Friday, August 26, 2016

Love, for the Right Reason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. I believe He did.

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


Monday, August 22, 2016

Dear Teacher on the First Day of School

Dear Teacher,

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

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

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

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

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

THAT SAID. I have just one request of you.

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

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

Friday, August 19, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To that end, here are some things...

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Great Poop Shoot

I wish I had seen it happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 4, 2016

On Life, Love and the Pursuit of New Tires

I didn't die. For the loyal few who still stop by my little neck of the Internet, you may have decided that I was deceased given the lack of posting for a whole forever. I'm alive and well and raising a newborn, a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old. We're in San Diego, having baby showers and enjoying family and soaking up what's left of a ridiculously short summer created by my children being in school through the entire month of June. But not next year. I'm already counting down the days until my children enjoy summer the way it's meant to be experienced. Long and leisure like. Not short and crammed with everything we could dream of in seven weeks.
The reason we're here this particular week though is because my oldest niece is getting married. When I joined this crazy family with the extra "S" in its last name that is both superfluous and also helpful with telemarketers, I inherited three nieces and a nephew. Since that time, we've added another niece, three nephews and three of our own kids.
So when I said, "I do," I had three little flower girls. Two of my nieces and my cousin. The tallest flower girl was nine. Now she's getting married.
Yesterday she told me that her grandpa, my father in law, put new tires on their car as a wedding gift. She laughed about how fantastic it is as an adult to just have someone take care of something important instead of getting you something shiny in a gift bag.
"I remember when Grandpa stood up at your reception and said that their gift to you was a month's free rent," she told me. (We were renting a home from my in laws when we first got married.) "I thought that was the worst gift ever. I looked at you and you were smiling and I just couldn't imagine why that was exciting for you. Now I totally get it."
Perspective. One day you're nine and you're wearing a flower girl dress and thinking free rent is the worst gift ever. The next day you're 22 and getting married and rejoicing over your new tires.
Meanwhile, I feel old.