Saturday, May 19, 2018

To My Luke, On Your Birthday...

Happy Birthday, Lukey!!

Today you would have been six years old, and I can scarcely imagine what that would even look like.  Even as I sit here writing, my mind tries to make some image of you snap into focus. It's an exercise in futility, though. I won't hurts my heart that I can't see your six-year-old face in my mind's eye. What's worse is that enough time has passed that I have a difficult time getting your two-year-old face to snap into focus in my mind. Honestly, are more of a feeling to me now. A memory that lives in my heart, not in my mind. I'm not sure that makes any sense when explained in words. But I have a certain knowledge that you know exactly what I'm talking about. :)

Just as in the years that have passed since we last celebrated a birthday with you here, this last year hasn't brought growth to you, but to me through and because of you. I had the opportunity to speak at our Stake Women's Conference in January, and the topic was "Have Miracles Ceased?" I knew it was time to share your story. I had 45 minutes to fill, and it was an overwhelming task! But what was most difficult, at least at first, was telling your story from the very beginning in such a way that those that did not know you or our family could feel as though they did. I relived every memory I had of you, from the time I found out I was pregnant until after you passed away. I am careful to keep my mind from remembering too fully my life with you, because it awakens the most painful feelings of longing. A sort of desperation that cannot be filled and leaves me almost panicky. But in order to do what I felt the Lord needed me to do in telling your story...our story...I had to experience that painful longing. There were hours spent writing and crying, re-reading and crying some more. But after the first week or so, I didn't cry quite as much. As I started to study the scriptures and reading talks about the subject of miracles,  I came to realize that I needed a LOT more than 45 minutes if I was going to testify of the miracles I've seen in my life! And not only surrounding you, but throughout my life. I'm not sure if anyone else got anything out of my talk, but I gained an irrefutable witness that my Heavenly Father has always been very aware of me, and that He has gently lead me and guided me through my life. I couldn't help but be awed as I looked at my life since I married your Dad and could see the very obvious hand of the Lord in the course of our life together. I ended my talk with sharing my experiences after you died, particularly the months of struggle and anger. My soul was filled to bursting with gratitude for that time of struggle, and for the foundation I had that helped me get through it. And your smiling face was at the center of it all. Luke, I miss you every day. There are times I can barely breathe for needing you so badly. It's not often, but it still happens every once in a while. But I can't say I wish that you were here. I have finally come to the place where I think I understand a little of why things are the way they are. You have given me and our family a priceless gift, and your life and sickness and ultimately your death gave us the opportunity to really examine our testimonies of this Great Plan of Happiness. We have become so much closer to who we need to be...I have become so much more of who I need to be...because of who you are. Thank you, Son.

This birthday was not a difficult one for me, perhaps because of knowing you are where you are supposed to be. I felt happy as I thought of how fortunate I am to be your mother. As a family, we looked at photos and videos of you, and while I felt a pang in my heart as I watched you smile and giggle, I wasn't sad. Your birthday is a family holiday for us know, and we celebrate Lukey Day! This year we signed the whole family up for The Great Inflatable Race, and Grandma Candy, Aunt Jenny's family, Grandma Call, and Aunt Katie joined us. Even our friends Laura and Grace Riley came to celebrate your day! It was the best fun, and it was great to feel so much happiness on your birthday. I like the thought that as Joey grows and starts to learn more about his big brother, that he'll look forward to your birthday just as much as we look forward to everyone else's. That's the way it should be. :)

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy! I look forward to another year of learning from you. Of those special times when I feel you close to me. Thank you for being mindful of us, and I sure hope you know of the many daily prayers we say in your behalf. I know it is a vital and great work you are doing, and we're so proud of you! Just like every year when I come to the close of your letter, my heart is terrified of breaking this connection I feel with you. I don't want to say goodbye! Luke, I love you more every single day and anxiously await the day when I'll see you again.  Happy Birthday!



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

To My Joseph, On Your Birthday...

Oh Joseph, my Joseph!! You're two years old now! And oh my goodness, are you every bit the two year old!

You have had quite the year of learning and growing. You're still a bit on the small side, which makes me chuckle to even think about. But I don't worry that you'll be as large in stature in time as you were at birth. I think the real issue is that you don't like to hold still long enough to eat! You've got places to go and people to see and stuff to destroy...who has time for something as boring as eating?! :) You are, by far, our most energetic toddler. You are busy every minute that you're awake, and you love to work on something. Most of the time, that means making a huge mess or destroying something around the house. But every once in a while I see you sorting dinosaur toys, or making piles of cars, or building block towers. I love the look of concentration on your face as you work, but it pales in comparison to the look of exultant triumph when you complete your work. Your eyes just shine so bright and it melts my heart every single time.

You are such a dare devil, Joey. You love to climb, jump, bounce, fly into the air, spin around until you can't see straight...the works. You not only love to wrestle and rough-house around, but you seem to need it. In a pinch, you'll settle for watching other people push the limits of their physical bodies...hence your love for football. And when I say "love", I mean "very obvious obsession"! Your first words were, as expected, "Mama" and "Dada". Your very next word was "football". And you can spot any BYU paraphernalia from a hundred feet away, at which point you'll emphatically proclaim "Football!" Even the letter "y", in any font or in the middle of any word..."Football!" You loved the fall, with the hours spent on your Daddy's lap watching college football games. And you really watched! It's the only thing in the whole world you'll sit still for. For months after the football season ended, you'd hand me the remote and ask for "football" every single morning. For your birthday you got some BYU jerseys and a jacket, and you want to wear them every day! I don't know another 2 year old that is quite so delighted about sporting their team's logo. I'm sure you get it from your Daddy. :)

Joey, you are beyond cute. Which is good, since you are also beyond naughty and beyond difficult sometimes! You're definitely stretching your Dad and me more than the other four did. :) But like I told you in your letter last year, I knew from the time you were in my womb that you'd be like this! And even when you've extended me past any level of patience a mother could be expected to have, I know you are exactly who you should be and that you are still exactly what I need right now. And I have a feeling that this spunky, impish, mischievous, too-cute-to-get-into-too-much-trouble personality of yours will continue to be just what I need as we move through life together. Between the years I have left with you at home before you go to school and the years after Johnny graduates but before you do, it's going to be a lot of you and me. I'm excited about that. 

You are a lot like your brother Luke...which I hope never bothers you. Luke was an old soul, and had such a knowledge behind his eyes. I see the same thing in you. You have a love for Jesus already that I don't remember the other kids having a quite so young an age. You love the temple, and love pointing them out in pictures or as we drive. You struggled a little bit with nursery in the beginning, mostly because I don't think you were used to being without one of us, but you're a pro now. In fact, you have figured out how to be sufficiently naughty so that I have to take you out of Sacrament which point you head right to the nursery room. :) 

You are the center of our family, Po. The kids adore you, and Danny and I do, too. Sophie is especially fond of you still, and is the one of your siblings that is always patient and happy to play with you. You adore each of them in return, but particularly love Johnny. You are a boy's boy through and through, so that makes sense. :) You are still great buddies with Maese, and he still tolerates your borderline physical abuse. ;) You love your grandparents, and they sure love you. You have a special relationship with Great Grandma Lovell and Great Grandma Call. Your big hugs and kisses make them so happy! 

Oh Poseph, I feel like I could write novels and still never say enough about how wonderful you are and how much I love you! You are still such a gift to me. Even though you're making me gray at an accelerated rate, you are still a gift to me. I won't lie when I say I'm anxious to be done with this toddler stage, but it also hurts my heart to watch you grow up and be less and less my Baby Po-po every day. But I'm excited to continue to get to know you, and watch you take this world by storm. Happy Birthday, Joey! My sweet baby boy!



Friday, December 29, 2017

Kickin' It In Carlsbad

After our big day at the zoo, we decided on a quieter day. We walked a very energetic Joey over to the playground at the resort, and then played for a while in the Kids Club. One Joey was worn out and ready for a nap, we brought out Yahtzee and watched Johnny's stress-levels go through the roof. He's just like his Daddy...he doesn't handle games of chance very well! :)

Then we spent some time swimming as a family. It was a little chilly, but not bad. And there was no way we were passing up this scene in December!!

We promised the kids two things on this trip...we'd do sunset at the beach (our tradition) and they could shop for souvenirs. They had dutifully been saving their money for months! So we went down to Carlsbad Village and walked around, feeling super touristy and super cool. :) But seriously, Carlsbad Village is a pretty hip place to spend an evening! We found an okay souvenir shop...we were hoping for more general California souvenirs, but it was full of Carlsbad stuff. Though Sophie found the perfect hoodie for herself, and she's been wanting a hoodie ever since Claire got her awesome one in Yellowstone. We were feeling a little bummed that we didn't find the type of store we were looking for, but then across a very busy street we saw another shop. And this one was perfect!! Both girls found the cutest California shirts and Johnny got a California hat and surfer bracelet...perfect for our Cali native. :) Danny also picked up a couple decks of souvenir California playing cards to add to our botchi collection. It was the perfect souvenir shopping trip!

Finally it was time for our most favorite part of being in Carlsbad...sunset at the beach. Carlsbad has amazing beaches, and this was a particularly beautiful evening. The girls donned their beach hats, Johnny wore his souvenir Cali hat, and Joey just loved every inch of sand! 

This sunset was made even more awesome by the dolphin pods we could see from the beach. It made for quite an exciting evening for us, even though we could only see their dorsal fins poking out of the water every so often. Even so, there were real live dolphins out there and everybody loves real live dolphins!! We stayed until the last bit of the sun was gone, and for that last few minutes we just watched the sun dip below the horizon. It was the perfect evening in every way.

On our way home, we stopped to get Chinese takeout at our favorite restaurant in Oceanside where the portions are huge and the price is low...and even better the food is delicious! Once we were back to the resort, we had to bathe Joey first thing since he brought sand home in every nook and cranny of his adorable little body. This is what happens when you leave Sophie to watch Joey in the bathtub. :)

Dinner was beyond delicious, and we all ate until we could eat no more. Then Johnny insisted that we play some Botchi with our newly acquired souvenir card decks. Danny and I are loving that we can play card games with the kids now!

Our day in Carlsbad was perfection, and made us wish we had more days to just spend there at the resort and around town. But our trip was quickly coming to an end, with just two more days of fun!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Joey Goes To The Zoo...

As we were planning this trip a few months before Christmas, it occurred to me that our Joey had never been to the zoo. And our little Joey LOVES animals. So we knew we needed to hit the world famous San Diego Zoo! We went during our trip after Luke's funeral, and honestly I hadn't been impressed. But Danny brought up a good point that we went to the zoo at the very end of that trip and  we were three steps past completely exhausted and in a haze of grief. I had to admit that he made a very good point! So I was optimistic that we'd have a great time this time around. :)

We got to the zoo right at opening, and having purchased our tickets through the resort we were able to walk right in. And I knew we needed to make a beeline to the pandas! The line to see the pandas can get hours long, and that didn't sound like the way to spend our day at the zoo. Getting there first thing, we only waited about 20 minutes. Last time we went, we only saw that back of the panda...or as we affectionately called it, "Panda Butt". We were hopeful to see more this time, and lucky us, we got to see "Panda Back and Shoulder"! :) But as we moved on, we actually got to see the younger panda awake and eating, and that made the whole trip worth it right there. Little did we know, we were in for one of the best animal days we'd ever had!

The leopards gave us quite a show! There were two of them, and they jumped through their habitat and played together. It was so cool! Joey loved watching them run around from the comfort of the hiking back pack. It was the perfect way to navigate the zoo with him. He was content on Daddy's back, and because of Daddy's height he had a really good view! But we took plenty of breaks to let him run around, too.

We spent a lot of time at the polar bear exhibit. The polar bears were so active! They wrestled and played, and we got a front row seat for all of it! And there was a little play area there as well, which was great for letting Joey get some wiggles out. 

We walked and walked and walked all around the zoo, and the kids were doing great! They're pretty experienced hikers, and having them wear their Camelbaks was genius. And Joey is quite the experienced hiker as well, and knows exactly how to sneak in a nap when he's tired. :)

Because of the route we took, we ended up back by the panda habitat. And boy, was that line long now that it was afternoon! We were all so glad we did the pandas first thing. :) But if you're willing to stand in line, the pandas are more active in the afternoon. And Danny's height allowed him to see and photograph..."Panda Face"! He even lifted each kid up to see. :) 

We also got to see Tony, the baby hippo, who apparently shares a birthday with Danny! We all loved those chubby baby hippo legs. :) 

Towards the end of our visit we looped around toward the petting zoo and park. Joey got a huge kick out of being able to pet the goats! And he and Johnny enjoyed climbing on the play ground equipment, though Joey was nearing the end of his limit. He was super happy one minute, and then writhing on the floor in a flood of emotions the next. It's a hard thing being a toddler!

We still had one section of the zoo to see, namely the section with the koalas, but unfortunately it was clear on the other side of the zoo. Lucky for us, we were right by the tram! Johnny and I were less than thrilled, but we did it anyway. Honesty, neither of us enjoyed the experience a whole bunch. But Danny, Joey, and the girls loved it! And in a grand total of about 3 minutes we were at the other end of the zoo.

We finished out the day seeing a few more animals, and the koalas were definitely a high light. Claire and Sophie definitely want one as a pet. :)

We ended up spending six hours at the zoo...with a toddler...and the day was a grand success! We all had such a great time! Totally worth the sales pitch for a time share to get these tickets. :) 

Every time we've been at the resort, we've gone into San Diego. And so we've passed the San Diego temple probably a dozen times, but never pulled off the freeway to take a closer look. We decided that today was as good a day as any, and while we kept the kids in the car (Joey was sleeping) we all enjoyed getting to see the outside of this incredible temple. Danny and I are anxious to do a session there someday. Just need Claire to get old enough to babysit!

We were well into our vacation at the point, and loving every minute of it!!