My Family

"Life will knock you down. You can choose to stand up again."

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Favorites

Cards & Notes!

Don't ever underestimate the value of a card or a note or a letter or a journal that you give to someone. If you feel the prompting to send a note or a card or a text or an email to someone - please follow it! I have notes and cards all over my office to remind me that I am never alone.
No matter what, they always cheer me up and put a smile on my face!!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Impossible to Doubt

Wednesdays, at my full-time job, are supervisor staff meeting day. I usually fill myself up with Diet Coke before I head in there because I am constantly scolding my guys to speak my language and to stay on task. It never fails that there are lots of laughs, and usually lots of serious discussions. Sometimes the meetings can be awkward if there is an issue that needs to be addressed. Those are the moments when I put my head down and focus on writing minutes. If something is brought up that sounds like a fun thing for me to do (driving the bush master), then I pop in and say, "I can do that!" It never fails to draw shakes from the heads of every single one of the guys in the direction of, "NO you can't, Heidi!" Then I get discouraged and put my head down and continue writing minutes.

I almost always know about any surprises that P has for these meetings. So, at the end of the meeting when everyone is done and it's time to end and he looks right at me and says, "Heidi Ray, we love you," and hands me an envelope:
and continues on by saying, "We are so proud of you. School will be starting in a few weeks and the boys are going to need some supplies so here you go...," I can't quite catch my breath. I covered my face and he said, "Now, don't get mad and start yelling like you do... we want you to know that we are your family. We are here for you and we love you and those boys..." And then I start crying, which I do just about all the time... and I manage to get the words out, "Ernie has told me a few times, 'We will carry you until you can walk again on your own.' I could not do this without you guys. Thank you."

I sent my boys a text once I stopped crying and got back to my office. It said, "P and the guys just handed me an envelope. It has Subway gift cards for date night and cash for school supplies. Boys, don't ever doubt that Heavenly Father knows us, hears us, loves us, and takes care of us. He has always put people in our path who He knows we need. Mama loves you boys."

Friends, I am telling you that it is impossible to doubt that there is a loving Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, and elder Brother. They know who we are. They see us. They hear us. They love us. They answer our prayers, and the prayers of others who are talking to Him on our behalf.

I cannot even begin to tell you what it has meant to us when people have given us food (Mommy M, Bishop K, Papa & Grandma, Nana & Pops, Uncle Brandon and Aunt Carrie, some that we don't even know!!), clothing (B Beck, Sheffields, Laws, Uncle Logan and Uncle Skipper, Grandma N, and so many that we don't even know!!), makeup, coloring books, markers, fun posters, cards, and knick knacks (Miss Birdie, Miss T (Younique!!), B Beck, LeAnne, Auntie, Paula, so many others we don't even know), and money/gift cards (Uncle Logan and Uncle Skipper, B Beck, Nana & Pops, Papa & Grandma, Grandma and Grandpa N, my guys, and others we don't know). These things don't just happen. It's isn't just "lucky." It is people in our lives who are in-tune with our Heavenly Father, who bless us when we don't even know we need them right then.

I was told in a blessing about twelve years ago, given to me by B Beck's sweet dad, that Heavenly Father would make up the difference. I was told that He would bless us with Priesthood holders and people who would help us. Those same words have been repeated in several blessings since then. It is impossible to doubt that He is real and that He knows every single one of us SO much more than we can comprehend.

***On another note, it's always so touching to see my big guys get emotional. I think I've seen every one of them cry now.***

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Cool Little Story

Once upon a time, there was a mama and her four boys. The mama and her four boys seemed to be having quite a rough year. Things just didn't seem to be going smoothly. At all. Ever. Just when they thought they found a place to live for a year that would allow the mama to save for a house and allow the boys to stay in their school, they had to move out and find a new place immediately. The mama cried. The boys cried. Prayers on their behalf were said and things worked out. The mama and her four boys found a place just in the nick of time. Literally.

The mama met with her new bishop this past Sunday. The bishop, young men's presidency, and scout master came to introduce themselves before the records were even in their ward. The bishop also brought the left over food from girls camp to the mama and her four boys on Saturday. The mama and four boys were grateful for how welcome the ward was making them feel. All the mama ever heard was, "The young women have never been so happy!"

On Sunday, as the bishop got to know the mama, the bishop asked what happened at the previous home. The mama told him that things were just really difficult there, and then on June 11 the mama received a phone call to tell them that they had to be out right away. The bishop looked at the mama and said, "That is the very day that the ward began to fast and pray for a family with boys to move in."

The end.

To deny the hand of God in our lives is impossible. Sometimes I wish there were less painful ways, less traumatic ways, less scary ways - but in the end, there is a plan for each of us and it will all be alright in the end.

In other news, this oldest boy of mine wanted a date with Mama last night. He got it! We sat and ate, then he talked and talked and talked for an hour and a half. I am oh, so grateful that my boys talk to me. He is a good boy with a pure heart. And, he makes me laugh out loud.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Laguna Beach, Lagoon

The boys and I headed to Lagoon, again, yesterday. The season passes that we got for Christmas have been so amazing! We have definitely used them A LOT! I love that we have a "free" option for entertainment! The big boys rode some rides while Colton and I hung out at Laguna Beach. I don't have any pictures of Colt because he is a fish and is always in the water. Again, Autism is a funny thing. When in the water, that kiddo is perfectly content. He won't leave the water and wander. He is just so happy in there. I can watch him from my chair. As soon as he is out of the water, it is complete chaos again. We have a routine now, where we go right from Laguna Beach to the slurpee refill station on our way out of the park. That gives him a point a to a point b. That has helped the chaos trying to get out of there.

This mama LOVES the sunshine! And I really love my babies!

Don't mind the picture of Braxton - he and Jackson were having an ice-spitting contest. Just another day with boys!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Date Night

Thursday night, rather than going to Sam's for groceries, we went to Kohl's for school shopping. Each boy had his own cart and a calculator. They added up their finds and then took off 55% for our discount. They each had to be at $100. The three oldest went off on their own, while I took Colton. Kaydon had a big notebook with a list of his needs. The other two had a list on their phones. I was a proud mama watching them be frugal, and always folding clothing and putting it right back where they got it from, never leaving anything in the fitting rooms - but always hanging it back up and putting it back where they found it. We came in way under budget. We could not have done this without my guys at work. We are so thankful.

After shopping, we went to Subway to spend our gift cards. Everyone filled their tummies up and left there happy, ready to close our eyes for the night. Now we just need to worry about shoes and backpacks.

So blessed!

Adventures in Autism - Food

Everyday is a new adventure when it comes to having a family member with Autism. The spectrum is so enormous. No two autistic people are the same. They may have some of the same tendencies, the same mannerisms, the same qualities, the same weaknesses, or they could have the complete opposite tendencies, mannerisms, qualities and weaknesses.

Colton is missing the cause and effect connection, along with many other connections. This one, though, is particularly challenging. Colton does not remember from minute to minute why he can't do certain things, what the consequence of a choice might be, what Mom told him to or not to do, etc. He also struggles greatly with situations. (he also has ADHD, Anxiety, and learning disabilities) Chaos, loud noises, textures, something out of his routine, busy places, and group activities among many other things can greatly impact his ability to deal with life.

Food is an interesting challenge all by itself. Colton has just about doubled his weight in one year. His blood pressure has risen to unhealthy, and dangerous, highs. Colton doesn't seem to have an "off" button. He has gotten up in the middle of the night several times (more than I even know) and eaten 36 string cheese sticks or four dozen cookies or two pounds of grapes or an entire ice cream cake. I am not exaggerating. I can't imagine how badly his stomach must hurt, but it doesn't detract him from doing it. He is literally clueless as to what he is doing. In talking to therapists and psychologists who deal with Colton quite a bit, they have suggested that I look into locking the fridge and the pantry and the cupboards and the freezer. I am trying every option before I do that. It is not a bad thing to do that and I am, in no way, judging those who do. I am just trying other options first.

We go grocery shopping on Thursday nights. When we get home, I spend the rest of my night cutting up fruit and vegetables and placing them into individual bags, then into larger ziplock bags, then into a bigger bag. I do the same with string cheese - one stick in a bag, in another bag, then all of them in a bigger bag. Obviously I can't do this with everything. But, doing this seems to be helping a lot. Because it takes him longer to get to the actual food, he runs out of focus and attention and gives up on it before he eats bag after bag after bag.
For now, this is helping. Things change all the time and I'm sure I'll have to come up with some other contraption to help soon.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Date Night...During the Day

Kaydon worked for some boots that are only sold at Smith and Edwards. He has been so patient, waiting for me to take him to get them. So, I asked Jacks to bring Brothers to my work on my lunch break so we could go get them. Kaydon got the boots and everyone got to pick one treat from their crazy candy aisles.

On the way back to my office, I explained to them that we had just experienced date night. Braxton said, "Well can we at least go to lunch with you?" How can I turn down these boys of mine when all they really want is time with Mama??

We went through the drive thru at Jimmy Johns, grabbed sandwiches - then headed back to my office. We pulled in, I told them all that I loved them. All four said, "Can't we come in and eat with you??" Seriously, how can I turn down these boys of mine when all they really want is time with Mama??

We all went inside to my office, ate our sandwiches, laughed just like we would on a "normal" date night, and I loved on them before they headed home. I'm serious when I say that the day they no longer want date nights/days with Mama will be the worst day of my life!!!!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Our Trial and Triumph - A Week Full of Blessings

1. Sara's hug
2. Becky's texts
3. Lunch with the guys
4. Free lunch with my boys
5. Braxton's chance to go to scout camp
6. Ryan's help
7. Holding babies
8. Music
9. Scripture Power
10. 3-day Weekends
11. Prayer
12. Easy commute
13. Medication
14. Ability to cook, clean, organize, and multi-task
15. Prophets
16. Slurpees
17. Younique's self tanner (Thanks Miss T!)
18. My senses
19. Diet Coke
20. Working appliances

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Favorite

I have had three back surgeries. Each of those surgeries removed a disk from my spine. So, I am missing my bottom three disks and it is facet joint on facet joint. I am in constant pain, but have learned to live with it pretty dang well.

When I work at Kohl's, it is a bit more painful. I am on my feet for 4 - 10 hours straight - squatting down, bending, lifting, walking and walking. I decided to try some inserts in my shoes to see if a little extra padding would help at all.

It worked!
I am actually completely fine with the ones you just buy at the grocery store, or pharmacy. I cut them down to fit into my shoes and I am good to go. Obviously, they don't make them for flip flops, which is a complete travesty. Seriously. But, they work great in my flats and they help so much!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Few Extras

I have to post a few extra pictures from the last week, or so.

Grandpa and Grandma Nef were here again. I feel so lucky that they have been here twice this month. I so wish my boys had more time with them. My grandma kept saying how she needed to look better for when family came over. I was in my pj's and had no makeup on and I was perfectly content!
We went to visit Jacks at work. He works at Cold Stone - just up the street. Why wouldn't we visit him?!?!
I got a few extra pictures of Kaydon's time with Uncle Brandon and Aunt Carrie. He had a great time with them!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Grandma and Grandpa Nef Visit

We are SO lucky! Grandma and Grandpa have been here twice in one month! I can't get enough of my grandpa's hugs and kisses. My boys can't get enough of them too! We went to my mom's house for dinner and loves on Sunday night. Oh, how I love them. My grandparents are so healthy and so spry in their mid-80's! They are getting ready to build a house!

The boys also love cousin Andrew, who is married to my beautiful cousin, Shanna. He is so fun and they just love him! Shanna played with Colton for a bit while Grandpa told us stories that I had never heard. He also gave Kaydon and I blessings.

I know that these times are few and far in between - that my kids will get to spend time with them. I wish I could bottle up these experiences!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Date Night and Date Day

Date night on Friday was just me, #2, and #4. #1 was at work and #3 was with Uncle Brandon and Aunt Carrie.

Braxton and Colton and I got happy meals from McD's, then rented some movies.
On Saturday, the boys wanted to go to Farmington Station. Kaydon was still gone, so the three boys and I went and got a Fizz drink and walked around. That place is awesome!

Monday, July 18, 2016

KK Time

Uncle Brandon picked KK up on Friday afternoon and spent some one-on-one time with him for a couple of days. They went to downtown Salt Lake - visited the Capital and art museums. Kaydon loved it! They went fishing and hung out.

In the midst of trying to keep it all together the last seven months, I have neglected to pay attention to the deteriorating emotions of my boys. Kaydon talked to me Thursday night when I got home. I immediately asked Brandon to come and administer to him, and he did. My boys have been through way too much in their short lives. It's all coming to a head now and it's time that we all get into some counseling. Sweet Kaydon has had some scary thoughts and I can't imagine losing my baby!

I am so thankful that he got some quality time with my sweet brother and sister!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Heidi Rae and the Teenage Boy Factory

Living in a much smaller area makes messes look about 100% worse. I like to be organized and clean. I like to see the vacuum lines in the carpet. I like to see an empty kitchen sink. When I come home after a long day at work and see a messy house, I feel two emotions - gratitude that I have my boys to make messes and frustration that we have to clean the messes up.

Thursday, I told the boys that they HAD to clean up their bedroom. They are all in one bedroom now. When I look at their room, in particular their beds all lined up, it reminds me of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - the scene where the grandparents are all in their beds in the front room.

When I got home, Braxton walked me up the stairs and showed me their room. I about cried! It looked SO good. AND... BONUS.. they cleaned my room too!!!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Our Trial and Triumph - A Week of Blessings

1. Uncle Brandon spending time with KK
2. Ability to buy groceries
3. Ability to get car registered
4. Fresh fruit
5. Homemade bread and jam
6. My boys trusting me and talking to me
7. Snow cones!!!
8. Open minds and broken hearts that hear and feel
9. Getting better at driving a manual
11.Scripture reading
12.Ability to kneel to pray
13. Weekends off to play with my boys
14. Our new ward. Seriously.
15. My testimony
16. My strength
17. Laughter with my boys
18. Internet finally working
19. Friends.
20. My mama.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday Favorites

When Mommy Martha's Brooklyn was a baby, she used to eat my chapstick. Somehow she would figure out how to open it, then she would just gnaw on it. I couldn't figure out why she would enjoy that UNTIL I got cake batter chapstick! Now I want to gnaw on the stuff! It smells (and tastes) so delicious! It makes me kind of happy to have chapped lips now!


Rock thinks it's funny to come in each morning with the graffiti camera and take a picture of me. I have no clue he's doing it until I download the graffiti pictures and there I am. Here I am, very tired from a 17 hour work day the day before.
Remember how I told my sweet friend at work who is going through a horrible divorce that just because you have a bad day after lots of good days, that does not mean you are failing? And not to be hard on herself because everyone goes through these roller coasters - even if they aren't going through traumatic experiences? And how she is doing tons better than she thinks she is? I need to listen to myself right now.

Yesterday, one of my most solid supporters, someone who I have depended on and who has lifted me up over and over and over again said something that he thought was funny at the time, but that really wasn't funny at all - like not at all. About 2.5 seconds after he said it and saw the look on my face, he apologized over and over again. I walked away and he followed me with my favorite purple taffy, dropping it on my desk and apologizing for being "ignorant." I sat at my desk for a good hour, numb. There are just some things that sting. There are some phrases, some words, some innuendos that hurt - like a lot. Like a lot a lot.

99.9999% of the time, no one intentionally offends us or hurts us. That's the truth. When they do, we can cry a little or roll our eyes a little or chuckle a little - then we need to move forward! That's the part I need to learn - not to think about it over and over and over again.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

This Life We Live

I am employee of the month again at Kohls. It's not too surprising because employees nominate employees and my second half of "Feisty and Sassy" nominated me. I love her. I nominated her last month, so I'm pretty sure she was just returning the favor.

ANYWHO! I was working last night, just like I work every Wednesday night. I was at customer service, helping the sweet, angelic Claudette. I call her, "Love," because she just exemplifies love. She looks like a porcelain doll and she is just so sincere and so kind. I had asked her a couple of weeks ago if she had any kids. I figured she was married. She said that she didn't have kids, but did have a dog and that counted in her mind. :)

Last night as we were working, she mentioned that "after her husband died..." I stopped the conversation because I was exasperated. She is the same age as me, if not younger. I said, "Love! I had no idea." She just kept right on talking. She mentioned that it is hard, but it's been five years and she sure wishes her dog would sleep with her to comfort her and how her other dogs used to be then they died... I was just in shock. I asked her if it was expected. She responded that it wasn't and then said, "This is what happened..." I couldn't take my eyes off of her as she proceeded to tell me the story of what happened. Her eyes are so stunning against her ivory skin and her arms just kept busy as she recounted those last days:

Her husband, who only ever called her "Babe," had a sinus infection. He got those a lot. They went to the doctor on a Thursday and got some antibiotics. On Friday, his ears were hurting really bad, so they went to the ENT. The ENT did a CAT scan, and several other tests and didn't see anything. He prescribed a different antibiotic, along with some pain medication. The pain medication made him very sick and he was throwing up. On Saturday, he slept most of the day, just not feeling well. Saturday night, he wasn't better so she took him to Insta Care. They just confirmed that he had a bad sinus infection and that he just needed rest. On Sunday, he was very lethargic and wasn't talking. She went in and laid next to him and asked him he wasn't talking to her because he was mad at her or if he wasn't talking to her because he couldn't. He could only mouth, "can't." At that point, she called 911 and his brother and father. He then went into convulsions. When he arrived at the hospital, they put him in a medically induced coma. On Sunday night, he went into brain surgery. He came out brain dead. He had an infection. At some point, a canal in his ear popped and the infection spread to his brain. There was nothing they could have done for him. Her husband was gone.

She said, "We were married for 17 years. He's been gone for five. He took good care of me and made sure he had life insurance so I wouldn't have to work. I don't think I'll ever date again because he was perfect. No one could ever live up to what he left for me in love."

How beautiful is that? Here I sit on the opposite spectrum of that, having a husband who left me but who left nothing for anyone to live up to. However, I have boys who tell me every single day, "You're doing great Mom. We love you Mom."

Two daughters of God. Pain. Sadness. Confusion. Frustration. Fear. JOY. COMFORT. RESILIENCE. STRENGTH. COURAGE. SMILES. LAUGHTER. LIVING. BREATHING. DOING.

Oh, what a life we live.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Being Brave

There is a sweet girl that I work with at my part-time job who is going through such a hard time! She has been married for almost 20 years, has two beautiful teenagers, and her spouse decided someone else was better for him. Isn't it odd how people think the grass will be greener on the other side? She didn't see it coming. At all. She is going through a lot of the same emotions I went through, and some that are unique to her. In a very strange way, I am so thankful that because of my own experience(s), I am able to listen to her and to offer (when asked) advice and suggestions that helped me and that I hope will help her.

I often times remind her that I have no doubt that she is doing better than she thinks she is. I can see that she is, but in her dark hole it doesn't feel like that. And that's ok. That is why we surround ourselves with people who CAN see that and who can carry us until we can walk on our own.

I remind her that this was HIS choice and does not reflect on her at all. She often asks "why?" Why would he do this? Why would he leave his family like this? I remind her that we may never know, but that the choice and the consequences are on him. I remind her that her pain will be for a short time compared to his.

I tell her that it is going to hurt for quite some time. I tell her that it's a myth that time makes it all better. Time changes how it feels, but it doesn't "heal" you like people tell you it will. I tell her that she will learn new ways, new traditions, new coping mechanisms, new things to avoid because they just hurt too much. I tell her that she will also discover just how strong she is. She will discover things about herself that will make her stand even taller.

I suggest that she tell her children that mommy is going to cry, and that's ok. I suggest that she tell her children that they, too, are going to cry and that's okay too. I suggest that she not put off counseling if she feels that counseling can help even a little bit. We are not meant to go through these enormous, weight-bearing trial on our own. We can't. I suggest to her that she allow those she trusts to love her, to hold her, to walk with her, to listen to her, to bring her meals, to help in whatever ways they offer.

I tell her that when she has a few good days and feels that everything is "better," to be prepared that bad days will still come and that this does not mean she has failed. This is real life for everyone - not just those going through life-altering challenges.

I remind her, and myself, that being brave does not mean that we are not scared or sad or mad. It means that we keep going in the right direction, despite the fact that we are hurting. It means that we keep doing our best, especially when doing our best is all we have left. It means that we recognize that we are strong because being strong is all we have left.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Date Night Minus Two

These two handsome boys and I had date night on Friday without Jackson and Braxton. Jackson was in Sandy for the week with his best friend, Dalton. Braxton was in St. George for the weekend with his best friend, Blake.

The boys and I got something to eat, then they wanted to walk around the mall. I was all about walking around the mall! It was air conditioned and walking around the mall doesn't cost a dime! We found these two massaging chairs. I have never been so entertained. People literally stopped and watched my boys in these chairs because it was pure comedy!!

I love these boys of mine. I worked twenty hours this week at my p/t job and only saw my kiddies for a few minutes. They bring me so much joy! Kaydon said to me on Friday night, "Mama you are doing great. You are so pretty." I said, "WE are doing great, KK." We really are.