If you promise not to judge me...I'll admit to something;

I like rap music, a lot.
(always have, always will.)

Okay that's not it -

true, but not it.

OK, here goes...soooo...

Brett has been gone for three months -


Just now (this week) I finally felt emotionally stable enough to clean out his room.
And yes, I can see how pathetic I've been.

Till now I forbade anyone to move his stuff.

As I've been going through Brett's top drawer collection of dried flower boutonnieres, 8th grade basketball pictures, half used packs of gum, letters and notes from teachers, girls and grandparents I realized something.

He never just belonged to me
(I mean "US" . . .  sorry Dean).

The year was 1995.

I was roughly nine PLUS months pregnant with Brett, my first.             
(great pic of me in the foothills above Salt Lake the day before Brett was born)

One day I was sitting at work at my Dad's office, very pregnant with Brett and listening to some talk-radio show.

The topic of the day was about Hillary Clinton's speech "It Takes a Village" which later became a book.
(sorry I couldn't resist) 

The host was slamming Hillary Clinton's notion that it takes a bunch of people to raise up a good, decent human, rather than just good parenting.

I formed my opinion right then and there (in my twenty year old wisdom) that it would be solely Dean and I to raise our children and do it our way and take all the responsibility and all the credit.

Oh we knew so, so, so little.

Flash forward nineteen years.

That little guy that was kicking around in my belly just turned 19 years old Saturday and is now 6' 2" -graduated, on his own, wandering the streets somewhere in Mexico, learning how to become a missionary and meanwhile accidentally becoming a man.

And I truthfully don't know how it happened.
My ideas of taking credit for raising our kids by ourselves is now rather comical.

It not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes a freakin Army!

It takes an ARMY of Friends:

It takes an ARMY of Family:

But mostly, it takes an ARMY of just really good, decent people:

One time Brett came home from the 1st grade and asked; 
"mom, why can't I read yet and everyone else can?"

Well dang! If that didn't shoot a dagger right through my heart.

I guess up until that point I thought reading just naturally happens.

Luckily I was given the name of a reading tutor. Sister Hines, a true living Angel. 
Each Tuesday afternoon through the summer of 2003, in her humble home on the West side of Provo, she helped Brett with his reading. 
She charged us nothing for her service but truly changed Brett's life.

I watched my little first grader who told me he hated reading go from defeat to confidence over just one summer. 
She instilled a love of reading in Brett that I have yet to see duplicated.

Not that he doesn't lack in many other areas...but reading he has loved since that summer.

It was the one activity he was actually content to stay home for.

Whenever I really needed to punish Brett, I would hide his book until his room was clean, 
lawn mowed or homework done etc. 
He would rant and rave and claim child abuse until he got his book back.

Just before Brett left on his mission, he and I went back to the West side of Provo
to say hi to sister Hines. It had been ten years or more. 

Tears flowed down her cheek when she realized the tall, smiling boy standing at her door was the timid little man she had sitting at her kitchen table so long ago.

The number of good people in Brett's life is too many to count and growing daily.  

To confirm my lifetime membership to the "Slacker Mom Club" I failed Brett on his birthday, his first away from home. The wonderful Americanized package that I was supposed to send from home did not get to him in time. 
In fact, he got nothing at all from home on his big 19th. 
The sadness of that reality overwhelmed me. 

Brett wrote home last Monday and told about his birthday in the mission-field, and I braced myself. He and his comp had a whole day of discouragement and failure trying to contact people to teach, they came home near dark sad and dejected - they turned the corner to their apartment area and saw that a sweet little lady living nearby had heard it was his birthday and made pizza and a beautiful strawberry leche just for the birthday boy. 

On that day, my son was mothered and taken care of, when I couldn't be there. 
Brings happiness to my heart that only a mom would know.     

A funny thing happened when Brett left for his mission. All of a sudden I lost memory of the frustrating child that he was. It's a lot like when you put your children to sleep at night.
 Watching sleeping children in their beds all of a sudden makes you forget all the
aggravating things they've done...

 and all that remains are the sweet, angelic, peaceful children before you.

Brett and I grew up together, on a huge learning curve. 

In the fifth grade Brett won an award from the Kiwanis Club. 
A big deal (for me).
The night of the banquet we were running late, Brett argued with me about wearing a tie. I grabbed a tie, insisted he get in the car and drove away. At the parking lot Brett thought he had me tricked when he said slyly; "sorry mom, I don't know how to tie a tie" 
(Either did I.)
I made him get back in the car and I drove a mile or so till I saw a man outside mowing his lawn. I forced Brett to run out and ask the man if he could help with his tie. 
The man agreed but struggled and mimed back to me that he really didn't know how either, the man gave his best try and fiddled around with a knot and then just stuffed the rest in Brett's shirt and sent Brett angrily running back to the car. 

Standing up at the banquet, ready to accept his award in front of his peers, oh boy he was looking sharp! The look on Brett's face was so priceless - such a great parenting moment, that I will forever be grateful for. He was so mad at me, I didn't even try to contain myself. 
I cried tears of laughter when all the moms were asked to come up and take a picture with their sons. I looked like one of those junkie, strung out mothers who embarrasses her son in public until he decides to succeed in life rather than live another moment with her. 
We drove home in silence,
with only the sound of my muffled laughs interrupting the quiet. 

A few years down the road, I was discussing parenting woes with a friend at the ballpark. 
I complained about the power struggle we were having with Brett and his hair. Our rebellious kid was insisting on keeping his hair long, unruly and shaggy with a little bit of a rat tail at the end, and I thought it was the end of the world.
Mostly I just worried about what people at church thought - 
The friend laughed and told me to stop trying to control Brett. 
He advised;
"Give it up, let Brett think he won the war...so many things are more important than hair." 
And it was true. 
Soon after I stopped fighting Brett over it, one day Brett was just...well...over it - 
(and causally asked for a decent haircut)

Because of that advice from a neighbor, that was a turning point for me - 
for how I parented Brett and how I parented my kids in general.

Most things are more important than "hair."

The statements of "well at least he's not not in jail"
for some might be a substandard - 
but for Dean and I somedays it was the only measurement that helped us sleep at night.

Some of my last memories of Brett before he left for these two years were of him sprawled out power napping on the living room floor before another night out with friends - with no care of the next day's responsibilities. As long as there was gas in the car to get to Tate's house, and enough charge on his phone to call Jake and some babes...he was set.

And I worried about him.

One night close to Brett's graduation, I had a serious sit-down talk with him. 
I told him about the concerns Dean and I had about his casual attitude towards his future.

 I mentioned we expected him to make a huge transition from high-schooler to missionary.
I talked about responsibility, adulthood, clean socks etc.

I knew my words had made it through to him when I paused mid-lecture and he looked emotionally impacted as if he wanted to say something: 

I readied myself for his words of; 
"wow mom, you're 100% right, I do need to make changes in my life..."

Instead he looked off distantly, trance-like, somewhere beyond me and said;

 "...you know...
I think I'll plan a water fight in the commons on the last day of school..." 

I sat with my mouth wide open - We had officially lost him. 

So Brett spent the next few days formulating an elaborate plan with his buds for a "Hunger Games" type water fight at the school on the last day.  

He promised me it was "no big deal" and to "just relax mom."
But I read his texts and heard conversations with his homies that said otherwise; 

"yeah, of course bring a firehose...

sure we can fill 1000 water balloons at my house...

pssh...what are they going to do to us dude? not let us graduate?

we should aim at the girls first, they will be defenseless...

we need help getting the garbage cans full of water up on the roof of the school"

The day of the water fight came and in spite of my best efforts and pleas...
Brett was insistent that it was all going down.

 Then he left and "accidentally" turned off his phone
 so he didn't receive my 52 frantic messages.

I called Dean at work that morning very concerned. 
He and I went through every bad senario that could result in an all out ambush water fight on school property four days before graduation. 
(and then we reviewed our home-owners policy) 

I decided right then I needed to call the school's security office - to alert them of the plans in motion. I was put through to talk with "Stone" - head honcho of security.
He listened to my apologetic, hyper concerns and guilt for turning in my own child. 
I begged him to show leniency towards Brett once they caught him 
and apologized for raising such a wayward delinquent. 

After listening to me for a minute or two he said;

"yeah, Brett and the boys came in this morning and talked with us about the water fight...
we'll keep an eye on everything - 
I told those boys as long as I don't get wet, I don't care."  

Apparently Stone and the administration had been planning on some sort of prank and were just relieved it was only a water fight. The school security detail enjoyed watching it all unfold on security cameras. Brett came home that afternoon pretty darn full of himself, as if to say, "see mom - everyone else trusts me"  

I contend you won't find a better administration anywhere than SFHS. 

For Brett at least they embraced him and loved him like their own. 
The last spirit bowl Brett was in charge of was "Gender Wars" boys vs. girls.

If the boys lost (which they did) the student body officers had to endure a punishment.
Brett's punishment was to take a dozen pies in the face from the teachers.
The last pie was delivered to Brett by the school's principal, Mr. McKee. 

This is the "boys" dance during the same Gender Wars spirit bowl. 
Definitely worth a look or two. (Brett is in the chaps and pink booty shorts...yeah you heard me.)
*I think this needs to be watched on a desktop 

And while I'm at it -
here is Brett as Darth Vader during the black out half time show
at the school's basketball game during last season. 

And because you might want one more...this is an awesome school film clip of Brett's that his good friend Lewis produced for him...I mean with him... ya, I mean for him.
*I think this needs to be watched on a desktop too.

I appreciate every tiny little thing that people have done for my son.
Brett made a timely exit to Mexico - I believe "the villagers" that helped him along the way were starting to gather their pitchforks. 

Here is a really good illustration of what it's been like to raise kids:

This is a picture of Brett (pre-wisdom teeth removal)
and represents me, before I had kids...

This is a picture of Brett (post-wisdom teeth removal) 
                  and represents me after 19 years of parenting this kid. 

Yep, exactly how I feel too buddy.

*scroll up - me before kids            *scroll down - me after kids

Am I right? Am I right? Can I get a holla back?

                   (Just one hour in-between these two photos also represents how fast Brett's childhood flew by)

It seems impossible now to not have had a million different people
helping along the way. 



*unties apron, wipes hands and walks away*

Now huddle up team...

The boy is raised.
Yeah he's not perfect,
Yeah most days he barely remembered to drive himself home.
Yeah he has survived on pure luck and pity.
But he's in the Lord's hands now.
We've done our best.

Alright TEAM!
           a huge pat on the back,
                                sparkling cider,
                                                                               a little woot, woot!
                                                                                                  and high fives all around!

Oh and one more thing,

The good news:

                                   (only seven more to go!)



Around the first of the year Brett announced one Sunday night that he had decided to start his mission papers and wanted to leave soon after he graduated. 

We all took it really well. 

Brett's mission call arrived mid-April, giving us three months to say goodbye. 
Seemed very reasonable.

but uh *pssst, spoiler alert - 
...it wouldn't be nearly enough. 

We decided to take one last family vacation  - a chance to say goodbye.
One last hoorah...

with all the seven wild animals together.

A time to relax, and enjoy -
and not think at all about the upcoming changes.

We seized all the fun and semi-precious moments
that an amusement park crowded together with strangers has to offer. 

We went on every ride, literally - no matter the wait. 

We made sure to grab all the photo ops - every single one.
*grabbing might be the optimal word here.

(Disneyland 2014)
(same spot Disneyland 2009)

And we completely wore ourselves out -

 We stayed till the park closed almost every night.

And when the kids begged to just please, please go back to the hotel to swim, 
We reminded them that this was the last time we would be with Brett for two years.  
And so we all pressed on.
Everything Brett did was cute, or at least tolerable, because it was his "last".

It was a practically perfect vacation, 

even with all those pesky reminders that within weeks everything would be changing. 

And when the vacation was all over...
(not a surprise...) - it wasn't enough.

Brett spent the few shorts weeks he had left saying goodbye to cousins -

and other special people in his life.
His traditional sunday farewell talk in church was one for the books. 
And the farewell luncheon with family and friends and food that seemed to multiply.

Brett was able to go swimming (his favorite hobby) a half dozen times or more. 

He basically lived like a King for two weeks.

He said a special goodbye to Dougie (Linc) aka "the People's Homie"
The guy that would be leaving for a mish the same time. 

Brett successfully crammed more happiness and fun into one week than thought humanly possible.

Oh yeah and he even gave up a few of his precious afternoons to me for shopping and appointments and errands and shots and paperwork. 
You know, the unimportant stuff.  

His last Saturday night as a free man, he wanted to go Disco Skating with the crew (another favorite hobby.) 
That night he stood at the foot of the bed after it was all over and said;
"yeah, if only I could that one more time!"

The Sunday before he left, Brett requested his favorite cream cheese enchiladas.
*sadly, I made my rushed, not-so-great version this time. Brett still asked for seconds /thirds.

After dinner we all hiked up to Brett's favorite little spot in the mountains.

The waterfall in Dairy-Fork.

The late-summer waterfall is now just a trickle -
 Brett promised that just a few weeks ago, the water rushed off the rocks. 

Another indication that summer is slipping away.

We sat down on a few blankets, with muddy, mossy feet for a "family talk."

The kids told personal "Brett stories" and talked of sweet, tender feelings. 
Brett testified about missionary work and family. 

It was the most perfect, most memorable Sunday -
but even as the kids ran back to the car to race the setting sun,

Yep, you're right - it still wasn't enough -

Brett made sure to save one final night to say goodbye to his friends. 
Not at any point have I ever been jealous of Brett's love affair with his friends.
I probably should've been jealous, but how could I?
They are some of the finest human beings I know.  

It was awesome to have a whole night dedicated to just saying goodbye to friends,
but actually....

It still wasn't enough.

The next day was "the day before." - 
Brett was his same 'ol loving, gentle self.

With family there to witness, and a beautiful blessing
 - Brett was set-apart as an official missionary.
Afterwards, we dashed out to a photo shoot - Family pictures that couldn't have been more last minute.

Although thanks to Leslie, she fulfilled all my silly requests and captured a few wonderful moments.
The whole thing felt very dream-like.

A few friends met us back at our house to see the newly minted Elder Roberts. 

Brett stayed up late writing notes and reading final well wishes.
Finally at about 2:00 a.m I had to tell him enough was enough. Time for bed. 
The last night of childhood sleep in his childhood home.

The next morning, we attempted to neatly pack up 
two years worth of stuff. 

With time running out it was eventually all thrown in, zipped up and weighed.

Brett took a couple of minutes by himself in the house and then as we waited in the car,
he said goodbye to the only dog he has ever owned.  

We stopped by for a cheerful, yet tender goodbye to Brett's grandparents on the way -

And as planned (even though we were running late) we stopped at a shady spot near the MTC (missionary training center) to say a private goodbye. 
The kids gave Brett little mementoes and cards.

Brett explained to Canyon that he would be gone for two Christmases and two birthdays.

Canyon said "...alright but then you come home tonight, okay?"

Wade gave Brett his favorite gold and red spinner for good luck.
The same spinner that they had found once while fishing together.

Kal gave Brett a participation badge from scout camp that he bought with his own money.
Kal will be double digits when Brett returns home.

Brett examined Quincy's picture and asked, "why am I wearing orange underwear?"
Which made Quincy giggle, as only Brett can.

I don't think she understood until that very moment that her best buddy Brett was really leaving.

River gave Brett a prayer rock that she had painted and a little letter apologizing for her messy writing.

Brett told River to always stay his little sweetheart.
She will be on her way to Junior High when he returns.

Lauren said she'd had her own gift for Brett. She gave Brett her favorite picture of the two of them. They were both dressed up like cowboys, she was just four and he was six.

These two have had a silent, tight, unexplained bond since the day Lauren was born. 

It all came down to that moment of goodbye.

Dean was doing well at first, starting out giving Brett some fatherly advice...

But he kinda fell apart and just said; "I love you son, you make me proud"

My thoughts about saying goodbye to my Brett in that moment are still too heartbreaking and raw to really talk about.

I remember feeling panicked, wondering;

                              "how can I hug him enough to make the memory last for two years?"

Just before I let go, he said how excited for the for the new baby he was and couldn't wait to hear all about him/her. He told me to not worry and everything would work out. 
A son worrying about his mama, bless his heart.

And then -
 it was time to face the inevitable.

A curbside drop off- 

Only time enough for one quick goodbye.

And I'm not going to sugar-coat it,

it was rough-

really rough!

My heart felt like it was ripping away and breaking into pieces.
We all tried to be brave for Brett. 

Brett was all smiles though, 

He knew it was time to go.
He started to casually walk away.

Without even asking my permission to leave - darn it.

He gave us one tiny little glance back...

And from that point on...he never looked back. 

I kept saying to myself,

                         "come on Bretters,

                                           look back...

                                                     look back...

                                                             just one more time."

~ he never did.

But we all know,

even after eighteen years,

and a thousand ways we said goodbye -

"one more time"

just wouldn't be enough.


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