Let There Be No Empty Chairs

9/27/2016

If I have one dream,
to be surrounded by all my children.

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Ezra Taft Benson, a former President of  the LDS church, and his wife used to make their home their top priority. As they would teach their children the gospel, they would also emphasize they wanted their family to have no “empty chairs,” in the eternities.

Months ago we bought a new kitchen table. It seats six and contains a leaf that creates plenty of room to grow. I instantly fell in love with this table when I saw it in the store. It was being sold with gorgeous white tufted chairs, but with three young boys, I instantly knew they would be ruined after one meal. So I swapped them out for something sturdy that I knew could withstand our crazy boys… One day right?

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After the table was delivered, I was absolutely giddy. I could hardly wait to eat dinner on it. For eight years we had owned a tiny little table that was difficult to fit our entire family around. Often times, Pat or I wouldn’t eat at the table with the kids, it was just too small.

That night as we sat down for dinner,  I happily looked around the table. I had cooked one of our favorite meals, our boys were spread out and weren’t fighting or stealing each other’s food, (Amazing right?) and everything seemed perfect. As I sat across from Pat, my eyes unexpectedly fell on the empty chair next to him. Without warning, tears started streaming down my face. That empty chair screamed to me that we were missing Preslee. 

I was instantly embarrassed. The last thing I wanted Pat to see was me crying after he bought me a brand new table. As I tried to hide my tears, I felt two little arms wrap around me. Ledger, my observant little five year old, had quietly climbed out of his chair and walked over to give me a hug. He didn’t say anything, he usually doesn’t, but he just stood there with his arms tightly wrapped around me. As I stared at that empty chair, the direct thought came to mind, “It won’t be forever.”

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Since then, that empty chair has served as a reminder that Preslee is still our anchor up in heaven. Though life and trials can be difficult and consuming, it really is true, they won’t last forever. I desperately hope Pat and I can teach our boys that they can do hard things and though it won’t always be easy, hopefully my dream will one day come true—that there really won’t be any empty chairs.

"God intended the family to be eternal," President Benson has said. "With all my soul, I testify to the truth of that declaration. May He bless us to strengthen our homes and lives of each family member so that in due time we can report to our Heavenly Father in His celestial home that we are all there - father, mother, sister, brother. . . . Each chair is filled. We are all back home." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, page 493.)

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I loved President Benson’s message so much that I reached out to Robin, at Chirp Chirp Designs to create a rustic custom sign to be hung above our table. I absolutely love how it turned out and everything it stands for. Robin has agreed to team up with us for a $50 giveaway for one of our readers to her shop! She’s incredibly talented and wonderful to work with. She has now made three custom signs for our family, all of which I love. 

TO ENTER:

  1. Follow The Sullengers and Chirp Chirp Designs on Instagram.
  2. Like the photo of the sign shown above on The Sullengers Instagram account.
  3. Comment on the same photo tagging two friends. Each other friend tagged will be an extra entry.

The winner will be announced Saturday night at 10am MST. Good luck!

Kindergarten 2016

9/20/2016

On the 29th of August, Ledger started Kindergarten! I’ve been a little nervous, mainly because he’s young for his grade which caused us to go back and forth on whether or not to send him. But after a lot of prayer and talking it over with his preschool teacher, we felt he was ready.

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(I love these pictures, you can see he’s a little bit nervous)

The night before Ledger was giddy, he could hardly contain his excitement while he laid out his new school clothes. Pat gave him a father’s blessing, and ran straight to bed!

Ledge was assigned morning kindergarten which I’m so happy about. He starts at 8:45, so we have plenty of time in the mornings. But I can’t believe how fast half day kinder goes by!

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Though Ledger said he wasn’t nervous, he was a ball of nerves that morning! His brothers kept setting him off, and he had a little meltdown when it came to his pants, but once I sat down and talked to him and he learned how short 2 1/2 hours really was, he brightened right up. He told me he didn’t want to be away from us all day long.

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We walked him down to the school, he quickly jumped in line with the rest of his class and blew me a kiss and waved as he marched right into his class room. No tears from either of us. But on the way home, I couldn’t help but say a little prayer of gratitude. After grieving the fist day of school for the past couple of years, I was beyond grateful to be sending my child to school. And though I would have loved to have an older sister there with him, the good definitely outweighed the bad that day. God is good.

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Cruiz cried when we said goodbye to Ledger :)

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I took the boys to Arctic Circle (Ledger’s request) after we picked up Ledge to celebrate, and it made for a fun first day.

During the first week I asked Ledger what his favorite and least favorite part of the day was. It was the same all week.

Favorite: Show and Tell
Least favorite: Sitting on the mat ALL DAY LONG. He tends to struggle sitting still. :)

I’m not sure how long little boys adore their momma, so I’m trying to soak up every minute of it. I love how excited Ledger is to see me when I pick him up after school. I always get the biggest hugs after he sprints to me.

We love ya buddy, and after watching all that you’ve accomplished in just a few short weeks, we can’t wait to see what you do with the rest of your school year!

31 Weeks!

9/06/2016

I honestly can’t believe I have less than 10 weeks to go in my very last pregnancy! The latest I’ve ever made it to is 38 weeks, so maybe only 7 more weeks?

We’ve had an eventful summer which has kept us busy and helped me forget (at times) that I am expecting. This has been by far my best pregnancy, which I’m certainly grateful for. In the past, I’ve always had 5+ kidney stones each pregnancy, but this time around, I’ve only had one. A lot of symptoms I have related to pregnancy turn out to actually be related to kidney stones. So if you get kidney stones, start taking magnesium, it will literally change your life :)

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At 28 weeks I passed my glucose test! (Hallelujah!) I failed with the twins, so I was worried, but my doctor has been monitoring me from the beginning, and felt I would be just fine. Gestational diabetes is much more common while carrying twins. I’m so glad I can continue to eat cereal :)

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I also learned I was anemic, and after taking an iron supplement each day, I can’t believe how much energy I have now! I can somewhat keep up with my boys again.

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Just like my other pregnancies, I carry straight out. But following a twin pregnancy, I seriously look like I’m already 40 weeks pregnant. Confession: sometimes I stretch the truth about my due date, just to avoid the “Oh my goodness! You look like you are already going to pop! You must be due any day right?” conversation. I’ve had multiple people gasp when I turn around in a store, and they exclaim, “I couldn’t tell you were pregnant from behind, but you must be due any day!” But at each appointment I’m measuring right on, and she looks great.

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(Ledger snapped this picture while I was sitting with the twins in timeout. This is Cannon’s preferred resting place)

The last couple of weeks we moved the twins out of their room and I’ve been working on decorating for a girl. I repainted our crib and dresser white (I should have painted earlier on to save my back!) and can’t even begin to explain how fun it is to walk by and see the color pink in our house again. My heart is full, and cannot wait to meet this little girl. Now, all we need is to figure out a name. Any suggestions? This is by far the most we’ve ever struggled!

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We can’t wait to meet this little girl, end of Oct/Nov can’t come soon enough!

We Can Do Hard Things: Angee Duvall-Death-Sibling

8/11/2016

 

Meet Angee. 

Angee is the oldest (and only girl) of four children. She is now a wife and a mother of three darling kids. She lost her baby brother, Aaron, in infancy, when she was just 9-years-old. Her family was surprised by his passing after he was born with complications too extreme to survive. Aaron only lived two short days.

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Q: As a child, do you remember any acts of kindness that made an impact during that difficult time?

I remember spending quite a bit of time at a few houses of close friends and how they just tried to let us experience a normal, happy childhood in that moment. It allowed us a few hours away from the sadness to simply forget the heaviness that was going on in our home. Those are the happy memories I have of that time. I don’t remember any child reaching out to me specifically, just those families who offered support by being our home away from home, but without intruding on the space we needed as a family to grieve.

I think it’s also important to remember that everyone grieves differently and that we need to accept how people grieve, even if it’s different than us. Each member of my family has dealt with Aaron’s loss differently and continues to do so, and that’s okay. For example, one of my brothers, who was in kindergarten at the time, didn’t cry during this time. He seemed to not understand what was going on. But, a couple of years later, he ended up with a reading disability that they were certain was due to the loss. The counselors at the school worked through the grief process with him, including bringing in a cupcake on Aaron’s birthday so this brother could celebrate. Once my brother worked through the grief, he excelled at school and no longer struggled in reading!

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(Angee, and her siblings)

Q: I hear many times, “Oh they are so little, they’ll bounce right back.” How has the death of your brother affected you throughout your life?

I’ve been surprised how the grief has continued into adulthood. It has been 27 years, and although I’ve accepted it and even embraced it, there are times that I still struggle.

When I started having children of my own, I had a fear that I would lose one of my babies like my mom did. Although Aaron’s death was a fluke and none of it was genetic, I was still scared. I knew I didn’t want a baby at 32, the same age my mom was when Aaron was born. It seems silly, but that fear was there. Well, my last baby came when I was 32, and things turned out fine! I really had nothing to worry about, but I think death takes away the innocence sometimes and puts crazy fears into our minds and hearts. (As a side note, we chose to name our last baby after my brother.)

The grief has come in waves through the years. For me, it hit the hardest when I became a mother myself, and I finally knew and understood a mother’s love for her children. My heart ached for my parents, my mom especially, and their loss. I know how sad I was when Aaron didn’t live, but I can’t even imagine what my parents felt during those moments and still feel now.

I was also surprised how the grief hit again just a few years ago when I attended the funeral for our dear friends’ baby. When I walked up to see her in the casket, the grief hit me in the gut and took me right back to being 9-years-old and seeing my little brother in his casket. You never know what will trigger it.

I guess I want people, especially parents, to know that even if their children cope with the grief of losing a sibling as a child, it may hit them again as adults. The grief will most likely be different than they’ve experienced in the past and something they will have to continue to work through. Grief is a lifetime struggle that will come and go until we can be reunited with our loved one again.

Nine Years

8/03/2016

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Fact: When I saw Pat for the first time on our wedding day, he looked sick. When I asked him what was wrong, he replied, "I wasn't sure you were going to show up!" He had gotten the time wrong and showed up an hour early. Poor guy! He got even later when he stepped on my dress and tore the bustle and the little ladies helping panicked right before we walked into be sealed. It officially broke temple rules to be married without a bustle, I grabbed Pat’s hand and marched him in :)

Happy Nine years Patrick! Hopefully you've learned no matter the situation, I'll always show up :) Love you babe!

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