Sunday, July 22, 2018

Interview with a 12 Year Old

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? NCIS.
2. What did you have for breakfast? Eggos.
3. What do you want to name your future son? Troy.
4. Favorite Food? Snow crab (Same as last year and the year before that and the year before that.)
5. What food do you dislike? Sushi.
6. What is your favorite color? Brown. (Some things never change. It's been brown forever. He calls it, "a good, solid color.")
7. Favorite lunch? Pizza.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go camping. (Last year he said, "Go on cruises." His taste has cheapened in his old age.)
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? A cruise to Cuba.
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? I like the name Emily. (Last year he said, "Lori." I'm glad that ship sailed. I don't hate my name but it's a little dated. Emily though. Emily is timeless. I could absolutely get on board with an Emily.)
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Either.
13. Pets? Hamster, dog, and cat.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Baby Declan. (His cousin had a baby. We met him on Thursday. He's adorable.)
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? A pilot in the Airforce.
16. What is your favorite candy? 3 Musketeers.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Israel. That will never change.
18. What is your favorite book? My favorite series right now is Rings of Fire.
19. What are you most proud of? I'm proud of learning how to surf.
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 the. I also like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (Ha ha. Bit of a difference between those two words but okay.)
2. What is your least favorite word? Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Ef you badness badness after that. (Okay. So, the F word.)
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Fishing and camping.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") I don't like getting sick.
5. What sound or noise do you love? I like air raid siren.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam. 
7. What is your favorite curse word? Crap.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A Navy SEAL.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Plumber.
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)? Hello.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Home

When I was nine, my family went on a three week vacation through National Parks and into Canada. Then we came down through Washington, Oregon and California, finally reaching home in San Diego county.

When we arrive home on Saturday, we'll have been gone for 20 days. What an adventure we've had! Still, there is no place like Home, wherever that happens to be. Even ten years later, my hometown still feels like home. But Home is where my stuff is. Home is where my family lives and breathes and does the majority of our life.

I'm so thankful to have married a man who values vacation. And not just vacation to a place an hour or two away but real adventure where we see the world and spend long hours in the car. I'm thankful we share the same ideas on that. But oh boy, will I be glad to have more than five shirts to rotate through. I'm pretty ready to not be living out of a suitcase and trying to keep my toddler from destroying everyone's house.

I wonder if there was a time on our trip when I was kid when my mom said, "Hey. I'm ready to get on home now."

We've had a great time hanging out with family, seeing the Redwoods, exploring the northern California coast, driving on roads we've never been on before. Our kids saw San Francisco and Coos Bay, lighthouses and wildlife. They saw each of their 10 cousins. It has been good.

We're still going to hang with family, visit some friends, and celebrate Garrett's 12th birthday in Boise, on our way home.

But Home is waiting on Saturday and I'm thankful.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Zebra!

We just returned from several days in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. My favorite moment of the entire trip went something like this...

We'd driven into the park after dinner. It was evening and the park was alive with wildlife. We'd see many cars pulled over and a crowd of people pointing and taking pictures. As we looked to see what they saw, one of us would yell something like, "Oh! I found it. It's a deer!" or, "There it is! A buffalo." This went on for some time.

At one point, we were driving along. There wasn't an animal in sight. Suddenly, our barely two-year-old screams, " Found it! A zebra!"

We all basically died laughing and have repeated the phrases no less than 500 times. Toddlers are the best.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Make Today Your Day

In creating the Facebook community TRIBE, I have found myself thinking about many aspects of adoption lately. While this blog isn't intended to be only about adoption, it is a topic that I feel called to discuss with some frequency. It is my hope that even those who remain untouched by adoption on a personal level, can learn and grow through what is found here and within the TRIBE community.

*************************************************

It was obvious, from moment one of Matthew's life, that we'd be talking openly about adoption right from the start. There's simply no hiding the fact that I didn't give birth to him--not that I would want to. 

We had to figure out what to say to Matthew--from day one--so that he wouldn't have a, "WAIT, WHAT? I'm ADOPTED?" moment. And, let's face it, being Black, that moment would have come sooner than it does for some. After reading A LOT, I believe that parents should start early, be honest, and keep it simple. (But keep reading because if you didn't start early or you weren't honest, YOU CAN FIX IT!)

In an article in Paediatrics Child Health, Dr. Cecilia Baxter writes:
                  Telling a child his or her adoption story at this early age may help parents
                   to become comfortable with the language of adoption and the child's birth
                   story. Children need to know that they were adopted. Parents' openness
                   and degree of comfort create an environment that is conducive to a child
                   asking questions about his or her adoption.      

I was terrified of the moment when we sat our son down and broke it to him that he had another family. And so I sought to avoid that altogether. From day one, I told him his story. It varied slightly and was certainly scaled down to his level. Could he understand as a newborn? Absolutely not. But I wasn't sure when he would understand and when he would be cognitively ready to comprehend that information. I had no clue what to say and so I simply told him his story.

Once upon a time, there was a mommy and she had a baby in her tummy. That baby was you. She wanted the very best for you and that meant finding a family with a mommy AND a daddy. She looked and looked and she found mommy and daddy and Garrett. We wanted another baby in our family so so much. One day, your mommy went to the hospital and you were born. She gave you to us and that is called adoption.

That was a very abridged version of the story, obviously. But, also, he was a newborn. I whispered it to him on occasion. Over time, the story got longer and filled in with more details. As a preschooler, sometimes, he would beg me to tell his story. Sometimes, he would tell parts of it to me from memory. His favorite part was always when I told him that, when he was born, he locked eyes with me. I would always dramatically make a face where I bugged my eyes out as far as I could, just to be silly. This turned into a version of the story where I would pause and then whisper, "You popped out and stared at me just (pause) like (pause) this..." and then both of us would turn our heads, in the dark of his room, and open our eyes as wide as we could, our noses nearly touching. He would then dissolve into a fit of laughter. He also always loved the part where Garrett did a happy dance when they met.

I haven't told Matthew his story in a long time--we've graduated to discussing much deeper adoption concepts in his old age. He is, after all, a wise nine year old. But telling him that story opened up communication at a toddler level and then a preschool level and finally an early elementary level. It showed him that we're willing to talk about his adoption openly. It allowed him to ask questions on his terms and at age appropriate levels. "Is she brown yike me?" "What does she look like?" "Why did she not want me?" It allowed us to answer honestly but always positively. "Yes." "She looks like you except she's grown up and a girl and I'll show you a picture in the morning." "She did want you. Oh, sweet boy, she wanted you so much..."

We also pray with our children. Thanking God for our adoptions is just one part of those prayers. I occasionally tell Will his story. But I ALWAYS pray for his birth parents and thank God that they chose us to ADOPT him into our family. I make sure to use that specific word in conjunction with the concept of him being our son. Sometimes I show Will the one picture I have of us with his birth parents. I explain who they are and how happy I am that they picked us.

These are easy ways to talk about adoption before it gets awkward. We can build on what they understand and use a scaffolding method to increase their knowledge as they grow and begin to think clearly for themselves. If you are considering adoption or have a very young adopted child, I would highly suggest beginning by telling them their story. Or even just whispering into their ear, "I'm so glad we were able to bring you into our family through adoption."

If your children are older, it's obviously never too late to start talking to them. I know of a family who, when they met our family, were able to tell their 4th grader that he was adopted. They'd never mentioned it to him before. He said something about Garrett having a black brother and they used that perfect opportunity to explain adoption and share with him that he'd come into their family the same way. He handled it so well. She later shared with me and I was so grateful to have played some small role in their journey of full disclosure to their son.

You may not be able to tell your older child a super basic story anymore--their cognitive development is way too advanced--but you can still use the storytelling method. Kids LOVE stories and they're narcissistic little buggers so they love stories about themselves even more. "We are going to tell you the story of how you joined our family. It's a beautiful story filled with love and waiting..." Tell them how desperate you were for them. Because if we adoptive parents share anything, it's a knowledge that we all lived in blind desperation for the children we longed for and now have. Be completely honest with your children. This doesn't mean telling them everything if parts of their stories are painful or detrimental to their psychological well being. It just means that you don't lie. EVER. If you lie to them, and they ever find out, you have discredited yourself entirely. If you find that you have lied to your child regarding their adoption story, own it. Kids FORGIVE. "I'm sorry. I wasn't honest because this is sometimes hard for me. Can you forgive me. Let me tell you what really happened..."

And finally, be okay with the questions and the statements. If they hurt your heart, so be it. You are bigger and older and more mature and you can handle a little, "I want to live with my mom and sisters." I promise you can handle it. I did. My son told me this very thing when he was about six. I knew he didn't want to leave me or the only life he'd ever known. He just wanted to meet them and know them and his language skills could only go so far in conveying his emotions. I recognized this and survived it and, I'm certain my son is better for my not having freaked out on him. "YOU WANT TO DO WHAT?"

It's never too soon to talk to our children. Day 1. Day 2,792. Make today your day. If you already talk honestly with your children, bring it up again today. Allow them to set the tone but make sure that you always have open lines of communication. If they are hesitant to talk about it, do not force them. Simply tell them that you are always, always willing to hear from them about this subject. In allowing them the chance to discuss their adoptions, we create foundations of trust and hem them in tighter to the family God has placed them in.


1. Baxter, Cecilia, MD. "Understanding Adoption: A Developmental Approach" Paediatrics Child Health. 2001 May-Jun; 6(5): 281-283. Web. 22 Jun. 2018. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804559/




Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tribe

TRIBE n.
1. a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations
2. a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest

I recently started a Facebook community designed for adoptive/foster families, birth families, adoptees, and those who love them. All are welcome! It is a place where we can learn, inquire, and grow as we share our stories, relate to one another, and seek to understand.

The members differ in situation, position, religion, location, political views, approach, and opinion, but we show respect to every member of the adoption triad as we strive for growth. We practice empathy and love, knowing that we can gain a wealth of knowledge through the gift of one another. It is a place where you can find an adoption tribe as you strive to build your child's familial one. Members are invited to contribute, discuss, and explore as well as invite others to join. 

I have been a mother through adoption since 2009. The deeper into my journey I get, the more I realize that I want to use my own voice to advocate for healthy adoptions. In order to shape others, I must first be sure that I am growing and gaining knowledge in my own relationship with the sons who came to me through adoption. I feel that the very best way to do this is to listen to the voices of adult adoptees, birth families, and other adoptive families.

In May of this year (2018) my nine-year-old son and I traveled to Texas to see his birth family (maternal side). He hadn't seen them since he was an infant. The experience had a profound impact on us both and I returned home wanting to do more to be a voice for healthy open adoption. I have been blessed to have had the friendship of a now adult adoptee for the past 29 years. Her perspective and insight has been invaluable as I walk through the parenting of my children. I have also been given the gift of friends who have placed children for adoption. When we open dialogue with members of each point of the adoption triad, we enrich our lives, gain perspective, and learn from one another.

If you feel you would benefit from a community in which you can share, ask questions, seek advice, and meet other people involved in adoption, please consider joining us.

Tribe is a closed community designed to protect its members and the sometimes sensitive things they share. If you would like to join, please send an email to loribassham@yahoo.com . I will use your email address to send you an invitation to join our group. 

I look forward to "meeting" you and learning more about your adoption story.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Day He Came

What is born in the sea
even if carried deep into
the breast of land
made dry in the desert
sage in the mountains
or sweetened in the orchards
shall yet and always carry that
old and familiar salt
-Jaiya John

Matthew is an introvert. He doesn't get that from me and he doesn't get it from his mother. But there you have it. He is quiet, shy, and anxious around others until he becomes completely comfortable in a situation. Then, and only then, does that funny and bubbly boy emerge. To this end, he doesn't make friends easily. He'd rather have one or two good buddies--or a backyard and his own imagination--than a room full of friends.

And so, I worried about our trip to Texas. I didn't lose sleep but I was prepared to watch my boy "turtle up" as we met his family. His quietness has, on more than one occasion, been perceived as rudeness and that was the last thing I wanted him equated with on this trip.

I needn't have worried. "What is born in the sea...shall yet and always carry that old and familiar salt." It was as though he'd known them forever. And, in some way, he had. All those 40 weeks spent dwelling inside her body. Swimming. Growing. Kicking. Hearing her voice. Knowing the gentle sway of the steps taken by her feet. His older sisters were there those 280 days. Buried somewhere in the recesses of his mind, is there the memory of Mama singing them to sleep while he struggled to Begin? Has he known them all these years because he knew them then?

He is there, in the car with me. Every step he has taken to this point has been difficult. He has only shared moments with me but it is there on his face when we board the plane. It is there over his eggs and bacon in the hotel--he seems somehow smaller and he uncharacteristically asks me to help him. It is heard in the nearly inaudible sigh from the backseat as we make the drive. And yet, his eyes dance with the excitement of what is finally coming.

"I'm really nervous," he says as we pull up in front of their home. I have every intention, the moment those words hit my ears, to take his hands, look him in the eyes, and tell him to breathe. I will pray over him. I will let him take as long as he needs before we make the journey from car to front door. But she appears from thin air, bending down, her face at the driver's side window. Her smile, broad. It is the smile I remember from our time together in years gone by, identical to the one that spreads joy across the face of our boy. 

As I open the door I say, "Well she's here..." We throw arms around each other and, like water over stones in a brook, she spills, "I had to take a walk. I got so nervous."

I whisper, almost silently, into her ear, "He's nervous too." Whether to give him time or out of sheer excitement, she turns and runs up the walkway, yelling to her daughters. Two of them pour from the house. Everything is happening so quickly. I glance at Matthew and he is stoic. A small smile tugs at the corners of his mouth but he walks cautiously, a trait that comes from his father, no doubt, because it isn't from this maternal side of the family.

One sister calls to another, "Get out here! It's Matthew, he's really here!" and then, before speaking to him, she runs back inside. "Come on!" I hear her yell, "Matthew's here!" I realize I'm holding my breath. It is as though she's played this moment so many times, but he was always just a figment of her imagination.

This day, though. This day he has come.

They bubble. All of them extroverted and clamoring for his attention. He is the audience they have waited for all these years.

There are hugs and introductions. The littlest one, no doubt the most confused by all of this, is enamored and spends the better part of two days touching him. Holding his hand. Kissing his face. Glued to his side. Matthew slides into the role of big brother. I've seen it with Will. It's the role he was born to play. 

My boy has always hated germs. Slobbery kisses from five-year-old girls, forget about it. Unless it's his little sister. She is not a stranger. She is instantly his girl. 

He finds his family hilarious. I can tell by the soft chuckle he emits and the coy smile he employs when they say something funny. He is hilarious, too, and it seems to dawn on him that his silly sense of humor might run through the blood in his veins. He hears stories and sees pictures that make him smile.

At the end of the first day, we are both exhausted. He falls fast asleep while I'm in the shower. I crawl into bed next to him and place my hand on his soft cheek. I feel like the luckiest mom in the world--this amazing kid is asleep on the pillow next to mine. I'm processing things I didn't plan to process. Like the fact that when he says, "Mom," he means me and it makes me bristle a little. I feel like I've stolen the title and a part of me wants to sit down and really explain that I know how blessed I am that she allows me to use it. She is so easy on me and with me and she always has been. Whatever she has struggled through behind closed doors, I have been shown great grace and mercy and love. I stare at his face and I start to cry.

I can't decide if it's exhaustion or life or both.

The next day he makes more memories. Little Sister hangs on to him as though he'll disappear if she lets go. Big Sister asks me to promise to come back next summer and I swallow the lump in my throat. Because I cannot make promises even though I want to. For these siblings. For this mother. For this boy. But I have always said that in adoption we must take it one moment at a time. I cannot plan for 525,600 moments from now. Mama spins him in a circle and says she won't ever let him go. I can't possibly know the feeling. Biggest Sister hitches a ride from me to a friend's house and shares an extra five minutes with him. This doesn't surprise me at all. She's an adult now but I will always see the nine-year-old girl who wanted her unborn baby brother to have a golden retriever and a good life.

Our adopted children are their families. They look like them. They sound like them. They share character traits and blood. If they are born in the sea, they may leave and prosper and grow and change in remarkable and wonderful ways but, they will always carry with them the ocean's salt.

We fell right back into our life here when we returned. At nine, my son seems content to live in the world he's always known. This is, of course, a current peace that I will not take for granted. When an adult adoptee friend found out we were going to see Matthew's family, she said, "I promise you are...creating the strongest foundation of trust with him."

My hope is that he finds a way to thrive in the sage of the mountains or the sweetened orchards but that he always feels accepted as the savory salt of the sea.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Who Does This Child Belong To?

"We should not be asking who this child belongs to, but who belongs to this child." -James L. Gritter

I'll lay it out for you. Nice and honest. I felt defensive and threatened when I first started learning about open adoption. But this will be MY child. I will change this baby's diapers. I will kiss this child's boo-boos. I will rub this kid's back when the flu strikes and the vomit flows. I didn't really want to share. Somewhere along the way, someone told me that open adoption is biblical adoption and somewhere along the way I began to research the effects of open adoption on children and somewhere along the way, my views began to change.

But what would it look like?

Pictures and letters. 

It would look like pictures and letters because my child would need the comfort and stability of knowing that we are his family.

Right?

You see, I hadn't met my child yet. And I hadn't met his mother.

Every circumstance within adoption is unique. Some children are taken by the state for reasons. Some parents are absolutely incapable of raising their kids. Sometimes there is abuse and it is not in the best interest of the child to see his parents. I know this. I am so thankful that isn't Matthew's story but I know it's the story of countless children.

Perhaps, in those situations, open adoption does look like pictures and letters only. And that's okay. But what's vital, for our children, is that we do not shame their first family. For in shaming the family, we inadvertently shame the child. In refusing to talk about the first family, we silence the child. In failing to discuss adoption openly and honestly, we express to our child that their past cannot be a part of their future--that it is to be forgotten. In waiting to tell our children about adoption at all, we suggest that it is something of a secret. We turn our trust into a bomb waiting to detonate.

From the moment I laid eyes on my newborn son, I wanted the very best for him. I wanted what was best for him at one, four, five, nine years of age but I wanted to make every decision based on what was best for him at eighteen, twenty, thirty years old as well. If I can make a decision now that will help him to create positive relationships with his family when he's an adult then I'm going to do it. People have asked me if it's hard. People have told me that they could never "share" their child. I'm sure it is nothing less than the Spirit in me--guiding me, convicting me, growing me, sanctifying me--but I can't imagine not sharing my child. I believe, simply, that it is impossible to be loved too much. Why would I deny my child more love? From the woman who bore him, no less.

And so, when Matthew's mom called me up and invited us to his older sister's high school graduation, my heart screamed yes. He's been longing to meet them and this presented the perfect opportunity. There were hurdles to leap, schedules to arrange, bosses to ask for time off work, but I would have lassoed the moon to get him there.


Our two days were filled with family fun. I had thought that I would be in full time therapist mode as I helped Matthew through whatever this experience meant for him. Instead, he sailed through, in some ways, as though he'd always known them all. As for myself, I had to unpack a little more psychologically but it was absolutely worth it. Because whatever we have to wrestle with--as adoptee, as adoptive parent, as birth mother, as birth siblings--the smiles and the laughter, the memories and the stories influence it all.

I can tell you that no question and no feeling and no expression of that feeling is off limits for Matthew. Over the course of his life, there have been nights of hysterical tears and questions I can't answer and questions I try to answer. My friend, an adult adoptee, who was once the only seven-year-old I knew who'd been adopted, said, "No matter how young, adopted children experience a loss that every cell in their body experiences, even if mental cognition is too young to consciously grasp it yet."

I have always wanted to acknowledge the primal wound and the adoption related grief--to never force my child to be quiet or to process it like an adult would. I'm sure I'm screwing up on a daily basis, but I want to be a part of the solution and never a part of the problem. 

The school my children attend happens to be the school that employs me and happens to be a Leader in Me school. We use Dr. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to teach and inform our students. Habit #5 says, "Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood." 

                      The essence of this habit is a temperament that favors curiosity,
                      open-mindedness, empathy, and patience--all rolled into one.
                      In order to really seek to understand, you cannot have already
                      judged a person or situation. You need to develop a desire to
                     understand--meaning a desire to see things from others' point
                     of view, to see their reasons, and feel what they feel. --Mike Strum

The children who have come to me through adoption need to know that my shoulders are broad enough to hold their pain. They need to understand that I am mature enough to put their insecurity before my own. They need to believe that I am confident enough to handle their emotion without making it about me. They need to know that I will seek to understand them before I insist on being understood.

I am an advocate for adoption and for adoption reform. That means that I will honor their first family's place in their lives. I wish that more adoptive parents understood that sharing the title of mother and father with another--in whatever way that manifests itself within their unique situation--is not a threat. It is absolutely vital for our children.

I want to reiterate that this looks different in every situation. It will look different for my two-year-old than it does for my nine-year-old. Some birth parents will desire distance and some will long for closeness. Some adoptees will push for connectedness while others push against it. Some birth parents have made egregious mistakes from which there is no turning back. Some have made choices due to circumstance and situation and they will learn and grow and change. We must understand that adoption is like the ocean, ebbing and flowing, twisting and turning. It is new every morning. The adoptive parents must adjust and process and accept that the only way to navigate this is to be willing to listen, to understand, and to take each moment at a time.

Open adoption is not what I thought it was. Praise God. It is not the threat to my family that I once imagined. It is his shy smirk when she tells him he ferociously kicked her morning, noon, and night in the womb. It is his birth mother giving him the things that I cannot. It is me giving him what she cannot. In truth, it is the beautiful white flash of the identical smiles of my son and his mother. And it is the mess of the life we all live and the child we all love.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Interview on Behalf of a Two Year Old

I interview each of my kids on their birthdays and keep record of that here on my blog. Will, while a grand talker, isn't quite communicative enough to answer interview questions although I have high hopes for next year. So this is not actually an interview. It's just me filling in the blanks for him. Here goes nothing.

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Daniel Tiger. Although he now thoroughly enjoys Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol.
2. What did you have for breakfast? Yogurt. (In case I'm reading this later in life and wondering why I only gave my toddler son yogurt, he has a sore throat. The remnant of an icky virus.)
3. What do you want to name your future son? He'll probably follow recent horrible naming trends and do something like Jagger or Basil.
4. Favorite Food? Pizza and blueberries.
5. What food do you dislike? Avocado. Anything he simply doesn't feel like eating at the time.
6. What is your favorite color? I have no idea.
7. Favorite lunch? He likes PB&J usually.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Undo whatever we've just done. Also, baseball is a pretty intense obsession.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Anywhere with his family, I'm sure.
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? See #3. Probably McKindrie. Or Basil. I feel like Basil works (read: DOES NOT WORK) for a boy or a girl.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Morning.
13. Pets? Tessie. Hamilton. Ollie. And currently a golden retriever puppy who hasn't gone to her new home yet.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? He talk talk talks all the time.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? A baseball player.
16. What is your favorite candy? ALL OF THEM. But he really enjoys M&Ms and Skittles.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Phoenix, I think.
18. What is your favorite book? It changes often. Currently, it's probably a book about a helicopter.
19. What are you most proud of? Learning new things every day.
20. What is your favorite movie? He does not even remotely have the attention span involved in movie watching.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? He doesn't care. I'm just glad I can finally get him to eat the occasional bite of egg.

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

1. What is your favorite word? NO! I mean, it must be. He says it 82,000 times a day.
2. What is your least favorite word? No. (If it's being said to him.)
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Baseball and Daniel Tiger
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Having to go to bed before everyone else.
5. What sound or noise do you love? Music.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? His parents when we are disciplining him.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Well, I mean, he says a certain one A LOT when he is attempting to say Fork.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Baseball player or Lead Singer in the Band.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Anything where he'd have to sit still.
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)? On behalf of my child, I hope that he leads a life worthy of the response, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Sunday, June 3, 2018

On Your Second Birthday

Dear Will,

I don't know why I find it surprising that time flies when you're raising kids. Your brother is already nearly two thirds of the way to 18 so the fact that you are two should come as no earthly surprise. But it kind of still feels like that moment when the very first picture I'd ever seen of you came flashing onto my cell phone screen.

My goodness, I was instantly in love. I am and will always be so thankful that your mom chose us--out of all the families--to be yours. You are perpetual motion and everlasting energy. You're busy. You're crazy. You're a handful and a half. But in all the chasing and wrangling and "no" yelling and time outing, you bounce through life--this little extroverted, outgoing, friendly ball of joy. Your smile and giggle are infectious. Your hugs, tender and heartfelt. Your curls, perfect. I love every inch of you so very much.

You are so tiny but intensely mighty. There really isn't an ounce of fat on your skinny-highest-metabolism-ever body. Yet, there is a fierceness to the way you live your live. On fire with an energy that cannot be contained.

You talk SO MUCH BETTER than either of your brothers did at two. I just didn't even know boys could be this verbal this early. I know that's a gross generalization and stereotype but honestly. I just didn't know a not-even-two-year-old could look at me and say, "Mommy, my mouf* hurt." Like. What? How are you basically fully communicating with me at two?

I exaggerate. I can actually only understand about a third of what you say. But, as soon as those other two thirds become clear, you'll have full command of the English language. It's adorable. Your little voice is, quite simply, the world's cutest thing.

Baseball. My goodness, kid. You're obsessed. You spend all of your brothers' games trying to steal equipment so that you can swing bats, wear batting helmets, throw balls, and wear gloves. You LOVE to run the bases which basically means that you swing the bat, drop the bat, and run a series of quick circles wherever you're standing. You will straight up sit on the couch and watch A GOOD AMOUNT of a baseball game which is astounding given your short attention span and the fact that, only very recently did you start to watch any television at all.

Really. As for movies, there's no way you'll sit still long enough to watch an entire movie. I think we got through the first five minutes of Cars before you abandoned it. Ever so thankfully (to my own sanity and because I'm never in the running for mama of the year) you have finally started watching Daniel Tiger, Peppa Pig, and Paw Patrol. 

You sleep SO well. I recently took away your beloved pacifier, telling you that they're for babies and you're a big boy. You cried for all of fifteen minutes total and that was that. Bye bye, Paci. Even without it, you sleep from about 7:30-7:00 and you nap for 2-3 hours. I don't know why I complain about your ability to climb the walls during your waking hours. I'd climb them too if I was sleeping roughly 14 hours out of every day. But boy howdy kiddo do I ever need those 14 hours because you are actually like a pinball when you're awake--darting from here to there and everywhere.

I love you so much. I love the laughter and joy you bring to our family with your excited spirit. I love how you say hi to everyone and wave to everyone and believe that everyone is your very best friend. You are so incredibly amazing. I thank God for you. I thank Him for showing me that, "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." Thank you for being YOU. Crazy, amazing, wonderful, you.



Love,
Mom

*Mouth.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Puppy Update

Oh my goodness. I'm ashamed of my lack of blogging. I mean, the least I could do is throw up a limerick or something to let people know that I'm still alive. I have been buried under END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR and EIGHT TODDLER PUPPIES and ONE TODDLER WILL and planning summer trips and I honestly feel like every single plate I'm spinning is about to teeter off and shatter into a million pieces.

Here's an update on our adorable puppies for anyone who cares. Currently, the puppies are 7 and a half weeks old and 4 of them remain in our home.

Puppy One, Leia, as we called her has gone to her new family. We just love them. She was the first to go and they've been so good about sending pictures. Her new name is Sky and she went to a family with three kids. Since she went first, I shed a few tears snuggling her close before her family came.

Puppy Two, Chewbacca, joined his new family tonight. They also have kids and had to put their beloved golden down last fall. He'll be so well loved with them. I don't know his new name yet but letting him go was hard. I didn't cry but he had so much personality that there were moments where I wondered if I might cave and keep him.

Puppy Three, Skywalker, is still here with us and still for sale. He's, in my opinion, our most gorgeous puppy although they are seriously all so adorable. He's calm and snuggly and I am baffled that no one has snatched him up yet.

Puppy Four, Jyn, is loved and adored by her new family but she's still living with us. She has to stay here until they're back in Salt Lake in a few weeks. We love her tons but we'll be happy when she is reunited with her forever family and her sweet kid sister. Her new name is Daisy.

Puppy Five, Sabine, left on Wednesday to join her forever family. They're grandparents with no kids left at home. Khloe, as she is called now, will be well loved. Her new family couldn't wait to get her home. They've sent a picture and video and she's doing well.

Puppy Six, Obi, went to his new family--our good good friends--yesterday. She has a big golden sister and lots of daycare kids (including my own Will) to shower him with love. We're so happy that we get to see Wesley whenever we hang with them and whenever they go on vacation since we swap dog sitting duties with them.

Puppy Seven, Finn, is still with us and still available for purchase. He's an adventurous fellow who loves to explore. But he's still happy to snuggle and cuddle. He looks a lot like Skywalker and will be a great asset to his forever family.

Puppy Eight, Rey, leaves us on Tuesday. She is flying to Massachusetts and she'll be missed. Her new family cannot wait for her though and she is going to be a swimming, hiking, possibly hunting dog. They have a toddler and another dog already so she will have a great life. Stella, as they'll call her, is the spitting image of Tessie.

So there you have it. We're down to four in our home but two of them are already sold. With two to go we're hoping to find them their forever homes this weekend.

Monday, May 7, 2018

When You're Raising Hurricane William and Eight Puppies at the Same Time

Whew. It's been forever. I'm a terrible blogger. To my two loyal readers, thank you for sticking around and waiting for me to post once every moon cycle. It's just...busy. I'm in my final month of my first year of part time teaching. I have a toddler who is better described as Hurricane William. AND WE HAVE EIGHT FIVE WEEK OLD PUPPIES. Have you ever met eight five week old puppies? Have you ever tried to take care of eight five week old puppies and a toddler? Have you ever tried to do this while your older two boys play baseball like every night?

Good times.

About Hurricane William, I posted this to Facebook the other day.

While I was vacuuming two rooms, my not-quite-two-year-old managed to flood the entire bathroom while he practiced brushing his teeth with his brother's toothbrush. While I cleaned that mess, he got hold of the bible study book that I'm working through. The book didn't stand a chance against the combination highlighter/ink pen he'd also found. "Mom Set Free: Good news for moms who are tired of trying to be good enough." My kid wrecked the cover of a study about moms not living up to the standard we have in our own minds. I had to laugh at that while also instructing my son more perfectly about where we do and do not color. I put him into his seat with a piece of paper, a pencil, and an apple. Naturally, he's stabbing the apple with the pencil and ignoring the paper. Welcome, folks, to the William Administration.

(A lot of bonus points if you correctly identify the fun reference in the paragraph above.)

He's a total joy and a half. Don't get me wrong at all. He's just a very energetic joy. He's incredibly fun because I've never had a child who exploded with language before their second birthday. This kid will repeat anything and speaks roughly a million words unprompted. Tonight he announced, "My pickle!" The other night, after a baseball game, he yelled to our friend, "Bye-bye, Jeremy!" Whenever any of my kids start talking, I tend to think they're the only human being who ever had the capacity to learn language. It doesn't matter that this is number three. Each one blows me away.

PUPPIES!

The puppies were born looking like partially furry rats. Now, just five weeks later, they are at full blown adorable golden retriever puppy capacity. I am fairly certain they cannot and will not ever be cuter than they are right now. They bound after us which causes endless toddler squeals all day long. They wrestle and hop and pounce and fall asleep all over each other. We've found a forever home for one of them and are still looking for 7 more.

They are fantastic. We love every single one. If we can't sell them and you're reading this blog, chances are there's a free golden retriever coming your way. YOU GET A PUPPY AND YOU GET A PUPPY AND YOU GET A PUPPY!

But look at them...



This little one found her forever family and I couldn't be happier. We have been hoping and praying that we'd just have a real peace about the people who are interested in our puppies. This one is going home to a family who has owned goldens in the past. They have kids and a yard. I know she'll be well loved. That will make it so much easier to say goodbye.


I really do love each and every one of them so much. But owning a whole litter of golden retrievers is a tad bit excessive so if you or someone you know is interested in a pure bred, AKC puppy with OFA certified parents, let me know! They come with full breeding rights. We're willing to relocate them if we find a great home. 



Also, they are great with cats and toddlers. Even energetically joyful toddlers. Come to think of it, Will is a lot like a golden retriever puppy.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Tessie's Puppies: Three Weeks

Our puppies are three and a half weeks old. They're starting to eat solid food. They play and bound around and wag their tails and we want to keep them all because they're JUST THAT ADORABLE! We plan to list them on our local classified page on May 7. However, beginning on Monday, April 30, they'll be available for reservation for anyone who knows us, knows someone who knows us, follows our instagram page, or reads this blog. So basically, if you already know about these puppies, you're eligible to reserve one a week before the rest of the world. They will be ready to go home on Memorial Day.


As I mentioned before, we LOVE this breed. I've had a golden retriever in my life since I was five years old. All four of them were/are the very best family dogs. The American Kennel Club says that golden retrievers are the third most popular breed of dog behind only Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds. They are amazing with children, relatively easy to train, and absolutely beautiful.


Our puppies are purebred, AKC registered retrievers. Both parents have hip and elbow certifications through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Additionally, the pups' daddy has certifications for his eyes and heart. While Tessie doesn't have official eyes and heart certifications, these are easily examined at the vet's office and she has no heart or eye conditions.

Our puppies will come well loved and well socialized.


They'll be sent home with a starter pack of food, a couple small toys, a blanket with the smell of mom and litter mates, their first collar, pictures, and some information on the breed. Their dew claws have been removed. On adoption day, they'll come having had their first set of shots and dewormer.


We have four females (wearing pink, purple, red, and yellow) and four males (wearing green, blue, silver, and black). Currently, several of them are very calm but we definitely have some feisty ones. They range in color from light to medium. Mom, Tessie, is medium in color. Dad, Timber, is blonde. Both parents have straight hair.


If interested, email familyfishbowl@hotmail.com for a price and reservation details.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

On This Day in History

On December 21, we celebrate William Bassham Day--the day we officially and permanently and forever and always solidified Will's legal place in our family. On April 21, we celebrate Matthew Bassham Day for the same reasons. While the day Will joined our family felt like a formality as, after his birth, there were no adoption complications whatsoever, Matthew's day feels like a lot less of a formality and a lot more of the-day-I-finally-exhaled-after-not-breathing-for-nearly-fourteen-months.

If you're new here which is doubtful because back in the days of our contested adoption I had a great deal more readers than I do now, you can look at the archives for 2009 and 2010 to read more about our drawn out adoption process. What I want to say about that now is this...

Matthew's mother never wavered in her desire to place him with us. Oh, to be sure, she struggled in her own heart. While I don't presume to speak for her, I can only imagine that she experienced a daily tug of war of grief and sorrow and possibly regret mixed with the feeling that hopefully she made the right choice. Publicly though, she only ever said that he was ours.

I've been thinking about this recently. If the number of times I fail as a mother were written down, I fear no volume of pages would contain them. Just a couple of days ago, irritated, once again, at Garrett, my eleven year old, for being a terrible, horrible, pack rat slob, I started yanking things out of his backpack and scolding him for carrying around trash. I was throwing several plastic water bottles onto the floor when two thoughts struck me at the exact same time.

1. The "trash" was very colorful and cut in such a way as to indicate treasure where I saw only garbage.

2. My son's face and, therefore, his spirit were crushed.

"Mom," he said quietly before I could fix it, "it isn't trash. It's my art project I've been working on all week."

In my defense, my son is notorious for carting actual trash around in his backpack for days and weeks on end. Still, I'm a horrible parent. The prosecution rests. I did apologize, telling him I realized it was something special and I had assumed too quickly that the empty water bottles were exactly what they seemed. But I will probably carry the look on his face to my grave. I could weep even now.

My parenting fails are great. I desire such a higher standard for myself. I imagined I'd do this so much better than I am. Yesterday, as I got Will ready for bed, I said, "Hey, buddy. You're adopted. Can you say adopted?" He muttered something that suggested he was trying. I continued. "Adopted means that you were in your other mommy's tummy and when you came out, she picked us to raise you." He's not even two. It's going to have to stay that simple for now.

I thought about his other mommy. I thought about Matt's other mommy. And I thought about the weight of what I'm doing. I love Will and Matthew like they were birthed out of my very own body. Perhaps that doesn't make sense if you've never adopted a child but there are times when I forget that their story did not start with me. But the truth is they didn't begin with me. They began with their first mothers.

Regardless of circumstances, each of those women chose me. In a way, they hand picked me out of all the other mothers. Not only did they invite me in to one of the most intimate relationships known to mankind, they then turned around and walked away, leaving their heart in my arms and trusting me to love it more than my own life. I do not just owe it to myself and my children to hope and pray they turn out alright. I owe it to their mothers.

I will fail. I know that. I hope they know that. I hope that they will forgive my failures and my short comings. And I hope that, when their children are grown, they can say that they would choose me all over again. Raising their children--raising my children--is not a responsibility I take lightly. Motherhood is the single most important job I will ever have and I'm doing it, not only for myself, but for them.

On this day, eight years ago, I breathed a deep sigh of relief that my boy was mine forever. But he will never be only mine. He is ours. And I will strive to do my very best with him. For him. And for her.

***********************************
If you're an adoptive parent, regardless of how your children came to you, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their placement with you, be sure to think about their first parents and your responsibility to them. You are holding a significant piece of them in your arms. Love well. Love honorably. Love in such a way that when your child connects with his first family--whenever that might be--you are held in high esteem in the eyes of your child and in the eyes of his family.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hamilton

I'll be honest, when I listened to the Hamilton cast album for the first time more than two years ago, I didn't initially love it. I'd heard of the show because I was obsessed with If/Then which had been running at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. It closed and Hamilton moved in. I heard the hype and I kind of thought, "A show about Alexander Hamilton? That sounds maybe not amazing." Ever so slowly, I started reading about it. I started hearing the insane Tony buzz. I decided to listen to some of the songs on the Internet.

Hip hop and rap aren't my musical genre of choice, usually. It was Jonathan Groff, coming in at song number 6, that won me over. Jonathan Groff doesn't typically have to do too much to win me over. I mean, in Frozen he's singing to a reindeer for crying out loud and I'm riveted. I decided I loved that King George so much that I'd start over with more of an open mind.

Looking back, this is hysterical. King George's part is funny. It's like the cherry on top of the delicious sundae. But it isn't the sundae itself.

I fell hard. Within the day, I'd purchased the album. I was head over heels in love with Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius. Leslie Odom Jr. has a voice like butter. The entire cast is incredible. I watched the Tony's with a great deal of interest and celebrated the wins. I soaked up the PBS special. I read interviews. I got really, very into it.

Two nights ago, I had the opportunity to see it from the 7th row. I could see the spit flying from the mouths of the actors. The sweat coming from their heads was visible. The show was fantastic. While I will readily admit that several of the actors just couldn't possibly live up to the original cast members (here's looking at you, Burr) I will also say that I certainly didn't expect them to. Three of the original cast members won Tony's for their performances. That's a tough standard to live up to. I was so impressed by the ensemble. I've never seen members of the ensemble working as hard as they do in Hamilton. It's like a marathon of never ending energy.

At intermission, I was texting my friend. She asked if I had cried yet. Truthfully, I had a few really annoying people around me. For the first act, the two people behind me felt the need to repeat every joke and then discuss it. Clearly they'd never heard the soundtrack and knew little about what they were seeing. Season ticket holders, maybe. At one point, after significant talking from them, the wife laughed. The husband leaned over and said, "What did he say?"

"Martha Washington named her favorite tom cat after him."

In my own head I imagined a scene in which I turned around and screamed, "FERAL! IT'S FERAL TOM CAT! NOT FAVORITE! IF YOU'D LISTENED TO THE SHOW EVEN ONCE BEFORE TONIGHT, MAYBE YOU WOULD NOT BE TALKING SO INCESSANTLY ABOUT EVERY FUNNY LINE!"

So, no, I hadn't cried during the first act because seated behind me were two chatterboxes. Strangely, however, I did get choked up during That Would Be Enough which is weird. I don't ever get emotional during that song. The staging of it had me thinking so much about unborn Philip Hamilton and that made me think of the later dead young adult Philip Hamilton and my eyes got misty.

Really though, despite my annoying buddies behind me, the first act was hugely enjoyable. We saw an understudy for Ham and he was phenomenal. Shoba Narayan killed it as Eliza. I found myself riveted to her character with a sentiment that, when I'm listening to the cast album, is usually reserved for Angelica. (Because, Renee Elise Goldsberry--come on. She wins at life.)

The neighbors behind me were much quieter during Act 2. I don't know if someone asked them to PLEASE SHUT UP or if there just wasn't as much to discuss. They'd really only talked about the funny lines and the second act has a lot less of those moments. Something happened, however, and the two people in front of me took over as the EVEN MORE OBNOXIOUS theatre patrons. For the entire act, the woman continually leaned over and told the man what was happening. In great detail. In a regular talking voice. As though she was teaching him a history lesson. This got so bad that I looked over, continually, at the usher standing next to us. She was somehow not distracted by this as she stood against the wall with her face enraptured with the joy of Hamilton. I would have to get up, walk over, and complain. And I wanted to be enjoying every moment of my show. At one point, the teenage girls next to me, who were delightful, were very visibly annoyed. It wasn't just me, is what I'm saying.

As for crying, I was actually kind of dreading It's Quiet Uptown. If I listen to that song, in my car, with my boys slugging each other in the backseat, during rush hour, I get choked up. I wasn't sure how I'd ever survive it performed live.

I have said many, many times, that I simply cannot imagine losing one of the children I have raised. The mere thought of burying a child I know, with all his personality and quirks and delights does me in. Because I've buried one I hadn't met and it was the most miserable thing I've ever been called to do.

There are moments that the words don't reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable


The moments when you're in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable

I was crying before it even started. I was crying because Philip was dying and Alexander was holding him and I was thinking about Dear Theodosia. Then Eliza ran in and Philip died and Eliza screamed and the theatre was silent. Even the talkers weren't talking and you could have heard a pin drop.

I think of that phone call that changed everything for me, that phone call that took away my daughter. You hold your child as tight as you can, and push away the unimaginable. She was in my arms. Dead. The idea of her gone forever. If I lose Garrett or Matthew or Will, the scream will not just be heard throughout a silent theatre. It may, perhaps, be heard around the world. Tears ran down my face as they sang. I heard sniffing behind me. I wondered if I might let out an audible sob and I began to focus heavily on making sure that didn't happen. It wrecked me in a cathartic and theatrical way so that, in the wreckage, I found myself emotionally spent in, somehow, a good way.

A colleague of mine recently told me she thought Hamilton was repetitive and overrated. She hasn't listened to the entire soundtrack, mind you, but this is her conclusion. Fine. We're all entitled to our own opinions. I believe Lin-Manuel Miranda is a creative genius. I find his work to be neither repetitive nor overrated. She says hip hop and rap aren't her thing. Neither are they mine. But they flow into and out of his work in such a symbolic way that I am brought to a place of complete respect and utter enjoyment. She says she's just not a bandwagon jumper. Fair enough. But Hamilton is one bandwagon for which I am thankful to have jumped upon.

It is not just a piece of theatre. It is an experience. An experience I am so very grateful to have been able to have.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Tessie's Puppies

Have you ever seen a picture of perfectly lined up golden retriever puppies where all of them are sleeping and looking adorable? Me too. It's great. Have you ever attempted to get a perfect picture of perfectly lined up golden retriever puppies where all of them are sleeping and looking adorable? I have. I'm now convinced that this is only achieved through a heavy sedative. Since we have not sedated our dogs, we spent too long attempting to get a picture of them. This was the best we got. They simply won't stay still for even a moment.


They are in order, however, which is a miracle in and of itself. That's Leia there on the far left end, Chewbacca is climbing on top of Leia. Skywalker is next up. Then Jyn is on top of Skywalker. Sabine is number five with Obi on top of her. The last two are Finn and Rey.

They still haven't opened their eyes but should start in the next few days. They're still deaf. Their sense of smell is still remarkable. Yesterday, I was sitting in the whelping box between the puppies and their mama. They were asleep. When they wanted to eat, one by one they crawled behind me and straight to their mother.

Their faces have filled out with fur and they are growing soooo fast. Our biggest puppy, Chewbacca, is 2 lbs 5 oz. Our smallest two (today that was Obi and Rey) are 1 lb 15 oz.


This puppy fell asleep in Garrett's arms and his mouth hung open like that for quite some time. It was so adorable.


Speaking of my children, this has been such an incredible experience for them. I can't imagine the amount of tears that will be shed when they go to their new homes. I may be inconsolable. The children, forget about it. But NINE full grown golden retrievers is INSANE and so, to new homes they must go.

Both older boys were part of Tessie's birthing experience and were amazing. We could totally live on a working farm and they'd be cool with it. We won't live on a farm, mind you. But we could. Now, they're helpful with puppy snuggle time, cleaning up messes, feeding Tessie 82,000 times a day because the puppies are eating all her calories, and making sure Tessie gets attention from us--not just the sometimes obnoxious attention of eight puppies.


Matthew loves them. This morning, I yelled down to make sure everyone was ready to leave for school. "Matthew, what are you doing right now?"

"Oh, I'm just sitting in the box with the puppies."


This kid loves them too. He likes to say, "Puppies!" and "Cute!" And, really, a litter of golden retriever puppies climbing on a toddler...

What could be cuter?


The puppies are ten days old today. They'll be ready for their forever homes on Memorial Day. That gives us 46 more days with them. What memories we must make in those days.