September 20, 2012

Needle in a Haystack

**This is N in the A-Z series**

I'll bet you think I'm going to write all about how finding true love isn't easy these days. That it's like finding a needle in a haystack. Ha! While I do love writing about how lucky I have been in love, today's story is about a prayer, a wedding ring...and a cat. So yeah, unless you consider my cat Darwin the love of my life (okay, okay, some of you do), this is more of a "dang cat" story.

Shortly after I married the love of my life, and just mere months after receiving the nicest piece of jewelry I had ever owned in my life (and it still is), I lost it. Let me back up a bit. One night, Joe and I decided to watch a movie at home while cuddling on the couch. My ring was bugging me a bit so I decided to take it off. At the time, I had a crystal bowl sitting on the coffee table in front of our couch, and I threw it in there thinking it would be perfectly safe while we watched our movie.

But let me back up even more. Before I ever even met Joe, I found a kitten. He was huddling on the side of Geneva Road in Orem, Utah, next to a large cat and two other kittens that had become road kill. Tragically, instead of running away from what was no doubt his family, he sat there on the side of the road with them. I passed him and hadn't made it a 1/4 of a mile before my heart strings had me turning around and driving back. The little guy came right to me as I got out of my car to collect him. And I took him home. I didn't have him long before I realized he had a true weakness for all things shiny. When he was still a kitten he ate a dime. The dime became lodged in his small intestine and cost me $600 to have removed in emergency surgery on a Saturday morning. He survived the eating of the dime and 11 years later, I still have him.

So that fateful night, I took off my ring and put it in the bowl. When Joe and I finished the movie we were falling asleep and I stumbled off to bed without taking my ring with me. The next morning I woke up to get ready like I always did but when I went to put my ring on, it wasn't in its usual spot. I remembered putting it in the bowl and went to get it. As I'm sure you've guessed already, it was not in the bowl where I was sure I had left it. In a panic, I informed Joe that my ring was missing and we began systematically tearing apart our condo to find it. Neither of us said anything, but both of us were beginning to suspect the cat as the culprit. I kept my mouth shut out of fear of Joe killing my cat and Joe kept his mouth shut out of fear of killing the cat in front of me.

You see, Joe isn't a cat person. He's not much of an animal person at all really. He grew up around animals, but for the most part they weren't allowed in the house and they tended to die at rather alarming rates. Me on the other hand? I can't recall ever sleeping without a cat in my bed my entire childhood. Unfortunately for Joe I guess, the woman of his dreams happened to also love cats. His family likes to tell me that when he and I were dating, he once told them he really liked me "but she has a cat". Like it was something he had to weigh carefully before deciding to spend the rest of his life with me. Just how much did my pet cat detract from who I was as a person and how attractive I was as a potential eternal companion? It was a serious consideration for Joe. And while I can't say that he and Darwin have become best friends who sleep curled into a ball of fur and skin, I can say they have developed mutual respect for each other.

But back to loss of my wedding ring. As we were tearing our small home apart to find the ring and both silently beginning to suspect the cat, Joe decided we should say a prayer and ask for heavenly assistance to find the ring. As we knelt with our heads bowed, Joe whispered a most fervent prayer that my ring would be found. Immediately after the prayer I began to load Darwin into the pet carrier so that I could ferry him off to the vet for an xray of his stomach. I knew from experience that shiny metal things in cats stomachs show bright and clear on xray. But suddenly Joe had a thought. He remembered being irritated with the cat at some unholy hour of the morning because he was batting something around in our bed, down by our feet. He kicked Darwin off the bed but not before he heard the sound of something metal clank against the footboard of our bed.

Halla-freakin-lujah! It had to be the ring! We both practically ran into the bedroom to check between the mattress and the foot board. And there, just where Joe thought it would be, was my beautiful wedding ring. I placed it back on my finger with thankful tears no doubt threatening to run from my eyes and Joe glancing heavenward in silent gratitude. That day we learned about being careful where we left important things (I did anyway), the power of prayer, and that Darwin cannot resist shiny metal objects. All three lessons have stuck with me for the last 11 years, much like Joe and the cat.

May 14, 2012

The Call of Motherhood

**This is M in the A-Z series**

So I just happened to get to the letter 'M' shortly before Mother's Day and I thought it appropriate to reflect on motherhood. It's been on my mind anyway because I am privileged to know so many amazing mothers. I mean, I am surrounded by women who (on a daily basis!) teach me to be more patient, kind, tough, and that none of our kids are perfect. Really, most of the kids I know pick their noses and eat it at one time or another, poop in their brand new Dora underwear, have a double barreled snot gun that you "forget" to wipe for awhile, call you stupid, say "I hate you!", and refuse to sleep through the night at one time or another. There is nothing better to me than to see one of my friend's children misbehaving so gloriously bad at church that we all cringe in pity for the mom as the struggling, kicking, sometimes screaming, red faced child is quickly taken out of Sacrament meeting. And you know why? Because it's a reminder that I am not the ONLY one who has kids that are not perfect and that all of us mothers have a bad day here and there with our children.

Mothers are amazing creatures. And I'm not just saying that because I am one (although "tooting ones horn" on occasion is both healthy and normal...or so I'm told). I can't think of any other job as tough as motherhood. We have to be doctors, psychologists, behavior specialists, nutritionists, budgeters, chefs, and more...and all at the same time. We never clock out unless we are lucky enough to have a grandma or trusted babysitter take over for us for a time. We clean all manner of hazardous, human secretions, often teeming with bacteria, on a nearly daily basis...for free! There is no health code in motherhood. There is no time for a weak stomach when two of your three children are puking and you know both yourself and poor little number three are next. And usually hubby gets off scott free because he's at work with the grown-ups all day while this is going on. And on a more serious note, we take a giant heaping of responsibility to not only repopulate the earth, but to do it with well adjusted, responsible citizens that will be a benefit to society rather than a detriment. Phew! Makes me tired even thinking about it.

It's not even a pleasant job to become a mother. I mean, making babies the old-fashioned way is certainly pleasant enough but not all mothers are so lucky, and even if we are, pregnancy is no walk in the park. I know several women who have tried month after month to have a baby, only to see no second pink line or blue plus sign on one pregnancy test after another. They ache so badly to hold a baby in their arms only to be disappointed time after time. Many of them go on to have IVF treatment which requires weeks of being injected with hormones, dozens of invasive tests, and thousands of dollars. Only for about a 30% chance of success. Some are successful, others move on to adoption or other means to become mothers. These methods have their own trials and tribulations, and I have heard many tales of heart break.

So why do so many women want so badly to become mothers? Why do we, at one time or another in our lives, yearn for a little parasite to take up residence in our wombs and cause all kinds of havoc with our bodies for nine long months, or one to come into our lives via a birthmother and disrupt everything? I can't speak for everyone, but I believe the way I feel about it is somewhat in line with most mothers. And it's because there is no moment in life more joyful than holding that tiny bundle in your arms for the first time. I remember during all three of my pregnancies, the desire to meet my little baby (the one kicking and punching me in the ribs and bladder on a regular schedule throughout the day) was so strong, I could hardly wait for the pregnancy to end. And I have yet to be disappointed in the magic of that moment. Each time I have been so moved that for a moment, everything else in life has stopped being important, and it was just me and my baby, staring at each other for the first time.

It's also because there is something completely magical about watching a baby slowly morph into the toddler, child, and eventually adult they are meant to become. Seeing their personalities begin to show in infancy is both magical and disconcerting. I mean, it's pretty amazing that at the tender age of four months you can tell if your baby is going to be "laid back" or, well, not laid back. It's magic when they transform from infants that can't even see 8 inches beyond their face or stay awake longer than 15 minutes at a stretch to sitting, crawling, babbling little people with definite and obvious likes and dislikes. And I think we yearn to become mothers because the urge to love and nurture a child is strong in most women from childhood. I used to tell my mom that I wanted to have six kids when I grew the tender age of six! The reality of the trials of raising children has reduced that number for me, but I have always wanted to be a mother.

Now that I am a mother, I have infinitely more understanding and compassion for my own mother. I recall once when I was about 16 having a fight with my mom in the car. I'm sure she was right and I was wrong. But at the most heated point in our argument, and because I was a teenager with only marginal control over my emotions, I called her a bitch. It must have broken her heart to hear that come from a child that she had given up so much to raise. And that's the crux of it. We give up so much to have and raise children, something they will not always think to show gratitude for. And a good night's sleep is the least of it. But what I have gotten in return so far is a thousand fold more than I have sacrificed. When I look into my children's eyes, at the love and trust they so freely give to me, I know both the weight and joy of this most sacred calling. I can't wait to see who they are going to become. My life is full of chaos, tears, clutter, and dirty things. But it's also full of joy, love, laughter, and magical moments. I wouldn't trade my babies for anything in this world, even on our worst day together.

May 08, 2012

Lighthouses (the story of my conversion to the LDS faith)

**This is L in the A-Z series**

I think we all often hear life compared to the ever changing waters of the oceans. You might even say it's 'cliche' to compare life to an ocean. I think it's done so often because, well, it's true. There are times in life where everything is calm and glassy, just like the Caribbean Sea on a warm, sunny day. And at times life violently tosses us about with giant waves trying with all their might to sink our little vessels. You never know what you're going to get...oh wait, that's the box of chocolate analogy. But you get the idea.

So if life is like an ocean, then a lighthouse is like a beacon. Something to guide you into safe harbor when you are getting tossed violently about by the storms of life (cliche, I know). It's so easy to get off course, to find yourself in rough water and desperately seeking a way out. I know, I've been there so many times. And the crazy thing is, I didn't even realize I was seeking safe harbor in my younger years (the pseudo-adulthood known as the early 20's and even younger). Yet someone else knew I was seeking, and He placed people directly in my path along the way to help guide me safely in.

At the times that I needed them, I didn't realize their significance in my life. Or that their placement in my life was far from coincidental. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 (I am on a roll with the cliches tonight). Looking back, I realize how dear these people are to me and how perfectly they were placed to keep me on a safe course. There are three people who were perfectly placed in my life to lead me to God, His church, my husband, and the happy life I have now. They were my lighthouses.

The very first person was a boy named John Peterson. Oh he is cute (I can say "is" instead of "was" because we're still friends)! He's apple pie, sunshine, California on a sunny day, and ice cream all rolled into one. And he knows it. He has a string of ladies about a mile long to show for it. But don't get the wrong idea about him because he's fabulous. He is kind, deep, spiritual, and would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. I first met him when I was twelve and he was thirteen. His friend George passed me a note at school from John that said I was "georgous". I'm sure you can imagine that I was smitten after that.

John was my first boyfriend. We "went out" for a short time and our biggest step was hand holding, but his impact on my life was lasting. John is the first Mormon I had ever known on a personal level. And even in our youth, when we are wont to discard with astonishing speed the things our parents try to instill and that we know to be right on a deep level, he never seemed embarrassed about his religion. I learned a lot about the LDS church from John, but mostly I learned that LDS people were normal and didn't really have horns or sacrifice kittens and puppies every full moon to Joseph Smith. I was far from conversion at that point in my life, but it's safe to say I developed a deep respect for John and his religion. We have remained friends all these years and I have many letters we exchanged while he was on his LDS mission.

Next came Sara. My dear, wonderful Sara. I can't even put into words how much I love her or how much she means to me. At a time when I was drowning in loneliness and self involvement, Sara came into my life. She was all Morrissey, waist length hair, horn rimmed glasses, peasant skirts, and Doc Martens. And she was so wonderfully different, unique, and sure of herself. She was exactly what I needed the year my parents uprooted me to my third high school. By that point I was so weary of making new friends that I just sort of gave up and kept to myself. But then Sara came along. And we did all sorts of nerdy things together like write a poem titled "Poppy and Prepular Went to School". Um yes, I think one of us still has it somewhere.

It would be impossible to tell of all the ways Sara helped me in my life, but let's just say that without her, I think I'd be adrift somewhere in the outer rings of Antarctica by now. I can firmly say that it is because of Sara that I finally found the courage to do what I knew was the right path for me for years, join the LDS church. I was exposed to it for years through her. I would sleep over at her house on Saturday nights and attend church with her family on Sundays. I went to youth dances with Sara on many occasions, and had deep conversations about life with her at least 8,000 times. And when my heart was broken and I was at my lowest, I stumbled straight to Sara. It sounds dramatic, but it's true. The times in my life when I've been at my lowest, she has always been there to pick me back up.  How can you ever express gratitude to someone like this you ask? Why, write about her in a blog post that can only barely touch on just how important she really is.

The third person was another boy. His name was Andy. While John introduced me to the church, and Sara kept me focused on what was right, this boy was the final push I needed to embrace something that was frustratingly close and comfortable, but that still scared the bejeebers out of me. The Church didn't scare me, just the way my friends and family would react if I joined. Anyway, just as I was poised on the precipice of actually being baptized, but still scared to take the final step, I met Andy. He is sweet, cute, funny, charming as all get out, and just a wonderful person all around. Obviously I was boy crazy and the Lord used this to His advantage :).

I met Andy while he was fresh off his mission. We liked each other instantly. I'll never forget the first time we met. It was at a campfire, a singles ward activity. I saw him and asked Sara who he was. I then made her help me meet Andy. You know, I had her call him while I was sitting right there next to her, too scared to say a word, and arrange for us to "hang out" later. All three of us of course. Like many relationships among young people, ours didn't work out on a permanent basis. But like Sara and John, I owe him a big debt of gratitude for being the example I needed, for helping me learn about my new commitments, and most uncomfortably and inadvertently, making me realize I wanted to be so much better than I was at that time.

 He bought me my first set of scriptures. They were blue leather with silver edged pages and my name was engraved on them. The night he gave them to me we sat on my fireplace and read them. I have since gotten new scriptures but I still have my first set. Andy not only helped me realize my own testimony, he even baptized me. His great-grandmother sat in the audience and clapped when it was over (you're not supposed to clap). To this day I still smile at that memory. His mom had a party for me afterward at her house and invited pretty much the entire singles ward (this would have been really daunting in Utah, but in Texas an "entire singles ward" is a very manageable sized crowd). It was just the welcome into my new life I needed. And Andy was just the nudge I needed to take the final step.

Without John, Sara, and Andy placed so perfectly in my life, I'm not sure where I'd be right now. When we are right in the thick of life, it's incredibly hard to see that we are indeed on a path. It feels scattered, random, and frustratingly off course. But when we gain some distance, it is easy to look back and see God's hand in things. What seemed so random, scattered, and even sad, becomes clear and takes the shape of a path. A path that led us to where we are. I am grateful to God for loving me so much. I am grateful to the many people that led me to the family I have today. I sort of feel like I got the ultimate prize with the Church, Joe, and my kids. It just doesn't get any better than this.

May 04, 2012

Kids and the Things They Say

**This is K in the A-Z series**

It's no secret that I have the most funny, smart, and charming Aspie for a son. And it's also no secret that he says some of the most awesome things ever if you are my facebook friend. So I thought I'd write a little ode to some of the best things Noah has said to me over the years. Oh how I love this kid and all the things he says that no doubt originate from his amazing little mind.

Recently we were discussing bad words that aren't actually bad words. I'm not even sure how we got on the subject because we initially were reading scriptures together as a family. I think maybe we came across the word 'ass' or something in reference to a donkey. Anyway, Noah informed us that the word 'bitch' actually means female dog. We all had a good laugh over that and I was very amused that Noah was so entertained by the real meaning of the word 'bitch'. It was all fun and games until a little while later, when our dog Sonya walked into the room, he turned to her and said, "Hi Bitch!". And then it wasn't so funny anymore. There is no way I can remember all the witty and hilarious things he has said both intentionally and unintentionally, but here are some I can remember at the moment.

-When Noah was 3, he was obsessed with the state of Texas. I'm sure it was because that is where my parents live and he completely adores his Mimi and Papu. He used to sigh wistfully and say with more than a hint of longing, "Mom, Texas is the best planet ever". I never bothered to correct him, it was too darn cute.

-Joe used to let Noah play the game Metroid when he was about 3 years old (I know, parenting award of the year here). Every time the game character was walking through acid rain, he would turn to me and say, "Mom, I'm going through the ass of rain!". And he was so excited about it, like it was the coolest thing ever. The way he said acid rain never really bothered me, I thought it was cute.

-Noah was not a confident bum wiper until he was probably 6 years old. I can remember when he was 4, he told us he did not want to grow up. When we asked him why, he said, "I don't ever want to grow up because I don't want to ever wipe my own bum". Thankfully this was just a phase and he did eventually master this toileting skill :). I think he's realized that bum wiping is far from the worst thing we face as adults.

-Just the other night he was frustrated that we were making him practice piano. He threw his arms up in the air, put on his biggest pout, and said, "I'm just unfit for piano! Unfit!!". He's not, but he got to go all of spring break without practicing so I think it was hard for him to start again.

-Once, when Noah was younger, Joe asked him if he'd like a piece of cheese. He replied, "Dad, I don't have time for cheese" and even completed it with an eye roll.

I wish I could think of more. There have been so many Noahisms over the years. Let's just say that this boy keeps us entertained all the time :).

April 14, 2012

"Joe, Jellyfish!"

**This is J in the A-Z series**

I'm falling a little bit behind in my posts. But in my defense, I've been so busy on our vacation and then so bone tired at night, that I'm finding it very difficult to think straight and therefore come up with witty blog banter for your reading pleasure. I got some good material today, however, so I better write it all down before I become too tired to remember it straight.

We enjoyed another beautiful day here in St. Lucia. Our last full day in fact. Tomorrow we will fly home and return to the grind of daily life. I'm fine with that though because, well, I miss my kids. A lot. I seriously can't wait to get a "break" and then it comes and I think of my kids the whole dang time. Especially Cora. Sweet little Cora. I want to kiss and smell her and elicit big smiles and sweet little baby giggles so badly from her that I can hardly stand it.

But I digress, I was going to talk about jellyfish. So I mentioned that we had a beautiful day, and we did. We got to play "castaway" on a deserted beach that has the St. Lucian equivalent of a hippie commune on one end with the rest of the beach gloriously deserted (It might have been a little to castaway-ish for my friend Kristine because at one point she asked for a volleyball that she could name Wilson). It is right at the base of Gros Piton (my arch nemesis, more on that later) and best accessed by water taxi. We had a guy named Pogi (Pah-jee) who was quite the character, pick us up in his boat from the beach right below our villa and take us there. We packed a lunch and a lot of sunscreen and water and happily waved goodbye to Pogi as we started on our castaway day. The beach was like an aquarium. It was pretty rocky and not fabulous for casual bathing but it was wonderful for snorkeling. We saw many, many beautiful fish, corals, and plants. And not one single, solitary jellyfish. After 4 hours, Pogi came back for us and we headed to a place he likes to call the Coral Gardens (a protected marine reserve in the water).

The water at this spot was pristine. My friend Mark said it looked just like windex, and he was right. It was a beautiful dark blue color and perfectly crystal clear. It was so inviting. It was like the water was screaming, "Jump in! Jump in!". And so we did. Pogi told us if we were lucky, we'd see a turtle or two swim past. The bottom was about 10 feet down and just littered with these giant boulders and long stretches of coral. So at first, I was completely enthralled with the sea life. Suddenly, I felt a sharp sting, like a bee sting, right on my stomach and I sort of startled. I began looking around to find the source of the sting and noticed, like in a horror movie, we were surrounded by dozens (and I mean dozens) of these little jellyfish. We had jumped right into a big swarm of them. Everywhere I looked I was surrounded. Now, I was the first to notice this and came up to the surface quite horrified and informed my friend Mark, who was closest to me, of our delimma. He began looking around and quickly noticed them as well. We swam over to warn Joe and Mark's wife Kristine about the swarm. Pretty soon we were all on edge and trying to avoid the jellyfish.

At that point I decided the fun snorkel experience was over and started heading to the boat. Joe was just a little way ahead of me when I noticed he was swimming right into two or three of the jellyfish and I yelled, "Joe! Jellyfish!" to get his attention. Except I was underwater and it came out sounding more like, "Blerghhhhhhhgargle! Blagggggggle!". So I guess it isn't really his fault that he didn't turn around to look. I tapped his fin and he looked back at me. That was when he noticed the jellyfish, which had unfortunately floated right up to his face. And let me tell you, the look on his face when he noticed was priceless! As in, it was worth getting stung twice to watch him jump while underwater to get away, wide eyed with surprise and a little terror. And the best part was that when he jerked up and away, the jellyfish went with him, because it was stuck to his face mask. Oh yes. I will never, ever forget that moment. Just since it happened, I've put it on my top ten list of most funny things ever :).

April 10, 2012

In Heaven

This week, Joe and I are spending some time in heaven. It's also known as St. Lucia, a beautiful island in the southeast Caribbean. The water is warm, clear, and inviting and the sand is like black glitter. It makes for a striking scene. We rented a little villa right outside of Soufriere with two of our friends. It sits high on a hill top overlooking the sea, with Petite Piton rising seemingly from right below us....and it has a pool. Perfect, I know.

I'm gonna keep this short because I'm supposed to be relaxing in Paradise. But here's a quick run down of how my day went. I slept until 10:30 without waking up to a crying baby even once and then laid in bed staring at the mosquito netting for a good ten minutes before I actually got up. Then I put on my suit and some sunscreen and headed out to the pool. I stayed there for a good three hours, only expending enough energy to jump in the pool when I felt hot, and turn from front to back occasionally. After awhile, Joe and our friends returned from the grocery store and we decided to head to Anse Chastenet beach. It's a gorgeous beach with calm, clear water and decent snorkling. I had a good time just treading water and chatting with Kristine about the various things women discuss, like tummy tucks, our kids, and our husbands. I took a nap on the beach too. In fact, I've been taking lots of naps and I have to say, it feels great. When I nap in Utah, I feel lazy. Here it just seems like the appropriate thing to do. After our beach time we came home where we were met by a personal chef named Basil, who cooked us a wonderful four course meal in our home, served us, and then cleaned our kitchen. I think I'll cap off the night with a swim and then fall asleep to the chorus of insects, lizards, and bugs that live in the jungle surrounding our house. It's been an amazing day indeed.

Oh, and if you like mangoes, you'd especially love this place. We have several large mango trees right around the house and it's mango season. That means that mangoes are literally dropping from the sky right now. In fact, we have to watch our heads :).

April 09, 2012


**This is H in the A-Z series**

So Joe and I were driving around today after church just daydreaming. We were daydreaming about houses, which is something we do often. It's not that we aren't satisfied with our lot in life, but like anyone, we have our fantasies too. As we were driving around in an area that I love and dream about living in, we passed lots of houses for sale, and it got me to thinking about what I would do if we could buy any house and price didn't matter. Ha! As if. But still, it's fun to dream.

I've also recently discovered pinterest. While many of my friends are pinning cute crafty projects, great ideas for cleaning and kids, and fabulously stylish outfits, I find that at least 90% of my posts are about food. Another, oh, 9.9% are about houses.  Apparently my two extracurricular passions in life are food and houses. Both interests have their pitfalls. One negatively impacts my waistline and the other...our bank account. But no matter, food and dream house hunting are two passions I refuse to give up.

Anyway, our lovely Sunday afternoon drive, which we took to let Cora get a nice, long nap (so it was peaceful and quiet because Mimi and Papu had the other two kiddos), really got me to thinking about what my ultimate dream home would have. And here is the list, in no particular order.

1. Lots of slides! I've never outgrown the childish delight of sliding! I would love to have a beautiful, grand and spiraled staircase but with a catch. And the catch would be that along side the stairs there would also be a slide. So you could either walk down the stairs or slide if you were feeling child-like and adventurous. I would never walk. It would look something like this:

I think it would also be cool to have a slide that went from the first floor down to the basement, which would be a giant kid play area. We once walked through a house that had this feature and I was so jealous that there was no slide in my house. I think I've suffered from slide envy ever since. If I were forced to chose one or the other, I'd pick the staircase slide.

2. A pool! And not just any pool, but the most amazing pool ever. With a water slide (there I go with slides again), a diving board,  a for real deep end (no thanks on the 4 foot all over pool), and beautiful landscaping. I think there are probably amazing features I'm not mentioning, but I don't really know much about pools. In my mind, it looks like this:

And of course it would be beyond cool to have an indoor pool as well. But it seems a little snobbish to have both, don't you think?

3. The most amazing shower ever. I dream about this one all.the.time. It's hard for me to articulate about this shower, but let's just say it has benches, multiple shower heads, water coming from every direction, lots of steam (both the water variety and the husband variety....Rawrrrr!),  and lots and lots of space.  Perhaps something along these lines:

4. Lots of space. A bedroom for each kid, us, and maybe two guest rooms. Maybe even some themed rooms like the pirate room, the Treasure Island room, and the Neverland room....and a small zoo!!. Oh yeah, now we're talking. Or maybe I should just stick to "lots of space", I think I'm starting to sound like Michael Jackson...

5. A house elf. Someone is gonna have to clean that gargantuan shower, tend the pool, take care of the zoo animals, keep the slides slippery, and everything else in tip top shape. Oh, and make me trifle upon request. So thanks for the idea Harry Potter. Now, where do I get a house elf? I hear they work for free...

Oh man, I really hope I get to build this house someday.

April 08, 2012

G is for Gommy and Granny

**This is G in the A-Z series**

I could have also titled this post, "G is for grateful", but I like using the names of my beloved, adored, and most wonderful grandmothers. A lot of people don't get to know their grandparents growing up because the grandparents either pass away or stay uninvolved. It wasn't like that for me. My grandmothers were second mothers to me and I was very close to both of them. And I'm incredibly grateful to have had them and still have one of them as a huge part of my life.

Gommy was my paternal grandmother, which is the fancy way to say she was my dad's mom. She was fit, neat, clean, beautiful, christ-like, and had a back bone which consisted entirely of iron. I remember that she would not put up with the hysterics I was prone to as a young child. As soon as my face turned red, tears began flowing, and my feet began stomping, she would go into iron grandma mode. She would say, "Ashley, do you need to go to the crying room?", with this look on her face that told me she was like one step from whipping me with the measuring stick. And I knew she was serious, as serious as a heart attack as a matter of fact. And the crying room was awful. It was her front room, which was closed off with a set of double doors from the rest of the house. Big trees grew in front of the windows, blocking almost all natural light from the room. And the furniture was all fancy and not meant to be comfortable...or enjoyed. So when she asked me if I needed the crying room, I would suck in my lip, hold my breath, shake my head no, and stalk off like a wounded animal. But not too much like a wounded animal because if she noticed, she thought it was disrespectful, and she'd put me in the crying room anyway. But she loved me, oh how she loved me. When I was in college, she wrote at least one letter every single month. When I was far away from my family and lonely, those letters meant the world to me. And even when I was on the cusp of becoming an adult (and beyond), she still sent one dollar in my Valentine every single year.

I saved all of those letters and all of those Valentines with their dollars. I have them stored lovingly in a box. I take them out every so often just to read over them and finger all of those dollar bills. I won't spend them, I never would. Now that she is gone, it's the one tangible connection I still have with her. Those, and the many words she put to paper to cheer me, lift me, and let me know I was loved, prayed for, and thought of often. Gommy passed away years ago. She had knee replacement surgery and then inexplicably died just a few days later. It's a mystery as to why, but I know that she watches over me from Heaven. And every so often, I can almost hear her whispering that I'm going to have to go to the "crying room" if I can't act like the adult I am and stop with the tantrums already :).

Gommy wasn't the only grandmother who loved me, I also had my Granny. Granny was my maternal grandmother, or my mom's mom. I spent more time with Granny growing up because my mom is super attached to her family and so we were always visiting them. I used to call Granny "my Branny" because I couldn't say my 'G's very well. Oh she spoiled me. I had her number just like my kids have my parents' number. I knew just how to get her to buy me a new pair of shoes just about every time we went shopping. And not coincidentally, I still have the same passion for shoes that I had as a small girl. My granny is still with us. Her husband, my grandpa, passed away 2 years ago and while she still mourns him, her Alzheimers has removed much of the sting of his passing. She has become quite the flirt (actually, I think she was quite a flirt as a young girl) and has a boyfriend at the home she lives in. It doesn't seem to matter to her that he is married and his wife visits often :). She has reverted to a childlike state and loves desserts, visits, and getting makeovers. Granny was my second mother growing up, and I spent many of my parents vacations at her house. I never minded being left behind, I had Granny taking care of me.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have known, loved, and been raised by both sets of grandparents. All four of them were a huge part of my life and left an indelible impression on me along with the many, many years of wisdom they had accumulated. I learned lessons from each of my grandmothers that will follow me through life. And I like to think that I was lucky enough to have inherited some of their characteristics. What a blessing to have spent so many years of my life not only being molded and guided by two loving parents but also by all four of my grandparents.

April 06, 2012

'F' is for Food

**This is F in the A-Z series**

Have you ever wanted to eat something like, oh, I don't know, wood? Or drywall? I have had the desire to eat these things with each of my pregnancies. Often I would stop in Home Depot just for the smell of cut wood. I would walk in the door and immediately begin salivating. As I made my way over to the 4x4's, I would imagine taking a big, juicy bite right out of one of them. Now thankfully I knew better than to actually eat a 4x4, but that doesn't change the fact that I wanted to. Each time I went to the doctor, I would hang my head and admit that, yes, I still wanted to eat wood. And each time I would earn myself a prick on the finger so that a single drop of my blood could be tested for iron. And each time, my iron was fine (the urge to eat strange things in pregnancy can be a sign of anemia). Apparently I just want to eat wood when I'm pregnant.

I had never experienced this phenomenon when I wasn't pregnant...until recently. Ironically enough, it was shortly after my pregnancy was completed that I experienced the urge to eat wood again. Or to eat anything really. And by anything I mean drywall, dirt, finger nail clippings (okay, I'm exaggerating with this one), you get the idea.  Now let me tell you why.

As with the birth of my other two children, after little Cora made her grand entrance into the world, I was left with a good 30 pounds to lose. I'm pretty self concious when I'm chubby like that and basically, I just can't get comfortable in my own skin. So off I went to weight watchers to drop the weight in a sensible way appropriate for breast feeding women. I did indeed start dropping weight, but it was sooooo slooooooow. Like a half a pound per week. Talk about frustrating. My sisters-in-law breast feed for twot weeks and lose all their pregnancy weight (yes, I know I'm exaggerating again, but in this case, just a little bit). Honestly, why can't my body get a clue like theirs?
I'm a believer in weight watchers, I really am. That's how I dropped the weight after I had Isabella. The difference between now and then is that now we had a beach vacation planned just several months after the birth of little Cora. With Isabella, I gave myself a good year to lose the weight. This time around, no such luck. This led me to make a pretty drastic decision. I was going to try the infamous HCG diet. I went to my family doctor, he prescribed me the hormone, and I began the diet. I knew I was going to have to quite breastfeeding, but since Cora was already five months old and we had been supplementing, I was fine with that.

The diet started off well enough. Especially since I *had* to gorge myself on anything fattening and delicious for two days before the start of the starvation part. Believe it or not the 48 hour gorging left me feeling so disgusting that I couldn't wait for the 500 calories a day meal plan to begin. The first several days went amazingly well and aside from a constant, low level headache, I felt fine. And I started dropping weight like it was going out of style.

And then along came week number two out of almost six weeks of this "diet". Suddenly, like when I was pregnant, wood and drywall started looking mighty appetizing. I considered that maybe just a small nibble from the corner of the bathroom wall would be fine. After all, it was a hidden spot and there was certainly no starch, sugar, or calories in it to ruin my diet. Seemed like a win-win to me. But my better sense prevailed and I left the bathroom drywall unscathed. By week three, my two cats who generally attempt to make my face their bed began keeping a healthy distance and a watchful eye on me. Especially the cat that has a weight problem. Perhaps the looks I gave her were betraying the inner thoughts I was having that roasted cat might actually taste good. By the time week four came around, my son's frosted flakes began to resemble manna from Heaven and the cats were no longer occupying the same rooms as me. It was about this time that I became extremely skeptical of all the online "testimonies" I had read from others who supposedly completed the diet that said things like, "I never felt better in my life than when I was on this diet, I wish it could go on forever!". Liars, all of them.

But to make an already long story just a little bit shorter, I completed the diet. I went all 40 days and never went past my 500 calories or ate prohibited foods. I lost 23 pounds which was nearly all the baby weight except five or six stragglers that want to stubbornly hang out around my hips and belly. It's fine though, they'll keep me warmer in the winter. I've kept it off without much trouble so I guess I can say I'm glad I did it. Joe and I will leave for our trip in a few days and to his great relief I won't wear one of his giant t-shirts over my swimsuit. Although, no bikinis for me. When I went to buy new suits, I still chose sensible tankinis to hide my flaws ;).  I am extremely proud of myself for actually finishing something hard. I tend to be a real giver-upper. I'm gonna stop one step short of recommending this diet however. Next time, if there is a next time, I think I'll stick with weight watchers.

April 04, 2012

E is for Easter of Course!

**This is 'E' in the A-Z series**

So for those who are Christians, a pretty big celebration is coming up. In about 3 days, we will celebrate a huge event that happened approximately 1,978 years ago. I am talking about the resurrection of Christ of course. I have been thinking about Him lately, and about his gift to us. But mostly I've been thinking about what his death and subsequent resurrection was actually like for Him and the people who loved him. Like his mom and dad.

Poor Mary. She got to be the mother of Christ, but what great responsibility, heartache, and worry came with that calling? I don't even want to be Relief Society president...ever. Heck, I don't even want to give an opening or closing prayer at any public church meeting. And Mary was called to be the mother of God's son. It was no easy task either. Little Jesus was incredibly precocious and was always running off into the city to do good deeds. Wasn't he only like 12 years old when he went missing for two days and was found teaching in the temple? Can you imagine being Mary or Joseph. I mean, they lost their beloved first born who also happened to be the literal son of God (Um sorry God, I only turned my back for a second...I swear!). They must have been beside themselves. And then he turns up, not only unharmed but teaching full grown men the gospel at the local temple. I don't know about you, but if I had been Mary, the urge to grab him by the ear and haul him straight home to a month of being grounded (or an entire year) would have been so strong I'm not sure if I could have suppressed it. And that's why I wasn't born to be the mother of Christ.

What grace, goodness, love, and faith she must have possessed to be entrusted to be Jesus's mother. I know some of the most wonderful people on the planet and I still can't imagine them being good enough to be the mother of Christ. Imagine the day when Mary had to watch her beloved son die at the hands of people who should have loved him. He was tortured for hours before he finally succumbed. Mary most likely witnessed it all. Can you imagine seeing that happen to your child? I know I can't. Someday I want to meet Mary, she's my hero.

I bet Mary's joy was almost unrivaled the day he emerged from the tomb. Her boy, baby, beloved son, and Savior all wrapped into one. There are so many mothers across the world who have tragically lost children that can probably imagine how joyful a reunion they would have if their precious child emerged unscathed several days later. I would say I wish I could have actually witnessed it all myself, but, well, I am also glad I was born in the time that I was....with modern conveniences.

As awful as all that was, it was necessary to save all of mankind. I'm grateful for that sacrifice. I don't know about you, but the harder I try to be perfect, the worse I tend to fail at it. Thank goodness when I make mistakes, I'm not permanently stained by them. I'm glad I can repent and have more than one chance at this "perfect" thing.

As a kid I didn't think about this kind of stuff much. I was a lot more interested in what the old Easter Bunny would be putting into my Easter basket. And he sure was generous, that bunny. Every year it was a pound of chocolate of all varieties, toys, and trinkets. Easter morning was almost as good as Christmas morning. Of course, now I know that's because of my mom and her faithful easter basket making each year :).

Every year I also give my children Easter baskets, just like my mom did for us. It's fun. I also enjoy eating their candy, which I have to do on the sly. I love to see their excited looks as they come running to the table Easter morning to see what delights are so carefully arranged in their baskets (the bunny has a real knack for making those baskets look so perfectly arranged). I'm all for Easter baskets. However, this year I am going to make sure that we sit down and talk about the true meaning of Easter. I need to know that they understand how much God loves them and that he sacrificed his only begotten son for them, along with how much chocolate one can eat before vomiting. And after we tell this wonderful story on which the history of mankind is founded? I think we'll enjoy a little Easter candy.

D is for Dad

**This is 'D' in the A-Z series**

I remember well one of my dad's most favorite stories to tell about me as a young child. He told it often and actually still tells it from time to time. It must be one of his favorite stories. And so the story goes something like this. A long time ago, when I was really little, my family and I were on a drive out to visit some family friends. Apparently I was upset, as I often was, at my dad because I was under the impression that I was not going to be able to swim that afternoon and I had been looking forward to swimming. Unbeknownst to me, my swimsuit was en route with the rest of us because there WAS going to be swimming involved that afternoon. So anyway, my dad did something he used to do all.the.time. Oh wait, he still does this...and I'm 33. As he was driving he turned to the rest of us, his captive audience, and said, "Who loves Dad?". My mom and my brother Kelly both put their hands excitedly in the air and shouted, "I do, I do". I sat there silent, no doubt with my lip turned down and dad said, "Well, what about you Ashley?". And what did I say at the tender age of 5 or 6? "Dad, I don't love you...I don't even like you".

It can be rough to be a dad. I don't know this from experience of course, but I do know that sometimes dads get the short end of the stick. I'm not even going to try and lie and tell you that I didn't have a favorite parent growing up. I did. And it was my mom. Just like I'm not going to lie and tell you I don't have a favorite child...oh wait, yes I am ;).

My whole world revolved around my mom. We had the traditional family set up with mom at home, slaving away to raise happy children and dad off supporting the family. He traveled a lot, we didn't see him a lot, and well, mom used phrases like, "You just wait until your dad gets home!", which don't exactly instill a longing in a kid for her dad to eventually get home. I remember I got more spankings from my dad than I did from my mom too. So he was sort of the "hard" parent and my mom was the "soft" one.

When I fell off my scooter and scraped myself up, it was mom kissing and bandaging my injuries. Later when I had problems with friends, it was my mom who helped me solve them or listened as I cried. And even later still, when boys broke my heart, it was mom that I called first. Yet never once did I question that my dad loved and cherished me just as much as my mom did. I always knew he did. His love for me was as sure as the sun would rise every day. I still can't say exactly how my dad managed to let me know of his love for me though I have lots of ideas. But he did. I guess in that magical way that dads who aren't really involved with a lot of the day to day nitty-gritty manage to convey love to their kids anyway.

It was in the occasional embraces, the proud looks, the gentle guidance, and the occasional very stern reproaches that let me know I had crossed a line. It was also in quiet moments he never even knew I was aware of, like the time I fell asleep in their bed watching the Oscars when I was in the ninth grade. I weighed 100 pounds by that point and instead of waking me to go to bed, he carried me to my room, gently laid me in bed, and pulled the covers over me. I was far too big to be carried to bed, but he did it anyway. And also in the time he tried (in vain) to lovingly critique my latest poem. I was a budding poet in junior high school and I wrote an absolute masterpiece one day. I proudly showed it to my dad and he exclaimed about how wonderful it was...but there was just one problem. I had written the line, "Alas, it was the dawn of a new day". I had meant it to be happy (like, "yay! A new day is coming!") and had used the word "alas" inappropriately. My dad lovingly told me of my mistake. I was NOT appreciative at all and felt offended for days afterward. In those days, constructive criticism was not on my radar.

But I'm grateful for his guidance now. I'm pretty sure my dad never changed my diaper, brushed my teeth, or sat with me in the bathroom as I heaved into the toilet (Although, he did once take me to the emergency room when I hurt my neck. The doctor's name was Dr. Crick. True story!). But he did teach me to be strong, resilient, and to persevere. He helped mold and shape me into who I am today. He taught me the importance of education and the pitfalls of a weak mind. For these gifts I am grateful. I am now and was always aware that he loves me. And I think that is the best gift he has ever given me.

April 03, 2012

C is for Companionship (The Story of Joe and Ashley)

**I decided to take on the blogging A-Z challenge afterall. Only I am giving myself 2 months to do it instead of 1. So for me "A" was Asperger's, "B" was, um, one of the others, and I'm officially starting at "C".**

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you were born a giant California Sea Cucumber, or an American Water Shrew? Or perhaps a Jaguar, Maned Sloth, or Common Frog? It seems that these animals have nothing in common. Some live on land, some in water. Some of them are hunters and some wait placidly for food to come to them. But they all have one thing in common. They are solitary. These guys, and many more just like them, live their whole lives alone with the exception of coming together to mate and produce young. The genetic and evolutionary drive for them to propagate their species forces them together for short periods of time. Many of these solitary species don't even raise the young that result from these clandestine meetings. They birth, lay their eggs, or do whatever they do to have young, leave them to be immediately self sufficient, and continue on with being solitary.

What if people were like this? We came together to have sex once per year, solely to possibly become pregnant, and then continued on with our solitary lives. Can you imagine? We would probably be intensely territorial too. Like I would growl at you and possibly attempt to rip out your throat if you dared come within 1/2 mile of me. I would do everything alone, including raise my young. It seems bleak to imagine not only having no one to touch, be touched by, talk to, eat with, share the responsibilities of life with, or complain to after a particularly hard day of being a mother...but to also have no desire to have these things in my life. Imagining life not only without Joe, but not even wanting Joe, is about as foreign for me as it can possibly get.

I will never forget the very first time I laid eyes on him, my Joe. I was at a fast and testimony meeting at my meat market, er, singles ward. I was sitting all the way in the back of the chapel and there were probably 200 people between me and the pulpit. I wasn't really paying much attention to what was going on but instead whispering with my best friend and room mate Sara. I'd like to pretend that I was feasting on the spoken word but instead I was no doubt whispering about some boy or another that had recently caught my interest. I was 22, kind of boy crazy, pretty (and I knew it), and on the hunt. I can admit that part about being on the hunt because, well, all of us were in that ward, any of us really at that time in our lives. Anyway, Joe came up to bear his testimony and suddenly, and inexplicably, as I had ignored most of the other testimonies, my attention was upon him.

He spoke about his mother. She had very recently passed away and I could see that she had been a very loving and powerful force in his life. He choked up a few times as he spoke in loving remembrance of this wonderful woman. I was still very much a child and the loss of a mother was one of the very worst things I could ever imagine. It still is actually. I immediately felt pain for him and for some strange reason, I wanted to walk up there, put my arms around him, and console him like I would a crying baby, saying "Shhh, shhh, it's going to be alright". Good thing I didn't, eh? I doubt I'd be sitting here writing about our marriage 10 years later ;).

I was so moved by his love for his mother, and though I didn't realize it at the time, his love for his Heavenly Father that I just had to meet that boy. It didn't hurt that I thought he was cute too. Well low and behold, by some mystical force, he wound up in my apartment just a few days later. It would seem that my room mate and him had been paired together for a church calling. Something about singles meeting, falling in love, and creating marriages. And so we met, officially, and for the first time.

After that, I sought him out every Sunday after church just to say hello. It sounds desperate, but really I was just trying to make an impression so that maybe he would eventually ask me out. I was dating around like a $10 dollar hooker and I really wanted him to ask me out so I'd have the chance to get to know him better. After at least a month of seeking him out each Sunday to say hello, he finally asked me out (and by the way, I just used the words "hooker", "Sunday", and "church" together in two sentences). Only he did it in such an awkward way that I got the impression he was trying to set me up with his buddy on a group date. I was crushed, and politely declined. It was only a few minutes later that I realized he was asking me out, so I went back to him (trying not to run) and said, "I'm so sorry, I thought you were asking me out for your friend. I wanted to go out with you, not your friend, and I would still love to go out with you". By then his fragile male ego had been offended and he replied with, "that's okay, I'll ask someone else". I know, it's like a comedy of errors.

You'd think that was the end of Joe and Ashley. But it wasn't. To my great delight both girls he tried to ask on this date he was planning turned him down and he was seeking me out again 3 days later. Of course I said yes and it literally was the best first date I had ever been on with anyone. We were both in bathing suits on that very first night and now I'm thinking his friend and him purposely planned it that way. I like to think that we were both exposed, literally and figuratively, sitting in that hot tub amongst the others. Later, when it was just us, we talked and talked until we were long past pruny and about to pass out from the heat of the hot tub. After that date, I was smitten. It was only a few more dates before we shared our first kiss and I was sold...hook, line, and sinker. And so two young people fell in love rather quickly, and here we are 10 years later looking forward to an eternity together.

I'd like to say that our journey together so far has been completely without bumps, just smooth sailin'. But it hasn't. We've had arguments, tears have been shed, disappointments have occurred, and many tense moments have come to pass. But that's not our story. Ours is a story of seeing past these many petty moments to a bigger picture, and of realizing that any relationship requires tending. The most beautiful rose bush in the garden needs to be pruned, watered, fertilized, and tended lovingly if it is to grow and stay beautiful. I like to think we are like that rosebush, growing beautifully because we take the time to be sure our souls both individually and together are being fed, watered, and loved.

And so I couldn't be more grateful that I'm not a maned sloth, or a sea cucumber, or any other solitary animal. I couldn't be more grateful that Joe loved his mother so much and felt compelled to bear his testimony of his love for her and Heavenly Father, so that I might notice him in a sea of others. I couldn't be more grateful that I was worthy of him and he of me, and that we were able to enter into the Lord's house and be sealed to each other for all of eternity. Death can part us but for only a little while. And really, motherhood is hard. I'm incredibly thankful that I have someone to share my most sacred calling with...both in the good times and the bad ones.

April 01, 2012

A is for Asperger's

**This is A in the A-Z series**

My wonderful sister-in-law recently committed to blog for every letter of the alphabet in the month of April. I admire this ambitious endeavor though I would probably never take it on myself. I know she'll do it. Me however, I know I would be setting myself up for failure. Anyway, she wrote her first post and it was titled, "A is for Asperger's". It was a sweet, informative post that I feel sort of laid her soul bare for the world (she believes that she would have been diagnosed with this disorder had she been evaluated as a child, and I think she is right). It got me thinking. Asperger Syndrome (pronounced AZ-perger, not ASS-perger or ASS-burger) has become so common that most of us are affected by it or know someone who is affected by it. We are closely affected by it. Our 8 year old son Noah has carried the diagnosis since he was 5 years old. We knew "something" was wrong though long before that.

I'll never forget the day Noah was born. I mean, what mother actually could forget the day their child came screaming into the world. Only Noah didn't scream. He came out with his eyes wide open, just staring around at everything. No crying. Very little squirming. Just wide eyed wonder at what was happening to him. I was terrified something was wrong because I was trained by many books and TV shows that babies come out screaming if they're healthy. I remember the doctor had to "rough him up" a little to get a small screech out of him. But nothing was wrong. And I have come to realize that the way Noah was born fits perfectly with who he is now.

We joked that he was an old soul because of his super long hair and wise little look. He was so dang cute. I thought he was perfect. He cried when he was hungry or needed something and that was pretty much it. At 6 weeks old he began sleeping through the night. I remember well the first morning I awoke and instantaneously realized that he had not gotten up at night to eat. I was so sure he was dead that I woke Joe and made him check the baby. I was terrified to look and see that he had died sometime in the night and we had slept right through it. I can be sort of pessimistic like that. Joe checked and it turned out that he was fine.

Noah grew to be so beautiful and so chubby. Random strangers often stopped us to remark at what a beautiful baby he was. At 3 months he needed his first haircut and we took him to a barber shop. He was hitting his milestones and had the most beautiful little smile. Life was wonderful. Our little man was so perfect.

When Noah was 2, I began to be very concerned that he wasn't developing language properly and he could not eat textured food. I was still feeding him baby food out of a jar. Any other food would cause him to gag and throw up. He had not pointed and he would not speak unless I asked him to say a word. He would repeat that one word, often using the same perfect diction and inflection that I used. And like so many it seems, every time I brought my concerns up with the pediatrician I got the old, "he'll catch up" dismissal. My intuition was screaming at me that something was wrong but no one, including me, wanted to believe it.

By the time Noah was 5, I knew he had autism. He spoke just fine, wanted to be social, even had a few friends. But he was odd, he struggled with social interaction, and well....he was just really quirky. I had been so freaking scared to face the truth that when I finally approached his speech therapist about my suspicions, I felt like I had unloaded a semi from my shoulders. We had him evaluated at the University of Utah and they confirmed my suspicions.

You would think my world had ended the way I reacted. I'm ashamed of it still to this day. I cried...for like a year straight. I felt like his life was over and so was ours. I even once thought it would be better if he had been diagnosed with cancer. At least then he would be "normal". I refused to take him anywhere for fear of how we would be judged. Not just him, but me too. I separated myself from neighbors, church members, friends and even family. Basically, I threw myself the biggest pity party the world has ever seen. My pity party culminated in me feeling like I just wanted to die, and seriously considering leaving my car running...with me in it...with the garage door closed.

It took me quite awhile to come to terms with Noah's diagnosis. I was so afraid that he couldn't have a fulfilling or happy life with AS. Thankfully I climbed out of the hole I had dug myself before he grew up and had a perfect life just to spite me for giving up on him before he'd even had a chance to grow. I stopped asking "why us, why him" and started seeing the many blessings and tender mercies of the Lord that we had been given along the way. I started to see exactly who he was and even a small glimmer of who he was going to become (and he's gonna become something awesome, I just know it). I'm still scared sometimes and occasionally I still feel a little embarrassed at his quirks. But mostly I am happy to have him and proud of all his accomplishments. And so happy he's here with me in this life.

Noah is so dang smart, funny, charming, sweet, entertaining and all around wonderful. He always has been. Sure he gets into some interesting situations, collects things like you wouldn't believe, says the quirkiest things, and has lots of interesting hang ups when it comes to food. But I wouldn't trade him for the world. He brings so much joy into our lives. And he makes me see the world differently. Because of him, I'm able to understand in the most fundamental way that perfection is completely subjective. He is perfect to me.

I wanted to write this post because it very briefly touches on what it was like to have a child diagnosed on the spectrum. From a mother's point of view. I'm ashamed of who I became when I was confronted with the reality of his difficulties but I'm proud of who I've grown into because of them. We are definitely thrown curve balls in this life and how we handle them will define who we are. I don't want to be scared, hiding in a corner, afraid of life's challenges. I'd rather meet them head on, grow from them, and be an example for my children. Thankfully, I don't have to be perfect. And neither do they.

March 26, 2012

B is for Beach!

**This is B in the A-Z series**

So have you ever thought it would be fun to take your kids on a beach the Caribbean? Joe and I have done this just the two of us enough times now that we decided our kids would really, really love to go. Plus, we were thinking about having another baby and figured this past summer would be great because there was no way this hypothetical baby would be born yet and it would be possible to go. Nevermind that I got pregnant like 5 seconds after we decided to "try" and spent our vacation 26 weeks pregnant and either waddling around like a duck or doing my best impression of a beached whale. So, we convinced my mom and dad to accompany us on this trip, found an amazing little house to rent right.on.the.beach, booked our airfare, and not so patiently waited until it was time to go.

Well, July 2012 arrived pretty fast considering we booked our trip the previous November and we found ourselves setting off with Noah, Isabella, and the yet to be named baby girl still growing in my womb. The journey to Turks and Caicos was not without, ah, frustrations. Like on the way there when we had to spend the night in a hotel near the Miami airport. The hotel was disgusting, we didn't get there until midnight so the kids had long since turned into gremlins, and I felt that if I didn't get into a bed right then, I might kill someone (probably a kid). That will go down as one of the worst nights of my life. It took the kids until well after 2am, lots of tears, and a few shrill screams to actually fall asleep. I laid awake in the horribly uncomfortable bed until 4am, fell asleep for 2 hours, and got up at 6am. Really, it was so much fun...

But never you mind because the next day we were ready to get to our final destination. So we left Miami alive (but barely) and in less than good spirits, but determined to enjoy ourselves in Turks and Caicos. We arrived on the island of Providenciales later that afternoon and were picked up by my parents who had already arrived the previous day. By that point my ankles were the size of Texas, I'm pretty sure I had gained about 8 pounds in fluid, and my nerves were frayed. But hey, we were in paradise, so I was ready to turn it all around :).

As I mentioned earlier, we rented a private home that was right on the beach. Long Bay Beach to be specific. The home was perfect for all of us and I have to say that one of the highlights of the trip was seeing our children wake up each day and run down to the waterline in their pajamas to pick through flotsam and jetsom that had washed up overnight. Well, to see pictures of them doing this on my mom's camera anyway because I slept late just about every morning.

Most of our trip was spent just playing on the beach. The kids could spend hours playing in the surf and sand. Noah was the best to watch play at the beach. He's old enough to actually go in the water by himself as long as an adult is sitting and watching him, even though I told him not to go past his waist. The water was generally very calm and clear, so he would go out on his boogie board, goggles on, and dive for treasure. Frequently I would look up from the book I was reading to think in a moment of panic, "where is Noah!". Only to spot both of his feet sticking up from the water's surface, a testament to the treasure collecting happening on the sandy ocean floor. He spent most of his time at the beach in the water, head down, feet up. We came home with many bits of coral, shells, and various types of sea plant life. He lovingly added each one to his collection of ocean things which is not to be confused with rocks and fossils which is an entirely different collection.

One of the highlights of our trip was the company we got to keep. We were lucky enough to have my mom and dad come with us on this trip! The house we rented was more than big enough for all of us and having two extra adult pairs of hands on deck was invaluable with our kids. Well, one and a half extra hands anyway because I can't quite count my dad as two :). The kids sure loved all the time with their Mimi and Papu and I don't think the trip would have been nearly as fun without them!

We spent most of our time in paradise right in our own backyard, so to speak. Our house was on the island of Providenciales, Long Bay Beach. I think we were about 100 feet from the waterline so really, there wasn't much need to go many other places. However, we did visit two other beaches that were quite noteworthy. The first was the most popular and populated beach on the island. It's called Grace Bay Beach and most of the large hotels are built along this several mile long, white sand crescent of beach. The water is perfectly calm, like barely a ripple. And it is so clear that if you avoid getting the intensely salty water in your mouth, you can almost feel like you are in a swimming pool. The bottom is incredibly smooth and sandy. The kind of sand that you don't sink in but rather it feels like a soft, silky smooth slab of concrete that doesn't give when you walk around. For those who are more than a little afraid of sea life (like me), this lack of sinking inches into sand is comforting. For those that enjoy scouring beaches for shells, sea life, coral, and other such "nature".....this might not be the beach for you. Our kids loved it, although Noah found himself bored after an hour because there was nothing for him to find and examine, the sand is THAT clean. I think it was Bella's favorite beach however because she was perfectly comfortable in the sparkling, clear water with only her trusty little inflatable ring as her swimming companion (rather than being stuck to Joe like glue).

The other amazing beach we went to was only accessible by boat. It was called "Half Moon Cay" and was basically just a tiny island. We went on a catamaran cruise to this little island and had an absolute blast. The catamaran was owned by a company called Sail Provo. They did a good job with getting us there, entertaining us, having adequate food and drink, and bringing us back home. My mom, who to this day can't really swim, was more than a little stressed to have our two young children on a boat in the middle of the ocean, but they were oblivious to any potential danger and simply delighted in the adventure. In fact, they were both so brave that at times it gave me a little bit of my mom's apprehension! We had quite the round with little Bella when we stopped to snorkel and she threw a fit about having to wear a life jacket in the open ocean. She wanted to jump off the boat and into the water, free of any silly life saving devices. Now, she can swim, like a fish, but the though of her tiny 4 year old self in the great big ocean and without a life jacket was, understandably, too much for me. So we held firm and eventually she agreed to go in with her life jacket on. To placate her toward the end of our snorkeling stop, we allowed her to jump off one time into Joe's waiting arms, and jump she did :).

Our trip to Providenciales was amazing and I know we'll go back some day. It really is a good place to take children. The restaurants are almost all accomodating to little ones and the water is incredibly clear and generally calm. We loved swimming in the warm water, strolling the beaches with their sugary white sand, and generally just being together. I have lots of advice and restaurant recommendations. If you need any, just ask :). There were actually 2 pictures of me taken on this trip and both of them showed what my nearly 7 month pregnant self did on this trip....
A lot of sitting down, interspersed with dips in the ocean here and there to stay cool.

Oh, and one last thing. The sunsets are amazing!

March 24, 2012

New Look :)

So I've been terrible about blogging for the last....(gulp) year or so. I wanted to get back to updating on our little family but I needed a new look first. So I asked my super talented sister-in-law Lisa Campbell to give my blog a fresh new look. And didn't she do a fabulous job?! I just love it!

An awful lot has happened since my last post. Like a whole new set of New Year's resolutions, but that's probably the least of it. The biggest thing that has changed for us is our number. We've grown from a family of 4, to a family of 5. That's right, our kids are so amazing that we decided to procreate again. And we were blessed with our little Cora. She was born in September and is an absolute joy! See, here's our newest little nugget of love. Isn't she cute?

Cora eats, sleeps, poops, coos, babbles, and does all that other stuff babies like to do, only better in my eyes since I *am* her mother ;). Turns out she is a miserable sick person though and we're going to have to work on that with her.

Our other kiddos are just doing so great. Noah is in second grade this year and passing everything with flying colors. I'm so grateful he's such a whiz kid and school is easy for him! I hardly ever have to help him with his homework and most of the time only one or two death threats is enough to get him to sit down and do it (kidding!). You can hardly tell he has autism, especially if you stay away from any and all medical subjects, rock discussions, and science :). He's a quirky guy but he is making his way in this world just fine. You should see the amazing origami he can do, in fact, I'm gonna blog about just that one of these days. We sure have been enjoying him lately, especially since it turns out that Isabella may possibly be the spawn of a Tazmanian Devil.

Oh that little Bella, she is pretty stuck on being a stinker these days! Sure she behaves like a perfect, shy, quiet little debutant at any other house. But man, she sure does give Joe and me a run for our money! I have NEVER (and I do mean never) had to do so much bargaining, threatening, cajoling, begging, pleading, crying, or praying as I have to do with that child. Nevertheless, we adore our girl and I know that strong and stubborn spirit that plagues me will serve her very well someday. She can be sugar on a stick one minute and the Tazmanian Devil the next. We just never quite know what we're gonna get from one moment to the next.

Our little blessings have grown and changed a lot these last couple of years and every day they seem more grown up than the last. I finally had to tell Noah how babies are born when I was pregnant with Cora, and the old, "Mommy goes to the hospital and the doctor helps baby come out" answer just wasn't cutting the mustard anymore ("Yes mom, but HOW does the doctor get the baby out?"). His response at hearing the truth? "Cool mom, can I please come watch Cora be born". I decided that was a no, but maybe if we have a 4th kid :). Our Isabella, she wants to wear nail polish, make-up, dresses and sparkles. And she says things like, "When I'm a mom, I'm always going to let my kids eat oreos for breakfast". And she says it real sassy. Like someone else I know might have said those sorts of things when she was little. You'll have to ask my mom who that might be.

So our kids have grown and changed, we've lost loved ones like Grandma Ricks and Grandma Swindler, we've had amazing and wonderful times, we've cried and felt like we can't stand another day of life at times, we've been on top of the world, we've been kicked here and there, we've made friends and lost friends, we've loved our families without fail, seen some of them move away and break our hearts a little (ahem...Jones family), babies have been born, and life has been lived. I have lots of things to blog about and now I'm gonna have to play catch up. But isn't it a marvelous thing to relive life's best moments? I look forward to telling you about them.

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