My Children Are Not Normal

I fell asleep in Leah’s bed last night, her body turned into mine, our heads sharing the same pillow. I woke up shortly after midnight, untangled my arms from hers, slid out from under her covers, kissed her forehead, and stumbled downstairs to my own bed. And as I fell back asleep on my own pillow, I thought to myself, “My new normal feels pretty darn good.”

People told us that it would take about two years together before we would find our new normal. Two years of doing the hard work of dealing with trauma and grief, two years of shared meals and memories and bedtimes prayers, two years of living and loving each other before we would start to feel normal. Two years before every day wasn’t a battle and every conversation a minefield.

For two years I had poured most of my energy and passion into building our family. I had tunnel vision. My children needed me in ways that I had never been needed before. It was exhausting.

But I started to catch glimpses of life again over this past summer. I felt like I was slowly waking up to the world around me. All of a sudden my children weren’t as needy as before. Or maybe, more accurately, they weren’t needing me as often. There were long periods, days even, when the worst thing we had to deal with was homework and bickering. The usual flotsam and jetsam of busy lives and six children’s schedules. Those explosions that come from stepping on one of the hidden land mines in my children’s hearts? We started to go days between them. And then weeks. Weeks between explosions. Do you know how amazing that is?

And my children? After two years together, they started learning what it means for us to be a family. What it looks like for someone to always have your back. What it feels like to give and receive love unconditionally. Do you remember when I wrote about teaching our children how to hug? Read about it here —–> The Evolution of Love We had to physically gather their arms and wrap them around us. We had to hold each of them close and mold their little bodies into ours. We had to teach them that our touch was safe. Levi, my youngest, had the hardest time with this concept. Maybe it was because he was placed in the orphanage before he really had the opportunity to learn how to hug. His little body didn’t understand. He would hold himself stiff, arms hanging at his sides, head pulled back and away from us as we leaned in. And slowly, slowly, he learned to let himself go.

And then, one morning this fall while I was in the kitchen making breakfast (I am pretty much ALWAYS in the kitchen so many important life events happen here), and the kids were running around packing lunches and combing hair and causing morning mayhem, Levi came through on his way to the breakfast table and for no reason at all, threw his arms around my knees and gave me a squeeze. “Good morning, Mom!” was all he said as he skittered on by.

What. Just. Happened.

Levi initiated a hug. All on his own. I didn’t ask him or reach for him or hug him first.

That hug was two years in the making, my friends.

And when Naomi comes back into the house for a second goodbye before leaving for school and kisses my cheek, when Joel holds his brother’s hand and helps him balance while he is learning to skateboard, when Micah climbs on his daddy’s back and hangs there with his cheek pressed up against Scott’s beautiful bald head, when Hannah and Naomi sneak into each other’s beds at night to whisper and giggle, and yes, when Leah asks me to lay with her while she falls asleep and our feet and arms and breath are all mingled together….I realize anew that the past two years of hard work are worth it.

Do we have more hard work ahead of us? Yes. I am not implying that everything is perfect. Not one of us is perfect. I still default to impatience. One of my children, in particular, still defaults to anger. When things go wrong, the words “I don’t want to be a part of this family” inevitably surface. Tears still come. I know that we will face many hurdles. I think every family does. I mean, we all have our own unique challenges, don’t we? Whether it be sickness, or a struggling marriage, or a lost job, or a child who is testing the boundaries as they make their way in the world, trials are going to come. For me and for you. But friends, we have a choice. We get to choose how we handle our challenge. What is our response? We get to choose whether we want to coast along from day to day simply surviving, or if we want to do more than survive. We want to thrive. I want to thrive.

Oh, I am not saying that it will be easy. But I am saying that it can be good. Let me encourage you today. Press into God in those times of trials. Do the hard work. It will pay off in the end.

“We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul – not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.” Colossians 1:11-12

When we are depending on the glory-strength that God gives we can….

Endure the unendurable.

Spill over into joy.

Take part in everything bright and beautiful He has for us.

On November 24, 2014 we appeared before a judge to complete the final steps in our paperwork process. This journey started almost exactly 3 years ago when, during the Christmas season of 2011, our family of 4 decided to expand into something bigger. Something better. We decided to say yes to God and step into completely unknown territory as we started the adoption process. It began with prayer and a phone call to a social worker. And it ended in that courtroom in November as the judge signed and sealed and finalized our stateside adoption. Our children received new birth certificates with new legal names.

Leah Hamdiya Putnam

Joel Scott Putnam

Naomi Shukriya Putnam

Hannah Brooke Putnam

Micah Eba Putnam

Levi Eyob Putnam

Sounds like a family to me.


What is normal, anyway? I mean, our family definitely isn’t normal. We gather sideways glances, frank stares, curious questions and (mostly) friendly comments almost every time we go to Costco. I am definitely not normal. I am loud and expressive and I dance in public and I cry at the most inconvenient times. My children are not normal. No. They are exceptional. They have traveled a road not many have traveled and they have been refined and grown into something far above normal. They are strong. They are fighters. They are tenderhearted and empathetic. They are lovers.

But I am telling you that here we are, two years into our journey, and our family has created it’s own normal. We are chaotic and busy and messy and our home is so full of love that it sometimes leaks out into the world. And I don’t want to plug that leak. In fact, I hope the leak becomes a stream and that stream becomes a river. A river of love flowing from God, through our home, out into the world.




World’s Okayest Mom

My dear friend Christy gave me this mug last week…..


Isn’t that just perfect? The thing is, she knew that giving me this mug would not offend me because I have often bestowed this title upon myself.

When I posted the above picture on Facebook, I got many comments from other moms who also resemble this remark. And I realized, my sweet fellow mamas, we are all in this thing together. We are all the World’s Okayest Moms and that is just the way it is going to be. You see, sometimes we can get caught in the trap of trying to present a certain persona to the public.

You know what I mean. Before you posted that last selfie, how many selfies did you take, critique, edit, and discard before you found the one selfie that you were willing to share?

Uh Huh. Me too. (Again, see the above picture. This was re-take number 6 or 7.)

I actually enjoy sharing REAL stories and REAL pictures that give people a glimpse of how my life REALLY is. For example,

I shared this…..



And this….

Putnam Family Christmas

Putnam Family Chaos Christmas

But, you better believe I stop just short of sharing the REAL pictures that are super unflattering or where my hair looks like I haven’t combed it in three days or if there is even the slightest chance I look (gasp) fat!

And how many Facebook statuses or tweets or texts did you send or not send based upon how it might make others perceive you?

The thing is, in this world of selfies and sound bites, we have the opportunity to mold our public image into pretty much anything we want it to be. I do it too. I tend to be an over-sharer by nature and I really don’t mind letting the world in on my dirty laundry, but there are some things I am going to keep to myself because I don’t want others to think less of me.

But the truth is, I AM less! Oh, not in a bad way. But in a real way. I just can’t do it all or be it all or say it all in just the right way. And that’s okay! Less of me, Jesus, and more of you!

So, my dear fellow okayest moms, let’s be honest with each other.

We are all okay. Some days are great. Some days are not. Some days we have enough patience and love to last from sunrise to sunset and we even have a “little something” left over for our husband at the end of the day.

Some days our kids eat Pop Tarts in their pajamas at noon amidst the piles of dirty laundry and when our husbands look at us with googly eyes we are like, “If ONE MORE person wants to touch me today, I will HURT them.” Of course, we usually want to share about those first kinds of days but keep quiet about the second.  Friends, we ALL have those kinds of days!

So, in a spirit of camaraderie and solidarity, I now share with you my very own Top 5 World’s Okayest Mom Moments.

#5 – I forgot to put the peanut butter in my son’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I also forgot to put the jelly.

When I picked my kids up from school that day, Micah climbed in the car and the first thing he said to me was, “Mom, why did you send empty bread to school for my lunch?”

“What, honey? Empty bread? Whatever do you mean?”

“At lunch time when I tried to eat my sandwich, all I tasted was bread. There was no peanut butter or jelly.”

“Oh, honey. You must be mistaken. Maybe I didn’t spread the peanut butter and jelly all the way to the edges of the bread. You just needed to eat into the center of the sandwich a little bit more.”

“That’s what I thought, too, so I took a bite out of the middle but there was nothing there! Look, Mom!”

And he holds up his “sandwich” that had a big round bite missing out of the middle of it.

So, friends, not only did I send my son to school with only bread for his lunch, I also tried to shift the responsibility for the mistake off my shoulders and onto his. World’s Okayest Mom.

#4 – (Sticking with the bread theme, here.) I wrote the following note to my child’s teacher…..

“No. I cannot make several loaves of homemade bread to send in to class on Friday. I never make homemade bread. I don’t believe I have ever made homemade bread even one time in my life and I am certainly not going to start now. It sounds like too much work. Please ask some other mom to do this. Preferably a mom with fewer children than I. In place of homemade bread, I volunteer to bring a bag of candy.” <—– (I may be paraphrasing, but only slightly.)

Thankfully, my husband intercepted my note. Oh yes, he really did. He saw it sitting on top of my child’s folder and was all like, “HONEY! Why would you write a note such as this?”

And I was all like, “HONEY! Because I have six children and this teacher has no children and obviously has no idea the amount of energy that six children can suck out of you and I AM TIRED and I DON’T MAKE HOMEMADE BREAD.”

Cooler heads prevailed and I did not send in that note. I also did not send in homemade bread. I went to a bakery, bought several loaves of “homemade” bread, and delivered them to the classroom. And do you want to know something? When I walked into the classroom with my delivery, there was another mom up in the front demonstrating how to make homemade bread. She explained how she buys her flour from a local flour mill and bakes bread for her family every week. And she has EIGHT children. I kid you not.

#3 – I lied. In front of my kids. And they caught me.

You know that perfect mom? The one who looks good and smells good and dresses good and IS so good inside that her good heart just shines out of her do-gooder and perfectly made-up eyes that have almost no wrinkles surrounding them. (She is probably a World’s Okayest Mom, too, just like the rest of us.)

But, anyway, this mom planned a party. And she made up these absolutely adorable, color-coordinated invitations. The invitations even came with a pre-party activity for my child to complete and bring with them to the festivity. And this mom sent home the invitation with my child from school. And she asked for an RSVP.

I forgot to RSVP.

And then one day, as all of my children were loading into the minivan in the pick-up line at school, and backpacks and elbows were flying everywhere with a very real chance of connecting with someone’s cheek bone, and I was slightly distracted by the dog I thought would be fun to bring along for the car ride who had just peed on the upholstery (true story), and I had not showered that day (also true story), I hear a tap on my window.

Startled, I turn to see this mom standing there with a kind and beautiful smile on her face.

I slowly rolled down the window.

She asked me if I had gotten the invitation and if my child would be attending the party.

Why didn’t I just say I had forgotten? I don’t know what came over me but I opened up my mouth and out came the words, “What invitation? I don’t think I saw any invitation.”

And from the back seat my child says, “Yes you did, Mom. I gave it to you last week.”


Friends. Why did I lie? I seriously have no idea. I would like to blame it on the dog urine fumes. I think they addled my brain.

I have since repented and asked for forgiveness. From my children, not from this other mom. I hope she is not reading my blog right now.

#2 – I forgot one of my children.

Seriously. As in I buckled up my other 5 children and drove away and left one child at home.

We were trying to get to church on time, you know. I was hurrying everyone along.

“Come on, children! We don’t want to be late! Get your shoes on and put that lizard back outside and stop pinching your brother’s arm and yes honey your hair looks delightful and GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW because WE NEED TO BE ON TIME TO WORSHIP THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY!”

Whew! I did it. We were all (or so I thought) in the car and headed to church. And then my oldest son says from the back seat all casual-like, “Hey, Mom. Where’s Leah?”

Yep. I forgot a child. She had been in her room with the door closed and had somehow missed the harried pleadings gentle prodding I had administered to get everyone out the door.

The good news is that she was still in her room with the door closed when we went back for her, blissfully unaware that anything out of the ordinary had taken place.

#1 – I forgot my friend’s children.

This is worse than #2 because this time, I forgot FOUR children, not just one. And this time around, the children were aware of the mishap.

My dear friend Jessica asked a favor of me. An easy thing, really. Our children attend the same school. Jessica and I were meeting at the gym after school. Would I mind picking up her four children and meeting her at the gym?

Sure. Absolutely no problem. Anything for a friend.

And so I went to the school and I drove through the pick up line and I loaded up my children and I waved at her children and I drove to the gym.

And, as I was about to get my sweat on, my phone rings.

It was my friend Jessica. Whatever could she want?

The school had just called Jessica to ask where she was. It seems no one had shown up to gather her children that day. And so her little darlings were in after school care until someone could come and pick them up.

You guys, I cried. I felt so bad that I cried! But Jessica is a true friend and she assured me it was not a big deal. She forgave me.

On a completely unrelated note, Jessica has never asked me to pick up her children again. So, if you would like to be uninvited from the carpool rotation, you could borrow this idea.

Here’s the thing, friends. We ALL have moments like this. Some of them worse than others, yes, but not one of us is perfect. We are not meant to be. If we were perfect, would we have a need for a savior? If we could do it all on our own, would we need to rely on God?

So, my fellow mamas, we are not perfect, but….we are the perfect mamas for our children.

We are enough.

We are daughters of the King. <—–And HE is perfect!

We are the World’s Okayest Moms.





This Is My Mission Field, This Is My Family

My husband is on his way to Ethiopia. <——— Those words scare me.

When we flew home from Africa 19 months ago, we knew that we would eventually go back. We didn’t know exactly when and we didn’t know exactly who would be making the trip, but we knew we had not seen the last of the beautiful country that had been the birthplace of our children.

Now here we are, 19 months later, and my husband is returning to Ethiopia. This trip is needed for many reasons. On the surface, Scott is going back to do some on-site work at the hospital that he remotely supports as an IT consultant. He needs to take some supplies and spend some hands-on time working on their computer system.

Scott will also be taking suitcases full of donations to Bring Love In. We believe in the work that this ministry is doing in Ethiopia – striving to create forever families from the orphans and widows who have none.

But honestly, the reason that Scott is heading back to Ethiopia is that we made a promise.

We made a promise to our children that we would not forget their homeland.

We promised our children that we would not forget their culture.

And we promised our children that we would not forget their parents.

Although I have not shared many details, I have shared the fact that my children have a mother and a father living on the other side of the world. And, no matter the circumstances, my children miss their parents. They feel the separation achingly. They love them desperately. And this is as it should be.

And so, Scott is going to Ethiopia with the goal of locating the parents whose children we now raise. He is at this very moment flying over the oceans that bridge our children’s present and their past. We want to find their parents and we want them to know that somewhere miles from home, in a world that they might not understand, in a way that they might not comprehend, their children are loved by another mother and father. We are taking photo albums filled with snapshots of their children’s new life. We are taking notes and drawings from the sons and daughters they have not seen in almost 2 years. And we are taking them love that cannot be contained by continents or borders.

As our family prepares for this trip, emotions are being stirred. I imagine my children’s hearts as deep wells. When the water is clean, it pours out of them as love and obedience and laughter and growth. However, at the bottom of the well lies layers and layers of dirty sediment. Maybe it is a layer of trauma, or a layer containing a painful memory, or the many layers that hold the loss of their parents. These layers of sediment can lie at the bottom of the well, undisturbed, for hours or days at a time. But inevitably something stirs up the well. That dirty mess is suddenly swimming in the water of their souls. And it can’t help but pour out in their behavior.

And so as Scott flies off to the other side of the world, my world here at home is being rocked. And I am scared about shouldering this trauma alone.<——-That’s just the plain truth.

Every step we have taken as a family, every bond we have created, every sweet moment we have shared…these are all being tested. The frailness of our new relationship – that relationship wherein these little people call me mother – it is being pounded and bullied and pressured. And, while I know that we will withstand the storm, here in the midst of the waves, it just doesn’t feel very fun.

Over the past year, Leah has slowly, painstakingly, achingly allowed me in. Little bits of me at a time. She has accepted and loved me to the best of her ability. But for the past month, as we have prepared for this trip, as she assembles the photographs and the messages that she wants to send to her mother – her other mother, her first mother – as she relives her past and is reminded of all that she has lost, she is again living in the pain that she knows can exist in a mother-daughter relationship. She suddenly remembers how to guard her heart. She rebuilds the wall between us because that feels so much safer. And she pushes me away in a million different ways.

But do you want to know the stinkiest part of the whole situation?

My response.

That’s right. Because while my daughter’s stinky behavior is somewhat understandable, mine is a bit more troubling. I am supposed to be the adult. I am supposed to have my stinky behavior under control, aren’t I? And yet, I am struggling to respond with love.

This morning, while we were getting ready for the day and the children were swarming the kitchen for breakfast and my youngest needed help with his tennis shoes and we had to leave in 20 minutes but I was still in my pajamas, this is what transpired….

We were playing a family game of hangman (just to add a bit of flavor to the chaos) and when it was my turn to guess, I did not guess the right answer. Then, it was my husband’s turn and, being the super smart man that he is….he came up with the correct word M-A-L-A-R-I-A. (What? You don’t use tropical diseases in your family guessing games? You should try it sometime.)

And Leah says, “See. I told you so. Moms and daughters just aren’t very close. But Dads and daughters always love each other.”

And I went into my bathroom and cried.

Yes I did. I was crying in my bathroom over a stupid game of hangman.

Oh, I know. I wasn’t really crying about the game. I was crying about the overall feelings of rejection that I have been dealing with. I was crying for my struggle to give grace when all I wanted to do was react with anger.  I was crying because I am tired of accepting her rejection and responding with unconditional love. I was crying because when the human heart feels rejected over and over and over again, it has a hard time forgiving and loving.

Wait a minute. Did you hear that?

When the human heart feels rejected over and over again, it has a hard time forgiving and loving.

And now I am talking about Leah.

You see, I have been dealing with her rejection for only the past year.

She has been dealing with rejection for her entire life.

And so I know that I need to set the example here. I need to demonstrate the kind of love that I hope she can one day reciprocate.

But our relationship is so multi-faceted. It has nuances and innuendos and complex intricacies that I haven’t yet figured out. This mother-daughter bond is new to me, too. It does not have the weight of years of shared experiences to support it when the times get tough.

And right now, the times are tough.

I only have one constant. One thing to rely on to fill in the cracks, to shore up the outer banks, to be the cornerstone of this new family.

God’s love.

Because my love just ain’t cutting it, people.

I need His love to fill me up. I need His love to pour out of me. I need His love to be the love I offer my children when I am not feeling the love of my own.

Will you pray this for me? It is the prayer I utter every morning before I open my eyes. It is the prayer I whisper every evening when I am at the end of myself….

“Please, God, fill me up with your love for my children. Give me your unnatural, never-ending, unconditional, overflowing love.”

Because, even though I am not sure of much, I am sure of this….God loves my children more than I can even begin to comprehend. And God promises that HIS grace abounds in the deepest waters. HIS sovereign hand will be my guide when my feet may fail and fear surrounds me.


You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep my faith will stand

I will call upon Your Name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

May my trust be without borders. May my faith be made stronger. Because this life I am living – right here, right now, surrounded by these precious little people – this is where you have called me, Lord. This is my mission field. This is my life. This is my family. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.



There Is Room In My Heart

As I think back over the last year, the memories fill my heart and seem too numerous to pin down onto paper. But, if I had to choose only one idea, the one feeling that covers all others and runs through the last year of our life, it would have to be love.


God’s love for us is so powerful, so vast that we will never be able to understand it.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Oh, how I have felt His love for me this year.

I have felt Him carry me.

I have felt Him uphold me.

I have felt Him strengthen me.

I have felt Him fill my heart and my home with a peace that would have otherwise been unobtainable.

When a woman gives birth she labors in agony, she experiences great pain, she screams and cries and prays. And then she finally holds that precious newborn in her arms. No, the pain is not forgotten, but it is inconsequential. The pain births something beautiful, and it is worth it.

It is worth it.

The pain and the tears, the struggles and the growth of the last year –  it is all worth it. Because through that pain, we birthed a beautiful family.

The road is not now easy, nor will it ever be.

But it is worth it.

The pain is not over, the wounds are not completely healed.

But it is worth it.

As I look into the precious faces of my 6 children, I know that we are all better people because of the journey we have been on together.

Who am I, that I was entrusted this great treasure?

Who am I, that I was given this great joy?

I am a child of God and He loves me. He wanted to bless me through my surrender to Him. He gave abundantly more than I could have asked for, and I am grateful.

Yes, I am frequently tired and worn. Yes, I am sometimes impatient and unkind. Yes, I am unworthy.

But He loves me anyway.

He doesn’t need me to be perfect. He only needs me to be willing.

Recently we piled all 8 of us into the blankets and pillows of our bed and watched a Christmas movie. Leah snuggled her way under my arm, lay her head against my chest and said, “Mom, I feel like there is room in your heart for me now. I think I can fit inside your heart.”

There is a lot of truth in that.

No matter how much I wish it were true, when my children first entered our family, there was not enough room in my heart. Oh, there was SOME room. I tried valiantly to make MORE room. But, too much of my heart was filled with things like selfishness and pride and anger. Adoption is a refining fire that can burn away so much sin and show you how much you need Jesus. Adoption is a beautiful mess that changes every single person involved.

So many times people have said things to me like…

Your children are so lucky to have you.

You have changed their lives!

And I would say in response….

I am so lucky to have them.

They have changed my life.

Adoption is the tool God used to build our family to look more like His kingdom.

It is this great irony, adoption is. Our family is far from perfect, we have rough edges and broken pieces, every one of us. But when I look at our family, I feel this sense of completeness.




This is how my family was designed by the One who knows best.

The Lord has done great things for us. And we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3

Christmas blessings!


When The “I Love You’s” Became Too Numerous to Count

BOND – ING : (noun) a relationship that usually begins at the time of birth between a parent and offspring and that establishes the basis for an ongoing mutual attachment.

What happens when the relationship does not begin at the time of birth?

What happens when life has taught you that bonds are temporary and breakable?

What happens when the bonder is damaged?

Our children arrived in our home with damaged bonders. I imagine their little hearts like pieces of tape. The first time you attach that piece of tape to something, it sticks securely. Then, you rip that tape off and attach it somewhere else. A little less stick this time around. Imagine that tape has been attached and detached so many times that there is no stick left on it. This is like my children’s heart. There is no stick left on them. Life has worn it away.

But, we are in the process of re-applying some glue.

It takes work.

It takes patience.

It takes the Holy Spirit.

It takes intentional bonding behaviors.

I am always looking for ways to build this bond. This was one of the reasons why we homeschooled that first year home. Those hours upon hours that we spent together provided the basis for a bonded relationship.

When my daughters ask me to wash their hair or put lotion on their dry skin – this is an opportunity for bonding.

When my sons ask me to put a Band-Aid on a barely-there owie or listen to the same story for the 79th time – this is an opportunity for bonding.

Oh, I am definitely not perfect at this. There are too many times when I miss opportunities or get so busy that I fail to stop and listen. But I am trying!

And then, there are the bonding opportunities that God seems to drop straight from heaven and land unexpectedly in my lap.

This was one of those opportunities…….


Leah auditioned for and was awarded a part in the musical Pirates of Penzance.

I am so proud of her! Here she is – in a new country, with a new language, with no history of dance or singing, with no exposure to theatre or musicals – still she decides to audition for her school play. And she got a part!

I know I am biased, but my girl has a natural talent. Music flows through her soul. Drama lives in her heart.

Leah worked hard over the last two months rehearsing after school. She learned choreography. She memorized lyrics. She made friends. She felt successful.

She felt successful.

For a girl who has had many experiences in life that taught her she was unloved, unworthy and unacceptable – feeling successful is a VERY. BIG. DEAL.

Leah and I practiced her singing and dancing together in our kitchen. She taught me the steps. She sang me the songs. I pretended to be in the pirate chorus right along with her.

I picked her up from rehearsal and listened to her stories about the friends she was making, the funny things that happened when they were sword fighting, the silly costume pants she had to wear – and I giggled right along with her.

The week of dress rehearsal, I straightened her hair about 37 times, applied her make-up and taught her about eyeliner and mascara, bought her her first lipstick (to be used ONLY in the performance!) and volunteered backstage so that I could be a part of it all.



And this last weekend, after her hours and hours of hard work, Leah performed at the Cascade Theatre.

This experience proved to Leah that she has worth. It reinforced the idea that she has talent. It was the first of many musicals for my daughter, I am sure.

This experience added glue to the broken bonder inside Leah’s heart. It provided special moments for us to share together. She even said to me, “Mom, when I grow up I want to be either a pop star or a missionary. If I am a pop star, you can be one of those ladies who dances on the stage behind me.”

What better offer could a mother receive? I do believe I will take her up on that.

I wrote several weeks ago about the first time that Leah voluntarily told me that she loved me. You can read about that here.

After that first incident, I started counting. Every time Leah told me she loved me, I added one to the tally. They were rare and special words. I had only heard them a handful of times.

And then, somewhere during the preparation and the practice and the performance, I stopped counting. Not because I forgot to keep track. But because the tally was getting too large.

The “I love you’s” are too numerous to count.





I Would Rather Be A Family

I feel myself on the verge of tears very often this week.

Let me preface this post by saying things are good. Really, really good. When I think back to what my life felt like 1 year ago, or even 6 months ago, I am thankful that we are no longer there. Those were the days when I would put my head down and push through until bedtime. Those were the days when the HARD outweighed the GOOD by about 10:1. Those were the days that we were dealing with loads and loads of crap from our children’s past.

The thing is, we are through the worst of it. Much of the crap has been, if not removed, at least made manageable. Much of the hard has been replaced with sweet. I feel as though most of the crazy in my days stems from the fact that I have 6 children and life is busy. I am no longer in constant crisis management mode.


I am now catching glimpses of the long road ahead of us …. and that road travels straight uphill and is full of potholes.

I am now dealing with the long-term effects of pain and loss and suffering.

I am now realizing that raising my children who came to me from hard places is NEVER GOING TO BE EASY.


Oh yes, there is love flourishing here. There is joy in the midst of pain. God promises beauty from these ashes.


God does not promise easy. And, I think I am feeling slightly overwhelmed by that. There is no easy in sight. I will never enjoy the same kind of carefree parenting that I used to know. Because now I have seen the inside of my children’s hearts and that knowledge pains me.

One of my children constantly opposes me. No. I mean it. Constantly. It doesn’t matter what I say or do, they know that I am not right.

“Did you get enough to eat?” I ask innocently.

“Why you need to know? Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t.”

“What is your homework assignment for today?” I ask.

“Why you always want to know my homework? You should know already. Stop asking me.”

“I am picking you up early today for a dentist appointment,” I say as they exit the minivan.

“WHAT?!?! You pick me up early and I don’t get to learn. Then I be stupid FOREVER!”

“Your hair looks beautiful! Can I take your picture? You look so cute.” I try bracketing my request with a compliment.

“STOP! You always want to take my picture. No. No pictures.”

Today I said, “Bless you, honey!” after a sneeze.

The response? “I did not sneeze. I coughed. Don’t say bless you.”

It is exhausting. I sometimes feel like there are landmines all around me and no matter what I say or do, I know I am going to mis-step and blow something up.

I think that for the first year, I knew to expect hard. I woke up each day and armed myself for battle. I fought because that was what we needed to do. Fight for our children.

But, I mistakenly assumed that the fight would end.

And now here I am, looking around at the dirty, littered battlefield and realizing that this is where we are going to be living our lives. There is no end.

I read a blog about this period of time for the adopted family. Jen Hatmaker put words to my feelings….

1-1½ Years
The shine has worn off, and you are in the hard work of stabilizing. You’ve exited the near constant therapeutic position where practically every word and every moment has something to do with felt safety/needs/affirmation/redirection/acknowledgement of loss/keeping the schedule predictable/therapeutic words/tantrum interruption/attachment. You can go entire hours like some sort of normal parent. All the fuss surrounding your adoption has receded, and now you are deeply in the trenches.
For us, this section of time was almost as difficult as the first six months but for different reasons. When they first get home, you’re simply in survival mode. Your head is down, your entire life is in the weeds, it is chaos, anarchy. Everything that used to take up your time is shoved in the corner doing who knows what. The transition is brutal and pretty much every part of your life is a hot mess. But you knew this was coming and your people are keeping the wheels on because they were ready too, and it’s like wartime.
The first six months of the second year is tricky, because you’ve emerged from the madness and now you realize: THIS IS GOING TO BE VERY, VERY HARD FOREVER. This is a difficult season of learning first-hand what abandonment actually wrecks in a child’s heart. The hemorrhage has been cleaned but now you can see the scars. The grief isn’t as manic, but you realize it is deep, way deeper than you thought. You begin to understand just how much has yet to be overcome and how ill-equipped you are to see it all through. You learn that in many ways, this is the work of a lifetime and abandonment is a permanent part of their story.
It feels terrifying and overwhelming. Because when the kids are screaming and thrashing, that is behavior you feel you will get past eventually. You can weather that storm. But once you see their broken hearts sitting there quietly, still suffering, you hit your knees.
Here is the truth: Brandon and I struggled with burn out during those months. The work was so exhausting, and we figured out it was never going to not be. Tension between your bios and adopteds crescendo (because they are out of the weeds and into normal family life so now everyone feels free to ARGUE AND MAKE US CRAZY). This was the worst part. I preferred the early days when my bios treated Ben and Remy like darling new pets, and the new kids hadn’t learned to annoy their big sibs.
It is selfish and embarrassingly human, but we were just tired. I felt irritable and resentful. I wanted it to be easier already and it wasn’t, at least not in the ways I thought. Parenting wounded kids is terribly challenging, which you know in your head going into adoption, but starting your second year, you really know it in your life. It’s hard, like maybe forever hard, and you feel that because you are a human, not a robot, and that’s just true. There are some tears in the bathroom during this stage.



Exactly that.

But it is also this….

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Isaiah 61:1-4

It is glimpses of healing, the fleeting sweetness of praise instead of despair, of joy instead of mourning. It is the promise that He will restore the places long devastated.

And so I focus on the beauty instead of the ashes. I grab ahold of the praise and don’t let go in the midst of the despair. Because loving these children from hard places is a privilege that has been granted me. And that means loving ALL of them. Accepting EVERYTHING.


It is remembering that my children are a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor!

It is when Leah chatters on the way home from counseling and as the words pour out she says, “In Ethiopia I was scared to go home because I knew what was waiting for me. But here, I’m not scared. It is different. In Ethiopia I take all my words and shut them off. I put them down deep into my heart. They made me sad. But here, I am such a talker. I talk all the time.”

It is when Naomi pulls me close for a bedtime hug and exclaims with joy, “I used to be scared to go to sleep. I always dream bad things. I dream about snakes. I dream about hyenas eating me. I dream about mean man chasing me with a knife. But now I don’t. I not scared to go to sleep. I don’t dream bad things anymore. I dream good news. Always good news.”

It is when Leah asks, “Would you rather have all the money in the world, and lots of friends and a big house and food every day and any toy you want….or would you rather have a big, loud family with lots of kids and lots of noise? Because I would rather have a family.”

I would rather have a family.

Standing here, looking up at the road that rises before me, knowing that I will ALWAYS be living with the fallout of pain and loss….even still, I would rather BE a family.




The Evolution of Love

How many times a day do you tell your children you love them?

How often do you hear them say the same?

These words are a privilege, not a right.

This privilege, these beautiful words, came so easily from the mouths of our biological children. We were earning their love from the first moments of their existence. They easily fell into trusting the validity of our love.



But it has not been as easy with our adopted children.

Two years ago, before we had even seen our children’s faces or heard their names, we were praying for them. We were loving them.

Oh, it did not have the same depth or strength of the love which now flows from our souls, but we loved them from afar. God was starting to plant the seeds of an everlasting love in our hearts. He was starting the process of building a family.

But, our children were on the other side of the world and they were in the process of losing a family.

They were not thinking of us or praying for us or hoping for us. They were not loving us.

In fact, they might have even been blaming us.

We had to earn their love. And we had to teach them how to love in return.

From the very beginning, from the very first time we wrapped our arms around our children, we were teaching them love.

This…..this is what love feels like, we were showing with our arms.

This…..this is what love looks like, we were demonstrating with our actions.

This…..this is what love sounds like, we were voicing every time we responded to bitterness with kindness.

It was a foreign idea to our children. At first, they sometimes allowed the love, sometimes pushed it away, but never initiated.

We would tuck our boys in every night, and I would physically place their little arms around my neck and teach them how to hug. I would say, “I love you so much, boys. Now, Levi, you say “I love you, Mommy.” Micah, you say “I love you, Mommy.”

And they would parrot the words back. Sometimes, not every time.

I would kiss Leah and Naomi on the cheek, run my fingertips over their forehead, and whisper, “I love you” in their ears. They would lie still in their beds wondering at the strangeness of it all.

Slowly, oh so very slowly, my children would start responding. Maybe they would wrap their arms around me without my prompting. Maybe they would repeat the words I love you without my asking.

And slowly, oh so very slowly, my children were learning to trust my love. They tested it out. Hammered at it. Punished it. Pushed it away. And when my love never weakened or softened, they began to believe in it.





I have noticed something this last month. Something that pierces my heart and makes me catch my breath. Something I hope I never take for granted.

My children are telling me they love me.

Not in response to my spoken words, but of their own initiative.

Naomi was the first. She is the most openly affectionate. She tested out those words for the others, and when she found them sweet on her tongue, she started using them often.

“Bye, Mom! I love you!”

“Goodnight, Mom. I love you.”

The boys followed next. As I finish their bedtime prayers, and kiss their foreheads, and hug their little bodies close to mine, they will often be the first to say I love you.

And Leah. The most hesitant of all. The words have been wrestled from her tongue very sparingly. But they have come. And then, yesterday, as I was serving dinner and the boys were clamoring to eat RIGHT NOW, and Naomi and Hannah were singing a new song they learned at school, and Scott was pouring the milk and wiping up spills, and the dog was barking to be let outside, Leah came up and said, “Can I tell you a secret, Mom?”

I almost kept moving. I was about to whip the potatoes and set the table. Everyone was waiting on me. I almost let the moment pass.

But I stopped and bent down so she could whisper in my ear.

“Mommy, I love you so, so, so, so much. I really do love you.”

And then she squeezed my neck in a quick hug and continued on her way to wash her hands.

And I was left there, standing in my kitchen, holding a precious gift in my heart.

I do believe this is the first time she has spoken those words, completely unprompted or unsolicited. And, true to her nature, she did it on her terms. She stored up those words, like precious jewels, until she was certain of their validity, and then she proclaimed her love in a big way, pouring out the words in bountiful measure.

May I never take these precious words for granted. May they never become background noise to my busy life. May I always take the time to stop and hear the secrets my children are ready to whisper in my ear.



Somebody Said That It Couldn’t Be Done

Well, people, we are 4 weeks into the new school year.

How is it going, you ask?

Hallelujah. I hear angels singing.

My kids are thriving! Thriving, I tell you! If I could have written a script for the beginning of the school year, I could not have written it any better. God did a pretty darn good job. Gotta give Him credit!

Two days before school started, I walked around the campus, visited with the teachers, peeked into classrooms, and gave my kids a tour of their new school. The entire time I was on that campus, I felt blessed. I was reminded again and again of God’s provision and great love for us.

When we left for Ethiopia in May of 2012, I pulled Joel and Hannah out of Redding Christian School. I knew that we would be spending several months in Africa and I knew that we would be home schooling when we came home to America. But, on that day in May as we drove off the school campus, I prayed. I prayed that God would make a way for my children to come back. I felt like it would take a miracle. And so I prayed for a miracle.

I was reminded of that prayer again these past few weeks. Every interaction with the staff, every conversation with the teachers, every story that I hear from my children as they chatter in my minivan on our ride home from school – they remind me of that miracle. I feel blessed over and over again.


Oh. My. Word. Doesn’t he just crack you up? Levi had to make himself into a monster for his classroom bulletin board. That kid kills me!

Last year, as we worked our way through Kindergarten curriculum, I started to worry about Levi. It seemed that no matter what learning strategy I employed, nothing was sticking. We would spend 10 minutes learning about the letter S – copy, write, say, speak. Over and over again. Then, I would turn to a new page and say, “Levi, point to the letter S.”

Nothing. He retained nothing.

I wondered, did he have a learning disability? Was there some kind of developmental delay? Was I really that horrible of a teacher? (I was pretty sure that wasn’t the case.)

And then, this summer, it all started to click for him. He has grown by leaps and bounds. He is learning something new every day. I know, because he won’t stop asking me questions. It is constant. It kind of reminds me of water torture.

“Mom, what makes a volcano explode?”

“Mom, why did the dinosaurs die?”

“Mom, why is that tractor so big? It is huge! Soooooo big! It is even bigger than you!” (Thanks, honey. That is pretty big.)

“Mom, why is the sun hot?”

“Mom, why can’t I fly?”

I talked to a developmental psychologist and she explained it this way. Children’s brains are like little computers. There are many different pathways to get information into that computer. Usually, you have to try and try again until you find the right pathway for your child. But, in our case, our children came to us with clogged pathways. Every single path is clogged – with trauma, with memories, with new language acquisition, with new sights and smells and sounds, with new behavior expectations. All of the pathways into their brain were jammed with so many things that there was no way for the academic information to get in.

Thankfully, with time and love and counseling and patience, some of the pathways are clearing up. Some of the trauma is being processed. Some of the language is being learned. Some of the new behavior is being exhibited. And, now, his little brain is ready to receive some of that new information.


Micah had the opportunity to celebrate his birthday at school with his new friends. He didn’t quite understand why he got to have a birthday party at home AND at school, but he wasn’t complaining.

And, he came home with this paper…


Do you see that?

He wrote, “I love my family.”

He goes on to say….

My sisters like to play with dolls. They like to play together. My brothers and I like to watch TV together. After we do our homework, we like to watch a super hero movie. My dad likes to stay at home and my mom likes to dance.

When I read his paper, I cried. It sounds just like a family, doesn’t it? We are figuring this thing out. All of us. Together. We are a family.

Plus, I think he did an excellent job of describing his mom and dad. Scott likes to stay home. I like to dance. Micah pretty much boiled it down to the essence of our character.

And then there is Leah.

Oh, I could write volumes about my girl. You all know that she has been my biggest challenge. But, do you know that she has also provided some of my biggest blessings? My oldest daughter, my strong-willed one, her hurting heart wrapped up inside a stubborn shell. My deep thinker, deep feeler, protective, heart-of-gold girl.

She blesses me.

Oh, we struggle over many hurdles, but she is a gift, this one.

She had to write a paper on a very special person. This is what she wrote….

My very special person is Jesus because He is always with me and He always loves me. He changed my life. Physical traits He has brown eyes and black hair. Awesome beard! Jesus has such also beautiful face. Jesus is very beautiful and loving. Jesus helps other people and not just me. What makes Jesus special because He loves us even when us don’t deserve His love or His forgiveness. He is always by my side when I need help. I pray and He hears me and answers my prayer.

When I read her paper, I cried some more.

You guys, do you think my daughter FEELS Jesus in a way that many of us never do? Do you think He is REAL to her because she needs Him so badly?

Okay, stop crying now. I can barely see the keyboard over here.

One more story about my special girl.

Leah came home with a poem to memorize. I looked it over and immediately dismissed the crazy assignment. Her teacher and I have agreed that anytime I feel an assignment will overwhelm her, I am free to simplify that assignment. I took one look at that poem and decided I would choose an easier poem for her to memorize.

Leah would have none of it. She insisted that she be allowed to memorize the same poem as every other 5th grader.

I explained that the words were too hard. I explained that she has spoken English for only one year. I explained that another poem would be better.

I thought she had listened.

She had not.

I pushed the assignment to the side and forgot about it.

She did not.

Two weeks later, she pulled it out and said, “Mom, do you think I can learn this?”

“Honey, I already told you, this is too hard. We will choose something easier.”

“Well, listen to this….”

She did it. Without my help.

After I stopped crying (Are you sensing a theme here? It has to do with tears. And me. Often.) I had her repeat the poem so I could video tape her.

Ironically, the poem is called It Couldn’t Be Done by Edgar A. Guest. (just in case you couldn’t quite understand every single word)

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,

But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

They did it. All of my children. They tackled the thing that couldn’t be done and they did it.

They moved to a new country. The learned a new culture. They studied a new language. They joined a new family. They started a new school. They found a new normal.

They did it.

It feels miraculous.

Actually, I am pretty sure it IS miraculous.




I Miss The Little People

My children left me alone for 6 hours today.

And it made me surprisingly sad.

Happy, too, but there was a definite sprinkling of sadness in my day. (Truth – as I walked away from my children’s school I was crying.)

For the past 16 months I have had my children surrounding me for most hours of most days. From the time we left for Ethiopia in May of 2012, my days have revolved around meeting my children’s needs. And while there were times I felt overwhelmed, and frazzled, and yes, maybe even a bit frustrated by it all; while there were times when I needed everyone to stop talking at me for JUST 5 MINUTES; while there were times when the word “Mommy” ceased to be sweet nectar to my ears and instead resembled a sound track of impending doom; and yes, there were even times when I hid in the pantry so that the little people who had invaded my house could not find me; in all honesty – I loved it.

Yes, that is right, I love being a full-time mother to my 6 children.

I realize now that God built me for this role. He hard-wired into my being all of the necessary character traits for the job that He had planned for me. (Except for patience. He was a little skimpy on that one. I could have used an extra measure or two.)

I thrive on organizing this large family. I enjoy looking at my calendar and seeing the days and the hours filled with little people’s plans. I find satisfaction in the meal planning and the delivering of hot, nutritious meals to hungry tummies. I derive some kind of sadistic pleasure out of making sure that my laundry baskets are never overflowing and marshaling the troops to complete their Saturday morning chores.

No, it is not always fun or easy. But I am good at it. And I feel satisfied when my home is a safe, nurturing, loving and well-run environment.

I read an article last week written by an empty nester. As I read her words, I felt a stab in my heart. This, this is how I feel…..

“I no longer had children to plan my days around. There were no dental appointments to make but my own, no huge loads of laundry to do, no high school games to attend, only simple meals to prepare. At the grocery store I stood behind a cheerful woman pushing a cart heaped high with boxes of cereal and yogurt pops. My sad little basket contained two chicken breasts and a lemon…..I felt like I’d just emerged from….a dream full of whirling color and activity into a place that was utterly, eerily still.”

No, I am not an empty nester yet. My children will re-invade my home at 3:00 every afternoon. I still have their homework and laundry and chores and dental appointments and dinner to make. But reading those words made me realize something.

I want to be that cheerful women with the cart heaped high with groceries. I want to live in this dream full of whirling color and activity.

And I can not say that this has always been the case. There were days, months even, when I cried out to God and asked Him if He was sure He had chosen the right woman to mother these children. I often felt a deep stabbing nostalgia for the easy yesterdays. I cast a wary eye to the future and wondered exactly what I had signed on for.

Oh, how time and love and grace can change a heart.

I am thankful for my hard job.

I will miss this when my children are grown.

And, yes, I am sure I will enjoy a few quiet hours to myself every day as my children head off to school for the first time.

Don’t feel too sorry for me, this is what I did today….

Solo run on the river trail - beautiful!

Solo run on the river trail – beautiful!

Full-body massage (a total blessing because it was a gift from one of my Zumba students - thank you, Mary!)

Massage (a total blessing because it was a gift from one of my Zumba students – thank you, Mary!)

Coffee as I ran errands (okay...I really drink coffee everyday, not just on my children's 1st day of school)

Coffee (okay, you all know that I really drink coffee everyday, not just on my children’s 1st day of school, but it still made me feel better)

But, even while I am enjoying a bit more freedom in my schedule, I will also be missing those little people who have invaded my house. Because they have also invaded my heart. Every one of them. Even the ones who track me down when I am hiding in the pantry.

First day of school 2013

First day of school 2013



Prepubescent Mermaids (And Other Things I Am Not)

You know, sometimes I like to think that I am doing all of the wisdom-imparting in my home. I am teaching my children everything they need to know to be successful little people. I have perfected so many lectures on various life lessons. They are really good lectures with really good lessons! But, every now and then, something is said or done that reminds me – I sure don’t know it all. My kids have a lot of lessons to teach me, too.

Last year we took our children to see a local musical theatre production show.


Cascade Christmas is a yearly event that is housed in a beautiful, old historic theatre. It is full of singing and dancing, costumes and lights, and some sort of magical feel-good pixie dust.

Our kids loved it. In fact, I took this picture during the show because I found my children’s faces so beautiful as they were swept up in the wonder of it all…..

absolutely enthralled with the Christmas production

At the end of the production, Leah told me that she wanted to be one of the singers or dancers in that show.

“Sure, honey. One day you can do that.” I responded, placating her.

“No, mom. Really. I am going to be in that show.”

Leah spent the next several months convincing me that she should audition.

At first, I tried to explain that every other kid who auditioned would have years of dance class and training. I talked about the fact that she is still an English Language Learner and that it might be hard for her to understand the directions. I told her that singing in public can be scary and maybe she should wait a year or two until she has had some experience.

She would not listen to me.

Good for her.

Why was I trying to discourage her from living her dream?

I finally got on board and we picked a song for her to work on. We practiced her singing. We practiced her timing. We practiced her performance. And I loved every minute of it.

You see, for as long as I can remember, I have loved musical theatre. I would dream about waking up one day and suddenly my life would have become one big production show. I would sing. I would dance. My family participated in all of the musical numbers. When I went grocery shopping, a flash mob would ensue because of all the excitement in the produce section. It was kind of like living inside of High School Musical. I was a star!

During our hours of practice, I told Leah over and over again that she was living my dream! I was so excited for her!

The week of the auditions, as we were running through her solo for maybe the 74th time, Leah said, “Mom, if this is your dream, why don’t you audition, too?”

Oh, honey. You are just so precious. You don’t understand my limitations. I am old. I have never taken a dance class. I am not really sure that I can sing. I have never done something like this before. And did I mention that I am old?

“Mom (said in an impatient, I-am-not-really-listening to you kind of voice) if I can do it, you can do it, too.”

Once again, I completely discounted the fact that she could have something to teach me. I ignored her suggestion.

Until the day of the auditions. I thought that this would be the perfect time to start really listening to my daughter.

“Mom, why are you so scared? If I can do it, you can do it, too.”

I decided something. If my daughter (who had recently lost her culture, her homeland, and her language; who moved to a new land to face a whole lifetime of the unknown) – if she wasn’t scared, then I really had no excuse.

I told her she was right and I was wrong. We should never let the unknown future stop us from living our dreams. We should never let the fear of failure keep us from trying. My pastor asked recently, “What would you attempt if you knew that you could not fail?” Did I really want to teach my daughter to let fear hold her back?


I went to those auditions. Oh, yes I did.

You guys, every singe other person who was auditioning was under the age of 20 (except for one beautiful 32-year-old lady who had danced her whole life – also, she had no children so that is like minus 10 years off of her real age.)

And then there was me; the 35-year-old mother of 6 who had never taken a dance class in her life. (The 6 children add 10 years to my real age.) I felt like I should be wearing some kind of sign to explain my presence at the auditions. Maybe it would read “my daughter made me do this” or “YOLO.”

They sent us all up on the stage and spent 15 whole minutes teaching us choreography. Let me just say, the choreography included a double pirouette (which I promptly turned into a single) and a whole bunch of other steps that flew right out of my head as soon as the music started.

To finish things off, they lined up the ladies according to height and gave us instructions for a kick line. The instructions went something like this….

Ok, ladies. We will start with 4 kicks at hip height. (hip height, oh good, I can do that)

Then, give us 4 kicks to shoulder height. (hmmmm….maybe I can hunch my shoulders down and meet my kicks somewhere in the middle)

And, finally, give us 4 kicks up over your head as high as you can make them. (Sure. No problem. Absolutely can not do that.)

The truth is, I was embarrassed. But, who knows, maybe they were looking for a 35-year-old mom who had really perfect hip-high kicks. If so, I was going to be the very best 35-year-old mom up on that stage!

Okay, night one of auditions done. I now had less than 24 hours to figure out if I could carry a tune, pick the perfect song, and get ready for my solo.

Let me insert here that I have always believed myself to be a fairly good singer. I mean, I thought I sounded decent in the shower, I sounded okay when I sang lullabies to my kids, and I sounded especially perfect when I worshiped in church and was drowned out by about 500 other voices. But, I have never had anyone confirm or deny my suspicions. I have never been a part of a choir. I have never auditioned for a solo except for one very special instance when I was in 5th grade and I was Calamity Jane in our school talent show. (The reason I was so keen on the Calamity Jane solo was that it included the opportunity to wear a pink cowboy hat. The singing was of secondary importance.)

So, at 8:30 pm on Monday night, I called my friend who is a vocal coach. I asked if I could drop by for just a minute so she could listen to me sing and give me her professional opinion of my voice. Her response?

“Do you want me to really be honest with you? Like completely honest? I don’t want any hard feelings between us. I don’t want to ruin our friendship.” (Thanks, LynnAnne.)

And with that vote of confidence, I showed up on her doorstep.

First we had to choose a song.

Of course, because of the time constraints, it had to be something to which I already knew all of the words. This limited my options to Disney songs.

We quickly settled on The Little Mermaid’s “Part Of Your World.” Never-you-mind that the song is supposed to be sung by a prepubescent mermaid, I was going to own that thing. I was going to BE Ariel.

She turned on the music and told me to go for it.

And, actually, she was pleasantly surprised. I believe her exact words were, “You don’t have any bad habits. You don’t do runs or trills or slides (technical terms, I am assuming, for some sort of singing problems.) With some work, you might actually have a shot at this thing.”

I told her she had 30 minutes to fix me and get me ready.

Thank you, LynnAnne, for giving me some pointers and giving me some confidence.

I spent all day Tuesday alternating between singing Ariel’s song over and over and over again, and spending time in the bathroom (no joke, I was so nervous about singing in public that I felt sick to my stomach all day.)

In all honesty, I seriously considered backing out. I did not want to get up on that stage and embarrass myself. But, my daughter was watching. She was learning far more from my actions than she ever did from my lectures.

I did it.

I showed up, I stood on that stage, I prayed that I would not throw up, and I sang my first ever audition solo.

You guys! It went pretty darn good. In fact – wonder of all wonders – I got a callback.

Oh, yes, you read that right.

I. Got. A. Callback.

But my darling Leah did not.

On our way home from the theatre, I talked about good sportsmanship and how proud I was of her response to the disappointment. I told her that it didn’t matter to me if she got the part or not, I was just so proud of her for the bravery it took to put herself out there and audition in the first place. I told her that she had taught me a lesson about not letting fear stop me from doing something that I had always wanted to do. And I told her that I would not go to my callback if it made her feel sad.

“Mom, (said in that same impatient, I-am-not-listening to you kind of voice) you have to go back. I don’t feel bad. You are old and I am young. You don’t have very long to do this but I can do it again.”

Thanks, honey, for the reminder of my age. For a moment, in the midst of my euphoria over my callback, I had forgotten that I was old.

And then she said something beautiful.

“Mom, you are swimming in your dream. You always tell me that this is your dream. And now you are swimming in it.”

That is exactly how it feels. Like swimming through a dream.

I went to that callback. And I loved every minute of it.

I wish I could end this post with the news that I got the part, but, that is not the case.

What I did get was a new appreciation for my daughter. That girl is brave. And strong. And she taught me something this week – don’t let fear dictate your actions.

And I got the experience of swimming in my dream…at least for a little while.