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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I will never forget the Monday evening conversation I had with my mom on the phone. She was in the hospital in Arizona.  I had just been at her house 10 days prior, when we still thought everything was fine and that she was getting better every day.  Now, still reeling from the shock that she did, in fact, have cancer again, we were facing the fact that surgery to stop her lungs from bleeding had failed.  She had her usual positive attitude as we talked, and she made the comment that everything would be ok.  Then she added, "one way or another, everything will be okay."  I wasn't completely sure what she meant by that at first, but then she told me that she had woken up in the middle of the night thinking, "be sure to tell Michelle I don't want anyone wearing black to my funeral!"

What!?!?!?  I could NOT believe my mom said that.  I was so floored, so horrified that I had to choke back sobs.  I tried to breathe calmly.  I didn't want her to know how distraught I was that such words had escaped her lips ~ that the unthinkable could actually be possible!  I can honestly say that prior to that conversation, I never once considered the possibility that my mom might not survive. NEVER.  I believe my brother asked me once in passing if I had ever thought that maybe this was mom's time "to go."  I said it had occurred to me as a possibility, but in reality I don't think it ever had...perhaps intellectually, but not emotionally.  I don't really have the words to describe the horror that I felt when my mom said she woke up thinking about her funeral.  Our conversation ended quickly because some nurses or doctors came in her room to talk to her, and I hung up the phone, relieved to cry freely and to have a moment to grasp what my mom had insinuated!

Never again did she express the idea that there was a possibility she wouldn't make it.  Never.  We would talk of "one day" when she eventually would die (thinking that it would be perhaps sooner than originally expected, but certainly after several more years at least)!   Even that was mentioned only once or twice in passing.  She had woken up in the night with clear inspiration that when she passed on, she wanted Carrie and me to pick things of hers to give to our children at every important occasion in their lives, birthdays, baptisms, and the like.  She was extremely concerned about still being a part of their lives.  That has been one of my main concerns all along, and the greatest cause for sadness since her passing.  As much as I miss her, I am far more pained at the loss my children have suffered.  I am so blessed to still have both of my grandmas at age 35!  Poor Brighton will never have the privilege of even knowing mom in this life.

I realize now that I wish I could have had some moments alone with mom while she was still alert there in the hospital.  There are things I wish I could have told her that were just too personal to say with others around, but I didn't realize it at the time.  I also had no idea how quickly she would go.  I remember that night, our eyes glued to the monitors telling us her blood saturation level, blood pressure, and heart beat...basically just watching and waiting for the inevitable.  It is amazing she lasted until morning, but I knew she was holding out to see Aunt Sharon.  She had seemed surprised when I told her Aunt Sharon was arriving in the morning.  I know her spirit willed herself to stay in her body until Aunt Sharon had come to see her.  Everyone went back to their hotel rooms to sleep besides Mike, Curtis and me.  Mike and I received texts almost simultaneously.  Mike's was from Carrie, telling him to tell mom that she loved her.  Mine was from Jason telling me to tell mom that he loved her.  I could not leave her side.  After Curtis and Mike fell asleep, I lay miserably on the makeshift bed trying to comfort Brighton who had a terrible cold and couldn't breathe well.  When he finally had settled, at last I had a moment alone with mom.  She wasn't awake, and honestly I don't even know if she was conscious.  I sat by her bed, held her limp hand and sobbed.

Ironically, I had just taught a lesson about prayer in young women's the week before.  I talked to the girls about ineffective prayer, and how begging God never yields the blessings we desire or need.  We have all been in that position at one point or another though we know it is fruitless, begging God to change something and make it be according to our will.  Although I knew it was a faithless plea, I found myself begging my Heavenly Father, "please don't take my mom away. Please don't take her from me!"  If I could have had a few minutes alone with her while she was awake, I would have told her how much I loved her.  I would have told her how much I wished I could have been with her those three and a half weeks in it pained me that I had not been able to be with her every moment of this terrible ordeal!  The anxiety that had been building - especially the last several days before we went to see her - was almost paralyzing.  I had been a wreck inside, but the moment I was able to be close to her, all of that melted away.  My heart had longed to be with her, and peace did not come until I was at her side.

When I think of the things I wish I had said, I realize that it probably doesn't matter, because she knows.  The kids and I talk about grandma every single day, usually several times but at least once.  Weston had a dream that he saw grandma standing a few inches off the ground watching him, and that she was wearing a white dress.  In the dream he was absolutely shocked to see her but very happy!  Sophie has many dreams that she is spending the night at grandma's house, and usually that she is fixing yummy food and helping her build forts and cuddling with her (some of her favorite things they did together).  I wonder what will happen as time passes?  I guess the inevitable thing is for her to feel like less of a force in their lives, but I so very much do not want that to be the case!

Most severe trials in life get easier with time, but I actually think that this one gets harder with time.  Harder because as time passes, mom's absence seems to grow bigger and is felt more deeply.  There is no one on earth that would get as excited as her about the great things going on with the kids.  When Brighton just recently began crawling, I couldn't think of a single person on the planet that would be even as remotely excited as would mom about this development!  I wracked my brain and finally realized that I would just have to be satisfied knowing that she is still aware of our lives and probably thrilled to have such an ambitious grandson.  I miss her enthusiasm.  I recently woke up missing the conversations we would have so often that would begin with her saying, "You'll never believe who I talked to today!"  She was always talking to so many interesting people about many great things that excited her.  I loved hearing all about the bits of good news she had to share!  I really miss those conversations.  Every Sunday night she would call, just as my day was settling.  Every once in a while I get a call on a Sunday night now, and I always think, "if mom were around, that call would be from her!"

Heartache is a part of mortality I have decided.  There are different kinds of heartache that we experience at different points in our life, but no one will escape it. The more we love, the greater the potential for heart ache. And so maybe it is just okay to live with the heartache.  It means there is genuine love, without which life is empty.  How grateful I am that we had such a wonderful relationship.  How much more severe and unsettling the heartache would be if I had reason to regret the way I had treated her (good thing this didn't happen when I was a teenager)! The best thing I can do now is focus on the many blessings that have come and will continue to come because of my mom.  Because of her love and absolute devotion, because of her tenacity and focus, because of all that she is and all that she gave.  She altered the trajectory of future generations by her faith, courage, and integrity.  Once she found truth, she clung to it and ordered her life by it.  I will continue to write of mom's life and legacy, because almost nothing has influenced me more profoundly than has she...and I cannot forget how magnificently blessed I am whenever I reflect on the incredible woman she both was and IS.

Monday, July 15, 2013

This Summer

I don't know how it is all going so quickly.  I am compelled to admit in all honesty that it has been a great Summer so far.  My biggest challenge (as always) is finding balance.  On the one hand I have a lot of goals and ambitions ~ many, MANY things I am determined to accomplish...daily efforts to instill the best habits in my kids, to live more excellently and serve more fully.  I don't want to just "survive" and "make it through."  As my dear friend, Rachelle, and I discussed recently (in a recurring conversation we've had over the 16 years we've known each other), I want to live life deliberately - to grow, make a difference, become better!
 This effort to improve and not just float along requires monumental effort when you have so many constant demands from the precious, needy little people in your home! The push to do what is required just to survive  is sometimes overwhelming all by itself.  And while pushing is good, and while I yearn for improvement in all areas of life, I often feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water...which creates stress...which causes me to some days not even enjoy my incredible life!  I wish I could push a pause button on life so that there could be more time to simply be with my cherish and enjoy them!

Notwithstanding the constant struggle to live with balance and wisdom, here are some great things that this Summer has been full of so far:

* late nights, watching Fox's "The Five" after the baby is finally asleep!
* splash pads, swimming, and playing with friends
* endless piles of laundry...and I do mean endless
* chapter books!  Okay, we haven't read nearly as much as we wanted to, but we totally loved reading our first "Goosebump" book together.
* the new chore chart & earning nickles
* 80's movies and homemade pizza
* a new obsession with pirate ships
* lots of homemade kefir shakes...for the kids: gagging down cod liver oil & green drinks (Sophie tolerates it all much better than does Weston!)
* lots of crawling for Brighton, the constantly moving baby
* missing mom and talking about her lots and lots
* making new things like cream cheese & yogurt (which was a total fail, by the way!)
* the kids talking about their dreams every morning
* discovering "the magic school bus" cartoon, which is seriously great
* sleeping kids in forts, on the floor, and on couches...anywhere but their beds!
* oodles of silliness
* endless to-do lists (oh yeah, that is not unique to the Summer months...)
Here are some pics of the kids with friends at the dinosaur park looking at the turtles...
 Grandma Laurie has been in town a couple of times.  The kids ALWAYS look forward to her visits!
 Lots of lincoln log building around here...
 Brighton likes to get in on the action too!
 This amazing pirate ship was purchased from the DI for $1.50.  Such a worthy buy!  Here are the kids hanging out with their Uncle Chris.
 Princess Sophie
 My handsome pirate
Swim lessons ~ the teacher is telling Sophie to "zip her lips" so that water doesn't get in her mouth (although it is good advice to keep her from talking everyone's ears off too)!  I am really not one to talk though...
 I don't know if you can tell or not, but Weston is gracefully blowing the snot out of one nostril in this picture.  He and Sophie really liked wearing the goggles.  He kept asking the teacher if they had "real UB protection," which I thought was funny.  Obviously he meant "UV," but I don't know where he heard about it!  The teacher mentioned that in all her years of teaching swim lessons, that is the first time any kid has asked that question!

 Brighton loves being outside, especially when there is a lot going on around him.
 More sit dives...

We also had a pool party for mutual one night.  Oh how the kids love hanging out with the young women!
 Especially when popsicles are involved...
 Swimming at Preston's house, Sophie immediately made friends with Riley
 Weston and Preston
 Making cupcakes at Riley's birthday party...
 And having a blast on the bouncy house water slide...what better way to survive a 116 degree day?
 So happy for a moment with daddy during the busy fireworks season
 Too bad Sophie is so camera shy (yeah, right)!

This little dude just brightens up my life!  It is amazing how well he gets around.  He is 23 pounds and his 6th tooth is already trying to pop through!  He was 7 months old on the 8th.

 And many more pictures to come...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Busy - Mid June

This Summer, so far, can be summed up in one word: BUSY.  I am so busy and apparently forgetful, because at the end of the day all I remember is that is was a blur, that I worked really hard, and that I hope I can accomplish more the next day and have a little more patience with the kids (or maybe when I wake up the next morning my children will somehow be infinitely more well behaved?)
I guess every Summer is the same way, but I still look forward to it and somehow expect it to feel like a break despite the fact that it never is.  Case in point: I am so busy that I am only now sitting down today for the first time at 11:20 pm! I am determined, however, to document our life because these kiddos just keep on growing, learning and changing...and I want to capture the memories.
So, here are some of the things the kids have been up to:
Brighton has ventured into the world of real food...although he's still not sure what to think of it!

He was definitely more interested in the plate than the avocado.  He also wasn't sure what to make of the new texture in his mouth!

Eating egg yolk was a similar experience, although he seemed to be in a better mood (it must have been because we were watching Goonies)!  On a separate note, the kids loved Goonies!  And really, what's not to love?    Weston has subsequently become a little bit obsessed with pirates and has even drawn several maps to lead us to pirate ships.  After asking about 3 million times if I know where some pirates might currently be, I think he has finally given up. 
Back to Brighton...he also just began crawling on the 19th!   He is barely 6 months old and already crawling.  I can hardly believe it!  My mom would be so proud. :)

 My sweet Grandma Knapp lives in Wisconsin and has never had the opportunity to meet her great grand-children...however, she has made each of them a special blanket when they are born.  Brighton's is a beautiful butter yellow and oh so soft...unfortunately, he just wants to shove it in his mouth right now since he is teething.  Did I mention that he has FOUR teeth!?
 There is nothing sweeter than a sleeping baby...
Here is Weston helping me make some butter.  I thought it would be a fun exercise to have the kids help me make butter with the hand mixer...I did not realize that it would take almost 40 minutes of mixing!  It was fun though, so that's what counts, right?
Now doesn't that look delicious!
Since we didn't really celebrate Mother's Day this year (that was the day mom passed away), Jason and I decided to celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day together.  He had the kids each pick me out a little gift from Target.  They got me some yummy smelling candles, and he got me a new crock pot, which was greatly needed.
For some reason I didn't get any pictures of our Father's Day festivities, but we went out for breakfast buffet on Saturday morning which is our tradition.  Jason LOVES breakfast buffet! 
Now that it is Summer, the kids resort to some pretty silly activities to entertain themselves, including (and especially) dressing up all crazy. 
And dancing around...
Weston is very interested in the human body and how everything works.  He drew this wonderful picture from an anatomy book then asked me to label it for him (I didn't point out to him that this picture includes both male and female organs...what he doesn't know can't hurt him, right?) He ended up giving it to his good friend, Jansen.
Just general craziness happening here!
Girls camp was the second week of June.  I wasn't able to stay the whole time, but Brighton and I did go up for a visit one afternoon for a few hours.  I am so thankful for my friends, Jessica and Katie, that let Weston and Sophie both play at their houses while I was away.  I am beginning to understand what it is like to rely on friends more since I have neither my mom or mother in law around to help out as they have so much in the past (Jason's mom moved to Utah about a year ago).  I am just so thankful for friends that I trust enough (and who are so generous and willing to help) that I can have the kids stay with when necessary!
Here is Brighton when we got up to Mount Charleston...boy was that mountain air ever refreshing!  It was almost chilly (a welcomed change, I assure you).
It was so much fun to hang out with these awesome girls...and they didn't mind having Brighton around one little bit. :)
Poor, neglected baby (note sarcasm)...
I swear my friend Sandy looks like she could be one of the young women in this picture!  It is a fantasy of mine for someone to confuse me with a young woman one day...yeah, I know it'll never happen...maybe if they just thought I was 25?  I could settle for that!
My wonderful friend Mellissa and her family just moved to Idaho.  Before their move, some other great people planned a shin-dig at the park to say good-bye.  I struggled to get a good picture of Weston and Sophie with her two kiddos, but that's ok because I will do another post with some pictures of them playing recently.  
Here they are...Weston, Ansley, Sophie and Brodie (who was seriously burnt out on having his picture taken at this point, can you tell?)
Ansley and Sophie were really hamming it up in their pink swimsuits and sassy personalities!  Such cuties.
I have realized that during the summer, we must go on at least one outing every day (sometimes many).  One day, however, I didn't.  The kids were going crazy as I attempted to clean the house, so finally I put a workout video on to try to burn up some of their energy!  Of course, they found something to fight over during the workout video...this is Sophie telling me all about the many injustices perpetrated on her by her villainous older brother (again, note sarcasm)!
I just found it a little hilarious that they (especially Weston) were so into the workout...

Later they decided to make their own wallets...where do they come up with this stuff?
This is Weston displaying his wallet...which is basically fabric glued together.  He spent the next several days showing it to everyone we saw (and I DO mean everyone)!!