Thursday, June 21, 2012

this week

-Last Saturday night our air conditioner broke. It was hot in herrrre. John Long in our ward came over on father's day to check it out. His diagnosis: the problem is either something pretty cheap and easy for him to fix or really expensive and something he couldn't fix. It was the cheap thing and he came over Monday and fixed it. What a guy.
-My brakes have been shuddering and squeaking and had to be fixed on Monday. Why do cars have to get old?
-One of Wes's mission companions told us we may have been on the first presidency's prayer roll because of one of their family members (bless you stagg family). I know a prayer is a prayer no matter who said it, but something about that information made me realize we better be living worthy of the blessings that come from all those who are taking the time to pray in our behalf. It is a responsibility that we have.
-It was brought to my attention on Tuesday that my license expired on my birthday (thanks Ty). That was in march, I guess I've been kind of busy. The state website said there is no grace period for expired licenses and I would have to take the written and road tests again to get a new license. I panicked and decided to talk to a person and not a computer to try and explain myself, she informed me I had six months before they make me take the written test. What a relief.
-Wes had chemo on Tuesday. They hooked him up and he immediately started coughing. His lungs tightened and his throat was closing off. They pumped him full of Benadryl and said he had probably had an allergic reaction to the chemo drug, and they usually don't see that happen until the eighth treatment. I sure do love being the exception to everything.
-Lily's new word is "apple" and she loves to chew food and then spit it out so she swallows nothing.
-Halle had her last ballet class until next year.
-I'm just so glad the nba finals are going on right now. It gives Wes Something to look forward to. And all you Miami heat haters better start hoping they win because it would make cancer boy so happy and that is reason enough to cheer for them.
-We took a walk this week and were surprised to see a beautiful hanging plant hanging by our front door. We don't know who did it, but every day we are astounded by the kindness of others.
-Annnd every day this week I have has that "call me maybe" song in my head. Why is it so catchy? Me and Bryce Winkelman want to know.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

my baby's daddy

When you stare uncertainty and cancer in the face you get to have all kinds of fun conversations. One day Wes asked me if I knew what I know now would I still choose him. I don't even hesitate to answer that question. From day one of this wes bell cancer journey I have known and felt sweet peace and assurance telling me that this is supposed to be my life. I am supposed to do hard things. And I can do hard things. 
As I think about that question he asked I can't help but look back on the past five and a half years we have spent together.
The first year of our marriage was wonderful. We were both in school and both liked to study hard and be with each other. I remember hearing women in our ward say how much they loved relief society so they could be with other women who understood them and just have "girl" time. I remember thinking they were crazy because I felt all I needed was my best friend who also happened to be my husband. We loved spending time together just the two of us. In fact, that summer we both got jobs at byu laundry of all places just so we could work together all day and take off whatever time we wanted. It was mindless work, but it meant we got to be together. I loved walking to work with him everyday, eating lunch together, and listening to the same audio books.
I remember there were times school would overwhelm me and test scores would give me so much anxiety. One day it was all too much and Wes held me while I cried. And then all he said to me was, "why do we fall Bruce?" And that was all it took to get me laughing and forgetting my troubles. His ability to make me laugh at everything, even cancer, is one of my favorite things about him.
I kind of feel like a woman takes a big risk when she marries a man (and vice versa) because you never really know what kind of father (or mother) someone is going to be. Of course you can observe how they interact with other kids and people, but the true test comes when a child is born. Will they change diapers? Will they help to I lighten the work load? Wes was the first to change a diaper and give both our children their first bath. He never hesitated to do anything. I can still see him getting sweaty as he rocked Halle to sleep almost every night in our tiny hot apartment in wymount. Every night after a long day at work he picks them both up and gives them his undivided attention and me a break. One night shortly after Halle was born he woke me because he was worried. He had been taking care of Halle when she randomly jerked her neck back and he didn't support her head very well. She cried a bit, but was fine. He came to me and confessed what had happened and needed me to reassure him that she was okay. I knew from then on how much he would love our children and would do everything in his power to protect them. This is the man that asked me if he should turn on the hazard lights as we drove our new baby home from the hospital . He is kind and patient and I hope our girls one day realize how lucky they are to have a dad who wants to be with them and sacrifices what he wants to do to play with them
I love to be in the same room as Wes.
If he is home I will naturally gravitate to whatever room he is in just to be near him. It is kind of a problem. One day during those rough years he was in the byu accounting program he was feeling the stress of making good grades and was wanting to do some peaceful studying. He anticipated my need to be around him and talk to him. So when I came to his closed door I found It would not budge because he had pulled our large lovesac in front of the door to keep me and all other distractions out.
I have seen him play endless princess games with Halle. He knows all the songs she likes and all the movies she acts out. And every saturday morning he scooped up the girls and sent me to bed for a nice long nap. Our children adore him.
After surgery he was worried about reconnecting with our girls especially lily since he was so weak and could not lift anything over 20 pounds. I watched as he worked so hard to find a way for them to play. She learned to take his hand and walk around the house with him and to this day most mornings she reaches up to take his hand and do a lap around the house.
He is always the first to forgive.
We speak the same language.
We enjoy the same things and he makes a big effort to be interested in the things I am interested in.
As he always says, he has street smarts and I have book smarts.
We are two peas in a pod.
I can't imagine greater joy than we have felt over the last few years as we have accomplished so much together. 
We have learned to become parents together and are still learning so much together.
So as I look back on these last five years and he asks me if I knew then what I know now and all that we would have to endure, would I still choose him?
I say yes, a hundred times yes!
I choose this life and I choose him.
 I will endure whatever comes our way if it means I get to stand with him.
Happy father's day to the man of my dreams and the best daddy my baby girls could ever ask for.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

angels among us

The night after we found out Wes had cancer a big snowstorm hit our neighborhood.  There were inches and inches of snow piled up on our driveway.  I was up early the next morning with Lily and just happened to peek out our front window. Outside, our neighbor's boys were shoveling our driveway in the cold and the dark.  As the morning wore on I couldn't hold back the tears as I watched the boys shovel and then their father and then their mother each take a turn clearing our driveway.  Our bishop had emailed our ward our shocking news the night before and here our neighbors were just a few short hours later helping the only way they knew how.  Looking back, I can trace what I saw that morning to the moment when I knew we wouldn't be doing this alone.  Help would come.  And it hasn't stopped since that day.  I want so much to express how grateful I am to the angels that surround us.  I want to hold you all and tell you that I've got your back just like you have had mine.  I want to tell you how you have been an answer to so many prayers. I want to spend all day pouring my heart out in thank you cards. There are way too many people to thank and it would probably weird you out if I could hug you like I want to.  I look back on these last few months and I see God's hand in our lives and the many earthly angels who have performed his work.  So many tender mercies.  This is my poor attempt to tell you thank you and to let my children know that God uses the people around us to bless us, comfort us, to do what he would do if he were on the earth.  I am attempting to show them the good that can come from the bad, because after all "there are worse games to play." (name that book! and why do I always seem to reference the same one?)

Family: If you were to drive by our house that awful day in March you would have seen car after car filling our driveway and our circle.  Leave it to the Bell extended family to swoop in and offer shoulders to cry on and words of strength and comfort.  Our families have been with us since day one and haven't left our sides.
Our Moms: Moms are angels we all know that.  My mom watched our children through surgery and beyond as Wes was in the hospital much longer than we expected due to his complications.  She kept my children alive and kept my house running.  How grateful I was to not have to worry about life on the home front while I was away.  My mother-in-law had to take that first phone call from me explaining the results of Wes's colonoscopy and listen to me come unglued as I had to put my new reality into words for the very first time. She has had to take many late night/early morning phone calls asking her to come watch the children while we went to the ER.  I don't think there is anything more terrifying than being on the receiving end of those tough phone calls.  She spent so many nights in the hospital with Wes to give me a break and let me be with my children.  She has sat with me and held me as we waited for more and more test results and potential bad news. She has been our researcher, encourager, and designated baby watcher. Hardly a day goes by without a text from her asking how wes is, how are the girls or how am i.&nbs;I don't think they both will ever know the gratitude we feel for the selfless way they have taken care of us.
Our Dads: My Dad got to work in the only way he knew how, medically.  His persistent phone calls helped to assemble our team of doctors and get the process moving much more quickly then if we were on our own.  He came for his surgery and I loved having his calm presence around.  I sure hope he knows we are grateful for all he does everyday.  Whenever my father-in-law would come to visit he just made me feel better.  He would drop in after work while Wes was in the hospital and I would just think "everything is okay now."  He was with us through every middle of the night ER visit.  He stayed with Wes in the hospital to give us all a break and has used the priesthood to bless us both many times.  There are some images from those first few weeks I can't seem to get out of my head.  Most of them are   not good and I feel I will be scarred for life.  There is one image that is both horrible and tender that makes me think of the great love fathers have for their children.  It is the night Wes was readmitted to the hospital after an ER visit and vomiting all day.  The ambulance had finally brought him to LDS hospital and they were preparing to put the NG tube down Wes's nose.  I can't imagine what it feels like to have to use your muscles to vomit after you have recently had your small intestine removed but, from what I saw I think it really hurts.  Wes continued to throw up as we waited for a doctor to arrive.  I was emotionally exhausted and my heart was hurting worse than it ever had.  His dad arrived after picking up some clothes for me.  I felt I couldn't handle anymore as once again Wes started to throw up. I sat on a roll-away bed with my knees to my chest crying as I watched my husband continue to vomit and his sweet dad by his side rubbing his back.  Stepping in when I felt I could do no more. He has spent many Saturdays over here weeding, mowing, fixing fences, and any other yardly things that need to be done. I love our dads.
Extended family: I wish I could have Aunt Teresa in my ear all day.  She always puts a positive spin on everything that has been thrown our way.  She basically headed the effort to cover all our bases when my mom went home and Wes's family went out of town while he was still in the hospital.  She set up a schedule and has continued to set up a schedule for meals during Wes's chemo treatments.  Wes has said he felt like she was his second mom growing up and I feel it too.  So many aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings have joined efforts to bless us in their own special ways.  They have stayed with Wes, brought us food, washed and folded laundry (Whit, you're amazing).  They have watched our girls so I can take a breather and reorganize and reboot. They call, text, check on us and make sure we are taken care of.  And Halle has become quite obsessed with Courtney and is so excited when Daddy gets chemo because it means Courtney comes.  And it hasn't been limited to family who live close by. To Wes's uncle Blake: you know what you have done and we are so thankful for you and your choice to put what you learned in general conference to use.  One of the sweetest things was from Wes's aunt Amber.  Before his surgery she sent a card with a few dollars in it specifying that we were supposed to take our girls out for ice cream before the big day.  Halle loved it.  We feel surrounded by the best of the best and are grateful for the example all of you are to us and our girls.  We can't wait for our turn to jump in and help you the way none of you hesitated to help us.

Friends and neighbors: Like I said before, an outpouring of love and support flooded our home from day one mostly from friends and neighbors.  The phone calls and the texts and words of encouragement and love had our phones constantly buzzing.  If there is one lesson we have learned from all of you it is this: if someone is in trouble and you feel like you should do something, but don't know what...just do something, anything.  I am sure people heard Wes has cancer and had no idea how they could help us, but that didn't stop them.  Halle's old nursery teachers brought over chalk and a bubble gun for the girls.  A dear friend brought over a box of favorite things for all of us.  She will never know how she lightened my burden as I watched my children giggle and play with the things she had brought.  My other dear friend brought socks and games, because who doesn't like a nice pair of cozy socks.  The list could go on and on and on.  Meals and playdates for Halle have not stopped and I am so thankful for the woman that sets them up each chemo week.  And Halle is thankful for them too, especially when she gets to go to a house with a trampoline.  It is not easy to cook for Wes with all of his dietary limitations! Our ward even donated money so we could have a cleaning service come clean our house (every woman's dream!). And then there are the joy school moms who took over all my teaching days and still let Halle keep coming.  The women I work with in primary have had to step in to fulfill my duties and I am just so happy they haven't given me the boot even though their work loads have increased, because I so adore the children in our ward and being with them each week. So many sweet neighborhood friends randomly text me to see if Halle can play to give me a break.  Huge baskets full of magazines, books, games, treats, things for Halle and Lily were put together by so many families.  Our neighbors in our circle have each made sure our yard is mowed, but mostly it is Brady.  We sure have a soft spot for that kid.  The birthday fairy came fore Lily and a sweet friend made her a cake.  A lovely friend made headbands for my girls' pictures when I had no chance to go shopping. The young women came and weeded our yard while the young men cleaned our windows.  Friends from afar have sent flowers and words of encouragement and treats for our girls.  Friends who have shared inspiring stories and quotes are near and dear to my heart.  I think about the quote you shared with me often Whitney, thank you!  Friends have put us in touch with cancer survivors and it has been priceless to be able to ask questions and share experiences. Wes's friends have spent nights in the hospital with him when I couldn't be there.  They have played video games with him and helped him to feel normal.  They have fertilized our lawn and brought him food. And to my dear sock friend who made the blankets (extra long for an extra tall man), and brought me red velvet cheesecake, and let Halle play on your swings, and check up on me, and give us something to do when Wes feels ill even though you have much to deal with yourself, thank you.  How lucky we were to have moved in at the same time and become friends. I hope you know how much you mean to me.  I really could go on and on, but to all of you who have been earthly angels, we love you!

Work: Wes was an outstanding student.  He was being recruited by all of the big accounting firms in Salt Lake.  From the beginning he was always attracted to Ernst and Young.  There were no real benefits or pay or career options that really drew him to them, but mostly the people.  He loved the people that worked there and to him that was one of the most important things when it came to finding a job.  So when they offered he jumped on it and we have never regretted it.  Besides the fantastic health insurance and disability leave they have given us they have really gone above and beyond.  They have been with him since the beginning encouraging him to focus on getting better.  They sent a huge basket of goodies and have been so patient with us.  We definitely made the right decision years ago.

Halle and Lily: You'll never know how much you have dulled our pain.  Watching you giggle and grow and learn together has been the best "distraction" for lack of a better word.  You are our joy in the midst of our trials. Thank you for letting me hold you at night.  I need it more than you do these days.

And to my shower: thank you for being the perfect place to cry, away from little eyes and little ears.

Most of all we are so grateful for all of your prayers.  I know what it is like to want to help someone, but don't know how.  Praying for us is one of the best things you can do. I felt sometimes that we were lifted up upon a sea of faithful prayers.  It is incredible how much we really can feel the strength that comes from the prayers of others.  I would have loved to know how many altars and temple prayer rolls our family was on those first couple of months.  We had a running list for a bit and there were so many places all over the united states where Wes's name was upon the altar and faithful temple goers were praying for him.  Those temple prayers have become so special to me.

You have all been amazing examples of Elder Rasband's talk from general conference when he spoke about what you would do if you saw someone drowning.  You wouldn't ask "what can I do?" You jump in, you do something to keep them afloat.  You really have come to the rescue and we have talked about how this is the way the world should be run, a great big family each taking a turn to lighten the burden of those around them.
I really can't say it enough, Thank you!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

ballerina girl

 I don't think there is anything more adorable than a little girl in a leotard, tights, ballet slippers, and her hair slicked back in a tiny bun.  Halle has loved her ballet class she took this year.  Her ballet company performed "Peter Pan" this year and her little class got to open the show.  I had the silliest grin on my face the whole time she was on stage.  It ended all too soon.  I could have watched her up there the whole show and she would have been happy to be up there the whole show.  She did great and gave a great performance.  
Lots of family came to show their love for our little ballerina. 
 Including this guy who was sick, but couldn't miss his little Halle's recital.  And there was nothing she wanted more than to get a big bouquet of roses from him.

She was showered with flowers and hugs and she couldn't wait to get back into the theatre and watch the second half of the show. The production was so well done. And you know you've really got a good thing going if you can keep a three year old on the edge of her seat twice! We love miss jenny and barlow arts conservatory! She had two performances and while everyone else cleared out I got to take her out to dinner, just a mommy and Halle date. 

 We talked about what makes her happy and sad and mad and she thought her guacamole was wasabi.  And afterwards we had to have a photoshoot of course. 
For her second performance I had a perfect seat right up front and the best view of her.  She got to keep the teddy bear she danced with and we watched the rest of the show together again. 
 I drove her home late and laid her in bed.  I loved spending an evening giving her my undivided attention.  She is an amazing girl, a wonderfully easy daughter, and a fantastic big sister.  I love celebrating her. Great job our beautiful ballerina girl.  

And a big thank you to Brian and Erika for watching Lily while we all went to the ballet and Michele for giving me and Halle a night out.  I can't wait to see the photos of the girls in their actual costumes, as they were only rented so I couldn't snag my own picture of her in it.