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Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Today, for Memorial Day, we took the boys to the cemetery. Even though I know they aren't able to understand everything right now, we want moments like that to always feel like a normal part of our life, and our girls a normal part of our family.

We were happy to share the moment with my parents, my sister, and her two little ones.

Ben wanted to get down and run around, like we were at the park. He thought all of the graveside decor were toys... kinda hard to keep him from grabbing at everything!

Not wanting to disturb anyone or anything, we didn't stay long, but it was still a nice visit. Spending time remembering Elliana and Emmaline increasingly brings peace to my life and clarity to my priorities. I just hope that through the years these visits will provide Ben and Hugh with the same feelings of peace and clarity.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Memory and a Reminder

My sister, Mandi, has been in town for nearly two weeks... and she still has one week left to spend with us. It has been awesome. We've been running together in the mornings, taking our kids to the park almost every afternoon (only staying home on the few days of rainy weather), preparing meals together, working together on a giving my parents' kitchen a little bit of a face lift, we've talked and laughed and talked some more. And, our four kids have had playmates, which has been so fun to observe. I just wish we didn't live so far apart from each other and we could have more of these moments more often.

But, earlier today I realized that I should just be grateful to have any of these moments at all, even if they don't happen nearly as often as I would like. Mandi reminded me that it was fifteen years ago today that she was in her car accident that could have easily ended her life.

It was 1996. I was nearing the final weeks of my senior year of high school and she had just turned sixteen. I had made plans that Friday night to go see a movie with some friends - Twister, I think it was - and had assumed the car would be free for me to take. Then, just before I was about to leave, I watched Mandi bounce her way down the driveway with the car keys in hand, clearly with plans of her own to take the car for the night.

I remember feeling so frustrated and angry that she was taking off with the car, leaving me (the older sibling) with the only option of riding my bike to join my group of friends for our movie night. I yelled some not-so-nice words at her from our front porch, which didn't stall her one bit, which made me feel even more upset.

And, even though I was still fuming while watching her drive away, there was this slight feeling of regret for the feelings I felt and the things I said. The regret ate away at me all night.

It wasn't until much later that night, nearing midnight, when I returned home to an empty house, that I immediately knew something was wrong. Soon after stepping through the front door, my parents called from the hospital. Mandi had been in a serious car accident. The car was totaled, and Mandi's life was spared by fractions of an inch (literally). She lost control of the car on a dark, winding gravel road. The car flew off the road down a sixty foot cliff, landing on its nose into a river bed - with a tree going through the front windshield.

Somehow Mandi and her guy friend (literally) walked away from the accident back to his house (a half mile away or so), where his mother (a nurse by profession) quickly bandaged up their bleeding wounds and rushed them to the hospital.

I arrived at the hospital just in time for the doctor to stitch up some of Mandi's deep cuts on her left hand. I sat next to her bedside, letting her squeeze my hand with her right hand. That wasn't so bad. But, watching the bloody throbbing open hole in her neck made me turn all shades of blue and nearly passed out myself. Doctors and policemen were all stunned by the relatively minor injuries that were so close to being deadly, which would have matched the looks of the car.

Growing up, Mandi and I had our fair share of squabbles like the one we'd had the night of her accident, but all of a sudden the fragility of life made me realize it just wasn't worth it. Seeing her all bloody and cut up on that hospital bed, I was just so relieved to still have my sister. I wished so much I could have taken back the hurtful words I had left between us before she left that night. In the days that followed, I felt like the accident was my fault; fate's way of teaching me a lesson I would be sure to never forget. Well, it worked.

And, now that it's been fifteen years and our relationship has grown stronger than I ever could have imagined, I'm so grateful we've had these years to share together and for the memories we've made together. And, now to be providing chances for our children to make their own memories together makes my heart happy. I just can't imagine what the last fifteen years would have been like without her... it makes me sad to even think about.

Reflecting today on the fortunate events, and even miracles, that saved my sister's life so many years ago, has reminded me to be more grateful for each moment of this fragile life. As much as I don't like that phrase "you just never know...", it's actually true. You just never know. The gift of today is all we can count on for sure. And, I'm just grateful for the reminder to make the most of it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hugh's First Birthday

Here are some fun photos from Hugh's birthday on Tuesday. He was excited to have so many people to share in his special day - Mom, Dad, Grandma & Grandpa, Aunt Mandi, cousins Audrey and Luke, and our friends Sarah and Noah. We were so happy to have friends and family celebrate his big day with us.

One of Hugh's favorite places to play is in the kitchen, pulling out all the canned food from the cupboard. And, I just happened to have my camera handy when he was excitedly playing with some tuna cans....

For his birthday cake I finally decided on a turtle. With that cute thing he does with stretching his neck out and with his turtle-like crawl, I just couldn't resist.

I didn't get a photo of his initial reaction to the cake and ice cream, but he was actually very hesitant. After putting a small bite in his mouth, then he dug right in, "mmmming" the entire time.

Hugh got some fun gifts for his birthday, but the big hit was this motorized car that my parents bought him. Ben seemed to think he should try it out first, and quickly figured out how to make it drive. We were all laughing so hard, watching such a tiny little guy driving the car. He looked much too grown up than I'm ready for.

Then, Hugh had a turn on his car. Before anyone even had a chance to show him the button to press to make it move, he was already moving! We laughed even harder watching Hugh driving around on it. I kept shaking my head in disbelief. Where did my babies go?

Some fun facts about Hugh:

- he has the cutest little grunty laugh

- he has the largest hands and the longest fingers I've ever seen on a baby - the span of his fingers almost reaches 180 degrees, from his pinky to his thumb.

- he babbles a lot, saying mama, dada, oh, and a whole lot of stuff we can't yet translate

- he is very cuddly, always preferring to be held by someone (especially Mom)

- he has a fiesty side to him that is coming out more - mainly whenever Ben tries to take away a toy from him

- he loves playing outside

- he puts EVERYTHING in his mouth

- he has an obsession with tags - if something has a tag on it, he will find it and play with it and cover it with slobber.

- he gets so excited when Ben is around and loves to follow him wherever he goes

- he loves our cats, especially Watson - when he sees either of them he does a high-pitched whine that clearly resembles a "meow"... it's really cute

- he's been taking multiple steps for the last month, but in the last week he's been walking a ton more - taking a dozen at a time. I think we can officially say he is walking!

- he's sleeping through the night, but wakes up consistently before 6am. I still offer him two naps a day, but he rarely sleeps more than two hours total during the day. He has never been a long napper.

- he's very serious when around people he doesn't know, but once he knows you, he is the most bubbly, excitable baby

- he is constantly dancing, which either consists of bobbing his head up and down or doing a full body bounce and sway. He can find the beat to anything that resembles a song.

- lately he's learned to shake his head back and forth and nod it up and down... but he does it and laughs the entire time

- he is a great eater, but especially loves yogurt, avocado, pasta, cheese, and pancakes.

- he is such a sweet boy with so much personality! We love him so much and are so grateful to have him in our family!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hugh's Birth Story - some final thoughts

Back in July of 2008, I remember so vividly the walk from my hospital room out to our car. The long corridors, hugging the Memory Box the hospital had given me to hold keepsakes from our twins' birth. I remembering feeling embarrassed and ashamed, wanting to hide any evidence that I had just lost my babies. I kept my head down to avoid all eye contact with any passersby. Clearly straddling the stages of denial and shock. I left there fully expecting to never walk those same hallways ever again.

When I arrived at the hospital last May to be with Hugh, and returned to that same building, the same hallways and elevators, I was too anxious to find my son to be distracted with any other thoughts. But it was clear they were there waiting patiently for me to acknowledge them. I recognized as soon as I entered the revolving doors at the entrance, that I had a choice - to either face those remaining painful memories and finally find some closure or continue to avoid them and pretend they weren't there.

Upon arrival, I just beelined it up to find my baby Hugh. I walked through one room of the NICU, seeing bassinets with babies in them and an army of nurses carefully monitoring every breath and movement. I was guided through a narrow hallway to an adjoining room and immediately upon entering I saw my boy. He was in the arms of one of the nurses I had talked to on the phone a few times.

Olivia was her name. She immediately apologized that I arrived to find Hugh being held by some stranger, to which I replied that nothing would have made me happier than to have found him being loved and cuddled like that. As soon as I was scrubbed down and dressed in their hospital attire, I finally got to hold my baby. Those three days apart were awful, but I was so relieved to find that he was no longer hooked up to oxygen or any other monitors that would prevent me from holding him. He had been in good hands and had made such great progress. He was healing and his body was stronger and healthier.

I ended up staying there for five days. Hugh was transferred to three different rooms, each move signifying he was progressing. I spent my days by his side. I slept down the hall in a closet-like room, but got up for his middle-of-the-night feeding. We bonded quickly, as if we hadn't been apart.

Every once in a while I would wander just down the hallway to get a glimpse of the room where I delivered Elliana and Emmaline. I walked through the details of that experience in my mind. Any of the remaining bitter feelings were set aside and all of the beautiful ones found their permanent spot in my heart. I imagined them being there with me, walking down that Memory Lane, helping me get past those last lingering scars. And, I felt sure of them fulfilling some angelic duty by watching over our little Hugh, their little brother.

Returning there, I didn't find the same dark hopeless place I had left behind. Instead I found a new and greater peace where I had so many unanswered questions. I found a calm reassurance that all was just as it should be. I found light and love and healing. Going back there, I couldn't have expected the healing Hugh and I would both find before coming home together.

There is a book I started reading when I was about a third of the way through my pregnancy with Hugh, called The Shack. I got nearly half way through and then got busy with my newborn Benjamin and suddenly free time was almost non-existent.

Even though I had put it down for a few months, I remained engrossed in the story, often finding myself reflecting on the author's perspective and philosophies about his own relationship with God and forgiveness and finding healing, not realizing at the time how much it would end up helping me make sense of some of my own unresolved emotions. That hospital, I would later realize was my own personal shack. If you've read the book, you know exactly what I mean by that. And, if you haven't, I would highly recommend it.

After my brief five day stay with Hugh, we were all released and sent on our way. Walking out hugging my baby to my chest this time around... there are no words. One cannot know the gratitude that filled my heart.

And, now that it is one year later and I'm still hugging my little Hugh, that feeling of gratitude is even more present. You would never know by looking at him that he had such a rough start. For that and so many other things, I am so grateful.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hugh's Birth Story - Part Three

Once I was comfortably situated on the hospital bed, all the vitals were checked. The midwives came in (more as doulas than in their capacity as midwives since they aren't contracted with the hospital here) and helped me through the labor. I continued pushing through the contractions and it became clear that while Hugh would start to come down a bit during the pushes, he was slipping right back up as soon as the contraction and pushing were over. Basically I was going back and forth between being at 9cm and 10cm.

If time had been a blur at home, it was warped into something completely unrecognizable at the hospital. It might have been a few minutes after I arrived, but I think it was quite a bit longer, the doctor on call came in to check on my baby and me. Right away he suggested putting me on pitocin, but I convinced him to let me try pushing for a little bit longer on my own to see if we could get things to progress naturally.

Two hours of intense pushing later he came in again. I think by that point they had me hooked up to oxygen because I was nearly to the point of complete exhaustion. I didn't have two legs to stand on to refuse the pitocin that time around. I was running out of energy and I hoped it would help my muscles do what I struggling to do. And, just as I had heard, that darn pitocin made the contractions longer and closer together than they already had been. What I thought then was exhaustion was nothing compared to what I experienced with the pitocin.

But, I started to feel a new wave of energy come when they announced they could see the baby's head, along with his dark hair.

Okay, I thought to myself, one more push. Just one more push and then he'll be here.

That precise thought continued echoing through my head for nearly three hours more of pushing. Had I known it was going to be three more hours, I would have thrown in the towel right then. But, I really thought the very next push would be the one.

The doctor came back in around five in the morning. This time when he checked me, he immediately insisted on an emergency cesarean. I was still convinced I could push my baby out, but something about the doctor's urgency quieted any fight I had left in me. They took me off the pitocin and brought in more paperwork than I knew what to do with - agreements and releases and practically signing my life away. Honestly, I have no idea what all I signed. I was delirious and just wanted it to all be over.

All the while I was in that stage where the urge to push is so strong that trying not to push took more energy than just allowing my body to do its thing. For about an hour I fought the urge to push, while waiting for my turn in the OR. Just after 6am things got moving.

I remember the anesthesiologist explaining what he was going to do and it going in one ear and right out the other. Just as he was about to stick that foot-long needle in my back a contraction neared and I begged him to wait until it had passed before I jerked just enough to paralyze me for life.

The numbness spread quickly and pretty soon the muscles that had been working for twenty-two hours had a break. I was tired. I was disappointed to be laying on an operating table with my arms stretched out and a blanket covering my view of the arrival of my baby boy. But, mostly I was just anxious to finally meet my son. I just wanted him in my arms. I wanted to get to know him, to know his smell, to feel his skin, to kiss his soft cheeks and whisper in his ear how much I loved him and how long I had waited for his arrival.

Marc was standing above my head, dressed from head-to-toe in blue, holding the video camera. (I don't know if he got permission, but no one seemed to notice or care.) He had to tell me when they had Hugh out. There was no cry. I watched Marc walk about twenty feet away where there were two nurses hovering over a table, and I knew they had my baby. I didn't know what was going on. I was so anxious to hear his cry.

When I finally heard his raspy little cry, I felt relieved. But, since they were still working on him and since he still hadn't be introduced to me, I knew something was wrong. With all my worrisome questions swirling around my tired little head, one of the nurses hurried to my side with my little boy in her arms. She leaned his face down to mine, allowing me to kiss his little cheek, before whisking him out of that operating room. I had no idea that little kiss would be the closest I would be to him for three hellish days.

Later I would find out that the doctor's urgent decision to do a c-section was based on some of the darkest and thickest meconium that came out when he checked my progress at 5am. Hugh had inhaled so much meconium while in utero that an x-ray of his lungs showed big globs of it all over. He was immediately taken to the NICU and hooked up to a CPAP oxygen mask, heart monitors, lung monitors and who knows what else.

After getting me stitched back up, they took me back to my hospital room to recover and await news of Hugh's condition. Whenever my nurse would come in to check on me, I would beg her to let me see my baby. I was ready to make my way down to the NICU with a very unflattering army crawl if I had to. She kept saying that there was no way they could take me to see him, but that they were trying to figure out a way to bring him to me.

I don't know what strings she had to pull, but sometime around 10am she wheeled me, still laying in my bed, down to the NICU (something she said had never been done there). Seeing Hugh hooked up to all those machines made my heart hurt. I was scared, but trying so hard to be brave. I couldn't even consider the possibility of death. I couldn't go there. I had to believe that he would be okay.

With everything he was hooked up to, I wasn't able to hold him. And, I could only reach far enough to massage his not-so-little foot. I had never seen such large feet on a baby. And there was something about his healthy 8 pounds 11 ounces that reassured me that he was ready to fight.

My time with Hugh lasted less than thirty minutes. I shared that time with Marc, my Dad and Ben. In that brief time, Hugh was given a blessing of healing, which he received at the hands of his father and his grandfather. That simple, but sacred, moment allowed me to leave my baby's side with faith and courage, knowing that his life was in God's hands and so was mine, which would end up carrying me through the coming days.

Within a couple of hours, I would find out that Hugh would be transported down to the same hospital where I gave birth to my twin daughters, with its higher leveled NICU. When I got the phone call, informing me of the move, my heart sank.

No, not that place, I thought. Not the place that represents the deepest, darkest hole of hopelessness and heartache. Not the place where I lost my babies. I can't lose another baby to that dark hole of a place.

I was supposed to have gone back there for follow-ups after losing the twins. I never went. I couldn't muster the courage to go back to the same building, the same hallways, the same doctors. I avoided it all. And, now I would be forced back, this time under different circumstances, but still with a heaviness following me.

But, first I would spend three very long days recovering in a hospital nearly three hours away from my newborn son. Those three days would be spent watching the brief footage that Marc captured on video of Hugh's first moments of life. I memorized every facial feature, the sound of his raspy voice, the shape of his head, his lanky fingers and toes, the cute overbite of his little mouth, the cone-shaped bump on his head from the intense hours of pushing he endured with me. Those video clips would keep me company through our separation.

While there was relief that Hugh had finally arrived, I think I felt more anxiety than I had ever experienced at the unknowns of what awaited me in the following days. Not only at bonding with my son and doing everything to bring him back home, but how I would handle reliving the memories from the summer of 2008 that were still waiting for my return.

Hugh's Birth Story - Part Two

Hugh's impending arrival all became very real on the morning of May 16th. It was a Sunday. For a few days prior I'd been feeling some contractions, but they were never consistent and still left me unsure if I was in labor, which was a good sign that I wasn't. But that Sunday morning was different. When Marc came home at 8:30am from his early morning church meetings to pick up Ben and me, I casually mentioned that in the previous hour I had felt four contractions. I still wasn't convinced it was the real deal, but even if it was I knew it was best to keep moving around like normal, so off to church we went.

During that first hour of church, the contractions continued. They got closer together and lasted a bit longer. By the end of that first hour of church they were about 7 minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds or so. I clearly didn't get much out of my church attendance on that particular day. Ben needed to be fed during the second hour, so Marc and I hung out in the gym. We were just a bundle of nervous energy anyway, so there was no point in trying to sit through a Sunday School lesson.

After feeding Ben, I called my midwife, Claudette, to let her know what was up. Since she lives more than an hour away, we wanted to make sure she had plenty of time to be forewarned. As she asked me questions about the length and strength of the contractions, I started to feel like this was really it. My baby was coming! With excitement running through my veins, we decided to ditch the third hour of church completely.

We headed home to get all the last-minute things done and prepared ourselves as much as we could for the unknowns of Hugh's impending arrival. Since I was focusing my thoughts on positive outcomes, I was very unprepared for the eventual outcome that was just around the corner. But things started off smoothly enough that I had no reason to worry about any of the possible things that could go wrong.

We got home at around 11am. I remember changing the sheets on our bed and changing into more comfortable clothes to labor in. I made sure all of our birthing supplies were all together and within easy access for Claudette and her assistant.

At around 1pm my parents came over with lunch - salad and chicken. By this time my contractions were all over the place. Marc was trying to time them with an application on his iphone, but I would think that I was having a contraction and he'd start the timer and then a much more convincing contraction would interrupt the first and I'd have to tell him to start over. Some were 7 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds, while others were 4 minutes apart and lasting about a minute. I tried not to get overly excited when Marc's app told us we were already in the Transition Stage. I knew it had to be too good to be true.

I don't remember much about the time line after having lunch. I remember Marc trying to start a movie, thinking that it might help me relax, but I quickly asked him to turn it off since it made me feel distracted and annoyed. It must have been around 3pm or so that my parents went home, taking Ben with them. We didn't have much packed for him, convinced they'd be bringing him back home to meet his little brother in just a few more hours.

At some point, Marc set up the birthing tub in our kitchen. Sometime after that Claudette and Dana arrived. After setting up their stuff - dopplers and blood pressure cuff and oxygen mask and just about everything you'd see in a hospital-like setting - Claudette checked my progress, just after my water broke. I think it was about 4pm and I was dilated to a 4. When I got to a 7, a couple of hours later, they let me get in the birthing tub.

Time was a blur. I don't know if it got dark early or if I just remember it being dark because I had my eyes tightly closed. But, I do remember that once I got in the tub, I did not want to get out. It was as close to heaven as I was going to get with the contractions as intense as they were. Marc fed me ice chips and kept me hydrated. By 10pm I was at 9cm and Claudette encouraged me to try to push a few times to see if that would help speed up that last centimeter.

While I pushed, they monitored the baby's heart rate and soon discovered that it was dipping dangerously low during some of my pushes (though they didn't tell me that right away). At that point they helped me out of the tub and had me try some different positions, hoping that might make things better for Hugh. They even turned him so he was in a better position, but within minutes my little stubborn Hugh had turned himself back. That was when they nicknamed him Houdini.

At one point I heard some whispers between the midwives and understood enough to know that they were on high alert and our plans were about to change. I was laboring in the bathroom with Marc and I asked him directly if they were transporting us to the hospital. His look of apology said it all. They told Marc that the baby's heart rate had dipped down below 110 and highly suggested transporting and Marc agreed. By this point, nearly 16 hours of labor, I was just ready to meet my baby and was on board with whatever would get him to my arms quickly and safely. Once the decision was made, we were all rushing around like crazy. I got dried off and dressed - in one of Marc's t-shirts and my bath robe. We had planned for everything except a transport. We didn't have a hospital bag of any kind ready.

By this point the contractions were coming fast and were so intense I had to stop everything I was doing and brace myself while they passed. It felt like it took forever to get from the house to the car. The midwives told me to climb onto the back seat of our car for the drive to the hospital, on my hands and knees to try to get the baby to move from his posterior position, which was not helping things progress. Marc drove. The midwives followed in their own car. That half mile was the longest half mile of my life.

We arrived at the hospital just before midnight. Since Claudette had called ahead, the ER nurses were expecting us with a wheelchair all ready and we passed right by the paperwork at the front desk (thankfully) and all the people in the waiting room (I'm sure we were quite the site for that little audience!) and Marc wheeled me down the dark corridors to the Labor and Delivery wing, me begging him the entire way, "please just hurry, please just hurry!"

Hugh's Birth Story - Part One

Just after Hugh was born I tried to write out his birth story, but it was just too hard to do. Now that it has been a year, I've decided it's time whether I'm ready or not. Everything went so differently than how I hoped or envisioned. After having such a traumatic experience with the twins' birth (and death), we worked so hard to try to ensure that Hugh's birth would be a different experience.

I suppose the early beginnings of Hugh's birth story actually started a couple of years ago. After hearing both my sisters talk about the hypnobirthing classes they had taken to help them have natural births, I liked the idea of having a natural birth experience without any unnecessary interventions. Plus, there was something even inviting about allowing my body to labor purposefully while being fully aware of every movement, every contraction, every feeling of bringing this new life into the world.

So, in February, when I was six months pregnant, I found out that a friend of mine who lives here had just started teaching Bradley natural birth classes (which, after attending, we highly recommend). We knew that if we wanted to have a natural birth we needed to learn about it - how to communicate with each other, how to cope with the laboring, and have the necessary tools and knowledge to respond to the different stages of labor. We signed up for the classes and started to feel excited and convinced that it was the right path for us. We learned so much about proper nutrition, relaxation, and how to avoid unnecessary interventions, just to name a few.

My entire pregnancy was shadowed by haunting memories of how we were treated and how things were handled with the twins' birth. As I tried to sort through some of those feelings, I paused one day to envision exactly what I wanted from Hugh's birth. I knew there were certain things I really wanted and certain other things that I really didn't want. After a lot of consideration, long talks with my OBGYN and her CNM, counseling with Marc, and some urgent prayers, we made some drastic changes to our birth plan... when I was about 33 weeks along.

At first I was a little (or maybe a lot) nervous about making big changes so far into my pregnancy. One night, in fact, I was so stressed about making such big changes so far along that I broke down in tears. After pleading for heaven's approval, I came away with a very clear reassurance that our little boy's life would be preserved, regardless of the details of our desired birth plan. All would be okay with our new direction. We met with a Certified Professional Midwife who was a lot more supportive of our desire to have a natural birth and after learning about her extensive experience (25+ years and attending over 1200 births), we immediately felt confident in her care.

Besides deciding on a natural birth, we also went with the choice to have a home birth. The more research we did of all our different options, and after weighing the pros and cons of each option, I really wanted the simplicity and beauty of a home birth.

Part of our comfort with that decision was the reassurance we felt from Claudette, our midwife, that she wouldn't hesitate to transport us to the hospital if it became necessary. Plus, the fact that we lived within a half mile of the hospital made us feel more comfortable with any possible "what ifs" that might come up.

So, we planned. We prepared. We bought a birth kit. We washed the towels and receiving blankets. We stocked our cupboards. We rented a birthing tub. We got our home ready to be turned into its own little birthing center, for one special little arrival.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Looking forward

This week, with all of its extreme ups and downs, I'm actually really glad tomorrow is Monday.

But, first off, I have good news - Hugh's bruises from his accident last Sunday are completely gone. Although he does have some new ones, but luckily not any nearly as frightful. He hasn't slowed down a bit this week and I'm so relieved.

I was a little surprised, though, by how much Hugh's little collision with our end table on Mother's Day seemed to cause bruises on my heart. I couldn't look at him without feeling like I was looking at the poorest reflection of myself. And, while Hugh's bruises healed with amazing speed, I kept poking at mine. After an exhausting Tuesday, I came across this quote on my niece's blog:

"Occasionally discouragement may darken our pathway; frustration may be a constant companion. In our ears there may sound the sophistry of Satan as he whispers, "You cannot save the world; your small efforts are meaningless. You haven't time to be concerned for others.' Trusting in the Lord, let us turn our heads from such falsehoods and make certain our feet are firmly planted in the path of service and our hearts and souls dedicated to follow the example of the Lord. In moments when the light of resolution dims and when the heart grows faint, we can take comfort from His promise: 'Be not weary in well-doing . . . Out of small things proceedeth that which is great. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind."

- Thomas S. Monson

As I read it, the burdens I'd been carrying suddenly felt noticeably less heavy. And, I was reminded that these days, even with the bumps along the way, are the most sacred days of my life. And, even when I get overwhelmed by discouragement or inadequacy, I know I can ultimately decide how much I allow those feeling to linger. Plus, I'm guessing that life with boys is going to be full of accidents and stunts that won't end well. While I will do my best to protect and keep them safe, maybe what's even more important is how I respond when they fall.


The week got progressively better and since Thursday we've been eating this:

Marc requested yellow cake with chocolate frosting for his birthday cake. I had been eying my choice - Banana Split ice cream cake - for at least six months (during the period I was going dairy-free and craving ice cream like a true addict with insane withdrawals).

We ended the week with a visit from my dear friend Sarah and her son Noah, and the return of my parents (from their month-long hiatus) just in time for my Dad's birthday today, which also brought my sister and her two little ones, too. With visitors like that, only good things to come this week.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A complicated Mother's Day

As Mother's Day approached this year, I had a flood of conflicting feelings come surfacing...

Gratitude for my own mother, for the blessing of being a mother myself, for those in my life who make me want to be a better mother.

Guilt for not measuring up.

Joy that comes from having two boys as mine.

Heartache for those who are still faithfully seeking out motherhood and might be having an extra hard time.

Satisfaction at where we've been and how far we've come in our own journey.

Inadequacy in falling short so often.

To name just a few.

And, with the day before Mother's Day being Birth Mother's Day, I was working on a couple of gifts to express our love and gratitude to Ben's birth mother, Tracey. I am in debt to her for the role she played in making me the mother to the sweetest blue-eyed boy.

As I was going through photos and videos from the last year, I inadvertently came across the video of Hugh's birth, which holds its own powerful emotions that still overwhelm me. Two miracles, each coming to us in their own unique way.

Sometimes I just shake my head in disbelief, not quite sure how we got to this place. But, here we are with more joy than we know what to do with. And, I feel guilty about that. I really do.

That's when I realized Mother's Day is really a complicated holiday. (Am I the only one who feels this way??) I've had years when I've disliked it so much I've wished I could cancel it somehow or skip over it or plaster it with Nutella (but, I wish I could plaster everything with Nutella). Then, last year I finally had a baby in my arms, living proof that I was indeed a mother, which obviously made it a much more festive holiday than years past. This Mother's Day, I figured, was bound to be even better, having both my arms filled with my two boys.

That was until at roughly ten to eight in the morning. I was cracking an egg into the pancake batter when I heard a crash. There was my little Hugh lying on the floor with our end table laying on top of him. We think he was reaching for the clock that was sitting on the table (which normally is up on top of our bookshelf) and in his reaching he brought the table down on himself.

I felt awful! He screamed, and I mean screamed like nothing I've ever heard. Then the bloody nose started. I was trying to stop the bleeding, but he would jerk his head from side to side trying to keep me from touching any part of his nose. We were worried that he might have broken his nose. The lump on his forehead was already starting to form, so I was trying to ice it with a bag of frozen corn. Oh, and I was shaking like crazy, wanting to fall into a puddle of my own tears. I tried to have Marc take over for a minute while I composed myself, but that made Hugh even more upset. It was high-adrenaline for about a half hour. Then, the crying slowly stopped, we offered him some Tylenol, and he fell asleep cuddled in my arms.

I was relieved that later, after a good, long nap, he was happy and seemingly oblivious to the trauma of the morning -

I am grateful beyond words for the blessing of being a mother, with all the ups and downs. I love my days with Ben and Hugh more than any other way I've spent my days previously. I just hope one day they'll forgive me for all the ways I'm surely going to mess things up.

And, I'm realizing that somehow I've got to figure out how to celebrate Mother's Day without all the conflicting and complicated feelings that seem to come with it now. I have to believe there are others out there who feel the same. Anyone?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Memories made in the Sun

The big highlight of our time down with our friends was an important ceremony; a ceremony where my friend Christy became a U.S. citizen. It was a unique opportunity to experience. Feelings of patriotism mingled with spiritual feelings in such a way that I wasn't sure where one began and the other ended. It was such a privilege to be there for such a big moment for my friend.

I just love this photo! Aren't they the cutest family?!

** The photos above were done professionally by Christy's friend - she got some really incredible shots. Go here to see them for yourself. If you live in the area, you might just find an excuse to hire her for a photo shoot. She's good at what she does and was super nice! **

That day is really one that I won't ever forget. I'm so glad we found a way to be there and so grateful for the initial phone call from Dan that started the whole adventure. And, then to spend a few days in the sun, hanging out with their family was awesome and long overdue.

I'm sure it'll be obvious from the following photos that my boys were in heaven. They had so much fun! Of course, it helped that heaven was just outside their sliding glass door - the backyard held its own little park and playground. One day we'll have to get ourselves a backyard like theirs.

Ben fell in love with this Tonka dump truck (these two were pretty much inseparable)...

Ben found his own little version of pushing toys around like he does with his cars at home, this time at the window sill...

we laughed A LOT (Christy's three are some of the most genuinely hilarious kids I know - after just a day with them, you'd be convinced, too, I promise!) ...

we cleaned up messes (this was just after my two schemed together to get a bag of goldfish open and then proceeded to eat them off the floor) ...

we ate good food...

we cooled off...

we lounged...

Hugh learned from Dan how to play Super Mario Brothers...

and learned from Sorority Girl Elsie how to properly shout "Woo-hoo!"...

we played with Bella, the dog (and learned that my boys LOVE dogs, or at least this particular dog)...

we welcomed Daddy with big smiles when he arrived...

These photos give just a quick glimpse into our time together, but I wish everyone could have the chance to spend a day in their home, among their family. There is love in their actions and expressions, there is joy, there is calm even amid the moments of chaos, there is patience and temperance in moments of teaching (I'll never forget Levi's first experience with ebay!). Dan and Christy have both overcome their own personal Mount Everests, and dare I say on multiple occasions. They have their own stories that uplift and inspire and make the world a better place - well, at least my world. It truly is a blessing to call them friends.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Best Neighbors

Eight years ago (this week, in fact) Marc and I made our first big move as a young, married couple from our little duplex in Springville to an apartment in a little suburb of Portland. Tigard was home for just a little over a year, but we loved our time there. Some of our favorite memories all stem from the first big decision we made upon arrival - where to live.

After walking through at least a couple of dozen apartments, we finally ended up at Cross Creek. It wasn't even on our list of places to check out, but somehow we ended up there. I still remember walking up to the manager's apartment, looking around at the lovely setting of the complex, and already feeling like we had found the right place for us. When Christy (the manager) and her almost-one-year old daughter, Maddy, showed us one of the open apartments we felt even better about living there. There were some specific things that happened that finalized the decision and made it very clear to us that it was a good choice. I just didn't realize at the time how much such a decision would affect my life.

After living there for just a couple of short months, Christy echoed my squeals of excitement when we found out we were expecting our first baby. And, then just a couple of weeks later she was waiting as we returned home from the hospital with nothing but tears, broken hearts, and news that we had lost our baby. I remember being so touched by the tears she shed right along with me. I didn't expect compassion that deep from such a new friend.

We became fast friends. One of those friendships that doesn't take any effort. It was an added bonus that our husbands liked each other, too. And, over the last eight years, even with long distances separating us and visits that are much too infrequent, we've managed to keep our friendship as strong as it was when we were neighbors at Cross Creek.


A couple of weeks ago we were able to spend a little over a week in the sun with our all-time favorite neighbors. The boys and I squeezed ourselves into the back seat of my parents' Civic, as they were headed to my brother's house which was conveniently right on the way. I'll admit the boys weren't super pleased with my traveling arrangements that included waking them at four in the morning and them being strapped in their car seats for an insane amount of time... but we survived. Thanks, in part, to moments like this:

(We had to leave Marc behind to finish up some urgent work projects, but he joined us for the last couple of days.)

Once we arrived, I think the boys thought they were in heaven. And, I felt exactly the same way, though for different reasons.

More to come...