Friday, October 31, 2008

Here a MOO, there a MOO...

We have chosen a farm animal theme this year for Halloween. We have a horse and a cow.


(They each moo. Because Tucker can, and because Tyler loves to imitate Tucker and simultaneously annoy him by saying the wrong word.)


I'm pretty sure Tucker will look at this picture someday and ask me,
"Why on earth did you dress me in that stupid costume? Can't you see that I hated it?"

But I assure you (and I will assure him someday): he chose the costume, and he has been insistent on wearing it all day long - complete with the itchy hood.
To his credit, he didn't ask for one that was too small... but this one is. Once that hood is on his head, everything gets hiked up - and he looks ridiculous. That part is my fault. His daddy calls this the High-Water-Crotch-Hugging Cow Costume. We'll aim for a costume that fits better next year.
We're off to trick or treat, and fill our homes with candy... most of which our children will never know the goodness of. It's one of the best things about parenting toddlers: we get all their goodies, and they're just thankful they got to carry a plastic pumpkin around the neighborhood to collect such a feast. It's a fair agreement.
Happy Halloween. Bring on the chocolate.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oh, Great Pumpkins!

Continuing with our annual tradition, we carved pumpkins last night. Neither of the boys remember this ooey-gooey experience from last year (Tyler was only five months old, so we have given him some grace), so it was like the first time all over again.

There are some clearly defined roles in this event. Daddy gets the big knife. Mommy gets the camera. Tucker cheers, and Tyler cowers. It's a picture of diverse teamwork.

Tucker had a front row seat, from start to finish.

Tyler watched closely until he saw what was happening inside that pumpkin.


Then he wanted nothing to do with any part of it.

video

(I'm sort of with him on the pumpkin guts.)
I know how to be a cool mom, and I know that gross things are part of raising boys.
So I put my hands inside, too. But, ew.
I have, um, texture issues.

Robb and Tucker handled most of the grossness, and then we were on to the real fun. Bring on the Sharpie. I can do anything with a good pen.


Per Tucker's request, we made a scary face, a happy face, and a silly face.

We are officially ready for Halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fill Me Up...

"The effective teacher always teaches from the overflow of a full life."

~ Howard Hendricks
Teaching to Change Lives

"Mommy! Help!"

He wasn't frantic, but he was calling and calling me. "Mommy! Help! Mommy, help me!"

When I came around the corner, this is what I found.

Mr. Independence spied the play dough on the kitchen counter, and he decided to take matters into his own hands. Except his chair tipped over before he was securely on the kitchen counter (never mind the fact that he is not allowed on the kitchen counter), and then he was stuck.

It's wise to make sure you can independently pull off the plan before you try something you're not allowed to do.
Foiled again.

Down to Business

In the midst of Tyler's very profound tantrum today, I listened to Robb lay down the law.

"Listen, Tyler. We need to redefine your mission statement. There is
about to be some corporate restructuring around here, and I don't think you'll
be pleased with your performance review."


I couldn't have said it better myself. Time for a disciplinary action plan, I'm pretty sure. We'll consult with the board.

Oh, wait. We are the board.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Right Down to the Eyelashes

In case you're new to the blog, we are in the throes of potty training at my house. Not my favorite journey, and yet one that seems unavoidable. (I could so easily put him right back in diapers and wait for him to want to change the plan, but I'm fearful that he may never want to change the plan.)

There is just so very much to this process. So much to decide, so much to remember, so much to alter on a daily basis - for all of us. Or mostly just for me and Tucker.

There are the times when he forgets and goes without thinking.

There are the times when he just doesn't have to go yet, and I'm badgering him to produce water from a stone.

There are the times when I mistakenly give him the option to wait, since he's insistent he doesn't have to go yet... but the mere conversation makes him need to go moments later, but he's not near the potty since he said he wanted to wait. (Due to recurrences such as this, he has lost many of his decision making liberties in this process.)

There are the times when I mandate that it's time to sit on the potty and see what happens, and we wait and wait, and we blow bubbles and read books while we wait for the grand exit. And we finally decide there must be nothing coming, so we get up to wash our hands... only to have things come rushing out then and there.

It's different every single day, every single time, every single attempt; no two are the same.

But then there are the times when his pants are dry, his bladder is full, the stars are aligned, the timing is right, and we have done everything correctly. He sits in the right spot, and he goes right when and where I ask him to go. But his little parts are a little unmanageable, and everything in the entire bathroom is wet - including his eyelashes. He did everything right, but the equipment went in the wrong spot, and I still have a huge mess to clean up.

But hey, bring on the treats. Because he got it right. Sort of.

For crying out loud, I need an m&m, even if he doesn't.

Disgusting Find of the Day

I found Tyler eating a dog biscuit. His brother fed it to him.

Tucker was handing out dog treats by the handful; Molly was thrilled, and Tyler was exploring the new taste sensation.

I interceded quickly, in a major way.

(I should have been alarmed by the piles of giggles downstairs... but silly me. I thought they were simply enjoying each other. I should learn that 'enjoying each other' at this age is almost never fault-free.)

Secret Hiding Place

Where have all the matchbox cars gone??

In Tyler's onesie. He had been collecting them, and then quietly stuffing them down the front of his snapped-up shirt. That's one place nobody will think to look, and everything in there is safe and sound until the next diaper change.

(He'll probably be the same little brother to put the remote control in his boxers in high school, just to keep Tucker from changing the channel.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why Women Should Retreat

I escaped on a Women's Retreat this weekend. (Exhale.)

That very sentence is refreshing to me. I loved it. I loved investing in new friendships, delighting in the old ones, and escaping to a place of total renewal - where even my cell phone didn't work. We did what women do - and we did it very well.

It's possible that I may have invested more in my relationships other people than I did in my relationship with God, so I am thankful for His grace and His encouragement through the gifts of other people.

Fellowship is an act of worship, I am learning.

Best of all, I missed my boys. All three of them. Even the ones not yet potty trained. (Still.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

He did it!

This is one of those posts that I promise to delete before he is old enough to be offended... and certainly before his friends can view it themselves. But it was just, well, a great moment.

video

The rest of the day didn't prove to be quite as succesful, but at least we hit the target once. (Even if it was by accident.)

Kiss You?

I kiss boo-boos. It's part of the job description. When my children bump, scrape, nick, bonk, or crash into anything, they bring me their wound and they say, "Kiss you?"

(Pronouns are a little sketchy for my kiddos, which makes the whole interaction pretty cute.)

We had many of these interactions today, since my two are highly accident prone. But at the end of the day, two episodes stand out in my memory... so distinctly different from one another.

First of all, we are in potty training boot camp at our house. I have debated the merits of giving you a play-by-play, but I think you'll just get the highlights. (It was a really long day of highs and lows, and I'm not sure you're really all that interested in every single victory or bump in the road. But I assure you, we are well on our way to a diaper free zone.)

Anyway...

Tucker spent a good part of his morning naked. He kept his pajama shirt on, but he was bare-bottomed from the waist down. I hear accessibility is half the battle, so who am I to present an obstacle? While I was on the phone, he was climbing in and out of the bath tub. At some point, something snagged something else during one of his transitions, and he got hurt.

You can imagine where.

So, as is the trend, he brought it to me. His, well, his, you know. "Kiss you? Mommy kiss you??"

Um, no. I draw the line just short of that, kiddo. I kissed his forehead instead. He was fine with the alternative, and I was most grateful that I didn't have to argue the point. I mean, I'm all about comfort and confidence and all the things that come with whatever that needs to be.
But I'm not kissing it. Ever.
In stark contrast to that very funny moment, my darling boy was very sweet at the end of our day. My stomach was hurting - a lot. (I need to drink more coffee, I'm pretty sure. Really, any excuse for more coffee in my life.)
Tucker noticed my discomfort, and he said, "Oh, Mommy sad? Tummy hurt? Tucka kiss you? Tucka kiss yo' tummy?"
Sure, sweet pea.
And he came right over and planted a smacker right on my stomach.
"Still hurt, Mommy? Tucka kiss tummy adenn?" Another kiss for me and my hurting stomach. Thanks, sweet boy.
Tummies and "other things" are very different. Glad to clarify.
(And I'm also glad I'm not the only one doling out sympathy around here.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Disgusting Find of the Day

Tucker was convinced there was poop on his breadstick at dinner tonight. I assure you: there most certainly was not.

But there was great discussion and debate about the topic.

Party in the Crib

When I got out of the shower today, I found Tucker in the crib with Tyler.

How he hefted his sturdy little body over the side and into bed with his brother, I have no idea. But he did. And he was pretty pleased with his accomplishment.

Those two... I honestly cannot keep up sometimes.

Two Too Close To Two.

My children are each within six months of two; Tyler is approaching, Tucker is departing.

The thing about Two is that it has some serious lead time and aftermath. As I am learning, it starts before the second birthday and continues after the third. That year of being two years old is all about independence, defiance, and finding oneself for the very first time. It's not so much about being darling, agreeable, compliant, and obedient. These characteristics surface now and then, but mostly, I spend my days with two little boys who think they could do better without me.

Just today, on our ride home in the van, they were both shouting, "No, Mommy! No, Mommy!" That's just so loveable. I could eat them up.

Tyler is especially new to this territory, just this week; he really doesn't know what kind of battles he is taking on. He acts as if all I really need to see is a frown on his face, a stomping foot, a growling voice, and a tear if it's absolutely necessary. If he can only formulate the right recipe of those things, surely I will yield to his will.

Not so much. You see, kiddo, I am the lighthouse. I'm not moving. I suggest you adjust your course by a few degrees; the lighthouse doesn't move, no matter how hard the ship forges ahead. Keep that in mind, sweet son of mine.

It reminds me of this quote my friend has beautifully scripted on a 3x5 card in her kitchen, for all the world (and especially her preschoolers) to see:

"I am the lord, Your Mother. I do not change."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Painfully True.

Tricia: "I really loved that book, but I sort of felt like maybe I could have written it. The author's voice was a lot like mine."

My mom: "Well, if you had written it, then nobody would have ever gotten to read it. Because you never send anything to a publisher."

Ouch.

But she's right. I have many things sitting and waiting for my courage to match their worth.

There is a small population to whom I have promised new shoes and a handbag if I turn thirty before I have sent a manuscript to a publisher.

I better get writing. Or shopping.

How was your day?

I came home from work tonight, just in time to chat with Tuck before he fell asleep... he had a lot to say.

"Big Bump! So sad... Daddy helped. Hot dog. Grapes. Treat. Daddy book. Awaybugs. New Blanket. Cold hands."

So apparently, the loud crack of thunder frightened him and his brother, but daddy held them both. And they had hot dogs and grapes for dinner, followed by a rice krispie treat. And when it was time for bed, daddy read him the book about the Grouchy Ladybug. And he put a comforter on his bed, a new blanket, which helped Tucker's cold hands feel better.

Guess what world: my son talks to me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Home Again, Home Again.

Here we are. Home at last. Tucker is regaining his strength, and I am about to crash.

But we are home. And he is healthy. Just ask him. He'll tell you all about it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hospital Life

We're living it up. Yeah, we are. Here is a pictorial update of our days at the "spa..."

Since Wednesday night, Tucker has viewed his life from the other side of this dinosaur mask, doing yet another nebulizer treatment. He's becoming a pro, but the ones in the middle of the night still get the best of him. I can't blame him, really. The lights, the steam, the mask - it's all a little overwhelming at 2 AM. But here he is on Wednesday night, as we had just settled in to the ER.



When we arrived at the ER, we were disappointed to learn that we arrived just a few minutes after the Children's ER had closed for the night. So, Tucker got the royal treatment, with big kid everything. He won the hearts of the hospital staff, since they were mostly dealing with adults... his sweet smile was a refreshing change. And he was most welcoming to everyone all night long. (Except the crew who tried to put in his IV and blew a vein in the process. He didn't like them so much, but neither did I.)

He was Mr. Congeniality, agreeing to everything and smiling at everyone, chatting it up in his own little language. One doctor was asking for his medical history; I said, "Well, when he was fourteen months, he had surgery on an undescended testicle."

Tucker threw his arms in the air and exclaimed, "YES! Testicle!"

The doctor and I both laughed. He said, "You bet, kiddo. Be proud of those buddies."

(Tucker, please forgive me for sharing that information with the blogging world. But it was too funny to keep to myself.)

As the night progressed, he was still very social, but he was more intent on feeling better. He began asking everyone to please help him breathe better. "Beeve betta peeze?" That's enough to break me in two, right there.

Sadly, there's not much that's very fun about the adult ER. No books, nothing to color, no Disney movies... all our best staples for after hours entertainment.

We had to rely on the videos on my phone and our own creativity to get us through the endless night. We played I Spy. We counted as high as we could - or as high as Tucker can, which is presently seventeen. We ate popsicles. And then, we discovered the many, many creative uses of the vomit basin. (He did need it once for the actual use it was intended for. We didn't experiment any further with that one.)

Did you know it's a great sailboat? Or a hat? Or a telephone? Oh, the ideas are endless...


Tucker most often has make-believe conversations with his Uncle Rob on the phone. In his one-sided conversations, they reminisce about the trip to Disney World in the spring, the loud fireworks, and hugging Pluto. This time, I caught it all on video. Because he will love this memory someday.

video

Around four in the morning, we met Firefighter Eric. He was strolling through the hallway, strolled past our gaping curtain, took one look at Tucker, and decided this kid needs a visit. He said, "Hey, little buddy. If you're up when we're up, then you're already halfway to becoming a firefighter. You need a hat and a badge."


Firefighter Eric gave us much to talk about after his departure, and he pretty much doubled our options of things to play with. He was my hero, for sure.


AND, he hooked us up with the Cartoon Network. (But let me assure you: Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network are not age appropriate at that hour. In case you thought you'd work that in to your children's TV entertainment schedule; I'd steer clear of the midnight hours.)

At seven in the morning, they decided to keep him, and Tuck and I settled in to our new room, finally to catch some rest. Until eight, when it was time for another breathing treatment. Apparently, it was also time to start the day. Ugh. No rest for this mom.

(It is amazing how much less sleep I really need than I once thought. The same is true for clean clothes and deodorant. Granted, I do not function at the top of my game after I've been up all night, and I'm not sure everyone would agree that less hygiene is okay in the long run. Nonetheless, you do what you have to do.)

Our days have taken on a new routine. Tucker enjoys pancakes for breakfast - a mandate of his. While I do cut them into bite size pieces, he prefers to pick up the frisbee and eat it. A less conventional approach, but definitely more practical.


We have been playing quiet little games that are suitable for a busy boy who is confined to a hospital bed. Barrel O' Monkeys is a recurring favorite.

We look at the Disney World scrapbook, and we play with his stuffed puppies (he is accumulating them as gifts from friends - we have Murdoch, Duffy, Purple, and Googa Head). We have snacks, we enjoy quiet visits with friends, and today we even had a pizza party with Tucker's best buddies.

Very often, he is most delighted by a visit with a grandparent. Oh, the joys of grandparents. They are a gift to little children, but also to the very tired parents.

We watched lots and lots of movies. LOTS. And LOTS.

Robb comes and goes, staying as long as he can until he needs to retrieve our younger son from his current place of childcare. He jumps into whatever Tucker is doing at the moment, and he provides comic relief with silly games and songs that only daddies can do...which most often contain lyrics regarding bodily functions.

(Let's just take a moment to be thankful Robb is not in Texas... after all, were it not for his surprise homecoming last weekend, he could still be gone for another week. Thank you, Lord.)

And every two hours, Tucker snuggles in for more breathing treatments. Sweet boy.

In the meantime, Tyler isn't really sure about this new plan. He asks about us a lot. This separation has revealed the bond between our two sons; they are most concerned about each other, asking about one another several times an hour. That is a very sweet gift to me. Turns out: they like each other. And they seem rather lost without the other.


Robb sent this early morning video to me... Tyler is eager for life as normal.

video


Thank you to the friends and family who have given Tyler a safe place to play while his family is locked up on the pediatric floor of the hospital. I miss our old life. Back in the olden days, when the four of us lived together.


And so, there you have it. We're living it up. Yep. We are. He's not coming home today... maybe tomorrow.
Until then, bring on the pancakes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Poor Tucker.


Back in the hospital with Tuck... Poor kid. These lungs of his have got to kick into high gear; they have a long life ahead of them, and they need to step up to the challenge.
We took Tuck in to the ER in the middle of the night, and they admitted him after many, many ineffective steroid treatments. Maybe he'll come home tomorrow.
For now, he's living on lots of pudding, popsicles, applesauce, chocolate milk, and TLC from Mommy and Daddy. And lots of oxygen and inhaled goods for his sweet little malfunctioning lungs.
(And I think Ty thinks Tucker has the better end of the deal.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lessons from a Day Off

Robb gave me the day off today. And what a gift it was.

I learned a few new things today, and I was reminded of truths that were tucked away, longing to be remembered.

I learned...

I had ridiculous aspirations for my day. I do the same thing on airline flights; I pack and plan as if two things are true: I will have the attention span of a three year old and the appetite of a sumo wrestler. I give myself many, many options, which turns out to be overwhelming. I had to refine as the day progressed, picking and choosing what I wanted most.

I was reminded that an adults-only lunch is glorious. To have uninterrupted conversation, to be free of bibs and baby wipes, to simply listen and talk and pay the bill at the end… well, it was glorious.

I learned that I have to ease into creativity sometimes. I filled my morning with tasks to complete, but I filled my afternoon with dreams to pursue. In the morning, I made phone calls, typed recipes, wrote thank you notes, and busily crossed items off my to do list. But in the afternoon, I read, and I thought, and I wrote and wrote and wrote. It turns out, my brain needed seven hours of lead time, to unload all the pesky responsibilities... and then I could start to refuel with that which I love most.

I was reminded that Psalms and Philippians are very refreshing to my soul. And shortly after those writers, I love Anne LaMott. That woman inspires me. Her writing makes me want to write; I can hardly focus on reading because I just want to write. That's a masterful author, right there.

I learned that my eyes truly cannot keep up with my brain; my vision hit the point of exhaustion long before my thoughts slowed down, many times throughout the day. That's disappointing, on a daily basis really. But today, it worked out okay in the end; when my vision was giving up the fight, I simply transitioned to a different bookstore or coffee shop. The travel time gave my eyes the time to rest (not because I drive with my eyes closed, but because driving is far easier on my eyes than reading), and the day turned into a progressive tour of some of my favorite places.

I learned that a pumpkin spice frappuccino is a brilliant concoction. Thank you, Starbucks.

I learned that it does not take long for me to miss my boys. Less than two hours, to be exact. But when I receive the gift of an entire day, that's not one I'm willing to cut short. Although I thought many times of coming home early, I stuck it out. I finished strong.

At the end of the day, my cookbook was updated, my phone calls were complete, my thank you notes were written, I had read, I had written, I had thought and thought… but most mportantly: my heart was full.

And I missed my boys. A day off is a miraculous event.

(Thanks, Robb. You are my greatest earthly blessing. Thank you for loving me well.)

Tomorrow, back to real life.

Unbounded Gratitude

"For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth.
What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you.
Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave.
They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.
They are full of all the things you don’t get in real life –
wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat.
And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day,
but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention.
An author makes you notice,
makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift.
My gratitude for good writing is unbounded;
I am grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean."

~ Anne LaMott
(I love her.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pay Attention, Disciplinarian.

So, in case you were wondering, it is not effective parenting to forget that the child is in timeout.

Neither is it especially effective to place him in timeout near the bathroom, or specifically near the temptation of the toilet paper roll.

This is what happens.




He doesn't look especially pensive, reflective, repentent, or thoughtful regarding his offensive actions.

And I suppose it is also not effective to take pictures before calling a halt to the toilet paper party, only then explaining that this is not acceptable (but now well documented).

But I had to.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Together At Last.

Look who I found at the airport yesterday...


At first sight of him, I exhaled.

I didn't even know I had been holding my breath for three weeks.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tucker's First Prayer

Today has exhausted me to my very core. This single life is not for me. In addition to the demands that came screaming at me - quite literally, from both of them - all day long, I also seem to have a cold. So today has not been my best for energy, grace, or parenting.

On days like this, I pray this throughout the day: God, can you show me that You're here? Can you reveal Yourself to me, and can You please give me an awareness to catch that moment before it's gone?

It's my lifeline.

I prayed it all day long, and I've got to tell you, either He withheld His glory, or I was too dense to see it. Probably the latter.

Okay, definitely the latter.

But at the very end of this horrendously long day, I was tucking my boys into bed. Since I am one mom doing a two-parent job at that hour, I have enlisted Tucker's help. He "helps" me get Tyler ready to snuggle in for the night, just before it's big brother's turn for the same routine.

Tonight, I held Tyler on my lap, and we finished reading "Bugs," the current favorite loan from the library. I asked Tucker if he wanted to sing with me; he did. Together, we sang our favorite lullaby to Tyler, one that my dear friend wrote for her son and has been gracious to share with us.

Tuck sang every single word with me, which he has never done before. I didn't know he could. There are things that I wait an extra long time for, as Tucker's mom, and singing is one of them. Just this week, he has happened on to this ability. What a gift, long wished for.

And then, he said, "Pray, Tozzer."

He folded his little hands right up to his face, he clenched his eyes shut, and he prayed.

"D'eezus, Food. Daddy. Tozzer. Night. Amen."

(Translated: Dear Jesus, thank you for my food, my daddy, and Tyler. Help him to sleep well tonight. Amen.)

I nearly melted into a puddle of maternal humility, right then and there. He has been listening, taking it all in, and tonight was the very first example of his own faith, starting to grow.

And to finish it all off, he planted the sweetest kiss on Tyler's cheek. "Night, Brudder."

And that, right there, was God's glory in my child's bedroom.

I whispered it then, and I say it now, and I will say it each time I recall that moment...

Thank you, Lord.

4:00 on Friday!!

That's the homecoming, ladies and gentlemen. That's when the handsome mine who is mine -all mine - returns to our home. Gone for nearly three weeks, but home two weeks early, and not a moment too soon.

Unfortunately, when he called to tell me the news of his early arrival, I was near boiling point with the two cherubs, and his news led me to burst into tears. I was going to cry over something, and he gave me that something. It was not the response he was hoping for, although I assured him that they were happy tears.

Promise.

Tomorrow... come quickly. I need that man.

I do not sound like that... do I??

Tyler was incessantly calling my name.

"Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?"

I didn't really mind at all. He was just chatting away, not really needing me, just liking the feel of my name.

Suddenly, Tucker put his hands on his cheeks and said, "What, Tyler? What? What? What? What? WHAT???"

Oh, dear. It's possible that Tucker was mimicking the very thing I did to him this morning when he was whining my name far past the point of endearing.

That's not a fun mirror to look into, let me say.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Why I Don't Read Enough.

I love to read.

I love to get sucked in, to escape the life that is mine, to momentarily become the character I'm reading about.

I love to study. I love to break apart the sentence, think about the metaphors, absorb new words for my growing collection, and to sharpen my skill as a writer by studying the work of another.

I always read with a pen in my hand - to circle words I don't know, to underline phrases or word choices I love, to highlight a timeless quote, to note something to share with a friend, or to capture a word choice that I can revisit later.

I love it. But I don't do it enough. Why is that?

(You may think that I am about to tell you I just don't have time, with the needs of the kids and our home and all that nonsense. And sometimes, that is true. But I am a firm believer that you should make time for what you love most. Case in point: this blog. I love this place, and I make time to visit almost every single day, even if it's for only a few minutes. This blog is a friend of mine, and I always walk away feeling refreshed... that is the mark of a good friend.)

Here is the real, honest to goodness, hard truth of why I don't read enough: I can't decide which book to read.

I always have about four books in the works, and they each feed a part of me that is insatiably hungry. My current reads usually consist of one of each of the following: a book on spiritual formation, a book on raising kids, a heavy novel, and a lighter piece of fiction.

But when I am faced with the coveted opportunity to sit down with a good book, which is usually in the moments before I fall asleep, here is the process that takes over my mind:

Let's see. Here is my book on spiritual formation. I should read that one. I love that book. It's so good, and it's like a date with God - to sit down and listen to what He wants to tell me about who I am and the person I am becoming. But I'm really sleepy. I really want to lay down while I read, and if I come across something truly life changing, I'll want to write it down, and I won't have my notebook beside me. So, that's not the best one for this moment.

Next.

Now, here is this great piece of classic, timeless literature. A rich, deep novel. Oh, I love that one. I feel smarter just by reading it, letting those multisyllabic words wash over me. I love to think when I read; that one makes me think. But, I always have to read with my pen in my hand, so I can circle the unknown words and look them up later. Plus, that book has like 9,000 pages, and I'm sure I won't finish it before the kids are out of elementary school. So, I may as well not try today. That's maybe not the best one for this moment.

Next.

Oh, look! The great book on raising kids! I love this one. I love someone who specializes in the field I am working to understand, and this writer is so great. I could really use some practical guidelines to add to my repertoire, even for tomorrow's discipline challenges. But again, I will want to highlight or write something down, and I don't want to take all those materials to bed with me. Not tonight.

Next. (I concede that the following paragraph is the most ridiculous thought process of all.)

Ah, here we go. This sweet little fictional novel, with characters whom I love. This is such an easy read, I fall right in where I left off, and it's such a soothing way to end my day. I'm really going to be sad when I've finished reading this book, when I close the back cover, and I have to put it back on the shelf or return it to the library. Those characters have become my friends, and I might miss them. If I read too fast, they will leave too quickly. I should slow down. This book is too good to finish too soon. That's just not the best one for tonight.

Next.

Oh, wait. I'm out of choices. And I'm really sleepy.

And that's when I pick up Parenting magazine, or worse yet, the Eddie Bauer or Lands End catalog. I fill my mind with teeny tiny tidbits or really nothing at all, and finally I fall asleep.

And I start the next day hoping for an opportunity to read.

Because I really love to.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Which Flowers?

Robb called last night to chat with me about his day and mine. Through the course of the conversation, he asked, "Well, how are the flowers doing?"


It turns out, he was asking about the beautiful bouquet he sent me earlier this week. This one, that is still vibrant and beautiful and the delight of my kitchen.





But I thought he was asking about the petunias in the flowerbed out front. These, who saw far better days in the spring and summer. (I would never normally post such dying vegetation, so far past its prime, but it's important for the story.)




Please keep that subtle and important difference in mind as you read the following dialogue.


R: Well, how are the flowers?


T: Oh, they're awful. Just awful.


Silence.


R: Really?


T: Oh, yeah. They're just not pretty anymore.


R: They were pretty for a while, though, right?


T: Sure, but they're just done. It's time for them to go. I've been meaning to get rid of them, and I really need to put that on my list of things to do.


R: Do you think you can get a few more days out of them?


T: Honey, they lived a good life. They're done. I need to toss them. Don't you think I should?


Silence.


R: Well, they're yours. You can certainly do whatever you want with them.


(Mine? They're mine? The petunias are mine?? For heaven's sake, no, they are not. We planted them together, but he has taken care of them all spring and summer, and it's October. They're not mine.)


And then I saw that glorious bouquet on my kitchen counter. Now, those are mine. Wait. Those are mine.


And it was at that point that I realized we had been talking about two entirely different topics, and I had seemed very unappreciative of his very thoughtful gift from a distance. I began correcting my misspoken words. Quickly. And I sent him a picture of those beauties, as proof that I really love them, and they really are beautiful.


For heaven's sake. He should come home soon, so we can speak intelligently to each other.

Keeping Our Fingers Crossed...

We might get to tear a chunk of links off our paper chain... Robb is coming home early!!

He called today with this grand news, that he may join our family again as early as Sunday or Monday.

I am so happy. He may as well have called from the airport to say he's on his way home right now. We still have six days or more, but that's less than 17!

I'm pretty giddy over the whole thing.

I like him.

Most Important

I got my nails done on Sunday. That is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures, in my mind. I cheat a bit. I get a “polish change,” which is all the benefit of the lasting color and shine, for half the price. I skip out on the cuticle care and the hand massage; although I treat myself to those luxuries on occasions such as my birthday. But with a polish change, I still feel refreshed and maintained, ready to conquer the world.

But I digress. That’s not really what this blog post is about.

As it turns out, Sunday afternoons are not the busiest hour at the nail salon, which makes it a delightful, serene place for someone who is seeking a quiet hour. There weren’t many of us, but there were two pairs of mothers and daughters also on a mission to self pampering.

I studied them. Politely and inconspicuously, I watched and watched.

They were distinctly different from one another, with very different intentions. In one corner, there was a mother and daughter… they were dolled up. Mom was in her early forties but clearly determined not to appear so. Her daughter was in high school – tenth grade, or so I overheard. Mom was passing on the legacy of beautiful perfection, of a polished appearance at any cost.

This was clearly a routine for them, and their lack of genuine interest in one another conveyed one thing about the manicure: "This is my most important."

But there was another mother-daughter duo. Very different from the first pair, these two were not flashy at all. In fact, they were both a little plain at first glance. They were identical – I could have matched them together in a room of mothers and daughters. They had curly, crazy, frizzy hair; the kind that’s hard to control, no matter what you do. Mom was in her late thirties, and her girl was probably eleven. She was in that awkward stage of self, with apparently no degree of comfort in this chubby body of hers. She had a purple cast on her broken arm, complete with glitter and sparkles. Now that’s an accessory.

Here’s what I loved: this was their special day. This was not about expensive personal maintenance or a perfect appearance. This was about a special day for the two of them, to boost her confidence in these final weeks with the cast on her arm. This was about mom’s realization that her daughter was in the most awkward life stage, and there is a very short list of cures for this ailment. But, the short list can include a mom who really likes you and some freshly painted nails. They carefully chose colors, and they admired each other’s finished, polished look.

Everything about the two of them said, “You are my most important.”

I loved it. The three of us dried our nails together, and I chatted with them – about the broken arm, the purple glitter, and the Girls’ Day Out. What a beautiful duo.

I want to be that kind of mom. Of course, there are no manicures in my boys' future... and unless God sends our girl someday, that will continue to be a solo outing for me. But my boys can expect lots of upcoming dates, quiet afternoons, and adventurous outings with mom, and I want them to know always, always:

You are my most important.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mr. Seventeen Months

It would be a lot easier to discipline him if he wasn't so stinkin' adorable.

That Word Does Not Reciprocate.

Tuck is perfecting his art of selective listening, so I am thereby working on the discipline of obedience.

Obey has become the most frequently used word in my vocabulary.

"Tucker, come here, please. Tucker, come here. Tuck, what did Mommy say? Come here. Obey, please."

Obey, obey, obey. He may begin to believe that his middle name is actually Obey. Tucker Obey. They fit together quite nicely, actually.

A few days ago, we were picking up a few essentials at Super Walmart. (Tuck calls it WahNart. And, he can recognize the sign. Leave it to my kids to master that environmental print before any other!) I had both kids with me and only room for one to ride, which is the nature of my role as a temporary single mom.

So, I negotiated with Tucker: he could walk on his own with his hands secured safely in his pockets, or he could ride on the end of the cart, like the garbage man. He alternated, which worked nicely, for the most part. Well, for the first third of the trip. Then, he lost interest in the whole process. I was patting myself on the back for the brilliance of teaching him to keep his hands in his pockets... until I saw him sniffing and licking a banana. No touching, but licking. He just had to check out that banana, and his sense of touch had been debilitated. What was he to do??

I'm pretty sure I gasped aloud. It's okay if you did too, just now, as you read that paragraph and pictured it in your very own grocery store. (Hence, we brought the coveted banana home with us. Fear not.)

As his interest waned in the posture of the garbage man, he walked alongside me. At one point, i was ready to round the corner to another aisle, and I said, "Here we go, Tuck. Hop on."

He wasn't listening. I started walking.

Suddenly, this is what I heard: "Mommy, stop! Mommy, wait! Mommy, OBEY!"

I did stop. In my tracks. Sorry, dude. It doesn't work that way. You don't get to demand my obedience. That word does not reciprocate in this relationship.

Oh, this language process. Ever a journey.

By The Dozen

I made two dozen cupcakes last night. They are of the carrot cake variety, with the creamiest, most decadent cream cheese frosting one can buy in a canister.

(For as much as I do not like butter cream frosting, I dearly love cream cheese frosting. Sweet nectar. It's possible that my husband found me sucking it straight from the pastry bag at one point in our marriage... just earlier this year. Possible.)

They are beautiful.

I have shared some, I may share more, but I may eat every last one of them. I just may. And I dare anyone to raise an eyebrow at my decision.

Wisdom says to freeze some, but I just can't. What if I need one, right now, and it's frozen? So instead, I have a LOT of cupcakes, right here at my disposal.

And I'm not even sorry.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Permission.

Parenting magazine recently published an article called "Moms' Dirty Little Secrets." It basically blows wide open some of the darkest secrets of motherhood: that it's possible to have a favorite child, that a mother might be disappointed with the way her child is turning out, and that raising kids gets physically easier but more mentally exhausting as they get older.

But here's the one I could really identify with:

Taking care of kids actually isn't that hard.
But it can make everything else in life nearly impossible.
Can I manage the tasks that they bring to me every single moment of every blessed day? Sure. Who can't tie shoes and wipe noses and pack diaper bags and read bedtime stories?
Certainly, I can.
But can I also stay on top of the coupons, manage the checkbook, water the plants, fold the laundry, update the scrapbooks, write the thank you notes, and then find time to do a single thing that I want to do??
Not usually.
And then I got to this paragraph, from a mom who "blogs in her spare time," of all things:
"I used to get frustrated. Then I realized I absolutely had to
compartmentalize my time. So if your kid is napping, or mesmerized by a DVD,
seize the moment agressively. Whenever you can, don't waste valuable solo time
on chores or errands. In my house, naps and the post-bedtime hours are
chore-free zones: I write, read, or just catch up on emails."
Well, thank you very much, you anonymous mother with deep insight into my soul. This paragraph may as well have been God-breathed. A heavenly chorus played in my head, and an angelic beam of light shone upon the page.
By all means, I will do just that. The kids are sleeping or otherwise engaged? Then this moment could be mine. All mine. I can choose to do the ironing or make my grocery list, or I could do those later. I could claim their naptimes for ME, for crying out loud. (I have already done this on occasion, but I'm usually distracted by the many should-do's rather than the want-to's.)
And after all, this comes from Parenting magazine. Can I ask for a greater source on all things parenting and time management? I think not.

Fingerprints

There are teeny, tiny fingerprints on the screen of my laptop.

At home, when I really want to write, or check my email, or focus on anything regarding this very laptop, those fingerprints are mildly distracting and somewhat bothersome.

But here, at Starbucks, with nobody close by to call me mommy, they are endearing.

Brothers.

My brother called last night, just to check on me. He's pretty great that way.

At the very start of the conversation, he said, "I'm just calling to check in, see how you are... I know you have a lot going on with Robb gone, and the boys to yourself, and well, you know, Tyler with the Hands In His Mouth Disease. Or was it Foot In His Mouth?"

Oh, Rob. So funny.

Brothers...

Friday, October 3, 2008

This Looks Familiar...

I happened on to a new Goodwill store nearby, and it is stellar. It is the collection site for a high end part of town, so it is filled with the hand-me-downs of people far wealthier than me who simply decide they are done with their Gap, Banana Republic, and Ann Taylor castoffs. They send them away to the lesser folk of our community, and I then buy their jeans for $3.99.

It's quite a deal, in every sense of the word. It is both an agreeable arrangement and an amazing bargain.

When I told Robb about it, he said, "Well, that's great. Shop away. Just please, please, please don't buy back anything we've already donated to them."

I wish I could say that's a ridiculous assumption. But I have indeed been known to see something on those racks that I dearly love, I'm sure I'll wear, and I thereby purchase... only to realize that I dearly loved it once before.

I am my own revolving door, it turns out.

Who Needs Water?

Look who I found, having their own independent, highly entertaining "bath tub time..."






They were really, really busy.

I spent a good few minutes trying to catch their attention and thereby their smiles for my camera, and then I realized I was just annoying them.

Mom, we're busy.

Indeed. Busy, busy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

At the Carwash

I took our van for a much needed trip through the car wash yesterday.

The boys are always a little antsy about that ride, with all the loud noises, torrential rushes of water, near misses with giant sponges, gusts of wind to dry the car, and a seemingly happy mommy in the front seat who doesn't seem bothered by any of it.

We always have all the cheerful talk about what's happening to our car. It's getting a bath, here comes the bubbles, there are the giant wash cloths, and finally a big hair dryer for us to drive through... and they spend the four minutes with wide eyes and panicked expresssions.

But then we're done, and Tuck asks to go again.

This time, Tyler really couldn't get past the initial concern. He fussed and whined, and he tried desperately to clamor out of his carseat. Despite my best cheerleading, he could not agree that this journey was safe or okay.

I reached back to hold his hand and coax him to trust me... and my hand got wet. And I saw bubbles on the inside of his window. And his carseat was soaked, as were his clothes on the entire left side of his body.

His window had been open, a quarter of an inch.

Poor kid. No wonder he was frantic. He was getting a bath of his own, of industrial strength. I scrambled to put up his window, which calmed him a bit, but not quite enough.

Instead of finishing the rest of our errands, we traveled straight home. The carseat needed to air out, I needed to do clean up duty on the inside of the van, and someone needed a new outfit.

(And that is why all maintenance duties related to the car and our home belong on my husband's to-do list.)

He's Listening.

In a moment of frustration, when the blasted DVD player wouldn't simply cooperate and understand that I really needed it to work, and I was having an impossibly long day as a temporary single mom, and I really just wanted to put in a VeggieTales movie for my darling little cherubs so I could please, please, please just catch my breath for five (or twenty-five) stinking minutes....

I finally flipped on the Disney Channel instead. And I grumbled, "Fine. Fine. Whatever."

And Tucker said, "Fide. Fide. Huh-evah."

Mental note: He's listening. And he has learned to talk.

The Countdown Has Begun

Tucker and I made a paper chain today to count down the days until Daddy comes home.

(Tyler was invited to participate, but he was far more interested in the wealth of toys to play with while his big brother was otherwise preoccupied.)



We cut our strips, we counted them out, and Tucker handed them to me one at a time, proudly announcing each color. Everything in me wanted a predictable pattern, but he got to be the Color King. So, there are a few places where two links are the same color, side by side. That's how it works for three-year-olds.




We hung it in a careful, prominent spot, and we'll tear off a link everyday after breakfast. And when the last one's torn? It's Daddy Day!



I think it's perfect. Great work, Tuck.
Only 24 links to go.

"Um, I don't think so."

I took the boys to get haircuts today. Simultaneously, each sat in his own chair, with his own personal hair dresser to give him the works. I do not have pictures to commemorate the event, because such an outing requires both of my hands and all of my attention. No room for a camera phone in the mix.

Before Tucker climbed into his chair for his trim, his hair dresser asked me what I had in mind.

"Oh, you know, just shape up the back and sides, and leave a little on the top."

She nods, knowingly, which is always very assuring in that setting. But then she said, "Do you want sideburns?"

Do I want sideburns? On my three-year-old??

"Um, no thank you. Just, you know, a little boy haircut."

I am happy to say that they each left Fantastic Sam's with a darling little boy haircut. And lollipops all around. (Tucker calls them Hah-Pops.)

No more shaggy boys at our house. And no sideburns either.

Love from Texas

Look what arrived on my front porch today...



Suddenly, an afternoon of editing didn't seem quite so daunting.
I could sit here and smell those flowers all day.


Thank you, my sweet husband.

What Goes Around Comes Around.

Tyler has Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease now, too. It was bound to happen.