Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Aaron !!!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Happy 32nd Birthday, Aaron !!! We love you !!!

It is so difficult to believe he is not here with us. We had a pretty nice day today. Of course we went to church and it was a good place to be on his birthday. The spirit was strong today and it brought peace and comfort.

I was asked a couple of weeks ago to speak to the Young Women at church today. The topic was Self Reliance. I talked some about becoming financially self reliant and how they can prepare now for what could happen in the future... because I am living the exact scenario that I never would have expected to be living. I also talked about spiritual self reliance and that each of us has to reach a point in life when we gain our own testimony of the gospel and of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Becoming self reliant spiritually is what helps us brave the storms of life and hold firm to the word of God... even through the most difficult of circumstances. When we are the ones experiencing the trials in our lives, we can't depend on the testimony of others to pull us through... we can rely on the strength of others to a certain degree, but we have to gain our own strength and rely on the strength of the Lord to pull us through.
When I was asked to speak, I knew that I was never going to feel completely ready to start speaking in public about the things to do with this trial, but I knew it would be a growing experience for me and I just needed to do it. I cried a lot of the way through it and I was nervous, but it was good for me and I hope it was helpful to those who were there.
I also shared my testimony in Sacrament meeting as well. It was the first time since Aaron passed away that I did that in this ward. I wanted to share the gratitude I have for the healing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I love Him and I am so grateful for Him. He loves us all more than we can even comprehend. I can't remember a time when I have been up in front of people bearing my testimony where I have felt the comfort and peace as much as I felt up there today. I felt more calm than I think I ever have while speaking to a whole congregation. I am sure the spirit had a lot to do with that, but I like to think that Aaron was there with me today. I felt blessed to feel so much peace as I spoke of things that means so much to me.

Here is the candle that has been burning all last night, all today, and will burn all today in remembrance of Aaron on his birthday.

Aaron Jr. holding a FORD cupcake that Sadie made.
After church, we went up to Aaron's parents house. Aaron's mom made a delicious dinner for everyone. It was a really nice evening. As you can see, Aaron Jr. still fits into the shirt I made last year with the photo of him and his Daddy on it. Hopefully it will fit him next year on Aaron's birthday. We will see. :)

I gave everyone a gift that I had been putting together for a while.
Last year, I gave them all the book of memories that I had collected from his friends and some family. This year, I copied Aaron's journals from him mission to Brasil. I copied them on my printer, then took them to get copied at a copy store, then I had them bound. I wanted the front of the journal to be a collage of photos of Aaron on his mission. So, I created the collage and had it printed and it was bound as the front cover of the journal. Here is the photo collage I put together:

Reading Aaron's journals from his mission last year right after he passed away was amazing. It was painful to read those words, but it was also very comforting. When Aaron and I wrote to each other from our missions, we got to know each other for the first time, and I was amazed at the man he was. I grew to love him through those letters and I am so grateful that I was blessed to become his wife. He had some amazing experiences on his mission and I hope when his family reads of those experiences, they can feel comfort and peace from the words Aaron wrote. I look forward to the day when Aaron Jr. can read the words written in this journal and get to know his Dad from his own words and grow closer to his Dad through reading those experiences.

Happy Birthday, Menino !!! I love you so very much.
We miss you and think of you every moment of every day.

Loving you always...

* * *

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This is the apricot tree at my parents house. This was our favorite tree to climb when we were younger. It is the perfect climbing tree. I remember times when I would climb up this tree and read as I sat on one of the branches. We had so much fun in this tree. We got so fast at climbing this tree. Once you know where to step, you can cruise up it. When we were younger, the city was widening the street and they needed to take several feet of everyone's property that lined that street. They were talking about how they would probably have to cut down this tree when they widened the street. I remember it talking about this in the newspaper how my Dad fought the city to be able to keep our tree. We were all so grateful to be able to keep this tree. It would have been so sad for it to be cut down. We love it... now the grandkids love climbing this tree. My nephews Spencer and Luke were climbing this tree the other day and Aaron Jr. was playing with them, so he came in to get me and I went out and he started climbing the tree. I showed him where to put his feet to find the best route up the tree and once he did it that one time, he kept climbing it over and over. Here is a series of photos that I took of one of his climbs...

Once he got up, he would sit in this little spot until he was ready to get down. Once he gets more confidence, he will want to climb up as high as we would climb. He had so much fun and I had a blast watching him. I can't believe my baby is climbing trees now.

Spencer and Luke in the apricot tree. Aaron Jr. has had a blast with these two while they have been visiting from Oregon. We will miss them when they go home.

Ta Da !


Okay, so here's a story for you. Sorry to keep bringing up potty training stories, but this one was so funny. The other day, I was cleaning the bathrooms and I put toilet bowl cleaner in each of the toilets. Then once I put it in each one, I let it sit for a bit while I cleaned the bathtub. Aaron Jr. came in and he grabbed some toilet paper to wipe his nose. I told him that he needed to throw it in the garbage because I was cleaning the toilets. He looked and saw the blue cleaner in there and then went to throw away the toilet paper. Once I cleaned that toilet, I headed upstairs to clean the next one. As I approached the top of the stairs, there was a smell that wasn't pleasant, so I figured Aaron Jr. had done his duty. When I got to the bathroom, I saw him trying to clean up. I looked in the toilet and there was nothing, but there was a pile of toilet paper sitting on the floor next to the toilet. So, I moved the pile of toilet paper and there were some smears of poop on the floor where he had tried to clean it up. I still hadn't found the actual poop yet... until I looked up on the counter. There was another pile of toilet paper and in the middle of that pile, there was the poop. He had tried his hardest to clean it all up. At first, I couldn't understand why he had done that, but then I realized that he knew I was cleaning the toilets and he figured he couldn't go potty in the toilet until the blue cleaner was gone. So, he pooped RIGHT NEXT to the toilet instead.Then instead of throwing the poop into the toilet when he was done, he found a spot that he figured was acceptable until the blue cleaner was gone. I felt so bad after that. Of course, I didn't mean he couldn't use the toilet if he needed to, but he was doing as he was told. :) What a sweetheart. That was our latest funny experience. Aaron Jr. is doing so great with the potty training. I can't even remember the last time he had an accident. He still gets really excited when he goes poop in the toilet. I always tell him how proud I am of him when he goes potty and he has started to tell me how proud he is of me. It is so cute.
_ _ _

My parents have a picture of Jesus on the wall in the living room. The other day, my mom asked Aaron Jr., 'Where's Jesus?' Aaron Jr. answered, 'He's with my Dad.'

One other story... my mom made Aaron Jr. breakfast the other morning while I took a shower. He hadn't been able to find a little toy truck that he had been playing with the night before. My mom said that when he was saying the blessing on the food, he asked several times in the prayer that he would be able to find his truck. Later that day, it was found and he was SO excited.
I believe he is gaining more and more of an understanding of Heavenly Father and Jesus. I am so grateful for that. I am sure he will find comfort as he gets older knowing that his Daddy is in heaven with them.

By the way... is anyone else tired of the snow? Spring officially started last week, so when do we get to start enjoying it? At least I have a little helper to help brush the snow off of the car. He is always so helpful.
I love Aaron Jr. so much. He is such a sweetheart.

* * *

Monday, March 23, 2009

'I'm Aaron Harkness'

* * * * * * * * * * *

Aaron Jr. and Shayla

Not sure what is so funny in this photo. I think Aaron was over petting her and she turned her head toward him and it startled him, so he jumped back and laughed... I think.

Anyone who knows Aaron Jr. well... knows that he is obsessed with watching movies. Well, this photo shows how obsessed he is. I think he has a little bit of OCD and he has to have HIS things right where he wants them. Whatever toy he is attached to on any given day, he has to have it in his hand or on his lap or right next to him all day and then he has to sleep with it that night. Well, his movies have become his obsession lately. He has to have them with him wherever he goes. This photo shows just how particular he is... he would not let me put them anywhere else, they all had to be on his lap as he drifted to sleep next to me. His hands are even still attached to the stack to make sure they stay put. When I put him to bed that night, I had him put them on the nightstand next to him, when he woke up the next morning, this next photo shows how he exited the bedroom...

He had literally been awake for about 45 seconds (give or take a few) in this photo.
I believe it was that day that I forced him to let me put his movies into a handy little carrying case so we didn't have to go everywhere with this stack of movies. So, now he carries that carrying case around with him everywhere he goes. It is small though, so it is fine with me. :)

Several weeks ago, Aaron Jr. started tapping his finger on the side of his face when he was trying to decide something. If I asked him what he wanted to eat or something like that, he would start tapping the side of his face and look the other direction sometimes to show that he was truly in thought. Well, I would laugh every time he did it, so he realized that the only thing he had to do to get me to laugh was to tap the side of his face as though he is thinking. Lately, when I get upset and I am putting him in timeout, when I turn my back, he will say, 'Mom, look at me'... then when I turn around, he will be tapping the side of his face like this. I can't help but laugh and give him a huge hug and then he keeps doing that until I forget why he is in trouble. He has me wrapped around his cute little finger.
Anyhow, now a days... all I have to do is tell him to show people 'how he thinks' and he will do it and anyone who sees it laughs. He gets pretty excited to show people and he is quite proud of it now... he and I call it 'his think'. When I want to see it, I just ask him to show me 'his think'. My brother, Spencer, has even had Aaron Jr. help him think a few times today and Aaron Jr. will reach over and tap the side of my brother's face instead of his own. It is so cute. I love it. I am not even sure where he picked it up, but I am loving showing it off to everyone we see.

I call Aaron Jr. by his full name once in a while so that he hears it sometimes. Last week, I told him his full name and then I asked him what his name was. He said it is Aaron, then I told him again that he is Aaron Sverre Harkness. He refused to believe it. Well, tonight when he was saying goodnight to my mom, she told him that he is a good boy and he said, 'I'm Aaron Harkness'. It is the first time he has ever used his first and last name and I was so excited to hear it. I want him to bear his name proudly because he is named after a great man who we both love so very much.

I love this sweet little boy... he brings joy to my days.

* * *

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

LEXUS ... also built FORD tough?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Well, according to Aaron... :) Here we are attempting to climb Lions Back in Moab, Utah.

After Aaron passed away, I knew I was going to have to sell his truck and his motorcycles, but I was glad that I would get to keep our car and drive it for a long time. It had never given us any trouble, so I thought it would last a while. Well, after only about four and a half months, the Lexus blew a head gasket and I was only able to drive it for another week or so. It has been sitting at my parents house unable to be driven ever since April of last year. The estimate to get it repaired was a lot of money. I cried and cried that day knowing that Aaron would never want me to spend that much money to repair it. But I still considered repairing it for sentimental reasons. It was a difficult decision. A few months later, I was blessed to be able to buy my parents car. They gave me a great deal on it and it has been great for us. But I was still so sad not to be able to drive the car that Aaron and I had together. From the photo above, it is obvious that Aaron wanted all of his vehicles to be tough enough to do whatever his FORD truck could do.

Aaron even bought FORD floor mats for the Lexus.

Here are just a few of the reasons that our Lexus meant so much to us:

* Aaron took me on dates while courting me in that car.
* Aaron and I drove away from our wedding and reception in that car.
* Aaron and I took countless vacations and weekend getaways in that car.
* Aaron and I brought Aaron Jr. home from the hospital for the first time in that car.
* Our little family also took countless vacations and weekend getaways in that car.
* And, of course, loads more memories...

Well, after all this time, I finally listed the Lexus for sale and it finally sold. Because of the repair it needed, it sold for such a small amount, but I could not keep it and every little bit helps. It was just so sad to watch OUR family car being towed away.

Here are Aaron Jr. and me with the Lexus.
Oh the wonderful memories...

Lately, Aaron Jr. is really into using the word 'SO'. He says things like, "Mom, I'm SO hungry." or "Mom, I'm SO cold." or "Mom, I'm SO cold." or when I pick him up after primary at church, he will run to me and say, "Mom, I missed you SO much." He always emphasizes the word 'SO'. Anyhow, last night, Aaron Jr. woke up in the middle of the night and he looked at a photo of Aaron and him across the room and he said, "I miss my dad SO much." I asked him what he said (because I love to hear him say things like that) and he repeated it a couple more times. I told him that I miss him as well and I gave him a hug. It was so sweet.
He has also been talking a lot about his Dad and alligators. One if his stories involved a baby boat in there somewhere. Tonight he shared with me that Daddy was at work and when I asked him what Daddy was doing at work, he said that he was fighting alligators with a sword. Then he made the motions of how you fight with a sword. Who knows where he is getting these stories? I can only hope they are vivid and exciting dreams that he is getting to have about his Daddy. :)

* * *

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hope = Possibilities

* * * * * * * * *

Can you tell Aaron Jr. would rather be playing? :)

So, I have had a tough couple of days. They weren't horrible days, but minor things just kept going wrong. I have learned that when I let minor things bring me down, I allow myself to dwell a little more on the major issues that I am dealing with as well. I then start to reflect on the overwhelming circumstances I find myself in. Most days, I seem to be able to find joy in the day and look on the bright side of things... but then a day like today comes and I let myself dwell on the negative. So, I had some time today when I was feeling sorry for myself and I wanted to crawl into a hole to escape it all. Then, tonight, I was reading some Daily Gems that are sent to my email each day and there were quotes from a talk that Elder Uchtdorf gave in this past October Conference. He said:

"The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward. Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. It encourages and inspires us to place our trust in the loving care of an eternal Heavenly Father, who has prepared a way for those who seek for eternal truth in a world of relativism, confusion, and of fear."
"Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness. Its absence—when this desire of our heart is delayed—can make 'the heart sick' (Proverbs 13:12)."Hope is a gift of the Spirit. It is a hope that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection, we shall be raised unto life eternal and this because of our faith in the Savior. This kind of hope is both a principle of promise as well as a commandment, and, as with all commandments, we have the responsibility to make it an active part of our lives and overcome the temptation to lose hope. Hope in our Heavenly Father's merciful plan of happiness leads to peace, mercy, rejoicing, and gladness. The hope of salvation is like a protective helmet; it is the foundation of our faith and an anchor to our souls."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf

After I read these quotes tonight, I was renewed and I had a brighter hope. I realized that I need to let the little things go. I have enough to deal with... I don't need to let the minor setbacks in my life have a negative impact on my days. I liked how he talked about losing hope being a temptation that we need to overcome. I also liked how he said that hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness. Happiness... isn't that what we are all striving for? Who knew that we just needed to have hope in our lives to be happy? I wrote to a friend of mine tonight that the word HOPE is one of my favorite words. It brings joy to me when I talk about things that I have hope in and things that I hope for. It just gives us a sense of the possibilities in our lives, don't you think?

So, hang in there...

...have HOPE ... things are looking UP.

'...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching for those things which are before,' - Philippians 3:13-14

* * *

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Toilets & Toys ... or is it Toilets ARE Toys?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Okay, I am so proud to announce that Aaron Jr. is still doing a remarkable job with his potty training. It has been his own idea to go potty for the past couple of days, except I have to remind him when he first wakes up.
Today, just as I was about to post this posting... I went in to see why he was taking so long in the bathroom and the floor was completely flooded and there was saturated toilet paper all over the floor. I guess now that he has become a master user of the toilet, he decided it was time to start treating it as his shiny new toy. I think he figured that he was making it too easy for me and he had to start adding a little more work back into my day. I guess he didn't want me to become too idle. :) As I took some towels and cleaned it up, he stood at the door telling me, 'I'm so sorry, Mom' over and over. I kept telling him thank you and to try not to do it again, then he would just say sorry again. I am telling you, he is the sweetest kid ever. When I was done and the bathroom was clean again, he cheered and was so excited. What a kid! I can't be too upset when he is so sweet.

Here is his potty chart all completed. He chose every sticker that went on there. I helped him a little in choosing the sticker with the Brasil flag on it. :)

Okay, here is Aaron Jr. with his potty sticker chart that is now completed and also with his rewards for completing said potty sticker chart.
As he got his shoes on to go to the store, he was very focused on getting there to get his toy for his sticker chart being done. He even helped me get my shoes.
We walked up and down the toy aisles in Target so he could make a wise and informed decision about his reward... he ended up picking the very first toy he saw when we first started. It is a toy golf club and toy golf balls. They are soft like nerf things. He is loving it. Because he chose something cheap, I let him pick a couple of cheap DVDs as well. He chose a Power Rangers movie and a Scooby Doo movie. He is obsessed with the Power Rangers now after watching it about 5 times so far. He is so cute.

I just had to end with our end of the day routine. This was last night. I take my shoes off and put them by the front door, then Aaron Jr. takes his and has to line them up perfectly with mine. It always makes me smile so big and it brings such joy to my soul. He is a sweetheart.

Now, as for all of the things I dreaded doing by myself since I am now a lone parent here...

Potty Training : CHECK

* * *

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Birthdays... are they fun anymore?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Yes, I guess they can be. :) I have friends and family who made it a fun birthday.
The night before my birthday, I went to dinner and a movie with some of my close friends. It was a lot of fun. We saw a chick flick called 'Confessions of a Shopaholic'. It was a really cute and funny show. We enjoyed it a lot.
Kerianne got me a slice of cake and smuggled it in a shopping bag to the restaurant. That is her beside me in this photo... trying to steer clear of the shot, but smiling JUST IN CASE she makes it into the photo. :) She barely made it.

Rori, Marilee, Kaylynn, Leslie, Sarah, Kerianne
These are the friends that were able to make it to our girls night out. It was so much fun. These are some really great friends and I am so grateful for them. Thanks girls.

On my actual birthday, my mom and my sister in law Tawnie made cakes and a bunch of my family members came over to my parents house for cake and visiting. It was a lot of fun and I am grateful for such a wonderful family. Thanks family. Oh, and the cake was amazing. :)

Aaron Jr. and I went up to Aaron's parents house to see them later in the evening. I am grateful to call them our family as well. Thank you.

I am grateful for the messages, phonecalls, gifts, and cards I received. I have such supportive and loving friends and family. Thank you everyone.

Aaron Jr. gave me the best birthday present of all... I consider him to be potty trained. Tomorrow, he gets to pick out a new toy as his prize for filling up his potty sticker chart. He is doing amazingly well and I am so grateful for that. He also continues to bring me more joy than words can express. He is my joy and he is a gift to me every single moment of every single day. He is the happiest child I have ever met and he is such a precious soul. I love him so much.

These are the days when Aaron's absence is even more apparent. It is difficult to look forward to these special occasions, but again... family and friends bring joy on these days. Aaron is still missed every moment.
We miss you, Aaron. We love you...

* * *