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Saturday, April 2, 2016

March of Madness

Well, March came in like a lamb, and left like a lion for us this year. After experiencing debilitating sciatic pain after baby Lucy's birth in November, I finally saw an orthopedic doctor who talked with me for 5 minutes, ordered an MRI, and left without answering any of the list of questions I had made for him. Turns out, those questions were pretty irrelevant because I had a herniated disc in my back. A large disc is 5 ml (or mm? I'm not sure which measurement they use) and mine was a 10. Apparently, even my injuries are bigger in Texas. I really could have lived without that, Texas.

The only option for such a huge herniation is surgery. The problem would not go away on its own and would only go downhill. Apparently, the pain I was having was twofold: chemical - the disc irritates the nerves, and physical - the disc is putting pressure on the nerves, like someone standing on a garden hose and preventing communication down the line.

So, after hanging up with my doctor, Brad and I talked and felt a lot of peace with the decision to have surgery, and soon. I called my sweet mother-in-law, we talked and before I knew it I was scheduled for back surgery on March 28th. The next couple weeks were a blur of preparation, cleaning and doing things I wouldn't be able to do for a while, like just hold my 4 month old baby.
Waiting to be wheeled into surgery. There were a lot (LOT) of dolphin pictures in the room.

I went into the surgery and woke up in the recovery room with absolutely no recollection of the procedure. Big Yay there! I didn't even see my doctor again, although he did tell Brad that everything went well. He just keep saying that I should have had it done much sooner. I keep telling him, we did it as soon as we knew what the problem was.
Recovery Room Haze

After hanging out in the Recovery Room for a couple hours I finally started waving my arms around and got the attention of a nurse and asked to be taken up to my room where my husband was waiting for me. They were a little hectic down there. However, when we got to my room and the nurse started talking about breakfast the next morning I hit the proverbial brakes. “I'm not staying. I'm going home today.” Those words sent people into a bit of chaos as the nurse tried to track down a doctor and see if that was true. It was what we had been told up until I was rolled into the surgery room, and I just wanted to get home to my bed, my baby and my quiet space. Hospitals are not quiet places for recovery. After a few hours of playing hide and seek, Nurse Caeser finally found a doctor who could release me. He walked into my room just in time to see me standing up and checking out my new corset brace (this thing is awesome!) and was shocked to see me up. I told him I'd already gone to the bathroom 3 times, sat in the recliner, and had a short session with the physical and occupational therapists. I was so ready to go home. He explained, again, that the disc was huge and most patients at my stage were in bed yelling in pain. I nodded, thinking, that's nice. Now send me home. He did.
Waiting for the doctors to LET ME GO HOME!!!

We went back to the doctor's office on Thursday and the first doctor that walked in was again shocked at my movement. He held up his finger and pointed out that the disc was as large as his first joint. “And you were up and walking the first day. That was a lot of pressure on your nerves. It was in your canal.” So, I'm beginning to think my recovery isn't normal, though it is roughly what I was expecting. I can see that I have been tremendously blessed by the Lord. I can get up and down the stairs, the radiating nerve pain is gone and my nerves are recovering. I can't lift anything for at least another week, but I am able to get up and down much easier in less than a week. I get the staples out on Tuesday and can start lifting light things the next week, if I'm up to it.
This little beauty is sleeping in our room again. 

She's so happy!

I am counting my blessings: We followed the prompting to see this doctor, do an expensive MRI and follow through, we decided to do the surgery, Mom Reynolds came out to help for 3 whole weeks, my friend Jodi will come out for a week after that, I'm healing quickly, my nerves are coming back to life, I am able to move more smoothly every day, my kids are being responsive to “Be gentle with Mommy,” my baby still knows who I am (hey, I'm a nursing mother, it's a thing we worry about), and my husband gives the best sponge baths. I'm a lucky lady.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Words of Comfort

Last month my ward's Relief Society held a birthday celebration where we gathered together as sisters to celebrate the worldwide sisterhood of Relief Society. It was a wonderful evening, and we were given glass mugs as a token to take home. They had plenty of mugs leftover so I grabbed 3 extras for my visiting teaching sisters.

I've had a few weeks to think about how to deliver the mugs to my sisters and rejected filling with them with food. I don't know about you, but chocolate is a weakness for me and I tend to use it to make up for tough days or other emotional turmoil. I don't want to perpetuate that weakness in my sisters, especially since so many of us struggle to turn from food when we need comfort.

Then I remembered what my mother did for me and my 5 brothers when we left to serve missions: she collected letters from all the members of the family and created a packet labeled "Cheerful letters for a gloomy day." It was the perfect salve for a battered missionary's heart when discouraged, overwhelmed or just plain exhausted from the work to crack open a letter from someone who loves me unconditionally and read words of encouragement. Some of the best advice for my mission came from those letters. They still bring me comfort.

I wanted to do the same things for my sisters. We all have days where we are down in the dumps for whatever reason; and even though it might not merit a call to your visiting teacher or friend to come over and hold your hand, you still need help.

So I gathered together some scriptures and quotes that comfort, inspire and remind us of our Savior's power to lighten our load. I made sure I included the source of each quote so if a sister decided that she wanted to read the rest of the talk she would know where to find it. I printed them off on bright, cheerful pages, and stuck them in the mugs. Voila, an easy go-to for a pick-me-up when I'm down.

Words of Comfort to soothe your soul

Sunshine to lighten your day!
Because I love you I want you to remember that Christ loves you and He is with you, even when I can't be there to hold your hand. Don't forget though, I will come running if you need me.

Here's a link to the quotes, a pdf version:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Never Alone

I mentioned my friend Rachael in my last post. She and I met in 2006 when I  entered the MTC in October to begin my training as a Missionary with Additional Assignment in Welfare. My companion was Hermana Pacini (aka Patch) and her comp was Hermana Wallin. We were trained all together for a whole week in welfare and how to teach welfare principles like food storage, basic reading and writing, gardening, budgeting, employment and more. After that first week we were separated for the rest of our training as she, Patch, and Wallin went to Beginning Spanish and I went to Intermediate. 9 weeks later we flew down to Ecuador together. She was serving in Guayaquil as a mission nurse and Patch, Wallin and I were assigned to Quito. A mishap with our tickets sent us to Guayaquil with her instead of to Quito. Her mission president, President Ridd, was a little shocked to get 6 missionaries instead of 2, but quickly bought us tickets back to Quito where our poor mission president, President Lara, was waiting for us.

Back 2001, when I was a sophomore at BYU, I enrolled in ceramics class to get back into playing with clay. After taking it for all 4 years in High School, I was missing it. My first day in class I met a neat lady named Leah. Her husband taught at BYU so she was able to take classes for free. She had a newborn baby at home and managed to squeeze the ceramics class in between caring for the newborn and her other children. She was sooo cool. I loved sitting by her and chatting as we worked on our projects. She was so friendly and down-to-earth; we became quick friends.

I mention these people because they exemplify a constant in my life: Heavenly Father never leaves us alone. When I flew home from our week long visit to Utah last October I was flying alone with my two children for the first time. On the way out to Utah we had Mom Reynolds to take Leah, but on the way back to Texas, a 3+ hour flight, I was on my own. We said our prayers that everything would go smoothly. I was a little nervous, but figured all in all, it's just 3 hours of my life. We would make it.

I sat down and got the kids settled down as other passengers filled in the seats around us. Because this was Delta we had assigned seating. As 2 ladies settled into their seats directly across the aisle from me, I did a double take. I blurted out, "Leah?!" and the younger lady looked at me. "Wait. Ceramics class. Sarah?" "Yeah!" It was my friend Leah who I hadn't seen since the semester ended 12 years before. Sitting next to me on a plane full of strangers flying to Houston. It was no coincidence. Heavenly Father knew I needed help and he sent an old friend my way. Leah and her mother took Seannie for part of the flight so I could take care of Leah when she needed me. They even helped me unload and walked with me all the way to the baggage claim and settled me in with my husband. Brad has become accustomed to my seemingly endless supply of friends and took it all in calmly. He was very relieved to know that the flight was painless and quite calm thanks to my friends. It was a joyful way to spend a flight, with the helping hand of a friend and catching up with someone I cared about. While I named my daughter after my father's mother, my friend Leah's influence in my life was another factor in choosing that name. It carries happy memories for me.

Many times I have seen those around me answer the prayers of my heart. They have offered aid, consolation and advice. There have been times when I was able to be an instrument in God's hands for these same purposes.

The first Sunday in March was a little hectic for my little family. Leah was sick with an ear infection so I stayed home with the kids while Brad went to church. We originally planned that he would come home after Sacrament meeting so I could attend a later Sacrament in our building. However, the Young Men president was ill and asked Brad to cover for him during their meetings. By the time Brad got home I only had time to attend the sacrament meeting of the singles branch in a nearby building. I knew a couple of the people, but sat in the back row, ready to duck out when the meeting finished.

As it was Fast Sunday, the members of the congregation shared their testimonies if they so desired. About halfway through the meeting as another person headed up, I suddenly recognized who it was. Rachael! I grinned at her when she spotted me in the crowd. She faltered mid-sentence then smiled and finished her sentence, "I know... Heavenly Father answers prayers." After the meeting was over we found each other and after a big hug she explained that this was her first Sunday in Texas. She had moved there from California that week to start work at a hospital nearby and didn't know a soul. That morning Rachael prayed to Heavenly Father that she would find a friend. And she did! What I had thought of as stumbling blocks earlier that day suddenly turned into blessings. My daughter's ear infection, our sick YM President, having to attend a singles branch (did I mention that was awkward?) all led to finding my friend. We had her over for dinner that evening and she has come over at least once a week since. Turns out, she's been the answer to a few of my prayers too. She's a great friend to me, terrific playmate with the kids, and helps motivate me in my goals.

After this encounter with Rachael, Brad urged me to write about the friends I find in odd places. I do tend to find friends everywhere we go and I feel that it's Heavenly Father reminding me, quietly and often, that He doesn't leave us alone. If we choose to withdraw, that's our choice to be alone, but if we step outside our comfort zone and look, we will find our friends, old and new, wherever we go.

Memorial Day

We had a very busy Memorial Day weekend. On Friday we went to Tucano's in the very pretty city of Sugarland. Both Brad and I were impressed with the new buildings, tree-lined streets and overall freshness of the town. We would love to live somewhere like that someday. Too bad Sugarland would be an hour commute or so for Brad to get to work.

Tucano's was very yummy, of course. The kids loved the fruit; they didn't want much to do with the meat. I loved the Tucano's salad - spinach, strawberries, and toasted almonds. Mmm. I might try to recreate that one at home. After lunch we walked around the outdoor mall and found a fun little pond/fountain the kids fell in love with. The path dips down on one side so the kids can splash and play with the cascading water. Texas knows what kids need in the summertime.
Caught mid splash

Sopping wet

Covered in water drops

This little man is pure joy.

Leah loves playing with water.

Fun with Splashing from Sarah Reynolds on Vimeo.

After the first few splashes the kids started getting pretty wet. I told Brad, "It's worth it." Watching them get absolutely soaked as they thrilled in the waves and water was great fun. We finally dragged them away to walk in the sunshine and dry off a little before driving home. It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining, but not too hot. We all came home with some color on our cheeks.
Leah lounging in the shade outside the stores.

Run to Mama

Run away from Mama. This girl is always running.

On the way back from Sugarland we decided to take the freeway instead of the scenic backroads we drove on the way there. However, just as we were getting to a major junction our back tire blew. Brad, ever the champ, calmly pulled over, hopped out, and had that tire changed in 10 minutes flat. The kiddos slept right through it. We drove home slowly, he dropped us off and an hour later we had 4 brand new tires. It was a little sooner than we were planning, but it wasn't unexpected. We had the money set aside for it. I count my blessings that my husband knows to plan for these things.
What flat tire?

Seannie likes to sleep with his hands by his head.

After changing the tire my manly man was thirsty. This is the only water we had within reach. Fortunately, he's not too picky.

On Saturday, my friend Rachael and I planned an Ecuador feast. We invited some of her friends over and Brad's old roommate. I made encebollado (tuna soup), ensalada (tomato and onion salad), shrimp ceviche, and tostados (large corn kernels that pop on the inside) and Rachael made the arroz con pollo, pan de yuca (yuca bread) and guanabana juice. She spent a lot of time finding the more exotic ingredients we needed, like chifles and avena (a yummy oatmeal drink). It was fun to have leftovers for a couple days and enjoy my encebollado. I don't think it was a hit with others, but that left more for me.
The Feast!
Leah was mad that we limited her chifle intake.

By Sunday the little tickle I had in my throat had exploded into swollen glands and congestion. Monday we spent the day close to home while I rested and tried to get better. Bless my sweet husband's heart, he did all the laundry for me. It is now Wednesday and I am still quite sick with an earache. I'll be going to the doctor to get medicine for my ear infection this afternoon. Leah also decided to join the illness bandwagon and started vomiting this morning. This would be fine, but this week I had planned on having a couple playdates with our friend Ivy so her mom could finish packing to leave on Friday, also watch our friend's baby so she could finish cleaning her apartment after their move, and currently have our little friend K here while his mom is teaching her orchestra classes. K loves Leah; she fell asleep on the couch and he leaned over and softly kissed her on the cheek. He is really sweet with her. I'm sorry we can't go play at the library or park. I wanted to be so helpful this week! I feel a little frustrated in that desire, but there's not much I can do about it except snuggle in with my little girl and drink liquids. I'm headed that way right now.

Oh, did I mention Sean decided to walk this week? He's been playing with the idea but finally took off and walks everywhere now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Month of May

This month I have expanded our little garden that I started last month and the kiddos love to help me water. Leah is really sweet about tending the plants; Sean just likes the water.

My "Patio Picker" 3 tomatos, 1 red bell pepper, and 3 snap peas when I fist planted them on April 30th.
I also planted some basil, petunias and strawberries
3 weeks later and my tomatoes and pepper plants have exploded. I also planted a pretty tropical plant. Our patio is ready for visitors; come on over!
My petunias and basil and strawberries look great. The strawberries have only produced 1 little fruit so far.
I have some vincas and mint by the back door
Leah loves to help water and play in the dirt

We also bunny-sat our friend's little bunny. He is a very sweet, sociable little rabbit and loved chasing and being chased by Leah. He liked to snuggle with me and Brad, but Brad didn't want much to do with him after he chewed through our computer's mouse cord. That's right, the bunny killed the mouse. Attack of the rodents?
Leah loves Bunny. She giggles just watching him. Seannie liked to crawl into his cage and get covered in bunny poop.

We spent quite a bit of time at parks with friends and Daddy to enjoy the BEAUTIFUL weather we've been having. It's been a gorgeous spring here. We do have some hot, muggy days, but we've also had some gorgeous, cooler days that feel wonderful.
Sliding all by herself!

She loves to run around. Sometimes it's a problem.

Brad was impressed with her braids. Thanks goes to my sister Kelly who first did it on my hair when I was in high school.

Cheese muffin.

Leah thinks she can still hold Sean on her lap.

Putting on the gardening gloves to get to work.

Dumping more dirt on the plant. Gotta make sure it's covered well.

Going for more dirt. I never cease to wonder at the amazing colors in this child's hair.

To sum up: We've had a really great month so far. We've enjoyed health, sunshine and happiness. Our apartment management is making some improvements on our apartment, we have some fun plans for this weekend and we're gearing up for a trip out to Utah. Life is good and we are grateful. Every day we thank God for our blessings, especially these 2 sweet little souls.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

3 years

Almost 4 years ago my friend Sarah had a birthday celebration at a restaurant that I attended with my roommate. I sat next to this boy but we both talked with people on the other side of us for the whole evening. Turns out that boy is the best thing to happen to me. He’s my husband now. 6 months after that evening we went on our first date. 3 years ago today I married him in the Timpanogos temple. 2 kids later and he is my sanity.

He comes home from working on spaceships all day to tackle the kids so I can have some kid-free workspace. He bathes the kids. He puts Leah to bed every night. He teaches our kids to pray. He gives me and our children priesthood blessings. He cleans the bathrooms. He takes out the trash. He gives me massages when I’m sore or tense. He is super smart. He’s not afraid to take advice from Tinkerbell. He serenades us with his guitar skills. He helps me with my goals. He loves me the best way possible.

Here’s to the father of my children, the man I chose to spend eternity with. Brad the Dad.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Utah Trip Part 3

Saturday and Sunday: Brad’s brother Greg, his wife Sally, and their kids arrived while we were sleeping. It made for a very fun weekend. Brad’s brothers Mark and Doug came over with their families and the kids had a terrific time with their cousins. Leah even played a toddler version of tag with her cousins Katie and Kameron. It was adorable. Sean fell in love with his Uncles Mark and Doug who coaxed belly laughs out of him. After thoroughly wearing Sean out, his girl cousins took turns holding him while he slept.
I was grateful that Greg and Sally were willing to make the trip down; I love spending time with both of them. Poor Greg had a hard time winning Leah over and it was my fault. The first time she saw him was Saturday morning when I tried to hand her over to him to go swimming in Grandpa’s swim spa. She was very upset that a strange man tried to hold her and wouldn’t look at him the rest of the weekend. Poor Greg.
Sunday evening Ally stopped by with her new fiancĂ©e and showed me her shiny new ring! We got to catch up and spend some time just chatting. I’m very excited for her future; Jeff is a keeper. You can’t really go wrong when you meet as temple workers, now can you?

Monday: Grandma took the 3 of us to the Children’s Museum in Ogden. It was perfect for our little toddler. She loved running around, trying on costumes, riding horses, gardening, coloring, playing instruments and just being with Grandma. There was so much to do there, all of it was interesting to Leah, but, more importantly, it wasn’t overflowing with people like the Houston Children’s Museum always is. It was lovely.
Leah the Cowgirl

Waving to the rodeo mannequin

Smiling in her Pocahontas dress

Being crowned by Queen Grandma
Such a cute off-kilter little princess

Running her kingdom

Sean's contribution to the activity

Deciding on her next decree

Leah finally let Sean have a ride

Tuesday: We played at home with Grandma and Grandpa and I made dinner – the least I could do for my wonderful family and all they do for us. That evening Joanna came up with her boyfriend and I got to spend some time with them. They even helped me bathe Sean and put the kids to bed. I love that wild child.

Wednesday: Our last full day in Utah and we spent it in Salt Lake. First we visited with my dearest friend Liggs and her little man Wa’akea. I got to see Papi Ligget for a little bit too – no one gives tighter squeezes than Papi. It was a priceless morning spent with my friend. Leah and Grandma walked around outside and Liggs and I chatted over babies. I’m so sad we forgot to take pictures, but that morning lightened my heart so much. I miss Liggs immensely. I’m trying hard to convince both Liggs and Patch to move to Texas. Hmm. We’ll see.

After our lovely visit, we met my friend Hsin Yao in Temple Square. She’s working for the Church and finishing up her PhD at BYU but took the time to wander around the beautiful square with us. We took some pictures and enjoyed the perfect fall weather while chatting. Heavenly.

Leah loved the fall colors and weather

Hsin Yao and Seannie

What a nice looking group

We took TRAX back to the Little America Hotel where we ate lunch with Brad’s Aunt Liz. I love that lady; she’s been all over the world. She’s also an author and told me that she’s dedicating her latest book to Mom Reynolds, which is awesome, especially since her publisher’s decided on a spicy title for it. Mom had a good laugh on that.

I am so grateful for the time the kids and I had with our family. Sean and Leah are growing so quickly that we jumped at a chance to visit our family so they can remember their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The greatest treasure we have on earth is that of our family and I thank my Father in Heaven every day for those wonderful people.