Monday, April 11, 2011


Because I am so behind on my writing I decided I better make two posts to get it all down instead of one REALLY long one. I know when they get so long it is overwhelming to read...even for me.

These past few weeks I have been trying to focus on my blessings and there have been several things that have happened that have impacted our lives so much and has touched my heart that I can't help but share.

It all started with this book my sweet mother-in-law gave me called When you can't do it Alone take the Savior's Hand. It is an incredible book if anyone is looking for some good reading. The author had a whole chapter on blessings and thanking God. It really hit home with me because I am down and struggling it is REALLY hard to see and focus on my blessings. It's a lot easier to see how much we don't have then to focus on what we do, especially since our life has been turned upside down for the second time. Here is just a tiny sample of what he says,
"I learned that one of the most important ways to focus on Christ is to focus on the multitude of tender mercies He extends to us in our lives. It takes real effort to "count your many blessings" when the natural man wants to wallow in self-pity and focus on pain and problems. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to look at life as a glass half full instead of a glass half empty when we are discouraged and depressed, beset by hardships and heartaches? It takes effort--spiritual and emotional effort. While it may be easy (and almost always a waste of time and energy) to dwell on all of our problems, it takes conscious effort to think about the many ways God has blessed us. It takes faith to think about, really believe, and then live in a way that bespeaks "because God has been so good to me.""
I have been trying my best to focus on the blessings but I'm not gonna lie...some days it is hard.

After reading and pondering this I read a comment from a sweet girl named Ashley (who I have never met) on my last blog post. (I hope she doesn't mind me sharing this) Her and her husband lost their only little 18 month old precious girl named Preslee in a drowning accident. She wrote to me: "My heart is so incredibly happy that you get to hold him, feel him, love him, and experience life with him. Something we drastically miss." WOW! After reading her comment I of course had to get on her blog and read the story about her precious Preslee. Reading it brought back everything with Dakota and our first week in the hospital. Their experience was SO similar to ours except the outcome was so different. I don't know why it was Preslee's time to go and why Dakota got to stay. Probably because he knew his parents weren't as strong as Preslee's or any other parent who has lost a child, but I realized that even though every day is hard I need to thank God every day that I do get to hold him, feel him, love him, and experience life with him. Every day is a blessing and miracle that he is here. Although we miss how he was, we still have him and he still brings us so much joy just in different ways at the moment. So thank you Ashley for opening up my eyes and pulling me out of my own self-pity. If anyone wants to read about some amazing people just visit their blog

My heart did not stop there. In March we were blessed to be the recipients of not just one...but two fundraisers in Dakota's behalf. They both happened to be on the exact same night in two completely different states. It was incredible to know that people were gathered together in two places all for Dakota and in helping him progress. One of them was a dinner and auction that my sweet parents in AZ put together at their house. Of course we didn't get to be there but we heard it was AMAZING! Soooo many people were there and were so incredibly generous. We could feel the love all the way over here in Utah. So thank you to ALL of you who helped plan and make things run so smoothly. Thank you to all of you who donated SO much stuff for the auction. My parents had to put together a blog just to list all of the things that were donated, and that night they just kept coming. Thank you to all of you who came and supported Dakota and this crazy journey we are on.
Here are just a few pics that were sent to me of that night:

Amazing angels in the kitchen

Papa entertaining the kiddos

My amazing friends and their moms helped with the money. I hope you slipped some for yourself! ;)

More angels helping serve the food

And more

The silent auction tables

The REAL DEAL auction...grab a number...they had some sweet stuff!

Some of Dakota's cute cousins! Love you girls!

Dakota's cute picture

So many people

The second benefit was an alumni tournament at Box Elder High School. An incredible a dear friend named Trek Lyons who started the tournament 18 years ago and has kept it going every year and does it all to donate proceeds to help a child in the community. It was so impressive to meet ALL the people behind the tournament who do so much just to help someone else in need. They are an amazing group of guys! Thank you to them, to all that participated in the tournament, and all that came to support Dakota.
Along with this amazing tournament this incredible family the Huff's who were recipients of the tournament last year, put together a dinner at Sonora Grill to help raise funds as well. It was incredible getting to meet them and their adorable daughter who had a brain tumor and has had several surgeries and is doing so well. It helps so much to get to know people who understand the difficulties of facing tragedies that involve your children. You can't fully comprehend how hard it is and how much it changes your life until it happens to least I couldn't. So a huge thank you to the Huff's for their hard work and time to help our little Dakota.

Zach and I with the Shaws (who you will learn about...keep reading :) )

The best part about the whole thing was that Dakota got to be co-recipients with the most AMAZING (this word does not even do him justice) nine year old boy named Dylan Shaw. You talk about a family and a boy who are going through so much and have touched my heart deeper then they will ever know. Getting to know them has been a life changer. Dylan has a tumor in his brain stem that is inoperable. Despite EVERYTHING that he is going through the first time we met him he asked us how Dakota was doing. SERIOUSLY...first of all...what nine year old kid cares about someone other then themselves...especially one who is going through something no child should ever have to go through. At the basketball tournament that night he had the most sincere conversation with me wanting to know all the details about what happened to Dakota, to what surgeries he has had, to how he is doing. Then to top it all off...after all is said and done he shows up at are house with his beautiful and sweet mom to give Dakota a basket of fun things that he bought with his own money!!!! Dylan showed me how to be Christ like and taught me how important it is to serve and focus on helping others instead of focusing on are own problems. I have tried each day to be more like look for opportunities to help someone else instead of wasting so much time worrying about my problems. Their family motto is: "Don't waste today worrying about tomorrow." I do my best to remember that when I find myself worrying. If you wanna be truly inspired by some incredible people read there blog and follow Dylan's journey. He could use some prayers and faith too!

During half time when they presented the award they gave us the opportunity to speak. Zach and I had agreed before hand that if that happened I would talk. I was feeling up to the challenge. As you can see...that is not me behind the microphone. As soon as Trek started introducing us and telling a little about Dakota's story the tears just started flowing and I knew I couldn't talk. Luckily I have an amazing husband who had my back and did an amazing job. I love you Zach! :)

Getting a kiss from Daddy

Us with the Shaw family and the championship teams

The hardest thing is just coming to the realization that I can't change anything that has happened to us but  I can make the very best out of what I have been dealt. My life may not look like what I had imagined it being like but it can still go on and it can still be WONDERFUL! It's just gonna take a lot more effort and a lot more reliance on the man upstairs!

So after all of this blabbering on and point is I know that I am SO very blessed and I want to thank all of you for playing a part in blessing my life. For teaching me by your words and examples. I thank you for your prayers and faith. I thank God for ALL of the blessings that he has given me!

To all you parents out there I beg you to enjoy the blessing of having those kids of yours on the bad days as much as the good. When I used to go to the store and see and hear a kid screaming and throwing a fit i used to think...I'm so glad that's not Dakota. Now when I see it I look at that mom with such envy and adoration and think...I wish so bad that was Dakota. I would honestly give a lifetime of tantrums in public to have Dakota healthy and whole again. Until that time I will keep working and praying that they will come. So PLEASE embrace those moments and enjoy them!


 My cousin made this incredible video of Dakota to play during the night. It makes me bawl every time I watch it but I love it so much! Thank you Sandra!


  1. I know you don't know me but I just wanted to let you know that I was following your blog. I actually went to high school with Zach and found your blog on Brian and Amber's blog. I don't know if he would even remember me though. My maiden name is Lindsey Owen. Anyway, I always like to know who is looking at my blog so I thought I would let you know how much your story has touched me. I have spent much time reading the posts with tears in my eyes. I don't have a tragic story of my own and not that I wish for it, it humbles me to hear of someone else's. I have used your story in a Young Women meeting as a spiritual thought and could tell it touched some of the other ladies. The thing that I love about your blog is that in spite of everything you have gone through, you are still 1-relying on Christ and 2-having such a positive attitude about life. It amazes me! You guys truely are inspirations to me. I have 3 young children of my own and can't EVEN begin to imagine what it must be like. You are so strong. When I hear your story I can't help but know that Christ is surely our redeemer because without him, I don't think anyone could possibly bare some of the trials in life. My prayers go out to your family and sweet little Dakota. Good luck with his healing process. I know that miracles happen every day.

  2. Tess--
    I don't want this to sound bad or make you feel like it was all me, but right after Dakota's accident I kept having warm fuzzy feelings everytime that I got on Patrick and Ashle's blog that I needed to leave a comment about your guys situation and link her to your because I knew you needed words of advice from someone that had recently gone through a similar situation. As you know by her comment just recently, it took me THAT LONG (stubborness:) to finally do it. I hope you are ok with it and I am sure you are by your comments about it and you putting in on your post!! I don't know who they are but have been following their blog since I heard about it. I am so grateful for your guys testimony and strength in life. You are such a strong woman and I look up to you so much! Dakota is so lucky to have you and Zach as not only his parents, but as his best friends and therapists! I am so glad you guys are home safely from the hospital and that things are continuing to improve each and every day. Please let us know what we can do to help. We would love to help you guys out with his therapy, ride up to logan with you so you don't have to by yourself, or even help Zach with bids or work. We are continually thinking of you guys and not a day goes by that we aren't praying for "tota" (Hadlee's words in her prayers!!) We are so grateful for your frienship. May the lord continue to bless you and your family! Love you guys so much! Keep smilin'! :) (sorry for my NOVEL.. I had LOTS to say I guess!)


    I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

    When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

    After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

    "Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

    But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

    The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

    So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

    It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandt's.

    But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

    And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

    But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland. You will get to Italy some day, Along with The Huffs,The Shaws and the rest of us that got sent to Holland.. God bless you and your sweet Family.

  4. I don't personally know you guys but Heidi is my sister-in-law and I have been following your blog since your son's accident. I just wanted to leave you a little comment letting you know that our family has been thinking of yours. We've been remembering you in our prayers and when we attend the temple. I honestly cannot begin to imagine what you guys have been through. I love hearing your testimony and your strength. It is such an inspiration to me and I continue to pray that your little Dakota will be well. He is absolutely precious and a fighter!
    I read two quotes today and I thought of you:
    Keep trying, Be believing, Be happy, Don't get discouraged, Things will work out. President Gordon B. Hinckley
    Hope is the little voice you hear whisper "maybe" when it seems the entire world is shouting "no"
    I continue to hope and pray for your family. God bless you!

  5. You don't know me but I went to High school with Ashley and ever since I heard about Dakota's accident, I've followed your blog. I just want to personally thank you for you beautiful and strong testimony. It would've been so easy to just blame God for everything that has happened and leave it at that, but you haven't at all and you have thanked him for every miracle that has happened. I wish there were more people with your attitude. I have a 10 month old son and after reading today's post, I will try my very hardest not to get frustrated with him when he throws his little tantrums. I usually don't even think about it when I get frustrated but now I know that it could be worse. Thank you for opening my eyes and helping me see that the little things matter. I couldn't even begin to imagine what you have been through and I admire you so much. I think you have such a beautiful family and that sweet little boy of yours is so lucky to have such an awesome mom. Thank you for your posts and sharing your story with people like me who need it. My prayers are always with your family.

  6. Oh Tess... you make me cry every time! This is such an amazing post. So often we get fixated on our trials that we forget our blessings. You, of all people, have a reason to complain and are trying not to. If it had this great impact on you, I really think I need to read that book too. Thank you for reminding me how much I have to be grateful for. You are an amazing woman, with such great support behind you. Thanks for sharing your life and testimony! :-)

  7. You guys are amazing and wonderful. I cry almost every time I stalk your blog!!! I am so touched to hear your words and to hear your testimony. I don't know you at all (and I didnt know Zach really even though we went to the same school), but I admire you both so much. The video made me cry but I also couldnt help but notice his progression as the pictures went on. He is a fighter just like you guys. I really hope you don't mind strangers viewing your blog. Unknowingly, you are building the testimony of so many and helping more people than I am sure you will ever know. My family will continue to pray for yours. You have a beautiful family.

  8. Tessie, my heart aches for you! I kept thinking of your family during conference, especially during Elder Kent Richard's talk, "The Atonement Covers All Pain". The part in particular was when he tells of a 13 year old girl in the hospital. She tells her father, "Daddy, all of the children here in the intensive care unit have angels helping them." And the thought struck me that Dakota has angels helping him, yes, there are angels helping him!
    This is also from the same talk. "President Henry B. Eyring taught: “It will comfort us when we must wait in distress for the Savior’s promised relief that He knows, from experience, how to heal and help us. … And faith in that power will give us patience as we pray and work and wait for help. He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but He chose to learn by His own personal experience.”
    We love you and are thinking about and praying for you!

  9. I have loved the Friedli family for close to 20 years now and have always admired their strength and example ...they are very dear to my heart,(We were in their ward years ago and Vicki is still our favorite teacher..EVER..) :0)
    I too have been following your blog as well as the Sullengers and my testimony of the Savior is strengthened each time I read. The Shaw family is also in my ward and they too are also very close to my heart... a scripture comes to my mind it goes "Fear thou not; For I am with Thee" be not dismayed; For I am thy God: I will strenghten thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
    Please know our prayers are with you and your sweet family and may God Strenghten you and your family ..We Love You!!!

  10. What a sweet family you are!! I can't imagine how hard it would be to stay positive. While I was reading your post, I had the thought pop into my head.. that this life isn't meant to be perfect, just for us to learn. Yes there will be wonderful experiences & goodness....but above all we are here to learn and grow. We are all learning from each other. Thank you for allowing us to learn from you!! Hang in there :)
    Ps. Dylan was SOOO excited to go visit Dakota & get him a prize! It really was so sweet! :)

  11. The video made me bawl too! I am another you don't know (I have just come across your blog in a round-about way), but I have been so touched by your strength and your testimony. I think Dakota has said it best, "Jesus wants to help you. Jesus wants to help you. He can help you.”...and I hope he really knows that Jesus will help us!" He is right!!! You are in my prayers.

  12. Tess! What a sweet post!! I love all the pics and am so glad you guys are willing to share with us all, so we can keep updated! Thanks so much for your advise, I have tried so hard to see Deac's fits as a blessing and you are keeping me in line on that matter! We love you guys and are so grateful for your examples of gratitude and faith. We are praying for sweet Dakota and are so proud of him and his hard work! We love you guys! keep it up buddy!!

  13. As always your such an inspiration to so many people. Your strength and testimony are so inspiring. I feel like we are the ones who are truly blessed to have you as part of our lives. You have such amazing family and friends all praying for the full recovery of your sweet Dakota. But even more he's become everyone's Dakota. He is so DANG CUTE in all of the pictures you posted, and I can't wait to drive by Doug and Vicki's and see him out on his tractor and running around like we know he'll do in good time. We love and miss you guys, but just know that your in our constant thoughts and prayers and we think of you often. We can't thank you enough for taking the time out of your day to share your thoughts and updates with Dakota's progress with all of us...YOU'RE AMAZING and YOU can do hard things!!! Heidi showed me Ashley's blog some time ago, and she's amazing. LOVE LOVE LOVE you guys!!!

    The Lythgoe Family Give Dakota extra hugs and kisses for us!!

  14. Oh Tessie, that video made me bawl!!! What a sweet, sweet boy little Dakota is. Your family is constantly in our thoughts and prayers. We love you!

  15. You and your family are so amazing, I keep following your blog and love seeing your little guy's progress and I truly admire your strength and love in handling everything. I wanted to point out, I think you might have posted the incorrect link and the Patrick and Ashley blog, because the link you posted takes you too another blog that is definitely not the one you are talking about :) I think I found the link to the one you really wanted.

  16. Tessie, my son is just a month younger than your gorgeous Dakota. And he is that crazy kid throwing fits at the store. And running amuck at church ;) Today I was overwhelmed and was struggling to have a good attitude. After reading this post, I am overwhelmed with humility and gratitude. I am sorry for even feeling stressed today and for having such a narrow perspective. Thank you for blessing me with this post. Thank you for giving me a chance to be a better mom and to appreciate every day and moment as the gifts that they are! Your beautiful son and family have taught me more than I can explain or thank you for. Thank you for your testimony, perspective, honesty and example. I can only imagine the incredible struggles that you face, but your faith humbles me. I'm sure there are so many others who's lives have been changed for the better from knowing your family (even if it's just through your blog). We pray for your family continually.

  17. I'm kicking myself for not mentioning ashley and patrick's blog. I just assumed you knew about it. So glad you do now!
    What amazing fundraisers in Dakota's behalf. Although we would never wish for these kind of trials to happen, it is these trials that bring people together in such amazing ways that nothing else could.
    And WOW!That boy Dylan sounds amazing!!! And I love that simple, yet powerful quote you shared, "Don't waste today worrying about tomorrow."
    So awesome seeing Zach up there to talk!
    That point you made about the store with a tantrum throwing kid sure puts things in perspective. Thanks! You are inspiring!
    Loved the video! It was put together beautifully, and I found strength from watching it. The songs on it were perfect!
    Darling pictures of him smiling in that 2nd post! The new therapy guy sounds awesome, with so much hope and knowledge! A lot on your shoulders, but who better than the mom, so motivated, to do the therapy!!
    Your preschool comments broke my heart, and sure help me look at life different and with more gratitude for my kids. "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful." I loved this. You share so many great quotes!
    I got the chills reading about how you wouldn't change your life. I knew you wouldn't! Your 2 guys are so lucky to have you and all the love you give!
    Hearing about his new accomplishments always give me the chills too! And I love how you always post before pictures too. Him on his potty is so dang cute. They make me smile!

  18. Tess- your blog makes me want to cry everytime I read it! The thing that always hits me the most is I am always just thinking of me and my stress and how horrible my kids were today and poor me whoa is me and on and on! Then I read your blog and you post about others blogs who are going through things like you and then I think, I actually have it good! Why am I complaining?! I have no room to complain! I take things for granted everyday and that saddens me! I pray for you and your family but also for me that I will appreciate what I have and hope to help those around me!! That little boy Dylan is an inspiration and if he can serve all those around him then I surely can too!! Thank you for being amazing and being an inspiration!! I love reading your blog and hearing your testimony and how it is strengthening everyday!! I wish I was closer so I could participate in all the amazing things that are going on!!! You are definitely still in my prayers!!!!

  19. Hello there! I have no way of communicate with you but I really want you to read this please. I have a beautiful girl that was born with Rett syndrome. I found your blog and I read the post where it says that Dakota understands (He is in there) . My daughter is trapped in her body she understands everything is around her but her muscles don't work. She can only communicate with her eyes and body movements. We found a system called the PODD system and has really worked for Cristia Isabel. She has been able to communicate with us when she is frustrated or hungry or if she wants to watch a show because of this system she is more happy now. We used to use picture cards with Cristia Isabel also but we could only go so far. Now she can actually communicate what is on her mind. One of the experts in this system is Linda Burkhurst. I would love for you to research it and see if it is something that might work for Dakota he seems so ready to communicate with you. Please if you are interested and have questions you can email me at I would love to help. You are a great mom and Dakota is a brave, beautiful boy.