Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Heart Cries

This past week has been a roller coaster of emotions.  We traveled to Utah and are on a high with all our time with extended family.  We also hit a major low when we received word that my brother Seth and his family (plus one close friend, Caroline's sister, and another friend) were in a terrible car accident in Zimbabwe, Africa (they are just finishing up their first year of living in Zambia).  Though we filled our week with many fun activities, much of it was spent hovering by the computer and phone for updates on how each loved one was doing.  It was so nice to be with family during this time.

I’m posting a letter from my sweet parents, serving a mission for the LDS church in Fiji:

July 18, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

Some of you are very aware of the recent tragic auto accident Seth and Caroline were in, others of you may be learning of this for the first time. We wanted to give you all a brief update:
A few days ago, Seth and Caroline along with their children, Tommy (4 1/2 yrs) and Cali (1), Caroline’s younger sister, Katie (18yrs.), and 3 friends – including Seth’s best friend from Corvallis, Seth Wiggins, were all traveling by car from their home in Zambia to Zimbabwe. The driver fell asleep and the car rolled three times, crashing into a tree just at the front passenger seat where our Seth was seated. Though banged up, Seth Wiggins and the two other friends appear to have not been injured badly. Tommy was thrown from the car and had a concussion and cuts to his head, Cali seems to have been spared any serious injury, Caroline has a very serious cut on her foot, Katie has broken ribs and lung contusion along with a serious concussion and perhaps other undiagnosed injuries. Seth Sherry was critically injured with a broken neck and back (C-1 & C-6 vertebrae). As you can imagine, the care in a 3rd world country is lacking and compromised, particularly with Seth. Over a period of a day and half, it became clear that if Seth’s life and limb movement abilities were to be preserved, he would need to be flown to Johannesburg, South Africa which the insurance company did arrange and Seth Wiggins accompanied him on the flight (where he remains to give perfect care and attention to our Seth). Caroline and family stayed behind in a clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe (the capital) where they are now in the care of local LDS church members. All of them have been treated and released with the exception of Katie, but she now seems to be showing signs of improvement.
In South Africa, all exams and tests were redone and the injuries more specifically identified. Seth continues to have movement in feet and hands though his shoulders and arms above the elbow have diminished sensation and movement (this however, has improved over the last couple days – a very good sign). As of today, neurosurgeons are still discussing the best approach to stabilize Seth’s neck and back. The next step in doing so is critical and of immediate concern to prevent paralysis. As of this writing, we don’t know what course of action will be decided upon but it will likely happen in the next 24 hours.

There have been so many prayers, blessings, people in the right places, and miraculous help from LDS Church members in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. We appreciate your concern and prayers, they are deeply meaningful to us and important for Seth, Caroline and family. Between the physical injuries, time zone differences, challenges in long distant communication and getting accurate information, and the future unknowns, this is a terribly trying time but we trust in the Lord and pray for His watchcare to do what we cannot. We will update you all as we are able. Thank you dear friends for all you mean to us and our family.

Annie and Tom

Many of you have asked, like we have, “What can I do to help?” Because the distance is so great, there is little we can do besides pray and send our love. My sisters and I have set up a blog on their behalf where we are putting updates and graciously accepting donations to cover the immense costs that have already been incurred and those in the future, should that be something you would like to do. This is awkward for me, and we are not soliciting assistance but at the same time we gratefully acknowledge the interest and offers that have been made.

I echo my sister, Leah's words, "Each day there seems to be some sort of improvement, even if it’s small. My heart breaks into a million pieces though to see my brother in so much pain and in his current condition. Most of the time, I can keep it together, but there are lots of times where the weight of the situation hits me and the tears come. In Seth’s own words, “It is what it is, and it’s a miracle.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Scout Camp 2012

Both Alex and Tyler had the opportunity to go to scout camp this year.  They went at different weeks but to the same camp location, Camp Fife.
Alex's troop -- Alex has been the Deacon's Quorum President for about the past year and so was the senior patrol leader at camp.  He has really taken his responsibilities seriously and has learned to love all the boys.  He was a little tearful knowing this was his last activity with all of them since his birthday was right after camp.
 Since Alex has been to camp for several years he didn't need to complete any of the "boring" merit badges.  He loved working on his horsemanship merit badge.
 Alex was super excited when he found out that Kaleb Cox was taking the canoeing merit badge at the same time.

 Alex had a great time at camp!  He came home the night before it finished so we could head to Utah for him to attend EFY.
 Tyler attended Eleven Year Old Camp the first week of July.  They combined their troop with another group which ended up being really fun for them to get to know some new guys.
 He got to participate in an outdoor flag ceremony.
 I'm guessing this would be Tyler's least favorite part of the camp.  The heater had broken and so the water was 56 degrees -- not nearly warm enough for a boy that has no fat on him. 
 Shot Gun Shooting
 Bow and Arrow
 Map and Compass Merit badge
 There was even some time for games with some of the other troops.
Birch was able to come up for the evening of the first night and then stayed all day the next day.  Tyler loved having Birch with him.  Tyler passed off a lot requirements which was just what we were hoping he would be able to do.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


For the Fourth of July we had a quick and fun overnighter to Seattle, WA.  We stayed at the Homewood Suites in Tukwila.  I was super exited when I found this hotel online for several reasons.  They actually knew we were bringing eight people with us AND there were going to be enough beds for everyone plus it had two bedrooms (king in one room and the other room had two queens), full kitchen, large living room with pull-out couch, three tv's, and two full bathrooms.  To top all that off they provided a free dinner and full breakfast plus swimming pool/hot tub and basketball court all for $207.00.  It turned out to be a great hotel for our family!

 After chicken fajitas for dinner most of the kids jumped in the water or played basketball for a couple of hours.
 Nate, Coop, and Alysee would run back and forth from the swimming pool and then jump in the hot tub.
This is what I did for like an hour -- hold up Chloe's arm so she could "swim."  Chloe was in heaven!  Speaking of Chloe we had a sad (and a bit funny--only because of the outcome) happen shortly after we got to the hotel.  The kids were all running around like maniacs checking out the suite and channel flipping.  Alysee and I went out to the van to grab a few things while Chloe whimpered saying that she wanted to come along.  I told her to go back into the hotel since she didn't have any shoes on and we'd be back in a minute.  Next thing I'm cuddling next to my hubby on the couch, reading the newspaper and we both comment how nice and quiet it is.  Our romantic moment is interrupted by the phone ringing.  I answer the phone and the front desk guy asks me if we are missing a child.  I say, "No, they are all watching tv in the other room."  "Are you sure you are not missing a little girl with a bright yellow cast?"  "WHAT!!!" -- oh, that girl I didn't know we were in charge of keeping track of ALL our kids.  Birch runs to the front desk (because I am too embarrassed) to claim our lost child that apparently had been wandering around the hotel complex SCREAMING everyone in the family's names.  A nice lady picked her up and took her to the front desk so she could be reclaimed by her looser parents.  The good thing...she still had her hospital bracelet on so they front desk folks could verify her name.  As you can imagine, I tried to avoid all eye contact with all hotel staff the rest of our stay.  Chloe seems unscathed by the mishap though her parent's shrunk a couple of centimeters.
 Forth of July morning we headed to downtown Seattle to Pier 57.  We just had to get a picture of Coop standing next to a Mini-Coop. 
 Our first stop was to the brand new Ferris Wheel on Pier 57.  It's only been open for five days so you can imagine the looooong time (plus it was a holiday).  
 The Ferris Wheel is pretty amazing and takes you up 200 feet into the sky and above the water.
We all tried our best to be patient for the hour and half that we were in line.  It was pretty chilly outside and after paying the large sum to ride the Ferris Wheel I felt pretty chilly inside : )  It was my first time on a Ferris Wheel so you can imagine how many times I told the kids that they better appreciate this expensive memory and not complain about the wind chill.

 The view was AMAZING from the top of the Ferris Wheel. 
 After our fifteen minute ride we walked to the Crab Pot and ate claim chowder and sour dough rolls while waiting for the downtown city bus.  We all climbed on the bus and got dropped off near the Safeco Field for the Mariner's game.  Back in February I got a great deal on tickets (eight tickets for $120 plus $40 in concession stand credit) that could be used at any game.  We thought what could be more American than going to a baseball game on the Forth of July.
 This little gem just about lost all her cuteness within about forty minutes of the game.  She was whining; I'm sure her previous late night didn't add to her joy in sitting in the stands watching a baseball game.  Finally after the sixth inning we headed out to cash in on our concession stand credits.  Chloe knew the moment we arrived at the game what she wanted -- sticky, nasty, blue cotton candy.  She loved every morsel!!
 The Mariners played against the Baltimore Orioles
Alex was so excited to go to the game even if the Mariner's didn't play so awesome most of the night.   The most exciting part of the game was the last half an hour.

 After getting food this girl remained happy the rest of the game -- she ate half a bag of kettle corn and plenty from a bucket of bottomless popcorn.
 Alysee loved the social part of the game and her vanilla milk shake.  I'm thinking that in the future made the boys will go to the game and the girls will go to the zoo.
The bus ride back to our car was a quiet one.  Chloe fell asleep and was out like a light.  Birch actually carried her to the car and she slept another hour into our trip home.

It was a super fun trip, though we didn't feel like we did as much celebrating for the Fourth of July as we usually do.  In fact, we sent all the kids to bed by 9 pm and skipped out on the fireworks all together.  So are we totally lame parents...first we loose our child AND don't even know it and then we don't take them to see the fireworks?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Angels Amoung Us

It's hard to believe that a year has passed since we received the nightmare call that Mark Cox had passed away.  Time has made it easier to talk about but I'm not sure that time has really lessened the sadness that we will no longer make new memories together.
Our trip together to Hawaii in 2009 will remain a sweet memory and a reminder that you never know how many tomorrows you have so cherish each day to its' fullness.

Saturday, June 30th (Mark's Angel Day) started with an early morning trip to the Columbia River Temple with Brooke and a couple of other close friends.  What a wonderful way to be reminded that families can be together forever!
Shortly after our friend's almost two year old passed away last year I read this quote "Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards" by Soren Kierkegaard.  The words ring loud in my head and my heart has been softened in knowing that someday we will understand God's plan for us a little better.
After returning from the temple both of our families loaded up the kids with lunches in hand and headed to Boulder Cave in the Wenatchee Forest.  We have done this hike several times over the years with our two families.  Birch got to remember what it was like to have a baby in toe with Eli Cox as his partner in crime.  Chloe did a great job (one direction) with her new highlighter yellow colored cast. (side note:  this past week when Chloe went in for her weekly xrays; it showed that the divot that the doctor had intentionally made in her cast after the surgery to help keep her ulna bone in place was starting to form around her arm too much.  The doctor decided to take off the cast and put a new one on and used a piece of wood to flatten the bottom edge to her arm to help encourage the divot-ed part to flatten itself.  Then the cast tech guy added this hanging ring thing to her cast with casting material.  Chloe now has that black nylon cording around her neck to help encourage gravity to do its' magic on her arm.)

Alex, Kaleb, and Tyler are like three peas in a pod.  Kaleb always wears that nasty shirt when he comes over since we are OSU Beaver fans!
We made it!!!  You can see the mouth of the cave behind us.  Somehow the kids all ended up with the flashlights so us adults were lucky to follow behind a fast moving child and not trip on the slick rocks below.
What good lookin' kids we have!
Now that is a whole lot of kids!  I have thanked the Lord many times that our two families were joined together eleven years ago through Brooke's parents living in our ward; from there our families became intertwined.
Brooke, Eli, Chloe, and I headed down to the trail-head to change a poopy diaper while Birch stayed back to hike into the waterfalls.  The kids all loved hiking behind the waterfall and came back a bit wet.
Kaleb made this sweet bow and arrow for Coop that was 100% el' natural.
Daring Nate
Throughout the day (really the year) we had lots of time to reflect.  I have grown to love this quote!  I had it cut in vinyl and have it on our office wall.
Mark's casket
I read a talk this week that really impacted me; the words above are from the talk.
Brooke and her five chillins' have been a beacon of hope and strength to our family (and many others).  Even at Mark's memorial service Brooke had the strength to speak and share what was in her heart.
When I think of Brooke and the kids the word that pops into my head is R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.E.  I'm not saying that haven't grieved or mourned over not having their daddy and husband here on earth to cuddle with or help them with their homework or wrestle with, etc...  But they are still creating memories..new ones that sparkle with life.  Brooke took the kids camping -- by HERSELF (that deserves Mother of the Year award in my book), they've started new traditions, and most of all stayed close to the Lord so that in return they have been able to be guided by their Angel Dad.
Cox Family - October 2011

All day long we prayed that the weather would hold up for the evening party.
The kids were all bouncing around the field like it was afternoon, even though the party didn't start until 8:30 pm.
Love this lady!  I truly feel that I have sat at the feet of a disciple of Christ this year and have learned so much from Brooke.  I have always been bolstered by her positive energy but in addition I have come closer to Christ through Brooke's example.
Late night partiers!
Finally at 10 pm it was dark enough to light the lanterns.  At that very moment the wind started blowing.  The lanterns were whipping around and not one made it in the air.  Most burned holes through the sides of the lanterns.  None were able to fill with enough of the hot air to make them rise.  It was disappointing and a bit anti-climatic.
The true purpose of the party was fulfilled, though.  We were all surrounded by those that love the Cox family and able to celebrate Mark!  

While at the temple Brooke was sharing with us what she has learned this year.  That got me thinking as well.

I've learned:
  • to live today for you may not have a tomorrow
  • express your love daily to your family
  • take LOTS of pictures and videos
  • that I can act as the Lord's hands
  • it is better to always talk openly about a loved one that has passed on; it keeps their memory alive and the communication line open
  • it's okay to be angry and not understand the "whys" as long as it doesn't over take my spirit
  • music soothes the soul
  • to be prepared for the future so fear is replaced with peace
  • to create with grief...art heals
  • those on the other-side are still very much apart of our lives
  • friends can make all the difference
  • food can help heal the soul
  • people are generous and sometimes just need to be asked
  • that when someone dies it is better to say something rather than recluse yourself because you don't know what to say or you fear it will be the wrong thing
  • kids are resilient but they still hurt
  • everyone deals with grief differently
  • that everyone wants to be loved, cuddled, and told they are pretty -- no matter how old you are
  • sometimes you just need a good cry
  • that random things remind you of someone that has passed on
  • the Lord loves all his children and desires for them to be happy
  • hope, love, and joy are just around the corner
I feel so blessed to have had the Lord guided my hands many times this year.  I pray that I may live my life in a way that the Lord will be able to continue to use me to lift others.
Here is a little video that I put together to commemorate Mark's Angel Day.
Click here if you can't view video:  http://youtu.be/mdNw9lS6lqs

**All nature photography in this blogpost and video are from the talented Kimberly Greenfield.  To see more of her amazing work go to:   http://agreenfieldphotography.com/blog/