As we close out this season I find this to be the biggest test of all. When I arrive home from a meeting I find the family in my truck and not sure what is going on, the whole thing seems to have everyone upset. As I find out what has happened, it is clear I need to calm the situation so I can find out what exactly happened.

Once everyone fills me in and I have a chance to digest it all, Laura and I decide we need to get a meeting set up with Ryan’s parents.

Laura, Bailey and I go to meet with Ryan’s parents and I can’t say that I was overly surprised; Ryan’s dad treated the whole situation as no big deal. Ryan had not done anything wrong, and he was actually interrogating Bailey, in no way trying to help the situation but to belittle her and make her feel ashamed.

Later in the episode our neighbors lose their house to foreclosure and it brings up those old emotions of embarrassment and shame, that I could not provide for my family. As I see the family moving out I wanted to make sure that they felt that they had someone to lean on, when we lost our house no one would help us nor would they discuss it with us because, I am sure they thought it was taboo and something they should not talk about. I can remember feeling so helpless, ashamed and alone.

This episode seems to be all about relationships.

Whether you’re young or old everyone needs to realize that these relationships are affected by all kinds of factors such as money, lack of money, past hurts, or your kids and the effects your relationships have on the kids.

Laura and I have been though a lot and when we first got together we used a counselor to help us with the blending of the family, but as a male you tend to think you have it figured out and that you don’t need to use a counselor, at least that was my feeling when Laura brought up the idea of going to counseling. When Laura and I first went to See Christy, I have to admit I was reluctant to go.

Along with our relationship, Laura and I have to worry about the kids and especially Bailey. She has started to date this young man named Ryan, I am not overly happy that they are dating, he seems to be a little arrogant and spoiled. But Bailey seems happy and you need these relationships to figure out what type of person you like.

Laura and I take Christy’s advice and go out on a date and tell each other what we appreciate about each other. It really feels like we are connecting on a deeper level. It is easy to get lost in the day to day task of trying to support our kids, make sure everything is going OK for them, what is going on with their relationships. I have recognized how much fun it is to not worry about anything and just enjoy the moment with my wife, it reminds me of when we were dating and we had less to worry about.

I love teaching the kids to drive but it has been a bit of a challenge with Whit. She is catching on. Cars for us are huge expense and we put a lot of miles on them.  When you have a transmission problem it tends to be expensive.

Even though we have a lot of bills selling Laura’s wedding ring isn’t an option.  We are not living on the street, so it doesn’t make sense for us to sell her ring.

As far as boys and my daughters go, I would say I am very protective of them. I want a young man to respect them and treat them with respect and dignity. When I met Bailey’s date for the first time it was evident to me that he was a spoiled little rich kid that doesn’t respect Bailey.   He had this air about him that made the little hairs on my neck stand on end. Let’s just say I didn’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling, but I was willing to give him a chance as long as he treated Bailey well.  I would grin and bear it.

It is very sad today that there are still companies that will rip people off. This transmission is going to end up costing double because I tried to save cost instead of going to somewhere that I knew I could trust.

When we find out Danielle needs brace’s , I felt like, since we had used this orthodontist for 6 of the other kids maybe he and I could barter or work out a deal on Danielle’s braces.  I think that if you can barter it is a way to help each other out without having to come up with the cash and paying taxes on the sale.

With all the trouble with the cars, the van being out of commission and the Mercedes out of commission I think that I need to get a truck so I don’t end up using the van for work and tearing it up. We need to have a family vehicle. With a truck, I can put trash and supplies in the back of the truck making me more efficient on the jobs.

We tried raw food, it was nasty!

Laura tries hard to raise money by getting the hypnotist to come to Anthem. It is a real struggle with the economy but as it turns out she does a wonderful job and raises a lot of money for the school. The hypnotist was a lot of fun. I haven’t laughed this hard since I had a “MILF” cupcake.

This episode is hopefully a great set of lessons for the kids. We try to create a learning experience from the situation that arises from the two girls telling me how they wanted to just cook and clean for themselves. Everyone could just worry about their own business. In the end, we hope the kids will learn that through building a team you can accomplish more than you can by yourself. We want them to understand that it is hard to earn money and to become creative. We want to continue to educate our kids in investing and creating residual income so their money can begin to work for them.

Surprise, this episode is a tough one for me! The surprise is that my son Cody is introduced to the world. Cody emails me and says that he is coming for a visit. I think I should start with a little background. Cody was born when I was twenty years old. I was working as a locksmith and I was ready to have kids. I love kids and when Cody came along I was as happy as a pig in sh*t as they say. Cody and I did everything together. I was the first to hold him after he was born. I would bathe him, change his diapers; I fed him his first bottle of formula. I would take him to school, he would work with me on the cars that my brother and I would buy and fix up. When Cody was real young, still in diapers, his mother and I split up and I had custody of Cody and he lived with me as a single parent, so when it was time for my rotation on after hours lockout calls I would bundle him up, whatever time it was, and we would head out to whatever call we had. I love Cody just like any parent loves their child; unconditionally.

I married Heather and Levi’s mom and Cody lived with us until I was offered a job in Phoenix and I decided to take the job, hoping Cody would come with us. Cody and my ex did not get along very well. She struggled to accept Cody and to treat him as if he was equal to Heather and Levi and she would often yell and blame Cody for things that he wasn’t responsible for. Cody decided to stay in Kansas and live with his biological mother. As a parent you try to make the best decisions that you can at the time based on what you know. I thought the best thing for Cody was to stay and live with his mom because the environment was not very favorable for him with Heather and Levi’s mom. It was gut wrenching, and absolutely one of the hardest things I have ever had to do as a parent. When Cody decided to stay, my parents took us to the airport and as Cody and I stood on opposite sides of the glass all I could see was this great little kid that I was leaving behind and I was letting him down, and going against my beliefs that your kids come first and you are supposed to give them an opportunity to have a proper family life.

When you choose to become a parent I feel as though you have been given a gift from God. That you must protect, care for, love unconditionally, educate them, and make sure they turn out to be respectful adults.

Every time Cody comes to visit and I go pick him up and especially when I drop him off again, I always have that guilty feeling that I let him down, I broke my promise to take of him and protect him.

I would love to make up for the lost years since Cody stayed in Kansas when he was eleven. I wish that I would not have been a long distant parent for those years. I feel as though he was short changed, I should have been there to help him more with schoolwork, girls, all those things that teenagers need to have a male figure that is always available to talk to.
If Cody wanted to move back to Arizona, I would welcome that and support that in any way I could. Although we have had difficulties with Cody when he lived with Laura and I for a short period of time when he was about sixteen, I feel as though things would be different. Cody was a teenager that didn’t have a lot of supervision from his mom and was in his defiant teenage years and was being put in a house where we were all trying to blend. For a teenage male he was fighting to establish his place and Laura and I wanted to create harmony. The time proved to be hard for all of us. The difference with Laura was that she cared and wanted the best for Cody but she was too timid. So for a kid that needed a lot of attention, that comes out as defiance and conflict with the other kids.

I think the desire for Cody to not go to church is just his way of trying to make sure that I know that he still has anger towards me and that in an underlying way he wants me to feel a little of what it’s been like for him to be left behind. Cody not going to church was more painful than angry. I wanted as much time with him as I could get, and for him to spend that time at church with us would have been great. Cody understands how I feel about going to church; church gives us the time to grow closer in our own personal relationship with God, it gives us a specific time to pray and hear through the scriptures and the gospel how we can strive to become more like Jesus in our everyday lives. Even in the most stressful of times it may be a struggle to make it to church but once you are there and especially when you leave there is this sense of peace and balance for me in my world. I want that for Cody and its one of things that I think could have influenced him more if I would not have left him behind.

With the conversation that surrounds Cody coming back to Arizona, there comes apprehension, because of when Cody lived with us. Whether he wants to or not, an older sibling especially a brother, can influence a situation. The choices that the sibling makes can impact the views and desires of the younger children, so I understand Laura concerns with Cody living here. It’s hard for me because with Heather and Levi’s mom, Cody was always the problem, and with Cody’s real mom she neglected him; she would not see Cody for months at a time when he was younger. So when I heard the word problem it made me become protective of him; it brought up those feelings that I should have done more to protect him, should have said more to Heather and Levi’s mom. I should not have left him behind, so my guilt over the past makes me quickly defend him, because it’s my fault. Things should have been different. It’s not Laura’s fault that she is being a good parent and expressing concerns for the other children and what influence Cody’s actions could have on them.

Cody’s idea to go to the gun ranges is awesome. He recognizes that it will be an opportunity for all of us to be on common ground and have some fun. This is great coming from Cody because it is hard for Laura to say no to his arguments about why she should go. The shooting range is a blast and it is great to see all the kids shooting, and Laura jumps in and she actually likes it. It is great that Cody influenced Laura into trying something new and the family got some quality time with Cody as well.

I finally got to take Cody out for some one on one time. He had just recently had his 21st birthday and expressed that he wanted to have his first official birthday drink with me, which was very cool to hear. I wanted to take this time to talk to him man to man. He needed to hear and I needed to tell him how I felt that I had let him down, that I wasn’t there enough for him, that I should have stuck up for him more and that I wanted his forgiveness for leaving him behind. The time with Cody, celebrating his birthday was one of those moments that were uplifting and I will always cherish. It was very emotional but it felt like a weight had been lifted and there was less tension between us.

As with all good things, they must end. The time, as always, was way too short. I hate saying good bye; it is always tough to drop Cody at the airport but this time was especially tough. Seeing Cody becoming a man and knowing that with job, family and friends it will surely become tougher for him to come and visit. Each time he leaves I get the same old feeling of uncertainty of when I will get to see him again. As I see him walk away, the empty feeling in my gut reminds me of that little boy looking through the glass some ten years ago.

When I first saw Bailey’s car I knew it was a rip off.  The bumper was barely hanging on and its idol sounded like somebody was shaking a log chain.  I wanted to tell her that she got scammed but I didn’t have the heart.  She was so excited and there was nothing anyone could do at this point; the car was hers.  Sometimes in life lessons have to be learned the hard way so if the car does end up being a lemon, I’m sure she will be more cautious next time she goes to purchase a vehicle.

Now that we have more cars in the family, we are unable to fit all of them in the garage and driveway.  We always knew our HOA was strict but we thought for sure they would give us some kind of provisional since we have an atypical amount of teens in our household.  These fines will add up since the fines go up incrementally ($25) each time we get ticketed and ultimately can result in litigation.  I don’t see any other alternative than buying our own house out of Anthem.

Rex kept on coughing and Laura decided to call an ambulance.  Sometimes Laura get’s overly worried when any of the kids get sick but this time I was worried too.  This was the worst I’d ever seen Rex and I knew he needed medical attention asap.  I didn’t want the cameras there but since they were filming I am hopeful that our experience will help others.

More About Todd BruceIn this episode you will find that Laura is very much about keeping the family together and making sure that nothing comes between us growing closer together. Cathy, Laura’s sister, shows up and it’s always nice to see our relatives. Again in this episode we all take a little time out to have fun. I think it is important to let down and have a little fun like playing wiffle ball.

As I am sitting in the backyard, I’m contemplating what is ahead for us if this job pans out. I watch the kids horse around and I am amazed and satisfied with how far our family has come and how close I am with each of the kids. I am very pleased how we have blended and how the kids are so different but yet they can love each other and hate each other at the same time.

I am not sure how I will make out being away from the kids. I love being a dad; I like cooking and eating dinner with the kids and having everyday interactions with each of them. As we make our way to the airport you can see there is never a dull moment and we are faced with tough decisions. This does cause difficult conversations and emotions for both Laura and I.

Bye bye, all you bloggers!

Best wishes to all of you.

More About Todd BruceThis is an emotional episode for me. It pulls at my emotions on several levels. First with the girls thinking about college the thought of them moving out of the house and heading off to school is bitter sweet. It is embarrassing that I won’t be able to contribute to the college fund.

It is wonderful to hear Whitney sing in the Anthem Idol competition. Knowing that if we had the money, she could take voice lessons is frustrating. More practice with her coach would benefit her.

It is awesome to see the boys fishing, working and joking around together. They have come a long way in a short period of time.

In the episode I get to have some fun outside playing basketball and joking around with the kids.  I love to make them laugh when they laugh from the heart.  I feel peace and it fills me with happiness.

The final scene of the ultimate Father’s Day when Whitney wants to call me Dad is one moment in my life that is one that will always be indescribable; unless you are a step-parent.  You hope and wish for the day that your step child’s love for you is expressed. I am a dad that disciplines his kids but loves them more than anything in the world and to have Whitney want to call me Dad has made me one proud man.

The episode ends with us going to the lake; one thing I love to do.  It is so peaceful and relaxing to be there on Father’s Day especially with the emotional things that have happened.  To be there with my family healthy and smiling is awesome.  When the sun is setting on the western mountains of Arizona and the sky is filled with the reds and oranges, I realize that there aren’t many days that get better than this.

My kids and my wife have been my rock that has pulled me from the depression and embarrassment of the loss of our home and my business.

More About Todd BruceAll I can say about this episode is that Laura is a very dedicated and hard working woman. She gets up early every day and runs so she can keep the MS at bay and keep her energy up. As you can see, being a mother there is always some kind of challenge that you are faced with–kids, work, husband, you name it. She has a full plate and then she decides to add some more by getting a boot camp up and running–crazy woman! But it shows her commitment to her family and to getting us back on track financially. Laura is definitely the glue that keeps the family together and no matter what the challenge or what hardship she faces, she always keeps the faith and keeps life in perspective. All the money in the world can’t buy happiness or a family like ours. She knows we have to save and work hard but she also knows we need to enjoy life, because you never know when it’s over. I think that you can see we still manage to joke around, laugh, yet still teach our kids some valuable lessons. Also, you can see the respect people have for Laura by the number of people that showed up at the camp to see what she had to offer.