When I was a teenager I wanted 7 children at first, but changed the number to 5 by the time I was 18 years old. My sister was taking care of our 6 month old baby, and we took our other three children to Florida for a family vacation! I don’t remember a lot about the trip, but I do remember being very sick. We decided to go to the water park, and all I remember is heading straight for the bathroom and standing under the cold shower. The other thing I remember is stopping by Walmart on our way home, and getting a pregnancy test, because I was familiar with this particular sick feeling. I took the test in the Walmart bathroom (after I paid for it). It was positive! I was in complete shock! We wanted another baby, we just weren’t expecting her so soon. We had an 8 hour drive ahead of us. We got in the van and the kids knew something was going on. When we told them the news our youngest boy said, “NOT AGAIN!” We laughed, but then the rest of the trip was mostly silence. Part of me was a little scared, but most of me was very excited to have this baby grow up with our 6 month old. I was excited to have this final pregnancy, and finally have the five babies I knew I always wanted.
After Alyssa was born, I couldn’t afford to work at the law office any longer. I can’t remember whether the cost of daycare equalled my pay, or exceeded my pay with four children. Either way, it wasn’t feasible to work there anymore. Part of me wanted to be a professional and work in a challenging environment, but most of me wanted to be at home raising my babies and to be an attentive mother.
“The Devil made me do it,” said little 3rd grader, TJ. I remember his name because my response was, “NO! TJ made him do it!” I took a job as a substitute teacher for the Marion, AR schools. (I could do that while my three oldest babies were in school. By this time Kelsey was in Kindergarten. I only needed a babysitter during the day for Alyssa, since Kaitlyn wasn’t born yet.). Anyway, I’ll never forget little TJ. No matter what I said or did, TJ was up and down, in and out of his chair. He wouldn’t sit or focus on anything. I had a hunch that he was the reason the teacher may have been sick that day (Haha). He was such a distraction in the class, that I sent him to the office. He was sent right back to the class. I tried reasoning with him. I asked him why he was choosing to act that way. He told me that the devil made him do it. He continued his erratic behavior. It was more than I could handle. I sent him back to the office. The office sent him directly back to me. I endured the day, but decided from that day forward, I preferred to teach ONLY high school students! I sometimes think of little TJ and wonder where he’s at today.
Subbing at the high school was an incredible experience! I developed good relationships with those students. We lived just up the street from the school. Sometimes the students would come down and play basketball in our driveway. I thought it was pretty cool going to stores and restaurants around town and being recognized by them. They’d always make me feel good when they’d say, “Hey, Mrs. R!” (They couldn’t pronounce my last name, so I became…Mrs. R!) Some of them became long term friends. My neighbor, Ashley, was one of the teenagers that became more like family. She came over most days, and it was obvious she loved Alyssa so much. Alyssa loved her too. There were times she preferred going to “her Ashley” over her mom. I didn’t mind. I loved and appreciated the bond they had. Ashley and I had a lot of good times together. We cleaned house together blaring our Brittney Spears and Christina Aguilera CD’s! Those were some really good memories. Yeah, high school was a much better fit for me. I loved the job and I loved the students. I also had a few piano students that I taught piano lessons to. I really enjoyed that as well. I loved helping the youth and spending time with them.
We made a lot of new friends while we were in Arkansas. I have to mention JOHNNO. He was such a good friend to have. Kevin liked to hunt on his time off work, so there were several nights I was home alone with the children. I’d call Johnny to come over and play cards and keep me and the kids company while Kevin was away doing what he loved. I am sure some people would love to judge that and make it something it wasn’t, but I was thankful Kevin trusted us, and was thankful for the friendship we had with good ole JOHNNO!
The missionaries came to our house often during these few years. Some of them became like brothers to us. We nicknamed Elder Peters, Elder Petey! How we all loved our Elder Petey! Even the children cried when he had to leave our area. To this day he has a special place in our hearts.
The farmers at this time were struggling. They had a difficult time paying their bills. Kevin was getting less and less work, and some of the work he did get, he wasn’t paid for because the farmers simply couldn’t afford it. We needed a way to make more money. Kevin had been through my dad’s heating and air conditioning training classes because my dad told him (when we first married) that if you have a trade, you’ll always be able to feed your family. He started repairing heating and air-conditioning for friends and neighbors (on the side). A member of our church offered Kevin a management position in South Memphis at a valve company. It was a difficult decision, but we decided to leave the farm, and he began working a J.O.B. It was disappointing, but we were thankful for the paycheck.
Kevin worked at the valve company throughout most of my fifth pregnancy. The work environment there was literally going to kill him. He had several threats, including a gun and knife being pulled on him while at work. He had chest pains from all the stress almost every night. I wasn’t going to stand for it. We knew we had to do something different. My parents told me that their friend was looking for an air conditioning technician in Memphis. We had to make another difficult decision. Kevin took the job and started working full time in the A/C business. Our dream of living on a farm was moving further and further away from us.
On February 20th, Kaitlyn Nichole made her debut and blessed our lives once again with so much joy! Two months later we sold our home, packed the moving truck, and moved back to Memphis, TN, to start our next Gate of New Beginnings!