Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I've felt pretty great for the last few days...like better than I was expecting to feel this soon after surgery.  Since Christmas, I've felt better and better everyday.  More mobile.  Fewer headaches.  Less pain.  More clarity.  I've actually been looking forward to my post op doctor's appointment so I can tell her that I'm pretty sure I don't need to wait a whole 6 weeks to get back to my normal schedule.  And then this morning came…

I was up most of the night, then up for good at 5:00am with the worst raging headache since I've been home from the hospital.  I felt draggy, sore, reluctant to get out of bed, nauseous, and just generally crappy.  

I finally forced myself out of bed to eat breakfast, which didn't really help much, but at least I had something in my stomach so I could take pain meds.  Then I forced myself to get ready for the day, but even lipgloss didn't do much to improve my disposition this morning.  I felt really disappointed in myself that I wasn't continuing to improve.  

And then it occurred to me that this has happened before in my life
When this little sweetie was born, I really had no idea what to expect.  I didn't know how long I would hurt, how long it would be before she slept through the night, how long it would take to get into some kind of schedule, or how long until my life became normal.  I was determined to be amazing, though, and get things on track as quickly as possible.  How hard could it be, right?
In the same week that we had our first baby, Craig and I also bought our first home.  While I was in the hospital, Craig arranged for all of our worldly possessions to be moved from our little apartment into our new little house, so that it would be ready for our new little baby to move into.  Old carpet was ripped out, rooms were painted, and furniture was moved in just in time for Savannah and I to come home from the hospital.  My parents had also driven in from Texas to be with me for as long as I needed them.  

All of that sounds perfectly wonderful, right?  

Well, it was perfectly wonderful until about the third day when we all started tripping over each other and my dear mother tried to help me unpack boxes and organize my kitchen.  Have I ever mentioned that I am slightly OCD?…especially about my kitchen??  Well, it was all I could do to sit there and let her try to help me.  I endured it for an entire week before I finally thought, "I'm feeling so much better than I think I should be at this point!  I'm just going to let my mom hold the baby and I'll unpack by myself."  

For four or five days, Savannah mostly slept.  My mom mostly held her.  And I mostly unpacked like a crazy woman so that my house would at least be in order.  I went back to church that Sunday, too, with a brand new Baby Savannah.  People marveled at how amazing I was.  My YW fought over who would get to hold Perfect Little Savannah.  And I lived up to that ridiculous ideal that I had in my head about what amazing should look like.  I felt pretty great.  I was a remarkable new mother.  I could not only bring life into the world, but I could set up a brand new household, too.  Success.  Validation.  Confidence.  

That lasted until Day 13 when all the magic wore off.  My parents had left to go back to their lives.  Craig was back at work.  The Relief Society had stopped bringing dinners.  There were empty moving boxes stacked up to the roof in the garage.  And Savannah had decided that eating every 3 hours was a better schedule for her than all that constant sleeping she had been doing the week before.  I was draggy, sore, tired, and so frustrated that I couldn't keep up the pace I had set for myself.  
I had thought that I had it all together.  I had thought I was awesome and that I had been blessed with a ridiculously easy baby.  I was totally wrong.  I spent that whole Day 13 and probably Day 14 in bed, alternating between crying and feeding my little insatiable baby.  I felt sorry for myself and like a failure as a mother.  

After having that experience with three additional babies, I now know that the recovery process is pretty much the same with all of them.  They fake you out in the first week and sleep for 24 hours a day because being born is HARD WORK.  They have to sleep as much as you do just to recover from the trauma of leaving the womb.  And when they wake up, they're HUNGRY!   I didn't try to be as amazing with the babies that came after Savannah, and I was more prepared for the round-the-clock feedings.  I stayed home from church longer than I wanted to.  I didn't try to organize a household during the first week after coming home from the hospital (although we did manage to schedule MAJOR moves within a few months of each of our other three kids' births.)  I still had a little bit of that OCD drive to be amazing, but I was more patient with myself and more willing to let the babies determine how quickly any of us got back into a normal routine.  

Apparently in the 10 years that have passed since I've had to recover from anything strenuous, I've forgotten about pacing myself and being patient.  I was so excited to be back among the living last week, that I jumped right into EVERYTHING way too soon.  

So, on this last day of 2013, I'm trying really hard to remember to be still.  There are people coming over tonight because I invited them before I remembered this little recovery lesson.  But I think I can be still anyway.  Be still and listen to my body.  Be still and let my family do things that they're more than willing and capable of doing.  Be still and just enjoy the people around me and the amazing year that has passed.  Be still and not worry about being amazing and perfect.  Be still and be grateful.  

I'm looking forward to spending New Year's Eve with people I love, who won't mind if I'm in my jammies and not venturing too far away from the couch.  

I hope that tonight, you're also surrounded by people you love and who love you, and that the upcoming New Year is as great as the one that has passed.  I'm so grateful for all of my wonderful friends, bloggy and otherwise, who read this blog and write their own and inspire and encourage me to look for the blessings around me.  Happy New Year's Eve!

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Well, I have to say, this whole recovery thing is not my style.  I'm having a hard time not doing what I usually do, staying in jammies all day, and letting everyone else do stuff for me. But last week, Craig said something that rang in my ears this morning when I forgot that I was supposed to be recovering.  

My dear sweet friend Allie, who passed away a year ago last September, kept an amazing blog while she was battling cancer.  She retold a little story once about spoons that has become a bit of a legacy in our house and the ward and probably in her family, too.  

The story goes something like this…Two friends were in a restaurant and one asked the other what it was like to be sick (I think the girl in the story had Lupus.)  As the sick friend tried to explain about lack of energy, aches, pains and medications, she started to get a little frustrated.  How can you really explain what sickness feels like to someone who is completely healthy?  So she looked around for something to use as an example, and quickly scooped up a handful of spoons.  She handed the spoon bouquet to her friend, and said, "Here.  You now have Lupus."  The sick friend explained that the difference between being sick and being healthy is that instead of having unlimited options, you have to make conscious choices about how you are going to spend your time.  So, with the spoons representing the energy it takes to do the most basic, simple daily activities, the sick friend started to remove the spoons, one by one, from her friend's small handful.  One spoon for getting dressed in the morning, an extra one if you actually shower and do your hair.  One spoon for running errands.  One for doing chores around the house.  As the handful of spoons dwindled and the other friend realized she hadn't even made it to dinnertime yet in her typical day, she realized that she could not do everything she wanted and needed to do.  If, at 7:00p, you are left with only one spoon, you have to make a choice to either play a game with your family or clean up the kitchen, to give your child a bath or help another one with homework.  There is never a day when you can do everything you want and need to do.  The sick friend showed with those spoons that she never took her energy for granted.  She could never get up in the morning feeling good and just casually use up all of her spoons because she knew that by mid-day she would be left with no energy for her family or whatever surprises might come along.  

Being in "recovery mode" now and temporarily having to consider my "spoons" throughout the day makes that story even more meaningful.  

This morning I made a really crappy, inadvertent decision to blow all of those spoons in one giant, frustrated swoop, before 11:00 in the morning.  

In my younger, more impetuous years (like pre-2010) I would do really reckless and stupid things when I got frustrated or angry.  I have thrown my fair share of dishes out the door and driven off with many a trail of dust behind me several times.  I'm not reckless like that anymore.  Now, when I get really mad, do you know what I do??  I CLEAN.  And I ORGANIZE.  And I THROW STUFF AWAY.  It's still pretty scary if you happen to be standing within my cleaning path when I go on one of those rampages, but at least it's not destructive anymore.

This morning, there was a little issue with one of my teenagers and her lack of cleanliness and organization.  It is a continuing problem with this particular child and most days I am fairly compassionate and rational about it.  We've moved her room to the farthest upstairs corner of the house so that her lifestyle doesn't effect the rest of us as much, and so that her mother doesn't see the way she lives and yell at her on a daily basis.  While this daughter of mine is capable of so many amazing and wonderful things, hygiene and cleanliness are not yet on that list.  

Yesterday she threw two enormous loads of laundry into the washing machine.  Another sister moved them into the dryer for her later that day.  And then when she came home, the first daughter grabbed both mega-piles and tossed them onto her not very clean floor in her bedroom.  UGH…

This morning, when everyone was scrambling to get ready for church, this daughter was the only one not ready because she couldn't find any of her church clothes, specifically the black skirt she wanted to wear (which actually belongs to ME, but I haven't seen it since she borrowed it about 6 months ago.)  Craig made the final call for all kids to get in the car.  And this daughter yelled that she couldn't go because she didn't have anything to wear.  And then she came barreling down the stairs to yell at me (her unsuspecting mother who was still in bed because I'm still supposed to be recovering and not going to church!)  I started in a calm voice (really, it was) to suggest she look through the pile in her bedroom.  But then she was so belligerent that I started yelling back.  (Ugh…I hate when I give in and let myself do that!)

Since I am still trying to keep stair-climbing on the list of things I'm not doing during recovery,  I asked Craig to go up and help her find something to wear to church.   She had apparently found what she was looking for by the time he got up there, but was still mad so she yelled at Craig and slammed her bedroom door in his face.  

Ugh…can you feel my blood starting to boil??? 

I held my tongue and got back into bed until they were all safely out the door and on their way to church, but I was getting more and more angry just thinking about all the unnecessary dust that had been kicked up by this one little child.  I stewed for a minute and then got out of bed and stormed up the stairs!  (I could hear a tiny little voice in my head saying to me "What do you think you're doing?" But up I went anyway.)  It is scary and smelly and disgusting up there.  I waded through piles of clean/dirty laundry, Sonic drinks, and trash, and found all of her technology (phone, iPod, speakers, etc.)  Oh, and I also found all of the clothes that she had apparently helped herself to when I was in the hospital.  This whole time I just thought I had lost my mind when I couldn't find my leggings ANYWHERE.  I brought down her technology, went back up to get my clothes, threw them into the washing machine, went back up to get all the half full Sonic drinks, and to throw the rest of her stray laundry that was on the floor of my laundry room into her ever growing pile of clean/dirty clothes.  

Somehow the kitchen counter also got cleaned.  Pumpkin pie tracks were wiped off the floor.  The sink was bleached.  Christmas presents were put away.  And vases of flowers received fresh water.  But I barely remember doing any of that.  It was a rondo of a rampage fueled by angry adrenaline, and as soon as I stopped moving I knew I was going to regret it.   I could hear both Craig and Allie's voice telling me the spoon story again.   


So, now instead of doing fun things tonight like playing games or going for a little walk, I will be sitting on the couch for the rest of the day and back on the pain meds that I had proudly weaned myself off of.  My headache has returned, too, and there is no Diet DP in sight.  

I'm calmer now.  And I don't feel crazy anymore because I thought I had lost my favorite pair of black leggings.  And my kitchen is cleaner than it was when everyone left this morning.  But it was kind of at a ridiculously high price.  

Hopefully we will all be calmer when they get home from church.  Hopefully this daughter will figure out how to take care of her stuff.  Hopefully I will be a better teacher.  And hopefully I won't regret my rampage too far into next week.  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


I started to include this in the other post I wrote about Christmas, but it sort of requires it's own space.  

I have a special place in my heart for missionaries.  I don't know if it's because I love that 18-21 year old age.  Or if it's because I know so many people who have children serving missions.  Or if it's because I can feel the impending departure of my own little missionaries in a few short years.  But whatever it is, I am drawn to these amazing kids.  I love having them in our home.  I love watching them bring the Spirit into places where it has not been before.  And I love watching them mature and change in the short time we have them in our ward.  

We don't always get as attached to missionaries as we have become with this particular companionship, but we always include our house on their regular dinner calendar.  The two currently serving in our ward are Elder Christensen (from Utah) and Elder Saenger (from Oregon.)  We discovered Elder Christensen in September just after school started.  His companion at the time was Elder Wilbur (also from Utah.)  We instantly connected with both of those missionaries and soon became a regular stop for them at least a couple of times a week.  Elder Wilbur was transferred to East Texas at the beginning of November and replaced with Elder Saenger.  We love him as much as we loved Elder Wilbur.  These two boys have totally become part of our family.

Missionaries in our Church serve for 18 months if they are girls, or 2 years if they are boys, with very little contact with their families.  They are asked to leave home, forget themselves, and work daily to teach the gospel to people who have not had a chance to hear it yet.  Most of these missionaries are called to serve in places far from where they live, where they may or may not have ever traveled or even heard of before, and sometimes to speak a foreign language.  They get to email their families once a week, and Skype (or call if they are serving in a remote area) twice a year (Mother's Day and Christmas.)  

That's why we put ourselves on the missionary calendar in October!  There is nothing like being a tiny part of that reunion between a missionary and his or her family.  It makes me cry every single time I think about those sweet families who anxiously await their semi-annual phone call from their missionaries.  I cannot even imagine how difficult it would be to not get to hear my children's voices on a daily basis, and only communicate with them via weekly email.  I am in awe of the parents who send their children out and the sacrifices they make so that their kids can be successful missionaries.  And I'm so happy to connect in just a small way with the families of these two amazing missionaries. 

After we carved out a little personal space for each of them and got them connected on two different iPads, they talked to their families for almost 2 1/2 hours (which was probably a lot longer than they were advised, but we didn't really enforce a time limit.)  We snuck these pictures just after we had given them a 10 minute warning for dinner.   That's Elder Christensen in what used to be Emma's room but is being transformed (slowly) into McKay's room.

And this is Elder Saegner trying to be patient with the constant flow of girls into Craig's office reminding him that dinner was happening soon.  :)

When they emerged out of the little spaces we gave them, those two missionaries were absolutely glowy!  One of them has been out for 18 months and the other has only been out for 6, so it was interesting to talk to each of them about how they felt talking to their families.  Both were so uplifted and encouraged.  Both were unbelievably relieved and happy to have connected almost face to face with their families.  And both were motivated to get back out and work hard to do what their families sent them out to do!  I loved that we got to experience that from behind the scenes.  It was a little bit like inviting their sweet families into our home for a few hours.  We love Elder Christensen and Elder Saenger and we are so grateful for all that they do and all that their families have done to make it possible for them to be here.

We could not have asked for a better Christmas opportunity than to have these two missionaries in our home talking to their families on Christmas Day.  

Christmas Day

I know I'm supposed to be recovering still and taking it easy, but it's Christmas for heaven's sake.  I'll sleep later…

We blocked out the entire day on the missionaries' calendar about 6 weeks ago.  Have I mentioned how much we love these two Elders??  This is how they showed up at our door at 8:30 on Christmas morning.  So cute!
Craig was in charge of Christmas breakfast.  Hot chocolate bar, orange rolls, and his mom's traditional Swedish rice pudding. 
Have I written anything about rice pudding before??  Probably not, because we've never actually tried making it.  Whenever we spend Christmas with Craig's family, though, his mom makes a giant pot of this and we have it for breakfast with orange rolls!  My parents tried making it for Craig once when we spent Christmas with them.  But we have never actually made it in our house…until this year!  Craig texted his brother, Mark, for the recipe, because Mark is the rice pudding expert these days.  And bright and early Christmas morning, Craig woke up to start cooking.  (Can I just tell you how shocking and wonderful it is to write that someone else woke up bright and early on Christmas morning and started cooking??) 
Here's the fun part about this tradition:  Just before everyone is ready to eat, all the bowls are set out on the counter.  Into one of the bowls, Craig's mom sneaks a blanched whole almond.    And then a scoop of rice pudding is ladled into each bowl.  They are randomly distributed to the family for garnishing, and whoever finds the almond has good luck for the upcoming New Year.  We modified this slightly because Megan is allergic to nuts and we used a chocolate chip.

Every year that we celebrated Christmas with Craig's parents (and there were several) Savannah ended up with the almond…Every.Single.Year.  We made sure this year that it was an equal opportunity chocolate chip, that none of the kids were even in the kitchen with us when we served the rice pudding, and that everyone randomly grabbed a bowl and didn't stir it (since that chocolate chip melted almost instantly and would have changed the whole color of the rice pudding.)  But despite our best efforts, guess who ended up with that lucky bowl of rice pudding??  Yup…Savannah!  That girl never ceases to amaze us…for lots of reasons, but the rice pudding thing is becoming a bit of a legacy in our family.  I'm not sure what we would actually do if someone else got it one year?? 

Here's the recipe for rice pudding in case you're feeling like you need a new Christmas tradition in your family, or if you just want to try it.  I understand that Mark Thunell makes this a couple of times a week!  
Rice Pudding

6 C whole milk
1 1/2 C long grain rice
4 oz butter 
3/4 C sugar
Put all ingredients into a large stockpot and let it all come to a boil.  Turn heat to low and stir constantly while mixture simmers and thickens.  About 45 minutes.  Serve with heavy cream, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  
After breakfast, we asked the missionaries to take our annual Christmas picture on the stairs.  It's been awhile since the whole family was in this picture.  Nice to have impromptu missionary photographers available on Christmas morning.  

And then we moved on to the presents!

 (yep…the paint test colors are still up on the dining room walls.  I decided that I can't decide, so I'm just going to wait until the pain meds have worn off, the holidays decorations are put away, and the dust settles a little.  And then maybe I'll be able to make a decision.  For now, it's kind of a fun conversation starter. )

I always feel so much pressure to make sure everyone gets everything they ever wanted, or wished for, or subtly hinted about during the year.  But that's so not what Christmas is about.  This year, since I was distracted, the kids really put a lot of time and thought into buying presents for each other and for the missionaries.  They weren't huge, impressive presents, but they were sincere and thoughtful, which made it so much more fun for everyone.  Each time someone opened a gift, the person who gave it to them would be riveted to their reaction.  And these kids know each other really well.  Megan used money from one whole babysitting job to pay for a lava lamp for McKay because she knew he would love it.  And he did!  McKay got Emma princess shaped Spaghetti-O's (because this is the year of the mermaid around here) and Emma was thrilled.  
The girls spent an entire afternoon shopping at every dollar store in town to make sure the missionaries had plenty to open on Christmas Day.  They got scripture markers, little book lights for late night scripture reading, Christmas ties, and boxes of crayons.  We all had a really great Christmas Day. 

After presents, the missionaries asked to have about an hour of quiet time to study the life of the Savior.  Again, I love those guys!  What a great example for all of us to see these two 20 year old boys stop celebrating and read their scriptures for an hour.  I used that time to be still and catch up on a little rest before heading into the rest of the day's festivities.  

Megan has a cute friend from church whose family had planned to go to AZ for the holidays, but at the last minute got sick and had to change their plans.  They had already had their Christmas and opened all of their presents.  Matt was lamenting to Megan about how it was going to be such a boring Christmas and that they had nothing to look forward to, so I called his mom and invited them over for a super casual dinner and games afterward.  They arrived around 3:00.  Craig had a ham in the oven.  The girls made mashed potatoes and rolls.  And Emma helped make two pies on Christmas Eve.  Matt's family brought drinks, a giant salad and green bean casserole.  It was a bounteous dinner, for sure, and I didn't have to do a thing. 

After dinner the kids played Just Dance 2014 and the adults played Settlers of Catan.  We ended the night with a huge game of Scattergories with the whole group.  

I am so grateful for the awesome day that we had.  I'm grateful for a house that comfortably holds a lot of people.  I'm grateful for the awesome friends and family that surrounds us, for an abundance of food, and for lots of helping hands.  And I'm especially grateful for this beautiful and sacred season that draws all of us together.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Jammies

The Christmas Eve festivities were pretty quiet around here this year.  

Megan made the traditional quiche for dinner since I couldn't really do much more than direct the process.  They turned out beautiful and delicious and I think her kitchen confidence increased a ton!  She kind of loved how everyone raved about her food.  (I kind of loved that, too!)

After dinner, the kids opened their Christmas jammies.  We do this every year and they love it!  I think it's their favorite tradition.

We finished the night by reading a handful of our favorite Christmas stories.  

I love Christmas Eve.  I love the joyful anticipation that fills the house.  I love the quiet night to reflect on the birth of the Savior.  I love the traditions that we look forward to each year.  And I love being in a house filled with people I love during this amazing and beautiful holiday season.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Surgery Update

If you're in that category of people who just read the disclaimer of my last post and ran screaming to find another blog, you can just walk right on past this post, too.  I totally understand.  But over the weekend, while I was sitting on the couch with way too much time on my hands, I thought about how awful it was that I blasted out that pre-surgery post and then just left everyone hanging for over a week.  

If all you care to know are the highlights, then just read this…

The surgery went well.  I'm fine.  

For the rest of you, and probably so I'll remember some aspect of this experience in the future, here are the details…most of them…minus the lovely pictures of my uterus that somehow Craig ended up with.  ???

Craig and I got up at 5:00 Wednesday morning, left the kids last minute notes of instructions and love messages, threw my little bag in the Jeep, and drove to the hospital.  My surgery was scheduled for 7:30, but we had been advised to get to the hospital 90 minutes early to get through all the prep.  There's A LOT of that!  There were papers to sign, insurance questions to answer, copays to be made, a lovely hospital gown to change into, more blood to be drawn, an IV to be put in (blech…), medical history questions to answer, an endless parade of nurses, anesthesiologists, and technicians, more medical history questions to answer (no, I have never smoked…no, I don't drink…no, I've never had anesthesia before…no, I've never had any surgery of any kind, not even a C-section.  It was a little exhausting, but everyone was so nice and so patient, because as it got closer and closer to 7:30, I got more and more nervous.  

When everyone was finished interviewing me, the doctor came in and gave me a short briefing of what to expect, the anesthesiologist added "something to take the edge off" into my IV, I said goodbye to Craig, and they wheeled my little mobile bed into the OR.  

I was freezing in the waiting room.  I was even colder in the pre-surgery room in that flimsy little gown.  And as they wheeled me down the long, sterile hall to the OR, I could feel the temperature dropping even more.  How do doctors and nurses even work in sub zero temperatures like that??  The giant doors to the OR swung open.  They wheeled me into a little corner and I remember saying, "This doesn't look anything like Grey's Anatomy??"  There was some giggling in the room.  I looked up and commented on the enormous light fixtures and the little ice cube-shaped light bulbs in them, and a nurse who I couldn't see patted me on the shoulder and said, "Yes they sure do, honey."  And that's the last thing I remember after that.  

I thought there was supposed to be counting backwards from 100.  Or something??  But there wasn't.  Just ice cube lights and then… ???  I have no idea what happened after that.  

I remember waking up in what I thought was the same room, with something that felt like a show horn in my mouth.  I was trying so hard to focus on the clock so that I could tell if they had even done the surgery yet, but I couldn't tell what those hands were pointing to.  A few minutes later, a nurse was talking, things were being taken off of me, and I was once again being wheeled to some other location.  

They wheeled me into my little hospital home for the next 48 hours and I was so happy to be able to read the clock finally.  12:30pm.  And the nice nurse pointed out that Craig was there…sitting in a chair in the corner of the room.  I hadn't even noticed him.  

There were instructions, but I don't remember them.  There was a cup full of water.  Another cup full of ice chips.  And a remote control with a bright green light in my hand that they said was for pain.  Anytime I felt any pain, I could press that little button.  So I did…a lot.  The first 24 hours after surgery, morphine is definitely your friend.  
Sometime after the anesthesia grogginess wore off, the doctor visited and told me the details.  That fibroid they thought was the size of a grapefruit was actually closer to a cantaloupe (blah…) so the surgery which typically takes about an hour and a half took them close to 4 hours.  I lost about a liter of blood and she kept tossing around the word transfusion.  I heard something about not having to do that if I bounced back quickly and they could see some good progress in the next 48 hours.  So I willed myself to progress.  I got up the next morning.  I let them take my morphine friend.  I went to the potty all by myself.  And by 8:00 the next night, I was walking down the hall with Craig and the kids to peek at the babies in the nursery.  (That was the best part of being housed in the maternity wing of the hospital…the nursery!)  By Friday morning, when the doctor visited, no one was talking about transfusions anymore.  Just release papers.  Hooray!

I stayed in that little hospital room until late Friday afternoon.  48 hours is a long time to live in a hospital.  I know, I'm a baby.  Some people have to stay in hospitals for a lot longer than that.   Sleeping was hard.  Being woken up every four hours for vitals and meds was hard.  Being there by myself was hard.  
The staff was so nice and so accommodating that they made the whole experience a lot more tolerable.  I loved the cute nurses who kept marveling that I was so young to have had a hysterectomy.  None of them believed me when I said I was 43.  It was right there on my ID badge!  I'm plenty old enough to have a hysterectomy.  

Craig and Savannah brought me home Friday afternoon, and I can honestly say, HOME IS THE BEST PLACE TO BE.  I crawled right into my perfect bed and fell asleep for about two hours…Savannah slipped in there next to me because she was relieved that I was home, and relieved to have her finals over with.   It was a long week for all of us.
There are things they don't tell you before you have surgery.  Like that anesthesia is a crazy powerful thing and that it has lingering side effects.  Food tastes gross for about a week.  There is this yucky taste in your mouth that no amount of teeth brushing will get rid of.  Protein is your friend.  Sugar is not.  If you happen to get the raging headaches that I had, the only thing that even remotely helps is caffeine.  There were mega amounts of Diet DP consumed after I found out that little helpful tip.  

Overall, though, I feel really good.  I'm so happy to have this part of my life over with (both the surgery and the girl responsibilities that have left along with my uterus.)  Craig and the kids have been such a huge help.  I really had no idea that my family was capable of everything they've done in the last few days.  I'll have to figure out some way to incorporate a lot more of their help into my regular schedule from now on.  

I'm grateful for helpful family and thoughtful friends who have brought dinners and flowers and treats.  I'm grateful for modern technology that allows this to even be an option.  What on earth did people do before anesthesia, pain meds, and modern medicine???  And I'm so grateful to be out of the hospital and back at home for the rest of this (hopefully) speedy recovery.   

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Slowing Down

Warning:  If you are uncomfortable reading about people's medical issues, if you are squeamish about the thought of blood and hospitals, if too much information is too much for you, or if you are male, you should just not even bother to read this post.  You will not love it.

I can't even figure out how to make this story interesting and appropriate for a blog (even with a warning.)  So I'm just going to jump right in and say it, okay?  I'm having a hysterectomy tomorrow.   Apparently girl issues run in my family and I'm approaching that age when they start to become annoying.  Although I can't really remember a time when they weren't annoying.  Earlier this year, I started feeling crappy and not myself, and in an effort to figure out what was happening, I started with my OB/GYN.  She is not the most delightful woman I've ever met and her answers are not always helpful.  But I tossed out my laundry list of ailments and she diagnosed that what I was feeling was pretty common for a 40+ woman.  She prescribed a number of things over the course of the next 6 months or so to relieve the symptoms and make life a little more comfortable, but none of them really did anything.  In fact, they mostly just added to the problem.  By June, not only was I totally uncomfortable 75% of the time, but I had also gained about 25 pounds.  blah…

I wasn't convinced that my problems were common or that I should just have to live with them so I went to another doctor who ordered and MRI and CT scan.  (also blah…)  I hoped that someone would find something that would explain why I was feeling so crappy, but honestly I was a little nervous about what they were going to find.  A nurse called two days later with the results that I had some small fibroids in my uterus and some other inconsequential things, but that everything looked fairly normal.  I can't even tell you how completely discouraging that was.  How could there not be anything significantly wrong with me if I felt so crappy?  

I wandered around for another month or so before talking to a friend in October about an entirely different subject.  She casually referred me to her doctor who happened to be in the same office as the MRI/CT scan doctor that I had already seen.  I decided to try a second opinion and see if she could help me feel better.  Guess what she said when I walked in?  "So, you've received the results from your MRI, right?"  And I said, "Yep.  Inconsequential fibroid tumors.  Common for my age.  Blah, blah, blah…"  She said, "Well, I wouldn't call them inconsequential.  There is one that is about the size of a grapefruit."  

Well, a grapefruit sized foreign something inside my body would account for some discomfort wouldn't it?  Yep! 

In 20 minutes, I had answers to questions that had been swimming around in my head for months.  Hallelujah for casual conversations with friends who suggest things that you don't think are even going to make any difference at all.  

I went back to the GYN (I'm honestly not even sure why…probably because I thought it would make a difference if I had some PROOF that I had a legitimate reason to feel crappy.)  She still is not my favorite person, but I did get her to agree to go with the more invasive, more effective method of getting rid of the pain by getting rid of my whole dang uterus!  Why do I even need that thing anymore anyway??  I scheduled the surgery and then went to another GYN for a second opinion (and wished the entire time I was in her office that SHE was the one doing the surgery.)  Dr. #2 assured me that I definitely needed a hysterectomy and that Dr. #1 was a competent surgeon.  well that's a relief...

So here we are today…

I have finished all the Christmas shopping, wrapped almost all of the presents, stocked up on food for my family, and have nothing on my calendar in late December and most of January.  I had my blood drawn this morning.  I have a fancy little plastic bracelet on my arm identifying me as the patient for tomorrow.  I have a 48 hour bag packed.  And I think I have laid everything out perfectly so that I can just recover for the next however many weeks it's supposed to take.  The doctor is very vague about what procedure she's actually going to use, how long I'll be in the hospital, and how long it will take to get back to normal afterward.  

But even with all that stuff prepared, I'm totally scared to death about the whole thing.  I know thousands of women have this done every year.  Pretty much everyone of my friends has had a hysterectomy, and they were all just fine.  In fact, they said it was the best thing they ever did!  BUT…I'm still a wreck.  I've only ever been to a hospital to have four  uncomplicated deliveries of four little perfect babies.  I'm scared about the anesthesia, about the IV, about feeling any incisions, and about being alone in the hospital overnight with no husband sleeping in the recliner next to me, and no new baby in a little bassinet beside my bed.  

I have no idea how long it will be before I get back to church, to my routine, to playing the piano, to Zumba, or to this little blog.  Hopefully SOON.  And hopefully I'll be able to report that I didn't  say anything ridiculous or embarrassing while under anesthesia, that there were no major complications, and that I have joined the ranks of all those great women before me who have happily retired their female organs.  And hopefully this self-imposed slowing down of my schedule will be a good thing for me and for my little family.  I'm looking forward to flannel sheets, dinners that I don't have to make, books I haven't had time to read yet, and snuggling with my family while we watch all those old Christmas movies.   

Monday, December 16, 2013

Busy Weeks

I think we have managed to cram every possible thing into the last 10 days!  (which is why the blogging has been sporadic lately and the pictures are non existent.  I didn't even have time to remember to bring my camera anywhere, much less take the thing out and use it.  Thank goodness for iPhones!)

After all the girls' concerts and shows, and after Craig returned from his December traveling (which we like to call the December World Tour around here) there was the annual ward Christmas party on Friday night.  I made a couple of things for the potluck dinner.  I sang a peppy, fun Christmas song in a quartet with a handful of amazing women.  Savannah played the guitar and sang "Where Are You Christmas?" and then I played the piano for the Christmas carols at the end.  

On Sunday, Savannah directed the choir.  I played the organ.  Craig and I taught our 16-17 year old Sunday School class.  And Megan and I sang a song together in Relief Society.  That might have been my favorite thing I agreed to do this weekend.  Late Friday night, a friend called and asked if we would be the closing song for her lesson.  We sang a beautiful arrangement of "He Sent His Son" and I loved having Meg next to me.  We are not usually the soloists in our family (and technically we still weren't soloists because we sang a duet after all…) but I'm feeling pretty confident about my voice these days with all the use it's been getting, and Megan is so enthusiastic about trying out her talents, that I couldn't possibly turn this opportunity down.  She's also picked up my mom's old ukulele recently and has started playing and singing along with that thing.  I love how this house is filling up with musically talented kids.  (Oh, and in case you think we've left anyone out, did I mention that we bought McKay a drum pad for Christmas so he can get ready to be in the percussion section of the band?!!…EEK!)

After church, all three girls went to YW Presidency meetings, and Craig had the Deacons Quorum Presidency meeting at our house.  

Oh, and the baptism…our sweet Casey was finally baptized on Sunday night.  Here's a link to her cute blog so you can read about the details and see the pictures.  It was an amazing night for her.  Hundreds of people came to support her and we had to hold the meeting in the chapel!  Savannah sang "Come Thou Fount," and another lovely girl sang "Live It" (the Jenny Phillips song from the YW Theme last year.)  And I had the extreme pleasure of accompanying for both girls.  That is my favorite place to be lately…behind the piano accompanying while beautiful voices sing in church.  I love that so much!
After the baptism a few people came over for a little Open House to congratulate Casey, and then the missionaries lingered until about 9:00.  I love that those guys feel comfortable here.  They are awesome!  

It was a crazy busy weekend, but one that was so unbelievably happy and fulfilling that I wouldn't have given up one single part of it.  I loved having something to contribute to all the meetings at church and to Casey's baptism.  And I loved hearing all of my kids share their talents.  I'm so proud of them for being willing to do that.  What a huge blessing it is for other people to hear beautiful music, or even just fun music.  It connects, and uplifts, and brings the Spirit into a room like nothing else can.  I am especially grateful for all these musical opportunities and for the busy days in preparation for the holidays.  I love this time of year and I love remembering the reason we are all so busy.  I'm so grateful to celebrate the birth of the Savior and to be able to give back to Him a little bit of the love and generosity He has given to all of us.  

The next few weeks are going to slow down dramatically (more on that later…) so I'm glad to have been able to participate in all that crazy busy-ness last week.   I hope your holiday season is filled with busy things that you're enjoying being part of and LOTS of music! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Grandma Thunell

Craig's grandmother, Florence Thunell, passed away last Friday at the age of 99.  

I loved this dear, sweet woman.  She was exactly the kind of grandmother I would like to be when I grow up…spunky, cheerful, positive, adventurous, tireless, and generous.  

Her home was always open, at any hour of the day or night, for visitors and she had a steady stream of grandchildren and great grandchildren every time I was ever there.  The best thing about going to Gr Thunell's house was that there was always food…always!  I have a giant emotional connection with food.  Food equals love.  Cooking for people means you love them.  Offering food to people means you care about them and want them to be comfortable.  Grandma Thunell always offered us food when we came to her house, no matter where we had come from or how long we were able to stay.  If she didn't have anything ready, she would find something or make something.  I remember going to her house once when I was uncomfortably pregnant and exhausted.  She took one look at me, asked me how I was feeling and didn't even bother to wait for my answer.  She just walked into the kitchen, made me a ham sandwich (which I happily devoured) and then put a blanket in the guest bedroom and told me to go take a nap.  I think I slept through that entire visit.

And in case you were ever feeling too polite to bother Grandma for a sandwich, she made sure there were treats scattered abundantly around her house.  The kids always knew exactly where to find the peanuts, candy, mints, containers of freshly baked cookies or rolls, or some other delicious thing…and somehow, whenever I was there, that sweet woman had some homemade divinity stashed away in a secret spot for me.  Oh, I loved that stuff!  For me, Grandma's house meant warmth, food, and comfort.  I'm sure I will never look at shrimp salad, orange rolls, eclairs, or divinity without thinking of Grandma Thunell.

By the time I came into the family, Grandma was no longer driving.  But she never turned down an opportunity to go an adventure.  She loved to go for long drives with her sons.  She loved family get togethers.  She loved being in motion and trusted all those sons and grandsons completely with her safety.  I'm sure that in her later years, it became much more uncomfortable for her to get into a car or go to a wedding reception or family function, but she never missed one, and she never complained.  I would like to be like that some day.  

Grandma had an amazing memory, too.  She always knew the latest news about every single child, grandchild and great-grandchild in the family.  She knew where her missionaries were serving, who was graduating from high school, and which kid had which talent.  She knew every new baby's full name.  She remembered every birthday in the family.  And she had that sweet way of making every grandchild who visited feel like they were her favorite.   

I am so grateful for the legacy of love, warmth and boundless energy that Grandma Thunell left for all of us.  I absolutely adore this woman.  And if, in my 80s and 90s, I am still energetic enough to host giant holiday dinners for my entire family complete with homemade rolls, I will attribute that to the influence of Craig's lovely grandmother.  I miss her already.

Florence Esther Wallace Thunell
June 25, 1914 - December 6, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Changed Plans

Do you know where I'm supposed to be right now?  


or at least here…

Craig's dear, sweet, 99 year old grandmother passed away last week.  There was no possible way Craig could change his travel plans and be there, but over the weekend an opportunity came up for me to go (aka…my wonderful pilot brother-in-law who always has an extra SW ticket lying around for his Texas relatives.)  I loved that idea!  It's been over a year since I've been to Utah and I'm missing all of those Thunells a lot!  I made some phone calls (ok I didn't actually call anyone, because I exclusively text these days) and found a sitter for the kids, a sister-in-law to stay with in SLC, and a ride to and from the airport.  Perfect!  It was so easy and everything just fell into place.  By Saturday night, I was thinking about how many pairs of boots I would need for a 5 day trip to the frozen tundra.

Then Monday morning rolled around...  We were still having snow days so all the kids were still asleep as I wandered upstairs to start making lists.  I started with the list of things to pack.  I don't even OWN a dress that is appropriate for a winter funeral.  ugh…I started another list of things I needed to do before I left Wednesday morning.  And at the top of it, I wrote, FIND A DRESS.  Then I started a list of all the things on the kids' schedules…and all the things I needed to find substitutes for:

carpools to/from school for Emma
carpools to/from rehearsals for Emma
two Little Mermaid shows for Emma
cast party for Emma
choir concert for Savannah
the ward Christmas party on Friday night
den meeting for my Cub Scouts
a teacher for my 16-17 year olds
an organist for Sunday
someplace for McKay to go after school until the girls got home

…and I started to feel the weight of all of those responsibilities that I was handing off.

At that very moment, I got an email from McKay's teacher that their end of the year field trip, that I had volunteered to chaperone, that he has been looking forward to for a month, that had gotten cancelled because of the ice storm, had been rescheduled for Thursday!  

That was the last little straw balancing on my poor little camel's back.  

As I wrote down FIND A SUBSTITUTE CHAPERONE FOR FIELD TRIP on my list, I started to have a tiny little meltdown.  I thought, "There is no way I can ask all these people to fill in for all these things I'm supposed to be doing."  So I stopped writing all those lists and went down stairs to melt into my little puddle with Craig's calm, reassuring voice in my ears instead of my completely irrational one.  I sobbed and told him that I didn't know what my priorities were, that I wanted to be available for his family in Utah AND for our little family here, that I was feeling conflicted, and that I had no idea what to do.  I mostly cried and lamented, and he mostly listened.  But at the end of all that wailing, he said, "You know, either of those places is the right place to be.  And everyone will be fine with whichever thing you choose."  That's it.  Simple.  No weeping.  No waffling from one thing to another.  Just sound, simple advice.  That is what Craig does.  He provides the voice of reason when I can't seem to find it on my own.  

So, I called my sisters-in-law and my mother-in-law, who were all very disappointed, but totally understanding, and I cancelled my trip to Utah.  And instantly I felt better.  

This morning, instead of packing a bag and trying to make my way to the airport, and navigating through stand by flight schedules, I got to take my kids to school, stay in jammies until 10, and finish decorating my house for Christmas.  

All morning long, I have gotten these texts from Southwest Airlines…

They have rescheduled or cancelled or delayed every single flight that I was wait listed on.  I think it would have been a long, frustrating day in the airport.  

I'm sad that I'm not going to be at Grandma Thunell's funeral tomorrow.  I'm sad that I'm not going to get to spend the weekend reconnecting with my long lost sister-in-law besties.  I'm sad that I haven't been to Utah at all in 2013.  

But I'm SO happy to be here with my little family, transforming this long series of rescheduled events into meaningful memories.  I'm so glad I didn't miss today because I chose to spend the day in an airport somewhere between Dallas and Salt Lake City.