Humanity Over Viability, Love Over Logic

On October 28, 2007, our first child was born.  A girl.  She came unexpectedly 9 days before my due date.  I’d known we would have a girl first.  Call it Mother’s intuition (or that I had a 50/50 chance of being right), but I did have dreams about a daughter.  That she would have a full head of dark hair?  That was a surprise.  She was born with a furrowed brow.  She was predestined to be headstrong and passionate from the womb.

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We worried we wouldn’t be able to give our little girl a brother or sister after a year of failed attempts.  But our twins were born January 6, 2011 at 34 weeks gestation.  I had my theories about which of my two little boys would be the leader based on which one moved the most for those 34 weeks!  For the most part my thoughts have proven true, although I think the “little one” has more than caught up to “big brother” in both size and personality.

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Baby brother was slightly unexpected so soon, but welcomed completely nonetheless.  Our little Lochstar was born on November 25, 2012…two and a half weeks early (per the norm).  Coming home to a 5 year old drama queen and two 2 year old monsters all competing for attention, he was sort of thrown into the lion’s den.  But he held his own from day one and has absolutely never let anyone walk all over him (as you can see from the gesture in picture 2).

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I . LOVE . THESE . CHILDREN.  I could use the cliche that I’ve loved them “from the moment I laid eyes on them”.  But that’s not entirely true.

I loved Lochlan when, at 20 weeks, I found out I was having a 3rd boy instead of the sister for Jade I’d been hoping for.

I loved Calder when I realized the poor kid was getting pushed out of the way by his brother.  And when the doctor told me the reason for his smaller size may be because “Baby A is stealing all the food”.

I loved Everest when I felt his constant kicking against the same spot on my ribs for months as if he was slowly digging a tunnel out of prison.  He couldn’t wait to get out of there and take on the world.

I loved Jade the second the ultrasound confirmed that I was going to be a mother.  And even more when the next ultrasound confirmed I was right: I was having a daughter.

I loved them more each time I heard their heart beats, felt their hiccups, saw a picture of them sucking their thumb (and realized that it would still be a comfort to them in the “real world”), laid in bed with my husband’s hand on my belly waiting for the wave of a back flip or the press of a tiny foot.

I loved them when I finally got to look into each of their eyes, to kiss their foreheads, to feel their grip on my finger.  To tell them I LOVE YOU in person.

I knew my children — I LOVED my children — before they came into this world.  As soon as I saw and felt their first movements, I knew they were perfect and miraculous creations with immeasurable potential.  I love them more every day as they grow into the people they were sent to Earth to become.

It has been a privilege and a blessing to be able to give them that chance.

While it is an overly ambitious and probably futile dream, I hope that one day we will all — the human race in its entirety — realize how much value each human soul has; that every child that is conceived, planned or not, wanted or not, deserves a chance at life; that an unborn child absolutely does not deserve the pain and torture that is inflicted on them by a woman who chooses not to have the title of Mother; and finally, that we are accountable for our actions, whatever the consequence may be.

“Every single adult now was once 20 weeks old in the womb and we can look at each other and understand that the difference between a child in the womb and any of us now…is time. That’s a human being we’re talking about, and that human being has value.”   -Senator James Lanford (watch his incredibly powerful speech below)

The results of the decision to give a child a chance at life are beautiful and miraculous.

These are my miracles.

Jade Ondrea – 7 years old – Loves dancing, singing, reading, creating, learning, and making friends, dreams of being a Popstar, thinks all meat tastes better if you call it chicken, feels all things passionately, lives in the moment.

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Aaron Everest and Calder Reed – 4 years old – Love robots, planes, rockets, superheroes, swimming, jumping, falling, make believe, playing dressup, getting attention, birthdays, and each other.

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Lochlan Bradley – 2 years old – Loves bikes, baths, running, throwing, cousins, swings, slides, and most of all, his family.

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The Good News is…

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I read a wonderful article recently entitled The Mormonizing of America.  It talks about the increase in media attention and the rise to positions of influence and power by members of the LDS faith during the last few generations despite the fact that they are such a small percentage of the global population.

I saw this article shared by Mayim Bialik (of Blossom, Beaches, and Big Bang Theory fame) that discusses modesty in Mormon culture and how it effects athletes.  Bialik stated in her description of the article “I’m not Mormon, but my in-laws are”.  She praises the young lady featured in the article for being well spoken and states that her decisions are “admirable”.

On October 10th, the documentary motion picture “Meet the Mormons” was released nationwide in select theaters.  The film features 6 diverse members of the church from across the world while “challenging the stereotypes that surround the Mormon faith”.

The first thing that I saw the other day in my news feed when Facebook came up on my screen was a friend commenting, “Today is just one of those Sunday’s that I want to stand on the tallest mountain and yell I KNOW THE CHURCH IS TRUE!!”

My 18-year-old nephew, who is currently serving as a missionary for the church in Ecuador for TWO YEARS, just wrote our family a letter in which he stated excitedly, “MIRACLES HAPPEN.”  What sacrifices he is making as a young man to bring families he has never met to the knowledge of the gospel!

It is remarkable to me, as a member of the Mormon church, the strength of our small numbers (less than 2 percent of the World’s population) in reaching the World on a global scale.  And the news is almost always positive despite the tendency that we as a nation have to make a mockery of all things good and praiseworthy.

I loved this quote in the article I mentioned above:

Plant Mormonism in any country on earth and pretty much the same results will occur. If successful, it will produce deeply moral individuals who serve a religious vision centered upon achievement in this life. They will aggressively pursue the most advanced education possible, understand their lives in terms of overcoming obstacles, and eagerly serve the surrounding society. The family will be of supernatural importance to them, as will planning and investing for future generations. They will be devoted to community, store and save as a hedge against future hardship, and they will esteem work as a religious calling. They will submit to civil government and hope to take positions within it. They will have advantages in this. Their beliefs and their lives in all-encompassing community will condition them to thrive in administrative systems and hierarchies–a critical key to success in the modern world. Ever oriented to a corporate life and destiny, they will prize belonging and unity over individuality and conflict every time.

It’s all true.  The Mormon church as a whole achieves success because it is based on deeply moral and selfless principles, with its individuals striving to be more like their Savior in every action.  How can you go wrong?

This fall we made the decision to enroll the twins in a pretty pricey all-day preschool.  Two of the days they are at school I take the “baby” to a wonderful day care and I spend my [suddenly very short] day running errands, cleaning house, making plans, and generally just being productive.

Recently I spent this free day at the temple.  This is a place I usually go with my husband.  We were married here and when we were first married we went at least every month.  When we started a family it became a lot more sporadic.

It’s important to me for one because, in a worldly sense, its a lot like renewing your vows.  When we’re there together I am reminded of why it’s important to protect our relationship and why being organized into families is so special.  It is also one of the only places we can go where we force ourselves to sit quietly, distraction and device free.  No one gets offended.  No one casts judgment.  The cares and stress of the world fall away and Heaven is close.

This time was a little different because in the times when normally I would look to Aaron’s side of the room, meet his gaze, and smile, or find an opportunity to hold his hand, I realized I was alone.  This was the first time I have been to the temple by myself.  I sat in the temple for two hours and something hit me very hard.

Heaven would be a very lonely place without the ones you love there beside you.

As I reflected on my experience that day, I realized that with all the positive sharing of religious views and experiences it should be easy for me to consistently be a shining light to the world of how the Gospel can change your life.

Instead I am terrified of how sharing the deepest parts of my faith could change my relationships with the people I care about most.  I’ve had enough religious discussions that ended (or started) with “Let’s not turn this into a religious discussion” to know my boundaries.  What are people afraid to hear?  Is it that they’re afraid that it is true?  What would that mean for them?

But there is proof in all things pointing to the existence of a Heavenly Father and His love for us.  He has His hand in the moving forward of His work on the Earth.  At some point every single soul will have an opportunity to hear His truth and accept it or deny it.  The choice I have to make is whether or not I, as all those I mentioned before, want to be involved in sharing that I know this.

I choose to be involved.

So if you’re ready, listen.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the true church on the Earth today because within its teachings is the fullness of the Gospel, even if there is truth in all religion.

Our Heavenly Father has a perfect plan, one that we usually do not fully understand, and if we follow it and trust in it we will be able to live with him and with our families again when our mortal life ends.  Part of this plan was choosing his son Jesus Christ to atone for us as imperfect beings.  Another important part of his plans was restoring his true gospel to the Earth in this dispensation through a young and humble disciple of Christ, Joseph Smith.  Joseph’s courageous example to follow the Gospel even through trials and persecution is second only to the Savior’s.

I know that if I keep the covenants that I made when I was baptized and when I entered the temple, and that if I keep the commandments that were set for us many generations ago, that I will be able to more clearly see the path that God has set for me.  And the truth is, even if it weren’t true, there is no better way to choose to live our one and only chance at life.

But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true and I am eternally grateful to be a part of spreading this news.

 

Click here to request a free copy of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand “Likes”

What this picture says about my life:

IMG_1609The sun was shining, the water was perfectly cool, the kids were happy and ready for their first day of swimming lessons!  I was obviously cool and collected, smiling happily at the kids as I said “Say ‘First day of swimming!'”  They did so willingly, and then they jumped in the pool as I lay back on a beach chair, my infant napping peacefully in his stroller beside me.

The Truth:

In order to get to swimming lessons, I had to load 4 kids into the car, remembering to bring suits, towels, sunscreen, new diapers, a double stroller, water bottles, and car snacks, although the car snacks were obsolete as the kids refused to eat them and begged (I mean begged, like it was so loud that things sound like you’ve just left a concert for an hour after) for McDonald’s.

Lessons were an hour away IF I got lucky and didn’t have to stop at the road construction.

Oh, and Calder only got in the water 2 out of 8 days that were already paid for.  Basically my head felt like it was going to explode every.single.day.

What this picture says about my life:IMG_1034I potty trained my twins!  Yay for me!

The Truth:

My twins are not potty trained.  Not even a little.

What this picture says about my life:

IMG_2217Ohh the wonderful summer memories my children will have some day as they sit around Grandma’s house (that’s me) talking about their days of climbing trees and swimming in lakes, catching frogs, and eating choke cherries.

The Truth:

Where did this picture come from?? I sure didn’t take it.  I would never let my kids climb a tree.

What this picture says about my life:IMG_1656Our summers are filled with exciting adventures like this one, followed by putting our exhausted kids down to bed so the grown ups can sit around playing cards and laughing.

The Truth:

Adventures like this one are extremely few and far between.  And when they do happen, they mostly consist of me standing at the shore, panic stricken, because one of the boys just stood up in the canoe.  I probably had just yelled at them to all sit their butts down, but then said “smile for a picture”, which is why Aaron is the only one smiling.  Soon after this I motioned for them to come back to shore because it was getting late and no one had eaten dinner yet.

What this picture says about my life:IMG_1404My wonderfully supportive husband gives me many opportunities to escape the rigors of everyday parenting to get together with best friends and remember the good old days.

The Truth:

Well, that is actually very true.  But this particular day something dreadful happened that was out of both of our control, which is why my memory of this day has been spoiled.

It rained on and off all day and as these wonderful girls and I tried to catch up I couldn’t help but think maybe I should cut the visit short and head home (it was over an hour drive).  But I didn’t listen to my intuition, and shortly after this picture was taken I was on my way home in a torrential downpour that ended up doubling my driving time.  About halfway home, I pulled over into a parking lot and just cried and prayed that I wouldn’t die.  This was a very real concern of mine.  I thought seriously about spending the night in the car, but decided to just forge ahead.  I was sore for several days due to my tight grip on the steering wheel.

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I have to admit, about a month ago I found myself logging back into my Facebook account with every intention of only using it for the “important stuff”.  After 6 months FB free I was sure I could handle it.

I was so so wrong.

I have been more unhappy in this last month than I remember being for such a long time.  Why?  Because every single picture I see of a life glamorized by social media makes me wish MY life was different, or worse, over.  No matter how many times I remind myself that pictures don’t always represent the reality of someone’s current situation, I find myself being dragged into the pictures as if they were laughing at me and telling me my life isn’t good enough.

I do love pictures — I have a gazillion of them and keep getting pop ups that my storage space is almost gone — and its not always the way I describe above.  Many times I am taking pictures to try to capture a very special memory that I hope will still feel as special when I look at it some day down the road.  But my point is that just like I shouldn’t judge someone else’s situation by the pictures they post online, my pictures don’t always show truth either.

I do appreciate having beautiful pictures of the difficult times though because usually the experience seems much sweeter when I look at it through refreshed lenses.

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Many May Milestones

This month has been one for the record books!  At least in our family.  Each one of my kids has accomplished some major feats and I could not be more proud!  And also sort of terrified and nostalgic and overwhelmed.

Jade

I do not know where this kid came from!  She is something else.  This year she has participated in more activities than I have in my entire life.  Since she is the only one of my children old enough to really get involved in activities, I decided to just let her experience anything and everything.  So at one point this winter she was a gymnast, a ballerina, an ice skater, a basketball player, and an actress all at the same time.  And she loved every minute of it!

Her first year as an elementary school student culminated in many very exciting events, starting with field day.

For her school field day, each class competed on its own in 6 different events.  Three events gave the kids the possibility of placing in the top three and earning a ribbon.  Jade was awarded 1st place in all three events (the 50 yd dash, the softball throw, and long jump)!!!  Go here to watch her in action.IMG_1082

Next came her gymnastics show and ballet recital on back-to-back days.  This session she was moved up a level in gymnastics and is the youngest in her class.  She’s also the youngest in her ballet class.IMG_1134

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And last, but certainly not least, she lost her two front teeth!  It was quite a battle.  She was hanging on but the teeth wanted out and they finally won.

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Oh, and one more thing: Next week Jade will be honored by her class and her teacher at the last Student of the Month assembly of the year 🙂 Shhh…It’s still a secret, so don’t tell her!

Lochlan

I wish I had video to prove it, but Lochlan’s vocabulary has exploded this month!  He really only says a handful of words that I can understand (mom, daddy, cracker, more, and ball) but he spouts off sentences like he owns the conversation.  He knows exactly what he’s saying and he gets frustrated, I think, that I don’t get it.  Also, his hair is getting sort of crazy.  Maybe a real haircut will be another big milestone.

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Now onto the really, really big stuff…

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POTTY TRAINING.

There’s not a word that describes what has been happening in my brain since the big “P” day.  And I do mean day literally.  I foolishly attempted to use Teri Crain’s Potty Train in Just One Day method.  For someone who thrives off of being in control, this is a vulnerability like I’ve never felt before.  Potty training twin boys!

“The day” actually went surprisingly well.  As you can see, I was prepared.  And I was determined.  I had a small window of opportunity to make this happen while Jade was at school and Lochlan was at Grandma’s.

IMG_1030Our *Potty Party* started, of course, with gifts.  And what better gift to give a child than a Disney stuffed animal wearing a diaper.

The goal, of course, is to have the child tell their new doll that its time to get rid of the baby diapers and to teach them how to use the potty.  Both Goofy and Donald successfully mastered their first attempt (using a medicine syringe filled with water) and were rewarded by big boy undies!  Calder and Everest were so proud that they helped their new friends choose a reward sticker and put on their new underwear to watch a movie. IMG_1035

Now it was time for the twins to try!  This is what the next 9 hours looked like…

IMG_1034Only sometimes the sippy cups were filled with chocolate milk, juice, or pop…

And sometimes they switched potty chairs.

What a day!  After a few hours Everest was our first success story.  By the end of the day they each had half their chart filled up, and by day 3 (yeah yeah, I know it was only supposed to take 24 hours) they’d filled them completely.

IMG_1036I can’t say that my twins are “Potty trained” per se — What does it even mean when someone says “It worked for my kid!” ? — We’ve been at it for a week now and, while they haven’t put a diaper on since, I’m pretty sure pullups accomplish the same goal.  They know I’m not going to risk it and since we try not to sit at home on the potty watching TV every day they have spent most of their days/nights in these cop-out undies.

The good news is May has also been a month of many baths.

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My valiant, pungent raindeer king

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One night many years ago, my sister and I were sitting in the basement of the home she was currently living in.  We were watching In Her Shoes, which was less than memorable because I couldn’t tell you today what it was about.  But the company was wonderful.

At about 10 o’clock my cell phone rang.  It was my college dance professor, Wendy Bone.  “Hey, Whitney, sorry to call so late.  I’m in sort of a desperate situation,” she said, “I had an emergency appointment come up tomorrow right in the middle of my classes and I was wondering if you could sub for me.”

This was BIG news!  Wendy never asked for my help!  Keep your composure Whitney, be cool, “Of course, what do you need me to do?”

“Could you come meet me at the school?  I know its late, but it would be much easier to go over the lesson plan with you in person and I won’t have time tomorrow.”  I didn’t need to think about it.  I apologized to my sister and hopped in the car.

When I arrived at the dance department building, I tried to recall if she had given me a meeting place.  I was pretty sure she had said to meet her on the stage, which was strange because her classes were in the studio.  But you don’t argue with Wendy.  I went to the stage door.

Darkness.

So I went to the studio.  Empty.  In fact, the whole building seemed to be empty.  I was sure she had said the stage, so I went back.  This time I saw a faint light coming from right in the middle of the stage.  As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw him.

Aaron McKee was standing center stage.

My mind couldn’t make sense of this situation, but the unfamiliarity of it made my heart pound as I walked towards him.  As I got closer I realized that there was music playing:  Goldberg Variations, a classical piano piece Aaron had told me he really loved.

He held my hands, and my entire future flashed before me as I looked into his eyes.  While I can’t remember the exact words that he said, I remember the feeling as he asked the most important question I’ll ever hear.  And my answer was yes.  It may have taken me a few days to realize fully that I had been lied to by Wendy, and that I didn’t ever finish that movie with my sister.

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Four short months seemed to drag on forever, and on May 6, 2006, eight years ago today, we were married in the Bountiful, Utah temple and sealed to each other for this life and for all eternity.

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I love this man.  He has shown me kindness, patience, and Christlike service and selflessness every day of the last 8 years.  He makes me laugh.  He’s brave when I am definitely not.  He allows me to be myself.  He has given me 4 beautiful children.  I am so proud of the man he is and is becoming (hopefully I have a little something to do with that).  I look forward to his future head of thick gray hair!

Happy anniversary Aaron!

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Drive-through candy stores

As my boys and I were driving home from dropping Jade off at school, Calder says, “A candy store!  Look mom, its the sucker store!”  I looked to see where he was pointing.  It didn’t take me long to realize he thought the bank was the sucker store.

“Oh.  No, Calder, that’s the bank.  It’s where we keep our money.”

“Bunny?!”  He exclaimed.

“Noooo.  No.  Money.  Like dollar bills.  Do you know what a dollar bill is?”

“Buildings?!”  Everest chimed in (“bill is” to “buildings” — sort of a stretch, I know).  “I looove buildings!  I wish I had a…I wish I was…a…I wish I had a construction hat!”  Calder nodded and giggled in agreement and they spent the rest of the drive home singing songs about building things.

I can’t stop laughing as I share this.  Of course he thought the place where we drive up to a window, stop and wait, and are given a sucker, was the “sucker store”.  Recently we went through a drive-through pharmacy and the kids chorused, “Suckers!”  Apparently drive-through=sucker.

Being the overanalyzer that I am, when I got home I started thinking about how this early childhood development theory, sometimes called schema, applies to life as an adult.  Don’t we all organize and interpret information into a conception based on our reality?  And isn’t it really difficult, and sometimes frustrating, when people have beliefs or fears that we can’t comprehend?

Calder also has a lot of fears (the dark, monsters, ghosts…digital clocks…the usual).  We’re really careful to sensor the things that he takes in from the media but you just never know how things are being processed.  And explaining to Calder that the clock isn’t scary when his hysterical “the car is counting down!  It’s gonna explode!” clearly says otherwise, doesn’t cut it.  Since digital clocks are everywhere, sometimes this can be infuriating.

But all I can do for him is assure him that things are going to be okay and be patient while he figures things out for himself.  Sometimes we have to tape a piece of paper over the clock numbers which isn’t so hard.  And sometimes, at the bank, they’ll give us an extra sucker just for me.

Easy Street, where the rich folks play.

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The first house Aaron and I lived in on our own as a married couple was actually on a street with this name.  I remember noting the irony of the situation as this was also where we brought our first child home and coincidentally where I began my quite long stint as a stay-at-home mom.  It seemed unlikely that the location of our home would live up to its name any time soon.

I pass Easy Street on a regular basis now, and when I do I think about just how easy life seemed in 2007 looking back from 2014.  In fact, I think about how easy life seemed in 2011 when I had 3 kids instead of 4, and 2 of them couldn’t walk or talk.  But definitely in the moment it did not feel that way.

The truth is, things have never felt easy to me at any time along the timeline of my life.  At some point, there have always been goodbyes, mean babysitters, unfair politics, moves, change, breakups, illness, loneliness, crushed expectations, sleepless nights, difficulty—

The opposite of ease.

But it really is all about perspective.  Of course now the idea of moving to a new house as a 10 year old who has absolutely no part in the moving process seems like a piece of cake.  No signing closing papers or writing a giant check or packing up decades worth of memories.  Just get in the car.

Of course now the thought of deciding between this boy or that boy seems like such a joke, when obviously I wasn’t going to end up with either one.  Plus one of them is fat and also bald now.

Of course now that goodbye moment with my dad at the airport (while still always a tearjerker) is not the end of my entire life.  A year passes a lot quicker now than it did when I was 7.  Or 12.  Or 18.

Of course that 15 hours I spent at the audition for So You Think You Can Dance that got me nowhere would not have gotten me anywhere even if I HAD made it to the final cut.  Where are the winners now?

Of course that night when I stayed up all night wanting to scream and cry and throw stuff while trying to get a crying infant to go back to sleep ultimately didn’t effect my future sleep habits.  She sleeps for 11 hours a night now.

But think about all the memories I have now because of those trying times.  And all the LOVE!  Sure, I could have decided not to have 4 children.  I’m pretty sure no one ever told me it was going to be easy and somehow people are still having kids.  No 75 year old woman ever says, “I wish I didn’t have all these *%!# kids”, but  a LOT of people have told me, “Raising young kids is going to be one of the hardest times of your life, but when its over you will have a big, loving family!”

And somehow I think that, even without the kids, difficulty would have found a way into my life in some other form.