Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Catch up

This Winter has been one filled with sickness.  We just keep getting sick.  It's been about two weeks since anyone has gotten sick now so I'm hoping with Spring coming that we are finally over all the sickness.  This past week I sprained my ankle.  We weren't sure if I had broken it or not.  I could walk on it but it was super painful and swollen and bruised.  I was holding the baby when I fell down the last few steps of the stairs.  I did some awesome ninja twist to make sure I didn't fall on the baby and she fell on my cushy belly.  I had an x-ray and we couldn't see any breaks so I guess I just sprained it pretty bad.  It still hurts and is slightly bruised but the swelling has gone down.  In an attempt to save me, Mike came running down the stairs and hurt his back.  We were quite a pair for a few days.  

Last week our furnace also broke.  We have warm air upstairs but downstairs the furnace broke and it was down right chilly.  I woke up to 63 degrees downstairs.  That week we had some chilly weather, one day the high was only 45 so we bundled up and Mike fixed our fireplace (which was also broken) and turned it on at 5 AM so that when I got up with baby we wouldn't freeze.  We still do not have a furnace even though it's been over a week since the repair man came.  He said it has to be replaced entirely.  It frustrates us quite a bit since the weather is now warming up and it's doubtful we will need the furnace anymore this year.  Sadly, the houses were built with package units so the A/C is tied to it and therefore, the A/C has to be replaced with it.  Since we are moving in a few months we won't even get to enjoy the new furnace.  Such a waste. 

We are supposed to find out where we are moving to any day now.  We have been waiting for months.  We were hoping we would know in January but figured it would be Feb.  Here we are in March though and still don't know.  We are pretty sure that it will be Florida or New Mexico.  We asked for Florida but I think we would be happy either place.  There are so many positives for either one.  Truthfully, I think Albuquerque is more our style and fits our family better but we really want to experience something different than we've ever done so Florida seemed like a better choice.  I have just been praying the the Lord will send us wherever our family will be the most happy.  

We are almost done now with our required amount of days for homeschool (180).  We should have all our days in by mid-April.  Thankfully, we are just about finished with our Math and English curriculum so then we will just spend the rest of the time finishing up Science, History, and Writing.  The pregnancy and arrival of Felicity has made our year somewhat boring and chaotic but I am not sure that I expected a whole lot more from me this year.  I still think the kids have received a better education this year than they would have if they had gone to school even if we haven't done very many cool things this year.  One thing we still have coming up is a Science Fair.  Will has always wanted to participate in one and Mike agreed to help the kids each choose a project and then hold our own Science Fair.

This past few months we have also been participating in basketball.  All three boys played and they were each on separate teams so we spent two days a week at practice and then from 9:30 AM to 2 PM each Saturday at basketball games.  It was a lot but the kids had such a good season this year.  They all made huge improvements and each had incredible coaches.  They enjoyed it so much that they have asked to play soccer.  Even Piper wants to play this time so we are in for a few more busy months.  I am nervous about how our weeks are going to look like but I think it's good for them to be involved with other kids as well as stay active.  It should be fun!

Finally, Felicity is 3 months now!  She had her first immunizations last month and gets some more next week.  I am still convinced that she has a tongue tie but her doctor said she didn't.  Regardless, she is still not a great eater and I believe it is affecting my milk supply.  I am not sure how long I will produce milk and I'm considering supplementing.  Sometimes she will wake up at night with only a slightly wet diaper when I would think it should be nice and soggy.  I have to keep rags under me when she nurses because otherwise my entire side is soaked with milk from her not getting a good enough latch and drooling all down my side while she eats.  She spits up more than any of my babies as well.  She is still taking medicine for reflux and I think that helps her but she gets crazy hiccups all day.  She also has a slightly forked tongue.  The other issue with her eating is that it takes her almost a full hour to eat.  In some ways it's nice because I can use that as an excuse to just sit and relax but other times it just feels like forever!  It's especially hard when the other kids need my help and I'm stuck feeding the baby for that long or when I'm in the middle of preparing dinner but she needs to eat, bringing dinner prep to a halt.  I don't know, we'll figure it out.  

As far as her sleeping, it's getting much better.  She sleeps through the night most nights now, which is way sooner than her siblings.  Her naps still need a bit of work but I've seen progress.  Some days she will go to sleep easily and take a good nap followed by days of just being awake most of the day.  Other days I can get her to go to sleep somewhat easily but she won't stay asleep longer than 15-30  minutes.  I'm not really sure what the difference is but as long as we are making progress, I'm okay with that.  Most nights she cries herself to sleep but it doesn't seem to take her too long.  We usually have to do a 2 min check, 5 min check, and then a 10 min check and then she goes to sleep.  She doesn't always go to sleep so easily for her naps though.  Sometimes we have to do checks the entire hour and she doesn't ever actually go to sleep.  But again, she is doing way better than any of her siblings were at this point so I'm calling it a success.  

Life is full.























Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Memories

11 weeks.

11 weeks is the total time Laila lived on this earth.  11 weeks I nursed her, bathed her, held her.  Felicity is 11 weeks now.  It's been hard on me.  I have been having floods of memories.  These memories have created feelings of intense love as well as deep heartache.

When Felicity was 8 weeks we went on a trip to Kentucky for my brother's wedding.  Laila was about 8 weeks when we went on a trip from Colorado Springs to Elk Ridge, UT.  Laila cried for 8 of the 10 hour trip home.  I couldn't figure out how to make her happy.  At one point she projectile vomited all over herself and her car seat.  About half way through the drive home I pleaded, "Can we please just stop driving?  Can we stop at a hotel for the evening and let her out of the car seat?  I can't stand listening to her cry."  Mike wanted to push on and argued that sleeping in a hotel with four kids and a dog would be more painful than just driving the rest of the way home.  A few hours from home we stopped so I could nurse Laila again.  We pulled off at a rest stop in the mountains.  There was a trail off to the side that Mike took Diamond and the boys on while I sat in the car and nursed her.  She was so unhappy and was refusing to nurse.  She would suck for a few minutes and then pull away and cry and cry.  I felt awful knowing she was so unhappy and that I had to put her right back in her seat and couldn't cuddle her and make her happy.  We drove that same trip a few times after she passed away and every time I remembered that sad, sad drive.  Every trip home to Utah I felt guilty.  Every time we drove by the rest stop I'd mention to Mike how much I wish we had stopped for the night.  The stop where she projectile vomited happened in a parking lot across from a huge cliff wall.  I remember the sun seemed to be blocked by that wall.   When I first saw that gigantic wall, I remember feeling awe.  It seemed amazing and beautiful.  Every time we passed it after her death that wall and it's awesomeness felt oppressive and dark, the massive cliff blocking the light and casting darkness on the world.  I hate that memory.

****

I opened up the chest in Felicity's room that contains Laila's things.  I thought maybe I'd let Felicity wear some of Laila's clothes.  I wasn't able to do that with Piper.  I had to keep things very separate with her.  I opened the chest and saw the clothes, wrapped in a plastic covering to protect them, and I couldn't even take the plastic off.  The tears started coming and I immediately closed the chest.  A few weeks later I opened it again.  This time I unwrapped the plastic and looked at the clothes.  I saw some clothes that I specifically identify with Laila.  There were others that she wore, but not often.  One of those was a dark blue dress.  I put the dress on Felicity for church and smelled cedar all day long.  The cedar smell kept turning my mind to the chest.  Inside, along with the clothes, are dried flowers from when an anonymous friend had a rose delivered every month on the 24th.  There is a photo album with pictures of her my mom took, the most beautiful quilts that were lovingly made for her by friends, the dress she wore when she died that the paramedics cut off her body, the autopsy report, her death certificate, a swimming suit she wore one day to the pool, the dress she was blessed in, and a few other treasured items.

****

Felicity looks so much like Laila.  It often feels very strange to me to nurse her.  I feel like I'm peering down at Laila and I have waves of immense sadness come over me.  The other day I held Felicity cheek to cheek and I had a flash of memory so strong it made me sick to my stomach.  I could almost feel the cold of Laila's cheek as I held her while being questioned by the detective.  I held her in that small room, her cheek pressed to mine, while her body got cold.  When I walked in the room I noticed she had a poopy diaper.  The nurse uncomfortably told me not to worry, that it was common, after someone dies.  It was hard for her to get the words out.  I remembered how the pigs on the farm used to excrete fluid from their bodies after they died.  I just never expected to witness that same thing with my daughter and I was caught off guard.  I had changed so many diapers in the last three months, it was just natural for me to notice and want to change it.  The detective's eyes showed pain for me.  She broke a few rules by letting me hold Laila during the questioning and letting me cut some of Laila's hair.  It seems ludicrous that it wasn't even supposed to be allowed--someone had to break the rules to let me hold my own daughter.

****

Laila loved her baths.  She was not free with her smiles or giggles.  Bath time was always so much fun though because we were sure to get a smile from her.  Her hair was so long that it would flow in the water and the boys used to think it was hilarious.  She would turn her face to me and her eyes had a brightness and excitement in them while she kicked and kicked her legs.  Felicity does the same thing.  Every time I bathe her, I live that memory again.  Felicity's red hair waves back and forth in the water, her happy eyes look up at me and she kicks and kicks her little legs.  I bathed Laila the day she passed away.  It was strange to me that she fussed during her entire bath.  It has always made me sad that her bath didn't bring her joy that day.

****

There are frequent moments when I am holding Felicity and this intense amount of love rushes through me only to be followed immediately by a deep wretchedness.  Where someone else might think, "I can't imagine losing you, " my thoughts are memories.  I actually can imagine.  I imagine it all over again.  It hurts so deeply.  It's still shocking to me.  I ask myself, "How could this have happened?  How can this be my story?"

In a bizarre way, I almost appreciate that Laila and Felicity look so similar.  I feel almost like I need to go through this part of grieving.  I was not ready to go through this with Piper.  Somehow the Lord allowed me not to suffer like this when Piper was a baby.  Perhaps now I'm further in my journey and therefore, more prepared to relive some of this again.  There is love and pain and reaching.  My soul is reaching for her.  It is something I long to feel and hate to feel.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mike responds to somebody who is asking for help with their testimony

I’ve been a member my whole life, served a mission, been a counselor to four different bishops (currently serving as the first counselor in our ward), and I don’t know the church is true—specifically, there are very few (if any) doctrines of the church that I could comfortably say, “I know is true.” I’ve thought a lot about this. I’m 36 years old and have been honestly reflecting on this for many years. Throughout my life I have looked forward to the “thing” that would confirm my testimony. The earliest I remember in detail was believing that once I finally finished the Book of Mormon, I’d be able to pray about it and then I’d know. I finished at 13, prayed about it, but received no answer. I wondered if it was because I was unworthy. I diligently sought to repent of my sins. I attended seminary, studied the scriptures, and prayed regularly. (I wasn’t always terribly concerned with my lack of a testimony, but I had long periods of time where it was a subject of intense concern). I don’t specifically recall this detail, but I probably expected to have a confirming witness when I worthily received the Melchizedek priesthood as well as when I went through the temple for the first time. I left on my mission still without a certain knowledge, but with faith that I would get the testimony I was searching for while there (after all, many of the men I looked up to told stories about how they had their testimonies confirmed for the first time while serving). I diligently followed Elder Packer’s counsel to bare testimony even though I didn’t have one, hoping that “[My] testimony [was] to be found in the bearing of it!” (“The Candle of the Lord). I wrote in my journal things like, “Today I truly know the church is true” hoping that writing it for my posterity would make it happen. I had incredible experiences on my mission (casting out devils, cursing someone in the name of the Lord, revelation, physical sensation of burning in my chest, etc) after each of which I was sure my testimony would be certain. However, after the euphoria from each experience left, I was left, still uncomfortable saying I know. I completed my mission faithfully, but never found that certainty.

I was married and continued to hope for confirmation I sought. A few years into our marriage, Adrianne was having a very hard time with life. We had 2 children under 2, I was working full-time, in the bishopric and taking graduate classes. I hadn’t yet learned how to balance my responsibilities, and so I was out with the missionaries almost every night of the week. She needed my help, but I didn’t understand how difficult things were for her. This may not be exactly how things took place, but something like this occurred. One evening she was expressing how she was struggling and how she couldn’t understand why the Lord would allow her to go through all of this when we were trying to serve so faithfully. I was frustrated because I couldn’t honestly say I believed the Lord would help us at all—I didn’t even know if he was ever there! I broke down and confessed to her that I didn’t have a testimony at all. I think this really shocked her. Specifically, she was worried that I was telling her I was going to leave the church, and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do. I don’t remember the resolution to that episode, except that I kept hoping for some certainty, and she joined me in praying that I would get it.

Over the next few years, I continued to strive for a testimony. I was diligent in daily scripture study and prayer. Our family had daily family scripture study and prayer. Adrianne and I prayed together each night before we’d go to sleep.

A few years later, a coworker of mine made it his goal to destroy my faith. He threw every anti-mormon argument he could find at me. This forced me to learn and deal with a lot of aspects of church history and scripture that I had never encountered before. Because of my own uncertainty, I even approached the Lord and asked if this other guys beliefs were true, just let me know that so I could do what was right. Adrianne, as she had previously, and would do again, said that she loved me. She knew that I was diligent in trying to learn the truth, and that if I felt that I needed to leave the church, she would be heartbroken, but she would stay with me and continue to love me. I appreciated her support. I eventually shared my feelings with my father and my brother. I was surprised to discover that they were in much the same boat, but it didn’t seem to bother them as much. Humorously, my father said that his father knew it was true (was a mission president and temple president, personally secretary to a president of the church, etc.), and he always trusted his father. My brother said our dad knew it was true, so he trusted him! My father gave me a blessing and told me that I would come to know for certain. I continued.

A couple of years later, the worst experience of my life took place—our 3 month old daughter died from SIDS. I put her down for a nap and when I went to get her, she was gone. Four faithful latter-day saints were in our home that afternoon. Adrianne had two of us go check on her on different occasions during her brief nap. None of us felt inspired to run upstairs and save her. Finding her was devastating. In all of this, I believe a tender mercy was that I never really questioned why the Lord would let this happen to us. I did expect, however, that in this most awful of situations, I could rightfully lay claim on God’s promises that he would be there for me. I sought him earnestly—even at a minimum to give me certainty that he existed. My wife and I met with the both the bishop and the stake president and discussed my situation. Neither gave any counsel that resolved things for me, though I believe discussing with them aided me in better understanding where I was.
Before we moved into our current home, I emailed the bishop here and introduced our family. I explicitly said, we are faithful and will serve in any calling, but I cannot say I know the church is true. He was very kind in his reply. Eventually he called me to serve as his counselor.

Today I have no problem telling people that I hope the church is true. I have chosen to believe it’s true, and I live my life as if it is. I hope one day to have a sure testimony, but I’m honestly not sure what would convince me—short of God changing my heart (which is what I pray for). For many people, the experiences I have had may have been enough to convince them, but for some reason it has not for me.

“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.” So often I’ve heard that this second spiritual gift is only temporary, until those people also know for themselves. This may be the case, but I wonder if that “temporary” period may encompass an entire lifetime.


For me, I have had many experience which I choose to interpret as being spiritual manifestations. They do not convince me that the church is true, but they provide a foundation upon which I can choose to believe. Similarly, there are things that make it difficult for me to believe. I have chosen to believe. For me, nothing has convinced me the church is true. However, nothing has convinced me that the church isn’t true. Until one of those two changes, I’m going to continue as a faithful, believing, but not knowing, member of the church.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Discovering Reality

Perception is a pretty interesting thing.

I got a smart phone less than a year ago.  I honestly am still learning how to use it.  I don't own a fancy phone--it was one of the cheapest phones they offered.  I use it for a few basic things and I don't have a bunch of cool apps.

I started an instagram account and I regularly post photos.  Sometimes I post a photo with me in it but rarely.  On those rare occasions, I've had people comment on my skin.

"Your skin looks really good."

Each time I go back and look at the picture and think, "Yeah, it does look good.  Awesome."

Recently, I took a picture with my sister and she said, "Girl, what filter are you using on your phone?  I've never looked so good."

I proudly told her I wasn't using a filter.  We just looked that good!

A couple of days later my husband was giggling in the other room and came to show me this funny filter you could use to make your face skinnier and your eyes larger.  Creepily large.

He grabbed my phone to show me the built in filter on my phone and we discovered that my sister was right!  My phone was set to make your skin look better.  It was only turned up half way but it wasn't accurately showing how my skin really looked.

I was bummed.  Seriously bummed.

I mean, here I was thinking I had awesome skin and everyone else was thinking the same thing.  We turned the filter off and suddenly I didn't look quite so good.  How disappointing.

But here's the thing:  My skin doesn't actually look that bad (only sometimes). I see myself in the mirror every morning and I know what my skin looks like.  Sometimes I can look at myself and have a healthy view of what I look like and sometimes I don't say the kindest things to myself in my head.  But it's funny how other people can comment on my skin  and I think, "Yeah, they are right.  I look good" but then when I discover that they are all looking at my skin through a fake lens I suddenly don't feel so good about myself.  It's a shame that I can let myself be affected by any comments, good or bad.

This is a problem I've had for a long time.  I actually CARE what people think of my skin or my body or my clothes or hair or whatever else they can see on the outside.

That's just stupid.  I'm trying not to care.

Probably I care because people come up stupid filters that make us look like we don't actually look.  They make us believe that we should have those creepy huge eyes or skinny faces and blemish free skin.  The reality is, I have lots of wrinkles.  Because I'm old.  And I live a life.  And I smile and worry.  It's a shame that society today makes us believe that we shouldn't be that way and it's even more a shame that I fall for that lie.

Creepy eyes, skinny face, perfect skin

what my phone is set to make me look like

What I really look like

Sunday, February 12, 2017

November phone pictures

After getting home from Colorado Springs things kind of went downhill from there as far as the pregnancy went.  I began having regular contractions.  After going to the doctor for a threatened premature labor, I was told to take some medicine to stop the labor (I chose not to) and to be as restful as I could.  I had been pretty active throughout the pregnancy and went for regular walks but this was one of the last walks I went for before seeing the doctor.  They told me I couldn't go for anymore walks.  

We had a very successful Christmas season with so many orders.  Mike was amazing at keeping up with everything.  I really do not know how he did it all.  One of the orders was for this custom mantle piece.  They wanted three temples to stand on their mantle.  It was ordered unpainted.  I think it would look even better painted.  Mike did an awesome job designing this.


We made so many new products this winter.  We even had orders for names as ornaments.  It was really cool to see all the fun things the laser can do

After being told to be "restful", the boys and Mike really took over.  They picked up so much extra work around the house.  I was really impressed and thankful for these sweet boys in my life.  Will regularly made us breakfast

I broke the rules and escaped the couch for a hockey game with friends.  It was my first hockey game and it was so much fun!

Mike and Will took a quick trip to Maryland for the baby blessing of our nephew Lincoln.  While they were gone I had to help Isaac tie a tie.  Thank heavens for the internet.


We also watched a movie and had popcorn together in bed.  I made sure we didn't leave any popcorn in the bed--Mike would be so annoyed!!


working hard on cursive


I finished the Book of Mormon again this year.  I love this book



We had a spa day.  Piper loves to do nails.  She did mine and I did hers.  

 
For our spa day, Piper convinced the brothers to give us back massages

Primary Program and Colorado Springs

This was the first year where all of my children participated in the Primary Program.  It was Piper's first year and Will's last year.  The presidency had the older kids help as much as possible so Will got to hold the microphone for Piper's class and prompt them their parts.  Piper was not exactly the most reverent but I think that kind of goes with the territory for Sunbeams


Mike invited some friends over to make Camembert.  After it was ripened we went to their house and all shared the cheese together.  It was delicious.  

When sweeping, I discovered that Piper had secretly cut her hair.  Thankfully, you couldn't tell after doing a thorough check of her hair.

I had the opportunity to fly to Colorado Springs in November.  It was the first time I'd been to visit the grave since we left to move to Tennessee.  I went alone and spent some quiet time thinking and praying.  It was a sacred, peaceful time.



I was so pregnant by this time.  It was so much fun to visit with some of my very best friends.  These are some of the ladies that were instrumental in helping me through the death of Laila.  I have the sweetest feelings for these women.  


I went for a walk with my dear friend Bre.  We took the trail behind the house we own in Colorado


The Johnson's live in our Colorado home.  They are the BEST renters you could ever hope to find.  The house is immaculate and perfectly taken care of.  I loved staying with them.  They are a happy family who fills the house with the best feelings of love for each other.  I love this family so much and feel so thankful for the hospitality they showed me while I was there.  I was truly spoiled by them.

Fall happenings in phone photos

A family in the ward had a Halloween party for a bunch of teenagers and they invited our boys.  They felt pretty cool being with the teenagers and I was so impressed with the way the teenage boys treated our boys.  It was a really late night for the boys so they were ready to be in bed by the end.  Piper didn't go but she wanted to dress up like her brothers

Isaac decided he wanted to be a Pea Shooter from Plants vs. Zombies for Halloween so he made a paper mache head

Piper practiced being a big sister as many times as she could.  She could not wait for the baby to come.

We were able to go down to Chatanooga to meet up with my brother and his family for a day.  We decided to tour Ruby Falls together.

Lance and Nancy!

I was hugely pregnant

Chatanooga is such a fun town!  We decided to grab some lunch together and then go to a local park after the falls.  It was really a perfect day, so beautiful, and such a good idea to meet up in the middle.

Eli's hair blends in with the trees

Silly kids

A heart shaped food remnant

We had a Halloween party for Piper and her friends.  They boys put together some games for the kids.  Here they are making a spider web for Pin the Spider on the Web

The kids loved to feel the baby kicking

The boys wanted to earn some money so they worked the tables at the garage sale.

This is a really big hill at a park near our house.  It was such a beautiful morning that I had to snap a picture.  I often walk this loop while the kids play

Piper has a thing for Kitties and she had to have a picture when she saw this bale of hay made into a cat

God makes beautiful sunsets

The most adorable Kitty

Ready for trick-or-treating.  Isaac is a Pea Shooter, Will is a one man piggy back ride, Piper is a kitty, and Eli is a zombie

There are a bunch of homeschooling families in the area that are LDS.  We get together a couple of times a year for parties or field trips.  The pumpkin patch is a popular field trip.  


This year the pumpkin patch added a zip line





Our neighborhood is one of the only neighborhoods with sidewalks so it's a popular place for people to come to trick-or-treat.  We had a bunch of friends come join us this year