Monday, December 16, 2013

Surprises and Secret Elves

Packages are a very rare thing down here.  First of all, it's insanely expensive to send them, and 2nd, you never know when they'll actually make it.  We've set a time frame of about 2 to 8 weeks.  There's no rhyme or reason.  
Jen mentioned that she was sending a little package off to us for Christmas, and I refused to believe that this huge box that arrived 6 DAYS LATER was from her!  I had to dig into it to really accept that somehow it was real.  The very best part was that she had put all sorts of fun things for us to do to enjoy the days leading up to Christmas.  A couple of them being the tree above (she knows we just do a little Christmas forest down here with all of our fake little trees because it's illegal to cut a fresh one) and the Christmas countdown paper chain.  Suddenly the kids were ecstatic for Christmas.  It was just what we needed. THANKS SO MUCH, Jen.  Can't tell you how perfect this has been!
As we finished off our chain and hung it up, the kids decided to write all of our names down and put them in a hat.  Whichever name we picked, we would be a secret elf for that family member for the month of December.  Doing little acts of service for that person.  They were beyond thrilled with their idea.  
They were running around, whispering and giggling as they were coming up with things to do for their secret someone.  Only to be revealed on Christmas Eve, whose name they had picked.  I was cleaning up the kitchen one evening and Jake came in with the biggest grin ever.  "Mom!  Come look in your room!!"  And then he whispered, "Come here."  He motioned for me to follow him.  As I walked into my room, I saw that someone had gone to a LOT of effort to make our California King size bed.  He was jumping up and down now giggling with excitement and had me get right next to his ear.  "Don't tell anyone, but I have YOU!!!"
Never wanted to let go of that hug.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

First Family Bowling Trip

Have we really never been bowling as a family before?!  It was hard to believe, but sadly, it was true!  Because Luke's birthday was on a busy weekday, we were planning on going out as a family to do something fun the weekend before his big day.  Since I ended up in the hospital, it threw all of those plans out the window.  We needed to have a carefree outing together.  Since cutting our Christmas tree down is always a tradition the weekend of Thanksgiving...and that is against the law in Chile...the kids decided going bowling was a nice second choice :)  

 Feeling pretty grown up.
 Some of us were a little more competitive than others.
 Some of us thought it was so awesome just seeing that ball roll down the lane and celebrated when a single pin went down. 
 One of us really liked his shoes that were 4 sizes too big but it was all they had.
 Check out Jake's new found talent!
Bumper Bowling in Santiago, Chile.  Sometimes it's still hard to believe :)
We finished off our day with a little frozen yogurt and I'd say it was pretty much perfect!

Dia de Gracias!

I had the chance to go to school and throw Kate's class a little Thanksgiving party in the morning.  Even though it's an American International School, this is one of the holidays that isn't observed down here.  As I taught the students from around the world about our American Thanksgiving tradition, I felt so much gratitude and pride in our country for observing a day to reflect on all of our blessings.  Some of these students are extremely privileged and have grown up feeling very entitled. I explained what it means to be grateful and then had them created a Thanksgiving tree for their 3rd grade classroom.  Loved hearing them in all of their different accents share some of those blessings.  

In Everything Give Thanks.

We'll be happy if we do!  

 By the time the kids and I got home from school and I made my last couple of pies, it was time to feast!   As soon as Joe walked through the door, we headed right back out! I think we had a record number of gringos and friends celebrating Thanksgiving at the Hamilton's this year!  Did we hit 70?  If not, it was really close.  We tried our best to make it feel like home with all of our pumpkin and spices that we've imported and saved for this special day!
  Here was just some of our "family away from family" who helped ease the homesickness expats tend to feel during this time of year.
 Tracy McQueen, Karen Whitt, and Kristy Miller
 Gaby Vinas, Nicci Price, Anne Johnson, me, Tracy Mcqueen, Karen Whitte, Kristy Miller, Laura Hamilton
 Kate and some of her girlfriends, Maci, Larissa and Celeste
 I found Jake thoroughly enjoying himself upstairs with a few good friends
 Joe, Luke and Ron Caudle
An attempted selfie of the 3 of us!  

Happy Thanksgiving!  Grateful for these wonderful friends.  So very grateful for our family and loved ones.  We missed you today.  And love you more than you know! xoxo

Little Luke is a BIG 3 year old!!!

Luke was p-r-e-t-t-y happy on November 26th, when he came downstairs and found tons of little balloons and stars hanging from the ceiling, a "letter sign" just for him hanging above the door (It was a happy birthday sign, but he was more thrilled to point out, "There's my letter H!!!  There's my letter A!!!"), and a birthday chair decorated especially for the big guy.
And when I'd ask him how old he was now, he'd say with such fluctuation, "I'm free (3)!!!  I'm not a baby, Mom!  Don't worry!"  He loves to tell me not to worry about plenty of things.  And then he always gives my kisses and loves afterwards.  
Melts my heart every. single. time.   
He even loves to sit at the window and tell Lucy not to worry too, when she's whining because she wants to come inside.  He gets right on the floor as she scratching at the door, and puts his face right up to her nose and sing-songs through the glass, "Don't worry, Woocy, I'm right here.  It's OK, Woocy."  And then he'll turn to me and say, "Woocy is such a nice doggy.  She wuvs me." 
So here was our attempt at a chocolate cake with letters for the big guy.  We ate a couple while we were making them, so the "E" cupcake letter is a little sad.  But the most important part was that Luke took one look at the cupcake letters AND then the letters on top of those letters, and was so thrilled he couldn't wipe off that grin.  
Funny how I had to force myself to get going this particular morning, but as soon as I had my good morning hug from the birthday boy and saw some of these smiles, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  If my heart could have gone into overdrive with love that day, it did.  Love for Luke.  Love for Jake.  Love for Kate.  Love for our Baby Blue.  Love for Joe.  Love for my Heavenly Father for giving me this life that I'm living.  And as I was feeling the immense love I have for them, my heart burned with the knowledge of their love for me.  I was so happy.
I reassured the family that my tears were happy ones that day.  And we went right on celebrating.  Luke was finished reading his letter cake.  He was ready to dig in!
He tried a little before we had a chance to light the candles that the kids put in for him. 
 Couldn't get mad at the kid, it was his birthday!!!
And then we got to sing :)  Always nice to have a brother close by to help you do most of the work!
He completely approved.  
Then it was time for presents!  If I had known what the outcome would be, I probably wouldn't have gone to the store that day with the kids to pick out toys for him!  Of course, then we wouldn't have had our sweet Baby Blue Berryhill moment with the Christmas wrapping paper, when I felt him so near (see my previous post "Little Tender Mercy").
Everything always works out.  
We got home, and Kate said she wanted to find a few more things for Luke to open.  She was very thoughtful about the whole thing, and went through all of our school stuff that was already in our office, to find the perfect gift for Luke.  
She cleaned and wrapped a dry-erase book that we had for practicing writing letters.  It was the 2nd present Luke opened, and it was also his last.  He wanted nothing to do with the other wrapped packages. 
"MY LETTERS!!!!!!!!"  And for the rest of the evening, he sat with Kate as she helped teach him how to trace his letters.  
Jake about had a hernia as he tried to get Luke to open up the rest of his gifts.  It was simply inconceivable that he would let packages go unopened.  But Luke didn't care.  One perk this year that Luke's birthday is so close to Christmas!!!-  I took the presents and tucked them away to be presented again in another month :)  Nice!!!
Three years ago, "Little Luke" was 5 pounds and struggling to survive.  Now he's as big as most of the kindergartners in Jake's class. 
 He can throw a fast ball and mean tantrum every now and again (thankfully that phase is starting to come to a close as he realizes that big 3 year old's simply don't act like babies)
but will run his lanky run with his cute cheeks bouncing, from wherever he is in the house and will shout as loud as he can to welcome you home when you walk through that door.  "I give you wuvs!!!!!"  And then grabs your legs before you have a chance to bend over and showers your pants with peanut butter, spaghetti sauce or popsicle kisses and hugs.  I love my stained clothes. So does Joe.
We love you so very much, Luke. You make our world such a happy place.
Happy Birthday!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Spending Some QT with KW

 At the Zoo...

and in the kitchen :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Little Tender Mercy

Three days after we got home from the hospital, I woke up to get the kids off to school, and Kate and Jake came downstairs and looked around and then looked at me and in complete and utter shock.  "Where are the decorations, Mom?!!!  It's Luke's birthday!!!!"
It's true.  It was November 26th.  It was Luke's 3rd birthday.  And normally, birthdays in our home consist of plenty of decorations and at least 1 banner of love that gets put up to commemorate the big day.
The walls were bare.
I realized at that moment, that even if I didn't feel like it, I needed to get out of my jammies and go through the motions of feeling good, and then maybe it'd actually happen.

"I promise when you get home, the decor will be up, and we will have a fantastic evening to celebrate Luke."  I kissed away their worried glances and sent them off to school with Joe.

I took a shower, got dressed, and put on makeup for the first time since Friday.  I couldn't cry today.  Today was about Luke and the only tears I'd be shedding would be happy ones for our little miracle that joined us almost 2 months early, 3 years ago.  And so I got to work.  The balloons were hung from the ceiling, the banner and signs were taped up, the special birthday chair was decorated and the "cochat cake wif letters" was in the oven.

We had asked Luke weeks before what type of cake he would want for his birthday.  All he said was a chocolate one with letters.  Luke's life revolves around letters.  He eats and breathes and sleeps letters.  He simply can't get enough of them and doesn't want to play or do anything that doesn't have the ABC's involved.  Since my oven down here is so temperamental when it comes to baking, I try to always go small--mini bundt cakes instead of my big ones--cupcakes instead of cakes--they always come out so much better.  Half black half gooey is fun once in a great while to remind me where I am, but not for special occasions.  So, I went for cupcakes.

I went to pick the kids up from school, and we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some Gummi letters to top the cupcakes with.  (So grateful for that easy solution thought up by Jake!!!)  They also wanted to pick out presents for their brother.  After paying, we took the gifts over to the service desk to have them wrapped (a total perk of living in Chile--free wrapping always).  The lady looked at me and said, "Regalo o Navidad?"  Is this a regular present or for Christmas?  I told her it was a regular birthday and she picked out the paper and got to work.  A man came by to help her, and the next thing I knew, she was scolding him for getting out Christmas paper to wrap the present she had handed him.  He looked at me and held the present up to ask me if I wanted him to redo it.

I took one look at the present and tears flooded my eyes.  For the little gift that I had picked out to give to Luke, was wrapped in baby boy Christmas angels.  I smiled through my blurry vision and said, "No, esta perfecto."  It was just a little extra love for me at that moment.  My baby was close.  I felt him.  Maybe it was even his way of saying, "This one's from me to my big brother Luke."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

We Lost Our Little Boy...

Last Friday was not unlike the norm... except that Joe had been out of town again, and would be returning home to us that evening from a work trip.  It had been 2 weeks since we had found out we were having a little boy, and because I had been feeling so much better, I felt like I could finally post the exciting news!
I picked the kids up from school, dropped them off at home, and then turned around and rushed right back out to the car to go to my doctor's appointment for my 16 week check up.  He had been seeing me weekly, and then after we got back from Iguazu, he said things were looking perfect in regards to the baby, so he moved our visits to every two weeks.  I still had the lovely clot that he needed to keep an eye on, but it was out of harms way of the baby...I was really feeling pregnant with all of the glorious side effects that come with it.
We were talking about the holidays and trips we'd both be taking when the monitor came on and suddenly he got quiet.  I have seen plenty of ultrasounds.  It's easy for me to find the cute little profile, the tiny hands and feet, and the incredible spine that is always so vivid.  And then I heard those awful words, "I'm so sorry, something's wrong.  There's no heartbeat."
Shocked and speechless, I turned to the screen, and there in his chest, where the little heart should be working overtime to build my baby boy, was empty, white space...

*   *   *

Somehow I managed to find my car.  I had parked in one of the spots they hold for pregnant women, right up in front with the disability parking spaces.  This is one of the things I love about Chile and was so excited to always have a good place to park wherever I went.  I looked at the pregnant stick figure on the sign in front of me and started sobbing.  How could this have happened?  I was feeling so good!  I called Joe and he was in his car, driving home from the off-site, with a bunch of co-workers that he had to take home.  Not the best time to tell him, but I blubbered something through my tears and told him to just get home as quickly as he could.  Poor Joe couldn't escape the car, or his team.  He was stuck for another 2 hours.

I started the car and realized I couldn't go home to the kids like this.  I texted Sandra, who was supposed to be off in 15 minutes and asked her to stay for a little bit until I could gain control.  Sweet thing stayed all weekend.

I parked my car in our neighborhood far from homes and windows and stared at the flowers that surrounded me. It is spring in Santiago, after all.  My chest hurt and and my soul ached.  I went through what was left of the kleenex box I had in the glove compartment until I heard Joe finally pull up alongside of me.  He took me out of the drivers seat and we both climbed into the back seat; and as I destroyed his button up with snot and tears, I went through all of those emotions over again.  Someone once told me that tears help get rid of toxins in our bodies.  I think I was completely free and pure of all poisons that had ever resided in this 6 foot frame of mine.  Little did I know that my mass purification was just beginning.

When we finally went home, Kate came running to me, releasing her own toxins, as she jumped into my arms, asking me to tell her what happened.  Oh how she wanted her little brother, she cried over and over.  I stayed in bed as everyone had dinner, and Jake said the blessing.  "...and please bless Mom and the baby that they will be healthy..." as he has always done from the day we told him the good news.  More tears.  It was time to tell the boys.  "I'm going to be sad forever."  He cried.  Luke kept running into the room saying, "I give Mommy wuvs?" And he'd crawl into bed with me and shower me with kisses.  Especially my tummy.  Why stop now?  Just more cleansing, right?

*   *   *

The next morning, Joe and I walked through the hospital main doors and checked in.  I couldn't do anything.  I sat there with red swollen eyes and a crumpled kleenex in my hand.  I knew I wasn't the only one hurting, and yet he was my rock.  How grateful I am for my husband.  For being exactly what I needed when I needed it.  The lady behind the table gathered quickly that he would be doing all of the talking for me and directed all of her questions to him.

We were taken up the elevator and as soon as the doors opened, I realized we had come to the maternity ward.  I guess I hadn't exactly thought where I'd be going.  I looked up.  Beautiful black and white images of little babies faces, hands, feet, and elbows adorned the walls.  This should be a happy place.  It always had been for me in the past.  I grabbed onto his arm and released even more toxins.  How could I have any tears left?  I wondered.  We were directed into a room and the kind nurse came in and spoke in her slowest Spanish possible so I could understand.  She wanted me to cry as much as I needed.  And they would take good care of me.  We had to reconfirm that there was no heartbeat.  More tears.  And then I had to get ready for my mini delivery.

Because I was farther along, I would have to go through 3 hours of contractions and then they would take me into surgery.  Those three hours were filled with quiet moments, quiet talking, and quiet tears--together.  Family ached to be with us.  Mom was ready to hop on the next plane down here.  Jen texted, "I hate Chile."  When I was sitting in the car, alone, after I found out, I felt so very far away and alone.  I hated Chile too.

Ten minutes before they were going to take me into surgery, there was a knock on our door.  Sweet, sweet, Karen walked in and gave me one of her famous squeezes and we cried some more.  She sat next to my bed and we talked and laughed and cried until it was time to wheel me away.  Little did I know at that moment that she had already arranged time with my kids, brought chocolate chip cookies for everyone, left beautiful flowers in our bedroom for when we got home, guided Sandra when she needed help, set up a calendar for a weeks worth of dinners and pick ups at school, and let other friends know, so when I looked at my phone I was flooded with love and support from dear friends in Santiago.  My family away from family.  I felt so very blessed.  Let's just keep crying.

The operating room was cold.  Everyone was speaking in muffled Spanish as they hurried around the room getting everything ready.  I felt so alone.  I prayed for peace as I let the tears trickle down my cheeks.  I couldn't wipe them because I had a blood pressure cuff on one arm restricting my movements and all sorts of wires that kept me from moving my left arm.  I clutched my wadded up tissue anyway, ready to use it if the opportunity arose.  Too many memories flooded my mind of when I went into my emergency C-section with Luke.  But this time I already knew the end result.
The anesthesiologist put his warm, gentle, hand on my head and said, "Tranquilo, Senora."   It's what I needed at that very moment.  And then the doctor whom I'm so grateful for, told me what was going to happen and that he would take good care of me.  I could finally breathe and allowed myself to feel a little bit of that comfort I was praying to Heavenly Father for.

*   *   *

I remember waking up and feeling lighter... like there was an emptiness in my stomach.  Something was missing.  It was the first time in my life that I didn't long for taut, firm abs :)  And then it all came back to me.  Joe was right there by my side.  We spent the rest of our time in the hospital doing what we did best that weekend, as I went through the after effects of a delivery. Contractions were a constant reminder of what had just occurred.

We talked for hours about what we should do with our baby boy.  We both had and still have no doubt that he is back home with our loving Heavenly Father.  And some day, when we go home too, he will be ours to raise.  So whatever we chose to do here on earth wasn't for him, it was for us and for our healing.  We decided on a Christian foundation down here that has a beautiful park that isn't far from our home, dedicated to families who have all been through similar situations.  They take care of the details, so we can focus on the memories.  We can visit, plant flowers, have picnics, ride bikes nearby, and talk about how grateful we are for the knowledge we have that our family is eternal.  How blessed I feel for that knowledge.  It has carried me through so many difficult times.

It felt right for us.  This is a piece of our Chilean experience and it only seemed fitting to have a little memorial here.  Still, I told Joe, I felt like I needed a little something (and I didn't know what that was) to hold close to my heart, to remember our little Blue Berryhill.  I think I'm finally going to get to use that name.  Nothing official, but in my heart, that's what he'll be.  Our 3rd little baby boy.   Then he suggested something and it felt just right.

A picture of his perfect little hand.

That's what I'd get to keep with me.  
And it was perfect.

*   *   *

When it was time to leave, they brought a wheelchair for me.  It had been very quiet the entire time we had been at the hospital.  And as we left our room, for the first time, I remembered where we were as we passed the nursery and heard the newborn cries.  I went ahead and did what I did best.  I joined right in with those little bundles.  Life would continue.  I had three BEAUTIFUL children at home for whom I was so grateful.  I had the knowledge that so many of my loved ones and friends had been through similar and far more difficult times than we had just experienced.  And I also knew that my Savior knew EXACTLY what I was going through.  We would get through this and be a closer, better, family for it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Let's Build a House!

 The morning after we found out the good news, we headed into the Andes hills to go help the WONDERFUL Nunez family put in a few hours building their home.  They are the most incredibly happy, faithful, dedicated people!  They never tried to broadcast their situation, but we found out that they had been saving for years to build a home.  When the time came to finally start the project, they gave a contractor their money to get started and he took off with everything they had.
Husband and wife looked at each other and just cried.  "What will we do?"  They were already working 6 days a week and long hours to survive with 3 little ones at home.  One day, they squared their shoulders, looked at each other and said, "We will build it ourselves."  So, every Saturday when they have saved up a bit, they go down to the hardware store, get the supplies they can afford, and build a little here and there on their home.
Our families wanted to help!  Karen organized the day and the Hamilton's, Whitt's and our family headed to the site ready to get to work.  Laura and Karen immediately put up camping chairs and both said at practically the same time, "Julie, these are for you.  Sit down."  I was told I wouldn't be doing much more than moral support.  So sweet.  I didn't even think to bring my own chair.
Hermana Nunez, Laura, Jake and Easton, hard at work, putting in the insulation for the walls.  Before we left, Jake ran downstairs and got all of the necessary tools he'd need from his workbench, to complete his important projects for the day.
Putting in insulation turned out to be a lot of fun!!!
Violetta and Amanda Nunez doing what they do best!
Kate was amazing with the box cutter and getting the perfect shapes of Styrofoam to fit for the insulation in the walls.  She took total ownership of what she was doing... so neat to see her in action.
Salvador Nunez knew the grounds so well.  He showed all of the kids the cool hiding spots and the best mounds of dirt to play in.  He also loved Jake's tools that he brought with!
I made Luke stay pretty close to me the entire time.  Too many real tools that were "slightly" dangerous for little hands.  Even still, he was completely enjoying himself.

The guys?  Well, let's just say, this fulfilled some inner-manliness that has been looking for a way to escape with all of that overtime they put in at work...
The kids had their own ideas of how to help best :)
Love these girls.  We all showed up with our visors, food, and plenty of hands to help.  What a great experience this was for our families.  We will definitely be visiting the Nunez family again and again...

Friday, November 22, 2013

It's Time to Place Your Bets...

We have had a tradition with every baby.  When the doctor can tell what it is, we have him write it down on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope.  Then, we put it on the fridge and plan an evening together with family. 
 Everyone places their "bets" and then it's time to reveal what's inside.

*   *   *
At my last check up, when I tried to change the subject about going to Iguazu Falls against his better judgement, it turned out that the clot hadn't gotten bigger!  But it hadn't gotten smaller either.  No bed rest, but no exercise and I had to take it easy.  Fair enough. 

"And is there any chance you can tell what the baby is?"   


 "Would you mind writing it down for me so our family can find out together what we are having?"

A smile formed on the corner of his mouth and he told me to turn away so I couldn't see the monitor.  He wrote something down and then apologized that he didn't have an envelope.  I came prepared and then left mine in the car.  "Oh don't worry.  I'll seal it up in the envelope as soon as I get into my car.  I promise I won't look at it."  His smile got bigger.  He folded that prescription piece of paper about 78 times and then took his stapler and punched a few good ones into it.  Apparently he didn't trust me. 

Joe wasn't home that night, so I dutifully tacked the envelope with the stapled secret up on the fridge.  The kids were going crazy.  How could we wait?!!!  The next night was looking like it wouldn't work out either, and I had 3 kids who were in complete hysterics.  We decided we'd meet Joe at La Creperia--He'd come straight from work, so we could be together for just a moment before I had to leave for the evening.  This was way more important anyway.  I could be a tad bit late!

We ordered our favorite meals and then the ultimate Nutella & Banana Crepes for dessert.  I really think I could easily eat one of those every other day.  I LOVE them.  

And then it was time.  We let Kate do the honors of trying to undo the prescription note.

Joe:    "Boy"
Kate:  "Girl" (she's been hoping for one since the day she could speak)
Jake:  "Girl--because we already have plenty of boys."  Stated matter-of-factly.
Luke:  "Boy" With the cutest smile ever.
Me:    "Girl"  (We girls have to stick together, but for the first time, earlier that day, I had a feeling...I didn't want to make Kate cry just yet)

And here's the revealing captured on video:

Yeah!!!  Looks like Kate and I will be sticking together for life :)  We're excited for another little CUTE Berryhill boy to give us sticky kisses, muddy footprints, lots of noise, and plenty of projects (aka: messes).  Everyone was so happy after the initial shock!  It took one of us a little longer than the others, but she came around and mentioned, "Mom, can we start doing special girl things like getting our nails done together?" Yes... my visits to the salon for pedicures are few and FAR between...but maybe it's time to start a new tradition.  
WELCOME BABY BERRYHILL BOY!!! We already love you so much.  Your brothers and sister pray for you every day and can't wait for you to join us.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Iguazu Falls-Part 9: Brazil Side!

At last we made it to the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls.  It was the hottest day yet and we were feeling it.  But as soon as we came to the first viewpoint, we were in awe.

 And this isn't even all of the falls!  We walked along side of them for a good hour, ending at the Garganta del Diablo from the Brazilian point of view.  
 Look at those cute cheeks!  Can you tell we needed to find some falls to get under?!!
 We finally found a spot to cool off, and it even graced us with a rainbow!  Can you believe that?! We got drenched and it felt fabulous.  This was the only point on the Brazil side where you felt like you were up close and personal with the falls.  This side was more of the breathtaking panoramic view.

Kate had a little butterfly friend that landed on her head, and stuck with her through all of the spray when we went into the falls!  When she came out of it, he was still there, and then another one landed on her finger. She's a modern day Cinderella. 

What a day!  What a trip!  We had an incredible time and saw so many new things!  Thank you Joe for caring all of the stress of the trip, so I could relax.  I did my best.  When I went back to the doctor right after we returned, the first thing he said was, "So did you cancel your trip?"  I couldn't lie.  Would never have been able to after witnessing such beauty.  "No...but I tried to rest whenever possible..." (every night when we got back to the hotel!!!)  "Achem...So, how's the baby looking?!"