Days 2017

Days 2017

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Peeling Out

The kids are getting older.  I was realizing yesterday that Luke will leave for all-day first grade the same year that Leslie leaves for college.  That might be a bit much for one mama to handle.
My previous post was about Cooper's surgery, but I also felt like I wanted to add something about what the rest of us have been up to.  I had some fun taking pictures of the kids, and also Luke and I had fun looking at their age progressions as we put their new photos in the frames.

I also forgot to write about Boston's birthday...
He had a great time.  He was due for a birthday party since his birthday usually falls over Labor Day weekend and we usually twist his arm into letting us go camping or something like that for his birthday instead of having a party.  He was excited to have a few friends over and to go to Jump On It (a trampoline place) with everyone.  We had a great time and all of the boys were thoroughly drenched with sweat and in need of a shower by the time we finished, so I call that a smashing success.

Boston also earned his Webelo and graduated from Cub Scouts.  He is loving Boy Scouts thus far, especially since our cool next door neighbor is one of his leaders.  Their group when shooting yesterday and he had such a blast.  Ha ha, I guess that was a pun.

Luke helped/watched me arrange my dried sunflower heads in various places around the house, but when I asked him, "Don't they look beautimous?"  He declared with not a little disgust in his voice, "Mom, they're not beautimous.  They're dead!"
Leslie is in the Women's chorus this year and it was fun to go to her concert and see so many of her friends in the various singing groups as well.  They get to go on tour to San Diego in the Spring.  (I had no idea extra-curricular anything cost so much!  In my defense, I grew up where all the students got a physical and a $20 activity card and that was it.  Oh yes, and I do remember that shopping for a Choralaire dress was a nightmare.  Luckily Leslie bought her dress from another very tall girl, so we lucked out.)
Leslie with some of her fun girlies.
Leslie also got to go on tour with her marching band to St George and also Disneyland.  Super fun for her, and super glad for me that she is done with band practice until next summer.  Bring on the babysitting!

 We also had fun over UEA break.  Mark was on a business trip in San Diego, and Cooper had pre-op visits up in Salt Lake, so we tried to make the most of our time by stopping at the Lehi Fun Center and trying out their Halloween activities.  Who knew that the hay bale maze would be such a blast?  I liked it because it was challenging but small.  Luke was laughing his head off and running after his brothers the entire time.  I actually lost him once and had to hurry on out to intercept him in case the boys didn't have him.

These slides were fun, landing the kids in piles of dried corn.
During the break I also took a page from my sister Darcy's book (she is an avid angler-woman) and got a new fishing pole for Boston.  The kids dug the worms, and I took him fishing ALL BY MYSELF.  Mom of the year award right there.  Luckily, he didn't catch anything and I didn't have to deal with teaching him to clean a fish.  I could if I had to, but I'd just rather not.  Macy and Luke and I fed the ducks until they got way too aggressive and came after us with the great big ornery geese and I may have shrieked and thrown my sack of bread at them.  Luke couldn't get to sleep that night because he was worried about "those crazy ducks."  
Luke and I have some good fun in the kitchen.  This is a long apple peel from canning apple pie filling.  I was laughing a little when I realized just how much canning I had done this year, and that it was Peaches, Pie filling, Pesto and Pickled Beets.  And a partridge in a pear treeeee!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bearing my Burdens

Today I was thinking about the times my burdens have been lifted.  I don't know how much I've talked about this before, but an obvious one comes to mind that I will share.

A little over four years ago, we were expecting our fifth baby.  The doctors had seen a heart problem on his ultrasound.  They weren't sure how serious it would be until after he was born, but they told us it looked like tricuspid atresia, where one of his ventricles did not develop.  Basically he was running on three chambers instead of four, missing the use of the ventricle that pumped blood to the lungs.  They told us that likely if he was to survive he would require three major surgeries as an infant, and that they could probably get him to college.  (!).  One doctor reassured us with, "I do have one patient who is 38 with the same problem." 

This was also our second baby with a birth defect, which was actually a good thing because we were mentally over that whole concept and had experience with infant surgeries.

Luke arrived safely and with much fanfare at the University Hospital where he was "Life Flight" carted over the skyway to Primary's before I got to meet him.  He got through his first surgery with flying colors, although Mark and I must have blocked out the part where the doctor told us it was a 20% mortality rate--we both gasped months later when the doctor was going over the stuff for the second surgery and told us that it was safer than the first.

He came home after only about two weeks in the hospital, although he was still on a feeding tube and a huge tank of oxygen was parked in the office waiting for his oxygen saturation levels to drop, as they told us would happen as he grew.  I was to weigh him every day and report to the nurse once a week, which stressed me out to no end because we were trying to get him off the feed tube, and once it was off, to have him stay off.  He was also on an oxygen saturation monitor hooked to an alarm that would go off several times in the night because his breathing would slow to the point that his levels would drop alarmingly.  Not that we could really do anything when it went off, other than wake him up a little, which the alarm would sometimes do without us.  Sleep was pretty much nil for both of us so we took shifts sleeping on the couch with Luke nearby in his bouncy.

Oh yes, and I was pumping every few hours because breastfeeding apparently burns too many calories for baby, also, they wanted the milk thickened way up to keep him gaining weight.  I would have gone straight to formula but they hoped he would become healthy enough to nurse regularly.  (He never did but I pumped for 6 months.)  They also really wanted the breastmilk antibodies because a round of RSV or whooping cough, etc. would have done him in.  Awesome.  Get your vaccines, people.   I probably should have worried about this part more than I did, but I figured, if he was supposed to be quarantined, Heavenly Father wouldn't have sent him to a family of 7.

Was all this a burden for me?  YES.  A big one.  I did have many, many helpers--awesome doctors, my angel mother who came to be with my kids and run the house, many neighbors who brought meals.  The burden would have been much worse without them--they definitely lifted much of it.  I also did a great job of feasting on the scriptures and writing in my journal about my impressions--they were a lifeline.

Personally, though, I was a mess.  The hormones and lack of sleep were pretty bad, but I had been through that a few times before.  Mostly with the other babies it would just make me extra weepy to the point of giggles and I just knew I needed more sleep.  This time, though, with all the added stress, I felt like I was facing a big mountain of darkness for my future and the future of our family.  I couldn't hardly eat anything--chewing and swallowing was a huge chore.  I cried all the time.  I even had a hard time remembering Luke's name immediately--it just didn't seem to stick.  I think throughout my pregnancy I subconsciously didn't want to become attached.

Then, one night I was watching a talk on TV that had been given at the General Women's Conference.  A story was told about a pioneer woman coming to Utah who had lost her husband and although everyone else was happy to get to their destination, all she could see was a big mountain of darkness in front of her.  Yes!  I thought.  That is EXACTLY how I feel!  I don't remember the rest of the talk, but that week I arrived at the conclusion that only Jesus Christ and his grace could remove that mountain of darkness ahead of me, weighing on me so heavily, no matter the outcome. 

I started a new course of action.  It was two words.  Pray Always.

For the next few days I did my best to carry on an ongoing conversation with God in my head.  As I woke up.  As I pumped or fed the baby.  Before I parented my children.  Counting blessings.  Naming fears.  Driving in the car.  Doing the dishes.  As I lay awake in bed for hours.

About two days later I felt totally different.  My appetite returned.  I felt like things would work out.  I felt more relaxed.  At some point we had called the nurse and asked to take off Luke's oxygen monitor except for periodic checks, and to our surprise she consented.  I felt like life was going forward.  At some point at this awakening time I came across a scripture that I have written about before, Hebrews 9:11, where Jesus is called the "High Priest of Good Things to Come" and I knew, I KNEW, that I could trust Him with my future.  My burden was lifted.

Before I tell you the rest of the story, which happily, you've probably figured out, I want to share one more thing that totally describes my experience. 
"And I will ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions."

--Mosiah 24:14, Book of Mormon
Luke became the "Star Patient" on the nurse's call roster, (although I always was a little stressed when I had to report his weight.)  He never did have to go on oxygen, and his second surgery which was predicted to be at age 4 months was not required until 8 mos when his oxygen finally started to drop into the 70s.  Miraculously, we were very calm about his second surgery and felt like it would go well.  We were actually excited for open heart surgery.  With the surgery came a wonderful surprise.  Luke's heart was fairly unique--his ventricle was pumping a teeny bit, but he also had a hole in his heart that was providing increased flow to the lungs that they were able to work with during the surgery, negating the need for a third surgery.  And allowing FULL LIFE EXPECTANCY.  It felt like Christmas in May, and by July Luke was even growing rolls of baby fat in his legs.  Here he is, the cute little stinker.  Love him so much but also am so grateful for the way he taught me to rely on my Savior.

Cooper again with Surgery Ten

Hey, Honey-butter.
Here's our pretty boy Cooper.  This picture makes me laugh but it also shows really well part of what the doctors were working on this surgery.  See how his left cheekbone is a little flatter/caved in than the right?  I can't pronounce the technical name of what they did, but basically they went through the inside of his cheek and cut the little bone that attaches the cheekbone to the upper jaw so that it can adjust a little bit with the orthodontic expander they put in the roof of his mouth.
He has had an expander before when he was about 4, but part had sunken back in.  He does not like the expander, his mouth hurts after I crank it, but I don't remember it bothering him when he was little, so hopefully as his surgery heals it will hurt less.  Not sure how long he needs to wear it, hopefully only a few weeks, but he has quite a few teeth that need to fit in there that are currently wrapped inside along his former cleft at the roof of his mouth.

Sorry for the gory bloody teeth, but this was when he was waking up and wanted a picture of the inside of his mouth.

Cooper's anesthesiologist was a hoot.  He made sure that there was no one in the hallway so that he could race Cooper's bed down the hall like it was an emergency.  He also heard that Cooper had asked if I could video his falling asleep.  I told him no because I wasn't allowed in the OR, but this guy said, well, we can video it for you.  So, I handed over my cell phone.  The anesthesiologist gives the thumbs up at the end.  They gave it back as soon as they were done and it made me happy to see how excited Cooper was for the whole deal.  (Little did he know...)

So, I think this was his 10th surgery.  By my count:

Lip repair at 3 months
Plate to cover cleft placed at 6 mos
Plate Re-inserted after Cooper swallowed the nails that held it in, 7 mos.  (They gave up when he swallowed the nails a second time and just left it open and pushed up his cleft repair)
Cleft repair 10? mos.
Ear tubes
Ear tubes replaced.
Rib graft/rhinoplasty (nose job) age 6
Bone graft from hip to fill in bone in his cleft age 7
Heavy duty eartubes plus adenoidectomy age 7 (the adenoids were pushing on his ears all this time, so hopefully that's the end of that.  This surgery prompted Luke's tonsil/adenoidectomy.  Awesome.)
Cheekbone-chotomy buttress expander age 9

He also had stitches at the back of his head this year from being hit with a broomstick-swinging-brother, but didn't go under for that one.  Has also broken his arm and sprained his ankle.  Bring on the football!  As he says, why should he care about a little pain?

Since I got the kids' new pictures, we took out the old pictures from the frames and washed the glass.  Here is Cooper's progression.  (The baby shots are in a different frame.)

 While at the hospital, I saw this framed on the wall:

It is not happy people who are grateful, it is grateful people who are happy!

I totally agree, so as a family this month we are keeping a gratitude journal, but I started a little early for Cooper to help him focus on the positive.  One of his favorite blessings of note was that his buddy Ethan came to "visit" him, fairly formally, after church on Sunday with a half gallon of vanilla ice cream tucked under his arm like a box of chocolates and a board game in his other arm.  His mom warned me he was coming, but he was so serious and sincere at the door that it brought a little tear to my eye.

Cooper only had to miss one day of school, and very serendipitous timing, got a football helmet to wear for Halloween.  That helmet is basically his ticket to outside recess because it is protecting his swollen cheek, so he has been wearing it all week.  He has also been getting medicine  (antibiotics) visits from his mom at school and also packing soup in a thermos because he's supposed to be on liquids for a while.  Thank goodness for the best clam chowder recipe ever.  Seriously.

While we were at the hospital one of our friends was also there with round five of chemo with her teenage daughter.  I also had a doctor ask me if I was nervous and I said, "I have a heart baby.  This surgery is like a bubble bath for me."  We are so grateful for this very little trial that we have and so proud of Cooper's patience and strength.  Hopefully ten is our lucky number!

Monday, October 3, 2016

He's Magic, Baby!

Today Luke was in the tub and yelled that he was ready to get out.  I went in to wash his hair and he informed me that he "already put Magic Baby ALL over my legs, and Magic Baby ALL over my arms, and lots of Magic Baby on my head."

Heck, I'm surprised he didn't just levitate out of the tub.  (For future generations, "Baby Magic" is a brand of baby shampoo,)

Now I know why his little girlfriend, Josie, told her mom last week, "Every day, I cry and cry that I'm not in Luke's family!"  It must be because he smells so good from that Magic Baby stuff.

Macy may have used a little bit as well.  (It's been on her brain.)  Last week she volunteered to tell the family her favorite scripture story, about Esther.  "Oh, and I almost forgot.  You guys are gonna like this part.  She was from a town called "Baby-Lon.""

Macy takes after her mother and sister, learning words by reading them instead of actually hearing them in conversation.  I remember Leslie remarking that a certain rural area was very "Vack-int."  And I accidentally let the word "Laypulls" slip out of my mouth just last year when talking to my husband.  He about died laughing and explained to me that those were "La Pells" on his jacket.  That sounds suspiciously French to me, so he obviously had an advantage for sounding intelligent.  If I had served a mission for two years in Paris, I would probably know how to say Lapels, too.

Luke had a magical birthday.  This was the first time he was allowed to have a friends party.  It was pretty cute.  The boys decided right away that they all wanted to be super heroes, and luckily we have lots of stuff for that, accumulated from over the years from the older boys.  Aren't they cute?

I've learned from several kid parties over the years that a lot of the cake goes in the garbage.  So, before serving, I asked, "Does everyone want cake?"  (Especially since, being a homemade Magleby's chocolate cake, I didn't mind saving it from the garbage.)  One kid didn't, so I told him we had popsicles.  Then, all the boys wanted popsicles instead, even Luke, except for one kid.  That boy later told me sweetly, "That was the best cake I've ever had!"  Luke had some cake after the kids left.

Luke has been such a joy to our family.  Everyone bends over backward to make him happy and win his favor--definitely spoiled--but he also helps us tone down our behavior so that we can be loving and gentle around him.  He is, on purpose or not, our family's peacemaker.  Lately he has also been very interested in Jesus and being a good boy.  He has even gone so far as declaring more than once, enthusiastically, that "we can die so we can live with Jesus"--I am quick to remind him that Jesus wants us to be here with our families for a while, first!  He loves to ask me where Heavenly Father and Jesus live, and I tell him in Heaven.  He will occasionally correct me and tell me that "No Mom, remember?  They live 'in secret'".  (Like Jesus explains in the Bible.)  I used that scripture once in Family Home evening to explain Heavenly Father to the kids, and Luke really grasped it well.  He also asks me/explains to me regularly that Jesus can see us and hear us, but we can't see Him, but He talks to our hearts and to the prophets, right mom?

The last month or so he has been asking me every time I get after him or every time I sound a little angry with the kids, "Am I a good boy?"  Like maybe two or three times a day.  I always say yes, usually with a question first, for example:

Luke has climbed into the window frame and is leaning against the screen.  I tell him to hop down.  He will say, "Am I a good boy?"  I ask, "Did you get down when Mommy asked?"  "Yup!!"  "Yes!  Good boys mind their moms super fast."  Then he will run and give me a hug.

Luke will lose his temper at the boys and pound Cooper hard on the back.  Cooper cries or yells.  I tell Luke no, don't hurt Cooper.  Luke will put a huge, fakey smile on his face and cringing, ask, "Am I a good boy?"  I say, "Good boys always say sorry if they hurt someone.  Did you say sorry to Cooper yet?"  Luke will tweet some happy sorry notes at him and love on him, then he asks me again, "Am I a good boy, mommy?"  I say, "YESS!  Good boys repent when they do something wrong.  Did you say sorry?"  He will nod enthusiastically.  "Such a good boy, Luke!"

Randomly licking a beater today, "Am I a naughty boy, mom?" Like he is teasing me.
"Did you do something naughty" (just checking)".
Luke, satisfied with himself and life in general, "No!"
"You are a SUPER good boy, Luke."  I can tell he is basking in the praise.
"And who gives me that power, mom?", catching me off guard. Was he referring to my use of the word "Super"?
"Well, the more you choose the right, the more you are a super good boy."
He nods, "Yeah.  If I choose the right, Jesus gives me his power" (grace).
"That's right, Luke, He does." !! !

It's been really sweet.  I don't remember any of my children being as aware and conscious of the rightness of their behavior except maybe Leslie, who was very sensitive to any sort of correction, but she didn't have anyone to fight with so she pretty much had zero practice in repentance, haha, therefore we never talked about it.  It occurs to me that I need to direct Luke to listen to his heart and mind to find out if he is being a good boy or not, and of course, continuing to lather him with praise for the super good boy he is.

What else about Luke?  Besides smelling like Magic Baby, he also can get himself dressed except for his socks, likes to play with his Matchbox cars, his big wheel, puzzles, big kid games out of the game closet that he mostly just plays with the pieces of, magnetic blocks, and guns and wrestling and flag football with the big boys.  He likes to eat chocolate, granola bars, pretzels, cheese, applesauce, strawberries, grapes, eggs, bread, all kinds of meat especially fish, no visible vegetables except stewed tomatoes and spinach and green machine smoothies.  (Not even corn.) He is fairly tall but I think will land somewhere between Cooper at the tall end and Boston.  His head is enormous.  He rarely sleeps all night, usually waking up with a moan or two because he has kicked all his covers off and wants me to put them back on him, or because he is having foot pains.  (I think he has plantar fasceitis (sp?))  He also likes to climb in bed with me in the mornings.  He is definitely a Mama's boy, although his brothers are a close second.  He naps a few times a week if I am lucky.  He likes to fall asleep by looking at books in his bed, and has recently fallen in love with reading the children's New Testament stories every night with prayers.

But our favorite thing about Luke, different from my other kids, is that when he is happy or excited he is always singing LOUDLY.  Usually bits and pieces of some pop song, or Star Wars or Pirates sound track, or some high-octane piece of music that the kids have been dance-partying to.  Once in awhile it's a primary song from church.  Last night was way adorable.  We had some of our college nephews over for dinner.  They happen to sing barber shop together, so we made them sing for their supper.  Afterwards, Luke declared that he also wanted to sing a song.  We enthusiastically agreed and suggested that he sing "We Don't Talk We 'Sposed to doooo!" as he had been whaling that one all day long, with the incorrect lyrics.  But no, he told us he was going to do a different one.  He stepped into the "spotlight", looked around, panicked, and ducked behind the curtains.  Then he whispered to Mark, "just a minute", and came out.  Took about six deep breaths like he was steeling himself, and launched loudly and proudly into "It's Raining Tacos"--an interesting choice because it's one he actually knows all the words to but hasn't sung for quite some time.  It was awesome, especially because you could tell he was really nervous in front of the college boys but forced himself to feel the fear and do it anyway.  A crucible moment, my friend.  (If you're interested, I think I posted a video of him singing that number a few posts back.)

Mark has been spending a lot of time finishing the boys' bedroom in the basement.  The last few days were a little time-crunched while we were painting and caulking because the carpet delivery was already set.  (It was tricky that the walls are the same color of paint as the painter's tape.  Mark picked out the color--he said, "Well, they said they wanted blue!")  We were super lucky to find this fabulous bunk bed for cheap the same day the carpet went in.  The boys have been thrilled and I have enjoyed the increased amount of time that the kids and their friends have spent playing nicely with legos, wrestling, or reading in the basement.

We are still adjusting to their grown-up boys' room, though.  Without all that raw insulation, the acoustics are a little different and they complained that the traditional clock they had been using was now way too loud.  So, I found them one of our digital clocks that had been sitting in the closet.  Yesterday they had been listening to General Conference on the clock radio in their room while they played.  Last night at midnight I woke up to this terrible racket.  I finally figured out that it was radio static/radio sqauwk coming from the basement.  "Oh," I thought as I sunk back into my pillow.  "The boys will turn that off."  Minutes passed.  Maybe they couldn't figure out how to turn it off?  I sighed, put on my robe, and trudged down to their room.  Everything was still dark.  No wonder they can't find the button!  Turn on the lights!  I stepped into their room and gazed upon BOTH of their perfectly soundly sleeping bodies.  If I had yelled their names, I don't think it would have been louder than that radio.  Rather than fiddling with the buttons and accidentally hitting the even more obnoxious buzzer alarm, I pulled the plug in disgust.  Preview to teenagerhood?

This morning they came up the stairs complaining that someone had unplugged their clock!  I told them what had happened and they listened in disbelief.  Finally Boston, mulling it over, said, "Mom, why didn't you just hit snooze??"

They've actually had a lazy week after finishing up flag football.  Both boys had fun teams, great coaches, and a good season all around.  Cooper played quarterback and wide receiver for the Jaguars.  Boston played center for the Broncos.  (It would have been cool had 4th and 5th been allowed on the same team, Boson could have hiked it to Cooper.)
This is kind of a funny but(t) accurate shot.  He got to hike and also kick several times.

 Cooper was harder to get a picture of.  He is in the silver shorts, not number 11.
I also had a birthday.  It was great--since it was a Sunday I celebrated the day before, going to two football games, volunteering at Leslie's marching band invitational at her high school in between the games, attending a play and dinner with Mark that evening.  On my actual birthday I went to church, relaxed, had the kids brush my hair for me while I did family history stuff on the laptop (my favorite way to spend time), and made myself another Magleby's chocolate cake.  Mark snuck a picture of me blowing out the candles and texted it to me with the caption, "The older you get, the closer to the sink you have to blow out the candles."
A couple days after one of our birthdays, I was sneaking myself a piece of leftover cake amongst a bunch of my kids and their friends running and playing through the house.  Right when I was about to lift the cake onto my plate, Macy and her friends came up behind me.  Macy loudly raised the alarm.  I was caught red handed with not enough cake to share.

"Mom!!" she declared, shocked, with my back still toward her.
I dropped the fork.
"You cut your HAIR!"

My parents came down for a short visit this week.  The morning they were here we did some shopping and then that afternoon Luke and I took them to one of our favorite places, the Grotto waterfall hike.

It was so beautiful that they kept remarking with amazement over the colors in the trees, and when we started hiking my mom said she felt like she was in a movie or a wedding with confetti or something.  It really was a lovely day and I was so glad to be there with them and that my Dad was feeling young and limber again with (finally) his knee replacement.  He had even hiked with my mom to the top of Sawtooth Mountain in Montana with my mom that summer for the very first time--incredible.

"There's a spider!"

My Dad said while I was taking this picture, "That's my best side!"  It might be true--he's the one always making awful faces at the camera or with his mouth open wide--photoallergenic we call it.

 This fence was pretty but took us by surprise by how tall it was.  From the road it looked about waist high.

Thanks Mom and Dad!  It really was a magical day and a magical month.