Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

A few months ago I was teaching Sharing Time to the Primary kids. I don't even remember what the topic was that day, but at some point during the Sharing Time I was baring my testimony about Heavenly Father's love for the children in that room. I was telling them how He knows them more than anyone else, even more than they know themselves- then I began to say the Heavenly Father loves them even more than their parents loved them, and I couldn't bring myself to say it. I stopped and flipped a few words around and ended up saying something else and then I concluded my testimony.

I remember being really little and having Brother McCord home teach our family. He came every month. Sometimes when he came we sulked a little walking to the living room. We knew we were in for a long and well-thought-out lesson. We always ended up enjoying it though and I still remember little details of his lessons even though I was so little. I remember him once testifying of God's love for us and telling us that Heavenly Father loved us even more than our mom and dad loved us. When he left that day I was a little mad. I couldn't comprehend anyone loving me more than my mom did- even Heavenly Father.

Today I feel differently about that. Today I think that if I could choose three things for my kids to learn and know with a surety throughout their entire lives, one of them would be that they have a Father in Heaven who loves them more than anyone on earth or in heaven. That though I love them even more than I myself can begin to comprehend, that their Heavenly Father loves them even more. I think that with that knowledge, they could get through just about anything. They could face trials and know that they are for their good. They could rejoice in accomplishments and opportinities and know who to thank. They would know that they have two well-meaning, imperfect, very grateful earthly parents who love them more than any other thing on this earth and though they can sometimes more tangibly see and physically feel that love- that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them even more.

I'm lucky to have a mom who has always made sure we know she loves us unconditionally. Our relationship with her has always been pretty unique because no matter what we did, what we were thinking about, what we were wondering- we could always go to her. Our questions or desires or need for love would always be reciprocated with even more love. It's one of the reasons i've always felt secure. I've always felt confident. I've never felt alone and always felt loved. Because of my mom and with her help I think I can get through just about anything. She knows what to say and knows what to do. But this year I am learning why we need to believe in a love that is more. A love that is all-knowing. Because only Heavenly Father knows what we need in our lives to become more like Him. And with a testimony of His perfect love for us, we can be assured that those trials are completely for our benefit and learning and will eventually allow us to experience even more joy.

So I hope my kiddos know that they have a mom who loves them more than I know how to put in to words; but still, a Heavenly Father who loves them even more.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Grace


Throughout the last month- I've only had two real big breakdowns: one right after the ultrasound that showed a mass while we were waiting to go back for the biopsy- and two, last night.

We had gotten home late, put the boys to bed and I felt overwhelmed with everything that was unknown. Would it come back. When could we have another baby. How could we have another baby. How hard will it be to have another baby. Why when I had a body that could so easily get pregnant and carry a healthy baby did I have to deal with a disease that made that process so much more complicated and even dangerous. What if I would have been more in tune with the spirit years ago. Could that have changed things or prompted me to be more preventative earlier?

The night was long. Jax talked in his sleep and the boys all woke up early. McKay, who was up with Jax left for work exhausted and I got up and though felt better than I had last night, knew I needed a perspective realignment. As I've talked to people throughout this experience, some well-meaning people feel the need to give me justification in feeling like this is really hard which I think can be a natural tendency. After reassuring them that I feel peaceful and calm and that things will be fine, they respond with, "I know, but this is really scary." Or  "but this is a really big deal." Of course I know that logically, or from a medical standpoint, yes, this is a really big deal. It's "scary." But how grateful I am for the very real and tangible lightness I have felt throughout this entire burden. So much in fact, that i'm not even sure I would call it that. My very favorite response to my news was a friend who relied, "...onward and upward!" Rather that viewing this trial as a state of arrival, as something that's final- that changes everything for the worse- that's "me" now, I like to think of it as a stepping stone- a building block- a mountain to climb that when conquered will leave me stronger and capable and confident that through the enabling power and grace of Jesus Christ, I can do all things.

This morning Jax went to a friend's house and honestly it was just what I needed. I'm having a hard time keeping track of tender mercies like that- friends who offer to take a kid or two just when I need it, babies who fall asleep just when I need them to, dinners in my freezer, etc. There have just been so many of them. But this morning there were several. Jax left and Cash was ready for a nap and as he fell asleep in my arms, Jonah came into his room and silently played under his crib. (If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is!) I had time to read a talk given my Sheri Dew at a Women's Conference a few years ago- all about the grace and enabling power of Jesus Christ (among tons of other wonderful counsel and teachings). But she explained grace in a way that clarified it for me- as something that allows us to feel peace, or "lightness," or hope (I now substitute this word when I read it in the scriptures with "assurance") or even joy, during times that would otherwise be really hard. Through grace, pain or hurt or regret can be completely taken away. Grace enable us to do things we could not do on our own. We have access to that grace through Jesus Christ.

There have been so many time in my life when I'm going through something hard and I scour conference talks or the scriptures with a specific subject in mind- thinking that I know already what I need to hear or learn, and if I could just find that thing, my problems will be solved. But this one I am going about differently- and I am starting to understand like I never (really) have before that the entire gospel is centered around Jesus Christ. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I used to compartmentalize everything: missionary work, charity, the Atonement, family history work. I think I have read a talk or a passage of scripture in the last month that references almost any topic I can think of. And you know what I'm learning? Everything is possible because of the same person: Jesus Christ. And everything we do here on earth is for one purpose: returning to live with our Heavenly Father.

I have been given packets of information regarding cancer, what they think my stage is, etc. Family has sent me articles with information. I haven't read anything. Strength for me doesn't come from information or knowledge of science. It comes from faith and total assurance that what I've felt in peaceful, sacred moments will come to pass. I love this quote I read this morning from Sheri Dew,

"Sometimes we think that the world around us is what is real—but this world is so fake, so much of it. What’s real is our Father and His Son, the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ and all the power available to us to help us do what we came to this earth to do."


It's how I feel. Yes, the reality is that there is cancer in my body. It's my mountain to climb. But that reality is nothing compared to the power of Heavenly Father. Will He just take it away? Will the cancer just disappear? I doubt it. But I learned a long time ago that His plan is always better than mine and have felt a miraculous ability to continue on with my life despite that reality. And that's something I know I could never do on my own. It's not just a hopeful feeling. It's not just a thought. It's tangible. It's a change of mind and heart. And it's the grace of the Savior. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Always


I spend so much time during the day hoping to remember specifics- Jonah's chubby face and the way his lips move when he talks. His high, sometimes piercing voice. The way Jax looks at me when he wants to show me something- adamant and frustrated if I don't look right away. How creative he is. Always building or creating or planning. Cash's hands and knees moving across the hardwood, usually accompanied by whining and reaching little arms- up to wherever I am.

By the end of the day I'm exhausted. Usually regretful. Usually going over like a million things I could have done better. Usually debating how i'll spend the next three precious hours before I go to sleep and soon woken again by a gentle cry or the sound of three-year-old feet padding across my bedroom carpet. I'm usually brain dead. I don't want to think. I have all these plans during the day- plans of stuff I'll do when the kids go to bed. Getting organized. Getting stuff in order. Doesn't happen. I can't think.

But I am always fulfilled. Always. Every night as I sit on the couch exhausted, regretting, hoping, brain dead- whatever. I am always so fulfilled. And grateful. So grateful that every morning I wake up to the sound of my children (whatever sounds those may be). And that I get to spend my entire day  feeding them, cleaning them, teaching them and hugging them, kissing scrapes and pouring milk and breaking up fights. Walking up stairs to look at lego towers and buckling little car seat straps over tiny chests. Feeling arms around my neck and fingers on my face and playing with their hair and lips.

Jax was so cute yesterday. Yesterday was May 1st and I said, Jax! Do you know what today is? It's May day! We can pick flowers and leave them on people's porch and ring their doorbells and run away! That was in the morning. A little while later the boys were outside. I was kind of going in and out and I heard our doorbell ring. I opened the door and saw little purple flowers on the porch. I brought them in and didn't think anything of it because Jax leaves me little surprises all the time. Anyways- much much later, McKay got home and Jax told him that it was May Day and that he left flowers for me on the porch because it was May Day.

Jax and Jonah are so funny lately. They fight A LOT. But they love each other A LOT. They are both in soccer so today we practiced in the front yard. Jax was going "easy" on Jonah. Jax could have played soccer for hours, but Jonah got bored and wanted to ride his bike. It is so fun finding out what they love. Jax is so into building, creating, working on specific skills, being a leader. Jonah loves cars, planes, being active. He takes all my tupperware round lids and makes them into frisbees. Both boys love music. Jax can play by ear. Both boys love books. Jonah's favorite book is I Spy. He could play for hours.

I don't hate it that they are growing anymore. I used to have such a hard time with it. Now I just enjoy every single day. I love watching them learn. I love learning what they like. I love how different they are. I love love this time of my life. I am so grateful I get to be a mom.

11 Months




My baby boy-

Just so you know, I am obsessed with you. I don't know how many times a day I say to your dad, just LOOK at him...seriously??!! How can he be THAT perfect? I hope you never in your entire life question how much you are loved because I'm pretty sure you are the most loved baby in the entire world. You bring a special spirit to our home. This month especially, I have needed that. All I have to do is look at you and you bring me happiness instantly. There have been some special moments where you have known exactly what I needed and you just lay on my chest for as long as I want. Most of my days are spent holding you. You do not like to be put down! Sometimes I even forget you are there. Thanks for being my sidekick. I love you more than you will ever understand. My Cash baby boy.

At 11 months YOU:

don't love baths as much. You are usually okay in the beginning, but after a few minutes, you are done! You start crying and stand up against the edge and look and me and bounce up and down until I get you out. Oh! And you started splashing sometimes. It's so cute.

LOVE sweet potatoes, strawberries, COWS MILK, white cheddar puffs (we'll pretend this is the baby brand and not Cheetos...but they're Cheetos), and raisins

LOVE LOVE LOVE your daddy. I have never seen you reach for anyone as aggressively as you reach for him

will stand up for a few seconds at a time- usually it's only when you're not trying. If we try to get you to stand, you usually won't. You don't even really like to hold our hands and take steps. You are pretty content just being carried forever!

have been going to bed at like 8:00! It's a miracle! You have been our little night owl since you were born and now you go to bed when your brothers go to bed. I hold you and feed you a bottle (or two...we need to get bigger ones) and you fall asleep. You still like to be swaddled!

usually don't wake up during the night. Sometimes you wake up really early in the morning and dad usually gets you but then you cry until I take you from him and then you find a really awkward way to lay on me and then you fall asleep again. :)

love to be chased! Your favorite game is when I hold you and we run away from Jax or Jonah. That is when you laugh the very hardest!

will not sit down in a cart at the store- even if you're strapped in. You always find a way to shimmy out of it and stand up. Usually I just end up putting you in the big part of the cart (but you stand now so it's kind of scary) or I just hold you. You also hate getting in your carseat but you almost never cry when you are in it- unless someone is in the car whose voice you don't recognize.

when you throw fits you arch your entire body. This is usually when you are getting your diaper changed or I am putting you in your high chair, car seat, or stroller...or the floor. You like to be held or up high- like sometimes I put you on my counter when I am getting ready

are becoming quite the tough little brother. I have seen you attack your brothers a few times! You scratch and bite them. Sometimes they are actually scared of you hahahaha

have the best wrists in the world. I don't know why but I am obsessed with your chubby areas and wrists

when I feed you, you play with my teeth. You stick your finger in my mouth and play as you eat and fall asleep. You did that while you nursed and you still do that when I feed you a bottle. Which reminds me- you started taking a bottle this month! You had a couple days when you wanted to nurse, but it was SO much easier than I thought. You are a total trooper!

have the best hair. So many people comment on how cute your hair is! It has gotten lighter and now looks a lot like dad's color. Kind of an ashy blonde. I LOVE it.

love to knock over block towers. Jax gets so frustrated sometimes because he builds things and you love to knock them over! One night we all sat in a circle and played a game to see how high we could stack towers before you crawled to ours and knocked it over!

You have four teeth! Two on the bottom (those were your first ones) and two on the top! Dad thinks you're gonna have a gap, but I think they'll come together!

You are a really good eater. When you're about done eating you always try to grab the spoon or the fork from me and if I don't let you have it you get really mad and arch your back and bang your head against your high chair. It always makes me feel so bad. That's usually when I know you're done eating! :)


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Consider the blessings


Yesterday was the day of my cancer diagnosis. It should have come as a shock or surprise, but it didn't. Dr. Errico who gave my mom and I the news said that it was so rare that she tell someone she has cancer- and then have that person laughing with her mom a minute later. She said she was dreading our appointment. The whole way to the appointment my mom and I talked about the blessings that have come to our family from all the cancer. For me alone, there have been tons in just three days. The way I found it was a miracle in itself. I don't even remember how it happened. It was Sunday afternoon, I was in sweats- I think in Cash's room. I wasn't in pain, or engorged (I was nursing then). It was like somehow my hand was just placed in the exact spot where it was and I felt it immediately. Something that was hard for a doctor (with 16 years experience!) to even find (miracle). Again, I'm nursing, so the likelihood of it being a clogged duct or something like that was really probable. Logically, I didn't think there was much to worry about- it's pretty crazy how your mind and your heart can disagree to strongly. But in my gut (or heart...but really my spirit) knew I had to get in and have it checked.

The next morning I started calling SCCA, but since it had been like 9 years since I saw an actual doctor, I couldn't get imagine just ordered. So I went through my OB who I somehow managed to get into within the next two hours (miracle!). The nurse practitioner there felt it and said it felt more like a duct or something, but with my family history, wanted me to get it checked. Gut feeling was still there. The ultrasound got ordered at SCCA within like an hour (miracle, because the last time this needed to be done, it was done all wrong and I wasn't contacted for like a month. That turned out to be an actual clogged duct haha). I got in to SCCA the very next day (miracle!). McKay came with me to the ultrasound per my grandpa's request. Which I thought was dumb because LOGICALLY I felt like this would be nothing and I hated a big deal being made out of this. I almost just wanted to go alone. We drove to Seattle and McKay said he was "99.9% sure" this was a nursing thing. Part of me believed him (my brain) and part of me was thinking just wait. So we get there and long story short, the ultrasound showed a mass. And just for clarification, an ultrasound shows fluid vs. solid- so I knew anything fluid was nursing-related. So when the technician pointed out the spot and I asked if it was solid and she responded "yes." I think we were both a little shocked. McKay stopped talking so much at that moment. haha.

She told me that there were two other things it could be (also nursing related) but those two other things just kind of dropped out of my mind. I knew what it was. And she said that the "concerning" part about the mass was that it had cloudy edges and not defined edges which would be typical of the other two things. She said someone would call me within a few days with results. And the funny thing is that normally, I would be completely freaking out and obsessing over getting that call, but in this circumstance, I wasn't at all because I already totally knew! I kind of forgot someone would be calling me. She told us to come back that afternoon for a biopsy and I'll spare the depressing details but that was probably the low point for me. We had a couple hours to kill so we went to U Village (which is my absolute favorite place to shop). It's this big pretty outdoor shopping center with all my favorite stores and it's kind of far from my house, so I have lots of memories escaping for the day with my babies and pushing them around in the sun while McKay would be working. It's like my happy place. But on that day all I noticed were the moms pushing their babies- totally blissful and happy and I felt like my days of that were over. We went into Restoration Hardware because there is this coffee table i've liked. I think McKay felt so bad for me he would have bought it that day haha. But every time we sat down on a couch I just started crying. Finally I told him I wanted to just go sit in the car. That was a time of just feeling really really scared.

We got back and had the biopsy. And just really quickly- I love the nurses there. They have the perfect bedside manner for people going through hard things. Except that they kept asking me about my kids! Which was the one aspect of this whole thing that I wasn't ready face quite yet. I remember my mom saying that when she got her cancer diagnosis, she immediately felt herself distance herself from her kids. Which I totally get. You're preparing for the worst. Laci was only 11 months (Cash is 11 months) and Lexi was three (Jonah is three). So anyways- I didn't want to go there yet.

McKay and I drove home in mostly silence. I think I started to fall asleep a little bit. We got to Micro and I dropped him off at his car and drove back to my grandma's to get my kids who all ended up being at the park. The first thing I saw was Cash in a swing smiling SO BIG. And I couldn't help thinking just how perfect he is. He is our sunshine. Really. And from that second, I never felt like I needed to distance myself from my kids at all. That was another miracle. I was blessed with the ability to feel calm and totally confident in the aspect of this whole ordeal that was (logically) the most concerning to me. The spirit always wins.

The hours in between the biopsy and my appointment were the hardest. My greatest blessing was that I knew in my heart I wouldn't die. I just felt it- in the same way that I knew the lump I found was cancer. It wasn't questionable. It was sure. And my other greatest blessing was that I was able to completely connect and love on my kiddos with an even greater capacity than I had before. It's funny how during things like this, priorities get sorted out REALLY fast. And any second I wasn't doing dishes or changing a diaper, I was on the floor with my kids playing. We even went to gymagine (and jumping on a trampoline with a baby probably isn't the smartest after a biopsy FYI). But I spend a good amount of time on my knees as well.

So the next day was when I drove back for my appointment with Dr. Errico where she gave me the diagnosis. *Side note: I had already been planning for a double-mastectomy just as a preventative measure and trying to get an appointment at SCCA to get the ball rolling. Basically, since I hadn't been there for anything besides a scan in so long, everyone was confused and no one knew quite who to refer me to. I kept getting referred to call different facets of SCCA and it was just a confusing mess. Finally, I had gotten an appointment but it wasn't until June (and all the doctors were scheduled out like that...they're really busy). But as I was scrambling to get in for an ultrasound, this scheduler told me she was going to streamline everything for me, and that she wanted to offer me an appointment with a pysician that Wednesday- in two days (which at that point I didn't know I had cancer but that appointment would be the very next day after the ultrasound when I would find out. If that isn't Heavenly Father's hand in this, I don't know what is) MIRACLE!

Dr. Errico talked to us for a little bit, gave me an exam, and gave me the diagnosis. My mom was with me the whole time. At the end of the appointment I felt informed and relieved and grateful. And Dr. Errico told me how lucky I was to have a support group of such strong women who had been through the same thing. And my mom responded that we are also "very religious." My mom's good at baring testimony to strangers. When she said that I felt kind of awkward just because we were in a doctor's office in one of the biggest and most prominent cancer-research centers in America. I mean, most of what they do is based solely on science and research. But instead of just politely nodding, Dr. Errico paused and looked right at me and with a shaky voice said, "I believe in the power of prayer." And my mom and I just nodded and each said "I do too."

President Eyring advised that when we go through hard things, we should count the miracles. For me, in just three days, there have been so many. Some that I've noticed, and some I'll probably realize later. But I know without a doubt that I have been carried. I'm starting to scratch the surface of having an understanding of the Atonement. That having our "burdens lifted" is not just a sentiment. Not just words encouraging our faith and trust in the plan of salvation. That those words are a promise given to us in mortality FOR mortality. And things that are heavy will be made light and burdens with weight will be lifted. Hard things that we SHOULD (logically...can you tell that logic isn't worth much to me these days?) feel, we just don't. All because of Him.

I'm just scratching the surface.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Soccer!




*I need to write something here. For now, just look at how freaking cute these munchkins are!



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Hawaii 2017


The ONE day I took pictures! I know...so bad. I am the worst at hauling my big camera around and then after the fact, I wish I would have. I have been all about just living in the moment lately (but then after the moment, it kind of sucks not to have the pictures!). Anyways- our trip to Hawaii this year was food, spending time together, food, cuddling babies, and FOOD. Cody at one point goes, "You guys are food people, huh?" hahaha. The weather was so pretty- not swimming weather though. We spent a lot of time walking around and seeing places we didn't see. Totally different from last year when we spent 80% of the time at the pool. The boys are at such fu ages. They were a BREEZE on the plane. Seriously so stinking easy. We got there just before Cody and Haley and Chad. It's always the best to all be together. Jax and Jonah couldn't wait to swim. The pool had a waterslide and Jax had no fear. He is a kind of an adrenaline junkie. I think he would do just about anything. I mostly sat in the hot tub with Cash and usually an orange (it was our tradition to be in the hot tub together and eat an orange- me and the boys). McKay and I spent lots of time searching for the "best food" on Maui and I seriously think we found some of it. Grandpa and grandma found out they could come at the last minute when grandpa was cleared by his Dr. He's so stinking tough. Who has open-heat-surgery and goes to Hawaii four weeks later? haha. Chad struggled slightly being at the "awkward age." Not married yet but too old to hang out with the kids. Jake was at the awkward age too. It will be better when Tanner and Jared are back hahaha. 

Jax brought his camera and took pictures the entire time. He and Jonah were in heaven having Lexi and Laci within walking distance for an entire week. The three littlest (before Cash) drank smoothies on the porch, played hide-and-go-seek, etc. Kid heaven. 

The highlight of the trip was Sunday at church. After Sacrament was over, Jax asked immediately if he could go to Primary. The rest of the family left after sacrament, but our little example got the five of us to stay. We're really glad we did. And Jax had NO fear in Primary. Walked right in and sat in the front row. Love that guy. Jonah slept on us in Sunday School. haha.

On this day we went on a hike (haha I think it was like .23 miles...?) We got up early and got donuts on the way (the reason I went...jk) at one of the "best" places. The boys were so cute. Jax carried his polaroid and tool pictures the whole time. He would tell Jonah to pose and Jonah would do his very best smile and Jax would tell him to "SMILE NORMAL JONAH." I think about 80% of this trip I was just thinking how stinking cute my kids are and how much I love them. The other 20% was spent convincing my brothers to hurry the freak up and give me some nieces and nephews. 
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