Wednesday, December 31

Revisiting

Things I wrote this year...

JANUARY

Last night, thanks to a phone call from the east coast, we learned that President of the LDS church, Gordon B. Hinckley had passed away. Somewhat shocked, and intensely sad, I got online this morning to read the article I knew would be featured on the front page of the Deseret News in Utah. I don't have any words to express what a tragedy this is for our world. I know that he is with his wife now, and his welcome beyond the veil is something I wish I could have seen.

***

My wonderful husband left me sitting on the couch holding a sleeping Brooklyn, and proceeded to scrub the kitchen. I don't mean that he simply wiped down the counters and loaded the dishwasher, I mean he scrubbed the kitchen. He wiped walls, cabinets, and appliances. He swept, scrubbed, and shined the floor. He even pulled apart the leaves of the table to clean the ever present gunk from between the halves. He washed dishes, he cleaned the sink, he even shined the toaster! I was so impressed, grateful, and flattered that he was concerned enough with the success of my party to go to this much effort.

I can barely even express how grateful I am for a husband who doesn't sit back and support passively. When I undertake something monumental, like a large party on a day that is already brimming with activities, he jumps in and makes it happen. He's a wonderful testament to the kind of men I hope our boys grow up to be, and the kind of man I hope our daughter marries. Those people who thought we wouldn't last a year when we first announced our plan to marry? I guess the jokes on them, because the last 8 years of my life have been the sweetest of all.

***
Kadon continues to amaze us with those big brown eyes, and curly orb of hair.

***

So, last Tuesday was on Jeremy's birthday, and the only thing this child wanted to do for his party was go to Chuck E. Cheese. Why does he want to go to Chuck E. Cheese, you ask? Well, because PBS early morning cartoons tell him that it is the only place a kid can go 'to be a kid'. Knowing that this stage of childhood only lasts a small window of time, Ammon and I resigned ourselves to an afternoon of crappy pizza and arcade games, figuring this was simply a rite of passage that we could no longer avoid. We were wrong, people. Wrong on so many levels.

***
Did I mention how much we are loving having multiple toilets?

FEBRUARY

Mainly, I'm tired of the 'dead' feel of everything around me. I'm tired of dead grass, dead trees, and dead leaves on the ground. Winter without snow is just dead, ugly growth everywhere you look.

***
Unfortunatey, she can't fit the entire toy in her mouth. But she sure tries.

***
I absolutely love, love, love her beautiful blue eyes.

***
I took Brooklyn in to the doctor for her regular 4 month checkup last week, and our tiny daughter is weighing in at a whopping 10 pounds.

***
Thankfully in this situation, my ignorance saved us a fair amount of money. Instead of an oil pump and possibly an engine, it simply required a new water pump and timing belt, which set us back a mere $75. All in all, I guess I've never been so pleased to be a nincompoop.

MARCH

6. What sound or noise do you hate? An ambulance

***
Confused, I glanced across the parking lot to where their truck was parked, and saw a piano tied securely in the bed of the truck. As reality sunk in, tears sprang instantly to my eyes. I have literally hungered for a piano since I left my parents house behind 8 years ago.

***
Ammon's childhood friend Peter is scheduled to fly into Columbus this evening for a visit. Ammon has the next five days off work, and we're all looking forward to a little rest and relaxation. We don't have much scheduled past a lot of board games and fun, but it should be a nice break from the humdrum schedule.

***
I need practice remembering how truly blessed I am. We have so much to be grateful for, more than seems fair, really. We have health, resources, and a love that goes far beyond anything that can be described with mere words. Our children are beautiful, healthy, and caring toward one another. My relationship with my spouse is something beautiful and pure, something to be cherished every day for the rest of eternity. Really, what are a few missed naps and sleepless nights when compared to the blessings that I enjoy?

APRIL

Currently, Brooklyn is days, possibly hours away from cutting her first tooth. I've been waiting for a long time for her to reach this point, but now that it's finally here I'm kind of sad. She was six months old on Friday, and I keep thinking about how quickly the last six months have passed by. Six months seems like such a milestone to me; it's when all the exciting things start to happen: sitting up, crawling, getting teeth, sleeping through the night, the list goes on and on. It has always seemed to me that my kids remain babies until about six months of age, and then they begin the gradual process of detaching themselves from me. I don't think I'm really ready for Brooklyn to start doing this.

***
My dear husband, who has been supportive of me doing whatever it will take to start feeling better about myself, suggested last night that we start a new schedule of meeting at the YMCA every Monday afternoon when he gets off work and spending an hour exercising as a family. Actually, perhaps 'exercising as a family' isn't the correct term. What I mean is that the children will be dumped unceremoniously into the Child Watch program for an hour while Ammon and I sweat it out together in the gym. Then, we'll quickly shower, pick up our offspring, and grab a quick bite to eat on the way home. I'm looking forward to exercising with my husband by my side, and hopefully beginning to reverse the trend that I've set up for myself for the past six months.

***
I know that we're not dirty people, and we keep our house as clean as is reasonably possible, but seeing bugs on the floor still has a way of making me want to scrub everything down.

***
Flamingos! And not the kind that are generally situated in the lawn outside some body's house!

***
I keep thinking this is absurd. It's absurd that this is happening to us. It's absurd that I'm a widow at 25 years old. It's absurd that he's gone, and I didn't get to say goodbye.

***
I wish with every fiber of my being that I had aimed the camera just a little bit differently, and captured more than his arms in the picture. I wish I had just one more shot of his huge smile, and the sparkle in his eyes as he held his only daughter for the last time.

***
An hour later, our lives were shattered and our futures became so terribly uncertain.

***
On the way home, I asked him why he hadn't wanted the furniture. His reply keeps running through my head these days. "I don't feel good about spending the money. I don't know, maybe I'm going to die, and you'll need the money for yourself." How I wish he had been wrong.

***
After we do hugs and kisses and I turn out the light, he's usually getting started within about ten minutes. His crying is the deep, hiccuping kind of cry that tears my heart out. When I go into his room, he can only sob "I miss my Daddy, I want Daddy back".

MAY

No, Friday is just another day without Ammon. It's another day that I have nothing to look forward to, nothing to break up the monotony, and the loss of so much to mourn.

***
The scheme seemed perfect.....until I realized that my family is a party of four now, no longer a party of five. It hit me like a ton of bricks that there would only be three adults in attendance tonight, not four. Tonight made me wonder, how long are my married friends going to want to spend time socially with me? How long will it before I become just another sad reminder of what happens to 'other people'?

***
I was happy. We were happy. We were goofy, deliriously, serenely, and genuinely happy, and the loss of that stings.

***
I am so lonely for Ammon. I ache for the touch of his hands, the warmth in his eyes, and the comfort of his embrace. I hate him for leaving me here alone.

JUNE

Laura then made arrangements to have care for her two children from Thursday until Tuesday, and we spent a really nice weekend together. I was grateful to have her here on a weekend that could have potentially been very painful, since the one month anniversary of Ammon's death fell on the same Sunday as Mother's Day.

***
I often have to remind myself that my kids aren't always crying about what they say they're crying about. A five year old and a three year old aren't articulate enough to say "I'm sad because I miss my Daddy, and I just want to cry for a while." Heaven help all of us get through this.

***
After dinner, Russ and Jeremy went out, Jeremy donned his helmet, and the lesson began. Jeremy did pretty well, and was only a little wobbly. My heart broke a little bit, though, watching them. As wonderful as it is that Jeremy has a grandfather that is more than willing to sacrifice his back to push Jeremy around on his bicycle, I know that it's a rite of passage for Jeremy. It's a rite of passage that only a father should enjoy.

***
I wish that you were here with us today, babe. I would love to have prepared a nice breakfast for you, and spent the previous weeks thinking up cute little things for the kids to do for you today. The kids shouldn't have to visit their father's grave for this holiday, but you already knew that.

***
I told Jeremy that if he would eat one cicada, I would give him five dollars. He immediately discarded the idea, but I decided to up the ante and appeal to the sensibilities of my adventurous fiver year old. I told him that if he would eat one cicada that I would buy him a Transformer.

***
I've been asked several times by friends, family, and acquaintances how I'm managing, suddenly being a single parent to three. My answer? I put the little buggars to work, that's how!!

***
Every day is so precious at this age, and I don't want to miss anything or have it erased from my memory.

***
I was sitting in the room waiting for the baptism to start, feeling slightly lonely, when I looked over and witnessed the time honored tradition of the father and the boy who is being baptized being photographed in their white clothes. The look on Ammon's brother James--a huge grin, pride evident in every line of his face-- complete undid me. Not wanting to ruin what should have been a special day for Nicholas, I had to leave the room. In the foyer, I cried bitter tears.

JULY

As I perused the aisles, it seemed appropriate to pick up a bouquet of flowers. In a small way, it's as though Ammon got me flowers for our anniversary. Every time I look at them, I think of him. I like to think that they're exactly what he would have chosen for me, if given the opportunity.

***
A wild animal, when it is mortally wounded, will lash out with teeth, claws, and hatred at anyone or anything that comes near it. Heedless of attempts to help, the wild animal will try to hurt whatever is nearest to it. I have felt this pain, and recognize the impulse to inflict hurt on those that are only trying to help.

***
Suddenly, it occurred to me that the food safety police couldn't read me the riot act if I disobeyed the rules. I placed the empty egg shell back into the carton, and the next shell, and the next until I had cracked enough eggs to feed my entire family for breakfast. Somewhere, I'm sure, Ammon was watching me and shaking his head.

***
I'm simultaneously looking forward to and feeling apprehensive about this trip. So much of my life with Ammon is wrapped up in Utah. The apartment where he proposed to me, the park where we got married, the town we lived in before we moved to Ohio. All these sights--I fear that they will engulf me when I drive into the valley and not relinquish their grip on me until I drive back out.

***
Nope, I'm not grammatically inept. I inserted the extra comma in my title because I know that Ammon would get a kick out of it.

***
Of all the talks, songs, and remarks, his made me tear up the most. Those of you that know John will understand. This big, burly, teddy-bear of a man was standing in front of all these people, and kept looking up and off to the side to blink away the tears. I have never seen his composure crack--but I did at the funeral.

AUGUST

My faith, as shaken as it has been, doesn't extend far enough to believe without doubt that last night was a visit from my lover. But I wish desperately that I could know that it was. I miss his touch, I miss his smell, I miss the taste of him on my lips.

***
Jeremy starts school at Batavia Elementary next Wednesday, and I alternate between feelings of joy and deep sadness at this approaching milestone. I have been awed and amazed at my dear little boy. I can't believe that it is time for him to take the great step into kindergarten, and along with dealing with the emotions that come along with such a huge change, I am still constantly dealing with the loss of Ammon in our lives. I have all the usual anxiety about kindergarten, but it is multiplied many times over knowing that Ammon won't be here to help me put him onto the bus his first day, or to hear about the adventures when he returns later in the day.

***
As long as we were sitting on the curb waiting for the bus to come I held it together, but the second my little boy pulled away from one last hug, I started to lose it.

***
I removed countless live bugs, and saw thousands more eggs nested into his lovely hair. On a recommendation from yet another neighbor, I slathered both Kadon's and my hair in copious amount of mayonnaise, covered it in a shower cap, and went inside to start assessing the damage to my house. I stripped bed, towels, rugs, stuffed toys, pillows, and clothing from all the bedrooms.

***
I pulled the hangers out and held the shirts to my face. I breathed in his odor--a subtle scent that the brain forgets, but the heart never could.

***
If I'm absent for a while, I'm busy trying to stay away from large doses of sleeping pills and hiding my butcher block. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as the fog of grief continues to lift.

SEPTEMBER

I plunge a toilet as most girls would--flushing the toilet, and then-without touching the disgusting black part, and with more force pushing down than pulling up.

***
I have also been told countless times "I don't know how you do it. If my husband died, I couldn't get out of bed for a month". To that I respond--yes you would. You'd get out of bed the very next day, get dressed, and brush your teeth. You would continue to make meals for your family and go grocery shopping because THAT IS WHAT YOU DO.

***
I am angry at God. I don't harbor much of the boiling, red hot resentment of months and weeks past, but I still don't understand why he would take a good honorable man from his family and still say "I do all these things for your good".

***
Our marching band went undefeated that year, and always the first thing I would do after we were released from attention during the award ceremony was find Jeremy. He would wrap his arms around me, and we would shed tears of victory and joy together.

***
Jeremy's last words ring in my ears even today--as he gave me one last warm embrace, he said to me "I love you. Say your prayers."

***
I am now older than my older brother. He never lived to see 26, and my husband who I always saw as so much younger than Jeremy lived two years longer. Some things just don't make sense.
***
As we descended into the Salt Lake Valley on Thursday I noticed two things--how BROWN it is in Utah, and how HUGE the mountains are.

***
As we descended into the Salt Lake Valley on Thursday I noticed two things--how BROWN it is in Utah, and how HUGE the mountains are.

***
I know I should be reveling in Brooklyn's achievements, and I do. I take pleasure in her sweet spirit, in her gentle laugh, and in her emerging sense of humor.

***
And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

And God saw that the light was good. (Gen 1:3)

And the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy so that the earth was rent with the sound of them. (1 Kings 1:40)

***
Five months today. I miss him more than ever. Has it really been that long, or has it been forever? Most of the time it seems like a lifetime since he last held me in his arms.

OCTOBER

At this precise moment exactly one year ago, she crying lustily, and I was sobbing quietly on the operating table. Ammon was busily snapping pictures and taking videos of her, and the mood in the room was completely indescribable.

Ammon picked her up and placed her in my arms, and the joy on my face transmits through the photos he quickly snapped.

***
It has been promised that for every tear, every sorrow, every pain of this life, those that are faithful will be compensated 100 fold.

***
I had no choice but to inform her that Ammon is deceased. I had withheld this information from the credit card company, fearing that they would cancel my card--which is exactly what they did.

***
Six months today since I last held my husband in my arms. Six months ago today, we were sitting in the cafeteria at Ethicon enjoying our least meal together. Six months ago today I had no idea how bad I could hurt, or what I was capable of surviving. Six months ago today, my life was still perfect.

I love you sweetheart, more today than ever. I miss you.

***
I found myself uttering a eerily familiar and infinitely painful phrase-the same one I said over and over to Ammon as he lay dying on the pavement outside our home-'You've got to breathe, baby. Baby, you've got to breathe.' My heart in my throat, I pulled up outside the Emergency Exit, took Kadon into my arms, and ran into the hospital.

NOVEMBER

I admit it freely. I voted for the other guy.

***

Even now, I can feel his spirit near me-protecting me, guiding me, and loving me in his faithful, tender, patient way. Ammon taught me what perfect love means, and though it wasn't always easy to show that to each other-he taught me that it's possible.

***
I am grateful for people who notice when I'm having a bad day. My ward, as always, banded together today when they saw that I was struggling. My children were quickly farmed out to various welcoming arms, and I was led by the hand into Relief Society, where I sat next to a dear friend and wept through part of the lesson.

***
No matter what side of the proposition you stand on, it is horrifying for members of the church to hear about our beloved temple being picketed and vandalized. I am incredibly grateful for the chance I had to worship unmolested today.

***
I am struggling to find a handhold to keep from falling down the slippery slope of grief, but everything I try to grab crumbles beneath me. I'm scared.

DECEMBER

Happy birthday, sweetheart. I wish we could have spent many more together like we planned. 28 isn't nearly enough.

It takes a special man to celebrate your birthday by wearing a large plaster fish head.

***
Visiting Ammons grave site is always hard. It's sobering to look at a hard, cold patch of ground and know that his earthly body is entombed there. No matter that I know that his spirit lives on and is with me still, I miss his earthly body--and all that I shared with it--as only a wife can. To think of it there, underground, undoes me every time we're there.

***
However, this girl? She just made the Deans List for winter quarter.

***
He would have taken his place at my side through so many things that this year has brought. It's so cruel that he wasn't able to. His loss still reverberates through every facet of my life. The grief is still changing shape, changing its plan of attack, altering my soul in ways that are painful, new, and terrifying. When will it stop?

***
I suppose I'm still reeling. I put on a good face, I think. Those who don't know me well couldn't guess at the grief my smile holds. Still, though, I miss the old me. I miss the Victoria who laughed without thought, and saw the world through hope-filled eyes. I have seen so many photos of myself taken in the last 8 months. Before, the smile reached all the way to my eyes. I was simply brimming with happiness, with light--with hope and expectation for mine and my family's future. Now, that light is gone. Even when I'm fully smiling, even when it's so big that my missing tooth is visible, that light is missing. My laugh sounds hollow to my ears. My joy, in the infrequent instances it exists, is always tainted. The loss of Ammon from my home, from my bed, from my arms-taints everything I do. It is a loss that I carry with me always, and it is oh.so.heavy. I feel it settle around me, like a cloak that is inescapably dark and weighted. It settles itself heavily around my shoulders, and I know not how to shake it.

I was sitting on the curb, and the officer stood in front of me. How meaningless I felt. How helpless and small my existence seemed in that moment. I don't remember the words that he said before he broke the news. He was stalling, I'm sure. Nobody wants to tell a 25 year old woman that she's a widow. Not when she's staring at you with wide, terrified eyes. Not when you're keenly aware of her loss. Not when you're the first on the scene, and watched helplessly as the woman knelt over the body of her motionless husband and begged him to breathe.

"It's over. It's over". "Yes", I thought. "It's over. My life, my happiness, my family. It's over".

***
It is nearly Christmas day, on our first Christmas without Ammon. There are no words to describe how I feel right now, so I won't even try. Perhaps later, when the emotions aren't as fresh and raw. Perhaps never.

***
I want it all back. Can we go a year backward instead of a year forward tonight? I just want it all back.

New Year

Life suddenly got very, very busy this week. It wasn't until I had time this afternoon to sit and ponder my existance did it occur to me that it's New Years Eve, and I have no plans. The missionaries were supposed to come over this evening to continue a discussion we started two weeks ago, but they ended up having to cancel. It's not a big deal, but it leaves me alone tonight. I wouldn't have guessed that would bother me so much. Today, right now, the longing for Ammon is stronger than it's been in a while.

I thought I would be happy to see 2008 end. I thought I would bid good riddance to a year that has held more heartache than all the other years of my life combined. I am finding rapidly that this is not the case. As always, moving farther and farther away from my life as a wife is painful in a way I can't describe. I heard trying to describe widowhood and grief recently compared to trying to describe a color to somebody who is blind. I can explain it. I can describe it. I can tell you how it makes me feel, and how it affects my life--but unless you can experience the color for yourself, you can't understand.

I should make plans and get out of the house. I should pick up the phone and call a friend. The thing is, I don't want to. I don't want to force conversation with somebody. I don't want to have to explain why I'm having such a hard time with the impending date change, and why the grief is bearing down on me today more today than it was yesterday. I want, more than anything, to curl up on the couch with Ammon, lay my head on his chest--and have a good cry. I want to feel his arms wrapped around me. I want to feel him touch my face, my hair, my skin. I don't want to be alone this year. I don't want to be alone tonight, but I don't want to be around anybody either. I want to be around him. I want him in my arms, on my sofa, in my bed.

I want it all back. Can we go a year backward instead of a year forward tonight? I just want it all back.

Wednesday, December 24

First Christmas

It is nearly Christmas day, on our first Christmas without Ammon. There are no words to describe how I feel right now, so I won't even try. Perhaps later, when the emotions aren't as fresh and raw. Perhaps never.

In the meantime, Angela sent me this poem a couple weeks ago. I have been saving it for tonight. It brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

My First Christmas in Heaven
I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below.
With tiny lights like heavens stars reflecting in the snow.
The sight is so spectacular; please wipe away that tear,
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs, that people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you the joy their voices bring.
For it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me;
I see the pain in your heart.
But I am not so far away, we really aren’t apart.
So be happy for me dear ones, you know I hold you dear.
And be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I send you each a special gift, more precious than gold.
I send you each a memory of my undying love.
After all “Love” is the gift more precious than pure gold.
It was the most important in the stories Jesus told.
Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do.
For I can’t count the blessing or love he has for each of you.
So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away the tear,
Remember I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

Saturday, December 20

It Keeps Happening

I don't know if it's because I've been touched irrevocably by death myself, or if the instances are actually more frequent. Whatever the reason, I feel like it just keeps happening. I received a phone call from a friend of mine yesterday morning. The news came from my friends husband, who works at the same place that Ammon did when we lived in Utah. Ammon was first employed by Barco, a LED sign company. He was a service technician for them, and when the building changed hands from Barco to Yesco-another LED sign company-he was the first person to be hired into the service department. Wade Mortenson was the second person to be hired into the service department, and was another holdover from the Barco days. Ammon and Wade worked together and went on several business trips together. He was one of the men from the service department that Ammon felt close to, and he told many funny stories about their escapades when they were out on the road.

Wade was killed yesterday in a head-on collision, on his way into work. The article tells it all, but he leaves behind a wife and four children. The youngest is Jeremy's age. I hate knowing that in my hometown, another woman is just getting started in this nightmare. I hate knowing keenly the anguish that grips her right now, a week before Christmas. I wish with all my heart there was something I could do. Pray for them.

From Where You Are

Sometimes, music just gets to me. It reaches out and grabs my heart in a way that nothing else can, and in losing Ammon there is no exception. There have been a few songs that have grabbed me, and this tear-jerker by Lifehouse is among the most heartfelt. It captures so completely my wistful longing for Ammons presence in my life, for him to be standing next to me, to see the sunlight light up his face one more time.



So far away from where you are

These miles have torn us worlds apart

And I miss you

Yeah, I miss you



So far away from where you are

Standing underneath the stars

And I wish you were here



I miss the years that were erased

I miss the way the sunshine would light up your face

I miss all the little things

I never thought that they’d mean everything to me

Yeah, I miss you

And I wish you were here



I feel the beating of your heart

I see the shadows of your face

Just know that wherever you are

Yeah, I miss you

And I wish you were here



I miss the years that were erased

I miss the way the sunshine would light up your face

I miss all the little things

I never thought that they’d mean everything to me

Yeah, I miss you

And I wish you were here



So far away from where you are

These miles have torn us worlds apart

And I miss you

Yeah, I miss you

And I wish you were here



I'm sure none of you have missed the fact that the Christmas season is upon us once again. I have written before about the trepidation with which I approach this holiday. A few weeks ago, I was invited to join our ward choir for the annual Christmas program, which will be performed in church the Sunday before Christmas. I sang with the choir last year, and enjoyed the experience immensely. This year, like so much else, I had decided not to inflict the experience on myself. Our ward choir practices an hour before our 1 o'clock meetings, and a few Sundays ago I was responsible for taking one of my nieces to practice. As I was already in the building, I decided to grit my teeth and see if I could make it through the pieces. I did. Barely. Later that week, the choir had scheduled a Saturday practice, and the helpful choir assistant called to let me know, and request my presence. I demurred, saying that I didn't think I was up to such a draining experience, and she was very understanding. On that Saturday, though, I found myself once again responsible for taking two nieces to choir practice, and once again--I decided to grit my teeth and sing. I was fine for most of the practice, actually. Subdued and trying to hold my insides together, for sure, but managing. That is--until the last song. It was a lovely arrangement of a song I'm not familiar with, but the last two pages changed to 'O Come all ye Faithful'. I know not why that song has always reached into the core of my soul and squeezed my heart painfully. I remember the year that Jeremy was a baby, and I was called as the piano player for the ward choir. The choir director and I had worked together to arrange 'O Come all ye Faithful' out of the hymnbook, and it included a few variations-including a soloist singing the first verse. I struggled with tears every time we sang that hymn in practice, and again when we performed in front of the congregation. In choir practice that Saturday, the old familiar hymn spoke to me once again. I made a rather transparent and hasty exit from the pulpit so that I could sob in peace in the hallway. Very quickly, our kind choir director found me. Brother Cass has been a friend, albeit quietly, since Ammon and I moved into this ward. He was one of the legions of priesthood holders that showed up the day that we moved into the ward, and became a good friend to Ammon in the short months between our entrance and Ammons death. Brother Cass was responsible for putting together and directing a boys choir to sing at Ammons funeral, at my request. He's intuitive about my grief, and when he found me crying in the hallway that day we had a good conversation about the merits of opening up my heart in song. I chose to continue with the choir, and am nervously anticipating our performance this Sunday.

I've been thinking a lot about my memory. I remember with exquisite detail the moment that the Sheriff told me that I was a widow. Russ and I, but mostly me, had been continually asking for updates in the 20 interminable minutes since the ambulance pulled out of the parking lot. I instantly noticed the Sheriff walking around his car, and when I saw that his destination was Russ-not me-I stopped him. I don't know if I used words, or if it was simply conveyed through my piercing stare--but I knew. This man stood in front of me, and started talking. I remember keenly the irrational desire I had to speak. The words bubbled up in my throat, and it was a physical struggle to suppress them. I was sitting on the curb, and the officer stood in front of me. How meaningless I felt. How helpless and small my existence seemed in that moment. I don't remember the words that he said before he broke the news. He was stalling, I'm sure. Nobody wants to tell a 25 year old woman that she's a widow. Not when she's staring at you with wide, terrified eyes. Not when you're keenly aware of her loss. Not when you're the first on the scene, and watched helplessly as the woman knelt over the body of her motionless husband and begged him to breathe. I remember the words that shattered my life and splintered my heart into a thousand tiny irretrievable pieces-- "I'm sorry, they weren't able to save him". He might have tried to offer platitudes after that, I'm not sure. My world crumpled. I knelt on the damp pavement and tried to claw my way from this world. A sound that can only be described as a desperate keening wail left my throat. It took a few moments for me to realize that the sound was, in fact, coming from me. All thoughts were jumbled. I thought certainly that my heart could not sustain the damage. I thought of his smiling face, and the warmth in his eyes. I refused to accept that I would never see him again. I thought surely that my heart would cease to function, and I would simply die with him. It didn't happen. How I longed for it to happen, but it didn't. I don't know how long I screamed. I know now that my scream was heard for blocks. I have spoken to neighbors who heard my grief-filled wail, and knew instantly that he had died. The sound still haunts me today, along with the sound of Ammons last breaths. The sound of his moan as he lay on the pavement. The sound of his gasping air gurgling through the blood pooled on the pavement. The sound of Russ saying to my mother, who was on the cell phone and had called for an update, over and over again, "It's over. It's over". "Yes", I thought. "It's over. My life, my happiness, my family. It's over". I remember it all. Sometimes, it is the sounds that pierce me the most. Within moments, I realized that the worst part was yet to come. I was responsible for telling my children that the father they adored-and adored them-was never coming home. I felt a pressing need to be the first to share the news with them, and at the same instant that clarity returned to my mind, I found myself on my feet and running with reckless abandon toward the house. I vaguely remember somebody putting out their arm and trying to stop me. I'm told that it was the Sheriff who broke the news, and in my haste, I punched him. I have no memory of this. I suppose punching him was well within my rights, for I was never approached about the violence.

I suppose I'm still reeling. I put on a good face, I think. Those who don't know me well couldn't guess at the grief my smile holds. Still, though, I miss the old me. I miss the Victoria who laughed without thought, and saw the world through hope-filled eyes. I have seen so many photos of myself taken in the last 8 months. Before, the smile reached all the way to my eyes. I was simply brimming with happiness, with light--with hope and expectation for mine and my family's future. Now, that light is gone. Even when I'm fully smiling, even when it's so big that my missing tooth is visible, that light is missing. My laugh sounds hollow to my ears. My joy, in the infrequent instances it exists, is always tainted. The loss of Ammon from my home, from my bed, from my arms-taints everything I do. It is a loss that I carry with me always, and it is oh.so.heavy. I feel it settle around me, like a cloak that is inescapably dark and weighted. It settles itself heavily around my shoulders, and I know not how to shake it. I don't like feeling like this. I don't like exhibiting false cheer and a plastic smile, but I know that my traditional "socially acceptable" mourning period is nearly over. The one year mark approaches rapidly, and I'm starting to confuse events. "When the storm hit last summer, was Ammon here?" I wonder. "He must not have been. In my anxiety, I called Janice. If Ammon was alive, I would have called him." My events are all getting scattered and shuffled into a myriad of pain filled memories. Did I love him well enough while he was here? Did I tell him often enough that I appreciated him?

I can't help but look at the world around me and wonder what it would be like if he was still here. How he would react to seeing Brooklyn as she is now. Would he be as enamored of her as I am? Ammon really only had two children. He never handled babies well, and so it would be the first year of their life that the children were mainly my responsibility, and as their personality bloomed and their abilities progressed in the second year, they would become more his children. Ammon never knew Brooklyn. He never got to see her sweet sense of humor, or the peace that she brings to me. How much joy would he have taken to see her, and how nimbly would she have wrapped him around her tender little finger? Events are draining. Jeremy's first day of school. Would he have gone in late so that we could put him on the bus for the first time together? Probably. Parent teacher conferences. Would he have taken off early, or re-arranged his schedule so that he could sit by my side? Likely. Kadon's preschool Christmas concert. Would he have taken the day off to attend, and then gone out to lunch with us afterwards? Probably. He would have taken his place at my side through so many things that this year has brought. It's so cruel that he wasn't able to. His loss still reverberates through every facet of my life. The grief is still changing shape, changing its plan of attack, altering my soul in ways that are painful, new, and terrifying. When will it stop?

Friday, December 19

Preschool Christmas Concert

On Tuesday Mary and Russ came down to Cincinnati and we all attended Kadon's Christmas concert. Jeremy was supposed to be in school, but school was canceled because of wintry weather. Kadon was really excited about showing off all the songs he has been working on for weeks now, and the adults were anxiously anticipating the joy and cuteness of all the children.
This is Kadon immediately after we arrived at the mall for the concert. Several weeks ago I sent in money for the children to make sweatshirts with their hand prints on them for the concert. I asked him several times to stand still so I could get a picture of him in his sweatshirt, but you can see how well that went. Wired, much?
After a few seconds of reckless running, I insisted that Kadon hold still for pictures. I thought maybe it would help if I got on my knees and offered to take a picture with him. It didn't help.
I know that Kadon has learned all the words to several of these songs, but he sang almost none of them. I think the crowd, the lights from all the stores, and the general excitement in the air threw all the kids off. Luckily all the teachers knew the words.
Speaking of teachers, I had to get a picture of these guys. They sat on the floor in front of the kids, hoping to cue them. They sang all the songs with gusto, and performed all the actions. It was just as entertaining to watch them as it was to watch the kids!
Kadons teacher has been a God-send for us. When I registered him in August I spoke to Mrs. Haller and let her know about Ammon and everything else that has changed in Kadons life this year. She has been more compassionate than I deserve to expect, and I can tell how much she honestly cares for him. The week that they covered families in class she thought Kadon might have a difficult time, so she purchased him a special book and wrote a truly lovely inscription inside the front cover. One morning when I dropped them off, she pulled me aside and said that she had a strange experience to share. She said they had been out on the playground, and all of the sudden she got the strongest sensation that Kadons dad was there, watching him. Mrs. Haller has never even seen a picture of Ammon, and I haven't talked about him much. Somehow, though, she knew he was there. She said she just felt like he was watching Kadon and enjoying watching him play. She said she could feel Ammons pride for Kadon as an almost palpable scent in the air. Of course, Mrs. Haller had no way of knowing that if Ammon were here, that is exactly how he would feel watching Kadon play at preschool. He was exactly the sort of father that would take great pride in watching his youngest son play on the playground. My gratitude for a teacher who recognizes that, and is sensitive to our needs is unending. We will miss her desperately when this school year ends, but in the meantime she is an important part of our lives.

Wednesday, December 17

Random Cuteness

I have soooo many pictures to share. I know I'm due for a meaningful post soon, and it's coming. In the meantime, though--enjoy these. Remember when I talked about my visiting teacher Sister Bradford? She's continued coming over every Tuesday night, and this week she wanted to build a gingerbread house with the kids. Unfortunately, the day that she came both Kadon and Brooklyn were out of gas by about 6:30, so I ended up putting them to bed while Sister Bradford and Jeremy tackled the project. She came prepared with pre-baked gingerbread parts, frosting, and more decorations than they could possibly use. She had found a unique gingerbread cookie cutter set, and she was dying to try it out. It didn't work out well in the beginning, but determination won out in the end and they finally managed to make the house stand up. They had such a great time building it.
It was past Jeremy's bedtime by the time they finished, but the look on his face throughout the project was worth the late hour. I even got a picture of his gap-toothed grin, but I will have to share it a different night.

I have two Baby Einstein videos that my mother gave me when Kadon was a baby. I was curious to see if Brooklyn would be entertained by it the other day, so while the boys were both at school and distractions were down to a minimum, I put it on.
She sat on the couch for about ten minutes, but I think she was more entertained by me taking pictures of her and playing with the remote control than the movie.
Still, with a face like that--how can I get mad?

I'm not THAT girl

Seriously. I'm not. In High School, I was the girl out back sneaking a cigarette with the upper-classmen. Phone number written on the bathroom stall? Probably mine. I played a different kind of music than everybody else, snubbed authority, and hung out with boys. I 'lost it' at fifteen. Not exactly something I'm proud of-but still. I'm not THAT girl. In a different town, I probably would have been one of the 'cool kids' for my rebellious ways. In the small town in Northern Utah I call home--I was ostracized. In a predominantly Mormon community, I was seen as a threat and as a troubled child. I'm okay with it, because the choices that I made then got me to where I am now--but still, I'm not THAT girl.

What girl? The girl who gets good grades. The girl who sits in the front of the class and knows all the answers. The girl who actually reads the textbook before class, and can quote references off the top of her head. The girl who stays up late working on a paper three weeks before it's due, and spend the next two weeks tweaking and perfecting. The girl who buys a special folder for the paper, and spends a full two weeks studying for the midterm and final tests. The girl who stays after class talking to the professor, and enjoys debating the finer points of a lecture. In high school, grades were not important. A C? D? Fine. Just so long as I don't have to repeat it. Repeating classes is bad, even when you're not THAT girl. I never studied (unless you count Drivers Ed)(I don't)(Even though it was a notoriously difficult class, and I had the strictest teacher)(apparently the desire to learn to drive a car outweighs the desire not to study)

But still. I'm not THAT girl. I never have been.

However, this girl? She just made the Deans List for winter quarter.

Don't worry. I'm still not THAT girl.

Friday, December 12

Comment-palooza

Go here:

Dad Gone Mad

Read the December 11th entry. (Smattering of language and general irreverance. Bear with me. )

Get out there, and comment!!














Oh, and Merry Christmas.

(blech)

Monday, December 8

Play-Doh

These pictures are actually from several weeks ago, but I still couldn't resist sharing them. This was one of those rare days when I didn't have anything that desperately needed to get done, and the children were all miraculously pleasant. We had a great time playing with Play-Doh that day, and I took photos of our creations.

Jeremy admittedly looks a little weird in this picture, but he's at that stage where it's difficult to get him with a 'normal' smile. He poses for the camera, and comes out a little freaky looking. It's a testament to his genes that even with that smirk, he's still adorable.
This is Jeremy's creation. I'm told that it's a lava pool. The brown surrounding it are large rocks, and the orange bits are cooler bits of lava.

Kadon and I worked on this one. I started off with one of the molds and my favorite colors. I got a couple cute creatures, and then Kadon caught on and decided I needed to make several more. Soon it was a full-blown creature factory. Once I used up all the purple doh, I decided that the creatures needed a pond and boulder to complete the scene.


My creatures up close. We kept calling them walruses, but I'm really not sure exactly what they're supposed to be. At any rate, they're cute and they kept us entertained for at least half an hour. What more can you ask of an afternoon?

Saturday, December 6

Bright Blue Eyes

I took these pictures of Brooklyn the other day at the cemetery. I love how she looks so grown up and mature in these pictures. It's been so easy to keep Brooklyn my baby--both because she actually IS my baby, and because she's so tiny. She's still a mere 18+ pounds at 14 months old, so she's still very portable and holdable. She's also very attached to me--as I am to her--so we share a special bond. It is photos like this, though, that remind that my little girl is growing up right before my eyes.


Not the sort of Daddy's girl portrait I always had in my head, but we have to work with what we have.

Friday, December 5

When I Miss Him

At 4am when Kadon wakes up vomiting all over his bed, himself, and the bathroom. It takes two parents to clean up this kind of mess, and we used to tag team really well.

At 5am when Kadon wakes up with diarrhea so severe that it runs out of his diaper, down his legs, and pools and the floor outside the bathroom. Again, a second parent to tackle the mess would have been good.

At 5:30, 5:45, 6:00, 6:30, and 7:00 when Kadon is back up with more diarrhea, and I have to clean the bathroom floor more times than I can count. Thank goodness for Clorox wipes.

At 7:30 when all three kids are up, and as I lay in bed feeding the baby, and the sounds of both Jeremy and Kadon having tandem diarrhea in both upstairs bathrooms fills the house.

At 8:00 when I finally send all three kids downstairs, lay back down, and pray for at least 20 minutes of sleep. A husband to keep them downstairs would have been nice.

At 8:10 when I hear Kadon crying in the bathroom downstairs, and give up on sleep for the night. He has a vicious rash on his bum from the excessive poop-wipe cycle. I apply ointment.

At 8:40 when I'm trying to feed Brooklyn, who still has some mysterious ailment, and she is fussy in her high chair. Kadon has diarrhea again, and I have to leave her in the chair to tend to him. Having a husband to help Kadon while I attend to the baby would be great.

At 9:00 when Kadon starts screaming about his bum again, and I apply still more ointment.

At 9:15 when I call the nurse hotline and give her all the information, only to have her tell me that it's a virus, and needs to run its course. I suspected this, but it sucks.

At 9:55 as I'm typing this entry, and I have to get up once again to usher Kadon to the toilet, change his shirt for at least the 5th time since 4, and clean up more vomit from the floor. Having a husband to hug me and tell me it's going to be alright would be helpful.

It's going to be a long, long day.

Thursday, December 4

Balloon Release

I took a few pictures at the grave site yesterday when we released the balloons. It didn't work as well as I had planned, between the fading balloons and the heavy pictures inside, only about half of them floated out of sight. All the same, it was a touching tribute.

Visiting Ammons grave site is always hard. It's sobering to look at a hard, cold patch of ground and know that his earthly body is entombed there. No matter that I know that his spirit lives on and is with me still, I miss his earthly body--and all that I shared with it--as only a wife can. To think of it there, underground, undoes me every time we're there.
We cut the strings off in an effort to make the balloons a little bit lighter. I wish it had worked better than it did, but the meaning was still there. The kids were very cute about it.




All in all, yesterday was actually not as difficult as I feared it would be. It was hard, to be sure--but it didn't send me into the spasms of grief that I had feared. I thought about Ammon all day, just like I normally do--but it was more of a wistful 'I wish it were different' than anything else.
I miss him. So very much.

Wednesday, December 3

Happy Birthday, Babe

There are now words for today, at least none that are sufficient for the emotions that I feel. Today is my sweethearts 29th birthday.
This is a photo of his first birthday. He was moments old in this picture, and the inquisitive, sober look in his eyes tells the story of the man he would become.
It takes a special man to celebrate your birthday by wearing a large plaster fish head. Remember this dinner, babe? You chose McGraths Fish House in Layton, and your fish-hating wife struggled to find something to eat. I finally settled on breaded and fried prawns. They're pretty close to shrimp, and it surprised me how excellent they were. This was also Jeremys first exposure to fish. He ate halibut from your Dad's plate by the mouthful. It was hilarious. Remember in later years, when you would buy crab legs and share them with the boys? Kadon liked it okay, but it was really Jeremy that shared your passion. I think you turned 24 in this picture.

For your 25th Birthday, I went all out. I spent weeks contacting nearly everybody that you had ever been close to. Many of them you hadn't spoken to in years, and it took some work to track them down. I invited as many as possible to a surprise party, and asked the rest to send cards. I sent you out Christmas shopping with your Dad, and you swore that I actually fooled you. You seriously thought I would let your birthday pass without making some sort of fuss?


As you sat in the chair, surrounded by friends and family and opened the box of cards, it dawned on you what I had done. Each new card brought tears to your eyes, and you wiped them away without shame. You lived in the past briefly, and I am so grateful to have given you that chance. That box of cards is still in your dresser drawer. It was a wonderful way to celebrate your birth.

How many ice cream cakes did you consume over the years, love? Between you and your mother--it always took very little persuasion to produce a reason to have an ice cream cake. I so appreciate your passion for the things you love. Of course--that passion usually translated to something good for me, so how could I complain?
The kids drew pictures for you, and I wrote a letter. I plan to put them in balloons this morning, and we'll go to your grave site today to release them. The kids are absolutely confident that when you receive the balloons, you will pop them and take great pleasure in reading the letters and seeing the pictures.
I wish you could be here. I wish I had made a bigger fuss for your birthday last year. Had I known it would be your last, I would have. We had just moved here, but the kids and I went to the party store and got a banner, some streamers, and a silly hat for you to wear. I'm embarrassed to admit that it was almost last minute. I know we went out, just you and I, at a later date and got dinner and did Christmas shopping for your birthday, but even that didn't turn out as well as I would have hoped. We painstakingly selected a steakhouse, only to get there and discover it was closed. We ate at Subway instead.
Anyway, I miss you. You know that. Happy birthday, sweetheart. I wish we could have spent many more together like we planned. 28 isn't nearly enough.

Tuesday, December 2

Pickles and Puking

Brooklyn has been sick for the last two days. It started the day before yesterday with some diarrhea toward the end of the day, and by the time she woke up on Monday it was pretty full-blown (pun intended). By the time I left for class on Monday afternoon, she had been asleep for nearly three hours--and she had taken another two cat-naps on the couch by the time I got home just before 4 o'clock. She was sporting a low-grade fever yesterday afternoon, and took two more short naps on the couch before I put her to bed for the night at 7:15. She finally awoke for the day at 8:35 this morning, and then took two more short naps on the couch this morning. I'm about to put her in her crib for a longer snooze. In all this time, she's consumed very little. Yesterday she had almost nothing to eat outside of a little juice, a half a container of yogurt, and a few small bites of some plain pasta. Today her appetite seems a little bit better, but she's sleeping tons and generally really cranky. Hopefully she's on the upswing today, and her body can get the rest it obviously so desperately needs.
The next set of pictures is something you have to see to believe. And before you vultures ask, I did NOT put him up to this. Not every time my kids eat something disgusting is it my idea.
I'm not sure how it even started, but Jeremy decided yesterday that he wanted to drink pickle juice. Pickles used to be a passion of mine, but lately I haven't felt like eating them very often. I'm pretty sure Grandma is the one who let him do it the first time, and since she didn't see fit to stop him, I figured I shouldn't either.

Jeremy gets his adventurous eating habits from his father. Fellows Family Folklore tells the story of Ammons 'spaghetti sandwich' explorations, and I witnessed for myself his various creations, Fruity Pebbles and Pepsi among the most memorable. While not exactly a true combination, Peanut M&M's and Mountain Dew will also always come to mind when I think about Ammons food creativity.
In fact, I often got nervous when Ammon would request to make dinner. I can remember several times requesting that he 'just make it normal'. He'd do weird things to normal food. It didn't always turn out well.
I'm glad that Jeremy inherited this from him. Lately, I've been letting him explore more. I didn't get a photo of his graham cracker-tortilla combination. It didn't capture my attention nearly as much as this one, but it's still weird. He also dips everything in mustard. And I mean EVERYTHING. Carrot sticks, teddy grahams, apple sauce, vegetables, soup--EVERYTHING. He is SO much like his Dad.

Sunday, November 30

Slippery Slope

This post started out as a message on the iVillage board that I belong to. It's a tight knit group of people and they have been there with me through losing Ammon and held prayer vigils the day we buried him. I consider these women among some of my dearest friends, and seldom hold back when they ask for an update. As I wrote this, I decided to go ahead and share it with all the readers here. It captures my emotions too well not to share.


Thanks everybody, for thinking of me. Emily has tried several times to get ahold of me since Wednesday, and I haven't been returning phone calls or responding to emails. Thanksgiving, as expected, was extremely difficult. I had class Wednesday afternoon, and the in law's stayed with the kids. After I got home, they took the boys back up to Dayton with them, and left Brooklyn and I here to finish up some errands. Dinner was scheduled for 2pm, and I finally dragged myself out of the house at almost 12:30 to make the 75 minute drive. En route, I called my sister who is in Utah celebrating with my family, and had a good cry. Again, during the prayer for dinner when my father in law prayed for the members of the family who weren't there--two siblings that live in different areas, and of course Ammon--I lost it again. I had to quietly leave the meal and retreat to the kitchen to collect myself. Not that I fooled anybody, I just didn't want to cry in front of them again. All day I was snappy and reserved, and I was breathed a heavy sigh of relief when the day passed. On Friday, my in law's started setting up there Christmas tree. I handled the tree alright until my father in law turned on Christmas music. It lasted about 60 seconds before I asked if I could turn it off. I know I'm being a witch, but I don't care. My mother in law has asked me what I want to bring for the annual Christmas Day buffet, and I flat-out told her that I'm not going to make a decision ahead of time. I'm not handling the approaching holidays well at all, and the idea of blithely planning what I'm going to eat that day literally makes me sick to my stomach. People keep asking when I'm going to put up my Christmas tree--and when I tell them I have no plans to do so, they don't get it. If I hear 'But the kids need it' one more time--I'm going to puke. Excuse me if I'm not feeling jolly and merry this holiday season. Excuse me if on Thanksgiving all I can think about is who ISN'T there, and don't spend enough time focusing on what I have to be grateful for. Excuse me if the thought of Ammon's 29th birthday on Wednesday--on which we plan to release balloons at his graveside--sends me into spasms of grief so strong that I can't see through them. For Family Home Evening tomorrow we plan to write letters and draw pictures to stick in the balloons, and on Tuesday I have to take the order to the balloon store so they will be ready on Wednesday. Wednesday I have to pick them up in the morning, then look at them in my house all day until we release them that evening. YEA!! I GET TO STRETCH THE VISIBLE GRIEF OF MY DEAD HUSBAND'S BIRTHDAY OVER THREE WHOLE FRICKIN' DAYS!!!!!


Anyway, no. I'm not doing well. I'm not handling myself well, or any of the approaching holidays. Add to the mix of Thanksgiving, his birthday, and Christmas the fact that I'm going to be out of school for most of the month of December--and I'm TERRIFIED of the abyss of grief that is yawning open before me this month. I finally started to come out of the fog when school started this fall, and now not only do I not have that to fall back on, but it's right in the middle of the worst month of the year. I sincerely hope that I come through this month unscathed. I know intimately how far I fell during the summer months, and I don't know that I have it in me to rise out of that again. I am struggling to find a handhold to keep from falling down the slippery slope of grief, but everything I try to grab crumbles beneath me. I'm scared.

Tuesday, November 25

Gratitude Lately

Yes, I know I'm woefully behind. I'm going to condense some gratitude today, because I have three days to catch up on, and I need to go spend some time doing other things to prepare for the holiday season that won't go away.

And yes, before you ask, I'm struggling a bit with the whole 'Thanksgiving, (what would have been) 29th birthday, Christmas-trifecta that is snowballing down upon us.

Mostly, today, I am grateful to NOT have lice. For this story, I must begin at the beginning. I'm sure all of you remember the great lice incident of August. If not, I wrote about it here and included pictures here. After a couple weeks of cleaning, bagging, shaving, and picking, we finally rid ourselves of the pest. A couple weeks ago, Janice called me and let me know that she had discovered lice again on several of her children. With great trepidation, I called a neighbor of mine to have her immediately come over and check my head while I combed through each of the children's heads. Lindsey declared that I had nits, but found none on the boys. Janice was already headed to the store to pick up RID for her household, and graciously stopped by my house to re-check us all that evening. Upon further inspection of my head, she declared the 'nits' to be dandruff, and I happily banished lice-thoughts from my head. A few days later, Russ and Mary showed up at my house to watch the kids while I went to class. Mary dropped the bomb--she had found live lice and nits in her head. I dropped what I was doing and checked both her scalp and Russ', and then ushered Mary up to my bathroom to begin her treatment. Mary spent the day avoiding my furniture and close hugs, and a great deal of time was spent at their house de-lousing her head.

Fast forward to yesterday. I had been up a portion of the night with a nasty stomach bug, and was looking forward to having only Brooklyn at the house for a few hours. I had barely re-entered the house after dropping Kadon off at preschool when the phone rang. It was his preschool teacher, informing me that Kadon had complained of an itching scalp. Upon inspection, she (and three other teachers) all found white substance on his scalp. My heart sank, and I was nearly undone at the thought of repeating the process of lice again. I immediately called Russ and Mary to request that they come down to help me tear apart the house and do the necessary cleaning, then placed another call to the school nurse at Jeremy's school and asked her to pull Jeremy into her office and check his head. I reasoned that while I was stuck treating Kadon, I may as well find out if Jeremy needed to be treated as well. Happily, the school nurse found no nits on Jeremy. I picked Kadon up from preschool, then drove home and put Brooklyn down for nap while Kadon waited for me in the bathroom. I quickly doused his head with the lice-killing shampoo, and while his head soaked I stripped all the bedclothes from all the beds, gathered all the pillows and stuffed animals from the boys room, and the clothes that Kadon had worn for the past several days. I threw it all in a giant heap down the stairwell, and then rinsed Kadon's head. Once I got him downstairs, I started a load of laundry, and put in a movie. I was determined that this time-I would not shave his head. His hair has just barely started to grow back, and it holds the promise of curl in it's wavy texture. I settled him in front of me, and started painstakingly going through his hair strand by strand.

It quickly became apparent to me that there was no lice to be found. I found his normal flaky-scalp dandruff, and no nits and certainly no live lice. I eyed the enormous pile of laundry in the stairwell, and gritted my teeth. When Russ and Mary arrived, I had them each inspect Kadon's head--and mine for good measure. No nits were found. Nevertheless, we went ahead and washed all the bedding, pillows, and clothing I had thrown down. We stopped short of bagging up all the animals and toys-assuming that between the three of us, if there were nits to be found we would have seen them. When Janice came over again later that night to pick up something, she also checked Kadon's head. Again, the declaration was made--dandruff, but no lice.

This morning, I nervously buckled Kadon in the car, intent on taking him to preschool and having his teacher check his head with me. I am happy that we were all right. I'm happy that he doesn't have lice, and that his teacher was humble enough to admit that she was wrong. I'm also happy that she apologized profusely for causing me stress and frustration. I understand her position, and appreciate that she would treat any other child the same--to keep MY kid from getting lice, I can appreciate any measure taken.

After all is said and done, though-I am mostly thankful NOT to have lice. And I think, surely, that is worth at LEAST three days worth of gratitude.

Saturday, November 22

Flannel Gratitude

I'm grateful today for warm, fuzzy, pink jammies. It is 12:45 pm here in Cincinnati, and I'm still in the pajamas that I donned last night after our late return from Dayton. I hate my hair half pulled up, but it still looks cute from the professional blowout yesterday. The kids have been traipsing in and out of the house all morning, and Brooklyn is upstairs wrapped in her favorite flannel blanket sleeping soundly. I am about to prepare macaroni and cheese for lunch, and have no plans to remove the fuzzy pink pajamas from my body anytime soon. I love this kind of Saturday.

Friday, November 21

Heating Gratitude

I am grateful for a working heater in my car today. The heater hasn't worked since I owned the van, but since I purchased it in late spring, it didn't become apparent until it started to get colder about a month ago. The kids and I suffered in silence until yesterday, because I am afflicted with an irrational aversion to continually asking for help. I was extremely hesitant to call and ask Russ for help, so consequently we have all shivered anytime we needed to go anywhere in the car. I finally mentioned the problem to Russ, and it took him only as long as he needed to fill my radiator with an entire gallon of coolant. Apparently my radiator was almost entirely empty, which caused my heater to malfunction. He informed me that I'm lucky that it has been so cold, because I could have easily overheated the engine in my car and destroyed it. I'm just grateful that the kids and I had a warm car to travel in today as we went to Dayton for my haircut.

Thursday, November 20

Time Out Gratitude

I found out today that Time out for Women is coming to Cincinnati in May, and I can hardly wait for the spiritual feast that is waiting! I am already planning child care and who I want to take with me, and I am counting the days until May!!

Wednesday, November 19

Chocolate Gratitude

Today I am grateful for hot chocolate. It seems silly, but my classroom is freezing. I sit in there and shiver for 75 minutes if I forget hot chocolate, and the shivering generally makes my brain fuzzy. I am grateful especially for my mother-who ships my hot chocolate from Utah. You Utah folk might be surprised to hear that Stephens hot chocolate isn't sold everywhere. In fact, in Ohio the closest you can get to flavored gourmet hot chocolate is spending megabucks at Starbucks for a grande hot chocolate. Although Starbucks hot chocolate is wonderful, I can't justify spending that sort of money every day. Of course, the school cafe also sells hot chocolate (and coffee and lattes in abundance) but it's only the plain chocolate variety, and isn't up to my extremely discerning chocolate tongue. Coffee is a much bigger deal outside of Utah, so the ability to buy quality hot chocolate is severely thwarted. To conquer that battle-my Mom travels to the grocery store and purchases several cans of my favorite Stephens cocoa--Raspberry, Cinnamon, Orange, and Mint--and ships it to me at least once a year. I truly am grateful for hot chocolate, especially when I consider what it takes to get my gourmet chocolate here.

Tuesday, November 18

Nap Gratitude

Today I am grateful for 2 1/2 hour naps. 'Nuff said.

Monday, November 17

Clean Gratitude

Today I am grateful for a clean ceiling fan, and clean floors. I had called Mary on Saturday and asked for her help cleaning my ceiling fan when she came down on Monday, and she came through like always. Today my ceiling fan and my floors are sparkling clean, and I love it.

Sunday, November 16

Tight Gratitude

I am grateful for tights today. I have a denim skirt that hits right around my knees, and although I think it's really cute, I haven't been brave enough to wear it more than once in the past. I have been cursed with my Dad's calves, and although they look find on him--on me, they're hideous. Ammon affectionately called them 'cankles'-meaning that I don't have ankles, just calves that end in feet. Anyway, with the addition of some opaque black tights today, I think I feel brave enough to venture out of the house in my short skirt. Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 15

Gratitude Family

I am grateful for the my family here in Cincinnati. I won't share their names, but they know who they are. I spent the day at their house today, and I couldn't help but think about all the times this last year that I have run to their house, or they have run to mine, for respite. At the times when I have been most down, it is these family members who notice and do whatever they can to fix it. I am grateful beyond words for their collective presence in my life.

Friday, November 14

Temple Gratitude


It's been an incredibly long day, so this will have to be short. The picture above expresses better than I am capable of what I am grateful for today, especially in light of the terrible news coming out of California and other states concerning the controversy over Proposition 8. No matter what side of the proposition you stand on, it is horrifying for members of the church to hear about our beloved temple being picketed and vandalized. I am incredibly grateful for the chance I had to worship unmolested today, and I pray that very quickly the hate will settle down in the rest of the country.

Thursday, November 13

Unscheduled Gratitude

Today I am grateful for a day that so far remains unscheduled. I spend so much of my time running around-between the gym, class, the grocery store, and other various errands-that to be able to spend an entire day at home if I choose is a luxury I rarely enjoy.

Wednesday, November 12

Elementary Gratitude

Tonight was Jeremy's very first parent-teacher conference. I left the kids with Russ after dinner and spent a few minutes with Jeremy's teacher. She was full of praise for Jeremy, showing me several pages of work that he has completed. She said that it was obvious that we had been working with him at home for some time, and that he is at the top of his class with his school work.

I am so proud and grateful for my little boy. Ammon and I have always thought that he is absolutely brilliant, but it's wonderful to hear that from his teacher. He has learned so much in the short months that he has been in Kindergarten, I can't wait to see what he is going to learn next!

Tuesday, November 11

Visiting Gratitude

Tonight I am grateful for my visiting teacher. In the LDS church, there are pairs of women that are set up and assigned to visit sisters in the ward. Each pair is generally assigned 3-5 sisters to visit, and they are requested to visit monthly and give a short lesson, along with providing whatever service is deemed appropriate.

My visiting teacher rocks. She just got back from a mission to Brazil with her husband, and has already become dear to me. On Sunday whilst I was in the midst of a pre-meltdown, she insisted that I attend the adult meeting instead of the children's meeting, and I was uplifted. After church, she asked if she could come over this afternoon to give me a break from the kids. She showed up this evening around 4:45 and spent some time reading and playing with the kids while I worked on a paper for my Psychology class, then we had dinner together before bathing the children and getting them to bed. After that we sat in the living room for a short while, and she listened to me cry. I find relief in telling and re-telling the stories about Ammon, and commiserating again and again about the loss and what it has done to our family-but most people get tired of hearing it. Sister Bradford is somebody that hasn't heard the stories before, and it was cathartic to share some of them.

Before she left, she asked if we could make Tuesday afternoon/evening a regular date for the time being, and I gratefully agreed. I am so grateful for visiting teachers. They truly have made a difference in my life.

Monday, November 10

Exercising Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the ability to have a healthy, strong body that is capable of doing some amazing things. I went to my Zumba class this morning, and as I was sweating along and feeling the pain of intense exertion, I realized something: occasionally I feel self conscious, being the biggest girl in my aerobics class--but at least I'm a big girl that GOES to an aerobics class. That counts for something, right?

Sunday, November 9

Gratitude is Difficult

I've had a hard time with my gratitude today. It's been a rough day, and combined with the kids acting up, church was difficult and draining. At home I've let the kids watch entirely too many cartoons, but the alternative of me yelling and screaming at them because my nerves are shot doesn't seem fair. In my bad mood, I've struggled all day to think of something to post about gratitude. I have come up with this today:

I am grateful for people who notice when I'm having a bad day. My ward, as always, banded together today when they saw that I was struggling. My children were quickly farmed out to various welcoming arms, and I was led by the hand into Relief Society, where I sat next to a dear friend and wept through part of the lesson. Although I loathe crying in front of people, the dear people in my ward are somewhat accustomed to my grief, and don't shy away from comforting me. I'm grateful for that.

Saturday, November 8

Daily Gratitude

I got an idea for a daily gratitude journal from a friends blog. The idea is to post one thing you're grateful for for the month of November until Thanksgiving. I know I'm a few days behind, but I'm having a really bad night and need the reminder of the blessings that I have in my life. Tonight I'll post 8, and then post one a day until Thanksgiving. Maybe forcing myself to look at the positive will pull me out of the funk I've entered today.

1. I am grateful for a solid marriage. I know that sounds strange, coming from a widow, but I am. I am grateful that between Ammon and I, there was nothing left unsaid, no opportunity for love left untaken. Our foundation was rock solid, and without a doubt would have withstood the test of time. So many marriages I see around me are at the very best not as good as they could be, and at the worst-failing. I am beyond gratitude that instead of looking back at our marriage with regret, I look back at it with a warm memory of loving the perfect man for me.

2. I am grateful for healthy children. In tandem with my marriage to their father, my three children are my greatest achievement in this life. They are three of the most compassionate, caring, loving children I have had the pleasure of knowing. Jeremy has stepped up as the man of the family, and though it breaks my heart daily to see it--he has learned to care for his siblings and his mother in a way that no 5 year old should have to do. He has learned such amazing compassion, and has helped tremendously to mend the broken pieces of my heart. When I look at Kadon, I see his fathers sparkling brown eyes staring back at me, and I pull that piece of Ammon close to me and hold it tenderly. Brooklyn I have cradled to me these past months. She has partially restored my shattered soul into something workable, and I will forever be in her debt-and the debt of her brothers-for pulling me from the darkest of places.

3. I am grateful for my faith. I thought that I had strong faith before Ammon died. I thought I had a testimony of the plan of salvation, of the existence of good and evil and of an eternal course for my life. On that dark Friday that Ammon was ripped from this earth, my faith was shattered into unrecognizable pieces. I struggled in an exceedingly dark place for most of the summer, and with the emergence of fall--my faith has emerged anew. Not every day, but most days-I place my future directly in the hands of my father in heaven. I don't yet feel strong enough to forge through this life without him, and perhaps I never will. I lean on him heavily, and pray often for strength. I'm grateful that he is always there, but especially that he has unfailing patience with my weaknesses. The last 7 months of my life have been harrowing, and have exceeded my worst nightmares--but I've lived through them. With his help, I'll live through many, many more.

4. I am grateful for a comfortable home. It sounds trite, but I am so grateful for four stable walls. Right after Ammon died, my head was swimming with the weight of trying to find a home for my children, while suddenly being without his income. We had no life insurance, and I have been home for the last six years raising our children. I thought for sure that I would be forced to move in with one set of parents or another, and was sick at the thought of packing up all our memories so soon in the wake of his death. Thankfully, finances were able to be straightened, and while we don't live her comfortably-we do live here. We have no plans to move anytime soon, and I am grateful to live in a place that holds many happy memories of easier times.

5. I am grateful for a strong church family. Ammon and I talked many times about the force that drew us to this small village in Ohio, and we often said that we felt pulled here for a specific reason. Of course, we had no idea that five short months after we moved into this area, the kids and I would be leaning so heavily on the ward for support. Our church is full of amazing, selfless people. I love each of them individually, and I love them collectively for the church that they represent. Many times, in my darkest moments, it has been somebody from the ward who has reached out and pulled me back up. I couldn't have survived without my ward, either.

6. I am grateful for my intelligence. I was incredibly overwhelmed at the thought of going back to school after 6 years out of the loop, but I am proud to say that the first quarter is nearly over, and I AM cut out for this challenge. I have been able to prioritize my time and get schoolwork done with time to spare. I have done more studying in the last two months than I did in my entire school career combined previous to this. My grades are excellent, and I foresee no change in the near future. I am capable, and that feels wonderful.

7. I am grateful for my family. I actually wrote that sentence, and then hit delete and started to type 'Ammon's family', but I know that statement is incorrect, and unfair. The Fellows are MY family. From the moment Ammon and I got married and I entered their lives on a permanent basis, they have pulled me right into the heart of their clan. I coudn't be closer to Russ and Mary than if they had a hand in creating me genetically, and I am extremely blessed to share that bond with two sets of parents. I have 5 sisters, 6 brothers, and 14 nieces and nephews. I have 4 parents who all love me for who I am, and for the love that we share as family members. All of them, collectively, have stood up and been there for me and the kids whenever I have needed them, and many times without me asking them. They know intuitively when I need them, and they always rise to the occasion.

8. I am grateful to Ammon. I know this goes without saying, and probably should be included in number one, but I feel compelled to list it separately. Through Ammon, I learned how to love. I learned how to accept another person fully, embracing their faults and their weaknesses. I learned through Ammon how to celebrate their accomplishments and victories. I learned with Ammon how to strengthen in times of sorrow and sadness. We cried, laughed, loved, and learned together for 8 years, and he will always be my soulmate. I know that he is waiting for me. Even now, I can feel his spirit near me-protecting me, guiding me, and loving me in his faithful, tender, patient way. Ammon taught me what perfect love means, and though it wasn't always easy to show that to each other-he taught me that it's possible. Ammon made the ultimate sacrifice for our family. He chose to leave this earth early, and to prepare the way for us to be with him eternally. He lived up to the covenants that we made here on earth, and now he works from the other side of the veil to make sure that we live up to ours, and that the way is made clear for us to enter the kingdom and arrive at his side. My heart overflows with gratitude for the kind of man that he is, and for the example his memory will set for our children. In each of them, I have a precious piece of him--but the biggest piece of him that I carry is in my heart. He gave me his heart, his soul, fully-without reservation-and I carry it with me still. For that, I will be eternally grateful to him.

Friday, November 7

Girls Night

My sister in law, Angela, brought her youngest son down to Cincinnati tonight for a sleep over. The funny thing is, the boys think that the 'sleep over' is for their benefit.

HA!! It's COMPLETELY for the Moms.




Tee hee.

Wednesday, November 5

I'm a Little Indian

Kadon came home from preschool the other day, and shared this song that he learned. I thought it was so adorable I had to share it with you all! Oh, and I have no idea why it posted sideways. Sorry about that.

video

The Other Guy

I admit it freely. I voted for the other guy. For weeks, I have flip-flopped impressively between the two candidates. The major issues of the day-health care, the economy, and the war in Iraq left me completely unable to choose between the two men. Honestly, neither of them seemed qualified in my eyes to steer our country in the appropriate direction. I sought opinions from almost everybody I know, from both sides of the issues. I faithfully studied the issues through the press, and tried valiantly to make a decision using logic and reason.

In the end, I had to make my decision based on issues that would be deemed trivial by most. I read a blog by a friend of mine, who put the issues of the day in a more eternal and appropriate perspective. When I looked at the choices that way, my choice was immediately clear. I fear for the future of our country under the leadership of a man who wholeheartedly endorses abortion and gay marriage. I know it's not a popular point of view, but it's where I stand. I will watch what the next four years bring us with great trepidation. May we keep God with us.