Friday, January 23, 2015

Mom's Best Friend

There are two types of people in the world; those who understand the true reason God gave us dogs, and those who don't.  Simple. True.
Dogs are great hunters and protectors.  They are loyal.  They are smart.  But those who have truly loved a dog know that their greatest character trait is unconditional love.  My husband may grow tired or annoyed at me, my kids may scream, "I hate you" (which I'm sure has only happened to me)  and I may be a crappy daughter or daughter-in-law sometimes, but my dog Shade loved me everyday, every time, and always.  When I got home, she greeted me with joy.  Everytime-no exceptions.  When I was sad, distraught, lonely, forgotten, Shade made me feel like the most amazing, best person in the world.  I never left a room without her following me, laying down at my feet, and staying at my side.

My first miscarriage was at 14 weeks.  I was literally in complete depression, watching "P.S. I love You", eating Puffy Cheetohs, drinking Pepsi, and wallowing in a pile of loathing self-pity.  And curled up next to me; my best friend.  When I was finally pregnant with our first child, Shade could tell this would change her life.  She seemed worried, nervous, and stayed even closer to me, almost watching each step I took.  Bringing home my oldest daughter Blake was an adjustment for all of us, including Shade, but she never once treated our baby as anything less than precious... something to protect and watch out for.  As our family grew, our dog's heart grew to, watching and taking care of each new member of the family.  When they wanted to go outside, I felt safe knowing their big black lab babysitter would be with them.  At our farm while I ride horses,  the girls would play in the sandbox or ride their tractor and their protector would keep an eye on them as she roamed around the pasture, looking for lost tennis balls.

At my Aunt's cabin, located high in the La Salle Mountains, I could let the kids wander all about the mountains, as long as they could see the cabin and as long as their dog was with them.

People who question why I let a big dog live inside my house will never understand the role she plays in my family, and not just in increasing the times I vacuum.  

This is why.  The comfort, the joy, the peace of mind having a dog in your home offers is inmeasurable for a mother of children.
I loved that Shade could enjoy any activity and make it that much more fun for myself, my husband, and my children.  Her love and joy for life gave me a love and joy for life.

She loved riding in cars, going anywhere, because it meant she was with us.  She loved us so much she would always always choose being with us over being away from us.  That is love.  That is true friendship.

 Today we had to say goodbye to my best friend for nearly 9 years.  Cancer is a bitch.  But I will never regret opening my home and heart to her.  She loved me unconditionally.  On days I yelled at her, forgot her, left her home all day long; she still loved me and wanted to be with me the second I walked through that door.  I could leave my baby in the crib and run two doors down to the school to pick up my kids knowing that my dog was home, watching and protecting the things most precious to me.
After we said goodbye, we read this book by Cynthia Rylant.  It describes all about how a dog deserves heaven, and what that heaven will be like for them.  A sweet, heart-wrenching, precious memory I will have forever... reading this to my family with tears rolling down our faces, imagining Shade playing with Paige, Zip, Buck, River, Duke, and Wags... All our dogs that have gone before her.
 The girls wrote notes to put in the book... the note from Blake says, "Shade... I hope you have fun in heaven.  I love you."

 Our last two days with Shade have been tough, but beautiful.  These children and their mom and dad will never forget their best friend Shade.

I miss the sound of her nails on my hardwood floor, following me from room to room, checking up on the kids, laying under my feet.
But what will be the hardest will be coming home to an empty house, with no one there to greet me.

I keep asking myself why I would ever do this again, it is so hard to say goodbye.  But then I remember how dogs love unconditionally, how children need a dog to play with, and I need a dog to trust and love and to be my best friend.  Maybe, sometime, we will hear the sounds of paws on our floors again.  But they will never replace Shade, they will simply fill another space in our hearts.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

You is kind, You is Smart, You is Important

I am a book junkie- it's a problem.  I read everything.  I read while in the bath, while blowing my hair, while working out on a treadmill, while my kids play in the sandbox, I read.  I read when I should be sleeping because when else can I finish my book?

One of my favorite quotes from any book I ever read is this,  "You is kind, You is smart, You is important."  From Kathryn Stockett's book, "THE HELP", a maid named Aibileen Clark says this daily to the small child she is raising.  And it has stayed with me years later, millions of written words later, this small simple sentence with poor grammar still makes my grow heart warm.

I read this book for the first time when I had a two year old baby and I had just miscarried again at 14 weeks.  I was devastated, depressed, and feeling so frustrated.  I wanted another baby to add to my family, and I kept dwelling on my losses.  But as I learned to love Aibileen and Minny as so many who have read this book, I was struck by my incredible blessings.  I had a beautiful daughter who brought me incredible joy.  This was something so many people struggle for and wish for and I had Blake, and she was mine.  I decided then and there that no matter how many children I had, I would teach them each that they were kind, important, smart, and loved.

I started making a more conscious effort to praise her, not incessantly and to the degree that she believes she is infallible, perfect, and deserves a small crown upon waking every morning.  But I wanted her to know my love was constant and that she was a good smart person.  Not a perfect person, but an important person.

Once when she was about three and I really got mad at something she did, I lost my temper (shocking, I know).  At the end of lengthy talk about why her behavior was completely unacceptable, she looked at my with watery eyes and tear-stained cheeks and she asked, "Do you still love me?"
Firmly, clearly, I responded, "Blake, no matter what you do, how many bad choices you make, and how sad I am, I will always love you."  But her fear shook my parenting core.  I realized I needed to use both the positive and negative times to reaffirm that she is a good, kind, smart person whom I love.  When I am proud of her, I try not to praise the behavior but her character, focusing on the beautiful person behind said accomplishment.  When I am disappointed in her, I try to focus on the good, kind person who made poor choices and who I am sure feels terrible (even when she doesn't).

There is nothing more refreshing to be around than someone who recognizes the special gifts of their children.  Notice I didn't say their accomplishments or trophies- I am not talking about the mom who is constantly using her child's early milestones as bragging rights for a superior gene pool!  But the mom or dad who sees something special and unique in their child and embraces and loves it.

My husband and I just returned from a Disneyland trip (amazing) and my dad and mom came with us.  My dad snapped this picture of my middle child that describes her perfectly. (This was taken during the California Adventure Evening Parade and I recommend everyone who goes there partakes in the Parade- PRICELESS)
 This is my Callie.  She is driven by emotion, and it always shows.  She will be the kindest friend, most empathic person I think I will ever know.  She is a beautiful soul that Heavenly Father sent to our family and I will always treasure her kindness and her openness to the world and it's beauty.  She sometimes feels each emotion so strongly she worries how what she said might affect the person to whom she is speaking.  One of my favorite Callie quotes is when she tells me hates me because moments later I know what will follow through her sobs.  "I don't hate you Mom. I love you so much!"

This is my Blake.  She came to us with an innate sense of confidence and assurance in her success.  She is driven, focused, and ready to take on the world.  She believes she can do anything, whether it is learn to play the violin, throw a boomerang, and ride her horse all by herself.  She loves teaching and sharing what she knows; it is one of her greatest gifts.  Her ability to learn and memorize things astounds me.
My baby Logan is special for so so many reasons.  He has a loving sweet spirit and he lights up any room he is in.  He makes his family complete.  Though occasionally more reserved than his predecessors, he loves experiencing new things.  I think he will always have a great passion for life.  He will be my adventurer.

I want to be the kind of person who reminds my children often that they are kind, smart, and important.  But I need to be the kind of person who tells them why.  As children of God first long before they were children of mine, they were blessed beyond measure with gifts of grace and love.  They have unmeasurable potential in life and in eternity.  They are heavenly spirits whom I have been given to raise and to nurture.

I hope I can always remember, especially on the hard days, the amazing spirits that reside in my home and treat them as such.

When they are screaming, fighting, tired, grumpy, and refusing to eat the many meals I prepared, I hope I can still find moments to let them know, "You is kind, You is Smart, You is Important."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Keeping Artax out of the Mud

This is Wyoming.  He is my only white horse... or he was a white horse. Before you call for Animal Control, he is healthy and happy.  Just very very dirty.  And he has dreadlocks, though those are blamed more on the fact I just had a baby then the muddy corral.  Wyoming is beautiful, truly beautiful.
See... stop dialing Animal Control- My babies are healthy and happy and (most of the time) clean!

But when it rains in February, and stays 40 degrees he gets so muddy you can't tell he is white.  He looses everything that made him beautiful and he looks like some swamp thing rising.  The worst part; no matter how much you brush him, clean him, even bathe him... if it is muddy in his corral, he will be brown within the day.  It is actually more of a greenish brown-I will leave you to your imagination as to why.  It is the worst part of owning a white horse.  He can't seem to avoid the mud and it shows on his beautiful coat so much more pronounced than his four other roommates.

My daughter Blake starts kindergarten next year.  Kindergarten.   After the immunization records, original birth certificates, social security cards, blood type, hair and urine sample (just kidding) I almost got her enrolled.  (Almost because apparently my driver's license and my car registration, both of which have my current address on them, doesn't count as proof of residency because they weren't issued in the last 60 days ??!!?!)   Well, once the fingerprint scans and blood sample comes back, maybe I can finally enroll my 5 year old... in public education.  But I digress.

I was in the school office registering her for class when a group of schoolchildren walked by, doing completely normal childlike behavior.  There was a little pushing, teasing, and some kid in the back of the line was hopping like a bunny rabbit.  And watching that... the panic set in.  
I am sending my 5 year old out into the world where I will start to loose my influence.   Next year and each year she gets older I will loose more and more of the time we spend together.  Right now I am the person she spends the most time with, by far.  I am the voice she listens to, believes completely, and trusts totally.  I take this responsibility very seriously and try to answer her endless questions as well as I can.  (Even though sometimes my only answer is, "Let's google it.") She is my white horse, clean pure, wholesome.  And I am so worried when I sent her out into the world she will be literally in a muddy corral, hearing words and topics that I don't ever want her to hear.  She will be around kids with different morals and different home lives and I won't be there to step in, to watch over their shoulders while they play at the park, and make sure no one is teaching Blake something they shouldn't.  I won't be able to keep her completely clean.
I picture Artax in The Neverending Story, a beautiful horse who, surrounded by the Swamps of Sadness, succumbed to the mud all around him.  I remember Atreyu doing everything possible to save his horse.  This is the first time I remember crying in a movie, and it was heartbreaking.  (followed closely by Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows-- apparently my parents wanted all of my siblings and I to be protective of our animal friends).  As a parent, I worry about when I will be a figurative Atreyu, trying to force my children out of the mud and filth of the world... and I won't be successful.

I have a brother who has made some poor decisions in his life and has struggles daily with addiction. Even though he was raised in the same home, by the same parents, in the same religion, he chose a different path than me.  This is my biggest fear as a parent; to raise my children to be faithful, independent, and strong and then sit back and watch them choose a path that will not bring them joy. 

But just as I know that my parents couldn't have prevented my brother from making the choices he made, I know I can't force my children to stay out of the mud.  My brother and my children and myself all have agency and we will all choose our path.  Joseph Smith, the Prophet spoke of this very thing as he commented on how he could help lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  He said, "I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves."

I will follow that counsel, I will teach correct principles in my home.  Even though I am sending Blake (and eventually Callie and Logan) out into the world, I will continue to teach her daily, hourly, moment to moment, that she is a child of God.  I will teach her that even when her beautiful white coat gets muddy, she can REPENT and be forgiven of her sins... because she has a Savior.  I will teach her to have faith in God and in His plan for her.  I will use every opportunity to teach her and show her what my faith and my testimony does for me.  What she believes now may just be repeating what her mother and father believes, but I hope and pray that she will begin to gain her own testimony of her Savior and His Atonement.

This last Sunday Blake gave a talk on the Savior.  This is a clip of part of it...

I am so proud of her and her joy in talking in church.  She works hard to memorize her talks and HATES it when I help her.
I hope she can let the words she speaks sink in and she can truly come to know her Savior.

Callie, my second oldest, is one of the smartest children I have ever been around.  She picks things up so quickly, even when I am not teaching her directly.  She is my sponge.  Whenever Blake has a talk or her monthly scripture to memorize, it won't be long before you hear little Callie quoting it as she walks around.  I had to share this too!  I had to prompt her a few times, probably because the camera was rolling.

As a mother and a daughter of God I know I have a responsibility and a duty to help my children know their Savior.  I want them to know that when their coats get dirty, as all of ours inevitability will, they can turn to their Savior.  Even as submerged as Artax, they can be saved, cleaned, and made pure. I won't be alone in pulling them out of the mud... no matter how far they fall, they can turn to their Savior and be saved.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Grown-ups Can't Teach Grown-ups!!

My oldest daughter Blake is amazing... literally amazing at some pretty crazy sports.  She competes in little BMX races, rides a motorcycle with no training wheels, and is on a little ski team.  She rides a pony and a horse (almost) by herself.  This sounds like we spoil our children horribly (which might be true) but it is all possible because of our four awesome grandparents.  They provide opportunities for our children that they normally would never get to do.
Tommorrow is Luke's day off, and since he doesn't get a day off next week, we want to make the most of it.  I told Blake we were going to go family skiing, with the 2 year old and the 5 year old (hopefully not the baby ;)).  I also told her we were going to have Grandma Bonnie come skiing with us.
She got a big grin on her face, but then it changed quickly to a frown. "Does she ski?"
Not really, to be honest.  She had a few brief runs before Blake was born but hasn't really skied since I was young.  "She skis some, but she might need some help."
"Perfect," Blake said.  "Grownups can't teach Grownups... so I will teach her to ski."

Matter-of-fact very literal Blake has made a statement she believes is a truth and moves on. Conversation over.

I almost corrected her...almost.  And then I realized she might be right.  Maybe not about the skiing but about so much else.

I learn so much from my children daily; things I either didn't know or things I have forgotten.  The joy of a swing set at the park...pure happiness from a few minutes of swinging in the air.  Those soft quiet moments when they wrap their arms around you and whisper, "I love you," for no reason at all.  When was the last time I did that to someone...just because?

Watching your children's innocence and joy as they experience something new literally opens your 'child' eyes you thought you closed somewhere around your 3rd semester at college.  You see what beauty is around us.  You feel the slimy skin of a fish for the first time, all over again.  The thrill of a roller coaster which you would have once said was too small and boring is reignited as you ride next to your screaming child.

My husband, the Anti-Disneyland Man of this or possibly any generation, is now excited and ready to take his children to Disneyland!  A money-making, evil corporation that just forces parents to stand in lines and give all the money from this month's paycheck (let's be honest... a couple of paychecks)... has now turned into Elsa's Castle where he would love to take his girls.

I have learned not to care so much if my socks don't match or if I want to eat cereal for dinner.  I have learned about what a blessing it is to be asked to speak in church.  Everytime anyone talks in church, we hear about how they didn't want to do it... they were nervous, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed etc. Even when I get asked, I wonder how I am going to get my children dressed and ready and at church 20 minutes early.  And I will, of course, have to be ready. Really ready, like with makeup and curled hair READY!
 But last week Blake was asked to give a little talk in her Church Primary Class and her immediate unscripted unprompted response.  "YES! YES! YES!  Let's go write it!"

As a mother, I was thinking about how I now had to help write a talk, memorize it, and then repeat it 3 million times to my daughter so she can memorize it. When we brush our teeth, when we drive to and from preschool, before we read scriptures at bedtime... Literally repeating it time and time again so she could be ready.  But Blake, she was just excited.  Grown-ups really can't teach Grown-ups.
Sometimes all we need to be happy and enjoy our lives is to listen, really listen, to the words our children say.
My husband gets home about 2 hours after "ZERO HOUR".  You know that time of night when you are cooking dinner and your kids are screaming, and the babies hungry, and you think, "This would almost be manageable with another pair of hands."  Well, most nights I push through this dreaded hour and finally make it to MIRACLE MILE= BeDTiME! After potty, teeth, scriptures, books, water,  I close my children's door and sit on my LAZY-Boy afraid to fall asleep because I am still holding a baby and I might drop him if I do. :)  Just kidding; hopefully that would never happen.  But my husband comes through the door, and instead of greeting him as I should, I grunt something unintelligible about how dinner may or may not be in the fridge, and ask half-listening how his day was.  And he grunts back, "Fine. It was okay..."  blather like that.
Yep, sad to say, that is often my reaction to my husband coming home.  When I don't make it to the MIRACLE MILE and my kids are still running around when Luke gets home the response is very different.  If I was smart and I was learning from what my children were teaching me, I would be standing at the top of my steps with them, cheering and jumping up and down.  I probably wouldn't try to jump the 6 steps to our splint-entry landing where he catches the girls because I wouldn't want to be a widow; I'm afraid if I jumped that far into his open arms it might literally kill him!  But I would show my excitement that he was home.  I could give him a REAL kiss, instead of a tap on the cheek he sometimes gets if he leans close enough to me on the LAZY-BOY, and I could give him my undivided attention and ask him sincere questions about his day.  Let's be honest, he would probably appreciate it if I was still wearing a bra and if I had tried to wipe the spit-up off my arm and neck.  Maybe grown-ups can't teach grown-ups... But I could learn a lot about love from my kids.

Every time my two year old tells me she "loves me more than the leaves on the trees"  in her little cute voice it reminds me why I love to be a parent.  But I go to the park with my friends and complain about potty training or fighting or why my child hasn't eaten a single vegetable in two months (yep...that happened) I loose sight of the joy and the fun aspects of being a parent.
So even though I sometimes hate it, I will keep repeating the church talk over and over, and I will take my children to swing on the swings, and I will watch them learn to ride their bikes so slowly I must keep my feet down like Fred Flintstone to keep at their pace,  I will let my kids teach me about life.  I will embrace life with my 'child' eyes. Because grown-ups can't teach grown-ups.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Peel of an Orange

Today was a stellar moment as a mother--  My children were invited to a Frozen Birthday party!  So cute... and I clearly forgot to read the fine print...  You know those times when you grab the invite, type the date and address into your phone, and put it on the fridge to be lost in the abyss of stick figure drawings, finger paintings, and and notes that can only be translated by 5 year old eyes.  
Well, because I didn't pay closer attention to the details, my children showed up at a party 20 minutes away from our house without their princess dress.  They were the only ones... I was so embarrassed and disappointed in myself.  I didn't have time to run home and get them dresses.  I just had to leave.  
 As I was driving home, that horrible guilt narrative was playing in my mind.  I was picturing my children in the corner, crying, so sad they weren't included.  I was picturing them feeling left out or picked on.  I knew it wasn't a big deal; and yet it was.  They should have been clothed as princesses, and I felt I had sent them out unprepared.
The reason I couldn't be an awesome though late mother-of-the-year, and return to save the day with princess dresses,  was I had 8 young girls coming to my house for an activity.  In my church, I work as a leader for activities for girls 8 to 11.  Today as I was rushing home, stressing about my non-princess dress wearing girls, I knew I needed to prepare an object lesson for my activity.  Through the help of Pinterest and a small adaptation, I stumbled upon the lesson of the orange.

I put an orange in a clear glass vase and it floated.  We talked about the peel being a protection and a shield for the orange, and by extension, a protection and a shield for us.  I took a second orange and begun peeling, using it as an example of how we can make ourselves vulnerable to the outside world by not being prepared spiritually.  Each peel piece removed was shown as a hole in our spiritual armor.  When placed in the water, the peeled orange sinks.
After the activity as I was cleaning up, I thought of my two dress-less girls.  They were unprepared for their princess party, but I had sent them out into the world with a much more important covering; the peel of an orange.  They both know they are children of God.  We talk about it, pray about it, sing about it.  They both are told loudly and often that they are smart, kind, and good.  Before they leave to play, I try to remind them to be a good friend.  I am teaching and will continue to teach them to not follow the crowd but to be themselves.  I sometimes fear for them and how others will treat them, but I hope I am teaching them how to treat others.  My favorite book is, "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?"  by Carol McCloud and we read it often.  My kids will comment, "Mom, I filled their bucket,"  when they were kind to another person.
I want to raise strong, independent, faithful children who know their Savior.  I want to raise children who are kind.  They may not be dressed appropriately at all times... They may have an occasional messy ponytail, or an extra skirt over their clothes that clearly doesn't match, or sparkly church shoes at the park, or a dragon cape, but my hope is that they will be prepared.  They will have their peel of an orange to help them float; to protect them from the world.  They will be dressed with much more than a princess costume;  they will be wear their armor, be protected, and they will float.

Sidenote:  When I got my girls from the party, I asked how it was, and I apologized for forgetting to read the whole invitation.  Blake, my 5 year old looked at me and said,  "What are you talking about?"  I, of course, was still picturing the traumatized girls crying in the corner because their mean mom forgot their dresses.  When I explained about how the invitation said to wear princess dresses and we, well....didn't, she said, "Mom I didn't care.  They had a piƱata!"  
Yep... That's my girl.  We may not always be on time or dressed appropriately; but give us some candy and a baseball bat and we will be happy!

A Giraffe Two People Must Carry

This is Spots.  He arrived for Christmas.  He was a special last minute request from my 5 year old girl Blake.  She told Santa she wanted, "A giraffe two people must carry."  Unfortunately, that day mom wasn't listening all that well.  Two days before Christmas she told her Grandpa want she really wanted for Christmas was this Giraffe so big that two people must carry it.  Grandpa made a few calls, used his special connections with Santa, and Spots arrived Christmas morning.  I don't have a big house and he takes up too much room, and I think we have celebrated about 10 birthdays already for him and it's only March.  But my girls love him.  He is groomed, carried around (with two people-of course) and has become a fixture in our home.

 Callie loves doing his hair and making him wear all her jewelry.  Spots never complains.
But why, do you ask, did I name my blog after the giraffe?  I am in the midst of parenting woes, and maybe I am sleep deprived and crazy.  Maybe tomorrow I will look back and say, "Why did I name my blog after a spotted giant giraffe?"  But today, it made sense, and more importantly, it made me smile.
I have come to the startling conclusion that parenting sucks. (sorry mom! -She hates that word)  But it does... It is lonely, hard, completely unrewarding, smelly, exhausting...etc.  My 4 month old baby won't stop screaming, my 2 year old who is completely potty trained for over a year just peed all over my kitchen floor, and my 5 year old thinks it is appropriate that all play eventually ends up as saber-tooth tigers and someone is going to die. Yep... sucks.
My husband works a million hours in the winter and I feel like I am barely surviving, eating chicken nuggets way more than is allowed by my pediatrician, constantly wondering if I brushed my teeth that day, and tired of my children telling me how fun it is when dad finally gets a day off.
I want to run away-move to Costa Rica and have my children visit every other day with a supervised nanny.  I feel like I am literally trying to carry a giraffe all by myself.  He weighs too much but I keep trying to lift with my legs, make something happen.  I've been to the gym in my past life... I know how to lift correctly :)  I feel like the giraffe occasionally turns to look at me with a face that says, "Seriously... there is no way you can do this.  I am way too big for you."  I ignore his snide looks and keep pushing, but to no avail.  Occasionally he takes a great step on his own and I think I am succeeding and then suddenly, he stops, placing all his weight on me as if I am a tiny giraffe chair.  Of course, to my left and right mothers with more children and more on their plate seem to be miraculously carrying their giraffes with one finger on the way to the gym, drinking a green smoothie that they pinned on Pinterest.  And I am there... alone... pushing this giraffe even though it is impossible for me to carry alone.
But then something wonderful happens... a miracle...  Somebody steps in to help.   Somebody with yummy green leaf fronds comes to help, bribing my giraffe in the right direction.  They lift the front end and I lift the back and we get the giraffe moving!
Last week my mother helped watch my kids when I was nursing a neck injury, and my hubby had the flu.  And then he gave it to my children.  And my baby stopped nursing... and I was absolutely done.  And my mom helped me carry my giraffe.  She took me to and from the hospital with my 2 year old flu baby in the car with her, and spent the two hours she waited for me driving all over nowhere so she wouldn't wake her up.  Then she collected all my children and kept them the entire day, while I occasionally checked on them from her bed.  I couldn't carry my giraffe alone that day and I got helped when I needed it.
This last month has been crazy and Luke and I forgot to celebrate Valentine's Day (I know; it's March).  So Monday came and a friend offered to watch my kids for a few hours... all of them...even the screaming baby.  After a romantic outing, we went to pick up the kids and she called to say she was keeping them.  OVERNIGHT!
I SLEPT TIL 7:45!!!  I took a bath!  I shaved my legs!!!!  Somebody was helping me do the seemingly impossible... She helped me carry my giraffe.
And every time someone swoops into help, like my dad taking my 5 year old to the Lego Movie because everyone else was sick, they remind me that I am not alone.  Parenthood may suck; But I have never ever loved anything more.  And each time someone helps me, or I get the opportunity to help them, I am reminded that we are not alone.
Not only does it repair my trust in humanity and remind me I am human, it also reminds me that I have a Savior who is always helping me carry my load.  I have a strong testimony that Jesus Christ is my literal Savior and He is walking beside me, carrying my load, and most importantly, carrying me.
I AM NOT ALONE.  The giraffe is not too heavy; I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father and He LOVES ME.  I am a strong independent intelligent woman (who should remember to brush her teeth more often) and I can accomplish great things.  I am the wife to my best friend and to an incredible husband and father.  I am the mother to three of God's greatest treasures and I wouldn't trade my life right now for any beach in Costa Rica...Ever.  I even love my giraffe.