Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Motherhood Defined

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

~ Tucker

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some Striking Similarities

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

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

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A + B = C

A.
B.
C.

Say no more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Birds of a...

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

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

Picture a Disney movie pillow fight.

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

And that's why I don't mop.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Here's the Thing.

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

(pause to take a breath)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is one tough gig.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Authentic Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sure."

"Okay. How are you?"

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

"I'm fine. Thank you."

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

"'Tis true."

"I'm sorry. What?"

Sorry. Too quick on the varied answers, apparently.

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

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

"No, no cheese."

"But it says you had grated parmesan."

"But I didn't. No cheese."

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

"No."

"It was supposed to be toasted."

"But I didn't want it toasted."

"But it was supposed to be."

"Well, it wasn't."

"Could you clarify, for our interview?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I liked it."

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

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

"Um, I liked it very much."

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

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

"I did."

"Okay. It was big enough."

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

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

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

"And you mentioned it was toasted."

"No, I didn't."

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

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

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

"It wasn't toasted."

"I know."

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

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

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

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

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

"How was it toasted?"

"It wasn't."

"I know."

(Am I being punk'd?)

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

"Thank you, ma'am."

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

"Slightly messy."

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

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

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

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

(Unbelievable.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just One Day a Year


Poor guy.


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


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


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


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


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

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mr. Morning Sunshine

(overheard morning conversation from the bunkbeds...)

Tucker: Tyler? Tyler. Ty. Wake up.

Tyler: No words, Tucker.

Tucker: Just a little bit.

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

(They make me laugh. A lot.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Gift of Time

Confession.

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

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

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

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

This paragraph patiently waited for my discovery:

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

Friday, September 11, 2009

Los Ojos Nuevos

"Tuck, we're going to get your eyes checked today."


"No. No eyes checked."


"Yep. They'll take a look at your eyes and make sure they're working right. It won't hurt at all. They'll just play some games with you to make sure you can see, and we'll be all set."


He was not on board. Much later into our morning preparation, he was still agitated and concerned, arguing with me about getting his eyes checked.

Finally, I slowed down the breakfast and get-ready routine. "Tuck, why are you sad?"


He said, "Mommy, I just like my eyes. I don't want to get new ones."


Time to clarify. (No wonder he was concerned.)

My Four Year Old



Never too early to explore scholarship options.

Little shooters need some help on the jumpshot.


Happy Birthday to you, Tucker of mine.

Two New Friends

On the evening of Tucker's fourth birthday, we enjoyed our first adventure to Build A Bear.


So many choices. Tucker chose a panda, and Tyler chose a scruffy teddy bear.



The stuffing machine was a little too loud for Tuck.

Here, he's making a birthday wish on the heart just before it's implanted in the new Panda.
I prompted him to wish for world peace or literacy for all.
He asked for great presents.
Fair enough, kiddo. :)




Bath time.




And now it was time to name them.


Tucker named his Panda "Dennis."


And Tyler, well, Tyler named his teddy bear "Bummy."


Yep. Bummy.


I hope the bear and the name travel with him for a good long time.




Birth Certificates, please.
The proud parents of Dennis and Bummy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"I have to tell my brother."

I escaped on a spiritual retreat on Sunday afternoon... to Panera for two hours. (I know: it's no desert. It's no forty days. But you take what you can get.)

I chose a quiet booth, a decadent panini, and the book of John. A great combination.

I sought to read it in its entirety (John - not the entire Bible) from beginning to end, and I made it most of the way through before a woman seated herself next to me and began doing algebra aloud.

Honestly.

But long before I became sorely distracted by her verbal exhortation of x over y, I found something I had never found before. I was reading about Jesus' first disciples, how he found them and how they each responded to his entrance into their lives.

And that's when I found this:

"The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him." (John 1:41)

It's a simple phrase, a simple verse, and never before profound to me. Except for this: now I am a mother. I'm raising a pair of brothers. And I watch them. As they encounter joy in their lives - a chocolate cookie, a surprise visit from Grandma, a reunion with a forgotten toy - their instinct is to tell one another. "Tyler! Come here!" or "Tucker, look!" They delight in the shared joy, seemingly even more than an independent discovery.

And suddenly I pictured Andrew and Simon. Andrew found the Messiah, and then he thought: "I found Him! I have to tell my brother!"

May it be so for my boys, God. May they find such delight in pursuing You, and may each one be forever overjoyed to tell the other what he has found. In You.

~ ~ ~

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth."
III John 1:4

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ouch.

New Scooter.

New Helmet.

New Kneepads.

Big Crash.

Two gashes on the chin.

Stomach slashed by wayward handlebar.

(Seriously, this sight was a tough one for Mom. And I'm no softie when it comes to first aid.)

Neosporin all around.

Poor Tucker.

"Mommy, I need kneepads for my face."

Not a bad idea, sweet boy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Okay, Mommy, just close your eyes...

Tucker is fully independent in the skill of dressing himself, which is a welcome ability at our house.

But, perhaps thriving entirely on words of affirmation, he loves to make every garment a surprise. He grabs his clothes and scurries into the hallway, and presents himself numerous times, with one more item added to his body.

"Okay, Mommy, just close your eyes."

"Well, I can't close my eyes, because I'm changing Tyler's diaper."

"Mommy. Close your eyes."

"Okay, okay. They're closed." Or at least squinty.

[tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe] "Ta-Da!"

I 'open' my eyes to see Tucker, with his arms thrown wide in self amazement, wearing his shorts, indeed.

And we repeat the same Dog and Pony Show with the shirt, socks, shoes, pajama shirt, pajama pants, and/or any accompanying accessories.

I am learning: applauding for every garment takes just as long as putting it on him with my own two hands. But it does lack the flare.

And there's no turning back.

I do hope his college roommate forgives me for this trend of his.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Burnt Hair. Smells Gross.

So, in case you're ever in a hurry to prepare a belated dinner for three hungry men of varying shapes and sizes but ferociously competing appetites, and in case you're tempted to scurry around the kitchen and do things in half the time with half your brain, take a word from me:

Slow. Down. Sister.

That's exactly what I was doing tonight, and I even recall these wise words from my husband: "Babe, slow down. You might forget something."

By 'something,' I'm pretty sure he was referring to the oil I should have put in the pan before I heated the pan to atrocious degrees. Instead, I simply heated the pan. Searing hot metal, on my stovetop, without a single thing in it. That's a smoke alarm waiting to sound.

So then, when I needed to fry the chicken patties into the horrifically hot pan, I poured in the necessary oil... and flames instantly shot up to the ceiling.

I have learned a few lessons from this encounter with vegetable oil on hot metal.

It turns out, a grease fire will not burn itself out. So, waiting for it to stop burning on its own will merely fill the kitchen with black smoke. And cause significant damage to the cupboards and the microwave.

And, we now know, that the firemen aren't kidding. Water does not put out a grease fire. Only a lid on the flame, to suffocate the flame. (I tried water first. Not wise.)

And, in case you wondered, burnt hair is one of the worst smells in the history of mankind, and it remains to be seen how much damage was done to my goldilocks. So far, bits are breaking off in my hand every time I run my fingers through. That's maybe not a great sign, but I try not to overreact. Stay tuned.

And, aloe is a good cure for burns to the fingers and wrist, from carrying a wildly flaming pan across the kitchen and leaning over it to turn on the water, which did not in fact help the situation. Thank you, aloe. You have been my friend through many a sunburn and now kitchen disaster.

And, husbands come running when wives are screaming.

And, children who witness a direct encounter with open flames in the kitchen (however from a safe distance) will require many, many, many therapeutic conversations about the safety of our house, our kitchen, and our future meals. And, the older child is likely to tell his entire new community of preschoolers about the smoke alarms we still hear in our minds.

And, my maternal instincts kick into high gear when there is any impending threat to my family or my home. I would have sat on that fire if that's what it took. I'm not sure it would have helped, and it would have led to an entirely different blog post. But the point is: the depths of maternal fearlessness are deafening. Open flame, singed hair, and burnt arms notwithstanding.

And, if you're looking for a fast ticket to a dinner out, try nearly burning down the kitchen.

In all truthfulness, I am humbled by it all - by such a close encounter with that which can overtake in a heartbeat. It could have gotten so bad, so fast... and I got a small glimpse of that fear.

We are okay.

Well, except for my hair. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Preschooler in the Family



It's official! Tucker is a preschooler!


We talked about it all morning, through our fruit bars and Cheerios, through getting dressed and combing hair, through seatbelts and car rides: Today is Tucker's Big Day. We visited the classroom yesterday, so he had met his teacher and even played with some new friends. (He likes Mason and Natalie very much.) So he was Oh-So-Ready.


He was Mr. Enthusiasm... until we walked into the classroom. Nope. No, thank you. We'll try again next year.


The children were taking their places on the Circle Time Rug when we arrived, and Tucker was not at all interested in joining them. Tyler, on the other hand, pranced around the room. "Tucker! Your cubby! Come hang up your backpack!" (Tyler approaches life a bit differently.)


Miss Emily warmly called his name and encouraged him to join his friends. In response, he turned and began to climb up my torso, softly saying, "Mommy, kiss. Kiss. Kiss."


Translated: I'm going to need a million goodbye kisses to make it through this morning.


But Miss Emily is a total pro, as I will hereby and forever need every teacher of my children to be. She walked to him, scooped him up with a smile, and said, "Tuck, let's come over to the window and see if somebody walks by that you know."


Brilliant. And THAT was my cue to slip out the door and be the person he knows on the other side of the window. I love her already.


Tyler and I waved from the other side, gave him an enthusiastic thumbs up, and headed down the hallway. Just like that, I heard twelve little voices say, "Good morning, Tucker!" Music to my ears. With that greeting, I promptly left my preschooler in a classroom all his own.


I applauded myself all the way to the car: job well done. Good work, Mom. No tears, no sadness, only proud sentiment. Good work.


Why won't my car shift into Drive? What the...? Oh. Tyler's side door is wide open. Perhaps I'll close it before I pull into oncoming traffic.


And perhaps my heart is a little more distracted than I thought.


I closed the door and drove on, still so impressed with myself and the hearty embrace of this next life stage, this new transition. I thought of Tucker's proud smile as he waved goodbye, of his new friends, and of his blue glittery name on the bulletin board.
He belongs here.


I prayed for him: for his confidence, his new friends, his safety, and that everyone might understand what he wants to say, since he's on his own without any translation assistance.


And I prayed for Miss Emily, the leader of this small troupe of explorers. And that's when I realized: I've been praying for Miss Emily for years. I have long prayed for the future teachers of our children: I have prayed that they would be perfectly placed, that they would be passionate experts in their field, and that they might have tender hearts to love our children individually and with great depth.

I've been praying for her for years. And I finally know her name.

Suddenly, Mommy of Steel was soft as a puddle. Bring on the tissues.


Tyler and I planned adventures of our own in Tucker's absence. I think Tyler will be okay with this new plan, though he asks about his built-in playmate about every ten minutes. Watching these two, I am learning that it is a gift to miss someone.

We picked him up at the end of the morning, and he was all smiles and confidence as he strode out the door. He seemed taller, smarter, and somehow older.



We did it. My big boy is a preschooler.