Friday, May 30, 2008

Sand in my Shoes

Today we went out and played in the sandbox.

I wanted the girls to have some fun, shady, breezy time, as summer seems to have hit us today. :) It was great! I love doing things with my girls that help me remember just how great being a kid can be. I love remembering that, because it helps me remember that every moment I am doing things with them, I may be creating something that they will remember always. I want those memories to be good ones! :)

Our sandbox is under the playset, so it's nice and shady. The girls have been having so much fun in there this week!

Today's play was a smashing success, even though this daughter threw up on the grass after she ate one of her sand cookies. (Yes, I'm serious...she ate it, right as I looked over at her and before I could stop of those things that seems to happen in slow motion.) :) But, as you can see from this picture, she was none the worse for wear.

It was just a great day of being kids (for me, too!) We also played on the swings, and it was a good chance to try to help one of my daughters remember how to "pump her legs" to swing herself, so that I could swing the other three.

Though she had figured this out last summer, she struggled to remember it today. I stood nearby, and kept gently reminding her, "Out....and in! Out, in!"

Though she was making progress, she didn't feel like she was. But from where I stood, I could see her getting gradually faster and higher the more she pumped her legs. She just didn't feel like she was going anywhere, though. So she'd stop and say, "Mom, please just do it for me???"

I kept encouraging her to keep trying, telling her that she really was getting there! Then she said, "But mom, I'm not 27 like you!"

I laughed, and it reminded me of myself, so often. So much of the time I find myself doubting myself, thinking that even though I'm trying hard, I am just not getting anywhere. How often do we find ourselves wishing He'd just make things work for us, and saying to our Heavenly Father, "But Father, I'm not strong like you!" (or smart, or good, or patient, etc.)

But He can look at us from just a small step back, and see that we truly are making progress, and that we truly are getting there. He can see it, even when we cannot. We just need to trust Him when He quietly tells us to keep trying, and we'll get there! :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Homeschooling Blog

In an effort to be/stay a little more organized, I'm starting a homeschooling blog. If anyone's interested, here is the link:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Like a watered garden

Yesterday was a special day. We celebrated our oldest daughter's fifth birthday! It is amazing to think that we actually have a five-year-old now! As I was preparing for the birthday, I had a neat experience that I wanted to write down, because it really made me stop and think about how blessed I am.

Of course one of the best parts of getting ready for a birthday is thinking about what kind of cake to make! I had the perfect cake planned out in my mind. I was going to make a beautiful princess crown complete with "stained glass" cookies to surround it, and it was just going to be marvelous for her. I had it all planned out.

But our oven broke. And we can't exactly afford the repairman at the moment, lol, so we haven't gotten it fixed yet. (Have to get the van repaired first.) :) But in planning out the cake last week, I forgot all about the non-functional oven until we were getting ready to make the cake. As the realization hit me that I couldn't follow my own plans and make my perfect cake, I felt discouraged. It was Sunday night, and I wasn't going to go shopping for anything else.

I said a prayer for help, because I really wanted to make this birthday special! It was her fifth, after all! I wished I could just have a working oven and make it like I wanted. But as I prayed for help, peace came to my mind. My mind was inspired with ideas that I could use instead, that would be just as fun, as long as I was willing to let go of my own plans. :) I could make a rice krispy treat cake...shape it and frost it how I wanted, or make a cake out of ice cream! Lots of fun ideas started to pour into my mind. I was excited.

However, the coolest part of the cake was still unsettled. I could figure out how to make the crown, but I couldn't figure out how to make the stained glass cookies that I really really wanted to make. They were just so neat! They would be so perfect! Oh why couldn't my plans work out so I could do this good thing and give my little girl the cake I had planned on?

Well, as I tried to pray some more and ponder some more, as I quieted my mind down, a new idea came to me. An idea came so clearly to my mind that I had never thought of before. I was inspired with an idea, but in order to do it, I had to be willing to let the stained glass cookie thing go. It was a different idea, for a different cake... a little spring garden cake. I couldn't melt any candy in my oven, but I was inspired with a way that I could melt and shape it over the stovetop.

The cake turned out very cute and my daughter was thrilled!

But as I was assembling my darling little garden, I was touched with a few thoughts that I wanted to write down.

I had started out with my own plans. I had a vision of how things would be in my mind, and I had made all the preparations for it, and I just knew it would be great! But then something unexpected changed things so that I could not proceed with my plans. It was difficult for me. But I prayed for help, and though I couldn't see the end result right away, I was inspired and blessed with new ideas, and the outcome was even more perfect for my daughter than the plans I had originally made.

As I stepped back and looked at my little garden cake, I was reminded of a few verses from Isaiah. In Isaiah 58, he talks about what will happen when you follow the commandments, and follow the Lord, in appropriate and acceptable ways:

8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am...
11 And the Lord shall guide thee continually . . . and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

I feel truly like, in my own life, when again and again my own plans have not gone the way I had wanted, I have called, and He has answered. I have cried, and He has said, "Here I am." (And not only with the cake incident.) Though things have often turned out differently than I had planned, as I have tried to follow Him, He has truly made me like a watered garden. Things have ended so much better than I could have ever envisioned. I feel blessed beyond expression for His guidance and help in my life, and for all that He has given me.

Here is the evidence of my own "watered garden:"

Friday, May 23, 2008

Dear dear friends

This week, especially today, I have found myself feeling so grateful for Heavenly Father's of the greatest that I feel that I have been given lately has been that I have been blessed with just the person I need, right when I need them.

Matt has been there for me constantly, and I am incredibly and inexpressibly grateful for him.

This week, I have come into contact with a dear, sweet friend who I had lost touch with for years. Today we talked for a long time and I found myself uplifted by her and so spiritually fed by her goodness and after the conversation ended by my phone battery dying, I found myself thanking Heavenly Father once again for sending just the person I needed at just the time I needed her.

I found a few old pictures of us from college, and I'm sorry Nicole, I just had to put them up here, lol! :)

But talking with this dear, sweet friend today helped me to truly remember "how merciful the Lord hath been." I have had hard moments this week, but talking with Nicole today was such an incredible blessing. She listened with kindness and wisdom and love, and I needed someone to listen to me. After I was done talking her ear off, :) it really hit me once again just how much I have been given and how very blessed I am!! I am so grateful for the people that Heavenly Father places in our lives to bless us and to help us as we all try to draw closer to Him.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Church signs

So one of my favorite things about living in this area is that people are surprisingly quite religious out here. There are lots and lots of different churches, some of them odd, some of them pretty standard fare, and most of them (well really, pretty much all of them except for our's) have little signs out in front, to display their weekly message and try to get to you come. :) Some are pretty entertaining.

My favorite of all time was this one:

Motivational, to be sure! LOL :)

But the other day we had an interesting experience. Matt and I are really torn lately about what to do regarding several things. We have even seriously pondered moving.

We just keep praying that we'll be led to where He wants us to be. But it is hard not to pick what we would like to have happen and focus on it. I think we all know that feeling. I was starting to feel really discouraged about things not working out sooner for us in this other area, and I was talking to Matt about it one day as we were driving around.

All of a sudden, he said to me, "Be prepared to go anywhere, as long as it's forward." It really hit me! After all, our biggest focus has been on progression. I said, "Wow! Did you just come up with that on the spot?"

He said, "Kind was on that church sign we just passed." I looked back quickly to try to get a glimpse of it, but I couldn't see it.

"Be prepared to go anywhere, as long as it's forward." It stayed with me all day. I had been focusing so much on what areas of the country were prospering, which were beautiful, etc. Our area is just dying/dead economically and I have wanted to escape it before it gets worse. As we drove by it later that night, I looked for the words on the sign.

The words were different. It was just a schedule for Bible study classes.

I couldn't help but feel that in part, the words had been placed there for me, so that I would stop focusing on where I wanted to go, but focus instead on progressing and going where the Lord wants me to go. Today, there was a new and ever more confusing element added to our decisions, one that in all honesty does not appeal to me, but somehow feels that it may be right. I am trying to remember that church sign as I ponder it today.

Be prepared to go anywhere, as long as it's forward.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ballerina party

Today we had a much-needed afternoon of enjoyment and celebration. I don't know what we were celebrating other than just trying to be a little better. :) It was delightful. We got all dressed up and had a wonderful ballerina party!

Sisters. :)

We were really good about sharing costumes, too. :)

I suppose yoga is interchangeable with ballet. :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Joy cometh in the morning

I recently read a great talk by Gayle Clegg, formerly of the Primary General Presidency. What she had to say really touched me.

"Why is life so complicated? Why is there so much “unearned” suffering? ... In our heart of hearts we think we should be immune to some of our deepest heartache because we are trying so hard and contributing so much. Sometimes I think suffering is the answer to that arrogance. Do we search for food and water and firewood every day in a parched desert or seek safety in a crime-infested, concrete inner city? We do not. In some ways these trials reinforce how blessed our lives really are. Hospitals with tubes and tests and insurance tangles and all the things that kill the spirit outright while trying to heal the body are nevertheless a gift to us.

Joy comes through misery and heartache . . . The joy is not in arriving, but in getting better each time a new challenge is thrown your way, each time you learn in a new situation. Joy comes not from having a pain-free life but from conquering the obstacles, even when they are painful. If our children can see us enduring well and finding laughter, humor, and joy in the process, I think some of this will rub off on them. It will take many conversations, sometimes late at night, early in the morning, and all the times in between, but it is worth it. And as was prayed for in the temple dedication at Kirtland, we can pray that Heavenly Father will send us forth from our homes armed with His power, with His name upon us, with His glory round about us, and strengthened by His angels (see D&C 109:22). We pray through the night and joy comes in the morning in the form of a new perspective, a new energy and resolve, a conversation with someone who validates or mentors or just remembers."

A few funny things...

Our oldest girl is so funny. :) She is really quite the mommy, and speaks with such gentle authority in the family. :) She said a few very funny things yesterday that I just had to write down so that I would remember them:
  • When we were changing the baby's diaper, which was very messy, our 3rd daughter came up and said, "Ewwwwwwwww!!" The oldest daughter quickly corrected her and said, "Don't say 'ew,' she's our sister! Say, 'That is disgusting.'"
  • When saying her prayers, she prayed for "Uncle Dorf and the Gentlemen Forties." (Elder Uchtdorf and the General Authorities.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Nature walk

On Saturday we had a great day as a family. Things have been so busy and so hectic that we decided to just go out and do something relaxing together. We ended up going to a metropark and doing a nature walk. It was so enjoyable! We loved getting some fresh, unstressed air together. :)

We even found a caterpillar! The girls were so excited about that. We've been looking for "hungry ungapillars" for a long time!

But I think that one of the best parts of being out there was seeing the other families that were enjoying each other, as well. Sometimes I look around and nearly feel despair in the world as I see people hurting each other, and families not loving each other. But it is wonderful to actually step out into the world and do good things, and see all of the other people who are trying to do the same. It gives me hope for the world.

Sisters loving being together, both waking and sleeping. :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I had a really humbling experience this week.

Our two oldest daughters are in dance. I think it's really good for them, and I've made sure I'm always okay with how they're dancing, and so forth. We are homeschooling them so I feel that it's really important for them to have good social experiences. They love dancing, and this is a really good, structured environment where they can make friends, interact, express themselves, and build confidence and social skills.

But there are always those slightly iffy things with our standards, like modesty. In dance class, I have always had them in leotards with sleeves and modest necklines and backs. But once a year we have a recital, of course, and none of those outfits have sleeves. We struggled with it just a bit last year, but finally decided that it was "just a costume" and that the social benefits outweighed a few minutes of immodesty when they were modest all the rest of the time. I wouldn't ever let them wear a really trashy outfit, for sure, but I figured a little sleeveless leotard once a year wasn't going to ruin them. (To be honest, I was pretty timid about the thought of discussing it with their teacher. I figured we were kind of just in those waters, and it was my decision to be there.)

But of course we talk about modesty all the time. We teach the girls constantly about their bodies and how sacred and special they are, and what a gift they are from Heavenly Father. We always talk about Sunday dresses and other things and help them to understand what's modest and what's not. We've taught them that they'll be able to feel the Spirit guiding them if they are making right choices, like being modest.

As the recital this year approached, I started to feel a little bad again about the modesty issue with their costumes. I felt like I was teaching them a double standard. But once again I justified it to myself, saying that it was just a costume, just for one day, if it were a swim team swimming suit we wouldn't have this issue, etc.

But then my oldest daughter started to ask me questions about it. She asked me why her dance costume was not modest. She asked me if it was okay to wear. Then my younger daughter started to ask the same things. A few days ago we saw some dancing on TV, and of course the dresses were pretty immodest. My oldest daughter was pretty upset about it. She asked me about it that night, and time and time again the next day. She said she didn't like the immodest dresses, and didn't want to be immodest herself.

I actually caught myself saying, "It's okay if you're doing a special dance." I felt horrible. I began to really examine myself and my reasoning. I realized that I was just really feeling dumb about talking to the teacher about more modest options. All week my daughters kept asking me about why their costumes weren't modest. Last night, we had the dress rehearsal for the recital. My girls looked very pretty, but the second one looked around and said, "No one is modest. I'm not modest." Then she got pretty quiet for a while.

My conscience was not only pricked, but STABBED. Matt and I talked late into the night about it and realized that it didn't matter what anyone else thought. Our girls have been taught to cherish their bodies and to treat them with reverence. Our girls love Heavenly Father and even at their age they are so aware of the blessings of having the Spirit with them and of keeping the commandments. I felt like they were begging me to allow them to be modest. Though I know everyone feels differently on this issue, we decided that for our family there shouldn't be a double standard at all. We will be modest all the time.

So today we frantically called around to every dance shop in two states until we found one that carried long-sleeved flesh colored leotards. Matt brought them home from work and the girls were overjoyed! They put them on under their little outfits and I kid you not, beamed a mile wide and both said, "I'm modest!!!!"

When we arrived at the school and went into the dressing room and saw all of the other little cuties running around, my little three-year-old looked up at me and said, "Mom, I'm so happy I'm modest."

I have learned an incredible lesson from my little girls tonight. They were so beautiful at their recital. They beamed and glowed, and not just from the lights and sparkles. They were full of the joy of choosing for themselves to follow the Savior. I am so humbled by them and so proud of them. I pray that I will never catch myself teaching them something that conflicts with what they know to be right again.

Here is the "cuddly duck" dance:

Here is the "shining star":

Here is the tap dance:

Praying the ants don't find us, part 2

This morning I was on the phone with yet another dr.'s office. It was an excessively annoying call, but should have been a brief one. I gave the girls their pancakes and went into the kitchen to better hear the woman on the phone. The phone call lasted much longer than I had planned, but the girls were being quiet and pleasant, so I thought all was fine. I was happy that they were eating their pancakes.

When I finally went back into the dining room, I did see plates empty of pancakes. A quick survey of the table revealed, however, that the brand-new bottle of syrup was almost empty and that their little paper plates were now overflowing with it! The syrup was running all over the table, dripping onto the floor and through every crevice in the table. My pale little girls were now brown little girls. As I picked up the plates to run them to the trash, they lost structural integrity and poured syrup all over the dining room, kitchen, and all toys on the floor in those two rooms.

I asked the girls to go to the bathroom and wash themselves off. They listened well and came back after a few minutes. They were still sticky everywhere else, but at least their hands were diluted. After scrubbing down the floors and chairs and table for the first of what I am sure will be many times today, I went to help one of the girls in the bathroom, and there I saw syrup handprints everywhere. The sink, the counter, the walls, you name it.

Now it's the prune juice time of day. Don't worry ants, we'll keep you thriving. :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

A blue thing!!!

My oldest daughter has such a kind little heart. She loves to visit with people, and seems to gravitate towards sweet, lonely ladies at church. She'll sit with them and ask them questions and tell them all about what's on her mind.

Last Sunday, as she sat next to a woman who was down the row from us, she noticed her veins in her hands. They were more pronounced, naturally, as she was an older woman. My daughter asked, "What are those blue things in your hands?" The lady told her that they were just there because she was really old.

The next day, my daughter was looking at my hands and noticed that I had "blue things," as well. She told me how sorry she was that I was getting really old. :)

Tonight, as we were getting pj's on, she looked down at her belly and shrieked.

"A blue thing!!!"

It took a moment to calm her down and explain to her that just because she had a "blue thing," it didn't mean that she was getting really old all of a sudden! :)

So we had a mini science lesson before bedtime, all about veins, or "vaings," as my daughters called them. :)

...and your joy no man taketh from you.

This weekend being Mother's day, I found myself pondering a great deal about all that I have been blessed with and all of the joy that Heavenly Father has given to me. There have been many trials of course, but I feel that in my life, I have truly been blessed as Christ promised:

He has been appointed by God to "bind up the give [us] beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that [we] might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord."

I have felt so grateful for the knowledge that I have that gives me not only hope, but joy. I have truly felt that I have received beauty for ashes. A lot of that "beauty" comes from something that is hard to describe...a deeper understanding of Christ. A greater understanding of His compassion and His suffering. A true knowledge of His love for me and His comfort. That knowledge could only have come through striving to reach upward for Him through pain and difficulty, rather than reaching down inside myself. In that light, the knowledge and understanding I have gained is beautiful and sweet to me, as it has brought me peace I have never known, and could have never known without going through pain.

I felt such joy in my blessings this week, but also sorrow because of the great trials that many of my loved ones are enduring right now. I think that the thing that has made me the saddest has been those who don't truly know of Christ's compassion and kindness and love, or who want to work to find out.

Christ speaks in John of the many trials that those who choose to follow Him would face, but then He gives such comfort:

"And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you."

It just really hit me when I read that today that there is indeed so much sorrow in life, but that if we truly turn to Christ, He will give us "beauty for ashes," and a joy that "no man taketh from you."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Making Strides walk

I just want to tell everyone who sponsored us thank you. We had a wonderful day today as a family, and it was wonderful to be able to participate in such a worthwhile event, and to learn all of the things that the ACS actually does to treat and prevent breast cancer. It was a worthy investment, and I am grateful to all of you! Today, they announced that the total raised from this event was $75,000! Thanks to all of you who had a part in that!

I thought I'd post a few pics from today. It was a wonderful event and such a great feeling to be there. It was wonderful to see women who have survived such a difficult experience and to be with so many people who cared about it all.

There were about 3,000 walkers today!
Sisters. :)
After the walk came a little much-deserved fun for some girls who did so well today, and didn't complain a bit!

We just had to post this for aunt Chantile...look at the real tiara we got to try on!

We got our faces painted!
The girls thought the clown was Santa Claus...what absolute awe they were in!
Ducks in a row.

Even the baby was a trooper. :)Homeward bound.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Have we done this a few times?

Today I walked into the living room, and two of our girls were on the big recliner, sitting up but pretending to be asleep.

I said, "What are you doing girls?" :)

One of them peeked one eye open and answered, "We're riding in the car to Grandpa's house!"

Then the younger one (our third daughter) sat up on the edge of the arm rest and started to rock quickly, but kept looking back at her sister and quietly saying, "Take a little rest. We be there soon."

I guess we've had more than a few trips out there! :) Every time we go I tell them to just take a little rest, and we'll be there soon.

It was so cute to watch them pretend to sleep in the car on the way to Grandma's!

PS - Dad, I'll let you guess which daughter it was that called it "Grandpa's house" instead of Grandma's! LOL :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Making Strides...

On Saturday, our family is walking together in the ACS Breast Cancer Making Strides walk! We are excited. It is such a good event and should be a great thing to do as a family.

If you would like to sponsor me, go here. There is no minimum amount. Please know there is absolutely no pressure...we know everyone is as strapped as we are right now! :) But if any of you have wanted to be involved in fundraising for breast cancer research, this is a good way to do it.

Wish us luck! :)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Breast Lumps

Yes indeed, an odd topic for a blog post, I suppose, and if it makes you uncomfortable, it won't offend me if you don't read it. :) But I have talked to so many sweet women lately who are terrified and feel so alone, and I am starting to realize that it's because this is something that we just don't talk about enough. So I'm going to talk about it! If it makes one woman feel less alone and more informed, then I'll be happy! :)

I have a lot of experience in this area, and would just like to put down some of my thoughts and knowledge that I have gleaned...definitely not to be taken as medical expertise or advice.

  • Why don't we talk about it? I think it's because so many of us are too embarrassed. Hey, a few years ago, I was, too. I would sit through women's health night at church and squirm and wiggle till it was over. I would avidly avoid any mention of my breasts at the doctor. Not that I had a problem with their intended purpose...I was all for breastfeeding, but talking about it was just really uncomfortable. I notice that most women won't even use the word "breast," but would rather use another term, something a little less embarrassing to say. So that said, it's a part of you. It's something that is so very important to be mindful of, too!

Well all the breast awkwardness changed for me when I was 24. I found a small lump which I was scared of, but just knew it couldn't actually be a lump, and dismissed it as a milk duct (I was nursing at the time). I didn't even do a breast self-exam for the next two months. One day I did and found that the lump was about an inch in diameter.

  • Why don't we do our breast self exams regularly? It's definitely not pleasant. That's one reason we put it off. Also, many of us, like me, think we are too young for it to happen to us. We also just have that mentality that it's something that happens to other women. That's pretty normal. But it is SO important to do that BSE at least monthly. I can tell you that now from experience. Monthly sounds like such a frequent thing to some isn't. I have had many lumps appear in the course of a month, and I've sometimes had them double in size in 2-3 weeks. Don't put it off! Changes actually do happen from month to month. If you are checking every month, you'll be more sure of what to expect. Women who check often can find them when they are small. If you put it off, even for a couple of months, the growth can be very rapid and you may not even know, just like me. I check every 1-2 weeks now.

So I had a lump. It was pretty good sized, and I was pretty scared. I was pregnant with my 3rd baby. I was frantic for information. I of course turned to the internet, and the conflicting information overload was horrible.

  • Stick to reputable sites like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic. They'll usually give pretty factual, well-researched information. However, no site can diagnose cancer or any other type of tumor. In my opinion, stay away from sites with astronomical claims. And above all, do what you really don't want to do...CALL YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.

That call to the doctor was really hard for me. I had to say the word "breast" over the phone to someone I didn't even know. As silly as it sounds to some women, that was really hard for me, and I know it's really hard for a lot of women. Have your husband hold your hand like mine did. But CALL as soon as you find it!

Then came the doctor visit. It was difficult for me, because my doctor was extremely concerned. He had done an exam on me just 2 1/2 months earlier and hadn't felt anything, and now I had a large lump. The doctor can't tell for sure just by examining you what the lump is. There are lots of possibilities, the most common of which are:

  • Cysts (Fluid-filled sacs in the breast. They usually feel smooth and rubbery and move around under the fingers. They can be painful at times. They are generally harmless and can be easily aspirated by your doctor in his office.)
  • General Breast Lumpiness (Okay, that name had to be created by a man--so logical and descriptive, not at all an attractive name, lol :) GBL feels like a lot of tiny little bumps, or like some parts of the breasts are thicker or denser than others. It is especially noticeable before your period. It used to be called fibrocystic breast disease and was considered abnormal. They have now decided it is quite common and nothing to be concerned about. The good news is it usually disappears after menopause.)
  • Benign Tumors (most common of which are called fibroadenomas. These are abnormal growths in the breast, usually in the glandular tissue. They can happen anywhere in the breast tissue, even under the arms, and usually feel round and firm. You may be able to move them a bit. Though they are tumors, they are not related to breast cancer.)
  • Breast Cancer (Breast cancer usually feels rigid and hard. It usually feels fixed in place and usually has irregular edges. It rarely hurts.)

So what happens next? The doctor cannot make a determination in his office. My doctor sent me to get an ultrasound of the lump. All of the doctors that I have seen have wanted ultrasounds. I have always been blessed to have very compassionate and capable people performing the ultrasounds. I have never gone to the hospital closest to me for them...I have been willing to drive further away. This is an important thing to me. You need to go where you feel cared for and that people are competent and have compassion. Don't settle, especially when it comes to such an important part of your health.

The ultrasound can tell you basically if it is a tumor or a cyst. (Some radiologists will also make a guess as to whether they think it's cancer or not. In my opinion, they really shouldn't do this. They usually really can't tell.) If it's a cyst, you can get it aspirated and that's that. If not, you have more options ahead of you. In my case, it was not a cyst. It was definitely a tumor, so my OB sent me to a surgeon.

I love my surgeon. He has been compassionate and kind, and sensitive to how difficult this has been for me. He has also let me make the decisions. That is so important.

  • If you don't feel your doctor is providing the care you want, fire him. Get a different one! It's not worth messing around. I had a dear friend die from breast cancer. Her surgeon refused to remove her tumor, even though she begged him to. He didn't think it was actually cancerous, and it metastasized and spread through her entire body. It isn't worth sticking with him if he's not listening to you.

My surgeon offered to do a needle-core biopsy and see what things looked like. We asked if he could just remove it. I couldn't stand it growing inside me, even if it was benign. I felt like I was under a horrible black cloud. He quickly understood and agreed. Since I opted for that, there was no reason to expose me to the possibility of infection twice, especially since I was pregnant, so I did not get the needle-core biopsy. I had to wait for a few weeks for the baby to be further along before we could do the procedure and find out for sure what the tumor was.

It was an excruciating time. It was Christmas. I was terrified. I had two babies and another one on the way. I remember sitting and rocking every night in the girls' room in the dark, waiting for Matt to get home and praying with all my heart that Heavenly Father would let me stay.

It was a very dark time in some ways. It was also one of the best times of my life, because everything became so incredibly clear.... I could see so easily what mattered in life and what didn't. Dumb things didn't bother me at all any more. All that mattered was my family and the love we shared. More than any time in my life, I became fervently grateful for my knowledge of eternal families. I knew it was true and I was so comforted by it, but I still couldn't imagine anything more horrible than being away from them. I prayed with all my heart! Every second with my husband and daughters was precious.

Finally, it came time for my lumpectomy. Though it had only been a few weeks, the lump had doubled in size. It was now two inches in diameter. I was pretty scared, and very anxious to have it over with. When they do a lumpectomy, they remove the entire tumor and some surrounding breast tissue, to ensure that they have everything. Often, they can do some immediate tests that will give some preliminary results that are usually pretty accurate. They send the lump to a lab and get a full diagnosis on it. The procedure usually takes about an hour. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the area will be even more vascular than normal, and bleeding can be an issue and something to be very careful about. Some women don't experience too much pain, and some experience quite a bit of pain. I, unfortunately, experienced a great deal with my first lump, but it was largely due to the size and the amount of tissue that they removed.

After the surgery, I was very sore but thrilled to find out that the tumor was a fibroadenoma. The world was much brighter!! :) I am thankful every day, even years later.

So what happened next? To be honest, I was pretty dumb again. After it was removed, in my overwhelming relief, I thought a major trial of my life was over. I didn't do any self-exams for a few months, to be honest. Partly because I was so sore for a long time, but also partly because I thought it was over. I went to the doctor after I had my baby and he told me that he had a little feeling to do a breast exam. Well, since the entire city had seen me by now, it wasn't such a big deal to me this time, until he said he found another good-sized lump.

  • Do your self-exams.
A couple of months later I had my next lumpectomy. Since I was breastfeeding, it was a challenging and painful experience, but it was over. This time I kept doing my exams. (At least I was learning, right?) Well, not long after that site scarred over, maybe a month or so later, there was another lump growing fast right where they had just taken one out. So I had to get another lumpectomy right on top of the old one.

Since this newest lump was growing pretty close to the surface, the surgeon offered to do the procedure in his office to save us some money. I agreed...I was pretty used to the procedure by now.

  • In-office lumpectomy. Not something I would recommend. There is nothing quite like it...I will definitely spare you most of the details. I had no sedative whatsoever. Maybe some offices offer it, but mine didn't. So I was very alert for the entire thing, and I have a surgeon who loves to show you everything he is doing. Also, as I was breastfeeding, the area was extremely vascular and there was a tremendous amount of blood. I would recommend highly doing that procedure in an operating room. The cost is much higher, but the experience is not so gruesome. If they do offer a sedative of some kind so you don't see the whole thing, it might not be such an issue. :)

So, this story goes on and on. I have had three lumpectomies so far. I have about 15-20 more breast lumps awaiting removal. (And yes, every time I find one I get a bit scared.) You don't have to get benign tumors removed if you don't want to. But I personally hate having them in there. I don't like something growing inside me that isn't supposed to be there. Plus, mine all tend to grow pretty quickly.

For a long time I wouldn't talk to almost anyone about this. I was self-conscious about it and it was just so personal to me and not many people seemed to understand. (I am so grateful, by the way, for kind family during that time.) But one day after a couple of years of going through this, I talked with a couple of other women who were absolutely terrified and going through it for the first time and I realized that maybe we wouldn't all be so terrified if we all talked to each other a little more, and were all a little better prepared. A woman I knew who died shortly after was extremely kind to me and talked to me when I needed to know some information and just didn't feel like I had any. I am trying to be better at talking to others about it.

What has been recommended to me? I have been counseled to get a full mastectomy once I am completely done with breastfeeding and such. I just keep getting lumps and it doesn't seem to have an end in sight at the moment. I am pondering it, and we'll kind of see what happens. It has its appeal to me these days...I hate the lumps but I am getting pretty tired of lumpectomies. I have some time to decide, though.

  • What options are available for benign tumors? :
    • Lumpectomy
    • "Wait and see" approach: just keep an eye on it and see if it grows
    • Cryoablation (new technology that "freezes" the breast lumps! They freeze, die, and get gradually reabsorbed by the body)
    • "Natural" remedies (there are many natural remedies offered out there. I have personally never felt too comfortable with any of them, because they are hard to regulate and I've always been pregnant or breastfeeding during this process and I have felt that it hasn't been only my body I have been dealing with. Some people do feel comfortable with them, though, and see them as a pleasant alternative to surgery.)
  • There are options have to find what feels best for you and then actively pursue it.

The key is to be proactive. Do your breast exams. Find a doctor you feel comfortable with before something like this happens. But if it is happening to you, make sure you are feeling comfortable about your care. If you aren't, talk to people and find someone else!! It's your health and your life!

If you forget to do your exams, make a reminder for yourself. I send out a monthly reminder to all of my friends and family, and if you're not on my list and want to be, let me know. The key is just to remind yourself somehow!! It is SO important. I have been so fortunate that nothing has been malignant so far, but I am humbled to think of what could have happened if it were, as I was not being as proactive about my breast health as I should have been.

Quotes of the day from our house...

"It's hard to catch boogers out of someone else's nose."
-our oldest daughter :)

"She's a queen, and I'm a kingdom."
-2nd daughter :)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Momma in training

This was just too funny. :)

We had our third daughter's 2nd birthday this weekend. She just LOVES puppies. She crawls around yipping half the time, pretending to be a puppy. So we had a puppy birthday party.

We had lots of fun, but the culminating present was one of those "fur real" puppies. It is so cute, and moves its' head and blinks its' eyes and whines just like a little puppy. She loved it! She gave him his little bottle every time he whined. She rocked him and said, "Oh, poor puppy," every time he made a little noise. But then she would get a little tired and put him down. Of course, the puppy would whine. So she'd say, "Oh no puppy!" and pick him back up for some more cuddling.

This cycle went on a few times. After about the fifth time, she put him down and she walked away. He whined and moved his head and so forth. She looked back at him for a second, but then kept walking. Our oldest daughter, ever vigilant, picked him up and ran after her, saying, "You forgot your puppy!"

She looked at her with a look that only a 2-going-on-16 girl can give, and said, "No, he just cries too much."

I laughed out loud! Good thing we have a few more years to practice that patience thing before becoming a mom of something that "cries too much." LOL! :)

Friday, May 2, 2008

2141 days

Matt came home with a "special treat" to surprise me. He said it was our 2141st day of being married, and he thought it was a cool enough number to celebrate. :)

He's pretty darn cute. :)

It got me thinking about all we've been through for the past 2141 days. Of course it's all too much to go into in a short blog post, just like anybody. (You're probably thinking right now, "Does she ever write short blog posts???")

But suffice it to say that we've been through quite a bit together during the past 2141 days. There have been many many times of uncertainty where we have had no idea what would happen. It seems like things have been that way pretty much all the time. :) But what joy to go through it all with Matt. :)

Recently, we have had a very harrowing experience, and I have been thinking about it today quite a bit. We recently had a baby and the birth was so difficult that I didn't know if I would make it through it. I got to a point where, due to the difficulty of the birth and due to other problems that I was yet unaware of, that I just felt that I was looking at Matt for the last time. I felt a horrible surety that I would be gone soon. I couldn't imagine anything worse than leaving him, but I felt that I couldn't do anything about it. The baby was born and it felt like one of the greatest miracles of my life when it finally happened, and I was still there. But the sense of dread that I'd had for 9 months didn't go away. It just kept getting worse. My pain got more and more severe, and I felt like everything was slipping completely out of my control and I couldn't explain why. After a series of events and a couple of days, and thanks to one nurse who was very in tune with the spirit, it was discovered that I had two pulmonary embolisms. She told me that if I had been allowed to go home in the morning as they had planned, I would probably not have lived. She told me this in the midst of a tornado of emotions, gave me all kinds of shots, and commanded me to stay in my bed and not move a muscle. I was floored and overwhelmed. I felt trapped and terrified, and that night was probably one of the worst of my life. It is difficult to describe all that happened and all that I felt. I was so shaken and upset that Matt had to stand by my bed with me until I was able to fall asleep. He showed me such love and compassion through that experience.

But all of this is not the actual point of my thoughts today. This experience changed everything about my plans in so many ways, and threw me completely upside-down. But what I have clung to is my love for Matt. The morning after all of that happened, I woke up and the sun was shining in my room. It beamed brightly, and the beams shone in and fell on Matt, who was sleeping close by. I looked at him and realized in that moment that I was still there. Nothing could have given me more joy than to still be with him. In that quiet instant, I was given a glimpse of peace that helped me to understand that I have been blessed above all I can comprehend by being with Matt. I know a poem that describes exactly how I was feeling, by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
STILL, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness I am with Thee....

So shall it be at last in that bright morning,
When the soul waketh, and life's shadows flee;
O in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning,
Shall rise the glorious thought I am with Thee.
And I guess today it just hit me, that regardless of what life brings us, I can never know greater joy than this: "I am with Thee!!"

So Matt, happy 2141 days! I love you! :)