Having eleven 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!

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!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Just because I think these are awesome and really, really love them:

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Life has gotten busy. I know that sounds lame, because who’s life isn’t busy? Life is busy in ways that are much different than it used to be. Probably not more or less busy actually, just differently busy. I stopped blogging for a while because even though it was something I enjoy doing, it had started to become a chore. I had always promised myself that if it got to the point where it was no longer fun, and seemed like work, like having to wash a sink full of dirty dishes, or having to assemble five kids for showers or having to clean my room (which almost always needs cleaned) then I’d stop and find something else I enjoy doing instead. After all, with eleven children, or even with one, free time isn’t in that strong a supply to spend it on something that doesn’t bring joy. Lately, I’ve started to miss it though. A few days ago, I looked back over some old posts, and I found so many things- stories and memories- that I’d forgotten all about, memories that would be lost forever if they hadn’t been recorded on this blog. Oh yeah…that’s why I enjoyed blogging! So, I’m interested in starting again, and as always, the purpose is not to write grammatically sound or even coherent posts. It may be sloppy and messy and I fully admit, I like to write in sentence fragments. Yes, I realize they aren’t complete sentences and as such, not proper. I’m not all that great at spelling, and I ramble. But that’s not why I write or don’t write this blog. I write this because without it, I’d lose a lot of memories that I’d really love to keep, and my children would lose the ability to look back as grown ups and see what our days were like when they were small. Life gets crazy, our house is frequently chaotic. I don’t take the time that I should to make sure my kids know how much I love them or how precious simple moments with them are to me. So…here we are again. Maybe our blog will get a new name, maybe we’ll just keep the one we have.

So what’s going on now? Everything and nothing all at once. Ordinary life, I suppose. Drew is in college now, trying to find what interests him and what he wants to do. He has a job; he makes good money for an 18 year old who lives at home. Manny works as well, at Pizza Hut here in Mascoutah. He also keeps stats for the basketball team, and had a pretty great season of football. He earned 1st Team All Conference for the Mississippi Valley Conference and Honorable Mention for All Area Large Schools (which is odd in that Mascoutah is not really what I’d call a large school). Brandon also played football last year and is now in wrestling. He loves it. January 31st will mark five years since he took his very last dose of Cyclosporine. Five years of no medications whatsoever and still maintaining remission. He only sees Dr. Rob and Dr. Bob once a year now. To say we feel grateful is an understatement. Jackson started middle school and played football and basketball this season. He’d like to run track in the spring but we’ll have to see what his grades look like; it’s been a rough academic adjustment for him this year. Brice is in 3rd grade and is doing so well! He is having a great year in school and also played football for the first time this past fall. Loved it. The twins are in 1st grade and have the same teacher Brandon had for 1st grade. It’s really neat that their teacher held them when they were newborns. Sydney is in Kindergarten. Her personality hasn’t changed at all and so she’s still stubborn and willful….which is awesome. Bree and Mia are both in Pre-K. They ride the bus together but are in separate classes. Baby Sam is 16 months old and home with me all day long. He’s sweet and happy and in love with his Dad and older brothers. That’s about it. In a nutshell, that’s us. More coming later. Glad to be blogging again.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Random Reflections on the Start of Summer

The kids have been out of school for a couple of weeks now, and our family has seemed to get into a nice groove. It’s a very relaxed vibe around here…we sleep in, but not too late, we follow a schedule, but it’s not overly strict. Evenings are lazy and not rushed. Everything about summer time at our house seems to ease my stress and relax all of us, mentally and emotionally. It’s not so much what we are doing that brings about this welcomed easy paced atmosphere, but rather what we are not doing. We are not in a constant race with the clock to manage homework, dinner, chores and showers all in an effort to complete each task and get to bed at a reasonably decent hour. We are not filling our calendar with school events and spelling test dates. Mornings aren’t rushed and filled with yelling and arguing. Instead, we wake up, have breakfast (as quickly or slowly as we need), brush little sets of teeth and get dressed, do chores and then….do whatever each day brings to us, with plenty of down time and plenty of time to do as we wish. Make no mistake, the ever present chaos isn’t gone, but its taken on a different nature…it has lessened in intensity and in that anxiety provoking, fast paced, goal oriented, must-move-along-and-get-the-next-thing-done atmosphere that the school year demands. It is an extremely refreshing change from the busy and hectic month of May, which brought Prom, Senior Spotlight, Honors Night, Graduation, final exams, several Field Day’s and enough spring field trips to drive me insane. Now is exhale time.

We very purposely do not fill our younger children’s schedules with lots of “enrichment” or “activities” for the summer. Not because we think it’s necessarily wrong to do so, but because it’s just not our style. For us, the point of summer is exactly the opposite…it’s to recharge, rest, play and be together. It’s to have time to take advantage of spontaneous opportunities as they arise. We read together regularly, this summer we are doing the Junie B. Jones books and the Fudge Series by Judy Blume. Other than that, all “learning” comes through fun and play and exploration, and not from day care, camps or other formal courses. Manny is an exception, as he’s full throttle into training for football season. But this IS his fun, his passion and what he loves. He’s committed and dedicated and enjoys every minute of it. Well, maybe not every minute of having to be up early, but every single moment of being part of that team.

Tonight we had an impromptu backyard football game, while Albert grilled our dinner. Brandon, Jackson, and Brice played football with a friend, tackling each other, getting more and more competitive as the moments passed, all while Isaiah and Sydney held foot races with one another, weaving in and out of the older kids game, and Bree and Mia took turns on the slide, sliding upside down and backward and shouting for Mommy and Daddy to “watch me, watch me!” each time they attempted a new stunt. Sam sat on my lap, laughing and clapping, highly entertained by all his siblings, and Zoe, the dog, alternated between lying in the grass and nervously chasing and patrolling the boys playing football when their ruckus and aggression became too much for her and she felt the need to “warn” them to calm down. Nights like this one, are the reason I love having a huge family. I thrive on the feelings that nights like tonight bring, because honestly, life brings plenty of the opposite kind as well…the ones where I wonder how I’ll get through until bedtime comes along to rescue me and preserve the tiny sliver of sanity I am clinging to. Tonight was a beautiful re-affirmation…sort of an “Oh yeah, this is why parenting 11 kids totally rocks,” type of night. Summer brings a lot of those. I can’t get enough.

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