Monday, January 2, 2017

Aww, Rats!

Well, well well,..back from our latest camping adventure. I am beyond exhausted and so happy to be in my own bed, diffusing my eucalyptus oil and watching Judge Judy. Ha. Some things never change. Well, the oil diffusing is a new thing. Probably one that will stick around though. The hubby is even enjoying it. I may have to get him a diffuser for his side of the bed. But I digress.

It's been a couple of months since we've been camping and I was so looking forward to this trip. Both of our birthdays (hubs and mine) fall at the end of the year and it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate. I picked Palo Duro Canyon for the festivities. I went once when I was about 10 or so and have been wanting to go back ever since. Hubby had never been so it was a perfect fit.

Normally we would take the tent, but given the fact that the temps were supposed to be in the teens at night, we opted to do a limited use cabin instead. The cabins are located at different areas of the canyon and provide a terrific view. The one we reserved had A/C and heat, a double bunk bed, refrigerator, microwave and table/chair. Perfect! The trailer Justin is building isn't entirely completed yet so this would be a great way to avoid lugging the mini fridge and other camping equipment with us.

As excited as I was, I know by now that life happens even on vacation. Here's a list of the many life moments that happened over the course of the trip.

  1. We left an hour and half late. Totally the norm for us, but still annoying. 
  2. Audrey, who did NOT need to go potty when asked 50x, suddenly needed to when no restrooms were to be found. The side of the road attempt was interesting to say the least. Pull-ups to the rescue. 
  3. We ran out of gas on the way. A first for the hubby and his ego is still slightly bruised over it. I don't know why, but I guess it's a guy thing. 
  4. We stopped for a restroom break and whilst helping Audrey, I stood up quickly and hit the ever-lovin' out of my head on the metal part of the lock that sticks out from the door. Holy. I seriously thought it was going to bleed. 
  5. We stopped for another restroom break (at a rest stop) and due to the trailer size we parked in the back and Justin went in to use the bathroom. Well......apparently the water wasn't working and in fact, at the FRONT of the building was a sign that said "restroom closed" along with several porta-potties that were supposed to be used.  I feel so sorry for whomever discovered that the toilet had, in fact, been used. His declaration of, "Those were REALLY nice bathrooms! So clean!" makes this even better. 
  6. Unbeknownst to us, the entire park is currently under a burn ban. This means no fires of any kind. So those hours that the hubs spent chopping up firewood? Pointless. Plus the added weight of it to the trailer....fab. And just not having a fire in general meant we would really need the use of the heater in the cabin as we wouldn't be able to sit around and enjoy the campfire in the evenings (which, I might add, is Audrey's "thing.")
  7. ****This is the big one***** Upon arriving at the cabin, hubs opened the door and promptly said..."Hmmm, well,.....I don't know that I should tell you this." Me: "What????" Him: "There was a rat on the wall." Me: "WHAT!" Him: "Yes, we scared him. He ran up into the roof." Me:....honestly I don't remember as the terror hit about this time. Yes, the cabin was rat infested. The way the roofs are built, there is an added wood drop down from the original brick structure. I don't know if it was done to insulate or for aesthetics or what, but it's a large enough crawl space for rats to get inside. I will continue with the rat story after the list is completed.  
  8. The "heater" for the cabin was quite possibly the smallest space heater ever. And given the fact that fires were not allowed (there was a fireplace inside the cabin) it was FREEZING! I think I slept in 5 layers. 
  9. I dropped a chair directly on my toe. The type of drop where your toenail bleeds from underneath. Joy.
  10. The morning after the rat stay (yep, we stayed there - again, will continue after the list) all I wanted was coffee. Wouldn't you know, the Keurig we brought (the same one we did a test run on at home) would not work. Not in the slightest. 
  11. The morning after the rat stay, we were told by the park attendants that in fact fires WERE allowed in the cabins. Too little too late. 
  12. During the course of the trip Audrey acquired a "baby seal" (it's a raccoon) that she fell in love with....then she lost. Absolute meltdown and wailing and crying and gnashing of teeth (not really, but the first two, yes). She was so entirely distraught at the thought of the poor thing being alone in the world even though I reassured her many times that whomever found it would give it a good home. Luckily, we were close to place we originally got it and we went back, purchased another, snuck it in mommy's purse and she is none the wiser. Nice save, dad.
  13. In a world where a Starbucks is on every corner, I do believe we spent half of the trip looking for one to no avail. We finally found one....on the way 5pm. My frappaccino was amazing. 
Ah, life. I freaking love it. And that is said with zero sarcasm. I wouldn't trade those moments for anything..well, maybe the rat one and the toe one; that hurt!! 

RATS!! By the time we got to the cabin it was way too late to go anywhere else so we really had no option but to stay for the night. At first, I convinced myself that it wasn't a big deal. We set up camp (beds, food, etc.), ate dinner and listened to Johnny Cash as usual. Then we got ready for bed and oh my. You could hear them wrestling, and walking and squeaking. It was utterly terrifying. We've had coyotes walk through our campsite during the night and that was less terrifying than this. No joke. Audrey was clueless and slept like a champ, but not me and hubs. He would wake up every few hours and chase the ones that were on the walls back up (yes, on the walls!!) and I lay shaking under a comforter all night. When morning finally came, hubs and I looked at each other with a look that said it all...we are OUTTA HERE!! Luckily, the park attendants were amazing and fully refunded our money. We were able to locate a cabin at the local KOA and things got MUCH better after that. 

All in all, it was an amazing trip. We are tired and happy to be home with our Woof Woof, but fear not, we will be back out there and at it again soon! This time in a rat-free tent!!! 

Lots of love, 
Mrs. Branam 

P.S. Enjoy the pics! Xoxo

The "Rat Cabin"

The line up. 

She's such a doll baby

Our destination. 
Hiking up to the cave.

We made it!!

Unicorn made the trip with us. 

She was an amazing little traveler.
The views are so amazing.

Photo cred on these to the hubs.

My heart. 
Dinner for mommy's birthday.

Breakfast for daddy's birthday. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

You're Hurting Mommy's Feelings.

I've heard it said many times. It's usually an attempt to get a child to do something or to stop doing something. "You're hurting mommy's feelings! You're going to make mommy cry!" Or the always effective fake crying done by parents, grandparents, friends - also usually used to manipulate a child in some way. It seems innocent enough at the time, but let me assure you, it's not.

What is actually happening is that the child is learning to associate his or her behavior with that of others. If I do this, mommy cries. I don't like it when mommy cries so I should stop. If I don't do this, daddy will get upset and I don't want daddy to get upset. It's a cop out to parenting and teaches the child that they are somehow responsible for the emotions of the adults around them. They often begin to feel the need to "protect" their parents and those they love. This is not only incredibly sad for the child but is also bass ackwards.

In no way shape or form are children responsible for their parents emotions and well-being. Parents are just that; parents. They are grown ass adults who are responsible for their own well beings and emotions. Tasking such a job to a child is beyond wrong in the natural order. It's actually parents who are tasked with guarding and protecting their children's emotions and overall sense of being.

Unfortunately, all too often this pattern will follow a parent/child relationship into adulthood. Teens and young adults often make life choices (college, career, where they live, who they marry, who they don't marry) based solely on what they think/know will make their parents happy and not what will make THEM happy. If the child (now grown) attempts to do something or actually does do something that is for themselves, if the parent does not agree with said choice, it looks something like this "I can't believe you're doing this to me! How could you??! You have no idea how much you're hurting me!!" Other manifestations might include not speaking to the child, telling the child (and possibly siblings) how disappointed they are in the child who is going their own way, etc.

Parent, I iterate again. You are GROWN ASS ADULTS. YOU and only YOU are responsible for your feelings. And contrary to popular belief, it's entirely possible for you to be happy in your own right. For you to recognize that your children are not you, they aren't really even a part of you. In fact, they are totally and entirely themselves. You may feel like they should be one way or the other based on how you were, how you raised them, etc. But at the end of the day, your children are individuals. They are wonderful, amazing, unique individuals who deserve the chance to live a life free of parental emotional blackmail and parental emotional debt (another day another post).

News Flash!!!! Your children will most likely make many choices you don't agree with and that's 100% okay and 100% healthy.  What is not 100% okay or healthy is for you to hold them responsible for how YOU feel about what THEY do. You handle that mess. You go vent to a friend or a husband or a therapist or a glass of wine. But do NOT put that on your child. They are doing something FOR them, not something TO you. And as previously stated, they deserve to be able to learn and grow and fall down and get up and have triumphs and failures and believe and live totally different from you without the constant nagging of your personal emotional struggle in their faces.

No matter what my daughters choose for themselves, I will always be there for them. The few times that my oldest daughter has witnessed me crying, she has been given a full run-down of  "This is my issue, not yours and it's not you. This is me. It's a struggle I'm dealing with and I will figure it out." There is nothing wrong with expressing the fact that you're struggling with your children. But there is something wrong with making them feel responsible for it.

Heaven forbid if the words "You're hurting mommy's feelings" every come out of my mouth, I pray my 2 year old will answer me with one of her current favorite phrases: "Get it together, mom!"

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Father; The Abuser

This post has been a long time coming. I've tried to start it several times in my mind, but I've never been able to actually put fingers to keyboard until now. It's time. It's time to tell my story. 

My father is an abuser. Emotional, verbal and physical. I have only personally experienced the emotional and verbal, but I know first hand of the physical. Since the physical abuse was not inflicted directly upon me, I will not speak of that topic. But I will speak of the emotional and verbal abuse that I experienced throughout my entire childhood and teen years at the hands of my father. 

You may ask, why now? Why is it time to bring this to light? The answer is a simple one. I have finally found the courage to speak up. I have finally found the strength to speak out. It no longer will be a hush-hush thing that I shove under a rug for fear that it will "look bad" on me or my family. Abusers want that. They want their victims to remain silent, ridden with fear, guilt and shame. And truthfully, I'm shaking right now as I write this because the fear of backlash still rings in my head and pulses through my being when I think about speaking up. Luckily, I am surrounded by the most amazing support system and I know that I am fully protected from any harm that should attempt to come my way. 

Here it is.....

The first time I remember my father yelling at me, I was 3 years old. He and my mom were steam cleaning the carpet in our home and I was perched at the top of the staircase watching them clean below. The cleaning vac was sitting in our tile entryway and had somehow managed to leak onto the floor. As I'm watching, my mother walked by and slipped on the tile and fell very hard onto her back and arm. She screamed out in pain and I screamed out in terror. After first yelling at my mom for falling, my father yelled at me, up the stairs "SHUT UP, LESLIE!!!" The feeling of watching my mother be hurt mixed with having my father invalidate my fear is one that I will never forget.  Sadly, it was only one of countless times that I would feel this way. 

My father yells. He yells loud and he yells often. I know these days yelling is very common, but that doesn't make it okay nor does it make it non-damaging. It is due to the damage that it caused me, that I refuse to yell when I'm arguing with someone. I also refuse to yell at my child. The few times I've slipped in an argument with someone, I've felt horrible afterwards, like somehow I was turning into him. And I certainly don't want to do that. 

I remember being around 8 years old and hearing my mother and father fight in the other room. My father would always yell, and my mother would always answer him calmly. As it does with most abusers, this only enraged him, causing him to yell even louder. One particular fight left me bent over a chair in our guest room, clinging to my worn out Bible, praying to God to please make him stop.  I remember around that same age telling my cousin that I wished her father was my father. Watching their relationship and how they were with each other caused me great jealousy. And then, of course, because I was a "good church kid," I felt guilt for my jealousy.  

My father is also a controller. He controls by fear and manipulation (emotional abuse) and he does it well. Behind everything there was a threat; of what I wasn't quite sure, but I sure didn't want to find out. While I do believe in tough love and in having your children fear the consequences of their actions, I don't believe in having them fear YOU; the parent.  

Around the same age (7-9) if we were out in public and I said something my father thought was out of line or something that didn't coincide with what he thought I should say, he would grab the back of neck and squeeze as hard as he possibly could. He would do it subtly so no one else would see. I cringe just thinking about it now. I truly feared my father. 

For years I had reoccurring nightmares in which he would finally lose his cool one day and attack me. The days he was home (he worked a LOT when I was a kid), I would hide myself away in my room hoping that I didn't have to interact with him. 

The years went by and the emotional abuse became more predominant. As I got older, I got a little bit more courage to tell my father how he made me feel. Wrong idea. As is common among abusers, my father would silence my feeling by telling me, "You shouldn't feel that way." "That's stupid."  

Through the years my self-esteem went from low to lower. No one around knew what was happening and I was too scared to speak up. To the outside world my father was a stand-up guy; lots of friends, working two jobs to support his family, church going, tithe paying man. There was no way he could be an abuser. Must be some mistake. 

At the age of 16 my parents divorced and I moved from my hometown to live with my mother near her family. However, I decided to return to my hometown for my first year of college. My father had just remarried and I had acquired a step-mother and step-sister. It should go without saying that the living situation did not turn out well. My father had not changed in the two years since I'd lived with him and the abuse started again. I remember one particular conversation in which I said, "You're going to do this again. You've done this to me and you're going to do it to her!" (referring to my little sister).  His response was, "No I won't because no one is like you except you and your mother!"  It was my fault. The years of abuse, they were my fault. I guess because I'm like my mother? The next week I packed my bags, dropped my classes and moved home. Roughly a year later I would plop into the couch of a therapist and when asked why I was there reply, "I will never be able to have a healthy relationship with a man, until I deal with my dad." 

It's been 9 years since I first sat down in that therapist office and I'm still not okay. This is not something that goes away. It's not something prayer heals. It's not something space heals. It's not something time heals. It's something you learn to cope with. I will never "be okay."  I will never not cringe when I hear a man yell loudly. I will never not have nightmares about being physically attacked. I will never get back those years of innocence that I lost. 

But what I WILL do, is speak up. I will not be silenced. I will stand up and speak up for those who have been through what I've been through and for those who are in it now. I will do everything within my power to make sure that they know there is hope and there is help.  

If you are being abused in any way shape or form, tell someone. I know that it seems impossible to find the strength inside of you, but it's there. I promise you. You do not have to put up with it a day longer. You do not deserve it. You are not worthless. You are an amazing person who has a full life ahead of you, I don't care what anyone else has told you. They lied. You are worth taking the step and walking away. 

The National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Texas Abuse Hotline: 1-800-252-5400

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

10 Months Old!

In just three days my chunka will be 10 months old! I say it every time, but I cannot believe it. This past month/age has been one of my favorites for sure. She is into so much and learning new things almost daily. Here's a quick overview of the exciting things that have been going on.

Chunka LOVES to read. 
This is her favorite book entitled "Baby's Best Friend." She has been known to let you read to her for a solid hour. 

Chunka loves to play with her blocks/name puzzle.
She can't quite figure out how to place the letters yet, but she knows what she's supposed to be doing. 

Chunka loves her ball pit. 
A gift from a friend; this has quickly become one of her favorite attractions. She dives in and crawls out with ease and speed! 

Chunka can almost walk! 
She flies around with the help of this walker, but it won't be long until she's walking tall on her own. 

Chunka can say "night night."

Chunka can say "duck."

Speaking of "duck," Chunka LOVES her duck.
He is her best buddy and is always close by her side. 

My angel baby is the light of my life!!!!!!!!! I never knew I could love on this level. And it gets deeper and deeper with every day that passes. I love you, Audrey Emeline!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Howdy folks!!

It's rodeo season here and as usual, my country side is out in full force!  I've had it planned for awhile now to take chunka to the rodeo. I bought her an outfit back in November and her uncle bought her some adorable boots for Christmas.My sister was in town for the week and she had never been to the rodeo so we decided to make an afternoon of it.

So, Saturday after she arrived we loaded up the car and headed out. I was worried that Audrey might be fussy because she didn't get in a good nap beforehand and that usually sets the tone of the day. However, to my surprise and delight, she was absolutely PERFECT!  She fully enjoyed herself.  My sister snapped some pics of us (I am in love with them), and I got some play-by-plays of little miss. personality.

In our rodeo outfit. 

She's so sweet!!!

Boots are yummy. 

So is hay......

A bottle to start off with. 

Then some french fries.

And some cotton candy. 

Then mommy bought her a toy. 

She was quite intrigued. 

All in all, FABULOUS first experience out at the rodeo with baby. I'm looking forward to our next adventure! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Yep. I'm THAT Mom.

Since becoming a mother 8 months ago, I've been monitoring my "mothering" ways to see just what type of mother I am. Before having a child, I always thought I knew what kind of parent I would be; how I would view certain things (i.e. exposure to germs, safety, keeping a clean house, etc.). But once Audrey was born, everything changed. Well, not everything, but a LOT of things. Things I thought I would never be okay with, I'm totally fine. And things I thought wouldn't bother me do bother me.

So, what kind of mom am I? I'm THAT mom.

I'm THAT mom who recycles rice puffs that fall on the floor and in between the cracks of the car seat because she can't justify getting out new ones when those are perfectly fine.

I'm THAT mom who allows rice puffs to remain on her floor and allows her child to eat them off of the floor as she crawls along.

I'm THAT mom who doesn't require that every single toy be sanitized regularly. I'll hand her something today that she slobbered all over yesterday.

I'm THAT mom who doesn't bathe her child daily. I bathe her as needed; meaning I don't leave her stinking to the high heavens or dirty.

I'm THAT mom whose house looks like a tornado hit it. Toys are everywhere, clothes are everywhere, shoes are everywhere. Navigating it is a skill and I am well trained in it.

I'm THAT mom because I choose to spend my evenings and free time with my daughter, first and foremost, and then with myself. Rather than kill myself from exhaustion trying to make sure my house is spic and span, I take a hot bath after the baby is in bed and then catch a few shows on Hulu.

I'm THAT mom who, 9 times out of 10, puts her child to bed with a bottle. I don't rock her to sleep or hold her until she falls asleep

I'm THAT mom because I know good and well that the next morning, no matter how late I'm running or how hurried I may be, I will put my baby in my bed and lay with her while she drinks her morning bottle. I would rather have that time with her than the night before when I know she's just tired.

I'm THAT mom who wears her house slippers out of the house with her heels thrown in the diaper bag because she doesn't want to fall down the stairs carrying the baby.

I'm THAT mom who puts her makeup on in the car or at work so that she has more time at home with her baby.

I'm THAT mom who loves her baby beyond her wildest dreams and knows that even though her house and car may be a total wreck, and even though her parenting style may not match up to what experts say, or even to what the general public says/thinks, she is doing what is right for her and her family. And she will continue to do so no matter what anyone thinks and may tell you to mind your own business if you stick your nose in hers.

Yeah.....I'm THAT mom.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

8 Months Old

My chunky monkey turned 8 months old yesterday. What a difference a month can make! She is crawling EVERYWHERE and standing up on EVERYTHING! Mommy can hardly keep up! Here are some snapshots and footage of the past month. Enjoy!

Audrey is really starting to enjoy "real" food now. This is hummus. Clearly a favorite. 

Audrey had her first Valentines Day date; John Carter. Apparently roses are yummy. 

She was not a happy valentine that morning, however. But certainly a cute one!

I love this new "smile" she has going on. She has 6 teeth now; 4 on top and 2 on bottom. 

Here she is! Crawling like crazy!