State of Our Union

3 cheers for 3 smiles: Steph and me last year at the bottom of the Y.

This is an adaptation to an update I sent to our families tonight:

Tonight we dropped the kids off at Peter and Darin's for swimming, banana bread and from what we can tell a movie about a "girl who speaks to animals and has a monkey who eat green peas in bed" (to quote Jane).

Chup, Lucy, Ric, Andrew, and I went to have dinner at Steph's favorite pizzeria in Scotsdale called Le Grande Orange. We all shared pizza and sat and talked funny stories about Steph and Christian. Some of which are not appropriate for this blog. But man, those two have one heck of a romantic relationship!

After that we headed to the hospital. Steph looked good tonight. How is she still so beautiful in her mummified state? Her lovely dark chocolate hair was flowing out from her head bandage on to her pillow. Her swelling has gone down significantly from the first time I saw her. I will never forget how she looked the first day I arrived. It was so disturbing. But tonight, hooked up to dozens of tubes and wrapped in new gauze, she looked completely beautiful to me. We were even able to take a peak at her hip area, which was completely untouched and showed her clear white skin. Adorning her thickly bandaged fingers were Claire and Jane's beaded bracelets--an offering that they were insistent on making for their hospital-bound mommy.

Her room! Her room! It is a four-walled mural of cards, pictures, ribbons and silhouettes. Thanks to Alice and Liz, and all the friends who have sent cards, the room is totally fit for Nie Nie herself!

It was emotional for me because we are leaving tomorrow and we had to say good bye. In the morning we will pack up the girl's room and head Utah-bound where they will live with Chup and me. Lucy and Ric will bring up the boys in a couple days. In respect to Gigs, he will be with Lucy. After all, the child knows no difference between this interim mom and his real mom, they both look, talk and smell so much alike. She already answers to his insistent "Mama!"

I promised my sister that I'd keep her children safe and well-loved. And expressed my immense love for her. I feel an ocean of love for her. A galaxy. It almost engulfs my humanity. Then I left Christopher in the room alone with her so that he could make some promises of his own. I am left to wonder when I will see her again, and in what state? But I feel at peace.

On our way to Christian's room I thanked the nurse for taking care of our sister to which he responded very genuinely, "It's been a pleasure to take care of her."

Christian's room was the same way. Decorated and awesome. I think the nurse in his room is in love with him. She was fixing his bandages and calling him by name "Chris, you've got visitors! Let's move your head so you can get comfortable." After which she pulled out a bag of silicon, looking just like one used for a breast enhancement, and tucked it under his head. Christian will like that, I thought. Wink wink!

I took a good look at Christian's hair too. I told him it looked a little singed, but still healthy. I think when you go to see them both you look for any sign of recognition. Having the hair visible helps. And their toes. And Steph's freckles. . .

I want to write this blog partly because I want my family in Utah to get a feel for what I am seeing. But it is hard to know the vocabulary. It's beautiful, scary, incredible, confusing and intimidating. Mixed together, I feel overwhelmed with pure, pure love. For them, for their children, for our families, for my own husband, for my baby. Mostly for a kind Father in Heaven.

It's so beautiful.

As we left the hospital I was struck by the image of a gigantic flag pole outside in the front that pushed up into the desert sky. On it was an American flag and below it an Arizona flag. The wind was blowing them both sideways as they wiggled underneath a high powered spotlight. I thought about how Steph came to Mesa and made the desert bloom. Arizona will always be special to me because of her.

I will miss being here in Mesa. People have been so good to us. When we leave tomorrow, we'll say good bye to many new friends and our dear Nielson-side family. I am tempted to stay forever, but I hope to get home, organized and ready to go by Monday. It helps that the girls are wildly excited for Utah. To be in classes with their cousins, to go to the Creamery for ice cream, to snuggle up at nights and read books.

I can't say I know what will happen in the next few months. Both Christian and Steph have a major battle ahead of them, surgeries, skin grafts, fighting infections and body temperature regulations (to name a few). In my opinion, we aren't out of the woods yet, but I have hope. And I have peace. And a willing heart to do my part. It's all I can do. One thing I know for sure, there is much more of this story yet to be told.

And I will continue to tell it.

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