Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Funny Thing About Me...

I am leaving (very, very soon) for a weekend away. Girls only. No kids, no boys, no strollers, no diaper bags. I can plan only for myself. I can read books on the plane - and not the sturdy, board variety. We're talking novels, people. Plural. I can pack snacks that I won't need to share. I can do my own thing for four whole days.

But here's the funny thing about me: when left to my own devices, I pack as though I have the appetite of a sumo wrestler and the attention span of a four-year-old. I load up with salty snacks, chocolate snacks, books, magazines, journals, and notecards.

So, in the end, I don't travel much lighter.

Even still, I'm on my own.

See you soon, folks. This mommy is leaving town.

Ciao.

p.s. If you see my husband around town, thank him again for me. A daddy who is willing to fly solo and give his wife the retreat she needs: Major Points in the Love Bank.

Let the Record Show.

Let the record show:

At age 3 1/2, Tucker placed himself in the path of danger, stepping between his little brother and another child whom Tuck perceived to be a bully.

At the McDonald's Playland (shortly before the mishap with vomit), a little guy approached Tyler. He was Tyler's size, and they had precisely the same hair color. He looked more like Tyler's brother than Tucker does. He was interested in something on Tyler's shirt, so he took Tyler by the shoulders to get a closer look.

Let me clarify: I was standing very nearby. I was watching. Nobody was in danger. But Tucker was not convinced. He would have none of this. Without whining, complaining, hitting, biting, or yelling, he simply stepped in. A few inches taller than this other little boy, Tucker simply made his presence known.

The little guy moved on, and my children went back to playing. No harm, no foul.

A few minutes later, Tyler was seated at the bottom of the slide. Tucker, in his aged awareness, saw a crowd of children rushing to the bottom of the slide. Quickly and gently, he scooped Tyler off the slide and placed him carefully on the ground. And just in time - he would have gotten plowed, for sure.

Tucker was so gentle about it, and Tyler didn't even realize he had intervened. Because, bless his heart, Tyler never wishes to be rescued.

Let the record show, ladies and gentlemen. I think I am raising two little buddies.

(And please remind me of this blog post, when they are no longer interested in search and rescue, when kindness loses to selfishness. At least this time, on that day, Tucker was the hero.)

Way to go, Tuck.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Of All Places


Look whose son threw up at the top of the McDonald's Playland. Mine. So I slithered my way to the top,
with my wet wipes in hand,
and I cleaned up Tucker...
and the Playland.


(My mom is the photographer. Quick on the draw with the camera phone, she is.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

(I'm so Ridiculous.)

As we finished up our lunch at Subway today, Robb alerted me to food in my teeth. In my typical silly-and-up-for-anything attitude, I made this ridiculous face like the Cheshire Cat, showing all my teeth. I may have also been sticking out my tongue. It's possible. And probable.

And in that moment, I heard, "Hi, do you remember me? I was your nurse once."

Sure enough, standing right there beside me is the nurse who cared for me when Tyler was born.

Now, could I just say, I deeply love all the people who have cared for me and my newborn(s) in those very early, traumatic, gory, post-partem days. If you are one who holds on to modesty with a tight fist (...I am not one of those girls...), then you have to simply choose to leave your dignity at home and instead pack some boldness and indiscretion in your overnight bag. Childbirth is an intensely personal - yet simultaneously very public - event. There is protocol in the hospital that is called for and acceptable, and I seek tremendous trust and rapport with those who complete the necessary tasks.

Like I said, I am thankful. And Nurse Rebecca was by and far the very best I've ever had at my bedside. And at my everything else.

It's just that I often hope to leave those friendly faces locked up in the hospital, where they can choose to remember or forget what parts of me they have seen.

But here she was, friendly as ever, at Subway. Hello, Rebecca. And here are all of my teeth.

I regained my composure and re-introduced her to nearly-two Tyler, whom she welcomed right alongside us for those first few blessed days. And in charming response, Tyler showed her his mouthful of pizza, and Tucker threw all his apples on the floor. This is my family.

I'm not really that embarrassed... a girl who will make such faces in public has to realize the risk of being seen by someone other than her spouse. I don't (typically) fall prey to the fear of what others are thinking. Still, it was Rebecca. Nurse Rebecca.

But she has seen me in worse condition. At least I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

You know, not a gaping gown. Or less.

(I'm so ridiculous.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

It Takes a Village.

I was shopping at Goodwill. I love this almost as much as I love donating to Goodwill. Favorite pastimes. Or presentimes. Whatever. I love to empty my house of extra, and I love to acquire more at crazy, ridiculous prices.

I walked past this gaggle of women (I wouldn't use that term lightly, but they were indeed a gaggle, giggling their way through the aisles) who were shopping together for their separate vacation wardrobes. They gave each other thumbs up, thumbs down, 'that's too small, my dear,' and 'Oh, is that ever YOU.'

We do that for each other. Not always with those words, though. It varies, generationally. Anyway.

Woman A held up this silky, frilly poncho-of-a-something, and she insisted that her friend, Woman B, must-must-must buy-buy-buy.

Woman B: Are you sure? Don't you want it?

Woman A: Oh, you know I can't wear things like that. But you? Oh, you can. Especially on the beaches of California. Are you kidding? Yes. You must.

Woman B: [Pause. Holds it up to herself. Pause.]

And along comes Tricia, who has never met a stranger, especially one who couldn't use some encouragement and affirmation. With my toddler in my cart, I smiled and said, "I vote yes."

Woman B: Really? Yes?

Tricia: Oh, yes. Especially for beaches in California.

Woman B: (with new confidence and a nod) Yes. Yes. You're right.

Woman A: See? It takes a village.

And so, somewhere, on the beaches of California, Woman B will tell others about this beautiful poncho she found on consignment, and how this charming young woman encouraged her to buy it. Or, she might tell people that I wanted it for myself, and she stole it out from under me.

But either way, she'll feel great when she wears it.

It takes a village.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Aside from teaching...

Last night, I had some very funny conversations with two of my students.

(I teach a few hours a week at a learning center, so by 'students,' I am referring not to Tucker or Tyler, but real, live children who come to me for help with run-on sentences, spelling words, thesis sentences, long division, phonemes, story problems, and the like.)

Aside from the learning goals, I have the pleasure of their conversation. And sometimes, it's downright bloggable.

*****

R is nine years old. He was not in the mood to study last night. He had many reasons to be unproductive, and he listed them for me. I presented his options; he could try really hard to get nothing done, or he could put to test what other students believe to be the infallible formula for making time fly: do your best, and don't look at the clock. When you try hard and stay focused, somehow, the time flies -- or so they tell me. I promised him that it was his choice, and it was of absolutely no consequence to me. I would sit across from him either way, but I was certain his paying parents would approve of Plan B.

Reluctantly, he settled in. Just before he practiced adding three-digit numbers with regrouping, he said, "Okay, but I have a cold. And I'm coughing a lot. So I will probably need to get up and cough into something, like a trash can or the toilet. You know how it can be with men."

How it can be with men, he told me. He's nine.

I assured him that I do, indeed, know how it can be with men. And I showed him the closest trash can, should he need it. And once we had covered those ground rules, he got to work.

Good thing I have a couple of men of my own, who are only shortly behind these antics.

*****

C is a doll. He's in second grade - the transparent stage of loving what he loves, without apology. He is ready for a good time, and he will do any task at all as long as I present it as a game. Eager as I am to have a good time, and also a lover of a good game, I present many concepts inside this framework. We have fun. And, he's learning place value in the process, so it works well for both of us.

Meanwhile, our learning center is hosting an appreciation night for the students' favorite teachers from school. Each student fills out a nomination form, listing a favorite classroom teacher with reasons why. We'll invite all of those nominees, and we'll honor them for their hard work in this journey. (Teachers can never get too many applause. That's what I say.)

C said, "I really wish I could nominate someone from the center, because I would choose you."

(This is very sweet of him, but I assure you, it's not why I am writing this blog post: to toot my own horn . Read on.)

"I would choose you because we have magical, mystical fairytale fun together."

Ahem. "We do??"

"Well, I just made that up. But it sounds great, doesn't it?"

It sounds, something. Something that it should not sound like.

Let the record show: it is not my desire for any student to report any magical, mystical, fairytale fun with Miss Tricia. Not ever. There are many words to describe my teaching strategies, but let's steer clear of these.

I promise... by magical, mystical, fairytale abilities, he means multiplication. I promise.

I'm a wonder with those math facts.

(Oh, my word.)

"...To Keep the Stories Alive."

She thought about the word "capture,"

how it put a writer on par with a fur trapper or big-game hunter,

and how it implied that stories were

whole

and roaming around loose in the world,

and a writer's job was to catch them.

Except of course that a writer didn't kill what she caught,

didn't stuff it

and hang it on a wall;

the point was to keep the stories alive."

~ Maria de los Santos
Love Walked In

Disgusting Find of the Day

At the breakfast table, Tyler fed his Cheerios to Molly, our dog.

Directly from his spoon.

There were some benefits...

After the trauma of our captivity, Tucker has gained a new perspective on the event. Turns out, he grew rather fond of having Mommy all to himself, with is brother locked away. (Never mind that we were locked in. And I didn't exactly spend the entire time reading stories to him and stroking his hair.)

Ever since we were set free, Tucker has a new plan for quality time with me. A few times a day, he follows me into a room, locks the door behind him, and shouts through the door:

"Go play, Tyler! Go play!"

Not the best plan, kiddo, however charming you believe it to be. We will not be locking anyone, anywhere. Including ourselves. For any reason.

It is hereby decreed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tozzer

Tucker has always called his brother 'Tozzer.' In fact, as a family, we have nicknamed him Tozz. It works. And it can grow with him. I have pictured this very handsome red-headed boy of mine, fifteen years down the road, saying, "I'm Tyler. But lots of people call me Tozz."

But just this week, Tucker learned to say Tyler's name... correctly.

Well, almost correctly. Tah-wer. Which sounds exactly like Tower.

(Which led to some confusing conversations, as I couldn't figure out why he was so annoyed with a tower. Mad at the tower. The tower poked him in the eye. The tower won't share. Tower, tower, tower. He transitioned nearly overnight to this new degree of accuracy, so it took me a day or two to catch up.)

So, no more with Tozzer. I'm a little sorry to see that go. It was a very darling, brotherly nickname. Tucker can say it right if he wants. It was bound to happen. But for two years, he has called him Tozz.

I'm not giving that up very easily.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Writer's Risk

Words are my lifeline. To, really, everything.

They fuel me. They are my outlet. They make sense of the intangible. They are the steam in my kettle: when left untended, they build up too much, and I nearly explode. I am not often without words... just ask me. I'll tell you.

I need them. I am a writer.

But I am also an editor. Professionally. This means I am privileged to polish the words of writers who trust me. I look for mistakes, find better word choices, and help them say what they really, really meant to say. I craft their message to match their thoughts. I polish and shine, and then I give them the finished version. And if I got it right, they say, "Yeah. That's it. What she said."

But in the end, the words are still theirs. And if I'm not careful, I fill my days with other people's words. I have done a lot of this lately, and too much of this begins to let the air out of my balloon. Work is good; loss of creativity is draining. My desktop has been inundated with a tyranny of assignments, all needing a careful shine, all needing my attention, all belonging to many other someones.

But tonight, I finished. All of them. (There are more waiting, but not for today.)

And I rewarded myself: with words. I read, and I wrote. I wrote on notecards, in my journal, on my blog, and in my heart. I wrote in margins, in ink, in my Bible, and in emails. I found my words.

I read. And I wrote.
And I can feel myself filling up again.

Orange Balloon

Tyler woke up needing a balloon. He really, really, really needed one. Perhaps he had dreamt about a balloon. Not sure. But it was on his mind, and he was in pursuit. Sadly, I had none to offer.

"Mommy? Balloon?"

"Sorry, kiddo. No balloon."

"Please?"

"I just don't have one, Tyler. Sorry, buddy."

"Daddy have a balloon?"

"No, Daddy doesn't have one either.

"Please?"

"Sorry, lovebug. No balloons today."

On came the tears. I broke his heart with my lack of follow through. (Actually, 'follow through' implies a promise in the first place. I had made no such promise, but I could not meet the demand. We just don't keep helium at the ready at our house.)

Cry, cry, cry.

As I got him dressed, I said, "Tell you what, kiddo. Why don't you pray about it? Tell God that you really would like a balloon, and see what happens today."

"O-tay." Sniff-sniff.

End of discussion. I don't want it to sound like I used prayer as a tool to appease, but since I honestly couldn't produce what he had asked for, at least he stopped asking me. Might as well go straight to the source of all blessings, including balloons.

We went on with our day, running errands, crossing items off my list, and joining my mom on a lunch date. (We like those.) As we sat at our table in the fast food restaurant du jour, a family walked in and proceeded through the line. And wouldn't you know, the little girl was holding the string of an orange balloon that bobbed over her head. I promise.

Tyler spotted it, and his face lit up. "My balloon!"

He didn't ask to hold it, and he didn't demand one of his own. All morning, he had simply prayed to see one. And God said yes.

A balloon? Sure, Tyler. I can do that. And I'll even make it orange.

**********

"Do not be anxious about anything.
But in everything,
by prayer and petition,
in thanksgiving,
present your requests to God."
~ Philippians 4:6

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Who, Me??


Morning Affirmation

When the morning comes too early, when the night wasn't long enough, and when Tucker arrives at my bedside before the alarm has sounded, I let him climb into bed with me. Sometimes he falls back to sleep, which is the very best plan of all. Other times, he lays quietly and very still, waiting for me to signal the start of the day. Still other times, he sings and waves his arms around, knocking me in the face a few times, and announcing his plans for my day.

When I'm good and ready, I turn on the Disney Channel in our bedroom so he can visit with the Imagination Movers and I can take a 15-minute shower, uninterrupted.

This morning was one of his earlier, chattier mornings, and he could not wait for me to get rolling. "Mommy, wake up. Open your eyes."

"Please lay quietly, buddy. In your bed or mine. It's too early to talk."

That bought me some stillness... for about seven seconds. Back to the whispering and flailing.

His next tactic: "Mommy, you take a shower."

"I will. In a few minutes. Please lay quietly."

Quiet. Still. And... we're done with that plan. His patience ran out. Finally, he tried a very new strategy. He snuggled very close to me, and he said,

"Mommy, you stink. Pee-yoo. Your hair is yucky, your hands are yucky, and your feet are yucky. You take a shower. Turn on the Disney Channel, and go take a shower. Yucky."
Well, thank you very much, sweet child of my heart. That's some delightful morning affirmation for Mommy, right there. I'm entirely confident that his declaration had far more to do with his desire for the TV routine than my actual stench. Let's be clear.
Still, it worked. I obeyed as he commanded.
(Someone will need to coach him on the etiquette of Pillow Talk before he gets married.)

No Apologies

"Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
~ Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Built-In Best Friend

Who wouldn't want to sit next to a best buddy
and read a book?
Not the same book.
Your own book.
But your buddy is right there, with his book too.
And one is in his jammies, while the other is wearing shoes in bed.
Who wouldn't be all about this plan?
I think it's a great idea.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Alter Egos

Tyler, standing in his chair at the dinner table:
"I'm Superman!"

Tucker, sitting across from him:
"Please sit down, Superman. It's time to eat."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Locked Behind Door #1

Please. Have a seat. Pour a drink. Settle in. I have a story you will not believe. I promise that every single thing in the following paragraphs really, honestly, truly happened. You may question as you read, and if you're not sure, just return to this statement: it's all true.

For the skimmers in the room, here's the headline: Tyler locked Tucker and me into a bedroom for an hour and a half, and our rescue involved three strangers, three firemen, a fire truck, three police officers, several calls to 9-1-1, and a very brave neighbor.

It's true.

For the lovers of details, here's the scoop.

It was Good Friday. We were in the final stretch of six days without Robb. So, you know, that right there is a recipe for freshness and success all the way around. We had just finished baths. I had finished lotioning and dressing Tyler, and he was running free while I gave Tucker the same post-bath treatment. Tyler is in a door-closing frenzy these days, since he has just learned how to successfully operate the doorknobs entirely. He was opening and closing all the doors in our upstairs, and he casually closed the door to Tucker's bedroom.

I'm not a huge fan of closed doors with small children on the other side, so I asked Tuck to open the door while I picked out his clean clothes. And then I heard him say, "Uh-oh. Locked. Tyler locked it."

Ahem. What? Surely he's gotten it wrong. "No way. He didn't lock it. Try again."

"Nope. It's locked, Mommy. Tyler locked the door."

I tried. He was right. The door was locked. Tyler was on the outside, and Tuck and I were trapped inside. (I'd like to take this moment to give a special nod to the previous owners of this house, who thought it was indeed brilliant to put a lock on the outside of a child's bedroom. Brilliant.)

My cell phone was about eight feet away, on the shelf at the top of the stairs. Far too far away, on the other side of the door. Robb was in Texas. My parents were out of town for the day. Nobody was likely to drop by our home, unannounced, for a very long, long time. I was aware of these realities, but I didn't panic. Yet.

I lay down on the floor, with my face smashed against the carpet. I could see Tyler's little socked feet. I called for him, and he lay down on the floor, inches away from me... only a securely locked door stood between us.

"Hi, Mommy."

"Hi, buddy. Can you unlock the door? Turn the little knob? Please?"

He stood up. He fiddled with the doorknob. I thought it would perhaps be this easy. But then he lay back down, and I could see 1/4 of his sweet little face, pressed against the carpet.

"Hi, Mommy." So, no luck on the lock, then.

"Hi, Ty. Can you get mommy's phone? It's on shelf by the steps. Please, baby. Please."

"Phone? Get Mommy's phone?"

"Yes. Please."

"Okay, Mommy."

I watched his sweet little feet walk down the hallway, stopping just short of the said shelf. But then he took the calendar off the wall and sat down to look at the newest animals born at the zoo. Oh, dear. I could feel panic settling in.

I called for him. Repeatedly. I needed his attention. Right now. This precious second child of mine needed to learn to follow multiple step directions immediately. He was our only hope. But he gave us no hope. He came back to my smashed face calling from the inch crack underneath the door, and he slid his fingers through and smiled at me.

"Hi, Mommy."

Now Tucker chimed in. "Tyler, please. Mommy's phone. On the shelf. Go get it."

We tried this again and again. For a long stretch. I sent Tyler to retrieve the phone, and he found other things to do for a few moments, only to come back and say hi to me. Finally, after many of these rounds, he stopped coming back. The only thing worse than the hopelessness of a child who cannot follow directions is the fear that settles in when he stops answering. I could not see him or hear him, and I began to imagine the worst.

In the meantime, Tucker was pacing. He was walking the length of his bed, again and again, saying, "We'll never get out, Mommy. Never. We'll never get out. Ever."

That's not so helpful. I encouraged him to pray instead. So he folded his hands and paced, saying, "Please, God. Please. Please save us. Or we'll never get out. Ever."

Still, no Tyler. Clearly, he would not be our means of escape. But I needed a plan: fast.

The doorknob was the kind with a hole in the middle of the side opposite the lock, so all I needed was one of those handy little rods to stick in there, designed to unlock the door. (If only.) I dove into Tucker's closet, and I found one wire hanger among hoards of plastic ones. (As a rule, I don't keep the wire ones, since a friend of mine told me her childhood story of being rushed to the ER with a wire hanger protruding from her eyeball. So, we stick to plastics. But I was singing the praises of the one wire hanger I hadn't purged.) I unwound it, and I poked it through the hole. I tinkered and jammed. No luck.

New plan. I looked out the second-story window. I tried to gauge it... could I jump? I happen to store all the family's sheets in Tucker's closet, so I could tie them together and lower myself until I felt safe enough to jump. (I can't imagine feeling safe enough to jump. I'm not your stereotypical risk taker.) I measured the distance and the risk.

A definite option, but just not yet.

Instead, I took the screen out of the window, and I started screaming my head off. Our home backs up to a busy road, and I bellowed to all the passing traffic: "Help! Please help! Anyone!! Anyone?? Help me!" I gathered a white sheet from the closet collection, and I added a flying flag to my SOS calls. Please. Please. Please.

(Still no word from Tyler, but plenty from Tuck. He was pacing and praying and yelling, repeating every single thing I said. Good thing I'm not a cusser. Typically.)

I was pretty confident that a few drivers looked our way, and one passenger even turned her head to look closely as they drove by. But nobody stopped. Come on. Somebody. Please.)

I spotted an older woman walking up the sidewalk. I upped the volume and the frenzy. "Ma'am! Ma'am! Help us! Please!" Thank you, Lord, she heard my voice. She walked up the sidewalk and stood on the other side of our backyard fence. I told her what happened. I asked for her help. I shouted directions to our home (since she would need to turn around, walk the entire length of the fencing to the intersection, turn left, then left again, then up the hill... and she didn't seem confident to jump the fence to rescue us in a shorter route). I told her our house number. I told her our garage code. I screamed the numbers, and I signed them with my hands. Please. Please.

She didn't seem entirely confident, and she also couldn't hear me very well over the din of the traffic. But she was our best hope, thus far. I gave her all my best strategies, and I watched her walk away. In the right direction, but still, away. And that's when it occurred to me: who am I kidding? Why should she help us? She is this little old woman out for a walk to keep her arthritis from acting up, and I have launched her into a rescue mission. And even if she does take the extra hike to our front door, and even if she does find the right house and then remember the garage code, is she actually going to enter the home of someone she doesn't know, only to have so search for us once she's inside??

I'm toast, I thought. Better keep screaming.

Moments later I spotted two teenagers strolling by, this time on the far side of the four-lane busy road. I waved, screamed, and flailed until they looked our way. Pretty sure I had all the signs of a woman in distress, they crossed the street to see what I needed.

"Please call 9-1-1! I need help!" Enough with the lengthy directions. I needed rescuers who were willing and able to break into my home, and you can count on the ones with badges. This sweet girl listened to my pleas, and she called 9-1-1 from her cell phone. She relayed my address twice, withstood four transfers of her call (?!?), and stayed on the line until someone assured her that help was on the way. And even better, she promised to stay within my line of vision until this help arrived.

And that's when I started to cry. Because that's what I do when the crisis is nearly over and it looks like maybe we will be okay. But we weren't yet. And I had a three-year-old in the room who was watching my every move to determine if he should cry as well. So I shut down the waterworks, with promises to do that later. Once I knew Tyler was okay too.

(Still no word from him, by the way. The hallway was s-i-l-e-n-t.)

Fifteen minutes crawled by. I made conversation with the darling girl on the other side of the fence, whom I believe is named Victoria. We waited, and we were all thankful the house wasn't truly on fire as we waited for the fire trucks. (And I didn't let myself really think for even one second about this house on fire with us locked inside and Tyler nowhere to be found... even now, let's change the subject.)

And in that forever of waiting, the bedroom door flew open. In a heroic measure of great fortitude, my neighbor had come to rescue us. And hers was perhaps the most beautiful face I had ever seen. Sweet relief... we were free.

Also, to my greater relief, she was carrying Tyler in her arms. He was covered in mascara. Homeboy had spent the entire hour hanging out in my makeup drawer, painting himself. No wonder he didn't answer me. I was so relieved to see him that I didn't even care about anything else. (But I also didn't laugh. It wasn't funny yet.)

(It still isn't.)

That's when Bean (our neighbor, nicknamed for Sabrina) told me her side of the story. After all my doubts, the sweet old woman really did follow through. She found my house, and she even entered the garage code. The door opened at her command, but she didn't want to go any further, not without someone who at least knew me. So, she went next door.

But from Bean's perspective, this apparently crazy old woman showed up on her front porch. She was insistent that there was a woman next door who was locked in her house, and she needed help. Bean was suspicious. What? Why on earth would Tricia be locked in her house? Who gets locked in their own house? Tricia, smart girl that she is, would open the door and let herself out. Bean was not so apt to help this person, who clearly spoke nonsense.

She called my cell phone: no response. She called Robb's cell phone (in Texas). She told Robb about the crazy woman, to which my husband replied: "You're right. She is crazy. Call the police. I'm sure Tricia is just fine. I haven't heard from her in a while, but I'm sure she's fine. That lady is probably an Alzheimer's patient who has escaped. Don't worry about Tricia, but please take care of yourself."

Oh, sure. This woman is my saving grace, and Robb tells Bean: please ignore and continue on with your day. (To his very loving credit, he had no idea that I was in such great distress.)

Thankfully, the woman persisted. And after Bean was unsuccessful in getting me to answer my phone, she decided she could at least check things out. She came inside our house, to find everything in working order: only the people were missing. Dishes out, iPod playing, laundry half-folded: evidence of daily routines. But no people.

And, bless her heart, that's when she started to feel afraid. She called out for me, but she got no response. (I was too busy yelling for my life and the lives of my children... I couldn't hear her.) She came up the stairs to find all the doors closed (thanks to our masterful door-closer). She didn't know which one to open, and she didn't know what she would find on the other side. She started with our bedroom, and there she found Tyler. Mr. Mascara. My little boy, in drag.

She scooped him up, and she came in search of us. And she found us. I hugged her and hugged her, and I would have for longer...except just then we heard blaring sirens. The firemen had arrived.

Bean took Tyler to the kitchen sink, and she began cleaning him up. I went outside to greet our team of rescuers. Tucker was on my hip, and he was mightily mesmerized by this real, live fire truck, close enough to touch. The firemen listened to my story, and they asked if I felt that my children or our home needed any further care. I promised them that we were okay. I thanked them for their services to my family and our community, and I sent them off to rescue someone else.


I headed back inside, where Tyler was nearly cleaned up. I snapped his picture. It doesn't quite capture the magnitude of the moment, when it was all caked across his nose, cheeks, eyelids, and eyebrows, but it gives you an idea. And at least it is proof.

I called Robb, needing to fill him in on the crisis, alert him of our status, and just listen to his voice. But just then, my doorbell rang. Ferociously. If doorbells can ring as such. Someone wanted in.

I came do the door to find three police officers. To Robb, I said, "Just a minute, honey. The police are here.... Hello, gentlemen."

(Music to his out-of-town ears, I am sure.)

"Hello, ma'am. Was there an emergency here?"

"Well, yes. Yes, there was. We're okay now. You see, my younger son, that one right there? He locked my older son and me into a bedroom. We couldn't get out."

"And were you waving a flag out the window?"

"I was."

"Then that explains it. We received multiple 9-1-1 calls from the neighborhood. People told us a woman was hanging out her window, screaming for help. We didn't all come together - we arrived separately. The dispatcher received numerous calls, and we all came rushing to the scene."

(They did see me! All those people who seemed to casually glance or even look closely as they drove by - they followed through too. They called 9-1-1 for my rescue.)

"Are you okay now, Ma'am?"

"I really am. I'm a little shaken, but I think we'll be okay."

They looked at Tyler. "Ma'am, can you tell us why his eyes are black?"

"Yes. I sure can. You see..." And I told them the story. It had little to do with domestic abuse of any kind. I assured them.

I apologized for the false alarm, but they very quickly and gently assured me: this was no false alarm. I needed help, fast, and I did the right thing. (I can't tell you how much I really needed to hear that.)


They asked if they could do anything before they left. I said, "Could I take your picture? Please? I just have to prove that this really happened. All of it." Without a second's hesitation, they each scooped up my boys, and they smiled for my ever-ready camera.

And with that, they were on their way. Bean stuck around long enough to make sure I was indeed okay, in the real mom-to-mom sense. And she offered to have her husband swing by the liquor store on his way home, if that would help me. I thanked her profusely... but I was pretty sure the adrenaline crash would pacify me.

I put the boys down for their naps, and I crashed into bed. For two hours. I slept hard. The kind of hard sleep that caused me to wake up feeling disoriented... where am I? What time is it? Is the door locked?

Tucker woke me up after his nap, but he didn't really want me to get out of bed. He just wanted to lay beside me. After all, this was his trauma, too. We merely survived the rest of the day, until Robb got home. We were in a dazed stupor, Tucker and me. Tyler was just fine, except for the mascara with lasting power. (Apparently, I buy the best stuff WalMart has. As we can now tell, on Tyler's forever darkened lashes.)

There are many heroes in the story: the firemen, the police officers, and Bean, whom I thanked with everything I had in me. But there are also the other heroes whom I never met, or who disappeared off the scene just as the officials arrived: Victoria and her friend behind my fence, the old woman who took the longest hike of her life, and the many anonymous drive-by callers. If, by chance, you read my blog: Thank you. I wish I could tell you myself.

Tucker has polished the retelling, which is complete with prayers, shouting, and wild arm movements. And he's pretty accurate. He had a hard time going to sleep in the bedroom we had been locked in, and he reminded me that he was very sad... "because Tyler turned the knob." The experience has come with some bad dreams, but he is on the mend.

Tyler is, well, becoming aware of this story in which he is a central character. If you ask him what happened, he says, "I yock a door." He will never, ever live this down, and his wife will hear all about this. With time, it will collect humor, and it already carries grace. But it will stick with him. Every year on Good Friday, as we remember what Jesus did for us, we'll also recall what Tyler did to us.

Robb finally came home. He replaced the doorknob with one that doesn't lock, and I finally had that cry I promised myself. This story isn't quite funny to me yet. But you can laugh if you want to. I will someday.

I promise. It's all true.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Pages: To Turn, or Not To Turn.

I closed a book last week that I simply could not wait to finish. Blech. I lost interest halfway through. It was a chore.

It's not that I feel a moral obligation or personal ownership to finish every single book I start; a gifted teacher once told me, "There are so many wonderful books in the world. Don't waste your time on one you don't like." So I don't. I have several strategies for collecting good recommendations, and I always have a pile on my shelf, on my waiting list at the library, or in an open document on my desktop: Titles I Cannot Wait To Get My Hands On.

And that's where I went wrong: I picked this one up on a whim. Nobody told me to read it; I took a risk on my own judgment. Indeed, I judged a book by its cover. There's a reason for the proverbial adage: a cover artist can lead you terribly astray, in either direction.

I finally resorted to reading only the dialogue. I skipped all the fluff. Let's wrap this up. Blech.

When I finished, it took me a while to determine why I had so not-enjoyed this one. The storyline was... fine. The characters were... okay. Just enough flaws to keep me interested. It had all the right components, but it bored me to tears. Why??

And then I discovered the missing component: throughout the hundreds of pages, I was never prompted to pick up my pen. I never wanted to circle a great metaphor, underline impressive dialogue, write down quirky word choices, or jot anything in the margin. Never. I never thought to myself, "Brilliant!" Not once.

Clearly, this partnership with the pen is a very important part of my literary experience.

But there's a happy ending to this sad story of a poor choice: I am into a really good one now. In fact, four pages in, I wrote in the margin: I'm on page four. And I love this book. The storyline could go either way, but the author's voice has me hooked, line and sinker. I am laughing out loud, I am underlining, scribbling, and doodling all over the margins and anywhere else to remind myself later of what I loved most.

And the best part? This is a retired library book that I bought online. I am writing in a library book. I haven't yet gotten over that thrill. (Yes, I realize the inherent dorkiness of that statement. I cannot deny it.)

And for you fellow book worms who are dying to know, it's Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos. I think I will need to read everything she has ever written.

Maybe even her grocery lists.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Crash Landing

Our church presents a contemplative experience called Easter Expressions.

They transform the larger part of the church into a labyrinth of multisensory experiences. It is an interactive display of the events of Holy Week, the life and death of Christ, a look at who Jesus was, how he loved and transformed everyone he encountered. There is room for worship, meditation, emotion, reflection, and communion. It is a unique journey, transformational, and so beautifully, artistically thorough.

I attended tonight. Robb is gone all of this week... six long days. So tonight's journey represented many things to me: it was a time of worship, a chance to share my children with others (namely loving childcare volunteers), and an escape into a place of quiet contemplation. I wanted to reflect, put my heart in the right place, and prepare for Sunday morning's celebration.

And I did.

I took my time. I read. I thought. I walked slowly. I took it all in. I took my time. I felt every emotion, throwing myself fully into the experience. I silenced my phone. I took off my watch. I engaged entirely. It was incredible.

As I finished, I was surprised to see that the experience had taken me over an hour. I felt so deeply reflective and provoked, after thinking so deeply on the most important. I was ready to gather my beloved children, carry their tired, sleepy bodies to their carseats, drive them home in continued quiet contemplation, and pray with them before I nestled them into their beds. I had worshipped fully for over an hour, and I was ready to bless my children with the fruit of such a retreat.

Only it didn't really happen that way.

When I walked into the nursery to gather them, I saw Tucker's shoes and socks placed neatly next to a bundled plastic bag on the counter. In the world of potty training, this only means one thing: an accident. Oh, shoot. I should have taken him to the bathroom before I dropped him off. We are getting so much better that this, but he still needs those reminders... bummer. But it's okay. We can recover from this. After all, I was still on my mountaintop. Not quite ready to come down, even for wet pants in a plastic bag.

And then I saw my boys, the last two left in the room of toys and sliding boards and good times for preschoolers. They were blowing bubbles - their great delight. They were giggling, blowing, popping, and playing, so much so that they groaned when they saw me. The groan that says, "What? You? We didn't want you yet." Sorry, boys. You've got me. And it's time to go.

And that's when Tucker started the waddle. In the world of potty training, this only means one thing: a bigger accident. Out of respect for your limits and Tucker's dignity, I will spare you the details. But it was a team effort (mine and the nursery workers') to get him back in working order. And he had now gone through all of our spare clothes in the diaper bag. One ouftit ago. Ugh.

(I was beginning to feel the tug on my spirit... I was losing my grip on the attitude my heart had found just moments before.)

Finally, with Tucker cleaned up yet again, and with the diaper bag, plastic bag(s), and my purse on my shoulder, I worked to gather my children and usher them to the car. The clean up had taken a bit of time, and there were few things to focus on except our departure. All the other families had gone home... it was just us and the nursery workers and the church staff. They were locking doors; it was time to go.

May I just say, in those moments of high profile, when everyone is watching and acts of parenting are spotlighted, when my husband is away and I am left to my own devices of patience and strategies, I really wish for my children to obey. I wish for them to sense my deepest, heart-felt desire for compliance.

They rarely do. And they did not, in that very moment.

I was balancing my many bags and their sticky little hands in mine. Tyler was lurching for toys and strollers in his path, and Tucker was dancing in circles around me, wishing and asking-asking-asking for more bubbles to blow. They were scattered, hyper, overly snacked, and overly tired. We were a walking octopus, with our many flailing appendages. I forged ahead, all but dragging these boys behind me.

Please, let's just get to the car.

And when we did, Tucker commenced his meltdown. He hit a wall. (I could relate.) Simultaneously, Tyler climbed into the very backseat of the van, tempting me to come get him, begging for boundaries, and asking for consequences. And all around us, church staff are filing out and into their cars. We were still on display.

(I love these people. They are gracious and kind, and I choose to believe they were free of judgment. But still, I couldn't deny the fact that the parking lot was quiet except for the squeals from within my minivan. I was dispersing warnings to the boys through gritted teeth, then turning my head to cheerfully say goodbye to someone once again. Motherhood calls for expert duplicity, varying tones of voice in play at one time.)

I retrieved Tyler from the backseat, and I wrestled him into his carseat. I issued words and warnings to never do that again, fully aware that this is the new game and we are far from the end. I put Tucker in his carseat, as he cried for his sunglasses. (It was 8:30. Please. I'm not worried about the glare.)

I got into the driver's seat. And I crashed. Crash landing. Back to reality. I had journeyed through the beauty of redemption; I had landed quite harshly into the reality of my life. How do I blend the two? How can I be in both places? Can I worship fully, but still be fully mommy?

I began to wonder if tonight's experience had been worth it at all. Only shortly removed from the place of quiet reflection, it seemed worlds away. All I could think about was what lay in front of me. My children were exhausted, and this 'single mom' still needed to get them home and in bed... which is a journey of its own. Was it worth it?

I didn't start the car right away. I needed to sit. Please. Just for a moment. Because the sooner we get home, the sooner I am swamped with pajamas and brushing teeth and medicines and tired. Please. I just needed to sit.

And while I sat, for just a few, they stopped crying. Tucker spotted the moon, and he told us all about the man in the moon (who isn't really there, he would like for you to know). Tyler talked about bubbles. And I listened.

And Tucker said, "Mommy, God made the moon. And he made Tucker."


"From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise."
Psalm 8:2

"He sure did, kiddo."

And that's how I blend the two.

I started the car. And we started home. (And I stopped at McDonald's. This mommy needs a mocha.)

It was worth it. It was worth it.

It was worth it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sunshine after the Storm

After several days of snow, sunshine has arrived.
We spent the morning at the park, and we found some good splashing puddles.

video

Everyone and all of their clothing got washed when we got home.
(Worth it.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Planning on a Miracle.

“Love at first sight is easy to understand;
it’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime
that it becomes a miracle.”

- Amy Bloom
Author, psychotherapist and educator

Friday, April 3, 2009

Clean Up Duty

Tucker made quite a mess. Not the worst ever, but there were lots of toys all over the living room floor. Blocks, trucks, books, happy meal treasures... you can probably picture that scene without my full detailed report.

I asked him to clean it up before lunchtime. He didn't argue (which was refreshing), but he didn't jump in (which was not surprising). He took inventory of the room, and he seemed overwhelmed by the task at hand.

"Mommy, you help me please?"

"No way, dude. You made this mess. It's all yours. You got all of these toys out, and you know where they go. You know what you need to do. Now get to it."

Sure, I could help. But who would learn the lesson then? Yes, I could whip this room back into shape in no time, since I have become rather masterful at decluttering. (Since I am also highly skilled at cluttering. The two skills feed each other.) From my aerial view, I could tell just what needed to go where, and I could have multitasked and straightened things to my liking. Much like Mary Poppins.

(I am like her in many ways. Especially with my constant singing and my fond relationships with domestic birds outside my window.)

I assured him that he was not only capable, but required. Still, no springing to action. He actually seemed rather paralyzed by it all, not sure where to start. But I felt insistent: now was the time for natural consequences. Get to it, kiddo.

Revelations and insight do not always strike me in the moment... but this time they sure did.

What if God responded that way, to my daily messes and concerns? From his perspective, he can see just what to do, what needs to happen, and how to align the plan. All the while, I remain paralyzed, unsure of where to start. He could easily say, "No way, kiddo. You made this mess. You clean it up. And get to it." In his goodness, he doesn't.

But then again, and also in his goodness, maybe he does sometimes. Maybe sometimes he lets me sit in the mess I've made and feel the consequences of my choices. Maybe he doesn't always rush to clean it all up, even though he could. He's patient with my messes, but he also hands me my shovel and lets me dive in to clean up the muck right alongside him.

In the end, Tuck and I worked together to put his toys away. I won't always make that decision, but I did that day.

Especially since I could instantly think of a few ways God was actively doing the same for me.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Band Sweater

When we were in high school, my parents gave my brother a sweater for Christmas. It was quite simply the very best sweater ever. Soft wool, shades of tan and ecru, cable knit design on the front, extra long sleeves, and just the right length. Ultra comfy.

He loved it. And so did I.

We traveled in a pretty intimate circle of friends in the year we spent together in high school, and all our friends loved the sweater too. In fact, it became the band sweater.

(Rob and I were band nerds... but that's really a very endearing term for those who truly carry the title. If you get to choose the circle your kids travel in, choose the marching band. It's filled with creative artists who learn to cooperate, pursue and sharpen a skill, and think as individuals inside a greater community. Plus, band practice and football games ensure that you know where they are after school and on Friday nights. And anyway, it's just fun. Some of the most fun I ever had.)

It became something of a mascot. The sweater lived in the band room, but it traveled with our various friends - sometimes to history or biology class, and sometimes to somebody else's house for the night. It even accompanied us on band trips. But it always came back to the collective, and it became so beloved. The soft wool got softer, the sleeves grew longer, and the perfect length accommodated anyone's shape. It was the 90s, woolly version of the Traveling Pants.

Rob and I felt honored when one of us got to wear it again, as it made the rounds through the others who loved it so much.

Sadly, my mom never really understood the miracle of The Band Sweater. She was really quite sure that Rob hadn't liked this gift for which she had shopped and compared and chosen so carefully. She thought maybe he didn't like it at all, and he contributed it to the Goodwill Community that was the band, all under the guise of altruism. My mom was a really good sport - she just felt mildly deceived. She loved us and all our friends, but she wasn't necessarily all about my brother's clothes belonging to the collective whole.

Try as we did, we couldn't convince her that it was the greatest compliment of all: she had indeed purchased the sweater that everyone loved most. My brother and I owned that which everyone wanted to wear. She demanded a few times that we bring it home and claim it as part of Rob's official wardrobe, but it always migrated back into the community at the next all-nighter.

I wonder whatever happened to that really great sweater, in all its loveliness... it was indeed an extraodinary article of clothing. Here's to you, Band Sweater. I hope someone is wearing you right now.

Preferably a band nerd.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Disgusting Find of the Day

So.

That sweet little blue monkey flashlight that said "ooh-ooh-aaah-aaah" when you squeeze his tummy to turn on the light?

He is no more.

Tyler fed him a strawberry.