Monday, December 30, 2013

He Could Play Hockey

This kid lost all of his teeth. I mean, actually. Almost all of them. Well...most of them. He's lost 8 now. 

He's still the sweetest.

Except when he rolls his eyes. The other day he rolled his eyes at me. I gave him the death look. He said, "What? I just did this..." and then he demonstrated the eye roll again.

Yeah. That was what I had a problem with in the very first place, pal.

He's a good big brother.

He's a good son.

He's a good friend.

He's a happy kid.

And, also, sometimes, a scary one.

He's like a tiny little hockey player.

I think I'll keep him!

Saturday, December 28, 2013


This kid.

I love him more with every passing minute. If that's possible. 

He's just exquisite. And I can say that because I didn't give a single, solitary drop to his DNA.

He's smart and athletic.

And funny. Did I mention funny?

He kisses my cheek, hugs me fierce, and wraps me around his little finger.

Tonight, as I was snuggling him tight, I thought about how darn lucky I am. His mother chose to let me be Matthew's mommy. I was hand picked to love that face and the tornado of passion and brilliance and fire that lives behind those eyes.

Hand picked. Almost five years ago.

Why should I be so blessed?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Way of the Ships

He talks in his sleep.

He gets it from me.

It is, most definitely, one of those things that falls into the "nature" category.

I check on them every night. Every. Single. Night. To make sure they're still breathing. I don't know why. They're seven and four and, for heaven's sake, if they weren't still breathing, it might be better to get one last good night of sleep before spending the duration of my lifetime in gut-wrenching grief.

I place a hand on them. Usually this makes them turn over because my hands are always ice cold. Turning over is good because turning over means they are still alive. If they don't move, my hand feels the rise and fall of their tiny chests which also means they are still alive. So far, so good. They've always been still alive.

The other night I placed my hand on Garrett's chest. He immediately began to speak to me. "Mommy! Mommy!" It sounded incredibly urgent.

"What?" I whispered.

"Can you go back down?"

I was standing on his brother's bed so that I could reach him on the top bunk and, at first, I thought he was annoyed that I was touching him and wanted me to get down. But then he followed up his question with, "You know, like how the ships get on?"

How the huh does what now?

" you want me to?" I asked him, amused.

"Yes. Please," he answered. Then he burrowed his little self deep into his covers and stopped talking.

So I got down. But I have no idea if I did it the way the ships get on.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Elf on Our Shelf

We have elves.

They do things like this...

And this...


Garrett's friend Brett* (of Bloody Mary fame) didn't have an elf so he did what any sensible first grader would do. He made one. Out of what, I have no earthly idea. Apparently, this elf possesses magical powers and moves around at night--just like Garrett's elf.

This prompted a hysterically funny conversation a couple of days ago in which Garrett declared, "Brett made his elf. I mean, he just made it. And it moves at night. I'm pretty sure it's just Brett's mom and dad moving it around while he's sleeping."


Hmmm. You don't say?

Meanwhile, he still believes, wholeheartedly, that his own elf moves all by himself.

You know, despite the fact that his hands are sown together and he has a rather large tag protruding from the back of his red felt unitard. 

*Still not his actual name.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Let It Snow--Because It Doesn't Give You a Choice

Today I had a million and two things that needed to be accomplished. A handful of them involved driving in horrendous weather. If you don't live in a place that has winter, FYI: when it snows, the roads are just awful and you may as well be in a parking lot. Generally, when it snows, I have a rule. It involves howling to anyone who will listen that I AM FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AND I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DRIVE IN THIS STUFF. But then I woke up one day and I'd been living in Utah for six years and, well, it's kind of high time I figure out how to drive in the winter because sometimes I really need to get my haircut. And go to Winco. 
It is pretty. Which is good because its aesthetic appeal covers a multitude of nightmarish qualities. Like sliding through intersections. And shoveling the driveway.

Sometimes I think happy thoughts about beaches and San Diego--just to make it through.

But sometimes, my house is all aglow and the ground is covered in white.

If you lived here, you'd be home. There would be a fire in the fireplace and Christmas cookies on the counter. And you'd have an entire night before you had to worry about driving in it again.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Parenting: Optional

Can I just take a minute to say that parenting is hard. I mean, like, climb back in bed because the cards are stacked against you anyway and one of your kids is white and one is black and one day one of them is going to bring home a book about Thurgood Marshall and segregation and the brick and mortar you've pieced together into a protective wall is going to come crashing down.

Parenting is hard.

For a variety of reasons.

Kids are hard. I mean, really. You mold them and scold them and praise them and raise them and they rarely say thank you and sometimes they say they hate you. And sometimes they throw mashed potatoes. And sometimes they throw up.

I say all of that because I totally get that sometimes we're just at the end of our ropes with our kids. Sometimes it feels like we can't try any harder to make them turn out right and mine are only seven and four and they haven't yet been caught with marijuana. Or caught mooning a school bus (true story in my own family but I'll just let you ponder whether it was my butt or my brother's that was seen by a district employee). So, like I was saying, parenting is hard.

I don't really want to knock other parents for doing it the best they can.

But. Just.


There was one child last night at Matthew's preschool Christmas performance who decided to sprint back and forth across the stage over and over and over again. He threw every prop they handed him. He threw himself down in front of the other kids. He jumped off the stage and then jumped back on. He rolled across the platform as though he fancied himself a bowling ball and his classmates were the pins. Throughout all of this, his classmates sat. They stood. They sang. They stood on stars. They danced. They did what they were supposed to do.


I get it. I really do. The fact that my own child actually behaved and did everything according to plan is astounding. It gives me great hope for kindergarten. It was a bright and shining moment in my life. Earlier in the day I had filled out his kindergarten registration form. Garrett is on a transfer to the school he attends so I needed to fill out a transfer for Matthew. There was a question on the form that said, "Has the student ever been expelled from another school?" I wrote no but I thought, "Give it time."

See, Matthew is as strong-willed, competitive, and stubborn as they come. Add to these character traits an alarming sensitivity, fear of being laughed at and desire to challenge authority and you might begin to see why the past four and a half years have been exhausting.

That being said, we've been as consistent as we can with him. We've loved on him and instructed him. We've attempted to channel the "force" of Matthew into positive outlets. We firmly believe that with prayer, consistency and love, we can direct a challenging childhood personality into an incredible adult. The fact that we are slowly seeing the fruits of our labor is a blessed reward from above.

Six months ago, at his June performance, he stood on stage. He didn't make a scene but he refused to participate and he refused to smile, opting, instead, for an angry scowl. I didn't remove him from the stage because, like I said, he wasn't being disruptive. He wasn't trying to bulldoze the other children. He wasn't a colossal distraction. The rest of the audience was not mumbling about, "Whose child is THAT?"

I cannot say the same for the little boy last night. I was seated next to the preschool teachers who were directing the other children through clenched teeth. They tried to get him to stand. They tried to get him to sit. They tried to get him to stop drop kicking his hat across the stage. All while the parents looked on.

Sometimes four-year-olds have a bad day. Or a bad year. Sometimes they don't want to sit still. Sometimes they refuse to cooperate. It happens. Not much can be done. Because you can lead a four-year-old through life but you can't make him mind.


They just sit and snicker?

They make the preschool teachers attempt to deal with it until, finally, the preschool director has to pull the kid down and make him sit by himself on a bench? They ignore the fact that the director is physically holding their child on the bench because, when she lets go, he tries to sprint back over to the stage in an attempt to knock kids over?

They ignore what's going on and then laugh about it when the show is over?

You can't really make a kid obey. But you can pull your own child down from the stage, march him into the hallway and give him clear and concise expectations. You can make him sit on your lap and no longer be a distraction. You can do something other than laugh because that signals that you're fine with his behavior. And if you really are fine with his behavior well...I just...I don't understand. Can you explain it to me?

I know there are people who think we are really harsh on our kids. I know there are other people who think we aren't harsh enough on our kids. We're trying to strike a balance of love and respect. We're trying to get our children to be free thinkers while still conforming to acceptable societal standards. We're trying to teach our children that our love is unconditional but our rewards are not.

I'm sure that we're all trying our best--even the parents of the human bowling ball--but I find it frustrating that I'm raising children in an era when discipline seems wholly optional. I'm left thinking about our crumbling standards. I never would have gotten away with that kind of behavior. And I don't know very many people my own age who would have.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A New Trick

I've given a talk called The Pursuit of Perfection at two different conferences now. In it, I talk about this incessant need we have to be better, be more, and fit into a societal standard of perfection. I discuss what biblical perfection means and how the only expectation we have to meet is the one God has for us--not what the rest of the world wants us to be...or do. Still, we try to be Superwoman. We try to take the good aspects of every woman we know and possess them all. It's impossible. It's exhausting. It's devastating.

In the opening minutes of the talk, I reference things that my friends are doing. Many of them are taken directly from things I've seen on Facebook. When I rattle off all the great accomplishments my friends are, well, accomplishing, it sounds ridiculously overwhelming. Of course, each of them is only doing one or two things, not all of them.

But, in any case, it sounds something like this...

In this age of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other forms of social media, we are confronted daily with all the areas we might be failing. I have friends who feed their families all organic, others who are getting promotions, having babies, writing books, writing plays, running marathons, buying new cars, starting ministries, buying homes, tweeting about their immaculately clean homes, working full time, raising kids full time. I have friends who have four year olds that are READING! I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water. Isn't it enough that my four year old knows his letters? Isn't it enough that my first grader remembers his backpack? No! It's not enough for me. Because I'm a recovering perfectionist and I fall off the wagon a lot.

Later, I discuss that it's okay for us to settle for a degree of mediocrity. We just can't be the very best at everything we do. So believe me when I tell you that I don't honestly know how this happened.

(He seems sad because he is not loving the fact that the camera is on him. He's the opposite of his brother.)

I mean, I meant it when I said, "Isn't it enough that my four year old knows his letters?" Truth is, it IS enough. I didn't really mean for this to happen. His brother learned to read (after a lot of work and hair pulling) just before he turned six and just before he started kindergarten. Once he put it together he flew through books and he's reading at an end-of-second-grade reading level, but the road was long and filled with tears--only some of them were mine. So I was hopeful that a year or so from now, my youngest would learn to read. Then, six months ago he shocked me by moving letter magnets around on the refrigerator and reading two letter words. A couple of months ago I realized he could also read three letter words. In the last month or so he's started recognizing some sight words and willingly sitting down with books. Of course, he's at the very beginning of his journey with reading. He's a work in progress.

But, yeah, he's still four.

I really had very little to do with this.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bloody Mary

A little bit of background before I jump right into this gem of a story:

I subbed in a first grade class at Garrett's school on Tuesday. I reckon that's about the only background you need. Speaking of "I reckon" I think we should all start saying that. I reckon it's time for dinner. I reckon we should be going now. I reckon I ought to get on with my story.

So the first graders rotate for spelling groups. When it was time for my class to come back in from their various locations, several of them--the ones who have been to my house--starting telling me that they're never coming back over, they don't want to play at my house anymore, and they downright reject any further invitation to our abode. "What? Why?" I asked them.

Turns out it was on account of all the Bloody Mary activity that goes on here.

"Wha? What are you talking about?"

Apparently, my child spent all of his twenty minutes of spelling working with another kid to scare the bejeepers out of their friends. Between the two of them they concocted some story about Bloody Mary, my house, and a dead kid on a trampoline.


So at lunch, when I saw my sweet angel child deviant little storyteller, I gave him a severe tongue lashing. The idea that we spend our time conjuring up a bloody corpse in our mirror is not the picture I want presented about our family. Additionally, he'd scared his friends to the point that they were all talking about it in the lunch line--and getting in trouble for it by the lunch ladies and the other teachers.

Now, fast forward to the end of the day. Garrett and I went into his old kindergarten class so that he could say hello to his teacher. In the course of conversation, he ended up saying, "I remember what group I was in last year. And I remember what group Brett* was in." Brett just happens to be the same child who was helping Garrett tell stories about summoning a woman who has been "known" to scream at her conjurers, curse them, strangle them, steal their bodies, and/or gouge their eyes out. I only know this from looking it up. What did we do before the all-knowing Wikipedia? I'm incredibly hopeful that my precious firstborn child, the one who only eight years ago was nestled innocently inside my body, doesn't know the gory details surrounding the Bloody Mary folklore. If he does, homeschooling may be in our future. Or a protective soundproof bubble where the only thing he hears is my own voice being piped in while I sing Kumbayah.

"I remember too," she said.

"Yeah, well, maybe from now on you and Brett shouldn't even be in the same classroom," I mumbled to him.

"Uh oh," the kindergarten teacher said. "Garrett, are you having trouble with Brett?"

"Today they decided not to do their spelling. Instead, the two of them told all kinds of stories about Bloody Mary and freaked everyone out," I said.

"Oh no. You have to do your work, Garrett," she instructed. Then, to me, she said, "It's always something. Last year there were a bunch of kids talking about Chuckie."

"He doesn't even know what Bloody Mary is," I said. Although, looking back, I'm not sure why I said that when what I should have said is, "I have no idea how he even knows what Bloody Mary is but I'm willing to bet it starts with PUBLIC and ends with SCHOOL."

In any case, once I said that he didn't know what it was, that kid looked right at me and said, "Yes, I do! It's a drink!" His old teacher actually hit the wall she was laughing so hard. And I started backpedaling in such a way that I made it sound like I'm the town drunk. " How? What? I promise I don't start my day off with a Bloody Mary. I mean, really. I don't. I've never even had...I. What? HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?"

"Mrs. Benson** told me!" he shouted.

Now his old teacher (By old I mean previous, not ancient. Because she is like 29.) was borderline hysterical. "Mrs. Benson told him!" she loudly laughed.

"Well I'm totally okay with that because that means I'm not the one who has to have a Bloody Mary just to get out of bed in the morning."

Still, if I now have the reputation, in this clean cut Mormon city, of being the town drunk, you know why. It all started with a kid who wanted to tell ghost stories.

*Not his real name.
**Definitely not her real name.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Strange Bedfellows

When Matthew had his tonsils out last winter, the hospital gave him a blanket to bring home. It's the kind where you take two pieces of fabric, cut the perimeter into strips, and tie the strips together. He loves it. Over time, some of the strips came apart. I could have easily fixed the blanket but I didn't because my boy loves to climb inside and use it as a sleeping bag. He refuses to sleep under his covers. Instead, he just sleeps in his blanket every night.

Several days ago, he had a friend over. It was this friend's first time at our house and Matthew was showing him all of his earthly possessions. They wandered through the playroom and then into the bedroom. I was downstairs baking cookies and I could hear the dialogue. "This is my truck. These are my ninja turtles. That's my brother's bed. This is my bed. This is my blanket that I got when I had my tonsils taken out."

The friend was muttering things like, "Oh, neat. Cool. Nice." And various other pleasantries. When it came to the blanket, Matthew said, "Do you want to see how I sleep in it every night?" I didn't hear the friend's response but Matthew must have started to climb into it.

"See," he said. "I get in it like this. Then I look just like a homeless little lady."

If something had been in my mouth, for sure I would have spit it across the room. Certainly homelessness isn't funny, but the way he said it so matter-of-fact was startlingly hilarious. I have no idea where he came up with this. Our children, for better or worse, really haven't been introduced to poverty. We do things like Operation Christmas Child and other ways of donating to those in need--especially at Christmastime--so they understand that there are people much less fortunate than they are, but they've never really seen what it looks like, up close and personal. So I'm not sure how he knows what a homeless little lady would look like.

But, apparently, when he goes to bed at night, he does so impersonating someone without a home. And someone who is female. And small.

I just don't know where he comes up with this stuff.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas is Coming

You wanna know who's excited about Christmas only being 16 days away?

These guys.

You know what was not exciting?

Picking out our tree.

Because it was freezing cold. So basically, we grabbed the nearest one in our price range and hoped that it looked good when we got it home.

You know what is also not exciting?

Shopping for my husband's stocking stuffers. It's my nemesis. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. The boys are easy. Dollar Tree or the dollar bins at Target is all it takes. I'm easy. Chapstick. A five dollar CD from Lifeway. Gum. Heck, even a lint roller will do.

But I lose sleep over Troy's on an annual basis.

You know what is exciting?

Nativities. Christmas lights. Baking cookies. Garrett planning a sleepover with his best friend. Elves moving around our house. Stockings hung on the mantle. Carol Sings and Bell Choirs. The smell of pine. And, of course, the first chapters of Luke.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


He loves me.

Eleven years ago he took me on a first date.

It was my last first date.

He gets me.

Even when I make it difficult.

Which I do. More than I care to admit.

He cares for me.

He puts my needs before his own.

He puts my wants before his own.

He loves me.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Let It Go

I keep driving past the movie theater and it's all I can do not to go buy myself a ticket to see Frozen again. I know. I know. I'm a full grown adult. This obsession with a Disney movie is a bit of a problem. But, seriously. Idina knocks it straight out of the park. As if I'm surprised by that.
 Insert some sort of transition here as I tell you that I'm going to sing a solo sometime soon here. Like an ALL BY MYSELF SINGING INTO A MICROPHONE SOLO. I don't sound like Idina Menzel. Not one single, solitary bit. I was thinking about how it's a real tragedy and shame that I am not more gifted in the singing, dancing and acting categories. Because there is next to nothing I love more* than the process of rehearsing and watching as a piece of art comes together. I mean, who loves the rehearsal process? ME! That's who.

In college I would go to rehearsals that I wasn't even called to. Just to be part of the creative process. Just to learn from the other actors. Just to become a small fraction of art.

I really just love to perform. To act. To sing. I don't get to do it that much anymore. And whenever I see a great piece of art, I wish I was still performing. Even though I was never really great at any of it. I had all the passion, all the work ethic, but not all of the talent.

A Disney movie is not theatre. Except in the case of The Lion King. And Beauty and the Beast. And Peter Pan. Okay, nevermind. A Disney movie can be theatre. But this song is reminiscent of a show stopping musical number on Broadway. So I can't help but watch it over and over again.

I mean, she sculpts an ICE CASTLE for crying out loud.

And, also, she sounds really good.

*Jesus. My husband. My family. To name just a few.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


I was basically wet for ten years of my life. I experienced some pretty cold moments during that decade. When it's 48 degrees outside and you're diving into an outdoor pool, that feels miserable. What's worse is when it's raining outside and so, between events, your skin stays pruned and damp. 

I know that there are people in other parts of the country who can boast things like, "It's -30 outside today." I can't even wrap my mind around that kind of cold because today, when I dropped my oldest son off at school, it was 12 degrees. I checked the weather page to find that it "felt" like -4.

For those of you blessed by the Almighty God to live in warm parts of this country--places like southern California, Arizona and Florida--let me tell you what that feels like.

-4 feels like your skin is going to split in half and crack right off of your face.

-4 feels like you can't quite catch your breath because the air is freezing your lungs.


It snowed all day yesterday. A friend of mine sent me a message asking how I was dealing with the snow since she knows I'm not a fan.

I responded that there is a time and a place for the snow. December is that time. I mostly happily deal with it in December because, with Christmas coming, it feels right to wear giant jackets, sip hot cocoa, and stretch out by the fire. 

That said, I am very much hoping that it doesn't feel like -4 for the duration of winter because I might shrivel up and die.

But these kids...

Well, they're loving it.

As I drove down the hill from Garrett's school this morning, Christmas music played and I took a good look at the Wasatch Range. The mountains shoot up from the dreary valley and straight into the sky--almost as far as the eye can see. At this moment they are covered in snow. The sun is shining and the way it hit the peaks is nothing short of spectacular.

It's brutally cold.

But the view ain't half bad.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fire & Ice

I don't get to go to the movies nearly as often as I'd like on account of the little people in my life. But, in the span of three days I've visited the theater twice. That's almost unheard of. I mean, there was that time in college when I went to see Moulin Rouge and then I went back THE VERY NEXT NIGHT TO SEE IT AGAIN but I was a theatre major and it was Baz.

On Friday we braved the crowds and took the boys to see Frozen. I knew I would love it. I knew I would want to own it and buy the soundtrack. I knew all of this before I ever saw it because I've seen the two female leads in person. I'm practically best friends forever with Kristen Bell (who does the voice for Anna) because, when I was an extra on Veronica Mars, she stepped on my shoe from behind. It came off and, as she went sprinting by, she hollered, "Sorry!" So, yes, you could say that we're pretty tight. I said practically best friends forever because I am really best friends forever with Idina Menzel (who does the voice for Elsa). I've loved Idina since I first discovered her voice back in 1999. I own her albums. I've seen her onstage in concert and off-Broadway. So of course, because of these things, we are the very best of buddies.

I loved and adored the movie. The music was wonderful, the script was hilarious and tender all rolled into one, and it was a visual sight to behold. Of course I'm still singing the songs, even days later. I want to borrow someone else's children so that I have an excuse to go see it again without being labeled as the weird creeper who keeps watching the same children's movie over and over.

Mondays are Troy's day off so today we dropped Matthew off with a friend while Garrett was at school and went to see Catching Fire. I also knew I would love Catching Fire because I loved the first film, I loved the books, and who doesn't like a good love triangle? Especially when it involves Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence.

The only thing I didn't like about Catching Fire is the fact that I know I have to wait until 2015 to see how it all plays out in film. I am actually glad that they are splitting Mockingjay into two parts because there's too much there to shove it all into one. But I'm sad that I have to wait such a long time until the fourth installment comes out. I'm left thinking things like, "What if I die before then and I can't see it through?" These are the important questions in life, I know. These are certainly questions of eternal significance. Nevertheless, someone needs to promise that they'll see it for me if I meet my earthly demise before the end of 2015.

Also, can someone check up on my kids? Troy's a good dad. My boys will not go hungry. They will be well educated and biblically trained. But if I'm dead there's a good chance my children will never again make their beds. Someone needs to promise me that she'll come over and inquire as to whether or not the comforter is at least pulled up.

Regardless of the state of my boys' beds, I'm fully recommending that you run right down to the theater and buy a ticket for either fire or ice. Hunger Games or Frozen. Of course, what I'm really recommending is that you do both.