I walked into the house, set my backpack down, and turned on the TV. Not even two seconds later, I heard screaming and crying coming from upstairs. Two three-year-olds were fighting over a ball that they both wanted to play with. This was my new normal.
As I looked back on the whirlwind of my life that had been the past 4 years, I realized that I was finally on the other side of the storm, only to be uncertain of what the future held for me. My sister, brother and I had recently moved into my aunt and uncle’s home permanently, and I was not quite sure what to think of everything. They had graciously given me their spare bedroom, and my sister took over my cousin, Jake’s room. This situation worked, for now, but I still had the feeling of not being completely in my own home. This was not the space that I was used to? At 14 years old, I had been pushed outside of my comfort zone in so many ways.
I was still trying to comprehend just recently losing my mother, still coping with the death of my father, and now was trying to understand living with my aunt and Uncle.
My Aunt and Uncle had always been like second parents to me. I always would tell my Aunt Mary everything going on in my life, second to my mother of course. The best part about the merging of my family and theirs, though, was that we were already so incredibly close, making it such an easier process. They lived down the street from my old house, and with my brother Jack, and my cousin Kyle being only two months a part, this made it easy for my mother and my aunt to have play dates all the time.
When my dad passed away, even though there was a death involved, their was shortly new life that gave us hope for our future. My brother, Jack, brought us so much joy for our new life with my mother. This time around, losing my mother would be no different. We luckily had hope with my aunt being pregnant with my cousin, Lauren. My mother passed away in April, and Lauren was to be born in June of 2009. Every single time there was a tragedy to focus on, God gave us something to look forward to about our future. I think this was one of the biggest things that I have learned throughout my struggles; there will always be something in your future to look forward to. You just need to be aware that with every sadness comes happiness.
We were grateful to have something new and exciting to focus on with Lauren’s birth. Our family dynamic now was this; there was my aunt Mary, my Uncle Joey, my sister Ashley, my cousin, Jake, my cousin, Kyle, my brother, Jack, and me. Our little family of 7 was going to quickly become a family of 8 with the addition of Lauren.
Before I jump into the stories and details of growing up with Mary, Joe, and my cousins, here is a background on each person that now makes up our “Brady Bunch”.
Aunt Mary: My Aunt Mary is one of the most giving, and kindhearted women you may ever meet. She is the definition of “Mother” . Whether someone is in need of a hug, a conversation, or some wise words, she always seems to have the answer. She loves with every ounce of herself, and truly is the rock that holds our family together. She is comforting, friendly, selfless, encouraging, and truly everything anyone would want in a second mother. She is a beautiful person inside and out.
Uncle Joey: My uncle Joey is wise, driven, tough, yet encouraging, loving, hilarious and selfless. He gives so much of himself to us children, after spending all day working at the company he owns.
Krizman’s Sausage, LLC. is a tiny Gourmet Sausage store in Kansas City, KS. This company was started by my great grandfather, who moved here from Croatia to start a better life for his family. During the great depression, when times were tough for America, my great grandfather started Krizman’s Sausage to be able to provide for his family. Later, my grandfather took it over, and now my uncle is running it.
He is always the person I go to with ANY question, because he always seems to know the answer. I put so much trust in him, because I know that he always holds my best interest in his heart and wants to see me succeed. He is one of the main reasons that I am such a driven individual, because I have always hoped to make him proud of me.
Ashley (22): Ashley is witty, trustworthy, loving, a wild child, strong-willed, confident and so much more. She teaches me so many things about life and is always the person I would trust with my deepest, darkest secrets. She holds my best interest in her heart, and tells me exactly what I need to hear, even if it is not always what I want to hear. She is my best friend, and the person I look to for everything. And she is the only person that has essentially gone through the same thing as me. She knows my pain, and loves me no less. Even though she is two years younger than me, I look up to her in so many more ways than she knows.
Jake (15): My cousin, Jake, is loving, very smart, driven, entrepreneurial, funny, intuitive, and worldly. He is constantly teaching me things about society that I had no idea about. He is also extremely smart with technology and teaches me everyday, to chase after my dreams. He goes after what he wants and at only 15 years of age, is very impressive. He has already started his own t-shirt making business and is always trying to expand his mind. He is very realistic when it comes to things the world has to offer him. He is quite the problem solver. If there is a problem that he cannot quite figure out, he goes after the solution. If there is no solution, he creates one. He is constantly teaching me that sometimes there will not always be a straightforward answer waiting for you, and that sometimes you might need to go chase after it.
Kyle (13): My cousin, Kyle, is wise beyond his years. Even at 13, he sees things so plain and simple. I am a very indecisive person, and talking to him about issues I have, helps ease some of my stresses, because he sees the world through a monochromatic lens. Things are black and white; there is no grey area. There is only right and wrong. Even though he is very meticulous and detail-oriented when trying to decide what the correct decision is for him to take, he makes the decision and goes confidently in the direction of his decision. Watching him make decisions in this way gives me the confidence I need to confidently follow the path that I think is the right one, and to not second guess whether my choice was right or wrong. He is also extremely passionate about whatever goal he sets his mind to. He loves sports, and is a great athlete as well, which you can only imagine, combined with his personality, what type of Athlete he must be.
One time, while I was in his room, I came across a note-card sitting on his desk. This note card had a list of different drills he needed to practice, in order to become a better basketball player. When I asked him about it, he told me that he tried to practice these at least once a day. I was in awe of how driven a young 13 year old could be! He teaches me to always work hard for what I believe in, because the work you put in now will pay off in the long run.
Jack (13): My brother, Jack, is one of the most extroverted human beings that I know. He is a spitting image of my father, and loves with his whole heart. Even at 13 years old, he shows so much compassion for others. He is an extremely giving individual and loves to bend over backwards for the ones he loves. He loves all things fishing, and is constantly spending his time outdoors with my cousin, Kyle. Jack reminds me to dive into whatever dream I am chasing with my whole heart. No matter what he sets his mind to, he puts his whole heart into it. Jack also loves to cook. He has taught himself how to cook and continues to strive for excellence when teaching himself new things. Lastly, Jack has recently discovered his love for acting. He played Young Simba in the Lion King for his school play, and did excellent in that role. He practiced all summer, and by watching him practice until he believed the outcome was perfect, he taught me to never give up on a dream, until you are satisfied with the outcome. I love watching him grow up, and to see his unique personality continue to grow.
Lauren (9): Lastly, my cousin, Lauren, is the baby in the family. Just like Kyle, she is extremely driven, and goes after what she wants to accomplish in life. She is only 9 right now, but wow, is she independent. I think my aunt could leave her home by herself if she really wanted to, and Lauren would be completely self-sufficient. (Side Note: My aunt does not leave her home by herself, as she is only 9, but the point here is that she could because of how independent Lauren is). She is always bossing the boys around, telling them to pick up their rooms or yelling at them to get downstairs so they can leave for school. She is so grown up for her age. It is awfully funny to watch this tiny little human boss the boys around. It is like she is a mini version of my aunt.
Lauren also is quite a lover. She reminds me how important spending quality time with one another can be. There have been so many times that she has hung out with me, and even though it might not be the most fun thing for her to do with me, like folding my laundry while we chat about things, she does it because she enjoys spending time with me. She is a wonderful example to all of us, and a great reminder of how important it is to take time for your family!
So this was my new life. It felt almost like God hit the reset button on my life. Little did I know, these tiny little people were going to be some of the biggest blessing in my life!