Thursday, February 7, 2013

Emmry Cort Franklin


Everybody copes differently with hardship and pain.  We also cope differently with different trials.  But because life doesn't ever stop, or slow down for that matter, we must cope...somehow, some way.  When my husband left for Korea, I knew things were going to not only be different, but challenging.  But I knew that we were tough and we would get through it.  After all, I grew up hearing the words "Suck it up!" whenever things were becoming difficult, so I figured that I would just continually be repeating that little phrase over and over in my mind.  But sometimes life throws you a curve ball and before you are even able to try and swing at it, in comes a fast ball followed by a sucker punch then a left side tackle.  Then everything eases up just long enough for you to take a breath and also for you to realize that you are no longer on solid ground, but you are now out in the ocean trying to keep your head above water staring straight into an enormous title wave.

This is the road my life took very soon after my husband left.  Unfortunately the words "Suck it up!" just wouldn't cut it.  So I did everything I could possibly do to keep my head above water and breath.  In the process, I buried a lot of what happened deep inside so I wouldn't have to cope with it.  I tried so very hard to ignore it and pretend it didn't happen.  But no matter how hard we try to ignore or forget, the truth of the matter is, it happened.  And truth cannot be buried or forgotten.  Somewhere down the line it will come back up and you will have to deal with it.

Now that my husband is back from Korea after 1 very long year, we have spent many nights up talking about some of the hard things that we had to go through.  We have shed many tears and have shared many comforting hugs.  I have realized now that I cannot ignore or hide from what happened with my son.  So for now, I am going to start the healing process from the inside out.  So please know that I am writing this (or more correctly typing this) not for sympathy or pity, but to get the truth out for myself.  So it is no longer something that I am constantly pushing back and trying to ignore and pretend never happend.  Because it did.

Emmry Cort Franklin was born on November 2, 2011.  He weighed 8lbs 10oz and a full head of dark brown hair.  We were very excited to have him here.  We were able to spend almost three weeks together as a family before Camarron had to leave for a one year tour of duty over in Kunsan, Korea.  Everything was just fine when he left.  I went into a bit of shock the first week but mostly was determined that we would get through this deployment.  The second week was hard because Sammantha realized her daddy wasn’t going to come home and she broke down, so of course I broke down too and we spent a lot of time crying.  Week three came and we picked ourselves back up and week four was spent trying to keep ourselves busy and realizing that we can do this.  By this time Emmry was about seven weeks old.  He was a wonderful happy chunky little baby.  He ate as much as he could as often as he could and he slept like a champ.  He was making it 6 hours through the night already.  However, he chubby cheeks started to break out in a rash.  I didn’t think anything of it because Sammantha had the same thing happen when she was a baby.  We discovered that her rash was due to food allergies.  Since she has so many, I figured that Emmry was suffering from the same thing.  So I tried to eliminate things from our diet to see if it would help.  The rash just got worse and continued to spread.  It spread from his cheeks to his whole face and his head.  

Emmry with Grandpa  and Braxton.  Emmry is the chubby one.

Being a firm believer in natural and holistic medicine, I tried everything I could do to help get rid of my son's rash.  It didn't seem to bother him; he just continued on with everyday life.  But it sure bothered me.  Then things changed a little bit.  His rash become inflammed, very itchy, and oozed which would then crust over.  We went to the doctor.  Emmry's pediatrician told me that he just had  severe form of eczema and that if I used these certain creams it would go away.  However, it didn't go away.  It just kept getting worse.  The rash spread from his little face down his arms and it also had broken out on his legs.  Emmry no longer slept and if he did it was for 20-30 minutes at the longest.  I had to keep him swaddled as much as I could while he was awake because he never stopped itching.  He always wore little mits and he also always screamed.

This had been going on now for a couple of months.  I was getting scared, but I didn't want my husband to get worried, so I tried to put on a strong face for him and convince him that everything would be fine and I was taking care of it.  It was quite obvious that things were not fine.  I was exhausted from being up all night with a screaming baby and his rash continued to get worse.  So we went back to the doctor.  This time they sent me to a dermatologist.  When I got there the first dermatologist that saw Emmry was shocked.  He did not agree with the pediatrician's diagnosis of severe eczema, but he told me he hadn't ever seen anything this bad so he went to get a few other doctors to consult with.  Three other dermatologists came in and examined Emmry.  They all agreed that he had a very severe form of eczema.  I was so discouraged and frustrated.  They perscribed me more gels and creams.  But I KNEW something else was wrong.  And as a mother I should have known to follow that instinct and pry more, but I didn't. These people were doctors who had gone through years of medical training.  They knew best.  I did however ask the first dermatologist that we had seen (who if you recall did not agree with the diagnosis) if we could have some blood work done on my son.  Even though I didn't know what was going on with him, I had done hours and hours of research on my own and I did know that if there was something really serious that his blood work would show it. 

The dermatologist ordered the blood work and a nurse came in to draw Emmry's blood.  Those of you who know me probably know that I have a terrible phobia of needles.  So my heart was racing as the nurse entered the room because I was heartbroken that my little baby, who was already in a lot of pain and extremely uncomfortable, now had to be poked and prodded with needles.  Because his rash was so bad, they had to have 2 other nurses come in and poke him 3 different times to get enough blood.  The whole time he screamed and the whole time I silently cried, trying to be strong for him on the outside.  On the inside I was wishing there was someone that could have been there to be strong for me.

This was about the time where I started to go into panic/defense mode.  I left the clinic that day angry.  Something was wrong and I just wanted someone to tell me how to fix it.  But after 5 doctors telling me the same thing (even if one of them didn't really agree), I was getting nowhere fast and my son was getting sicker.  I went in hoping to find some answers and relief for my suffering child and I left as a protective and very defensive mother and I was ready to fight anyone who questioned me about my son.  Even though I had been by myself, I now felt it. I was on my own now and I had to do it all myself.

It was a real challenge that took an emotional toll on me.  Every time I would go out into public, people would just stare at Emmry and ask what was wrong.  Then they all had to add in their two cents about how they thought I should fix it.  "Have you tried this, have you tried that?" and the list went on and on.  I wanted to scream back in their faces, "IF THIS WERE YOUR BABY, WOULDN'T YOU HAVE TRIED THAT?!!!!!"  I was beginning to doubt myself as a mother.  If they had only known the things I had tried, the hours of research I had put in, the sleepless night and tears I had cried.  But I had to keep reminding myself that people were just trying to help.  I wanted help.  I needed help, but nothing came. 

With Cousin Braxton
I was extremely anxious to get the test results back on Emmry's blood work.  The night the doctor called me I finally felt a small amount of vindication.  He told me that his blood work was very abnormal, but until they got the results of the other tests being run they wouldn't really know much.  I would have to wait at least another week.  At least now I had proof that there was something else wrong with my son other than this stupid "severe rash" excuse everyone was giving me.  In the few days after that phone call, Emmry's appetite dropped to almost nothing.  His legs also became very swollen.  That weekend I attended my nephews baby blessing.  My nephew, Braxton, was born 6 weeks after Emmry.  Every time we had been to see Braxton, Emmry looked like he was 6 weeks older.  But this time he looked sickly, weak, and much younger than Braxton.  So we took him into Primary Children's hospital.  I wasn't going to wait any longer for blood work.  I was scared, literally, for his life.

When we got there, they took us right in.  When they weighed Emmry we realized that he had dropped almost 4 whole pounds.  At almost 4 months to the day, my son weighed in at just over 11 lbs.  He had lost 20% of his body weight in a matter of weeks.  They admitted him right away and immediately called to have lab work done.  Several doctors and different teams were in and out constantly asking questions and examining Emmry.  This whole time I was trying to be strong.  Thankfully my mom was with me or I don't think I would have survived.  Once again I had to sit in agony as they tried to extract blood from my baby.  I would hold his little hand and try and comfort him telling him how sorry I was as he screamed and tears dropped from my cheeks to his.  And once again, they had a hard time drawing blood because he was so weak and dehydrated.  This time it took 5 tries.  They poked both feet, his arms, and they even tried veins on his head.  It was terrible.  There has never been a time where I needed my husband more.  But that wasn't an option.  So I kicked as hard as I could to keep my head above water, to keep breathing, and I pushed on. I was able to talk with my husband.  He was very much aware of the situation.  And I am not sure who had the more difficult position, me or him.  He knew what was happening (at least as much as I knew) with his little boy that he had only really known for a couple of weeks and could do absolutley nothing.

We stayed in the hospital for four days.  They ran test after test after test.  Even then, no one was able to give me clear answers.  They had explained that Emmry had most likely had a severe allergic reaction to a food that I had eaten and he in turn recieved through my breast milk. His little body pretty much shut down.  (By this time however, my milk had dried up because I was trying to pump and elminate foods that I thought he would be allergic to.  And becaue I never got any sleep and very little to eat, my milk dried up.  I had been making his formula for a couple months by this time because I knew that Sammantha was allergic to regular formulas, causing us to learn how to make our own, hence I put Emmry on the same formula in hopes we wouldn't make things worse and maybe find some improvement.)  They weren't able to give me an explanation as to how or why or even how to help him.  All they knew was that he was basically starving to death and that we needed to find some sort of food that his body could metabolize.  Being in Primary Children's was both a blessing and a curse for me.  The doctors there saved Emmry's life-hands down.  However, many of the doctors that worked with us looked at me and acted as if I was crazy for taking such a natural and holistic approach to helping my son.  One of them even said to my face, "You realize that this is your fault.  The reason your son is dying is because of the food you have been feeding him."  After this woman left our room, I and sat down and sobbed.  Every part of me as a mother had been broken.  I had given every bit of strength and determination that I had into helping my son get better.  By that time even my adrenaline had worn off.  I had nothing left.  That was the lowest I have ever felt and as I looked at my son, I did take all of the blame.  I really thought that I was a terrible mom who unknowingly was killing her child. 


Luckily the head doctor that was helping us was from Austria and his main area of study was complementary medicine.  His timing couldn't have been more perfect that day.  My mom had gotten there that morning to find me sobbing because of what I had previously been told.  And soon after, our head doctor, Dr. Fassl, poked his head into the room to check on Emmry.  He saw how upset I was and came in to see what was wrong.  When I had told him what I had been told he ran over and gave me a huge hug.  He held me so tightly and told me over and over that this was not my fault.  He then sat down with me and explained that there was no way of knowing why Emmry was so sick or how to fix it (because they still didn't know) and he recognized that I had done everything I possibly could to help my little boy.  As someone who studied natural medicine, he told me that everything I had done made sense to him.  He told me that I was an excellent mother and I couldn't have done anything more.  I wanted to give up, but he helped me through it. I needed to hear that from a medical professional.


Emmry finally gained enough weight by day 4 that we were cleared to go home.  We were directed to go to a new pediatrician who was to watch Emmry very closely and continue to help us.  Unfortunatley, when we went to see her a few days later, Emmry had lost all of the weight he had gained while at the hospital.  When I heard this my heart sank to the floor.  My husband had been wanting to come home this whole time, especially while we were at the hospital, but because he had shown improvement while there, he decided to hold off. (Or should I say I convinced him to hold off.  I couldn't bear the thought of him coming home and then leaving again.  As badly as I wanted him home and with me through everything, I knew it would kill me if he had to leave again.) After this doctor's visit, I knew that I had to tell my husband to come home.  There was nothing left for us to try and I didn't want to deprive my husband of time with his son if he really was dying.  So I called him and gave him the news.  He told me to go to the base and start the paperwork immediately.  (The military isn't quick about anything, so we had to get on it right away because even on an emergency leave it would take Cam about a week to get home.)  So I went to the base.  Nobody knew what I was going for but Camarron and I. When I got there and I was directed to the people who were supposed to help me. I explained my situation to them very bluntly and breifly and asked what I needed to do so my husband could come home.  They were extremely helpful and I left feeling good because my husband was going to be able to come home and help.  


That same day, a dear friend had called in a favor and got Emmry and I into see a naturopathic doctor that she believed could help.  Sure enough she did.  For the first time someone was able to explain what was going on and how to fix it.  Emmry's small intestines were not functioning and as a result he was not absorbing any nutrients.  She gave me some homeopathic drops to start the healing process and some supplements to help him gain his strength back.  She also was a huge blessing to me emotionally.  She ran some tests of her own and told me that she believed that the only reason my son was alive was because of the food that I had been making for him and the natural things that I had been doing because the other stuff wasn't working.  She really helped buoy me up because I had been so broken inside.  Because Emmry responded so well at the appointment, Cam and I decided to wait a little longer to have him come home and see if he would improve with this new found light.  I went back to my parent's home (where I had been staying since the hospital visit) with a new found hope that I hadn't felt for months.  When I returned home and shared the good news, I went to go take a long needed nap.  Not 60 seconds had passed after I laid down when I got a phone call.  I ignored it but felt promted to listen to the voicemail.  It was from the Division of Child and Family Services and they said that they were currently at my apartment and needed to meet with me.  I was extremely confused and thought there was some mistake, so I called them back. (Please remember that I am still very much like a mama grizzly bear here.) Once I realized that it wasn't a mistake and that someone had really reported me to DCFS I just about lost my mind.  What could have I done wrong to deserve this?  I refused to meet with them at first, but then realizing that if I didn't cooperate that they had the authority to come in and remove my children from me, I decided to listen.  I met with them that night and in the couple of hours that I had before this meeting I discovered that the personel from the base that were "helping" me had actually reported me.  They had access to Emmry's medical records because of the paperwork that they were doing for Camarron to come home and they thought that I was intentionally starving my son so that my husband would be able to come home from his diployment.


When I mentioned earlier, "you think life eases up for a minute, but then you just realize there is a big tidal wave about to come crashing down," this was that moment.  I couldn't believe what was happening.  Even now as I am typing this, it feels unreal.  I now had a DCFS case opened against me and they were investigatng me to see if I was a fit mother to take care of my children.  Once again, Camarron was in the process of getting ready to come home.  If I was found "guilty or unfit" then he would have to be the soul caretaker and could no longer be deployed.  The next day I was also called in by the Family Advocacy Group from base.  I thought they were going to try and help me through this mess.  But after talking to the person in charge of my case (yes another case), I realized that they were the equivalent to DCFS for the military.  They had a case open against me as well and they were the "advocate" for my son, whom I was apparently abusing.

Yes, by this time I had gotten myself a lawyer and was trying to fight back.  Thankfully Emmry really was starting to improve.  It was very slow improvements, but it was there.  He was no longer losing weight and slowly starting to gain.  However, the legal battle ensued.  I once again found some comfort in the fact that my husband was going to come home and help me.  But once again, my hopes were dashed.  The night before my husband was supposed to get on a plane and come home, he got called into his commander's office and was accused of lying.  They refused to let him come home because somewhere they had gotten information stating that I was being defiant and uncooperative with doctors and this was all my fault.  Camarron was shocked and didn't know what to say.  But he had to call me and tell me that he wasn't going to be able to come home.  So I again had to pull it together and trek through alone.



I have to pause for a moment and explain what I mean by alone.  For all intents and purposes, in my own world and my own little family, I was alone.  But on the outside there were countless numbers of people helping me and praying for me. My mother was amazing! She helped me through some really dark moments and there were a few times where she had to drag me through it because I didn't want to do it anymore.  My ward family was a huge blessing.  They stepped in and picked up all of the pieces that I couldn't take care of anymore.  The rest of my extended family helped in more ways than I could have hoped for.  And there really were countless others who heard about what was going on that prayed for my little Emmry and me and I know that it was because of those prayers that I was lifted through some of the hardest times.  And of course there was my Savior and Heavenly Father.  There is only one time in my life where I remember being angry with God and it was when Emmry was sick.  He had been screaming unsceasingly four hours.  I couldn't get him to eat and I couldn't get him to sleep.  I had repeating this same scene over and over for too many days.  Normally I would leave my crying baby and go pray for strength, but not this night.  I was angry and I wanted to know why He would allow my son to hurt so badly when all I wanted to do and had been working so hard to do was make him feel better.  So I prayed, but not a prayer of a humble plea for strength. I prayed a prayer of anger and acusation.  But my Heavenly Father still heard it and he answer me anyway in a way that I could understand and that gave me strength.  I wasn't the only one who has had to sit and watch their son cry in pain and not be able to stop it.  Even though it hurt more than I can ever explain, I learned to rely on my Savior and Heavenly Father so much more.  And they never left my side. 

After the massive tidal wave hit, the water did eventally calm down.  Social services came and did their investigation.  They realized almost immediately that there never should have been a case opened in the first place because I was doing nothing but trying to take care of my children.  Through the help of a wonderful lawyer, the case on the military side disappeared.  (Literally, it just went away.  I tried to figure out what was going on and nobody would talk to me about it and nobody would return my phone calls.  Eventually I found out that it had been closed due to it having "no merit", however, nobody had the decency to let me in on that bit of information or say sorry for that matter.)  Emmry's health continued to improve and now he is a healthy happy little boy.  My husband did finish his tour out in Korea and was able to come home and surprise us two weeks early.


 Even though we are physically out of the storm and enjoying the wonderful sunshine that follows, emotionally I am still struggling.  It is very difficult for me to look at pictures of Emmry when he was a little baby.  He was so sick and there is a small part of me that feels I should have been able to do more.  There are few pictures to look at because I didn't want to remember how bad it was, so I just refused to take them.  But now that it is over, I am angry I didn't.  I cherish those pictures even though it breaks my heart to look at them.  We almost lost Emmry and the thought of having no memory of him eats away at me.  So now I take pictures...and a lot of them.

I am still very sensitive to his physical health.  If Sammantha falls and scrapes her knee, I tell her to "Suck it up!".  (Not really, I go and kiss it better.) But if Emmry even sneezes differently, my heart rate goes up and I hover over him for a while to make sure he is ok.  We have comepletely changed our lifestyle, even more so than it was before, to accomodate his physical needs.  And Emmry is still physically behind other children his age.  He looks quite small.  As much as I don't want to be, I still am in the "protective mama bear" mode.  When someone asks me his age, I tell them, but I immediately follow by adding that he was sick for a while and we are still playing catch up.  I don't want them to think something is wrong.  There was, but not anymore.  I am very insecure as a mother and I struggle when people talk about my children or our strange lifestyle.  This is hard for me because I didn't used to be this way.  I used to be very confident.  But sometimes hard things break you, and I was broken in so many ways.  But being broken isn't always a bad thing.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I am grateful for what I have learned from that whole experience.  I hope I learned what the Lord wanted me to because I don't ever want to have to do it again.  I am making a conscious effort to be a better mother and to recognize that I am a better mother than I give myself credit for.  And I know that part of that effort is letting go of all the hurt that I have buried deep inside and allowing myself to heal.  This will continue to be a process.  Palaces aren't built overnight, but in the meantime, I am going to try and enjoy every minute of the joys of being a mother to my beautiful children.  I love you Sammantha and Emmry Cort Franklin.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Just a normal afternoon here in South Carolina

It is quite warm here in South Carolina (like 75 degrees), so we decided to go for a walk this afternoon. Cam works the swing shift so he doesn't go to work until 3:30. So that allows us all time with our daddy during the day. The kids love this!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Short and Sweet

I have a really good friend who pointed out to me that I needed to blog more since we moved away.  I guess it is true.  I have realized though that if I am going to blog it has to be short ans sweet otherwise it won't happen. I am very inept when it comes to computers and this is not my strong point, but I will do my best.  So here we go...

About a week ago Cam and I took the kids down to Florida to surprise Cam's parents.  We had tried every which way to be able to go down and spend a week with them there, but it didn't work out.  However, at the last minute Cam was able to get an extra day off, so we made a 3 day weekend into a 4 day weekend and drove down to Florida.  While there we went to Sea World and we also spent A LOT of time swimming.  It was so much fun and we wish it could have been longer.  It was nice to spend time with Cam's parents.  We don't see them much since they live up in Alaska so it was a wonderful blessing for all of us.

 It was rainy for most of the day, but we loved it anyway.
 I am not sure who enjoyed themselves more...the kids or "Grama and Papa".

Sammee was "GO, GO, GO!" all day.  She fell asleep within 5 minutes of being in the car and she didn't wake up.
 Emmry thought it was pretty great he could stand up right underneath the table and still see us.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Franklin Family 2012

Emmry - 2012 was a rocky start for me. I was born November 2, 2011 and was gratefully welcomed into my new family. Soon after I joined my family, my daddy left for Korea. About this same time I became very sick.  My mom spent many sleepless nights and countless hours trying to help me get better.  In March, I ended up at Primary Children’s hospital for almost a week after losing 20% of my body weight at only 4 months old.  It was a very hard time for me.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay with my earthly family or go back to my Heavenly Father and Mother.  But after all of the priesthood blessings, the countless heartfelt prayers from my family, friends, and people that hadn’t ever even met me, and because of the hard work and determination from my mom, I decided to stay here with my earthly family for a little longer.  With the help of a lot of doctors and the intense research of my mother, we discovered that I have some extreme food allergies and sensitivities-even more so than my older sister.

Finally about June my health began to improve.  I started rolling over, scooting, talking, playing with my sister and dog, and doing everything else a little boy does.  Some of my favorite things to do included talking with my daddy on Skype and looking at my daddy’s pictures.  Then on November 15, 2012 my daddy came home and I play with him as much as I can.  I also LOVE to eat!  I eat as much as I possibly can whenever I can get it.  I turned 1 on November 2, 2012.  I am still little, but I am as smart as can be.  I mimic everything my sister and parents do and I talk all the time.  I am still trying to figure out the walking thing, but I can army (air force) crawl faster than most people can run.  I crawl “normal” when I feel like it, but the army crawl works so much better.  Plus, I’m trying to be just like my daddy in every way I can!

Sammantha- 2012 was a special year for me.  I got to spend a lot of time with my mom.  My dad went to “Koreera” for work and I was only able to talk to him on the “compooter”.   He would call me almost every day and we would play peek-a-boo a lot.  I sure missed him.  But while he was gone I was a big helper to my mom and I am trying to continue to do that still.  I love to help her fold laundry and cook dinner.  I also pick up all of my toys and I feed our dog Bear.  I am extremely independent, pretty much an exact duplicate of my mom.  However, I am a much better dancer than she is.  I love to dance like a ballerina.  I also love to dress up in dresses, jewelry, pretty shoes, and anything else that is pink, frilly, or girly.  I didn’t get this from my mom.  My fashion sense comes from my Aunt Lauryn.  I am a social butterfly and I love to play with friends.  I talk to everyone that I see and tell them about anything that happens to pop into my head at that moment.
We just moved to “South Carowina” and I am making lots of new friends.  But my favorite person to play with is still my daddy.  I am so glad that he is home and every morning when I wake up, I ask my mom where he is to make sure he is coming home after work and that he didn’t go back to “Koreera”.  On December 11 I turned 3.  I got to celebrate my birthday in a hotel because we were moving.  I loved it! Even though we are moved into a house, I still ask to go back to the hotel.  I am learning a lot every day and my already large vocabulary just continues to grow.  I make my parents laugh every day with the crazy things that come out of my mouth.  I just love my life!

Camarron- 2012 was a stretching year for me.  I left for a yearlong tour of duty in South Korea on November 26, 2011.  I spent my birthday (November 27th) on an airplane flying to the other side of the world.  (I actually left on the 26th and arrived in Korea on the 28th. Because of the time change my birthday technically didn’t even exist last year.)  I spent the Christmas and New Year holidays all by myself.  It was quite lonely.  After being in Korea a couple months we discovered that this tour wasn’t going to be anything like what we were expecting. (Thank you military!) It proved to be much more challenging than we ever thought.  However, I took the mountain head on and climbed up it the best I knew how. 
Despite the challenges of being away from my family, working  10-12 hour shifts on average, going through many military training exercises, and constantly worrying about my gravely sick child back at home, I managed to finish my CCAF degree, pass my Staff Sargent test in the top 95%, and was awarded Armament Systems Technician of the Quarter at Kunsan AB.  I was able to come home two weeks early and surprised my entire family.  They had no idea I was coming and it was the best moment of my entire life.  We have since moved to our new duty station at Shaw AFB, South Carolina.  I am currently working on getting separated from Active Duty Air Force and transferred into the Air National Guard in Alaska.  There I will continue to pursue my goal of becoming a military pilot. 
My yearlong tour in Korea was a challenge.  It stretched me in every way possible.  But if hard things don’t kill us, they will definitely make us stronger.  I gained a greater understanding of what it means to be an eternal family.  I missed my children terribly and recognized how much I love being a dad.  I can’t describe with words how hard it was being separated from my wife, but I learned how much I rely and depend on her and also how much she does for our children.  I am so grateful to be back with my family and it was a wonderful blessing to get to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays all together again.

Aleesha- 2012 proved to be the most challenging year of my life.  We knew that Camarron was going to be gone and I tried to prepare myself for it.  I thought him leaving was going to be the hardest part, but it actually ended up being one of the easiest.  Soon after Cam left, our little Emmry became extremely ill.  I tried for months to figure out what was going on and went to see multiple doctors.  Every visit though was counterproductive because they all told me the same thing which was that they had no idea and I again left with a new prescription that I didn’t dare use since it was just a guessing game.  After ending up in the hospital and being blessed with some great doctors, we discovered that Emmry has some really severe food issues.  For several weeks Emmry’s life hung by a thread.  The military kept wavering back and forth on whether or not to let Camarron come home.  It was the biggest and longest emotional rollercoaster ride I have ever been on (or ever hope to be).
            Then a miracle happened and a dear friend pulled some strings and got us in to see a naturopath practitioner who was able to give me some answers to why my son had been so sick and how to help him get better.  She helped me discover the rest of the foods that were reacting so terribly to his little body.  Because of Sammantha’s food allergies we had already changed our diet a lot and had eliminated dairy, corn, soy, citrus, and processed sugar.  But after Emmry’s health started to turn around we realized we had to eliminate wheat/gluten, peanuts, eggs, food additives and dyes (all of them), and many oils on top of our already restricted diet.  So I spent much of 2012 learning how to cook again.  During all of this chaos I was able to complete my FootZonology Instructor certification and I taught and graduated my first class of students at the beginning of December (which included my mother).  It was wonderful!

The best moment of 2012 was on November 15 at about 6pm.  I had spent the entire day getting my children and myself ready for pictures.  A dear friend of mine was going to take some family pictures for us.  We had a framed picture of Camarron so he could be in the pictures too.  We were all dressed up and went to the Bountiful, Utah LDS temple grounds to take them.  My friend posed us in front of the entry way of the temple and had me holding both of my beautiful children.  She stepped back and said “On the count of three smile…one…two…” and then my husband walked out of the temple entry way in his uniform and surprised us all.  I collapsed in tears, Sammantha ran as fast as she could into his arms, and Emmry sat reaching for him until he came over and picked him up.  Thanks to my amazing friend, we have beautiful perfect pictures of the entire thing. (Look up this link to see all of the pics she took. Awesome! click on My Work, then Kids/Family, then scroll down until you see Welcome Home Cam)

So once again we are all back together.  We are also all healthy and couldn’t be more happy.  We are currently living in South Carolina, near Shaw Air Force Base and soon we are anticipating another long move up to Homer, Alaska once Camarron gets accepted into the Air National Guard.  As difficult as 2012 was for us, it was also a wonderful growing experience.  We learned how to better utilize the Atonement in our lives.  We learned to have faith in ourselves, in each other, and most of all in our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  We learned that Heavenly Father really does answer prayers, even when it seems like there is nobody there to listen.  We learned that serving others can fill up a void that was left wanting in our hearts.  We learned that we are much stronger than we ever thought possible And we learned that God places amazing people in our lives at just the right moments to help us through some of our most difficult trials.  So thank you to all of you who helped us learn and grow and make it through our 2012! May you and your loved ones be blessed in 2013!

Camarron, Aleesha, Sammantha, and Emmry