Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer '10 Checklist

Regardless of the weather, the budget, or our current circumstances, I made the executive decision that we WILL have a fun summer! Since yesterday marked the first official day of summer, I called a family meeting to plan all of our summer fun and activities. Here is what we came up with:
I can't wait to get started!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Boys

Everything I need in the whole entire world:

To Aaron,

You are my partner for better or worse, my best friend through thick and thin, my better half, the father of my children, the provider of our family, the leader of our home, the hero in the eyes of our sons. I am proud of you. I am grateful for you. I love you. Happy Father's Day.

Love, me

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

King Benjamin

I am so proud of this strong little boy and humbled by his courageous spirit. When I look into his blue eyes, I can't help but be reminded of the righteous King Benjamin. This baby is my heart. I love you, Benjamin!


On Monday night we we celebrated Hank's major acheivement: he graduated from Joyschool! Hank had such a blast playing and learning with all of his Joyschool buddies this year. Throughout the school year, Hank learned about creativity, imagination, civic duties, respect, independence, and many, many other wonderful lessons. Together we took the kiddos on fieldtrips and taught them the value of service. What fun memories!

Thanks for the great year Rafe, Carson, Delaney, Harper, and Ethan! It was a pleasure to teach with you mommies, Melissa, Maribel, Jen, Jennette, and Danielle!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

To my son Benjamin:


It's your Dad. I know everything you read in this book is written by your mother, but I wanted to write down my feelings about what has gone on during the past month of your life before they escape me. I have learned so much from you. I believe in miracles because of you. You were in the hospital for over 3 weeks. One day you were perfectly healthy, and less than 30 hours later, you were being brought back from deaths door. You had to be revived twice before the doctors could put you on life support. I was wrecked. Your Mom and I were devestated. As your father and provider, to be able to do nothing for you was pure hell. All I could do was pray. At first I prayed that you would be healed. I prayed that you would be able to wake up and be the boy that just a few days earlier was starting to smile and stare into my eyes. Those days felt like eternity. After turning to the scriptures, I learned to pray for the will of the Lord to be done. We never stopped praying for a miracle, but we knew the Lord wouldn't do what we as parents wanted. We realized it was what the Lord had in store for you that would eventually happen. That brought peace to my heart. I knew that the Heavenly Father was in charge, and he had a plan for you. I just had to learn to accept it.

You were on life support for 6 days. During those days, my mind would wander into some very dark places. I want you to know that I very quickly turned to our Father in Heaven, and he gave us all the comfort we needed to stand by your side. Your Mom and I, and both your Grandmas and Grandpas were constantly by your side. You were never alone. Ever. At times I felt the presence of Angels standing by your side, and couldnt help but feel the presence of your Great Grandma Alder. I know she was there with you. After a few days on life support, we started hearing of all of the people who were praying for you to get better. Thousands and thousands of people were praying. For you. I know without a doubt that Heavenly Father heard those prayers, and he listened.

Over the next week, we were so nervous. When they took the ventilator out of your mouth, you started to breath. We were so excited. But then, you struggled. We had to watch you like a hawk, never taking our eyes off of you for fear that you would stop breathing. You were hooked up to monitors that would tell us when you were struggling for breath. We spent 8 days watching you, constantly feeding you oxygen so that your brain wouldn't be without it. It was like you were standing on the edge of a cliff, and I constantly felt like you were going to fall of and get hurt. I hope I never feel those feelings again, as long as I live.

One night, your Mom and I were trying to get some sleep at a nearby apartment, and your Grandma Zollinger was standing watch by your bedside. You stopped breathing. The nurse had to grind her nuckels into your chest in order to get you to start breathing again. That was at 4:30 in the morning. We were called and told to get back to the room as fast as possible. Your Mom and I ran as fast as we could, not knowing what we would find when we got there. We were so relieved to see that you were alive, but horrified when we were told of whathad happened. You did it three more times that morning. This was the lowest time in my life. After watching you fight so hard to two weeks, to see you stop breathing and turn blue was more than I could bear. You were rushed back up to the PICU, where the Doctor took you right out of your Moms hands to administer oxygen to you. They didnt know what to do. I felt helpless, and felt like this could be the end of your short life. I denied the urge to give you a priesthood blessing, for fear of what I might be directed to say. The urge got stronger and stronger, until I could no longer deny it. I layed my hands on your little head, and blessed you with comfort. I also told you it was ok of you wanted to stop fighting, but we really wanted you in our family. The choice was yours. After I finished, I waited. I waited and waited, expecting this to be the end. But as the hours passed, things started happening. The doctors determined the reasoning behind your breathing problems, and increased your medication. After a day lying motionless on the bed, you were able to lay in your mothers arms. You opened your eyes. You looked at your mom and you smiled. You even laughed. I knew at that moment you made your decision. You wanted to be with us, and we were so happy. From that point until this very minute, it has been all positive. The doctors and nurses constantly were impressed with your progress, knowing where you had been just a few weeks before. The word miracle was spoken numerous times.

We dont know what the future holds for you. At this moment, there is still a lot to figure out. The list of problems is long, but we have hope. You have proven to me in your short life to never give up. To lean on your family when you dont know what else to do. They will always be there for you. God Lives. He answers prayers. He is a God of love. He is in charge.

You must know how much I love you. I will always protect you. I will stand by you as long as you need me, and I will teach you everything I can. I am so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for the Plan of Salvation. I am greatful for the knowledge that we will be a family forever, not just during this short time on earth. You have so many people who love you, but I can't imagine anyone who loves you more than your mother and I. You have taught me more in your short life than I could have ever imagined. I hope you can continue to teach me, for all of my years on earth. I love you my son.



Friday, June 11, 2010


Since our family has been separated over the past month, we're out of habit with the boys' bedtime routines. Last night when we tried to put Max to sleep, he cried and cried for his brother, "ofo" as he calls Hank. Since Hank was already asleep, we could not figure out what on earth Max wanted and tried to explain to him that Hank was in bed asleep. Well, as it turns out, while Max was at Nana Grover's house, he took a liking to a little doll (a very manly brown colored doll, I might add) that he calls "ofo" and he was crying because he wanted to sleep with his "ofo." Such a little sweetie!

Cookie Cutters??

Recently a number of strangers have stopped us to ask if Hank and Max are twins. Hello!? Yes, they're brothers, but they're two years apart! I do love me a set of matching boys--I am known to dress them in matching Sunday outfits, but twins?? Decide for yourself....here are pictures of Hank, Max, and Ben, each wearing the same outfit at roughly the same age.



Answer: Hank = A and D; Max = B and E; Ben = C and F

Happy, Happy Birthday Hanky-Boy!

Because we were still at the hospital on June 5th, Hank's birthday celebration was a little more low-key than usual, but we still made sure that Hank had a very special day. Hank's Nana Grover made him a special birthday boy hat that he proudly sported all day long.
Hank, Max, Aaron and I met Hank's best buddies, Ethan and Harper, at Chuck E. Cheese's for some fun and games. Honestly, Aaron and I found Chuck E. Cheese's to be a little bit of a rip off, but the kids seemed to have a blast. Hank loved playing all the games, and Max just thought it was fun to feed the machines with tokens.

After pizza, the kiddies ate some yummy cupcakes (decorated with squirt guns picked especially by Hank) that Hank helped to make.

Even the Birthday Boy needs his sleep, so after naptime, both of Hank's Nana's and Papa's joined us at the treehouse (the Ronald McDonald type place that we stayed) for a family dinner and party.

As usual, Hank was spoiled rotten and got lots of presents...firetrucks, games, train sets, and an outdoor sand/water table.

Given the circumstances, Aaron and I weren't able to spend much time with Hank, so we decided to take him out on a special birthday date, just Hank, Mom, and Dad. We went to Toys 'R Us and Hank got to pick out a brand new "Cars" bike! Like a pro, he hopped on the bike and rode a few laps around the store. All in all, I think Hank had a great birthday.

I love Hank to peices. It breaks my heart to think that my little baby Hanky boy is already 4 years old! Hank is such a bright, sweet, fun to be around little boy. I'm so glad that Hanky came to our family 4 years ago:)

All About Hank:

How old are you? 4

What do you want for your birthday? Firetrucks

What is your favorite color? red, and blue, and green

What is your favorite thing to eat? treats

What do you want to be when you grow up? a fireman, and a garbage man, and a ticket man, and a police man

Who are your best friends? Ethan, and Harper, and Cameron

What is your favorite thing to do? color

What is your favorite song? Follow the Prophet

Ahhh....Home Sweet Home

After 4 weeks in the hospital, we finally got to come home on Tuesday! Hallelujah! It feels so good to be back in our own home, sleeping in our own beds, and having all our boys back together with us.

Since Tuesday, my head has been spinning trying to play nurse to Ben. Between running his IVs, giving him his shots, getting him to take his medications, and pumping around the clock, I feel like I've got a new full time job....not to mention caring for my other two little rascals:) Its exhausting! In the next two weeks alone, Ben has a eleven different doctor's appointments! I know it will take some time to get used to our new life, but we feel so grateful to have Ben home and in our family.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Miracles Happen

Three weeks ago, it seemed like my biggest worry was what clothes to wear that day and what to make for dinner that evening. I had no idea how quickly my life and my world could change...

On Thursday night, May 13th, I tucked my precious 5 week old baby boy into bed, just like normal. That night, Ben seemed a little fussier than usual, and by early the next morning he had a temperature of 102.7. Worried about his high fever, I took Ben to the doctor. The doctor examined him, confirmed that he appeared to be quite sick, but could not identify the source of his illness. Even after giving him Tylenol, Ben had a high fever and was moaning in misery. When Ben didn't appear to be improving, Aaron and I decided to take him to the ER that afternoon. At the ER, the doctors ran blood test, urine tests, and x-rays. Aside from a low white blood cell count, we were told that the test results were basically unremarkable. On a long shot, it was decided to give Ben a spinal tap. Within an hour of screening the culture, we were informed that Ben had bacterial meningitis, strep pneumonia strain. Because we knew so little about meningitis at the time, Aaron and I felt shocked, but not overly concerned. Ben was given antibiotics and admitted to the pediatric floor. The doctor explained to us that Ben would need a 1-2 week course of antibiotic treatment and that we would get to take Ben home, good as new. Little did we know...

Friday night was a night I would like to forget forever. Despite my efforts to soothe and comfort him, Ben was having an increased difficulty in breathing and was unable to nurse. I held Ben helplessly as he writhed and moaned pathetically. By Saturday morning, it became apparent that Ben was seriously ill. His heart rate was extremely high, his oxygen levels were low, and his temperature measured 105. Finally, when Ben was examined by a doctor, it was determined that Ben needed to be transported to the children's hospital. Feeling terrified, Aaron, my mom, my in-laws and I, could do nothing but hug, cry, and pray. It felt like things moved in slow motion and fast forward, all at the same time--while Ben's condition rapidly deteriorated, it seemed that the doctors didn't move fast enough. Soon we boarded the ambulance, flying 95 mph down the road. Like a scene from my worst nightmare, I watched in horror, as the life drained from Ben's little body, en route to the hospital. The color in Bens face went from pink, to white, to gray, to blue. Thankfully, the medics were able to keep Ben revived until we reached the hospital, where Ben was rushed immediately to the PICU. As doctors and nurses swarmed Ben, we were told to give Ben a kiss, and were then escorted to the lobby. We waited in agony, as our tiny, sick baby boy was intubated on the spot.

I felt total disbelief when I layed eyes on Ben: the ventilator protruding from his throat, the feeding tube winding down his nose, IVs and ports pumping him full of medications and fluids in both arms and legs, catheters in every orifice, and leads and sensors hooked up to several monitors. Ben lay on a small table, comatose and paralyzed, as all of his bodily functions were mechanically controlled, and blood was transfused into his tiny little veins. I could not have experienced more pain and torture if my own heart had been pulled from my chest and ripped in two, leaving a searing pain in its void. We learned that because of the infection, Ben's brain was irritated and inflamed, exessive fluid surrounded his swollen brain, and a blood clot was found in the sagitial sinus vein in his brain. Ben's condition was grim: if he lived, it was unclear whether Ben would open his eyes, whether he would be able to see or hear, whether he would breathe on his own, and whether he would regain the use of his arms and legs. In the five endless, timeless days that we spent in the PICU, we turned in prayer to the only source of peace and comfort capeable of lifting our heavy hearts.

We prayed. We prayed that our sweet baby son would be comforted. We prayed that we might have an increase of faith and strength in order to endure our hardship. We prayed for the ability to understand the Lord's will. The answers to our prayers came in the many tender mercies that we recieved, the peace that we felt in our hearts. As though the veil had been lifted, I felt the presence of angels attending to Ben and felt the overwhelming love that our Savior has for my precious son. The lessons and feelings that I experienced during that time were powerful and profound and have forever changed my whole being.

The next two weeks felt like a rollercoaster of highs and lows, mostly lows. Ben seemed to be a leaky boat; when the doctors would plug one hole, two new holes would spring loose. I sat by Ben's bedside on constant vigil, holding his fisted hand, and watching his every breath, while I held my own. After a few small steps forward, last weekend, Ben took a giant, hope-crushing step backwards. Ben developed seizures that caused apneaic spells and he consequently stopped breathing. As we rushed Ben, pale and gray, back to the PICU, the doctor took Ben from my arms, and I wondered if it would be the last time I would hold my sweet baby. It was utterly devastating to feel our son's life slipping away once again. After more rounds of tests and medications, the doctors were able to stabilize Ben, and we were once again left to wait. Wait to see if Ben would survive. Aaron and I prayed in earnest, petitioning the Lord to heal our son, but summoning the faith to wholly submit ourselves to His will, regardless of the outcome. Evoking the power of the priesthood, Aaron gave Ben a special blessing. In the blessing, Aaron told Ben how much he is loved by his parents and how much his mom and dad wanted him to stay on this earth. Aaron also told Ben that if he wanted to, it would be okay for him to go back to his home in heaven. Unquestionably, releasing our son from his suffering was the most difficult thing Aaron and I have ever done, yet we felt total peace knowing that our son's life was in the hands of the Lord. A short time later, a noticeable calm washed over Ben. The change was night and day. Whereas previously Ben was irratable and inconsolable, Ben was now content and even responsive. Ben Smiled. He laughed. In that moment, we were given our answer. We knew without a doubt that Ben had chosen to stay with us. He chose to fight.

Over the past few days, we have witnessed a series of miracles. Ben began to breathe well on his own. On Monday, Ben passed his swallow study and began feeding with a bottle. On Tuesday, Ben's hearing test determined that Ben can hear. Today, Ben's feeding tube was removed and he is plumping up well. Against all odds, Ben is not only alive, he is thriving.

Throughout the turbulent events of the past three and a half weeks, we have been overwhelmed by the love, prayers, and service offered on our family's behalf. Our heavy hearts were bouyed up by the ourpouring of support extended to us by our ward family, our neighbors, our friends, our family, and even strangers. Our ward family included Ben specifically in much prayer and fasting. Members of our ward have generously provided dinner to us each night, allowing us the normalcy of eating dinner together as a family. If casseroles could fix our son, Ben would be at 110%. Our neighbors mowed our lawn, watered our garden, delivered treats and snacks, and prayed for us. Our friends visited us in the hospital, sent us thoughtful gifts, uplifting cards, comments of support, and remembered us in their prayers. Total strangers, touched by Ben's sweet spirit, prayed for him.Our immediate and extended family prayed for Ben as if he was their own son. Our own dear parents carried much of our heavy weight, allowing us to lean on their shoulders in the lonely night-time hours at the hospital and caring around the clock for Hank and Max, who are mercifully oblivious to the suffering of their baby brother. We cannot express our gratitude for the innumerable prayers and countless kindnesses rendered towards our family.

Right now we are still in the hospital, waiting for Ben to recover enough to return home. Ben still has many, many challanges ahead of him as we are only beginning this difficult journey. Many things are still uncertain, but some things I know for sure: I know that through the atonement of Jesus Christ and the covenants that we made with our Heavenly Father, our family will be able to live together eternally. I know that through Christ's suffering, our own hearts can be healed. I know that our loving Father in heaven hears and answers our prayers. I know that through faith in the Lord, and the power of the priesthood, ALL things are possible.
I am so proud of Ben. My heart is brimming with love for that precious little boy. I feel humbled by the courage that he has demonstrated throughout this challenge and I am insprired by the strength of his spirit. I am truly privliged to have been given such a special child and feel blessed that I was chosen to be Ben's mother. I know that the Lord has great plans for Ben.

Ben is my miracle.