thankful

Turn in…not away.

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Tonight as I folded laundry I began thinking about so many things I learned while we walked the difficult road of infertility. I thought about our two wee men, sleeping tight next door in their sweet little shared room. I thought of God.

As these thoughts swirled in my head, a concrete idea formed…turn in…not away.

Infertility is brutal and cruel. There is nothing kind about taking one of the deepest longings of a woman and man’s soul then playing table tennis with it. Back and forth, through treatment after treatment, one doctor to the next, one injection to the next. The game goes back and forth. The game can continue into other parts of your life too. You can argue with your husband about how much caffeine he is drinking, don’t you know it can reduce your sperm honey? You can tell your Mom you are fine for now, that you aren’t ready for a family just yet. When your friend announces they are pregnant you can fake excitement. When you just cannot understand how God can ignore your prayers over and over again to have a child? Back and forth, you can live your life, with your emotions hidden.

Or…

You can turn in…not away. Turn into your husbands arms when he drinks that second cup of coffee. Tell him you are scared his caffeine intake may affect your chances, this is the truth of why you may be tempted to nag at him. When your Mom asks the next time about a family, instead of turning away, turn to your Mother, the one who carried you into this world, who would most likely do anything she could to protect you from harm, and tell her the truth. Tell her how your heart is breaking everyday because you long to be a Mother yourself. When that friend announces her pregnancy that happened all too easily, allow yourself to feel the hurt and anger. Then turn to your friend and rejoice. Because I guarantee, if you turn into her friendship she will mourn with you. Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. That’s what real friends do.

And finally, let me plainly state this: God’s character does not change depending on our circumstances. Things are going great, well God is good. Things are crap, well God is not good. No. That’s not how it works. He is good, all the time, full stop. Life is hard, full stop. But what a good God does is this, He offers comfort in our suffering. When we turn into Him He meets us with an intimacy that cannot be rivaled. He is so so close to those who are brokenhearted, hurting and suffering, if we will only turn in…not away.

Just like any good parent He will help us learn to walk through this life if we let Him. Just as a parent walks behind his toddler, hands outstretched to catch the child if he begins to fall forward, yet remaining unseen by the child. And the child eventually learns to walk. This is how I see my Abba in these times. He has so much confidence in my ability, in my desire to turn into Him, not away that He remains hidden for a time, hidden but not absent. During the hidden times He is encouraging us to turn in…not away. I believe this is how it is for all of us. He gives us freedom upon freedom to learn, seek, grow, to walk. And I think one of the biggest lessons He teaches us in life’s more challenging circumstances is to turn in…not away and it applies to all of life. Where do you need to turn in today? Start there.

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Let’s go back…

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Before there were twins, before we had these little men, before I was a Mom and Bryan was a Dad there was INFERTILITY. For NINE years. For nine years we struggled to get pregnant. We tried so many different approaches, doctors, philosophies and suffered disappointment after disappointment. Maybe this is where you are at. Disappointment. Or maybe you know someone who is there. It is not the place you want to be. People seem to not understand, are insensitive, you feel crazy, exhausted, heartbroken and the list goes on. I will never forget those nine years. Nor will anyone forget any amount of time they struggle with infertility. file-1

What seems like the most natural thing in the world, reproducing, slips out of your tightly clenched fists and you didn’t even see it coming. You thought it would just take some time. The days turn to months, the months to a year, the year to years. I am literally having a difficult time breathing as I type this because the memories I carry from infertility are so very real and are still present in my everyday life. I don’t want to sound extreme but at times I have wondered if infertility can produce Post Traumatic Stress symptoms? I am not trying to belittle people who suffer from this very real and awful disorder but I think that infertility is a trauma. It effects your mind, body, emotions and soul. It has left imprints on my heart that will never disappear. And that is one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to write about our journey. I needed to write about it. To sort through it in my own head and heart. To find some kind of catharsis in the midst of this nightmare that I lived and breathed for so long. I also figured that maybe I would share our story if it could help others. So here I am today, finally sharing my Facebook page about my book and even posting info on my Insta story. Man how life has changed in the last ten years! Dear love the teens trying to navigate this crazy world of social media!file-2

So this is me celebrating my small starting victory of actually putting myself and our story out there! In the Big Bad World of Social Media! Yikes! It scares me a little when I say it like that. But mostly I am just relieved. (White wine and chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels thank you very much!)

I have been walking around with this book burning a hole in my soul for the guts of two years now. I had plans of it being published shortly after I wrote it but life happened.

Funny how that works! I wrote the book, we moved to back to the states and into our friends sweet home for four and a half months. Bryan worked his tail off and commuted for those months. My sweet Papa was diagnosed with cancer. Then we moved into our own place, I started working again, Bryan somehow managed to balance his work with my work. Summer came. Northern Irish family visited. We went to Alaska to see the Chud family. Came home to Pre-Season and worsening news about my Papa. Bryan’s Mama was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Then September hit and all hell broke loose. Cancer destroyed any remaining health my Father had and the day after his 80th birthday he went to be with Jesus, the 2nd of October, 2017. All the while our sweet MamaChud had started chemo. So yeah, lots of life happened. file

While life was happening I was living a whirlpool of emotions. One day I was peaceful and content, the next I was sitting on my couch sobbing about the rapid loss of my precious Dad, fully grieving the man that had always been my hero. Due to all of these things I feel like the last year or so I didn’t have the chance to really enjoy the boys as much as I wanted to. It was much more about survival than any type of thriving. Since my Father’s passing I have been focused on soaking up every ounce of enjoyment they possess. I also have felt that fire burning my bum cheeks reminding me that this life is but a vapor. file

I have been playing extra hard with the boys. We have built more train tracks than I can count and created play dough planes and sharks often. Hide and seek is still a favourite and I kiss them constantly, tell them I love them at least every hour they are awake. I just can’t help myself nor do I see the need to stop. This life is so brief and these moments were meant to be savoured and enjoyed! file1

This again is part of the impetus of pushing forward with this book. I talk to so many women who are struggling, I have friends who are being crushed under the weight of infertility and I want so badly to change their story but I can’t. What I can do though is share my own. I can share how some days I literally wanted to curse every pregnant woman I saw. I couldn’t attend parties for worry that some curious and oblivious bystander would ask ‘why we hadn’t started our family yet?’ I still feel your pain friends. I still get sweaty and my heart races when I think about taking a pregnancy test after years of negative results. file2

No one knows what the future holds and I can’t promise anyone a family. Oh how I wish I could! That every couple longing to become parents would! Yet that is not within my power. All I can do is use my one precious life to help others. To daily love my husband, love on my boys and share the painful parts of my story that God has been restoring and healing. file-3 (1)

Now if you read all the way to the bottom of this post, thank you. It was a bit lengthy I know. Thank you for sticking with me! For those of you who are interested I will be putting updates on my social media sites including Facebook, my blog and Instagram. You can find out more about my book on my Facebook page specifically for the book: https://www.facebook.com/breannajochud/  You can also follow me here at my blog: http://www.breannajochud.wordpress.com or at Instagram at Breanna Chud. What I hope for is that this book finds those who have been isolated because of infertility. Are struggling and can’t even talk about it with their closest friends. Those who feel alone or simply crazy because let’s be real, infertility does that! Please share this with them if you know who they are!! Please read along so that you have a better understanding of what this all looks like. I promise, knowing how to love someone in this difficult time will not be something you will regret! Thank you again for your time and support!!

Next steps…

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Some years are harder to say goodbye to than others and this was that kind of year. 2017 was unknowingly the last year I would have with my sweet Papa and that in turn made it hard to let go of. 2018 has begun and is the first year without him here. Without a text, a phone call or one of his all encompassing hugs upon arriving home to my parents house. The proof of his well lived life is everywhere but he is not. That’s a difficult realization to settle into. I’m not sure you ever fully settle.

Watching my family go through our first Christmas without him, especially my Mom was emotional. I am so thankful for our boys though. In the midst of the heaviness they brought life, light and laughter to our family. We remembered him well though. One of my brothers read the Christmas story like my Papa used to while the other one prayed the prayer that my Papa usually prays. There was not a dry eye in the house. Yet even as my brother prayed, Cohen, our sweet, social butterfly wanted to join in. So he did. He tried to repeat everything my brother prayed. This is how we say our prayers at night. Bryan or I pray and the boys repeat. It was a breath of fresh air in a room that was suffocating. Thank you Coco for your heart to join into every aspect of life all the time!

After Christmas was over sickness fell over so many of us. The end. Or at least that was kind of how it felt. I was so sick, Cohen was too, my Mom, my brother, one of my sister in laws, my niece and then Bryan and Kidran eventually got it too. But we are back in our sweet little house again. I have taken down our minimal Christmas decorations and am decluttering our tiny space. It is a spring clean in January!

I still have yet to write down my New Years Resolutions and share it with some of my Home Team girls from Northern Ireland. I still have yet to finish my book. I still have a few drawers to clean out. Yet I feel a desire to pursue wholeness this year. How? I have no idea. I think it will start by listening to my body, soul and emotions. When I feel tired, take a nap. When I feel lethargic, do a workout. When I feel drained, call a life-giving friend to go to the Monks with me. When I don’t feel good enough, remind myself that I am all I need to be in this season. Full stop.

I also have a list of chapters I want to close this year. In order to embrace what the future has for me, I need to walk out of this room and shut the door. I hope to shut it with a gentle, thankful pause. Then I will walk down the dark hallway toward the light I see creeping in. I will walk out of the house into a wide, open space. My lungs will fill with fresh air, like a first breath of a baby entering the world. A field lays stretching out before me and it’s inviting me into new adventures this year. Ones that will stretch me, ones that will break and mend me, ones that will give me eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that is full. That is what I speak out for my life this year. And for yours too. This is our year. I am taking it with gentle force and so should you. Oh, and I am gonna dance a whole lot more this year too!

PS Lovely, fun pics showing a bit of our happenings over the holiday and this season of life! Enjoy!

Wrestling…

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The boys had a check-up today at the doctor’s office. It was actually kind of fun to take them back and see how much progress they have made. Not only have they grown taller and weigh more, they also handled the procedures of the appointment better. There were no shots today thankfully which made it easier but they still did great! Things that upset them before they embraced. They listened well and interacted with the doctor and staff in fun and playful ways while still being respectful. A lot to accomplish at the age of three! Needless to say I was proud! Plus they are so darn cute right now and full of exploding personality and talking flat out which is super entertaining!

Speaking of their weight gain…good old fashioned wrestling has become less of an engaging activity for me these days. They are so much bigger and when we wrestle they can hurt me now. Like the ‘land on me and knock the breath right out of me’ kind of hurt! They don’t hold back and I love it but I am leaving that kind of wrestling to Dada while I steal as many cuddles as I can! Most of the time these cuddles come in a form of less intense wrestling though. They love being tickled, poked and picked up, all ticking the box of physical affection they crave and need while saving my body. Hallelujah!

As I thought about the physical wrestling that happens with our boys it got me thinking about the personal wrestling we all go through. There are times in life when we struggle and fight. Not necessarily physical wrestling but working stuff out that requires hard effort, persistence along with serious character building. I imagine Mary, the Mother of Jesus, took part in some wrestling as her little holy bump of a babe developed.  A bump that had nothing to do with her future husband, Joseph, but everything to do with hope for humanity!

The Bible describes Mary as accepting this honor with grace and acceptance. Yet…I wonder if she ever had a little freak out? Did she ever go back and forth with God, even just once about ‘Why me? Why now?’ Culturally there was so much at stake for her and she had to have felt the looks and judgement towards her. I wonder if she felt afraid for her life at times? Was the pressure overwhelming? I imagine it to be. We read verses like Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to be me be fulfilled.” -Mary, and we think it was easy for her, #motherofthemessiah. She was heroic, angelic, gifted, etc. She was, after all, the Mother of Jesus. Yet we also forget her humanity. I think Mary was incredible. I think she had vision for saving her people. Yet I also think she was a woman, who was unmarried and pregnant in a time and place where that alone could get her stoned to death. Still Mary could see something no one else could see. I think Mary had a feeling and sense that she was exactly where she was supposed to be. (An angelic visitation probably helped!)

Lately, more accurately, since we left Northern Ireland I have felt like I have been wrestling. Wrestling God, myself, my dreams, my passions, my exhaustion, my emotions, my everything really. It’s been hard and felt long. Yet I have had this sense of purpose through it all. Today I had a moment. One of those moments that you not only blog about but journal about. I had just finished a quick meeting with a friend after our staff meeting at work. I was walking up the hill I always walk up after work when I got the sense that God was telling me I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. This place is a place of tension. Tension with my dreams, giftings, passions, ability, etc. Tension is not always easy but Jesus gets that, I mean he was God’s son living in a broken and hurting world after all. He gets tension. But in this place there is satisfaction. There is fullness. There is a calming, an anchoring happening. There is a new level of trust and acceptance developing. Trust and acceptance of myself especially, of who I am but also of who I am not. I am not trying so hard and it feels good.

The past few years I have started looking forward, almost craving the season of Advent. I was slightly aware of a type of Advent growing up but it mainly involved the chocolate countdown calendar that my boys are now experiencing. Now I follow an Advent practice that causes me to pause, think, look at beautiful artwork, listen to glorious music and soak in some of the deeper meanings of Advent. It’s in this season of Advent that my wrestling becomes more visible. What are you wrestling with this Advent? What dreams are you staring at that are not coming true? What questions are you asking that are remaining unanswered? What do you hope and pray shifts this year? Lean in. Lean into the tension. Lean into the blank space. Lean into the darkness.

I have no answers or clever remedies. Some things are done in secret, quiet and not on our timeline. So we wrestle. Never be embarrassed by the wrestling. You just may touch God and come away changed. In fact I am almost sure you will. And that is worth the wrestle.

PS. These are a few pics of this season of life! Us as a family at a carol service where Cohen thought he was part of the program! Lol! Bryan taking the boys to one of the many parks we visit year round no matter the weather. Some of my amazing coworkers from Purpose Boutique at our Christmas party. And finally the boys at Crossroads Mall where they have every old fashioned kid ride known to man!

Why do I write?

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We all write for specific reasons. Some people write to speak out, persuade or promote. I write to help me process the seasons of life I find myself in. (I am slightly more introverted and get stuck in my head A LOT). I am not writing to try to tell you how to live your life or persuade you to follow me or share my blog. All of those things are good and fine, and if you want to by all means please do, especially if it will help someone else! But those reasons are not my motivation. So today, if you are going to read my blog I would encourage you to grab a cup of your favourite beverage and get comfortable. This is going to be a winding road.

Today I write to help me release my tears, my heavy heart, the unknowns of the future and help me to live in the present. When I write I reflect, stand back and absorb all that my sweet, simple life encompasses. And right now I am reflecting on my Father, laying in a hospital bed in Utah because he is battling cancer. I want to be there, with him and my Mom, holding their hands. But I am here in Idaho because my reality is being a Mum to twin toddler boys who will soon be three. A whole different post will be for that fact!

Let me back up a bit for those just starting this journey with me. Last July Bryan, my husband and our twin sons moved back to Kirkland, WA. My husband received a job opportunity at our old university and we felt it was the right time to take it. Fast forward a few months of being back and my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Over the coming months he went through his first surgery removing tumors on his neck which then came back within three weeks (not six months as the doctors suggested). He then went through six weeks of radiation five days a week. Unfortunately this did not work. Surgery number two was completed I think around May. Still they were not able to get all the cancer. It was at that point that my amazing and supportive brothers strongly encouraged a second opinion which I agreed with too. It was time.

With the second opinion came more options which we have been so thankful for. The doctors started immunotherapy about three weeks ago and were hopeful that it would kick in and start building up the strong cells to help them fight off the cancer. So Tuesday my Mom, Dad and sister in law left for Utah. When they arrived at his appointment Wednesday morning they admitted him to the hospital at the Cancer Clinic because his blood sugar was dangerously high. Since then we have been living through text messages, phone calls, waiting on CT scan reports, etc. All the processes you go through with cancer treatment. It’s not smooth sailing for sure but more a knot-in-the-stomach-producing kind of thing. Through yesterday and today we have found out that they will most likely skip immunotherapy and move to chemo. My Dad also has a blood clot in his neck and they are struggling to keep his blood sugar under control. All of this means that my parents will be staying in Utah till at least Sunday. Of course I wish they were here but again I am so thankful for the team of specialists who are attacking this from all sides and working so hard to heal him.

I feel like I need to say it publicly too that I am believing for a miracle for my Papa. The kind that means we will have him around for many years to come. That he will be here for birthdays, Christmas, summer trips to the Oregon Coast or the mountains of McCall. Yet right now I am in the waiting. The waiting is where I write. The waiting is where I fall back on my ways of finding comfort.

For so many years the place I found peace and comfort dealing with life was on the North Coast of Ireland.

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Here is one of the many coastlines that we frequented when we lived there. This picture was sent to me by a good friend in NI (that is her husband, another dear friend). She sent it to me to bring me comfort and it did just that. It reminded me of the times that I cried out to God about our desire to have a family. I cried more times than I can remember up on that coast. I did deep soul work on those beaches and rocks, the kind that cannot be shaken or shifted. That work is still there, rooted in me. I still long for those shores on a daily basis and even more now when life feels uncertain and foggy. Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond thankful that we are here for this season. Being in NI while this is going on would have been more like torture. So in God’s good grace he allowed us to be close, so very close and for that I am thankful. I have traveled to Idaho six times since we moved back. Yet my soul wants the air, the rolling hills and the cliffs to ponder on. Just for a day. To cry out to God once more in the place that feels familiar. A place where I fought off my own doubts and found a new kind of faith.

Another way I find help is by connection. I have done this by sending out more texts than I can recall asking for prayer and support as my family is walking this road. Earlier today I was listening to a podcast by Jen Hatmaker with Brene′ Brown and one of the very first things Brene′ says is that we are hardwired for connection.

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I wholeheartedly agree with that statement! Hence why I have been burning up my phone updating friends on what’s going on and asking for more prayer. The connection to my husband, family and friends has been so important not only for me but for my Dad and Mom too. They have been bolstered up by the support they are receiving from people who care so deeply for them.

Music is also healing for me. Before we left Northern Ireland last year, a good friend gave us this album by Foy Vance.

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The album washed over my broken heart as we packed up our sweet home and traveled the North coast of Ireland one final time before moving stateside. Since returning it has been a balm to my heart on many occasions. It is no different right now. One of the songs Foy sings is called Burden and it says this:

Come to me, my brother, and I will sit with you a while
Pretty soon I’ll see you smile and you know you will
No matter how much you’re hurting right now
You know that everything will change in time
So let me carry your burden

This song makes me weep right now. What our family is carrying is a burden. We are hurting. But the promise is that everything will change in time. I find comfort in knowing that this is not forever. I am hopeful and believing this for my Dad. That he will not be sick, that he will be well. That he will feel like himself again and smiles will come easy and last long. But I am so thankful for songs like this that speak to me at such a core level.

I am also finding peace by grabbing the moments that I can (as limited as I feel) and be in the present.

My Dad hasn’t liked having his picture taken for awhile but I have been taking pics of him anyway. Us in our sunglasses with our sweet smiles, love it! My Dad and the boys in their adorable little boy underwear, pure Mommy love! The boys celebrating their third birthday a little early on the deck at my parents with my Mom, eldest brother and his wife, such a sweet evening! The boys exploring every inch of my younger brothers property usually in just their nappy or pajamas, I can’t get enough! These are the moments that help to keep me here and now, in the sweetness of life while still tasting the bitter. (Thanks again Shauna Niequist for that wonderful book Bittersweet!)

As I sit here and finish writing this blog, the boys are awake from their nap and now are watching another show.  They have had way too many treats and late bedtimes. But this is the last way I am processing. By being gracious towards myself. This weird in-between is not forever. Soon enough we will be back in our home, in our routine. Bedtimes will get earlier, treats will be fewer as will shows. Yet for today, I am smothering myself in tons of grace. And sometimes that grace looks like bending the rules for all of us.

I want to say thank you to each and every one of you who are praying for my Dad and our family. It means to much to us all. Please continue! And to the different artists/authors who have contributed unknowingly to my life, thank you for what you have brought to the table. It is helping more people than you can possibly imagine, including me.

 

Come close…

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One of the boys favourite little games we play right now is fee-fi-fo-fum. They run down the hall, jump into our bed and ‘hide-hide-hide’ under the covers until I stomp down the hall pretending to be a giant shouting for them. Recently I have been invited into the game in a new role. They take turns playing the giant and want me to hide under the covers with them. Some days I don’t want to play these little games that feel like ground hog day and there’s a pile of laundry flooding out of the next room. But then there are these moments. The kind that cause me to stop breathing. The kind that make me realize how short life is. How short this time with the boys being little is. The moments that I am pretty sure are going to replay in my mind when I watch them ride a bike for the first time, drive for the first time, graduate, get married, etc.

When we are playing this sweet game and we are hiding under the covers, they come in close. Each of them. They whisper to me to be quiet, that we are hiding. I get to have their faces inches from mine. I get to study their different and distinctly blue eyes, their mouths with ruby lips, their wild blonde curls. I get to smell their hot little boy breath that doesn’t stink yet but smells warm and sweet. Sometimes they will grab my hand or snuggle in close for only a second. One. Little. Second.

These seconds are precious and so tiny I almost miss them some days. Because as the other little man stomps down the hall, the anticipation builds. The door bursts open with a squeal of delight and we are all joining in! The noise is astounding as is the untamed excitement. We all end up on the bed laughing and wrestling as that’s what most things turn into when you are a mom of little boys.

This little glimpse is teaching me a lot about my own life. I struggle to live in the present on a daily basis. I am a future kind of girl. Always thinking, dreaming and planning for the next step. That is useful and helpful at times but also can steal joy in the present, very real and beautiful moments of my day to day life. I am working on being more mindful. Breathing more deeply. Not pushing myself to run on fumes. To learn what real rest looks like for me and be okay with taking that rest when I need it. Thankfully I am married to an incredible man who sees me so clearly and knows what I need often before I do.

This ‘living in the present’ struggle also runs into many other areas of my life. But now more than ever I see the desperate need to live in the here and now. To look people in the eye and tell them I love them. To truly listen when someone shares what they are going through. To find connection in even the briefest of moments because I am really seeing the person I am with, not moving on to the next time we get together.

So what I am hoping for is a few more seconds…

 

The sweetness of motherhood…

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Lately I have been feeling extra tired. This is from lack of self-care with one of my biggest needs…sleep. I am not one of those people who can run on six hours of sleep for weeks on end. That is a recipe for emotional and physical breakdown for me. Yet somehow it often happens. The boys sleep great through the night most of the time but they have been pushing their bedtime back farther and farther each day and consistently waking up around 6am. You do the math and it makes sense that I am probably not getting the recommended amount of sleep needed per night nor is Bryan. We know it’s a season and it will pass but it still means we are tired a lot of the time.

Recently I was at a Moms group and we were talking about Self-Care. It was a great reminder that not only does my mind, heart and spirit need tending but my body as well. Grace and kindness applied to myself in lavish doses is what is required. Is this what you need to? Do you find yourself tired, functioning in a not so ‘present’ way with your spouse and children? Can you make time for more sleep/rest in the days and weeks to come? If so, do it!!! You will not regret it!!

Yet I also want to thank lack of sleep for a sweet moment I had with both my boys this morning. Cohen ended up coming and sleeping in bed with me at 4am (which never happens as I sleep even less with little bodies next to me) and by 5:30am both Cohen and Kidran were in bed with me, wide awake. Cohen was sitting up in our bed, jabbering/talking away poking at my eyes, nose and teeth while Kidran lay on the other side of me softly stroking my arm. I know there will come a day when they are grown up that I would give anything to capture one of these moments again and hold onto it for just a little bit longer which is why I am writing about it today. I will look back and long for my little boys to be 2 1/2, in bed with me in all their cuteness, snuggling, no boundaries, no concerns, just being present with their Momma whom they show generous love to daily. Yes, I will remember this morning in the coming years.