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Holidays 2015

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Writing is therapeutic.

I had an absolutely terrible holiday. And it was no one's fault but my own.

I've been having nightmares about those few weeks. I've been depressed and unable to function capably because of the lack of sleep from the nightmares and because I still haven't fully recovered from the stress and what it did to me emotionally and physically.

I want to write my story down for several reasons; so I can remember it, so others can learn from my mistakes, so I can learn from my mistakes...and because when I started writing my nightmares started getting fewer and fewer, and every time I came back to this post to keep writing and editing I finally started seeing the positive and feeling peace and acceptance about what happened.

So here's my story. Here's my perspective. This was how the holidays looked through my eyes.

Thanksgiving

After the twins birthday party, the next big event was Thanksgiving...but sickness came to our home first. Saturday we had the party, Sunday we went to church, Monday was a trying to relax before the holidays day and recover from a busy weekend, and by Tuesday night (when our friends came to visit who we haven't seen in a year because they live on the other side of the country) Jacob had a 103 degree fever and had lost his voice. Wednesday I called Kaiser and they said it sounded like a regular cold virus, which is what I thought too but wanted someone else to say it. I didn't bring him in because going anywhere with three kids is an absolute nightmare, but it's even worse when one of them is sick. And if it was just a virus I would have spent my whole day at Kaiser just for them to tell me to go home and it'll go away on its own.

Thursday. Jacob is now having difficulty breathing and I'm absolutely freaking out.

Let me repeat myself.

I was absolutely. Freaking. Out.

Every time I come across something new that I've never experienced before in regards to my children being sick I honestly feel like they are going to die and I get so scared. I believe that because we are sealed in the temple our family will be together forever, so I'm not scared that if (when) they die I will never see them again. I get scared because I'm selfish. I love them so much and I'm not ready to say goodbye to them in this life. I want to see them grow up and see the beautiful people they become, and the families they create...

Sidetracked. Anyways.

I didn't want to take him in to get looked at because I have this thing about doctors...it's a long story. And it's a holiday! Of course when you need a doctor the most they are enjoying the holidays with their families (which I don't begrudge them, I just think I have bad luck of needing help when no one is able to give it). I had to call the Kaiser's nurses hotline three times before someone finally gave me some good advice to live by. If you don't know this you should. If they look like they are having trouble breathing (you can see the tugging of the skin on their neck and on their ribs) but they aren't blue or gray (you'll notice, if they are blue or gray it will be discernible) or laying in bed acting like they are dying (if they are still running around playing almost normally) then you don't need to take them to the emergency room. You do need to see a doctor, but it can wait until the next morning when it's not a holiday.

Another side note:

Another piece of lifesaving advice has been if the fever is below 103 give it at least 5-7 days if symptoms don't get any worse, because it's probably just a cold (if new symptoms arise or they get worse take them in). They can't do anything for a virus, but sometimes they can treat the symptom. Jacob had a really bad cough and sore throat once that even though it was viral he got something to help with that so he could eat and sleep. There is something they can do for bacterial, sometimes you just have to go in so they can tell you it isn't bacterial and there's nothing they can do about it just so you can put your mind at ease...But there was one time that all three of them a couple days apart had fevers of 103.5 and I took them in thinking they had ear infections (because that's what 103 degree fever has been in the past) and lo and behold it was just a virus. I took Jacob in, and a few days later I took Riley in...I didn't take Chase in a few days later because by then I was certain they all had the same thing and his would go away just like the other two. Fevers are good if they don't get out of hand. Fever is your body's way of fighting what isn't supposed to be there.

Also, there is a good kind of seizure. Jacob had a fibril seizure when his fever got too high once because we accidentally stopped giving him ibuprofen/acetaminophen back and forth (I was on bed rest, Jacob was going to my parents, Robbie had taken him to the doctor to get medicine and I stupidly assumed that he was going to be fine and that fever reducers were in the prescriptions...another lesson learned). You don't need to call an ambulance if they are fine (ambulances aren't covered by insurance and are very expensive), fine being responsive, eyes dilating...get their blood sugar up with some juice and get the fever down and they should be good. This all coming from the doctors at Children's Hospital and ambulance workers. Literally all they did was give him tylenol and juice (they hooked him up to an IV because of protocol). The only reason the ambulance HAD to take him to the hospital is because his blood sugar was one point below what they needed to legally let my parents do at home what they did at the hospital. I was freaking out at home thinking my child was going to die, if I had seen the seizure and it had been my first I would have called an ambulance too. The lesson from this: there is such thing as a healthy seizure and they usually happen in kids under 5, and they're going to be okay.

Anyways....back to Thanksgiving.

I had decided to not take Jacob to the emergency room and to just wait for our appointment the next morning. I was going to take the twins to my family's Thanksgiving dinner, but about an hour before I was about to leave Riley got a fever too. I knew what that meant...the vicious cycle of all three kids getting sick had begun. So I went by myself for an hour and brought my side dish...I tried to enjoy myself and my family, but it was really hard when I just wanted my kids to be healthy and my family to be there with me. It's really hard to be happy when you're ungrateful.

The next few days went on continuing being filled with sickness. Jacob had bronchitis and croup. Did you know that there are two kinds of bronchitis, viral and bacterial, but you can't tell which one it is? So he got a breathing treatment and some antibiotics. Then Chase got sick but not as sick as Riley. Their one year doctor appointment came up 5 days after Riley got sick, which was perfect timing. The doctor could check her out and tell me she's okay without me having to pay for a sick visit. Jacob and Chase were all better by then, but Riley couldn't get her one year vaccines because she was too sick. The doctor said it sounded like bronchiolitis, which is different from bronchitis. She got a breathing treatment too, but no drugs. She just had to wait that virus out.

My parents were supposed to take the kids so Robbie and I could have a much needed break over the weekend, which of course we had to cancel.

You might think it can't get any worse. It gets worse. Not only did I not get a nice break, I got sick on Friday. Like dying in bed with a cold sick. (I guess it could have been worse, I could actually have been dying...hindsight). Now Robbie had to take care of all four of us instead of having a break.

We were going to have a Thanksgiving dinner with the Van Pattens on Friday, but our kids were still sick and then Robbie's brother's family got some kind of flu too, and of course, I was sick. We canceled.

I also was scheduled to give a talk on Sunday, and on Saturday I had to cancel.

That was our Thanksgiving.

It's hard to be thankful in situations like that. I was sitting there complaining to Robbie and lovingly and sarcastically he said "You sure are thankful on Thanksgiving". I read a story Elder Bednar posted, he said that they had just learned of a friends death and that an apostle had asked them to give the prayer, but the apostle didn't know about their friends death. He asked them to only give thanks in their prayer, and it changed their perspective wonderfully.

So I read this again and started trying to be thankful. I'm thankful for the marvelous bodies God has blessed us with that we don't die with every little virus that comes our way, and doctors and modern medicine and such that cures things the body can't by itself. I'm grateful that is was just a virus, it could be worse, it could be cancer or something. For the nurses and doctors (and other people in service jobs) that were working to help me take care of my family on a holiday. For a wonderful husband who is happy that he can help take care of sick babies and me during his vacation (instead of our weekend away), that he is such a good father and always striving to be better. For such a wonderful extended family who was only concerned about our wellbeing instead of being upset we couldn't come. For the truth of the gospel. For my beautiful babies, who when they are sick I get a small glimpse of how God must feel towards us when we are sick, and how I would do anything to take it from them.

This Thanksgiving really kind of sucked, but I think God put all those trials in my life in such a short amount of time on a holiday week to boot just so I could learn to be grateful no matter what...even when it doesn't seem like there's anything to be grateful for. 

And I don't think I learned my lesson. I think God was trying to beat the crazy out of me, because the rest of the year sure was a beating.

Christmas

Here are some good stories, and some bad. Some are a perfect mixture of good and bad.

Christmas is kind of the whole month of December, just like Halloween is the whole month of October and Thanksgiving is the whole month of November (New Years is the whole month of January, Valentines day is the whole month of February, need I go on?)...and by Christmas Eve I was done. I was just tired, physically and emotionally.

This is where the denial comes in, and the crazy. I didn't realize how hard it is to live a normal life with a two year old and two one year olds, and no one else except people in our exact same situation do either. Everyone expects you to be somewhere, to go to something...to find a babysitter or to bring all my kids. There are a lot of things going on in December, and a lot of things I put on myself.

I was having to cut a lot of things in order to stay sane. Even though I had unleashed the crazy and was trying to bend this way and that, there was still something inside me that said no, you can't do that you'll break.

I skipped any holiday baking or cooking. But I did make a few presents, and one of them was a remembrance quilt. I was completely stupid and procrastinated, but not on purpose. I'm in denial about how hard it is to be a mom to three littles and didn't think it would take me as long as it did, but it did. I spent days only working on it, and many nights. Not playing with my children, not spending time with my husband. I'm grateful I made it, but I'm upset at myself for not doing it the right way so that it didn't have to come at the expense of my family.

The other gift I made was a service gift, which I thought was a great idea. In the Walker family we pull names on Thanksgiving and I pulled my Uncle Robert's name. When I called him to get some ideas he said he didn't want anything...I told him that wasn't helpful...so then he said why don't you do some service for someone. So I did. I met a new sister in the ward (new to me, not to the ward) who is pregnant and small in stature like me, and has three littles already. I think we are going to be friends. Anyways, I called her up and asked if I could come clean her house, because I know that all I wanted when I was on bed rest was Jacob and Robbie home with me and a clean house. She already had someone coming to clean it, so that'll have to be saved for a later date. I kind of went overboard after that...I made two meals that hopefully stretched a little farther than just two sittings (because who doesn't need a meal now and then? Especially while pregnant and having three littles?) and made a sort of 12 days of Christmas in a box and filled it with all my families favorite things and what they symbolize. A yummy smelling candle to remind us that Christ is the light, supplies for a paper chain to remember that Christ broke the chains of death and hell, candy canes that of course symbolize the Savior, ornaments that had gifts you could give to the Savior on them like "I will be Kind" or "I will Forgive", poinsettias, some yummy bread and cider to remember He is the bread of life, and a new set of crayons and some vintage coloring pages about the nativity. I did what I would want for my home, if someone were giving me a gift I would want help teaching my kids about Christ and how He is the reason for the season, how He is the gift.  I was going to leave a gift a day for 12 days anonymously on their doorstep, but the anxiety of it getting stolen was too much for me. That's why there were so many gifts. I had already bought them or made them and then decided at the last minute to give them all as one, it was meant to be less awkward and invasive. Oh well.

Oh! And the last thing, because this was something I really wanted to do even though I had too much on my plate. Caroling. I got a quartet together and again wanted to help bring the spirit of Christmas into her home. While we were practicing it brought the spirit into my home. Then we went to 6 or more homes and spread it around a little more. Caroling is a lost tradition I think that needs to be revived. We were meant to go to my Uncle's since it was his present, but no one was home.

We didn't decorate until the middle of December because that's when Robbie was finally able to find a day to organize the garage and find the boxes of decorations. Robbie also forgot to tell me that his parents wanted to make up for Thanksgiving. He didn't tell me till the middle of December. That really brought out the crazy. We have at least three Christmases to attend which were only a week and a half away, Robbie's brother's family was trying desperately to get ready for the Christmas in Disneyland, and we were supposed to have a huge family dinner? I cursed. And said no.

But I try to be a good daughter to my parents and my in laws, and I try to be a good wife. I knew it would make Robbie happy for me to try. So I suggested a compromise, lets invite them for just a normal weekly meal and have them help us decorate (since we knew where the decorations were now), and maybe even get a tree. So we did it! And it was great...except that they showed up around 7, the kids weren't quite done eating or ready to go, and then by the time we got the tree it was 8 and Jacob had fallen asleep in the car...he was not happy that he had to be woken up. After opening their gifts from Grandma and Papa he was literally trying to kill his brother and sister with his presents from pure exhaustion.

Speaking of trees, do you know how expensive they are?!!? I have always loved the idea of a fake tree (especially now that they look so real) and how it's better for the environment and you don't have to worry about getting one every year. But I always loved the smell of a real tree and going to pick one out, and that always won over...until this year. This year it was $30 at Home Depot for a tree just barely taller than me, and it wasn't magical getting it like I'd thought. We can fit a good 8 ft or 9 ft tree now with our new house and new ceiling height, which would have been in the hundreds. Right now we don't have that kind of money and all I kept thinking is we are going to get a tree every year for the next 50 at least, at at least $100 a piece if not more. Not only is that 50 or more trees I'll be responsible for cutting down, but thats at the very least $5,000 over the years. On a tree. That was a hassle to get. No thank you. I made up my mind that I want a nice fake tree, buy it once and I'm done. Now I have an entire year to convince Robbie that this is the best decision for our family.

We went to see a live nativity my uncle had set up for his ward party. We only stayed for a few minutes, but I was awe struck by Jacob's face. You know how you can just tell when someone is feeling the spirit? I saw it in my two year old's face, and it was angelic. As we walked away he was baaing like the sheep.

We listened to beautiful Christmas music every day (you should check out Mormon Tabernacle Choir Holiday on Pandora next year, it's fantastic) that really helped bring in the spirit of Christmas. My calling in church right now is Relief Society pianist, so I get to play an opening and closing hymn during our meeting on Sundays. So all of December I was trying to finally master the Christmas Hymns. I'm sad to say I got better, but wasn't able to master them. It's crazy how when your mind, body and emotions aren't in a good place you just seem to fall apart. I wasn't seeming to fall apart, I was literally falling apart...and every Sunday I blundered over and over again. It's really embarrassing, mostly because I've had my moments when I've been really good at accompanying...and then to have a whole room of women hear that terrible playing? But I know I shouldn't be embarrassed, no matter what people think. Most people are just grateful someone is playing, and playing mostly the right notes. I should be grateful I get so many opportunities to improve. I'd never master this if I didn't have so many opportunities. Even though I blundered, and had to do a lot of practicing (which doesn't really sound pretty) I love Christmas music. Listening to that station and being able to play those hymns was a blessing in my home.

I'm grateful for our home teacher, who came in December (a lot of home and visiting teachers make excuses about December being too busy, so I'm grateful we don't have one like that) and reminded me that the Savior is merciful and forgiving, and we should be of others but especially of ourselves (which also was the visiting teaching message, in case you were wondering if God knows you and loves you and looks after you in mysterious ways like that by giving you the message you need to hear several times, He does). I learned my lesson...or at least I thought I learned it. But I still had a few beatings coming my way, and I wasn't prepared to take them.

See what I mean about some of it I put on myself? You know what, it's kind of sounding like I put it all on myself.

Even though we had one less family to see because they were in Disneyland, three Christmases on top of our own is too many. By Christmas Eve Jacob and I were rocking out to Shake it Off (Taylor Swift) station on Pandora. We couldn't take any more Santa Claus and Rudolph.

Christmas Eve broke me.

We were late to our family dinner, we couldn't get the babies to smile for pictures, the teenage cousins (and some of the adults) didn't want to do the nativity that we've done since I was a kid  (a tradition we've kept for more than 20 years) depriving my two year old of getting to dress up and be a shepherd. It felt like Christ was just being swept under a rug, or better yet shoved out the door. My nana asked if I would sing and even though I had prepared my mind went blank mid song. I was so embarrassed I cried. I don't know if I was already broken which made my mind go blank, or if that was the breaking point. I put so much effort and thought into my gifts and others didn't, and it just hurt. My grandfather didn't even open his, he had left the room. I made my Nana open it because I wanted someone to see what we had done for them. The food was amazing.

Then we went home and started setting up for Christmas morning. I had cut a few things from my list of things to do, like make the twins present that I wanted to make them. A sensory book that I had started but didn't have time to finish. So I made another toy instead that didn't take as long so they could unwrap something. Jacob's toy from Santa had to be assembled. We had no cookies to set out for Santa. I reused Jacob's Halloween candy in his stocking, which I couldn't decide if it was genius and creative or cheap and uncaring. I cried myself to sleep and Robbie just held me. I knew I had done this all to myself, there was just no time to fix it. I had to endure the next few days, and then I could figure out what the crap my problem was.

Christmas morning was small but good. I love my babies smiles. Jacob was thrilled with the repurposed candy and the twins were confused about why the candy canes stuck to their little pudgy hands. The twins loved the m'n'ms. They loved the few presents they got. I wanted to just stay home but I couldn't do that to my family. We ate breakfast and headed up to my mom's to play in the snow. There was just enough snow on the ground to have some fun. Indy loved it the most. Jacob loved his toy from Christmas Eve, he loved the toy he got from Santa more, and he loved the toy he got from Grandpa and Nana most: a remote control car and boots.

Then we headed up to my uncle's house for the Veater Christmas. We got stuck in the snow, our van just couldn't make it. I had a panic attack. Just add some more crazy in there for you. It's as if I wasn't already having a terrible time you had to top it off with a panic attack. I've never had one before, but then again I've never been scared for my life and the life of my family feeling like we're going to slide right off the side of the mountain. I had no idea how emotionally and physically draining they are. I had no idea I'd be having nightmares and would still be affected by it for weeks to come. I was grateful that no one made fun of me. That my dad, who I expected it from, didn't say a word or tease me or anything about the mascara streaks down my face that I couldn't hide from everyone (I had to see quite a few people before making it to a bathroom) or that I was being silly. I think if anyone had I would have packed us back up and left. Whatever I had left in me to endure would have been killed.

We did eventually get there safely. And the food was amazing. But I didn't see Christ anywhere and that made me sad. Also it was again weird because everyone had three or four presents to open and we had the one from my Grandma. It is just awkward. It wasn't so awkward when it was just Robbie and I, but now that Jacob understands he's not getting a present when everyone else in the room is, it's awkward. How do you explain to a two year old that he already opened his present at Nana's house? How do you teach a two year old to be grateful when you can't even communicate well yet?

Then we spent the night at my parents and the next day playing. By the end of that night we tried to get all three babies to go to bed, but by 9 after trying for two hours with no break from the crying we gave up and went home. All I could think of was for some reason God wanted us to go home and He made our children completely unhappy in order to make us get our butts and all of our stuff in the car.


New Years

The last of the crazy, and finally accepting how completely and utterly in denial I've been about my life.

Since we couldn't do Christmas with Robbie's family because they were in Disneyland, we decided to do a New Years get together, but lo and behold my brother in law got sick. I was not happy he was sick, but I was thanking God for that tender mercy on my end. We had to cancel for a sickness someone could see, not for my emotional health which doesn't seem to be a good excuse for some people. I couldn't do another family get together. I don't think I'll be able to do anything for awhile.

Except that I had to do pictures.

I want to do a family photo every year, and this year I saw a dress for Riley that formed the whole vision. I made a dress for myself to match, and matching ties for the boys. Of course I was up till midnight the night before trying to finish the ties. And the boys ties ended up being too short to tie properly because while I accounted room for the knot I didn't account for the length around their necks. I didn't know they were too short until 10 minutes before the photos. We were frantically trying to get them pinned properly. The twins needed a morning nap, which they haven't needed in ages, and Jacob was being a terror. We had to wake the twins up, which means we didn't get any smiles out of them. Jacob wouldn't sit still for jack squat, ripped apart his satin tie with his teeth, stomped on Chase's hand, and refused to smile or look at the camera. I had this crazy vision of formal wear not accounting for the ages of my children or how cold it was outside. We had to make due with inside, and the lighting wasn't working and so we had to be in front of the tree so it looks like I have a star coming out of my head instead of sitting next to the tree like I wanted...

Again. I did it to myself. It's like I had to purge the last of the crazy out. Had to be in denial one last time before I hit rock bottom and admitted that I won't have the pretty pictures or blog posts that some moms have, that I'm not going to be able to have everything I want and think I should have, and that this is only going to get harder. Next year the twins will be like Jacob, absolute terrors, and there are two of them. And Jacob will be three, so what he is now plus a little more spite. It is hard to raise little children the right way. It's hard to be a good parent, and it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot longer to calmly explain to your two year old why we can't hit and what a good alternative is, and to do that 20 times a day. And then to do that for biting, and yelling, and kicking...and to give them good opportunities to express themselves and to learn...to keep a clean house for them, to have clean clothes for them, to make nutritious food for them. It takes so much time to be a good mother, and then a good wife, and then where is there time for me? There still needs to be time for me, but the reality is all the things I want to do for me can't be done right now. My babies are only going to be babies for so long. I've been thinking I could do it all, and I can't. I have been in denial about being in survival mode, but I've been firmly knocked out of that. Survival mode means you can't read your scriptures for an hour a day because you need the sleep, but that doesn't mean you can't listen to them over breakfast. Survival mode means your house is clean but not immaculate. Survival mode means that you take care of the bare minimum while focusing on the most important things, loving your kids, loving your husband, loving yourself, and accepting and loving the reality in which you live. Survival mode means learning to say no because you're putting your sanity first.


I had a lot of lessons I needed to learn this year. To give without any thought of receiving, which I thought I knew until it hurt so much that it was glaringly obvious that even though I knew this I had not internalized it. I wasn't hurt because I didn't receive, I was hurt because I hold myself to a certain standard that others don't (not to say that I didn't get a great couple of gifts which I love and am very grateful for). I learned that I can't care about that. I have to be happy with what others are willing to give of themselves, no matter how small, even if it's nothing at all. I need to just be grateful we got together, and love them for who they are.

To plan gifts better and work on them a little bit through the year so that this never happens again when making gifts, that I never neglect my kids to finish a stupid project because I didn't plan accordingly.

To plan better to have Christ in Christmas, because if you don't plan to put Him in He won't be there. I have to do it for my family, but I also want to do it for every Christmas we go to and to do that without making anyone feel judged or guilty. Somehow I want to keep our nativity tradition alive, even if we skipped a year.

It's not going to happen over night. I might not fully internalize all these lessons next year, or the year after, but I'm sure as heck going to sincerely try. An attitude of gratitude, every day, for everything.

Next year I'm going to have to say no a lot more than I did this year, and that means even saying no to family. I love my family, but I also need to take care of myself and my own husband and children. They come first. Next year it'll have to be different, at least for us. I have a lot of internal work to do, and a few more boundaries to set, a few more yeses and a few more no's...it has to be different, and the change has to come from me. The change has to be a change of heart, and that can only come through Christ and my own determination.

And after the miserable holiday I just had, I'm determined.

Happy Thanksgiving.
Thank God for my beautiful family.
Merry Christmas.
Thank God for a Savior who has the power to forgive and can help me forgive myself and others.
Happy New Year.
May I be better this year than I was the next.

We put the tree up on a table to keep the babies from eating it.

 We drew something for every day, our picture turned out really scribbly and really cute.
Merry Christmas

 Whoah! Elmo!


Oh my gosh! MnMs!

 They are so good!!!




 Look at my teeth!


 I'm going to get you...the unconventional way.
 Jacob was trying to take care of the cat.





 hey...


 He was so happy




It's his favorite game right now, throwing things on the ground


 Jacob's favorite things. Shoes.

Awesome!


Look mom!
 I'm only interested in what my brother's are playing with.


 Maybe if I point the remote at the car it'll go where I want it to go.

 Let me try that again



Maybe it'll go up my nose
 Eye...that's definitely my eye
 Ah! Look at my teeth!
Did you see? Let me show you again.
He was going to throw it at me.
 Thank goodness this is where it ended up instead.




 Simba!

 The view from my aunt's house. The picture doesn't do it justice.
The cheesy smile Jacob used to do...she's got it too.
 But she also has a normal one. That's encouraging.
And another smile from this guy.


 
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