Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sonrise Baptist Church

At church last week, my husband talked about how our "measurables" are down. You know, the way we check to see if "business" is thriving. Are we getting enough money to pay the bills? Are our seats filling up with bodies? We don't want bodies for the sake of numbers. We want them because they represent individuals growing in their knowledge of Christ. We don't want the people's money because the church wants to get rick quick. We want it so that we can pay our missionaries and put on Vacation Bible School in the summertime and purchase materials for Bible studies. We would also like to be able to run the air conditioner in the summer and I, for one, really enjoy the heater in the winter.

Numbers are down and God is calling people away from this valley in droves, but we will remain faithful. We will serve Him.

I'd really like for everyone to take a half hour out of their day to watch this video. If you live somewhere else--somewhere less mission fieldy--please lift our church up in prayer. Please remember that there are many Christians faithfully serving the triune God in the middle of Utah and pray for us. If you used to worship with us but have moved away, please pray for your former church. If you have never considered church on Sunday morning, please come and join us. We are a family of believers who desperately want to share our faith and our Savior with you. If you already worship with us, consider attending more regularly, becoming a member, and/or partnering with us in ministry. We are called not just to attend church, but to serve.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Church Is Not a Number

We work in a mission field. We knew that when we took the job. It's the reason that, when originally asked where we'd consider moving, we listed all the states surrounding this one. Utah was the black hole we never considered. Mission fields are hard. Domestic mission fields get the added bonus of people forgetting it's a mission at all.

It's incredibly difficult to grow a church here. Especially difficult if you stick to the truth of the Word of God. If you don't water down your theology, if you call sin by its name, and if your church isn't located in the hippest or richest part of town, church growth is slow and challenging.

Our ministry is eight and half years old. In those years, we have watched as amazing, godly family after amazing, godly family has been called away from this mission field. Leadership. Sunday school teachers. Ministry team members. Board members. If we could round them all up from their new homes in southern Utah, northern Utah, Washington, Oregon, Texas and the like, and put them back together under our roof, our church would be thriving--numerically. They, coupled with our newer families, would create a dynamic that would be an encouragement to both our community and my heart, alike.

The concern, though, is that when families leave for employment or retirement or health issues, they need to be replaced by another family. If another family doesn't join the church in their place, the numbers decrease and this becomes a great burden over time. Refer back to how difficult it is to grow a church in Utah.

Last summer, our attendance was up. Our giving was up. I was swimming through personal grief and the encouragement I received at church was incredible. And then a few families moved. Our numbers are down. It is not about a number. I know that. But eventually, decisions have to be made. Tough choices. How to balance the budget. What ministries to do away with if you don't have the manpower to run them.

We have enough regular attenders that if they all came on the same Sunday, our church would be full--or, at least, more full. So I've started to pray that our "regular attenders" would be convicted to get out of bed. Perhaps they'll put on clothes and drive to church and come and worship with us. "Lord, let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as we see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25). Lord, bring our regular attenders and bring new faces, that we might impact this community, this valley, this mission field, for your kingdom."

This morning was the same as many Sundays since the fall. I had great joy in looking out and seeing the familiar faces that I love. But I missed those who have gone and I missed those who have not yet come. I looked out over the congregation as I sang with the worship team. A curious thing happened. If I opened my eyes, all I saw were the empty chairs. The empty chairs felt like wind and waves. I saw ministries cut and needs not being met for lack of volunteers. Panic began to rise. Anxiety gripped my chest. If I closed my eyes and focused on worship, I felt the presence of the Lord and everything else faded away.

Matthew 14:25-31
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. 

But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

My Lord does not need me. He does not need my husband. He graciously allows us to be used. When I am afraid that somehow God doesn't see our need, He asks me why I have such little faith. We will offer ourselves as living sacrifices. We will not be conformed. We will endeavor to prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12). We long to reach this land with the gospel of Christ. We desire filled seats because it means that more are walking in the ways of the Lord with weekly conviction. But we know that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He is there in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). We will continue to be a church that preaches the truth whether there are 500 people or 5 people.

To the amazing and godly men and women who were called out of this valley and into other ministries, we miss you more than we can adequately express. To the regular attenders and members of our church, we love you and your faithful service. Thank you for your partnership with us.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Take a Look. It's in a Book!

Awhile back, I bought a book for Garrett. It's over 400 pages long but it seemed like something he'd enjoy. He's always been at least a year above reading grade level and I was getting tired of his reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid over and over and over. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem at all with him reading the wimpy kid series, it's just that I'd like him to branch out and read something else instead of reading the same book 72 times. I'm a hypocrite. I've read The Awakening and To Kill a Mockingbird more than once twice I can count.

He read the first page and put it away.

Months later he read the first page again and put it away.

Last week I informed him that I wanted him to read it. I knew it wasn't too hard. I really thought he'd like it. If he read fifty pages and hated it, he didn't have to finish it. But I didn't tell him that.

He read page one. And two and three and on and on and on.

He reads 30 minutes a day for school. Usually he asks me after 10 or 11 or 12 minutes just how long it's been. Then again at the 17 minute mark. Again at 26 minutes. He's a good reader and he loves being read to. He just never really much liked independent reading. Unless, like I said, it was a book about Greg Heffley and his wimpy antics. One day last week, he asked if he could keep reading after I told him his 30 minutes were up.

Monday he had a 102.8 temperature when he woke up and he had to stay home from school. I was working so his dad stayed with him and worked from home. When I got back in the afternoon, I discovered that he'd been reading for a major portion of the day.

Last night, at 9:52 (well past bedtime), I went into the boys' room. I'm obsessive compulsive about checking on my kids to make sure they're breathing. This started when they were two minutes old and hasn't stopped. It's a problem because, well, when they go off to college or get their own place or get married, I am not going to have nightly access to their breathing habits. I don't know what I'll do. I'm looking in to a support group.

I bent down to check Matthew. He sighed loudly. Then I reached up to the top bunk. Garrett was heaped up under his blanket and I couldn't figure out where his head even was. Assuming he was asleep and buried under his blanket, I hoisted myself onto Matthew's bed so that I could better investigate whether Garrett was, indeed, still alive. I lifted it and discovered my nine year old, that book, and a flashlight.

"Garrett! It's 10:00 at night. You are not supposed to be reading. You're supposed to be sleeping!"

He looked at me like I was a moron. "But, Mom, I want to read. They just got sucked into a storybook! Please can I keep reading?"

"No. You may not. It's time to sleep."

I went down and told my husband that our boy's late night reading disobedience was maybe our greatest parenting win. I made him put the book away for the night but I couldn't be more proud of the fact that I found him ignoring his bed time.

He's reading the first book in the series. There are more. And I'm a happy mama. Bonus: he was still breathing.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Adoption Related Grief

I wanted a second child. I wanted more kids and, as a result of having both a good childhood friend and a cousin who were adopted, I had very positive experiences with adoption. Troy and I had talked about adopting before we were ever married. It was always something we thought we'd do. That said, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

We needed a home study. Check. We needed to choose an agency or a facilitator. Check. They gave us a list of things to do. Check. Then we waited. Check. We found out a month before Matthew was born that we'd been chosen. It was hardly enough time to learn all there is to know about adoption and adoption related issues. He was placed with us at birth so I naively assumed that we wouldn't struggle with some of the things we've encountered.

I've chosen not to share much about Matthew's family on the Internet because I want to be sensitive to them and, of course, to him. I've chosen not to share most of the adoption related issues that we deal with because I want to protect my son's privacy. But I do want to share what happened last night for two reasons. The first is because I want you to know that, while we have it really good, the struggle is real. The second is because parents approach adoption in a myriad of ways. What works for my family might not work for yours and that's okay. We need to be free to parent the way we feel is best. That being said, I firmly believe that there's only one wrong way to do this thing and that way is to silence your child's voice and to squash his feelings.

If you believe that they're never thinking about what they've lost, you're wrong. If you disallow them to share their feelings about their grief, you're wrong.

We fought for Matthew. It was a drawn out legal battle that pitted his father's wishes against his mother's. In the end, all four parents agreed that our home was the place for him. Looking back, that custody battle was the easy part. The hard part is navigating Matthew's grief. It comes in waves--as grief does. It's inconsistent and we go months at a time without mention of his sorrow. But when he's communicating his sadness, it breaks every heart in our home. And it should.

The reason Matthew shares his grief is because we've worked very hard to create an environment where he feels like he's allowed to. He knows we won't judge him. We won't get mad at him. He won't wound my mama heart by saying that he wishes he could be with them. He knows that sharing is safe.

It was easy when he was little. We told him his story and he knew he was adopted and that was that. We shared pictures with him. We told him what we knew about his first family. We talked about how so many people love him and that makes him very special. As he's gotten older, we've encouraged him to share his feelings with us, in his timing, when he wants to. No feeling is off limits. No question is off limits.

I believe that all adoptees grieve. It may never be overt. It may be relatively unknown. We all grieve and process things in different ways and I don't believe that adoption is any different. But I firmly believe that, in some way, what is lost is mourned*. For Matthew, at this stage of his life, his grief has manifested in a very precise way.

Matthew's grief is currently camped out in a place of desperately wanting both worlds and knowing that, for now, he cannot exist in them simultaneously. His dream come true would be for all four of his parents and all of his siblings to live together under one roof. As an adult, he is absolutely free to share as much of his birth family's world as he wants to. But, for now, we live in three different states. His idea of a shared home where we all live happily ever after is never going to happen.

Last night, he and I drove home from our church. He began telling me about a creature that he wanted God to make. As we talked, it became obvious that this "creature" was pretty much just a human baby. I pointed this out and he began to tell me that he really wants to be a big brother. He is a big brother because his birth mom has a little girl who is younger than him. He began talking about her. One thing led to another and soon we were smack in the middle of big grief.

I listened. I let him say what he wanted to say. "I know if I lived with them I wouldn't be able to live with you and that's what I hate!" he cried. When we got home, I let him punch a pillow and I held him tightly while he sobbed. Then I asked him if there was anything else I could do to help him. "I want Garrett!" he wailed. It was barely intelligible.

"What?" I asked.

"He wants his brother," Troy said.

"I want Garrett! I want Garrett!" he cried over and over. Garrett was in the shower. He begged us to let him sleep in Garrett's bed. Now, Garrett is a great big brother but he absolutely hates to share his bed with Matthew. This is because Matthew has historically been a tosser, turner, kicker. Troy went into the bathroom and explained to Garrett that Matthew was dealing with sadness. The big brother acquiesced to the little brother's request. Matthew immediately calmed down and, minutes later, fell asleep next to his brother--his non-biological brother--the only one who could make it better.

Why? I don't know. I don't know why Matthew needed Garrett last night. Apparently, the one who longs to be a big brother so badly, needed his. This is where he is sometimes. Grieving over the parents and siblings he doesn't get to live with, knowing he would grieve over us if the situation was anything else.

So I share this to say that I might not always care if my child is a genius or a sports star or the President of the United States. I might not even care if he pulls straight E's on his report card. These are the real issues we sometimes deal with and it breaks our hearts. We want to make it better and we can't fix it. Because adoption related issues are real. And understand me when I reiterate that WE HAVE IT EASY.

I also share it because I've seen more than one parent silence their child when it comes to adoption issues. I've seen more than one parent quiet the grief**. I want to know my child. I want to know what he's feeling even if it's sadness. I want to hold a pillow and give him permission to punch it. I want him to know that he's safe here, in this space, to feel it all. And I want other adoptive parents to give their children the same right.


*Please feel free to correct me IF you are an adoptee and this is not your experience.

** And, given the nature of Matthew's grief, I'd wager that every child in a divorced family feels the same way. We need to stop making kids feel like they have to choose a side.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Time In a Bottle

When I first started blogging, I always wondered why some of my most favorite bloggers seemed to be going really strong, writing every day, cracking me up with their hilarious stories of toddler mayhem and baby poop and kindergarten capers, and then, suddenly, poof, they disappeared never to be heard from again.

I totally get it now.

Our kids, the ones that provide endless blogging fodder, grow up. Mine are only nine and seven and, still, it seems like I have less and less to write about. Or, at the least, less and less time to do it.

Garrett is at that really awkward in between stage of not a little kid, not a teenager. I noticed this, in particular, on Easter Sunday. We gathered with friends and, at one point, Matthew was outside playing with a toddler and Garrett was sitting at the table, trying to fit in. I remember that feeling so well. I was the oldest of my all my cousins, the first born grandchild on both sides. I can remember my brother and my toddler cousins running around, playing, and laughing. I felt too old for them. And too young to be at the table.

I saw that in my son.

How is he suddenly too old to be playing with the toddlers?

This is why blogging slows.

Because there are no longer stories of poop being found in weird places. There are no longer ridiculous airplane capers or road trip mishaps due, solely, to the fact that tiny people are involved. Instead, we're watching them grow up at an alarming and avalanche like pace. We're running them in forty-five different directions for that practice or this activity or that club or this appointment.

I used to think the long days of babyhood and toddler time would never end. It's not that I wanted them to, it's just that it certainly did feel exhausting. "Just another hour until naptime..." I would think. And then, suddenly, they were both in school all day and our life revolved around spelling tests and math concepts and baseball practice and church activities.

And so I sit down to write and all I can think about is how short my time is with them. I remember their itty bitty feet and their chubby baby hands. I think of how fast it all goes and I realize that I have nothing in particular to say. Time is flying and I cannot catch it in a bottle, much less pin it to paper.

Friday, March 25, 2016

I Am the Reason

The cross.

I'm not going to lie. Sometimes, I forget about its magnitude. We can't exist in a place of deep sorrow for too terribly long. We can't dwell on the disaster and the beauty of the cross because it's too painful to confront the ugliness of our sin. 

I remember every Sunday when I look at it. But it's stunning and beautiful and reminds me of the hope I have, every day, in Christ.

Occasionally, I think of the horror. The cowardly arrest in a peaceful garden under the cloak of darkness. The unjust beating, the mocking. The mistrial. I think about the crowd calling for his death. The nails piercing his innocent hands. The blood flowing down. The final breath. The cry, "It is finished."

I'm angry at all the guilty parties who did such a horrible thing.

And then I see myself making the arrest. I betray Him with a kiss. I'm there, swinging the whip. I'm calling out insults. I slam the nail into His hand. I'm too far gone to even understand what I'm doing.

He says, "Father, forgive her. She knows not what she does."

I don't. 

And I do.

I sin without thinking about it. Nothing planned. Nothing premeditated. But, also, I sin on purpose. Because it's easier to lie. Or because there is twisted comfort in pride. Because I'll do anything to have people like me. 

I am the reason He is on the cross today.

The reality of that truth is crushing.

And I thank God for the victory of Sunday.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Six Weeks, Done

"Wemember when I told you that even if you sent me to my desk and made me put my head down, I was still going to be willy nice and help you out?" he asked, staring at me from behind his chocolate eyes.

"Yes, I remember," I said, trying not to smile.

"That was willy nice of me wasn't it?

"Yes, sir," I said. "It was very nice of you."

I said goodbye to my kindergartners today after six weeks with them. I'll be back on Monday in a different classroom--it's what I do--but today I bid this particular bunch adieu. I'm grateful for this job that allows me spurts of full time employment. There are things I hate about it, to be sure.

And things I love.

I love kindergartners.

I love their sweet faces, their ah-ha moments, their sometimes hilarious answers to things. I love being able to help shape them just a little bit. I love when they throw their arms around me and call me their best friend teacher. (Whatever that means.)

At this job, I loved being able to go see my own kids at lunch every day. I loved knowing that they were in the same building as me, just down around a corner or two. I loved seeing their faces when they walked past the classroom I was in.

No one ever says, "I want to be a substitute teacher when I grow up." It's not something one really aspires to. I usually don't even admit to it, but instead tell people I'm a stay-at-home mom. That makes it sound more like I'm choosing not to work outside the home and less like I have an $80,000 dollar education and nothing to show for it.

The thing is this. I'm not always a good sub. I have moments of not being the best I can be, of being frustrated, of wanting to tell them that I can think of a really good place for them to shove their math paper. But I try really hard to be a decent substitute teacher, to leave a room better than I found it, to return a class to their rightful owner mostly unscathed. And I think I do ok.

If you're the CEO of a major corporation--do it to the best of your ability. If you're just a filler teacher with an expensive theatre degree and no teaching license--fill that position to the best of your ability. And, in the end, you might get a bag full of candy and a thank you note from a parent telling you that you were fabulous.

And it might make your day.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Revival

Hello. It's me, Lori. I used to blog here.

Now I take care of kindergartners all day and then shuttle my own children to their activities and help them with homework and try to dig my way out of never ending piles of laundry. There's no time for writing anymore.

Which is really sad.

But, also, because it used to be my children who provided me with endless writing material. Now they're older and, while still hilarious, they don't do things like leave blobs of poop on gas station floors or adorably mispronounce words.

Sigh. I miss my babies.

But I love the guys they're becoming. Today, our church held a day of prayer. I was there for two hours and, for the second hour, the boys joined me. The three of us were joined by an older couple and we all prayed together. Both of my boys joined in and prayed for things and it was amazing. My heart swelled up to a great big epic size because, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." (3 John 1:4)

I recently read a quote by Andy Stanley that says, "Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God might not be something you do but someone you raise." You guys. I'm pretty sure this revolutionized my entire life. I've always wanted to do something major. It's a restlessness inside of me. But then, think of all the men and women who are who they are because their parents raised them right.

I know that they may grow up and make a crapload of bad choices. But I sure don't want it to be because I was lame at parenting. If they make horrible decisions, I want them to have no choice but to say, "I don't know why I did that. My parents raised me to be better than that."

Today, my son prayed for revival. His words. He asked God for a revival. My nine-year-old recognizes stagnancy and inactivity and wants the absolute opposite.

In 1927, Baylus McKinney wrote a hymn. Its chorus:

Lord, send a revival,
Lord, send a revival,
Lord, send a revival,
and let it begin in me

This is my prayer as I raise these guys. Let the love of Christ bubble in me and through me and out of me in such a way that revival would begin here. In such a way that I would continue to teach my children to walk in truth. In such a way that my greatest contribution to the kingdom of God might be someone I raise.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Men in Heels

I own two pairs of heels. That's what happens when you marry someone who is one half inch taller than you are. Heels are the first thing to go. Today, I decided to wear one of my pairs of heels to church. 

My boys are obsessed with walking around in my heels. I have no earthly idea why. They think it's fun. It might be kind of like my childhood obsession with crutches. I didn't actually want to break my leg, I just thought crutches were splendid fun.

So, this morning, I had my heels sitting out and when I went to put them on, they were missing. I found my oldest son, the one who is nine and half years old, standing at the counter, brushing his teeth like this.

Ignore the plunger in the bathtub. You don't want to know.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Fame, Fortune and Phlegm

I know my life seems incredibly glam. Part time substitute teacher of usually little, teensy people who sometime's take their pants off by day, pastor's wife by...also day. It's the kind of life with a lot of fanfare and paparazzi. Tabloids write about me and gossip columns talk about my height and weight. It's a really enviable life. I'm working on my memoir now.

But, in the event that you think I'm some untouchable celebrity who never has to use the restroom and wakes up airbrushed (I know I certainly give off such a vibe), let me put your ridiculous perceptions to rest. You see, I'm in the middle of a six week stint with kindergartners. Those little germ buckets have already given me strep and now, just a week after finishing the antibiotic for that, I've got the beginnings of what is sure to be an epic cold.

My colds always start with obnoxious nasal drip down the back of my throat that prevents adequate sleep for no less than three nights. I used to try to just swallow the garbage down while I attempted sleep but this proved useless. So then I started getting up every two minutes to loudly hack up whatever crap I could and then spit it, teenage boy style, into the sink. Finally, I got the attractive idea to keep a cup next to my bed. I'd just reach for the cup every time I needed to dispense of my thick, phlegm infused saliva. In the morning, I wash the cup out and, hopefully, my sleep the night before was slightly less interrupted. It's worked well and I'm still married.

But only because he said, "'Til death do us part." He forgot to add in the clause that keeping a spit cup next to one's head would also be grounds for divorce.

So, last night, I propped myself up on THREE pillows and tried to settle in for the night. Next to me, a child's green Veggie Tales cup waited for what was sure to be a wild night. A half hour later, it had collected quite a volume of nasal drip because honestly, I'm awfully attractive and not at all disgusting. I was exhausted and groggy. I hacked up an unhealthy amount of phlegm and then set the cup back on my night stand.

Or did I?

Suddenly, I heard a plop.

I quickly switched on my lamp. There stood my cup, upside down, inside my purse, which I happen to keep right in front of my nightstand. I picked up the cup and sighed loudly when I surveyed it's emptiness. I walked briskly to the bathroom and flipped on the light. I pulled items from my purse.

Checkbook. Covered in a long string of (thankfully) clear phlegm.

Chapstick. Covered.

Glasses case. Covered.

No less than six pens. All slimed.

And a pool of spit was collected at the bottom.

"Uggggg!" I moaned. This never would have happened if I was using my theatre degree for actual theatre instead of for pretending that I'm a kindergarten teacher. Because if I wasn't pretending to be a kindergarten teacher, I wouldn't be subjected to these super germs being carried around on the grubby hands of (albeit adorable) little people.

Ten minutes later I'd managed to clean out my purse and wash my items free of fluid. It was a disgusting job but someone had to do it. (And, really, who on earth else would have washed MY spit out of MY purse?)

So, you see, being a pastor's wife and substitute teacher is not all the fame and fortune and paparazzi and glamour that it looks like on the outside. Sometimes, it's an upside down phlegm cup in a purse.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Interview With a Seven-Year-Old

1. What is your favorite T.V. show? Ben 10.
2. What did you have for breakfast? Honey Nut Cheerios.
3. What is your middle name? Eric and David. (David Eric)
4. Favorite Food? A burger.
5. What food do you dislike? Nothing. I love everything.
6. What is your favorite color? Silver.
7. Favorite lunch? Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Play with my nice brother.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? To Mars. On this planet? Haiti.
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. When is your birthday? February the 28th.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? A night person because in the morning Garrett bugs me too much.
13. Pets? Yeah. A dog named Tessie and a cat named Ollie.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Beck died. (Well. Alright then.)
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? A military cop.
16. What is your favorite candy? You. Okay, me. I mean chocolate.
17. What is the farthest you've ever been from home? Isre-reel. (He still pronounces Israel with an extra syllable.)
18. What is your favorite book? The Bible. What is your favorite children's book? Chocolate Me!
19. What are you most proud of? Getting on to a level K book.
20. What is your favorite movie? Star Wars.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The egg. Why do you think that? Because how would the chicken be even born?

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? Bus.
2. What is your least favorite word? The F word. (We have the neighbor boys to thank for the fact that he knows this one.)
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") My family.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") The first Lord of the Rings because it's kind of scary and sad because Gandalf dies. That's a sad part. Also when Bilbo says, "Give me the ring!" and his eyes go all crazy.
5. What sound or noise do you love? Songs from The Newsies.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Garrett screaming his head off.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Dumb and stupid.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Go into the military and be a cop.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Be a nurse.
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 to Heaven."

Seven

Dear Matt,

This one's a tough letter to write because last year was a difficult year for all of us. Last year, when I sat down to write, only four weeks had passed since we stood, staring, at the minuscule casket that held your baby sister. We all grieved hard but we mourned in different ways. You spent the better part of a year breaking into loud, wailing sobs when I least expected them. You, experiencing such a loss at such a tender and formative age, were the embodiment of Ecclesiastes and/or The Byrds.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;  A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace. -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This was you. One minute laughing, another crying. One minute mourning and the next, dancing. It broke my spirit to watch, knowing I could not fix the heart hurt you endured. But it healed my heart to see you grieving authentic. You didn't care if people watched you cry. You didn't hold back your hysterical sobs. You didn't apologize for laughing or loving. You yelled that it wasn't fair and you told God you were mad and you thanked Him for giving her to us at all. Your six-year-old process for coping was, in all honesty, a gift to us all.

This year, you also lost your beloved best friend, our golden retriever, Beck. One minute he was running happy and the next minute, an unknown tumor on his spleen ruptured. We lost him just a couple hours later. So I did what any rational mom whose kid lost a sister and a dog in the span of five months would do. I ran right out and bought you a puppy.

Tessie, the sweet, hyper, lovable golden puppy is your new best friend. You love to play outside with her, throw her ball, and wander the yard looking for adventure. It was a learning curve for you, never having experienced the exuberance of a retriever pup, but you quickly became inseparable. Of course, she treats you like an equal instead of an owner so you can often be heard howling, "TESS!" as she tries to pull some shenanigan or another over on you.

You're a genius.

Okay, I doubt that you are an actual genius but you're incredibly smart. You read well above grade level, you're in the top spelling group and you ace every test, you excel at math (for which I feel we have to thank your other parents because Dad and I are not so much with the math) and you just seem to learn with ease. The other night, after you finished practicing your spelling words, Dad jokingly told you to spell "disinfect." You knew he was kidding but you replied, "Okay. I can. I can do that one." And then you flawlessly and without much thought at all, printed it perfectly. Kiddo, disinfect is NOT a first grade word.

The problem with this high intelligence is that you are WAY TOO HARD ON YOURSELF. If you don't get a 100% on something, your little heart is just broken. At this point, you hold yourself to a higher standard than we ever would. So far, managing your education has been easy. There's never been a concept that you've struggled with. But managing your own expectations is a nightmare. Matthew, a 99% REALLY IS OKAY.

You ran track over the summer and played flag football in the fall. You're so fast. If you got the football, you were likely to either score or, at least, pick up a lot of yardage. You're signed up to play baseball this spring. We'll see how that goes because, at the moment, you close your eyes and knock down anything that comes flying at your face. But, in general, you're a coordinated guy so once you put it altogether, I'm sure you'll be great at baseball, too. I really believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to.

This was the year that you told us you were getting married. You and Brooklyn have grand plans to run away together and live in a "bush house" that you discovered over the summer at Santee Lakes. You've got it all planned out. You'll put down carpet to help with the ants and you'll fish for your meals. I'm fairly certain the two of your have broken up at least eleven times and gotten back together at least twelve but I'm not overly concerned. I mean, your ultimate plan is a bush house so I'm not putting a lot of stock in your marital judgement at this point in time. Still, it's been an absolutely hilarious ride for Brooklyn's mom and me.

You're still so funny that you make me laugh on a daily basis. Just last week, I opened your curtains to wake you up for school and you threw your blanket over your head and moaned, "Oh no! Not this again!" Yes, son. This. Again. For the rest of your life. You sure do love your sleep though and your teenage years are bound to be a challenge for us. And that whole lifetime in the workforce thing doesn't bode well for you either. At least you'll keep making me laugh while I keep waking you up.

You love church, your brother, sports, playing in the yard with friends, any substance that qualifies as food, spending time with your family, vacations, reading books, watching television, laughing, dance parties, listening to music, and playing with lightsabers.

We love your heart, your smile, your beautiful face and everything that you are. Happy 7th Birthday, Little Buddy.

Love,
Mom

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Changes

My boys have their best friends over right now. The littler boys are playing in the yard, same as they almost always do. Same as they've done for years. Same as the older boys have always done. Usually it's all four of them playing and having fun and some combination ends up trying to kill each other. It's how they roll. It's what we're used to.

But right now the nine and a half year olds are upstairs listening to music.

That's it.

That's what they're doing.

And I'm catching a glimpse of my teenager--who will be here in just a few years--hanging out with his buddy, listening to music and talking about girls or cars or whatever kids these days are talking about.

Where'd my baby go?

Heck, where'd my little boy go?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Cute Kid

There's a little boy in the class I'm teaching and he is THE STINKIN' CUTEST THING IN THE WHOLE, WIDE WORLD. His voice. His face. His personality. He's just adorable. Today, I read a book called Mustache Baby. Before I read it, I asked if any of them had a baby brother with a mustache. (Because it's kindergarten so I try to be silly sometimes.)

Several of them giggled and said no. The cute kid said, "My baby brother is dead."

I thought that I'd maybe heard wrong so, with a matter of fact tone, I clarified. "Your brother is dead?" His little face fell just a bit and he returned, "Yes. He died. So he's in heaven now."

The class was quiet. I locked eyes with him and replied, "That's sad. I'm sorry. I have a baby daughter who is in heaven also." He nodded slightly and we all moved on.

Later, as I was explaining some math work to them, I looked out and saw that he had one hand over his eye. He kept it there for awhile so I thought it was bothering him. "Are you okay, bud?" I questioned him.

He looked a little confused as to why I was asking so I clarified and asked if his eye was okay. "Oh, yeah. I'm fine. I'm trying to see what it would be like if I only had one eye for...for three days."

"Cool," I replied and then kept teaching math concepts. He's seriously the cutest of ever. So if this one little boy from an undisclosed elementary school in West Jordan, UT goes missing, the authorities should totally check my house first, is what I'm saying.

Except I would never, EVER, do that to his parents. Obviously they've been through enough. (Not that I would actually put any parents through the hideous ordeal of a missing child, regardless of whether or not they'd already lost one. Just to clarify.)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kinder Downer

I'm four days in to a five week kindergarten subbing gig. After tomorrow's Valentine party wraps itself up in a sugary coma, I'll have made it through one week. I'm subbing at my favorite school (it happens to be the one my boys attend every day), sharing a coat room with my favorite teacher to sub for who happens to be the Knower of all Things Kindergarten. Today I took her a Twix bar and a thank you note that said some version of, "Thanks for spending your lunch teaching me how to do the benchmark." So, as far as subbing goes, it's pretty much my dream job. I mean, the only thing better would be, maybe, being full time in a drama class for weeks on end.

I've noticed something. It only takes me a handful of minutes to decide whether I like a kid so much that I'd like to put him in my pocket and bring him home or whether I am so NOT fond of a child that I'd like to pull her spleen out of her body through her throat. (Or something that sounds a lot less like murder.)

So there is this one little girl who is so adorable that it truly is a wonder I haven't kidnapped her yet. But then, the Knower of all Things had my son last year, knows all about Kate, and probably has both her eyes on me. For sure she'd direct the cops straight to my house in the event that a kindergartner went missing. And there's a little boy who seriously has a comb over and is the cutest thing ever. Today, after I tested him on sight words, I said, "Thanks. You can go." He replied, "You're welcome. Any time. I'm here to help. Whatever you need." And I gnawed the tip of my tongue right off because I wanted to look at him and say, "OH MY GOODNESS MY LOVE FOR YOU KNOWS NO BOUNDS." But, that's really creepy. I try not to be the creepy sub.

There is also a little girl I am, in my own mind, un-affectionately referring to as Kinder Downer. She is Debbie Downer in a kindergarten body. Her disposition is so sour she makes the more difficult of my two children look like Shirley Temple, hopped up on sugar, dancing a jig on a rainbow. EVERY TIME she doesn't get picked to do something (which, let's face it, her odds are 1 in 20), her face contorts into RACHEL DRATCH DOING DEBBIE DOWNER.

Then come the water works. "BUT I WANTED TO GET PICKED."

"Oh no. Don't read that one. I don't even like that book."

"WHY DON'T HAVE A PAPER??" (Because I haven't gotten to you yet!)

Alright, so, she's more of a complainer than a Debbie Downer but she does it in such a way that I hear womp wah whenever she opens her mouth. Everything causes her to look exactly like this...

Today, I asked the Knower of all Things if she was familiar with Debbie Downer from SNL. She said she was and I told her that one of the kids in my class was a teeny tiny little downer. "Is it Sarah?" she asked. Sarah, by the way, is not her real name. 

"YES!" I exclaimed. This is impressive. I don't think I'd even verified that it was a girl AND there are two sessions so she was choosing from roughly 40 students.


Minutes later, I handed out their Valentine's envelopes (and by "envelope" I mean enormous paper heart) so they could decorate them for tomorrow. The teacher I'm subbing for had left them for me, already folded and sporting each kid's name. There were red, white and pink envelopes. I could have written the script ahead of time.

If Sarah doesn't get a pink one, the world is going to end. Today. Kindergarten Valentine Apocalypse.

Hers was one of the last ones I handed out. Girls and boys had happily taken what they were given. I could see slight disappointment on the cute faces of some of the girls who didn't get pink but they were troopers. They rallied quickly and happily set to decorating their envelopes. 

Sarah's was red. I alternated between thinking, It couldn't have been pink to make my life easier? and Hee Hee Hee I'm about to watch the birth of World War 3. Hitler, Mussolini, Sarah the kindergartner. A trio of fierce dictators.

Her shoulders sagged. Her face contorted. She closed her eyes. Her head hung down like she'd just been given two minutes to live. "But I wanted a pink one."


"Well, your teacher made you a pretty red one. We get what we get and we don't throw a fit."

You're enjoying your day, everything's going your way, then along comes Debbie Downer. Always there to tell you 'bout a new disease, a car accident or killer bees. You beg her to spare you. Debbie, please! But you can't stop Debbie Downer.