The first of many...

Snuggling my sweet Londyn this morning as I reflect on one year ago today...

With all of the Disney fun we've been having, there is still mourning and grief. This day is not easy but will never be ignored. I am blessed to have such sacred memories of our last moments with Zoe. I have never felt closer to my Father in heaven than I did when holding our little angel as she took her last breath. I could feel her Spirit return to him and the relief from all of the pain and suffering her body no longer had to endure. My love for our Savior grew that day as I knew without a doubt that I will see my daughter again and my fullness of joy will be restored. 

On this anniversary, I am celebrating Zoe's life and all of the blessings she brought to our eternal family. After all that we have been through, I look at where we were and where we are today. We are stronger, more sacrificing, more patient and in love. The bigger, eternal picture has been made clear and we have every reason and desire to do our best to be a part of it. 

I am so grateful to know that my Savior lives, that Zoe lives and that our Heavenly Father loves us. We are his sons and daughters. Just as I look forward to my reunion with Zoe, He eagerly awaits our return to Him. Amongst the sadness, is hope and joy for what we have to look forward to. This life is not the end and I will strive to "find joy in the journey" knowing that much more is in store. 

Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days. (D&C 24:8)

Thank you for all of your love and prayers. Today is a beautiful Zoe Day.

The Life of Zoe Grace



Grief surfaces when you think you have it completely under control. 

I have been checking off items on my lengthy to-do list today and hoped my plans of remaining overly occupied would keep me from facing this week. 

The week that marks an entire year without a piece of my heart. 

I was doing really well until Londyn said something today that really got to me. I have been selling some of my old clothes over the past few days and this morning she tells me "we should sell all of the baby stuff." I asked why and she said "because Zoe isn't coming back." I was speechless. Those five words out of my 4 year olds mouth hit me like a ton of bricks. 

At that moment, I had to choose to be Zoe's grieving mother or Londyn's nurturing mother. Most days I can juggle both but at that moment, it took every ounce of my emotional strength to hold back the tears, put my pain aside and talk to her about where her sister is, what she is doing and when we will see her again. We talked about why I would miss all of the "baby stuff" because we have special memories with Zoe and those things. She said "I miss Zoe and would miss her things too."

As much as we would like parenting to come with a manual, neither does grief. 

One day at a time. 

And when that doesn't work, my sweet friend Hanna says "sometimes all we can do is get through 5 minutes at a time." 

Taken one year ago today. 
August 26, 2012


Oh Holy Night

Exactly a year ago tonight I was rocking my sweet Zoe to sleep for what would be the very last time. Zoe's condition was worsening and there was nothing we as her parents could do.  It was decided that although sooner than expected, she needed her second open heart surgery, the Bidirectional Glenn.

Zoe and I were both exhausted that night from all of the pre-op testing and visiting with her surgeon Dr. John.  I had watched Zoe get poked 7 times earlier that day, not including the AM and PM shots we dreaded giving her at home.  About an hour after I laid her down in the crib, I finished up all of the last minute preparations for the long and uncertain days/months of recovery ahead. I then snuck back into the nursery and scooped my snuggly little bundle up in my arms.  I put some church hymns on and just rocked her.  I wept with fear, hope and prayer in my heart for a future with this little spirit that my Heavenly Father sent to our family.  I had a prompting that even though I was exhausted, I shouldn't go to bed just yet and relish in that moment.  I stayed up with her until 12:30am, just holding her tiny hands, kissing her plump cheeks and holding her as close as I could.

I have reread my blog post from that night and it is so hard to look back to that specific moment in time.  I wish somehow I could have known that I would never have my Zoe back again.  I wish I hadn't slept.  I wish I hadn't done anything other than hold her fragile little body.  With any kind of loss, there is guilt.  There will always be what-ifs.  There is a pain inside that's fullness cannot be described.

How has it been a year already?  How has life continued on?  Sometimes I'm just so angry and upset that time keeps passing.  Sometimes I just want to stop time and scream and yell and lose it because this horrible tragedy has happened to me and my family. Because it kills me than when I'm missing Zoe, my 4 year old is comforting me as if roles have reversed.  The other night, Andrew was at work and I was snuggling Londyn in my bed.  I told her that I wished I could see Zoe one more time.  She told me, "Yeah... but she's in heaven right now.  It's okay mom, we'll see her again in a couple days or something."  She is always wondering what Zoe is doing.  Often times she'll say that Zoe is "probably" doing whatever she's doing.  If we're dancing, "Zoe's probably dancing with Jesus right now."

As a child, an entire year feels like an eternity.  As an adult, a year doesn't seem long enough.  This past year has been so much of a blur.  Between surviving the holiday season, Andrew's new job, Londyn's first year of preschool, starting my own business and getting through all of Zoe's anniversaries. I can't really say how we got from point A to point B.  But what's important is that we did.  We have felt the greatest peace and deepest of sorrows as a family.  I wish I could say that it is all up from here, but that's not how it works.  After losing a child, there is no "Get Out of Jail Free" card.  As I mentioned before, life goes on.  We are still given trials and weaknesses.  Not because it isn't fair, but because Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to learn.  He never stops giving us opportunities to become more like Him.  Zoe enabled us to learn and grow in ways that wouldn't have been possible if she hadn't joined our family.  We are truly better people and children of God because of the lessons she taught us.

My dear friend Laura and I have had kindred conversations about our similar experiences.  Her son was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 5.  With multiple operations and chemotherapy, he is cancer free and living a life that every boy his age should.  Although our situations are different, we have both witnessed miracles and felt peace with God's will.  On several occasions Laura has referenced a talk by Elder Shayne M. Bowen from the October 2012 General Conference, titled "Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also."  This talk was given just a little over a month after Zoe died and has brought me so much comfort since then.  It is a good reminder when I'm having a rough day.

After the sudden death of his 8 month old son Tyson, Elder Bowen shares:

Sometimes people will ask, “How long did it take you to get over it?” The truth is, you will never completely get over it until you are together once again with your departed loved ones. I will never have a fulness of joy until we are reunited in the morning of the First Resurrection.
“For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
“And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.”3

But in the meantime, as the Savior taught, we can continue with good cheer.4
I have learned that the bitter, almost unbearable pain can become sweet as you turn to your Father in Heaven and plead for His comfort that comes through His plan; His Son, Jesus Christ; and His Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost.
What a glorious blessing this is in our lives. Wouldn’t it be tragic if we didn’t feel great sorrow when we lose a child? How grateful I am to my Father in Heaven that He allows us to love deeply and love eternally. How grateful I am for eternal families. How grateful I am that He has revealed once again through His living prophets the glorious plan of redemption.
Remember as you attended the funeral of your loved one the feelings in your heart as you drove away from the cemetery and looked back to see that solitary casket—wondering if your heart would break.
I testify that because of Him, even our Savior, Jesus Christ, those feelings of sorrow, loneliness, and despair will one day be swallowed up in a fulness of joy. I testify that we can depend on Him and when He said:
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”5
I testify that, as stated in Preach My Gospel, “as we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”6
I testify that on that bright, glorious morning of the First Resurrection, your loved ones and mine will come forth from the grave as promised by the Lord Himself and we will have a fulness of joy. Because He lives, they and we shall live also. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I am grateful for this precious reminder that Zoe is waiting for us on the other side.  Our family is forever and the pain that we feel now is only temporary.  A joy greater than we can comprehend is yet to come.  
Many have asked what we have planned for August 31st, the anniversary of Zoe's passing.  Lately I have thought a lot about that day and what sticks out the most is how quickly everything happened and the numbing pain that I felt when we gave her to our Funeral Director Deborah and left the hospital without her. Our baby had just died and it was more horrible than I could have ever imagined.  Nothing, no amount of time, no warning can prepare you for that loss.  Andrew and I are still coming up with a plan for the 31st but know that ultimately, we just need to be together.  
Some have asked if there is anything they can do.  My deepest fear is that as years pass by, Zoe will be forgotten.  When horrible things happen, eventually everyone else moves on.  As a mother, I don't believe you can "get over it" or move on, rather the pain and loss become more manageable.  If you would like to do something to remember Zoe, you are welcome to join us on Saturday, August 31st by wearing RED and touching another's life in a positive way.  Both of these things always remind me of Zoe.  They are small and simple but will bring light to a difficult day.  We would love to see photos of all the red and hear about your good deeds for Zoe on Facebook at Zoe Grace: Half a Heart, Full of Love.

Checking in for surgery at 5:30am on August 22, 2012

When I look at these photos of Andrew and I, I still remember the hope and relief that we felt that morning.  We had made it to the Glenn and this would ensure more time with her.  In fact, after we handed her off to the anesthesia nurse... we were eager for this next step.  Typically after the Glenn, HLHS kids don't need their third surgery until they are 3-4 years old. We looked forward to a few years  of potentially no surgery and a healthier heart for Zozo.

I wish I had held her just a little longer.

When I look at these photos of Zoe, I think she knew.  She was holding on for as long as she could.  For us.  But she knew she wouldn't need to suffer much longer.

Our sweet little fighter.


Milne Family Reunion - Part I

This year is a pretty big changing year for my family.  My parents, siblings and I have been fortunate enough to live close to each other (all but one, even in the same small town) since I was an early teen.  I have been in the same ward with my parents, and brother Kevin and sister Jenelle's families almost my entire married life.  We aren't a perfect family.  Is there such a thing?  We have our tiffs and occasional drama, but the keyword is "family" and family loves, forgives and supports each other through everything.  

I still remember that horrific moment in my parents kitchen, laughing with them and my sister about who know's what.  My phone rang and it was our Obstetrician, calling to explain the results from my 20 week ultrasound and the abnormality that was found on our baby's heart.  Beyond many other moments of gratitude for family closeby, that moment was unbeatable.  Andrew was at school and I was terrified with this painful and confusing news.  From that moment, they were more than there for us with every appointment, test and hospital visit.  After all that we have been through, I have found those who I can truly trust and who love me, especially when it is not convenient.  The top of that list is family.

Even though we see each other throughout the week around town, at church and at little get togethers... kids are growing older, work schedules are multiplying and my parents are entering a new phase in their lives, it is becoming clear that we will have fewer opportunities to spend quality and uninterrupted time together.  

 My parents rented a beach house in Lincoln City the last week of July.  The stars aligned and we were all able to be there.  My brother Eric and his family live in Newport, so we were able to have them as much as they could.  We even had some extended family come from Washington, Texas and Japan to join in the fun!

It is no exaggeration when I say that it was the absolute and most amazing family retreat.  The house was big enough for each couple to have their own room and the kiddos shared a couple of their own rooms.  Every day we had at least one planned activity that was open and optional to everyone.  Each family was responsible for a day of meals and we ate at our family's favorite restaurant Mo's on the last night.

I can honestly say that there was zero drama, tons of laughs, way too much food and long lasting memories made.  We were all so sad to leave.  That's pretty impressive for a week with anyone's entire family!

Oregon Aquarium in Newport

After a long day of crabbing, the group caught 24 crabs!
We had fresh Crab Louie for dinner.

Andrew got all the kids to do a Polar Bear Dip at 6:30 in the morning in the freezing cold ocean!  They loved it and said they could even do it again!

Family Sand Sculpture Competition
2 hour limit
BYOT (Bring Your Own Tools)
No Fireworks (yes, this rule had to be established)

Our family tree!

On the last day, both of my talented sister-in-law's Sarah and Rebecca captured amazing family photos for everyone.

I was apprehensive, when I first heard that we were doing family pictures.  It didn't seem right to take them without Zoe.  Although she's always in our hearts, pictures of the three of us seem incomplete without her.  Including her framed picture helped and Londyn was proud to hold it.

We are blessed.

Gma & Gpa with their 11 Grandkids

These two are the most amazing parents on earth.  We are all grown, but they are still parenting us and we still need them to!  The most important role of a parent doesn't never ends!  I always say that they must be doing something right to have all of us so close to them.  I love and appreciate them more than I can express.  They are #1 parents and grandparents.  Love you guys!

Milne Family Reunion PART II - October 2013


Nana Brendi & Papa Tom

A few days after I got home from Girls Camp, Andrew's parents came into town for a long overdue visit.  We hadn't seen them since Zoe's funeral, close to a year ago.  It just doesn't seem possible that it has been that long.  Londyn was so excited for them to arrive and especially to share her room with them.  Our plan was to have them in Londyn's room and then Lulu on the ground in our room.  Londyn said "I could sleep with Nana Brendi in my loft bed.  If she doesn't want me to, I won't."  The first night, they had a sleepover in Londyn's room and she loved it!  I'm not so sure how much Nana & Papa Tom loved waking up at 6:30am with little Miss Busy Body, but she loved every ounce of their attention.

While they were here, they got to watch Londyn at one of her swim lessons, visit and see Zoe's headstone for the first time and eat at some of our favorite take-out restaurants. 

Andrew's parents drove from Utah through Nevada, camping along the way to Oregon.  My father-in-law Tom has an amazing setup with built-in organization and shelving throughout his SUV and trailer.  We packed up Friday morning and drove to Florence, where we had our first family camping experience.  Florence was gorgeous and our campsite was perfect.

Londyn had never camped outside of our backyard, so this was a pretty big deal for her.  This was legit camping.  No flushing toilets or showers.  She was a trooper and overcame her fear of the pit toilet.  She was always asking for ways to help.  Lulu loved when Papa Tom and Nana Brendi let her help with the cooking and setting up the tent.  She also loved it when they would take her for walks around the campground.

While in Florence, we saw the Sea Lion Caves, visited a few different towns and saw gorgeous coastal views.

Thank you Nana & Papa Tom for the fun memories.  We love and miss you!


Girls Camp - Finding the Hero Within

Last Fall I was called to be the Ward Girls Camp Director.  I was instantly ecstatic when the bishopric approached me with this calling because it had been a year since I was released from Young Women's and wanted to somehow still be involved with the amazing girls in our ward.  

After months of preparing and planning, our home away from home was at Camp Kilowan in Dallas, Oregon.  It was the most crazy, fun, exhausting, delicious and filthy week I have had in a very long time.  Our days started at about 7:30am and was scheduled to finish at about 11pm, but some nights I was still up getting girls to bed until 2am.  


{Ward Skit}

{Bishopric Night}

{Bishop's Skit}


For my rookie year, we had 35 girls in our ward at camp!  That is more than twice as many girls in most of the other wards.  With our large group, we had the biggest cabin with our own bathrooms and showers.  It was awesome!

One of my favorite parts of camp was being there with 6 of my nieces.  I had never been away from Londyn more than 2 days, so you can imagine how apprehensive I was to leave her for 5 days.  Having my nieces there made it so special and kept me from missing my family too much.

{Mikayla, Megan, Kamry, Kaylee, Mary & Jennifer}

I still can't believe that it has been 9 years since I was last at Girls Camp.  I have so many amazing memories and friendships from those years that coming back as a leader could not have been timed more perfectly.  Not only is camp filled with fun activities, food and goofing around, there is an intense spiritual high.  Taking a break from the chaos of everyday life, social media and schedules and just being surrounded by blossoming testimonies of Christ is a truly inspiring experience.  While there, I could feel the Spirit continuously and I feel closest to Zoe when I feel the Spirit.  Throughout the entire week, I saw Zoe in the many righteous young women there.  I saw so much of her beauty and grace in each and every one of their countenances.  At times I was saddened by the reminder that Zoe will miss out on opportunities like Girls Camp, school dances, college, marriage, her own babies... etc.  The reality is that my sadness was more for myself than for her.  

 We had a testimony meeting on the very last night.  This was a time for the girls to stand in front of the camp and share their faith and what they believe.  During that very sacred time, I had a distinct impression that my experiences at camp were a glimpse of what it is like for Zoe in heaven. Zoe is surrounded by righteous individuals, sharing and teaching the Gospel and feeling our Savior's love.  She is learning, laughing, loving and feeling joy.  Zoe is at peace where Heavenly Father needs her to be.  I will always treasure the peace and comfort that came from the Spirit I felt that night.

When I was called to be a leader at Girls Camp, I was excited to help our ward young women grow and develop spiritually.  Little did I know, Heavenly Father was helping me.