Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mere Coincidence vs. The Hand of God

It was Christmas day and I was exhausted. 
 Just like the rest of the world.  Tis' the season to over-do and over-spend, right?
But this was beginning to feel different.  
The exhaustion and low back aches felt familiar and inevitable. 
Two years ago Pyelonephritis (infected kidneys) landed me in the ER 
for some bazooka-sized antibiotics, IV's, and welcomed pain killing drugs. 
The problem was we were leaving the country for two weeks in the morning. 
I don't love being a hospital patient, but I especially don't love even the idea of being a hospital patient in a third world country.  

I knew it was time to ask for some help.
I asked for a Priesthood Blessing.

(Bryan and Jacob before General Conference morning session, April 5, 2009)

My Love gave me a powerful blessing, 
along with our neighbor and dear friend, 
Robert Miller (who happens to be dating 
my sister Laura-- but that's a journal entry 
for another day!)

(Robert served a mission in Indonesia 2009-2011)

Throughout the blessing I offered my own prayer:
"Father, I know I can't escape mortal experiences all the time.  
But if there is any way that we can all stay healthy 
long enough to learn and grow from the experiences available in Ecuador 
I would be so grateful!"  

Of course, Thy will be done.

The next morning we boarded the plane for Ecuador!

I am so grateful to be married to a man who often asks "Would you like a priesthood blessing?"
It makes all the difference.

Now let me finish the story.  
Two weeks of travel through Quito, Cuenca, Coca, and into the Amazon Rain Forest 
eating local food (including bugs!) 
and not one moment of travelers diarrhea, upset tummy, or anything of the sort!  
the moment the plane touched down with our return to Colorado.......
 Jacob threw up.  
And that night I got sick as well.   
I can honestly say that I've never been so grateful to be sick.  
We had been able to learn and grow and enjoy all the beauty that Ecuador had to offer.  
My prayers had been answered.
Many people would claim this to be mere coincidence.  
But I would rather be guilty of giving God too much credit 
than guilty of failing to see Gods hand in our lives.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Notes

~A Honeymoon Kiss in Jackson Hole~
I married well.
Bryan often sends hand-written, tender love notes to me.  All of which I keep close to my heart
and carefully store them in a treasure box that I hope will survive my life time and perhaps find their way
to the hands of my great-grandchildren who, upon reading the letters,
will begin to understand about true love. 

But what if my treasured letters burn up in a house fire set by one or all of my sons 
while attempting to make dinner and I can barely escape with my wee-little ones, 
knowing there is not time to go back for the letters?  
Okay, that was a little dramatic...
 because my sons would never make dinner.  
But there COULD be a fire for other reasons.  
I suppose it is such thoughts that compel me to safe guard a few of my treasured love notes 
on this here world-wide-web.

For our anniversary last August Bryan and I climbed Maroon Bells.  
It was a physically exhausting experience for both of us.  
The next night we received some news concerning people we love very much 
that was equally exhausting for both of us emotionally.  
Though we were physically exhausted, our emotional anguish caused us to toss and turn 
a long sleepless night.

The next morning I was greeted with this love letter:

Bryan's top 15 reason's why he loves Jamica:

1. She said "yes", 15 years ago while holding my hand.
2. She has unwavering faith in the Restored Christ.
3. She has insight about relationships and communication that make me a better person to others.
4. She is a tremendous cook.
5. She chooses motherhood, while capable of great success in other areas outside of the kingdom of God.
6. She is selfless.
7. She studies her children and teaches me their attitudes, tendencies, and needs.
8. She has a loving, trustworthy spirit that gives people courage to reach to her for strength and help.
9. She holds a pencil with a goofy-grip.
10. She is frugal, even when she doesn't need to be.
11. She is content without a diamond, instead preferring to use the money for more practical things.
12. She loves to travel.
13. She is as beautiful on the outside as on the inside. (not a transposition.)
14. She followed me to Milwaukee, Syracuse, and Colorado Springs and rarely said a word about her sadness in missing the life events and frequent close association of her family, while much of the time raising and nurturing 6 children on her own.
15. MWIA (*"My Wife Is Awesome", the name of the huge elk that I so very generously let Bryan hang on our BEDROOM WALL!*)

I love you so much, dear wife!  Selfishly I am so glad you chose me over someone else.  You continue to make my life's dreams come true, and provide me with so much happiness.  This 15th anniversary trip to Aspen has not exactly gone the way I imagined it would.  For the second night in a row I am kept from sleep because of significant pain; both nights aching to the core of my bones.  Both nights I have you by my side though, and we share the pain together, and are hopefully stronger and more wise because of the two experiences.  I am so glad that I have you to experience both the joys and the sorrows with me.  I think I am self-deprication too often and run the risk of you coming to your senses and moving on, but I have such a sense of amazement that you chose me as your mate.  I don't know what you saw or see in me,  but I thank God everyday that I have you as my wife.  I count our meeting as a miracle.  I can only think that the hand of God was responsible for the sequence of events that allowed me to find you... And now that I have had you by my side for 15 years, my love for you, my attraction to you, my respect for you has grown so much deeper.  Then I was attracted to your beautiful long hair, your tall thin body, your genuine smile, your purity.  Now I remain attracted to those features of you, but additionally am attracted to your demonstration of compassion, your willingness to give your limited time to build God's kingdom, your fortitude and toughness in raising children away form family with an often-absent husband, your frequent expressions of faith and consecration, your patience with an impatient and jealous husband, your fidelity to me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!  Happy Anniversary, Jame!  I adore you!  
Your grateful husband, Bryan

It is a beautiful thing to be even more in-love after 15 years!  
Thank you for such a beautiful life, My Love!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Today I spent some rare midday time alone with Amelia and Eve while Jamica was getting Lasik.  Amelia is 4 and Eve is 2.  Admittedly they have their moments where I wonder if they are the spawn of the evil one and not me, but today was not one of those moments.  It is fun that our last 2 children are toe head little girls that love dollhouse and dresses and making each other laugh.

Eve is at the stage where she is developing a sense of humor, not only in words but in facial expressions.  Amelia is at a stage where she knows a lot of words and phrases, but just little enough about them to mess them up in adorable ways.  Here are two very endearing examples.

We have a friend in our ward named Maria Montafur who is a native of Guatemala.  Maria is 4 foot nothing and "speaks Spanish with a California accent" as she says - most of the time we are lucky to understand 50% of what she says.  She is the salt of the earth.  She cleans our home on Thursdays, but has been gone for about a month visiting Guatemala.  We thought she would be back today, but she didn't come.  When I got home from work I said to Jamica, "didn't Maria come today?"  Amelia heard me and said, "no, she's still in Guacamole."

Then later in the day we dropped Jamica off at the doctor's office and I took the girls to get lunch.  We pulled into a Burger King but it had no playground, so they begged for a restaurant with a playground.  So I looked for a McDonald's with a play place on my GPS and drove to it.  As we approached Amelia saw the McDonalds and could see the play place.  She was so excited.  She yelled out, "Daddy, Daddy, there's a playground!  There's a playground at Old McDonald has a Farm!  Can we go there??"

Cute girl.  Both of them, but especially Amelia today.  Times like these are what parenting is all about.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

On a November evening our kids gathered together to draft a letter to Santa.
It read:

A mother should be feeling proud, right?
But as I sat near the tree on Christmas Eve I had a lump in my throat
 bigger than the orange that sat in the bottom of each of their stockings.
I knew that Santa had decided to honor their request.  
Santa could have slipped them a few presents anyway, 
but Santa must have known that letting them feel the sting of their willing sacrifice 
would prove to be more memorable than any gift he could provide.
But as the mother I worried.  
Would they wake the next morning and be disappointed that there were no presents 
under the tree from Santa?  
Would the magic of Christmas be spoiled?  
Would the morning hang silent with the absence of anticipated squeals and excited laughter?

At 5:00 am I stood puzzling...

"... puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." 
- Dr. Seuss

Now, before anyone goes on believing the Wilcox Children should be translated...
We did have a few gifts. 
The kids worked very hard and spent every last hard earned penny  
to buy gifts for each other.  Typically we draw names.  But this year, they wanted to buy 
a gift for each sibling.  I was impressed with the thoughtfulness and generosity of the gifts.  
It was beautiful to hear them say 
"I can't wait for you to open mine, I know you're going to LOVE it!" 
And it was beautiful to watch their faces as they anxiously handed over 
their well-planned gift to their sibling. 
The true magic of Christmas was not lacking one bit!
The anticipated squeals and excited laughter were an abundant and welcome clatter!

And what would Christmas be without a few flying styrofoam packing peanuts?

 Hayden made Jacob a coupon box full of real treasures:
"I will do your chores for one week"
"You can use my 'screen time' for the Wii"
"I will give you a 15 minute back scratch"
Hayden was so excited to give this one... so cute!

Amelia begs Aubree to play doll house daily... hourly!  
Aubree knew that doll house furniture would win her sister heart!
It did.

This is "Gunther", the Teddy Bear we bought for Jacob when we found out we were expecting him.
He had been loved and worn nearly beyond recognition. 
So I had his body 'refluffed' as a little surprise!
You never out grown some toys.

Seth bought a purple football for everyone. 
Including himself.

I know JUST what my brother likes....

See.  Cheese balls.  He worships them.

A Lego game from Amelia for her brothers.

Amelia and Eve will be staying home with Aunt Laura while the family goes to Ecuador to play with orphans, so they received baby dolls from Santa to love and play with:
Mae Lin from China
Josie Rose from Ecuador

This Fluffy Dog from Jacob for Amelia and Eve provided lots of laughs all season long!
Each time someone would walk near the tree, the package would begin barking for the next 2 minutes!  
And yet somehow the girls acted sincerely surprised and excited 
when they opened this on Christmas morning!

Bath Gel and Lotion for Aubree (that Amelia will surely sneak to use herself)

"I hope he likes the present I got for him!"
"Yep.  He likes it."

My worried mother-heart will always remember the magical Christmas of 2011.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nothing says 'Happy Groundhog's Day' like Road Kill

Some traditions are shared by families across the globe:
Christmas trees and stockings,
Easter baskets and dying eggs,
Carving pumpkins and trick or treating,
Football games and seven layer dip.

Other traditions, you're fairly certain, are unique to your own family:
Meatloaf shaped like a ground hog which resembles bloody road kill 
more than a meal you would actually eat, I believe, belongs to our family.

But once a fun tradition starts, 
you just CAN'T let it die! 
(Even if it already looks dead)

~Grandma and Grandpas received The Head as a token of our love~

These little critters are much more acceptable 
(and appetizing)

And THESE little critters are the reason we create and continue goofy traditions!

So edible!  
And the cupcake too!

Did You Ever Get Lost? Kermish.

Did I ever get lost?  When I think of that question my mind immediately goes to our family hike to Kermsuh Lake (pronounced "Kermish" according to my Dad).  I wasn't really lost - by no small miracle - but I felt very lost.  Dad and the rest of the family were the ones that were lost.

In true Wilcox fashion, the entire family (from Craig age 14ish down to Rachelle age 5) set out from the trailhead in the late afternoon ready to tackle an 8 mile hike.  Kermsuh is a high Uinta lake.  I remember my pack feeling quite heavy.  We hiked for a mile or two, and as I recall Mom sprained her ankle badly and had a hard time walking, and Rachelle's 5 year old legs didn't cover a lot of ground.  So the natural thing to do was to split up, of course.  So Dad loads most of the gear into mine and Craig's backpacks and tells us to head out in front, try to make it to the lake in daylight and set up camp for the rest of the family.  No map, no compass, no GPS, no radios.  Hmmm....  So we set off - a 14 and an 11 year old with the majority of the gear going it alone.  I remember hiking behind Craig most of the time with a lump in my throat, on the verge of tears.  After several hours of hiking alone with Craig, and being well beyond earshot of them despite loud frightened calling, I remember wondering to myself many times if I'd ever see my family again.  How many stories have you heard of boy scouts getting lost in the Uintas and waking up dead?  It's only by the grace of God that Craig and I navigated our way along the trail, making correct turns at forks in the trail, crossing long meadows by following cairns, and somehow figuring that the lake we eventually came upon was actually Kermsuh.  It could have been any lake really.  Who knew how many lakes there were in the neighborhood?  We had no map.  Anyway, determined that we were actually at the right lake we set up our tents just as it started to rain at dusk.  We sat in the dark tent in a rainstorm for what seemed like hours, and again I was convinced that I'd never see my family again.  We said prayers and I cried to myself, trying to not let Craig know of my inner terror.  Eventually we heard Dad's voice outside the tent.  He'd somehow found us in the wet dark, holding his patented candle lantern, which was as bright as a small flock of fireflies.  "Nobody uses flashlights anymore.  It's all candle lanterns nowadays," he used to say.  So Dad got a few supplies (notably sleeping bags for the others who he ditched a few miles down the trail in a tent with no bags) and headed back.  Having been found by Dad I was relieved enough to fall asleep.  The next morning Craig and I hiked a surprising distance back down the trail until we found Mom, Dad, Brandon and Rachelle, and helped them make it up to the lake.

Once finally at the lake, my memories of that outing are some of the best of my youth.  We camped for a few days, and we caught a lot of fish.  Near camp their was a small inlet brook running down a short slope into the lake.  Brandon and I dammed up the brook and created about a 3x3 foot wide and 1 foot deep pond.  Each time we'd catch a trout we'd bring it to the small pond alive and release it.  As I remember we had at one point 15 fish in that little pond.  When we needed to eat we'd go catch one with our hand and put it in the fire.  We had a great time.  And the hike out must have been uneventful because I don't remember anything about it.  I do remember the deep blue bruise on Mom's ghost-white leg going all the up the side to nearly her knee.

Good times.  Fear, a sense of hopeless doom, lots of fish, and fun.  The trip to "Kermish" is one of my favorite family memories growing up.