life as we didn’t plan, but somehow, it’s better…

oct. 31.  2012

i have been pondering a lot about me, as a mother, my children, and life.  before we left on our trip, we had been to children’s hospital quite a bit, having madison tested a lot for different things that can come with having DiGeorge Syndrome.  it’s a micro-deletion in her 22nd chromosome.  it manifests itself different ways…heart issues, cleft lip or palette issues, learning disabilities, and the list is extensive.  this denver children’s hospital has such an amazing 22q team,  where you can see all specialists in one location.  it’s been a blessing, but i think the anxiety and stress are below the surface of my skin, as the quite stressful beginning years of her life are very close in the forefront of my mind.  taken from me at birth, because she wasn’t able to breathe, and they tube and bagged her so she wouldn’t die right after birth.  open heart surgery at 7 days old, then they hit a nerve during heart surgery to her diaphragm, causing another surgery, c-pap machine in-between(horrible experience)!, then because the doctors wanted her tube fed to control her feedings in-between surgeries, she didn’t know how to eat through her mouth.  we then had to have another surgery done for a nissen/g-tube, so she could be fed through a tube in her stomach, via a pouch that hung up on a rod like an i.v.  we were finally able to bring madison home after 10 weeks of being in the hospital, since birth, but she wasn’t thriving, she was surviving.  i was a nurse, 24/7, giving her meds and feedings, fighting to help my baby stay alive.  she was born without an immune system, so jarom and i would take turns going to church, since a cold in her little body would last 6-7 weeks, and we wouldn’t be able to take her outside for that amount of time.  she would get better for about a week, and get sick again.  pt, ot, and speech were all throughout the week, as we had to teach her all instinctual things babies normally do on their own.  just touching her cheek, she would gag, since she had only known pain from tubes being forced down her nose and mouth.  so we started from square 1, and we worked our way in, and were blessed when she was 2, as we were trying to figure out if I should leave for 6 weeks with her to a feeding clinic, when she all of a sudden started eating one afternoon.  i think the Lord knew, we were hanging from a thread feet below the end of our rope.  we needed that, and have always been so grateful she was able and wanted to eat on her own.

the most amazing thing about this sweet spirit that has been sent to us, is her will to fight to be here, and her amazingly sweet and loving personality.  she is such an amazing and wonderful part of our family, and we are truly blessed and grateful to have her here with us.

we have always treated her “normal,” never giving her any excuse to do any less than the rest of us.  we expect her to work hard and be apart of this life and family in every way as the rest of us are.  it’s definitely been a struggle for me, as her teacher though, as things just don’t seem to sink in sometimes.  she has an amazing long term memory… we’ve memorized “The Living Christ”, the president’s of the united states, countries in north and south america and some of europe, but the short term memory isn’t so great.  i’ve been teaching her time for probably five years, along with money.  after having these tests done, we have seen and can now understand why.  having 22q, memory and executive function and other abstract things aren’t as easy to work out as the rest of us.

i was so glad jarom was with me yesterday, as we met with the neuropsychologist, and as she went over all the test results.  you wonder what your child will be able to accomplish in life, will she be happy, will she live a fulfilled life in her own eyes, and as a good friend put it, we all have our place in this life.  i’m so grateful for the gospel, and the perspective it brings.  it’s not how much education you have, how much money you have, it’s the heart you have, and this girl’s heart is pure love.  she has blessed my life in so many ways, i can’t even believe it.  she’s taught me so many life lessons through her just being here, that i’m so blessed to be her mother.  life never turns out as we think it will or plan for it to be, but the Lord always knows what’s best for us, and i’m happy to hand it all to Him.

our amazing madison...

the day of miracles…the 24 hour journey home…the fear of the unknown door…

october 16.  2012

leaving france-layover in iceland-on to denver and home.

i don’t know if you’ve ever heard this story, but i love it.  it goes something like this…

there is a japanese general, and there is a guard with him, and they have a prisoner.  like all prisoners, they give him an option.  to go straight through the door ahead, and face a firing squad, or go to the door to the right.  the prisoner then asks what is on the other side of the door to the right, and the general said he would only find out if he picked that door and walked out it.  because of the unknown of what was outside the door, to the right, the prisoner chose the door ahead, and faced the firing squad.  the guard then asked the general, what was outside the door to the right…and the general responds…freedom.  how many people have chosen that door to freedom the guard asks the general, and he replies, “none, the fear of the unknown is too great and all men have chosen death instead.”

i think about that story a lot, and wonder what doors i’m not opening because of fear of the unknown.  life is unknown.  that’s probably why we all get into the habit of doing the same, boring stuff everyday, and wonder where the luster parts have gone.

from the very beginning of the planning stages, this day was the one that concerned me.  i told myself i would deal with it when it arrived, and wouldn’t worry about it until then.  me and my four trusted travel buddies getting home, would be it’s own adventure, and one of many miracles.

we say a prayer every time we get in the car to go somewhere.  and the blessings poured in.  we arose at 4am, having packed most of the bags the night before, and cam’s brilliant idea of showering and dressing and just sleeping in those clothes helped out tremendously.  we left at 5:30 instead of 5:00, getting the house locked up and making sure we had everything.  it takes an hour to get to montpellier, where we would be dropping off our car at the train station, to catch the train from the south of france of to paris. we were cutting it short.  we were figuring out the exit towards montpellier at one point, i stopped and backed out of an exit, unsure of where to go, and the car started doing something funky.  the engine light came on, and the car felt a little tuggish while driving, not being able to go as fast as before.  not a good sign.  said another prayer.

filled up one more time at a roadside gas station, and rolled into the parking lot at the train station.  it was 6:45, our train left at 7:00.  we were hauling our hiney’s…everyone has a suitcase, alex has two to pull, and everyone has a backpack that is heavy, so we are lugged down.  we are hustling through the parking lot, and a man helps camden with her luggage.  he hurriedly leads us about 1/4 mile to the station, up an elevator, across the station, down an elevator, and onto our train, helping us load our luggage.  he too was traveling to charles de gaul, and we had all made it with 4 minutes to spare.  i would have had no idea where to go once we walked over to the station, we would have missed the train without this amazing man.  what a miracle!

we ride the train for four hours.  the french countryside up through all of france is picturesque…beautiful green pastures, separated with short green shubbery to mark someone else’s land.  we even spot a very large rainbow arking across the green hills.  no one really sleeps much.  we finally arrive at charles de gaul, no idea where to go.  we go up elevators, and ask an english couple for info, and they direct us to the nice concierge at the sheraton, right inside there.  i ask where to go for icelandair, and he sees my brood, with all of our luggage.  he makes a call, and comes back and says he’ll drive us to the terminal.  he says it’s a long walk, then a train ride, then up and down elevators, and sees we are quite a large traveling circus(he didn’t call us that, but we were an eye full!).  he packs us up, and drives us for 5-10 minutes over to the terminal.  lovely man with a kind heart, and he shares his story, and is from istanbul.  we unload, and graciously thank him.  another miracle from a kind heart.

finding icelandair wasn’t really easy, but we found it- they were just setting up the area.  a few people were waiting, but once they opened, we hustled up to the line for those who had already done online check-in(thank goodness jarom knows these things!), and we were second in line.  it took a bit of time, just being the second.  we had an extra duffel in one of the suitcases just in case we would need to take things out if the luggage was over the weight limit, but the woman didn’t blink an eye.  i think there was only one, but no issue.  thank goodness.  by the time we were done, the line was wrapping and wrapping around.  we would have had to stand in that line, probably at the back, cutting it super close to missing the flight, if it weren’t for that quick ride in the car.  we get to the gate, grab our last french meal of sandwiches, and a treat for the girls, a chocolate croissant each.

we board the flight, and the three hours seem never-ending.  maybe because we had been up since 4am.  icelandair rocks, and i hope we fly them again.  they bring meals for the kids every time.  free headphones, and awesome coloring supplies, and you have your own tv in front of you, with movies and shows.  plus extra nice seats.

we finally arrive to iceland, and have 20 minutes before boarding, and grab a snack and waters.  i don’t let my kids hardly ever have junk food, so i had obviously loosened up on this trip.  it’s hard for me to let them eat that crap that i know will hurt their bodies, but i had to let go while traveling.  and i did.  the 7 1/2 hour flight was long, and my hips were starting to really ache.  we all fell asleep finally toward the end of the flight for an hour or two, but not much more.  we arrived to denver, made it through customs, only declaring chocolate, grabbed our luggage that was already strolling around baggage claim, and strolled out.

there was my amazing husband, with full beard, handsome as ever.  he had flowers for all of us individually, and we we arrived to the car, where he had made a poster and filled the car with balloons.  what an amazing daddy!  the house was spotless, which always makes me happy.  we brushed our teeth, and fell into bed, around 9pm, which is 5am france time, having traveled for over a day.  it was absolutely long, and i still don’t know how we made our train and plane…i do know, but it’s just amazing and i’m in awe at how much Heavenly Father knew it would be a tremendous adventure that day flying home with four kids and luggage, and how much i would need his help.  he had his arms guiding us and inspiring others with love to take a few moments out of their day that would drastically effect our outcome, and we are so grateful to them to have listened and followed that inspiration.  i hope to be more like them.

what an adventure.  we all grew and changed.  i have so many new perspectives and feelings.  i feel like my whole life has changed in a way.  i really needed that.  not that i wasn’t grateful, but i had been in a rut of pushing and struggling through the boring-ness of everyday life, doing the same thing everyday.  i don’t feel like i need to do what most people do, and never have.  i am not afraid to be different.  i am not afraid to tell you my thoughts and ideas on things.  i am not afraid to go against the grain.  i want to live my life my way, not how society demands. i want my girls to learn to think outside of the box, and go with their gut, their dreams, their inspirations.  i want to do that too.  now that my health is improving after a very long time, i have been blessed to get my life back.  i have worked hard for it too.  i’m ready to go live.  i’m ready to open more doors that are unknown.

our last day here in magalas, france…

october 15.  2012

today, monday, is our last day here.  we wanted to see one more market before we left, so we went to valras-plage, where the market was today.  it wasn’t anything like the one we went to in pezenas…small, not a lot of people selling things, but we found a lovely woman selling small flower purses.  so each girl has one now, from france.

we walked down to the beach, and said our good-bye’s.  we have made so many wonderful memories throughout these almost 6 weeks.  adventure can come in so many ways…like driving a stick shift down some steps and wondering if you’ll have to stay the night in your van the first night you arrive.  or backing into a wall.  or sitting with friends in an ancient village eating a croissant.  or seeing medieval castles.  or sharing two bathrooms with nine people(which wasn’t even an issue).  or reading french road signs and using a gps that has old maps.  or walking into a boulangerie and getting fresh baked baguettes and croissants.  or driving through the countryside in france admiring in awe the green covered hills with vineyards.  what an amazing trip.  i hope and dream and will work and look forward to all the adventures life will bring, and that i will get to do.

sunday…day of rest…

october 14.  2012

i don’t know if we caught a bug, or if it was from having so much fun and being busy with company throughout the week, but we were wiped out!  i felt dizzy and nautious, and some of the girls did too.  we slept and rested, hoping we wouldn’t be sick for the full day of travel coming up.  it was a nice, sunny, lovely day.  the french countryside is so lovely.  what a great journey.

this week with our friends…they just moved to spain and came to france to see us for the week…

oct.  8-12th

our last week-not ready to go home!

monday- we have been so excited for our friends from our colorado ward that have moved to spain this year, to come up to france and visit.  we cleaned up the house, and waited…and waited…we didn’t know when they were arriving, and we were so excited and anxious all day!  They finally arrived at 6:30, and we walked around the little village, gave them a tour of the house, and had so much visiting with english speaking people!

tuesday- we had a blast at the beach together!  a good five hours of fun in the beautiful france sun, girls playing constantly, nicole and i chatting about everything across the whole spectrum, such a blast.  we packed a lovely cheese and baguette-lettuce and tuna wrap lunch for everyone.  such a lovely and laid back day, especially with 7 girls!

wednesday – oh, we couldn’t wait to take our friends to carcassonne!  the largest and oldest castle in europe, we saw it a couple weeks ago with jarom, and we were excited to take the whitby’s over and see how beautiful and magnificent it is.  oh, the fun you can have and the stories you can tell from a fun chocolate store guy…to the jewelry store guy making out with his girlfriend while we were trying to shop in his store..ooooh gross!  then we were in the medieval store with the medieval clothes, and a couple of our kids got an outfit from those times.  no worries, we won’t be the renaissance people wearing the garb at the festivals.

thursday- after nicole and i stayed up until 3:30 am talking about life, morning came too quickly.  our kids, all 7 girls, are too loud in the morning, but at least they are having fun together.  we chilled at home, had kids catch up on school work, nicole made a cake and zucchini bread, i made homemade pizzas for lunch from baguette, and we worked with kids more on schoolwork.  how is it dinner time already?

friday-beziers and driving the countryside

saturday-pezenas market, beautiful town, lined with all sorts of goods being sold.  quartet playing in the middle of the square.  dreamy!  nicole and i joke about buying a home there and surprising our husbands!  eating rotisserie chicken off the bone in an ancient town with a cool fall breeze in the middle of france is just amazingly calming and inspiring to the spirit.  everyone tried on hats, found cute wallets, ate gummy candies, we bought clementine’s on our way out, nicole found bags that are weaved for 5 euro’s a piece…it was fantastic!  had to say good bye to the whitby’s after they got packed and were on their way back to spain.  it’s just so much more fun with friends!   we will always remember this wonderful trip.


lds general conference…

oct. 7.  2012

sunday, day 28 of our adventure…

we watched both saturday sessions of general conference today from  what inspired men, what inspired talks, and i’m so grateful to have this uplifting gospel in my life.  it makes me a better person when i apply the gospel principles in my life, and i want to be a better person being apart of it.  i hope to become the person He knows i can become, and wants me to become.

a few quotes i loved, but didn’t write down who said them, so one will have to look at the conference issue of the ensign for them, but they are:

make some resolutions today

-spend time with those you love.

-strive earnestly to be who God wants us to be.

-be happy.

Deider F. Uchtdorf-it’s not a race, it’s a journey.  enjoy the moment.

a last quote-perhaps we should look less with our eyes, and more with our hearts.


the odysseum in montpellier…

oct. 6.  2012

saturday-day 27 of our adventure…

i have read about the odysseum, but we thought we would go check it out.  it’s in montpellier.  we also thought we would check out the train station where we have to return the car next week, since it will be very early, and we don’t want to miss our train and plane next week.

so the odysseum, if i can explain it, is an awesome area of shopping, theater, restaurants, planetarium, aquarium, outdoor mall, and it’s all reachable on foot and in a location all to itself.  it was great!  we ate a restaurant for the first time since being in the south of france, it was yummy.  salmon and rice, salmon lasagna, honey pizza, and a pizza with an egg in the middle of it.  it was all great…well, the honey pizza was a little weird.

we have seen signs for this geant casino, and figured it was a casino.  but it’s an awesome grocery store!  we are slowly learning the in’s and out’s of different things…the cool bags for fruit with little handles, the carts you stick a coin into to separate it from the others, and then you have to return the cart to another to get your coin out-brilliant!  you have to always pre-pay your parking stub before getting in your car and leaving a parking lot.  lots of tolls, keep lots of 2 euro pieces available.  gps wrong half the time, learn to read signs.  nuts and peanut butter almost non-existent, and if you find it, expensive!  anything bread-like…pasta and breads, dirt cheap.  water, can be very cheap.  fruit is about the same price.  meat the same price.  dairy and eggs aren’t refrigerated, just stored in a regular non-refrigerated isle.  popcorn is hard to find, and if you find it, it’s in a tiny package.  finally found oatmeal, not very common.

it’s been such a fun adventure being here and figuring things out with my little buddies.  at times we get a little homesick, missing our daddy and other people to conversate with.  at dinner, the girls decided they could live over here if their french was better, and if they had friends.  i could live over here, not knowing any french, but of course, it’s always nice to have friends.  a vineyard wouldn’t hurt either.

p.s.-lds general conference is today and tomorrow, but since it’s quite later, we will be watching sunday and monday instead.  can’t wait to hear what our prophet and his apostles have to say.  i absolutely love the inspired talks.