Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween! My 12 year old neighbor Rachel and I put together a Halloween Block party today. It turned out great. My kids loved having a bounce house to play in all day. So did all the other neighborhood kids. And the weather was perfect for sitting out and visiting with great neighbors.  Here are a few photos from the day.

Dr. Annie is trying to look happy after being in a grumpy mood.

Little ladybug Lauren got a cute ladybug painted on her cheek.


My bride girl Sabrina was having fun taking care of the little kids and playing in the bounce house.

We had a pot luck dinner this evening. It was well attended with 10 of the 15 houses in our development participating. 

The other night was our ward trunk of treat. Here is a seriously serious photo of all of us dressed in our costumes for the event. It was fun even though my tummy hurt and I felt crummy. 
We haven't had too many trick or treaters tonight. We live too out of the way for people to bother coming up for only 10 houses. One thought hit me that night of the trunk or treat though. I watched as all the one year olds came to me to trick or treat. That is when Halloween becomes magical for a kid is at one year old. 

Suddenly, you can walk up to people and they just give you candy. All you have to do is say "thank you." I think all my kids have learned to say "thank you" on Halloween. They watch the first few houses and then by the 5th house they are all ready to hold out their bag and say "thank you!" I missed having my own one year old that night to teach how to trick or treat. I missed hearing what her little thank you would have sounded like. But I enjoyed seeing so many others her age waddling around the parking lot in wonder and awe. 

Life goes on and children learn and grow. My little one is learning and growing in ways I can only imagine. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Gift

Jon's cousin Dana stayed with us a year ago. He just found this picture of Camille on his cell phone from that trip. Thanks Dana for sending it. It is such a gift. I know it isn't the best photo quality but I love it. I love that I can see the girly shape of her eyes in it. I love the reminder of this time of her life when she loved to gnaw on her high chair tray.

It is a strange thing to see pictures of your deceased child that you didn't know existed. Each one is like seeing something new your child has done. Just when you thought you had seen every picture and had consigned yourself to the fact that there won't be any new moments. There won't be any more photos. There won't be any new things to learn. 

Just then, sometimes you get a special gift like this. A glance at your child you didn't see during her life. A new picture. It is a treasure beyond description.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Are We There Yet?

Remember road trips? We have done a few of those in the last month. Inevitably our kids ask within the first 30 minutes the all too famous question, "Are we there yet?"

This happened on our last trip to California. Lauren asked this about 20 minutes into our 5 hour drive. I thought to myself how different a child's perception is of time. Lauren knows that her cousin Charlotte's house is far away. So after 20 minutes, she figured it had been a long time and surely we must be close.

Near the end of our trip, in what was not the middle of the night, Lauren was tired of driving. She does not sleep well in the car and it was near 11 p.m. She was just tired. Finally, about 20 miles from our destination, Lauren said, "Mom, this is too long. I want to go to bed. Let's just go home. It is too far to Charby's house."

I had a pretty vivid dream the other night about living in California and trying to get home from an outing. But the freeways were shut down and there was rioting in the streets. There was an enormous mushroom shaped cloud of smoke the size of a city over the city across the bay from where I was. It felt like the end of world. 

I woke up thinking I better get my 72 hour emergency kit updated for kids clothes and put it in my car, just in case I am somewhere I can't get home when a disaster strikes. The more I have thought about this dream, the more I have found myself asking, "Are we there yet? Is it time for the second coming yet?" 

Sometimes, I feel just like Lauren in those first minutes. It has been a long time, we must be near. The world is so wicked, we must be close. But then maybe we are only 20 minutes into this 5 hour ride. I hope not. I hope we are closer. Somehow I think whenever that day comes, whoever is alive to see it will feel like Lauren did late that night. "I am tired. I am ready to rest. Let's just go home." The real trick will be enduring then. 

Maybe that is why the Lord gives us so many personal 11th hour trials. You know the ones where you are praying to help and help doesn't come till the last second possible when it seems like all is lost. Maybe he is building our endurance so that in that time before His coming we will be able to hold on a little long and wait for the peace that only He will be able to usher in.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pregnancy Mercies

I thought I might share now some of the interesting details of the early part of this pregnancy. And for those who are wondering, yes we will find out if it is a girl or boy if and when we can.

First, Sabrina was the first person I told. Finding out I was pregnant was a bittersweet experience. It has never been like that for me before. I was excited and had been trying with Sabrina, Lauren and Camille. Ann Marie was a surprise but not an unwelcome one. Each time I have seen the two lines on the pregnancy test I have instantly been excited and thrilled. 

This time we had been trying and I knew I would be disappointed if we were not pregnant. At the same time seeing the positive result did not fill me with excitement as in days past. I just took it in. I breathed. I was taking a huge step forward. I knew that. But sometimes it feels that steps forward are steps away from Camille. And so I let the bittersweetness of the moment have time to mellow in my soul.

I did not tell anyone for a day. Sabrina had been asking for many weeks about how exactly we could get some seeds planted in me so I could have a baby. So with Jonathan's prearranged permission, she was the first person I told. She in turn told her dad and then kept it a secret. 

The night after I told Sabrina I came down with Fifth's Disease. I posted about how sick I was back then. Fifth's Disease can cause miscarriage in early pregnancies. So for the first 4 weeks I told no one about the pregnancy. I told myself that I was not really pregnant, just late. I did not want to be disappointed by a miscarriage. 

I paid my doctor weekly visits so she could do tests to see if the pregnancy had survived my illness. Fifth's Disease either terminates the pregnancy or has no effect. It was an all or nothing threat. Weeks passed and the ultrasounds were inconclusive. Finally, at eight weeks, we saw a little blob in my uterus with a flickering heartbeat in the middle of it. 

This little peanut, as we are now calling him/her, had survived the week of 103 degree fevers and all the stress of Fifth's Disease. I felt an assurance that this baby would safely be brought into this world. I know many other mothers in my shoes fear losing their child, before or after birth. I do not have this fear anymore. Once I saw that heartbeat, I just lost all that fear. 

I do not know for sure that this will be born without complications and will grow up and live to a ripe old age. I don't know that for any of my kids. But I feel that all is in accordance with the Lord's plan for my life. I am following the river of peace that runs through our lives and guides us to where we are supposed to be. If that river suddenly takes an unexpected turn, as it did for me when Camille drowned, I will traverse that territory as it comes. But I know as long as I am following the river, there will always be peace to succor me through the trials through which I must pass to become the woman the Lord wants me to be.

To the woman who asked if I thought her fears were fears or premonitions, they are probably fears if they are coming right after you have read about a bunch of other kids dying. But, I could be wrong. No matter what, we still ought to live spiritually ready for whatever the Lord would have us endure. And it can't hurt to take extra photos and video of your kids. We all lose our little kids. Most do not die but they ALL grow up. We only have so many opportunities to capture their cute sayings on film. They will only have these sweet little baby faces for so long for pictures. We all need to take a minute every couple of months to capture our kids in film, video and through journaling. They just grow too quickly. No matter what the future holds, we will be glad we took the time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

News on the Waite Front

Some of you may have noticed that I have missed a few posts this week. I try to post everyday. The problem is that most days I have the time and inspiration for my post at night. The kids are finally in bed and my thoughts always wax more profound at night. This has always been true for me. 

So it has been pretty hard for me to post the last while because I keep falling asleep before my kids do. That and the fact that from 3 p.m. on I have been laid out on the couch, my bed, or in the tub trying not to think about how sick I feel. Yes folks, I guess it is as safe as it ever will be to announce that I am expecting -- 13 weeks now. That makes my due date May 5. Wahoo!

We are very happy about the pregnancy. It has been really hard and really wonderful all at the same time for me. The hormones have just made the grief that much more intense at times, but the hope and work of creating a new life is healing. Plus the sickness, while it basically sucks, is at least distracting. It is hard to focus on your hurting heart when you just want to hurl. 

As for the question I have been asked by all who know thus far -- "Do you want a girl or a boy?" My answer is a decided, "I don't care." I would like a healthy baby. If we are ever going to have a boy, this is probably a good time now that I have this big gap between kids. But I just love little girls. I would love to have another little girl. And I am curious about what it would be like to have a son. So really, I don't care or have any premonitions about that.

Jon on the other hand, well, he has informed the baby it is a boy. And he has a name all picked out. I just roll my eyes at him, his decision that this will be a boy, and his chosen name. I have heard all of that before from him - a few times.

So I still have a few sick weeks left. Usually I start to feel better between 14 and 16 weeks and then finally like food again by 18 weeks. I am just really hoping I am loving food by Thanksgiving. I really love Thanksgiving dinner. It is my favorite meal of the year. My parents are awesome cooks. I really want to be able to enjoy it this year. I should be 17 weeks by then so I am hopeful. 

I will try to start posting in the morning so I don't miss days, but I can't make any guarantees. Some mornings, I just have to go wrangle my little loveys. Judging from the pounding on the ceiling, I think I need to go do that right now.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Never Far Behind

There she is folks. Ann Marie Waite riding her two wheel bicycle. She has spent most of her life trying to catch up to her big sister Sabrina. They are only 19 months apart. She is a quick study and has never been too far behind her big sister to learn things. 

When Sabrina started taking piano lessons, Annie would spend hours figuring out how to play her pieces while Sabrina was at school. When Sabrina was learning to read, Annie was watching over her shoulder and learning right along with her. When we potty trained Sabrina, Annie decided she was done going in her diaper too. (She was just 12 months at the time.) 

So I knew it wouldn't be long after Sabrina learned to ride her bike that Annie took up the interest and learned too. For the record, it took her till Wednesday of this week. Now they are out riding nearly everyday. I am so glad the weather has been so nice. It is wonderful to see them out and doing fun things. 

Thanks for all the wonderful comments you have been writing. They really do perk up my day. Hope you all have a great weekend. I think we will be doing some bike riding.  :)

Way to go my little Ann Marie!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Proper Memorial

We visited the cemetery today. The marker for Camille's grave is up at last. I was unsure how I would feel when this day came. There is something so ... permanent and real about seeing it there. I was mostly fine at the cemetery. 

I thought the photo was ... a bit different than I expected. She looked really "Harris" in it to me. Sorry the close up I took with my cell phone is too blurry to put up. The name plate looks fine I guess. It just seemed ... too plain, too cold, to lifeless to be a proper memorial to my baby girl so full of life and mischief.

Usually my kids enjoy our visits to see Camille's grave. I think this change in the marker disturbed Lauren. Initially she was excited to see the photo and she walked up and kissed it. But within minutes she was begging to leave. She kept saying she was done seeing Millmills. It was too much she said. I am not sure we ever know the workings of a 3 year old mind, but for her benefit we left.

In the car on the way home, that is when I lost it. How can this be the memorial to the life of my daughter? It can't be. There is no memorial that man can make that would equal her beauty. There is nothing that can really capture or accurately depict the love we hold for her in our hearts or her thoughtful inquisitive personality.

No a proper memorial would have to be something living, something organic, something exquisitely beautiful. As I drove, a thought came to me. My life ... I could make of my life a proper memorial to her. This task seems daunting. And yet, I know with the Savior's help it is possible. I hope that at the end of my life, I will feel I have indeed lived a life worthy of a memorial to the life she did not get to live. I hope in the end both the Savior and Camille will be pleased with this work I create of my life. 

On the way home I stopped by Trader Joe's. It has been a long time since I was last there. I needed my fix on my favorite items there. I walked in to see these staring right at me:

Can I say I love Joe and his trading abilities. Where else do you find beautiful tulips in October for $6.99 a dozen? I bought a couple bunches and took them home. If I could, I would fill my house weekly with beautiful tulips. They are as beautiful and lovely, as organic and free spirited, as independent and driven as my sweet daughter Camille.

I love that tulips all grow in their own way. It makes them look like individual discoverers. Each finding its own path to the light. If anyone has seen some fake tulips as beautiful as these, let me know. That is what I want to fill the vase next to her name plate.

I loved these pink ones with the frayed edges. So feminine. One more shout out to Trader JOE!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Finding Hope in Despair

I have learned some valuable lessons about fighting the good fight with despair over the past 4 months. Pursuant to some comments about how we get through when we feel forsaken, left alone, and silence from heaven, I thought I would share some of what I have learned personally about these subjects.

First, I think everyone gets to a point in their lives where they feel forsaken. For some this comes early in life. For others it may not be until they are in their last days of life on earth. But I personally believe that it will come for all of us. Perhaps for many of us it comes more than once, maybe even multiple times.

These "forsaken" moments are defining opportunities in our existence. They are the most authentic test of our faith. It is easy to stay strong in the faith when we are surrounded by the love of the Lord. It is much more difficult if we are suffering and it seems are prayers go unanswered and we feel only silence from heaven.

Forsaken moments are not a sign of unrighteousness. Some of my greatest heroes had these moments. Nephi in the Book of Mormon when his father died had one of these I believe. Joseph Smith had some of these very dark times in Liberty Jail. And even the Savior felt forsaken as he performed the great and last atoning sacrifice.

The key in these moments is to hold fast to the iron rod or the word of God and stay true to our faith. Even in the darkness and silence we must hold on to our faith with a hope that the darkness will indeed end and light will come again. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to find this hope in the midst of despair. 

I should note here- I am not addressing the illness of depression. That is something with which I am not personally familiar. I have been depressed but have never suffered the illness of depression. I know there is a difference and those suffering from the illness should seek the medical help they deem appropriate to help them in that affliction.  

But if that is not your situation, and you find yourself feeling forsaken and in despair, may I offer one insight that has come to me through this trial of losing Camille. As you can imagine, I have had some pretty dark hours through this. I had faced these "forsaken" moments before this, but I have experienced a whole new level of despair and "forsaken" moments through this. 

One truth that has become apparent to me is how difficult it is to hear the Lord or feel His love or support when we are in the depths of despair. I think it is still there. But I think we are unable to feel it without faith and hope in our hearts. I have thought back on all the "forsaken" moments in my life and noticed a pattern of hopelessness in them. I did have desire to hear from heaven in these moments, but honestly I was too far into self pity, or despair to really have hope or faith in my heart. 

Perhaps this is just true for me. But I feel I have to have hope and faith in my heart to feel the support from heaven that I believe the Lord unfailingly sends me. Since coming to this enlightening, I have tried in my dark hours to keep my mind firmly planted in faith that heaven is near. Each time, I have felt peace in the silence of my empty nursery. I have felt words come to my mind of support and encouragement from armies of kindred spirits sent to buoy me up with understanding companionship.

In one of my lowest hours, definitely the lowest after leaving the hospital, I felt complete despair and felt forsaken. I had no faith that the Lord would answer my prayers or help me in my time of need. In this hopeless state I prayed and felt the silence. (This was before I had the epiphany that I needed hope to hear the help.) At this point, I reached out for my life preserver here on earth. I called my parents. My mother pointed out how richly my life was blessed. At the time, her words rang on nearly deaf ears. I could not see my blessings at that point. Or at least I could not see any of them continuing. 

I believe my parents began to pray for me this day. They were not in town and thus could not rush over to my aid. But they used their faith in praying for me when my own faith was so lacking. I pulled myself step by step out of my closet and down to my children. I turned on Hello Dolly to fill our house with cheerful music. By the end of the day, the storm had lifted. The Lord provided to me a small sign of his love and support to me and my family and my faith was once again restored.

When we are in despair too deep to pull ourselves out, we must reach out to our earthly life preservers, whoever they may be. A sister, a friend, a parent, a sibling, a relief society president, a bishop, a visiting teacher, a stranger on a blog. We all need earthly life preservers to pray in faith for us when our faith is so low we cannot not hear the answers to our own prayers.

I hope these thoughts are helpful to someone out there. I think there were many good talks in General Conference on hope. I loved Elder Uchtdorf's advice to serve others in an effort to find hope. Those are all talks I will be reviewing in the coming months.

May we all find the hope and faith necessary to find the light at the end of the tunnel of our forsaken moments.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fighting the Good Fight

Tonight I will share a story from my past that is rather simple but has had a profound impact on my life and my self image. It is part of the post in my head from last week on finding hope in times of despair. Hopefully tomorrow evening I will have the energy to finish off the second half of that post.

Years ago, when I was single and in my 3rd year of college I had a sad and lonely night. These were not uncommon for me. I was far more emotionally unstable in my single years. I do not remember with clarity the circumstances that led to my depressed state. They are not important to the story. Suffice it to say I was feeling pretty low. I had a nice mix of self pity, self loathing, and loneliness going around in my heart and head. 

So like any well trained Christian girl, I turned to my Heavenly Father in prayer. I knelt down by my bed swimming in all these depressing thoughts. As I prepared to say my prayers I began to think. My thoughts followed the following line of reasoning. 

"My Father in Heaven loves me. I know that much. But right now I do not love myself and I do not feel the love of others. Why am I feeling like this? Surely Heavenly Father does not want me to feel like this. If He loves me as much as my own father does He would not want me to feel this way."

Here is when the lightbulb goes off.

"Oh. So if this feeling is not from the Lord, it must be from Satan. Yes that makes sense. Satan would want me to feel alone and unloved and unlovable. Wait a minute. That must mean he is winning right now. No no. That is not good. I cannot let him win."

At this point I wrapped my arms around myself tight and gave myself a big hug. Someone needed to do it and I was the only one in the room. So I hugged myself. As I did this, I felt strength come into me. In my minds eye I saw an image. It was an image of myself in the pre existence. I am fairly certain the image I saw was not really what I actually looked like physically before I was born. But I am certain that the personality of the girl I saw was me. I saw a scrappy, determined, and unyielding fighter full of strength, courage and grit. I knew it was me. In that instant I knew just how strong I could be, how strong I had been.

No this was not a battle Satan was going to win, trying to get me all down and depressed. My mind become firm on this quickly and I said out loud "You are not going to win this, Satan. You will not win me. I will not let you." Saying it out loud was like cementing my thoughts. It made the decision real. And I believe it ended Satan's hope in the matter when he or whatever servant of his heard me speak it with such finality. 

Instantly, all the negative feeling I had left me. I was no longer depressed. I was still alone and dateless. None of my circumstances had changed. But I knew who I was. I was a fighter unwilling to be beaten, and in this fight, I had won.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Answers for Kathryn M

I got a comment from Kathryn M a couple of days ago. It had some questions I thought might be beneficial to clear up for her and any others who may have been wondering.  Here were her questions:

Do all wards attend at different times? It doesn't seem possible that there would be a new Temple built each time a new ward is formed, right? So I am assuming there are appointed times for each.

At some point, I would really like to know more about parents having the opportunity to raise their children who have died young. In my presently muddled mind, I am unable to reconcile the ages of our other children or ourselves once we have all passed to Glory. Other than the reference to children who die young, I couldn't find anything more about ages. Since there is neither growth or development in the grave .... well, you no doubt can sense my confusion. To put it bluntly, it seems certain that Camille will be 14 months old when you are reunited but what about the rest of your family?

The first part there needs a bit of vocabulary definition. Wards are congregations of about 300-500 hundred people. We are divided into wards geographically. When a ward becomes very large, our leaders at higher up levels make new geographic lines and split or realign a ward. Or they make split a ward into two and create a new ward. 

Wards meet in meeting houses we call churches or chapels. You may see these in any neighborhood. There are two within 2 miles of our home. Usually two or three wards meet each week in one chapel. They meet at set intervals, usually at 9 a.m. 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. if there are three wards in that building. We go to church for 3 hours. 75 minutes of that is spent in a meeting we call sacrament meeting. Everyone goes to sacrament meeting. All the kids, all the babies, everyone. So in the overlap, all of one ward is in the chapel portion of the building while the other ward is finishing up Sunday school classes in the classroom portion of the building.

In our area, there has been much growth. We have had to do several ward splits in the last few years. We have 9 wards in our stake (the next level up of leadership usually comprising 8-12 wards). We only have 2 buildings in our stake's geographical area. So the church is in the process of building a new church to accommodate us. Till then we are attending at other church buildings in other stakes that only had 2 wards using them.

Temples on the other hand are very large and special buildings that are not very common. We have one here in Las Vegas. There are about 125-130 Temples in the world. These are not places we go on Sunday to do our weekly worship services. Temples are far more holy than a regular chapel. They are considered to be the House of God. In them, members make sacred covenants or promises with the Lord and receive sacred blessings. 

We go once to make these covenants for ourselves and then we return as often as we can to also make these covenants for our deceased ancestors who did not have a chance to make these promises in their life. For example, we are baptized for the dead so that all of God's children can have the opportunity to accept or reject this baptism from the Spirit world.

Okay. Now I know that probably raised even more questions for some but I am going to move on to the second part of Kathryn's questions on afterlife.

When we die, we go to the Spirit world. Our body is here and our spirit is separated from it. One of our modern day prophets, Joseph F. Smith, has taught us that "when a baby dies, it goes back into the spirit world, and the spirit assumes its natural form as an adult, for we were all adults before we were born." He explains that some spirits that show themselves to us will show themselves to us as we knew them, a child or old person. But that is for our benefit so that we recognize who it is. Normally in the spirit world, all spirits are in the form of a man or woman in their adult prime and not aged  or childhood state. 

The prophets Joseph Smith and Joseph F. Smith, both of whom lost several of their own children, taught us much on the death or little children and what happens to them. I will summarize for you. If you want references I suggest the book Angel Children by Mary Hill. She does a great compilation. 

When a child dies, his or her body stops growing and progressing. It is laid in the grave. The spirit of this child continues to progress. Eventually Jesus Christ will come once more to the earth and usher in a new millennium. At his second coming many will begin to be resurrected. This means their spirits will reunite with their bodies. Eventually this will happen for all who have ever lived on the earth. This is the blessing of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He truly did break the bands of death.

When Camille is resurrected, her body will come from the grave as it was when she died. She will be a 14 month old. Her body will be different in that she will not be able to die or get sick. It will be a perfect little body healed of all the wounds that took her life. But she will still be little and someone will have to teach and train her as her body grows to its full stature. Someone has to teach her to walk and ride a bike and talk and do a cartwheel. The prophets have taught us that the people who will do that will be their mothers and fathers. A mother who loses her child in this life will, in that millennium of peace after Christ comes, have the privilege of raising and training the child she lost with her husband, provided they have lived worthy of such a blessing. 

As for the rest of us, I hope my husband and I and our other children will be old grandparents when we die. We will also be raised from the dead after the second coming and will come forth as we were laid down. I imagine in the instant of resurrection our bodies will still be aged or will look the age at which we died. But our bodies will be restored to their perfect frame and we will come to look the same age as our spirits are in their natural state. We will grow young. Jon will get all his hair back. I will have a stomach that doesn't look like it has carried 4 babies. :) I am looking forward to that. I am not sure how long this will take to grow young. Maybe it will be in the blink of an eye. Maybe it will be more gradual. But it will happen. 

I hope that helps some Kathryn. I know this is a long post. You can email me at stephaniewaite@gmail.com if you want to discuss some of this more in depth. What I can tell you is that 5 months ago I knew this teaching in our church and I thought it was ... nice. Today, it is the reason I am able to get up every morning and live with hope. I know the part about Camille being an adult spirit is true. I have felt her, as an adult, on numerous occasions. It has been a new experience for me to get to know her on such a different level. I believe and am counting on being able to raise her to maturity. I am trying to live my life worthy of that blessing. I trust the Lord that he will restore unto me all that I have lost in losing Camille so young.

This is my great hope in life. It is the good news of the gospel. Death is not the victor in this story. Jesus Christ has overcome death and we will all partake of this blessing of the resurrection one day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Day I Never Thought Would Come

Today is a red letter day. It is a day I have long wished for and honestly thought would never come. Today Jonathan called to me upstairs and told me to come outside. The excitement in his voice made the invitation irresistible. I walked outside and this is what I saw: 
I know. Most of you are thinking, "hey what is the big deal? It is a kid riding a bike." You are right. That is exactly what it is. It is my 7 1/2 year old daughter riding her bike --- for the first time ever --- and liking it. 

Jon and I have struggled with this task of teaching our girls to ride a bike. They basically have had no interest. Add to that the time consuming task of teaching and running with them in hot Las Vegas weather and having other little kids or pregnancies to deal with and well... it just hasn't gotten done. We have tried. We have attempted to teach both Sabrina and Ann Marie every fall and spring for about 2 years now. But they have been too scared and totally unmotivated to learn. 

Jon finally did a bunch of internet research to figure out how to remove the pedals from a bike. He took them off Ann Marie's bike and let Sabrina hop on and find her balance going down the slight incline of our street. After about 15 minutes he put her back on her bike and within minutes she was pedaling her way up and down the street. 

I know this seems like no big deal to many of you with bike riding kids. But, honestly, I had pretty much given up hope on the dream that my kids would be bike riders. I grew up with brothers and we rode bikes all the time. These girls were just as content to take their scooters out as a bike. 

Still seeing my 3 year old niece Stella riding her bike in California a few weeks ago just made me cringe again to think my kids would be the ones who got all grown up and never learned to ride a bike. I could just see some guy asking them out on a date to go on a bike ride and them having to turn him down. Silly. I know. But it is where I was, until today's tiny miracle. 

SO Hip Hip HOORAY!!!! Way to go Saby! I am sure Annie will not be far behind her now.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blooming

The Dahlia's that have laid dormant since the spring have begun to bloom once more in my backyard. My landscaper is stunned that they survived the extreme heat of the Las Vegas summer. So am I. 

And yet, there is a corner of my garden that has weathered the heat and drought. We had a week of no sprinklers and lost many plants but one corner of my yard still flourished. This plant, a gardenia, and some of my grandmother's dutch iris plants my aunt dug up for me from her yard in Idaho. I transplanted those irises the week Camille died. We were in Idaho at the farm the Sunday before the accident.

There is a great symbolic therapy in growing things. I have never been very good at gardening. I don't claim to be now. But somehow, this one corner of my garden refuses to be defeated against all odds. And I find joy in its blooms.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Enough said

I was going to post a response to some comments from yesterday. I have a post in my head about hope and despair and answers to prayer. But that post will have to be another day. Plus my awesome readers have put some wonderful follow up comments to read on those issues.

Today, I just miss my baby girl. 
Enough said. 
More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Quick Response

I just read the following comment:
Stephanie
I cannot deal with my own pain today. I have been to the temple, read my scriptures, say my prayers, but the pain is so intense it seems unbearable. What do you do when you can't escape the inner pain that is so consuming? Today is just too hard.

I do not know who sent this as it was anonymous. I don't know to what kind of pain you are dealing with. Here is what I do aside from what you have already done, which I would continue doing over and over. I gather my children, husband and family around me. I surround myself with those who love me unconditionally. I let them know about my pain. And I write. I get as much of the pain out in writing as I can. And I cry. Sometimes it helps to let it out.

Lastly, I want to share with you this post that my friend Britt wrote up. It is a talk by Elder Holland given at a stake conference she and her husband attended. Her husband is an awesome note taker. And Elder Holland ... he is just INCREDIBLE! LOVE HIM!  Hope this helps. Thanks for the post Britt!

When we feel broken, which we all have....

1) When these times come for you or others remember God loves broken things. It takes broken clouds to nourish earth, broken earth to grow grain, broken grain to make bread. God can fix all things that are broken, they are understood by him and incorporated into His plan for us. The think that he loves most is a broken heart and contrite spirit - symbols of the Atonement which replaced the firstling of the flock after the Atonement was wrought. 

Broken heart and contrite spirit is a more personal sacrifice that a burnt offering. Please don't resist if God helps to break your heart, he doesn't do it maliciously. He will handle it with care while it's broken and we will get it back whole. It will be restored whole just as our bodies will be restored whole through the Atonement. If we'll be faithful and true and not cut and run we'll get it all back. Don't panic if something breaks even if it's our heart of a child, spouse, or family member. The 'Night' will pass

2) When these times come and they will come and your in the middle of the offering remember what Virgil (Christian contemporary), "When these times come, endure, and save yourselves for days of happiness ahead." The declaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that you will be happy again. The longer you think about not being happy the more you convince yourself that you never have been happy. The gospel brings happiness, it brought you happiness before this night began and you will have that happiness again. When you're in the middle of night you might say, "I can't do this, the load I've been asked to carry I can't carry." We all say that, it's the natural thing to say. 

During this time we realize that the path we say we can't walk we do walk. We start to see what God is trying to say. When you look deep within yourself we start to see your true divinity, with a lot more strength than we thought we had and probably more that we wanted ;) You're waiting for the crash and somehow the ship levels out, although you're sure you're still going down.....and then the incline of the valley starts sloping up and you see a ray of light. For some this comes soon, others later, others in heaven but be assured it will come. In tough times square your shoulders, pull up your socks, and grit your teeth.

We have had the crash. We are on our ups and our downs. Sometimes we feel like our ship has set sail and left us, or we are on a rocky ship, but the ship always smooths out.... eventually.


Elder Holland was VERY adamant about this part. He was teary eyed and firm. I remember thinking, "If I have a really hard trial, how would I handle it? Would I lose my faith? Would I turn to it? How will/ would I react?" I pondered on the trials past and realized I had taken the higher road. At times, those trials really seemed like they were the hardest thing I ever had to do, and so goes with this one....

3) Don't you dare in those times say, "Well I guess God doesn't love me." If you say that personal problems are equated to God's lack of love you are wrong, because what does that say of some of the best people that have lived on this planet? What does that say about the Son of God? Elder Holland then told about an experience he had with President Hunter. 

President Hunter was very sick and had just given Elder Holland an assignment to go overseas. ElderHolland knew that Pres Hunter would probably pass away while Elder Holland was away on assignment. One of the unwritten rules is you do not stop by the Prophets house for a social visit, so remember that when you're in SLC. Elder Holland felt like it would probably be OK to stop by Pres. Hunters house in spite of this unwritten rule because of the circumstances. So on his way out of town he went to the prophets apartment and knocked on the door. 

Sister Hunter answered the door and just as she was opening the door an unearthly cry came out of the backroom coming from the President Hunter because of the great pain the cancer was causing him. ElderHolland has heard a cry similar to this only one other time from his 3 year old brother as he was having a seizure that killed him. Sister Hunter and Elder Holland both started crying. Elder Holland then knew it had been a mistake to come and said something along the lines of, "Forgive me I shouldn't have come, tell him I love him and am going on my assignment." 

When the plane Elder Holland took got to England he was given word that President Hunter had died and to return back to SLC. President Hinckley is another of great suffering. He is alone and sick but keeps coming to work every day - does Heavenly Father not love him? When you hurt He hurts, DON'T YOU DARE SAY HE DOESN'T LOVE YOU. The first rule of seamanship is when there's a storm you stay in the boat. You may need to hunker down at the bottom of the ship with the oars pulled in over you but you stay in the ship, don't even consider jumping ship. When you have storms in your life you've never needed the church more, 

DON'T YOU DARE LEAVE. Where would you go?....the rotary club?....the gardening club? You stay with the truth, prove there's divinity in you. You're gonna have to say, "please let this cup pass" but if it won't they you square your shoulders, bow your head and say, 'yes.' We have to do it to prove who we are and who He is. 

When the disciples were in the storm tossed ship in the New Testiment Jesus slept. They awoke Him and asked, "carest thou not that we perish?" The ship is going to sink! He responded, 'oh ye of little faith.' Then he raised his arm to the square and said, 'peace be still' and the wind and waves obeyed his voice. The disciples said, 'who is this man that even the wind and waves obey his voice.' In stormy seas we need the person that can control wind and waves. 

Be believing, the sun will shine again. 

Only the Gospel truth will bring happiness, don't try other things looking for happiness because they've been tried and don't work. 

Elder Hollands favorite title of Christ in in the book of Revelations: 'Bright and Morning Star.' The Sun will come because of the Son. The only hope we have to offer you is the truth of the Gospel, all of it. He knows everything about sorrow and pain, everything about you. He has figuratively raised his arm to the sqare and declared figuratively peace in your life and this peace will come. 

Seek the Peace and hunker down till it comes, people. Love to you all and especially to you today Anonymous! Love to you.
Stephanie

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A New Phase

I feel like I am moving into a new phase of this grieving process. In pregnancy, there are three trimesters. For some very unlucky women, all three of these are filled with serious illness. For other very lucky women, there is little illness or pain involved in the pregnancy process. For most, the first trimester is plagued by fatigue and nausea and/or vomiting. But the second trimester proves to be a reprieve from these ailments. 

That is how my pregnancies have always gone. And it is similar to how I have felt in this grieving process. The first months were so filled with pain and sorrow. Now I have just finished my fourth month. And while I know that I am a different person and my life will never be the same, I feel strength coming back to me again. I feel more able to pull my own weight and more able to solid in my footing. I am not back 100% but I have hope that one day I will get there and maybe even be stronger for the experience.  

Now, for most pregnant women the last 3 months of pregnancy is uncomfortable, taxing and sometimes downright painful. I know that has been more and more true for each of my pregnancies. I don't expect by any stretch of the imagination that I am out of the woods yet. I am sure the months of April through Aug. next year will be difficult. But I hope just as pregnancy yields wonderful blessings, I hope this most painful journey will prove equally as rewarding.

If nothing else, my experience and understanding as a human being is far richer and of a greater breadth than I ever imagined it would be. Geez and I am only finished with one trimester of life too. Who knew one could experience so much in one trimester?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Marriage Is What Bwings Us Togethuh Today!

One of the questions from my call for questions a few weeks ago was on marriage. The commenter asked for my secrets to a happy successful marriage. Since we had a lesson in young women's at church yesterday on the subject, the subject has been brought to my mind and I thought Jon and I would toss out are thoughts on the subject. 

Please note that I am in no way claiming any expertise in this subject. I have no degrees in family sciences. I never took a class about this. But I am very happily married and have been for all of the nearly 10 years of my marriage. That does not mean Jon and I have never fought or gone through seriously difficult personal issues apart from losing our daughter Camille. We are both far from perfect and marriage can just be difficult when you are working with imperfect people. Go figure. But, we have found techniques to work through our problems. And I am perfectly willing to share.

So I will write my thoughts down and then when I am done Jonathan will fill in in italics his comments, additions, musings, and commentary. Enjoy!

Essential Ingredients for a Happy Marriage

Honesty: From early on in our friendship, I knew Jon was very honest. He always let me know exactly where I stood with him even when he knew the truth might hurt my feelings or disappoint me. He thought of me as a friend. He had no interest in more. I was interested in exploring more. But he never led me on or gave me reason to hope that someday he would like me. I really appreciated this honesty. 

In our marriage, he has been similarly honest. When he screws up, he admits it. And when he feels I need to step up to the plate in something, he only tells me when he feels it is really important. So when he does tell me about something, I listen and take it to heart.

Without honesty, it is hard to have trust. Without trust, well, it is hard to live with someone you don't trust. So being honest to build trust is in my book pretty crucial. 

Ok -- here's the interesting thing.  How many of you when reading this thought about your spouse and their honesty (or lack thereof)??  I think it's important to note that honesty is a two-way street.  Just how honest are YOU in the relationship?  Many times we withhold crucial feelings/thoughts/information because either we don't want to share or we don't find it important.  

Love: You would think this one is obvious. I mean why would you marry someone you didn't love? The trouble comes when the initial infatuation stage wears off and you have to find within your relationship that true, deep, lasting, unselfish love that is essential to keep the home fires burning through the long term.

This kind of love is born of respect and gratitude and comes straight from heaven. When you can see your spouse the way the Lord does, it is easy to love him or her in spite of all the flaws you discover after you get married. This gift of charity for your spouse makes you see your spouse for the person they can become. It makes you want to be a worthy companion and help them to become that person in any way you can.

Another part of this essential love ingredient is like. You have to like your spouse. If you aren't married yet, don't marry anyone you don't genuinely like to be with apart from the physical aspect. If you are already married and feel like you don't like your spouse, try hard to find things you do like about them. Develop new things to do together that will help you like him or her. Liking the person you spend eternity with is kinda key to being happy.

Luckily, I really like Jon. I always have. He is funny and quirky and I would rather spend time with him than anybody else.

My favorite quote on this subject is:  "Choose the one you love and love the one you chose".  Once the choice of marriage is made you have to love (this is a verb) your spouse.  I keep hearing terms like "we fell out of love" and "I don't love him/her anymore".  Now, barring some evil and/or hateful act that your spouse has committed, I really don't believe that these statements are the final word.  Love is found through the act of service and in serving your spouse you can recapture that love.  

Forgiveness: This one is huge. We all screw up. Sometimes we screw up really really big. It happens. We need to realize when we have screwed up or hurt or spouses feelings even if we thought we were right and sincerely repent to them.

Then when our spouse repents to us, we need to forgive him or her. This can be incredibly difficult depending on the severity of the injury. Sometimes their sorry just isn't enough to take the hurt away. I find it helpful to give them a way to make it better. Make something up that they can do to show you they are sorry. I find it helps to make the hurt go away, especially if it is something silly.

The second tactic that helps with forgiveness comes from the Book of Mormon. In Jacob 3:1-2: 
But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and apray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will bconsole you in your cafflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down djustice upon those who seek your destruction.
2 O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may if your minds are firm, forever.

I think these verses are helpful for anyone who has a broken heart. They give a recipe for healing the broken heart. Look to God with a firmness of mind, pray with faith, receive the good word of God, feast upon His love. But the key to feeling this love is the firm mind. We must train our minds to keep our thoughts in line with where the Savior would have them. When a person repents sincerely to the Lord, the Lord remembers the sin no more. Does this mean the Lord really doesn't remember what we did? No. He knows what we did. He just doesn't bring it back to Him mind anymore. He doesn't "remember" it anymore. 

When we are injured by someone and they repent to us, we need to train our brain to not "remember" or dwell upon their bad act or hurtful words. This is so much easier said than done. I know. This principle has been key to healing my heart in the past and it is essential now to overcoming my feelings of guilt and loss. I must train my mind to be firm in seeing Camille's death from an eternal perspective and remember no more the "if only" and "why didn't I" thoughts that so easily haunt anyone in my shoes. Yes a firm mind is essential to healing the broken heart and forgiving.

Work: Marriage is work. You have to focus on making your spouse happy. That mean self improvement and service. If you are really working hard to make your spouse happy, the love part comes more easily, as does the forgiveness when you screw up. If you get complacent, things can quickly slide into a lull that is hard to escape.

I'm going to add a trick Stephanie and I use in our "work" of marriage. We are both very stubborn and usually fight for our own way.  Many times in family life there are conflicting desires, activities, places to go, holidays to spend, etc.  When we both come to one of these occasions, one person will ask, "how important is this on a scale of 1-10" and we then quantify how important that desire is.  The higher number wins. Period.  Now, honesty is obviously important and answering 10 every time makes the trick useless...

Commitment: Every marriage has highs and lows. There are times when you are more in love with your spouse than ever before. There are other times when you go for long stretches of lulls or going through the motions. Lots of couples now days seem to get into these lulls and feel they have fallen out of love and get divorced. That is not what marriage is about. Marriage is about sticking it out through the lulls and getting you booty into gear working to make it better. Lulls can last years. They are a natural part of marriage. They are not a sign of an unhappy or unsuccessful marriage. They are the sign of a normal marriage. The couple with commitment is faithful through the lull and works to bring the joy and happiness back even if it takes a long time. Commitment is key to any successful marriage.

I just want to add one important point: that many times marriage involves doing things we don't want to do, with people we might want to be with (like say, your spouse's high school football buddy) in less than desirable places.  For me, noting that something means a lot to my wife (even though I don't care for it) means I need to make the sacrifice for her happiness.  I took my wife down to Brazil a couple of years ago and visited some of my old mission areas.  I could tell she was NOT having a good time due to language barrier, her pregnancy at the time and just how boring it was for her.  But she recognized it was important for me (and of course I tried to keep it as short as possible), so she was such a trooper.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Saby Blog


My little woman Sabrina has been asking for her own blog. In an effort to let her work through her own emotions and also to encourage her writing, I have consented. Of course she will not be allowed to post without my help and supervision to keep her safe but I thought some of you may want to check out her blog.

Introducing The Saby Blog! 

Click on the link to go see her very first, very brief and super sweet first entry entitled "Camille wins!" She will no doubt be watching for comments. She loves to read mine. 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Alone Time

This morning I had a few things on my calendar. I had lunch with my two best friends from high school and then went to a baby shower afterward. Jon took the girls to his mother's house for a piano lesson and some family time.

They were still gone when I got home. I had about three hours here at the house to myself. I know so many of you out there are turning shades of green with envy. ALONE TIME!!! No kids crawling on you or fighting with each other or crying. What would it be like to have three whole hours to do whatever you want. 

This was the first time I had been alone for any significant time period since Camille died. I remember when the Relief Society presidency of my ward came to see me in the hospital and asked what they could do. One of the very few answers I gave them was, "I do not want to be left alone."

Until today, I hadn't been. Oh I have been alone in my car going places, but home alone for more than a few minutes ... no. See Jon works from home so either he or the kids is nearly always here with me.

Today I discovered I no longer enjoy alone time. The silence that used to be so golden was paralyzing to me. There was plenty I could have done with this time. The house was a mess. I should have cleaned. The laundry needed folding. I could have written something. I could have organized any number of disorganized places in my house. I could worked on scrapbooks or played the piano or worked out. I could even have taken a bath or gone to a book store and bought a great book to start reading. But I didn't. I couldn't. 

I was entirely overwhelmed by the emptiness. Instead I turned on the television to make there be noise and distract me. My mind ... it thinks too much in unhelpful directions when I am alone. Even car rides by myself are still difficult. I nearly always end up near tears when I arrive at my destination. It is easier to keep my mind in the present when I am in the presence of others. I wonder how long this will last? I wonder when I will be comfortable being alone again. I wonder if I will ever value alone time like I used to.

As soon as my family got home I was released from this captivity of quietness. I was able to clean the house and bake some cookies and help Annie practice violin and wrap presents with Sabrina and write something here. Doesn't it seem against logic that I should be so much more productive with children present than alone? I guess for now people, my family in particular, are the catalyst I need to activate the me who is living for today.

May those of you who need it find some alone time. I know at some seasons of life it is critical. And, for now, may my home be continually filled with the messes and noises of loved ones.  

Friday, October 10, 2008

Story Time -The Little Girl of Light

I feel like making up a story for the girls for bedtime tonight.  Here goes...

The Little Girl of Light

Long ago in the far away land of the colored pencil forest, there lived a medium sized family. There was a mother and a father and three little girls. They lived in a little cottage made of colored pencils from the forest. They had a garden in the back of their house where they grew vegetables to eat. They had a cow for milk and chickens for eggs. 

Most days they spent doing their chores in the garden and keeping the house and making the food. When their chores were done, the girls liked to make music with their father or paint with their mother. Sometimes, when mother and father were too busy, the little girls would go deep into the colored pencil forest and play hide and seek.

One day they finished their chores but Mother and Father did not so they went to the forest to play hide and seek. The oldest little girl, Sabreeza was the counter. Her little sisters, Analeeza and Laureeza, ran off to hide and she began counting to 100. 

Analeeza found a hollow log just big enough to fit around her thin little body. In she crawled to wait while she wondered how the log had become hallow. 

Laureeza found a large raspberry bush covered in ripe juicy raspberries. Laureeza loved berries. She crawled right in to the middle of this thick bush and began to eat the sweet berries while she waited.

As Sabreeza finished counting, dark clouds filled the sky. The wind began to howl and it certain that a severe storm was coming and quick. Sabreeza needed to find her sisters and get home quick. 

She began her search but with the wind rattling through the trees, she couldn't hear any noises to lead her to her sisters. Black clouds darkened the sky making it hard to see where her sisters could be hiding. Thunder and lightening began to announce the coming of the storm.

Frantic now, Sabreeza searched everywhere for her sisters calling for them as loud as she could. Rain began to fall and still Sabreeza couldn't find her sisters. She knew they were in real trouble if they didn't get home and soon. 

Suddenly, out of the darkness she saw a small light as bright as the noon sun. It came toward her growing larger as it approached. When it was about two feel around and close enough for her to almost reach out and touch it, a beautiful little girl appeared in the circle of light.

"Hello love," said the little girl in the light. "My name is Cameeza. I am here to help you find your way home."

Somehow this little girl seemed familiar to Sabreeza and she instantly felt a great love and comfort from Cameeza.

"I need to find my sisters before I go home," explained Sabreeza. "They are younger than me and are probably scared from the storm. They were hiding for a game when the weather turned and now I can't find them. It is too loud and too dark."

"I can help," said Cameeza. "Follow me. I will light the way."

Sabreeza followed the light of the little girl till she stumbled over a log. She fell to the ground. As she fell, she heard a cry that was not her own. It was Analeeza. Sabreeza reached into the log and helped Analeeza out. Analeeza had been stuck and was terrified when she heard the storm coming and saw the darkness.

Sabreeza and Analeeza gave each other a big hug and Sabreeza told Analeeza that everything would be fine. They had help now to find their way.

Cameeza continued on and led the girls by her light in the darkness. Suddenly they felt the tickling of leaves and the sticky liquid of juice on their arms. Then they heard the giggles. Laureeza had not been scared. She was enjoying the raspberries and knew someone would come find her soon. The three of the cheered to be together again.

Before they knew it, Cameeza was moving away. She motioned for them to follow. Follow they did. It was a long way in the darkness that she led them. They had been playing deep in the forest. But Cameeza was easy to follow because she was so full of light.  

In time they came to the gate around their cottage. Cameeza stopped and so did the girls. The rain began to fall in earnest now. The girls were soaked and cold. The wind still ripped through the forrest. But the girls did not want to leave this little girl of light who had led them so faithfully home. 

Cameeza understood their hesitancy. She came close to each girl and sweetly gave each one a kiss on the cheek. Their cheeks warmed under the brilliant touch of her perfect little lips. "Don't be sad," Cameeza said. "I can't go any further with you but I will always be watching over you. When you need help or direction I will be there to help you however I can. In the meantime, the kiss I just gave you has put a bit of my light in each of you. This light will warm you all the days of your life. You will always know you are loved. Now go home to your parents. They are sick with worry."

With that Cameeza faded away into the night. The girls ran into the cottage. Mother and Father were so happy and relieved to see them. The girls told their mother and father all that had happened and their mother and father knew the little girls would not lie. And neither had Cameeza. She watched over them all the rest of their lives and was always there to help them in their darkest hours.

The End