The first balloon ever released...

The first balloon ever released...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

November

November use to be a big month in our family. We have McKenna's birthday the 17th, Zach and I anniversary the 21st and of course delicious Thanksgiving. I have always loved November. Texas starts to cool down and you get your first real taste of fall. The leaves slowly begin to change colors and you start to see the hats, boots and heavy coats come out. Since fall is a very short period in Texas I have always taken extra joy during this time but this year I have feared it. The holidays have officially started. Zach and I barely crawled out of Halloween and now we are about to face birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years in just 2 months. That's a heavy load to dump on anyone even when there is nothing wrong let alone when you've lost a child. I have tried to embrace and accept the fact that this month will be a tough one and instead focus on how we as a family would like to honor McKenna on her birthday. We are really trying to change up the celebration style this year so we don't have to go through another experience like Halloween. I have some ideas floating around but nothing concrete yet. I will keep you updated.

We have continued to go to the family group counseling. The last 2 weeks have been a "dozey" to say the least. Last week they had these shattered pots. Every family member got 3 broken pieces. On the inside you were suppose to write things that had been hard since their death, what you felt like you had missed out on, what you were trying to overcome. On the outside you wrote what has helped you get through it and what was important to you now that they had passed. You could draw pictures or write something, whichever you preferred. Afterwards you would glue it all together and pick it up at the next meeting. They warned us before we started that it can be very emotional and many people cry. I thought to myself "Nah, this one is not going to make me cry. In fact this whole thing seems really silly." We sat down at our table and I picked my little broken pottery pieces. I was about to start writing when I looked up to see Dominic sit down across from me. I explained the project to him and then Zach asked him what he would like to write on the inside. My heart stopped as I heard my 6 year old son say something he had never talked about in front of me before "Write for me that... it was hard to watch you die in front of me". He said it as if he had just told him something very casual. There was no tears or emotion behind it. In fact he started coloring his outside piece and seemed delighted to be coloring.

Zach looked up at me as if didn't know what to do and I returned the look of bewilderment. Then he wrote it down and I realized that this project is not as silly as I thought it was going to be. I put a little more thought into what I wanted to say and 5 words in tears began to role down my checks. Dominic was having a blast coming up with ideas to draw on his pot and even drew a picture of McKenna dead at the bottom of a pool. He was happily jabbering away about everything and anything when he looked up and saw me quietly crying. "It's hard mom isn't it?" I looked up at him surprised that he had noticed and said "What is?" "It's hard to talk about it and not cry." I felt like my tongue had gone limp, I didn't know how to respond and all I could manage to get out was "yeah... it is". Then he went back to his usual up beat personality as I finished up my note. Children mourn completely different from anything I ever could have imagined. It's amazing to me how they can say things that are so sad and terrible like "watching you die in front of me" and then go back to singing and dancing like they didn't just drop a bomb in your lap while they draw a picture of their dead sibling. He did a few more sad things like he purposely drew a heart between 2 cracked pieces so it would show his broken heart but even then he showed it to me with pride rather then sadness.

I decided to just go with his flow. I talked about a few things that made me sad and did my best to smile through the words. If this was his way of opening up I didn't want to miss it. Dominic has talked to many other people about the day he found McKenna in the pool but not once as he ever said it to me. My son is a momma's boy, we have a very close bond and even at the young age of 6 I see him go out of his way to make sure he doesn't hurt me. I think that's why he won't talk about it with me, I also believe that's why he says things with a smile. Clearly he comprehends more then I thought he does with his comment on "it hard isn't it" but I guess to him it's more important to make sure he doesn't make me sad with what he says. I find it very sweet but very painful at the same time. I don't want him to worry about me, that's not his job! His job is to be 6! He is just suppose to be a silly, goofy, dirty and even a gross little boy with no burdens or images of his dead sister's body in his mind. Even though I know I have been very straight forward and open with him about my feelings because I have heard the worst thing you can do is hide it from them, he still handles it as if it's bad to make me cry and I'm not sure if this is "healthy" or not. It's very confusing but I'm grateful he shared that moment with me. Hopefully this will start opening up more doors for us.

The outside of the pot was a much better experience. I drew a little temple with pink balloons, hearts and a quote from one of McKenna's favorite songs. Zach of course made all of our drawings look like crap with a scenery shot of mountains, a river and flowers. He also drew each one of our faces as cartoons on the brim of the pot. Dominic drew the entire family with our ages above it (he does this a lot) and then became jealous of my temple. I really didn't think he would care and was happy he recognized it was a temple (I am not a very good artist). He started to pout and said that he wished he would have thought of it because the temple reminded him of McKenna too. After handling a minor meltdown and Dominic accidentally dropping his piece 3x shattering them into smaller pieces he finally got to draw a little temple too and beamed with joy over it. It was a good heart felt but emotional night and I was relieved to be done with the project.

The next week we picked up our little pot which came out really good surprisingly and were now given a new assignment. They had lined up a busy night for us with writing individual notes for McKenna to attach on purple balloons and release later that night. Then we were going to draw on a quilt square that would be made into a blanket to hang in the hallways of the building. Dominic was a little extra wound up that night and when we got outside to let go of the balloons there was suppose to be a moment of silence before we let it go. He accidentally let go of his balloon and immediately broke into tears. At first I felt frustrated with him because that whole day we had issues with listening but I decided to show my patient side and tried to comfort him by giving him my balloon. This did not seem to calm him down and finally I whispered to him "It's ok you let it go, now McKenna will get your note first that way it doesn't get lost in all the other balloons." This immediately silenced him and he smiled as he released Zach and my balloon. We watched them fly away and Dominic bragged about her getting his note first.

I felt a gentle tug on my heart. I felt heavy. I felt tired. That morning I had dreamed I was watching a video of McKenna drowning and I was so upset with myself for not saving her it woke me up. It had lingered with me all day and the balloon ceremony was a strong reminder of how dead she really was. Early that evening when we were writing our notes one of the counselors walked up to our family to check and make sure they had her name right for a candle light service we would be doing at our last meeting next week. "Her name is McKenna Bundy right? Did I spell her name correctly?" for some reason a lightening bolt of rage struck me and it took every ounce of control in me not to yell out at him and scream "I HATE YOU! Yes, we get it she's dead! How many more ceremonies and memorials do we have to do! SHE'S DEAD SHE'S DEAD SHE'S DEAD AND NONE OF THIS IS HELPING!" but I just looked at him and nodded my head, "Yes, that's right." Of course I didn't really hate him. He is honestly one of the nicest people I have ever met and this whole program is amazing. It was just one of those days where I woke up with a vision of my daughter drowning right in front of me and it wasn't going to be a good day.

I don't know why but I have always thought a little balloon floating away into a big sky was a beautiful thing. I watched my balloon float away but today felt emptiness. "Look at my lonely little balloon and it's not even really going to heaven. I wish it was..." We went back inside and split into our individual classes. This was the part I was looking forward too. "I hope everyone is having a crappy day too. I hope everyone is ready to let it out. I am ready to hear about some struggles so we can all share the pain. Lets get this started!" All the women sat down and the counselor said we would only be talking for a few minutes so that we would have time to work on our quilts. "Oh no, I don't want to do that. Didn't we pretty much do the same thing last week and today with the balloons? I need to hear some gut wrenching pain! I need these women to show me I'm not alone and how sucky it is to live in the real world when your mourning a child. I don't normally want to talk about my feelings but it's been a long day and I need to let it out!" I said this all in my head of course.

I saw a woman crying and thought "Ok, here we go!" but she ended up not saying a word even when the counselor tried to give her the floor to speak her mind. We went in a circle around the room and NO ONE HAD ANYTHING TO SAY! The one time I really wanted to hash it out and not one person was saying a peep! WHY??? I am terrible at communicating my struggles. I do best when someone opens up to me and then I feel comfortable opening up to them. It's part of this obsession I have with making sure the conversation is not 100% about me. I don't know why but I hate that! I don't like to be the center of attention and I DEFINITLY don't want to be the only person talking during grief GROUP! That's why it's a GROUP so we can ALL talk about our shared burden. This greatly discouraged me from saying anything and ended up joining in on the silence.

Since no one was talking we started our quilts early. I had no idea what to write and starred at the other quilts they already had hung on the wall. Many of them said "RIP" with a name on it. "Well that's extremely depressing, no thanks." I grumbled to myself. Now the other moms had started to talk except instead of talking about rough times they were laughing and joking about how terrible their quilt was coming out. "OF COURSE! Everyone is in a great mood and I am the grump in the corner over here. When will this day end!" I tried for a very brief moment to engage in the conversation but just couldn't do it. Not today. I zoned everyone out and stared at my empty quilt a little longer. What to put... what to put. A bunch of cheesy quotes came to my head that I have heard a 1000 times since Kenna's death but still wasn't satisfied with the idea. If I could leave one note on here, just one sentence to McKenna that I knew she would read, what would I want it to say? I know I wouldn't want it to be sad or depressing, it needed to be something happy and personal. How could I write anything even remotely positive when I felt so terrible all day? And then it came to me, the one thing I longed for more then anything. The one image I constantly day dreamed about. The one thing that if it really happened would make the last 6 months vanish in the blink of an eye. My "happy thought" when I got too sad. My every desire, my biggest dream, my greatest treasure.... giving my daughter a hug again.

I quickly scribbled away a crappy stick figure drawling of me on my knees giving McKenna a hug with one sentence stating "I can't wait to share this moment with you." I finished up just in time and turned my quilt in. I didn't say a word to one person that night. I hardly made eye contact with a single soul but I had done it. I had found my silver lining and all though it didn't take the hurt away it definitely brought me some comfort. On the way home that night I said everything I wanted to say in group to my husband. I told him how much I missed her. I missed getting her dressed in the mornings. I missed singing our songs together. I missed fighting over what shoes she would wear. I missed pretending that her hand was missing every time I put a shirt on her and couldn't get her arm out. I missed the way she smiled at me when she knew she had done something wrong. Listening to her stay up in her bed singing songs and telling stories even though she was suppose to be asleep. The way her head would rest against my leg with my hand on her head as we would walk down the hallway to leave day care and I would think to myself "Cherish this moment Shannon, one day she will be grown and you won't have this anymore."

I got part of that right but thank God it's not true. I will have this again. I will get her back. I will get to hold her. I will get to see her grow up and I will have her for eternity. It will be greater then I could ever try to imagine. November will be a hard month, the holidays will be a hard season, this journey will be hard for a life time but at least it's not forever! Heaven is real and it's for eternity. It's hard to see it but if I don't believe in that then what is the point of this life?  I have to hold on to the promise that everything happens for a reason and that there is a time and place for all things. My daughter died for a purpose bigger then I can comprehend and I know one day... some day...   I will see that promise fulfilled.

Ecclesiastes 3
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.



What Dominic wrote for his balloon release.
That is McKenna in a cloud and she is watching over him. 

He drew a temple with her flying next to it as an angel.

Mine


Zach's



My quilt square

Zach's

Dominic's

Our broken pottery project:
Happy thoughts:
I drew the temple and Zach drew the faces above it of the whole family


Dominic's picture of him and Kenna

The rest of the family

His broken heart

Zach's scenery painting

Dominic's Temple

Our sad thoughts:

Zach

Mine at the bottom

Mine on the top and Zach's at the bottom

Dominic's says
"I miss you and I love you so much"

What Zach wrote for Dominic with
Dominic's drawing of McKenna drowning below it.

***This is what gives me hope***
Dominic drew this at school for his teacher all by himself.

The past: McKenna drowning

The present: This is our family all kneeling together in prayer in the family room.

The future: He wants to be a police officer... at least as of right this moment.
Last week it was a veterinarian. :)


 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nightly Prayers

Ever since McKenna passed I have not had the "angry at God" moment. A lot of sadness and misery but no anger. I have heard of people falling away from church, loosing their faith, begin questioning their beliefs and purpose of this life. I remember years ago when I would hear stories about these kind of situations I would think to myself  "I would probably respond worse". I don't judge or look down on any of these men and woman because it is so much more painful then I ever could have imagined! I was surprised and still am that I have not had any of this, maybe it will come later, maybe it wont but one thing I have been experiencing issues with is saying my nightly prayers.

Right before McKenna passed I was doing really well with reading my scriptures and praying. I was on the longest role I had been on in a long time and was trying to "stay the course". I have never been someone who has just naturally found it easy to pray and read scriptures. For most of my teens to early adulthood scriptures were a guarantee bed time story. I would always fall asleep and prayers were a over rehearsed speech. For the last few years I have been slowly breaking these bad habits and really trying to replace them with some good ones. I was pretty happy with my progress but of course all of that came to a crashing halt after McKenna's death. Not because I was deliberately trying to avoid reading my scriptures but mainly because all the reading and praying I did was at night and night time is the worst emotionally for me. Night is when the ugly pain I have hidden all day comes out to play. When all of my hurt and tears take seize over my body and manifest themselves in loud whaling and shaking. Night is the enemy.

Now that 6 months have past the nightly terrors have lessened and only happen if I don't go right to sleep. I push myself to exhaustion, jump in the bed, and turn my brain off either by watching TV, getting on Facebook, or pinning everything on Pinterest. Then right afterwards I turn the scriptures on my phone to audio and fall asleep 5 minutes in, counting this as "studying" my scriptures before bed. I opened up to a few people and was advised to move it to the morning but my habits were at night and I enjoyed ending my chaotic day with a reminder of what really matters. I started noticing a gap in my life a few months ago by not saying my nightly prayers but still wanted to avoid them. I knew that it would set me off. I didn't know why but it always ended with me feeling miserable. I hate crying and this crying is even worse because it is not just tears from hurt feelings. Its a deep ache that comes from a pit in my soul that was never their before. Its an emptiness and a throbbing that can't be silenced. Once it starts there is a guarantee hour of trying to convince myself that life is not utterly hopeless.

I found that if I went back to my over rehearsed speeches I could get through the prayer and go straight to bed with just a little tugging at my heart but the gap was still their. My soul knew it wasn't the same and that I needed to console with the Lord in a deeper way in the morning AND the night. I toughed it out for a week. I forced myself to say nightly prayers and dealt with the meltdowns. Every time it was the same, I would start praying and try not to mention McKenna at all and then right at the very end her name would slip from my lips. Then the entire prayer would turn into me talking about her and even to her. Telling God to tell her how much I loved her, how sorry I was I wasn't there. For every moment I took for granted. How I hope she knew how much she meant to me. How sorry I was for not doing all I needed to do to see her again. How I was sorry I had been distant. Then it always finished with "Give her a hug and a kiss from me Lord... GOD PLEASE HAVE MERCY ON MY SOUL!" Then I would find myself in the closet, holding her clothes I have stashed away in there, reach out my arms for a hug into the heavens, and cry as quietly as I could on the ground until I knew I could be quiet enough to go to bed and not wake my husband. I usually don't wake Zach because I know if I do, I will start myself up all over again.

I couldn't handle it anymore so once again I stopped and even told my husband "I'm not saying nightly prayers anymore, you will have to say them for me" so we would pray together. This helped for a while but once again came the pulling at my heart strings, I have to say my own prayers. I continued to ignore it for a few more weeks. I started working on my scripture reading and trying to be more spiritual in other aspects of my life but those nightly prayers still creeped into my mind. A few nights ago I finally decided to give it another shot. Once again I tried hard not to bring up McKenna but as usual she came up right at the end. The pain started and this time I abruptly ended the prayer and broke into tears.

The sobbing woke my husband who pulled me close and it felt like he squeezed the tears out more. I told him how difficult it was to say nightly prayers and I didn't want to do them anymore. He asked me simply "Why is it so bad for you to cry in your prayers?". I replied "Because I don't want to have a melt down every night, it leaves me in a dark place and feeling despaired. I don't blame God for that but I just can't keep doing this. Prayer just brings out all the sadness." He laid their and held me while tears soaked his shirt and finally told me. "Shannon, you are really great at compartminilizing your feelings. I understand that you have to do it because you are in school and have all these problems with your family. I know you do this to survive and to thrive but it's not good for you. It has to come out and I think it's a beautiful thing that all of that pain comes out in your most tender moments. The moments you are conversing with your Heavenly Father. The one time of the day you are being open and honest with your feelings and can finally let it out to the One who can help you the most. It's good to let it out, it's good to cry, and it's good to pray. The Lord hears you Shannon and McKenna does too."

I had never thought of it quite that way. I kept looking at praying as the problem when really it's the opposite. I am the problem here. Holding it all in and then not giving myself any opportunity to let it all out is insane. Praying doesn't mean you are always going to get instant relief. Death is heavy, it doesn't go away in a week, 6 months, 1 year, or decades. It lingers, its a constant reminder of what you lost and it hurts. Avoiding it, hiding it, burying it deep wont push the pain out of you. It just covers it up for a little while and keeps your emotions at bay. I have to keep a strong face all day and I forgot that when I first started this it was really difficult but with time it became easier and easier to control my feelings in public. The same will happen with my prayers and it's a much healthier way to deal with my problems then "compartmentalizing" them the way I always do.

I realize now that prayer is so hard for me because it is the moment when I feel closest to McKenna. It is the only telephone line I have that goes straight to Heaven. It is the only direct connection I know that someone on the other line is LITTERALY with her. He doesn't just hear me, He hears her, He sees her. He has the ability to hold her, kiss her, do all the things I can't do and IT HURTS! I imagine it must be what it feels like to once be healthy, then all of a sudden be involved in a terrible accident and become completely handicapped. 6 months ago I held her, kissed her, brushed her hair and teeth. I dressed her every morning and sung to her at night and now I have become paralyzed.

My arms can't seem to lift up and reach her. My legs can't squat to get down and hug her. The only movement I am capable of are my lips. I can choose to keep them sealed and eventually watch them loose their use or I can use them as my only way to keep her in my life. I can move them and pray to show her my faith, I can pucker them up and blow kisses to her in heaven, I can whisper into the universe letting her know she is always on my mind and I miss her everyday. From now on I will try to end my prayers with a little more hope in them so she knows that I truly believe in God's plan by saying "I love you Kenna Bear and we will be together again one day." I have continued to have my breakdowns but now I see them as therapeutic instead of torture. I see the power of prayer and what a difference it makes in my life and I am grateful that at least I know she is with me in spirit. This body has become useless to me when it comes to wanting to feel the comfort of my daughters little body, but this soul feels her love everyday and I will do whatever needs to be done to hold her in my arms once again.












Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Ugly Truth

There has been a lot going on behind the scenes since McKenna passed that I have chosen to leave out for personal reasons but after recent events I have changed my mind. I'm not one to normally talk about "family drama" on Facebook, blogs, or anywhere else on the internet. I think it's trashy and not a proper way to confront problems but I have been put in a very unique situation which makes me wonder... how many other people are going through something like this and not speaking up? I am a firm believer that we are never alone. There is always someone going through a trial similar to you and God made it that way so we can share our burdens but this one is just... ugly. It's ugly anyway you look at it and I have decided for the first time I am going to speak up about it.

As many people know McKenna passed in my mothers pool while I was studying for finals at home. What many don't know is that my mother and I have a very long and complicated history. Growing up she struggled with many addictions and unfortunately I was a witness and victim to many of her inner demons. For as long as I can remember I have tried to help my mom move in a positive direction. Show her patience, love, and acceptance. There have been many up's and downs in our relationship but a lot of growth too. In the last few years I began to see her finally pulling away from some of her problems and start to mature. There was still a lot of work to be done but big accomplishments were made and I was very happy with that. I love my mom very much but if anyone has ever been in a situation like this they understand how exhausting it can be to constantly feel responsible for your own parent. No matter how far they come along, in the end you are still having to help them instead of them help you and it can wear you down.

My sister cut off my mom almost 3 years ago, she could no longer handle all the problems. She said her peace to my mom and in return was cut off by the entire family. I have an extremely close bond with my sister. 1 because she is my big sister and endured many of those trials right next to me and 2 because she raised me. She mothered and loved me the way I should have been even though she didn't have that for herself. She looked out and protected me as a small child, teaching me right from wrong down to what TV shows I was allowed to watch and forcing me to do homework. I had very conflicting emotions when she walked away from the family. Part of me knew that she had every right to leave, we had both been through enough and she had her own family to take care of. She had done her service and proven her patience with not much to show for it. The other part of me felt uncomfortable with walking away from "family". You can't just walk away from family no matter how terrible they are right? You stick it through and try to better them. Isn't that why God gave us difficult family so we could learn from their mistakes and learn to work through problems together? I began to feel an even deeper responsibility to take care of my mom. I thought to myself "If you leave who will make sure mom doesn't go off the deep end? I mean look how far she's come!" Because of this and my unhealthy habit of always trying to avoid confrontation I chose to keep her in my life even though it hurt to watch the whole family decide that if my sister wouldn't talk to mom, none of them would speak to her, her son, or her husband. So with that she lost a mother and step father, a grandmother, an aunt and a uncle, her cousins,  and half of her heritage.

I never thought I would leave my mom. I had this strong belief that if I just continued to show her all the love I had I could help her fill the empty void in her life that drove her to do such selfish things. I became so accustomed to some of her behaviors that I never noticed how messed up the whole situation was until recently after McKenna's death. A lot of people (including my mom) are under the assumption that I stopped talking to her because McKenna drowned in her pool on her watch. That actually has NOTHING to do with it. When I showed up at the hospital and discovered what happened that day the first words out of my mouth were "I don't want to hear anyone bad mouth my mom. I don't know why this happened but gossiping and slamming her isn't going to bring McKenna back.". I never touched the topic again. I have zero resentment towards her when it comes to McKenna's death. The reason I had to walk away were for all the actions that transpired afterwards.

Emotions were high as everyone was grieving their own way. I was having a difficult time grieving because I was constantly worried that my mom was going to do something crazy. Everyday was a new drama and a new struggle. I would go to bed at night talking about her and how exhausted I was. I would never even bring up McKenna. All of my attention was on my mom. My husband even called her, without my knowledge, and asked her not to lean so heavily on me for support. He told her that she was more then welcomed to talk about her feelings to him. The first thing she did was call me and get upset that Zach told her that. Every time I would open up and start talking about McKenna to her, we would end up spending double the time talking about her and how deeply she was hurting. I remember one time her sentence started with "I know your hurting because of course she is your daughter, but I was there and had to witness everything so... blah blah blah" I didn't hear what she said after that, I just kind of zoned out the way I always do when she says selfish things like that and doesn't even notice how terribly painful it is for others to hear. Like I said before, I had become very accustomed to this lifestyle. Surprisingly, this also is not the reason I walked away from my mom. Although I was tired and stressed I knew with time we could all pull through this, I just had to hold on.

While all of this was going on the real world was checking on us as well. McKenna's hospital payments were coming up along with the terrifyingly expensive counseling. Although my mom and her husband had offered to pay for the hospital bills unfortunately that would not even begin to help with the expenses of having to put 3 people in counseling every week, plus gas, and all the other stresses that come along with death. So I did what no person on the face of the earth ever wants to do and decided I was going to approach my mom about filing a claim with her insurance since McKenna drowned under her supervision and in her pool. I tried to file it on my own insurance but since I was not there nor was it on my property, they refused and clearly stated that it was not going to happen. I knew this was going to be ugly. My family takes money very seriously and they do not ever grant you money unless they are 110% ok with it. I talked to so many people before I decided to approach her because I wasn't sure if what I was doing was right and this was definitely one thing I didn't want to screw up. I was not surprised when there were not many people who had been in my exact situation and even if they were, this is the part that no one ever talks about! This is the ugly truth that we all have to deal with but hate to say out loud because who wants to talk about money when there is a dead child involved!

Although many people had not lost someone due to a tragic event, many had people get hurt on their property, in their pool, car, house, etc and without the injured person even having to ask them they filed a claim all on their own with their insurance and that was that! It was no big deal! They just said "that's why I pay for insurance, so when something happens, I'm covered!" I was shocked by this. I didn't fully understand how insurance worked in this type of situation. For some reason I felt like maybe my mom would get in trouble due to filing a claim but it ended up that was not true either. I mean, of course the price would go up for a little while but that was it. I knew this would be a very sensitive topic so I fasted and prayed about what to say, to make sure I could see from her perspective, and to have an open mind.

The first time we went to talk about it the conversation went down hill so fast that we decided to stop, give everyone a week to calm down, try again when everyone had more time to think about what to say and make a decision. A week passed and everyday my husband and I rehearsed what we wanted to say. We wanted to make sure that we were honest but understanding. We fasted and prayed again and this time felt sure that the conversation would go in a better direction but we could not have been more wrong. So many terrible things were said by my own mother and step father that no matter how hard I try I cannot erase them from my memory. For some reason they were convinced that I was accusing them of murder and were acting like I wanted them to take money out of their own accounts and hand it to me. I was called everything from being greedy and "trying to make a buck off my dead daughter" to being called out for every bad thing I had ever done as a mother, not just to McKenna but to Dominic and Zoe as well. 

There are so many things I could have chosen to say, I thought about reminding my mom about the "lovely" environment she raised me in but I didn't want to go there at all. I didn't want any of this! I didn't want to fight over money! No matter how hard I tried to explain to her the difference between accusing her of murder and wanting her to take accountability for what happened it was not computing. I do not believe for a second that my mom murdered McKenna but the simple truth is that there were 2 adults there and my daughter drowned in a pool with both of them outside under their supervision. If it happened at my house I would most definitely take responsibly just like any mother would. I would blame myself and say "I should have watched her more closely!". I know without a doubt I would have taken accountably because even though I wasn't there I still take accountability for her death. I blame myself for letting the kids go over there so often by themselves. Yes, my mom had conquered her addictions and really just struggled with her own selfishness but STILL, you never know. I should have been smarter about how much they went over there. I should have learned from my own childhood to adulthood. I could have found other babysitters and not relied so frequently on her but I did it because it was convenient and the kids enjoyed going over there. No matter what anyone says, it doesn't matter that she had come so far along, my husband and I will always blame ourselves for not being more cautious and that's the ugly truth!

After that conversation we went to pick up McKenna's urn and I didn't know what to do about my mom. Everything I had heard was so painful. As I was sitting in the car crying to my husband about how terrible everything went I saw the urn in the reflection of the window and realized for the first time that I was holding my dead daughter in my lap! I didn't even notice because once again I was so caught up in my mom and her personal problems that I couldn't even mourn the death of my own child! I knew that day things had to change. At that moment I didn't know I was going to make the decision to walk away but I knew without a doubt I was going to have to put my foot down and stand up for myself. That same day and the following day the drama continued between my mother and I, and FINALLY I had enough. FINALLY things had gone too far and FINALLY I decided to do something I had not done in a very long time. I was going to take care of myself and my family first. So I told my mom that I hoped it wouldn't be this way forever but for now I could no longer handle all of her problems.

The following week Zach and I went back and forth about filing the claim ourselves with the insurance through an attorney. This made me sick. I finally told Zach "I can't do this, its too personal. One moment I think we should file the claim and the next moment I am freaking out that the family is going to cut me off if I do it! I can't decide! You have to do it. Whatever you decide I will accept just don't make me do this. I don't want to fight anymore, I am going to die of a heart attack from all this stress!" So Zach stopped talking about it. He let me start to mourn my daughters death as he took on the burden of deciding what to do about the claim. He fasted again, prayed some more, and finally we both went to the temple together to get some clarity. After the temple Zach looked at me and said "We're not going to file the claim". Relief swept over me and I was so happy that we could finally stop worrying about all of these problems. I never brought it up again nor thought about it until a month later.

We were talking to Dominic in the kitchen and Zach was telling him some more bad news we had found out. As I was watching Dominic listen to his dad tell him what was going on I observed my 6 year old sons face and was surprised by his reaction. He was talking like an adult, nodding his head and saying he understood and it was ok but his eyes could not hide the truth. He was badly hurt, they were filled with water and I knew his little heart was broken. I felt horrible as I watched him suffer. I said to him "Dominic you don't have to be a big boy, it's ok to cry. It's ok to be sad. It's even ok to be mad. If you want to be mad and don't know what to be mad at then be mad at me! I don't care baby, I love you and I don't want you to hold it in. I know it's not ok. I know your hurt. Tell me what's wrong." But he wouldn't budge, he was like a little mirror image of myself trying to tough it out and say it was ok for the sake of everyone else. He didn't want to make me sad. He didn't want to hurt me because he knew everyone else had been doing plenty of that. Even though none of this had anything to do with him, it was taking a toll on my little man.

In that moment I knew I had failed him as a parent. It was my job to protect him and get him the help he needed. Because I was too afraid to stand up to my own family and file the insurance claim, I had skipped out on my own sons counseling. In fact, Zach and I desperately needed it too. I had put my fears and other people's problems before my own child and I knew that the claim had to be filed! My son desperately needed someone to talk too. Someone he didn't have to worry about hurting. Someone he could open up to and know that he didn't have to handle this on his own. Someone he could tell his ugly truth too. I turned to my husband and said "He needs to go to counseling starting next week, we are not putting this off any longer!" "ok" my husband responded and immediately got on the phone and called the counselors office. That night when all the kids were in bed we finally brought up the evil word again. Money. My husband asked "how are we going to afford this? Do you just want to charge it on a credit card or...?" "No", I sharply interrupted him, "we are going to file the claim." My husband was shocked, he knew how against it I had been. "What about the praying I had done for it?" he replied. That was a good point, I didn't want to go against any revelation my husband had received so I pulled the brakes and told him "since I didn't pray with you before, lets both pray about it for a week and see what happens".

Well it ended up a week was not necessary. That night I prayed sincerely to my Heavenly Father about the claim. I told him my ugly truth that I had been holding in. My fears of being seen as a money hungry mom trying to make a buck off of her baby, fears about the family abandoning me like they did my sister, fears that maybe I wasn't doing the right thing and I was letting the ways of the world persuade me more then the Holy Ghost. A clear answer came to me immediately after the prayer, the Lord had told Zach "no" because He needed me to handle my problems. He needed me to get my strength and find my courage to stand up for MY FAMILY and do what needed to be done. There was nothing wrong with filing a claim. It hurt no one except their pride of having to accept responsibility for McKenna's passing. It wasn't going to repo their cars, sale their boat, or even move them out of their beautiful house off the water and away from their pool. It was literally going to harm them in no way except for the first time force my mother and her husband to take responsibility for themselves and admit that it happened. I now realized that this had nothing to do with me or my family but once again the ugly truth was all about them! It was about how it made them feel and they didn't like it. They weren't concerned about our problems or the desperate help we needed. They only cared about themselves and their ego. I had protected, babied, and enabled my mother for too long! She was incapable of accepting responsibility for any of her mistakes. Not just with the past but even with the way she had treated my family and I up until this point. The answer was so clear! I couldn't believe that I had allowed myself to get so stressed and drag it out this long. I needed to take care of my family and it was as simple as that.

About 3 months have passed since this all started. I wish I could say we reconciled, that the rest of the family didn't cut me off and everyone came to a mutual understanding that our family was suffering and we just needed support but that's not the ugly truth. The ugly truth is they did cut me off. They even had a giant event held by a local children's hospital that honored McKenna and raised $4000 in charity. They also took SEVERAL sections of the hospital and named them "McKenna's Corner". It would have books in a corner of different parts of the hospital for kids to read because McKenna loved to read. Everyone was formally dressed. There was a picture of her displayed on a giant screen in a little karate uniform and my entire family was there except for McKenna's father, mother, brother and sister. I knew nothing about it!!! Her own mother was completely oblivious that there was an entire tribute honoring her child! None of her immediate family was notified or invited, we didn't get to see our beautiful baby girl honored by dozens of people. Instead I found out through Facebook because the family didn't call or tell me directly that we were cut off. They stayed silent, they said nothing, and they kept me as their friend on Facebook so I didn't know where we stood. Naively I thought that the family hadn't cut me off and despite the problems mom and I were having maybe they were being quiet because they were waiting for the storm to calm down before paying our family a visit.

I don't know if there is a word to describe the amount of pain I felt to be friends with my aunt on Facebook, unsure of where we stood, but hoping we were ok, just to have tons of pictures released about a banquet in honor of my child. The whole family together, dressed in beautiful dresses and suits, saying sweet things about my child, and I wasn't even invited OR NOTIFIED OR ASKED IF I WAS OK WITH IT.  It was horrible, I felt so stupid for hoping that our family was important enough to them that they would love us AT LEAST enough to invite us to see our dead daughter become a part of a children's hospital and honored by hundreds of people! Not only had they shown me how insignificant we were but they rubbed it in my face by staying friends with me and posted on Facebook all the wonderful things they had done on her behalf.

I instantly began to shake and thought I was going to vomit from such betrayal. I had a meltdown in a room full of people because unfortunately I was at a leadership conference for school and had peeked at my Facebook at a very bad time. After informing my husband, I decided to man up and send my grandmother one last message saying my peace regarding this horrible situation. I chose my grandmother because I have always been closest to her... or so I thought. I knew if I sent it to her the rest of the family would get the message and besides I have never really been close to my aunt. She was never actively involved in my life or McKenna's for that matter but yet here she was posting on facebook how well she knew McKenna! I never got a response from my grandmother or anyone else. Maybe she blocked me long ago and never got it or maybe I did exactly what they wanted me to do and they were happy I was upset. Maybe admitting that it hurt was the goal, considering I can't think of any other reason you wouldn't invite someone's parents to theirs own childs tribute/dedication.

It took me a long time to calm down about it and to be honest I am still really upset. Telling my son who has already been hurting so much that the family decided to throw a big party for McKenna and none of us were invited was a nightmare. I had no intentions of telling him, at least not at this point in his life but as usual he started asking questions that he normally wouldn't ask. "Why haven't we heard from anyone on that side of the family? Were we not talking to them too? Why were we not talking to them? What did they do that hurt mommy? What did they do? What did they do? WHAT DID THEY DO?" My husband finally gave in and told him as straight forward as he could "They had a party for McKenna" and before he could even finish his sentence Dominic interrupted with the obvious question "Why didn't I get to go???" My husband then spent the rest of the time explaining to him that none of us were invited and it was wrong. It had nothing to do with him nor was it his fault. Sometimes people choose to do things to hurt others and they don't always think or care about how that effects an entire family. He explained to him they were mad at mommy and daddy. Due to their anger and selfishness they didn't invite anyone and no one got to celebrate at the party except themselves. He finally wrapped it up with "this is the reason we will not be talking to them for a very long time. Not until they learn to be nice to mommy and the rest of this family."

As I listened to this spiel I reflected on my life in the last 6 months and thought how crazy everything had become. How did I get here? Has it really been only 6 months since Kenna's death? Why do I feel like a solider who has been in battle for years? Why do I feel like I have been shot a 1000 times by not only my own shock and grief of dealing with my daughter but my own family shooting bullets right into my face and heart? Why did all of this have to happen? Why did I have to watch my husband and son be put through so much suffering by my own blood? Why did there have to be so much cruelty? Why do they get to show boat their "love" for McKenna by having parts of a hospital dedicated to her while her own mother and father had nothing to show for it? We didn't have a grand party or money raised to honor our daughter. We don't have that kind of power or money so how could we ever contribute to her life in such a big and fabulous way?

While I laid in bed that night thinking about our situation and what could I do for Dominic to let him see we could do our own "big party" for her, I realized something very important. My Kenna Bear would not have had anything to do with a party like that. Yes she liked reading books but she was so much more then that. She was a lover. She showed her love everyday with her hugs and kisses, her compassion and joy. My daughter showed her love through kindness and service. She would make you an imaginary drink and food. She would brush your hair and put a bow in it. She would help wipe down the table and kiss your boo boo's. She was brave and protected her family when she thought they were hurt or in danger. If she was still here she wouldn't have wanted to sit at a formal party and watch people clapping, she could never sit still or be quiet. She would have wanted to see everyone helping each other, loving each other, hugging each other. She would want to see people getting involved and off their butts to play with one another and do something. She would want us to go outside and plant a garden, get dirty in the mud, and yes, even swim in a pool.

So instead of throwing a party and only inviting the people I deem worthy I will capture the true spirit of my daughter and I will honor her more then just a couple of hours out of my day and a few bucks out my pocket. Instead I will dedicate the rest of my life loving and serving others. I will spend my time here on this earth honoring her by reaching out to others with a smile and a hug. I will go outside and look for those who need help. I will show compassion and courage. I will do this with my husband, son, daughter, and baby to be by my side and McKenna leading the way. This is what she would have wanted because this is who she was and I am sure still is. My daughter loved like no other and I am so grateful for that because it is the greatest gift she ever could have left me. What is better then learning the key to true love? After everything that has happened I could have grown a cold heart by now but instead my heart runs over with love and I will no longer waste my love on people who take advantage of it and abuse it for their own purposes... whether they are family or not.

Although my heart is filled with even more turmoil then it ever was before, I do have peace knowing that I got to say my last words to my family with love and dignity. I hope that if any of you are even slightly in the same boat as me, you will hear my sweet little McKenna whispering to you the true secrets of love. Find the courage to stand up for yourself and your family no matter the consequences because "well they're family" is not good enough! Family is more then just blood and putting up with unacceptable cruelty.

The ugly truth is that there doesn't always have to be an ugly truth! Family is LOVE, unconditional love and support. They make you feel safe because they are honest and true. They are the people who pick you up when you're down and love you so much they melt away your burdens. They put you in a good mood and are a great shoulder to cry on. They are there with arms open whether you made the best decision or not. They see you for all your strengths and don't constantly judge you for your mistakes and weaknesses. They teach you what it really means to have a family, why it's so important, and why you have to take care of it everyday, not just on your terms. Family is that friend who has always had your back, the spouse who always stood by your side, and the child/children that keep pulling you forward showing you all the beauty that life has left to give, no matter how dark the circumstance. Family is pure love, family is peace, family is what YOU make it and this is what my family will now forever be.

This is the last family photo we ever took.
I believe my daughter has a lot more to offer then a corner of this universe.  
I believe in McKenna Bundy. 
I believe in "all you need is love" and that's exactly what this family is going to do. 
Watch out world here comes some "Bundy lovin'" 
aka: Bundles of Love

❤ We love you baby girl and we will try to prove that to you ever single day ❤

Friday, September 19, 2014

Changes

The last few weeks have been filled with changes. The first one was wrecking our car which forced us to get a new one. I didn't think it was going to be an emotional deal for me. I thought I would be more focused on the stress it was going to cause of having to pay for a new car when we JUST FINISHED paying off our old one. I kept feeling a little pull on my heart while we were car shopping but I couldn't figure out why so I just brushed it off. We picked out our new car (which was a huge upgrade for us.) It was really nice, big, and fancy! I was excited to have my first "grown up" car because we always buy fixer-uppers.  All was fine until we went back to the mechanic shop were the insurance company was going to pick up our old car. They asked us to clean it out before they came. As I walked up to the car the origin of my previous heart tugs became clear, this was the last car I would ever share with McKenna. This is the car where I created SO MANY great memories with her. Some of my best memories of her are in this car. We sang songs, laughed, played games, talked about our day, and so much more. All of these great moments happened in this car and we were getting rid of it!

I felt shattered, I didn't want to get rid of our old car, I wanted to get rid of our new car. I wanted nothing to do with that new big fancy beast. I wanted my old, horribly stained seats small car with the check engine light that never turned off where McKenna and I could keep our memories. My husband walked to the building to get the keys while I stood outside staring at the car. I literally felt like I was at a funeral saying my goodbyes. I never thought it would be so difficult or even upset me the way it was but I was seriously depressed. I didn't want to let go of the memories, I didn't want anymore change, so much had already changed since her death. I know you have to keep moving forward but it felt like life kept telling me even that was not good enough! It wanted to strip me of our past with her by taking away all that I had left... the material things that reminded me of her. It wanted to drop bombs on my life and not only force me to move on but to make everything change so I would no longer fill a connection with her. At this rate it seemed like it would soon start to feel like an old life, someone else's life, someone who had a very sad story about losing a little girl but eventually they got over it because nothing was the same.

NO, I WONT LET THIS HAPPEN TO US. CHANGE WILL NOT TEAR THIS FAMILY APART! I opened the car and just let myself have it out. I cried, I laid my head where her little car seat use to be. I got in the front and looked through the rear view mirror, I had it slightly tilted so I could see her and out the back window like I always did when we were driving. I imagined seeing her and listinening to her sing those sweet tunes and all the joy they brought me. I remembered the road trips, the drives to and from school, the tantrums, the messes, the chaos and the love. So much had happened in this car, so many memories captured, I never realized how much happiness it brought me, how can I let this car go? I started to take some pictures but it just wasn't doing justice, I wanted to remember every inch of that car that reminded me of her so I decided to record it. I kept it brief because honestly I felt like a weirdo crying in the car and filming empty seats but I just didn't want the moment to end. I didn't want to say my "goodbyes" I just wanted to cherish the car forever and never let it go. As I ended the video my husband started walking toward me. It was in this moment I realized one last detail, in this car was the last time I saw McKenna.

My moments with her on that last day are crystal clear because for some reason I did things out of my normal routine. I slowed down, I took my time with her. I played and even chose to run late to school. We got in the car and sang our songs. We yelled at school buses to stop and let us in (she had a strange obsession with school buses, I think because she saw Dominic get in one every morning. She loved them and always wanted to get on one so I would drive behind them and pretend that I was trying to get them to stop and let us on the bus. She always thought that was funny and would yell with me "Stop skool bus! Stop!" and then when it would eventually turn she would squinch her little face and say "Aww man!" I was actually considering doing some kind of birthday party where I could rent a bus and drive her in it as ridiculous as that sounds! She just loved them so much!) Anyway, we parked in front of the daycare. She was still wearing a Spiderman hat. I was going to tell her to leave it since it was Dominic's but she had already taken it off. She had a little white rabbit that was Zoe's that she took on the car ride every day. She would kiss it goodbye, give it a hug and tell him that she would see him later after school. I picked her up and put her little hood over her head (she always liked it on) then I shut the door and smothered her in kisses as we walked towards the school.

Zach saw this was difficult for me and let me stay with the car as long as I needed. He was already sitting in our new car waiting when I finally got in and tried to pretend that this wasn't eating me alive. He then whispered "We can buy the car back from the insurance company if you want, I don't mind." Then came the tears for a round 2, I sobbed and told him I knew that was ridiculous and we didn't have the money. I was just sad and it felt as horrible as walking away from her in the hospital after she passed. I didn't understand the pain myself but all I knew was my baby girl was alive and we shared real memories everyday in that car. He rubbed my back, I took one last look at the car and finally told him we could leave. We drove away and I knew that I would never see that car again and as hard as I try to fight it, life will always force me to move on.

Another form of change we had was finding out I am pregnant! This was a surprise for my husband and I since we were not planning on having a child for a while (Yes, I know this sounds a lot like Zoe's story) but the difference this time is neither one of us panicked. After seeing all the joy that Zoe has brought us and how she spared us from even more pain after loosing McKenna, I know the Lord has very clear plans for all of my children and His timing is always perfect. I wish I better understood his timing and plans especially in regards to McKenna but I don't think I will get any of those answers in this life. Of course it was still emotional to find out I was pregnant. It's a very "bitter-sweet" situation. It's bitter because physically in this moment I will be having 3 kids... again! I already had 3 kids, this one should be my fourth (on this earth). McKenna should be having another sibling to love and cherish. I should have a nice little "stair-step" of children all lining up back to back only a few years apart. Instead I have a 6 year old A GIANT GAP and then a one year old. I hate that people who don't know me will look at our family soon and think "Oh they have 3 kids". No we do not! We have 4! I have the stretch marks to prove it! My body gave birth to 4 so why can't I have all 4 with me now!!! It hurts to imagine going through labor, having our child, and then introducing our new little baby to only 2 siblings and not 3. Its a pain that goes deeper then the word "pain". It's an emptiness that starts in the core of my heart and then hollows out through the rest of my body.

I expressed this bitterness to my husband and how unbearable it felt to know that once again life was forcing us to change and even though I was actually happy to have another baby, my heart couldn't handle the idea of McKenna not being apart of this. She had only been gone a few months and yet everything was drastically changing. After talking a while I began to realize the "sweet" in this situation. Yes, McKenna had been gone only a few months which means she was already in Heaven and she got to meet her little brother or sister before the rest of us did. She got to tell them all about this family first hand, what to expect, what we were like, how to trick her brother or make Zoe stop crying. She got to hug and kiss them. Tell them how she would miss them while they were gone but that she looked forward to when we would all return to her again. She was probably the last face they saw before they were sent to this earth and into me. She reassured them how wonderful this life is even with it's trials. She shared her tiny knowledge of her 2 1/2 years of experience and told them how much their mommy and daddy were going to love them. She got to tell them better advice then I ever could. She spent time with them and knows their true personality better then we do since she saw them in their glorious form. She will always have a connection with them just like she would have in this life and for that I am forever grateful.

Our last big change was last night. We all participated in our first "family group therapy". I was very unsure of what to expect, especially because we would all be split. Zach would be with the fathers, me with a bunch of moms, and Dominic with kids his own age. I felt scared to leave my family's side. As we entered the building I was expecting maybe a small room of about 20 people but instead there were more then 60! This broke my heart. Why did there have to be so many people who had lost so much? Why did there have to be so many mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who had lost something special to them. Why were we the "chosen ones" and why did there have to be so many of us? Isn't life hard enough by itself?

Zach and I looked like the youngest parents in the groups and when we split into our classes McKenna was by far the youngest who had passed. Most of my group had lost teenagers in the saddest of ways. I thought I would immediately feel related to these women since we all had the obvious in common but instead my first feelings toward them were envy. I envied that they were granted with so many more years then me. That they had gotten the opportunity to celebrate more then 2 birthdays, Christmas's, Thanksgiving's, Easter's, and New Years. I was jealous that they probably had tons of pictures, videos, and trinkets to remember their loved ones along with tons of family vacations while I was left with the same handful of videos I have watched a 1000 times and have every single picture and trip memorized. I felt like I could not relate to these women, even though we had lost the same prize, how could they understand what it's like too lose something you only had for 2 short years? I had been robbed of my time!

The room was silent as no one was sure of what to say. The counselors started asking questions and bringing up topics to get us going but we were all lost for words. What exactly are we suppose to do? Just have a melt down in front of each other? I could not have been more guarded, my whole body was tense as I sat with my arms crossed and looked straight into nothingness. I am not good at expressing myself verbally, there is a reason I have a blog to share my emotions, I had no idea what to say. Finally one mom spoke up and soon the others did too before the end of the hour everyone had shared a story, shed a tear, admitted their fears, pain, and overall "exhaustedness". I felt so much compassion on these women and what they had lost. Their situations are equally as bad as mine, if not worse in some ways because they have more memories to be thrown in their faces. More pictures to stab their hearts, more holiday traditions that had been in the making for over a decade and now were obviously not going to be the same.

I was the "oldest" of the group and by that I mean McKenna was the first to pass away. Most of them lost their babies in the summer while I had lost her in the spring. Seeing their pain made me realize that I have come further then I thought. Although up until that moment I felt like my progression was no progression at all, I realized that I was a few steps ahead of them. Not because I was doing anything differently, just that I had more time. Listening, watching, and understanding all of their suffering made me feel like the big sister of the group even though I was the youngest. I could see into their very near future and although I didn't say it I knew that with time it would get a little bit better for them. I know my journey is still at the beginning but it is a small comfort to know that maybe all this moving forward and change is not going to be the death of me. Instead it will give me a new perspective on this life and with time maybe I will find the answer to why we are the "chosen ones" in this situation.

That night I went home feeling a mixture of emotions, one part of me relieved to let some things out but the other part of me was a mom who had just lost her daughter all over again. I keep trying to stich this wound up but it always comes ripping open and every time it does it hurts just as bad as it did the first time. Talking openly with others about the loss of McKenna was tough but it was even harder to talk about who she was, what she liked, and how she made a difference in our family. Sometimes I get so caught up in how hard it is without her I forget how amazing it was with her here. She was a beautiful 2 1/2 year old girl inside and out. She was the glue that held this family together. She was soft and gooey with all of her cuddling but she was tough and strong when she wanted to be. She was an angel who kept me righteous everyday. She reminded me in the car every morning to say a "prayar" before we left the driveway. She sang church songs and loved to go to her Sunday school class. She was a leader and a lover. A daddies girl but also knew she had my heart. She loved fiercely and made sure you always heard her say goodbye before you walked out the door. She was my firstborn daughter, my Kenna Bear, my sassy princess and now she will forever be my guardian angel. It's hard to face all these changes without her but I know even though I can't see her she is standing right beside me whispering "Don't worry mommy, I haven't missed a thing".

This is the video of our car I made the day we sold it to the insurance company, more importantly though is the last video. These are the memories I shared with McKenna everyday in that little car, and this is the reason it was so hard to let it go. Oh how I miss that little beautiful voice so much.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Birthday Letters

Every year on my kids birthdays I write them a letter. I am not one of those moms who throws amazing/elaborate birthday parties or scrapbooks their whole entire life. I'm honestly not even very good at remembering to take pictures! Don't get me wrong, I think that those qualities are awesome and impressive but I am just not naturally that kind of person. I am more low key and so is my husband so one thing I enjoy doing is writing (like many of you already know, hence the blog) so this is my little tribute to them. I write them a letter on their birthday and I try to mention a few key things like what they have accomplished that year, how their relationship is with mommy, daddy, siblings, ect. and how I feel being their parent. I also like to talk about the role the Savior has played in their life thus far. I think it's important for them to see even at young age how their Heavenly Father has always looked out for them and is always by their side.

Since Zoe's birthday just passed I thought I would share her letter with everyone and also include the letters I wrote for Dominic and McKenna this past year. Keep in mind that Dominic and McKenna's were both written before McKenna passed away and Zoe's is after.
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HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY ZOE!!!

I can’t believe you are already 1!!! I feel like you have been so small for so long and then a month before your birthday you just started looking/acting like a 1 year old. You showed no signs of walking and honestly not that much talking but then BAM!!! All of sudden you decided to be one and now you are walking everywhere, saying “bye, bye” with a little wave, “DaDa” and even “MaMa”. Sometimes I swear I hear you say “All done” when you’re eating and one time out of the blue you said “HI” to me in the car. It’s adorable but please feel free to slow down at any time, I wouldn't mind at all.

Well so far you are my “chilliest” baby. Your low maintenance and never really demand attention on yourself. I think in many ways you understand that you are the 3rd child and that mommy has her hands full. You just play quietly by yourself, usually you are trying to eat whatever is closest to you. Everything goes in your mouth. (Yes, you are a little tubby baby and I love it!) You have BLUEST eyes out of all of us. McKenna has hazel eyes like me but yours are just pure blue, they are so beautiful. I’m not sure who you got those from since daddy’s eyes are brown but they are gorgeous on you.

You are the first baby to actually look like me. Dominic kind of looks like me, McKenna is a clone of daddy, and you are my little twinsie. You have a little round face and big round eyes. I was a tubby baby too. Third times the charm I guess. You actually remind me a lot of Dominic when he was a baby, you have a lot of the same qualities, your both not so much into the cuddling as you are talking or being talked too (Kenna was the cuddler). You love when people talk to you, you don’t have to be held, you just have to be talked too. Anyone talking in your direction puts a big smile on your face.

Your easy going and easy to make laugh. You love to be tickled, explore inside drawers, and crawl into the dishwasher. You especially love to play with Duke (our new Husky we got a few months ago). He wasn’t very fond of you at first (because your version of “petting” = smacking him in the face) but luckily he is patient and is coming around to you. It helps that you are always willing to give him your food, he likes that a lot. Every morning when I get you up he runs in their and lays next to you while I change your diaper and then scoots closer and closer to you till he is almost sitting on top of you and you think it is sooooo funny.

Dominic and you have a great relationship. If I tell him to go play with you that means for the next 30 minutes he is going to make silly faces, loud noises, and have you chase things around the house. You both love bath time. We have a giant tub in our bedroom and you guys will play in there forever. Dominic is ALWAYS trying to scare you. You have grown so accustomed to him running around corners and yelling that it does not phase you at all anymore and it DRIVES HIM CRAZY! No matter how many times I tell him it’s not nice to scare you, he still tries but luckily you are clever and don’t fall for his tricks anymore. You walked to him for the first time 2 weeks ago, I got it on video, it melted his heart and I have never seen him more proud of his little sister.

You and McKenna got along really great. She loved you very much and still loves you. She loved to hold you, she was very protective of you and always wanted it to be her turn to hold you. She like to feed you the bottle even though she would get distracted while doing it and end up just rubbing milk all over your face. She would try to put you in her little baby stroller, brush your hair and teeth. She would lay on the ground next to you and play. She liked a lot of your toys (because they are dolls and she loves dolls), she would claim them as her own and try to pass you off with a big kid toy that you had no interest in (Although you didn't care at all because you were just a tiny baby and could care less about toys). She would sing songs to you when you were sad, she would try to get inside of the swing with you and sometimes she would try to get in it when you weren't in there. She LOVED your walker. Since you weren't big enough for it yet she would get in there ALL THE TIME and run around the house. She was so petite that she could get away with it. I figured if you watched your big sister do it maybe you would want to do it too.

You guys would have been best friends. You are a little over a year apart. You always point at her picture and say “Who’s dat” that is your favorite game. We play this every day. You love to point at things but especially pictures and hear me say the names of our family members. You are always trying to eat the “Kenna Bear” teddy bear we had made for her. Even though it is high up on a shelf you always want me to pick you up and you point at it over and over again and yell at me till I hand it to you. Sometimes I think it is your way of giving her kisses. You’re so young but maybe you miss her too. I hope you know she will always be your big sister, she will always be there for you, and she already has. A week ago we got in a car accident and I know without a doubt that your sister was there protecting you from any harm. She loves her little Zoe and she misses you very much. I know you will have no memories of her as you grow but I wanted you to know that you both had a very special bond and one day when we are all together in heaven you will remember it and you will feel your sister’s love for you once again.

Daddy and I are so proud of you. You are such an amazingly happy child. You hardly ever cry, you go to bed easily, you trust people. You just reach out your arms to anyone who is close by and let them hold you. You are a joyful spirit and help everyone to feel loved. You bring happiness into others’ lives with your smile and laughter. I know that the Lord has given you this bright personality for a reason. I am so blessed to have such happy children, I know that all of you will be great examples for others as you grow. This world can be so negative and depressing sometimes but your energy will give hope to others. They will feel your sweet spirit and they will see that not everything is sad, that there is much happiness in the world and through you others will be reminded of what true joy feels like.

Our Heavenly Father loves you so much. He and McKenna will be watching you closely as you continue to grow. He will always be with you to help you in your journey through this life. He will always be close by and ready to catch you anytime you may fall. I have watched you and one thing I have noticed is that you are a “people watcher” you like to observe the actions of others. This is a great quality because it means that you are able to see others instead of always focusing on yourself. It tells me that you will be someone who looks to serve others when you see they are struggling. I hope that daddy and I are able to set a good example for you but remember that even if we mess up, you have a Father in Heaven who is perfect. He will never let you down, He will never lead you astray, He will always be there to help and even though you cannot see Him you will be able to find His light inside of others. Look for that light while you are watching others and know that everyone has a light inside of them no matter how imperfect they are, help them, love them, and be there for them just like the Lord is always there for you.

I love you very much Zo Zo, you are an amazing, beautiful, courageous daughter and you bring me happiness every single day. My life would not be the same without you in it. My days would not be so bright, my heart wouldn’t have as much joy. You are an example to me even at the young age of one. You keep me young and hopeful. I adore you angel and I love you more then anyone ever will.


Love always,
Mom  





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HAPPY 6TH BIRTHDAY DOMINIC!!!

HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU ARE SIX!!! STOP GROWING UP STOP GROWING UP STOP STOP STOP!!! I cannot believe you are so old! You are already in kindergarten! You know how to do so much! What happened to the cute little chubby baby boy I once had who needed me for everything? Who is this giant man who can take care of himself and looks all grown up! I don’t like it one bit, just shrink back down and let me keep you forever.

Well I am going to brag about you and tell you how smart you are. You LOVE school, you look forward to going every day, you lecture me on doing your homework every day, anything that you can read you will read. Whether it’s a billboard outside, my notes from school, or a random book you found you are going to read it and force me to read it with you. We took you to the llibrary and let you pick out a couple of books you liked and we have been working on those. I am so impressed with your desire to learn. You are always playing math games. Constantly asking me “what’s ___ + _____ equal mom?” Luckily you are still little and ask me questions I actually know the answers too because honestly I am terrible at math and I’m sure you will discover that quickly once you get to multiplication. I love that you love to learn, I don’t care if you are the smartest kid in the classroom or not, I think a desire to want to learn things is even better than already knowing everything. It means that you never want to stop growing, you see the beauty in all the world and want to understand it more. That is a great quality.

You are an amazing first born child, you are such a great example to your little sisters. Every day after school I have a set of chores for you to do: unload the dishwasher, wipe down all the tables, and pick up your room. You do it every day with no problems. I am not even there to remind you to do it (your Aunt Bia watches you till I get home from school) and she says that you just do it and you never fight with her about it. How awesome is that!!! You know how to do everything by yourself. You tie your own shoes, make your own bed, help get McKenna ready in the mornings, and your even learning how to change Zoe’s diapers now! I am so BLESSED to have a great helper like you around, what would I do without you?

I am so proud of you and how mature you are. Sometimes I feel like I am talking to a 10 year old and not a 6 year old. You just have such a great understanding for everything. Not just school and chores but real life problems and spiritual things. You have a great understanding of the Gospel. You read your scriptures every night and remind dad and I to read them with you. You say the sweetest prayers and always pray that “everyone will have fun” in whatever they are doing. When we read the scriptures you don’t just sit there and zone out, you interrupt us and make sure that we answer all of your questions till you understand. I love that! It helps me to make sure I know what I am talking about and have a better understanding for myself. You willingly wear ties to church and have asked me several times to buy you some more, you like to dress up and look like dad on Sunday’s as much as possible. You make him so proud.

Like I said before you are a great big brother. McKenna and Zoe adore you. You and McKenna are especially close. Every day you both go and play outside together on the trampoline, run around in the backyard, play in the water hose. You have so much fun together and I love to watch you both play. You are always keeping a close eye on both your sisters and making sure they are safe. I know they look up to you and will always see you as a great example. You have a wonderful love for them and are always so patient. You try to teach McKenna how to play board games with you (even though she has no understanding of it and ends up making a giant mess in the end), you are willing to watch the shows they like on TV even if you have watched the same movie a 1000 times, and you clean up there messes over and over again. You are really great about including McKenna in whatever you do. Both of our neighbors are close to your age and always want you to go over to their house to play but you tell them that they have to stay over at our house so that McKenna can play with everyone too. I know that she loves to play with all of you and it makes her little heart so happy to be with her big brother.

You are my big helper, especially with Zoe. You help me feed her bottles, sing her songs, and get her dressed. You double check the diaper bag and make sure she has everything she needs in it. You and McKenna both go into full panic if she starts crying. You both yell at me to help her until she calms down. I think it’s very sweet you both don’t like to see your little baby sister get upset, not even for a second. You love to help dad cook, vacuum, and try to be a little handy dandy man too. You love to work with tools and try to figure out how to fix things. Your mind is always tinkering away.

You use to be such a momma’s boy but lately you have become daddy’s shadow. You love to play fight (ALL THE TIME), play video games together, watch batman, read comic books, race, swim, camping, hiking, and the list goes on and on. You and dad are a lot alike, you both love sarcasm and both like to have the last word. I laugh so hard when dad gets frustrated with you because I know it’s driving him crazy that he is arguing with a tiny version of himself. I mean, you will always be a momma’s boy (that’s not an option) but I guess I will have to learn to share you with daddy too.

In a few months you will be legally adopted and OFFICIALLY a Bundy boy. The whole family is SO EXCITED! You can’t wait! In fact you are not waiting, you have already told everyone your name is Bundy, you sign all of your homework as Bundy and correct anyone who calls you Potter. We have been waiting for this day a very long time and we can’t wait to finally all be sealed in the Temple together. I know it will be a very VERY special day for all of us. I know how happy your sisters will be to know that we will be a family for all eternity. I can’t wait to see my whole little family in the temple all together. I know I will be in tears of gratitude the whole day, I have never wanted anything more in my life then this. I really can’t imagine ever asking for anything ever again. The Lord has truly blessed me.

Dominic, you are my right hand man, whenever I need you, you are always there. You are so strong, I have never seen a 6 year old with your strength physically and mentally. You are my first born, my only boy, my heart and soul. I would be incomplete without you or any of your siblings. I love being a mom and you were the first one to call me that, I have learned so much from you and honestly you have made my job very easy. You are the leader of your siblings, they will all turn to you and look to you for advice about life, love, truth, the gospel, relationships, family, and everything else under the sun. It gives me great peace to know that you are the one they will look up to because when I look at you I see a great leader, I see a boy who will one day become an amazing man. You are smart, strong, and compassionate. All the trials you have seen at such a young age will make you a great friend to others, you will always be able to relate to people, no matter where they come from and you will always be able to lead them in the right direction. I have no fears of you leading your siblings, I have 100% confidence that you will always try your best to help them no matter what. You have always been this way, I never had to teach you that.

I am so proud of you son, my love for you can send me to tears in a second. There is no love greater then a mother’s love and there is no better feeling as a mother then to feel her children’s love in return. You have always shown me such great love, you have always been so kind and sweet, you have always been a great example to me. I learn so much from all of my children, I would not be who I am today if it wasn't for all of you.  My heart is full every day because of you 3. You all make me so happy, I never knew true happiness till I became a mother. Daddy and I adore you, we look forward to watching you grow (all though I know dad is not looking forward to you being taller than him at the age of 12 because it looks like you will be at the rate you are growing). We love to see you learning and developing new skills, we love to see your interest and your creativity. We will always support you no matter what you do. We are here for you no matter what you do. We will always love you no matter what happens in this life.

Thank you for always being so amazing, for your silly jokes, and your happy personality. Thank you for always helping me and taking on so much responsibility at such a young age. Thank you for being a good example to your sisters and to us. Thank you for your willingness to learn and try harder. Thank you for the joy that you bring this family. We are all so blessed to have you in our lives. I know our Savior feels the same way. I know He sent you to this family specifically so that we could witness all the amazing things you will do in your life. I know He is proud of you and loves you more than this whole family does combined. I know He would move mountains, part the Red Seas, and walk on water for you if He needed too.

I know that the faith you have in Him will help you in your future, you will perform miracles in other people’s lives and in your own families someday because of it. You will be a great leader too many, not just your sisters and your family, wherever you go, people will follow. They will listen to you, they will want your advice and your wisdom. Always turn to the Lord during those times, He will help you and them better than anyone else ever could. He will always be there when you need Him, in your darkest hour, in your loneliest moment He will be the whisper in your ear and the beating in your heart. He will be your leader when you forget how to lead, He is the only person you will always need to follow. Let him lead you, guide you, and protect you like you will do for so many.

I am so proud of you handsome, you are so strong. Happy 6th birthday!

Love Always,
Mom   



(I guess some things never change)


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HAPPY 2ND BIRTHDAY KENNA BEAR!!!

OHHHH why are you 2 already??? Can’t you just stay 1 and tiny forever??? You are too stinking cute and I don’t want to see you grow. I wish all my babies could stay small forever. Well I guess not because then I wouldn't get to see all the amazing things you have accomplished in the last year. Now you have learned a TON this year, where to begin is the real question! Lets see…

You are in daycare called “Star Montessori” this is an advanced school that starts teaching education young. They are really amazing and one of the best schools in the area. You originally were in the 2 year old class (like all the other 2 years old) but after 2 weeks of being in there they decided to jump you all the way to the 3 year old class! (You actually skipped a whole class because they have a 2 ½ year old class too!) I was so surprised when they told me they were bumping you up a whole year that the teachers thought I was unhappy about it but of course I wasn't, I couldn't be more proud! I always knew you were one smart cookie!

I asked them why they were moving you up so quickly and to a class a year older then you and they said simply because you were “bored” in there. You learned the morning routine, the letters, songs, games, all in 2 weeks and you just didn't seemed challenged anymore so you started to harass the other kids and not pay attention to the teachers. Now that news did not surprise me at all, I have seen this little power move of yours first hand and let’s just say you are really good at what you do. So now you are in the 3 year old class and you love it. You are super chatty! You can talk very well for a 2 year old (this was the other reason they decided to move you up). I think it’s because Dominic is such a talker that you learned it from him and wanted your voice to be heard too.

You are my “wild thing”, you are a dare devil and still very mischievous. You wait for no one to help you out, and want to do everything yourself. Anything from turning the light on in a room (you will drag a chair all the way from the kitchen, turn the light on and drag the chair all the way back) to brushing your own hair and teeth. We fight over your hair the most. Every day we are not allowed to leave the house unless there is a bow in your hair (your rule) but the thing is you NEVER want the bow I pick (the one that matches) you always want some crazy one! I always try to do some reverse psychology on you but it never works. Sometimes I will think I have won and a few moments later you will come around the corner with the bow I put in your hair and then the one you wanted on top of that one! So I gave up with that, now I just let you wear whatever bow your little heart desires, even if you do look crazy, I now find the mismatch bow to be very cute and very you!

You hate when I brush your teeth. It is a wrestling match, seriously. I have never had to fight a child so hard to let me brush their teeth. I try to work it where you get to brush your teeth first (which is adorable but definitely not saving you from cavities) and then say it’s my turn. But your little independent self can’t stand that so the fight is on. I have to hold your head and wrap you up with an anaconda grip just to get the tooth brush in your mouth. It doesn't help that I end up laughing the whole time because it’s just too funny how difficult it is to brush such a tiny little girls teeth.

We have moved into a new home. You and Zoe “share” a room. Not really though because you are a little night owl. Dominic has always fallen asleep 8 o clock on the dot. Not you! I put you to bed at 8 and I hear you talk to yourself, sing, play, until about 10 and then you finally fall asleep. You have always been that way, so Zoe can’t sleep with you because I already can tell what kind of big sister you will be. The one who keeps her little sister up all night so they can play game after game. You love our new home so much! Mainly because your room is super pink! (Yes, your favorite color by far is pink, I tried to get it to be purple like me but that never happened) Your most favorite part of the house is the backyard. YOU LOVE PLAYING OUTSIDE!!! You love it so much, you have to do it every day. Whether it’s freezing, raining, or miserably hot you are going outside no matter what. We have a trampoline that you love you to jump on too.

You are just like your dad when it comes to clothes. If it was up to you, you would wear shorts and a t-shirt every day. Whenever you want to go play outside and it’s FREEZING we fight over putting jackets, hats, socks, and shoes on. Even then, I lose this battle too because after 30 minutes of you being out there, most of that has already come off but that one I haven’t let go of only because I don’t want you to get sick, so every half hour we are at war with the clothes. You do have a very strong attachment to a little pink poncho, you wear it every single day (hot or cold) but it really doesn't keep you warm so that doesn't do me much good when trying to find compromises (but you do look adorable in it).

You are the best sister. You are the glue in between your siblings. Dominic loves to play with you. He loves having a little buddy to hang out with. You both go outside together every day. You take bubble baths together, swim together, and hold hands to the car or crossing the street. You have a very strong bond and I can tell you really look up to him. Don’t get me wrong, you both definitely have your typical fights, Dominic can’t stand for you to go in his new room (you use to share a room in our old house and now that he has his own room I think he will never let go). You love to sneak in his room just because you know it bothers him. You know exactly where his stickers are no matter how many times he tries to hide them from you and you place them all over your entire body which drives him crazy. You force him to watch your favorite show in the entire world with you (Barney) and then finally compromise with Batman when he has had enough (you actually like batman too). But even with the fighting, you are his protector, anytime Dominic gets in trouble you intervene in the fight. You yell back at dad and I and tell us we are “Not nice”, then you go and hug on him, scratch his back and tell him “It’s ok Dominic, its ok”. It melts my heart every time, and even though I have to keep a tough face at the moment so there is at least a little discipline in this crazy home, I love to see you stick up for your big brother.

Of course you are all over Zoe. You want to hold her 24/7. You want her in your lap at all times. You don’t even want people to touch her when she is under your watch. You try to pick her up and drag her away from everyone else, you lay down on the ground next to her and play with whatever she is playing with, you sing her songs and rub her head. You too do not appreciate sharing a room with her and have a hard time understanding why Zoe’s toys are not actually your toys. You normally end up saying “It’s not Zoe’s its mine” then slowly start walking out of the room so that I won’t try to take it away from you. You like to try and feed her bottles, the second she starts crying you go into full panic “MOM! ZOE CRYING! ZOE CRYING” Then you grab my hand and pull me closer to her to make sure I fix the problem while you gently “sshhhh” her and wait for her to stop. You are a natural protector.

My favorite quality about you is your singing. You love to sing. We sing every-single-day. We sing in the car on the way too school and we sing in the car on the way home. You have such a soft and beautiful little voice. You know almost all the words to every song (and have no problem making up the one’s you don’t know). You make your request and normally want me to sing every song with you which I love. Sometimes you don’t want me to sing so in the middle of a song you will yell loudly “SSHHHHHHHHH, IT’S MY TURN MOM, MY TURN!” It makes me laugh every-single-time (I like to keep singing just to annoy you). We sing before bed time, we sing at church, we sing, we sing, we sing and I love it. I will always enjoy singing with you and look forward to seeing you sing as you grow.

Dad’s favorite quality about you is that you are feisty but a cuddler just like him. You are his little tomboy but little princess all at the same time. You will both play fight with star wars light sabers and then the next moment be cuddly on the couch watching batman. Daddy adores you in every single way. You have melted his heart and turned him into a new man. He loves you so much. You have always been and will always be daddy’s little girl. I don’t think I have ever seen a little girl love her daddy more then you. Every day when I pick you up from school after our little hug and kiss the first words out of your mouth “Is daddy home?”. Then when we get to the house, if he is not there yet you wait outside till he comes (we both normally get home around the same time), if he is already home you run inside and into his arms right away. You make him so happy and so proud. You are his pride and joy and you will always be his precious baby girl.

McKenna, I am so proud of the amazing and beautiful little girl you have become. You are a wonderful daughter of God. I am so glad that you are my first born daughter, I have learned so much from you and I know I will continue to learn from you every single day. In the mornings on our way to school I always try to say a prayer before we leave but I usually forget, even at the young age of 2 you are always able to remember and remind me “mommy, prayer!”. I love that about you, I love that you know in your little tiny heart that prayer is important, I love that you are capable of remembering and reminding me. You have such a bright light within you. You are contagious with your laugh and smile. You have the cutest crooked grin I have ever seen. Your smiles are full, they take up your whole face to the point where you have to close your eyes. You are full of life and joy.

I know that you will help many people, that naturally protective spirit that you have will make you a great friend, sister, daughter, wife, and mother some day. Your joy will bring others to the gospel, people will see how happy you are and want to know what it is about you that makes you shine so brightly. You will be able to teach others with the intelligence that God has blessed you with and use it to help others along their way. I know the Lord is so proud of you and all that you have accomplished. I often think you must have a lot to do in this life with how young the Lord has allowed you to learn things. I really don’t know many 2 year olds as bright as you, you must have some big plans in your future.

Nevertheless, whatever you do, I will always be proud of you. I will always love you, I will always admire you and cherish you. You are my sunshine, you bring me nothing but happiness. You, your siblings, and daddy make my heart complete. I would be so lost without you all in my life. God has blessed me with a beautiful family, you are more then I deserve. Thank you for being such a great sister, thank you for being an amazing daughter, and thank you for choosing us to be a part of your family. Daddy and I are honored. We love you so much Kenna Bear, always have and always will. Happy 2nd birthday sweetheart.

Till next year,
Love always,
Mommy