Saturday, August 31, 2013

Facts of Life

One day, I may write a book to forever remember the things that happen while I am substitute teaching. The working title: Go Easy on the Sub. While I realize that's a pretty small niche of people, I'm hoping to also attract Navy personnel and people who like sandwiches. I'll have a strong opening so that even those in the military are captivated.

It's a little challenging to write about my experiences with fill-in-teaching because I want to protect the privacy of kids who don't belong to me. My own children have no choice in the matter because I feed them, bathe them and generally provide for their well-being. It's a trade off. I raise them and they, in turn, give me good writing material. As far as these other kids go, though, I don't really want my blog getting hauled into court as evidence in some libel suit. Also, I don't want to get fired. I've never lost a job before and if I can survive the Summer from Hell without getting fired, I can survive substitute teaching. Fact.

I've experienced some really hilarious things in my short six months as An Undisclosed District employee. I've heard the funniest things come out of the mouths of kindergartners. I've had an entire class refer to me as Mrs. Pumpkin because I made the mistake of saying, "My name is Mrs. Doozleberry* but that's a little hard to remember so you can call me Mrs. D** if you want to. Actually, you can call me whatever you want. I'll even answer to Hey You." They were cute five-year-olds. I never really saw the Pumpkin thing coming. But it is what it is and now, sometimes, I tell classes that they can call me Mrs. Doozleberry or Mrs. D or Mrs. Pumpkin. It breaks the ice and lets them know that I'm not one of those subs--the kind I seemed to have for all of my formative years. The awful, old and outdated kind.

There have been words of encouragement and affirmation. There was the time that my teacher-friend told me the third grade class I'd subbed for said I was, "The best book reader of all time." And to think, my kids get that for free every night. Those boys don't know how good they have it. I've decided to lead with that from now on.

"What do you do?" someone will ask.

"Well," I'll reply. "For starters, I'm the best book reader of all time."

There have been frustrating times of lesson plans written in a dead language and next to impossible to decipher if not left with the proper code. I've powered through. I've had the teacher sitting in the room, watching my every move, because she decided she really needed to come in and do reading groups even though she needed the rest of the day off. See, some teachers don't understand that I actually know how to take a baggie book out, have a student read it, and then replace it with a new book.

But nothing--NOTHING--was quite as remarkable as what happened to me yesterday. But let me go all the way back to Monday.

I headed in to the school nearly a week ago and, as I walked, I heard students shouting things like, "Yes! First day of school! Wahoo!" I was immediately alarmed. Subbing. For first graders. On the first day of school? This sounded like a complicated recipe for nothing short of disaster. As it turned out, I was there to fill in for a teacher who'd lost her father the day before. It wasn't a big deal. They didn't actually start until Tuesday and I only had 15 minute interviews with all the students. I showed them their restroom, their spot to line up, their homework assignment. It was painless. I told most of the parents that I would probably be back for a portion of the week.

Their teacher managed to be with them on Tuesday and Wednesday. She left me detailed lesson plans for Thursday and Friday. We made it through Thursday with no major problems. Her form of disciplinary action is a yellow card on their desk that says, "Substitute." There's a little poem written on the card about expected behavior. She told me to punch a hole in the card if the student was taking too long to finish, had behavioral issues or was disrespectful. For great behavior, they could earn stickers.

On Thursday I punched three holes and gave out three stickers. Because, you know, I like to live a life of balance.

One student earned a punch for always delaying the class--despite my many efforts to get him to stay on task.

Another kid had to be asked multiple times to stop talking. Finally, during the second half of the day, when the entire class was quiet and focused on me, he shouted, "THIS IS BORING! I HATE DOING THIS! IT'S BORING!" I'd had it with constantly telling this child to be quiet and the blatant disrespect earned him a quick hole punch. We'd already reviewed what it meant to be respectful and how we stay on task. I explained to the class that shouting out our feelings of boredom was unacceptable. Later, another student chose to voice her opinion about being bored. She also received a hole punch. What I found odd was that it wasn't even close to the most boring thing we'd done that day. It was actually kind of fun. It was nearing the end of the day. They were tired. I have a first grader and I get it. But I have to follow the instruction left for me by their teacher. These hole punches are not the end of the world, by any means, and I counted the day a success.

Yesterday, I walked out the door with a smile on my face, ready to start the day. I was met by a line of happy first graders. Suddenly, a woman was quickly walking toward me. She got right up beside me. I don't have much of a space bubble, ask anyone who knows me. I'll hug anything. But this woman was IN THE BUBBLE, Y'ALL. She immediately told me who's mother she was.

"My child said he got his card punched yesterday. I need to know exactly what happened," she demanded.

Now remember, the bell has rung. I'm there to collect twenty students and take them to class. It's not actually the time for this conversation to be happening. I explained the nature of the cards to this woman. I informed her of the kind of behavior that can earn a punch.

"Right," she said, clearly dismissive. Clearly not hearing me but, rather, giving me the opportunity to speak while she formed her next sentence. I know this tactic because, when I'm being a real gem, it's what I find myself doing when I'm having a disagreement with my husband. "So, now he has to stay in at recess because you've decided to punish him for that?"

"No," I said, smiling. Attempting to defuse the bomb. "I'm not punishing him at all. It's just my way to communicate any issues with the teacher."

"So, because he speaks his mind, he's going to get in trouble when his teacher gets back. That's unacceptable," she was becoming more and more agitated by the second.

"Okay..." I began. It became apparent to me, after I replayed the entire conversation in my head, that I used the word okay way too many times. The problem was, I was so caught off guard, so surprised, that logical thinking was severely lacking. "Well, the rest of the class was quiet. I was instructing. He said it very loudly so it was a distraction--"

"Right. Listen. I'm an educator. Not only do I work with elementary schoolers, I work in special education...."

I thought to myself, "Apparently now she's sharing her resume with me as an intimidation tactic. A 'Clearly I have a higher education level than you do, therefore I must be right.' kind of move."

"...and I would never discipline a child in such a way. My child is entitled to share his feelings. He was bored. He should be able to express that freely. It's not his fault you're boring."

Oh. Wow. Did she really just argue that her child should be able to share his feelings regardless of situation and without consequence? Because being raised with this kind of garbage for instruction is going to get him approximately no where in life. AND I AM NOT BORING! Don't choke her. Maintain smile. Keep smiling. Wait...too much smiling. Stop smiling, you're about to start laughing. Fix this ridiculous situation. Keep talking quietly to counter her anger. 

"Okay," I said...again. "It's just that it was very disrupti--"

"Disruptive. I don't really think so. What happened is that he expressed his feelings and your pride got hurt so you took it out on him. Right?"

"No, my pride wasn't hurt at all," I said quietly, kindly, even, which took all the years of my theatrical training to accomplish.

"Yes. It was. Your pride was hurt because you're boring."

Thanks for telling me how I feel but my pride isn't going to be wounded because some kid thinks that the lesson plans his teacher left for me to do are boring. Lady, your kid is SIX. I hate to break it to you but he's not actually capable of destroying my pride.

"Well--" I tried to say something.

"Like I said, I'm an educator. This is not acceptable. I'm not satisfied with your response..."

Because you haven't given me a moment to respond.

"...So I'll be bringing this up with the teacher. And I'll be taking it to the principal. I don't expect to see you back here."

What exactly do you think is going to happen? Do you think they're going to cart me off to the slammer and you'll get to come testify at my trial?

"Okay, I understand," I said. Except, really, I didn't. It was like talking to an irrational eight-year-old in a grown woman's body. I have my own first grader. I know that they can be disruptive, disrespectful and strong-willed. The first grader is NOT always right. Even if I disagree with the choice a teacher makes, I realize that she is with my child (and twentysomething other kids) ALL DAY LONG. You can bet that, in the same situation, if I strongly disagreed with her, I would have said, "I don't agree with the course of action you took but I respect your position as his teacher and I'll talk to my child about not doing it again." Because my child needs to learn that we don't always agree but we do always treat authority with respect.

I marched that first grade class into their room. I was boiling with rage. As I began to teach I prayed silently that God would help me not to blame the child for the sins of the mother. He's six. He processes and reacts to situations with all the experience of six years. His adult mother doesn't have the same excuse. Not so incredibly, the child had a fantastic day. I called him back to the teacher's desk and quietly explained that getting a hole punch didn't mean I didn't like him or that we had any kind of problem with each other. We fist bumped. They exploded into fireworks. He smiled. He didn't talk out of turn. He didn't blurt out disrespectful things. I'm no genius and I don't actually have an education degree, but it seems to me, the hole punch worked.

During recess I told a couple teachers so that they would be aware of the situation if the regular teacher asked. "What does she expect to happen?" one of the teachers questioned.

"I guess she wants to get me fired from this school," I replied.

"Well, that's not going to happen," one of them said. "We really like you."

I left the regular teacher a detailed note chronicling the situation and I found the principal during lunch.

"Did a mom come in to visit you this morning?" I asked.

"No," he replied.

"Oh, well, she will," I warned.

Without asking a single question to gain perspective on the situation, he said, "How far did she fly when you hit her?"

I laughed and said, "I didn't. I just wanted to." Then I proceeded to fill him in. He affirmed that I had followed the teacher's instruction, that I acted completely within the boundaries of a student/substitute relationship, and that he, too, liked me and wanted me to return to the school.

So, it would seem, the mother just wanted to threaten me. She wanted to let me know that she's an educator and I'm just a stupid substitute. She knows how to handle children and I, apparently, don't. She knew nothing of the high schoolers I taught--as their regular teacher. She knew not of the two small children I raise. She had no idea of my own resume. She, it would seem, was the one who wanted to try to hurt my pride. She was unsuccessful.

It would also seem that, contrary to what she believes, we don't always get away with it when we speak our minds. Whether we are six or thirty-six. As a friend of mine said, "She needs to have her card punched."

**Not the initial I gave them

Thursday, August 29, 2013

School Days

I was with first graders all day on Monday and I was with them all day today and I'll be there again tomorrow and I might be there on Tuesday because their teacher's father passed away. The bad part--aside from, of course, the obvious--is that Monday was their very first day of school. So, see, the thing is, by the time their teacher comes back, they'll have been with me more than they've been with her and that's just a strange thing to think about when you're six and trying to figure out the whole school thing.

So today I said the words, "I was with crazy first graders all day long so stop acting like a crazy first grader even though you are one because I've had quite enough and you need to stop crying because mom can only take so much first grade drama in a day." Or something like that. Don't quote me.

Because my first grader DOES NOT WANT TO DO HIS HOMEWORK. AT ALL. The kid never complained in kindergarten. Sure he'd come home and do his homework for the entire week on Monday without a negative word. Now? Now he cries his ever loving head off over ten minutes of math and twenty minutes of reading because, "BUT I'VE ALREADY BEEN IN SCHOOL FOR SEVEN HOURS!"

I get it.

I do.

Today I told a kid that he needed to take fewer than eight minutes in the bathroom. The next time he went I swear it was longer. The third time I finally stood outside the bathroom after six minutes and said, "Seriously, what are you doing in there?"

The answer, screamed for all the school to hear, was, "I'M WIPING MY BUTT, OKAY?"


My bad for asking.

He walked out thirty seconds later.

"Did you wash your hands?" I asked, considering all the butt wiping.

"Yes!" he snapped.

"With soap?" I questioned.

He turned abruptly and headed back in, "Whoops."

So, yeah, I get it. First grade is long and then there's homework and sometimes you forget to wash your hands. But we're all going to power through. Those first graders will get their teacher back and she can deal with eight minute trips to the bathroom.

And my first grader will power through.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Open Letter to KSL


On behalf of every human being who has ever struggled with reproduction, I'd like to know why you ran "The flip side of infertility" by Arianne Brown on your website this past Sunday. Then, and with no more or less concern, on behalf of any individual who has ever studied writing or English grammar beyond the seventh grade level, I'd like to know how it is that you came to post such drivel to what is otherwise a relatively professional source of information.

I must admit that, as a once aspiring writer, I did find glimmers of hope strewn throughout the article--if we can call it an article. If this woman can successfully have her work (term used very loosely) published on your website, certainly there is still hope for me.

To address the latter issue first, throughout the article are sentences such as, "My mother bore 10 children, her mother had six, and I have a sister who began with twins, following quickly with two more in the space of three years."

We'll start with the numbers. You must be consistent within a category. Technically, yes, a number greater than nine should be written using numerals, but within a specific category, if you choose to use numerals, you must use them for all the numbers, including those less than ten. I certainly wouldn't bring this up on, say, someone's Facebook status update, but when it's something that is being published on a reputable website, I'd expect the rules of grammar to be followed. Speaking of followed, the twins that were born to the author's sister were followed quickly by two more. They were not following quickly.

The paragraphs in this "article" are reminiscent of a persuasive essay written during one's sophomore year of high school. There is relatively little, if any, transition between each paragraph and the points prove that there was a complete lack of research given to the topic. Additionally, the points that are made appear to be defending a separate argument altogether. There is simply not enough information given to make me understand why birth control causing blood clots is an argument for the "fact" that being fertile is so incredibly challenging. As any moderately informed adolescent can tell you, there are more ways to prevent conception than just the birth control pill. The grammar and general lack of understanding in regard to how an article or an essay should be written is simply atrocious.

Then, there is the offensive nature of the article. The fact that no one at your organization realized the absurdity of this article prior to it being published is astounding. Infertile women would simply love to be able to say "nursing and the mini-pill don't always work." They'd love to have to rearrange their lives. And every woman, regardless of position and fertility, has to decide when to call it quits. The woman who doesn't have a biological child has to decide when to stop trying. The woman with eight children has to decide when her family is complete. We all deal with whether or not we should stop trying after Joe or Kelly. To use this as an argument for why it is utterly challenging to be fertile is ridiculous.

I recognize that there are certainly challenges associated with "surprise" pregnancies. Just as infertility isn't in one woman's plans, an unexpected pregnancy isn't in another's. I would never argue that a teen pregnancy doesn't present an incredible list of challenges, nor would I wish this on anyone. A baby born 12 months after her older sibling will, obviously, present the parents with emotional, logistical, and physical limitations that may even be categorized as a trial. Even as someone who struggled through and with infertility, I know that. However, the fact of the matter is that when two people decide to engage in sexual activity, whether within or outside of marriage, pregnancy is a possibility. To be overly shocked by its occurrence is startling--especially to the infertile. To compare the challenges of being fertile to being infertile is to compare apples to a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Certainly they are both food, but that's where the similarities stop.

One is a medical condition often being referred to, depending on the diagnosis, as a disease. The other is a bodily system behaving in the way God designed it to. A friend of mine said, "Ultimately, I don't care that she wrote about her struggles. But to try to compare it to infertility was insensitive, patronizing, and out of line." One of my favorite comments on the article was written by a man. "The comparison that is being drawn by the author is not so different from comparing someone in poor living conditions that can't afford their next meal and the problems associated with being a billionaire..." Another person wrote that it was like a marathon runner telling a double amputee how difficult it is to have legs. My own husband said, "It's like saying, 'I know you have leukemia. I can totally relate because my allergies are really bad right now.'" I mean, I think we can all agree that allergies are miserable and can cause us to want to tear our own face off, but we'd all pick allergies over cancer. So the fact that, near the end, she writes, "Being fertile does have its challenges. Struggling with infertility has its challenges...merely being a mother and a woman has its challenges, and not one greater than the other." is really incredible.

I'm fairly certain the use of italics should have been on "fertile" and "infertility" because it doesn't really make sense to accent "does" and then follow it by accenting "infertility". I'm also mostly sure that there's an improper use of ellipsis there. But what do I know? I've never been published on your site.

A Concerned Reader

Saturday, August 24, 2013


My dear friend sent me this link to a post by Ann Voskamp and while I should be doing 1,000 other things, I had to sit down and share it. She's got it so much rougher than I, this friend of mine. She just moved her son into his dorm. Her oldest is halfway through his undergraduate experience. Her daughter is in high school. The baby isn't far behind.

"And before the sun goes down, kids carry cobs up to the side porch and we sit there in this circle husking and I keep looking round at their sun-kissed faces, that's all I can think, my hands all full of these husks:

It's never the wasting of time that hurts so much as the wasting of ourselves." -Ann Voskamp

He walked through the door, into first grade and I couldn't help but see the man-child turning and waving goodbye--if I'm very lucky--as he disappears behind the door of some dorm on some college campus some eleven years from now.


It's all so short, so fleeting. These days. These pieces of an endless summer that always crash into autumn. These moments of cannon balls and snuggles and jokes that are supposed to be funny but aren't--until he giggles so hysterically that I can't help but laugh. I gaze upon his skin and I wish I could make it stay all roasted marshmallow forever. But I know that winter will steal its warm summer glow. The tan will fade as the homework and the commitments and the grind of life replace bleached blond hair with responsibility.

I want to run away.

To an island with perpetual sun and salt. A place where I can freeze time and they will fit in my arms forever. Because they are already lanky limbs and too many inches and it's only a matter of time.

The sun-kissed ruddy hue of the youngest will lighten. Dark chocolate replaced with a lesser concentration of cocoa, hidden under a snow suit and boots. Bare feet will not wiggle through grass and mud. Not, at least, until next year.

And in the waiting, in the hunting for popsicles and grubs and flowers to pick, they will grow older. Until, one day, I find myself searching for June without them. Time is illusion. Clocks tick their slow curse. It is only moment upon moment, building up until I find myself at the end of a journey.

But oh how time is also the window into the blessing of the real joy-giver.

Without the tock-tick of the pocket watch we wouldn't wait, with eager anticipation for the nine months to pass before we hold the precious life that will turn into lanky limbs and man-child. We would not experience the intense joy that comes from loving a son we had no part in creating. We'd know nothing of counting down minutes until, at last, we see him standing at the end of an aisle, ready to start life. Together.

Without the passing of summer into fall, we'd not know the hope of graduations and celebrations and grandchildren. Without autumn turning to the ice of winter, again and again, we'd lose sight of the sojourn. We'd begin to believe that this is our home. We'd forget, completely, that what we wait for, what we struggle for, is the absolute certainty of eternity. Everlasting summer, perhaps. Something even better, indeed.

We wake up. Each day. We watch them change from babies to boys and, one day, to men. We wrap an arm around the husband of our youth. His beard comes in speckled with gray, so he shaves it. Summer leaves. It circles around again. And we can know, even as we mourn its loss, that the real test is that we find a way not to waste ourselves.

That whatever the loss, whatever the cost, whatever tomorrow holds, we live it well.

And we teach them to dream, to love, to dance in the brilliant warmth of the sun. And to dance in the snow.

Friday, August 23, 2013

First of First

I feel like I gave more instruction before the first day of first grade than I've ever given before. Be kind. Be friendly. Make new friends, don't be exclusive with the old ones. Don't talk when your teacher is talking. Raise your hand. Eat your lunch. If you don't eat all of your lunch, at least eat the healthy parts. Meet me here when school is over. Go to the bathroom during recess so you don't spend your teacher's time in there. If he remembers even half of it, he'll do okay.

I made him his first ever school lunch. 

Capri Sun
Turkey and cheddar on a pretzel roll
Veggie chips
Rice Krispie Treat

I only just realized that I may have forgotten a napkin. I thought I put one in. Maybe it's folded up under the drink? Oh wait, no. There it is, under the sandwich and the treat.

He was up early, so eager to go to first grade.

He briskly walked across the crosswalk, faster than his little brother's legs could even go. Faster than his mom or dad wanted to go. "I'm supposed to line up on the blue dinosaur! Where'd it go?" He was becoming agitated. We quickly explained to him that other kids had put their backpacks on top of the blue dinosaur. It didn't take long for me to locate it, buried under the baggage of the first day of school.

He has the same backpack as last year. In part, because it's in great shape. Mostly because we're going to have him take it to Israel in less than 8 weeks where it will likely get trashed from traveling and hiking and visiting ruins.

He already picked out a brand new backpack which I'll switch out with this one when we get home at the end of October.

I kind of can't believe he's grown up enough to spend a whole day at school. But, it has happened. The very first day of first grade.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Time Runs Out

I tried to suck as much summer out of this past week as humanly possible. The truth is, I start to dread the winter's inevitable approach in September. I like the fall here. Quite a bit, actually. But I'm such a warm temperature, play all day in the sun kind of girl that the mere thought of cold weather for six months straight makes me feel that a sudden onset of hives is imminent. 

I also love having my kids with me. Oh sure, they fight and drive me crazy and make me want to sell them to the next band of traveling gypsies, but, for the most part, I like them. I want them around. So the thought of sending my oldest off to first grade tomorrow makes me overwhelmingly sad.

In order to keep the fall at bay just a bit longer, I took the boys to the pool three times in the past four days. Today was kind of our last hurrah. The outside pool closes soon and with Garrett being in school full time, we probably won't get much chance to enjoy it again.

They jumped.

And splashed.

They flopped.


And canonballed.

 And twisted in the air.

We played a game that they call "Shark" where Garrett tries to get Matthew and me and then we try to get him. Our pool has a rule that anyone under six must be within arms length of a guardian which is great for safety but awful considering the fact that my four-year-old is a fish. So we have to be on a team together, swimming and running through the water, trying to catch the older brother, or stay away from him.

I threw them in the air and watched them backflip back into the water.

They slid.

And Garrett held up his thumb and little finger because every single time the camera points in his direction, he thinks it's necessary. In years to come I will refer to this as the Shaka Period.

Tomorrow we jump head first into the school year. Gone are the carefree days of summer. Here comes fall.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Playroom Facelift

It would seem that this blog has turned exclusively into some sort of surfer mom musings. It won't continue, I assure you. There's really no good surf in Salt Lake City. 


Today I overheard Matthew telling Garrett to "Get on the floor so that I can surf you!" The older brother had no problem obliging. Then, I think, turns were taken. 

So I did what any logical grom mom would do. I took down the little boy stuff in their playroom and turned it into a surfer room. It's still a little bit of a work in progress but I started by framing the autographs Garrett got while we were in San Diego.

She just got married. Garrett used to have a crush on her (I think) but after seeing her in person I think he realized just how much older and just how much taller she is than him. He'll have to go back to looking for a future wife on the playground. It will not be the little girl named Katherine.

"I wonder who will be in your class this year," I said the other day.

"Hopefully not Katherine. She'd just chase me and chase me all during recess, trying to kiss me, like last year. That would be horrible," he'd replied.

"Well...but...she'll still be on the playground because all the first graders have recess together," I reminded him.

"Oh! You're right. This is not good."

Anyway. The framed poster is signed. I have no earthly idea why it was done with a silvery pen that can only be seen in certain light.

I doubt that my son is going to want a poster of a female surfer that is simultaneously an add for female flip flops for very long but it'll be fun while it lasts.

I balanced it out with some male surfers.

Behind those male surfers are Winnie-the-Pooh cards that have been in Garrett's room since before he was born. I had to kind of just plow through covering them up. I'm still processing. The surfer on the left is Damien Hobgood. He's a Christian and he spoke at the camp. I have no idea who the surfer on the right is. I purposely picked a picture that didn't have a name associated with it because I don't know much about very many surfers. I'd hate to put up a picture of a pot smoking perv. Not that pot smoking and being a perv necessarily go hand in hand. But I'd rather not be promoting some surfer in my boys' room just to find out he's a horrible role model. So random surfer dude it is.

We had Bethany Hamilton and Bryan Jennings sign these fish. I had intended to laminate them but then I realized I would still have to push holes into them to hang them up. So I decided to frame them instead. They're hanging side by side on the wall.

Garrett drew this picture of surfboards while we in San Diego. My parents framed it. I hung it up.

My mom also made goody bags for the boys to enjoy while we were beach camping. I hung the bags from the wall and put their Hawaiian ukuleles inside.

This is part of their bulletin board...

And this is part of the bookcase...

Now the boys can retreat to their playroom to play "Stand on top of me and pretend to surf" even though there isn't an actual ocean for 700 miles or so.

So that's how I spent most of my day--still living and breathing all things SURFING despite the fact that vacation is over.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


This morning I was back at my church for the first time in three weeks. It was a great vacation full of relaxation, sun, sand and surf. I missed all the faces that I got to see this morning and I just wish I could bundle up everyone I've ever loved and put them all together in one great big church.

On the coast.

Maybe in Hawaii.

So many people asked me if we had a good time, several told me that I'm tan, and one said, "So, I think maybe I saw a picture on Facebook of one of your kids surfing." He was teasing, of course, because there are dozens of pictures on Facebook of my children surfing.

Just like there are dozens of pictures here that reflect the fact that yes, indeed, my kids surfed.

Do you want to see one more?

No? Too bad.

My mom took the picture. I cropped it and made it black and white. I love it.

My dad got stung by a ray on Thursday.

Apparently it hurts. Like a lot. My HWSNBNAKAEF* was stung by a ray while we were dating. I wasn't there but he said it was horrific pain. He had a flair for the dramatic so I thought he was exaggerating. I was wrong. Come to find out, there are women who would rather give birth than experience the barb of a ray piercing into their body, releasing an excruciating protein venom. It made my kids afraid to get back in the water. It made me reluctant as well. We knew a sting would beach them forever so we weren't too keen on putting them in a situation where it could happen.

But we were leaving Friday morning and we didn't want their last experience to be one of fear. So Troy took them both out again. I prayed fervently for the protection of all three boys while they were out. Matthew and Garrett both surfed. Every time Garrett fell off his board he jumped back on with such speed you would have thought the ocean was made of boiling acid. Later in the afternoon, my dad went back in with them. (Again, I continued to pray that the rays would stay away.) They surfed some more, with Garrett still acting as though the water was pure poison, but seeming to enjoy himself while he was standing on his board.

Then I went in.

Notice how I kept my feet up? You know, just in case any rays were lurking around there just waiting to sting them. (Not really--I know they don't around at the surface.)

I read that every year in the United States there are approximately 1500 people stung by rays. That's a lot of people. One of the lifeguards had been stung a couple times, another guy told my dad that he'd been stung twice, the man sitting next to us on the beach had been stung before. We talked to Garrett about the fact that if he is ever stung, it will hurt a whole heck of a lot but that it might not be worth giving up surfing forever. We talked about fear and not living our lives wondering about all the bad things that could happen if we take appropriate risks.

As we drove back to Salt Lake on Friday, the backseat was fairly quiet as Garrett drew and Matthew played. Then, Garrett whispered through the silence, "I just can't stay out of the water." He's scared of being stung, yes. But he loves the ocean. He loves to surf. And he doesn't want to live his life afraid.

We got home to find this video from surf camp.

Walking on Water Surf Camp 2013 from WalkingOnWater on Vimeo.

The song is called "Believer" by Audio Adrenaline. It starts off like this...

I want to live this life unsafe, unsure, but not afraid
What I want is to give all I got somehow

Giving up letting go of control right now
'Cause I'm already out here, blind but I can see
I see the way You're moving
God how I believe that
I can push back the mountains, can stand on the waves
I can see through the darkness, I'll hold up the flame
Take me to the ocean I want to go deeper
I'm not afraid no, I'm a believer
And so I lose this life to find my way and come alive
They can try to deny what's inside of me
But there is more, can't ignore all the things unseen
Oh I believe I can walk on water with You, Lord

*He Who Shall Not Be Named Also Known As Ex Fiance

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Now There Are Two of Them

He can do it now too.

Which is sort of ridiculous given that he's four.

And he lives in Utah.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Funny Boy

M: I'm gonna pway Yegos. You can pway with me if you yike.

Troy: Oh, I'd like too.


Troy: Why were you squeaking your toy before 7:00?

M: What?

Me: What toy?

Troy: His whale.

Me: His whale squeaks?

M: My whaya doesn't squeak.

Troy: What was squeaking?


Troy: Yep.

M: It was me.


Man. My kid cracks me up.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

To My Husband On Our Tenth

To My Husband,

It's getting late and I'm staring at a bright but blank screen. What can I say in an essay that I'll schedule to post three days from now? Because tomorrow I'll pick you up from the airport and we'll begin a three day adventure together in celebration of this occasion. And I don't know where we'll have online access because we still don't pay for an Internet package on our old cell phones. I'm certainly not going to sit in a Starbucks and type up a blog post with you hanging over my shoulder. I can't write nice things about you while you're looking. It's easier to think them and to feel them than to say them all aloud. You know. It didn't take you long to figure out that you might have married one of the least romantic women in the history of all time. And it's not that I don't place a value on it or desire bed of roses style romance, it's just that I usually find it so uproariously funny, so hard to take seriously. Which is why you're perfect for me.

Because when I spit the fortune cookie out so that I could ask if you were serious when you popped the question on April Fool's, you didn't think I was gross. I didn't swallow it first and then wipe the corners of my mouth daintily before replying. I just spit the thing on the rocks at the harbor, asked if you were serious, and then said, "There's nothing I want more than to be your wife."

Four months later I said, "I do." And if that was just an elaborate April Fool's prank, the joke's on you. You're stuck with me.

It's a lot to be saddled with, I know.

I'm just so naggy and bossy and loud.

And you aren't. Not at all. You're like my very own character foil. You complete me.

It feels like I should say something monumental. Ten years is a long time. Especially in this world of divorce and separation and defeat. But the truth is, it doesn't feel like a big deal. It doesn't seem like the milestone that I thought it would because it's all just Thirty years. Fifty years. Those are milestones. This, though. This is just another year of loving you. This is knowing that we just got married yesterday because I feel like I can remember every detail and I know it didn't all happen an entire decade ago.

But then I hear the noisy breathing of the kid sleeping nearby. He's almost four and a half and all ours and the pain that we went through together is almost a distant memory. How can it be an old memory when ten years ago seems like yesterday? His brother is here, too. He's all limbs and loose teeth and seven. Our oldest son is seven. And after all this time, the trial that came before him produced endurance and is considered joy.

So much has changed in these ten years, but so much has stayed the same. Your smile still lights up my room. Your arms still hold me tight. Your eyes still search mine and in them is the blue depth of your love for me. It's not always easy. I'm not always easy. You're not always easy. Our children are definitely not always easy. But I love this life something fierce. I love you even more.

I'm still not sure what you were thinking when you picked me after all those years of waiting for just the right girl, but I'm so glad that you did. I know that I don't thank you enough for what you are to me, what you mean to me.

So thank you.

For all that you've been and all that you'll be. My best friend. The father of my children. My husband. Happy Anniversary.

I love you,
Your Wife

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Lovin' It

I heart San Diego.

In summer, especially.

So far there has been...

beach, sand, surf and Mexican food.


pedicures, shopping, and more Mexican food with Mom.

And sun.

And four different pools.

Still to come...

My Chargers and his Seahawks.

The Old Globe.


Camping on the beach.

And more Mexican food.

Proving that you can take the girl out of San Diego--but it will still be her favorite city.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

More Surfing

I'm not sure I can say enough about Walking on Water Surf Camp. It wasn't just the surfing experience, which was incredible for a brand new seven-year-old. It was the devotions and the games and the staff. It was just the overall feel of a faith based camp. I didn't want to put my kid in the car yesterday and leave. I wanted him to keep surfing, keep learning from surfers who are grounded in their beliefs. This camp made me want to buy a big van, load it with boards, and follow Bryan Jennings wherever he might go.

Not because he'd make my kid a better surfer--although I'm sure he would. But because he's so genuine and so authentic and so passionate about making sure that these kids are believers first and surfers second.

I didn't even realize until last night, when camp was done and over, that this woman is a known actress and artist. In Hawaii, she pals around with the pros. In Del Mar, Faith Fay just palled around with my kid. 

His counselor, Katherine, gave him a semi-private surf lesson every day, took an interest in him, and pumped her arms in the air every time he caught a wave. And he caught a lot of them.

And Julian approached Troy and I on Wednesday and asked if we were Garrett's parents.

My first thought is always, "OH NO! WHAT HAS HE DONE?" But Julian just wanted to tell us that he thought Garrett was an awesome little kid. We think he's pretty special but it's always great to hear it from other people.

There's probably a limit to how many pictures you should take of one child during a five day span doing the exact same thing. I'm fairly certain I didn't hit that limit. After all, it's hard to capture that perfect surfer shot.

"I want to surf the outside!" he tells me.

"I really want to surf a barrel!" he says.

 And then, finally, "I want to surf Maveriks."

So it's probably a good thing that we live so far from an ocean.

But when I'm watching him ride waves, it makes me almost sick that I can't take him all the time.

Matthew liked surf camp, too. He's a happy kid where water and sand abound.

Garrett got all of surfer hair cut off today. He didn't really want to. I didn't really want him to either but it doesn't translate to Utah culture. Here, he's just one of the kids with surfer hair. There, he's practically the only boy in school without short hair. The extreme dryness doesn't help. It makes his hair look like straw. So, today we had his long blonde locks chopped.

I know I'm going to miss running my fingers through it.

And he's already declared that surf camp needs to happen next year. So I wonder if we're going to start this process all over again in a month.

I'm okay with the fact that he announced his love for camp and his desire to do it again because I was kind of already thinking the same thing.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Nothing's Missing

Yesterday, at surf camp, they announced that Bethany Hamilton would be at Hansen's surf shop signing autographs today at 6:00 pm. 

It should be noted that my seven-year-old son is BANANAS for Bethany Hamilton. I really sort of think that if he was ten years older he'd be begging her to dump her fiance and wait for him. It's a surfer boy crush. HE LOVES HER. Last summer, when we went to Hawaii, he continually asked if we might bump in to Bethany Hamilton. I told him that, no, probably not. Since we were on Maui and she lives on Kauai and also TRAVELS THE WORLD.

So you'd better believe that when he had the opportunity to get within two feet of his beloved Bethany Hamilton (never just Bethany--always Bethany Hamilton) he was going to take it.

We were told that it would be a BIG event. We needed to go straight from surf camp--which ends at 1:00--up to Encinitas and wait until SIX when the signing would start. 

He remained convinced.

It needed to happen.

After all, he has seen Soul Surfer at least twelve million times.

My sister-in-law and brother were kind enough to take Matthew for me. Matthew also loves himself some Bethany Hamiltons (yes--with the "s") but I didn't think he would love himself some five hours in the sun waiting for her.

When we got there, about 70 people were in line in front of us. We were told that she'd be signing for about an hour and get through roughly 250 autographs. I set up our lawn chairs right in front of this giant sign. It was facing the street in a busy beach town. 


Under Cobian Ambassador it reads: Bethany Hamilton has become a source of inspiration to millions through her story of faith, determination and hope. At the age of thirteen, on October 31, 2003, Bethany was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing off Kauai's North Shore. The attack left Bethany with a severed left arm. Miraculously, just one month after the attack, Bethany returned to the water to continue pursuing her goal to become a professional surfer. In 2007, Bethany realized her dream and turned pro.

Cobian is proud to welcome Bethany as an Ambassador and is excited to offer Bethany's Signature Sandal. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Friends of Bethany, a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing the hope and love of Jesus Christ worldwide by supporting and inspiring people through the life stories of Bethany Hamilton and others.


This was our place in line.

Garrett played and surfed in the sun from 9-1. Then he sat in line from 1:45-5:00. They gave us free waters, free pizza, and free Hansen's stickers. Then we moved from our spot in the blazing sun and he stood in line for another hour. Then we moved some more. Finally, at about 6:45, this happened.

That crowd was 90% little girls. And my son--who just really loves Bethany Hamilton.

And that's fine by me because she just really loves Jesus.

 It was fast.


She smiled and signed but didn't say much. Photos had to be snapped as you walked by. But Bryan Jennings from Walking on Water happened to be standing there doing crowd control. He and Bethany are good friends and she's done some work with Walking on Water. "This is one of our campers," he said to Bethany. "Did you get the shot?" he asked me.

"I'm not sure," I replied.

He took the camera from me and took two more.

The Rock Star (who's alias on this blog might need to be changed to The Grommet) got an autographed poster, an autographed plastic fish, and he stood two feet away from a surfer he adores. I'd say that nearly 10 hours in the sun today was totally worth it.

On the way back to the car I said, "Tell me something about Bethany?"

"She surfs really big waves."

"Yep. Tell me the most important thing about her."

He replied, "She loves Jesus."

Yes. Indeed.

There's a line in Soul Surfer where AnnaSophia Robb, as Bethany Hamilton, says to a child who is eyeing her body, "Something's missing, yeah?"

When we got back to my brother's house, Matthew asked Garrett what Bethany looked like. "Well, she has really golden hair," my older son replied.

"What does her body look like?" the younger brother asked.

Garrett paused, "Well, part of it is missing."

There is no overlooking the lost arm. The scar is entirely visible, there is no forgetting the tiger shark. Something is missing. But not in her life. The love of Jesus pours out in her smile, in the sparkle of her eyes, in the way she seems to love life. I spent thirty seconds with her. No words were exchanged. She was frantically scribbling her name onto posters. But I caught a glimpse of a life lived in surrender to Christ.

And it was worth the five hour wait.