Chicken Noodle Soup

A mother takes care of her family when they are sick.

It’s just what we do.

When my husband or children are sick, I make sure to keep up on medication, to use essential oils, to turn on favorite movies while they rest on the couch, and I often make my favorite homemade chicken noodle soup.

On October 15, 2015, I had a sick husband. He had a headache, dizziness, and an extreme case of nausea. He called me on his way to work, too sick to drive. I met him on the side of the road, and drove his truck. When we got home, I helped him into our bed. He wasn’t feeling well at all, so I helped him change out of his work attire, and brought him a Zofran and some cold water. I tucked him into bed, pulled the drapes in our bedroom, and helped him get comfortable.

It was a horrible stomach bug, I thought. Or he had eaten something that had made him sick. Food Poisoning. I left him to rest, going back and forth as he would throw up, so that I could clean up and help him get comfortable again.

In the meantime, I started preparing a large pot of chicken noodle soup–for later. Because in a few hours, he would be feeling much better, and he would need something that would be easy on his stomach.

I chopped the celery and onion, and added the chicken and broth to my slow cooker. He threw up, again and again. The intensity of his pain and dizziness increased, and so did my anxiety.

Something was wrong.

I called his parents to come watch our kids.

I rushed him to the Emergency Room.

And the soup simmered on the countertop.

Later that day, we arrived home again. An inner ear calcification had been his diagnosis. Keep up on meds, and come back in a few days if his symptoms don’t improve. He was still vomiting, still too dizzy to walk, and in an incredible amount of pain. Once again, I tucked him into bed. He just needed to rest, he told me. So I sent the kids downstairs to watch a movie with his parents, and shut off the light so he could sleep.

And then I chopped carrots, and shredded chicken. The soup was almost finished cooking. RJ would need another dose of his medication soon, so I rushed to complete the meal. I needed to stop at the store to pickup some egg noodles. While I was there I would get some crackers, popsicles,  and a bottle ginger ale, to help his stomach. It was a labor of love– and oh how I loved him.

I hurried out the door, after asking if he needed anything. He assured me he was fine, and thanked me for getting his medication.

I drove quickly to the pharmacy. They were having problems billing my insurance. They told me that I would have to wait. Instead of waiting there, I rushed to the grocery store that was only a block away. I didn’t want to waste any time. I picked up all of the items on my list, then returned to the pharmacy.

On the way home, I called to check to see how my husband was feeling. I was confused by the news that he had fallen, and wasn’t making any sense. I demanded to talk to him…to hear for myself what they were saying about him.

I will never forget the way my sweet husband sounded as he tried to communicate with me. Slow. Garbled. I couldn’t understand him. I called the hospital and asked to talk to the Doctor who we had seen earlier. He was unavailable, and they didn’t want to give advice over the phone. “Go home and assess the situation for yourself,” the receptionist told me.

I was almost there. Upon returning, I ran through the door. I dropped my bag of groceries on the floor when I saw him.

I knew immediately that he had suffered a stroke. All of the signs and symptoms were there. I screamed for someone to call 911. And then I sobbed as I watched my strong capable husband struggle to force even the most basic words out of his mouth.

So began the worst week of my life. Honestly the days following were complete and utter hell. I don’t curse, but there is no other word to describe what I went through. What HE went through. And what we would  continue to experience after he was gone.

He never got to eat the chicken noodle soup. Neither did I. I have felt SO much guilt about the fact that I wasted even a moment doing something so trivial, when my husband was so severely ill. I truly wish now that I had laid in our bed with him and would have soaked up every last second that we had together. But how could I have known? I was doing my best to care for the man I loved.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to make it since.

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About a year ago, I found the two packages of large egg noodles in my pantry. I sobbed as I struggled with what to do with them. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away, but I didn’t want to see them.  I shoved them into the back of my pantry and covered them with other food. I forgot about them eventually, and somehow, they made the move with us here to Las Vegas. I found them once again today. I felt the immediate guilt rise up within me. What kind of wife makes soup while her husband is having a brain aneurism and stroke?!? I should have never left his side to go to the pharmacy, and I should have been home instead of buying noodles at the grocery store. And then I felt ridiculous for  allowing a package of noodles to have so much control over me–over how I felt about myself.

I said a silent prayer for strength and comfort.

I took a deep breath.

And then I began chopping celery, carrots, and onion. I poured broth over the chicken in my slow cooker, and smiled through tears to myself as I thought about my sweet husband. Somehow, all of the darkness and the guilt faded away, and peace filled my heart.

I am thankful that I spent my husband’s last hours at home showing him in the best way I knew how, that I loved him. I still do. And I know that HE knows that.

Never underestimate the healing power of chicken noodle soup. ❤

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Recipe found via my sister in law Heather’s blog. It really is the easiest/ best recipe, and if you read her post, Ryan is the brother in law that ate a disgusting amount of rolls that day. 😉

http://bellesbazaar-heather.blogspot.com/2011/07/comfort-me-comfort-food.html

My Journal: The first three months

My five year old was missing her Dad so much yesterday. She begged me to find a way for him to come back. Gracie told me everything she could remember about her Dad. As I heard her version of Ryan’s last moments on this earth, my heart just ached. I would do anything to take this hurt from her–from all three of my children. But I just held her helplessly as she cried, and told her that I loved her and that her Daddy loved her. After we put the kids to bed, Ryan went to play tennis with a friend, and I had some time to myself. I completely fell apart. I sobbed for hours, and listened to his voice in old messages on my phone. I looked at pictures, and read emails, and truly let myself break. When Ryan came home, I was curled up in the blanket that I had wrapped Ryan in as he was taken off life support, with tears streaming down my face. He immediately dropped all of his tennis equipment, and held me in bed as I cried and cried. I sobbed for my own broken heart, but more than that, I cried for my children, and for Father that they will barely remember.

I am so glad that I met my sweet new husband when I was at my worst. It sounds strange, but he has watched me progress, and he has been there to pick up my broken pieces. He is able to remind me just how far I have come, because he has been with me through so much of it.

Today, I started going through the journaling that I did immediately following RJ’s death. When I think back to those days, to the crushing pain and the sleepless nights, I am so thankful for where I am today. I still have many days where I struggle. It still hurts, but I have become so much stronger, and I have been able to find so much joy despite it all.

I thought I would share some of my early writings from when my pain was so raw. My RJ had a stroke on October 15, 2015, and he passed away on October 19, 2015.

Here are snippets from my online journal from the months following:

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October 24, 2015

Ryan had a stroke. I saw him deteriorate. I held his hand, I planned his funeral, I said goodbye. I’ve cried for so long that tears won’t even come anymore most of the time. But it still isn’t real. His pants still hang in my closet where I left them after tucking him in bed. His razor lays where he left it that morning. The voice mails and text messages are still there. I irrationally wait for him to walk through the door at any minute. I have no idea how to live without him. He is my heart.

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October 27, 2015

I should be worried about what to make for dinner tonight. I should be busy driving kids around to activities. I should be hopping into the shower right now after working out. I should be waiting for Ryan to come home for lunch.

Instead I am running errands. Correcting death certificates, meeting with the school counselor, making phone calls to notify companies of Ryan’s passing, and waiting in line at the social security office.

It seems so foreign and wrong. He should be here.

October 28, 2015

I went to the temple today. It was hard to be there without him, but helped me to refocus. I have been struggling with the question, “Why now?” Why when we were so happy? Why when I have three babies that need their Dad? Why when we had so much to look forward to? Why when I need him so much?
Ryan must have been desperately needed on the other side. He always has been the most motivated, hard-working person I knew. I can see him now working feverishly to do the work he has been called to do, and all the while watching over and taking care of his family. I miss that boy more than anything. But he isn’t far away.

October 29, 2015

We got Addie off to school, fed the littles, and then Gracie and I headed back to bed for some snuggles this morning. I think the craziness of the past couple of weeks is finally catching up with me. I’ve been going on prayers and adrenaline. My body doesn’t react well to stress AT all. I’ve had SO many panic attacks, I can’t eat, I throw up all the time, and I’m exhausted. I’ve lost over 10 pounds. I feel numb, devastated, peace, and panic all day in waves. Let’s be honest people…I’m a mess.

November 2, 2015

In the hospital, I begged for the nurses to let me lie beside Ryan. It was the only thing that would help bring me comfort. Now I wish so much that I could hold his hand and lie my head on his shoulder one more time. I miss him. It physically hurts. I know that he is OK, and I know I will see him again. Eternity just seems so far away today. 💛

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November 5, 2015

Three weeks ago today time stopped moving for me. It is surreal that life keeps happening after something like this. People go grocery shopping, go to work, and are blissfully unaware of how time in my world has ceased to exist. It stopped the moment that I saw Ryan and knew something was seriously wrong with him. It seems like one long never ending day.

November 7, 2015

The girl in this picture…she was so young, naive, in love, and happy. If I could tell her something on her wedding day, I would tell her to live in the moment. I would tell her that marriage is wonderful and amazing, but also will take a lot of hard work and forgiveness to be successful. I would tell her that life won’t always be easy, but that the good always will far outweigh the bad. I would tell her that life is messy and heartbreaking and beautiful. That girl is gone forever, and I’m not sure I love being her replacement some days. But I can see how I have grown and changed. I hope one day I will be able to look back on today and see how far I have come. 💕

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November 8, 2015

It was a hard/beautiful Sunday. I have been so numb and unable to cry for the past few days…it sounds insane I know. I cried nonstop in the hospital and eventually got to the point where it wasn’t a release to cry anymore. And since the funeral I have struggled to let it out. But today the floodgates opened. I have cried so hard that my head aches now, but it feels so much better. Has it really almost been a month since this all started?

November 9, 2015

So glad that we had the time together that we did. And now that I know what true happiness feels like, nothing could ever prevent me from doing the things that I need to be with him again one day.

November 11, 2015

I started grief counseling today. My bishop and I both agreed that I need some extra help dealing with this crazy new life. It’s hard to try to keep things together for kids that desperately need stability, when you feel like a complete mess yourself. I drove to the counselor’s office, which is ironically directly across from where Ry worked. I almost canceled just because I didn’t want to make that drive. Then once I felt like I had finally conquered my fear and was sitting in the waiting room, I was handed paperwork to fill out. One of the first questions was marital status. For the first time in almost 9 years, I didn’t know which to mark: Married, single, or other…Widow. I’m a widow now. But I couldn’t bear to do anything but check the married box. I hate that he isn’t here. Every night I think my heart can’t break any more, and then every morning I wake up without him. And it does.

November 12, 2015

4 weeks. It has been four weeks since that Thursday. It was a horrible day, with beautiful tender mercies within. It is the day that constantly replays itself in my mind. Over and over. That morning, Ryan calling me sick on the side of the road, calling the Dr. when I started to worry, the ER, coming home and tucking Ryan into bed, making chicken noodle soup, leaving to pick up his prescriptions, the phone calls, rushing home, seeing him, the complete terror and confusion, 911, the second time in the ER, the scans and conversations with the team in Utah, the life flight and agonizing drive to SLC, the first surgery at the U of U, and the first night that I slept alone…looking out at the lights of SLC. In some ways I wish I could relive it all. It was the last day that he was himself.

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November 14, 2015

It looks like Christmas at our house! Decorating the tree was something we have always loved to do as a family….Ryan would do tree assembly, lights, and help the girls put the star on the tippy top of the tree. I was always in charge of the music, hot chocolate, and ornaments.

Honestly I don’t feel like doing any of that now, and if it weren’t for my kids I probably wouldn’t. But they need it. And they need me.

So I didn’t fall apart it when I found Ryan’s ornament from elementary school, or when I hung the stockings up and his was still on the garland from last year, or when Addie found an angel ornament and said “it’s just like Dad now.” Or when Gracie prayed for the third day in a row for Jesus to come again so she could have her Daddy back. I didn’t fall apart then, but I will now. Because I miss their Daddy too. Grieving and being a Mom at the same time is a difficult balancing act.

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November 15, 2015

Single mom. I am a single mom. I know that it has been a month (tomorrow) since I became one, but it hasn’t felt like it until now. My mom has been here the entire time, with my Dad coming back and forth as well. Until an hour ago. I felt confident that I would be fine as I saw them pull away from my house. That lasted for about 10 minutes.

Then as I looked at my beautiful, amazing children I couldn’t help but think, “What if I’m not enough? How can I possibly be? Ryan was the best Daddy…how can I even come close to filling his void in their broken little hearts?” I know that on my own, I’m not enough. But I pray that with Heavenly Father’s help I can become more. I love my babies more than life itself. I know that HE feels the same way about me.

November 18, 2015

I don’t think I will ever get used to sleeping alone. So, I wear Ryan’s clothing, spray his cologne, and sleep on his side of the bed. I can’t stand sleeping on my side…the empty space is just too much. I fall asleep easily (thanks to medication), but mornings are difficult. The reality hits hard again and again: I really have to live for the rest of this earthly life without him. It feels like my heart has been ripped out of my chest. It hurts to breathe. It’s overwhelming, heartbreaking, and achingly beautiful. Because “grief only exists, where love lived first.”

November 19, 2015

For me so far, journaling is a way that has helped with my grieving process. I print off everything on this account as our family journal. And I so appreciate the support from all of you. So here we go…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

On October 19th, one month ago today, I had to say goodbye to my best friend. Ryan was on life support. He was receiving medical interventions that were only prolonging the inevitable. He had made his wishes clear earlier that week, and medically it was certain that it was his time to go. But to have to be the person to authorize it…to have to tell the doctors to remove the life-sustaining machines and tubes….to know that I would have to explain to my children why their Daddy would not be coming home… To kiss him for the last time and whisper goodbyes through tears in his ear….there are no words to even express it. It was the most difficult and heartbreaking day of my life. Honestly it was pure hell. To say I was a complete and total mess is a severe understatement.

But the moment my children walked into the NCCU I felt an overwhelming wave of peace. I was able to explain the situation to them in a way that was sacred with strength I KNOW I didn’t possess on my own. We went into his room, and I helped them say goodbye. As awful as it all was, I am SO grateful for many of the experiences we had. I have NO doubt that Ryan still lives, and that our goodbye was not forever. But our family is. 💕

November 21, 2015

It has been a hard few days. I am emotionally and physically exhausted, and the girls have been struggling. Nothing breaks my heart more than watching them sobbing because they miss their Dad. I am constantly finding pictures and notes that Addie has written. She told me that this is a picture of her calling her Dad in heaven. I so wish….😢💕 I would give anything to take it all away from them. IMG_5400

Grieving as an adult is beyond difficult, and for their innocent little minds to have to suffer through this is beyond heart wrenching.

November 22, 2015

I went into the bathroom to get ready for church, and opened up a drawer…it was full of Ryan’s things. Being in this house is a blessing and torture at the same time. He is everywhere. I miss him so much that it takes my breath away at times. I couldn’t do it anymore. I emptied it, saved things like his razor and deodorant and put it them away with the rest of our keepsakes. It almost hurts more to see it full of my things now though. Why does it have to be So. Hard.

November 23, 2015

I can do hard things. It is amazing how much there is to do after the death of a spouse. Life insurance, medical bills, probates, notifying companies of his passing, changing each bill into my name only, death certificates, picking out gravestone, figuring out inherited 401K pension and HSA, selling vehicles and consolidating payments, changing mortgage into my name, making a new will, meeting with accountants….the list goes on and on. It is so overwhelming. These are never things I have to do! I haven’t even paid our bills in 7 years! But I’m learning and figuring things out. Today was a win! Celebrating small victories.

November 24, 2015

I have started this post three times and keep going back and erasing it. I have finally decided that there are no words to describe how I feel right now. Broken. Confused. Devastated. Honestly nothing even comes close. I spent the day alone. It’s something that I desperately needed. I drove to Rexburg and went to all of the places that were important to us 9 years ago when we first met and married. I visited the temple…it was better this time than last. Then after grabbing a few things from the store, I stopped at the cemetery. And now I don’t want to leave. I probably couldn’t if I tried because the tears are flowing and I can barely see. I miss my best friend. I miss my person. I miss my husband. I wish there was another way. Most days I try to have perspective and faith. But right now I just can’t. I want him back.

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November 29, 2015

I can’t sleep. Even with medication, it eludes me. To say that I miss Ryan is such a severe understatement. It gets worse with every day that passes. I don’t think I will ever “get used” to him not being here. I have been craving a conversation with him, something that is very one-sided these days. I finally couldn’t take it anymore tonight. I ran and plugged in his phone (it was turned off a month ago)…and because he never deletes any of his texts I was able to read through past conversations that we had. It isn’t the same, but it will have to do for now. What I would give for a hug and to be able to hear him tell me that everything will be OK. He has always been the person that can comfort me best.

I think the absolute hardest thing about this trial is the never-ending pain. There is no end in sight, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. For the rest of my life, I will have a piece of me missing, and a heart that is broken. I will move forward, but I will never really move on. I don’t even want to. 💙

November 29, 2015

We are on day 3 of Hudson throwing up. I was exhausted this morning and fell asleep for a couple of hours once I got him down for a nap. I sent the girls to church with my friend and then checked my phone. Addie had sent me some sweet text messages while I was asleep. They said, “You’ve got this mom!” I am so grateful for the precious children that I have. Addie tries so hard to take care of me. She is so much wiser and more brave than any six year old should have to be! Gracie is hilarious and keeps me on my toes, and Hudson is the sweetest little boy! I would be lost without them. Plus they look just like their Daddy.

November 30, 2015

Survival mode. I thought I knew what that meant, I have had three babies…and being a mom is hard. But right now, I am truly in survival mode. Forcing food down, forcing patience with my kids, forcing myself to get out of bed, forcing myself to smile when I feel like crumbling and screaming and sobbing, forcing myself to inhale and exhale when the pain takes my breath away. I had no idea how EXHAUSTING grief could be. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I am wiped out. I’m running on cherry coke at this point. (Sorry mom) BUT I made it through today, and that is a win. One day closer to him.

December 4, 2015

When it rains, it freaking torrential downpours. Let me tell ya. “You are so strong.”…I hear it daily. But honestly I feel anything BUT strong. I mostly just feel so incredibly sad, and broken, and amazed that my heart is even still beating. Trust me, if it weren’t for my children, I would have crawled into that hole with Ryan gladly. Morbid and overly dramatic, maybe. But true. The initial blow of losing my best friend literally knocked my to the ground. There were moments in the hospital that I had to be peeled off the floor, sobbing. And they haven’t ended. The blows keep coming daily….I resent checking my mail because every time I do, there is another fire to be put out. I’m exhausted, and frustrated. I wonder when it will end, then remember that it won’t. Because even when the finances fall into place, and the legal matters are settled, and the condolences end (which I also dread), I still will be without my husband. And my children still have lost their Dad. And he will never baptize them, or take them on their first date, or go camping with them, or proudly watch their dance recitals…not in the same way anyways. Life will never be the same. I irrationally feel like happiness is unobtainable for me now. I logically know that time and healing WILL take place. But today, the tunnel is long, and the light is non-existent.

December 6, 2015

“When my strength is weak, I can feel you carry me. In the darkness left for blind, I can feel your hand in mine. And your whisper heals my soul, and I plead with all I know: don’t let go, don’t let go.” The words of this song say the things that I don’t even know how to put into words. Today I am so thankful for those who are carrying me. My savior, my family, the earthly Angels around me, and my Ryan. Even though I can’t see him, I can feel him near at times, and I know he is still watching over and taking care of our little family.

December 8, 2015

9 years ago today, Ryan asked me to marry him. I was 18 and crazy! So I said yes…and it was the best decision I have ever made in my life. I’m so glad that I get to spend eternity with my best friend. 💚💛 He really was SO good to me. I was ridiculously spoiled to be married to such an amazing man. We both found the love of our lives! And now I’m going to invest in a herd of cats (is it called a herd?) and be the widow cat lady on Hershey Loop until I’m old and wrinkly and get to be with him again. 🐈Be excited neighbors!

December 8, 2015

And this is why I am so INCREDIBLY overwhelmed. These are all medical bills (incorrectly billed), forms to be filled out, and companies that need to be called. This is one visit to the mailbox! It happens Every. Single. Day. None of these are low priority, and all need to be done ASAP! Can I run away yet?

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December 9, 2015

I haven’t listened to the radio since Ryan passed away, but I happened to turn it on this morning on the way to my grief counseling appointment. After my appointment I was feeling overwhelmed with my day and pretty discouraged. I turned on my car and our song immediately came on the radio. It may be silly, but I feel like there is no way that it was a coincidence. I needed some love from my Ry and it brought a lot of comfort to think that he is with me–especially when it is hard.

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December 12, 2015

I have always loved the rain. The smell, the sound of it hitting the window, the fresh smell outside, and baking bread while I curl up with a book and a blanket. Ryan and I used to joke about how I should have been a meteorologist because I love clouds and watching storms.

The day that Ryan passed away, it rained. I watched it hit the windshield as we drove home from the U. I felt like every drop was coming from heaven, and since then I have found comfort in rainy days. Today I miss him SO much.

December 13, 2015

I am different. Losing Ryan has changed me in so many ways. Instead of waking up this morning thinking about my day like I used to, I awoke with a flashback of the hospital: Making the final decision to remove life support. It haunts me. I know that God had already made the decision, and there was nothing left to do to save him. But I had to LET it happen. I had to choose the time, and the medication used, i had to plan the day around my husband’s death. I relive it over and over.

When I wake up, I feel the now familiar heaviness in my chest and pit in my stomach. I feel the overwhelming feeling of helplessness, and the pure agony of that day, and every day since. I am forever changed. I feel jaded, and cheated of my innocence. I will never look at life the same way again. I have happy moments, but doubt I will ever feel truly happy again. A huge piece of my heart is missing. I’m not ok. I’m not “fine”…but if you ask that is what I will tell you. Because I don’t even know where to start when people ask how I am. I don’t want to burden anyone else with the darkness that I feel so often. I’m NOT ok today, but maybe one day I will be.

December 15, 2015

It’s surreal how fast time is moving, yet how it has stopped. 2 months ago today, I heard Ryan speak for the last time. Even after his stroke, his final words were of concern for me and for our family. I am so grateful for that tender mercy. With difficulty, Ryan was able to communicate and told me how much he loved me. He gave me a hug, and I snuggled up with him in the hospital while we waited for the air ambulance to arrive. I didn’t know (although I feared) that I was saying goodbye to my husband. My heart aches to be able to have one more conversation with him now, but that will have to wait. One day closer.

December 16, 2015

Perks of being a Widow:

1. I can eat organic mashed potatoes from Costco for days and my family doesn’t care if we live on cereal and chicken nuggets.

2. Wait that’s it. 😳

December 17, 2015

Wearing my wedding ring makes me feel sad. It is a constant reminder that I am married but alone. I feel uncomfortable with it off…like it is a sign that I’m “single and ready to mingle”…which really is SO not happening. Maybe ever. I have debated the ring situation. Today I added Ryan’s wedding ring to my necklace, and it has been comforting to have close to my heart. It feels right.

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December 18, 2015

It’s been a crazy morning! Yoga pants and hats save lives. 😉 I have been STRESSED out this week. Addie is struggling, I am a big mess, Hudson is teething and has a sinus infection, my house needs some serious cleaning, and I have been having to learn how to make huge financial decisions alone. My husband was a banker. Let’s be honest, he took care of all of that…I feel like I have been thrown in the middle of the ocean and then expected to learn how to swim. It’s a lot! But I have such a great support system. So thankful for the people who have been so willing to help me.

People are SO good. I went to the ear nose and throat specialist once a couple of weeks ago for an appointment to schedule my tonsillectomy. Today the nurse from that office showed up at my house with boxes and boxes of gifts and food. My tree had maybe 3 gifts under it before they got here. I’ve been dreading Christmas. They were anonymously given, so to whoever was so kind to my family. Thank you.

December 19, 2015

Two months ago I had to make the most horrific decisions…choices I never saw coming in a million years. Two months ago my amazing husband and best friend passed quietly to the other side. To say I “miss him” is such an understatement….but I do. In the two months that have gone by I have learned so much. I feel more capable of taking care of my family alone. But I ache to have him here with us. Two months closer.

December 21, 2015

I have been dreading Christmas. Gingerbread houses, decorating, Christmas music, buying and wrapping gifts, parties, pretty much all of the things that I usually love about this time of year. It all just seems so hard, and trying to force it is exhausting.

But tonight as I sit in my spotless house (thank you! You know who you are! 💕) I can’t help but think about Him. The one who suffered far beyond what anyone can comprehend. Without him, there would be no peace. Without him, families couldn’t be eternal. Without him, hope would be lost. Even on my hardest days, I know that he is there…that he hurts with me, and that he is waiting for me to give him my broken heart. He is the only one that can mend it. I am so thankful for the precious gift that our Father gave to the world. He truly is my Savior. And that is something that I can be genuine in celebrating.

December 25, 2016

I survived my first Christmas. It was a day of some forced smiles, some real smiles, and a lot of keeping myself busy. At the end of the day I put on Ryan’s clothes and sprayed some of his cologne, (why do I torture myself?!) and immediately started sobbing. I miss him. I miss his smell, I miss his laugh, I miss his hands, I miss his hugs, I miss his voice, I miss his smile, I miss everything about him. Even the annoying things like how he always ripped the bottom of my perfectly tucked in sheets out every night for his feet to “breathe.” Or how I was always cleaning the whiskers off of my counter after he shaved. Or his snore when he would roll onto his stomach at night. Now I have a perfectly made bed, clean countertops, and a quiet bedroom. And i hate it. What I would give for one more day. For one more regular boring Netflix watching day. Or even one more argument for that matter. I would take anything. Soak in the mundane little moments, you just never know when life will turn upside down.

December 26, 2015

Dreams. I didn’t have any while I was taking sleep aids for the first 7 weeks after Ryan passed away. I was in a drugged sleep, just grateful to be resting with the crazy anxiety I was experiencing. I stopped taking them a couple of weeks ago though, and so looked forward to dreaming about Ryan. I just want to talk to him and see him, even if it is just in my subconscious mind. But I haven’t. I have no idea why, he is all I think about. I dream about meaningless dumb things. It is getting SO frustrating. I beg myself every night and pray to just have a happy dream where we are together. I NEED it. My real dreams have been shattered in so many ways…I really don’t feel like it is asking for much. So here I go, to sleep. Missing my person, and praying that I will be able to see him just for a moment in my memory.

December 27, 2015

This, people, is what pure exhaustion looks like. I am getting ready to head to bed (it’s 7:48pm)! I packed up my littles and they headed up to Canada for a week or so with my parents while I have my tonsillectomy. I feel a bit guilty to say that I am relieved to have time to myself. I can be a complete mess without scarring my children for life. 😉 I can lay in bed a bit longer and can just take care of me for a few days. Ryan was so good at giving me breaks, and he took such good care of me, this new “self care” thing is going to take some getting used to. But I need it, and my kids need me, so I think alone time and extra sleep will help me be a better mom later. If only I were on vacation instead of getting my annoying tonsils removed.

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December 30, 2015

I miss Ryan. I miss my best friend, I miss my husband. But as much as I miss him for myself, I miss him so much more for my babies. He adores them, and they love him so much. I know he will be there in so many ways for them still, but I so wish that he could tickle them, wrestle on the ground, give them scratchy kisses, and be the one to give them priesthood blessings. It breaks my heart to have them miss their Dad.

I looked through pictures on Ryan’s phone tonight, and I can’t believe how much Hudson has already changed. He started walking while we were in the hospital. He has started to say a couple of small words, and he acts more like a toddler than a baby lately. I know Ryan is still his biggest cheerleader, and that he celebrates every milestone with me as he watches over his little buddy. He was SO excited to finally get his boy, and I have no doubt that he is still as proud as ever of our little Hudson Jack.

December 31, 2015

Oh how I love that scruffy face. I saw someone two days ago wearing the same exact hat and from a distance I could almost pretend it was my RJ. My heart skipped a beat. It was irrational, yet comforting, to pretend just for a second that he was at the same restaurant as me and that everything had been a horrible dream. I love him! He’s always been my person that makes me feel like I’m “home.” So glad that our marriage will last forever…8 years is nowhere close to long enough for me!

2015….it is so bitter sweet to say goodbye. We were (and still are) so blessed, and probably were the most happy we had ever been. I loved my little family, and our beautifully imperfect life.

2015 was also by FAR the most devastating year for our family. I feel pretty torn about starting a new year without my husband. But every day lived brings me closer to the day when I will see him again. I have so much to look forward to with my children, and I have found the rock at the bottom. 😉It can only get better from here on out. (pretty please!) Bring it on 2016.

January 5, 2016

9:30 and I’m in bed. Weird. As crappy as having surgery is, I admit I REALLY needed the rest. I was exhausted emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I had a pretty awesome breakdown the day before my tonsillectomy. I ate Chinese food for breakfast, was looking at buying a house in Idaho Falls, made a hair appointment (was going to cut my hair really short) and then canceled, and made an online dating profile. 😳 All horrible decisions! I don’t want ANY of those things. I probably needed a good couple of weeks of pain killers and sleep.

January 7, 2016

2 years ago we made a hard decision…Ryan chose to take a huge pay cut. There was potential for long term growth, but it also meant more time at home, and less travel. Because of this decision, we were able to have him home with us so much more the last two years of his life. I got to spend most lunch breaks with him. He had more time for us. I am SO grateful that he made the decision that he did. He was following promptings back then without knowing why. I can see now the huge blessing that it was, even though it seemed like a gigantic sacrifice.

January 12, 2016

My kids have been asking to call their Dad. They call his phone again and again to hear his voicemail. They leave him messages telling him that they love him. They tell him how much they miss him, and about all of the things they love to do with him. I am so glad that they are opening up about their feelings. I think it is such a healthy way for they to “tell” their Dad all of the things they long to say…but it honestly Rips. My. Heart. Out. Every time. My babies NEED their Dad. I hate that it his voicemail is the only way that they can hear his voice. Some days the grief is just so overwhelming. I didn’t understand before what a toll it really takes on a person. It is the most exhausting thing…it is physically painful. It hurts to think, it hurts to breathe, it hurts to do normal every day things, it just plain hurts.

I have read a lot in the past couple of months, and it often has been said that grief is the strongest human emotion. I agree. All except for one….the love for my children overrides everything. If my kids need to call their Dad, I pretend that I’m not falling apart inside. Every day I get out of bed and take care of them. Even on the days when I want to lay in bed and cry until I am a puddle of tears (which are more often than not). In the hospital, all I could feel was my own pain…until my children walked in. In that moment all that mattered was making sure that they were ok, and that they had a sacred last experience with their Dad. It is amazing just how strong the instinct is to protect my children. Motherhood is a beautiful thing. It saves me from myself every single day.

January 13, 2016

Living without Ry is like living without half of myself. Oh how is miss him. I took so many things for granted before: Being able to text him, seeing his name on my call ID every day when he drove home from work, quick kisses before saying goodbye, Netflix and popcorn date nights, having someone to hold my hand in the car, cooking for someone who appreciated my work, getting ready for church and hearing him tell the kids “you have the most beautiful mom”….I miss the little things the most.

It has been a rough week. Let’s be honest the past three months have been unbearable at best. Today, I finally couldn’t hold it in anymore. The tears started flowing early on, and I couldn’t get them to stop. I was a utter and complete sobbing mess. I feel like Satan has been working overtime on me. He knows how vulnerable I am and some times I give in and listen to the voice in my head that tells me that I am completely alone. The same voice tells me I am not enough, and that I should just give up. It is overwhelming and just plain hard to fight all of the time. Tonight I finally realized that I needed extra help. I texted my bishop and he came over with a couple of friends to give me a blessing of comfort and healing. I needed it desperately. Every single thought and struggle I have been having lately was addressed. I feel comfort now more than I have in weeks. I am so thankful for the priesthood, and though I don’t have my husband here to access it through him, there are so many worthy men willing to help. I ended the night reading one of my favorite conference talks, and a bath. Because, seriously. Who doesn’t feel motivated after soaking in bubbles and listening to Jeffery R. Holland?!?

January 14, 2016

4-5:30pm used to be the hardest tIme of my day. Bored and hungry kids would cry and hold onto my legs begging for attention while I would attempt to put a healthy meal on the table. Finally, we would hear the garage door creak open and the kids would bolt for the door. “Daddy’s home!” Ryan would come inside and quickly change out of his work attire. The kids would impatiently talk to him through the door of our walk in closet. Then it would begin. The fun parent was finally home! Ry would lay on the ground and fake sleep while the kids giggled and tiptoed around him…until he would explode into a tickling frenzy. The air would fill with shrieks and laughter. He would wrestle with them all. The girls jumping on top of him while he held Hudson high above his head in the air. Tickle Monster. It was their favorite. Sometimes I would sit and watch smiling to myself, sometimes I would ignore it all and enjoy a moment to myself. Once in a while I would try to quiet the unruly screaming. What I would give for those sounds to fill my home now.

After Ryan had his stroke, his speech was very limited. He was only able to communicate a few things. I will never forget his face when he looked up at me and said, “I just want to go home and play tickle monster.” I can’t imagine how terrifying it had to have been for him. He was trapped in a body that wouldn’t do what it always had done. But all he could think about were Addie, Gracie, and Hudson. I am positive he didn’t want to leave them. He wanted to be there for the big things, and for little things. Like tickle monster. It’s funny, somehow the little things mean the most now.

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January 19, 2016

3 months. Has it really been 3 months!?! It is still hard to believe how much has changed for our family in such a short amount of time. The days are excruciatingly slow though, and it honestly seems like it has been a lifetime since Ry passed away. We miss him. The kids had an especially hard night last night. Addie woke up screaming 4 times before 11pm…and I ended up with two crying girls in my bed for the night. I wish I could take it all away from them, and that we could wake up from this never ending nightmare. But I can’t. So we are focusing on finding peace. I am learning to use the atonement in a way I never have before. It truly is the greatest gift.

 

Lessons I have learned through Widowhood:

Losing my husband has been the hugest trial of my life, but through my loss, I have experienced so many opportunities for growth. I have learned so much about myself, about grief, and about the things that are truly important in this life. Over the past year and a half, I have written down snippets here and there, but I wanted to document some of the biggest lessons that I have learned while journeying through widowhood so that as time passes, I remember.

Here are twenty things I have learned since becoming a widow:

  • The world is full of wonderful people. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of support and love that was shown to my family when my husband passed. Hundreds, if not thousands of people came rushing to our aid. Food, flowers, kind words, meals, donations, service, the list really is endless. Widowhood has shown me the good in the world.
  • Grief is so much more than a period of sadness and mourning. I never understood the effects of grief before experiencing my own loss. Grief has an effect on every aspect of your life. Not only is it an emotional roller coaster, the pain experienced after my husband’s death was very literal. It effected me physically. My heart literally hurt. I felt like the air had been knocked out of me. I was sick to my stomach. I had very very real pain throughout my body. I couldn’t sleep, eat, or think clearly for months. I lost a significant amount of weight, and couldn’t get my appetite back. Even now, a year and a half later I struggle with anxiety, memory loss, lack of focus, and heartache. Grief takes an incredible toll on your mind, body, and spirit. It changes you.
  • Go for it. Follow your dreams. Take that trip, climb the mountain, learn a new skill, enroll in the class, whatever is that you keep putting off, just do it. Life is uncertain, and if you don’t do it now, you may never get the opportunity later.
  • Live in the moment. Don’t wait until you’ve gotten the pay raise, until you finish school, or until you live in the perfect house. Don’t wait until later. Be content, and love your life the way it is right now.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. I remember feeling so jealous when I heard people complain about trivial matters. I truly missed things that my husband did that used to drive me crazy. Dirty socks on the floor, snoring at night, whiskers on the bathroom counter…don’t cry over spilled milk. One day you may realize that you just wish you had some milk to spill! This isn’t always easy, and is something I constantly have to remind myself of, as I tend the sweat all of the small stuff. 🙂
  • Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy, even in the midst of trial. This is so much easier said than done, but it can be done. Look for the good.
  • Tell your spouse you love them. Say it every day. My RJ was so good at this. He always made a point of kissing me and telling me he loved me before he left the house. Even if we were angry with each other, he would insist that he always wanted the last thing he said before leaving to be an expression of love. “You just never know,” he said. And he was right. You just never DO know. So tell the people you love just how much they mean to you. Leave nothing unsaid. If I could say just one thing to him today, it would be three words. “I love you.”
  • Take pictures. Just do it. We decided to get new family pictures taken just 5 days before my husband suffered his unexpected stroke. They are priceless to me now, along with the other hundreds of pictures that I had taken over the years. (I included a few at the end of this post) Capture those moments, for yourself, and for your children. For my youngest child, pictures and stories will be the only memories that they will have of their Father. Also, material things just don’t matter. But memories do. Make memories, and have experiences with those you love. And don’t forget to document them!
  • Be financially involved. My husband was a banker, and he had paid our bills for years. I really wasn’t involved in our day to day finances. This was a HUGE burden after he passed. I spent hours on the phone with companies moving things into my name, and trying to log into our accounts. Be a team financially. Know where your money is going, and how to get access to all of your accounts. And for goodness sake, get the life insurance.
  • Say yes to help. Condolences end, but grief doesn’t. Say yes to dinner, babysitting, and extra help around the house. Say yes, and know that soon enough, you will be doing it all on your own. Those who offer you help truly love you, and they want to be there for you. Don’t take away the opportunity they have to be blessed from serving you in your time of need.
  • Timelines don’t exist. People will tell you when and for how long you should be grieving. Move at your own pace. There is no right time to move forward, or a limit to the time that you are allowed to mourn your spouse. Do what makes you happy, and forget others and their opinions of you. The only thing that really matters, is that you feel content with your own choices.
  • Self Care is essential. Soon after my husband passed I realized just how important it was for me to take care of myself. When I was running on empty, I had nothing left to give my children. As a solo parent, I couldn’t afford to not be able to function. Bubble baths, breaks, exercise, massages, early bedtime…do what ever it is that you need to do to recharge. It will feel selfish at first, but will make you a better parent overall.
  • You deserve to be happy. You will feel guilty for laughing. It will be a foreign emotion at first, but go with it. Your loved one would want nothing less for you. When you are ready, be unapologetically happy. Smile and mean it.
  • Everyone grieves differently. Watching others grieve has been interesting for me. No two people grieve the same. Some try to avoid all things related to their loved one, while others feel the need to sort through their belongings immediately. Some keep themselves so busy that they don’t have time to think, while others lay in bed for weeks. Some cry constantly, others find it hard to express any emotion and find themselves feeling numb. I have experienced all of these ways of grieving at different points in my journey, and they are all ok. I think the important thing to remember is to let yourself feel. Get your emotions out, but don’t allow yourself to stay stuck in “the dark place.” Cry for as long as you need, then wash your face and keep moving forward.
  • You will feel it all. Anger, numbness, sadness, regret, loneliness, hope, shock, guilt, loneliness, and moments of joy all can exist at the same time. You can be happy and said simultaneously. When I told my therapist how exhausted I felt, even after getting the appropriate amount of rest, she explained that my body was on overload. I was feeling too much at once. I was emotionally and physically drained, and had far less energy than normal. Feel it all, and realize that you aren’t truly going crazy. 😉
  • You are stronger than you think. When my husband first passed, people would tell me all the time that I was “so strong.” But, I felt anything BUT strong. I felt the weakest I had ever been in my life. Honestly, I was surprised that my heart could even continue to beat after being so violently shattered. I have learned, however, that you are your strongest when you feel the weakest–when you want more than anything to just give up, but you choose to keep going. That is where true strength lies. Strength lies in the moment when you feel the smallest, and when you are fighting the hardest.
  • Kids grieve too, and watching your child grieve is worse than grieving yourself. They will cry, act out, act like nothing is wrong, take it out on you, say horrible things, or just miss their parent. It is so difficult to help your children through grief when you are so broken yourself. Hold them, cry with them, and let yourself just be with them. You are what they need. Also, a good family therapist or counselor can be a lifesaver.
  • Give yourself grace. You won’t be perfect. You will have bad days when you feel stuck. You will take your pain out on others. You won’t have it all together. But does anyone really? Do your best and be ok with what you have to give. Say no to the extras. Do your best with what you have to work with, and remember that God is there to make up the difference.
  • You will never be the same. Profound loss will change you. You can learn, grow, and channel your pain into positivity, or you can become bitter. It really is your choice, and it is one that you will have to make again and again. Choose to stand up, and to thrive, and not just exist.
  • You are not alone. So many others have walked the same path as you. More importantly, Christ knows your every pain. The atonement is real, and he will never leave you comfortless.

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Waves

Yesterday was the seventeen month mark. So much can change in a second, let alone in seventeen months. My life was turned upside down in just a moment, when my husband passed from this life on to the next.

They say, grief comes in waves, and it is something that I have personally found to be true.

I go through phases: I have good days, weeks even. I feel happy, something I never could have imagined a year and a half ago. I am getting better at pushing away the sad/hard thoughts when they are triggered. I try to focus on remembering the good. Because there really was SO much good.

But my emotional state is still fragile, and I always eventually fall apart. All of the unresolved feelings that I have worked so hard to suppress since my last break down come out at once, and it hurts. Sometimes I am triggered by a memory, a song, a show on television, something one of my children says, etc. Last night it was my oldest daughter going to her ‘baptism preview’ that broke down the walls that I so diligently have been building.

A couple of weeks after my RJ passed away, I remember Addison’s eyes streaming with tears. “Mom who will baptize me now? I’ll be eight soon.” My heart broke as I acknowledged the fact that her Dad wouldn’t be there for that special day, or any of the other important days in my kids lives. At least not physically.

When I brought up her baptism a couple of months ago, I told Addison she could pick whoever she wanted to perform the ordinance. I reminded her that she is so blessed to have so many Grandpa’s and Uncles who would love to be there for her, and that are worthy priesthood holders. I was a newlywed, and didn’t want to make her feel any pressure to choose my new husband. She told me she would think about it. About half an hour later I asked her if she had given any thought to whom she would like to choose, and she casually said, “Yep! And I already asked him.” Surprised, I asked about her decision, and she smiled and said, “I picked Ryan. I get to have one of my Dad’s baptize me after all!” I felt like my heart might burst out of my chest, I was so full of gratitude. My children are so blessed to have two wonderful Dads who love them. I felt so much better knowing that Addison had been able to make her decision without worrying.

But last night, as my husband and I were discussing our plans for that day, I just couldn’t hold back the tears. This is the first of many big events in the lives of my children, where their father’s absence really stings.

He should be here.

I’m sure he is busy on the other side. I can just see him furiously working away on the work that he has been called to do. He must be an incredible missionary. And I know with my mind that if he was supposed to recover…if it truly wasn’t his time, he would have had some kind of miraculous recovery.

But my heart just plain doesn’t agree.

As much as I wish that I had a perfect understanding of why things had to happen the way they did, I am far too human. What could possibly be more important than raising his children? What could be more important that being a Father?

Addison will not be baptized by him. Instead, my daughter will be wearing her special ‘Daddy necklace’–the one with his fingerprint engraved onto a pendant. She wants to take a piece of her Dad into the font with her.

I know RJ is very much alive in spirit. I know he would never miss such an important day in his daughter’s life. But my heart still hurts knowing that I will never get to see him proudly smile as he helps our children out of the baptismal font. I will never see him take them on their first date. I will never watch him tear up at another dance recital (he was such a softy!) He won’t be there cheering at ball games or practices.  I won’t get to watch him giving our children away on their wedding day. He won’t ever hold our grandchildren.

Honestly the things I missed the most in the beginning were small. Holding hands, watching TV on the couch, dirty socks on his side of the bed…but being married has helped those things be less noticeable. I have someone, who I love, that I can do those things with again. I feel less lonely.

But the big things are hard. Holidays, birthdays, milestones… there have been so many times that I have wanted to text him pictures or videos of our kids. Times when I wish I could talk to him about our challenges and triumphs. He loved us so much. I miss him.

So I am sitting here, outside of my daughter’s preschool with tears steaming down my face as I desperately try to pull it together. My eyes are swollen, cheeks are blotchy, and nose is running. Pick up is in approximately 6 minutes. It’s not going to be pretty. You’d think a girl would learn to pack a purse with some Kleenex and makeup after seventeen months of widowhood. But alas I have proven myself to be glutton for punishment.

You can’t avoid, ignore, or run away from grief. I’ve tried. It may work for a time, but it always comes out eventually. The days keep passing, and waves keep crashing.

In the beginning the seas rage. Waves pummel you, while you just hold on and gasp for breath, and wonder if you could ever possibly survive such emotional battery. Over time you learn how to dodge the blows more effectively, and the waves hit less frequently. You can often even see them coming and can prepare. Sometimes you can smile as they rush toward you, finding happiness despite it all. But eventually you get tired of jumping, or a sneaky wave comes out of nowhere. The waves crash against you. You find yourself knocked off your feet, pushed to the bottom of the ocean floor, searching for a way back to the top. You come up gasping, exhausted by the effort, but somehow you know that you will make it through.

Because you have done it all before. And you know you will go through it all again.

And though I love when the water is calm again, and the storm subsides, I have also come to appreciate the strength I have found while enduring the waves. I am learning how to swim.

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“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm’s all about.” -Haruki Murakami

I am Mom…more often pronounced, “Mom. Mom. MOM. MOM! Mooooooooom!”

As a little girl, people would often ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was a no brainer for me. A mother. It was all I ever dreamed of being.

Today, I can honestly say that I have my dream job.

I’m a stay at home mom.

But just because it is my dream, doesn’t mean that it is always dreamy. Stinky (and clean) diapers, bottomless laundry piles of tiny clothing, crumb covered kitchen floors, and sticky fingerprints really are endearing little messes. I dread the day when my house stays clean, and I don’t have to remind anyone to use “their inside voices.” I am incredibly thankful for my three little children that make life worth living.

But motherhood is exhausting.

Motherhood is hard. Maybe THE hardest. Because it’s a real live PERSON you are responsible for raising.

Motherhood is answering five thousand questions about every topic imaginable.

Motherhood is cleaning the same kitchen, picking up the same toys, and wiping up the same spilled toothpaste enough times that you can’t remember what day it is…they are all the same.

Motherhood is waiting until nap time to break out the fancy Trader Joe’s ‘Chocolate Coconut Almonds,’ so I don’t have to share. (I may or may not be writing this while indulging on a few now.)

Motherhood is discipline, and frustration, and “winging it.” Because, no one really knows what they are doing…every kid is different. And there is no manual for parenthood.

Motherhood is hoping and praying that you are not completely messing up your tiny humans.

Motherhood is monotonous. It takes just long enough to see progress that sometimes it seems unattainable.

Yesterday, I was dealing with a child who lately, has been really acting out. Honestly, considering the immense amount of trauma and change she has experienced in the past year and a half, she truly has handled life with bravery and strength. But recently, have I began to see some negative behaviors that worry me. I have tried everything I can think of to help her, and nothing seems to be working.

And then it happened.

That little voice in my head that likes to tell me I’m not good enough started to get louder and louder. I wondered if what I was doing was right or even worth it, as I wasn’t seeing any improvement in my child’s behavior. I started to doubt my abilities, and felt like I was unable to parent my child in the way that she needs the most. I truly have so much anxiety about how losing their Father at such a young age could effect my children negatively in the future.

Honestly, more than anything, I just worried that I could be failing. Failing myself, failing God, and failing my children.

With tears of frustration, I vented to my husband. After he had listened to all of my doubts and worries, he stopped me. He looked me in the eyes, and told me the thing I truly needed to hear most.

He told me that I was a good mother.

He reminded me that my child’s negative behavior doesn’t mean that I am a bad parent. He helped me remember that the only perfect parent is God, and even he had a son that went astray. He reminded me that I have REALLY good kids, but that they are bound to make some choices that aren’t always the best. He reminded me that I am already doing the thing that matters the most…loving them.

And he’s right.

I’m far from being a perfect parent, but I love my kids fiercely.

I love them enough to say no. I love them enough to discipline them, even when it is exhausting. I love them enough to let them fail. I love them enough to hold them in my arms at the end of a difficult day, and to tell them that I love them more than anything. No matter what.

And after our conversation I did just that.

I held the sweet child who no longer fits in my arms. I told her that I loved her, and I watched the hardness instantly melt away from her face. And then, I said a silent prayer of gratitude to God for giving me the children that I have.

They really are my greatest challenge and my hugest reward. They teach me every day, more than I will ever manage to teach them. They will always be my life’s greatest accomplishment.

All I can do is my best. God will make up for my many shortcomings, and for the loss they have experienced. He loves them even more than I do, although it is hard to imagine such a love. He wants them to succeed. He wants to give them every opportunity to make it back to him again.

And he decided to give these particular children to me. Children who would feel immense grief and pain before they were really even old enough to understand their emotions. Children who would need the type of love and parenting that I specifically have to give.

He gave them to me because he wants them back, and I plan on doing everything in my power to make sure that he gets them.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again for doing everything wrong.” –Donna Ball

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Oh how I adore these sweet munchkins. Their older sister was at school while we went to the park today, but I fully intend to make her the next victim of my camera. 🙂

Take a Hike.

Ryan and I are firm believers in collecting memories, not things. Today we spent the afternoon of our four month anniversary hiking with the kids. Red rock canyon is a family favorite, and where our desert elopement was held. I couldn’t get enough of the cacti, beautiful weather, and the colors of the desert today. The kids surprised us and climbed enthusiastically up half of the mountain! I adore my little tribe of hikers!

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Wanderlust

I tend to write when I am emotional. Often, hard feelings force their way out of me, and I find myself typing furiously as my feelings flow into sentences and paragraphs. I worry that my readers will only hear the hard parts of my life, though my life these days is equally full of happiness. So here is a much less heavy post. 🙂

Ryan and I went to the United Kingdom in January. My husband has had a serious case of wanderlust for years. He has traveled to 42 countries, some of them more than once! I love traveling, but had only been to Canada, the United States, and Mexico. On this trip we flew to Sweden (although we didn’t leave the airport so I don’t count it as a country visited), then explored as much of England, Scotland, and Wales as we could fit into our week away. On the way home, we had a few hours to spend in Denmark as well. Although I have more than doubled my list of countries visited, I still have a long way to go if I am ever going to catch up to Ryan! His adventurous soul is one of the many things that I find so attractive about him. He’s just so much fun to spend time with, and he really enjoys life! Since losing my first husband, I have so much more of a desire to really make my days count as well, so he is perfect for my tentatively adventurous self.

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For Christmas, Ryan had an envelope tucked under the tree. I was beyond excited when I opened it to find tickets to ‘Harry Potter World,’ and then I reread the paper and saw that it was to Warner Bro’s studio …in LONDON! I may have happy cried a little bit! He had arranged with his parents to stay with the kids, and it was the perfect surprise!

I could go on and on about how much I adored the history, landscapes, culture, FOOD, the castles, everything! But this was our basic itinerary:

Day 1- Travel! We flew from Vegas to Stockholm, then from Stockholm to London. We arrived in England and drove tenetively to our airBnB–the wrong side of car and road was a bit stressful, although Ryan did very well. We ate some Indian food, and then crashed in bed. Who knew sitting in a plane for hours could be so exhausting!

Day 2- London! We saw all of the touristy stuff we could fit in: Buckingham Palace, The British Museum, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, Big Ben, the London Eye, rode on ‘The Tube,’ ate fish & chips, saw  the Tower Bridge, rode the London Underground to Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross, and even managed to fit in a show at the end of the night! It was a long and wonderful day!

Day 3- Windsor Castle and Harry Potter World, then we caught a flight to Edinburgh, Scotland. Traditional food we tried: Bangers and Mash, and the Eaton Mess.

Day 4- Edinburgh castle, the ‘royal mile,’ we then we met up with ‘The Mad Fientist’ (a financial independence blogger Ry follows) at a Scottish pub and enjoyed meat pies. Afterward we took a long road trip on narrow country roads south to Wales.

Day 5- Wales! We Found an old abandoned castle right out our window when we woke up, and spent the entire day exploring it and two other medieval castles! (My personal favorite part of our trip)

Day 6- Bath, The Cotswolds, and Stonehenge. The Roman Bath houses were pretty incredible! I have always loved learning about Roman history, and it is a place I would love to visit one day. Stonehenge was amazing and mysterious to see in real life! Traditional food highlights: sticky toffee pudding and (for Ryan) Black Pudding Salad.

Day 7- Manchester! We explored shopping areas downtown, ate street food, and then went to a ‘football’ match–Ryan’s favorite part of our trip! Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspurs at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester! We drove back to London that night so we could catch an early morning flight to Copenhagen, Denmark.

Day 8- Travel and Copenhagen. We had a few hours to spare while we waited for our flight from Copenhagen back to Las Vegas. We took a train downtown, ate, and went to a grocery store to buy snacks for our returning flight. We got home just after the kids had gone to sleep, and I couldn’t wait until morning to kiss and squeeze them! It was such a fun trip, and I’m a lucky mama to have such a great family to look forward to coming home to.

Claustrophobia

Widow rant:

Today I have struggled.

Today, that ever patient darkness really started to close in on me.

I went from cleaning out my closet and tickling my silly kids, to sobbing on the phone to my best friend/sister.

I have had other trials, some with definite endings: like when I finally delivered a healthy baby after a stressful pregnancy. I have had trials that have eventually gotten easier after months or years of struggling: like when I miscarried our twins at 10 weeks.

But this. Some days, it’s just too much.

The enormity of it is overwhelming. It has become part of me, and though I want to move forward as much as I can, I fear the pain of it will always be there, looming and waiting. There is no end in sight.

I feel a strange sense of claustrophobia…that intense urge to run out of the confining situation, to see the sun, and to breath deep, long, cleansing breaths. But there is no escaping my situation. There is no escaping the memories or the trauma or the heartbreak.

Though it isn’t as constant as it was in the beginning, grief is always there waiting to smother me when I least expect it. Whenever I have time alone, whenever I am not busy, or when something triggers a memory. It happens daily. Hourly. And the burden of it… it’s just a lot. Somedays, more than I can handle.

I hope that I eventually will become used to the weight, and that it will be less noticeable over time. Maybe one day I will even thrive and will be stronger despite, or more likely because of it.

But today, I have just been craving the carefree lightness that I didn’t even realize I used to enjoy…until it was gone. I miss being the me I was before.

So I’m running to the place where I can find glimpses of light again. It’s the only place I have found where the heaviness is pushed away, and the darkness lifts. For me, that place is the scriptures. These verses bring peace. Peace that today, I NEED.

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

One day, when I am able to speak with my sweet Savior, I will bathe his feet with my tears of gratitude. I doubt that I will be able to say anything, but “Thank you.” And I won’t need to say anything else.

He will know.

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Mexico

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Our honeymoon was exactly what we both needed! After a crazy couple of months of packing, moving, cleaning, and planning our small wedding, an ocean escape was so wonderful. We stayed at the Aria in Las Vegas the night of our wedding, then left on a fancy cruise to Mexico the next morning. Ryan surprised me with a balcony room, and eating breakfast with my own private view of the ocean was my favorite! A few of the highlights of our trip were: horseback riding on the beach, a banana boat ride, zip lining through a rain forest in Puerto Vallarta, the FOOD, hiking to the highest lighthouse in the world, shopping, jumping waves in Cabo, a tour of old town Mazatlan, and doing a session in the San Diego temple. And the ocean sunsets were amazing! Such a fun way to start out our life together. ❤

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