Monday, February 29, 2016

Fame, Fortune and Phlegm

I know my life seems incredibly glam. Part time substitute teacher of usually little, teensy people who sometime's take their pants off by day, pastor's wife by...also day. It's the kind of life with a lot of fanfare and paparazzi. Tabloids write about me and gossip columns talk about my height and weight. It's a really enviable life. I'm working on my memoir now.

But, in the event that you think I'm some untouchable celebrity who never has to use the restroom and wakes up airbrushed (I know I certainly give off such a vibe), let me put your ridiculous perceptions to rest. You see, I'm in the middle of a six week stint with kindergartners. Those little germ buckets have already given me strep and now, just a week after finishing the antibiotic for that, I've got the beginnings of what is sure to be an epic cold.

My colds always start with obnoxious nasal drip down the back of my throat that prevents adequate sleep for no less than three nights. I used to try to just swallow the garbage down while I attempted sleep but this proved useless. So then I started getting up every two minutes to loudly hack up whatever crap I could and then spit it, teenage boy style, into the sink. Finally, I got the attractive idea to keep a cup next to my bed. I'd just reach for the cup every time I needed to dispense of my thick, phlegm infused saliva. In the morning, I wash the cup out and, hopefully, my sleep the night before was slightly less interrupted. It's worked well and I'm still married.

But only because he said, "'Til death do us part." He forgot to add in the clause that keeping a spit cup next to one's head would also be grounds for divorce.

So, last night, I propped myself up on THREE pillows and tried to settle in for the night. Next to me, a child's green Veggie Tales cup waited for what was sure to be a wild night. A half hour later, it had collected quite a volume of nasal drip because honestly, I'm awfully attractive and not at all disgusting. I was exhausted and groggy. I hacked up an unhealthy amount of phlegm and then set the cup back on my night stand.

Or did I?

Suddenly, I heard a plop.

I quickly switched on my lamp. There stood my cup, upside down, inside my purse, which I happen to keep right in front of my nightstand. I picked up the cup and sighed loudly when I surveyed it's emptiness. I walked briskly to the bathroom and flipped on the light. I pulled items from my purse.

Checkbook. Covered in a long string of (thankfully) clear phlegm.

Chapstick. Covered.

Glasses case. Covered.

No less than six pens. All slimed.

And a pool of spit was collected at the bottom.

"Uggggg!" I moaned. This never would have happened if I was using my theatre degree for actual theatre instead of for pretending that I'm a kindergarten teacher. Because if I wasn't pretending to be a kindergarten teacher, I wouldn't be subjected to these super germs being carried around on the grubby hands of (albeit adorable) little people.

Ten minutes later I'd managed to clean out my purse and wash my items free of fluid. It was a disgusting job but someone had to do it. (And, really, who on earth else would have washed MY spit out of MY purse?)

So, you see, being a pastor's wife and substitute teacher is not all the fame and fortune and paparazzi and glamour that it looks like on the outside. Sometimes, it's an upside down phlegm cup in a purse.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Interview With a Seven-Year-Old

1. What is your favorite T.V. show? Ben 10.
2. What did you have for breakfast? Honey Nut Cheerios.
3. What is your middle name? Eric and David. (David Eric)
4. Favorite Food? A burger.
5. What food do you dislike? Nothing. I love everything.
6. What is your favorite color? Silver.
7. Favorite lunch? Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Play with my nice brother.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? To Mars. On this planet? Haiti.
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. When is your birthday? February the 28th.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? A night person because in the morning Garrett bugs me too much.
13. Pets? Yeah. A dog named Tessie and a cat named Ollie.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Beck died. (Well. Alright then.)
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? A military cop.
16. What is your favorite candy? You. Okay, me. I mean chocolate.
17. What is the farthest you've ever been from home? Isre-reel. (He still pronounces Israel with an extra syllable.)
18. What is your favorite book? The Bible. What is your favorite children's book? Chocolate Me!
19. What are you most proud of? Getting on to a level K book.
20. What is your favorite movie? Star Wars.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The egg. Why do you think that? Because how would the chicken be even born?

And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Bus.
2. What is your least favorite word? The F word. (We have the neighbor boys to thank for the fact that he knows this one.)
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") My family.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") The first Lord of the Rings because it's kind of scary and sad because Gandalf dies. That's a sad part. Also when Bilbo says, "Give me the ring!" and his eyes go all crazy.
5. What sound or noise do you love? Songs from The Newsies.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Garrett screaming his head off.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Dumb and stupid.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Go into the military and be a cop.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Be a nurse.
10 If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part) "Welcome to Heaven."


Dear Matt,

This one's a tough letter to write because last year was a difficult year for all of us. Last year, when I sat down to write, only four weeks had passed since we stood, staring, at the minuscule casket that held your baby sister. We all grieved hard but we mourned in different ways. You spent the better part of a year breaking into loud, wailing sobs when I least expected them. You, experiencing such a loss at such a tender and formative age, were the embodiment of Ecclesiastes and/or The Byrds.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;  A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace. -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This was you. One minute laughing, another crying. One minute mourning and the next, dancing. It broke my spirit to watch, knowing I could not fix the heart hurt you endured. But it healed my heart to see you grieving authentic. You didn't care if people watched you cry. You didn't hold back your hysterical sobs. You didn't apologize for laughing or loving. You yelled that it wasn't fair and you told God you were mad and you thanked Him for giving her to us at all. Your six-year-old process for coping was, in all honesty, a gift to us all.

This year, you also lost your beloved best friend, our golden retriever, Beck. One minute he was running happy and the next minute, an unknown tumor on his spleen ruptured. We lost him just a couple hours later. So I did what any rational mom whose kid lost a sister and a dog in the span of five months would do. I ran right out and bought you a puppy.

Tessie, the sweet, hyper, lovable golden puppy is your new best friend. You love to play outside with her, throw her ball, and wander the yard looking for adventure. It was a learning curve for you, never having experienced the exuberance of a retriever pup, but you quickly became inseparable. Of course, she treats you like an equal instead of an owner so you can often be heard howling, "TESS!" as she tries to pull some shenanigan or another over on you.

You're a genius.

Okay, I doubt that you are an actual genius but you're incredibly smart. You read well above grade level, you're in the top spelling group and you ace every test, you excel at math (for which I feel we have to thank your other parents because Dad and I are not so much with the math) and you just seem to learn with ease. The other night, after you finished practicing your spelling words, Dad jokingly told you to spell "disinfect." You knew he was kidding but you replied, "Okay. I can. I can do that one." And then you flawlessly and without much thought at all, printed it perfectly. Kiddo, disinfect is NOT a first grade word.

The problem with this high intelligence is that you are WAY TOO HARD ON YOURSELF. If you don't get a 100% on something, your little heart is just broken. At this point, you hold yourself to a higher standard than we ever would. So far, managing your education has been easy. There's never been a concept that you've struggled with. But managing your own expectations is a nightmare. Matthew, a 99% REALLY IS OKAY.

You ran track over the summer and played flag football in the fall. You're so fast. If you got the football, you were likely to either score or, at least, pick up a lot of yardage. You're signed up to play baseball this spring. We'll see how that goes because, at the moment, you close your eyes and knock down anything that comes flying at your face. But, in general, you're a coordinated guy so once you put it altogether, I'm sure you'll be great at baseball, too. I really believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to.

This was the year that you told us you were getting married. You and Brooklyn have grand plans to run away together and live in a "bush house" that you discovered over the summer at Santee Lakes. You've got it all planned out. You'll put down carpet to help with the ants and you'll fish for your meals. I'm fairly certain the two of your have broken up at least eleven times and gotten back together at least twelve but I'm not overly concerned. I mean, your ultimate plan is a bush house so I'm not putting a lot of stock in your marital judgement at this point in time. Still, it's been an absolutely hilarious ride for Brooklyn's mom and me.

You're still so funny that you make me laugh on a daily basis. Just last week, I opened your curtains to wake you up for school and you threw your blanket over your head and moaned, "Oh no! Not this again!" Yes, son. This. Again. For the rest of your life. You sure do love your sleep though and your teenage years are bound to be a challenge for us. And that whole lifetime in the workforce thing doesn't bode well for you either. At least you'll keep making me laugh while I keep waking you up.

You love church, your brother, sports, playing in the yard with friends, any substance that qualifies as food, spending time with your family, vacations, reading books, watching television, laughing, dance parties, listening to music, and playing with lightsabers.

We love your heart, your smile, your beautiful face and everything that you are. Happy 7th Birthday, Little Buddy.


Sunday, February 21, 2016


My boys have their best friends over right now. The littler boys are playing in the yard, same as they almost always do. Same as they've done for years. Same as the older boys have always done. Usually it's all four of them playing and having fun and some combination ends up trying to kill each other. It's how they roll. It's what we're used to.

But right now the nine and a half year olds are upstairs listening to music.

That's it.

That's what they're doing.

And I'm catching a glimpse of my teenager--who will be here in just a few years--hanging out with his buddy, listening to music and talking about girls or cars or whatever kids these days are talking about.

Where'd my baby go?

Heck, where'd my little boy go?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Cute Kid

There's a little boy in the class I'm teaching and he is THE STINKIN' CUTEST THING IN THE WHOLE, WIDE WORLD. His voice. His face. His personality. He's just adorable. Today, I read a book called Mustache Baby. Before I read it, I asked if any of them had a baby brother with a mustache. (Because it's kindergarten so I try to be silly sometimes.)

Several of them giggled and said no. The cute kid said, "My baby brother is dead."

I thought that I'd maybe heard wrong so, with a matter of fact tone, I clarified. "Your brother is dead?" His little face fell just a bit and he returned, "Yes. He died. So he's in heaven now."

The class was quiet. I locked eyes with him and replied, "That's sad. I'm sorry. I have a baby daughter who is in heaven also." He nodded slightly and we all moved on.

Later, as I was explaining some math work to them, I looked out and saw that he had one hand over his eye. He kept it there for awhile so I thought it was bothering him. "Are you okay, bud?" I questioned him.

He looked a little confused as to why I was asking so I clarified and asked if his eye was okay. "Oh, yeah. I'm fine. I'm trying to see what it would be like if I only had one eye for...for three days."

"Cool," I replied and then kept teaching math concepts. He's seriously the cutest of ever. So if this one little boy from an undisclosed elementary school in West Jordan, UT goes missing, the authorities should totally check my house first, is what I'm saying.

Except I would never, EVER, do that to his parents. Obviously they've been through enough. (Not that I would actually put any parents through the hideous ordeal of a missing child, regardless of whether or not they'd already lost one. Just to clarify.)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kinder Downer

I'm four days in to a five week kindergarten subbing gig. After tomorrow's Valentine party wraps itself up in a sugary coma, I'll have made it through one week. I'm subbing at my favorite school (it happens to be the one my boys attend every day), sharing a coat room with my favorite teacher to sub for who happens to be the Knower of all Things Kindergarten. Today I took her a Twix bar and a thank you note that said some version of, "Thanks for spending your lunch teaching me how to do the benchmark." So, as far as subbing goes, it's pretty much my dream job. I mean, the only thing better would be, maybe, being full time in a drama class for weeks on end.

I've noticed something. It only takes me a handful of minutes to decide whether I like a kid so much that I'd like to put him in my pocket and bring him home or whether I am so NOT fond of a child that I'd like to pull her spleen out of her body through her throat. (Or something that sounds a lot less like murder.)

So there is this one little girl who is so adorable that it truly is a wonder I haven't kidnapped her yet. But then, the Knower of all Things had my son last year, knows all about Kate, and probably has both her eyes on me. For sure she'd direct the cops straight to my house in the event that a kindergartner went missing. And there's a little boy who seriously has a comb over and is the cutest thing ever. Today, after I tested him on sight words, I said, "Thanks. You can go." He replied, "You're welcome. Any time. I'm here to help. Whatever you need." And I gnawed the tip of my tongue right off because I wanted to look at him and say, "OH MY GOODNESS MY LOVE FOR YOU KNOWS NO BOUNDS." But, that's really creepy. I try not to be the creepy sub.

There is also a little girl I am, in my own mind, un-affectionately referring to as Kinder Downer. She is Debbie Downer in a kindergarten body. Her disposition is so sour she makes the more difficult of my two children look like Shirley Temple, hopped up on sugar, dancing a jig on a rainbow. EVERY TIME she doesn't get picked to do something (which, let's face it, her odds are 1 in 20), her face contorts into RACHEL DRATCH DOING DEBBIE DOWNER.

Then come the water works. "BUT I WANTED TO GET PICKED."

"Oh no. Don't read that one. I don't even like that book."

"WHY DON'T HAVE A PAPER??" (Because I haven't gotten to you yet!)

Alright, so, she's more of a complainer than a Debbie Downer but she does it in such a way that I hear womp wah whenever she opens her mouth. Everything causes her to look exactly like this...

Today, I asked the Knower of all Things if she was familiar with Debbie Downer from SNL. She said she was and I told her that one of the kids in my class was a teeny tiny little downer. "Is it Sarah?" she asked. Sarah, by the way, is not her real name. 

"YES!" I exclaimed. This is impressive. I don't think I'd even verified that it was a girl AND there are two sessions so she was choosing from roughly 40 students.

Minutes later, I handed out their Valentine's envelopes (and by "envelope" I mean enormous paper heart) so they could decorate them for tomorrow. The teacher I'm subbing for had left them for me, already folded and sporting each kid's name. There were red, white and pink envelopes. I could have written the script ahead of time.

If Sarah doesn't get a pink one, the world is going to end. Today. Kindergarten Valentine Apocalypse.

Hers was one of the last ones I handed out. Girls and boys had happily taken what they were given. I could see slight disappointment on the cute faces of some of the girls who didn't get pink but they were troopers. They rallied quickly and happily set to decorating their envelopes. 

Sarah's was red. I alternated between thinking, It couldn't have been pink to make my life easier? and Hee Hee Hee I'm about to watch the birth of World War 3. Hitler, Mussolini, Sarah the kindergartner. A trio of fierce dictators.

Her shoulders sagged. Her face contorted. She closed her eyes. Her head hung down like she'd just been given two minutes to live. "But I wanted a pink one."

"Well, your teacher made you a pretty red one. We get what we get and we don't throw a fit."

You're enjoying your day, everything's going your way, then along comes Debbie Downer. Always there to tell you 'bout a new disease, a car accident or killer bees. You beg her to spare you. Debbie, please! But you can't stop Debbie Downer.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Once upon a time, I dreamed I'd have daughters. It's not that I decidedly didn't think I'd have sons, I just didn't picture myself with them. I had a brother and my idea of fun wasn't playing in a mud puddle or frolicking in the weeds until I came home with a raging case of poison oak. I pictured Barbies and tea parties and shopping trips.

Then, God allowed infertility and contested adoption and, at the end of the day, I was so thrilled to have these two healthy boys. And then I had a daughter die and I was especially thankful, again, for my sons. So, one of my biggest pet peeves in ALL THE WORLD is to hear women--and I've heard A LOT--say things like, "I prayed that God would give me my daughters because I have no idea what I ever would have done with boys." Or, "God sure knew what He was doing when He gave me girls." Or, "I NEVER COULD HAVE DEALT WITH BOYS!"

I don't actually understand any of this line of thinking. Raising boys is hard work. But it's not hard work because they think farts are funny and they get dirty and they spill thousands of BBs all over the floor.

It's not hard work because they're loud and sometimes rowdy. It's not even hard work because they like battles and guns and the great outdoors. It's hard because raising someone to be a man is not for the faint of heart.

I must teach my boys how to be responsible leaders while also showing them how to have tender hearts. I must teach them to harness that energy and enthusiasm without crushing their God-given manliness. I have to show them how to honor and respect girls while walking the tightrope of not being unfairly controlled by them.

So sometimes, I wish God would drop a kicking, screaming ball of testosterone into the laps of all the women who shout from the rooftops that RAISING A BOY WOULD BE HER OWN PERSONAL NIGHTMARE. Because then they'd see that we raise what we are given. We love what we are given. We figure out what we're supposed to do with what we're given. Even when what we're given doesn't play with Barbies.

We let them yell.

We let them shoot BB guns.

We learn about wars and spiders and trucks and wrestling because these things matter to our children.

So, please stop telling me that you could never deal with boys. Our amazing God blessed me with them and I wouldn't trade them for anything. When you say that you couldn't have handled boys, it implies that there is something wrong with what He gave those of us who have them. It implies that you somehow received His favor while we got the consolation prize.

My children are not a consolation prize. They are first prize. Blue ribbon. I won. Twice. If you think about feeling sorry for me, think this only because one day they will grow all the way up and leave me. That will be the thing that does me in.

It's not the wars or the spilled BBs or the sheer volume, but the absence of these things that will break my heart. We raise what we are given. And we are blessed.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Morning Imsomniac

Troy says I have morning insomnia. This means that once I'm awake, I'm pretty much awake. Even when my settings somehow get changed on my preferred times for substitute calls and my phone rings at 5:45 am on a day when I don't have to get up before 7:00 am. And then I realize I have a splitting headache so going back to sleep is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

I have a case of 21st century first world problems. Can you imagine if some woman from prairie times managed to get a hold of my laptop, turned it on and read this? She'd be all, "I just had a baby on the floor of my kitchen with no epidural and then I went out to milk the cows because THEY AREN'T GOING TO MILK THEMSELVES and AFTER THAT the sun came up."

I salute you, Prairie Woman.

But my response was to go to the substitute site and yell at it as I saw that all my times were changed to "District Call Times" when THAT IS NOT HOW THEY WERE EVEN YESTERDAY. I furiously corrected them to HUMAN HOURS while a few choice words (Dagnabit! And Flondenflockenhausen!) ran through my head. It doesn't really even matter though because I am totally starting a full time job on Monday that will last me right on through mid March.

So no phone calls from the automatic line at 5:45 until at least then. Hooray!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Little Man

He's nine and a half. Moments like these don't happen all that often anymore.

Nine and a half. That's closer to 18 than it is to newborn. I'll never understand the time warp of being an adult. My childhood felt like it lasted twenty lifetimes. These adult years are spinning out of control. How'd he ever get so big?

He's an off-the-charts extrovert. He's never, ever met a stranger he couldn't turn into a friend in a matter of seconds. A spindly pile of skin and bones and stomach muscles. I've taken to accepting it when other people tell me that he looks like his father. Troy and I just exchange a knowing glance that says, "That fool is bat crap crazy, right there." He's like his father in so many ways that I couldn't deny paternity if I wanted to, but looks aren't one them. 

I don't always think about infertility. I don't always remember what it was like to long so wildly for the thing that evaded me. But sometimes, when the lights are off and the children are asleep, I think about the quietness of life before them. The simplicity. The serenity. The sorrow.

It was different before.

No one called me mama. No one needed hugs and kisses and discipline. No one told me jokes about poop or laughed hysterical at the passing of gas. It's easy to think of all the ways I'm failing and all the things I've left undone. But in the end...this was all I ever wanted.

This boisterous boy who's quickly turning in to a miniature little man--and his kid brother--make all the difference between what might have been and a world of infinite possibilities.