Sunday, June 29, 2008

Feed the Birds

Every Sunday night, Tucker helps my dad refill the bird feeder at their house.

Together, they feed the birds. Dad retrieves the bird feeder from its hook, and he strategically places it inside the bin with the birdseed... because more birdseed goes everywhere else than actually in the bird feeder.

But Dad's very patient, and they are quite a team. And its an important tradition for Tucker.

It's his job.

When the bird feeder is filled once again, they put it back on its hook in the backyard, and then they wait for the birds to come.

Well, Tucker beckons them. He shouts.

"Birds! EAT! Birds! Come, EAT!"

They never really come, since birds aren't so keen on eating in the presence of a shouting toddler. But later, we go inside, and they eat while he watches from the safety of the kitchen.

It's a good deal all around.

Only a Mother Could Love This Face...

And for the record, only the mother can clean it up, too.
Robb's gag reflex kicks into high gear when it comes to cleaning messy faces.
He can tackle a diaper blowout everyday of the week, but a baby learning to feed himself nearly does him in.
To quote my mom: "You know, it would just be easier to throw him away and get a new one."

Take that, HBO and MTV.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting with my sister-in-law's parents, who were visiting from Ohio.

Rachael's mom said to me, "Oh, I read all about you everyday. We don't have cable, so I read your blog."

Now that's a compliment.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Plate is Full.

Tucker has been diagnosed with asthma. That's not an easy sentence to type, let me tell you.

Tuck is sick again. Tuck gets sick a lot, you're probably thinking. You are right. Every single thing settles into his chest. And here we are again.

Wednesday afternoon, Tuck could not stop coughing enough to take his nap. He coughed for over two hours, constantly. I gave him cough syrup, and I held him in my arms to try to soothe him. He was in such bad shape. Just before I was to leave the boys with my mom so I could go to work, I decided to call the doctor... and I learned that I should have called much sooner. They asked me to bring him right away.... as soon as possible.

After an exam that took too long (and a less-than-stellar med student told us he probably had an ear infection... I'm sorry - do you see that he cannot breathe?? When I can count his ribs because his chest is so labored in breathing, don't tell me this is at all about his EARS), they gave him another breathing treatment, which finally got his wheezing under control, although his coughing never really quit.

The entire team of doctor's reviewed his chart and determined: enough is enough. For the last year, he has been in the office every two to three months for some kind of lung issue, most of which resulted in a month of daily breathing treatments.

They decided: Beginning that day, he needs a daily inhalant steroid for a YEAR.

I must have shown my disbelief at this, because they instantly began to explain it all to me - the reasons it's important, why they recommend it, how kids like him are more likely to grow out of it if they are nurtured daily with the steroid during their developmental years, and how the side effects are similar to two puffs on an inhaler.

Still, they prescribed something for him today that he will need every day until he is nearly four years old, and he may not even be finished then. That is staggering.

The doctors left the room, and Robb and I conferred and agreed that we needed more information. I felt like they were treating symptoms, and I wanted more words. Tell me what this is, exactly.

The doctor came back, and I asked her. She looked at me as if she didn't want to tell me the rest of the sentence, as if this is never easy to say.

"This is asthma."

She said, "We won't write that on anything, because for insurance purposes and other reasons, you don't want that to follow him. We have one patient who grew up through this practice, and he could not get into the Air Force Academy because asthma was in his health history. So we will not name it that, officially. We will call it Reactive Airway Disease, but you need to know: it's asthma."

My sweet little man.

This diagnosis preceded another rough night; he was up a LOT, he had three breathing treatments, I was on the phone with the doctor twice, and we were under careful watch and a near trip to the hospital. We made it through the night, and he is on lots of medicines to help those little lungs.

It is important to note here: while steroids are good for helping little lungs, they also bring two unfortunate side effects: rage and hyperactivity. Tucker has become a very different child with these meds in him, and his outbursts and irrational behavior break my heart. This year of being two is hard enough to parent without the influence of a chemical imbalance...

It seems to me that two of the most important things for daily functioning are the ability to speak and the ability to breathe. Both of those skills have proven difficult for our sweet little boy.

My plate is full.

I asked for that one.

Ever in preparation for kindergarten, I have taught the boys to raise their hands to answer a question. Not that they have to be called on to respond, but their raised hand is the response. It's just a cute little daily thing we do.

For example, I might say, "Raise your hand if you want to go see Grandma today."

Two little hands shoot up.

Today, we were on a string of these back-and-forth questions and answers.

"Raise your hand if you want a drink!"

Hands up.

"Raise your hand if you love Elmo!"

Hands up.

"Raise your hand if you want to go downstairs!"

Hands up.

"Raise your hand if you like your brother!"

Hands up.

"Raise your hand if you love Mommy!"

No hands up. Instead, Tucker shouted, "No, Mommy! No!"

I asked for it. That's what I get for fishing for compliments from a two-year-old.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If not Mommy or Daddy, then...

Tucker woke up exceptionally early today. He called down the hallway, asking for someone to come and release him from the gated community that is his bedroom.

First, he called for daddy. "Daddy? Daddy! W'are you?"

Daddy didn't come; he had left for work.

Then, he called for mommy. "Mommy? Mom-meeee? Mommy! W'are you?"

Mommy didn't come; it was only 6:45, and I do not bless my children with my presence before 7:30. It's a rule.

Finally, as a last resort and a logical next step, he called for Cinderella. "Arella? Arella? Arella! W'are you??"

To his deep sadness and mine, she didn't come either.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Blogging Buddy

While I blogged today, Tucker sat with me, nestled behind me in the chair with his arms around my waist. Sitting like this, I could write all day.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Interesting Seven

Long, long ago, in a far away blog, Alli tagged me to tell seven interesting things about myself. Here you have them (and I hope they are interesting...).

1. My fingernails have been perpetually painted since sixth grade. I don't take off polish without a plan for putting more on. Motherhood has caused the occasional time lapse between manicures, but never more than 24 hours, if I can help it. My fingernails are my greatest vanity, and if I had money beyond reason, I would treat myself to a professional manicure every single week.

2. I cannot hit a ball with a bat. I cannot catch things that are tossed to me. I cannot shoot a basketball or hit a golf ball with any degree of success. I struggle to paint my toenails, light a candle, cut a string, or pick up small objects. All of these inabilities stem from poor depth perception, the result of a vision disorder I was born with. My eyes do not work as a team, but rather as competing entities to accomplish a task. This leads to vision fatigue: my eyes get very tired very quickly if I do not have my glasses to aid in the perception process. (This quirky thing about me is actually beneficial when I am watching any form of entertainment in a theater; if my view is obstructed by a bald head or large pole, I simply look through my other eye. Can you do that??) At the end of the day, I often have to listen with my eyes closed, because my eyes just get too darn tired to keep up. So if you are with me in the late night hours, know that I really am listening; I just have to rest my eyes.

3. I love bracelets. I collect them and wear one everyday, even just at home. I love them.

4. I cannot bring myself to sleep or use the bathroom if there is something more interesting to do. If there is a party happening or an intriguing conversation to contribute to, I will not go to sleep; I can sleep later. In the same way, I will not stop what I am doing to use the bathroom... for my entire life, I have always seen that task as an intrusion and distraction from what I would rather be doing. (This has resulted in some very sleepy "morning afters," and I am pretty sure I am on a path for renal failure. But I am a party girl and I love the people I am with far more than the needs of my body... in the moment, it's always worth the risk.)

5. I have always wanted to be an author and a teacher. While other little girls were playing house and rocking babies, I was playing school and writing books. I was lining my dolls up in rows in my imaginary classroom, and I was reading my own stories to them. It's what I was meant to do.

6. I am a clutter bug. I leave piles all over the house (and frankly all over town) - a veritable trail of where I have been. This is one of my husband's favorite things about me. Too bad he doesn't have a blog to tell you how much he adores this endearing quality of mine.

7. I have a memory with crazy accuracy. I remember outfits I wore for notable events, precise wording of important conversations, and the dates of events, both happy and sad. It's all in there, locked up in my steel trap. Just tell me what you want to know, and I'll tell you what I remember about it.

In case you're still interested, here are a bonus three:

8. Spelling is very important to me. I must know how to spell every word I encounter. If a movie character's name is new to me, I have to stay for the credits to know how it is spelled. If I hear a word but I cannot picture it in my head, I am more than a little distracted until I know how to spell it. (This character trait earned me the title of Eighth Grade Spelling Bee Champ, I'll have you know.)

9. I am obsessive about my handwriting and the pens I use. I cannot use a subquality pen, and if I make a mistake on the page, I will start all over again.

10. I always have a melody in my head, and I absent-mindedly harmonize with the melodies happening around me. I've been known to hum along with the pianist while the pastor is praying, and that's a setting where one should really just sit quietly and listen. If you're humming a little ditty of your own, I might hum along without knowing it. (It's just what I do; I don't mean to be annoying.)

There. You know a lot about me now.

What Teachers Dream...

I have very vivid dreams.

When Robb and I were engaged, I had dreams of weddings gone bad, one of which included me snagging my train on the way down the aisle, my dress tearing off mid-thigh and fluffing up like an umbrella around my waist, all while I dodged the food from a food fight happening between the guests seated on either side of the aisle.

When I was pregnant, I had dreams of all kinds of inappropriate labors and deliveries, not the least of which was my cousin Buddy delivering the baby while my brother tried to peek underneath the sheets to see what was happening. That one was weird.

So, almost every night I have some kind of dream that leaves me wondering where my psyche has been throughout the night. The topic and setting only varies by my season of life.

Last night, I had a teacher nightmare. I woke up, startled and sweating, realizing I had not taught any math lessons all year long. I was teaching third grade (which I have not done in FIVE YEARS), and we had gotten long into the school year without me giving any attention to the mathematical needs of my students.

For you fellow instructors out there, you'll understand this: it was revealed that I was only on Lesson #6 in the Saxon Math curriculum.

Suddenly, in my half-awake state, I was scrambling to think how I could teach them the basics of long division, in time for state testing and third grade graduation. I thought through the months of the year, trying to determine how much time I had left and how many basic skills I could cram in before anyone realized my incompetency in managing a curriculum calendar. I was horrified to learn that June is nearly over, and my time was up. I wondered how I would possibly keep my job, after neglecting an entire subject for an entire community of eight-year-olds.

And then I realized that none of this had really happened. Not only is it not a concern for my present life, but I have also been out of the field of fulltime teaching for more than three years. And when I was teaching fulltime, I managed the curriculum just fine, thank you.

So what on earth is making me dream such things??

It's possible that my subconscious mind fears that Tucker's speech delay is causing other delays in his learning, and that I, his teacher, am very behind other teachers in this stay-at-home classroom.

But that's not as much fun to think about.

Regardless, my dreams are worth noting, mostly for their absurdity, and sometimes for their magnifiying properties of what I am really worried about.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What Did He Just Say?

We have experienced quite a vocabulary explosion in Tucker's language in the last couple of months, which is long-awaited, greatly rejoiced over... and often tricky to understand.

Out of necessity and for all of posterity, I have created a brief Tucker/English Dictionary. Should you spend any amount of time with my son, you will need to recogize the following phrases:
  • DeeDee: Cookie
  • Digga: Sticker
  • Dagga: Cracker
  • Nink and Nack: Drink and Snack (the faithful request after naptime, every single day)
  • MaMouse: Mickey Mouse
  • Wah-wee: Sorry (Yes, he may say it, but it is not the magic word to release him from timeout.)
  • Hon-new: Thank You
  • Dossa: Tyler
  • Neen: Apple Cinnamon fruit bar, please. (It has a green - 'neen' - wrapper.)
  • Awide: Other Side (This means - "Open the other sliding door on the van, please. I'd like to get in on Tyler's side.")
  • Anairwon: Another one
  • Mee-Mee: Excuse me. (He does not often say this on his own behalf, but rather others whose bodily functions that require it.)
  • Abay: Play
  • Mane: Plane
  • Bee-Duck: Big Truck
  • Men: Mountain
  • Woo-woo: Train (This one shows up appropriately when he sees a train, but also embarassingly when he discovered the echo of his own voice in the food court of the mall.)
  • Bobby: I have no idea. But it has something to do with his food, and he talks about it every time he's seated at the table for mealtime. Let me know if you figure it out.
  • Tassow-work-wowd-moom-moom-moom: We went to Disney World and we saw the castle and there were fireworks over the castle that were very loud and they went boom-boom-boom. (This is a story he tells multiple times a day.)
  • Debug: Dead bug. (That would be in my mom's CR-V. She has since disposed of said bug, she would want you to know.)
  • By-why: Butterfly
  • Noo-Nose: Noodles (macaroni and cheese, specifically)
  • Arella: Cinderella (mommy's favorite at Disney World) and also Gorilla (which was actually an orangutan at the zoo, but gorilla is easier to say).
  • Wah-een: wagon
  • Bee-bee-botty-tweet: I would like to go pee-pee in the potty and get a treat. (Mind you, he has no idea how to do any of the above. But he has his eye on the bowl of m&ms for when the time is right.)

There. That should get you started.

Faith like My Child

Earlier this week, we enjoyed a picnic/playdate with an entire family whom we love.

We found a nearby park with fountains for all four little boys to play in, which was ideal for the parents: the water was deep enough for the boys to play to their hearts' content, but we adults didn't actually have to get very wet. The boys played and played, and we soaked up the sun, chatted over their heads, and retrieved the pool toys that had occasionally floated out of the grasp of little hands.

Good plan for everyone involved.

When Tucker plays in water of any kind (the bath tub included, sadly), his greatest task at hand is to move all the water to a different location, one cup at a time. On the deck, he transfers water from inside the kiddie pool to inside his wagon . In the bathroom, he makes the transfer from inside the tub to all over my bathroom carpets. (We're working on this one.) And in this community park, he transferred water from the wading fountain to the nearby plants; a little groundskeeping, if you will. All with a faithful blue Solo cup. He is a man of purpose.

He masterfully climbed the two steps up and down, in and out of the water, again and again, with his dribbling cup in hand. After all, he is two-and-three-quarters, so his dexterity on stairs is to be admired.

But on occasion, he needed a hand; sometimes he attempted to carry greater amounts of water, and his cup nearly overfloweth. In his moments of need, I watched him; if I was close by, he reached for my hand. But if I wasn't within his arm's reach, he mindlessly reached for the hand (or pantleg) of the nearest adult, certain that person would help him.

He was right; they always helped him. After all, we were a community of strangers, all about one common goal: an afternoon of safe water-play for the multitudes of children.

As I watched him exemplify his blind faith and dependence on whomever was near, I wondered:

When do we lose that faith?
When do we stop trusting?
When do we get too prideful to reach out for help,
with or without words?

Children are born believing: The world is safe. When it's not safe, and when I need help, somebody will help me - either my mom or somebody else's mom will step up and save the day. I don't even have to ask. I can just reach out, and somebody will hold my hand until I land safely.

Maybe we don't all lose that simple trust; some of us grow up continuing to believe the best, blindly forgiving and expecting everyone to be on the lookout for an opportunity to help someone in need. I have been guilty of such naivete, and I'm not too quick to apologize for it.

Part of me wants my children to forever trust, to forever believe in the goodness of others. But a sad part of me knows that not everyone can be trusted, that I must teach my children discernment, "stranger danger," and how to be safe outside the nest.

But there is great beauty in watching their unblemished nature of pure, simple, unadulterated trust.

If I could...

"If I could not have both, I would rather have an attractive face at fifty than at twenty-five.
The one at twenty-five might marry me,
but the one at fifty would show I was worth marrying."
~ Ladies Home Journal,
June 1892

All right, already.

I have heard from multiple sources that perhaps I have gone too long between blog postings.

One source actually said, "The kazoo story is getting a little old. Update, please."

Good heavens. The perils of faithful readers.

(Please don't hear me complaining. Thanks for reading. :o)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Learning to Share

The melody of a kazoo is really not my favorite sound. Mostly because the little people at my house do not yet know how to hum a melody, so they really just sound like groaning giraffes.

But this scene on my kitchen floor gave that wretched instrument some redeeming value.

They really have been listening to my nagging voice asking them to share... and they are willing to put it into practice - as long as they don't know I am watching.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Three Years Old, This Week.

"A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven't. Most don't mention it and they go on from day to day as if it hadn't happened, and so people imagine that a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had.

But ask her sometime, how old would your baby be now?

And she'll know."

~Codi, Animal Dreams

My first baby would have turned three years old this week.

This reality does not debilitate me in ways it once did, and I am not overcome with grief as I have been. But I am aware. I am always aware. A miscarriage changes you, and it becomes part of your story.

This was most evident in the eyes of so many women who journeyed with me and tearfully said, "I have been where you are. I lost a child, too." They didn't forget, and they gave me permission to always remember.

That loss is part of my story. Twice.

But joy is also part of my story. And my story also includes two precious boys who brought joy in the shadow of that pain.

I think I'll kiss their sleepy little heads again before I call it a day.

"Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you."

Psalm 116:7

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Land of the Laptop

I have wanted a laptop for a long time now.

I have longed for the versatility of writing anywhere I want - from the bedroom to my comfy chair, from the library to Barnes and Noble. With all of my editing in the wee morning hours, I wanted to do it outside of the three-foot-space that is our computer desk. I wanted to take a laptop to places that inspire me, where I could journal, process on paper, try out some of the fiction rolling around in my head, and blog to my heart's content.

Plus, I just think they're fun. The mere sound of the clicking keyboard launches my mind into scenes from You've Got Mail, and I want to write... just to write. Because that's what writers do.

I have wanted. I have coveted. I have wished upon shooting stars.

But the timing wasn't right. There was always something else to buy, invest in, save toward.

Last week, seemingly out of the blue, Robb said to me, "You know, I've decided that we need to invest in a laptop for you this summer. You need one for many reasons, and it's time for us to make that happen. But I have one condition."

I was expecting him to lay down some boundaries for spending, either of money or time - since I am fully capable of spending more than he would like on various things. But I listened and waited for him to continue.

My husband, who loves me and knows my heart, said:

"You have got to get serious about your writing career. You have books that are just waiting to get to a publisher, and you need to get going on this. If we buy you a laptop, you have to promise to set goals and get serious about your life as a writer. No more excuses."

Um, okay. I can do that.
So here I sit, just as I planned to, writing and writing.

He says he wants me to report my progress on a weekly basis. That's a deal.

How I love that man.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day, Robb.

From the early morning chatter to the late night banter,
from the diapers that do their job to the ones who let us all down,
from the most restful naps to the sleepless nights,
from the playful afternoons to the crying fests,
from healthy snacks to "where did he find that?"
from educational activities to too much TV,
from days on the playground to strolls through the mall,
from picnics and pack lunches to dinners out - just you and me,
from pregnancy tests to maternity clothes,
from the hiccups inside to the giggles outside,
from carseats to strollers,
from giggles to tantrums,
from 'the books say this' but 'my instinct says that',
from moments when we're sure to others when we're faking it,
from sticky hands to stinky feet,
from 'please pick up your toys' to 'stop pushing your brother,'
from 'I think he's calling you' to 'no way, it's your turn',
from bubbles in the bath to splashes in the pool,
from 'Tyler, hold on,' to 'Tucker, hands off,'
from first words to first steps,
from the first cry to the first smile,
from the timeout corner to arms of grace,
from one date night to the next,
from 'remember when' to 'imagine if',
from 'they say we'll miss this,' to 'I'd love to miss it right now,'
from the days when they love us to the days when they don't,
from the moments we'll never forget to the ones that haven't found us yet,
There is nobody I would rather do this with.
Happy Father's Day, Robb.
You're the best.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

We interrupt this blog for a special update...

... on Tucker's speech and language development.

First of all, I am happy to report that he had his major evaluation last week (a followup from the one several weeks ago where he vomited from the top of the sliding board, which was the start of ten days of full-on grossness at my house). This experience was much more positive and a much more accurate assessment of his abilities - and inabilities.

We spent two intense hours with seven adults, each questioning Tucker and me, watching him closely, and evaluating us both, our identities, and our worth from top to bottom. (At least it feels that way.) They are a great team, effective in what they do, and highly sensitive to his needs and my emotions.

But the truth is that nothing they can say in that room is good news for me.

For a while, they seemed unsure if he needed another year of speech therapy. If they had said, "Congratulations! Tucker has made enough progress that he no longer needs or qualifies for speech services," then my Momma Bear claws and instincts would have come out in full force, since I know my child has made great strides but is still a year or more behind in his language abilities. I would not have left there without the necessary help he needs, which is more than his mom - teacher or not - can provide on her own.

But moments later, when they made their decision and said he did indeed qualify for speech therapy in a small group setting, my heart sank. I didn't want to hear that either. Really, I could not be pleased. This is my little boy - and thereby my heart - we are talking about. (Every once in a while, I am reminded that this was not my plan, that I was going to have children who talked early and often, readers by the age of three. And then I realize that self-pity doesn't help anybody here.) It took me a while to be thankful for their assessment, to embrace their expertise, and to be thankful for the moms who have gone before me, advocating for their children's special needs and creating for the services available today.

It is on their shoulders I stand as I get Tuck the help he needs.

We have progressed from an IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), since he will turn three when these services go into effect. His plan is effective for three years (dear heavens... that takes us to kindergarten), and subject to change as he grows and accomplishes skills. So I go back on Monday to sit with the team, collaborate, and set goals for my son... I have sat in those meetings many times before, but not from this side of the table.

It's all very different.

He will have speech therapy twice a week, for one hour each session, with a teacher and two or three other children who are working on the same skills. There will be homework, parent-teacher conferences, and goals to meet. But I imagine there will also be holiday parties, birthday treats, and new little friends who will understand Tucker and his persistent desire to get his message across, since they struggle to do the same thing. (So far, he has none of those.)

And there will be moms. Other moms who know this journey of walking the line of sign language, interpreting babble from a child who looks old enough to communicate better, defending the questions of strangers, fighting the comparisons with peers, and rejoicing in the smallest victories that we worked twice as hard for.

Someday, Tucker will talk and everyone will understand him. (Not just me.) We will tenderly look back on this journey, and Tuck and I will say, "We did it."

Also known as...

If you spend much time with me, you may often hear me say, in my most cheerful mothering voice, "Tucker, when you get in your stroller/highchair/carseat/happy mood, you can have a cracker."

A friend of mine recently echoed my sing-song voice, saying, "Tucker, that's called a bribe. Your mother is offering you a bribe."

Yes, I am.

I am thinking of teaching him that graham crackers are actually called bribes. Wouldn't that be great? Can't you just see us, in the mall food court, or the neighborhood playground, or the doctor's office, with other mothers' watchful (and judgmental) eyes on us, when my son will ask with great confidence, "Mommy, can I have a bribe, please?"

I'm doing it. It's one of the benefits of my son needing me to teach him to talk; I can also teach him exactly what to say. Sometimes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Potty Training... not so sure.

Tucker is showing all the pre-readiness signs of abandoning diapers. He is fully aware of all his plumbing, he is interested in standing in the right spot and mimicking what daddies do, and he knows how to verbally let the world know: potty.

I have stocked our home with the necessities: the Comfy Cushy for your Tushy (3-in-1 Potty seat, nothing but the best for my little boy's bottom), the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse underwear, and the tips and research from my faithful friends who are mothers of boys older than mine. All that's left is the task at hand.

I'm not ready. He may be... I'm not sure I am.

"But aren't you ready to have just one in diapers?"

Yes. Good heavens, yes. And I am ready to be on the other side of this journey, when he is good at it and we can all look back and have a good laugh at the challenges of carrying diapers for two everywhere I go.

But I am not ready for the in-between time.

I am not ready to pack extra clothes again, just in case. I am not ready to have a full grocery cart, then to hear my two-year-old say the magic word that will send us all running to the far corners of the store, desperately clamoring to get there in the twelve seconds before the flood gates open.

Truly, the on-the-go side of me is not ready for days at home, waiting for this process to take its effect. I have heard you should commit to a full week at home; the mere thought of it gives me the shakes.

Maybe tomorrow. For sure not today.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A New Baby

My friend Melissa had her baby yesterday... a little boy: Truitt Joshua. Ten days overdue, and well worth the wait. She invited me to the hospital room, when he was just four hours old. Oh, that sweet baby. I could write pages and pages about the experience of watching my lifetime friend as a brand new mom... but a blog is not the place for such writing.

It is no small thing to be in such sacred space, in the presence of such a brand new family. If you ever get such an honored invitation, don't pass it up.

What's the magic word?

Tucker was asking for a cookie after lunch.

"Mommy? Cookie?"

"Sure, buddy. What do you say?" And I thought I signed please, as a silent reminder.

He looked at me, my signing, and then said, "Mommy, cookie? Sorry?"

I signed sorry instead of please. And he knew the difference. The poor boy was ready to apologize for no wrongdoing, all in the name of a cookie.

That's what happens when signing is my second language. It's his native tongue, it turns out.

So, what did we learn today??

I teach the preschool class at our church, and I was delighted to teach them a lesson on Joy this past Sunday morning. My heart has taken a dive this week, which also happens to be why I haven't blogged in a few days... so it was a good reminder to look at truth in the most basic, childlike way, to see what joy really is.

As I explained to the threes and fours, joy is choosing to be happy, even when it's hard. We can be happy, because God gives us joy.

We talked about joy in so many ways. We read a story about a boy who needed to pick apples with his family, but he just wanted to play in the apple orchard. Finally, he decided to help his family, and we all learned how happy we can feel when we help others with a smile.

We memorized verses. Rejoice in the Lord, always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

They listened. They chanted. They sang. They danced for joy. They made Fruit Loop necklaces (since we were talking about the Fruits of the Spirit, of course), with a Joy Pendant dangling in the middle. And all through the morning, I reminded them to smile and be happy.

They were really getting it, and that is one of the finest moments in teaching: when they get it. One little boy accidentally stepped on the fingers of a little girl, and as she cried and he apologized, he said, "I'm so sorry. I was just jumping for joy." (How sweet is that?)

I asked them, "What are we learning about today?"

A chorus of preschoolers shouted: "JOY!"

Again and again, I said, "We can be happy because God gives us..."

And in sweet unison, they shouted, "JOY!!"

And because I know better than ever the heart of a parent, I asked them a few times, "When you see your moms and dads after church, you can tell them what we learned. We learned that God gives us..."

Without fail, and with great exuberance, they shouted: "JOY!"

At the end of the morning, their parents came to retrieve them. As their Moms and Dads greeted them, the parents asked (and I alternately prompted), "What did you learn about today?"

And without fail, not a single child had an answer. Their lips were zipped up tight. Nothing. All of their enthusiasm... gone. Not a bit of joy to be found. Nobody reported their findings from the Word of God. Nobody!

Man cannot live on bread alone... but it appears that preschoolers are content with fruit loops.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Speed Bump

We spent the afternoon with my very pregnant friend, Melissa. And I do mean VERY pregnant - so very pregnant that she is almost NOT pregnant anymore... she was due six days ago, bless her not-so-dilated self. We occupied her afternoon, while she waited for her water to break.

Tucker spent some time yelling at her belly, telling the baby to "Come Out!!" And then he discovered that this great mound makes a great race track for his firetruck.

She is a really good friend to me, and to him. How many very-prego girls do you know who will let a toddler drive a car over her stomach while she is great with child?

Jealous Heart

Why the tears?
Because Robb was hugging me.
Nothing makes Tucker more angry than watching his daddy love me. I think Tucker truly believes HE is the love of my life.
Daddy is moving in on his territory.
Robb always says, "Get used to it, Tuck. I loved her first."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It's a Small World

As I mentioned, this was a hit for our boys.
Well, mostly our older boy. Tucker loved it all, he cried when it ended, and he inspired us to get in line to board the boat once more, to take in the Small World and it's melodies all over again.
Tyler showed his enthusiasm in a different way: he spent the entire time trying to climb out of the boat. He is my fearless child, ever ready for the adventure that awaits.
And if no adventure is waiting, he will create one.

My mom's camera captured our family's experience with great accuracy.
Notice how Tucker is captivated, Tyler is on a mission to climb out of my arms, and I hold out as long as I can.

I have heard of some families and really great parents who have settled in for an entire day of It's a Small World. I do not win that award. Perhaps if I did not have a climber in rubber soled shoes ripping my legs and arms apart, I may have been up for another trip around The World.

But after two rounds, we were off to visit Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting.

Between the magical moments at Disney World, there is a lot of waiting. Lots of waiting. The Disney crew did their best to keep us cool and entertained while we waited, and we did our best to make the waiting memorable, too.
Here was our Silly Face contest.

Tyler doesn't win, because he only knows how to look cute.

To this picture of me, my brother said, "Nice neck." I know. It was for effect.

And, he just likes to say things like that, to bug me and hopefully annoy me a little. He's been doing this for almost thirty years.

I have also posted this picture to take away any doubt that I am a girl caught up in appearances. Between the silly face, the weird neck, and the humidity-ridden hair, this is not my finest. And yet, here it is, posted for you all. Let you never say I was prideful.

My brother's best shot

My silly and adorable Mom

(And might I say, she has been making this face to all of us at inopportune times for decades now. She is the queen of making us laugh, and then keeping her own straight face to the bitter end. Don't ever sit next to her during a staff meeting, a funeral, or a boring, Baptist sermon. Ever. You've been warned.)

My cute dad

And of course, Tuck...
...who takes after his cute dad. While we waited, the kids found their cozy spots in the Disney strollers.

The next picture is one of my favorite moments, and thus one of my favorite pictures. While we waited in line for the Dumbo ride (with Tucker, I assure you), my brother and I had some talk time. Actually, he is singing to me right here: a number he will perform in a show he is producing this summer.

(Thanks for having the camera ever ready, Mom. Even when we don't know you're watching.)

We had VIP seating for The Festival of the Lion King show, which meant we had a great opportunity to sit in the air conditioning in our front row seats for a nice long time until the show started. In this picture, Robb held on to Tyler who was ever ready to practice his new fancy footwork, while my brother and I taught Tucker the camp favorite: Singin' in the Rain.

Tucker was humbled and awed by our performance.

Thanks to drinks, snacks, songs, dances, and clever parenting, I'm pretty sure my kids won't remember all the waiting. Because the waiting was parenthetically surrounded by some fantastic moments that gave us much to talk about, while we waited for the next one to arrive.
And sometimes, the waiting brought a great moment of its own.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I love...

I love a book that has been beat up.
I love a book with dog-eared pages, marking favorite spots.
I love a rumpled cover, perhaps with a coffee stain.
I love a soft spine, acquired from lying open more than it has been shut tight.
I love pages that are marked and wrinkled with water spots, which say, "I loved this part of the book so much that I couldn't stop reading long enough to come in from the rain."
I love highlights, underlining, and notes in the margin.
I love all the little mishaps that say:
This book is so loved.

We think he's cute, too, but...

Tyler is quite the conversation starter.

Everywhere we go, people talk to him, smile at him, and ask about his red hair. He is quite the focal point, and every single outing brings conversations about the little man. Every single one. (Robb's parents had the same experience when he was small; it's the red hair. People are so intrigued.)

Disney World was no exception, and he made friends around every corner. He smiles almost all the time, and while we know that he's an indiscriminant flirter, strangers believe they have happened onto a child who has personally fallen in love with them.

As we stood in line for It's a Small World, my dad noticed that someone in line behind us was leaning over the rail, camera in hand, trying to take a picture of Tyler.

Hmmm. That's weird to me.

Robb and I didn't say anything to them, but we turned away and headed through the turnstyle, since it was our turn to get on the boat.

We think he's cute, for sure. Without a doubt. And perhaps the fact that strangers want to take pictures of him is evidence that he could have a good career as a child model. (Not that we're planning to travel that path... his smiles belong to the people who know and love him personally, not in advertisements.)

But I couldn't help but feel a little bothered by someone's desire to take a picture of my child. Why did they want the picture? Who did they want to show? What was their intent for that picture, on their camera or later developed? Who says to their friends, "Oh, these are our pictures from Disney World. And this is the cute baby boy who was in line in front of us."

Not sure about that one.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ma-ma! That's me!

Parents' Night Out

As an early birthday gift for both of us, my brother arranged for a date night for Robb and me in Orlando. He was highly secretive about it, but he told us which night to reserve, he arranged for childcare (my mom, graciously), and he coached me on what to wear. (He is highly skilled on such things.)

Monday was our date night, and when we woke up that morning, there was an envelope underneath the door to our hotel room. The message (written in my brother's distictive script) told us not to open it until we were in the car at 5:30, and not a moment sooner. At the end of a great day with the whole family, we headed back to the hotel, got dressed up for our night on our own, and headed off into the sunset, armed with each other and our envelope.

True to my brother's classic, clever style, the envelope held seven smaller envelopes, each numbered. Each one held clues for each destination, including just enough money to complete that task or event. (It was very Amazing Race, and probably the closest I will come to actually competing.)

Our clues led us to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal Studios. (Gift card included in the envelope, of course. I'm telling you, he's clever.)

Our clue also advised us to wrap up our dinner no later than 7:30. It was easy to do, since nobody at our table needed us to cut their food, wipe their faces, or keep them from poking someone with a fork. It was a glorious adult-only dinner.

In our next envelope, we learned why we needed to be on time. We had tickets to see...

Such a GREAT SHOW. We were totally intrigued, from beginning to end. They are quite the artists, entertainers, and comedians. We loved them. Rob gave us one of our best dates ever.

The next night, he took my parents on the same adventure. Looks like they had a close encounter with some Blue Men.

I'm telling you... you haven't lived until you've been loved by my brother. Thanks, Rob.

When Tyler Met Mickey Mouse


Perhaps a vacation prompts me to pay closer attention to my children and their milestones. Or perhaps a vacation provides enough of a change in their environment and routines to launch them into some new milestones. Either way, each of my children made some pretty significant strides during our stay in Orlando.


Tucker's langauge took off. I really suspected that an introduction to Mickey Mouse might launch him into paragraphs, and that is just what happened. He has become a man of many words, always with something to say; he even puts words together now, into phrases and small sentences. He literally added dozens and dozens of words to his vocabulary, and he reminds us of them every day.

With very little prompting, he will casually tell anyone all about Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Manny, Duck, the giraffe with a long neck, the big drink, the big ball, the truck that went boom-boom-boom, the boat (that would be It's a Small World - the only event that brought tears upon its ending... which prompted us to get in line again), and how much he loved to swim. I could tell you more about each one of those, but you should really just ask him. He'll tell you.

Such a delight.


Tyler began the trip with the occasional solid foods here and there, but he was largely still committed to his beloved baby food jars. No texture, thank you very much. But one look at a french fry, and he wasn't turning back. He is fully into solid foods now, all on his own. (Which has led to blissful independence at mealtimes, unless I sit beside him. At which point his sticky hands are all over me, asking for more of whatever I am eating. Speaking of textures, I could do with a little less of them inside my elbow.)

Also, he has started talking in his own language, adding words here and there. My favorite was rapido, which is evidence that he is learning spanish. (You may say it's babble, but I am convinced he is bilingual, largely due to the Los Caballeros DVD, a gift from his friend Reece for the plane flight.)

Even bigger and better for him, Tyler learned to walk at Disney World. At the start of the trip, he was toddling very precariously, without great success after the first step or two. But now? He's on the go. Look out, world. Tyler has found his legs.

(Sadly, this discovery cost him a chipped tooth when he tripped in our hotel room, landing teeth first on the frame of the couch. But it's not too noticeable, and I figure it will be a great story for him to tell his friends. "See this little chip right there? Look closely. See? That one? That happened at Disney World. Yep, that's right. You can just ask my mom.")

So... Tucker started talking and Tyler started walking. Significant strides, both physically and figuratively.

Someday you may need to remind me that I really wanted both of these things to happen, but for now, I'll just keep listening to Tucker and trying to keep up with Tyler.

Tyler is on the M-O-V-E!

And now, I officially have two boys with mobility. Which means two boys moving in two very different directions, often very quickly. Which means I am a tired girl.