Sunday, February 17, 2019

Love Week

So many things to love this week.

Brad took the kids out to Cardinal stadium Sunday afternoon to see President Nelson and President Oaks and their wives speak.
Haven't had many pictures of Micah lately, but I think I've finally convinced him to get his hair cut this week.
I forget that I'm still recovering and overdid it the day before. Lucky for me, Tucker sent me a link so I could watch it from home.
It wasn't the same, but I loved listening to it, especially Sister Nelson's talk where she described what it's like to be married to the prophet. I can't imagine how hard that must be for her.

For Family Night, we made dozens of valentine sugar cookies and Brad took the kids to deliver them
 My mom's sugar cookie recipe is the best in the world, and I always eat way too many of them!

Speaking of my mom, she and Dad sent me a bouquet of flowers on Tuesday with a card that read, "When you look at these flowers, remember you have 3-5 more weeks."
They came on a particularly hard day for me and brought me to tears. This recovery journey is hard. I've had to abandon all of the healthy, sanity-supporting routines I had in place to sleep late, not count my steps, not clean house, not cook or clean. It sounds dumb, but this has been hard for me. I don't sit still well, and I feel like I should be back to normal and I hate the burden this places on my family and how it disrupts life around here. Those flowers came at a good time.

Eve and Hyrum had STEAM night at their school.
 Not a good picture of Eve . . . but she had fun going from station to station and seeing her friends.

 Hyrum was the big cheese on campus that day--I love that about sixth grade. He ran around with friends and assisted his teachers with their displays and sitting at the information table. This kid is growing up so fast, and while I'm excited to see where life takes him, I really hate junior high and its accompanying drama and angst. I'll live in this little sixth grade bubble as long as we can.

Micah had a trip to the headache specialist this week. He's had pretty bad migraines for a few years, and after fighting insurance and doctor approval, he finally got an appointment. I loved the staff there, and she gave him great advice (his triggers are probably lack of sleep, dehydration, and stress) and new meds. I picked up three of the meds one day, but the final one had to be ordered.

Sticker shock!
 And this was after insurance! I guess he's worth $300. But he better keep track of that stuff!

I got a surprise message this week from one of my former students--he took his oath to join the Marine Corps.
He's wanted to be a Marine forever, and he had a few roadblocks placed in his way these last few months that almost derailed that dream. I'm impressed that he worked through it all and will go to boot camp this August. I'm as proud as if he were my own kid. Way to go, Sam!

Here's a rare moment when these two brothers played together. I know sibling relationships go through phases, and I know that as they get older they will rely more and more on each other. That knowledge is one of the only things that keeps me sane while they fight and argue and wrestle and sometimes get hurt.
 FYI: Just after Hyrum threw this pass, the joyful moment ended. Good thing I snapped the photo when I did.

My valentine remembered me. I love getting flowers and cards from him, and this is our 30th Valentine's Day together and I love him more and more each year.
Usually February in AZ is beautiful mid-70s days, but it's been rainy and COLD. I can't complain too much, because I still get to wear all of my glorious boots a little longer!
Hyrum has a new obsession--Safeway's Monopoly game. He begs to go to the grocery store for more pieces and meticulously places them on the board. He psyched himself out this week when he accidentally filled the $100 gift card section with a duplicate.
 Hope he wins that million!

Eve finished her great horned owl project by making this cute diorama.
 I love when my kids do their own projects with minimal help from Mom.

And the best thing to love about this week:

Heidi had her baby on Friday!
 Little baby Kate Colwell. 6'12" and 19" of pure perfection.

This is my favorite picture from the whole week
I love that my girls are up in Idaho together.

Look at that tribe of Brubaker kids
Three boys. Three girls.

The hardest part of this hysterectomy recovery is that I can't go up and help right now. Hopefully after Spring Break I'll get up there, but right now I can't get enough pictures and FaceTime.

No pictures, but I was privileged to play at a funeral on Saturday for a lady in our ward who died unexpectedly. I had played for her to sing a few years ago and it had a deep impact on me (read that post here), so I was excited to participate in a celebration of her life. I prepared a little surprise for the postlude, and after the closing prayer, I began the first few notes, then launched into a medley of songs from "Oklahoma!" just for Lynne. I hope she was singing along wherever she is and that she knows the impact she had on the lives all around her.

Hopefully this week I can get back to a few more of my normal tasks. Baby steps.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Mixed Bag

 Great week around the Sanatorium. I got clearance from the doctor to drive and resume some of my activities, but I think I went too hard, and I've been laid out yesterday and today--couldn't make it to Church. I guess I still need to take it slow. Who'd a thought only 18 days post-surgery?

Funniest moment of the week:

I walked the kids to school on Thursday morning and permitted myself a walk around the block as well (a whopping .48 mile that must have been too much, in hindsight).  I snapped this pic, because this is something rarely seen here on the desert valley floor
It's frost.

I know. You're all wondering what was so funny. Well, as the kids approached the crossing guard, she directed them not to the playground but straight to their classrooms because "It's too cold to play outside today. It was 33 when I got here!"

I had to laugh at this and sent the joke to all my family in the cold northern regions, and my sister replied with this screenshot:
She works at an elementary school and said they've had indoor recess all week because of the cold. Somehow none of them had any sympathy for us "frozen" AZ people!

Brad and Evie went to the school's Daddy-Daughter luau. Brad got to pull out his stuff from Fiji and rocked it, but Eve wasn't too impressed and shed her scarf quickly.
But that girl can hula hoop with the best of 'em! I'm so happy our school takes time to do activities like this--a few treats, speakers and some tunes and the girls had a great experience.

Gotta love my Rum. That kid is self-motivated. He had the science fair this week, and I've been gone much of the first month of school and was little to no help with it. He chose his own project (comparing graphics drain between two different games on the Switch), adapted the project (initially, he thought playing each game three times until the battery died would be fun, but when the first trial took almost four HOURS, he amended it to three 30-minute increments, measuring the battery drain each time--life lesson and a win for Mom!), wrote up the project, and constructed the project. I only helped with proofreading his slides and showing him how to use my paper cutter.
Granted, this project probably won't win (because many parents enter "their" projects at science fairs), but this was Hyrum's project, and he was really proud of it. And I was proud of him.

Speaking of Hyrum, he's playing basketball this season. It may not be his favorite sport, but he's on a really good team and they're fun to watch.
In the four games he's played, he's only put up shots in two. When I asked why, he retorted, "Why should I when there are three incredible shooters on my team and I can pass it to them?" Another good life lesson.

And Eve.
That girl.

All she wants to be in life is a teacher.
 She learned how to use our printer as a copy machine (possibly a big mistake on my part!), and she's  been writing up homework packets and warm-up packets and math sheets ever since. As she inspected her latest seating chart (she means business, people!), I heard her utter under her breath: "I just really want to be a teacher so bad!" It's in her genes--great-grandpa, several great-aunts and -uncles and cousins, plus an aunt, an uncle and her mom. Her chances are pretty good, I'd wager.

She and her best buddy also made these posters yesterday and called them their "BFF posters." Only three weeks apart in age, these two have known each other their whole lives and were destined to be BFFs when both moms found out we were both having girls.
Funny: As they were admiring their work, I overheard one of them say, "Let's hang these in our college room!"

And you know you're an AZ kid when you get "banished" outside for an hour in the winter and you wear your parka to sit on the edge of the diving board and sing.

One Denton Sanatorium tradition is waffles every first Sunday of the month. Annie loves waffles, and if the menu ever varies on this day, she lets me know.
 Looks like Cleo was hoping for something to slip to the ground!

And look at baby Caroline!
This little one is so sweet-tempered and calm. She keeps herself pretty busy now that she can crawl and pull up to the furniture. Looks like she might be an early walker like her big sister!

Caroline loves people and lights up whenever she locks eyes with someone.
 I'm so glad they live close and we see them all the time.

Brad snuck this picture of Karli during the Super Bowl, calling it "Mother's hands."
The irony of the pic is that Karli is right-handed but she snagged a quick moment to "practice her leaves." She's an incredible artist, and even left-handed creates much more than I can with two good hands, an empty lap, and hours of work.

Last shot of the week:
I took Cleo out for two truncated morning walks last week, and it felt so good. I know now that I'm still not ready for all that, but I know I'll be back out there sometime soon. I've been working with her to stay on our corner without her leash as I walk away. She's not allowed to leave until dismissed, and she will sit there for a couple minutes, but when I say okay, she bolts across the yard like she's been a prisoner for hours. The light was so pretty that morning that I had to snap a quick shot.

Here's to a week of still more resting and listening to my body and what it is and isn't ready to do.

Sunday, February 3, 2019


We're finally returning to real life after an eventful January. I'm glad to have a clear calendar with no trips on the horizon--I want to enjoy AZ February and my family for a few weeks!

 Eve got Annie on the tramp one day and acted as her "tumbling coach." I remember Heidi doing this with Lily and Lily doing this with Eve.
I've mentioned before the world's greatest teacher who comes to my house once a week to play with my kids, right? Last week she introduced Hyrum and Eve to Leonardo da Vinci and his inventions. This week, she brought a 1:2 scale model of his portable bridge and the kids assembled it.
 Seriously! How cool is this? They loved it. And they love her.

Ah, Hyrum. This kid is half monkey and loves to climb anything he can. Yesterday, Eve found him up on Brad's pull-up bar.
 It's higher than you think! Can you see Eve in the mirror taking the picture?
A member of our ward sent me this picture last Sunday. Hyrum went to our local nursing home to help with church services and the sacrament. He wanted to go back again today, and he said, "I gotta save my seat next to Doug. He needs me." That Doug is a lucky guy.
 And Ben and Makayla are living one of my dreams this week. Can you guess where they are?
 Maybe this one will help.
I've wanted to see the Barcelona Cathedral since 1988. I was thrilled when my phone started pinging with half a dozen pics of their adventures.

Funniest comment of the week (from Micah as we drove through the neighborhood):
"Being a homeless cat would suck so bad! Well I mean, being a homeless person would be bad, but to be a cat? . . . "

Where that came from I have no idea . . . 

It's been a long two weeks for me.
Probably more accurate statement would be "no uterus." Hysterectomy on January 22 went ok. I'm slowly mending. The incision itself is healing well, but I'm so tired. Lucky for me, I'm taking 16 credits this semester and school started on Monday--healing and reclining on the couch with a laptop and a huge stack of books bode for a good recovery. At least the school work keeps me from feeling so lazy. 

I've given myself two weeks to sleep in and take things slowly. I didn't get out of a nightgown for the first week and progressed to pajama pants for the next four days before wearing real clothes (if joggers and a t shirt count!) on Saturday. 

Everyone who's had this done tells me that I'll be so glad I did it in a few months. I can't wait till I'm glad I did it.

For now, we're all loving the gorgeous February weather and the promise that our short-lived spring is only a few weeks away. Gonna spend our Sunday in front of the TV, wishing we were cheering on Drew Brees and the Saints. Can't have everything, I suppose.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Just Keeping It Real and Keeping My Promise

I promised myself I would blog this year.

One thing I've learned about myself recently is that I'm a great promise keeper to others, but I'm lousy at keeping promises to myself. As I try to grow this year, I'm trying to keep these seemingly small promises to myself in hopes I reap big changes in December.

So . . . here I am, blogging. And I really don't feel like it.

Well . . . 

I had a hysterectomy on Tuesday morning. 

I wasn't going to tell anyone outside of my immediate family, but when reality hit me at my pre-op appointment last Monday, I realized I couldn't do this without some help from people around me. And why should I feel like I need to put up a front that everything is great when it's not? I don't know. Am I the only one who struggles with this?

In case you're wondering, it wasn't an emergency. I had a non-cancerous fibroid tumor (about 3 1/2-4") in my uterine wall that had grown as big as a 14-week pregnancy. It was time to take it out.

Things went smoothly--aside from the first night in the hospital where I slept very little because the nurse refused to shut off the sat monitor that was alarming literally twelve times in five minutes even though my sats ranged 97-100. But this is serious surgery. I hadn't understood truly how hard recovery would be.

And these photos were taken after I was feeling quite a bit better . . .
Eve was so sad that she couldn't come see me in the hospital the first night, but she jumped at the chance to come on Wednesday. She has been very attentive and kind, and I'm glad she's here to help me.
I don't sit still when I'm well (big secret there), and I'm having a difficult time with this whole recovery process. I'm only six days post-surgery, and it's already doing numbers on my mental state. I look around and wish I could straighten up or help with kids or even get my own meals together. But I keep telling myself that a minute resting today will save me an hour of additional recovery down the road. I vowed I would stay in my nightgown through Sunday, and I've done just that--sleeping, resting, surfing social media (way too much), preparing for classes (starting tomorrow), watching Netflix.

Problem is this: I've always tied my self-worth to how much I accomplish each day, and this staying in bed gig is getting me down. It's hard when the biggest items on your to-do list these days include finding the tie to your soft pink robe and pooping (success on both counts, in case you're wondering).

While everyone was at church today, I had a small epiphany and a talk with myself:

Each letter in "grow" (my goal word for 2019) stands for something I'd like to improve this year. The"R" happens to stand for "reset." I initially took that to mean resetting my priorities and a few bad habits to get me where I truly want to be in 2020, but resetting applies in my recovery as well. I can't judge my lofty goals and daily checklists by my inability to accomplish much of anything during these next few weeks. I can't condemn myself for falling short in mothering and teaching and guiding in January--I was gone or post-surgery for 17 of the first 27 days of the year. I have to let that go and reset my sights on what I can do for the next 5-7 WEEKS.

Wow. That sounds long when I phrase it like that.

The worst part about this whole surgery/recovery situation is that I will have to miss this little girl's arrival next month.
That prospect alone almost made me postpone surgery until March. My grandma heart breaks when I realize I won't be there to hear her first cries and change diapers that progress from black tar to seedy mustard. I won't be there to share snuggles and stories and make cookies with her five older siblings--time that I've always cherished with Heidi's family. However, is there ever a really good time for something like this? You'll always miss something, right? And I know Heidi is in good hands with Sam. But still . . .

I can't even drive for another week. No Costco. No piano lessons or tumbling or basketball practice. No yoga or long walks or sit-ups. No nothing. It's me, these four walls, and my devoted dog who is rarely more than five feet away. I love that about her.
And then I start to feel guilty about my frustration. SISTER!! It was just a fibroid. I don't have cancer. I didn't lose a limb or my vision or my mobility. It's a battle up in my brain, I tell you.

Things should get easier tomorrow when classes resume for me. Hopefully that will keep my mind occupied and away from all this negative self-talk as I continue to recuperate.

However, I'm starting to realize that I need to take advantage of this time to reset more of my priorities.  If I let it, this could be a golden time with my three youngest kids. What really matters in my days? How can I use this time to develop better relationships with those closest to me? How can I give them my full attention and make this time pleasant and worthwhile?

So . . . There you have it.

Just keeping it real and keeping my promise to myself.

I blogged today. At least one more thing checked off my to-do list.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Manila, Part 2--Sightseeing then Home

What I learned when we whirlwind experienced the Philippines:

The Philippines mixes so many cultures and languages that it's difficult to find indigenous Filipino food, clothes, or experiences. I loved how language seamlessly moved from English through Spanish to Tagalog or any of the other native languages. I loved Japanese ramen and American Krispy Kreme and Filipino "pig foot" (yes I did eat that--tastes like a pork roast with lots of little bones in it). I loved how accepting and genuinely kind the people were. I loved talking to the cab drivers and hearing their opinions on local and international politics. I especially loved how Filipinos (in the words of one cab driver) "don't hold grudges" against other countries who had invaded or colonized or destroyed their country--"that happened so long ago. That doesn't matter in the Philippines today." I wish Americans were more like this--quick to forgive the worst and quick to adopt the best from other countries.

We only had three days in Manila, and one day was spent at the temple for Nosheen's sealing. What to see in Manila if you only have two full days plus one evening?

Of course we visited the oldest church in Manila--St. Augustine's, begun in the late 16th century.

Brad found an artisan market around the corner from the cathedral that had the most incredible crafts. It took all my self-control not to bring home the huge wood bowls and handcrafted baskets.

We also visited Fort Santiago, but by the time we got there, we couldn't see much of it.
On Thursday, Nosheen and Rahat attended the temple while we ventured out in the city.

First stop, the US WWII memorial cemetery.

I wish the general population still appreciated the military losses our country sustained over the centuries to maintain our freedom.
 I've been to war memorials all over Europe, but this cemetery brought the US loss of life in the Pacific into perspective.
What a beautiful, calm, green space in the middle of the chaotic city.

The nagging obstacle to sightseeing in Manila is the traffic. One cab driver explained to us that the combined metropolitan population is almost 14 million people, and there is very little transportation infrastructure--no subway system, no public bus system, only one limited monorail line--and over four million vehicles. Sometimes it takes hours to travel a few kilometers, and you never know when traffic will rear its ugly head (it took Brad 45 minutes to go 2 km between two airport terminals--at 11 PM!). Despite the potential for traffic issues, we opted next to visit the Divisoria Market on the other side of town. After a long cab ride through the highest income neighborhood in the city (Embassy row) and many middle areas, the cab driver picked his way carefully through one of the roughest neighborhoods I've seen anywhere in the world. Reviews of the market said there were great deals and gave the site 4.1 out of 5 stars. However, the cab driver was a little hesitant to let us out, strongly warned us about pickpockets, and informed us no drivers would come into Divisoria, so we'd have to find a cab stand to make it back home.

This picture can't portray how crazy congested and noisy this place was, but Brad and I were both uncomfortable and questioned our decision to come.
After wandering through the stalls and buying a few small presents for home and sharing apples with two small boys, we opted to take a tricycle cab back to a safer, less congested part of town before calling a car cab.
I'm so glad we did. It was a great way to see that area of the city and made us feel more like locals than tourists.

Friday was our final day, and Brad booked an incredible tour of Lake Taal and Volcano Island.

After a sunrise drive from the busyness of Manila to the tangled jungle of the provinces, we boarded a boat to cross the beautiful volcanic lake.
The lake looks calm, but after pulling away from shore, our pilot, Ren, handed us a big sheet of plastic and told us it was to protect us from the spray. Brad and I questioned whether we should use it, but we covered ourselves with it anyway. Two minutes later, we were bathed in spray--and very grateful for that small sheet.
It was such a beautiful ride to the middle of the lake and the active volcano.

We arrived on the island early, and since we were only the second group of tourists so far that day, there were few people and little dust on the trail.  It was incredible.
Only 3 km from the beach and we were at the top.
Brad got some amazing drone footage of the lake and the islands, and then we headed back down where we ingested fresh coconut.
What was going on at home in our absence?

Heidi's family visited my parents. I love that my grandkids know their great-grandparents.
 Karli and Tucker held down our fort, and she occasionally sent us cute pictures like this:
One day, Karli took her kids and Cleo to the park for a picnic. I got a text in the middle of the night, saying that Cleo had gotten into a bag of raisins while they were there, and Karli was taking her to the vet.

Cleo is fine, but she did have to have blood work, an oral dose of charcoal, and a hump of fluid in her back.
She never threw up, blood work was normal, and her appetite returned quickly.

But she did hate that hump! Doesn't she look pitiful?
Poor girl!

Before we knew it, we were on our way home.

Looking fresh at the beginning of the trip . . .
 . . . an impromptu photo in Narita airport that led to a minor skirmish between spouses before our long trans-Pacific flight . . .
 . . . one of us sleeping almost the entire second leg . . .
. . . arriving back home 25 hours after leaving our Manila apartment. Brad was home one hour, then I drove him back to the airport for a quick flight to SLC for his nephew's mission farewell.

I shared souvenirs with kids and evaluated the fridge before taking Hyrum and Eve to the store for some quick groceries.

I need to conclude this post with this awesome shot of Hyrum. Four gallons of milk, four liters of soda, seven grocery bags (one with seven cans of tomatoes).
His faces portrays his mood perfectly--sheer panic that the bags would break or he would drop part of his load or that the bag handles would tear through his arms. Gotta love his tenacity.

I was gone nine solid days. I experienced the highest levels of academia and the lowest levels of poverty, the full range of the earth's climates and human emotions.

But in the end . . .

There's no place like home.