Saturday, November 21, 2015

To My Children on National Adoption Day

I still remember listening to that voice mail...the one that said there was a birth mother who wanted to meet us.

I still remember standing in the middle of the mall in Oregon, hearing that she was a girl and she would be ours.

I still hope for the day when another phone call will come, when another mama has chosen us.

I remember getting ready for him, shopping for baby outfits with trucks and bears and baseballs.

I remember taking the boys to buy her outfits at Carter's.

I hope I get to buy hair bows and pink again someday.

I remember sitting by her side when our son was born. His chubby little body emerging from the only place he'd ever known into this wide world with all its possibilities. I cut the cord. I held my son.

I remember sitting by her side, just days after she'd birthed our daughter...still. We were empty. She was empty. No cord to cut. Later, I held my daughter, wrapped entirely in a pink blanket. And then I buried her.

I hope I get to hold another living, breathing child of mine and feel the magical moment of a life just beginning.

I remember the days and weeks and months and year of legal proceedings and prayer and despair and stress and devastation and joy and love. And then, the judge who officially made him ours. And it was worth it.

I remember the days and weeks and months of joy and pain and prayer and despair and stress and devastation and what ifs and whys and love. But then, there is a little girl for whom all has been revealed. Heaven is her playground. Our Father is her daddy. She is ours. And it was worth it.

I hold on to hope that there will not be death or months of legal proceedings. I believe that there might be just joy and prayer and love. And then a judge who will officially make her ours. And it will all be worth it.

This is adoption.

It is loss. Every time. For someone. Or for everyone.

It is hope. Every time. 

It is beautiful.

It is painful.

It is a picture of how our Father in Heaven longs for us to be His. How He waits for us. How He never stops pursuing us.

I would die for him.

I would trade my life for hers.

I would endure trial and tribulation for a chance to love another one the way I love these others.

People asked us what we were thinking. Some told us to consider the cost. We tried to separate our feelings, to look only at the little man in our arms. Matthew. Only, ever, Matthew. Does anything matter if we didn't do right by him. My goodness. What if we hadn't fought for him? He is worth every dollar. He is worth every moment. He is my son.

It would be easy to go back to that place over a year ago and walk away. The cost was devastating. And, ultimately, we lost her. I've tried to separate my feelings. But I held that little girl in my arms. Kate. Only, ever, Kate. Does anything matter if we didn't do right by her? My goodness. What if we hadn't taken the time to love her? To show the world that her life--however short--mattered? She is worth every dollar. She is worth every moment. She is my daughter.

What are we thinking? We consider the cost. We consider our climbing years. We try to separate our feelings. But ultimately, I cannot let go of hope. Only, ever, hope. Hope. Does anything matter if I let go of that? My goodness. What if I give up? If she is out there, somewhere in my future, she is worth every dollar. She is worth every moment. She is my daughter.

This is an adoption story--completed but always and ever changing.

This is an adoption story--completed but always and ever left wanting.

This is an adoption story--at the beginning, with nothing but empty horizons that we hope are one day filled.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My Genius Child

I don't talk about Matthew's parents on my blog because I respect their right to privacy and Matthew's right to share what he wants, when he wants to. But, suffice it to say, those two must be geniuses. Neither of them were given the best opportunities or put into the best circumstances for optimum success. That is one of the reasons I take every chance I can get to help Matthew succeed. I want to be present and channel his potential into tangible success. I do it for Matthew but I also do it for them. I want their decision to place him with us to be validated.

Matthew doesn't really need my help though.


Parent teacher conferences were last night. Matthew's report card was glowing. I mean it. He's excelling at math and language components. He's reading well above where he needs to be. Concepts click in that child's brain faster than you can try to teach them. I think he has a photographic memory. He looks at his spelling words and then, when I quiz him, he says, "Oh! Yeah! I remember how it looked on the page." Then he writes it correctly. He gets most words right from the very beginning. His last math test was a solid A. So he's doing well in school, is what I'm saying.


Straight E's! And his teacher said he's a sweet kid and she loves having him in her class. (Granted, she has a couple kids who are also the stuff nightmares are made of so that might make Matthew look like an angel child.)

So I'm basically raising a genius who is somehow becoming well adjusted. I'm one lucky mama.

Adoption certainly has its struggles. It takes patience and love and tender care. But it is so full of blessings, it makes the tough stuff worth it. Pride is a tricky emotion. It can be sinful and self-promoting. It can also be a good thing. I am so proud that Matthew is my kid. I'm proud of the work he's done and the time we've invested to get him where he is. I'm proud of how intelligent he is and proud that he can say it takes all four of his parents to make him that way.

Two of them passed it on to him through DNA. Two of them sit and read and work with him. It takes all of us. But, most importantly, it takes a kid who is willing to put in the work.

That kid just happens to be one of my favorite people in the whole, wide world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Promiscuous Wife

Have you any idea what it's like to be a senior pastor's wife? To mourn the loss of everyone who walks back through the doors because their experience wasn't enough or my husband wasn't enough or wasn't enough. It's hard. My heart breaks every time.

I doubt that anyone who has left our church because of "not enough" hangs around reading my blog but, if they do, I want them to know that we never rejoice in their departure. We mourn. Every time.

My friend moved to Texas and is struggling to find a church that preaches the Word without wavering. This is so difficult in this day and age and culture. I am so thankful that my husband doesn't move from the truth. In part, I already knew, but I am learning that it is very rare to find a body of believers committed to the infallible word of God.

As my friend, Abi, struggles to find a church and hears of those who had one and gave it up, she writes. She writes this. The Promiscuous Wife: A Culture of Church Leavers and its importance cannot be measured.

If something isn't enough, bring it to light. Ask if there can be more. Examine yourself. See if you can be more. Get involved. Do what you can. And know that we are trying. And if we're failing, it is not because we want to be. We desire success. We desire to see people coming to Christ. We desire to see them studying the Word of God with an insatiable appetite. We desire friendships and fellowship.

We never want to see you walk out the door.

To those who stay through financial ups and downs, through growth and decline, through our own personal pain, thank you. We truly could never do this without you.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants


I've been really confused about the direction God is leading us. For almost 10 months, we've been praying that He would bring us a daughter and that, if that isn't His will, He'd make it abundantly clear and He'd CHANGE ALL OUR HEARTS. Emphasis on the ALL. It was all just so evident with Kate. We'd ask, "Should we walk through this door?" and it would fly open. It seems like He prepared our hearts for more than this. It feels like He'd make it clear if He wanted us to be done. But feelings are fickle and sometimes He calls us to walk through a giant pile of muck because knowing Him more fully waits on the other side of the swamp.

I had an emotional breakdown a few weeks ago. Not an earth shattering breakdown, I just let the tears slide right on down my face, uncontrolled, IN FRONT OF PEOPLE.

I cry in front of Troy. And that's about it. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you've seen me cry you can count yourself part of an elite group. The five of you are connected by the shared bond of my excessive eye water. You're welcome.

Anyway, I'd had these fleeting thoughts that...I might not want a newborn. I might not want to start this whole thing over again. I might not want to not sleep through the night. I might not want the poop everywhere and the diaper bills and the formula bills and the itty-bitty helpless bundle of depravity.

Maybe, I thought, God is changing my heart.

And I'm going to just be 100% frank here because I'm keepin' it real. That thought pissed me off. It started a good two weeks of me being irrationally angry that He might just change my heart after all. HOW DARE HE? How dare He answer my prayer?

I kept praying and trying to come to grips with what all that might mean. I entered into a time of deep grief because it also coincided with the anniversary of finding out that Kate existed and that we were actually going to get to be her parents and all kinds of things that happened to just be a lot of a lot of all the feelings.

But there I was, wondering if my desire for a baby had been taken away almost as quickly as it had been given to me which was, well, nearly instantaneous. And then two Sundays ago came. I was rehearsing with the praise team and, out in front of me, my friend followed her nine-month-old as she crawled around. That sweet little girl was born during the precise moment that I was holding Kate in the mortuary and something about that connection makes me love that little crawling baby even more. She kept trying to get toward the stage and her mama would herd her in a different direction. I stepped down, scooped her up, and took her up on the stage with me. Every baby I've ever met loves microphones. As I sang, the baby reached out for the microphone. She leaned her head against my own, her hair tickling my forehead. She smiled, big.

(There was also this one, in which I was doing something that I intended to be playful but which, in actuality, looks like I'm eating the baby.)

The honest truth is that I don't love the newborn stage. I never really have. Oh, of course I LOVE the baby. Who doesn't enjoy the brand new snuggles of the tiniest of humans? Who doesn't look at them and say, "You're never going to be this small ever, ever again?" Who isn't in awe of the miracle of life? But the zero to two month stage has never been my favorite. Not even when they were my own. At various times, I wanted to throw both of my children out the window when they were newborns because I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. I HAVE FED AND CLEANED AND HUGGED YOU AND I HAVE EXHAUSTED ALL MY TRICKS AND WHY ARE YOU STILL CRYING? With Matthew, we added to that the fact that he slept ALL DAY and cried ALL NIGHT regardless of all my efforts to fix it.

But man, the smiley grins of a three month old. The way a five month old fits on the hip. The happy squeals of an eight month old. A nine month old trying to sing into a microphone. That's what I want. Still.

We've inquired on a couple other sibling sets. I've even done a little more research into international adoption (although financially, that one isn't really an option). I'm not trying to limit God. I also know He could very easily say, "Complete. Done. The end." But I definitely desire a baby on my hip.

I was reading a cyber friend's blog last week and I laughed until my sides ached. She has a preschooler. Any rational human being who has children in school all day does not want a toddler. Anyone who reads a blog about poop being anywhere BUT the toilet does not want a preschooler. However, I read this blog and wanted to do it all over again. I don't know why. It doesn't even make sense to me.

But babies singing into microphones and preschoolers having attitude problems and leaving patties of poop in places they don't belong is something my heart really does want. And my heart has a lot of changing to do if it isn't in the cards. So I'll keep waiting for clear direction and, one day, I will look back and see how God was clearly working through it all.

This I know is true.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Trifecta Plus One

My kids were off track for a month. A MONTH! Oh my goodness, you guys. do you know what's not a good idea? Having a first grader and a third grader go to school for six weeks just to turn around and take four off. That is NUTS. Anyway. They went back today. I went with them. I'm subbing in Matthew's class for the rest of the week because his teacher is still recovering from surgery.

A room full of first graders who just came back from what was, essentially, summer break in October. A substitute teacher.  So there was that.

We woke up this morning to snow falling from the sky. It kept falling all day long and, although nothing stuck, we had an inside day at school.

This was the trifecta of disaster.

Five minutes in to the day, a precious little girl was suddenly at my side, tears leaking from her eyes. "I threw up!" I glanced down. Her face was covered in barf.

"You sure did!" I exclaimed. "Come on, let's go."

A group of first graders (read: all of them) were congregated around the upchucked splatter. I walked the little girl down to the office. They called the janitor who, minutes later, brought an enormous carpet cleaner in to our room.

You try teaching six-year-olds who are fresh off a month of no school, are staring out the window at the SNOW, and then staring at the gigantic carpet cleaner as it chugs along, sucking up vomit. It's an absolute modern day miracle that we accomplished anything at all today.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Creative Counterpart

I read this book called Creative Counterpart by Linda Dillow and, y'all, it changed me. I mean, that is to say, I hope it changes me. It's revolutionized the way I think about my spouse and my marriage. I'm going to be teaching it starting next month and, while I know the cyber world cannot join my class, I cannot tell you how much I would encourage every Christian woman I know to go grab herself a copy now.

Run. Don't walk. IF you approach it with a biblical, open mind, IT WILL CHANGE YOUR MARRIAGE. If you think submission is a dirty word and you have no intention of truly exploring what it means, don't get the book. If you believe that submission is a beautiful dance of love and respect, GET THE BOOK! If you think belittling and degrading your spouse or parenting him is fun, don't get the book. If you believe that you should serve as his counterpart and not his mother, GET THE BOOK! If you believe that sex (OH MY GOSH, SERIOUSLY, MY BLOG IS ABOUT TO GO THERE. Dad, look away.) should happen biannually, don't get the book. Wait. No. Never mind. If you are down with twice yearly sex with your husband, you need this book more than anyone. Heck, I'm just gonna go ahead and say that if you think once a month sex with your spouse is enough GET THE BOOK! Men who are reading this, GET THE BOOK FOR YOUR WIFE. I'm not even kidding.

In my class, we will not be discussing our husbands' flaws. We will not be sharing intimate details about our spouses or our love lives. We will be looking at ourselves and at submission and being a consistent responder in all sorts of scenarios. If we do that honestly, we will all have the chance to improve our marriages. 

If I could make the class mandatory for ALL the wives in my congregation, I would. Obviously, I cannot do that. (And actually, we're introducing it in the Mom's/Young Married Class). If I could make reading the book mandatory for ALL the wives everywhere, I would. Is it divine revelation? No, of course not. Are there mistakes or things I disagree with because it was written by a human being? Yep. Are there things that are outdated because it was first published in the 70's. Definitely. But overall, it is worth the read and incredibly important.

There's a line in a musical (that is not a church friendly production) that says, "Love doesn't make us perfect, it just makes us want to be." That's what I want women to get out of this book. I want them to remember what their love was like when they were dating. Did she belittle her man? Did she undermine him or bite his head off or get exceptionally and easily annoyed by him? Or did her heart skip a beat when she saw him? Did she long for five minutes in his arms? 

I once had a woman pull me aside and tell me that she was sorry for the way she'd been treating me. (I honestly hadn't felt any ill treatment whatsoever so I was startled by the conversation.) She told me that she was jealous of me because of my marriage. Knowing the things we've gone through financially and personally during our marriage, I was surprised by this revelation. I think of things like the fact that my husband will have to work until he keels over dead because of our financial situation. I think of the stress of infertility and contested adoption and buried babies. She went on to tell me that I was so lucky to be married to a godly man. A man who puts God's principles first, who strives, above all else, to teach our children about the Lord. A man who cares for me the way God intended. When I saw my marriage through her eyes, I loved my husband in a fresh, new way. I'm a blessed woman.

That's what I want this book and this class to do. I want women to look at their own spouse and see his strengths and focus on those. The negative things, the things that bug and annoy, those can be turned over to Christ. Let God deal with your man's flaws. You focus on what makes him great. (Side note: This is a great way to approach ALL relationships!)

If you're here, and you fit the demographic of the class, come! It's at our church and starts on December 6. If you don't live here, buy the book and check back here for more posts discussing ways you can work to improve your marriage. Your spouse deserves it. (Even if YOU don't feel like he does!) YOU DESERVE IT.

Friday, October 30, 2015


Three weeks ago, I called our doctor's office to set up an appointment for our annual flu vaccinations. My husband already got his because he's heading to Haiti next month and it was included in his myriad of travel vaccines. Side note: I've asked him to bring me home at least one child from a Haitian orphanage. I even asked him if he could maybe take Matthew's passport and find a kid who resembled him.

That's what this has come to. International crime. (I might need help.)

I specifically wanted the mist because it supposedly works a whole lot better. I'm working A LOT (for a stay-at-home mom anyway) during the next four months and we need to keep the flu out of our house. I was assured that the mist would be available and so, yesterday, we trekked to the office.

And wouldn't you know it, there's a nationwide shortage of the mist and our office will probably not be seeing anymore of it this season and only the injection was available. That's fine. We're not needle babies or anything. It's just that I'd all but sworn that we were getting the mist and I don't like to bait and switch my kids like that.

"So, that's frustrating," I informed the receptionist as my nine-year-old made the mental switch from liquid up the nose to needle in the arm. He wasn't speaking to me. The six-year-old looked me straight in the eye and exclaimed, "Oh good! The mist tickles my nose anyway."

Our nurse friend from church came in to say hi and asked if we wanted her to stick us or the other nurse. As it turned out, our friend did mine and Garrett's and the other nurse did Matthew's. The youngest went first and didn't flinch or whine or complain. I went second. Garrett went third. He flared his nostrils slightly and then resumed talking to me.

This morning, Garrett and I woke up with sore arms and Matthew woke up in the best mood of his life. He is NOT a morning person. He never, ever has been. Since the time he was a toddler, I have lamented his teenage years because he ALREADY ACTS LIKE ONE. How much worse will it get? This morning, though, he was so friendly, sweet, and happy. I asked Troy if there was maybe something else in his flu vaccine. A mood altering substance, perhaps?

"What if that really happened?" I asked Troy.

He paused before answering. "Well, I can think of some other people I'd send in for a flu shot."


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My Future Daughter in Law and the Bush House of Love

Garrett has never liked girls. Or he's always liked them. Something like that. He's always had girl friends but he's never had a girlfriend. This year he is finally admitting that he thinks certain girls are cute but he makes sure to insist that they are JUST FRIENDS.

Not Matthew. Matthew is a like a little, innocent Casanova. He's had a few crushes. He is always asking me how old he has to be to get married. He mercilessly teases his brother about liking girls.

They are the exact opposite.

Recently, Matthew and a girl from our church who we'll call Manhattan (because I feel like she needs a pseudonym, I really like New York City, and she may or may not share her actual name with one of the other NYC boroughs) decided that they are going to get married. This is not just your thirty second hilarious love story between young elementary school kids.

This is serious.

At least, if you ask them it is.

A month and a half ago, Manhattan told Matthew that she was going to marry a different boy because he had asked first. This led to Matthew literally sobbing his ever-loving head off in Troy's arms. Hysterical, hiccuping sobs. Troy's shirt was soaked as he tried to keep a straight face and mend his six-year-old's broken heart. "She ex-ed me out!" Matthew wailed. Troy explained they could still be friends and Matthew bawled about how he didn't want to be friends, he wanted her to be his wife. It was equal parts hilarious and gut-wrenching.

Her mom later told me that Manhattan had lamented her dilemma. There were two boys who loved her. Oh what a problem to have. She was with Matthew first. But then the other boy had proposed marriage and Matthew hadn't. In the words of Beyonce, If you like it then you should have put a ring on it. She had accepted the first proposal so she needed to stick with it.

But then something happened. I don't know what. I can't keep young love straight. Suddenly, Manhattan and Matthew were back together again. And they were taking it VERY seriously.

"Mom! I have to dress fancy for church because Manhattan is going to wear her fancy dress for me," he instructed one Sunday morning. Thankfully, his idea of dressing fancy is pants (of any kind) and a shirt with buttons.

We went to California for almost two weeks. We started our week off camping at Santee Lakes. Matthew discovered a kind of tree fort hollow and declared it his Bush House. He began regaling us with tales of moving Manhattan in to his Bush House. We threw concerns at him. "Do you think she'd like sleeping on the dirt?"

"I'll bring in some carpet."

"How about the fact that the rain will come right through and soak everything?"

"I'll get a tarp."

There was a solution for every problem. His face was determined, sure that he would one day move his girl into his Bush House. We asked him when he planned to move. "When she is 17 and I am 16."

"You can't get married that young," I reminded him.

"I know. We are going to get engaged when I am 20 and married when I am 21." So, apparently, they're just planning to play house in the bush for five years first. He told us about their children. One boy and one girl. My future grandson is Eric (one of Matthew's middle names) Rokie (I have no idea but the poor kid lives in Utah, the capitol of the baby naming apocalypse. He doesn't know any better). My future granddaughter is Delta.

"Can her middle name be Dawn? Because then I can sing to her. Delta Dawn, what's that flower you have on? Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?" My mom joined me. His eyes widened.

"Did you just make that up?" He then readily agreed to name her Delta Dawn.

I relayed all of this to Manhattan's mom on Sunday. She told me that that morning, she'd overheard Manhattan asking her sister if she thought Matthew would like her dress. I'm not making any of this up.

Sunday night the phone rang. When I answered it, Manhattan's tiny voice asked for Matthew. I handed him the phone. "Hello?" he said. "I don't even hear anyone!" he shouted at me. "HELLO?" Suddenly his eyes widened, "IT'S MANHATTAN...Hmmm...MOM?!! DID YOU TELL MANHATTAN ABOUT THE BUSH HOUSE? Well, Manhattan, I don't think you'll like it because there are ants."

I interjected, "You can call an exterminator."

"Oh. My mom says we can get a bug guy to get rid of the ants."

And then they proceeded to talk on the phone for ten minutes. He told her that they could live there but they'd probably have to come home to Utah to visit their families. He explained that he'd fish for their food in the lake. And Troy and I stood in the kitchen and cracked up.

Matthew brought me the phone. "She says she's done talking now. Goodbye, Manhattan!" He held the phone out to me. I spoke to my hypothetical future daughter in law and asked for the hypothetical other grandma of my future grandchildren. She got on the phone and we dissolved into hysterical laughter.

They are definitely taking this young love thing seriously. It is precious.

And so so funny.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Learning to Live Without

In a lot of ways, I feel like hope was a Band-Aid. Not eternal hope which is constant and sustaining, but the hope that allowed me to grieve my lost daughter and wait for another at the same time. It might not have been my smoothest move, to wrap this pain up in a bandage. I'm only just now realizing this.

Hoping for another child meant that I could have sad days and mourn the loss of Kate, but always through the filter of the fact that I wouldn't have some future child if we hadn't experienced the having and the losing of our first daughter. I figured that when we held our still-to-come baby girl, the pain of losing Kate would all be worth it.

I'd already lived this pattern twice. When Garrett was placed in my arms, it made infertility worth it. When Matthew was placed in my arms, it again made infertility worth it. After all, neither of them would be here if I could have snapped my fingers and had a positive pregnancy test the first time. (Or the thirtieth.)

When that future daughter was placed in my arms, it would make everything we went through with Kate totally worth it. This is what I told myself when I cried silently in a bathroom stall, overcome, suddenly, by grief. This is what I tell myself when one by one, my friends' babies are born happy and healthy and alive. Of course I want them to be born alive and well, but the stark contrast between seeing a warm baby wrapped in her mama's arms and remembering the cold bag I held with my own daughter inside is emotionally jarring. This is what I tell myself when I think about the fact that all I will ever have of Kate is a grave stone and the thought of what might have been. The struggle will make it worth it.

But I am learning that hope isn't a Band-Aid. It can't be. And the struggle isn't really worth anything.

Kate is gone. And I miss her. One year ago, we were praying and hoping that this little girl might be ours. Now, she is gone to Heaven but there is a stroller in the garage that I bought after Thanksgiving. There is a Christmas stocking in a box--but it won't be filled with tiny baby things this year. There are onesies hanging in the closet. There are diapers and formula and a crib mattress under my bed.

I thought it would be God's plan to bring us another daughter right away. And I would love her and we would visit Kate's grave but the ache would be healed by the presence of the baby who needed my devotion and attention. As it turns out, that wasn't His plan. We wonder, now, if it isn't His plan at all. Initially, we agreed to wait for one year. As that year draws to a close, and as we pray for clear direction, I am confronted with the fact that this might be it. And if this is it...

If this is it, then there is just grief. If this is it, we were hand picked out of obscurity to love Kate for three blissful months and then lose her because that was the plan all along. Either way, I am no longer at liberty to compartmentalize my pain.

Future baby or not, it has taken me ten months to realize that this grief is big and deep and wide and really, really ugly. It has taken me ten months to see that I have to trudge straight through it. I can't walk around it and I can't put a Band-Aid on it. I'm sorry for that. I know it makes no sense to those who ask, "How can you have been so attached to someone you never knew?" I know it boggles the minds of those whose silence during these past many moons has screamed volumes. But I cannot pretend that it isn't there.

I still believe, with all my mind, that God's plan is better than anything I could create on my own. Like Job said in chapter 42, verse 1, "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know."

I do trust the plan and most days, I really am alright. My laughter is real. My smile is genuine. But I just need you to know that some days, I'm pretending.

You learn to speak so calmly when/Your heart would like to scream and shout/You learn to stop and breathe and smile/You learn to live without/You learn to count the quiet winds/An hour with no unprompted tears/And not to count the deadly days/As they fade into years/You learn to hold your life inside you/And never let it out/You learn to live and die and then to live/You learn to live without
-Brian Yorkey

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Real Sob

I was relaying a story to my mom. I was quoting someone else and I said, "She said he's a self-centered jerk and a real S.O.B." I don't usually say things like that, it was just a direct quote.

My nine-year-old, who was in the room, pipes up with a know-it-all attitude, "Mom, did you forget that I know how to spell? He's a sob."

"You're so smart. He's a sob," I replied. Garrett left the room and then I laughed for about five minutes. I hope I'm raising that little speller not to grow up to be a sob.

Monday, October 19, 2015

California Travels

I'm in California.

It was blazing hot.

Now I'm wearing a hoodie.

We were camping for seven days. Three days at a lake and four days at the beach.

This is why I haven't been blogging.


surfing and boogie boarding and fishing and celebrating my dad's birthday.

Now there are going to be things like...

Universal Studios and ghost towns!

So to recap, there is one good thing about year round school and its TRAVEL.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fishing in Manhattan

When Garrett was a teeny, tiny little embryo, I went to New York City for the first time. As a little guy, he enjoyed telling people he'd been to NYC. Two years ago, when we took him to Israel, we had a layover at JFK. We went outside for a few minutes. So now he tells people he's really been to NYC. In May, my mom and I took a trip to the city for a week. Garrett desperately wanted to go. He didn't get to.

I decided that, budget allowing, I'd plan to take him for a couple of days in a few years. When he just thinks I'm mostly dumb. Before he's a teenager who "knows" I'm a moron. I hadn't said anything about this to him though.

Today I had a conversation with him all about how I knew that he was getting to an age where being a kid is hard. I told him that he'd struggle with wanting to make the rules. I promised him that Troy and I do our very best. I said we sometimes fail but that we always have the very best of intentions. I said that if he could be a relatively good boy and listen to us and respect us, I would reward him with a trip in a few years--as long as his dad said it was alright and as long as we could afford it. I told him that I'd take him to NYC to see some of the sights and maybe catch a Broadway show. I really built it up as an incredible mother/son trip full of historical places and musical extravaganzas. Given his stated love for the city and previous desire to go there, I was a little surprised when he interrupted.

"Hey, Mom?"


"Are there any fishing hot spots in New York City?"

Sigh. "Well, buddy, I guess I can just take you fishing in the mountains if you'd rather."

So who wants to go to New York with me in a few years? Because I'm going to need a Magnolia cupcake after that big fishing excursion.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Off Track

In approximately 25 minutes, my kids are out of school for a month. A MONTH. I'm so sick and tired of this year round shenaniganery. We're just getting started. "Hey, here's an idea! Let's be done for A MONTH!" One of my two is struggling to nail down a couple of concepts. So, "HEY, HERE'S AN IDEA! LET'S BE DONE FOR A MONTH!" I totally get it that the teachers like this. I get that it refreshes them and they're ready to go tackle the next 12 weeks or whatever it is until their next break. But this is NOT GOOD FOR MY KIDS.

Maybe some kids thrive on this schedule. Maybe some parents love it and want it forever and ever. I have only seen it as a detriment to my own kids' learning. So if you happen to live in ALL THE OTHER PLACES IN THE COUNTRY WHERE THIS IS A COMPLETELY FOREIGN IDEA, consider yourself so lucky. Count your blessings and your stars or your sheep or whatever. I'll just be sitting here in Utah thinking all about how my kids will have a severely stunted summer because of this ridiculousness.

Okay. End rant.

The good thing about year round school is this...we can go on vacation when the world is not on vacation. This is a blessing. The one that I count over and over and over. So the boys and I will take off for California on Sunday. So there's that.

Which is cool.

Silver linings and all that.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Lock Down

I was sitting at the desk, counting down the minutes until recess. First graders were cutting out nouns and adjectives and gluing them in the correct columns. "BEEP BEEP!" the intercom alert sounded. I thought it was just for my class. They'd tell me that someone was checking out and to send him to the office. I was just about to respond to the beep with a, "Yes?" But immediately following, a woman's voice, stern and strong, came over the speaker. "Teachers! We are on lock down. Lock down now!"

In the next two seconds my mind processed a handful of thoughts. The first was that the teacher had failed to inform me that we were having a lock down drill. The second was that the office staff had failed to inform me that we were having a lock down drill. The third was that the woman's voice had been so stern that I wasn't entirely sure we were having a lock down drill. I walked very quickly to the door, pulled the magnet and tugged the door closed quickly. In the couple moments it took to accomplish that particular task, I saw two teachers doing the same thing. They did not look like they knew anything about it. They looked...concerned.

I flicked the lights off.

A sea of six-year-olds stared at me. I glanced quickly around the room and then whispered, "Get against the wall." I ushered them over to the wall where their backpacks hung. It couldn't be seen from the window by the door.




I put my finger to my lips. "You have to be quiet. I mean it. You can't talk." I whispered almost inaudibly.

"Is it real?" one child whispered back.

"I...I don't know," I replied.

I had no idea if it was real or not. And so I had no choice but to treat it like it was absolutely real. And I had no choice but to treat it as though it was the worst case scenario. "Our door doesn't lock," one boy said.

"What do you mean it doesn't lock?" I asked.

"It's broken. Even when we pull it closed, it doesn't lock," he said with panic painted into his eyes. So there was that piece of information gnawing at me as we sat still for ten minutes. The kids got bored and started giggling. I put my finger to my lips again and told them they had to stay quiet.

Suddenly, a shaky voice came over the speaker. "Teachers, you need to email me or text me.immediately. I repeat, email me or text me immediately." The voice sounded afraid, upset, only barely in control. And that's when I really began to believe that there was someone in the building. This person had reason to believe that there were teachers who were not okay, teachers who could not respond because they were hurt--or worse. They were taking inventory. Which teachers were able to respond?

I was not.

We were fine. But I didn't know who "me" even was. I don't have a district issued computer so I couldn't email. I could use my phone to text or email but it was across the room, past the window, and getting it was a risk I wasn't willing to take. If there was a psychopath standing at the window, waiting for sound or movement, I wasn't about to let him (or her) know that we were in there. Whoever "me" was, she was going to have to wait on the first graders in room 103.

The school was laid out exactly like the one my sons attend. Only the kindergartners stood between us and the front office. If someone went in through the front doors, it wouldn't be long before they reached us. I hadn't heard any confrontations or gun fire, but the upper grade levels are around the back and my first graders weren't being particularly quiet when the first announcement had come. If they'd opened fire on the opposite side of the school, I assumed it was possible that I hadn't heard it.

A few moments later, the handle on the door jiggled up and down several times. Several of the students gasped and I threw my finger over my lips again. Tears welled in kids' eyes. I was characterized by a calmness I'm still surprised by. I realized in that second that our door was, in fact, locked. I also firmly believed that someone was inside the school and they were trying doors.

As I tried to keep scared six-year-olds quiet, I had only a few thoughts.

If someone comes through that door or that window, I have to die trying to protect these kids.

PRAY! Ask for deliverance but also make sure you're ready to see Jesus today.


My family will never see me again. 

Aside from these thoughts, I was numb. I prayed that God would spare me but I also asked that He would welcome me into His presence. I thought of how I would lunge from my place on the floor and slam myself into the gunman. I thought about how much the bullets would hurt. I thought about my husband and my children. Eventually, I thought that the longer we sat there, the better chance we had. Certainly the cops were taking care of it by that point--and I still hadn't heard gunfire.

Suddenly, another jiggle on the door handle. I swallowed hard. Then, the jingle of keys and a woman poked her head inside. She looked around the corner, made eye contact with me and said that I could resume teaching. However, we were still supposed to keep our door locked and no one was allowed to leave the classroom for any reason. Then she turned and walked out.

In that moment, assuming that any imminent danger had passed, I exhaled. Adrenaline flooded from my body at a rapid rate leaving me shaking violently. I'd remained calm. Apparently I'm alright in a crisis situation. It's just after the crisis is over that I fall apart.

The lock down was never really, officially, lifted. Teachers kept their doors closed and their lights out. When the bell rang about a half hour later, I waited until other children filled the halls before letting mine go.

Then I marched down to the office and asked what the heck had happened. "Oh, well, there was a suspicious individual in the neighborhood so we chose to lock down." I explained that I was unable to respond to the announcement about emailing because I had no idea who was speaking and no access to a computer. As I spoke about that being a problem, I got the sense that the office staff thought I was overreacting. Had I known that the threat was outside, I wouldn't have had to jump to "worst case scenario" in my mind and in how I handled the situation. But I had no idea and the best way to take care of a classroom of first graders is to treat the situation as though it could have the worst possible outcome.

I assumed that it was a "no big deal" situation since the office staff seemed none too worried. But this morning my friend sent me a message and an article. As it turns out, the individual was located less than a block away from the school and was being pursued on foot. He was one minute BY FOOT away from the school. He is one of Utah's most wanted. Apparently he was extremely armed and dangerous. You can click here for the story.

Having now been in a situation where nothing really happened and I still feel like years were taken off my life, I cannot imagine what it would be like to sit in a room, listening to gunfire. I cannot imagine witnessing mass murder. I cannot imagine being asked to state my faith and then killed.

When it was over, I looked down at my arm. As an after thought, I'd grabbed my favorite bracelet before I'd walked out the door. It has select phrases from Jeremiah 29:11. He always knows the end from the beginning. And I'm so thankful that yesterday He kept all of us safe.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Christmas in September

I'm having an issue. I took this picture on September 29.

I'm sorry but...what? ALMOST THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE ACTUAL HOLIDAY? We still have to make it through Halloween AND Thanksgiving before this holiday has its moment. We used to talk about Christmas in July. I'm fairly certain that in a handful of years we'll actually be able to buy all of our Christmas stuff in mid-summer, making Christmas in July an actual possibility.

So, yes. I stood there and I stared. And I blinked a lot. And then I took out my phone to take a picture because I thought maybe I was dreaming the whole thing.

Turns out, I wasn't. People are insane. Walmart is insane. Other stores that already have their Christmas decorations out are insane. That's all.