Saturday, May 20, 2017

Imp Baby

Will was the chillest newborn. I'd heard that youngest children, especially ones that were just sort of thrown into the car and carted all around after big siblings, were often calm and passive. It was certainly true of Will. He was just content to smile his way through life, hanging off my hip. Or anyone's hip, really. I've had a great deal of baby experience and he was one of the easiest little people. Ever. 

You guys. Something happened to the angel baby. I can't really explain when it happened. I think it was one of those things that occurred slowly, over the course of time. He learned how to crawl at eight months AND HAS NOT STOPPED MOVING SINCE. Couple his insane energy with the fact that there is more personality in his little finger than some kids get in a lifetime and it is a recipe for a 21st century REIGN OF TERROR.

This is pretty much his face all the time...

It's two parts sheer delight and one part lunatic. Every single thing in my life takes seventeen times longer than it should because this maniac needs to be redirected every two seconds. (I wish that were an exaggeration.) The other night, I turned my back on him in the bathtub for ten seconds. Matthew was in the tub WITH HIM and by the time I turned my attention back to them, Will had pulled the toilet plunger into the tub and was floating it like a barge. He unrolls toilet paper faster than the speed of light. Seriously. It is actually his super power. It's completely useless but it's a super power nonetheless. If we leave the pantry door open, you can bet that he will absolutely scurry in and begin destructive behavior immediately. Grab him, redirect him, turn back to begin returning the pantry to a state of order, and he will frantically yank everything off the refrigerator. Or pull over the trash can. Or climb the stairs and atomic bomb his own closet.

He is rarely self entertained. If there ever was a kid's picture in the dictionary next to the word extrovert, it just might be this one. He does not like to be alone. He recharges his batteries solely off the power of being the center of someone's attention. Thankfully, we all wanted him really a lot and there's always a willing participant to serve as an audience member for the one man Will show. We've been working on trying to get him to play on his own for a few minutes at a time because THAT IS A VIRTUE, Y'ALL. So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I heard him happily squealing in the next room for a good FIVE MINUTES. Troy was at work. The boys were at school. There was no explanation.

I should have realized the falsehood of that last sentence. After a few minutes, this crawled in...

As it turns out, he was in the big boys' room and he found a large chunk of clay. I honestly have no idea where the clay even came from (but I'm looking at you, Sunday School!) but, as it turns out, when mixed with the spit of a not quite one year old, it makes for a fascinating finger paint. He was white from head to toe. Needless to say, because of this and the fact that he has an intense passion for throwing the boys' ball caps ALL OVER THE PLACE ALL THE TIME and flinging their swim trunks over his head, I usually keep their door closed when they're not home and we are.

The other night, the boys and I started a movie while Will was still awake. This involved pausing it every few minutes to:

A. Tell Will to stop playing with the DVR player.
B. Put the batteries back in the remote after they fell out when Will threw it.
C. Play with Will for a few minutes because he started shrieking upon realizing that no one was paying attention to him.
D. All of the above.

We finished the movie after we put him to bed. Garrett, snuggling into the couch, let out a long sigh. "Finally. We can watch our movie in peace." After a brief pause, he gasped, "Is this how you and dad feel every night after we go to bed?" I nearly died laughing.

The imp streak is strong in this one. 

But he is DARN DARLING and he knows it. Ask him for a kiss and, even though he knows how to give one (in all its open mouthed glory), he will, nine times out of ten, lean his forehead gently onto your lips with a sly smile. Ask him to say, "mama" and he will look right at you and say, "dada." And then giggle like he is the funniest human on the planet. Chase him, grab him, tickle him, and he will squeal like such shenanigans have never, ever been done before. 

There is A LOT of redirection happening with this one. There is A LOT of the word NO happening as we strive to correct an eleven month old. There is A LOT of sighing with tranquility when he is down for the night. But there is A LOT of love.

The Reign of Terror Imp Baby has every single one of us around his little finger. He loves life and exploration and smiling. He is always so happy to see us in the morning, as though he can't believe he had to go a whole night without us. Joy seeps out of his very existence and I am so thankful for him...

even if his belief that he is royalty is wholly misguided.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

You Can Call Me Dawn Lazarus

I have a new appreciation for learning disabilities. It started out like any normal baseball game. The weather was warm, the kids were in good moods, and Troy and I were chatting as we watched Garrett's team swinging their bats. I started to misspeak.

You know what I'm talking about, when a word just comes out wrong for whatever reason. My mom tells a funny story about her and a friend. One of them simply could not say "white bread" and repeatedly said, "bread white." Even after pausing and collecting herself, she focused all her attention on the phrase at hand and blurted out, "BREAD WHITE!" It happens. But I said a lot of wrong words in a short amount of time. I finally widened my eyes and said, "What is happening? It's like I'm having a hembolism." I am not even 100% sure that embolisms occur in the head but that's neither here not there. What is here and there is that there is no such thing as a hembolism.

Troy thought it might be the heat or a lack of water. I was skeptical because it was not that hot and I'd been drinking water all day. I stopped talking and suddenly became verbally disoriented. I was not confused about where I was or what was happening. I knew we were watching our kid play baseball. I could think conceptually. I just could not, for the life of me, string my words together to properly form a sentence. My friend asked me a question and I had to concentrate so hard on how to say a three word answer that my head actually started hurting. I also felt very foggy, as though I was having an out of body experience. Within minutes, my head was pounding.

Garrett took his turn at the plate. As he stood there holding his bat, I realized that I knew his name. I knew he was my child. But I could not say his name (first, middle, last) in the right order. That's when I really began to get worried. When the game ended, Troy told me to go to the car and sit for awhile before Matthew's game started. I walked just fine to the car and climbed in. Terrified of what was happening to me, I finally decided to sing a song that I should definitely know. I chose the ABC's. I think I sang it correctly. I took myself through several more brain exercises and felt like I was starting to return to normal. That's when I took out my phone to scroll through Facebook.

And every single one of my friends had posted status updates that were something like this:

Greatest the husband birthday to the world in happy.


Make dinner should I what tonight for?

I blinked. I knew that all my friends had not simultaneously gone crazy. The same thing that was happening to my speech and my memory was also happening to my ability to read. I could see the words, they just weren't in the correct order. Also, my right eye seemed blurry.

I had become foggy, verbally dyslexic and somehow lost the ability to remember things like the correct order of my child's name. I started sobbing. I was terrified that I would never have a coherent thought again. Except that I was somehow having a coherent thought about not being able to have coherent thoughts. It was all very...incoherent.

Just then, Garrett came to the car to tell me that Matthew was about to bat. He saw me crying and asked what was wrong. I told him I didn't feel very well. My words came out okay. Together, we walked back to the fields. He took Will for us while Troy and I talked and tried to figure out what was wrong with me.

I asked him to throw a baseball back and forth with me. I wasn't sure that I didn't also have physical limitations. We tossed a ball no problem. I even alternated closing one eye and still managed to catch it most of the time. We sat down and I asked him to quiz me on various things.

"When was Garrett born?" he asked.

"July 20, 2006," I answered. But it took me a second to pull the year from the vault of my strangely clouded mind.

"What are our kids' full names?" he asked.

I rattled off Garrett's and Matthew's. For some reason, it took me a second to remember Will's middle name.

He continued asking questions and I answered, becoming more confident with each question until he said, "What is Moses's mother's name?" My mind was blank.

He kept asking me Bible questions. If it was a well known person or story I could easily recall it. If it was more obscure, it was as if I'd never known the answer before in my life. He then asked me about characters on shows we watch together. I could picture them, but I could not tell him the character name or the actor who played them.

At one point, frustrated, I stared long at a water bottle sitting on the bench in front of me. I could read it. And, as Matthew's game went on, I found that I also began to remember names of people on TV shows and Bible trivia.

From saying words like hembolism to my memory fully returning to me it was about an hour and a half. The part where I could not speak correctly or read lasted between 30-45 minutes.

I saw this clip from SNL this weekend and told Troy that this is what it sounded like in my head. I was so embarrassed to even try to talk because I was terrified that it would come out sounding like this...

On Friday, I called my doctor to see if I could get in to see them just to make sure everything was fine. When I explained what had happened, they put me on hold. Within a minute, the doctor got on the phone. And, I mean, that's really never good. When I WANT to talk to my doctor, it's impossible. She told me that she wanted me to go directly to the ER. Y'all, I did not want to go to the ER. We pay roughly $1,000 in monthly premiums and on top of that an ER visit costs me $400 just to walk in. Then I have to pay for whatever they do to me until I hit my deductible. None of this was my idea of a good time.

I asked if I could wait until I got off of work.

"In my medical opinion," she said, "you need to go now."

I checked in within the hour. Ten minutes after I got there, they put me in a room. Seven very boring hours later I was finally free to go home. You know what is not fun? Sitting in the Emergency Room when you feel JUST FINE waiting for them to tell you if you are JUST FINE or SERIOUSLY NOT FINE. My EKG was fantastic. My blood pressure was terrific. I'm notorious for giving too much information, for telling in twenty minutes what could have been told in two. But I didn't know what was important to the story and what wasn't. So I told it all. The doctor called me a good historian. I felt like I'd been too verbose.

But when he consulted with the neurologist who ordered an MRI, he came back and told me that giving him all the information had helped them decide to run the MRI. Apparently, the same part of the brain controls speaking, reading, and right eye visibility. At that point, they were thinking that perhaps part of a blood vessel in my head had detached. He said it sounded worse than it actually was. That was reassuring because it sounded AWFUL.

My MRI was totally clear. No one knows what the heck happened to make me LOSE MY MIND FOR AN HOUR. It could have been a migraine. It could have been a partial seizure. It could have been a transient blocked vessel. It could have been a dozen other things.

But it wasn't a mini stroke which is what I was afraid of.

"I believe you," the doctor told me. "I don't think you're making it up. I just don't have an answer for you."

"I don't care if you believe me," I told him, laughing. "If it didn't happen, I just need the name of a really good psychiatrist."

"No, no," he said, "It happened."

I'm following up with a neurologist next month.

Until then, I live my life with the peaceful knowledge that the images of my brain were clear and with the unsettling horror that it might happen again at any time. Although, if it does happen again, I am supposed to go directly to the Emergency Room. Given that I will not be able to speak and, presumably, will be unable to write, I will just pull up this video of Vanessa Bayer and gesture wildly until they figure out that I've lost my mind. Again.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

To The Mothers In My Life

On this Mother's Day and always, I am thankful for my grandmothers and for their mothers and their mothers before them. For women who looked down the line of generations and couldn't even imagine where their legacy would one day lead. I'm thankful that they raised sons and daughters who would, one day, become my own mother and father.

I'm thankful for my mom who is truly more of a best friend to me. She put in the hard work of discipline, love and support so that we could, one day, be more than parent and child. I am thankful that she introduced me to faith and that she loves me--always.

I'm thankful for my mother-in-law who raised a man of faith and integrity. She taught him to love Jesus and to love his wife and I am eternally grateful.

I'm thankful for the mothers of my sons--the women who chose me to be the one to snuggle little bodies and hear them call me mama. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be just one of the women who loves them fierce.

I'm thankful for the four little people who make me a mommy. For Garrett, Matthew, Kate, and Will. This day is about honoring me, I guess. But I am the one who has been infinitely blessed by the experience of being your mother.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Open Adoption

Troy called me downstairs yesterday. "I just got six texts," he said and he turned his phone so I could see. For the briefest of seconds, I was confused. The newborn baby in the pictures was Matthew. The sender was his father. Why was Matt's father sending us newborn baby pictures of our 8 year old? A moment later, my synapses all started firing correctly and I realized what was going on.

Matthew has a baby brother. His baby brother--who shares half of his DNA--looks so much like he did as a newborn. He was born yesterday. Matthew's father texted us within an hour after his birth to let Matt know he's a big brother again. We didn't know his brother was coming. We don't know the circumstances. But we know that his father, who has waited 8 years to parent a child, has a second son.

We showed the pictures to Matthew. He was so excited to have another sibling. This makes 7 for him. Three biological sisters, a biological brother, two brothers by adoption, and a Kate in heaven. Our boy is struggling, in some ways, with some of the concepts of adoption. He longs to have all of his family under one roof and, truly, who can blame him? He often says, "I want to live with __________ but, then I wouldn't be able to live with you." He doesn't want to leave us. He just wants all the people who are important to him nearby. It is because of this struggle, because of this sometimes blurred identity, that I rejoice in the siblings he has.

We are connected enough to his birth parents that I have no doubt he will one day foster relationships with his biological siblings. And I am so glad that he has them. He was excited to tell some of the people at church today that he has a new brother. To see him beam with pride, to hear the joy in his voice, I see, in him, a sense of connection and love--even if his brother is separated by miles and years.

There is the tendency, with adoptive parents, to push back against biology. The idea, perhaps, that we will be enough. We are only enough if we are all they need. If there is something else that they are longing for, we must always put the child before our own needs and our own feelings. Open adoption redefines itself many times in the course of a life. We must always protect the child entrusted to us (and that can certainly mean different things depending on the adoptive situation).

I believe that in open adoption we must be, well, open.

We must always love.

Love our children enough that, while they are young, and unless there was abuse against the child, they hear only positive things about their families. They are too small to process the negative and too impressionable to bear its weight.

Love our children enough to celebrate victories. Celebrate marriages and siblings and positive phone calls and, perhaps, even positive visits if circumstances allow. Matthew and I immediately picked out a gift for his new brother and we'll ship it out tomorrow. Because we share in Matthew's joy. Because we are celebrating with him.

Love our children enough that they sense, in us, openness. If my sons grow up and say, "We were always allowed to tell our parents what we were thinking and feeling, even if it could have hurt them," I will be satisfied.

Love our children for who they are and know that a large part of that comes from who their parents are. Matthew hasn't seen his father since he was two years old and he makes a couple of faces that look just like him. Some of his personality traits are directly passed down from them, riding on his DNA and outshining nurture in every way. We make a point of saying, "You looked just like your dad right then." Or, "Your mom really loves spicy food, too." Because we want to validate his place in our family and his place in theirs.

Love our children in the moment. Always. No matter what. Without regard for the way our relationship might change and without worrying about the evolution of open adoption in our lives. Love them with wild abandon. Love them, in adoption, the way we are called to love always.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. -1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Our relationship with Matthew's dad has not been an easy one. But time has a way of growing us. He sent us a picture this morning of him holding his newborn son. It touched me and nearly brought me to tears. I want good things for him. The truth of the matter is, he blessed me with an incredible gift in the son that we share. I will continue to love that boy with everything that is in me. And, born, perhaps, from the fierce love that I have for him, is a deep care for his family.

This is open adoption.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hot Pink Puker

My middle child is very introverted. Not once he's very comfortable, mind you, but if you're a stranger or an acquaintance or even a casual friend, you can forget about cracking Matt's shell. He's a tough nut. He hates to have attention on him unless he's specifically gone looking for it. As his former kindergarten teacher recently said to me, Matthew needs to feel safe or he shuts down.

I tell you all of this as a preface--a little background--into why I have leaped so far ahead of all the rest of you in our race for Worst Mother of the Year. I'm so far ahead, in fact, that the committee is just going to give me my award now. In April. I don't have to wait until the end of the year.

Last Thursday, Matthew woke up and told me he had a stomach ache. He has also been loudly and frequently telling me how much he hates school. (This baffles me because he's brilliant, he likes his teacher, and he promises me that he's not having trouble with any kids.) So...I assumed his stomach ailment had a direct correlation to his detestation of education. I told him to get ready for school.

He didn't want to eat.

In addition to being a brilliant introvert, Matthew's eating skills are legit. No joke, the kid eats like he's the next champion of that Coney Island hot dog challenge. So the life choice to not eat breakfast on Thursday morning gave me pause.

I offered him Pepto Bismal the way you offer a toddler a band-aid. "This will help!"

And off he went to school because if there isn't a fever and/or some kind of bodily fluid coming out of my kid (i.e. vomit, explosive poo, eye goop) they're going.

Twenty minutes later, unbeknownst to me, my poor kid (read: my poor Do-Not-Look-At-Me-Unless-I-Invite-You-To-Do-So-Because-I-Am-Shy-And-Embarrass-Easily kid) threw up a hot pink mess all over his desk, all over his clothes, and all over a packet he'd been working on all year. My cell phone rang, "Hi, Lori. It's Jennifer." It doesn't bode well when the office is calling you twenty minutes after school starts. It either means there's an unfilled sub job in a class with a bunch of trouble makers or a sick kid. "I have Matthew. He threw up ALL OVER THE PLACE."

Oh goody.

Matthew is super smart. He is super funny. He is super athletic. You know what he isn't? A super barfer. He just, rarely throws up. On the other hand, I am a champion vomiter. A class act puker, if you will. Garrett is proudly being raised up in his mother's tradition. When we throw up, it is every 15-30 minutes for no less than 4 hours. We throw up what we've eaten and then, hours later, we receive visual confirmation that there are greens, yellows, and phelgmy reds existing in the deep pits of our stomach. Acid. Bile. Lining, perhaps? We barf big, y'all. Garrett, by age three, was throwing up without assistance. Now, to be fair, his first chuck would usually begin while he slept and, thus, cover himself and all of his bedding. However, all subsequent trips would involve him trekking to the toilet himself, throwing up, and then crawling back into his sleeping bag on my floor. AT THREE.

And lest you think that I should have won Worst Mother of the Year for THAT, I was always awake, always asked him if he needed me, and always received the answer that, no, in fact, he did not.

Matthew, at 8 years old, repeatedly hurled onto his desk, never thinking that getting over to a trash can would be ideal. He, apparently, has the barfing aptitude of a three-year-old. Poor kid. So he threw up Pepto Bismal all over his desk and then went to the office where I picked up his sad, vomit covered self. I apologized profusely to the office staff and his teacher. "He told me he didn't feel well," I said. "But, there was no outward evidence of his stomach ache."

Not to worry, they all said. Except that we do. We second guess all of our parenting choices. If only I'd found it even more weird that my champion eater didn't want to have breakfast, he'd have thrown up in the safety of his own home, all over the carpet. I'd have cleaned it up instead of poor Josh, the custodian. When we got home, I sent him upstairs to change his clothes. He stopped on the stairs and, with his eyes welling up with tears, said quietly, "I told you my tummy hurt."

Knife. Heart. Twist.

Yep. He'd told me alright. But he never throws up! I can count on two hands the number of times he's thrown up in his whole entire life. If it was me, I'd need my hands, feet, and a whole bunch of neighbors to lend me their fingers. How was I to know that this particular stomach ache was going to be the one that ended in a fountain of regurgitated Pepto Bismal?

Still, I subjected my shy, introverted 8 year old to public vomiting. I'm terrified that, in high school, he'll be known as the Hot Pink Puker. It is for this reason that the committee has awarded me the Worst Mom Trophy. I've knocked you all out of the running.

You're welcome.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


I had grand plans to visit multiple national parks this year. My kid is in the 4th grade and, as part of an effort to get Every Kid in a Park, 4th graders get their vehicle in for free. It is, as my son says, "Boss."

This was also the year that my kids (ever so thankfully and PRAISE the LORD!) switched from a year round schedule to a traditional one. People told me I would desperately miss the track system. People told me to be careful what I wished for. People were wrong. I've loved every second of the traditional year and am SO excited that my kids are getting out in early June and aren't going back until mid August. More than 7 weeks of summer? Yes, please!

But, with the absence of those pesky and disruptive year round breaks (okay, okay, the January one sure was nice because I got to go to San Diego to thaw out), came the absence of the ability to visit all the parks I'd planned to see. Sure, we still have summer, but our summer plans are already shaped.

With spring break looming, we decided to jaunt down to Arizona and see the sights and the grandest of canyons.

We spent the first full day of our visit just hanging around in Arizona. Driving in new places, soaking in new sights, experiencing new destinations.

Then we drove through places like this, which seemed like we had put ourselves directly into the Cars movie.

Perhaps Radiator Springs was just around the bend in the road. If our boys saw something they deemed an adventure, we let them get out and explore it. They scampered up this big boulder in no time flat. Their father went after them. I stayed in the car with the crying baby who does not understand his own inability to climb.

It was a relaxing time of, "You want a mocha from McDonald's?" "Yeah, I could go for one of those right now." And, "Hey, can we pull over and look at that?" "Sure!" 

On Sunday we took the boys to see Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams, AZ. Everyone absolutely loved it.

The first part of our trip was driving through the wildlife without fences or barriers. The animals just walked beside you or lounged just off the road. It was incredible. We saw bears, wolves, burros, bighorn sheep, and so much more.

This burro stuck his head right up to the car window. Garrett pleaded for his dad to pet the guy but we weren't sure that was something we were allowed to do. So Troy tried to make it move along while I rattled a plastic bag to continue attracting it. We work well that way, me undoing all his hard work. It's payback for when I clean the house and he builds a pile on the counter only moments later.

After the amazing drive through portion, they have a small zoo. We watched a fun bird show and then visited the various animals. One of our favorite parts was watching this little guy show off for us. He kept swimming up to the glass where Will was standing, pushing off, doing a flip, and then coming back to do it again.

They also had a petting zoo, foxes, javelinas, a jaguar, and so much more. It was really a fun place to see and I highly recommend it if you're ever in the Williams area.

The rest of our trip was spent visiting the Grand Canyon. We got our 4th grader his free pass and off we went.

I'd been to the canyon once, as a nine-year-old, but I was the only one in my family who had seen it. The pictures simply do not do it justice. I would snap a shot, glance at my phone, glance back at the canyon, and shake my head. You simply cannot capture the grandeur. 

The older boys and I did a little rock climbing out to the edge. Of course, it looks like the edge until you look down and see another ledge and then another. Garrett begged me to let him "stage" this picture. It's a fine line, I always say, between keeping them alive and letting them live.

We want to shelter them, to get them to adulthood in one piece and as unscathed as humanly possible, but what is life if not to be lived and lived fully? What is exploration without adventure?

So many men I have been blessed with. They will grow up and leave me (well, except for the tallest one, I hope) and forge lives of their own. But I want them to say of their mother that she instilled a great faith in them, that she taught them to experience life and not to sit on the sidelines, afraid to live, and that she gave them an opportunity to blaze their own trails.

I am learning, slowly and by the grace of God, that it takes a dedicated person to mother only the wild man. This trip gave me a glimpse into what is required of me. It is allowing them to satisfy their craving for scrambling up the face of a rock just because it is there. It is accepting their passionate plea to climb to the very edge of a canyon just to say they looked down. It is taking their outstretched hand because there is just a small amount of fear and mama would never let them fall. It is knowing that the world needs a few good men, a few brave men, a few wild men and that those good, brave and wild must first be boys of endless curiosity. 

I have learned to let them sit on the edge.

It was a good trip.

"The Grand Canyon is carven deep by the master hand; it is the gulf of silence, widened in the desert; it is all time inscribing the naked rock; it is the book of earth." -Donald C. Peattie

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Unimaginable

Sometimes I write with the intention to never share. Often I think about Kate and don't form a circle of my closest friends to cry. Life moves on. I don't want the world to look at me and say, "Wow. Girlfriend really can't process her grief, can she?" Lesser still, do I want the world to question how I could still be so deeply sad.

And I don't know, is the thing.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus's blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest thing, but wholly trust in Jesus name.

Why then, the grief?

Why do I wonder if I might wake to find that it was all but a dream? Perhaps, one day, I will see that losing her was just a passing nightmare. And I'll have both Kate and her brother.

My eight year old wept the other night. Through angry tears he exploded, "She should be asleep in her bedroom right now." And she should. How can you argue with that? Grief, as my mom said to me today, is a weird thing.

I wrote this last month and posted it to a writer's page that I'm a part of on Facebook. I never intended to post it here. But I'm not sure why. Because transparency is painful? Because I don't want the rest of the world to have access to my grief? Because she'll never be here the way I want her to be?

But he is. And he deserves every piece of my broken heart.


There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
-Lin Manuel Miranda
I held him, curly hair sticking out from his head in loose spiraling staircases. He looks like a man cub. His legs squeezed my hip, foot resting on the womb that held neither of them. A chubby hand clutched my shirt just above the heart that holds them both. “This is your sister,” I said.
His eyes locked on the giraffe caged in the shadow box. The soft, stuffed toy sits, staring, for always. Plump arms never snuggled the animal, sticky fingers never dragged it by the neck, soft baby breath never exhaled over it. The antithesis of a Velveteen Rabbit, the giraffe will never be real. She was never here to love it enough. I stare at the tiny footprints pressed into plaster. My eyes shift to his tiny toes. They wiggle slightly. I look back at her frozen ones and try to imagine them pushing against the walls of their mother. One minute they pressed and stretched. The next moment they fell limp—forever. My gaze lands on her picture. Black and white lines that form the image of my daughter, his sister.
“She was inside your other mommy before you were.” I was stoic. “She went straight to Jesus when she was born. And then we got you.”
I can’t tell him that his stillborn sister wrecked me. I can’t explain that while I walk without a limp, my heart beats erratic and broken. Our great God used the man cub to heal so much of that bloody wound left by her absence, but he can’t fix it all. An 8 month old cannot bear that burden.
He will not know the way I startle whenever I hear her name belonging to someone else or the way I choke back dreams when I see a little girl holding tight to her mama. He can’t know that when I stand in front of that shadow box, I imagine what she would have been. So much more than the cold corpse I held tightly in my arms before we buried her.
He is amazing life, incredible and indescribable joy. I will tell him about the sister who came before. I will share all the miracles. He will know her.
But I will not tie my albatross of grief around his neck. He will walk freely and hear only the ways my life is made infinitely better by his presence. I will shield him from the moments when, weeping, I succumb to the excruciating thump of my still cracked heart.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ax Murderers and Exploding Eyes

Somewhere around 1:00 am, my middle man came wandering into our room. I didn't know he was there. My children have become stealth sneaker uppers and it is VERY disturbing to me. I used to wake at the slightest sound. Now, my eyes will fly open to discover one of them standing over me and it's enough to cause momentary cardiac arrest. I'm completely terrified that one of these days it won't be one of my kids standing over me but an ax murderer instead. My eyes will open and the last thing I'll see is the image of some horrendous evildoer just before he slaughters me.

I'm dramatic.

But, honestly, who goes to bed at night and thinks, "I'll probably be murdered by a serial killer tonight?" No one. That's who.

So I didn't know my 8 year old was in my room until my husband suddenly startled in the spot next to me and, groggily, started muttering something about Matthew being in our room. I bolted upright (because I do weird things when I'm awoken from sleep to find that, once again, the children have crept in like silent little ax murderers) and stared at my kid.

"I had a bad dream," he whispered. I told him he could sleep on my floor and that is when the real fun began. See, we've been sharing the Great Plague Cold of 2017 and at least one person in our family has been sick for five weeks. Will's had it twice. Troy's had it twice. Apparently, as was evidenced by last night's shenanigans, Matthew is now on his second round because the kid proceeded to sniff and snort ALL NIGHT LONG. Then, downstairs, the cat flipped his lid in the wee hours of the morning and meowed at the top of his feline lungs.

In my exhausted state, I was powerless to do anything about any of this. Remember being a kid and wanting to pull your covers up but being way too tired to do anything about it? That was me last night. I wanted to tell Matthew to blow his nose. I wanted to call in an ax murderer for the cat. But all I managed to do was wake up every two seconds and resent ALL THE NOISE.

So this morning, when the world (a.k.a. Will) woke up at 6:45, I was not prepared for life. I fed him and then proceeded to fall back to sleep. Troy got up with the boys to make sure they didn't engage in an epic wrestling match or punch each other's lights out when they were really supposed to be getting ready for school. He took care of Will but, at some point, he went downstairs and closed the gate behind him. Will lost his mind with all the abandonment and bawled like a six month old instead of the sophisticated nine month old that he is. 

I called him over to me and lifted him onto the bed. Lying flat on my back, I raised him up into the air over my face. It was immediate. And so strange. I managed to feel it before my brain registered that it had seen it coming. And, in a way, it happened so fast that I can't remember truly seeing anything, really. One second, Will was thinking about smiling at me and the next second, I felt warm liquid spreading throughout my eye. For the shortest of milliseconds, I thought that, perhaps, my eye had spontaneously exploded. Quickly though, I dismissed that idea because there was a real lack of pain. I was pretty sure that spontaneous eye explosion would cause significant and debilitating pain. 

I sat up.

"HELP!" I yelled. I had my eyes tightly shut but I knew there was spit up in my hair and on my neck and I wasn't sure how truly bad it was and I needed something to wipe my face with and the troops needed to rally around me RIGHT then.

It took them longer than I would have expected given my distress cry. But they are men and they generally think that, because I am the lone woman around here, I have the entire world under control. They also live with me and know that my distress cries tend to be more, "There is a really big spider watching me from the corner," and less, "There's an ax murderer actively murdering me right at this very murderous moment."

This, as you will see, fell somewhere between help, spider and help me I'm being killed.

They arrived on the scene and Troy immediately began a waffling dance of laughter and oh no's. The boys were vacillating between hysterics and groans. Troy then started saying, "Wait! Just wait!" as he grabbed my phone to take a picture. Will, meanwhile, sat in my lap. I had no idea if it was on him although, in retrospect, the gravity would have taken all the puke down. We do not live in a world in which vomit defies the natural order of things. As I waited for the picture to be taken, the warm, regurgitated formula began to drip down my face. Troy snapped the picture, handed me a wash cloth, took Will, and said, "You just, uh, need to get right into the shower. Just go straight to the shower." This picture doesn't do justice to the amount that was in my hair, clumped behind my ear, but my response was basically, "Oh. You think?"

I remain infinitely glad that I didn't lose my eye in what would have been the first ever documented case of Exploded Eyeball.

Okay. I just googled Exploding Eye to make sure there wasn't actually such a thing and OH MY BLESSED STARS THERE IS!!! No, but seriously. Now, not only do I have to worry about ax murderers sneaking into my house at night, I have to worry about my eyeballs spontaneously exploding. Knowledge is not always power, y'all.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Great Hair Debacle of 2017

There are just certain people I grow attached to in my life. My gynecologist, for one. Who wants to go shopping for a new one of those every year? The dentist. As long as you'll keep telling me I don't have any cavities, you can have my business forever. My hair stylist. When we moved to Utah, I didn't get a new stylist for several years. I just kept getting my hair cut in California when I'd go home to visit. Who says long distance relationships can't work? Eventually, I grew weary of the airfare involved in getting my hair cut, my kid got too old to fly for free, I had to stop going to CA quite as frequently, and the time came to find a new stylist.

It was a fiasco.

I had my hair done by someone nearby. I liked it fine. The shop closed. I went somewhere else and liked it fine. I scheduled another appointment and, when I showed up for it, the shop was closed. I texted her and she didn't seem to know anything about me or why I would have had an appointment scheduled with her. I swear she was on drugs. It was the most bizarre conversation. I ended up getting my hair cut at Great Clips. Not long after that, I found my stylist, followed her through moves to two different shops, had my hair done by her as she grieved the loss of her granddaughter, had my hair done by her as I grieved the loss of my daughter, had my hair done by her as we welcomed Will, and, in December, found out that she was going to quit cutting hair. 

She cut my hair before Christmas and that was the end of that.

I silently mourned. I'm not ready to repeat the stress of finding a new person.

I have kept telling myself for the past two months that I really need to figure out a new solution. I need to get back out there and find a new stylist. But I kept putting it off until, on Tuesday, I snapped. I'm very level headed. I'm loyal and I'm trustworthy but sometimes, sometimes, I'm compulsive. I have an activator personality. It's an asset. Although, my husband does not always think so. And he has good reason.

On Tuesday I just had to have my hair cut. As the day wore on, the itch became so severe I could no longer satisfy it. I very nearly went back over to Great Clips but the baby fell asleep and it was going to be too late. I was working on Wednesday and if my hair wasn't cut before that I WOULD SIMPLY DIE A SLOW AND AGONIZING DEATH OF UNFULFILLED DREAMS.

I decided to watch a YouTube video and take matters into my own hands.

I have NEVER taken HAIR MATTERS into my own hands. My hands lack any and all artistic ability. But multiple videos seemed to support the idea that a simple trim was VERY EASY. So I followed the video. I took off just about an inch and let my hair down. It looked good. It looked healthier. It looked JUST fine. So I decided to take a little more off. My niece is constantly cutting her own hair and the girl looks good.

My niece, however, can play instruments and paint and CUT HER OWN HAIR. She has talented hands. I have uncoordinated stubs that are good for typing and scrambling eggs and that's about it.

I followed the same procedure that WORKED FINE THE FIRST TIME. I let my hair back down. There was no difference in length in the back. Instead, there were now long bangs and hideous layers. My hair was now two lengths. Long and statically luxurious in the back (darn these dry Utah winters) and dog chewed layers in the front.

I laughed.

"Oh, what have you done? What? I...oh no. This is irreparable. I...What? Um...oh no." All I could think was that I had to work the next day and there was no time to fix this and even if there was, what was I going to say?

Please fix this. The last girl who touched my head really butchered it?

I decided to cut more off just the back to try to blend it with what was happening in the front. Did I mention I was using household scissors? I don't think I did. I was using household scissors. The kind my children use to cut construction paper and, occasionally, twigs.

Just then my husband came home. "OH! YOU HAVE TO HELP ME!"

"What have you done?" he asked. "Why did you do this?" I think he was imagining the time I cut down a dead tree in our yard and then stuck the entire tree in the trash can, assuming the trash men would take it like that. He had to come home and cut the tree apart. I'd wanted the dead tree out of the yard. Once that goal was accomplished, my work was done. It's really a very charming trait of mine, no?

"I think I just need help with the front. The back is ok, right?"

"Uhhhhh...if that's what you're going for." He took a picture for me. Not having eyes in the back of my head, I couldn't really see the damage. I mean, I'd tried to look at it with a mirror but obviously the mirror faked me out because I thought it looked okay and, in actuality, it looked like this...

Suffice it to say, that is not what I was going for. Painstakingly, over the next hour, Troy, who is largely (i.e. completely) untrained in the area of hair cutting, turned the above disaster into this. I'm not going to say it's perfect but, considering what he was working with, and his lack of training, and his terrible scissors, I think he did a pretty good job.

I was pretty certain the front was NEVER GOING TO LOOK GOOD AGAIN. Or, at least, not for three months until it grew out and a professional fixed it for me. But Troy did his very best. He molded and shaped and snipped and chopped. Then I blew it dry and styled it and yesterday, before work, it looked like this...

Generally, I do not think of myself as a pinhead. However, this angle of selfie certainly makes it looks like my tiny head should not be sitting atop my very large body.

I digress. The point of this picture is not my pinhead. It is that I HAVE HAD WORSE HAIRCUTS DONE BY PROFESSIONALS!!! (Not my most recent professional, she did not ever give me a terrible haircut but there was one particularly traumatic cut in 2011 that left me partially scarred for life.)

Guys, I don't even hate it. And, yesterday, at work, I received MANY compliments about how cute my hair is.

So I've added "hair cutting" to Troy's list of things he can do. He's pretty much amazing. And he didn't even get irritated with me the way he did with the dead tree situation. He just patiently set to fixing it. AND IT DIDN'T COST ME A PENNY!

This however, is not a long term solution. I'm going to need the name of a good stylist before I get the next hankering to chop my hair.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Interview with 8 Year Old Matthew

1. What is your favorite T.V. show? Ben 10.
2. What did you have for breakfast? A doughnut and some eggs.
3. What is your middle name? Eric and David. (David Eric)
4. Favorite Food? Bananas.
5. What food do you dislike? Nothing.
6. What is your favorite color? Bluish grayish.
7. Favorite lunch? Peanut Butter and jelly.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go to church.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? To Texas to see my mom.
10. Favorite sport? Soccer.
11. When is your birthday? February 28.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? A night person because I'm not a morning fan.
13. Pets? I used to have Peter and Beck. The ones that are still alive are Ollie and Tessie. And Hammy.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I am going somewhere with my Grandma and Grandpa but I don't know where yet.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? A teacher like Indiana Jones and a military policeman.
16. What is your favorite candy? Me. Chocolate.
17. What is the farthest you've ever been from home? Israel. (He finally stopped calling it Isrerael. Sniff.)
18. What is your favorite book? Dino Mike
19. What are you most proud of? Having a baby. Will. (Such a sweet brother.)
20. What is your favorite movie? The Ben 10 movie.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The egg. Why do you think that? Because first the chicken has to hatch out of the egg?

And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Ben.
2. What is your least favorite word? Poop.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Jesus.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Satan.
5. What sound or noise do you love? Zippity Do Da.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Wah wah wah. When my brother cries.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Stupid.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Being a missionary.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Be a doctor.
10 If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part) "Kate wants to see you." (This one basically did me in.)

Friday, March 3, 2017

My Middle Man is Eight!

Dear Matthew,

Do you want to know why this letter is late? Because we're so crazy busy trying to keep up with your schedule. That's why. If it isn't Scouts, it's soccer. If it isn't soccer, it's Kid's Club. If it isn't Kid's Club, it's choir. You're involved. In everything you can be.

The biggest thing that happened to you this year was your promotion to big brother. You have embraced the role like a champion, almost always willing to help in whatever way you can. Will adores you and the bond you have is incredible to watch. From the moment you laid eyes on that baby, the love you have for him was evident.

This year you played baseball, soccer, ran track, starred in a church Christmas play, joined the school choir, got great grades, participated in scouts earning your Wolf rank and advancing to Bear, and learned a lot at church. Always a man of a few good friends, you are branching out at school and beginning to request play dates with friends. You're always willing to invite buddies to Kid's Club and I love that passion in you.

You are still hilarious. Your impressions slay me. Your timing is hysterical. You make me laugh every day. While on our recent vacation to Disneyland and Universal Studios, we cooked a frozen pizza in the microwave and on the stove top when we realized that there was no oven in our kitchen. I had dad film me doing a step by step detailing of the process. At the end, we had you sample it and you declared, "Hmmm. This pizza has a delicious flavor." It was intense overacting. It was major hamming. It was super funny. Dad had to pause the video because we both were cracking up. All this while your brother was refusing to taste it because, surely, frozen pizza had turned into Haggis in the microwave.

We celebrated your birthday a week early at Rainforest Cafe at Downtown Disney with your buddies Ben and Web and their parents before hanging out for two days with them at Disneyland and California Adventure. You ordered pasta and fruit and had a special treat of being able to drink soda. Later, we had red velvet cake and ice cream in our hotel room. Grandpa Gary took you to Medieval Times to celebrate your birthday and you had a great time being upgraded to VIP, watching jousting and eating your dinner. On your actual birthday, Grandma and Grandpa came to visit. We had a cake that you picked out at the Scout Blue and Gold dinner, a pudding cake with plastic sharks on top. You opened presents, ate McDonald's for dinner, and watched your brother play in two soccer games.

I can't believe you're already eight years old. I love you so much. You keep me on my toes and on my knees. You give me such joy and it is my intense hope that you will grow up loving Jesus and funneling your intense passion for good. Because, if you can do those two things, Kid, you'll move mountains.


Saturday, February 25, 2017


Today we got back from a week's vacation and immediately made two cakes and a boatload of Mexican rice before heading off to our boys' annual Blue and Gold Banquet for Cub Scouts. I have to somehow accomplish cleaning my house AND going to the grocery store AND church AND a ministry lunch AND life group tomorrow because I'm working on Monday and Tuesday and my parents are flying in on Tuesday.

This is my life these days. Crazy. Busy. Blessed.

Here are my kids. I happen to think they're pretty cute.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Make Them Eat

It's important for me to acknowledge that there are children with actual food related issues. There are kids with food sensory aversion, allergies, intolerance, etc. This post isn't about them. If you're the parent of a child who struggles with diagnosed food related issues, work with your pediatrician to keep your kid healthy and ignore this post.

Once upon a time, my husband and my oldest son engaged in an epic battle of wills. The Great Battle of Foodmageddon. Garrett's Last Stand. The Siege of Kitchentown.

For a short time, Garrett was an overly picky toddler, refusing to eat nearly everything we put in front of him. I'd heard of a tactic whereby you make your child choose between what is being served and a peanut butter sandwich. If they eat neither, they go hungry. We decided to employ this system. Our kid ate peanut butter for a week.

I had visions of our child eating only peanut butter for the rest of his life. He'd be the kid at the birthday party turning his nose up at the pizza and insisting that the host slap some creamed peanuts between two pieces of bread for him. He'd be the husband insisting on sandwiches at the wedding. Not to mention the scurvy I was certain was right around the corner.

"This is dumb," I said. "He eats what we eat or he doesn't eat."

I can remember sitting on the porch, waiting for Troy to get home from work. I was starved for adult conversation and my toddler was legit refusing to eat, choosing, instead, to spit everything at me. Troy pulled in the driveway, sensed my impending meltdown, and took over.

The evening culminated in Troy pressing Garrett's lips together so he couldn't spit out whatever it was he refused to swallow. They faced off. Stubborn father against the son who inherited his flair for being unwilling to back down. Garrett refused to swallow. Troy refused to be spit on. In the end, the adult won the battle and the war and our child ate from then on.

Nine years later, there are still tons of things he doesn't like. There are things he once liked but has now decided he doesn't. But, there are so many more things that he once hated that he now enjoys.

Do you want your child to eat? Here are some practical tips.

1. Make them try things. Once they're old enough to reason, explain that they will have a courtesy bite of everything. They must have a small portion of everything you've set on the table. Garrett hated potatoes for the longest time. I would make him have one bite of potato every time we had them. Eventually, he found that he liked them with ranch dressing. If they don't eat their dinner, they don't get dessert. Period. END OF DISCUSSION. Wait, what, you hadn't planned anything for dessert because it's not 1950 and we don't bake a cake every day? Break out two animal crackers or a graham cracker or a tiny dish with one scoop of frozen yogurt or WHATEVER because it will straight up be an incentive to finish that bite of broccoli. The older they get the less they'll need an incentive. And they'll start to find that they like things they didn't think they liked.

2. Make them try things you don't like. This is especially easy to do at a buffet. They may end up loving something you detest and the broader a kid's palate, the better. We don't actually want them to hate food, do we? Garrett loves beets because he ate them at a salad bar. Never saw that one coming.

3. NEVER tell your small child that you hate a particular food. This gives them a pass to refuse to try things because, "Dad doesn't have to." I have tried and tried and TRIED to love oatmeal. But I just HATE it and have since I was a kid. Apparently, I loved it as a baby but, for as long as I can remember I've detested it. It's not the taste. It's the texture. It's like eating vomit. But I completely recognize the nutritional value and ease of oatmeal so I have encouraged a love for oatmeal in all my children. My older kids are definitely old enough to know that there are foods we both hate. They're not dumb. They've never seen me eat oatmeal and they've never seen Troy eat an olive. Of course we've had discussions with them about foods we don't like--now. But when they were tiny and in the process of developing good eating habits, we PRETENDED to like everything. The more a kid eats when he's little, the more things he'll like later in life.

4. Sauces and dips. Or no sauces and dips. Whatever works. Garrett hated tomato sauce for years. It was bizarre because he LOVED tomatoes. When we had spaghetti, I would give him plain noodles with a little butter. Yes, I was catering to him, but he was basically still eating what we were eating. He wasn't eating peanut butter. Eventually, I started giving him buttery noodles with meatballs. The meatballs were cooked in our sauce so some sauce ended up on his plate. Initially, this was the end of his world. But he liked the meatballs and realized that a little bit of sauce wasn't going to kill him. Now, he eats spaghetti like a normal human. Ranch dressing or BBQ sauce or soy sauce are great for making foods that seem bland to kid's tongue, well, less bland. When Matthew was a baby, I told people that his favorite foods were condiments. Dipping made things fun and yummy. The doctor assures me my kids are healthy so I stand by this tip. Especially because I'd rather have my kids eating carrots with ranch than no carrots at all.

5. No seconds of the things they love until the things they hate are gone. Period. If they're still hungry after their plate is clean, they can fill up with more of the things they like.

6. Make sure they don't hate the entire meal. A few years ago, if I'd served spaghetti with potatoes and avocado, Garrett would have died on the spot. (Not to mention I would have needed my own head examined for such a bizarre combination.) But serve him up spaghetti with Caesar salad and a huge chunk of bread and suddenly there's only one thing on his plate he's not excited about. Double portion of bread and salad and a tiny amount of spaghetti? Sure. The end goal is to broaden their tastes, not make them hate their parents.

7. Reward them when they're little for being good eaters. Tell them how proud you are. One thing I do that I know other people find weird is I let them eat their food in whatever order they want. If it's breakfast and we're having eggs, bacon, fruit and a danish, they can absolutely eat the danish first if they'd like to. But they know that the very first time they don't finish the rest of their breakfast after polishing off that danish, they will lose that privilege. It has never once been a problem.

8. If they just legitimately hate something after repeated tries, don't torture them. Especially if they'll eat a wide variety of other things and they're eating a balanced diet. Garrett cannot handle spices or excessive amounts of fried foods. He gets physically sick to his stomach. Obviously, I don't force feed him fried chicken until he throws up.

I'm sure there are many more tips I could come up with but those stand out in my mind. I was blessed with an amazing eater in Matthew. That kid will try anything and he likes everything. Including fish eyes. Although, when he was little he tried avocado and hated it. He looked, mournfully, at my brother (who loves avocado) and moaned, "I can't yike it." Guess what though? He loves it now. Currently, Will will eat anything. Of course, we haven't reached that terrible toddler stage so we shall see. I'm sure I'll be revisiting my own advice soon enough. Garrett (with the exception of his natural bent toward anything from the ocean) was molded and crafted into a good eater with a great deal of intention and diligence on our part. He's still much more picky than his brother but he's learned to be polite, to eat what is put in front of him here and ESPECIALLY somewhere else, and he has discovered a love for so many foods because he was introduced to a wide variety young and often.

Your child can be a good eater. It just takes consistency. Good luck. You can do it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

On Why My Baby Eats Everything

When people started arriving at our church Chili and Game Night, they jokingly asked if Will was going to get to have chili for his dinner. He was seven months old. We'd already been there for an hour, the baby was losing his mind with all the starvation--what with not having eaten for THREE ENTIRE HOURS--and so I had already fed him a bowl full of chili.

We had gift cards to Red Lobster and he ate scallops, clams, shrimp, crab, and lobster. Thrown in to that delicious mix was some baked potato, broccoli, rice, tomato, cheddar biscuit (because how could we deprive him a Red Lobster biscuit?), and the end of a peanut butter sandwich he'd left over from lunch.

He's had burritos, soups, eggs, pastas, all manner of fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, and even milk.

Before Will ever existed, I heard of Baby Led Weaning. Basically, BLW lets your child feed himself from the very start. When we feed our babies pureed baby food, they learn to swallow first and then to chew. When we feed them solid food from the start, they learn to chew first and then swallow. I started thinking about babies in countries where there isn't an entire aisle in the nearby Walmart dedicated to a zillion different blends of pureed foods. What do those babies eat? Probably whatever their parents are eating. I also started thinking about the grocery bill--and how much cheaper it would be without all those jars of blended turkey. All around, Baby Led Weaning seemed like a win/win situation.

I started feeding both my older boys solid food around 4 months. We began with rice cereal, added in oatmeal next, and then tried vegetables and fruits, one at a time, watching diligently for signs of allergy.

BLW says to wait until baby is 6-8 months old and can feed himself. (I keep saying himself because I have been blessed with only himselves. Not because I am a sexist. I'm sitting here wrestling with whether or not I should use gender inclusive language. But then people might be confused about whether or not I'm referring to Will as a herself.) I realized when Will was 4 months old that following the BLW wasn't exactly going to work for us because I wanted him to try things before he was big enough to do it himself. If we'd waited until Will could feed himself, he'd still be living on formula and breast milk and he'd have missed out on those two bites of lobster entirely. Just the other day, I considered it a HUGE victory when he took a giant piece of bell pepper in his fist, brought it to his mouth, and chomped down. Until then, he would squish everything in his chubby hands and/or throw it at the floor.

So I decided to use the ideas of BLW but craft a new way of feeding that worked for our family. I did not start with rice cereal. Honestly, with both of my older boys, I had nearly gagged just watching them eat that stuff. It smells disgusting and looks even worse. When Will was four months old, we started him on avocado and then bananas in a mesh pouch. It was a mess. He was my smallest baby and he wasn't really sitting on his own yet. He sat in our laps and smeared avocado everywhere. It was easier to just pop a bottle in his mouth and I got lazy.

A few weeks later, my brother, sister-in-law, and then fourteen month old niece, came to visit. We got the highchair seat out of its box so my niece could eat her meals. Will watched with a great deal of interest. When they left, we never put the seat away. We plopped my almost five month old in it and the rest is history. He'd seen his big cousin eat and he was not going to let her have all the fun.

I didn't start him with store bought baby food though. I gave him things like oatmeal and Greek yogurt--and I blended my own veggies and fruits, being sure to leave some small chunks. That went on for about a month. He ate a variety of different foods and I used my food processor to chop them up to a manageable consistency.

At Will's 6 month appointment, I was a little worried to tell the doctor that he ate dozens and dozens of different foods and that I didn't wait before introducing a new food. I figured that if he had an allergic reaction, I'd eliminate everything he'd eaten that day and reintroduce one food at a time. As it turns out, my doctor was very happy that Will was eating such a variety of foods and told us that we could feed him anything and everything except honey.

Even milk.

Even eggs.

Even...peanut butter.

The things I had been told NOT to feed my babies when Garrett and Matthew were tiny. My pediatrician said that there was research that showed that introducing these foods before nine months actually decreased the rate of developing an allergy.

Will had peanut butter (diluted with water) that afternoon.

And in the two months since that appointment, we have fed him whatever we're having. We cut it smaller, of course. He has had store bought baby food because, let's face it, it's easier to throw into a diaper bag. But, mostly, he spits anything out at us if it doesn't have chunks. It's almost like he's thinking, "Whatever you just put in my mouth is for babies. Clearly, I am a big boy capable of eating anything. Now, bring me my steak and lobster." (Okay, he hasn't had steak. Although that is mostly because our money also doesn't buy steak.)

So far, there has been one food that hasn't been Will's favorite. Beets. And, really, who likes beets except for my oldest child? So I took the leftover beets and hid them in things like applesauce and he ate them up just fine.

If you want to follow this Bassham Baby Led Eating Thing it's like this in one easy step.

1. Introduce a wide variety of chunky foods--early.

Upside: A baby who will eat anything.
Downside: Your kid may develop a lobster taste on an imitation crab budget.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

8 Months

Dear Will,

This is not my first parenting rodeo. I've done it before. In fact, I've been doing it for ten and a half years. So you'd think I'd understand and accept the whole growing-up-at-the-speed-of-light thing. But no. I still scratch my head and wonder how IN THE WORLD you are already 8 months old.

It seemed like an excellent idea to purchase blocks when you were itty bitty teeny tiny. Blocks that I would strategically place near you once a month with the number corresponding to your age. This was a beautiful plan. Until it wasn't. Somehow, I forgot that you would start moving and want NOTHING more than to destroy those nicely placed blocks. So, what should take 5 minutes takes 45. And instead of 13 adorable pictures to choose from, I get 1,042 that look like this...

This month you learned how to get from your back to a seated position. This allows you to pull everything out of your bookcase. Which is awesome.

You started crawling.

Sort of.

Your arms do what they're supposed to but your legs are very confused. One leg walks in a weird sort of frog hop while the other one kinda drags behind. But, you get where you want to go so I guess that's all that matters.

You still have no teeth but that doesn't stop you from eating just about everything. Last night, it was scallops, clams, shrimp, crab, and lobster at Red Lobster (courtesy of a gift card. You should learn now that our family does not eat at Red Lobster without a gift card. Our money doesn't buy lobster. Our money buys imitation crab. In plastic wrap. At The Walmart.)

You eat what we eat only cut smaller. This is evident every time we try to feed you baby food and you spit it wildly at the person on the other end of the spoon. It is NOT charming. We tell you no nicely the first 17 times and then our NO! turns harsh and you cry.

You love your brothers and your dog and your DADA! We don't think you actually understand that you're calling for him but it's only a matter of time. You also imitate, "All done." Just recently, you've added the "B" sound to your repertoire of noises. 

Today, we left you with a babysitter for a few hours and she declared that you were standing up at the couch. "Did you stand him up? Or did he pull himself up?" I asked nonchalant like because I was unaware that you were doing that.

"He pulled himself up."

Well. Okay then. You do that now, too.

I'm not surprised. You'd almost done it several times this morning. I just wasn't aware you were going to master every single thing in the span of a week.

I mentioned the dog before. Now that you can move, the two of you are becoming fast friends. She continues to think that you are a viable option for ball throwing and continues to forget that you steal her ball and keep it for yourself. Today, you were on all fours staring at her and she was on all fours staring at you. She is a very vocal dog and she "growled" (which is really a very noisy groan) and wagged her tail frantically. You grunted in return. This went on for a solid minute. Her groaning, you grunting. Back and forth. Then she smeared your face with a fantastic lick and walked away.

This past month you and I flew to California for a long weekend. You were as magnetic on the plane as you are everywhere else we go. A dozen people--from two rows in front of us to the row behind us--were all busy trying to be the one to make you smile. You were giving them liberally and, Will, your smile is just the absolute best. The Lord has blessed you with joy and it radiates out of you like sunbeams.

I could not have told anyone, three years ago, that what I needed was a third son. But here you are, being one of the very best things that has ever happened to me. I'm sad that you're getting so big so fast, but whenever I feel your little heart beating, or listen to the sound of your breath, I am so happy that you are living and growing and thriving.

Thank you for being you and for being here, in my home and in my heart. You are larger than life and I can't wait to see what God does through you. But take your time, Baby. You don't have to grow up quite so fast.

I love you big.