Thursday, July 31, 2008

Everybody's on Vacation.

Today begins a weekend getaway with Robb's family. We have all escaped to the mountains together, for three days... six adults, three children, and three labradors in a mountain house. Good thing the house is spacious.

We are a bundle of memories waiting to happen.

When our family goes on vacation, everyone goes on vacation. That means me, too. That means most bets are off, some rules don't apply, and my kids can bend the routines.

Some things are consistent, like kindness, respect, and seatbelts.

But other things... like bedtime routines and balanced meals? Not as much.

For example, I let Tucker watch a movie during his nap today. Why? Because it's vacation. It's fun for him, and let's be honest... it was easier on me.

The boys have their own bedroom in this home, which is nice because they don't sleep in our room... but tricky becaues they're not used to sleeping in the same room. We followed a semi-normal bedtime routine. They had their baths, we read books, we said our prayers, and then they went to their respective corners of the same bedroom. An adventure for us all.

Tuck is in the twin bed and Tyler is in the pack 'n play. Last time I checked, they were playing peekaboo and laughing at one another. Really, really laughing.

I could spend the next hour racing up the stairs, enforcing the rules and routines, demanding that they go to sleep right this instant. But what fun is that? No fun for them, and frankly, too much work for me. I'm on vacation, remember.

Plus, I really don't know when their own vacation memories will begin, and it could be this week. They could talk about this night for years to come, the games they made up, thinking I couldn't hear them. My brother and I have our own feast of these memories, including my impeccable impersonation of Ed McMahon. I made him laugh every single time. (Don't ask. I will not do it for you.)

So tonight, they get to play. Live it up, guys.

As for me? I think I'll have some more ice cream. After all, I'm on vacation.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What if I really do MISS this?

I had a fullblown parenting meltdown last night.

I will spare you the gory, self-depricating details, but suffice it say that it was a grand display of selfishness on my part. I desperately needed to run away, and I finally dropped the children off with my mom, left my sick husband to fend for himself (what kind of wife does that??), and left. I just drove. In my mind, I had a destination, but I wasn't sure where it was. And it took me a LONG time to get there.

Sometimes, I just have to get out, get away, and get lost. I just have to. I am not proud to say it, but it's wise to know one's limitations, I'm pretty sure. Last night, I met mine.

This business of being a Mother of Two Under Three... well, it's just hard. Sometimes I fear that the job description and endless demands may cause me to lose my mind, or worse yet: myself.

I am glad to report that the evening did the trick, I feel better today, and I woke up ready to face the challenges of the job. And it's a good thing, because Tyler is on day three of diarrhea and Tuck threw up four times last night and twice this morning. Bring on the disinfectant; my kids are sick.

Thankfully, four hours away helped me gain some perspective as well as my Game Face. Robb, thanks for allowing the frantic departure. Mom, thanks for catching the kids as I tossed them at you.

And now, less than 24 hours later... I have a new approach, a new self discovery, and a new plan. Sort of. It's only just now coming together in my mind.

As of late, I have had so many well-meaning people say to me, "Just enjoy every minute with these children. You're going to miss it someday."

I get what they mean. But not every minute is enjoyable. It's just not.

I think I will miss the next stage. I will miss the preschool years, when they are potty trained and a little independent. When we are having family movie night and game night and reading books together and talking about what they are learning. I think I'll miss that.

I think I'll miss the elementary years, watching them run on the soccer field and be the blueberry in the school play. I think I'll miss the school projects and the family camping trips. I'll miss tucking them in and kissing them good night.

I think I'll miss the teenage years. I think I will miss their football games and halftime shows. I will miss their humor, when they will live to make me laugh. I think I will miss knowing and loving their friends, the bustle that comes with a houseful of teenagers hanging out after practice, eating everything in sight.

But will I miss this? Will I?

As I talked with my mom about all of this (as I so often do, since she knows this journey so well, she remembers its demands, and she doesn't make me feel ridiculous for feeling tired or spent), she said she would say the same thing differently. She doesn't miss the baby years, but she recalls them fondly. That's different. She looks at pictures of my brother and me, when we were so very little, and she remembers her babies. She even got teary saying so.

But does she want to go back and do that again? No. Not at all. But part of her heart will always remember and hold dear those sweet little people who called her Mommy.

That's refreshing. It's not about enjoying every minute... it's about enjoying the ones I can and making the most of the ones that are harder to embrace. Like, oh, I don't know... the vomit in Tucker's bed this morning. Make the most, Tricia. Make the most.

So, here's what I started to wonder... I have been so incredulous of anyone telling me I am going to miss this, while my children are hanging on my pantlegs and demanding more, more, more. Maybe I will miss it someday, but for now, I'm just trying to survive.

But there is a closely related danger: while I am waiting to "miss this," what if I really miss this?

What if I miss the little details that are my children, so little, as they are today? What if I am so eager to move on and look back longingly, that it all bypasses me in the moment?

What if I miss the feel of their sweet little dimpled hands and their fingernails (that always need trimmed)?

What if I don't look at them enough?

What if I forget the feel of Tyler's hands in my hair, my curls gently tangled in his little fingers, as he falls asleep?

What if I forget the many faces of Tucker? He has a different expression when he is proud of himself, when he is trying not to laugh, when he knows he's funny. Three different smiles. What if I forget their subtle distinctions?

What if I forget what it sounds like to hear them call my name, even if it feels incessant in the moment?

On my birthday, I gave myself the gift of sitting with them to watch Sesame Street. And to my surprise, I liked it. It was funny. But it was also darling, to sit in my chair with my little men. One on my lap, one at my side, all three of us wrapped up in Grover's silly antics. What if I don't do that enough, and when I'm finally ready to sit with them, they would rather run and play?

What if I forget how much Tyler loves his blanket? How he dives into it, in his crib, face first?

What if I forget how they smell right after a bath? Or even more endearing but demanding to love: right before the bath?

A friend of mine said not too long ago, "Look at Tyler's feet. They are identical to Tucker's."
I had never noticed. How did I miss that??

What if I am so busy investing in other people that I forget to invest in them? What if all these play dates are really just about me and the other moms, and I'm just letting the boys tag along?

What if I miss what they need from me today, because I was too busy with what I need to do today?

What if I let them slip through my fingers, when they were so briefly mine to hold?

What if I miss this??

Okay, Tricia. Slow down. Yes, slow down with the questions and the what ifs. But more importantly, just slow down. Slow down the schedule. Slow down the day. Let today be what it is instead of trying to fill it up, make it more, maximize. I have learned that discontment sets in when I wish for more. More in my life, more in my day, more in this moment.

If this day is about jammies and Bert and Ernie? Do it. Slow down.

So that's the new plan. I am here. So are they. No regrets. I don't want to miss this.

Because someday, I really, truly, actually might... miss this.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thanks, Crayola.

Guess which artist chose the blue marker today.

And guess which artist chose the red one.
I'm actually not sure which child of mine used the red to paint my feet. I did not see or feel it happen. I only know that I didn't choose it, nor did I ask for a pedicure with the red marker.

But it happened anyway.

Thanks for being waterproof, my Crayola friends.

Monday, July 28, 2008

All Before Lunchtime

This morning, my children woke up with a cooperative mindset to rob me of all that is sacred. Or, maybe they just wanted to take my patience. They succeeded.

First, Tucker greeted me at his door, patting a wet spot on the carpet. A leaking, blowout diaper. Awesome. Good morning, Mommy. Grab the paper towels.

At breakfast, nobody wanted what was on the menu. I was offering an array of fruit bars and Cheerios; they wanted bananas. I compromised - everybody got a fruit bar and half a banana. Tucker ate his neatly, but in Tyler's typical fashion, he smashed his half in his fist, oozing through his little fingers. Terrific.

After breakfast, we all climbed the stairs for their extreme makeovers. I no longer get them dressed before breakfast, since I am a fast learner and don't like for them to wear their breakfast all day. As I chose their outfits, Tucker began his most subtle moves, where he backs into Tyler or grazes him as he walks by, knocking Tyler to the ground, but working to maintain his innocence and keep his halo on straight. I'm on to this.

Timeout for Tucker.

I got Tyler dressed. I put him back down, only for Tucker to bash him on the head with the light-up whirly-twirly Nemo.

Timeout for Tucker.

But wait... what's that smell? Diarrhea. From Tyler.

While I was changing him, I released Tucker from timeout. He proceeded to empty the toy basket in Tyler's room and launch each toy into my shin, seemingly as hard as possible.

Timeout for Tucker.

But at least Tyler was clean. I pick him up, set him down on the floor, only for him to make that face and telltale sound. Round two with the diarrhea. Awesome.

When I finished changing him this time, we all moved in to Tucker's room to get him dressed. But he just really wanted to jump on the bed. Nope. We had very different plans for when and how he would obey; I intended that he would obey immediately, but he thought otherwise.

Timeout for Tucker.

And wait... that smell again. I scooped Tyler up onto the changing table. Are you kidding? Didn't I just DO this??

I left Tucker in his room to think about his actions. Think. Think, Buddy. Or really, just be away from Mommy for a few minutes. Think if you want to. But give Mommy a few. Just a stinkin' few. And just a few minutes later, he came out of his room, with his diaper in hand. We have talked about this. Until he is remotely interested in the potty, the diaper stays ON. Ladies and gentlemen, this is maniuplation at its finest. He knew exactly what he was doing.

Timeout for Tucker.

At that point, while I was changing Tyler yet again, the receptionist from my doctor's office called. She was calling to reschedule an appointment I was to have tomorrow, but my doctor cannot be there; he will be in surgery. Bless the woman who will be in surgery, with my doctor's undivided attention. I, on the other hand, need an appointment with him as soon as possible. I suspect I may be taking faulty birth control, and we must change that immediately. As I explained to the receptionist, Lou, I have two children under three, I am sorely outnumbered today and everyday, and I am really not interested in adding a third to their troop at this time. No thank you. Slow down that train.

As Lou and I discussed my very serious need for protection, Tucker released himself from timeout, and he began driving his truck - into my heels. Oh. My. Word.

I'm pretty sure Lou feels like she got more than she wanted to hear, but she was an outlet, she was adult conversation, and she was offering me an opportunity to schedule an appointment with my doctor, whom I love, and where I will not take my children. (What does it say about my mentality when I would rather have a pelvic exam than stay home with my little cherubs??)

Finally, Lou needed to move on to other calls, Tucker was ready to obey and get dressed, and Tyler appeared to be dry for the moment.

Moving on. I wanted to vacuum. Call me crazy.

Feeling worn out from the excessive bowel issues, Tyler was feeling needy and cuddly, so he wanted to stay secure on my hip, along for the ride. As I hoovered the upper floor of our home, balancing Tyler on my left hip, maneuvering the sweeper with my right hand, and kicking the cord out of the way with my foot, Tucker closed the door of each bedroom as I entered it. So I was forever closed in, with a cord that was too short, and a baby who didn't want to be set down.

Lord, have mercy on my soul. And forgive my children. For they know not what they do.

And when Tucker wanted to be in the same room with Tyler and me, the two-man vacuuming wonder, he wanted to play dodgem' with the sweeper. He loves to stand in front of the sweeper, and shriek in delight as it touches his toes. (Aren't kids supposed to be afraid of the monstrous sounds a vacuum makes? Not my fearless little boy. His attitude? Bring it.) So that's fun. Among the other disractions, obstacles, and challenges, I must also keep from running over the little toes that keep planting themselves in harm's way.

I parked the vacuum in our bedroom, determined to finish this task at a later point in the day, when the needs of these short people are fewer... or at least when they are asleep. I moved on to the task of sorting the laundry, because it's Monday. That's what I do on Monday. Not because I am routinized, but because we run out of clothes every week at this time. Every single, blasted, cotton pickin' week. We need more clothes. Or something.

As I sorted through the clothes, still with a baby on my hip, Tucker followed behind me, with his own sorting method. Which looks a lot like Throw The Clothes In a Great Big Pile for Mommy To Sort Out Later. My favorite game.

I looked at the clock... 9:49am. You must be kidding. We cannot even call this midmorning yet, and yet I am ready to call it a day.

And at that point, we went downstairs. I will sweep my floor and wash my clothes another time. It was time for some fellowship with Bert and Ernie.

Thank you, Jim Henson. You know just what I need.

Is it naptime yet??

Happy Birthday, Mom.

I love my mom.

There's just nobody like her, anywhere. she has always been one of the most influencial people in my life... sometimes with her authority, but now with her friendship.

We joke that we are the same person, that one of us isn't necessary, that the only reason both of us exists is so that we may bless two separate generations with our presence. This is our joke.

And yet, I love that I remind others of her. My mom has always been a picture of confidence, grace, dignity, wisdom, and class. So can there be any greater compliment than for others to say I am simply a younger version of her?

My mom...

She is a walk in the park on a breezy afternoon.

She is a wonderful novel on a snowy evening.

She is the delighted voice on the other end of the phone line.

She is a night light, glowing brightly after a bad dream.

She is a newly revised dictionary.

She is the satin lining on my baby blanket.

She is my favorite dessert, made specially for me.

She is a stroll on the beach with the waves licking my toes.

She is my favorite song, arranged in the perfect key.

She is "You've Got Mail."

She is the predictability of my favorite children's book, consistent as the alphabet.

She is all of my favorite TV shows, in syndicated reruns.

She is a lullaby and a snooze button.

She is me.

She is my mom.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love being like you.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

We Crashed a Luau.

We needed a field trip yesterday. The boys and I were sick of the house and sick of each other. Needing a change of scenery, the little men and I loaded up to head to the park a couple of blocks from our house.

We had arrived and I had unloaded them and we were traipsing to the sliding board... when I realized that the park had been reserved. There was a party underway, but not just any party. A luau.

A real deal luau.

We're talking palm trees, leis, tiki torches, gaudy floral shirts, and grass skirts (on the tables, not the women). Somebody's employer had pulled out all the stops, even renting inflatable houses for the kiddos to play on, since the playground equipment isn't quite enough for the children of our suburbia. (I couldn't blame them... the castle was pretty cool.)

Clearly, we were crashing somebody's party. Somebody's luau.

But did I put the boys back in the car? No way, Jose. We were past the point of no return. My boys can smell a playground. Once it's within sight, they are like horses close to the barn. Don't get in the way, and don't even try to turn around this train. They're on their way.

So, I just prayed that this company picnic crowd wasn't a small, intimate community. I was hopeful that they didn't know each other so very well that they could spot an outsider in an instant. I was hopeful we could blend into the other moms and kiddos, so that everyone would assume we belonged to one of the big wig executives... even though we didn't have our own leis.

We played and played. And nobody asked. And I stashed a palm tree into the back of the minivan before we left.

(Just kidding.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

But it's Ugly.

Last week, the pastor of our Young Adult Ministry delivered a lesson on Sin. You know, a light, easy topic. Everyone's favorite. Brad challenged us with some tough things to think about...

Sin is anything that I give higher value than God.
It is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things.

There are lots of good things - friendships, talents, abilities, gifts, work, children, hobbies - that are good, in and of themselves. But when I love them more than I love the Lord, when I give them the ultimate place, they can manifest sin in my life.

With careful and intentional planning, Brad didn't talk about redemption. Even though sin and forgiveness go hand in hand when they are coupled with repentence, we can often lose sight of the magnitude of our sin, in a faith where grace abounds. So, he didn't want to go there yet. Before we talk about the forgiveness of sin, let's think about what we are really doing; what is more important than God?

To drive the point home, and to focus our thoughts throughout the week, Brad gave each of us a black string to tie around our wrists. He wanted us to be reminded of our sin, in a tangible way - right there in front of us, everyday.

And so I did. I tied on my black string, and I thought about it all week. In very timely moments, I realized what and whom I was giving an ultimate role in my life. When this black string is dangling from my wrist, it's hard to ignore what my hands are doing, where my thoughts are traveling, and who I am serving.

But here's the thing... I'm a bracelet girl. I wear one everyday. I collect them. It's what I do.
And the string? Well, it just didn't go with them. Many times, I thought of cutting it off. It was a distraction beside my cute little accessory. I had learned my lesson, after all.

Sin. Bad. Ugly. Right. Got it. Check it off The List.

But the scissors in my hand gave me more to think about: I didn't want this ugliness hanging around my wrist, because it detracted from the bracelet I wanted to look at instead. I didn't want to think about sin; the string caused me to think through the motions of my day and the motives behind my actions, which are often more easily ignored.

I wanted to cut off the string, because it was ugly. But I couldn't do it on my own; I couldn't maneuver the scissors to get it off. I want to cut out the sin in my life, but I can't do it on my own. It's bigger than me. It takes more than me.

It's ugly.

All because I wore a black string around my wrist... a simple something to magnify the greater somethings that deserve a closer look.

Nice Tactic.

The boys have been in bed for over an hour now. "In bed" is a loose term, since Tucker is very much awake, entertaining himself in every way he can think of with very few options.

As I was sitting in my chair, writing and blogging, I heard, "Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no-no-no. Oh, no. Mommy? Mommy?? Oh, no. Oh, no."

There are many things I can choose to ignore, but given the history I have with this little boy, I have learned that these are words that require a response.

I came to his room, and he said, "Oh, no, Mommy. Hoppis."

"Hoppis?" What are hoppis? Anyone??

Just then, he hiccupped. "Oh, no. Hoppis."

"Hoppis? Hiccups? Do you have hiccups?"

"Yes. Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no."

Not that big of a deal, kiddo. Nice try.

Good night.

Big Difference Between the Two

One big difference between my two children is their tolerance for messiness. Any kind at all, to any degree. It is most evident at mealtime.

Tucker is a little high maintenance. It was very easy to teach him to use a spoon and fork, because he was most thankful to have an alternative to messy hands. He still hates to get food on his fingers, and if it lands there, everything stops. With great hand motions, he laments, "Oh, no! Mommy! Mess!" And I come running,with my washcloth. I have encouraged him to try licking it off, but that is out of the question.

Ironically, he also cannot handle any food remnants on his fork. It's permissible if it's on its way to his mouth, but otherwise, immediately after his bite, his fork must be clean. Again, he will hand it to me. "Oh, no! Mommy! Mess!" And I must wipe it off.

Again, I've encouraged him to try licking it off, and I have even tried to explain that this is indeed what forks are for. He will have none of it. Clean it, please.

On the other hand, his brother Tyler would bathe in ravioli if I would permit it. He welcomes the goo, the mess, the crumbs, the yuck. He has no interest in a spoon, because it's much easier to dip his fist into the yogurt cup and then lick his hand like an ice cream cone.

Meals are highly eventful. And when it's said and done, I often feel like I need a bath as badly as they do.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Minnie Mouse.

My project this weekend, for a little birthday girl.

Friday, July 25, 2008

When I Turned 29...

It has been a week of wonders. Seriously.

Allow me to share some birthday highlights...

Food, food, food. I have eaten at many of my favorite places this week, with so many of my favorite people. I have lived on decadence of many layers and flavors, homemade and storebought, at any and every hour of the day.

The emails. I had 44 emails waiting for me on the morning of July 24. Yep. That's right. Thanks, my faithful readers... many of them were from you.

The phone calls. My cell phone rang all day, with more wishes for a happiest day.

Oh, the gifts. I have truly been bombarded! Every single person has given gifts of such thoughtfulness, something that says they know me and love me. It has been so very humbling... I feel undeserving of such blessings, such people, such love. But I am most thankful.

I have now been 29 for a day, and I'm off to a great start.

Thanks, everybody.

Happy Birthday, in the Sky.

And I'm pretty sure this rainbow was a birthday gift, too.

Birthday Greetings

Look at these very sweet birthday moments, in honor of Happy Mommy Day.

From Tucker:


From Tyler:


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mommy's Birthday...

Prompted by my mom, Tucker has been learning to say Happy Birthday, Mommy.

In the practicing and the presenting, it has come out in many ways.

"Mommy, Hah-no!"
"Happy Hah!"
"Happy Hah Day!"
"Happy Day!'

Finally, he perfected my favorite: "Mommy! Happy Mommy Day!"

That's actually a pretty good name for it. I'll take it.

29. For real.

I have been told that I should just start telling people that I am thirty.

Because people who are reluctantly thirty simply tell people they are 29. So apparently there is a risk that nobody will believe that I am one year shy of the big 3-0.

But I will really be 29. For real.

I suspect I may spend much of the year saying that. "I'm 29. For real."

Eight Years

July 22, 2000 was a really, really great day.
I'd marry you all over again.
Thanks for choosing me.
Happy Anniversary, my love.

Monday, July 21, 2008

When I Turned 13...

I had a sleepover birthday party with many of my friends from our church youth group.

After a evening of pizza, silly games, snacks, hours of watching the gymnasts of the 1992 Olympics, my parents taught all of us how to most effectively toss a roll of toilet paper into the tops of pine trees.


Because in the middle of the night, they loaded this giggling crowd into the family vehicles; they took us to T.P. our youth pastor.

That was a great night. And it began a T.P. war that lasted many summers, well into our high school years.

I can still toss a roll of toilet paper pretty darn high, into the treetops. An important skill.

Hard Lesson Learned

So, for the record:

Two-year-old boys who want to spend the night with their grandparents quickly lose that privilege when they insist on taking off their diapers and pajama pants in bed.

Now, if the said two-year-old is interested in learning to use a potty, then there can be some negotiating - although his mother will probably still insist that he keep something on that little bottom.

But as long as there is no control? Well, keep the diaper on.

We won't mention any names, since the two-year-old at my house was already embarrased (to a healthy degree) when his night ended sooner than he had planned.

But he was warned. I assure you. (And, he knows how to keep it on. I assure you.)

Food Coma

A friend of mine kept both of my children this morning, so I could have a kid-free lunch in downtown Denver. Both of these - the childcare and the adult outing, to a new restaurant in my favorite city - were tremendous gifts in celebration of my Birthday Week.

While I dined on Caprese and Gelato (I know your mouth is watering), I received this picture on my cell phone.

Apparently, Tyler had played so hard with his three playmates all morning, so when he finished his lunch, he just couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. I found him snoring in the highchair, with fruit snacks stuck to his neck.

That's a sign of a great play date.

(Thanks, B.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

How do you like it?

I need to know what you think.

In recent conversations among friends, I have learned of some very strong opinions in very specific food preferences.

String Cheese
Do you eat it the 'adult way,' one bite at a time, like a banana?
Or do you eat it the 'kid way,' pulling it apart, strand by strand, as its name implies?

(I eat it one bite at a time. But it's all about textures and control for me.)

Ice Cream
Do you like your ice cream firm? The harder the better?
Or do you like it softer... perhaps a little soupy, if you will?
Do you microwave a bowl of ice cream? You know... the good ol' 12 seconds... (My cousin's microwave actually has a 'soften ice cream' button. If that isn't a quality microwave, I don't know what is.)

(I'm a softie.)

Well? What is it? Because I'm pretty sure you have an opinion on each of these topics. It's also possible that you are lactose intolerant, and you would prefer that I stop mentioning dairy products. Fair enough.

Do tell.

And if you need to explain your answer, then comment away.

I'm Changing My Name.

Nobody at this house will answer to Mommy any longer.
I will have a new name.
And I'm not telling my children what it is.

P. S. Please do not remind me of the days when I longed to hear Tucker say my name at all. I am well aware. But today... well, I just hit my limit today.

So tomorrow? New name.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nontoxic does not mean Edible.

The boys were playing in their kitchen today, and I opened some play dough for them. Blue, to be exact.

A few minutes later, Tucker shouted, "Oh, no! Tyler bite! Tyler bite!"

My son, a faithful firstborn, was notifying me that Tyler had bitten off more than he could chew; he had FILLED his mouth with blue play dough.

Sure, it's nontoxic. But it is not edible.

Tyler's cheeks were packed with blue clay, and it was bursting forth from his lips. Robb and I had to do a full "search and rescue."

I didn't take any pictures in the moment, since the choking hazard was of greater concern. But once his airway was clear, well, grab the camera.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Religion v. Faith

"Religion binds you. It's like being horrendously constipated.
Faith breathes. It frees you to become everything you were meant to be."
~ Kathie Lee Gifford

Thursday, July 17, 2008

When I turned 12...

My parents rented a pontoon boat, and we spent the day on a lake. The boat was decorated with balloons, hand painted posters, and of course, crepe paper.

The funny thing is that I was pretty convinced that my parents had forgotten the day, that this birthday would be the first to pass by without fanfare, and I was none too pleased with the prospect of a non-event. My dad and brother were gone for the morning - I later learned they were decorating the boat. But I was pretty sure they were running errands like any other day, and this birthday would go down in infamy as the one my family forgot.

And then... surprise! A day on a boat, for my birthday enjoyment!

We finished the day with sunburns and dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant of choice, complete with fried ice cream and a host of festive servers, serenading in sombreros.

I would post pictures, but you really don't want to see them. They all display my big hair, poor fashion choices, and things I'd rather not post on the blogosphere.

But it was a good day. Redeemed from the pits of my expectations.

I should have known better, really.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fellow Listmakers, Unite.

I am a listmaker, through and through.

I keep a notebook with me at all times, ever at my fingertips, so I can easily add to my list - or better yet, cross something off - at a moment's notice.

I have a daily list, of the things I hope my day will hold.

I have a blogging list, a floating Post-It that travels with me, where I jot down the happenings of the day that might be worth greater reflection.

I have a list of people - to call, to email, to send a note to, to pray for.

I have a grocery list, a WalMart list, a Costco list.

I have a List list.

I have lists that are tangible and lists that exist only in my mind. (Like the famous people with whom I would enjoy a friendship.)

I have been known to list tasks even after I've accomplished them, just for the sheer joy of crossing them off.

I have a Master List, of things I hope to someday accomplish. Maybe today, maybe next week, maybe when the boys are married.

I am a Lister.

My friend Sara, a fellow Lister, gave me this great quote:

"Lists are God's gift to me. While he does not always give me the answers to all
my questions, He allows me the ability to make lists for tasks to accomplish,
pros-cons, people to talk to, things to pray about or for, or records to keep in
the mean time.
And so, Lists are fantastic."
I love this. So beautiful, so true.
I may have to add these words to my list of favorite quotes about lists.

The Key to Successful Car Trips...

A good selection of board books.
It keeps them interested during the long drive, it keeps them awake until we get home for naptime, and of course... I'm all about the early exposure to literacy.
Sort of a hot button of mine.
They each have their favorites: Tucker likes the monkeys, and Tyler likes the lion.
Tyler really likes the lion, and all those touchy-feely pages.

My Coupons!

Would you take a look at this?
This would be a picture of Tyler going crazy with my coupon folder. I'm not over-the-top organized, but this purple portfolio is very important for my money saving strategies.

Oh, dear.

Do I get extra points for taking a picture instead of scooping him up, and all my scattered coupons with him?
It's the only way to respond, sometimes. If nothing else, it's a memory.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

That's a LOT of blogging.

As of today, I have 400 posts on this blog.

Extra points to any of you who have read every last one of them.

And remember, I keep score.


Thanks, Nemo.


Tucker calls them "bubbles bee."

Never Enough.

Just a few days ago, I told a fellow parenting friend of mine:

"Sometimes I think the hardest thing about parenting is praying enough for my kids. If I did that enough, it seems like everything else would take care of itself."

He responded, "That's a pretty convicting statement."

I told him I felt pretty convicted too, and I feel even more convicted now, the more I think about it.

How is there time to do anything else, with all the ways and reasons I should pray for my boys? And how is it that I can find anything else more important, or even more urgent?

I pray for them so often, in the harried moments and in solitude, but it's just never quite enough.

Sometimes I wonder how my prayers for them will change as they grow... the things I will some day ask the Lord for, which I cannot fathom now. It's probably best that I don't know.

Some of my prayers will remain constant: that the Lord will claim their hearts, that they will know Him, that they will be men of example and integrity, that they will have resilient spirits that will not be injured by the mistakes we make, and that Robb and I will have wisdom in each moment of this parenting journey.

But still, it doesn't seem like enough.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Every Single Year

Although my birthday celebrations have varied from year to year, I could always count on one tradition, tried and true, as faithful as turkey on Thanksgiving and ham on Easter:

Carnahan Family Birthdays.

When I was growing up, my extended family (on my mom's side) got together every other month to celebrate the birthdays of every aunt, uncle and cousin who had turned a year older. Without fail.

All the Carnahan granchildren can tell you countless memories of those Family Birthdays.

I loved them. Those gatherings have only recently changed, since branches of our family tree have spread their roots into different parts of the country. But even now, I can list off the months of the year and which family member's birthday falls where. Very important. Call it a family value.

At these events, I learned how to be a hostess, how to confidently entertain a houseful of guests with great comfort and class. My mom and I are a seamless hostessing team, because I learned from her and I know her every signal.

Any time a guest is in my home, you can be sure that I am practicing the polished skills I learned by hosting, watching, serving and attending every holiday and family birthday party, year after year.

And although I'll probably never have the privilege of hosting that whole crowd in my home in Colorado, I know that any home we ever live in will need the capacity to hold them all.

Because every Carnahan girl can throw a party. It's what Carnahan girls do.

Thank you, Grams, Mom, Aunt Janet, and Aunt Joyce. We all love you for it.

And thank you for more birthday candles than I can count.

When I Turned 15...

Our house was robbed.

That very Sunday morning, while we were at church.

And the thieves were neighborhood boys my brother and I had grown up with.

They ransacked our house, stealing things from all over, including the drawers next to my bed.

Our family spent the day with police and detectives, filing reports and counting our losses.

That birthday was not really worth remembering... there was a good bit worth forgetting.

My family worked hard to celebrate in the days to follow, to redeem the brokenness of the day. But that's really what stands out the most.

I do love birthdays... but that one wasn't so good.

Hush, Peacocks!

We went to the zoo on Friday night, and this time Tucker discovered the peacocks. His word for them: Hee-Hocks.

When they fanned their feathers and squawked, Tucker would put his finger to his lips and say, "Huss, Hee-Hocks!"

I might not want him to fix that one. That's just too cute.

Belligerent Breastfeeding

Now there's a blog post title that will get your attention. And this post involves a good degree of both. Yep. Read on.

So, at the zoo on Friday night, there was a mother carrying her little one in a Baby Bjorn. The baby (I'm guessing five- to six-months-old) was facing her, as opposed to facing out - which is entirely appropriate and permissible once the baby can hold her head independently... but this mom had other plans for the baby and the carrier.

The young (and otherwise cute) mom was wearing a blue tube top, and when her baby was hungry, she simply folded down the top of her shirt, exposing both breasts, allowing the baby a full milkshake buffet, right there before God and everyone. It was truly unbelievable.

As if this were not distracting in itself, she also stood in the aisle of a pavilion, where everyone else was seated and eating. She was the focal point of the crowd, nursing away. When people needed to pass by, she merely looked at them, in a nonverbal standoff, truly daring someone to ask her to step aside or cover up.

See? Belligerent breastfeeding.

Now let me say, here and now: I am in favor of nursing. I nursed both of my boys long after they came home from the hospital (but I stopped before they could help themselves to an afternoon snack). I respect the beauty of the process, the nutrition for the baby, and the bonding for everyone involved. And I definitely know the value of mastering the skill in a way that works for both mom and baby.

But for heaven's sake... was that really necessary?

Everyone in the entire place was trying not to stare, trying to be more interested in the burgers and hot dogs than the milk, milk, milk.

I was there with several of my friends, each of whom have small babies of their own. One friend discreetly took pictures of the breastfeeding spectacle; if she posts it on her blog, you'll be the first to know. It was just so unbelievable, it had to be documented.

Another friend was there with her newborn, and I told her to challenge the hippie mom to a nurse-off. It was a dollar bet in the making. No takers on that one.

I'm still a little baffled by the whole memory. It's sort of burned onto my retinas.

Imagine how the men in the audience are feeling, even now.

Belligerence. Unbelievable.

Is That Natural?

While we were camping, my parents kept the little men. Tucker and Tyler were swimming in the kiddie pool in the front yard, and the little girl who lives next door was magnetically drawn to the playful splashing.

After a visit with the boys, she studied Tyler's red hair and finally asked my mom, "So, did his hair start out that way?"

Yep. That's how God made it.

I'm Back!

We have returned to the suburbs, from four days in the wildnerness.

Okay, maybe not wilderness, since we took along a bathroom and shower, beds with sheets and blankets, and a fully functional refrigerator and freezer. So, not so very wild.

But there was a lake, boats, lots of fresh air, late nights, hours around a campfire, delicious s'mores, a game tournament that lasted for days, unforgettable conversations to greatly varying degrees of depth, and people who make me laugh every hour of the day.

A guaranteed recipe for success. It was a great getaway.

I returned home feeling refreshed in every way... except clean. But that's the easiest one to fix.

And you can bet my fingernails and hair got a full makeover within hours of our return.

Turns out: I love camping. So there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My Birthday Buddy

I was born four days before my mom's 25th birthday... her very own birthday gift in 1979.
So, for all of my life, our birthdays have been closely linked on the calendar and in our hearts.
She was ever careful to make them separate events, assuring that we each received our own celebration.
(Except for my 13th birthday, when it made sense to have my slumber party on her day, July 28. Very gracious of her to give up her day in lieu of yet another day for me... but we've tried not to make that a pattern. After all, from whom do you I think I learned this love of birthdays?? She loves them too, and her birthday gets its own sticker on the calendar and multiple venues of celebration, unrivaled by anything else on that day.)

July. Good month. Parties from start to finish. I could go on and on.

What? Do You Think I Can't Handle It?

We are going camping. Yes, you read that right. I am camping. And I'm excited about it.

Couples' camping, leaving the kiddos with their gracious and loving grandparents.

There seems to be a general consensus, from those who know me well, that this will be more than I can handle, I have no idea what I am signing on for, and the people who are taking me will have stories to tell of my wilderness ineptitude.

My brother's text to our fellow camping friends: Camping? My sister? Have you met her?

What?? You people think I can't handle this??

Oh, I can.

It helps that we are taking a fully equipped camper.

And it helps that I am no longer 15, with my number one priority being the maintenance of my hair. It is a relief in many ways to be past that life stage.

Oh, I am so all over this. You just wait to read, hear, and see what a pro I am at all things outdoors.

Bring on the s'mores.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

When I turned 21...

I had been married for two days.

Robb ordered red roses to be delivered to our honeymoon suite, and we had lobster and steak for dinner.

That was a great birthday.

Every Single Time

Tucker is learning some skills toward independence, and one of these is the ability to put his shoes on without help. It is a process, and some attempts are more successful than others, but I have set him up for success with a purchase of the Cars version of Crocs - the Lightning McQueen variety.

So, here is my question: Why, oh why, do children innately put their shoes on the wrong feet?

It's like a law of nature. It is reversible, since most of us eventually master it. But for a long time, the opposite makes more sense to those little minds. It's a puzzle.

We're working on it.

Fireworks = Castle?

In preparation for the festivity of fireworks, we talked about them quite a bit yesterday. Tucker has mentioned the Disney World fireworks at least once a day since we got home from Orlando, so we knew he could handle the loud booms and would enjoy seeing them light up the sky again.

Yesterday, when I first mentioned them, I said, "Tuck, would you like to see fireworks tonight?"

His face lit up, he gasped for joy, and then he said, "No. Loud."

"Sure, sometimes they are loud, but remember when we saw them at Disney World? You sat on Daddy's shoulders, and they were so pretty in the sky."

"Yes!! Castle! Fireworks!"

In recalling the memory for him, I also inadvertantly placed unattainable expectations in his mind on the neighborhood display awaiting him.

All day long, any reference to fireworks brought the same series of questions: "Fireworks? Castle? Mickey Mouse? Cinderella??"

Nope. Sorry, buddy. Just good ol' small town fireworks tonight.

Even as we watched them, he asked me, "Cinderella?"

"No, no Cinderella tonight."


"She just doesn't live here."

That answer sufficed, at least for the moment.

In the meantime, Tyler's fireworks experience added another word to his vocabulary: "Wow."


Tucker loves the movie Finding Nemo. He watches a portion of it almost everyday, and sometimes more portions on needier days. He loves that movie.

He calls it Meemo-Dowee, and he has begun to refer to all fish with this generic Nemo-Dory term.

His buddy has a goldfish named Nugget, but Tucker calls the fish Meemo-Dowee.

About this, my friend said, "I love that Tucker can turn one fish into two."

Friday, July 4, 2008

When I turned 20...

I was working as a counselor at the Christian camp that stole my heart when I was seven. I spent many a great birthday with the staff and campers of Camp Carl.

July 24 landed on a Saturday that summer, so I was home from camp for the weekend. On the eve of the big day, I was awakened in the middle of the night to a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. From my front yard.

All the girls of the camp staff had gathered together for a middle-of-the-night serenade to ring in my birthday.

(Never mind that I was not sleeping in my bed, so I wasn't actually the first one to hear the singing... my mom had to come find me, wake me, and alert me of this crowd who had already sung through two or three choruses...)

All of them. Twenty girls in my front yard, singing happy birthday at the top of their lungs.

And here's the best part: instead of shooing them away in the name of sleep, my parents invited them in. My crowd of girlfriends filled our living room, and my parents served them cheese curls and popsicles. The gift was more than a song: it became an event.

It's not hard to find college girls who are eager to make a memory after midnight. But it's harder to find parents who are up for it too.

Even now, nearly ten years later, many of my friends still talk about my parents' hospitality and flexibility to welcome this raucous crowd.... Those are my parents for you. Amazing. And so much fun.

(I hope our boys' friends feel the same way about us someday.)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

On the Go

I am a stay-at-home mom only in the fact that I do not work fulltime somewhere else. But stay at home, we do not. We go somewhere almost everyday, and if we spend more than one entire day in the house, I start to get the shakes. We are on the go.

We go to the library, to the park, to the pool, to the grocery store, to the mall, to numerous lunch dates and play dates... to the far ends of the earth in pursuit of adventures.

My children are home for their afternoon naps, but otherwise, I pack 'em up and head 'em out.

So when Tyler was feeling sleepy this week, he knew he had to embrace the cat nap opportunity.

No rest for the weary in this minivan.

Disgusting Find of the Day

From the perspective of early childhood education, I definitely know the value of letting children play with real versions of something, not always the miniature version created for their hands and minds. Sometimes, they need to hold the real deal in their hands.

So, when the boys need a little variety in their day, I set them up to play with my kitchen utensils. They love the wooden spoons, the mixing bowls, the measuring cups, the turkey baster, and especially the spaghetti ladle. All favorites that are very suitable to good pretending.

Today, I got wrapped up in a phone call... and when I hung up, I found Tucker playing outside, in the mulch (which is largely manure, remember), stirring dirt in my mixing bowl, sifting it with the wooden spoon and the spaghetti ladle.

Those are so much not outside toys. I am happy to share - in the kitchen.

I am contemplating a color coding system in the house, with various colors signifying who can play with what and where. If only I had the time or desire for such organization, I'm sure my home would be a different place... and probably not a very fun place to live.

The kitchen stuff is in the dishwasher. And I have learned to lock the door before I turn over the contents of my cupboards to little hands.

Sin Nature in Action

In an irreconcilable dispute over a toy, Tyler bit Tucker's arm. Not the best solution, as we are proponents of nonviolent alternatives at our house.

Tucker came running to me, tears streaming down his face, and teeth marks on his upper arm. I consoled the big boy and corrected the little one, and we had before us a beautiful opportunity to practice forgiveness.

But Tucker is not so good at that part yet. He is still living in the moment of the indiscretion.

At least once a day, he rubs his arm and says, "Tyler. Bite. Arm. No bite, Tyler!"

After my mom visited the boys earlier this week, she was ready to leave when Tucker ran to the door and said, "No! Tyler bit arm! No bite!"

Mind you, many days had passed. It's as if he wants to say, "Hey. See this? He's not perfect either."

And each time, I remind him that we have forgiven Tyler. Right, Tucker?

Tuck just rubs his arm, looking for remnants of teeth marks.

I Love Independence Day.

I love the picnics, the fireworks, the parades, the sparklers, the lemonade, the July-ness of it all.

Confession: for a good bit of my childhood, I thought the fireworks signaled the 20-day countdown to you-know-what.

I can now think a bit outside of myself, and the good news is that I still love this holiday. I really do.

Why didn't I think of that??

To our great pleasure, my mom's best friend is in town for a long weekend. When we met for lunch today, Lynne began teaching Tyler to make animal sounds.

Lynne's forte for animal sounds rests with bunnies (scrunching her nose) and snakes (sticking out her tongue).

She said, "I always taught my kids to imitate quiet animals. I didn't need anyone acting like a lion or a bear at my house, but I could handle a snake or a bunny. Very, very quiet animals."

Absolutely brilliant.

When I turned three...

We had my little birthday celebration (which was very big in my mind, I assure you) in the backyard with my family.

I remember the picnic table, the tank top that tied at the shoulders, and the lace-ups. A timeless gift for the fine motor skills of preschoolers all over the world.

Note the blue and yellow crepe paper streamers on the table. An essential birthday decoration in my family.

And might I just say... that picture of me looks like Tucker with pigtails.

See? I have always loved my birthday.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Lifetime of Birthdays

In honor and celebration of my birthday month, I have chosen to present to you, my faithful fellowship of readers, a birthday memory. One for each day.

I may lend you more than one on some days. Here we go.

I'm sort of a girl of traditions. If we did it once and I liked it, it will quickly become a tradition. Having said that, many of my birthdays looked very similar.

Each year, I woke up on July 24 to find the doorframe of my bedroom magically and beautifully decorated with crepe paper - a paper entryway for me to enter the world outside my room on my special day. (I was actually known to leave these streamers on the door long into September. I am the Queen of stretching out the Birthday Experience.)

For a good twelve years, I chose a popular Mexican restaurant as my dinner destination of choice, complete with my favorite taco salad, a dessert of fried ice cream, and an exuberant serenade of Happy-Happy-Birthday, to you, to you, to you - Ole!

And for many years, I chose a Dairy Queen cake as my dessert of choice. The kind with the cookie crumbles inside, not their new-fangled recipe with the real deal cake layers. I'm sort of old school on this one. And I blew out my candles from atop a DQ cake for many, many years.

I love birthdays. I love traditions. I love remembering them.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I Have Decided...

I would rather ration my words and carefully plan what I say,
so that people know my conversation is valuable and perhaps they wish I would say more,

rather than to freely verbalize everything that crosses my mind,
leaving others to filter my words and thereby determine what is valuable.

There are few things I get to be in charge of.
But my words? They're mine to use as I wish.

I choose to use them wisely.

Please. Keep Your Clothes On.

Tonight, Tucker needed all of four hours to fall asleep. No kidding.

From 7:30-11:30, he stayed in his room (thanks to the gate, of course), and he busied himself with the few options at hand. He looked at books, he took the blanket on and off the bed, he tossed the pillow all around, and he waited for sleep to come.

I had settled in for a phone chat with my brother, a great way to end my day. I heard Tucker calling me, and I went to his room to put him back in bed, once more.

Except... I first encountered his pajama pants in the hallway, tossed over the gate. To my alarm, there was a diaper inside the jammies.

I found him on his bed, in just his little t-shirt. Oh, dear.

"Tucker, you may not take off your clothes. You need to put your pants back on."


No, no poop in sight. And I am thankful beyond words for that.

Since this is the word often accompanied with a diaper change, my brother suggested that Tucker now thinks this is the magic word to take his clothes off. If he just says poop, it's all good.
Nope. Not all good. I'm going to need for him to keep his clothes on, at all times.

That's all there is to it.

At least he's finally asleep. And his diaper and jammy pants are still on.... last time I checked.

Tyler's Disgusting Find of the Day

The toilet brush.

He was playing on his own while I tended to his older brother, and he wandered into the room with the toilet brush in hand. And who even knows what other parts of his body contacted those bristles before he carried it to me??

I can't even really begin to think about that.

I am far from a germophobe, but that one nearly pushes me to my limit.

The Disgusting Find of The Day

The sippy cup in the back of the van. I believe it contained milk at one time. Now? Well, let's just say it's soaking. Gross.

Tricia, when is your birthday?

"July. My birthday is July."

Yep. And today is July 1. That's right. My birthmonth has arrived!

I dearly love this month. I wait all year for it; it is strategically placed on the opposite end of the calendar from Christmas, my other very favorite holiday. I am forever thankful to my parents for this careful conception planning that has allowed me to spread my holidays throughout the year.

I love my birthday. I sent a countdown email to our family on Father's Day... yes, I honored our fathers, and then I reminded the early shoppers that there were 38 shopping days left. For my entire life, my brother's May birthday has been significant to me: a turning point for him, but also the date on the calendar that signified that my birthday was coming soon.

Onward Christian soldiers, July isn't far away.

July is a good month for other reasons too, including the Fourth of July, our wedding anniversary, and my mom's birthday. Three more of my favorite holidays. Big month, I tell you. And that doesn't include the extra bonuses that fall during this month: multiple out-of-town guests, a camping getaway, and a long weekend in the moutains with Robb's family.

But really, it's my birthmonth. I love July.

I realize I sound a bit self-absorbed and maybe annoying. But that's only if you don't know me. I think my birthday exuberance is endearing. And perhaps contagious. After all, I just love birthdays - all of them. I'm all about a reason to celebrate with cake. I love birthdays. This month just happens to contain mine.

Twenty shopping days left!