1.16.2017

MY HELPLESS TEENAGE DAUGHTER





(a two minute video of the girl who needs to be everything)      

So far my hobby has been micro-managing my kids and as rewarding as that sounds, it feels like it should be just a part-time gig.

I don't know how other parents let their kids live their own lives -
you know...independently.

Currently I have a nineteen year old niece in England serving a mission, another young niece living in New York with her husband awaiting the birth of their first child any literal minute now.

Honestly, how did their moms let them go? personally I struggle.

Possibly my children just aren't ready to let go. (of me)
Possibly my children just aren't that capable. (without me)

My daughter Lauren turned nineteen a few months back. I felt an urgency to teach her everything she needed to know by then.

I even bluffed my way through everything I didn't know just to maintain a healthy respect for how much she thinks I know - ya know?

I often tell Lauren she doesn't deserve the social life I have created for her (always insuring her dependance on me).

But she needed me, she needs me - What would she do without me?
My helpless teenage daughter.



A few months ago, I helped Lauren get ready for her Senior Prom. Her date stood in the living room looking handsome and anxious as he made small talk with the baby. Lauren hustled around in the upstairs bathroom, applying the final touches in the mirror.
She looked amazing, stunning...perfect.

She was still frantically searching for the new lipstick she had bought for the occasion, a necessity according to the instagram account she follows.

Improvising, I ran down to the kitchen, passed the handsome Prom date, tossing my head back yelling "just one more minute!"

I rummaged through the kitchen junk drawer and returned to the bathroom with a red Sharpie permanent marker. Lauren's eyes widened and her hands thrown up in front stopping me as I approached.

She said "wait! mom!...are you sure?" Pssshh yes I coaxed...it's just like the professionals. In fact, I'm sure Kylie Jenner's Lip Kit is just Sharpies re-packaged.

Lauren reluctantly agreed to my experiment. I held back maniacal laughter as I outlined her lips with the red felt tip, filling them in with crimson. I had to remind myself that this wasn't Halloween but just the biggest day of her young life.

Looking at my handiwork I declared her perfect and sent her on her way.



She trusted me.

And I mean...yes the marker seeped into the cracks of her lips and she "claimed" that her lips were on fire...and well sure she had a pink stain on her teeth the rest of the night...
but honestly, the point is...the point here is that she trusted me.

She needed me, she needs me - What would she do without me?

Lauren set out to do it all in life, she has a very active FOMO (fear of missing out) nurtured by yours truly. I babied along her FOMO by making sure she knew just how much she'd regret every little thing later in life - a very good mom thing to do, right?

The tour de force of her high school career came when she was put in charge of HFAN (Homeless For A Night) an annual all night school fundraiser. This gigantic service project was quite an undertaking for any high schooler, but I thought especially challenging for my helpless little Laur.

The night of HFAN came when a thousand or more high schoolers showed up to the event that Lauren had tweeted about, promoted and personally staked her reputation on.





I went to the school early that night expecting that Lauren would need some rescuing in some major way. There were sponsors for the night, $16,000 to raise and surprisingly there wasn't anything for me to do. Everything was handled.

While the band was setting up, I had a brilliant idea that Lauren should make a speech welcoming everyone. On a piece of paper I quickly wrote down a few notes for Lauren.

I made bullet points and instructions for her to talk about her personal journey etc. I even looked up inspirational quotes on my phone in the corner of the gym like some weirdo.

Amazingly I found Lauren in the crowd of high schoolers, she was just stepping up on the stage. I quickly grabbed her arm over by the gigantic speaker and told her what I was thinking. There's no way she heard or paid attention to anything I said, but I shoved the paper in her hand and shouted "just read it!"

Lauren held the paper, folded it in half and took the stage. I cringed for what would be almost sure embarrassment for her.



I stayed by the speakers ready to feed her lines when she stumbled. Instead she stood there with her trademark smile and squeaky voice, with a thousand or more of her peers looking at her and she simply spoke from her heart. Not once did she look at my notes.





I can only imagine how good her speech would've been with my quote from Celine Dion.
And see she needed me, she needs me - What would she do without me?


At the end of August, Lauren moved out with her friends to a cute little apartment. Yes she'd be back plenty of times, she was 17 minutes away - but there was just something tender about a daughter moving off to college (very aware of how silly that sounds.)

The morning Lauren moved out she was downstairs in her room carelessly throwing stuff in a laundry basket. She was listening to The 1975 and seemingly unaware that I was on the verge of sentimental tears.

Lauren made moving out look much easier than I had warned her it would be - darn her.
I was waiting for that moment that she'd get overwhelmed - Then I'd show her how to gracefully make the transition from a self-centered high-schooler....to a self-centered adult. She would appreciate me so much.

I totally thought I would sit with her on the carpet of her room, dry her tears and hand her the knick-knacks of her childhood to pack away. Remember that part in the book Ramona the Pest when Ramona wants to run away so her mom helps her pack up but during the process of packing Ramona realizes how much she loves and misses her mom? Yeah - that's what I was going for.

Just before noon I made us both a sandwich and stepped to the stairs to call her up for lunch. I was expecting her in a fragile state. I learned over the banister to yell for her but she was already walking up the stairs loaded with her belongings, dressed and ready for work.

I stammered, "uh Laur don't you need some help?" Nope I'm good, she replied. How much more do you have to do? I said. Nothing she said confidently, I'm done.

All done? What, how?...what about your work clothes? your clean sheets? your curling iron, what about your emotional breakdown?

Yep, all done she said taking a casual bite of her chicken salad sandwich and checking twitter.
I stood at the counter going through a verbal checklist of the things she still needed to do:
yep,
done,
got it,
did it yesterday,
doing it tomorrow,
don't need it,
already in the car - she recited hardly looking up from her phone.

The song Turn Turn Turn from the Byrds played in my head as I walked a step or two behind her out to her car. To everything TURN TURN TURN there is a season TURN TURN TURN, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.

Lauren drove down the road and I walked back in the house to the up-stairs bathroom to wipe my tears and continue to be more dramatic in front of the mirror.

I stood looking at myself for a split second before realizing that at that moment I was in a large amount of pain.

Not emotional pain anymore...but real, biting, physical pain.
Intense, confusing pain and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from.

Finally my brain caught up with my senses and I looked down and registered that I was standing bare-footed on Lauren's hot curling wand that she let drop in the laundry pile,
still plugged in.

When I realized the source of the pain, I lifted my leg and literally had to peel the wand away from the bottom of my foot, peeling my flesh from the iron like a stuck fruit roll up.

And well, ya know...I got over missing Lauren super quick after that.
Not a whole lot of love lost that day.

Later that night with my foot bandaged and still experiencing waves of cold sweats and pain, I went over to see Lauren's Delta Omega Like Oh My Gosh Becky PHI GAMMA GAMMA sorority apartment for the first time.




Lauren welcomed me in and walked me through giving me the tour, motioning me forward and said brightly, "It's nice huh mom! You can hardly tell some guy used to cook meth here!"

See, she needed me, she needs me - What would she do without me?

Last Spring, Lauren was a contestant in the Miss Spanish Fork Pageant. It was all her, her idea - on her bucket list. I was witness to the real life blood sweat and tears involved in trying out for a pageant. It became more of a mother-daughter experience, for that I'll always be grateful.





                The night of the pageant came and went,
and in the end disappointment was handed to her to wear like a crown.



After it was all over and the consolation texts stopped coming in, I sat in the dark of our living room at 1:00 am waiting for Lauren to get out of the shower.

I knew she would need my final words of comfort before the night ended. I heard her heavy sobs coming from the shower while I sat alone on the couch.

She had put her most vulnerable self out there on the stage that night and the judges took a pass -
I couldn't wrap my mind around it. I felt guilty and defeated.



The water turned off and the shower door opened and closed. I braced and prepared for what I would say, practicing my words in the dark. This needed to be a moment of motherly greatness, magic words to make the hurt go away.

She walked in to the dark living room silhouetted in her soccer sweats with a towel wrapped up on her head. A fresh tear-stained face washed clean of all that heavy makeup...and yet still, she managed a smile. Lauren walked over to me, put her hands on my shoulders holding eye contact for a second and simply said, "Mom, I figured it out...I just wasn't what they were looking for..."

I stammered clearing my throat, ready with my prepared words of "there's a bigger plan for you" nonsense.
and she stopped me.
"Mom, mom listen...we read the job description wrong...that's it - that's all."

A long, heavy hug - then a quick cheerful "goodnight mama" and a kiss on my cheek. She walked down the stairs with the lights off, leaving her to find the way to her room in the dark. I stood there breathless for a minute, questioning.

See, she needed me, she needs me - What would she do without me?

Just days before Lauren's nineteenth birthday, I used a quick weekend run to Zion National Park as one final attempt of mother/daughter bonding before adulthood. I promised myself after that I'd be ready to turn her out to the cruel world to watch what she could do.

I chose to hike Angel's Landing, I wanted to show my girl that I can keep up, that she and I aren't that different -  she's just a little more Kayne and I'm just a little more Vanilla Ice.



I wondered if Lauren was having a hard time keeping up with me- she kept stopping and turning back and asking if I needed to sit down.

Around each switch back she'd say, "Mom, you don't look that good - we can take a break if you want - or mom, those people have gone all the way up and back down again...are you sure you want to do this?" . . .  I could tell she was just saying that because she wanted a break - so I rested (a lot) but it was for her, not for me.

(also, I hiked hoping to get cell-service. After hiking ifor a few hours in 100 degrees in late August, I easily justified the cost of calling medi-vac.)

My usual operating mode when in public with my children is to embarrass them 
(naturally, you nod.)
So each group of men, boys, young and old that would walk by I would say loudly; 
"hey, excuse me...my daughter thinks you're cute" or 
"excuse me, my daughter wants a picture with you"


One attempt to embarrass Laur backfired on me when she made quick friends with two German gents who invited her to join them in Germany for the rest of the summer.

This was working well for my amusement until at some point instead of being embarrassed Lauren went with it and started to respond to the strangers "sorry for my mom...it's my turn to babysit her."



We took our time and hiked at a slow pace (again for her, not for me of course) -

I told her stories of when I was her age, I told her how to talk to boys, how to avoid catty girls and not be a catty girl, I gave her the ever important, "sometimes he's just not that into you" talk. 

At the tip top of Angel's Landing I looked around and some young guy was asking Lauren for her number in a rain/wind storm on the edge of a cliff. Dang, I hadn't even prepared her for that scenario.




Later, Laur and I ate at a little pizza place in the park.
Lauren said, "Mom, do you mind if we drive back home tonight? I just have a little party to get to..."

I said "uh...yeah of course!...I um..uh I also have a super cool party to get too -
so I didn't want to stay anyway...
pshhhh wait, did you think I wanted to stay one more night?
ohhh no no no uh... I wanted to leave before you wanted to leave...."

On the drive home, Lauren fell asleep and I drove with a heavy mind till finally the overnight lights of Nephi were beginning to lay out in front of me.

The time to tell my girl everything she needed to know was running out. I was panicked - Had I said enough? I purposely turned off the music and casually rolled down the window for a quick second to "accidentally" wake her up a little.

She sat her chair up, stretched and asked where we were.
I told her almost home and she said, "this has been fun mom."

I fumbled around with chit chat hoping to lead up to the big life talks. I waited for her to ask me about boys and girlfriends and love and loss and and spiritual matters and my political opinions and when I think she should get married and how to know what to do with the rest of her life, and what she should wear for her date that Monday.

Instead she told me told me about the customer at work that everyone hates,
but she can always make him laugh.

She told me how she was going to ask for a raise at work,
that she wants to change her major and that she bought two weeks worth of groceries for $50.

She told me about the study abroad program she found,
how she discovered a quicker way to walk to her class- just 7 minutes in heels.

She said she wanted to start writing, to be just like her accounting professor
who wrote a book, then sold it back to the university.

Lauren wiped away tears as she told me about the people she missed
and how her life was a shadow of what it was before.

I deep sighed as we pulled off the exit to home.

Sadly, there were no lessons learned.
We didn't even get to the real big talks.
Someday she'll see how wise and put together I am.
Someday she'll become the capable person I know she is.

until then...Poor girl, she's so so helpless.

And I know she needs me,
but I also know, 
. . . she never needed me.


7.19.2015

ONE YEAR, YEAR ONE.

Saturday night I drove in to the Walmart parking lot and saw a familiar scene. A goodbye. There was no mistaking this. It was a sad goodbye. I guessed it was a grown daughter saying goodbye to her mom. Both were distraught. They were standing by the car, tears streaming down. The doors of the car were open and the others in the car were waiting, witnesses to that inevitable last hug.

Since I can remember, I've hated the whole idea of saying goodbye. I'm so awkward and admittedly overly emotional about it. I thought about driving over to join in the group hug with the mom and daughter. I thought about buying them all popsicles to help sooth the sting of goodbye. I thought about when I said goodbye to my son Brett one year ago, when I was young and silly and two years naively seemed like forever.  

It's been one year of so many firsts. One year of the good and the bad. One year of praying for him, writing him, hanging on his every word, and documenting the moments that should never come around again.

When Brett left, I spent the first few days reminding myself of all the bad things that made Brett such a punk - it kinda helped me not miss him so much. I consoled my aching heart by saying; "well, at least I don't have to listen to his day and night, non-stop hipster music anymore - or his whistling...that dang monotone, whistling!"

So what do I miss most about him? Yep, you guessed it.

Here is a look at our one year (set to Brett's hipster music of course!)



Read Brett's mission letters and updates HERE 

3.03.2015

SOUL SISTER

We were college girls.
My sister and I.
The perks of being 18 months apart.
We had the freedom to be on our own, the freedom to be silly, self absorbed and careless.
And the naive idea that we would be young forever.


The time Brooke and I had as single ladies lasted about a week and half as it now seems.

Often during that time Brooke would invite me to stay with her for the weekend at USU where she was going to school. I was her wing-man.

I tried to act all casual about it when we would make plans over the phone, pretending that I might be otherwise unavailable. Although I wonder if Brooke could've guessed that those weekends were the very best thing about my seventeen year old life.


One weekend I was making the 3 hour drive to Logan right after I got off work. I didn't have a swimsuit so I took a fifteen minutes detour to Orem picking out a swimsuit and buying it sight unseen, not even taking it from the hanger.

Early Saturday morning Brooke and I hopped in with a bunch of good-looking college boys who were borrowing their dad's truck and boat for a little water skiing on Willard Bay. I was doing my darndest to prove I was worthy to be there, just one of the crew.

On the drive through the canyon I said some cheesy pun to the group about the fall leaves, bold of me anyhow. There was an awkward pause, Brooke looked at the boys and back at me and said "she's hilarious huh!" and they all laughed - mostly to please her.

We were off to a great start.

I was however, already feeling uneasy about my situation.

First of all, I had never been water skiing, ever. Never ever.

Secondly I was with a bunch of college boys that looked like the Harvard swim team and Brooke who had already magically had them on the hook. Then there was Brooke's new friend who was a taller, prettier, classier, smarter, blonder, curvier, opposite of me, version of me.

Right out of the gate, they volunteered me to go first in the water since I was the newbie. I put on a brave face and faked confidence. I carefully maneuvered a lifejacket over my new swimsuit hoping no one would discover like I did (too late) that my swimsuit was clearly too big for me.

I jumped in the cold water holding the rope in my shaking hands and listening to instructions from about five different guys all looking like the Justin Bieber Calvin Klein ad. I was bobbing in the water awkwardly, feeling like I was again ten years old and still having issues with my bangs. As the boat revved up I begged myself to not mess up "alright Hilary...do something great here, don't be lame!"

I looked to Brooke who was talking to her pals and keeping an eye on me and likely saying the same thing; "alright Hilary...do something great here, don't be lame!"

That weekend two things could've happened: I could've raised right up on the skis, taking naturally to the sport, impressing them all with my grace and skill then gently landing in a light spray of water and wiping the mist from my sun kissed skin....

or....what actually happened.

...balancing on the skis with the well-intentioned help of all the people on that boat, did not work out so well for me. Each time I was almost vertical, I was thrust forward swallowing gallons of Willard Bay's finest as I went down. I'm pretty sure at one point I was just in the water only for their entertainment.

Finally, I got down right angry and did what I set my mind to and miraculously stood up on the skis!! A glorious moment. Not a fluke turn of luck, but a verified moment of me actually water skiing! I got up on the skis turn after turn. I could hear the cheers and encouragement coming from the boat. I thought I heard one of the college boys talk about a marriage proposal, but I couldn't be sure.

Finally I decided I had had enough and tried to be funny taking one hand off the rope and lifting one ski. Without warning my other ski caught the edge of the water just slightly and as you often see on fail posts on YouTube - I flipped sideways, backwards and crashed face first violently into the water.

The force of the blow sent me savagely turning and twisting underneath the water in the wake of the boat. I came up gasping. They circled back around and I could see the boat approaching. I waved to show them I was ok.

One of the boys reached out a hand to help me back in the boat. It was that very moment of coming out of the water that took notice that my swim top was missing. I felt for it and found it somewhere around my waist. How in the world my swimsuit came all the way off both arms, I'll never know. Horrified, I quickly let go of the guy's hand and fell back into the water with a splash. Everyone looked at me confused and I looked at Brooke for help mouthing the words; "my swimsuit is off..." she studied me closer saying, "...what?" I mouthed the words again while still in the water..."my swimsuit IS OFF..." It took her a minute to catch on to what was I was saying. I braced for that moment of realization, knowing it was coming. Before the hysterical laughter, her hand went over her mouth and her eyes widened as if to say, thank you little sister, thank you for being so incredibly awkward that this is your life right now.

- and then she almost passed out laughing.


- and of course told everyone what happened.




If you are familiar with me and my only sister Brooke, then you probably have read these sister blog posts; THE MEANEST SISTER,   TWISTER SISTER,  and  MY SISTER THE DANCER where I talk about the ups and down of our relationship.

Brooke and I were friends in the early days, vicious enemies through our teen years, frenemies in college and now soul mates.

Today happens to be Brooke's birthday and once again I am reminiscing on the good times with my sister, my best frenemy.

It was an erie feeling being friends with Brooke through our college years. It almost seemed like she enjoyed hanging out with me - so strange. One weekend the two of us got tickets to see the Adam Sandler show at Kingsbury Hall. Just before the show started I had my feet tucked in the folded seat of the chair in front of me.

 (this was the actual seats at Kingsbury Hall) 

(I took a picture when we there for my brother Josh's law school graduation a few years ago) 

Back to the Adam Sandler concert story. Brooke and I were talking and I didn't notice the man in front of me about to sit down in his chair. The man unknowingly sat down, trapping my feet in the chair, bending my toes so far forward, I thought they were going to break off - It hurt like crazzzzy! Not thinking, just reacting, I reached up and grabbed the guy's head from behind and howled ooooouch! Brooke had no idea what was going on, all she saw was me suddenly and wildly grabbing a stranger by the head and start yelling at him. Her startled reaction made me laugh and I was frantically trying, but couldn't find the words to explain my situation. I was in so much pain, but laughing at the same time. The man spun around in his chair, trying to figure out what was going on, my feet still clamped tight in the seat. Brooke was aware of what was going on but let it all play out in front of her like some brilliant director admiring the show.

Brooke wasn't always a frenemy, sometimes she was all heart.

When we were little girls I remember one Sunday Brooke and I walked to the North Park. Our North Park. Exactly where Costco's dairy section sits right now. We walked along the bike trail at the park and Brooke told me all about the boys in her class that were in love with her and all the girls in her class that were afraid of her and or respected her.

 On the way home I confided in Brooke that I wanted to be more popular, popular like her. I told her I didn't feel like anyone liked me - Suzy Evans brought the new Michael Jackson album to school and there was no way I could compete with that. The woes of a 9 year old.


(9 yr. old me bottom right) 
*when I showed this to Wade today I said "who is the prettiest girl here?"
he said - "there are girls in this? everyone looks like boys -"
ha ha thanks 1980's!

Brooke had a Mother Teresa moment right there at the park as I confided in her and she had pity on me, her unpopular, pathetic little sister. She came up with a plan to host a birthday party for me. I remember the determined look on her face as she pulled out my mom's craft box and made invites on yellow construction paper folded in half. A ruler was used to insure a professional look in the handwriting. A guest list made of the most popular girls in my class. They were the untouchables. I was thinking that the whole thing was just a silly hypothetical, but clearly Brooke was serious. The little yellow invites were made, giving the birthday party details for that Thursday. It was clearly not my birthday. My actual birthday was months away. A minor detail Brooke seemed to not care about.

I promise I had nothing to do with anything after this. Brooke wanted to take matters into her own hands and delivered the homemade invites to all the popular girls the next day (something that I would've never dared to do)

I went throughout the week, truly forgetting anything about the party - and apparently so had Brooke.

One day at lunch I left my lunch card so I walked back to my class. I was stopped by a popular girl who asking me what I wanted for my birthday. I shyly said a few things that came to mind and continued to walk down the hall wondering why the heck she wanted to know that?!

A few days later, I was in our basement watching TV after school. Brooke came leaping down the stairs and flew over to me on the couch, jumping right on top of me. What is going on? I asked. She screamed into the couch pillow for a minute and then told me that we were in trouble - "we" usually meant "her".  She told me that there were a bunch of girls at our door step that very minute there for my fake "birthday party."

Brooke and I crawled up on the window sill and watched from the basement window as my mom stood on the porch apologizing to the cute little girls and their mothers. How embarrassing it must've been for my mom to tell those girls dressed up with bows in their hair and pretty colored presents in their hands that sorry, there was no birthday party that day.

I can still remember crouching in the basement window like some weirdo looking out to see the most popular girl in my school, with golden ringlets walking back to her mom's car shrugging her shoulders.

Brooke did me no favors.

This past year was probably one of the biggest years of my life. Through it all, my sister, has kept track of me like a good sister should. I was having a rough day last March in particular. Brooke and I were playing phone tag all day but finally connected. I was in the middle of telling her how good-for-nothing my life was when our call got dropped and the conversation ended. I tried calling her back thinking that it was really important to have her validate my misery. We both finally gave up trying to have a real conversation. A few hours passed and I was still feeling discouraged when I saw one little text from my sister come across my phone.

Just simply the words:
"you got this sis, I love you"

Somehow that tiny bit of encouragement lasted me through that day, the rest of the week and saw me through the whole year.



Our oldest boys left on missions this year.

New territory for both of us.

Brett left first, and Jake a few weeks later.

Each going to different parts of the world.



Jake and Brett grew up together, they're practically brothers.



They became particularly close the last few months before their missions.


The night before Brett was to leave, Jake came over to the house along with other friends to say goodbye to Elder Roberts. Later that evening, everyone had left our house except for Jake. 

I was doing the dishes, making myself busy - listening to Jake and Brett talk and waiting for the inevitable goodbye. 

Brett and Jake talked by the door, gave a few manly pats on the back, and a joke or two and then Brett started to say goodbye. Jake stopped him and said solemnly; "hey um I'm not ready to do this just yet...I'll come back tomorrow" 

The next morning, as Brett was just about to load up in our car and leave. Jake drove up.
Not too many words were said, Jake knew this would be it for a while. 

Jake shook Brett's hand then with a big bear hug said simply; 

"you got this bro. I love you."

~ ~ ~

Happy Birthday to my
beautiful,
brilliant sister Brooke. 

I owe her everything.

12.19.2014

IS EIGHT ENOUGH?

(any readers worried about reading further fearing unwanted details about childbirth 
- fear not, I've filtered and edited and tried to be discreet - so read on my friends)

I know the question that brought you here today - is eight enough?


and I'll answer that-

but first-

Somewhere in April of this year I woke up early one morning - still dark outside.

Dean had already left for work without me noticing as he usually does.

The kids (Brett, Lauren and Wade) were just starting to drag themselves out of bed to start their am routine. I looked at the clock - already giving myself permission to go back to sleep. I hadn't felt good all weekend.

As I closed my eyes to fall back asleep, sleep didn't come. I had an uneasy feeling, a heavy thought process- And then all of a sudden, like something from a tv sitcom, I sat straight up in bed wide-eyed and thought,
- I'm pregnant!

I quickly dismissed the thought - being pregnant was so far off our radar it seemed kinda, well, impossible (for reals it was nearly impossible.)

Yet I laid there, not able to think of anything else and starting to add up the weird coincidences in my mind.

I couldn't stand another minute of suspicion. Twenty seconds later I was dressed and walking past my still zombified kids.

I told them I'd be back,
I was running to the store -
uhhh...for milk.

I was the only customer in the little market that early in the morning. The employees were still opening up doors and turning on lights. I picked up the most inexpensive home pregnancy test and made my way to the checkout. I also grabbed a large carton of orange juice and saltines unaware that my queasy stomach was trying to tell me something.

At the check out, I couldn't disguise the little rectangular box between the other groceries. The cashier looked at me and said with a smile "I hope you get whatever answer you are hoping for..." I wasn't sure if she was saying what I thought she was saying, but when I looked in her eyes I could see her sincerity. There was a tiny moment of understanding between the two of us at 6:30 in the morning.

I cleared my throat to say something, but I had no words. She said, "good luck hun" and I took my grocery bag and walked away and before I reached the door I whispered to myself as the tears fell - "yep I'm pregnant."

Over the last few months I have thought about that morning a lot. I look around me now and am so sharply aware of my blessings, it makes me ashamed and disappointed in myself that I was so ungrateful, so scared, so unable to see the big picture.

Well, this is the big picture.


Admittedly, for a very long time all I could see was the scribble on the wall.

I told Dean the baby news that morning over the phone. It was the first time I had ever taken a pregnancy test without him nearby. I'm sure when I told him he wanted to keep driving 700 miles South but instead he just let me cry and sob and question how we were going to manage.

The next several months were weird, it felt like time was actually moving backwards.

In July I said goodbye to my oldest, Brett and sent him off to be a missionary for two years, knowing he would be in Mexico when the new baby arrived and he'd miss it all.

Sometimes I thought I'd never stop crying.

The months were long, but the weeks were...mmm, actually also long.

I developed gestational diabetes and soon after my hips and back decided that carrying #8 was against their Union contract and one day they just walked off the job.

Never complain to your family that you don't like your picture taken, because at some point they just stop taking pictures of you.

This pregnancy I had about 4 decent pictures of me, and this is the best one.


As my belly grew and grew the kids liked to make fun of me.

One day they were laughing at me because my shirt didn't quite fit over my belly and I sat there talking to everyone not realizing it.

Dean joked along with the kids and said, "you remind me of that old cartoon..."

He didn't even have to finish his sentence,

I knew exactly what he was talking about.


True story:
When I was about 37 weeks along I was at Target, shopping without my kids.
(mothers everywhere high five each other)

I was at the resister paying for my groceries and had my wallet opened on the counter.
The young, hipster cashier in skinny jeans and Woody Allen glasses said to me;
"wow that's impressive..."

hmmm...I thought, maybe he was impressed with my husband's XXL city-league tournament co-ed softball champs shirt that I was wearing. But then I looked up and he was pantomiming, motioning to my round, obvious pregnant belly.

I sheepishly said;

"Ohhhh...
ha ha thanks
uh I think - 
um...
what do you mean, impressive?"

He responded, tapping on my drivers license still in my wallet; "well impressive cause of your age"

(except as he said "cause of your age" in my head it sounded amplified and in super slow motion and time stood still and a fly buzzed slowly passed my peripheral and I felt the full weight of what he was saying "caaaause of yourrrrr aaaagggeee..." and I looked around as if to say to everyone while pointing to him with my thumb...pshh, can you believe this guy?!?)

Now folks, I realize I am no spring chicken - my hips and ambition realize it too.

But I never thought that I would be an oddity to be pitied or gawked at.

Returning to my convo with (hashtag) Target boy I said; "ha ha wow! how old do you think I am?"

He shrugged and said; "...I just thought after a certain age people stop having kids..."
-
-
-
I looked around left, right and up to the ceiling and said, "alight! ha ha! you got me!...which camera should I look in?" And suddenly I really, really wished I had a witness to the conversation I was having.

I looked at him incredulously lacking real words to express my feelings at the moment.

Then I realized something. He was not to blame.

In Target boy's tiny sphere of hot, young moms that pass through his checkout line each day with their "baby bumps" the size of my flexed bicep and their beach waved hair and chunky jewelry and Jessica Simpson high heels and Victoria Beckham styled children - to him I was just an oddity, reality show material.

And then as if he knew he needed to restore balance to the fragile pregnant lady universe he asked;

"so is this your first?"

".........yeppers!" I said confidently as I took my receipt and waddled away.


With all my other pregnancies, I have waited a week or more after my due date, hoping to start on my own.

This time however, I felt like I needed to be started early- just by a week.

I wasn't sleeping at all and I shouldn't complain but looking back I really wasn't functioning like a normal human being. I was walking, slumping from here to there expecting my hips to break in half any moment. I had non-existent energy, raging heartburn and headaches and the mental stability of a jilted wife on the Jerry Springer Show (okay, I'm done complaining)

So the doctor agreed to start me a week early.

I received notice from Brett's mission president that we could NOT contact him with the baby news until the following Monday. I was devastated and wanted to change my induction to the next Monday when Brett would have the news the same day with the rest of us.

Common sense prevailed and I was to be induced on Tuesday the 21st of October.

That Monday night before my seven kids became eight - Dean and I took the kids to the mall to pick out a few baby items for their new little brother or sister.

Top name choices were: Summer, Phoenix, Rocky, Tree, Grass, Ebola, Kim Kardashian...


The next day was the big day. We sent the kids off to school, because the hospital check-in wasn't till later that afternoon.

It was the strangest thing to be running errands around town, knowing in a few hours I would be having a baby.

At Costco I was caught up in sentiment and I said excitedly to the cashier -
"I'm going to have my baby today...!!" 

The guy looked at me and wow...
oh my goodness you guys,
he said the sweetest thing!
It was so cute, he said, "ma'am, don't forget your card."

I excused Lauren from school a little early and she drove to the other schools and rounded up all Kal, Riv and Wade. It calmed my nerves to have all the kids home with me before we left. We all hung out in my room as I finished packing my hospital bag.

More baby names were discussed and I gave the kids last minute instructions; "alright guys, now when you come to visit me at the hospital, don't wear clothes you get from that old storage box in the crawl space, behind the stairs, in the basement - I promise your normal, regular clothes are fine, and how about combing your hair and wearing shoes I've actually seen before..."

I guess it means a lot to me to have the hospital staff see that my kids don't look abandoned.

Moments before we needed to leave, Laur offered to paint my toes and I was like,
 "hold up, I have feet?!"

I listed off more last-minute instructions;
do your homework, be good to each other, wear underwear etc.

A quick family prayer along with hugs and promises to be good.
Lauren's was a bit teary-eyed which surprised me cause I thought she only cried over a low cel phone battery.

For a second I looked at her standing in my kitchen and pictured her standing there holding her own baby someday. Childhood slips by way too fast my friends - yes it does.  

The kids followed us outside to say goodbye.
They stayed on the street waving to us until we turned at the end of the road.





We checked in to the hospital around 4:00 in the afternoon. 

It was a surreal experience being in the delivery room with Dean for the eighth time, 
anticipating the birth of another baby.

Dean and I hadn't really talked about our game plan for labor.
To tell you the truth I was in complete denial. 

If you could see the thought bubble above my head it would say;
"don't freak out, 
don't freak out,
   you're freaking out!!" 

(stripes are slimming, right?)

The nurses attached an IV to my arm and started the Pitocin drip going in right away.
Ah, Pitocin- the necessary evil
Within twenty minutes or so I could feel the affects of the drip and was starting to feel the contractions revving up.

Dean kept insisting that I chill out, relax and sleep, but my anxiety was getting the best of me. Four years ago when Canyon was born I had told myself that was the last time I'd have to go through labor.
And yet here I was again. 



As I thought about the impending pain-train that was headed my way I started to doubt myself. The only thing that soothed me was to listen to hipster music that Lauren had downloaded for me and say to myself over and over "you got this, stay strong, bring it on!"
Like a broken record, that phrase played over and over in my head.


I was so concentrated that I meditated through the first few hours of labor.

While I labored, Dean fielded calls from home for me:

"hold on I'll ask;
pssst...Hil, sorry hun,
but River wants to know if she can have a
 glitter nail party on your bed...whadda ya think?"

As labor became more difficult I gritted my teeth through each contraction and I wouldn't allow myself to open my eyes until 5 contractions had passed.

I took my whole labor 5 contractions at a time.

The pain was real and getting more real.

I clenched my eyes shut and said to myself, "stay strong, bring it on, stay strong, bring it on!"  

(okay, who forgot to tell me the sideways peace sign looks really lame) 

Dean was encouraging and talking to the nurses on my behalf.

Quickly though, the control gave way to panic.

The contractions were coming on too strong, one right after the other with no time in between to recover. The waves of pain were becoming too difficult to breath through.
Dean tried what he could to help, but I could feel myself forming the words, "I give up"

About 8:30 at night, the nurse came in and I sat up in bed and opened my eyes to see that I had worked through almost four hours of labor.

I looked outside and the hospital lights reflected off the window and in my mind I thought it was the sun coming up - I thought it was morning and I had been in labor all night long -

I was inconsolable.

Dean is very skilled at keeping cool when I fall apart. He knew just what to say to help me calm down. Since 4:00 that afternoon the nurses had been increasing the pitocin dosage at 1/2 hour intervals and I was currently at the highest dosage.

The pitocin was in overdrive and my body was having a hard time catching up and coping with the pain. For a while I refused to look at the monitor by the bed that was telling me the length and strength of each contraction.

The problem was the contractions were coming too fast and too furious. I was confused because that usually means the baby is about to be born, but I yet I still didn't feel like I needed to push.

The nurse offered to check me but my biggest fear was that after 4 hours of hard labor, that the nurse would check me and I would only be a 5 - meaning no progress.

The time was 8:40 pm - and I cautiously agreed to check my progress.

The nurse checked me -

she looked at Dean and then at me and faked a smile and said;
"well hun, you're a 5 - -  a good 5. . . hang in there"

(progression in labor is measured on a 1 out of 10 scale - the baby is born at 10)

I was a 5.

ahhhhh! It was pure agony to hear those words! I truly thought I could go no further, not a second more. The nurse gave me a little pep talk as she typed on the computer and then left the room.
I hardly heard what she said because I was devising a plan.

I just needed to go out in the hall and recruit someone to fill in for me and then they could have the baby and I would just walk away and get something to eat at Chick-fil-A and i'd check in on everyone later. Cross my heart, that is exactly what I was thinking and at the time it all seemed very reasonable.

At some point I also asked Dean to call Lauren to see if she wanted to hurry over to witness the miracle of birth.
Dean hesitated to call but I insisted...so he called her.

Lauren's reaction; "hmmm - nahh, I'm good."

I was delirious and hallucinating.

The contractions were relentless. Each one stronger and meaner than the next.

The nurse peeked in on me a few minutes later and said "do you want me to check you?" I tried to form words, but closing my eyes and shaking my head was the only thing that I could do. I heard the nurse say, "well, just call me if things all of a sudden feel...different"

I heard the curtain slide and the door close and then, just then, like a large wave overtaking a carefree sunbather, suddenly a contraction the size of Africa hit me...and then it happened - I felt A LOT of pressure - I knew that I was it was time.

Not knowing what to do, being scared to death and being in as much pain/panic as I think I've even been in my life I yelled to through clenched teeth to Dean, "THIS ONE IS DIFFERENT!!!"

Dean is so great and I remember he calmly, but swiftly walked over to the door, hardly leaving my side and said to the nurse "this is it!"

The nurse walked in and slipped on some gloves and did a quick baby check - her eyes widened and in one smooth motion she snapped off her gloves, hit the code button on the wall and loudly declared to the other nurses in the hall "baby is here!"    

Things got kinda fuzzy after that.

Huge, gigantic urges to push came one right after the other with not even thirty seconds in between. The room instantly lit up with bright lights and filled with nurses and doctors.

Dean was still right there with me and I felt like the air in the room was getting thin.

I heard instructions from the nurses to breath and open my eyes, but the only thing I was physically able to do was to push. My body had taken over and I was no longer in control. The pushing was horrible and graphic and uncontrolled and I felt like everything was going too fast and unsafe but I was not able to do anything about it. The charge nurse squeezed my hand to call me back to reality and said firmly, "Hilary, I need you to breath through this contraction, DO NOT PUSH!"

Just that moment a massive contraction crashed over me and with every ounce of my flesh I pushed and saw light and felt fire and then with a ringing in my ears and with power and force and one final push, at eight fifty two at night, I delivered a baby boy.


I fell back to the bed, almost fainting from relief.

It was over.
My own doctor, came rushing in to the room right then, missing the birth just barely.

I waited and waited to hear that familiar first cry of my new baby, but it didn't come. I looked to my left and could see a half dozen nurses surrounding the little bed and working intensely and saying, "come on little guy, come on..."


Dean, still at my side, whispered; "it's a boy!" and this is the part where I usually cry and laugh and take a big breath and joke with the doctor.

Instead I could only feel the intensity in the room. The baby wasn't breathing.
I finally heard a slight gurgled cry.
It didn't sound right.
The nurses stated, "we're taking him."
(later I realize they were taking him to the NICU)

One nurse brought my baby boy over to me for a tiny little four second hello/goodbye.


And with that they rushed him away.

That first night Dean and I got a crash course in all things NICU.
A Hallowed place in my opinion.


The next morning, we were able to spend a little time with our babe, and we tried to think of a proper name for such a fighter.

(The name RONAN ARROW ROBERTS was officially given weeks later, but there in the hospital I just called him my Fighter)

Each day in the hospital I held out hope that our babe would be going home with us just like the rest of my kids did. Reality was that our little Ronan was very sick and struggling hard his first few days in this world.


And then the day came when it was time for me to leave the hospital, but the baby was staying. I was going to be stoic, if it was the last thing I did.


I looked around at others there in the hospital and among my own family and friends that have struggled through so much more than us.

And I just couldn't allow myself to feel bad.


A selfie in the hospital room mirror, holding back the tears seemed like an okay thing to do while waiting for my husband to come and take me home.

We were checking out, going home to our six other kids who needed us.
Going home and leaving our days old baby upstairs in the very capable hands of the NICU nurses and doctors, but still -
it kinda hurt.

Home was nice. I missed feeling normal.

(Dear mom welcome back, you look good without makeup, the baby is so cute i love you love Kal) 

The next ten days were a strange mix of urgently wanting to be home, to take care of the rest of my family - and then when I was home immediately wanting desperately to be back at the hospital taking care of my new baby. 
Many of you reading this have been there, done that. 

Ronan had a tiny little puncture in his lungs, a pneumothorax - He then developed 
pneumonia and an undetermined infection and we were told he was in general, septic.

The days in the NICU were long and exhausting but important for little Ro. 
I know for a fact we wouldn't have him here with us today if not for them.

And I don't think I knew happiness before the day when we were able to bring our new baby home.



(Canyon and Quincy showing Ronan pics of Brett)

Since walking in the back door for the first time with Ronan, 
I've taken my own sweet time to get back to "normal."
Is there even such a word?

Lauren came home from school the other day and said;
"so you're still going with the sweats, huh mom?"

I think I have forgot how to put a decent meal on the table,
and laundry has been taken over by my teenagers who only wash
what they happen to need the next day.

As much as I hate Part 2 blog posts,
there is just no other way to say what I want to say without a part 2.

So stayed tuned for part 2 coming soon where I will answer questions like;
        Is the baby sleeping through the night?
       What does Brett think of the new baby?
       Is it a smart thing to make major hairstyle decisions right after birth?
       Did Dean allow you to leave all your worldly possessions to the NICU doctors and nurses
       like you wanted to?
                   
And to answer one more important question;  sooooo Hilary. . . . IS EIGHT ENOUGH?


yes. 
beyond measure,
yes.

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