Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How Do You Spell That?

I spell. Obsessively. It's sort of a hobby, but it's also a bit of a neurosis. I must know how to spell a word, that word, any word, at any time.

When I watch a movie, if a character's name is unusual, I have to stick around for the credits so I can learn how to spell that name. (Truthfully, I think about it all through the movie, bouncing around different variations in my mind. It would be helpful if the characters wore Price is Right nametags. But then that's all I would look at.)

People who know me well can sense the uneasiness that comes over me when I hear a word whose spelling is not yet automatic to me. They stop mid-sentence to clarify the spelling, knowing I will track better with the conversation if we can get that issue out of the way.

You may notice sometime that I often mindlessly tap my fingertips, sort of rhythmically, but without a clear pattern. My mom does the same thing, but she is playing a melody on the piano in her head. Me? I'm typing in my head. Probably the sentence you just said.

When I cannot fall asleep, I play word games in my head. Lots of them.

Robb counts this is as a great reason to have married me; when he is drafting a business letter or email, he will shout to me from the far corners of the house: "Hey! Spell accentuate!" (Or the current word at hand.) And I do. It works nicely for both of us. He gets the correct spelling, and I get to spell.

I recently joined a very specific virtual community on Facebook; the name of the group is, "I Still Remember the Word I Spelled Wrong in the Spelling Bee." We are a mighty band of warriors, and every single one of us remembers the telltale ding that signals a misspelled word.

There are over 1,000 stories of misspelled words, of glory lost in the moment when it mattered most. Or seemed to. I am not alone.

In fourth grade, I went down on the word banana. Some of my friends had made up (or discovered) this silly little cheer that was the new favorite chant on the playground, and for whatever ridiculous reason, they spelled B-A-N-A-N-A-S. When I spelled my word, the cheer ran through my mind and took over my thoughts, and without thinking, I added an S. I was mortified. I spelled banana. But I made it plural.

In fifth grade, I went down on the word missile. I spelled it M-I-S-T-H-L-E. I think I was headed for mistletoe, but even still, I didn't need that H. It haunts me to this day.

In sixth grade, I lost on the word hygiene. I took out the I. It is very important.

In eighth grade, I won. Yep. I won on the word gastric. (And it was a "duh word." That's the name I invented in fifth grade for words that required no thought to spell. Isn't that a darling and genius name? "Please, Dad, give me a hard one. That's a Duh Word.")

Sadly, I lost the county spelling bee. I went down on the word wiseacre. And I don't want to tell you how I spelled it. I'm still embarrassed.

And do you know what is the very, very worst? When I had to sit in my seat, banished for an extra letter or two, only to listen to a competitor spell a word I knew. I knew that one! Are you kidding me?? I am disqualified, and he gets a Duh Word??

Oh, how my life's path would have been different, if only.

Mom's Day Out = Grandma's Day In

Thanks to my very generous mom, I have the day off. She planned a Grandma Day with the little men, and I thereby planned a day that did not involve them. A day without children is just the cure for a restless mom, now and then.

I spent the morning shopping. Not a shopping-spree-blow-it-all-as-fast-as-possible kind of experience, but rather the take-my-time-to-find-the-things-we've-been-needing variety. Among other stops, I went to the mall.

A visit to the mall, sans-children, is an old, familiar experience.

I walked in with my purse and my bag of items to exchange, but nothing else. No stroller, no diaper bag. I took the stairs instead of the elevator. I didn't worry about losing shoes or toys or snacks. I used the women's restroom, not the family restroom. Nobody asked if we could please visit the puppies. I walked briskly when I wanted to, slowly when I chose. Sometimes I stopped to look, and sometimes I strolled on by.

It was blissful.

(I missed my little shopping buddies. Just a little. But not enough to find them when I learned that my mom had brought them to the mall. Let's not go crazy. The mall is big enough for all of us, it turns out.)

(Thanks, Mom.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Who Taught Him That?

My children woke up with the desire to run today. Hard and fast.

Our home is not especially conducive to hard, fast running, and I was a little weary of the scooters, strollers, tricycle, and trucks of every size slamming into the wall at top speed. So we made our way to the park as soon as possible.

Ah. Now this is where a boy can run. (On days like these, I miss the yard at the home I grew up in... an entire acre of running space. But I do not live in that home, and I don't know a single person in my city with that much grass. Such is the peril of suburbia.)

Tyler explored, climbing on and off benches, tackling playground equipment that demands skills far greater than his. But Tucker ran and ran and ran. He finally stopped to catch his breath - quite literally. My mom had joined us on our venture to running space, and she said, "My goodness, Tuck, that looks like hard work."

"Oh, yes. I runned to death."

Seriously? Who taught him this phrase??

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What Do I Love Most?

It's impossible to know. The entire Christmas celebration is filled with so many moments that are so beyond words, and it's impossible to choose my favorite.

There's the night before, on Christmas Eve, when my little elves are dressed and ready to go to church. There's the worship, the carols, the Merry Christmas greetings... the anticipation is mounting, and everything is about to begin.


But then there is the arrival home after church, and the discovery that Santa made a stop by our house before he flew around the world. And everybody gets new jammies. They burst into their presents before they take off their ties and shiny shoes. That's a pretty sweet moment.



And then there's the quiet hour, when Santa has come and gone, and all we can do is wait for morning to arrive. I have loved that my whole life.
But I also love that first rush down the stairs, the realization that Santa came, but he also came through. When what they wanted most is right there, begging to be played with. I love the sleepy little faces.

Unless the sleepy face is mine. I should stay behind the camera on such early mornings.
I love the books with Mommy and the batteries with Daddy. I love the laps and the snuggles and the thank you's and the "Look Tozzer!" and the "It's my favorite."




I love when they toys are so new and the joy is so fresh that there is no room for arguing.
They just play... together.


And then there's these.
I always love these.


I love little faces stained with frosting.



And I love the moments when I can't tell who is happier: my children, their grandparents, my husband, or me. When there is so much love that I can almost hold it in my hands.
And then there is the blessed hour, at the end of the day. There's the time when we've opened our gifts, we've played with our toys, we've eaten our fill, and we've laughed, and laughed, and laughed. And my sweet babies go to sleep, finally.
It's really hard to know what I love the most.
Merry Christmas.
I hope you are overwhelmed with favorites.

Chutes, Ladders, and Cootie Bugs

We broke the cellophane on a couple new Christmas gifts, and we had our first Family Game Night.

We began with Chutes and Ladders. Daddy and Tyler were on a team, and Tuck and I each held our own. When you're the only girl in the house, nobody argues about who should get the piece that's the girl with curly hair and a pink dress. Meanwhile, Tucker was the little boy with a blue shirt and messy hair, and Tyler and Daddy were the African American little boy. We affectionately called them Team Obama.

Tyler spent most of the game sucking on the one remaining game piece, while Tucker shouted the number for each spin of the spinner.

"What does Daddy have, Tuck?"

"Numba Fowah!"

And my personal favorite: "What did Mommy spin, Tuck?"

"S!" (It was a two.)

We picked up the pace of the game when the boys weren't looking, and finally I won. Legitimately. Winner gets a kiss from every other player. That's the rule.

And we moved on to game number two (or S): Cootie. With each roll of the dice, we gathered and assembled the parts of our cootie bugs. And finally we stopped rolling dice (since only Robb and I are good at reading them and the dots became rather superfluous to the game), and we just put legs, eyes, hats, and tongues on those little critters. That's the fun part, anyway.


Tuck won that one. Sort of.

I anticipated hours and hours of family fun... but 16 minutes later, we were done with both games. I think we'll add longevity with age. Maybe.

Anway, a tradition has begun. Bring on the Uno, Candyland, Memory, and Honeybees. We're ready.

On Tonight's Menu

I made Quesadillas for dinner tonight. But Tucker gave them a new name, which just might stick.

His word for Quesadillas: "Take A Jesus."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Big Man Himself

Tucker was Mr. Confidence, marching right up to Santa. He climbed onto his lap, told him all his hopes and dreams for Christmas morning, and then posed beautifully for a picture.
Tyler wasn't so sure. He is very confident when he can view Santa from afar, but he's not so big on the up-close-and-personal stuff. I hadn't really intended to have my picture taken with Santa, or I would have at least set down my purse. But this is as close as Tyler wanted to get.

Thankfully, Santa understands this stage, and he knows Tyler will come around.
And what Tyler lacked in security, Tucker made up for in boundless courage.
Let me just say, Santa was looking his very best.
Right down to glittery sparkles in his beard.
I almost climbed on his lap myself.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Who Did That??

Our visits to the grocery store are almost never without event.

Today, I needed to pick out a couple of greeting cards. With the boys perched in their places in the cart, I parked them beside me and perused my Shoebox and Fresh Ink options. I looked and looked, and I found some good ones.

But here's the thing: I didn't realized that I had poised my children directly beneath the selection of helium balloons. The smart people at the grocery store have this little 'cage' of sorts suspended from the ceiling, all to keep those happy little floaters from flying away. While I was reading and smiling to myself over Hallmark humor, they were systematically pulling the strings, sliding the balloons from beneath the cage, and letting them float up, up, up to the ceiling.

Nice.

As we scurried to another aisle, I commented, "What kind of unruly children do that?? And where is their mother??"

Never Too Early

My mom is pretty amazing on the piano. She taught herself to play when she was four years old, and although she took more than a decade of lessons and studied in college as well, she is most amazing in her ability to play by ear. She can play anything. Name it. She can play it.

(This came in handy in her years in ministry alongside my dad. It's great for a youth pastor to be married to a wife who never met a song she couldn't play.)

My parents invested hundreds of dollars in my own piano career, but to no avail. After eight years of lessons, I have only four years of ability... if that. On this side of childhood, I wish I had embraced the opportunity. But back in the day, well, I had better things to do than practice at that piano bench.

Plus, a pianist must keep her fingernails short. And you know what I always say: Vanity over talent. Every time.

Well, as this next generation has joined the family, my mom is planting early seeds in our budding musicians. Tucker and Tyler are always allowed to play the piano, as long as they obey the only rule: no banging. Otherwise, tickle those ivories, gentlemen. They love it.

And as Grandmas will do, she often sits with them and plays there favorite songs. Just recently, they have begun to sing along. Let me just tell you, there are few things more precious in this world than my children singing with my mom at her piano.






video
(Bring on the music scholarships.)

Using that Degree.

In preparation for our Family Worship time with Robb's family, my sister-in-law and I were in charge of planning for the kiddos. Since she is ever-growing pregnant and still baked calzones and pizzas for all nine of us, I took the lead on the Christmas craft:

Frosty the Snowman. Three of him.

He is made with paper plates, carrot noses, black pipes, googly eyes, and magic hats of three different colors. I did all the cutting in advance, so we only needed to glue and staple all his parts together. We settled in: my boys, and my sweet niece who excels in paper crafts.




Abby knows her stuff.

My face is not the prettiest in any of these pictures. But I'm in action.
And I was probably using my teacher voice. Projecting, I'm sure.

In the end, there were snowmen. And they were pretty darling.
And they looked smashing on MaeMae's refrigerator.
It's really best that you can't see the face of Tyler's snowman. He's a little worked over.

Nice to see that I'm using that elementary degree after all. My sister-in-law, also a teacher but of upper level math, will utilize her skills at Easter when she teaches us the algebraic equations of the crucifixion.

Stay tuned for lesson plans.

Antlers, Anyone?



Confession. The antlers are Potty Presents. There are many more of them, wrapped and ready for Tucker, should he ever decide to put the poop where it belongs. They are out on display (albeit in a gawdy Easter basket...), so there can be no question. He knows what to do, and he knows the reward. Guaranteed. Still, no dice.
Since nobody is opening Potty Presents around here, and since antlers aren't nearly as darling after Christmas, I decided to open them. And we all took a turn wearing them.
But let's be clear: he'll have to earn the rest of those presents.
(Oh. Except for the two that I stole and put into stockings.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

We're ready. The presents are wrapped, the cookies are baked (and now half-eaten), and all we have to do is wait for the pitter-patter of reindeer paws.

Just ask Tuck. This is his constant monologue: "Next week... Santa... reindeer... presents. For Tucker!" He's missing a few words in the middle, but he makes up for them in animation. I promise.

And Tyler chimes in, ever at the ready, "Santa! Woo-woo!" He's hoping for a train for Christmas. Luckily, I happen to know that one is coming. A long with a few other dreams come true.

I love Christmas. I had no idea it could be this much more fun with toddlers. We only get one Christmas while they are three and one, and we have no intention of missing any perks that come with the job of making this holiday happen for them.

And did I mention that Robb and his dad are building a playroom in our basement tomorrow?? Merry Christmas to me. That room will quite literally change my life. Perhaps theirs, but most definitely mine.

I. Love. Christmas. Two more days...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thumbkin

In an effort to entertain the masses while we waited for food to arrive to our table, I whipped out an old classic: Where Is Thumbkin.

Where is Thumbkin? Where is Thumbkin?
Here I am! Here I am!
How are you today, sir?
Very well, I thank you.
Run away. Run away.

It's new to my kids, but it's an old classic because it's timeless... or so I thought.

I sang and sang to them, verse after verse, and they were mesmerized.

Where is Thumbkin... Where is Pointer... Where is Tall Man...

Suddenly, Robb came alive from the other side of the table. "What? Tricia! Stop! What are you teaching our children?!?!"

Somehow, he had a problem with me wagging my middle fingers in public. To music. And teaching our children.

Go figure.

How Many Times?

I have read Frosty the Snowman six times today.

I'm a little behind on my reading of choice, but I think I've met their quota.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lazarus? Really?

After Tucker's class met at church tonight, he brought me his coloring page: Jesus and Lazarus. (Not what I would have chosen for this week before Christmas, but hey, I'm not the teacher.)

He pointed to Lazarus, wrapped in the likes of toilet paper, and he said, "Mommy, he's my favorite."

Lazarus? Really? Who chooses Lazarus as their favorite character in the Bible? Tucker, apparently.

Or perhaps this has more to do with his current fascination with toilet paper.

Quiet Mommy

I woke up this morning with my throat on fire and no voice to be heard. A nasty cold has settled into my throat, and I felt very sick, very sad, very lonseome for my husband who has been gone for four days, and very unprepared to parent my children without the use of my voice. It was a rough start for the day.

If I were a teacher, I would have claimed a sick day. But there are no sick days in this job contract.

It has been an interesting stretch for my parenting and discipline strategies, since I can only whisper. I'm realizing how much I rely on a stern voice and a strong lecture when I need it. But when those tactics aren't available, once must be wordlessly creative. I have become dependent on clapping my hands, snapping my fingers, and waiting for them to be still and quiet before I speak. I can't talk over their volume, so they must come down to mine.

Truthfully, I'm learning a few new strategies that I might keep in the toolbox, even when I can talk again.

Since they are down for their naps as I write, and since the morning is behind us, I can reflect with more eloquence about what I am learning today. But this morning, I just wanted to lay in bed and cry. Obedience was not on my children's agenda, no matter how much I whispered, and I did not have the patience to do this job.

But it's done. The first half of the day, anyway.

Mr. Articulate

While I have been without words today, Tuck has grown to a new degree of articulation. We have had the following conversations today, in a very quiet manner.

*****

me: Tuck, Mommy feels very sick today. I really need for you to make better choices and be a good boy today. Please.

tuck: Okay, Mommy. Sorry. I be better. I promise.

(Promise? This is a new word. And frankly, his guarantee melted me a bit... he really means well. My firstborn, typical to those tendencies in so many ways, tries really, really hard. And now, he promises, too. Ugh.)

*****
He carried a Christmas gift into preschool today, so eager to present it to Miss Jill. After much practice, he marched into her classroom, handed her the gift bag, and said, "Merry Pisses, Jill!"
Close.
*****
His friend Franklin gave him a gift at preschool today: a snowflake made of beads and white pipe cleaners. He carried it so carefully to the car, and once he was in his carseat, he thrust it at Tyler and said, "Here, Tozz. Want to look at this??"
I. Love. This.
*****
As we drove home from preschool, a car pulled out in front of me. From the backseat, Tucker shouted, "Woah! Just a minute, sir!"
Well, hello there, backseat driver. I'm sort of surprised he didn't wag a finger at the driver, as I have been known to do. (Not that finger, thank you.)
*****
Finishing his lunch at home, Tucker announced, "Mommy! She likes it! Molly likes my cheese!"
He was pretty excited with this discovery and his sentence... I'm loving the language, but not so much the feeding the dog from the table.
****
Maybe I should be silent more often.
Look who starts talking.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

They Do Look Alike.

In our car are many treasures for the long (and short, let's be honest) car rides. Books, happy meal toys, stuffed animals, and a few forgotten, discarded, edible treats if we're lucky.

As Tyler climbed into his carseat today, he spotted an activity book from Tucker's Sunday school class; it displays a cartoon picture of Moses on the cover, with a round tummy and a fluffy white beard. He's standing at the foot of a mountain, holding the ten commandments freshly carved into stone.

He pointed and exclaimed, "Oooh! Santa!"

Well, no. Not Santa. It's Moses. He's holding the ten commandments that we all must follow, or he won't give us any presents. Sort of. Just kidding. (I'm not really teaching my children heresy. At least not intentionally.)

We'll talk more about Moses when this holiday with his twin-brother-look-alike passes. It will be easier to distinguish him when Santa goes back to the North Pole.

Is It Okay...

Is it okay that I raided the craft basket and wrapped some of 'their' unopened supplies as stocking stuffers?

Crayons, feathers, stickers, markers... basically, items I have given them once before. They just forgot about them, they have never used them (or almost never), and they can't access them since I'm not a mom who leaves craft supplies out for the playing at all times.

It sort of redefines the term 'regift.' I'm giving them something that is legitimately already theirs. Again.

I tossed in some new paints and brushes. Just for good measure.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Language All Their Own

When Tyler and I dropped Tucker off at speech therapy today, Tyler spied some toys and decided he would rather settle in here. Who wants to run errands or have a lunch date with Mommy, when there is a whole wonderland of toys that his big brother gets to enjoy??


He played for a few minutes while I talked with Tucker's teacher, and he babbled and chattered away. Miss Jill said, "He sounds just like Tucker! They definitely sound the same. They must be right on track with each other."


"They are. Definitely. It's really helping Tucker's language... but I'm not sure it's helping Tyler's. Their vocabulary matches, and they have a language all their own."


And they speak it all the time. Their words are sprinkled with things I understand, but mostly, they just get each other.


That's a reason to have a brother. (I can personally vouch for the benefits.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

In the Eye of the Beholder

The boys got haircuts today. Much needed and long overdue. They were a little on the shaggy side... growing toward helmets.

Tucker knows the drill, so he gets to sit in his own chair, with his own cape.

Tyler is still new at it, and he's a little too squirmy for independence. So I sit in the swivel chair with a cape of my own, and he sits on my lap, draped with a cape of his own. The hairdresser guides me to turn his body one way or another, he squirms and argues until I offer the occasional promise of a lollipop. Together, we get the job done.

Meanwhile, Tuck is quite the picture of confidence on the other side of the salon.

I heard him chatting away with his personal hairdresser, and I knew she had no idea what he was saying. She was doing the typical courtesy response, "Oh, mm-hmmm. Sure, sweetheart." (I know that one. It doesn't bother me. I do it, too.)

But Tucker wanted to be understood. Suddenly, he shouted, "Mommy! I'm so handsome!"

People all over the room stifled their laughter. I couldn't blame them... it was pretty adorable. But I couldn't laugh. He meant it.

"You sure are, Tuck. Very handsome. I love the new 'do."

At least he's confident.

Lunch Date?

Don't you wish you could have lunch with this little boy?
Or at least clean up after him??







Yogurt in the hair. My favorite.
As I grabbed my camera, I said aloud,
"I'm not sure what I'm reinforcing, but I have to take a picture."
My very wise friend said,
"You're reinforcing fun and learning and messes that can be cleaned up."
Yes, I am.
We have a lot of that at our house.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In All Their Monstrosity.

I decided to bake Monster Cookies with two boys, during a stay-at-home morning.

(Have you ever made Monster Cookies? They are so aptly named not for their size, but for their sheer magnitude. This is the most monstrous recipe in the history of ovens, and it could easily feed all of Santa's elves and a multitude of heavenly hosts. A friend of mine found that this recipe fed 75 people at a family reunion... it's a doozy. Delicious, and so well worth it, but my goodness. Settle in.)
Before we go any further with this story, I have to give you the recipe. Since you just might like to give them a try, and since you just have to read this recipe to enjoy the spirit of the experience.

Monster Cookies
12 eggs (Yes, 12.)
4 cups sugar
4 cups brown sugar
1 lb butter
3 lb peanut butter
8 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp corn syrup
18 cups oatmeal
1 lb M & M's
1 lb chocolate chips

Mix all together in a huge bowl or container. Bake at 350 for 9 minutes, with more or less time if you like them chewier or crispier.


When you're measuring ingredients by the pound or in double digits, you know you're in for some big money. Perhaps I should have halved the recipe. Or, you know, maybe I should have gone with the Pillsbury pull-aparts. But, that's beside the point. I did it. We did it.

I started with the biggest bowl I have, certainly large enough to have bathed my children when they were newborn. We cracked egg after egg after egg...




And we took turns stirring.


Except this is what happened every time it was Tucker's turn to stir.

We're working on that.

Although the recipe is in itself very simple (you can't get easier than 'dump it all together'), it does get tricky in the counting. 18 cups of oatmeal? We went with multiples of three, and then we stirred and stirred. And it's no easy task to see that 8 teaspoons of baking soda are dispersed evenly and equally into three pounds of peanut butter. No lumps. And make sure everyone gets a turn. And don't lose count.

It's quite a job for the most patient multitasker. And it is indeed a workout for the baker with crazy upper body strength. (I am not she.)



Tuck lost interest a bit, and he decided to practice his rendition of Little Drummer boy, one of my personal favorites, for so many reasons. (Please don't miss the sarcasm in that sentence.)



As I added more and more ingredients, he had more and more 'drums.' Soon, I had a one-man band. That's quite a serenade.


It was a really beautiful mess, once we added those red and green bits of heaven.

There was a moment of spilled M & M's, and my children scrambled so fast to scoop them up and stuff them into their mouths. I could read their thoughts: Mom will put the kybosh on this when she realizes we have unlimited amounts of chocolate. We better get it while the gettin's good. Moments later: kybosh. They know me well.

Two hours later, we were still mixing ingredients and stirring, stirring, stirring. Not a single cookie sheet in the oven, nothing to show for our efforts. (But we were having fun. And they were taking turns. They were learning, and nobody was angry. They didn't even mind that they couldn't eat that which I had promised them. It was so very succesful, except in the edible round of the judging.)

Our stay-at-home morning was not designed to be a stay-at-home day, and we had a lunch date to run off to. So, I heaved that mammoth bowl of cookie dough (which takes up an entire shelf) into the fridge. And we checked it off our list. Sort of. We made cookies... but not quite. Almost. We did a lot toward their existence. I mean, a lot.

I baked many batches during naptime, and they each enjoyed a cookie and cold milk later in the day. And I got two sweet, sticky kisses, some chocolate fingerprints to track around the house, and some happy, thankful snackers.

Meanwhile, I have been baking more batches at every slow moment when the oven is not otherwise occupied, and still, more than half of the cookie dough remains. I am running out of Tupperware in which to store these baked wonders, and I'm going to start freezing them soon.

I think we're set with cookies for a good while. Perhaps Tucker can share them with his kindergarten class on his birthday. (In two years.)

Anybody want a cookie? I have some. And for the record, they're delicious.

The Miracle of Christmas

Robb was working late.
We had a McDonald's date for dinner.
I baked cookies.
They watched Rudolph, the current favorite.
And look what I found, as I strolled through the living room.

Thank you, Santa, Rudolph, and the Lord above for this beautiful display of brotherly love.

No matter how fleeting.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm a Good Starter.

I am a Great Starter... not so much a Great Maintainer. I love the brainstorming process, the new plans, and all the required office supplies and craft items for such moments of brilliance. But when it actually comes down to the routine of a long term plan or even just a big project, I tend to lose interest.

These traits suited me well as a teacher, since the biggest part of teaching requires a combination of careful planning and ingenuity in the moment. No two days are exactly the same.

But otherwise, for really any other task in my life, it's good to be a maintainer. I'm just not one. Some of my bestlaid plans are just that: plans. Big plans. With all the necessary supplies.

For example:
  • I once decided that I would volunteer to crochet hundreds of squares to make blankets for children in a foster care center. Good plan. I made about 16 of them, then I was done. And that was a stretch.

  • I decided that I would earn extra money for our family by making crafty little lapel pins from fabric. I was going to sell them at a craft show, and make my millions. After all, these are big in the teacher market, and I knew of someone who earned her family's entire Christms budget on these little ditties. I have all the supplies in my basement, in case you'd like to give it a try.

  • Oh, and then I took a cake decorating class. I had big intentions for the cakes and cupcakes I would make for all of you.

  • There is a half-finished baby blanket upstairs, right now... I started it for a little man who is now six months old, no longer in need of swaddling. (Sorry, Truitt.)

  • I was really into cheesecakes for a season. I made them like crazy. Which means I made, oh, three of them. I was going to sell those, too. (I'm all about making the money, not so much about the mantenance.)

So, when I told Robb that I needed to buy yards of fabric for the scrap garland I wanted to make for our home, he nodded (and probably rolled his eyes) and said, "Yes, dear. Add it to the list."

But guess what: I finished it. And I'm thinking of making another one. So there.

But, look out: we enter the danger zone when I get the brainy idea to start making them in mass quanties to sell in bulk.

Someday, you will find me behind a table at a craft show. I will be selling an eclectic combination of baby blankets, potholders, lapel pins, cupcakes, picture frames, scrap garland, fudge, and cheesecake. You won't want to miss it.

In fact, you should probably come early. I'm sure there will be a long line at my table.

Innate.

The backseat was piling high with heaps of giggles. My two boys were laughing so hard at one another, and I didn't know why. For a moment, they stopped laughing just long enough for Tucker to instigate more laughs with one word:

"Poopyheads!"

Where do they learn this? It has to be totally innate.

Boys.

Keep Practicing...

Just when I thought we had it down, Tucker proudly counted to ten.

"One, two, fee, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, [with growing volume and anticipation] and.... SEVEN!"

We'll keep practicing.

On the other hand, he said the word opportunity today. Very well, in fact. Four times. I think he liked the feel of that one.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Midnight Visits

My children are good sleepers.

So much of that is innate, I really believe. I think it has less to do with scheduling and more to do with wiring. I know scheduled, routinized moms whose kids visit with them multiple times during the night, and I know families of which the very opposite is true. My kids just happen to go to bed early and sleep rather late... and I don't complain.

In fact, a fellow parent of preschoolers said these words recently: "Tricia's kids go to bed at six, they wake up at ten-thirty in the morning, and then they make her pancakes." Well, not quite. But I'll take what I can get. It's not a bad plan.

Tucker has this new routine (well, several months old now), where he wakes up in the middle of the night needing affirmation that I still live here. I definitely do. He calls for me, in a near panic, and I meet him in the doorway of his room. I usher him back to bed, I pull his blankets up to his chin, and I shuffle back to my bed while the sheets are still warm. He doesn't need very much: just a quick and instant reminder that all is right with his world. It's a routine that I have mastered. We wrap it up as quickly as possible, almost every night, multiple times. It's not my favorite, but my groggy response is faster and easier than waiting him out and wondering if I'm doing any damage by making him wonder if he's safe.

But Tyler is different. Tyler doesn't need me very often in the wee hours. He is happy to head to bed, blanket in hand, and he'll see me in the morning - thank you very much. It's very thoughtful. He's rather accommodating that way.

Except for last night. He woke up, crying. I don't know why, but that's rarely mine to figure out. They don't need a reason, they just need me. When I came into his room, he was sitting up in his crib, snuggling that faithful blue blanket. He looked at me and whispered, "Oh, Mommy."

Now who can resist this?

I scooped him up, and something about him felt very, oh, what's the word... baby.

This toddler with whom I had battled over his tantrums, sharing, biting, hitting, mastery of the water dispenser on the refrigerator door, stealing my hair dryer, misplacing untouchable ornaments on the Christmas tree, storing grapes inside his onesie, taking off shoes and socks during a four-minute car ride, and sliding books underneath the changing table... suddenly, he was once again my baby.

Suddenly this role, which felt so admittedly boring earlier in the day, was the most fulfilling place to be. In that moment, the scent of his milky breath was more peaceful than my own sleep.

I held him and rocked him until I felt in my arms that familiar heaviness of a sleeping child, the melting of boundaries, the strengthening of all that is maternal. In my head, I heard the parenting experts and critics telling me that I should let him go back to sleep on his own, I shouldn't reinforce this habit of midnight visits, and many other shoulds or should nots. But I ignored them... I've never agreed with them anyway. And those books were not written for these tender moments.

I have heard (and read) that the goal of parenting is not to treat children equally, but fairly. They are different; their needs are different. To respond equally is to ignore their individuality. To respond fairly is to meet their needs, uniquely. Tyler needed me in a very different way than his brother so often does, and frankly, I needed him too.

Tomorrow, when he's an independent toddler and we're battling it out once again, at least I'll have the nourishment of that quiet scene to remember.

When he was my baby. If only for a few minutes.

Why Do I Blog?

For so many reasons...

... because I have friends and family all over the place, and I want them to know this side of me and the daily stuff that is Tucker and Tyler.

... because the tenderness of everyday could get lost in the tyranny of the tasks. I don't want to lose this.

... because I think you might want to read it.
... because it feels productive. I keep my blogging list of topics throughout the day: sometimes in my ever-faithful notebook who is my constant companion, sometimes on a transient post-it, sometimes on a napkin. (But never on my hand.) And then I capture it (or release it?) in the few minutes to myself. And I can cross it off my list. I did that today.
... because I have to. I'm a writer. I've finally learned the merits of calling myself one, published or not. I'm a writer. A writer must write.

... because sometimes, this is the most alive moment of my day: when my fingernails are clicking furiously on the keyboard, and I can't write fast enough. When the ideas in my head collide so fiercely that I have to type faster just to sort them out, when the words string together on their own, and a mess of eclectic beads has grown into a necklace... a rather beautiful one that I really want to wear. Right now.

It's 1:57 AM. I woke up because I had to write.
Hello, blog. I have missed you, old friend.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Every Last Crumb

After quite an exhausting evening with our little men, Robb and I were wrapping up the day. As I was brushing my teeth, I popped my birth control pill out of its handy case, and the little blue pill broke into pieces in my hand.


Robb said, "Oh, that is precious stuff. Lick every last crumb off your fingers."


We love our two. We adore them. The jury is still out on whether there will be another... just, you know, not today.

Let's just say, we can't go breaking birth control pills left and right.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

That's a Start.

In Tucker's Sunday school class, he colored a picture of the nativity scene. When I picked him up from his class, he said, "Look, Mommy. Baby Jesus and a sheep."

There are a few other central players in the story, but that's a start.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

When Mommy is Working...

(Warning: This is a Humbling Blog Post. Read on only if you can still think highly of me and without judgment. Oh, and if you want to know that I am real and flawed.)

I haven't blogged in a while. It's true. It's finals week, which means that I am spending lots and lots and LOTS of time editing for graduate students. I sure spend a lot of time studying syllabi, writing assignments, research topics, and meeting deadlines... especially for a girl who isn't in grad school. (Not yet anyway. Someday. Stay tuned on that goal.)

Most of my editing happens between 9:30 PM and 2:00 AM, since I really can't do it when my children are awake. Well, I can, but it's just not wise.

For example, I accepted one assignment at an unruly hour, which meant I had to stay up late and get up early to do it while the boys were asleep... and then they woke up before I finished. So, um, well, it went something like this...

(I sent this video to my friend Sara, in a moment of pure exasperation and the desperate wish for affirmation and sympathy... you'll hear my commentary to her.)

video


It became a Press Play Day. Or, more accurately, Lord of the Flies in my Living Room.

It is fair to say that these days are not my finest hour as a mom. Nope. Not good. I'm impatient, I'm scattered, I'm forgetful, and my children know it. (Let there be no question of pride in this blog post... this is the dirty laundry. Airing.)

But, my boys are clean and fed. And they are resilient.

In the meantime, I'm editing like a mad woman. I can spot a comma splice at a hundred yards. Bring on the fragments, run-ons, gerrands, and passive voice.

I'm the girl for the job. Just don't ask me to do it in a tidy house.

Train Wreck. No Alternative Route.

Tyler's headed straight for Two. And there's not a single thing I can do about it.
Look at this darling display of strong will.

video

All of that, because he wanted into my makeup drawer.

And just in case you didn't get enough, it continued.

video

Year Number Two... here we come. I'd rather not see you again, so soon after our first go around, but we're on our way.

Just recently, someone wise said, "Remember, they are only two for a year."

Right. But conversely, he's going to be two for an entire year.

Someday, I will be thankful for these videos. And someday I will be thankful we had these tough battles, because I'm so prayerful that he will be a man of confidence and passion, based on this will that guides him everyday.

But in the meantime, in the throes of it all, well, I'm still thankful.

(But I'm also tired.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hmmmm.

Me: Tuck, are you a boy or a girl?

Tuck: A girl.

m: No. You are not a girl. You are a boy.

t: Oh. Right. Boy.

m: What is daddy?

t: A boy.

m: Right! What is Tyler?

t: A boy.

m: Right! What is mommy?

Silence.

m: Tucker, what is mommy?

t: Tucker is finking.

(He scratched his chin. Finally, a little light bulb appeared above his head, as he threw his fist in the air in enlightenment.)

t: Tucker got it! Mommy's a girl!!

I'm hopeful someday he won't have to think so hard to be sure of my gender.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Where Have All The Smart Girls Gone?

I love smart women. I really, really do. I have surrounded myself with them in my social circle, I have been known to pursue friendships based on my desire for the influence of another woman's intelligence, and I truly value a smart girl with a bright mind and a quick wit.

So, here's what I would love to know: When did it become socially acceptable (or even desirable) to be a woman who is not smart?

I had lunch with an old friend last week who took every opportunity to degrade herself and her intelligence. This is a girl who has pursued a professional career, post-graduate work, and established a life of independence, based on her intelligence. Somehow, she believed she was more approachable, more desirable, and perhaps even more lovable if she marked herself as less intelligent than the average girl.

(As I have been known to do in a very tactful, diplomatic way, I called her out on it. It's bunk. She's a smart girl... why pretend otherwise??)

Just today, I learned of a very smart friend of mine who was recently ridiculed in a circle of women. They teased her for having a master's degree, being an eloquent writer, and even using 'big words.' She left the Girls' Night feeling degraded and minimized, all because she is a smart woman.

And how is it possible that pop culture is filled with smart women who want to appear stupid? They are clearly bright enough to market themselves with a slant one way or the other, so why not capitalize on their intelligence? I can list less than five 'smart women' in today's entertainment world... where have all the smart girls gone?

I am the last to say that one needs credentials, degrees, or titles to prove that she is smart... I have very few of those, myself. I have high aspirations for all of them, but I'm a smart girl without the initials after my name. And I know it. And you'll never hear me say otherwise.

My mom is a brilliant, wise, confident woman. She is no less feminine because she can keep up with any man, and my dad loves her for it. In our home, there was no excuse for pretending to be something I was not... I could not claim inadequacy when we all knew I could do it. (Except in sports. Everyone knew I couldn't.) I have held strong to the value I have learned since I was small: Know who you are, be confident in what you can do, and never say you can't. Because you can. Don't let anyone put you in a corner because you're a girl. Know your stuff, and do it right.

I don't have a daughter, but if I ever do, I suspect this may be our greatest challenge in raising her in a culture that minimizes women; I will give my everything to teach her to value everything about herself, especially her intelligence.

Come on, smart girls. Don't let me down.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Conversations

Me: "Who's thirsty?

Tucker: "Me! I'm thirsty!"

Tyler: "Yes, Mommy. I'm thirsty too. Like Tucker." (How did we get one who talks this much??)

*****

Me: "Tuck, look at the Christmas lights!"

Tucker: "So boo-fow, Mommy." (Beautiful.)

Tyler: "More Yights! More Yights! More Yights!" (He's killing me with this one. It's downright incessant.)

*****

I put on my new winter coat.

Tucker: "Oh, Mommy. Very handsome."

(I am learning that this is a casualty for being the only girl in the house; I am often referred to as 'handsome' or 'a good boy.' Such is the life for a Barbie Doll Mom in a G. I. Joe World.)

*****

Tucker had a very minor injury at his grandparents' house this week. In the retelling, he said, "It was very painful."

Painful? Seriously?? Who is this kid? And who taught him these words?

*****

Handsome, beautiful, and painful, all in one week.

Keep 'em coming, T.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No Use Crying Over Spilled...

7:07 a.m.
Tucker is tapping on my forehead. "Up, Mommy. Wake up." I sent him back to his room, for quiet time. That's the parenting equivalent of a snooze button.

7:12 a.m.
Tap-tap-tap.
t: Mommy, up.
m: Tucker, please go have quiet time.
t: I did.
Fair enough.

7:15 a.m.
I give Tucker a sippy cup of milk, a warm and toasty blanket, and I access a pre-recorded episode of Sesame Street on the DVR. (It's called the Texas Telly and the Golden Triangle... a spoof on Indiana Jones. Very funny, you know, the first 300 times.)

7:17 a.m.
I'm in the shower. It's blessedly warm and cozy.

7:23 a.m.
I hear Tyler. Enough with the shower. The younger native is restless. I'm blasted with the post-shower chilliness, and I'm so thankful for my plush robe from Christmas last year... it's my good friend on winter mornings.

7:30 a.m.
I walk into Tyler's room, expecting to find him snuggled with his beloved blanket. Instead, he is perched on top of the crib rail, straddling it.

I gasped, loudly. My audible presence startled him to flip into the crib - which I was thankful for. He could have flipped the other way, which his brother did around this age, which launched us into a month's worth of cast after cast. We had quite a conversation about the do's and don'ts in a crib, and I made a mental note to ask Robb to make sure it's on its lowest setting. After all, we don't need any broken bones, but we certainly don't need this boy sleeping in anything other than his crib, either.

7:42 a.m.
Time for breakfast. Fruit bars and raisin bran for everyone. (Except mommy. I'll have coffee and a chocolate chip muffin. The usual. I save the healthy stuff for the kids...) Tucker learns to use his placemat to catapult his fruit bar to Tyler's half of the table, and then he complains that Tyler took it. Ah. Deception, at an early age. But his wise mother cannot be fooled. Nor entertained by his attempts to parent his younger brother.

7:44 a.m.
Tucker tries to eat his fruit bar like Cookie Monster, mashing it into his face with both hands. I've had about enough of the impersonations of characters with poor table manners.

7:47 a.m.
Tucker is finished with his breakfast. He climbs down from his booster seat, carries his dishes to the sink, and stops just short of the counter... to pour his milk on to the rug. Are you kidding me?? We briefly discuss the merits of not experimenting with liquids outside the bathtub, and I hand him a towel to clean up the mess.

7:49 a.m.
I am drinking my coffee. Tyler is finishing his fruit bar... with sticky fingers that keep wandering to my side of the table. I love a lot of things about my kids... but sticky fingers I can do without, especially on the inside of my elbow. Always a hot button for me.

Tucker announces that he needs to go potty - at skill at which he is making great strides. While he is in the bathroom, I hear him saying, "Mommy! Toilet paper!" Repeatedly. Upon investigation, I find heaps of toilet paper mounded into the toilet bowl. I have allowed him one square for a target (instead of the Cheerios), but he couldn't seem to get it to tear off. Awesome. I'm pretty sure that's a flushing hazard.

As I'm weighing the physiscal and yet teachable consequences of flushing it all, another moment passes...

7:51 a.m.
Tyler is shouting, "Uh-oh, Mommy. Uh-oh." Upon investigation, I find that he has followed Tucker's lead and poured his remaining cereal and milk onto his placemat. Are you kidding me???

Who said, "No use crying over spilled milk?" Hmmm? Who was it? Because their milk didn't spill on a morning like this. That's all there is too it.

I didn't cry. But I didn't smile. I ushered everyone - and their sticky fingers and their toilet paper hands - to the bathtub.

And it wasn't even 8:00.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Yondy."

"Yondy, Mommy. Yondy. Yondy. I help."

Hmmm. This requires some investigation. Who is Yondy? And why does he need help from Tucker?

I found Tuck standing next to the washer, launching things up and over, tossing in everything he could find.

He was 'helping' with the laundry. Or, you know, the yondy.

Future Med Student

One of my students said to me today:
"Miss Tricia, did I tell you my brother had surgery? He had his independix taken out."
There is almost nothing that elementary-age boys love more than a medical report on behalf of a family member. And they almost never have the facts straight.

Keeping Things in Perspective.

Tucker's Sunday school teacher is one of my favorite people. She is the delight of his Sunday morning, and she has taught him so much every week... that God made him, God loves him, and we will always come back to get him at the end of the morning.

When she first met Tucker and learned of his speech needs, she invited a friend of hers to spend some time in the classroom. This friend knew sign language, and she served as the interpretor between my son and his teacher. Now that is ministry. We love Miss Gloria.

As I dropped him off on Sunday morning, she hugged my kiddo, secured his nametag, and helped him settle in with the craft at hand. Before I scurried down the hall, she said with much grace and emotional togetherness, "Tricia, can I ask for your prayers? My son is in the army, and he arrived in Baghdad three days ago. Could you pray for him?"

Let me just say, this request pretty much stopped me in my selfish tracks.

While I am running about on Sunday morning, or any day, worrying about that which consumes me, other people very close to me have much greater worries. My children are safe. I know right where they are, always. This isn't true for every mom. We talk often of the sacrifices the people of the military make for our country, but I do not think enough of the sacrifices their families make, who are living in our country, waiting for them to come home. Those are sacrifices of great magnitude as well.

I was struck by the irony: as I left my child in her care, she asked me to care for hers in the only way I could: please pray.

So, I am. I'm praying for Anthony in Baghdad, his brothers stationed elsewhere, and their faithful mom here in Colorado.... that she may be blessed abundantly in her call to serve.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Bath and a Book


All he needs is a cigar or a glass of wine.
Not a bad way to end the day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Only Because He's My Boy.

That's the only reason I let him spit all over my face.

video

More than once.

Good Times at McDonald's

We had a play date at McDonald's today. I would rate it a tremendous success... despite the following issues:

...It's a no-shoes zone, but Tucker really, really wanted to be barefoot. Every time I turned around, he was handing me his socks. And then I was putting them back on his little feet. I am not a germophobe, but I do have my limits. No little piggies on that scummy floor.

...I captured them both before they exited the playground with plans to order a second course.

...Tyler ate someone else's half-eaten chicken nugget off the floor. That one also brought me out of my seat, with my hand under his chin, asking him to fork over the chicken. He obeyed, but I'm pretty sure the damage was already done.

...Upon hearing the undeniable sound of my child's frantic cries, I high-tailed to the top of the PlayLand to rescue Tyler. He had climbed all the way to the top, only to change his mind about going down the slide...but now there was a bottleneck of children far braver than he, ready to make their way down. And now I was among them. It's snug up there, let me tell you. We hooched and scooched our way back down, and he kept his feet on the ground after that trauma. That was a highlight.

...Both of my children had blowout diaper situations. So, you know, that's fun.

In the midst of it all (or somehow one decibel above it), I caught up with a sweet friend and fellow mom in the ranks with two boys. And, the McCafe Iced Mocha gets a thumbs up.

See? Tremendous success.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rough Morning.

Thanks to a very long, very late editing assignment that fell far short of the 48-hour request for turnaround time (I officially had 13.4 hours to finish it... and get a night's sleep), my kids had a movie morning.

Well, really, they reinacted Lord of the Flies, right here in my living room.

I woke up early (which I don't do) to get a headstart on the comma splices, but the children were up early too... so much for that plan. Between fruit bars, raisin bran, diapers, pull-ups, more diapers, more pull-ups, and a little while of little boy nakedness because I didn't have time to run upstairs to get more diapers, I edited. And I edited.

I was held captive by the computer for a ridiculous amount of time, so I equipped the cherubs with very fun toys that are typically off limits (including many favorites from my kitchen utensils), some good fellowship with Mickey Mouse, and even some Christmas carols.

Mommy just had to work. (I don't know how moms work from home, truly. I can't do it well.)

I confess... I was stressed. I had a crazy deadline to meet, and I couldn't read or type fast enough. The very astuteq kids smelled an opportunity, and they took advantage of my inability to multitask indefinitely. I am not God, and they are well aware. I don't see it all, and they live it up when my back it turned.

The house was trashed. Words cannot describe. Video can, and I actually captured some, but only those with access to my cell phone library of 30-second videos have seen it. It was a madhouse.

But lo' and behold, 11:00 arrived. I was still editing. The children were not in their jammies, but they weren't dressed either. Tucker has preschool at 11:30. I was in my jammies, with only coffee in my stomach. Lots of it.

I'll just read this last paragraph before I send it off to the author...

It's 11:10. We gotta move.

I scrambled up the stairs to find Tyler unloading the drawers in his room, and Tucker was jumping on the bed inside the crib. Where do I even begin to repair such a scene??

I scooped up both boys, took them into Tucker's room for a community wardrobe change, and Tucker decided to begin the wiggly acrobat routine that ensues when he knows I'm trying to dress him in a hurry. Seriously, in a hurry.

Finally, I got impatient. I shouldn't say 'finally.' I had been impatient all morning. There was too much to do, too much to process, too much to correct (both in grammar and in character), and not enough time or energy to accomplish a single thing well.

As we battled, Tucker finally looked me square in the eye and said, "Mommy, be nice!"

My defenses shot into full alert. Mommy, be nice?? Me?? I was ready to talk to him about respecting mommy and what biblical submission looks like.

And then I realized... I wasn't being nice. I altered my course. Instead of submission, we talked about forgiveness.

Finally, I got both of them dressed, I tossed my jammies in a pile, threw on a sweater and jeans, gave my teeth a once over with the toothbrush, and sloshed on some mascara. We raced out the door, and I deposited Tuck at preschool. Hoenstly, I was more than a little thankful for the speech issues that would keep him from telling every detail of the morning to Miss Jill.

Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. I've got time to make up for today. I'm banking on it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Inviting.

I sent this series of texts to my husband today:

Tuck has pooped in his Pull-Up four times today.
It's getting harder to be patient.
And he slept for 17 minutes at naptime.
And I have absolutely no plan for dinner.
Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
Just wanted you to know.
I'm pretty sure he can't wait to rush home to this welcoming environment.

Table Manners

Tucker has started smashing crackers and chips into his mouth, crunching as fast as he can, making a huge mess, and nearly choking in the process.

Nobody in our family eats this way... where did he learn this??

Oh, right. Thanks, Cookie Monster.

What's For Dinner?

My hungry boys took front row seats to wait for dinner to be served.


I'm pretty confident that my children have hollow legs... they are forever hungry.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Mommy, Deet."

I was fixing lunch for two little boys today, when Tyler changed my agenda.

He planted himself between me and the kitchen counter, he leveraged all of his 21 pounds to push me away from the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and he tugged on my hand.

"Mommy, deet. Mommy, deet. Mommy, deet."

Deet? Any guesses?

He was a boy on a mission, and he would not be ignored. Out of sheer curiosity (and submission to his persuasive prodding), I let him pull me into the living room. He brought me to the center of the room, and he pulled and pulled on my hand.

"Mommy, deet. Mommy, deet."

Still, I had no idea what he wanted to show me. But I sat down, since that seemed like the next step.

Victoriously, he climbed into my lap.

With a great epiphany, I decoded his phrase: "Mommy, sit."

He just wanted me to stop and sit. He didn't have a toy to share, a book to read, or a TV show to beg for. He just wanted me to sit down where he could reach me. He wanted me.

He got me.

Monday, November 17, 2008