Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When An Outfit Goes Missing

My mom has a cousin who lives in Reno. We try to see her and her husband whenever we're at the lake. They came up yesterday and met us at the beach. After a long afternoon soaking up the hot Sierra sun, playing in the lake, kayaking and talking, we headed back to the cabin we're renting for some dinner.

At this point, Linda headed into my parents bedroom to change. 

Fast forward a couple of hours. Tom and Linda had headed home and my mom's phone rang. My mom listened and then asked, "Is anyone missing a green shirt with cars and trucks on it, black shorts and green underwear?" She was met with blank stares. She explained that Linda had found the aforementioned apparel in her belongings. We assumed someone had stuck them in her bag at the beach but none of our guys (and it was men's clothing we were talking about) would fess up. We jumped to the logical conclusion that someone near us at the beach had inadvertently put their stuff in her bag. Because none of our guys had a green shirt with cars and trucks, black shorts or green underwear.

Fast forward another couple of hours. My brother, his wife, Troy and I were sitting on the couch. My mom was in another chair. Our boys were sound asleep upstairs. My dad was in his bedroom. He came out, looked at my mom, and straight up asked, "Have you seen my gray shirt and black shorts?"

Wait. What now?

Hang on a second while I tell you that my dad is a very intelligent, very aware, very logical guy. My mom said something along the lines of, "You mean the clothes Linda took home with her?"

"No, she took home a GREEN shirt. I'm missing a GRAY shirt," my dad says.

But, y'all, GREEN and GRAY sound a lot alike over a cell phone. "Did your shirt have cars on it?" my mom asked him.

"Well, yes..."

My mom then proceeded to ask him how he didn't figure out that these were his clothes to which he explained that he'd never had them at the beach. They were folded up on his bed the entire time. I remembered that Linda had changed in his bedroom and explained that she must have accidentally picked them up.

"How did you not know that you had black shorts and a shirt with cars?" my mom wanted to know. My dad stood, staring at her, with the most baffled of looks on his face.

"My shirt IS GRAY! NOT GREEN!"

By this point the four of us on the couch are dying of hysterics. Troy, who reserves his giggle-laugh for only the most hilarious of situations, was bent in half, giggling like a school girl. My dad had to call Linda to explain that they were, in fact, his clothes that she'd gone home with and he was only just then realizing it. As he talked to her, my brother laughed so hard he had a stream of tears rolling down his cheeks. I couldn't get enough air and my stomach muscles hurt so bad I thought I was going to throw up. My mom and Heather were laughing equally as hard. 

My dad handed the phone off to my mom and Linda was laughing just as hysterically as the rest of us. He continued to defend himself based on the fact that the color description hadn't been right.

In the end, after merciless teasing from the rest of us, my dad said, "It's not my fault your cousin stole my clothes."

He was, of course, kidding, but that comment sent us right back over the edge. None of us had laughed that hard in a VERY long time and, for years to come, we will be talking about the stolen GRAY shirt, black shorts and green underwear.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tahoe Bound

Tomorrow we're going here.

I'm pretty excited.

Wish I could bring you all with me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Will of God

I know what we do. As humans, that is. We ask for advice from the people most likely to tell us what we want to hear. I don't know that it's even completely intentional. We're like the moth who spent a large part of yesterday's evening flapping senselessly against the side of my lamp because it couldn't withstand the temptation of the light bulb. Simply, we're drawn to the advice that makes us feel comfortable--even when that comfort is a lie.

I see it in ministry.

I see it in the people I know.

I see it in myself.

It is something that must be fought against if we are truly to act in accordance with the will of God.

I can't think of more than three ways to discern the will of God. The first is through His Word. His Word is His truth. However, in some cases, it must be carefully studied--in cultural context, in original languages, etc--to properly understand it all.

The second is through prayer. But be careful here. It's easy to accept our own leanings as the will of God. I once heard a speaker talk about discerning the will of God through prayer. She said if the answer you feel you receive isn't from you--meaning it's not the choice you would have made on your own, and it's not from the enemy--meaning it doesn't go against the Word, chances are it's from God. It's not a perfect way to figure out God's will but it usually works. For example, if I want to punch someone in the face and I pray about it and I'm restrained from physically assaulting that individual, it's from God. It goes against what I want. Satan would like nothing more than for me to start punching people. The only one in this scenario who doesn't want me to go around punching people is God. Obviously that's a completely ridiculous example but it works on deeper questions too.

The last one is through godly counsel. And here is where we have to be really careful. Godly counsel probably isn't a person who is equally as invested in the situation as you are. Godly counsel isn't the person who always tells you what you want to hear. Godly counsel comes from the people in your life who have proven themselves as seekers of the truth. Individuals who strive to know the character of God. People who can give you verses to back up their advice. And, when there are no specific verses for a certain situation, they are people who are drenching your question in prayer.

Today, in my supplemental reading, I came across this quote by Beth Moore:

"Personal difficulties cause us to lack discernment...We are wise to be careful about the decisions and assumptions we make when we are stressed. We will tend to react rather than respond. When pain is acute, we often can't discriminate properly between good and bad decisions. I can't think of a situation when godly advice is more valuable than in times of great vulnerability."

The Word, prayer, and godly advice from the people who have either provided it in the past or have proven that they will offer it soundly, are the only ways I know to discover the will of God. Simple.

And also incredibly complex.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Listen, people. My kid turns EIGHT in two weeks and I'm having a little bit of a problem processing that. I knew it would go fast. I just didn't know it would go this fast. We're going to be out of town on his birthday so we decided to let him celebrate it early as a combination birthday party/end of the school year party. So, on Thursday, he had his very last day ever as a first grader and that night his three friends came to a sleepover.

When they got to the house we served up pizza, salad and potato chips. Then, once they'd consumed all that, they headed outside and engaged in some type of epic battle involving swords, light sabers, cross bows and shields.

Usually I hate that this state has fireworks blasting off at all hours of the night for thirty days straight because it makes my dog turn into a neurotic, shaking mess and sounds like we're under heavy military fire for a month. However, when you've got four elementary aged boys plus a brand new kindergartner, some cheap fireworks really up the "cool" factor for a birthday party.

After the fireworks came the cupcakes and presents. 80% of my child's summer wardrobe is surf related. So, chances are, every picture you see from this blessed season will either be him in a rash guard, him in a wetsuit, or him in a shirt that says SURF on it.

He got two new Nerf guns and this Flexi-Bible. He's been playing with his buddy's bible at church for months now and he asked me if I would get him his own. My friend told me the other day, "Web wants to get Garrett the Bible he has but would Garrett even want it..."

I interrupted her, "YES! He really wants it."

"You don't have enough Bibles already?" she asked.

And, I mean, we have plenty but, can one actually have too many Bibles?

You can tell from his face that he really likes it. He has also taken it in the car with him everywhere he's gone since Thursday, sleeps with it up on his bed, and declared, "I am definitely taking this one to church tomorrow."

After the presents there was more chips and all of them piled on the couch and bean bag chairs to watch Free Birds.

When the movie was over we got them ready for bed, carried the one who'd fallen asleep on the couch up the stairs, and told the other ones a dozen times to, "Turn off your voices now and go to sleep." Because, being a substitute, TURN OFF YOUR VOICES is now part of my every day vernacular.

On Friday morning it was cartoons and donuts and bananas and more epic battling in the yard.

All in all it was TOTALLY easy, TOTALLY inexpensive and my kid TOTALLY loved it.

I'm sure the parents loved me sending their precious little boys back to them hopped up on an incredible amount of sugar and sleep deprived.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wisdom From Seuss

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." -Dr. Seuss

I was snuggling my oldest boy tonight--the one who, at the end of school tomorrow, will be a second grader--and, as I smoothed his long, surfer hair across his forehead, I said, "I can't believe you're done with first grade already." Impossible because I remember, like yesterday, trying to sleep in that hospital bed with my long-awaited baby in a plastic bassinet next to me. I couldn't sleep because HORMONES and IV FLUIDS TRYING TO VACATE THE BODY and I FINALLY HAVE A BABY AND HE'S SLEEPING NEXT TO ME AND I WILL NEVER LOVE ANYTHING MORE THAN THAT TEENY LITTLE GUY. (See, I didn't yet know about teeny little guy number two who, obviously, I love equally as much because the mother's heart is amazing that way.)

That day was, inexplicably, almost eight years ago. And I am now nearly halfway to a child who is old enough to drive himself around.

He smiled at me and I said, "You're going to grow armpit hair and get married soon."

"Not soon!" he shouted.

"Soon enough."

"In a lot of years," he explained to me.

"I know, but those years go really fast if you're the grown up," I answered.

"I'm sad that I won't see my teacher again," he sighed, quietly. His teacher is taking (at least) a one year leave of absence.

"I'm going to miss her, too," I said. His teacher is really amazing and I find it hard to believe that we hit the teaching jackpot so early. I just assume that, from here on out, every year will leave me slightly disappointed. I'm super optimistic that way.

"Not as much as I will..." his voice trailed off. He turned his head into his pillow. I whispered the Dr. Seuss quote into his ear. He stayed that way, face buried, for several moments. When he lifted it, his eyes were wet and his lashes were matted. This boy-becoming-little-man who rarely cries anymore, consumed. And I can see. He's excited for summer. He isn't ready to say goodbye.

I suppose that is where I find myself continually. Excited for new chapters. Unready to move past old ones. This book, I'm reading it too fast. I can't put it down. So rich and full and wonderful. There is such a pleasure in the raising but such sadness in the knowledge that, before I know it, he will be raised.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Daily Mufasa*

I am so coveting the long, wavy, fresh from the beach, hair look. There's just one problem. I don't have wavy hair and I don't frequently frequent the beach. Okay. So that's two problems. Two really big problems. The first is a problem because I have to figure out a way to make my hair wavy in order to satisfy these deep feelings of hair lust. The second is a problem because BEACH! I MISS YOU.

Everywhere I go I find someone who has mastered this gorgeous wavy hair look. That someone is not me. There is not a single lick of body in my hair. No volume. No nothing. This is fantastic when I want my hair to be straight. It's also great because I can take a shower two seconds before I go bed and all is not lost. I wake up in the morning and my hair is the very same way I left it. Except, no longer wet. It is, however, not great when I want waves.

So I started watching tutorials on the Internet.

I've yet to master any of them.

The other night I saw a video featuring a Victoria's Secret model (wearing actual clothing and not lingerie at that precise moment) giving a tutorial on a no-heat-but-still-arrive-at-your-wavy-hair-destination technique. It involved putting a twisty bun on the top of one's head and going to bed. In the morning, ta-da, my hair would look like I was ready for a photo shoot with Victoria's Secret except that I would not actually be ready because TOO SHORT! TOO NOT QUITE PERFECT LOOKING ENOUGH! TOO HANES-HER-WAY AND T-SHIRTS! Meh. No matter. I wouldn't know exactly how to pull off Victoria's Secret model by weekday, pastor's wife by Sunday anyway.

The model in the video showed me how to do it and there was proof, right there on YouTube, that it worked. Her hair fell into perfect waves.

So I tried it. On a Saturday night. Which was dumb. Because do you know what day comes after Saturday? I do because I spend a lot of my working days with kindergartners and first graders and there are songs, y'all. Oh are there ever songs. "THERE'S SUNDAY AND THERE'S MONDAY! THERE'S TUESDAY AND THERE'S WEDNESDAY! THERE'S THURSDAY AND THERE'S FRIDAY! AND THEN THERE'S SATURDAY! DAYS OF THE WEEK! DAYS OF THE WEEK!" So I woke up on Sunday and oh my goodness I looked like the walking, human form of Mufasa. It took a lot of work to get it looking acceptable.

Once I deemed it worthy of walking out of the house without a paper bag on my head, several people told me they liked it. (But, mind you, this was after A LOT of fixing up.) I told the story about how I'd awoken my inner lion and certain people started playing "The Circle of Life" when I walked by. On Facebook I explained that I looked like Mufasa and people wanted to see the proof. I had none because I'd already fixed it.

So, like a true friend, I did it AGAIN last night so that I could wake up, take a picture, and then spend the rest of the day sporting the enormous puffy, king of Pride Rock, look. I was not amused because my hair was sort of lumpy, sort of fuzzy, and NOT AT ALL BEACHY AND SMOOTHLY WAVY which is what I was going for.


I don't want all that volume. I want chic and subtle and not HEY THERE, LET ME KAPOW YOU WITH MY CRAZY PUFF BALL. So I posted it to Facebook and do you know what happened? A ton of people started saying, "WHOA! Gorgeous!" "Check out all those waves!" "That looks great!" And sometimes you are posting a picture in the hopes that people will be like, "So great!" and validate what you might already suspect and then sometimes you are legitimately not thrilled with the misleading lingerie model. This was most definitely the latter.

People did NOT think I looked like Mufasa. But, do you know what? I simply could not look more like him. Except that, here, he is seen smiling whereas I am not.


I'm not giving up on the subtle, sleek, sun-kissed, beachy waves. But my stick straight hair is going to have to find a different way of achieving them. Also, the bun was getting in the way of my beauty sleep. We cats need a lot of it and the bun kept hitting my headboard and waking me up.

*I have to thank one, Mr. Aaron G for the inspiration for the title of this post.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pastor's Wives

It wasn't long ago when I came across the following Internet article. It can be found in its entirety here. Now, I'm not here to say that all of these apply to me...they don't. But some of them do.

1) “I wish people knew that we struggle to have family time.”
There was one common response that I received from every single pastor’s wife. Every. Single. One.  Over and over again, many pastors’ wives shared numerous occasions where planned vacations had been cut short (wouldn’t that be hard?). They told me tales of family evenings being rearranged for crises of church members, middle of the night emergencies and regular interruptions. A true day off is rare; even on scheduled days off their husbands are essentially on call 24/7.
2) “Almost every day I’m afraid of screwing it all up.”
They don’t have it all together. They battle many of the same issues every other woman battles: marriage issues, extended family difficulties, sickness, finances, children who make poor decisions, fear and insecurities. Some seasons of life are obviously harder than others; but remember, ministry wives are not Wonder Woman with special powers. Please have a little mercy and extend grace.
3) “Being a pastor’s wife is THE loneliest thing I’ve ever done and for so many reasons.”
Personally, I think this is surprising to many (it was to me). Several ladies shared the difficulties of finding friendships that are safe, being looked at (or treated) differently and even the desire to be invited for an occasional ladies night out. One woman shared, “Invite us to something just to get to know us. We like being known.” People in the church often assume that the pastor’s wife is always invited and popular. In reality, for whatever reason, many ladies fear befriending them. On Sunday mornings pastors’ wives are often sitting solo and those with children are essentially single parenting.
4) “It is okay and welcomed to have conversations with me about things that do not pertain to church, or even Jesus. There I said it!”
They have a variety of interests. Believe it or not, many pastor’s wives went to college and had full time careers before becoming “Mrs. Pastor’s wife.” They have hobbies, likes and dislikes, and though they often serve beside their husband, they are individuals with their own unique gifts.  Do not make the mistake of assuming your pastor’s wife has the same personality as their husband. One wife shared that as newly weds when they announced their engagement people regularly commented on how good of a singer she must be (because her husband to be was a music minister). When she shared that she sounded more like a dying cat than an elegant song bird the shock on their faces was evident.
5) “Sundays are sometimes my least favorite day. Wait– am I allowed to say that?”
Sundays are hard. And long. And there is no rest. To a pastor’s wife, Sunday means an early morning of rushing around to have the family ready in their “Sunday Best.” Although you may not see your pastor’s wife on the platform, rest assured, Sunday is equally tiring for most (all) of them.
6) “It’s hard to not harbor resentment or to allow your flesh to lash out at members who openly criticize his ministry.”
They hate church criticism more then anything. It’s hurtful. Offensive, and yes, it’s very hard not to take it personally.  It is one of the most damaging things they witness regularly inside the church whether it be through emails, social media or gossip. They wish people understood how serious God’s word speaks on the danger and power of our words. And how much it injures the pastor’s family.
7) “Please don’t look down on me or assume I don’t support my husband just because you don’t see me every time the churches doors are open.”
Most wives are not paid staff. They are wives, mothers, and some are employed outside the home and need to be allowed the freedom to pray and choose ministries they feel called to.
8) “I wish people knew that we taught our children to make good choices, but sometimes, they don’t.”
Jokes about pastor’s kids should be avoided at all costs. The risk of rebellion in a “preacher’s kid” is no secret. They aren’t perfect, and never will be (are yours?). They have to learn to walk in their faith just like other children and need encouragement and love to do so. Again, extend grace.
9) “What I can tell you is I have been blessed beyond measure, I have been given gifts, money, love and prayer, so much prayer… by so many.”
They love their church and understand the role comes with special challenges and special blessings; it is fulfilling and brings them great joy.

Like I said, some of these apply to me and some don't. It doesn't matter which ones I struggle with. I just thought that, if you attend church, showing you what pastor's wives deal with might be helpful as you build relationship with them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Miles & Donuts

He really wanted a donut.

They were selling big ones filled with cream or jelly. They dripped glaze in all directions. It was a weird choice for a track meet.

I said, "No. Drink your water. We do not eat very large, gooey, dripping pastries just before we run a mile." I was using the universal "we" since I actually had no intention of running a mile.

"What if I go faster than I did on Friday?" he asked.

The donuts were a dollar.

"Alright," I said. "If you go faster today than you did on Friday, I'll buy you one."

On Friday his time was (unofficially) 7:46.

Yesterday, his first split was faster than it was on Friday. His second split was the exact same. His third split was also the same.

His fourth split was faster.

 And, in the end, he came in at (unofficially) 7:40.

He is some kind of seven-year-old running machine. And, okay...so I've done some research. I've found that there are seven-year-olds who run sub seven minute miles. There are actually kind of a lot of them. But I'm pretty proud of my own kid's ability to get around that track four times. He doesn't complain. He doesn't get an angry face. He just keeps running.

And he's fun to watch.

So, yes. I bought him the gross, dripping donut. He ate every bite.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The 1600

Running might be in my kid's blood. He really likes to run. Last summer he joined a running club and he's doing it again this year. At practice he will just run. And run. And run. He's not much of a sprinter but tell him to go run a mile and he just trots along at a steady clip.

Last Friday was his first meet.

He wanted to run the mile. There aren't very many kids who elect to run that distance. See...I'm pretty sure there were only two boys in his age group.

Here he is, coming around, about to finish his third lap.

And then, a lap later, I clocked his unofficial time. Not bad for a seven-year-old. Not bad at all.

Aside from his first, pretty quick lap, his splits were almost even. He has another meet tonight and he has no concept of shaving off time. "Mom, if I run the mile tonight in five minutes, will you buy me an ice cream?"

"Garrett," I said. "If you run the mile in five minutes, I will buy you a cruise."

Because, if my seven-year-old could run a mile that fast, I'm pretty sure he'd be gaining some kind of instant attention. I'm thinking a cruise would be in order.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Life Cycle of a Coffee Table

When Troy and I entered into the wedded bliss of holy matrimony almost eleven years ago, my generous grandparents gave us a monetary gift that put us well on our way to dumping some of our mismatched hand-me-down furniture and buying new.

Our family room, dining room, and bedroom furniture remained an almost comical blend of things we'd had since we were children and things other people gave us when they bought something new. Two years ago we finally bought a new bed and mattress--after nine years of sleeping on a recycled number. The dressers we use to this day are the same ones we had as kids. Our dining room table and chairs were purchased by my parents before I was born, probably, and eventually replaced the table we'd been using that belonged in my husband's bachelor pad. Our family room furniture was purchased sometime in my growing up years and handed down to me just before we moved to Utah, taking over for an even older couch that had been permanently damaged by our teething puppy.

But the furniture in our "formal" room (HA! Formal! We are seriously the least formal people I know.) was purchased after we got married. Back in 2003, it was basically the only thing we owned that was brand spankin' new. Aside from all of our wedding gifts, of course. Which, speaking of. I think married people should get to register again when they hit the fifteen year mark. In four years I'm definitely going to need some new pots and pans.

We bought an off-white couch and matching love seat. In hindsight, this was a ludicrous color choice given our desire to start a family. But we'll buy the sealer that allows us to clean it easier! we said. It's going in our "formal" room so the kids won't be allowed on it! we said. We were stupid. We knew what it was like for OTHER PEOPLE to have kids. We did not realize the amount of running liquid that comes out of children on a constant basis. That furniture doesn't look horrible. The fact that it's almost eleven years old and has withstood baby vomit, slobber, two moves, and a cat who insists on sleeping on it when we're on vacation and no one's looking, is proof of the existence of God. You have to look closely to see the stains. And, in all honesty, they're really more like gray smudges. There aren't any chocolate pudding, grape juice or blood stains so...SUCCESS.

That was a really long introduction to say, we also bought this table.

It was really pretty back in the day and I get that the above picture doesn't look too terrible. But, if you look closely, you'll see the tiny dents that go all the way around the lip on the top of the table.

How does one dent the entire top edge of a table? Well, since you asked, it was THOSE BOYS. Those two tiny boys learned how to pull themselves up to a standing position and then they decided that it would be a smashing idea to cut a mouthful of teeth. Garrett had a deep affinity for wood. He gnawed the side of his crib to the point that, when I sold it two years ago, after deciding that, yes, we are for sure done having babies (Which, incidentally, was a decision that 99% of the time I am thrilled with and 1% of the time causes deep mourning that comes complete with the wailing and gnashing of teeth.) I had to tell the guy that bought it, "It's in perfect condition except for this panel right here where all the wood is dented because my son's itsy bitsy baby teeth were really more like destructive razors. So. Crib destruction times 100 was what we had with this table. Because neither of them gave a single darn about teething rings. It was all about the table and, despite how often I chastised and redirected, the situation proved hopeless for the wood. I had managed to both breed and adopt woodchucks.

Also, the vacuum rammed it approximately 20,000 times and the legs were mangled, dented, pocketed and sad. Several months ago, I fixated on this one piece of furniture (in a house in desperate need of some paint, new carpet, and a shopping spree to somewhere with well built furniture) and decided that it simply had to be refinished.

I mentioned to my husband that I thought maybe it should be painted.

He did not go for that idea.

I waited. A few weeks ago I broached the subject again. This time I got serious. "It's a mess. Just...look at it. I will not take that table if we ever move," I said. (And, okay, so we have no actual plans to move but, you know, it's a solid argument.) "I will throw it away and we will have to buy a new one. Think of how much that will cost when I could just slap a coat of paint on it." 

And the thing is...he didn't say no. He just kind of looked at me long and hard. Because if that man knows only one thing about me it's that once I get an idea in my head, it's really rather impossible to divert my attention. The plan is set and needs only to be executed. For me, there's really no difference between "alright we'll think about it" and "alright we'll do it." So, Troy's silence is as good as an enthusiastic YES!

I went to the Internet, educated myself on how to refinish a coffee table, went to Lowe's, and the rest is yesterday's history.

I wish I had taken some "during" pictures but during the "during" process I was convinced that I was doing everything wrong and did not want to document all of the failure. I plugged in my husband's electric sander and sanded the life out of that sucker. I sanded. And sanded. And sanded. In my front yard. I also talked to myself. Loudly. Over the sound of the sander. "Am I doing this right?" "How should I know if you're doing this right?" "Well, does it look right? How come that part is bare wood flying up and that part still looks stained? Why isn't this sanding evenly?" "I don't know. It's too late to stop now. Keep working." Because, you see, there are at least two identified people inside my head. Whether or not there are more remains to be seen. That's up to the medical professionals to decide.

I washed it.

I painted it with primer.

Then I had a paint fiasco involving the color I wanted to use being all dried up. I decided to switch to another color which ended up, actually, being a second can of the first color so all was not lost despite my momentary temper tantrum in the garage.

Then I sprayed it with two coats of polyurethane and....ta da!

There were a few growing pains involved with my first furniture refinish. I'd do a few things differently in the future (WHEN I REFINISH MORE FURNITURE! Hi, Troy! Love you.) It's not perfect. But, then, nothing really is.

I love it. But I have a confession to make. I kind of miss the teething marks.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I Might Not Be Ready

Almost five years ago, on September 8, 2009, we took our first born kid to preschool. He was barely three and was going through a serious case of separation anxiety. As I walked away, he screamed and cried. The preschool director held him tightly in a chair and, when he realized I was leaving him there, he kicked her in the gut. I thought that might be it. One day of school was all we were going to get. But that day turned into five years.

Garrett's first day of school at school

I hugged her today and thanked her for the role she has played in the lives of my children. Garrett spent three years there and, while it was a little sad on his last day, I knew that Matthew would start the following fall.

Today, though, was a different story. I walked away from school knowing that I wouldn't go back next year with another preschooler. Today, my youngest son became a kindergartner. He sat on the front step and smiled for a "Last Day of Preschool" picture.

And, can I just say that THIS ONE IS A KEEPER? 

Look at his smile. I mean, LOOK at it. How have modeling agencies not stumbled upon my blog and called me up and said, "Hello. Mrs. Livin' in a Fishbowl? We need your son for ALL of the ads." At the end of the year performance, which for us happened on June 6, the teachers recognize each child with a specific award, unique to him. Matthew got the Killer Smile award and his teacher said that he can flash it and get just about whatever he wants.


His smile melts my heart. Every time.

So here's Mr. Killer Smile on his first and last day of preschool.
At his preschool orientation, I completely threw my kid under the bus by telling his teachers--two women I'd never met before in my life--that he was very difficult, that we needed to be proactive, that we had to forge a partnership that would effectively get him from point A (preschool) to point B (the rest of his life). Alright, so I didn't say it in so many words but whatever words I did use were met with the blinking stares of two women who either thought I was bat poo crazy or were suddenly terrified by the horror child I'd just described to them.

But this kid has been proving me wrong since day one. He had his downs but the ups outweighed them. He grew and changed and blossomed and became. He stopped being afraid to try

This year he had one new teacher and one of the ones he'd had last year--at my request, because she was simply amazing with him. Over the five years, we have had nine different teachers (there are two in every class) and so many of them were phenomenal. But none impressed me as much as Miss Veronica. To put it as simply as I can, I love her.

In just 21 months, my child went from a kid who wouldn't even try to tell me his colors for fear he'd get them wrong to a child who is fluently reading kindergarten material--a kid who got ALL "Excellent" on his progress report. He is ready to head to elementary school.

Being that it was the last day of school, today was a carnival day and the kids were encouraged to dress up. I sure do love a man in a uniform.

When I dropped him off I called my mom to brag about how I was TOTALLY COOL WITH ALL THIS GROWING UP STUFF. Don't mind me. I'm just an unemotional statue who can't get worked up to save my life. In my theatre days I'd wonder how, on earth, I was supposed to conjure up some real tears. "Think of your dead dog," they'd say. Yep. I had a dead dog. I'd cried a lot when she actually died but thinking about her being dead didn't make me well up a handful of years later. It's not that I don't FEEL things. It's just that those things don't come out my eyes. So I left him at his last day of preschool and all my babies are all grown up and ONE DAY THEY WILL LEAVE ME. Eh. What's next on my to-do list?

When I picked him up, his classroom was full of moms picking up their kids--and two crying teachers. I was sad because I love his teachers and I'll miss them a lot but also happy because ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IS FREE! I was thinking the happy thoughts until his beloved Miss Veronica hugged me. "Thank you for trusting me with him for two years," she said through tears. "He's improved so much. I just love him." We talked for a few minutes.

Suddenly I started to feel a teeny lump. Nothing I couldn't swallow down. We hugged his other teacher.

A few minutes later, we left the room and walked down the hall. I hugged the director. I thanked her for taking care of my boys for five years. The lump persisted. We hugged his other teacher from last year. STUPID LUMP.

I held his hand as we walked out the door and through the parking lot. "I can't believe you're already a kindergartner!" I said to him. But the word kindergartner got stuck in the back of my throat and I lost control of the lump. Tears spilled down my cheeks. I wiped them away but, somehow, more followed.

He's ready. And, really, I'm ready, too. Except on the days when I'm not. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Dad

I got married before digital cameras. Or, at least, before everyone owned a digital camera. We got our first one a year and a half later, before we went to Israel for the first time together. So, I totally had to get my wedding album out and snap pictures of the pictures using my cell phone.

 Just to say, "Happy Father's Day!" to the man who raised me, loves me, and walked me down the aisle.

I know. I'm 12*. Which would put my dad in his mid 30's because he was only 22 when I was born. Seriously. Only 22. And still, we never wanted for anything. Well, alright, I'm sure we wanted stuff, but we never needed anything we didn't have. My dad is, honest-to-goodness, the single most responsible person I know. Responsible with money. Responsible with career. Responsible with family. Responsible with life.

He also paid for my wedding which, to this day, is the most fun wedding I've ever been to. And, yes, it was mine so I'm biased. But I have not been to a better wedding. That includes the very fancy Ritz Carlton wedding I went to as a kid. And, okay, so if I went to your wedding, it was probably very nice and/or fun but my wedding had all the songs I wanted and all the food I wanted and the really good cake. My parents only had one daughter (unless there is a very deep, dark family secret they've never told me about. They told me for years that my childhood dogs went to live on a farm so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that I have a sister I don't know about.) so they had nothing to go on when they planned this wedding AND IT WAS STILL THE VERY BEST ONE IN ALL THE LAND.

During said wedding I sprung this hug on my husband.

My friend was married earlier in the summer and she'd hugged her dad on her way back down the aisle. It was perfect and inspiring and, just as my father-in-law introduced us I whispered to my husband, "I want to hug my dad." So no one was really prepared for it. Except, apparently, the photographer. 

My dad made my wedding pretty perfect. (Okay, in fairness, it was a lot of my mom's doing but he was willing to keep writing checks. And hanging the white covering up on the stage. And wrangling a band of men together to change the church from ceremony to reception hall.) He also made my life pretty perfect. He is everything a father should be and nothing that he shouldn't be.

I made my dad watch the movie Father of the Bride more times than any of us probably care to count. To this day it is probably my favorite movie of all time. There's a scene near the end of the film when Annie's future in-laws bring over a car--their wedding gift to the happy couple. George runs inside (prior to seeing the car) to get the gift he bought for his daughter and future son-in-law. Annie runs in to see if her dad has seen the car...

Annie: What's that?

George: It's nothing. It's just a gift I was thinking of giving you guys. You know, it's something you said you didn't have but you wanted.

Annie: Can I see it?

George: Yeah, you know, it's--It's not the big, big gift, of course.

Annie: It's a cappuccino maker!

George: Supposed to be a good one. That's what they said at the store. It's, uh, top of the line. Makes great foam.

Annie: I couldn't love anything more.

(She exits. George watches her go.)

George: My feelings exactly.

So I'm, like, the least sappy person I know. More of a realist than a romantic. Sarcastic. German. I don't typically buy my dad serious cards with little poems about how I'm a better person because of him. I mean, that's the honest truth but I'd rather buy a card that says something about how the thing that makes him a great dad is the fact that he has a great kid and that kid happens to be me. 

But the thing is, when it comes to my dad, I echo Annie's feelings about the cappuccino maker. Simply put, I couldn't love anything more.

* For the record, I was actually almost 22 at my wedding.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Would You Rather Be Too Hot or Too Cold?

I really, really, really, really love summer. That's NOT to say that I love when the weather is over 100 degrees or that I love the way it feels to sweat uncontrollably. Those things I really do not like very much. But I try hard not to complain because I spend the months of November to April complaining about being cold. I don't think it's very fair to complain for five months straight about THE FRIGID COLD THAT WON'T LET UP and then turn around again and start bellyaching about WHY I AM SO HOT? Last summer when our air conditioning broke and it was 93 degrees INSIDE my house, I did start complaining. But typically, I make a conscious effort not to.

I've heard people ask, "Would you rather be too hot or too cold?" The usual answer is that people would rather be too cold because they can always put more clothes on. I heartily disagree with that response. In the winter I can usually be found, ALL DAY LONG, wearing my thick winter coat in my house. I'm usually still not warm. Part of that is the fact that I keep my heater set to about 62 because I'm a cheapskate. So, yes, I'm actively enabling my own hypothermia. But, SIXTY-TWO. How am I still that cold? Why do I need pants, a long sleeve shirt and a jacket on to keep me from shaking?

This is why I maintain that I could move to Florida or Phoenix or Guam and be JUST FINE. Because if I lived in any of those places I don't think I'd ever see the number 63 on a thermometer. See, I, myself, would much rather be hot. If you're hot you can wear a tank top and shorts. You can sit in front of a fan. You can drink a tall glass of iced tea. You can run through the sprinklers, head to the swimming pool, or hang out in your basement. There are things to do to get cooler, people. Sometimes, in the dead of winter, I am so cold I think I'll never be warm again.

There might be something wrong with me. Maybe I should get my circulation checked. I was told that my blood would thicken after a couple of winters here. Seven is a lot more than a couple and I'm still waiting. Apparently, spending 26 years in San Diego gave me a permanent case of thin blood. See, here, in Utah, the sun comes out and I feel just about 1,000 times happier than I felt ALL winter long. Because water and splash pads and popsicles and flip flops and the smell of sunscreen and sunshine. And so many smiles on the faces of my kids.

Back in the (COLD) winter, Garrett was given the Star Student Award which only about five kids in his class had the honor of getting this year. As part of his reward, he got a coupon for a free activity at a place called Classic Fun Center. He kept begging and begging to use it. It's a good thing we didn't because the water park would not have been open in February.

And so all of this fun would not have been had.

They'd have skated or played on the jungle gym or bounced.

But instead, they got to do all of this...

I also had another coupon for a free activity. I had to pay a $2.00 spectator fee. So all of this fun was had for exactly two dollars.

And it was WARM! The sun. The fun. The water.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE SUMMER?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How To Prepare For Adoption In 57 Easy Steps

I recently came across a guide on the Internet titled "A Really Big Number of Things You Should Do to Prepare For Adoption." Or something close to that, anyway. On the one hand, it linked to a cornucopia of resources, showed that the family in question was more prepared than maybe any family in the history of the adoption world, and provided material help to anyone who stumbled upon it. As Olaf the snowman would say, "All good things, all good things."

On the other hand is everything else. I'd have had a cardiac event if I'd bumped into that corner of the Internet six years ago. In addition to all the dotting of i's and crossing of t's already required for adoption? After I get fingerprints, write checks, attend agency/organization meetings, and wander down a paper trail that feels like it will never, ever end? THEN you have dozens of webinars I should watch, meetings I should attend, books I need to read, movies I need to buy and dentists I need to find? (Because, yes, according to this helpful guide, if you're adopting transracially you should find a doctor and dentist for your child that fit his or her heritage.) It also linked to handouts that should be given to extended family members and friends as well as a reading list for them.

I know it sounds like I think preparation is a waste of time (I don't) and that we didn't prepare (we did). It's just that we are exactly six years into our adoption journey and if I've learned one thing it's that YOU CAN'T PREPARE FOR WHAT'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN. Notice I didn't say you SHOULDN'T prepare. There are so many resources out there for adoption and, certainly, getting your hands on some of them is only going to help. But what I said is that you CAN'T prepare. Not really, anyway.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

You can't prepare because you don't know if your child is going to sail through life with minimal adoption related issues or be the poster child for the experience of the primal wound. Maybe yours will have reactive attachment disorder or maybe she won't. Your kid could sail through childhood and suddenly begin to grieve their loss as a teenager or it could be the other way around. There are so many variables and for everyone who says that his life was ruined because he was adopted is another person saying she wouldn't have it any other way.

There isn't a book that could have prepared me for the experience of watching my husband take care of our son's every need during his first night of life while I violently threw up, over and over again, my body attempting, hopelessly, to rid itself of the stress and grief that had washed over it when an AWOL birth father suddenly wanted custody. Still, as I looked at that newborn boy and knew it would almost kill me to lose him, I consciously told my heart to, "Love him. Love him as fiercely and as completely as you love your other son. LOVE HIM. EVEN IF YOU LOSE HIM."

There isn't a book or a seminar that could have prepared me for what it felt like to love Matthew. I knew, through the mismatched feelings of numbness and terror, that if they took my son away, I would not come out on the other end stronger and braver and better. I would, undoubtedly, be disfigured, jaded and weak. My heart would forever be cracked, love spilling out for him with no where to go. Still, with all that I felt for that child, the love was different. I wasn't prepared for that. I hadn't bonded with him for nine months prior to his birth. In much the same way that he learned my voice and my smell and began to identify me as his mother, I learned that philia--general--love can twist and turn itself into storge--natural affection--love. I didn't get that from a pamphlet about adoption. My son taught me.

There isn't a conference that can teach you about how sometimes your child will want to talk about his birth family with frequent regularity and sometimes he won't want to talk about them at all. Sometimes he'll ask if he can call them or move in with them or at least visit them. And, at five, he won't mean, "I HATE YOU AND I WANT MY OTHER FAMILY!" He'll mean, "I'm small and adoption is a little bit confusing and I'd like to see my mother but I still want you to snuggle me and scratch my back." Sometimes he'll talk about being in his mother's tummy and how great it was and sometimes he'll sob, great wounded gasps, in your arms because his brother lived in your tummy but he didn't. A book doesn't prepare you for that because a book can't set the tone. Only your child can do that.

There isn't a handout on the planet that can ready you for the personal attacks. Thankfully, our hateful experiences have been extremely limited. Still, even if I'd read about hurtful scenarios, it wouldn't have made Downtown Disney any easier. As Matthew happily squealed in his stroller, I pushed him quickly toward the Rainforest Cafe. My parents, husband and other son were up ahead of us. A woman briskly walked toward me. Just as we were set to pass each other I smiled. She continued and, once past, grunted, "You'll never be that child's mother." Nothing prepares you. Your stomach drops out. Your skin prickles. You think about turning and running after her. You think about how you'd like to take a swing at her jaw. You think about how she has tried to redefine your relationship with your child by using hurtful words. You do NOT think about the helpful handout you read. In the end, you keep walking, tears stinging your eyes. Because it isn't worth it. He's worth it. That woman is, decidedly, not worth it.

A book can't tell you how your open adoption should look. Your child (and sometimes a court agreement) defines the terms.

A website doesn't know if, when, and for how long your child will need counseling. Professionals, parents, and the child are the only ones who can answer that.

Literature on the subject can't tell you which adoption groups to join, which events to attend, and which foods to cook for your kid. These are the things that you figure out as you go.

We didn't know, when we went with our transracial adoption playgroup to a private screening of "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" that our then three-year-old would grow exceedingly quiet and ask, when it was over, why he didn't have leaves on his legs and inquire as to whether he might have to go back into the garden someday. We didn't know, when he viewed it for a second time, just the other night, that he'd be past wondering about leaves and gardens but devastated by the fact that Timothy doesn't stay. Great, heaving sobs of grief and anguish. We didn't know, when we assured him that he would never leave and asked if that's what he was worried about, that he would look at us like we were bonkers and say, "NO!" before continuing to mourn the loss of Timothy.

We don't know what the future holds. We can't learn it in a book. It hasn't been written.

Literature, conferences and seminars are great. Certainly, they are tools for us to use. But so much of adoption--just like parenting a biological child--is trial and error, ups and downs, right moves and wrong moves. It's listening to your child. It's letting him think and speak and process. It isn't putting words in his mouth. It's teaching offense so that we can minimize the times when we have to be defensive with others. It's knowing that there will be issues and that we will do whatever we can to heal them.

It's saying, "You are mine and I am yours. Forever." It isn't checking off a list of everything you've read that somehow qualifies you to be an adoptive parent. It's love. Pure. Simple. Sometimes not so simple. Love.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Time Vortex

The time is being sucked into some kind of vortex, y'all. This is evidenced by several things. First, my baby cousin, who was born when I was 14, JUST GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL. I do not quite understand how this is possible. I was a freshman in high school when she was born and now she is going to UCLA. I'm sorry, what now? Just...HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? One minute I'm toting her around on my hip and the VERY NEXT MINUTE she's a Bruin. Really.

Another one of my cousins, ten years younger than me, JUST GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE. Again, what? I mean, yes, this makes logical sense. I've done the math and it's actually correct this time. As opposed to all the other times I do math and the answers that I come up with are wrong.

For further proof that time is being SUCKED AWAY INTO SOME UNKNOWN DIMENSION, I give you exhibit A.

Exhibit A makes my heart ache. Sure, I've still got these two and sure, it'll be awhile before they pick a college BUT THEY DO NOT LOOK LIKE THAT AT ALL ANYMORE. Garrett is limbs and adult teeth and Matthew is, well, not a baby. For one thing. I'm sure I was trying to get them to look directly at the camera when I took that picture. What I got was so much better.

If the time continues to speed by at this rate, they'll be married with children by tomorrow. Just typing that sentence made me die just a little inside.