Month: August 2015

Ty and Terri

The first time I met Ty and Terri I was in a hotel room in Omaha, NE. Makenna had recently learned to walk, and was in the middle of using my pregnant belly as a trampoline when Ty and Terri swept into the room with their four children in tow. If they thought it was unusual to sit on a hotel bed with strangers while five children bounced like ping-pong balls around the room, they did not show it. The introduction and sharing of names was all the small talk they desired, and then they immediately went deep asking about our hopes and fears. We talked about the job interview my husband had the next day, and I remember sharing that we were nobodies from Nowhere, and I couldn’t understand why they would consider us for such a job. Ty grabbed chubby-legged Turner off of his back and flipped him on to the mattress while looking directly at me and saying, “Why not you?” When they left, I remember thinking, “I want to be just like them.”

After we moved to Omaha, Terri would call every once in a while to ask if Makenna could play with her and Emily and Annie for the day. “Put every dress she owns in the diaper bag,” she told me. “We are going to change her clothes every half hour.” I soon had babies in bulk, and was so tired I sometimes couldn’t tell the difference between being awake and being asleep. I remember watching Emily, Annie, Tyler and Turner interact respectfully with people, articulate themselves clearly, and put their own shoes on, and I felt myself longing for that stage of parenting. I wondered if the preschool years were good enough or if I would have to wait until the elementary years to really enjoy the daily parenting duties.

“What stage of parenting has been the best?” I asked Terri one afternoon in her kitchen.

A random email of encouragement
A random email of encouragement

She put down the plate she was loading with cookies, got a dreamy look in her eyes, and said, “I love every stage the most. Every stage is its own thing, and then it is over, and if you don’t love it when it is happening, you’ll wish you did once it is over. So, I love every stage the most.”

That pretty much changed my life. I began figuring out how to love the stage we were in without longing for the past or the future. Terri kept encouraging me even after we moved away. I’d get sporadic, short emails, usually in response to my blog which she subscribed to, just saying something positive. When I decided to publish a book, Ty called and gave me all his publishing knowledge, and I noticed that he ended each conversation by saying, “Bless you guys.” And I did feel blessed.

I have no idea what Miss Holman’s fourth grade classroom looked like most of the year, but I can describe it down to the smell and sound on the day that Ronald Reagan was shot. The human mind has a curious way of etching every detail of tragic days on the permastructure of our memories. I can perfectly replay the day the twin towers fell, or the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. And, regretfully, I will never forget the day I read the text message carrying the news of the tragic accident that claimed the lives of Ty and Terri. I will never forget flinging my phone across the room as if it were on fire and staring it down in reprimand for saying such nonsense. I won’t forget waking up crying because during sleep was the only time my mind could admit the truth I couldn’t accept. Even now, days later, I can barely type these words because the black and white lends a permanence I want to reject.

Thousands of us grieve, but I worry most for Emily, Annie, Tyler and Turner. If I could, I would take them all far away where every memory was new and not a painful reminder of the past. Or I would build them a time machine they could use whenever they feel sad. Or I would wrap their hearts in bubble wrap so they wouldn’t have to feel such sharp sorrow. But, they don’t really know me that well, so they’d probably just call the police on me if I did anything remotely close to any of those ideas. I think, though, what will save them, and all of us, in the end is the feeling I had when I first met Ty and Terri – the feeling of wanting to be just like them. Because, really, weren’t they just like Jesus?

“I loved every stage the most.”

“Bless you guys.”

And I do feel blessed. We all do.


If anyone wants to terrify their mother, they should begin a conversation in the way my daughter, Emery, did: “Mom, I can still see, but I just blew up my face with a firework.” Her friend, Jack, was escorting her by her elbow in the black, dark backyard, so I quickly clicked the flashlight on my phone, looked at her face, and then immediately used the convenient phone to call the doctor on call for the weekend.

As we drove to the ER after leaving Jack at our house for his mom to pick up, I kept glancing at her red, swollen eyelids, patches of missing skin, and the chunks of eyelashes melted and fused into her eyelids, and then I drove faster.

If anyone wants quick attention at the ER desk, they should say, “A firework exploded in my daughter’s face.” As I dug in my purse for the insurance card, the man behind the desk shouted into the PA system, “Pediatric trauma Room 1!” and about twenty people ran to us and ushered us into room 1.

“What happened?” one doctor asked.

“I blew up my face with a firework,” Emery said.

“Can you see?” he asked.

“I think so, but it’s hard to open my eyes,” she said.

“Get the scissors,” he said to someone behind him. “We’ll cut her clothes off.”

“NO!” Emery shouted. “It’s my Scooby Doo shirt! I can take it off!”

After saving her beloved shirt and receiving an IV, she began shaking and crying.

“Have you seen your face?” one of the doctors asked her.

“Yeah,” she said. “I’m hot. Get it? Hot. As in burning.”

The doctor, educated in medicine and not humor, had no response to that.

“Do you want to hear a pirate joke?” I heard Emery ask in a shaky voice as a nurse escorted me to a private room where the chaplain was waiting. We prayed and talked and processed until I could see Emery again.

“She needs to spend the night,” the doctor told me as they wheeled Emery into the room. “We will wake her up every two hours and assess her vision. She has an abrasion on her right cornea and second degree burns on her face. She will need painkillers and medication on her burns and in her eyes.”

After a very interrupted sleep that began at 3AM, we were given the good news that her vision was okay firework in the faceand she could go home.

“What exactly happened?” Her grandma asked her when we got back to our house.

“Well, I thought the fuse wasn’t lit properly so I went to relight it, and it exploded. It was a package of fifteen.”

“Did they all explode?” Grandma asked.

“No, just one. I think. I’ll ask Jack,” she said as she began typing on her phone.

“I think they all went off,” Jack’s response text said. “It was like it was raining fire.”

“Are you okay?” She texted him.

“My ear drums burst and I have to wear cotton in my ears.”

“Oh my,” Grandma shook her head. “Do you want anything Emery? Can I make you soup?”

“Grandma, I’m not sick. I’m just the same as I always was. Just more toasty.”

The Way We Roll

The Boys“Hey,” Josiah said to me a year ago, “I should be able to find out if I passed that AP exam I took at the end of the school year.”

“And if you passed it, you get college credit?” I asked.

“Yep. A 1 is the lowest and a 5 is the highest. I have to get at least a 3 to pass.”

“How do you check on that?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I called the school counselor. “Josiah would have received a paper with a website address with a password so he can log in and check his scores,” she told me.

“Let’s say that he no longer has such information in his possession,” I said. “What is the procedure now?”

“Well, I would assume that he would receive confirmation in the mail if he had passed, so if he didn’t get anything from the community college, he probably didn’t pass.”

An entire year later, Josiah handed me a piece of paper. “We need to put this someplace we won’t lose it,” he said. “Its the website and password I need to check my AP test score.”

I laminated it, made copies of it, filed one, put one in the safe deposit box, prayed over it, and memorized the information. And then forgot about it entirely.

“Hey,” Josiah said last week, “I should be able to find out if I passed that AP exam I took at the end of the school year.”

“Oh no!” I panicked. “Where is the paper with the information we need to check it?”

“Don’t worry, Mom. I think I have a copy of the paper in my room.”

Leaving the matter in his capable, adult, hands, I went about my business. An hour later, my phone informed me that I was receiving a phone call from my eldest son.

“Guess what?” Josiah said.


“I got a 5 on my test from this year, but I was also able to see my test from last year and I got a 4 on that one! So I passed both!”

“Hey,” Drake said to me later that day, “How can I find out if I passed my AP exam?”

“Were you given a paper with the website and your password?”

“I don’t know.”

“In that case, we wait an entire year.”

“I have to wait a whole year?”

“Its how we roll, Son.”