Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Guess It's Official.

It occurs to me: I acquired two new titles in 2008: writer and professional editor.

I actually used these words to describe myself this week, and those titles rolled off my tongue so easily... I didn't even really realize that I have truly become them. Shouldn't I have to do something more official to claim these titles? It seems like I should.

But then, I just sent a manuscript to a publisher. Of my own writing. Which implies that I am a writer.

And I have 60+ pages of editing contracts open on my desktop even as I blog, and such editing projects have made way for me to do the stay-at-home things I so often complain about. I guess it has become my profession (or one of them), which would lead one to deduce that I am a professional editor.

Interesting to me.

(Perhaps mindlessly obvious to you. But such is the path of self-discovery, so often.)

p.s. Apart from the titles (or perhaps in support of them), 2008 also became my year of the adult beverage. I learned to drink wine and coffee. It just seemed like a writer and editor should be open to such things.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sixty-two Years.

I may not get over this. I hope I don't forget this anytime soon.

I met some friends for lunch today, and as we chatted away on our various topics, my mom stopped midsentence, concerned by the sight just outside our window. A very elderly couple had arrived in their car, and he had come around to her side to help her out of the car. But he almost dropped her three times, as she could not steady herself on her feet, and he couldn't hold her up on his own. She had a very blank, absent expression on her face, with no flicker of recognition or lucidity.

He struggled time and time again, to no avail. She couldn't help him with the task at hand, and he was growing so frustrated. From our vantage point, he looked impatient and overly aggressive with this little woman who was beyond comprehension. He finally gave up. He set her back in the passenger's seat, and then he wrestled to get her jacket on her stiff, unyielding arms. He threw his hands in the air, he closed her door in exasperation, and he walked to his side of the car. He got into the driver's seat, and he told her his frustration.

We couldn't hear him, but the conversation needed no translation. It was very clear.

What were we to do? He seemed like such an angry man, so impatient... if we offered to help, he would probably be offended. He would probably yell at us, storm off in his car, and take out his embarrassment on his wife who couldn't carry her own weight, let alone his burdens. She was his burden.

We were torn. We could not take our eyes off them, and yet we didn't know what to do. He opened his door; it looked like he had gathered his composure and he wanted to try again. The poor man just wanted to take his wife to lunch.

I said to my friend, "Let's go. Let's at least offer. What's the worst that can happen? He'll say no, and we'll come inside. But we have to offer."

So we stepped outside and approached his car, preparing for the worst. I introduced myself, she introduced herself, and the old man's face softened. He said, "Hello, ladies. What is it that you want?"

"Well, we were just noticing that you are struggling to help her out of the car. And we wondered if you might like some help."

He gently closed his car door, and he spoke with a very gentle, tender voice. "My wife has Alzheimer's. I can't get her coat on. We've never been here before. I just wanted to try some place new. I just can't get her coat on."

He wasn't mean at all. He was gentle and kind, and so very, very tired.

"Can we help you?"

"No, I think I've got it now. I've got her. I'll try again." Now, hours later, that phrase strikes me with its potency: I've got her. He sure does. In every way, she is his.

He thanked us for our kindness, and we excused ourselves to come inside. Moments later, he followed us, with his frail, absent wife at his side. They sat at the table next to ours. He placed her gently in the booth, and then he touched my arm with tears in his eyes. "Thank you. Thank you. That is the kindest thing you could have done for me."

I assured him that it was my pleasure, and I showed him where to get in line to order his food. We shared our breadsticks with his wife while she waited for him to return. Her face lit up, as if she recognized me... or maybe she felt like she should know me, but she can't trust herself to know who she should know.

Suddenly, her face changed to panic. Without words, she was terrified. She suddenly did not know where she was, where he had gone, or if he would be back. I touched her arm, and I said, "He'll be back. I promise. He's getting your food. He'll be back."

Her face softened, but she touched her forehead with her hand, in total anguish. She broke my heart. I needed to check on him.

As I approached the counter, the poor man was standing there, with two cups and a pager in hand. Nobody told him that the drink fountain is around the corner. Nobody told him that they will page him when his food is ready. He could only raise his cup, again and again, saying, "Could I have a coke, please? Coke? Please?"

I said, "Here you go, sir. Let me show you." I helped him fill his cups with Coke. I walked him to his table, with napkins, forks, and spoons. As the pager vibrated, I retrieved and delivered their two pieces of pizza. (I do have some history in the food business, after all. I can wait tables with the best of them... fast food or otherwise.)

We got them settled with their meals, and we left them to their lunch.

But our own lunch table, once chatty and exuberant, was somber and reserved. We had left many topics, dangling and unfinished. But what was there to say?

As we finished our lunch, cleared our table, and prepared to leave, we stopped to say goodbye to them. The very sweet, gentle, old man said, "I wish you could have met my wife three years ago, before all this. We've been married for sixty-two years. She is a lovely lady."

She sure is. And he took her out for lunch today. As I drove home, I cried in my car. And again and again, I said to myself, "Sixty-two years."

The Second Time Around

When I was a brand new mom, other (more seasoned) moms used to smile knowingly at the choices I made with my little boy. I was so careful, so aware, so intense, so intentional, so determined to get this right, do this right, and raise him right. I was determined.

Their knowing smile, and sometimes their comments, said, “Of course, Honey. He’s your first. Just wait until the second one comes along. Then you’ll see.”

I admit; I was mildly offended by the assumption that my parenting style could change. Sure, this is historically true. Parents are harder on number one, with expectations and rules and guidelines and routines. But not me. I had no intention of altering anything having to do with the daily choices I made on behalf of my child, his well being, and his journey to independent adulthood.

And then my second son was born. Oh, my. Things have changed.

With my first, I waited and waited to introduce his first solid foods, since I was just sure that early flavors could bring early allergies, and I already felt guilty for not making my own baby foods. If I was going to invite those processed toxins into my baby, I would at least wait until he was six months old. But with my second, I didn’t even wait for the green light from the doctor. After all, solid foods in his tummy meant a longer stretch of sleep at night. Let’s do it. Yesterday.

With my first, I taught him to feed himself with a spoon as soon as he showed any interest, giving him yogurt and applesauce, a bib, and letting him go to it. I had no idea what a mess I was inviting. With my second, I gave him neat little finger foods for as long as possible… let’s save the mess for another day.

With my first, I carefully monitored the TV. Absolutely NO TV before it’s absolutely necessary, and then I will set the timer and watch the clock and make sure that we do not exceed thirty minutes a day. With my second? Um, it’s a Press Play Day. Bring on the DVDs.

With my first, I faithfully established naptime and bedtime routines, all of which included a book. After all, I was going to do my part to promote early literacy, giving him his fifteen minutes a day which lead to hundreds of hours of individualized literacy education before kindergarten. But with my second, I am so doggone tired and ready for these boys to go to bed; if he gets a book at all, it’s the stand up version at the side of the crib.

With my first, I absolutely did not allow him to throw food off his high chair tray. That was a hill to die on, and I would not raise a child with poor table manners. But when the second arrived, it nearly became a free for all. Whatever. The dog will clean it up later.

With my first, I carefully recorded every single visit to the pediatrician. When did we go, why did we go, how much did he weigh, what did the doctor say…. With my second, well, I keep forgetting to take him. We were a month late for his 15-month checkup and two months late for his 18-month. And I can’t remember how much he weighs.

With my first, I took hundreds of pictures, and I stored them all on beautifully decorated scrapbook pages. With my second, I’m still busily taking pictures, but…ahem, he has no scrapbook. But that is not unique to him; I haven’t recorded anything past his older brother’s first birthday. I’m a little behind.

With my first, we decorated his carseat with darling little toys to stimulate his learning environment. One of them was a plush dog on a string; he could learn to pull the puppy dog from the handle of the carseat, and it would bark-bark-bark as it inched back up the string. The first time he pulled that puppy, we were so delighted with his brilliance that I made my husband pull over to the side of the road so we could watch him do it again. When the second son did the same thing, I continued driving and thought to myself, “Oh, he probably did it on accident.”
Look what has happened to me. I wasn’t going to be that mom… and look what has happened. I am, indeed, that mom. Like all the rest of them… who probably also planned on doing it all right every single time with every single child.

And now, when I see a new mom pick up a pacifier off the floor and sterilize it before giving it to the baby, now I smile knowingly, too.

How Many??

Tucker counted his toes this morning, one at a time.
"One, two, three, four, five, six. I have two toes."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So Sad Today

In our potty training efforts today, as we stood above the potty and waited for action, Tucker said, "Oh, the potty is so sad today."

"The potty is sad? Why?"

"He misses his mommy."

I could have told him that the potty is sad because Tucker won't use it.

But instead, I let creativity live in the moment. After all, I didn't even know a potty has a mommy, let alone the ability to miss her.

The things you learn on this job.

Happy Birthday to You, too.

When our morning stretches into the afternoon, and when we are still in the car when naptime is approaching, and when the 'sleepies' have hit but the cozy beds are far away, then my number one priority becomes keeping these boys awake.

If they fall asleep before we get home, then they will awake in the transition, all naptimes will be lost, and I will be toast. I try to keep us safe in our travels, but really, even more important to me is that they keep their eyes open.

In today's efforts, we sang Happy Birthday. Again and again.

We sang to Tucker, Tyler, Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Poppa, and Abby. Then we sang to Elmo, Bob, Larry, dinosaurs, bananas, orange, white, lights, shoes, and cheese. And then cheese again. Happy Birthday, dear cheese.

A personalized verse for every single one on the list. And the little singers stayed awake.

Mission accomplished.

But If You Understood...

In our morning adventures today, we went to the mall. The boys got to toss pennies into the fountain and say hello to the puppies. In exchange, I bought a new book I had been coveting. A good visit for all of us.

As I was checking out at the bookstore, my children started to lose their minds. Tyler was in the stroller and Tucker was pushing his buttons (and mine, if we're honest). It's always a great experience when I need to pause my transaction with the person behind the counter so I can put my child in timeout at my feet.

The sales clerk smiled gently and said, "Oh, don't you worry. I understand. How far apart are they in age?"

"Twenty months."

"I definitely understand. Mine are 13 months apart."

I breathed a sigh of relief for our shared journey, as I handed her my credit card. She does understand then.

"Then you know how busy I am!"

"Indeed I do. My boys are seven and eight now."

On a whim, since I felt like we were friends now, I quipped, "Are yours potty trained? Because I don't think mine ever will be, and it would really encourage me if you could promise me that yours are not in diapers."

Instead of offering me a pat on the back, a kind nod of understanding, and a promise that this too shall pass, she launched into a story of her own experiences with her two sons. She told me what worked, what didn't, her last resort strategies, how they trained differently, blah, blah, blah.

All the while, Tucker was still in timeout at my feet, and she had not yet swiped my credit card. Tyler's stroller was rolling away because Tucker had kicked it, nobody was sitting still or quietly, and I was torn between listening intently to the advicce I had indeed sought, or correcting my son for his willful disobedience in this inopportune scene of discipline.

I was practicing the balance of maintaining eye contact while wildly waving my hand and snapping my fingers underneath the counter.

She kept talking. And holding my credit card. Oblivious to the truth that I had interrupted her three times to get my children back on track, back in the stroller, or back in my line of vision.

I finally had to interrupt her and say, "Really, thank you. I just have to wrap this up."

Honestly?? She said she understood the demands of my life, and yet she held me captive while my children stole my dignity, my patience, and nearly my clothes.

Next time, I will simply say, "Oh, yes. Then you do understand."
I won't ask her to prove it. Next time, I won't ask.

Now That's an Analogy I Understand.

"Your work as a writer, when you are giving everything you have to your characters and your readers, will periodically make you feel like a single parent of a three-year-old, who is, by turns, wonderful, willful, terrible, crazed, and adoring.

"Toddlers can make you feel as if you have violated some archaic law in their personal Koran and you should die, infidel. Other times, they'll reach out and touch you like adoring grandparents on their deathbeds, trying to memorize your face with their hands.

"But they are always yours, your books as well as your children. You helped bring your work into being, and every day you have to feed it, help it stay well, give it advice and love it when it ignores you.

"Your three-year-old and your work in progress teach you to give. They teach you to get out of yourself and become a person for someone else. This is probably the secret to happiness. So that's one reason to write.

"Your child and your work hold you hostage, suck you dry, ruin your sleep, mess with your head, treat you like dirt, and then you discover they've given you that gold nugget you were looking for all along."

~ Anne Lamott
(You guessed it. It's her again.)
I read books for lots of reasons... sometimes I choose it because I liked the cover. Other books come recommended. Some are a fun, fictional getaway. Others are so deep I have to read in small chunks and soak it in. But still others, like this one, are such a parallel to the life I am living (or pursuing) that I could not have chosen a better season to dive in.
I'm almost done with this I'm trying to read more slowly.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"You're going to blog about a LAMP?"

Yes. I am. And here it is.

Observation skills are not my strongsuit. I'm not quick to notice new things, I don't carefully watch my surroundings, I have never in my life won an Easter Egg Hunt, and my family has had a lifelong joke which lovingly states, "Tricia couldn't find a red scarf on white carpet."

Nice. I have always found it especially amusing. (I can at least smile about it now.)

I get easily accustomed to the things around me, and I just forget to really look at them. (This explains why Tyler was over a year old before I realized that the wall in his bedroom still boasted Tucker's name. Poor kid. His brother had long moved out of the nursery, but he didn't take his name with him. It's because I stopped noticing.)

I have become more intentional about such things, which led me to pay closer attention to the lamp on my bedside table: the one filled with seashells and topped with a mauve lampshade.

The whole table: utilitarian. It meets the need. And I stopped looking at it.

The lamp has been my faithful bedside companion since I was ten years old. That is some serious commitment. Perhaps it's time to get a new one, after twenty years with the beloved pink lampshade. Of course I didn't want to be premature in this transition, but I really felt strongly. It was time.

So today was my day. A discount on all of Hobby Lobby's home accents sealed the deal.

Look at this new beauty. Complete with a ribbon of chocolate brown satin. (Insert my clasped hands to my cheek and a sigh of admiration.)

As soon as I put the boys down for their naps, I rushed to begin my new Extreme Bedside Table Makeover. Here is the new look:

Simple. Classic. Doesn't it look like a grownup sleeps here?

She does. Her name is me. I cannot wait to wake up tomorrow, just to look at this new corner that is mine, free of anything that belongs to any boy, big or small.

And sometimes, when our home and its demands are crashing down around me, I have found the beauty and satisfaction of changing one small area in a really dramatic way.

And that's what happened today. I feel like a new woman.

With a new lamp.

Phrase of the Day

This new phrase made its grand debut today: "Tyler do it."

I comb his hair. "Tyler do it."

I put him in his high chair. "Tyler do it."

I put him in his carseat, and I attempt to strap his seatbelt. "Tyler do it."

He needs to do everything, by himself, at all times, for every reason.

So, you know, that's fun.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I Think I'm Going to Borrow That One.

Earlier this evening, during a lesson on analogies, my student said to me:

"Jet is to plane as ferry is to boat. And ferry is a kind of boat, but it's also like a little tiny princess. Like the tooth fairy."

(Sidenote: I love the random conversations that are the side dish of teaching small children.)

The boy next to him chimed in: "And I heard that the tooth fairy looks like one of your relatives."

The first boy asked, "She does?? Have you seen her?"

Second boy: "Nope. But I know she looks like someone in my family."

Well, somebody has a very smart mommy.

(I'll tuck that one away.)

How is it...

How is it,
after multiple warnings and ineffective timeouts,
that I still feel like I'm the one to blame
when I have to resort to spanking?

The Secret

Monday is my laundry day.

Today I learned a new trick: if I wait until Saturday to put the boys' clothes away from the previoius laundry Monday, then there is far less of their laundry to fold and put away this week.

Brilliant. (Never mind the slim pickin's in the dresser drawers and closet.)

Perhaps I'll stop putting any of it away. I think we're on to something.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Enter: Imagination

It turns out, you need words to have an imagination. Since Tucker's words were late to arrive, his imagination also waited a bit to appear.

But it's here.

Today, he stopped mid-stride, put his hand to his ear, and said, "Hey! Do you hear that sound?"

I listened. "No, I don't hear anything."

"Listen. Hear it? It's a cow. And it's coming. In the house, very fast. Run!"

And he took off. And I finished folding laundry, not terribly concerned about being consumed by cattle. But Tyler ran alongside him, since a little brother can never be too sure.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Today is my half-birthday. And I didn't even know it, until a package arrived in the mail.

Here's to fun friends who watch the calendar more closely than I do.

(And happy half-birthday to me. I had myself a cookie. Or two.)

Members Only

"There should be a special club
for those of us who've read
Good Night, Moon
twice each night for over a year."
~ Overheard Mom

Breakfast Date

My lucky ducks went on a Saturday morning breakfast date with Grandma and Poppa today.
Everyone talked about the pancakes for the rest of the day:
a happy face with eyes, nose, and "bannas."
As the story goes, when this masterpiece arrived at the table,
Tucker said, "Oh,Grandma! Take a picture!"
Tomorrow's fruit bars with a side of Rice Krispies won't have quite the same charm.
Even with their snaps, crackles, and pops.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Small Scale Surgery

Tuck got a splinter as we played outside yesterday.

Dr. Daddy removed it today, with help from his assistant, Nurse Mommy. Robb went at it with his sterilized needle and tweezers, and I held the patient and sang Five Little Ducks and I Am a Promise.

That's not my favorite.

But he was very brave, and he got two band-aids, some Neosporin, and an m&m on the other side of the procedure.

I have hated splinters from the first day I met them. Now I have a new reason to hate them.

So THAT'S how it happens.

Tucker has a black eye from a mishap with a grocery cart in the Costco parking lot.

(I wish I could say it was more his fault than mine, but since I was steering the cart, I was definitely part of the problem. Me, and the speed bump that sent his face hurtling into the side of the cart. Anyway, now he has a black eye.)

Tyler took his bib off over his head, in a fit of independence. As a result, he has a relatively permanent case of bedhead with several degrees of crustiness until his next bath.

I woke up him from his nap yesterday, and he did not wish to be woken up. So he was angry, hurt, crushed, broken hearted, and disappointed by all that is his life. Cry, cry, cry.

So he didn't want me to put on his shoes and socks. For the rest of the day. No, thank you. Barefoot it is.

I've given you all of those tidbits to say this: with all of those factors in play, I needed to run to the grocery store yesterday. Just a quick run - literally, just for a loaf of bread. But suddenly, we could not keep these secrets to ourselves.

There I was, with my older son who has a black eye, and my younger son with crusty hair, barefeet in January, and a scowl. We were, um, not our best.

I've given a second glance to such families at the grocery store before, wondering how they escaped their homes without more careful planning.

Now, I see how that happens.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Words of Wisdom

I called my mom for a different reason, but while we were talking I landed on the path of an unavoidable tirade about this morning's battles. Just before I hung up to address the current matter, she said to me:

"Just remember, if you kill him, you don't get grandchildren."
Good to keep in mind.
I hear there's a payoff eventually.


"Having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain."
~ Martin Hull

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Look who sang Happy Birthday to Poppa today.

I couldn't have wrapped a better present.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
You're the cream cheese frosting on the carrot cake of my life.

Monday, January 19, 2009


We went to the park today. It's the January version of Indian Summer, and we are enjoying consecutive days of sunshine and sixties. Pretty amazing. It feels downright sinful to stay inside.

So, we ventured to our favorite park, met up with some friends, and settled in for some swings, slides, and sand.

Tyler explored near the sandbox, where some bigger boys (probably six or seven) were building a fort or digging a tunnel or something equally important and intentional. As Tyler looked more closely (but not too closely), one of the bigger boys said, "Hey! Hey, kid! Get away, now! Don't you touch my sand!"

Okay. Hold it right there, kiddo. There will be no more of this.

Here's the thing. I may look like a softie, and in general, I am. But don't mess with my kids. And, don't lose sight of the fact that I was a teacher before I became a mom. Classroom management is a strength of mine, bullying is not something I tolerate anywhere, and you just entered the wrong sandbox with those fighting words. I know how to take charge of such a situation. This scene called for an adult.

I got down on my knees next to this six-year-old, and in my effective and highly authoritative teacher voice, I said, "Excuse me. He is a little boy, and those are not kind words."

Before the boy could respond at all, his dad spoke up. "He was just trying to tell him not to kick over his sand."

Are you seriously defending the fact that your first grader just yelled at my toddler? For no reason?

Turns out, this scene had an adult. Super Dad who brought his kids to the park to teach them social agression.

I stood up, looked at him squarely, and said, "He can use kind words."

He continued to explain that kind words had not worked with other children in the park, and his son had done what he had to do.

This was not a conversation worth continuing. It was time to go anyway, so we packed up our things, gathered our friends and our toys, and we left. No need for that. Sunny days are too short to tolerate bullies at the park. Sons and dads alike.

I was fuming. Fired up. It happens to me. From zero to sixty. That scene pushed all my buttons. I do not lose control, but I do get fired up. Anything that questions the safety of my children, anyone else's, or the integrity of parents and their modeling... well, that's a recipe for my response.

But now, a few hours later, I have replayed it in my mind dozens of times. I'm wondering if I spoke too quickly. I was a mom at the park, but I wonder if I acted as if I was the teacher monitoring the park. It really wasn't my job to correct (or discipline? did I?) the stranger's little boy. And it didn't even occur to me that an adult was standing nearby, supervising, and approving.

Should I have simply intervened by steering Tyler to another corner of the park?

I can't say I would have been thrilled if a stranger had corrected my son's behavior, but if it had been my son to speak so sharply, nobody else would have needed to correct him. I would have been all over it. I have read articles and opinion polls on disciplining other kids in public settings, and it turns out that I could have cast a strong vote in those percentages.

What do you think? Feedback, please.

A Spectacle of Himself

In our morning routine today, somewhere in the process of preparing myself for the day and then Tyler, Tucker decided to go on his morning run. Around the house. Or really, just back and forth as far as possible, from the window in his bedroom to the window in my bathroom.

At topspeed.

It's a favorite, and I nearly lose my mind everyday over this routine. It just does not allow for an especially relaxing environment, but I don't suppose that's why he chooses to do it. (But he's a boy. He has to run. And I have to choose my battles. I choose to let him jog the second floor instead of, oh, jumping off the dresser. Just as an example.)

As he blitzed past me at one moment, I realized he was wearing my glasses.

Let's pause here for a moment to recall that I have vision issues. My glasses do not simply magnify; they are carefully crafted with prisms and bifocals. They are designed to trick my brain, to compensate for poor depth perception, to make things appear different than they are so my eyes can last the day.

And my son was wearing them on his face. Looking through them. As he ran as fast as he could, in a very confined space.

It gives me a headache just thinking about it. And it makes my eyes tired.

Bedtime Makes Me Crazy.

Tucker is making me crazy tonight, in his revolt against bedtime. I am so ready for him to call it a day... and yet, he is sure he must do anything but wrap it up.

He stripped his bed tonight. No covers. On the floor. Sad for him. Guess he'll be cold. (Easy for me to holdfast to that consequence, since it's sixty degrees outside. And I'll probably still cover him up again before we go to bed. But I'm certainly not taking the bait to go into that bedroom again.)

Tyler has chosen this moment to be the ray of sunshine, singing his little songs in his crib, reading books to himself, and happily waving bye-bye as I close his door.

See what a good boy I am, Mommy?
I go to sleep by myself.
Remember this tomorrow
when I bash my brother in the face with a toy.

I Guess I Forgot to Say So.

I was reading Tucker's bedtime story tonight when he alerted me to the corner of the page: a half-moon was torn from the bottom left.

When I asked what happened, he said, "I bit it."

And with that, he reached under his pillow and handed me the proof: the half-moon piece of paper that matches the shape of his mouth.

I didn't realize I needed to advise againt eating the corners off the pages of library books.

Apparently, I do.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Tucker called me Woman.

As in, "Come on, Woman. It's time to go."

Robb occasionally uses this term, since we both think it's funny and far from appropriate in the real sense. He tossed it out there today, and Tucker jumped on it. Woman, woman, woman. He loved the sound of it.

Um, not so much. He was quickly corrected by his father (while I stood upstairs and laughed, out of sight or reach). It was so funny to me, but maybe that is only true because Robb gave it the Kybosh right away. It's definitely not okay for Tuck to have this word in his vocabulary, in reference to me.

My brother tried this for a brief season, after his youth pastor pointed out that it's really very biblical; Jesus himself called Mary 'woman.' As we drove home from church, my brother said, "Woman, what's for lunch today?"

(It didn't fly with my mom, either.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

In Just Six Months...

Last night, Robb said, "So, how shall we celebrate your birthday this year?"

It is January. My birthday is in July.

I love this man.

Friday, January 16, 2009

In the Name of All Things Truthful

So, a few days ago, I wrote about Tucker's smashed finger. In my heart, I knew everything was okay, because his bruised finger did not even slightly compare to my brother's fingers that had been smashed flat when we were small.

I later learned that someone on Facebook asked him to share the story of his smashed finger. He wrote, for all the world to read and believe:

Tricia smashed my finger on purpose

when she stepped on it with her foot

which she had tied a hammer to.

Okay, so not quite. I'm here to restore truth to the world and my standing as a sister and human being. Here's what happened...

We were at a big-party-family-reunion of some kind at a public park in Ohio. The party was happening in a rustic lodge, and I suspect it was with a lot of people we didn't know or like or enjoy tremendously... because we resolved to inventing games of our own.
The restrooms in the lodge had two entrances: one from the inside, and one from the outside. We began racing each other. We started outside, and we raced as fast as we could through our repsective restrooms, opening those monstrous, heavy wooden doors, rushing to be the first one inside.
It was very entertaining, competitive, and highly successful. For a while.
But then I won, by a longshot. Long enough to look around, catch my breath, and determine that Rob was nowhere to be found. Sweet. I won.
Except then I heard him. Screaming.
(This part strikes fear in my heart as a mother.)
In the split second when I knew I needed to find help, my dad heard him screaming too. Ever the hero, he bolted into the restroom in no more than three strides, and he carried my brother out with him. My dad looked panicked, Rob was wailing, and his hand was purple. And flat.
Those monstrous, heavy doors... not so friendly to little fingers. The party stopped. Everyone focused on whether these fingers could be saved.
My mom called the pediatrician (in the days before cell phones), and he told her in a calm, eased voice (much like my Dr. H), "He will be fine. I assure you."
She could not be assured. Frantically, she described the scene and those little fingers. Flat. There is just no other word.
And this is the nugget that has stayed with me, decades later.
In a rare moment, when he truly had to speak harshly to get her panicked attention, he said, "Do you want to panic, or do you want to trust me??"
He got her attention. She listened, and he told her what to do for him. I am happy to tell you, Rob's fingers took their normal shape within a day.
He went on to use those very fingers to play his trumpet in halftime shows all over Northeast Ohio.
And that's the story, and that's how I knew Tucker's fingers would truly be okay afer all. I was present for both incidents. I have a growing collection of experiences and wisdom, gleaned both from growing up with Rob and raising Tucker. They are much the same, those two.

Be Not Discouraged?

On a playdate this morning, I met my friend at her door and said, "And while they play, I am here to get the scoop on potty training."

With a blank stare, she said, "Are you kidding me?? If you know it, tell me."

Her boy is a full year older than Tucker, and they have been battling this for an entire year. And he's still in Pull-Ups and not getting the trick. (In fact, Tucker is a little ahead.)


Yesterday, a fellow mom said, "Let me say this to encourage you: I know a family whose son really struggled and rebelled against the process, and he was still in diapers when he was five."

"Which part of that is supposed to encourage me??"

"Well, I just want you to know that you're not doing anything wrong. The problem isn't you. But on second thought, I guess maybe that story isn't very encouraging."

Not especially, no. (But we did laugh over the misguided notion that it would be.)


This month's issue of Parenting magazine arrived today. The cover boasts this headline:
"Potty Pros: Parents are Outsourcing."

I don't blame them. I may join them.

Hurry! It's Naptime!

Naptime is mine. And it's never long enough. I am only just now learning to use it effectively: it is not about time management but rest management. I must fill that time with the things the fuel me, the things I cannot do when the little men are awake. No laundry, dishes, or vacuuming. I can do that when they are around, underfoot.

I find myself rushing to relax. Hurry, hurry, hurry! They may wake up at any time, and then it's all done for the day. So relax. Now. Hurry.

Today, I even ignored my own needs to go to the bathroom. Who has time for that?

I sit here - reading, writing, collecting ideas, and doing it all with this jittery feeling, as if I can't do it fast enough.

(I'm not sure that's the point. But I'm doing it as fast as I can.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Million Ways

"The most important thing
she'd learned over the years
was that there was no way to be a perfect mother,
but a million ways to be a good one."
~ Jill Churchill, Grime and Punishment

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Today's Trauma

Today's injury: smashed fingers.

Tyler and Tucker were playing some version of Hide-and-Seek combined with Peek-a-Boo, on either side of the closet door in Tyler's room. Suddenly, someone slammed the door shut in a fit of victory, and Tucker's chubby little fingers were in the way.

Poor little guy. His finger swelled up immediately, turning multiple shades of purple. He cried and cried. For a long time. None of my best tricks worked as consolation, and even Mickey Mouse, Bob the Tomato, and Larry the Cucumber couldn't distract him from the throbbing pain. We even tried a little Band-Aid therapy on the surrounding fingers.

(Sidenote: Band-Aid therapy goes a long, long way. At $0.97 for fifty of them, it's cheaper than any other therapy in town. I used to demand blood to negotiate a Band-Aid, but then I realized that it's easier to just hand over the Band-Aid. It may occur to him that he can produce blood, if that is the going currency for a Band-Aid. It's just easier to fork over the goods.)

I called the doctor to confirm the dosage of Motrin for a growing toddler, since ibuprofen is known for its miracle working capabilities.

When I spoke with the nurse, she put me on hold to find the answer. I pictured her consulting the Gigantic Book of All Things Toddler, and I waited for her to come back on the line with a grand total of teaspoons to load him up. Instead, she came back to say, "The doctor would like for you to bring him in. He said that so often smashed fingers turn into broken fingers, and he wants to take a look."

Which doctor? I wanted to ask. But I knew. Because I've been around this beloved practice long enough... I know how each doctor thinks.

Dr. H is the 'granola' of the group. He is whole foods, organic, breastfeed your child until he is five. Offer him a side of breastmilk with his Happy Meal. He takes traumas in stride, he never over reacts, and he calms worrying mothers on a daily basis. If Dr H had been the one to take the call, he would have said, "Oh, he's probably fine. Give him some Motrin, keep an eye on that finger, and if it falls off, give me a call."

Dr. M is quite the opposite: he is the alarmist. Bumps, scrapes, and rashes deserve the five alarm, and he brings us in for them all. His approach is thorough, and he validates worrying mothers on a daily basis. When in doubt, bring in the patient.

(There are many other doctors and nurses who fall between these two extremes, including one physician's assistant who is pretty sure that too many things are the result of an ear infection.)

While Dr. H only worries if appendages fall off, Dr. M presumes that we may need to amputate. I appreciate both approaches, since I have needed each end of the spectrum, depending on the ailment. And it is a unique practice which offers doctors who completely disagree with one another without dishonoring the other's credibility.

But today, I was fairly certain nothing was broken. My brother suffered a smashed finger of crushing proportions when we were kids, and Tucker's finger was nothing like Rob's. My brother's was smashed flat, but it revived in a matter of time. No X-rays, no splints, not even a Band-Aid.

I suspected that Tuck was fine... still, what if I was wrong? Who wants to be the mother who ignored the doctor's advice, and now her son's growing fingers are forever misshapen because she took matters into her own hands? Well, not me.

So, I deposited Tyler with the neighbor, and off we went.

As we arrived at the doctor's office, Tuck went straight to playing with toys. He wasn't crying anymore, but he also wasn't using his smashed hand. A little tender, to be expected. A nurse came out to chat with us, and also to extend sympathy and hear the growing saga. She said, "Oh, he'll live. My son did that when he was small... [insert details to confirm why her situation is worse than mine], and he lived."

Thank you for this affirmation, while I am handing over the co-pay. I too know that he will be just fine, A-okay, none the lesser, and tremendously resilient. Still, I need to hear these words from someone who wears a stethoscope.

When it was our turn, they escorted us to the trauma room. We've been here before. More than once. So much so, they have offered to hang a plaque naming it the Tucker Room. And here we were, again.

We saw Dr. S today, a respectable combination between the above extremes. She checked him out, confirmed no fracture, wrapped his fingers in tape (equally to stabilize as well as to show off the injury, I am quite certain).

With bandages on his fingers and stickers on his shirt, we were set to go on with our day.

He is a little sore, a little puffy, and definitely racking up the sympathy points wherever he can find them. But he is just fine.

And mother's intution wins again.

Disgusting Discovery of the Day

Tyler discovered his nostrils.

It was bound to happen.

(Why did God make fingers the same size as nostrils?)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Snow Hike

Yesterday brought a very unexpected snowstorm, and the ground was covered with a few inches of snow when we woke up in the morning.

For most of the city, this presented quite a hazard, and people all over town struggled with their commute. (And believe me, I was thankful not to have my own familiar 41 mile commute from my teaching days...) We settled in for a stay-at-home day, which often presents a few hazards of its own. Basically, I'm just not good at them.

When we were all getting a little cramped, needing some fresh air and a change of scenery, I declared a Snow Hike. I bundled us all, and we braved the elements into the front yard.
The whole thing lasted about 34 seconds. Tyler got some snow in his mittens, and it was time to call it a day. Truly, we spent more time getting ready for the outside than we actually spent outside. In his defense, he wasn't the only one finished with the plan. Tucker didn't argue, and I wasn't disappointed.

It turns out, I much prefer to be the mom who waits inside and prepares hot cocoa.


There is this place, on our daily drive, where suddenly the buildings clear and the trees step aside, and the Rocky Mountains stretch from left to right. It's panoramic, and it's pretty great. I have loved it from the day we moved here, and I promised myself that I would never stop loving that moment when it all breaks free before me.

And yet, somehow, I have let myself stop noticing.

In the car today, as we drove Tuck to preschool, he noticed them. "Mommy! Look! Mountains!"

I try to remain aware of opportunities to teach my children, whether the lesson is about washing our hands, using kind words, or eating balanced meals. And in this moment, I sensed my chance to teach my little man about our Maker. (I don't always catch the moment, but this time I did.)

"You are so right, Tuck. God made those mountains. I love them too. Sometimes, I like to thank God for them."

And right then, in the backseat, Tucker said,

"Thanks, God. So beautiful. Tucker so happy. Thank you."
And on we went with our drive.
Except that I felt like I had just eavesdropped on a conversation between Tucker and God. I am not yet over the simplicity, the purity, the beauty... and may I never be. It's possible that my son's words touched the heart of God more deeply than the studies of any theologian today. Tuck just couldn't help himself. Thanks, God.
A year ago, Tuck wasn't yet talking. Today, he talked to God.
And maybe God is thinking, "You're welcome, kiddo. I made them for you."

I Knew I Liked Her.

It is naptime, and I am visiting with Anne Lamott. Vicariously. Through her writing, not really in my chair with me. (Hence, the New Year's Resolution... I'm reading more. Without apologies.)

Listen to this...

"We have so much to remember these days. So we make all these lists, filled with hope that they will remind us of all the important things to do and buy and mail, all the important calls we need to make, all the ideas we have for short stories or articles. And yet by the time you get around to everything on any one list, you're already behind on another. Still, I believe in lists and I believe in taking notes, and I believe in index cards for doing both."

She goes on to talk about her personal methodology for catching ideas as a writer, which is to have an index card with her at all times, just in case something strikes that she must capture right away.

She also writes:

"One of the things that happens when you give yourself permission to start writing is that you start thinking like a writer. You start seeing everything as material."

So true. I have learned this, firsthand, since this blog and I began our journey together.

In my daily routine of list making, I have a box called, simply, Blog. And that is where I store the events and ideas of the day, until I can plant myself here and unleash them. And look at that... it's what real writers do.

I love Anne. And her permission and affirmation of my own similar methods, however unorganized they are, depending on the day.

That woman makes me want to write.

Oh, and here is one more quote which I couldn't part with (with regard to memory loss, why it's important to capture ideas as they pass by, and the true consequences of bearing children):

"When a child comes out of your body,
it arrives with about a fifth of your brain clutched in its little hand."
Yet another reason to make lists. Thanks, Anne.

It's Been...a Morning.

At breakfast, Tyler threw his sippy cup across the table, which sent Tucker's bowl of raisin bran flying. I mandated Tyler's help in cleaning it up, so he was on the floor with paper towels while Tucker cried in his chair. (He routinely doesn't eat his raisin bran, but the absence of it broke his heart.)

Next, we all sat on the bathroom floor, as Tucker sat on the potty. I read book after book after book, while Tucker listened and listened... but did not produce. Anything.

When I went upstairs to get dressed, leaving Tuck to have some 'privacy' (just in case that's what he's waiting on), I came back down to find everyone soaking wet. Apparently, my two children took certain liberties with Molly's water dish, but I cannot be sure what that entailed since I was upstairs. Silly me, wanting to get dressed. (I still haven't accomplished that task.)

I had to lock myself in the bathroom to clean up that very wet mess, which meant starting another load of laundry... towels, rugs, you know. I did not need little hands or helpers, in that precise moment.

Just after that, we all traipsed upstairs to get them dressed at least.

Tyler wasn't in the mood. So he kicked and punched until I had to retaliate, which broke his heart... all the while, Tucker cheered from inside the closet, where he had taken a basket on his imaginary trip to Disney World. (Always to see Uncle Rob first, then Mickey Mouse second.) He really wanted Tyler to go with him on his trip, but alas, Tyler was restrained on the changing table. Getting dressed. Believe me, he does not need any distractions from elsewhere. It is a fulltime job to get the task done.

When it was time to get Tucker dressed, the two of them hassled each other over something near the closet door, until the door came off its sliding track. Well, terrific. Tucker's response, "It's okay. Daddy feex it." Yep. He will. And mommy is always thankful she married a handy man.

In the meantime, I had to confiscate Pat the Hammer and the brand new golf clubs, for reasons I cannot exactly remember. But here they sit, in front of me, clearly out of reach of small hands. I'm sure it was wise; even now, I don't disagree with myself.

It's 9:34. They are watching Sesame Street. I had to catch my breath.

Sometime soon, I may get dressed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Shoes For You.

I did it.

I sent my manuscript to a publisher. It's off. No turning back now... it's theirs for the judging. And all I can do is wait (six weeks to four months) to see what they think.

There are a million critics inside my head, all of whom are insistent that those envelopes are a waste of postage and you faithful few are the only ones interested in what I have to say in print. But thankfully, I tuned them out long enough to print and seal the envelopes.

Those voices have kept me silent for three years now, which is how long it has been since I wrote that story. Today, they didn't win. I did. Even if nothing else happens, from this day forward, I did what so many writers never, ever do. I sent it off.

And so, if you belong to the select few to whom I promised shoes and a bag if I turn 30 without doing what I just did, then I'm sorry to say, you'll have to buy your own shoes. I followed through.

Three copies, to three publishers. You heard it here first.

And someday, maybe you'll hear it somewhere else, too.

Mine. All Mine.

Everything is. My two children spend most of their day arguing about what belongs to whom, and they are always in dire disagreement over whose is what.

They shout at each other across the kitchen table over breakfast every morning, demanding that each of their fruit bars is uniquely theirs. It's true. They each have one. But they are insistent that each brother must know: see this? This right here? It's not yours.

They also argue about things over which there is only one. Specifically, me.

"My mommy."

"No, my mommy!"

You get the idea. And my favorite is when they are each tugging on my leg, or better yet, a pocket of my jeans. They'll need to share. That's all there is to it.

I'll try to be as omnipresent as I can.

Light Reading

Saturday, January 10, 2009

In Spite of Myself

I told you I don't make resolutions. And I don't.

Except I did.

I resolve to read more. Everyday. Without apologies for not using my time differently.

I intend to send more birthday cards. (To this, my mom responded that her New Year's resolution is to receive more of them. From me. Cute. :)

And I hope to feed my family more. By this I mean new recipes, more variety, and better planning. A little less scrounging.

There they are. And it only took ten days for them to surface.


If people have a color, Tyler's is orange.

Part of that is his hair color. You just can't get around that carrot top.

Part of that is his nature. Orange is a bold, happy, vibrant color, and that is Tyler. He is so very happy, radiant, and beside himself nearly every minute of the day, as long as nobody thwarts his will. (And if you have to stand between him and anything else, look out. You'll get a scowl you won't soon forget.)

In a recent family discussion, Robb's mom shared her prayers for her three grandchildren; she loves to study their natures and think about what they may grow into. Abby is so sweet in her nature; Carolyn believes she may become a teacher. Tucker is inquisitive and wants to communicate well; she foresees that he is a scholar. Tyler is so happy-go-lucky, on the go, living in the moment and loving it all; she believes he will become a youth pastor. I love it. Very possible.

Tyler is orange. This also happens to be an easy to way differentiate his things from Tucker's. Whenever we can, we buy an orange one of whatever it is. His toothbrush is orange. All of his sippy cups are orange. Anything remotely personal that should be uniquely his: it's orange.

Just tonight, I discovered his awareness of this color preference. I was brushing his teeth, but he insisted, 'Tucker's teeth! Tucker's teeth!" Oh, right. I was using Tucker's toothbrush on Tyler's teeth. (Sorry. I didn't disinfect it before I brushed Tucker's later. That will gross them out someday. For now, we have community germs.)

Anyway, he knew. His color is orange.

Someday, when someone asks his favorite color, he'll probably say something like, "Well, I have a lot of orange in my life. It seems like I should choose orange." Either that, or he'll hate it. Forever.

But for now, he's orange.


Last night, as we enjoyed our very favorite pizza restaurant, Tyler kept asking for snow.

"Snow? Snow, please? Snow??"

Any guesses??

It was parmesan cheese. He wanted us to sprinkle some of those snowflakes on his pizza. :)


That's the number of footsteps, down the hall, from Tucker's bed to mine.

I know this because I made that commute enough times last night to finally choose to count.

It feels a little more like 1,200 in the middle of the night.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Works in Progress...

"Men are what their mothers made them."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Are you talking to ME?

[at the breakfast table]

Tucker: Mommy, drink.

Me: Tuck, how do you ask nicely? (I may have settled for this muttering a while back, when that's all he could string together. But no longer, my little man. Use your words.)

Tuck: Mommy, just get it.

Excuse me?? Hold it one second there, young man.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you what kind of character reshaping took place in the next moment. I promise you, he got the message.

There will be no more of that.

When Tucker Was This Age...

Tyler is twenty months old today.

When Tucker was twenty months old, I was recovering from a C-section and my newborn was three days old.

Now that's a sobering thought. Just think of how much busier I could be, if I had continued on that path...

Even the Experts Struggle.

I took my children to the doctor this morning for Tyler's 18-month checkup. (Please look past the fact that he is twenty months old today. Such is my life.)

Tyler is healthy and weighing in at a whopping 22 pounds, which means he really looks like a very long 10-month-old. He's a peanut, and he has only just now tripled his birthweight (a prescribed milestone for that first birthday). He is my string bean.

We were there for Tyler's checkup, but I had far more questions on Tucker's behalf. Dr. Sarah (whom I adore) listened and listened, which is the largest task of being a pediatrician: listening to the moms. She is brilliant and so very encouraging. I love her... and you know how I feel about smart women in general.

As I told her my woes of potty training, she equipped me with a new toolbox of strategies. But most importantly, she empowered me with these words:

"He is definitely not the oldest child
to not be potty trained.
Dr. Huff's son was 3 and 8/12
before he was doing the real deal every time.
You're not doing anything wrong,
and this is very, very normal."

Well, how about that. Dr. Huff is another pediatrician in the practice, another one of my favorites... and his son was late in the game, too.

It sort of makes sense... he is the pediatrician whose son won't adapt to the prescribed milestones. And I am the teacher whose son is on his own journey to language, no matter how much I teach him. And in one of Tucker's many evaluations, we met an occupational therapist whose son couldn't hold a pencil until he was in fourth grade.

Funny how it works. Sometimes even the 'experts' need to be reminded that life isn't always about expertise. It's about loving the one you've been given and meeting him where he is.

And I do love him.

(And I will love it when I don't buy Pull Ups anymore.)

It's 3:52.

And my kids are still napping. Somebody pinch me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why Don't Friends With Kids Have Time??

A friend shared this column with me, a recent clipping from The Washington Post.

Why Don't Friends With Kids Have Time?

Dear Carolyn:

Best friend has child. Her: exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): What’d you do today? Her: Park, play group….OK. I’ve talked to parents. I don’t get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners… I do all those things, too. I guess what I’m asking is, What is a typical day and why don’t moms have time for a call or email?

I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events); I manage to get it all done. I’m feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy, but if so, why won’t my friend tell me the truth? Is this a contest (“my life is so much harder than yours”)? What’s the deal? I’ve got friends with and without kids and all us child-free folks have the same question.
~ Tacoma, Washington

Dear Tacoma:

Relax and enjoy. You’re funny.
Or, you’re lying about having friends with kids. Or you’re taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven’t personally been in the same room with them.
I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand, while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusioins are that your mom-friends are either lying or competing with you, is disingenuous indeed.

So, because it’s validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, cleaned, dressed; to keeping them out of harm’s way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any of which produces checkout-line screaming.
It’s needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.
It’s constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.
It’s constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends. It’s resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone’s long-term expense.
It’s doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything – language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything.
It’s also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then, when you got your first ten minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend wouldn’t judge you, complain about your or marvel how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself.

~ Carolyn Hax, “Tell Me About It” (The Washington Post)
I couldn't have said it better myself.
On behalf of stay-at-home moms everywhere
who wonder what on earth happened to the plan for our day,
thank you, Carolyn.

The Rest of the Story

I am most driven to write when we have had a collectively lousy day. That's when you hear from me. But since not everyday is lousy, I should write about those too.

Today was a good day. They got along, they didn't break anything (including each other), and we had a very blessed, peaceful day.

Sadly, peaceful days aren't nearly as interesting to read about. But I still felt it should be noted.

(Thank you for praying for the gift of today in my life, just in case you did.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rough Night.

For just a few hours a week, I run off on my own, to a job of my own, with tasks of my own, where I can dress and think like an adult. I teach other people's kids for a while, and it works out beautifully for all of us.

I teach on Monday nights and Saturday mornings, and the boys settle in with their daddy. I'm sure there is lots of belching, itching, and rude noises that happen while I'm gone. And nobody has to say excuse me, since there are no girls to impress.

(Fine with me. Somebody has to prepare them for summer camp and locker rooms.)

On Saturday morning, as the sun was rising, the children were chatting, and Robb and I were resisting the start of the day, he said to me, "I will pay you a dollar if you'll stay home with them today and let me be the teacher."

"Nope. Not a chance."

"Two dollars?"

"No way."

He continued to up the anty, until he had offered me $216 to please trade roles with him for the morning. He even said, "The shoes, Tricia. Think of all the shoes."

No dice. It may be work, but it's mine. I'll see you all in a few hours.

They always survive just fine without me, but you would think I frequently abandon them with no hope - as evidenced by the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth as I'm on my way out the door.

Tonight was a rough night. When I got home, Robb looked at me with his blank, exhausted face.

He said, "I sold them. They're gone. We're done. They each had six timeouts tonight, and your chair even got a timeout because they couldn't stop jumping in it and off it. They ran at top speed all night long. They were out of control and hyper. I sold them."

(It's possible that maybe I let them have one too many candy bars after lunch.)

He continued:

"Thank you for doing the laundry today... but my blue plaid shirt will need to be washed again. Tucker pulled it off the back of the chair, dragged it around the house, and then blew his nose into it. See what kind of night I had? Sure, it's quiet now. You think they're sleeping. But I sold them. AND, I had a vasectomy tonight. I did it myself. It's done. If you want more of them, you'll have to give me up. And keep in mind, I am more helpful than they are."

So, rough night, then?

To top it off, his team lost tonight.

But guess what: he gets to go to work in the morning. I will be here.

And he'll probably get an earful at the end of the day.

Venting. It's a gift we give each other.

Attitude... with Charm.

A good friend, who knows me and my children oh-so-well, recently used these words to lovingly describe Tyler.

"He has attitude with charm," she said. "Attitude by itself isn't nearly as cute, but he adds in charm. And that makes it very cute."
I'm afraid she's right. A man can go a long way in life with the right combination of attitude and charm. (Too far, perhaps?) I know his kind.
That guy is the high school student who never turns in an assignment, is always late to class, earns extra credit by bringing Starbucks to his teachers, and they all report that he "doesn't work to his potential" but he is "a delight to have in class." That guy can get by on the skin of his teeth, because he has dimples and a sense of humor... and charm.

Am I raising that guy??
It's entirely possible. And sometimes, that charm even works on me. God, help us.

He's a little too adorable.

Mr. Crispy Bottom

Where did that cookie go??

Oh. There it is.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bashful Bladder

On a recent dinner out with my parents, Tucker announced that he needed to go to the restroom, and he chose Grandma for his chaperone. The two of them scurried off to the bathroom, as we often do, since that's what you do when you're in training.

(Sometimes, instead of training him to use the potty, it feels as though he's training us to jump at his verbal commands. He says the magic word, and we run to meet his needs.)

They went into the bathroom, into the stall, and together they positioned Tucker for the task at hand. And then they waited. Nothing. Wait, wait, wait. Nothing.

Grandma said, "Do you think we should get Mommy?"

In a sigh of relief, Tucker agreed.

They got him dressed and all together, and they retrieved me from the table. Turns out, things dry up when Grandma's watching.

As we walked into the bathroom, just my boy and me, he said, "Mommy, Grandma just couldn't do it."

(I hardly think Grandma was the problem.)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Meant For Me

This job is hard. This task of growing good men is really very, very hard.

There are days when I feel terribly ill-equipped, when their needs zap every ounce of everything that I have left, when the end of the day can't come soon enough, and when I can count too many things I wish I had done differently.

You know I love my sweet boys. You know I do. (And if you don't, you must be new here. Please read around a bit. You'll find proof.) But let me say, I may lose my parenting license over this potty training journey and the little brother who is learning to scowl and shout his opinions.

There are ragged moments when I want to look at them and say,

"Do you know that I'm smart? Do you know that I'm bigger than this lifestyle we share?? Are either of you thankful for how many times I read that silly book to you? What about the play dough whose scent has permanently seeped into my hands? What about the disintegrated diaper in the wash and the stale french fries in the car? Do you know that I have a degree and aspirations that are so much bigger than laundry and diapers?
Do you know that I love you - I adore you - I cannot imagine my life without you....
but this day is breaking me?"
I never say those things. But I think them. And at the end of the day, I escape to my closet and pour it all out. I write in my journal. I cry out to God. I ask Him to somehow bless my efforts, multiply what I've done well, give them resilience against that which I could have done better, and fill up my cup. Because tomorrow's coming quick, and I'm really afraid it may look a lot like today.
Yesterday was one of those days.
In my closet, as I worshipped in total darkness, I cried. I listened to some of my favorite songs, and these lyrics caught in my throat: "From age to age, You reign in Majesty. And today you're making miracles in me."
Was it a miraculous day? Even slightly? It sure didn't feel like it... it felt small. Very small. I dream big. Bigger than this. I reminded God of all the things I want, of the lifetime goals that seem to lay on a path separate from mine, of the things I want, want, want. Just in case he forgot, I gave him my list.
God, give me contentment. I asked you for every single thing about this blessed life I live... and yet, and yet... I can't stop thinking about what I am not.
It's really easy and tempting to become restless when it feels like your life is on hold.
In his faithfulness, in ways beyond measure, words, or understanding, he restored my soul. He quieted my heart, he refreshed me with love, and he gave me rest. At the end of the day, that's what I needed: precious sleep.
But today, after a night of deep rest, he greeted me with even more to say. I am reading A Woman and Her God, and I settled in to read a chapter during an unexpected window of alone time this morning. (Perhaps I should rather call it a divine appointment.)
Kathleen Hart writes:
"We ask ourselves, 'What is my purpose for living at this stage in my life?' But the questions you really need to ask is, 'What does God want me to accomplish at this time?'
It is important to focus on what we need to accomplish right now, because sometimes we want to do things that are not possible to accomplish at that particular stage of life. For example, consider a mother with young children who has some great ideas for a career or an entrepreneurial enterprise."
Okay. Stop right there. She may as well have written my name, address, social security number, and my mother's maiden name. This was written for me. I continued reading, with my highlighter in hand.
"In reality, it will be very difficult for her to accomplish such an ambitious undertaking at this time. And it's no good feeling like a failure or being frustrated, because we tend to take out our frustration on our children and spouse. So we must regularly turn to God and ask, 'What do You want to accomplish at this stage of my life?'
Keep in mind, even if your career is on hold, your life is not. The Lord will show you the way as you trust Him with all your heart."
My pen was smoking. My hand was cramping. This is what I was meant to hear, and I could not write fast enough. I needed to start my day with these words, to fill up my cup before the demands of the day could drain a single drop. I have heard these words before, and I always know them to be true, even when they are hidden behind the to-do list and the tyranny of the toddlers. But I needed them again.
And I also made this important discovery. These words, spoken in different voices but so true every time, always come from a woman who is older, wiser, seasoned, and on the other side of the journey. She looks back on her own life, with or without regrets of her own, and she advises me:
There is time for that.
Right now, you must do this.
And so I am refreshed. Ready for another day, ready for what it brings, even if I might feel for a single moment (or two) like maybe I wish for something more.
There will be more. Later. I'm just sure of it. The dream lives in my heart: of classrooms, publishing books, public speaking, teaching teachers, and living bigger. It cannot be ignored. I don't know what it will look like, but it looms ahead, just beyond the board books and potty chairs.
Someday, when I'm doing all that I want to do with my career, with all the credentials and expertise I long for, and Lord willing, when I'm sharing it with the world, there will be these two young men in the front row. My boys, grown into good men.
And they'll know they are my world.
When I keep that picture in my mind, I can do today.

Good Morning.

Now that's a great way to start the day.

For Mature Readers

Yesterday, I flubbed some part of the dinner process. I needed the water to boil, but I turned down the heat when it started to boil over, then I forgot to turn it back up... and before I knew it, I had mushy potatoes. (It happens frequently. We almost always recover.)

When I discovered my mistake, I lurched for the stove and muttered, "Oh, crud."

In response, I suppose, Tucker smacked his forehead and said, "Oh, fudgers."

Only he didn't say fudge (if I may borrow from Ralphie's classic moment in The Christmas Story). He said the real deal. Again and again and again. He pranced around the house, mocking frustration, and chanting this word, again and again.

I do not know where he got it. I don't say it, and Robb doesn't either. (Although I do have to say it's a pretty funny way to use that word, if anyone's going to.)

We chose the Ignore-It route, since that which we acknowledge seems to settle in for the long haul. We let it pass us by, and we'll hope it doesn't come back to visit.

And to think, I longed to hear him speak. Now, he does. With profanity. :)

Are You Stalking Me?

I don't mind blog stalkers. Not one bit. If I did, I wouldn't have a blog at all. It's par for the course.

Last week, a friend said in passing, "Oh, I love the new pictures on your blog! Wait. You don't know that I read your blog. It's time I told you."

And just yesterday, in Costco (I mean Walt Disney World for the Bulk Shoppers), I crossed paths with an old friend whom I haven't seen in five years. As I introduced her to my children, for what I thought was the first time, she said, "I know all about these two. I lurk on your blog."

An anonymous commenter once emailed to ask my permission to use my writing as illustrations for a parenting class she teaches. Um, yes. Yes, yes, yes. (And thank you for asking permission.)

A fellow blogger once told me that one of her readers asked permission to read my blog, since my blogging friend had linked me on her site. Sure. Feel free.

Read on, my lurking, anonymous friends. This one's for you.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Facebook... for toddlers?

A recent issue of Parenting magazine boasted this idea: Facebook for Toddlers. I'm not kidding.

It's a social networking page about the child, with status updates, picture of his interests, and easy ways to plan playdates.

Not at my house.
For a bit longer, I think I'll be the only one with a social network and a website to support it.

Too Many Chiefs.

[In the car]

Tyler (in a very happy little mood in his carseat): "Look! Doggie! Doggie!"

Tucker (and this is a direct quote): "Tyler, don't yell in the car like that. And change your attitude or you will get spanked."

(Well, well. Someone has heard that very sentence before.)

Me: "Tucker, there is nothing wrong with his attitude, and you do not do any of the spanking in our family. Who is in charge of Tyler?"

Tuck: "Tucker is."

And therein lies our problem. Or one of them.

2009... here you are.

Two days in to 2009. It's time to start writing practicing how I write the number nine, since it will be the most prevalent number in my dates this year. I like printings 8's a little more than 9's, but I'll adjust.

I don't make resolutions, really. I don't buy into the whole New Year thing in general. It's my second-least favorite holiday (Halloween ranking at the very bottom of the list). I feel like it's all hype, with a lot of expectations to do something phenomenal as the clock strikes midnight and a new year arrives. In the end, it's just another night, and just another day, with a big midnight in between. It's fine with me, since I like almost everyday. I just don't embrace this one as a big deal.

Sorry if that disappoints you.

My life has held a few really great New Year's bashes - this year included, actually. Robb planned a night away with me, compliments of his hotel points. (There are some perks to a heavy travel schedule.) He packed a suitcase full of surprises, complete with our favorite games, a bottle of champagne, and even wine glasses. We camped out with our Starbucks in the hotel lobby, and we played game after game. Sometimes we kept score; sometimes we didn't. It just didn't matter. I loved it.

At midnight, we were watching the Elf marathon on TV. We looked at each other, champagne in hand, and said Happy New Year. It was a great night because it was a great date... not so much because of the holiday.

Anyway, 2009, you are here. I just finished making our New Year's calendar. There are many things I don't know about this year, some things it's probably best not to foresee, and other blessings that I cannot measure. But Lord willing, we will all have birthdays this year. At the end of the year, Tucker will unbelievably be four, Tyler will obstinantly be two, I will actually be thirty, and Robb doesn't want anyone to know how old he will be. But we will all... be.

And probably, at the end of the year, there will be some things I will miss about 2008.

Happy New Year. Live it up... like any other day. :)