Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Don't Quit Your Daydream

Don't Quit Your Daydream. Those are the words on a shirt that my mom brought me on her recent visit. 

I was pondering the sentence and how much I liked it and how my mom knows how to shop for me and then I thought, "What even is my daydream anymore?" And while I'm not 100% certain, what I know is that it has always been to create something that lasts. To maybe, someday, write something worth reading or direct something worth watching or sing something worth listening to. I used to want that to happen on a grand scale, to see my name plastered up on some sign in flashing neon lights. Now, to not have my children cringe when I sing a note is daydream enough for me, I suppose.  
It's interesting, the way I have allowed other people to influence how I feel about my own art. It's true that constructive criticism should be embraced. I would certainly hate to be one of those delusional people on American Idol who fancy themselves a brilliant singer when they actually just sound like a wounded cat who is also in heat. But, my overwhelming desire to be liked and to be appreciated has been a huge detriment to my promotion in any medium in which I may otherwise have had a small measure of success.

Why is it that we need to hear positive affirmation approximately 11,225 times before we'll believe it but one person saying one negative thing about us is enough to do us in?

In high school, I had two different theatre classes. I knew I wanted to continue in the theatre and I worked as hard in those two classes as anyone. I listened intently to the notes and I fixed it. I paid attention to everything, as desperate for improvement as I was for air.

At the end of the year, one teacher went around the room saying positive things about everyone's growth as an actor. The bell rang just as she got to me and she put her hand on my head and hurriedly said that I was a nice girl. Literally, everyone before me had been given these glowing reviews of their performances. From the stars of the shows down to the chorus members. Nice is nice, I guess, but it wasn't exactly on point. I was 17, vulnerable, and a complete perfectionist. In that moment, nice sounded a lot like, "I can't think of a bloomin' thing to say about you."

I would never tell anyone that I wanted to continue doing theatre because I was so afraid of rejection. Just before graduation I confessed to the other teacher that "when I grew up" I wanted to be an actress. She looked at me, cocked her head slightly to one side and said, matter of factly, "Lori, you already are." That was half a lifetime ago and I can still remember what the rooms looked like and how both sentences made me feel. One spoke life. The other tore away confidence. One made me question whether I'd had any impact at all while the other ran through my mind whenever I needed a confidence boost during my four years as a theatre major.

In college, I had many professors who praised my creative writing. I loved to write and any creative writing assignment felt a lot more like fun and a lot less like work. Once though, JUST ONCE, I had a professor, who did not teach writing, tell me that I needed to find my own voice and stop trying to copy my friend's writing style. Now, it should be noted that my friend is an infinitely better writer than I am. She's published and phenomenal. But my voice had remained consistent from high school throughout college. It wasn't changing because my friend was an amazing writer anymore than it changed when I read Hemingway, Tolstoy, or the Saturday morning funnies. Always the sponge and never the duck, I allowed that one comment to bother me for far too long, to shake my confidence, to make me wonder if maybe I just shouldn't write at all.

On the other hand, I had a lit professor approach me one day. Earlier in the week, I had been asked to read some of my poetry at a literature luncheon. On this particular day, I had just performed a Laban Crisis Piece as part of a grant application for the Theatre department. The poems were raw--the result of what had been both a painful and joyful year. The crisis piece had also left me feeling bare and exposed. This professor was highly respected by myself and, seemingly, every human being on campus. He came up to me, placed a hand on my shoulder and said, "Thank you. I just love the way you express yourself through your art." He referenced my poetry and my performance and told me that they were a great blessing to him. I have clung to that one compliment for fifteen years.

Because, after all, aren't we all just striving to be seen? In those moments, high school drama teacher and college lit professor had seen me and validated my experience and my dream.

The truth of the matter is that I'm never going to win at any of these arts forms. But it's taken me a long time to realize that it was never about winning in the first place. My daydream is to create. It isn't to be the very best--not anymore, anyway. If I can sing a song and hit the notes, it doesn't matter that I'll never be a recording artist or win a Tony. If I can write a story, it doesn't matter that it won't be published. If I can bring something to life on stage, it doesn't matter that it isn't on Broadway. Or Off-Broadway. Or even Off-Off-Off-Broadway.

I want to make art. I want to encourage in my children--and those I have any influence over--a desire to create and to express who they are, so that we can really see them. I want to encourage their dreams, not discourage them. They may not be the next Picasso, Sondheim, or Shakespeare.

But then again, they might be. A kind word or a harsh one may well be remembered for decades. Both may be relied upon to make or break the artist.

Encourage. Create.

And don't quit your daydream.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Are You a Starfish?

We have a finalization date! Our family is set to appear before a judge on December 21st. Just in time for Christmas. Now, I'm going to be honest with you. I started crying when I read the email. Not because, "Hooray for finalization!" (although, yes, of course, HOORAY!) but because we're eligible to finalize as early as December 6th. 

I emailed the lawyer's office and basically said, "Um. Any chance we could do this sooner? Any chance we could get ourselves put on a waiting list? Cuz I'm going to straight up invent things to worry about between now and then and we need to get this thing signed, sealed and delivered, yo." Except it sounded more professional than that. And it ended with the bit about the waiting list. Because I don't want the lawyer's office to fire me as a mother because of my neurosis. 

I received a response explaining that this judge splits her time between the Park City courts and the Salt Lake City courts and the absolute soonest we can get in is the 21st.

So I followed up my first email with, "Any chance we could get in with a different judge, yo?" (Minus the yo. And, again, more professional.)

Not unless there's a big, giant reason we can't wait until the 21st and, then, we'd need to file a petition to switch judges, etc. First, that sounded like a massive pain and I saw dollar signs floating by. And, second, there is no big, giant reason we can't hold our horses and wait until four days before Christmas. Except that MAMA IS BAT POO NUTS, Y'ALL AND SHE SERIOUSLY INVENTS TERRIBLE SCENARIOS IN HER HEAD.

Fourteen months of contested adoption in 2009 and 2010 will do that to a girl.

So I'm going to hold my metaphorical horses and hunker down and wait for the snow and the cold and December 21st to come so that we can FINALIZE THE HECK OUT OF THIS THING.

Adoption is not for the faint of heart.

Seriously. I have had people tell me how lucky I am that I didn't actually have to give birth to two of my children. Um. Girlfriend would NOT be saying that if she had any idea what the adoption process is like. I am basically sure that the anxiety and the waiting and the home studies and the incredible financial strain have taken a decade off my life. Child birth? I did that too. It took a day and cost me $300 dollars. The end.

We have to submit an Affidavit of Fees to the judge. Our lawyer's office needed me to submit a list of what we spent. I'm so INCREDIBLY grateful to all the people who donated to our adoption and lightened the load for us. But our grand total (IF no additional fees are incurred between now and December for some reason)(Read: Any number of the terrible scenarios I've invented in my head) is $30,037. (That does include our one time listing fee with our Adoption Facilitator that we paid back when we were waiting for Kate.) Hear me when I tell you that that is a pretty inexpensive adoption.

You cannot adopt overseas for that. You cannot adopt from an agency for that. People, there are children in orphanages all over the world waiting to be loved. There are babies being born and put into the foster care system. There are children growing up in foster care (AND YOU CAN ADOPT THEM FOR CONSIDERABLY LESS THAN 30K). We need to figure out a way to make this affordable for people. We need adoption reform. I honestly don't know how or what that looks like. But I know it needs to happen if we are going to live out the command to care for orphans.

What I do know, though, is that this is DOABLE for so many people if they would just allow themselves to be vulnerable, to open themselves up to the waiting and the anxiety and give all that over to the Lord.

Troy and I (because of complicated clergy tax laws) do not qualify for the Adoption Tax Credit. BUT MOST PEOPLE DO. The adoption tax credit, for 2016, is $13,460. To be clear, a tax credit is an amount that is subtracted from the adopting parents' tax liability. So BOOM, that would take our adoption down to $16,577! (If, of course, we were fortunate enough to be able to benefit from it.) Many insurance plans offer adoption indemnity benefits if the adopting family has maternity coverage at the time of placement. In Utah, this can be up to $4,000. That would take our total down to $12,577. That is still A LOT of money. I get that. But it is so much less than $30,000. And with adoption fundraising and grants, one might successfully alleviate a great deal of that. 

I'm saying all of that because I have heard SO MANY people say that they can't afford to adopt without really looking in to it. I've heard others say that the process is too daunting. I will be the first to say that IT NEEDS TO BE CHEAPER and IT NEEDS TO BE EASIER. But it CAN BE DONE. 

I'm just really passionate about adoption. And I feel a lot like the boy in the starfish proverb. You know, the one where the boy is throwing starfish back into the ocean and there are just so many that he can't really make a dent. So many of them will die there on the shore. And the man tells him that he can't make much of a difference. The boy stoops down, collects a starfish, and hurls it into the sea. "It made a difference to that one."

It makes a difference when we adopt. It may change the life of a child but it definitely changes us. But beyond that, my point to this starfish story is that by talking about adoption, by explaining the ups and downs but, ultimately, the absolute joy I have found in this process, I hope that I might influence even one person to consider this for their family. There might be thousands who read my drivel and can't adopt. (Convicted felons come to mind.) But if I can throw just one of you into the ocean, to plant a seed that may blossom into a decision to one day adopt, that will be worth it to me. 

Is the Lord tugging on your heart? Is He whispering to open your home to a child in need? Are you one of the ones who is ready to take ten years off her life for the VERY BEST OF REASONS? I'd love nothing more than to talk to you about adoption. And, listen, I'm just going to be sitting around for the next two months waiting for December 21st. SO YOU CAN TOTALLY HELP ME PASS THE TIME BY TALKING TO ME ABOUT THIS.

Email me. familyfishbowl@hotmail.com

And if you have no interest in adoption whatsoever, you can pray for us...that everything between now and December 21 is smooth sailing and that I stop concocting crazy horror stories in my demented little head.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Ethnic Ambiguity

My little, tiny guy--the one who is in the 1% for length and the 2% for weight (but he started off the charts teeny so we're not worried)--is biracial. His mama is white and his dad is black. Knowing this, I always assumed that Will would be darker than he is. Oh, sure, he could get darker but all the ways I know of predicting his future tones point to him being pretty fair. I knew he'd never be as dark as Matthew whose parents are both black, but I assumed he'd look, well, blacker. I hoped he'd be darker. Being a mixed kid growing up in a white home will probably have Will identifying more with his white roots in the first place. I don't want him to blend right in and not look black because I want him to embrace all of his heritage, to celebrate everything that makes him who he is. When his straight black hair grew into soft brown curls, I rejoiced. When he got just a little darker than when he was born, I celebrated.

Troy and I have laughed over a scene from Parks and Recreation where Rashida Jones's character, Ann, is referred to as being ethnically ambiguous. Rashida, in real life, is black, Welsh, and Ashkenazi Jewish and totally one of the most beautiful people on the planet. No. Really.

On the show, I don't believe that her ethnicity is discussed. At least, not beyond her being referred to as ambiguous. It's true that Jones could probably pass for Latina, Middle Eastern, black and white, or a handful of various ethnicities. And I wonder if that will be Will.

When Matthew was born and in the seven subsequent years since, everyone asked if he was adopted. No one asks me if Will is adopted. That makes me sad. Not because I enjoy answering everyone all the time. Not because I like questions such as, "Where did he come from?" and, "What happened to his parents?" But, because I want to embrace all of who he is and that includes his birth family. I don't want people to see our family out and about and just assume that Will is white as can be. I want him to BE white AND black. Because he is.

On Saturday, I took the boys to sell popcorn for cub scouts. Will went with us and did his best to help with the sales. Here's how he looked.

At one point, my friend, Morgan, was holding Will. From across the parking lot, a black lady came walking briskly. "Does he have red hair?" she asked. "Is he a red head?" She came right up to him. Morgan and I, slightly confused by her enthusiasm, glanced at each other. 

Morgan answered, "Uh...no." She ran her fingers through his hair. 

"Oh! He looked like a redhead from across the parking lot. Can I hold him?" this caught me off guard because I had literally known this woman for two seconds. 

Morgan said, "You'll have to ask mom." She pointed at me.

"Oh, YOU'RE his mom," she said and turned to me. "Where's his dad?" I must have looked confused because she followed that question up quickly with, "He's mixed. Dad is black, right?" Listen, I could have thrown my arms around this stranger right then and there.

I wanted to yell, "YES! HE IS! THANK YOU FOR NOTICING! THANK YOU FOR KNOWING. YOU HAVE JUST MADE MY DAY!" But I did not do that because, at this point I had known this woman for approximately fifteen seconds and I have boundaries. Instead I kind of stammered, "Oh. Yes, actually. We're adopting him but, yes, his dad is black and his mom is white."

"I knew it!" she said. "Look at those curls." She proceeded to tell me that her sister had placed a baby for adoption. She thanked me for stepping in and adopting him and while I appreciate the sentiment, especially coming from the aunt of a child who was placed, I always want to tell people that the pleasure and the joy is entirely mine and that, really, my kids should have some kind of trophy or medallion for putting up with me.

Matthew walked up and so I put my hand on his head and said that he was mine too. Then Garrett interjected, "So am I!" 

"This is your real son. I can tell," she said. And because she was being so nice and friendly and was probably just commenting on the fact that Garrett is my twin separated by 25 years, I simply said with a smile, "This one is biological and these two are adopted." I left out the part about how all three of them are quite real. None of them need to be plugged in at night in order to achieve the lifelike ability to move and breathe and soil a diaper. My excitement over her knowing that my kid is biracial outweighed my desire to work, in that moment, on changing the terminology and verbage surrounding adoption.

Here's a close up of Will with my parents last week. He's black and white and teeny tiny and full of life and joy and energy. He melts my heart to a pile of mush. He may be a little ethnically ambiguous but, apparently, the trained eye will rush across a parking lot to squeal over my mixed kid.

Friday, October 7, 2016

It Is Well

It's been a whirlwind few weeks. I just logged in to my blog and was kind of floored that it's been so long since I've posted. But, in the meantime, we've had a couple of special things happen in our family. Both sets of parents came in to town and spent time with us last week. They were here to visit and celebrate Will's dedication to the Lord and Troy's ordination.

Troy has basically had all the paperwork to become ordained since forever but just never called together the council and had it officially done. A few Thursdays ago he defended his theological positions before a council of peers. It was a grueling three hours of discussing, clarifying, and arguing his positions. In the end, they unreservedly recommended him for ordination. Also, I felt dumb. Because the words my husband was using were SO above my intellect. I mean, it might be similar to when I'm talking about Broadway to him but, I really kinda doubt it.

On Sunday, we dedicated Will to the Lord and Troy's was officially ordained. It was a really special day for us. It was great to have our parents there to be a part of it.

Troy's parents left on Monday and mine left yesterday morning. Then, today, we had Will's post placement visit for our home study. I think things went well and we should be able to get a court date for sometime in December.

We have many concerns and so many people, places, and things that we are praying for. At this moment though, within the walls of our own home, it is well. Our family is full of hope and joy. And, when Will bursts out into a hearty baby laugh, we can't help but join in.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Pure & Genuine

I'm gonna get hate mail on this one. I've been thinking about it for a long time and so I'm just going to throw it out there. But first, disclaimers.

1. I am in no way, shape, or form comparing my children to animals.

2. I fully support the adoption of shelter animals.

3. I fully support having biological children.

Now, don't go forgetting those disclaimers.

So here it is. If I see one more Facebook post talking about how wrong it is to own a dog that was purchased from a breeder or a cat that came from a pet store or a goldfish some kid won at a carnival, I'm going to straight up lose my mind. If I read one more article about the evils of buying a pure bred while mixed breeds die at the humane society, I'm going to scream. If I read another tweet about how I'm contributing to animal cruelty by not being a part of the solution, I will delete all social media and live as a hermit in a cave in the Uintas. Okay, I won't do that. I have limits on my follow through.

It is completely fine that you adopted a shelter dog. I actually love that you did that. Chances are he's a great dog and he brings joy to your family and you love him a lot. Tell me on Facebook that he is your most loyal friend. Sweet! I don't judge you for that. You made a choice that worked for your family. Well done. Post inspirational stories of rescue cats. Write whatever else you want that shows shelters and animal adoption in a positive light. I hope that it will encourage someone to consider that option in the future.

Just don't present it as the only way. Don't turn pet owners into villains if they didn't adopt from a shelter.

I spent a lot of hundreds of dollars on the two pure bred golden retrievers I've personally owned. I bought them both from "backyard breeders" and they've been amazing dogs. Okay. In the interest of full disclosure, the first one ate our couch and the second one is a little bit nuts but neither of them have consumed any of our children so we consider it a win. But I've seen countless memes like this one come through on my feed...

I don't care for the sake of myself or the sake of my dog. She can't read and I'm growing a thicker skin by the minute. I bought a dog that was bred and a shelter dog died. That's really sad. Someday, maybe I'll buy a shelter dog. Or three. I really have no idea.

The reason I care so passionately about this, the reason I want to scream every time someone lectures me on the crime of buying a pure bred, is because, shelter dog or not, they are still...dogs. Or cats. They are animals. Animals are wonderful and lovely and bring us such joy. I can't imagine living life without them and I have sobbed mightily on more than one occasion when my own pet reaches the end of his life. But they really, truly are...animals.

God made them, yes. But they are not made in the image of God.

You know what is made in the image of God? Humans.

Genesis 1:27 "So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." 

I've had people ask me point blank, right to my face, if I considered a shelter dog before I bought my golden retriever. You know what I didn't say? "Did you consider adopting from the foster care system or from a ministry to birth mothers or from China or Nepal or Guatemala before you had your biological children?"

You see, when someone gets up on a pedestal about where an animal came from, all I think about are my children. All I think about is adoption reform and kids aging out of the system and people not giving money to adoption grants.

Apples and oranges? Obviously. My kids aren't dogs. The 17 year old who is about to be thrown out of the foster system isn't a cat. And, OF COURSE, I realize that not everyone can or should adopt children. My point is not that everyone needs to think long and hard about having biological children. Certainly not. Have biological children. Of course, have them! My point is not that we can't worry about shelter animals or that I don't care when a shelter animal is killed...

Once upon a time we became the inadvertent caretakers of some sick, stray kittens. I told Troy to take them to the humane society and NOT TO BRING THEM HOME UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE WHATSOEVER. He did as I said. I received a call from him later that day. "Since they are sick, they will euthanize them. What should I do?" Obviously those kittens came home and we nursed them back to health and then they found loving families. We've spent hours catching feral cats and taking them to spay and release clinics. We've owned two cats (HA! As if anyone ever owns a cat.) that were both homeless before we adopted them.  It breaks my heart when an animal is killed. 

My point is that we really ought to be valuing human life above all else. We ought to put our money, our mouths, and our memes where the Lord would put His. And, as He wrote through the hand of his own brother, James...

The orphan might be the foster child whose parents cannot break their drug addiction. She might be the baby who was left on the steps of the church in Haiti. He might be the child whose mama chose adoption because she, herself, aged out of foster care and wrestles with her own demons. She might be the newborn who tested positive for methadone. But regardless of what this looks like today, the truth rings clear. Pure religion...means caring for orphans. This doesn't always mean that you bring a child into your home through adoption or foster care. Sometimes it means helping someone to adopt. I am eternally grateful to the many people who contributed financially to our adoption stories. Thank you for caring for orphans. Sometimes it means writing Congress and imploring them to discuss adoption reform. Sometimes it means sponsoring a child overseas or moving abroad to work in an orphanage or donating to a ministry that cares for children.

I care about shelter animals but have chosen a purebred puppy in the way that you might care about the orphan but have chosen only biological children. I care about shelter animals, but I think about a couple of articles I read about a lack of foster families in Oregon. Children were staying the night in hotel rooms and spending their days in the DCFS office, waiting to find out where they'd go next. In a state that is known for its campaigns to hug trees and save spotted owls, one would hope that there might also be a value on hugging children and protecting them and caring for them. (I'm not trying to specifically throw stones at Oregon. Our lack of "orphan" care is a global problem.) I care about shelter animals, but I think about Shane, a man who aged out of the foster care system and is still haunted by the feelings that he wasn't good enough to have a family. I think about how some families adopt children and shelter animals and some families have biological children and purebred puppies and some families do some combination of the two and no one is evil because of their personal choices.

But as for me, when you say the word adoption, I do not think first of the animals. When you use your passion for shelter animals as a shaming device, I do not hear your cry for the dog or the cat, for the orphaned hamster or the rescued parakeet. Instead, I think first of all the children. I think of the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who said, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:26)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Pure Joy (And Einstein Hair)

Let me tell you about what a joy our third son is to our family. We pretty much can't stop staring at him. I mean, the spitting up ALL over his shirt JUST as we're walking out the door to go to school/work/church is getting old but, otherwise...

Listen, he is WAY cuter in real life which, I know, is saying something awfully magnificent because he is super cute in his pictures IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF. But the thing about pictures is that he is obsessed with staring down the camera like it is the most intriguing contraption he has ever seen. So you have to really catch him off guard. Which, well, he's three months old so it probably IS the most intriguing contraption he's ever seen.

The dude smiles with his whole body, usually while squirming in excitement. We're a little worried about him actually starting to move because, man, the man is nonstop. He's gonna get up and go and be in to EVERYTHING.

And can I just take a minute to talk about his hair? It is out of control. There are mad curls up top, but with spaces on the side so he looks like a cross between Einstein and Bobo the Clown. But the back is all bald and/or straight, short hair. It's a sight to behold. But dang, those long curls on top. His father keeps insisting we need to cut them and I keep threatening him within an inch of his life. "TOUCH MY BABY'S CURLS AND YOU WILL MEET JESUS IN A PAINFUL AND UNTIMELY ACCIDENT." (Or something less murderous sounding.)

He's just the best. The wait was painful and long but he is worth it. His smiles that greet us when he goes from tears in his crib in the morning to sudden elation that we've come for him, he coos and squeals. His sweetness and light. It's hard to believe he'll turn into a terrible two year old and then a back talking teenager. If I could bottle up the joy he exudes 90% of the time, I would.

Instead, I just thank Jesus for bringing me this little man I didn't even know we all needed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Day the Hamster Disappeared

Once upon a time, two weeks ago to be precise, our ten-year-old used his birthday money to purchase a hamster. He'd been begging us for well over a year and the answer was always no. A resounding no. For starters, we have a cat. Hamsters escape. I didn't want the bloodied carcass of Garrett's beloved pet strewn about the room. But he begged and begged and it was his money and I caved. Then, I caved Troy.

We brought Frisby home.

And Garrett became the cutest hamster owner there ever was. He doesn't complain about cleaning her cage (yet). He gets her out in the morning and he gets her out after school. He remembers to put her in the ball to run around. He invites his friends over to play with her. He calls himself her dad.

Yesterday, he had her on the bathroom counter while he was getting ready. As she has demonstrated, in her short time with us, a keen ability not to care if she falls from certain heights, we asked him to never put her on the counter again. We just weren't sure that she wouldn't jump to her suicidal death.

This morning, Matthew brought her into the bathroom and put her on the floor. It was his fault but it wasn't intentional. He didn't know there was an inch gap between a board on the floor and the cabinets. He didn't know that this gap led to a dark space under the cabinets. He didn't know that at the back of this dark space was a hole that led straight into the secret passages of the skeleton of our home.

The hamster disappeared. 

Garrett came and reported her whereabouts. At that point, none of us knew the hole existed. I thought she'd eventually come out for food and was relatively unconcerned. He was asking us to take a sledgehammer to the wood. We were refusing. He started sobbing and begging to be allowed to stay home from school. Eventually, we were on the ground with flashlights and tools, trying to find her. It was then that we discovered the hole. I took the boys to school.

When I got home, Troy heard her scratching under our bathtub. It was then that we knew she had escaped the small cabinet space and was now free to roam about the edifice. We spent some time trying to figure out what to do. I decided, because I lean toward the dramatic, that she would die in the walls. My son would be distraught as we all had to smell her decomposing body for weeks. I tend to be every bit the unfeeling robot and, when Garrett asked if we could sledgehammer the wood, I'd replied, "For a 15 dollar hamster?" But, once I thought Troy had left for work, I sat in the middle of the floor and cried. He hadn't quite left and, when he found me, he asked, "Are you okay?"

"I like her!" I wailed. I didn't want her. I had hamsters as a kid. They were cute and fun AND SMELLY AND POOPY AND I DIDN'T WANT ANOTHER ONE! But this is a sweet lil hammy. And I expected her to live longer than two weeks. AND I hate when my babies are heartbroken. Girls, this is your warning. Hurt my baby and I will straight up cut you. (Or something more godly and less violent.)

Before we'd seen the hole, we had used this tool to try to locate/poke her. There's a tiny claw on the end, once we knew she was maybe lost forever, I decided to put some food in it and leave it suspended between bathroom and deep, dark, no man's land under the sink--in the event that she came back.

I continued to hear her pattering around under our tub. As the day progressed, I became convinced that she'd somehow gotten down and couldn't get up. She was stuck. She'd die there, just beneath our showering feet. 

I called my dad who gave me some ideas of how we might get to her. I called Troy and relayed the ideas. He had been thinking up some of his own and promised me he'd come home from work early to try to rescue her. I called my mom and whined about our terrible predicament. I prayed. 

I kept checking to see if I could still hear her in the tub. At one point, I pulled a broken piece of grout out of a crack next to the tub. Sticking a screw driver in, I pried. I was hoping to create a hole big enough to send food and water in. As soon as I started messing around at the corner, she ran to that place and furiously started scratching. She was just a few inches away, trying to get to me and there was nothing I could do for her.

"Frisby," I said. "Please, I know you're in there. People are asking where you've been. They say have courage and I'm trying to. I'm right out here for you. Just let me in." No. I didn't. I did not start singing Frozen songs to her. Although, in hindsight it seems as good an idea as any. I did say, "I know you're there. I'm trying to figure out how to get to you." And then I recorded her frantic scratching.


And then, the tub went silent.

I couldn't hear her anymore.

When Troy got home, I wasn't 100% convinced that she was still in there. So, with my head nestled up against the toilet, I pressed my ear to the side of the tub and listened long. Maybe I hear something? And then I heard it loud and clear, her desperate, familiar clawing. Troy had removed a light fixture from the room below, hoping to be able to find a way to her that didn't involve sawing a hole into our tub or moving a panel out of shower and going through the drywall. Apparently, his messing around beneath her sent her into a frenzy. He decided that approach wasn't going to work.

He removed the piece that I have come to know is referred to as a bathtub trip lever (a.k.a. the drain lever). That didn't pan out either. He decided to cut a small hole in the drywall in the hopes that she would see the light and come out. It would seem that his stud finder is still single for a reason because, despite using it ahead of time, he was met with a beam. Unless the hamster planned to chew her way through a thick piece of wood, that option was no longer viable. We now had a hole in the wall and a hamster on the loose. He put the trip lever back together.

He asked me what I thought was better, a hole in the side of the tub that we would have to plug up or removing a bunch of the shower wall and cutting through drywall. Oh gee, um, lemme think. NEITHER. "You have to make that call," I told him. At some point during the fiasco, I'd gone to retrieve the boys from school and we were now working on homework. "I'll just keep practicing spelling and you can decide what you think is best."

When we got to a stopping point, I went upstairs to see what he'd decided. He wasn't in our bathroom. "Troy? Where are you?" I called out. The boys' bathroom door slowly opened. He had a finger pressed to his lips. "She's in there," he whispered. 

Do you remember how I'd left a piece of food in the claw of the metal tool? Troy happened to walk past the boys' bathroom on his way to get his drill to demolish our tub when what should he see but that tool moving (seemingly) ALL BY ITSELF. We think his messing with the lever and cutting a hole in the wall freaked her out and she somehow managed to decide that she wasn't stuck after all and she was going to hightail it outta there right quick. 

This is one of those things that I like to call a modern day miracle. Troy was on his way to destroy our bathtub. He JUST SO HAPPENED to walk past the bathroom at the precise moment that she JUST SO HAPPENED to eat the pumpkin seed that I had stuck on his tool hours before. THANK YOU, LORD!

I laid on the floor and stuck two of my fingers over the lip. She instantly nibbled first my middle finger and then my pointer. I grabbed a piece of food and held it up. Her tiny face emerged. Never have I been so thrilled to see the face of a tiny rodent staring at me. I held the food out and she tried to take it. I slowly pulled back. She placed one paw over the lip. I continued to pull slowly. Another paw. It was a tight squeeze for her and she flattened her body in pursuit of the food. Finally, she was top heavy enough to fall over the lip and onto the floor. I immediately scooped her up.

"Garrett," Troy called. "Can you come help me with something up here?"

He bounded up the stairs and, when he reached the bathroom, I held my hand out and gave him his hamster back.

We've only had her for two weeks and already the antics are outrageous. Tonight, Frisby, who Garrett sometimes affectionately refers to as Hammy Lammy Ding Dong, is happily trying to get out of her cage. Because, it would seem, she learned nothing from her day at large.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Looking Back on the Time We Traveled Internationally With a Seven-Year-Old and His Younger Brother

As was largely detailed here several years ago, we took our small children to Israel. We received overwhelming support from friends and family who thought it would be an incredible experience for our boys. Of course, there were also more than a few naysayers who thought we were absolutely OFF OUR METAPHORICAL ROCKERS.

"What if they won't eat anything?" Um...I don't think they will actually starve to death in a country with plenty of food.

"What if they are awful travelers?" They're great travelers so far so I think we'll be okay. If they're awful, I will eat my words and tell you that you were right all along and I shouldn't have wasted my money.

"What if you get shot or bombed?" You people are too dependent on your western news. And also, too driven by fear. I've been there. I was neither shot nor bombed.

"What if you spend that money and they don't remember?" Hmmmm...

We knew that was HIGHLY likely to happen. We also knew that God provided a way to take them when they were little. Given that, even though I'm not afraid of being bombed in Israel, I am aware of its frequent travel advisories, we decided to take them while we could.

It was one of the best decisions we ever made.

I knew before we left that we would make them Shutterfly books so that we could always remind them of their trip.

My friend is traveling internationally with her son soon and asked me for some tips for getting him adjusted to the time change as fast as possible. We messaged back and forth and I got so jealous of her trip to London and Italy and so nostalgic for our trip to Israel. After chatting with her, I went into their rooms and grabbed their Israel books down from their shelf.

I started flipping through Garrett's. He was seven when we flew him halfway around the world. We bought him a drawing pad and, at some point during our travels on the following day, we asked him to color a picture of his favorite thing from the previous day. We then took pictures of his drawings and included them in his Shutterfly album. Nearly three years later, I was looking back on these drawings and it hit me what a great idea that had been.

Now, while we did tons of things every day and there were many things every day that he loved (and sometimes he had a really hard time choosing), we have a glimpse into what really impacted our seven-year-old on his historical and biblical tour of Israel.

Our first day was spent alone with just our family. We arrived in Israel and spent the night right by the Mediterranean Sea. Garrett's favorite thing from the entire day was when his daddy threw him, repeatedly, into the sea. I sat on the shore, nursing a raging case of airsickness and the beginning of a sinus infection while three guys hit on me in Arabic.

On day two, Garrett drew a picture of him, his brother, and a women we'd just met who became a fast friend, standing in the ancient remains of Herod's Pool. Turns out they weren't really, actually, exactly supposed to get in it but it's his favorite memory from that day and no one threw us into an Israeli jail so I consider it a win.

Our third day was filled with sites. Among them, Tel Dan, which is stunning. People think of dirt and dust and heat when they think of Israel. That's there, but there is also water and trees and beautiful country. Garrett took off his shoes and waded through the streams and pools that come together to form the headwaters of the Jordan River. His picture, sketched with first grade hands, shows him standing next to a tree in the middle of a pool on our nature hike. The tree looks like a big person with blue hair. Just go with it.

One of the things we did on day four was visit a working replica of a Nazarene village. This kind of things was, is, and will probably always be right up Garrett's alley. I'm certain if he had any idea that places exist where people reenact the Civil War, I would have to move him to the battle field where he would set up permanent residence. He LOVED Nazareth Village.

Our fifth day was filled with archaeological sites and places with deep biblical history. I'd begged Troy to beg our tour guide to stop at Gan Hashlosha, a spring that they've turned into a type of natural water park. It's refreshing, beautiful and SO FUN. In the middle of a busy tour schedule, it was nice to take a dip. I'm so glad I pushed the issue and got it worked into our trip because it was my son's favorite thing that day. He didn't actually go fishing but there were fish so his picture shows some dude trying to catch them. Even though they were, like, the size of my toe.

Day six was also filled with sites. We took a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. The captain and his crew tossed fishing nets into the sea, the crew and some of our group danced a traditional dance, and the ride was what my kid chose to draw. His little brother ate a bunch of fish eyes that day. I might have drawn that.

On day seven we did so many fun things. Garrett stood in a waterfall in En Gedi, floated in the Dead Sea, and rode in a cable car. But, he was also baptized in the Jordan River. And THAT was what made the biggest imprint on his mind. The picture kinda looks like a couple of praying mantises playing in a pond but is, in fact, his daddy submerging him in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Day eight was spent relaxing in Eilat. I was in the horrendous stages of my sinus infection and we just went to the beach for a few hours before I slept all afternoon and the boys played in the hotel pool. I think it was one of his most favorite days. The picture shows Troy and me on top of a short retaining wall. The beach was below and you can see the boys playing beneath us.

On day nine, the boys climbed a hill. I mean, they did WAY more than that but that's what Garrett drew a picture of. We'd gone all over and, eventually, ended up at the valley of Elah where David fought Goliath. Troy took the boys up a steep hill and they ended up having to kind of slide back down on their bums. Garrett got some scrapes and scratches, had a blast, and drew all about it.

On day ten, among other things, we visited the Garden Tomb. Likely not the actual site of Jesus's resurrection but beautiful, peaceful, and impressive, the Garden Tomb stood out in Garrett's mind above everything else from that day. That's a tree you see. Not a giant carrot guarding the tomb. He must have been going through a very Picasso-y tree phase.

Day eleven was filled with so many Jerusalem sites. We walked the Via Dolorosa, saw Gethsemane, went to the western wall and more. But Garrett was seven. And Garrett rode a camel. Not a hairy elephant, a camel. I mean, he rode a donkey, too, but, apparently, the camel made a bigger impression.

On our last day, we walked a third of a mile through an underground, water filled tunnel that may have been used as an escape route out of the walled city. It didn't matter what else we did that day. Walking through an underground tunnel was most impressive to a seven-year-old. And to his then 32 year old mother.

I'm so glad we did this trip with them and so glad we had Garrett draw pictures. They're hilarious and also so telling of the things that might stick permanently in his mind. If you get the opportunity to travel with kids, DO IT. Jet lag, interesting foreign foods, scrapes and cuts and one kid barfing on the tour bus and all, I wouldn't change it for the world. They both talk--always--of wanting to go back and of wanting to see the rest of the world.

I'm also glad that his carrot/blue hair person tree phase will forever be remembered in this photo album.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Upon Seeing a Beautiful Picture

I see it time and time again, beautiful pictures of an adoptive mother seeing her child for the very first time. She's covered her mouth with a hand and tears are filling her eyes. It's caught forever, that incredible moment of love, joy, amazement and instant motherhood.

I don't have a picture like that of me.

I guess I could have faked it. I could have used every dime of my theatre degree to glaze my eyes over with tears. I could have reacted the way 90% of moms do which is exactly the way I imagine I should respond. And, truth be told, I feel sad and sorry because that wasn't my reaction with either of the children who have come to me through someone else's womb. But, in all honesty, it wasn't how I reacted to the son I carried either.

Of my four children, I only sobbed the first time I held one of them and that was because her heart was still. The ones that were breathing and moving and peering at me through eyes I'd longed to gaze into for forever, caused no immediate or intense emotional reaction.

In part, I suppose it's denial. I'd waited for each of them in painful ways and, once they got here, I think there was a part of me that was holding back, afraid to have that instant and overwhelming bond. Most of it is that people are always looking at me. If you'd put me in a room alone with each of my boys, I'm certain the tears would have flowed freely just as they did when the door closed and it was just Kate, me, and a flood of wounded grief--except in place of grief would be relief and joy. But there have always been doctors, nurses, and adoption coordinators standing by, watching that intensely personal moment.

The robot in me can't share the space. Because of that, none of my boys have a picture of their mother in awe, overcome by emotion. And so, they may forever think that their entrance into my life was without fanfare. They may wonder if I felt any kind of sudden attachment to them. There is, after all, no proof.

I just recently saw a beautiful picture of an adoptive mother seeing her boy for the very first time. I stared at it, wishing there was a picture of me looking that very same way. Instead, there are pictures of me holding them with stoicism written boldly across my face.

There aren't pictures of Garrett waking me in the middle of the night when he was six hours old, my newfound maternal instinct pulling me from a deep sleep as I flew into motion with that first cry. There's no picture of him, cradled against my body an hour later, as silent tears of joy dampened his head in the dark.

No one was there to take a picture of me staring through the window at Matthew before I was allowed to hold him. He wailed and I wiped tears from my eyes. All I could think about was getting to him so that I could hold him and make it stop, a non-biological maternal instinct that I found to be both surprising and beautiful.

There weren't hidden cameras when it was finally just Will and me and he snuggled into my body like we were always meant to be together. There were so many emotions, so much surprise that he was mine, so much to do to get him home, that my tears for him came later, in the privacy of my own bedroom, staring into his eyes and realizing the full weight of the miracle.

I wish I was a lovely person with lovely pictures to tell my story. Instead, these boys will have to settle for the words I splatter onto a page. Words about how they each came into my life and, behind the veil of privacy, I was finally able to really see them. And what I saw was glorious, miraculous, and life changing. What I saw were souls and smiles and blessings. What I saw were my babies. And I put my hand over my mouth and tears sprung to my eyes because they were perfect.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

My Phoenix

Hey Kid,

Somehow, some way, you're already three months old. A quarter of a year old. The fact that children grow up at the speed of light continues to astound me. The science of it remains a mystery to me. I meant to write you a letter every month but, life. Also, it's totally your fault because you all but refuse to sleep if your arms aren't strapped down. We really need to wean you off of being swaddled but you are completely uninterested in that business. So at night we swaddle you and during the day I hold you, rock you, put you in your crib, try to get a nap out of you and rejoice if you sleep unswaddled for more than ten minutes in a place that is not my arms. I just took a shower, made your brother lunch, and sat down to write. I knew I was operating on borrowed time and, sure enough, about three sentences ago you started crying. I'll leave you in there for a few minutes, hoping that you'll fall back to sleep. Your screaming will escalate and it'll all be over. So, I get nothing done, including letters to you. But that's okay because you are totally worth every pile of clothes unwashed, every speck of dust that lies in wait, every dinner thrown together at the last second.

It's louder now, that cry that only rings out when you're tired or hungry or want to be held. The one that will stop the moment I enter your room. It'll be instant, the switch from scream to smile. Because you are always happy to see me.

I'm pecking out the words with one hand now while you snore on my chest. You've got the neck of my shirt in a vice grip, as if to say, "Don't ever put me down, Mama. Oh the things I've seen in my crib. Dreadful things!"

Kid, ANY time that you happily kick next to us on the bed, sit in your swing, or chill in your bouncer is considered a major success because, generally, your opinion is that there are four able bodied individuals around here who should be more than willing to hold you AT ALL TIMES. Except you will sleep at night so thank you for that. Swaddled up tight, you'll gladly sleep for 8-10 hours. That particular feat happened consistently at 11 weeks.You weighed between 10 and 11 lbs. Your brothers consistently slept through at 8 and 9 weeks but they were also between 10 and 11 lbs. So my new theory is this: Back slowly off the night time feedings and then wait until the kid beefs up enough to live off his fat reserves.


You have fat reserves now! They appear in the form of two plump leg rolls and a pair of chipmunk cheeks. When I saw your teeny little body for the first time, I wasn't entirely sure that rolls were achievable. But then I stuffed you full of breast milk and just look at you now. Speaking of that, we've had a steady supply and I couldn't be more thankful. I feed you about half milk and half formula and it works well (as is evidenced by the aforementioned fat reserves).

Your smile, your curls, and your eyes SLAY me. It's like a trifecta of adorable traits that come together and form some kind of Mama Kryptonite. I'd sooner shrivel up and die than choose a favorite. You're just really stinkin' cute and I'm not even being arrogant when I say that because I had nothing to do with it. I mean it. Well done, to your parents.

You currently enjoy sucking on your fists, taking baths, and snuggling. You are, I believe, just moments away from laughing. You have been letting out a strange sort of guttural chortle which then surprises you so much that you start to cry. If we could just get you to realize that mirth is joyful and hilarious and not at all scary, I'm certain you'd be well on your way to constant laughter.


In your first few months you have flown on an airplane three times, been to the beach and the bay and the San Diego Zoo, gone swimming in pools, been passed around to more people than I could begin to count, and brought so much happiness into our home.

Sometimes, I get caught up in sports and diapers and church and school and homework and all the living and I'm just like, "I have a baby." And then sometimes, in the quietness of our time together--just me and you--I really think about it. I mean, you are this huge miracle, this fantastic work of God that landed himself right in my arms, this person that I didn't even know I needed. God is using you to heal a part of me, to turn to scar what was gaping and sore. It is as though the Great Physician has stitched you through the broken places. And when all is said and done, there will be a reminder of the sorrow--always--but woven through it all is the healing joy of you. Sometimes, tears spring to my eyes when you grin at the world because I simply could not have dreamed up the beautiful phoenix that would rise from the ashes.

I love you so much more than you can know or imagine.


Friday, September 2, 2016

The New 80

I'm going to be 35 in a week.

It's fine.

I mean, I'm not nearly as famous as I thought I'd be by now. But, otherwise, it's a good life. There's a curly topped baby squirming around in my arms, my husband works at a church and I work at a school so, really, not much has changed since this precise time ten years ago. Except now I live in Utah and have two other boys who call me mama. Or mom. Or the occasional mommy.

I still feel 25 except for all the joints that are bugging me and the fact that I've started to bruise with no apparent cause. In those ways, I am closer to 70. But my maturity level is still a solid, well, 15 (if I'm being honest).

What I'm trying to say is that, for the most part, I don't feel like I'm about to kick the bucket. Second graders, however, have an entirely different opinion of me. Yesterday, while subbing for a class--some of which I've known since I first filled in for their teacher in kindergarten--I was given the following dismal news.

At one point during the day, I heard one boy say to another, dramatically, "I'M TOO YOUNG TO DIE!" I have no idea why he said this. His life was in no immediate danger and I didn't hear the conversation leading up to this declaration.

A girl, one who I've known for a solid two years, chimed in. "Everyone here is too young to die except Mrs. B."

Awesomesauce. (Isn't that what the hip, young, whippersnappers are saying these days? No?) I am no longer too young to die. I guess 35 is the new 80.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Love, for the Right Reason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. I believe He did.

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


Monday, August 22, 2016

Dear Teacher on the First Day of School

Dear Teacher,

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

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

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

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

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

THAT SAID. I have just one request of you.

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

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

Friday, August 19, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To that end, here are some things...

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Great Poop Shoot

I wish I had seen it happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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