Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kinder Downer

I'm four days in to a five week kindergarten subbing gig. After tomorrow's Valentine party wraps itself up in a sugary coma, I'll have made it through one week. I'm subbing at my favorite school (it happens to be the one my boys attend every day), sharing a coat room with my favorite teacher to sub for who happens to be the Knower of all Things Kindergarten. Today I took her a Twix bar and a thank you note that said some version of, "Thanks for spending your lunch teaching me how to do the benchmark." So, as far as subbing goes, it's pretty much my dream job. I mean, the only thing better would be, maybe, being full time in a drama class for weeks on end.

I've noticed something. It only takes me a handful of minutes to decide whether I like a kid so much that I'd like to put him in my pocket and bring him home or whether I am so NOT fond of a child that I'd like to pull her spleen out of her body through her throat. (Or something that sounds a lot less like murder.)

So there is this one little girl who is so adorable that it truly is a wonder I haven't kidnapped her yet. But then, the Knower of all Things had my son last year, knows all about Kate, and probably has both her eyes on me. For sure she'd direct the cops straight to my house in the event that a kindergartner went missing. And there's a little boy who seriously has a comb over and is the cutest thing ever. Today, after I tested him on sight words, I said, "Thanks. You can go." He replied, "You're welcome. Any time. I'm here to help. Whatever you need." And I gnawed the tip of my tongue right off because I wanted to look at him and say, "OH MY GOODNESS MY LOVE FOR YOU KNOWS NO BOUNDS." But, that's really creepy. I try not to be the creepy sub.

There is also a little girl I am, in my own mind, un-affectionately referring to as Kinder Downer. She is Debbie Downer in a kindergarten body. Her disposition is so sour she makes the more difficult of my two children look like Shirley Temple, hopped up on sugar, dancing a jig on a rainbow. EVERY TIME she doesn't get picked to do something (which, let's face it, her odds are 1 in 20), her face contorts into RACHEL DRATCH DOING DEBBIE DOWNER.

Then come the water works. "BUT I WANTED TO GET PICKED."

"Oh no. Don't read that one. I don't even like that book."

"WHY DON'T HAVE A PAPER??" (Because I haven't gotten to you yet!)

Alright, so, she's more of a complainer than a Debbie Downer but she does it in such a way that I hear womp wah whenever she opens her mouth. Everything causes her to look exactly like this...

Today, I asked the Knower of all Things if she was familiar with Debbie Downer from SNL. She said she was and I told her that one of the kids in my class was a teeny tiny little downer. "Is it Sarah?" she asked. Sarah, by the way, is not her real name. 

"YES!" I exclaimed. This is impressive. I don't think I'd even verified that it was a girl AND there are two sessions so she was choosing from roughly 40 students.

Minutes later, I handed out their Valentine's envelopes (and by "envelope" I mean enormous paper heart) so they could decorate them for tomorrow. The teacher I'm subbing for had left them for me, already folded and sporting each kid's name. There were red, white and pink envelopes. I could have written the script ahead of time.

If Sarah doesn't get a pink one, the world is going to end. Today. Kindergarten Valentine Apocalypse.

Hers was one of the last ones I handed out. Girls and boys had happily taken what they were given. I could see slight disappointment on the cute faces of some of the girls who didn't get pink but they were troopers. They rallied quickly and happily set to decorating their envelopes. 

Sarah's was red. I alternated between thinking, It couldn't have been pink to make my life easier? and Hee Hee Hee I'm about to watch the birth of World War 3. Hitler, Mussolini, Sarah the kindergartner. A trio of fierce dictators.

Her shoulders sagged. Her face contorted. She closed her eyes. Her head hung down like she'd just been given two minutes to live. "But I wanted a pink one."

"Well, your teacher made you a pretty red one. We get what we get and we don't throw a fit."

You're enjoying your day, everything's going your way, then along comes Debbie Downer. Always there to tell you 'bout a new disease, a car accident or killer bees. You beg her to spare you. Debbie, please! But you can't stop Debbie Downer.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Once upon a time, I dreamed I'd have daughters. It's not that I decidedly didn't think I'd have sons, I just didn't picture myself with them. I had a brother and my idea of fun wasn't playing in a mud puddle or frolicking in the weeds until I came home with a raging case of poison oak. I pictured Barbies and tea parties and shopping trips.

Then, God allowed infertility and contested adoption and, at the end of the day, I was so thrilled to have these two healthy boys. And then I had a daughter die and I was especially thankful, again, for my sons. So, one of my biggest pet peeves in ALL THE WORLD is to hear women--and I've heard A LOT--say things like, "I prayed that God would give me my daughters because I have no idea what I ever would have done with boys." Or, "God sure knew what He was doing when He gave me girls." Or, "I NEVER COULD HAVE DEALT WITH BOYS!"

I don't actually understand any of this line of thinking. Raising boys is hard work. But it's not hard work because they think farts are funny and they get dirty and they spill thousands of BBs all over the floor.

It's not hard work because they're loud and sometimes rowdy. It's not even hard work because they like battles and guns and the great outdoors. It's hard because raising someone to be a man is not for the faint of heart.

I must teach my boys how to be responsible leaders while also showing them how to have tender hearts. I must teach them to harness that energy and enthusiasm without crushing their God-given manliness. I have to show them how to honor and respect girls while walking the tightrope of not being unfairly controlled by them.

So sometimes, I wish God would drop a kicking, screaming ball of testosterone into the laps of all the women who shout from the rooftops that RAISING A BOY WOULD BE HER OWN PERSONAL NIGHTMARE. Because then they'd see that we raise what we are given. We love what we are given. We figure out what we're supposed to do with what we're given. Even when what we're given doesn't play with Barbies.

We let them yell.

We let them shoot BB guns.

We learn about wars and spiders and trucks and wrestling because these things matter to our children.

So, please stop telling me that you could never deal with boys. Our amazing God blessed me with them and I wouldn't trade them for anything. When you say that you couldn't have handled boys, it implies that there is something wrong with what He gave those of us who have them. It implies that you somehow received His favor while we got the consolation prize.

My children are not a consolation prize. They are first prize. Blue ribbon. I won. Twice. If you think about feeling sorry for me, think this only because one day they will grow all the way up and leave me. That will be the thing that does me in.

It's not the wars or the spilled BBs or the sheer volume, but the absence of these things that will break my heart. We raise what we are given. And we are blessed.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Morning Imsomniac

Troy says I have morning insomnia. This means that once I'm awake, I'm pretty much awake. Even when my settings somehow get changed on my preferred times for substitute calls and my phone rings at 5:45 am on a day when I don't have to get up before 7:00 am. And then I realize I have a splitting headache so going back to sleep is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

I have a case of 21st century first world problems. Can you imagine if some woman from prairie times managed to get a hold of my laptop, turned it on and read this? She'd be all, "I just had a baby on the floor of my kitchen with no epidural and then I went out to milk the cows because THEY AREN'T GOING TO MILK THEMSELVES and AFTER THAT the sun came up."

I salute you, Prairie Woman.

But my response was to go to the substitute site and yell at it as I saw that all my times were changed to "District Call Times" when THAT IS NOT HOW THEY WERE EVEN YESTERDAY. I furiously corrected them to HUMAN HOURS while a few choice words (Dagnabit! And Flondenflockenhausen!) ran through my head. It doesn't really even matter though because I am totally starting a full time job on Monday that will last me right on through mid March.

So no phone calls from the automatic line at 5:45 until at least then. Hooray!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Little Man

He's nine and a half. Moments like these don't happen all that often anymore.

Nine and a half. That's closer to 18 than it is to newborn. I'll never understand the time warp of being an adult. My childhood felt like it lasted twenty lifetimes. These adult years are spinning out of control. How'd he ever get so big?

He's an off-the-charts extrovert. He's never, ever met a stranger he couldn't turn into a friend in a matter of seconds. A spindly pile of skin and bones and stomach muscles. I've taken to accepting it when other people tell me that he looks like his father. Troy and I just exchange a knowing glance that says, "That fool is bat crap crazy, right there." He's like his father in so many ways that I couldn't deny paternity if I wanted to, but looks aren't one them. 

I don't always think about infertility. I don't always remember what it was like to long so wildly for the thing that evaded me. But sometimes, when the lights are off and the children are asleep, I think about the quietness of life before them. The simplicity. The serenity. The sorrow.

It was different before.

No one called me mama. No one needed hugs and kisses and discipline. No one told me jokes about poop or laughed hysterical at the passing of gas. It's easy to think of all the ways I'm failing and all the things I've left undone. But in the end...this was all I ever wanted.

This boisterous boy who's quickly turning in to a miniature little man--and his kid brother--make all the difference between what might have been and a world of infinite possibilities.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

10 hours 35 minutes

The boys are off track and we decided at the last minute to make a quick road trip to San Diego to thaw them out. The boys had a bounce back pass to Universal Studios and they got to go have a blast with their grandparents and cousin, Kaylie. Then we got to hang out with more cousins later in the week. Then I got a stomach bug and threw up in my parents' toilet which I hadn't done for, oh, 14 years at least. So, fun times for everyone.

But then...

I left this morning at 4:30 am because Troy and I are presenting at an adoption conference on Saturday and we need to do some prep work tomorrow.

My parents live 45 minutes up a hill in eastern San Diego county, CA. I live in the Salt Lake area of Utah. I am a road ninja. Also, I have mini ninjas for children. I made it home today (from driveway to driveway) in 10 hours and 35 minutes. This is, seriously, amazing. I mean, I think it's amazing for a full grown man with a bladder the size of a five gallon drum. It's practically a miracle for someone with children.

I've always longed for the perfect trip. I'll be making great time when, POOF! a semi is on fire on the side of the road and traffic is backed up for miles. Or POOF! there's a chemical spill just outside of Vegas and traffic is stopped dead. Or POOF! road construction in the gorge. Or POOF! southern California conspires against me and no one is going anywhere fast.

Not today, friends. Today I left at 4:30 so that I could get through southern California before the infamous traffic. That put me through Vegas just after their morning commute. The mini ninjas and I stopped twice--once in Barstow and once in St. George--for gas and bathroom breaks. (Just because I'm keepin' it real) I drove five miles over the speed limit most of the time. (BUT ONLY FIVE!) Cars were still passing me quite frequently. Traffic slowed around the 91 and the 60 in California but I was still cruising at a pretty good clip. There weren't many trucks on the roads to cut me off while it took them ten minutes to pass the slower truck in front of them. It did happen, but only a handful of times instead of the usual 5,726.

It was great. I was hoping all day that I would somehow manage to come in just under 11 hours and, thus, setting a record. I never dreamed I'd crush my goal.

This blog post is brought to you by Lori Is Insane and Needs Some Kind of Driving Intervention. However, now that I've set such a solid record, perhaps I can retire the dream and operate like those other freaks who take 14 hours to get to Disneyland.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The One Where I'm Horrified

So. It's like this. I want to crawl into a hole and live there until I starve to death. That's how embarrassed I am right now.

We have this dog. She's eight months old. We haven't had her spayed because of...reasons. We might breed her. We might not. We haven't decided. Since we haven't decided, we haven't spayed her.

(Now let me just take a minute right now to say that, yes, we believe in pet adoption. Of course we support shelters. We believe that shelter dogs are always an excellent option. We just also feel perfectly fine about buying purebred puppies that have papers. You can go ahead and leave a comment on this blog about how irresponsible we are and how we're contributing to the overpopulation of dogs while other animals wait in our local shelter for the chance to be loved if you want to. However, I'm only interested in reading the comments left by those of you who have also adopted children and/or financially supported orphan care. While I hardly want to sit here comparing children to pets, the same arguments you're about to make can be applied to biological children and adopted children. So you can preach to me about ONLY getting a shelter dog and the irresponsibility of pet breeding AFTER you tangibly support children who need homes.)

We haven't spayed our dog yet and everything I've read about goldens says that even though they MIGHT go into heat as early as six months, most of them are closer to a year. So, when I asked my friend, Christy, if she could watch my dog while we're out of town for a couple of days, I really didn't think it would be a problem.

Oh, you see where this is going, do you?

I warned my friend, because I'm very take care of business like that. "She hasn't gone into heat yet. I really don't think she will but you need to consider that she could, blah blah blah." Christy and Jeremy have watched our dogs, our children, you name it. They're great friends so they said, "Yeah. Sure."

I even checked the dog before she left on Thursday night because I would have straight up canceled my trip if I saw any signs of her going in to heat. The websites say they'll be temperamental, possibly aggressive and agitated. Nope. She was just our psychotic, happy-go-lucky pup.

And, OF COURSE, I got a text yesterday telling me that she's in heat. It's not bad, apparently. She's taking care of herself, apparently. It's not a super, big deal, apparently. I want to kill myself. Apparently. I hope that we can one day look back on this experience and laugh and say, "Remember that one time when our dog went into heat all over your house?" I'm not there yet.

I'm still firmly in Camp Horrified.

Who does that? Who sends their dog over to their friends' house for three nights WHILE SHE'S IN HEAT? THIS GIRL! Granted, I didn't know. Granted, it didn't happen until we were already well on our way. But there is a special place in purgatory reserved for people who talk loudly at the theatre and PEOPLE WHO GIVE THEIR DOG TO FRIENDS WHILE SHE'S IN HEAT. (Okay, theologically, I don't believe that but, at the moment, it feels true.)

Jeremy and Christy, you guys are the absolute best friends and I can't thank you enough for watching our dog while she's in such a condition. I may never face you again but I'm glad we got to be friends for these past eight years. I love you! And Tessie does too. She just has a very bizarre way of showing it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

You Matter

Dear Kate,

I miss you. I can't help but think that, had you been born alive that morning, instead of still, the story would have played out in a more joyful way. And I wonder, "What if?" We'd have rushed to your side and cheered you on as you fought through being seven weeks premature. We'd have held you and cared for you and, modern medicine being what it is, hauled you out of the NICU in no time at all. There would have been an Easter dress and some sort of teeny tiny red, white and blue bathing suit. You'd have eaten sand by the fistful at the beach last summer and produced heinous diapers to prove it. Christmas would have been magical. Today, I'd put the final touches on your birthday party which, let's face it, in the absence of your opinion, would probably have had something to do with a couple of Disney princesses named Anna and Elsa.

I had it all playing out so differently in my mind.

But your life mattered. I want you to know that. Even though I can't tell you, I hope that, from your vantage point in Heaven, you somehow know. I hope you can see this family and how we're so much better for the lessons you taught us. I hope you know all the lives you changed without taking a single step.

Do you know about the mother who, after hearing your story, decided not to abort her child?

Do you know about all the people who have told me that they were deeply impacted by your life?

People saw the Lord move as we raised a ton of money in such a short amount of time.

People saw the Lord move as doors opened for us to be able to hold you and love you and bury you.

As for us, the year was not a total loss. We all miss you in ways I can't even begin to put into words. I hate that you're not here. If I could explore an alternate reality where I'm raising you and loving you, I would do it immediately with no questions asked. But I love your brothers a little more fiercely now. I love your Daddy because he's shouldered my grief while struggling through his own. I can't explain it, exactly, but despite never seeing your face, he's somehow still wrapped around your little finger.

I wish I could visit you more than the occasional trip to San Diego allows. I'm so thankful that your grandparents make sure to put fresh flowers on your grave often. Grandpa fills in the cracks and creases with fresh dirt and brushes off your marker so it stays nice and pretty. People love you. And I am hoping, more than anything, that one day we will meet in the heavenly realm and I will see your face and I will know...

That's my girl.

Kate, the tears don't flow as freely anymore. Time doesn't fix anything and the scars don't go away, but the acute pain is replaced by the desire to live each day to the fullest. I'd rather be scooping you up into my arms, kissing your chubby cheeks and your boo-boos, listening to your giggle, but I will settle for knowing that you are, truly, in a better place.

So, I think of you, Little One. Until we meet for the very first time...


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Self Identification

Listen. There are some things I need to do. I need to go to the grocery store to pick up a few things before my mother-in-law flies into town today. I need to come face to face with my Bible study today. I need to wash my dishes and I need to finish writing the book that I need to start writing. But, instead, I'm sitting here thinking about how to explain to my personal online diary that anyone can read that I'm spending a lot of time thinking about how to reinvent myself these days. How to be the person that I feel like I am inside instead of the person I project.

The truth is, I'm not sure how I got here.

Here is the place where I'm responsible and I take care of business and I'm serious and prudent and cautious. That's me. On one hand, anyway. I care about what people think and I want to make them happy and please them and have everyone like me. Do you know what this has looked like over the years?

It's looked like my freshman year college roommate finally losing her ever loving mind and calling a meeting with our R.A. in which everything I'd ever done to annoy her was spilled out while I sat uncomfortably on my bed. I refused to engage--despite having a laundry list of things I could have said--because WHO DOES THAT? Who sits around telling someone what they hate as though some earthly good would come of it? Newsflash though, it's really rude to blow dry your hair two feet away from your sleeping roommate.

It's looked like sitting at a table with someone while they tell me all the ways I'm a terrible pastor's wife and I just nod and say that I'm sorry and I'll try to be better. Because I understand that whether or not I agree, that's the reality for the other person. Even if I don't think it's a fair assessment.

It's looked like being the bigger person a lot.

It's looked like getting cast as the stage manager because I could be trusted to handle it when I really wanted to audition even though I knew I probably wouldn't get a part. And now, as I gain a small fraction of confidence in my voice, I wonder why I didn't just say, "I want to try. I can sort of sing, actually."

It's biting my tongue. And I certainly know that the Lord calls me to certain standards. It's just that He doesn't call me to be a doormat. That's it in a nutshell. I've spent a lot of my life (outside of my home) being a doormat and not speaking my mind.

The truth is, I'm all the things I said I was. But I'm also adventurous and outgoing and energetic and a total spaz. I can be funny and fun and exciting when I'm not busy being reserved. It just takes a long time for me to let other people see this second side of me. So I've been sitting around trying to figure out a way to blend all that I am into one big personality that I'm happy with and not two separate ones that cannot coexist. And I've been trying to figure out a way to just say, "You know what? If you don't like me for who I actually am, I'm okay with that."

But can a pastor's wife BE okay with saying, "Like me or don't. Either way I still belong to Jesus."

And, when did I start identifying myself, first and foremost, as a pastor's wife?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

And You Wonder What If

Confession: I'm a stand at the stage door and wait for her to come out to sign my ticket and then be so sad when she doesn't because I love her that much kind of groupie. If this were the 70's, I'd be piled in a van, following her around the country and neglecting all my earthly responsibilities.

I don't really know how this happened.

Except to say that I guess I've been this way since 1999. I just had a lot less access back then. In 1999, the best I could do was search for sound bytes or print interviews.

And I loved her.

I've followed her career. What used to be almost entirely on the east coast has exploded into EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK thanks to a little Disney movie called Frozen.

This is how I have come to see Idina Menzel live three times since the summer.

On Saturday, I found myself in the front row of the Civic Theatre watching her perform in a show that has come to mean a great deal to me. It didn't receive rave reviews during its year long run on Broadway. It has some subject matter that I don't endorse but it's themes of starting over, of grief, of paths taken and paths ignored, of choosing and watching everything change, have breathed Broadway life into me this past year.

I've pulled from a lot of places to get me through the downs of the last twelve months. My faith, first and foremost. Worship songs. My husband and family and friends. Ice cream. Broadway. So when I found out that she'd be touring with the first seven cities, it was kind of all I wanted for Christmas.

Get me to a city that she'll be in. Of course, tickets and lodging and airfare and a rental car greatly exceed any Christmas budget we have. I decided San Diego was the only logical city. I'd eliminate lodging and the rental car by mooching off my parents. I texted my friend, who I knew had season tickets and asked which performance her tickets were for so that I could buy mine for the same day. I might as well get to say hey to a friend during intermission.

And the long story short is that she had an extra front row ticket that she refused to take any money for. That is how I came to watch Idina Menzel performing a role that has (not to sound too dramatic) changed my life. In THE FRONT ROW. All for the price of a plane ticket.

I really cannot describe it. To watch a show that has been, somehow, instrumental in my grieving and moving forward, from a place close enough to see the tears running down the actress's face as she connected to the subject matter through her own place of loss, was a priceless experience for me.

I'd always focused on the songs of grief and sadness and used them as a cathartic jumping off point for healing. I'd listened less to the songs about letting go and moving on and being brave because I didn't feel ready to let go or move on or be brave. In those moments though, it was as if, somehow, the performer I've adored for 16 years was telling me that it was okay to move forward not knowing and to be bold even when we're afraid of all the millions of ways it can end badly.

I do not know what the future holds for us. I continue to appreciate your prayers. I believe that God can and will bring another to child to us--if that is His plan. Sitting here though, in this moment, I'm not sure it matters to me. It's been a year of grieving while being told that people are looking at our family, considering us, thinking about choosing us. It's been a year of possibilities and a year of hopes raised and broken. But it has not been a bad year. Because in this year, we have loved tremendously. We have counted our blessings. I refuse to get so wrapped up in waiting for another blessing that I forget the ones that are two feet in front of my face every day.

This is what art can do for a person. It can remind us of what we already know to be true. We just have to know that we'll always wonder what if. We have to trust that we're doing the best we can with what we chose. Or what chose us.

You stop and say hey to a stranger
And where will it lead, who can know
But you learn how to love the not knowing
So here I go

Here I go
Here I go

You choose and then everything changes
Take a breath and then fly off the cliff
And you know that there's no turning back
No turning back
No turning back

And you wonder what if?
What if?

Thank you, Jenni, for the incredible gift. You cannot ever know what it meant to me as a once upon a time performer, as a fan, as a grieving mom, but, most importantly, as a girl who's trying to figure her life out. You are, truly, the best. Thank you for sharing the experience with me.

Thank you Kelli, for your support this year, for joining us in the front row, and for always seeming to accept me for whoever I am, wherever I am. My life is infinitely richer because you are in it.

Lastly, thank you, Idina, who will never, ever read this but who deserves acknowledgement nevertheless. Your portrayal of Elizabeth has moved me in ways I could never begin to explain. Thank you for pouring yourself into her. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sonrise Haiti Trip

My husband went to Haiti.

Here's a short video about their experiences.

Sonrise Haiti 2015 from Hungry For Life USA on Vimeo.

Monday, January 4, 2016

On the Eve of 2016

So we decided to let our children try to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve.

I feel like I should stop there and let you write the story. Be sure to include a catchy exposition, some good rising action, an equally engaging climax, etc. and etc. I'll help you out with some story development. How long had we been playing Sorry when Matthew started to cry?

It was my bright idea. I was around Garrett's age (which would have made my brother around Matthew's age) when I first stayed up until midnight. My mom rented movies and I remember Milo & Otis, in particular. I also remember fighting to stay awake on the couch for what seemed like hours before it was finally time to bang a few pots and pans and call it a night.

In the afternoon, I headed out to obtain the necessary food items. Pizza, appetizers, ice cream, sparkling cider, chips and dip. And, because I'm not a complete lunatic, veggies. When I explained to the kids that we weren't really having dinner, exactly, but were, instead, piling our paper plates with calories and plopping down in front of the TV, they were excited (and maybe confused). It's not that we never watch television during dinnertime. It's just rare. And dinner usually doesn't include pizza, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings and chips and dip all on the same night. We almost never chase such a fat fest with ice cream sundaes.

I got a DVD of classic musicals in my stocking. See, Mrs. Claus--who actually does most of the work--saw it at Target and called Santa and said, "Mr. Claus, there's this DVD that I really would like and I'm here now, looking at it, and there's only one left and could it maybe come home with me and make an appearance on Christmas morning?" Santa was then like, "Yeah. Sure. Go for it." That there is the riveting story of how we found ourselves watching Annie Get Your Gun on New Year's Eve. I didn't know if my boys would enjoy it but WHO WAS I KIDDING? Wild west shows, horses, SHOOTING GUNS! Turns out, Annie Get Your Gun is basically their love language.

After that, we spent some time watching football while the boys spent some time speaking their love language to each other by acting out all the scenes in Annie Get Your Gun EXCEPT the love scenes because they are nine and six and kissing is gross. Although, to be fair, my nine year old seemed less disgusted all the sudden and my six year old, who is basically a tiny little Romeo with the ladies, slapped his hands over his eyes and gagged. So we've found ourselves in some sort of alternate universe where my ladies' man is grossed out by love and my older boy tells me he saw a pretty blonde at McDonald's. (Shhh. Do NOT tell him I broke his confidence by sharing that with the three of you.)

After that, we tried to play Sequence. Somehow, the stars aligned and Matthew and I won even though my teammate had little to no strategy for helping me. It took him a decade to decide which card to play and then he got all in a huff when we pointed out that he couldn't play a two of spades on a two of clubs. "Maybe we should stick to games like Sorry for awhile," I suggested.

But it was 10:30 and Matthew was already exhausted and Sorry didn't go quite as swimmingly as I'd imagined. You'd have thought that, with every bump back to start, we were actually removing one of his fingers with a butter knife. If I had a dollar for every time one of us stared the kid down and instructed, "IT'S JUST A GAME!" I'd have a lot of dollars.

When Sorry ended, I made them go upstairs and take a shower. Because, honestly, I was trying to buy some time. We were 45 minutes from the ball dropping and I didn't know if we'd be able to make it. That's when Garrett started to cry. He didn't need a shower. He was tired. Why was I inflicting this horrible punishment upon him? Thankfully, I shot him the Mom Look of Death and threatened bed and he rallied.

At 11:30 I took this picture and posted it to Instagram with the caption, "They're still going strong but oh boy is it ever meltdown city all up in this house. Thirty minutes. WE CAN DO THIS!! Go team!"

We turned on the TV and prepared to watch the ball drop. We popped open the non alcoholic bubbly, made a few toasts, and clinked glasses. Ninety seconds before midnight, I said, "A minute and a half boys!" And Garrett responded with, "And then we all kiss?" Apparently his knowledge of midnight on New Year's has been strictly gained through television. But if the shoe fits...

The clock struck midnight and there were five combinations of kisses shared. The boys refused to kiss each other because THAT, apparently, would certainly bring about the apocalypse. I banged a pot with a wooden spoon, Garrett slammed two pots together, neighbors let off fireworks, and the dog decided to freak out. (Great! We were doing so well with this one. I had high hopes she wouldn't shake like a leaf and hide in the bathtub like her predecessor. She wasn't nearly AS bad as Beck used to be so I'm holding on to a shred of optimism that we can view this as a mere setback, but she's been demonstrating signs of being afraid of the vacuum now too so I might be delusional.)

At 12:15 the children were sound asleep.

Happy New Year and all that jazz! (Wait, wrong musical.)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy 2016!

I don't really make resolutions. Resolutions, like rules, are made to be broken. It's probably a good thing I didn't make any a year ago because I wouldn't have kept them. In hindsight, 2015 was quite the year.

I'm a good little mostly German girl who doesn't usually cry much. Had I set a resolution last year to cry more, I would certainly have beat the tar out of that goal. I cried enough tears this year to last a good, long while.

If I'd set a goal to discover who my true friends are, I would have gone a long, long way in fulfilling that one, too. True friends are the ones who stuck right next to me when my heart was broken. They're the ones who tried to see me more when I was sad, instead of less. Sometimes they sent cards that said something like, "I see you. I'm proud of you. I love you." Maybe they said different words, but that's what they meant. Sometimes they gave me a good hug. Sometimes they just told me they were praying.

Had I made a resolution to improve my marriage, I would have done pretty alright. It wasn't in any kind of trouble before but it's better now. Sorrow rips people apart. And then, sometimes, it makes people stronger. We pulled our kids close and held each other tighter and, after the initial wave of grief, we loved each other in new and better ways.

I have no earthly idea what 2016 holds. I don't know what kind of life and death the year will bring. Sickness or health, who's to know? Prosperity or struggle? Joy? Pain? There is no crystal ball to show me the future. The only thing I commit to do is give control to my Lord and Savior and follow Him with great trust and expectant hope, knowing that, " all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Happy 2016!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Riveting Story

I have this cyber friend who has a gift for taking an otherwise regular day and turning it into a hysterical blog post. I don't have that gift. When my days don't have something hilarious happen in them, I sit and stare at a blank screen, writing a sentence or two and then erasing it. Over and over again.

Yesterday, my dad fixed something on our dryer, my parents took the kids to see a movie while Troy and I saw a different film and then we came home and ate ravioli. You're welcome for that riveting story.

I did stop at Papa Murphy's on the way home in pursuit of an antipasto salad. Upon entering, I found that they only had tiny chef salads that were not fit to feed six. I walked out carrying a dessert pizza. That's really neither here nor there until I inform you of the fact that our house looks like we bought a sugar factory. We have cookies and candies and sugary treats we found in our stockings. Add that to the stash of Halloween candy the boys are still working on and it's a recipe for diabetes. So Troy raised both eyebrows when I hopped in the car with the dessert pizza in my hands.

"We don't have enough sugar at home?" he asked.

"Well, the salad was too small and I felt bad not buying anything."

"WHY?" he asked in a way that suggested that I am, in fact, insane.

"I don't know," I replied. And I don't. I walk in to stores all the time and don't buy anything. There was no earthly explanation. "Also," I added, "it looked good."

"Well okay then," he answered me as though the world now made perfect sense.

And we ate it and it was good.

The end.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas and, Also, Circumcision

I just have a quick second and I wanted to wish the three of you that are still stopping by my blog a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS INDEED! Thank you for reading even though this year hasn't really been hilarious.

I do hope you have a memorable and peaceful day tomorrow and that you take the time to remember that this holiday is about a baby come to save the world. Teach it to your children. There's way too much wrapping paper and not enough true meaning of Christmas these days. Think on the nativity scene for a moment. Consider Mary. Think about Joseph. Worship the baby. They are more than just figures on your mantel. They are real. This story is real.

And, since the ole blog has suffered a bit and been lost in our year of tears, I leave you with this remarkable story.

Last night, we piled on the couch to watch The Nativity. We had to pause it every now and then to explain some things--especially to the youngest. Turns out, we'd never actually told him about circumcision. There comes a point in the film where little baby John the Baptist has to endure the aforementioned procedure.

"What is happening?" Matthew asked, concerned.

Troy paused it and thus began a conversation about circumcision.

I KNOW there are those of you that are adamantly opposed to circumcision this day and age and whatever, I respect your opinion. But these Bassham boys are, well, Jewish in this particular regard. Deal with it. So, after the explanation which involved a pointer finger and a napkin (YOU ARE SO WELCOME FOR THIS POST, Y'ALL. MERRY CHRISTMAS!), Matthew's eyes widened.

"Is mine like that?" he asked.


"Is Garrett's?" The line of questioning was a bit weird because he's pretty much seen what there is to see around this house.

"Yes," Garrett answered for himself.


"Uh huh," came the reply.

Then he turned and stared me down.

"Is your penis like that, Mom?"

"Well...I don't have a penis."

"Oh yeah!" he dissolved into fits of laughter. "I forgot!"

Friday, December 18, 2015

Navigating a Life Interrupted

Interruptions. They come in all sizes and shapes. All colors and shades. Good and bad. Though we wish to avoid them, every season of life seems to include a few--sometimes on either end of the same day. As we're coming up for air from the devastation of one, a fresh and exciting interruption takes our breath away, challenging us with new responsibilities, leaving us feeling inadequate and outmatched. They shock us; they shake us; they compel us to change. -Priscilla Shirer

I just finished leading an evening Bible study by Priscilla Shirer called Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted. When the morning Bible study teacher handed me the book, back in the spring, I knew it was a study I could get on board with. I was still reeling from the abrupt turn our lives had taken. We'd painted over the samples of pink with a bluish gray color. We'd started referring to "Kate's room" as the library. We'd disassembled the crib. We were muddling through each day as best we could. But sometimes, the grief was overwhelming.

I couldn't understand it. I still can't explain where all this grief came from and I felt like I wasn't entitled to it. I couldn't imagine how people ever live through the death of a child they've raised or a spouse taken too soon because, some days, I wanted to pull the covers over my head and sleep forever. My plans had changed. How would I move on? What would come of this interrupted life?

It was easy to know what life experience I'd be drawing from with my answers to the personal questions. Early on, Priscilla asked us to consider the following equation:

Insignificant Person + Insignificant Task = Interruption

Significant Person + Significant Task = Divine Intervention

I pondered this and decided that I believed it to be true. Our God asking me to walk through the loss of my child equaled a divine intervention and not an interruption. But that didn't seem to provide me with any kind of comfort. Instead, if I'm being honest with myself, it made me angry. He'd brought a situation straight to us, pulled us out of obscurity, selected us to be Kate's parents with the omnipotent foreknowledge that, once we were blissfully and joyfully all in, He would intervene and she would be taken from us. It was the hand selection that I couldn't reconcile. I asked over and over again what I was supposed to be learning and why the lesson had to hurt so much. Initially, I knew it was to bring him glory through my response but when praising Him didn't soften the blow, I struggled. I wanted the lessening of pain to be directly correlated to the amount of praise I sang out and that simply wasn't what happened.

I always complete the studies that I lead before I start teaching them. As such, the answers I give to the questions are relative to that precise moment in time. Months later, when I teach that particular section, the answers might be different. I hoped this would be the case with this Jonah study. I longed to return to each section, months after first completing them, with a new perspective. But, as the study went on, I found my frustration building. I was loving what we were all learning about Jonah but relating it to my own life was increasingly difficult. I was swimming through grief and my perspective wasn't changing. I knew in my head that our sovereign God is Lord of all and that His plan is always the right one. My heart was just struggling to accept it all. And then my eyes would become exponentially angry with my head or my heart or both and volumes of emotion would drain from them in stinging sorrow.

Through October and November, I climbed through Scripture and focused on what we learning and not on how it could effect me personally. On Tuesday, I began preparing for Wednesday's study. Closed in to a closet not more than two and a half feet deep or wide, I sat with my book on my lap and prepared the lesson. I turned, eventually, to the very last day of the very last week of the study, titled, A Fabulous Ending.

Jonah's final verses offer us a peek into the heart of God. He spoke more in this passage than He did throughout the rest of the book to share His thoughts and perspectives with the surly prophet. Whenever God's words are concentrated in a compact portion of Scripture, I sit forward to listen. -Priscilla Shirer

But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?"
"It is," he said. "And I'm so angry I wish I were dead."

But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Ninevah..." Jonah 4:9-11a

In her commentary, Priscilla writes, "Jonah cared about a plant. God cared about people." Then she says the following. "Consider your divine intervention. What has it revealed to you about God's perspective, and what should be important to you right now?"

My answer from several months ago was simply: People. I remember writing it. I remember thinking that instead of being so inward focused on myself and my own pain, I needed to embrace the role I have within the church and the unique position I am in to pour into the lives of so many. More pouring. Less soaking. That's what I'd thought.

And that's a fine thought to have. It's a great goal and we should always be more outwardly focused than self centered. But I let the tears stream down my face in my tiny closet with the space heater and the post-it prayers on the walls. And, next to "People" I wrote her name...

Kate's mama. It was her body that held and lost Kate. It was her heart that broke. She was going to give Kate to us because she loved her and wanted the best life for her. After Kate was gone, Troy and I saw her. I fought my own grief for those brief moments and tried with all I had to minister to her. She just kept saying that she was sorry. Over and over again. I hugged her, held her, and shared Christ with her. I'm told that, in the months following Kate's death, she was lost in pain and despair and sorrow. I haven't had the opportunity to have any communication with her but I know that godly women have continued to pour into her life.

Two weeks ago, she surrendered to Christ and accepted Him as her Lord and Savior.

Thinking on this miracle in my prayer closet, it suddenly became clear. It was never about me. It was never about Jonah. It was always about the Ninevites. It was always about her. Her life has been one enormous example of why we need a heavenly Father who loves us so much bigger and better than anyone on earth ever can. I am convinced that it took the pain of losing Kate to realize how desperately she needed a Savior.

I don't know why God chose us to be involved and to walk this journey but I'd like to think He believed that we'd bring Him honor through it and that we'd help to point Kate's mama toward Him. I'm not comparing Kate to the plant in Jonah chapter 4. God loves Kate deeply and intimately. The miracle for Kate was that there is a Heaven to gain and she avoided the trials and terrors of this world completely. But she is the plant in that I have been completely focused on her and entirely consumed with what I was supposed to learn from the sudden blessing and then loss of her life. I was so busy clinging to my small space and grief and miracle given and taken that I forgot about the massive city behind me full of people--or at least a pair of them--who need the miracle maker.

God used Kate to bring her mama to Him. And maybe, in some teeny, tiny way, He used me.

On Tuesday, I sent the following message to our adoption coordinator:

"I just wanted to share something with you. Tomorrow, I will teach the final lesson in Priscilla Shirer's Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted Bible study. I started prepping for this study in June. At the beginning, we were asked to choose something in our life where we could clearly see that God had interrupted our plans. The goal was to begin seeing interruptions as divine interventions. Obviously, it was clear what situation I'd be using. What was a little harder was realizing that He brought a situation straight to us, knowing He would greatly interrupt or intervene once our hearts were all in. As I prepped for tomorrow and went over the lesson again, I realized that it's all so much bigger than me. I'd like to think He used us, in some small way, but all of this, all the hurt and pain, eventually led to the angels rejoicing in Heaven over another soul saved. Yes, I want Kate in my arms instead of the ground...but she is safe in the arms of her loving Savior...And for the soul of her mama, well, a year of pain is well worth a life saved."

She responded, "I love you, Kate's mom. You bless me and so many others for living the way you do..."

The repentance of the Ninevites was never about Jonah. Jonah just got to be a part of it. May I always remember, in my grief and my pain and my frustration, that maybe my life is being interrupted so that someone else can see the glory of the Lord.