Saturday, August 12, 2017

The N-Word

I didn't grow up with a great deal of racial diversity. Home was a small town in southern California, northeast of the city of San Diego by about 45 minutes. Predominantly Caucasian, we had a fairly substantial Latino population but, beyond that, there wasn't much representation of minorities.

I don't remember much at all about my early education on slavery, segregation, and racism. I'm sure I learned my fair share in a classroom, surrounded by all my white peers, hearing about the Civil War and Martin Luther King Jr. Then, just as now, we tapped briefly, told the white students a few highlights of black history and moved on. My parents must have educated me further because I can remember, for forever, knowing that there is a VERY bad word that we NEVER, EVER say. I feel pretty confident in guessing that there wasn't a lesson in my mostly white school about not saying the n-word.

I can never remember saying it. Not to someone, not in the privacy of my own bedroom just for the sake of saying it, not ever. As a child, that word was, to me, the most angry and evil thing imaginable. Somehow, I had to have been taught. I had to have had, instilled in me, the idea that the n-word carried a weight, unforgivable and inexcusable. I struggled through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird--loving them with an affection that continues to this day, but wrestling with how we might adequately remember a piece of our American history without THAT piece.

I've wondered if my intense aversion to this six letter word was somehow born of a subconscious, God-given foresight that, one day, I would be the white woman trying to grow the black boy to manhood.

I have said the n-word. I've said it as calmly and as matter-of-factly as I can manage. I have said it because I have instructed my son. I have told him that he will hear it, that people will say it to him and about him, that it will appear in literature and history. We have talked about its use in pop culture and within the African-American community. It was not easy for me to say because in such a small word there is so much history and heartache, so much degradation of an entire people group--a group in which my son belongs. It is pointedly inflammatory and I highly doubt that it will ever be free of its connotation of intimidation and oppression.

"The word n-----, you see, sums up for us who are colored all the bitter years of insult and struggle in America." -Langston Hughes The Big Sea

An online dictionary begins with a usage warning and lists the word as extremely disparaging. It's warning says this, "The term...is now probably the most offensive word in English. Its degree of offensiveness has increased markedly in recent years, although it has been used in a derogatory manner since at least the Revolutionary War...Extremely Disparaging and Offensive represent meanings that are deeply insulting and are used when the speaker deliberately wishes to cause great offense. It is so profoundly offensive that a euphemism has developed for those occasions when the word itself must be discussed, as in court or in a newspaper editorial: 'the n-word.'"

Saying it--in painful lessons to my son--did not prepare me for the look on his face when it was used last night. I might have dared to hope that he would not be only 8 years old. I might have hoped that it would not come from an older, white boy.

"Mom, I have to tell you something," I've never thought I'd seen the color drained from the face of my perfect, brown boy. Something was wrong. His whisper, when I went to him, was barely audible. "A boy said the n-word."

Every nerve, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes began to buzz. I calmly asked him to point me to the one who said it. He was, maybe, 12 or, perhaps, 13. Older than Garrett. Old enough to know. I found myself feeling thankful that it hadn't been a, "Hey you, n-----!" or "Get outta here, n-----!" Instead, the boy had asked my son if he knew what it meant.

I have no idea what his plan was or what he hoped to gain or make Matthew lose in the exchange but, after Matthew mumbled, "yes," the boy said, "It means you're black." My son, who is usually almost deathly afraid of new people and circumstances, whose default when threatened is always flight and never fight, apparently looked this bigger white boy in the eye and said squarely, "Stop." And then he came to find me.

Perhaps the boy didn't assume that the white lady coming to talk to him was related to the brown boy he'd decided to instruct in the ways of oppressive language with more than two centuries of historical baggage. I instructed him more perfectly. Calmly, but with fire in my eyes. We. Don't. Say. That. Word.

We, little white boy. You and me. We are not guilty of past atrocities but we are responsible for our actions and our words. We can remind the black man, with one six letter word, that there was a very long time in our history when he was forced to be less. When that boy said that word, when he told Matthew that it means he is black, what he really meant was that there was somehow a clear distinction between him, the scooter riding punk kid, and my son. And that the distinction "clearly" placed the white boy on top of their social order.

Let me be clear. I am not calling the boy a racist. (Nor am I calling RACIST on everyone who has ever said that word.) "Racist" is not a word to be thrown around lightly or tagged on to someone without serious consideration. He is a kid. I truly do not believe that he hates Matthew and wanted him to suffer. I do think he is operating from a place of severe ignorance. Please, if you are in a position of influence in the life of a child, teach him that there's a word that carries a punch he doesn't want to throw.

I firmly believe that it is only through conversation and awareness, forgiveness and love, that we can even begin to bridge the racial tension in our country. I will always be the white mother of a black son. And I will always do whatever it takes to see that he is given every opportunity to rise.

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave
I rise
I rise
I rise.
-Maya Angelou

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Spaghetti Goo Debacle of 2017

I think I was a teenager when my mother made the now infamous orange chicken. I have deduced my age simply because, before about the age of 13, I detested Chinese food and would have automatically hated that we were having it for dinner. Sometime, around late middle school, I swiped a bite of her Panda Express in the food court at Parkway Plaza and the rest is a history centering on a pretty intense love affair with take out Chinese.

My mom, excited to make something in her own kitchen that resembled the culinary expertise of Panda's signature dish, served up orange chicken. Except, I feel like we all should have known, when the recipe called for actual orange juice, that this was going to be an epic fail. And, truly, if I remember correctly, it tasted like I'd taken a plain chicken breast and submerged it for half an hour in a glass of O.J.

It was not good. I can't remember what we ended up eating that night but it wasn't the Orange Juice Chicken my mom had made. It was a night that will live in infamy. My mom is a good cook. In all my years of eating her meals almost exclusively, I can remember things that were not my particular favorite but through no fault of her own. I just don't really like meatloaf. The orange juice chicken, I am thoroughly convinced, was the fault of the recipe, not the chef.

It's been nearly 14 years of married life and in that time, I have made dishes that I wouldn't make again. Things that, say, weren't our very favorite. But normally, even if there's a person who doesn't like something, there's a Matthew around who will gobble it up with starvation level enthusiasm. Give it to Matthew, he'll eat anything. It's finally happened. I've had my Orange Chicken Experience.

I unknowingly signed my life over to football for the next three months. (Stay with me here.) This is particularly curious because I also signed my life over to the Jordan School District, Beverley Taylor Sorensen Arts Learning Program, and Utah's Alternate Route to Licensure. I am not sure how to divide my life so that everyone gets the appropriate parts but one thing has become abundantly clear. Something has to give. And that something is dinner.

I can't actually not make dinner but I thought that I might be able to simplify things a bit moving into this fall. I already love my crock pot like she's a full fledged family member but I've decided that it's time to up her status to full time cook. I'm planning--if I can get my act together--to freeze a couple dozen meals and throw them into my crock pot (who is rapidly reaching a status whereby she will need a name) for our particularly busy days. My boys have been practicing football almost every day for two weeks now and not getting home until 7:45 or 8:00. I decided that today would be a great day to use my crock pot and have dinner waiting for them when they got home.

I wondered if you could cook spaghetti in a crock pot. It turns out that you can (according to the Internet) and that you cannot (according to my family). I found a recipe that was basically spaghetti ingredients plus water. How could you go wrong with that?

I placed the spaghetti noodles in the bottom of the pot. I drizzled some olive oil over the top (to keep them from sticking to each other, supposedly). Next went the sauce followed by the water and then the meatballs. The recipe said to cook the dish on low for five hours but my crock pot is a tricksy little minx and she is apt to scorch anything I give her enough access to. I knew my crock pot spaghetti wouldn't need five hours. I planned to cook it for about three, turn it off, and warm it up just before the boys got home.

I checked it once. It looked like hard noodles floating in tomato juice. I became a skeptic of this spaghetti's ability to woo me. I replaced the lid and ignored it for awhile. The next time I checked on it, I was excited. The water had soaked up and it looked like delicious sauce and meatballs. I took a spoon to stir it. To my horror, the noodles had turned to what can only be described as goo. They had mushed together. What I was looking at were a few meatballs sitting atop one big blob of starch.

Troy had gotten home about an hour earlier and was working from our home office. I went down and explained that dinner was ready now. More than ready, really. And I'd just go ahead and feed the boys a very early dinner before their practice. I explained that we were eating Italian Goo for dinner. His look was one of...cautious trepidation.

I tossed the bread into the oven to crisp and dished up bowls of fruit because I didn't want those noodles in the pot for another minute and I didn't have time to toss a salad. A few minutes later, I called the family to the table. Because there was bread, my two growing boys wouldn't touch the pasta (if it could still be called pasta in its nearly liquefied state). I took the first bite.

Great Scott! It was horrible. I am not one to say Great Scott but if ever there was a Great Scott level of amazement, it was this. How could something so common as spaghetti taste so horrendously awful. It looked like wallpaper paste and tasted worse. I began to laugh. However, not wanting to sway my children's opinions (Matthew will, quite literally, eat anything including fish eyes), I tried to pass off my mirth for something else entirely.

Troy tried it. If his eyes could speak they would have been leading the spaghetti revolt. I very quickly spelled out (my children can spell but if I do it fast enough, they get confused) that it was inedible. We both began to laugh. Soon, we were shaking so hard that Will, having no idea what was so funny, began to join in. His laughter only elevated the situation and soon, tears were streaming down my face. The stuff was, in a word, revolting. Strangely, our 14 month old was chowing that mush down with wild abandon. It was the first time I'd ever given him a fork and he was enjoying smearing sauce ALL over his face so it's hard to say whether he enjoys eating wallpaper paste or whether he enjoyed the general merriment of the meal.

The boys still hadn't touched it. I gently encouraged them to take a bite and then all but forced them to PUT THE BREAD DOWN AND TAKE A STINKIN' BITE ALREADY! Garrett was the first to do so. The moment the pasta touched his tongue, he allowed his mouth to hang open as if to caution his taste buds against any further engagement. "I don't like the pasta!" he moaned as it sat, like a lump, on his tongue.

For the record, Matthew didn't like it either.

When Garrett finally managed to swallow his initial bite, he told me how much he hated it. Feigning offense, I said, "Well, that's rude. Tomorrow night you can make dinner." To this, Troy replied, "Please?"

As we ate meatballs and bread and fruit, for some reason, which I will never understand, Troy took another small bite of the gelatinous starch. "It's not that bad," he said. "If we were with the Donner party, I'd eat this before I ate the other people." I'm so glad my husband would eat my meal before resorting to cannibalism. He told me he was glad that I hated it too because he wasn't sure how he'd have eaten the whole bowl if I somehow thought it was good.

There was, literally, zero danger of that happening. The night shall go down in history as, probably, the single most hysterical meal I've ever had with my family--and we didn't even eat it.

I blame my crock pot who tried her best but is just too hot for her own good. Much like the poor woman who served up Orange Juice Chicken, I do not blame the chef for the Great Spaghetti Goo Debacle of 2017.

        (After we pilfered for meatballs.)

Friday, August 4, 2017

You Never Know When You'll Need a Blanket

We always keep a small blanket under the seat in our van. Maybe it's because I read a book about a guy who was trapped in his car at the bottom of a ravine for weeks. If that ever happened to me, at least I'd have a blanket. When I was packing up the car to go to Tahoe, I saw that there was an extra blanket under another seat. I almost took it out but decided that I didn't need the space and it could stay. But I pondered that blanket for a solid minute before making a decision.

It's inexplicable, really, why my toddler decided that sleeping was optional on our recent trip. He's been sleeping through the night for more than 10 months so I'm not sure why he woke up--more often than not--in the middle of the night, shouting, "Ah duh!" If we ignored him because, no, son, we are not all done with our sleep at 3:15 am, his pleasant conversation turned to hysterical sobbing.The walls were paper thin. You could clear your throat in the next room, with doors closed, and everyone heard it. My mom and I had full conversations through the shared bathroom wall as we did our hair. So leaving him to "cry it out" wasn't really an option. Unless we wanted two grandparents, two parents, two brothers, and a dog crying it out in their own beds as they endured the shriek of the banshee.

At first, we thought it was because he was in our room with us. Perhaps the curtain we'd hung from the cabin's roof wasn't fooling him as to our whereabouts. So we played musical rooms and moved him into his own space. A couple of times, we gave him a bottle, hoping he'd grow weary as he quietly guzzled his pre-dawn snack. This wasn't really a solution though. He hasn't needed a bottle in the middle of the night in many, many moons. Sometimes he'd snuggle up to us and be just about asleep when, "Bing!" he'd sit straight up and grab a nose or squeal in delight that we were still there.

One particular night, Troy had gone out to the couch with him. After an hour had passed with Will fussing or wailing or full on summoning any nearby coyotes, I went and got him so that Troy could tap out. I'd been lying in bed, not really sleeping anyway.

I tried all my tricks. With Will, I've developed an almost fool proof way to get him to sleep. It works at least 9 times out of 10. On this particular night, as I bounced and rocked and gently swung--simulating an experience that can only be described as hopping on the top of a working washing machine while riding in the back of a school bus--he stared at me with wide eyes, letting out a cry every once in awhile.

"That's it," I thought. I'll take him for a drive. We have never once taken Will for a drive in the middle of the night with the intention of getting him to sleep. Come to think of it, I'm not sure we've ever done that with any of our children. I texted Troy, in case he woke up while I was gone, letting him know that I was out driving. I put my glasses on and grabbed the keys, closing the door behind me.

That's when I realized I didn't have my wallet and that I probably shouldn't drive around the lake at what was now 4:15 in the morning without it. I went to put the key into the cabin doorknob when I realized that I'd grabbed the wrong keys. I had my key ring, which did not possess a way to get me back inside the locked cabin. I stood, tired and confused about what to do next.

I thought about knocking but no one knew I'd gone outside. I assumed I'd scare the crap out of anyone who heard me. In the light of day I can't say that I really care much about scaring the crap out of my husband or my parents but, for some reason, in the middle of the night, this seemed like a mean and potentially dangerous idea. I imagined them jumping a mile--thinking everyone was safe in their beds and being very worried about who was rapping on the door at an inhuman hour. Or, perhaps, they'd hear me, whisper about what intruder was attempting to rattle them in the dark of night, and finally open the door and clobber me with a rolling pin before realizing who I was--their only daughter, his beloved wife.

One thing was for sure. I wasn't standing out in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains before dawn. Those mountains are deadly--ask the Donners. I will, probably, meet my death at the paw of a bear because I am not actually afraid of them and have been known to follow them for photo opportunities. But, I was standing out in the open with a small crying child and I feel like that is infinitely more tempting for a bear than a lady with a camera.

I buckled Will into his seat and decided to forego the wallet. It took nearly 45 minutes of driving before Will fell asleep. His shrieking escalated to war time loud and I was slowly losing my tired mind. I drove around the neighborhood. I drove from just north of Carnelian Bay to Tahoe City and back. Three minutes before I got back to the cabin, he fell asleep.

And because I didn't know that he'd transfer if I tried to move him, and because I was still worried about terrifying the whole house, and because I knew I had those two blankets in the back, I decided to stay in the car. I covered up the now snoring baby. I reclined my seat. I tried to sleep. And I could not.

Sometime, just after 6:00, I managed to drift off. At 7:00 my alarm went off so that we could meet my brother's family for breakfast. Will awoke with my alarm, poked his head around the side of his car seat and grinned the sweetest, happiest smile of delight to discover himself in such a situation. Sleeping out in nature, the way God intended it. Sort of. Except, not really. That's the trouble with that kid and it's going to be the death of me (unless it's the bear). He is the wildest of wild men, getting in to trouble wherever he can find it. And I don't expect him to grow out of that any time soon. But his smile can literally reduce to mush even the strongest of mamas.

I texted my own mama. "Are you up yet?"

"In the bathroom, doing my hair," she responded.

"Can you let me in? I'm on the porch."

Her bewildered look when she pulled that front door open was hilarious. Everyone wanted to know why I didn't knock. It was hard to explain in the light of day. But it was okay. We'd camped out in the van. The baby had slept. And I'd burrowed under the blanket I'd apparently left there for a reason.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Nickels, Pennies, Odds and Ends

I was just organizing our office--the place every bit of clutter, old floppy disk, and hippo pencil sharpener from when I was a child goes to die--in the hopes that I could clear just a wee bit of space to organize myself for the upcoming nightmare I've gotten myself in to.

"Do you want to teach drama?" they asked.

And I eagerly jumped because I love drama.

It's that love that has kept me taking one step at a time during these last few months as more and more and more and more commitment and responsibility have been revealed to me. Deep breaths. It'll all be okay.

I hope.

As I was going through boxes rarely opened, I discovered my old yearbook from the time I was teaching high school drama. I reread some of the hilarious things that my students wrote to me. Apparently, I was very concerned with them not getting tattoos as it would ruin their clean theatrical bodies. Or something. I have no idea really, but several of them promised me that they wouldn't get tattoos. Those students are all well into their adult years but I remember them as these eager theatre kids--just waiting to fly.

I miss them.

I found my faculty picture. I was 25. I look like a baby.

As I uncovered old Bible studies, notes from speaking sessions at conferences, and a coffee table book dedicated to the life and times of the sitcom FRIENDS, a loose square of paper fell out. I glanced at, remembering the desk top calendar I had as a very young teenager. It was full of little heartwarming stories or funny jokes.

Two Nickels and Five Pennies

       In the days when an ice cream sundae cost must less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?"
        "Fifty cents," replied the waitress.
        The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it. "How much is a dish of plain ice cream?" he inquired.
         Some people were now waiting for a table and the waitress was a bit impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she said brusquely.
         The little boy again counted the coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.
         The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table, and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and departed. When the waitress came back, she began wiping down the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies--her tip.

I have held on to this scrap of paper for--I don't know--close to 23 years. I cannot read it without getting choked up. Every. Single. Time. I don't know why. I'm not usually sappy or overly emotional. I don't even know if it's a true story. But I want to be like that little boy. I wants to raise boys like that little boy. Maybe that's why it grabs hold of me the way it does.

The moral of the story: Teach your children to be kind and also, if they want to go into the theatre, apparently, teach them not to get tattoos. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eleven

Dear Eleven,

Once upon a time, there was a baby. He was thin, long of limb, with a large brain or, at the very least, a big skull. As he grew up, he maintained his slight appearance, with the exception of a time during toddlerhood where he resembled an Easter ham--chubby, warm, and sufficiently succulent. One day, quite suddenly, he was eleven. His mother realized, with a bit of a surprised jolt, that he was somehow closer to turning 20 than he was to that day she first held his squishy body in her arms. If there was such a thing as late onset postpartum depression, she would certainly be presenting all symptoms. For it had come to pass in those days that her baby boy had grown up right before her eyes and she had somehow failed to see it until, perhaps, that very moment. Or she had seen it every day but faithfully perfected the art of denial. 

Garrett, you are, somehow, all grown up. And, oh, I know that isn't exactly true. I know that you have to grow facial hair still and eat me out of house and home and grow taller than me. I know there are still countless report cards to bring home and proms to go to. I know that I still have time. But you have become your own person and sometimes, I still want you to be that little boy who made me fast forward through the part of Finding Nemo where the mama dies, that little boy who made me sing him to sleep for years, that kid who kicked the preschool director in the gut because there was simply no way he was going to stay there for one second without his mom.

But mostly, MOSTLY, I really love this version of you. You are a joy and a delight to me. Son, in my days as a substitute teacher, I have met A LOT of kids. Some of them are wonderful, to be sure. But when I see you walking through the halls or laughing with your friends at lunch, my heart swells with pride. I am SO GLAD that you are mine. And occasionally, as misguided and arrogant as this is, I feel sorry for everyone else in the world because they aren't lucky enough to call you their own. Then you'll tell some horrendously corny joke, thinking yourself to be hilarious, and I'll close my eyes, shake my head back and forth, and praise God for humbling me.

You are bold and brave. So much bolder and so much braver than I am. You're smart and athletic. You take direction and criticism but don't let either soak in and change your core. This past year, you participated in a geography bee and were the only fourth grader to advance into the second round. Sitting at that table, with all the bigger kids, you looked small and nervous but somehow confident and sure. You're gaining skills and speed on the soccer and baseball fields, and in a quick minute you'll be trying your hand at football. We tried to convince you that you're too small, that you'll get smashed--possibly beyond repair--but you won't have any of it. Of course, we have friends who look at us like we're psychotic parents for even thinking about letting you play but, Son, parenting is nothing but a fine line between letting your kids live and keeping them alive. I don't want you to look back on your childhood and say, "All I ever wanted to do was play tackle football and you wouldn't let me."

You're already going to blame us for the fact that you'll never reach your full potential as a rugby player. Because that's what you really want to do. And fencing. But the closest fencing place (studio? field?) is in Park City and that just seems treacherous in the winter and rugby is like football without rules. I'm apprehensive enough about football WITH rules. But you look stinkin' adorable in the shoulder pads so I'm embracing it. I know, I know, you aren't "going for" adorable. You're going for menacing but have you seen yourself? You're nothing but lanky limbs and a cute smile.

You love Jesus and that is a source of abundant joy to me. I hope and pray that you keep that fire as you get older. This isn't the easiest place for a pastor's kid who passionately loves the authentic Jesus of the Bible to grow up but you've made the best of it for the past decade. I'm so proud of your unwavering dedication to learning about the one true God.

I continue to believe that you were born in the wrong decade. You're such a free spirit, like Huckleberry Finn without the abusive father, and seem to have been born to wander. But, as Tolkien reminds us in The Lord of the Rings (look at ME quoting LOTR!), "Not all those who wander are lost." You long to fish, hunt, camp, and live a life connected to the land, to the elements, to the wide open countryside or mountain top. Your soul longs for the next journey and almost everything is an adventure in those twinkling green eyes and welcoming grin. I fear and rejoice in the fact that you cannot be contained.

Use your wanderlust for good, my boy. Be respectful, always. Love others, always. Show the light of Jesus to an unbelieving world, always. And when they hit you hard in football, hop back up again because your mama can't handle waiting to find out if you're gonna live.

I love you.

-Mom

Monday, July 24, 2017

This Side of Grief

Before I say anything else, I want to preface all of this by saying that I know, by the grace of the detachment of time, that everyone meant well. I know that people were speaking to me from a place of utmost compassion and love. I appreciate the way that many of my friends reached out to me and gave me support, encouragement, and permission to be authentic. All of that needs to be recognized, thanked and celebrated.

I have an analytical mind. I'm organized and administrative despite my detestation of math, science, and pocket protectors. In spite of my penchant for the arts and my flair for the dramatic, I need everything to fit into appropriate boxes. Everything has a space and a home. Perhaps this is why I escaped into a place where grief was categorized and shoved into a sort of child loss flow chart.

I knew at the time that this was horrendously misguided but I couldn't stop the distraught thought process. I somehow needed to place grief against grief in some sort of fight to the death. I still don't know why this comparison felt vital to my existence.

In that intense Anger stage of Grief I wanted to say to everyone, "This is the worst thing I've ever felt. My baby died inside a womb that wasn't mine ONLY EIGHT WEEKS BEFORE HER DUE DATE! I held a pink blanket wrapped refrigerator bag at the funeral home! I drove my daughter inside of her casket in the back of my van to the cemetery!" Find me someone else who has done that. THAT woman I want to have a cup of coffee with. THAT woman has something in common with me. I felt all alone because my situation was uniquely mine.

In the many months since, I have purposed in my heart not to compare pain with an actively grieving woman. I will not feel the weight of her grief because it is uniquely hers. We can talk later, when the pain is not acute. Of course, if she asks, I will share. But I will not place my grief on top of hers, unsolicited.

Two and a half years after the fact, I'm not gasping for breath in the survival state of grief and I have come to recognize that It destroys people in different ways. It cannot be quantified. No one life matters more. No one human's existence is any less or any more important. No one mother's grief is bigger or better or more deserved than another's. I'm willing to bet good money that every mother, in the smack center of grief (and, maybe, forever), feels like hers is the absolute worst pain that ever there was. I realized that I was comforted most by hearing someone saying, "I cannot imagine your pain." Even if she believed she could. Even if circumstances were seemingly identical. Even if she believed hers to be much, much worse. Maybe if more people said, "Your pain is unbearable. It is the worst pain there ever was," the one grieving could honestly and wholeheartedly say, "Thank you. Thank you for seeing me and meeting me exactly where I am, swimming in the most pain I've ever experienced."

I would like to say that I've come out on the other side of grief. It simply isn't true and I'd be lying to pretend it so. There's a family at our school whose little boy is the exact age that my little girl should be. Their due dates were about a week apart. We ran into them at the pool a few weeks ago. I can still barely look at him. My brain fights my heart because I'd like to think that I'm not stupid. That little boy is not my girl. But my heart knows that his life reminds me of hers. It is not his fault that he makes me want to cry. The waves of grief ebb and flow and rush more slowly in the passing of years. But I do not think it is something we can walk through and come out on the other side. I think it attaches itself to our bodies, like a tattoo we cannot erase. It becomes a part of us. Forever.

It creeps in, like ink through skin, to the very fiber of our existence, so that when someone hurts, we long to tell our own story, to breathe life back into the corpse. As time goes on, tell their stories. For all the love in all the world, remind people that you had a child who is gone. Write. Share. Speak. Weave that One throughout your narrative because her life mattered. Because his soul still exists. But also, consider taking a moment to step outside of pain and whisper to the one who is surviving in the acute stage of grief, "I cannot imagine."

Because I think we can all agree that the weight of a little life lost is simply, unimaginable.

Interview with an 11 Year Old

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Dual Survival
2. What did you have for breakfast? A bagel.
3. What do you want to name your future son? (This is a new question. I got rid of "What's your middle name?" because, well, he's known that for years now. Interestingly, the answer didn't change even though the questions did.) John.
4. Favorite Food? Snow crab (Same as last year and the year before that.)
5. What food do you dislike? Mushrooms.
6. What is your favorite color? Brown. (Some things never change)
7. Favorite lunch? Totinos Pizza.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go on cruises.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? A cruise through the Mediterranean.
10. Favorite sport? Football, wrestling, soccer, baseball, swimming...
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? (This is a new question. I also decided to get rid of, "When is your birthday?" because he's also known that for years.) Lori. (Oh child. I hope not. Although it is better than Brickannlie. Or some other atrocious thing he could come up with.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Ummmm. Morning.
13. Pets? I have a hamster. (Now that he has his very own pet, he's forgotten the existence of his dog and cat.)
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Um. No. Not really.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to work at Little Caesar's and then Subway. Then I want to go into the coast guard. Then I want to be a pastor.
16. What is your favorite candy? 3 Musketeer.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Oh. I don't know. Is it Israel, Mom? Yes. Israel.
18. What is your favorite book? Stranded series.
19. What are you most proud of? Having hammy. (The hamster. It's a pretty big accomplishment. Lol.)
20. What is your favorite movie? Gettysburg. Or the Hunger Games. (We recently let him watch the latter. His brother has not seen it yet. He really liked it. I mean, in that way that you can really like something that has a very disturbing premise. Time for him to read the books, I think.)
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken.

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? Probably dangit. Me: That's your favorite word? In the whole world? Him: Probably. (Oh dear.)
2. What is your least favorite word? Using the Lord's name in vain.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") I like pizza.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Asparagus.
5. What sound or noise do you love? I like Will laughing.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Will screaming at the top of his lungs.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Shut up.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A person who studies hamsters.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Cleaning up people's flooded homes.
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)? Welcome.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bring Me Here to Die

The baby is asleep.

The big boys are at the lake with their dad. The dog went too.

For five minutes, it is as though I am the only one, the very last one left in this mountain escape.

I see the vast expanse of blue sky. Pine trees. Squirrels. Cones, fallen from their place in the needles.

I close my eyes and welcome the chatter of birds. A machine buzzes in the distance. The sound of tires on mountain roads-- taking people to all the places they want to go.

The smell of pine fills thick when I inhale. Reminding me of a time when I was five years old. Reminding me of yesterday. Reminding me of all the summers in between.

I feel the hot Sierra sun falling down -- not so far as it falls anywhere else. I am higher here. Closer to the light. A breeze meanders through my hair, blowing it slightly.

This place, this wonderland of nature and beauty, this small niche of space leaks nostalgia from my eyes when I am found alone. Memories of years gone by. Hope of years to come. A glimpse into the peace of eternity. If fate would so permit, bring me here to die. When my time has come, when my breath is close to done, bring me here -- if only in my mind's eye -- that I may leave this earth a little closer to heaven.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Tale of Two Messes

Disclaimer: I don't believe in psychics. I mean, I guess I do in the sense that I believe we can screw around with demons and stuff and get really messed up in all kinds of evil. But I don't believe in them in the traditional way that people do. I definitely don't believe in my own ability to have psychic premonitions.

Yesterday I had a psychic premonition. Except I did not because, as stated before, I don't believe in that. I do believe in the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Maybe, even, on really silly stuff. Like checking the outside freezer.

We're leaving for Tahoe tomorrow. I'm really glad that I had this strange premonition yesterday and not a week from now. I was backing up my car so that I could get to a cooler to take with us when I had the sudden and overwhelming thought that I needed to check my freezer. This was followed by the thought, "Well. If it isn't working, it's going straight back to Costco because we have not had it for very long!" I walked toward it and opened it. Cold air blasted me and I thought, "Oh good." This was immediately followed by my wondering aloud why the bottom of the freezer was red. And wet.

I don't know how long it wasn't working but it couldn't have been terribly long because the ice cream still had a partially frozen blob in the center. I was incredibly thankful that I had some ice frozen in there which had served, for a time, as a cooling device. The popsicles were everywhere. And no longer chilling in their popsicle formation.

I hauled everything out of there. I threw things away. I mopped up sticky juice. I cleaned everything up. Not once did I lose my cool even though I had 99 better things to do. And even though it was approximately 2,000 degrees in my garage. I was so happy for my strange idea that I needed to look inside the freezer. Praise God! At some point in all of this, I'd needed the scissors for something. I can't remember what.

I continued on with my day.

Later, I decided to get my spare key. It wasn't hanging where it usually does (correction: it WAS hanging where it usually does but I failed to see it there) so I started looking in places we've hid it before. That led me to a water toy that I thought would be fun to turn on for the boys. I needed scissors to free it from it's cardboard prison. "Where are the scissors?" I wondered aloud before remembering that they were in the garage. As I walked past the laundry room on my way to the garage, I saw it.

My entire laundry room and bathroom floor were covered in standing water. It was seeping into the carpet. I threw open the lid to the washing machine and the basin was full to the brim with soapy water. And that is the moment that I chose to start crying dramatically.

It was ridiculous. It was a cross between actual crying because I was upset and frustrated and theatrical crying because I did not feel like cleaning it up and if I cried loud enough then maybe the universe would hear me and come do it for me. This crying is reserved for things like minor floods and head lice. My boys stared at me.

"What should I do?" Garrett asked? I had no idea what to tell him because I had no idea where to start. He called Troy who did not answer. This is really quite common, When my husband DOES answer, I am genuinely surprised. I'm not sure why we pay for his phone. I didn't know what to even do but I wanted someone to feel sorry for me so I called my parents.

Meanwhile, I'd sent Garrett for towels. He returned with ONE dishcloth. To clean an entire floor of standing water. Good luck, kid. My dad told me to see if I could manually get the washer to engage in a spin cycle. I could. Praise God! Because I did not want to bail an entire basin full of soapy water. Within a few minutes, Troy came home.

Y'all, I was GEARED up. I am not typically a crier, as has been largely documented here. But I am dramatic. I will immediately think that my cough is lung cancer or my flooded washing machine is THE END OF THE WORLD. (Especially when I have somewhere to go. And where I needed to go was Vacation Bible School in two hours to do a skit which I did not have memorized yet. I also needed to go on actual vacation.) Troy came in and I was all high pitched and incoherent. He just looked at that DISASTER and calmly said, "Oh wow." Then he set to cleaning it up.

I decided to run a load and watch every step so that I could tell a repair man exactly where it went wrong. Strangely, the cycle went perfectly. More strangely, we have since done three loads of laundry without a problem. PRAISE GOD! I'm not assuming it's cured. I'm just thankful for the temporary calm before the storm of needing to shell out big bucks for a new one.

Guess who slept through the freezer fiasco? Guess who slept through half of the laundry room fiasco? That's right, the inquisitive man cub who would have found both messes to be thoroughly enjoyable adventures. PRAISE GOD! Because I would not have found it enjoyable when he went running through the neighborhood with all the temporarily relocated freezer food. And I would not have found it enjoyable when he began swimming lessons on my bathroom floor.

The point of this tale is not that I cleaned up two giant messes when I needed to be packing. The point is that while my reaction was to CRY on the phone with my MOMMY and my DADDY, my husband's reaction was basically a quiet, "Good times."

WHAT IF I HAD MARRIED MYSELF? (I mean, someone like myself.) That would have been the greatest disaster of all. Both of us standing, immobilized, in the bathroom, crying. Both of us calling our daddies? Thank goodness God brought that calming presence into my overdramatic life.

Friday, July 7, 2017

For Those Who Wait

My heart breaks in half inside my chest when I think about parents who are waiting for an adoptive situation. Every once in a blue moon, I look at the adoption websites and I click on the waiting families. I count how many there are. I cannot look more often, because empathy bleeds out thick through my eyes.

I look at their faces.

Some of them--many of them--have been waiting for a long time. Some of them have been waiting since before we were matched with Kate almost three years ago.

And I think about the grave that I visit.

And I think about the curly haired toddler who is sound asleep in his bed.

Sometimes, I forget about just how blessed we are. We have gone through the adoption process three times. We were chosen. It was not without heartache. Oh how the Lord knows He grew us and molded us and changed us through each of those experiences. My heart broke each time. But He brought those children to us. He was so very, very faithful to us. When the going gets tough, when I want to give up on whatever it is that has me begging for change, I think about this family He has made for me and I rejoice.

When I watch people waiting and waiting and waiting, it makes me want to cry a river that will flood an ocean. I believe in God's perfect timing, of course. But my mama heart is in anguish for those moms and dads who are desperately hoping that today will bring the call they are eagerly anticipating.

I celebrate those who are willing to wait, those who are willing to put their money and their energy where God has called--maybe not all of us, but so many more than actually answer--, those who know that their children are out there and must be found.

To those who are waiting, my friends as well as those I will never meet, I see you. I understand your frustration and your sorrow, your hope and your expectation. I hope for you because I see the result of perseverance and love in my own children.

You may never know me. You may never know that I am praying for you. But I am here, beseeching the Lord on your behalf. May He lead you to your children, wherever they may be.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mooners and Flashers

When the boys were little, it was so easy to find things to blog about. They were hysterical little people whose toddler shenanigans were almost always blog worthy. And then they grew up. They're hardly grown, of course, but I don't have hilarious poop stories to regale you with anymore.

THAT'S WHY WE HAD ANOTHER KID.

Just kidding.

Mostly.

I mean, I'm glad that he'll soon enter the stage where everything that comes out of his mouth is funny as heck. He's not there yet. Where he is right now is throwing food, yelling at the tip top of his lungs, and refusing to say any words except, "Ah-duh," which translates directly to, "All done."

My older boys are playing sports and doing homework and generally living life in that stage between little kid and teenager. In some ways, it's the sweet spot. The place where they don't throw food anymore but all the testosterone hasn't flooded their cute brains and turned them into raging hormone monsters. But the sweet spot doesn't lend itself to funny blogging stories very often.

You might not know it. You may not even believe me when I tell you, but I spend a great deal of time trying to make sure my kids don't turn into ax murderers or juvenile delinquents. Consistency is my number one parenting goal and I strive--full force--to be stable and steady in my mothering. They'll make their own choices and their own mistakes but by golly I'm going to do everything in my power to shape them. I want their reputation to precede them in only positive ways.

Which is why I stormed up to the door of a neighbor I'd never met two days ago to give him the WHAT FOR.

There isn't a confrontational bone in my body, actually. So the fact that I was hammering this dude's door with my fist is astonishing. 

See, Garrett had come in from playing outside and he was laughing about how a neighbor of ours thought he had mooned him. HOLD THE PHONE. WAIT ONE SECOND. WHAT, NOW?

"So, he was getting his mail and he asked me if I was the one who showed him my butt a few days ago. I said I wasn't and he asked me which house I lived in. I pointed and he said, 'It was you then.' I told him it wasn't. He said, 'Well, he looked JUST like you.'"

Showing his rump to a random neighbor is about the last thing I can think of Garrett doing. So, off I stormed to inform this guy that my child absolutely was not the one who had mooned him. First, we were out of town until Sunday. Second, our Sundays are very busy and the boys rarely get a chance to play out front and I knew they were never out on Sunday. Third, Monday they were at a church soccer camp in the morning and then running errands and doing chores until evening when we went out to dinner to finally celebrate Father's Day.

Up I marched to the neighbor's door. Garrett, at this point, was hot on my heels and in tears because he was so mortified about whatever I was about to do. I was concerned that his tears were a confession which is ridiculous because, as I've just mentioned, he hadn't been out front. Did I assume he sneaked outside in the middle of his chores for a good ole fashion mooning? "You better tell me right now if it was you."

"It wasn't me! I'm just nervous about whatever you're going to say," he answered. I'm sure that inside he was thinking, MY MOM HAS STRAIGHT UP LOST HER MIND! Bang! Bang! Bang! I rapped on the door. Now, I had absolutely no idea what this guy looked like. He lives down around the corner and I was taking the word of my eight-year-old neighbor--who looks and, occasionally, acts exactly like Dennis the Menace--that this is where the man even lived. The door opened.

"Hi," I said. "Did you just get your mail?"

"Yes," he replied slowly.

"Okay..." I started. And then I built my defense. My kids weren't out. It wasn't my son. I raise my children with a certain level of integrity and I didn't want anyone in the neighborhood thinking they were little miscreants. 

The thing is, my kids will find enough trouble on their own. They will be punished for it. I definitely don't want them getting a reputation for something they didn't even do. 

The neighbor told me that he simply asked my son if it was him and then informed him that he needed to tell his friend that behavior like that was going to land him in jail. Apparently, said neighbor was on his way to church when said miscreant pulled down his pants and wiggled his goods before spinning around and shaking his rump. Unprompted. Unwarranted. 

Now, Garrett hadn't told me that the burden of lecturing this kid (who we believe is our next door neighbor's nephew) had been passed on to him. It's not his friend. Garrett wasn't part of the situation at all. I'm still unclear as to why he needed to be the one to pass this information on. I also think it might be a stretch to assume that this kid is headed straight for the slammer because of a mooning.

"I just wanted to make sure you knew it wasn't my son," I said.

"Oh, sure. He said it wasn't him. He looks like a good kid." Sure. Except five minutes ago, he looked like someone who would flap his business at strangers.

"Alright, thanks. Have a nice day," I said and I headed off.

I do not normally go all Mama Bear freak out. I basically always believe an adult who tells me that my kid did something. They are not sinless little angels. But, when I am 99.99% sure they didn't do something, you're darn right I'm going to defend them. And thank goodness, as of yet, they are not the town flashers.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What Exactly is the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program?

When I was in high school, we had a Play Productions class, band, several choirs, dance, art electives, and, during my time there, a drama class was born. Also during my time there, a beautiful theatre was built. I was a good little girl who got all of her actual course work out of the way before taking any electives. I got to take Beginning Drama as a junior. By the time I was a senior, I was taking both Play Productions and Advanced Drama. After lunch, the only thing I had left to do was theatrical. It was, probably, the first time I couldn't wait for the weekend to be over. On Saturdays and Sundays, I desperately missed my performance classes. I have a vivid memory of walking to my car one Friday after school. I was fighting tears because a) I was dramatic and b) I didn't want to wait TWO FULL DAYS TO GO BACK TO MY PRODUCTION CLASSES.

It is my understanding that my high school no longer offers drama or theatre of any kind. 

When I was in college, I started off as an Elementary Education major. Every time I walked past the little white theatre that was centrally located on campus, I just wanted to walk inside in the worst way. I wanted to find my people. I wanted to belong. There. In the dark with the curtains and the energy and the aliveness of it all. I cannot explain it. It certainly wasn't the most level headed decision I'd ever made. But I simply had to walk into that building, change my major, and live frugally ever after. And so I did. I learned a lot of things that prepared me for my future. I worked extremely hard as the Production Manager and, sometimes, stage crew or stage manager or director. I found a home. I graduated with a Bachelors in Theatre and a whole heap of English Education course work.

My university no longer offers Theatre as a major.

When I was fresh out of the hospital with my brand new baby boy nearly 11 years ago, a high school drama teaching position literally fell directly into my lap. I was only able to do that job for a little over a year before we moved to Utah. I loved it. I loved watching those students, energized with the fun and force of creating their own story. I loved being a place where they could escape the structure of the core subjects. I loved helping them fall in love with--or nurturing an existing love for--the theatre.

I am a firm believer that the arts MUST be a part of our school systems. I am so proud of Utah's desire to include the arts even at the elementary level. My boys have had drama and music in their own school in past years. This is the introductory video I was sent when my sons' principal hired me as a Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program Theatre Arts Specialist for the upcoming school year. It explains a little bit about the program and the goal to reach our youth with the arts.

video

I'm overwhelmed by all I need to do to prepare. I'm excited. But above all, I'm proud to be able to partner with the BTS program to bring the arts to our children.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Summer Vacation

My parents took my boys (the older two) on an epic cruise two weeks ago. They flew them to Houston and left out of Galveston. The boys went to Honduras and Mexico, enjoying all the amenities of a cruise and participating in some incredible excursions. Soon, I'll have a bunch of pictures and will be able to tell you all about it.

They had a blast and even ate escargot. 

At the end of their adventure, my parents flew them to San Diego where I was waiting for them with Will. We stayed with my parents for the week. There are always so many people I want to see and so little time. I wish that I could see all my friends and family every time we're there but there are not enough hours in a day. This time, I focused on seeing family. I hadn't seen some of my extended family members since we were there last summer.

I have three living grandparents so we made sure to stop in and see them. That same day, we had dinner with my aunt and uncle. It was a great day hanging out with my family.

On that same day, the younger two boys and I went to visit Kate. Garrett and Matthew still talk about Kate with great frequency but they process her death very differently. Garrett is quiet about it and does not like visiting the cemetery. Matthew is much more open and always wants to go with me if he can. Garrett stayed with my grandpa and looked through his Navy books while the rest of us took our girl flowers.

Later in the week, we had a BBQ at my other aunt and uncle's house and swam in their pool. We'd spent the first half of the day with my father-in-law, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew. The boys had tons of fun playing with their cousins and swimming in my aunt's pool.

We met my friend, my other sister-in-law, and my niece at the zoo one day. I learned that my children are represented in three gorilla brothers that live at the San Diego Zoo. There is Maka, "The Ace." He's intelligent, sensitive, and brave. Mandazzi, "The Comedian," has boundless energy, is a show-off and a real cut up. And Ekuba, "The Peacemaker," is curious, playful, and loyal.

So, I mean, I don't think you even have to know us in real life to know that these adjectives basically describe my kids perfectly. 


On our last full day, we headed to the bay. It was gray and chilly for most of the afternoon but we had tons of fun anyway. We BBQ'd hot dogs and played at the park.


I have a lot of pictures to sort through but we're home now and already thinking about our next trip. Tahoe is just a few weeks away.



Friday, June 16, 2017

You Can Call Me Dawn Lazarus: Part II

No. I didn't have another "episode" thank goodness. Let's just get that outta the way right off the bat. I did go to the neurologist though so that I could find out what had me all Dawn Lazarus-y.

He looked at my brain scans and asked me to recount the situation to him. I talked about how long it had lasted and what had happened and he told me I was very brave for not going straight to the emergency room because it sounded exactly like stroke symptoms.

Except that if I had THOUGHT at the time FOR ONE SECOND that I was having a stroke then OBVIOUSLY I would have gone to the emergency room. I had no idea what, on earth, was happening to me. Also, I mean, is it really bravery to sit around waiting to die when someone could help you. No. No it is not. Other than his (obviously sarcastic) quip about my heroics, I liked him just fine.

I'm not sure I mentioned anywhere in my original Dawn Lazarus post that I started getting a migraine in the middle of the whole situation. I did tell the ER doctor about it and, turns out, that was a pretty important mention. It wouldn't have been weird at all for me to leave out that detail because I typically don't talk about my headaches.

I know a few people who have chronic headaches that never go away. So I don't talk about mine--which do go away. But I get headaches several times a month. (I know, I know. The chronic headache people would give a limb to only have a headache a few times a month.) Inexplicably, this began happening immediately after moving to Utah. I would blame it on altitude or lengthening my proximity to the equator or something but, now that I get them, I am not immune to them in California or any other place we go. They also seem to be hormone related. So I have no idea why they started when we got here and whether or not Utah was some sort of trigger. It was CERTAINLY A TRIGGER FOR MY TERRIBLE EYE ALLERGIES SO I WOULDN'T PUT IT PAST HER. Oh Utah, you dry, fickle minx.

At my last annual exam, I mentioned to my doctor that they had gotten worse and more frequent. She did give me a prescription for a headache medication but I never filled it. Excedrin still works--I just have to take more of it now. This working Excedrin phenomenon is, I believe, directly related to the fact that I almost never, ever have caffeine (because it makes me urinate like a racehorse, if you must know and I hate that) so when I shoot caffeine straight to my brain, it kills the headache. Anyway. None of that is important. I could have simply said, "My headaches have gotten worse." But, then you wouldn't have had that beautiful horse imagery. And, now that I think about it, why do we say that? Do racehorses go more than other animals?

I googled it. "Racehorses are commonly given Lasix which is a powerful diuretic. They pee a lot right before they race, we're talking gallons and gallons. The medication is thought to help prevent nasal bleeding, which sometimes happens when racehorses supremely over-exert themselves." So there you have it. I feel sorry for racehorses.

My headaches have gotten worse.

And this was also very pertinent information for the doctor who diagnosed me with a complex migraine or, as it is referred to now, migraine with aura. The aura--which can be anything from seeing strange light to lost vision to the inability to speak--typically lasts less than an hour. The ensuing headache can last up to three days.

On the one hand, I'm pretty glad I'm not dying. Other than a big giant and potentially embarrassing pain in the neck (or, in this case, head), the only lasting effect is that it does slightly elevate one's risk for stroke. On the other hand, this could happen at any time and in any place. It can also begin happening with regularity. GOOD TIMES.

If I get one and my symptoms are the same, I do not need to do anything about it. If something similar happens but my symptoms are not the same, I have to make quick to the emergency room. I'm starting to wonder if I shouldn't print up a card that says, "Hello. I am having a neurological episode and cannot speak or read. It's likely a complex migraine. I'll be fine. In the meantime, I need you to call my husband."

Triggers include (but are not limited to): Stress, pressure or altitude change, and hormone levels. Good thing those are easy to avoid, right?

Anyway. I truly am glad that it's nothing more serious. I'm pretty happy that I didn't have a stroke at 35. And I'm blessed to only have several headaches a month. But just a warning: if I seem super disoriented and unable to speak. I probably am. You can just call me Dawn Lazarus.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Bon Voyage

Years ago, my parents asked us if we'd be open to having them take our boys on a trip--when they were a little older. Of course, we enthusiastically agreed. They talked about all the different options. We were really up for anything. I mean, we're the parents who took our kids to Israel when they were four and seven so, short of them planning a trip to Afghanistan or Syria or maybe the Gaza Strip, we were fine with it. 

The time has come. At eight and almost eleven, the boys are ready for an adventure with their grandparents. It's a combined birthday present (and, really, it could count as their birthday gift from now until forever) and they've known about it for several months. They've been receiving twice weekly clues to try to figure out where they're going. 

Clues like:
You'll need a passport
There may be an animal in your room from time to time
Many cultures come together
You will have the opportunity to go back in time

And so many more.

Garrett was dead set, most of the time, on it being a cruise. Matthew wasn't quite as invested in the clue situation as Garrett was but was very excited when he found out that there would be a lot of opportunities for eating.

I had told only a limited number of people because I was so worried that the surprise would be ruined. When I told people, most of them made requests for my parents to adopt them as grandchildren. Most of these people are close to my age and I'm not sure my parents are looking for adult grandchildren but I GET IT because this trip is AMAZING.

My parents flew in on Thursday and told the boys on Thursday night where they were going. They're cruising to Honduras and Mexico! (And, yes, their parents are JEALOUS!) Here they all are just before we took them to the airport...

Last night, they stayed in Houston and this morning they went on to Galveston. They've boarded the ship and are waiting to set sail.

They've already found lots of yummy food and have enjoyed one of their favorites...crawfish.

My parents booked the MOST FUN excursions for them. We cannot wait for pictures so we can live vicariously through them. We hope they know how very blessed they are and we hope they're minding every last manner. Bon Voyage, Boys!