Sunday, May 24, 2015

Grief & Hope

Sometimes, I feel like grief is my new normal. It is there, just under the surface, kept at bay only by a conscious decision to make it so. It is there when I close myself into the bathroom stall and immediately start to cry even though I hadn't felt it coming. I cry hard for thirty seconds, wipe my eyes, and exit the same as before. No one knows. No one sees. It is there when my six-year-old finds a little pink outfit at Costco and pauses. Whispers quietly, "I want a baby sister." It is there, constant. A lump in my throat that I speak around, swallow down, live with.

Because my daughter is dead.

I expect everyone to get it. Sometimes. Other times I want to be the only person who has ever grieved like this. My sorrow is unfair to everyone because it is not predictable. It is fine for three weeks and then all messed up for five days straight. It is fluid. Raging waters. Stagnant. Ever the same. Always different.

Just last week, someone asked me about her. I said that it had been three months to the day since she'd been born still.

But it hadn't.

It was four. Four months. Not three. Inexplicably, this made me feel like a terrible mother. How did I not even know how much time had passed since January 19th? A lifetime? Five minutes? Three months? Four?

I sensed when it was time to stop talking, when people had heard enough, when I was expected--by most--to begin to pretend that everything was fine. It was long before I wanted to stop talking and long before anything was fine.

I smile. Sometimes because there is so much joy in life, so much happiness and so much to smile about. Sometimes because smiling is the only thing holding back the damage.

I did not know her. I mourn a dream. Still. Because I did not know her, I have just one memory of my girl. A fuzzy pink blanket with a kitten on it. Her small body in my arms. That day, I willingly gave her back to the funeral home. I stood and, ever so gently--terrified she would break--gave her away. Why didn't I simply hold her forever? Why did I walk away when it was all I had--all I would ever have? I had sensed that it was time. Now, I would do anything to hold that kid just a minute longer.

We were four and we were content. How then did this tiny dream come into our lives and leave such an indelible footprint that we feel lost without her? Why do we feel so incomplete?

I have said many times that we can grieve and hope at the same time. I believe, wholeheartedly, that this is possible and acceptable and right. But I am learning that, more often than not, it depends on the day. Most days I feel the expectant joy of hope. But there are other days when I feel torn up and twisted, wishing only that Kate's story had ended with a beginning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

To the One Who Might Consider Us

I wish I could sit down with every woman who looks at our profile and hold her hand and tell her who we are. I wish I could say this. I wish I could say so much more...

Dear Mom,

What you see in our letter is merely us in the smallest of nutshells. Each section is a paragraph resume highlighting our family, our faith, our passions. We don't really live in the highlights, though. They are the bullet points but the real living happens between the lines. How can we show you who we are in such a tiny space? Especially when there are four of us vying for your attention? That letter is some of us. You've seen the short resume; the love of travel and sports and theatre, the Christian home and the closeness of our family. What we really wish, though, is for you to be a fly on our wall. We wish that you could really feel who we are.

We are a family of air bands and dance parties--all four of us hopping around like maniacs and only one of us with any rhythm to speak of. We love movie nights with popcorn and all of us draped over each other under blankets on the couch with our fire place blazing and snow falling outside. Every night, we snuggle our boys in their beds, knowing that tomorrow they will be one day older and a little bit bigger. We love ice cream cones on road trips and surprise stays in hotel rooms because the boys think hotels are the very best thing in the whole wide world. We eat vegetables and salads and fruit and put healthy things in our bellies. We also eat Happy Meals because life is too short not to have McDonald's from time to time. We cheer loudly and proudly when our boys score a goal but we remind them that it's about having fun and learning and good sportsmanship. We laugh until tears are rolling down our faces. We kiss chubby cheeks and give long hugs liberally. We're sit at the table and help the kids with homework kind of people. We believe in volunteering in the classroom, chaperoning field trips, and being completely connected to our children's education. We believe that raising them is our greatest calling and we will not sacrifice our time with them for anything. Period. We spend long summer days at the pool, often slurping Sonic slushes on the way home.We read the Bible, classic literature and fantasy stories together. (Well, to be completely honest, Lori reads them classic literature and Troy reads them fantasy stories.) We teach honesty and integrity. We try to model love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We fail. We say sorry. We ask for forgiveness. We show our children as much of the world as our bank account will allow. We believe in mercy and grace. We believe in dreaming big.

We're in love. Not brand new, explosive fireworks love but the kind of love that says, "I see you. I know you. I choose you. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow." Love is not always easy but we are in it for the long haul and there's no where we'd rather be than in each other's arms. We are committed to one another, committed to our family, committed to love and committed to our relationship with Christ.

We are an open adoption family. No question is off limits. No emotion is deemed inappropriate. We encourage our son to talk as much as he wants to about his birth family. We tell him everything we can. He knows he is abundantly loved by all four of his parents. We've talked about adoption from day one and we keep talking about it because it is his story and his heritage. He is 100% our son, 100% their son, and 100% loved. We honor his birth family because we love them and because no words could ever describe how thankful we are that they chose us.

We are joy and thankfulness and pride and love.

We have been raising children for nearly nine years. Once upon a time, we thought our family was complete and we were content. Then, God gave us a deep desire for another child. We lost our daughter to stillbirth and, while that was an incredibly difficult and grief-filled experience, we know that we will meet her one day in Heaven. We long for our family to be completed here on earth with another daughter. Our tender-hearted boys pray every night for a sister.

They are ready. They are so in love with the idea of her already. They are really incredible little people and they will be amazing big brothers. Matthew will teach her the joy of adoption and they will have one another to share the experience with. Garrett will hold both of them under his wide, protective wings.

We are ready. We pray every day for our daughter.We eagerly await her arrival. We trust in God's timing just as we did when we waited through infertility treatment for our firstborn, just as we did as we waited to be matched with our second boy, just as we wait to meet our daughter in Heaven.

We are so thankful for you and the choice you have made to give your baby life. We know that the choice to place her comes with anguish and sorrow but we know that it comes from the fact that you love her with every fiber of your very being. Know that, even now, even without seeing her face or feeling her heartbeat, we love her and we are waiting for her. We will hold wildly and expectantly onto hope.

We are so much more than our resume.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New York, New York

Our trip was fantastic. The boys were off track so my dad stayed with them so that my husband could continue working while I gallivanted all over New York City. He did so many fun things with them that I don't think they missed me for a single second. We got back into town late Sunday night and, on Monday morning, Garrett crawled into bed with me and barely came up for air as he described the incredible time he'd had with his Grandpa. Obviously, my husband was around for some of it but my kids probably barely noticed him.

Meanwhile, my mom and I were visiting The Empire State Building, Times Square, Liberty and Ellis Islands, the Holocaust museum, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, The Cloisters, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, The Brooklyn Bridge, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and many flagship stores. We enjoyed Grimaldi's, Magnolia Bakery and Serendipity. And we saw It's Only a Play and Phantom of the Opera.

Also...this happened.

Which really just meant that I went into a wax museum but I posted it on Instagram and Facebook and had a couple of people wondering what the heck had happened in my life to warrant an appearance on Fallon. 

But alas...I only met Fallon in the way that I met Spiderman. 
It is important to note that if I actually met Spiderman (or Jimmy Fallon, for that matter), I would not drape myself over him.

When I bought that shirt, Garrett told me that if we ever get another baby, all my kids will be represented in giraffes with Kate being the one that looks different from all the rest because she's a ghost. I corrected his theology. We do not become ghosts. (Nor do we become angels but that's a whole different theology lesson.) Still, I LOVE the shirt even more now and I'm just waiting to see what God might do about that last giraffe.

You know what? I used to look JUST like my dad. I still do in the fact that my hair is like his, my coloring is from him, and I have two giant smile lines running down the length of my cheeks which look just fine on a dude but are maybe not the most attractive thing on a female. But now, when I walk past a mirror, I sometimes see my mom looking back at me. This was evidenced by the fact that people on Facebook said we were twins. This is a nice compliment for my mother, if people are implying that she looks like she's 33. It is not really a nice compliment for me in event that people are saying I resemble a 50+ year old. Still...

Yeah. I guess I see it. Fifty, here I come!

We saw THIS SHOW and it was hilarious. The pastor's wife in me cannot endorse the language as it was not so great with the not cussing. But the comedic timing was just phenomenal and the script was incredibly witty.

The next night we saw Phantom of the Opera for two reasons. 1. I had never seen it before which is unacceptable for someone who holds a degree in Theatre. 2. It was super inexpensive. Given the people around us, it really was more like we were at the circus. There's a pending blog post dedicated just to that evening.

On Thursday morning we went north to The Cloisters. It was a beautiful day. The gardens were gorgeous and the experience was breathtaking.

The GW Bridge is beautiful when it's not a crazy storm and you're not trying to walk across it and your umbrella isn't inverted and trying to take you away Mary Poppins style.

This cathedral is huge. The pulpit is approximately 37 times the size of my husband. He would need phone books to stand on.

This. There are no words, really. You people who say that they are not good are within seconds of being dead to me.


6.1 miles around Central Park on this bad boy which, if you let go of the handlebars, toppled over because of uneven basket weight distribution. Also, there were hills. Painful-I'm-out-of-stinkin'-shape hills. An old lady ran them faster than we peddled. Granted, she was like the most fit old lady I'd ever seen but STILL.

Turtles in Central Park! I wanted to box one up and bring it home to my boys but decided there were probably rules against that sort of thing.

We went to the top of the Empire State Building and then we went to the Top of the Rock so that we could look at the Empire State Building. It was all included on our City Pass so why not?

You guys. This frozen salted caramel hot chocolate changed my life. I'm not kidding. I'm a better person for having met this drink. My associate pastor's wife is a better person for having told me about it. Congratulations Sonrise! Holly and I are BOTH better people because of a chocolate beverage. You're welcome.

On our last full day, we went to Grimaldi's under the Brooklyn Bridge and had delicious pizza! 

We walked across the bridge. It rained a little. This leads me to the conclusion that I cannot walk across a bridge in New York without summoning the rain.

On Sunday we went into Greenwich Village so that we could obtain cupcakes to bring home to our men. I decided that if I lived in the city, I could go for having an address in Greenwich Village.

Then we made our way to the airport and flew home. I was very happy to see my vehicle. I mean, sometimes it decides not to start but USUALLY it starts when I want it to. I don't have to walk a quarter mile to get to it every time I want to use it and, TYPICALLY, there are not dozens of people in it with me.

But if I could have my own car and a magic traffic genie, I could TOTALLY live in New York.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New York

You guys, I'm in NYC. I heart New York. My mom and I used hotel benefits and flyer miles and we got here last night and leave on Sunday! My dad is at home helping out with the boys. When we went to check in for our flight, we found out that our flight out of SLC into Dallas/Fort Worth and then to Newark turned into a flight into Phoenix and then to JFK. It arrived at JFK at 4:30 which put us in the worst ever traffic. But we were quite glad our flight was not cancelled altogether since, apparently, half the country was closed down because of weather.

Today we hit the ground running which proved catastrophic for my poor feet. I am now sporting two blisters on each of my little toes--one of which is GIGANTIC and SO painful. I guess I should have put on socks instead of opting for fashion. 

My mom bought us the City Pass and we started off our day with a boat cruise around Manhattan. It was definitely worth it. We saw all five boroughs, the statue of liberty, Yankee stadium, all the bridges, and so much more.

After our boat cruise, we went to Times Square and enjoyed Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. We went up to the observation deck at the Empire State Building, ate a hot dog from a street vendor, and walked through Macy's flagship.

We have four more full days and part of Sunday to cram in as much as we can but so far, we're almost halfway to paying for the city pass!

Tomorrow and Thursday we have tickets to see two shows and I can't wait!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Paper Kate

I hadn't cried in a good long while.

My mom's best friend's daughter just had a baby. It's her first and I'm super excited for her to experience the joy of motherhood. But, see, I have clothes hanging in the closet of the playroom baby's room library that match clothes she has hanging in her baby's closet. Our moms bought our babies matching clothes. I desperately hope that one day I will have a daughter to dress in the clothes that were bought for Kate. You see, I just don't think Kate would mind. She's in the arms of my loving heavenly Father and I really feel that, like every female everywhere, she'd want the clothes to be enjoyed.

So on the day that my mom's best friend's daughter was in labor, I had to open that closet (which I really rarely do because it's filled to the brim with baby stuff in the hopes that one day it'll be used) and I happened to fix my eyes on the matching outfit. I want her to wear hers, of course. I'm just reminded that Kate will never wear hers.

So a couple days ago, I cried. It had been weeks since I'd shed a tear which is really a testimony to the grace of God and the power He has to heal if we let Him. Sometimes we like to be stuck in our grief. Sometimes it feels so wrong and unnatural to be happy that we allow ourselves to stay fixed on sadness. But I am convinced that our loved ones do not want us circling sorrow for the rest of our lives.

They want us to live.

Still, sometimes, the grief creeps up on me. When my boys stare longingly at babies in Walmart. Grief. When I think of the life she won't lead. Grief. When I see tiny baby clothes left unworn. Grief. I sat on my bed and allowed myself to feel the weight of sadness for several moments. My eight-year-old walked into the room, took one look at me and said, simply, "Kate?" Then he came, wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tight. I am convinced that, one day, he is going to love his wife just as tenderly. I simultaneously cannot wait for that day and could wait a lifetime for it.

Troy came in and pulled me close. I explained. "I just wish I could have one child that I did not have to cry buckets over." And I know that we will all cry over all of our children for one reason or another or a hundred. But just once, I would have loved to experience the joy of conception and birth and life without the pain of infertility and contested adoption and stillbirth.

Matthew wandered in and then wandered out. Later, he came up the stairs and handed me a gift he had made.

"It's a Paper Kate," he said.

"Now you have her. It's a doll. You can snuggle her."

It's stuffed with toilet paper. I plan to keep it forever and for always. I hugged him and told him I couldn't love anything more. This experience has not been fun. There are a million things I would rather do than go through this and, especially, watch my children go through this.

But it is making them tender. It is teaching them about life and love and Heaven and grace and mercy. It is, in painful ways, making them better.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I Am Not Alone

I'm singing a solo in church this morning. It very much runs the risk of being a train wreck. There is girl voice, people. If you know me in real life, you know that I never, ever, do that. I sing like a man. Singing like a man is right in my wheelhouse.  My voice may crack. It could go flat OR sharp OR both, there's really no telling. So I'm setting this particular post to "go live" at 11:00 am. Because if I wait to post it when I get home from church, there is a very good chance the train will have wrecked and I will be attempting to block it from my memory completely.

When I do any type of performance art, be it theatre, voice or modern dance, (completely kidding on that last one. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. I have two left feet and zero rhythm. I mean NO RHYTHM AT ALL. My youngest son had more rhythm at two weeks old than I've ever had in my whole, entire life.) I really want to find a way, a moment or a memory that helps me connect with the piece. I started rehearsing this song with our worship leader back in the fall. It was very out of my comfort zone and I knew it would need a lot of work but I was immediately connected to it.

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I'm standing in the fire
I will not be overcome

We'd had an emotional year. Everything felt overwhelming, like we were hanging out in deep water, barely keeping our heads up. My cousin's baby had just been stillborn and I sent her a video of Kari Jobe singing this song. I never mentioned that. My cousin delivered her son stillborn in October. When my mom called me with the news I just sat in the middle of my floor, feeling stunned. I couldn't imagine her pain. This song came to my mind and I sent the words to her.

Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

Not long after, I began rehearsing it. I thought of my family and my cousin and the fact that in September we thought I had cancer. It was easy to feel the weight and the truth of the song. The Christmas season came and we tossed this song on the back burner and worked on a Christmas special.

Then January rolled in and my daughter was stillborn.

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

All the way to California, we listened to worship music. It was the only thing we could think to do. I cried for most of the drive. Shook. Sobbed. Whispered the lyrics to songs. Allowed the already written words to become my prayers. Meredith Andrews. Hillsong. Laura Story. Kari Jobe. I thought it possible that I might never be able to stop crying. Never be able to breathe without it hurting. Never be able to sing again...

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You

I clung to the hope that His light would break through my grief. It simply had to. I would not be overtaken. I would respond for His glory. People would see the joy I have in Him. He goes before me. Always.

Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear
I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

I needed time. I couldn't even listen my way through the song without crying. Slowly though, I found myself crying less. Eventually, I could even sing it without breaking down.

You amaze me
Redeem me

You call me as Your own

No matter what. No matter what we go through, we are His.

You're my strength
You're my defender
You're my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You've always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

It is not easy. Just last night I saw a baby that had to have been about seven weeks old. My arms ached and my heart twisted. I wish it had all played out differently. But there is healing for the soul. He has always been faithful. He is my strength and my refuge.

I'm singing a solo this morning. It has all the potential of being a vocal train wreck. But I am singing for an audience of one. I'm saying, Thank you. I miss my child but I do not cry all the time anymore. You have brought healing to my soul. You have always, always been faithful. Accept this train wreck as a living sacrifice.

Isaiah 43:1b-2
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you."

Friday, May 1, 2015

Handsome Boys

This is what we looked like on Easter.

My boys are so handsome. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

...Because I'm Black

Middle schoolers can be real pains in the butt. I'm not saying this just from a position of being more than double the age of your average junior higher. I remember being twelve. We (and by we I mean a handful of boys in my class) made a student teacher burst into tears and run out of our classroom. Obviously it marked me since I remember it to this day. I recall finding it one half hysterical and one half pitiful. The next day, I hung around after class and apologized to her. It honestly had nothing to do with me but I think I was apologizing because the whole thing had made me so uncomfortable.

When I tell people that I willingly go into middle school classrooms as a SUBSTITUTE, they typically think this makes me some kind of hardcore masochist. Truth be told, I'd rather be in a room with a bunch of adorable kindergartners but it's not every day that one of those jobs is available. The reason I don't altogether hate middle school is because they leave after 45 minutes. I can tough just about anything out for less than an hour.

Today I took a reading class. While I assumed there would be, well, reading, I did not assume that my day would involve me reading to 7th and 8th graders. I love reading. My favorite thing to do at the elementary level is read books. I get to use funny voices. They laugh and call me the best book reader ever. I wouldn't dare use funny voices at the junior high level. I'd be met with looks of death, I'm sure. I also wasn't expecting to read aloud for somewhere between three and four hours today. I'm pretty hoarse now and I have a killer sore throat. I receive no benefits from substitute teaching so workman's comp is out of the question.

In first period, a group of three boys was being horribly disruptive. I asked them repeatedly to stop and they stared at me and burst into fits of laughter. Unwavering stares and incessant chuckling is something I get a lot from middle schoolers. I'm sure they're making fun of me and I don't even care anymore. It's a paycheck. Finally, I asked one of the boys to move. Not two minutes after I assigned him to a new seat, the remaining two boys were at it again. I pulled a chair directly next to me and told one of them to come and sit in it.

"Are you serious?" he asked me.

"Yes," I replied, holding my finger on the spot where I'd stopped reading.

He got up, mad as a hornet, glared at me and said, "You're doing this because I'm black."

It was instant. Everything inside of me came unglued. I held my outside crap together but only barely. Without thinking, really, I walked directly to my purse and pulled my phone out. I realized my hands were shaking as I scrolled through my pictures. The class was dead silent. I found what I was looking for, marched back over to the student, showed him Matthew and said, "This is my son. So, no. I'm not doing it because you're black."

"Oh..." he said softly.

I sat down and continued reading. Just before the bell rang, I collected their books. The boy stood with a group of friends. They were talking together, very quietly but then I heard his voice over the rest. "She's white and this kid was black so obviously she's not his mom. I don't know who that kid was but he wasn't hers." The thing about it is, if you threaten my child's position in my family, you threaten me. I get, like, mama lioness mad. I drew in a steady breath and slowly exhaled it.

"Well, but she cares for him, anyway," one of his friends replied and then glanced at me.

The bell rang and they all walked out.

I decided that during the prep period, I would let the office know what had happened just in case this kid went home and informed his parents that he'd had a racist substitute. I told the assistant principal what had happened, informed her that it was not a big deal (by then I'd simmered down considerably), but that I just wanted her to know that it had nothing to do with race, in case she heard from him or his parents. She said that it was a big deal to her and that he would be talked to. It was absolutely not my goal to get this kid into trouble. I mean, sure, I felt like educating him with my fist but I didn't want him to be disciplined by the administration. I reiterated that it really hadn't been that big of a problem, I'd dealt with it, and we were fine to move on.

Several hours later he walked back into the classroom.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled.

I was caught off guard because I hadn't been expecting that at all.

"Oh...okay," I stammered like a moron. Like his peer. Not at all like an authority figure.

"I just wanted to say sorry. I...what I did. That was racist."

"Okay." Apparently that was the only word I could formulate. He turned to leave and I finally grabbed my wits. "Hey," I said and he turned and stopped. I stuck out my hand. He looked at it for a long moment and then took it and shook. "I want you to know that I didn't go to the administration because I wanted you to get in trouble. It really wasn't that big of a deal. I just didn't know if you were going to go to them and I needed them to know it didn't have anything to do with skin color."

He nodded, turned, and walked out. I was actually really impressed with how respectful he'd been to me during this second encounter.

I've subbed at this school several times. They've had a hard time keeping substitutes because the school has a reputation of having difficult students. They're trying to keep substitutes coming back so they give out full sized candy bars at the end of the day. I've never had a problem with the students before and I'm more than happy to get a paycheck and a candy bar. The whole situation had unnerved me and, during my lunch break, when I was trying to figure out why I'd let a 7th grader get to me, I thought about how happy I was that I got to eat a candy bar on my drive home.

At the end of the day, I checked out, pulled a candy bar from the basket she handed me, and turned to leave. "Have a nice afternoon," I said. I swung the door open and the kid was standing there, in the middle of the hall. I suddenly felt an overwhelming conviction to hand my candy bar over. But I want to eat it, I thought. That thought was quickly replaced with, Just give him the bar. Great. He might not think I'm a racist anymore but surely he's been taught not to take candy from strangers. Give him the candy bar.

"Hey," I said. "Do you want this?" I held it out, like a complete idiot. I had no idea why I was offering my candy bar to this kid who had infuriated me just hours earlier.

"Uh...yeah...I," he stammered. "I...thanks!" he said as he took it.

"You're welcome," I said.

I walked out the door and straight to my car.

Once inside I said aloud, "But, I wanted the candy bar. Why did I do that? I'm so weird." The thing is, in a school setting, I can't talk about my faith. I can't tell this kid that I only see color because I notice the beautiful way my God paints people. I can't tell him that through a series of incredible blessings, the Lord gave me a black son and that, yes, I care for him. If care for is now defined as would die in an instant for. I wanted him to see that we're both bigger than all that. I'm bigger than my anger and he's bigger than his. I wanted to extend an olive branch--and the only thing I had in my hand was a Butterfinger.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Play Ball

Both of our boys have played t-ball in the past. It was great when they were really little because it gave them a loose baseball concept but they were only allowed to take one base, the entire team ran for (and fought over) the same ball, and skill sets weren't really developed. We decided that this was Garrett's year for the real thing. (Or, rather, the real thing with a pitching machine.)

Last night, he played against his best friend's team. Troy got this shot of Garrett playing catcher and Web batting. This happened just before Web slugged it and (after Garrett's team threw it around for awhile) scored a home run.

We've had rain and snow that canceled two of our games so, at this point, Garrett's team is 1-1.

So far, he's played catcher, first base, second base and short. He loves to play catcher. He also wants to be a swimmer some day so I do not like the idea of him wanting to catch. He's going to hopelessly ruin his knees for swimming. But whatever. He thinks it's hilarious when the balls hit him in the face mask. He's a weird kid.

Last night he had some great plays in the field. He wasn't able to get the runner out either time but he fielded the ball cleanly.

He looks like me and he sticks his tongue out when he's concentrating like I do. The only real difference between us is almost 25 years and the fact that he's a boy. He got that from Troy. And his affinity for history and ball sports. I have zero coordination so it was best to put me in a pool and tell me to swim straight and fast.

He was asked to try out for an additional accelerated team. The coach had to pick the top three on the team. We were very proud of him for being selected. There were 24 boys chosen to try out and only 12 will make the team but it was an honor just to be picked out of the 90 boys that are playing.

Also, what is it about sticking a boy in a t-shirt and a baseball cap and not knowing what decade he's from? Aside from the quality of the photo, this could be 1950 or 1980 or now. Boys and baseball. So much changes...but some things remain the same.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Year-End Testing

On Wednesdays I volunteer in the boys' classes. I start off, first thing, in Garrett's class. If I went to his class any later, I'd be up in the business of their math rotations which involve some of them going into different classrooms. When I was in second grade, we just had whoever we had and we stayed with that teacher from dawn until dusk (or whenever the bell rang, whichever came first). We didn't have groups for math and art and music and computers. Come to think of it, we didn't have computers. I feel like those things came about in third or fourth grade and involved black screens with green writing. We played Oregon Trail but it was just a green box bouncing across a screen and we only ever had time to make it to Independence Rock. I would have gladly welcomed rotating to different classrooms in the second grade because my second grade teacher was terrible.

Seriously. The only good thing that came out spending a year with Ms. Cathy Boyle (we had to call her Mizz Boyle. Not Miss Boyle. DEFINITELY not Mrs. Boyle. She was MIZZ BOYLE or no Boyle at all.) was that she gave me a penchant for the written word. Of course, that's because reading and writing were the only subjects she really taught us. This was super because it left me with a rather large deficit in mathematics which I have long since given up on overcoming. She also wore her hair either very curly or stick straight and the straight days were not good days. When she took time to curl her hair, I knew we were going to have a good day. Otherwise, it was doomed from the start.

I digress.

Yesterday, I was in the hallway quizzing kids on high frequency words when the principal made some announcements over the speaker. She said that they were going to be doing year-end testing. (I am confused by this because my children don't get out of school until July 2. For the record, here I am nearly three years in to my children's elementary schooling and I still hate year round school. I still think these breaks are ridiculous. I still want ALL THE SUMMER! Jordan District, are you listening to me???) Anyway, she said year-end testing but that is NOT what I heard.


I heard her say that they were going to be doing urine testing. And listen. I knew I had to have heard her wrong. Once I was sure that couldn't have been what she said, I quickly processed that she had, in fact, said, "year-end." However, it took me a full three seconds to come to the conclusion that I definitely had heard her wrong and my very first thought was, "What the....?" and that was followed by, "The heck you are..."

It's not that I think they'd find anything but, somehow, running through my head during those quick three seconds was the fact that I had not signed any kind of permission slip allowing my children to hand their urine over to school officials. So, I guess the moral of this story is that the school can collect my kids' urine only after I've signed a permission slip.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fleeting Moments

Monday afternoons are crazy around these parts because Garrett has baseball practice at 5:00 and then scouts at 7:00 and there isn't enough time to come home in between and scouts is 30-40 minutes away from our house anyway so I pack a dinner to eat and that's that. I also write run-on sentences. As if Mondays aren't nuts enough, I added four dentist appointments to the mix yesterday. Troy left for the dentist with Matthew at 1:30. I followed later with Garrett. When Garrett was finished, Troy took him over to the baseball fields early and they did his homework there. Then he had practice, ate the dinner I'd packed, stopped at the batting cages to hit a few, and headed to scouts. They got home just before 9:00.

Meanwhile, I finished up at the dentist and brought Matthew home. We finished his homework, had dinner, and lazed around together. So Troy is the rock star parent, is what I'm saying. And thanks to him being the rock star parent, I got to snuggle with my youngest until this happened.

I can't believe how fast these babies have turned into tiny men. I also can't believe how much they still look like babies when they sleep.

Friday, April 17, 2015


I wasn't blogging back in 2005 when I woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating agony. I had to use the bathroom WITH DESPERATION but nothing would happen. My back felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife and I was convinced that ALL THE DYING WAS HAPPENING. My husband put me in the car and drove 40 minutes to the hospital. I made him pull over so I could throw up on the side of the freeway. I threw up again in the Emergency Room. We were going through fertility treatment and I couldn't have a CT done to confirm the diagnosis of kidney stones.

"What else could it be?"

"It's kidney stones."


"Kidney stooones!" (Bonus points to the first person who correctly identifies what I'm quoting.)

A little over a year later, my son was born and while, sure, there was an epidural involved, I'd give birth gladly over kidney stones. I mean that with my whole heart. Labor & Delivery + epidural = better than having a kidney stone. I vowed never to have one again.

This morning I woke up at 5:28 and I had to USE THE BATHROOM SOMETHING FIERCE. I went without any problem and then wondered why my back was hurting. It was aching pretty high up and I thought maybe I'd slept funny or twisted it somehow. I climbed back into bed and tried to get comfortable. I wasn't in unbearable pain and I wondered if I should make an appointment to see my doctor once I dropped the boys off at school.

Over the next few minutes the pain worsened and I started to wonder what organs were up that high and what might be wrong. Additionally, I was now feeling pain in my lower right abdomen. I couldn't decide if the pain was radiating from my front to my back or my back to my front. I felt like I was running a fever. Appendicitis? I wondered.

A few moments later I realized that there was a sharp, stabbing pain in the lower part of my back that felt exactly like that blasted kidney stone from a decade ago. My phone rang at 5:53. It was an automated call from the district wanting to know if I could teach today. I hung up. It was not looking likely. Troy, awake now because of the phone, tossed onto his side.

"I might need you to take me the ER," I whispered.

I am unsure of whether I have a low pain tolerance or what because I have a friend who just walks around and goes to work with kidney stones. You guys, when I have a kidney stone, I cannot stand up straight. I vomit or dry heave every few minutes. I shake violently. I contemplate death. IT IS TERRIBLE.

We dropped the kids off at our friend's house and she got them off to school. I miserably endured the (blessed) 20 minute drive to the hospital (which was so much better than ten years ago). I made my husband pull over on the side of the road so I could heave into the rocks while cars flew past.

When we got to the hospital, it was all I could do to hold myself together and not howl in pain as I waited for them to pump my veins full of narcotics.

When the nurse asked me what my pain level was, I asked her to define a 10. "Passed out from pain," she said.

"Well then, not that," I replied, just barely holding on to my very last thread of sarcastic humor.

"A nine is crying out in pain," she explained.

"I'm an eight, then." I assumed eight to mean that I wanted to be crying out in pain but was somehow keeping the moans suppressed. The doctor came in and told me what they were going to give me for the pain. He could have told me that they were going to inject elephant feces directly into my bloodstream and then cover me with leeches while performing a jig on my bed and I would not have cared as long as it made my pain subside.

Both times I've had kidney stones, I have been incredibly sick to my stomach. Any motion at all makes it ten times worse. I can't walk more than a few steps and riding in the car is just terrible. This morning, I had a heck of a time getting in to the gown because it involved moving. I finally managed and within about fifteen minutes I had the narcotics in my system and my pain level had moved from an eight to about a four. You can fall asleep with a four. You can also fall asleep with a high percentage of drugs in your system. Turns out, in fact, that the latter makes it nearly impossible to stay awake.

Kind of. Every time I fell asleep my monitor beeped. It was set to alarm us all if my heart rate dropped below 45. It was holding steady around 46 but every time I fell asleep it dropped. The monitor beeped. I woke up.

Listen. I looked like total crap and I did not care AT ALL. I was retching in front of a nurse like it was no big thing. I didn't even close the door! I was a mess. But I managed to take pride in the fact that my resting heart rate was in the 40's and my blood pressure was within normal even though just moments before I'd felt like I was going to up and die and was practicing labor breathing JUST TO SURVIVE.

A CT scan (because I am definitely not pregnant) verified that I had a kidney stone which had already made its way down the tiny little walkway between my kidney and my bladder. It was sitting just at the entrance to my bladder. The doctor said it could be hours or it could be days. I also, apparently, had a fever, a high white blood cell count, and bacteria in my urine. They're culturing that to find out if something else is wrong or if my body went nuts because of all the pain and a tiny little intruder.

They sent me home with a prescription for DRUGS! and instructions to come back if it got worse. While the apparent wimp in me screams, "Don't worry!" the part of me that pays the bills yells, "It'll have to be over my dead body." Because I'm certain that what they did today was more than $1,000. Our insurance doesn't kick in until we hit our deductible so, that's not great.

Right now though, I don't hurt...much.

I haven't passed my little mortal enemy yet but I am currently hurting only a little. Praise God!!!

I have decided to drink nonstop for the rest of my life to avoid these things because, apparently, I am incapable of just waiting them out. I cannot go to work in the kind of pain I was in. I can barely speak. I alternate between wanting to writhe around in pain and wanting to throw up. I demand narcotics.

So my message to all of you is DRINK LIKE THE WATER IS GOING TO DRY UP AND BE GONE TOMORROW. Kidney stones are the worst.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

At the End of the Day

This poor little corner of the Internet is, well, neglected. Sometimes I pop on and realize, "Oh my! It's been five days since I've said a word." I'm sure that I care infinitely more about this than you do. There are reasons, though.

There's the fact that Garrett is playing actual baseball this year as opposed to the introduction to baseball which involved everyone in the outfield running to the ball if it was put into play even though it didn't matter because everyone could only take one base. He was learning, yes. But it was mind numbing. Now they are actually trying to learn positioning and such and he has practice on Mondays and games on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday and sometimes a combination of those days. He also has scouts on Monday night. The boys go to Kids' Club and I lead Bible study on Wednesday nights. Plus I try to substitute teach from time to time.

So we're busy.

When I'm not busy helping Matthew advance to an almost second grade reading level, quizzing Garrett on multiplication facts, or preparing Bible study lessons, I've been doing something else.

I asked Facebook (which, as we all know is the VERY PLACE YOU SHOULD TAKE ALL OF LIFE'S MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS) if it would read a book if I wrote one. I shook Facebook like a Magic 8 ball and most of it declared, "YES!" and some of it said, "Reply hazy, try again." But no one said no. I'm no idiot. I know that people were thinking, "I'd rather have teeth extracted without the benefit of novocaine," but since no one came right out and said it, I decided to press forward.

If I ever manage to actually finish (which, at 25 pages, is not looking likely. I've written papers with minimal research that are longer than that.)  it will NEVER be published. It's like a famous person's memoir except with the without the added bonus of actually being about a famous person. It's quite fine that it will NEVER be published (or, likely, finished) because I'm doing it for the kids.

It's their story. And how the Lord has moved me from Point A to Point B and so on and so forth. I imagine that, eventually, there will be a Point Z and, by then, it's likely that I'll be in the loony bin and I won't remember all the miracles that were orchestrated to bring me Garrett, Matthew and Kate. So, I'm writing it all down now. For the boys.

Because I want them all to know, when I'm long gone or, at the very least, long gone crazy, how very wanted they all were. I want them to be able to look through the pages and say, "Mama loves us fierce." (They don't call me Mama so we'd have to start that up first, but still.) I want them to say, "She loves Jesus because He is Lord of all. She loves Dad because he is a gentle man and a good man. And she loves us and wanted us for as long as she can remember. And, at the end of the day, nothing else really matters to her."

So I'm writing. With terrible grammar and sentences that start with conjunctions. And fragments. And run-on sentences. That's what I've been up to. I am writing. It just doesn't happen to be here very often.

Monday, April 13, 2015

My Crying 8 Year Old

I went to get coffee (which stands for tea or hot chocolate) with my friend a couple weeks ago. She started telling me about how her almost nine-year-old was crying over EVERY. LITTLE. THING. Her words were that he was acting like a toddler. I'm so glad Garrett doesn't do that, I thought to myself.


If someone is lamenting a behavior in her child, just assume that your kid is next.

Not a week later, we started noticing that Garrett was bursting into tears over the smallest of things. If we ask him to help, if we tell him no about something, if we throw a curve ball into his plans, he cries.

What's the deal?

Is there a well known phase where eight year old boys lose their ever-loving minds and start behaving like they once did...SIX YEARS AGO?

If it is a phase, I really hope it's short lived.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I Lost Matthew

Troy and Garrett were gone and Matthew and I were getting ready to meet them. Matthew had been, quite literally, rolling his head around in the dirt (don't ask) and needed to take a shower. He hopped in, soaped up, rinsed off, hopped out, and got dressed. We still had about a half hour before we needed to leave. I was upstairs and, when I didn't hear him talking to himself and/or the dog and/or the cat and/or inanimate objects, I assumed he'd gone back outside and was hoping his explorations would not include once again rolling his head around in the dirt.

Matthew can entertain himself with just sticks and his own imagination for hours at a time so, when the half hour was up, I didn't think anything of the fact that I hadn't heard from him. I assumed he was creating grand stories in the backyard or that he was on his bike. He knows his boundaries and he's very good at letting me know if he's going to go to a friend's house (both of our next door neighbors also have kindergartners). I grabbed my purse and headed down the stairs.

In my attempt to locate the six-year-old, I first opened the back door and hollered into the yard, "Matthew?" There was no answer. I opened the door leading into the garage and called out, "Matthew?" Nothing. I scanned the garage. His bike, scooter and skateboard were all right there where they belonged. I walked through the garage and surveyed the front yard. He wasn't in sight.

"MATTHEW!" I yelled from the edge of the garage. "MATTHEW? WHERE ARE YOU?" I heard nothing in response. It was cold out and our neighborhood was dead silent. Just across the street is a short little lane that bends sideways and ends in a cul-de-sac. The boys often ride bikes around the circle. I knew he didn't have his bike but I thought I'd check anyway to be sure he wasn't on some adventure down the little road. I walked until I could see all of it. He wasn't there.

Anxiety began to rise in my chest. How long has he been gone? About thirty minutes. I answered myself. Thirty minutes is a long time. If someone drove by and snatched him, they could be halfway to Provo by now. Calm down. What if I never see my son again? I'm very dramatic. I also react very calmly to situations but often immediately overreact on the inside.

I stopped at the neighbor's. I rang the doorbell. Dogs barked but no one came to the door. It didn't look like the neighbors on the other side were home either. I screamed Matthew's name several times. Nothing. The world was silent and the six-year-old was gone.

Is he hiding from me? Is he missing? How long should I wait to call the police. His kidnapper is inching closer to Provo or Wendover or Park City or Ogden. THE KIDNAPPER COULD BE HEADED IN A MYRIAD OF DIRECTIONS. Canada. Mexico. I don't know...

I decided to check to make sure he wasn't hiding in the house, laughing hysterically at our little game. I headed back through the garage and, as I passed the van I wondered if he was inside, snickering at me while I ran around the neighborhood, screaming his name and trying not to panic. I quickly threw the sliding van door open.

There, buckled safely into his seat, was my dear, sweet second born. He was sound asleep. I exhaled long. His head was bent to the side, supported by the seat belt. His body was limp and a slight snore escaped between his lips. I closed the van door and started the car. It wasn't until I'd backed down the driveway that he stirred. His eyes flew open and he looked around as if confused by his moving surroundings.

"You scared me," I said.

He blinked.

"I couldn't find you. I was yelling your name."

He stared at me in the rear view mirror. "Did you get in the van after you got dressed?" I asked.

"Yes. I was tired. I closed my eyes. I think I took a nice, little nap."

"I almost called the cops," I told him.

His eyes widened. "WHY?"

"Because I couldn't find you."

I have no idea how, on earth, he slept through my shrill shrieks--at least a dozen of them--ringing out through the neighborhood. In the future, before I assume that his kidnapper is on his way to Mexico, I'm going to check the van. Apparently, it's a nice place for an early evening slumber.