Sunday, February 28, 2021

Letter to a 12 Year Old

 Dear Matthew,

For the life of me, I cannot find a letter for your 11th birthday and here you are turning 12. What happened? How did I fail at life so substantially? My only defense is that we came home from our trip to New York together and almost immediately the entire world fell apart with the Covid-19 pandemic. It's no excuse. But that's all I can come up with. Or Will. Will was A WHOLE HEAPING HELPING OF A LOT LAST WINTER. I was barely surviving all the therapy and all the hitting and screaming that he was throwing my way. Again, no excuse. I apologize with everything in me.

You're 12. And you're a transracially adopted 12 year old. There's a lot of growth and development and adoption processing and understanding happening in these days and moments. The truth is, I didn't see all of this when I held your shrieking newborn body in my arms. I knew it would be a journey but I had no idea. Walking with you down this path of pain and awareness has been an experience I carry with great honor. I say it to you all the time and I will say it here in print: your story is yours. Your life is yours. Love who you choose. Accept what you will. Disregard what you won't. I am here for all your big, huge feelings and I am here for your silence. Decide who belongs to you and who doesn't. The choice is yours. I promise to continue learning, to sit in the uncomfortable, and to broaden my shoulders to hold what they need to. I promise to seek first to understand. I promise to do whatever I need to do in order to be what you need.

But what I need you to hear--someday, when you read this--is that I love you. I love you no more or less than your older brother or your younger brother. I know you are not biologically related to me but neither is your dad and I love him something ridiculous. I know you're not always in a place to receive that. But I won't stop saying it.

There's a line in Dear Theodosia where Hamilton sings...

Oh Philip, when you smile I am undone
My son
Look at my son
Pride is not the word I'm looking for
There is so much more inside me now
Oh Philip, you outshine the morning sun
My son
When you smile, I fall apart
And I thought I was so smart

Those are my thoughts exactly. Except, well, your name isn't Philip. But, Matthew, pride doesn't begin to cover it. There is so much more inside me. There is so much love. And in the depth of your smile I am undone. It's the same smile you've had since you were four months old. It lights up the room. It lights up my heart. And I know that is so mushy and gross but it's completely true. I am ever so thankful that I have that smile in my life.

I can list all the ways you amaze me but it would take too long. You are so smart with your straight As and your advanced math. You are so strong with your self taught flipping and your 200 push ups. You are such an incredible brother. Truly. Oh you know how to push both their buttons and you do--as brothers do--but you are so often kind and caring, patient and self-sacrificing. You are creative, introspective, and always hilarious.

This year has been hard on everyone and you're no exception. I'm sorry for the isolation. Still, we did get to go to Tahoe and San Diego. We had a blast camping at the lake with our best good friends and visiting the family in southern California. We had fun in the creek over the summer and really enjoyed our first full Oregon summer--even if our options were limited. Beach trips and Silver Falls and a million walks helped break up the huge amount of time we spent stuck inside.

With all the isolation, you'd think it would be impossible to sustain injuries. But no. You got a probable concussion--running through the house with wet feet and falling flat on your back, a sprained wrist--before you were proficient at landing flips, and a sliced open foot--because your brother shoved you off a dock and you tried to stay on it. Between you and your brother, we were visiting urgent care constantly and it was OUT OF CONTROL. But I will tell you that as of this letter, it has been 176 days since we have entered the urgent care or the ER. How long can we go? 177 days, probably.

Your laugh is infectious. Your brain, a wealth of knowledge. And your body, way taller than your older brother's was at the same age. I predict that you'll tower over him in two years time. But we'll see. Watching you grow and develop into the amazing preteen that you are is one of my greatest joys. I pray peace upon your heart as you continue to change into the person you will become.

I love you.
I love you.
I love you.

Mom

Interview with 12 Year Old Matthew

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? This is Us. 
2. What did you have for breakfast? Coco Puffs. (I do not buy Coco Puffs. The school puts it in their breakfast/lunch. JUST FOR CLARIFICATION.)
3. What do you want to name your future son? Ian. (You guys! I'm just waiting for the day when my kid makes up some name and I have to forever call my grandson Craydin or something--given the prevalence of terrible names lately. IAN IS SO NICE AND NORMAL. Yay!)
4. Favorite Food? Pizza. Wait no, not pizza. Escargot. (Okay. He had escargot on a cruise with my parents. He's 12. He likes to pretend buttery snails are his favorite food. Whatev.)
5. What food do you dislike? Cooked broccoli. 
6. What is your favorite color? Red.
7. Favorite lunch? Hot dogs and hamburgers.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Hang out with friends. Specifically my bestest friend in the whole wide world who can never be replaced, Ben. 
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Ireland. (He once saw this little warrior ninja girl on Britain's Got Talent. She was from Ireland. He wanted to marry her. This was back when he hadn't sworn off marriage forever. He became obsessed with Ireland. The end.)
10. Favorite sport? Soccer.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? I wouldn't be having a daughter but...Megan. ("I wouldn't be having a daughter. 😂😂😂" Oh. Okay. Noted. BUT AGAIN WITH THE NORMAL NAMED CHILDREN. YAY!)
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? I'm definitely a night person. (His exact words from last year.)
13. Pets? Dog. Two frogs.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Um. No. I don't know. I don't have any exciting news. I'm turning 12. That's exciting news.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? An actor.
16. What is your favorite candy? Reese's.
**17. (New question this year. This used to be "Farthest place you've ever been from home?" which has been Israel ever since he was 4 and, since Israel is PRETTY far, it might be awhile before the answer changes so...new question.) Where do you want to live when you grow up? Well. I've thought about it. Ireland. (The obsession is deep.)
18. What is your favorite book? Wings of Fire.
19. What are you most proud of? Me being able to do a flip successfully.
20. What is your favorite movie? All the Star Wars movies.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken. The egg had to be fertilized. (Exact same thing he said last year. He's no dummy.)


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? Matthew.
2. What is your least favorite word? Jerk.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Sports.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") School. (For the record, he earned straight As again so I don't really see the problem...)
5. What sound or noise do you love? The sound of going to the zoo and hearing all the birds chirping in the background. Or the sound at the beach with the waves and the seagulls. (I had no idea he enjoyed bird sounds so much.)
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam. (He doesn't even like to touch Styrofoam he hates it so much.)
7. What is your favorite curse word? Stupid. (I told him he could say any word. Any word at all and I wouldn't be upset. He said, "I know but I don't want to say those other words so...Stupid. Okay.)
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Professional Baseball Player. (Interesting...)
9. What profession would you not like to do? Tennis player. (Apparently we're all about the sports right now.)
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.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Slaying the Giant of Perfectionism

I was born a perfectionist and raised in a structured home. We were taught how to behave and we didn't really challenge that. We fell into line. It worked and so I raised my first two children with the same parameters. I'm not going to lie, there were times when I thought I was crushing the parenting thing. (I was humble enough to know that parenting is a long job and something can happen at any time but I thought structure, clear expectations, and love were all it took.) 

My older children and I are neurotypical. My youngest son is not. (Structure, clear expectations, and love are NOT all it takes for A LOT of kids.) 

 My perfectionism is not good. It tied my stomach in knots for more school tests than I can count. It has kept me from taking chances and trying new things--what if I don't succeed? Its expectations for myself are impossible. In my perfectionism are a million comparisons beginning with everyone else's success and ending with my failure. 

And so, my youngest son-the one who is instantly overstimulated in any environment other than our home-struggles and it feels, to this perfectionist, like I haven't done enough. I want to tell everyone, "He is TRYING. I promise he has come so far already! And I am TRYING. Every minute, I am trying."

I have wished my perfectionism dead for a very long time. Perhaps this one boy, who is brilliant and coordinated and funny and tender and uniquely different, will be used to heal me. Perhaps, in practicing radical acceptance of his circumstances, I will learn to let go of this plague of perfectionism. I'm not saying all these things in search of compliments of any kind. I know I'm trying and that is enough. I'm sharing because I cannot tell you the amount of people who have reached out to me since I began opening up about our journey. You are not alone in your struggle. Fred Rogers said, "Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable." 

 Every moment with my nontypical guy is an opportunity to shed rigidity and replace it with compassion. Every moment is a chance for me to see another struggling parent and know that it may very well have nothing to do with how hard she's trying. I wish I learned this sooner. The Lord has quite the way of growing humility in us.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Interview. Garrett. 14.

I always ask my kids a series of questions on or near their birthdays.
Here are Garrett's as a 14 year old.

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Man v. Wild
2. What did you have for breakfast? Eggo Waffles
3. What do you want to name your future son? I don't know. I asked him, "What is a boy name you like?" I like John. I like Troy. I like all sorts of stuff.
4. Favorite Food? Snow Crab (Same as last year and the year before that and the year before that.)
5. What food do you dislike? Mushrooms. (Same as last year.)
6. What is your favorite color? Light blue.
7. Favorite lunch? Pizza.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go camping or fishing.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Germany.
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? I honestly don't know. I asked, "What is a name you like for a girl?" Kaylee.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Whatever I need to be.
13. Pets? I have a dog. (We just had yet another hamster die. Poor kid.)
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? We're going on vacation in a week.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? Army Ranger.
16. What is your favorite candy? 3 Musketeers.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Israel.
18. What is your favorite book? Probably Guts and Glory: The American Civil War.
19. What are you most proud of? Being tough.
20. What is your favorite movie? Black Hawk Down
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken.

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? I love the word food. (Spoken like a true teenage boy.)
2. What is your least favorite word? Weeds. (Also spoken like a true teenage boy.)
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Life
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Injuries
5. What sound or noise do you love? Gun shots. (OH. MY. WORD. I clarified that this was a noise he loved and he was like, "Yeah. They sound awesome. Oh dear.)
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam. 
7. What is your favorite curse word? Well, I shouldn't like bad words. A lot of times, I would like to call people a jack ass. (Oh, me too, Son. Me too.)
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Marine biologist.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Sewage plant worker. (Ew. I second that.)
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. Or, Welcome, Garrett. If He's using our earth names in Heaven.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Letter to Four-Year-Old Will

Dear Four-Year-Old,

I'm sorry I'm writing this a month late, as though I forgot it was your birthday. It's true that, half the time, when I have to tell someone your birthday I get I tongue tied and mix up the date with your dad's or shout out the wrong year but I absolutely do know when it is. It's just that I didn't write because your grandparents were here and then Garrett's appendix exploded and he spent five nights in the hospital and then baseball finally started up and life happened and I kept needing to sit down and write and suddenly it was a month later.

Third child. I'm sorry.

Although, in actuality, if you had the energy of a regular child and not the intense energy of a blazing supernova, I might have more time. The truth is, I almost never write anymore and my reading pile continues to grow. I have good intentions to read and write. There's just little follow through.

I don't even know where to begin with this year. A year ago, we had just found out we were picking up our whole entire lives and hauling them over the river and through the woods to Dallas, Oregon. You still ask when you can go back and see your old house on Sunflower. Even though the street we lived on was called Starflower. It breaks my heart. I can also see you holding on to vague memories of people the way I try to reach for the contents of a dream as I'm waking up. I grasp but it slips through my fingers like spider webs. You will recall a memory and give me great details, but you rarely remember names anymore. It breaks my heart to realize that, in time, most of Utah won't even be a memory for you.

You've got such a smart brain. You can learn things so quickly when you take a deep breath and concentrate on the task at hand. Covid-19 hit in March and preschool was canceled so I home schooled you. You learned all of your letters and their sounds in record speed. I'm so proud of you for starting to learn sight words now. You're working on numbers, days of the week, months of the year, seasons and so much more. When we do shapes, you can even name the rhombus, the pentagon and the hexagonal prism.

It's been such a weird year with the move and starting preschool and Covid hitting and shutting down your world for months and months. Finally, FINALLY, you had your first t-ball practice. I assume you're the youngest on the team and, of course, you're crushing the ball. It was evident tonight, however, that we need to work on base running. You would just take off and sprint in whatever direction you saw fit. I'm not surprised that you were making great contact because, at your own home, you can hit a pitch over the fence--and do. We've had to retrieve many a ball from a neighbor's yard.

We play together every day and it is so fun to watch your creative mind at work. Playdoh, the doctor kit, Lincoln Logs, the magnet board, the drill set, play food, and Legos are some of the favorites when we have our special play time together. Speaking of Legos, you will sit and build them for very long stretches. I am so thankful for Legos. My feet and my compulsion to have a decluttered home are not actually in love with Legos, however. I'm also thankful for Disney+ which has provided many distractions during these strange times of isolation.

You love fruit and we joke that we cannot buy grapes or berries of any kind because you will walk by all day, taking them by the gobs. I guess if you're going to be a little pig, at least you're a healthy little pig. You're certainly growing! You are now in the 82nd percentile for height and the 67th for weight. Standing at 42 inches tall, you are now able to ride every single thing at Disneyland except for the roller coaster and Indiana Jones and some other ride that no one cares about. I think it might be the swings. Naturally, now, all I want to do is take you to Disneyland. But I can't. Because Disneyland is closed. Stupid world pandemic.

Maybe next year.

This year, you told me that you wanted Jesus to be in your heart so that you could go up to Heaven some day. So we prayed. Your little voice committing, as much as a tiny kid can, to follow Jesus was the sweetest thing. I know it's a tiny child's faith and it will need cultivating and watering and teaching so that it can grow, but it's a start--the most important of starts.

I love you so much. I hope that in it all and through it all, when you look back, you can see that love measured in support and marked in ten minute increments, first/thens, and, "Great job, Wills!" I hope you can one day see my dedication to the shaping and forming of you. You are the embodiment of my answered prayer as you run around with underwear on your head.

All my love, always,
Mom


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Interview With 4 Year Old Will

Interview with Four Year Old Will

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? PJ Masks.
2. What did you have for breakfast? Waffles and sausage and strawberries.
3. What do you want to name your future son? Hudson. (His little baby cousin who he is desperate to meet someday.)
4. Favorite Food? Strawberries
5. What food do you dislike? macaroni and cheese if you put pepper on it. (Ok.)
6. What is your favorite color? Blue and yellow and green and purple and violet. All the colors.
7. Favorite lunch? Peanut butter.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Swing on my new swing.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? San Diego
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? I wanna name her Hannah. (His cousin. Hudson and Hannah also have a sister named Hailey. I'm kinda sad that Will left her out in the naming game.)
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? A night person.
13. Pets? Only a dog. Not a cat. Because our cat ran away.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I like playing on my swing.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be an astronaut.
16. What is your favorite candy? Caramel Crispie candy.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Oh when we're on a trip and we're just flying and then we landed at the airport. (Mkay.)
18. What is your favorite book? Little Blue Truck
19. What are you most proud of? About my family
20. What is your favorite movie? Onward
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken

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? Peanut Butter (He does say this word a lot. Like, always. It's almost as though he has a nervous tick.)
2. What is your least favorite word? He insisted on only making a sound. It was kind of like an extremely loud raspberry noise.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") flying
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Peanut butter and jelly and pickles.
5. What sound or noise do you love? I love the chicken sound. Bagock!
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Loud yelling (Really? Because it's basically your default volume.)
7. What is your favorite curse word? Dumb
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A police man
9. What profession would you not like to do? A firefighter.
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)? I would like for him to say, "Jesus there's a new Heaven boy who is coming in to Heaven." (I love that God the Father is talking to God the Son in this scene. And that Will is called Heaven Boy.)

Monday, April 20, 2020

Day 38

Coronavirus Home Isolation Day Who Even Knows Anymore? Day 38. I think. Why didn't I record what we were doing from the start? Maybe we'll open up the country again someday soon. We probably won't.

Today I interviewed Kaena Kekoa on Zoom with my class and a bunch of drama kids I know. And my own kids. And it was amazing. Such an incredible, humble, beautiful soul. It made me feel so happy to talk about theatre and Broadway tour life like it was normal, like the whole world hasn't shut itself up inside and lost everything that was good.

Then I helped Matthew with his online school and wrote up a lesson plan for next week's drama class.

And I chased the morning of work with a long solitary walk down to the aquatic center and back.

We ended the afternoon with a trip to a new part of the creek we hadn't been to before. There was a water fall and trees growing out of the side of the creek bank. I was reminded again how gorgeous this place is that we moved to eight months ago.

Dinner was quick and easy and I realized that I didn't have to get onto Will to stay in his seat. Small victories.

Now we're finishing the day with a family movie (minus Will who is already asleep).

Coronavirus...I solidly hate you.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Atonement

I don't know the last time I stayed home on Good Friday. It feels disconnected and disjointed. It feels, a little bit like I'm a disciple hiding, having run scared from the garden when my Lord was arrested. In years past, we have performed dramatizations or hammered a nail into a cross, metaphorically leaving our own sins there. We've joined together in worship. We've contemplated what the Savior did for us on that bloody, awful, beautiful tree.

And we will do that again, tonight. It will just look different.

It will look like my family taking communion together. A smaller gathering than we're used to. It will look like a bunch of disciples hunkered down, afraid. It will look and feel and seem weirdly broken.

But, perhaps, there is beauty in that. Maybe, even, I had gotten comfortable with the traditional way we acknowledge our Savior's execution. We use that word, crucify. We use it because that is the method by which He died. The criminals on the crosses next to Jesus were put to death for their crimes. But our Lord was perfect. There was not a single sin to speak of. And so, maybe, we will begin to connect to the awfulness of it all if we say what it was. An unwarranted execution.

Killed at the hands of Pilate and the Romans. Execution, called for by the Jewish leaders. Murder, by you and by me and our persistent sin.

But from the beginning, a plan. The way. The truth. The life. Jesus. Born to die that we might live.

That day, the land went dark. The earth shook. The veil tore. The rocks split. The blood ran red from the body of God the Son. Atonement. It is finished.

At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree
On that beautiful, scandalous night you and me
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white
On that beautiful, scandalous night


Or. A little more accurately...
At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree
On that beautiful, scandalous day you and me
Were atoned by His blood and our sin washed away
On that beautiful, scandalous day

Monday, March 2, 2020

Interview with 11 Year Old Matthew

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Family Matters (An oldie but a goodie)
2. What did you have for breakfast? Eggo Waffles (Technically, my money only buys the store brand but we can call them Eggos if he wants to.)
3. What do you want to name your future son? Marcus (WOW! If I had a grandson named Marcus, I would be so relieved.)
4. Favorite Food? Hamburgers. But there's a certain type. McDonald's McDonald's hamburgers. (Oh dear.)
5. What food do you dislike? Cooked broccoli.
6. What is your favorite color? Well. Right now it's gold.
7. Favorite lunch? Snack lunch. (This is basically a cheap charcuterie board. In a muffin tin.)
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Play with friends.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Can you do a place that you've already gone? Yes. New York.
10. Favorite sport? Soccer.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? McKenna.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? I'm definitely night person.
13. Pets? Yeah. A dog. And a hamster. Well, that's not my pet, but...
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I just got all my math done. (His definition of new and exciting is different than mine.)
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? An actor.
16. What is your favorite candy? Reese's Pieces.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Israel.
18. What is your favorite book? Wings of Fire and Jack & Louisa.
19. What are you most proud of? That I found an AR book with 9 points on it. (In all of his life, this is what he's most proud of? Eleven year olds confuse me.)
20. What is your favorite movie? Star Wars the Rise of Skywalker.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken. The egg had to be fertilized. (Well, okay then.)

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? Abominable. I love saying the word abominable.
2. What is your least favorite word? Clean. Like...when I tell you to? Yes.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Hanging out with family.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Going to school.
5. What sound or noise do you love? Geometry Dash music.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? When I'm in trouble and dad comes home and I hear the garage door start squeaking. (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)
7. What is your favorite curse word? Stupid. (He looked at me like he really wanted to say something else and then he went with this.)
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Acting.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Be a janitor.
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.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Five

Five years seems...long. And so it is that I cannot understand why, in so many ways, it feels like it all happened this morning. Moving away was hard. So much harder than I thought it would be. I was sitting on my bed, staring out my window when my whole world shattered into a thousand pieces. So leaving that window, with that view that existed in the one moment everything changed was like leaving her there, in Utah. Even though she had never, ever been to Utah.

I thought here would, perhaps, be easier. Because no memory of her was ever here. Except that isn't true. We were here, in Oregon, when we found out she was a girl and she would be ours. And here, in Oregon, I am around little tiny girls much more often than I was in Utah. They are bouncing through our church, giggling together, being four or five. And in a way that is basically insane, my mind sees her among them almost always. A shadow, laughing and jumping, outrageous curls tied up on top of her head.

She would be five. We would be wrapping up preschool and thinking about kindergarten. She'd have her own room here and maybe it would be pink or purple or orange with blue polka dots. Who's to say? We don't know what she would have liked and what she would have hated. All that potential and opinion died with her.

I've been more aware of this date approaching than I was in the last couple of years. It has loomed on the horizon since just after Christmas. Why this year, I can't say for certain. Maybe because I'm writing it all down.

There are two parts to Kate's story. The Kate part and the Will part. But both of them really belong to her. He knows all about her. He knows she died inside their mother and, before he understood that she came first, he thought they were together--which is, strangely, how I often think about them because I simply cannot have one without the other. The first time he comprehended that she went to Jesus, he tenderly and quietly said, "I should have holded her in there so she did not die." And it broke my heart.

Then I thought about it. I imagined that womb and I thought about how he was in that exact same space. They were there, occupying the same place, one after the other. And he came to me, bringing the life and energy of two people--at least. Almost as though she left a part of herself there and he brought it to me.

I wrote her part. And it was cathartic and hard. I'm certain it'll never amount to anything but I wanted it for my children. In case I get hit by a bus before they're adults. Maybe, if they read it one day, they will be able to fully comprehend what she means to me. I think, perhaps, if they can grasp what Kate means--Kate who was mine such a short time--maybe they will be able to break through the surface of my love for them and realize there is no end to that ocean.

Kate,
I miss every moment I imagined we'd have together. The story I'm writing is for you, the girl God promised me. You are still changing me, still softening my edges, still teaching me things. I wish I could have "holded" you in there so you did not die. But I do not question the Author. He is still writing my story and you are such a big part of it. I love you, girl in the ground. And I love that your spirit soars on. Here's to five years being changed, again and anew, by the memory of you.

Love,
Mom


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas 2019

I was telling Troy the other night that my Christmas letters used to be hilarious. That was before I had three kids to write about. I refuse to let my letter exceed one page because AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME TO READ THAT. And so, alas, the humor is gone. But if anyone is still reading this blog, here's what we've been up to.

Dear Friends & Family,
                2019 brought big changes for our family. We traded snow shovels for umbrellas when Troy accepted the Senior Pastor position at Evangelical Bible Church in Dallas, Oregon. Dallas is a small town of approximately 16,000 people, located about 20 minutes west of Salem. We moved in August and our family is adjusting well. Utah was home to us for 11.5 years and we dearly miss our friends, church, and school, but we love being a part of this community. Hometown football games, bumping into someone we know wherever we go, and spending time at the local swimming hole are just some of the incredible blessings of small town living. We bought a home close to the boys’ schools and less than two miles from the church. Our congregation has welcomed us with open arms and hearts and we are excited to partner with them in ministry.
              Troy is busy learning the ropes at EBC. It’s been a great start to what he hopes will be a long and productive ministry. He is enrolled in a doctorate of ministry program at Corban University. Troy is enjoying getting to know the people at our new church and supporting our boys in all they do. He is embracing the gray skies and endless green of the Pacific Northwest, but is happy when the sun makes an appearance for his wife.
                Lori was sad to leave her teaching position at Falcon Ridge Elementary. Currently, she stays home with Will but is excited to begin teaching drama one day a week at a local community school in January. Lori is co-directing the Christmas play, singing and playing guitar with the worship team, and participating in Bible study.  Lori keeps herself busy raising a house full of boys. She enjoyed the uncharacteristically sunny Oregon fall.
                Garrett finished elementary school in Utah. He made the baseball All-Star team and was cast in the lead role in his class Shakespeare play. In Dallas, he played football on the 7th grade team and is looking forward to baseball season. He earned straight As and enjoys middle school. He is playing Daniel, one of the leads, in the church Christmas musical. Garrett loves learning how to play the trombone, being a part of EBC’s youth group, and S’mores frosts from Dutch Bros. For now, he wants to be an Army Ranger when he grows up.
                Matthew finished 4th grade with straight As. He played baseball last spring and had an incredible fall soccer season. He plans to play soccer again in the spring. His new school only gives semester report cards but he’s doing well and really enjoys all things science. He likes going to AWANA which is held at our church. Matthew is hoping to take some drama classes in Salem next year. He is playing Luther, a lead, in the church musical. Currently, Matt wants to be an actor when he grows up and is saving his money for a trip to New York.              
               Last spring, while still only 2, Will played his first season of tee ball. He loved it and is hoping to be able to play a sport in the spring. Our coordinated boy learned how to ride a two-wheeler right after turning 3. Will attends Grace Christian Preschool two days a week. He participates in AWANA and does a great job memorizing his verses. He enjoys playing at the park, going on walks, riding his scooter, and doing everything his brothers are doing. He still has endless energy. When he grows up, Will wants to be a police officer.
                Summer was a time for baseball, pool trips, and soaking up as much time as we could with our Utah friends. We vacationed in San Diego in July. Garrett brought his best friend of ten years with him. We had a blast watching the Padres play and visiting Sea World, the beach, and the zoo. It was a special time with family.
                In August, Lori’s parents flew to Utah to help us move. Our Sonrise family worked tirelessly to get our house clean and load our moving truck. Once our house closed in Dallas, our new EBC family was there to help us unload. We are so thankful for the many hands who partnered in our move, the many friends who prayed for us, and the churches who so graciously give us the opportunity to be in vocational ministry. We hope this letter finds you resting in the peace of this season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Just a Little Cut

I cannot believe that we packed up our entire family and all our earthly possessions and we said goodbye to so many people we just love with our whole hearts and I didn't even blog one single second of that. We've been here for almost a whole entire month and I haven't written a moment of that down either. The last time I major moved--as in, to another state--I had one wee child and he napped so I got stuff done. Now I have three children and two of them are not wee and the one who is still wee is LARGER THAN LIFE ALL OF THE TIME THAT HE IS AWAKE.

There have been A LOT of incredible miracles and blessings surrounding our move and, for some of them, I've been too worked up to notice. God is doing a work in my worked up-ness, LET ME TELL YOU. Oooof. He is reminding me that in all my big feelings about our exit, he is in control of all of it.

I will, hopefully, eventually, get to the part where I write about all the crazy miracle house stuff that led to us being in this beautiful home that we got for way less than they were asking and then appraised for way more than they were asking. Today is not that day. Today is a day for explaining the miracles about this little foot...


This little foot slipped on a mossy part of a rock at the creek last night and got cut on another rock. Matthew was at soccer practice at the park. He stayed while the rest of us loaded Garrett up to head for urgent care. It's a new town. Our insurance is brand new. We wouldn't have any idea where to take him. Except. It just so happened...

The other day I opened some mail with insurance information. I didn't have time to really look at it but my eyes fell to a particular spot on the page that said where we should go for urgent care. I remembered because I thought, "Oh, that's right across the street from the hotel." I had noticed the clinic from the hotel we stayed at when we candidated. I didn't read ANYTHING else in that medical packet before setting it aside as one of the many things on my very long do-to list.


It just so happened that Matthew's soccer coach is a member of our church so we felt perfectly comfortable leaving him at the park on his first day of practice with a new team while the rest of us drove to the urgent care. It also just so happened that our youth pastor and his wife were available to help Troy get our other vehicle so that the rest of our family could still make the dinner we had scheduled with some people from the church. 

It just so happened that there was NO ONE at the Urgent Care except us. But the biggest blessing was...

It just so happened that this occurred on September 2. Our new insurance kicked in on September 1. Yes, we were insured with our Utah insurance prior to that BUT our Utah insurance was only good in the state of Utah. If we left the state, it turned in to "life or death situation" insurance. I once inquired as to what constituted life or death. My specific question, because my kid was trying to be a surfer, was, "What if he gets stung by a ray?" Not life or death. But without medical treatment I think roughly 10 out of 10 stings become infected. The response was something like, "Oh, I mean, we'd cover that." I didn't feel convinced. So for the last many years, I have felt slightly terrified that we might need medical treatment outside of Utah. Last year, when I smashed my tailbone in Crescent City and thought I had broken it for sure, I paid full price for them to tell me there was nothing that could be done. 

Had this cut happened under our Utah insurance, we'd have paid 100% out of pocket regardless because we haven't met our deductible on the year. Given my close personal relationship with urgent care and the emergency room because God, in His infinite wisdom, gave me a total of three crazy boys and Satan gave me kidney stones (or my lack of liquid intake gave them to me but I think that what can be blamed on Satan certainly should be), I know enough to know that this visit would have cost us hundreds upon hundreds of dollars. My 13 year old knows as well. Not because we've EVER denied him ANY kind of medical treatment because of cost but because he has eyes and has seen some of our bills. (Thankfully, our church had set up an HRA awhile back which helped lighten the load but, regardless of how it's being paid it still really stinks to look at a bill and realize that you're responsible for it in full.) Garrett looked at me, in this middle of all this, and said he was sorry. He'd been apologizing for hurting himself because for a minute there, we thought it was deep enough that he might be out of football for the entire season. Of course we said, over and over, that it was okay. It was an accident. Everything happens for a reason. But this time, his big eyes had a burden behind them. He finished his sentence with, "This is going to cost a fortune."

No child should have to worry about how much the gaping hole in his foot is costing his parents. 

"Maybe. We'll see. We have different insurance now," I told him. "Don't worry about it."

I know virtually NOTHING about this new insurance. Our kids qualified for the Oregon Health Plan. Somehow. I'm still not quite sure how or why but the Marketplace only accepted Troy and me and sent our kids on to OHP. 

When we left, I stopped at the front desk. She hadn't collected a credit card. She hadn't asked me for any money. "So...since I'm brand new to this insurance, can you tell me, will they just bill us?"

She looked genuinely confused. "It's OHP. It should just all be covered. You shouldn't get a bill."

It's so easy to see a gash on a kid's foot and think, "Oh, man, WHY? Why did this have to happen while he's fighting for playing time on his new football team. Why, two days before he starts 7th grade at a brand new school in a brand new town? WHY?" But, instead, I walked away from that office thinking, "Thank you, Lord, for protecting his feet throughout the month of August."

It just so happened that the Lord used a five stitch gash on my teenager's foot to remind me of His infinite goodness.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Thirteen

To My Teenager,

I didn't envision this day when they put your wet, squirmy body in my arms all those years ago. You can't, really. You see this helpless little lump of adorable depravity and you instantly know that you'll do anything for this kid, but you can't imagine it becoming a teenager. That seems so far down the road. There are too many sleepless nights and tantrums and spilled milk and spelling tests before thirteen. And still, here we are.

Listen. You've basically been a dream to raise. I have very few complaints. But if you don't stop talking back to me and rolling your eyes, that's all going to change. Let's get one thing clear. I am not the absolute dumbest person on the planet, even if your internal monologue says otherwise. Let's just keep you on the straight and narrow. Stay the course. Be amazing. Even if we are trading wards on every corner for cannabis dispensaries.

Speaking of the move, you impress me so much with your adventurous, go with the flow outlook on life. You don't want to leave your best friend and of course I get that. I don't want to leave mine either. But you're excited to meet new friends, do new things, and settle in to life in Dallas, Oregon. Once we told you there was a creek running through town, you were sold. I hope that you'll do big things in Dallas, Buddy and I'm excited to watch you become the man you were born to be.

I love watching you play ball. Baseball has become a top love for you and you've improved so much this year. You played all fall and spring and then you made the All-Star team and it was such a joy to see you getting hits and making plays. In the spring regular season, you were the lead off batter and had an on base percentage of something ridiculous like .750. And, listen, we were so proud of you. But we were proud of you before you ever stepped up to the plate because you are kind. You are a team player. You are coachable. I would choose those qualities over an ability to play any day of the week.

You also got to play the lead role in your school Shakespeare play. Watching you in A Comedy of Errors was like a dream come true for me. (Not because of the choice of the show--not my favorite in the Shakespeare canon--but watching my kid up there doing my thing was incredible.) Even if you hate Times Square and would rather spend all your time in Central Park catching turtles, at least you saw the role you wanted and went out and got it. And, at least you didn't hate all of New York City when we went last August. At least you liked pretty much everything except Times Square.

Your leadership skills once again earned you a spot with student council, you finished the 40 book challenge, and you brought home amazing report cards. I couldn't be more proud of the way you shine at school and I am hoping for big things for you at Lacreole Middle School. I know you can take that Enneagram 7 personality and be amazing. And, listen, I know you aren't supposed to label kids but if you aren't a 7, I don't know what is.

No matter what you become, no matter who you become, I love you. I pray that you always walk with Jesus, that you always love big and share generously, that you remember that in all things you are performing for an audience of One. Not me. Not your dad. The One, true King. Do all things for Jesus and you will be right where you are supposed to be.

Thank you for basically being a breeze for these first 13 years. We can totally do this teenage thing. I promise we can. Before we know it you'll have a driver's license and then you'll go to college and then you'll get married and have kids (IN THAT ORDER) and then I will be really, really old. But, for now, let's just put one foot in front of the other and get moved already.

All my love,
Mama

P.S. You still occasionally call me Mama. Confession: I love it so much.

Interview 13--Garrett

Through a great blogging mishap, all of these answers were accidentally deleted a year later. I have miraculously recalled all but one of his answers. Thankfully, I had just read them prior to asking him the news ones. I will leave the one blank that I cannot remember and hope that, in time, it will come to me.

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Whale Wars
2. What did you have for breakfast? A donut
3. What do you want to name your future son? Troy
4. Favorite Food? Crab
5. What food do you dislike? Mushrooms.
6. What is your favorite color? Purple
7. Favorite lunch? Top Ramen
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Be outside
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? A Mediterranean Cruise.
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? I like Emily
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Both
13. Pets? I have a snail named Grubby and a dog.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I'm moving to Oregon.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? Something in the military.
16. What is your favorite candy? 3 Musketeers.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Israel.
18. What is your favorite book? The Alex Rider books or the Wings of Fire books.
19. What are you most proud of? Being a good brother.
20. What is your favorite movie? The Hobbit Battle of the 5 Armies.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken.

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? Apple
2. What is your least favorite word? Grotesque
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Pizza
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Times Square
5. What sound or noise do you love? Well, I did love Hamilton's squeaks.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam. 
7. What is your favorite curse word? The sh word.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Dolphin Trainer at Sea World.
9. What profession would you not like to do? 
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)? Hey, Buddy! You made it. I had some doubts along the way but you made it!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

For Good

My buddy laughs a laugh I won't forget. Some people just have these beautiful laughs. Some people don't silent laugh as their shoulders convulse and/or snort through their noses like crazed donkeys as I do. Some people laugh and it warms your whole body through. My grandma was one of them. My buddy is another. I will miss every moment of not hearing that laugh--or being with the person behind it--when I am gone. She wrote a thing. Because, among other things like her laugh and her love for Jesus, she is an incredibly talented writer who, apparently, likes to torment people by making them cry. I love her. She asked if she could hijack my blog. She didn't ask me not to write a foreword. Big mistake. The following post is written by one of my dearest friends. Thank you, Abi Ririe, for sharing not only these words but also life, ministry, and theatre with me. I'll drive through a blizzard for Wicked tickets, but I'll drive through anything life throws at me if it means spending time with you.



I’d never seen a musical. 

Ok, that’s not true. 

I’d seen Grease on TV perhaps a hundred times. (The old one, you know, the good one.) It is one of those random shows that my husband likes. It’s weird;  typically he watches MLB, NFL, and Clash of the Titans (the new one, you know, the good one). But every now and then you realize he finds Groundhog Day hysterical, Maverick amusing, and Grease worth watching anytime it’s on TV… which is a lot. 

But I’d never seen a live musical. 

My buddy is a theater junkie. I would use the word “connoisseur”, but that fails to relay the threat level desperate she attains when theater deprived. (Dallas, Oregon if you do not have a proper theater in town, you might want to get on that.) 

So it was not appropriate that our friendship continue with me sans musical. 

In a driving blizzard that had kept the Salt Lake Valley hunkered in their holes, the cast of Wicked was prepping for their show. My buddy knew this because she’d gone two nights before with her son. She’d met them. They were tight. She knew things like Fiyero is “super tall”. And things about crown shenanigans going on with Jackie Burns and Kara Lindsay. 

I was very impressed. Stalking is a talent. 

Whilst snuggled in pjs against the cold outside, this text appeared: “I have a question for you, if you see this right away, and if you feel like being kinda crazy.” 

It just seems to happen whether I’m feeling it or not. 

So thirty minutes later she was driving through the snow to the Wicked lottery, and I was gussying up for the theatre. I mean we’re both good, godly, Christian women. We had prayed about this. Surely God would rig the drawing and let us win. (Insanity and legalism like long walks on the beach hand in hand.) After many prayers asking if she should turn around, after waiting out in the bitter cold, after someone named Laura Burnham (which is just cruel) won, I was starting to de-glindafy. Ah well. It was a nice thought. 

And then this text: “We didn’t win.” Obviously. “But I bought us tickets anyway.” 

After getting lost trying to find my house, getting stuck in the snow in a stranger’s driveway while turning around, and being dug out by my husband, we were off to Wicked. Well, Café Rio, and then Wicked. 

“I didn’t hate it.” I didn’t want to betray too much sentiment, while still seeming sufficiently grateful for her buying me tickets. I needed to process. I did process. All night. Instead of sleeping. And by morning I had a problem. I was in love with Wicked. My buddy had created a monster, Madame Morrible had zapped it with lightning, and Fiyero was dancing it off through life. 

How many times did we wait out in the snow for the chance at lottery tickets? Lots. We even considered the Sunday matinee shows, which would put us leaving church at 10:45 am. She’s a pastor’s wife. But I’m a proper heathen, so I could have gone. 

Okay, and all you super righteous folks, WE.DIDN’T… we just talked about it. And some small part of us maybe wished we could. 

As we left empty-handed and broken-hearted, lottery after lottery, there may have been some small part of me that was pleased. Another day, another lottery, another hour hanging out with my buddy. 

She’s wonderful, you see. She would never tell you; because she’s so solidly a 1 that anything less than perfection is disappointment. But she is remarkable. 

She adopted a baby boy, which turned into legal, financial, emotional, and spiritual nightmare dragging on over a year. And then she turned around and adopted a girl. Except God had other plans, and she never got to hold Kate’s breathing body. And then she adopted Kate’s baby brother. Because she loved these children she had never met so desperately. Because she believes it is the right thing to do. Because God reveals and she responds, and she doesn’t petrify in fear because of the past. Because she is stronger than most of us. 

She’s wonderful because I know she is confused, frightened, imperfect, but still always faithful. 

She desperately needs everyone to like her. It’s the title of her soon-to-be autobiography, “I Need You to Like Me.” And while that is impossible, she is deeply loved. Thoroughly respected. Completely admired by all who know her. (Ok, maybe not by the meter-woman, who she mistook for a man, when we accidentally parked illegally trying to win Wicked tickets. I don’t think there’s much hope for that one.) 

She has challenged me, rejoiced with me, prayed with me, forgiven me, taught me, parallel-parked with me, worn crowns with me, and mourned with me. Like right now. She mourns with me now. And so does the heart of our God. He who sees the miracle coming, He who knows that great goodness awaits, but who still cries with His beloved. She shows me what the heart of God must be like. Full of life. Full of laughter. Full of wisdom. Full of goodness. 

It was the last performance for Kara Lindsay and Jackie Burns, my buddy’s new favorites (she’s seen Wicked before… a lot… she has a problem). One more lottery. 10 names called. You have to fill out the lottery card completely, or it’s put aside and another name is announced. 5 names called. Another card drawn. Not completely filled out6. 8. 9. Another card drawn. Not completely filled out. Another. Not completely filled out. And again. And another two after that. And then she pulled out the sixteenth name. The card had been folded in quarters then opened back up. The top edge was dog-eared. It looked strangely familiar. 

And then I heard my name. I later questioned if it was even my name, or if I had lapsed into a dream state. Most of my dreams have sharks. There were none. I must be awake. The nice lady holding my disheveled card looked at my driver’s license, the nice lady holding the door ushered me to the counter. The nice lady behind the counter… (I’m tempted to make some comment on gender and theatre, but I’ll save that for a professional… Buddy! I need you to comment.) Anyway, the nice lady behind the counter took my money, and slid over two Wicked tickets. For row B. That’s like, row A gets drenched with sweat when Fiyero flicks his head to the side, and Row B gets to see the vein on Kara Lindsay’s neck pop when she sings. 

It was a gift. Undeserved. Unexpected. Overwhelmingly appreciated. 

A gift for my buddy. A gift for me. A silly thing to share. And to recognize that our story is not unfamiliar. And that our Father’s heart is not indifferent to ours. 

As she embarks on a new journey, a new opportunity to defy gravity, she is unlimited. And now, remaining here, it is up to me. For both of us. “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” 

 

 

And also. Let’s just be honest. I totally made her popular.