Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stop to Smell the Flowers



That's Mommy, to you.

During a lunch date with some friends this week, I was gathering food and beverages while Tucker sat at the table with my mom.

He looked at his grandma and said, "Mommy? Where go?"

She explained that I was on my way to the table. Tucker responded by looking around the restaurant, calling, "Trish! Trish! Trish!"

Once he saw me, he shouted, "Trish! EAT!"

Interesting. After all this time of just waiting for him to speak, I have suddenly found myself in the place of deciding exactly what he is allowed to say.

For the record, he'll need to call me Mommy.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Time to Confess

It's time. I have to confess.


Things I Covet:

People in graduate school

Mom's Day Out

Sleeping In

Adult Lunch Dates

Novelists

Organization


I could think of more, but really, those are just the most pressing things that popped into my mind.... or rather, the few things that won't leave. Some of them are attainable; some of them are not.

I try not to get too caught up in it... since the reasons I do not presently have my hands on any of these wishes are sleeping soundly in their beds. And I remind myself that many, many, many people probably covet the very life I have, albeit filled with smashed Cheerios, runny noses, and midnight interruptions. And I remind myself that the same day filled with those things is also a day filled with touchy-feely board books, ooey-gooey kisses, splashes and giggles in the bathtub, and "I-Yuh-You Mommy."

There will come a time, I believe in faith, when will hold within my hands each of the items on the list above. But for now, I am operating from a different list. And I must live in these moments and the days, even when they are long and exhausting.

Note to self: This is a season to embrace, not simply one to endure.

Please remind me of that very phrase when I appear to feel otherwise.

Actually, please don't. Sometimes, in my worst moments, it just wouldn't help me gain perspective.

But peeking in on a sleeping little boy at the end of the day, or hearing him say Amen at the end of his bedtime prayer, or listening to my boys laugh at one another and knowing they don't know life without a brother, or watching my children share a toy in a moment of mutual generosity...

Now that's perspective.

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everythign through him who gives me strength."

~ Philippians 4:11-13

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Best Day.

So, I was sitting at the computer, writing.

Tuck was laying under the computer desk, on his tummy, drinking his juice.

He put his hand on my knee, and he said, "Mommy, I love you."

This is the best day of my life.

Friday, April 25, 2008

HE IS TALKING!

It has happened. There is great cause for celebration in our home: Tucker is talking!!

In the last five days, a light has turned on his little mind. He got it. He is talking. He is saying words I have not practiced with him, things I have only modeled in our daily conversation. He is talking in full sentences. He doesn't need to repeat after me; he is choosing his own words, and he is putting them together to communicate his thoughts.

(I realize it seems like there should be more exclamation points in that paragraph, but if I included as many as I want to, it would seem like I am shouting at you. I assure you: in my heart, there are more exclamation points than I can count, and my spirit is indeed shouting - for joy!)

Allow me to tell you some of the many things I have heard from my sweet little boy, over the last five days.

*****
As we walked through a park, a cyclist came along. Tucker shouted, "Oh, hi, bike!"

*****

"Tuck, which fruit bar do you want for breakfast, red or green?"

"Yed."

"Red?"

"No, no yed. Bye, yed." He was waving goodbye to the fruit bar he did not want. That's some pretty good deductive reasoning, right there. (Green is a harder word for him, but I wanted to hear it.)

"Not red? Then what color?"

He thought and thought. "Eeeen."
You got it, kiddo.

*****

He was looking for his favorite book at my parents' house: The Pokey Little Puppy. He said again and again, "Woof! Woof! Woof!" And finally, "Woof, where are you??"

*****

After he got dressed this morning, he barreled down the hall and then turned to me and said, "I ran." :o)

*****

This morning, I wanted to practice some colors with him. As I pointed to the numbers on his breakfast placemat, I said, "What color is that?"

"One."

"Yes, it is the number one. And it's purple."

"Purple!"

I pointed to the two. "What color is this?"

"Two."

I decided to abandon the colors and see how far we could get with numbers instead.
Are you ready for this??

Without prompting, he said each number as I pointed to it:

"One, two, fee, ore, fice, ick, enn, ate, nine, TEN!"

He shouted the number at the end of the list he has heard for months; apparently, he has been counting along in his head all this time.

It was a grand finale, covered with hugs and kisses, and even my own teary eyes.

*****

Before I left for work on Wednesday afternoon, I kissed each of my boys and said goodbye. Tucker said, "Bye, Mommy. I-yuh-you."

That's I love you. He told me he loves me.

That precious sound is permanently etched into my audible memory... I will never forget it.

*****

One of my personal favorites:


video

My son is talking. God has been listening to the cries of my heart; he has given my son words!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Please tell me he didn't just say that.

As we arrived in the grocery store this week, Tucker began shouting with great emphasis, "Boobie! Boobie! Boobie!"

Oh my goodness. Please tell me my son is not shouting this word. And yet, there was no denying it. He continued, louder, and more emphatically. It's a funny one - I'll give him that. But the whole language delay has allowed me to postpone such conversations with him.

I grabbed the video phone... I was embarrassed, but it was also very funny, and thereby worth documenting. It's not the best video, and you have to listen quick... but it's funny.

video

I finally deduced: he wants to ride in a cart that is a racecar, particularly the blue one. His word for car is bee (because they say Beep, but he drops the P), and he wanted the blue one.

Boobie = Blue Beep = Blue Car.

Sadly, and to my embarrassment, nobody else in the store knew that. All they could hear was this new word. And a favorite, it appears to be.

On another note, and yet in the same chapter of this book, he has learned the word fork. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like fork. It sounds like another four-letter word that begins with f.

Oh, dear.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Uh-Oh in the Bath Tub

These two are such a pair.

video

Friday, April 18, 2008

I am not ready for this.

And yet it appears to be happening. Right before me.
Look at this. Just look.
video

Why do I try? Why DO I TRY?

I made a salad tonight to take to a dinner at our friends' home.

It's a great salad recipe, compliments of my old friend from our Young Married days, Amy. It's complete with romaine and iceburg lettuce, green onions (which I promptly remove every time since my husband despises anything with the O-word), mandarin oranges, homemade candied almonds, and a delicious dressing to top it all.

It's a killer salad. It's a great take-along, and it's a winner every time.

Okay, not every time. Not so much today. Truth be told, I really have a hard time making this salad well... the almonds get me every time. But when I get it right, it's pretty phenomenal. I was banking on the phenomenal part.

I followed the recipe closely, and I put the almonds in the microwave for their 5-6 minute marinade in butter and sugar. (I know... your mouth is watering. It's so good.) I stirred frequently, as directed, and I was so pleased I hadn't burned them, since that's usually the culprit. Except then, I took them out of the microwave...but I didn't hold the bowl carefully or give due respect to the heat of a bowl that contains boiling sugar and butter.

Despite my best efforts, the bowl came crashing to the ground, spilling those delectable almonds all over my kitchen rug. Let me tell you: there is simply nothing stickier than candied almonds that have not yet cooled.

So, now I'm in the market for a new kitchen rug.

But never fear, I had the ingredients to start again. This time, I got distracted by someone's two-year-old (Okay, okay... mine. It was my two-year-old.) practicing his tumbling routine on the couch. He was jumping, landing on his bottom, and perfecting the jump back on to his feet. He got the warning, then he got the smirk on his face, and then he had the audacity to try it again before I even left the room. Um, okay. Game on, Mister.

(Have I mentioned that my heart breaks every single time I have to spank my child??)

When I got back into the kitchen after that whole scene, my almonds were not in good shape. Burned BLACK. More carefully than before, and in an desperate effort to avoid third degree burns, I took them out of the microwave and poured them into a plastic disposable cup... which crumbled and contorted from the heat and pressure of those blasted almonds.

Determined to make this work, I cooled the first-batch almonds that had not fallen on the floor, and I set about making the dressing. It's yummy. For real.

The day was not lost. Finally, my salad was good to go, all the ingredients were packed in separate containers to be tossed together just before serving, Robb was home from work, and the boys were ready to travel.

We journeyed nearly into the mountains to join our friends whom we love so much... and it's a good thing they love us, too. Because we arrived nearly empty-handed. A bump in the road just after we left the house caused the dressing (although seemingly well contained in an airtight something) to topple over and fill the back of the CR-V.

Our car smells like vinegar. FYI: apple cider vinegar is not a great plan for a car air freshener.

So, we arrived with a bowl of lettuce, some mandarin oranges, and a measly amount of candied almonds. Oh, and a bag saturated with dressing.

Thus the question: why do I try? Why, oh why, do I try?

Because I like to love people in practical, tangible ways, even if I end up showing less than my best side in the end. That's why. And I'll probably try it again someday soon. Some days are better than others. This was one of those OTHER days.

Oh, and on a sidenote: turns out Robb hates this salad. Good to keep in mind.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Look who's Front Facing!

Don't tell our pediatrician that Tyler is just under a year, and perhaps still just under the twenty-pound goal... because we transitioned him to the front facing carseat today. As if he is a real, honest to goodness, big boy.


This is one of my favorite post-baby transitions: from baby carrier to front facing carseat. They spend a whole year watching where we have already traveled, and there is just something great about looking back there and making eye contact. Although there's not much eye contact happening, since he is busy staring out the window he's finally tall enough to see through.

As if that's not enough, Tucker kept reaching across to his little brother, saying, "Hand? Hand? Hand?"

That may not last long, but I'll take what I can get. For now, they love riding beside one another, and there were no arguments of my-side-your-side-quit-breathing-on-me-quit-looking-at-me-Mom-he's-bothering-me.

I'll take it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Let's go for a Wim!

That's Tucker's word for swim: wim.

We went on our first family trip to the pool on Sunday afternoon, and it was a day to remember. They boys were so cute and so eager to go, even though Tyler had never been in his life. But he seems to sense the anticipation of something new, and I think he was a big fan of shirtlessness. Oh, and his brother chanting, "Wim! Wim! Wim!" That probably helped, too.

The boys were set and ready to go. Note: Tucker's flip flops. I'm a big fan of little boy footwear... thankfully, my friends with boys older than mine give us a good hookup now and then.




Our boys were fearless in the water. Tuck hasn't always been so courageous in this setting, but his confidence has grown since last summer. He was on a mission to get wet, and frankly it was a little hard to get any good pictures, since he was always wading away from me.

He loves the Frog Slide. You can almost see him in his giant splash.




Tyler was equal to the challenge of this giant bath tub, and I really had to work to keep my hands on him. He was not hindered by his inability to walk or swim... he was ready to splash.




I love playing with my boys. I absolutely love it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Today's Adventures

I cannot keep up with these two.

Tyler is very, very mobile now - not quite on two feet yet, but giving me a run for my money, nonetheless.

He is my fearless climber. At least once a day, he falls from something - a chair, a couple steps, a push toy, really anything that gives him greater height. He is always on the go, typically to higher altitudes.

Here, I found him using this toy in a far different way than its engineers intended. He has pulled the doors off the front and climbed on, in an effort to vault himself over the top, onto Molly's dog pillow. You'll notice, no part of his body is touching the ground. That's how he likes it.








His other favorite trick? Climbing and crawling through the ExerSaucer, with toys in his mouth until he can walk on two feet, hands-free. Until then, the six teeth in his mouth are highly helpful in carrying Fisher Price toys to his destination.










In the meantime, while Tyler was making great strides in the living room, I should have noticed that things were a little too quiet.

Tucker was busy too.

This is where I found him, spooling toilet paper into the toilet, as fast as he could.

And the look on his face says it all: "What? Is there a problem??"

Today has been a doozy.

Here's how it's done.

Brothers learn from each other. More specifically, big brothers delight in teaching their little brothers, for better or for worse.

Tucker is an expert in sign language, and he is having fun teaching his brother the ropes. He loves to teach Tyler knew words and signs, since Ty seems to be the only one who isn't better at it than Tucker.

Here is the interaction that took place at the breakfast table yesterday.


video

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Best Thing About Teaching...

One of the best things about being a teacher is studying the students.

I loved getting to know my students, their favorite things, their strengths and weaknesses, their families, their pets, their plans for the future, their learning styles. I loved it.

I have always loved talking with my students. There are few things more precious than receiving a child's trust, so that he wants to tell you about his day, his dream last night, his loose tooth, his every thought. (Truly, one of my greatest classroom management challenges was learning how to balance their every thought against the curriculum demands.)

When I taught third grade, each of my students moved into my heart in his or her own way... there is nothing like that first year of teaching, that first class roster, that first crew to baptize a new teacher into all there is to running a classroom. I loved each and every one of them, and I still miss them sometimes. We had a great community in that classroom - all of us.

My heart belonged especially to two little boys in my third grade class. They needed me to be their teacher that year. Our relationship was ordained, meant to be, for those nine months and beyond. They needed someone to love them, believe in them, and hold them accountable to what they were really capable of. We did great things together, those boys and me.

One of them was L, who made some major transformations in character and maturity. I studied up on The Strong Willed Child, and he and I battled day in and day out for a good number of weeks... until he learned that I mean what I say, he can feel safe in this environment, and he could trust me. After that, we were inseparable. We paced the playground together so he could calm down from a potential meltdown. I talked him out from under the picnic table on the playground, when he wore his pajamas to school on the wrong day. We did our own book studies together, since his reading level and sense of humor often far surpassed the curriculum. We were quite a team. At the end of the year, he wrote me a letter that I will never lose or forget.
It was a turning point for him. In fact, his fourth grade teachers attributed much of his success to many of the battles L and I fought together. I could write a book on my experiences with him that year, and someday I will. Truly.

And then there was my other buddy, C. We were also quite a team, but in a very different, very loving, much easier way. Simply, I understood him. When I met with his parents early in the school year to talk about his progress, his mom said through tears, "You like my son. You really like my son."

As a mother now, I really get that. His second grade teacher hadn't been his biggest fan, and this little guy just needed somebody to like him. I sure did. A lot. He knew how to wink, and that was our nonverbal exchange in the classroom. That was my way of complimenting him on great behavior and good work, and it was his way of saying hello to me, anytime he wanted to. He was a great kid.

At the end of the school year, C's family moved to Australia. Now, that's a move. His dad was native to Australia, and their love for ministry took them to another continent. As C geared up for the move, we had many talks and read some good books together - not the least of which was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Because, if you'll recall, Alexander wishes to escape from it all with a move to Australia.

Before C and his family moved away, my buddy and I had an ice cream date. I prepared to start a new school year, with a whole new classroom and roster of children who would steal my heart in their own way. One day before the new year started, I took a break from my classroom to have ice cream with my now-fourth-grade friend. I drove, he rode in the backseat, and we went to Coldstone Creamery. We had ice cream sundaes, and we played Crazy Eights. It was unforgettable. Just before we got in the car, his mom said, "Make sure you let him pay. This is very important to him." I let him.

I just got a letter from C. He has lived in Australia for four years now, and he is gearing up for a ministry trip to Africa this summer. He is now a young man, a very skilled writer, and a believing Christian on a mission to change the world for the Lord. And I got to be his third grade teacher. The whole idea is pretty overwhelming and humbling.

I don't write any of this to give myself a pat on the back... this isn't about me. It's bigger than me. It's just my written proof that this is what I was meant to do. This is what can happen when a teacher strives to love her students with the love of God, to show them that there are no conditions in this classroom, they are safe, they are loved, and they can do this.

As a teacher in a secular classroom, I was most encouraged by families who knew the Lord, whose children were bright lights in a dark world. But I was also encouraged to think that someday, my students who didn't yet know the Lord would one day find Him... and maybe they would look back on their experience in my classroom and think, "I bet she knew the Lord, too. She just had to."

As I've often written, my home is my classroom now; my boys are my students. And I delight in studying them, learning them, and talking with them, someday.

And someday, when they don't need as much from me in such a physical, tangible, all-day-everyday way, I'll get back into that classroom.

It's where I'm meant to be - loving kids in little ways that mean everything.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Why I Won't Get the Award for Mother of the Year

In the last week or so, I have committed the following atrocities, which will for sure take me out of the running for Mother of the Year.

**********

During a very fun picnic lunch at the park, the groundsworker began painting the new fence around the playground. At the sight of the paint gun, other moms began packing up their children, calling it a day. One mom even said to me, "Ma'am, he suggested we take our children home, since the fumes might get a little strong."

Well, I was having such fun in the sunshine, playing with my children, feasting on a delicious menu (I'm a hard core picnic packer), and enjoying the company around me. So what did I do? Not a thing. We didn't go home.

In fact, I heard myself say, "Tuck, hold your breath when you play over there. Have fun, buddy."

**********
As we drove across town earlier this week, I was in a particularly terrific mood, and our minivan was rocking to a great playlist on the iPod. Tuck loves a good jam session. In my rearview mirror, I noticed he was dancing particularly vigorously, with an extraordinary amount of freedom.
Oh, that's because he wasn't wearing his seatbelt. He was simply perched in his carseat. He has graduated to a new one now, the next size up, and he can climb up into it independently. Somehow, my mind received that as safe and sound, and I took no further action to ensure his safety. We breezed right off the highway, I put on the flashers, and I climbed into the backseat to buckle him in. And I thanked the Lord for keeping us safe as we traveled, since I had not done my part.
**********
Um, the next day, we ran to the grocery store. When I opened the door to the van, he hopped right down out of his carseat, unbuckled yet again. I'm really working on this one.
**********
When we met a friend for lunch today, SHE informed me that my son's shoes were on the wrong feet. That also happens to be the second time this week he has entered public society dressed as such. I cannot blame him for this typical preschool mistake... it was all me.
**********
I have not done laundry in nine days. There's a mountain of it today. My children will not know what to do with clean blankets and sheets on their beds. They may not sleep well because of the strange smell that is fresh laundry.
**********
I missed an entire meal of Tyler's last week. Yep. 4:00 bottle, completely missing from his day. Total negligence.
**********
My parents kept our children on Saturday night so we could live like carefree adults, with a phenomenal double date that didn't even start until 9:00pm. Now that is just an invitation for a memorable night. I texted with my mom throughout the evening, to see how they were doing, if they were sleeping well, and should we really take the plunge and let them sleep at her house overnight.
They both fell asleep easily, she was feeling confident, and we decided to give it a shot. In a final text, I used these words: You can change your mind at any time. Famous last words.
We finished our date around 1:00am, and we came home to topple into bed, out of sheer exhaustion and euphoria from a night of adults only. When I got up the next morning, I found my cell phone flashing from several missed calls, including one voicemail from 2:00 in the morning... I listened to my mom's groggy voice, "Tricia, we have two wide awake boys here. I'm not sure we can do this. I'll keep calling you. I hope you get this."
I didn't get it. My phone rang and rang to no avail, all safely in my purse downstairs. (No, we don't have a landline. We upgraded - or downsized? - to cell phones only, so we could be readily available and reachable at all times. Great move on our part.)
As I talked with her later, I got a full report on the night, which included every possible mishap known to small children. They were awake during the night, they were crying and irrational, they each soaked the sheets on their beds, and they each had total, blow-out poopie diapers which involved a middle of the night laundry load. My poor parents were up from 2-4:00 with my darling children, and where was I? Sleeping soundly.
She was gracious and even said, "But how was your night?" I don't know if this was the right answer, but my night was amazing.
Good thing my parents love me so much... and good thing they are crazy drunk in love with my children.
**********
So there you have it. Just in case you thought I was prideful, organized, well-kept, totally together, or all-knowing, this should put those assumptions to rest.
On the upside, I don't think my kids know the errors in my ways. They had a lot of fun with me this week, amidst all the mistakes I made.
That's the great thing about little boys.

Here is the Proof.

See? He really knows them.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A New Member of the Sign Language Club

Tyler started signing this week: please and more, all in one meal. His growing list of verbal words include hi and bye, and just today he said eat.)

He's on his way to speaking his mind!


video

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

C is for... forget it.

I think I have a might have a bit of a perfectionist on my hands.

Tucker is Anti C. He will not say a word that has the hard C sound in it. We have really focused on that sound and words that contain it recently, and I his language acquisition is at a standstill from the pressure of the sound he cannot make. If he wants to communicate something that requires that sound, he thinks of a synonym to send the same message.

He says Beep, instead of car.

He says Bob, but he won't say Mickey. (An equal favorite.)

He says Ty, but he won't say Tuck.

He will not say cookie or cracker. He signs them instead.

For any liquids, he says juice. He will not say milk, drink, or cup.

He says bus, but he won't say truck.

Truly, it is as if he hears that sound and thinks, No, I don't make that sound. A year ago, he wasn't talking at all, because he knew he couldn't do it; he wouldn't try unless he knew he could do it. And now here we are, many months later, seeing the same issue manifest itself in a different way. If it contains the k sound, he will not say it.

So, we decided to stop pushing him on that one.

I'll keep modeling, and eventually it will come. Nicole says the hard c sound is tricky for most kids, and many don't get it until they are over three years old. Since he has only recently started talking, it's no surprise that this sound may be a little slow in coming.

Instead, we'll focus on body parts this week. We'll work on adding words with the sounds he is good at: m, n, s, t, b, and p. He needs a confidence boost, so no more with the C.

I think it's interesting that he is so sure of what he can and cannot do. Perhaps we will look back on this in years to come and see it as an early indication of his preferences and learning style.

Interesting.

Time for a New Look.

I am ready for a change. Ready to spice up the wardrobe. I have been launched into the process of purging and updating, and it's time.

If you haven't seen me recently, then you may be interested to know that I have lost 54 pounds. I have gone from a size 14 to a size 4. That's a dramatic change.

Here is the old me, shortly after Tyler was born.


Note: the 54 pounds do not include pregnancy weight. If you count all that, then I've lost 75 pounds. But the first 20 fell off shortly after Tyler was born, since his mere exit from my body caused a change in my body mass. I don't really count those... the life changing decisions started after that, and that's when I started doing the math.

This is the new me, a year later.
(Forgive me for posting The Coat again, so soon after its debut on the blog. But this is an adequate portrayal of my new shape and the new look I'm going for.)

Interestingly, I am still the same size in my mind... the change has happened gradually, but I haven't really changed my clothing choices to match this new figure of mine. I have read and heard of other people experiencing this inner dichotomy after significant weight loss, and it really is a journey of identity.

I'm a new creation, in many ways. Or at least I feel like one.

Of their own volition, several very separate people have made the following comments to me recently:

"How old is Tricia... only 28? I would have guessed her to be in her mid to late thirties. She could dress a little younger."

"You dress like a kindergarten teacher all the time."

"You are dressing like you did 50 pounds ago. You have a little tiny figure now, and you should show it off."

"Have you watched What Not To Wear? They could give you some good tips on how to update this look of yours."

I know this sounds potentially hurtful and perhaps a little too forthright. But each comment came with gentleness, and my heart was ready to receive it. They're right: it's time for a change.

I have realized recently, in a very intimate personal journey, that I often allow myself to make choices that fit into the stereotype and the assumptions that many people make about me: that I am two-dimensional, a Betty Crocker homemaker, ultra conservative, totally wrapped up in my family and not open to outside relationships. Some of this can be true of me sometimes - but I assure you, I am bigger than this, deeper than this, in pursuit of more than this.

True: I deeply love my husband and my children, and I am competely, fully devoted to meeting their needs before others'. At any given moment, the people I want to be with most are the three men who live in my house. I love that role. I love making my home a safe place for my family and guests in our home, but this task does not consume me.

Also true: There are deep dimensions to my thoughts and my heart that you probably wouldn't realize or imagine, since I just don't always fit the kindergarten-teacher-MOPS mentality.

Yet, sometimes it is easier to make outward decisions that fit that mold, since so many people believe all of that to be true about me.

Do I define the assumptions, or do they define me?

I realized... I love the trendy, chic look that other people claim for their homes and their appearance. Yet somehow, I have convinced myself along the way that I cannot really pull it off. So I have purchased inexpensive things that seemed versatile to work for everything... but I have sometimes ended up with cheap items that don't work for anything.

I don't want a whole new look. But I want to sharpen and freshen mine. And for goodness sake, I need to wear clothes that fit and suit the smaller me.

Stay tuned. Changes are coming.