It is hard to believe that Jake has been dead for over 10 years old. It is even harder to believe he would have turned 40 years old today. Jake will forever be 29 years old in my mind.
Jake was a great man that loved his horses, his cattle ranch, his family and God. He was an example of being a good, honest, hard worker. He was a great daddy and loved being with his boys. He would tease his sister's constantly and was the main helper with his adult autistic brother. He was best friends with his dad. When he died he left a devastating hole in the entire community.
He was also an amazing husband and best friend to me. He would always play with my hair...which I loved...but he would also twist it and put it in my ear to tickle me...and that drove me crazy. About a week before he died we were driving home from a trip to Salt Lake. He was doing his usual tickling my ear with my hair and I told him to stop it. While laughing Jake said, "If I die, you are going to miss that so much!". Joking back I told him I would never miss it! Well,he was right...I have missed it everyday since he died!
Every year I take the kids and all my family to Jake's favorite restaurant to celebrate his birthday, Joe Morley's BBQ. This year we had to do two different shifts to make sure everyone could come. We will always remember him and celebrate his life!
This weekend I flew up to Lacey, WA to be the speaker at their Stake Relief Society Women's Conference. It was a lot of fun for me to do. It definitely got me out of my comfort zone! The ladies in the Stake RS Presidency took great care of me. They picked me up from the airport and I stayed at Nancy's house (RS Pres.). They treated me to dinner and were so sweet all weekend. I met so many amazing women that have their own unique stories.
I have never traveled alone...I have gone as the only adult with kids, but never alone. I don't like being alone! I never have. (I know, I know...I have 10 kids and should relish in any moment alone!) I just love to be around people...especially my family. I really had a great time though.
A couple of my kids were sick last week and I was worried that I would get sick before I had to speak. I prayed that I wouldn't get sick before, and that I would be able to speak and give the message that the Lord would have me give. (I should have asked not to get sick at all;)
I spoke on Sat. afternoon and felt 100%. I really felt great and it went really well. I love speaking and sharing my story, my trials, my triumphs and most importantly my testimony. After I spoke we had lunch and I visited with all the women. Everyone had so many kind things to say to me. What no one knows though, is that just 10 mins. after I talked with the last lady leaving the conference I got very sick. I felt like I had been hit by a truck. At first I thought maybe it was because of speaking. I called Curtis and told him that it must have been extremely emotionally draining for me to speak, because I was feeling so awful. After resting for a little while I thought maybe it was allergies to all the AMAZING flowers in WA. By the end of the night however I realized that I had the same illness that my family had been passing around.
What a testimony builder for me to know that Heavenly Father allowed me to feel 100% for the speaking. I had no clue how sick I was about to become! I know without a doubt that I was blessed to feel good before and during the conference. Sure, it would have been nice to not get sick at all...but that was not what I asked for. I literally asked that I wouldn't be sick before and during the conference. (I'll be sure to be more specific next time;)
It has been such a blessing to share my story with people. I know that it is what Heavenly Father wants me to do. It feels so healing for me to share and feel like others can learn from my experiences and feel the love their Savior has for them.
My family has been so supportive of me this last few months. Curtis had all the kids to church on time at 8:30 am. and my teenager even dressed little Sis in a dress with a matching flower in her hair. I love my family so much!
I have had many people ask me in person and through emails about how to help children grieve and understand death. This post is intended to give you a glimpse into my experience with small children grieving. In the following weeks there will be posts with helpful tips and books for those of you on this path. These memories are from 8-10 years ago...so keep that in mind. We are no longer in such a heart wrenching cycle.
On the darkest days...and there were a lot of them, it was hard for me to think of anything except the fact that Jake was dead.Everything I did for my kids was hard and painful.I felt like I was trying to run through mud that came up to my chest.I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t live, I couldn’t die.I felt like I was nothing and was a worthless mother.My kids didn’t deserve this life that had be forced upon them.They deserved happiness, a life running around on a cattle ranch in the shadow of their loving father.They deserved a mother that could go to the grocery store and buy food for her family, and then actually make a dinner for them.They deserved to feel like nothing bad would ever happen to them, like all the other kids around them.Their innocence was shattered and ripped away.They were left with over whelmingfeelings of fear and anxiety that everyone they knew would die and they would be left alone.They played games constantly about people dying.They wanted to know who would take care of them if I died, if Grandma and Grandpa died, if all their aunts and uncles died too.What if they were the only one alive left in our family.Who would take care of them then?They buried every toy they played with and told me all the horrific ways these poor toys met their death.I was thankful that I had read a grief book* on children that explained that it was very normal for them to play these games and act out scenarios about death.It made it so I didn’t stop them from playing the games, understanding it was a normal part of their grief.That didn’t make it any easier for me to deal with!Every time they played the games I pictured my perfect husband being crushed between metal and his dead body in the ground.How could this be my life?I was too young to be a widow.When I thought of widows I thought of 80 year old women in a quilting guild.The kids cried every day for their daddy. And when I say cried everyday, I mean sobbing, tears down their cheeks, uncontrollable crying every single day for 600+ days. I cried everyday too.
I was worried that they would forget their dad so we started some traditions the day he died that would stay with us through out their lives. When we pray we always say, "Please bless that daddy will watch over us." I would tell “daddy stories” to them constantly. Daddy stories are fun stories of when he was alive, memories the kids had that I wanted them to hold on to and also stories from his childhood. I remember when it was around the 4 or 5 year anniversary Jordy saying to me as we were driving to one of Jake's memory day dinners..."Shouldn't we be learning about Daddy right now?". That is the perfect way of describing how I was raising them. Jordy was 18 months old so any memory he has of his dad...he has to learn.
They loved the story of our families last cattle drive while Jake was alive. My family had come down with horses and 4-wheelers to help us drive our cows from the ranch up onto the mountain where our summer range was. It was a 3 day long event usually, lasting all day on a horse. My Grandpa Martineau was on his young, headstrong, misbehaving horse “Harley”. The horse was difficult to ride and very stubborn. My Grandpa was in his late 70’s at the time...with a heart of a 20 year old. Age wouldn’t stop him from anything he wanted to do. Well Harley was becoming a bigger problem as the minutes went by. Jake noticed my Grandpa struggling and also knew there was no way grandpa would ask for help. Jake rode his tired-out horse up to Grandpa and asked if he wouldn't mind trading him for a while to give his horse a break from running up and down the mountain keeping all the cows and calfs together. My Grandpa jumped off that horse and was glad to “help” Jake out. Jake jumped on Harley in all his sexy cowboy glory and “threw the spurs to him”. Harley jumped and bolted into at the new rider and tried to throw Jake several times. Jake rode Harley like a true rodeo champion and ran that horse nearly to death. They went up and down the mountain through every brush, briar and tree he could find. Jake was sexiest on a horse and it still thrills me to think of him that way. (I left that part out when I told the kids of course) When Harley had nothing left in him Jake offered to switch horses back with my Grandpa. Exhausted, Harley was very well behaved after that experience.
This is my Grandpa Martineau, my Dad, and Jake on our last cow drive!
It's also one of my favorite pictures of them!
I remember my sister Lyndsee, coming over one evening and when it was time to put the kids to bed she offered to do it for me.It had been over a year since Jake had died.I was downstairs in the kitchen. After several minutes she came down from tucking Josh in and started crying, “I don’t know how you can go through that every night.That just about killed me.” Every night we put Josh to bed he would ask for daddy stories. He slept in his "Daddy shirt" and hugged his "Daddy Bear"**. Then he would say his prayers begging with Heavenly Father to let Jesus come back to earth so his daddy could be alive again.Then he would cry and cry. As you would leave the room he would say, “Good night, I love you, I'll see you in the morning.” over and over and over.It usually averaged 30 times or more to soothe his separation anxiety. Every night it was the same routine for over 2 years.It was heart breaking every time.
Josh would make up songs about when Daddy would come back to life. Or just about the fact that his daddy was dead and he missed him so much. He had the same separation anxiety when he would talk to me on the phone or when I would drop him off at school. It was the routine of Bye, Love ya, over and over. I would say it back and he would say it again. It was exhausting and heart breaking, but he had to do it...just incase it was the last time he saw me. He knew. At four years old he knew that people leave the house and never come back. They have accidents and die. They get buried in the ground and all you have left of them is a faint memory, and a daddy bear.
It took us nearly two years to get into a children's grief center. The Sharing Place offered a place of peace, relief, and the security of knowing we were not alone on this path of loss. We stayed there for 6 years. We love them to this day. I will post more on this and the lessons that we learned from The Sharing Place that helped us understand death, and helped me learn how to better help my children grieve. There are very specific things you can do that will help...as well as things you should avoid. Look for these posts soon!
*What Children Need When They Grieve by Julia Wilcox Rathkey
**His daddy bear was the best gift given to me after Jake died. It's a bear with a clear plastic pocket on the tummy that you can put a picture of your loved one in. We were given 5 so we each could have our own. It's ten years later and all my boys still treasure them!
When we all think of Mother's Day, we think of it as a day to appreciate our mother's. A day that our children and spouse should appreciate us as mother's.
When I was a young mother before Jake died I LOVED Mother's Day. I had little tiny boys that were sweet, loving, and adorable. They loved me to pieces and I knew it. Jake was amazing at making me breakfast with the little ones "helping" him so they could bring me breakfast in bed. He would always give me a card filled with words of love and appreciation. He spoiled me the entire day...and I assumed that this was how all mother's spent their special day.
Jake and my little boys!
I went to church on Mother's Day in 2003 and had a conversation with some of the other more seasoned mother's. I was shocked to hear what they were saying about Mother's Day. They HATED it?!? Why? I asked in pure amazement! How in the world could anyone hate Mother's Day...especially if they were a mother? The list was a long one- "We come to church to hear all the things that we are failing in." Another mom told how her husband never even acknowledged the day. "My kids never do anything special." I also heard, "It's the same as every other day, it's just a reminder of how unappreciated I am as a mother."
Honestly, I was shocked. I was young so I am sure I just annoyed them with my "life is perfect and beautiful" attitude. I went home and thanked Jake for making my Mother's Day amazing every year while I told him of my earlier conversations.
I was able to enjoy 7 years of the perfect Mother's Day. After Jake died though, that all changed. I started to fear the upcoming day, knowing the pain I was going to feel. It would be my first of many Mother's Days without Jake to make it perfect for me. I wondered if my kids would see my grief and pain and feel bad that they couldn't take it away. Would it hurt them and make them feel like they failed me on Mother's Day?
I tried to make the best of Mother's Day but it was hard. It did hurt my heart, and I found myself understanding for the first time, that "seasoned mother's" have lived longer and had some bad experiences on Mother's Day to taint their feelings on the day that was created just to appreciate them. I didn't judge them as harshly and could understand why this day was hard for them.
For the last 10 years I have experienced many different kinds of Mother's Days. The first year I had Curtis in my life I had a similar Mother's Day to the one's I had previously experienced. I got my breakfast in bed made by my the man in my life with my little children helping. They made cards for me and spoiled me. For the last 7 years though, I haven't known what to expect. Some years have been great and other's have been hard. I have had times when I didn't get my breakfast in bed, and I wasn't spoiled all day. Years that I had felt like I wasn't doing a good enough job as a mom, on those Mother's Days I found myself in that bitter place thinking...I hate Mother's Day!
First year with Curtis.
It bothered me that I felt that way, but my feelings were hurt, and I wanted to feel appreciated as a mom. I didn't want to be reminded how everyone else was doing a great job and I was miserably failing my kids, with all the struggles of a step family.
In my search over the last several years to understand why so many women hate Mother's Day I came across a lot of good reasons...
There were women that never married and it is a reminder of their loneliness and the fact that they don't have any children. There are women with infertility issues that are reminded of all the babies they lost and their empty arms ache for the weight of a tiny infant. Women that have lost a child and feel the void of that child especially deep on this day.
My expectation of what Mother's Day should look like now is a lot more realistic than it was in my yearly years. As I started to think about Mother's Day this year I had a thought come into my mind that has changed the way I am going to view Mother's Day from this day forward.
Mother's Day is a day of appreciation...Right?
What if instead of solely looking for others to appreciate me... instead, as a mother, I appreciate and celebrate the amazing blessing that it is to be a mother! Instead of focusing on all the things I am doing wrong, and the ways I am "failing" my kids, I am going to recognize that I am doing my best, and I continue to improve each day. Instead of waiting for my kids to bring me cards of appreciation, I am going to write them cards of appreciation, letting them know how much I love them and how grateful I am to be their mother. Being a mother is truly my greatest blessing in this life.
There are many ways to be a mother even if you don't have children of your own. There are so many young mothers that need help and are overwhelmed. When Jake died I relied so much on my family. I needed all the help I could get. I have a dear sister whom I love that doesn't have children of her own. But for the last 10 years, she has given my children baths, made them dinner, cleaned up after the messes they make, kissed and bandaged their "owies", and loved them their entire life. She has loved them like a mother would, and my children love her as well. Everyone needs an Aunt Traci!
This Mother's Day I have decided that I am not going to wait to be appreciated. I am going to spend the day truly appreciating the fact that I have been blessed tremendously with 10 beautiful children. I am going to go out of my way to comfort the women that I know that have a good reason to dread this day. Not because they aren't getting breakfast in bed, but because they wish to have what so many of us take for granted. Children in our homes to raise.
My friend Jacy has a blog and she offered a challenge to write letters to women in our lives telling them what amazing women they are. I plan to take this challenge as well as write the letters to my children. Who's with me?!? Check out Jacy's blog post here...it will inspire you!
I know that if we are forgotten by our husband's or children...it will still hurt. The pain of the desire to do better may still be there. My hope is that if we change the way we view Mother's Day even just a little bit it could be a much better day for so many of us.
I hope that you all have a wonderful Mother's Day. You are all amazing and inspiring to so many people. I love all women and I am honestly grateful for the sisterhood I feel through this blog. May you have peace, love and appreciation in your heart this Mother's Day!
I'd like to thank my momfor all that she has done and for all that she has taught me. She has seen me through both the best times of my life and the worst times. She has always shown me love and kindness and I'll be forever thankful for her being in my life. She has been a great example of how to be a great mother.
Before Jake died I was really involved in a lot of different things. I was the Primary President(church leadership for the children's Sunday School), I was the PTA VP, I volunteered at the school to read with the first graders every week, I was the room mom for my son's class, I was teaching a boys tumbling class, coaching a boys soccer team (I don't know how and have never played soccer?!?), taking a painting class, in a clogging class and tap class, not to mention having 3 young boys and a husband to love and take care of.
I loved my life, and I was very happy. The last year before he died is when I started taking on too many things. I found myself never saying No to anyone...except my family. I thought I needed to do everything and be everyone for anyone that asked. I was very young and trying to do my best to be the kind of Mom, wife, church leader, and volunteer I thought I should be. I was stressed out all the time with scheduling all my different commitments. I found myself dreading things that I had originally really wanted to do. It was hard to enjoy the fun times because I was worried about the next thing was I needed to do.
The week before Jake died I was more stressed out than I had ever been. I had an issue with one of the church leaders I worked with that was very hurtful. I was regretting everything I had over committed myself too. (I've mentioned this phone call in my original post found here) I called my mom on Thursday Jan. 22, 2004 and told her all of my problems. She listened and offered advice about different things I was struggling with. At the end of the conversation she said, "I hope your weekend gets better." My response, "I don't know how it could get worse!" -The thought of those words leaving my lips still makes me shutter...I had no idea what was coming for me!
About 7 hours after that phone call I got a knock at the door. Four people that wanted to come inside, they needed to tell me that Jake had been killed at work...and things were about to get a lot worse!
After Jake died, I realized how trivial all the things I had been stressed about were. None...and I mean NONE of those things mattered. What mattered were mykids, Jake, my family, and my faith. That's it! That is the only thing that truly matters in this life! Yes, there are things we have to do. There are commitments that need to be made and people to serve. There are things to learn and see in this life, for sure. But, none of it is more important that the people we love!
How often do we dread the holiday's coming, because of the commitments we have made?
How often do we snap at our children because we are trying to make their class party games just perfect?
How often do we ignore our spouse's because we are busy planning something for someone else's family?
Do you say no to your family more often than you say no to the people asking for your time?
After Jake died I got out of everything I was involved in. I needed to grieve and I needed to move, but I learned a lesson that I try to keep with me, and sometimes need to remind myself of. We all need to serve, help, and volunteer. We don't however need to do everything! We can say no. Set your limits of what you can handle and still be a good mom and wife. Serving in my Church is important to me so that is something that I have continued to do throughout the last 10 years. I am careful to make sure that any extras I take on add a positive element in my life. (Including doing this blog and speaking.)
Don't spend energy on dreading the next thing...because most likely you are missing out on all the good things. Your kid's won't remember that there wasn't an Elf on the shelf, one less game at the class party, or any other insignificant thing you don't do. Every one of us is unique in our role as a Mother. You may be looking at your neighbor wishing you were more like her, a better cook, able to handle it "all" with grace, or throw a birthday party like her. She is probably looking at you thinking similar things, focusing on her weakness' and your strengths.Learn to accept yourself for who you are and what you are capable of...and KNOW that it is good enough!
I have found in life, that trials will come our way...people will die, they will get diagnosed with autism, they will have OCD breakdowns that are debilitating and heartbreaking, they will be born with genetic issues that will plague them for life, or any number of things that we can't control. These are the things that will bring us stress, sadness and heartache. Don't let the good things be the hard things. Even when these hard trials in life come, there is a way to find happiness and joy. (My thoughts on this is found here.)
If you are not loving your life...If you are stressed all the time with small things...If you dread the next thing coming...If you are thinking, "I don't know how it could get worse" then I urge you to step back and take a look at what you can eliminate. What can you simplify so that you can start loving your life again? It's time to take your life back, and start enjoying it again! Life is short...too short sometimes. Enjoy what you have, while you have it...because you never know when you might lose it and it's going to get "worse". Don't let life pass you by...enjoy living your life!
Photo of Cam and I on his field trip last week...that didn't stress me out;)
*This post is not at all meant to be judgmental or have anything to do with the typical "mommy wars"! I don't intend to minimize anyone's trials or struggles. This post is meant for each person individually. We are all different and have different levels of stress that we can handle. Some people love the "Elf on the Shelf"..and some hate it...there isn't one right way to be a mom. I just know that if it brings you joy and you love doing it...then DO IT!!! But, if it brings you stress, and makes you grumpy...then DON'T (and don't give yourself guilt over not doing it). I make no judgment on anybody's choices. This was a lesson that was important for me to learn, and may help someone else out there.
**I'm using the Elf of the Shelf to represent anything that we can choose to do...but don't have to do.