Wednesday, February 24, 2016

He's a Real Boy

Yesterday afternoon began in a fairly routine fashion.
Talmage got home from school and he and Lincoln played together while I worked on stitching up a ripped chair cushion.
Wesley had been difficult to wake up from his nap so, after making several attempts to wake him up,
I told Lincoln enthusiastically, "Go wake up Wesley!"
He eagerly ran up the stairs to where Wesley was sleeping on our bed.
Seconds later I heard a crash and screams began.

This is a fairly common occurrence at our house, so I didn't even blink an eye.
I continued stitching the chair as I called out, "Did you crash? Come here!"
As Lincoln appeared at the top of the stairs I glanced up from my sewing and saw his face covered in blood, both hands held up to catch it as it ran off his chin.
I dashed up the stairs, thinking perhaps he had gotten a bloody nose, but soon saw that the source of the blood was a perfect, lightning-shaped, Harry Potter-esque gash right between his eyebrows.
I took him into the bathroom and tried to clean him up and soothe him, my attention no longer fixed on the stitching of the chair but instead on the potential of stitches on my boy.
(I would later learn that he had been running into our room and tripped and fell, hitting his head on the corner of our bed frame.)

After a couple of minutes, I determined that I would call "Doctor Mom," as Sam calls her.
After raising 7 kids, my mom has had a lot of experience with sickness and injuries, so she is always my initial go-to when I have health questions!
After visiting with her about the injury for a few minutes, she told me she would come see it and give me her opinion.
The next hour and a half was a flurry of activity--visiting with my mom, trying liquid bandage to close the cut, my mom handing out goldfish and juice to 3 boys who were very happy about the good fortune that resulted from the accident, teaching a piano lesson, getting more opinions from friends on Facebook, picking up Sam, and finally determining I should take Lincoln to Urgent Care while Sam went home with the older boys.

They ushered us back quickly, poured some saline solution over the wound to clean it,
and immediately told me he definitely needed stitches but, because of his age and the location,
we would need to go to the ER at Primary Children's to get him sedated.
So, off we went to the hospital where we were quickly checked in and shown to a room in the ER.

A nurse came in and saturated the wound with a topical anesthetic, taping a cotton ball directly to his forehead.
And then, for the next 2 hours, I tried to keep my exhausted 2-year-old happy in a stark hospital room with a few toy cars and a dinosaur from my purse. Eventually a child life specialist came in and visited with us and provided us with some more toys, and finally, after numerous chats with various doctors and nurses, they were ready to prepare to begin the procedure.
Lincoln soberly explained to every person who asked what happened, "I was running and I fell...and hit...corner...of Mommy's bed," or "I go wake up Wes-wee!"

While we waited for everything to get lined up, I pulled a roll of masking tape out of my purse and Lincoln proceeded to "fix" the stool in the room by putting tape on every single crack in the vinyl.
Masking tape and a metal measuring tape are two items regularly in my purse, and they are truly some of the best toddler-toys to keep on hand!
The child life specialist came back in with a box full of equipment that would be used on him to show it to him and let him play with it to help normalize the whole experience.
The doctor thought we might be able to get away with using Versed and explained that it was given as a nasal spray and made the child very loopy and distractable and act drunk.
Most importantly, he said, it would make him forget everything that happened.

I had my doubts that it would be enough sedation given the late hour and his tension about the wound,
but he suggested we give it a try before we move onto something heavier and I agreed.

And so it was that I found myself holding down my writhing 2-year-old while 2 other nurses held him down as well, the child life specialist tried her hardest to distract him with spinning, light-up toys and "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" on an iPad, a resident doctor began preparing to stitch him up, and a doctor observed.
The Versed had made him sleepy, but it hadn't created much of a change in his behavior. He still answered all questions we asked him correctly and pointed out various colors. He laughed slightly harder than normal at the funny toys shown him, but other than that seemed totally normal.
And because of the location of the cut, they didn't want to inject with lidocaine, so they were relying solely on topical anesthetic. I was skeptical about the situation and, sure enough, as soon as the needle poked him he began screaming and jerking all around.

It was made very clear that he needed something heavier to knock him out. So, about half an hour later, they placed an IV, put monitors all over him, and injected some ketamine.
And within 5 minutes, he had completely relaxed and gone to sleep (or, as the doctor put it, he was "with the pink elephants"). It was about 10:30 by that point, so I was very relieved that he was finally relaxed and getting some rest as they stitched him up!
And 3 stitches later the job was done!

My relief was short-lived, of the hardest parts was yet to come.
Before we could go home, they had to see him awake.
It was now 11:00 pm, he was pumped full of medication, and it was my job to make him wake up and talk--not an easy task! I tickled him, undressed him, poured water on him, coaxed him with apple juice, jostled him around, and tried just about every trick in my book to get his eyes opened,
and finally...finally...he opened his eyes and said a few words.

The nurse left and said we could leave an hour after they had administered the ketamine, so I waited while Lincoln drifted back into his very deep sleep.
About 15 minutes later she came in and said, "Oh no! Is he asleep again?? He needs to be awake for the doctor to see!"
So I got to torture the poor boy some more and eventually got him to wake up fully, talk to us, drink some apple juice, and express his desire to go home.
And with that, we were off!
We arrived home around midnight and this morning he woke up bouncing off the walls with exhausted energy,
excited to show off his battle wound.

And so it is that our sweet little toddler earned "real boy" status
with his first round of stitches.
One wonders if this is simply a taste of what is to come!
With three boys, that possibility seems somewhat likely.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Dream Come True

While in High School, I dreamt of being a wife and a mother a bit excessively.
Many were the nights I would lay awake, thinking of the future life I hoped to have.
I kept a list of potential baby names.
I prayed for my future husband to be strengthened in whatever challenges he would face.
I purchased a giant LoveSac on a huge sale, presumably because I thought it would be neat to have in my room, but really because I imagined the fun my future children would have with it (and they do!).
I requested catalogs from bridal dress shops so I could flip through the pages and dream.
I swooned over Josh Groban's deeply romantic love songs.
I pored over wedding guides,
and once I even went to a wedding expo in Salt Lake City just for fun!
It was there that I was given a DVD of sample wedding videos and I watched them repeatedly, always hoping my date-less history was not a sign of what was to come, as I yearned with all my heart to be a wife and mother.

And those dreams were realized very quickly.
I was delighted and surprised to become a 19-year-old bride,
and my heart was filled to the bursting as I stared into my newborn baby boy's eyes just 9 1/2 months later.
It was literally a dream come true.

But I recently realized something.
This is the stage of life I always dreamt of...
and it's quickly disappearing.
While the days of new motherhood sometimes drug on everlastingly,
the years have flown by and I'm gradually entering a new stage.
My dreams were full of activities I would do with my tiny children as they spent their days in my care--
they were full of romantic visions of my husband and I "living on love" as we plowed through graduate school.
Science fair projects, unwanted peer influences, and sporting events were absent from those teenage dreams.
Becoming empty nesters was never something that filled me with delight as I drifted off to sleep.
And while retirement is something we plan for and even look forward to,
it's not something I have a real passion for.

And I've struggled to accept that my dream is passing away.
I reached what I considered to be the climax of my life before I even left my 20s.
And it's hard to think of life ever again being as good as it has been thus far.

Oh, I don't mean to sound overly idealistic.
Sometimes being a young mother is downright difficult, my patience runs thin, and a continual prayer in my heart is all that keeps me sane.
But at the same time, this is my dream come true!
And so, as I lay awake last night, I decided I needed to form some new dreams for our future.
Because I don't want to live the rest of my life feeling like the climax has passed.
I want to continue to be a dreamer,
to fantasize about our future and make plans that we look forward to and work toward.
It is up to me to enjoy the future stages of life every bit as I have enjoyed this phase.

And so with those thoughts on the horizon,
I press forward with hope,
but simultaneously I hold my babies just a little closer.

(PS-If you want to have a good "Mommy-cry," just read this book.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Prioritizing Marriage in Every Stage of Life

A few days ago, I shared some thoughts about putting marriage "first,"
or placing it as a central priority in family life.
My friend Amberly's blog features posts about making marriage a priority in every stage of life.
I'm excited to be part of a new series featuring the stories of various wives
and how they make their marriage a priority.

You can read some portions of my interview with Amberly about making marriage a priority while having a young family here!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


A taste of Spring has been delighting us for the past couple of days,
breathing new life into my soul
and energy into my being.
I love the warmth of the sunshine and it does so much for my well-being and enthusiasm!

Today was strawberry jam day.
I spent the morning in the kitchen,
washing, cutting, and grinding countless strawberries into a jam-ready pulp
while Lincoln stood on a bucket by my side and ate strawberries to his heart's content.

I stared at this piece of elegant beauty as I worked
and rejoiced in the new hope the spring brings.

Monday, February 15, 2016

We Must Win This Battle

"In the past, the world competed for our children's energy and time.
Today, it fights for their identity and mind...
We cannot let society give our family a makeover in the image of the world.
We must win this battle.
Everything depends on it."

-Bradley D. Foster, "It's Never Too Early and It's Never Too Late," Ensign, November 2015

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Car Accident and the Gift of Grace

This Saturday, I was out running an errand.
The parking lot was rather crowded, and as I started my car I noticed another car with its turn signal on, ready to take my spot.
In the crowded parking lot, which had very little room to maneuver cars, my attention was fixed on the waiting car and I failed to look behind me properly.
As I pulled out of the space and completed the turn, I heard a small scraping sound.
It took a few seconds for me to realize that I had nicked the bumper of the car parked behind me.

With a pit in my stomach, I stepped out of the car to inspect the damage.
It was just a paint exchange--some of it would probably wipe off...
But I knew I had to leave a note for the owner so, with a heavy heart I sat down in the front seat to find some paper and a pen.
As I gathered my things, I noticed a man start walking across the parking lot toward the car I had bumped.
I hastily got out of the car and, as he walked up to the driver's door asked, "Is this your car? I am so sorry, but I think I may have nicked your bumper when I was pulling out..."
He surveyed the damage for a few moments while I waited nervously beside him.
"I was just getting ready to leave you a note with my information," I offered lamely.
After inspecting the car thoroughly, he turned, looked at me, squeezed my arm, and said, "It happens."

We conversed for a few minutes and I assured him that I could take care of it,
but he insisted that it was okay.
As we shook hands and parted ways he asked for my name and said, "Just do something nice for someone today. Forgive someone you don't want to, okay?"

I thanked him profusely, but as I drove away frustration mingled with my relief.
I was really upset with myself for the mistake I had made, and I still felt guilty about the man's car.
And the further I drove, the more upset I became.
At some point I thought, "It's so much easier to give mercy than to be the recipient!"
And instantly, the fact came into my mind that I am eternally indebted to One who has given a great deal more mercy to me than the kind man in the parking lot.

I've often wondered why I couldn't suffer for my own sins--why do we need a Savior?
Is there some eternal law dictating the need for a scapegoat--a perfect, sinless offering--before salvation can be obtained? Am I incapable of paying the full price? Or is the price of sin so great that I would have to experience eternal torment to make up for the wrongdoings of day-to-day life?
But as I pondered my experience in the parking lot, I also found myself wondering,
"Am I so fixated on wanting to make up for my wrong doings that I fail to be properly grateful? Am I wasting so much time being upset with myself that I fail to accept the grace of God?"

As I considered these and other questions, my heart gradually softened.
I knew I had to humble myself, forgive myself, accept the man's kind offering, and then focus on gratitude toward him instead of frustration with myself.
I've been thinking about the experience as the weekend has progressed,
and evaluating my own attitude toward the Savior's Gift of grace He has given me--incurring a debt I will never repay.
And though I may not ever fully understand it,
I grow ever more grateful.

Friday, February 5, 2016

How do you put your Marriage "First?"

I recently read a couple of articles about the importance of putting your marriage "first"--before your children.
While I know there isn't total agreement about that idea--or at least about the phrasing--I was rather shocked to see the viciously angry comments on the articles, sprinkled with colorful language and misconstruing the claims and suggestions in the articles.
One angry commenter said something like, "You wouldn't leave your child in the bathroom throwing up just because your husband wanted to spend time with you!"
Another stated, "If the boat was sinking and you had to choose to save your husband or your child, there is no way you would choose your husband!"

I don't think anyone who claims to put their marriage "first" would support neglecting a sick child in favor of having fun with their spouse--
but their anger got me thinking...what does it mean to put your marriage "first?"

I actually prefer to think of a concentric model of priorities rather than a hierarchical ranking.
We put God at the center of our lives, and the positive effects ripple outward to all other aspects of our lives.
And when we put marriage as a central part of our focus, the positive effects ripple outward as well.
Putting our marriage first is putting our children first, because the positive effects that decision will have on them are innumerable.
When I thought of the sinking-boat analogy the commenter brought up, I saw myself as not choosing one or the other, but rather throwing the life preserver to my husband because then he and I would both be in a position to save the child.

Making the marriage a central focus will look different for each couple,
but I started thinking about what that looks like for us.

For us, it means:

-Making time for a date night without kids each week. This may be out of the house with a babysitter at home or at home after the kids are in bed, but that time together is essential to connect and have conversations that don't happen as easily during the chaos of day-to-day life. When our kids were small babies they often came along, but as soon as they became old enough to be a substantial distraction, they began staying with a babysitter. We try to get at least 2-3 date nights out of the house per month, because I notice we're both more alert and attentive if we can begin our date earlier in the evening and leave the chores and home stressors behind for a while. We also try to ensure we're mentally present. Although we often talk about our kids on our dates, we try to expand our conversation to other topics and not worry excessively about them while we're away so we're able to focus on one another.

-Being willing to leave kids with a babysitter. See above--sometimes the kids cried when we left together. One of our babies had one day when we left and he cried for a good chunk of the time we were gone. But we knew that while they weren't necessarily immediately happier for our time away, they would benefit as we took the time and sacrificed their immediate comfort to strengthen our marriage relationship.

-Attending the temple each month. When we attend the temple, we are reminded of the promises we have made to God and to one another and how those promises affect us as a couple and our children--for eternity! This always helps us keep our priorities straight.

-Sitting together. I admire the fact that my parents sat together if they were both at a family outing or event. It may have been a small thing--but it sent the message to us as children that we would never come between their relationship. And every time Sam and I sit together at Church with our kids on laps or on either side of us, I have that message reaffirmed to me as well.

-Giving Attention. Children are, by nature, far more demanding than spouses. When I pick Sam up from the bus stop after work, they chatter non-stop while I am lucky to get a sentence or two in during our short drive home. But, when we are having a conversation with one another, they have to wait until we're at a stopping point before they can talk to us. (And we try to make a stopping point within a minute or so!) If I am hugging Sam and a jealous toddler comes up and tries to shove us apart or cries to be picked up, I smile down at him and say, "I'm hugging Daddy right now!" I don't neglect my children, but I also don't allow them to take all of my attention. If Sam calls and I am in the middle of an activity with the kids, I stop what I'm doing and answer his phone call. If the kids want the last cookie and Sam hasn't gotten one, I usually tell them we need to save it for him. (And I was thrilled when our oldest recently insisted on saving a muffin for his Daddy before he ate his!) They're simple things, but they do a lot to ensure we're not neglecting our relationship.

-Setting Boundaries. We don't just have boundaries for our marriage--areas we don't allow other things or people to interfere with--we also have boundaries for family time. We work hard to protect family dinner time, and we are strict about preserving Monday nights for our Family Home Evening. We have likewise chosen to teach our kids to sleep in their own beds, to not take sides with our kids when a dispute arises, to never complain about one another to others, and to try to go to sleep at the same time (which helps us avoid feeling like we're living parallel lives). Boundaries may look different for other couples, but I think it's important that they are defined and protected.

-Taking time and making the effort to show love in the midst of daily life. A love note hiding in the kitchen cupboard, a funny or thoughtful e-mail sent on a trying day, a phone call to check in after a doctor's appointment, a treat Sam saves me that someone brought into work...these things are small, but they make us feel loved and prioritized even as life's other demands take the biggest chunk of our time. During a challenging period when our first son was a new baby, Sam would call me each day while he was warming up his food for lunch. His phone call was only 1-2 minutes long, but it was something I looked forward to. It lifted my spirits and showed that he was thinking of me even while he was away. When life gets chaotic, if I take the time to make some extra effort to show love, it always brings us closer together and emphasizes our priorities.

-Recognizing that time spent with a person does not equate to level of importance. I feel strongly that priorities don't always have to do with time. When my husband was in a really demanding Church calling and working long hours in graduate school, I wondered what it meant for family to come first, because I didn't really see anything he should cut out. It finally dawned on me that if the family's NEEDS were being met and prioritized, then he was putting us first--even if he spent more time elsewhere. So even though sometimes kids reduce the amount of time we spend together, I think when we ensure the needs of our marriage are being met we're still putting that relationship first.

-Allowing our children to bring us together. One reason I don't see children and a marriage as competitors is because parenthood truly has strengthened our marriage! Each time we have marveled at the wonder of a new baby--each time we rejoice together at a child's progress or behavior--each time we work together to discuss a child's needs and how to best meet them--we grow closer together. Parenthood is something that brings us a tremendous amount of joy and as we work together, we simultaneously grow closer together.

Although the list above is not intended to be all-inclusive, it highlights the main ways we work to make our marriage a central priority of our lives.
What about you? How do you make your marriage a central priority of your life?
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