Thursday, July 30, 2009

Loose Change.

I was only half awake this morning when I could feel someone's hand inside the sleeve of my pajamas. I opened my eyes: Tuck.

"I need my penny."

"I don't have your penny."

"Yes, you do. It's in there."

He tried fishing around in there, in search of his penny. Seriously? In my pajamas? We argued a bit, as I insisted that it was too early to be awake, and I didn't have his penny in my jammies. Hands out, thank you very much.

I sat up to get my bearings, and sure enough, a quarter fell out of my shirt.

"Oh, there it is. Thanks, Mommy."

He snatched it up, and he went back to bed.

(What? What just happened?)

* * * Fast-forward to late afternoon * * *
Tuck was running and playing hard, and his breathing started to get a bit labored. Wheezing causes great alarm at our house, so I told him to stop running and let me listen to his breath.
I put my ear against his chest, and he said, "You hear the penny in there?"
"What?" I'm sorry... did he just say...?
"A penny in there. I ate it." Gulp.
"There's a penny in there??"
"Yep. You hear it?"
Oh, for crying out loud. He ate a blasted penny. Or a quarter. Nobody knows for sure, except that he definitely ingested money of some kind. The doctor said we need to watch his you-know-what for a week, and we'll see if a penny shows up. If not, then Tuck will have an X-ray to see where it may have stopped along the way.
And so we'll wait. And see.
(Honestly. Unbelievable.)

It's Genetic. Apparently.

"Yummy, Mommy. Drink. Mmmm." Tyler was licking his lips. His cheeks were wet.

"Oh, did you get a drink, buddy?"

"Yes. Water. Yummy."

Only then did it occur to me that there was nothing on the second floor of the mountain condo from which he might get a drink. And he was gated in while I packed to bring us home. Houdini had found somewhere to quench his thirst, and I was afraid to ask.

"Where did you find your drink?"

"Molly's water. Yummy."

Oh, dear. "Please show me, Tyler."

And without reservation, he walked into the bathroom, knelt on his hands and knees, and lapped water from Molly's dog dish on the floor.

Oh, gross. Ew. Seriously. The things I have to teach him not to do. Astounding to me.

I texted my mom, in a frenzy of disgust.

Her response?

"I'm sorry to tell you, but it's genetic. When you were two, you ate dog food out of a dog's bowl at a Christmas party. The hostess brought you to me, apologizing and unsure of how much you'd eaten. But you helped yourself."

From what I hear, it was the social event of the season - a packed house of elite guests. And there was Polly's daughter, dressed in holiday satin and frills, munching from the dog's bowl. I'm sure she was thrilled.

So, in retrospect, a quiet lick-lick from Molly's dish isn't quite so mortifying. (Still, we're going to try to nip that new habit.)

And hey, I lived to tell about it. Or rather, to be told about it.

(I wish Tyler had taken after his dad on this one...)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vacationing... With Toddlers.

There is nothing like a relaxing vacation....and those five days were nothing like a relaxing vacation.

A Vacation with Toddlers should really go by a different name. Perhaps, "A Change in the Routine which Exhausts Everyone and Makes More Work for Mommy and Daddy." That would be more accurate.

So, I needed to let go of the idea that I would relax or feel renewed by caring for my children outside their natural environment. Once I realized what this wasn't, I could more fully embrace what it was.

It was...
Close quarters for the four of us.
A chance to really look at my children.
Really, really look at them.
Long walks.
Late desserts.
My birthday, on location.
Mountain views.
Lots of firsts.
New memories. Ours.

"With kids, it's a trip. Without kids, it's a vacation."

Someday, we'll go on a vacation. And perhaps I'll miss their packed lunches, fruit snacks, songs in the car, I Spy, poor sleeping, soggy towels, mosquito bites, kiddie pools, broken crayons, backseat fights, muddy shoes, spray-on sunscreen, board books, dirty faces, DVDs, and ragged bedtimes.

But for the first few days of that vacation, I'll enjoy the quiet stillness.

And then I'll miss them.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

You Gotta' Have a Good Wind Up.


This cracks me up. Every time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What Comes to Mind?

Recently, I was teaching a lesson on syllabication (dividing words into syllables), and I needed to specifically teach about words that end in -le.

In case you were absent the day your fifth grade class learned this lesson, when a word ends in -le, you divide the syllable one letter before the -le. (ap/ple, wrin/kle, thim/ble, etc.)

(I know this is riveting. I bet you didn't sign on today for a lesson in grammar or word analysis, but that's what you get with me. Even over lunch conversation, sometimes. I'm a package deal. My mind is a scrolling SpellCheck.)

Anyway, none of the above listed words would come to my mind when I most needed them. Of all things, the ONLY -le word that would come to my mind was nipple.

I held my dry erase pen and marker in my hand, and I hosted this mental dialogue in my head.


No. Not nipple.

Apple. There we go.

Another example?



Thimble. Good one.

And... Nipple.


Purple. Whew.

And... Nipple.

NO! Enough with the nipples already!

I managed to pull a few more out of my hat, including triple, twinkle, and nibble. We carefully avoided any audible discussion of a nipple, but only with some careful guidance of my own thoughts.

Good heavens. You'd think a seventh grade boy lives in my head.

Monday, July 20, 2009


"Tuck, you're being silly," said my friend, L., who graciously babysat my boys so I could have a kid-free hour... and she taught them the Peanut Butter & Jelly song as well as a clever new way to jump on the couch.

"No, I'm not silly. I'm just me. I'm three, and I'm playing, and I'm just being me."

Well, thank you very much, Mr. Confidence and Eloquence.

* * *

Me: "Tucker, you're not being kind today. Where is my kind boy?"

He pointed to Tyler. "Over there."

* * *

Tyler's new power card, which he doles out whenever someone seems close to goodbye: "Oh, no, please don't leave us."

Oh, sure. That one's easy to say no to. (Guilt seems as innate to them as smashing play doh.)

* * *

Me: Tuck, do you know who gave you that toy you love?

Tuck: God did.

Well, yes, I suppose, in the sense of 'every good and perfect gift.'

* * *

(Have I mentioned lately how I once longed for these conversations? They were worth waiting for.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Rule of Fifty

“If you’re fifty years old or younger,
give every book about fifty pages before you decide
to commit yourself to reading it,
or give it up.
If you’re over fifty,
which is when time gets even shorter,
subtract your age from 100—
the result is the number of pages you should read before deciding.”

~Nancy Pearl, Book Lust
Now, that's just a great rule right there. Freedom in literacy. There are too many good books out there to waste time on one you don't love. That's why I have abandoned a book I was 143 pages into; I was dreading my every opportunity to read. (And who on earth wants that?) So I set it aside. I may return another day, when all other books seem even less appealing. (Highly unlikely.) For now, I have replaced it with a brilliant read that I simply cannot put down. And that's just a better plan, in my book.
(No pun intended.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009


So, here's how it all went down, this unforgettable birthday night of my life.

I prepared for a planned evening, under the guise of "celebrating our anniversary." Except when I got in the car, Robb blindfolded me. He told me to act normal, stop worrying, and think small. Because nothing big was coming my way. Right. This felt so normal, care free, and understated. We drove all around, as he took shortcuts, quick turns, and parking lot detours to puzzle my mental sense of direction (which is sketchy on a good day).

And finally, it was time for me to get out of the car. I was permitted to remove my blindfold (a fuzzy, pink scarf that did not go with my hair), but I had to keep my eyes covered until further notice. Robb held my hand and I clutched his arm, while he led me up the sidewalk at a ridiculously fast pace for someone with impaired vision and high heels.

He led me up the sidewalk and through multiple doors, and then he said, "Ready?"

And a multitude shouted, "Surprise!!"

I opened my eyes to see a room full of people from every circle of my life: from my family, my childhood, my teaching days, and every different circle of friendship. Each chapter of my life was represented in one room. There were balloons, birthday cupcakes, banners, decorations, presents, and so many faces. I realized later that they burst into song, singing Happy Birthday to me. But just then, I was too overwhelmed to take it all in. I was shocked. Utterly.

And then, while I was still gasping for air, Robb said,
"There's just one present you have to open first. It's right there: that box."

There before me was indeed a large, wrapped box. And it moved. Toward me.

"Open it, Tricia. Open it." Friendly voices encouraged me from all around the room, their cameras poised to capture whatever was inside.

I opened. Carefully.

It was my brother.

In case you're new, here's a newsflash: I Love My Brother. And it happens to be mutual. We're pretty crazy about each other, this friendship, and our shared life as siblings.

We hadn't seen each other in nine months. And here he was, wrapped up for me.

I cried.
And so did he.

Together at last.

I do like this boy, very much.

He captured this video, from Inside The Box.


And the party started.
There were games, conversation, cupcakes, lots and lots of candles, and so many of my favorite things. And I was more than a little disoriented, from start to finish.
(Good thing there were also cameras.)

My children were pretty excited to know the birthday girl firsthand.
After all, it comes with some perks.

Immeasurable thanks to my husband, the party planner.

(Truly, I had no idea he had it in him. I think he has a crush on me. That's the only reason for such detailed planning and extroverted activity. I am appropriately impressed. Well done, my love. You pulled it off.)

(And so did the rest of you, you bunch of liars and secret keepers.)

My brother in town would have been a stellar birthday gift.
A room full of most of my favorite people would have also been an unforgettable happening.
But together? In the same night? Without my knowledge or careful planning?

Well, it's an emotional altitude unbeknownst to me.

And just think: my birthday is still a week away.
But as far as I'm concerned, it's merely a date on the calendar.

I have been sufficiently celebrated.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Living the Moment.

Someday I will blog again.

And when I do, I'll write about the Amazingly Stupendous Surprise Birthday Party my husband hosted for me on Saturday night. The party over which I am not yet.

(Raise your hand if you love that sentence.)

And I will write about the first gift in a giant wrapped box: My Brother. Flown in from Florida, after nine months apart from me.

I will write. But I can't yet. I need to fully live it first.
(Happy birthday to me.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Where to Begin?!

Honestly. I don't know where to begin. Today has been one for the books, and I must document it. Not because everything is worth documenting, but because I have to acknowledge this journey. Officially. So, stick with me. It's been a day.
Act I: Tyler

We arrived at the park today, only to realize too late that he had thrown a shoe out the window of the van. Awesome. Now, Love & Logic tells me to apply a direct and natural consequence to the crime. Except I could only think of two consequences:

1) He could play barefoot at the park (which is not permissible by park rules), or 2) He could not play at all (which suddenly becomes a far greater consequence to ME, the one who desperately needs him to run, for the sake of all things peaceful on the homefront).

So we retraced our steps. Thankfully, his shoe was in the garage. (While I grabbed our picnic items, Tucker practiced balancing his shoe on the rim of the open window. Tyler, mimicking without such dexterity, simply chucked his out the open window.) It was an easy find, but it still required a trip home.

All the way home.

During naptime, when I thought he was sleeping, he was really quietly playing. With Vaselline. When I found him, he and the entire contents of his room were covered in a greasy veneer. AND he had not slept. At all. That's a great recipe, speaking of peace on the homefront.
Note to self: petroleum jelly is most certainly not water soluble. Nor is it penetrable with baby wipes. I'm not sure yet how we will completely recover from this mess. But I am 100% confident that I will find slimey things for a long time to come.
After I had cleaned him as well as I could, changed his clothes, changed his sheets, combed his slicked hair, scrubbed the rocking chair, wiped down the changing table, and threw away most of the contents of the top drawer (before we rushed to church so I could hand him over to nursery workers who would undoubtedly wonder about my parenting), he pointed to a huge glob on the dresser.
"Mommy. Mess. Big mess."
Yes, Tyler. You are absolutely, completely and totally right, kiddo.
Before we left the house, I fed Molly. This led me to discover too late in the day that Tyler had taken the cushy seat off the potty and positioned it directly - quite perfectly, really - on top of Molly's water dish. So she had to dig deep to find water, but she could rest her chin on the softest seat in the house.
(I choose to believe that nobody has been peeing in her water dish while it looked like a teeny tiny toilet. But this may be wishful thinking. Sorry, Molls.)
Stay with me folks. We're not done yet.
Act II: Tucker
Tuck has been experimenting recently with language, responses, and boundaries. He is trying new things, just to practice cause and effect, to test consequences, and to see how his most favorite people will respond.
Example #1: "Grandma, I don't love you."
"No? Well, I'm sorry to hear that, because I sure love you."
She's a total pro, folks. Doesn't miss a beat. She's not buying what he's selling; as she says, "Oh, it's fine. He can't even fake it. He can say whatever he wants to. I know the truth." (This made her a maddeningly brilliant mom, because she didn't easily step into the dance I wished to entice her. She simply nodded and said, "Oh, really? You think so?" And left me to alter my behavior accordingly, since she wasn't taking the bait. And so it continues. Believe me: it is hard to ruffle her feathers. Go ahead and try, Tuck.)
And try he does. "Well, I don't love you. I don't."
Example #2: "Poop." "Stupid." Insert these two words into any conversation, any play time activity, or babbling of any sort. He loves the feel of them on his tongue. I have henceforth declared them 'rude words.' Stupid is unwelcome, ever. And poop is a word we use only in the bathroom.
So what does he do? He declares that he needs to go to the bathroom. But only to use those words, since he has deposited himself in an acceptable environment.
(I can't make this stuff up.)
Example #3: (This brings us to tonight.) He grabbed the breasts of two women at church tonight. I wish I were joking. He came running down the hall from his class (where he had apparently been thinking about things other than five fish and two loaves), and he groped two of my friends as he arrived.
To one of them, he said, "I'm going to tickle your boobies." Oh, for heaven's sake. I am not ready for this. Boobies? Really? Boobie tickling is not exactly a bedtime routine of ours.
In my mind are all the mothers of sons who have gone before me; their voices echo: Don't overreact. He just needs to be taught. A huge reaction will lead him to do it again. Be firm, and be clear, but don't overreact.
It's hard not to, ladies. It's hard not to. I can't have my son doing things like this - at church, of all places?!
So, at bedtime, he and I had The Swimsuit Talk. If it is covered by a swimsuit, then you cannot touch it. Girls' swimsuits are different from boys' swimsuits, and that's because girls have parts that boys don't have. You may not touch them. We named the parts that can't be touched, just to be clear. Yes, they have names. No, you may not touch them.
Finally, pleased with my appropriate reaction (and not overly so), I said, "Let's pray and ask God to help you to be a good boy."
Here was his prayer:
"Dear God, please don't let anyone touch my penis. Amen. Boobie."
(And if you know how to keep from laughing at that, please write a book on parenting.)
This has been my day. (Did I mention: Robb has been in Montana for four days. So, you know, my resources are in fresh reserve.)
Sometimes, I wonder if my aspirations to write have led me to this life that offers much to write about. Everyday brings something. Somedays, more than my share.
Here's to tomorrow: may it be free of shoe chucking, Vaselline explorations, potty seats on the water dish, discussions of all things poopy and stupid, and the indiscriminate squeezing of breasts.
Please. Dear God, please.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

From the Back Seat...

Tyler: Where is Daddy?

Tuck: He went to Montana. On a spaceship.


Tuck: "After our naps today, I think we should watch Buzz Buzz Lightyear."

(Translated: Toy Story.)

Tyler: "Oh, I love Buzz Buzz."


Tucker: "Mommy will be older soon. On her birthday."

Tyler: "Mommy will be two?"

Tucker: "No, she is twenty. On her birthday, she will be forty."

No. I will not.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Friendship is...

"Friendship is acting out God's love for people in tangible ways.
We were made to represent the love of God in each other's lives,
so that each person we walk through life with
has a more profound sense of God's love for them.
Friendship is an opportunity to act on God's behalf
in the lives of the people that we're close to,
reminding each other who God is.
When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship,
we bring a little more of the divine into daily life.
We get to remind one another
about the bigger, more beautiful picture
that we can't always see from where we are."

~ Shauna Neiquist, Cold Tangerines

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Yankee Doodles

I'm a sucker for the Fourth of July. Totally. From start to finish, top to bottom, beginning to end. Bring it. All of it.

We had been talking it up - big time. The parade, the fireworks, the whole deal. What we didn't realize is that all of that sounds a lot like some nostalgic memories of Disney World. Before we knew it, Tucker's imagination had gotten ahead of all of us, and there was talk of castles and princesses and Uncle Rob. Slow down, cowboy. Sorry to disappoint.

What you'll really find are some honorable old men carrying flags, some convertibles with beauty queens of various shapes and sizes, a few strolling politicians, and a marching band, if we're lucky. (Which we weren't.) While the fireworks are fun, there is no flying Tinkerbell to accompany them.

And just to set everyone's expectations at an appropriate level, we each declared our greatest hopes of what we might find at the parade, long before it started. I hoped to see a flag. Robb hoped to see some old, refurbished cars. Tucker wished for a fire truck. And Tyler (leave it to him) wished for trees.

Trees in a parade... a little hard to come by. But, okay, kiddo. Maybe. You just never know.

Lest we minimize the fun of a 'small town' parade, we donned our flag t-shirts and hit the streets. And they were mesmerized.

As promised, we found men carrying flags.

As a bonus, there was Uncle Sam, in the extra tall variety.

There was our very own wagon, filled with everything but children.

There were fire trucks, old cars, lots of flags, and heaps of candy thrust upon us. And just when we thought Tyler had been too picky, Paul Revere's float passed us by, portraying his Midnight Ride. And lo and behold: there were trees.
Tyler said, "Oh! My trees!" Well done, Paul Revere.
But best of all, there were my children. Waving and cheering, standing and saluting.

It was pretty incredible, even for me: a diehard fan of all things red, white, and blue.
We spent the afternoon and evening stuffing ourselves with unbelievable amounts of edible heaven. You know the spread: burgers, brats, corn on the cob, baked beans, her potato salad, his pasta salad, Mom's layered salad, all washed down with a peanut butter cup trifle. And at dinner time: Repeat. With ice cream sandwich cake for dessert.
I mean. Come on.
And finally, after an afternoon thunderstorm that had us all concerned for our evening's plans, it was time for Fireworks. Now, let me say, Tuck had been counting the days - since Tuesday. "Fireworks today? Oh, on Saturday? Is today Saturday? How about now?" He poured gallons of anticipation into those few days.
As we drove to our 'special spot,' where the fireworks are just close enough and just far enough away, he stared out the window and alerted us to every spark in the sky. He could not wait. They were to begin at 9:30 PM, and the hour could not arrive soon enough.
Except then it arrived. And at about 9:26, he changed his mind. He was terrified, not interested, and not open to discussion. He curled into my arms and buried his face in my neck. No amount of persuading, coaxing, or oohing and aahing could encourage him to lift his head.
With his bravest voice, he whispered into my neck through the entire display, in response to my exclamations over the fireworks. "Mommy, was that one your favorite? Mommy, was that one red or green? Mommy, was that a big one?" I gave him a play-by-play. And he never, ever peeked.
This is what I will remember most about the Fourth of July, 2009. This. Right here.
You see, earlier, during that same week of anticipation, my sweet little boy began to declare his independence from me. He said he wanted no more kisses from me, no more hugs, and no more nicknames. "I don't like your kisses. No more hugs, please. And don't call me Love, Babe, Sir, or Buddy. I am Tucker."
So, to have my sweet pea snuggled in my lap, snug as a bug in a rug, with no requests for freedom? Well, it was the sparkler in my cupcake.
He even asked me to sing his bedtime songs before it ended. Oh, for heaven's sake. I couldn't write a better script than that, sweet boy.
And just two laps over, Tyler snuggled into his own favorite spot: Grandma. He braved the fireworks, he proclaimed their beauty, and he lasted nearly to the end. But who could stay awake for long in such a cozy spot?
It was a really, really good day.
Really, it always is.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cannot. Handle.

Are you kidding me?
If only I carried a blue marker in my red bag.

(I do happen to have a blue Sharpie, retractable fine tip. Always.
But this looks like the work of the Crayola variety.
Still, I almost took matters into my own hands. Honestly.)

Choose Wisely.

On our getaway last weekend, Robb and I wanted to choose something to bring home to each of the boys. We browsed through several toy stores, in search of the perfect something that would be: a) enjoyable, b) different, c) inexpensive, and d) not junk.

In one toy store, I picked up box of toys for building and creating; there were like 600 hexagons inside, each with a nook in each of the six sides, suitable for connecting to each other. I picked it up to look it over.

Robb said, "Oh, no. Not that. Look at all those pieces. In two weeks, we will have lost half of them. So we'll throw the other half away. And for two years, we'll find missing pieces and say, 'Did we keep this toy? Or did we throw it away?' And we won't remember what we decided to do, so we'll keep random pieces, just in case we find the hundreds we forgot we threw away. No way."

A good point. And a good observation of our family pattern. Who wants to sign on for that? Not us. Or at least not this week.

(By the end of the weekend, we bought them each a t-shirt and a KitKat bar. Manageable and easily consumed. And it met all of the above criterion. Check.)