"Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One year ago...

Last year after my birthday, mom and Curtis took me and the kids with them up to Bear Lake for Esther's baby blessing.  I was on the tail end of my morning sickness, but feeling good enough to enjoy myself.  We had so much fun!  I remember taking pictures of mom playing with her grandkids and just having a great time.

The rest of the month of June flew by with the usual activities for this time of year - girls camp, extreme heat driving us to splash pads, and the intensity of the fireworks season.  I was starting to feel good enough to function somewhat normally, although I was still very tired.  Mom had this weird swollen gland that was bothering her and that didn't seem to be going away no matter what she did.  Bodies do weird things sometimes, so I didn't think much about it.

On July 1st, a Sunday, I was teaching a lesson for all of the young women.  The lesson was on testimony.  I had asked a couple of the girls to briefly share their testimony of a principle of the gospel they felt strongly about.  I was searching my mind for another girl to ask, when the thought came into my mind to invite my mom.  Mom is always willing to share her testimony, always happy to help her children, so of course she agreed to come.  It was an unusually powerful lesson, and she added beautifully to it.  I could have never imagined it would be the last lesson she would ever hear me teach!  Lately I have thought a lot about that lesson, and how thankful I am that I followed the feeling to invite her.  I loved hearing her share her strong testimony with the young women.  I remember thanking her for making the effort to come across town even when her face was hurting.  She told me that it hurt no matter what she did, so there was no point to staying at home to rest!

Mom had asked me to help clean out her closet as her birthday present.  I ended up coming over the day after July 4th (you know, July 5th).  We spent the day going through her clothes and shoes.  I counted her shoes and even I was a little shocked at how many she had! The next time I talked to her, only a couple of days later, she was in terrible, excruciating pain.  Suddenly, the swollen gland seemed to be taking over her life!  Nothing helped.  Paula (our brilliant, nutritionalist friend) put her on an intense regiment of nutritional supplements to support her body, because she could barely eat due to the pain. She was practically living on vegetable juice. 

You know how there are specific moments in life that are frozen in time?  Moments that you will never, ever forget?  I had one of those moments sometime in late June, before the pain really became horrible.  I was laying on Sophie's bed after everyone else had gone to sleep (except for Sophie, hence the reason I was in her room)!  It was one of those peaceful, quiet moments when you let your thoughts meander, and I found myself pondering mom's situation.  Why did she have that swollen gland, and why had nothing seemed to work in making it return to normal?  I suddenly felt very, very worried.  The thought struck me that it could be something serious, that something terrible could possibly be happening to my mom!  It was a foreign thought, and yet it struck me with such intensity that I couldn't hold back the tears.  Sophie asked why I was crying, and I told her that I was worried about grandma.  It certainly was not the last time Sophie would ask me that question, nor the last time I would give her that same answer.

I had another one of those unforgettable moments on July 10th.  It was a Tuesday, hotter than you-know-where, and I was at the Dinosaur park with my kiddos.  I vividly recall a conversation that I had with my mom on the phone while walking between slides, trying to keep an eye on both Weston and Sophie.  She was telling me that she felt like she was in a battle.  She was testing strong for some natural anti-cancer tonic and a bunch of other natural anti-cancer treatments.  Paula was trying to figure out how to help mom until she could get some medical answers, which were painfully slow in coming. My mom's extremely busy, whirlwind of a life had suddenly become very still.  All she did from the moment she woke up until the moment she went to bed (where she couldn't sleep more than a few minutes at a time) was focus on the overwhelming regiment of treatments, juice, clay mud packs, etc. to help fight off the mysterious enemy in her body!  It was all so surreal. It was like she got plucked out of one life and set back down in another.  I have always been so close to my mom that a shift in her reality was a shift in mine too.  It was the first time I began to wonder, could she actually have cancer?  I imagined that she probably didn't, but forced myself to consider the possibility.  Notwithstanding my disbelief, I felt an overwhelming, oppressive sense of spiritual opposition that seemed to accompany the physical battle my mom was suddenly fighting.

By the time mom got her biopsy results in the first week of August, we were both convinced that she probably had some weird kind of infection from having recently had a lot of dental work done.  It was a shock to both of us, and to many others I imagine, that she actually had cancer. Cancer! How could it be!?  How could someone who took such great care of their health get cancer?  But in all that followed - almost two more months of mind-bending pain, endless tests, a terrifyingly invasive surgery, chemo, and radiation, there was never a worry of mom's life being in danger.  I was so thankful to know that the cancer she had was not life thankful that the worse thing she could lose would be her smile (although I did have a meltdown in the shower one Sunday morning over it).  There was never any doubt she would overcome this obstacle.

I remember telling numerous friends how utterly grateful I was that she went through this before the implementation of Obamacare.  I was sure that had this happened later, the medical process would have taken even longer, surely resulting in her demise.  I also remember talking to a friend at the kids' school about all that had happened, and how my mom's cancer battle (all past-tense at this point) had completely changed me.  I felt as though it had permanently altered me as a person.  Cancer is one of those things you recon time by, like a wedding or the birth of a baby!  Little did I know that the battle was far from over.  Little did I know that I would lose my mom in a matter of months!  Little did I know that my entire future was about to be permanently altered.  Life is so weird sometimes.  Reality is stranger than fiction, and the one thing I have learned is that life is unpredictable!

My mind is still reeling at moments as I try to absorb the events that have transpired so recently, but I have peace that all is well.  I am compelled to write, and I know this is one of the best ways for me to process things.  It sure would be great to give my mom a big hug right now and catch up on everything that has happened in the last month.  At some point the amount of life that has happened since she left will be too much to explain, too much to summarize with her.  But right now, we could have a good long chat and still catch up, I feel.  Such ridiculous thoughts I have sometimes!  It felt right to indulge in them today, somehow.  It has been one month since I held her warm hand in mine and watched her peacefully fade away from this life.  I am so glad to know that this life is small compared to the eternities that lie ahead in the next.  I suppose there will come a time far, far in the future when I will talk with my mom about the small gap of time when we were could easily be 50 years, but in the eternities it will seems small.  How is that for mind-blowing?  Meanwhile, I have my husband, kids and many responsibilities to keep me grounded in reality, focused on the many important tasks yet to be done in this life, which for me is still near the beginning!

More than ever, my focus is simply to accomplish the mission for which I was sent to earth to accomplish.  I know mom accomplished hers, and I still feel her confidence in me, her encouraging belief that I can do it too. And I will!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The weekend & Brighton's half birthday!

We have been busy and have had a lot of fun since school got out! On Thursday we went out to lunch with Curtis, and he took me shopping for my birthday! I can't believe how spoiled I have been this year. On Friday we headed down to Henderson to meet my dear friend, Rachelle, at a park. It turns out this park is the single most awesome park I have ever been to with the kids, and they had a BLAST! I guess I didn't take any pictures, but I will go again was so worth the drive. The heat was seriously oppressive, so I was thankful to have brought a cooler with ice in it.  I had to dip a blanket in the ice water over and over again and wipe down the kids faces and necks with it (even after playing in the water).  Ready or not, the brutality of desert summer heat is upon us!
On Saturday we were invited to a pool party at the home of one of Weston's kindergarten buddies, Preston.  This year I have made friends with some of the moms at the school, which has turned out to be such an unexpected blessing!  We had so much fun hanging out with a few school friends and their awesome families.  Here, Weston appears to be shooting a gang sign, lol!
Sophie, posing in her new swim suit...
Weston had so much fun playing in the water with his friends.  Watching him reminded me of the many summers of my childhood spent playing in the pool! He's really into goggles, I noticed...
Sophie had fun too and was fairly independent...
Until daddy got in the water!  She is such a daddy's girl.
Saturday was Brighton's half he is swimming for the first time, which seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate his 6 months of life!  He  l o v e s  the water (and really, who doesn't when it's 110 degrees outside)?
Here is my friend Chelcy (Logan's mom) holding Brighton.  Isn't she beautiful?
I wish I would have taken pictures of everyone else, too.  I will have to do that another time!
When we got home around 5:30, we noticed that the temperature in the house was in the 80's. Slowly, the temperature began creeping upward, even thought the thermostat was set at 76. We spent a few hours with the temp at about 90 degrees, which really wasn't too bad, although the kids were complaining and sweating.  Weston laid on his bed with a fan on him, entertaining Brighton...

Weston is really into making goofy faces right now...
At some point I put a cool rag on his head and brought him his "gigglesaurus," his favorite stuffed animal from when he was a baby.  All of us had a difficult time falling asleep.  It was kind of a weird, hot night (even though 90 degrees is nothing compared to the 110 degrees it had been all day outside).
Love my big boy!
Today (Monday), I thought I should take some pics of Brighton, who is now getting up on all fours and rocking like he is going to crawl soon.  I can hardly believe how quickly he is growing up.  He is going to be mobile before I know it!
How cute is this!

What an angel.  I am so blessed with this sweet baby!  You can catch a glance of his 4 chompers in this pic too.  Unbelievable!  Where did my little new born baby go!?  He is just getting more handsome each day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Emotional, Fun Day

Today I miss my mom so much.  It just hit me when we came home this afternoon.  Today was the last day of school, and I just really want to call her and tell her about it, then go over to her house and watch Weston's kindergarten DVD together.  I want to talk with her about how fast the kids are growing up and how smart they are becoming.  I want to hear her telling them how proud she is of them, and watch their faces light up at her words of praise and encouragement. I want to tell her that Brighton got his fourth tooth this week, is already scooting around and loves to play with my toes!  I want her to be there to see him try his first food soon, and to be amazed together at how big he is getting.  On Saturday he will be 6 months old!  How is that even possible!?
I also want to tell her about all of the sweet and amazing things people have said to me and done for me over the past three weeks.  I want to tell her all about my birthday, and how Jason took me to her favorite restaurant and actually managed to surprise me!  I want to tell her that while we were there I walked past the table where we had eaten together several years ago on her birthday and I remembered that Carrot Top had been sitting behind us and randomly sang happy birthday to her!  I want to tell her that my friend, Katie, was my birthday fairy this year and totally took care of me along with so many others!
It already feels like so much has happened since she left, and I haven't been able to talk to her about it all!  I want to tell her that I finally know first hand what it's like to literally feel the power of people's prayers carrying me. I know that she already knows all the important stuff, but there is something so therapeutic about talking together.  Just like Heavenly Father already knows the truest thoughts and feelings of our heart, but we still need to communicate with him.
Today I received a gift in the mail from my Aunt Sharon, who helped me make it through the first 2 weeks after mom passed away (or as Aunt Sharon and I like to say...after she got "promoted").  She sent me a beautiful mother/daughter necklace set for me and Sophie.  The mom pendant is the outline of a heart, and the daughter one fits inside.  The both say "I will always love you."  In the birthday card she wrote: "I know you will always think of your special mother-daughter tradition on this day.  My gift to you is all about the mother and daughter bond you have with Sophie.  I know that you will carry on to be an amazing role model for her as your mom was for you."  Her note got me thinking about how my mom taught me how to be a woman!  Her words made me realize how thankful I am to have Sophie.  Somehow, having a daughter with whom to carry on some of the special traditions that I had with my own mom soothes me and brings me joy.  It also made me think of the special bond that Sophie has with my mom.  Almost every day Sophie tells me how much she misses her grandma and wishes she could talk to her.  I hope that bond that she formed with her grandma at such a young age will somehow have a special influence on her throughout her life.

As much as I enjoy writing my thoughts, dinner is calling me....or rather, the people who want me to make dinner are calling me. How great it is to have a sweet family to serve.
Here are some pictures from playing today at the splash pad after school:
 Brighton had a pretty good time just chillin with his cute little belly hanging out!
 Sophie and Owen being silly...
 My awesome friend Jessica brought a zillion popsicles, which all the kids were pretty thrilled about!
 Two of my favorite people, Katie and Sandy...and the only friends that would cooperate when I said I wanted to take their picture!  Are they cute, or what!
 Weston hanging with his Kindergarten buddies!  You can tell this one is posed, but at least they all stood still for a moment. :)