Saturday, September 24, 2016

Pure & Genuine

I'm gonna get hate mail on this one. I've been thinking about it for a long time and so I'm just going to throw it out there. But first, disclaimers.

1. I am in no way, shape, or form comparing my children to animals.

2. I fully support the adoption of shelter animals.

3. I fully support having biological children.

Now, don't go forgetting those disclaimers.

So here it is. If I see one more Facebook post talking about how wrong it is to own a dog that was purchased from a breeder or a cat that came from a pet store or a goldfish some kid won at a carnival, I'm going to straight up lose my mind. If I read one more article about the evils of buying a pure bred while mixed breeds die at the humane society, I'm going to scream. If I read another tweet about how I'm contributing to animal cruelty by not being a part of the solution, I will delete all social media and live as a hermit in a cave in the Uintas. Okay, I won't do that. I have limits on my follow through.

It is completely fine that you adopted a shelter dog. I actually love that you did that. Chances are he's a great dog and he brings joy to your family and you love him a lot. Tell me on Facebook that he is your most loyal friend. Sweet! I don't judge you for that. You made a choice that worked for your family. Well done. Post inspirational stories of rescue cats. Write whatever else you want that shows shelters and animal adoption in a positive light. I hope that it will encourage someone to consider that option in the future.

Just don't present it as the only way. Don't turn pet owners into villains if they didn't adopt from a shelter.

I spent a lot of hundreds of dollars on the two pure bred golden retrievers I've personally owned. I bought them both from "backyard breeders" and they've been amazing dogs. Okay. In the interest of full disclosure, the first one ate our couch and the second one is a little bit nuts but neither of them have consumed any of our children so we consider it a win. But I've seen countless memes like this one come through on my feed...

I don't care for the sake of myself or the sake of my dog. She can't read and I'm growing a thicker skin by the minute. I bought a dog that was bred and a shelter dog died. That's really sad. Someday, maybe I'll buy a shelter dog. Or three. I really have no idea.

The reason I care so passionately about this, the reason I want to scream every time someone lectures me on the crime of buying a pure bred, is because, shelter dog or not, they are still...dogs. Or cats. They are animals. Animals are wonderful and lovely and bring us such joy. I can't imagine living life without them and I have sobbed mightily on more than one occasion when my own pet reaches the end of his life. But they really, truly are...animals.

God made them, yes. But they are not made in the image of God.

You know what is made in the image of God? Humans.

Genesis 1:27 "So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." 

I've had people ask me point blank, right to my face, if I considered a shelter dog before I bought my golden retriever. You know what I didn't say? "Did you consider adopting from the foster care system or from a ministry to birth mothers or from China or Nepal or Guatemala before you had your biological children?"

You see, when someone gets up on a pedestal about where an animal came from, all I think about are my children. All I think about is adoption reform and kids aging out of the system and people not giving money to adoption grants.

Apples and oranges? Obviously. My kids aren't dogs. The 17 year old who is about to be thrown out of the foster system isn't a cat. And, OF COURSE, I realize that not everyone can or should adopt children. My point is not that everyone needs to think long and hard about having biological children. Certainly not. Have biological children. Of course, have them! My point is not that we can't worry about shelter animals or that I don't care when a shelter animal is killed...

Once upon a time we became the inadvertent caretakers of some sick, stray kittens. I told Troy to take them to the humane society and NOT TO BRING THEM HOME UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE WHATSOEVER. He did as I said. I received a call from him later that day. "Since they are sick, they will euthanize them. What should I do?" Obviously those kittens came home and we nursed them back to health and then they found loving families. We've spent hours catching feral cats and taking them to spay and release clinics. We've owned two cats (HA! As if anyone ever owns a cat.) that were both homeless before we adopted them.  It breaks my heart when an animal is killed. 

My point is that we really ought to be valuing human life above all else. We ought to put our money, our mouths, and our memes where the Lord would put His. And, as He wrote through the hand of his own brother, James...

The orphan might be the foster child whose parents cannot break their drug addiction. She might be the baby who was left on the steps of the church in Haiti. He might be the child whose mama chose adoption because she, herself, aged out of foster care and wrestles with her own demons. She might be the newborn who tested positive for methadone. But regardless of what this looks like today, the truth rings clear. Pure religion...means caring for orphans. This doesn't always mean that you bring a child into your home through adoption or foster care. Sometimes it means helping someone to adopt. I am eternally grateful to the many people who contributed financially to our adoption stories. Thank you for caring for orphans. Sometimes it means writing Congress and imploring them to discuss adoption reform. Sometimes it means sponsoring a child overseas or moving abroad to work in an orphanage or donating to a ministry that cares for children.

I care about shelter animals but have chosen a purebred puppy in the way that you might care about the orphan but have chosen only biological children. I care about shelter animals, but I think about a couple of articles I read about a lack of foster families in Oregon. Children were staying the night in hotel rooms and spending their days in the DCFS office, waiting to find out where they'd go next. In a state that is known for its campaigns to hug trees and save spotted owls, one would hope that there might also be a value on hugging children and protecting them and caring for them. (I'm not trying to specifically throw stones at Oregon. Our lack of "orphan" care is a global problem.) I care about shelter animals, but I think about Shane, a man who aged out of the foster care system and is still haunted by the feelings that he wasn't good enough to have a family. I think about how some families adopt children and shelter animals and some families have biological children and purebred puppies and some families do some combination of the two and no one is evil because of their personal choices.

But as for me, when you say the word adoption, I do not think first of the animals. When you use your passion for shelter animals as a shaming device, I do not hear your cry for the dog or the cat, for the orphaned hamster or the rescued parakeet. Instead, I think first of all the children. I think of the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who said, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:26)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Pure Joy (And Einstein Hair)

Let me tell you about what a joy our third son is to our family. We pretty much can't stop staring at him. I mean, the spitting up ALL over his shirt JUST as we're walking out the door to go to school/work/church is getting old but, otherwise...

Listen, he is WAY cuter in real life which, I know, is saying something awfully magnificent because he is super cute in his pictures IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF. But the thing about pictures is that he is obsessed with staring down the camera like it is the most intriguing contraption he has ever seen. So you have to really catch him off guard. Which, well, he's three months old so it probably IS the most intriguing contraption he's ever seen.

The dude smiles with his whole body, usually while squirming in excitement. We're a little worried about him actually starting to move because, man, the man is nonstop. He's gonna get up and go and be in to EVERYTHING.

And can I just take a minute to talk about his hair? It is out of control. There are mad curls up top, but with spaces on the side so he looks like a cross between Einstein and Bobo the Clown. But the back is all bald and/or straight, short hair. It's a sight to behold. But dang, those long curls on top. His father keeps insisting we need to cut them and I keep threatening him within an inch of his life. "TOUCH MY BABY'S CURLS AND YOU WILL MEET JESUS IN A PAINFUL AND UNTIMELY ACCIDENT." (Or something less murderous sounding.)

He's just the best. The wait was painful and long but he is worth it. His smiles that greet us when he goes from tears in his crib in the morning to sudden elation that we've come for him, he coos and squeals. His sweetness and light. It's hard to believe he'll turn into a terrible two year old and then a back talking teenager. If I could bottle up the joy he exudes 90% of the time, I would.

Instead, I just thank Jesus for bringing me this little man I didn't even know we all needed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Day the Hamster Disappeared

Once upon a time, two weeks ago to be precise, our ten-year-old used his birthday money to purchase a hamster. He'd been begging us for well over a year and the answer was always no. A resounding no. For starters, we have a cat. Hamsters escape. I didn't want the bloodied carcass of Garrett's beloved pet strewn about the room. But he begged and begged and it was his money and I caved. Then, I caved Troy.

We brought Frisby home.

And Garrett became the cutest hamster owner there ever was. He doesn't complain about cleaning her cage (yet). He gets her out in the morning and he gets her out after school. He remembers to put her in the ball to run around. He invites his friends over to play with her. He calls himself her dad.

Yesterday, he had her on the bathroom counter while he was getting ready. As she has demonstrated, in her short time with us, a keen ability not to care if she falls from certain heights, we asked him to never put her on the counter again. We just weren't sure that she wouldn't jump to her suicidal death.

This morning, Matthew brought her into the bathroom and put her on the floor. It was his fault but it wasn't intentional. He didn't know there was an inch gap between a board on the floor and the cabinets. He didn't know that this gap led to a dark space under the cabinets. He didn't know that at the back of this dark space was a hole that led straight into the secret passages of the skeleton of our home.

The hamster disappeared. 

Garrett came and reported her whereabouts. At that point, none of us knew the hole existed. I thought she'd eventually come out for food and was relatively unconcerned. He was asking us to take a sledgehammer to the wood. We were refusing. He started sobbing and begging to be allowed to stay home from school. Eventually, we were on the ground with flashlights and tools, trying to find her. It was then that we discovered the hole. I took the boys to school.

When I got home, Troy heard her scratching under our bathtub. It was then that we knew she had escaped the small cabinet space and was now free to roam about the edifice. We spent some time trying to figure out what to do. I decided, because I lean toward the dramatic, that she would die in the walls. My son would be distraught as we all had to smell her decomposing body for weeks. I tend to be every bit the unfeeling robot and, when Garrett asked if we could sledgehammer the wood, I'd replied, "For a 15 dollar hamster?" But, once I thought Troy had left for work, I sat in the middle of the floor and cried. He hadn't quite left and, when he found me, he asked, "Are you okay?"

"I like her!" I wailed. I didn't want her. I had hamsters as a kid. They were cute and fun AND SMELLY AND POOPY AND I DIDN'T WANT ANOTHER ONE! But this is a sweet lil hammy. And I expected her to live longer than two weeks. AND I hate when my babies are heartbroken. Girls, this is your warning. Hurt my baby and I will straight up cut you. (Or something more godly and less violent.)

Before we'd seen the hole, we had used this tool to try to locate/poke her. There's a tiny claw on the end, once we knew she was maybe lost forever, I decided to put some food in it and leave it suspended between bathroom and deep, dark, no man's land under the sink--in the event that she came back.

I continued to hear her pattering around under our tub. As the day progressed, I became convinced that she'd somehow gotten down and couldn't get up. She was stuck. She'd die there, just beneath our showering feet. 

I called my dad who gave me some ideas of how we might get to her. I called Troy and relayed the ideas. He had been thinking up some of his own and promised me he'd come home from work early to try to rescue her. I called my mom and whined about our terrible predicament. I prayed. 

I kept checking to see if I could still hear her in the tub. At one point, I pulled a broken piece of grout out of a crack next to the tub. Sticking a screw driver in, I pried. I was hoping to create a hole big enough to send food and water in. As soon as I started messing around at the corner, she ran to that place and furiously started scratching. She was just a few inches away, trying to get to me and there was nothing I could do for her.

"Frisby," I said. "Please, I know you're in there. People are asking where you've been. They say have courage and I'm trying to. I'm right out here for you. Just let me in." No. I didn't. I did not start singing Frozen songs to her. Although, in hindsight it seems as good an idea as any. I did say, "I know you're there. I'm trying to figure out how to get to you." And then I recorded her frantic scratching.

And then, the tub went silent.

I couldn't hear her anymore.

When Troy got home, I wasn't 100% convinced that she was still in there. So, with my head nestled up against the toilet, I pressed my ear to the side of the tub and listened long. Maybe I hear something? And then I heard it loud and clear, her desperate, familiar clawing. Troy had removed a light fixture from the room below, hoping to be able to find a way to her that didn't involve sawing a hole into our tub or moving a panel out of shower and going through the drywall. Apparently, his messing around beneath her sent her into a frenzy. He decided that approach wasn't going to work.

He removed the piece that I have come to know is referred to as a bathtub trip lever (a.k.a. the drain lever). That didn't pan out either. He decided to cut a small hole in the drywall in the hopes that she would see the light and come out. It would seem that his stud finder is still single for a reason because, despite using it ahead of time, he was met with a beam. Unless the hamster planned to chew her way through a thick piece of wood, that option was no longer viable. We now had a hole in the wall and a hamster on the loose. He put the trip lever back together.

He asked me what I thought was better, a hole in the side of the tub that we would have to plug up or removing a bunch of the shower wall and cutting through drywall. Oh gee, um, lemme think. NEITHER. "You have to make that call," I told him. At some point during the fiasco, I'd gone to retrieve the boys from school and we were now working on homework. "I'll just keep practicing spelling and you can decide what you think is best."

When we got to a stopping point, I went upstairs to see what he'd decided. He wasn't in our bathroom. "Troy? Where are you?" I called out. The boys' bathroom door slowly opened. He had a finger pressed to his lips. "She's in there," he whispered. 

Do you remember how I'd left a piece of food in the claw of the metal tool? Troy happened to walk past the boys' bathroom on his way to get his drill to demolish our tub when what should he see but that tool moving (seemingly) ALL BY ITSELF. We think his messing with the lever and cutting a hole in the wall freaked her out and she somehow managed to decide that she wasn't stuck after all and she was going to hightail it outta there right quick. 

This is one of those things that I like to call a modern day miracle. Troy was on his way to destroy our bathtub. He JUST SO HAPPENED to walk past the bathroom at the precise moment that she JUST SO HAPPENED to eat the pumpkin seed that I had stuck on his tool hours before. THANK YOU, LORD!

I laid on the floor and stuck two of my fingers over the lip. She instantly nibbled first my middle finger and then my pointer. I grabbed a piece of food and held it up. Her tiny face emerged. Never have I been so thrilled to see the face of a tiny rodent staring at me. I held the food out and she tried to take it. I slowly pulled back. She placed one paw over the lip. I continued to pull slowly. Another paw. It was a tight squeeze for her and she flattened her body in pursuit of the food. Finally, she was top heavy enough to fall over the lip and onto the floor. I immediately scooped her up.

"Garrett," Troy called. "Can you come help me with something up here?"

He bounded up the stairs and, when he reached the bathroom, I held my hand out and gave him his hamster back.

We've only had her for two weeks and already the antics are outrageous. Tonight, Frisby, who Garrett sometimes affectionately refers to as Hammy Lammy Ding Dong, is happily trying to get out of her cage. Because, it would seem, she learned nothing from her day at large.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Looking Back on the Time We Traveled Internationally With a Seven-Year-Old and His Younger Brother

As was largely detailed here several years ago, we took our small children to Israel. We received overwhelming support from friends and family who thought it would be an incredible experience for our boys. Of course, there were also more than a few naysayers who thought we were absolutely OFF OUR METAPHORICAL ROCKERS.

"What if they won't eat anything?" Um...I don't think they will actually starve to death in a country with plenty of food.

"What if they are awful travelers?" They're great travelers so far so I think we'll be okay. If they're awful, I will eat my words and tell you that you were right all along and I shouldn't have wasted my money.

"What if you get shot or bombed?" You people are too dependent on your western news. And also, too driven by fear. I've been there. I was neither shot nor bombed.

"What if you spend that money and they don't remember?" Hmmmm...

We knew that was HIGHLY likely to happen. We also knew that God provided a way to take them when they were little. Given that, even though I'm not afraid of being bombed in Israel, I am aware of its frequent travel advisories, we decided to take them while we could.

It was one of the best decisions we ever made.

I knew before we left that we would make them Shutterfly books so that we could always remind them of their trip.

My friend is traveling internationally with her son soon and asked me for some tips for getting him adjusted to the time change as fast as possible. We messaged back and forth and I got so jealous of her trip to London and Italy and so nostalgic for our trip to Israel. After chatting with her, I went into their rooms and grabbed their Israel books down from their shelf.

I started flipping through Garrett's. He was seven when we flew him halfway around the world. We bought him a drawing pad and, at some point during our travels on the following day, we asked him to color a picture of his favorite thing from the previous day. We then took pictures of his drawings and included them in his Shutterfly album. Nearly three years later, I was looking back on these drawings and it hit me what a great idea that had been.

Now, while we did tons of things every day and there were many things every day that he loved (and sometimes he had a really hard time choosing), we have a glimpse into what really impacted our seven-year-old on his historical and biblical tour of Israel.

Our first day was spent alone with just our family. We arrived in Israel and spent the night right by the Mediterranean Sea. Garrett's favorite thing from the entire day was when his daddy threw him, repeatedly, into the sea. I sat on the shore, nursing a raging case of airsickness and the beginning of a sinus infection while three guys hit on me in Arabic.

On day two, Garrett drew a picture of him, his brother, and a women we'd just met who became a fast friend, standing in the ancient remains of Herod's Pool. Turns out they weren't really, actually, exactly supposed to get in it but it's his favorite memory from that day and no one threw us into an Israeli jail so I consider it a win.

Our third day was filled with sites. Among them, Tel Dan, which is stunning. People think of dirt and dust and heat when they think of Israel. That's there, but there is also water and trees and beautiful country. Garrett took off his shoes and waded through the streams and pools that come together to form the headwaters of the Jordan River. His picture, sketched with first grade hands, shows him standing next to a tree in the middle of a pool on our nature hike. The tree looks like a big person with blue hair. Just go with it.

One of the things we did on day four was visit a working replica of a Nazarene village. This kind of things was, is, and will probably always be right up Garrett's alley. I'm certain if he had any idea that places exist where people reenact the Civil War, I would have to move him to the battle field where he would set up permanent residence. He LOVED Nazareth Village.

Our fifth day was filled with archaeological sites and places with deep biblical history. I'd begged Troy to beg our tour guide to stop at Gan Hashlosha, a spring that they've turned into a type of natural water park. It's refreshing, beautiful and SO FUN. In the middle of a busy tour schedule, it was nice to take a dip. I'm so glad I pushed the issue and got it worked into our trip because it was my son's favorite thing that day. He didn't actually go fishing but there were fish so his picture shows some dude trying to catch them. Even though they were, like, the size of my toe.

Day six was also filled with sites. We took a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. The captain and his crew tossed fishing nets into the sea, the crew and some of our group danced a traditional dance, and the ride was what my kid chose to draw. His little brother ate a bunch of fish eyes that day. I might have drawn that.

On day seven we did so many fun things. Garrett stood in a waterfall in En Gedi, floated in the Dead Sea, and rode in a cable car. But, he was also baptized in the Jordan River. And THAT was what made the biggest imprint on his mind. The picture kinda looks like a couple of praying mantises playing in a pond but is, in fact, his daddy submerging him in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Day eight was spent relaxing in Eilat. I was in the horrendous stages of my sinus infection and we just went to the beach for a few hours before I slept all afternoon and the boys played in the hotel pool. I think it was one of his most favorite days. The picture shows Troy and me on top of a short retaining wall. The beach was below and you can see the boys playing beneath us.

On day nine, the boys climbed a hill. I mean, they did WAY more than that but that's what Garrett drew a picture of. We'd gone all over and, eventually, ended up at the valley of Elah where David fought Goliath. Troy took the boys up a steep hill and they ended up having to kind of slide back down on their bums. Garrett got some scrapes and scratches, had a blast, and drew all about it.

On day ten, among other things, we visited the Garden Tomb. Likely not the actual site of Jesus's resurrection but beautiful, peaceful, and impressive, the Garden Tomb stood out in Garrett's mind above everything else from that day. That's a tree you see. Not a giant carrot guarding the tomb. He must have been going through a very Picasso-y tree phase.

Day eleven was filled with so many Jerusalem sites. We walked the Via Dolorosa, saw Gethsemane, went to the western wall and more. But Garrett was seven. And Garrett rode a camel. Not a hairy elephant, a camel. I mean, he rode a donkey, too, but, apparently, the camel made a bigger impression.

On our last day, we walked a third of a mile through an underground, water filled tunnel that may have been used as an escape route out of the walled city. It didn't matter what else we did that day. Walking through an underground tunnel was most impressive to a seven-year-old. And to his then 32 year old mother.

I'm so glad we did this trip with them and so glad we had Garrett draw pictures. They're hilarious and also so telling of the things that might stick permanently in his mind. If you get the opportunity to travel with kids, DO IT. Jet lag, interesting foreign foods, scrapes and cuts and one kid barfing on the tour bus and all, I wouldn't change it for the world. They both talk--always--of wanting to go back and of wanting to see the rest of the world.

I'm also glad that his carrot/blue hair person tree phase will forever be remembered in this photo album.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Upon Seeing a Beautiful Picture

I see it time and time again, beautiful pictures of an adoptive mother seeing her child for the very first time. She's covered her mouth with a hand and tears are filling her eyes. It's caught forever, that incredible moment of love, joy, amazement and instant motherhood.

I don't have a picture like that of me.

I guess I could have faked it. I could have used every dime of my theatre degree to glaze my eyes over with tears. I could have reacted the way 90% of moms do which is exactly the way I imagine I should respond. And, truth be told, I feel sad and sorry because that wasn't my reaction with either of the children who have come to me through someone else's womb. But, in all honesty, it wasn't how I reacted to the son I carried either.

Of my four children, I only sobbed the first time I held one of them and that was because her heart was still. The ones that were breathing and moving and peering at me through eyes I'd longed to gaze into for forever, caused no immediate or intense emotional reaction.

In part, I suppose it's denial. I'd waited for each of them in painful ways and, once they got here, I think there was a part of me that was holding back, afraid to have that instant and overwhelming bond. Most of it is that people are always looking at me. If you'd put me in a room alone with each of my boys, I'm certain the tears would have flowed freely just as they did when the door closed and it was just Kate, me, and a flood of wounded grief--except in place of grief would be relief and joy. But there have always been doctors, nurses, and adoption coordinators standing by, watching that intensely personal moment.

The robot in me can't share the space. Because of that, none of my boys have a picture of their mother in awe, overcome by emotion. And so, they may forever think that their entrance into my life was without fanfare. They may wonder if I felt any kind of sudden attachment to them. There is, after all, no proof.

I just recently saw a beautiful picture of an adoptive mother seeing her boy for the very first time. I stared at it, wishing there was a picture of me looking that very same way. Instead, there are pictures of me holding them with stoicism written boldly across my face.

There aren't pictures of Garrett waking me in the middle of the night when he was six hours old, my newfound maternal instinct pulling me from a deep sleep as I flew into motion with that first cry. There's no picture of him, cradled against my body an hour later, as silent tears of joy dampened his head in the dark.

No one was there to take a picture of me staring through the window at Matthew before I was allowed to hold him. He wailed and I wiped tears from my eyes. All I could think about was getting to him so that I could hold him and make it stop, a non-biological maternal instinct that I found to be both surprising and beautiful.

There weren't hidden cameras when it was finally just Will and me and he snuggled into my body like we were always meant to be together. There were so many emotions, so much surprise that he was mine, so much to do to get him home, that my tears for him came later, in the privacy of my own bedroom, staring into his eyes and realizing the full weight of the miracle.

I wish I was a lovely person with lovely pictures to tell my story. Instead, these boys will have to settle for the words I splatter onto a page. Words about how they each came into my life and, behind the veil of privacy, I was finally able to really see them. And what I saw was glorious, miraculous, and life changing. What I saw were souls and smiles and blessings. What I saw were my babies. And I put my hand over my mouth and tears sprung to my eyes because they were perfect.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

My Phoenix

Hey Kid,

Somehow, some way, you're already three months old. A quarter of a year old. The fact that children grow up at the speed of light continues to astound me. The science of it remains a mystery to me. I meant to write you a letter every month but, life. Also, it's totally your fault because you all but refuse to sleep if your arms aren't strapped down. We really need to wean you off of being swaddled but you are completely uninterested in that business. So at night we swaddle you and during the day I hold you, rock you, put you in your crib, try to get a nap out of you and rejoice if you sleep unswaddled for more than ten minutes in a place that is not my arms. I just took a shower, made your brother lunch, and sat down to write. I knew I was operating on borrowed time and, sure enough, about three sentences ago you started crying. I'll leave you in there for a few minutes, hoping that you'll fall back to sleep. Your screaming will escalate and it'll all be over. So, I get nothing done, including letters to you. But that's okay because you are totally worth every pile of clothes unwashed, every speck of dust that lies in wait, every dinner thrown together at the last second.

It's louder now, that cry that only rings out when you're tired or hungry or want to be held. The one that will stop the moment I enter your room. It'll be instant, the switch from scream to smile. Because you are always happy to see me.

I'm pecking out the words with one hand now while you snore on my chest. You've got the neck of my shirt in a vice grip, as if to say, "Don't ever put me down, Mama. Oh the things I've seen in my crib. Dreadful things!"

Kid, ANY time that you happily kick next to us on the bed, sit in your swing, or chill in your bouncer is considered a major success because, generally, your opinion is that there are four able bodied individuals around here who should be more than willing to hold you AT ALL TIMES. Except you will sleep at night so thank you for that. Swaddled up tight, you'll gladly sleep for 8-10 hours. That particular feat happened consistently at 11 weeks.You weighed between 10 and 11 lbs. Your brothers consistently slept through at 8 and 9 weeks but they were also between 10 and 11 lbs. So my new theory is this: Back slowly off the night time feedings and then wait until the kid beefs up enough to live off his fat reserves.


You have fat reserves now! They appear in the form of two plump leg rolls and a pair of chipmunk cheeks. When I saw your teeny little body for the first time, I wasn't entirely sure that rolls were achievable. But then I stuffed you full of breast milk and just look at you now. Speaking of that, we've had a steady supply and I couldn't be more thankful. I feed you about half milk and half formula and it works well (as is evidenced by the aforementioned fat reserves).

Your smile, your curls, and your eyes SLAY me. It's like a trifecta of adorable traits that come together and form some kind of Mama Kryptonite. I'd sooner shrivel up and die than choose a favorite. You're just really stinkin' cute and I'm not even being arrogant when I say that because I had nothing to do with it. I mean it. Well done, to your parents.

You currently enjoy sucking on your fists, taking baths, and snuggling. You are, I believe, just moments away from laughing. You have been letting out a strange sort of guttural chortle which then surprises you so much that you start to cry. If we could just get you to realize that mirth is joyful and hilarious and not at all scary, I'm certain you'd be well on your way to constant laughter.


In your first few months you have flown on an airplane three times, been to the beach and the bay and the San Diego Zoo, gone swimming in pools, been passed around to more people than I could begin to count, and brought so much happiness into our home.

Sometimes, I get caught up in sports and diapers and church and school and homework and all the living and I'm just like, "I have a baby." And then sometimes, in the quietness of our time together--just me and you--I really think about it. I mean, you are this huge miracle, this fantastic work of God that landed himself right in my arms, this person that I didn't even know I needed. God is using you to heal a part of me, to turn to scar what was gaping and sore. It is as though the Great Physician has stitched you through the broken places. And when all is said and done, there will be a reminder of the sorrow--always--but woven through it all is the healing joy of you. Sometimes, tears spring to my eyes when you grin at the world because I simply could not have dreamed up the beautiful phoenix that would rise from the ashes.

I love you so much more than you can know or imagine.


Friday, September 2, 2016

The New 80

I'm going to be 35 in a week.

It's fine.

I mean, I'm not nearly as famous as I thought I'd be by now. But, otherwise, it's a good life. There's a curly topped baby squirming around in my arms, my husband works at a church and I work at a school so, really, not much has changed since this precise time ten years ago. Except now I live in Utah and have two other boys who call me mama. Or mom. Or the occasional mommy.

I still feel 25 except for all the joints that are bugging me and the fact that I've started to bruise with no apparent cause. In those ways, I am closer to 70. But my maturity level is still a solid, well, 15 (if I'm being honest).

What I'm trying to say is that, for the most part, I don't feel like I'm about to kick the bucket. Second graders, however, have an entirely different opinion of me. Yesterday, while subbing for a class--some of which I've known since I first filled in for their teacher in kindergarten--I was given the following dismal news.

At one point during the day, I heard one boy say to another, dramatically, "I'M TOO YOUNG TO DIE!" I have no idea why he said this. His life was in no immediate danger and I didn't hear the conversation leading up to this declaration.

A girl, one who I've known for a solid two years, chimed in. "Everyone here is too young to die except Mrs. B."

Awesomesauce. (Isn't that what the hip, young, whippersnappers are saying these days? No?) I am no longer too young to die. I guess 35 is the new 80.