Monday, May 16, 2016

Hang Your Pictures on the Wall

I want to give a long and thorough update for the Blackhurst Klan, but for now- a moment of therapy. When Todd and I moved to Houston so many years ago, we arrived rather weather-torn and battered.  We had been through the rick-a-ma-roo and it showed- but I don't have to tell you this, many of you were there! For several years while we were happily adjusting to our new life- I held back a little.  Oh I still did all the normal routines and didn't even notice the changes- but I held back. Some of my foundations of trust had been permanently broken and although we recovered with flying colors- I stayed reserved. One day while visiting a friend, I oohed and ahhed at her decorating.  It was so perfect, each empty space filled with family identity- vacations, artwork done by a child, knick-knacks with special attachments, quotes to live by, recent family photos- framed and mounted. Stepping into the house opened up something in me that had been closed.  The idea of home.

Although Todd's job was going extremely well, we had made lasting friendships, and we loved our school and church- I hadn't made Houston our home.  Emotionally, I think I felt like the idea of home was not a permanent place, it was something that could change in an instant. It was something that could be taken- with force and without remorse. The idea of home had altered to something intangible and fragile- but by being in my friends' home, I realized something valuable. Home is wherever I make it. I've had to "therapy" myself a bit through some of it, but over time I have realized that yes- we could lose our home in a heartbeat.  Tornadoes, floods, unemployment, greedy banks, or war could all take our house away in an instant. The reality that it could be gone in a moment should not leave me stranded, although it did for a while. This is MY home. Where I raise my children. Where I invite my friends for parties, for books clubs, for dinner. It's our haven from the cruel world. Our resting place. Our happy spot. Our pillow to cry on. Our halls to scream and shout and fight in. It's ours, because of the people who live here. So instead of thinking- maybe someday- I hang pictures on my walls.  All over. Nails.Thumb tacs. Hammers. We paint- because a playroom should be sun-shine yellow and not chocolate brown. We add value and declutter a bit here and there so that when we walk in we exhale from the worry of the world.  We make it ours. Every scratch of paint tells our story. It's not going to be perfect and someday we will walk away from this house- because that is the nature of life. But! We will walk away knowing that we put our best into these walls. That we lived with our eyes open, unafraid of tomorrow, and our pictures on the wall.

From trash to treasure- the slats on the wall are from the crib Todd and I painted for Ava before she was born.  The number 5 was part of the decorations at my baby shower for Cora. The rest are pictures from our most current photo shoot.  It's not quite how I want it forever, but I really like it for now.

My great-grandmother's dining room table- that was also my grandmother's sits in my piano room. It's a recent addition to my house, and is on temporary loan but this is my favorite room to sit in- and as you can see- I have good company!

Friday, April 22, 2016


What. A. Week.

You might think an unexpected week long vacation from school sounds fun, but it was not the celebration it could have been. Being cooped up together without the option of going anywhere- including outside proved to be more of a challenge than I was ready for. I like to think of myself as a fun mom, but I assure you I earned the award for the grouchy mom this week.  Oh man! Let's see if I can go through the week and still remain awake and conscious.

Sunday night the storms came rolling in at full force and left no prisoners. It began in the evening and the girls had no problems going to sleep- but as the night rolled along, the storm became vicious and unrelentless.  A little before midnight our first "flash flood" warning came followed by our first "tornado warning".  Its funny, Todd and I having lived all of our adult lives in Texas- where tornadoes are common- were trying to remember which was worse- a tornado watch or a tornado warning.  It's warning, just FYI. Warning is just that- take cover, you are in potential danger. I readied the laundry room- which is a bit small for a party of 7, and I wanted Todd to go get the children.  I hadn't spoken the words, "Just bring them down one by one and keep them sleeping" so his interpretation of the events was- get everyone down stairs as fast as possible. I'm not sure it would have worked keeping them asleep, but we will try it next time! Out of all of the children Ava was the most freaked out.  Since this is old hat to Todd and I, neither of us were anxious- just wanting to make sure we were up to date with the happenings. Camille-taking cue from me- was making reassuring statements throughout the night, which was quite funny since her oldest sister was having a meltdown. I can't remember the times, because its all a bit of a blur- but eventually the threat had passed and we sent everyone to bed. For the next couple hours we were either woken by additional emergency alarms or Ava. Around 4am, I think, we were under another tornado warning.  I attempted to keep them sleeping, but having had a restless night- they all awoke as soon as I put my hands on them.  We spent that warning in the living room watching the weather man drone on and on. Finally- again- the warning was lifted, and our little ones went to bed for a little bit in an effort to race the sun's arrival and our start of the day. Because sleep and memory are so closely tied, I can't remember if I ever went to bed that night. Eventually, Todd and I would find sleep in small cat naps throughout the day, but it was an exhausting existence. Since our kids had gone to bed on time and had been able to go back to sleep- they were really fine most of the day.  Cora and Camille took longer naps and Lucy had a few meltdowns, but other than that- it was a normal day.  By normal, of course, I mean that school had been canceled, work had been canceled, and the city of Houston had shut down.

Since Todd was not at work and could not leave the house, he spent most of the day organizing the ward members and checking on those in dire situations.  I spent the morning cooking up a big breakfast with eggs, biscuits, and bacon.  I earned that bacon, after all! The rest of the day was fairly normal, just a bit sleepier. We watched the news more often than usual- which should translate into: we watched the news in the first time in I don't know how long. Todd felt he would have no problems going to work the next day, which he did.  Unfortunately many of the streets leading to schools had been flooded and one of our high schools received some big damage- so school was canceled Tuesday as well.

The rest of the week was basically spent thinking that we would be going to school the next day- so let's get this or that done. Nothing too big or grand was started because well, school would be in session tomorrow.  so let's just plan easy for today. Gradually, my beautifully cleaned home has turned into a 7-day weekend. I am hopeful to get it back in order today, but I am not getting my hopes too high.

I should also mention that- blessing or curse- I decided that we are going to potty train Camille. I felt like it was time, she was ready, and I was frankly tired of her diapers. In that respect, it has been good to be stuck at home. She'd had the opportunity to focus on making it to the potty and to keep those panties clean! And let's just talk details for one moment and then never talk about it again.  The girl can poop just fine in the potty.  She gets it.  Peeing, however, is just not clicking. This is my 4th kid to potty train. Karma hates me.

Yesterday I was REALLY getting stir crazy so I told Todd that I thought I would take the girls to Chick-fil-a so that they could get some energy out and I could get out of the house.  We ate and the girls went off to play and within 5 minutes, Camille had peed. Super. So I, without emotion, put Camille in the car with the older girls, buckled in Cora, then went back into the restaurant while I cleaned up the breakfast and Ava cleaned up the pee (she knew where it was). We drove home, Camille sitting in her seat soaking. AWEEEEEESOME.

We went to the dentist later in the morning in the continual rain.  Just pounding. BUT we made it safe and sound and every one's teeth were fine.  Lucy got her baby tooth pulled, and the tooth fairy paid her first visit...despite the fact that she actually lost the tooth between the trip home and the walk upstairs to her bedroom. Go figure.

That afternoon, despite the constant clouds and rain- it cleared up and the heat turned on.  Hallelujah! So the girls went outside to eat lunch and to play. In the course of their 5 minutes of freedom, Cora picked up a bee on the trampoline and put it in her mouth.  I'm not sure if it was alive or dead. ,Either way- it stung her in the tongue and Ava screamed for me to come immediately.  I was upstairs putting up laundry.  Cora was obviously upset, so I took her into my bathroom to get a better look.  I could see the stinger in her tongue alright and verbally praying for help, I got the tweezers and tried to get her to stick her tongue out.  Not easy.  Somehow, I managed to get it out.  It wasn't big, thankfully. I immediately gave her Benadryl and Tylenol and texted Todd to call the doctor.  As I waited for him, I gave her frozen marshmallows in hopes that that might aide the swelling. The doctor had suggested everything I had already done but encouraged us to watch her.  Her tongue was slightly swollen on the side it was stung, but other than a little fussiness- that was the end of that.  Story for the books!

I had had my fill of "excitement" from my children, so Todd insisted that we go out to dinner.  Bless his wisdom.  We went to MOD pizza and then wandered around Whole Foods for a bit.  We came home and put the kids to bed. We have been watching Parks & Rec- because one of our friends says that its really funny...they also said you have to watch a bit before it gets funny. We are hoping to get to that part, although its pretty funny now. 

Thankfully, all good things must come to a close and next week these kids will be back at school! I know this is a lot of angst for one post but man oh man- don't sign me up for the apocalypse, I am not mentally sound enough. Its one thing to have a day here or there that you don't expect but a whole week where you think you'll be going the next day is kinda like hell on Earth. It's like going on a car ride and never actually getting there.  I know one family, who's Dad is a teacher, and they just decided they'd go to Sea World today.  Why not? Can't go to school, kids are stir crazy, might as well! Wish they had taken me with them!

OK, in all honesty, we are grateful that it was not worse. Our neighborhood is designed to not flood, and we were very fortunate to have access to places, enough food, and things to do.  We did make some good memories mixed in with all the fighting and pee-pee accidents.  AND I have not been admitted to the loony bin- so all-in-all, this is a win/win....but that loony bin is sounding better and better by the minute!

Whew.  Happy Friday, ya'll.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Charity is spelled L-O-V-E

My talk/sermon given to the Parkway Ward on 10-25-2014 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints:

In August, I was sitting in the Primary room when I received a text from my husband who was sitting 5 feet away from me. The text said that Brother Bishop had asked if Todd and I would speak in church during sacrament meeting. We have only spoken once in the 4 years we have lived here, so I knew we couldn't hide too much longer. I asked Todd if we had been given a topic- and he said yes- CHASTITY. Say what? CHASTITY? He confirmed and then he and I spent several weeks pondering and praying about how we were going to cover such a serious topic with such a vast audience of ages and experience. The more we studied, the more confident we became and we began giving ourselves these little pep talks, “if the Bishopric felt inspired to ask us to speak of this topic, then we can do it!” Travis was still working on figuring out which Sunday we would speak- and so I e-mailed the bishopric to ask if they had a date for us yet and to confirm my topic. Phil Harrison replied confirming that our day to speak was today- AND yes, I was still speaking on CHARITY. CHARITY, not CHASTITY, they almost sound the same but they are drastically different! And no, I'm not volunteering us to speak chastity any time soon.

Charity, however, is probably my most favorite topic (especially compared to chastity) and something I am super passionate about. By definition, charity is the pure love of Christ. The Book of Mormon and New Testament both state that charity suffereth long, is kind, is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, does not rejoice in inquiry- but does in truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things, without charity we are nothing and charity never faileth. Well, that sounds easy enough!

The week after conference I decided to ponderize- or ponder/memorize- 1 Cor 13:4-8 which spells out a lot of what I just described about charity. Since I had that scripture on my heart- it popped into my head several times unexpectedly whenever I was not quite on track in my thinking. So when the man in the grocery store insisted on whistling the entire time he and I shopped, I was reminded that charity is not easily provoked, is kind, suffereth long and endureth all things. Needless to say, it was a week full of reminders that I need to work on being more charitable.

Fresh out of college and newly married I had the opportunity to work for a non-profit organization while Todd finished his degree from Texas A&M. Sheltering Arms was a facility built for children taken from their homes because of abuse. A few were run-aways. I worked long hours and the environment and circumstances of the children made it a challenging job. I am sometimes haunted by that job now that I am a parent. I would certainly do things differently. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from the shelter was about REAL CHARITY. During the holidays, organizations would come out of the wood works offering toys for the children living in the shelter. We would receive so many donations that we wouldn't have room for them. There were easily 20 gifts per child. It became unreasonable, inconvenient, and overwhelming. I remember thinking that I wished these good intended organizations would ask us what we needed instead of what felt good to buy. The best illustration of charity comes from an experience I had at the shelter that I refer to as the parable of the doctor and the doughnut lady.

As a 20-something year old supervisor, when donations were brought to our gate- I was to meet the donors- provide a tax form- and collected whatever was being donated. One afternoon I was called outside to receive some donations. I met a man there who had a few trashbags of used clothing. As I began filling out the form, he abruptly asked for it, filled it out himself- then gave it back to me to sign. Surprised by his frustration, I took the form, gave him his copy, then collected the bags and brought them inside. When I reviewed the form I noticed that he had written his donation value at $500. I got into trouble for allowing him to fill out the form, especially since his donation did not match the value he wrote. I later found out that he was a local doctor and that he had done this before.

In stark contrast, I had the opportunity once to talk to another one of our donors. The children at the shelter lovingly referred to her as the doughnut lady. Every week this woman would ring the gate with donations of bags of donuts. Not just a dozen glazed- she would bring in the works: kolaches, frosted, sprinkles, twists, and cake donuts- a cornucopia of flavors and colors to the utter delight of the children. I only spoke to her once, even though she came every week, because she was very discrete. She had called to say that she was going out of town and wanted to express her sorrow and concern for missing one week. Charity is not puffed up and seeketh not her own.

I believe in life we are given countless opportunities to serve. Those opportunities are only during the holiday or when its convenient. Its not meant to be for our benefit, although charity often blesses the giver more than the receiver. The doughnut lady teaches us that charity- in its simplest form- is consistent. It should be our way of living- something that we feel the absence of when it is gone. Camilla Kimball said it best, and this is our family motto: Never suppress a generous thought. And to steal a phrase from Nike-just do it!

The second aspect of charity that I want to discuss is charity in the home. I'm going to warn you that some of what I'm going to say might sting a little, or at least it did for me! The message for this month's visiting teachers is about love & charity. My visiting teacher shared this quote by President Monson. He offers a fresh perspective that has made me re-think my views on charity. See if you ever see any of this in your homes or even your workplace.

“Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become easily offended. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.”

I don't know what you got from that quote but here is what I heard:
*Lindsey, your children never have been nor ever will be perfect, cut them some slack.
*Lindsey, not everyone loves your cooking 100% of the time and even when they do, don't expect a handwritten note of thanks.
*Lindsey, your job as a mother and wife is to love them- as they are. Perfectly imperfect bundles of hugs, kisses, and impossible to clean-up messes.
*Lindsey, its forgiving the fact that they forgot to brush their teeth, or make their bed, or pack their lunches. Again.
*Lindsey, charity is all about LOVE.

In the last general conference Elder Holland spoke to Moms about charity, “Thank you. Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ. Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are. In fact, you are Saviors on Mount Zion and like the Master you follow, your love never faileth.”

There's a quote in my kitchen that says, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.” Winston Churchill once said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

During our first years of marriage- Todd and I got into a fight. We don't fight often but I don't remember any of the details other than we wanted the other person to leave us alone- and we weren't speaking much. That evening when I went to get ready for bed, Todd had put toothpaste on my toothbrush for me. It wasn't anything big- but it was just enough to melt the frost between us. Since then whomever brushes their teeth first puts toothpaste on the other person's toothbrush. It's a daily reminder to us of what's really important and we've been doing that for 14 years.

And I think that's the real secret behind charity. It is not always the service projects, the Secret Santas, the $500 donation of used clothing. I believe that charity is that selfless service that brings us to the door of our friends, or neighbors, or strangers with bags of donuts or helping hands, or a simple hug. I believe that if charity is the pure love of Christ,- then we should seek for it in our homes where people are often the most unlovable. It's toothpaste on your toothbrush saying- what really matters to me is you.

1 John 3:11- “For this is the message that ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

I wanted to share one more thought about charity that hadn't occurred to me until I thought I was finished writing my talk. When our family first moved to Houston, we arrived a bit tattered from having dealt with a difficult move. We had been through a lot and we were still recovering. Struggling to find Houston our new home, I knew that serving others would help me adjust- but with such a full plate of unpacking & mothering small children- I could not find the time to do any service outside of my home. I expressed my apologizes to my new friend who was serving as the current Relief Society president and she counseled me by saying, “Lindsey, its not your turn. We all have seasons of life- sometimes we are serving, sometimes we are waiting, and sometimes we are the ones being served. We all take turns in those phases. Lindsey, its not your turn.” Wherever you are in the rotation, please be patient , the season will change soon.

It has been my privilege to be in a season of serving. Many thanks to all of those whom I have learned from as we have served together in this congregation. As I teach primary now, we are learning about the life of Jesus. The greatest blessing of this calling is that I've gotten to know Jesus as a person better. After all we have to know him in order to be more like him. He is our ultimate example. I hope your take-away message from this talk is that charity really doesn't have to be big- its the little every day things that add up to something, making us better servants, & better people. Let's all try to do a little better, my friends. I love you, thanks for loving me back- because that's what its all about.

Monday, August 24, 2015

First day for my oldest 3!

Isn't she the sweetest? 
Camille wanted in everybody's picture

Sweet Sydnee 
Ava & her little buddy

Because she needed one by herself too!

They wanted to get inside- can you tell they are just humoring me here?

Our last school drop off.  Doesn't she look so big?

Hoping this year is as good for Sydnee as it was for Ava!

Handing over the cinnamon rolls, per tradition, to Mrs. Shae, Lucy's teacher.  Two of Lucy's friends are in her class- Violet & Lizzie.

Oh my sweet girl! This one makes me teary.  Sure love my little sunshine.

Daddy's turn- and a better view of Lucy's cute dress

Lucy's bestie, Lizzie Burns is in the same class.
Well this morning at 3:30 Lucy and Camille came and visited us. Insert yawn here. We asked them to go back to bed then when the alarm went off for Todd's normal time to get up- we slept on...then when I looked at the clock and realized it was much later than I thought, I spent the rest of the morning in a bit of a frenzy.  Luckily/blessedly- it all worked out! All the girls went to school with their previously picked out outfits and accessories, new shoes, backpacks, and hair done.  I curled Ava's hair with rollers, straightened Sydnee's with the Chi, and french braided Lucy's.  They all looked so pretty this morning. I am anxious for them to get home and tell me all about it! I have a special snack planned today too- peanut butter kiss cookies. Because last night was a little crazy we totally forgot to give our girls their books this year- and we were going to do it this morning, but it was too crazy! So we'll do that when they get home too.
I have set up a homework area for them again.  Last year we did this but then they just ended up using the diningroom table, which is fine too, but I'm hopeful this set up will work out.  We shall see! I want to make sure it is all ready today- I'll take a picture later. :)
Todd took the day off today so he could do drop-off and be here when they came home.  He's such a good Daddy. Because he is here I made him go grocery shopping with me! I could have gone alone, but Aldi is much more fun with help! So we did a lot of shopping and now are enjoying Camille "sleeping" and Cora cooing on the blanket.  We have a little lunch organization station going on in the fridge, snack baskets are full, homework area set up- so its off to a good start here.  It was a lot of work on my part to get all that set up, but I figure that if I don't start off organized, I won't last!
Here's to happy first days! I can't wait to see them in a few hours!

Friday, July 17, 2015

The donut lady

I've shared this story many times over the years, but a friend asked me to write it down, so I thought I would share it here too. To all the donut ladies out there...thanks.

When I worked at Sheltering Arms, a shelter for children under 18 that were temporarily placed in CPS care, I became a witness to many types of service.  As an organization that provided shelter for children, we were often served by the good-meaning people of the community- and most often at Christmastime where people would come in droves to help these "less fortunate children." Unfortunately, the rest of the year, we were just a building tucked into a neighborhood that was passed on a regular basis. In all my time working at the shelter, there were two individuals that stuck out to me in a way that changed my perspective on service forever: the doctor and the donut lady.
As a supervisor, one of my main responsibilities was to protect the identity of the children to any visitors.  The home was built behind a fence that required entry from someone within to let a guest inside the gate. On one particularly normal day the buzzer went off and the caller said he was there to donate clothes for the children. I went to greet him with my clipboard and tax exemption sheet in hand.  It was my job to sort the clothing and determine a value. The man delivering the clothes was a little put-off by the formality of the form and the process I was taking. Part of the process was to fill out what the donations were and to assess their value. Once I had filled out the vital information, this man- whom I later learned was a doctor in our community- took the form and filled in the value amount. According to this man, the bag of unwanted, used clothing that he had stuffed into a black garbage bag had a value of $500. He signed the form and left quickly.  When I returned the sheet I was in shock. After speaking to a more seasoned employee she explained that sometimes people filled out that form solely for the tax refund benefits. The donators at Christmastime were good people, trying to do something to feel good about their efforts during a season when giving is emphasized. The doctor? His motivation? Although I can't say for certain, had nothing to do with the children who's lives had been turned upside down. It wasn't really about them.
There is one other person that I vividly remember, although I only spoke to her once. I don't know her name, although I wish I did.  At the shelter she was affectionately called "the donut lady".  Each week, around the same time she would show up to the gate with heavy bags, filled with a variety of donuts.  Not just the plain glazed-which happen to be my favorite- there would be donuts of every color- sprinkled, with chocolate, fillings, and even the more expensive sausage & cheese kolaches. These were the real deal, stuff-in-your-mouth deliciousness in fried/baked/frosted form. It was loved and quickly devoured by the excited expectant children waiting for their sweet treat. The donut lady didn't ever stay to receive praise, she just came.  Every week.  Never asked to return.  We didn't have to, she always did. The one time I spoke to our donut lady was because she was going out of town and she wanted to make sure the children would know not to expect her. She never asked for a tax form either but I imagine a weekly trip to the donut store with dozens of goods can add up.
It has been many years since I worked at the shelter.  It was one of the most challenging jobs and as a recent college graduate, it was often overwhelming.  Jolts of the real world shoved into a Monday-Friday work day. I learned a lot from my time there, but one of the most valuable lessons I learned is that when it comes to helping others- there are two types of approaches.  There are those who serve because it serves them and their purpose.- whether that be a bigger tax deduction or a feel-good-about-ourselves moment at Christmastime. And there are also "donut ladies" who serve in small ways, without being asked, without being thanked, and without stopping to receive their reward.  In our world, filled with the giveme givemes- wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a few more donut ladies? Let's do a little better, you and me, dig a little deeper and find a way to bring a little more love into the world.  Consistent, altruistic service- with or without the frosting, its up to you.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Our tiniest princess

I figure I need to write all of this out before I forget it, plus it is fun to go back and read the details that become forgotten later on. :) So here it goes...

Last week, probably Thursday, I began to experience some early signs of labor but since I was determined to not be impatient with Cora's arrival I just noted them and kept moving.  Saturday Todd and I had our last "before the baby comes" alone time where we walked all over Tomball- the farmer's market, antique stores, etc... It was a lot of fun and totally exhausting at the same time.  I took a hefty nap once we got home. On Sunday I noticed I had some back pain and although I had read just the night before signs of early labor, I thought nothing of it.  Now I realize the back pain was my first indication of a contraction.  Sunday was a great day, though, because Todd  and I got a lot done that we had wanted to get done.  The weekend had been one full of preparation for the upcoming week- the house was clean, laundry done, groceries bought (oh my goodness I went to the store alone on Saturday- glad my water didn't break then!), loads of the projects we had been working on were complete.  Were we completely ready?  No, there were a few things we still needed to accomplish to feel completely ready, but the house, the kid stuff, and all the important stuff had been crossed off the to-do list.

Working on my bedroom wall...

Finished!  And I made a bunch of the stuff myself!

Despite all of the signs (that I was missing/ignoring), Sunday afternoon we loaded up and headed to church.  I waddled around receiving words of sympathy and suggestions on how to get this show on the road. Todd and I subbed for Ava's primary class and then I was off to conduct the Relief Society meeting.  In opening exercises I joked about still being here but that I promised I wouldn't be here next week. Someone from the audience joked that we ought to all say a prayer for me right then and there- I joked back saying that we needed a moment of silence.  Then we sang a hymn and the prayer was said by my sweet visiting teacher, Jennie.  In the prayer she prayed for me and the safe delivery of the baby.  Very sweet and I promise I only blushed a little at the attention.  Once I gave all of the announcements and turned the time over to Cindy for the lesson, I sat toward the back next to Jennie and listened to the lesson.  10 minutes before our meeting was over I felt a small gush. I wasn't certain that it was my water breaking, but that's what it felt like- so I picked up my phone and walked out of the meeting straight for the bathroom.  My water has broken on its own 2 other times and I knew the potential for a flood was a reality.  I texted Todd "I think my water just broke." Then texted 5 of my friends hoping that one of them had their phone on them "I'm in the bathroom, I think my water just broke."

Poor Todd. I gave him no directions, so he goes to look for me in the Relief Society room, then realizes I'm probably in the bathroom.  He is standing outside the women's bathroom debating on how he can get to me when Taryn and Amy come racing around the corner.  They come in full of excitement and questions.  So far, there is no big puddle or mess- its actually just a dribble really (your welcome for the visual). Amy & Taryn spring into action telling me what I am going to do, what they are going to do, and then they escort me out of the bathroom and take off to put the plan in action.  Todd sees me, and we decide he needs to tell the girls what is going on, so he leaves. For a moment my team has left me alone to walk down the hall to the van...all the while hoping my water doesn't leave a trail behind me.  Luckily, Evelyn comes out in the hall ready to help- she walks behind me just in case the trickle becomes a flood.  We make it to the van and Ashley joins us as well, offering her help.  I have no towel or blanket or anything to sit on- so its a good thing we live so close to the church and have leather seats! Taryn and Amy meet back up with us to get car seats and then Todd and I head home to get all of our things and head to the hospital.

Once we get home we are still kinda like dear-in-headlights despite the fact that this is baby #5. I remember that I hadn't set out Lucy's clothes for the week- so I go do that real quick, then make sure I have everything together for Hawaiian Haystacks for dinner for the girls and Taryn's family who will be staying with them until my parents arrive.  I had already made the rice and the chicken + cream of chicken soup was in the crock pot. All set. Toppings set out. OK- last minute stuff thrown into the bags.  I change clothes- what does one wear to the hospital when you know that you are going to gush all over it? As we are leaving Taryn pulls up with the kids, we say our goodbyes and good lucks- then we head to the hospital.  On the way I begin to feel real contractions, they are 5-6 minutes apart and strong.  We are both nervous for the night ahead.

Once we get there we go to the check in and they say that they have no proof of my pre-registration. As a result, I get to fill out some forms, initial here and there, all the while sitting on 2 bathroom towels and intensifying contractions.  Eventually- and this may be only after a few minutes I'm not sure- I tell Todd to just fill out everything else.  I'm done. Did I mention we forgot to grab my wallet?  Well- it wasn't on my list and I wasn't driving- it slipped my mind. It didn't help the situation, but eventually they let us walk to the OB intake/triage area.  We are put in a tiny room and have more questions to answer.  They check my progress and I'm only measuring a 2 or 3, so there appears to be no rush.  They go to put in an IV and my veins roll.  UGH. They try twice in my arm and eventually concede to do it in my hand...which hurts worse and is generally uncomfortable, but hey- pain is relative at this point, right? The contractions at this point are irregular and my blood pressure has spiked, so they are turning me on my side- which really hurts. The nurse explains that there is a C-section about to start so they have asked for the anesthesiologist to come right away for the epidural.  Good!  'Cuz this hurts! They are ready to move me into the delivery room. We are getting closer.

Everything goes pretty fast once we move in there.  They tell me that the C-section has begun so its going to be at least an hour before I can get an epidural.  Fine.  I tell myself that I can survive an hour. At this time I am in constant pain.  The contractions have become so irregular that there is no reprieve in the pain and it hurts so bad that its making me nauseous. The nurse leaves to go get some pain medicine that will also help the nausea, while we wait for the epidural and the doctor to be finished with the C-section. While she is gone, I can feel the baby really low and the desire to push.  Todd runs to get the nurse and she checks my progress, I'm measuring a 7 and the baby's head is right there. No time for any medicine, no epidural, and that doctor better hurry. The rest goes pretty fast, well, for everyone but me! Todd urges the nurse to hurry because once we get to this point in my deliveries, the rest goes very quickly.  The nurse calls out to have the hospital's OB doc to come quickly.  I feel like I should push and the nurse tells me to try to take a deep breath and wait for the doctor.  Ya, right.  I push slightly and the doctor comes in, ready to go.  He tells me that I'm in charge- to push when I feel it and he will guide me through it.  So far things have not gone at all like we had planned, but this doctor was the best option for me, a tender mercy. Funny side note- my actual doctor whom I adore checked the hospital log at 5pm to make sure none of her patients had checked in, she checked again at 9pm and was shocked to see my name had appeared with the notation "delivered".

Now pause. Let's have a moment here.  If you've ever been a patient at a hospital they ask you to rate your pain throughout your time there.  I never really know what to rate my pain.  I don't want to be a wimp but I also don't want to underestimate if there's a way to make it less.  Well, this pain is a 10.  Big sad, crying out face on the scale.  Ouchy McOucherson. Have you ever seen a movie or TV show where they have someone delivering a baby and they scream? They do that because it hurts.  A lot.  Todd says he can still hear me scream.

I pushed 2 or 3 times all the while feeling like I could pass out from the pain at any moment- and then she's here!  Just like that, 2 hours and 30 minutes after leaving the church parking lot and our baby has finally arrived!  Exactly 1 week early. Right after the delivery they place her on me, all fresh and new- but I was still in pain and my head was super fuzzy. It takes me like 15 minutes before I am able to appreciate that it is over, our sweet girl- waited and anticipated for- is here.  She is our tiniest princess weighing in at 7 lbs, 4 oz and 18 3/4 inches long.

Today Cora Adeline is 1 week old.  That's hard to believe, but it happens when you're on a newborn's sleep schedule and the days all meld into each other. At this point, we can't say she looks like anyone in particular, although we can tell that she is one of ours...and probably leans more toward looking like Todd than me, which should surprise no one.  She is a very relaxed baby.  Sweet and tiny.  Its amazing how much you can love someone so much and only have known them for 6 days.

I love LOVE this picture.  Cora is completely adored by her sisters every waking moment.  My sister Leah came to help us during our first week of adjustment.  I'm going to miss that help tomorrow when real life begins.

I had a moment with Cora yesterday.  We were in my bedroom alone and I was looking into those big precious newborn eyes and I just had this thought- of all the mothers in the world, she chose me. It's a huge responsibility, one that I do not take likely, and although her arrival has been unexpected in every way from the very beginning, I feel so blessed to be on this journey with her.  My number 5.

Today is Mother's Day.  Being a parent is the most difficult thing I've ever done.  Its an every day struggle to balance the good/better/best and keep the bad influences away. I can't say that I go to sleep every night feeling accomplished or that I've done my job to the best of my ability- but I can say that I've tried. Cora's initials are CAB, which we joke is short for caboose. The completion of our family.  Over the upcoming days, weeks, months, and years as I grow into the role of a mother- I want to remember these precious little moments when these little girls of mine were new to the world, to me, to life. Their fresh start, their new beginning...a journey that is bound to be filled with twists and turns, trials, and tribulations, blessings and tender mercies at every step. What a blessing.

Welcome to the world, Cora Adeline!
We're so glad you're here.

A Mommy photo shoot for the birth announcements.

Friends decorated the house to welcome us home, such a fun surprise.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Awesomeness of Todd

Today is Todd's birthday. Like most hard working individuals, he has to work, but we will get to go have lunch with him at his office, so that will be nice.  Every year I make a cake for Todd, almost always from scratch.  He usually challenges me with something I haven't done before, which has been fun.  I can guarantee most of them have tasted great, but not all of them have looked appetizing.  Cake decorating has been a skill I've had to learn. Just see any of our pre-children cakes. :) Today I am making a triple chocolate cake, per request.  Although it is a new recipe to me, and an intense one, I'm excited to give him something special.
And since it is 5am and I am in full insomniac pregnancy mode, I thought I would write a little blog post letting you know some of the awesomeness of this guy whom has blessed my life more than any other and continues to do so on a daily basis. So the rest of the blog will be filled with all sorts of bragging, but its the truth- and if you can't handle the truth, then just skip the rest and make sure to wish him a Happy birthday. Or just look at the pictures.  They're pretty fun.
Todd and I met in college after he had served a 2 year church mission on Argentina. During his time away, his sweet teenage brother passed away in a car accident, Naturally, it was a devastating event for his family. The morning that Todd found out, he had read a scripture passage that talked about the death of a loved one. I can't site the verses but in them he felt challenged to commit himself that no matter what happened in his life, he was committed to the Lord and his mission. He decided that despite unforeseen challenges, he was resolved to be a better missionary that morning.  Little did he know what was coming. I tell you this because I've always told Todd that this is the reason I married him. His family needed/wanted/pleaded for him to come home (and with good reason) but he chose to stay and teach the people of Argentina about Christ, redemption, and that families could be together forever.  Despite his own grief, he chose the Lord and overnight, he became a more powerful witness of that truth with his own experience. Courageous.
Once his time was up, Todd returned home to grieve alongside his family. He was a source of strength and comfort to them, so instead of returning to school right away, he spent time with them. Several months after he had returned, he visited A&M with several high school seniors from his home town during our annual Senior Week.  My roommate, Dana, who had also just returned from a mission was so excited to introduce her roommates to one of her favorite people. As you can imagine, after being away for over 2 years- Todd saw a lot of old friends and met a bunch of new people.  If you were to ask him about the first time he met me, he would say that he doesn't remember it, which is fine. He was the blue light special and he doesn't remember names easily, so I've forgiven him.  Honestly, my impression was that he was a cute guy and seemed very nice, but that was about the extent of it.
The next day our institute went to an Aggie game.  It was raining, and as you know Aggies stand the whole game. Somehow I was placed by Todd.  I got to know him a little bit and learned that he would be returning to A&M in the Spring, so I would be seeing him more. On the other side of Todd was his new girl friend. Boy did she think he was something else.  I commented to her later what a nice guy he was, and that he had really dreamy eyes.  She whole-heartedly agreed and said- oh and he sings too, you should hear his voice! Obviously a some point they break up, but I can't recall the details because it wasn't really important to me at the time.
Once Todd returned and was single- he spent a lot of time at my house. He hung out with Dana, and had developed a crush on another one of Dana's roommates- Amanda. :) But after a few dates, Amanda let him know that she was no interested.  No matter. Todd continued to hang out at the house, because we were all friends by this point. Todd and I distinctly remember being at a party once, celebrating Dana's engagement, where we sat next to each other and he put his arm around me.  His thoughts- it's just Lindsey.  Mine- it's just Todd. No sparks, just buds. Todd became one of my closest friends that year.  I remember that if I needed a date for something and couldn't find someone- or didn't feel up to asking, then I could call on him, and we would go as friends, no questions asked. Funny how things change.
In the Fall of 1999, something changed.  I can't really explain it, and neither can Todd.  Divine intervention, maybe?  I'm not sure. Amanda and I were over at Todd's apartment hanging out and we spoke openly about our dating woes. We just weren't getting asked out on many dates lately and we couldn't figure out why- this whole scenario makes me LAUGH OUT LOUD, but it goes to show you how close we were with Todd and his roommate, Stephen. In that conversation Amanda and I made some sort of comment about how there just weren't any good datable guys out there. Todd and Stephen took this as a challenge- they were going to find us some good guys! And somewhere in that moment Todd though- wait, I'm a good guy!
At the Halloween dance, which is so fitting if you know us now, I began to develop feelings for Todd. It was SO WEIRD and I just didn't know what to do about it.  He was my buddy. My friend! WHY?!? WHY was I having feelings for him?! It would mess our whole groove up! As it turns out, around that same time Todd was struggling with the same thoughts and feelings.  Naturally, we turned to our roommates. This makes me laugh.  Our roommates spoke to the other person, confirming the feelings. Then within a small time frame- days, weeks, I can't remember. He confessed to me that he liked me and was interested in dating me. Naturally, I already knew- and instead of being accepting and exciting- I said something along the lines of- its about time! He should have known better then. :)
We dated for a year. It was so very awkward at first, but eventually, our feelings grew and we were inseparable...which wasn't that big of a change because we already spent a lot of time together. In the spring of 2000, Todd excepted a co-op or internship in Waco. He came back during the summer, but left again in the Fall. A lot of our courtship was spent on the phone and on the weekends. At MARS, where he worked, he made friends and valuable work experience. He loved being there and felt at home in his profession.  His co-workers praised his work ethic and were happy to have him on their team.
That Fall was a big one.  During those months Todd and I would break-up (for 6 days), get back together, visit his family in Florida together and on December 1st, we become engaged. Married in May.  Our first year of marriage, which many say is the hardest, was not hard. The things that couples often struggle with- personal habits, annoying unknown traits, etc- were not there since we had spent a year as buddies.  We knew our quirks. We were also very busy.  Todd finishing up his degree while I supported us with mine.
In December of 2002, Todd graduated, then we moved in with my parents for a few months, and then we moved to Nacogdoches for his first job with Tyson Foods. We loved living there.  We loved our first home, we loved the people, we loved serving together at church.  It was a wonderful beginning. I LOVED my job, but Todd only tolerated his- and eventually his discomfort would move us again.
In Nacogdoches we added our first little girl, Ava. When my water broke at midnight, while I was tidying up my office...because it had to be done right then...I went upstairs and woke up Todd. Two intelligent people totally dumbfounded.  What do we do now?! So Todd called our doctor, who sweetly said- "Go to the hospital.  I'll see you in the morning."
12 hours later, she had arrived.  Todd was so very sweet during delivery.  It was not an easy delivery and he struggled to watch me in pain.  At one point I told him that I was done.  That I was too tired and I didn't want to do it anymore. I remember he looked at me in panic, not realizing that I was fully aware that I had no choice in the matter.  Once Ava arrived, Todd's concern continued to be all about me. 12 hours he stood there, holding my hand, talking me through it all, and now what? I gave him permission to go talk to her, look at her.  Reluctantly, he walked away and I got a glimpse of the father he would become. So tender.
Todd's unrest at work would send him searching for something better and he reached out to friends at MARS, who took immediate interest, and before we knew it- we were on our way to Waco once again. I would arrive already pregnant with Sydnee. We lived with amazing friends for 4 months.  Ava would take her first steps in their home, we would all come down with the stomach flu, and we made lasting friendships with the Prices for their generosity.
The house in Nac sold, and we moved into a duplex just before welcoming Sydnee. This time Todd knew what to do, "Hello sweet baby girl.  I am your Daddy. We are so excited to meet you." Since the girls were so close together, we became experts in carrying two children at the same time. When Todd would get home from work he check on me to make sure I didn't need any help, then could be found playing with his girls, doing whatever he could to make them laugh or smile.  They loved me, but they worshipped their Daddy, still do.
We loved living in Waco. We made life-long friends, and countless memories. Todd continued to work hard to provide, but was home in a blink of an eye if I needed him, a benefit of working close to home.  One day I was working on something and Ava & Sydnee were off playing by themselves.  I was in their room, but they had left me focused on my task.  Eventually I would discover a large amount of freshly cut hair in their bathroom, alongside 1 budding stylist and one massively chopped head of hair.  I called Todd that day.  I had never been so mad in my life.  It's really funny to me now, but at the time, I couldn't believe Ava would do that! Todd came home and took them to Super Cuts. Sydnee was forced into a pixie cut and Ava, who had trimmed her own hair, would have some strangely short locks mixed into her shorter hairdo.  Those girls! Wish I could find that picture, its classic.
Once we felt like we could handle it, we welcomed another little girl to the family. Lucy was such a happy baby and so easy- which was a big blessing with 2 active little girls. When Lucy was a month old she came down with a really high fever in the middle of the night. Todd and I rushed her to the hospital and they began a slew of tests to figure out what was wrong with her.  One of the hardest nights of our lives.  I could not stop crying. Todd and I held onto each other hoping and praying that everything would be OK. She was admitted to the hospital and would eventually be diagnosed with kidney reflux. While I was at the hospital, we had family staying with the older girls, Todd would check in on us as much as possible. He even bought me a small personal laptop so I would have something to do other than sit and worry. She was released with antibiotics that she would take every day until she was a little over a year. Every evening Todd would mix the medicine into some formula, the only way she would take it.

Lucy would turn 1 in Waco and Ava finished kindergarten. Todd was called to be bishop of our congregation.  For those not of our faith, and still awake, he was the lead minister to the 600-ish members in our area. The day it was announced they asked me to say something too.  I told the congregation that I didn't know a better man. That I could guarantee that he would work hard to serve them, and that his leadership style is gentle, kind, and more prone to listen than to talk.  I included that he was the loveliest man I knew...and then realized that perhaps lovely wasn't the best way to describe a man. :) Our stake president got up after Todd had spoken and said something along the lines of- if all wives were able to describe their husbands as lovely, this world would be a better place.
At MARS there began to be some unrest, which in short lead to Todd losing his job.  It was one of the more difficult times in our lives, so much uncertainty. Todd, true to form, would get on the computer at 8am and stay there, with a break here and there, till 4-5pm.  He decided that his "job" was finding a job, so he was going to treat it like a job and put in his hours. With the help of family, some miracles here and there, and loads of answered prayers, we made it through that time without going into massive debt. I remember Todd's car AC broke, which was terrible timing- being summer and no funds available. So Todd would leave for interviews extra early and change in the car out of sweaty clothes into interview clothes. With the help of his brother, Todd landed a job in Houston.  A 3-hour move that we did not see coming.  It was an extremely difficult move, but it was our best and only option. So we packed up our 3 little girls and headed south, to a place we swore we'd *never* live.
Initially I could not figure out why we were here. It didn't make sense. We found a rental home in the neighborhood I wanted, and Sydnee started kindergarten/Ava 1st in a matter of a week. The company, as part of their package, did all of our packing and moving for us, which was a huge blessing. Ava and Sydnee got into their new routine/life and Lucy and I tried to set up house while they were gone during the day. Within a short period of time it became clear why we were in Houston.  Todd was happy at work, really happy- for the first time ever. He felt valued and important. Something that had been taken from him when he lost his job.  Cameron Intl. gave him his confidence back and also gave him insight on what his work life should feel like- a balance of hard work, that you enjoy, and satisfaction from knowing you are where you are needed.
During our time in Houston, we have grown closer as a family and a couple. We've added Camille and will add another little lady in May. People, friends and strangers, make comments about how sorry they feel for Todd being surrounded by only females.  They obviously don't know Todd- or our daughters. There is no void to fill.  No empty ache. Every day Todd wakes up the girls and brings them downstairs- sometimes carrying them, or holding them upright if they are especially sleepy. We say our morning prayers together before he leaves and then he spends a moment with each one- telling them he loves them, to have a good day, and to make good choices.  He always finishes with me, telling me he'll be home as soon as possible- which, he says daily, is never soon enough.
He comes home to open arms and squeals of excitement, "Daddy home!" Then, after his long day at work, he rolls up his sleeves and helps anywhere he can.  If the day has gone well, dinner is on the table, if not- he comes in and helps in the kitchen or wherever the girls might need him. Once dinner is over, he helps clean up the kitchen and starts bath time.  It's his special time.  He's always done bath time. He brings the littles upstairs, splashes with them, washes their little faces, then wraps them up, dries them off, and puts pajamas on them.  We finish the evening with scriptures, & story time. Then the older girls have taken their shower, homework is checked, piano is practiced, and books are read together. Once they older girls are tucked in, Todd's focus is making sure that he spends time with me- or serving me in some way.  He finishes the kitchen, helps with the laundry, cleans a bathroom, or finds a way to tomorrow easier for me. Every night he puts lotion on my feet and rubs them as we watch tv or read together or talk about our day.  Every night. He is my best friend.
Today is Todd's birthday. I can't help but be thankful that 15+ years ago, a spark grew into something more. Our lives are not perfect.  There are plenty of little girls fighting, arguing with parents, and sassy talking. That's a part of our normal routine too.  We are busy, like any family, and have our fair share of bad days. People often ask me how I can do so much with 4 little girls, and here's the big secret- its Todd. That's probably not a big secret to those who know us best. Whenever I have a meeting for Relief Society, or an emergency, or an activity- he steps up.  Whenever I take on a PTO assignment or bake cinnamon rolls by the hundreds, or decide I need some time away- he steps in. Whenever I come up with an idea- like summer craft camps, redecorating/reorganizing a room, painting furniture, planning a last-minute vacation, birthday party extravaganzas, or making 700 rice crispie treats for the school- he tells me what a great idea it is and then asks how he can help.
I recognize that he is not your average husband, and I am thankful every single day for the lovely person that he is, the amazing father he has become, and the Godly man continues to be.  He is all in.  He changes the stinky diapers, he unclogs the toilets, he paints little girl finger nails, and he lets those girls know how much he loves them and ME every day- with his example and his actions.

Happy birthday Todd Blackhurst.  You are my favorite. I'm so grateful to celebrate you today.  You make my life happy and my heart full.  What a blessing you are to many, especially our family. I hope we can spoil you today in the way that you spoil us every day.

Love you.
-Your Wifey