My brother, Gavin, was adopted. Did you know? Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about his birth mother and wish I could just throw my arms around her neck and never, ever let go.

Before I got pregnant with Baby Gavin, we had planned to adopt our next child (or two). I have two ruptured disks in my lower spine, and with each subsequent pregnancy, I’d experienced increasing difficulty as I approached full term. Plus . . . I’ve always wanted to adopt. Always. My brother was an absolute miracle in my life, my best friend. He belonged with our family. There was never a doubt in anyone’s mind about that. I remember vividly as a child, my mom saying things like, “Heavenly Father knew that Gavin was supposed to come to our family, so he got really creative to make sure he made it!” I believe that, heart and soul.

I thought long and hard about the decision to adopt, and it just felt right. After a series of somewhat remarkable events, Richie was on board as well. We completed the home study, did alllllllll the paperwork (it feels like it will never end when you’re in the middle of it), passed our background checks, and were approved for adoption! Only a few months after our profile went live on the agency’s website, SURPRISE, I found out I was pregnant.

After watching my mom suffer, wanting a baby with all.her.soul, and not being able to conceive on her own (I was somewhat of a miracle), I couldn’t move forward with our adoption, pregnant, and feel like a decent human being. So, we put our adoption on hold.

After Gavin died, I wanted another baby immediately. IMMEDIATELY. But I knew deep down that no baby could fill the gaping hole in my heart, because no baby could ever replace the one that I lost. I recognized that my desire for another child, was simply a feeble attempt to bury the terror and hide from the sorrow I felt over losing my son. I committed to wait to have another child until I knew my heart was. . . healthy. . .for lack of a better word. My heart will never heal. I’ll never return to who I was before we said goodbye, but like a broken bone, I like to think that while yes, losing him left a scar, and while yes, I will NEVER, EVER forget him, somehow losing him left my heart stronger, bigger, more capable of love, compassion, laughter and joy.

I’m finally strong. Not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, only strong.

Where does this leave us? I don’t know. I really, truly don’t have any idea.

We’re terrified of having another child. We openly express our fear of having another baby nearly every day. We have nightmares of having another child and that child getting sick and dying. Allowing Raleigh to travel to Nicaragua with Richie was incredibly frightening for us. He’s up to date on all his shots, but Richie and I each had TREMENDOUS anxiety over sending him on this trip. These fears are a natural part of our healing process. We recognize that, and so we lean into them. We refuse to be governed by fear. Ever. Fear is a natural part of our lives, particularly after experiencing the kind of trauma we did losing Gavin, but it will never own us. Ever. Raleigh and Richie are having the experience of a lifetime. More on that soon. I’m so grateful I didn’t rob him of this life altering experience simply because I was afraid.

I want another child. Or two for that matter. Sure, I’m frightened, and rightly so. . . but more than fear, I feel hope. Faith. Love. Excitement for the future. Gratitude for my beautiful family and all that God has blessed us with. I trust Him. I’m leaning in to fear and replacing it with faith. It’s a far better way to live.

Is adoption in our future? I don’t know. I hope it is. Someday. Maybe someday soon, but in the mean time, I’m taking life one beautiful moment at a time.



This post was inspired by Jane and this beautiful video (embedded below) she shared with me. It gave me chills. . . over every inch of my body. Andrew and Carissa have raised all the money for their adoption and are in the final stages of the process. From their lovely and absolutely heartfelt blog, I learned that they are only a couple of short months from being able to bring sweet Rinah home.

This post was also inspired by Taylor. I have been so inspired by her journey toward adoption. Taylor, you know that if I could, I would have a thousand babies and give every one to you. I don’t know a better mother or a more beautiful family than you and yours. You are everything I aspire to be. When that baby of yours finally makes it into your arms, Heaven itself will rejoice. Of that, I am certain.

adopt rinah from VsTheBrain on Vimeo.

click here to open post Feb 15, 2011 | posted in Baby Gavin | 16 comments

Oh Baby,

Do you know what you have given me?

New eyes, new hands, a whole new heart.

You have given me a

You gave your very life that I might find my own, and I pray every day that you did not go in vain. I fight every day, that your legacy may live on forever in me. That somehow, I might continue what you started during your short and powerful jaunt to this mortal world. Though I know that I am not worthy of a scrap of who you are. Not worthy to be the mother to one so pure, so wise, so great. My humility in reference to you as my son? It knows no bounds.

Gavin, thank you for loving me. Thank you for teaching me. Your life, your death, has taught me more about the Atonement of Jesus Christ than 30 years of formal spiritual education. You have taken what was only conceptual, and you’ve sewn it’s reality, it’s pure and miraculous TRUTH and testimony, to the very walls of my soul, and there are no sufficient words of gratitude for a thing like that.

Never was there a love more fierce than ours; I love you with my every fiber. . .

I love you with my all.



One more thing. . .tonight, Baby B makes his way into this world. I hope that the two of you are friends and that you gave each other high fives and bear hugs before you said goodbye. Keep your eye on him for his momma and I. She’s a beautiful person; you would have loved her a lot.

During the beginning part of 2010, I felt a lot like I look here. Only about 72 billion times worse. Times 2.

Plus there were a full 48lbs more of me to love. Which didn’t lighten my spirits any, trust you me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about 2010. Like most of us, I tend to become introspective at the close of a year.

For example:

I clearly remember at the end of 2006, looking back with Richie at the ups and downs of that year and saying, “Babe, 2007 is going to be OUR YEAR! What else could POSSIBLY happen?!” Then my brother died June 17th 2007 (Father’s Day), and that pretty much threw 2007 (and a good portion of 2008) straight to The Underworld (in a busted up hand basket).

But I survived. Despite (lots more) death, betrayal and huge financial set backs, and despite far more doubt than I’d ever admit publicly, and despite fear, Hell and high water, 2007-2008 were the years I survived. Many times during that period I had wanted to be dead and done, so surviving was all a girl could hope for. I patted myself on the back (wholeheartedly), stood up, and brushed off my back side to face 2009 like any big girl should.

I’m genuinely proud of myself for 2007 and 2008. Sometimes, I wish I could scoop “that girl” (the 2007-2008 Natalie) up into my arms and give her a big hug. To rock her back and forth, and quietly tell her, “it’s going to be all right.” So I’ll say it to you, yes YOU, It’s going to be all right. It really, truly is. Promise.

In 2009 things were looking up. There were still struggles (a’plenty) to be negotiated, but thankfully I’d learned a thing or two or four hundred in 2007 and 2008 and was ready to face difficulty head on. Plus I had a beautiful little bun in my oven!  Who could doubt that things were looking up?! Yahoo!

Well. . . at the end of 2009, there I sat, in a hospital room, with a dying child and bottle of Martinellis (that I had no way of opening). 2009 left without a shred of crowning glory, and 2010 was deemed nothing more than the year my son would get better. I couldn’t see beyond that. Didn’t want to. Didn’t need to. All I needed was for that boy to be well.

So, 2010.

This post is meant to be dedicated to you, so what do you have to say for yourself?

After Gavin died, I had ZERO expectations, so you didn’t have much to live up to. If all you’d done was float me like your baby brothers 2007 and 2008 did, that would have been enough. No one had the right to expect a single thing out of me. If I’d of holed up in my bedroom, with a pillow over my face the entire year, I’d have been pittied, sure, but blamed for it? Not a chance.

Well, here it is. Humbly, and from my heart.

2010 was the year I found my ROAR.

I learned how to laugh, how to cry, how to hurt, how to love, how to believe, how to trust, how to simplify, how to let go . . . how to change.

I learned:

Every.single.morning, the sun will rise.
Circumstance has no power except the power we give it.
Many of life’s largest “problems” are born of thoughts and feelings and have zero basis in reality.
There is always SOMEONE to reach out to.
God can’t sail a ship that hasn’t left the harbor.
I am responsible for my life. No matter what.
I may not be able to choose my circumstances, but I can always choose my reaction to them.
The Savior is not only my Redeember, but my dearest friend.
There is a reason we are commanded to cleave unto one another as husband and wife.
A happy marriage takes real effort. And it’s worth it. 1000%. I love you Richie!
My children deserve all of me, and not what happens to be left over after everything else.
The world will go on spinning without me!!!! Fancy that!
It’s OK to have lofty dreams and ambitions!!!
ANYTHING is possible!
My brother is always closer than I think. I can often feel him in stillness.
Stillness is an essential part of my search for happiness.
Physical and spiritual health are my lifelines to success. If I want to be balanced and successful in ANY other areas of my life, these have GOT to come first.
I have to stay hydrated/I have got to avoid sugar/I need to be well rested/I have to make time for serious exercise at least 5 times a week.
I can’t do everything at the same time: at least not by myself.
It’s OK to ask for help.
Letting go is a wonderful gift.

All in all . . . I learned to BREATHE.

I could write 82 blog posts outlining everything I learned this year, and I could type until my fingers turned blue only to BEGIN to tell you everything I’m grateful for!

Because guess what? And I can say this with ZERO hesitation:

2010 was the best year of my life!

How on Earth can that be?! EVERYTHING was stacked up against me. It’s important remember that not all my living is done within the confines of this here blog. This was a BIG year, Gavin being the biggest part of it, yes, but oh boy was it a big FAT year in just about EVERY other way as well.

and yet. . .

and yet.

and yet.

Gets you thinking doesn’t it?!

Despite it all, oh what a healthy dose of faith and some determination can do!

“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Heavenly Father has given US, my family and I, a complete and total miracle in 2010. For that I say, “Thank you. . . THANK YOU. . . THANK YOU!” For lessons learned, tears shed, faith exercised and roar found.

Watch out 2011, here WE come!

all image credit this post: Uncle Jonathan Canlas

“There is beauty all around.”

I tweeted that the day of Baby Gavin’s funeral.

It was as true then as it is today.

There is beauty everywhere and always.

Sometimes, when you’re “knee deep in the thick of life,” as I like to say, it’s so easy to get focused on your feet. To feel the weight of the world as it threatens to CRUSH your very soul. We’ve all been there. Don’t you dare dream, for even an instant, that I think grief and pain are exclusive to me or my individual set of circumstances. We’ve all got our “stuff,” and as a runner, I’ll tell you what, it only takes a very small pebble to bring you to your knees.

Life gets heavy . . . and oftentimes so.

Even the small stuff can feel completely and totally insurmountable.

Sometimes it’s not fair. Sometimes we feel all alone. Sometimes we can’t see any way up and out. Sometimes we literally feel like we’re being SUFFOCATED.

I’ll tell you this: “Look up!” Get your eyes off your feet and up to the Heavens, because there’s ALWAYS something to be grateful for.

In gratitude, there is healing.

In gratitude, there is relief.

In gratitude, there is hope.

In gratitude, there is companionship.

In gratitude, there is comfort.

In gratitude. . .there is God.

And there really is beauty all around.

See, I told you so.



Richie, reading the Christmas story to the boys at bedtime.

Dear Richie,

Today I went to the cemetery.

You were still asleep, the house was quiet, so I slipped on my running shoes.

I ran and I ran and I ran, and before I knew it, I was there.

The grass was beautiful, covered in dew, as the sun was just breaking it’s way over the horizon.

I sat there and had a good long cry.

I thought about where we were a year ago tonight . . . Blessing our fourth PERFECT son. Surrounded by family, laughter, and so much hope for the future.

It would only be days before we’d find ourselves walking long, lonely hallways in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, falling to our knees each moment in fervent prayer. So desperate to keep him with us.  So desperate not to say goodbye. So desperate for a miracle.

A year later, I see. . . through misty eyes. . . an entire tapestry of miracles. All woven together in faith, longing, sorrow and joy, into something so beautiful, so pure, so perfect, that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Aren’t we?

YOU Richie, are the most profound miracle of my life.

Thank you for being with me through this year. Thank you for wiping away my tears. Thank you for lifting me from the dust and inspiring me to carry on, not just to SURVIVE, but to move forward with JOY and determination. Thank you for helping us turn our tragedy into triumph.

I love you.

Merry CHRISTmas!



Raleigh 12/11/2010

Cardon 12/11/2010

Lincoln 12/11/2010

Gavin 12/24/2009