Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mission

Ultimately, after revisiting it with fervor for approximately two and half days in which I vacillated between being almost sure that we were going to become parents again in September to being positive that we're never going to have another child, we decided not to have our profile shown. It was an agonizing decision and my thoughts swayed--pendulum style--roughly 1.7 million times in 60 hours. I imagined pulling the crib mattress out from under my bed and hanging girly pictures on the wall in the playroom turned nursery turned library, turning it back into a nursery once again. Just as quickly I would spin my mind's wheels trying to figure out loan options and how we would begin to accomplish the getting of such a large amount of money so fast and I would feel restless and without peace or direction.

My brother's baby was overdue. I knew we had to decide before that baby was born. I knew my judgement would be even cloudier once she was here. (Turns out THAT was a good call.) Every time I prayed I felt more confused than before. There just wasn't a clear answer. In the absence of direction, does one move forward when a little life is on the line? Or does one close her eyes and say, "I will wait on you, Lord."

When we said no, we agreed that our time may never come. I know that sounds pessimistic and negative--defeatist, even. It isn't meant to. In February, we decided to move forward in anticipation of another adoption because, independently of each other, the Lord gave us her name very soon after we lost Kate. It's not a name we ever would have considered if God hadn't whispered it to both of us. He's never spoken any of our other children's names into our hearts. But that is a story for another time...perhaps. I won't share the name. I'm presently much too busy treasuring it in my own heart. Even then, though, holding her name on the tip of our tongues, we were never certain that He would bring us another child--much less that He would bring one we have the privilege of naming. We both trust that He told us. We just know that it could have been the dream He gave us to keep us moving. And so, we had to accept that there was an opportunity in front of us and another one might not come.

We decided to wait on the Lord.

For what is to come or what may not come.

It was not an easy choice. And, once made, I still wondered if we'd chosen wisely. One week later, through a strange set of circumstances, the Lord spoke clear and perfect confirmation to me. The details are not important. But the Lord works in utterly mysterious ways. He also began a convicting work in me.

While on earth, my job is to draw near to Him and make Him known to others. (For the record, I fail this mission every, single day.) I've been living in limbo since January. I suppose in some ways it's to be expected. The grief process has been real and encompassing and while I've tried to pick myself up and walk on in public, my husband can attest to the grittier side of things. (I'd be lost without him. He deserves some kind of medallion or a constellation in his honor for the way he has loved me in these past nine months. Truly, no one will ever know the way he has held this messy, grieving family together. But seriously. I should reward him with a belt buckle or something.) The back and forth between grieving and waiting has been exhausting. One minute it's excitement and longing. The next minute it's crying and pain.

The convicting work has been this. I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO DIE WAITING. Especially when no official promise was ever made. I'm supposed to draw near to Him and share Him and whatever He chooses to bless me with along the way is just a whole lot of icing on the cake. Don't get me wrong, we are still waiting with hope and eager anticipation for what He might have for us. I just don't want to waste my life wondering if the phone is going to ring.

Last night, Matthew woke up crying. He called out for me. He'd had a scary dream and wanted to stay with me on the couch. I pulled him onto me and he snuggled in. After he fell back into sleep, I thought about it. These two boys are (usually) a pretty intense delight. I don't know what earthly good I've done to deserve them. But I remember waiting for them and wondering if they'd ever live and breathe and grow up big enough to call me Mom.

I kissed his nose and ran my fingers over his back. Another one would be an amazing and welcomed addition. But the blessings He has bestowed upon me are more than enough.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Meeting My Niece

Does anyone remember the fact that I used to blog here?

Yeah. Me neither. It's been SOOOO long.

I have an excuse for the past few days though. On Sunday afternoon, my parents flew me to San Diego so that I could meet my niece!!! We planned it a couple of days before she was actually born, bought the airfare the day after she was born, and I got to spend three days (off and on, of course) with her! I just got back yesterday and I'm not actively working on a formula that will allow me to clone myself so that I can live in two places at one time.

We completely surprised my brother and sister-in-law which ended up being SUPER HILARIOUS. They live in a town home (condo?) and so my parents dropped me off a handful of doors away. They went in and the plan was for me knock on the door several minutes later. My brother had been out running an errand and we wanted to make sure he was there. My mom texted me that he was but I wanted to wait another minute. Then I replied with something or other about how I was on my way.

"Wait!!!" was her reply. I had no earthly reason why and was afraid my brother was walking outside. As I was already almost to his door, I dove into some bushes, directly in front of someone else's house. Crouching there, I texted back, "I'm hiding in a Bush. What am I waiting for?" (Yes, regular "bush" autocorrected to a former president.) As it turns out, they'd gone upstairs and they quickly decided to sneak me in and just have me sitting there when they came back down.

Heather's grandparents, parents and sister were there. My parents were there. So it was quite a party of people. Maybe that explains why my brother looks directly at me and just keeps living his life for a solid nine seconds. It was pretty great.

video

Then I held her and hugged her and promised to take her to a Broadway show.

And, BLOG WORLD, my brother somehow ordered the world's best baby. She ALMOST NEVER CRIES and when she does it's because someone has dared to change her dirty diaper or because she'd like something in her tummy. 

I am so glad that Troy is officiating Heather's sister's wedding in a month so that we have an excuse to go to California. And also even though I still hate year round school, the boys are off in October and you'd better believe that that baby is going to be spending some serious time in my arms again. And then, Troy is leaving on a mission trip to Haiti on Thanksgiving day and, well, I feel like I should maybe just go to San Diego because cooking Thanksgiving for three does not sound like my idea of a good time. Right?

Also, short of kidnapping my niece (which my sister-in-law already informed me is not really a good option) frequent trips are really my only option. Maybe I need to start a "Visit My Niece Monthly" Go Fund Me page to help support my habit.

Okay. Not really. But almost.

Friday, August 21, 2015

My Lil Gert

Early on Thursday my brother became a dad.

I was all set to announce my niece's name and post a picture of her but I haven't asked them if they're ok with me doing those things on my blog and since they've slept, like, negative hours in the past two days, I'm not going to burden them with it right now.

I will say that I got to virtually meet her tonight and it was super but NOT NEARLY AS SUPER AS MEETING HER IN PERSON WILL BE SOME DAY. Because I live in Utah and she does not. Which, if you ask me, is a complete travesty.

I will also say that it doesn't altogether matter what her name is. They didn't give her one until this afternoon and, in the meantime, I started calling her Gert. My brother refers to my children more often than not as G-Money and M-Cat. It's just...his uncle thing. So when they didn't give her name, I threw out Gert as an option. Entirely from the episode of Friends where Chandler and Monica get married and Ross switches his table number and ends up at the kids' table and dances with little girls all night. One little girl's name is Gert and she is enormous--both in stature and in girth. She towers over the rest of the children. I threw it out, obviously, as a complete joke but pointed out that it's a family name.

My great grandmother's name was Gertrude.

I continued joking about it and my mom voiced her concern that it might stick. The damage was done. It stuck for me. I mean, at least as a joke. G-Money, M-Cat and Gerty Girl.

I've also long said that I am going to be the aunt who always has gum so it would seem we're going with a Friends motif. Even though, by the time she's old enough for her parents to allow her to watch friends, it'll be so ridiculously dated that she'll think we're all old and lame. 

My niece actually has a beautiful name that I love and plan to use often. She's totally adorable. I want to reach through the computer screen, pull her into my arms and tell my brother and sister-in-law to take a break. Take a nap. Take a shower. Take 18 years, give or take.

Gert and I have got this. Together. For the rest of my life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

First & Third

I have something important to say. I am not much of a public crier. Really. Seriously. Please don't hold it against me if don't cry at your funeral. I will probably cry buckets in the privacy of my own bedroom but they will not come out at your funeral. I also find it irrational when people cry at things like weddings and first birthday parties. And, for being a theatrical kind of person, I am also a very rational person who is often confused by irrational people.

I don't cry when my kids start preschool and kindergarten. PLEASE. What's the alternative? That they died young? That they have some kind of developmental delay that keeps them from school? BRING ON SCHOOL! It means they are growing and healthy and ready for the next important milestone. I LOVE HAVING MY KIDS WITH ME but I am not going to cry over things like preschool. Come on, mamas. SAVE YOUR TEARS.

Ahem. In light of the above mentioned information, I'm going to schedule a neuro consult immediately. Something is very wrong with me. I didn't cry when my oldest boy started kindergarten and I didn't cry when my baby started either. I snapped a few pictures and internally rolled my eyes at all those mommies who were shedding tears and begging for one more hug and generally being snively and obnoxious. COME ON, MOMMIES! IT IS KINDERGARTEN! YOU WILL SEE HER IN THREE HOURS.

Unless your child is in full day kindergarten which is precisely where I'm going with this post. MY BABY'S FIRST DAY OF FIRST GRADE ALMOST KILLED ME DEAD. I walked him up and stood with all the other moms. The kids lined up, already old pros at this school gig what with having an entire year of half day school under their collective belts. They looked older and wiser than they did six weeks ago. Moms chatted and kids looked excited and anxious all at once.

Suddenly. Out of NOWHERE. What? What was happening? Something must have flown into my eye. Could it have been allergies? What in the world? Why was there a lump forming in my throat? WHY WAS MATTHEW'S LITTLE LIFE FLASHING BEFORE MY EYES?

His birth. His baby laugh. His chubby hands. His cuddles. His first day of preschool. His first day of kindergarten. How did we get here? How did all those memories string together until we managed to make it to SIX AND A HALF AND FIRST GRADE?

I swallowed my tears back down my throat, hugged him, and watched him walk through the big first grade doors. He was so ready. So happy. So big.


It hasn't been this quiet in my house since 2005. TEN YEARS OF NOISE! I walk around in it and the walls echo with silence. I clean it and...it stays that way! I play with the puppy and work on Bible studies and HAVE A FRIEND OVER FOR LUNCH AND WE ACTUALLY GET TO TALK! 

I have grand plans for my life. Plans that involve substitute teaching more, catching up on Bible studies, being a better pastor's wife, keeping a clean house and waiting anxiously for a phone call telling me that we're a perfect match for another baby so that my house won't be so quiet anymore.

Because I love being a mom. I'm not the best one and I'm not the most patient one. I'm not the quietest or the friendliest or the most athletic one. But I love those boys and I love the noise they make, the living they do between these walls and I miss them when they're gone. I can't believe they've already done so much growing. I don't know know how I have a first grader.

And I really don't know how I have a third grader. 



Saturday, August 15, 2015

When the Only Hurdle is a Huge Amount of Money

Several days ago, I was contacted by our adoption facilitator at Adoption Center of Hope. She told me about a situation that sounded perfect. It's a little girl, due next month. If the little girl's mother would so choose for us to raise her child, it would be a fantastic situation for us.

Except that it's $30,000 on top of what we already have sitting at ACOH. We prayed hard. We know that God uses our children and possible adoption situations to test our faith. But we couldn't decide exactly which test this was. Were we being called to wait on His perfect timing for a perfect situation and this wasn't it because of finances we don't have? (I mean it. We have exactly $6,975 dollars to put toward adoption costs and that is only because so many people were so generous last winter and we put that money aside in an adoption account.) Or were we being called to trust that He would provide the funds?

Ultimately, we decided to pass on the situation because 15K needs to be secured before our profile can even be shown to this mom and the rest of it would need to be available within just a few weeks. We considered the loan option. But, even if someone had 20-25K lying around, we wouldn't be able to pay it back without me working A LOT. I have no desire to add to my family again so that I have to work nearly full time to pay for that addition. If we adopt again, I want our baby to have my full attention just as my boys did. So I felt at peace knowing that, since there would be no way to pay off such a loan, this couldn't be what God had for us.

Then, last night, they posted the details of the situation on social media.

*��*URGENT*��*
Family Needed:
-Homestudy MUST BE Completed and Not Expired
Expectant Mother Prefers:
-Born Again Christian Family
-Active & Athletic
---Situation Information---
Appoximate Due Date: Mid September 2015
State: California
Gender: Girl
Expectant Mother Race: Caucasian
Expectant Father Race: Unknown (Possible Race-African American, Hispanic or Caucasian)
Insurance: Medi-Cal
Drug Exposure: Clean
Alcohol Use: None
Open Adoption: Pictures & Updates
Approximate fees $35k plus
(Includes California legal fees and valid, necessary and legally allowable living expenses)
��To be consider for the above situation you must meet the listed criteria AND be prepared to provide a PDF version of your profile and home study.��

Suddenly, I wasn't sure. Because if that number was smaller I'd be begging them to show her our profile immediately. I laid in my bed last night and sobbed. Not having this exorbitant amount of money at my fingertips is a reality that I cannot get around. But it isn't this baby girl's fault that the whole thing costs so bloody much.

And we are SO READY to be matched.

In the middle of my tears I told myself something I've said time and time again since I started coming out of the fog of grief I lived in when we lost Kate. IF GOD WANTS IT TO BE ACCOMPLISHED IT WILL BE. We are not going to accidentally miss our daughter. If we pass on a situation, He isn't going to scratch His head and say, "Well, shoot. Now what?" We're also not going to end up with a child He doesn't want here. He is in control. He knows what He's doing.

If this is meant to be our child, He will work it out. (Although it sure would need to happen fast.) If this is not meant to be our child, she will be placed in the family that God has hand picked for her. But I would love prayer on this one. You've been with us through thick and thin this year and I trust your happy thoughts and prayers will be sent our way.

Maybe you know someone who fits this description perfectly. Pass it on and help this little one find her forever family. Maybe you know someone who needs a $20,000 tax write off. Well, for the record, I wouldn't turn that down.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why I Chose My Husband

Yesterday was my 12th anniversary. That is crazy talk because I cannot possibly be a day over 25. And I did not get married when I was 13. If for no other reason than the fact that my husband is 10 years older than me. This year was, maybe, not the best. But we weathered through and we're better for it. For better for worse and all that. I'm so blessed to have him by my side.

As a pastor's wife, I have the opportunity to listen as women tell me the things they love and adore about their spouses and, sometimes, the things they are struggling with. I pray for women with stories of addiction, anger issues, unfaithfulness. I rejoice in "atta boys" when husbands are promoted, get raises, or break free from sin. Often, I am able to get a glimpse into what she was looking for when she chose her husband in the first place. Sometimes it's because he was hilarious or he knew how to fix things or he was a hard worker. Sometimes a guy was chosen for his strapping good looks or because he made her feel beautiful. It's often a combination of a lot of things, of course.

I chose my husband for one reason only. 

I "grew up" in the middle of a relationship with my first fiance. We started dating when I was 18 and I broke up with him when I was 21. He shared my faith but, among many other things that led to my ending our relationship, he was not a spiritual leader. I couldn't see my faith growing or ministry opportunities developing as a result of marrying him. At 18, I didn't think to consider that. At 21, with our marriage looming in the not-so-distant future, I realized that it was all that I should have cared about.

In Troy, I found a man who would walk with God and challenge me in my own walk. I knew he would teach me and, from the very beginning, he would lead our children spiritually and point them toward our Creator. If I break down my entire marriage, absolutely nothing else matters to me. This world is fleeting. It is but a moment. Everything points us toward eternity. I wanted a spiritual leader. A man who would open the Word with me and explain it when I was confused. A man who would share his knowledge and opinion but one who would listen if I came to a different conclusion. A man who would debate with me as his equal, pray with me, and grow old with me as we waited for what was to come. Not to get stuck in this life, but to look ahead to the next. 

It's an added bonus that he makes me laugh and puts food on the table and that he's patient and kind and honest.

The cards we've been dealt haven't always been stellar hands. We lost our home when we moved to Utah, we went into incredible amounts of debt to gain the privilege of adopting our son, and we buried our daughter. More than 13% of our monthly income goes to our medical insurance premium. We rent our home and we'll probably have to work until we die. To name just a few of our card games.

Such is life.

Through all of that, I'm proud to have this man beside me, pointing me toward eternity. I'm amazed at the way he teaches our boys about our God and about biblical principles. I love the way he has changed me and the way we have grown together. When I pray for my children's future spouses, I ask for one thing only.

She doesn't need to be able to cook or clean well. She doesn't have to be beautiful or wealthy or smart or have a strong set of child bearing hips. I just want her to love Jesus and dedicate her life to following Him. And that's ultimately all I want for my boys as well.

That is why I chose my husband. Because, above all else, that is what matters. And because, when we, as a couple, love Jesus with our whole hearts, we can trust that He will bring us through whatever He puts in our path. No, this year hasn't been easy. But at least I had him holding my hand through it all.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

TessieMonster

Dear Mom and Dad,

I'm under the impression that life is a never ending joy ride. I've packed more living into my first four weeks with my new people than a lot of doggies do in a lifetime.


I love the water but I strongly dislike the foamy white stuff that rushes at me, toppling over itself in a sort of circular motion. I swim like a champ. I'm learning something commonly referred to as "fetch" and I love it. I also like to turn this game into something I call "keep away" which is splendid fun for me. I know how to sit. I'm learning to "stay" and "leave it" and I definitely know my name but find it pure genius when I pretend not to. These people keep saying this one word to me that I just don't understand. Maybe you can help me out with it. They yell, "Come!" What earthly purpose does this word have? For the life of me, I simply cannot understand it.

The people say that in the past week I have turned a corner. I'm not a baby anymore. They are likening me to a toddler. Whatever that is. I don't sleep as much and I am, apparently, very curious and into everything. The littlest one, is, I think, a two legged dog. He plays "Puppy" with me and so I try the normal things like attacking him, chewing on him, and, occasionally, attempting to assert dominance in the traditional (but, apparently, inappropriate canine way. These things are all met with what I can only imagine is disapproval from the people. Perhaps this youngest one is a person after all? If so, he ought to stop behaving like a dog during all of our encounters.

I really love it here. When I hear my people, I run to them with my ears flying. They make me happy. I have met many new people. One of them is named Grandpa and he is splendid fun. He's a big softy which, I am told, is not the way it always was. Once upon a time he had dogs the toed a straight and narrow line. He doesn't make me do it though. In fact, my mommy-person explained that I'm not allowed in Grandpa's ice plant but I don't feel like listening to this rule and have, in fact, chosen this vegetation as my toilet of choice. Grandpa hasn't gotten mad at me even one time for that.

Grandma is also a fun one. She likes to snuggle me a lot. And she says I'm a really good puppy. Given this statement, I have decided that she is an easy-to-fool kind of lady. I have sweet chocolatey eyes and soft fuzzy fur but under all that, I'm almost certain I'm a beast. Grandma sometimes calls me Tessaress which is added to my long list of nicknames which include Tess, Tessers and TessieMonster (that last one was given to me by my mommy-person and happens to be the reason I believe that I am actually a small monster masquerading as a rapidly growing golden retriever).

Among many other people, I also met my aunt and uncle and my doggie cousin, Kona. The aunt and uncle seem to be patient people who did not get upset with me when I continually went potty on their floor. Kona is a MOST FUN dog who plays endlessly with me. I would like to be best friends and see her every day. Unfortunately, my mommy-person says I have to go back to my own house soon. I guess I'm okay with that because my daddy-person already had to go back there and, just as children need rules and boundaries, I need my Alpha.

Anyway. I'm going to go now because my attention span was maxed out about three minutes ago and I need to chase a fly, chew an antler and squeak a toy. But just know that I am happy, healthy, and sometimes psychotic. What a fun adventure all this living has been!

Love,
Tessie

Monday, August 3, 2015

Surf's Up

I know I haven't been around lately.

It's because of this...


Happy Summer!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The One Where I Bought a Kiddie Pool

This post, originally found here, is easily my most viewed entry. Apparently, a lot of people google kiddie pools. So, in honor of summer and my most famous post, please enjoy reading about that time my car transformed into an aircraft.


Today I decided to get Garrett a decent kiddie pool. He had one that my mom supplied last summer but it's seems to have gotten so small. I think it has something to do with the fact that my son has gotten so big. It was a blow up pool and it worked great last summer. This summer I decided we needed something slightly more permanent, something I didn't need to blow up every time I wanted to put Garrett in it.

I drove to the WalMart by my house (five minutes away) and I found the hard plastic kind that I was looking for. However, for ten extra dollars I could get one with a slide. I figured this would be ten dollars well spent. They were out of the one with the slide. I asked if they could check to see if the other WalMart by my house (ten minutes away) or the other WalMart by my house (twelve minutes away) had them in stock. The girl who was helping me couldn't find the item number so she told me to go to Customer Service and ask them to call over to the other locations. I did so but not before Garrett had a near death--or at least near major injury--experience.*

Me: Hi, you are out of the hard plastic kiddie pools with the slide and the person who was helping me told me to ask you to call the one at Jordan Landing to see if they have them in stock.

Customer Service Girl: I can't do that unless you have the item number.

Me: She couldn't find it.

Customer Service Girl: Then I can't help you. I'm sorry.

Me: You can't call them and ask?

Customer Service Girl: No. I'm sorry.

Me: So I have to drive over there to check and see if they have them?

Customer Service Girl: Yes. Sorry.

This is the point that I turn and walk away completely floored and knowing full well that if I can pick up the phone and call them, she can pick up the phone and call them. In the car I called my husband and had him look up the numbers for the other locations. I stopped at Target to see if they had them. Nope. They had decided not to carry the hard pools this season. I stopped at the house and got bungee cords. This is very important and will play an exciting role as the drama unfolds. I was on hold with the WalMart at Jordan Landing for over ten minutes before the guy helping me came back on the line and said, "We have one in stock. It does have a big hole in it though." At this point there is a long pause as he, apparently, waits to see if I still want it. What I said aloud was, "Um. Well okay. I, uh, don't want it then." What I thought was I don't want it for its decorative value you pinhead. I want it for my kid to swim in. I'm pretty sure a big hole kind of defeats the purpose. I mean, I don't know, I only swam competitively for ten years of my life so I'm not really the expert on the whole concept of a pool but I have a sneaking suspicion it needs to have the capacity to hold water.

So I turned my car in the direction of the other WalMart and called them. Again with the on hold thing. Oh and also a guy tried to cut me off and, when he wasn't successful, he laid on his horn and flapped his hands in my direction. There may have been a middle finger. I'm not sure. I know that my blood was already on boil mode and it was just about all I could do to keep my own fingers in check. But then, in the Pastor's Wife Handbook, rule number one is Thou Shalt Not Flip People Off. So I didn't. Finally I got a hold of the other WalMart and they had them in pink, blue, and yellow. Trouble was I wasn't sure where this WalMart is. I called Troy and had him Mapquest it. Mapquest wouldn't work. So I drove to the one I thought it might be. It wasn't. They did, however, have two blue kiddie pools with a slide in stock. They were outside in the garden section covered in bird poop, dirt and feathers but they had them. Here is where the real fun begins.

I kid you not, this pool is about five feet across and, given the fact that it's mostly a circle (the slide makes its dimensions weird) it is pretty darn big. And I had a cart. And a kid. I should have left it there and gone back with Troy but I was so over trying to find my son this stupid pool that it was going home with me if it was the last thing I ever did. By the time I got out to the parking lot Garrett was crying because I had put the pool on top of him in the cart (he was sitting in the back part and it was over him like a fort) and it, apparently, scared the bejeepers out of him. Thankfully a very nice woman offered to watch the pool while I found the car (it was lost) and put Garrett in it. I drove the car back to the pool and began the task of bungee cording it to the roof. It must have been quite laughable, me on the back of the car, trying my best to look like I knew what I was doing. I finally got it affixed to my roof and I started driving through the parking lot. I rolled down my window, reached my hand out and pulled on the side of the pool. It seemed alright. I started driving faster. I heard thumping. I reached my arm out and I could no longer feel the pool. Uh oh.

I had put the pool bottom side up. Wind was passing underneath. What we had here was a sort of kiddie pool airplane, hovering just above the car. Luckily the bungee cords were keeping said aircraft from taking off on its own flight pattern. I pulled over and grabbed a hold of it with my left hand. Thanks to those ten years of competitive swimming and two years of toting around a child, my biceps are in working order. I held it firm the rest of the way home, if I went over 25 mph the pool caught air and ripped out of my hand. If I stayed below 25 I felt relatively sure that it wouldn't blow off the roof causing a major wreck. I prayed. A lot.

After Garrett went down for a nap I spent about an hour building it (it has a railing next to the slide) and cleaning it out. Then I filled it with water and it was ready for Garrett. Beck has this basic working knowledge of what belongs to Garrett and he usually doesn't bug Garrett's stuff. (There was that one time with the crocodile but generally speaking he's pretty decent.) He looked it over and then plopped down next to it. However, Holly, the Labrador retriever we are dogsitting for a few days, did not quite understand the order of things and she took to the pool like a moth to a flame. So, within moments the pool was swimming with dog hair and dirt. I didn't have the heart to tell her to get out, she was just too darn adorable.

Later, Garrett got to get in his new pool--dirty as it was. I don't think he minded the dog hair. You can decide for yourselves.
I mean, I think he looks pretty happy. Ignore the cloudy dog water.


*As I was surveying bathing suits with built in life jackets, I turned my back on my son who was in the back of the cart. I know, I know, shame on me for putting him there. As I turned back to ask him a question I saw him reaching for a toy on the other side of the aisle. He had already pitched completely over the side and was plummeting head first for the concrete floor. I dove into the side of the cart and grabbed the heel of his right foot, catching him just before he slammed into the ground. He started sobbing and I literally held him so tight and kind of scolded him and told him how much it scared me.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Freezing Summer

Summer is so short. Especially with year round school. And we're lucky because we stayed on the same track so we get a longer, six week summer, instead of the shorter three week ones. I already find myself dreading that it's all going to start again in less than four weeks.

I want more long days of warmth.

More wiggling my feet in the sand.

More popsicles.

More waves and salty hugs and football tossing in the yard.

More tank tops and flip flops.

More chlorine and carefree giggles.

One more month isn't enough.

I want to say yes more.

Yes, you can have a sleepover.

Yes, you can turn on the sprinklers.

Yes, to that slurpee.

Yes, to that hike, that adventure, that dirty puppy.

I still get to watch my boys surf, listen to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, see that great expanse of ocean. I still get to hear their laughter as they draw all the marrow out of the bones of summer. And yet, I feel the creeping of the coming seasons. The grind. The months that pile on top of one another, over and over, until these boys are grown and gone.

Linger summer, for just a moment longer this year.

Let them halt their height for a split second, that I may freeze them in time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Share Us

This week, at Adoption Center of Hope, we're the featured hopeful family. That means we pop up first on the list of hopeful families.

Click here and you'll see what I mean. After this week, we'll still pop up, just not first.

There are several new matches at ACOH and, you guys, I can't tell you how much it makes my heart swell to see these families being matched. I pray for all these couples. When a match is made, I do not feel jealousy that it wasn't us. I feel SO VERY HAPPY that God is putting families together.

Here's the thing though, when it comes to our family, we believe that there is a mama out there who is looking for us for her little girl. Garrett desperately wanted a sister by the time he turned nine. God has other plans and we believe that His plans are always better than what we can dream up. Still, in honor of Garrett's birthday, he would love it if you would share us with the world so that we can find his sister. Can you share and ask your friends to share and their friends and on and on? We're waiting. We're ready. Adoption Center of Hope works with birth moms from all walks of life, all situations, across the entire country.

Can you link to this post? Can you share this link http://www.adoptionanswer.com/troy-lori/  with your friends? You never know if yours might be the share that changes our lives forever. Please put it in your blogs, on your Facebook pages, wherever you can. You might not be looking to place your child. Maybe you don't know anyone who is. But maybe one of your friends has a friend who has a sister who is considering adoption. If you share our story, you could be THE person who makes our adoption match possible.

Please, please share us.



Monday, July 20, 2015

Interview With a Nine-Year-Old

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? My favorite TV show has to be Dual Survival.
2. What did you have for breakfast? I had an egg and a prune and an apple and milk.
3. What is your middle name? John.
4. Favorite Food? Snow crab.
5. What food do you dislike? Avocado.
6. What is your favorite color? Brown and black.
7. Favorite lunch? Snow crab. (I think he likes snow crab.)
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go to Israel.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Uh...Israel.
10. Favorite sport? Wrestling and swimming.
11. When is your birthday? July 20, 2006.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Both.
13. Pets? Two. I have a puppy that's really mouthy. (She's nine weeks old. She likes to use her mouth to play.) I have a cat who is really shy.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I have a new puppy.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? I don't know. (I said, if you had to pick something.) I want to be in the coast guard. But first I want to be a little pizza guy.
16. What is your favorite candy? Cotton candy.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Israel
18. What is your favorite book? Little House on the Prairie and Taran Wanderer.
19. What are you most proud of? That I ran a mile in 7.22.
20. What is your favorite movie? The Hobbit.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken. That's a simple question. (Why is it simple?) Because God made the animals and the animals make more animals.

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? Sword.
2. What is your least favorite word? Can I say this word? Sure. I don't even know what it is but it's the F word. Wait, I think I know what it is. Okay, what? Funky. (Ha. HAHAHAHA!)
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Snow crab. (Oh. Boy.)
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Blood. (Same answer as last year.)
5. What sound or noise do you love? The crack of snow crab. (Oh. My. Goodness.)
6. What sound or noise do you hate? When Styrofoam is rubbing against something.(Same answer, three years running.)
7. What is your favorite curse word? I can't answer that. Yeah you can. Sucks.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A pastor.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Be a tank driver. It's too deadly.
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)? Hello, Garrett.

Letter to a Nine Year Old

Dear Garrett,

I remember it like it happened yesterday. You were there and I was there and I'd waited so long for you that all of it seemed like a dream I'd wake up from. I was afraid to sleep, for fear that the bassinet by my side would vanish into the night. But it didn't. You kept on existing. Days turned to weeks and months and years and now we find ourselves nine years in.

Halfway.

I let that one word pass so quickly through my mind because I cannot think on it. You're halfway to all grown up. This breaks me in ways you may never fully understand and, if you do, it won't be until your own children are mostly grown. The years seem faster now, kamikaze and out of control with the way they topple into one another. Long gone are the lazy and never ending days of toddlerhood which were broken, if I was lucky, by a mid day nap. Now it's all sports and school and scouts and homework.

You are so much more than I ever could have dreamed. Ephesians 3:20 says that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Son, you are living proof of the awesome power God has to surpass our wildest dreams. I couldn't have dreamed up this wonderful YOU if I'd had a million years and all the parchment in the world.

You are so much better than me in every way that matters.

You are brave. You are tender. You are uninhibited. Your smile lights up a room. You are gentle. You are enthusiastic. You are friendly. You are spiritually sensitive. You are flexible. You are respectful. You are optimistic.

This year has pretty well sucked for our family. That isn't to say that we have not been blessed in incredible ways. We serve the God of our good days and our bad ones. He never changes and He always loves us. But, the year has been hard. Still, yesterday, you informed everyone within earshot at church that this has been the best year of your life. It was as if the hard stuff disappeared and what was left was tree climbing and campfire having and firework watching.

But the hard things didn't disappear. They all happened and I watched you change. Before my very eyes, you transformed. You watched your dad and I crying and you decided to grow up. It broke my heart and made it swell with pride all at the same exact moment. As your mama, I don't want you to have to grow up. I don't want you to see or feel or experience any of the tough stuff. But when I watch you weather the storm, I see a glimpse of the man you're becoming and I feel, somehow, confident in the person I'm releasing to the world.

You took care of me. While you still needed me for food and shelter and tangible things, you put your arms around me and gave me permission to lose myself. I didn't feel like I had to be strong in front of you and that, son, was the best gift your little eight-year-old self could have given me.

I think, in some ways, you realized how crazy fierce I love you. If I could love your sister that much without ever even having set eyes on her, how much of my heart must be wrapped around every inch of your body? I hope, something immense, that one day another mama picks us because I am convinced that you will be the best big brother that ever there was. I'm longing to see a day where you hold your sister in your arms.

I'm sorry you couldn't hold Kate. I know you desperately wish you'd been able to. There are choices we make, judgement calls and parenting decisions, and I hope that one day you can understand why we couldn't let you. I hope that one day you can process life enough to know that, while ultimately cathartic and good, it was an experience that wrecked me. I couldn't let that happen to you. It's my job to try to keep you unbroken. I'm sorry that you don't have another sister yet. I know how desperately you were hoping to by the time you turned nine. God has other plans. And, like I mentioned before, they are so much better than anything we can imagine.

You are light and life and volume and energy. You're also very NINE and very EYE ROLLY and very MY-PARENTS-ARE-THE-DUMBEST-PEOPLE-ON-THE-PLANET. I do not so much love those things but I understand that it comes with the territory. I do love that you still want me to climb up into your bed to snuggle with you at night. Every night. And I'm well aware that those moments are numbered. I love that you'll still have insane dance parties with me. I love your cackle as we watch Duck Dynasty or Amazing Race or American Ninja Warrior together. I love the freckles that dot your nose and the fact that you were born a freer spirit than the rest of us put together.

I'm mostly convinced that you'll grow all the way up, buy a one-way ticket to Hawaii and live in a van down by the ocean. The old me would have experienced heart palpitations just writing that sentence but the me who has parented you all these nine years has been kneaded and stretched and she understands that you are different from most all the other boys. The same in that you love bodily functions and poop jokes as much as the next kid. But different. Waiting, perhaps, for something the rest of us don't even know is coming.

I don't know what it is. I can't put my finger on it. But it's there, beneath the surface of who you are. Something special. Something different. Something that makes me wonder how I got so lucky. Of all the boys in all the world, God chose me for you.

Thank you for listening to teachers and coaches and other adults. Thank you for understanding that the world likes well-behaved young men much more than it likes hooligans. It is my heartfelt prayer that you hang on to that, that testosterone doesn't flood over your brain and cause a great deal of damage, that your annual letter in five years doesn't start with, "So, you're away at military school."

I sure do love almost everything about you. I love that you run fast and surf and love the outdoors and love your family and play soccer and baseball. I love the way your eyes sparkle when you smile. I also know that it's only by the grace of God that we've managed to make it this far together--and fairly unscathed. So I'll keep praying for every part of your life and you keep trying not to go to juvie, deal?

I love you,
Mom

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Platform Jumping and Rule Breaking

Confession: Sometimes, I'm a rule breaker.

Case in point. Our local pool has the rule that you must shower before you go swimming. NO ONE does it. In fact, they have an outside entrance that doesn't even have this rule posted. It's never enforced. Never even mentioned by the lifeguards or any staff members.

The pool also has the posted rule that you have to be ten to jump off the platforms, eight to jump off the higher spring board and capable of swimming to jump off the regular board. Matthew, for example, has been jumping off the smallest diving board since he was three years old. Our pool also has the rule that you must have a parent within arms length if you're under the age of six. This means that my youngest son had to have me within arms length for THREE ENTIRE YEARS AFTER HE WAS CAPABLE OF JUMPING OFF THE DIVING BOARD AND SWIMMING TO THE SIDE OF THE POOL.

I find it infuriating. I've seen adults that are worse swimmers than my nearly nine-year-old and my six-year-old. I stand by my opinion that the kids should have to pass a swim test and, once that's passed, they should be able to swim and jump off the boards freely. But no one asks me.

So I'm a rule breaker.

Let me explain though. I do not let my children lie. If they're asked their age, they must tell the truth and live with any consequences. They also have to look the part. At least, somewhat. Matthew, for example, isn't going to try to jump off any platforms anytime soon because he definitely couldn't pass for a ten-year-old.

Last year, just before my oldest son turned eight, I told him to jump off the spring board. You have to be eight. He refused to try it until his birthday when he walked right off the end of the thing like it was nobody's business. This year, he wanted to try the platform. He'll be nine on Monday. He's a full year away from being "platform eligible." 

But he's known how to swim since he was three. He goes to surf camp every summer. He jumped off a cliff in Hawaii when he was five! He's totally capable. So I told him to go for it. The pastor's wife in me DOES NOT CONDONE THIS BLATANT DISREGARD FOR THE RULES. The mom in me told him to look confident and to, well, attempt to create some sort of swagger in which he might, possibly, pass for a ten-year-old. In June, he jumped off the five meter platform. He just walked up and hopped right off. No questions asked.

He did it several times until, finally, one lifeguard blew her whistle and yelled, "How old are you, Bud?" He turned around and dejectedly walked back down the stairs.

On Tuesday, I took the boys to the pool. "I want to jump off the platform," Garrett told me. "And I'm fine with that," I said. Because I'm completely confident in his ability to do so and completely confident in my ability to rescue him if something goes wrong. "But you can't lie if they ask you how old you are." He walked toward the platforms and began the climb up. I yelled his name. He turned to look at me and I motioned for him to go higher.

The 10 meter, "white" platform is only open for two hours a day. It was closed, but he nodded at me and continued past the "red" five meter platform and on to the "blue" 7.5 meter one. He confidently stepped to the edge and waited. The lifeguard raised her flag and he stepped off.

video

I am mostly convinced that this child is living in the wrong state. He needs to be in Hawaii where he can surf and cliff jump all day long. He's a free spirit. Way freer that the rest of us. He is unafraid. Confident. Brave. Amazing. He's my hero.

He waited until the white platform opened and bravely walked toward the staircase. But, alas, they'd placed a lifeguard on the stairs to ask each person how old s/he was. He hung his head and walked back to me, tears stinging his eyes. 

"IT ISN'T FAIR!" he wailed.

"It IS fair," I explained. "It's the rule. They're just enforcing it." Tears rushed down his eight-year-old-not-big-enough-for-the-platforms-yet face.

"But I can do it and I WANT to!" he sobbed. Then suddenly, he stopped. "Will you do it?"

"No."

"But if you do it it'll make up for the fact that I can't," he said.

"No."

"Are you a chicken?" he asked.

"Yes. Yes, I am a chicken," I said confidently. (A confident chicken, I am.)

Matthew joined in the conversation. "If you don't do it we're going to call you a chicken forever."

"Then a chicken I will be forevermore," I smiled. "Now, let's go play in the pool."

I've jumped off enough platforms in my life to know that it looks moderately high from the ground and it looks like an eternity fall from the top. I'm too old for 10 meter jumps (or, probably even, three meter ones). But my eight-year-old, it would seem, is too young. Even though he's braver than most.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cinderella

If you're one of the friends mentioned below, please don't think that this post is in any way written out of any offense whatsoever. IT IS NOT. It just got me thinking about what I want my boys to know about life and fairy tales.

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Awhile back, a few of my friends were taking their daughters to see Cinderella. They invited me to go along with them. I couldn't because our afternoon was busy but I remember noticing that they didn't mention my boys. I thought one of two things.

1. It was an outing just for girls. No boys allowed.
2. For whatever reason, they thought my boys wouldn't want to go.

It hardly mattered because I couldn't go anyway and, if I could have gone, I'm sure I could have brought my boys. It's a free theater, after all. Well, I mean, it isn't free. But certain freedoms afforded to me by this country would, in fact, allow me to take them there. Not that I think my friends would have minded in the least.

Last week, I took my boys to see it at the dollar theater which, on Wednesdays, is the fifty cent theater (and you cannot beat that). They both loved the movie.

Today, I was talking about the fact that I'd taken my boys to see it and my friend, who only has girls, seemed genuinely surprised that my boys would want to see such a film.

I suppose I understand where the question comes from. Fairy tales and Disney movies almost always focus on--and title their works after--the heroine. The attention is given to the ballgown, the tiara, the glass slipper. The men are the supporting characters, underdeveloped and secondary to the feminine stars. He often doesn't even have a name. Prince Charming is the moniker given to Snow White's prince, Cinderella's guy and Sleeping Beauty's beau. Either that dude was a polygamist or some of these authors need to get more creative with their names. Where will my boys find themselves in these story lines? What will they learn?

Obviously, I think the stories could be a little more inclusive of men, develop the male characters better, give them names. But aside from these perceived failings, why do we live in a culture in which Cinderella is only for girls? Cinderella has been told and retold countless times by Basile, Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, folklorists, and playwrights (most of them men). It is represented in opera, ballet and theatre.

My boys loved Cinderella because they're children. The idea of a fairy godmother and magic and pumpkins turning into carriages fascinated them. A world in which they can transform their rags to riches is a world their imaginative little minds fully support. Matthew leaned over to me and excitedly asked, just before the clock began to chime, "Does the spell have to break?" As though his every happiness hinged on its lasting forever.

I want my boys to like movies that focus on strong female heroines just like I'd want my daughters (if I had them) to like films about football and dinosaurs. (Or dinosaurs playing football. I'm looking at you, Spielberg. There could be a real market there.) But more than that, I think that, in this film, my boys can find qualities to emulate.

This new version sticks with the general story line we're familiar with in the United States but adds a few different plot elements. ("Prince Charming's" name is Kit!) At it's core, Cinderella is the story of a girl who is kind and courageous though she suffers through dark abuses. It's the story of royalty falling in love with her for who she is and not what she can do for him. It's the story of a kindhearted monarch who will stop at nothing to find his one, true love. It's about the girl being found in a miserable situation by a stand up guy. He wants her...just the way she is. He wants to care for her and protect her but not because she needs him to, because he loves her the right way.

I want both of my boys to meet their Cinderella. (Although I hope, for her sake, that she isn't being horribly mistreated.) I want them to stop at nothing to find her. I want them to love her for her wit, her kindness, her tenderness, her tenacity, and her rags. I want them to love her when the carriage turns back into a pumpkin. I want them to earn her love, her respect, her hand.

We live in a world that says that boys shouldn't like fairy tales, that they should "age out" of Disney movies by the time they're four or five, that they should like movies about war and death and burping. My kids plenty like those types of movies too, don't get me wrong. But I'm going to ride the Cinderella train for as long as I can. Because in well developed heroines, my boys are often exposed to quality women. The kind I hope they find.

We need to stop thinking about Cinderella as a story for girls. The Brothers Grimm certainly didn't. There are enough knives, blood and pecked out eyes in that version to pacify even the manliest of men--and the strong, non-conformist women they've managed to woo.