Friday, July 31, 2009

Sleeping

Tonight we're having a women's slumber party at the church. Yep, that's right, we're putting on our p.j.s, watching movies, playing games, hanging out, and eating junk food. There will be prizes for different categories of pajamas.

I've never left Matthew overnight before. I hate when I leave my babies for the first time although, to be fair, I honestly can't remember the first time I left Garrett. I think he was about the same age. He may have been slightly younger. I left him with my parents. I'm sure he had a blast. I know that I am not technically leaving Matthew with someone else...he'll be with his father but it does pull at my heartstrings just a bit to think that I won't go pick him up in the morning. This got me thinking about what in the world I'll do if we lose custody of him. I cannot imagine that first day of not going to pick him up in the morning. I cannot imagine subsequent days. I wonder how many days will pass before I start remembering that he's not going to be there. I can't think about it for too long and I hope I never have to know what it's like.

We had our post placement exam today. If we weren't tied up in court, we'd be able to legally adopt Matthew in about four weeks. Oh how I wish we could. How I wish there was a period at the end of these adoption struggles.

But for tonight I will not worry about it. For tonight I will put on my pajamas and I'll head over to the church. Tonight I will try to channel my inner nine-year-old. I know she's in here somewhere, right where I left her, nineteen years ago.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh How The Years Go By

When The Rock Star was just a few days old we took his picture on his daddy's Seahawks jersey. By the way, it is ridiculously impossible that he was ever this small. Impossible. It was all a figment of my overactive imagination.

A year later he looked like this:
That's a lot of changing in a year. It always amazes me just how much they change in one year. They go from looking like some kind of glow worm type thing to a miniature human. It's unreal. The changes just kept coming because then he turned into this:
Note the shirt that he's wearing. It's a green shirt. There is a picture of a little creature and it says Mr. Silly. His daddy bought it for him and he adored it.

What strikes me, now that I see these pictures together, is how little he changed between two and three. Don't get me wrong, he went from barely speaking to chattering about anything and everything all day long. But physically, he just didn't change all that much.
Note the shirt that he's wearing. It's a green shirt. There is a picture of a little creature and it says Mr. Silly. His daddy bought it for him and he still adores it. I didn't even remember that he had this shirt last year, let alone that he wore it in the annual Seahawks jersey pic. Oh well. And hey, San Diego fans, never fear, Garrett is a huge Chargers fan. We figure it's okay for him to have two teams. After all, they're not even in the same league.
When I look at these pictures, in chronological order, they don't seem quite so impossible. But, when I look at the first one compared to the last, well, I practically hyperventilate and feel the need to drown my sorrows in some sort of non-alcoholic blended fruit drink with an umbrella poking out the top. It's sheer ridiculousness.
Just thought I'd share a couple more pictures with you to get my mind off the fact that my son will not stop growing and climbing and getting himself into all sorts of shenanigans that I feel directly correspond to the fact that he's now a little boy.
Slow down, Matthew! Slow down. Stay like this! There is no reason for you to turn into that huge three-year-old lying next to you. Tell you what, I'll let you get to six months. Then I want you to stay small and squeally forever.

Okay. So. On Monday The Rock Star and his daddy went to Men's Warehouse to order their tuxedos for my brother's wedding. Apparently, the lady who was fitting them thought it would be funny to stretch out a sock and put it on Garrett's head. Of course, Garrett found it gut busting hilarious. He had to show me the minute they got home.

Yes, I know. It sure looks like White Boy is wearing a do-rag. I think it kind of looks like he's getting ready to get his wig on because he's about to be in a play. And, well, you know that they share just about everything. That, plus the fact that we really couldn't resist, led to this:

Do-rag sportin' Spud. And we couldn't stop laughing. And Matthew thought it was just as hilarious as Garrett did.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tonight

Matthew is hungry. It's slightly past his bedtime and, therefore, his last bottle of the day is a little late. I've bathed him and he smells like Shea body wash. His brother is still in the tub so I lean against the wall in the hallway, staring into the bathroom, and gather Little Buddy in my arms. As he pulls thirstily on the bottle--the one with the frogs--The Rock Star repeatedly floods a boat with a cup of water. Then he yanks the boat up out of the water and declares, as the water runs from its pores, "Kinda looks like rain."

And it does.

I contemplate my contentment. These two boys who've made me a mother have also bathed our home with joy. Garrett's eyes get big. "What's that noise?" I raise my eyebrows as if to say, Your own incessant chatter? And he continues, "It's Daddy. Or the trash man." I hear the garage door close beneath us. If it's even possible, Garrett's eyes get bigger. They are round like saucers and he squeals, "It is my daddy."

As Troy passes by the bottom of the stairs I decide to mess with my eldest. I lower my voice to an eerie decibel and mutter, "It's not daddy." Then I pause for dramatic effect. "It's...the boogie man."

The Rock Star narrows his eyes and calls my bluff. "Mommy, it's not the booger man!"

Five Months

My Sweet Boy,

Just like the snap of my fingers, the fifth month of your life has disappeared into the evasive expanse of my memory. My mind's eye is dripping with the tears of formula, pool water and mashed bananas. Where, oh where, has the time gone? I suppose it can be measured in baths and bottles and naps and diapers but regardless of where it's gone, the fact that it's disappeared forever remains.

We've been working on your sitting skills. Sometimes you can sit on your own for several minutes but sometimes it seems that your center of balance is off and you instantly topple over. This month you started rolling from your back to your tummy. You don't do it with great frequency but you're certainly capable. When you're on your belly you try desperately to scoot. Your little legs kick furiously behind you and then you lunge, leading with your forehead, straight ahead. I'd say you generally move about a centimeter and it infuriates you. It all reminds me of when Billy Joel said, "Slow down, you crazy child, you're so ambitious for a juvenile..." You are so ready to chase after your brother and be a big boy. All in due time, son. Have patience. It will all be here before you know it. All that walking and talking and sword fighting and growing. It waits for you. Have some compassion for your mom. Don't grow up too fast.

Our pediatrician is part of a research team delving into the causes of childhood obesity. Some of their research has led them to instruct parents not to start their children on rice cereal but, rather, to go ahead and introduce fruits and vegetables. I fed your brother rice cereal and he certainly isn't obese but since rice cereal looks like already digested cottage cheese and generally does not appeal to my own palate, I figured I'd go ahead and listen to her and start you on the good stuff. In the last week we've fed you mashed bananas and fresh zucchini from our garden. You seem to enjoy it but you are definitely not a proficient eater. Most of your food ends up trapped between your chin and your collar bone. We call that The Land of the Lost Neck Folds. Many things venture there but few return. For about a week I've been giving you bigger bottles four times a day instead of five smaller ones.

Grandma and Grandpa came this month and we celebrated your brother's third birthday. You enjoyed playing with them and they took you on several walks. You adore going for rides in your stroller or in the wagon when it starts to cool down in the evening. Your grandparents got to witness, firsthand, your terrible temper. They'd seen it before because you had it on display when we were staying with them before we had permission to leave California, but they really got to see it this time. Matthew, you are such a happy little guy--when we're out in public or when you're getting your way. You've always been the little brother so I can't comprehend why you still think the Earth revolves around you, the sun rises and sets with your every whim, the world will end if you don't get picked up right this minute. When you're angry you begin to arch your back. You start to make a sort of hissing sound as your saliva pools under your waggling tongue. Your daddy and I say that you are "spitting venom" because, seriously, you transform into some sort of irritated poisonous snake. Really, child, it's unbecoming. You should stop.

Luckily you're often delightfully happy. You squeal and smile and play and sweetness pours from your skin. I think you just can't wait to talk. I think you have a great deal to say. I think, if you could, you'd declare your undying love for your big brother. All he has to do is walk into a room and you're all smiles and sunshine. The two of you have an incredibly special bond. I'm in no hurry for you to walk and talk because you guys are going to be in major cahoots with one another. It's because of your brother that you remain unconvinced that your name is actually Matthew. Your brother almost exclusively refers to you as Little Buddy. He does it so frequently that your daddy and I both do it too. Little Buddy is a bit of a mouthful so it's been shortened to Little Bud and, recently, Buddy. I think you're uncertain as to whether your official name is Matthew or Buddy. Additionally, I refer to you as Spud. Since Garrett refuses to say S's at the beginning of words, he has taken to also calling you Pud.

We've been spending a lot of time at the pool and you absolutely love it. You are such a water baby. Last night I took you down the twisty water slide and I turned you toward me so that I could see your face. You broke into the biggest grin about halfway down. You're not much of a fan of getting splashed but, well, neither am I. And that's saying something because I'm half German and half Fish. I hardly blame you for making sad faces when a ten-year-old does a cannon ball two feet away from us.

I love you. I love how you constantly play with your feet. I love how you look up at me after your morning bottle and coo with contentment. I love that you know I am your mama and you'll search a room looking for me. I love your precious little life. I love that you're five months old and that, for these past five months, you've always been mine. I will love you forever and I will continue to fight for you.

All my love,
Mommy

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Transracial Adoption

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for responding. I just want to take a moment to tell you that I certainly hope you don't feel like you can't comment here--even when it might be a difference of opinion. My blog is welcome to all comments. I appreciate the fact that I got to respond and, hopefully, clear up some misconceptions, even if we don't ultimately agree. I realize that your comment spawned an outpouring of defense. I started this blog as we prepared to move away from all of our family and friends. I wanted loved ones far away to be able to come here on an almost daily basis and get a glimpse into our lives. The number of readers grew to include new friends here in Utah as well as friends of friends and extended family members and then, incredibly, to people I've never met and have no association with anyone I know. Being that so many of my readers are dear friends and loved ones, I think that their love for me ignited their emotions. I really do appreciate that you voiced your opinion. It allowed me the chance to address concerns that others may not have voiced. Again, I hope that you would feel free to comment in the future.
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Dear Friends & Family,

Thank you for all the extremely kind things you said about my parenting skills and the hard work I do on a daily basis and don't get paid for. I appreciate that you understand that Troy and I are a team making one salary. You guys are the best.
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The other day I experienced my first blatant encounter with prejudice. Honestly, I haven't been looking for it. Perhaps it's happened before but never so that it couldn't be overlooked. Several days ago I took the boys to the pool. As I was unloading our stuff onto a lounge chair, I noticed that the woman next to us was staring at us. This is not a big deal. A lot of people stare at Matthew. If we're out in public, he's usually smiling. His giggle is infectious. And he's just so chocolaty delicious. I'm used to the stares. They always end in giant smiles and conversation often follows. As the woman stared at me I caught her eye and smiled. Then she made an extremely disapproving face and turned her back to me. I don't know if she was upset that I had an African-American son or if she disapproves of transracial adoption or if she was curious as to whether or not he was my biological son. I think the third option is pretty impossible. He doesn't look like he has any German blood flowing his veins. I shrugged and took my boys into the water.
We walked back up to our chair to have some crackers. My son refers to them as "Grandma crackers" because my mom sent them to him in the mail. As we sat down I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that she was staring at us again. I turned my full attention to her and smiled again. She returned my smile by locking in to my eyes and shaking her head, slightly, in disapproval. Then my husband walked in. He was on his way home for lunch and was taking Matthew with him so that I could have one on one time with The Rock Star. I watched as she pieced together that clearly, Troy was not black. I suppose this left her with one of two conclusions.

1. Matthew is, in fact, adopted.
OR
2. I was unfaithful. With a very dark man. And none of my whiteness came through. None at all.

Either option clearly appalled her. She didn't say anything. I didn't say anything. I let her have her rude look. It was the first that I noticed. It won't be the last. Transracial adoption is a hotly debated topic. I'm currently reading anything I can get my hands on about it. Maybe I'll come across something that will help me deal with unreturned smiles.

Although, to be fair, maybe she just hated my bathing suit.
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Coming soon: Five month letter to my son.

Monday, July 27, 2009

When There Is No Return Address...

Yesterday a comment was left anonymously. While I normally don't address comments left by anonymous individuals, I want to take the time to answer the concerns raised in the event that any of you had any similar questions but were afraid to ask.

Why not get a part time job on weekends, or nights to help out your family?
Believe me, I've thought about it. Whenever I see the signs, "Now Hiring," I think about walking in and applying. But here's the thing, I'm a pastor's wife and a mother. Those are my jobs. I'm not saying that I can't have another occupation and until we moved to Utah I did. But being a pastor's wife is not equal to sitting around doing nothing and then showing up at church on Sunday morning. I found a site where it was put this way, "...if the Lord calls a man into the ministry, He calls the whole man, and that includes the man's wife and his family. The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3 gives us the qualifications of a 'bishop' or what we call a pastor, and in verse 4 we see the following: 'one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence.' 'Rules well' is an idiom for being a biblical husband with a submissive wife and children that love and respect him. The pastor who is the head of his home will be more successful as a leader in the church, and of course this means that his wife is his helper in the ministry of the home as well as the church. The ministry is a partnership in all areas of life and not just in the home life. The wife does not do the work of the pastor, but the pastor and his wife are a team who are yoked together to do God's work." It would be impossible for me to work on Sunday and still fulfill my role as a pastor's wife. Due to my church commitments, which I am called by God to do, it would likely be impossible for me to work evenings/nights or Saturdays as well. Much like a politician's wife, I need to be at almost all church events in order to support my husband as the spiritual leader of our church. I could likely work during the day but then I wouldn't be investing in the lives of my children. My husband and I have decided, through prayer and biblical principle, that it is extremely important to us that we are the ones raising our children.

With all your close church friends and what not, if your husband can not watch the kids, maybe they would help.
Putting the above reasoning aside, there are several other reasons I could not work at the moment. To begin, if I worked nights I don't have a clue how I would sleep. I couldn't sleep during the day because the three year old and the baby would likely join forces and burn the house down. Not to mention the fact that we definitely wouldn't pass our post placement evaluations if I was sleeping instead of changing diapers. If I worked in the evenings so that I was back in time to sleep, my husband would not be able to commit to being home with them each and every night. He often has meetings and, additionally, has to make himself available when the people in our congregation need him. Essentially he is on call all the time. We certainly could elicit help from members of our congregation. However, if I made minimum wage, I would bring home $7.25 an hour. I haven't babysat in years but I assume the going rate for a sitter is much higher than $7.25 an hour for two children. Technically, unless I landed a job that paid much more than minimum wage, I'd be losing money by going to work part time. I'm sure that there would be people in our church who would be willing to babysit for free but that would certainly be a donation of their time. As we all know, time is money. I think I'd rather write someone a one time check of $100 than be their free babysitter on a weekly basis.

When most people want something they will work hard for it, and do whatever it takes, and not just sit around and wait for people to hand it to you.
Completely agreed. I have never intended for this blog to be used to "beg for money". Beg for prayer, yes. Beg for support, yes. Beg for money, no. The donation button is simply there for people who feel led to contribute to God's work--and yes, we believe this is God's work. We believe we are being called to fight for this precious child. When God calls us to do something, he provides a way for it to be done. He can provide in any number of ways but we certainly aren't waiting around for a handout.

I wish you luck, but honestly it seems like you should do some more to help yourself, than sit around and ask people for money.
The solution offered for us helping ourselves is for me to get a job. While this might help our financial situation, it would hurt our legal situation. One of the things we have going for us is that we are a stable family with two parents in the home, one who does not work outside the home and who is personally able to raise our small children. Additionally, when we were selected to raise and parent Matthew, we were chosen, in part, because I stay at home and have much time to devote to the boys. I remember a conversation I had with his birth mother about if or when I would go back to work. I replied that I likely would, when I no longer had young children who were not yet in school. I will not change the terms of our agreement unless God makes it abundantly clear to both my husband and myself that that is our only option.

Being a stay at home mother and a pastor's wife is hard and busy work. But they are extremely fulfilling jobs. If anyone has ever believed that I expect a handout, please understand that I absolutely do not. Accepting your donations has been humbling and often incredibly difficult for us. We simply never believed that the cost of this would double (with no end in sight) from our original estimation. We wish we could do it on our own. But we just do not believe that Garrett or Matthew would benefit from my getting a job. On a positive note, because of the generous gifts we've received, we can now afford the monthly payments. Obviously, there will still be difficult decisions ahead and times where we will be begging you for your prayers, but we hope no one ever feels guilted into giving us money.

This has all come off a bit formal and technical but is meant to give a straightforward response to questions that may have crossed your mind. It is not written with any anger or resentment. Hopefully by tomorrow I will be back to writing about life size tomatoes and the antics of The Rock Star and his Little Buddy.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Blessings!

Please continue to pray for Karsie!
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I want to take just a moment to tell you about some of the recent blessings we've received. Back on June 19 I wrote a blog about God being in control. I said:

Because of donations small and large, we have been able to continue our fight. God Is In Control of Things Number Three. To let you all know, we are almost out of money. I'm only saying that so that you can watch with me as the Lord does something awesome. I promise I'll write about it when it happens.

Donations slowed, although we were incredibly grateful for the amounts we were receiving. The account holding the remainder of our loan drained itself quickly. Still, we prayed. The last two weeks have been incredible.

1. We've been on a payment plan with Jennifer's* lawyer. In April, right about the time we entered into this payment plan, Troy received a raise of approximately $200 dollars a month. With me being a stay at home mom, we were using everything Troy brought in each month to pay our bills and eat and such. We agreed to pay Jennifer's lawyer the amount of Troy's raise and keep everything else the way it was. When I paid her this month, we still owed her $3575. We were at the point where we needed to enter into a payment plan with our lawyer in California. I really didn't want to have several payment plans so I asked Jennifer's lawyer if we might be able to drain the rest of our adoption fund, pay her $3000 and call it even. That way, we use what we currently pay her to pay our lawyer each month. She agreed, essentially giving us a $575 gift toward our adoption.

2. Our lawyer was willing to set up a payment plan. I called and asked what he usually requires on a monthly basis. When I heard the reply, "500," my heart heart momentarily sank and I wondered how in the world we'd be able to continue paying him. But then I heard, "But we'll work with you. What can you do?" And my offer of $200 was accepted.

3. We received $100 dollars from a couple at church.

4. We received $100 dollars given anonymously at church.

5. We received $20 dollars through my paypal account from someone at our previous church.

6. We received $50 dollars from an old and wonderful friend of mine. (And by old I mean that we've been friends for a long time, not that she actually is old.)

7. We received $75 dollars from a woman I have never met but we are quasi-related through marriage.

8. We received $150 dollars from dear friends.

9. My parents bought us a bed and mattress for our 3 year old so that Matthew could move out of the Pack n Play and into the crib.

10. My parents bought us $100 dollars worth of groceries while they were here.

I think that is it for the past two weeks (in terms of financial donations) but please forgive me if you're reading this and I have somehow forgotten yours. We have had times of feast and we have had times of famine. The last two weeks have definitely been a time of feast and we are ever so thankful to those who have generously contributed. The Lord has used you in a mighty way to bless us.

We will now be paying our California lawyer $200 a month. We hope that, eventually, we will also be incurring fees with our Utah lawyer as that would mean that he was working to finalize our adoption. In September, Garrett will start preschool. We had originally planned to use a major portion of Troy's raise to pay for Garrett's schooling. We are now praying for a way to pay both the lawyer and the preschool. We're confident that the Lord will provide. We would also like to begin slowly paying back my grandparents, who generously allowed us to spend their money in the first place--even though they aren't asking for it.

I promised to tell you all when we saw the Lord tangibly providing for us. He has. I know he will continue and I will share those blessings with you as well. Additionally, of course, he is providing strength for us through your faithful prayers. As we hear stories of those who are praying and as we see financial support trickling (and sometimes pouring) in, we remain convinced that, whatever the outcome, God wants us fighting on behalf of this child.

THANK YOU!

*Still not her real name.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Encounter

I needed to run a few errands so we all decided to go. I had a coupon for one of my favorite restaurants and we decided to stop for lunch. You would not believe what happened to us. Our boy is very likely scarred for life. We saw him (and I use the word him very loosely) before we entered the parking lot. He was standing on the side of the road shaking, well, his groove thing to be precise or vague or, well, whatever. Initially, our son was intrigued by his enormous head. When he first saw him he was concerned by the apparent elephantiasis of the head. I have to admit, in his current state of three, The Rock Star could not stop starring at the sheer mass--and redness--of this thing's head. His grin was plastered to his face almost stupidly and he locked in on Garrett right away.

Of course, being the kind of parents who want to encourage our child's acceptance of things he may not quite understand, we allowed him to walk toward us and, in fact, we took several steps toward him. Garrett clung to me, terrified of the the guy's green--yes green--hair. This no was common person we were dealing with. As we approached, the "man", not saying anything to us at all, held up his hand. I said in a weirdly high pitched voice, "Give him five. Or her. It might be a girl." Yes. I actually said that. Honestly, I just couldn't tell. He/she/it was wearing a green jumpsuit. It was extremely gender nonspecific. Well, The Rock Star smiled and gave it five. Then we turned to walk into the restaurant.

That is when all the underworld broke loose. The swollen headed, groove thing shakin', jump suit wearin' thing followed us. I must admit, the pace at which we were followed was a bit disconcerting. Not too fast, not too slow. Much like the villain in a horror movie that somehow seems to keep up with the sprinting protagonist without picking up the pace and without breaking a sweat. Although long sleeves, gloves, and a jumpsuit in Utah in July ought to have induced perspiration. Garrett, realizing that we were being followed, freaked out. He screamed bloody murder, buried his head in my shoulder and sobbed. I whispered that it was okay. We were fine.

The giant tomato was not going to get us.

Garrett was beyond crazed. He ran into the restaurant and hid in the corner, sobbing hysterically. The tomato just needed to come in from the heat for a little while. It waltzed around the restaurant waving at patrons. We managed to get to our table. We started eating. It appeared around the corner and Garrett literally lost his mind. He was kind of trying to climb the wall and tears instantly flowed with wild abandon down his barely three-year-old-andnowhecostsmoneyatthisparticularrestaurant face. Our entire meal was spent keeping tabs on the tomato. Was he outside? Was he inside? Was he near? Were we in imminent danger? At one point Garrett exclaimed, "Let's go to another restaurant with no May-toe. Somehow, by the end of our Sweet Tomatoes dining experience, we had convinced Garrett that the "May-toe" was a friendly, upstanding citizen and a model employee.

"You can tell by his smile!" We told our boy.

When we left, I asked him if he wanted to give the tomato another high five? He did. Of course, all the while he was vice gripping my neck in a half-nelson and imploring me with his big round eyes to get him out of there alive. Whatever it took. At all costs. I was not allowed to let the walking tomato get him.

Friday, July 24, 2009

You Might Be A Pastor's Wife If...

Last Sunday, at church, I received this book from my Secret Sister.

Obviously, I was immediately smitten with it. On the top of each page is says, "You might be a pastor's wife if". Some pages have cartoons drawings to accompany the ifs and some do not. I was in love with the book before I even opened the cover. However, once I flipped it open I very nearly promoted it to my all time favorite book ever. Even though it doesn't have much metaphor or imagery. Even though there is very little alliteration and almost no symbolism. Still, it almost knocked Chopin, Twain, Cather, and Lee right off of my bookshelf. Here's why. The very first page read:


You might be a pastor's wife if the term "fish bowl" takes on a whole new meaning.


Oh. Man. So I just about died laughing as I read through this book. Later that night I was talking to my brother using the webcam he bought us and I showed him page one. He then had an epiphany and exclaimed, "Oh! Is that what your blog means? I never really knew how you came up with that."

And seriously, my brother is a smart cookie. He's got two Master's degrees and didn't seem to lose very many brain cells when I repeatedly hit him as a child. If it had been anyone else, I might have made fun of them and then let it go. But really...he's smart. He got the looks and the brains and I'm still stomping my foot over the unfairness of it all. So I am totally concerned. How many people happen upon this blog and think, "Huh. She must really like fish." Maybe some of you think I am trying to hold on to my glory days as a competitive swimmer. Other's might think that, perhaps, this blog chronicles the deep thoughts of Shamu. (I know! I know! Shamu is a whale, not a fish.)

To clear it all up, once and for all, many pastors and their families refer to themselves as being in a fishbowl. It is somewhat like being in politics. Each and every choice has the potential to be scrutinized by those in the congregation or others who hold us to a higher standard. Of course, our standard for living comes from the Bible, but we do have times where we struggle with feeling, somewhat, like we're being stared at. On occasion, I've felt like one of those fish with the giant googly eyes. People are gathered around my bowl peering in and commenting about what great, albeit googly, eyes I have. For example: This bathing suit shows an inch of my torso. Is that too immodest? This one tends to ride yonder thus exposing a slight bit of Ms. Left Cheek. We can't have that. What if someone from the church shows up at the pool? I surely wouldn't want them to see the pastor's wife's buttock. My three-year-old is exhibiting normal three-year-old behavior but I'd better lay down the law because I'm the pastor's wife. We should look nice but not extravagant. This is often a challenge for me because, down here in the trenches of motherhood, I'm lucky if I can pass for anything except "frumpy" and I'm usually completely covered in spit up. Should I use our free Friday night to extend hospitality and fellowship with a family from the church or should I use it to have bonding time with my family or, oh wait, nevermind, it's not free, there's something on the church calendar.

I titled my blog with some of these very things in mind. It can be a real challenge to live in the fishbowl. But, what I've learned in my four years and three months as an associate pastor's wife and my one year and eight months as a senior pastor's wife is that it can also be incredibly beneficial to my spiritual walk. If I wonder how the church will respond to something, I should probably be wondering how God will respond. Amen?

Before you go, please take a moment to help me out with this poll:




Thursday, July 23, 2009

Garrett Speak

Please continue to lift Karsie and her parents up in prayer.

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These are some of my favorite things Garrett says right now. Consequently, these are some of the things I will miss most when he starts speaking correctly.

1. boggin=bottom. I know I've mentioned that before but I just adore it.

2. beego=burrito. Ever since I can remember, we've wrapped him "like a burrito" when he gets out of the bath/shower/pool. Today, as we got ready to come home from swimming, he looked up at me with his oddly hazelishgreen eyes and said, "Like a beego, mom." He's pronounced it this way for quite awhile but I don't get tired of hearing it.

3. willd=world. His new thing to say is, whole wide world. "It's my favorite nummy in the whole wide willd." Or, "Matthew is the best baby in the whole wide willd." (By the way, he's not. He has a terrible temper. But, of course, we love him more than we love any baby in the whole wide willd.)

4. So much. He says this all the time. Sorry so much. I love you so much. Ouch so much. Hot so much.

I know he'd get teased mercilessly if he still spoke like that middle school, but I'm not gonna lie, there's a huge part of me that doesn't want it to end.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blessed Relief

During my labor and delivery, I ordered my epidural with a side of baby.

Seriously.

I used to jokingly seriously say that I was going to pitch a tent outside the doors of the hospital just so I didn't miss the "window" I had heard so many people mention. My birth plan could have been summed up in one sentence: When due date approaches, administer epidural. I wanted no part of a natural childbirth and, believe me, I'd done my research. Don't get me wrong, I was terrified of getting it. I'm not a fan of needles and a giant one going into my spine was not something that sounded overly exciting. However, I didn't feel that what is often referred to as the "ring of fire" sounded like a good idea either. No thank you. If, at the end of delivery, I was promised not only a baby but a gold medallion and, say, my own personal yacht, I would have had to reconsider. Alas, I was handed the same thing "natural birth" women get handed. A baby. And I wouldn't change my decision. No way. No how.

To be honest, my epidural was administered when I was dilated to two. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I didn't know they gave them at two either. I'd already been in labor for 18 hours. I'd been awake--for the most part--for 28 hours. I wasn't progressing. The midwife who delivered Garrett walked in, declared that I was still at two, informed me that we were gonna party with some Pitocin, and recommended getting my epidural first. "You can do it at two?" was my shocked reply.

She smiled a smile that suggested that she somehow found my ignorance to be endearing and answered, "Yes. And I would highly recommend it before the Pitocin." I'm glad she knew what she was talking about because it took the anesthesiologist over an hour to finish anesthetizing some woman who'd seen fit to have a Caesarian. That happened to be the hour I clawed at the tile in the shower and wondered how, in the whole wide world, I was only at two. I've since wanted to throw several women into oncoming traffic for walking around at 38 weeks dilated to 4. However, it's been somewhat medically explained to me that when one isn't progressing, in a nutshell, labor sucks. Although, really, I could have written the book on that one. I called my mom, in between contractions, and apologized for being born.

Then he came in. There is no way to describe the anesthesiologist except to say that he had to be an angel sent by God. It's possible that I confessed my undying love for him. I was busy holding myself in the fetal position, with my hind quarters exposed to him and my husband on the other side of the room but I'm sure that proposing marriage to him crossed my mind. That man was about to end the searing pain. And end it he did. Then choirs of angels sang and the world was a better place. Seven painfree hours later, my boy was born.

Dr. John Bonica invented the epidural block in the 1930s. I am surprised that he has not yet been sainted. I adore that man. If I knew where he was buried I might have to visit his grave. I'd put flowers on it and then, oh I don't know, throw myself on top of it in gratitude. See because I wouldn't get dental work done without Novocain. I wouldn't have surgery without general anesthesia. I'm alright with the fact that there are masochists who maybe would have a cavity filled without being numbed, maybe would watch as they had gallbladder surgery without being knocked out, maybe would give birth without an epidural. More power to you. I hope your baby comes out wearing a gold medallion.

But as for me, I'm going to fondly remember my birthing experience. There was no "ring of fire". Thankfully, because, yick. That doesn't sound like any fun. There was no writhing or yelling or screaming or general conjuring of banshee like behavior. It was peaceful. It was calm. It was quiet. Except for the machines that were pumping that glorious medicine straight into my spine.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy Birthday

Dear Boy,

Three years ago you slid into the world and made me a mommy. You were the only tangible thing I always knew I couldn't live without. In some ways, I cannot remember existing without the slope of your nose, the shape of your ears, the sound of your voice. In other ways, it is impossible that you've been here as long as you have. It all seems like yesterday. All those late night feedings. All those dirty diapers. All the fun we've had. All the words you've said. There's no way any of it has happened because you're still brand new and staring at me with vernix all over your head. I'm still trying to wipe goo out of your eyebrow and contemplating how I can feel completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of what's just happened and completely underwhelmed by your presence all at once. Meeting you wasn't nearly as monumental as I thought it would be. Someway, somehow, it was as though we'd known each other forever. I'm still holding you on my chest and wondering how you are so small, how your head is so big, how you were inside of my body not even fifteen minutes ago, how my world will never, ever, be the same. You are three. One day turned into two. Two days turned into six months which turned into one year. One year turned into two and then, somehow, turned into three. The first picture I have of you was taken at seven and a half weeks gestation. You look like a bean. You were probably as big as your pinkie toe is now. It's impossible. I can't fathom a world where you are as small as your smallest toe, a world where my bean turns three.

In some ways I can't wait to see what tomorrow holds. It has been pure mostly joy watching you turn into a three-year-old and I look forward to seeing the person that you become as three turns to four. In other ways, I want to put a brick on your head and forbid you to grow. I want to banish even the notion of change. Scratch that idea--I want to reverse time and cuddle my newborn baby. I want to dance with six-month-old Garrett just one more time. I want to watch you learn to crawl and then walk all over again.



You are the most delightful, most challenging, most rewarding, most wonderful thing I've ever done. The work of parenting you is the best job I will ever have. Thank you for being miraculous, for shocking me on that day in early December with your existence, for meeting me on July 20, 2006 with a great deal of pushing and then a look of, "Oh hey, that wasn't so bad." I cannot imagine my world without you in it.

Happy 3rd birthday!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tomorrow

Three years ago I was lying in a hospital bed in Labor and Delivery. It was the beginning of what would be a 25 hour labor.


Tonight I watched my two-year-old fall asleep for the last time. Tomorrow, when he falls asleep, he will be three.

I don't know about this growing up stuff.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Your Prayers

To begin, I am so sorry that the link I posted last night was broken. It's been fixed. I'll list it again, just to be sure you realize how important it is to go there right now and read about Karsie Gene and pray for her!

It took me forever to fall asleep last night. I just kept praying, over and over, for Karsie. For Kevin. For Michelle. Being a mother, being so fiercely in love with my children, I could not begin to comprehend what she was going through. Eventually, I fell asleep. At 1:30 I heard Matthew screaming over the monitor.

Matthew started sleeping through the night right around two months. Honestly, I don't think he's woken up in the middle of the night since then. I darted into his room and snatched him up. It was then that I realized Garrett's bed was empty. I wondered if he'd taken himself to my parents, who were in the guest room. I wondered if he'd gone to lay on our floor. I wondered if he'd wandered outside--somehow--to play in the street or if someone had taken him from his bed while he slept or where on Earth he was. As I tried to calm Matthew, I quickly went back to my room. There, on the floor, was my boy. His perfect little feet were poking out from underneath his blanket. I looked down at my baby. He was falling asleep in my arms. I gently placed him back in his bed. In a way, I didn't want him to settle down so easily. A part of me wanted to rock with him for the duration of the night. To never, ever, let go of him. I crawled back into bed.

And I prayed for Karsie. I prayed that Kevin and Michelle would have thousands of nights with their precious daughter. I won't give any details on this blog--they have their own. And I sincerely hope that they are okay with me sharing the link here. I'd ask them but, well, I think they have much more important things to do than take my phone call. My hope for posting about this is that you will visit their blog and look into the eyes of their miracle and pray that she continues to defy the odds.

We have been so uplifted by the prayer of friends and strangers who have read about our drama with Matthew. I pray that Kevin, Michelle, and Karsie would benefit from some of my readers going before the Lord in prayer on their behalf.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Prayer for Karsie

Please, fall on your knees for little Karsie Gene. She was born today to my dear friends Michelle and Kevin. She is in surgery now and I urge you to read about their story on the blog that they keep and are updating often. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe it works and I believe that it heals.

Please. Stop everything you're doing right now and lift this family up in prayer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What We Know

1. Our trial date is still set for April. It is subject to change but likely wouldn't happen before December.

2. We agreed to monitored visitation where the BF comes here. It was strongly recommended by our attorney and, truthfully, we wondered why it hadn't been ordered sooner. The first visitation day will be August 15.

3. There will be a status review hearing on October 29. At that point, the pysch evaluations which have been ordered for BF and Jennifer will be available. Sometime between now and then, we need to meet with the doctor who is performing the evaluations so that she can get a read on us as well.

4. Our lawyer is still confident that the judge will ultimately want Matthew with us.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

While Little Buddy napped this morning, The Rock Star and I flipped through his scrapbooks. We were looking at the page that has a picture of the positive pregnancy test, his first ultrasound photo (done just a couple days after I found out I was pregnant), and two pictures of my then very flat abdomen. I asked him where he was in the picture.

G: In mommy's tummy.
Me: That's right.
G: (suddenly and with horror) You ate me?

We also looked through Matthew's scrapbook and Garrett pointed to a picture of Matthew's birth mom. "That's earth mother right there." I will likely have a vision of that woman every time I hear the words "Mother Earth" from here on out.

Finally, we also watched part of a DVD that my brother made chronicling the first 17 months of Garrett's life. He watched his first birthday party, saw the present my brother had purchased for him two years ago and said, "Oh no, mommy. I already have that!" Well, yeah. Hence the reason you're only one year old in the video and now you're almost three. Later, he saw another gift, sighed and muttered, "I have that, too!"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hearing Tomorrow

Turns out they deposed the BF yesterday. We didn't know it was even happening until it was over and I think I like it that way. I think I like not knowing that thousands of dollars are being spent. I think I like being ignorant of court proceedings altogether. Apparently it went fine. Tomorrow is the status review hearing and we are supposed to get the trial dates. Please pray that the dates would be perfect for our family, that Matthew's attorney would believe we are the best place for him, and that we might be able to either put this all behind us quickly or put aside our stress for many months while we wait for the trial. The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 PST.

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MY PARENTS ARE COMING TOMORROW! Never, in my whole life, have I gone this long without seeing them. The Rock Star is very excited. They are going to help us celebrate Garrett's birthday on Sunday. His actual birthday is Monday and I simply cannot believe that I'm about to have a three-year-old.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Dream of Ranches

I think I could live on a ranch. I mean, I wouldn't want to do all the hauling and corralling and sweating that ranch life would include, but I think I could handle the simplicity of being out on acres and acres of earth. I could handle wearing a cowboy hat and jeans and boots. I could handle riding my horse down to the creek and swinging into it on the old rope swing. Except that I hate horses. Not the idea of horses, mind you, but the horror of actually riding them. Oh I'd have a horse on my ranch. She'd be named something like Bailey or Henrietta. She'd be entirely brown and would stand, stoically in the field. Unfortunately, I wouldn't get within twelve feet of her. Such is my fear of horses.

I wouldn't hate the horse itself, just the giant teeth that could take off my finger, the bucking ability, and the sheer hugeness. I wish I liked to horseback ride but there was a particular horse who managed to buck me off, knock the wind out of me, and then break my arm all in the course of, like, a week when I was seven years old. I know, I know. You gotta get back on. I did. But I hated it. And that's when I stopped believing in horses. Or, at least, believing that I ought to ride them.

But I should have loved riding because then I could have lived on a ranch. Even a smallish farm would do. Someplace with hard work and huge morning breakfasts. A world where simple is better. I grew up with plenty but, like most kids, I had friends who had so much more. And sure, there were times when I wanted the newest things but, for the most part, I was content with what we had. My favorite times were vacations at "our" cabin at Tahoe or tent camping in a national park. The best times were the simple times.

It's no secret that I didn't marry for money. Undoubtedly, I married for love. In the grand scheme of things, we have plenty but, like most people, I have friends who have so much more. Sometimes I wonder if they can be truly happy. I mean, can one be truly happy without ever having learned to tent camp? I'll probably get hate mail for that very statement but I'm only slightly kidding because I, myself, cannot comprehend it. I am so thankful that my parents taught me about life and showed me how to live one where the best times were the simple times.

I would love to love riding my horse through the breeze, one hand on my cowboy hat so it doesn't blow away. Sometimes I think about going somewhere, sometime, and hopping up onto a horse. I ponder overcoming my fear of the collosal beasts. I consider, even, getting close enough to feed one an apple. Then I start convulsing and nearly pass out.

It's almost irrational, this fear I have of horses.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pool Time

Today Troy had to run an errand and, instead of taking Garrett along like he usually does, he took Matthew. I decided to take Garrett over to the pool, just the two of us. Troy and I left at approximately the same time and, when Matthew went with Troy, Garrett burst into tears. "I want Little Buddy to go with us! I don't want him to leave. Bring him back!"

Oh boy. I explained over and over again that he was running an errand with daddy and we were going to have some time together. He finally stopped crying. As we loaded our stuff into the car he smiled.

G: We are going to the pool just us.
Me: Yep. Because I don't get to spend enough time with just you anymore.
G: Yeah.
Me: Why is that, do you think?
G: Because now we have Little Bud. (Pause. As though I'd be upset by this statement of fact he continued.) But I don't want him to leave. It's up to God and Jesus.

When we got to the pool he wanted me to slide down the red, twisty, slide with him. He does it by himself but he really likes to slide with someone. First, we went down on our boggins (that happens to be one of my favorite Garrettisms ever) and then I suggested that I lay on my tummy and let him ride down on my back, with his arms around my neck. That's what we did and, as we got out and headed up to do it again he looked at me and almost whispered, "I love you so much."

The feeling, my precocious precious son, is completely mutual.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Almighty God

The rising Sun that fills the sky
The starry host that lights the night
Reflecting Your glory
The mountain heights, forever stand
The rain that falls to soak the land
Respond to Your glory
Almighty God, in every way
You are above and beyond understanding
If we did not praise, the rocks would cry out
Glorious God, high above understanding
The vast expanse of earth and sea
Held by You in harmony
Speaks of Your glory
All You've made, since time began
Life itself; Your perfect plan
And it's all for Your glory
Almighty God, in every way
You are above and beyond understanding
If we did not praise, the rocks would cry out
Glorious God, high above understanding
Creation joins as one to sing
“What A Glorious God.”
So far above all earthly things
Almighty God, in every way
You are above and beyond understanding
If we did not praise, the rocks would cry out
Glorious God, high above understanding
Almighty God, in every way
You are above and beyond understanding
If we did not praise, the rocks would cry out
Glorious God, high above understanding
That was our offering song this morning. We have a hearing this week. It's scheduled for Thursday and we should get our trial dates at that point. I'm a little anxious to find out when the trial will be. Will we wait until April or, perhaps, later? Will they spring it on us quickly and we'll go to trial this summer? Where will Matthew end up? These are the things I worry wonder about. But, wherever he grows up, he will be in the protective arms of an Almighty God who loves him. A God who is always worthy of worship.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Papa v. Barney

Yesterday, after The Rock Star got up from his nap, we were watching The Brady Bunch. When it was over, a little commercial came on promoting The Andy Griffith Show. The short tag showed Barney Fife saying, in his classic voice, "You just gotta nip. You gotta nip. You gotta nip it in the bud. IN THE BUD!" When it was over, Garrett turned to me and squealed.

G: That looks like my PAPA!
Me: (dissolving into a fit of laughter and heading straight for the phone) It does?
G: Yeah!

When I relayed the story to my mom she asked me to ask him what about him looked like Papa. (For the record, my dad does NOT look like Barney Fife.)

Me: What about him looks like Papa?
G: His tar.
Me: His car?
G: No. His tar.
Me: (blank look)
G: On his shirt. Twinkle. Twinkle. (Pause) The tar!
Me: Oh! His star!
G: Yeah!
Me: (To my mom) His badge.

Yeah, well, my dad and old Barney have one thing in common. They are officer's of the law. Later, my dad called to ask me a question and when I answered the phone he replied, "Barney Fife here."

Friday, July 10, 2009

World's Most Perfect Baby Carrier

On Sunday night we had an event at church. My friend, Christy, approached me with a bag. Her sister (who happens to be the mother of The Future Mrs. The Rock Star, who also happens to be the wonderful woman who threw the Fundraiser Party for us) had found formula for half off and had picked some up for us. I was expecting the formula but I was not expecting the mosquito netting that I found saddled up beside Matthew's next meal.

Truly, when I first saw the item I thought it was some sort of bug keeperoutter thing. It sort of resembled a much smaller version of this:

I took it out. Contemplated it for several moments and headed straight back to Christy. I held it out as if to say, "What on earth is your sister giving me mosquito netting for?" Before I could ask what, pray tell, it was, Christy informed me that it was the most magical piece of baby equipment ever made a sling.

Now, I swore by my Infantino SlingRider Baby Carrier when Garrett was a baby. I swore by it because the second my tiny tot was placed into it, he fell into a quick and sudden slumber. It was almost as though he was Sleeping Beauty and he'd just pricked his finger or Snow White and he'd just taken a bite of the poisoned apple. It was that fast. However, when I wore it, my neck and shoulder just swore. They let out a string of profanity. No matter what I did, I couldn't get them to stop cussing. Troy didn't have a problem with it hurting his shoulder and, well, I didn't care. I was willing to sacrifice my body for a napping infant. We used it. We loved it. It got us through many months of Garrett's babyhood. I never used the SlingRider much with Matthew. He liked it fine but he was so much fatter than Garrett that my shoulder couldn't handle it. Plus, Spud's always been a good napper so I didn't need to use the sling to induce instantaneous sleep.

I also used a front pack with Garrett. I've used it a few times with Matthew but it also puts pressure in weird places on my neck and shoulders. It's also slightly difficult for me to get into and by the time I manage to add the baby into the mix, he's usually shrieking. I love it if there is someone there to help me get Matthew into it but if I'm alone, it's not much fun.

Well, when Christy told me what it was and then she and another friend of mine, Michelle, who has a baby herself, began showing me how to use it, I started getting excited. There are several ways to carry the baby in the sling (you can watch some of them here) but Matthew's favorite is this way:

My hands are totally free and there is absolutely no pressure on my shoulder. The first night I had it, Matthew chilled like that for over an hour and then promptly conked out. According to Missy (the maker) "the material is solarveil which blocks 80% of the UV rays so if you have them in the stroller you can drape the wrap over the umbrella for a little added, ventilated protection. You can also machine wash it and hang it to dry. It drys in like 10-15 minutes. Make sure that you don't wash it with anything that has Velcro on it...it will adhere to the sling and weaken the material." So, since it blocks 80% of UV rays, I like to take him out in it and do this with the extra material: Another position that we've tried is with Spud sitting on my hip. I'm still hands free and he's still totally comfortable. I mean, he didn't say that in so many words but I figure if we can walk around for awhile and he never makes an unhappy peep, he's probably enjoying himself.

You can, of course, use it in the traditional way if you have a newborn. My son will not sit still long enough to let me take a picture of him in that position. He might miss something. He'd much prefer to see what's going on around him.

But, the best part is still coming. The other day, I wore it in the pool. I take The Rock Star and The Spud to the pool a lot these days and it's a challenge to hold them both at the same time. I can do it, mind you, but it's not as fun as, say, eating funnel cake. (Yum. I love me some funnel cake). Troy was with us during this particular pool excursion but I wore it anyway because Missy said I could. Matthew loved it and, after awhile, here's what happened:

Matthew does not cry in this thing. He loves it. I love it. I love how it doesn't hurt my shoulder. I love how it's easy to get on and easy to get Matthew inside. I love that I can use the excess fabric as a spit cloth. I love that it folds up super small and fits in my diaper bag without having to take everything else out. I love how good Matthew looks in blue--but that's not really important. I love that, what with the baby inside and all, I feel, somehow, as though I'm from Africa. Not that he's from Africa anymore than I'm from Germany but...nevermind...tangent.

So...because I love (did I mention LOVE?) this sling/wrap/most wonderful invention in all the world, I told Missy that I would blog about it. She sells them for $40.00 and that includes the shipping. I don't know for sure but I assume that she can do them in several shades. Michelle has a pink one so I'm certain that they, at the very least, come in blue and pink. Additionally, the fabric is super strong and Missy still uses it to carry around her daughter, who will be two in the fall. If you know anyone who wants to own the most perfect (did I mention that I LOVE this thing?), least painful, versatile baby carrier, you can email her at missymaydunn@gmail.com.

I really, truly, quite seriously, not even kidding, totally recommend buying one from her.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Prayer Request

Several days ago we received another bill in the mail. June's fees totaled $2,382.97 but this time I didn't burst into a fountain of tears. I didn't contemplate bank robbery. I felt, somehow, nothing. I threw my hands up in the air, looked up to heaven, and said, "Whatever. You're in control. You know what you're doing."

He is in control. He knows what He is doing. But I just paid the bills this month and, when I went to pay the attorney, I discovered what I thought to be true. The loan, once we pay everyone in full, will be exhausted. I emailed his secretary and asked if we might be able to set up a payment plan. My heart feels heavy with the weight of this situation. It cries out for Matthew's well-being. My mind and my humanness wonder what will happen in the end. What I suspect is that I will be stronger for having endured this trial. What I know is that I will have been drawn deeper into the presence of the Almighty. What I need are your prayers.

I am asking the Lord to work a miracle. I am asking for financial relief and I am asking for an end to this battle. Yes, I am asking for a favorable ending for our family but, above that, I am praying for what's best for Matthew. I've been praying that prayer for over four months and it's still the first request off of my lips. He is my son. I will always want what is best for him. Please join with me in praying that the Lord will see fit to work in a mighty way. We have heard stories of people we've never met who are lifting our family up in prayer. Whether we have a personal relationship with you or you've found our story here on this blog, we are thankful for you. The Lord has used you to minister to us through prayer and we beg you to continue praying. Thank you. I know we could not be doing this without you.

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If anyone has a question about Matthew, this process, our faith, or anything we've learned through this ordeal, please don't hesitate to ask. Feel free to leave a question in the comment section or send me an email. I'd love to answer any question that might help direct your prayers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cast of Characters

It rained on us while we were in Oregon. As we approached the Idaho border it sprinkled on our car for about ten minutes. That was the extent of the moisture I saw while we were there. This leads me to the only logical conclusion I can come up with. Oregon was abducted by aliens.

I didn't complain about the weather even once the entire time we were there. Oh. No. Wait. I did complain once--kind of. I don't actually remember being a brat about it or anything but this was the windiest day at the beach ever! We were supposed to take The Rock Star swimming and he really wanted to build a sand castle. So. After we hiked up a big sand dune, dipped toes in the water, and tried our best to keep the crazy blowing sand out of Spud's eyes, I hiked back over the sand dune while Troy and Garrett speedily threw together a sand castle.


This has become my new favorite picture of the Spudster. Is it just me or does that smile scream, "Happy! Healthy! Well-adjusted!"? I also think that, behind the grin, he's saying, "Hey, attorneys, please stop sending my parents monthly bills exceeding $2,000! It'll be another 22 years before I'm a running back for the San Diego Chargers. They're broke, y'all. It's not funny anymore!" I like it that Matthew thinks certain phrases like, y'all, even though he was born in southern California, yo.

I'd like to introduce you to the characters we spent the week with.
Below we have Matthew and his Aunt Jana. Aunt Jana is Troy's baby sister. Aunt Jana is 2.5 years older than me. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Troy took "robbing the cradle" to a whole new level when he married me. Aunt Jana wanted to kidnap The Spud. I can't say that I blame her.

Below is Matthew and Aunt Jolene. We are kindred spirits in that we are both raising two boys. There are no lacy frills in our world. There are no tea parties. No Barbie dolls. Just dirt. Dirt and little boys who drop trou outside and take great delight in watering the bushes.
My boys and their "Uncle" Ed. Uncle Ed is a family friend and great guy. He preached on Sunday morning at my FIL's church. He knows the details of our court battle and he really wants Matthew to remain in our custody forever. It's nice to have an African-American lawyer from the Chicago inner city on the side of the pasty white folk.

The Rockstar and his cousins (Jana's kids), "Gaycie" and "Tolby". Yeah. Not their real names--just the way my son happens to say them. Gaycie A.D.O.R.E.D. Matthew. She was, seriously, obsessed with him. It was much like the way I was obsessed with her during Troy and my first year of marriage. She was less than a month old when we got married. The only difference is the fact that she's almost six. So, like, it's okay for her to follow me everywhere with the baby. Jana might have thought it was weird when her 22-year-old brand new sister in law was stalking her infant.

Papa Gary and four of his ten grandchildren. Plus his daughter. He really likes being covered in grandchildren. For real. If he had his way all of his children would have like eight kids of their own. My guess is that he'll probably have to settle for ten. Total.

"Damma DeDe", her son, and his boys. Damma DeDe likes being covered in grandkids, too. She also likes to give Matthew his bottles. And hold him. And burp him. And cuddle him. And bounce him.

Garrett and his other Oregon cousins, "Tooper" and "Hoyer". (Jolene's kids). Garrett and Hoyer played really well together--they're only four months apart. We took a different picture of them and told them all to look grumpy. It was hilarious. We never could get all of them looking grumpy at the same time. One of them would always dissolve into giggles.

The End.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Oh I Wish I Had A River...

As we drove through The Gorge, Troy informed me that the reason he has a hard time acknowledging certain bodies of water as rivers when they clearly look like creeks or streams is because his reference point for what a river should look like is the vast Columbia.

The next day Troy slept as I drove from southern Idaho to Salt Lake. As the car approached a sign I thoroughly contemplated waking him. The sign read, "Raft River". We crossed over a teensy weensy little brook. It looked to be about a foot deep and approximately three feet wide. I'm certainly that rafting would have been impossible. Even for, say, a four month old in a blow up rubber ducky.

I, therefore, feel that this stream has been improperly named. Is it, maybe, larger in April? Does it widen and produce huge rapids elsewhere in its windy course? If not, I refuse to refer to it as "Raft River" and am unofficially changing its name to "Itsy Bitsy Brook".

Monday, July 6, 2009

Enchanted Forest

While we were in Oregon, we took the boys to The Enchanted Forest. All the other times I've been to Oregon with Troy, I've wondered about such enchantment. Now that I've been there I am certainly glad that we did not visit it on our honeymoon or any of the other times that I didn't have children. I'm thankful that my husband knew what he was talking about when he told me it was for kids.
The Rock Star loved it! Spud mostly sat in the stroller and gazed at all the foliage overhead as his older brother darted from witch's head to rabbit hole to caves to slides and back again.

We each took Garrett on the Ice Mountain Bobsleds. Think "Honey, I Shrunk the Matterhorn." It was hilarious! The Rock Star laughed hysterically the entire time. We also let him drive a bumper boat and witnessed, first hand, the fact that he possesses my "focus face" when he's taking something very seriously.

Um. This picture is wrong on so many levels. Apparently, White Boy is fighting for the Confederate Army. When we went to take this picture, Troy told me that they'd both be Union soldiers. But then Abe was all, "Here are your uniforms." And, well, you just don't argue with the President. At least Matthew's father was fighting for the abolition of slavery. I don't know that boy in the background. Apparently he thought it'd be awesome to be a part of this family. I can't say that I blame him. We're a happening bunch. We pose for photographs even when there is clearly some dirty laundry being aired. Even when, you know, one son wants to enslave the other.

Pretty soon after this shot was taken, Garrett fell and skinned his elbow. I said that it was fine and that we could handle it but Honest Abe insisted on calling a medic. I was horrified as we stood waiting for Medical to show up. Thankfully, when The Enchanted Forest says medic they mean employee on a golf cart with a Band-Aid. We bandaged up the flesh wound and let Garrett have a popsicle.

I wish the fun had stopped with a bleeding elbow but nooo. As the afternoon continued I approached a booth to return an unused ticket. Troy sat on a bench and started making a bottle. I felt Garrett at my side and put my hand on his head. As I tousled his hair he ducked out from under me. Engaged in conversation with the ticket lady, I assumed he'd run down to where Troy was sitting, about twenty yards away. When I got my change back I turned and looked down at my husband. Not spotting anyone nearby with rock star qualities I yelled to him.

Me: Do you have Garrett?
T: No. You do.
Me: No, I don't.
T: You did.
Me: (quickly scanning the area) Well, clearly he's not with me now.

What started as me thinking he was somewhere right by and just, well, shorter than the crowd, turned into me realizing that he was no where in sight. I was standing at a spot where four pathways come together. I dashed up one of them, toward the Funny Fake Matterhorn, and then ran back down to where Troy was. He handed Matthew to me and took off down another path while I waited in the middle. Eventually, a woman walked up to me and asked if she could help me. "I can't find my son," I replied. She answered that she could tell by the look on my face. Within a matter of moments, several people were looking for my son. I described him as being, "About 37 inches tall with really short dark blond hair wearing a green Wall-E shirt and brown shorts." As five minutes turned to six and then seven (maybe...I wasn't actually looking at a clock as I contemplated my missing not quite three-year-old) I began to really worry. I figured he'd wandered off to play with something and didn't realize he was even lost. That's what I figured...but the paranoid mom in me was screaming, "What if someone took him and is headed out of the park right this minute!" So I told Troy to tell the ticket lady to tell someone to seal off the exits--at least for any little boy matching Garrett description. He informed her that our son was missing and she called out on her radio. Someone responded that a little boy who matched Garrett's description was sliding down her slide just then. Her slide: the one he hadn't been on because the sign said 3 and up. Just as she radioed that she had him, one of the women who had joined the search party spotted him. Before I knew it she was walking around the corner holding his hand.

As I was writing this, he saw the pictures and said, "Enchanted Forest. I got lost there. It was very naughty."

Yes, he was instructed that we do not wander away from our mommies. Ever. We stayed glued to her hip until we are at least 23 years old. Period.

Other than the skinned elbow and the whole missing person situation, we had a great time. We spent 32 dollars that day. I think, other than gas, that was close to the sum total of our trip. My in laws fed us. Our friends and family housed us. We did pay for a couple of meals on the road but all in all it was a very inexpensive vacation.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Journey Back

When we drove out to Eugene, Oregon, we went through Bend and, as previously stated, the drive was hellacious. We decided to drive home through northern Oregon. I'm quite happy to report that it took just as long but (and that's a really big BUT--I'm telling you) we took longer stops yesterday to try and keep the natives from getting restless. And by the natives I mean mama. Mama can only take so much incessant chatter. Mama can only handle the contents of the toy box being dumped on the floor fifteen times. On the sixteenth time, she starts to lose it. Mama doesn't like it when the baby is fed and changed and decides to scream for no apparent reason at all. Mama knows that something has snapped when she starts referring to herself in the third person. Mama has clocked an enormous amount of hours on road trips in her twentysomething years but has never found herself wanting to claw at the windows quite as much as she did on this particular trek. Although, to be fair, the return trip was much better than the journey west.

We left Eugene on Thursday afternoon and drove up to Portland. The Rock Star got to see his cousins, Tooper* and Hoyer*, for a couple of hours and then we met one of my friends for dinner. Ashby and I were in theatre together in college and her parents, who I had only met once before, generously opened their guest room to my family. After Troy got the boys to sleep, we started watching SNL:The Best of Amy Poehler and ohmygoodness almost died laughing at Amy being Christopher Walken. Seriously. The funny part is Amy. Before her and after her are only moderately humorous. We had to watch her lines like 85,000 times and I haven't laughed that hard in a really long time. It was the kind of laugh that sort of almost hurts. My ribs felt like they were going to start breaking off one by one and my face was sore with hysterical smiling. It's good to laugh like that once in a while. If you watch it and can't, for the life of you, figure out what is so funny about it, wait until after midnight and add Ashby and a bottle of peach Schnapps. We didn't have any Schnapps. We didn't need it. We are theatre people, remember. I'm just saying, if you don't find it funny...maybe Schnapps would help. If you still can't find the humor, well, I just...I guess I can't help you. You might be drunk though so I will come hold your hair while I mumble something about how, "this is what happens when you drink."

We left yesterday morning, after I pried my second born out of Ashby's vice grip. We drove from Portland to Boise and then stayed at the same place we stayed on the way to Oregon. Our friends were out of town but they gave us a key and let us crash at their house. We are grateful for this as it had a direct correlation to mama not losing her marbles. The drive through the Columbia River Gorge was much better than the drive through Old McDonald's Farm Land followed by Buck Cunningham's Onion Patch followed by Crazy Uncle Joe's Cattle Farm followed by Burns, Oregon followed by Mr. Crabtree's Carrot Field followed by Praise the Lord We Made It To Bend followed by a screaming banshee possessing the vocal chords of our baby for two whole hours. So even though the trip back was better, we were thankful to not have to drive 14 hours in one day with two children who have, as the sum total of their ages, 40 months of life experience.

This morning we got up and headed out just before seven. We made it home just after noon and did absolutely nothing for our 4th of July except prance around in the glorious knowledge that our butts were no longer affixed to the seat of a car. Truthfully, the boys did really well. Considering the fact that they were in car seats for over 32 hours for this trip, mama is proud.

Five minutes from the house The Rock Star exclaimed, "I want to drive back to my cousins!" Mama simply turned her head in his direction and shot him "the look".

P.S. I'm mama.


*names have been changed because, well, that's how Garrett says them.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Letter To A Four Month Old

Dear Matthew,

Three days ago you somehow managed to tumble, headfirst, into your fifth month of life. You were officially four months old on Sunday and I don't know how we've gotten to this, my favorite month in the life of a baby, so quickly. I adore four month olds. It has something to do with still being immobile but also being so alert and interactive. As far as these things are concerned, you haven't disappointed me. I'm not sure I've ever heard a more vocal baby. I kid you not, you don't shut up. You're either squealing, giggling, or babbling as you smile at anyone who will look at you, or you're crying because someone stopped talking to you for thirty seconds.

You are very seriously considering rolling from your back to your tummy. Matthew, all you have to do is throw your leg over and you'd be an official roller. At times, you are completely on your side with your arm totally out of the way but your legs are all, "Nah. Not today." It's alright. I'm in no hurry. I'm trying to savor each and every moment of your babyness while I simultaneously wish you into adolescence so you can just tell the court that you want to stay with us.

This month, you proved to everyone that you're my son by catching your first stomach flu--or something quite similar to the stomach flu. After two trips to the pediatrician in three days because of projectile vomiting, we're still not entirely sure what you had but we know it involved shooting barf three feet across the room. I was truly worried about the fact that my three month old was capable of such a feat. Garrett, on the other hand, cared mostly about the fact that you were throwing up on his floor and that it was, indeed, hitting his bookshelf which was several feet away. But don't think, even for one second, that he doesn't adore the ground you lay on. This month he has taken to saying, at least once a day, "I want Matthew to stay here forever and ever and ever." Every morning, when I am feeding you, he climbs up and says, "Good morning, Little Bud!" This is followed by rubbing your head and kissing some part of your body, usually your arm. Matthew, he is completely smitten with you.

You've driven from San Diego to Salt Lake City and now you've also driven from Salt Lake to Eugene, Oregon. We took you to the northwest to meet your Grandpa Gary, your aunts, and cousins. It took sixteen long hours to get there and we discovered that you're a great traveler for fourteen hours. You are not a fan of the car once the first fourteen hours have passed. You enjoyed Oregon, mostly because you were rarely put down. There isn't a shortage of aunts and cousins to play with and your Grandma and Grandpa are in love with you.

Thank you for smiling and laughing so often. It shows me how well adjusted you are. It reminds me that "it is no small thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us." -Dickens. Matthew, we love you more than you can ever begin to imagine. We love that you are happy. We love that you are healthy (mysterious vomiting excluded). We love that you have a family and, especially, a brother, who find you as irresistible as we do. My whole heart is yours, as well it should be. For you didn't grow under my heart, but in it. Thank you, Son, for allowing me the privilege of being your mother for these past four months. I love you!

-Mommy