The first balloon ever released...

The first balloon ever released...

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.

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,



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,

(I guess some things never change)


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,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

She's still her big sister

Three nights ago I had a dream about McKenna. I don't have many dreams of her, I have only had 4 all together since she has passed. I can't really remember the beginning of the dream, it wasn't until I picked her up that everything becomes clear. I was holding her close and squeezing her tight, it felt so good to have her in my arms again. She had her legs wrapped around my waist and her head tucked under my chin the way she always did. I remember feeling so happy and then a thought came into my mind "How did I get her back? Did I have to exchange one child in return for her life?" I quickly pushed the idea out of my head, I just wanted to enjoy the moment of having her again.

I then heard her giggle and say "Aww Zoe" I looked up and she was pointing down the street. I stared trying to see what she was pointing at and that's when I saw Zoe. She was about half a block away from me crawling towards a very busy street. My heart leapt out of my chest and I began sprinting towards her with McKenna in my arms. I was screaming Zoe's name trying to get her to stop and look at me but she paid no attention. I kept yelling louder and louder, even McKenna was trying to yell her name to get her to look our way. I was worried I wouldn't be able to catch her in time, she was so far away.

Was I about to loose another child to another horrible accident? Then I heard a voice say to me, "If you put McKenna down, you will be able to run faster." I responded out loud and said "NO, NEVER AGAIN, I WILL NEVER PUT HER DOWN!" After I made this decision McKenna all of a sudden became as light as a feather and I could run faster then ever before. I ran toward Zoe and right as she was going to put her little hand into the traffic street I grabbed her and picked her up.

I could feel my heart pounding, the adrenaline rush now leaving my whole body, I felt so tired and wanted to put the kids down but then realized I was holding both my girls again. All the fatigue left me and was replaced with pure joy. Overwhelmed with peace, I dropped to my knees and began covering them in kisses as I cried and held them close. McKenna looked at Zoe with pride, she truly adored her. Then she looked up at me and I melted, I could see that she had missed us just as much as we had missed her and that she loved us all so much.

I woke up feeling complete for the first time since her death, I felt lighter, like the elephant that has been sitting on me for months was finally removed but I quickly realized she was gone and it was just a dream. I cried as I laid there in the dark at 4am and tried to relish what it felt like holding my little 2 year old again but the moment was already fleeting. I knew I would not go back to sleep after a dream like that so I got up and decided to go ahead and start my day.

Fast-forward to yesterday, I had just finished my last final and was in a very good mood. Zach and Zoe had been out of town all week for a funeral and I was going to surprise everyone by picking them up from the airport while Dominic was at day care. I bought a new blouse and got all dressed up to see my husband. I had missed him and Zoe and couldn't wait to spend the day together now that I was officially on break. I got to the airport and Zoe was so happy to see me, she kept grabbing my face and kissing me, holding my hand, talking to me in her little baby talk. It was adorable! We drove home and Zach and I were exchanging stories of all the things we had missed out on in the last week, Zoe was now peacefully asleep in the back.

As we were driving down the freeway we saw a cop turn his lights on to pull a car over. "Uh oh, someone is getting a ticket." I said. We watched as the cop continued to follow the car for about 5 minutes but the car would not pull over. "Is he refusing to pull over or can he just not get over?" I asked my husband. Their were a lot of cars and on this highway you can only pull over if you go all the way to the right, there is no space on the left. Then 3 constables flew by us and surrounded the car. The car was still refusing to get over and the chase was on. I stayed in my lane and tried to be careful as other drivers wanted to "watch the show" by speeding up and keeping up with the chase. I yelled at Zach "Look at these idiots, they are going to get someone hurt". I then told him a story I saw on the news last week how right here in Houston 5 people were killed due to a high pursuit chase.

We came over a hill and all of sudden traffic came to a dead stop. I slammed my breaks but it was clear that I was going to smash into the car in front of me, on the left was the median wall and on my right was an open lane so I turned my wheel slightly to the right. It had just finished raining at this time so the car began to hydroplane. It felt like the whole car was about to flip, I tried to tweak the wheel ever so lightly the other way to keep us balanced. I could here my dad and my grandfathers lectures in my head about how people get to excited, turn the wheel too hard and that's how they get into accidents but it was too late.

Even with just making the smallest pull on the wheel we lost total control of the car, we flew across 3 lanes of traffic, it felt like slow motion when I heard Zach say calmly to me "Shannon..." and I responded "I know, I have no control of the car" "Ok" he said back. Now time sped back up, the car was now facing the opposite direction of traffic, I could see we were about to smash into the median wall on the passenger side "ZOE!" I panicked, NO WE ARE WE GOING TO HIT ZOE'S SIDE! I reached back to hold her car seat, and we crashed into the wall. I looked up and saw the entire freeway at a complete halt staring at our car.

Zach looked at me "Are you ok?" "Yes, are you?" "Yes" "Check Zoe" we looked in the back and she was still asleep as if nothing had ever happened. Zach hopped out of the car to see the damage. It actually didn't look that bad but I know enough about cars to know that it was. We had hit the front passenger side corner of the car which shifted the entire frame of it. I looked on the other side of the highway and saw that the constables had successfully gotten the car to pull over and now had their guns drawn and were approaching the criminals car.

"ZACH!" I pointed, "Get in the car" he yelled. He jumped in the driver seat, another officer was there and even though she saw our car facing the opposite direction she yelled at us to leave. I felt like that was an appropriate answer. I didn't want to get shot, nor did I want any of my family to get shot so we left. We were both still in adrenaline mode at this time and were pretty shook up. "Did that really just happen? Did we really just get in a wreck because of a high pursuit chase on the freeway? How did that happen so fast!". We drove straight to the mechanic shop where we were told that if we filed a claim to the police department they would pay for the damages. After hours of talking to constables, dispatchers, police officers, and insurance companies we soon realized that this was not true and apparently if we wanted to file a claim we should have "stayed at the scene".

I was so infuriated that I was getting screwed over. I started to throw a tantrum to my husband about how unfair life is. "Why can't we ever just get a break! Why do bad things have to happen over and over again! I'm exhausted! I just want a break! Can we just have a small break? Haven't we earned that? Haven't we been through enough? We lost a child and now we have lost our only car because once again some FREAK ACCIDENT!" I spent the rest of the night pouting as family came over and tried to make sure we were ok. I stayed angry all the way until bedtime. My husband left to go get me some pain reliever since I was hurting from head to toe on the entire right side of my body. I laid in bed scheming on how I was going to force someone to pay for these charges when a small voice whispered to me "At least Zoe is safe".

I paused all of my bitterness for a moment and my thoughts were pushed back to the dream. Wasn't it in the dream that McKenna was the one who said "Zoe" which is what brought me to notice she was in danger. Wasn't it in the same dream that Zoe was about to crawl into a very busy street and get into an accident and because of McKenna's warning she was safe. My body froze, it could not be a coincidence! Had I been given a warning and I just didn't recognize it? No, there was nothing I could have done to avoid that situation. It was not a warning, it was a message. A message from McKenna, she was there to protect Zoe, she was still her big sister, she was still very much entwined in our lives, concerned for our safety, and she wanted us to know that she is still here. She is still apart of our lives, she is still proud to be Zoe's big sister and my daughter. She wanted us to know that just because she is gone, did not mean that we are apart. I have never had an experience like this before but I know without a doubt that it was a message from my baby girl letting us know she has always been and will always be close by.

My heart ached as I felt ashamed of my anger, how I had not stopped for a moment to be grateful that we were all safe, that Zoe was alive and completely unharmed. I could have lost another child, that accident could have been way worse, we could have flipped, or been shot, or hit by another car but none of that happened. Outside of being soar we were absolutely fine and it had taken me all day to recognize that. Nothing happened because McKenna was there to protect her little sister, I am shocked that the Lord aloud me to realize McKenna's presence. I struggle so often with feeling like she is no longer with us and is too happy in heaven to see us hurting down here, but it's not true. She misses us just as much as we miss her and I know that she is looking forward to being with us again just as bad as we are. I am so grateful for that message of hope, even though we lost a car, it doesn't matter. I still have both my daughters, I can't hold one but she is still here with me telling me in every way she knows how that she still loves me and we will be together soon. I think that dream had many meanings but I am glad that I was able to understand one of them.

She will always be her big sister.

P.S. Anyone is welcome to follow me on Instagram. I always update on there when I post on the blog. I also added this on the sidebar of my homepage. Thanks :)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Finals Week

Exactly this time last semester of school I was doing exactly the same thing that I am doing right now. I had just completed all of my lab finals and was studying for lecture finals that would start Tuesday. I am sitting in the same spot, in the same house, studying for the same school and yet everything is totally different. Almost 4 months ago I just had a week and a half of school left and I would be done. Then I would be flying to Florida with all 3 of the kids for a week of non stop fun but it never happened and it was on this day only a few months ago that my life changed forever.

I failed to realize the timing of things until this past Tuesday. Two of my friends were strategizing how they were going to study for finals. My best friend looked at me and said "We should study with her, she is really good at cramming!" when a look of confusion was on my face like "how do you know that? We have never studied finals with her before?" My other friend turned to me and said "We studied together last semester." They went on talking but my mind was trying to figure out one thing, "Where was I? I always studied with my friend, what was I doing and why was I not there?" and then it hit me, "YOU WERE NOT THERE BECAUSE YOUR DAUGHTER JUST DIED! While everyone was cramming for finals last semester, you had an atomic bomb dropped in your lap and were making funeral arrangement for your precious 2 1/2 year old baby girl." My heart sunk passed my toes, I was standing in a crowded room, people were talking, studying, laughing but time had frozen for me. Was it really at this exact moment last semester that my daughter was still alive and in only 4 days I would find out that she drowned.

HAD I ONLY KNOWN, how differently I would have treated those last 4 days. How I would have chosen to fail all of my finals just to sit around and watch barney, play dress up, eat ourselves sick with sweets. We would have played outside, gone to the park, or just gone ahead to Florida like we had planned. I felt like I wanted to pass out when I heard a voice that seemed far away ask me "Shannon are you ok?" I snapped out of it to see 3 of my friends starring at me and one of them ask "Here do you want to try and practice it this time?" "NO" I sternly responded and ran out of the classroom, locked myself in a stall, and sobbed uncontrollably. It felt like I was reliving her death all over again.

I have been dreading this Saturday. I have been so heavy hearted knowing that exactly at this time last semester I would have already gotten an obscure text message from my step dad saying something that was jumbled and panicky. That in this moment I still didn't know my daughter was dead. The text message made no sense. Something about my mom being at the hospital and McKenna left in the pool. At the time I thought that my mom had been rushed to the ER and they needed me to pick up McKenna from her house. I had no pit in my stomach, no motherly instincts, no feelings or warning that I had already lost a child.

I tried to call my step dad but he would not answer, I sprinted to my husband and said "Something is wrong, I think we need to go pick up the kids from moms. I am not sure what is going on but I got a really weird text message." Zach quickly read the text then jumped up and immediately ran out the door, his fatherly instincts seem to be telling him something that mine were not. I felt tightness in my chest and a sense of worry but never thinking that anything so awful could be awaiting me. I continued to try and call my mother, my step dad, my grandmother. No answer. Finally my grandmother called me back, she was screaming and crying on the phone to the point where I could not understand her. My husband who was already speeding by this time turned on the emergency lights and started flying down the street. After I was able to calm my grandmother down she said that she didn't know what had happened but that something was terribly wrong and I needed to get to the hospital immediately. Now a voice in the back of my head was whispering to me "don't let your mind go there, don't' even think it, you don't know anything yet so don't put yourself in a panic. Just get ahold of someone, get to the hospital, and find out what is going on"

I finally realized I could just call the hospital, a secretary answered the phone and I quickly asked "Do you know if my mom is in the ER, I got a strange text message and I think something might have happened to her, can you check for me and just let me know if she is there?" we exchanged information and she told me "No, I don't have anyone with that name". Then that whisper in the back of my head that had told me not to panic was now screaming "ITS MCKENNA, IT'S MCKENNA!" I kept my voice calm and said quietly "Well I'm a little confused because this is the hospital I was told she was at maybe the information is under my step dad?" She looked up his name as well, "No I am sorry I don't have anything for that either. Do you know who they came here with?" I could feel a golf ball forming in my throat, my heart pounding out of my chest, my ears ringing, my husband frantically speeding down the busy street. "I think my daughter might be with them..." and there it was, the missing piece of the puzzle.

"Is she a small blonde headed little girl?"
"Hold on a moment please"
A nurse picks up the phone. "Are you McKenna's mom?"
"Where are you at? Are you on your way to the hospital?"
"Yes, I am. What is going on? Is my mom there? Let me talk to her."
"We can't put your mom on the phone right now we just need you to get here immediately"

Zach is now running red lights and driving like a complete maniac.
He completely disregarded me, I think he already knew what my mind wasn't even willing to venture on.

The nurse continued, "Ok, well tell them when you are here and they will let you in right away."
"Please tell me what is going on, can I talk to my mom, is everyone ok?"
"Hold on please"
A doctor picks up the phone "Are you McKenna's mom?"
"Are you close to the hospital we really need you here now."
"I am about 10 minutes away, please you are making me very nervous, if you can't tell me what is going on over the phone then please put my mom or someone who can tell me something, I need to know what is going on right now!"
There was a very long pause, well at least it seemed that way in my mind.
"I hate to tell you this over the phone but your daughter is dead, she dro..... in the po..... they tried...... but it was too..... "

I could not hear him anymore, I could not remember what he just said, I did not know what was going on or why we were driving so crazy. I looked at my husband in a 100% confusion and asked "What did he just say? I can't remember what he said, he was trying to tell me something very important. I think I hung up on him. Did you hear what he said? What is going on? Do you think something is wrong with McKenna? What did he say? I didn't hear him!!!"

Zach didn't say a word, minutes later we flew into the ER parking lot and he dropped me off in the front. "Go inside Shannon, I'm going to park." I ran inside and immediately I was asked again "Are you McKenna's mom?" "Yes, where is she, is she ok?" "Did the doctor talk to you?" "He did but I don't remember what he said. Where is my mom? Where is McKenna? What is going on?" They opened the ER doors, I was quickly led down a long hallway where a very tall doctor approached me. I had never seen this man before but his face has been burned into my memory.

Avoiding eye contact and walking next to me as if we were on a casual stroll he asked me if I wanted to sit down. "No, just tell me what is going on, I am here, I am McKenna's mom, what did you say to me on the phone, take me to my daughter!!!" My husband was now running down the hallway, the doctors eyes were everywhere but on me, we were walking toward a room. "I'm sorry but your daughter is dead" He went to continue on to say something else as we walked closer to the room but I grabbed his shirt and stopped him from walking any further, then grabbed his arm and turned his tall body to face me. "LOOK ME IN THE EYES WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING TO ME. DID YOU JUST SAY MY DAUGHTER WAS DEAD?" He froze and looked caught off guard then took a deep breath. Now looking in my eyes he said, "Yes, I am sorry, she is dead. We tried to recessetate her but I think she was gone before she ever made it to the hospital.".

The door opened, Zach was now by my side, my mom was standing over her in a bikini wrapped in a towel. My grandmother holding her, both of them crying and my mom screaming "I'M SO SORRY SHANNON, IM SO SORRY" Zach shouted in a tone I had never heard before, 'EVERYONE GET OUT" in the blink of an eye they were all gone and there we were alone with McKenna. My mind could not comprehend the situation. She did not look dead, honestly she looked 100% fine. I turned to my husband "No, she is not dead, she is fine, this is just a big misunderstanding" we heard the door open and turned to see 2 officers entering the room.

"Are you the mother of McKenna"
"Yes I am"
"Do you know what happened here?"
"No, I don't. It's finals week at school, the kids went over to my moms while I was studying."
"Do they normally do that?"

I had this conversation several times before I could even begin to fathom the words behind it. I still can't bring myself to talk about what else happened at the hospital that day after we walked into that room. There is no worse nightmare to a parent, no darker moment, no greater fear then the loss of a child. Today I am reliving that nightmare, right around this exact time is when I spoke to the nurse, the doctor, the officers, and for the very first time saw my dead daughter. I don't know why I am writing about this but here it is. The sadness and reality of my situation. The video that keeps replaying in my head. I wish I could wrap this up in a happy ending but that's not the truth. I can't deny the pain in my heart, I can't block out the memories of seeing her limp body, I can't forget the fear in my husbands eyes as we both held each other and thought "surely this can't be real!".

I was suppose to go to my first counseling appointment today but unfortunately it ended up not working out. Dominic did get to go and this is what he drew in the pictures below. This is our reality, so PLEASE, when you meet someone who has lost a loved one and they seem fine. Don't assume they are, don't be afraid to ask them if they are ok even if they are looking you in the face and smiling. Don't be scared to share a happy memory of the deceased because there is nothing worse then never bringing them up.

There is no comfort in silence.

Never hearing someone say their name or no one asking "how you holding up?" makes everything worse. It makes you feel forgotten, you worry that people have forgotten that you are still struggling. You worry that people have forgotten about one of cutest things that walked this earth and that makes them seem like they were never really important. You worry that people just see it as some tragedy that happened to you but fail to understand that it is so much more then that. McKenna is fine, it is us, the ones who were left behind that are suffering and don't know what to do with the sadness and pain of it all. We are empty shells proceeding through life as if all is normal and it's not.

You don't want to burden others with your sadness but at the same time, people HAVE A HEART, SHOW YOUR LOVE, SHOW YOUR MERCY. I don't care if it's been almost 4 months or 40 years. Nothing takes the sting of death away. Not time, not family, and definitely not SILENCE. So brake the silence, don't be afraid to show you care, don't worry that you will make them mad or sad, even if they respond with "yes, I'm ok" or nothing at all , I guarantee you, at the end of the day instead of saying to themselves before they go to bed "Not one person even cared enough to ask me if I was ok" they will lay their head to rest and say "Someone cared about me today, someone remembered my baby".

Happy memories of swimming in the pool together.

Happy memories of jumping on the trampoline.

Happy memories of eating together at the dinner table.

Dominic finding her in the pool the day
"McKenna passed away"

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Painting

My best friend came into town this week from Utah and as usual had about 1,000 gifts to shower my family with. She is a very unique individual and extremely talented. One of her many talents is art. It is with this talent that she truly loves to show how much she cares and it is because of this we call her the "ultimate gift giver". You will never beat her in gift giving but your attempts are amusing. One example of her "gifts" to our family is when we first moved into our new home and I was in labor with Zoe. Everyone was at the hospital getting ready to meet cute little Zoe, where was my best friend? Painting all the bedrooms in my new house so that by the time we got home everything would be done and look amazing for our new little bundle of joy. Here are some pictures of the bedrooms before and after. P.S. I didn't even tell her what I wanted, she just came up with everything and nailed it perfectly.

Dominic's Room
 (No, that is not decal, she hand painted that!)
 (Yes, the superhero's are decal, still awesome)

Our Room

McKenna's Room
Now Zoe's room :(
I don't have a before but the room was just the pink bottom half you see going around the room.

This is just a small example of how awesome my friend is so you can imagine when she was visiting and told me that she had gifts, none of us were surprised at how each individual gift was special and perfected for each family member. We opened the presents and teased her of how annoyingly thoughtful she is until we got to the last gift. "I'm really excited about this one, I worked really hard on it and I hope you both like it." I laughed because I KNOW there has never been a gift I didn't absolutely love from her. My husband and I opened the bag, I saw the back first and recognized it was a canvas. I thought it was going to be another fun gift because the last time she made me a painting it was a picture of us painted as superhero's (we love superhero's in this family). I smiled big and was ready for a good laugh when I flipped it over and saw something entirely different.

In slow motion my mind scanned the painting trying to process the picture. I saw a beautiful scenery with lots of different flowers and hills. A stream with a little bridge. The Houston Texas Temple and 4 pink balloons floating away behind it. As my eyes looked further down I saw a man bent down on his knees and a little girl in a pink dress running towards his open arms. She looked so happy. My mind went blank, then I felt an overwhelming urge to cry, my husband jumped off the couch and started walking around, still processing the picture my emotions let loose as I realized who the happy little girl in the pink dress was, it looked just like her, there was no mistaking who she was. It was my Kenna Bear running toward her Savior so happy to be home and reunited with Him.

On the bottom under the canvas was written, "For our sweet angel McKenna". I looked at my friend with eyes flooded in tears barely able to speak I whispered "I love it". A look of relief swept over her face as she held me close and let me cry. Then she broke down the picture. "I used the Houston Temple since this is where your whole family was sealed together for eternity with Dominic. I wanted lots of flowers because I know how much she loved them. I used darker colors on the left side of the painting with less flowers representing this world we live in. It is beautiful but incomparable to the beauty that is in heaven, which is why I used brighter colors and even more flowers on the right. The stream represents the separation between our world and hers and the bridge is her crossing over into the next life being greeted by Jesus Christ who personally called her home to be with Him. Of course the pink balloons represent your family. You and Zach are the top 2 with your strings entwined, then Dominic and Zoe on the bottom."

I finally calmed myself down just to get a round 2 of tears as I stared at the painting longer. I could not get over how much the little girl looked like McKenna. The pink dress, the hair cut, the smile. She really did look so happy, so excited to see her Heavenly Father and although you can't see His face, He seems so pleased to see her. I imagine His next step being similar to the one I did with her everyday when I picked her up from daycare. A run and a jump. No matter what, everyday when I picked her up from daycare I would hear her squeal "MOMMY!!!" then I would turn to find her running toward me full speed. Every time it made my heart light up "KENNA" then I would drop to my knees, pick up her tiny body with a little throw in the air and squeeze her tight. Then she would give me a kiss on the check and say again but more quietly this time as she nuzzled into my shoulder "mommy". I would peck her on the head thinking in the back of my mind how bummed I will be when she is too old and too cool to do this anymore. Then I would grab her things and hold her hand as we walked to the car talking about her day.

I never knew that instead of worrying about her growing up, I would feel the sadness of never seeing her grow up in this life. Although this hurts and leaves a hole in my chest like no other, I find peace knowing I will get to raise her in Heaven. I know the Lord needed her, He called her home with a purpose. This picture sets off so many different emotions. I love how happy she looks, I am so glad that she is happy, I love that she is in a world that is so beautiful and "beyond compare". I love her pink dress and her bare feet. She hated shoes. I love our Savior greeting her at the entrance telling me, "this was not a mistake, I called her home and she came just like she was suppose too". 

I hate that we are separated by a stream, how I wish I could just simply swim across and sweep her up into my arms, lay with her in the colorful garden, see her in her perfected state, smell her short blonde hair, hold her small open hands, kiss her baby cheeks. There is nothing I desire more then to feel those arms wrapped over my shoulders and her legs hooked over my hips with her eyes looking into mine softly whispering "mommy". It feels like a hundred years since I have seen those eyes, heard her voice, felt that soft skin but here we are in the beautiful but dark and dreary world and it has only been a little over 3 1/2 months. How can this be?

I look at this painting and know I will treasure it forever, it is better then any regular picture of her because it is the only picture I don't have. A picture of the present time. She is alive and well, happy and at peace, healthy and unstoppable. There are no pictures of her past that can show me this truth, no amount of videos that can give me the satisfaction. I am going to frame it and hang it next to my front door so every morning when I leave to school I can kiss her goodbye and she will be the last thing on my mind. The last reminder before I start my day and make my way into this world of why I am here and what my true purpose is. To let her light shine through me, to have hope, to have strength, to keep the faith. And every night when I return home the first thing I will see is my little McKenna, with her arms open and a smile running towards me saying "MOMMY!!!". This will remind me every day that one day this moment will come true, except I will be the one at the end of that hug. I will complete the picture by picking her up, throwing her in the air, hugging her close, while I finally get to whisper back "My Kenna Bear", I just have to hold on until then.