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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.