Friday, June 27, 2014

Pastor's Wives

It wasn't long ago when I came across the following Internet article. It can be found in its entirety here. Now, I'm not here to say that all of these apply to me...they don't. But some of them do.

1) “I wish people knew that we struggle to have family time.”
There was one common response that I received from every single pastor’s wife. Every. Single. One.  Over and over again, many pastors’ wives shared numerous occasions where planned vacations had been cut short (wouldn’t that be hard?). They told me tales of family evenings being rearranged for crises of church members, middle of the night emergencies and regular interruptions. A true day off is rare; even on scheduled days off their husbands are essentially on call 24/7.
2) “Almost every day I’m afraid of screwing it all up.”
They don’t have it all together. They battle many of the same issues every other woman battles: marriage issues, extended family difficulties, sickness, finances, children who make poor decisions, fear and insecurities. Some seasons of life are obviously harder than others; but remember, ministry wives are not Wonder Woman with special powers. Please have a little mercy and extend grace.
3) “Being a pastor’s wife is THE loneliest thing I’ve ever done and for so many reasons.”
Personally, I think this is surprising to many (it was to me). Several ladies shared the difficulties of finding friendships that are safe, being looked at (or treated) differently and even the desire to be invited for an occasional ladies night out. One woman shared, “Invite us to something just to get to know us. We like being known.” People in the church often assume that the pastor’s wife is always invited and popular. In reality, for whatever reason, many ladies fear befriending them. On Sunday mornings pastors’ wives are often sitting solo and those with children are essentially single parenting.
4) “It is okay and welcomed to have conversations with me about things that do not pertain to church, or even Jesus. There I said it!”
They have a variety of interests. Believe it or not, many pastor’s wives went to college and had full time careers before becoming “Mrs. Pastor’s wife.” They have hobbies, likes and dislikes, and though they often serve beside their husband, they are individuals with their own unique gifts.  Do not make the mistake of assuming your pastor’s wife has the same personality as their husband. One wife shared that as newly weds when they announced their engagement people regularly commented on how good of a singer she must be (because her husband to be was a music minister). When she shared that she sounded more like a dying cat than an elegant song bird the shock on their faces was evident.
5) “Sundays are sometimes my least favorite day. Wait– am I allowed to say that?”
Sundays are hard. And long. And there is no rest. To a pastor’s wife, Sunday means an early morning of rushing around to have the family ready in their “Sunday Best.” Although you may not see your pastor’s wife on the platform, rest assured, Sunday is equally tiring for most (all) of them.
6) “It’s hard to not harbor resentment or to allow your flesh to lash out at members who openly criticize his ministry.”
They hate church criticism more then anything. It’s hurtful. Offensive, and yes, it’s very hard not to take it personally.  It is one of the most damaging things they witness regularly inside the church whether it be through emails, social media or gossip. They wish people understood how serious God’s word speaks on the danger and power of our words. And how much it injures the pastor’s family.
7) “Please don’t look down on me or assume I don’t support my husband just because you don’t see me every time the churches doors are open.”
Most wives are not paid staff. They are wives, mothers, and some are employed outside the home and need to be allowed the freedom to pray and choose ministries they feel called to.
8) “I wish people knew that we taught our children to make good choices, but sometimes, they don’t.”
Jokes about pastor’s kids should be avoided at all costs. The risk of rebellion in a “preacher’s kid” is no secret. They aren’t perfect, and never will be (are yours?). They have to learn to walk in their faith just like other children and need encouragement and love to do so. Again, extend grace.
9) “What I can tell you is I have been blessed beyond measure, I have been given gifts, money, love and prayer, so much prayer… by so many.”
They love their church and understand the role comes with special challenges and special blessings; it is fulfilling and brings them great joy.

Like I said, some of these apply to me and some don't. It doesn't matter which ones I struggle with. I just thought that, if you attend church, showing you what pastor's wives deal with might be helpful as you build relationship with them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Miles & Donuts

He really wanted a donut.

They were selling big ones filled with cream or jelly. They dripped glaze in all directions. It was a weird choice for a track meet.

I said, "No. Drink your water. We do not eat very large, gooey, dripping pastries just before we run a mile." I was using the universal "we" since I actually had no intention of running a mile.

"What if I go faster than I did on Friday?" he asked.

The donuts were a dollar.

"Alright," I said. "If you go faster today than you did on Friday, I'll buy you one."

On Friday his time was (unofficially) 7:46.

Yesterday, his first split was faster than it was on Friday. His second split was the exact same. His third split was also the same.

His fourth split was faster.

 And, in the end, he came in at (unofficially) 7:40.

He is some kind of seven-year-old running machine. And, I've done some research. I've found that there are seven-year-olds who run sub seven minute miles. There are actually kind of a lot of them. But I'm pretty proud of my own kid's ability to get around that track four times. He doesn't complain. He doesn't get an angry face. He just keeps running.

And he's fun to watch.

So, yes. I bought him the gross, dripping donut. He ate every bite.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The 1600

Running might be in my kid's blood. He really likes to run. Last summer he joined a running club and he's doing it again this year. At practice he will just run. And run. And run. He's not much of a sprinter but tell him to go run a mile and he just trots along at a steady clip.

Last Friday was his first meet.

He wanted to run the mile. There aren't very many kids who elect to run that distance. See...I'm pretty sure there were only two boys in his age group.

Here he is, coming around, about to finish his third lap.

And then, a lap later, I clocked his unofficial time. Not bad for a seven-year-old. Not bad at all.

Aside from his first, pretty quick lap, his splits were almost even. He has another meet tonight and he has no concept of shaving off time. "Mom, if I run the mile tonight in five minutes, will you buy me an ice cream?"

"Garrett," I said. "If you run the mile in five minutes, I will buy you a cruise."

Because, if my seven-year-old could run a mile that fast, I'm pretty sure he'd be gaining some kind of instant attention. I'm thinking a cruise would be in order.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Life Cycle of a Coffee Table

When Troy and I entered into the wedded bliss of holy matrimony almost eleven years ago, my generous grandparents gave us a monetary gift that put us well on our way to dumping some of our mismatched hand-me-down furniture and buying new.

Our family room, dining room, and bedroom furniture remained an almost comical blend of things we'd had since we were children and things other people gave us when they bought something new. Two years ago we finally bought a new bed and mattress--after nine years of sleeping on a recycled number. The dressers we use to this day are the same ones we had as kids. Our dining room table and chairs were purchased by my parents before I was born, probably, and eventually replaced the table we'd been using that belonged in my husband's bachelor pad. Our family room furniture was purchased sometime in my growing up years and handed down to me just before we moved to Utah, taking over for an even older couch that had been permanently damaged by our teething puppy.

But the furniture in our "formal" room (HA! Formal! We are seriously the least formal people I know.) was purchased after we got married. Back in 2003, it was basically the only thing we owned that was brand spankin' new. Aside from all of our wedding gifts, of course. Which, speaking of. I think married people should get to register again when they hit the fifteen year mark. In four years I'm definitely going to need some new pots and pans.

We bought an off-white couch and matching love seat. In hindsight, this was a ludicrous color choice given our desire to start a family. But we'll buy the sealer that allows us to clean it easier! we said. It's going in our "formal" room so the kids won't be allowed on it! we said. We were stupid. We knew what it was like for OTHER PEOPLE to have kids. We did not realize the amount of running liquid that comes out of children on a constant basis. That furniture doesn't look horrible. The fact that it's almost eleven years old and has withstood baby vomit, slobber, two moves, and a cat who insists on sleeping on it when we're on vacation and no one's looking, is proof of the existence of God. You have to look closely to see the stains. And, in all honesty, they're really more like gray smudges. There aren't any chocolate pudding, grape juice or blood stains so...SUCCESS.

That was a really long introduction to say, we also bought this table.

It was really pretty back in the day and I get that the above picture doesn't look too terrible. But, if you look closely, you'll see the tiny dents that go all the way around the lip on the top of the table.

How does one dent the entire top edge of a table? Well, since you asked, it was THOSE BOYS. Those two tiny boys learned how to pull themselves up to a standing position and then they decided that it would be a smashing idea to cut a mouthful of teeth. Garrett had a deep affinity for wood. He gnawed the side of his crib to the point that, when I sold it two years ago, after deciding that, yes, we are for sure done having babies (Which, incidentally, was a decision that 99% of the time I am thrilled with and 1% of the time causes deep mourning that comes complete with the wailing and gnashing of teeth.) I had to tell the guy that bought it, "It's in perfect condition except for this panel right here where all the wood is dented because my son's itsy bitsy baby teeth were really more like destructive razors. So. Crib destruction times 100 was what we had with this table. Because neither of them gave a single darn about teething rings. It was all about the table and, despite how often I chastised and redirected, the situation proved hopeless for the wood. I had managed to both breed and adopt woodchucks.

Also, the vacuum rammed it approximately 20,000 times and the legs were mangled, dented, pocketed and sad. Several months ago, I fixated on this one piece of furniture (in a house in desperate need of some paint, new carpet, and a shopping spree to somewhere with well built furniture) and decided that it simply had to be refinished.

I mentioned to my husband that I thought maybe it should be painted.

He did not go for that idea.

I waited. A few weeks ago I broached the subject again. This time I got serious. "It's a mess. Just...look at it. I will not take that table if we ever move," I said. (And, okay, so we have no actual plans to move but, you know, it's a solid argument.) "I will throw it away and we will have to buy a new one. Think of how much that will cost when I could just slap a coat of paint on it." 

And the thing is...he didn't say no. He just kind of looked at me long and hard. Because if that man knows only one thing about me it's that once I get an idea in my head, it's really rather impossible to divert my attention. The plan is set and needs only to be executed. For me, there's really no difference between "alright we'll think about it" and "alright we'll do it." So, Troy's silence is as good as an enthusiastic YES!

I went to the Internet, educated myself on how to refinish a coffee table, went to Lowe's, and the rest is yesterday's history.

I wish I had taken some "during" pictures but during the "during" process I was convinced that I was doing everything wrong and did not want to document all of the failure. I plugged in my husband's electric sander and sanded the life out of that sucker. I sanded. And sanded. And sanded. In my front yard. I also talked to myself. Loudly. Over the sound of the sander. "Am I doing this right?" "How should I know if you're doing this right?" "Well, does it look right? How come that part is bare wood flying up and that part still looks stained? Why isn't this sanding evenly?" "I don't know. It's too late to stop now. Keep working." Because, you see, there are at least two identified people inside my head. Whether or not there are more remains to be seen. That's up to the medical professionals to decide.

I washed it.

I painted it with primer.

Then I had a paint fiasco involving the color I wanted to use being all dried up. I decided to switch to another color which ended up, actually, being a second can of the first color so all was not lost despite my momentary temper tantrum in the garage.

Then I sprayed it with two coats of polyurethane and....ta da!

There were a few growing pains involved with my first furniture refinish. I'd do a few things differently in the future (WHEN I REFINISH MORE FURNITURE! Hi, Troy! Love you.) It's not perfect. But, then, nothing really is.

I love it. But I have a confession to make. I kind of miss the teething marks.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I Might Not Be Ready

Almost five years ago, on September 8, 2009, we took our first born kid to preschool. He was barely three and was going through a serious case of separation anxiety. As I walked away, he screamed and cried. The preschool director held him tightly in a chair and, when he realized I was leaving him there, he kicked her in the gut. I thought that might be it. One day of school was all we were going to get. But that day turned into five years.

Garrett's first day of school at school

I hugged her today and thanked her for the role she has played in the lives of my children. Garrett spent three years there and, while it was a little sad on his last day, I knew that Matthew would start the following fall.

Today, though, was a different story. I walked away from school knowing that I wouldn't go back next year with another preschooler. Today, my youngest son became a kindergartner. He sat on the front step and smiled for a "Last Day of Preschool" picture.

And, can I just say that THIS ONE IS A KEEPER? 

Look at his smile. I mean, LOOK at it. How have modeling agencies not stumbled upon my blog and called me up and said, "Hello. Mrs. Livin' in a Fishbowl? We need your son for ALL of the ads." At the end of the year performance, which for us happened on June 6, the teachers recognize each child with a specific award, unique to him. Matthew got the Killer Smile award and his teacher said that he can flash it and get just about whatever he wants.


His smile melts my heart. Every time.

So here's Mr. Killer Smile on his first and last day of preschool.
At his preschool orientation, I completely threw my kid under the bus by telling his teachers--two women I'd never met before in my life--that he was very difficult, that we needed to be proactive, that we had to forge a partnership that would effectively get him from point A (preschool) to point B (the rest of his life). Alright, so I didn't say it in so many words but whatever words I did use were met with the blinking stares of two women who either thought I was bat poo crazy or were suddenly terrified by the horror child I'd just described to them.

But this kid has been proving me wrong since day one. He had his downs but the ups outweighed them. He grew and changed and blossomed and became. He stopped being afraid to try

This year he had one new teacher and one of the ones he'd had last year--at my request, because she was simply amazing with him. Over the five years, we have had nine different teachers (there are two in every class) and so many of them were phenomenal. But none impressed me as much as Miss Veronica. To put it as simply as I can, I love her.

In just 21 months, my child went from a kid who wouldn't even try to tell me his colors for fear he'd get them wrong to a child who is fluently reading kindergarten material--a kid who got ALL "Excellent" on his progress report. He is ready to head to elementary school.

Being that it was the last day of school, today was a carnival day and the kids were encouraged to dress up. I sure do love a man in a uniform.

When I dropped him off I called my mom to brag about how I was TOTALLY COOL WITH ALL THIS GROWING UP STUFF. Don't mind me. I'm just an unemotional statue who can't get worked up to save my life. In my theatre days I'd wonder how, on earth, I was supposed to conjure up some real tears. "Think of your dead dog," they'd say. Yep. I had a dead dog. I'd cried a lot when she actually died but thinking about her being dead didn't make me well up a handful of years later. It's not that I don't FEEL things. It's just that those things don't come out my eyes. So I left him at his last day of preschool and all my babies are all grown up and ONE DAY THEY WILL LEAVE ME. Eh. What's next on my to-do list?

When I picked him up, his classroom was full of moms picking up their kids--and two crying teachers. I was sad because I love his teachers and I'll miss them a lot but also happy because ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IS FREE! I was thinking the happy thoughts until his beloved Miss Veronica hugged me. "Thank you for trusting me with him for two years," she said through tears. "He's improved so much. I just love him." We talked for a few minutes.

Suddenly I started to feel a teeny lump. Nothing I couldn't swallow down. We hugged his other teacher.

A few minutes later, we left the room and walked down the hall. I hugged the director. I thanked her for taking care of my boys for five years. The lump persisted. We hugged his other teacher from last year. STUPID LUMP.

I held his hand as we walked out the door and through the parking lot. "I can't believe you're already a kindergartner!" I said to him. But the word kindergartner got stuck in the back of my throat and I lost control of the lump. Tears spilled down my cheeks. I wiped them away but, somehow, more followed.

He's ready. And, really, I'm ready, too. Except on the days when I'm not. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Dad

I got married before digital cameras. Or, at least, before everyone owned a digital camera. We got our first one a year and a half later, before we went to Israel for the first time together. So, I totally had to get my wedding album out and snap pictures of the pictures using my cell phone.

 Just to say, "Happy Father's Day!" to the man who raised me, loves me, and walked me down the aisle.

I know. I'm 12*. Which would put my dad in his mid 30's because he was only 22 when I was born. Seriously. Only 22. And still, we never wanted for anything. Well, alright, I'm sure we wanted stuff, but we never needed anything we didn't have. My dad is, honest-to-goodness, the single most responsible person I know. Responsible with money. Responsible with career. Responsible with family. Responsible with life.

He also paid for my wedding which, to this day, is the most fun wedding I've ever been to. And, yes, it was mine so I'm biased. But I have not been to a better wedding. That includes the very fancy Ritz Carlton wedding I went to as a kid. And, okay, so if I went to your wedding, it was probably very nice and/or fun but my wedding had all the songs I wanted and all the food I wanted and the really good cake. My parents only had one daughter (unless there is a very deep, dark family secret they've never told me about. They told me for years that my childhood dogs went to live on a farm so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that I have a sister I don't know about.) so they had nothing to go on when they planned this wedding AND IT WAS STILL THE VERY BEST ONE IN ALL THE LAND.

During said wedding I sprung this hug on my husband.

My friend was married earlier in the summer and she'd hugged her dad on her way back down the aisle. It was perfect and inspiring and, just as my father-in-law introduced us I whispered to my husband, "I want to hug my dad." So no one was really prepared for it. Except, apparently, the photographer. 

My dad made my wedding pretty perfect. (Okay, in fairness, it was a lot of my mom's doing but he was willing to keep writing checks. And hanging the white covering up on the stage. And wrangling a band of men together to change the church from ceremony to reception hall.) He also made my life pretty perfect. He is everything a father should be and nothing that he shouldn't be.

I made my dad watch the movie Father of the Bride more times than any of us probably care to count. To this day it is probably my favorite movie of all time. There's a scene near the end of the film when Annie's future in-laws bring over a car--their wedding gift to the happy couple. George runs inside (prior to seeing the car) to get the gift he bought for his daughter and future son-in-law. Annie runs in to see if her dad has seen the car...

Annie: What's that?

George: It's nothing. It's just a gift I was thinking of giving you guys. You know, it's something you said you didn't have but you wanted.

Annie: Can I see it?

George: Yeah, you know, it's--It's not the big, big gift, of course.

Annie: It's a cappuccino maker!

George: Supposed to be a good one. That's what they said at the store. It's, uh, top of the line. Makes great foam.

Annie: I couldn't love anything more.

(She exits. George watches her go.)

George: My feelings exactly.

So I'm, like, the least sappy person I know. More of a realist than a romantic. Sarcastic. German. I don't typically buy my dad serious cards with little poems about how I'm a better person because of him. I mean, that's the honest truth but I'd rather buy a card that says something about how the thing that makes him a great dad is the fact that he has a great kid and that kid happens to be me. 

But the thing is, when it comes to my dad, I echo Annie's feelings about the cappuccino maker. Simply put, I couldn't love anything more.

* For the record, I was actually almost 22 at my wedding.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Would You Rather Be Too Hot or Too Cold?

I really, really, really, really love summer. That's NOT to say that I love when the weather is over 100 degrees or that I love the way it feels to sweat uncontrollably. Those things I really do not like very much. But I try hard not to complain because I spend the months of November to April complaining about being cold. I don't think it's very fair to complain for five months straight about THE FRIGID COLD THAT WON'T LET UP and then turn around again and start bellyaching about WHY I AM SO HOT? Last summer when our air conditioning broke and it was 93 degrees INSIDE my house, I did start complaining. But typically, I make a conscious effort not to.

I've heard people ask, "Would you rather be too hot or too cold?" The usual answer is that people would rather be too cold because they can always put more clothes on. I heartily disagree with that response. In the winter I can usually be found, ALL DAY LONG, wearing my thick winter coat in my house. I'm usually still not warm. Part of that is the fact that I keep my heater set to about 62 because I'm a cheapskate. So, yes, I'm actively enabling my own hypothermia. But, SIXTY-TWO. How am I still that cold? Why do I need pants, a long sleeve shirt and a jacket on to keep me from shaking?

This is why I maintain that I could move to Florida or Phoenix or Guam and be JUST FINE. Because if I lived in any of those places I don't think I'd ever see the number 63 on a thermometer. See, I, myself, would much rather be hot. If you're hot you can wear a tank top and shorts. You can sit in front of a fan. You can drink a tall glass of iced tea. You can run through the sprinklers, head to the swimming pool, or hang out in your basement. There are things to do to get cooler, people. Sometimes, in the dead of winter, I am so cold I think I'll never be warm again.

There might be something wrong with me. Maybe I should get my circulation checked. I was told that my blood would thicken after a couple of winters here. Seven is a lot more than a couple and I'm still waiting. Apparently, spending 26 years in San Diego gave me a permanent case of thin blood. See, here, in Utah, the sun comes out and I feel just about 1,000 times happier than I felt ALL winter long. Because water and splash pads and popsicles and flip flops and the smell of sunscreen and sunshine. And so many smiles on the faces of my kids.

Back in the (COLD) winter, Garrett was given the Star Student Award which only about five kids in his class had the honor of getting this year. As part of his reward, he got a coupon for a free activity at a place called Classic Fun Center. He kept begging and begging to use it. It's a good thing we didn't because the water park would not have been open in February.

And so all of this fun would not have been had.

They'd have skated or played on the jungle gym or bounced.

But instead, they got to do all of this...

I also had another coupon for a free activity. I had to pay a $2.00 spectator fee. So all of this fun was had for exactly two dollars.

And it was WARM! The sun. The fun. The water.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE SUMMER?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How To Prepare For Adoption In 57 Easy Steps

I recently came across a guide on the Internet titled "A Really Big Number of Things You Should Do to Prepare For Adoption." Or something close to that, anyway. On the one hand, it linked to a cornucopia of resources, showed that the family in question was more prepared than maybe any family in the history of the adoption world, and provided material help to anyone who stumbled upon it. As Olaf the snowman would say, "All good things, all good things."

On the other hand is everything else. I'd have had a cardiac event if I'd bumped into that corner of the Internet six years ago. In addition to all the dotting of i's and crossing of t's already required for adoption? After I get fingerprints, write checks, attend agency/organization meetings, and wander down a paper trail that feels like it will never, ever end? THEN you have dozens of webinars I should watch, meetings I should attend, books I need to read, movies I need to buy and dentists I need to find? (Because, yes, according to this helpful guide, if you're adopting transracially you should find a doctor and dentist for your child that fit his or her heritage.) It also linked to handouts that should be given to extended family members and friends as well as a reading list for them.

I know it sounds like I think preparation is a waste of time (I don't) and that we didn't prepare (we did). It's just that we are exactly six years into our adoption journey and if I've learned one thing it's that YOU CAN'T PREPARE FOR WHAT'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN. Notice I didn't say you SHOULDN'T prepare. There are so many resources out there for adoption and, certainly, getting your hands on some of them is only going to help. But what I said is that you CAN'T prepare. Not really, anyway.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

You can't prepare because you don't know if your child is going to sail through life with minimal adoption related issues or be the poster child for the experience of the primal wound. Maybe yours will have reactive attachment disorder or maybe she won't. Your kid could sail through childhood and suddenly begin to grieve their loss as a teenager or it could be the other way around. There are so many variables and for everyone who says that his life was ruined because he was adopted is another person saying she wouldn't have it any other way.

There isn't a book that could have prepared me for the experience of watching my husband take care of our son's every need during his first night of life while I violently threw up, over and over again, my body attempting, hopelessly, to rid itself of the stress and grief that had washed over it when an AWOL birth father suddenly wanted custody. Still, as I looked at that newborn boy and knew it would almost kill me to lose him, I consciously told my heart to, "Love him. Love him as fiercely and as completely as you love your other son. LOVE HIM. EVEN IF YOU LOSE HIM."

There isn't a book or a seminar that could have prepared me for what it felt like to love Matthew. I knew, through the mismatched feelings of numbness and terror, that if they took my son away, I would not come out on the other end stronger and braver and better. I would, undoubtedly, be disfigured, jaded and weak. My heart would forever be cracked, love spilling out for him with no where to go. Still, with all that I felt for that child, the love was different. I wasn't prepared for that. I hadn't bonded with him for nine months prior to his birth. In much the same way that he learned my voice and my smell and began to identify me as his mother, I learned that philia--general--love can twist and turn itself into storge--natural affection--love. I didn't get that from a pamphlet about adoption. My son taught me.

There isn't a conference that can teach you about how sometimes your child will want to talk about his birth family with frequent regularity and sometimes he won't want to talk about them at all. Sometimes he'll ask if he can call them or move in with them or at least visit them. And, at five, he won't mean, "I HATE YOU AND I WANT MY OTHER FAMILY!" He'll mean, "I'm small and adoption is a little bit confusing and I'd like to see my mother but I still want you to snuggle me and scratch my back." Sometimes he'll talk about being in his mother's tummy and how great it was and sometimes he'll sob, great wounded gasps, in your arms because his brother lived in your tummy but he didn't. A book doesn't prepare you for that because a book can't set the tone. Only your child can do that.

There isn't a handout on the planet that can ready you for the personal attacks. Thankfully, our hateful experiences have been extremely limited. Still, even if I'd read about hurtful scenarios, it wouldn't have made Downtown Disney any easier. As Matthew happily squealed in his stroller, I pushed him quickly toward the Rainforest Cafe. My parents, husband and other son were up ahead of us. A woman briskly walked toward me. Just as we were set to pass each other I smiled. She continued and, once past, grunted, "You'll never be that child's mother." Nothing prepares you. Your stomach drops out. Your skin prickles. You think about turning and running after her. You think about how you'd like to take a swing at her jaw. You think about how she has tried to redefine your relationship with your child by using hurtful words. You do NOT think about the helpful handout you read. In the end, you keep walking, tears stinging your eyes. Because it isn't worth it. He's worth it. That woman is, decidedly, not worth it.

A book can't tell you how your open adoption should look. Your child (and sometimes a court agreement) defines the terms.

A website doesn't know if, when, and for how long your child will need counseling. Professionals, parents, and the child are the only ones who can answer that.

Literature on the subject can't tell you which adoption groups to join, which events to attend, and which foods to cook for your kid. These are the things that you figure out as you go.

We didn't know, when we went with our transracial adoption playgroup to a private screening of "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" that our then three-year-old would grow exceedingly quiet and ask, when it was over, why he didn't have leaves on his legs and inquire as to whether he might have to go back into the garden someday. We didn't know, when he viewed it for a second time, just the other night, that he'd be past wondering about leaves and gardens but devastated by the fact that Timothy doesn't stay. Great, heaving sobs of grief and anguish. We didn't know, when we assured him that he would never leave and asked if that's what he was worried about, that he would look at us like we were bonkers and say, "NO!" before continuing to mourn the loss of Timothy.

We don't know what the future holds. We can't learn it in a book. It hasn't been written.

Literature, conferences and seminars are great. Certainly, they are tools for us to use. But so much of adoption--just like parenting a biological child--is trial and error, ups and downs, right moves and wrong moves. It's listening to your child. It's letting him think and speak and process. It isn't putting words in his mouth. It's teaching offense so that we can minimize the times when we have to be defensive with others. It's knowing that there will be issues and that we will do whatever we can to heal them.

It's saying, "You are mine and I am yours. Forever." It isn't checking off a list of everything you've read that somehow qualifies you to be an adoptive parent. It's love. Pure. Simple. Sometimes not so simple. Love.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Time Vortex

The time is being sucked into some kind of vortex, y'all. This is evidenced by several things. First, my baby cousin, who was born when I was 14, JUST GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL. I do not quite understand how this is possible. I was a freshman in high school when she was born and now she is going to UCLA. I'm sorry, what now? Just...HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? One minute I'm toting her around on my hip and the VERY NEXT MINUTE she's a Bruin. Really.

Another one of my cousins, ten years younger than me, JUST GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE. Again, what? I mean, yes, this makes logical sense. I've done the math and it's actually correct this time. As opposed to all the other times I do math and the answers that I come up with are wrong.

For further proof that time is being SUCKED AWAY INTO SOME UNKNOWN DIMENSION, I give you exhibit A.

Exhibit A makes my heart ache. Sure, I've still got these two and sure, it'll be awhile before they pick a college BUT THEY DO NOT LOOK LIKE THAT AT ALL ANYMORE. Garrett is limbs and adult teeth and Matthew is, well, not a baby. For one thing. I'm sure I was trying to get them to look directly at the camera when I took that picture. What I got was so much better.

If the time continues to speed by at this rate, they'll be married with children by tomorrow. Just typing that sentence made me die just a little inside.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Music From the Past


The sound of instruments blending together. Sometimes it's a whole song. Sometimes, just a line. But we are moved. To tears. To action. To epiphany. To nostalgia.

I found a station on Pandora that's called "Summer Hits of the 90's" and I cannot stop listening. It doesn't matter that I've lived almost half of my life SINCE graduating from high school. It doesn't matter that I haven't heard so many of these songs in over a decade. I remember them. Music is powerful. Melodies won't be forgotten.

Just tonight, I've heard the following songs...

Closing Time- Semisonic (1998)
By the time I graduated, in '99, this was the well known theme song for moving on. "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." And, "Time for you to go out to the places you will be from." Lyrical genius. I can still remember driving my little white Honda down the road, this song playing, a montage of memories from the past decade flashing through my mind. It was time. Time to grow up. College was coming (every new beginning). High school was over (some other beginning's end).

Meet Virginia- Train (1996)
I'm with my youth group. We're walking in our bathing suits around Belmont Park, ducking in and out of surf shops, browsing the stores for flip flops and board shorts. The song plays in the background. Virginia is conflicted but the beat screams carefree summer. We laugh. "Meet Virginia! Well she wants to live her life. Then she thinks about her life!" We laugh. We're young. We live in the land of perpetual waves and sun. We're happy.

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)- Green Day (1997)
"Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial. For what it's worth, it was worth all the while." So many of my friends graduated in '98, a year before me. I felt like a piece of me was gone. When the graduation of your friends is what breaks your heart, you can look back and know that you had a charmed childhood.

Crash Into Me- Dave Matthews Band (1996)
"You've got your ball, you've got your chain." In 1998 I found out that my boyfriend was a two-faced liar and everyone knew it but me. In the end, days before I broke up with him, I stood outside a little coffee shop in my hometown fighting tears. I'd just found out that he'd begun referring to me as the old ball and chain. To be a ball and chain at 16. Well, that's never good. I started to detest this song simply because of the way it started. I never liked the Dave Matthews Band after that. Strangely (and I am only just now figuring this out), I named my second son Matthew David.

Santa Monica- Everclear (1995)
"We can live beside the ocean, leave the fire behind, swim out past the breakers, watch the world die." I'm not gonna lie, this always sounded like a decent plan. I had huge hopes and dreams in high school. I was driven and motivated to be something really big and really special. Still, on occasion, I knew that there was something to be said for living in a van down by the...ocean. Sometimes, if I'm being honest, I still don't think I'd mind swimming past the breakers and just bobbing there for awhile. Except. Sharks. And seaweed that looks like sharks.

As Long As You Love Me- Backstreet Boys (1997)
I can't escape the fact that I grew up during the musical wars of the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync. Not to mention that I lived through--and loved--98 Degrees and *gasp* Hanson. At my Senior ditch day, a group of my friends and I laid on the grass next to the ocean and practiced harmonizing with all the great boy bands. "I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did, as long as you love me." In my defense, I was a drama nerd. I'm not actually sure how, exactly, that's a defense.

Bittersweet Symphony- The Verve (1997)
We're in expensive dresses. Or tuxes. Our hair is done up. We've eaten a spendy dinner. There's an ice sculpture in the corner and a couple of girls have already had a cat fight in the bathroom. Someone's dress is ripped. It has nothing to do with me. My prom date is my friend. Neither of us has feelings for the other but we've gone to two formals together because we have good friendship chemistry. We dance. "Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life. Trying to make ends meet. Trying to find some money then you die."

In the film Almost Famous the following exchange occurs.

William Miller: So Russell...what do you love about music?
Russell Hammond: To begin with, everything.

Pretty much.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Run, Garrett, Run!

My kid LOVES to run.

He does not get this from me. 

He does get it from just about everyone else in his family. His aunts all ran track. His uncle ran cross country and track. His father ran cross country. His grandpa has run a marathon. His mother, well, she decided to run during her sophomore year of high school and quit before the first meet because her knees hurt so bad she could barely walk. A doctor confirmed that her joints were a mess and she decided to stick with swimming. After all, she'd been doing it for eight years at that point and destroying her body for a sport she didn't even particularly like sounded dumb.

But the boy loves it. He's currently running track through the local rec center. Today, at his school, was the Apex Fun Run Fundraiser. He's been raising money for the past couple of weeks. 

The kids run around a 1/16th of a mile track, get a hash mark on their shirt when they complete a lap, and, while they can only run 36 laps for the fundraising portion, they can run as many as they want for bragging rights.

Garrett has never really seemed overly competitive to me. For this reason, I've questioned, on several occasions, whether he was switched at birth. However, when it comes to running, some competitive bear roars from within and he goes a little nuts. He. Just. Keeps. Going.

When all was said and done, he ran 65 laps. That's just over four miles. He did it in 35 minutes which makes his average come out to about 8.45 a mile.

As for me, well, I spent 35 minutes marking the shirts of 100 kids as they ran by every 30 seconds.

This kid cheered on his stud brother.

Troy was there too. He took the pictures.

We were both SO proud of Garrett. It's not that he (unconfirmed) ran the most laps out of all the first graders. It's not that he's quick. We're so proud of him because he just runs. He doesn't quit. He doesn't stop. He doesn't whine or cry or complain. He just runs. His endurance is a fun thing to watch.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Gaping Lip

I don't think of myself as a freak out kind of parent. They fall. They bleed. They bruise. And, while sometimes kids have terrible, life ending accidents, our track record so far is pretty good. No deaths yet. I use the word "yet" rather lightly because, with these crazies, there's just no telling what kinds of catastrophes lie just around the corner. Armed with the knowledge that it'll be a not-so-small miracle if I get these boys raised and out of my house in one piece, I don't tend to overreact.

Last night might have been an exception.

I felt calm, cool and collected. I didn't panic. But, in retrospect, I was moving way too fast and barking orders at people. What I needed to do was hit the pause button for a minute, assess the situation, and proceed in a slightly less hypermom manner.

Matthew fell roughly five feet from a wooden landing and broke his fall, on the bleachers, with his lip. I heard the thud and had turned to see what all the commotion was before he started crying. I sprinted to him but another mom got there first. She thrust a napkin onto his lip and hollered for her husband to get her a wet one. I reached him and saw, through continuous spurts of blood, that his lip was mangled. A huge chunk hung off. The split, not clean but fracturing off in two or three different directions, was deep.

I yelled down to Troy, "We're going to the ER." The other mom put a wet napkin on his lip.

I scooped him up, Troy gathered our belongings, I shouted for my friend to, "PLEASE BRING GARRETT HOME FROM PRACTICE AND I'LL GET HIM FROM YOU LATER!" I'd like to think that it was more, "Can you keep Garrett for me?" and less, "YOU WILL TAKE HIM TO YOUR HOUSE AND CARE FOR HIM, PROVIDING FOR HIS EVERY NEED, UNTIL MY CHILD'S LIP IS BACK IN ONE PIECE!" But I'm kind of afraid it was more of the second. Good thing she's one of my best friends and I don't typically demand things of her. Or, really, ever.

Once we had buckled Matthew into the car, and Troy had taken a booster seat to my friend, my husband turned and said, "Remember when Garrett bit his tongue?" It was our decade of married life telepathy at work. He said, "Remember when Garrett bit his tongue?" And I thought, They aren't going to do anything about this lip. They'll just look at it and send us home.

But how would I know for sure? I had just taken him in to urgent care on Saturday for humongous bug bites that just kept getting bigger. What kind of mother takes her kid to urgent care for bug bites but skips it when his lip is hanging open? I called my friend who works for our pediatrician. I explained the wound. She assured me that they wouldn't stitch the inside of his lip. So we headed back in to watch the last half of practice.

I apologized to my friend for being so demanding. She forgave me. She's a good one like that. Also, I don't think she really felt slighted in any way. So that helps. I snapped a picture of Matthew's lip with my phone. "Stick out your lip, Buddy."

About 5:00 pm

"Hmmm. No. It looks way worse in person than it looks on my phone. Stick it out some more."

About 5:01 pm

There. That's it. I mean, it looked even worse in reality but this picture is at least close. It shows the chunk of lip that was just kind of hanging there, anyway. I'm aware that it looks like his tongue. he's just really good at flipping his entire lower lip out. He's perfected it with his Hi-I'm-the-baby-and-I-can-get-what-I-want-by-sticking-this-lip-out-and-staring-at-you-with-my-big-sad-chocolate-eyes pout.

I decided to take a picture of it just before he went to bed last night. Some of the swelling had gone down and it was cleaned up a little bit.

About 8:00 pm

At about 11:00, I went in to check on him. His lip at somehow opened again in his sleep and his lips were stuck together with a sort of bloody adhesive. The corners of his mouth had pools of dried blood. We woke him up and cleaned up his lips. It still looked really gross and I was wondering if I'd have to keep him home from preschool.

But then he slept for eight more hours and when he woke up his lip looked like this...

8:35 am

I love watching the body healing in the miraculous way God intended it to. Within fifteen hours of traumatizing his lip, the gaping hole had filled. A white covering was stretched across the wound. It's tender and swollen and frail, but already well on its way to complete recovery with absolutely no medical intervention.

My personal nurse/friend called this morning to see how he's doing. She said that by tomorrow we should see incredible improvement. "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14