We got a package this week from Aunt Lori and her group back east, it was full of hand made hats for the winter! Thanks you guys! We love them, they are so cute and I can only imagine the time and love that was put into each hat. We were all very touched. It is actually snowing a bit today, so they should get plenty of use really soon!

We also have received many headbands (from Joyce, thanks!) and several adorable hats from friends and family and they have been so nice to have. I have not even had one chance to go out shopping for any head stuff for my bald cutie, so thanks to everyone who has sent us stuff to go on her head! We love it!

This will be a quick update, because there isn't much to update! Things are about the same. Good news - Brinley has slept ALL night for 3 nights now, let's call it a pattern and hope it keeps up! It certainly has made a difference for David and I! She is still eating us out of house and home and I don't know why, because it has been almost 2 weeks off the sterods. We are keeping it healthy, but she is putting on weight by the day it seems, especially not walking. So we will talk to them about it on Monday, if her ANC is good enough to go to clinic. The in-home nurse will come Sunday to check her counts, and we will know if we start the next round of chemo Monday or not. Let's hope so, every week we have to wait around is a week longer she'll be going through it, and a week closer to running the harsher treatment into new baby time, which is already cut quite close. We were hoping to be into long term maintenance by the time we have the baby. Due date - march 29th, estimated date to start LTM - April 1. See the dilema? Plus we are completely stir crazy and are starting to twitch. haha. Get us out of this house!!!!! Time for a white blood cell rain dance or something. Go Brinley! Build those cells!!

I just have to take a minute and give Taylor her due credit in all of this. The other kids sometimes get the shaft in the attention department, with all of the focus on Brinley, so I wanted to tell everyone about her and her part in this. She has been an absolute angel to us and I know next to Brinley, this is hardest on Taylor and Jade. It started out rough, she had a lot of adjusting to do, but she has changed so much since all of this happened. She has been so patient and understanding with us, and her love for Brinley has grown with each day. She has a journal she keeps of letters to Brinley, and every few days she writes a new letter to her and she will give it to her when she is old enough to understand. At 11 years old, she has grown and matured well beyond her years this month. I already mentioned how she's been getting herself off to school each day, remembering everything on her own. Her grades and still wonderful, and she has not had me breathing down her neck about homework and spelling tests as I usually do, but she has taken on the responsibility of getting homework and studying done on her own. She has started doing her own laundry and has decided to take on Jade's too! That leaves me to only do 1 load a day and has been a tremendous help. She has been asked to do so much more around the house, and to sacrifice so much. Only 1 of us can go to her soccer games now for the most part (until brinley's numbers come back up) and she has not given one complaint about it. She hasn't complained about making her own lunch, or all of the fast food we have been eating lately (oh wait, she LOVES fast food, so I guess she wouldn't complain about THAT!).

Every Sunday she prepares a "Sunday lesson" for the family and this past Sunday it was about being a "family team". She talked about all the things we can do to be a team member and make our family team stronger (she knows about teamwork and team spirit, soccer seems to be her life!). So she made a list of things we can do to keep our "team" strong, praying together, reading scriptures together, serving each other, etc. We all had to sign a commitment to go on the fridge that we would always have family prayer and read scriptures every night. What 11-year-old WANTS to read scriptures together! I know I didn't! So we have read together every night this week and it has brought us so much closer together. We had slacked on that over the summer, so it felt good to get back on track. She loves the scriptures, and highlights verses that are special to her. She is an amazing girl and I want her to get a moment of the light shining on her, because she truly shines in our family and we love her! Thanks Taylor!

Since this week is going so well from the break in the chemo, I thought I'd write a little of what I'm feeling. It's been a blessing to be able to think outside of the storm, I feel like we've been given a calm, and although I don't know how long it will last, I am grateful for every SECOND of it. Things look different when I'm not standing in the middle of the storm, and I love having a better perspective on things. I just picture our family coming outside the house after a tornado and looking around to see sunlight and birds chirping. Kind of a funny picture, but that's how I feel. I don't know if it will last after next week, but that is okay, because it has shown me that through this long process, we will have ups too, not just downs. And this "up" have been incredibly full of joy and happiness. I can't believe the happiness I am feeling in this period, and I know I would not get to experience this much joy without having experienced so much pain this last month. I would not be brought to tears by seeing my kids be kind to each other, or hearing laughter in our house again if we hadn't had all the heartache last month. That's just the way it works. The greater the pain, the greater the joy. The greater the sorrow we experience, the greater the happieness we can experience. So we are just basking in the joy right now, not thinking about what is ahead of us.

One of the blessings I've seen in this trial: I have found so much joy in just plain motherhood. I say just plain motherhood because that's how people look at it sometimes. Oh, you're just a mom? No job? No income? No outside life? Yes, just a mom. And I love it. I'm so lucky to be home with my kids. I know there was a time when I had to work, and Taylor and I made it just fine, but this is where I belong. This is where I have always belonged. With my babies. I truly hope I am not offending anyone with this, because I know that we all do what we have to do, and it just works better for some people to be working, and I would defend all working mom's tooth and nail, since I have been there too, and don't think I was any less of a mother then than I am now. I would have died for my daughter then too. But for anyone who says I should be out working right now, helping with the income (we sure could use the extra income right now!) I would say, "What?? And miss my kids laughing when they cut animal shapes out of play dough today?? Are you crazy, I wouldn't miss that for the world!!" I love being a full time mommy, and although there are days when David comes home when I am about ready for the nut house, I mean REALLY ready for it, there is also nothing that gives me more joy than taking care of my kids and being here with them all day, sick or healthy, laughing or crying, tantrums or hugs. I'll take it all.

Today I am thankful. Thankful for this life that we have been given to experience, thankful that we get to experience the feelings of love, and happiness, and pain, and sorrow, and comfort. Thankful that God sends us tender mercies during our struggles, and that he lifts us up when we cannot stand on our own. Thankful that Brinley was sent to our family to bless us. Thankful for Taylor and the young woman she is becoming. Thankful for Jade and her sweet, tender heart. Thankful for David and the amazing man that he is. For our parents and siblings and sibling-in-laws and the love that they show us. Thankful for the beauty that surrounds us every day, that we sometimes pass by without even a glance. Thankful for the plan of salvation that was put into place so that IF Brinley were taken from us on this earth, we would be reunited with her again after this life.

Yeah, yeah, sappy stuff, but we all get sappy sometimes, right!!!

As for my Brinley today, still happy to have no meds going into her, she's been talking, laughing, and smiling most of the day. (She IS a 2-year-old, after all, so I can't expect that ALL day!) She is at least starting to crawl, although she isn't walking yet. I've seen her try to use her legs, and I can tell they just aren't strong enough yet. We've been trying to get her to use the muscles to build them back up, and she'll push herself around on her little train toy, so I hope that is helping a bit. She has turned into a chubby little thing! Since off the steroids, the cravings have calmed down and she'll eat a variety of things, but her appetite is still shocking us. That's fine though, because I know there are points in the treatment when she'll lose her appetite completely. So a little reserve will do her some good. If only we could shift some of that appetite onto Jade, the 4-year-old, who has a fit if we even mention the word "dinner"! Brinley still looks so different to me, but I love kissing her chubby cheeks and her bald head. It's probably quite annoying to her, but, hey, I can't help it.

Okay, David and I have officially broken our cardinal rule for 3 nights in a row. From the time our kids are babies, we have trained them well to sleep in their own beds and fall asleep on their own. We have a very strict rule that kids do not sleep in our bed, except for a very special occasion. Well, Brinley has been in our bed for 3 nights in a row now. We realized that if we just bring her in there in the middle of the night, when she wakes up every hour or so, instead of screaming bloody murder until someone picks her up, she looks around and realized where she is, smiles, and goes back to sleep. Listen, before you gasp, throw your hand to your mouth, and shout "NO, DON'T DO IT!" let me say that at 3:00AM, when you have had very little sleep and would give your right arm for an 8 hour block of uninterrupted sleep, letting the little munchkin in your bed in return for sleep would sound like a pretty good deal. Will we regret it someday? Probably. Is she playing us? Uh-hu. Will it be a problem if it's still happening when we have the baby? Yep. Do we care right now? Nope. Not a bit. Will we get more sleep at night now? Yeeeaaaaahhhhh. ZZZZZZZZZZZ. We won't be accepting any advice on this one!!! LOL

Today has been a great day so far in the Torres house. We watched Conference, first session was great, of course. I loved President Monson's talk, it really struck a cord with me. We have all these changes in our lives, the only thing we really CAN count on is things change, whether we want the changes or not. I will try to deal better with the changes that our family is dealing with, because they aren't going anywhere! It's been a little easier to feel normal lately, with Brinley being so happy. She's played with Taylor and Jade these last couple days, which is a BIG DEAL, because all month, if either of them come within arms distance of her, she's trying to smack them in the face. So Taylor and Jade have been saying "look mom! Brinley is playing with me" like it's something that never happens! I've actually been able to cook a little, we had eggs together for breakfast (no cereal!) and I made grilled cheese for lunch. I think Taylor is elated to have me back to myself today. She must have thanked me 20 times during lunch for making grilled cheese and tomato soup (one of her favorites). It made me realize how absent I have been for her lately and how much she really needs me. Funny how when something is taken away for a while, you feel so much more grateful to have it again! She's definitely learning gratitude the hard way!

Well, the bad news is that the home health nurse came today to check Brinley's blood counts, and although she is happy as can be, her counts are too low. Her ANC is 260, still way too low, so she won't get to start the next phase tomorrow. It's really scary knowing that your child has pretty much no immune system. I keep picturing little pieces of bacteria or germs creeping into her body and attacking, and her body not having the defense to fight it. It makes me constantly nervous. I was a wreck when I first found out how much her ANC had dropped last week, because I had taken her out to a soccer game with no mask or anything, thinking she was probably above 500. I was so mad at myself for putting her out there like that, even though I had no way of knowing what was happening with her blood. I still felt like I had done something completely irresponsible, the doctor had to reassure me she would be fine and that these things happen. Her red blood cells were low too, so the nurse said they might want to do a transfusion tomorrow, so we'll talk to the hospital tomorrow and see. In the meantime, we'll pray that her body will start making those white blood cells again, quickly!

We got a package in the mail this weekend from my cousin Emily, and is was full of presents for the kids. I wish I had thought to take a picture, you would have thought it was Christmas at our house! The kids absolutely loved it, all the gifts were a hit, it made them feel so special. Thanks Emily!