Thursday, November 24, 2011

Summer of 2011: Gratitude & Lessons Learned

This year the Thanksgiving holiday brought a greater sense of joy and sweetness to our family than it normally does. We are profoundly grateful to count three happy, healthy, strong-willed children with us as we vacation in Northern California to spend time with family. My brother Rob, along with his wife Laura and new baby Chloe, recently relocated to Mill Valley, a beautiful community just North of "The City" (what people from the Bay Area call San Francisco) so my family converged here from all over the state to celebrate Thanksgiving.

On the journey to our destination Danny and I reflected on the numerous lessons we learned throughout the two month period of William's hospitalization. Here they are in no particular order:

-We cannot control the situations in which we find ourselves here in this world, only how we react.

-Slow down and appreciate each moment, not only because we don't know how quickly our circumstances can change, but also because each moment has beauty regardless of our emotions
-Appreciate professionalism. There was a huge difference between health care workers who demonstrated true professionalism and those who did not. Sincerity and professionalism are paramount in any profession, but when someone's life is on the line, there simply isn't room for shoddiness of work and lack of compassion. I for one have always tried to embody this as a nurse but find myself all the more aware of my actions now in light of our experience.

-God answers prayers most often through other people. Time and again when asked ourselves "How can we make this work?" or realized that Carter and Claire needed to be attended to but we needed to be at the hospital next to William and then a family member, friend, co-worker or a member of our church would text, call or "Facebook" us with an offer to help. Our family and friends were the tools through which divine intelligence provided help. We also benefited from the strength of other people's faith; sometimes people we didn't know until William became ill appeared as if out of the blue to offer helpful suggestions or shoulder on which to rest and cry.

-There is a LOT of good left in the world still. Throughout the ordeal we met the some of the most kind-hearted and wise people and although we've benefited from the charity of others throughout our lives, for the first time it seemed we found ourselves on the receiving end of the kind of charity and compassion that we never thought we'd need. The Ronald McDonald House organization, for example, was a God-send. Thanks to them we saved a great deal of money (although you don't technically have to pay, we agreed to pay a substantial amount of the operating costs in order to help others benefit from their services in the future. The amount, however, was a fraction of what it would have cost us to stay in a hotel. Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) was wonderful and their compassionate, professional staff was the biggest reason William survived this ordeal with as few chronic issues as possible. Also, I'd be remiss not to mention The Beauty Bus who gave Claire and me free makeovers on her birthday. Although that might sound trite, it really brightened an otherwise bleak period.

-Trials leave us with increased empathy and compassion. We find ourselves more understanding and sensitive to the trials of others than we were before this experience. We now realize more fully that everyone in this mortal world is in the midst of some kind of difficult trial but we simply don't know about them (and sometimes they don't either).

-Recently we heard someone say that when we look back at our lives, we will view those difficult moments more fondly than the "fun" or comfortable moments in our lives. We can already see that this is true. If all our summer plans had panned out the way we wanted them to, the summer would have come and gone and we'd be the same people. But as things unfolded our family grew stronger, our faith greater and we feel we are better people because of this experience. Of course we wouldn't have wished this on William, but we accept what happened and don't have anger and or fear regarding this situation.

-No matter how bad it is, it could be worse. We met so many families going through situations that we felt were even more difficult than ours. At the Ronald McDonald house we met a family who financed everything to come to LA from England for cancer treatment for their little girl because the doctor's in England refused to try more aggressive treatment options. A wonderful man named Alejandro was sleeping in the parent room at CHLA week after week and despite the fact that his daughter's brain tumor came back even after it was in remission, he had faith that God's will would be done and emanated faith and peace.

-Health insurance is a huge blessing. We haven't sat and tallied all the bills that CHLA and Children's Hospital Central California sent Kaiser, but two days in Madera alone caused our insurance to be billed $16,000. Furthermore, the helicopter transport from Fresno to L.A. totaled $15,000! We are so grateful to not be filing medical bankruptcy.

-Play with your kids! While William was sick, family and friends would relieve us from the hospital so we could to spend time with Carter and Claire. It was suddenly easy to be fully present and just play with them; they needed it and so did we. Now that we have been home a while it has become easier to justify doing unimportant things rather then focus on using every moment efficiently as parents, but we still remember how apparent it was then and that helps us refocus our priorities.

-Find joy in the journey. There were often times we would want everything to magically be returned to "normal" and for it all to be over, but as we gained clarity we began to see each moment as an opportunity to learn from our trials, meet wonderful people, learn about ourselves and find joy, no matter how bumpy the journey.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Weekend

This post will be in media res, as the synopsis of our summer is going to take a while to compose and I want to post something.

Happy Halloween 2011!

We started the weekend with Carter's school parade. He decided he did not want to wear the mermaid, err... merman tail, aka "Fin Fun", which my mom crafted this summer at his behest and which ended up inspiring our Halloween theme. Since he had a change of heart, he instead became the Greek god of the seas, Neptune although we all thought of him as Triton since that was the original intent.

Here he is feeling confident pre-parade.

Once it started he became timid, concerned that "everyone is looking at me" and started saying "I'm weird" as he walked around. I guess it's hard to be the little fish in a big sea. Carter, like all of his peers, is still trying to figure things out and that's OK. When he got home both Danny and I talked to him about the fact that everyone looking at you isn't necessarily a bad thing depending on the reason.

That night we carved pumpkins and biked to the Halloween house. In case you haven't heard of this residence, essentially a family which lives just a little over a mile from us created a computer controlled light show that now has had over 6 million hits on YouTube and has garnished significant attention from the media. It was fun but we couldn't get in front of the house and the kids were pretty antsy. We met up with friends there and had fun once we found them. We did almost got killed more than once on the way there and back since there was no shoulder on the road during portions of the route. We've been told Riverside is not a bike city and it is true! There just aren't bike lanes or sidewalks in some places around here and not that much of demand for them obviously. It was a memorable experiences for sure; from now on we will be more careful about planning our routes!

Our pumpkins:

Saturday morning Carter had a soccer game. He is on a team with great kids and a kind coach. They aren't winning much but Carter seems to enjoy it and it has been good for him to learn to persevere; even after he got hit in the face with the ball earlier this season, got smashed in the face by an elbow and sustained a black eye and had some major bodily collisions, he still kept going!

Here he is being goalie:
From October and Nov. 2011

And, his loyal fan club:

Aren't they cute fans? :)

Saturday night was our ward Trunk-or-Treat and it was great! There was a bounce house, popcorn, cotton candy, tons of cars decked out and lots of fun costumes. We had fun getting ready together! Major props to our dear family friend, Kathy Rex, who is a seamstress extraordinaire and helped me make Flounder with no pattern!


Walking in a tail only caused a few injuries; thank goodness we have legs, not fins!

I had to post this just so you can see how lady-like Ariel is:) She refused to wear the correct top and hiked her tail up into a skirt. Claire plays by no one's rules but her own when it comes to costumes and what-not. Ha!

Flounder & Ursula

Prince Eric be lookin' good! Danny was a good sport.

So happy to have him Flounderin' around!!

Pleased with himself to have stolen lights from the pumpkins!

This picture sums up my life;)

On Halloween proper, we made chili and had all the family come over to trick-or-treat with us after dinner It was very enjoyable! Our neighborhood had lots of trick-or-treaters and the kids LOVED being with their friends and cousins!

Ella, Shayla and Claire playing tether ball out front (the house came with it:))

Peyton, aka cutest Rubber ducky ever

Ryan, aka handsome Captain Ameria

These two are only 4 1/2 months apart. It is fun to watch them grow up together!

Ryan, Carter, Ella, Claire & Asher...the two youngest cousins weren't complaint!

Uncle Wes!

Nana with her girls in the niche they hung out in most of the evening. Once we got home from trick-or-treating, they had fun sitting up there handing out candy!

Pretty Apey & Peytie

My handsome brother and red neck extraordinaire, Eric.

Eatin' some chili

Cute Kollin...I couldn't round up my kids for a picture with him:(

Eric & Syd

A good time was had by all! I put away Halloween decor today and we are gearing up for Thanksgiving which we'll pass together with Rob & Laura who live just outside of San Francisco. They had their first baby, Chloe, on October 7th. I got to go see her last weekend, but the kids didn't and are very excited to meet their new cousin!

Thanks for reading! We look forward to posting more now that things have finally begun to settle down. William is only on one medication now and we can't help but feel great gratitude that he is home and doing so well.