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.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Breeding Tessie: Part Two

Tessie's pregnancy was text book.

We noticed, around week three, that she wasn't interested in food. She'd take a bite here and there but was generally experiencing morning sickness. I read that on day 21, the dog's gums may appear white. This sounded ridiculous but I pulled Tessie's lips up and, sure enough, her gums were white. Her nipples changed color and then, eventually, grew tremendously in size. Finally, she began to swell to epic proportions and her breasts developed. About two weeks before delivery, if we put our hands on her abdomen, we could feel tiny flutters. Finally, about a week before whelping, the puppies began to flip and flop and somersault. Or, perhaps, they were just kicking their little legs. Either way, Tessie's entire body seemed to roll and quake with the movement of all her puppies.

Troy built a whelping box a couple of weeks before the puppies were due. Tessie showed absolutely no interest in it until the day before her puppies were born. 

I'd read countless resources about what to expect, when to intervene, what our role should be, etc. My boys had begged me every night to let them watch YouTube videos of puppies being born. This proved to be quite beneficial for all of us. The gestation period for a dog is 63 days which was Wednesday, April 4. We knew we were expecting the puppies between days 58 and 68 but I also knew that if puppies hadn't appeared by day 64, I should call the vet and have her seen--just to be on the safe side.

We had a Good Friday service (day 58) and, of course, an Easter service (day 60) that we were really hoping to make it through. That said, we were hoping they'd be born soon after because the boys and I were off this week for Spring Break. We began taking turns sleeping downstairs with Tessie on day 56.  She went off of food on day 58 except for the occasional bite. The night before Easter, I slept downstairs. I got roughly two hours of sleep. Tessie was restless. She began trying to nest right in front of our garage door. She paced. In the morning, however, she seemed back to normal and completely fine. 

That evening, around 7:00 pm, she entered the box and began panting fairly rapidly. Troy spent the night with her and said she was fine. She just panted a lot as she worked through the early stages of labor. On Monday morning (we couldn't have picked a better day as it is Troy's day off and we were all on Spring Break), she continued panting. Knowing that the first stage of labor can last a long time, and having watched many videos of the second stage of labor--often excessive digging at the box, whining, etc--I believed we still had a few hours before birth was imminent. 

Garrett and I went down to clean his closet. We'd been down there for about a half hour when I heard Troy's voice. It was steady and fairly quiet, so as not to cause distress to Tessie, but carried a command with it. "Lori!"

I yelled up, "What?" but even as I was saying it, I knew. I took the stairs three at a time. Tessie was standing. A puppy's head was protruding from her. The puppy was no longer in its sack and was squealing. Tessie's lady parts were stretched to insane proportions. I had never, in all my YouTube viewing experiences, seen anything like it. Tessie kept lying down and standing up and no progress was being made at all. I tried to massage her to provide some assistance, knowing that I could do nothing to really help until the shoulders of the puppy were out. Finally, Tessie pushed again and not one but two puppies were born. She'd had two puppies occupying her birth canal at once. It boggles the mind. The very thought of it makes me want to howl in pain and she never once made a single peep. Well done, her.


Once we'd bred Tessie, we tossed ideas around for names. We know these are temporary until they go to their forever homes and get their names. But we're big on adoption around here and these are kind of their birth names. We tossed around different themes. Finally, it hit me. Star Wars names. I've only seen one Star Wars film in its entirety. They're just not my jam. But my boys love the entire Star Wars franchise. I thought I'd be a super cool mom if I pitched Star Wars even if I would rather have a bunch of puppies running around with Shakespeare names. A puppy named Lady Macbeth, come on!

At 10:10 am, our first girl was born, Leia--marked orange. At 10:10 am, coming out with the back half of Leia, our first boy, Chewbacca (Chewy)--marked green, was born. We tried to tie yarn to their feet so we could distinguish between pups but they immediately slipped out of it. We quickly switched to a swipe of nail polish on the back of the miniature canine, near its tail.

At 10:38, our second boy was born. He was the second smallest pup and came out all by himself, as is usually the way. Tessie, who had been attending to Leia and Chewy, just suddenly looked behind her and there was another puppy. I think after having Leia and Chewy (who were the two biggest pups) at the same time was by far the worst for her. Subsequent puppies seemed to almost just appear without fanfare. We named this little guy Skywalker and marked him with blue.

Three puppies in under a half hour had to have been draining on our girl. She took a long break before giving birth to number four almost two hours later. Our boys had been alternating watching Will and watching puppies. After all this time, Will was losing his mind and Troy decided to take him out of the house to get some lunch. He missed this one's birth at 12:23. I noticed Tessie lift her tail slightly and then bear down a couple of times. I grabbed my phone and videotaped this pup's birth. It was a girl, marked with purple and called Jyn.

Nearly an hour later, at 1:18, Sabine, marked with pink, came out. Jyn and Sabine look identical and, if not for their color markers, we would never be able to tell the difference between them. Tessie went a little nuts chewing through Sabine's umbilical cord and she began to bleed profusely. We'd set up a whelping table just outside the box with gloves, towels, nail polish, nasal aspirator, scissors, rubbing alcohol, q-tips, dental floss, and our food scale. We were able to quickly grab dental floss and, while I held the gushing puppy, Troy tied off her cord. I have no idea what would happen in the wild because, realizing there was a large amount of blood, Tessie licked the puppy like crazy and would hold her tongue firmly on her belly. Perhaps this would have been enough to eventually stop the bleeding. However, we were right there and happy to use our opposable thumbs and finger dexterity to help out. 

Twenty minutes later, brother Obi--marked black--joined the five at 1:38. We had a repeat cord mangling as Tessie, trying to be efficient, caused a bit of trauma. This time we just quickly took the puppy, tied off his cord, and handed him back to mama.

The first six. Obi is still damp and not yet marked.

Tessie took another long break after Obi. We could still feel what we thought were puppies inside and she was still panting so we thought there would be more but we weren't sure. After an hour and a half, Troy decided to run to get his hair cut a mile away. Garrett remarked, "You know she'll have a puppy as soon as you leave." He walked out the door and Tessie began to raise her tail and bear down. Laughing, I said, "Garrett, go get dad before he leaves." Garrett ran out but somehow Troy had already left. 

I wish he hadn't. The amount of blood coming from umbilical cords had been concerning but we'd remedied those situations in a matter of a minute. Leia and Chewy being born at the same time was concerning to us but they were healthy and completely fine. Our seventh pup was born at 3:17 and he did not move. The others all began to breathe right away. Number seven just laid there. Tessie licked him and ate his placenta and he didn't do anything. She was agitated. She was trying to revive him with her tongue. I thought he was stillborn. Then he took a weird breath. It was labored and wet sounding. He didn't attempt to breathe again. I grabbed the nasal aspirator and shoved it into his mouth. Gunk and fluid came out. He gurgled but did nothing more. I had Garrett give me a towel and I wrapped him in it and frantically began to rub him. After about a minute, he took a big breath and then began breathing normally. He was the tiniest of all our puppies. He's catching up--today he weighed the exact same as brother, Obi--but I have a soft spot for this little one. We call him Finn and marked him with silver.

We had no sooner got Finn breathing and cleaned off when, twelve minutes later, his sister was born. The boys said, "I think she's having another one!" and they were right. Rey--marked red--was born at 3:29. At this point, Rey is Tessie's clone. The other three girls are blonde like their daddy. Rey definitely has Tessie's coloring.

Tessie continued to pant for quite awhile and we kept thinking there would be another pup but, after four hours passed, we were comfortable calling the litter at eight. Four boys. Four girls.


There really is nothing much cuter than a golden puppy.

Unless, of course, it's a litter of golden puppies.

Tessie did amazingly well. When Garrett was born, I told Troy that I thought I'd missed my calling as a labor and delivery nurse. I found the process of birthing that child to be incredible. Then, when Matthew was born, I got to the be there and it was amazing all over again. I sat in the box with Tessie from start to finish, climbing out only to use the restroom and wolf down some lunch. Witnessing the miracle of the birth of her puppies was fascinating and beautiful (and sometimes messy and scary) and completely worth it. Seeing instinct take hold as she just knew to chew through their cords, free them from the placenta, clean them off, and get them eating was moving. Seeing the pups instantly, without being able to see or hear, climb over to their mother using only their sense of smell and immediately begin to try to nurse just baffled our minds.

I remarked about this very thing to Troy and he sarcastically replied, "Yes. It's amazing how all of this just happens by random chance."

Just 65 days ago, we bred our dog. Now there are four day old puppies squeaking in my family room. They're proficient eaters now. They all gravitate to their poor, exhausted mama and drape themselves over every inch of her in blind trust and need. They've all gained at least 5 oz since birth. They're doing well.

And I'm pretty glad I let my boys talk me into this. I'll report in with their progress throughout the coming weeks. You can follow the puppies at tandtpuppies on instagram.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Breeding Tessie: Part One

When our boy, Beck, died suddenly in June of 2015, I wanted a new puppy much more immediately than I ever thought I would. He'd been my first baby and our loyal companion for eleven years. You can't replace that. But, we were grieving the loss of Kate and Beck's sudden death several months later was more than I could bear. So we bought our Tessie and, aside from eating walls when she was a puppy and the fact that she will still "Happy Potty" on the floor, she's been fantastic. She's needy and hairy and obnoxious like all golden retrievers but she behaves, she is much less neurotic than her predecessor, and she's a complete sweetheart.

Almost as soon as we brought home a female dog, my boys started asking me if we could breed her.

NO.

I did not want to deal with heat cycles and the breeding process and PUPPIES for eight weeks until they go to good homes. They persisted. They told me all the reasons we should do it. They dragged their dad on board until I was the only level headed human in the house. They wore me down and I decided that we wouldn't spay her before her first heat. I wasn't convinced but I wasn't unconvinced, either.

To make a long, two and a half year, story short, we did decide to breed our retriever. It wasn't a decision we came to lightly and we were very critical of Tessie's temperament and her health. We came to this decision based on many factors. Our older boys are the perfect age to get an upfront science lesson as well as take on some of the responsibility of puppy rearing. We believe so strongly in this breed of dog. We have never regretted having our golden retrievers. They have both been spectacular with our children and that is the single most important thing to us. If we can breed our dog and provide a great family pup to people, we're happy to do it. Once.

I have not talked publicly about this process because we have many friends who believe strongly in only getting a dog from a shelter. While we absolutely support people who choose shelter dogs, we truly don't believe it is the only way any more than we believe that adopting children is the only way to build a family. I've blogged about this before. Still, I didn't want to open up a giant can of worms with my friends. This is why I haven't blogged about it until now and why I haven't posted any pictures on Facebook. I finally decided that I would like to chronicle this process and my blog is the best place I know to do that. Additionally, unless I link directly to Facebook, almost no one reads my blog anymore. So, if you're here reading about our puppies, thank you for being one of the faithful.

After Tessie, who is AKC registered, turned two, we paid a hefty sum of money to have her hips and elbows OFA certified. Goldens are notorious for having joint issues and we absolutely did not want to breed her if she might pass down bad joints. It was a financial risk we were willing to take. Her hips came back as excellent and her elbows as good!Tessie typically went about eight months between heat cycles and so we anticipated breeding her in early December. We found a stud dog in our local classifieds and I contacted his owner so we'd all be ready.

And then Tessie surprised us and didn't go into heat until mid January.

At what we thought was the appropriate time, Timber's owner brought him over to play. He was a perfect gentleman and they literally only played. It was a great first date and it was clear that Tessie wasn't ready. He came again. Again, they did nothing but play. We waited a couple days. On January 31, I met Timber's owner halfway between our homes. Timber hopped into my van and we took off for our house. This time, it didn't take long for Tim and Tess to get to the business of puppy making.

Timber

He stayed and played for the entire day. Timber never really left her side. That night, we put Tessie in her kennel. Timber slept right outside her kennel and the next morning I let them out. We were all getting ready for the day. Matthew was eating breakfast. "Matt," I said, "Yell up to me if they get stuck together." We'd already explained the strange art of dog mating to our older boys. 

Not two seconds later he screamed, "They're stuck together."

Two successful ties. Now all we had to do was wait to see if puppies were on their way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Flupocalypse

I've been sick this year. Really, just, a lot of sick. Starting in November and seemingly with very few breaks before the next thing slams into me. The kids have had colds and stomach bugs and ailments and I think I've caught EVERY SINGLE ONE from them. And whatever they don't get, I seem to bring home from all the other little germ infested goblins I teach. It has been, legitimately, disgusting.

A few weeks ago I was struck with what can truly only be described as Montezuma's Revenge. Except that, well, I wasn't traveling. It was someone's revenge though. I lost four pounds simply by being glued to the toilet seat.

In The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which I had the privilege of seeing on my first trip to NYC, there's a line that goes like this:

"Dengue--an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes and categorized by headache, joint-pain, skin rash, and severe diarrhea. When the Pediatrician asked Billy to describe the symptoms of his Dengue, he said, 'It was like there was a race out of my tushie, and everybody won.'"

That line has stayed with me. Because it is hilarious. Because who among us hasn't experienced the horrific nightmare of catastrophic diarrhea? 

I'm not going to focus on diarrhea though because I've been binge watching Downton Abbey and pretending I'm a lady. (When, really, I am about the farthest thing from English nobility.) I do know enough to know that ladies shouldn't share a lot of details about their bathroom escapades. But, you see, after I recovered from The Revenge, I had some good days and then I was struck with the other kind of flu. The Influenza A kind of flu. This ticked me off something fierce because we always get the flu shot. Yes, I know it was all but completely ineffective this year but that is not the point. I felt a bit under the weather when I left work on Thursday and by the evening I was running a fever. 

I stayed in bed almost all of Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I cannot tell you the last time I wallowed in bed for four straight days. This is why I have taken up Downton Abbey which I had saved for such a time as this. Oh I knew I would love it. I had so many friends who watched it AT THE TIME and loved it and wondered why, on God's wonderful earth, I was not among the obsessed. I always knew it would be a show for me. I somehow also knew I would pull it out at just the right and perfect moment.

The Great Flupocalypse of 2018 was just that time.

But the point of this post is not to discuss the Crawley's and their drama. It's not really to talk about that scene with Mary and Anna and Cora and a CERTAIN body. Even if I would honest to goodness hope to respond exactly like that mother did. To my children: I will not condone your bad decision making and I may make you pay but I will straight up help you move the body back to its own bedroom. JUST LIKE THE COUNTESS OF GRANTHAM. Anyway. The actual point is that my husband is an absolute blessing to me.

Sometimes we're married for fourteen years and the fire doesn't die or anything like that but the lingerie gets buried behind the flannel pajama pants and everything is just comfortable and nice. Let's face it, the lingerie, in and of itself, is not actually integral to the marriage. I happen to like the fact that he fits like a glove or, like a good pair of pajama pants. But sometimes, I'm shaking in bed with a fever and I can't stop. And then for some inexplicable reason I start bawling because I'm just so cold and I hear him beyond the closed door. He's taking care of three kids and doing laundry and making dinner and thinking about his sermon and changing a poopy diaper. I'm coughing. It's a deep, racking cough and he's there handing me medicine and putting a palm on my forehead. And when the flu goes up into my face and my sinuses are a brick wall, he's helping me use the terrible sinus pot because I really need it but I hate it so much it makes me choke and cry. 

I've been sick a great deal this year. I'm trying everything I can think of to build up my immunity and keep things away and yet, they have a way of clinging to my body and wiping me out. Through it all, my husband just keeps standing in the gap. And yes, it's what a husband SHOULD do. I couldn't agree more. But when I stop and really see that he is doing it, he is taking care of absolutely everything for FOUR ENTIRE DAYS, how can I be anything short of madly in love with this counterpart of mine?

This morning, I insisted on going to work. He texted me early in the day, "Hope your day is manageable. If it's too hard, don't be afraid to call it halfway through. Praying for you. Love you."

When you find someone who is praying for you and who loves you, don't let that one go. I just wanted to write something down so that my husband knew it didn't go unnoticed. All the praying. All the loving. All the doing everything. I see. Thank you.

Friday, March 16, 2018

My Travels with Charley

When I was in the second grade, I had a teacher that darn near ruined school for me. Often, she was incredibly unkind. If her hair was curled, we were going to be alright but if it was straight, everyone knew to steer clear. As an adult I realize that, maybe, on the days her hair was curled, she'd gotten up, had her morning coffee and then spent some quality time with the curling iron. The days when it was straight, well, maybe she'd rolled out of bed and we were seeing her in some kind of decaffeinated state. I don't know. She insisted that we call her Mizz Boyle. Not Miss Boyle. Mizz. She scared me. The rough terrain of second grade didn't stop with her incredible mood swings. The woman barely taught math. She focused so greatly on language arts and reading that one of my most vivid memories from all of grade school involves me sobbing at the kitchen table while I wrote a lengthy (way too long for a seven-year-old) research paper on Mary Cassatt. That class entered the third grade above average in all things to do with literature and well below average in our math skills.

It haunted me throughout school, always trying to play catch up in math and build on skills that weren't taught at the crucial age of seven. However, for all that I blame her for with my subpar mathematics skills, I do credit the woman for being the base for which my love for literature and language arts was launched and, in fairness, she's the sole reason I have any idea who Mary Cassatt was.

My foundational love for English took me into honors courses, on to Advanced Placement my senior year, and eventually landed me in a great many writing and literature classes in college where I graduated three courses short of a second degree in English Education. I say all of that to hopefully give some credit to what I'm about to say. (It was a long introduction. What can I say, I'm not short and to the point like Hemingway.)

In high school, as part of our honors program, I was forced to endure a few AWFUL books for summer reading. Terrible books. Books that made me question whether I should even bother with advanced classes. But here's the thing. I reread some of them in college and had a profound awakening to them. It was then I realized that some of what we'd been forced to read in high school was way over our heads. Listen, I was not in over my head in advanced classes. I never got a grade lower than A in English until college. So I can only assume that no one was understanding or connecting to much of our summer reading lists. When in college a few years later, my perspective had changed. I'd lived a little more life. The themes and concepts of some of the books we'd had to read in high school suddenly made sense. I firmly believe that we were introduced to some of that material well before we could even begin to chew it up and make sense of it.

I'm not blaming the teachers. Not a bit. I adored my high school English teachers. They were teaching what they needed to and in the end, we all survived. During school we were able to dissect books with our faithful leaders standing by, guiding and helping. It was those hot summers with long passages that made no sense that really got to me.

The summer before my freshman year, when I was a mere 13 years old, I powered, somehow, through Travels with Charley. I declared then and there that I detested John Steinbeck with the burning fire of 10,000 suns. It was so so very terrible. It was boring. It was dated. Still, for some strange reason, I held onto that paperback novel all these years. My mother, year after year would ask me why I saved it, as awful as it was. Then, later, my husband would ask the same question. I had no explanation. Perhaps I kept it in my bookshelf as some sort of badge of honor.



I have nearly tripled my age since I first experienced that novel. Suddenly, I had the overwhelming urge to read it. O, world, is it ever beautiful. Still, I look at its pages and I think, "There is no way a 13 year old could have possibly grasped this." Now though, I am helped by the fact that I have fallen in love with Steinbeck. Travels with Charley In Search of America was my maiden voyage nearly a quarter of a century ago. It is not the place to begin. One must first know Steinbeck. I believe, even, that The Pearl and Of Mice and Men (books which also came with my high school education) are not, on their own, up to the task. Perhaps, if one has held tight to the pages of East of Eden, it will have been enough. To embrace Charley, one must feel as though Steinbeck is an old friend and one must believe that America is meant to be discovered again and again. We must understand that she is always in a process of metamorphosis so intricate that one man's experience will never be the next man's. One must possess within her that restlessness, that wanderlust that so many of us, inherent in our Americanness, feel in the marrow of our bones. What 13 year old grasps these things? Nay, what 36 year old can do much more than open her mouth and hope to drink the entire ocean?

I was driving myself, pounding out the miles because I was no longer hearing or seeing. I had passed my limit of taking in or, like a man who goes on stuffing food after he is filled, I felt helpless to assimilate what was fed in through my eyes. Each hill looked like the one just passed. I have felt this way in the Prado in Madrid after looking at a hundred paintings--the stuffed and helpless inability to see more.

A few pages later...

Charley licked the syrup from his whiskers. "What makes you so moony?"

"It's because I've stopped seeing. When that happens you think you'll never see again."

What 13 year old is worried about absorbing that much, being saturated to the point of rejecting what is seen, heard, and experienced? Ahhh, but what 36 year old, in a moment of respite, enveloped by warm water and bubbles while her love plays with her three smaller loves, has not experienced the gripping reality that sometimes we lose sight of everything important?

There are moments when I wish I could visit myself. I would absorb wisdom from the soul of older versions. I would implore younger versions to listen, to give it all the time that it needs, to soak in as much as possible.

"Yes, younger me, the only part of Travels with Charley In Search of America that you will grasp and appreciate will be the parts about California. You have been there. You have experienced the land and everything he says about it is still true. One day, you will have seen more of it. You will have met more of its people. You will understand what John was looking for. One day, the book will move you. One day, you will wish that he invited you into Rocinante, poured you a glass of whatever he was serving, and asked who you were. Or not. Perhaps you would only discuss the weather. One day, you would consider paying top dollar to scratch Charley's head. That time has not yet come."

But it will.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Dear Matt,

You're halfway to 18 which is wackadoodle crazy, if you ask me. I cannot understand how you have suddenly turned into a 9 year old 3rd grader because I am sure that you were just born yesterday. And listen, kid, if you're reading this one day and you want to know what you were like, get a copy of the old television show This is Us. Watch Randall. All that wanting to be perfect. All that anxiety about not being perfect. All that thinking that anything less than perfect is failure. All the ways he loved his mama and his family. His struggles and his victories.

YOU.

Every week, we watch that show and it's like watching what we imagine you'll be like in 7 years or 28 years. And son, I hope you can shake all the needing to be perfect because that's all in your own head. But if you grow up and love your wife and your kids and your mother the way a fictional character loves those people in his life, well, I think you'll do okay.

Right now, you flip and flop and back handspring and walk on your hands ALL THE TIME. If you could practice gymnastics in our living room 24/7, you would. Of course, you also want to do karate, play baseball, play football, and wrestle. You are super strong and your chiseled body is basically ridiculous. Especially because you're NINE. You love to rock climb and can scurry up the wall like a buff little spider monkey.

You're a great speller and you love science. You would make potions and do experiments all day long (except for the times you were busy flipping and flopping about the house) if we'd let you. Reading is NOT your favorite thing to do but you are happy to read books about science and we have found a few others that'll hold your attention. You say that you want to be an actor and, when you come out of your shell for long enough, you are straight up hilarious.

You have the tenderest of souls, never wanting to choose something if your choice might hurt someone's feelings, never wanting to do anything to upset either of your brothers, always wanting to take care of people, often sacrificing your own opinion for what others might think. You've always been a hot and cold kind of kid. From the moment you were born, we've always said that your personality was like looking at a heart monitor. Up, down, up, down, up, down. You have big highs and big lows. The white folk you live with are a mostly German bunch and we're baseline steady--for the most part. You add emotion and flare to our relatively calm bunch. If you can harness all that passion for good, you'll move mountains.

I love you, man. I love your silly sense of humor and your tender side. I love how you love your family--both the one you live with and the one you came from--and want all of us to be happy. I love how you love Jesus. I love the way you self-sacrifice for your siblings. You are one of my most favorite people on the planet.

Grow and live and thrive and don't worry quite so much about being perfect. We love you just the way you are.

Love,
Mom

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Interview with 9 Year Old Matthew

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Star Wars Rebels, Ninja Turtles, Ben 10.
2. What did you have for breakfast? Cereal.
3. What do you want to name your future son? (This is a new question. I got rid of "What's your middle name?" because, well, he's known that for years now.) Robert.
4. Favorite Food? Hamburgers.
5. What food do you dislike? Cooked up broccoli.
6. What is your favorite color? Green and red.
7. Favorite lunch? Peanut butter and jelly.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Gymnastics.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Ireland.
10. Favorite sport? Football.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? (This is a new question. I also decided to get rid of, "When is your birthday?" because he's also known that for years.) Carmel.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Night.
13. Pets? Tessie. Hamilton. Ollie.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I know how to do a handspring.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? I still have time, I don't know. Maybe an actor.
16. What is your favorite candy? Lollipops, lollipops oh my little lollipops.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Israel.
18. What is your favorite book? My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish.
19. What are you most proud of? I'm very proud that I started a club last year on this day. It's Get Rid of Slimy Girls Club. (Ummmm. Okaaaayyy.)
20. What is your favorite movie? Ninja Turtles.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The egg. The egg came first because the chicken would hatch out of its egg and have another 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? The longest word in the English language.
2. What is your least favorite word? Good. I can think of way better words than good.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Gymnastics.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") School.
5. What sound or noise do you love? The tune to Play That Funky Music White Boy.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Balloons squeaking.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Stupid. Even though it's not. I can't say it.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Be in the military.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Be a nurse.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? Welcome.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

In This Time of Desperation

I wake up with a general heaviness. It seems the world has turned upside down. Yes, there has nearly always been death and destruction and, yes, it has often been violent and ugly, but in the here and now, not a day goes by where I am not grieved by mass murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse, and a list of atrocities too long to mention.

Sometimes, it feels difficult to stand under the weight of these nightmares.

A theology professor (and pastor) from my university has been accused of sexual assault and rape. He admits to the relationship but says it was consensual. Regardless of the eventual verdict, he abused his position in the life of this young woman--whether criminally or not. Regardless, he betrayed his wife of several decades. Regardless, a community is reeling. A church is devastated. Countless pastors, religious leaders, and lay leaders, who studied under him for the years and years he taught as a professor, are questioning their education, reconciling the man they thought they knew with the man behind these allegations, moving forward after their world swiveled sharply off its axis.

I understand sin. I know that it is ever and always possible for me to make egregious error in both judgement and morals. I know that we are all sinners and fall short of God's glory and that we don't stop struggling with sin--on some level--until eternity. This is why I generally reject Wesley's notion of entire sanctification (this side of Heaven), much to the probable dismay of my alma mater and, I would assume, this professor. I don't know at what point one claims entire sanctification but, knowing my own mind, my own propensity for selfishness, and my own sinful desires, I have also always known that reaching, "...a state of perfect love, righteousness and true holiness which every regenerate believer may obtain by being delivered from the power of sin, by loving God with all the heart, soul, mind and strength and by loving one's neighbor as one's self," was pretty unlikely, for me, at least. That's ok. I still love my school and wouldn't trade my four years there. I'm grateful for an opportunity to have received an education where I could question a theological point, come up on the other side, and still be welcomed there.

I believe the words of 1 Timothy 1:15. "...Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst."

So it is with a heavy heart that I am spending my waking moments. Because, most certainly, I am capable of evil. Most certainly, if a professor of theology and pastor can choose hideous sin (and many before this man have), I can too. Heck, if King David can choose sex and murder, are we not all capable of the same sin?

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:6

I hope I run the race well. I hope it can one day be said of me that I was a good and faithful servant. I hope that I am never counted among those who fell away. I hope that I never stray beyond my own ability to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and return. But if I do wander down a path twisted and hideous and lonely, and if I do wander so far that I cannot hear Him, I am grateful that He will come for me. In these days and hours of turmoil and destruction, I am so thankful to serve a Savior who sees me, loves me, and continues to rescue me.

"If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won't he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn't wander away!" Matthew 18:12-13

In this time of desperation
When all we know is doubt and fear
There is only one foundation
We believe, we believe
In this broken generation
When all is dark, You help us see
There is only one salvation
We believe, we believe

We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He's given us new life
We believe in the crucifixion
We believe that He conquered death
We believe in the resurrection
And he's coming back again, we believe
-Newsboys

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Game Changer

Kid number three is a complete game changer for me. I've been told that there's always one. He's the one. He tipped the scales so we can no longer play man on man. Instead it's zone defense and that one kid single handedly has the best offense. He shuts down our defense regularly. Last night, Troy was helping the older two boys with homework. As he and Garrett worked on updating a science fair project so that it'd be ready to compete at the district level, he also read off spelling words to Matthew. I twisted and turned in the kitchen, making school lunches (which Garrett forgot this morning anyway) and sauteing, frying, and scrambling dinner. Will was repeatedly underfoot, trying to grab at the hot skillet, throwing Ziploc bags around like confetti, and screaming because dinner wasn't ready RIGHT WHEN HE WANTED IT.

Game changer.

I thought I had advice to offer young moms. I've been asked many times exactly how I'd instructed my children to be polite, what I'd done to make them eat everything on their plate, how we'd instilled respect into them. And then came the third. He's basically Animal from the Muppets.



DON'T GET ME WRONG HERE. HE IS JOY AND LIFE AND LIGHT AND I LOVE HIM INTENSELY AND IMMENSELY. FOR EVER AND ALWAYS. AMEN. AND I HABITUALLY WATCH HIM SLEEP AND LITERALLY WEEP AT HOW WONDERFUL HE IS AND HOW BLESSED I AM. (But it must be written down so that, one day, when he is--hopefully--respectful and calm and raising children of his own, and he is calling me and saying, "My toddler, McKenadielee*, won't stop trying to take apart the television set," I can direct him to this very post and assure him that it will get better.)

It's just that he's a game changer. And game changers will one day rule the world.

We have gotten two children to the ages of 11 and nearly 9 with certain parenting tactics and a whole lot of prayer. We parented a toddler and a newborn during an incredibly stressful contested adoption while living more than 700 miles from our nearest relative. And it's not that I would have ever said that I knew what I was doing because that's incredibly foolish and also, I didn't. But, for the most part, our combination of stern consistency mixed with grace and love seemed to be on point. I can remember wanting to call my mommy to come bail me out many times, of course. There was the head lice situation, more vomit than I care to even chronicle, and poop. So much poop. And, yes, I have called my mother on MANY occasions to basically be like, "What the heck, man? What do I even do with this child who has lost his dadgum mind?" She's talked me off ledges and encouraged me when I needed it and doled out advice when asked. But, for the majority of the most part, my husband and I have gotten through two toddler stages, two preschoolers, two early elementary schoolers and are smack in the middle of getting two kids through mid-late elementary school. I think I got a little cocky. I think I thought, "Well, ok. Brace yourself for the teenage years because these first 12 have been pretty alright. Hold on tight, y'all, the real parenting is about to happen."

This game changer though? WHOA BOY. I can't even see beyond two with him.

BECAUSE WHATEVER I DO I CANNOT GET HIM TO STOP THROWING HIS FOOD.

I thought he would grow out of this by, oh, fourteen months or so. However, I still find myself whirling through parenting tactics to stop the food from flying. Grace and a steady voice of reason? Stern face with a raised voice? Making him clean it up? Taking it away? NOTHING WORKS. (Well, taking it away DOES work but only temporarily--until the next meal. God and the Division of Child and Family Services frown on purposely starving your children so I do have to feed him. Three times daily, in fact.)

When this kid doesn't want something anymore--or at all--he just chucks it as far as he can. Side note: The game changer has a wicked good arm. I sit right next to him so, more often than not, I'm in his direct line of fire. You guys, I have to believe this will stop. I have to because my very sanity depends on it. I don't know ANY kindergartners who routinely throw their food but, the thing is, I also do not know many 20 month olds who routinely throw their food either.

SO WHAT THE HECK, MAN? WHAT DO I EVEN DO WITH THIS CHILD WHO HAS LOST HIS DADGUM MIND?

I'm serious. I'll take your advice.


*I just assume that my children will follow current trends and give their children stupid names. I'm trying to prepare myself now so that when they put little LaTorkleson and his twin brother, Mt. Rainier, in my arms I can smile, knowing I got past those names decades ago.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

I Couldn't See My Fifth Grader When He Was Five

Can I just tell you all that one of the best decisions we've made as parents was the one where we didn't send our barely five-year-old to kindergarten? Oh how we struggled to make that choice. He'd been in preschool for two years already and was doing just fine. He wasn't the smartest kid but he certainly wasn't the dumbest. He had a vocabulary that rivaled some second graders and enough self-confidence to insure success at the next level. And so, as I've written about before, we struggled with the decision.

We talked. We examined all angles. We waffled. I might have even agonized a bit over the choice. He certainly wasn't unready. In fact, by all measurables, he was ready. Something stopped us though. Something (or Someone) made us decide to wait--a decision that a large number of teachers have since validated, not just for our child but for almost every late summer* born child, especially boys.

We weren't actually thinking about kindergarten or first grade or even fourth grade. We were thinking about middle school and high school. We were thinking of the kid who wouldn't be eligible to get his driver's license until the rest of his grade had long been behind the wheel. We were thinking of giving every advantage to the kid who might want to play sports. We were thinking of the guy who would--with our decision--be a year older before he had to take the SATs or decide where he wanted to go to college.

We weren't thinking about our fifth grader.

I didn't know that the class one year ahead of him would loom over him with a great deal of height and general largeness. Granted, my husband is vertically challenged so I assumed Garrett wouldn't be tall, but I didn't think about all the other kids who would be. I didn't know he'd be so slight in stature so that, even having one of the very earliest birthdays in his entire grade level, he'd stand roughly average with the rest of them.

I didn't know that Troy and I would sit around one night, discussing Garrett's confidence, talking about how he is a leader in his grade level. We would also be talking about how he appears to fit in fine with the grade ahead of him as well. He's not shy around them and doesn't defer to their maturity because he's the same exact age as some of them. We didn't realize, when we made this choice, that we were setting him up for social success.

That's not at all meant to toot our horns in the slightest. We beat a dead horse with discussion. We prayed through this decision and felt led to the one we made. I know not everyone will make the same choice and that's okay. Maybe your barely five year old is ready and will always be ready and will never struggle with not being ready. Personally, I am already lamenting Will's unfortunate early June birthday. If it was May, of course I'd start him at five. If it was July, I wouldn't.

But I do think, regardless of what you might decide for your own child, that when to start school should be well thought out. It shouldn't be something you just do because, by golly, they turned five. Consider your child. Consider where they might be in ten years. I'm only one voice but I wouldn't change my decision if I could. The only thing I'd do differently is that I would forget about worrying about it. 

I imagine that the time could come where I'd wish I could go back and start him at five, but in five years of living with this choice, I've never regretted it once. Instead, I have seen (and many teachers have given me) validation upon validation that we made the right choice.

So that's my two cents. In case anyone was struggling with what to do with their late summer birthday baby.

*I realize that July 20 is not actually late summer. But it was when our school was on year round and 3/4 of the school was going to start on July 25.