Monday, February 6, 2017

Make Them Eat

It's important for me to acknowledge that there are children with actual food related issues. There are kids with food sensory aversion, allergies, intolerance, etc. This post isn't about them. If you're the parent of a child who struggles with diagnosed food related issues, work with your pediatrician to keep your kid healthy and ignore this post.

Once upon a time, my husband and my oldest son engaged in an epic battle of wills. The Great Battle of Foodmageddon. Garrett's Last Stand. The Siege of Kitchentown.

For a short time, Garrett was an overly picky toddler, refusing to eat nearly everything we put in front of him. I'd heard of a tactic whereby you make your child choose between what is being served and a peanut butter sandwich. If they eat neither, they go hungry. We decided to employ this system. Our kid ate peanut butter for a week.

I had visions of our child eating only peanut butter for the rest of his life. He'd be the kid at the birthday party turning his nose up at the pizza and insisting that the host slap some creamed peanuts between two pieces of bread for him. He'd be the husband insisting on sandwiches at the wedding. Not to mention the scurvy I was certain was right around the corner.

"This is dumb," I said. "He eats what we eat or he doesn't eat."

I can remember sitting on the porch, waiting for Troy to get home from work. I was starved for adult conversation and my toddler was legit refusing to eat, choosing, instead, to spit everything at me. Troy pulled in the driveway, sensed my impending meltdown, and took over.

The evening culminated in Troy pressing Garrett's lips together so he couldn't spit out whatever it was he refused to swallow. They faced off. Stubborn father against the son who inherited his flair for being unwilling to back down. Garrett refused to swallow. Troy refused to be spit on. In the end, the adult won the battle and the war and our child ate from then on.

Nine years later, there are still tons of things he doesn't like. There are things he once liked but has now decided he doesn't. But, there are so many more things that he once hated that he now enjoys.

Do you want your child to eat? Here are some practical tips.

1. Make them try things. Once they're old enough to reason, explain that they will have a courtesy bite of everything. They must have a small portion of everything you've set on the table. Garrett hated potatoes for the longest time. I would make him have one bite of potato every time we had them. Eventually, he found that he liked them with ranch dressing. If they don't eat their dinner, they don't get dessert. Period. END OF DISCUSSION. Wait, what, you hadn't planned anything for dessert because it's not 1950 and we don't bake a cake every day? Break out two animal crackers or a graham cracker or a tiny dish with one scoop of frozen yogurt or WHATEVER because it will straight up be an incentive to finish that bite of broccoli. The older they get the less they'll need an incentive. And they'll start to find that they like things they didn't think they liked.

2. Make them try things you don't like. This is especially easy to do at a buffet. They may end up loving something you detest and the broader a kid's palate, the better. We don't actually want them to hate food, do we? Garrett loves beets because he ate them at a salad bar. Never saw that one coming.

3. NEVER tell your small child that you hate a particular food. This gives them a pass to refuse to try things because, "Dad doesn't have to." I have tried and tried and TRIED to love oatmeal. But I just HATE it and have since I was a kid. Apparently, I loved it as a baby but, for as long as I can remember I've detested it. It's not the taste. It's the texture. It's like eating vomit. But I completely recognize the nutritional value and ease of oatmeal so I have encouraged a love for oatmeal in all my children. My older kids are definitely old enough to know that there are foods we both hate. They're not dumb. They've never seen me eat oatmeal and they've never seen Troy eat an olive. Of course we've had discussions with them about foods we don't like--now. But when they were tiny and in the process of developing good eating habits, we PRETENDED to like everything. The more a kid eats when he's little, the more things he'll like later in life.

4. Sauces and dips. Or no sauces and dips. Whatever works. Garrett hated tomato sauce for years. It was bizarre because he LOVED tomatoes. When we had spaghetti, I would give him plain noodles with a little butter. Yes, I was catering to him, but he was basically still eating what we were eating. He wasn't eating peanut butter. Eventually, I started giving him buttery noodles with meatballs. The meatballs were cooked in our sauce so some sauce ended up on his plate. Initially, this was the end of his world. But he liked the meatballs and realized that a little bit of sauce wasn't going to kill him. Now, he eats spaghetti like a normal human. Ranch dressing or BBQ sauce or soy sauce are great for making foods that seem bland to kid's tongue, well, less bland. When Matthew was a baby, I told people that his favorite foods were condiments. Dipping made things fun and yummy. The doctor assures me my kids are healthy so I stand by this tip. Especially because I'd rather have my kids eating carrots with ranch than no carrots at all.

5. No seconds of the things they love until the things they hate are gone. Period. If they're still hungry after their plate is clean, they can fill up with more of the things they like.

6. Make sure they don't hate the entire meal. A few years ago, if I'd served spaghetti with potatoes and avocado, Garrett would have died on the spot. (Not to mention I would have needed my own head examined for such a bizarre combination.) But serve him up spaghetti with Caesar salad and a huge chunk of bread and suddenly there's only one thing on his plate he's not excited about. Double portion of bread and salad and a tiny amount of spaghetti? Sure. The end goal is to broaden their tastes, not make them hate their parents.

7. Reward them when they're little for being good eaters. Tell them how proud you are. One thing I do that I know other people find weird is I let them eat their food in whatever order they want. If it's breakfast and we're having eggs, bacon, fruit and a danish, they can absolutely eat the danish first if they'd like to. But they know that the very first time they don't finish the rest of their breakfast after polishing off that danish, they will lose that privilege. It has never once been a problem.

8. If they just legitimately hate something after repeated tries, don't torture them. Especially if they'll eat a wide variety of other things and they're eating a balanced diet. Garrett cannot handle spices or excessive amounts of fried foods. He gets physically sick to his stomach. Obviously, I don't force feed him fried chicken until he throws up.

I'm sure there are many more tips I could come up with but those stand out in my mind. I was blessed with an amazing eater in Matthew. That kid will try anything and he likes everything. Including fish eyes. Although, when he was little he tried avocado and hated it. He looked, mournfully, at my brother (who loves avocado) and moaned, "I can't yike it." Guess what though? He loves it now. Currently, Will will eat anything. Of course, we haven't reached that terrible toddler stage so we shall see. I'm sure I'll be revisiting my own advice soon enough. Garrett (with the exception of his natural bent toward anything from the ocean) was molded and crafted into a good eater with a great deal of intention and diligence on our part. He's still much more picky than his brother but he's learned to be polite, to eat what is put in front of him here and ESPECIALLY somewhere else, and he has discovered a love for so many foods because he was introduced to a wide variety young and often.

Your child can be a good eater. It just takes consistency. Good luck. You can do it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

On Why My Baby Eats Everything

When people started arriving at our church Chili and Game Night, they jokingly asked if Will was going to get to have chili for his dinner. He was seven months old. We'd already been there for an hour, the baby was losing his mind with all the starvation--what with not having eaten for THREE ENTIRE HOURS--and so I had already fed him a bowl full of chili.

We had gift cards to Red Lobster and he ate scallops, clams, shrimp, crab, and lobster. Thrown in to that delicious mix was some baked potato, broccoli, rice, tomato, cheddar biscuit (because how could we deprive him a Red Lobster biscuit?), and the end of a peanut butter sandwich he'd left over from lunch.

He's had burritos, soups, eggs, pastas, all manner of fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, and even milk.

Before Will ever existed, I heard of Baby Led Weaning. Basically, BLW lets your child feed himself from the very start. When we feed our babies pureed baby food, they learn to swallow first and then to chew. When we feed them solid food from the start, they learn to chew first and then swallow. I started thinking about babies in countries where there isn't an entire aisle in the nearby Walmart dedicated to a zillion different blends of pureed foods. What do those babies eat? Probably whatever their parents are eating. I also started thinking about the grocery bill--and how much cheaper it would be without all those jars of blended turkey. All around, Baby Led Weaning seemed like a win/win situation.

I started feeding both my older boys solid food around 4 months. We began with rice cereal, added in oatmeal next, and then tried vegetables and fruits, one at a time, watching diligently for signs of allergy.

BLW says to wait until baby is 6-8 months old and can feed himself. (I keep saying himself because I have been blessed with only himselves. Not because I am a sexist. I'm sitting here wrestling with whether or not I should use gender inclusive language. But then people might be confused about whether or not I'm referring to Will as a herself.) I realized when Will was 4 months old that following the BLW wasn't exactly going to work for us because I wanted him to try things before he was big enough to do it himself. If we'd waited until Will could feed himself, he'd still be living on formula and breast milk and he'd have missed out on those two bites of lobster entirely. Just the other day, I considered it a HUGE victory when he took a giant piece of bell pepper in his fist, brought it to his mouth, and chomped down. Until then, he would squish everything in his chubby hands and/or throw it at the floor.

So I decided to use the ideas of BLW but craft a new way of feeding that worked for our family. I did not start with rice cereal. Honestly, with both of my older boys, I had nearly gagged just watching them eat that stuff. It smells disgusting and looks even worse. When Will was four months old, we started him on avocado and then bananas in a mesh pouch. It was a mess. He was my smallest baby and he wasn't really sitting on his own yet. He sat in our laps and smeared avocado everywhere. It was easier to just pop a bottle in his mouth and I got lazy.

A few weeks later, my brother, sister-in-law, and then fourteen month old niece, came to visit. We got the highchair seat out of its box so my niece could eat her meals. Will watched with a great deal of interest. When they left, we never put the seat away. We plopped my almost five month old in it and the rest is history. He'd seen his big cousin eat and he was not going to let her have all the fun.

I didn't start him with store bought baby food though. I gave him things like oatmeal and Greek yogurt--and I blended my own veggies and fruits, being sure to leave some small chunks. That went on for about a month. He ate a variety of different foods and I used my food processor to chop them up to a manageable consistency.

At Will's 6 month appointment, I was a little worried to tell the doctor that he ate dozens and dozens of different foods and that I didn't wait before introducing a new food. I figured that if he had an allergic reaction, I'd eliminate everything he'd eaten that day and reintroduce one food at a time. As it turns out, my doctor was very happy that Will was eating such a variety of foods and told us that we could feed him anything and everything except honey.

Even milk.

Even eggs.

Even...peanut butter.

The things I had been told NOT to feed my babies when Garrett and Matthew were tiny. My pediatrician said that there was research that showed that introducing these foods before nine months actually decreased the rate of developing an allergy.

Will had peanut butter (diluted with water) that afternoon.

And in the two months since that appointment, we have fed him whatever we're having. We cut it smaller, of course. He has had store bought baby food because, let's face it, it's easier to throw into a diaper bag. But, mostly, he spits anything out at us if it doesn't have chunks. It's almost like he's thinking, "Whatever you just put in my mouth is for babies. Clearly, I am a big boy capable of eating anything. Now, bring me my steak and lobster." (Okay, he hasn't had steak. Although that is mostly because our money also doesn't buy steak.)

So far, there has been one food that hasn't been Will's favorite. Beets. And, really, who likes beets except for my oldest child? So I took the leftover beets and hid them in things like applesauce and he ate them up just fine.

If you want to follow this Bassham Baby Led Eating Thing it's like this in one easy step.

1. Introduce a wide variety of chunky foods--early.

Upside: A baby who will eat anything.
Downside: Your kid may develop a lobster taste on an imitation crab budget.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

8 Months

Dear Will,

This is not my first parenting rodeo. I've done it before. In fact, I've been doing it for ten and a half years. So you'd think I'd understand and accept the whole growing-up-at-the-speed-of-light thing. But no. I still scratch my head and wonder how IN THE WORLD you are already 8 months old.

It seemed like an excellent idea to purchase blocks when you were itty bitty teeny tiny. Blocks that I would strategically place near you once a month with the number corresponding to your age. This was a beautiful plan. Until it wasn't. Somehow, I forgot that you would start moving and want NOTHING more than to destroy those nicely placed blocks. So, what should take 5 minutes takes 45. And instead of 13 adorable pictures to choose from, I get 1,042 that look like this...

This month you learned how to get from your back to a seated position. This allows you to pull everything out of your bookcase. Which is awesome.

You started crawling.

Sort of.

Your arms do what they're supposed to but your legs are very confused. One leg walks in a weird sort of frog hop while the other one kinda drags behind. But, you get where you want to go so I guess that's all that matters.

You still have no teeth but that doesn't stop you from eating just about everything. Last night, it was scallops, clams, shrimp, crab, and lobster at Red Lobster (courtesy of a gift card. You should learn now that our family does not eat at Red Lobster without a gift card. Our money doesn't buy lobster. Our money buys imitation crab. In plastic wrap. At The Walmart.)

You eat what we eat only cut smaller. This is evident every time we try to feed you baby food and you spit it wildly at the person on the other end of the spoon. It is NOT charming. We tell you no nicely the first 17 times and then our NO! turns harsh and you cry.

You love your brothers and your dog and your DADA! We don't think you actually understand that you're calling for him but it's only a matter of time. You also imitate, "All done." Just recently, you've added the "B" sound to your repertoire of noises. 

Today, we left you with a babysitter for a few hours and she declared that you were standing up at the couch. "Did you stand him up? Or did he pull himself up?" I asked nonchalant like because I was unaware that you were doing that.

"He pulled himself up."

Well. Okay then. You do that now, too.

I'm not surprised. You'd almost done it several times this morning. I just wasn't aware you were going to master every single thing in the span of a week.

I mentioned the dog before. Now that you can move, the two of you are becoming fast friends. She continues to think that you are a viable option for ball throwing and continues to forget that you steal her ball and keep it for yourself. Today, you were on all fours staring at her and she was on all fours staring at you. She is a very vocal dog and she "growled" (which is really a very noisy groan) and wagged her tail frantically. You grunted in return. This went on for a solid minute. Her groaning, you grunting. Back and forth. Then she smeared your face with a fantastic lick and walked away.

This past month you and I flew to California for a long weekend. You were as magnetic on the plane as you are everywhere else we go. A dozen people--from two rows in front of us to the row behind us--were all busy trying to be the one to make you smile. You were giving them liberally and, Will, your smile is just the absolute best. The Lord has blessed you with joy and it radiates out of you like sunbeams.

I could not have told anyone, three years ago, that what I needed was a third son. But here you are, being one of the very best things that has ever happened to me. I'm sad that you're getting so big so fast, but whenever I feel your little heart beating, or listen to the sound of your breath, I am so happy that you are living and growing and thriving.

Thank you for being you and for being here, in my home and in my heart. You are larger than life and I can't wait to see what God does through you. But take your time, Baby. You don't have to grow up quite so fast.

I love you big.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Just One Dollar Campaign

I am passionate about adoption.

I am an adoptive parent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Movin' and Shakin'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roughage. Right?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Commander Lofgreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 20, 2017


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

"Wait. What now?"

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

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

"Oh she said it!" Matthew replied.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

"Yes..." I replied.

"Well, okay then."

Thursday, January 19, 2017


To Kate on the occasion of your death and birth,

I never want to leave you there in the ground. I want to scoop you into my arms, run fingers through your curly hair, kiss mocha colored cheeks, dress you in ruffles and bathe you in snuggles. I want to do a lot of things. But I never want to leave you there in the ground.

I imagine you, buried under the grass. I remember your tiny casket and the flowers that were there, trying their hardest to mask death, their colors begging us to look away from the sadness. I remember choosing your grave marker, none of the dozens of choices seeming at all right. Because nothing was right. It was all messed up.

Everything is wrong when your baby is in the dirt.

The stages of grief aren't stages at all. They're fluid pockets of space and time, connected by wires that allow a girl to travel into any of them at any time.

Acceptance comes.

But even two years later, there is anger and sometimes denial, even.

You didn't die. Why did you die? If only you hadn't died. I'm mad at the world because you died.

In the end, I set my face stoic, remind myself of God's goodness and that the essence of who you are is with Him. I thank you for being you and making me fall in love with you so completely. I rub the dust from your stone, place the things we've chosen, tell you how desperately I continue to miss you. And then I turn and walk away.

But I never, ever, want to leave you there in the dirt.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

That's All

I don't want to talk politics. I really don't. During this past year, I had people say to me or, at least, very near me, that people were horrible, awful, terrible people if they voted...

Third Party
Not third party

"Anyone who votes for Clinton is a horrible person."

"If you vote for Trump, you're a racist."

"Vote third party. It's the only option in this election and you're part of the problem if you don't."

"If you vote third party, you're wasting your vote and giving it to ___________."

Here's what I think though. I think, on a sweepingly large scale, our country has lost the ability to empathize, to understand why someone votes a certain way. Obviously, I've been thinking about this for awhile. Well, for two months anyway.

I maintain that I'm still really angry about the options the Republican Party and the Democratic Party gave me. I was politically kicking and screaming for the better part of a year. But it was what it was. And it is what it is.

In the aftermath, I still want to be a person of integrity. I still want to love others. In many ways, I consider myself an artist--even though I never really did much with my art beyond college. The reason I love the theatre so much is because it conveys the human experience, one moment at a time. One person at a time. One idea at a time. It helps us understand people who think differently than we do.

Do I understand why people are afraid of Trump? Yes. I do.

Do I understand why people were afraid of Clinton? Yes. I do.

I know amazing people who passionately or grudgingly voted for Clinton and my life is richer for having them in it. I know incredible people who passionately or grudgingly voted for Trump and my life is better because they are in it. I know great individuals who voted third party and my life is sweeter because they are my friends.

We need to be able to look past our own fear and into the lives and hearts of people who don't vote the way we do. We need to realize that, generally speaking, roughly half the country is always sad or angry or appalled with the outcome of an election. I have voted in five elections. More often than not, the candidate I've selected is not the candidate who ends up sitting in the oval office. It's neither here nor there how I've felt about Bush, Obama, and Trump. What is here and there is how I love people.

Ultimately, my one vote makes very little difference. Especially since I reside in a state that is always, decidedly, red. And at the end of the day, at the end of my life, I don't think it'll much matter who I voted for. What will matter is how I loved people. Sometimes, how we love people is seen most evidently in the way we care about those who are different.

Regardless of how you voted (and how you feel about the electoral college), these are the numbers I found--


That is a lot of people with very different opinions. They ALL have a story. From the blue collar farmer in Iowa to the Wall Street stock trader. From the black man to the white one. From the single mom to the Texas house wife. From the immigrant to the Native American. Our stories are different so we vote differently. But empathy SHOULD remain.

On Sunday night, at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep used her speech time, essentially, to talk politics. I respect her right to use the time however she'd like. I respect her freedom of speech. But, personally, I almost never want to hear actors getting political. However, she did say something at the end of her speech that I want to quote.

"...we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy." It is a privilege and it is a responsibility. The world is not black and white. We must have empathy for all: for minorities and majorities, for the disabled, for those with different religious beliefs, for those on the other side of the vote. For all.

And one last thing because it is my blog and I can say what I want. President-elect Trump, you are free to disagree with Ms. Streep. You are free to defend yourself however you'd like on Twitter or in any other forum (although I truly wish you'd stop). You are welcome to your opinions on policy and business and, even, acting. But I am free to my opinion that you are wrong. Regardless of whether Ms. Streep shares your politics or mine, she is not overrated. She is the greatest female actor of our time. And, in the words of Miranda Priestly, "That's all."


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Because This Is Us

Back in September, when all the new television shows were playing their promos, Troy and I kept seeing commercials for This is Us. Somehow, I thought it was only about one woman's weight loss journey. It was intriguing, to be sure, and I knew it had potential but I try to be really intentional about which shows I add to my lineup. We really only watch a few and it takes a lot of great acting and an intriguing story line to make the cut.

Throughout the fall, I kept seeing Facebook posts that said, "Adoptive parents must watch!" and articles with titles like The Show That Gets Adoption Right. And so, over Christmas break, after telling Troy several times that we really needed to watch it, we binged the first 10 episodes. I mean, it started with a casual, "Hey, let's watch the pilot and see what we think," and ended with us wondering how we'll ever make it until Tuesday when the show comes back after its winter break.

The soundtrack.

The storytelling.

The relationships.

I feel so completely invested in the characters.

This show has so many story lines that people can relate to for one reason or another but, of course, for Troy and me, it's the transracial adoption plot that keeps us coming back.

I'm sure there are people watching who relate to Kate and her journey with her weight. I'm sure others identify with Jack setting aside his dreams to provide for his family. Some might relate to Toby or Kevin or Beth or William.

If you have ever wondered what it might be like to be me, watch this show.

Because Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson is pretty much my spirit animal.

That is NOT to say that I agree with some of the choices she made to keep certain secrets. Intellectually, with the benefit of 30 years between her adoption of Randall and mine of Matthew, I know and believe that our kids are better off with knowledge and relationships--when either of those things are at all possible. They are better off knowing and they are certainly better off when we allow them to talk about adoption like it isn't a giant elephant in the room.

But what I love about this show is that it isn't afraid to expose our secrets. I try so hard to make sure that Matthew and Will know I'm not threatened by the fact that I'm only one of their moms. And I'm not. Because this world is big enough, Matt's world is big enough, Will's world is big enough, for both of us. But, I'd be lying if I said I didn't love them so very much that I wish I could be enough, the way that I'm enough for Garrett.

I don't know if the story line will continue in such a way that I will always feel this camaraderie with Mandy's portrayal of Rebecca, but as for the first ten episodes, well, like I said, spirit animal.

It's personal. It's thought provoking. The credits roll and we talk about what to do and what not to do. Or what Jack or Rebecca should or shouldn't have said. Or done. It makes me infinitely thankful for these three decades of growth and awareness that separate me from Rebecca. It makes me thankful for the portrayal of their relationship now--that we might see one writer's spin on an adult transracial adoptee and his mother. I love that we see the things done right mixed with the mistakes made.

I am cheering for Rebecca every moment. She is me. We don't make the same choices. No one experience is ever the same as another. Sometimes we're right and sometimes we're wrong. She opens herself up to us, showing her flaws, bruises, and struggles. She navigates loving these three children with their unique needs. She tries to do right by them. She fails and she succeeds.

She doesn't apologize for the fierceness of her love.

My children have two moms.

I am one of them. And I love them fierce.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It Is Well

My husband informed me last night that, just maybe, I should think about blogging again. On account of the fact that it's been more than a week.

Since I last blogged we:

-Legally adopted Will
-Had Christmas Eve
-Celebrated Christmas
-Celebrated Post Christmas with my parents once they arrived on the 26th

It's been a busy week.

Our Christmas was such a sweet time celebrating the birth of our Savior. It was especially wonderful because we held our boy tight--knowing he's here permanently and forever. There was really never a question with this one. Once his parents signed on the line in June, it was smooth sailing. It's just that, with everything that has gone on in the past for us, there was always the nagging pull in the back of my mind that something might possibly go horribly wrong.

It didn't.

On December 21, we gathered with close friends at the courthouse downtown. Our judge who was seriously the Doogie Howser of judges, was so nice. I didn't feel like she could possibly be a day older than me. But then I looked her up online because I'm weird and stalky like that and she graduated from the University of Utah in 1995. So, unless she is actually Doogie Howser, she's roughly eight years older than me. But, really, still. It's not like I'm going to be a judge in eight years. It was pretty much my life goal to be a mommy though so I AM TOTALLY ACHIEVING IT ALL, Y'ALL.

Diapers. Report cards. Teaching kids how to swim and how to read and how to do long division. It's all happening!

She was just great though and, in my stalking, I discovered that she practiced law in New York for awhile. I feel like, in a parallel world where she wasn't the judge and I wasn't nervous and tripping over my words, we could have been good friends.

In the end, my child spit up all over his collared white (because what was I thinking) shirt, she declared us fit to parent forever, we posed for a picture, and the rest is history.

I love this family. We're quirky and silly and we deal with some real life stuff just like everyone else. But, at the end of the day, there isn't anyone I'd rather wake up to or come home to or live day in and out with. These are my guys. All four of them.

If I was like a princess, I would feel very safe in their arms. Turns out, I'm nothing like a princess. I'm a boymom though and through. Snips, snails, puppy dog tails, mud and muck. Those are the things God has blessed me with. Still, I feel very safe and very loved in the middle of them.

One night, just after Will's adoption was finalized and just before Christmas, Troy and I sat on our couch and stared at the twinkling lights on our tree. Our three boys were asleep upstairs and I was snuggled in my guy's arms. We worship the One. We have amazing friends and family who love us. We're teaching our boys to adore the Savior of the world, come as a tiny babe. These are the things that matter.

It is well with my soul. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Gift

In five and a half hours, barring any unforeseen roadblocks, Will will officially become a Bassham. The weight of that isn't lost on me. I'm thrilled. It's what we've been waiting six and a half months for. But the me who has raised an adopted child for nearly eight years knows that, while this day is of vital importance, the journey doesn't end here.

The adoption process doesn't stop when the judge declares him ours henceforth and forever. It is stunningly beautiful, a masterpiece painting of the love our God has for us when He adopts us into His family. It is also loss and anguish. The adoption relationship is ever evolving and we, as his parents, must be willing participants and, in fact, advocates of that evolution.

Today, Will's birth certificate will change. It will list me as his mother, as though I felt every burning labor pain, as though I watched his tiny body emerge from mine. I did not. It will list Troy as his father, as though he stood by, holding my hand while I pushed this boy into the world. We did not give him his beginning.

His original birth certificate will be wiped away.

And so we made sure to obtain it months ago. The information his mother gave the hospital is preserved in a safe, that he might have it one day, that who he began as is not erased forever.

Today is a day for joy and we will celebrate.

But, under that elation is the knowledge that our joy comes from grief. The grief he will battle, in ripples and waves and, sometimes, tsunamis as he navigates this world of nature and nurture. The grief his parents felt as they placed his life into my arms. The grief they continue to feel--whether in moments or in constants.

Today, he will be ours.

But it remains our job to teach him that he was first, and always will be, theirs.

This story is a tangled web of hope and expectation and sadness and miracles. What began as the dream of his sister more than two years ago will become the reality of her brother becoming our legal son. Finally.

Happy Adoption Day, Will. My promise to you is that I will let you feel whatever you feel. I will always be here for you. You will never have to worry about hurting me with your concerns or desires to know your family and your beginning. This is your journey. I'm so glad that our Father gave me such an important role in it.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. -James 1:17

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Reason

We took our children to see Santa. None of them believe in Santa Claus. Garrett and Matthew are too old for that these days and Will doesn't believe in much of anything yet. He believes that I'll feed him. Although, with the way he sometimes screams like a banshee for his next bottle, I'm not even sure he has complete faith in my follow through. One day, I assume his eyes will light up with the magical fairy tale of Santa Claus but, at the moment, we have no believers.

We had to twist Garrett's arm to sit on Santa's lap "one last time" because we wanted just one picture with all three boys together with him. When we got there, Santa was on his break. We waited forEVER. Will very nearly had an exhausted meltdown at the last moment but he rallied and we got this adorable picture which we paid way too much for.

This isn't a post about visiting Santa though.

I have something important to say.

We have never spent more than $100 dollars on each of our children for Christmas. I am not saying that so that you will feel sorry for them and think we're the poorest of the poor. I am not saying it because I want any kind of sympathy. Nor am I saying it to try to make anyone who spends less than that feel like I'm bragging. That is what we choose to spend. More or less. (Usually less.)

We taught our children from the moment they started believing in Santa that he would bring them ONE parent approved gift. Generally, we've limited this gift to roughly $20 or less. Christmas is a wonderful time of gift giving and receiving. It's magical and there are sparkly lights and pine trees erected inside our homes. Our favorite decorations come out and remind of us Christmases long, long ago. We sip hot cocoa and eat cookies. In our family, we focus on the Christ child, come to set us free. We teach our children that Christmas is in the manger, not in the packages under the tree.

Receiving gifts is a fun tradition. Receiving the Savior is a matter of life or death.

Yesterday, when we were just a few minutes away from meeting Santa, Garrett turned to me, his eyes WIDE as saucers. "What?" I exclaimed because, clearly, something was wrong.

"Did you hear what she's asking Santa for?" he whispered the sentence in one long exhale of air.

There was a girl, probably somewhere between my boys in age, standing just a few feet away with who I assume to be her father. I shook my head from side to side, I hadn't heard. He pulled me down closer to him and whispered, "She wants a hatchimal, an iPad, and a phone!" he paused. "She wants all that. SHE IS ASKING HIM FOR ALL THAT!"

When the boys were in preschool, I realized this was going to be an issue. I stood around and listened as parents told other parents what the red-suited man was bringing their children. I did mental math and gave up when I'd estimated the loot to be well over $500. FOR PRESCHOOLERS! I was getting my kid a couple of toys and some clothes. Long ago, we explained to our children that some kids receive a lot from Santa Claus but that the parents have to approve it all. We told them that we only wanted them getting something small. So as not to ruin what Christmas is all about. They understood and this has been our policy ever since.

"What is a hatchimal?" I asked. He gave me a look that shouted, "HEY, MOM, YOU'RE MISSING THE POINT!" What I was impressed with, in my ten-year-old who doesn't believe that Santa brings anything, was that he seemed not jealous but appalled. There was real concern in his eyes that someone would even dare to ask for ONE of those things, let alone all three.

"It's a thing. It...hatches. It's...well it's really expensive."

He wasn't joking. I searched Amazon. The cheapest one I can find is $150. It's true that it hatches. Once hatched, you can teach it to walk, talk, dance, and play games. Alright, but, for that price, I'd also better be able to teach it to do the dishes, fold the laundry, and change diapers. 

I have no idea if "Santa" is going to bring all of her requests but I'm willing to bet she also has stuff coming from mom and dad and grandparents. Perhaps even aunts and uncles. Maybe she knows the true meaning of Christmas and maybe she doesn't. She certainly knows the true meaning of consumerism. 

I know it sounds like I'm judging because...I am.

I'm judging a society that teaches children that asking for all three of those things isn't pure madness.

I think I was born in the wrong decade. Maybe I'm some kind of old school mom in a new school mom body. I don't know. What I know is that it made me sad. It isn't that we can't afford to spend more than $100. It's that I don't want to. I want them to understand that the stuff will break. The gifts will long go forgotten. 

What we remember about Christmas is the ham at Grandma and Grandpa's house, the way the family laughed when great grandma said she wanted some of every kind of dessert ("A little of each," she'd say.), the way the tinsel shined on Grandma's tree. We remember the roast and potatoes at the other grandparents house, the way their mobile home lit up with just the lights from their table top tree, the sound of my grandmother's laugh which still brings tears of joy to my eyes when I hear it ringing in my memory. We remember being five years old and moving the stuffed bear on the advent calendar. We remember daddy rolling sugar cookies and mommy tucking us in so that Santa could come. We remember Christmas Eve candle light services and carols. We remember Linus and what Christmas is really all about.

We remember Luke 2.

Teach your children to remember these things or, rather, their own versions of these things. Teach them that it is not about phones and iPads and hatchimals. Teach them to be thankful for what they get to give, not what they will receive.

Teach them about Jesus.

But, I mean, if someone knows about a hatchimal that DOES fold laundry, can you pass that info on to me? It's just that I could probably get on board with that.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Remember Me?

Remember me? I used to blog.

I watched this phenomenon happen with so many of my favorite blogs. Writers would blog the heck out of the first handful of years of their kids lives and then close up shop. I was always angry at them because I felt so invested in those kids and I wanted to know what happened to them beyond age seven or eight.

I totally get it now.

They get older. Their issues become much bigger than poop and spit up. In fact, they start taking care of their own poop altogether and they stop spitting up. When they throw up, they're mostly self sufficient. We don't blog their issues because it wouldn't be fair to them.

This year I have blogged far less than any other year. I felt like I was keeping the biggest whopper of secrets for the first five months of the year and anything I wanted to say was filtered through the fact that I wasn't sharing Will's existence with more than a handful of people. I was treasuring him up in my heart and nothing felt blog worthy. I thought for sure I would pick back up with intense writing once he was born because I would want to share every little coo and every little smile. Turns out, we have Instagram for that. It is much quicker and less labor intensive than writing A WHOLE ENTIRE BLOG.

He babbles and smiles but I'm usually busy running to soccer or Kids' Club or cub scouts and I can't sit down and write about it. Maybe when he turns two and starts saying hilarious stuff?

For now, he just practices being the happiest baby on the planet. And I go weeks without blogging. It is what it is.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Real Nativity

It seems that, whenever I have a baby, I get to thinking more about Mary's vital role in the Christmas story. And, okay, so it's not like I had a baby, in the literal sense of the word but, in the past, I have birthed a child. So, I've long been a serious critic of the traditional nativity scene.

I love them. I have many. They are among my most cherished Christmas decorations. But they are ridiculous.

Chosen One straight up just gave birth to a baby in a cave. Or a barn. Or a stable. In any case, it was NOT a hospital bed with doctors and nurses all around. It was not her home with her mother and trusted women of the village.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that there was probably a considerable amount of animal feces. There was straw--hopefully some of it was still clean. There was blood and, after the baby, came the rest, the part that horrifies the husbands in the delivery room because, they were totally expecting that baby but, they maybe weren't so knowledgeable about the afterbirth.

I'd like to think that someone wiser in the ways of labor and delivery came along to help Joseph out but the Bible doesn't mention her. Had there been a midwife or a villager, she would have been the first to lay eyes on the Savior and I think she would have warranted a Biblical mention. So I feel like it was maybe just Joe. I've heard of husbands delivering babies in cars or hallways and even the most stoic of them seem a little rattled.

So in a room of animal waste and blood and guts, a baby came into the world. My baby came into the world in a sterile hospital environment. I had every benefit of modern medicine and it still took me approximately thirty seconds of gingerly lowering myself into a sitting position just to perch on the end of a bed. I was certainly not kneeling on any floors, sitting on my feet. Yet, this is always how Mary is depicted. Crouched on her heels like giving birth took nothing out of her.

Yes. We're told that she placed him in a manger because there was no room in the inn. But I don't know any mothers who just put their baby in a bassinet and leave them there all night long. Certainly the manger contained him for a time but I'm willing to bet good money that Mary did a considerable amount of holding him. I think she also laid in a pile of hay--the cleanest Joseph could scoop into a heap. I suspect she looked tired, perhaps swollen, her tunic all in disarray and her head covering askew or, maybe even, folded beneath her for a pillow.

Joseph was, no doubt, overwhelmed. Exhausted. Concerned for his wife's well being and anxious about what the future held. Perhaps it was he who sat on his heels, staring at the baby while Mary slept, watching the rise and fall of his tiny chest.

I have no doubt that the shepherds found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in the manger just as the Bible reports. I just think Mary looked haggard and was, at best, propped up in the corner of the stable. I think Joseph was welcoming but disheveled from his recent hands on experience with childbirth. I think the animals were slightly agitated, their home overtaken by first a screaming woman and then a crying baby.

I want to add a nativity to my collection, one in which Mary is lying down. Joseph is sitting beside her. The baby is sleeping. He is not glowing nor is he wearing a crown. The shepherds are there but the wise men are still two years away.

This, perhaps, is Christmas.

Frozen statues in the cold
Washed in moonlight, blue and gold
Mary's babe in plastic hay
Quiet wonder on her face
Mary you look so serene
Far too pretty, much to clean
We might think we know you well
But what stories would you tell?
Of all the dirt and dust and shame
Every burning labor pain

And as I turn to walk away
I hear you say
I am real
Don't turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real
And I'll show you what it means to love like this
To be real
-Nichole Nordeman