The House That Built Me

I’ve taken the last week off to focus on my family since Nick is still home. As I sat down tonight to blog, YouTube was already popped up so I clicked on a music video, 3 hours later I finally clicked on my blog to start writing. Does that happen to anyone else or just me? I was deep in YouTube land listening to Pinks funniest moments(I highly recommend, she’s hilarious and I love her) to Carrie Underwood videos and somehow ended up on how to make slime with household items(keep in mind my turdlers are all sleeping so I’m a 28 year old woman looking up SLIME). As I debated what to blog, Nick said why not blog about what matters most to me. I sat puzzled because I’ve already mentioned my daughters but I started thinking deeper, my family is most important to me. The good, the bad, the ugly, my family is what has been the base of who I am. I don’t mean extended family but my immediate family that were my every day life for 18+ years.

The last time we saw his chin. Hello 80’s

Let me take you back to the early days back where it all began. My parents, Tim and Sunda, met mid 1980’s in Colorado. My dads cousin was dating my moms then best friend and they had had a baby. My mom walked up to the truck where the baby was and told my dad to move she wanted to hold that baby. No wonder where I get my sass, I mean charm from. Fast forward a few years and my mom picked her life up, including very young daughter and moved to Illinois to be with my dad(I’m questioning you BOTH on why we just HAD to live in Illinois where it’s bipolar weather, that’s another story). My dad had three young children of his own and the situation wasn’t good, my mom stepped up to help raise a small village while my dad worked over the road. My mom loved my dad so much that she gave up everything she had in Colorado, left her family and friends, to live 13 hours away and to take care of their children. It’s a little fact that not many know, the sacrifice that happened then. I have two older brothers and two older sisters, they are all within 3 years of each other(Mark was born July of 84, Kindra was May of 85, Joey was Nov of 85 and Jessica was Nov of 86). A few years after my mom moved here, in mid March, in a Cottage Hospital bathroom around 8pm, my parents had a little too much fun and created yours truly. I’ve always said they saved the best for last, right? I have three kids that are a year and a half apart and I know what chaos I face, I can only imagine how it was with having 4 so close in age then a newborn. Luckily they didn’t feed me to the cats(Joey tried, he let a stray cat in that attacked me, named Raja, I have the scars to prove it). Growing up I always thought it was normal to have such a big family, we might be what’s considered a blended family but we were raised as siblings. To us, there is no “step” or “half” we are simply family. So I’d like to introduce you to my family.

I was in second grade when I learned my sister Kindra had a different last name than me. I cried because I thought my teacher was wrong and that that meant Kindra wasn’t my sister. My siblings were together all but every other weekend sometimes when Mark, Joey and Jessica would go to their moms, so I didn’t understand what it meant when my teacher broke the news to me that they were “step siblings”. *Note to everyone, don’t drop that on anyone when it’s not your place, it really messed with me emotionally for a while*. We aren’t half or step, we are brothers and sisters.

Mark Edward(I went there) is my oldest sibling, he’s more known by his nickname “Sparky”. To be honest I’m not sure why his nickname is Sparky but I’m sure it had something to do with jumping over a bonfire or starting one. He had the immediate protection response when it came to me as a child. Joey tried to push infant Candyce out of a second story window and Mark came to my rescue. Over the years his love for me got smaller because he became the “babysitter”, not only the oldest but probably the most responsible at the time. I also used to cramp his style, I’d be the biggest pain to him and hide his things. I recall one time he held me down and was letting spit stretch out of his mouth towards my face until I told him where I hid his stuff. I wasn’t the nicest little sister but that is what I did to get his attention. He was that cool big brother that would punch whoever in the face if they messed with me without a second thought. He protected and still protects what he loves.

He was fearless and I wanted to be fearless too. As I got older, so did he. By the time I was in middle school he was graduating high school. He would sneak in and out of the house by using a ladder into my room, to go see his now wife Amanda who happened to be our neighbor. After he graduated he moved in with Amanda and they together have two sons Dylan and Brandon. His streak of doing mean things to me continued even into adult years. I was in high school when he dragged me down the stairs by my hair once, part of a $20 bet. I watched him become a dad at a young age and was raised with my “nephews”, now that they are grown they are just like their dad. He has been with Amanda for longer than I can remember and since she was our neighbor, she was apart of the family. Now that I’ve grown up, our relationship has improved by a lot and he an amazing uncle to my daughters. I know the day is coming that he will tell my kids how I was as a child and he gets to watch them act just like I did(my own karma). I know my girls will never have anything to worry about as long as uncle Sparky is around.

Kindra Kaylee is my oldest sister. She was the sibling that liked me most for a little while. She loved me while I was little(photo evidence above) but as I got older she was the sister who liked to staple my clothing with me in them to the front porch, telephone pole. One time she and Jessica used a jump rope to tie me to the porch to keep me away from them. The neighbor drove by and waved as I stood there defenseless. I was always her shadow because she was so cool, I wanted to be like my sister. She used to play football with the boys, she would rough house with them even after they broke her arm. One time when they(all my siblings) were babysitting me because my mom worked at the bar uptown, they locked me in a closet. They didn’t want to deal with their needy little sister so they literally locked me away like you see on the crime tv shows. It wasn’t the first time and I was able to get out because I had done it before, I walked right past them all as they watched tv and out the front door I went. I walked uptown by myself at maybe 4 or 5. I walked into the bar where my mom was and I will never forget the look on her face when she saw me walk in by myself. She called home and asked my siblings how I was and they said I was good, when she asked to speak with me they said I was taking a nap(didn’t bother to check on me). She called back a while later and asked to talk to me, they said I was still sleeping(which wouldn’t be surprising because I LOVE sleep) but mom told them to go wake me up. They got back on the phone hysterical because I was missing. She broke the news to them that I had been up town by myself for a few hours. I don’t remember the outcome of that but I do remember I got a cheeseburger, fries and that was another reason my siblings hated me.

As we slowly got older I loved hanging out with Kindra and her best friend Stacey. Stacey had a younger brother Doug that was my age so I had a friend to play with while they jammed out to their music. We spent many summers together and watching the two girls I thought that’s what I wanted to be like growing up. They taught me life lessons when they were unaware. I saw breakups and heartbreak. I saw Kindra recover from a major car accident that forever left her with a messed up back. She had to have steroid shots one year, it was just before she went to prom with a friend. My parents had her dress made and they didn’t take into account that she would swell up. A half hour before Grand March(it’s like a parade for the couples going to prom to show off their outfits to everyone) my mom slit the sides to let Kindra have a little more room, she didn’t realize it cut the complete sides out. It’s one of those memories that I remember a lot of cuss words begin said. She continued to be the badass sister that I wanted to be like. She did the mechanic classes in high school because she liked cars. She could hold her own with the boys when it came to shooting guns, riding atvs or fishing. She introduced me to music like Merle, Hank, Salt n Pepa, and Sublime. The older we’ve gotten the more we can relate to each other and have gotten closer. I hadn’t experienced death or the loss of a loved one, but I watched her go through it. I was in 8th grade when her best friend died as a result of a car wreck. It was just before her 21st birthday and it was the day of a Marti Gras parade in Abingdon. I watched the strongest girl I knew, at her weakest moment. I didn’t realize the impact of what was happening, but I saw her collapse behind our vehicle in tears because she lost her best friend. I saw how she picked herself back up and continued on as her friend would have wanted. She showed me her strength was still there. With death also comes life and She allowed me to see life begin for the first time. I watched my sister become a mother and see how quickly she matured. Only a few years prior she drank a lot, she would come home drunk and jump on my bed to wake me up because she wanted to talk even if I had school the next day. Many times I told her how annoying she was and how I couldn’t stand her drunk, but when you’re in your early 20’s that is what you do I guess. She had no cares but then she had Sylar. She grew up quickly and to see the change was amazing. She no longer drank, she worked and provided for her son. He was her world and she found her reason. She grew up to love me after all, she was there when I had Gracelyn, when I got married, just after I had the twins, for the big moments of my life. We fight often and I like to think it’s because we are alike, but we forgive quickly. I’ve learned the most from her.

Joseph Henry, my little big brother, my personal comedian. Joey was not a Candyce fan from Day 1. Prior in this blog I’ve pointed out two times he tried to get rid of me, first a cat and also a 2nd story window plunge, but those aren’t the only times he tried to get rid of me. I was “dropped” into a wood burner also and he used to shut my breathing machine off when I was little. He didn’t want me for some reason but now we are close. When I was in elementary school, a kid slammed my head into the window so what did my big brother do? He got into a fight after school at our house with the kid and blooded his lip and nose, because only my siblings could be mean to me. If you know Joey, you know he is a unique person. Give him any electronic and he will fix it even if it hasn’t worked in years. He has a niche for motors, cars, anything mechanical. He has been my personal mechanic since I got my first car. He has made sure I didn’t blow it up when any kind of light comes on. Joey is also a lover, he has a big heart but his heart on his sleeve. Joey lived at home while I was growing up after the others moved out, so he and I bonded and were the closest. I watched him go from relationship to relationship, whether he was depressed and I had to follow him around town to make sure he was okay, or if I had to prove his girlfriend was cheating on him(little sister don’t play). He has been my protector and I will forever be his now that I’ve grown up. I’ve seen him try over and over to give all his love to his other half, because that’s who Joey is. He loves his family and his sisters most and no one will ever replace that. Joey listened to more boy drama than anyone else and never complained. He had my back as I cried over different phases of my life. We both got through those phases over our love for the band Skillet. We went to his first concert together, I didn’t tell him where I was taking him but I was surprising him with going to see Skillet. I told him on the way to the concert where we were going, to see the smile on his face was everything I could ever want. I had tears in my eyes when I saw his face as Skillet started playing their first song. To experience our favorite band together was the most memorable time.

Jessica Ellen, Hooters, my closest in age sibling. In the late 90’s a family moved into London Mills and had two daughters both Jessicas age and mine. We would hangout as a group, listening to BSB or some Usher. I would watch for hours as she would dance to different songs with the other girls. She had a few serious relationships when we were younger but not many memories exist before she met Roy. I met Roy first and made a comment he should meet my sister, he saw my sister walking down the street and asked if I knew who that was, that’s when I told him that was who I said he should meet and they have been together since. I watched Jessica fall in love, 16 years ago, she had a high school relationship that the world seemed to be against but somehow they made it. Jess has always been driven where her heart takes her, that’s her family. She’s always had that “don’t give a F” attitude because she’s protective of who she lets in, who she lets get to her and who she cares about. She can come off that way but what most don’t know is that she’s funny and she is random. She comes up with ideas that either go really good or really bad, like that one time she pierced my nose with a safety pin. She had a tampon shoved in my nose to protect the center of it but the tampon fell out. It made for a great laugh although the nose ring was short lived, I think it lasted two months if that. She and I have a lot in common, mostly that we lack filters and are both extremely protective of Joey.

She was the first of us to have a baby and that baby boy she gave us saved my life in more ways than one. For my sophomore year finals, I studied at the hospital because we thought she was miscarrying the baby. Little did I know that she would let me see him on sonogram and he was okay, he looked like a little blob but I cried so hard. I watched her marry Roy that year, they moved into their house and then I watched her life change. I spent my 17th birthday alone because we thought she was having Brayden, two days later she finally went into labor. I was taking a bath when Joey knocked on the door and said the water broke. I told him no it didn’t, it was still running. He said “No you idiot, Jessica’s water broke”. We raced to her house to pick her and Roy up, Roy got into the truck ready to go leaving his wife still inside. We waited a few hours very impatiently as Kindra, Cassie and I kept opening the door to the delivery room area to see if we could hear a cry or something. Finally we heard his cry and it was just the beginning. As soon as I saw my nephew I fell in love. I saw my sister melt as she held her son. I’m a very emotional person, so I cried a lot. Five years later she blessed me with my first niece. As I stood in the hospital room telling Jess bye, I got the text message from my dad that our grandpa had passed away. Kindra and I were preparing to head to Colorado and that is why we were saying bye to Jessica. I was on a train in the middle of Iowa drunk when I got the text that my niece was here. Roy called us and we could hear her cry, she looked exactly like her older brother and I was a mess. I had loudly announced to everyone near us on the train that is why I was having a rough day but I had a niece, they cheered. Jessica was my influence on how to parent, then I watched Kindra and continued to learn as their children grew up.

17 years old holding Brayden on the left, 19 years old holding Sylar on the right.

Sunda Lynn, Momma, the woman who made me who I am. We might not look anything alike but our hearts are the same. My mom has always given anything she can to others and puts herself last. She waited on us kids and my dad hand and foot. She took care of the neighborhood kids, random friends that would drop by, she always made sure we were okay. For years until recent, she has worked hard to do Back to School Bashes for the kids, Easter Eggs Hunts, Food Baskets, Santa Coming to Town and others. She’s given her last dollar to others who needed to borrow money, and that caring heart wore off on me. When I was 4/5 I met a man named John, He was my neighbors good friend, a local that lived in London Mills. He told me he had no food and was hungry, joking around. My sensitive self went home and took a pillow case, filled it with canned goods and told my mom I was taking it to him because he was hungry. She met John and everyone laughed about it for years. She thought it was sweet of me, something I got from her. She is also the most forgiving person I’ve ever met. One time I shattered her car windshield with a softball and lied to her saying the neighbor shot it with a bb gun. Her and my father waited it out knowing very well I would tell the truth because I can’t lie, a few hours later I cried and told them I did it. Not once did she yell at me for it, she cuddled me and told me it was okay, accidents happen.

She makes excuses for those who do wrong because she forgives them when others don’t. She taught me from a young age how to love and handle the world thrown at you. She loves my dad so much she left her family behind for him. She had limited contact and visits with her family over the last 30 years because she chose to be with my dad and have a family. She stands by her choice, because she loves him and the family they have created. My grandma would be so proud to see the family my mom and dad have created. My mom puts my dad first, keeping him taken care of, makes sure her children and grandchildren are taken care of then she focuses on herself because she’s selfless. The last few years have been rough but she keeps trying her best to keep everything together. I don’t know how she does it, because I know it’s broken me more times than I can count but she keeps going. I admire her, my influence on who I wish I could measure up to but always fall short. My mom has stepped up and helped every chance she could with my daughters, while Nicks away and I’m working. I’m forever grateful for her lessons she’s taught me and her taking great care of us as a family. I’m thankful for her sacrifice of leaving home all those years ago because if she hadn’t then I wouldn’t be here.

Tim, Boon, Dad. From a young age I’ve done nothing but strive for his approval. I think that’s something all kids do, or maybe I am that weird. I was a daddy’s girl from the get go, looking to make him proud no matter what, I’ve succeeded a few time but have fallen short often. When I was around 4 we watched the movie Jungle to Jungle with Tim Allen, the kid calls his dad Baboon so I asked why couldn’t I call my dad Baboon. That started why I call him Baboon and over the years it has shifted to just Boon. It has always been a special nickname between he and I, he calls me Diss and I call him Boon. We were always close when I was little but grew closer the older I got. I was never a trouble child for my parents(my siblings took the cake there), I had only a few times where he ever had to use the dad voice on me. We had a neighbor boy named Andrew, every time he came around I would kick him in his man jewels for no reason at all, that caused my dad to use the dad voice and put the fear into me not to do it again. It scared me because I upset my dad and I was worried he wouldn’t love me anymore. That fear continues on. I worried I would be a disappointment to him. One time when I was in roughly Kindergarten, I came home from school and shoved everything off my dresser. He asked me why I did it and I said “I must have had to much milk at school today”, he wasn’t angry with me, he laughed. He was gone a lot in my younger days due to work, but he made it home as often as he could to see us kids. I remember the first grand slam I ever had was in Smithfield and he had pulled up in time to see it, he had surprised us by coming last minute and I didn’t know he was there. My thought as I saw him was how proud I hoped that made him, I did a good job. He left that job and got a local job where he could be home with us kids every night. So from then on out dad and I would watch country music and the news each morning before school. We have a love/hate for the same movie, My Cousin Vinny. I hate it, he loves it. He made me watch it over and over to the point I could quote it word for word. The older I got the more things stayed the same, I still tried my hardest to make him proud and be validated that I was doing a good job. He and I have a lot in common, for example my love of NHRA. He took me to Joliet for my first race and as soon as the first Funny Car went by my butt was in the air and I was addicted. For quite a few years we were super close, I was at his left side each night. When I was tired I’d fall asleep against him, when I was sick he’d make me his warm tea to feel better. Life flew by and he handed me off to Nick, I had my girls and he was there.

He’d go out of his way to do things to make sure I was laughing when I wanted to cry or was embarrassed. I’m forever thankful for his effort he put in to make us happy, to provide for us and to make sure we were loved. He was the example of the love I should have before I settled down, how he treats my mom is a direct example of what I should have too. It’s also an example that my daughters see too and will appreciate as they get older. I know it comes with growing up but I miss those memories. He has been my handyman more times than I can count and usually when I break something. He has always made sure we are taken care of.

No family is perfect, we are far from it, but we are perfectly us. Through the ups and the downs, we remain a family. This family is 35 years in the making, three direct generations and more to come. We don’t always see eye to eye, we might not all talk often, but when one needs help we are all there. We stick together and make it through whatever is thrown at us. I’m proud to be apart of this family, the final piece of the puzzle and the youngest of the 5. I’m proud to say I have two brothers and two sisters. Coming from a big family means there will always be a friend. We might not have it all together but together we have it all…. We are the Leadbetters…..with a few new last names added in.

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