Thursday, May 30, 2013

Today I'm Thankful For... kids. There really isn't any greater joy than watching your babies, babies of all ages, loving each other and playing together. It seriously cannot get any better than this.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Because Weddings Mean More to Me Than My Personal Playtime

The faux leather tiny red mini-sectional was packed. 2 of my daughter's friends sat there with the soon to be mother-in-law (who is also my friend, Shannon) next to me, my cute husband, the ever supportive dad, parked on an ottoman that matched the couch just to the side of all of us. We all waited, surrounded by mirrors pointing in every angle. To the right and left of us and even creeping up behind us, we were engulfed in all shades of white taffeta, tulle, satin and lace.

"Now which one is this?" we'd call out, watching her little feet under the curtain. Bare and nervous, pulling on dress after dress. "It's the one I REALLY want" she'd say before walking out to walk the little runway laid out in front of us.

A little platform of carpet in front of us was her stage and one by one she'd model the dress she had picked out. We'd oooh and ahhh and I'd snap photos and tell her what I loved about each one. "Oh the sweetheart neckline of this one!  It is so flattering!" or "Oh Kenzie, the tea length one in satin, it's got pockets!  You LOVE pockets!"

One by one she'd come out feeling like Cinderella before the ball, the fairy godmother in her changing room helping her to fit each dress to her body.

Finally, she came out in The One.

We knew it was the one by the look on her face the second she stepped out of the dressing room. For each of the other dresses, she'd look at us like "is it pretty? Is it ok?" but this one...she gave us a look that said "This one makes me feel like a bride..."

She had previously sauntered slowly up to the platform, taking meek steps, walking up to the mirrors and turning to the right and left, looking slowly up and down as we all took pictures with our phones. With this dress, she DANCED out of that room. She leaped up on that platform, turned to the side, spun around and then turned to us and said "What do you think?  Mom, look at this one!"

We knew before she even said a word that this was the dress. She went into the store wanting a very specific thing.  All lace, floor length, high waist. What we found for her was almost 100% the opposite. Minimal lace, tons of bling, a huge tea length tulle skirt with layers and layers of incredible femininity.

If you know Kenzie, you'll know that she's always been kind of a tomboy. She's played hard with the boys outside her whole life. When I imagined her in a wedding dress, I did NOT imagine her in a cloud of girly-ness but what we saw that day is that she looks perfect in exactly that. She looked stunning. It was incredible.

Today we went and bought the dress. The dress didn't look complete without a big  embellished sequined sash and we had to get that, too. And while we were there, she tried on a veil and whaddya needed a veil even though she didn't think she wanted one!

I'll tell you what, guys. Weddings are no joke. They're expensive, they're personal, they're a big deal and there's one more thing about them that we've realized. They are something you do for your kids because you love them. We may not have tens of thousands of dollars to pay for this wedding but we're going to make it happen. We're working doubly hard, both of us taking extra jobs to make sure this happens but like she said today on the way home, she knew from the day she got engaged that we would make this happen for her.

And that makes all of this worth every single stressful moment.  My kids are worth everything we do for them. Including both of us working to pay for something like this. While other people in her family coolly live their lives as if the kids were their "buddies" who they can go to lunch with occasionally, we work our butts of to make sure these kids will have an amazing wedding. They only get married for the first time (and hopefully for the rest of their lives) once and we are making this the best wedding she could ever want. 

It's only a couple months away and we can't wait to show you all of the details. More to come...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

On Self Loathing and Self Loving

I always knew I was different, I mean, that my body was different than what I wanted it to be. I remember being a little girl on the beach in Corona del Mar, California and wearing a little shirt that exposed my tiny little brown midriff. I still have the picture.

I recall thinking "am I always going to be fat?" even then. It makes me sad to think about that tiny little blonde baby feeling so sad about her body already. Where did this issue with body image come from? How did I think that I was fat back then???

I am now pregnant with my 8th baby. My body is still strong enough to carry this miracle but I wake up every day and look in the mirror and the first thing I do is to glance at my body in disgust. It's something I need to rid my brain of. It's unhealthy.

Thing is, when I'm alone with someone I love, I'm the most confident person alive. If I feel loved and beautiful, especially if the person has told me that they think of me that way, I'm like a superstar, ready to bare it all and give everything I have. It's a good thing and a bad thing.

Good in the way that I'm confident and open and that I feel sexy and beautiful and that's not a bad thing, right?

Bad in the way that I find myself crashing afterward because it's brain says stuff like "that was so dumb. Why did you show your stomach to him?"

Body image.

Self loathing.

Self loving.

Confidence and the lack thereof afterward.

Isn't this what most women go through?  Tell me I'm not alone here...

But for now, I really do feel pretty. I feel better now at age 40 than I ever have. Is that old age fooling me?  Am I just more comfortable in my own skin?

Today I feel pretty, tomorrow I'll avoid my own image in the mirror.  Ah, the life of a woman...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Long But You Guys, This Is Seriously So Groundbreaking For Me...

Driving through the desert, it's endless expanse of pastels and light, I find myself in the deepest trenches of thought a person can find themselves in. The lack of thick greenery and buildings lends itself to the automatic self inquisition I'm so often prone to get trapped in. Thankfully, I know this desert like I know my own skin. Each turn and straight leg of the trip is like an old friend, a neighbor you wave to when you see them yet you don't really even take notice of them because of the familiarity of their face.

The desert. It can do two things to me, depending on which direction I'm traveling. If I'm not headed toward the Pacific Ocean, what it does to me is not good. It's unhealthy. It's toxic. It's like the long walk down death row toward an electric chair. Too graphic and dramatic? Um...have you  met me?

Guys, if you don't already know me "Hi, I'm Allison. I'm super dramatic.". That sums it up pretty well, don't you think?

So here's the thing. Last night we were headed back from a little work vacation in Las Vegas and as we got on Interstate 15 headed toward Utah I felt it kick in. The dread and sadness I get so often when I am headed in that direction.  I went silent in the car, Mike knew to turn up the tunes and to keep to himself because these are the times he's used to. He's seen this a million times and he knows how this goes.

We live in Utah. When we moved here we were inspired to do so and we always knew it would only be for a few years. It's now been 5. This was never supposed to happen.  We moved here to be close to my sister and her family and to get a fresh start, yet we weren't prepared for what it would do to me.

Within 8 months of living here I was receiving treatments at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City for acute anemia. Guys I literally was almost dead. I couldn't process iron which is apparently required for life. The next thing to happen was my fibromyalgia. I'd had it for years and years but the second we got here it seemed to intensify by about a billion times.

So that's where we are. I'm in pain literally all the time, trying to mother all of these kids and be a wife and work and function and guess's not working. It's just not.

So when I go to California I feel like a million bucks. I keep telling myself it's because I'm selfish and I just like living by the beach and to suck it up and that it's in my head. See, when I'm there, and I'm not kidding, I am...


Zero. Nada. I have to take no medication at all. Here?  Well let's just remind everyone that last April I had seizures for a month because of the medication I was put on by doctors trying to quell my symptoms here in Utah.

So here's the thing, I have been telling myself it's in my head. I keep saying "There is no way this is real, you're making this up, you just like the beach" because really, who doesn't like the beach? And if you don't, well I don't even think we should be friends. Truth.

So I got home last night at 2 am, woke up this morning and felt like I'd been hit by a freakin' mack truck. Like, SLAMMED. Couldn't walk to the bathroom. Climbing stairs felt like I was walking on hot pokers. It was ridiculous.

I called my doctor. He said for me to log onto their website and do a bit of research. See, Fibromyalgia is still something they're learning about daily. I've been diagnosed for 14 years now and what they knew then is different than what they know now.

So I get online and seriously, within seconds I find this:

What Weather Factors Affect Fibromyalgia Sufferers?
There are five major weather factors that appear to affect fibromyalgia symptoms. These include:

  • Temperature: Rapid changes in temperature can sometimes trigger a fibromyalgia flare or help to ease fibromyalgia pain. Cold weather tends to make fibromyalgia symptoms worse, while warmer weather tends to ease those troublesome symptoms.
  • Barometric Pressure: Barometric pressure is a measurement of the weight that is exerted by the air all around us. On beautiful sunny days, barometric pressure tends to be quite high, but during a storm or similar weather front, barometric pressure drops suddenly. Fibromyalgia sufferers often find that these changes in barometric pressure can trigger muscle aches and pains.
  • Humidity: Absolute humidity is a measurement of the amount of water vapor present in each unit of air. When absolute humidity is low, fibromyalgia sufferers often report headaches, stiffness, and flares in widespread pain.
  • Precipitation: Precipitation is the term used to refer to any type of water that falls to the ground from the sky, including rain, sleet, snow, or hail. Precipitation is often accompanied by a change in barometric pressure, and therefore may exacerbate your symptoms of pain and fatigue.
  • Wind: Whether it’s a light wind or a gale-force wind, wind generally causes a decrease in barometric pressure. This means that wind can trigger fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches in fibromyalgia sufferers.

So back to the whole point of this. I live in the Utah desert. There are trees up here but it's DRY. It's cold. It's got almost zero humidity. It's windy. It's stormy.

Basically, it's toxic for Fibromyalgia sufferers.

Can I tell you that I'm typing through tears right now telling you that I am so relieved that I'm not crazy? Utah is toxic for me. I can't live here anymore you guys.

I just can't.

Now if we could just find Mike an amazing job like the one he LOOOOOOOOOOVES here in Utah down in California, I would move today. Like, no joke pack up whatever clothes we needed, put the beds and couches in a truck and go. Dump everything else and just go.

I need to not hurt you guys. We get one life...and I'm wasting mine by being in pain because I live where it hurts.

Help. I need help.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Swimming in Chocolate Piggy Cake

I've seen photos of this cake floating around Pinterest and Facebook for the last few weeks and finally, after some CRAZY searching I found a girl from the Netherlands who originally made this cake and someone translated her recipe!

Here ya go. Because seriously though, this is so cute it makes me wanna die. I'm so making this for myself for my 40th birthday party. Alone. To eat in my bedroom with a big spoon. Did I mention alone?  Ok fine, Mike can come.

Swimming In Chocolate Piggy cake

You will need
A 20cm sponge cake
2x 200 g milk chocolate bars
250ml of cream
Filling of choice for your pie. Layer of jam/ tinned cherries or such, and a layer of creme patisserie , cream or butter icing
3x five packet kitkats
1 packet of light pink marzipan. ( I'm thinking you'll have to use almond paste and food colouring for this or maybe get creative with some pink marshmallows? )
Big knife
Tooth pick or skewer
Flat plate or board to put your cake on

Start by making your pigs. Do your own thing as there are no instructions for this.
Put your cream in a pan over low heat
Keep stirring until it just starts to boil. In between break the chocolate bars in pieces.
When the cream is almost boiling take it from the heat and gradually add chocolate. Keep stirring until you have a nice smooth mass and then leave to cool stirring every now and again.
Cut your sponge in half and put your fillings of choice in.
Put your cake , at this stage, on a lazy Susan or something else easy enough to rotate . The sides are going to be covered with your chocolate and you don't want your serving plate/board to get messy.
Break your kitkats in two and have them ready.
If your chocolate sauce has cooled at thickened to a custard consistency you can start smearing it on the sides of your cake. Use a spatula or the back if a knife to do this. Once you've smeared it all around you can stick your kitkats on. This can be a bit tricky so place them on a slight angle against the cake. When you have gone right around quickly tie your ribbon around the cake. This will pull the kitkats up straight against your cake.
When the left over chocolate sauce is only just fluid pour it over the top of the cake. MAKE SURE IT IS NOT TOO THIN WHEN YOU DO THIS OR IT WILL SEEP BETWEEN THE KITKATS.
Before it totally sets place your little piggies on the chocolate
Place in the fridge to set.
After an hour or so you can place the cake gently on your serving plate.
Eet smakelijk. Bon appetit . 

Monday, March 4, 2013

...and They Are Mine

When I get stressed out I have a tendency to worry myself sick about the smallest things to an unhealthy level. I've learned over the years through some very personal work I've done with myself along with the help of my sweet and patient husband, how to in a sense "talk myself down".  Gratitude has played a huge part in this.

I start by saying to myself in my head "can I change this?" And if the answer is "yes", then I ask myself "Can I change this RIGHT NOW?" Usually my most stress filled moments are in the tiny, quiet and dark hours of the morning. 2 am lately, this seems to be the most common time.  If the answer is "no"...(which it ALWAYS is), I can emotionally feel myself come down from the ladder I'm standing on that feels like it's teetering on the edge of a rocky cliff.

The next thing I do is to count my blessings. I've seen so many stories in the last few years that make me appreciate exactly what I have. Appreciate them in a HUGE way. Stories about families who have lost their homes in hurricanes, people who have suffered all kinds of accidents and fires, and stories like the one about sweet Mitchell who just passed away this last weekend. These are the things that make me grateful for my life, laundry and teenage bathroom messes and all.

I sometimes feel inadequate to mother all seven of my children. Can I love them all the same?  Can I love them all enough?  And the answer comes to me simply, quietly in whispers of their hugs, when I lay in bed with my teenage sons tangled in the blankets at my feet watching movies with us. Times when I feel like I'm not getting it all done for them. Like when my 3 year old, with the hints of last weekend's adventures with gumball machine tattoos still on her arms, quietly plays on my bed near my feet,  happily imagining a charmed life with her little Disney castle and all of the princesses she's collected. I look around then and the first thing for me to do is to critique the situation, mostly with a shaded eye. "Why is Lola undressed?  Why did she take her clothes off again to play?  Why has she pulled her hair out of the ponytails I put in just this morning?  What would the neighbors say if they saw this?"

But then I force myself to do what I do so often, I take a picture. I snap a quick shot of whatever I'm worried about, and then I look at it on the screen with new eyes. What does this say about me?  What does this say about the quality of my children's lives?

And always, every single time, it says that my kids are happy, they are loved, they are warm, they are smart, they are well, they are fed, they are rested, they are loving, they feel loved, and they are mine...

Our journeys will always seem hard, that's the beauty of life. There will be struggle, that's how this journey is designed. But like Sigmund Freud said:

"One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful..."


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On Sleepy Sorts of Days...

Harper to the far left, just his little legs under the white blanket. Oskar in the green blanket, Jonah on the top right and of course Little Lolabird at the bottom. I stood on my bed to take this photo from above. This is my sweet little life. This is love.

I glanced around my sleepy bedroom just now. The clock is pointing out the fact that it's 3:30 in the afternoon and that means naptime, so here I sit on my bed surrounded by 4 of my 7 children. A Disney movie about some princess who gets stuck in the real world is on the tv and yet, my teenage son (who is home sick from school) is watching still even after the 3 others have fallen asleep. Even with the sounds of the movie in the background I can still hear the gentle snoring sounds of the 2 babies who will sleep just as long as they have some part of their body touching my own.

This is the kind of life I live. These are the days I have when I randomly post silly things on Twitter or Facebook, or when I'm texting friends. I don't know what people imagine my life is like, but this is it. It's simple. It's spent enjoying the fact that my children are all growing up with each other in their daily lives. These kind little moments where at teenage boy, even in his fevered sleepy relaxation, can reach over to gently pat a baby as he sleeps. Not because the baby needs it, but because they both do.

We fight daily for this life. We pray morning and night that they can stay together because this is good for them. This is what's best for these kids. Supporting them, cleaning and cooking for them, doing laundry until 2 am (like Mike did last night) these are the things we do and have done because we love these kids fiercely.

My most favorite kinds of days aren't the ones where our house is spotless and everything's organized and immaculate. My most favorite kinds of days are the ones like we had yesterday. Where we sleep in, where we lay in our master bedroom, ALL OF US, and watch silly shows or YouTube videos. Or when we talk about the most awesome substitute teacher Jonah's ever had and how bizarre it was to hear this guy talk to the kids in his strange accent. Or when Kenzie comes home from school every single night to tell us the latest drama between the girls in the class that infuriates and also entertains her. She's loving this new "college" life. Yet, she still wants to live at home as long as she can. And Jonah, he says he only feels comfortable with the family he's had surrounding him for as long as he can remember, day in and day out.

Casey's in a very social time in his life. He is involved heavily in musical theater and was just yesterday cast in The Music Man. He's nervous because his part has to sing alone, but we sit with him and remind him that wasn't he just one of the Von Trapp children last year in a community production? He's got friends around him who love him, and he's not afraid to share them with us. We love those kids like they're our own. Our family accepts everyone.

Harper's growing into such a little man. It kills me. He is the most sensitive child. If he feels like he's hurt your feelings, it crushes him into tiny little heart shaped pebbles and I have to gather them up and put him back together with the glue only a mother can provide.

The babies. They're babies. But they're kids, too. They're growing up and it's way too fast and it's way too cute and it's way too fun but I know from experience that I need to let them explore and become independent. They need to pick up their toys, and put their clothes in the hamper and against Lola's will, they need to have their hair washed and brushed more than once every couple of days.

These years will be gone before I know it. They're already half over. Soon, grandchildren will fill our home. We are blessed and we can't wait for the future.

Now if I could just get these last 2 to potty train...

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Love You Get Is Equal To The Love You Give

A lot of attention has been called to the way Michael and I parent our children lately. One in particular has questioned our parenting skills but merely for selfish reasons, and while it seems absurd to give the comments merit, it does have a tendency to cause much self reflection.

Michael and I were raised both very differently and very similarly. Both of our homes were 2 parent homes, both filled with opportunity, with encouragement and support. Both of our childhood homes were safe and comfortable, and we were both raised with the understanding that education was of the utmost importance.

I'm not going to discuss the ways in which our homes were different, as they are both important yet not so important to what I'm going to write about today. Today, I'm going to express a few things that have been on my mind lately.

When I was growing up, we were always expected to take care of our own basic needs. Yes, we were fed dinner, and we had a loving parent or two at all times at home. Yes we were supported and taken care of but for the most part, we were taught at a very early age to clean up after ourselves (although I didn't really do as much as my sister Eliza did. I'm a mess to the core, but that's also something I've learned over the years is extremely normal with my personality) to take care of the younger children when our parents were busy, to shower and bathe ourselves and to do basic chores around the house. I always enjoyed cooking, so it was my job very early on (at my own request) to make simple dishes. Spaghetti and the likes were simplest and I reveled in my duties as a family chef. I can recall once making a simple bundt cake pan full of raspberry jello, carefully measuring the hot water, adding the cold and stirring seemed so important. At dinner my dad took his first bite and closed his eyes and said something like "mmmmmm, oh Alli, this is the best!  You're such a good cook!" I can still picture where I sat at our little round table tucked into the breakfast nook in our kitchen. It meant so much to me to hear him compliment me on a skill that was so important to me.

As each of us grew, there were 4 of us, we naturally fell into our habits and hobbies and they did their best to offer us opportunities to better them. We took piano and violin, cello and dance. Sports and whatever else we asked for were offered and when we tired of them, they let us drop them for whatever we felt we wanted to try. Sure I had friends who started soccer at age 3 and kept playing until late into their adult lives, but we wanted to try many things, at least I did, and we were allowed to try them with the basic understanding that we had to at least give it a chance before we decided if we wanted to quit or not.

I dabbled in so many things. I loved writing (still do) and they purchased padded white embellished journals for me to write my stories in. (I still have the one I'm describing, and my kids still to this day laugh til they cry at my angsty 11 year old drama filled entries) When I took an interest in drama, I was allowed to participate at school, often getting parts in them or being offered positions in directing One Act Plays even up into high school. I give much credit to my parents for the fact that I'm one of those people who will see something I want to try, and without fear, I jump head first into it until I've either perfected it or gained enough knowledge out of it as to where I feel like it's a skill I can call my own.

Mike was raised the exact same way. He can tell you stories of playing the clarinet, of taking karate classes, running track and even playing football for years and years all the way through college. He took many classes in photography in college, studied art at an amazing liberal arts college, wrestled and enjoyed the sense of accomplishment one can gain from trying something, doing it and then calling it a part of who they are.

My children are no different. Each one is so unique. Even though all 7 of them look like they're cut from the same cloth (even the ones who don't share a biological father) they are all so absolutely and stunningly different.

When one expresses to us that he doesn't have the "urgency" or "desire" to continue with a certain sport, we ask them if they feel like they've really given it a chance, and if they can honestly say they have, we let them stop playing that sport. As nature directs, they smoothly transition into whatever else they want to try. This is how we were raised, to explore, to "try", to CHOOSE.

Giving your children a choice in their lives, in certain and most capacities, teaches them how to be good husbands, wives, people. You don't walk out of a home where your mother did everything for you and expect to get married and that the marriage will be successful. You walk into that marriage expecting that everything will be done for you, for your children. You walk into life blaming everyone else for the bad things in your life because you've never had to be accountable. You are an adult who criticizes everyone and everything in your life because of a sick sense of entitlement. This creates a dangerous dynamic.

Men and women who have not been taught to be responsible for themselves (and I don't mean paying your own bills, that's just common sense, people) seem to also be the people who are really good at getting people to love them, but not staying in love with them. They grow up thinking that they should be charming, to be the under dog, to be the one who needs support from lies they tell people around them. These people are the most dangerous type of people I have ever encountered. They hurt people and turn around and say "well you deserved it because you weren't doing this and this and this for me" or "you are wrong because, well, I'm always right. My mommy told me so because she never even allowed me to be woken up in the morning for school with an alarm clock".  This is sick and neglectful. This is disgusting to me.

Our children do not need to be coddled. The more they have people coddle them, the more dependent they become on others. Not that depending on your spouse is wrong, depending on someone because you've decided together that each will provide an equal part of a life you've created, this is the exception. Also, there is a difference between coddling and nurturing. Nurturing, this is imperative. Coddling, not so much. I think of it as a form of abuse, if I'm going to be honest here.

Children who are taught like ours are, to wake themselves for school, to do their own laundry (come on people, you're old enough to shoot nazi zombies on tv, you can surely put your whites in the washer, add a scoop of soap and push "start") and to pick up after themselves. I've been judged harshly because I don't do everything for my children. One of my older adult children was told that "It's your mom's job to make sure your house is spotless" and while I agree, it is my job to coordinate things in the home, because Michael and I have together decided on this, the kids are allowed to make that choice. If they don't do it, they get to live in a bedroom that has clothes and books on the floor and that weekend when they ask to go to the movies or to a friends house, I say no. Not because I'm mean, but because I am TEACHING THEM SOMETHING. You make a choice, you're responsible for that choice, you live with the consequence, whether it be good or bad.

My kids are smart people. Most kids are smart people. The most successful people I've known in my life are those people who worked hard on their own to become who they are. Likewise, the least successful people (not money, but in life) are the ones who were taught that everyone in the world is at their disposal. These people are the same ones who made commitments and then broke them. Who came home from missions. Who are divorced multiple times. Who can't seem to understand why people aren't just falling at their feet when push comes to shove.

I'm raising my people to be free with love, to give generously of their time to others. I don't look at the family room that hasn't been mopped in 3 days and think "oh I'd better get on that or I'm a bad mother!" I look at it and say "I asked so-and-so to do that 3 days ago. It's not done. Now that birthday party this weekend isn't going to be attended."

Judge us how you will. But before you do, I ask only one thing. Look at who we are. Look at who these kids are. Could they have become the well mannered, loving, kind and generous people they are without some guidance from loving parents?  If you can still say no, then I argue that you may not have it in your heart to accept anything that doesn't give you recognition in some form.

It isn't about you here, it's about the kids. It's about who has been there day in and day out, who teaches them to be incredible adults. When all of my kids have successful lives and marriages, we will give ourselves a pat on the back but only because we have guided them (not forced them) to become the good people that everyone is born with the capacity to be.

We will continue to teach them how to love. How to clean up after themselves. How to say they're sorry and love freely. We will continue to teach them how to be good people, how to pick up after themselves, how to do their own laundry, how to make themselves food because when they're all adults, they won't be the ones who have been divorced several times who still expect their mother to buy them cars. They'll be the ones taking us to lunch and bringing their kids over to see Grandma and Grandpa Easley because they'll know. They see it now. They'll see it then.  And I love that this is how the universe works. In the end, you get back the love that you give. And that's all that should really matter.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Even When Those Words Are Screamed in Your Face

Today has been crazy, it has been hard. For some reason, Mike woke up this morning and knew he needed work from home and the reason he needed to be here was evident about an hour ago. Today was nuts. Today was crazy. You know what today taught us?  Today taught us that some people just aren't living in reality. Mike and I have been here every single day for these kids we are raising for the last 8 years, and I've been there since their birth. I have an adult daughter who went through some hard times, but she's married, happy, working, in college classes and she has an amazing relationship with all of us in this house. We talk to her EVERY DAY. The next daughter graduated with above a 3.0, and she's in college, has had the same sweet boyfriend for 3+ years and she comes home every night and talks to my husband and I for an hour before bed, all while going to school full time and then she also keeps a job at night. 

Our next son is the most tender hearted kid. He struggles with school, like SO MANY DO, but he always has since Kindergarten. He is a good brother, athletic, smart and honest. We are so proud of him. If a few grades are the only thing he's struggling with, so be it. I see kids every day with piercings everywhere all over their face, doing drugs, running away, abusing people, fighting, drinking, stealing and guess what. Grades?  We can and are working with that. The next son is seriously the most generous, loving kid I could ask for. He's smart, a good friend, talented, musical and such a good brother. He's more mature than half of the adults I know, and he's probably one of the coolest people I've ever met. Plus, he's had good grades all of his life and he always asks for help with schoolwork when he needs it. 

Seriously, my kids are going through some awful stuff. We've been criticized, Mike and I, for not being "parents" here, but here's the kicker, we're being accused of that by someone who's been all but a ghost for the last 7 years. We do our best EVERY DAY. We have kids who love us, who don't do drugs, who come home every night, who can confide in us, who know that we can have discussions about important things and they're not going to be yelled at. Our kids KNOW we love them because we've been there every day. Actions SCREAM louder than words. I'm so glad they're all almost adults, they see, are seeing, have seen...and they're making their own choices. We're behind them 100%, just like we've been every single day. Day in, day out. 

We aren't perfect, but we do our damn best. They see this, and we know they do because they're making hard choices that we told them they need to be the ones to make. We have always believed in teaching our kids how to be functional, independent adults when they leave our home, and that means letting them have choices and then making them be accountable either good or bad. They know this, and we know they do because they are old enough to see that the proof is in the pudding. They know who's been here and who hasn't. And yes, it hurts them to realize this but the world isn't always a pretty place. We've put in the work, and they know it, they've lived it.

We love these kids. It's not fun watching them struggle. They're such good kids. I wish they heard it from everyone in their lives, but they don't. In the mean time, we ARE parents, there IS parenting going on in this house and you can see it in the fact that for the last 8 years, we've done it alone and look. 2 successful adult children, 2 teenage boys who come home, who are awesome, who don't do drugs or drink, who love us and their siblings, and really, isn't that all you could really want in this life?  We love you guys so much, Tiffany Webb, Kenzie, Jonah and Casey. You mean everything to us.  Hang in there, and know that no matter what, we'll ALWAYS love you and be here for you. We will always choose you first.

Love, Mama and Daddy M

Thursday, January 31, 2013

On Honest Communication

There's a lot to learn in life. When you're born you learn to look into your parents eyes and trust them, trust that they'll give you everything you need. When you grow into a toddler, you learn to walk and eventually sweet words start to spill out of your tiny mouth. You meet other children and you learn how to share, how to make friends, how to connect with strangers. School comes and you learn how to work, how to study, how to put everything into something that seems pointless all with the hopes that you'll use this stuff eventually (calculus, how I hate you)...

Teenagers learn how to deal with crushes, how to overcome that heartache when the boy, or girl, you have a fluttering heart for decides you're not worth their time. You learn so many things before you're an adult, but nothing can teach you how to love and be loved like experience, like a marriage.

I've been in a really bad marriage. That's no secret. I've been with someone who I didn't love, stayed "for the kids", worked on something that seemed pointless just because it seemed like it was admitting defeat to do anything else. I cried in bed so many nights, knowing I'd made a huge mistake, but not knowing how to get out. Bravery, courage and a lot of broken hearts came out of it, but the most amazing thing happened when I had a chance to step back and look at what I'd been through. I learned from it all. I learned what I wanted, what was important, what I'd done wrong and what I'd done right and I could have fallen apart on the day I served him with divorce papers but I didn't, you guys. I didn't fall apart. Do you know why?  Because for the first time maybe ever, I was listening to my instinct.

I've always had an incredible knowledge of my instinct, the prodding I feel when I'm making a decision, the tickling in the back of my brain that starts sometimes out of the blue. I learned to trust in myself, in my instinctual gifts as a woman, as a daughter of God.

I got into a relationship with the most beautiful man in the world, and it was bliss. Love like I'd never experienced, friendship and adoration that I had only seen in the movies.

But there was baggage. From both sides.

It's not always easy, being blissfully in love. Sometimes we try not to say things we need to say, we keep little things to ourselves so we don't hurt the other person. These things, they just pile up. They start to rot. My Mr. and I, we are so careful with each other's feelings...sometimes we forget that we might have to hurt each other all for the sake of honest communication.

I've been struggling. I've got baggage like you've never seen. Not even in a Louis Vuitton shop, I could beat the crap out of that place with the amount of luggage I carry around. And he's got his own set, boy does he ever. But it's a good thing they match, our baggage. That's because we make it all match.

Seriously, you hear all those people talk about communication and you may say to yourself  "yeah, I know, we're good!  We talk every day!" But listen, people. Do you really?  Do you share the things that you think might hurt the other person?  Even if you know it might blister their heart for a while, do you tell them anyway?

See, when you keep stuff to yourself, even with the best intentions, it builds up. And it gets ugly. And by the time you're living a life full of this leaky, gross, rotting baggage you're carrying around it just stinks up the place. It festers, and yes, these are descriptive words I'm using but just listen to me for a second. The truth, honesty, these things are so important. Yes, it sucks hurting someone you love more than you love yourself, but by hurting yourself with the things you keep inside you hurt them anyway in the process, you miss an important chance to learn from it.

So here's where it leaves're hurting, you've got things you haven't had the courage to tell your significant other in hopes that you won't have to add to their troubles in their life, and then you're both hurt. Rip that bandaid off, guys. Just tear that sucker off. Spill it before it gets ugly. Cleaning up spilled milk right when the glass tips over onto the carpet is a lot easier than cleaning up and de-funkifying rotten, dried, nasty milk on the rug. It's all going to come out anyway, so why not just let it out when it happens?

Don't worry, my Mr. and I are fine. We're better than ever. We're working through the fact that I've got so much baggage and so does he and by trying to protect each other from our internal struggles we've just created new, bigger external struggles. It trickles out and before you know it, it explodes.

So that's where we're at. We're strong. We've always been strong. We're just coming to a point after 10 years of knowing each other where we can just look at how things are done, and make corrections to try to eliminate any pain the other feels, even if it hurts the other one.

I'm loved. I'm blessed. I'm lucky. I'm Mrs. Easley, now and forever. And I wouldn't trade that for anything. Not a single damn thing.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

That's My Story and I'm Stickin' To It...

Once upon a time, ten years ago, there was a girl of 29. She had just moved from the Seattle area to Las Vegas, Nevada with her 4 small children and her estranged husband. One day, her sister told her to get on an American Idol message board to have a battle of words with "some guy who is super funny, but super random" because the girls on there were not keeping up with his wit. She created a profile, naming herself Castaspella, after the He-man and She-Ra character and she entered the Predictions Message Board, where there were people who were predicting the outcome of the current season of American Idol (season 2) and soon enough she found the ever intelligent yet insanely random josh_glass.

And so it began...

A friendship immediately bloomed, and after a year of correspondence, Castaspella and josh_glass were best friends. Castaspella's life was in turmoil and she was in the midst of a difficult but necessary separation and eventual divorce. Months after the divorce was final, the two were wed. Two and a half years of best friendship and support grew into what it is now. The absolutely most amazing, passionate, creative and complete relationship, one that was written in the stars.

Cool story, eh bro?  So this is the man, josh_glass aka Mike as he looked when I met him. He had dreads and was single and young and shy and outgoing and brilliant and wonderful at the same time, and he was beautiful. Just absolutely the most beautiful person I'd ever seen. Seriously. This photo was taken by our incredible friend, the talented Brooks Ayola.

Gorgeous, huh? Holy smokes, those lips, they make me blush! I used to play with those dreads when I was worried, twist them in my fingers when I was scared of the future, hold onto them in the car while he drove when I felt like my life was coming undone, yet he was silent, loving, supportive, stunning.

Shortly before our wedding, he shaved them off. He'd just been baptized into the LDS church and wanted to start a new life with a new look. He shaved his head to the skin, and this is what he looked like for the next few years.

(Taken from the stage where I was shooting Big Boi from Outkast and C-Bone. Can you believe I found him in the crowd of tens of thousands?!?)

Still beautiful, different, more mature, definitely a father and an incredible husband.

Over the years he's grown it out, shaved it off, but never has he had the dreads again. I don't know if I want him to grow them out again or not. I let him decide. It seems like when he's happiest, he lets his hair grow. Right now, it looks like this:

It's the same way it looked when we had Lola, and Oskar:

He's handsome either way but no matter how he looks, this man, he took care of me and my 4 kids when the father of my first 4 children did not. He stepped up to the plate, not even 30 years old and raised these kids. He's been my absolute rock. He is the best listener. He is everything to us.

Oh Mr. Easley, you make me swoon. I freakin' adore you. Like we always say "It's you and me til the wheels fall off..."