to go there just to be told it would be financially impossible to send her there.

We were able to make an appointment with a financial advisor and since Heather was also scoping different colleges, we asked her to come along. It was quite eye-opening to listen to the options that the girls had available to them. The girls could join a work study and/or they could qualify for financial aid. In addition, they could qualify for partial scholarships since both of them have a good GPA. Going to the 4 year University would actually be possible as long as they fill out the proper forms and keep their GPA up.

At this point, they still have not decided where they want to go, but I’m glad the girls got a chance to see ASU and to explore their options. I would hate to limit their options and then have them feel regretful. I wish we could afford to pay for their schooling so that they don’t enter their adult lives with a huge debt, but obviously that would be impossible. In 2 years we will have 6 kids in college at the same time. All of the kids will have to research their options and keep in mind that they will be paying off their loans for years to come. Unfortunately, college debt is necessary evil if you want to further your career.