Saturday, February 28, 2009
On our family playdate to McDonalds tonight, he said, "By the way, I moved my chair this morning to retrieve a coaster that someone had thrown under there. The whole corner is covered in oats."
I'm not surprised. That episode will stay with us for a long time.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
A lot of me wanted to intervene, since just one toddler experience with watecolor paints means that they no longer are distinct in their colors, but washed together and not quite so brilliant. Especially poor, poor yellow.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
It's his favorite. He simply calls it, "Giant Pickle."
(Which is greatly improved from what he used to call it: "Dite Booger." Try explaining that one to the passerby at the grocery store, who falls prey to Tucker's sketchy storytelling.)
It's not so much Tyler's favorite. He is really rather scared of that towering pickle. As Dave winds up with his stone in his slingshot, Tyler runs into the kitchen and watches from around the corner. Better to take cover as the Giant Pickle falls to the ground... you never know when he could come to life and crash through the TV. The kitchen is a safer bet.
Everyday after his nap, Tucker requests another viewing of the Giant Pickle. Every single day. Without fail. One more time.
Yesterday, in one of my lesser moments, I decided to persuade him to choose a different show for his post-naptime entertainment. He had already watched Giant Pickle that morning, and every day this week, I reasoned. There are many other choices. Time to expand the repertoire.
As his sadness increased and the meltdown commenced, I stuck to my guns. Nope. No Giant Pickle today. Choose something else.
(Until this thought crossed my mind: Wait just one minute, there, SuperMom. Of all the things for him to crave, he really wants to hear a Bible story. Yet again. You're wise to cut him off. Absolutely. Rein that one in before it gets too far out of control. No more Bible stories after naptime. This is definitely a hill to die on.)
Giant Pickle won again.
(I just needed a healthy dose of Perspective.)
Sunday, February 22, 2009
It's a great way to prepare my heart for worship. Truly.
This morning, I overheard Robb delivering this lecture downstairs...
Oh, I am definitely in full support of that new rule. I'm pretty sure Tyler is too.
To extend a hand to one who has fallen.
To give a smile to those whose laughter has been lost.
To encourage the dreamer who has given up.
To share the painful solitude of one who is alone.
To ease the burden of one bent low beneath a thankless job.
To reassure the doubter and reinforce the believer.
To light the candle of God's Word in the midst of another's darkest night.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Robb had been gone for three days (a short trip in the current stretch), and we were in the final stretch until his homecoming. I promise you, it's like the boys can tell when we're getting close to the goal. Dogs and bees smell fear; my children smell the end of my patience. When I'm nearly spent, they try all their best tactics. I'm really sure: it's a conspiracy.
We finished dinner (a frozen pizza with a side of applesauce... yum-o), I gave them their baths (why does the bathroom floor always seem more saturated than the children in the bath tub?), but we still had an unbearable journey in front of us before respite arrived.
There was only one cure in my mind: I needed an iced mocha from McDonalds. Seriously. I had craved it all afternoon. It was the key to a happy evening. Or at least life after dinner.
In a stroke of genius, I said, "Guys! I have a surprise! We are going on a Pajama Ride! We'll hop in the car in our jammies, we'll listen to Bob Songs (Veggietales), and we'll go get a special drink for Mommy. Everybody gets to take one toy along. Hurry! Let's go!"
Tucker chose his elephant, Moe. (Cleverly named when that was one of the only words he could say.)
Tyler chose his blanket and a hairbrush. Sure, kiddo. Your choice.
And off we went. Blaring their favorite song (I've Got the Joy, Joy Joy), we trekked to McD's. I got my precious iced mocha, and they each got a little pack of Ronald McDonald cookies. A perfect plan for everyone.
Coffee, cookies, and an adventure. I believe we have started a tradition. And it could carry us a long, long way during these long days, late nights, home stretches, and business trips.
(Watch for us at your local McDonald's drive-thru.)
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Tuck: "Mommy, look! The mountains, again! Thank you for the mountains, God. I love them so much."
(The sight of the mountains always prompts Tuck to think about God. And appropriately so.)
Tuck: "Mommy, I want to give him a kiss."
Tuck: "God. I want to give God a kiss."
And so began the first discussion of theology with my three-year-old.
Me: "Well, Tuck, you can blow a kiss to God. I know He would love that."
Tuck: "God? God? God! Mommy, He's not listening very well right now."
Me: "Sure He is. He's always listening. And He's always with you. He's listening right now, and He knows you want to give Him a kiss. Right now."
Tuck: "Right now?"
Me: "Right now."
Tuck: "Okay. I want to tell you a story."
Me: "I'm ready."
Tuck: "It's about God."
Me: "Okay." (Bracing myself. This could be anything.)
Tuck: "One day, God threw a rock into the water."
(Hmmm. Is this a Bible story? Is he retelling from Sunday school? Where are we headed, here?)
Looking for more, I asked, "And then what happened?"
Tuck: "He went to time out."
Ah. And there we have it. This is not a Bible story. This is not a retelling from Sunday school. This is Tuck's imagination and perhaps his attempt to bring God into his network of understanding. Still, I need to guide this storytelling before the seed of imagination grows into the tree of heresy. (Strong words, I know.)
Me: "No, God didn't go to time out."
Tuck: "He didn't?"
Me: "Nope. God doesn't go to time out. Because He's perfect, and He never does anything wrong. Sometimes He puts us into time out when we don't obey, but He never has to go. God is perfect."
Tuck thought for moment. "Oh. Okay."
He was still thinking. And I waited for the next chapter in our discussion, ready to field his budding questions.
Me: "Yes, Tuck?"
Tuck: "Also there is a man in the backseat who is being mean to me. He bit my shirt."
And we're done. Imagination wins again. Such is the world of being three.
I'm hopeful that some of those truths took root alongside his big ideas.
No more pullups.
No more diapers.
He's doing it, on his own, even through the night, in big boy underwear.
(And he is not yet 3 1/2. Here, I had really lost all hope of success before age four.)
I feel mighty and victorious.
We did it.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I really had to think on this offer... run away from it all? No obligations once I get there? Breakfast buffet? A morning in the hotel lobby with my laptop? My children are safely tucked away in their home away from home (with my parents)?
Um, okay. I'm in.
As we rolled into town yesterday, our first stop was in the corporate office so Robb could prepare for his seminar in the morning. He set up chairs and tables, displayed posters and storyboards, and tested DVDs and laptop connections. In the meantime, I looked around, observing the careful things that make their office.
And that's when I happened onto the wall of Cowboys.
At this office, they present a Cowboy Award to an employee each month. After all, as they say (and have posted in their office), "A cowboy believes that if a job is worth doing, it's worth doing right the first time."
Of course. My personal motto.
And on the wall, larger than life, is a collage of all their award winners. But the pictures are not just your typical mugshot of the smiling employee. Not in this town - they go all out. Each employee is dressed in western garb, holding a gun or a whiskey bottle, and posing for a picture developed in sepia tones. Some of the women are in strapless, ruffly gowns worn by the barmaids of the saloon. Some of the men are dressed in chaps and leather vests. Some of the men are smiling a goofy grin; others have embraced this as their moment to claim their inner cowboy, so they are glaring at the camera with a surly expression known only by Black Bart himself. And one was wearing his casual Friday attire, accessorized with a holster around his waist.
Everyone was wearing a cowboy hat. After all, it's the Cowboy Award.
Try as I might, I just couldn't envision this in the downtown, corporate office.
"You want us to do what? And I have to wear what? And you're going to hang it where? And how do I win this award? Okay, then. I'll steer clear of those qualifications."
Things are just different in a small town.
As I write, Robb is teaching them how to excel in customer service, and I'm camping out in the hotel lobby of their neighborhood Marriott... wishing I brought my cowboy hat.
And that is the quintessential video of a morning with my boys.
(I miss them.)
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I am editing.
Tucker is playing outside, and I am thankful the temperature is just warm enough - just far enough on the right side of that line of judgment which determines whether he stays inside or goes out. Out he goes.
He just came in and said, "Mommy, I lost my mitten next week."
Next week, he said.
A faithful search revealed the mitten in the mulch.
(Today. Not so much next week.)
And because I laughed once, they think they have found the key to my sense of humor: all I need is to watch them fall on the floor, smack themselves in the face, or hit themselves on the head with a toy, and I fall over with laughter.
It's such a boy thing.
(I imagine this is true. Perhaps little girls get caught up in the same antics, but I just imagine daughters spend their time doing gentle, quiet, sophisticated things. Like coloring and tea parties. Not bashing their faces with pots from the play kitchen.)
They especially love this behavior in the car. And they always want my undivided attention: "Mommy, watch. Mommy, watch." In those moments, I am abundantly thankful for the road ahead. It needs my full attention. Sorry, guys. Mommy's driving. You'll have to be content to show off for each other.
So they banter back and forth:
One brother says, "Watch."
The other brother says, "Okay. I'm watching."
And the first brother leans forward and then slams himself back, bashing his head into the carseat headrest.
Giggle, giggle, giggle.
They take turns, as the actor and the audience, and they never get tired of this routine.
I foresee hours and hours of America's Funniest Home Videos in their future.
After all, what's funnier than somebody hurting himself?
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
My brother is famous in our family for his car chats. He calls any one of us while he is in the car. If it's a long ride, we settle in for a nice long chat while he drives from Jacksonville to Orlando. But he also calls when he is commuting to work, driving to a late night party, heading home from an early morning rehearsal, or in today's case, going through the drive-thru.
We talked about a few things on his mind, but mostly we talked about the things on mine. He encouraged me in my day with the boys, he encouraged me to get busy on a book proposal he believes in, he told me about the similarities he sees between himself and Tucker, and suddenly he said, "Hold on one second..."
In that slightly distant phone-away-from-the-mouth voice, I heard him say, "Hey, yeah, I'd like a Cheeseburger Happy Meal."
Did he just order a Happy Meal?
Ever looking out for my brother and also a good deal, I wanted to tell him about the slightly less expensive option: The All American Meal. All the same menu options, but a little less cash since there's no toy in the bag. I tried to get his attention before he finished ordering.
"Hey! Wait! Can I tell you something?"
He was still talking to the drive-thru attendant. "Girl or boy toy? I'd like the boy one."
Bummer. I didn't say it in time. He couldn't hear me.
"Hi. I'm back. I bet you wanted to tell me about the All American Meal."
Or maybe he did.
"Yeah. It's the same meal, without the toy."
"But I like the toy."
"You like the toy?"
"Yep. I do."
After two more interruptions as he paid for his Happy Meal and then received it, he told me why he likes it. Among other titles in theme park entertainment, he is a trainer in the entertainment division of Walt Disney World, and he specializes in training his fellow performers to sharpen and polish their skills on stage. One night, on a whim at the end of rehearsal, he said, "And tonight's MVP, the Most Valuable Performer, and the winner of a Happy Meal Toy is...."
And thus began a tradition. It turns out that the students who study underneath him are highly motivated... by Happy Meal Toys. They keep track of who has most, who has least, and how to earn more. And my brother keeps them hopping, urging them to 'collect them all.'
That's good leadership right there. Effeftive teaching, and brilliant leadership.
With a toy included.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
We spent the morning making Valentines for him to share with the three little boys in his speech therapy group. A little box of chocolates for each one, a card on top, all packaged in a gift bag for Tucker to deliver them.
Sounds easy enough.
As we drove to school, he counted them all, pulled them in and out of his bag, and recited the names of each of his classmates again and again. He was so ready to make his delivery.
When we arrived, Miss Jill asked if I could man the classroom while she ran to the bathroom in her five minutes between speech groups. (Boy, do I get that. By all means, go. I have a strong belief that teachers will make up the renal failure wards of the hospitals of the future, because we never, ever go throughout the day. I can help with this.)
One of Tucker's classmates was there already, and two girls remained from the speech group that meets before Tucker's. Tucker instantly started passing out his gifts - even though the little girls were not in his class and candy for them meant we didn't have candy for his buddies. Plus, there were nametags. Cute ones. I had thought it through.
They had not yet realized that he was trying to give these gifts to them, so I was gently gathering the candy before the girls' hearts could be broken by the promise of almost-Valentines. I turned around to notice that Logan had burst into his. He had broken the cellophane, taken off the lid, and spread his chocolates for all the world to see. He alternated between placing them on the table and holding them in his hot little hand. This was going to get very sticky, very fast.
So, here's the thing: if I am the teacher in that setting, I know what to do. If I am the mom in that setting, I know what to do. But I was neither the teacher nor the mom. I wasn't really sure what to do.
Using my gentle and persuasive teacher voice, I tried to encourage Logan to put the chocolates back in the box. He could have them after lunch, if his mom said it was okay. But as quickly as I gathered them and placed them back in the candy box, he was just as quickly grabbing at the box and putting them back on the table. It was a wrestling match.
Um, this isn't what I envisioned when I pictured Tucker taking his first treat to school.
Meanwhile, more boys are arriving, and Tucker was handing out his treats, wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day. Oh, dear.
Miss Jill returned to the classroom, just in time for me to hand her the remains of everyone's treats which I had collected after Tucker's exuberant distribution, including the shambled version of Logan's Valentine treat... now a broken box with torn cellophane, with a tattered nametag teetering on top. As I gave it to her and explained to Tuck that he could share his treats after school, Logan snatched the box of candy we had made for Miss Jill. And the whole thing started all over again.
Before I slipped out the door, pretty sure I was causing more harm than good, I apologized to Miss Jill. So sorry. We sure didn't mean to bring such chaos to the classroom today.
In the true fashion of an early childhood education total pro, she smiled and said, "Oh, it's no problem at all. They're all three. They're learning. It's what we do in here. Maybe before you go, you could sign up for a day to volunteer and add to the hands in the classroom?"
Yes. It's the least I can do. March 5. I'm the Classroom Mom that day.
(I'll leave the chocolates at home.)
Monday, February 9, 2009
That's kind of a large something to hit someone with. I thought I had clearance to lift it over the table and set it down gently on the other side, but not so much. He sort of under-reacted, which makes me very hopeful that I actually hit his chair more than his back.
Regardless, I'm pretty sure he didn't plan on that as part of his lunch plan.
When he slipped behind me later, he needed to say excuse me - it was a very crowded dining room. I was thankful he didn't say, "Hey. Scoot in. Or I'll pick up this chair and hit you with it."
You know, turn about is fair game. Sorry, sir.
When I see the end coming, I slow down. And I speed up. Sometimes simultaneously. I skip ahead, and then I jump back to pore over every word that I skipped. It's like I want to get to the very last scene, and yet I don't want this to end before I have absorbed it all.
And then it ends. And then I read the last few paragraphs again, because it feels like the end of a conversation and I want to finish it well. I want her to know I was really listening.
And then I add it to my list of books I have read, and I feel a little sad to be done with it but also a little proud of myself for fitting yet another book title into my life.
And then I get excited to start the next one. Right now.
That's what I do.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
They operate like a well-oiled machine back there... everybody does their thing. And always more than one thing.
I watched thed artful dance as I waited for my Grande-Raspberry-Mocha-No-Whip.
There is so much happening, and so much of it is verbal. The computer is the only one with documentation of what I ordered; the rest of the staff simply listens and responds. One friendly guy takes my order, spouts it off jovially to the girl across the way, who repeats it back to him in confirmation, even though she is making an entirely different drink for a very different person with very different specifications. Still. She finishes the task at hand (or the drink in hand), keeps in mind the one to come, and takes an order from the drive-thru on the side via the microphone in her ear.
She stays on top of it all. They all do. It's a mystery how they don't end up with extra drinks or not enough.
And then someone hands me my steamy favorite, complete with a handy-dandy coffee sleeve, and thanks me for ordering it. As if the making of my beverage was truly the highlight of the day.
Unbelievable. No wonder they are the rulers of the coffee empire.
It's a job to sharpen the senses... I suspect that once one has masterfully worked at Starbucks, there is little one cannot manage.
Perhaps I should invite them to fix dinner at my house while the boys are melting down and daddy is arriving home and diapers need changed and the table needs set and the pot is boiling over and I just stepped on a matchbox car and who left it there anyway and my cell phone is ringing and the dog just snatched a dish towel and Tucker is helping himself to the ice dispenser and Tyler is climbing the shelves of the pantry and I can't remember why the timer is beeping or maybe it's the microwave or perhaps the cell phone again.
They would probably thank me. It would probably be the highlight of their day.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Tyler is not at all sure about moving parts. He was brave enough to stick with Bob the Builder's ride to the finish, but he doesn't look entirely entertained. Notice his white knuckles holding tight to Robb's hand.
Tucker got on the Chuck E. Cheese phone to talk to the mouse himself. He said, "Hi, Chuck E. Cheese. How you doing today? I pooped on the potty...." And there you have it. At least he knows why we're here.
We stopped briefly to eat our pizza and cinnamon sticks, but the greater interest is always the fun. Of course. The pizza isn't worth the pausing, really. Still, it's part of the experience. And then they were right back at it.
So true. I used it multiple times today:
"Tyler, do not pick up the dog poop in the backyard. That is NOT OKAY."
"Tyler, you may not climb over the glass protector between us and our prepared food at Qdoba. NOT OKAY."
"Tucker, you may not push your brother. And you may not order things from me. And you may not hit. These are NOT OKAY."
"Tucker, stop pooping in your pants. You are three, and you are big enough to do this in the potty."
"I'm not fee. I'm four."
"No, you're not four. God help me, you will be potty trained by the time you are four. You are THREE."
"Not fee. I'm one."
Seriously?? Is this my life??
(On second thought, perhaps rationalizing with a three-year-old means that perhaps I am NOT OKAY.)
It feels entirely too early when Tucker is ready to start the day. I try to convince him that it's not morning yet, but he points wordlessly to the sliver of morning light peeking through his blinds.
Oh. Right. That. Sunshine.
I try to persuade him to 'sleep in' a little longer... just for a few more minutes. But this agreement involves him shouting that he needs to go potty. And then celebrating independently because he did. Then the sounds of him clamoring in the bathroom to wash his hands even though he cannot reach the soap.
Then he heads back to his room to play the letter matching game on his little computer. Only he can't find H. "Mommy? H! I can't find H! H? H? Where are you??"
In the room right next door, Tyler is shouting Happy Birthday to everyone he knows. Or mostly just himself. Tucker yells, "NO! Sing Happy Birthday, dear Tucker!" So Tyler does.
Perhaps I'll get up. This is not a very satisfying snooze time.
I put their breakfast on the table: Rice Krispies and a fruit bar. Before I can finish making my coffee, Tucker is done with his cereal, pouring the remains into the sink. And Tyler is ready to get down and play, but his bowl of cereal topples to the floor while he's climbing down.
Only I didn't notice that part. It wasn't until I heard the series of Uh-Oh-What-a-Mess-No-Molly-Don't-Eat-It-No-Uh-Oh. Perhaps I should see what's up.
(My morning reaction time isn't top notch.)
So there I am, on my knees, cleaning up soggy cereal. Tucker is screaming toddler obscenities at nobody in particular, simply because he likes the sound of his angry voice. Tyler is climbing on the back of my calves, laughing at the audacity of mommy in this position.
And my coffee is cold. Perhaps it is the nature of this series of events... or the fact that I stayed up too late... or the truth that this is the fifth day without my husband. All of those factors are weighing on me.
Robb calls to tell me that he's in line at airport security, on his way home. We will see him after naptime. In his gentle, far-away-loving-husband voice, he says, "Are you okay? You sound maybe not so okay."
Oh, you know. Maybe not so okay.
But he comes home today. And the Disney Channel is faithful. And I can put my coffee in the microwave. And my husband comes home today.
We'll be okay. It's a good morning.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
But here it is... lean in close, and I'll whisper it to you:
He named it William, after a little boy we met at the park this week. Tucker calls it Wee-yeem. William and Tucker have been inseparable today, and William has been riding around in Tucker's palm ever since the moment the two were introduced.
We nearly needed to set a place at the breakfast table for William. Tuck is pretty thrilled with his new companion, especially since I have confirmed that it is ONLY his, not Tyler's.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I staggered down the hall, groggy and barely putting one foot in front of the other. He typically just needs to see me, tangibly hold my hand for a moment or two, and then we're both free to get back to sleep. But this time, he had a bone to pick.
As I approached his bedside, he said, "Mommy, no bite!"
Wait. What are we doing? "What?"
"Mommy bit me. Not nice. Don't bite Tucker."
He wagged his finger at me in protest, and then he proceeded to mimic the action, putting his finger in his mouth and chomping down. Not hard enough to hurt himself, but enough to prove his point. He would prefer that I not bite him again.
(I've never bitten Tucker.)
It was all a dream. He was very insistent, reprimanding me for my behavior, and only willing to go back to sleep when he felt I had learned my lesson. He gave me a very stern talking-to while I tucked him in again and returned to my bed while the sheets were still warm.
Today, I asked him about it. "Tuck, did you have a dream last night?"
"Are you sure? Something about Mommy? And your finger?"
"Nooo." He acted as if I had asked if he slept with the dinosaurs last night. No way, silly.
Classic case of a dream so real, he was mad upon waking. At me.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
In a school zone, right after I dropped Tucker off at speech therapy.
(And this happens to be the third time in my life I have been scolded for such behavior... always in a school zone. Once was in the school zone of my very own place of employment... that's a great way to start the morning, waving to my students as they drive by in the carpool lane.)
That's right. I'm a mother and teacher who was driving too fast through a school zone. You might as well say that I hate children and I like to trip them and laugh.
I was doing 29 in a 20. May I just say that 29 MPH does not feel like speeding? It feels like crawling. It feels like 'slow enough.' It's not like I was blitzing through at top speed.
The officer was very kind; he commended me for my honesty, thanked me for not arguing, reminded me that we need to keep the neighborhoods safe, and then graciously dropped it from a four-point to a one-point ticket. His tone was so generous you may have thought he was jotting down the info on my license so he could send me a Christmas card.
And then he handed me a ticket for $162.00. Ouch.
I am thinking of taping that ticket to the screen of my laptop, so I will be thankful for the income as I work late into the night on January's editing assignments.
Or perhaps I should secure it to my steering wheel. Slow it down, Tricia.
I'll drive more slowly tomorrow. I promise.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Few things nourish my soul as quickly as an escape from my children and some uninterrupted time with a good book.
But I also happened on to a book signing - quite accidentally. I had not come to the bookstore in pursuit of a real live author or a presentation of any kind, and yet I found both. In the back of the store, there were chairs lined in rows, all facing a podium with a microphone. I asked around: sure enough, many were waiting for the arrival of this local author.
Confession: I decided I wasn't interested. No thanks. I came here for alone time; I'll find another book signing to attend. Someday. More intentionally.
But as I settled into my comfy chair in the corner, an employee walked past me, escorting The Author. He is Native American, with long black hair in a ponytail that stretched down his back. He had very strong physical features of the people of his culture (but he wasn't dressed in a loincloth and headdress, just to be clear).
I watched him.
And then I decided again: Right. No thanks. I didn't come for this.
But then the bookstore employee introduced him to the crowd. And I was once again interested. The Author would be reading from his newly published title, sharing the leadership lessons we can learn from Crazy Horse. Not my typical genre of choice... so I put my nose back in my book.
But then he commanded the attention of his audience, simply by speaking into the microphone and thanking them for coming. He read from his book, he shared about his culture, and he convinced me of the leadership strategies modeled by this Native American leader.
I kept trying to get back to my book. But then he kept drawing me back.
He had acquired a respectable turnout in the audience - enough to affirm his decision to come. Anne Lamott has said that the worst ever is a book signing attended by nobody, where the author must laugh and joke with the employees who are forced to attend because they work there, and it is a big waste and embarrassment for everybody.
As I listened and watched this author, I had visions of my own book signing(s) someday. Perhaps in that very bookstore. I thought of whom I would invite, how I would market myself, and which part of my story I would tell, from both my personal history and the printed book in my hands.
I was glad people came to his.
Someday, it would be really great if you could come to mine.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Sometimes, it's fine. Wrong, but fine.
"Tyler, what color is that car?"
"Nope. It's red."
Other times, it's obstinate. And still wrong.
"Tyler, what color shoes do you want to wear? The blues ones or the white ones?"
(As if he has yellow shoes.)
Still other times, it's funny. And sometimes accurate.
"Look at the snow, Tyler! What color is snow?"
Well, sometimes, yes.