The rainbow

My small son has a problem. A nose picking problem...which we have tried just about everything to stop...but no go. Last night, as Adam put him to bed, he was diggin' for gold and, since it's so much drier here in Ft. Fun, the boogers were getting, well, a bit bloody. (sorry if you don't have small nose-picking children or if that just grosses you out in general)
Adam: "Pax, you gotta stop picking, buddy. See that red? It's blood."
Pax: "It's ok, Daddy. It's just a color of the rainbow,"
Sigh. As my husband would say...parenting is HARD!


Thankful Thursday

Today, there is just one HUGE thankful on my mind...we have a house. It's been a long road of buy vs. rent, search & search, have rentals "go with someone else"...a very, very challenging season for Adam and I as a couple, but for me personally it challenged my ability to be what I consider a successful wife and mother in the midst of massive transition, with 95% of our belongings in storage for 4 months. And now? God has, once again, provided...in the nick of time :) Adam found the house on Craigsli*t Monday night, after a weekend away...went and saw it on Tuesday...put in an application and we were approved in 3 hours. So? Tomorrow we move. Again. But hopefully for the last time in awhile...because I'm still praying for and believing that God will continue to move mountains and Adam will get into the program the first time. Oh, and, by the way, his school is 1.5 miles away from the house, through neighborhoods. He can ride his bike there!! Kind of unheard of for the Phoenix area. Today, I am thankful in the midst of packing (again) and soothing 2 kiddos who are pretty much DONE with the whole moving thing. I am thankful that God works in His own timing, not mine; and that His plans always turn out better than mine would have-even if I struggle to trust in the in-between times. I am thankful for all I've learned about faith and what it means in this situation to live out the faith that I proclaim as my life-source.
And I'm thankful for a place to call "home", at least for awhile. And a settled place to bring this new baby home to.


Wordless Wednesday: Stunning.

A picture of my cousin Janell and me, facing into the crazy wind on Thanksgiving Day...
...but I think this one is truly fabulous.


Oh, you kid!

 I've been forgetting to stop and write down all the funny little things my littles say lately...and they say some funny stuff! B, especially, is cracking us up right now with her explosion of sentences, her understanding of social conversation, and her goofy little mannerisms. So. Because I don't want to forget...
 Last night, for our 2nd day of our "activities Advent", we had a Christmas-themed pizza-movie night. Which pretty much just means I made Christmas tree and candy cane shaped pizzas, and we watched a Christmas show. Fun stuff!! B "helped" me make the sauce for the pizzas; and our conversation went something like this...
B: "Whatssat?" pointing
Me: "It's called garlic,"
B: "Oh. Hi gar-yic, howz it goin?"
Me: cracking up
and then there's my Small Son. Who isn't so small anymore, really...but still gets up insanely early. Today-5 AM. So, we put him in one of the extra rooms here (we call it "Grammy's Room") with strict directions to be quite, go back to sleep, and not to wake up his sister. You know, the usual. All of which he ignored. By 6, he was in bed with me while Adam tried to get B to go back to sleep (she's not so good if she doesn't get enough sleep...neither am I!). He kept wiggling, and wiggling, and whispering, and I kept getting more and more cross and frustrated. 
And then I had a revelation. I could spank him about 20 times for disobeying (direct disobedience is the only time we spank, and no, we don't ever do it 20 times. At least not all at once..)
Or I could make him clean the bathrooms.
And so I did. Don't worry, I helped-this time, at least. But this may be a stroke-of-genius consequence...he has extra chores, which as he gets older he will have to complete without help...
and I don't have to clean the bathrooms!
We gotta try something new...
....but I must say. They're awful cute, even if they are little goobers sometimes. These pictures are just a few from our Thanksgiving, spent at my Aunt Janet & Uncle Jimmy's..which will be posted about very soon. And now my Small Son is up from his "nap" (no, he didn't sleep...yes, he's going to bed at 7pm) and would like to type a little:
pax mama daddy blythe jake&joe


Thankful Thursday

It's been..well...a ridiculously long time since I've done one of these posts. But, aside from the fact that it's Thanksgiving next week and Thankfulness (as well as pie!) is just on my mind...I find that, when I make the time to write down this little lists of thankfuls-I'm more thankful. More mindful of the blessings I'm surrounded with-no matter what the out word circumstances may be. And that's something that I know I need more of-as is the rest of the world, if the status updates on my Facebo*k are any indication. At first, it's a choice-choosing to see the good instead of the bad; choosing to find something to be thankful for in every situation. But soon it takes over and simply becomes a part of who you are-thankfulness. And who doesn't want to be that person, instead of the whiner next door? Ya know what I mean?? So. The revival of Thankful Thursdays...

..I'm thankful for washers and dryers. Can't imagine washing sheets for all our company this weekend, on top of our sheets, as well as doing so many loads of "my 22-month-old is potty training" laundry without them. Actually, I can...that's why I'm so thankful :)

...I'm thankful for Pinter*st. Not only is it a fantastic way to organize all the little things I'd like to try, but it's giving me some fantastic recipes and ideas I've already put into use!

...I'm thankful for family holiday visits. We get to spend the next week with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins...couldn't be more excited to see everyone! Unless, perhaps, I turned into my children.

...I'm thankful for new babies, and old friends to celebrate those new babies with. I have 2 cousins and 5 friends who are due within 2 months either way of me, and a cousin and a dear friend who have both given birth to sweet little dollies recently. So fun to grow up with these girls, and then have kiddos who will be within months of each other in age!

...I'm thankful for a husband who is not grossed out by anything medically or bodily-function related. And who happens to make great bread.

...I'm thankful for the energy of our two littles, and their love of being outside.

...I'm thankful that it's cooled down enough for us to actually enjoy being outside this month.

...I'm thankful for the way Small Son and B play together.

...I'm thankful for children who potty train early!

...I'm thankful for the surge of energy I've finally gotten this week! Makes the fact that I'm still throwing up much easier to deal with.


LA LA land

We have these fantastic friends, Megan and Benjie. Our families lived across the street from each other once upon a time in D-town. Now, they live in L.A. and we live in the Valley. BUT, since 6 1/2 hours is a whole lot closer than oh, at least 16...we decided one weekend in October to road trip out there for a three-day weekend.
 And we had so much fun! There's something so very refreshing about old friends-good friends-that you can laugh with, play with, and just pick right back up with where you left off (well, almost. There are a few more littles running around now...). The kids played, and played, and played, and had SO much fun together! Pax turned to Lily (almost5) at one point and told her, "You're my best friend.....(then, glancing over at another little girl from the base who was playing with them, he quickly added) and so are you,". Later that night Lily leaned over and gave Pax a little smooch on the cheek. Pax and Sadie (3) are both super busy, active kids; so if he felt the need to run he'd go up to her and say "Tag! you're it!" or, "Hey, come with me!" or something equally smooth before the two of them ran off.
 Blythe divided her time between trying to keep up with the bigger kiddos, and loving this little sweetie...Olivia is 4 months old, and such a mellow, sweet, kissable little dollie! By the end of the trip, B would tell me, "My baby cry!" When Megan put her down for a nap, or "my baby hungee!" when she was eating. Apparently she's adopted Olivia :)
 As for the adults? We took turns-the guys went out alone Friday morning, the ladies Saturday afternoon-and all 4 of us went out together Friday night. So.much.fun. We laughed until tears came, ate good food, drove down Sunset Boulevard, and went to a club in the Hollywood area that had a random girl in a window. Yes, she was alive...art, I guess? And there are no pictures of the adults-not really sure what happened there.
                                    Sadie, enjoying chocolate chip pancakes Saturday morning!

watching a show with their buddies. I asked them to all sit together so I could get a picture....
...and this is what I got. I should know better than to try to take a picture of a bunch of littles while they're watching t.v.! And this video just makes me laugh...
Megan and Benjie, it was SO fantastic to see you guys last month...and the girl in the window :) Hope we can do it again soon!!


Wordless Wednesday: when Mama is gone.

This is what my husband discovered while I was in Colorado (by myself) last weekend...



So I have something God's been whispering to my heart lately. It's a lesson I've learned before, but I'm learning even more deeply now-about thriving in the season of life you're in (as in, thriving in whatever is going on in my life situation, currently); about living in the moment but not forgetting about the future; about having a thankful heart in all things and a little perspective. I was going to blog about it a little... but my good friend Jill just summed it up prettymuch perfectly-so I'm just gonna point you her way, instead.


A little bit of fall

What do you do when you're used to beautiful, chilly falls in Colorado-but are surrounded by cactus?
                                                  Drive up to Prescott on a Saturday whim,
 and find a random fall fair at a farm, complete with pumpkin patch, just waiting for you to discover!
Be sure to go on the hayride, pet the horses at the petting "zoo", and watch your husband drool over turkey legs-but decide that $8 is too much for a turkey leg.
 Let your Small Son ride on a cool barrel-pulled-by-tractor ride (hey, it's like a train!) and watch him practically jump out of his skin with excitement...
 ...and then let him get his face painted for the first time, to cap it off (I drew a heart on B's face with these cool wipe-off-oil-paintesk crayons we have when we got back to the car...wasn't gonna pay the $3 for  her. Sorry Little Bit-but you were pretty excited, anyway!)
And, of course, take the obligatory family picture on the hay bale, in which your children look like you dragged them there by their hair.
It was so much fun-a little cool, which was SO nice. AND after that? We continued on to Prescott, where we met up with an old friend of Adam's that we discovered had moved there in July with his wife...Adam hadn't talked to Paul in close to 2 years, and randomly emailed him to reconnect the day before...surprise!! he and his wife are now living in the little town we were planning on visiting the next day anyway. God's cool like that...He loves to show us how much He loves us through harvest carnivals and long-lost friends. So refreshing to these transplants who are still getting used to the fact that it's 97 degrees in the middle of October.


Happy Birthday, Small Son!!

Adam looked at my blog about 10 minutes ago and said something to the effect of, "Gee, you're really slacking at this whole blogging thing," At which point I decided that it would be better to, well, blog with my free time tonight instead of looking at baby quilt ideas on Pinter*st. I know the pictures are of a not-so-fantastic quality...sometimes the point & shoot is simply easier because of it's size! So, let's see...since I last blogged, we've had 4 quick weekend getaways (one to photograph a friend's wedding, and 3 just for fun-I have a lot to write about!) and one very, very important event....Pax turned 4. Yup, it finally happened...the event much-awaited (by him), much dreamed of (by him), and a birthday cake that has NEVER been so carefully considered (by both of us). At least once a week for the month leading up to his birthday, he & I would discuss what kind of cake he wanted...trains, cars, monster trucks...pretty soon anything & everything turned into a cool birthday cake idea. As in, "How 'bout a CEREAL birthday cake, Mama? or a TV birthday cake?" it was highly entertaining. At least for me. Adam, not so much I don't think! Finally, FINALLY the big weekend arrived. My folks flew in late the Thursday before; so late we didn't even tell the kids they were coming. We wanted to actually sleep that night surprise them. The kids just discovered Grammy & Grandaddy when they woke up...which you could say they were pretty excited about. Friday we headed down to Benson to spend some time at my aunt & uncle's, which I affectionately call the Desert Resort. They live in a beautiful part Arizona with 15 acres to explore and some cool vintage trucks to play with; and Pax loves it there. So down we went-with a quick stop for Mexican food with other assorted aunts, uncles, & a cousin at a much-loved restaurant :) Saturday was spent outside, since it's a good 15 degrees cooler down there than in the Valley, and making The Cake.
This is the cake in the freezer, thru Pax's eyes. We attempted an ice cream cake for the first time-luckily my Aunt Janet has made quite a few before :)
Here's the thing about my cakes...they don't look so pretty. Usually something doesn't go quite like I'd envisioned it-but they taste pretty good! This one was no exception.  Although the kids enjoyed dipping pretzels into the cream cheese frosting, it was-weird. I've made the recipe several times...couldn't get it right. The cake itself...I made a bigger cake, planning to put a "wrestling ring" & monster trucks on top. The ice cream was frozen in a pan to be put in later...and when we put it in between the layers, we realized it was at least an inch smaller all around than the cake. hmmm. So much for that whole measure-twice-cut-once thing. So-enter runny icing to try to fill the gap. And enter M& M's crammed into the crack and cemented in with runny icing because the icing by itself was to, well, runny and wouldn't stay on its own. Enter a cake that will give ANY kid (and most adults) a mondo suger high; and quite possibly could get me the mother-of-the-year award.
Small Son's birthday was Sunday the 2nd, so that night after the kids crashed we decorated the entire house. Lots of balloons & streamers...this is how I like to do birthdays!
Sunday morning, Pax was up at 5. At least I think he made it till 5am...he was just a liiiitle excited. In my family growing up, we had a tradition of Birthday Breakfasts-basically, we got to eat yummy food we didn't normally get for breakfast and open our presents. Which was fantastic...so we've continued the tradition in our family, as well. For Pax, this meant donuts (and some eggs & bacon for the grownups) and an island full of presents, most of which my parents had somehow managed to cram into their luggage-seriously, I'm not sure if they actually brought any clothes with them, 'cause all I could see were presents! They spoiled our little guy thoroughly, as did other aunts & uncles and friends (and Adam and I did a little bit, too). And loved every minute of it!
I have to say this was NOT a tradition in my family growing up...the sibling getting a gift, too. But Blythe loved it, and hey, being a grandparent changes a person!
The crew at breakfast-my folks, the kids & I, and my Aunt Janet and Uncle Jimmy. I know you can't really see everyone because of the sun, but it's there for history's sake. 
Pax could hardly wait until after lunch-which my dad's other sister, Jean, and her husband Jon joined as well-for The Cake. He was so, so excited when we brought it out! All in all, I think I can chalk up his birthday as a success-hodgepodge cake and all. He fell asleep in about .5 seconds on the drive home...a happy, tired, 4-year-old boy.


An epic journey...in many, many parts.

*Disclaimer* there are no pictures in this post. Yes, I know this makes it somewhat boring; feel free to skip it if you want to. I promise there are pictures coming very, very soon...
We knew when we moved to the Valley (as they call it here...) that this wasn't going to be an "easy" move, in terms of we'll-have-a-house-and-everything-will-be-peachy-as-soon-as-we-get-there kind of easy. And it hasn't been; but still, it's been good. Lots of growing, adjusting, changing. My father-in-law is helping us buy a home down here, which is amazing...it also means the timeline of that happening isn't exactly in our control. So I'm readjusting my thinking, and we're moving tonight into a 3 month rental (furnished, thankfully, so we don't have to move EVERYTHING out of the storage units), with the hope that we can be in our own place by the end of the year. And this is good. It's moving in the right direction. It's moving towards stability for our family; towards some semblance of normal again.
This move has been crazily parallel to our move from D-town to Ft. Collins 2 years ago, in so many ways. The uncertainty; things not working out anything close to exactly like we'd planned...
and finding out days before we moved that another little addition is on its way.
yup. I'm pregnant. #3. almost 11 weeks.
Shocked would be an understatement. Ok, to be totally honest-I cried for about 30 seconds when I first saw the 3 little flashing lights on my LadyComp that signifies a pregnancy. Please hear me-we are thankful for this new little baby. We love our 2 bigger kiddos, love being parents, and believe with all our hearts that children are indeed a blessing from the Lord. It's just that..well...this wasn't how we planned it. Which I know sounds completely silly & selfish & believe me, we've been 'round and 'round with all this. Anyone else know what I'm talking about? This little baby just so wasn't on our radar for at least 2 more years. In fact, I'd told Adam I didn't even want to THINK about having another one until he was done with PA school. The thought of a being pregnant and having a newborn with him studying llike crazy and doing clinicals stressed me out. So the timing of it all kinda knocked me us on our seats. 3 surprise pregnancies. And we're so not the we-don't-plan-our-kids-we-just-let-them-come-when-they-come kind of people. We actually have been actively trying NOT to get pregnant with all 3 of them-which I'm pretty sure makes us that percentage they put on all  forms of birth control-you know, they're 99.9 percent effective or whatever? We, apparently, are the .1 percent.
This pregnancy has been-well-not super easy so far. Not that ANY pregnancy is a walk in the park, unless you're just amazingly blessed like that. My morning all day sickness has been much, much worse this time around; throwing up only once or twice a day makes it a really really good day. It's actually the first sign I had of my pregnancy-I was feeling nauseous for about 2 weeks BEFORE I found out I was pregnant, and couldn't figure out why-ha! The health insurance thing has been crazy, too. Since we don't (well, until tonight) have a permanent address, I can't apply for health insurance here. But I had it in Colorado, still. So for a while there we were seriously considering me flying back and forth for a few months to start my prenatal care...but then we realized that to pay for my visits out of pocket for the first month or two would cost just as much as the plane tickets to Colorado for the kids and I. So I did some research and  had my first appointment last week. I'm seeing a midwife (well, several of them really) this time, and so far I think I'm going to like it a lot except for the part where you see someone different every appointment & don't know who will deliver you till the day you have the kiddo. I think if it was my first baby, this would be a real issue for me...I've had the luxury of family practice docs with both the others, which means the doc who does my OB care is also the delivering doc AND the baby's pediatrician. Loved it that they knew my baby so very well. So this is taking some getting used to...but then again, so is everything about being here :) Like the 115 degree heat of last month (it's cooling down now-only 100 today!) which our car overheated in and the crazy hugeness of the city and driving so much and all that comes along with the Big City. But we've had some fun adventures, too; We stayed in a fancy-schmancy hotel one night that had a water park, just for fun; and went to the free admission night at the Children's Museum (and waited in line for an hour and a half before we even got in...everyone else apparently had the same idea), and have explored some of the indoor play places here, and eaten In-N-Out, and visited my aunt & uncle in the cooler desert down south, and gone swimming every single chance we've gotten-which is a lot since there's a pool in the backyard. We're looking forward to exploring more of the mountians/desert around here as it cools down, and I've gotten some great tips from my USA-travelin' friend Sarah about how to do this whole big city thing (She and her husband, along with their 2 kiddos, travel around the country in a 5th wheeler for her husband's job-have been doing it since their oldest was about 1. So cool!) All in all, we're settling in and it's gonna be good. I'm learning, again, that God gives us grace for the moment-for the situation we find ourselves in-and I just need to accept it & live in it. Which, I admit, is easier said than done.
Now the kids and I have to go pick up Adam from school..the whole 1-car family thing doesn't work quite as well in the Big City. Oh, that reminds me, we're gonna need a bigger car...


Cookie Monster is alive and well...and living at my house.

So, I have this Small Son. He has a vivid ( oh boy is it vivid!) imagination which, among other things, brings him running to our room and flying onto our bed at LEAST twice a week because there are "scaries" in his room. We (being loving, if not sometimes rather tired) parents escort him back to his room (usually we take turns...a good nudge gets Adam up if need be), where we pray to Jesus to take the scaries away, give Pax sweet dreams, etc. Last night was no exception...well, except the Small Son had actually taken a nap yesterday (swimming 2 or 3 times a day will do that to ya!). I'm pretty sure that's where the trouble started...so, he'd already come in, been taken back, etc. At about 5am he came in again-he's pretty sure the day is old as soon as the sun peeks over the horizon-soi escorted him back to his bed.
"mama, look-can you just get those off?"
I ran my hand over the sheets and felt something...crummy. I immediately knew what had happened, but since it was 5am I ignored it, went back to bed, and knew I'd be hearing an interesting story later. An hour and a half later, both kids were up (thanks to the non-sleeper) and I headed out to the pool for a quick swim while Adam started the morning routine. Upon coming in, I found the sweet little angel sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of outmeal, and began the questioning.
" so, Pax...where did those crumbs come from in your bed?"
"oh, I just got a cookie,"
"you mean you got out of bed and came downstairs to get a cookie last night?"
"yes! It was sooooo yummy...I just sneaked down quietly, and got the cookies, and went to my bed and ate them alllll up! Yum!" (picture cookie-monster-ish noises and miming chomping on cookies)
"wait...cookies? How many did you have?"
"two! And then they were all gone," he shook his head sadly. (luckily...or else there would've been one sick little boy!)"and I just took them to my bed and ate them ALL UP and I was quiet and didn't wake up sister!"
Well, that's good at least...I'm still trying to figure out how come the kid can't stay in his bed cause of the "scaries"; but he can get out of his bed in the middle of the night and go downstairs in the dark by himself without a peep. The cookies were calling his name, apparently. So, you see, Cookie Monster DOES live at my house....and yes, Adam hid the cookies tonight.


A quick update.

So, we're here. In Phoenix, in the hotness, starting a new adventure...my kids were in the pool at 8am this morning. It wasn't quite 90 degrees, which was a nice break from yesterday when it was 90 at 6am! The heat doesn't seem to bother the kiddos at all...but that might be because of the beautiful pool in the backyard of the house we're staying in! Not our own house,not yet; some friends of Adam's folks are letting us stay in their home so very generously while they excape the heat in D-town :) SUCH a blessing to not have to pay for a hotel! Adam starts his last prereqs on Monday, but his applications are already in; now the waiting, praying, and house hunting begin. Or continue,really. Cause that's never stopped...the kiddos are doing beautifully, at least so far. No issues with the transition-actually I think they had a harder time before we left, when we were staying at my parents' for 2 weeks. pax in particular. He knew what was happening and just wanted to get to Arizona already! Of course, we've been here all of 3 days...we were a bit (ok, a lot) delayed by croup, laryngitis, last-minute issues that had to wait till Monday in Ft.Fun, and more croup. But we got to spend an extra day in D-town with the cousins (oh my so much fun!)which was totally worth the delay. I have more, pictures too of course, but for now-we're he, we're safe, we're enjoying the pool! And I'm readjusting my thinking about what time of the year my kids can be outside in the middle of the day :)


This is the reason...

 This is the reason I've not been blogging lately. Well, this and the piles of boxes around the house. Between the editing and the packing and the swimming lessons and the playing and the chasing after the kiddos...there's no time. And then there's this big ol' truck, which showed up this morning. See, we have to be out of our apartment by this weekend; but because of Adam's work & school and my photoshoots and weddings, we're not heading to the desert until the middle of next month. So this truck brought us some lovely cubes, which we will cram out stuff into and then call the truck-man to come pick them up and take them to a secure storage facility somewhere in the Valley, as they call it, until we get down there. I'm pretty sure Pax has been waiting for this big ol' truck to come for weeks, now...a little boys' heaven! It's a little crazy right now...but this is the adventure we're being led on, so here we go!!
And then there's these sweet curls, which I totally adore...I may cry if she ever grows out of them. Seriously.
And these two buddies. Cousins, partners-in-crime...as long as Pax doesn't annoy Maddie too much :). This picture was taken at the bakery in June, when we visited D-town...told ya I have a LOT of catching up to do!! For now, though...


June 29th, 2002: the day the world tilted.

It was the day my life changed-dramatically-forever. I suppose I could say that about a lot of days in my life-my wedding day, the day I gave birth to my son, the day I met Adam, the day I left for Brazil...there are others, of course. But none of those days changed my life (actually, my entire family) quite as radically as that day did.
It was a beautiful, sunny day.
I was 18 1/2 years old.
I had just graduated from high school a month before, and was looking forward to one last summer of "childhood".
It was the day my sister died.
I've never been able to write about her, before. I mean, I've journaled and talked and thought about her countless times, but I've never been able to write about her before. At least, not about the day she died. But today....something keeps nagging at me. Something whispering I need to write about her, about that day and all the days that followed after it, and I need to do it now.
So I am-or, at least, I'm trying.
You know how you'll always remember exactly where you were when you heard about September 11th? Or the Oklahoma City Bombing, or the Kennedy assassination? {Not that I remember that one...but maybe some of you do!} That's how I remember The Phone Call. My best friend and I were driving down College Avenue on a bright sunny day, headed to our favorite boutique, when my mom called. I remember her telling me my sister was in the hospital and I needed to come home right away so we could get down to Denver, where she was. I remember thinking something serious was happening because of the tone of my mom's voice. But I thought-maybe surgery. Maybe in the hospital for a few days....never did I think she would die. I mean, my friend and I were supposed to go to her place for the fourth of July weekend. She would be fine by then...right?
My parents obviously had a different sense of foreboding. My Dad got us down to Denver as fast as he could; my mom kept calling my brother (who was spending the weekend with her and called the ambulance in the first place) but all he would say was,
 "They're still working on her."
Except she was already gone. In the blink of an eye, my tall, blond, beautiful, sunny sister was taken up to be with her Savior. She was 24 and the picture of perfect health...it was unthinkable. {I wish I had a picture to post of her but this was before I had a digital camera, and I still don't have a scanner}
I remember so clearly walking through the ER back to one of those little offices where they take people when they have really bad news to tell them. I had an anklet on with little silver bells all over it, like Indian dancers wear, and the sound of it jingling was all I could hear the whole way back....a chaplain was there, along with my brother and my parents' good friends from forever. I remember wondering how they'd gotten there...and then I remember the man saying something like, "I'm sorry," and seeing my mom start to cry but I didn't understand,  didn't want to understand, couldn't understand, and so I asked him desperately, "Is she dead??"
And he just nodded.
And I became numb.
She died of a coronary embolism, a blood clot that probably started in her leg, broke off, and went directly to her heart. We were told they did everything they could to save her-I didn't want to know what that meant. Still don't, although I have a cousin who worked as an EMT who could tell me, I'm sure. We found out later through blood testing that we have a genetic condition call hyperhomosystemia, which basically causes our blood to clot more easily than average. It's not as rare as you'd think...couple that with the birth control pills she was taking for bad cramps, and the combination was horribly tragic. It's one of the reasons I've never touched hormonal birth control and am so emphatic about my friends getting their blood tested for the condition if they are going to use any form of hormonal birth control-losing one person this way is more than enough.
Losing my sister was tragic.
I don't remember how we got home that evening. I don't remember a lot about the first weeks after her death. I do remember how horrible that first night was. And I remember the sound of my mother crying.

I had to grow up in a hurry-like overnight. I had to learn to comfort those who had always been there to comfort me-my parents-as I watched them grieve the death of their firstborn. Losing a best friend is bad enough; losing a sister is tragic. I can only now, as a mother myself, begin to imagine the pain my parents went thorough. It's not the way things are "supposed" to be-the child dying before the parent.
It's the first and last time I ever slept in their bed all night long. Comforting them as they comforted me.

I can't stop there, though. As easy as it would be to make this post about her death, about grief, about how our family shifted and changed for years before we finally found our new places-I can't. I have to write about the hope of Erica's death.
Because there is hope....
"...weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning," Psalm 30:5
and I know this to be true, because I've lived it. Joy didn't come in happy days and laughter right away; although there was perhaps to some a scandalous amount of laughter in that house the week before Erica's funeral. How could we laugh, you ask, when my devastatingly young sister had just tragically died?
Because of hope.
 "for I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you HOPE and a future," Jeremiah 29:11
Everywhere we turned that week there were whispers of heaven. A dollar bill at the checkout with the above verse written on it. An angel's touch felt in her bedroom. A dream I had, talking to my sister...my cousin sleeping in the same room listened to me talk to her in my sleep. An anklet we made to remember her, with a little heart and a little cross charm on it-and then my mom finding a gold necklace {my sister's when she was little} with a little heart and a little cross charm on it. There are more, so many more....but perhaps the loudest whisper was that of the still, small voice in my heart telling me to Live.
It wasn't the same kind of living I'd done before, though. Like learning to walk again after a bad accident-that's how I learned to live again. How we ALL learned to live again. Slowly and sometimes painfully.

If you knew Erica at all, you knew she loved the Lord. You'd know that, although she might have been a little sad to leave us behind, if she'd known she would be going to heaven so soon-she would've been joyful. Especially in the last 6 or so years of her life, she was a young woman confident in who she was and what she stood for, and who she lived for-Jesus Christ. She definitely wasn't perfect. You may not consider yourself religious at all, and believe me, neither do I. I live to be faithful...as was she. Faithful to the One who gave His life for her long before she died, so she might be with Him in heaven when the time came, instead of lost to eternal darkness. Faithful to the One who loved her so much He used her death to glorify Him-as she would have wanted. She exuded joy and life. And He used her life to show others why she was so joyful.
Her funeral was packed. The entire church was filled with people, young and old, those who believed in God and those who absolutely didn't-but came along to support us, her family. I wore a bright red sundress with little flowers on it, and my mom wore yellow. We knew Erica would've hated the thought of us wearing black. {I've never worn that dress again-neither has my mom} I stood up beside my dad at the podium and read our "traveling Psalm"-hers and mine-Psalm 91. She gave it to me when I got on the plane to Brazil. she was my biggest fan, always. She was literally the first person I saw when I was born-practically shoving the doctor out of her way in her eagerness-and she belived in me. Always, even when I didn't believe in myself. a good friend as well as a sister, even though she was 6 years older than me. When I was 13, she became one of my youth leaders so she could "keep an eye on me"...most people didn't even know we were related. We look pretty much nothing alike, plus she was 5 inches taller than me. As a teenager, we went hiking, out to coffee, out to dinner...she always made time for me. My first visit to the Cheesecake Factory (oh, bliss!) was with her when I was about 15 or so...my parents were out of town, my brother was working or gone (I can't remember), and she had the two of us get all dolled up and took my to 16th street mall and we had a fabulous time. A sister date. When I was a senior in high school, we went snowboarding together whenever we could; sometimes just the two of us, but other times she'd help haul a group of my friends up to the mountain and spend a day on the slopes with a bunch of crazy teenagers. She walked me though some of the darkest days I'd ever had as I struggled with an eating disorder and horrible sense of self-worth. And she cried as she watched me run my last cross-country race my senior year...she was so very proud of me. I never doubted it.
And that's why, although I miss her many other days of the year, I only allow myself to grieve her one day of the year-today. The anniversary of her death. 9 years ago, today...I know she wants me to live- fully and full of joy; not just to exist. I knew this, even though it hurt to breath those first few days. I knew this, as I begged God to heal my hurting family and teach me to live again-living differently now, because I know just how finite life is. And when I grieve, it's really for myself that I grieve-for the things I've lost; the moments we didn't get to share. Like not having her as my maid of honor, like we'd always talked about...but my mom reminded me there was another, very special woman in my life-not just a cousin but a sister of my heart-that God had given me years before Erica died. The only women I'd ever want standing there besides Erica, because she walks with me though everything and was there through all the darkness and back into the light. I focused on the joy of the day, and knew she was there beaming from ear to ear. A clap of the thunder at the beginning of the ceremony was like a special little "hello" from heaven.
I grieve that my husband and children never met Erica-but one day they will. And now it's up to me to let them "know" her through my memories...and I want them to know her as she was, full of life; not just to know about her tragic death. Sometimes I ask God to let her see them, or to tell her about her nephews and niece-I don't know how it all works up there, but it can't hurt to ask, right?
So I choose not to grieve her death-but to celebrate her life. To remember her klutziness, her cabbage-patch-kid face, the way my brother and I could make her laugh 'till she cried. Baking together, running together, living life together....it gives me hope. And although I know it scarred my brother in ways I can't imagine to be there with her that day; to have been the one to make the call; to wonder "what if"-I'm so thankful he was there to help her. That she wasn't alone. God works even in the details..and "He works all things together for good, for those whose HOPE is in Christ Jesus"..I don't know the reference for that, but it's in my heart.
June 29th, 2011: A day of Hope.


my favorite.

I'm in the middle of editing some pictures of our good friends, the Palmers, whom I got do a family shoot for when we were in Durango...and I just HAVE to post this one for Jill. It's by.far. my favorite....Or maybe this one is.
Or this one. Ok, so they're just all stinkin' cute!


This is the way we wash the car

wash the car

wash the car

this is the way we wash the car-

well...because we can!

{and also because he is his father's son} :)

p.s. the big guy is my brother-Uncle Fred. No, that's not his real name. Yes, it's a very long story.