Stalked by the Stork...a diary of raising twelve kids

Having twelve children is an amazing blessing and one heck of a crazy ride. Join us through all the joys, smiles, tribulations and trials as we navigate this fabulous journey!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Home is Where the Heart is...

It is with a wild mixture of emotions, that I announce to everyone, that our family is moving. We are leaving our beloved small town and heading back to another type of home...the "home" that began our family's journey, the "home" where we were married and where our first baby was born. We are returning to Knoxville. This move has in some ways been years in the making, and in other ways is very sudden. My heart especially, has stirred each time I've come home to visit my mother and my sisters, my nieces and nephew and best friends. Each time I leave to return to Mascoutah has been bitter sweet...not wanting to leave my family behind in Knoxville, hating to miss out on all the family activities here...but also always thrilled to return to M-Town, which we also consider very much our home. We have ties there. Strong ties. Strong foundations. Strong relationships. Intense friendships. Mascoutah is a remarkable place to raise a family and until very recently, it's the place we have envisioned raising our family forever...the place we imagined grandchildren coming to visit. It's small, yet a big city is just down the road. It's quaint, it's safe, it's schools are amazing, the sense of community is fabulous. It's new and old fashioned. It's everything wonderful about small town USA. And we're leaving it. My eyes keep filling with tears when I think about leaving..leaving the football program in which we've invested so much of our hearts. Leaving the amazing friends we've made. And yet....the excitement of coming "home" to Knoxville is also so real and so...long awaited.

Our family has experienced some recent challenges that I won't go into here, that make returning to Knoxville now a wise choice. We have family here, support here, resources here. We can be of help and resource to my sisters just as they can be to us. It's a good choice. It's a happy choice. It's also heartbreaking. Anyone who knows me knows...I love Mascoutah with my whole heart. I'm a Mascoutah Indian through and through.

So, that's our new news. Family wise, everyone is well. The kids are all enjoying summertime. The girls have had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks with their grandparents in Chicago. I knew they would have a good time, and enjoy themselves...I did not know they would be over the moon excited to have spent that time with their grandparents and I'm thrilled to say that their attachment to Albert's step-mother has really blossomed. They loved her before of course, but now they are deeply attached to her and I can't express my thanks enough for the time she spent taking care of them this summer.

Brice is finishing up his first season of baseball. He seemed to like it pretty well! As you all know, football is our family's main sport so having a child take up a major interest in something else is new for us, but we did enjoy it! The girls finished up a year of dance- they took tumbling, ballet, tap and hip hop. Like Brice, they really enjoyed these new activities and when we get settled in Knoxville next month, we will be looking for a dance studio here so that they can continue. I love to see them all take part in activities that they enjoy. You just never know what will spark a child's interest, what will become their passion or their's been a lot of fun watching them try out new things.

So, we are all a flutter in finding new jobs, securing housing (I think we've accomplished this one for certain), moving over important things like bank accounts, and preparing mentally for the chores of gathering shot records, doctors appointments, birth certificates, social security cards and all things necessary to register all the kids in new schools. I expect that will be daunting, but alas, a necessary step. Then loading up all our possessions and hitting the road. I can't imagine the swirl of emotions I will feel pulling out of M-Town on that day, or upon pulling in to K-Town for that matter. It feels bittersweet...sad, overwhelming, tragic, joyful and like sweet relief all at once.

In the end though, "home" isn't really a set in stone place at all. Life changes, throws curve balls, leaves you unsure why you ever thought you had things all mapped out to begin with. "Home" it turns out, will always be, where ever our family can be together. At the end of it all, family is home. And with family is where we'll be.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Wedding Bells!!!

We have wonderful news to share! On July 25th, our wonderful son, Manny, married this amazing young lady, Kaitlin. We couldn't be more proud of the two of them. I was initially concerned when he told me he wouldn't be accepting the scholarship to play college football that he'd worked so hard for, and I was sad because, you all know, I love me some football, and I'd spent years dreaming and preparing for that. You know how parents do, plan out futures in our heads from the time our children are babies, and folks, I could almost taste that fall football air. But, as I listened to him describe how much love he held in his heart for this young lady and how solid their plans were, I couldn't even help but be thrilled for them. And, the more I got to know her, I couldn't help but love her too, and feel like she is the perfect addition to our family. She is gorgeous and kind, smart, and a bit of a rebel. She's strong and brave and speaks her mind. She is, in short, exactly the type of woman I've always hoped my son would marry. So, on July 25th, these two lovebirds were married, in her parents backyard, amid candles and mason jars and lots of family. I'll have more pictures to share in the future, but for now...these will have to do.

So just what are their plans? I mean, you can't get married at 18 and not have a plan right? Well, she leaves in just a couple of weeks for the United States Air Force, and he will be right behind her, just as soon as a date opens up for him. He's ready to go as soon as they are ready for him. They will serve their country and take advantage of the educational benefits they will earn. As much as I can't imagine not seeing these sweet faces each day...I am so proud of them both.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Money doesn't grow on trees, and neither do football girdles

Consider this a mom vent. Another mom vent. Football season is inching ever closer (yay) and with it, the plethora of fees and items to be gathered and purchased. Football season is, for us, almost as expensive as Christmas. Between registration fees, camp fees, necessary purchases for gear and travel wear, training sessions,gas and food and all sorts of miscellaneous expenses that come from four boys in the same sport, the total tally will creep up to near $1800.00. This isn't my vent. I expect and understand these expenses. These expenses are just part and parcel of having several children and wanting them to be able to participate in a sport our family loves. Our high school and our town's youth football organization are beyond helpful and patient with us and are very understanding when it takes a bit of extra time to get everything paid up. The expenses I'm not as okay with are the ones that come in the form of extra cash having to be forked out due to my own children being careless, entitled or just plain irresponsible with what they have. This is my vent.

The two high schoolers neglected to bother with cleaning out their athletic lockers at the end of the school year, both of them leaving perfectly good (and in one case, really awesome) cleats inside of said lockers. Both pair were bought brand new at the start of last season. Naturally, lockers have since been cleaned out. Neither son knows what became of their cleats and neither son seems particularly worried about finding out. In both cases, the cleats could have been passed down to a younger sibling resulting in my being able to save a tidy sum. My sons seem wholly unconcerned with this and didn't seem to heed my repeated requests to venture to the school's lost and found for a look around.

As though this were not enough, recently one son has brought to my attention that he can not find his football girdle. Apparently, his girdle has just vanished into thin, football air. I responded by suggesting numerous places around the house that he might consider looking. Odd places, like, you know, his dresser, his closet and under his bed. I mean, it has to be someplace. It didn't just grow little girdle legs and and run off. He spent a grand total of less than a half hour searching, declared it "gone" and then looked me right in the eye and said, unflinchingly, "Mom, let me hold thirty dollars for a new girdle."
Mom, let me hold thirty dollars for a new girdle!

I stared blankly for a minute and my mouth may have even flapped open. Why, no, son, you will not "hold" thirty dollars for a new girdle. Why? Because you already own a girdle, one that has already been paid for and one that is in perfectly good shape. I will absolutely not purchase a new one simply because you can't find yours and refuse to properly search for it. You know what "properly search" means. It means when you actually move things around in an effort to locate a lost item, rather than simply scan the room with your eyes. I will not just buy another because you are too lazy to bother with looking. You will not cause me to invest more money so that you can avoid investing your time. Football is already expensive in this family, so we all need to save where we can and be mindful of what money is going out. That same thirty bucks could be spent on next weeks training session. There isn't just a limitless supply of funds, easily available each time one of you dear children forgets, misplaces or neglects your gear and even if there were, I'd like to think I'd still want you to learn the same lesson. Money doesn't grow on trees. And neither do football girdles.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Tale of Two Calls

So, I received two phone calls from the school district this afternoon. One was from Brice's teacher. She told me how proud of him she was because he has been working super hard and been really making amazing progress and has also been giving up his recess to stay inside and help a classmate with reading. She asked if she could take him out to lunch as a treat. She has asked him where he wanted to go and out of all the joints in Mascoutah (okay, so there isn't all THAT many) he picked...McDonald's. My kids always pick McDonalds. They could be given the choice of Mickey D's or Tavern on the Green in New York and guess what they'd pick? Yup, nuggets. And fries. But I digress... I'm so proud of Brice that my heart may explode with love and pride. He is such a thoughtful and affectionate and loving little boy.
The second call was from the middle school. Jackson has detention. Again. He misplaced his I.D tag. Again. This makes time #8. It's not even spring break yet folks. He was told of this detention two days ago when he was issued a discipline referral. He did not bring it home nor did he tell us. Nor did he stay after school for detention yesterday thus prompting the principal to call. Now he has two days of detention. While my heart explodes with the same amount of love for him as it does for any of my children, I can't help but wonder how or why it is that some of our children flourish in school and others find it so tough to remember to do the bare basics? They are all being raised in the same house, have the same rules, get the same love and discipline..yet they are such different creatures. I guess we all are. I feel so bad when I see Jackson (and Brandon for that matter) miss out on fun things, extra curricular opportunities and even hanging out with friends because of trouble with grades or the inability to follow fairly straightforward rules such as having your I.D. badge each day (it's not even supposed to be taken out of the building, so it really shouldn't be lost). For what its worth, Brandon is also on I.D. badge number several. Its tough to find the exactly right mixture of parenting skills to tailor to each child so that each will be successful.Both Brandon and Jack have wonderful qualities and are both smart and lovable and do many things that make me very proud. I just wish that school came easier to both of them or that they were easier to motivate. And I'm so thrilled that some of our children, like Brice, are so easy to help navigate through school and through life in general. I'm so proud of him for making good choices and for being willing to give up something he enjoys to help a classmate.
So, that's been the afternoon. So far. Hoping for an easy night...

Monday, February 23, 2015

babies and birth control

So, this is our new little sweet heart.

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Words can't describe how in love with him we are. I will post his birth story this week. Sometime.
It's bittersweet knowing he's the last. Okay, so I've said that for several kids in a row, but this time I actually have an IUD in place and thus am bound to my decision at least somewhat.

Every single day that passes is almost painful in the sense that I want him to stay little and tiny and not grow up too fast. Yet I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also excited by the prospect of maybe being able to get away with my know, sans children. That's not something that can happen right now. Not that I might, just saying, things like that are the silver lining. That, and the ability to sit at a football game and not either have to worry about the kids burning down the house while their unsuspecting babysitter thinks they are playing in another room, or even worse, trying to watch the game all while fielding questions such as "can I have a snack from the concession stand?" "Can I go to the bathroom?" and worse, the chronic complaints "I'm cold", "I'm hot", "She's touching me!" ect. In fact, just thinking about these things actually makes the IUD that's currently in place feel really good. Sort of like a warm fuzzy feeling or sunshine and the promise of a full night's sleep in the not too distant future. But then, I'll see a pregnant woman on television and realize that will never be me again and suddenly find myself fighting a feeling of sadness.

I guess that's the beauty of an IUD though. It's long term enough that I don't have to worry about it for five years. I'm protected and don't have to remember to take a pill and cant easily change my mind. Yet, if I REALLY wanted to, I could change my mind. I COULD make a decision to change my mind (well, with my hubby that is) and make an appointment to have it removed and then we could expand again. Yet, that's the point...I'd have to be sure. I'd have to decide (we) and have to make an appointment and be sure enough to go through with having it removed. I could not just throw caution to the wind on a Saturday night after a couple margaritas and see what happens. Because, after all, we know what happens. See the above sweet face if you have any questions.

So that's where we are. Completed but not locked in to that decision. I think it's a perfect solution. But alas, I've digressed. Majorly. What I intended to say today was that I am so happy and so blessed to have this sweet little angel. He is absolute perfection. And I wanted to share a picture of him for the first time here.

Two updates in just a couple of weeks! Go me! I'll be back soon. Hopefully with a birth story and more pics.

Friday, February 6, 2015

We're Back!!!!!

Ok. So, I say this every other post, which at the rate I've been posting, has been about once a year, but here we are again. I miss blogging and would like to start keeping up again. When I go back and scroll through, I see all the things- little stories and photos- that I would have certainly forgotten if not for having recorded it here. So, that's my motivation. We'll see if I do better this year.
We have had changes - we have baby #12!!!! We added our adorable son Sawyer to our family. He was born December 12th, which is my sister's birthday. He's 8 weeks old today. Perhaps I'm a bit blue about that fact, or the fact that yesterday I had an IUD placed, so no more babies for us unless we have a very deliberate change of heart.
Here's the long and short of the family - I'll update about each family member and then presto- I'll be all caught up and can start fresh from this moment.

Albert- he has taken a new teaching job in St. Louis. He LOVES it! He has elementary kids this time around which has been a different experience for him since he's used to high school, but it's been different in a good way. He works a second job at a local restaurant and that's still going well also. I wish he had more time at home, and so does he, but it helps pay bills, so I'm not complaining.

Me- Still at home with the kids. I've taken a break in my doula business, mostly because I've had another baby and am not interested in having to run out the door in the middle of the night when I'm still up with him! Also, it's tough to be 100% available to leave for the hospital or a client's home 24/7 with the kids and all their activities. I absolutely LOVE attending births and doing prenatal visits with expecting parents and everything that comes with it, every single thing. But I feel like I might need to wait until my own children aren't so small to make a serious effort at a real business. In the meantime, I'd like to transition into childbirth education which of course can be scheduled and pre-arranged (unlike birth). I have already taken the workshop towards certification.

Drew- Drew will be 20 years old this summer! Wow! Where did that time go? He lives in St. Louis and we miss him a lot. He visits us as often as he can and I can't even describe how excited all the little kids get (and the big kids too) when they see him. This week, we all went out to dinner and he and Manny chased each other through the snow, all across the parking lot of the restaurant and even out into the street, as though they were little kids and not adult men. It was so fun to watch them. Drew has turned out to be a super sweet young man, very kind and loving and great with the little ones!

Manny- He will graduate from high school this May! He signed with Quincy University just this week to play football for them. He is thrilled with this new opportunity (as are we!) and can't wait to start school. He's a really amazing kid- good grades, always helpful in the house, works a job on Sunday evenings, and also amazing with his siblings.

Brandon- He is a freshman in high school. He played freshman football this year and is currently on the wrestling team. In fact, tomorrow he wrestles in the regional competition. We are very proud of him. He continues to be in excellent health and is as silly as ever. He is a jokester and a prankster.

Jackson- Jack is in 7th grade and also played football this season. His team went undefeated in the regular season. They lost one game in the post season so they ended up 11-1. He is also very into writing his own raps which are actually quite good much of the time!

Brice- Brice Juice is in 4th grade this year and is having a great school year! He played his second year of football and would like to try baseball this spring. He is sweet, affectionate and has a giant heart. He's also extremely loud. And still sort of a mess. But a happy and beautiful mess.

Isaiah- He is in first grade and played his first year of football. He loves sports and loves animals. He is sweet and charming and very friendly!

Alexandria- She is also in first grade. She is absolutely beautiful and is very girlie. She is really enjoying having a new baby brother to help out with. She loves reading, and is very social. She is quite talkative and very sweet.

Sydney- Syd is our wild and crazy girl. She takes no mess from anyone. She is gorgeous and strong and knows what she wants. She is loving first grade and says she wants to play football with the boys next year!

Kambree- Miss Bree started Kindergarten this year. She loves it but she's a bit shy at school (not at all). She is so, so beautiful and so affectionate . She is a second mommy to the baby boys. She wants to be a cheerleader and is very meticulous about her homework. She is really enjoying learning to read and write!

Mia- She opted out of preschool this year because she wanted to stay home with Mommy. She's having a tough time understanding that this won't be an option next year! She is so loving and cuddles better (and more often ) than anyone I've ever met. She is a real Mommy's girl and has the sweetest personality ever.

Sam- Sam is two years old now! He is as much of a Daddy's boy as Mia is a Mommy's girl. Sam adores his brothers, loves football and talks up a storm. He struggles with eczema and has a really bad case of it. We've tried every over the counter remedy there is and he is currently on prescriptions that we hope will treat him. He has adjusted to being a big brother extremely well!

Sawyer- Baby Sawyer was born on December 12, 2014. Baby #12 on 12/12 (my sister Ashley's birthday!) He is very special to us. He has a great personality (so far) despite being a bit spoiled. I know, I know, you cant really spoil a baby. But you can train them to know that if they cry, you will respond, which is after all, my job, so I'm not complaining...just saying that yeah...he's gotten that concept down pretty well. So 95 percent of his awake time is spent in my arms. Baby wearing isn't really my favorite, though I love the idea of it and want to love it. This stage is so brief though and so precious, I can't even wish it away. It will pass all on its own and then I'll miss it so for now, I use it as an excuse as to why my dishes aren't done and laundry is piled up.

And that's the catch up! The stork will no longer be stalking me (as of yesterday) so I may eventually change the blog name but the content will remain the same- stories and pics of the kids and of our life so that I won't lose out on treasured memories while our days are so busy and chaotic. As always ignore the typos and grammar mistakes- I have time to write sometimes. I have time to write then edit and correct never.

Friday, January 31, 2014


Five years ago today, Brandon stood at the kitchen sink, popped open a soda and took his very last dose of cyclosporine. We said a prayer, recorded it on video and then, learned to move on with life. At first, we constantly feared “it” would come back. We made lots of trips for blood work, and I sweated out that 45 to 60 minutes until results were back. My stomach would be in knots as I’d see Dr. Rob or Bob approach with the test results in hand. As they would walk toward me, I’d study their faces…did they look pleased? Worried? Did they have a nurse accompanying them to give me the results?(that usually meant bad news). Did they look like they were going to just hand me the printout or did they seem like they were about to sit down? (sitting is bad too, folks). Brandon had made it to a great place, remission wise, his counts were on the verge of complete normalcy, all except for H & H, which were just a touch below normal (and really, lots of people are that way naturally, so no biggie). He had his life back, we had our life back.

We knew he needed to wean off the medicine so as to avoid further exposure to some pretty serious side effects, yet we also knew weaning too quickly could mean a relapse of the Aplastic Anemia. We’d already had that (relapse) happen once before, and were fortunate that he responded to Cyclosporine a second time without the need for more ATG, so we definitely didn’t want to take our chances with a need for a third. So, we’d spent the better part of a year, slowly tapering off that medication…such a love/hate relationship we had with it. It made his bone marrow do it’s job, thus saving him from probable death unless we could find a bone marrow match, on the other hand, it put tremendous stress on his kidneys, particularly when antibiotics were also needed, which was quite often (we’d once had to stop and restart at a lower dose because his kidney function was suffering), it ran the risk of causing various forms of cancers and it took a horrible toll on his immune system (which was what it was supposed to do, that’s why it worked, but it left him vulnerable to every single virus within a ten mile radius it seemed and viruses in turn, carried the dreaded risk of relapse).

That last dose was such a bittersweet moment…it brought so much joy, and fear. Stopping the medicine meant it’d be time to find out whether or not his bone marrow could fly solo, and do it’s job, or whether its’ production was solely dependent on that Cyclosporine. So we waited, and waited and waited and watched and watched and watched. The first time Bandon was sick with a virus was a real test for his marrow. For any of us, when we are ill, we can experience a temporary minor to moderate drop in our blood counts, they normalize when we get better, and most of the time, we are none the wiser. In Brandon’s case, the theory is that when he caught a virus a few weeks before being diagnosed, his bone marrow never autocorrected and for some reason continued to slow cell production until it eventually came to a halt. So, any time he’d become ill, trips to clinic, blood work and IV antibiotics -heavy duty ones and lots of them -were the norm. Between going to clinic each time he was ill and frequently for “just checking” blood work, we wore out a path down I 64. Over time, we were able to decrease some of that. Eventually we were able to just bring him to clinic after a virus passed and make sure counts were up and at thee month intervals to “just check“. At some point we learned to stop fearing the results of the blood work each and every time. And one glorious day, it occurred to me, that I probably didn’t even really need to wait on the results…they could just call me with them or maybe just not call. No news meant they were fine. And they were. Now, all that’s needed is a periodic CBC which can be done at a local lab closer to home with the results faxed to Dr. Rob if there are any questions, and a ONCE a year checkup back at clinic. His port was removed and he is totally independent of any and all therapies, medications and illness.

Today, Brandon has made it exactly five years with no medication and very cooperative bone marrow. I’m not saying we never worry. We’ll always have a decent fear of relapse and the words “clonal evolution” are the scariest words I know. Clonal evolution refers to a risk that all patients who have had Aplastic Anemia face…about ten to fifteen percent of AA patients will at some point, perhaps years after treatment, develop MDS, or Mylodysplastic Syndrome that will then lead to a mylogenous leukemia. There isn’t really anything (that I know of) that can be done to mitigate that risk, it’s just there. The fact that he’s made a complete recovery and his counts are now completely normal bodes very well in his favor. So, things look amazing for him. We have no reason to think he’ll ever face any further problems from Aplastic Anemia. He has his life back 100 percent. He plays football, and wrestles. He can expect to grow up, get old and have a happy life. And that’s all we’ve ever wanted for him, or for any of our children for that matter. Tonight we are taking him out to celebrate. Anywhere he wants (which is the movies and Buffalo Wild Wings).
Happy five years Brandon. You are a strong kid and we’re so proud of you!

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