Monday, August 15, 2016

The Name


Each of our children's names have special meaning.  Both Mr. E and Baby J have family names, Ethne's first name is also a family name.  So when it came to choosing a name for our new Princess we searched for something that would also have some meaning.  Lawrence and I tossed around a few names before landing on one that we both really loved.  But then we remembered that some dear friends had recently named their daughter the same thing.  After really feeling that this was the name we wanted and finding out that we would be having a girl I asked our friends if it would be okay for us to use the name too, they kindly agreed.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Thou stock-dove whose echo resounds thro' the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forebear,
I charge you disturb not my slumbering fair.

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighboring hills,
Far mark'd with the courses of clear winding rills,
There daily I wander as noon rises high
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow;
There oft as mild Ev'ning weeps over the lea
The sweet scented birk shades my Mary and me.

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides,
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As gathering sweet flow'rets she stems thy clear wave.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays,
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

~Robert Burns, Nickel Creek

When we found out that baby would be a girl some people asked us if we would memorialize Ethne in her name.  The idea appealed to me, but we wanted her to have her own name, and not one that would place expectations on her.  A few years ago we had an experience with this song that created a lasting love for it and a treasured memory that involved Ethne.  I posted briefly about it here.  And thus we named our newest addition Afton.  It's a name with deep meaning for us that calls to mind beautiful memories of many loved ones that have gone before us, including Ethne.

But for blogging purposes we will call her Princess A.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Birth

My first labor started in the wee small hours of the morning with my water breaking and lasted 20+ hours.  With Mr. E it started fairly early, and lasted about 11 hours.  Baby J's was a rather exciting start and it went about 6.  Baby girl's labor really started at about 3:30 in the morning, but We didn't get to the hospital for 5 more hours, she came less than 3 hours later.

On May 23 I woke up at 3:30 am to do that thing that pregnant women do often.  On my way I felt a trickle run down my leg and suspected my water had broken.  They tell you that if you aren't sure it's your water that you should lay down for a while, at least 20 minutes, and if you have more when you get back up then it's definitely your water, so that's what I did, and by all appearances it wasn't my water.  At this point I couldn't sleep any more, I tried, but I just kept tossing and turning.  About two hours later I started having pretty intense contractions, they were tough to breathe and talk through, but not super regular or close enough together.  Lawrence woke up and asked if he should get the boys up, I told him not to.  About 6:30 I started packing my hospital bag, it was on the to-do list and I wasn't sleeping, so why not?  Lawrence watched me stop every 8 or so minutes for a contraction.  I still didn't want him to get the boys since I didn't really think this was it, I was NOT about to get sent home for false labor.  The boys woke up at their usual time, 8am and as they did so I raced to the bathroom, this time I was sure it was my water.  I called my mom, finished packing, loaded the kids in the car, and we were off to the hospital.  When we got there the nurses got me into triage, checked me out and informed me that I was much further along than I thought I was.  They rushed me to a delivery room and called anesthesia as quickly as they could.  My epidural went in at about 9:30.  I was able to rest a little, have an Italian ice, and soon it was time to push.  My doctor was still out of town, so the on-call doctor had to deliver Baby Girl.  After my first push it became apparent to me that the epidural wasn't quite working right, I could feel everything except the contractions.  Two pushes (and a lot of encouraging talk from Lawrence and the nurses) later Baby Girl came out screaming.  I held her on my chest and cried.

She was perfect, ten fingers, ten toes, a face just like her siblings, 8 lbs. 1oz (my smallest), 20.5 inches long, and dark hair.  That's right, dark, like my natural color, no real hint of red.  To say we were surprised would be an understatement.  It was certainly not a bad surprise, and she is beautiful. She nursed great and slept well, and just begged to be snuggled.

Then came the wait.  Before J was born I never thought I would pray for something like a stinky diaper, but here I was, praying hard for that very thing.  After about 12 hours I started to get really nervous.  Then, at about 18 hours old it happened, and we had a little party.  Yep, I said it, we had a celebration for a poopy diaper.

After that we were allowed to go home, we stayed in the hospital just over 24 hours.

Mr. E and Baby J (He needs a new nickname) are head over heels in love with their baby sister, they think she is "SOOO cute!" and we tend to agree.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Pregnancy

Baby girl made her arrival at the end of May, but considering I've been MIA since April I thought I'd back track a little before sharing about her arrival and name.

I always wanted to have a big family.  I had plans for 3-5 kids, while Lawrence always said 3-5 boys and however many girls it took to get there.  After the accident I struggled with the decision to have more children.  I was terrified of losing another baby.  After talking it over with Lawrence and lots of prayer we decided to move ahead and get pregnant with J.  Then there were complications with J.  We were so happy to have him, and he has been a great (strong-willed and often frustrating, but sweet and fun) addition to our family.  I was really content.  My two boys were active and kept me on my toes, and I love them very much.  I felt like I could be done and be really happy, and I probably could have.  We had been discussing having another baby, but I was just unsure.  My pregnancy with J wasn't the easiest and I was concerned about having another HD baby, plus I was really happy with just my two boys.  Lawrence told me that it was my decision, that he would support me in whatever I decided, but he wanted me to be really sure.  He encouraged me to fast and pray about it.  So I did.  Soon I had my answer, there was a little girl waiting to join our family (more another time).  Soon thereafter we found out I was expecting again.

I've never really struggled with the morning sickness that plagues so many women while pregnant, and I count myself very lucky, but I have had other pregnancy issues.  When I was pregnant with Baby J I struggled physically with some very unpleasant pelvic/hip pain.  When I asked my doctor about it he said it was a normal pregnancy symptom and gave me a pain killer for the days it got bad.  After J's complications I was concerned with taking pain medication again, so I was pretty determined to find an alternative, should I face this problem again.  It showed up pretty early this time around, and there were days when I couldn't walk or move much because it hurt so bad and over-the-counter medicines didn't come close to helping.  I researched possible causes and methods to help relieve the pain and asked for help from some friends.  My doctor offered me pain killers, but I was pretty determined not to use them. So I started physical therapy just as I was entering my third trimester.  As much as I'd like to say it made the pain go completely away, it didn't, but it did improve some.  The therapist knew me from after the accident and I think it helped that he was familiar with my previous injuries.  I still had some pain, but the pt helped strengthen my muscles and ligaments enough that it was more bearable, it also helped keep my pelvic bones properly aligned (which was part of the problem).

Emotionally I was more prepared for the struggles I might face and they really weren't as bad as they were with Baby J.  I did have a few minor breakdowns, that mostly revolved around feeling overwhelmed by housework.  It also helped that Lawrence had a new job and was home more through this pregnancy than he was with J's.  He loves this new job and it only has him working 40-45 hours/week rather than the 50-60+ he was working most weeks before.  Having that support at home was really crucial to my emotional well-being.


I tried harder this pregnancy than I have before to keep my weight under control and I managed to only gain about 35-40 pounds.  I didn't have a big problem with swelling, until the last month or so.  Then in the last month and a half I started to notice my blood pressure gradually increasing.  About three weeks before my due date it crossed into the danger zone.  This was also the time that my doctor informed me that he was leaving for a two week vacation.  He offered to schedule an induction for me for his first day back.  I discussed it with Lawrence and decided that it was a good plan.  At my next appointment my blood pressure was even higher and I was showing other symptoms of pre-eclampsia, the NP (that I saw in my doctor's absence) told me to watch for swelling, drink more water, and rest as much as possible.  The induction was scheduled for the following Friday.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Simply Blessed


When I was growing up we never really did a lot with the whole Easter Bunny thing.  We got simple baskets with a few treats in them, there was usually a family egg hunt with cousins, but the notion of a colorful rabbit that left these surprises never really took center stage in our Easter celebrations.  We focussed more on Christ, the Atonement and Resurrection.  For this I am very grateful.

I have been striving to make Easter similar in my own home.  This year we decided to read from a wonderful board book that tells the story of Easter, starting with Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ending with his visit to the people in the Americas after his resurrection.  We read a couple pages each day and ended perfectly on Sunday.  After finishing this book I had a very strong desire to take my kids visit the Christus statue at the visitor's center on Temple Square.

Larry and Marilyn were in town again to visit us and we spent two busy, but wonderful days with them on Saturday and Sunday, then met for our traditional pancakes Monday morning.  Afterwards we made our way downtown.  I was so very thankful that Lawrence had taken the day off and was able to drive as the weather was less than ideal (wet, heavy snow).  We made a few stops on our way to Temple Square, then we were off the the North Visitors center.



Mr. E thought that the paintings on the walls up to the Christus were really neat, then he spied the statue.  He walked a few laps around the base, Baby J right behind, then I got down on the floor with them and talked to them about Christ and the nail prints in His hands and feet.  We talked about how we love Jesus and he loves us.  Then we took a family picture with the statue and explored the rest of the visitors center.  Mr. E grew tired of our constant asking him about the subjects in the multitude of paintings on the walls, replying often with "I already told you, it's Jesus!"  We corrected him when he was mistaken, and tried to share the stories portrayed with him.  There soon came a point when it was clear that the boys were done with this activity and we decided to head to the car.

As we crossed Temple Square to the parking garage I followed a little way behind Lawrence and the kids, taking pictures and enjoying seeing my boys walking hand-in-hand in this special place.  As I watched my sweet children point at and admire the temple I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessings of the temple and my family.  I am so very blessed to have a wonderful, hard-working, loving, and kind husband who is sealed to me for all eternity and is determined to keep that covenant.  I am blessed to have two smart, energetic, sweet, silly, and loving boys who love to learn and to play. These boy are also mine for eternity because of the covenants Lawrence and I made in the temple.  I am blessed to have a mortal body that can create and sustain life, despite the discomforts I have experienced in pregnancy.  I am so very blessed to feel this sweet new life growing and moving inside me.  I am also very blessed to have my angel, Ethne, in heaven, who is also mine for all eternity.  These simplest blessings in my life are the ones that make me feel the most blessed, they are the blessings I am most thankful for.



Thursday, February 25, 2016

"It will all be ok"

Two weeks ago was Ethne's four-year angelversary.  Lawrence's parents were in town, so we met them for our traditional breakfast.  Then we went to visit the cemetery where my parents and younger brothers met us with balloons.  The boys had fun stoping around in the mostly undisturbed snow while the rest of us talked and froze.  We released balloons, shed some tears, then all went our own ways.


Lawrence had to work, and I managed the day alright.  I spent it with my boys, playing and snuggling.  It wasn't really until I was putting them to bed that things got a little "ugly."

Putting two busy boys to bed is always an adventure.  It was a Saturday, so they had baths.  J has become rather stubborn and independent so things have to be done just so or he has a fit, E has figured out some fun bedtime stalling technics, like getting into his jammies as slowly as humanly possible.  This often leads to some frustration on my part.  But then there's a fun part, where we read stories (E has been working on some sight words), say prayers, and sing songs.  The boys love to snuggle together in E's bed while we sing and they sing along with me, which always brings a smile to my face.  At the end we always sing "Bushel and a Peck" to each child, individually.  J while we chase him into his own room and tuck him in; and E while we scratch his back.  It was while tucking J in that it hit me...

J was only about a month younger than Ethne was when we lost her.  Then the tears came.  I couldn't stop them.  My sweet baby climbed into my fading lap and hugged me as I sobbed.  E called to me from his room, wondering when it was his turn.  Then Lawrence came home, and found me sobbing, on the floor, clinging to J.  He joined us on the floor, called E into the room, and tried to explain why I was so sad.  Then he asked E to give me a hug.

Without hesitation my tender-hearted boy was next to me, his skinny arms around my neck, and with all the gentleness a 4-year-old can muster he whispered to me, "It's all going to be ok, mommy.  It will all be ok."  Then he jumped up and ran to find his Princess Ethne book.  He climbed onto my lap-- which J had vacated-- and asked me to read to him.

Through my tears I managed most of the story, with some help from E, but I couldn't make it through the last several pages.  One of these pages has a picture of Lawrence and me, on our wedding day, in front of the temple.  It reads "Because Mommy and Daddy were married in the temple we know that we will get to be with Ethne again."

At that page E turned around and hugged me again, "It will all be ok, Mommy."

Five simple words, out of the mouth of a child, taught me a lesson that night.  My sweet boy has yet to be faced with many of life's great challenges-- he is only 4-years-old, his greatest trial is learning how to share with his brother-- yet he still understands, and has faith, in the things that we are trying to teach him.  He was so very firm in his belief that everything will be ok, because we have taught him that it will.  And the Lord has promised us that it will...

"Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good..." D&C 90:24


"Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord."  D&C 98:3


So it is, every day, we move forward with faith in the Lord's promises that "all things will work together for [our] good" and that we will be with Ethne again.  We move forward with faith that "it will all be ok."

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Once upon a time...

A few months ago I expressed concern that my other children wouldn't know Ethne.  Mr. E was so young when the accident happened that he doesn't remember anything and Baby J and new little miss will never know their oldest sister, in this life.  I need them all to know of her, to know who she is and recognize her in pictures.  It makes me feel more like my family is whole.

When my mom saw that post and learned of my concern she called me up with an excellent idea.  As most people know, I have two younger brothers that are adopted.  When G (the older of the two) was still pretty young he started asking questions about where he came from so my mom wrote him a story about how he came to be part of our family.  She suggested that I do the same, write a story about Ethne that we could read with our kids.

So I set to work.  I started looking at printing companies that I knew would allow me to put together my own picture book.  And I got stumped.  Most of the companies had a minimum page number that I knew I wouldn't be able to meet and/or required too many pictures per page.  So I turned to social media and my friends gave some great suggestions.  I tried a few of their ideas and landed at the Walmart photo center, where I was able to choose a template, and then edit it as I pleased, it only required one picture per page, and the minimum page count was do-able.

So I got to work.  I chose pictures that I thought were good representations of Ethne, her spunk, her love, her beauty, and even her not so fun side.  I wanted to be honest about her and her life and not make her seem too perfect, because she wasn't always.  The story came pretty easily.



"Once upon a time a beautiful little girl was born..."  She loved her mom, and dad, and her brother.  She was silly, threw tantrums, and loved everyone she could.  Then there was an accident and she went to heaven.  Because we are an eternal family we will get to see her again, and she can help us when we need her.  I also included the scripture John 13:15.

We gave it to Mr. E for Christmas.  He loves it.  He pretty much has it memorized and likes to take it to church and read it at bed time.  I cry every time I read it.  Baby J reads it with us too and has started to recognize Ethne, it makes my heart happy.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Housekeeping

So it has been a while... again.  Let's just say that I have been distracted, in a good way.

We have had many big blessings come our way in the last few months.

Lawrence was working in a retail management job that wasn't treating him very well.  He was promised that he'd only have to work one Sunday a month and it wound up being nearly every Sunday, every month.  He was also working 60+ hours every week and not getting paid any kind of overtime because he was salaried.  We missed him at home and he missed us.  He was also uncomfortable with some of his working conditions, so he started looking around and found something that suits him much better.  The new company he is with is closed on Sundays, so he is home and gets to go to church with us every week. He is also only working 40-45 hours each week and they treat the employees much better.  He started this new job just a few days before Ethne's birthday.  He is much happier with his work, and we are much happier to have him around more.

J's HD remains under control and he is very healthy.  We have adjusted our diet to include more high fiber foods, to help keep J's tummy happy, such as whole wheat and it has helped all of us be a little healthier.  We were a little concerned about his lack of verbal communication for a while, but his vocabulary has recently taken off and he loves yelling at everyone to stop doing things he doesn't like.  Mr. E has also ben very healthy this winter and we feel very lucky that none of us has been hit with any of the really bad illnesses that go around this time of year.






We've been lucky to have some fun visits with Lawrence's parents in the last few months.  In October we went up to Idaho to be with Eliza when she went through the temple for her mission and also for a cousin's wedding.  Then, just two weeks later Marilyn and Larry were back in Utah to take Eliza to the MTC.  Just before Christmas we spent Lawrence's birthday with them.  We had a great dinner at Texas Roadhouse then birthday presents for him and Baby J, and quick Christmas gifts as well.  Then they flew out to visit Heidi's family in Maryland for Christmas and we saw them when they came back.  Each time they were in town we met for breakfast at a local restaurant and now Mr. E asks to go get pancakes with "Grandma and Grandpa with the kitties" on a weekly basis.  It has been wonderful to see them and spend so much time with them in the last several months.

Last, but certainly not least, on Sept. 21 we found out that there will be a new minion joining our family sometime about June 2.  For several weeks Mr. E was convinced that there was not just one, but two babies in mommy's tummy, but an ultrasound quickly put that to bed and showed only one tiny baby kicking around in there.  On Jan. 12 I was able to have another ultrasound and we found out the gender of the baby.  We are all very excited, especially Mr. E, that this new baby is a GIRL!  I feel her moving quite a bit now and Mr. E loves to kiss and hug my belly and talk to his new sister (J is pretty clueless) and he loves to tell anyone who asks all about her.

We have been feeling very blessed to be busy and happy.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hiatus

It' been a while.

It's not that things have been particularly busy, more that I've struggled to find words to express the things I've wanted to say.  I'm still struggling.  In spite of that I know it is time to post something.

Ethne's birthday is in two weeks.  It's a day I look forward to and dread at the same time.  I'm excited for our service activities and to hear from others about what they are doing to love and serve others, but I'm also saddened that I am facing another (of many) birthdays for my Princess who is not physically here.

As I contemplate the acts of service we will participate in this year and the "celebration" I can't help but think about my boys.  I so want them to know their sister.  I need for them to understand who she
was, and still is, but they are so young.  Sometimes I feel like I am failing at this.  Mr. E knows who she is in pictures, and we often tell him that she lives with Jesus, which I think has confused him (he often calls Ethne Jesus when identifying her).  When I try to talk to him about her I often wonder if he's listening, or if he's just tuning me out.  And sometimes he changes the subject very quickly on me.  It hurts sometimes.  I try to tell him how much Ethne loves him, and what she did for him, but some times I get the impression that he just doesn't care.  I realize that he is only 4 and that much of this is beyond his comprehension, but that doesn't make it any easier.  I just wish I knew how to help him understand.  Baby J really doesn't understand, but then he doesn't really talk much either, so he can't tell me if he does.  I just need so badly for them to know their sister and I don't know how to help them.  I can only hope that some day they will understand and that these birthdays and angelversaries will come to mean something to them too and not just be days when mommy cries a lot.

I'm still not entirely sure what our 6 acts of love will be this November 11, but I know that they will be healing, in a way.  We will attend the temple, visit the cemetery, and have cake, that much I know.  As for the rest... we will have to see.  Lawrence and I would like to invite everyone who would like to join us in providing 6 acts of love for others during the week of Ethne's birthday.  They don't have to be anything big, things as simple as smiling at someone you wouldn't typically smile at can make a big difference.  We loved hearing about the things others did last year, it was like getting long-distance hugs from those who shared with us, and we will look forward to it again this year.  Help us celebrate the life of Ethne and the love that she so willingly gave and bring some of that love to those around you.  We will be doing the same.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's not you, it's me

This time of year is so exciting for parents.  Summer is drawing its last breaths and Fall is slowly beginning to spread its colors.  Crayons, notebooks, pencils, and backpacks line almost every aisle of every store.  For some this routine is old hat-- you and your kids have done this before, the new clothes, shoes, supplies, maybe it's even your last year doing the dance.  For others it's a first and it is very exciting, this back to school thing.

Then there's some of us, scrolling through our social media feeds when we are unexpectedly hit by a picture of your first-timer.  The one we were pregnant with together.  The one we both anticipated and planned and dreamed for at the same time.  Your "baby" that's not really a baby any more.  You cried, she held your hand, he tripped as he crossed the threshold of the classroom, you snapped pictures, then they smiled and waved as you walked away, leaving them to this new adventure.  The pictures you proudly display to all the world, "my baby started school today."  And I'm staring at the screen with tears rolling down my face, your baby that my baby played with, your baby that we joked would date my baby, is starting school today, and mine is not.  And I can't bring myself to click the "like" button or double tap the picture like I have many of my friends' older children's back to school posts.

It's not you, it's not your child.  It's me and my child.  Somewhere deep inside I am happy for you.  I even think your little girl, in her skirt, leggings, princess shirt and pigtails is darling, and your boy in his button-down plaid and crisp jeans is very handsome, but the grieving mom in me can't bare to look at the picture long enough to really appreciate these things and show you that, even with a simple click of the mouse.  Because with each picture of your child, who is growing up, learning, and LIVING I am reminded that mine is not.  I am reminded just a little bit more of how much I miss her. I still like you, I still think your kid is great, but I just can't bring myself to witness this particular milestone with you.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

9 Month Struggle

After the accident I saw a lot of doctors and out of a sense of duty I asked about future children as I was cleared for various activities.  As each doctor cleared me feelings of fear and doubt began to creep in.  Several months after the accident, after all my doctors had cleared me to go on with my normal life and normal activities, and after months of physical therapy, I finally worked up the nerve to tell my husband that I was unsure about having any more children.  At the time we had Mr. E who had survived the accident and I was already nervous enough that something might happen to him, the though of another child that could potentially cause me the heartbreak of loss again scared me so much I can't even put it into words.  Miscarriage or stillbirth were certainly on my mind, especially since some of my injuries from the accident make me high risk in pregnancy.  I couldn't bare the thought of even an early miscarriage, I knew that my emotional state wouldn't bare it.  Lawrence was disappointed to say the least.  He told me that he knew that there were more children meant for our family and he couldn't bare the thought of not providing them the opportunity to have mortal bodies.  He told me that he was willing to wait for me to feel better about having more kids, but that this was something I would have to pray about.  I prayed and received comfort.  A little over a year later I came around and got pregnant.

Shortly before we decided to get pregnant again we moved into a new house.  After moving seemed like as good a time as any, I had survived one rather big emotional hurdle, why not brave another?  I really though that I was ready.  But then I got pregnant and I found out how wrong I was.  I struggled to connect with my rainbow baby during my pregnancy.  As much as I struggled I did harbor hope that this baby would be a girl, not to replace my daughter, but to maybe help patch my grieving heart in ways that I though a boy just wouldn't do.  When we found out the baby was a boy I was a little disappointed, but still wanted to be able to love him.  I continued to struggle with connecting to this baby.  I tried decorating his nursery, taking more pictures and videos of my baby bump, washing clothes for him, choosing a special coming home outfit... none of it worked.  I couldn't even bring myself to even talk to him the way I had with my first two.  Shortly before he was born I finally broke down and told Lawrence about how I had been struggling.  It was almost harder to tell him about this than it was to tell him about possibly not having more kids.  He told me that he was worried that this would be a problem and did his best to comfort me and help me.

When Baby J was born I was afraid that I would continue to struggle to connect with him, but something amazing happened.  When the doctor handed him to me after he was born I had an overwhelming feeling that Ethne was in the room with us.  In that moment I fell completely in love with my baby boy and my fears flew out the window.

Then I was put to the test when we found out about J's Hirschprung's Disease and he had to be hospitalized and have surgeries.  This was a whole new kind of struggle to keep my heart and mind open and continue loving him when the future seemed so uncertain.

Long story short (to read the rest of his story follow the Baby J tag at the bottom of this post), he is fine now and I was able to stay by his side through everything.  I was scared out of my mind and went through some flashbacks and what I'm pretty sure was PTSD, but I can't imagine not having him, I love him so much.  He has been a huge blessing to our family and has helped me heal in all the ways I was afraid he wouldn't be able to and more.  He is patient, brave, happy, and a joy to be around and I love him so completely-- we all do.

I want it to be clear that, while I struggled a lot emotionally, I wanted Baby J.  I share these things because I want others to know that they are not alone.  Another angel mom recently shared her struggles with pregnancy following the loss of her child and it buoyed me up immensely to know that I am not alone in my struggles.  The Atonement is real and I know that Christ knows my pains, but sometimes it is immensely comforting to have a more tangible friend that can understand too, and sometimes these friends are Christ's way of helping to comfort us.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The big 4!

It's time for another birthday!  Mr. E turned four-years-old recently and he was very keen to celebrate.  Mr. E has finally figured out what birthdays are and has been excited for his birthday for MONTHS.  Every time we'd celebrate another birthday he'd get excited for it to be his turn, and every time it wasn't his birthday he'd get disappointed.  But now that it really was his turn he had to tell everyone who will listen that he was going to have a "Paw Patrol" birthday and that he would be 4.


Mr. E is such a great kid.  He loves his friends and regularly tells me that his Uncle G is his best friend (the 5 year age difference doesn't phase him one bit).  He loves to help with anything we will let him help with.  He has really started to come into his role as a big brother and sometimes plays well with Baby J.  The boy has a serious lack of "poker face," we always know when he is trying to hide something or when he's done something he knows he shouldn't.  He loves to compete... games, races, wrestling... as long as there can be a winner he's up for it-- and he is a pretty good winner and doesn't get too sore when he loses.  He is very affectionate and loves to snuggle up and watch a movie or show.  He loves to sing and picks up on music quickly.  He likes to hide whenever he hears someone coming, but he gets too giggly for it to be very effective.  He loves it when daddy's friends come over to sing music and gets out his guitar or drum set and microphone to join them-- he's even been on stage at a performance.  Mr. E and our Ginger puppy are still buddies and he has high hopes that, one day, she will sleep in his room with him every night.  His favorite color is red and he was thrilled that he got to play on a tee ball team with red shirts and hats (St. Louis Cardinals).  He really enjoyed tee ball in the spring and is still thankful for it every night.  He is spunky and busy and we love him so very much!





We celebrated with pizza, chocolate cake, ice cream, and presents.  Grandma and Grandpa H were there with all three of my brothers and my awesome sister-in-law, along with Great-Grandpa and Grandma E.  It was a quiet night, but fun and just what Mr. E wanted-- all the attention on him!

He is such a blessing in our home and definitely keeps us on our toes.

Monday, June 1, 2015

(Anti)social

Before I get into this post I want to make it clear that this is not about anyone but me, this is a problem I have struggled with since losing Ethne and none of this is a reflection on any family, friends, acquaintances, or even strangers.

In high school I was known as a bit of a flirt, I had lots of friends, and was busy with lots of extra curricular school and church activities.  When I moved on to college at SUU I got involved in music, had a fun job with a lot of people I liked, had good roommates, and dated quite a bit.  BYU-I was a little different, I still had a good job, I kept dating, but I didn't exactly have roommates my first semester there, and only had two while I was engaged.  The point is, I was fairly outgoing.   After Lawrence and I got married things changed some, but we still enjoyed having friends over for dinner and/or games.

Then the accident happened and Ethne died.

Since the accident I have struggled with social anxiety.  I struggle in large groups of family or friends.  Part of the reason I struggle is because I am afraid of running into triggers then having people wonder why I am crying for what may seem to be no reason.  Meeting new people is also a struggle because they often don't know about the accident and they didn't know Ethne, losing it around new people is even more difficult and terrifying.  Making new friends is tough because they often don't understand that new people who didn't know Ethne are harder to talk about her with.  Family events can be particularly difficult since there tends to be cousins, nieces, and siblings that can cause me to break down.  I also struggle with small talk, and tend to keep to myself at large gatherings.

I pray for strength, I put on a brave face, and I try to get out there, despite the struggle.  I need friends just like everyone else, it's just hard sometimes.  So if you invite me to something and I turn you down, please don't take it personally.  Keep trying, keep talking to me, it means a lot, even if I don't show it well.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Light of the World Garden

There is a place in Utah called Thanksgiving point.  It is famous for its museums, golf course, petting zoo, and gardens.  They host an annual tulip festival that we (my mom and I) visit ever year.

The flowers at the tulip festival are breathtaking.  Tulips of every imaginable (and some unimaginable) varieties are everywhere.  There is so much color and life.  You just really have to see it to truly understand the beauty of it.  It really is incredible.


These sprawling gardens are divided into various smaller gardens such as a "secret garden," an "Italian garden," the "Monet pond," a rose garden, and so much more.  A few years ago (3 to be exact) we stumbled upon a new garden installation.  This new garden featured bronze statues of  Christ from various stories in the New Testament.  Front and center in the garden is a life size statue of Christ walking on the water.  A placard behind this statue explained that the artist had plans to install all the statues full size at some future time.  Every year when we have gone back we have looked for the full size statues.  In the mean time we have thoroughly enjoyed the smaller versions.  That first visit was a few months after the accident, I was still wearing my neck brace and using a cane to get around.  Coming face-to-face with my savior in that garden was powerful and overwhelming in many ways.




Christ walking on the water
The woman touching Christ's garments (Mark 5:25-30)
This year when we went to the Tulip Festival we took my sister-in-law, Jessica, who has never been before.  When we finally got to the Light of the World garden we were given a wonderful surprise.  While we were enjoying the sweet spirit present in the garden a woman approached us.  Introduced herself as Angela Johnson, the artist that created the sculptures.  We were a bit stunned.  Then she went on to explain that KSL, a local news station was there filming for a special story about the garden and wanted to use some footage of us in the garden with our kids.  We were happy to oblige.  Then we started talking with Angela and it came out about our first visit to the statues.  She grabbed the reporter and asked them to interview me for part of the news story.  They asked me a few questions and to share some of my feelings about the garden and about my favorite statue.  I was able to talk with Angela about when the full size statues would all be installed and about how much I have enjoyed visiting the garden each year.  When we were finished they asked me to send some pictures of Ethne for them to use in the story.

This was nearly three weeks ago.  The story aired last night (Sunday).  Here is a link to the story.

We are so excited to see the full sized statues next year when we visit the gardens.

Christ carrying his cross

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day Milestones

Every woman who has had or wanted to have children anticipates certain milestones in regards to motherhood.  Milestones like those first two pink lines on a pregnancy test, the birth of her first child, that child's first birthday, first steps, first teeth, first words, etc. etc.  These milestones often mark successes and give reason to celebrate, even if it is only a small celebration.

Another milestone many women look forward to is their first Mother's Day.  For me it was an anticipated day, a day to reflect on the things I learned and experienced as a new mom, and how far my baby had come in the months since her birth.  I loved being able to celebrate Mother's Day with my Princess.  The next anticipated Mother's Day was the first after the car accident.  Yes, I was still a mommy, and always will be, but it was difficult to pass the day without Ethne.  I had anticipated a cute craft or scribbled coloring page from her nursery class (a church class for 18 mo-3 years), and maybe a messy breakfast in bed.  But instead I cried for missing my little girl.  There was no scribbled card or handprint craft, no little girl serving me chocolate toast.  It was a hard day.


The next Mother's Day milestone that I anticipated was seeing my kid(s) sing with the Primary in Sacrament Meeting.  In LDS Sunday worship we attend 3 hours of meetings.  The first of these is Sacrament meeting where we sing, pray, partake of the sacrament, and are taught by other members of the congregation.  Often during this meeting there is a special musical number, and it is a tradition of sorts that for Mother's Day the children ages 3-12 will sing special songs about mothers.  This has always been a favorite for me and from a young age I looked forward to the day that my children would join in this tradition.  The second Mother's day after the accident marked the first year that I should have had a child singing for Mother's day.  Instead of being in our own ward we were in Idaho visiting Lawrence's parents, so that eased the sting a little, but it was still hard to realize that I should have had a child singing.

So I waited to celebrate this milestone with Mr. E.

This year I finally got the experience of seeing one of my children sing with the primary for Mother's Day.  Mr. E walked himself up to the podium with the other children, found himself a spot right up front, then wandered away...  We spotted his sweet red head again when one of the older children stopped him and tried to hold him up, he didn't like this, so he was put down, and he wandered some more.  The music director told him to join the rest of the kids, and one of the speakers grabbed him and tried to hold him up again, and it didn't fly.  Finally he found a place up front near the microphone.  Lawrence and I watched this all unfold, anticipating him making a mad dash or grabbing hold of the microphone and yelling into it, while trying not to laugh.  Then they sang.  I don't know if Mr. E actually sang because we couldn't see his mouth, but just seeing him up there, joining in song with the other kids made my mommy heart so happy, almost to bursting.  I cried, happy tears, that I was finally getting to see one of my kids sing, and a little sad, that Ethne wasn't there to sing with them.  Edward got a little turned around when they finished and returned to their families, but he found us quickly and I gave him a great big, teary hug to which he replied "Put me down mommy, I want to color."

Some day I will get to see Ethne sing sweet songs for Mother's Day,  but until then I will revel in my silly, wandering little boy and wait for the days when Baby J will join his big brother to sing in sacrament meeting too.

The longer I'm a mom the more I realize that it is the little things that make the most meaningful memories, and watching my babies sing in church is definitely one of those little things.  I am so thankful for these sweet spirits that I have been trusted to care for and for all the little moments that make being a mommy so incredibly fulfilling.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ethne was here

I've had a lot of what I call "Ethne was here" moments lately.  Moments when my boys do something so characteristically "Ethne" that I can't help but think of her.  Moments when I know that, even though Mr. E doesn't remember her, and Baby J never knew her in this life, I get a witness that they do know each other.  These moments are sweet tender mercies to me.

Chocolate toast

Snuggles on the couch with blanket and a pillow (or daddy)

hanging out on mommy and daddy's bed


Monday, April 27, 2015

Sleeping Babies

When I was in elementary school (I don't remember what grade) my class read on of the "Little House on the Prairie" stories.  In it Papa Ingalls was not home overnight and a bear (I think) came too close to the cabin and Mama Ingalls had to scare it away.  After the incident the mom picked up her sleeping baby and rocked with him.  My teacher explained to us that holding a sleeping baby can be one of the most comforting feelings.  I didn't understand it at the time.

Now I do.

There is just something about having an innocent child tucked in your arms that can calm almost anything.  Their rhythmic breathing, the sound of their tiny snores and sighs, and the complete and utter trust that they put in you when they sleep while you hold them seems to make everything else melt away.  This is one of the reasons I love to check on my boys each night before I go to bed.  No matter how tough of a day we have had, no matter how much yelling I may or may not have done, no matter the number of time-outs, the frustrations, or stresses, even just watching my boys sleep is incredibly comforting-- bonus points if I get to snuggle one or both of them for even just a few seconds while they snooze.  And during those quiet moments I can sometimes catch glimpses of Ethne.


The first time I saw Ethne after the accident was when we went to the funeral home to dress her.  I thought she might look like she was sleeping, but I was wrong and it made things so much harder than I thought they would be.  We were told that we could hold her if we wanted to, and before we saw her I did, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it once I saw her.  Her precious body just lay there on the table, stiff and cold, no sweet breaths, no tiny snores or sighs, she didn't even smell like herself.  Her head, face, and body looked bruised and pale and her perpetual mischievous grin was gone.  It hurt my heart so much to see her that way.  We slowly dressed her--with me bawling and Lawrence doing most of the heavy lifting (and work)-- in her sparkly Christmas dress, with Disney princess panties, tights, black shoes, and an elephant necklace.  I held her cold hand for most of the dressing, too lost in my grief to recognize that the body on the table wasn't really my little girl, but only her mortal vessel.

The funeral was different.  Before the funeral I took some medication that left me a bit dazed.  Add to that all the people and the whirl of activity and I was in a very different state.  I was still very sad, I cried through all of the viewing and funeral.  Our funeral director tried to allow for us to have time alone to hold her, and I was very much looking forward to it, but because of the throngs of people who came we ended her viewing late.  So during the family prayer I held my baby girl's body for the last time.  It wasn't near long enough.  It was the most alert I had felt since the accident, she was wrapped in a blanket made by loving hands and holding her Ariel doll.  As long as I didn't look at her face, covered in makeup, I could almost believe that she wasn't gone.  It was almost like she was sleeping in my arms.  Then it was over-- someone took her away from me, despite my protests-- and I had to accept that that was it.  It didn't go over well.

Angel's EmbraceSince then I have come to realize that the body I held that day, the one that we put in the ground in the white box, was only Ethne's mortal vessel.  She still lives, just on a different plain, as a spirit.  She is with us often and instead of me holding her while she sleeps to calm myself, she holds me in my times of need.  It is strange, as a parent, to have that role reversed, but one day it will be the right way around again-- because we are an eternal family.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Baby 36

My newest little cousin was born last night.  He makes a total of 36 cousins on that side of the family.  I won't go into details because I don't have permission from his mommy, but he could sure use some prayers and this is one of the best places I know to go when I need to ask for them.  Please pray for this precious little boy and his mommy (and the rest of his family) for me.  Thank you!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ephant

We talk a lot about Ethne and her elephant...




Summer 2010 we came to Utah for a visit.  During that visit we went to the Hogle Zoo with Grandma, Grandpa, and my two younger brothers while Lawrence went to some job interviews.  It was so much fun to watch my youngest brother and Ethne (only a couple months apart in age) interact and their reactions to the animals.  Ethne was particularly fond of the Elephants and the large cats (tigers, leopards, lions).  Ethne was just figuring out many animal sounds so she was particularly excited to see the ones that she knew the sounds for.  After we sufficiently wore our legs out and went for a train ride we stopped in the gift shop to get souvenirs for each of the kids.  As we walked in there was a tower of stuffed animals that Ethne was instantly attracted to.  The first animal I picked off the shelf for her was the elephant.  She hugged it and held on tight.  I tried to offer her other animals, toys, books, even shirts.   But she would have none of it, shaking her head at each new offering and clutching the elephant even tighter while buzzing her lips together to make an elephant sound.  She was sold.  After that she and the elephant were inseparable.  It slept with her, rode in the car with her, went to Grandma's house with her, she even wanted to take it to church.  When she started talking the elephant quickly became known as "ephant" since she dropped the L when she said it.  It was one of the three toys (along with her Ariel doll and her yellow lab puppy) that she wasn't willing to share when Mr. E came along.  One time Ethne got a tummy bug and her ephant caught the brunt of her upset tummy.  Ethne was not happy that I had to wash Ephant and she waited by the washing machine for about half the cycle for it to come out (that's a long time for a little girl) and then watched a fair amount of the dryer cycle too.  Ephant was always the first thing she made sure was in bed with her.

It was also the first thing I was able to hold in bed with me while in the hospital.


Elephants were special to me before Ethne's ephant ever came along, though.  When I was a teenager my Grandparents served a 3-year mission in Zimbabwe, Africa.  When they come home they brought back lots of souvenirs that they shared with my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family.  One of these souvenirs was a carved wooden egg of adult and baby elephants under a tree.  My Grandma gave this beautiful carving to me and told me that it reminded them of me because of the way I was always trying to be helpful and kind with my younger cousins.  I have always treasured these words from my Grandma and love having this carving in my home.  Before this gift elephants had been among my favorite animals, but this bumped them right up to the top-- maybe that's why that was the first toy I offered Ethne at the zoo so many years later.  Either way, I'm glad I did and so glad that she loved it so much.







Now I have a collection of Elephants to remind me that Ethne is always near.  Of course I have Ethne's treasured Ephant, but I also have my carving, an elephant key chain, a painting of Noah leading the elephant onto the ark, several stuffed elephants, a scarf, a beautiful wind chime, jewlery, and more.  I enjoy these gifts and reminders.  I love having Ethne's ephant in pictures, a physical reminder that she is always part of our family, even though she isn't physically with us.  I love the gifts of elephants that others send to me, they show me that they care and that they are thinking about my princess too.


Did you know that the old adage about elephants never forgetting is actually quite accurate?  Elephants have the longest recorded memories of any animal.  Family is also very important to elephants, they tend to stay together in large family groups and all the female elephants help with the care of baby elephants.  Elephants are also the only animal known to mourn and visit the bones of their dead.

I guess elephants and I are just meant to be.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Brave Samantha

March 20, 2015 marked the 69 anniversary of Grandma and Granddad's wedding.  They were able to celebrate it together, surrounded by family and loved ones that they haven't been able to celebrate with for some time.  Meanwhile, those of us left behind celebrated Grandma's life.

Despite this time of year being a busy time for Lawrence's work he was able to work out some time off so we were able to join the rest of the family for Grandma's funeral and a family reunion of sorts.  This reunion included Lawrence's sister, Heidi, and her family, who moved across the country over a year ago.  We haven't really gotten to spend time with them since they moved, so we were very excited to see them.

In the past I have shared that Heidi's oldest, Samantha, has a special place in my heart.  She is my first niece, Ethne's best friend, and a sweet and special little girl.  On this trip I was able to enjoy almost 5 whole days in her presence.  We talked, painted fingernails, read, listened to music, and snuggled.  I can never get enough time with this precious girl.

But sometimes it can be too much...





Being with Samantha can help fill the void I feel with Ethne's absence, but at the same time being with her also seems to make me feel that void more poignantly.  For a short time my arms are filled with a little girl, some of my time can be spent doing the things that I did or would be doing with Ethne, and I love that Heidi so willingly allows me this privilege and that Samantha is such a willing participant.  But all the same, she is not mine, I don't get to take her home with me, kiss her boo-boos, hold her as she sleeps, or many of the other things that mommies get to do with their little girls.

Time with Samantha got to be too much one night as we were in Idaho with everyone.  Marilyn (my mother-in-law), Samantha, and I were in the kitchen and Marilyn was talking to Samantha about how proud she was of her.  Marilyn talked to Samantha about school, making friends, and being brave (Samantha is notoriously timid).  Seeing Grandma and granddaughter having this heart-to-heart was more than I could take as I longed for my Princess to have that opportunity and to be there with me.  I went outside to have a good cry.

As I was outside crying I reflected on the conversation Samantha and Marilyn had been having, especially the part about being brave.  As I was thinking I heard a whisper in my mind that, at the times Samantha needs to be particularly brave, Ethne is by her side, helping her.  My mind saw a distinct picture of Samantha and Ethne holding hands, facing the scary world together.






Heidi and her family spent Monday night with us before flying home early Tuesday morning.  I got up and helped them gather their things, children, and get loaded into the car.  Just before they left I stole a quiet moment alone with Samantha.  I told her what Ethne had told me about helping her be brave.  Samantha smiled, nodded, and told me that she knew that Ethne has been with her and even  shared a specific experience with me.  It never ceases to amaze me how in tune this sweet niece of mine is and how close she and Ethne still are.

I am thankful for my testimony of life after this mortal existence and for experiences that bear witness of this truth to me.  I am thankful for loving family and the strength they lend to me.  I am so very thankful for Samantha and the bond she and Ethne still share and the way Samantha is able to share that bond with me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Red Headed Little Girls

They find me.  Everywhere I go.  Sometimes it feels like they might be following me.  But the logical part of my brain realizes that it's really just me noticing them in a way I didn't before.

I see them at the park, playing with younger kids, helping them up the stairs and down the slides, stopping them from falling or jumping off something that is too high.  I see them getting mani-pedis on a girls date with their mom.  They're at the store, shopping for cute clothes, or helping wrangle younger siblings.









I see them and a part of me falls apart.

I follow a very popular mommy blogger's instagram.  She has a little redheaded girl.  Her daughter is close to the age Ethne was when we lost her.  I may have to unfollow her instagram.  Each picture tugs at my heart, reveals a new crack, or reopens one that has at least scabbed some.

When we're in public I have to turn away from redheaded little girls.  Sometimes I think it will be ok, I realize that these girls aren't my Princess, but then they flash a mischievous smile and my dam bursts.  Seeing them makes me wonder if Ethne would be like these other little girls.  If her hair would be as long, if it would hang straight or bounce in ringlets.  I wonder if she'd still have the ever present glint in her eye that made you wonder if she was up to something.  I see them doing fun things with their moms and I feel cheated in a way, because I don't get to do those things now.





Part of dealing with grief is learning to live with this jealousy.  Learning to look at these little girls and realize that they are not mine, and that they aren't causing this torment on purpose, or really at all.  It isn't their fault that they remind me of Ethne, or that this reminder makes me miss her even more.

I love little red headed girls, even if they do make me cry.  So if you see me turn away from your red head, don't take it personally, just know that it's part of me dealing with my grief.