Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Announcing Baby's Coming

One of our favorite neighbors came over recently and told me she had be skimming through this blog looking for a post on when we found out I was pregnant and didn't find one. To be honest, I wrote one but never published it because I completely forgot (must have been pregnancy brain) because we waited 3 months before announcing my pregnancy to everyone. So in this post, I'd like to share with you the thoughts and feelings I had written down during that time.

When we were engaged, AJ and I began planning out our grand future together, which included Master's degrees, great jobs, traveling the world, a nice wheelchair accessible home, and most importantly, children. We had a pretty good idea of what we needed to do to attain everything we wanted except for the part about children. I remember choosing the names for our future four children with middle names to go with them (Crazy, I know) but feeling a little worried that this might not happen for us because of my spinal cord injury. After the accident, I was warned of a high risk pregnancy and the burden on my body after having a child (I know I'm not the only one). Nonetheless, as we were finishing up school, we decided it was time to start trying and accept the outcome - whether or not this would be a blessing we would be granted from our Heavenly Father. We had faith that He knew exactly what he was doing and would act accordingly to what He saw fit.

A few weeks after returning from our internship in Scotland, I began feeling more lethargic, achy, coughy, sneezy, all flu-like symptoms that went on for weeks. I thought it was because I had gotten out of my routine of exercise due to holidays. So after the holidays, I decided to get back into a workout routine and on my way to better shape and health. One the first day, I did 500 push-ups and 500 sit-ups--not the best way to ease into working out, just so you know, but I felt pretty good about myself that day. The following days, my body ached like none other and there was not much I could do to alleviate the pain. My flu-like symptoms worsened and were compounded by nausea, dizziness, headaches…and pimples (abnormal for me). After a few weeks of trying everything from essential oils, changing my diet, and taking medicine (luckily it was Sudafed, which is deemed "safe"), I was stumped. Then, I remembered learning in my Women's health class, that some of these symptoms were those experienced by pregnant women. That thought prompted me to try a pregnancy test.

Lo and behold, on the morning of January 21, 2013 (Inauguration of President Obama), I saw the positive mark on the test and learned I was pregnant. I felt all sorts of emotions rush through me: nervousness, excitement, anxiety, and I almost went into tears because of it all. This was great news but I was taken aback by how sudden it was and was worried that we weren't in a good financial position yet. I wasn't sure how I wanted to tell AJ, but I knew I wanted to tell him right away. That morning, he had prepared breakfast in bed for me because I wasn't feeling well (such a sweet man) and so I could watch the inauguration. He brought in a stand-up tray with breakfast on it. I sent him outside to fetch some juice for me, so I could place the test (on a napkin) on the tray, and waited for his return. He began talking to me as he came in and was completely oblivious to what was on the tray, so I waited. I felt I was going to cry if I had tried to let the words fall out (must've been the pregnancy hormones), so in response to what he was saying, I pointed to the tray. He picked up the test, and with his pupils fully dilated, asked me if it was what he thought it was. We were ecstatic. We embraced and that's when tears began running down my cheeks. Not the sad kind of tears, but extremely joyous tears as I knew that this was the right thing that came at the right time with the right man. I knew things would work out because this is what Heavenly Father had in store for us and He would help us figure out how to take care of the difficulties ahead.

We wanted to make sure that our little one made it through the first trimester before letting everyone know. It was around this time last year that we shared with our families the great news of a whole new adventure ahead of us. I made these cards for our family members to open:

Welcoming a little kumquat to our family.

We love movies and thought it fitting to announce our baby this way.

This was the beginning of pure happiness and excitement as this baby would be the first grandchild for both of our families. I cried from joy. I just kept wondering, "Wow. Is this really happening? Is it real? Does Heavenly Father really trust me to do this?" I had to be sure because it was really happening and I was so happy. I couldn't believe that my broken body had a miracle growing inside each and everyday. And by the end of the year, we would be parents. I couldn't wait to welcome another adventurer into our little family and all that is in store for us ahead.

In May, we revealed the gender of our baby before we headed out East to visit friends. We got everyone's guess and then had Aunt Holly open a gender neutral yellow box that had a BYU onesie the assigned color of baby's gender (blue=boy, pink=girl).

In the NYC Disney store. Found a quick way to announce to our friends that "It's a boy."

We began our preparations for him soon after. There were some dreamy and dreary months of pregnancy, but so worth it! Read about my pregnancy experience in a few posts and about Boston's birth here.

What are some other ideas to announce the big news?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Our Heartbeats

Today, AJ and I took our little heartbeats to the annual Tulip Festival at Thanksgiving Point. I couldn't wait to capture the true beauty that lies there. We fell in love with the abundance of beautiful flowers from the Netherlands. We fell in love with the vibrant colors and sweet smells. We fell in love with nature. We especially fell in love with how intrigued both Boston and Holly were by them. They laughed. They played. They just enjoyed life. Time stood still in the garden as we locked the precious moments of these little ones into our minds. We were there for hours with no regrets.

Holly had so much fun doing cartwheels and rolling down the hill. She made herself dizzy and stopped short of running into flowers. Then, she would run back up to do it again and again. Silly girl.

As for Boston, I have no clue what goes on in his mind. I bet just sweet, sweet thoughts. He just loved looking at everything as he wheeled around on mommy's lap. He seemed most interested in those around him, especially other little babies (potential friends) and got super smily. He managed to give us the sweetest smiles in his black curls and sun hat [for these precious photos. He surely knows how to melt mommy's heart].

AJ and Holly found a giant, life size chess and checkers game board, and went at it.. So cool! Then we visited the Koi fish. There were so many of them, each one beautiful and unique. Boston was fascinated by the orange, yellow, and white fish that were swimming around. Holly was so excited to get to feed them. Boston and I, we watched as the small amount of fish food diminish.

This was a great reminder of how much beauty God has created for us to enjoy. I'm so thankful for Spring and great weather. I'm thankful for these opportunities to be out in God's beauty and admire his masterpiece called life. He truly is the greatest artist of all. I'm thankful for this Easter season in celebration of the rising of our Savior. Such a glorious day. I cannot wait until that day that I may meet him at his feet and bask in even greater and fuller love. I'm thankful for our little heartbeats who give us reason for breathing. Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Little by little

I know this post is a little longer, but I've had a lot on my mind recently about being in a wheelchair and some new discoveries. Please read on if you've got some time. When I became paralyzed, it took one step at a time, little by little, to accept the dramatic changes in my life. Initially, I thought that the injury was a simple one like a broken arm or so (painful but still manageable), so I brushed it off as something temporary and I'd be back together in no time. I even joked with my siblings that I would be on the slopes snowboarding if it weren't for this little hiccup. After two weeks, I was transported on a stretcher from the ICU to rehab. It was then that I realized that this was going to take some time to overcome. There were lots of therapy and healing ahead. In the meantime, my family and I were carried by the hope this was be an incomplete injury and chances of walking again were very likely. So I kept pushing hard.

A few weeks later, a doctor revealed his prognosis that this was a permanent injury and chances of walking again were unlikely. I never understood the expression, "the whole world crumbling to pieces" until that moment. It was so surreal. Admittedly, some of my hope and confidence of regaining feeling in my legs faltered that day. Those were a rough few weeks for me afterwards, to say the least. I cried and cried. Those were moments of great despair, loneliness, and helplessness. I didn't know what to do. The only thing I could do was turn to my comforter, my loving God. I remember many long conversations in that hospital room. I knew He understood exactly what I was feeling. He had sent His son to suffer even more for me. He had a plan for me and I had to trust that even though this seemed like an overwhelming burden to bear, everything will turn out OK, little by little. It was the trust in God's plan for me that saw me through to find solace and strength to move on...

God helped me trade my sorrows for a positive attitude. Paralysis was here to stay [at least for a while]. Dwelling on the "Why me" wasn't going to help with anything. There was still so much to live for and so many things I want do with my life - I needed to keep my head up and look towards those things. With God and my family by my side, I could do it. It took little steps at a time. I began by learning new ways to get dressed in the morning, then learning to scoot myself from place to place, then pushing myself up little hills, then making my own meals, to where I could perform daily tasks in my wheelchair all on my own. Eventually, I built up enough confidence to go back to school. I learned to overcome cognitive and physical limitations caused by taking necessary medications, and pushed myself through my courses. I worked towards my goal of making a difference in the world by volunteering and serving others. Little by little, life became more manageable. And little by little, I came to believe that I could live life to its fullest.

Meanwhile, I continued physical therapy to stay healthy and try to regain as much back as possible in that first year as doctors recommended. When nothing happened from months of physical therapy, not even a spasm, I was not discouraged. I kept living life and doing the things I loved. I haven't lost hope that something miraculous would happen (Never lose hope) and continue to follow the fascinating research of spinal cord regeneration. Little by little they were making progress. I was thrilled to read recently about a procedure with epidural stimulation that worked for 4 men with paralysis of over 4 years (like me). In this study, the health of these men increased dramatically and they were able to regain movement in their legs. I am hopeful that my life could improve because of this and I'm seriously, wonderfully excited. Imagine how much quicker and more efficiently I could do things with baby in one arm instead of having both arms tied from holding baby and wheeling. God is great. He blesses us with intelligence to discover new ways to improve our lives in so many ways. Cures to diseases, new medical procedures and technology, better foods, increased life span, etc. Why not paralysis? The possibilities are endless from here.

Friends, this has been an amazing journey thus far. I've learned much and continue to learn about myself and how to be a mom and wife each day, little by little. I'm so grateful for this discovery and I hope it continues. I ask for your support in the process as I'll be doing extensive reaching out to those involved in this case study and trying to sign up somehow. Anything you come across will be great. Remember, never give up.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Manly Man

Lots of people have different definitions of a manly man - how long you can grow your beard, how much you can bench press, how much meat you can eat in one sitting, how much you can shoot, how long you can go without showering… While those things are parts of being a man (more than they'd like to admit), I don't think they make a real manly man. A manly man is ultimately defined by something much more outwardly valuable - his heart and action.

By my definition, my father-in-law encompasses the qualities of a manly man. Not only does he build things, lift things, fix things, mow things - you know, manly things - he has so many other manly qualities that are turned into heart-led actions. For one, he's super good at fitting in with kids because he carries a fun, carefree, child-like nature with him through life. That goes very well when he plays with Boston. One of my favorite moments of him and Boston is when he puts Boston in skiing motions with sound effects and all. Grandpa gets Boston started on his favorite sport and Boston gets a huge kick out it. It's a win-win.

Another thing that sets him apart as a manly man is that he can admit when he is wrong and make necessary changes (learning from his mistakes).  I feel that people often get defensive when their faults are pointed out, which makes it difficult to approach them with concerns and solutions. But my father-in-law's humility in his weaknesses has proven to be one of his greatest strengths. He's so approachable and makes it easy for others to put their trust in him. That's probably why it's so easy for us kids to talk to him about everything. I appreciate that so much.

But his manliest quality of all is that he will sacrifice time that he could be doing something else, to be with his family. He always tells us that family is the greatest blessing in his life. Such a great example. Thanks, Dad. We have many wonderful memories of chats around the dinner table (he cooks a mighty meal), impromptu ice cream runs, short getaways and drives around Utah. We just love being with him because we know we'll get tons of laughs and life hacks, whether we ask for them or not.

The greatest perk of all this manliness is that he passed those traits on to my husband, who is also very manly. My husband's love for me has made my life that much better. For that, I am so grateful for my father-in-law [and mother-in-law]. I hope that one day, Boston will acquire these wonderful manly traits from his daddy and grandpapa.

Well, we just celebrated this manly man's birthday this week. We took him to out a very manly place - Five Guys' Burgers (always his go-to choice) and got great fresh burgers and fries.We are pretty lucky to have him. Happy Birthday, Dad!

What qualities make a man a manly man? Please feel free to share your own. These are what our boys will grow up with, so make them good!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Year of Dates - Captain America and Reunion

For Valentine's Day, I gave my husband a gift unlike any other I've given before. I gave him 12 envelopes, each containing a planned date for the two of us for the next year. A good date always includes the 3 P's: planned, paid for, and proper respect. The idea is to make sure that amidst all of our big kid duties such as working, caring for baby, chores, and taxes stuff, we find ways to fuel our relationship and have fun together (much better than taxes!). I cannot emphasize how important it is for couples to go on dates. It's a special time dedicated to just us, and allows us to keep an open communication so we can share our trials and triumphs. It also ensures we express our love for each other by spending time together. Plus it's fun getting out and doing things out of the ordinary together. I love the time I get to spend with my husband and am so excited for our dates. There are so many cool activities to look forward to.

Because of our last-minute vacation in March, we missed our date to see the Festival of Colors at the Hare Krishna temple. But we repented this month. For our date, AJ and I put on our Captain America tees and went to see the new movie, The Winter Soldier. It was an incredibly well-made movie filled with action and humor. We were kept on our toes the entire time. I loved it as I do the other Marvel movies (I'm a semi-geek about these movies, as in I don't know all the details from the comics but seriously enjoy the movies).  However, because of the violence, I wouldn't recommend it for kids younger than 13.

Afterwards, we grabbed shawarma at Kebab King in the Provo Towne Center mall (the only place I know of in Provo that serves shawarma), just as they did at the end of the Avengers movie. That was such a delicious meal - veggies, fries, and meat all in a wrap with special sauce - it definitely hit the spot. This took us down memory lane as there was kebab everywhere we went in Europe. There was also a coolness factor about shawarma because our favorite superheroes eat shawarma as well!

We had a wonderful time together. I loved talking about all sorts of stuff with my husband and was reminded of why I chose him to be my companion through the crazy times - he always keeps me laughing! He really doesn't mind being silly just to put a smile on a face and I appreciate that so much. I love our absurdities...

Afterwards, we picked baby up and went over to spend some time with old buddies from AJ's LDS mission in Massachusetts. I love our reunions because we get to listen to tons of stories from the past, catch up on current ones, and look forward to new ones with really good friends. I love the solidarity in sharing victories and happy moments with these dear friends. Needless to say, we were able to spend some precious few hours with them and got to share our baby Boston as well!

I enjoyed date night and can't wait for the next one. I am looking for a way to make up for March's date, so if you think of something fun, please do share! If you're doing date nights with your spouse too, please help trend #yearofdates !!

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Family Spring Break in Florida 2 - Disney and Siesta Key

One of the highlights of our time in Florida was being able to meet up with my friends and go to Disney World with them. On Friday evening, after a hefty day of excitement at Universal Studios with the family, my college friend Megan texted to let me know she and her husband, Justin were living in Orlando and invited us to Disney World. What a special treat! Getting to see old friends in a new place is always so much fun, but getting to do it at Disney - I couldn't think of anything better.

Animal Kingdom and Hollywood
So serendipitously, we found ourselves at Disney (AJ, Holly, Boston, and me) with Megan and Justin and had an epic time with them catching up on life since graduation and going around Animal Kingdom. Not only did they take us to all of the spots we had to hit up like the white-cheeked gibbons (which we LOVE because they're so cute and funny to watch. I imagine life as a monkey must be pretty carefree and fun!), Expedition Everest (I loved the Himilayas theme, big foot, and the crazy turns, very exciting ride), Kali River Rapids (got totally soaked), but they even offered to watch baby for us while we went on rides (unfortunately child swap was not as quick and easy as it had been at Universal)! They did such a great job with baby even with us being gone for so long because of the never-ending queue. We came back to one happy camper.

Our favorite was the Kilimanjaro Safari, which we were able to take baby on and got to see tons of beautiful animals up close like giraffes, zebras, and crocodiles. He was so alert and calm throughout the ride. If this is a sign that he likes animals, we might feel inclined get him a puppy someday [even though I'm terrible with animals and killed multiple gold fish growing up]. This mini safari refueled my desire to go on a safari in Africa and see many more beautiful animals in their natural habitat! How about that, Megan and Justin? Safari in Africa next time? (I'm so serious!) Side note: I loved the eco-friendly conservation theme that Disney brought in throughout the park to raise awareness. Also, make sure to stop at the Wilderness Explorers booth (like in "Up") so your kids can be on the lookout for all of the different animals in the park and learn more about them while collecting fun sticker badges. Holly loved it and even wanted to come back just to finish the badges. Adventure is out there!

Next, we hit up Hollywood Studios where we had to part ways with our friends soon after (so sad, but so good while it lasted). We were grateful they gave us so much of their time and company. This park was a little more big kid friendly - perfect for Holly. We took turns going on rides and hanging out with her. We LOVED Tower of Terror and Rocking Roller coaster, which were both 30 min -1 hour long waits. Gosh I just adore this little girl and seeing how excited she gets about everything. Taking care of her is like taking care of my own little child. We are 15 years apart (17 years for AJ) and that could very well make her my daughter, which people seem to think everywhere we go. She's basically Boston's big sister and is so helpful. We were so glad to have her there with us. Finally, we finished off our night by going see Fantasmic and be dazzled by the incredible fireworks and water show. Wonderful day!

Siesta Key
The next day was spent helping baby recover from strange vomiting over the last 12 hours. We had to give him Pedialyte for the first time, which he wasn't fond of. I was glad our parents were there to help so I didn't freak out as much because this has never happened before. We drove 2 hours south of Orlando and hung out at Siesta Key. It was a beautiful day. We laid down our towels and basked in the fresh air, warm sun, white sand beach, and warm water from the Gulf of Mexico for a few hours. Holly had the best time swimming in the water, building sand castles, picking up seashells, and running away from AJ. She had so much energy! I think it was also good for baby because he was fine the whole time and even had some fun with Daddy.

I stayed away from the water the whole time because I was still recovering from a burn accident from the week before (doctor's order). I took this time to be the spectator and enjoy my family's beautiful moments from the outside looking in. I loved watching AJ play with Boston and Holly in the water and my in-laws being so sweet to each other. We are by no means a perfect family, but we do have these picture perfect moments that will be captured in my mind forever and ever. So much laughter, excitement and love. My family makes this great joy a possibility for me and for that, I am immensely thankful. These are the moments I live for.

That night, another sweet friend from college, Allison contacted me and we got to meet up with her at Epcot for a bit before we left Florida. We had a great time wandering through the beautiful annual topiary fest that's going on right now (March-April). Every little detail was well-executed to give the park an extra bit of something special for the season. There were topiaries of story characters like the Lion King, Peter Pan, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. There was also a section dedicated to butterflies so we got to see them flying around among sweet smelling flowers.  Because there are so few rides at Epcot, everyone and their moms were in line for those few extending the wait time to over an hour each. So we opted out of those and just explored.

Epcot is broken up into countries around the world and you can find foods and different characters in their proper sections such as Belle in France and Mary Poppins in England. We especially love the Japanese section which includes Studio Ghibli characters (we're obsessed) although their items go for absurd prices (a Totoro dish set for $130?). There was also scrumptious foods like kakigori (flavorful shaved ice with sweeten condensed milk on top. So good) and sushi. There are generally other goods there like a taiko drums show and a Japanese candy lady. AJ and I love them. I could spend all day here, but we didn't have that kind of time on this trip. Nonetheless, it was so awesome to get to see Allison and her baby. Like I said, it's a such a treat to get to see friends again, especially really awesome ones like these ones.

Well that's it. Cheers to an awesome family adventure! We had so much fun and look forward to going back again. If you're looking for a place for your family to visit, I guarantee you'll love Florida!

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