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.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Just One Dollar Campaign

I am passionate about adoption.

I am an adoptive parent.

But I want to be more than that. I want to be an advocate. I want to see other people realize their dream of adoption. I want to see the church stepping up to provide homes for babies and children. Not all are called to bring children into their homes, but all are called to care for orphans.

What does orphan care look like today? I believe it looks like helping any child in need of a home. To work on their behalf. To give on their behalf. To love on their behalf.

Last year, I began to feel strongly about the fact that I needed to be more proactive in helping others adopt. Unfortunately, my funds are limited and I cannot just write someone a check for $30,000. I researched creating an adoption grant named after Kate so that her short little life could continue impacting others. Turns out, there is A LOT of financial backing involved and one does not simply create a grant.

But I deeply desire to help others bring children into their homes.

And, over these past few months, I have been made aware of a story in the making...

My friend, Bree, grew up in the town I came from and went to my church--until her family moved across the country when she was a teenager. Her and her husband have a beautiful daughter and are hoping to add to their family through adoption. You can see their page here: Bryan & Bree. I feel led to do whatever I can to help them. Personally, this means making regular donations to their adoption fund at Adopt Together. But I want to do more.

Here's where you can come in. And I so hope and pray that you will. When we began raising money to adopt Kate, we started the Just One Dollar Campaign. We asked our friends and family to send us just one dollar, share our story and pray. Some people sent more. In no time, a modern day miracle had taken place and we had raised nearly $18,000. We lost Kate but the money raised helped us bring home her brother.

If our adoption journey has encouraged you, challenged you, or brought you joy, I would love if you would consider donating a dollar or $2.50 or $20 or $100 or $500 to my friend's adoption fund. By donating through Adopt Together, your contributions are tax deductible. I believe, like our miracle story with Kate and Will, that enough people giving one dollar can make a huge difference.

I have always said that if God calls you to adopt, He will provide.

If your life has been touched by adoption, if you have adopted and been the recipient of the generosity of others, if our story has meant anything to you, PLEASE give. Truly, JUST ONE DOLLAR makes a big difference.

When you donate on Bryan and Bree's adoption page, you have the option to leave a comment. I cannot fund a grant in Kate's name. However, if you choose to give as a result of what Kate's story has meant to you, I would love it if you wrote Bryan and Bree a note of encouragement or prayer and, if you feel so led, to write that you are making the donation in memory of Kate Bassham. Because it was Kate who gave me the idea to start the Just One Dollar Campaign in the first place.

We can fund this adoption. Together. Please, please join me.

Please pray and share this post. Thank you, in advance, for your incredible generosity.

You can also click on the button in the top right corner of this page to be taken directly to Bryan and Bree's page.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Movin' and Shakin'

Matthew was this amazing little mover and shaker. He lifted his head off my shoulder, IN THE HOSPITAL ROOM, WHEN HE WAS TWO HOURS OLD, and just held it steady, staring at me like, "Whoa, you're white." He walked just shy of ten months and crawled at six. He was/is just a freakishly coordinated human being. This post isn't about him.

Garrett was content to do his own thing. He had no siblings to chase. I was a first time mom and all my friend's babies were doing things way faster than him and I was afraid he'd never figure out how to crawl. He did, at eight and a half months old, in a hotel room in northern California. Then I worried he'd never walk. He did. At twelve and a half months. Not in a hotel room.

Will reminds me SO much of Garrett. They have a very similar "I'm About to Cry Because My Feelings Are Hurt" face. And they seem to be hitting milestones at roughly the same time.

Will has been desperately trying to crawl for a couple of weeks now. He tried the site and bounce which was somewhat effective if not overly practical. The Sit and Bounce evolved into him getting on his hands and knees with his feet tucked up underneath him. He tried, valiantly, to crawl this way, but his feet kept getting in the way. He'd end up sprawled on the floor, mad that he couldn't seem to use the force to make whatever object he was trying to reach come to him instead.

I worked yesterday and Troy told me that Will was SO close. I have to work tomorrow and the next day. The fact that Will decided he'd learn how to Scoot-Crawl today was just great. Albeit hilarious. He kinda walks with one foot while dragging the other foot behind him.

I have spent forever trying to upload the video and Blogger is JUST HAVING NONE OF IT. So I'm sorry. Suffice it to say, he's now capable of reaching whatever he'd like. Which, today, happened to be a Pokemon card that he sucked on until it was effectively ruined. Also, he may or may not have consumed a portion of it.

Roughage. Right?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Commander Lofgreen

The caller ID simply said Salt Lake City. I thought, maybe, it was someone from church who needed information about tonight's Chili Cook Off and Game Night, so I took the call.

Me: Hello?
Her: Troy Bassham, please.
Me: He's not available.
Her: I need to speak to him immediately. This is Commander Pam Lofgreen with the Salt Lake Sheriff's Department.
Me: (Assuming someone was in jail and wanted to see a pastor. It happens.) What is this concerning?
Her: When do you think you'll be able to reach him?
Me: Within a few hours. (He was home but I didn't want to tell her that.)
Her: Ma'am, this cannot wait that long. Does he have a cell phone you could reach him on?
Me: What is this concerning?
Her: There is a pressing matter that needs his immediate attention.
Me: What is going on?

At this point, I really was starting to get worried that something horrible had happened to someone in our church and so my adrenaline started pumping.

Her: I cannot tell you. I need to speak with Troy.
Me: I need to know what is going on.
Her: Are you his spouse?
Me: Yes. I am.
Her: Ma'am, your husband needs to come down here. He failed to appear in court and there is a warrant for his arrest.
Me: What? Failed to appear in court for what?
Her: For jury duty.

It's important for you to know that the adrenaline--from thinking something awful happened to someone in our church--was still flowing all willy-nilly through my body so I was even more confused when she dropped that last bit.

Me: MY HUSBAND LOVES JURY DUTY! He would never not appear.
Her: Is this the first time you're hearing about this?
Me: Yes!
Her: Okay, ma'am, he just needs to come down and sign some paperwork. I just need to speak with him immediately. You need to understand how serious this is. There is an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
Me: Ok.
Her: He needs to call me back right away.
Me: Ok. What is the address?

And then she supplied me with the correct address of the Salt Lake City Sheriff's Office. I looked it up and there is a Commander Lofgreen. But the whole thing seemed ridiculous and so we called the number and spoke to an officer.

Officer: It's probably a scam. We're closed today. You can call back tomorrow.

We didn't get his name though so we called back--just in case. A different officer answer the phone and Troy only started to explain the situation.

Different Officer: Yeah, that's a scam. Please tell me you didn't give them any money.

No. No we did not. THEN I looked up jury duty scam online and oh boy. Apparently she was hoping I would eventually hand out his social security number so she could steal his identity.

I thought it would be fun to call back. She didn't answer. It just went straight to "Commander Lofgreen's" voice mail. I tried again later and she DID answer. "Who am I speaking to," I asked. And then she did not respond.

So, thank you, crazy woman posing as Commander Lofgreen for making me think something awful happened to someone I care about OR that my husband was needed to pray with a delinquent or something. You certainly made it a fun afternoon. And, man, you're acting was good. You had me believing I was talking to a scary cop. The theatre major in me commends you.

Friday, January 20, 2017


We try to be very (age appropriate) proactive in talking with our children about slavery, racism, and civil rights. Yesterday, Matthew had a substitute teacher. He came home and told us that she talked with them about MLKJ and that she used the N-word.

"Wait. What now?"

He stuttered and stammered and said that she said that people used to use that word.

"Did she ACTUALLY say the word or did she say 'the N word'?" I asked.

"Oh she said it!" Matthew replied.

Guys, I was just about to lose my EVER LOVING MIND. The only reason I didn't was because Troy was there, imploring me to figure things out BEFORE I lost my religion.

"Maybe it was...okay? Maybe...we need to figure out the context," he said. Because I'm married to a man who really wants to give people the benefit of the doubt.

"I AM SORRY," I clenched my jaw, "but a teacher--a SUBSTITUTE teacher--should NEVER actually say that word. Especially in a room that has TWO BLACK STUDENTS!" I turned to Matthew. "I need you to tell me exactly what she said."

"Well. She was talking about that new movie with the ladies who work for NASA and, Mom, she didn't even say it RIGHT! She said, 'NigRO' with an O on the end. I mean she said it ALL wrong!"

"Wait...did she say, NEGRO?"


Now, I don't really know the context in which she said it but it sounds like she was talking about something in Hidden Figures and that it was maybe okay. This prompted our family to have another discussion about the N word and a talk about the evolution of the words Negro, Colored, Black, and African-American.

Matthew always identifies himself as Brown and it's only been recently that we've explained that while he is certainly brown, the world refers to him as a black man. In the course of this discussion of words, I informed Matthew that the only acceptable words to describe him now are Black and African-American.

His eyes grew huge. "Wait! I'M AN African-American???"

"Yes..." I replied.

"Well, okay then."