Monday, November 30, 2009

Disgusting Find of the Day

I found Tyler with his head in the toilet bowl. Checking things out, just above the water line.

Excuse me while I throw up in another toilet, perhaps one with fewer spectators.

Ask the Expert.

When I picked Tyler up from his Sunday school class, his teacher said, "And how far along are you into the potty training?"

"Um, not as far as you might think."

"Well, he went on the potty twice today, and I just wanted to ask you, so we can be consistent: are you having him sit or stand?"

I honestly didn't know.

I said, "Let me ask his brother. He's the one leading the charge."

(Perhaps some would say I should work my way to the front of this campaign, but there still doesn't seem to be much need. I'll let them work out the kinks, and then I'll swoop in for the victory lap.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Special Performance

And now, for your holiday enjoyment, Tyler will perform Jingle Bells. With a dance.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Drooping Boughs

Our Christmas tree is full.

When we began to set it up last night, I thought to myself, "You know, there's just really no need for all of these ornaments. Tonight I will selectively purge the ones we can do without."

(I often speak to myself with such a matter of fact tone, I assure you.)

But I didn't know where to start.

I sorted through the ones from our earliest Christmases together, when we each brought a handful from our own own trees to blend together into our first holiday traditions. There are the metalic ones from Robb's growing up years, with his grandmother's handwriting on the back. There are the couple of cross-stitched ornaments that his mom made for him, dated for Robby, age nine. There is the ceramic angel, painted an unforgiving lavender, that says on the back in my mom's handwriting: Tricia, age 3. My first Christmas craft, apparently.

There are other crafts of mine, including a sand dollar from third grade and a beaded strand from my first attempt as an entrepreneurial businesswoman. (For ten cents, I would give you a strand of perfectly patterned red, white, and green. Sorry you missed out on that investment.)

But I can't part with those.

There are the ones from my students. Apples. #1 Teacher. Each one has a story, and I can tell you about each child who carefully presented such a proudly chosen addition for my tree.

I can't part with those.

There are heaps and heaps of snowmen, and I just like snowmen. I just do. Perhaps I could part with some of them, but they're one big family. So, I can't. (And each one came from someone who knows me. And my love for those whimsical somebodies.)

There are the ornaments that represent experiences. Like Jamie's Christmas wedding, or the beaded snowflakes the girls in my family made one year on Thanksgiving.

I can't part with those.

And then there are the dozens and dozens of milestones that hang on our tree. Our First Christmas. Our First Home. Molly's dog dish. Baby's First Christmas. Lots of families of three, labeled Mommy, Daddy, and Tucker, represented with penguins, bears, moose, and of course snowmen. And one family of three, with a very pregnant Mom in the crew. Then the appearance of families of four, and many ornaments for Big Brother and Little Brother.

There is a most beautiful, translucent angel holding a baby high in the air, and that one makes me sentimental every single year. Because I remember when I opened it and hung it on our tree, grieving our first lost child and praying God would send us one to hold.

And in the branches below her, we have Mickey Mouse, Big Bird, Elmo, and Cookie Monster. Proof that God answered the cry of our hearts.

And of course, I cannot part with those.

The likelihood is far greater that I will someday add a second tree, than the delusion that I will part with any one of these paragraphs that hang in all shapes and sizes.

I simply cannot part with any of them.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lost and Found

Robb and I were settling in for the worship service at our church, reading the bulletin announcements, discussing a few overflowing topics from our small group, and preparing for a sermon that never disappoints... when the diamond on my engagement ring caught on my sweater.

Not a big deal, I assumed. Small snag. Quickly remedied. But as I untangled the wool thread, I noticed that the ring felt sharper, ragged, different somehow. I looked down at it, and instead of my diamond, I saw four bare prongs pointing up at me.

No diamond.

I gasped. "My diamond! It's gone!"

Robb lurched into action, and so did I. We were instantly on our knees in the carpeted sanctuary, looking everywhere for this precious stone. People in the surrounding rows noticed our frantic looking, and they joined in the search. Others offered flashlights as we all felt along the carpet, in desperate search.

Robb grabbed a friend and together they retraced our steps, while I stayed on my knees in the sanctuary. Praying and searching.

I remembered the day Robb gave it to me, along with this promise of forever.

I remembered when we added the wedding ring I wear alongside it, the band that means, 'I said yes.'

And 'I still do.'

And even as we searched, I felt guilty for loving something so much. The first major investment we made together, or that Robb made for me. A financial commitment that represented more than most of the world makes in a year. I was near tears over losing something that most of the world will never own.

But it's more than the stone itself. It's the symbol. The memory of when Robb first showed it to me, in its black satin box. It's the promise, the thought, the remembering.


Please, God, let me find it.

Just when my emotional journey had taken me far into the farewell of the intangible, I heard, "Tricia! I found it!" Robb was in the back of the sanctuary, waving his arms and shouting to me. Stop the search. The lost has been found.

He retraced our steps. Precisely where I had taken off my winter coat, he saw the sparkling diamond, winking from the floor. He wrapped it in tissue and tucked it in his pocket. Safe, at last.

We relayed the word to the search and rescue team, and they literally shared in my tearful elation. One woman leaned into me and whispered, "I lost my grandmother's ring once. I know how you feel. Doesn't it make you think of the woman in the Bible who loses her silver coin? She sweeps the whole house, carefully searching until she finds it. I bet you understand that now."

Yes, I think I do.

In the parable in the Bible, she says to her friends, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin." And the Lord reminds us, "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of angels over one sinner who repents."

My diamond: irreplaceable. Not just as a placeholder, a symbol, or a token. But for reasons far beyond words.

Perhaps, with a new understanding, so am I.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

To Add to my Collection...

Tyler glanced down at my feet. "Mommy, you need new shoes. Your shoes are too small."

At first I started into a monologue about how grownups' feet eventually stop growing (excluding pregnancy, sadly), and how my shoes really fit just fine. But then I thought better of it.

Silly me.

"You're right, Tyler. Go tell Daddy. Mommy needs new shoes."

"Daddy? Daddy? Daddy! Mommy needs new shoes. Her shoes are too small."

Robb glanced at me, with my shoulders pulled up and my palms open: the nonverbal signal for, "What? He said it. Not me."

"Nice try, Mommy."

It was worth a shot.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Security Restored

Something was on Tucker's mind, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I had just come home from four days away, and he had not quite found himself again in our routine. Things weren't right. And he sure seemed angry: at me.

"Mommy, after my nap, I'm going to shoot you."


"Mommy, I hope you get smashed by cars."

I sternly reminded him that he couldn't say those things to anyone, least of all me. I put him to bed without a story, I told him he hurt my heart, and I asked him to be kind the next day. But the next day brought more of the same. Threats of violence, and not a whole lot of warm fuzzies.

I could have flown off the handle and punished his little spirit for being so very mean (and there was some of that, for sure), but something within me knew that it was bigger than an angry will.

When he woke up from his nap, in that small window of still snuggles, I said, "Tuck, do you remember when I went away on my trip?"


"Did it make you sad when I left?"


Bingo. He wasn't sure why I left, if I would come back, when I would leave again, and what would happen to him if his life turned irrevocably upside down.

Sweet, sweet boy.

So, we scheduled a date night. Mommy and Tucker. Just us. An instant spirit booster. Mutually.

A date with me comes with special privileges. You get to choose the restaurant, you can choose the songs in the car, and you can choose the volume of those chosen songs. (Makes you want to sign up, I know.) Tucker chose Chick fil A, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and loud. You got it, buddy.

We ordered our meals, and I stepped around the corner to get some extra napkins. Suddenly, Tuck realized he had lost sight of me. "Mommy? Mommy! Where are you?! You LOST ME!"

Stop everything, little man. Even before we unwrapped our sandwiches, I knew we needed to hit this topic head on. I settled in beside him, with no room for distractions.
"Tucker, I didn't lose you. I will never lose you. I went away to see our friends in Arkansas, but I came back. I will always come back. Do you know that?"

"And I missed you every single day."

"Everyday. And I'm home now, and I'm not going anywhere."

"Not just for a little while, Mommy? For a big while?"

"Yes. For a big while. I'm here, kiddo."

He smiled. "Okay. Then tell me all about Arkansas."

"Okay. Well, first I drove for a really, really long time..." I gave him a play by play, and his face lit up as I mentioned the people he knows and misses. He wanted to hear it all, now that he knew I was home to stay.

I can do that, Tuck.

We finished our evening with some silly pictures of each other, since it seemed like a good night for a new privilege: working Mommy's camera.

And finally, I introduced him to his very first milkshake. Vanilla. With a cherry. (The first girl in his heart should be the one to give him his first milkshake. That's just how it should be.)

"Mommy, this is the best date ever."

I think we're friends again.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Small Town Wonders

I think I could love life in a small town.

I just spent several days visiting one of my best friends and her family in a teeny-tiny town just inside the state line of Arkansas. And, let me say, there is great charm and appeal to life within a three-mile radius.

For example, the toll booth operator who welcomes you to the town by decorating her lane with seasonal goodness. Hello, say the scarecrows. Welcome to Siloam Springs.

I loved their quaint, charming Broadway: complete with a dance studio, a children's boutique, a bookstore I must explore next time, and a coffee shop. The barista learned my name the first day, greeted me personally the second day, and prepared 'my usual' before I could order on the third day. Impressive.

I smiled at the distinction between 'the gas station on the left' or 'the gas station on the right.' One of which doesn't actually have gas. But it does host a breakfast club of diners each morning, so the donuts are slim pickin's by 10:15. And nobody gave my friend a second glance when she carried her baby in wearing his Christmas pajamas, a snow cap, and socked feet... to buy milk and cheese. We must be in Arkansas.

I love the winding roads, the snug alleys, and the graveyards with weathered tombstones dated from countless generations.

I loved the pace. Slow it on down. Nobody's in a hurry. And it only takes four minutes to get where you're going, anyway.

I loved the ice cream stands, the Christmas lights across the lampposts, and the spirit of the people who love where they live.

I loved it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Budding Thespian

Tucker has been assigned his first dramatic role: he will be the cow in the preschool Christmas program. And I'm sure it's a leading role. You pretty much can't tell the Christmas story without the cow.

He even has a line: "I see Mary and a tiny baby."

My brother, highly experienced with live theater and entertainment, is thrilled that Tucker will make his debut onto the stage. He reminded me: "An actor's first task is to be heard."

Ah. Projection. Yes. We'll work on that. And if I'm not careful, my son will be the yelling cow in the Christmas play.

(Uncle Rob says, "Yes, but he will be heard.")

So, we've been practicing his line. But so far he doesn't have it quite straight. He has said:

"I see my eye with a baby."
"I see a lizard and her baby."
"I see a marigold and a lizard baby."

How a lizard worked its way into his framework, I'm unsure. But we'll keep practicing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Feel The Love

Some of our most memorable conversations are volleyed between the front and backseats of the minivan, while we are on the go. A few days ago, Tucker said, "Hey, Mommy? I'm getting bigger!"

"Oh, yeah? How do you know?

"Because I keep eating foods into my tummy, and they are making me bigger. I'm growing bigger like Daddy." He was oh, so proud.

"And do you think you'll grow up and have a beautiful wife someday, just like Daddy?" (I'm not ashamed to seek such affirmation from my kids. I'm not.)

"Yes. I will."

"And who is Daddy's beautiful wife?"


(MaeMae is Robb's mom.)

"No, MaeMae is Daddy's mommy. I'm his wife."

"No. Daddy doesn't love you. He loves MaeMae."

"No, Daddy loves me. I'm his wife, Tuck."

"No. He doesn't love you. He only loves MaeMae." Tuck was insistent.

"You are wrong." I countered his insistence.

"Nope. I'm right. He doesn't."

Robb loves MaeMae, and so do I. And thankfully, she is one stellar mother-in-law whom I enjoy beyond words. But, I am confident that even MaeMae wouldn't want Tucker to tell the world that his daddy doesn't love his wife, he only loves his own mommy.

Upon further reflection, I realized that perhaps the whole conversation was rooted in jealousy, since Tucker would really prefer to be the #1 Man in my life. In fact, he believes Daddy doesn't need me, since he has MaeMae. Along the same lines, Tuck seems to believe he won't need a wife, since he has me. In his mind, all a man needs is his mom.

(It's all a little too Freudian.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Triple Whammy.

Tuck has Strep. And that blasted awful h1n1. And swollen tonsils have given him (temporary) obstructive sleep apnea - which means he has exceedingly long pauses between breaths in his sleep.

Which means he stops breathing after every 2-3 breaths. For longer than I can explain to you.

Which means I would rather sleep on the floor beside him than lay awake down the hall and wonder if his lungs need a reminder to do their job.

The lesson to be learned in all this: Tucker knows when he's sick. Verbal skills bring a clarity worth listening to.

And, mother's intuition is an undeniable force.

How I love this boy. And his very healthy (albeit a little snotty) little brother, who said today, "I feel sick like Tucker. Just for a little while. Give me medicine, please. And chapstick."

The need for nurturing is contagious.

My plate is full. My heart is bursting. (And this is different from my heart being full and my cup overflowing. A subtle difference. But the effect is polarized.)

I'm pretty much toast.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Blessed Sick Days

There is a subtle sweetness to sick days.

When Daddy has gone to work, and the three of us are at home to snuggle up and be sick together.

Glossy eyes. Messy kisses. Extra tissues.

DVR choices, on repeat. It's nearly intoxicating when all three of want to do nothing. Together.

My comfy chair, filled beyond capacity.

A tangled web of arms and legs under one big blanket.

It's a sweet, subtle passing gift, in its own way.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tag Team

Tucker landed in timeout for some offense in the backyard involving a wayward shovel. As he served his time, Tyler stood at the screen door, calling to me.

"Mommy, I just need him. I just need Tucker. He's my very best friend. I need him."

Oh, come on, now... That's quite the tag team. Brother telepathy: "I'll go to timeout, but you tug on her heartstrings and set me free."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What SpellCheck Won't Fix

Recently, at the Learning Center where I teach, the phone lines went down unexpectedly. We had no incoming or outgoing calls on a highly lucrative business day. And what is worse, when students or families called, they heard a message that said the line had been disconnected.

The challenge with this: lots and lots of families pay our center lots and lots of money, and they expect us to: a) teach their children with effectiveness, b) answer the phone, and c) pay the phone bill. And it falsely appeared we were doing none of the above. So, our center director contacted the phone company only to learn that they had shut down the line for system maintenance.

While that is understandable, they didn't need to choose an effective business day, shut the line down without notifying the office, and ultimately make it appear that it was an act of negligence on the center's behalf.

Well, here's where it gets interesting.

Ann, the center director, asked the phone company (who shall remain nameless at this point, for reasons you shall soon see) to reconcile the situation by sending her a letter to forward to all of the center's clients, explaining the error and exactly whose fault it was. Here's what she received:

Due to system maintenance on your account, you may have experienced some down interrupting your phone system.
We apologize for this incontinence however it was a necessary part of making the changes to your account.
Thank you.

Feel free to read again if you need to. I know it's alarming to the trained eye, as all of us long desperately for more punctation, fluency, careful word choices, and complete thoughts.

Now look closely at the second sentence: "We apologize for this incontinence..."

Incontinence. When is the last time you've seen that word used in a professional setting? So, apparently someone urinated uncontrollably all over the phone line? Or worse?

Ann, a reasonable woman, sent the letter back to this Customer Care Specialist. She offered her the opportunity to fix and rewrite, before she sent the letter out on the phone company's behalf. The Customer Care *Specialist* responded with a second draft, now with extra words and paragraphs, but significantly lacking punctuation or clarity.

And, the second draft still apologized for the 'incontinence.'

As you might imagine, this letter will not go out to all of our clients, but it will go to a higher authority at the phone company. I'm pretty sure they don't want their *Specialists* telling the world that the 'down' we are experiencing is attributed to a lack of anyone's bowel control.
Just a guess on my part.

Today's lesson: It's a good idea to do more than SpellCheck when you're sending a professional letter to a team of teachers, writers, and professionals. Because SpellCheck won't tell you what you meant to say.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Little Potty Trainer

Let's just say this, to begin: I wasn't planning to start potty training Tyler for another six months. He is a few days shy of two and a half, and Tucker was well past three and a half (I feel like he was closer to 3 and 11/12, but my math and calendar awareness may have been skewed by the exhaustion of the journey) before essential skills came together for him in that realm.

So, I had no intention of even beginning the adventure for a good long while yet.

However, Tucker had other plans and an entirely separate timeline. As the two boys fell asleep in their bunkbeds, Tucker began planting seeds in Tyler's mind. He talked about how to use the potty, what happens for big boys who do, and the merits of the accomplishment.

And his seeds began to take root. When we picked Tyler up from his Sunday School class, his teacher said he had sat on the potty. I'm sorry... what did you say? Which son? Ours? Really?

And then...

Two mornings ago, after breakfast, Tucker said, "Tyler, I need to go potty. Would you like to watch me?"

"Yes!" He hopped down from the table, and the two of them went straight to the task. Tyler watched, Tucker narrated and demonstrated, and they gave each other a high five after they flushed and washed hands.

(I could not make this up.)

And then...

Tonight, as I was fixing dinner, I heard them coming down the stairs, chatting. Tucker said, "Well, Tyler, do you think you need to poop?"

"Yes. I think I do."

"Okay. I have a special potty for you. Let me show you." He walked into the bathroom and retrieved the training potty we have been using as a stool for all intents and purposes. "Are you ready, Tyler?"

"Yes. I'm ready. Mommy, can you take off my diaper? I'm ready to sit on my potty."

Sure. Why not? I smiled to myself. What can it hurt? I'll let him pretend.

I listened to coaching, encouragement, and adorable prodding in the bathroom. ("You just pushhh! Pushhhh! That's right, Tyler! You're doing dwate!")

And then, of all things on God's green earth, I heard, "Good job, Tyler! You pooped on the potty!"

Robb and I froze in our dinner preparations. We stared at each other, in utter disbelief, our hands hovering over our separate tasks.

Robb said, "Well, you better go check that out."

Sure enough. Gold. (Well, figuratively speaking.)

We stopped everything. Hold on just a moment, Broccoli Casserole. Someone just started potty training at our house, with apparent success. This is a banner day. We sang, danced, paraded, and doled out m&m's, since that's the standard prize for such accomplishments, even moments before dinner.

Tucker said, "And me too? Can I have a treat too?" Well, good heavens, yes. You are potty training Tyler. I should say so. Heaps of chocolate for you, my son.

So, away went the diapers. Out came the Mickey Mouse underwear and the Pull-Ups. And Tuck is all about his role, reminding and coaching. And could I say, this is one of the best perks I could have ever imagined about having two boys. And I definitely never, ever imagined it.

All of that to say, we are well into potty training at our house, and I appear to be superfluous in the decision or the process.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oh, no. No, he did not.

We had a beloved friend over for lunch today. After he finished eating, Tucker said, "Mommy, I need to go potty."

Then he turned to our guest and said, "Would you like to come upstairs to see how poop comes out?"

Oh, no. No, he did not just say that.

Not easily alarmed, she took it in stride. She even gestured to me to hold off just a moment before I dove in with lessons on propriety. With total charm, she said, "You know what? I have two boys of my own, so I know very well how poop comes out. But thank you for inviting me."

Praise the Lord for good friends who can handle the most unbelievable. Even I was blushing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

While They are Sleeping...

"If I didn't somehow make the time to write, I'd go crazy - it's something I need to do, like a compulsion. To many women, being a hands-on mother with a thriving writing career seems impossible, but to me they are complementary: I am a better mother because I see the world through a writer's eyes... and I'm a better writer because I see the world through a mother's eyes."

~ Jodi Picoult


Thriving writing career I do not yet have, but I aspire to one with my whole heart. And nearly every naptime.