Wednesday, July 27, 2016


The firsts are always hard.

The first time I made dinner after Laila died.

The first time I took the kids to the doctor without her.

The first time someone asked me how many kids I had and I had to figure out how to respond.

The first anniversary of her death.

There have been a lot of firsts and five years later I just assumed we had passed most of those firsts.  Recently though, we had another first.  We just crossed off the first Sunday that fell on July 24th.  Weeks leading up to the day I hadn't really put it together in my mind.  The day was coming and I thought about it but would quickly change my thoughts.  It seemed like every day leading up to the day I had at least one thought about the coming day.

At church the Primary kids were asked to participate in a special musical number.  The man leading the music explained to the kids that they were singing "Come, Come ye Saints" on Pioneer Day because it was a day of celebration and a day for us to remember the pioneers that had come to Utah, many of them dying before they made it.  I felt prickly inside when he said that.  Of course I know that July 24th is a day of celebration for the Mormons.  I lived in Utah for a long time and the 24th is celebrated in much the same way as the 4th of July.  The entire state has parades, BBQs, fireworks, etc.  It's a big deal.  Outside of Utah it's pretty much only talked about in regards to talks in church and special musical numbers.  I feel grateful to not live in Utah anymore if just to avoid the celebrating on July 24th.  That would be horrible.  I don't feel angry when I hear people talk about their plans for that weekend or when people talk about celebrating the pioneers.  It does make me personally prickly inside though.  I don't expect anyone to feel the same way as me;  I totally understand that this is my tragedy and sadness and I don't expect others to treat the day as I would.  It's just that I can't help but cringe inside when I hear people talk about celebrating that day when to me it is never going to be a day of celebrating again.  I wish she had died on a day that wasn't so centered around special talks and musical numbers and people making it a big deal.  Even if she died the day after, that would have been better.  But she didn't so instead I just have to mentally remind myself that it's good to remember the pioneers and the sacrifices they made for us.  This year in particular, I tried hard to focus on the ancestors that I know were a part of healing for our family the last five years.  I tried to think about how I can be grateful for the legacy of faith they left behind and for the protection and guidance I know we were given as we tried to make it through Laila's death.

I think that this year I was taken by surprise actually.  I never forget the day.  It's not like the day comes and I'm like, "Oh yeah, this was the day Laila died."  Obviously not.  But I also don't actively think about it.  When I kept having it pop into my head throughout the weeks previous I kept pushing the thoughts out and then finally I decided to stop doing that.  I finally remembered what my counselor told me about feelings and about how every emotion deserves attention.  I just sat down with Mike and talked all my feelings out and let myself cry.  I told him that I thought maybe part of my snappiness during the previous week had less to do with pregnancy and more to do with the approaching date.  We talked about how my friend called me a couple of months ago to ask advice about a woman she visit teaches.  She said this woman couldn't "get over" the death of her son and even though it had been years she still seemed hung up on his death and she wondered how to help her not be so sad about it anymore.  I told her that she wasn't going to "get over" it.  She asked me in surprise if I still felt those feelings and I told her that of course I did.  I was surprised that she even had to ask me that but then I realized when I was talking to Mike that this year caught me by surprise because even though I know that I'm not going to just "get over" it, I assumed that I would not be that affected by the day 5 years out.

There was a main difference in the flashbacks this year.  This year, mercifully, I remembered the events leading up to her death more than the events after.  I remembered the night before when my brother and his wife went to visit a friend and Mike and I took all the kids (my brother's and my own) to the park.  It was a perfect night.  Laila stayed quietly in the wrap while the kids played.  I remembered how Jen and I thought up some Pioneer games for the kids to play before church.  I remembered Laila's last bath and the events at church.  I remembered having such pleasant conversations with my brother and his family that day and feeling grateful that it was such a beautiful day that day so that we could all go for a walk together after dinner.  There were many tender mercies that night and I remember those, though, many of those I learned about later from my brother and his wife because Mike and I were at the hospital when many of them happened.  I'm grateful that even though there were other flashbacks, I can have these happy ones too and that this year, they weren't all bad.

It is often strange to me to think that this is a part of my story.  Sometimes it hits me out of the blue and it takes my breath away.  This happened to me.  This is my story.  Even though I'm happy where I am in life right now, the thought that this is a part of my history and future brings me to tears.

Part of this story is that this is also Isaac's birthday week.  His birthday is on Saturday.  Five years ago we sat at our kitchen table with our bishop and Relief Society president and discussed when we should have the funeral.  I knew that it would be easier for everyone if we had it on that coming Saturday to allow family to get work off and give them time to make plans but like a lightening bolt the thought came to my mind that it was Isaac's birthday on Saturday.  There was no way I was having a funeral on his birthday.  We had it on Friday instead.  Today we drove to Kentucky Splash to celebrate Isaac's birthday as a family a couple of days early.  As we drove I couldn't help but think, "This exact day five years ago I was numb.  I was sitting at a funeral home making decisions about caskets and looking at burial plots."  I wish I could have had a glimpse into the future on that day and seen us today, five years later, playing in the wave pool, laughing and most importantly, happy.  Mike turned to me today as we got slammed by a wave, "I really like our family."  We have grown in love and happiness and I feel so thankful to be on this side of five years.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fishing, The Smokies, a Dinner Cruise and FHE

I found some pictures on the SD card that I never uploaded so these are old but I wanted to get them on here.  The first pictures are from when we went fishing for the first time.  I think it was the last week of May because Will had just gotten home from 11 year old scout camp earlier in the day.  The night ended up being really chilly and eventually we all had to quit because we were too cold.  Our friend's go fishing often at a private pond that one of their friends lets them use so they invited us to come join them.  We don't own any fishing things so our friend's supplied everything and we just had to show up.  The pond is in the middle of no where.  It is gorgeous and quiet and perfect.  The drive there reminded me how much I love living so close to the country.  Piper caught the firsts fish and then everyone caught fish after fish.  I think the pond was pretty well stocked.  It was a great way to start their fishing experience.  It would have been sad for the kids to go fishing and catch nothing.

 Isaac was so funny to watch.  He thought the worms were disgusting and kept having the funniest faces whenever he had to touch the worms or the fish.

At the beginning of the summer I took the kids to the Smokies.  We decided to go early in the season before it got too hot.  I went down alone with the kids and they all wanted to swim in one of the swimming holes.  The water was still freezing but they loved it.  I am hoping we can make a couple more trips down in the next couple of months.

These last pictures are recent.  It's gotten hot enough that we don't want to be outside much so we haven't done a lot lately.  I took the kids swimming on Tuesday and then on Wed we rented a movie from Redbox so we could just stay home and stay cool.

One of the things I wanted to make sure we did before we moved was take a dinner cruise down the Tennessee River.  The boys had a birthday party where they played Capture the Flag and had a huge water balloon fight.  Piper was sad that she couldn't be with her brothers so I took her to a girl in our ward who babysits for us and she and her little sister had a girls night with Piper.  They watched a movie and did makeup and hair.  So, Mike and I went on our dinner cruise with our friends and it was our first date in months.  The food was fine, not amazing but fine.  There was a live band that sang while we ate.  After dinner we all went upstairs to the top floor of the boat and chatted.  The houses on the shore are gigantic and beautiful and very expensive.  Anyway, it was a nice evening and something fun and different than we usually do for date night.

 Finally, Isaac has been supplying us with our Family Home Evening lessons the last couple of weeks.  He has a great teacher who always has fun object lessons and Isaac has been coming home and replicating the object lessons for us on Monday nights.  This week we played Bean Boozled and it was hilarious.  You get a container of jelly bellys  and you don't know if you are going to get a vomit flavored bean or an apricot bean.  Or, you might get lime or lawn clippings.  It's so gross and funny.  Isaac taught us that Satan tries to confuse us and presents us with things that look good even though they are bad and we have to keep the commandments and follow our leaders and The Spirit to know how to continually make the right choices and not be tricked by Satan.  The game was so funny and I'm glad I captured this picture of Isaac and Mike after they ate a disgusting bean.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Kentucky Splash, the Drive-in movies, Basketball camp, and the 4th of July

A couple of weeks ago we went North to Kentucky Splash.  Kentucky Splash is a water park.  It's about an hour and 15 min away so not too bad.  I was nervous about going because the last day trip was to Big Ridge Park and the day sucked the energy out of me with the hike and heat.  It was a great day but it took me the rest of the week to recover from it.  I was just nervous about driving that far, having to pack a picnic lunch, remember all the towels, sunscreen, etc, and having to keep track of all the kids at the water park.  When the day came I decided it was worth it to go and it ended up being great.  Our friend's met us up there so I didn't have to worry about keeping my eyes on all the kids by myself.  They had enough fun for Piper and the older boys and I enjoyed having someone to talk to.  I actually felt pretty good that day as well so I didn't have to fight through too much nausea.  The only bad things about the day were that I had Will spray my back and he didn't do a great job so my back got a really bad burn and, since Piper had broken my sunglasses (she breaks every pair I purchase), I didn't have sunglasses at all that day and I ended up burning my eye.  It was weird but I came home with a blister on my eye.  I ended up having to wear my glasses instead of contacts all week long so my eye could heal.  Thankfully, it didn't really hurt if I wore my glasses so besides looking gross, it wasn't a big deal.  We had so much fun that I think we might go again at the end of the month for Isaac's birthday.  Next time I'll make sure to have sunglasses and better sunscreen coverage!  

And, I'll make Mike come too!

Last week we were invited to go to the drive-in movies.  It's been a long time since I've gone to a drive-in movie (maybe when I was 16 and my brother took me on my first "date"?) but I have really good memories of the drive-in movie and it seems like such a classic, American, summer activity.  Mike had never been to one!  One of Will's favorite books is The BFG and Isaac had been reading it this summer so that he could go see the movie so it was perfect that the first movie playing was The BFG.  We only stayed for the first movie even though the second movie was Finding Dory because it was such a late night already.  

Also last week was a basketball camp for the boys.  It was a religious sports camp that only charged $20 a kid for the week.  The religious part wasn't that big a deal for the most part.  Each day they all met in the gym where they had a quick, 5 minute devotional.  The kids were encouraged to bring in backpacks to donate for another volunteer organization and each day the coaches passed out paper to kids who wanted to write down prayer requests.  Besides that it was mostly basketball.  They had other sports too but our kids just did the basketball.  The last night we showed up to an interesting program though.  They had a minister speak and he invited people to come down who wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior.  Probably about 20 kids went down.  The adults were crying and hugging and it was a big deal.  Being LDS, it was obviously different than what we are accustomed to but I imagine that is how people feel about us when they come to a fast and testimony meeting.  Here in the South, the day you accept Jesus is a really big day in their lives.  They refer back to that day frequently.  It is the day you were saved so it's a bid deal to them.  I think it might be like our baptism day.  Anyway, watching this happen was very interesting to all of us and we had a good discussion about it on the way home from the camp.  I'm actually glad the boys were able to have the chance to see this.  I think there is benefit to seeing what others believe and why they act the way they do.  The neighbor boy accepted Jesus on Easter so I think this experience helped the boys understand him better.  Also, this experience gave me a greater appreciation not just for the Holy Ghost but for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  

Last night we celebrated the 4th of July.  I haven't been very good at remembering to take my camera with me this summer so I haven't gotten a lot of pictures of our activities.  I did, however, remember to bring my camera last night.  Our friend's were able to get a suite (the skybox) and invited us and a few other families to the Smokies baseball game.  I haven't been to a professional baseball game since I was 5 and the kids have never been to one.  It was hot and muggy but we were able to enjoy the game from the Air Conditioned room so it was perfect.  They had popcorn, hotdogs, water, and soda.  It started to rain at the beginning so the poor people in the bleachers got wet but we were perfectly dry up in our suite and we enjoyed a perfect rainbow above the stadium.  At the end we got to see fireworks and the kids acted like they'd never seen them before.  They were so excited and shouted and jumped up and down the entire time.  It was perfect.  

It's been a fun summer so far and I think we have just about done everything on our summer list already so I am looking forward to just taking the rest of the month nice and slow.  Which, actually, reminds me that I need to go get some laundry folded...   

Monday, July 04, 2016

The Pregnant Post

Well folks, I'm pregnant.

The decision to have another baby was probably one of the most difficult decisions for me to make.  I know that sounds hugely dramatic but it's true!  For a lot of reasons, I really struggled to know if our family was complete or not.  For starters, after the miscarriage I really felt like I'd have more solid conclusions about my feelings and what I wanted and what the Lord wanted for me and my family.  Instead, I just felt a thousand times more confused.  I had a lot of serious conversations with Mike, myself, and the Lord.  Truthfully, part of my confusion was that in those discussions I realized that I was holding on to a lot of what could be and what I thought things should look like.  The miscarriage brought up a lot of hurt and pain from losing Laila and made feelings resurface that I thought I had worked through.  I had to work through them again.  That all made it very hard for me to decipher what I was really feeling and what I was just holding onto from the past.  I feel like I found a lot of peace and made a lot of progress in letting go of what I thought my life and family would look like.  That peace allowed me to acknowledge that I am actually very happy with the way my family is right now.  I find so much joy in my children and I feel like I am satisfied with what I have and actually do not feel like I'm missing anything (besides Laila of course).  I do not feel like another baby would make me more satisfied with what I have now or that another baby would complete me in any way, if that makes sense.  Those realizations alone probably made me more confused than anything.  If I felt satisfied with what I had, why have another one?  My thoughts continued to come back to, "What if...?" and I finally decided that until I could feel confident in being done, I wasn't able to close that chapter in my life.  So here I am, pregnant again and ultimately, I finally feel confident that this is it.  If something happens again like a miscarriage, I still know that this is the last.  That feeling is quite a relief to me.  

So, the most common question I've gotten is how am I feeling.  I feel fine.  I don't want to down play how I've felt but I also don't want to make it into something it isn't.  I've had worse and I've had better.  I have felt sick every day all day but no throwing up.  I've wanted to throw up a lot but besides a lot of gagging, that's as far as it's gone.  There were a couple of really bad weeks but it has gotten better over time.  That said, most food doesn't sit well with me.  The biggest culprits of ickiness are dairy (ice cream, milk, and yogurt are the worst) and sugar.  The problem is that I have been craving sweets but it never makes me feel better.  Water also made me feel worse.  I was trying to keep hydrated so I'd drink a lot of water and it just made me feel nauseated.  So, milk made me sick, water made me sick, juice made me sick.  I did find that I could stomach Ginger ale but all other sodas made me sick.  I have been eating a lot of Ramen this summer.  The broth and plain noodles help me.  I don't have a lot of desire to cook or eat so we've eaten a lot of sandwiches this summer.  I even made freezer meals when I first found out I was pregnant knowing that I'd probably be sick but none of the freezer meals sound appealing at all.

I'm 14 weeks and food still doesn't really make me feel better so I'm not sure if it's going to go away or not.  Until last week I felt famished all the time.  I felt like I had been fasting for hours even though I had just eaten.  Sadly, eating didn't make me feel better but not eating made it worse.  Thankfully, I am finally feeling less hungry.  That is a relief.  Also, I can finally drink water without wanting to vomit.  So, I'm making improvements!

Besides the "all day sickness" I'm tired.  With previous pregnancies I found that I'd be falling asleep every day and couldn't keep my eyes open.  This time I do feel some of that but it doesn't seem as extreme.  Instead, it's my body that just feels exhausted.  I have felt like every movement took energy.  My arms and legs felt heavy and I just felt drained all around.  I think that is also improving.  I've been taking every opportunity to exercise when I can and to just push through the exhaustion and sickness.  I am finally feeling like I can do exercise without wanting to collapse from exhaustion.

It's been a busy summer so far and I have found that I've pushed myself too far some days.  Our day trips to Big Ridge Park and Kentucky Splash took everything out of me.  It takes me the rest of the week to recover and get my energy back.  So far, July is less scheduled than June was so I'm hoping I can just relax and catch up on things I have been too tired or sick to do this past month.

As for the baby, so far things seem to be going well.  The baby has a good heart beat of 160 and seems to be growing as it should.  This last check up they looked for Spina Bifida and Down Syndrome and both seemed ok.  I also took a bunch of blood tests and haven't gotten those results back.  My next check up is the gender ultrasound and I'll be 17 weeks.  The kids are dying to know that the baby will be.  Piper is insistent that it is a girl.  Today at church she looked across the room to a little baby girl and and then put her head in her hands and sighed saying, "I want a baby sister just like that one."  She keeps talking about how she wants a roommate.  The other day she finally told me, "Ok.  I'll be ok if the baby is a boy if it comes with a dog." Haha.  She's awesome.  For her sake, I hope it's a girl but really, I don't think I have a preference.  When I had the miscarriage I really wanted a sister for Piper but I've since made peace with that and would be perfectly happy with another little boy.  The boys also want a girl but they are just excited about us having another baby.  They have been so cute and protective of me.  They say, "I'm really sorry you feel sick Mom, but I'm also glad you are sick because that means you probably won't lose the baby!"  They have been so helpful and understanding when I am feeling icky or need a nap.  It is a much different experience being pregnant now that the kids are so much older.  It will be fun to see what we are having and fun to watch the kids interact with their new sibling.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Can he be sincere?

It was Isaac's turn to say our family prayer yesterday morning.  In his prayer he said, "We are grateful Mom and Dad make us do extra work this summer so we don't get bored."  What?!  Did my ears just hear things?

I really, really like these kids of mine.

A lot.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Big Ridge State Park (and the muggiest hike I've been on)

We have been enjoying summer so far.  My only complaint is the built in alarm clock we all seem to have.  The boys and Piper are up at 7 and I can't sleep past 7:30 even when I decide to be lazy and sleep in.  It doesn't matter, the sun comes out and I'm awake.  I still require the boys to do some minimal school work (piano, Spanish, reading, Life of Fred) because I hate them just sitting around and filling their time with computer games and TV.  I let them do that the summer Mike was gone and I broke my knee and it was a disaster.  There was fighting, aggression, and irritability and I vowed we wouldn't have another summer like that one.  So far this summer the boys have been wonderful.  They have been so helpful, pleasant, and happy.  Keeping busy is a good thing.  

It's gotten really hot lately which makes us in the house a lot more and that is tough.  For a couple of weeks we were in the 80's and the boys and their neighbor friends spent hours outside playing games like basketball, football, and capture the flag.  They also built a hideout in the forest behind our house.  When the weather got too hot and the mosquitoes got too obnoxious, they abandoned the hideout for cooler days.  Will counted 21 bites on one leg!  The humidity is oppressive.  Oh, and one weird thing is that we have been getting Ozone Layer Effect warnings for the last week.  I'm sure it has to do with the Smoky's and is similar to the pollution warnings you get in Utah.  

I like the kids filling their time up with activities and not having to be responsible for their entertainment but with the hotter weather I find that I have to get more involved with finding things to do.  This is also our last year here in Tennessee and I really want us to experience as much of the cool things in Tennessee as we can before we leave so I'm trying to schedule activities that will accomplish that.  

This week we went North to Norris Lake and Big Ridge State Park.  It was overcast when we arrived and the kids immediately went to the park.  We probably should have let them play and explore but some of the kids wanted to go on a hike so we cut their playing short to hike before it got too hot.  I had anticipated a really short hike but it ended up being about three miles.  I didn't take pictures of the hike.  It was beautiful and it felt like we were walking in a jungle.  We found cool bright red mushrooms that looked fake and crazy ferns.  There was a cemetery in the middle of this jungle of a forest.  We also explored a mill that was right before the trail head.  I was impressed with the boys and the two little girls (Piper and her friend Hayley) for doing so well on our hike but I hadn't really prepared for a three mile hike so it wasn't as nice as I had hoped.  The actual hike wasn't that long (1.5 miles) but to get to the trail head we had to walk a ways so it ended up being much more than I had planned.  I ended up having to carry Piper a couple of times and hadn't brought enough water for the five of us for that long of a hike so we ran out of water.  I also carried the backpack and my clothes and garments were dripping with sweat.  It was disgusting and really unpleasant.  The forest was almost dark because the trees were completely covering the sky but it was still so muggy and hot and then we finished the hike and had to walk back to the vans and by then the clouds had parted and the heat had risen.   

Once back at the vans we had lunch and then changed into swimming suits.  The kids all swam in the lake and had a great time.  

Besides being so hot and sweaty, it was a perfect day activity.  I think next time we will skip the hike until a cooler day and just play at the park and look for shells.  Tennessee is really beautiful.  I used to love that in Utah you could drive a short distance and be right in the mountains but I've discovered that Tennessee has so many outdoor opportunities as well.  It is a different kind of beautiful but it's really amazing.  I especially love the mild, almost sweet aroma that you can smell as you walk through the jungle like forests with all the different flowers and plants.  

Our next adventures are going to be West or South of us.  We have the Cumberland Gap area to explore and the Chattanooga area to explore.  I'm so excited to see what the rest of this amazing state has to discover.      

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Waterguns and firelflies

I don't have a lot of pictures of our summer so far but we started things out by an awesome watergun fight.  I wanted a super low-key activity for the kids that I didn't have to do anything for.  I just sent out a facebook post saying the time and place and to bring waterguns.  We had at least 15 kids show up and the kids had so much fun.  The boys and I filled up some big plastic tubs and the wheelbarrow with water for fill up stations.  Everyone brought their own guns and I provided Otter Pops after the kids were done.  It was awesome.  My kind of activity.  

We also made a trip to Elkmont Campgrounds in The Smokies to watch the synchronized fireflies.  There is only a handful of places where you can see them.  There is about a two week period where you can catch them.  The Smokies put on a week long event where you have to buy tickets and they take you on a trolley to the viewing place.  The tickets sell out quickly (I've heard they sell out within hours) and cost $100 per person.  We decided we didn't want to spend that kind of money so we chose a date a couple of days before the scheduled event.  Our friends decided to camp but we decided to drive home late at night after seeing the fireflies.  It started to rain an hour before we were supposed to leave so we worried that we wouldn't be able to see any fireflies at all.  It stopped raining and we got to the campsite about 7.  We went for a short hike, listened to stories around the campfire, and had S'mores.  At 10 we hadn't seen any fireflies and the campsite was totally quiet and dead.  We figured out from another camper where to go to see them and drove to a parking lot and then hiked a short distance in the dark with flashlights off.  Not far into the trail we started seeing the fireflies.  

They were amazing.  We didn't see as many as we thought we would but I think the season was just starting and I wonder if the rain from earlier contributed as well but even then, there were so many and it was so cool.  It really was magical.  The kids kept saying it looked like Christmas lights.  It was definitely worth the trip.  At about 11:30 we drove home and got home about 12:45.  It was a long night but I'm so glad we went.  We move in one year and I wanted to make sure we got a chance to experience this before we move.  If you are ever here at the end of May or beginning of June, I highly recommend this experience.