Friday, August 26, 2016

Love, for the Right Reason

When my husband and I started dating, I was actually worried that I didn't like him as much as I liked his family. His dad was my pastor and, let's face it, I wanted a star on the Hollywood walk of fame or, eventually, a theatre named after me on Broadway. It wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that, at 21, I just wanted a high profile father-in-law. I mean, looking back now, it all seems ridiculous but I wanted to make sure I was dating him for the right reasons. You know, because of him. My other, more pressing, concern was that he had these two adorable nieces and a nephew that I was in love with and wanted as my own. Marrying their uncle wouldn't make them mine in any way, shape, or form, but it would get me a little bit closer. Thirteen years of marriage later, it's pretty evident I liked the guy. I liked him more than his dad and more than his sister's kids, even. I like spending my days with him. I like waking up next to him. I didn't marry him for his family.

I processed through the same feelings when Will's mom was pregnant with him. What if I just wanted him because he would be a little piece of Kate? What if it had nothing to do with Will and everything to do with her? What if he was born and I held him and took him home and just wanted him to be the daughter I lost and not the son I gained? I was afraid. Because nothing in that scenario would be fair to Will.

Even after we were all in and excited about our new little man, I occasionally struggled. I wondered if I would weep the moment I saw him. I didn't wonder if I would cry because I was finally meeting my son. I wondered if I would cry because I was meeting my daughter's brother. (Deep down, I knew I wouldn't cry at all because I'm a robot. I do not cry when I should. Weddings, funerals, births, the first day of kindergarten. Nuh-uh. Not me. Not the unfeeling cyborg.)

As it turned out, I did not cry at the hospital. Not a tear. This was, in part, because he was so tiny that, in my exhausted state, I sort of thought his legs were missing and I was confused. But it was also because of the aforementioned robotics I have going for me. I didn't think, "It's Kate's brother." I just thought about how I got to have him as my own and take him home and love him. I also thought that he was much tinier than I felt equipped to handle and I might actually break him. Tension was high with mourning parents and grandparents and I tried to walk the tightrope of elation mixed with empathy. All of that is a tough balance and it was much later that I began to embrace Will as Kate's brother.

For that, I am so very happy. I'm so relieved that I immediately loved him because he is amazing and not because he shares DNA with the daughter I never knew. But sometimes, I stop and really think about it. Sometimes I imagine what she'd be like. Sometimes I think about the details that were orchestrated, the tears shed, the prayers prayed. When I think about how many times this almost didn't happen and how many mountains the Lord had to move, I know I am standing in the middle of a miracle. 

Now, I look nothing at all like my brother so it's entirely possible that Kate looked 100% different. But, in my mind, she'll always look like the girly version of him. (Side note: EVERYONE thinks this kid is a girl because of his enviable curls. He will be in his BLUE car seat, wearing a BLUE onesie with BASEBALLS on it and someone will straight up say, "OH MY GOODNESS YOUR DAUGHTER IS JUST GORGEOUS HOW OLD IS SHE I LOVE HER BEAUTIFUL CURLS.") See, this is basically exactly how I imagined her. Except I imagined she'd be darker.

The other day, I received a private Instagram message from Cristy, a friend of mine from college. She gave me permission to share it. "I have to tell you that he looks exactly what I always pictured his sister looked like when I would read your posts. When I saw the very first photo of him, I thought, 'Wow, he looks just like his sister.' And then quickly realized that I had never seen his sister. I know that may sound weird, but I just wanted to share and he is just the most handsome boy!!"

We sent a few messages back and forth and then she said, "I thought it was so cool when I noticed it at first and tried to downplay it to myself but honestly believe that God wanted me to share that with you."

Yes. I believe He did.

I am so thankful that I love Will for being Will. But I am also so glad that, in his beautiful face, I see his sister. And, I feel like, with his face printed permanently on my mind, I will know Kate the moment I first see her--as we worship our Lord together in Heaven.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Dear Teacher on the First Day of School

Dear Teacher,

As we stare down these next nine months--good grief, we're going to be together long enough to gestate an entire human being--there are a few things I'd like for you to know.

1. I think you're underpaid, undervalued, and underappreciated. If I could afford to bring you a Starbucks each morning as a token of my love and affection for what you're doing, I would. (Although, yes, I am aware that in this particular state, chances are you'd find that highly offensive. You should know that coffee gift cards are my first thought EVERY time teacher appreciation week rolls around. But, never fear, I always settle for Expo pens or Kleenex or a bag of chocolates.) Your lunch break is too short, you should never have to have recess duty, and neither should you ever have to stand outside wearing that hideous yellow-green vest after school--especially in January.

2. My children are FAR from perfect. They have, in their lifetimes, lied, been disrespectful, and even lost their minds for no apparent reason. They're typically very well behaved at school but, should something happen, the benefit of the doubt will ALWAYS start out on your side. My first response will be, "What did my son do?" not,  "What is wrong with you?" And that's a promise. We're raising fallen kids in a fallen world. We're trying to do it right and I hope you'll see that, but I will never pretend they're incapable of being at fault.

3. Need a hand? I have two. I want to help out wherever and whenever I can. It allows me to see how my child is doing in your environment and it helps you get to something you might not have been able to get to otherwise. Think win-win. Amiright?

4. My children will do their work. They will do their homework. They will pay attention and focus on what you've given them. They will be respectful and kind to you and to others. OR ELSE. Yes, they are 2nd and 4th graders, but they are also tiny versions of the men we are hoping and praying they become. Our expectations for them are high and we hope yours are too.

THAT SAID. I have just one request of you.

These boys are just bigger versions of the babies I begged God for. I know they are one of so very many that will pass through your classroom between now and retirement. I know they are just one in your world of dozens. But, if you could just remember that, for me, they are one of a kind, it would do my heart good. They are not perfect, but they are mine and I love them. Remember, please, that when I hand them over to you each morning, I'm handing you my own heart, and trusting you with it.

Good luck. Chin up. After all, June is just three seasons away.

Friday, August 19, 2016


In life--and in ministry--I strive to be real, to be relatable, to be authentic. I think it's the driving force behind why I love the theatre and literature so very much. Because these mediums of art expression take a slice out of someone's life or experience and present it, no apologies, no excuses. We don't have to agree with the playwright's world view. We don't have to burn the book because it doesn't represent the little corner of the world from whence we came. Instead, we can walk boldly into that stage world or that novel and see life from another perspective. But, let that perspective be authentic. Let it not be a sham.

I have spoken about and written on the subject of perfection--and how it's utterly unattainable. Maybe I gravitated toward the topic because I'm such a hot mess. But there it is. I'm tired of trying to live up to some standard dictated by someone else, somewhere else, who probably has a whole lot of money and a team of people who make her look beautiful. I'm tired of the pristine home in Good Housekeeping that looks like only one old person without cats lives there but they're saying it's the humble abode of a family of six that includes at least two elementary aged boys. I'm fed up with pictures of flawless children happily eating organic edamame. I'm sick of images of clean kids on the beach because that is a lie. No kid is clean on a beach. I'm over everyone pretending.

The truth is, I don't have time to read parenting advice from someone who lives in the Hamptons and acts like she doesn't have a nanny. That's not my reality. We don't wake up in a bed of 5,000 thread count Egyptian cotton white sheets with our breath smelling minty fresh and our hair smooth. I'll be honest, some days even the Listerine can't help our situation and most mornings I straight up look like Princess Anna on Coronation Day, drooling and all bird nesty up on top. I'm not saying that isn't someone's reality. Of course it is.

Some people don't drool. Some people have beautiful homes. Some people are amazing stylists or decorators. Some people just happen to have perfect hair that is never out of place. Maybe we all have that one thing that makes us seem perfect. And if that's the thing we photograph, we might come across seeming, well, perfect. If I took 11,249 selfies, chances are, I'd look pretty good in one of them. But those other 11,248 are where the real life is happening.

Real life is that zit on the side of my face that I can hide if I turn my head just a bit and snap the shot.

Real life is not editing the picture of my black child who looks gray because I straight up forgot to put lotion on him that day.

Real life is mismatched clothes and exercise pants even though I probably didn't exercise.

I feel like we're so busy wishing our real life into something Better Homes and Gardens worthy that we forget to be thankful for our Passable Rentals and Spotty Green Lawns. We want to be Beverly Hillsy. We want to live on a beach in Florida. We forget to be thankful that we're not living in a hut and walking three miles to find clean water.

Let's be real. If your reality actually is a clean kid on a beach, embrace it, girlfriend. (But, maybe, also show us a picture of your messy house--everyone has at least one flaw, no?) If your reality is a kid who's filthy head to toe despite the fact that it's only 9:00 am and there's no beach in sight, embrace it. That's what the bathtub is for!

I haven't got a single thing figured out. JUST SO YOU KNOW. I can't tell you how to keep a toddler happy on a plane or how to get them to eat their vegetables. Seriously. My advice on the latter is to just smush their lips shut until they swallow or die from starvation three weeks later. But, that maybe isn't the best way to avoid a visit from Child Protective Services. I know nothing. I just never want it said of me that I faked it all and acted like something other than what I truly was.

In short, I just want to keep it real. Ever. Always.

To that end, here are some things...

1. I thought I was a Baby Whisperer when it came to sleeping the through night and was totally planning to write a book on exactly how to do it. Then we had Will. He might go on his honeymoon never having reached this goal.

2. Not long ago at all, I cried in a bathroom stall because I miss Kate so much. I'm well aware of all the people who think that's just ridiculous and I legit DO NOT CARE.

3. I just ate way too many chips. They were Mesquite BBQ flavored. So, basically, tomorrow morning I'm waking up with BBQ breath in my 10 thread count Walmart cotton sheets.

I'm lauching a new Instagram account. (always_authentic_and_real) It'll be real. Unedited and unposed. Tag #alwaysauthenticandreal for a chance to be featured. Send me really dirty kids on the beach, pictures where your stylist didn't work on you for two hours before you were Instaready, blooper shots. Anything that's real and authentic and unstaged. They can be breathtakingly beautiful shots of nature that turned out great the first time. They can be an amazing picture of your beautiful baby. Just don't stage them. It's about to get REAL. #alwaysauthenticandreal

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Great Poop Shoot

I wish I had seen it happen.

I wish I had taken a picture of the aftermath. Although, to be fair, few people would actually want to look at images of fecal matter.

This is not my maiden voyage into parenting. It's my third go around. My third rodeo. Filthy diapers are not a new thing to me or to my husband. Still, this particular episode was something neither of us had ever seen before.

After arriving home from California with the biggest baby loot of all time (between the baby shower my best friend gave me here in Utah and the one my mom and sister-in-law gave me in San Diego, I have roughly 6,000 baby wipes. It should also be noted that I have approximately as many onesies. This kid will be well cleaned and well dressed.) I spent the better part of two afternoons organizing Will's bedroom. It was on the second of these afternoons that I handed off the baby to his daddy and got to work.

At one point, I walked into my bedroom to get something--I cannot remember what because the events that transpired immediately after were so monumental that my brain couldn't retain such trivial information. Troy walked in and laid Will on the little changing table on our pack n play. He asked Will if he was all done. I walked out of my own room, across the hall, and into Will's room. In all, I'd journeyed about ten paces.

Suddenly, I heard what can only be described as a howl coming from my husband. Now, we've been watered/sprayed/doused by the urine of not one, not even two, but three little boys and their uncontrollable watering hoses many times over the course of ten years. Oh sure, we let out a little squeal or an, "Oh no!" This was not that kind of an exclamation. Something had gone wrong.

I yelled, "What happened?" from the other room and quickly walked back into my own. My husband stood, his white shirt covered in poop. There was poop on the floor. There was poop all over the changing table and on both of Will's feet. It was like a war zone of poop. I couldn't make sense of it on account of the fact that not ten seconds before, all had been well.

"He shot poop!" my husband exclaimed. He went on to tell me that he was holding Will's legs up, wiping the tender bum of our sweet little boy when he heard said boy's tummy rumble. Before he could do anything (seek shelter), poop erupted from the depths of the child. It shot out onto my husband who, with his cat like reflexes and desire to not be covered in waste, quickly turned his body to avoid taking the full attack. In doing this, the carpet took a major hit. There were several squishy mounds sitting several feet away from the launch zone.

Troy went to change his clothes while I attempted to clean the baby who was happily writhing around, using his feet to create a Jackson Pollock of poo. Then, while diaperless, he added urine to the mix. By that point, I was holding up his fecal covered legs and feet. But he was so happy that he just wiggled his bum all around in that poopypotty swamp. He was a disaster.

I just handed him to his dad who promptly took him into the shower and I set to cleaning up the crime scene.

An hour or so later, I noticed a brown splatter on my dresser, about 8 feet from the changing table. "Is THAT poop?"

"No," Troy answered. "It can't be."

I walked over, stuck my nose right up to the biggest of the spots in question and sniffed. It was, surely, poop. I don't even know how it was all possible. How does a ten week old shoot poop and hit a target eight feet away? He's like a pooping super hero. Poopman.

If I hadn't seen the evidence with my own eyes, I'd never believe it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

On Life, Love and the Pursuit of New Tires

I didn't die. For the loyal few who still stop by my little neck of the Internet, you may have decided that I was deceased given the lack of posting for a whole forever. I'm alive and well and raising a newborn, a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old. We're in San Diego, having baby showers and enjoying family and soaking up what's left of a ridiculously short summer created by my children being in school through the entire month of June. But not next year. I'm already counting down the days until my children enjoy summer the way it's meant to be experienced. Long and leisure like. Not short and crammed with everything we could dream of in seven weeks.
The reason we're here this particular week though is because my oldest niece is getting married. When I joined this crazy family with the extra "S" in its last name that is both superfluous and also helpful with telemarketers, I inherited three nieces and a nephew. Since that time, we've added another niece, three nephews and three of our own kids.
So when I said, "I do," I had three little flower girls. Two of my nieces and my cousin. The tallest flower girl was nine. Now she's getting married.
Yesterday she told me that her grandpa, my father in law, put new tires on their car as a wedding gift. She laughed about how fantastic it is as an adult to just have someone take care of something important instead of getting you something shiny in a gift bag.
"I remember when Grandpa stood up at your reception and said that their gift to you was a month's free rent," she told me. (We were renting a home from my in laws when we first got married.) "I thought that was the worst gift ever. I looked at you and you were smiling and I just couldn't imagine why that was exciting for you. Now I totally get it."
Perspective. One day you're nine and you're wearing a flower girl dress and thinking free rent is the worst gift ever. The next day you're 22 and getting married and rejoicing over your new tires.
Meanwhile, I feel old.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Interview With a Ten Year Old

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Bonanza. (He's a funny kid.)
2. What did you have for breakfast? Raisin Bran
3. What is your middle name? John (Back when he was a toddler this was a funny question. Now that he's ten and his middle name doesn't change, it's kind of ridiculous.)
4. Favorite Food? Snow crab (Same as last year)
5. What food do you dislike? Avocado (Same as last year)
6. What is your favorite color? Brown and black. (Some things never change)
7. Favorite lunch? Top Ramen (Oh child, I'm ratted out forever. It's organic ramen made from vegetable noodles. With no added garbage or sodium. I'm lying. It's absolutely Maruchan. Which, by the way, is so much better than Nissan. I should know. I EAT IT TOO! #shamoftheperfect)
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go deep sea fishing. (He's done it once. Apparently it made a BIG impression.)
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Uh...probably to Israel again.
10. Favorite sport? Football
11. When is your birthday? The 20th of July.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? MORNING!
13. Pets? Two. Dog. Cat.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I've got a new brother.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? A Guy That Jumps Out of Helicopters in the Coast Guard. (See! I told you!)
16. What is your favorite candy? Him: Is ice cream a candy? Me: No. Him: Then probably a milk shake. Me: That's ice cream. Him: Oh. Then chocolate.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Israel
18. What is your favorite book? The Land of Stories series
19. What are you most proud of? Him: Being born. Me: BEING BORN? Him: Yeah. That's all I can think of. It's a pretty big accomplishment.
20. What is your favorite movie? The Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken.

And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Probably supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I say that word a lot. (Um. Alrighty.)
2. What is your least favorite word? The "F" word.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Surfing
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Getting hurt.
5. What sound or noise do you love? Bang! I like big bang type noises.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam creaking.(Same answer, four years running.)
7. What is your favorite curse word? Crap. I would say that all the time if I could.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Pastor
9. What profession would you not like to do? Cleaning out porta potties.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? Welcome.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Decade Old

Son One,

I can vividly remember splashing around in the spa one night after swim practice. I was 9. My friend was about to turn 10 and that seemed so old to me. Double digits. I remember thinking that once I was double digits, I'd never be anything else. Even then, I didn't have the highest of hopes that I'd live to see 100. I couldn't wait to be 10. It seemed so monumental. Somehow, I'm now speeding toward 35 and I have a son who is bidding farewell to those single digits. I think I'd have a panic attack if I didn't also have a six week old. But then, I think about the fact that when he is 10, you'll be in college.

My goodness, life goes fast.

I love you so much. I love the boy you are and the man you are becoming. You're a gentleman, a sweetheart, and a daredevil. You're funny and kind and polite. You love God, your family, sports, scouting, and the idea of traveling to far away places.

This year you played flag football, baseball, and ran track. You had a blast doing them all but you really got into baseball. It was your first year without the pitching machine so there was a huge learning curve. You improved and really enjoyed playing second base. In track, you set a new personal record in the 1600m. (7.21.02) And you had fun learning the plays in football and even scored some touchdowns!

In school you did very well. Your report cards were great and you were never in any trouble. The 3rd grade put on a program and I was so proud of how hard you worked. You were very upset that you didn't get a speaking part but you put so much time into practicing the songs and you did such a fantastic job. As Stanislavski said, "There are no small parts, only small actors." This year you really found a love for reading. You've always been a very good reader--and well ahead of grade level--but you didn't really enjoy silent reading on your own. One of the series you discovered is the The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. You cannot put them down. They exceed 400 pages and you read the last one in just a couple of days. I'm so excited for where this love will lead you.

One book you claim to want to read is War and Peace. Your mind is a steel trap for historical facts. You know so much about wars--especially the Civil War--, tanks, battles, etc, etc, etc. You still say that you want to go into the Coast Guard and, with your military mind, I wouldn't doubt it. Among your favorite things are historical documentaries. Son, this is not from me. This is all your father.

What is from me is your developing love for theatre. This year, we got to go see the Newsies together and you really enjoyed it. You like to sing along to my Broadway cast albums and, recently, like the rest of the country, you've become obsessed with Hamilton. You've begged me to take you to see it and, kid, if anyone could get tickets, maybe I'd consider taking you. Until then, you'll just have to sing along with the cast.

What you don't get from either of us is your daredevlish nature. For your birthday, you're going to the pool because you're finally old enough to jump off the platforms. Of course, you've already jumped off the two lower platforms because I said you could as long as you didn't lie about your age. Since no one asked how old you were, I said, "Go for it!" on account of the fact that you'd jumped from higher places in Hawaii when you were five. Also, you've been water safe since you were three so I totally trust your swimming ability. But, you have yet to plummet from the highest platform, the 10 meter high dive. You have been talking about this for years and, today, you are going to attempt to leap off. My money's on you and your rock solid nerves. I guess this will be your first test in training for your future job as a Guy Who Jumps Out of Helicopters in the Coast Guard. Raising you is not for the faint of heart, Son.

I don't know why I was blessed with the opportunity to raise you. I know that I waited a long while and God gave me a really good one. You were so worth the wait. Your spunk, your heart of gold, the twinkle in your eye, and your infectious laugh are all mine to cherish. One thing I am clinging to is our cuddle time at night. I thought this would go away by the time you were 5 or 6. At 9, I was surprised that you still wanted me to climb into your bed each night to lay with you. Recently, you've been opting to put yourself to bed so that you can read more words. You have been asking less and less for me to crawl onto your top bunk to snuggle with you. When you do request it, there is a palpable shift. You wrap your arms around me, instead of the other way around. I'm starting to feel very I'll Love You Forever about our relationship.

I'm proud of you, Kid. I love watching you learn and grow. You're a terrific big brother--especially to Will. Seeing him in your arms melts my heart every time. But then again, you've been turning me to butter for an entire decade. Thanks for being mine. Thanks for making me laugh and smile and love fierce. You'll always be my guy.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Kid 1, 2, 3

The difference between a first, second, and third time mom of a newborn is appalling. And I wasn't anything close to a stereotypical first time mom. But this poor kid. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how he turns out...

Kid 1: I will record your every milestone in this well kept baby book the moment it happens. First smile? Check. First steps? Check.

Kid 2: I will have every intention of recording your every milestone in this baby book but will, in fact, fail to record anything beyond the first few months. First smile? Check. First steps? Thank goodness it was Christmas Eve and they're recorded in my memory.

Kid 3: I should probably think about getting a baby book. First smile? Eh. It's too hard to tell the first real smile from the reflex smiles anyway. Let's just say, "Hooray! You couldn't smile and then...YOU COULD!" First steps? I totally have time to buy a baby book before that happens...

Kid 1: I am doing everything in my own power to get you sleeping through the night. After all, every mom knows that a well rested baby is a well adjusted baby. Nine weeks! BOOM!

Kid 2: We've got this sleeping through the night record in the bag! We're going to implement Kid 1 strategies AND IMPROVE ON THEM. It's an art form. I will reign supreme. Eight weeks! MIC DROP! Maybe I'll write a book outlining the important points of my technique.

Kid 3: I mean, as long as you're sleeping through the night by the time you go to kindergarten you'll be fine, right? You're certainly well off Bassham Family Record pace. No big deal.

Kid 1: I've created this quiet and peaceful environment where we snuggle together on the couch all afternoon. My single objective in life is to keep you alive. I will strive to do this in a peaceful and quiet environment that is both peaceful and quiet.

Kid 2: "Someone get the toddler before he kills himself! Wait! I'm the only adult here! Sorry, Baby, take a spin in your swing, your brother's about to scale the entertainment unit and leap off in an attempt to disprove gravity! Oh, you fell asleep. Enjoy your nap which you will take for approximately ten minutes before your two and a half year old brother wakes you up by running through the house screaming something about a goldfish cracker emergency."

Kid 3: You have a pack and play and a crib and a swing and a bouncer but there are too many hands in this house and you never get put down. When you do, it's for five minutes before the almost ten year old, seven year old, and all the neighbor boys come tearing through the house howling something about how the Battle of All Epic Ages is afoot. You wake up, scream, and display a bewildered look that says, "What the heck am I doing on my back? This is not okay. Where are all the people who hold me? Chop chop. Somebody pick me up before I realize I'm not royalty."

Kid 1: The yellow line on the newborn diaper has a dot of blue. Bust out a new one. This little love cannot be expected to float in his own waste.

Kid 2: The yellow line on the newborn diaper is half blue. Eh. He's okay. He's got another half a diaper to go.

Kid 3: The yellow line on the newborn diaper has darkened to a sort of blue/black color*. But, like, how squishy is it? I mean, it's probably not at max capacity yet.

Kid 1: Praise and worship. Exclusively. For the first year. Then mix in some educational juvenile songs.

Kid 2: Obnoxious kiddie songs the toddler requested. Ah well, he's learning about how wheels on buses go 'round and 'round.

Kid 3: Broadway show tunes haven't killed the older two. "I am not throwin' away my shot. I am not throwin' away my shot. You know I'm just like my country. I'm young, scrappy, and hungry and I'm not throwin' away my shot..."

Kid 1: Well, I have a newborn so I'm not sure I can commit to that...

Kid 2: I have a newborn and a toddler so it might take me a couple days to get to it...

Kid 3: What do you need me to do? I'll be right there.

Kid 1: Your pacifier fell on the ground. Ten second rule. (Like I said, I wasn't your typical first time mom.)

Kid 2: Your pacifier fell on the ground. Twenty second rule.

Kid 3: Your pacifier fell on the ground in the middle of the NICU and I picked it up and put it back in your mouth without even thinking about how there were nurses and social workers and adoption coordinators watching me and maybe that could have been a deal breaker.

To all my boys: I love you each more than life itself and I dedicate all that I am to raising you right. Each of your stories will be different because you are unique and because your birth order is unique. But I'm trying my hardest to keep you all alive and to show you that raising you is my joy and my passion. Kid 1, Kid 2, and Kid 3, you are my whole world--germy pacifiers and all.

*Please know I'm kidding. About the black in color part. Not about the squishy diaper part. Because that part is totally true.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Just a Quick Update

Just a quick update:

Somehow, Will is six weeks old already. And Garrett is five days shy of ten. Matthew is dancing around in the middle, coming up on almost seven and a half. You blink and they're all grown up. 

Will can already roll from his tummy to his back and does it consistently. Granted, his arms have to be just right but, if they're tucked under him, fo'get about it. He also weighs 8 lbs now so, you know, he's like the size of an average newborn.

We're sleep deprived but I'm trying to be so much better about that than I was with the big boys. With them it was like, I knew intellectually that one day they'd sleep but I was in the trenches of early motherhood and it felt hard to believe. They're so big now that I absolutely know it to be true.

They just don't look like this forever, is the thing.

This kid is spoiled and adored by his big brothers. They are both so good with him. Matthew is just thriving with another adopted person under the same roof. He's always eager to help--except with the throwing away of diapers.

When they hold him, I'm undone. There are so many answers to prayer living and breathing in this home. I'm so glad the three of them are mine.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Big Boys Meet Their Baby

We decided to surprise the boys with my return. Since we didn't land until midnight, our friend, Christy, stayed with the boys while Troy came to pick us up. They slept right through until morning. Troy and I went to bed after 2:00 am and were up once with Will. Knowing that we'd be exhausted in the morning, Troy put a note on our door that said to knock before entering. Their knock, at about 7:15 am, woke us up from a sound sleep.

And that little fact is the only excuse I have for the following video. I look and sound like it was me who gave birth to this child. And I look like I had given said birth only moments before. In my bed. I do not look like an adoptive mom who has been parenting a newborn for a solid four nights.

Also, Garrett's lack of enthusiasm is hereditary. It comes from me. I neither hoot nor holler in joy. I am nearly incapable of showing emotion if anyone--especially a camera--is watching. But, like mine does, you can see his excitement build throughout the course of the video. It's also so precious to my soul the way he comes over and hugs me. It was as though he missed me so much, he just needed to sneak a hug in before he could process meeting his brother.

Matthew stayed home from school that day. Garrett chose to go in for a couple of hours but, for the most part, we spent the 10th hanging together as a family. They amaze me as big brothers. They are attentive and adorable. I always wanted my kids close together. I did not want an age gap.

But there is something so beautiful about the years between my big boys and their baby.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The God of Miracles

Our attorney told me not to leave the hospital without the medical records.

This is why, when Will was being discharged from the hospital, I asked for his medical records approximately 500,000 times. Everyone kept looking at each other with blank stares, referring me to someone else or telling me where in the hospital to go to find these elusive records. Eventually, we were given an address to a building off site. I was assured by everyone that this was the place to go. It was agreed by everyone that his records wouldn't be there until the next day. I was told by anyone who was anyone to me at the hospital that day to call to get them the next day.

And that is why I left the hospital without Will's medical records. I just assumed that because I was taking with me a WAY to get the records, I was good. Especially because nurses and social workers and everyone involved agreed that that was my best course of action.

You know what happens when you assume.

The next morning, as soon as they were open, I called the records office. It was explained to me that I needed to send a written request and then it would definitely be the next day before I could have access to them. That would put me at Thursday for our ICPC to be completed, Friday (if I was really lucky) to clear California and sometime the next week we'd clear Utah and be able to bring Will home. The woman I spoke to mentioned something about getting them in person if I drove up there.

I hung up and spent the rest of the morning signing documents, scanning documents, sending emails, reading emails. Eventually I realized that, by lunchtime that day, we were only going to be waiting on the medical records. I'd worked my tired tail off. My mom had held my baby ALL morning so that I could finish everything. We were good to go and our lawyer could deliver the finished ICPC the next day, if only we had those medical records.

I called Troy. I told him that I was going to call the records office and beg them to expedite Will's records and get them to me that day. I asked him to pray that I would get a sympathetic ear on the other end of the phone. He told me that if I could drive up that afternoon and get them, to go for it.

I called back around 11:00. I explained the situation and that I'd been told that they would be ready the next day via email. I said that I knew I could pick them up in person but it was a two hour drive and was there any way that I might be able to get them emailed to me that day? Pretty please. (With a cherry and whipped cream and sprinkles and all kinds of good stuff on top?)

The woman on the phone sounded baffled. She wanted to know who I'd talked to. I couldn't remember the woman's name which was probably good for that woman because, apparently, I'd been told completely wrong. It would, in fact, take five to seven business days from the time they received my request and there was no possible way I could pick them up in person. FIVE TO SEVEN BUSINESS DAYS PLUS TIME TO PROCESS PAPERWORK IN CALIFORNIA AND UTAH MIGHT AS WELL HAVE PUT WILL AT HIS 12th BIRTHDAY BEFORE HE EVER MET HIS FAMILY.

(I'm prone to exaggeration.)

I am a by the book, letter of the law, just the facts, ma'am, kind of of individual. I'm not a rule breaker or a rule bender. The usual me would have said, "Thank you for your time. Please get those to me as soon as you can." and then I would have hunkered down at my parents' house for an extra week. But something snapped in my brain. I think it was the part of my brain that controls my heart. My heart couldn't handle being away from my big boys for that long. Or from Will's daddy. I started to cry.

I realized that I was desperate to get home to them. So desperate that I was willing to beg, plead and sob over it. I'm equal parts humiliated and impressed. "This is the absolute last piece I am waiting on," I cried. "My husband and children are in Utah and I am here with our new baby and these records are the only thing I am waiting for. Please. Is there anything you can do?"

She put me on hold.

I prayed that she would be able to help me. Several minutes later she came back on the phone and told me that they would be in my email by 5:00 that night. THAT WOULD MEAN THAT OUR ICPC WOULD BE DELIVERED THE NEXT DAY (WEDNESDAY) AND THERE WAS A SLIGHT POSSIBILITY IT WOULD CLEAR BOTH STATES BEFORE THE WEEKEND! I was now celebrating in hopeful anticipation of flying home on Saturday to see my family. She said, "God bless you. And God bless your baby."

"God bless YOU! Thank you so much!" I cried into the phone.

Those records were in my inbox before 1:00 pm.

Our entire adoption story is a miracle of God changing hearts. Even after Will was home with me, God changed hearts. He bent rules and expedited things that ordinarily wouldn't be expedited.

I picked Will up on June 6. Our ICPC was completed on June 7 and hand delivered on June 8. California has a reputation (at least in Utah) for taking a long time to clear. It cleared that same day. We cleared Utah on Thursday, June 9. I received a verbal okay from Utah around lunch time and I booked a flight home.

That night, we landed at midnight...

God is good.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Showing Will to My Boys

I brought Will home from the hospital to my parents' house in the San Diego area. The thing about adopting from another state is that you have to do a bunch of legal paperwork and the one state has to say, "Yep. It's alright with us if you take that kid outta here," and the other state has to say, "Sure thing. Go right ahead and bring that baby in." It took ten days for Matthew's clearance to go through. But our family was altogether so it really didn't matter a great big deal.

With Will though, I was desperate to get him home to his daddy and his big brothers. 

That night, Troy took the boys to their baseball tournament. My heart wanted to be with them so badly, to see them play their little hearts out in their games. But I was over the moon to be holding my newest little short stop (or lacrosse player or cooking whiz or cellist). My brother and sister in law came bearing gifts, namely, formula and a bouncer and some clothes--among other things. My mother-in-law came over to see her 12th grandchild (11th living). My dad got home from work and got to meet his newest grandson. 

It was almost 9:00 by the time the boys got home and I finally got to Skype with them.

Of course, I'd already updated Troy on all that was going on but the boys were in for a pretty big surprise. Will made a squeak almost immediately. One of the boys asked if it was Hannah (my niece). "Oh. Um. Yeah, Hannah's here," I told them and moved my tablet so they could see her. This ended up being a bit of a problem because, a few moments later, when I showed them Will, they were confused.

It was late.

They were tired.

We were Skyping.

All these things led to confusion. And they somehow thought that Will was Hannah. Even though I'd just shown them Hannah. And even though Hannah was nine months old. And even though Hannah is decidedly a girl.

Once we cleared everything up and explained that I was holding their new brother, Matthew did a happy dance in the middle of the kitchen floor. Garrett just sat quietly. He would later write in his school autobiography that he was, "in happy shock."

After I said goodbye to my kids and wished my husband Happy Birthday again, I realized how exhausted I was. I'd slept less than four hours the night before and had an incredibly exciting/emotional/crazy day. I knew that the next morning would be filled with paperwork on my end. Scanning documents. Providing signatures. Phone calls and emails to lawyers and the hospital. Reviewing documents. I couldn't wait to introduce Will to people but I knew all that paperwork had to come first or I'd never get home to the three people who were the most eager to meet him. I announced our boy on social media and then I pretty much died of exhaustion. Until my newborn alarm went off a few hours later.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hey Kid: Eight

June 20 (Part Two)

Hey Kid,

On Saturday, when you were one day old but I didn't know it, I loaded up the van with everything I couldn't return. Every baby supply we'd been given. A swing. A bouncer. A baby bathtub. Toys. A swaddler. Dad spent the day turning the playroom turned Kate's room turned library turned your room into a game room. He installed a shelf in the closet and hooked up the boys video game system. I organized their games and pieces and moved the board games from the office into the new room. Your brothers loved it and, if we weren't going to be able to bring a baby home, we were happy to come up with something fun for the room. As Dad put the finishing touches on the room, I stared at the pictures I'd bought to hang on your wall, pictures of birds with the words Hope, Believe, Imagine, and Dream. "How did we end up here?" I wondered. I'd done all those things. I'd hoped, believed, imagined and dreamed and all I had left was a broken heart.

It wasn't that I didn't trust the Father, or that I was angry with what He'd decreed. I had actually reached a peace with the whole thing. I just knew I would always wonder where you were and how you were and what you were doing. I'd see you in every boy I passed on the street from now until forever. I struggled to process that piece of the baffling puzzle.

The next morning, on June 5, I transferred all the baby stuff that I'd loaded into the van into someone else's car--a woman at our church who is due in September. Save for a disassembled crib in our utility closet and a car seat and stroller that your Dad procrastinated on returning, we had no baby stuff left. We were done. This chapter of our lives had closed.

That afternoon, the boys were playing video games in their new game room. Dad and I were sitting on our bed together, talking about what the future would look like now. We were planning on going out for ice cream with our friends that night. At 3:56 pm, I received a text from our coordinator. You had been born on Friday. Your mom wanted us to come get you after all. I think I instantly started sobbing. I didn't know if it was real, if she was serious, if she would change her mind back, if I was dreaming.

I think I experienced every emotion known to man in a five minute span of time. I'd been ready for you for months. And then, suddenly, you were there and I wasn't ready for you. I had nothing here for you. I had only my own fear that it was all a dream I would wake up from.

The next 24 hours were insane, miraculous, terrifying, wonderful, emotional, heart wrenching, exhausting, and altogether quite impossible to describe. Your mom hadn't signed yet, so we decided that I would go alone. Dad would stay here with your brothers and we would hope for the best. We told them that I was going to "talk to a birth mom" and that "we'd see what happens" and we crossed our fingers and said a lot of prayers and I threw clothes into a suitcase. I tried not to get my hopes up. I knew the next day would pretty much be a coin toss. Would I end the day with three children or not? I tried not to fall in love with the idea of you all over again.

At 9:12 that night, I got this picture of you...

I suddenly couldn't believe I had to wait another minute to meet you and hold you. I loved you so much I wanted to get to California as fast as humanly possible. It was as though I had known you since always.

My flight left at 8:00 am on Monday morning. It was Dad's birthday. 

Grandma picked me up in San Diego and we drove to Riverside. With every turn of the wheels, I was closer to you. But so much was unknown. I wanted to hope but I was terrified. Denial seemed the easier choice. Or, in any case, the default setting. So much of me felt numb, a defense mechanism to use as a salve for the heart that had grieved long.

Your mom had been discharged the night before and the hospital you were born in didn't have a nursery, so you camped out in the NICU. As I entered the hospital, your mom was nearby, signing the paperwork to give you into my care. I scrubbed my hands and went in. You were so tiny--only 5 lbs 5 oz and 18.5 inches long--that when I picked you up it felt like the rest of you must have been in a different part of the NICU. It was as though I needed to find your pieces and assemble you. I held you and fed you and forgot to be numb and somewhere in the middle of that, I noticed our coordinator on the phone about 25 feet away.

My heart plummeted into my knees. What if she'd changed her mind again. What if I had held you and loved you and I was going to set you gently in your bassinet and walk away? Will, all you ever need to know is that if I had had to do that, a piece of my heart would have forever been with you and mine would never have beat the same way again. The coordinator hung up the phone and came toward me...

She was smiling.

Your mom signed.

Your dad signed.

They chose us for you.

We spent the next few hours saying painful goodbyes. Your mom and dad said goodbye. Your grandparents said goodbye, I promised them that, like your big brother, we would have open communication. We would celebrate your first family and they would never have to wonder where you were or what you were doing. Your life would not be a secret from them.

And then the hospital released you.

Into my home.

Into my heart.

For as long as I shall live.

It was, to be sure, the best birthday present your daddy has ever received. As we drove away, I sighed. There, in my mom's car, was the tiniest of bundles, a miracle so many eons in the making. And I would like to believe that your big sister was sitting on the knee of her Father as they watched the scene unfold. I would like to think that she smiled at Him, knowing, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that without first having her in my life, there never would have been you.

I don't know what the future holds. But I know that this family loves you huge. And I promise you, I will do my very best.

And they put you in my arms
And I realize in an instant
That I've known you all along
That I've wanted you forever
That I'll never do you wrong
And whatever this world comes to
And whatever comes our way
I will watch you, and protect you
I promise, kid, we'll be okay
We'll be okay
-If/Then Musical

I love you.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hey Kid: Seven

June 20

Hey Kid,

I never could have imagined so much time going by between letters. I never could have foreseen everything that would unfold between May 3 and June 6.

On May 25, your mom was scheduled to see a doctor. I was so hopeful that she would get an induction date so we would be able to prepare to travel to California to meet you. I waited, in excited anticipation, to hear something. She never checked in with the adoption coordinator that day. Our coordinator told me not to worry, It was normal for her to not check in, she was 100% committed to the adoption, and there were no red flags. Still, as that evening faded into night, I was sure. In those moments, I just knew she had changed her mind. And I began to grieve the loss of you. I had loved you for so long, I simply didn't know how a day would go by where I didn't think about you and wonder who you were and what you were becoming.

Thursday passed without word.

And then Friday.

I dreamed that you were gone from me forever. I woke up crying.

On Saturday, May 28, I took your brothers for a walk and it was then that I received confirmation. She had changed her mind. I was devastated. Your brothers knew nothing of what I was processing so I quietly reeled. I fought back the stinging tears. I praised God that He had placed it on our hearts not to tell them, so grateful that we were able to spare them shrapnel to the soul.

As that day continued, grief came and each stage fired through me. I landed--stuck in a swirling spiral of anger. I can't say who or what I was even angry with. Ultimately, I was just so furious that I had let myself hope. I had always said that I would never, ever fault a mother for choosing to parent. But that knowledge didn't stop the pain I felt from mourning another child gone or the anguish at knowing I'd lost both Kate and her brother.

That night I bagged up all the stuff I'd bought for you. Emotionally and financially, we were exhausted. I held your brothers a little tighter and decided that the past year and a half were just a lesson in being content with what I had. I told our coordinator we were finished. Adios. Farewell. Arrivederci. I asked for only one thing, a picture of you. I never got to see your sister's face. I was desperate to see yours.

On Tuesday, May 31, I spent the day returning clothes, sheets, and diapers. I fielded questions like, "Do you need a bigger size for your baby?" and, "Aren't you excited to have Gymboree store credit?" I cried alone in my car. It was miserable. I had loved you for so long. I had tried not to think of the future with you and had tried to guard my heart. It was still so hard to hand over all the things I thought you would wear, knowing that you would never actually be a part of this family.

The week dragged on. I cried and grieved and prayed and tried to move on. I thought about all the things I would get to do because I didn't have a newborn. Things like sleeping through the night. Everything I came up with was ridiculously superficial but I clung to them as a means to get me through each day. Silver linings, I called them. They weren't really silver linings but, in actuality, metallic paint slapped over a masterpiece I no longer had the privilege of looking at.

We told your brothers we were finished. It was time to stop waiting for a match. It was time to move on. They sobbed. Matthew clung to me in his bed, in the dark, and begged me to reconsider. "I'll do anything," he cried. "Please don't take our name out!"  I blurted that I'd take him to Disneyland instead. Please understand what a ridiculously awful consolation prize that was. Still, that was how I got the brothers to stop crying. Disneyland. "Am I tall enough to ride Indiana Jones?" the younger one asked through sorrowful hiccups. Don't take it personally. Someday you'll understand the pull that Disney has on a young boy.

On Friday, June 3, at 7:31 pm PST (8:31 Utah time), I chatted with friends at Dad's softball game. I remember the concrete bench beneath me and the sounds of your brothers' laughter. I remember the sun in my eyes as it set over the mountains. I remember that Dad's team lost, a lot to a little. I don't remember the details of your birth. I had no idea that, at that precise moment, in a hospital room in Riverside, CA, you had just come into the world...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hey Kid: Six

May 3

Hey Kid,

Will, I pray for you every time you are on my mind. It really kind of gives a whole new meaning to 1 Thessalonians 5:17. "...pray without ceasing." Because, little one, I think about you all the time. I'm trying to balance the fear, the excitement, and the contentment but it's really hard. I want to savor these moments that I have with your big brothers before you come screaming and kicking into the world. It's been just the four of us for seven years. That's a lot of years of falling into our patterns and our ways and you're going to be here before we know it. You're gonna mess/bless it all up. It's gonna be awesome.

I still worry every single day that your heart is going to beat its last before you ever get the opportunity to breathe. It sounds dramatic when I say that my arms are aching for you but it couldn't be a more realistic statement. I feel like I need you in my arms the way I need air. 

Six weeks. 8 million heartbeats. You're still 8 million heartbeats away. But every minute that passes by gets me one moment closer to you. I am longing to feel that heart beating under the weight of my own hand. Will, after the only time that I held your big sister, I wrote this about the experience: 

It was just my daughter and me. Suddenly I realized that my heart was thundering inside my chest as she rose and fell with my every breath. And when it pounded, for a moment, it was unclear whether it was hers or mine. 

My heart will beat for yours. You are safe in the arms of Jesus and so, here on earth, my heart will beat for both of us.

In that moment, mother's heart pounding while baby's holds still, I felt a peace wash over me. Suddenly I knew that I could grieve and dream, laugh and cry, stand still and run wild, all at the same time. I feel like God whispered into my soul that it is alright to hope. Good, even.

Will, you are that hope. I didn't know it then. I couldn't see the miraculous way God would orchestrate all of this. I couldn't see the way He would change my own desires. But here we are, wanting you as much as we've ever wanted anything.

When this card arrived in the mail, I couldn't get it opened fast enough. I didn't know what it would say or what would be inside, but I knew it was from your mama and I knew it held something of utmost importance.

Will, I think I knew, from the moment our facilitator told me you were alive more than five months ago, that whoever you were, whatever you were going to become, you were a part of this family. I tried to hold it all at a distance because of how scary it is. As though I would somehow be less devastated to lose you if I'd never held the idea of you close to my heart. But in all truthfulness, I considered you mine in those early minutes, pacing outside, listening and trying not to attach myself. Knowing, deep down, in a recess I couldn't even begin to explore, that in that one declaration of your existence, you were wound into and throughout my heart, occupying a place forever. In that instant, it was as though my heart knew. You're Kate's brother. You're already ours.

34 weeks of growing down, 6 weeks to go. I love you and I can't wait to feel your heart beating.