Friday, December 31, 2010

My Christmas Box Miracle....part 2

So, let's face it. I'm depressed. Super duper depressed. I can't say I've ever really been depressed before. Sure, I've been blue, but never this blue. I just miss the old innocent life I had before where I didn't know grief and loss so very much. It will never be the same as it was before. I hate feeling this way and wish I could snap out of it, but I can't. No matter how many blessings I have and how much I can recognize them, losing a baby is a life altering thing that is just so devastating and traumatic that the feelings of happiness seem so elusive regardless of my gratitude and recognition of what I have. The last month has been completely horrible again and I've struggled to find anything at all to show me a light at the end of the tunnel. The Christmas Box angel statue really gave me a sense of peace when we went to it. Just to know that there's a place we could go to remember Gabriel, even if he isn't physically there, has brought me something to cling onto right now.

When we had gone to the Spanish Fork cemetery, Skylar had been really upset about it. I asked her why and she broke down crying and said, "No one we know is buried there." We still went, but after I researched the angel statue more I thought that maybe it would be good for us to go to the SLC cemetery, where most of my family is buried, to see the original Christmas Box angel statue. Maybe that angel statue would bring us, especially her, more comfort, knowing that it was near others we love. I couldn't have been prepared for what we found. We decided to go on Christmas Eve before we joined my family at my parent's house. As we drove into the cemetery looking at the map for where the Christmas Box angel was, I realized that it seemed to be near the rest of my family's plots. We stopped at it, and though we were freezing, we got out and each placed a white flower on it. We took a few pictures also. It was nice. I did feel some comfort in that statue being there for people like our family who need to remember their babies. I shed a tear or two for my sweet boy, Gabriel. I so wish that he was still with me, preparing to be born, not gone, but it was so good to do something to remember him that day.The kids wanted to see where the other family plots were. So we piled back in the car to go to them. I knew they were close, but didn't realized just how close. They were only about a street away from that angel statue. My family has always found it a really strange coincidence that both sides of the family are buried within about 100 feet of each other. My dad's side of the family, the Jensens, are just a little walk away from my mom's side of the family, the Henricksens. As we came to find out that day, the Christmas Box angel statue, is parallel to the Henricksen plot. It's just a street away and you can actually see the statue from it. I had this amazing, overwhelming feeling of awe that they were so close. Almost like it was meant to be.

It made me think back to the book the Christmas Box Miracle, which explains what a miracle it was for that statue to be placed in the cemetery, in that exact spot, in the first place. When Richard Paul Evans felt inspired to commission a statue to be built there, even he was amazed at the events that unfolded that made it possible for it to be placed there. When he talked to the sexton at the cemetery, he was told there wasn't any space left for it. But Evans felt inspired at the same time that the sight had already been chosen. Within minutes, the sexton stated that he had remembered just one place that it could be placed. It was the only place in the cemetery where there was enough space and where no one else was buried because there had been a utility shack there that had recently been taken down. As the next few months went by, everything went just the way it needed to go so that it could be put in that exact spot in the cemetery. Now, that cemetery is huge. I looked it up on Wikipedia. It's one of the biggest cemeteries in the Western United States and the largest operated by the US government. It is over 250 acres and contains 9 1/2 miles of roads. In that entire giant cemetery, the one place that they found to place that Christmas Box Angel statue just happened to be right where my family needed it. It is right where we could still feel as if we had a place to remember Gabriel where our other family members are buried nearby.

Whether it was a tender mercy or just a coincidence, I can't help but be in awe of the miracle that was put into place when that statue was placed. I know it brought me goosebumps and peace in my heart to know that maybe, just maybe, Heavenly Father, knew that my daughter and I, especially, would need that statue that represents those little angel babies, close to where we could feel our other family members that have gone before. I don't know where Gabriel will be on that resurrection day, but knowing that maybe he'll be close to my family, close to where his aunt and cousin, sweet babies like him, are buried, has brought me a sense of peace that I don't think could have been possible without the miracle of that Christmas Box angel statue. It is yet another miracle in all this misery and I am in awe of how blessed I am to have it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It could have been so good.

Today could have been so good. I can't help but think that way. Today was the day, that magical date, that I wanted to have our baby. I thought it would be perfect. After Christmas enough but still before New Year's, and right smack dab in the middle of the kids' break from school. Oh, and it would've kept with our weird birth date tradition. Ben and McKade are both born on the 19th. Nick and Alexis are born on the 20th. Skylar was born on the 29th....and if Gabriel had been born today it would've fit just right. Stupid, I know. But when I got those two lines on the pregnancy test and figured out the due date all those months ago, the 29th was the day I hoped for. I also hoped he would be born in December just for the fact that I like the birthstone better than January's and someday my mother's ring would be so beautiful with beautiful blues and greens....another stupid hope.

All my hopes have now been dashed. I don't even know how to hope anymore for anything. We had so much planned around this little guy joining our family and I don't know how to plan for the future or even look forward to it. I feel like everything that I want is now out of my hands and there's absolutely no way for me to change that. I'm grieving all over again, except this time, the shock is gone. It's all cold hard reality now...and it's horrible.

P.S. I would've totally dug a New Year's baby this year too. Seriously, what's a better date than 1/1/11 to have a birthday? I hope the mommas that have their baby that day think it's as cool as I would have.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Christmas Box Miracle

On December 6th we went to the Christmas Box Angel memorial service at the Spanish Fork Cemetery, a candlelight service for those who have lost a child. This was something I'd never heard of, but I'm so glad that we were able to find out about it and go. I've found that when we do things like that to remember Gabriel, that it is really healing for me and for my family. It was so humbling to see just how many people there are that have to deal with the pain of losing a little one. My heart was aching for all of them.It was a short program that consisted of some singing and a grief counselor speaking. Then they had people place a white flower at the foot of the angel statue in remembrance of their child. We of course, not knowing, didn't have one. I was so thankful for a new friend that gave us her own white flower intended for her son, for us to lay on the statue, especially when they called up families that had lost a child in the last year to take their flower first. It was such a gift to be able to have a flower to lay down in remembrance of our Gabriel. Kade really wanted to be the one to place it. He loves his little brother so much. I was glad he was able to do that for him. After that they had a candle lighting and moment of silence. It was a wonderful way for our family to have a chance to remember our little Gabriel as the holiday season was getting under way. I hope it becomes a yearly tradition.The statue was so beautiful! It brought me such a sense of peace. I've struggled, especially lately, with the fact that we didn't bury Gabriel. If he had been born just one week later we would have been required to bury him. I was so in shock when he was born that I didn't know what to do and making a decision about his burial was one of the last things I had the energy to do. In the end, we did decide to not bury him ourselves, but it's something I've really had a hard time with, yet there's nothing I can do to change it. I've always been one to not be concerned about where my body is after I die. I'd even be fine with donating mine to science. I won't need it myself, right? But as the person left behind, I've realized that the grave site isn't for the dead, it's really for the living. It's a place where they can go to remember. That has been one of the hardest things for me, especially because I have so few memories of Gabriel and I have so few ways to remember him. Without a grave, that is even harder. That is the entire reason the Christmas Box angel statues, inspired by the book, have been built in many places throughout the country, the first one being built in SLC in 1994. They were built so that parents could have a place to go, to remember, and it touched me so greatly to find a place like that.

I came home that night thinking so much about that statue and wanting to know more. I got online and realized that the Christmas Box angel was all based on the Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans. I'd read the book before. I even own it, but it had been years since I had opened it. I usually pack it away with our other Christmas books and being Christmas time, I was blessed to have it readily at hand. There was a subsequent book called the Christmas Box Miracle, which is about the impact that this tiny little book has had on the world. I ordered that book and waited impatiently to read it. In the meantime, I reread the Christmas Box. I have to admit I was in tears through most of it. I hadn't remembered the story clearly, and now being on this side of the story, as a mother grieving the loss of her child, it touched me in ways I can't describe. It was so good, so healing. When I got the Christmas Box Miracle, I delved into reading it too and was amazed at the impact this book has had on people, especially bereaved parents worldwide. Nothing has made me feel less alone in this than reading those two books. It's so heartbreaking and humbling to know there are so many more out there that feel the same kind of pain that I do.

I have a new habit when I read that was introduced to me by my friend. I'm a sticky note person now. I always have a pad of sticky notes readily available to mark up books with things I want to remember. The Christmas Box Miracle is now covered with many of those little sticky notes at points in the book where my feelings were exactly expressed and my heart was touched. One letter that was written to the author reads:

On December 16, 1994, I labored and delivered a beautiful baby girl whom we named Belle. She was a stillborn. This experience has been and continues to be one of the most painful, intense, and lonely experiences I have ever gone through. In my incredible shock, pain, and grief I somehow survived the Christmas holidays with my children, my husband, and his family. Hearing certain Christmas carols brought me to tears. The pain was overwhelming. Your book helped me with one of my greatest fears. I wondered, will I ever enjoy Christmas again? I will always miss Belle, and Christmas will always remind me of her but I will see joy in Christmas again. Your message helped me to see that. Thank you.

That letter could have been written by me, substituting in Gabriel's name and that his due date instead of his birth was here at the same time as Christmas. I've definitely struggled with the overwhelming pain of this holiday, all about a baby, the carols speaking of a sweet little one sleeping peacefully, and perhaps the hardest thing, that fear of never enjoying this holiday ever again. It's been a daily struggle for me to try to get any joy or hope this year, and yet the message of this book has somehow healed a part of that. The last few days, since I've finished the books and as Christmas approached even more quickly, I've felt some peace again and some inkling of joy in the meaning of this season.

I've been looking for the sticky tab that marked my spot where the following realization hit me with such an amazing force that I was sobbing and haven't been able to get it out of my mind, but I can't find it. But somewhere, I realized something that I don't think I've ever had the capacity to fathom before. It is the abundant love that our Heavenly Father has for His children. I thought, being a mother myself, that I had an idea of this, but I now know that I had no clue. On the other side of this now, being a mother that had to give up a child, I have learned what an amazing sacrifice it was for our Heavenly Father to give up His son. How heart-wrenching, yet bittersweet, it must have been for Him that first Christmas night, to see His son come to earth while realizing that He would be hurt, hated, and killed...and yet He was willing to do that for us, because He loves all of His children. Despite all that pain in giving up His only begotten son, He knew that in doing so, that all of His children would be able to return to Him. I don't know if I've ever fully had the ability to appreciate that gift as I do now. I thought that this year I'd identify more with Mary, anticipating the birth of my son, and instead God's plan for us has taught me to identify more with Him, which is an amazing gift, to know just how truly He loves me, especially at a time when I wasn't feeling very loved by Him at all.

So today, despite all of the pain and hopelessness I have felt that Gabriel is not here, I am also feeling the peace that Christmas brings. Without the birth of our Savior, I would have no hope to be with my precious son, Gabriel, again. I can't imagine going on without that. What a gift this is for all of us and especially for me this year. I'm so glad I realized it before I let this Christmas pass, trying to forget it. It's my own little miracle this year and one I hope to never forget.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Term Date

So today is my term date. For those who don't know what that means, it means the day that your baby is ready to enter the world, healthy enough to be born without problems, fully cooked. For those who know me, you know that this is always the date I look forward to. I'm usually huge and so uncomfortable at this point and so impatient to have my baby in my arms, and part of what adds to this is the excitement that it could be any moment before that baby arrives. Any day between this and the due date could be my baby's birthday and that anticipation is so fun. I usually have a really cool date in mind-one that would be the perfect day to have a birthday. Oh, I love the term date. But not this one. This one is an awful reminder that I don't have that baby coming any day, that my delivery date is long gone, and so is my baby. I'm pretty much a horrible miserable wreck today. This is worse than I expected it to be. It's just so hard to be here and my heart is breaking all over again. I don't understand why this had to be so hard.

It doesn't help that it's that time of year. You know, the most "wonderful time of the year". I've read enough to know that the due date and the holidays are hard for any one who has experienced a baby loss. It's known that the holidays are horrible for any one grieving anyway. But I got a double whammy with this one. The due date & holidays mixed right in together. I've always been such a big fan of all holidays, but my favorites are Easter and Christmas. I love that Easter has always been about the rebirth of our Savior and Christmas has always been about birth of our Savior. The greatest thing, that birth, is what is so hard. This holiday, Christmas, is all about one thing....a baby. There's not another holiday all about a baby. I've always tried to really make an effort to remember that the true meaning of Christmas is about that birth. This year, thinking about a birth is the hardest thing for me to do. I can barely make it through the nativity story without breaking down in tears (sorry for all that had to witness that at the RS party). I wanted so badly to have a Christmas baby, to feel the humbleness of the greatest gift the Lord could give us, besides His son, at this time of year and instead I just feel this incredible ache for what I thought I'd have. While I've tried to remember the birth of a baby boy that changed the entire world, I can't help but think of the stillbirth of my baby boy that has changed my entire world.

Maybe this would be a little easier to go through if I didn't know so many people having babies right now. It's like the biggest baby boom I've seen in years. I want so badly to be the person I was before and be able to hold their babies, gush over them, or even be able to look at them, but I can't. It hurts. It's awful. It's a huge visible reminder of what I don't have and what I won't have in my arms in this lifetime. There's so many really pregnant women and newborn babies right now, everywhere I go. Maybe I notice it more than most because of my loss, but it seems like I can't go anywhere without a belly in my face. I've been trying so badly to get my Christmas shopping done quickly because I can't bear the thought of running into one more belly in the stores. I entered one store last week with my kids and there was no one in there, but within minutes there were two very pregnant ladies and one with a newborn. I lost it. I left the store bawling...and the people probably wondering what the heck was wrong with me and my kids knowing and having no way to help me. Everywhere I turn, there's another reminder, without even mentioning the friends and acquaintances, and many members from my ward that just had or are about to have their babies. It shocks me still, takes my breath away, and brings tears to my eyes. Pregnancy is just such a visible thing. Not many other trials are so in your face. I see all of these shining moms-to-be, full of joy and hope, and I can't help but ache to be one of them. I've even seen those moms that look so uncomfortable with their bellies so heavy and I long for that. I just want to stay home and not go anywhere right now so I don't have to be hit with the pain so much and that's not like me. I'm having such a hard time adjusting to this new me.

That's another thing, I'm a new me. I'm not the same as I used to be and don't expect to ever be that person again. I hope that eventually I'll return to my happy go lucky self and be able to enjoy things again. I know it's not likely to happen soon, the way I feel now, but maybe someday. I know I'll always be changed by this though. I know that my husband misses his fun wife and that my kids miss the mom that took them to fun places instead of cooping herself up in the house so I don't have to be confronted with more pain. I have tried so badly to go through the motions of getting myself back out there, celebrating their favorite traditions, putting a smile on my face, and trying to be the mom they know, but I know I'm faking it. I ache that they have to see me so miserable, that they are the ones that have to comfort their mother, when that's my job, and I'm failing so badly at it.

I ache for their loss of Gabriel too. I didn't just lose a baby, so did my husband. My kids lost a brother. His death leaves a gaping spot in our family and we all miss him. It's hard to see kids struggling with grief. It doesn't always come out as sadness and we've had more than our share of some pretty angry meltdowns in response to the slightest of disappointments. We get the tears too at times. It's so hard to see my kids talk about this baby brother that they don't get to have now, to see their eyes fill with tears as they ask to listen to his song, because it brings them comfort. It's the only thing they have of him. He was so greatly anticipated around here by his brothers and sisters. All Alexis wants for Christmas is a baby and the other day she said, "Mom, I want a baby, a real baby." Kade talks about Gabriel the most, always telling me how much he misses him, and asking to hear his song the second we get in the car. Nick told me last night that he wished Gabriel was here so he could just give him one hug. Skylar told me that she sometimes gets so overwhelmed that she doesn't know what to do. I told her she could talk about Gabriel and cry about him too. I think sometimes the attention is so on me, that they get forgotten and feel that they aren't allowed to feel the pain too.

I hate when people make comments to them and me that we should just feel blessed that we still have four kids, like Gabriel's life and the loss of him didn't matter because we still have each other to be grateful for. We are grateful for each other, but we miss Gabriel at the same time. I get a lot of those comments and they don't help at all. It makes me feel as if people think that just because we grieve over one that we've forgotten how much we still have. I am thankful for every single moment I have with those four but none of my children are dispensable. Gabriel was just as much our child, just as much my kids' brother, and we all ache for him.

I get the idea that many people think it's high time that I move on and get "over this." Well, I'm not, not even close, and I'm fine with that. I don't want to be depressed and miserable about Gabriel's loss forever, but I think I'm okay to be where I am. It's still new. I haven't even made it to the due date yet. I haven't made it through my first Christmas with his loss. I have yet to make it through a day without crying about him. Yep, I haven't made it one day, not one single day, in these last four months, without breaking down at least once. Maybe people think I'm wallowing in it and choosing to be this way, but I'm not. I am grieving and I should be. I lost a child, one of the greatest losses any one ever has to go through. Just because no one else knew him, doesn't mean that his life does not deserve to be grieved over. I knew him and I talked to him and I felt his body move inside mine, I held him in my arms and I love him, so very, very much. I have felt him watching over our family even now. He will always be my son and I will never get over him.

I'm so thankful for the people that allow me to feel pain still and even especially those that feel it with me. I'm thankful for those that tolerate and still love me, even the new me. I am thankful for those that give me the only gift that really matters right now, remembering and loving my Gabriel right along with me.

"If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died-you're not reminding them. They didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that is a great gift." ~ Elizabeth Edwards July 3, 1949-December 7, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Callings and confusion

So I got my dream church calling last week. It's the calling I've always wanted, as crazy as everyone says I am for wishing for it. The calling: Young Women's Camp Director. I know, I know, crazy, but I've really honestly always thought this would be the most fun calling to ever have! I have such wonderful memories of when I went to Girl's Camp...even the year where I burnt the heck out of my foot and had to go home early. As a bonus, well, I love camping! There's just not a ton of us women out there that dig it as much as I do. I honestly used to be so jealous when Ben got to go on so many campouts when he served in the young men's. Camping is my favorite!

So, here I am, finally with the calling I've always wanted, and I'm struggling because the timing seems so wrong to me. This is the type of calling that I wouldn't have received if Gabriel was still alive and about to be born and as much as I would love this calling, I would love my Gabriel here even more. Also, it's a calling that I can't keep if we get pregnant with another baby sometime in the next year like we hope to (sorry Ben, cat's out of the bag).

I'm also struggling with the fact that I want the YW in our ward to have as memorable of an experience as I did and I'm not sure if I can do that where I am right now where every day is still so hard for me. I'm still an emotional weepy wreck most days and completely faking it when I'm not. I know it is supposed to get better, but the last few weeks have been awful horrible again with the holidays and his due date being so soon. I am really struggling again. Camp just happens to be the week before the anniversary of Gabriel's death and his birthday. In fact, he probably died some time during that same week. I know I'll be thinking of it and I have no clue where I'll be then in this grief process. What I've learned about this roller coaster of grief is that you never know what to expect or plan. I want to be happy then. I want to be happy now, but regardless of some people's opinion....choosing to be happy and grieving don't go hand in hand. I can't make myself be happy when I am so depressed about my baby boy's death. The wonderful YW of this ward deserve a great experience. I only hope I can provide that I'll be to a place then that I can provide that.

So needless to say, I've been pretty emotional about this whole thing. I just feel so confused by what the Lord wants me to do right now but I do know that this is where He wants me to be. I know that He called me to be the camp director now. I've got something to learn for myself or to teach someone else so I'm here for a reason, even if that reason is to just gain more faith in His plan. I know that He's got a plan for me and I will do my best to follow it the best that I can, with the best attitude I can, even if it doesn't make any sense. I've learned that Heavenly Father's answers sometimes don't make sense and I have to use the faith I have in Him to do what I'm supposed to do. He sees the big picture while I can't even begin to imagine it.

Don't get me wrong, I am excited about this calling. It will be so fun and like I said...dream calling and all! I don't know many of the young women in our ward, but I'm glad I'll get the chance to know them. The ones I do know are so great and it will be so fun to be their camp leader. As for the leaders in the YW, I couldn't ask to serve with better people that I already love, every single one of them. It's like being called to hang out with some of your favorite people and go camping and have a blast to boot. Yay!

P.S. They're keeping me as the Activity Days leader for awhile still so I still get to be with my favorite 8 & 9 year olds, including my sweet Skylar, which I'm pretty happy about because it's been a dream to have this calling too!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Attitude of Gratitude Week 4

So here it is, super late, but not because we weren't thankful, because we most definitely were, but I've just been too busy to blog. I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Ben-Nicky, Skylar-home & ward, Nick-Grandma & Grandpa Jensen, Kade-Grandmas & Grandpas, Alexis-Sky

Cyndi-I'm thankful for my nice warm home with a beautiful view of snow covered Mt. Timp. I'm also thankful for where I live and the wonderful ward we live in!

I've mentioned it before and I'll say it a thousand times, I love where I live! Of course, I'd trade in a second for a house on/near/even slightly within 3 hours driving distance to the ocean, but if I have to live in Utah, I am happy to be right where I am. Our house isn't huge or super nice, (and how many issues have we had with it since we've lived here? Too many to count!) but it's a nice warm home that I'm happy with and we couldn't ask for a better location or view (besides the ocean, right?). Here's the amazingly beautiful view I get to see everyday(and this picture doesn't really give it any justice to how pretty it is in person): Amazing, eh? Oh and our ward. We have some of the greatest people in our ward. I feel so blessed to be in this ward where there is a sense of unity and family. They have been such a great support to our family. We're not perfect and we have a heck of a lot of things we have had to face, but it's brought a unity to our ward that I'm not sure other wards have. Our kids say that we can never, ever move because they love it too much here. When we were faced with having a fifth child and not really having room for him in this house, we were faced with the possibility of having to move. We just really didn't want to do that because we love it here. We felt impressed that we should stay and make do, smooshed and cozy. The thought of leaving our ward is so overwhelming that I'm glad it's not time for us to go.

I feel so blessed to have friends in this ward that I just love so much who are here for me. I'm especially thankful for my two dearest friends in this ward, Abby and Mindy, who I know Heavenly Father gave me to get me through this trial of losing my little Gabe. I've always had a special place in my heart for them, but since Gabriel died, that has grown ten-fold. They have been by my side helping me, inspiring me, listening to me, and encouraging me to get out of bed every day and do what I need to do to see my baby boy again, even when I'm hurting like crazy. I know that if they can do it, I can do it, or at least try. I couldn't ask for greater examples of how to face trials with grace and determination than these two awesome friends of mine. I will always love them and be forever grateful for them in my life. We have some great promises ahead ladies & I love you so, so much!!

Ben-Kadybug, Skylar-grandmas & grandpas, Nick-music, Kade-Daddybug & turkeys, Alexis-Nicky

Cyndi-I'm thankful for music!

I'm such a huge fan of music and concerts! Back when I was single and childless and had some money, I would go to them all of them time, and I still probably have more CDs than most people should. Yes, I know CDs...I'm old school. I actually still have some pretty cool, super old cassette tapes that I have a hard time parting ways with. Not that I'm not an MP3 fan now though. It was like the best gift ever, especially after resisting it for so long (thanks Benji!). I have to admit I have no clue how to download songs onto it. I'm totally lame when it comes to technology.

But even with an MP3 player, I still ultimately love the live concerts and wish I could go to more. This year was supposed to be the best summer for concerts in a long time as we were totally excited to see 4 of our favorites in concert. We only made it to 1 1/2 so that was kind of disappointing. First U2 canceled because of Bono's bum back . Bummer. We traded in my birthday tickets and I got my new phone for my birthday instead so I guess it worked out. They are coming next year on the day before my birthday, so I'm crossing my fingers that we'll get to go! The next was our 1/2 concert, Cake, which we really wanted to go to but didn't think we could swing it. We finally got a babysitter lined up and got to the concert...only to find it had been sold out. We were pretty bummed but then realized that people were sitting all over outside the venue and you could still hear the music since it was an outdoor concert and if you strained a lot you could kind of see. We had a nice relaxing seat while everyone inside was smooshed like sardines and it was free, so it worked out quite nicely and it was a really fun concert. Then (I blogged about it before) we went to Ben Folds with the Utah Symphony at Deer Valley for our anniversary. It was amazing!! Our last concert, which I was most excited and we had awesome seats for, was Jack Johnson, and it was the night after Gabriel was born. Ben tried to talk me into still going, but as much as I would've loved to have gone, I couldn't do it. Maybe I should have because I needed something good the day I had to say goodbye to my baby, but a concert wasn't the answer, as much as I love concerts. I'm hoping Jack Johnson comes again next year because he's my favorite.

I also want to add in hymns as something I am very thankful for. I can't sing worth a lick, but hymns sing to me. They inspire me and speak to my heart. I've struggled lately because I can't sing them because I get too emotional. If you happen to see my at church not singing, just know that the reason I'm not is because that's when I'm listening to the words and feeling overwhelmed at the spirit that comes when hymns are being sung. Music is just so very powerful and one of my favorite things.

Ben-music, Skylar-favorite things, Nick-favorite things, Kade-pets, Alexis-crayons

Cyndi-I'm thankful for all of my favorite little things.

I am thankful for all the little things that bring little glimpses of happiness to my life. They are the things you tend to forget are really a blessing because they seem so simple. But really, it's a bunch of little things that are the best and make every day a little better. I think Furthermore says it well when he sings, "The best things in life are the subtleties in small degrees that we don't see, gracing our presence so perfectly. Just possibly you may agree." I agree.Just a few things I love and am grateful for are: sunsets, hot showers, ice cold drinking water, the ocean, lighthouses (one of my favorites above, Pigeon Pt., where Ben & I stayed on our 10th anniversary), seashells, the mountains, camping, sticky rice with peanut sauce, pictures of my kids, gummy bears, potstickers, Mussuman curry, dolphins, chocolate covered raisins, crab, artichokes, whales, Rockband, Costa Vida's pork salad, old houses, Slurpees, Tropicana orange juice, raspberry and blueberry yogurt covered pretzels, chips & salsa, Cadbury mini eggs, Disneyland, Star Wars, DVRs & great shows that make me laugh like Scrubs, 30 Rock, The Office, The Simpsons, Friends, & Arrested Development; chocolate banana bread, grapefruit cocktails, and hugs & smooches....and many, many, many, many more....too many to count. I have so much to be thankful for!

Ben-Thanksgiving, Skylar-cousins, aunts, & uncles, Nick-Thanksgiving, Kade-cousins, Alexis-cousins

Cyndi-I'm thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who has given me so much to be thankful for.Throughout this month, it's been so wonderful for our family to make a special effort to remember all we have had to be thankful for and I know that we wouldn' t have any of this, not one thing, without a loving Heavenly Father that has blessed us with it. I am constantly in awe of the love He shows me, even through my trials and heartaches. I am thankful for the many tender mercies He gives me daily, the trials He gives me to grow, and the joys He has given me to make me want to grow. Of all of the hymns that I love, my ultimate favorite one is How Great Thou Art. I am humbled by the words of that song and all that our Heavenly Father has given and continues to give us. I am thankful for everything, everything that I have been given from Him.