Friday, December 21, 2007

holiday high jinks...

For family night this week we took Ruby to the mall for some holiday festivities. They had an area designated where Mrs. Claus led the children in some dancing. Christmas music was booming, (loud enough almost for every mall shopper to hear), and high above us a snow maker spewed giant moistened flakes that whirled around and around to the Christmas beat.
Here we are enjoying the ambiance while daddy snapped some pictures...

Next we were off to sit on Santa's lap. What is it about Santa that is so terrifying to so many children?...Including me at Ruby's exact age?

Ruby at 18 months...and me at 18 months. Don't we look so much alike?

This is a picture of Ruby last year...back in the day when she was perfectly content as long as someone...anyone, was holding her.

And finally - not perfectly - but pretty content now that she isn't all alone with that creepy man in the big red suit!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

and yet, another angel...

I can't let the day pass without making mention of Amber's birthday! Let's see...where do I even begin? First of all, anyone who knows her, would surely agree with me when I say...she's an angel. Not only is she sweet and kind, but she is constantly serving and doing charitable acts for others. I can't count the number of times I've come home to a homemade treat on our porch, or a gift basket of some sort, or a handwritten note that she had dropped in the mail, or a kind voicemail, or a sweet text message. She is genuine and loving and caring. She is compassionate and truly knows what it means to mourn with those that mourn. I have seen her on many occasions, cry with those that are experiencing some sort of difficulty in their lives. And in fact, she has done so with me on more than one occasion. She has had her share of trials, too, and certainly has every right to feel sorry for herself; but rather than hold a pity party, she gets up and does something kind for someone else. I can't think of many people that know her, who haven't been touched by her kindness in some way. She really is an angel.
Happy Birthay, sweet Amber!
I love you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

another angel...

It was a cold, overcast, mid-December day. The 18th to be exact, of 1997. Just one day prior, the doctor had warned us that mom would either pass away that day or the next. Needless to say, that was a pretty tough pill to swallow; and up until that point, we had all been clinging to our hope and faith that she would pull through. That she would recover from this most recent regimen of chemotherapy. She had to. She was our mom, and we needed her. Plus they had told us that she probably had a good two years left in her…it had only been two months. This couldn’t be happening. Not to us.
Dad had been spending his nights with her at the hospital, but given the grim foresight delivered by her doctor, he didn’t know if he could possibly do it one more night…especially if this was to be her last. We arranged for uncle Dave (mom’s youngest brother) to stay the night at home with our four younger sisters, so that we (Aaron, Matt, and I), could keep dad company, and possibly render our last goodbyes to our sweet, angel mother. I’ll never forget that night in her hospital room. It was the longest of my life. She was listless, disconnected, incoherent, in fact. We crowded around her bed. We held her hands. We kissed her face. We snuggled up next to her. We told her we loved her…over and over again. But there was no response. Nothing. Nothing but an emotionless expression. Finally, Matt, in his sweet, pure, angelic voice, held her hand and sang her favorite hymn, I Know That My Redeemer Lives. A hint of a smile came to her face, and if but only for a brief moment, I remember her raising her eyebrows. I imagine that must have taken all the strength she could muster, to manifest her approval, her appreciation, her gratitude…her love. That was her only reaction to anything that night. I know she knew that we were there. I know she was dying to be able to express her love to each of us. I’m sure it was agonizing to have so much to say, but to be trapped inside a body that wouldn’t allow it…a body which sadly, was shutting down. We hovered around her bed the entire night, listening to each rattled breath, and wondering if each of these might be her last. Too much time seemed to pass between each struggle for air, and my heart seemed to stop until the next inhalation. I felt a glimmer of hope as the morning sun made its presence, for that signified that we had conquered the cold and dreary night. We were half way there. If she could just hang on through this new day, I thought, she will have beaten all the odds. Surely we must prove this medical staff wrong, mom was a fighter, and she would pull through.
Dad told us to go home. “Take a break”, he said. “Go home and get cleaned up. See if Uncle Dave got the girls off to school alright. Relax, get some rest, and come back in a while.” Aaron refused to leave dad’s side. Matt and I left. We arrived at home to find that all was well. We quickly cleaned up, and were anxious to return to the hospital. Who could rest and relax while dealing with the possibility of losing their mother? We couldn’t. Not being home more than an hour, we were more than eager to get back. It felt like the longest drive of my life. Neither of us said much. It was cold out, and overcast. Snow began to fall and I watched as the little flurries twirled and danced around before finally settling on the windshield, the trees, the ground, or the cars around us. What gives them the right to be so happy? I thought. Christmas music was playing on the radio. I wish I could remember the song. I only remember that it made mention of spreading your wings, and flying away. Tears streamed my cheeks, as I realized how selfish I had been. I wanted to keep my mom around forever. That doesn’t seem too selfish, in and of itself, does it? I just wanted things to be as they had always been. I just wanted to forget about the last 2 months, and go back to life as we’d always known it…with our healthy, happy, smiley mom. Was that really too much to ask for? No, not at all. Not if that was what the Lord had intended. But deep down I knew He had a different plan for our mom, and for our family. Right now she was lying in a hospital bed with broken wings. I needed to let her go, and allow her to soar to new heights.
After what could be deemed an eternity, we arrived, pulled into the parking lot, ran into the cold grey building, scrambled with the elevator buttons, exited at the cancer unit, rounded the corner past the nurses station, and finally to the entrance of her room. The first thing I noticed was the number of people that were in her small room. Grandma, aunt Dorothy, uncle Emil…but the face I will never forget was my cousin Brad’s. His face was beet-red as he was expressing great, gushing sobs. This must be hard for him to see my mom in this condition. It must be too much for him to have to watch her struggle for each breath. These were my thoughts upon seeing Brad. Dad met us at the door and with his arms wrapped around our bodies, said only two words…she’s gone. No No No No No. No, this cannot be happening. No, it’s just a really bad dream. No, I cannot go on without my mom. I threw myself upon her still, warm body. But she doesn’t seem to be dead. She’s just sleeping. I lifted her hand, and let go as the dead weight of it dropped, without resistance, to her side. Her face was calm. No more twisting and contorting from the pain. But I was not calm. I was a wreck. But 41 is too young to die. How could she leave behind 7 children that needed her? We had plans for the future. What about when I get married and have children? Christmas is a week away…My life is over. How can we possibly go on without her? I will never be able to laugh, or smile, or even be happy, no, not ever again.

Well, life did go on, and it still does. In fact, it’s been ten years since the day I thought my life was over. Our little family managed to plug through the days and months and years that followed without her. I’m now married. I’ve had children. I’ve laughed a lot. I have found many reasons to smile and to be happy. Christmas is a good time. Yes, with it come the painful memories of losing my mom. The long, dark, scary night crowded around her bed. The long, cold, snowy drive back to the hospital. Cousin Brad’s face. Yes, those are memories and images that will forever be engraved in my mind. I will never again see mom with her Christmas apron making her homemade caramels and licorice. I won’t ever again be able to present her with the handmade gift I made for her (a tradition that she started when we were little). I won’t ever be able to listen to her read another Christmas story, or hear her sing her favorite Christmas songs, or see her face light up as we opened the gifts that she had thoughtfuly picked out for each of us. But because of her, the person she was, and the memories she created for me…I can carry on those same traditions with my children, and Christmas can once again be a happy time. Not just good…but wonderful, and magical, and everything it was when she was here.
It doesn’t seen fair, losing a loved one at Christmas. But I have taken comfort in the words of Jeffrey R. Holland, in his talk entitled Christmas Comfort.
If you have to lose your [mom], what more comforting time than Christmas? None of us would want those experiences for the Wilberg Mine families, or the Moab seminary students, or the thousand other painful experiences some people have at Christmas; but even so, in the end it is all right. It is okay. These are sad experiences, terribly wrenching experiences, with difficult moments for years and years to come. But because of the birth in Bethlehem and what it led to, they are not tragic experiences. They have a happy ending. There is a rising after the falling. There is life always. New births and rebirths and resurrection to eternal life.
“If thou hadst been here, my brother would have not died,” Martha said to him once. To which he replied, looking sweet Martha firmly in the eyes: “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoso liveth and believeth in me shall never die". (John 11:21, 25-26).

So I really can’t think of a better time to have had to say goodbye to my sweet mother, than at Christmas. A time in which we celebrate the birth of our Savior, whose birth would be rather insignificant had it not been for his life, his teachings, his atonement, his death and crucifixion, and finally his resurrection…that glorious resurrection in which we shall rise from the dead and be reunited with those we love. What a wonderful gift our Savior has promised, and given to us all...

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come; let earth receive her king! more will sin and sorrow grow, nor throrn infest the ground; he'll come and make the blessings flow, far as the curse was found."

Monday, December 17, 2007

an angel...

Rania was married this past weekend in Utah. I felt so honored to have been invited to her temple ceremony, as it was a very intimate setting. I couldn't control my emotion as I watched her and Clint kneel across the alter and embrace each other's hands. It was beautiful. She looked like an Angel. That's what Rania has always been in my eyes...a virtuous, pure, angelic being. She appeared during a time in my life when I felt like I had no one (with the exception of my family), to call my friend. School was tough because of the rumors that had been circulating, and to my detriment, Junior High kids are ruthless, and usually believe every bit of greasy gossip they hear. So it suffices to say, I wasn't the most popular gal in the bunch. Rania and I had a math class together, and she approached me one day to ask if I'd like to be her locker partner. (My former best friend, and the girl with whom I had previously been sharing a locker, was, in fact, the very brains behind the spreading of the malicious rumor.) Rania was literally an Angel sent from heaven. I would have never known, and it wasn't until many months later that I found out, she too, had been at an all time low. Her parents were going through a divorce, and because of that, her responsibilities around the home, far exceeded those of the typical 9th grader. We always talked about how the Lord sent us to one another during that time, to help each other make it through these most challenging and painful experiences. She always encouraged me, and was a good example to me, even when I was following the wrong crowd. That was 16 years ago, and to this day, I can honestly say, that Rania is still my Angel friend. We've been through a lot together. Shortly after high school, I went to her 1st wedding. A couple of years later, she went to my mission farewell. I was there for her during her divorce. She was there for me after my mom died. She sat right next to me, and cried right along with me, during the funeral of my son. And so on, and so forth. She's my best friend. And it doesn't matter how much time has passed since the last time we spoke, we just simply pick up right where we left off...never missing a beat. We always talked about living next door to each other when we were all grown and settled. I don't know whether that dream will ever be realized; but this I do know, we will always, forever and ever, hold one another, and our friendship, close, in each other's hearts.

I love you, Ra.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


They say that the third time is the charm...i don't really know why they say it, or if there has ever been any truth to it. Nonetheless, we did have a charming time at the Mesa temple Christmas lights...for the third time in one week! On Monday, there was a slight chill in the air. We wore our light zip-up jackets. We had invited a bunch of couples out to fellowship and friendship a less active couple, who ironically, ended up bailing at the last minute. Most the other families bailed, too. It was a small group, but we had fun. We stopped off and got ice cream afterwards. Does that sound weird to anyone else? Ice cream after Christmas lights? Only in Arizona.

Wednesday we went for mutual. It was a little colder, a little more crowded, and not as enjoyable having to deal with my 18 month daughter who decided to throw a tantrum because I could not (and would not), stand back any longer and allow her to push her own stroller through (and into) the masses of people. One of the leaders finally pulled a sucker out of her purse hoping it would calm her down. She ended up whacking me in the face with it.

By the time Sunday rolled around, it was much colder, feeling to me- more like December, (and much more like Christmas), we had hot chocolate rather than ice cream (not that I don't just love ice cream, but hot chocolate seems to go better with Christmas lights to me), the cute less active couple came out - along with a few other friends from the ward, and I remembered my camera. So maybe it did take three get it just right!

Ruby and mom all bundled up and excited to go.

all tuckered out after a long, cold night...

Monday, December 10, 2007

black wig...

The reason I put the green bandana back in my hair (in the car on the way home from getting it done), and the reason I wasn't able to wear my hair down for the first couple of days, is because every time I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt like I was wearing a black wig.

I mean is there really much difference between this picture of Ruby...

and this picture of me? hahahaha

silly picture...kind of looks as if you were looking at me through a peep-hole :)

Friday, December 7, 2007

i did it...

I've been wanting to go dark for probably a year now...but I'm not a very daring person, and change has always been difficult for me to even think about. That's why I've pretty much had the same do for years. It's not that I was particularly in love with it...I just never dared to try anything new. While we were in Utah, my sisters (mainly Kim) convinced me that I just needed to take the plunge. As you can see, it still took me about 6 weeks to commit, and then to finally follow through...

before and after shots

Maybe a tad darker than what I was picturing, but I think it's a fun change, and hopefully won't take too long to get used to. Poor Ruby, when I picked her up from my friend who was watching her, I could tell she was a little nervous. In fact, she still refuses to make eye contact with me. C'mon, Ruby...I'm still your mom for cryin' out loud!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

18 months...cont'd

I was pretty tired the other night when I did Ruby's little tribute...and I guess at the time I felt like I hadn't missed a thing; but I just keep thinking of more, and I can't shake this urge...this feeling...this need to "finish" what I started. Who can blame me for having so much more to say about this little 18 month bundle of joy?

So here are 18 things - one for every month we have been blessed...simply by knowing her:

1) She's learning the ABC's, and loves to sing the song. She has the tune down perfectly...only the letters have no rhyme or reason to them. just completely jumbled and out of order. In fact, some of the letters are perhaps ones she made up herself. I love hearing her sing the ABC's.

2) She can count to ten, too...only here's her version (it's the same every time): 1,2,3,9,8. I love hearing her count. I think I may even get a little sad when she starts saying 4,5,6. I think it's so cute just the way she does it...her very own unique little way.

3)She always says a long,drawn out "Ameeeeeeeen" after every single prayer...and always gets the biggest smile while saying it. She puts so much enthusiasm into it, too. Once or twice I peeked to see her folding her arms and closing her eyes, but like I said, only once or twice...most the time she's looking at us like we're just super weird parents. This is most definitely something I will be excited to see her learn and grasp.

4)Ever since our trip to Utah, over a month ago, she's been saying Amy a lot. She has an aunt Amy whom we spent some time with while we were there, and also a cousin Amy, who lives here. She sure loves those Amys, as she can't stop talking about them.

5)She has really started talking lately. And mimicking everything she hears. Obviously, some words she says better than others, nonetheless, it's been so rewarding for me to watch her develop these skills.

6) She loves pushing buttons...any type of button. She used to turn the TV on and off every few seconds, until I put a strip of duct tape over the button so that she couldn't tell where it was. I had to do that to the computer too, because she would always turn it off during those times when I was right in the middle of typing a lengthy email, or a document, which of course, I had neglected to save while composing. Recently she has discovered the power strip that the computer is plugged in to. She thoroughly enjoys flipping that on and off, and did it probably at least 3 or four times today alone! Can you tell that she has even learned to push mommy's buttons? (Those are probably her favorite to push!)

7) I can always tell if she likes a certain food by the mmmm mmmm that follows the bite...and if she wants to try something, she says "bite?".

8) She also lets us know when she's done (whether she's actually finished all of her food or not), by saying "on gone" (all gone).

9) She hates having a blanket on top of her. I always put one in her crib just in case she gets cold and decides she wants it...but she usually bunches it up and uses it as a pillow. Sometimes she sleeps in between me and John in our bed. She goes crazy and just kicks and kicks if we try to put the covers over her too. It's pretty challenging for us to try to stay covered ourselves when Ruby is either kicking the blankets away, or sprawled out on top of them.

10) When she gets upset, she takes her pacifier out of her mouth and vigorously throws it across the room. It makes me mad, but it makes me laugh too because it's so dramatic. A few months back, we were sitting in Sacrament Meeting, when completely out of the blue, she removed it from her mouth and threw it at the lady sitting behind us. It made a loud whack as it hit smack dab in the middle of her chest. John and I were mortified...but none of us (including the lady) could stop laughing.

11) She always lets me know if her food is too hot, or if the shower water is too hot...simply by saying "hot". The other day though, as I was pulling the shirt with an extremely small neck opening, over her head- she cried "hot, hot". I realized then that "hot" is her way of saying "ouch", whether it's actually burning her or not.

12) We have been teaching her the name of many of her body parts. I think her favorite to say, and the one that she has had the easiest time learning, would be "eyes". She loves to show us where our eyes are too, while literally poking her finger into our sockets...yep, Ruby, those are mom's eyes.

13) She's obsessed with my glasses. She calls them "gwasses", and takes advantage of every opportunity to remove them from my face. It's our little morning-time game.

14) She loves cell phones, and thanks to her cousin, Christopher, she now has her very own real cell phone...which she loves. She wanders the house, phone to ear, saying "hewo, daddy?" over and over. So cute to watch.

15) She has this weird habit of twisting her pacifier while it's in her mouth. For the most part, just one, 180 degree, counterclockwise turn will satisfy her...and then after a minute or two, she's at it again. We still haven't figured out why she does it, or what it means. Surely the pacifier couldn't taste or feel any different either way.

16) She loves ice breakers sours. They come in a little round container, which she still hasn't learned how to open herself. We keep them in a drawer in the kitchen, which unfortunately, she can now reach. She always brings the container to us and begs "peese, peese, peese, peeeeeese", while shifting her weight rapidly from one foot to the other. A sometimes very demanding, and extremely impatient little child we have.

17) Not to long ago, she switched to only one nap a day. But for a while, we couldn't figure out which nap (her morning or afternoon) she still needed. I continued to put her down both in the morning and afternoon, and even if she didn't sleep, she was perfectly content to stay in her crib anyway. I discovered that if I ever just need a "break", I can usually put her in her crib for some "quiet" time, and she'll just jabber happily to herself. She has always been a happy baby.

18) We have had this cat lingering outside our sliding glass door for a week now. I don't know where he came from, or who he belongs to (I assume he belongs to somebody because he's fat, and we haven't been feeding him). So anyway, we have had this cat outside our door, and he just peers in at us and meows. His meows actually sound a lot to me like cries for help. "Hellllp, Hellllp" all day and all night. Last night we were putting up our outdoor Christmas lights, and of course Kitty (that's the name we've given him), found his way to the front yard where we were. Ruby thoroughly enjoyed following him around and taunting him; but if Kitty started to follow her, she'd scream bloody murder while clinging to my leg. Whenever Kitty would meow, Ruby would too; and they went back and forth meowing throughout the entire night. Kitty was doing the "helllllpppp" meow, and Ruby would do the "rraaaaaarrr" meow. It was pretty entertaining...and hilarious.

That was 18...but I just have to add one more.

This is by far one of the sweetest and most tender things she does. Very often, and completely out of the blue, she'll lean in for a kiss. She seems to know when I need it the most, and takes advantage of those opportunities to make me smile. The funny thing is that most the time she won't remove her I end up kissing hard plastic. At least her intentions are good.

Seriously, what would I ever do without her? Once again, happy 18 months, my sweet little gem...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Merry Christmas...

to you and yours...
from us and ours.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

i can't believe...

that my little girl is a year and a half.

No longer a baby, that's for sure. She's so grown up and recently has been demonstrating her Independence...from refusing to eat, unless it's her hand doing the feeding - to turning down an application of "pretties" (lip gloss), if she's not the one applying it. She's talking so much, too, these days. It's so nice because I feel like we're finally able to communicate a little bit, and I love being able meet her needs. Today as we were out shopping she kept repeating "mom, gink...gink, mom." So I knew she was thirsty, and was able to give her something to drink. She tells me when she wants a "nack", which usually means that she wants either some goldfish crackers or a package of fruit snacks. She loves cheese, too, and totally lights up when I offer her a string cheese. "Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!" she says perfectly and enthusiastically. She also informs us when she wants milk, by saying "milk", and when her diaper needs to be changed, by saying "poop".
She loves food...more specifically, anything with sugar. She loves smiling at herself in the mirror, and calls the reflection, "Booby". (We wondered if the "R" would be difficult for her to pronounce...hopefully she'll get it straight at least before she enters kindergarten.)
Usually her first word upon waking is "cookie". But I never give her one until she's had her breakfast...which reminds me, she can say cereal, apple, banana, and yogurt, and loves all of those things.
She spends a lot of her time exploring the drawers, cupboards, and closets within her reach; and subsequently, her daddy and I spend a lot of time cleaning up after her. She loves books, and loves to be read to - only she has to be the one to turn the pages. She loves taking showers, caring for her baby, dressing up in anything belonging to mom (mostly shoes and jewelry), and looking for her Binky. The latter of these actually has some history behind it. In those moments of desperation when there wasn't a single pacifier to be found, I used to carry Ruby in my arms as we began our hunt for the only thing that would calm her. "Biiin-kyyy, wheeeeere aaaare you?"...I would repeat, over and over again, until one was found. Just recently, she has started mimicking this whenever she can't find her binky. Only instead of saying where are you, she says where are we. so cute. I have tried and tried to get it on video, but have failed miserably. (That's another thing...she doesn't like having her picture taken - or being filmed.) Here's my best attempt. I had to actually put the camcorder up to the screen of her video monitor (hence the poor picture quality)...unfortunately, this was not her best, but you can at least get an idea of how much she loves her binky.

A few of her favorite things (some of which have already been mentioned):
cell phones
pulling faces

makeup...isn't she pretty?

drinking from a straw (especially soda)

marking the "B" in pat-a-cake

lip gloss

I'm just in love with this girl and feel so honored to be her mother. Happy 18 months my sweet little one.