Wednesday, May 29, 2013


At the end of January I started to notice that one of Lily's eyes would drift outward when she was daydreaming or thinking about Rapunzel.  It happened a lot when we were traveling in the car.  I asked her pediatrician about it and he did a simple eye test.  He noticed the drifting when he tested her and referred us to a pediatric eye specialist.  At the end of April, Lily had her appointment with the specialist at the Riverton Primary Children's clinic.  She loved playing in the waiting room with dad.  
After a few tests she was diagnosed with intermittent exotropia.  This means sometimes, not all the time, her left eye drifts to the outer corner.  This can cause double vision.  Usually there is a weak muscle, that can get weaker and can even lead to blindness with time as the brain trains itself to block out that weak eye.  Apparently it is fairly common for eye weaknesses to show up around the age of two.  
The good news is that for now Lily doesn't need surgery or glasses.  The doctor asked us to begin patching her stronger right eye in order to make her weaker left eye work harder.  
We are supposed to do the once a day for an hour.  After a few months she will be checked again to see if the patching is helping.  Obviously she doesn't enjoy it.  

I thought eventually she would realize this is an every day occurence no matter how much she protests, but she still fights it.  In the beginning she would just whimper as I put it on.  I started bribing her with outings, gum, and treats which all worked for awhile.  However, now she makes sure before every outing that there will be "no bandaid" and she doesn't care for gum anymore.  Some days we end up chasing her around the house and pinning her arms to her side as she screams, "no bandaid."  Hopefully it will all be for her good.  Bodies are sure wonderful, but terribly imperfect.  Oh how we have learned that lesson this year.
 Wes tries to make bandaid time fun and one day even patched himself to help her feel better.  
I think Halle secretly delights in the fact that Lily has to do something that she doesn't.  And one day I walked past Lily's picture to find this.  
It was Halle.  She thinks she is hilarious.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

lily's rapunzel birthday

Lily has been obsessed with Rapunzel for the last few months.  She knows the songs, she loves the dolls, and has a teensy little crush on Flynn Rider.  She is ready to talk about Rapunzel with anyone at a moments notice.  This made her 2nd birthday party a piece of cake (cake...ha!).  
I planned a little Rapunzel adventure and enlisted the help of the family.  
I had sissy make wanted posters of Flynn to decorate our house and she painted purple flags with suns on them.  Wes is always a good sport and is so willing to follow along with my silly ideas.  He played the part of Flynn all tied up in Rapunzel's long hair.
 I sent the girls downstairs and they soon heard Flynn's cries for help.  They ran to the stairs and found his poster.  
The only way up, was of course to call for Rapunzel to let down her hair.  They climbed the hair and into the tower to find Flynn.
 They had to set Flynn free and untangle him from Rapunzel's hair.
He showed the birthday girl what was inside his satchel and to her surprise it was a crown just for her.
She put it on and said "I'm the lost princess."  I told you she knows this show.
Flynn swept tiny birthday Rapunzel off to the snuggly duckling for something to eat.  On the menu?  Pizza, of course.
 The girls discovered that Rapunzel's birthday cake was missing and were on the hunt.  After the snuggly duckling they entered the kingdom and couldn't leave without dancing with Flynn.  My girls love to dance with dad like this.
Flynn led them to Mother Gothel who was guarding the way to the stolen cake.  Birthday Rapunzel hit her with a frying pan to enter a room filled with lights.  And there at the front with the lantern glowing all around she found her cake.
This little girl is sunshine.
 After cake she opened her presents.  The thing about this girl is that anything she opens she has to use or try on for at least a minute.  Everything must come out of the box immediately or clothes must be tried on before she moves on to the next present.  It sure is fun celebrating someone who is so enthusiastic about everything!  Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate her!
Happy Birthday Miss Lily, you are so loved!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

rex lee run

I don't think Wes was even out of the hospital after his first surgery last year when he made the goal to participate in the Rex Lee run at BYU this year.  This is a run put on by the BYU cancer research group to benefit cancer research.  He had just been cut open, rearranged, had months of chemotherapy ahead of him,  was planning on another surgery, recovering from pancreatitis and was already sure he would run this race.  
His second surgery in December came and went bringing more complications and slow recovery.  I started to wonder if he would be able to run this race and achieve this goal he had set.  Yet, I watched him train each night in our basement.  He was still weak and not feeling well.  His feeding tube had just recently been taken out.  It was the middle of busy season and he is probably the only person I know with enough dedication and determination to run back and forth down a small stretch of hallway each night after a long day of work, simply because he said he would.  I asked him over and over if he was sure he wanted me to sign him up and each time he said "yes."  
This race had an extra special meaning to us because it was the same day as the one year anniversary of his surgery to remove his colon.  We woke up that morning to find a blizzard.  Wet snow kept falling and falling, and it seemed as if all the elements were against him running this race.  We packed up our girls anyway and went down to Provo.  
We met Ryan and Haley, who were kind enough to celebrate this milestone with us at the starting line and were off. 
 I was so proud to wear his name on my back and honor him as a courageous cancer fighter.
We weren't fast and there was nothing noteworthy about our run except that he kept going.  I was sure he would stop to walk, but he just kept going.  Ryan had gone ahead with the girls in the jogger we had borrowed from an angel friend and was able to catch this picture of Wes crossing the finish line.
  Wes decided to kick it in and I watched a few feet behind him, trying to keep my emotions under control, as he crossed the finish line in the middle of a snowstorm.  It was triumphant to say the least.  I bought him those bright blue running shoes while he was doing chemotherapy in honor of colon cancer blue and with the hope that they would help him get his healthy life back.  I was so proud of him for working so hard to achieve this goal.  It was an amazing day for him.  I finally felt like he was starting to take his body back from cancer.  Our girls were freezing and Lily was screaming, so we packed up and hurried home, but the victory was so so sweet.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

mother's day

how I spent my mother's day
Once again Lily woke up at 6 a.m. the moment the morning light began to streak across the window. As I held her restless body in my arms, I heard footsteps approach and Wes appeared and took her in his arms. He sent me to bed with strict instructions to go back to sleep. He knew her habits and made the effort to be awake to start her morning routine. What a sweet companion I have. The man knows how much I treasure my rest and that sleeping has been one of the hardest parts about motherhood for me.
 Later, I made my children breakfast and bathed them. Lily threw a tantrum and had to be disciplined. I did dishes, put a bandaid on a bleeding finger, kissed an ear that hurt. I dressed children for church and combed their hair. I watched my daughter sing about mothers and cared for the sunbeam class in primary. I came home to a house full of delicious food made by my sweet sister in law. I was showered with generous gifts and my mother in law left my kitchen and dishes sparkling clean. My husband attempted to put the children to bed alone, but neither of them would have that and despite his best efforts, both ended up in my bed only content when their warm bodies were next to mine. I am so very blessed to be surrounded by such good people.
I love being a mother.

my future as a mother
When we moved into our home we bought a table with six chairs. It was our hope to fill those chairs with four little Bell children. I look around my table during dinner sometimes and wonder if the two remaining chairs will forever be empty. I wonder if this dream I have of having more children will have to one day be buried deep.
There is a good possibility that Wes and I will no longer be able to have children. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, especially in the areas where wes's cancer was, all put him at risk for infertility. We are so blessed to be raising two beautiful children, the timing of their births is nothing short of miraculous. I love them and am so grateful they came to our family. But my mind can't help but wonder  (and if I am being honest I should also say worry) about the future.
I imagine as time goes on feeling that great eternal yearning to have a child the way I did with my first two, only to be told it is not meant to be. I imagine my heart will ache an unspeakable kind of ache for righteous desires left unfulfilled. I imagine there could be many tears and even more prayers. It may become a daily burden that I will carry around with me for years. Sometimes I look too far ahead into that future and scare myself.
Even though my future of birthing more of my own children is in jeopardy, my future as a mother is not. Each woman despite her ability or inability to have children is capable of being a mother. This is a truth I know and believe because I have seen others do it for me and mine.  I try my best to see a future of mothering the children all around me. Nieces and nephews, neighborhood and primary children can feel the effects of my mothering. The nurturing side of me does not have to lay dormant waiting for my own children to love.  Even if I am not rocking my own babies to sleep, I have the power of the divine gift of mothering at my fingertips.  Motherhood does not begin or end in the womb, it is already all around us and within us. It doesn't mean there won't be heartbreak or impatience or anger or frustration with my own situation. My future seems brighter when I look around and see there is always someone to reach out to in love, there is always a child to be loved. I can be a mother always. And maybe my empty chairs won't feel so empty and will be filled with my children's friends who feel our love and the safety we try to fill our home with.

There are so many women I could thank and celebrate this day. Of course my own mother as well as my mother in law and friends and family who are wonderful examples to me. But today I have been thinking about two women who have mothered me and blessed my life. They are mothers who have changed my life and the lives of my children.

to the mother who lifted the burdens of a child
After Wes's diagnosis and all through his chemotherapy, we received a huge out pouring of love, service, and kindness from family and friends. They lifted our burdens over and over as they mowed lawns, brought meals, watched our children, and served us. They lifted the burdens of mostly me and Wes. But what about the burdens of our children? Cancer did not leave them untouched. They missed mommy, they missed daddy, their lives were flipped upside down.
There is a woman in our neighborhood who I won't name. She was determined to make my burdens lighter. I don't know if she realized that the result was that she eased the burdens of my Halle girl that had been weighing heavily on my heart. I worried about the sadness and sickness that Halle was exposed to. The life she had known had completely changed. This woman was a mother of two and pregnant with her third. Almost every single week Wes had chemotherapy she called or texted and asked if Halle could play, or go to the pool, or the splash pad, or the movies. It was the highlight of my little girl's week. These were times she looked forward to that brought her happiness. Halle even started to call her "aunt." She loved to be with her and her children. There were times she had to clean up after Halle or correct her behavior. I don't think this woman knew how much she was helping and mothering my child. She was able to be the mom I wanted to be but couldn't be. I have told this woman a few times that she will never really know what she has done for me because i just can't adequately express how much her mothering has meant to me and my child. This is a woman who went about easing the burdens of a little child whose family was trudging through darkness searching for the light. She helped show this little girl some glimpses of light. I think it is what the Savior would have done. To that mother I say, "thank you."

to the mother of the relief society
After wes's second surgery, that again went horribly wrong, my in laws sent me home to spend some time with my children. I took them to church and found myself in a meeting with Linda Burton, the general relief society president. Her daughter, a dear friend I absolutely adore and a mother I strive to be more like, was singing in our sacrament meeting. Through my friend, Sister Burton knew of the trials our family was facing. After our meeting concluded Sister Burton made her way over to me and pulled me into a hug. As she embraced me I was overwhelmed with the feeling that God knew me and He was aware of me and the things that were happening to my family. It was the eternal connection I needed at a time I was feeling alone. It was a spiritual hug more than a physical hug. She let me go and then tenderly and quietly said, "I wish I could take this from you." I felt the deep love of a mother from this woman who I barely knew and barely knew me. The leaders of our church always speak of the love they have for the members, members they have never met and often times know nothing about. That day confirmed to me that every time those leaders say those things, they mean it. The relief society president's love for the sisters of the world is real. She hugged me like a mother who knows. These women go out among the sisters of the world bringing the Savior's love with them. Thank you Mandi, for sharing your mom with me and with the world.  We are so lucky to be led and loved by her.

"Life doesn't come with a manual, it comes with a mother." And mothers can be found everywhere.