Tuesday, December 30, 2008
When I watch a movie, if a character's name is unusual, I have to stick around for the credits so I can learn how to spell that name. (Truthfully, I think about it all through the movie, bouncing around different variations in my mind. It would be helpful if the characters wore Price is Right nametags. But then that's all I would look at.)
People who know me well can sense the uneasiness that comes over me when I hear a word whose spelling is not yet automatic to me. They stop mid-sentence to clarify the spelling, knowing I will track better with the conversation if we can get that issue out of the way.
You may notice sometime that I often mindlessly tap my fingertips, sort of rhythmically, but without a clear pattern. My mom does the same thing, but she is playing a melody on the piano in her head. Me? I'm typing in my head. Probably the sentence you just said.
When I cannot fall asleep, I play word games in my head. Lots of them.
Robb counts this is as a great reason to have married me; when he is drafting a business letter or email, he will shout to me from the far corners of the house: "Hey! Spell accentuate!" (Or the current word at hand.) And I do. It works nicely for both of us. He gets the correct spelling, and I get to spell.
I recently joined a very specific virtual community on Facebook; the name of the group is, "I Still Remember the Word I Spelled Wrong in the Spelling Bee." We are a mighty band of warriors, and every single one of us remembers the telltale ding that signals a misspelled word.
There are over 1,000 stories of misspelled words, of glory lost in the moment when it mattered most. Or seemed to. I am not alone.
In fourth grade, I went down on the word banana. Some of my friends had made up (or discovered) this silly little cheer that was the new favorite chant on the playground, and for whatever ridiculous reason, they spelled B-A-N-A-N-A-S. When I spelled my word, the cheer ran through my mind and took over my thoughts, and without thinking, I added an S. I was mortified. I spelled banana. But I made it plural.
In fifth grade, I went down on the word missile. I spelled it M-I-S-T-H-L-E. I think I was headed for mistletoe, but even still, I didn't need that H. It haunts me to this day.
In sixth grade, I lost on the word hygiene. I took out the I. It is very important.
In eighth grade, I won. Yep. I won on the word gastric. (And it was a "duh word." That's the name I invented in fifth grade for words that required no thought to spell. Isn't that a darling and genius name? "Please, Dad, give me a hard one. That's a Duh Word.")
Sadly, I lost the county spelling bee. I went down on the word wiseacre. And I don't want to tell you how I spelled it. I'm still embarrassed.
And do you know what is the very, very worst? When I had to sit in my seat, banished for an extra letter or two, only to listen to a competitor spell a word I knew. I knew that one! Are you kidding me?? I am disqualified, and he gets a Duh Word??
Oh, how my life's path would have been different, if only.
I spent the morning shopping. Not a shopping-spree-blow-it-all-as-fast-as-possible kind of experience, but rather the take-my-time-to-find-the-things-we've-been-needing variety. Among other stops, I went to the mall.
A visit to the mall, sans-children, is an old, familiar experience.
I walked in with my purse and my bag of items to exchange, but nothing else. No stroller, no diaper bag. I took the stairs instead of the elevator. I didn't worry about losing shoes or toys or snacks. I used the women's restroom, not the family restroom. Nobody asked if we could please visit the puppies. I walked briskly when I wanted to, slowly when I chose. Sometimes I stopped to look, and sometimes I strolled on by.
It was blissful.
(I missed my little shopping buddies. Just a little. But not enough to find them when I learned that my mom had brought them to the mall. Let's not go crazy. The mall is big enough for all of us, it turns out.)
Monday, December 29, 2008
Our home is not especially conducive to hard, fast running, and I was a little weary of the scooters, strollers, tricycle, and trucks of every size slamming into the wall at top speed. So we made our way to the park as soon as possible.
Ah. Now this is where a boy can run. (On days like these, I miss the yard at the home I grew up in... an entire acre of running space. But I do not live in that home, and I don't know a single person in my city with that much grass. Such is the peril of suburbia.)
Tyler explored, climbing on and off benches, tackling playground equipment that demands skills far greater than his. But Tucker ran and ran and ran. He finally stopped to catch his breath - quite literally. My mom had joined us on our venture to running space, and she said, "My goodness, Tuck, that looks like hard work."
"Oh, yes. I runned to death."
Seriously? Who taught him this phrase??
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I love little faces stained with frosting.
And I love the moments when I can't tell who is happier: my children, their grandparents, my husband, or me. When there is so much love that I can almost hold it in my hands.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Thankfully, Santa understands this stage, and he knows Tyler will come around.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Today, I needed to pick out a couple of greeting cards. With the boys perched in their places in the cart, I parked them beside me and perused my Shoebox and Fresh Ink options. I looked and looked, and I found some good ones.
But here's the thing: I didn't realized that I had poised my children directly beneath the selection of helium balloons. The smart people at the grocery store have this little 'cage' of sorts suspended from the ceiling, all to keep those happy little floaters from flying away. While I was reading and smiling to myself over Hallmark humor, they were systematically pulling the strings, sliding the balloons from beneath the cage, and letting them float up, up, up to the ceiling.
As we scurried to another aisle, I commented, "What kind of unruly children do that?? And where is their mother??"
(This came in handy in her years in ministry alongside my dad. It's great for a youth pastor to be married to a wife who never met a song she couldn't play.)
My parents invested hundreds of dollars in my own piano career, but to no avail. After eight years of lessons, I have only four years of ability... if that. On this side of childhood, I wish I had embraced the opportunity. But back in the day, well, I had better things to do than practice at that piano bench.
Plus, a pianist must keep her fingernails short. And you know what I always say: Vanity over talent. Every time.
Well, as this next generation has joined the family, my mom is planting early seeds in our budding musicians. Tucker and Tyler are always allowed to play the piano, as long as they obey the only rule: no banging. Otherwise, tickle those ivories, gentlemen. They love it.
And as Grandmas will do, she often sits with them and plays there favorite songs. Just recently, they have begun to sing along. Let me just tell you, there are few things more precious in this world than my children singing with my mom at her piano.
He is made with paper plates, carrot noses, black pipes, googly eyes, and magic hats of three different colors. I did all the cutting in advance, so we only needed to glue and staple all his parts together. We settled in: my boys, and my sweet niece who excels in paper crafts.
Nice to see that I'm using that elementary degree after all. My sister-in-law, also a teacher but of upper level math, will utilize her skills at Easter when she teaches us the algebraic equations of the crucifixion.
Stay tuned for lesson plans.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Just ask Tuck. This is his constant monologue: "Next week... Santa... reindeer... presents. For Tucker!" He's missing a few words in the middle, but he makes up for them in animation. I promise.
And Tyler chimes in, ever at the ready, "Santa! Woo-woo!" He's hoping for a train for Christmas. Luckily, I happen to know that one is coming. A long with a few other dreams come true.
I love Christmas. I had no idea it could be this much more fun with toddlers. We only get one Christmas while they are three and one, and we have no intention of missing any perks that come with the job of making this holiday happen for them.
And did I mention that Robb and his dad are building a playroom in our basement tomorrow?? Merry Christmas to me. That room will quite literally change my life. Perhaps theirs, but most definitely mine.
I. Love. Christmas. Two more days...
Friday, December 19, 2008
Here I am! Here I am!
How are you today, sir?
Run away. Run away.
It's new to my kids, but it's an old classic because it's timeless... or so I thought.
I sang and sang to them, verse after verse, and they were mesmerized.
Where is Thumbkin... Where is Pointer... Where is Tall Man...
Suddenly, Robb came alive from the other side of the table. "What? Tricia! Stop! What are you teaching our children?!?!"
Somehow, he had a problem with me wagging my middle fingers in public. To music. And teaching our children.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
He pointed to Lazarus, wrapped in the likes of toilet paper, and he said, "Mommy, he's my favorite."
Lazarus? Really? Who chooses Lazarus as their favorite character in the Bible? Tucker, apparently.
Or perhaps this has more to do with his current fascination with toilet paper.
If I were a teacher, I would have claimed a sick day. But there are no sick days in this job contract.
It has been an interesting stretch for my parenting and discipline strategies, since I can only whisper. I'm realizing how much I rely on a stern voice and a strong lecture when I need it. But when those tactics aren't available, once must be wordlessly creative. I have become dependent on clapping my hands, snapping my fingers, and waiting for them to be still and quiet before I speak. I can't talk over their volume, so they must come down to mine.
Truthfully, I'm learning a few new strategies that I might keep in the toolbox, even when I can talk again.
Since they are down for their naps as I write, and since the morning is behind us, I can reflect with more eloquence about what I am learning today. But this morning, I just wanted to lay in bed and cry. Obedience was not on my children's agenda, no matter how much I whispered, and I did not have the patience to do this job.
But it's done. The first half of the day, anyway.
me: Tuck, Mommy feels very sick today. I really need for you to make better choices and be a good boy today. Please.
tuck: Okay, Mommy. Sorry. I be better. I promise.
(Promise? This is a new word. And frankly, his guarantee melted me a bit... he really means well. My firstborn, typical to those tendencies in so many ways, tries really, really hard. And now, he promises, too. Ugh.)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
As Tyler climbed into his carseat today, he spotted an activity book from Tucker's Sunday school class; it displays a cartoon picture of Moses on the cover, with a round tummy and a fluffy white beard. He's standing at the foot of a mountain, holding the ten commandments freshly carved into stone.
He pointed and exclaimed, "Oooh! Santa!"
Well, no. Not Santa. It's Moses. He's holding the ten commandments that we all must follow, or he won't give us any presents. Sort of. Just kidding. (I'm not really teaching my children heresy. At least not intentionally.)
We'll talk more about Moses when this holiday with his twin-brother-look-alike passes. It will be easier to distinguish him when Santa goes back to the North Pole.
Crayons, feathers, stickers, markers... basically, items I have given them once before. They just forgot about them, they have never used them (or almost never), and they can't access them since I'm not a mom who leaves craft supplies out for the playing at all times.
It sort of redefines the term 'regift.' I'm giving them something that is legitimately already theirs. Again.
I tossed in some new paints and brushes. Just for good measure.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
He played for a few minutes while I talked with Tucker's teacher, and he babbled and chattered away. Miss Jill said, "He sounds just like Tucker! They definitely sound the same. They must be right on track with each other."
"They are. Definitely. It's really helping Tucker's language... but I'm not sure it's helping Tyler's. Their vocabulary matches, and they have a language all their own."
And they speak it all the time. Their words are sprinkled with things I understand, but mostly, they just get each other.
That's a reason to have a brother. (I can personally vouch for the benefits.)
Monday, December 15, 2008
Tucker knows the drill, so he gets to sit in his own chair, with his own cape.
Tyler is still new at it, and he's a little too squirmy for independence. So I sit in the swivel chair with a cape of my own, and he sits on my lap, draped with a cape of his own. The hairdresser guides me to turn his body one way or another, he squirms and argues until I offer the occasional promise of a lollipop. Together, we get the job done.
Meanwhile, Tuck is quite the picture of confidence on the other side of the salon.
I heard him chatting away with his personal hairdresser, and I knew she had no idea what he was saying. She was doing the typical courtesy response, "Oh, mm-hmmm. Sure, sweetheart." (I know that one. It doesn't bother me. I do it, too.)
But Tucker wanted to be understood. Suddenly, he shouted, "Mommy! I'm so handsome!"
People all over the room stifled their laughter. I couldn't blame them... it was pretty adorable. But I couldn't laugh. He meant it.
"You sure are, Tuck. Very handsome. I love the new 'do."
At least he's confident.
Or at least clean up after him??
Sunday, December 14, 2008
And we took turns stirring.
Except this is what happened every time it was Tucker's turn to stir.
We're working on that.
Although the recipe is in itself very simple (you can't get easier than 'dump it all together'), it does get tricky in the counting. 18 cups of oatmeal? We went with multiples of three, and then we stirred and stirred. And it's no easy task to see that 8 teaspoons of baking soda are dispersed evenly and equally into three pounds of peanut butter. No lumps. And make sure everyone gets a turn. And don't lose count.
It's quite a job for the most patient multitasker. And it is indeed a workout for the baker with crazy upper body strength. (I am not she.)
Tuck lost interest a bit, and he decided to practice his rendition of Little Drummer boy, one of my personal favorites, for so many reasons. (Please don't miss the sarcasm in that sentence.)
As I added more and more ingredients, he had more and more 'drums.' Soon, I had a one-man band. That's quite a serenade.
It was a really beautiful mess, once we added those red and green bits of heaven.
There was a moment of spilled M & M's, and my children scrambled so fast to scoop them up and stuff them into their mouths. I could read their thoughts: Mom will put the kybosh on this when she realizes we have unlimited amounts of chocolate. We better get it while the gettin's good. Moments later: kybosh. They know me well.
Two hours later, we were still mixing ingredients and stirring, stirring, stirring. Not a single cookie sheet in the oven, nothing to show for our efforts. (But we were having fun. And they were taking turns. They were learning, and nobody was angry. They didn't even mind that they couldn't eat that which I had promised them. It was so very succesful, except in the edible round of the judging.)
Our stay-at-home morning was not designed to be a stay-at-home day, and we had a lunch date to run off to. So, I heaved that mammoth bowl of cookie dough (which takes up an entire shelf) into the fridge. And we checked it off our list. Sort of. We made cookies... but not quite. Almost. We did a lot toward their existence. I mean, a lot.
I baked many batches during naptime, and they each enjoyed a cookie and cold milk later in the day. And I got two sweet, sticky kisses, some chocolate fingerprints to track around the house, and some happy, thankful snackers.
Meanwhile, I have been baking more batches at every slow moment when the oven is not otherwise occupied, and still, more than half of the cookie dough remains. I am running out of Tupperware in which to store these baked wonders, and I'm going to start freezing them soon.
I think we're set with cookies for a good while. Perhaps Tucker can share them with his kindergarten class on his birthday. (In two years.)
Anybody want a cookie? I have some. And for the record, they're delicious.
Thank you, Santa, Rudolph, and the Lord above for this beautiful display of brotherly love.
No matter how fleeting.
Friday, December 12, 2008
- I once decided that I would volunteer to crochet hundreds of squares to make blankets for children in a foster care center. Good plan. I made about 16 of them, then I was done. And that was a stretch.
- I decided that I would earn extra money for our family by making crafty little lapel pins from fabric. I was going to sell them at a craft show, and make my millions. After all, these are big in the teacher market, and I knew of someone who earned her family's entire Christms budget on these little ditties. I have all the supplies in my basement, in case you'd like to give it a try.
- Oh, and then I took a cake decorating class. I had big intentions for the cakes and cupcakes I would make for all of you.
- There is a half-finished baby blanket upstairs, right now... I started it for a little man who is now six months old, no longer in need of swaddling. (Sorry, Truitt.)
- I was really into cheesecakes for a season. I made them like crazy. Which means I made, oh, three of them. I was going to sell those, too. (I'm all about making the money, not so much about the mantenance.)
So, when I told Robb that I needed to buy yards of fabric for the scrap garland I wanted to make for our home, he nodded (and probably rolled his eyes) and said, "Yes, dear. Add it to the list."
But guess what: I finished it. And I'm thinking of making another one. So there.
But, look out: we enter the danger zone when I get the brainy idea to start making them in mass quanties to sell in bulk.
Someday, you will find me behind a table at a craft show. I will be selling an eclectic combination of baby blankets, potholders, lapel pins, cupcakes, picture frames, scrap garland, fudge, and cheesecake. You won't want to miss it.
In fact, you should probably come early. I'm sure there will be a long line at my table.
Where do they learn this? It has to be totally innate.
"One, two, fee, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, [with growing volume and anticipation] and.... SEVEN!"
We'll keep practicing.
On the other hand, he said the word opportunity today. Very well, in fact. Four times. I think he liked the feel of that one.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
So much of that is innate, I really believe. I think it has less to do with scheduling and more to do with wiring. I know scheduled, routinized moms whose kids visit with them multiple times during the night, and I know families of which the very opposite is true. My kids just happen to go to bed early and sleep rather late... and I don't complain.
In fact, a fellow parent of preschoolers said these words recently: "Tricia's kids go to bed at six, they wake up at ten-thirty in the morning, and then they make her pancakes." Well, not quite. But I'll take what I can get. It's not a bad plan.
Tucker has this new routine (well, several months old now), where he wakes up in the middle of the night needing affirmation that I still live here. I definitely do. He calls for me, in a near panic, and I meet him in the doorway of his room. I usher him back to bed, I pull his blankets up to his chin, and I shuffle back to my bed while the sheets are still warm. He doesn't need very much: just a quick and instant reminder that all is right with his world. It's a routine that I have mastered. We wrap it up as quickly as possible, almost every night, multiple times. It's not my favorite, but my groggy response is faster and easier than waiting him out and wondering if I'm doing any damage by making him wonder if he's safe.
But Tyler is different. Tyler doesn't need me very often in the wee hours. He is happy to head to bed, blanket in hand, and he'll see me in the morning - thank you very much. It's very thoughtful. He's rather accommodating that way.
Except for last night. He woke up, crying. I don't know why, but that's rarely mine to figure out. They don't need a reason, they just need me. When I came into his room, he was sitting up in his crib, snuggling that faithful blue blanket. He looked at me and whispered, "Oh, Mommy."
Now who can resist this?
I scooped him up, and something about him felt very, oh, what's the word... baby.
This toddler with whom I had battled over his tantrums, sharing, biting, hitting, mastery of the water dispenser on the refrigerator door, stealing my hair dryer, misplacing untouchable ornaments on the Christmas tree, storing grapes inside his onesie, taking off shoes and socks during a four-minute car ride, and sliding books underneath the changing table... suddenly, he was once again my baby.
Suddenly this role, which felt so admittedly boring earlier in the day, was the most fulfilling place to be. In that moment, the scent of his milky breath was more peaceful than my own sleep.
I held him and rocked him until I felt in my arms that familiar heaviness of a sleeping child, the melting of boundaries, the strengthening of all that is maternal. In my head, I heard the parenting experts and critics telling me that I should let him go back to sleep on his own, I shouldn't reinforce this habit of midnight visits, and many other shoulds or should nots. But I ignored them... I've never agreed with them anyway. And those books were not written for these tender moments.
I have heard (and read) that the goal of parenting is not to treat children equally, but fairly. They are different; their needs are different. To respond equally is to ignore their individuality. To respond fairly is to meet their needs, uniquely. Tyler needed me in a very different way than his brother so often does, and frankly, I needed him too.
Tomorrow, when he's an independent toddler and we're battling it out once again, at least I'll have the nourishment of that quiet scene to remember.
When he was my baby. If only for a few minutes.
... because I have friends and family all over the place, and I want them to know this side of me and the daily stuff that is Tucker and Tyler.
... because the tenderness of everyday could get lost in the tyranny of the tasks. I don't want to lose this.
... because sometimes, this is the most alive moment of my day: when my fingernails are clicking furiously on the keyboard, and I can't write fast enough. When the ideas in my head collide so fiercely that I have to type faster just to sort them out, when the words string together on their own, and a mess of eclectic beads has grown into a necklace... a rather beautiful one that I really want to wear. Right now.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Robb said, "Oh, that is precious stuff. Lick every last crumb off your fingers."
We love our two. We adore them. The jury is still out on whether there will be another... just, you know, not today.
Let's just say, we can't go breaking birth control pills left and right.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I haven't blogged in a while. It's true. It's finals week, which means that I am spending lots and lots and LOTS of time editing for graduate students. I sure spend a lot of time studying syllabi, writing assignments, research topics, and meeting deadlines... especially for a girl who isn't in grad school. (Not yet anyway. Someday. Stay tuned on that goal.)
Most of my editing happens between 9:30 PM and 2:00 AM, since I really can't do it when my children are awake. Well, I can, but it's just not wise.
For example, I accepted one assignment at an unruly hour, which meant I had to stay up late and get up early to do it while the boys were asleep... and then they woke up before I finished. So, um, well, it went something like this...
(I sent this video to my friend Sara, in a moment of pure exasperation and the desperate wish for affirmation and sympathy... you'll hear my commentary to her.)
It became a Press Play Day. Or, more accurately, Lord of the Flies in my Living Room.
It is fair to say that these days are not my finest hour as a mom. Nope. Not good. I'm impatient, I'm scattered, I'm forgetful, and my children know it. (Let there be no question of pride in this blog post... this is the dirty laundry. Airing.)
But, my boys are clean and fed. And they are resilient.
In the meantime, I'm editing like a mad woman. I can spot a comma splice at a hundred yards. Bring on the fragments, run-ons, gerrands, and passive voice.
I'm the girl for the job. Just don't ask me to do it in a tidy house.
All of that, because he wanted into my makeup drawer.
And just in case you didn't get enough, it continued.
Year Number Two... here we come. I'd rather not see you again, so soon after our first go around, but we're on our way.
Just recently, someone wise said, "Remember, they are only two for a year."
Right. But conversely, he's going to be two for an entire year.
Someday, I will be thankful for these videos. And someday I will be thankful we had these tough battles, because I'm so prayerful that he will be a man of confidence and passion, based on this will that guides him everyday.
But in the meantime, in the throes of it all, well, I'm still thankful.
(But I'm also tired.)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Tuck: A girl.
m: No. You are not a girl. You are a boy.
t: Oh. Right. Boy.
m: What is daddy?
t: A boy.
m: Right! What is Tyler?
t: A boy.
m: Right! What is mommy?
m: Tucker, what is mommy?
t: Tucker is finking.
(He scratched his chin. Finally, a little light bulb appeared above his head, as he threw his fist in the air in enlightenment.)
t: Tucker got it! Mommy's a girl!!
I'm hopeful someday he won't have to think so hard to be sure of my gender.
Monday, December 1, 2008
So, here's what I would love to know: When did it become socially acceptable (or even desirable) to be a woman who is not smart?
I had lunch with an old friend last week who took every opportunity to degrade herself and her intelligence. This is a girl who has pursued a professional career, post-graduate work, and established a life of independence, based on her intelligence. Somehow, she believed she was more approachable, more desirable, and perhaps even more lovable if she marked herself as less intelligent than the average girl.
(As I have been known to do in a very tactful, diplomatic way, I called her out on it. It's bunk. She's a smart girl... why pretend otherwise??)
Just today, I learned of a very smart friend of mine who was recently ridiculed in a circle of women. They teased her for having a master's degree, being an eloquent writer, and even using 'big words.' She left the Girls' Night feeling degraded and minimized, all because she is a smart woman.
And how is it possible that pop culture is filled with smart women who want to appear stupid? They are clearly bright enough to market themselves with a slant one way or the other, so why not capitalize on their intelligence? I can list less than five 'smart women' in today's entertainment world... where have all the smart girls gone?
I am the last to say that one needs credentials, degrees, or titles to prove that she is smart... I have very few of those, myself. I have high aspirations for all of them, but I'm a smart girl without the initials after my name. And I know it. And you'll never hear me say otherwise.
My mom is a brilliant, wise, confident woman. She is no less feminine because she can keep up with any man, and my dad loves her for it. In our home, there was no excuse for pretending to be something I was not... I could not claim inadequacy when we all knew I could do it. (Except in sports. Everyone knew I couldn't.) I have held strong to the value I have learned since I was small: Know who you are, be confident in what you can do, and never say you can't. Because you can. Don't let anyone put you in a corner because you're a girl. Know your stuff, and do it right.
I don't have a daughter, but if I ever do, I suspect this may be our greatest challenge in raising her in a culture that minimizes women; I will give my everything to teach her to value everything about herself, especially her intelligence.
Come on, smart girls. Don't let me down.