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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Reflections

It has been a wonderful month with my little family, leading up to today's celebration. I've loved watching Ben and Hugh start to catch on to the whole idea of Santa Claus, but even more starting to understand the real reason is to celebrate Jesus' birth. They seem very familiar now with the role of the three wise men, thanks mostly to Marc's role and costume at our Church's Christmas dinner.

I've especially loved the quiet moments with my little Lucy. I love her so much, to the point that my heart aches with love. (Not that I don't love my boys just as much... it's just a different love.) I don't know quite how to describe it. I think there is some aspect of feeling extra protective of my baby girl, as well as some part of me that is reminded of how much I love my other two girls.

But, there is something extra magical about celebrating Christmas with a baby around. It seems so much easier to imagine being Mary, holding her precious newborn, anticipating what blessings and surprises the future will hold for that little one. I can't imagine what emotions she must have experienced knowing her perfect, tiny babe would be the most important person ever to come into the world.

The other day at church, my heart was particularly tender and as we closed the final meeting with Away in a Manger, the words overwhelmed me to tears. Since I was the one leading the music, I tried my best to hide it, but at one point I was too choked up to even get the words out.

We had just had a lesson, based on this talk by Elder Holland (my favorite talk from this past General Conference). I was feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude for the Savior's love in my life, for His willingness to fulfill His mission, His willingness to suffer for my pains and sins, His willingness to die so that we can live again and find purpose in living when life falls apart. He has been with me through life's hardest moments, I've felt it and know it without a doubt. He has been my source of strength and hope.

Lucy had fallen asleep in my arms about half way through the lesson. The weight and warmth of her little body cuddled up against mine filled my heart with so much love. Love for her and love for the little Baby born so long ago, making it possible for my little family to be eternal. But, not just my family. Every family. Those grieving families in Connecticut. I'm still thinking of and praying for them.

So, after that particularly touching lesson and with my little Lucy still softly sleeping on my shoulder, as we sang the final verse of that Christmas hymn, there was no way to keep the tears from coming.

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay Close by me forever, and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, And fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.

This is precisely why it's the most wonderful time of the year. Music and words that make us pause and reflect and recommit and prioritize. The challenge now, like with every year, is to remember those reflections and promises to try to be just a little bit better and remember the love and role of our Savior just a little bit more.

Monday, December 17, 2012

His Hand is Stretched out still

We don't watch a lot of TV, especially not during the day. Last Friday I didn't hear about the awful events in Newtown, CT until a little later in the day. It was disturbing news... even before finding out that it all took place at an elementary school. That just took it to a whole new level. I found myself shaking my head in disbelief, so much that by early afternoon I had a headache and a stomach that wouldn't settle.

That afternoon, in a bit of a daze, I watched my boys making messes and doing things in general that usually drive me crazy (unrolling a whole roll of paper towels, fighting over toys, etc...) and I actually found myself feeling grateful that I had them there with me, alive and well enough to be making those messes.

When it quieted down for nap time, I took some time with each of them to cup their faces in my hands, looking into their eyes and told them that I loved them. Hugh looked back at me with big eyes, almost as if he sensed the intensity of the moment. I honestly felt a little relief that they are too young to go into any detail with them about what happened. It makes me a little sad to think that one day there will be some other awful story in the news and I'll probably have to then. I just hope a horror like that isn't ever anything any of us will have to experience first-hand.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of a six-year old child in that kind of situation or in the shoes of a mother who has to hear her child is gone, taken in such an evil way. But, it was all too unsettling and I just couldn't go there.

In the process of trying to come to terms with my own feelings about the tragic details, I came across a lot of quotes and images on facebook that people wanted to share. One that came up a number of times was the quote by Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.”

I appreciated hearing such wise words from a wise man. There was another sentiment that came up that, on the surface, seemed like a good explanation, but deep down made me feel uncomfortable. This idea that the shooting happened in Newtown because we've pushed God out of our schools and so He's abandoned us.

I'm still sorting through my feelings on the matter, so bear with me. While God doesn't force His will or His love on us, I feel very certain that He has much "thicker skin" than us emotionally fragile humans. We can push Him away over and over and cut Him off completely, but as was often quoted by Isaiah, even at our very worst, "His hand is stretched out still." I can't imagine that God, a loving Father in Heaven, would withhold His comfort and presence from a school full of young children, HIS young children, just because there was some person somewhere that said there shouldn't be prayer in school.

What about the shooting that happened at the Amish school a few years back? They likely had prayer to start their day. Or, what about shootings that happen inside churches or other places of worship? In those cases, the logic of that sentiment totally falls apart.

The truth is that sometimes we pray for things and sometimes those prayers are answered and sometimes they're not. Sometimes God sees fit to intervene and provide protection and sometimes He doesn't. It can feel futile to try to make sense of why He does or doesn't do something, but it's important to remember that God sees a much clearer picture of His plan and His purposes.

It seems to me that it comes down to a matter of agency, or free will. God allows us to make choices. He can try to persuade or prompt us in a certain direction, but He will never force us to be good or to follow His commandments. That means that sometimes evil things happen. Does that make God less powerful or less available to the innocent who suffer at the hands of evil? No way.

In fact, if there were some way we could get a glimpse of Sandy Hook in the moments before, during, and after the shooting occurred, and if it were possible to see the tragedy with spiritual eyes, I wonder what we would see. I imagine we'd see hosts of angels, waiting and ready to comfort, to calm, to inspire, to strengthen. Just because the shooter was able to accomplish his evil act and killed so many innocent children, and equally innocent adults, doesn't mean that God was not there. Surely He was no where else but there that day, watching with the same heartache and sadness at one of His own sons using his agency to hurt so many people in an unimaginable way.

I don't know why He allowed it to happen. I don't know why He didn't intervene. But, the God I know wouldn't have been anywhere else that day. And, for those who have been left behind, I know He is there walking with them, suffering and grieving with them. He does not leave us comfortless. He seeks us out and walks with us.

It's awful what happened. It's unimaginable. I've shed tears over it.

I'd imagine God has shed more than anyone.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Thanksgiving in Seattle

What a busy time! So much has happened, is happening, and will be happening... where do I even begin?! I really dislike doing recaps, but I dislike even more not making note of special events and experiences that I know I'll forget if I don't write them down.

So, here it goes...

We made the long drive up to Washington to visit Marc's family for Thanksgiving. The kids did great in the car! We've figured out the trick is having lots of variety of snacks (including their very favorites like red licorice and animal crackers), a few new toys (this time it was magna-doodles, and some new hot wheels), as well as a selection of DVDs (on this trip we watched Finding Nemo and Cars).

Pulled out of our driveway at 5:21am. Three hours later we stopped at a McDonalds in Shasta Lake for breakfast - nice, clean, quiet, easy on/off freeway, definitely will stop here again. Next stop was a Quizno's in Grants Pass for lunch, then a walk around Fred Meyer for Marc and the boys while I fed Lucy in the car. Next stop was a McDonalds in Salem (I think) for a quick ice cream cone for the boys, while I fed Lucy in the car. It was raining so hard and I was really distracted by all the people lining up around the Red Box. In the rain. Final stop was Vancouver for a few days' visit with Marc's sister and family.

Highlights - Chaplan (their bird) loved the top of Ben's head. The boys were in candy heaven, eating nearly the entire supply of Swedish fish within their reach. We watched the Avengers with the whole family (while our three little ones slept). Lounged and chatted, laughed, and got all caught up with the goings on in each others' lives. It felt just like heaven, as it always does.

Then, we made our way up the rest of the way to Seattle (or more accurately, Auburn) on the day before Thanksgiving, which was a huge mistake. What should have been a two-hour drive ended up being more than four. Terrible traffic, making for some interesting and creative ways to feed Lucy while keeping her buckled up. Not easy and definitely not fun, but sometimes you just do what you have to do.

Some favorite moments from the few days with the rest of Marc's family - spending time with Nana - the boys love all of her tanks and planes that they get to play with when we visit and we all love the extra attention and help. My brother-in-law's amazing guacamole (I ate so much - I couldn't resist!). The rest of the food was delicious, too! Getting to meet baby Henry and seeing Lucy and him interact. Ben wanting to play outside, no matter how cold or how dark or how rainy it got, and watching Hugh struggle between wanting to keep up with Ben and just wanting to be dry and warm inside. Leaving Lucy to take a nap with Daddy while I went on a long walk with the boys around Nana's neighborhood. Eating lasagna one night and then watching "Romantics Anonymous" (a cute French movie) with Marc's brother and his wife. So fun! The best part is watching our kids connect and make memories with their extended family!

The trip back home went just as smoothly, though a little slower with a few more stops and took a little longer. We stopped for lunch and final good-byes in Vancouver (and to pick up a stray pair of Ben's pants), got lost in Eugene trying to find a park for the boys and ended up stopping at a rest stop, and visited a friend from home that just recently moved to Grants Pass, before we finally made our way to Redding for the night. We ate some terrible microwave food for dinner (since it was Sunday and we were trying to keep the fifth commandment as much as possible... or is it the fourth? Sabbath day holy? Anyone?) and then Ben slept with Daddy, while Hugh and I shared a bed, and Lucy slept in the pack 'n play.

It was awesome to see the looks on the boys' faces when we went down for breakfast the next morning. All that food and all within reach! Ben went straight for a slice of bread, while Hugh went for the blueberry muffin. I tried to help an older lady get her waffle off the waffle iron, and after touching it for a quick second with the tip of my finger realized I probably really over-stepped the boundaries. Oops!

That final leg took us three hours and we were so happy to be home! I even got everything unpacked and organized before the end of the day. Fun times and fun memories!

I'll come back and add in photos later... hopefully tomorrow.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lucy - four months

Last Saturday Lucy turned four months old. Today I took her in for her four month check-up. She is getting so big and I guessed that she'd probably weigh about 15 pounds. I think the nurse's eyes were as big as mine when the scale told us she was SEVENTEEN pounds (plus FIVE ounces)! In addition, she's 27 inches tall. I came home and warned her brothers. At the same age, Hugh weighed 16 pounds 4 ounces and Ben was 14 pounds 12 ounces.

Our sweet Lucy Jane is just oozing with cuteness and calm. She brings such a different dynamic to our home. She is the calm amid the chaos; the soft amid the rough. The boys can be bouncing off the walls, but as soon as they approach Lucy they gather all their wild energy and with the most amazing restraint and control, they softly kiss her on the head. I have loved watching such a sweet side to them emerge when she is around, and I'm looking forward to watching how their love for her will continue to develop as they grow up together.

Lucy is such an easy baby, so sweet and so happy. She hasn't quite returned to her (really) long stretches of sleeping at night, but I'm really not complaining at all with what usually ends up as a couple of 5-6 hour stretches. Plus, when she wakes up in the middle of the night fussing and hungry, as soon as she sees my head appear over the side of the crib, she kicks her legs, spreads out her arms and gives a little squeal. I mean, come on, who wouldn't want to wake up to that, even if it is at 2am?!

Before Lucy was born I was really preoccupied with thoughts about how she would or wouldn't compare to our twins. Would she look like them? Would she remind me too much of them? Would holding her make me happy or sad? Would life feel more complete with her or would her presence just remind me of the two that were missing?

It was a battle of opposing emotions and I had no idea how to prepare myself for so many questions that were unknowable beforehand. Lucy arrived and took her proper place in our family, not replacing anyone, but filling a new void that I wasn't even aware was there until she filled it with her light and her love. She has brought so much happiness into our family and so much healing into my heart. I do find myself thinking of the twins more often, but more in terms of anticipating the relationships that will come later when we're all reunited again.

For now, I'm loving every waking moment I have with my baby girl. She and I are pretty much inseparable and I really don't mind her need to be near me at all times. I love the nearness of her and feel so grateful for the light she has brought into my life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


For Halloween this year Ben was a "Rocket Boy" or "Rocket Guy"... basically The Rocketeer. He was so excited as I was putting the finishing touches on his costume that he starting saying, "Push the button. Up in the sky." He actually thought his costume would make him fly. Cute kid. I just love his active imagination.

We were actually going to have Hugh be a rocket guy, too, but then one day I decided to give them a couple of different options and Hugh actually chose to be a football player. I decided to go ahead and start on making helmets for both costumes (out of paper mache) and then ask Hugh again and again what he wanted to be for Halloween, to make sure his 2-year old mind was made up. And, surprisingly, every time I asked him "what do you want to be for Halloween?" the answer was consistently "football player."

And, that was how we decided that Lucy would be a football. Not the cutest idea for a sweet baby girl, but it was simple and easy. And, I figure it's in my best interest to go with simple and easy before they gain a super strong opinion of their own.

As I was in the middle of the costume creation process I was coming up with all kinds of alternate plans, feeling just slightly embarrassed for my kids in the event that they all looked a little ghetto in their homemade, pieced-together costumes. But, I was actually very happy with how they all turned out and was so pleased at the responses we got from people at our church's trunk or treat. Turns out everyone loves a good, old-fashioned, homemade costume... even if they do look a little pieced-together.

Before going to the church's party, we went to one house - Ben's teacher. She invited the boys inside and gave them each a small flashlight along with their choice of candy from their tray. It was cute to watch their little hands hovering over the tray, trying to figure out which of the tantalizing treats they would choose. I think Hugh picked a Hershey's bar and Ben went for the plain M&Ms.

When we turned to leave, there was a small group of older kids who had gathered at the front porch. I turned to grab Hugh's hand and saw the frightened look all over his face. The kids at the door were dressed in some pretty convincingly scary costumes and Hugh had no idea what was going on. As I tried to coax him out, he backed further into the house saying, "no, no". I was finally able to reassure him that it was okay and we left. But, the whole 50 yards to our car, he kept looking back, worried we were being followed. And, since Halloween has never been a favorite holiday I totally understood.

So, that was our fun Halloween. The boys crashed when we got home and slept in later than usual the next morning and Marc even said, "if only Halloween were every night." Who would have thought?! Plus, since we went the homemade route, the only things we had to buy were two cans of spray paint and pipe cleaners - less than $10. And, I'm hoping that next year they'll just want to swap costumes! I guess time will tell.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Re-livable moments

Since I'm putting Lucy down for bed at night while Marc is getting the boys settled, I usually miss out on the bedtime routine for my boys and I've really missed it lately. I get their energy and action during the day, which I love... but, it'd sure be nice to get a good dose of their cuddles and snuggling as they wind down and drift off to sleep.

Last night they were taking extra long falling asleep, so after Lucy was settled I got a few quiet moment with my boys. They were both wide-eyed and fighting their drooping eyelids. I laid down in the middle, so that I could hold hands with Hugh to my right and reach Ben on my left. We looked up at their big star light that hangs from the corner of the ceiling. Ben was telling me about the "big star" and the "big truck" and the "big wheels." So, I picked up on that "big" theme and started telling them a story, talking in my softest whisper at a nice slow pace.

Within five minutes or so I glanced over at Hugh to see his eyelids half-way closed, which if you're married to any of my brothers you know that in my family that pretty much means you're knocked out. Yeah, it's a little creepy, I know.

So, I continued with the story for Ben who was still wide-eyed and interjecting with his own version of the story at times. After about 15 minutes, Ben's breathing changed to its heavy, almost-snoring-like quality and I knew he was gone.

Instead of getting up right away, I just laid there, enjoying the comfort and the calm of the moment. Then, I turned to Hugh, stroked his hair, kissed him on the forehead and whispered in my softest whisper, "I love you so much." Then, I turned to Ben and did the same. They both laid still, except for the soft rise and fall of their chests, their little bodies sinking deeper into their slumber.

It was one of those moments that filled me with so much love. One of those moments I'll look back on years from now and wish I could have it back again. But, hopefully, the fact that I had it in the first place means I'll always have it in my heart, to re-live again and again.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October Projects

I was realizing today how fast this month has gone and I'm trying to figure out where the time went. I've been busy working on a couple of projects in my spare time, both of which have me wondering why I ever thought it was a good idea to use such precious spare time for projects that won't turn out nearly as good as I think they will. Sometimes paying for someone else to do it is a much better plan.

Project number one: I found a blog with a template for quiet books and it looked simple enough that I decided to make a couple for the boys since they've started to need a little more help staying quiet during that first hour of church. A month or so ago I went down to our local craft store and bought all the supplies I'd need. Sixty-five dollars later, a couple of big headaches, and a month's worth of tiny bits of free time on evenings when I've felt any trace of motivation, and I only have two pages done. I should have just bought a couple on etsy.

Project number two: Halloween costumes. They're still a work in progress and they could actually go a couple of different ways, but either way I'm making helmets out of paper mache. Thank you, Mrs. Castleberg, for teaching me in third grade how to make paper mache. I'm just really relieved that if their costumes totally flop, we have their M&M costumes, that they've worn the last two years, as back-up. Depending on how they turn out, I may or may not post some photos.I guess if nothing else my lack of creative talent might give someone else a much needed boost. I'm happy to oblige.

And, besides those two headaches projects, I've been feeling quite sleep-deprived this week. My good little sleeper has been off all week. From birth Lucy was a great sleeper with 3-4 hour stretches from the first night, and then getting to the point of sleeping for nine hour stretches regularly, then going back to sleep for a few more hours. But, all of a sudden this week she's been waking up every couple hours, seems extra fussy (but not obviously sick, as far as I can tell), and isn't napping as well either.

I don't know what is going on, but it got to the point last night that I was sitting in the dark on the couch at 10pm just sobbing. It had been a particularly long day and I was just exhausted and felt so helpless. I begged and pleaded for heaven's help and gratefully last night went just slightly better... but, it was better enough that we both got a little more sleep and Lucy's naps today seemed to be getting back on track. So far tonight she's already woken twice, which is clearly not back to normal, but she's not as fussy and has gone back down a lot easier.

I'm assuming she's going through a growth spurt, but I've been trying to be extra aware of other possible issues. I just hope for both of our sakes that she starts sleeping better again. I told Marc today that if someone really wanted to torture me, sleep deprivation is the way to break me down. I do not handle lack of sleep very well.

So, between my latest projects combined with my lack of sleep, there's been little time and motivation for blogging. Plus, our camera battery has been dead and I don't even have any cute photos to share. Maybe we'll have that fixed by Halloween.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Personal Prophetic Epistles

“If we teach by the Spirit and you listen by the Spirit, some one of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal prophetic epistle just to you.” - Elder Holland

On the eve of one of my favorite weekends of the year - General Conference - I've been thinking of some of my favorite highlights from the conference we enjoyed six months ago. And, mostly for my own purposes, I thought I'd share my top three favorite talks.

I think my most favorite talk was Elder Holland's The Laborer's in the Vineyard.

"...surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it."

"...however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines."

Next favorite was Elder Eyring's talk Mountains to Climb. He starts with this story:

"I heard President Spencer W. Kimball, in a session of conference, ask that God would give him mountains to climb. He said: “There are great challenges ahead of us, giant opportunities to be met. I welcome that exciting prospect and feel to say to the Lord, humbly, ‘Give me this mountain,’ give me these challenges.”

"My heart was stirred, knowing, as I did, some of the challenges and adversity he had already faced. I felt a desire to be more like him, a valiant servant of God. So one night I prayed for a test to prove my courage. I can remember it vividly. In the evening I knelt in my bedroom with a faith that seemed almost to fill my heart to bursting."

"Within a day or two my prayer was answered. The hardest trial of my life surprised and humbled me. It provided me a twofold lesson. First, I had clear proof that God heard and answered my prayer of faith. But second, I began a tutorial that still goes on to learn about why I felt with such confidence that night that a great blessing could come from adversity to more than compensate for any cost."

And, finally, there is President Uchtdorf's talk, The Merciful Obtain Mercy. A quick highlight from his talk:

"This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:"

"Stop it!"

"It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”

"We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?"

"Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?"

I was super excited for the weekend that awaits before I started writing this blog post, and now I'm even more excited! Truth and knowledge - can't get better than that. With a hungry soul and a heart open and willing to receive direction for my personal life, this is exactly what I need - personal prophetic epistles. Bring it on!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A glimpse of my crazy life

This morning as we were getting ready for the day I asked the boys, "what should we do today?" Without even a slight pause, Hugh responded with "Go to Utah." Funny boy. Then, he continued to say it throughout the day. We didn't go to Utah. But, we did walk down to Bapa and GG's house.

But, before that the boys decided that they'd take turns trapping each other in the big toy tub, all while I was nursing Lucy. At first they were both sitting in it in the middle of the kitchen floor, talking about how they were floating in a boat, giggling and playing nicely. Then, the next thing I know Hugh is screaming and crying hysterically, but it's all kind of muted. So, I got up as quickly as possible to find the lid on the tub securely in place and Ben looking a little concerned at not being able to get it off.

We rescued Hugh and I got comfortable again and Lucy and I resumed her feeding. Not more than a few minutes passed when there was another muffled scream, this time coming from Ben. This time he was the trapped one. I tried really hard to remain calm, but also to use my firmest voice to let them know this little game was not okay. Not just because it could be dangerous, but also because Lucy was tired and all of these interruptions were making it really difficult to get her to sleep.

When we were interrupted for the umpteenth time and Lucy was clearly unable to sleep through it all, I thought I might just lose all my cool if we didn't get out of the house. So, I wrapped Lucy up in her Sleepy Wrap and gave the boys a piece of licorice (as bribery to be good on our little walk) and off to the grandparents' house we went. They held my hands the entire way and didn't try to pull any fast ones on me, for which I was very grateful. Times like these remind me that they really are good boys.

Spending a couple of hours with my parents was a good choice. We all got some fresh air, a change of scenery, and a few more extra hands to keep them from hurting each other. Ben assumed his usual self-appointed duty of watering the plants in my parents' yard, and did so very thoroughly, while Hugh sat on the stepping stones playing with rocks and bugs, making up stories about cars going through gates.

And, Lucy? She slept against my chest, her head tucked perfectly under my chin, her body snug against mine. I love carrying her around in the wrap and feeling the closeness with her that we shared for nine months, only now the joy is tenfold and the pain is considerably less.

Luckily my Dad walked with us back home and the rest of the afternoon went by rather uneventfully. Until at one point I started to change Hugh's diaper, only realizing halfway through that I needed to grab a diaper. I came back to find that Ben had taken over, pulling the diaper off and trying to wipe Hugh. Poor Hugh looked like he was paralyzed with fear and had the most uncertain look on his face. We were all cracking up!

We ended the evening on a little family walk down to the playground, one last attempt to extract any extra energy from our little energizer bunnies. We've been doing it every night for the last week or so and it's been working like a charm! Lucy and I swing, while the boys run around, and Marc and I get time to talk about our day. While I enjoy the one-on-one time with Lucy, I think I enjoy this whole family time even more.

And, we end the evening with some sort of treat (lately it's been ice cream cones) and baths. Marc takes care of the boys while I take care of Lucy, and we usually emerge from our routines at about the same time, giving us a couple of hours of quiet together.

The days sometimes seem long and a tad bit crazy, but my three little ones are growing so fast and, even with all the craziness that comes with it, I wish I could make time stop. This is the life; the life I always dreamed of having. And, it's even better being right in the middle of it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thoughts from my evening walk

In the evenings, after dinner is finished and toys are picked up, and while Marc takes over the bath and bedtime routine for the boys, I put Lucy in her Sleepy Wrap and we head out for a leisurely stroll. It might just be my favorite part of the day.

Since my surgery (two weeks ago), I haven't been able to take her out in the wrap, but we've still gone on shorter walks with her just in my arms. Tonight, though, I was feeling like my incisions are doing well enough that we were safe to pick up our evening routine again.

Sometimes I'll take my phone and call one of my sisters or a friend, since it's often one of the only quiet moments in my day when I'm able to carry on a decent conversation with little interruption. But, sometimes, like tonight, I crave the quiet. Time to think through things that are on my mind or weighing on my heart, time to laugh at funny things the boys did that day, time to reflect on where I'm at in my life, time to count my blessings, time to ponder and even pray.

As I start down our hill, I'm always struck by the way the late evening sun hits the East hills in our little valley - I'm sure the descriptive lyrics "purple mountains majesty" were inspired by views exactly like what I see every evening. It's breathtaking.

On some evenings Lucy is fussy and I focus all my attention on comforting her. But, tonight she fell fast asleep before we even left home. Right away I was alone with my thoughts and right away I felt how heavy they were, though it wasn't immediately clear what or why there was so much weight to them.

As I started sorting through my thoughts the only thing that became immediately clear was that it was very unclear what was causing such a heavy burden. There are the personal things - surgery recovery, sickness going through our family right now, friends experiencing struggles, medical bills to pay. Then, there are the global things - suffering, war, unrest in far corners of the earth.

While I was still making peace with my thoughts I noticed a young kid up ahead of me. Thirteen, maybe 14 years old. He sat down on some steps and started fiddling with something in his lap, looking back and forth from side to side, seeming just slightly paranoid. Then he lit his little joint and fiddled with it a little more before he looked up ahead and made eye contact with me. He quickly tried to hide it and then pulled out his phone, his attempt to cover it up, clearly hoping I hadn't seen what he was up to.

As I got closer, he looked up again at me. Big blue eyes. So young, so innocent. So fragile. I wanted to sit down and wrap my arms around him. I wanted to fill him with love and a feeling of self-worth so strong that he wouldn't have any desire to turn to destructive and dangerous things like that. I wondered about his home, his family. Where were they? Did they have any idea? Does he even have a place he can call "home"? All these questions flooded through my head in about five seconds.

As I slowly walked up the steps that he was sitting on, and the smell confirmed my assumptions, all I could think to say was, "you should really stay away from that stuff." Totally lame, I know... I hope what he really heard from my tone, though, was "you're better than this, you're worth so much more than this, you're loved and valued." I really hope he felt something in his heart.

As I finished my walk home, all of a sudden everything else on my mind seemed so small and insignificant. I hugged my little bundled baby girl and kissed the top of her head. I thought of my two young boys laying down for the night. I wondered about what things my children will face in the future. I wondered if they'd turn to other people or things that would hurt them. I wondered if I'm wrapping my arms around them enough right now to secure in them a feeling of acceptance and unconditional love.

Nothing else, whether here or abroad, matters more to me than that right now - doing everything I can to create a loving home where my children feel safe and loved. If my heart could hurt so much for this young kid that I don't even know, I'm not sure I could handle feeling the pain I'd feel for one of my own. The world is a tricky and scary place sometimes, but even with all of its tricks and traps, I feel so grateful and confident that I have heaven's help available to help get us all through it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lucy is two months!

Where has the time gone?! It's so crazy how much babies change in the first weeks/months of life! I look at Lucy lately and am in awe at how fast she's growing and how much she's changing.

Lucy turned two months this week and she's kept up a good pace with her growth. She weighs 13.5 pounds and is 25.5 inches long... above the 95th percentile for both.

She is already more interested in sitting up and seeing what's going on around her and will make it known if you try to lay her down.

She smiles all the time and is a huge distraction at church because of it. One woman told me this last Sunday that she's never seen a happier baby. She is a sweetheart, for sure!

Lucy LOVES bath time! As soon as she hears the water filling the tub, she settle right down. And as soon as she gets in the water she kicks and coos and is happy to stay in there for at least 20 minutes.

Lucy has already had quite a few nights of sleeping 9-10 hour stretches. It's amazing to me! Ben and Hugh didn't sleep like that until much later. Her sleep habits haven't been quite as good since our last little trip, but I'm not worried about it. Even her worst nights are not that bad at all.

The boys just adore her and worry over her, just like big brothers should!

Lucy is such a sweet baby! We are so super lucky to have her in our family. She adds a happiness to our lives that I can't imagine going without.

School Bus Adventure

This time last year Ben started going to an Early Start class twice a week, after concerns we had about his slow language development. He adjusted quickly and loved his teachers, and within the first six months he had achieved all of his goals that we were hoping to reach after twelve months. We've been so grateful for the help we've gotten from his incredible teachers and it has been so much fun and satisfying to watch him learn and grow.

With a new school year starting, we opted to try out riding the bus. Ben loves buses and now that he's a little older we thought he might be ready for this next step. This week he's had his first experiences with riding the bus and so far it has gone remarkably well. We show his pictures of the bus before he leaves and tell him the bus will be taking him to school, to prepare him. The first couple of times he was a little hesitant, but by the time the bus arrives, at school or at home, he is all smiles!

Even after the mishap that happened during his very first bus ride home. Apparently the bus had mechanical problems and had to go back to the bus station to get some help. So, instead of the 15 minute ride home it was more like 50 minutes. I was a tiny bit frantic, but so relieved when he came bounding down those big bus steps with an enthusiasm I wish I could bottle, like such a big boy!

I would have captured one of his huge smiles in the photos below, but then I would have missed out on getting the huge hug as he runs into my arms... and that is far better than a photo!

Ben had an audience waiting for his arrival - Mom, Dad, Lucy, Hugh, Bapa and GG.

Can you see Ben's little head peaking out the window?!

It's still a little strange that my little two-year old is riding a bus. He's growing so fast and making us so proud. He is such a tender soul and so much fun!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I left an organ in Ogden (not San Francisco)

The last week of August my parents were planning a trip to Utah to attend baptisms of two of their grandchildren and at the last minute I decided I'd pack up myself and my three kiddos and go with them. Even though we were just there for our family reunion, I thought the boys would love another trip and I could spend some time with family and we could let Marc have a little quiet time to focus on getting work projects done. All in all it seemed like the perfect scenario for everyone.

Because of my parents' volunteering commitment on Wednesday mornings at the temple, Marc drove us down to meet them there and then drove their little car back home, while we continued on our trip in our van. We started the long drive across the desert at about 1pm.

Everything was going fairly well until a stop for gas in Elko, Nevada at around 10pm. As I was climbing back into the back seat of our van, I felt some pain in the middle of my back. It had been a long day of traveling and I figured I must have just twisted it funny when I got back in the car. But, then the pain seemed to spread around my rib cage to the front of my chest and tightened to the point where I was having a hard time breathing.

Not wanting to freak my parents out, I called Marc and asked him to look up symptoms of a heart attack. From what he read, it sounded like my symptoms were the same. Marc made me promise that if it got worse I'd make my parents stop and that even if the pain went away that I'd get checked out by someone within the next 24 hours.

As the pain got worse, I finally did tell my parents about the pain I was feeling and reassured them that when we stopped for the night I'd just take a warm bath and most likely feel much better. The warm bath did help, but when I was still awake and tossing and turning an hour later at 3am, I took another warm bath. I finally fell asleep sometime around 4am, only to wake up at 6am to feed Lucy again. Then back asleep for another hour before the boys were waking us up.

I felt tired, but the pain I'd been feeling was gone. The rest of the day I just felt a little off and slightly nauseous, but assumed it was from the traveling and lack of sleep. By evening I felt, more or less, back to normal and was enjoying time with my brother and his family in Ogden.

Then, in the middle of the night I found myself running to the bathroom with my body rejecting waste from both ends. Is there a nicer (less gross) way of saying that?? I was in a bedroom with my three little ones and in between my sprints to the bathroom I was up comforting and/or feeding each of my three kiddos at different points during the night. It was a pretty long night and I was feeling pretty miserable by the end of it.

After throwing up around 5am, I felt sharp pains in my chest and abdomen and knew that something wasn't right. Lucy was just waking up, so I fed her quick and then went into the bedroom where my parents were sleeping and told them I needed to go to the ER. Before leaving my brother's house, I was able to receive a blessing from my dad and brother, which seemed to ease the pain just enough to calm my fears just enough.

After a number of tests and an ultrasound, and few hours later, the ER doctor came in to let me know that I was having a gallbladder attack. In addition, there was a gall stone stuck in the duct that connects to the pancreas, and was causing inflammation in the pancreas as well. My condition was serious enough that I would need to go in for surgery right away.

Well, right away wasn't actually right away. But, shortly after noon I was knocked out while my gallbladder was being removed. As it turns out, the surgeon also found that I had an umbilical hernia and fixed that up while she was at it. I woke up to four small incisions in my abdomen, soreness all over my belly, pain in my right shoulder (from the air they filled my abdomen with), sores on the right corner of my mouth from the breathing tube, and lungs that burned as if I'd just run a marathon in Siberia. Plus, I was in a mental fog, struggling to come out of the anesthesia.

It was all very overwhelming and being separated from my babies, particularly my newborn babe, made me extra emotional. I had to "pump and dump" for about 24 hours after the surgery, but luckily Lucy adjusted fairly well to a bottle during that time and then adjusted back even easier to breastfeeding. Those 24 hours were awful. Even though I knew all three were in good hands - the best! - I slept terribly that night, feeling so alone without the breathing sounds and noises of my little ones to softly lull me to sleep. Instead, as fate would have it, there was a lightning storm all night that felt and sounded like it was attacking the hospital.

I survived my only night in the hospital and was released the next afternoon. I spent the next couple of days fighting feelings of discouragement. I had just fully recovered from Lucy's birth and felt like I'd just been knocked down again. I was pretty depressed to be back in recovery mode, which meant keeping the boys at an arm's length away, not being able to play with them, unable to do much rocking of my baby, since the doctor's one admonition was to not lift, pull or push anything over ten pounds for SIX weeks. I clearly haven't been good at following that, but I've tried to be careful.

Now that it has almost been two weeks since the surgery and we're back home, I'm feeling better. My wounds are still healing, both the physical and the emotional. I'm so grateful for the help I had from so many of my family members while we were in Utah, especially for my parents' help there and here.

I'm curious, though, if anyone else has had gallbladder problems. The ER doctor told me there is some connection to gallbladder attacks and pregnancy, but that they don't know why it happens exactly. I was also told that the attack could have been triggered by my sudden change in diet - by cutting out all dairy for Lucy's sake.

I guess whatever the cause, I won't have to worry about it happening again. So far I haven't noticed any change in the way my body functions without a gallbladder... and I'm down six pounds. Still, I definitely don't recommend it for a weight loss plan - there are much easier ways to lose six pounds!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Stay tuned

So, some of you may have noticed my blogging absence for the last few weeks. Part of that is simply because I have three little ones and very little free time. But, the bigger part of my absence came because of a little unexpected medical emergency that happened a couple of weeks ago. It's really quite the story... and as much as I hate to leave the story hanging like this, I'm exhausted and will tell you all about it tomorrow.

Ten Years of Genuine

Marc and I celebrated ten years of marriage a couple of weeks ago - August 23rd to be exact. With it feeling like a big milestone, we had talked about options of big ways to celebrate it together. But, with a newborn in the mix and other family things keeping our month pretty busy, we opted for making plans for a getaway to happen in the near future (like, hopefully within a month or two).

So, this year on our actual anniversary we kept things pretty low-key. Marc worked during the day, like normal, while I took care of the three little ones, like normal. Since my parents were away on a special getaway to celebrate their 50th anniversary (the day before ours), we got take-out for dinner from one of our favorite little joints in town - sharing the chicken/avocado sandwich and the chicken/avocado salad. It was delicious and a nice break from slaving in the kitchen.

Once the kids were all asleep, we sat on the couch and read love notes we'd each written for each other. One of my favorite parts of Marc's letter to me was how he appreciated the struggles we've gone through as they've only helped make our marriage feel less fake. And, I realized I agreed. Our struggles have made our relationship so much stronger and genuine. And, I really like genuine... even with all of its messy, imperfect parts.

After our love-letter-reading we perused furniture stores online - wanting to buy new couches as a gift to ourselves. And, then we pulled up a map and started making plans for our upcoming little getaway. We still haven't finalized the couch purchase nor our plans to get away, but hopefully we'll get to them both before #11 rolls around next year!

A new calling

A few weeks ago there was an important moment for my dad, which brought all of my siblings (except one) out for a quick weekend visit. It was so fun to be in on the surprise for my parents, who were not expecting the large gathering since we had just had our family reunion a couple of weekends before.

Half of my siblings arrived in the middle of the night and crashed at my house as soon as they arrived into town. We live just a couple of blocks from my parents and the halfway point is a big grassy field that you have to walk through to get to each others' houses. Early that Saturday morning, I called my parents to invite them over for a pancake breakfast, telling them that Ben and Hugh were asking for them as soon as they woke up.

What they found as they approached that grassy field was a handful of their grown children playing ball in the same grassy field where we played ball as young children. I wish I had thought to bring my camera to capture the looks on their faces. Precious and absolutely priceless.

The next day - Sunday - my dad was given a new calling (or assignment) for our Church, which was the important moment that caused us all to gather. He was called as the Patriarch for our area. For those of you who aren't of my faith, if you're interested in knowing more about patriarchs, you can read about it here. His primary responsibility will be to give patriarchal blessings, which you can read about here.

I've always felt very blessed for the family I belong to, particularly for the blessing of two wonderful parents. For those of you who know my father, I'm sure you'd agree that this new calling is the perfect fit for the kind of man that he is. I've also been given the unique opportunity to help him with secretarial type duties that will surely bring with it some incredible spiritual experiences to my own life. Good things to come, for sure.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Photo Update

So, it turns out I haven't taken a single photo since coming back from our trip. It's officially added to my unofficial list of things to do tomorrow. But, so is grocery shopping. And, right now I'm doing pretty good if I can accomplish one item per day... and food might just trump a photo shoot. Time is going so fast with my crazy days having three under three.

But, I went through our photos from the last couple of weeks and found some that I thought were worth sharing.

These first five photos of Lucy were taken when she was three weeks old. She got the cutest leg warmers in the mail from one of my dear friends and I had to let Lucy try them on!

As you can see, she is clearly not starving! I'm still a little shocked she's grown so much in her first month! Ben and Hugh better watch out...

Swaddled, three weeks.

I think I've mentioned how much Ben loves holding Lucy, also insisting on having the burp cloth on his shoulder. (Have I mentioned that Ben says "shoulder" in the cutest way? He says something like "sheizures" and it's so stinkin' cute!)

When we were in Utah, I got to meet up with one of my companions from my mission. It had been probably eight years or so since I'd seen her last and it was so much fun! She would hate for me to boast on her behalf, but I think it's pretty amazing to have a friend in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir! I actually have some pretty funny stories of her trying to teach me to sing alto during our companionship study time in the four months we were together... turns out she's an awesome teacher and I'm a terrible student... or at least singer! Fun times, though! Camille, if you're reading this, let's not let another eight years pass before our next visit! TVB!! Ma, tantissimo!

Some more photos from our sailboat adventure at our family reunion. Notice me trying to keep Ben from falling (aka: jumping) into the water. That was how I spent the entire boat ride. I was exhausted by the time we reached land.

Here Ben is laying on the dock, trying to get as humanly close as possible to the HUGE carp swarming around in the water below. If he wasn't sticking his finger down to get bitten off, he was trying to lean in close enough to get a kiss. Not joking. I keep wondering when (or IF?) this boy of mine is going to understand boundaries that are meant to keep him safe. No fear of anything!

I can't remember if I already posted this one, but it's one of my favorites right now. So cute!

As is this one!

Playing with trucks in my sister's yard:

Oh, and if you'll notice Hugh's t-shirt - those were our family reunion shirts for this year. Marc designed them and I made them (ordered the shirts and ironed on the decals). Pretty fancy, eh?!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lucy - one month

I really need to put some more photos of Lucy up, but I just haven't gotten around to getting them off the camera. I'll try to do that soon, but in the meantime she had her one month appointment the other day and I figured I'd at least update her current stats.

Lucy is tipping the scales at 11 pounds 15 ounces! (That means she's gained two and a half pounds since birth.)

She has already grown three inches - is now 24 inches long!

And, her head is measuring at 15.4 inches.

The nurse was so shocked at her length and had to re-measure her to make sure she got it right. She's in the 95th to 98th percentile for both height and weight - we clearly have a very healthy baby girl! She is already smiling lots and just starting to make cooing sounds. She typically wakes twice during the night - usually sometime around 1am and 5am. She hates laying down flat if she's awake and prefers a sitting up position to see what's going on. Both boys are growing more and more fond of her and constantly want to hold her and kiss her. Lucy has added so much happiness to our life in her first month. We are thrilled to have her in our family!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Baby blessing

While we were in Utah, we decided it would be a good time for Lucy to be blessed. My sister, Mandi, also blessed her nearly-three-month old Ezra on the same day. Usually baby blessings are done in church, but since we were attending a congregation that wasn't our own we made arrangements to have Lucy blessed at my sister's house after church.

As I dressed Lucy in her white blessing dress (with a pink slip underneath), I thought of my Grandma Hedy. She made the dress over 40 years ago for my older sister on her blessing day. That same dress was then worn by me and Mandi, and then again by my sisters' daughters - McKayla, Audrey, and Talea. And, now I was able to dress my baby girl in the same blessing dress.

As I handed Lucy to Marc and he was joined in a loving circle of other important men in her life (her Daddy, Grandpa, Uncles - Jamie, John, Matt, Danny, Dwight, Adam, and cousin Colton), I loved the feeling of protection and strength that came with that visual. I felt a calm reassurance that my little Lucy will be just fine with such good men in her life protecting her and loving her.

I won't recount here the specifics of her baby blessing, but there were some beautiful promises made and I got a tiny glimpse into the special soul of my baby girl. I feel so blessed and lucky to be the mother to this little spirit.

Family Time

We just got back from our first road trip as a family of five. I normally would not be going anywhere with a brand new baby, let alone on a 13-hour car ride two states away, but this particular getaway was something planned long before we even found out we were pregnant.

This particular getaway took us to a cabin at Bear Lake in northern Utah where we gathered with my family for a family reunion and to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary (which is coming up in a couple of weeks). We've been planning it for over a year and knowing my entire family would be together, I was determined to do everything in my power to be there with them, even making the drive with a three-week old and two two-year olds.

And, actually, all three kids did surprisingly really well in the car. We planned to make stops every 2-3 hours along the way to nurse Lucy and to let the boys get out and run around. It ended up taking a bit longer, but it was worth it to keep the kids happy. And, fortunately my recovery from Lucy's birth seemed to drastically improve just in time for our departure.

The family reunion was a bit like getting a glimpse of heaven, even with all the chaos that is bound to come with 48 people under one roof. That's right. Forty-eight. That's just my parents, my siblings and spouses, and grandkids.

We found the perfect balance of planned activities - family talent show, storytelling by Grandma and Grandpa, sailboat rides, swimming, fishing trip, photo shoot - and free time to just sit back and enjoy each other. It was three years ago that we were last all together, which meant that some in my family were meeting all three of my kids for the first time. Funny how much our situation had changed since our last reunion.

Ben and Hugh typically get really overwhelmed when surrounded by lots of people they don't know, so we fully expected them to be a bit clingy and uncomfortable being in an unfamiliar place with a large group of unfamiliar people, but right from the moment we first arrived they were running around screaming and being crazy with all of their 30 cousins. It was a little shocking, but so much fun to watch them warm up so quickly and have so much fun.

I didn't take nearly as many photos as I should have or would have liked, but luckily we had some done professionally that I'll share when they're available. Here's just a tiny glimpse of our time together.

It was wonderful to be reminded of how blessed I've been to have been given the family I have. While we are far from perfect and our relationships are continually evolving, it's pretty amazing how well all eight of us get along and enjoy being together. I think part of that is from our long road trips growing up - Christmas trips to Grandma's in Utah, then the two super long road trips to Alaska and New York (ten years apart, though). My parents were constantly providing memories and experiences for us to spend time together as a family, and even if those long hours trapped in a car at the time were less than fun, somehow they solidified our love for each other.

It was equally wonderful to celebrate the fifty years my parents have been together and to spend some time reflecting on how they did it and how much I hope we can accomplish the same. We are approaching the big ten year anniversary in two weeks, so we're on our way! I feel blessed to be surrounded by an incredibly supportive group of siblings (and their spouses) and to have parents who have provided a legacy of love and a foundation of faith for us to build from.