"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Idaho Weekend

The Snake River right outside the mineral pool.
 We decided to go up to Idaho this past weekend for Grandpa's birthday.  Cody took off Friday and Monday so we got to spend a long relaxing weekend up there.  Ever since all that junk started with Liam two weeks ago, I have done nothing but cry and haven't been able to sleep.  Getting away was a nice reprieve from all of that.  I never once stopped thinking about it and I had my laptop and phone close at hand to check for updates and talk to Carli, but the getaway was a nice distraction.

We got up to Jane and Allan's close to midnight on Thursday.  Then we slept in on Friday (which we NEVER EVER get to do) and then we packed up and headed out to Hagerman to swim in one of the hot pools.  That area of Idaho sits right on volcanic earth and there are many naturally occuring hot pools.  Our favorite is 1,000 Springs located directly on the beautiful Snake River.  The pool is indoors and from the looks of it, you'd never know it was a mineral pool because it looks just like an ordinary swimming pool.  But it feels like an amazing bubble bath.  We had the place almost to ourselves and it was the most deserted I'd ever seen it. 

Lauren being super frearless out in the middle of the pool.

 We're in major trouble with our water loving, fearless kids.  They all got my crazy water loving genes and none of them have ever been scared or even respectful of the water.  Devin is only three and thinks he can swim all on his own.  And I had to go in and save Garrett twice when he was with out his floaties.  Good thing I was watching him closely both times!!

Look at that makeup-less mama.  I don't know if it's confidence or laziness that has me going naked more and more these days.  Probably a combination of the two.  I apologize to any bystanders who may get spooked!!
 Later that day the kids spent the afternoon playing board games and wrasslin' with Grandpa.  Then in the evening we took him out for a birthday dinner at the River Rock Grill.

 Saturday was spent doing a whole bunch of nothing.  Cody and I spent the day in a fight for inconsequential reasons (having to do with me being hyper-emotional...ha ha ha.)  The kids played outside all day and had terrible windburns on their faces as a result.  I have said it a million times and I'll say it again.  Idaho is beautiful in it's own way, but I don't think I could ever live there because of the dad-gum WIND!!!  It's windy as all get out all year long.  And I'm not talking an occasional breeze, but rather a crazy handicapping wind that's just plain miserable.  Foreigners complain about Houston being so hot and humid, but I'd take that over Idaho winds any day.  The kids spent most of the weekend looking like street rats because of what the wind had done to them. 

Saturday night we had birthday pie.  Not cake, but pie.  And Grandpa was being a poop and wouldn't let us put a candle in his strawberry pie, so Cody got a plastic cup and stuck a candle in it so the kids weren't disappointed. 

Love the funny ways I find them sleeping. 
 Sunday was spent doing a whole bunch of nothing again.  The kids had fun chasing Brian the goat (isn't that a great name for a goat?) We tried to have a hotdog roast for lunch, but again, the wind.  It was possibly the windiest I've ever experienced southern Idaho!  But the kids didn't care and were for the most part, oblivious to the winds.  That's good for them! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Video for Liam

We are working on a project and are enlisting the help of everyone. We're making a video for the family and to help promote any future foundations or benefits that will take place in Liam's behalf. We want as many faces and messages of hope from as many people as possible- doesn't matter if you know the Webbs personally or not. One thing are are discovering is the immeasurable amount of love being shown from all of Liam's "brothers and sisters" around the world. We do not live in a vacuum and you are each proof of that.

If you would like to participate, your contribution is simple. We need a picture of you (or your whole family or whatever you like) holding a message of hope that you have written. It needs to be between 1 and ten words long and needs to be seen easily. For example, you can use a piece of computer or construction paper, a poster board, a chalk board, sand on the beach, a banner, you can even write it in the dust on your coffee table! Be as creative as you want and we'd like to be able to see your face.

Some examples are- We love you, Praying for Liam, Hope, Grace, Prayers to Heaven, Rooting for the Webbs, Love for Liam, Never stop believing, Miracles happen, etc. You can say whatever you like as long as it is positive and uplifting and no more than ten words in length.

You can send more than one picture, or a series of pictures if you want to.

We need all pictures by April 17th if possible. You can email or even text them to Veronica- vnandrew555@yahoo.com or 801-232-5794.

Pass this on to as many people as you want, and if you know of people who would like to participate, please get them this message. Thanks for all the love and support!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Be Still My Soul

Tonight Carli sent me a text with one word that made a grenade go off in my chest.


After a final and very detailed MRI this evening, they doctors discovered that the tumor had spread and it has escalated into cancer of the brain.  After waiting on pins and needles all evening to hear, I read that and threw myself on the bed and cried into my pillow until I was dry.  And Liam isn't even my child.  My heart can barely take it and I'm not his mother.  He didn't grow in me and I didn't nurse him and rock him and sing him to sleep.  I can only imagine what his own parents are feeling and it's absolutely horrible.  No words can describe it.

I prayed all day, both silently in my heart and aloud.  And the kids and I gathered on the living room floor and knelt down and each took turns praying.  Even Devin prayed on his knees with his arms folded tightly around his chest for his old friend.  And when it was my turn, I could barely speak because the tears were falling so hard and the words caught in my throat.

Tonight, the pain that the Webb family is feeling is pain that no one should ever be allowed to experience.  Ever. 

Carli sent me a text tonight and said that Liam told her he promised to get better and that she shouldn't cry and then offered her his binky.  He's such a strong little guy with much left to do on this earth.

I feel hopeless and helpless.  There's so much I would LIKE to do for them, but nothing that I can but rally the troops and pray like I've never prayed before.  Prayer has always been a mystery that has eluded me.  I really have no idea how it works or why we are told to do it, because God is the ultimate planner and already knows Liam's fate.  But still, we pray because there is nothing else we CAN do.

So in this moment, I offer this up to Heaven-

Dear Lord.  I am so incredibly thankful for the friendship and love of the Webb family.  I am so thankful for the chance to know Liam and see him blossom through the years and to bring light to people in his life.  I know that you are mighty to heal and that all things are possible through you.  I pray that the Webb family will know the comfort of your Holy Spirit tonight and in the weeks and months and even years that lay ahead.  I pray that they will feel the loving arms of angels wrapped around them, and that they will know how close to the veil of Heaven they truly are.  Please help them to know that through this trial, more people are coming to know Christ.  Bless them with the knowledge and assurance that because of Liam, so many lives have been and will continue to be touched.  Help them to know that a huge army of friends, family, and even strangers are rooting for them and loving them.

Bless Liam's sister, Kennedy and his baby sister that has not yet been born.  Bless them in the future to know how incredible their brother is and how much love he has for them.  Please comfort Kennedy as she makes this difficult transition without her best friend and playmate by her side as he undergoes treatment and surgeries.  Help her to have the faith and hope that only a child can exhibit.  Help her to not feel sadness, and when she does, wrap your loving arms around her and hold her close.

And please, God, if it is your will, please heal this beautiful child.  Bless him that his body will respond to the treatments and that he will continue to be strong and happy, especially on dark days and when he feels pain.  Bless the physicians and medical staff to know how to best help him.  Guide the surgeons as they remove his tumor on Monday and in future surgeries that they will know exactly what to do and to get him through the surgery safely.  Please give him health and strength.

Please, Lord.

I sat down at the piano numerous times today and found comfort in playing.  Hymns have a way of soothing my soul like nothing else can, and I played this song over and over and over again.

Be still, my soul, The Lord is on thy side;
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In ev'ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Pray For Liam

I met Carli McKeon (now Webb) when I was about nine years old or so.  Her family moved into our ward (church congregation) and she was a couple of years younger than me.  Carli was a hilarious trip from the time she was little and I loved her.  She had three younger siblings at home, and for some crazy reason her parents had me start babysitting them when I was only thirteen years old.  Yeah, considering she was not much younger than me and I was a horribly immature clown, it did not ever go well.  It was like a wild party every time I'd sit for them.  We would destroy the house, I would let them do everything they weren't allowed to do, her parents would yell and scream and take me home...and then they would call me again and again to babysit.  To this day, I have no idea why!  But it was always so fun.

Fast forward a million years in the future.  Carli and I are now moms and up until two years ago (give or take) she and her husband had also been living in Utah.  But they moved back to Houston and I won't lie- I'm horribly jealous of their move because it's my dream to live back in Texas too.

Carli's oldest child is exactly three weeks older than Lauren, also a girl.  Carli and I had babies two years later at the exact same time, both boys, her son Liam being one week older than Devin.  I guess you could say we were drinking out of the same fertility cup!
Carli and me pregnant with Liam and Devin, about six weeks before D-Day

Liam and Devin just before they turned two
For the last few weeks, Carli and her husband Christian have been worried because Liam hadn't been able to hold his head up straight.  It kept tilting to one side, which at first looked kind of cute but they soon realized that there could be a problem.  They got him in to the doctor and they were told that he probably had a slight muscle injury or something and to just give him ibuprofen as he healed.

He never got better, only got worse.  Carli started trying to find a specialist to take him to, but the earliest appojntment she could get was the end of June!!  She is seven months pregnant with her third baby, on bed rest, and due right around the time of Liam's appointment.  Naturally she and Christian were very frustrated about that, but they felt like there was nothing they could do.

Yesterday, several people (myself included) were pushing Carli to take Liam to instacare or the ER and to NOT leave until they did some tests!  Most people thought it was nothing- maybe just a neck injury like the doctor said.  But being at the ER would give them access to the equipment needed to properly diagnose him with whatever it was- even if it was just tissue inflammation.  So Carli took him in yesterday afternoon.
And then came the news, so shocking, that no one was expecting it.  They did an MRI and found a large walnut sized tumor at the base of his brain.  You can see it's the greyish/whitish area toward the bottom of his skull.  I can't even imagine what started going through Carli and Christian's minds.  I am not his mother, but I turned into a puddle of tears when I heard the news.  I cried most of the evening yesterday as I thought about this precious and sweet boy, and I looked at Devin who is the exact same age and it was impossible not to internalize it.

He's currently in the ICU at Texas Children's Hospital in downtown Houston.  Honestly, they could not live in a better city in this situation.  Houston has one of the leading children's hospitals and cancer institutes in the world, only twenty minutes from their house.  She updated us today and said the doctors think the tumor is benign and operable.  However, they won't know until Monday's surgery his prognosis. 

If you are a religious person or believe in any type of Higher Power, you are being called on to pray.  Pray like you've never prayed before for this precious boy who is loved so dearly by so many.  Pray for his mother that she can deal with this trauma and the pregnancy that has already been difficult.  Pray that the tumor is in fact benign and that it can be safely removed.  Pray that whatever complications may arise (God forbid) that he will be healed and that the family can have peace to handle whatever may come.

This Sunday April 14th, there is a group fast taking place on behalf of Liam.  All are welcome to join in the fast, no matter what your denomination.  If you are unaware of what fasting is, let me explain- Fasting is a type of faith based sacrifice given to God to receive a certain blessing in return. In our church we fast from all food and drink for at least two consecutive meals in a day and devote that whole time to prayer, and pondering, and focusing directly on the blessing needed. Anyone can do it- God listens to ALL prayers. And for those who are unable to go without food due to medical reasons, you can sacrifice something else- something that is otherwise very important to you. It is similar to Lent in a way.

We need a miracle and we need it now.  So please- gather all prayer warriors to help us.   Let's call upon the powers of Heaven to heal this child.  If ever there was a time to pray, that time is now.

UPDATE AS OF 9:00 p.m. April 12th-  Just found out that the tumor is malignant.  That's all I will say right now.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Brace Face

Ethan has been looking forward to this day for a month.  Yes, he was actually EXCITED to get braces on and I have no idea why!  When I was thirteen and got my first set, I dreaded it.  Maybe it's because I had seen my older siblings go through it and I knew what I was in for.  But this morning, the first thing Ethan said is "It's braces time!!"

I've had a lot of people ask the WHY about him getting braces at nine years old.  You can read about it here.  

Ethan was a champ and was calm as a cucumber while they were messing around in his mouth.  He never flinched, never complained, just went with the flow.  That's so Ethan.  Afterward he said he didn't like the retractor that held his mouth open, but that was the only bad part.  We hit the grocery store and I let him pick out some soft foods that he liked because that's what he'll be eating for a few days.  He was super happy that I let him get a bunch of Mac 'n Cheese.  Anyone who knows me knows my disdain for that nasty processed stuff. Right now he's downstairs chilling on the couch with a pillow and blanket watching TV.  He's starting to feel the discomfort!

The amazing Dr. Joseph Feller- Professional Perfectionist.

It's strange that my child and I are in braces at the same time!

Tickle Time

The other morning I heard screams coming from our bedroom and I found Cody in there tickling the little boys on the bed.  It was just too cute not to document.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Thoughts on Conference

This has been one of the hardest twelve months of my life.  It was a little over one year ago that my foundation crumbled and the bottom fell out.  Losing faith is possibly one of the hardest things a person can go through (so I've been told) and I lost all of my faith.  All of it.  I won't go into specifics and details here, but I have it all written out and journaled in a very personal place.  I've spent the last twelve months trying to disassociate myself from church, from religion, and definitely from God.  It's been one of the most trying battles of my life, only second to everything I went through surrounding Hailey's pregnancy and birth.

When you don't believe in God anymore, nothing else matters.  The flowers don't smell sweet, the sun doesn't shine as brightly, and everything around you is gray.  Dead.  Everything has thorns and thistles and beauty is lost.  And you try so hard to be independent and you tell yourself that you're fine on your own, without contact with the Supernal Being that has given you purpose and direction your whole life.  And you try to fill that gaping void with something else, some other passion, but the more you try to fill it, the bigger the void becomes.

And you stop praying.  And you tell yourself that you're strong enough on your own.  But you're not, because a part of you is missing that is vital to your very existence.

At least that's how it's been for me the last year.  I've tried and tried to feel something, anything.  And I continued to go through the motions for the sake of my marriage and family, but it all seemed so phony and confusing.  Talk about being conflicted.

And then when I had finally made the heart wrenching decision to be done, to take my name off the records of the church, to officially denounce my love of God, He finally heard me.  Or maybe it's that he's heard me all along during these last two decades that I have silently struggled to know that He was REALLY there and REALLY loved and knew me.  For whatever reason that I don't understand, He was waiting for just the right time to answer and fill me with the knowledge that I had been desperately searching for.  I know that none of this makes sense because I am jumping from point C in the story to point W.  But change finally took place two months ago and it's been so dramatic that it's been surreal. And far, far too sacred and personal to talk about here.

I absolutely don't have all the answers, but I have ONE answer and that's enough for now.  I have a Heavenly Father who knows and loves me.  Of all the bajillion quadrillion spirits that have ever lived and who will yet live, He knows ME.  He knows that I am sitting at this laptop right now spilling my guts and crying and smiling at the same time as I recall all that my heart has been through.  And I think that He's smiling because we can finally have the kind of relationship that we've both wanted all this time. 

And that brings me to this weekend.  For the last two General Conferences, my heart has been injured and I haven't been receptive to the messages that have been spoken.  But I've actually been looking forward to this weekend because I felt like my heart was ready to listen, for the first time in a long time.  I've been praying that the spirit would talk to my heart and testify of truths that I've been struggling with.  Did I receive all of my answers?  No way.

But when Elder Jeffrey Holland gave his beautiful talk today, the tears flowed freely from my eyes as the spirit whispered to me "You're doing okay.  You know enough. You know that you have both Heavenly and Earthly Parents who are cheering you on and love you more than you'll ever know.  You haven't given up, so keeping pushing.  Keep trying.  Hang on to that thread that's been tethering you to God this whole time."

This weekend filled me with so much love and hope and my tank feels full.  I don't know that I have ever walked away from Conference Weekend feeling this excited about my mission in life- to be a mother and wife and devoted servant to those around me.  I think of all the 7 billion people on this planet, and I can't express my love for them in words.  They, all of them, are my brothers and sisters. 

Because I feel a like new person, I made a huge effort to make Conference significant for our family.  I tried to do things that would engaged the kids and hold their interest, including making a huge Conference Center board and personalized Conference packets for each of the kids.  I also stocked up on treats and made a huge breakfast on Sunday morning.  All together, it was a pretty good viewing with the kids.  Cody and the kids were gone for the Saturday morning session (swimming and other errands) but I was able to listen to most of it on the radio as I did housework.  Then they came home and after lunch we all gathered in the family room to watch the next session.  That evening Cody took Ethan with him to the Priesthood session, and they grabbed burgers and ice cream afterward.

It's been a good two days.

Devin was by far the biggest distraction.  He kept running out of the room, stripping down, then running in and saying "I'm a nekid clown!!"  And shake his booty around.

My handsome men on their way to Priesthood.

Oh so cozy on the couch as we watch.