Friday, August 19, 2011

From Where I Sat: For Posterity

I've been told that I embellish stories. Like earlier this week when I told someone that GK is deathly afraid of being bored, and so he takes four books to the grocery store. It was an exaggeration-- though not by much.

But the story of our wedding needs no additional flourishes. It was a work of art. Or a piece or work. Or a little of both.

But first a little background:

We'd met by a modern miracle-- the online internet machine (one we don't recommend without a fair word of caution). We'd lived in Provo at the same time for several years. We attended the same concerts and lectures and plays. I acted in plays with his roommate, he hung out with my friends from the dance program. The circles intersected in a million ways, and yet, we never met.

While I was in graduate school in Denver, my brother Andrew thought I wasn't being social enough (well really, he just didn't like my last boyfriend) and he told me I should check out LDS Linkup. It really was more like a Mormon Facebook anyway, not just a "dating service".

One night, while babysitting for a friend, I got online after her kids were asleep and set up a profile. No picture, no real details, just enough to have access to the site. I began scrolling through pictures of profiles. I may have opened a couple of them just out of curiosity, but I only sent one message. To GK.

I wrote something like:
I've never done this before, but it looks like you like cool music...

And then more than slightly embarrassed, I logged off and thought, "That was weird". To my surprise, GK responded (just to be kind) and said:
Don't worry about it we're all on here. 

In my next email, I mentioned Faria Beach, my only real exposure California. As it happens, he had grown up surfing there, and had actually been there that morning.

And that's just the way it seemed to go. One conversation led naturally to the next, and our connection and curiosity grew stronger and more committed. Emails turned to phone calls turned to a decision to meet face to face. That's when he planned his trip to Denver.

We hadn't known each other long before we knew we'd like to know each other longer. I'd say it took about an hour- or less. We had two days together that weekend. Living in different states, we began to plan the summer so we could live in the same city and get to know each other a little.

Well a little time and many hours on the phone passed, we saw each other for the second time. This time involved roses and a ring on a cliff overlooking the ocean at Point Dume in Malibu. We knew it was fast, and to many seemed reckless, but ironically it felt settled, and deliberate.

Our third meeting face to face was when GK came to Denver to move me and my things to Santa Clarita for the summer. By then, it felt as if we had known each other forever. And yet, it was that deep familiarity that sometimes brought confusion, because in reality we were still strangers.

The week leading up to our wedding we spent with my family in Salt Lake. We worked on the yard, where the reception would be, GK did some work for his uncle, I worked on last minute details with my mom. And as the week progressed, GK began to get nervous. I'll let him describe his thought process and how the whole thing developed, but by the morning of our wedding he was a mess.

I could tell, by the tone of his voice, when I talked to him on the phone that morning that he was unsettled. I hoped that meeting him in the lobby of the temple would resolve it. But as he took my hand, nothing changed.

We separated and got into our wedding clothes. We sat together and spoke with the man who would officiate the wedding while our families gathered in the Sealing Room next door. When everyone had arrived and was seated, we entered the small room filled with immediate family and close friends, and knelt down at the altar facing each other. There's no procession or fanfare in a temple sealing. It's just simple and to the point.

The room was situated so that if I looked beyond GK, all my family and friends sat watching and smiling. And his family sat behind me. Having spent the summer in California, much of my family had only met GK a couple of times. Some had expressed concern at the rapidity of things, but ultimately had given their support.

We knelt, holding hands across the altar and the sweet old man began the ceremony. He came to the part where GK is supposed to respond, and there was a pause. I looked at GK, he looked at me and just waited. The silence was long and after a few moments, the sealer said, "Do you need to take a minute outside in the hall?"

GK let out a huge sigh, "Yes," and he bolted from the room. Bolted. I stayed where I was, looking into the faces of my family, knowing they were concerned and probably a little confused. My brother Andrew admitted later that he was thinking through a contingency plan. He decided, "We'll still have the party, we'll just change the playlist."

For some reason, I didn't feel any panic. It didn't seem strange or scary. I didn't wonder if he'd come back. In the relatively short time I'd known him, I knew that GK was a man of integrity. I knew that he took his promises and commitments very seriously, and I knew that marriage to me was the biggest one he'd ever made.

I let GK have a quiet moment in the hall. (Well, quiet except for the cute old ladies working at the temple who brought him soda crackers and apple juice, thinking he had just forgotten to eat.) Then, I went out to join him. I held his hand and just waited.  My respiratory therapist-cousin came out and kindly told GK that if he kept breathing like he was, he would pass out. He followed her advice, and after a few more moments, he looked at me and said, "Okay, let's do this," and he stood up and led me back into the room.

The old man started the ceremony again from the beginning. When he reached the same point, GK answered the question and dropped his head to the altar with a deep sigh of relief that the whole group, no doubt, felt. I held onto his hand and answered as well, knowing that from that moment on, we were bound together forever.

As a child, as I had imagined my wedding, I thought of movies I'd seen. I imagined gazing into my husband's eyes. I imagined swelling music, and weepy ladies with gloves and flowered hats. But movies rarely capture the fullness of reality. They certainly couldn't capture the richness of my life now.

So much has happened over the past five years. We've lived three lifetimes, and weathered our share of heartache. Three children, three states, two masters' degrees, five hospital stays later, that moment of decision, when we both said yes to this life, set the stage for miracle after miracle.

Who knows if every year of our life together will be as full of change and experience as each of the first five has been. But I wouldn't have it any other way as long as I can share it all with my best friend.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Happy birthday lady! You've accomplished a lot this year. Don't worry, you can slow down whenever you're ready.

Perhaps it's having my own babies, that makes me realize how lucky I am to have such a kind-hearted, creative, spunky, tender mama. Cause I'm starting to realize it's a tricky business.

I love you. I'm glad to be yours.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I don't know why it feels so momentous, but all day long I've wanted to shout out to everyone passing by, "My boy is three!"

Van's birthday last year consisted of Dr. visits, pain meds and cast signing parties.

 But this year was so different:

 This year started out with a homemade birthday donut.
 Followed by a birthday adventure taking the bus with Honey (GK) to see his first movie in a theater: Cars 2

Cruising around town waiting for the bus to come.

Then later, a birthday dinner date with Mama to the Farmer's Market where we listened to music, played on the slides, and got some kettle corn.

At this rate, being three is bound to be better than being two.

I have to admit that in spite of wanting to announce the significance of the day, I felt a little nostalgic today. For some reason, three seems awfully old, and my boy seems mighty tall.

That sweet blue-eyed baby is slipping through my fingers and his independent, creative, willful counterpart is claiming a spot in my heart.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

That boy of mine

We went to the farmers' market on Saturday morning. We went to see the people, buy a cookie, look for some yummy looking fruit, and of course find some music.

Somehow, all the kids love music. Recently, Van has started some music classes, and it's amazing to watch his new found confidence.
 When we stopped to hear some guys jamming at the park, he made himself at home on the extra instruments laying out for passers by.

I think it's about time this kid started earning his keep.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Today, I loved nothing more than being a mother. We've had busy weekends over the past several weeks. But today, we put on the brakes and just laid low.

My Jo spends hours of the day at this window waiting for people to pass by. Then she waves and smiles and smudges the screen with her drool-covered chin, and says, "Hi" or "Ha fa" (high five). It's very hard to resist falling in love with her perfect, squishy little self.
My boy is always amazing me with his tenderness. In the morning he wants to "go check on the babies" and when they come out he smiles and says, "my sisters" and kisses them on the heads. Of course then he cries when one of them takes his "Lightning Eequeen" and  proceeds to throw all of his special toys over the baby gate into the kitchen where "the babies can't get them".
My sweet bird loves her mama right now. She can't get enough cuddles and kisses. She laughs at everything... except strangers. But even in her attachment, there is a mischief lurking behind her blue eyes that makes me smile.Posted by Picasa

And this guy (the one on the right), well, the picture speaks for itself. He carries a big load around here, and I'm grateful every day.

I wouldn't be a mother without them, and wouldn't want to.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

An Accomplishment

Friday was a rough day. It started out tired and was fueled by three cranky kids and some every day chaos. And by evening, I felt like I was drowning. I was overwhelmed with how many things in my life were demanding my attention, and only getting the bare minimum.

By the time GK and I had the kids in bed, I was exhausted and in my fatigue I started to let my emotions and my imagination run away with me. I felt sad that my children didn't have the mom they deserved, that I didn't communicate better with my husband, that my house wasn't more orderly and more fun, that my classes weren't better prepared and executed, that my... 

Well, I won't go on, but you get the idea.

Then I started thinking what a stupid idea it was to have signed up for a half-marathon back in early March. What had I been thinking? I went to bed with these thoughts running through my head. Needless to say, I had a hard time sleeping.

At 5:50 AM as the rest of the house slept, I tried not to let myself think too much. I got dressed in my fluorescent pink shirt that I'd picked out at Target so that I'd be easy to see in the crowd, did a little warm-up sun salutation, ate a little breakfast and went outside to meet my ride. 

Once my friend Heather and I arrived and signed in, I called GK to say everything was set. I asked him how everyone was and he said they were still asleep. (Turns out Van was actually awake and sitting under the dining room table eating powdered Nestle Quick) He said to run with my phone so they could try to catch me at some point along the way.

I started my race and GK started his. He changed three diapers, packed snacks, drinks, stroller while Van entertained the girls.
They raced into Sacramento and GK called me at mile 5 as they got close. He called again after he had parked, unloaded, and sprinted up the hill with the world's largest stroller. We were both so disappointed, they had just missed me. So like a champ, he packed up the kids again, broke down the stroller and drove to the finish line.

Some photo highlights of the race:

Just before I saw them at the finish line

 Just after we reunited

 Van thought my bib looked like a bag of popcorn. He kept reaching inside to see if he could find some.

 The girls enjoying the free bananas in their jammies

 My medal

 My banana (altogether, we put away seven)

 Josie enjoying the mariachi band

 The mariachi band (Van loved the trumpets)

 My friend Heather who ran her fastest half ever

 Family Portrait (the girls are behind Vanny, there's no good angle to get everyone in that stroller)

In the end, it wasn't such a stupid idea after all. I made good time and accomplished something I'd set out to do. It turns out it was just what I needed after a day like Friday. And the absolute highlight of the experience was kissing the faces of my sweet babies and my love. 

Maybe there's something to this idea of enduring to the end.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spreading Out the Fun

Growing up in my family, we had a saying, "We spread out the fun." I've mentioned it before. It used to mean that your birthday would be celebrated a few days late, or maybe the perfect gift hadn't been located quite yet.

Here in the Risser house we've adopted the slogan with gusto. Only to us it means that your birthday lasts several days before and several days after the official date.

We started celebrating the girls' birthday last weekend with some cupcakes and sweet company all the way from Colorado and Oakland. Then on Monday, a friend came with us to the park and took these amazing photos.

I can't wait to see the rest! Once we're done celebrating that is. (to see more of Angella's brilliance go to

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And Then They Were One

At this time last year, I had just gotten home from roadshow practice at church and was probably halfway through my prenatal yoga DVD. Things happened pretty quickly after that, and although I did record it, I never blogged about it. So here is a little glimpse of how my sweet baby girls came into the world a year ago.

From my journal:
Before it's too far from my mind (and before my memory embellishes it much), I wanted to record the events leading up to the population boom around here.

The Breakdown

April 1- Our ultrasound shows the girls have moved from "ready" (heads down) to breech. We make an appointment for a followup ultrasound on April 16 to see if they've moved, or if we need to accept the fact that a c-section may be necessary.

April 14-

    6pm- GK gets home from work apologizing for not getting home in time to go to Costco. I say, "It's alright. I'm feeling a bit crampy anyway and don't feel like walking around. We eat dinner

   7pm- I head off to Roadshow practice (I wrote it, and helped run the music rehearsals) and proceeded to jump around and energize a semi-reluctant (shy) group. Afterwards, an on-looker said, "I have never seen a woman try so hard to go into labor." I laughed, thinking, "If only!"

   10pm- I get home from practice and tell GK I'm still feeling crampy and uncomfortable. This conversation ensues:
GK: "Is it contractions?"
Sus: "I don't know."
GK: slightly annoyed "You never do."
Sus: "You're right."
GK: "Maybe you should do some yoga. I just did and I feel awesome."
Sus: "That's a good idea."
I do my prenatal yoga DVD. An hour later...
Sus: "Nope. That didn't do it. I still don't feel good. I'm going to bed."

   11pm-12am- I try to sleep but the cramping starts coming in waves and I get out of bed so as not to wake GK.

   12am- The "waves" are 5 minutes apart. But with Van I had contractions for three days 3-4 minutes apart. So if these are contractions, I think I've got a long way to go and an appointment in the morning to check things out. But I'm in pain so I wake up GK to sit with me.
   1am- GK says I should call the hospital. I say, " No, they will just make me come in. Then we'll have to call someone to watch Van. I'll just wait."

   1:15am- GK insists, and I agree. I call the Dr. They tell me to come in. We gather things together.
   2:03am- We drop Van off with a friend. He's so happy to see her that I'm not worried about him.

   2:20am- We check in at the hospital

   2:45am- They're trying to get the heartbeats on the monitor. The "waves" (Yes contractions. Now I'm sure!) are coming fast and strong. The midwife does an ultrasound, both girls are head down! Hooray!
   3 am- The midwife checks and says, "Well, it looks like you're at about a 9." I think, "Oh crap, there goes an epidural!" She says, "Let me know when you feel like you have to push. We'll need to push you into the O.R. just in case. It's protocol with twins." (I knew this going in, so I didn't care) I say, "Well it's coming fast."

They start to move me onto a different bed and as they do my water breaks. The push me through the hall. The midwife in training is in my face saying, "Blow right into my face." I seriously think about telling her to get out of my face.  But right then GK comes around the bed and I grab his arm for dear life and say "I want to blow in your face." I don't know what happened to the trainee, but she disappeared after that. I hope I didn't hurt her feelings.

In the hall on the way into the O.R. and I yell, "I can't do this!" And the Dr. says, "Yes you can. The head's half way out." One more push and...

   3:18am- Josie is born.

  3:23am- Delia is born.

With all the extra room, she flipped around and decided to make her entrance feet first. So Dr. Wilson reached in, grabbed her feet and artistically guided her little body out. (Graphic maybe, but it was amazing! A total miracle that he was on call that night, since breech deliveries are his specialty)

They put Josie on my chest and asked what her name was. We had a list of four names by the time the girls were born, but only Josephine was coming to mind. I kept trying to remember what the other names were when GK came over and said, "I think this one's Josephine." I said, "I think so too."

Then they brought Delia over. By now I had remembered the other names: Penelope, Fiona, and Delia. Penelope didn't fit for some reason, it was out. But then we were at a standstill. For the first day of her life we called her Fiona. But late that night as she was fighting so hard and I was starting to worry about her, Delia seemed to be closer to my sweet delicate thing.

Josphine means "God will increase". And He surely has. Through the dark few days when Delia was struggling and things were uncertain, Josie's calm grounded spirit held me together. Something about her wouldn't let me doubt that things would be fine and we would be all together soon. 

Cordelia means "Jewel of the Sea". After less than 24 hours, it was clear that sweet Delia would need some extra help. The hospital where I delivered didn't have a NICU, so Delia was transported by ambulance and attended to by an angel nurse. GK went with her, and he stayed with her and whispered to her and loved her. There are very few things that GK loves more than the sea, but this sweet bird is one of them.

And now after one hell of a year, we've all lived a lifetime and loved every minute (though sometimes only in retrospect). And my sweet babies have grown into beautiful little girls. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

JuiceBox is Praying to Heavenly Father

You may know this little yellow fella by a different name but in our house he is JuiceBox. I think it makes a lot more sense than the common moniker. 

Van has never seen JuiceBox in action but he does prefer JuiceBox stickers when he goes to the bone doctor. Two days ago we ventured into a toy store for the first time and Van sweetly pointed out that JuiceBox has religion. You and I know that this is actually Yoga JuiceBox, obviously meditating in full Lotus Position. Still, he and Van bless the sacrament together a few times a day. They are zealous for their age.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Recent Goings On

My musical theater class performed their original musical Mythical, Magical Beach
 Here is Hairy Octopus (the villain) with the Chicken with long hair
 From left to right: Dolphin, Snake with long hair, Pink Magical Elephant, Contortionist, Chicken with long hair, Hairy Octopus, Unisis (mythical creature who is a cross between a Unicorn and a Pegasus) 
 Delia decided at the age of 11 months that pacifiers are pretty cool. That would have been handy before, now it's kind of annoying (but still adorable!)
The weather is totally crazy! Flood warnings, tornado warnings, rain rain rain! So here we are enjoying Curious George, emptying all shelves of their contents and leaving fingerprints on everything! Hooray for cabin fever.

In other news, both girls can stand without help, and Van is walking around and even dancing a little on his cast. Hooray for mobility!