Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Year in Review

On the last day of 2009, and with over 300 posts to document a year's worth of living, thinking, and writing, I have chosen ten of my favorite happenings.

There was...

  1. Perhaps the most unbelievable day of all the year.
  2. Sowing Wild Oats.
  3. Minivan Theology.
  4. Some Great Books on the Shelf.
  5. One Child Potty Trained.
  6. A Victory Beyond Words.
  7. A Three-Day Honeymoon.
  8. Jesus Did Not Parent Toddlers.
  9. A Surprise for Little Miss Thirty.
  10. And of course, the day I became Rapunzel, locked in a tower.

And those were just a few of my favorites. Because it's been a pretty stellar year.

In the words of my favorite author, Marisa de los Santos, I wish you "a year of meaningful work, true love, good health, and at least a couple of miracles."

And thanks for reading my words. You keep me writing more of them.

Happy New Year.

Bring it, 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Something More to Love

When I arrived in Tucker's preschool classroom at the end of his morning, he flashed me a quick grin - "Hi, Mom!" - and then began traveling around the room to say goodbye to his friends.

He patted some on the back, whispered closely to others, waved to a few, and hugged a few more. One little guy was sitting on the floor next to Miss Emily, quite clearly detained for behavior. Tuck knelt on the floor in front of him, whispered to him, and tousled his hair.

With a smile, Miss Emily explained, "That was just a little pep talk. He just told Mason, 'It's okay. Be kind and make good choices.' That's what that was."

~

Well, way to go, my little encourager.
And thanks for giving me a brand new something to love about you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Has Our Number


"Hello?"


"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! And to whom am I speaking?"


"Well, hello, Santa! This is Tucker and Tyler's house!"


And just like that, the boys came running at the sound of Santa's merry voice on speaker through my cell phone, which was remarkably similar to the voice of Uncle Rob. (Wink, wink.)


The boys fell over one another, trying to get to the phone to say hello.


"Hi, Santa! Hello! Thank you for our jammies!"


"Oh, you got the jammies I sent? Well, I'm glad to hear that. Ho! Ho! Ho!"


"Are you flying through the sky, Santa?"


"Yes! Yes, I am!" (My brother does an uncanny impersonation.)


"We left oats in the driveway for your reindeer!"


"Oh! You did! I see! Well, Blitzen, and Vixen, and um, Dancer and all the others will love that."

"And will you come down our chimney with a bound?"


"Why, yes. Yes, I will come down your chimney."


I offered my translation. "Santa, they're asking about the poem. Down the chimney he came - with a bound?"


"Oh! Oh, yes! I will come down the chimney, with a bound, just like the poem."


Giggle, giggle.


"And remember that part about the bowlful of jelly?"


Giggle, giggle. It's their favorite part of the poem.
(Listen to what this brother of mine did to me.)

"Well, Ho! Ho! Ho! That has been a misprint for hundreds of years! It says that my belly shakes when I laugh like a bowlful of jelly, but really, I love to eat a bowlful of jelly! And my very favorite houses are the ones who leave me a bowlful of jelly!"


The boys looked at me, their eyes round with surprise. Who knew Santa loves grape jelly?

And in the background at our house, my husband yelled to his brother-in-law, "I'll give you some jelly, Santa."


"Yes! Jelly! Don't forget! Well, I must go to deliver all the gifts to the children, but make sure to go to sleep so I can come to your house too!"


"Okay, Santa! Thank you, Santa! Merry Christmas, Santa! We love you, Santa!"


"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night! And don't forget about that bowlful of jelly! Ho! Ho! Ho!"

And with that, my brother single-handedly rewrote my children's version of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, and he personally instated a tradition to continue for the forseeable future.
~
When we hung up the phone, I received a text moments later, from 'Santa' himself:
I expect your family to leave a bowful of jelly for Santa every year.

Consider it done.

Merry Christmas, Santa.

And Merry Christmas, Uncle Rob.

:)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

To Believe or Not to Believe

We let them believe in Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Peter Pan.

We let them enjoy Big Bird, Ernie, and Elmo.

We introduce them to Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella. In fact, I choose to believe she's sleeping soundly in that glorious castle, even now.

When we introduce them to each of these imaginary friends, we don't follow with a careful caveat: "But remember, she's not real. Remember, he's just make believe."

They learn soon enough.

So, why the debate on whether or not to let children believe in Santa?

I don't believe that the tradition of Santa is diametrically opposed to the birth of Christ. I absolutely, with all of me, celebrate the birth of my Savior this time of year. (And throughout the year, in many ways.) And I teach my children these values that are the core of our family and our faith. And while we're talking about what's really important, I also intend for them to learn that it is indeed 'better to give than receive,' and they will understand 'the reason for the seaon.'

I promise.

And this year, they are four and two. So we're singing Joy to the World, O Come Let Us Adore Him, and Angels We Have Heard On High. But we're also singing Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, and all about Rudolph's shiny nose. Mostly, we're singing a lot these days.

They're learning the truth of Christmas, but they're also enjoying the fantasy of tradition.

I'm all about the magic.

And Santa's on his way.

Monday, December 21, 2009

At Least We Made it to December.

When breathing is rapid, the chest is heaving, my child is wheezing, and we can't catch up, there's only one choice:

Off to the ER.



But at least they have Gatorade. Not even diluted.


Tucker assured me that the words on the side said: Mommy, don't touch.

Fair enough, kiddo. The patient gets to be in charge of the beverage.



And he also gets new jammies when he throws up all over the clothes he wore into the hospital.

(No dice for the Mommy sitting nearby.)



It's always good to call your brother when you don't feel good.

Good thing Grandma lets him hold the cell phone, too.


(I'm not sure how intelligible the conversation was, but that hardly matters at all.)


Four hours later, and with heaps and heaps of intense meds,
we came home.


All we want for Christmas is some healthy lungs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Christmas Story

In keeping with our routine Sunday afternoon lunchtime dialogue, I asked, "Tyler, what did you learn in your class this morning?"

"Oh, I had crackers. And stickers."

"And did you listen to a story?"

"Yes, I listened to a story about a baby in a tunnel for babies."

"Oh, really? Who is the baby?" (I could narrow my guesses, this Sunday before Christmas.)

"Baby Jesus. He was born in a hospital, and the horses were so sad, but Baby Jesus was so happy."

And then he said something about a puppy, and six o'clock, and neither Robb nor I could manage that one. Even Tucker said, "I'm not sure what he's saying, Mommy. And Jesus was born in a stable. With Baby Jesus."

(I'm not sure how many babies are presnt in Tucker's version.)

In such settings, Tucker whispers to me out of the side of his mouth, as if we are in kahootz in our superior knowledge over the present toddler.

And then Tyler said, "And it's almost Christmas Eve. Mae Mae and Grandpa are coming from Chicago, and then it will be Christmas. Did you know they're coming here in the sky, like reindeer?"

(Not exactly true, since they are not even flying in a plane. They are driving. But it's more fun to picture them managing reins and a sack full of presents.)

To this, Tucker lit up. He may be down with the stable story, but this idea of grandparents in the sky? Now, that's a whole new ball game.

I think someday I shall miss these details when their Christmas is filled with much greater clarity.

This is the best year yet for the happiest season of all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

So Much for Compliments.

"Boys, I'm very proud of you for sitting nicely at the table, for obeying Mommy and Daddy, and for eating all of your dinner at the restaurant tonight."


"Mommy," Tucker reminded, "I was whiny."


(I know, Tuck. I was aiming for more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than a full disclosure.)

I Get It Now.

I revisited an old favorite recently: Bringing Up Boys. I encountered once again some of the quotes that I had starred and underlined, years ago.

"Boys are bent on making messes,
teasing the other siblings,
racing through the house,
and challenging every decision and order that comes their way."
~
"Women are often shocked by the pure sheer physicality of boys -
by the sights and sounds and smells they generate."
~
"Moms need to keep boy's little minds and hands busy.
It's in their best interest to do so."
~
And my favorite, from Dobson's own parents:
"If you let that boy get bored, you deserve what he's going to do to you!"
~

Here's the thing: I bought this book when Tucker was still in infancy, so I read with naive anticipation of what was to come, as I prayed to understand my swaddled, sweet, quiet newborn. I starred, underlined, and highlighted these words of wisdom in hopes that I would remember them someday when I needed them, but I couldn't really imagine them.

Now, years later, I get these words. Instead of a heed for action, I see them as recognition of my daily life. In fact, today I feel encouraged to find that someone understands why we must go somewhere every day, why I seem to have a small panic attack if there is an hour unplanned, and why I carry an entire bag of entertainment with me always.

If I let them get bored, who knows what they will do? To each other, to our home, and to their blessed mother?

I get it now. In a whole new way.

(And in five years, I'm sure these words will mean something entirely different to me.)

(And another ten years after that.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Of All Things Edible






Sometimes, you just have to forsake symmetry.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quotable

A notable day in this writer's life:

I found my own words quoted on the internet.

(Sure. It was Facebook. Still, someone found me worth repeating.)

This is a good day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Appetizing

For reasons beyond me, Robb taught the boys that Hershey kisses are also known as Horse Poop.

So, now I have two boys who ask, "May I please have the cookie with horse poop on it?"

(I live in a frat house.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tucker's Stage Debut

Have you ever seen a cuter sheep?


He proudly walked on stage at the appropriate time,


remembered just what to say and do,


and snuck in a dozen waves to his adoring fans.









Tyler was most proud of Tucker's performance, and he couldn't wait to congrulate him after the show.



And then to accompany Tucker on stage for post-performance pictures.






And then perform what he planned all along, his shining moment as the Nativity Pig.




(I'm not kidding. He marched on to center stage and said, "I see Mary and a tiny baby. Merry Christmas. I'm a pig.")

Before the show started, our senior pastor prayed that every child in the show might feel like the most important in the world.



I'm pretty sure one of them did, indeed.


And so did his brother.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Missed the Mark

We are struggling with obedience in the bedtime routines. Naptime and bedtime are atrocious right now, as my children have become more enamored with each other's sense of humor and acrobatics than in following the prescribed rules.

So, after lunch with two stellar moms, I entered this afternoon with a game plan. And a game face. (Sad day for little boys when smart moms put their heads together.)

I set up the pack 'n play, and two boys regressed. If you can't obey like a big kid, then you don't get the privileges of a big boy bed. Tucker moved to the bottom bunk, and Tyler moved to the pack 'n play in a separate room, with great fanfare of how I wished they could be trusted to sleep in their beds.

To my delight, the naptime transition was a success, and two boys fell asleep without the heaps of giggles that had become their new mode of operation.

I thought we hit a bullseye.

Until bedtime tonight.

Tyler said, "Can I sleep in the baby bed again?"

"No, Tyler."

"Why? I like it."

"It's not meant to be fun. It's a punishment."

"Okay. Then I want a pushament. Baby bed, please."

Not the desired result. Back to the drawing board.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dress Rehearsal

I spent the morning with a small community of farm animals.

I joined Tucker and his preschool friends for their dress rehearsal. Wednesday is the big show, when they will tell the story of the birth of Christ as it has never been told before.

Tucker was delighted to have me as a guest in his classroom, and he was careful to guide my every action... perhaps he was afraid I might embarrass him with a misstep. He whispered to me out of the side of his mouth, hoping I would follow his cues.

"Mommy, sit right here."

"Mommy, hang your coat right here."

"Mommy, her name is Charlotte."

"Mommy, shhh. We're not talking right now."

Right. Yes. Thank you, sir. (I always have been overly social in a classroom environment.)

To my delight, his friends all called me Mrs. Tucker. I can answer to that.

After circle time, we paraded to the dressing room where each child would be transformed from darling preschooler to even-more-darling Nativity Character. With all the children's classes combined, we had 30+ children. All of them needed an entire wardrobe change, complete with tails and ears. Now that is a task.

There were about eight adults, including teachers and parents, so we divided and conquered. Each of us gathered a bag of costumes and a list of children, and we began the process.

I dressed the cows. Everybody wore a giant white sweatshirt with appliqued cow spots, a headband with droopy cow ears, a crocheted tail, and black leggings. Which meant that I had the unprecedented experience of putting tights on little girls, and even on little boys. That was definitely a first.

(And might I say, little boys wear tights very differently than little girls do. Boys try to put them on like pants, and I had to keep them from tugging and tugging until their toes popped right through. Little girls know the drill, but they prefer to have all the wrinkles and sags evened out. No elephant ankles, thank you. No, not like that. No, not bunched at my toes. Please fix it. I certainly don't do that routine on a regular basis, so I took a few lessons from little girls today.)

I thought I was doing a pretty bang-up job, until another parent alerted me to the naked three year old behind me. Oops. We'll put some clothes on her.

As I put one little man in his cow costume, he informed me that he was planning to be Lightning McQueen. (I'm not sure that you are, buddy. We are short one racecar costume in the Christmas story.)

When we were collectively finished, we had a whole crew of:

overstuffed cows,

soft, fuzzy sheep,

shepherds with staffs taller than they are,

feathery angels with bouncing halos,

wisemen with sparkling gifts and belts around their royal waists,

and my favorite, the round, fluffy chickens.

(Tyler will be most envious, since he keeps telling everyone he will be the rooster. When really he will be sitting quietly in the third row.)

(We hope. About the quiet part.)

Tucker was overjoyed by my companionship, until it became apparent that I was not there for that sole purpose. Once I began to help other children with their coats and costumes, he began to melt. It was his very first experience with Sharing Mom with his peers, and he was none too pleased.

This little guy usually does this routine, twice a week for four months now, entirely apart from my influence, but he suddenly couldn't handle being apart from me. Not even to get dressed, file onto the stage, say his line, or jangle his jingle bells. He cried the whole time, unless I stood beside him.

Oh, Tuck.

And so, Wednesday is the big day, and my son will be the cow.

I mean, the sheep.

There was a slight change in the costuming department this morning, and his role has been adapted. The artist formerly known as Cow will now play a slightly different role. Thankfully, the line is the same, and the change only requires the emotional preparation.

Which is not small. But we have a couple of days to get into character.

And to convince him to perform onstage without me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pronouns Shmonouns

"I like Mommy because he is nice to me," says Tucker.

I prefer she. But we'll work on it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Thing about a Shower Curtain

Somehow, it only took me four years to realize that if I just close the shower curtain, with the liner tucked safely inside the bath tub, they can play and play together without flooding my entire bathroom.

(And I can listen carefully for laughter that confirms safety.)

I was so thrilled with my personal discovery... until I realized that the closed shower curtain simply granted them a private sanctum for excessive splashing.

I've never seen such a wet ceiling.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reflections on a Snowy Morning

A few inches of snow on the ground: nature's playground on our deck.

Sweet. "Boys, when you're finished with breakfast, you can go outside to play in the snow all by yourselves!!"

(Insert my most excited voice. Since I have minimal desire to join them. Sometimes I do. Just not today.)

Breakfast is finished in record time. Check.

Break out the snow pants, gloves, hats, boots, and coats. Let the warm clothes commence.

My head is filled with visions of Ralphie and Randy in A Christmas Story.

And also Cliff Huxtable as he dresses Rudy's little chubby friend for a day in the snow, flipping him upside down in the process.

And also, toddler gloves are a joke.

Tucker is in his jammies and snow pants, when he announces proudly,"Look at me, Tyler. I'm Joseph." As in, Jesus' daddy? Apparently he believes Joseph was appropriately dressed in arctic wear.

Finally, I send them out - with the dog, thank you - to play and and play and play. Trucks and bulldozers have a whole new appeal when there is fresh powder to truck and bulldoze.

I take a picture to send to Traveling Daddy. Look at our snow cherubs. Darling and so self contained.

I settle in with my coffee and my laptop at the dining room table, right next to the sliding glass door. I can see and hear it all. Now this is a plan. Nature's playground is also an excellent babysitter.

Perhaps I'll tick away at a few writing/editing projects this morning. The ones I usually save for naptime and bedtime. Look at me... getting ahead.

Knock. Knock. "Mommy, my truck is full of snow."

Hero Mommy teaches him how to tap it on the side of the house to make the packed snow fall to the ground. Tada!

Back to our separate endeavors.

Knock. Knock. "Mommy, my hands are cold."

Ah, yes. The perils of those blasted toddler gloves. Cotton is only warm when it's dry.

Hero Mommy holds his hands for a moment, warms them up, and then sends him on his way.

Knock. Knock. "Mommy, I'm done." "Me too, Mommy."

"Really? Done?"

"Yes."

But what about the snowballs? Snowmen? Snow angels? No dice? Really?

The snow cherubs are cold and wet. And D-O-N-E.

Let the undressing commence. Hero Mommy is not so heroic when the plan has been thwarted.

And now my kitchen is filled with snowpants, hats, gloves, and boots, all lined up to dry.

A short lived adventure. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's Not Done Yet.

To finish this evening in a long week without the companionship of my traveling husband, I declared Movie Night. We made cookies, gathered bears and blankets, and snuggled up. Our choice: Cars. Lightning McQueen and all his buddies took us right up to bedtime.

With easily a half-hour left in the movie, Tucker began to sense the end coming. But instead of watching closely and enjoying the good bit left, he wanted to make sure I didn't turn it off prematurely. Somewhere in every scene, he said, "Mommy, it's not done yet."

"Mommy, it's not done yet."

"It's not done yet, Mommy. Not yet."

I finally said, "Tuck, I know. I won't turn it off until it's over. Just keep watching. You don't want to miss anything."

And suddenly the parallels began to unfold in my mind.

Because this has been a year of transitions for me. Few of my tangibles have changed, but many dramatic changes have taken place among people who are close to me... and the ripple effect is fierce.

Lots of goodbyes. To stability. To routines. To the familiar. Lots of farewells with people I love. Lots. Too many. Some have moved away, across the country. Others have finished their lives on earth. My heart has felt fragile, tenuous, spread thin, but somehow also strengthened, deepened, and brave.

I am naturally resistant to change, and with each transition or goodbye, I found myself watching the end as it loomed ominously ahead.

Sometimes, I acted like Tucker, falsely buying more time with my best delay tactics. "It's not done yet. It's not done yet. Don't panic. It's not done yet." But I became so consumed with delaying the inevitable that I nearly missed some really great scenes.

Other times, I felt the credits start to roll, but they didn't slow me down. With an entirely different attitude, I promised myself, "It's not done yet. Don't worry. It's not done yet." And I dug my heels in, intent on absorbing it all... even the out-takes.

Today marked the end of an era for my family, as my dad transitions to a new job to finish the years in his career. As I hugged one of his faithful friends goodbye today, I whispered to her, "Don't worry. It's not done yet."

There are many ways to view those words. I need to choose wisely which perspective to claim.

~
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
~ Dr. Seuss

Monday, November 30, 2009

Disgusting Find of the Day

I found Tyler with his head in the toilet bowl. Checking things out, just above the water line.

Excuse me while I throw up in another toilet, perhaps one with fewer spectators.

Ask the Expert.

When I picked Tyler up from his Sunday school class, his teacher said, "And how far along are you into the potty training?"

"Um, not as far as you might think."

"Well, he went on the potty twice today, and I just wanted to ask you, so we can be consistent: are you having him sit or stand?"

I honestly didn't know.

I said, "Let me ask his brother. He's the one leading the charge."

(Perhaps some would say I should work my way to the front of this campaign, but there still doesn't seem to be much need. I'll let them work out the kinks, and then I'll swoop in for the victory lap.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Special Performance

And now, for your holiday enjoyment, Tyler will perform Jingle Bells. With a dance.

video

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Drooping Boughs

Our Christmas tree is full.

When we began to set it up last night, I thought to myself, "You know, there's just really no need for all of these ornaments. Tonight I will selectively purge the ones we can do without."

(I often speak to myself with such a matter of fact tone, I assure you.)

But I didn't know where to start.

I sorted through the ones from our earliest Christmases together, when we each brought a handful from our own own trees to blend together into our first holiday traditions. There are the metalic ones from Robb's growing up years, with his grandmother's handwriting on the back. There are the couple of cross-stitched ornaments that his mom made for him, dated for Robby, age nine. There is the ceramic angel, painted an unforgiving lavender, that says on the back in my mom's handwriting: Tricia, age 3. My first Christmas craft, apparently.

There are other crafts of mine, including a sand dollar from third grade and a beaded strand from my first attempt as an entrepreneurial businesswoman. (For ten cents, I would give you a strand of perfectly patterned red, white, and green. Sorry you missed out on that investment.)

But I can't part with those.

There are the ones from my students. Apples. #1 Teacher. Each one has a story, and I can tell you about each child who carefully presented such a proudly chosen addition for my tree.

I can't part with those.

There are heaps and heaps of snowmen, and I just like snowmen. I just do. Perhaps I could part with some of them, but they're one big family. So, I can't. (And each one came from someone who knows me. And my love for those whimsical somebodies.)

There are the ornaments that represent experiences. Like Jamie's Christmas wedding, or the beaded snowflakes the girls in my family made one year on Thanksgiving.

I can't part with those.

And then there are the dozens and dozens of milestones that hang on our tree. Our First Christmas. Our First Home. Molly's dog dish. Baby's First Christmas. Lots of families of three, labeled Mommy, Daddy, and Tucker, represented with penguins, bears, moose, and of course snowmen. And one family of three, with a very pregnant Mom in the crew. Then the appearance of families of four, and many ornaments for Big Brother and Little Brother.

There is a most beautiful, translucent angel holding a baby high in the air, and that one makes me sentimental every single year. Because I remember when I opened it and hung it on our tree, grieving our first lost child and praying God would send us one to hold.

And in the branches below her, we have Mickey Mouse, Big Bird, Elmo, and Cookie Monster. Proof that God answered the cry of our hearts.

And of course, I cannot part with those.

The likelihood is far greater that I will someday add a second tree, than the delusion that I will part with any one of these paragraphs that hang in all shapes and sizes.

I simply cannot part with any of them.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lost and Found

Robb and I were settling in for the worship service at our church, reading the bulletin announcements, discussing a few overflowing topics from our small group, and preparing for a sermon that never disappoints... when the diamond on my engagement ring caught on my sweater.

Not a big deal, I assumed. Small snag. Quickly remedied. But as I untangled the wool thread, I noticed that the ring felt sharper, ragged, different somehow. I looked down at it, and instead of my diamond, I saw four bare prongs pointing up at me.

No diamond.

I gasped. "My diamond! It's gone!"

Robb lurched into action, and so did I. We were instantly on our knees in the carpeted sanctuary, looking everywhere for this precious stone. People in the surrounding rows noticed our frantic looking, and they joined in the search. Others offered flashlights as we all felt along the carpet, in desperate search.

Robb grabbed a friend and together they retraced our steps, while I stayed on my knees in the sanctuary. Praying and searching.

I remembered the day Robb gave it to me, along with this promise of forever.

I remembered when we added the wedding ring I wear alongside it, the band that means, 'I said yes.'

And 'I still do.'

And even as we searched, I felt guilty for loving something so much. The first major investment we made together, or that Robb made for me. A financial commitment that represented more than most of the world makes in a year. I was near tears over losing something that most of the world will never own.

But it's more than the stone itself. It's the symbol. The memory of when Robb first showed it to me, in its black satin box. It's the promise, the thought, the remembering.

Irreplaceable.

Please, God, let me find it.

Just when my emotional journey had taken me far into the farewell of the intangible, I heard, "Tricia! I found it!" Robb was in the back of the sanctuary, waving his arms and shouting to me. Stop the search. The lost has been found.

He retraced our steps. Precisely where I had taken off my winter coat, he saw the sparkling diamond, winking from the floor. He wrapped it in tissue and tucked it in his pocket. Safe, at last.

We relayed the word to the search and rescue team, and they literally shared in my tearful elation. One woman leaned into me and whispered, "I lost my grandmother's ring once. I know how you feel. Doesn't it make you think of the woman in the Bible who loses her silver coin? She sweeps the whole house, carefully searching until she finds it. I bet you understand that now."

Yes, I think I do.

In the parable in the Bible, she says to her friends, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin." And the Lord reminds us, "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of angels over one sinner who repents."

My diamond: irreplaceable. Not just as a placeholder, a symbol, or a token. But for reasons far beyond words.

Perhaps, with a new understanding, so am I.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

To Add to my Collection...

Tyler glanced down at my feet. "Mommy, you need new shoes. Your shoes are too small."

At first I started into a monologue about how grownups' feet eventually stop growing (excluding pregnancy, sadly), and how my shoes really fit just fine. But then I thought better of it.

Silly me.

"You're right, Tyler. Go tell Daddy. Mommy needs new shoes."

"Daddy? Daddy? Daddy! Mommy needs new shoes. Her shoes are too small."

Robb glanced at me, with my shoulders pulled up and my palms open: the nonverbal signal for, "What? He said it. Not me."

"Nice try, Mommy."

It was worth a shot.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Security Restored

Something was on Tucker's mind, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I had just come home from four days away, and he had not quite found himself again in our routine. Things weren't right. And he sure seemed angry: at me.

"Mommy, after my nap, I'm going to shoot you."

and

"Mommy, I hope you get smashed by cars."

I sternly reminded him that he couldn't say those things to anyone, least of all me. I put him to bed without a story, I told him he hurt my heart, and I asked him to be kind the next day. But the next day brought more of the same. Threats of violence, and not a whole lot of warm fuzzies.

I could have flown off the handle and punished his little spirit for being so very mean (and there was some of that, for sure), but something within me knew that it was bigger than an angry will.

When he woke up from his nap, in that small window of still snuggles, I said, "Tuck, do you remember when I went away on my trip?"

Nod.

"Did it make you sad when I left?"

Nod.

Bingo. He wasn't sure why I left, if I would come back, when I would leave again, and what would happen to him if his life turned irrevocably upside down.

Sweet, sweet boy.

So, we scheduled a date night. Mommy and Tucker. Just us. An instant spirit booster. Mutually.

A date with me comes with special privileges. You get to choose the restaurant, you can choose the songs in the car, and you can choose the volume of those chosen songs. (Makes you want to sign up, I know.) Tucker chose Chick fil A, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and loud. You got it, buddy.

We ordered our meals, and I stepped around the corner to get some extra napkins. Suddenly, Tuck realized he had lost sight of me. "Mommy? Mommy! Where are you?! You LOST ME!"

Stop everything, little man. Even before we unwrapped our sandwiches, I knew we needed to hit this topic head on. I settled in beside him, with no room for distractions.
"Tucker, I didn't lose you. I will never lose you. I went away to see our friends in Arkansas, but I came back. I will always come back. Do you know that?"
Nod.

"And I missed you every single day."
"Everyday?"


"Everyday. And I'm home now, and I'm not going anywhere."


"Not just for a little while, Mommy? For a big while?"


"Yes. For a big while. I'm here, kiddo."


He smiled. "Okay. Then tell me all about Arkansas."


"Okay. Well, first I drove for a really, really long time..." I gave him a play by play, and his face lit up as I mentioned the people he knows and misses. He wanted to hear it all, now that he knew I was home to stay.

I can do that, Tuck.

We finished our evening with some silly pictures of each other, since it seemed like a good night for a new privilege: working Mommy's camera.


And finally, I introduced him to his very first milkshake. Vanilla. With a cherry. (The first girl in his heart should be the one to give him his first milkshake. That's just how it should be.)


"Mommy, this is the best date ever."

I think we're friends again.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Small Town Wonders

I think I could love life in a small town.

I just spent several days visiting one of my best friends and her family in a teeny-tiny town just inside the state line of Arkansas. And, let me say, there is great charm and appeal to life within a three-mile radius.

For example, the toll booth operator who welcomes you to the town by decorating her lane with seasonal goodness. Hello, say the scarecrows. Welcome to Siloam Springs.

I loved their quaint, charming Broadway: complete with a dance studio, a children's boutique, a bookstore I must explore next time, and a coffee shop. The barista learned my name the first day, greeted me personally the second day, and prepared 'my usual' before I could order on the third day. Impressive.

I smiled at the distinction between 'the gas station on the left' or 'the gas station on the right.' One of which doesn't actually have gas. But it does host a breakfast club of diners each morning, so the donuts are slim pickin's by 10:15. And nobody gave my friend a second glance when she carried her baby in wearing his Christmas pajamas, a snow cap, and socked feet... to buy milk and cheese. We must be in Arkansas.

I love the winding roads, the snug alleys, and the graveyards with weathered tombstones dated from countless generations.

I loved the pace. Slow it on down. Nobody's in a hurry. And it only takes four minutes to get where you're going, anyway.

I loved the ice cream stands, the Christmas lights across the lampposts, and the spirit of the people who love where they live.

I loved it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Budding Thespian

Tucker has been assigned his first dramatic role: he will be the cow in the preschool Christmas program. And I'm sure it's a leading role. You pretty much can't tell the Christmas story without the cow.

He even has a line: "I see Mary and a tiny baby."

My brother, highly experienced with live theater and entertainment, is thrilled that Tucker will make his debut onto the stage. He reminded me: "An actor's first task is to be heard."

Ah. Projection. Yes. We'll work on that. And if I'm not careful, my son will be the yelling cow in the Christmas play.

(Uncle Rob says, "Yes, but he will be heard.")

So, we've been practicing his line. But so far he doesn't have it quite straight. He has said:

"I see my eye with a baby."
"I see a lizard and her baby."
"I see a marigold and a lizard baby."

How a lizard worked its way into his framework, I'm unsure. But we'll keep practicing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Feel The Love

Some of our most memorable conversations are volleyed between the front and backseats of the minivan, while we are on the go. A few days ago, Tucker said, "Hey, Mommy? I'm getting bigger!"

"Oh, yeah? How do you know?

"Because I keep eating foods into my tummy, and they are making me bigger. I'm growing bigger like Daddy." He was oh, so proud.

"And do you think you'll grow up and have a beautiful wife someday, just like Daddy?" (I'm not ashamed to seek such affirmation from my kids. I'm not.)

"Yes. I will."

"And who is Daddy's beautiful wife?"

"MaeMae."

(MaeMae is Robb's mom.)

"No, MaeMae is Daddy's mommy. I'm his wife."

"No. Daddy doesn't love you. He loves MaeMae."

"No, Daddy loves me. I'm his wife, Tuck."

"No. He doesn't love you. He only loves MaeMae." Tuck was insistent.

"You are wrong." I countered his insistence.

"Nope. I'm right. He doesn't."

Robb loves MaeMae, and so do I. And thankfully, she is one stellar mother-in-law whom I enjoy beyond words. But, I am confident that even MaeMae wouldn't want Tucker to tell the world that his daddy doesn't love his wife, he only loves his own mommy.

Upon further reflection, I realized that perhaps the whole conversation was rooted in jealousy, since Tucker would really prefer to be the #1 Man in my life. In fact, he believes Daddy doesn't need me, since he has MaeMae. Along the same lines, Tuck seems to believe he won't need a wife, since he has me. In his mind, all a man needs is his mom.

(It's all a little too Freudian.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Triple Whammy.

Tuck has Strep. And that blasted awful h1n1. And swollen tonsils have given him (temporary) obstructive sleep apnea - which means he has exceedingly long pauses between breaths in his sleep.

Which means he stops breathing after every 2-3 breaths. For longer than I can explain to you.

Which means I would rather sleep on the floor beside him than lay awake down the hall and wonder if his lungs need a reminder to do their job.

The lesson to be learned in all this: Tucker knows when he's sick. Verbal skills bring a clarity worth listening to.

And, mother's intuition is an undeniable force.

How I love this boy. And his very healthy (albeit a little snotty) little brother, who said today, "I feel sick like Tucker. Just for a little while. Give me medicine, please. And chapstick."

The need for nurturing is contagious.

My plate is full. My heart is bursting. (And this is different from my heart being full and my cup overflowing. A subtle difference. But the effect is polarized.)

I'm pretty much toast.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Blessed Sick Days

There is a subtle sweetness to sick days.

When Daddy has gone to work, and the three of us are at home to snuggle up and be sick together.

Glossy eyes. Messy kisses. Extra tissues.

DVR choices, on repeat. It's nearly intoxicating when all three of want to do nothing. Together.

My comfy chair, filled beyond capacity.

A tangled web of arms and legs under one big blanket.

It's a sweet, subtle passing gift, in its own way.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tag Team

Tucker landed in timeout for some offense in the backyard involving a wayward shovel. As he served his time, Tyler stood at the screen door, calling to me.

"Mommy, I just need him. I just need Tucker. He's my very best friend. I need him."

Oh, come on, now... That's quite the tag team. Brother telepathy: "I'll go to timeout, but you tug on her heartstrings and set me free."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What SpellCheck Won't Fix

Recently, at the Learning Center where I teach, the phone lines went down unexpectedly. We had no incoming or outgoing calls on a highly lucrative business day. And what is worse, when students or families called, they heard a message that said the line had been disconnected.

The challenge with this: lots and lots of families pay our center lots and lots of money, and they expect us to: a) teach their children with effectiveness, b) answer the phone, and c) pay the phone bill. And it falsely appeared we were doing none of the above. So, our center director contacted the phone company only to learn that they had shut down the line for system maintenance.

While that is understandable, they didn't need to choose an effective business day, shut the line down without notifying the office, and ultimately make it appear that it was an act of negligence on the center's behalf.

Well, here's where it gets interesting.

Ann, the center director, asked the phone company (who shall remain nameless at this point, for reasons you shall soon see) to reconcile the situation by sending her a letter to forward to all of the center's clients, explaining the error and exactly whose fault it was. Here's what she received:

Due to system maintenance on your account, you may have experienced some down interrupting your phone system.
We apologize for this incontinence however it was a necessary part of making the changes to your account.
Thank you.


Feel free to read again if you need to. I know it's alarming to the trained eye, as all of us long desperately for more punctation, fluency, careful word choices, and complete thoughts.

Now look closely at the second sentence: "We apologize for this incontinence..."

Incontinence. When is the last time you've seen that word used in a professional setting? So, apparently someone urinated uncontrollably all over the phone line? Or worse?

Ann, a reasonable woman, sent the letter back to this Customer Care Specialist. She offered her the opportunity to fix and rewrite, before she sent the letter out on the phone company's behalf. The Customer Care *Specialist* responded with a second draft, now with extra words and paragraphs, but significantly lacking punctuation or clarity.

And, the second draft still apologized for the 'incontinence.'

As you might imagine, this letter will not go out to all of our clients, but it will go to a higher authority at the phone company. I'm pretty sure they don't want their *Specialists* telling the world that the 'down' we are experiencing is attributed to a lack of anyone's bowel control.
Just a guess on my part.

Today's lesson: It's a good idea to do more than SpellCheck when you're sending a professional letter to a team of teachers, writers, and professionals. Because SpellCheck won't tell you what you meant to say.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Little Potty Trainer

Let's just say this, to begin: I wasn't planning to start potty training Tyler for another six months. He is a few days shy of two and a half, and Tucker was well past three and a half (I feel like he was closer to 3 and 11/12, but my math and calendar awareness may have been skewed by the exhaustion of the journey) before essential skills came together for him in that realm.

So, I had no intention of even beginning the adventure for a good long while yet.

However, Tucker had other plans and an entirely separate timeline. As the two boys fell asleep in their bunkbeds, Tucker began planting seeds in Tyler's mind. He talked about how to use the potty, what happens for big boys who do, and the merits of the accomplishment.

And his seeds began to take root. When we picked Tyler up from his Sunday School class, his teacher said he had sat on the potty. I'm sorry... what did you say? Which son? Ours? Really?

And then...

Two mornings ago, after breakfast, Tucker said, "Tyler, I need to go potty. Would you like to watch me?"

"Yes!" He hopped down from the table, and the two of them went straight to the task. Tyler watched, Tucker narrated and demonstrated, and they gave each other a high five after they flushed and washed hands.

(I could not make this up.)

And then...

Tonight, as I was fixing dinner, I heard them coming down the stairs, chatting. Tucker said, "Well, Tyler, do you think you need to poop?"

"Yes. I think I do."

"Okay. I have a special potty for you. Let me show you." He walked into the bathroom and retrieved the training potty we have been using as a stool for all intents and purposes. "Are you ready, Tyler?"

"Yes. I'm ready. Mommy, can you take off my diaper? I'm ready to sit on my potty."

Sure. Why not? I smiled to myself. What can it hurt? I'll let him pretend.

I listened to coaching, encouragement, and adorable prodding in the bathroom. ("You just pushhh! Pushhhh! That's right, Tyler! You're doing dwate!")

And then, of all things on God's green earth, I heard, "Good job, Tyler! You pooped on the potty!"

Robb and I froze in our dinner preparations. We stared at each other, in utter disbelief, our hands hovering over our separate tasks.

Robb said, "Well, you better go check that out."

Sure enough. Gold. (Well, figuratively speaking.)

We stopped everything. Hold on just a moment, Broccoli Casserole. Someone just started potty training at our house, with apparent success. This is a banner day. We sang, danced, paraded, and doled out m&m's, since that's the standard prize for such accomplishments, even moments before dinner.

Tucker said, "And me too? Can I have a treat too?" Well, good heavens, yes. You are potty training Tyler. I should say so. Heaps of chocolate for you, my son.

So, away went the diapers. Out came the Mickey Mouse underwear and the Pull-Ups. And Tuck is all about his role, reminding and coaching. And could I say, this is one of the best perks I could have ever imagined about having two boys. And I definitely never, ever imagined it.

All of that to say, we are well into potty training at our house, and I appear to be superfluous in the decision or the process.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oh, no. No, he did not.

We had a beloved friend over for lunch today. After he finished eating, Tucker said, "Mommy, I need to go potty."

Then he turned to our guest and said, "Would you like to come upstairs to see how poop comes out?"

Oh, no. No, he did not just say that.

Not easily alarmed, she took it in stride. She even gestured to me to hold off just a moment before I dove in with lessons on propriety. With total charm, she said, "You know what? I have two boys of my own, so I know very well how poop comes out. But thank you for inviting me."

Praise the Lord for good friends who can handle the most unbelievable. Even I was blushing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

While They are Sleeping...

"If I didn't somehow make the time to write, I'd go crazy - it's something I need to do, like a compulsion. To many women, being a hands-on mother with a thriving writing career seems impossible, but to me they are complementary: I am a better mother because I see the world through a writer's eyes... and I'm a better writer because I see the world through a mother's eyes."

~ Jodi Picoult

~


Thriving writing career I do not yet have, but I aspire to one with my whole heart. And nearly every naptime.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

In the Name of All Things Fierce and Brave

Introducing... (drum roll, please)...

Superman Tucker


and Tyler the Dragon.
A most dynamic duo, I assure you.
These two left no candy uncollected, no doorbell untouched, and no neighbor without a proper thank you and a "Happy Halloween."
~~
When we arrived next door at our neighbor's home, after they collected their candy and said their thank you's, Tyler said, "Oh, and when I go poop in the potty like a big boy, I'll wear Mickey Mouse underwear like Tucker and we'll go to Chuck E Cheese."
Who really expects to hear so much from the green dragon at the door? Well, there you go. And his little story earned him some extra candy, for the bonus details.
~~
Across the street, I spotted a couple of darling princesses. "Oh, guys! Look at those Cinderellas!"
Tucker responded, "Yes, but they don't have penises."
(Indeed, they do not. I know that doesn't come with the costume.)
(And apparently even Halloween is not above such comparisons.)
~~
And now the two heroes are tucked in bed with a stellar sugar high...
and I need to go see what chocolate remains for the only Cinderella in the house.

Happy Halloween, from the Fierce and the Brave.
And their Mom.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On the Day You Were Born...

We just finished reading a not-so-spooky Halloween bedtime story about a monster who is looking for her mommy, and at the end of the story, she finds her in the broom closet and they can both stop roaming around at night, since they are finally together with a sweet, monster reunion of mother and child.

Tyler said, "She found her baby?"

"Yep. She found her baby. And who is my baby?"

"Me. I grew in your tummy," Tyler answered, from rote memorization.

Tucker chimed in, "And me too. I grew in your tummy, too."

I suddenly realized that I haven't told either of them about the day they were born, and it's certainly time to start instilling that story into their sweet little heads. Since Tyler was back to browsing the monster book, I chose to tell Tucker's story first.

"That's right, Tuck. You grew in my tummy, and when you were finally ready to come out, the doctor gave me a special medicine so it wouldn't hurt, and he cut a hole in my tummy to take you out."

"Why did he cut a hole?" he asked, and I silently thanked God for the easier explanation of childbirth: C-section.

"Because you were ready to be born, and the doctor had to help you come out. And you know what came out first? Your bottom!" (The whole reason for the C-section, Mr. Settle My Bottom Into Mommy's Pelvis, Instead of My Head.)

Giggle, giggle, giggle.

"Yep. Your bottom came out first, and then the doctor tugged on you until your legs popped up. Like springs. Boing!"

Giggle.

"And then the doctor kept tugging, and finally your arms and your head came out too. And the nurses very carefully carried you over to a special table with lights. They looked so closely at you, to make sure you had everything you needed, and Mommy listened and listened. I couldn't wait to hear you cry. And finally you did, and I cried too because I loved the sound of you."

He listened with rapt attention.

"And you know what? You peed all over everybody - even on Daddy!"

Oh, dear heavens, the giggles. Giggle, giggle, giggle.

"And the nurses wrapped you in a soft, warm blanket, and they handed you to Daddy. He carried you to me, and he said, 'Look, Mommy. It's Tucker!' And I cried and cried, because I was so, so, so happy that you were born."

Tucker smiled, snuggled into a hug, and together we basked in a great parenting moment.

And just before I kissed him good night, he said, "Mommy, can you tell me that story again? When I peed all over everybody?"

And that's his shining detail of it all.

Yes, I'll tell it again. Good thing I love that story... and the similar story that happened twenty months later. Healthy, active newborn kidneys and all.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I love Hotel Rooms.

I love the novelty, the service, and the clean, crisp sheets. I love extra pillows and blankets. I love a continental breakfast, fresh towels, and someone else to do everything. I love the idea of a night away at a 'home away from home.'

What I do not especially love is putting two little boys to bed who are not accustomed to sharing one. I could not stop the craziness, so I decided to document it.








Finally, a hard-sought victory.
(And we'll stick with bunkbeds at home.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Room to Grow

"Mommy, Daddy called you my mother," Tuck said, incredulously.

"Well, that's because I am. I am your mother."

"No, you're not. You have to grow up a really lot to be a mother. You're still a mommy."

A fine distinction. I'm pretty sure he's the one who has to grow up 'a really lot' to think of me as his mother. I'm content with being a mommy for quite a long while, actually.

What's Your Name?

Tyler: "Mommy, is your name Tricia?"

Me: "Yes, and what is your name?"

Tyler: "Chris."

(Chris?)

And he has hereby insisted that we call him by this alternative name. "No. Call me Chris."

(There is one very creative mind tucked in that two-year-old noggin.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Still We Grieve.

My aunt died last night. My dad's aunt, truly, but mine just the same. That may sound like a generational distance, something like a second cousin twice removed, but I assure you: she was my aunt, just the same.

She was diagnosed only two months ago, so the journey has been swift, brutal, and daily.

When I first learned that she was gone, I smiled. That was my first reaction. I pictured her reunion with her sister, the most inseparable friends you could possibly imagine. And that made every part of me smile.

And then I thought of her husband, so in love with her and waiting to see her.

And her dad.

And her mom.

And her nephew, my uncle.

And another grandmother of mine.

And then I thought of two of my children, who just met someone else who can tell them how desperately I loved and wanted them.

And the more I thought of those reunions, the less I smiled and the more I cried. Because although we do not grieve as those who have no hope, still we grieve. And though they are together, laughing and knowing and breathing and living, we are not with them.

It's an odd thing to feel happy and sad at the same time... but mostly, I feel sad.

She was a great, great lady. I miss her already.

Friday, October 16, 2009

When Words Collide

I love when Tucker signs to me. It doesn't happen often, but when it does... it's one of my favorite things. My sweet child, who once utilized 80-100 signs everyday to tell me what he wanted and needed, doesn't need sign language anymore. He found his words, and he uses them.

All the time.

But every once in a while, he emphasizes his spoken words with the perfect gesture he learned first. Like, I really want ice cream. Or, Mommy, that toy is broken.

For an instant, his signs match his voice, and two distinct worlds rub gently against one another: the season when he couldn't speak, and the season of his voice. The voice of a young, confident, smart preschooler.

I love those quick, passing moments. When two worlds... or words... collide.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Foam Art"

So... as if atmosphere, music, aesthetics, and most delightful company weren't entirely enough,
then they go and add this to the top of my mocha:




I mean, honestly. I'm hooked.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cookie Quotes

The boys and I made cookies this morning, and the following quotes floated through the air like cartoon balloons above our heads as we baked.

"Did you wash your hands? Go. Please. Now."
"Please stop eating butter."
"Oh, dear. How much butter have you eaten, exactly? You have no idea, do you?"
"A lot."
"Please stop licking the countertop."
"Happy helpers only, please."
"No more eating cookie dough, please."
"No screaming at brothers, please."
"Oh, whatever. Keep licking."
"Mommy, I think you just need to slow down a little bit. It will work better if you slow down."
"Oh, I made a mess. That's my fault, Mommy. Look. Mess."
"Everybody upstairs. Clean shirts for everyone."

No small task.

(But so much fun. And they're tasty, for the record.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mommy's Chair

At the end of the day,

after the playing, running, jumping, exploring, dirtying, fighting, blaming, crying, arguing, laughing, comforting, and being,

when they are into their jammies with damp hair smelling so, so good,

we get to my very favorite part.

I have a chair in our living room: Mommy's Chair. It quite comfortably fits two adults, or one Mommy and two little boys. One on each side. And that's where we finish our day. We read books or watch a movie, or they watch a movie and I read a book. But the best part is the sitting, all snuggled up together.

Tucker wraps my arm around him, and he squishes into the crook of my side. Tyler sits neatly beside me, alternating between full independence and full snuggle-in, but never, ever leaving his spot. Me and my buddies.

I love the contagious, overwhelming peace of being with them, in that place. It is equally mine and ours.

So beautiful to me.

***
I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with his mother;
I am a little child.
Psalm 131:2

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cursing my Name

We borrowed a book from the library. It tells the charming story of a little girl who hosts a dinner party with dozens of guests, all while her mother is chatting on the phone, thinking the little girl is getting ready for bed.

As more and more guests arrive, the little girl feels more and more overwhelmed, calling for help from her distracted, chatting mother. (I fear I have been this mom, on occasion.) As the guests, caterers, magician, and musicians arrive, she keeps calling, "Mommmmma!"

(I will not tell you how it ends, in case you'd like to check it out for yourself. Plus, it's not that much different from The Cat in the Hat.)

During the first bedtime I read the book, I threw myself into the characters, carefully portraying the little girl's dismay over hosting a party with no adult help. As she called for her Momma again and again, I let my voice grow more and more agitated. "Mommma!"

Except I didn't realize that I wasn't simply narrating... I was modeling.

And now Tyler has learned a new way to speak the name of his beloved mother, anytime he would like her attention. "Mommma! MOMMMMMAAA!"

I don't think so. This is not a fictional account of our lives, cute and clever boy. Try again.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blend of Stories

"Mommy, I can't wait for Christmas, when Santa comes with all his donkeys."

(Donkeys?)

"Do you mean reindeer?"

"Oh. Yes. His reindeer."

(I fear he may also think that Mary and Joseph arrived on a sleigh with eight reindeer. Time to revisit and differentiate our Christmas stories.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

So... lucky.

So, apparently there's a legend somewhere that says one gleans luck by rubbing the head of someone who has red hair. More often than I can believe, people try to better their chances at life by encountering Tyler.

Today, a very friendly (and oddly strange) woman approached us. She looked at Tyler and said, "Oh, you're so very lucky with your red hair."

Then to me, she asked, "May I touch it? May I touch his hair?"

"Well, you can ask him."

"May I touch your hair?"

Lowering his chin and his gaze, my sweet boy said, "No, thank you." Way to go, kiddo. Personal boundaries. They're yours, too.

She touched his shoe instead, which he was minimally okay with. She went on to say that she had three redheads of her own, and she "always told them they were special. Actually, I told them they were mutants. Because redheads are nearly extinct you know." She slugged me in the arm and said, "So, you, you have more children."

Polite smile. (Are we finished?)

We parted ways, as she called out to us how lucky we were. And apparently partly mutant.

I carried Tyler out of the store, and I said, "Sorry, buddy. She was a little weird."

"Yeah, Mommy. Weird."

Legend or not, that's weird. Please, throw a penny in a fountain. Pick a four leaf clover. But don't ask to rub my son's head.

It weirds him out, just a bit.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What Business is it of Yours?

On a stroll through the mall this morning...

Me: "Guys, let's look for a bathroom. Mommy needs to go."

Tuck: "Oh, Mommy, you have to poop?"

Me: "Well, I just need to use the bathroom."

And I'd rather not announce my intentions to all the fellow shoppers, thanks.

Tuck: "Right, but do you need to poop?"

Me: "Tuck, I just have to go to the bathroom."

Tuck: "Why? Do you have to pee? Or is it poop?"

Oh, for crying out loud. I do not wish to discuss this further, right here in the food court.

Me: "I'll just wait and see when we get there."

Tuck: "Right. I'll watch and see when you're done."

Not what I meant.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Shall Not Correct.

Tucker and Tyler refer to every thick book as "Mommy's Bible." Our home is seemingly full of them, with the books I collect and borrow from the library. All titled in their minds: Mommy's Bible.

And I do not correct them. Deceptive, I know. But it has a nice ring to it.

We're just so spiritual at our house. Mommy has so many Bibles. They're on every bookshelf. Oh, how she reads that Bible. In fact, it's the only book she reads.

Always, always.

(This may only come back to bite me when they point to a fiction novel in the Best Seller display at the grocery store and announce, "Look! It's Mommy's Bible!")

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Getting to Know You.

Sometimes, when I look at pictures of my baby boys...




(Tyler at six months)




(Tucker at six months)

... I think, my goodness, I barely knew you then.

I didn't know yet that Tucker would love his scooter as much as Tyler loves his books. Or that Tuck would dislike string cheese but make up for it with yogurt. Or that Tyler would make friends everywhere we went and take on kids twice his size at any park. Or that Tucker would be a peacemaker and Tyler would rock the boat. I didn't know what it would sound like for them to sing along in the car, or tell what they are thankful for, or who would request Little Einsteins and who would love Zoboomafoo. I had no idea. But now I do. Implicitly.

Sometimes I wonder if I'll look back at pictures of my preschooler and toddler and think that very same thing. My goodness, I barely knew you then.
There's so much more to learn.
What a gift, to know a couple of people that well, from the very beginning.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blasted Free Will.

My kids' free will is a tough pill to swallow.

Tucker is in this new phase of experimenting with obedience. Okay, that in itself is not a new phase. But it's manifesting itself in a new way. He listens to directions and then carefully chooses which part he will ignore, just to await the response. A little cause and effect game, if you will.

I watch him with his preschool computer game. "Make the monkey jump to the left." But see, if the monkey jumps left, the game just continues with more left and right practice. But if he jumps the wrong way, he falls into the water with a big splash. And isn't that just more interesting?

In general, he has learned that games, tasks, and directions are far more interesting when he does it slightly the wrong way. He knows the right answer, and he's bored with that. What else ya' got?

He's toying with directions and consequences, and at home it ranges from merely annoying, clever and creative, or perhaps punishable, depending on the offense. But now he's trying it at speech therapy, which is a whole new ball game.

"Tucker, touch the green five." He touches the red four.

"Tucker, find your name on the table." He knows where it is, but he strolls around the room looking to see if Miss Jill perhaps meant another table that is always otherwise off limits.

Oh, Tucker, come on. It's one thing to be clever or even slightly annoying with this little game at home. But when your speech therapist now thinks you're regressing because you can't follow two-step directions? When your silly response gives her no choice but to conclude that you don't understand? It's one thing when it's an experiment with your computer game. It's another when it is a deceptive reflection of how smart you are, kiddo.

We have talked - and TALKED - about obeying the first time, listening well, following directions, and doing his best. But when it comes down to it, he's in charge of his decision in the moment, and I'm not there to say, "Tuck, straighten up. You know what you're supposed to do."

That dang-blasted free will.

And I know we're at the very beginning of the journey, since nearly all of his choices from here forward will belong to him, for better or for worse, and will thereby let others deduce what they choose by his behavior. And that's a hard pill to swallow . . . and a reminder that he is his own person. I am responsible - to a point. After that? Yours to choose, my Tucker Boy.

And in all of this mental parenting, I am reminded of my own choices as I was growing up.

Like, when I went through high school only halfway applying myself, because I was busying having fun and learning more about people than chemistry, algebra 2, and democracy. Sure, I could have been a 4.0, A+ student. I just didn't care to be.

And like, oh say, when I went to a slumber party the night before my ACT test. I stayed up too late, and I fell asleep during the science portion of the test.

Or, when I went away to college (I got accepted, despite the ACT mishap), and told my parents I felt fine with B's. "B's are good," I declared. Because I didn't want to put forth more than I had to.

I'm pretty sure I could list a few other choices I made, all of which were deceptive reflections of how smart I really am.

What goes around comes around. And I'm learning afresh the challenges of parenting with wisdom, of separating my identity from my child's, and of letting him be whom he chooses to be.

He's four. I'm pretty sure this is the first mile in a long, long path of the same lesson for years to come.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Motherhood Defined

"Mommy, let's make a train. Tyler will be the engine, and I'll be the caboose. You be the track."

~ Tucker

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some Striking Similarities

Tucker: "Someday, I want to go to heaven."

Tyler: "And someday, I want to go to Monkey Business."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A + B = C

A.
B.
C.

Say no more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Birds of a...

It's just that I had only just mopped the floor. Moments before. It was still wet, in fact.

That's when the boys acted on a whim of unplanned creativity. Retrieved from the craft box, they burst open a bag of . . . wait for it . . . rainbow feathers.

Picture a Disney movie pillow fight.

Too many feathers to count. All over the floor. Clinging, even, since the floor was still wet.

And that's why I don't mop.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Here's the Thing.

So, if the goal of parenting is to teach my children to behave appropriately and grow into fully functioning, independent, God-fearing men of integrity and with good manners who honor women and respect authority,

(pause to take a breath)

then here's the glitch in the dailiness of it:

Our most productive days are the ones most difficult to endure.

(Is this true anywhere else, in any other profession? Who else says, "Oh, everything went wrong today. Nobody followed the guidelines in the handbook. We were so productive. Those are they days when we get the most done.")

When they obey, treat each other kindly, put away their toys, and act within the set boundaries, sure, learning happens. But those days reinforce what we set in place on another, much harder, day.

They learn the most when they whine, test me, push buttons, practice poor manners, destroy toys, hurt each other, and disobey . . . and then feel the consequences. Which means I have to be the one on my toes, forever ready to respond directly and appropriately (with a calm, firm voice, please, God) so they can experiment and see without fail exactly the effect of their causes.

Those trying days offer the most authentic learning . . . and bend me backward in exhaustion, or on my knees asking for grace (sometimes both, in one acrobatic swoop).

When they're learning the most, we're working toward the goal.

This is one tough gig.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Authentic Research

Okay. So. I went to 'a sandwich shop' earlier this week. I shall not divulge any proper nouns, but they had some skilled 'artists' behind the counter, let's just say. Upon my entrance, I learned that they were conducting some research on their sandwiches, and if I would simply agree to participate and answer a few questions, I could have a free sandwich.

Free? Say no more. Done. Sign me up.

So, indeed, I filled out their paperwork, offered them my phone number, gathered my coupon, and ate a free - and delicious - sandwich of the custom-made variety.

But that's not quite where it ends. Because that in itself is not entirely bloggable. Read on.

Tonight, on our way home from a stellar date (that ended at 8:15 because we are older and more tired than ever before), my cell phone rang. Turns out: it's a guy following up on my sandwich experience.

"Ma'am, could I ask you a few questions about your sandwich experience this week?"

"Sure."

"Okay. How are you?"

(Like, right now? Or how was I during my sandwich experience? Or how am I about my sandwich experience? And can we please stop calling it my sandwich experience?)

"I'm fine. Thank you."

"Okay. Let's see. It says here you had an oven roasted chicken sandwich."

"'Tis true."

"I'm sorry. What?"

Sorry. Too quick on the varied answers, apparently.

"Yes. I did. Yes. Oven roasted. That's me."

"Okay. And it says you had it with cheese?"

"No, no cheese."

"But it says you had grated parmesan."

"But I didn't. No cheese."

"No cheese. Hmmm. Okay. And you had it toasted?"

"No."

"It was supposed to be toasted."

"But I didn't want it toasted."

"But it was supposed to be."

"Well, it wasn't."

"Could you clarify, for our interview?"

"Yes. I asked for it to be untoasted, and I received it untoasted. Per my request."

"Hmmm." This was getting complicated. Not so much for me, but for the poor interviewer.

(Note: I will spare you most of the details. The conversation was no less than 25 minutes long.)

"Okay, ma'am, for the following questions, would you please answer with one of the following choices: I liked very much, I liked a little, I neither liked nor disliked, I disliked a little, or I disliked very much."

That's kind of a lot of choices to remember in the car. But... "Sure."

"How would you rate the overall appearance of the sandwich?"

"I liked it."

"Okay. But would you say you liked it very much, you liked it a little, or you neither liked nor disliked it."

Are you kidding me? We can't do this online, with a few click-click-clicks??

"Um, I liked it very much."

"Okay. And the overall size of the sandwich. Would you say it is much too big and hefty, somewhat too big and hefty, just about right, somewhat too small and skimpy, or much too small and skimpy?"

I burst out laughing. "I'm sorry... did you just say 'hefty?'"

"I did."

"Okay. It was big enough."

"Ma'am, was it too big and hefty?"

"Oh, right. Hefty. It was hefty. Just about right, I mean." Since I prefer not to refer to my portions of anything as 'hefty.'

Honestly. I'm pretty sure Bill Gates or somebody had this exact situation in mind when they invented a faster, more efficient way.

"And you mentioned it was toasted."

"No, I didn't."

"Ma'am, it's just the way the interview is worded."

"Um, okay. But I didn't."

"I know. Would you say it was toasted way too much, a little too much, just about right, a little too little, or toasted way too little?"

"It wasn't toasted."

"I know."

"So... I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to say."

"Well, I can't tell you what to say."

"Okay. Right. I guess it was just right. Untoasted. Like I wanted it."

"Right. And would you say it was toasted much too hot, a little too hot, just about right, a little too cool, or much too cool?"

"I don't think I understand the question."

"How was it toasted?"

"It wasn't."

"I know."

(Am I being punk'd?)

"Then... I suppose I would say it was just right."

"Thank you, ma'am."

We discussed each and every vegetable and condiment on the sandwich, the texture of the bread, the sweetness of the sandwich, the chewiness of the chicken, and the messiness of the experience.

"Slightly messy."

"But ma'am, would you say it was much too messy, a little too messy, just about right, a little neat, or very neat?"

For heaven's sake. "A little messy. I think I used four napkins."

As we were approaching the second half-hour of the conversation, and into the personal health questions regarding my overall diet preferences and the last time I was on a diet similar to South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers, or Jenni Craig, I asked if we could please pause and continue another time.

And so we will. Tomorrow afternoon. The fun continues.

(Unbelievable.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just One Day a Year


Poor guy.


He's crying over his fruity Cheerios . . . because it's not his birthday.


His strongest fighting words have been, "Stop it, Tyler. It's not your birthday." As if it is still his, and as if any behavior is permissible when 'it's your birthday.' So, we needed to have a lengthy conversation this morning. No, it's not Tyler's birthday. But no, it's not Tucker's birthday anymore either. One day a year, kiddo. And it happened . . . last week.


Hence, buckets of tears. And even a pointed finger, if you look closely.


(He comes by it honestly, since his mother claims all of July.)


Sorry, Tuck. We can start a paper chain, if you want to.
359 links to go.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mr. Morning Sunshine

(overheard morning conversation from the bunkbeds...)

Tucker: Tyler? Tyler. Ty. Wake up.

Tyler: No words, Tucker.

Tucker: Just a little bit.

Tyler: No. No words. Please. No words.

(They make me laugh. A lot.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Gift of Time

Confession.

Few things infuriate me more than a crystal clear picture in my mind of what I want to write about - descriptions, dialogue, or characters ruthlessly unfolding in my mind - coupled with a denied opportunity to write.

More specifically: when my children choose to play/talk/laugh through their naptime, it feels like a broken promise. Like I did my part to fulfill their morning, and they did their part to take away my afternoon.

Honestly. It robs my patience and seemingly my wisdom. This happened one day this week, and I was inordinately frustrated with their wakefulness. Did they not get the memo? Naptime is nonnegotiable. It belongs to me.

But, I am reading Simple Abundance, a book about embracing my creative, authentic self in the midst of my everyday realities.

This paragraph patiently waited for my discovery:

"If you're trying to bring forth a dream while caring for a family and holding down a job, you must set your own pace. You must generously give yourself the gift of time. The bottom line is not how fast you make your dream come true, but how steadily you pursue it."
And there it is. Perhaps someone else has tried to live inside the commitment of small children while pursuing goals outside of today. The generous gift of time.
And the hope for fulfilled naps. Tomorrow.