Friday, June 24, 2016

On a mountain high or over a stormy sea...

We have mission assignments!

After waiting more than four weeks we were so ready to get these mission calls! Once we saw that their calls had been assigned we started waiting together in the front room each morning for the mailman to come.   When Benson came skipping up the driveway with two big white envelopes we were seriously so excited.  We have video of the calls but not a lot of pictures.  So here it is:

Landon--Texas, Houston mission Spanish speaking.  Mexico City MTC in August 30, 2016
Dallin--Tennessee, Knoxville mission Spanish speaking, Provo MTC August 31, 2016

We will miss having these two in our home but we wouldn't have it any other way.  I have spent the better part of the last six months tearing up over every 'last' with these two but mission calls brought nothing but excitement and joy.  I'm so happy that they can begin the next phase of their lives with this opportunity for intensive self-discovery and service.

One of Landon's doctors commented that he thinks its great that we Mormons "send our kids out to explore the world" before they settle down for real life.  I have been thinking about that comment.  I feel like this is more like the 40 days of fasting that Christ did before he began the ministry portion of his life. It's not about becoming a world traveler or about having a cool vacation.  It's about becoming who they really are--who they will be in the next life and who they were before they came to this world.

All of the life experiences we have tried to facilitate over the last 19 years for these boys have focused on having them learn that they are sons of God and that He has a bigger plan for their lives than they can possibly understand.

These boys have had so many hard and great experiences that have brought empathy and understanding and hard work and joy and tears in their lives.  Rustin and I have cried and despaired and rejoiced and hoped with them.  My relationship with them has changed so much over their lifetimes.  I went from being the total and complete giver of life to the parent who enforced broccoli at dinner and bedtime at eight.  I was the parent that wondered if my child would ever learn to play well with anyone but his brother. I became the parent who cheered at ball games even with they sat on the bench.  And who rejoiced when things went the way they hoped.  I shook my head when they played just a little too hard (seven surgeries to repair injuries between these two...not including broken bones and stitches...) and I brought them ice packs and ace bandages.

I turned into the mom who brought the assignment that was left sitting on the kitchen table just because I could, knowing that the 'cruel world' would teach them plenty of lessons about responsibility without my help.  As time progressed, I became the mom who went to bed before they did. The mom who talked with them about girls and friends and heartbreak. And the mom who wished they would talk MORE about girls and friends and heartbreak. I became the cheerleader who prayed and hoped and encouraged knowing that they had to make the results happen on their own. And I became confident  that they would be able to live with whatever joy or pain life handed them.

Years ago, in the months before Rustin was called to be the bishop of our ward, I had an enlightening experience.  I was trying to figure out the why's and how's of (what we knew would be) Rustin's new assignment at church.  I wasn't sure how I would manage a house full of young kids and I had a thousand other questions.  Rustin and I were driving home from Boise by ourselves and I was pondering.  I suddenly became completely and totally overwhelmed with the weight of the sorrows and sins of the world.  It was a physical pain.  I started to cry and then to sob with sadness that Christ had to take all the sins of the world on Himself.  I couldn't bear the thought that one Being would have to carry so much horror.  I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that I couldn't make a dent in helping with the sorrow of the world.  Just as I was about to give in to despair, all of the weight and sorrow lifted.  A clean and pure knowledge came to me that indeed God can 'handle' the world.  That Christ is more than capable of shouldering the load but He has a role for me to play.  My role at that time was as a mother, friend visiting teacher and especially as Rustin's support.  Over the next five years Rustin played a huge role in helping our friends and neighbors find their way to the Savior.  In order to do what was needed, he needed me to hold things down at home. I didn't mind one bit.  I was so thankful that Rustin could help the Savior with His work.  Thankful that a little bit of that sorrow and pain and weight could be lifted here on earth according to the plan of the Savior.

I feel the same way now.  These two boys of mine have valiant spirits.  They have kind, generous, hard working spirits with a healthy dose of competitiveness and impulsivity. They have a lot to learn but I think they are willing to learn. It doesn't matter where the Lord needs them.  There are brothers and sisters all over the globe that need the help that only the Savior can give.

I will miss these boys like crazy.  It will never be the same here.  Once they leave they will come back to stay on occasion but they will forever live their own lives.  I pray that these next two years will prepare them for whatever the Lord has in store.  That they will gain perspective and connect with their true spirits.  I can't think of a better way for each of them to begin the rest of their lives and I feel thankful to have a front row seat.

Ensenada and Catalina

We two day excursions off the boat.  Catalina Island was the first and it was really the only beach time we had.  It was enough time that I still have sand in our swim bag!

We rented a little golf cart (did you know the only cars on the island are golf carts?!) and we drove a loop around the island.
We also god a couple of paddle boards and just played in the water. And we got fingernail polish that changes color in the sun. Very fun.

Our second day trip was to Ensenada.  We met up with a guide on a bus that gave us a screaming deal on some fun activities.  For $52 each we went to a zip-pline park with five different amazing LOOONG zip lines. In-between each zip line there were unique bridges.  One had narrow skateboard size planks to walk over a ravine.  Another had a barrel and then planks to cross.  I thought they were scary and hard.  I skipped a couple of them in favor of the ground route. The kids loved the bridges but some of them were HARD.  Jackson cried when he he couldn't go on one of the bridges because he was too short to clip in to the safety lines.  He inherited his big brothers' lack of fear of heights.

He rode with one of his brothers or dad on each of the zip lines.  Two were over 1000 feet long.

The guides that clipped us in were cute.  They looked like eagle scouts to us.  They could scamper across the bridges and zip lines like squirrels!

 They taped our flip flops to our feet with duct tape.  Our guide called them Mexican nikes.  HA!

After the zip lines we went to La Buffadora with is basically just a big blow hole at the seashore.  The best part of that was the tacos.

There is just no way to describe these super fresh handmade tacos with meat cooked over a wood fire grill.  And fish and shrimp battered and fried.  And they cost like $3.  My mouth is still watering.

Right next to the taco stand a really fun outdoor market.  We were at the end of the day so we got some awesome things super cheap.  Dallin and Landon both got knives.  I wonder if knives will ever loose their appeal? I doubt it...

If we had gotten off the boat a little earlier we would have had time to go horseback riding on the beach as well for another $20 each.  If we had purchased those activities from the cruise line we would have paid over $250 per person.  I think the guide is Ensenada Hector on Facebook and instagram if we ever go again we will definitely look him up.

Overall I think the best part of the trip was the lack of stress.  We didn't have to make decisions about what to do or where to go to eat or which activities would appeal to which kids. If I go again I would love to go somewhere that has snorkeling or scuba diving.  Scuba diving is definitely on my bucket list! But time with all of us together is definitely the best vacation of all.

Sometimes we escape...

We have had so many changes around here--sometimes we just need escape it all!  Ninety percent of our family vacations are family reunions or camping.  Which we love! We haven't ever been to Disneyland or rented a house on the beach.  (both are on my to do list...) With Dallin and Landon leaving any time this summer we wanted to do something with our whole family.  Juli and Shon helped us find a CRUISE! We went with the Robinsons and Kendricks (minus Jeremy who was home with pneumonia...) and we boarded the Carnival Imagination cruise ship on Sunday afternoon.

For perspective on how big that boat is, look at the little tiny boat pulled up alongside the ship.  That boat holds 250+ people.

We had rooms in the bottom back of the boat where we could get rooms all together.  And it was affordable. And really--how much time do you spend in your room on a cruise?!!

We had a king size bed and two twin bunks.  And not much room other than that! The bathroom was tiny and we had to duck  under the bunk to walk around the bed.

Our room steward Joey knew us all by name and did a great job! He lives in the Phillipeans and works 6-8 months on and 3-4 months off.  He has two kids who cry every time he leaves.  He has been working on cruise ships for more than ten years and he can make more than 100 different towel animals.  How awesome is that!

Jackson spent every second possible on the waterslide and splash pad...

And he ate banana splits at every meal...
And climbed down from his bed and slept in the middle of our bed every night...
And he did not care for the kids club so he hung out with us.  We didn't mind.

We pretty much didn't see the older kids.  They hung out with their cousins and checked into the kids clubs a few times.  Mostly they just did their own thing.  The got freshly cooked pizza at all hours of the day. And ate ice cream--Abby set the record with fifteen ice cream cones in one day...

 The big boys played miniature golf and met other kids on board the ship.  (One boy who was also waiting for his mission call!)

and went to concerts...

They looked super handsome at dinner...
 And played ridiculous games of 'what are the odds' which made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants...

I loved hanging out with my sissies. And I missed the ones who weren't there (Kendra, Emily, Ashlee, Lindsay, Heidi, Jamie, Melanie, Jessi and Ariel...)

And I loved having an easy laid back schedule!
We had a couple excursions off the boat.  I'll post those later!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas card 2015

I finally got all our Christmas cards mailed yesterday.  The printer wasn't working so I just mailed them without a letter! For our own records we like to have a Christmas letter every year as a summary of the most memorable events of the year .  So Here it is:

Merry Christmas!
As always, this time of year reminds us of family and friends. We love to hear from you all and hope all is well in your homes!
Our family is growing and changing faster than ever. Dallin and Landon are seniors this year and are hoping to leave on missions early next summer. Austin will graduate and leave before they get home so it may be quite a few years before we have our whole family together for Christmas after this year!

Jackson is definitely the sweetheart of the family right now.  We hope we don’t ruin him! He adores Dallin and Landon and is forever climbing on them but only gets their names right about half of the time.

Jenna and Benson have been home for school again this year. We are enjoying our time to learn at home knowing it won’t last forever.  Benson is easy-going and plays equally well with everyone. He and Austin are the glue of our family--they can hang out with anyone. Ben reads to Jackson at night and he teases him during the day. Ben still loves all sports and managed to break his collarbone for the third time (ouch!) during this football season.

Jenna joined the curly hair club this year, which is so fun! She is growing into a kind, gentle young lady. She reads every second she gets and plays the violin and has memorized the recipe for chocolate chip cookies. She is a huge help around the house.

All three big boys played football together this year. They won the district championship and made it through the entire season without any serious injuries!! It is a joy for us to watch them play together! Dallin and Landon were both voted first team for our conference and Dallin was also awarded defensive player of the year for the conference. Dallin placed second at state in wrestling last season and is hoping to win that elusive state champion title this season.

Landon worked really hard to recover from injuries and beat the odds to be able to play football for his senior year. He wasn’t able to play middle linebacker but did awesome on O-line and D-line and got through the entire season! Landon re-injured his left shoulder in wrestling last year and has been struggling with random shoulder dislocations.  Ouch.  He needs a bone graft to fix the shoulder socket and to reattach the bicep tendon--we will fit that surgery in just after Christmas.

Austin found his place on the football D-line alongside Landon and Dallin and loved playing with his brothers.  He is officially taller than Dallin and just about even with Landon. Austin turns 16 at the end of December and he already has a date all set (with his brothers)!
The three boys sing in Jive together and drive to and from school in their trusty old truck every day. They put in 12-13 hour days almost every day of the week and work hard to manage priorities.
We love watching them grow.

I have had multiple opportunities to use my nursing degree this year with our family.  In addition to the various injuries of the boys, at the beginning of November Rustin had emergency gall bladder surgery that resulted in some complications that earned him ten very sick days in the hospital. His work and church partners all stepped up and filled in for him for three+ weeks without question. Such a tender mercy! The experience left us profoundly grateful for our dear friends and family and for the
little things we forget to enjoy:
Chatting with the boys after late nights; Jackson sneaking in to snuggle in the morning; Jenna’s hilarious, ridiculous stories that make her brothers giggle for hours; running out of a giant sized can of hot chocolate every week--these are a few of the things we truly love!
This season we are grateful for the Savior and the gospel in our lives above all else. We think that celebrating the life of the Savior is the perfect way to end the year!
May you all have peace and joy going forward in 2016!

Rustin, Kim, Dallin (18) Landon (18) Austin (15 11/12) Jenna (12) Benson (11) Jackson (4)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Football 2015

This was such a unique year for football.  Dallin, Landon and Austin all played together on varsity for Twin Falls High School. It was so much fun for Rustin and I to be able to watch all of the boys at the same time! It was also awesome to only have to keep track of one game schedule!

Dallin played Middle linebacker on defense and he played right guard on offense.  He was also on some of the kickoff return teams so he played all game every game.  He came out a few times but not many and he loved it! 
Landon worked really hard over the last two years to be able to play football at all.  He wore a special shoulder brace that kept his left shoulder from dislocation.  He has some subluxations that hurt but he didn't have any full dislocations during football which is kind of a miracle.  He started every game on offense and went in as a defense lineman quite a bit at the end of the season.  

Austin was surprised and thrilled to play varsity with his brothers.  He played nose guard on defensive line.  He did really well and have a few sacks and a bunch of great tackles.  He has really improved dramatically over the last  year or so.  When Landon played defense we had all three boys playing at the same time which was really awesome for Rustin and I to watch. 

 Dallin disagrees with the 'tries' lable in this picture as he was able to get this tackle.  

 Dallin and Landon are seniors this year so they each got to choose a 'most influential teacher' to walk out onto the field with us for senior night. Dallin chose Mrs. Graham from second grade (twice!).  If Dallin hadn't picked her Landon would have! She is truly an example of a gifted teacher who loves to teach.  She travels all over the country teaching teachers new techniques.  It was really fun to see her. 

The Bruins ended up with an undefeated record for in conference games which made us the conference champions!  Awesome!
 Rustin was sick in the hospital with gall bladder surgery during the boys football banquet.  Austin received a pin for playing varsity.  Landon received a senior football and he was also voted first team all conference offensive lineman.  All the conference coaches get together and nominate and vote on players from the teams in the  conference.  Dallin was awarded first team for defensive linebacker and he was also awarded Defensive Player of the Year for the conference.  Such an honor! He was also awarded the Paul Ostyn award for the team with is a big honor.  Dallin also received varsity warrior status for the second time.  Varsity warrior  is awarded to players who meet a set of defensive criteria.  Dallin was thrilled.  

 Rustin and I were thrilled to have the year end on a great note.  The team was beat out in the second round of the state playoffs.  We lost to Century for the second year in a row.  Maybe Austin will have a chance to turn that record around next year!

Monday, December 7, 2015

One more trip to the hospital...

I love Fall but this one has been rough! We had a rough couple of weeks just before Thanksgiving.  Rustin had emergency surgery to remove a badly diseased gall bladder on November 14, 2015.  HE had been having attacks for about six weeks  He would wake up at night with excruciating abdominal pain.  HE would be up for hours vomiting and writhing until the pain passed.  Her assumed it was a partial bowel obstruction like he had in Tennessee.  (Due to adhesions from an appendectomy.) It never occurred to him or me that the problem was his gall bladder! On Friday night the pain got so bad that we went to the Emergency Room out of shear desperation.  An ultrasound diagnosed the problem and off to surgery he went.

When they got to the gall bladder there were so many stones and 'sludge' that some of it squished into the common bile duct as it was being removed.  The CBD drains the enzymes from both the gall bladder and liver.  They could see the stone in the duct so during the gall bladder surgery they called in a GI specialist to do an ERCP.  Basically they put a scope with a balloon down the throat through the stomach and into the small intestine where the CBD empties.  Then they insert the balloon up into the duct, inflate it and pull it down through the duct removing the stones and sludge with it.  The doctors said there was a bunch of sludge and a giant stone that they removed.

The trouble came for us with the pancreas.  The pancreas duct empties into the small intestine right next to the CBD so, the ERCP procedure irritated the pancreas duct and caused a massive case of pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis HURTS.  It was just about as painful as the gall bladder which was complete agony. 10/10 on the pain scale.  Rustin's lab work went crazy.  His liver stopped working efficiently and he turned an eerie shade of yellow.  His pancreas enzymes went up through the roof and His WBC count was elevated.
Yellow eyes.  This picture doesn't do them justice!

The pain was definitely the worst part for Rustin.  HE received IV phentanyl every two hours.  After about three days they also started oral percocet. To make matters even worse his digestive system also shut down causing an ileus.  He had now bowel sounds at all for about four days.  His belly swelled up so much it was double his normal size. His bladder also refused to empty and the swelling and pressure there was just one more thing to deal with.   There was so much fluid and swelling that this lungs were squished and he couldn't breathe.  He had to have six liters of oxygen to keep his blood saturation about 90%.  Without oxygen he dropped down to the low 70%'s or the high 60's.  Rustin was one sick man. 

On Monday Rustin looked even more sick.  Lab work was worse than ever and he was still in agony.  They determined that the CBD was blocked so they went in and did another ERCP to open the duct.  Then they placed a stent to keep it open and to help the liver drain.  All of that required another trip to the OR with general anesthetic.  This time they put a catheter in and left it so he would have to worry about his bladder.  Before they went down to surgery Rustin was in agony.  I felt like I needed to be right by his side every minute.  HE slept a lot but would wake up distressed and disoriented.  By the time they finally took him down to pre-op and  got him sedated and I left to go find some food.  By this time I was STARVING. But the cafeteria was closed.  All I had in the room was chocolate and it was making me sick.  I found some frozen burritos in a vending machine and went back to Rustin's room to wait for him.  

When I got to his room I couldn't find a vending machine so I just determined that I would be starving for the night.  I couldn't leave during surgery in case they ran into problems and needed to talk to me.  Just then the Thompsons texted that they were coming up and did I need anything.  Such perfect timing!  They brought me dinner and I felt much better.  

Later that night I left Rustin and went home to sleep a bit and shower. I was hoping that Rustin would be sleepy and would sleep through the night.  I was wrong.  Nurses are awesome but I know what their job is like.  They just don't have the time to be there for every need!  Some nurses are awesome and some just aren't as attentive.  Unfortunately I picked a night with an inattentive nurse to leave and Rustin was miserable.  So after Monday night I stayed with him except for the two nights and Darren came up later in the week.  Darren was an awesome help!
There's just something about a dad.  

I watched just about every cheesy Christmas movie on Netflix and I drank peppermint tea every day.  

Rustin found that walking helped to relieve the pressure in his abdomen while we were waiting for his digestive system to wake up.  We walked over to the windows that overlooked the hospital Christmas lights in the evenings.  We would sit in the chairs and enjoy the quiet.  

On Sunday (9 days in the hospital) He finally started feeling better and his digestive system started to wake up.  We started with jello and broth.  Yum.  

We were hoping to go home Monday but his lab work went crazy again with WBC count higher than ever.  They found some pneumonia in his left lung. They did chest x-rays and continued antibiotics.  Finally on Tuesday they sent us home even though his WBC count was still really high.  Rustin had been off oxygen for two days and his pain was much better.  Getting all the narcotics out of his system was an ordeal that we undertook at home.  

Overall Rustin missed three full weeks of work.  Gary Walker came in and took all the patients on his schedule.  It was so kind and reassuring not to have to worry about the practice while Rustin was sick.  And we were still able to pick up our regular paycheck.  Such a blessing!

It took a good week to get rid of all the extra fluid and get off the pain medicine.  We had planned to to to Franklin for Thanksgiving but we ended up staying here in Twin with my parents and Ashlee's family.  Rustin is back to work now but still isn't feeling well.  His pancreas enzymes are elevated again and he get really dizzy and sweaty.  His abdomen hurts every day.  We are going back in regularly to check lab results and he will have to have the stent in his liver removed in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully all will go well with that and Rustin will continue to heal.  

We have been blessed a thousand times by friends and family who helped these last few weeks.  Gary and Jared at the office as well as all the office staff have been great.  The stake presidency has taken over for Rustin and have given him time to recover.  Darren and Loalee took Jenna, Benson and Jackson home with them for a few days which was really helpful.  We missed quite a bit of school but  that's the good thing about homeschool--we can make it up! My parents helped with the puppies at out house (fifteen puppies right now!) and they did a bunch of laundry.  So great.  
We have had so many people fasting and praying for us we hardly know how to say thank you! Many stopped by to say hello and wish Rustin fast healing.   The hospital staff was kind and encouraging for the most part.  We appreciate good, pain free health and we are enjoying the holidays with our family at home!

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