Monday, September 28, 2015

Elevation: 11,929 Feet

 During our first ascent of the North Peak of Mt. Nebo almost exactly one year ago, we were already talking about "next year." This time around, we were a little older, a little wiser, and we gained a hiker.  Karson, who was living in Germany last year, joined us for this climb.
 We made better time this year, but we stopped on this same log for our morning banana break.
 The sky has been somewhat hazy as a result of all the wildfires in the west these last few weeks, but the beautiful rainstorms early in the week cleared out the atmosphere and our view from the first lookout was magnificent.
 After we crossed Wolf Pass it was time to tackle some major elevation.  Bring it on.
 For some reason, I expected it to be easier this time around.  It was not easier.  But it was every bit as awesome.  The summit was breathtaking - and not just because we were out of breath.  We took off our shoes, sat on the not-so-comfortable rocks, warmed up in the sun and ate lunch.  Up above the treeline, we saw hawks, mountain goats, and thousands (literally) of ladybugs.  We felt like we were on top of the world. 
 At 11,929 feet, the North Peak of Mt. Nebo is the highest in the entire Wasatch Range.  We could see all the way past the Point of the Mountain in Northern Utah County.  The sense of accomplishment coupled with the splendor of God's creations made standing on the peak and surveying our surroundings an experience to remember.
As with last year, our party boasted the youngest hikers on the trail by far.  Several other hikers commented on how impressed they were, or how crazy they thought we were.  Regardless of what anyone else thought, at the end of the day when we looked back and saw how far we had come, our hearts were filled with satisfaction and gratitude.  We live in such a phenomenally beautiful place.  Our bodies are healthy and strong and allow us to do so many things that we love.  We get to enjoy and accomplish things like this together.  There is so very much to be thankful for. 

Soccer Stars

 My knowledge of soccer is about the same as my knowledge of quantum physics - pretty much nothing.  So when the recreation director asked if I would be the assistant coach for Isaac's soccer team for the second year in a row, I felt bad for the poor kid.  Since soccer skills are not going to be genetically bestowed on him, any chance of success is going to be somewhat dependent on a capable coach. 
 Regardless of coaching, Isaac was not incredibly enthusiastic about soccer.  This shot was taken mid-game, and unfortunately was not all that abnormal.
 The good news is, we had a good time, and at his age I think that's what it should still be about.
 While Levi was playing, the concession stand was usually more interesting than the game for these brothers.
 Levi takes sports a little more seriously than Isaac, and all of the rest of us for that matter, so it was great news when his team won the championship for his league.
 Levi likes to work hard and play hard.  He likes it when his teammates do the same.
 We were thrilled to have our friends the Reyes' as his coaches. 
One day when I dropped him off at practice, I told Levi to "work hard."  His coach said, "You can't tell him to work any harder than he already does."  We were happy that hard work paid off at the end of the season for this soccer star.


 Each Monday night, a different member of our family is in charge of Family Home Evening.  We just rotate through, so every six weeks, everyone has a turn.  The person in charge chooses the topic, activity, dessert, the works.  The running joke is that every time it's dad's turn, he teaches "The Value of Hard Work." Last time it was dad's turn, though, he took us on a family horseback ride.
 We love riding together.  It's something we can do that we all enjoy.
 Titus rode behind me, and we were only in the saddle for about an hour when he started saying, "Let's go back to the trailer, mom."
 A few days before our FHE ride, we saddled up with Titus behind Isaac, which worked out great too.
One night for FHE, the home Grandma Mary lives in invited all the families over for games and dessert.  We were so glad we got to go visit.  We are glad they take such good care of Grandma there.

We're far from perfect, but we do make an effort at having Family Home Evening.  Titus usually leads the music, and last week, right when Daisy was bearing a sincere testimony about the Sabbath Day, he was screaming and throwing a fit about playing with his toys and got sent to his room.  Far from perfect.  Daisy even said, "This is awkward" as part of her testimony since he was so disruptive.  The good news is, we love being together, and so we'll keep trying. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Some Things I Know: Obergefell V Hodges

I've learned that it is no accident that each of us face incredibly difficult challenges in life.  These challenges oftentimes help us to learn necessary life lessons that shape our character and determine who we really are.  Some of my personal challenges have come and gone, one-time events that I can reflect on.  Other challenges I face seem to be infinite, though I have hope that they are not, things that I am constantly struggling with or trying to overcome.  Understanding that every single person struggles with challenges of one form or another has motivated me to be less critical of anyone for whatever challenge he or she is dealing with.  I realize that many who deal with same gender attraction would not choose to have the feelings they do. Realizing that challenges in life take on all different time frames, names, shapes, and types has helped me love all people regardless of their challenges.  I hope that others love me in spite of mine.

When I heard the announcement of today's Supreme Court ruling, which has been predicted and anticipated, my stomach felt cramped and sick.  I cried.  And then I prayed.  And then, like I do when I am trying to sort out complex emotions, I decided to write.

I don't understand all of the implications of today's decision.  But there are a few things I know, things that I am completely certain of.

I know that today is a historic day.  This will be a decision that will be read and discussed and referred to over and over again in classrooms and courthouses and conversations everywhere.

I know that "no one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has for His children" (D. Todd Christofferson, Ensign May 2015, 52).  I know that God truly loves all of His children, regardless of their religion, mistakes, status, or sexual orientation.  As one of His children, I have felt of His love.  Some of the most profound and humbling times in my life have been when I have felt of His real and changing love for me in the face of my enormous imperfections.

I know "that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection..." (2 Tim 3:1-3) and that God knew we would be "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14).  I know this is why He has given us living prophets and apostles to guide us through the "shafts in the whirlwind" (Helaman 5:12). It amazes me that even the court admits that it's decision was based, at least in part, on rapidly changing public opinion.  "Well into the 20th century, many States condemned same-sex intimacy as immoral, and homosexuality was treated as an illness. Later in the century, cultural and political developments allowed same-sex couples to lead more open and public lives. Extensive public and private dialogue followed, along with shifts in public attitudes. Questions about the legal treatment of gays and lesbians soon reached the courts, where they could be discussed in the formal discourse of the law." (  I am troubled that the highest court in the nation is basing our constitutional rights on rapidly changing public opinion.

I know that "man's laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral" (Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign November 2013).  How incredibly thankful I am, especially in times like these, for living prophets and apostles to guide us.  Their words of truth bring me comfort and courage.

I know "that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God" (The Family: A Proclamation to The World).  I have been memorizing The Family: A Proclamation to The World this summer.  As I have read and recited and practiced saying those words, their truth has been confirmed in my heart over and over again.

I know that marriage is sacred.  I know that today's events are merely a fulfillment of prophecy.  I know that as I follow the prophet, I need not fear.  I know that God loves all of His children, and that with His help, I too can love His children, even those with whom I disagree.  I know that His perfect plan provides a way for all to return to Him through His Son Jesus Christ.  How thankful I am for these things that I know.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

One Year Ago

 It was one year ago today.  One year ago, my four-year-old son Isaac came to me in the middle of the night and told me he was sick.  He had been running a fever and complaining of stomach pain for three days, and had been seen by a doctor.  But when he was standing at my bedside that night, I knew something was really wrong.  After Jeff gave him a blessing I took him to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with severe pneumonia with a pleural empyema.  The doctor explained that he would be transported to Primary Children's Hospital by Life Flight.

It was one year ago today that I left the emergency room to pack a few things and called my mom, crying.  She was in the middle of teaching her kindergarten class, but took my call.  I explained that Isaac was going to be life flighted and asked her to start praying for him.
 It was one year ago today that I returned to the emergency room to see the Life Flight team preparing my sedated intubated son for transport.  I stood there watching them like I was in some other world.  I felt completely helpless and nearly numb.
 One year ago today I watched my son wheeled on a gurney to the waiting helicopter, then disappear into the sky before Jeff and I got into the car to make the first of many, many drives to Primary Children's.

 One year ago today I walked into Primary Children's Hospital and told the security guard that my son had just been flown there by Life Flight.  One year ago today I walked into the Pediatric ICU and found Isaac lying naked except for the large, shapeless diaper they had put on him.  He was covered in tubes and monitors.  He was comatose.

 One year ago today Isaac underwent emergency surgery for respiratory failure.  The doctor explained that he was very sick, and would most likely be in the hospital for five to seven days, but that he would almost certainly get better.
 One year ago today we became the new residents of Pediatric ICU Room 9.  One year ago today I felt the literal power of prayer in a way I had never experienced before in my entire life.  In the midst of the beeps, buttons, monitors, doctors, tubes, phone calls, and tears, I felt strengthened, fortified, and almost elevated as the tangible comfort of the Holy Ghost completely enveloped me.  I never felt afraid.
 One year ago I had a crash course in hospital life.  I learned where parents of very sick children get food that they are not hungry for, apply for beds that they do not sleep in, and fill out forms they do not understand.  One year ago today, I started my period at Primary Children's Hospital, just like I did today.
 I did my best to educate myself about Isaac's condition.  My days were spent answering phone calls, talking to doctors, nurses, therapists, admitting clerks, and insurance agents.  I talked to Isaac about everything that was going on as though he could hear me.  I would tell him when I was leaving the room and when I was coming back.
 I would lie by him in his bed early in the morning and read scriptures to him.  I would tell him about the people who were calling and fasting and praying for him.  I would cry openly as I would kneel by his bedside and pour my heart out to God several times each day.
 Support came in many forms.  Good friends, family members, and mere acquaintances sent gifts and cards and encouragement.  I would tell Isaac about all of these gestures as he lay in his bed with his eyes closed, the machines breathing for him.  It may not have meant a lot to him then, but the overwhelming generosity and support meant the world to me. 
 I watched Isaac disappear behind these doors several times as he underwent surgeries and operations to try and rid his little body of the horrific infection.  I remember one night after a successful surgery kneeling to pray and feeling so thankful that I hardly dared to ask for anything.  My heart was simply overflowing with gratitude for the kind professionals at the hospital, for the success of Isaac's surgery, for the unending love and support being sent to us from so many people, and most of all for the powerful, comforting companionship of the Holy Ghost which had never once left me comfortless.

 Isaac was admitted on Monday.  On Sunday, they removed his breathing tube and brought him out of a coma.  I got to look into his eyes and hold him in my arms for the first time in a week.
 It was a busy day for us, with lots of visitors from far and near, including one of my {best friends} Hilary Weeks!
 We lifted Isaac out of his hospital bed for the first time and situated him with a cocoon of pillows in a wheelchair.  I wheeled him down the hall to see the Christmas tree and look out the window.  He was completely non-responsive.
 Our story appeared on and messages of love and support started pouring in from all over the state.  It felt so good for me to have that kind of connection to the outside world since I had existed within the walls of the hospital for what had seemed like forever.  I met so many amazing people who were touched by our story and shared with me their own experience of trial and faith.  These strangers who reached out to become friends gave me the added strength I needed when I felt my own strength was waning.
 The next three days were by far the very hardest of my entire experience at Primary Children's.  Isaac had been brought out of his coma, but he was completely non responsive.  He would not talk, walk, eat, respond in any way.  He would not smile or nod or interact at all.  I was in no way prepared for this.  I had no idea what to do.  For the first time since we had arrived I felt myself losing hope.  As doctors explained that various medications affected different children in different ways, and as therapists told me that some children recover to different levels than others, and as they scheduled a brain MRI, I wondered how I would ever deal with what might be in our future.
 And then our family came to visit.  The first word Isaac said since we had gone to the emergency room that long-ago morning was "Titus."  And I knew that he would be fine.

Isaac's recovery, though slower than expected, continued to progress.  We were able to come home for Christmas!  And then, a few days later, he was sick again and we were readmitted to Primary Children's again.  It was January when I started my period again, at Primary Children's again.

This second stay was much shorter, but Isaac's recovery was still very slow.  He was still very sick, but not sick enough to be hospitalized.  We had to keep him at home and couldn't take him anywhere with us.  Every single day I received a stack of bills and insurance forms in the mail and every day I would call the toll free numbers, navigate the impossible phone tree system, wait on hold for an eternity, and try to interpret what needed to be done.

 Once a week I would rely on the generous support of friends and family members to take care of my family while Isaac and I would make the now-familiar trip to Primary Children's for follow up visits.  Isaac made friends with the angelic healthcare professionals that were now part of his life.  He wasn't afraid of tubes, needles, or machines.  It was all heartbreakingly familiar to him.

This photo was taken on the day he was formally released from doctor's care.  He asked me, "Mom, am I all better now?"  I was able to answer, through my tears, "Yes, Isaac, you are all better."

And it all began one year ago today.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I Am (finally) Doing It!

I've always been intimidated by family history work.  It was a commandment I basically ignored.  I used all of the typical excuses..."I'll do it when I'm older."  "All my family's work has already been done."  "I simply don't have the time right now."  "There is too much to learn."  Over the past several years I have had frequent jabs from the Spirit, reminders that regardless of the excuses I used, I was still not obedient.  So I put forth a little effort here and there.  I registered and indexed a batch of names.  I committed to write more frequently in my journal and in my kids' journals.  I still avoided any work with my own ancestors.  

That was until General Conference.  During conference this time, I felt completely rebuked - not by a specific speaker, just by the Holy Ghost.  It was as though I was told, "You are keeping yourself and your family from a specific set of treasured blessings by your refusal to be obedience and do family history work."  I knew I had to do something.  

The very next time I saw my friend Jessie, I asked her about it.  See, Jessie is Miss. Genealogy!  (check out her fab YouTube channel here.)  I expressed to her my desire, and that my number one concern was lack of time.  "What do I give up during my day in order to do family history work instead?"  She said, "I bet we could find family names for you to take to the temple in five minutes."  I was skeptical, especially because I really did believe that most of my work - the "easy" stuff especially, had already been done.  We came into my {messy} office, logged into Family Search and Jessie showed me some simple, easy tools on my own family tree.  The next day, I spent less than an hour and found over 50 ordinances that needed to be done for ancestors.  I was thrilled!  I was doing it!  I couldn't believe how easy and EXCITING it was.  My heart was just pounding as I was clicking on names and finding work to do.  

I printed off the page of requests to take to the temple.  Jeff and I went that very week.  I was a little nervous.  I wasn't sure what to do when we got to the temple.  I was ashamed to admit to the workers that this was my very first time bringing names.  As is always the case, everyone at the temple was incredibly helpful and gracious.  It was very simple and took less than 10 minutes.  I just gave the page I printed to the lady in the office, and she printed off the name cards we needed to perform the ordinances.  Voila!  I asked her, "Can we do these ordinances tonight?"  She smiled and responded, "Yes, you can do them right now."

So we did!  Jeff and I went into the temple and performed sealings for our ancestors.  As I knelt across the alter from him, acting proxy for people who could not do so for themselves, I felt completely overcome with emotion and full of the Spirit of Elijah.  I was reminded once again that EVERY TIME we make an effort to be obedient, our efforts are rewarded ten fold.  My heart and mind were opened to things in the temple sealing that I had never considered before.  I felt a renewed and strengthened commitment toward Jeff and our eternal union.  I said, as often is the case when we delay obedience, "Why did I wait so long to experience this?"

 Now there is a new file in my filing cabinet!  It has my very own family history work inside.  I can take the names of my ancestors to the temple and perform essential, saving ordinances for them.  I can experience the sacred, enlightening Spirit of Elijah over and over again.

It was the first time in my life that I wished one of my children was older than they are.  I told Daisy, "In about a year and a half you can do this too!  You can take your very own names to the temple and be baptized and confirmed for them when you are twelve!  I want so much for you to be able to go to the temple with daddy and I and do this amazing work!"  So in the meantime we created her very own Family Search account.  Now she can search her own ancestors and get in on the excitement. 
 Jeff and I taking names to the temple for the first time.  "Family history, I am doing it, my family history...I am yours and you are mine through all eternity." ("Family History I Am Doing It, Children's Songbook, 94.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Living Planet Aquarium

 We have been wanting the visit the new aquarium since it opened and we finally got our chance.  Daddy was working so we got up and got our chores done and headed up to meet him and visit the aquarium.
 This iguana (I think) jumped off of the branch it was resting on and swam over to say hi to Titus.  I could have watched it swim around in there forever!
 That first close up made Titus an instant aquarium fan.  He was in heaven.
 I was glad that this giant anaconda and flesh-eating piranhas were behind glass.

 This South American Amazon River tank was super cool because you could look in from the side or from above, and the fish were HUGE!

 When we were first considering our visit, I was a little apprehensive about the cost.  It was going to set our family back $70 to spend a few hours there and I thought that was a little pricey. 
 After Jeff and I talked about it, we decided that if the kids wanted to go, we could invite them to pay their own admission.  They were happy to use their own money to buy their very own ticket.  It made the whole experience more meaningful to them.  We were only there for 10 minutes when we all decided that the aquarium is well worth the price of admission.  In fact, I would say it's a bargain for what they have to offer there.
The penguin exhibit was so fun!  I wanted to stay and watch them walk and dive and swim much longer when Titus announced, "bye-bye" and started waving at the glass.
 They seemed so playful as they would dive in and swim right over to where the kids were standing.  The penguin exhibit also featured a unique underwater viewing where you could watch the penguins swim from underneath.
 Not gonna lie...jellyfish=creepy.
 The sharks though, were not creepy.  Just very, very cool.
 How often do sharks swim right over your head?

 Levi finished the aquarium feeling distraught.  He wants to be a soldier when he grows up and fight the bad guys, but he also really wants to be an animal scientist.  After visiting the aquarium, he felt certain that he will have to give up his military ambitions to be a biologist.  I reassured him that he doesn't need to decide all of that right now.
Our visit was a great success.  We would recommend the aquarium to anyone. Hanging out with this crew, however, is my favorite thing to do no matter where we are.