Friday, December 2, 2011

Thankful

It’s been ten years since I’ve had a non-working Thanksgiving holiday with my family.

That’s a long time.  If I think about it too much I get depressed, lonely and homesick.  This year someone asked me what one food item makes me feel like home on Thanksgiving, and I didn’t have an answer.  I don’t know what my family makes on Thanksgiving.  It’s been so long I don’t remember.

DSC_0048We made these Thanksgiving weekend.  Not a family recipe, but a Whoops! Creation.  Rice Krispie Treats with Honey Nut Cheerios instead of Rice Krispies.  The Whoops! came because were out of Rice Krispies.  I don’t recommend the swap. 

We are fortunate to have great friends, who are like family, who take us in to feast and celebrate with them.  Thanks to the Manns we weren’t eating pizza on Thanksgiving.  In fact, we ate like Kings.

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One good thing about being on your own for the holidays is you get to start your own traditions.  Growing up we wrote things we were thankful for on construction paper feathers all month long and stuck them in a wooden turkey.  We’d sit as a family and read them aloud on Thanksgiving night.  I loved this tradition and finally recreated it this year with my own family.

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We don’t have a wooden turkey.  Someday.  For now we used tape and the sliding glass door in the dining room, which actually created a beautiful colored effect every day when the sun hit just right. 

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We had too many feathers for our turkey’s small body. Next year we’ll have to make him bigger. What a nice problem.

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Max is grateful for his recently discovered belly button.

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I am grateful for Max’s recently defined funny faces.  Especially his fishy face.

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Anderson totally got the Thankful Turkey.  Some days he came to me more than a dozen times rattling off everything he could think of that made him thankful, or as he said, made him “thank you.”  It made me happy.  I want to raise grateful children.  I want to create a home where counting blessings is a daily practice.  I want my children to know how blessed we are.

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And blessed we are.

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Two months ago we had a health scare.  October 6th 2011 was one of the worst days of my life.  It started with Harley having appendicitis.  During the appendectomy, the doctor discovered a lesion on Harley’s liver.  The doctor believed it was cancer.  Turns out it’s a hemangioma, a harmless cluster of blood vessels.  It’s nothing.  It’s like a birthmark.  But until the biopsy results defined that nothingness, we treaded through life bracing for the worst.  For six awful days and five long nights we feared we were facing cancer.  Again.

Harley Liver

Scary looking, right?

There’s a whole dramatic story that goes along with the appendectomy.  It includes Harley walking six blocks keeled over in pain to get to our car to drive himself to the emergency room, Anderson running a temperature of 103.5 that morning, me feeling absolutely torn in two:  wanting so badly to be with Harley in the ER but not daring ask anyone to take my sick, potentially contagious, kid.  It was awful.  I felt so alone.  I don’t think I’ve ever wished more for my far away family.  Eventually, I got help with my kids and made it to the emergency room.  There wasn’t enough time to arrange a Priesthood blessing before Harley went into surgery, but there was just enough time for the two of us to pray.  Then we talked to the doctors, then he went into surgery, then I waited.  I felt okay because it was a routine appendectomy and I was with him, right where I should be.  Everything was going to be just fine.  But when the doctor came out of surgery I could tell something wasn’t right.  He showed me the above picture of Harley’s liver and told me he was having it biopsied because he didn’t think it looked good.  That’s when I lost it.  I cried, openly, noisily, in a public waiting room, all alone, surrounded by strangers.  Three women I didn’t know came to my side and hugged me.  They talked to me, sat with me.  They were from out of town.  Their southern accents were friendly and their bright pink lipstick endearing.  I was happy they brought me some comfort but at the same time I was awkward because I’m pathetically crying to complete strangers.

Harley was released from the hospital the next day and we were left to sit around and wait for the biopsy results.  He couldn’t do much, including lift the kids, which prove hardest on Mr. K, who’s quite the fan of his daddy.

October 2011DSC_0023-1 Anderson understood “Dad’s tummy has owies” and tried to comfort Max.

For six days we waited.  Harley healed, didn’t lift kids, dealt with his sore body and we waited more.   Bad results would change our lives, so our lives kind of went on hold while we waited.  Meantime, something else was happening:  Appreciation.  Have you ever lied awake at night and listened to your husband breathe and been so grateful he’s breathing?  I hadn’t, but that week I did.  I would lie awake at night worrying, crying, praying, fearing, worst-case scenario planning.  When you have a scare like that you look at everything differently.  You realize how fragile life is.  You see how good you’ve got it and you didn’t even know it.

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And really, we’ve got it good.

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That week every time I went to get Max out of his crib I hesitated, squatted on his floor and played peak-a-boo with him instead of immediately lifting him out.  This was partly to stall that moment where he’d walk to Harley and be devastated when Harley wouldn’t pick him up and partly because I wanted to enjoy this beautiful child, this gift that was mine to love and appreciate that I didn’t love and appreciate quite as much the week before. 

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We went on a family walk around our neighborhood that Sunday.  Usually Sundays end with me assessing what I got done the week before, planning the week ahead and feeling anxious about the productivity levels of both weeks.  But that Sunday, no task mattered.  I hadn’t looked at my To Do list since Friday (highly unusual) because the To Do list was the least of my worries.  Things like buying a lunchbox for Anderson, figuring out Halloween costumes, getting our luggage fixed, scheduling a hair appointment, wrapping birthday gifts, redeeming Visa points all seemed ridiculous ways to spend my time.  The only thing that mattered that day was taking a leisurely walk with the three people I love most. 

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The weather was perfect.  It was a 76 degree fall day you want to bottle up and bust out again, oh, say, this time of year.   Harley and I walked and talked.  Max squealed at dogs from the stroller.  We stopped and let him “ohhhhhh” over each one.  We met some neighbors.  We didn’t know any of our neighbors until that day.  Why did it take us more than a year living here to stop our busy lives and talk to them?  Anderson rode his tricycle.  We’re working on important street crossing safety skills like “this way, that way, this way again.”  He likes to ride way ahead of us, but he knows the rule:  he has to be able to see us.  His feet work so hard, pedaling fast, speeding ahead.  His breath gets heavy and his face beams with pride.  Then he stops, dismounts, cups his hands around his eyes and looks for us.  Then it comes, “Mom!  Dad!  I can SEE you!  I am SAFE!”  He hops on again.  It’s a simple little pattern he’d done a dozen times, but that day, I adored it more.

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 His number is 3.  Lest you ever forget.

You know what a crisis does?  It changes your perspective.  In our case it was only a potential crisis.  Eventually we got the call.  Benign.  The doctor was wrong. No cancer.  All was well.  Life was no longer on hold.  We could move forward, most immediately with an anniversary trip that now meant much more.  Our lives would not change.  After Harley completely healed, which he has now, we wouldn’t have any reason to think of the entire ordeal.  Yet my outlook had shifted permanently. Had the results been malignant it would have been as though someone yanked the rug out from under us.  Everything would have changed and we would be flat on our backs in real trouble.  That didn’t happen.  He doesn’t have cancer.  The rug was not yanked.  This was just a tug.  A tug of our rug.  Still, it was enough to stop me, to test my footing, to jostle my world and my view of it.  It was enough to halt my To Do list.  It was enough to give me a cause to pause and a reason to realize what is important.

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I wouldn’t wish this trial on anyone and I hope I never repeat it.  Yet I’m grateful for the cause to pause.  I’m grateful for the tug of our rug.  It left me stronger and more aware.  It left me more grateful and more focused.  Appreciation anew settled in and I committed to strive harder to not take for granted my daily blessings.

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That week, Harley and I kept saying we want to squelcher our babies with love and kisses and say, “Do you KNOW how beautiful you ARE? Do you??!”

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My blessings are everywhere.  In fact, the six days of waiting had blessings.  We had incredible experiences.  Beautiful, personal epiphanies and the tenderest of mercies.  Oh how this trial was laced with tender mercies!  Small ones that probably seem silly to anyone else and big ones that I will hold sacred in my heart forever.  How the Lord knows us and how He rescues us and shows us His love in our time of need, when we need Him most.  How comforting to know He has a plan for us.

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Today was a bad day.  In fact, it’s the rotten cherry on top of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.  The hundred little things that have gone wrong, gone missing, gone broken, gone disappointed this week don’t hold a candle to cancer, but they get me down and I struggle.  I could write a whole post about why I’m bugged/annoyed/grumpy/discouraged this week.  In fact, I was going to, but then I decided to instead finish a post of gratitude I started a month ago.  This post.  Counting my blessings and expressing my appreciation help me get over my blues.  I refocus.  I reprioritize.  I remember that tug of our rug.  I appreciate anew.   I realize how great I’ve got it.  I have so many things to be grateful for.  More than I could ever express on this blog.  Little gratitudes…

DSC_0042I’m not the only one with new rain boots. And I’m not the only one grateful for them. Love does not begin to cover how the boys feel about their boots. Hooray! 

And huge gratitudes.

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Life is good.  Life is fabulous.  We are thankful.  Whole piles of feathers worth.

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Speaking of gratitude, hello and amen!

12 comments:

Summer said...

Wendy, you have such a way with words. I always feel uplifted after reading your posts. You do indeed have SO many things to be grateful for and thanks for the reminder that we all do too. Those tug on the rug moments in life are scary and faith testing, but you're 100% correct in saying that they provide an opportunity to grow and re-prioritize. So glad to know Harley is a okay and in turn you are too :-)

Crystal said...

This was so well written, of course you pulled it all back to turkey feathers. So sorry for your tug of the rug and grateful all is still well with the Kings.

Mom said...

Wendy, this was such a beautifully written post. The pictures are beautiful as well. I am glad you see the beautiful in your life in spite of some very ugly days or should I say BECAUSE of the ugly days. I loved Hillery Weeks song! Do you remember the Weeks family from Camino way? Yep, Hillery married one of the Weeks boys.

Carter said...

Wow.

Amanda said...

Beautiful family. Beautiful post. Thanks, Wendy. I'm SO glad the cancer issue was just a scare...very scary nontheless. Love that song too. I hate that trials really do make us stronger...sheesh! ;)

ps, totally agree - cherrios are not a good substitute for rice krispies. Chex are pretty good though...

Kara said...

Beautiful post. Loved your words. Loved the photos. We are SO grateful for our "family" out here. Things wouldn't be the same without you guys.
I hadn't heard that Hillary Weeks song before now, but thank you, dear friend, for leaving me in tears twice this week.
Love you...

Anonymous said...

Thank You

love Dad

Ryan and Cheryl Harris said...

What a beautiful post. I feel like that "tug on the Rug" will be a new phrase for our family when in crisis. It's a really great analogy. I love that you decided to finish this blog post when in the middle of a bad week.

I love so many of the pictures. The one of you and Harley at and the monument is great. So many of the boys are so good too. I esp. like the one of Max looking up standing next to your legs and all the ones of the boys and the turkey feathers. I miss your boys SO MUCH!

I'm so glad Harley is okay. I was never all that worried and just had a feeling he'd be fine, but I'm sure it would have been awful had I felt otherwise or even worse been his wife and felt otherwise.

Love you. Keep blogging. You do it so well :)

Jess said...

I know how you feel! We had a tug on our rug of the same sort--my husband had a blood test with liver enzymes that were way too high that had me fearing the c-word too. An hour-long sonogram of his entire abdomen and then a week of waiting to hear that the results are clear. So glad that your tug was just a tug too!

Wendy said...

<3 <3 <3 <3 This post makes my heart happy. Today we are going to count our blessings....one by one...and that Turkey just may become our new tradition next year!! :)

Ali Snow said...

I thought I commented on this already. Hannah LOVES this post - with so many pictures of Max, she gets so excited and points and says "MAX!" Actually, doesn't matter if it's a boy or girl or 18 month old or 3 year old - anyone little is "Max". I guess she likes him again.

anna banana said...

Why havent I read your blog in so long! I so love and so miss you! I finished a gratitude post today (that probably wont be published for a few more weeks) and I could never say it as beautifully as you did.

Love you, love the tug on the rug (divabonics that one right up!) and love your beautiful family!