Thursday, November 6, 2014

Turtles


I visited my grandma yesterday, and she told me two stories I had never heard before. They were both about turtles. 

My grandma is from the South.  She is beautiful, spunky, adorable and awesome. And her eyes light up in a twinkle just like my dad's eyes did when a good story was being told.  One thing I learned about the South yesterday is that when it rains hard, turtles come out of everywhere and cover the roads. If you are driving, you can't help but hear the turtles going "POP POP POP POP POP" as you drive over them.

On one visit back to visit her parents, grandma and grandpa were driving during a storm and suddenly the road was covered in turtles. Grandpa got out of the car and was able to catch two turtles. He brought them into the car and decided he should take one of them back home with him to surprise the kids. When they got on the airplane to return to Utah, Grandpa stuck on of the turtles inside his camera case. He put the camera case under his seat

A little later in the flight, the lady sitting in front of him kept getting out of her seat to complain to the stewardess about something. Grandpa and Grandma didn't really know what she was upset about, but they could tell something was wrong.  After several talks with the stewardess, this woman was given a different seat.  Grandpa decided soon after she left that he should check on his turtle. He got the camera bag out from under the empty seat in front of him and opened it up.

PEEEEEEEE-YEEEEEEEEWWWWWW. It was the worst smell ever.  He closed the bag up and stuck it back under the seat, realizing that his turtle had been the source of the fellow passenger's discomfort. I can just see the smile on his face as this dawned on him.

On another trip to the south, this time with the kids in the station wagon, the Breinholt family stopped at the Mississippi River for some fun.  The kids were amazed at how many turtles they found, and they loaded up two buckets of turtles and took them in the car. Each night after the family slept at a motel, it was quite a job to find all the turtles that had crawled around and hidden in the car. 

Two of those turtles survived the trip back to Salt Lake City, one of which was missing most of one leg.  Grandpa helped the kids make a sand box for the turtles to live in out by the garden shed.  But that gimpy turtle kept wandering away, which was upsetting to the kids.  My grandpa was a problem solver, though.  He got out his drill and put a hole in that 3-legged turtle's shell.  The hole was just big enough to put a thin rope through, and the rope was tied up to the laundry line.  This way the turtle was free to roam but not to escape.

That worked for a while, but eventually both turtles did escape.

About a year later, the boys were running around at the fish hatchery behind the Breinholt home, and they came across a three-legged turtle with a hole drilled in its shell!  Of course they brought it home again. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

O, Canada!

In August, we took our 4th trip to Alberta to Banff and Jasper National Parks.  The kids beg to go back, and although there are surely many beautiful places within a day's drive of here, we always end up back in Alberta.  And I sing "Alberta Bound" nearly the whole way there.

Some pictures from our trip:

Our first stop is always in Canmore.  It's a cheaper and much less touristy place than Banff town, but only about 10 miles away.

Canmore is surrounded by mountains, and is just beautiful.  There is an Olympic venue there for cross country and biathlon.  It is a public park with miles of paved trails.  We were the cool family and took our scooters with us (they fit much more easily in a car than bikes).  We went twice a day up to the Olympic park and rode our scooters on the trials.  It was a good workout, and so super fun to go down the hills fast.


These photos were taken at Bow Falls.  Cold glacier water from the Bow River and an excellent area for kids to splash and throw rocks.


 Another stop we always make in Banff is to the tram that goes up Sulpher Mountain.  You can see forever up there.  Some people go up, walk to the top and then head back down.  If you ever go, pack a lunch and take the trail that goes down the back of the mountain for a half mile or so.  The best views are there, and the crowd is nowhere to be seen.


After staying in Canmore, we stay in Lake Louise for a night or two.  My favorite place in the world is there--Moraine Lake and The Valley of the Ten Peaks.  Some people stop at Lake Moraine, snap a picture of the blue water and then leave.  The most beautiful spot is up the trail just to the right of the lake shore.
I had never seen this spot on a cloudy day.  At first I was kind of bummed out about the clouds (even though I adore clouds).  But then I realized it was actually quite beautiful to see the ten peaks jumping in and out of clouds all day long on our hike to Eiffel Lake.
 Mark took this picture of me standing at the end of the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
 Zack is a happy hiker.
We met a grizzly bear on our hike that day.  It was huge, and stopped right in our trail for quite a while.
 We stopped at Lake Louise on our last morning to try to see the view, but it was still pretty cloudy.  That didn't stop the swarms of people going there.  It is a crazy mess.
 A new adventure we did this year was a hike at Parker Ridge.  It is halfway between Lake Louise and Jasper, and we have always seen throngs of people hiking up the switchbacks whenever we have driven on the Icefields Parkway.  But we could never figure out what was so spectacular to make the hike worthwhile.  Well, we found out.  Turns out the most spectacular view of Saskatchewan Glacier and river head is just over the hill, surrounded by green mountain meadows and wild phlox and far as you can see.  Plus, a stunning view of Mt. Saskatchewan in the background!

 And look how much fun your kids can have if you stop here!  Sheep horns, and then a death-defying stop at the cliff's edge.  As an added bonus, there are millions of fossils all along the trail and everywhere you look.  Sea fossils on every rock!
 Isn't this so beautiful?
 It's also worth stopping at the base of Athabasca glacier.  There are so many fossils here, and the view of the glacier and the mountain is awesome.
We stayed at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for the last week of our trip.  It is 50's glam in the most beautiful setting on the shores of Lac Beauvert.  I loved our stay here.  Although the hotel itself could use an update, the pool itself is worth staying for, and the service is spectacular.  The town of Jasper is my favorite with so many great restaurants and shops. 
 We loved staying on the lake. Savvy (our bird nerd) loved the loons.

 S'mores on the lake every night at 8:30 was a bonus!  I think my favorite quote of the trip was Zachary who at one point said, "Why would anyone take their kids to Disneyland?"

On the way home, we stopped at Mt. Robson viewpoint.  I had never seen the top of this beautiful peak.  It's the highest point in the Canadian Rockies, and when we have driven through before, it was obscured by clouds.  It really is a beautiful vista.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why I fear Ebola

I am heartbroken at the news of a nurse who has contracted the ebola virus.  But I have to say I saw it coming.

I have spent a bit of time in hospitals, for the births of my seven babies, and a few trips to the ER for stitches as those babies grew through childhood, and a few random surgeries for the kids over the years.  The things I observed in my time in hospitals have absolutely frightened me.

I am not a germ-a-phobe, but I do understand the basic principles of microbiology and infection control.  Most of what I have seen in hospitals runs counter to these basic truths of science.

My son had a minor nose surgery last winter, and because of some lingering nausea, we ended up spending the night at the hospital.  Over and over, my son would throw up, a gloved nurse would help him and clean him up, and then go over and type on a keyboard to document the event.  Yep, with the same gloves she used to drop that emesis bag into the trash can.

When I was in the ER six years ago for some sudden and severe abdominal pain, I had a nurse come in, glove up, touch about 20 things in the room, pick up a stool that I am sure had never been wiped down, and then proceed like she was going to get my IV started.  I asked her if she could please change her gloves.  She gave me the crustiest look I have ever seen in my life.  She took off her gloves, left the room, and I didn't see her again.  Apparently, that was unreasonable for a patient to think that gloves that had just touched everything in the room, including the bottom of a stool, should not be the same gloves that open sterilized IV tubing and then puncture my skin with a needle.

Each time I have stayed overnight in a hospital after giving birth, I was stunned as I watched the housekeeping staff come into my room.  They already had gloves on, which they used to open my door.  Then they emptied the trash, opened the dirty linen basket and removed bloody sheets, picked up the mop and "cleaned" the floor with the same water in the bucket used for the room just before mine, then went over to wipe down the toilet and sink area with the same cloth.  All with those original gloves on.  And then the housekeeper was off, pushing the cleaning cart with those same dirty gloves to "clean" another room.

It seems in the healthcare world, gloves are seen only as a barrier to keep the wearer protected from infection.  Yes, that is one major purpose to be sure.  But the bigger part of the picture is that gloves should be used as a disposable barrier for infection control.

To healthcare workers, I ask:  Go ahead and put those gloves on to take care of me but then immediately dispose of the gloves before touching ANYTHING else, including me, the bed, the keyboard, the doorknob, the curtain, or the new sheets you need to put on the bed.  If you have to change your gloves 8 times in 2 minutes, then do that.  Please, throw away your dirty gloves before you touch anything else.  Because although you are protected from the germy stuff, that bedpan you just emptied has contaminated your gloves, and when you touch the bedrails with those gloves on, you have just spread the contamination to the patient's bed.

I guess I am super sensitive to this because of my husband's job.  He is a dentist.  He wears gloves.  A lot of gloves.  How would you like it if you went to the dentist and he left the same gloves on all day? My husband might start a filling on you, and then decide he needs to get a different bit or polishing disc on his handpiece.  Does he leave his gloves on to open the drawers and look for what he needs?  No way!  He takes off his gloves, throws them away, and then finds what he needs, and re-gloves.  Probably at least six times per patient.  It's called basic infection control.

Anyway, I am sure when it comes down to it, we will discover that this poor nurse in Texas did absolutely everything right when caring for the Ebola patient (which is a whole other rant I could go on).  My guess is that is was another co-worker who used dirty gloves to touch something in that room--from the light-switch to the bed to the stack of clean diapers--because it would have been too much of a bother to change gloves one more time. My gut tells me that this poor nurse touched something that should reasonably have been expected to be sterile, and it wasn't.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

One long year

 What a year.   A really long, hard year.  One year ago I had seven kids still at home, a dad, and a grandpa.

I haven't seen my kid in a year, Aubrey is staying at college for the summer, and it has been 11 months since I last talked to my dad.

The last time I saw all my kids together was on Joel's birthday last year.  Abram was leaving at 4AM the next morning, so it was a very bittersweet birthday for Joel--he got to blow out the candles and open some presents, but my heart was definitely not in it.
When Abram left, lots of people would say, "Oh, it goes by so fast."  But I had one good friend who said, "Don't listen to anybody.  It doesn't go by fast.  It just sucks."  Yep.

I thought waking up the kids to say goodbye to Abram at 4AM on May 1st last year was the hardest thing I had ever done.  It was so hard to send my kid away for two years, and to see all of his little siblings crying because he really is the best brother ever and we would all miss him.  But I knew I had to let him go, and there was truly no other place I would rather have him be than on a mission.

Letting Abram walk away into the airport last year was so hard.  But that was nothing.  I discovered six weeks later that some things are much harder than that.

Like when you get a call telling you that your amazing, perfect, fun, healthy, fit dad unexpectedly passed away and nobody knows why.   Suddenly having Abram gone was not a big deal.  I would see him in two years.  My dad was gone from this earth forever.  Heartaches all hurt, but my dad dying hurt more than anything I have ever experienced, and more than anything I could have imagined.  All of these trials absolutely brought me to my knees, and only through Christ's atonement, and the comforting of the Holy Spirit was I able to get through.  Speaking at my Dad's funeral was the hardest thing I have ever done.  It should have been impossible.  But with God's help, I made it through actually sort of coherently at that.  The night before the funeral I did not sleep at all.  But whenever I would be on the point of tears and sadness, my heart would suddenly fill with the most powerful love and peace I have ever known.  All night long I thought, I felt, but I did not cry.  I truly was being comforted by heavenly power.

I heard a description of courage this year that really struck me.  Courage is doing what you have to do when there is no other option.  Absolutely.  I learned to be courageous this year.

Anyway, Abram is awesome.  It is not a big deal that he is gone now, and the real heart-wrenching of him first leaving is just a faint memory.  The time has not gone fast for me, but each weekly email from him makes everything worth it.  Tomorrow he will be 20 years old, and he is in very good hands with his Mexican family who are planning to make the day special for him.  I am so grateful that he has people who love him all around him.

Aubrey has plentiful opportunities for work this summer in her college town.  She is happy and enjoying her independence living off campus.  She is appreciative and grateful for everything we have given her or taught her.  What more could I want?

My mom always used to say, "Life is hard, and then you die."   My grandpa used to say, "Kwicherbellyakin!"  I always knew to never expect life to be a cakewalk, and that things would always be hard.  There is no easy road, and everything we go through is part of making us who we are, and who we need to be to eventually return to our father in heaven.  I have tried to remember that over this past year.  I hope I am a little stronger, a little kinder, and a little more resilient than I was one year ago.

But I still miss Abram.  And Aubrey.  And my dad.  And my grandpa.  But they are all where they need to be.  And I am here where I need to be, trying to make each day awesome and memorable for five awesome kids I still have at home.

Home again

Our trip to Boston was so incredible.  It was fun because it was a vacation, but it was so deeply moving and healing as well.  From the time we touched down in Boston, we were greeted by total strangers and signs everywhere welcoming us back to Boston.  Mark was wearing his Boston jacket from last year, which is a natural conversation starter.  The whole city was alive with a spirit of strength and rebirth.  Boston needed the runners to come back, and the runners needed the city of Boston to show its strength by making the marathon go on as planned.  We cried more in the 10 days of our trip than I ever would have guessed.  The Boston runners would find each other, hug and cry and tell their stories of what had happened to them last year, or what motivated them to get to Boston this year.

One of the most touching experiences was at The Old South Church.  They have a knitting group there who started what they thought was a small project.  They wanted to thank the runners who were coming back and to "wrap them up in courage and love" to go on with the race this year.  They started out with a goal of gathering 300 scarves to give to runners.  Word spread quickly and they ended up with 7300 handmade scarves from all 50 states and 10 countries. People just wanted to do something kind, and to help the runners heal from the wounds of last year.  So any runner could go to the church, which is right at the finish line where the first bomb exploded last year, and the volunteers there wrapped the runner up in a scarf, gave them a hug and told them they were loved and appreciated.  Seeing thousands of runners all around Boston in their bright jackets and blue and gold scarves around their necks was really, really touching.

Everywhere we went, Mark found new friends.  People just wanted to talk.  They wanted to share.  Runners and spectators alike were all just so happy to be there.  The police thanked us for coming back.  The shop owners thanked us for coming back.  The city was entirely united.  The Boston Police were everywhere as a show of strength and unity.  They were helpful and kind and so gracious.

I couldn't help but think that if this same thing had happened in Portland, that would have been the end of the marathon.  While Boston has the city motto of "BOSTON STRONG,"  Portland has the motto of "Keep Portland Weird." If this had happened in Portland, we would have had groups out protesting the commercialism of the race, or protesting in support of the bombers, and the city would have spent millions of dollars in studying what Portland had done to offend these terrorists, millions more training Police to be more tolerant.  The crazy but vocal minority runs things in this town.  And the mayor is one of them.  The Portland Police bureau is full of heroes who would have acted the same way the  Boston police did in the aftermath of the bombing last year.  They put their lives on the line every day to protect us.  But they get no respect.  In Portland if a cop has to use his gun to take out an armed or dangerous bad guy, the cop loses his job and the entire bureau undergoes sensitivity training.

I say this not to complain (luckily I live in my happy little suburb and out of the idiocy of inner Portland), but just to praise the citizens of Boston.  They were the phoenix rising from the ashes.  Better, more beautiful and stronger than ever.

Between the crying spells, we did have a lot of fun.  Mark had been injured, and this run was not about a time goal for him, but about going and enjoying the run and healing along the journey.  That's exactly what happened.  He ran all 26.2 miles side by side with a friend, and he loved every minute.

After the race, we stayed in Boston for the rest of the week.  It was so therapeutic to see Boston return to normal, and to then leave it as the beautiful city that it is, rather than the war zone we left last year.

Any trauma or bad images we had in our brains has been replaced by happy experiences and beautiful things.  The bad stuff happened, and it is somewhere deep inside our brains filed under "experience", but our memories of Boston are all good now.  The blood and the smoke have been replaced by happy runners and a resilient city.

And we are going back next year.  Now for pictures.

Our good friend from BYU and Omaha days took us one day down to Providence, RI to see the mansions.  I absolutely loved it.

 Thank you Phillip and Summit for an amazing adventure!
 I took this photo of Meb as he ran in front of me on his way to win the whole thing!
 Mark ran the entire race with his friend Keith.
 Stephen ran faster than Mark.  He really had a goal and made it happen.
 This Boston police officer was across from us last year, and was right in front of the 2nd bomb when it exploded after we left the street.  My niece told him about how she had gone and stood in the same spot as last year to show she wasn't afraid.  He took of his Boston Strong ribbon and gave it to her.
 Stephen, Mark and our friend Eric after the traditional night-before bib pinning.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

One year later

It's been one year since the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  It's been quite a year.  We were so blessed that day to be kept out of harm's way when we were literally sitting across the street from bomb #2.

My life has never been the same.  Mark has never quite been able to wrap his brain around what happened.  I have never been able to understand how evil could exist to such a degree that a man could walk up, set a bomb down next to a small child, and walk away.  My children who were with me that day were greatly affected.  Joel has a hard time being in crowds now without panicking.

In the months after the bombs, Mark had "bomb dreams."  He had (and still does have) survivor's guilt, and what I have coined as "Finisher's Guilt."  I was more of the mindset, "Well, that happened and we are fine now, so let's move on."  But Mark has struggled with that moment for a year now.

I thought I was OK.  I was looking forward to this upcoming trip to Boston.  And then when I started to pack  my suitcase yesterday, the emotions just started flowing.  It had never occurred to me that sometimes a vacation doesn't have a happy ending.  I started to remember the sounds and smells of that day last year.  I thought about waiting in our hotel room with everyone I loved safe and sound, while others were out on the streets searching for their family and friends who had not been able to finish the race.

I can still hear the bombs.  I can still hear the sirens.

But one thing I can also hear is my cell phone.  I have a new phone now, but I haven't been able to part with my old phone.   Whenever I see its sparkly blue case, I think about that day in Boston.  I think about my Dad being the first one to try to call and see if we were OK.  I think of the hundreds of alert tones I heard as close friends and distant acquaintances all were eager to hear that we were OK.  I think of typing as fast as I could on that little screen trying to reply to everyone, and having 5 more texts come through in the meantime.  I love that old phone.  It reminds me that I am loved.

A lot has happened in the last year.  Right after Boston, my son left on a mission for 2 years.  The next month, my Dad died very suddenly and unexpectedly.  My daughter moved away to go to college.  My neighbor died in a tragic motorcycle accident.  I have cried more in the last year than all of my life together.

But I know I am loved.  I know things will work out.  Bad stuff happens and we keep going forward because we are strong.  The struggle is the part of life that makes us strong.

I am excited to be there right at the finish line again this year to see Mark and his brother finish the race safely.  I hope that they can put their demons behind them.  I can't wait to see Boston stand strong and together once again.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mean mom

We had the funniest thing happen at our house last week. Mark installed a pull-up bar in our exercise room and the kids were taking turns on it using a band to assist them. Zachary had freaked out on his first turn because he felt like he was 100 feet in the air. He was actually only about 4 inches off of the stool. So savvy got my iPad to film Zack and show him that he was being a big chicken.

Well, his dismount went terribly wrong, and Savvy got it all on film.
video

I was laughing so hard that I honestly could not help Zack get out of his situation!  Mean mom.

Aubrey wasn't here but she laughed so hard about the video that she made a page on her blog post about it. It is one of my favorite cartoons she has ever drawn.