Saturday, August 30, 2008

Little Helpers



Happy Birthday, Daddy. You have two helpers to blow out your candles.

And thanks, Mom, for making the cake. It was perfect.

Pure Silliness

We decided to document Robb's Big Birthday Weekend with a family photo session.
The result: Pure Silliness.










In the end, we got a good one.
But I wouldn't pass up all those others in between, when the poses aren't quite perfect. Candids... that's who we really are.

The Only Thing Worse...

My husband hates being in a spotlight. He happily diverts the attention to me when he can, since I don't mind at all. But on his birthday, there's no getting around it: it's all about him.

He chose a mexican restaurant for his second celebration of this 33rd birthday. He would have enjoyed a quiet meal with my parents (as quiet as can be with two children under three), without any fanfare or festivities.

So when they came charging out of the kitchen with a team of highly festive and brightly costumed servers, singing, chanting, and carrying a brownie with a sparkler... well, he glared at me. But I assure you: I had nothing to do with it. I know him well, and I would never arrange for this kind of parade. Nonetheless, here they were, surrounding our table, ready to sing.

Our server leaned in to Robb and said, "Hey, what's your name??"

Robb muttered, "My name is Robb."

And just like that, the waiter announced to the entire dining room: "Hey, everybody! Today is BOB's Birthday!! Let's sing Happy Birthday to Bob! Ready? Happy Birthday Bob on Three! One, Two, Three!"

The only thing worse than a restaurant staff that sings aloud is one who sings the whole song with the wrong name. And maybe the only thing worse than THAT is a wife who thinks the whole scene is so hysterical that she can't sop laughing.

To make things even worse for Robb (and even funnier to me), my dad chimed in. "Woohoo! Yay, Bob! Happy Birthday, Bob! Ol'e, Bob!! We love Bob!"

By the end, Tucker was even chanting Bob's name. (I'm pretty sure he thought we were singing to a tomato...he's a big fan of Bob and Larry.)

Robb just sat quietly, glaring at me, trying to disappear. And everyone around him chanted his name... or a version of it.

And I was losing my mascara, pouring down my face, as I laughed and laughed and laughed. The silent laugh, the kind you can't hear or understand because I am so close to delirium.

For good measure, we wrote Bob's name on the box that carried his leftover brownie. (Sparkler not included.) But we wouldn't want it to get eaten by anyone else... that treat belongs to Bob.

That is seriously one of the funniest things I have ever experienced, in relation to his birthday. I loved it. He has yet to laugh as hard as I have, so I'll keep laughing for him. It was so, so funny.

(It was also funny when Robb turned 30, and the bakery misunderstood the instructions; his mom brought a cake that said, Happy Birthday Ross. It was too funny to ask them to fix it. I mean, how hard is his name?? But that story pales in comparison to this one... I'm still laughing, right here, right now. Hours later.)

Happy birthday, Bob. Hysterical.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Word about Kindergarten.

I loved teaching kindergarten. I loved it.

I loved my third graders, too, and I am very confident that I would love to teach those other two grades in between. I am a "lower primary" girl... bring on the bulletin boards, the phonics, the handwriting, Sparkle with the spelling words, and Around the World with math facts.


I love it. Some days, I really miss it. Especially this time of year, when I know just what I would do in my classroom to get us on the right foot, to create our environment, and to start the school year strong. Especially with the kindergartners, these first few weeks set a very crucial pattern that lays the groundwork for the next nine months. And I loved it.


So.... it bothers me tremendously when people (educators and otherwise) comment or behave as though kindergarten is glorified daycare.


I've heard these delightful and affirming comments:

"Oh, I could never teach kindergarten. I think I'd be like, 'tie your own
shoe.'"

"Don't you get sick of wiping noses??"

"No, thanks. I like to really teach... leave the babysitting to their
moms."

"Kindergarten?? They're not even real people yet."

"Oh, too little. They can't really think yet."

Comments like these? Not my favorite. Here's what I want to say, in response:


You're probably right. If you think you would hate it, you probably would. It's very, very demanding. It is a good three months before they can truly work independently, so that means it's a good three months before I get to sit down at my desk while they work at theirs.


There is very little nose wiping, some shoe tying, but lots of hand holding. And that's an honored privilege, because I'm the new person their parents have entrusted with this job of loving this child.


There is a LOT of truth in the statement, "Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten." It's a big year, and there is immeasurable, exponential growth from the first day to the last. I dare say there is more academic growth in that year than any other, but I may be biased. I will allow for that possibility, but I would also be curious to know if it can be measured and compared. It's truly a year of growth every single day.

The most important role of a kindergarten teacher is to give these children a solid start. Kindergarten is the new first grade; while this first year was once about playing and singing, it's now all about learning to read: a book, a clock, a calendar. It's about teaching children to love this place, to make them want to come back, tomorrow and next year.

Another significant piece of the kindergarten pie chart is the parents. While kindergarten teachers are educating children, they are also teaching the parents. It is that teacher's job to help parents make this transition into school, to establish the relationship between the school and the parent, to build confidence and trust in the teacher and the system of education at large. It's a big task. And the relationships with all those moms and dads are just as important as the ones with their children; we are all partners in the task of teaching each child to read.

And to the teachers of older grades:

On that first day of school, did your students know how to stand in a line? Did they raise their hands before they shouted answers? Could they write their names at the top of the paper? Could they travel quietly in the hallway?

They learned that in kindergarten. You're welcome.

You are right: kindergarten is not for everyone. But neither is seventh grade algebra. I couldn't do it. I have long said it's really a good thing that God made every teacher with a desired grade and subject to teach, and it's great that we don't all like the same one. Because that would leave lots of us without jobs or terribly disappointed with the one we have.

Teachers are all working together, striving toward the same goal, building on the skills the last teacher taught. In their year with me, I'm trying to get them ready for their year with you. I will respect what you do; please respect what I do, too.

That's what I want to say. But instead, I just say, "Oh, I really love it."
I love the kindergartners. And I will belong to them again someday.

Hey, Tricia, pose by the sunflowers.

My mom is growing a field of sunflowers in her backyard. Or, more truthfully, a handful of tall ones. She loves them, and they are truly the sunshine of her backyard. Good work, Mom.

She wanted a picture of me with the boys by the sunflowers. Easy enough? Right.

Except Tyler didn't want his brother near him. He began swatting at him, swinging and flailing his arms wildly, making it very clear that no big brother of his would stand close to him. At which point, I had to intervene, which brought on the tears... and left us with a great photo opportunity.

Just keeping it real.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Thirty-Three.

Today is Robb's birthday.

Due to a very unfortunate turn of events with his business calendar, he is on a business trip in St. Louis all week long. So we cannot celebrate as I would like... and I don't know if you know this, but birthdays are sort of a big deal to me. So, I grieve his when it's not the hoopty-do I wish it was. But we went on a great date on Saturday night, and we will celebrate him further this weekend, with his family and mine.

And without a doubt, he is in my heart and on my mind all day today.

On a cross-country phone call today, I offered to make him something fun to take into work next week... his response, "Um, no thanks, babe. You don't have to do that."

Well, of course I don't have to. But I want to. Or maybe I should let his birthday be about him, and maybe men outgrow the joy of sharing birthday treats long about fifth grade.

His choice, I suppose.

Robb's very favorite birthday treat is my grandmother's chocolate cake. He loves it. He has asked for it every single year since we've been married, and for most of those 8 years, I botched it.

One year, I made the frosting (which is the shining crown on this delicious dessert) too thin, and all the chocolate goodness slid down the sides.

Another year, I was a little too generous with the "pinch of salt" in the frosting, and it was the saltiest cake you've ever tasted.

Still another year, I mastered the chocolate frosting but botched the colored frosting that I made to write Happy Birthday on top. It was a swirly mess of blue sugar on top... illegible at best, but highly edible. I promise.

And yet another year, I decided to go fancy-shmancy and make a three-layer cake for him. I adjusted the recipe and compiled the ingredients; I was really pleased with how tall and grandiose this cake would be. But then when I went to put it in the oven, I remembered that I only had two cake pans. I decided to pour the batter into my two faithful pans, forgetting that i had made 1.5 times the normal amount... so the batter overflowed everywhere. Not only did I have no cake to show for it, but I also had a great big mess.

And then we moved to Colorado: land of the high altitude baking. That summer, I adjusted in what I thought were all the right ways, and the cake was the driest thing you've ever tasted.

The next summer, the whole cake fell in the middle, compliments of the high altitude. What we had was a chocolate torte. But thanks to frosting (the shining crown of the recipe, remember), it at least maintained the appearance of being smooth. Frosting covers a multitude of sins... and baking errors.

Last year, my mom made it. It was perfect. She is a pro at such things... and she let me frost it and call it my own.

I'm pretty sure that brings us to this year. What does he want for his birthday dessert? Grandma's Chocolate Cake. And he will get it. Promise.

(It's a wonder it's still his favorite; his encounters with this cake are more often failures than tremendous successes. But, I guess this is a picture of his faith in me: we'll try it again this weekend.)

I guess I should be thankful he doesn't want to share it with all his professional colleagues; my baking mistakes can stay a secret, in the privacy of our own home.

So, in case you thought I was Betty Crocker in the kitchen, be not intimidated. More accurately, I am an Undomestic Goddess with really good intentions, a big heart, and lots of frosting.

Happy Birthday, handsome man. Your cake is coming.

(And your wife loves you a lot.)

They're happy.

[Driving in the van]

Tuck: "Mommy! Hobby-dows! Hobby-dows!"

I had no idea what he was trying to say. But he was emphatic. And when I don't know, I just start saying things that are close to what he is saying, in hopes that I will guess close to his desired message. (Usually, it's comic relief for myself, like when his word for flowers was Walwers, and I always asked if he had just seen a walrus. Not making fun... just keeping it light.)

So, I took a shot in the dark, knowing it was wrong, but at least it was conversation.

Me: "Happy Toes?"

Tuck: "Yes!"

What? I was right?? He is telling me about his feet?

Me: "Really? Your toes are happy?"

Tuck: "Yes! Hobby Dows!"

Well, okay then. Good to know.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Groceries, anyone?

I do not often have the luxury of shopping for my groceries without my children in tow. They are always along for the ride, and it is never their favorite outing. My faithful readers have read about many grocery adventures, one of which lives in infamy.

But even when there is no crisis, no vomit, no diaper blowout, and no disciplinary trip to the bathroom with a screaming toddler under my arm, it is still far from flawless. Some trips are smoother than others, but none of them are easy. Ever.

I discovered that I have been compiling pictures throughout various trips, capturing the moments here and there. Allow me to share with you, and please try not to covet the unpredictability of my grocery shopping routine.

Tyler, my contortionist, was proud to have found the handle to be a footrest.
(In this particular moment, his fingers are not stuck between the bars, but this happens often. Just ask anyone who has shopped with me: fingers are often a casualty.)
On this day, Tucker blew "raspberries" the entire time. From entry to exit, down every single aisle, he was essentially spitting. Darling.

Here we are. Ready to go. (This is a lighter trip.)

I'm pretty sure I was worn out and ready to leave as we took this picture. Maybe not, but probably.

Now, this is a video I captured today. Allow me to preface by saying that I picked up my camera because I couldn't believe the sweet interaction happening in the cart. After many aisles of arguing, pushing, shoving, and barking, they started hugging and kissing each other. It was a kiss fest, right there in the cart. They took turns, back and forth, planting one on each other. So sweet. How can I not document this??

So, I grabbed my camera phone. But this is what I got.


video

I had to stop recording to rescue Tyler from assault and possible neck injury.

Is it no wonder that I left my wallet at the self checkout?? Who can maintain everything (even that which risks the theft of her identity) with this kind of behavior taking place?

(Thank you to the very kind and honest person who turned in my wallet, complete with everything I had lef in it, and no additional action on my credit cards. It only took me seven hours to realize I had lost my wallet in the first place.)


I now fully understand why grocery stores are open 24 hours a day. It's so the highly caffienated moms of toddlers and preschoolers can shop in peace.

Would You Look At This??


As I've Said Before: The Teacher Hears It All.

This past Sunday, I was teaching the preschool class at our church. We were talking about God's creation, all the things He has made. We talked about the seasons, the weather, the people all over the world, and the animals all throughout wilderness.


I had two little boys in my class who are home on furlough; they are missionaries in Rwanda. As we listed animals God has made, one little boy said, "Rats!! God made rats!"


He sure did. I'm not sure why, but He did.


The little boy continued:


"In Rwanda, rats are everywhere. We couldn't get away from them. They were all over our house. We even baked one."


"You baked one??"


"Yep. In the oven."


"Did you bake it on purpose?"


"No, we were baking brownies. And the rat ran in the oven. We didn't know he was in there. When we opened the oven, the brownies were all gone and so was the rat."


And his older brother simply nodded his head in agreement. Silent affirmation: it's all true.


Ew.


Confirmation: the teacher hears it ALL. And, I don't think I'm cut out to live in Rwanda.

We found Grover.

The boys have a Sesame Street book called Elmo Goes to School. The pages are made of felt, and there are dozens of felt pieces that they can stick on and take off at their liesure, making the whole literacy experience very interactive.

What's better than that, I ask you?

Sadly, Grover has been missing for some time. (I confess: I didn't know he was gone. Sorry. I was caught up with Bert and Ernie and their silly antics on another page. Or maybe I haven't read this book in a while. Forgive me.)

Robb found Grover. He was in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator.

My guess on the culprit: Tyler.

But nobody here talks well enough to take responsibility. They only communicate well enough to place blame.

Facebook.

Okay. I gave in. I joined Facebook today. For a long, long time, I have heard again and again, from multiple reliable sources: I should be on Facebook.

"Really, Tricia, you should. You will love it. You should do it."

I received this invitation yet again today. And for some reason, today was my day. I siezed the moment. I took the plunge.

Except it all happened so fast. When I opened the account, I really expected to start the way I started the blog: slow and steady, a loose commitment to carefully create this environment before I tell anyone I did it.

Wrong.

In a moment's notice, Facebook had synched with my address book, and I was flooded with dozens and dozens and dozens of emails from "new friends." Wait. What just happened? I have invited these people to see my profile, which I haven't yet created?? What just happened??

It turns out, I am a linear girl, pretty sequential, measured in my risk taking. (Go ahead and laugh... yes, joining Facebook felt risky to me.) And yet, here I was, suddenly sucked into this vortex, a virtual subculture that I knew nothing of just moments ago.

It was all a little stressful. I actually called in reinforcements.

I called and texted the people who have been singing the praises of Facebook all this time... "Please tell me I want to do this. Because I am dangerously close to changing my mind."

Here's what they said:

"You'll love it. You really will. Well, it's a little overwhelming
at the start. But stick it out. It's so great. You'll be a pro
by this weekend. Everyone you've ever known will be at your fingertips,
and it is the best thing ever to get in touch with old friends and see where
life has taken them. You're going to love it. Well, you might hate
it, actually. It sucks you dry. It's a blackhole for your time. You can give days to it without every realizing it. You're probably going to hate it before long. But I'm so glad you joined."


What? What just happened?

But then I spent two hours tonight, reconnecting with people from all over the social world that is my life, present and past. And it was so much fun.

I'm hooked. And my eyes hurt.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sweet Discovery



The Fountain at the Mall

Tuck and I have a long standing tradition: we love the mall. We have loved to visit the mall since he was only weeks old, when I was going stir crazy, without anyone on my calendar but him, and with a strong desire to be somehwere else.

We have of course added Tyler into our field trips, and he loves the adventures too. Earlier in their lives, the three of us camped out in the women's lounge at Nordstrom (a community of breastfeeding moms), then we enjoyed the benefits of the log cabin for little crawlers.

Now we have been known to browse the pet store... and on a rainy day we like to settle in at Pottery Barn Kids where the boys practice their domestic skills in the play kitchen. (Sorry, Robb. They're not learning to be mommies; they're pretending to be daddies. If you weren't so good in the kitchen, then they wouldn't be interested.)

It's a great field trip for a rainy day, a sunny day that's just too hot to behold, a lunch date with another family with toddlers and preschoolers, and lately, it's just the evening fix for this mom when Robb is traveling. I've had enough of all that is our home, and we go. To the mall.

We don't need to buy anything; we just stroll, people watch, climb, and snack our way through the stores. It works out for everybody in my family.

But there is one attraction at the mall that has been a constant favorite for each of my boys, every single time we have visited since they were big enough to notice it: the fountain.

There is just so much that is enticing about the craggy rocks (despite the signs warning boys not to climb on them), the sparkling pennies, and my goodness, the jumping stream. They love it. We position ourselves in a dry spot to take it all in, and we wait for the stream to burst forth from one rock, to land with a splash on another.

Tucker says the water jumps. Truly, it kind of does. He points and laughs every single time.

My mom was with us on one of our recent evening outings to the mall, killing hours on a rainy evening (hence the jackets, long sleeves, and jeans... in August), waiting for bedtime. Ever ready with her camera, she took a picture of my boys and our routine at the fountain.


I love these pictures.
I might have someday forgotten how fun it is to discover the same old things all over again with these little boys.
But now, I'll always know.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Writing in my Sleep

I woke up in the middle of the night... awakened by the realization that I had seven ideas floating around in my head. Two things to tell a friend, two quotes to write down, one gift idea, and two brainstorms for writing topics.

I found myself lying awake, trying to hold on to the string of each trailing thought. I kept running through my mental list, making sure they were all still there. Yep. All seven.

No, wait. Only six. What was that other one??

I finally got up, grabbed a pen, and scrawled them down. Finally, I could go back to sleep with the knowledge that I had secured those thoughts somewhere outside my head.

My twilight handwriting wasn't so bad, in this morning's assessment. But also by the light of day, those ideas were still good and worth remembering.

I think I should keep that pen and paper by my bed. I need the sleep I can get, but I also need to hold onto those seeds of thought, just in case they could grow into something great.

Turns out, I write in my sleep.

*****


If I fall asleep with a pen in my hand,
don't remove it - I might be writing in my dreams.
~Danzae Pace

*****


I keep little notepads all over the place to write down ideas as soon as they strike,

but the ones that fill up the quickest are always the ones at my nightstand.

~Emily Logan Decens

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fishies

One of my favorite little people turned one this week.
I had the honored pleasure of making fish cupcakes for his birthday party. Well, the cupcakes were chocolate and vanilla. But they were decorated with fish... a whole school of them.

Happy Birthday, Mason. You're a toddler now.
And pretty stinkin' adorable.

Not to be Outdone

Tyler is talking. Quite a bit.

In the shadow of the focused struggle to get his brother to talk, Tyler has just casually picked up words along the way, accumulating a list, so that he now has 30+ words that he uses with great ease.

Way to go, Tyler. We're listening.

Tucker has greater and greater confidence in his ability to communicate, so he appointed himself as Tyler's personal tutor in language acquisition. About once a day, Tuck decides on a word he will teach to Tyler. If Ty is in the mood, he'll play along and learn the word. If not, he'll irritate the pants of Tucker by saying anything else or nothing at all.

(It's hard to know how much of that is intentional irritation, but he sure knows how to push Tucker's buttons. I suspect that's not the last we'll see of these interactions.)

As we rode in the car one day last week, Tucker was excited to go see Grandma. They can each say her name; Tuck calls her Namma, and Tyler calls her Amma. The point is: Tyler knows how to say her name.

But as they sat in their adjacent carseats, Tuck decided to claim today as his opportunity to teach his brother to say this very important word.

T: "Tyler. Namma."

t: "Beet."

T: "No. Namma."

t: "Beet."

T: "NO!! Namma!"

t: "Beet."

This continued for many miles. I suspect Tyler knew just what he was doing.

A few days later, they resumed this same conversation. Only this time, Tyler was in the mood to cooperate.

T: "Tyler, Namma."

t: "Amma!"

T: "Yes!! Yes, Tyler! Namma!"

Tucker felt very victorious. And I am pretty sure Tyler did too.

Sneaky. And perhaps manipulative. But little brothers have to hold on to power when they can find it. I believe Tyler is learning how to play his cards.

Pile on the Tile

Tuck was enjoying the diaper-free portion of his day today. He was running and playing, while I was decorating cupcakes and managing his little brother.

I had gone upstairs for a few minutes, when suddenly this dialogue ensued:

t: "Mommy! Poop! Poop!"

(In my defense, this usually means nothing. It only means that he knows this is currently a favorite topic at our house, as we would love for him to go in the potty. But thus far, it never, ever means that he is ready to sit down and give it a try. So, I didn't respond.)

t: "Mommy! Mommy! Poop! See, Mommy? See?"

Wait. What? See? That means there is something to see. Dear heavens, there is something to see.

I rushed to the landing and looked down into the living room. Sure enough: there on the tile was a pile of poop. (I took a picture, I confess. But I will not post it. I stop just short.)

I suppose this represents a measure of progress. He didn't hold it, anyway. So, I cleaned it up, and I disinfected, and we talked about a much better destination for such a deposit, where I would really rather his piles land.

And then, he wanted to sit on his potty for the longest time. The order is a little backward, but we're working on it.

And I should get lots of extra points for not freaking out over poop on the floor.

Twinkle, Twinkle

Tucker and my mom were looking at the stars as she put him in his carseat to go home at the end of a fun night with Grandma and Poppa.

t: "Look, Namma! Stahs!"

g: "You're right, Tuck. Lots of stars up there. Who made those?"

t: "Mommy."

g: "No, not Mommy. God. God made them."

t: "Oh, yes. God. Big God."

g: "Yep. Our Big God made the stars."

Thanks, God,
for the stars,
for Tucker's understanding of them,
for being Big,
for Grandma,
and her willingness to talk about your creation with my little boy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Mark of Quality

We have a new minivan in our family. Big fans of the Honda Foundation, we invested in one to last us many years to come, through soccer games and piano lessons. Or you know, whatever they want to try.

As we geared up for a small road trip with two of our favorite little boys and their mom, Reece was pretty excited to ride in the new van. With his juice cup in hand, he asked with great exuberance and hopeful expectation:

"But Twish, does it have cup holders??"

"It does, Reece."

"Oh, that's so great!!"

It is great. And it's the mark of a quality vehicle. At least to a four year old who really wants to take his juice cup along.

Juice cups for everyone. And seatbelts too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Phelps Sisters

I like the Olympics.
I am a big fan of women's gymnastics, stories about the underdog athletes who overcame unbelievable heartache and odds, and the heat of the moment when another world record is broken. China must be bursting at the seams with energy and competition. I bet it's amazing to be anywhere close by.

But I am not an athlete. I have often wished to be, but God did not create me with the desire to keep score or the ability to catch things. I have long since abandoned any idea that I will be good at sports, and I'm thankful for one of the many luxuries of being an adult: nobody can make me try any more.

At athletic events, my favorite parts are the social dynamics. Imagine that.

So, as I watch the Olympics, I enjoy the events and I take in the fanfare, but I don't really identify with the glory of the win or the chase for the gold. I just don't get that.

But during this season of watching Michael Phelps win, win, win, I found someone to identify with: his sisters.

Every time he won a race, broke a record, or received yet another medal, his sisters were overcome. They caught his flowers as he tossed the bouquet to them. They cheered, and they cried. He won, and he was surrounded by press and breathless fans, but his sisters could not wait to get close enough to hug him. And he wanted to be close to them in that moment of glory.

His victory was their dream come true.

I get that.

I have been that proud of my brother. Gold medal or not, I have been beside myself over victories that are his that have made my dream come true.
I get that.

Potty Training Progress?

None. Many hours without a diaper, and not a single thing to show for it.

Either he has a bladder and a will of steel, or he is secretly going somewhere I know not of. (I toss that out there facetiously. Rest assured.)

But nothing in the potty.

(This isn't fun anymore.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Captain Strong Will

Today was a stay at home day, and we focused our energy on potty training.

This morning, I took off his bedtime diaper, and I didn't put a new diaper on at all. I let him be a bare-bottomed boy. After all, easy access may be half the battle. At the breakfast table, he ate his muffin and I told him the plan for the day. As I talked about the merits of the big boy potty, he just kept shaking his head, saying, "No, Mommy. Muffin."

Nothing was of greater interest than his precious muffin. Fine. I will wait until he's done eating.

After breakfast, we watched the Potty Movie for Boys. (It features the song Bye, Bye Diapers, to the tune of Bye, Bye Love. Very charming. And in my head all day now.)

I reminded him where the potty is.

I showed him the bowl of candy he can choose from when he puts something in the potty. (Something does not include the cell phone, which Tyler did multiple times.)

I loaded him up with sippy cups so there could be no lack of need to go.

We sat on the potty, we read books on the potty, we stood at the potty, we talked about all the wonderful things that happen to and for little boys who become big boys and use the potty. We talked about all the people we will call on the phone when he finally goes in the potty.

I was fully prepared to clean up any messes.

And you know what? He never went. He was most cheerful about the whole endeavor, but he never went. He never went in the potty, and he never went anywhere else. Not a drop. Five hours later it was time for naptime, and he had never once gone at all.

I put a new diaper on him, and I'm pretty sure he has been waiting all morning for the reassurance of that cushy diaper on his bottom. This is the first time I have really encountered Tucker's strong will; that is some seriously strong will. To hold it for five hours? There are throngs of women who would long for that degree of bladder control.

We'll try again later. Maybe later today, maybe tomorrow morning. For now, diaper is on.

And it's probably full.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Circle of Life

From the backseat of the car:

Tucker: "Mommy! Bunny! [Gasp.] Mommy! Two bunnies!"

Me: "Did you see two bunnies, Tuck?"

Tucker: "Yes-yes!" (His new verbal habit. He doubles them up and lumps them together for greater emphasis.)

Me: "Were they hopping?"

Tucker: "Hmmm. No. Dead."

Me: "Dead? They are dead?"

Tucker: "Yes. Dead."

Well, great.

To Each His Own

When I peeked in on the boys last night, I found that they had chosen to fall asleep in very different ways.

I found Tyler, with his comfy, cozy, ever faithful blankets.
(He would truly be Linus if we let him... he would take his blanket to the far corners of the earth, if only we would let them leave the crib.)

I found Tucker, snuggled with Bunny and Woof... and he was wearing sunglasses.

Hey, to each his own. I guess you can never be too prepared for the sunrise.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Discovery: Sidewalk Chalk






"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon...
The two most beautiful words in the English language."
~ Henry James

Where was that Coppertone?

It was in the diaper bag.

We were at the park for more than two hours. But I never took the sunscreen out of my bag, never applied any of it to Tyler's sweet, fair skin.

And now, he has his first sunburn.

Sorry, Tyler. My fault.

And I'm sorry to tell you that you have taken after both of your parents and our skin tone: you will become very acquainted with sunscreen, sunburns, and aloe in the years to come.

But I'll try to do my part on the sunscreen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm Sitting on the Toilet.

I really am. But not for the reason you may think.

My sweet Tucker has a blue ribbon diaper rash, from days of diarrhea that have overwhelmed us both. So he's soaking his little cheeks, and I am sitting beside him... blogging from the toilet, with the lid closed. Let there be no question.

He is stacking the cups, pouring the water to and fro, blowing bubbles, splashing with his wash cloth, and playing with Elmo's windup submarine.

And all the while, he is practicing his new phrase. Every few moments, he looks at me and says, "Good morning, Mommy."

And I say, "Good morning, Tuck."

It's 3:20 in the afternoon. But he is all about the good morning greetings.

I'll take it. I'm just happy to sit here and listen to it. And write about it. On the toilet.

The Library: A Distant Goal

I was a teacher before I was a mom. I know the joys of reading. I embrace the joys of literacy. I know the energy and spirit in a bookstore and a library, and I cannot think of a more fulfilling way to spend an afternoon.

I had big plans for my role as a mother and our relationship with the paradise of free books. I was going to be the mom who had a date at the library every week. My children and I would know all the librarians by name, my kids would have their own library cards when they were only months old, and it would be their favorite outing of the week. I had such big plans for their familiarity with books, their joy for reading, their exposure to all things literary. We would stroll up and down the racks, and they would gently and peacefully tell me their book choices, with great obedience, gratitude, and tenderness in their hearts. And most of all, my kids were going to display exemplary behavior during Story Hour.

That was the plan.

And then I actually took them to the library.

What actually happened did not fall anywhere close to my grand delusions. The library is indeed enticing to them, but that's because they want to burst forth from the stroller and run to the far corners of the bean bag chairs. They do not wish to be contained. They want to pick out the books they want... or rather, they want to pick them off the shelves and abandon them for some patient librarian to reshelve. They are loud. They are whiny. They want to quit before we start, but when it's time to go, they don't want to leave.

And don't even get me started on Story Hour. Sure, we found success a few times when Tuck was teeny tiny. Like, before he could crawl. But once there was any option for mobility, he had no desire to sit in my lap to hear a story, no matter how many fingerplays the librarian performed. The librarian began each Story Hour by saying, "We know that some days are better than others, so if this is one of those other days, feel free to leave the story corner and look at other things in the library." Well, that's all Tucker ever needed to hear.

As soon as he turned a year old, everything in him screamed, This is not your day, Mom. Let's blow this joint.

More than once, I battled and I restrained (both Tucker and myself), and he fussed and complained until we could do this no longer, out of respect for our relationship and everyone else's library experience. We left the story corner, in pursuit of some colorful books to distract him. But when it was time to put him in the stroller, he threw a royal fit, yelling and screaming at me. It was so enjoyable. Such parenting bliss.

And yet we were surrounded by calm parents and obedient children all around us, peacefully enjoying their visit to the library, choosing age appropriate books to occupy bedtimes and naptimes for days to come. My son? Not so much into that routine.

Forgive me for the honesty of this paragraph, but more than once I wanted to shout at them: Screw you! Screw all of you and your lapsitting children!! Screw this whole scene!

But I do not say those things out loud, in public settings. I'm not that girl. (Unless you know me really, really well.)

We haven't yet tried Story Hour with Tyler. Because I'm a smart girl, and I do not choose to enter a hostile situation in which I am outnumbered.

So yesterday, I was delighted to encourage and affirm my friend when she asked me, "Tricia, how can I get my preschoolers to enjoy the library??"

My response: "Oh, we've given that up for a good long while. My children hate the library. It's not fun for them or for me, so we don't go. They love the books I bring home, but they hate the process of choosing them. This month's issue of Parent's magazine affirmed my decision. The article said that if your children are too young to choose their own books, then simply go on your own and choose for them. Well, my kids aren't too young for the choice, but they are too loud for the privilege. We'll try it again in a few years."

In the meantime, I'll keep reading to them - a lot. Everyday. And I will tell them stories of a fantasy land, in a far away village called Library, where there are more books than they can dare to imagine. And someday, when they are big and strong and quiet and patient and ready, we will visit there. But for now, that will be Mommy's magical place to run away to.

Since nobody else in my family wants to go anyway.

It's been documented.

Yesterday, we were at a bead boutique shopping for a gift for a friend.

(Before motherhood, or at least on a day with more freedom, I would have personally made the gift for my friend; instead, I had to relinquish the longing for luxuries that once were. I loaded the boys up in their stroller, equipped with just enough snacks to occupy them long enough to allow me to choose a gift that was already made. Forget the joys of selecting each bead, bangle, and clasp, and the therapeutic process of stringing it myself. The boys would never last. But they gave me the gift of shopping without whining - they didn't whine, and neither did I - and I shopped and browsed until the snacks ran out. We found a darling bracelet and earrings to wrap and present. Goal accomplished.)

While they munched on fruit snacks and graham crackers, a woman nearby noticed Tucker's shining black eye. She struck up a conversation with him, he answered to the best of his ability, and she listened to the whole story.

"A diddybug (ladybug)... ouch.... eye... black."

Pretty good details and great comprehension on her part. She listened, she sympathized, and then she looked at me and said, "I hope you took a picture."

That seems to be the general consensus. I did. More than one. Don't worry.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dokes?

Tucker: "Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Dokes."

Hmmm. Dokes. What are dokes? What is he asking for?

Me: "What, buddy? Dokes?"

Tucker: "No, no dokes. Dokes."

This happens frequently. He declares a word that seems nonsensical to me, but it is of great importance to him. And I guess, speculate, interpret, and dance around the word to give it my best shot at translation, while he says the same thing again and again. With greater and great emphasis.

Me: "Dokes. Hmm. Dokes. I'm not sure, kiddo."

Tucker: "No. NO DOKES. Dokes. Dokes, Mommy."

Still nothing. I do not know what he wants, but he wants it.

Tucker (thinking hard): "Hmmmm. Woof. Woof."

Me: "Oh!! Dogs!! You want to watch the Sesame Street movie about dogs??"

Tucker: "YES!"

Ding-Ding-Ding! She got it, ladies and gentlemen! Congratulations to Mommy!

And a gold star for Tucker, for reaching into his mental thesaurus to utilize a different word that means the same thing in the language he and I use together.

Good work, kiddo.

Shiner.

Look at this black eye Tucker has acquired.

At the park yesterday, he was playing on the bouncy ladybug. She bounced up and he bounced down, and voila! Black eyes all around. Well, I'm pretty sure she doesn't have one. But he does. That's for sure.

He is officially all boy. He has more bruises on his knees and shins than I can count or explain. He has a growing record of injuries, broken bones, knocked teeth, and visits to the pediatrician's trauma room... and he is not yet three. (Although dangerously close.)

And just this morning, he catapulted himself over the footboard of our bed. I do not allow him to jump on the bed, and yet it happened. (Sin nature in action.) He jumped and bounced, and finally launched himself over, face first, onto the floor. That was a big crash. I did not have great sympathy. I searched for bruises and broken bones, but I did not have much sympathy.

(I actually snapped the above picture after this crash to the floor. It was the only time all morning he sat still enough for me to document anything. I realize he is not smiling, he is lying on the dog's pillow, he has his finger in his mouth, and his hand is around Molly's tail. Nice. But this representational, for better or worse. I'm living in the moment, people.)



I can't hardly keep up with these antics. And Tyler isn't even really adding to them yet.



All boy.



When Tucker was six days old, we were on our first official outing as newborn and mommy. A woman stopped me to say, "You are in for a great ride. I raised four boys, and they are so much fun. But you will get very acquainted with the ER. And let me advise you: before you rush him into the hospital, take pictures of the injury. He will thank you for documenting the blood and the gore, and he will love looking at those pictures."

She said this to me, while I held my swaddled newborn in my arms, who was not yet a week old. ER? Blood? Gore?? Take pictures to document such tragedy?? I think not. I couldn't even go there in my mind.

But now? I get it. As long as his life isn't in danger, I might as well take a picture.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Perhaps the Greatest Invention

I think brownies are one of the world's best treats. But I am a rare find among brownie lovers: I love the edges. Give me the corner pieces every time.
In fact, I have been known to cut out just the corners. It's the best thing about making a brownie trifle; all the soft parts go in the dessert, leaving a one-inch crunchy perimeter in the brownie pan. Have mercy. That is chocolatey, textured goodness right there.

Look at this brilliance. It's called "The Last Brownie Pan You'll Ever Buy." And I can definitely see why. Every single piece, guaranteed to have two edges. Absolutely brilliant.

If You Really Want to Know...

I have a short list of verbal quirks that bug me.

(I'm hesitant to post it out there for you to know about with certainty, because I'm pretty sure you'll worry about what you say around me. I don't want you to second guess your words; they're more important to me than grammatical effectiveness. But if you really want to know, these are the ones that bug me. Or at least I notice them. Forgive me. I'm a nerd.)

Supposably
This is not a word. The word is supposedly.

You can't have your cake and eat it too.
Actually, you can. You can hold your cake in one hand and eat it with the other. What you can't do is eat your cake and have it. You can't eat your cake and then say, "Oh, I wish I had my cake." It's gone. You ate it.

I could care less.
"I'm pretty sure he's mad about that, but I could care less." Really? Because that means you care. What you mean to say is that you couldn't care less. You are at the bottom of your caring capacity. You have ceased to care. It would be impossible for you to care any less. Your cares for this matter? All gone. None left.

Daughter-in-laws
It sounds like in-laws is the noun. And it can be, as in, "I love my in-laws." But really, when referring to the number of wives your son has (you know, in situations of polygamy... great example, Tricia), they are your daughters-in-law. Be careful where you put that s. Very important.

A whole 'nother
"I would love to talk about that, but it raises a whole 'nother issue." Nother is not a word. A better phrase is actually "another whole." But hey, who's listening?? Oh, right. I am. I'm sorry. I wish I could turn it off in my head. I just can't.

I's
"That picture is Robb and I's." Nothing belongs to I. If it is mine, then it belongs to me. But even still, the phrase would be "Robb's and mine." I know. Picky.

Is Is
This one is a bit of a verbal habit that one can easily fall into. "So, the thing about that is, is that you really should..." or "What we should do is, is we should go to..." You just don't need is twice. She's a pretty confident girl, able to stand on her own. Before you know it, you have a whole 'nother word in there. Oh wait.

My husband thinks I am crazy. He does not get how my mind works and why these things are fascinating to me; but to be fair, I also don't know how he can enjoy more than one televised football game in a day. (Didn't we just watch this, only the jerseys were a different color??)

The other night, I had trouble falling asleep. I told him the next morning that I had lain awake thinking about grammar rules. He said, "That is officially a sentence you will never hear me say." (But I bet he could lay awake and think about football plays.)

But I digress.

Anyway, that's how I think. That's what happens in my head when I'm not thinking about anything else. And don't worry - I won't ever correct you. But if I say it wrong, you can rest assured I will correct myself. And you can feel free to correct me, too.

I'll respect you even more for catching it.

At Least Somebody Wants to Use It.

Tyler is very interested in the potty. (Mostly, I think he likes a chair that's his size.) His older brother couldn't care less. Tucker is one month from turning three, and he is 100% fine with a diaper.

I have heard that mothers of preschoolers place way too much pressure and identity on the timing and accomplishment of potty training. I have also been told that nobody takes a diaper in his lunchbox to kindergarten.

Good thing I don't mind diapers. Because they seem to be here for the laung haul.

In the meantime, Tyler has a Comfy Cushy for his Tushy.
At least somebody's using it. Sort of.

Friday, August 8, 2008

That's gross.

Tucker was proudly brushing his hair with the wire bristle brush Robb uses to clean the grill. I'm pretty sure he thought I would be thrilled that he was practicing. But, ew.

New rule: No brushing your hair outside.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

More and More.

"Lord, help me to believe that my life can count for more tomorrow than it did yesterday."

~ Bill Hybels

How to Eat Pizza

My boys practice different schools of methodology when it comes to eating pizza.


While some people start with the cheesy corner, and others begin with the crust... Tyler starts in the middle. He eats it like an apple. He holds the piece up to his face, and he takes a bite out of the middle.


When he's done, it looks something like this.



Isn't that yum-o?? As you might imagine, it's very messy.


Tucker, ever the neat and tidy big brother, carefully ate his cup of pineapple first. Then he peeled off each pepperoni and placed it neatly in his fruit cup. Just so.



These two are very different.


I'll have to coach them both on a more socially appropriate way to eat pizza... at least before they head out to a pizza joint with their buddies. Neither approach is really a good one in the long run.

But for now, Tucker gets points for neatness.

Velveteen

I am abundantly blessed with four dear women friends who light up my life.

I have known them for varying lengths of time, and they each bring such depth and treasure to my life that I cannot go a day without talking to them. They are my girls. Sometimes their influence in my life overlaps; their circles intertwine and they bless me in ways that complement each other. And other times, their friendships with me stand alone, as a gift that is only mine.

But right now, they rest in my heart in a way that is important, unique, and common among each other. They are all grieving. They are each in a crisis of their own. Each girl of my heart is
facing deep loss of some kind: loss of security, trust, value, direction, relationship, love. Each one is on her own journey of hurt and pain, and for each one, I want to scoop her up and deposit her in a better, safer place. I want to pick up the remote control and fastforward to the next scene. I want peace for her. I want answers. I want it to stop hurting.

It hurts to love this much. It hurts to love another person so very, very deeply that her pain penetrates my heart and brings my tears to the surface.

The Velveteen Rabbit had something to say about loving so much it hurts; I think it means I am becoming real.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to
you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."


It's a beautiful journey to love so deeply. But my goodness, it hurts to love this much.

(I love you, sweet girl of my heart.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Then How Old Will He Be?

I was making small talk in a slightly awkward social setting recently, and I asked a woman to tell me about her family. She began to tell me about her children.


She said, "Well, I have three sons. The oldest is 26, and he'll be 27. Then our middle son is 22, and he'll be 23. Our youngest son is 18, and he'll be 19."


She was trying to tell me that all of their birthdays are coming soon; they were each just weeks away from turning a year older. But instead, she just told me what age comes next for each of them.


If I had thought faster, and if I wasn't being quite so diplomatic and tactful, I would have said, "So, wait... your youngest is 18, but how old will he be on his next birthday?"

But that would have been rude. And I try not to be.

Enormous.

After reading through James and Giant Peach more times than I'm sure of (sometimes to myself and sometimes to a classroom of little listeners... thank you, Roald Dahl), I believe I have met the inspiration for the story.

Would you look at this enormous peach I found at the grocery store yesterday?

This is one big peach.
I actually needed to take a moment to clarify: am I indeed at the neighborhood grocery store, or is this the county fair in which farmers all over town are competing for the blue ribbon for their gigantic prize-winning produce?
(What does it say about my ongoing writing processes, when I choose my produce based on writing topics, rather than the nutritional needs of my family?)

New Rule.

I am thinking of declaring a new rule at our house.
Little boys may not eat anything cheesy or saucy less than 24 hours after taking a bath.
Because few things infuriate me more than macaroni and cheese or marinara sauce in freshly washed hair.


Seriously. Yuck.
Good thing I love him so stinkin' much.

In Other Words...



You may call is a zebra. Tucker calls it a ZeBop.

If They Only Knew...

On a recent mall adventure, we encountered a grand display of amusement rides for little children. You know, the kind that put the grocery store's penny horse to shame. They are a blessing to the mothers who need to entertain their children; they are a curse to the mothers wishing to make a quick trip in and out, without whine-inducing distractions.

Thankfully, we were in no hurry. The boys climbed and played on the spaceship, the racecar, the schoolbus, and the simulated roller coaster. They pushed buttons, they climbed in and out, they were blissfully entertained for a good while.


Try not to pay attention to the limited distance between Tyler's eyes and the screen. Another small detail that we won't tell the pediatrician... and one more reason I won't win the Mother of the Year Award.

Look at this total captivation. If only they knew what happens if their cheapskate mother would fork over the quarters. Oh, the world that awaits them then. Sad for them, I don't spend money that way.
So, live it up in your wild imagations, boys. Live it up.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Thank you, Charlotte.

"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."

~Charlotte, Charlotte's Web
E. B. White
That is great literature, right there.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

My God is so BIG!

video

Just What I Wanted.

I was in Starbucks today. I really love that place.

As I stood in line waiting for my double-blended Raspberry Mocha Frappuccino (sweet nectar to my soul), I noticed this display on the floor beside me.





My friends, this is the DeLonghi Magnifica 4400 Super Automatic Espresso Machine. It is $999.

They had several in boxes, and one set up for the touching. Just in case, you know, you came in to Starbucks to drop a thousand dollars.

Who (for real, who??) does this?
Who spends this kind of money on an espresso machine?
Who spends this money at Starbucks?
Who walks in to Starbucks, spies the mother of all espresso machines, and impulsively says, "There it is!! Just what I wanted!"

Of those who have that kind of disposable income, those who do the research and carefully choose the appliance to make their favorite beverage, what kind of person buys the one on display on the floor at Starbucks?

I would like to meet this person. But I suspect we would have little in common. For starters, I'm pretty sure I don't like espresso enough to hang out with him. Or her.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

2:42 AM

What were you doing at that moment this morning?

Because I can tell you what I was doing... I was cleaning vomit out of Tucker's ears. That's right.

For five days in a row, Tucker has thrown up, to some degree. Last night, it was momentous. A full bedroom makeover. I even needed to call in reinforcements: Robb. New jammies, new sheets, new blanket, new Tucker.

And since he was lying down when this episode happened, there were lots of details to this clean up process.

Hence, the ears.

The Nicest Thing

Robb's parents have a very important routine at the end of their day: TNT. The Nicest Thing. They each share the nicest thing the other one has done that day. Throughout this mountain weekend, we have adopted this routine, as part of the dinner conversation.



And so here is TNT about Robb today...



I just needed a few more minutes in the bathroom this morning, to finish getting ready before I joined the world of small little boys. But those little boys wanted me now.

So Robb stood guard at the bathroom door, keeping the little natives from getting in. He was not even slightly intimidated by their drama. And my goodness, there was drama.


My hero.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I Love Ann Lamott.

"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere, so start by getting something - anything - down on paper. One friend says the first draft is the down draft - you get it down. The second draft is the up draft - you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth to see if it's loose or cramped or decayed or even, God help us, healthy."
~ Ann Lamott