Loo.

First selfie

The past few days have been so hard on us, as we lost our sweet little dog, Loo.

It started with a smaller than usual appetite, followed by some pretty nasty constipation. I researched everything I could to try to help his tummy, from switching to wet food to giving him pumpkin puree, but nothing helped. Soon he stopped dancing around in his crazy, uncoordinated way. Shortly after, he stopped barking when we came home. He lost his zest for life, and all the while, his appetite steadily decreased along with his weight. He just wasn’t the same.

Sunday, Loo refused to eat anything- not even peanut butter or cheese, his two favorites. I had called a vet on Saturday, hoping to get him in on Monday, but it was clear that we were dealing with something far more serious.

We called this his “cinnamon roll”

We took him to the emergency room right after church, where we learned the horrifying news- our little man’s kidneys were failing him. They were unsure whether he had a bacterial infection, disease, or cancer, but one thing was sure: if they didn’t hospitalize him ASAP, the outcome was grim. Quite honestly, even if we decided to put him in the hospital, there was no guarantee that he would ever recover fully, if at all. Loo was done dancing, regardless of if we treated him or not.

Tanner and I made the difficult decision to say goodbye, and decided that I would stay home with Loo on Monday, for his last day on Earth. I invited everyone to come say goodbye- a dog this sweet deserved as much love as possible. He, too, still had so much love to give. So many people came to say goodbye. So many people came and held him while he snuggled quietly in their lap. It might seem weird to have wanted people to come over to say goodbye to a dog- especially one that many hadn’t ever met before- but it felt right, and I was not emotionally in a place where I felt okay being alone for an extended period of time. There were so many tears, but even more cuddles.

Tanner was given the go-ahead from work to head home early, and we were able to sit together for about an hour, holding Loo, praying, and crying. I wanted so badly to be able to tell Loo I was ready to let go, and that he didn’t need to hold on anymore, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

These smiles were a bit forced.

I am very good at going into denial, and throughout the day I kept telling myself that this didn’t have to happen. He didn’t have to die. He would get better… Right?

I had to remind myself that his poor kidneys begged to differ, and there was nothing we could do to guarantee his recovery. Letting him go was the best option for him… Even if it was the worst option for me.

He steadily got worse throughout the day until he would go several seconds between breaths, and we knew that we absolutely had to put him out of his misery.

We went to the vet, and at 4:06 PM, Loo drifted off to heaven, after one final family prayer. Our kind, caring vet gently took him to the other room to take his little paw prints, and Tanner and I held onto each other and wept. I felt like my body was collapsing into itself, the pain hit so hard. I’m never going to see that little booger again. At least, not on this earth.

My boys.

One of the reasons why letting him go was so hard, is I have so many doubts. Will I see him again after this life? Everyone I know says we will, but how do they know? The thought of never seeing him again hurts, it hurts so much. It’s a kind of pain that only people who have lost a dear, loved pet can understand. We were not sealed to Loo. In the next life, he’s not going to be ours. Will he even WANT to see me again? I tried, but I know I was not the perfect “mom”. I made mistakes. I didn’t love him as unconditionally as I should have- he was a stubborn little thing whose strength was NOT obedience, which was frustrating.

I feel like I should have been so much better. I wish I could have spent all day, every day with him. I wish we had known he was sick sooner, so I could have cherished the time we had together more. I wish I had cuddled him more. I wish I had let him sleep with me. I wish, I wish, I wish. I’ve been praying harder than ever that someway, somehow, Loo can forgive me of my shortcomings. I hope he knows that even though he had a tendency to sometimes be annoying, I loved him deeply and am so lucky he chose Tanner and I that day back in September.

Silly pup.

Perhaps it seems silly to be so completely grief-stricken over such a tiny little dog, but he was the first animal who was truly mine and Tanner’s. (I mean, yeah, we have our betta fish Toby, but dogs are a LITTLE different.) He was our baby. He went on so many adventures with us. I wanted to watch him snuggle up to our (human) babies. I wanted him to be in our family pictures.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. At least, if it were up to me, which it never was.

Grieving is so strange. I have never felt so many conflicting emotions before. At least with our family I have full confidence that our separation will be temporary- it’ll feel long, yes, but we are sealed together and cannot be ever TRULY separated. But with pets… I just don’t know. Within the past 48 hours I’ve gone from hopeful to being in complete denial, to utter despair, to anger, and back again. I don’t want to be left alone, but I don’t want to see anyone. I know it was the right thing to do, but I worry that we took him too soon.

The last picture I took of him. I think
he knew it was time to go.

Eventually I will be okay, but right now, I am not- and that fact needs to be okay too. I don’t WANT to be strong. I do not want to try to swallow my pain and put on a brave face. I want to feel this grief. I want to explore these complex emotions and familiarize myself with them. I want to curl up in my sadness and let it wash over me until I feel that I can move on.

I believe that that is an important thing. Grief should not be swallowed. It shouldn’t be ignored, or made to seem as though it’s not as big a deal as it really, truly is. Pain is unpleasant, but we can learn so much from it. So I intend to take my time to heal, to feel better, and to move forward at my own pace, in my own time, in my own way.

Some of that healing may come in the form of a new dog. I need to remember that we are NOT replacing Loo- because a dog like that cannot EVER be replaced. But I need a dog to fill the emptiness that has overtaken this house. It feels like a cave without Loo’s jingling collar and clicking nails. So while we may adopt a new friend sooner rather than later, it’s not because they are a “rebound”. There is a place in our family that can only be filled with furry paws and a wet nose, and we need that.

Friends, losing a pet hurts. I know that now. I am so sorry for anything I may have ever done to minimize your suffering. I stand with you. I feel your hurt, and understand it. Even if your sweet, furry (or feathered!) friend didn’t pass, but was given up, it stings. Come over and we will talk it out. I can’t promise I won’t cry, but I can promise that it will feel good to talk about it with someone who understands. Call me. ♥

-Haeley

I hope to see you again someday, sweetheart.

2015….

A year ago tonight I sat upstairs at my parents house, cuddling the dog so she wouldn’t be afraid of the fireworks. A year ago today I was texting Tanner as it got closer and closer to midnight. He actually wanted to come over and spend the holiday with me, but we decided against it. At that point we were just friends, and I had no idea that in about a week’s time we would share our first kiss. I had no idea that almost two months later, I would be engaged. I had no idea that by midnight of 2015, I would be sitting in my apartment next to my husband, with our dog snuggled up by our feet.

2015 was quite the year. One of my favorite things to do when the time comes is to look back on the past year and see how different everything has become. This year, however, was especially crazy. So many things have happened in such a short time that it doesn’t seem possible for it all to have happened in a year! And yet, somehow, it all did. And we miraculously survived it all, too!

I honestly can’t believe how extremely blessed I have been this year. I married my sweetheart, gained an absolutely incredible new family, and have grown in so many ways. I think that the person I was at the beginning of the year would be proud of who I am now, and that’s comforting. I don’t feel that this year was a year of digression for me. It was a year of fantastic progress! I have become so much more independent! I have learned what it means to put someone else’s needs ahead of mine, and I have learned just how enjoyable it is to take care of someone. I really believe I was born to be a wife and (someday) a mother. Tanner has brought out a strength in me I didn’t know I had, and he has helped me grow and become someone I needed to be. I hope I have had the same effect on him.

This year also brought along difficult challenges. Learning to live with someone so completely different from you takes a lot of compromising and giving when you don’t really want to. I never realized how selfish I was until I got married, which is rough. I’ve cried more this year than I have in many years past. I’ve had to learn that sometimes you’re wrong, and you need to accept it. And I’ve also learned that sometimes you need to realize that neither of you will win, and the sooner you kiss and make up, the better. I’ve discovered that you can’t be passive about something important to you- even though you’re married now, you still need to stick up for yourself. You are still important.

All in all, 2015 was kind of a mess. But it was such a beautiful one.

-Haeley

Meet Loo!

Relatively early on in our courtship, Tanner discovered that he was, in fact, dating a crazy dog lady. Dogs are my absolute favorite animals, and it’s been that way for years. From a young age I would only read books about dogs, I drew dogs, and when I discovered the Internet, I spent my time searching “funny dog pictures” on Google. So it was only a matter of time before I had a dog of my own, really.

In the interest of transparency in our relationship, I made sure Tanner knew what he was getting into, in terms of my insatiable dog hunger, and in his infinite kindness, he promised that we would get a dog before our first anniversary.

Every so often, I would bring up his promise, and he told me he would deliver. One Saturday, we decided to look at the Cottonwood Humane Society to see if our first dog was waiting for us there. While there were several sweet dogs, there were none that were small enough to belong in an apartment. And so we decided to try the Sedona Humane Society to see if we would have any luck there. The Humane Society in Sedona was extremely nice, and the dogs seemed to be very well taken care of. As we reached the last cage, we saw the profile for a tiny black terrier named Bruce Wayne. He was at an adoption event about 20 minutes away, however, so we didn’t meet him there. Of course, with his size and his name (my husband is the biggest Batman fan I’ve ever met), he seemed perfect for us. So once again, we hopped into the car and drove off as fast as we could to the adoption event.

Once there, we discovered that Bruce Wayne had found his forever home, but there were still a good number of dogs to adopt. We were eventually convinced to adopt a sweet young dog named Homer. He had been abused before being rescued, and was missing some toes. He was quite a bit larger than we were hoping for, but we decided that it would be okay. We would find a place for him.

Homer

We spent the rest of the day trying our best to bond with him, but it was hard. All he wanted to do was stay outside, tucked in a corner of the backyard. We decided to sleep on it and try again in the morning. I was determined to make this work. I wanted nothing more than to give this poor dog the home he needed.

The next day I left for Mesa to attend my friend Kaitlyn’s farewell. Tanner stayed behind with Homer, to try to break through with him and get him to be comfortable with us. Halfway through the day though, Tanner called me and said that Homer was absolutely terrified of him and his dad. They had tried everything to get him to be comfortable, but he remained outside, scared and timid. After talking it over, we decided the best thing to do would be to give him back to the shelter. I was heartbroken. I felt like I had failed somehow. I felt like we would never be responsible dog owners, and that this poor dog would be homeless forever.

Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that Homer needed something different. If we were moving into a house with a big backyard and had more time to spend working with him, he would have been a great pet. But the fact of the matter is we are not in a position to have a bigger dog right now. And that’s okay.

Tanner was determined to find me a dog, however, and kept up the search. One day, he stumbled upon a website called Pet Finder, and we had fun searching dogs we felt could fit in with our little family of two. We made a list and narrowed it down to two: a senior shih tzu named Minks, and a chihuahua/mini pinscher mix named Cheekie.

Minks. Doesn’t he look like the happiest ball of fluff?!

And Cheekie, also called “The Professor”. Check out the eyebrows!

They were both sweet looking dogs, and we emailed their respective shelters. We heard back from the shelter with Cheekie almost immediately, and learned that he was still available. He would even be at an upcoming adoption event in Sedona in just a matter of weeks! We decided to go for it.

So last Saturday we went to meet little Cheekie in Sedona, at the PetsMart. It was a HUGE adoption event, with various humane societies and pet rescue centers uniting to try to adopt animals ranging from tarantulas to kittens to snakes, and, of course, dogs. We actually passed Homer out front, which was a bit awkward especially since the members of the Sedona Humane Society recognized us, but I tried not to let it bother me. We did what we thought was best, and now we were going to adopt another dog in need.

The rescue center that housed Cheekie was running late, so we took some time to look around at all the adoption options. Shortly before we were going to leave, the rescue center finally arrived, and we got to meet Cheekie. He was surrounded by other dogs, all yipping and barking. There were TONS of little chihuahas running around, in addition to a very fluffy dog who looked softer than any of his companions. Roberta, the lady in charge of the rescue center, picked him up and offered him to me so I could hold him. The minute this little dog was in my arms, he melted into me. He was softer than a rabbit! Roberta explained that this was Vinnie, a one eyed, toothless little sweetheart who loved cuddles. We told her we were also looking at Cheekie as a potential pet, and she ushered us into a room where we had the opportunity to “meet and greet” the pups.

Cheekie wanted nothing to do with us, but Vinnie stayed close by, gladly accepting the soft treats we offered. After a little deliberation, we decided that Vinnie was the one for us, and we adopted him.

It’s been almost a week, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. Since then, we’ve renamed him Loo, and it fits him perfectly. He is the happiest, snuggliest dog I have ever met. He loves us and we love him!

A lot of people initially think he just winks a lot, but nope! There’s only one eye in there. When he was rescued, his right eye was ruptured and badly infected, in addition to teeth so rotten they all had to be removed. That was only a few months ago, and he is living proof that what doesn’t kill you really DOES make you stronger. These setbacks haven’t slowed him down a bit! His balance can be a little bit wonky sometimes, but that’s to be expected.

This little guy is half cat, I swear. He’s unbelievably soft, and naps are his favorite thing, second only to belly rubs. He sleeps in his own bed through the night, and doesn’t wake up until we wake him up. It’s a pretty nice arrangement.

“this belly ain’t gonna rub itself, Mom.”

We’re in the process of trying to fatten him up a bit, because he is the boniest little guy. He’s barely five pounds!

We gave him a bath a few days ago, and while he didn’t put up much of a fight, I’m sure he would prefer us to never, ever stick him in a tub again. Sorry buddy, but cleanliness comes first.

I took him to the vet on Monday, and everyone at the office loved him immediately. Frankly, I don’t blame them! He’s a pretty cute pup. The vet suggested we put him on a canned food diet to help him bulk up and to make eating easier for our toothless wonder. Loo is a BIG fan of canned food, and ate it all up very enthusiastically.

Unfortunately for him (and us), it upset his tummy, and we’ve been dealing with gas and diarrhea something fierce (that dog can CLEAR. A. ROOM, lemme tell ya). Fortunately for him (and us!), I’ve got a Pinterest board dedicated to dogs, and I pinned several upset stomach remedies. The recipe from Everyday Roots is my favorite so far. I made Loo some mish mash with plain yogurt, rice, pureed pumpkin, and boiled chicken. We made sure to chop up the chicken into tiny pieces for him to eat easily, but it was a hit!

….It might help that I had him fast yesterday to help ‘reset’ his system, but we’ve had no issues with gas nor diarrhea since then, so I’d say this was a success!

I barely got this shot in time. He dug right in and
didn’t come up for air until the bowl was clean!
 Poor hungry puppy.

And just in case you’re wondering, the mish mash doesn’t taste too bad! Yeah, I tasted some. Don’t pretend you weren’t curious too. Not something I would eat on the reg, but Loo enjoyed it! ;^)

Having a dog has actually done so much for our marriage. I didn’t think it would change too much, but it’s really pulled us together in a way that nothing has before. We’re both focusing on another living thing, and we have become a team because of it. We look out for each other all the time, but having another member of the family to love and care for together has been such a fantastic learning experience. Since Loo is not able to take care of himself fully, we’ve bonded over sharing the job of making sure he’s taken care of and given the love and attention he needs. And can I just say how fulfilling it is to watch Tanner be a “dad” to our little dog? He’s the bee’s knees, I’m telling you. I’m so lucky I married a man who cares about animals as much as I do. Loo adores him, and loves nothing more than to cuddle up to him when we’re relaxing. I know that having a dog can never come close to having a baby, but if this is any indication, Tanner is going to be an absolutely outstanding father. I wouldn’t want anyone else loving and taking care of my babies- fur or otherwise.

Having a dog has really made so many improvements in my life. I can’t wait to see how our little Loo will bless our life years down the road!

~Haeley

ps- if you are interested in adopting any of the sweet dogs that we considered, I would highly recommend it! Knowing you adopted a dog in need is such a satisfying feeling. Save a life and make your life better all in one fell swoop!

Click here to view information about Homer. Help him find a forever home! He needs it.

Click here to go to the Chiquita Chihuahua Rescue website. This is the rescue that we got Loo from! They are a fantastic center. Check them out!

Click here to see Minks. He seems like such a sweet old soul!

Dear me.

Dear me,

Let’s talk for a minute, Haeley-to-Haeley. Cool?
I promise I’m not mad at you, so don’t freak out. I just need to remind you of a few things.

I need you to take a step back and appreciate your life for the crazy, wonderful, mess that it is right now. I need you to remember that these days won’t last forever, and you’ll eventually look back on them with incredible fondness.

No, you’re not dying, divorcing, or anything traumatic. It’s just…

You’re not pregnant.
And that’s okay. The two of you aren’t trying to have a baby yet, anyway. Still, your baby hunger is real, and boy is it persistent. Each month is a mixture of emotions for you as you simultaneously hope your period doesn’t show up, while at the same time worrying that it won’t. It’s a strange state of being, isn’t it? What would it be like to wake up one morning and not be doubled over with cramps? What would it be like to be a few days late and secretly hope that your period just wasn’t going to come? What would it be like to watch those two pink lines show up on a pregnancy test, confirming what you were hoping and praying for?

I’ll tell you what it would be like- or, at least, what I imagine what it would be like. It would be amazing. It would be the biggest rush of emotions, knowing that there was a life growing inside of you, and that in a few months, you and your husband would be parents. It would be so exciting, while at the same time being scary and daunting.
I have no doubt that it would be worth it, either. Having a baby to love and care for is the dream, after all!

But it’s not the dream right now. And what you need to understand, sweet girl, is that it’s okay! Please remember that although you may feel older than you are, you’re still only 19. You are still in your teens, Haeley! You’re still a baby! Having a baby will be wonderful, and beautiful, and scary, and the most wonderful thing is you are still so young. You can wait a few years, I promise. You’re okay. Your biological clock isn’t ticking quite yet. ;^)

For now, I want you to enjoy this part of life. You only get to be a newlywed once, you know. So take advantage of it! Go dancing with your husband, and feel free to forget what song is playing because you’re too busy kissing him to pay attention. Enjoy how excited you get when you come home from work and he’s there, waiting for you and only you. Cuddle up to him each night and hold him as close to you as possible, because this time is limited. You have the rest of your life to be a mom, but you only have right now to have it be just the two of you.

So go ahead, live your life to the very fullest. Feel free to be as passionate as you want to, in whatever you’re doing. The two of you are so, so young, so go out and LIVE while you can! Take a random trip to a city you’ve never heard of. Stay up all night watching movies without worrying about waking up the baby. Go on dates as often as you want to without worrying about a babysitter. Make sure your siblings are annoyed by your constant cuddling and general lovey-dovey talk.

Haeley, you’ve wanted a relationship like this since you were 12. Do you know how lucky you are? Start appreciating the lovely little family you have right now, and know that in the Lord’s time your children will come to you. But don’t worry about it right at this moment, please. Enjoy being a newlywed while you can, and love that sweet husband of yours with every last ounce of yourself.

Because someday, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night, because the little creature the two of you created needs you. And someday you will have to find a babysitter in order to spend a little alone time with the boy who still gives you butterflies when he holds your hand.

Someday, you will be utterly drained and exhausted, but more full of love than you ever thought. Someday, you will have a beautiful little child running through the sprinklers, giggling and squealing, and you will marvel at just how you lived without them. And throughout the years, you will watch that child grow up into their own person, and eventually they will find their own spouse, and you’ll remember this time again, when it was just your husband and you, and you’ll hope your children are even half as happy as you are.

These years are coming, Haeley. They are. And they will be the best years of your life, but those years have already begun. Look into Tanner’s eyes and know that all you need is in front of you. He is so wonderful to you. sweetheart. You couldn’t have done better.

Remember that.

Love, me.

~Haeley

Not a fairytale.

Last week was full of new experiences. Last week was the first time in our married life that Tanner and I have spent any time apart, other than when we are at work. I had the opportunity to babysit for a family in my parent’s ward for a week, and I also was able to attend the sealing of one of my dearest friends to her sweetheart. It was the first time I’ve attended the temple since my own sealing!

Becoming, for all intents and purposes, a single mother of four for a week offered some killer perspective on motherhood for me. The first few days were rough, figuring out the kid’s personalities, their schedule, and how to communicate effectively were really hard, but eventually I figured it out and was able to hit a groove. I also got really acquainted with sleeping as lightly as possible, in case any of the kids needed me during the night. I had a few (very) early mornings, which were hard on me and my sanity, and I learned that even taking a 2 minute bathroom break is a bad idea, because that’s when little fingers get slammed in a door by older siblings.

Being on my own with four littles all week, I gained a huge respect for single mothers. They are superheroes. Basically all mothers are superheroes, because kid-wrangling is HARD STUFF! A few times my sisters came to help me out, and lemme tell you, they were a Godsend. Even if they just played with some of the kids, it was wonderful to not have all that pressure on just me. I’m so, so blessed to be able to have a husband who will become a fantastic father someday. I know he will be indispensable when the time comes! Granted, I’m sure it gets a tiny bit easier when you’re the one who’s had them around from conception, so you’ve had time to get used to the idea of motherhood, and you’ve been with the child since birth, so you know all their little nuances and quirks, and you love them more than life itself, but if I learned anything this week, it’s that I am NOT ready to be a mom yet. I’m going to enjoy taking care of just the two of us for a while before we bless the world with another Rhineheart. ;^)

I know that we’re still newlyweds, and we’re clingy, sentimental, love birds who just can’t keep their hands off of one another, but good HEAVENS being away from Tanner was hard on me. Half of the reason I slept so terribly all week was because I had no one to cuddle up to! How strange it is to me that for the past 19 years of my life I’ve not wanted to share the bed with ANYONE, but now that I’m married I can’t stand the idea of NOT sharing the bed! I love having him there beside me. His presence calms and relaxes me, and I didn’t get to enjoy that for a week!

Being apart helped me appreciate him more, and it made me realize how much I really need him. Especially when we become parents. There were times this past week where I had been woken up before the sun, and aside from being completely exhausted I was covered in drool, tears, boogers, food, and myriad other substances that I did not even want to think about. I had been pinched, sassed, and ignored the whole day, and all I wanted to do was curl up next to Tanner and try not to cry my eyes out. But he wasn’t there, so I just had to soldier on all by myself. I think this is just one of the many reasons why families are so vital. I know I wouldn’t be able to function by myself! I need my husband! And, eventually, our kids will need BOTH of their parents. Again, I’m so lucky I’ve got that guy.

Towards the end of the week, I went to my friend Annie’s sealing. I got one of my sisters to watch the kids so I could be a part of that special day, and I am so grateful I was able to go. Walking through the doors of the temple I was immediately overwhelmed by a sense of peace. I saw Annie’s parents in the lobby, and I couldn’t help but be positively giddy for their family. Maybe it’s the hopeless romantic in me, but nothing makes me happier than weddings. Knowing that two people have found the person they know they can’t live without is so beautiful! Now that I’m married, however, that feeling of joy is increased tenfold, because I know how great marriage is!

Before the ceremony, I saw my old elementary school teacher, and sat by her. It was so great to be able to see her! Every time I’ve been able to reconnect with that sweet woman, my day is made better.

When the time came to enter the sealing room, I felt the Spirit so strongly. These two were going to be making such a powerful covenant today, and I had the privilege to witness it! What was even more exciting is that they were sealed in the very same room Tanner and I were sealed in, just over a month before. As I sat through the ceremony, I thought about what a blessing it was to be able to be here for this ordinance. I remember, throughout all our elementary years, Annie and I dreamed about this day. We played “house” in the sandbox countless times, pretending we were wives and mothers with adoring husbands. As we got a little bit older, we would daydream about boys and what it would feel like to kiss one someday. We planned our weddings, talked about crushes, and discussed what our plans were when we became mommies someday in the distant future.

As the years passed, and we graduated from elementary school, we kind of lost contact. But I thought back to our growing up years often, and thought about the time we would both be married someday. Every now and then we would talk, and I still felt that comfortable friendship we had developed so long ago. We were finally able to discuss what it actually felt like to kiss, and, yes, it was every bit as awesome as we hoped it would be.

Then we each got engaged to our sweethearts within weeks of each other, and it got even more exciting. Our dreams were finally coming true! We would really start living the fairytale life we had hoped for all our lives!

Well, real life is far from being a fairytale. Marriage is wonderful, and living life with my best friend is the biggest blessing I’ve received, but it is also hard. We’ve had to make sacrifices, and have had to compromise, and have had to come to terms with the fact that life just doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to, despite your best efforts. We’re never going to ride into the sunset on a white horse, never to worry again. We’re never going to magically solve our problems at the drop of a hat, and we’re never going to have little woodland animals clean our house- which is actually a big bummer.

Right now, the reality is that being married is tough. Each of us has a job (which is SUCH a good thing, don’t get me wrong), but the hours conflict terribly. Tanner gets up super early and is still working when I have to leave for the evening shift at my job. We hardly see each other except for weekends, and even then I often have to work. If I were a Disney princess, we wouldn’t have this problem.

We are also struggling to find a place of our own to make a home. Apartment hunting is tedious, applications can be expensive, and finding a place that isn’t falling apart or in a scary neighborhood is not a walk in the park, to say the least. Craving independence and having to be patient is not ideal, and if Tanner was a dashingly handsome young pirate, sailing the seven seas and racking up a fortune in jewels and doubloons, we wouldn’t have to worry about how we would pay for rent AND car insurance and still manage to have enough for groceries.

Real life isn’t a fairytale. In real life, prince charming snores, and the princess has really bad morning breath, in addition to an expanding waistline and hairy legs. In real life, we don’t get to be independently wealthy. We have to work for every single penny we make, and even then it’s hard to scrape by. In real life, sometimes your relationship simply isn’t as passionate as it used to be, because now the two of you have so many responsibilities it’s all you can do to kiss your spouse goodnight before falling asleep and repeating everything the next day. Real life has a lot more arguments, diapers, sleepless nights, bills, and heartache.

Real life is not, and never really will be, a fairytale.

But I wouldn’t trade it for a thing. Fairytales don’t have the late-night belly laughs. Fairytales don’t have the spontaneous ‘dates’ that consist of filling the car’s tank and grabbing some ice cream. Disney princesses will never dance in the canned food aisle with their prince because their song came on over the radio. They will never search Yelp for a new restaurant and find a new favorite place to get pizza on a lazy afternoon. Fairytales will never tell you how exciting it will be when you and your husband get your first pet together, nor will they ever tell you how fun it is to dream about your future home with your lover. And fairytales can’t even eclipse the wonder and joy that will fill your heart as your family grows over the years. Why would I want anything less than real life and all the joy it brings?

This past week was one life lesson after another, and even though they weren’t always the most exciting, they taught me so much. Being able to go from an established family to the temple and see the beginning of a brand-new family was beautiful, and I’m so, so glad I was present for it. It’s so comforting to know that we had so many opportunities for our lives to change to the point where the temple wasn’t an option or a goal, but we stayed true to our standards, and now we will be blessed for it. I hope that Annie and her sweet husband have a beautiful life and a celestial marriage, and I hope they are able to enjoy everything that life has to offer.

I think I’ll take a happy life and marriage over a fairytale ending any day.

~Haeley

Month 1.

A month ago today my life changed forever. Can you believe it? A month ago today, I knelt across the altar from my love, and we covenanted to love each other through this life and eternity. And just like a week, a month has changed my perspective immensely. I’ve learned so much more in these past few weeks than I thought I would, and it’s only fitting that I document it.

  • Real life hits you FAST. The Monday after our honeymoon, Tanner started work, which meant getting up at 5 in the morning and coming home at 4 pm, completely exhausted. The first week and a half of living like that was rough, to say the least. The rest of the family works as well, so I spent my days alone in the house, feeling useless. Fortunately, I got a job as a hostess at a restaurant, which is great, but I work from 4 pm to 9 pm, so Tanner and I really only see each other in the morning, during lunch sometimes, and the evening when both of us are tired from work. I also picked up another job, babysitting for some sweet little girls. The extra income is nice, especially since we’re SO broke, but more often than not I find myself daydreaming about our honeymoon, and wishing we could be independently wealthy so we could spend our days traveling the world, not having a care in the world, and spending all our time together. But this is our reality right now, and I am so grateful both of us are employed, so I’m not going to complain too much. ;^)
  • Communication is so, so, SO important. I’ve always thought the two of us had fantastic communication, but we are far from perfect. If I’ve learned anything this past month, it’s that Tanner is not a mind reader, and neither am I. We’ve gotten into several disagreements where the root of the problem was failure to communicate. My feelings got hurt because I didn’t express my desires, and he got frustrated because he didn’t express his. In the end, we were able to have a really good discussion about the problem, and we have been so much happier for it, but the issue could have been resolved weeks ago if one of us had swallowed our pride and just talked it out. I just hope I remember that advice later on down the road.
  • Sleeping together is still a bit of a challenge (I can be a ridiculously light sleeper), but I’m pretty sure I prefer that to sleeping alone. I can’t sleep unless I’m touching him, and I live for our late night cuddles. It just feels so comforting holding each other until we fall asleep, and even though waking up at 5 every morning sucks, it means holding each other in the early hours of the morning, which I am always in favor of. I love that boy, bedhead and morning breath included. 
  • Living with parents is hard. I’m just going to come out and say it. But lest you think I am an ungrateful, spiteful human, let me explain. It’s hard because even though I’m his wife, I’m not really a wife right now. Does that make sense? We aren’t in our own space, so I can’t do a lot of things a normal housewife would. Keep in mind that these are things I WANT to do- I’m not some suppressed, languishing feminist who needs to break out of the mold. No, I very much want to be a housewife, and not fulfilling that role is throwing off my groove. I do love getting to know his wonderful family, though, and living rent-free while we get on our feet is a HUGE blessing. But it’s still tough to not have my own space. It’s tough to have to wear actual pants around the house, too. Hopefully soon we will have our own space, though, and I won’t have to wear pants! And I will be able to decorate everything, and take care of my husband fully and completely. I am so excited for that.
  • Post-marriage weight gain is real, y’all. It’s real, and it’s terrible. My eating habits have changed right along with my last name, and I have paid for it. I’ve even started eating sugar again, which has been simultaneously the easiest and hardest thing that has happened. The fact of the matter is sugar just tastes so dang GOOD, and it’s easier than you would think to fall into that trap again. Even after almost 5 years of not eating it, my body got used to the sugar really quick, and now I’m having to take a step back and regroup. I hate that I allowed myself to do that! Not eating sugar was a piece of who I was as a person, however small and inconsequential it may seem. Losing a part of my identity hurt, and I’ve been struggling to get back on the horse and be strong again. Loving my body has also been so difficult. Before I got engaged and the stress (and sugar) did a number on my body, I was the slimmest I had ever been. I was finally in a place where I felt good about myself most of the time. I was eating right, I was active, and I felt so awesome! Now, I have grown not one, but four pant sizes since February, and it’s been harder than ever to love myself because of it. I know how important it is to love the skin you’re in, but it gets so difficult when you just… Can’t. I think I’ll make a separate post about this, because it’s been weighing so heavily on my mind. No pun intended. 
  • This month, I have learned a lot about caring and being taken care of. Each night when I get home from work, my sweet Tanner has had dinner ready for me. And even though it’s a normal thing at this point, I’m still so touched by that sweet gesture every time. Having someone take care of you is the best feeling, and I couldn’t be luckier to have someone like him caring for me. He treats me like an absolute queen, and I am consistently amazed by the love he continues to show for me. I’ve tried to step up to the plate and take care of him as well as he takes care of me, but it’s hard to top. He really is so fantastic. I’m so blessed. We both have a long way to go, however. We’re both stubborn human beings, and that often means refusing help. Which is like running headfirst into a brick wall, it’s so frustrating. Sometimes I just want to scream, “LET ME HELP YOU!!”, but then I remember that he is his own person, and I can’t force him to do anything. And sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is be patient, which poor Tanner has to be more often than not, because I am not the easiest person to deal with, to say the least. But I’m trying to be better at accepting the help that he gives, and I’m trying to remember that he’s taking care of me because he WANTS to, not because he is being told to. It’s pretty great being loved by him.
Well, this month has been great, and I can’t wait to see what we’ll have learned in a year from now! I really hit the jackpot when it comes to spouses.
Let’s try for another month!
*photo credit courtesy of Lexi Carling Photography
~Haeley

To my previous love interests.

A few nights ago, Tanner and I *finally* opened our wedding presents. Naturally, a bunch of cards were in the mix. As we went through the gifts and cards, I was struck by the amount of love being poured out to us through the kind words being said in the little cards we received.

The evening was a good one, and as things began winding down and the last few gifts were opened, I noticed an envelope addressed specifically to me. I took it out of the pile quietly, and read it to myself. It was from a young man I had had a crush on all throughout my high school years, and rather than wishing me and my new husband congratulations on our marriage, it was an apology letter. It expressed regret for any amorous advances made towards me, and any subsequent confusion it may have caused.

As I thought about the strange note, my first reaction was to laugh. Obviously I had moved on! Did he think that, perhaps, my Tanner was an extreme form of a rebound? Did he think I was emotionally scarred by holding hands with him occasionally over the course of 4 years? Why did he feel the need to bring it up over a year later, at my wedding? 

I don’t know that I’ll ever get answers to these questions, but now I don’t think it’s as funny as I did initially. Rather, I feel sad for him and that he feels those years were a waste of time. Had I the opportunity to go back to high school and change anything, I wouldn’t. Because those years were difficult at times, but wonderful nonetheless. Do you know why they were so wonderful? Because of him, and other boys that came into my life at one point or another and gave me a little taste of just how awesome romance can be.

Perhaps it’s just because I have always been a tad (read: very) boy-crazy, but I honestly think that having crushes and having those experiences have made me into a better person! I don’t regret anything I’ve done; instead, I’m grateful for the small romantic interludes I had every so often.

And so, I would like to write a little letter in response to that note- but rather than target that specific boy, I’m going to address this letter to all of my previous love interests over the years, because they really shaped who I am and influenced my choice of a husband.

Dear past crushes,

I would like to say, first and foremost, thank you.

Thank you for helping me grow into the woman that I am today. Couldn’t have done it without you!

Thank you for being brave enough to hold my hand the first time. It may seem small and inconsequential now, but at the time it made my heart pound, and I couldn’t sleep because of how happy it made me. Thank you for teaching me to appreciate even the simplest forms of physical affection, and to enjoy the feeling of someone’s hand in mine. It’s still one of the most comforting feelings, and you made me realize the beauty and security that holding hands fosters.

Thank you for the little notes and treats you gave me for my birthday, Valentine’s Day, and for no reason. I still have all of those sweet little treasures, and when I was younger I had a few of your letters almost memorized from reading them so much. Thank you for teaching me to enjoy the small, handmade gifts. They mean the most, and are so sincere. Please never stop writing notes to your future wife. She will appreciate them more than you know, and keep them for years to come.

Thank you for being so entertaining to talk to, because it taught me the importance of being able to talk to my future spouse, and the importance of being able to have deep, meaningful talks one moment, and silly, pointless banter the next. Communication is so important, and you helped me realize that.

Thank you for allowing me to imagine a future with you. Granted, you never knew it because I never talked about it to you, but I loved dreaming about our potential future together. I would imagine our story, how it would be different from everyone else’s, and how romantic it would be to tell our children how we met, holding hands and smiling as the old feelings came rushing back alongside those precious memories. I loved picturing the two of us growing old together, surrounded by grandchildren. I loved secretly trying out your last name (every girl does this, I’m not crazy), and quietly saying it out loud to see how it sounded.

Thank you for being so kind and caring with my little brothers, because it made me realize that having a man who was good with kids was a non-negotiable item on my mental checklist of marriageable qualities. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy watching a guy play with little kids? Yum.

Thank you for being my best friend, and doing random, crazy things with me. I knew that I would want to marry someone like that someday- someone I could laugh with, cry with, and go on completely random adventures with. Thank you for being the kind of person I could tell anything to, and thank you for never judging me for my feelings.

Thank you for breaking my heart, and for letting me experience the feeling of emptiness. As hard as it was, it built me up into a stronger person, and allowed me to appreciate the power of loving myself. It taught me to be independent, and showed me that my happiness did not rely on the approval of male counterparts.

Thank you for being a jerk. Thank you for texting other girls while you were on a date with me, and thank you for making me feel stupid by acting like my superior constantly. Thank you for being inconsiderate, because without your sour example, I wouldn’t have decided that I was worth someone’s full attention. I was worth being treated as an equal, and I was worth someone who would be KIND to me. Thank you for reminding me that settling never makes anyone happy.

Thank you for all the lessons you unknowingly taught me through the years. Without you, I would never have found someone who had all the qualities I both wanted and needed in a man. I don’t regret any of the experiences I’ve had over the years, because if I hadn’t had them, I wouldn’t appreciate Tanner for the true gem he is.

So never apologize for your past feelings. Even if we didn’t end up together, we had a good time, and we both learned a lot. I hope that you don’t feel bad for any feelings you had towards me, because I don’t regret having liked you. I am excited for the future you have ahead of you, and I pray that the woman you eventually make your wife will appreciate the man you have become because of those experiences.

Best of luck,

~Haeley

Mother’s Day

For the first Mother’s Day out of the house and away from my Mommy, I also happen to be completely broke and unable to do anything really great for mi madre. So instead, I will write her a letter here. 

Dearest, darlingest Mommy:
Yesterday, as I’m sure you know, I went through the temple for the first time. It was one of the most beautiful, precious experiences I have had thus far, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity I had to go through with you by my side. I know that I wouldn’t have made it that far if it wasn’t for your example. Throughout my life, you have been there for me, reminding me when I need to be better, and guiding me to a different path. Even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I can now see how important your advice was at the time. 
I love you SO much! One of the hardest parts about living outside of the house is not hearing your voice or your sweet laugh. Hearing you giggle over something is one of my very favorite sounds. It’s impossible to NOT be happy when you’re so happy! I love your smile. I love your hugs. I love YOU. And I miss you. 
Mom, our lives are about to change permanently. In just under two weeks I’m going to belong to someone else, and I will be a part of someone else’s family. How nuts is that?! (so nuts.) Through it all, you’ve been able to keep me calm. Heck, through my LIFE you’ve been able to keep me relatively calm. I have no words for how grateful I am to have someone as steady and level-headed as you. You are the best mother I ever could have asked for, and I hope that some day I can be even half the mother you are. You have raised some seriously top-notch kids, Mama! Thank you so much for being the person you are and for never sacrificing your standards. I would never have come this far without you and your guidance. I love you so so soooooo much!
I hope that even though I’m getting married soon and won’t be around as often, we can continue to grow and strengthen our relationship. I’m gonna need a lot of advice once I start having littles! You’re going to be the best grandma ever, I know it. 
Again- I love you so very much, Mom. Thank you for loving me as unconditionally as you do. 
Love, me,
Thought I was done, didn’t you? Psych! This year, I get to celebrate twice the mothers! So I will write twice the letters. :^)
Dearest Mama Terra,
For almost as long as I’ve dreamed about my future husband, I’ve dreamed about (and, quite honestly, worried about) my future in laws. I’ve worried that either I wouldn’t like you, you wouldn’t like me, or it would be a mutual dislike between the two of us. But from the moment I met you, back before Tanner and I were even dating, I liked you. And I have grown to love you more than I ever thought possible! You are such a wonderful woman, and you’ve raised such a wonderful son. 
I know I’ve said it before, but I am, and forever will be so grateful to you for the boy you’ve raised. Because of your selfless sacrifice all these years he’s the man he is today. He is everything I’ve ever wanted in a husband, and that is largely because of you! Thank you so, so much. He is one of the most selfless people I’ve met, and I appreciate it more than you know. 
Thank you for welcoming me into your home time and time again, and for taking care of me so well. You’ve truly owned up to being a MOTHER in law, because I’ve felt so safe and welcome around you. I really do feel like one of your daughters, and I am so excited to get to know you in the coming years. Getting to know you has been a blessing. Becoming a part of your family in two short weeks is a dream come true, and I can’t say it enough!
I love you so much! You are the best mother in law I could have.
Love,
Me.
~Haeley

The blood donation that changed my life.

I pride myself in being the kind of person who just doesn’t throw up. I haven’t puked in 7+ years, in fact. I’m really very talented at breathing through the nausea, calming my stomach down, and holding it in.

Yeah, well, all good things come to an end.

Today was an important milestone in Tanner’s and my relationship. Today was the day we would bleed side by side, saving people’s lives one drop of blood at a time. We donated blood, in case that wasn’t clear. I love donating blood- love it! I love knowing I’m helping someone in a way that is life-giving and vital. It’s beautiful to me, and I was excited to share this experience with my love.

Apparently this day was to have more milestones than one.

I didn’t think too much about the donation today, aside from drinking a lot of water and making sure I had my ID with me. I really should have thought more about the donation though, because in my distracted state I didn’t eat anything after breakfast- and one of the important things to remember when donating blood is to have eaten every meal that day leading up to the donation time. Silly me.

Tanner and I signed in, read the provided safety information, and got ready. We were really hoping to be able to donate at the same time, to, you know, bond and stuff. Unfortunately, we were seated across the room from each other as we prepared to be interviewed, so we couldn’t bond over that. Still, we were hopeful that true love would prevail and we would be able to bleed together after all. A young man sat in front of me, hooked up, bleeding, and cracking jokes. I watched him as he went from cheerful and joking, to pale and weak. They stopped his donation immediately and gathered around putting cold packs on his forehead and making sure he stayed conscious. As this transpired, he remarked that he had donated several times and had never dealt with this problem before. The nurse laughed and said “well, every time is different! You never know what could happen.”

All at once, I knew. I KNEW something was going to go wrong with my donation today, I just knew it. I tried to dismiss the thought of anything bad possibly happening, because I’ve never had ANY problems at all when it comes to donating blood. But still. I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling I had, and I hoped it was all just in my head.

The interview went well enough, with many jokes exchanged between the nurse and I. I got settled into the chair and as I was being prepped to donate, Tanner was seated right behind me! What luck! I was only able to see him via iPhone camera, though, which was slightly lame. I was still very, very happy to have him nearby though.

He’s so cute when he bleeds
                             
The donation itself was fine. I continued joking around with the nurses, taking creeper-style pictures of my Tanner, and watching with pride as the bag filled up with my blood. (I’m also pro at bleeding really fast, so that’s cool.)

When the bag was full, a nurse came over to take some additional samples for testing. She asked me how I was doing, and I immediately said I felt fine. And I did, until I said that. That’s when it hit me.
It started as little waves of dizziness, which I didn’t think anything of, but it quickly escalated into full-blown nausea. I was sweating and shaking, and I silently prayed the nurse would hurry up, finish what she was doing, and get me the heck out of there. I also hoped she would recognize that I was not doing so hot and ask me what was wrong so I didn’t have to point out that I felt slightly like death. She apparently noticed that I didn’t look like my regular happy self because she asked if I was feeling okay. I told her I was a bit dizzy, and she called over a nurse to give me a cold pack.

Oh, great. I thought to myself. Now I’m going to call all this attention to myself and make all the nurses here think I’m a total sissy. Good HEAVENS that is one cold paper towel. Ow ow ow owwwww brain freeze… Also- you’re about to puke, girl. You’d better let the nurse know before you decorate your shirt with your breakfast. 

As quickly as I could, I let the nurse know I was feeling nauseous. She put a trash bag on my chest and immediately I put it to good use. In between heaving, I noticed that more nurses were showing up and… Oh, no. They were putting partitions around my seat for the sake of “privacy”- which really means they let everyone know I was having a crisis and that it required hiding. I also felt terrible, because if Tanner hadn’t noticed the unusually high amount of nurses around my chair before, he definitely noticed that I was now hidden from his view and something was not right. I didn’t want him to worry, but I also didn’t want to be throwing up, and as we know, we don’t always get what we want.

Eventually, I stopped throwing up, the room stopped spinning, and I was finally able to speak without ducking back into my trash bag. The only thing still hurting was my pride, and the place where the needle had been. Tanner walked with me over to the resting area where we sipped juice and I forced myself to eat some crackers. The nurses over the resting area kept asking if I was okay and even suggested I lay on a cot for a few minutes, but I assured them I felt fine. Looking down at my whiter than usual arms, though, I could understand their worry.

Tanner took me home and has been taking care of me since then. He made some lunch for us, and got me some Gatorade to help me feel better. I honestly can’t tell you enough how wonderful this boy is. At least twice a day I think about texting his mother to thank her for raising such an absolutely fantastic son, because he really is. He is selfless and caring, and I couldn’t get a better guy if I tried. I’m so grateful for him and everything he does for me. Yeah. I’m crushing preeeetty hard on that one, and I can’t wait to marry the living daylights outta him.

Also. WE ARE GETTING MARRIED NEXT MONTH!!! WHAT?!

~Haeley

The hard parts.

I’ve been engaged officially for two weeks now (holy crap, only 2 weeks? I could’ve sworn it’s been longer…), and in those few short weeks I have done a LOT of growing up. These two weeks have held some of the most wonderful, exciting, stressful, and terrifying experiences I’ve had in my life.

I’ve always dreamt of how great it would be to get engaged, thinking nothing of the immense amounts of planning that actually has to happen between the “yes” and the “I do”. Really, I had no idea how much I would have to do. So many decisions have had to be made that I haven’t even considered (what are we drinking at the reception? I have to plan that?!), it makes me very happy that I am only going to be engaged ONCE, because dang. This is stressful stuff. But you know what? I’m marrying the most perfect boy for me, I get to start living my lifelong dream of being a wife come May, and I am gaining some seriously amazing family.

But the learning curves, guys. The learning curves.

In an attempt to calm myself down enough to sleep tonight, I’m just going to do some serious word vomit and then post it for the world to see, because that’s my style.

  • I have been dealing with some killer self-confidence issues as of late. I’m starting to realize just how very oddly I am proportioned, and I can’t seem to get myself to be satisfied with my appearance. I keep finding flaws I need to “fix” before my wedding, which I hate, because I can’t afford to be worrying about that. Back when we were dating, I wasn’t ever worried about my appearance. Tanner has never failed to make me feel positively gorgeous, but I think the key problem is I knew I was going to stay fully clothed around him. Now that we’re engaged, however, I know that those days are over. Once we’re married, I will be completely his, and there won’t be anything to hide- and honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. But for now, I’m having a hard time accepting myself and believing the fact that Tanner is still going to think I’m beautiful with or without clothes on. I know he’s not expecting perfection, but I can’t stop worrying about it. Especially with my legs. Real talk: I will do literally anything to avoid shaving my legs. I HATE it. I hate taking the time to do it, I hate how dry and itchy it makes my skin, and I hate dealing with… Everything involving dragging small knives across my legs. So I just don’t do it. And because of that, I’m super self-conscious about my legs. So dealing with THAT will be an adventure.
  • Adjusting to spending the majority of my time with another person has been hard on me as well. I’m not used to being with people very often, especially since I spent the majority of my first semester alone. This has been such a wonderful, wonderful adjustment, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it is still an adjustment. So making sure I have time to give to my sweet Tanner, and not being alone as often has been an interesting development. It’s so interesting to watch how your life adjusts once a person goes from being a convenient, cuddly happiness to a priority who you will someday wake up next to for the rest of your life. 
  • I absolutely adore the new family I am acquiring, but it’s come at the price of constantly worrying I’m going to do something wrong and offend them. I know I shouldn’t be scared of that, but I just am. I like impressing people and making sure they like me. I’m trying to loosen up, but it’s not easy. I’ll get there eventually though. 
  • I found my dress today, and I am so very happy with it, but… I didn’t go with my mom or my sisters. I went with my mother in law, sisters in law, and grandmother in law, and it was SO FUN, but I can’t help but feel like I missed out on an awesome experience. I’ve always dreamed about dress shopping with them, and even though I am so happy I found such a perfect dress, I’m sad I wasn’t with my mom, Like, really really sad I wasn’t with her. 
  • I basically just need my mom with me 24/7.
  • Since becoming engaged, I have had countless offers from people who just want to help, and I can’t adequately express how appreciative I am, but I also feel bad that I can’t have everyone help. I just don’t have that many things I need, so some people are going to have to be satisfied with knowing I love them, and emotional support is really the only help they need to offer.
  • I don’t have all the answers. I have to remember that and be okay with it. 
  • This is only going to be a few more months and I can MAKE IT.
  • I’m not alone. Millions of brides have come before me, and have had to deal with more than I have. I can make it.
I just needed to get that all out, and I totally don’t expect it to make any sense. I’m just dealing with a lot right now. 
~Haeley