Thursday, January 18, 2018

Service Heals

Edith will be four years old soon! She's so much fun, very talkative, very inquisitive, and very adventurous. She's entering a new stage of understanding and asks a lot (a lot!) of questions, and has asked a lot about her twin brother Owen over the years. We've tried to be open and positive about our relationship with him and where he is. She's cute about it, knows she has a twin brother, and isn't hesitant to tell others about him. We overheard her telling a visitor once that "he's in heaven, but we still love him". It's hard to believe sometimes that it's been four years since we had sweet Owen in our arms. Sometimes, sadly, it feels like it's been forever, like it was a distant dream. But it was not a dream. We lived through too many hours of tears and sorrow and we've grown too much through the experience to ever forget the reality of losing a baby.

I was waiting in the doctor's office a couple of weeks ago, to hear the heartbeat of our newest little girl coming soon, when all of a sudden the woman next door cried out in pure despair and started sobbing uncontrollably. The walls were not thick enough to keep me from witnessing her very raw grief, and I couldn't keep from crying with her as I ached for her sorrow from what I can only guess was the news no parent wants to hear when listening for a heartbeat. I felt uncomfortable witnessing such personal and real anguish, feeling like I could almost hear my own grief and sorrow 4 years ago when I heard the diagnosis of our baby we already loved so much. I didn't like reliving through someone else the feelings again of what I felt on that day, and so many days after.

We tried to be open about our faith throughout our experience, and we have tried to be open ever since when we talk about Owen, that we know we have a kind and loving God who has watched over us and helped us through it, but not only that, open about our faith that because we turned to a loving Savior and the power of His Atonement, we have grown from this experience and become happier because of it. Our understanding of the importance of families has been strengthened, families that live eternally, not just in this life. And we have felt the strength Owen has offered our family, knowing we have a son waiting for us, our guardian angel.

Matt made a suggestion after Owen was born that has become a great blessing to our family, a suggestion that has become a way to heal and grow. He suggested that every year around Owen's birthday we should have a service day, to remember him, and also to think of others who are still in the middle of their own personal despair. It has been something I look forward to more and more every year, because it has been such a good thing for our family. Edith loves it too and we talk about it often. She is growing to love serving others, something we want for her because we know the happiness it brings to our own lives.

One of the best men that has ever lived said:
“To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves… No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy.

“We do not live alone—in our city, our nation, or our world. There is no dividing line between our prosperity and our neighbor’s wretchedness.  ‘Love thy neighbor’ is more than a divine truth. It is a pattern for perfection. This truth inspires the familiar charge, ‘Go forth to serve.’  Try as some of us may, we cannot escape the influence our lives have upon the lives of others. Ours is the opportunity to build, to lift, to inspire... The New Testament teaches that it is impossible to take a right attitude toward Christ without taking an unselfish attitude toward men.” -President Thomas S. Monson

So, here's to another year of attempting to love others as unselfishly and angel-like as we were loved and cared for four years ago by so many family members and friends, angels who carried us through one of our darkest times, and helped point us towards heavenly Light that brought us the only peace that could ever heal that sorrow.


Last year we had several caring friends say they would have loved to participate with us somehow. So this year we wanted to include friends and family near and far in our service project! We are working with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County to sponsor a family by providing the household items needed to get them started. 

Here is the list of items they are in need of when furnishing a home for a newly resettled refugee family.

And here is the Amazon wish list I created to make it easy for those living far away who want to join in with us to furnish a home! Items purchased through this list can be shipped directly to our address. It doesn't need to be these exact items, but our address is found through the wish list as "Matthew Cragun's Gift Registry Address". If you need our address for something from another site let me know in the comments.

As a family, we will collect, organize, and donate the items together.  

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Waiting Impatiently

I figured I'd write one more update before baby comes.  We've settled well into our new life here in Seattle and as I think back on all of the changes that have happened I feel grateful that we feel as sane as we do.  We may not feel quite as sane once we have a new baby and move a couple more times, but I'll let you know once we're there.  It's fun to look back at how different Edith was when we moved from Columbus last year, bald and tiny.  She's a little less tiny but a lot less bald.  She talks like crazy now and has a great vocabulary!  She surprises us with the sentences she comes up with here and there.  She mixes up her pronouns still, but honestly we don't correct her very often because it's just so cute the way she says, "I hold you" or "I chase you".  I think she's really starting to understand that there's a real baby in my belly and is excited to have her sister come out and play with her.  She kisses my belly often and with her hands out in front says, "I hold you" to her sister.

We have some amazing friends in this ward and one of them threw me a baby shower this week, even with us being so new and this being our second girl!  I felt completely spoiled and was so grateful for all of the support we received. 

This pregnancy in a lot of ways has felt like a first pregnancy for me, just because it's been so different than with the twins.  I'm 38 weeks now and I've never had a baby this big inside me!  It's a very different experience to feel like she's trying to break out when she stretches really hard!  I'm still feeling pretty good so far, but hope she gets here soon.  I'm starting to feel really impatient!

We've explored a lot of Seattle now and have loved living in the Northwest.  It's been fun to experience living coast to coast.  Matt has loved taking Edith hiking every weekend he gets the chance.  

One of our favorite places so far has been Double Bluff Beach on Whidbey Island.  You have to take a 20 minute ferry to the island but Double Bluff has one of the best beaches in the area with perfect California sand and shallow water for Edith to play in.  We also explored the tulips at the Tulip Festival in April, the aquarium, and the zoo!

Edith looks bigger to me every time I take a picture.  And she's only going to seem bigger once this baby girl comes!  Here's hoping for a Mother's Day baby...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Toddler Two

It's hard to believe it's been 2 full years since I had my babies in my arms!  So many changes have happened that we hardly recognize our lives compared to a few years ago.  I've quit one job and started another (more full-time) job as a mom (which is just as fulfilling as I had hoped it would be), we threw caution to the wind and quit Matt's job after being accepted to MIT and became students once again, sold our house we loved so much, and moved to Boston!  Leaving Columbus was hard and we miss our friends who became our family, but loved exploring a new city.  We then found out we were pregnant(!!!!!), Matt got accepted to do an internship at Boeing in Seattle for 7 months, so we packed up again (#3 of our 5 moves in 2 years), lived with family for 2 months over the holidays, and eventually made it to Seattle beginning of February!  That was a very quick summary of our lives over the past 8 months.


With this crazy but exciting move to Seattle also comes a new baby, smack dab in the middle of this internship.  Luckily for us I have a brother only 30 minutes away so we have family really close by for the first time in our marriage.  Edith has adjusted really well to all of the changes, especially when I write them all out like that!  She's changed so much since we left Columbus and has become a full-on toddler.  She talks like crazy and has started surprising us with 4 word sentences here and there.  She runs everywhere now, "I running fast" is a common phrase out of her mouth.  She loves to laugh and tease us.  She'll say the opposite of what she knows she should say, then laugh and say "teasing".  She adores having friends around, cuddles and feeds and takes care of her baby dolls all day long, and is obsessed with dogs and trains.

We celebrated her 2nd birthday with a doggy party, complete with a doggy cake and a million pool toys (thanks to our indoor heated pool that she wants to swim in everyday).  To say that we're happier with her in our lives is an understatement.  She makes everything more fun and life more meaningful.

It's another special boy's birthday too, and to keep with our new tradition of remembering Owen and making him a part of this time too, we had Owen's service day.  Last year, with the help of friends and family, we made birthday bags for a women's shelter in Columbus, filled with fun birthday gifts to different age groups.

This year we found a retirement center near us and delivered valentines, flowers, and chocolates to many of the residents there.  They were so sweet and loved having a 2 year old hand them a flower.  We felt so happy doing it together and hope that Edith gets excited about this fun tradition each year.

 Happy Birthday to my sweet babies!

Monday, August 25, 2014


I've wanted to write this post for months, but until now I wasn't sure what I wanted to say, and frankly just wasn't ready to write it.  The experience Matt and I had with Owen the day he was born was so personal and so heavenly that it's not something I knew how to share or if I even could.  From the first days of finding out about Owen's condition we felt deeply that he was special, that he was important and it was a great blessing for our family to have him.  That feeling grew as we got closer to his and Edith's due date and the day we held him it was overwhelmingly confirmed to me that this was an incredible son, not just ours, but an incredible son of Heavenly Father first and Owen was fulfilling his work by coming briefly on this earth and then he was on to do more work.  I love that little boy more than I can say.  

Matt and I prayed for a miracle when we learned that Owen wasn't going to survive, but I felt throughout this experience that we were receiving miracles, all along the way, and in the end, they were somehow even greater miracles than the one we had been hoping for, even though I don't fully understand it.

My mom told me about a devotional address she read recently that she thought I would like by Dallan R. Moody, and it said some things about his own son that I felt were completely true in my own situation.  

"What struck me was that 'the absence of the miracle' could actually be a 
miracle in and of itself—the premise being that as God’s ways and thoughts are higher than man’s, at times the Lord may choose to provide a 
miracle counterintuitive to what we may want, knowing full well His own end purpose. Because of the absence of the miracle fixed in our minds, 
He is better able to help us grow and thus become happier than we ever could have been had we received the desired miracle for which we had 

And that point he made at the end is exactly how I feel about my experience with Owen.  I don't feel deprivation of something I should have received, a hole that my baby should have filled, but I feel like I have been stretched and have grown so much from this experience that I am a different person than I was a year ago, better, and it was because Owen did come, he was here, and is my little boy forever.  And because of those truths I feel like my happiness has grown and my ability to love has grown.  I feel the importance of life so much more, especially when I hold Edith and think about how lucky I am to have her here.  She has been our other little angel.

Owen was here 7 hours, the most perfect and complete 7 hours of my life.  He passed away before most of our family could make it, though most of them tried.  My sister Monica got to hold him while he was still here which I'm so grateful for.  When we got to the hospital everything happened so fast.  The first plan was to try to hold off the delivery for a week, and then all of a sudden we were being prepped for my c-section.  We had just enough time to tell our parents that it was happening within the hour so they and some of our siblings all hopped on a plane or in a car and got here as fast as they could.  It was so good to have them here and meant so much to us to be surrounded by them.  They along with our amazing friends carried us through this experience.  What could have been a lonely and scary time became bearable because of them.  They put together the most beautiful memorial here and in Utah.  I was literally overwhelmed with love when I walked in to see all they had done the day of Owen's memorial and to see how many people showed up to support us!  So many people helped in so many ways, big and small.  They brought us meals, "heart attacked" Edith's NICU room, sent us sweet cards and messages of love and support, came to show their love at his memorial, and the list goes on and on.  We were filled with a sweet gratitude that was healing.  

It's always enlightening to look back on an experience after things have settled.  You're able to see even clearer the ways God orchestrated things to your benefit, usually through the kindnesses of other people.  Looking back I can see more clearly His hand in every detail and can feel His incredible love for us.  I know that Owen came for a purpose, I know he is my little boy forever.  I know that even when THE miracle that we want sometimes doesn't happen, if we turn to God in faith He will still provide miracles in our lives and they can shape us into better people.  I know that if you are struggling with something similar (or completely different), that struggle can become a stepping stone, if you let it, to becoming better and happier, even when it seems nearly impossible.  That's what Jesus Christ can do.

So to sum up my experience with Owen in my arms I will use Dallan R. Moody's words:
"Though his 
body was misshapen and broken, his spirit was whole, noble, and great. Being in his presence was healing and heavenly. I thank Heavenly Father for making the time with Owen not only possible but powerful. It was indeed heaven on 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Celebrating Every Week

I have meant to update our blog multiple times but just haven't done it yet.  I'm 32 weeks already and feel enormous!  I've had so many things on my mind lately, so many things I've wanted to say, I guess I just couldn't find the right time and way to do it.  Many weeks have gone by since our last post (which if you haven't read yet, this post will make a lot more sense if you read that one first) and we've had such an amazing response of love and care from so many good friends and family members it's been overwhelming, in a very good way!  As I was talking to one of my sisters today she said something that made me so happy.  She told me that she feels like she already knows Owen, more so that you typically feel about an unborn baby.  I feel the exact same way.  That's what we wanted so badly from this was to be able to bond with Owen as much as we can while he's here with us, even though I know the bonding in some sense will still continue even after he's passed away.

We've been overwhelmed by all of the seen and unseen help we've had from so many people.  We know all of the prayers have helped us in more ways than we even know.  It's amazing how much situations like this bring out the tremendous good in so many people that remind you of how great people really are.  I just love the unity that I've felt with so many acquaintances that have become friends and so many good friends that have become great friends.  I can't thank Owen enough for that alone, for feeling this kind of love from so many people!  I've wanted to say thank you to everyone in so many meaningful ways and I feel like no matter how I say it it won't express how overwhelmingly thankful I really am.

One of the things that Matt and I have been most grateful for are my coworkers.  Helping Hands is where I've worked for almost 5 years and I have made amazing friends that I miss seeing everyday.  I always knew I worked with wonderful people but Matt and I have been blown away by all that they've done for us during what could have been a very difficult pregnancy.  A couple of friends got together and decided that they wanted to help us celebrate Owen every week that he's with us so they did something that we never could have done for ourselves and we will be forever grateful for.  They made a list of themes for each week of my pregnancy, starting with week 20, and different groups of my coworkers each took a week and got together secretly to put together something special for us at the start of that week.  I was completely oblivious until the third or fourth week when I finally clued in!  So literally every week since then we've received some pretty generous and exciting gifts, some for the babies, but most for us to find ways to be happy during that week and feel the joy of this experience.  I can't tell you how much it has helped us feel excited and grateful and loved while teaching me the incredible goodness that is in my sweet coworkers and friends.

Here's a few of the fun gift baskets we received!

My amazing friend Rachel brought me a fruit "cake" to celebrate the twins 1/2 birthday at 20 weeks!

Week 23: A winter basket filled with fun wintry things, including tickets to see Zoo Lights.

Week 25: For Christmas week we got fun Christmas pajamas, a gingerbread
house making kit, and a sweet ornament with Owen's name on it.  

Week 26: The Music Therapists gave me all sorts of fun musical things.

Week 27: A cute picture frame with one of my favorite quotes and a Color Me Mine gift card!

Week 29: A "date night" basket.  We actually used the Build-A-Bear gift card to buy recorders and recorded Owen's and Baby Girl's heart beats to put inside of the bears, something I've wanted to do for a long time now!

Week 30: My birthday week!  My cute friend Sara actually contacted my sister and she sent birthday
memories of me from my sisters and parents that Sara recorded in a journal.

This isn't even half of the amazing gifts we received.  Others included a prenatal massage, awesome seats at the OSU basketball game, restaurant gift cards, a necklace with charms that will remind us of sweet Owen.  While the things were all wonderful in and of themselves, really it was the love we felt from all of my coworkers that made this experience so sweet.  It truly has helped us celebrate every week baby Owen's with us.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


As you may already know our family is doubling in size!  We are so excited to be adding a new baby boy and baby girl to our family!  We've been waiting and praying a long time for these little nuggets and feel so grateful that they are ours for eternity.

We found out some news at our 12 week ultrasound, however, that was very hard for us to hear, and wasn't confirmed until our 16 weeks appointment that we had just recently.  Our amazing little boy was diagnosed with something called anencephaly, or acrania, a neural tube defect that causes the skull and parts of the brain to not form correctly or at all.  This rare disorder is not viable with life so he will either be stillborn or live only a short time.  While this has been very difficult and is very hard for us to understand we have felt so much peace throughout this process, from all of the prayers we have had for us and our little family.

While this is very sensitive and personal information, and we debated how much we wanted to share with the world, we have felt very strongly that we want everyone to understand our perspective on this.  We have complete faith in a loving Heavenly Father, who loves us very much, who is watching over our family, and who has a greater plan in mind for us than we can understand right now.  We know that we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered all things for us, is able to carry our burdens, and has made it possible for us to live with our little boy again.  We find incredible peace and comfort in the Plan of Salvation, that teaches us that we can be a family forever, because of the blessings that come from being sealed as a family for eternity in the temple of God by one who holds God's authority.  We know that while this will be one of the greatest trials we will experience, there will be great blessings that can come from this if we let them.  We know that we are here to be tried, to grow, to become better, and this is one of the best opportunities we will get in this life as we will have to say goodbye so soon to the little boy we already love so much.

Another reason why we wanted to write this post was because we have felt so much love and support from so many family and friends already, and we can only imagine many of you might be wondering how to offer support and comfort to us in this situation.  We are having twins, which we are so excited about, but we will only be bringing one little baby home with us.  We want you to know that we still feel grateful for this blessing in our lives to have these two little babies in our family and want to feel the excitement and happiness that can come from this experience.  We decided that we want this to be a time of bonding for our little family and a time for our family and friends to get to know this little baby boy too.  We knew that an important part of this would be having a name, so we've decided to name him Owen Matthew.  Honestly, the name for this little guy came easily; I think we were being prepared a while in advance.  (Our baby girl will have to wait a bit, girl names have been a bit harder for us:)  When people would ask me what I thought I was having I would tell them I thought there was a boy in there somewhere.  What I didn't tell them was that I knew there was a boy in there.  I've known I was going to have a little boy for a long time.  Owen was meant to be a special part of our family.

We especially wanted to write this as a big thank you to all of you for the outpouring of love and support we have received already.  There isn't a greater blessing than knowing you have so many friends and family members who celebrate with you during the exciting times and mourn with you during hard times, and who are consistently there ready to give you any support and comfort you might need.  While there will be many moments of tears and sorrow for us, we feel mostly gratitude for all of the many incredible blessings we have in our lives.  We are most especially grateful for our faith and for a God who loves us more than we can understand and who will carry us through this experience.

If you are interested to find out more information about anencephaly, please resist the urge to google it.  While the websites are informative, they are mostly medical.  These are some great blogs that have information and a positive outlook on this disorder.

Some of the scriptures and talks from beloved prophets and leaders that have particularly helped us during this time are:
-Mosiah 24:13-15 from the Book of Mormon
-A talk by our most wonderful prophet, President Monson
-A talk by Elder Bowen that I never knew I would need so much

-Elder Holland:
"I testify of the holy Resurrection, that unspeakable cornerstone gift in the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ! With the Apostle Paul, I testify that that which was sown in corruption will one day be raised in incorruption and that which was sown in weakness will ultimately be raised in power. (1 Corinthians 15:42–43)  I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally ‘free at last.’ Until that hour when Christ’s consummate gift is evident to us all, may we live by faith, hold fast to hope, and show ‘compassion one of another.’(1 Peter 3:8.)”   (“Like A Broken Vessel”, Elder Holland, Oct. 2013)

We thought we'd leave you with a short video of baby Owen sucking on his toes.  Oh we love him so much already!

Thank you again for all of your love and support,

Nicole and Matthew

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Niagara Falls

In March it was Matt's birthday. (He is one year away from the big 30.) In honor of this occasion, and because we felt like we needed/wanted desperately a vacation, we decided to head to Niagara Falls, a sight that Matt had never seen. We were a tad premature in the season if I must admit, but despite the constant, drizzly, chilly rain Saturday we had a great trip.

Friday afternoon we got to Buffalo and did a little productive outlet shopping, went out to eat at a diner visited by Guy Fieri himself, and then went to Hunger Games (where we sat in front of some very excited, talkative, and developmentally appropriate self-centered 13 year olds that provided commentary, high pitched screams, and belches, throughout much of the movie).

Saturday there was a constant rain that our handy rain jackets protected (parts of) us from. Despite the dreary weather we were in good spirits, the weather wasn't too cold to be miserable, and we had the most amazing cheesecake we've ever had, so all in all it was an awesome day. Oh, and Matt got to feel the immensity of the Falls. Pretty impressive.

This picture was for my little boys at work, but I thought you all might enjoy seeing me get eaten by the T-Rex too.

And here we have Matt displaying how we spent most of Saturday, hoods up and sodden.  It was well worth the beautiful, misty views though.

And, per Matt's request, he got a double chocolaty chocolate cake with chocolate-chocolate frosting.  We know how to have a good time at our parties.

P.s. I am entirely in love with Matt. It is a good life when you can sit alone in your house, waiting for your husband to get home, knowing that when he does, everything is infinitely better.

P.s.s. (or is it p.p.s? I never really knew) I haven't written a p.s. since 7th grade. It's useful.