Friday, December 14, 2012


I'm going to try and make as much sense as possible here right now.
 My heart is heavy and my mind is swirling with a lot of thoughts. 
And to top it off, as if I needed one more distraction,
my husband is sitting next to me watching Men in Black III, with the volume up way to high.
So here I go...

Today I was at the Children's Museum with Maximo, Gabriel, Eli, and the little girl that I care for each day, Tya. It took a lot of courage to bring four kids, all by myself. My father-in-law was supposed to come with, but he had to cancel. I had already told the kids the day before that we were going, and had used the "if you don't [fill in the blank] then we are NOT going to the museum tomorrow!" too many times. So I felt obligated to get those excited children to the stinkin' museum.

I was still mad today, about something DUMB from the night before, and had to vent to my BFFE about it. So I texted her to call me asap. She called me and I told her all the DUMB things I was still mad about. And she says "oh. This is why you are calling me? I thought you were calling me about what happened in Connecticut." What happened in Connecticut?!  "The mass shooting." Again, the what?! She goes on to explain in little detail about what had happened. My silly anger from the day before quickly dissipated as my world felt like is was at a surreal stand-still. I glanced at my four sweet children and I saw them in a different light.

My job as a parent is to protect my kids, and I take that so seriously. But it is not all up to me. It is not only up to me (and Matt, too, of course) to protect our three boys. We are not in this alone. God's got us covered. And that is such a relief. I trust God's ways are higher than mine. And I believe that in the moments that I am not with my boys, that God is there with them.

All of these shootings are filling people with so much anger and fear. I get it. I totally get it. Unfortunately we live in a messed up world that is filled with awful, evil people and horrific tragedies that take place daily. But during these times, I don't need to figure out all the why's and  what-if's. I need to not try and find the answers on my own. I need to not be fearful, and I need to not allow my head to be filled with the multiple scenarios that could some day touch my babies. Right now I need to turn to my Almighty God for peace and  hope. I need to raise my babes the best I know how, teach them to make good choices, discipline in a way that is aligned with the desires of God's heart, and stand firm in the belief that I am not in this alone. My children's well-being is not up to me. And that is a good thing, because I am completely incapable of doing this parenting thing perfectly.

My heart goes out to the families that have been affected by what has happened today. I am praying for those in Connecticut. I am loving on my boys. I am thanking God that they are all under our roof tonight: healthy, happy, resting in warm beds, and untouched by the ugliness that lingers in the world right outside of our doors.

  “For He has said, 
“I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” 
So that we may boldly say, 
“The Lord is my Helper,” 
and I will not fear what man shall do to me.”
Hebrew 13:5b,6

Thursday, December 6, 2012

...that it only hurts as much as it has to...

When I was days away from having Max (one of the most amazing, and also one of the most terrifying, experiences of my life) a friend of mine told me "I will pray that it only hurts as much as it has to." I remember  walking away from him thinking, "wow, that is really wise..." And as I was going through the traumatic experience that brought my amazing boy in to the world, I remember thinking, "wow. this really, really hurts. How am I not DYING RIGHT NOW!?!?!?!" My labor exceeded 26 hours, and after a failed epidural and the inability to dilate 2 more centimeters, I was rushed in to a c-section. Don't worry, This post is not all about failed birth plans and c-section controversies. Whatever. I'm over all that now. This post is about that simple blessing. That is only hurts as much as it has to.

Since then, I have prayed that over many mamas that I love in the moments that they are having babies. And I have encouraged moms by telling them that little piece of wisdom when they ask what labor is like and how much it hurts. Until now, I've only used those wise words in the context of births. But starting now, I am using it to get me through this season I am walking through right now.

This is a hard season. It's a season I feel kind of alone in, because not a lot of people no one can relate. No one has walked through this, under the same circumstances as me. Sierra.

Christmas is supposed to be happy and cheery. It's supposed to be filled with new memories and old traditions. It's supposed to be beautiful and memorable. Especially in our case since it's the first Christmas in our new house! And we have three excited boys that melt with pure joy the minute we just even turn on the Christmas lights. Holy cow. And they look at each and every ornament as if it is the most amazing treasure to be found on this earth. Then they use them to shoot at each other. Or as balls to be thrown.

When we all moved from our big multi-family house (where we lived with my parents from right before Max was born to December 6th the year after dad died) we inherited most of the Christmas ornaments. There are ornaments in there that are as old as I am. Each and every one tells a story and has history. I'm not even super sentimental (at least I don't think I am...) As Matt unpacked the little ornaments and the kids started hanging them on the tree, this great sadness came over me. As I saw the names and dates written on the backs of some of them, I just started to ache. Wow, I remember what had happened that year, and how that sibling was impacted, and how they must have felt at that Christmas. I remember how I loved the doll one, or how mom always told that story about that one, or how we got dad the stupid chef dog one. Or the meaning behind the trout one. Or how creative our mom was when she sewed a bunch of cute home-made birds and little ladies...

And now life looks different. Dad is gone. Gil is in Chicago. I have my own family now. Mom has a new husband. And it hurts. A lot. I ache for the good ol' days. But I am so grateful for what these days right now hold. It's a crazy mix of emotions. We are trying to find the new "norm" and we're seeking out new traditions, and a new way of doing things. Change is good, but it's never easy, right? As my mom and I were processing through how this all has such a different impact on each of us experiencing it, I really felt like the Lord brought that idea back to me. That it only hurts as much as it has to.

It's going to hurt, because we are still dealing with loss and grief. But I can choose to allow God to strengthen me and comfort me through it. I can choose to not let my emotions run wild. I can choose to only let it hurt as much as it has too, and not any more than that.

So, today is a new day. Yesterday was hard, but His grace is sufficient. One day at a time. I want to enjoy these days with my family, and not suffer through them....and not feel guilty that I don't have a super happy smile the whole time, or a beautiful advent calendar, and an elf on a shelf, and a million gifts for my kids and a perfect Christmas tree and all the pintrest yadda yadda yadda like the perfect moms... :)

If you are one of those perfect moms, not judging you, just kinda jealous. just kinda.

I have high hopes that this Christmas is going to turn out just fine. My kids are going to be happy no matter what. And that is all that matters.

Christmas morning last year. Can't wait to post pics this year in our new house!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I sure love my village.

Last April, we moved in to the BEST. NEIGHBORHOOD. EVER. 
Englewood Street is where it's at.

When we first walked through this house with our realtor, I was in the back yard with the kids, and from the yard behind us became a voice. "Hey!" It was Rachel. Her and I spoke for a brief moment, and I told her "who knows, maybe we'll be neighbors!" I was so excited when we found out that we had gotten the house, because I already knew one of our neighbors! 

The day we closed on our house, some tattooed dude with earrings walked up our drive way. He came to the door and introduced himself. It was our first encounter with our next-door neighbor. He was super friendly and welcoming, and told us that he had a wife and two kids. 

A few days later, on moving day, we met the neighbors a few houses down, on the corner. They were so cool. We met the two other houses between them and us, two houses also with young kids. Then Matt's dad met our next-door neighbors on the other side, and realizes that they have been friends with his siblings for years. And then there was the sweet lady across the street, who gave us a beautiful vintage push mower. 

With all of that to say, we moved in to a gem of a neighborhood. This summer, everyday, we were playing and hanging with the neighbors. I need milk, a garbage bag or some cooking spray? One of them has it. When one of them needs cilantro or greek yogurt? I got it. We do kid swaps. We share meals. We walk our neighbor's dog. We take care of each other when we're sick. We check in on each other. We watch out for one another. ) We share cheese cake or ice cream after a hard day (or just because its 1pm and  both of our houses are filled with sleeping kids.) We encourage each other through hard times, and rejoice with one another when it all works out. There is a book club (I don't even read the books, but I still get to come along!) We do playdates. We chase each other's kids down before they run in to the street (and they don't judge me when they find that Gabriel has wandered in to their back yard... again... without me knowing. 

It takes a village.

we always mix up gabe and jakey. they are like twins. 
Kira and the boys
safe, sunny streets.

what? you don't have henna parties with your neighbors?
gabriel, found in the neighbor's secret garden. again.


This morning my friend Rachel was over visiting and we were outside enjoying the weather and watching the kiddos play while chatting with my next-door-neighbor. A group of us woman have built up a sweet little community, my next-door neighbor is one of my closest friends already! Another neighbor drove up and let us know that some women from our hood were getting together for a night out next month.  Rachel said there needed to be a reality show about our neighborhood since we are so tightly knit. We decided we would call it "The Ladies of Englewood." I laughed, imagining the "Desperate House Wives of so-and-so County" music playing, us pictured with our families, swerving our hips all sassy with our arms folded across our chests. Dirty kids running around in the background. Bananas and Cheerios from breakfast on the floor. Gabriel constantly going missing and images of me frantically looking for him. Stupid fights with our husbands over chores. Kids having melt downs. Not-fancy dinners and many nights with out baths or teeth brushing. The Ladies of Englewood. I'd sure watch it. 

I'm so grateful for the women in this neighborhood, and their families (and dogs!) too. 

Get out and meet your neighbors! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

trying to keep my wind-whipped waves at bay...

This last week we feel as though we are really being tested and refined in the area of finances. Matt found out he lost a very large snow plowing contract, and I found out, today, that one of the little girls I have been watching will no longer come to my house for care. Tomorrow is her last day. I was crushed. 

When finances are tight, it impacts me heavily. I hate that. I want my faith to be unwavered by things like this. We had a speaker at our church last Sunday that spoke about faith. He talked about how we need to check our history with God when we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances. That's what I am trying to doing now. 

The hard part, is knowing that in the waiting and in the trusting, there are lessons to be learned. It never comes easy. Refinement is painful, man! The outcome is always amazing though, and time after time I have gotten to share the amazing goodness that comes out of our trials. 

Consider it a sheer gift, friends,
 when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. 
You know that under pressure,
 your faith-life is forced into the open 
and shows its true colors. 
So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. 
Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, 
not deficient in any way.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, 
pray to the Father. 
He loves to help.
 You’ll get his help,
 and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. 
Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.
 People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

James 1:2-8
The Message

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mom, I'm thanksgiving for you.

Two months since my last post. 
Our computer was broken, 
So I was unable to keep up. 
Hi. I'm back.

It's almost thanksgiving, so let's talk about being thankful. I'm thankful for my family.

 I want to see my boys the way God sees them. And I feel like this is pretty close to how he sees them. 

As tired as I am. As impatient and frustrated as I feel at times, I am so thankful to be the mama of these boys. 

Max is doing well in school, is learning so much, and is becoming friends with Gabriel (finally!) He is like a little wild stallion. He needs a lot of direction and guidance right now. He loves his mama and daddy so much. The other day is tells me "mom? I'm thanksgiving for you."

Gabriel is an emotional TRAIN WRECK these days. He is either SUPER happy and playful, or SUPER devastated, heart broken or upset. So. Much. Drama. He is 2 1/2 and so funny. Everyone he sees lately he tells "me frow up in my bed." The other night he got sick and was throwing up. Of course he was fine the next day, but it is his conversation starter with everyone he greets these days. 

Eli has been battling a cold for a month I feel like. So sad. He is teething and pretty miserable at times, but he always has a smile for me, and pretty much everyone else. He is so sweet. He's such a climber, and has mastered climbing on to our dining room chairs. Oh man, he's fearless.

I'm thankful for my husband. Marriage is SO hard. It's so much work. But when you have an awesome spouse, it makes it so worth it. He's willing to work with me to make things better. He's open to what is on my heart, and listens. He is a hard worker. He provides for our family. He spends his weekends doing house projects and maintenanceHe is helpful around the house. He helps with dishes and clean-up. He is in charge of laundry. He helps with meals. He is an AMAZING father. He loves his boys so much. He plays with legos and cars, he wrestles with them, he tickles them and chases them. He changes poopy diapers. Our boys absolutely adore their daddy. And I do too. He gives me a scheduled break every Monday night (my funday Monday night.) He even releases me to have a 24 hour retreat each month with my BFF Hilary. I got a good man. 

We have a beautiful home, 
great friends and family, 
an awesome and powerful God that loves us
 more than we can even comprehend,
and a life that is truly a miracle.

I feel like this is one of our family verses:

I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places- firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.
Isaiah 58:11-12 (The Message)

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Two years today.

**Pardon my grammar, I wrote in a hurry, and I'll try to edit later:)

Two years from right this minute, I was sitting in the living room, shocked, numb, sick to my stomach. Mom had just left with my brother Gil to go to the funeral home to plan arrangements. My sweet sister-in-law was with us, making us turkey sandwiches and trying to force us to eat. The house was quiet and empty. It was windy and rainy a cloudy outside. My husband and I kept glancing at each other with looks of  "did this all just seriously happen?"

Thursday night we were all just hanging out at the house. My friend Emily was over with her new baby and we were watching some dumb movie about an Indian man with autism who fell in love with a girl. It was super cheesy and we were all making fun of it. Not because it was about a special needs guy in-love, but because the acting was HORRIBLE. Earlier that night I had over heard my dad on the phone with a nurse, telling her that he had had chest pains for a while now, that even just walking down the stairs holding his grandson just now, that he felt like he was almost going to pass out. Since he had open-heart surgery just a few years before, there was enough concern that they told him to come in the next morning to be seen. This of course made him giddy with excitement that he was going to get to call in to work and get catered to by us, his family. So all night we were doting on poor sicky dad. We fed him ice cream. He made sure he was comfy as he snuggled up to mom on the floor and watched the movie with us.

The next morning I was rushing to get out the door to a playdate. He said "come on, stay and have breakfast with us! I'll cook!" I got irritated and said "no dad! I gotta go!" And out the door I flew, with both kids in tow. DUMB. I should've just stayed. Dumb.

Friday I got a call from mom that they were keeping dad for tests. That they'd keep him over night, and in the morning they would do a stress test. No big deal. Later that day dad called me and told me the food was bad (I know he secretly like it) and that he needed some comfy pants. And that I should come visit him. Matt had just gotten home from being gone for a few days in Kansas City, but I felt like I should make the effort to go see him. "Leave the kids with me" Matt said. But I refused to leave Max, for some reason I felt like I should bring Max to see his Bapa.

I ran to Target to get dad a fancy deli sandwich and a goat cheese salad. And comfy lounge pants. When we got to United, Dad was sitting back, watching Office re-runs, and he happily greeted Max with a hug and lots of sloppy kisses. We just sat with him. He told me about a story he had just seen on the news about a little boy who had gone in to cardiac arrest. That they cooled his body temp down, and then warmed him back up. The boy was fine, no neurological damage. Total miracle. I thought it was a cool story, but wondered why dad was so interested in it. We laughed at The Office, talked about our plans for the next day (dad was planning on bringing Max to Fort Snelling) and he complained some more about the meat loaf, that I know he secretly liked since the plate was empty when I got there.

The time came for us to go. Dad put on the pj pants and they were about 6 inched too long. I told him I'd hem them for him. He hugged me. Kissed me. Hugged and kissed Max, and then I told him we would pray for him. At the end of my prayer Max said he wanted to pray for him too, and in his 3 year old little voice, he said "though I walk... thwough the vawey... of the shadow of death, i wiw feaw no eviw, fo you awe wiff me" from Psalm 21. Matt had been working on this passage with him and he remembered that part! I was in shock, and I think dad got a little teary eyed.  We told him we loved him, and that we'd see him the next day. As I left, a twinge of fear swept over me. I thought to myself that this good bye was so beautiful and memorable, what if it was THE good-bye? No. It's a stress test that they are doing. It'll be fine.

The next day, Saturday, Matt and I had the van packed up with the two boys, and we were off to an apple orchard that was like an hour away. We were almost there when mom called me around 10am and said "SIERRA! Dad had a heart attack! But they have him stabilized, luckily doctors were only feet away from him, so he is ok!" He was on the treadmill for the stress test, and minutes in, he collapsed. His heart had stopped. I was shocked but relieved that he was ok. Lots of people have heart attacks right? Some are even able to finish the work day and drive themselves to the hospital right? So I asked her if we should turn around and come home, and she told me we better, just in case. So then I started making the arrangements for childcare so that Matt and I could be at the hospital. i felt overly dramatic as I called my friends and some family to tell them what happened. It wasn't that big of a deal.

Hilary met us at the hospital and took the boys. We walked in to meet mom and she explained to us that it was more serious than she had thought. That dad was actually in the ICU on life support. Still the severity of the whole situation wasn't hitting me. She warned us that it was going to be hard to see dad, that he was connected to tubes and wires and all sorts of machines. When I saw my dad laying there, it felt surreal.

With Gabe tied to me, I barely left dad's side all weekend. 

We talked to dad, told him he was going to be okay. 

We stayed close by, prayed over him, talked over him, let him know we were close.

Our sweet pastor reading scripture to dad

My friend Shannon spent the day with us. numerous friends and family members came. They brought food. Flowers. Hugs and words of encouragement. We talked to dad, even though he was unconscious, the nurses said that many times the patient can still hear when we speak. Grandpa, Aunt Rosemary and my brother Gil flew in right away from Chicago. Again, it felt surreal.
Grandpa stayed strong for his son.

My sweet brother 

Dad's sister Rosemary comforting dad.

The were a 36 hours are a blur. They decided to cool his body temperature down. This would help with any brain damage caused when he had gone 9 minutes with out oxygen. We thought that he had a heart attack. but it was not. He had gone in to cardiac arrest. The cooling process would take 24 hours. As he cooled down, he shivered. Mom kept covering his feet with the blanket, but the nurse said he could not be kept warm at all. Mom knew he hated being cold. it was torture on her. They shoved ice packs under his arm pits and around his body, and we watched as his body temp went down. We continued to speak to him, to pray over him, to hold his cold hands.

More visitors came. More food came. We were not afraid. We knew he would pull through. Everyone who came to visit was shocked by our positive and hopeful energy. No way were we grieving over him yet, his situation was promising. The nurses said they had seen cases like his all the time, and that he was doing great. Finally Sunday afternoon came and it was time to warm him back up. Early Monday morning they would begin to take him off of the life support, and start neurological tests. They would see if he could breathe on his own, if he knew his name, etc. We waited and waited, so excited to see him back. Sunday night came and I needed to bring the boys home. We all were so tired, especially mom. She hadn't slept at all. So I took Grace and the kids home, and Mom went to Aunt Rosemary's hotel to get a few hours of sleep before the time came when he would wake up.

At 3am I got a call from Matt, that dad was going in to cardiac arrest again, and that I need to get to the hospital. I had to wake my sister, and get a five month old and a three year old out the door by myself. I was able to reach my friend Hannah, she came to the hospital to watch the kids. Gabriel was still exclusively nursing so I couldn't be far from him.

Right when I got there he was having his third cardiac arrest. Me, my mom, three brothers Gil, Sam and Dave, and sister Grace and my aunts were all there watching the nurses do CPR and compressions on my dad. It was traumatic. So traumatic. Finally they were able to get him stabilized again. We were all crying, completely terrorized by what we had just seen. We stood outside his room, held hands, and begged God for our dad's life. I made it back to the waiting room where I had to nurse baby Gabriel. Again, the alarms went off, calling for all staff to get to my dad's room. I handed Hannah the baby and walked back down the hall. my stomach turning, but with hope that he was going to get through this one too.

Time was passing, and they were still trying to get him back. we watched in horror as no progress was being made. We began to yell, scream, cry, begging dad to come back, to stay with us. I began to see the nurses make eye contact, with stares that showed they were losing hope. The doctor asked my mom what we wanted to do, they were out of options. She told them not to stop yet, that she couldn't make this choice. A few minutes later another doctor came in. This one looked older, wiser. Not freaked out and scared like the younger doctor. He told her it was time. So After 17 minutes with out a blood pressure. They stopped. It was like everything went in to slow motion. Our eyes were stained with tears and we were in total shock. That was it. It was just before 4:30am I think. It was finished.

They asked us to leave the room so that they could clean dad up, take the tubes out and clear out the room. We all quietly walked out, weeping, and went and waited. I walked in to the room and told Hannah, I remember that it totally caught her off guard. She cried with me. When they called us back in, our pastor and youth pastor arrived and came with us. We sat around dad and hugged and kissed him. We held his hand and reminisced. We prayed. We sang. We cried. Grandpa showed up, and stayed with dad for a little while. then it was time to go home. How do you leave after that? You have to. Because it's over.

The wake was beautiful. Over 500 hundred people came. The funeral was a huge celebration, at least 300 were there. We learned things of dad that we never knew about, funny inside jokes, stories from his students and friends. He touched so many people's lives.

Since his death we have been invited to numerous ceremonies and events where he has been honored and even given awards. He was well known in the culinary culture, and we still run in to people that knew him and loved him.

Tonight, in honor of him, we are going to Le Cordon Bleu where he was a beloved instructor and mentor. They have even invited us for dinner, so we will be served by the students.

Thanks to everyone who has been by our side through all of this. We couldn't have done it without our friends and family, and most importantly with out Jesus. If you don't know Jesus, get to know him. When life hits hard, the only way to find your ground, is through Him. We have full faith that dad is in heaven with our maker, and we cannot wait for the day that we see him again.

the wake


closing the casket at the funeral

I'm so glad I spoke about him.

arrangement of some of his things

mom, grandpa, gil, sam, dave, grace

the Le Cordon Bleu students lined the walkway as they brought the casket out,
they were stoic like soldiers. it was amazing.

watching the hearse drive away

up north at six mile, where we scattered dad's ashes

the urn

my beatiful mother, sharing at the funeral

shot of the sanctuary

                Gil D. Gaitan 1953-2010

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Happy Birthday to my sweet son, Eli Gil

Today my littlest boy turns one. I was thinking back to where we were one year ago. We had no idea where we were going to move to, we were hoping and praying for a home. We were surviving the first year with out dad.  Life was bittersweet as we were bringing a new baby in to this world with so much uncertainty. 

Here is Eli's first year in pictures. 

Chicago in June with Uncle Pete, pregnant with baby E.

August 12, 2011. Brand new baby.

Daddy and Eli at the hospital

First family of five shot

Can this picture of Max and Eli be any sweeter?

Our beloved Oscar and Sienna meeting Eli

One of his first smiles, 1 month

Cooking with yaya, 2 months

Wearing a onsie that I wore when as a baby. 3 months

Christmas with Uncle Joe, 4 months

Starting on solids, 5 months

24 hour retreat away with mama at Hilary's house. 6 months.

First bath with the brothers. 7 months

Ice cream in Stillwater, celebrating boppa's birthday.  8 months

California with Uncle Gil. 9 months.

At the beach. 10 months.

Cal and E. Homies for life. 11 months.

Just before his birthday, a little over 16 pounds, six teeth, and such a funny personality.
Although Life is forever changing 
and things get hard, 
one thing is certain: 
It's all going to be okay. 

We got a beautiful house, we continue to heal from the loss of our dad, we are settled in to this new life, and we are encouraged that God has us covered. 

This afternoon we are celebrating both Eli and Max's birthdays. A week from today Maximo Joe will be turning FIVE! And two weeks after that, he will begin KINDERGARTEN!