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.

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