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.

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.

Tuesday, November 4

Halloween Photos

I tried to upload these last night, but Blogger was being finicky. I have homework to attend to, so y'all are just going to have to use your imagination to figure out what these photos are. The kids were a policeman, a mailman, and a flower. Enjoy!