Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Year in Review

On the last day of 2009, and with over 300 posts to document a year's worth of living, thinking, and writing, I have chosen ten of my favorite happenings.

There was...

  1. Perhaps the most unbelievable day of all the year.
  2. Sowing Wild Oats.
  3. Minivan Theology.
  4. Some Great Books on the Shelf.
  5. One Child Potty Trained.
  6. A Victory Beyond Words.
  7. A Three-Day Honeymoon.
  8. Jesus Did Not Parent Toddlers.
  9. A Surprise for Little Miss Thirty.
  10. And of course, the day I became Rapunzel, locked in a tower.

And those were just a few of my favorites. Because it's been a pretty stellar year.

In the words of my favorite author, Marisa de los Santos, I wish you "a year of meaningful work, true love, good health, and at least a couple of miracles."

And thanks for reading my words. You keep me writing more of them.

Happy New Year.

Bring it, 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Something More to Love

When I arrived in Tucker's preschool classroom at the end of his morning, he flashed me a quick grin - "Hi, Mom!" - and then began traveling around the room to say goodbye to his friends.

He patted some on the back, whispered closely to others, waved to a few, and hugged a few more. One little guy was sitting on the floor next to Miss Emily, quite clearly detained for behavior. Tuck knelt on the floor in front of him, whispered to him, and tousled his hair.

With a smile, Miss Emily explained, "That was just a little pep talk. He just told Mason, 'It's okay. Be kind and make good choices.' That's what that was."


Well, way to go, my little encourager.
And thanks for giving me a brand new something to love about you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Has Our Number


"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! And to whom am I speaking?"

"Well, hello, Santa! This is Tucker and Tyler's house!"

And just like that, the boys came running at the sound of Santa's merry voice on speaker through my cell phone, which was remarkably similar to the voice of Uncle Rob. (Wink, wink.)

The boys fell over one another, trying to get to the phone to say hello.

"Hi, Santa! Hello! Thank you for our jammies!"

"Oh, you got the jammies I sent? Well, I'm glad to hear that. Ho! Ho! Ho!"

"Are you flying through the sky, Santa?"

"Yes! Yes, I am!" (My brother does an uncanny impersonation.)

"We left oats in the driveway for your reindeer!"

"Oh! You did! I see! Well, Blitzen, and Vixen, and um, Dancer and all the others will love that."

"And will you come down our chimney with a bound?"

"Why, yes. Yes, I will come down your chimney."

I offered my translation. "Santa, they're asking about the poem. Down the chimney he came - with a bound?"

"Oh! Oh, yes! I will come down the chimney, with a bound, just like the poem."

Giggle, giggle.

"And remember that part about the bowlful of jelly?"

Giggle, giggle. It's their favorite part of the poem.
(Listen to what this brother of mine did to me.)

"Well, Ho! Ho! Ho! That has been a misprint for hundreds of years! It says that my belly shakes when I laugh like a bowlful of jelly, but really, I love to eat a bowlful of jelly! And my very favorite houses are the ones who leave me a bowlful of jelly!"

The boys looked at me, their eyes round with surprise. Who knew Santa loves grape jelly?

And in the background at our house, my husband yelled to his brother-in-law, "I'll give you some jelly, Santa."

"Yes! Jelly! Don't forget! Well, I must go to deliver all the gifts to the children, but make sure to go to sleep so I can come to your house too!"

"Okay, Santa! Thank you, Santa! Merry Christmas, Santa! We love you, Santa!"

"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night! And don't forget about that bowlful of jelly! Ho! Ho! Ho!"

And with that, my brother single-handedly rewrote my children's version of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, and he personally instated a tradition to continue for the forseeable future.
When we hung up the phone, I received a text moments later, from 'Santa' himself:
I expect your family to leave a bowful of jelly for Santa every year.

Consider it done.

Merry Christmas, Santa.

And Merry Christmas, Uncle Rob.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

To Believe or Not to Believe

We let them believe in Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Peter Pan.

We let them enjoy Big Bird, Ernie, and Elmo.

We introduce them to Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella. In fact, I choose to believe she's sleeping soundly in that glorious castle, even now.

When we introduce them to each of these imaginary friends, we don't follow with a careful caveat: "But remember, she's not real. Remember, he's just make believe."

They learn soon enough.

So, why the debate on whether or not to let children believe in Santa?

I don't believe that the tradition of Santa is diametrically opposed to the birth of Christ. I absolutely, with all of me, celebrate the birth of my Savior this time of year. (And throughout the year, in many ways.) And I teach my children these values that are the core of our family and our faith. And while we're talking about what's really important, I also intend for them to learn that it is indeed 'better to give than receive,' and they will understand 'the reason for the seaon.'

I promise.

And this year, they are four and two. So we're singing Joy to the World, O Come Let Us Adore Him, and Angels We Have Heard On High. But we're also singing Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, and all about Rudolph's shiny nose. Mostly, we're singing a lot these days.

They're learning the truth of Christmas, but they're also enjoying the fantasy of tradition.

I'm all about the magic.

And Santa's on his way.

Monday, December 21, 2009

At Least We Made it to December.

When breathing is rapid, the chest is heaving, my child is wheezing, and we can't catch up, there's only one choice:

Off to the ER.

But at least they have Gatorade. Not even diluted.

Tucker assured me that the words on the side said: Mommy, don't touch.

Fair enough, kiddo. The patient gets to be in charge of the beverage.

And he also gets new jammies when he throws up all over the clothes he wore into the hospital.

(No dice for the Mommy sitting nearby.)

It's always good to call your brother when you don't feel good.

Good thing Grandma lets him hold the cell phone, too.

(I'm not sure how intelligible the conversation was, but that hardly matters at all.)

Four hours later, and with heaps and heaps of intense meds,
we came home.

All we want for Christmas is some healthy lungs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Christmas Story

In keeping with our routine Sunday afternoon lunchtime dialogue, I asked, "Tyler, what did you learn in your class this morning?"

"Oh, I had crackers. And stickers."

"And did you listen to a story?"

"Yes, I listened to a story about a baby in a tunnel for babies."

"Oh, really? Who is the baby?" (I could narrow my guesses, this Sunday before Christmas.)

"Baby Jesus. He was born in a hospital, and the horses were so sad, but Baby Jesus was so happy."

And then he said something about a puppy, and six o'clock, and neither Robb nor I could manage that one. Even Tucker said, "I'm not sure what he's saying, Mommy. And Jesus was born in a stable. With Baby Jesus."

(I'm not sure how many babies are presnt in Tucker's version.)

In such settings, Tucker whispers to me out of the side of his mouth, as if we are in kahootz in our superior knowledge over the present toddler.

And then Tyler said, "And it's almost Christmas Eve. Mae Mae and Grandpa are coming from Chicago, and then it will be Christmas. Did you know they're coming here in the sky, like reindeer?"

(Not exactly true, since they are not even flying in a plane. They are driving. But it's more fun to picture them managing reins and a sack full of presents.)

To this, Tucker lit up. He may be down with the stable story, but this idea of grandparents in the sky? Now, that's a whole new ball game.

I think someday I shall miss these details when their Christmas is filled with much greater clarity.

This is the best year yet for the happiest season of all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

So Much for Compliments.

"Boys, I'm very proud of you for sitting nicely at the table, for obeying Mommy and Daddy, and for eating all of your dinner at the restaurant tonight."

"Mommy," Tucker reminded, "I was whiny."

(I know, Tuck. I was aiming for more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than a full disclosure.)

I Get It Now.

I revisited an old favorite recently: Bringing Up Boys. I encountered once again some of the quotes that I had starred and underlined, years ago.

"Boys are bent on making messes,
teasing the other siblings,
racing through the house,
and challenging every decision and order that comes their way."
"Women are often shocked by the pure sheer physicality of boys -
by the sights and sounds and smells they generate."
"Moms need to keep boy's little minds and hands busy.
It's in their best interest to do so."
And my favorite, from Dobson's own parents:
"If you let that boy get bored, you deserve what he's going to do to you!"

Here's the thing: I bought this book when Tucker was still in infancy, so I read with naive anticipation of what was to come, as I prayed to understand my swaddled, sweet, quiet newborn. I starred, underlined, and highlighted these words of wisdom in hopes that I would remember them someday when I needed them, but I couldn't really imagine them.

Now, years later, I get these words. Instead of a heed for action, I see them as recognition of my daily life. In fact, today I feel encouraged to find that someone understands why we must go somewhere every day, why I seem to have a small panic attack if there is an hour unplanned, and why I carry an entire bag of entertainment with me always.

If I let them get bored, who knows what they will do? To each other, to our home, and to their blessed mother?

I get it now. In a whole new way.

(And in five years, I'm sure these words will mean something entirely different to me.)

(And another ten years after that.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Of All Things Edible

Sometimes, you just have to forsake symmetry.

Friday, December 11, 2009


A notable day in this writer's life:

I found my own words quoted on the internet.

(Sure. It was Facebook. Still, someone found me worth repeating.)

This is a good day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


For reasons beyond me, Robb taught the boys that Hershey kisses are also known as Horse Poop.

So, now I have two boys who ask, "May I please have the cookie with horse poop on it?"

(I live in a frat house.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tucker's Stage Debut

Have you ever seen a cuter sheep?

He proudly walked on stage at the appropriate time,

remembered just what to say and do,

and snuck in a dozen waves to his adoring fans.

Tyler was most proud of Tucker's performance, and he couldn't wait to congrulate him after the show.

And then to accompany Tucker on stage for post-performance pictures.

And then perform what he planned all along, his shining moment as the Nativity Pig.

(I'm not kidding. He marched on to center stage and said, "I see Mary and a tiny baby. Merry Christmas. I'm a pig.")

Before the show started, our senior pastor prayed that every child in the show might feel like the most important in the world.

I'm pretty sure one of them did, indeed.

And so did his brother.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Missed the Mark

We are struggling with obedience in the bedtime routines. Naptime and bedtime are atrocious right now, as my children have become more enamored with each other's sense of humor and acrobatics than in following the prescribed rules.

So, after lunch with two stellar moms, I entered this afternoon with a game plan. And a game face. (Sad day for little boys when smart moms put their heads together.)

I set up the pack 'n play, and two boys regressed. If you can't obey like a big kid, then you don't get the privileges of a big boy bed. Tucker moved to the bottom bunk, and Tyler moved to the pack 'n play in a separate room, with great fanfare of how I wished they could be trusted to sleep in their beds.

To my delight, the naptime transition was a success, and two boys fell asleep without the heaps of giggles that had become their new mode of operation.

I thought we hit a bullseye.

Until bedtime tonight.

Tyler said, "Can I sleep in the baby bed again?"

"No, Tyler."

"Why? I like it."

"It's not meant to be fun. It's a punishment."

"Okay. Then I want a pushament. Baby bed, please."

Not the desired result. Back to the drawing board.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dress Rehearsal

I spent the morning with a small community of farm animals.

I joined Tucker and his preschool friends for their dress rehearsal. Wednesday is the big show, when they will tell the story of the birth of Christ as it has never been told before.

Tucker was delighted to have me as a guest in his classroom, and he was careful to guide my every action... perhaps he was afraid I might embarrass him with a misstep. He whispered to me out of the side of his mouth, hoping I would follow his cues.

"Mommy, sit right here."

"Mommy, hang your coat right here."

"Mommy, her name is Charlotte."

"Mommy, shhh. We're not talking right now."

Right. Yes. Thank you, sir. (I always have been overly social in a classroom environment.)

To my delight, his friends all called me Mrs. Tucker. I can answer to that.

After circle time, we paraded to the dressing room where each child would be transformed from darling preschooler to even-more-darling Nativity Character. With all the children's classes combined, we had 30+ children. All of them needed an entire wardrobe change, complete with tails and ears. Now that is a task.

There were about eight adults, including teachers and parents, so we divided and conquered. Each of us gathered a bag of costumes and a list of children, and we began the process.

I dressed the cows. Everybody wore a giant white sweatshirt with appliqued cow spots, a headband with droopy cow ears, a crocheted tail, and black leggings. Which meant that I had the unprecedented experience of putting tights on little girls, and even on little boys. That was definitely a first.

(And might I say, little boys wear tights very differently than little girls do. Boys try to put them on like pants, and I had to keep them from tugging and tugging until their toes popped right through. Little girls know the drill, but they prefer to have all the wrinkles and sags evened out. No elephant ankles, thank you. No, not like that. No, not bunched at my toes. Please fix it. I certainly don't do that routine on a regular basis, so I took a few lessons from little girls today.)

I thought I was doing a pretty bang-up job, until another parent alerted me to the naked three year old behind me. Oops. We'll put some clothes on her.

As I put one little man in his cow costume, he informed me that he was planning to be Lightning McQueen. (I'm not sure that you are, buddy. We are short one racecar costume in the Christmas story.)

When we were collectively finished, we had a whole crew of:

overstuffed cows,

soft, fuzzy sheep,

shepherds with staffs taller than they are,

feathery angels with bouncing halos,

wisemen with sparkling gifts and belts around their royal waists,

and my favorite, the round, fluffy chickens.

(Tyler will be most envious, since he keeps telling everyone he will be the rooster. When really he will be sitting quietly in the third row.)

(We hope. About the quiet part.)

Tucker was overjoyed by my companionship, until it became apparent that I was not there for that sole purpose. Once I began to help other children with their coats and costumes, he began to melt. It was his very first experience with Sharing Mom with his peers, and he was none too pleased.

This little guy usually does this routine, twice a week for four months now, entirely apart from my influence, but he suddenly couldn't handle being apart from me. Not even to get dressed, file onto the stage, say his line, or jangle his jingle bells. He cried the whole time, unless I stood beside him.

Oh, Tuck.

And so, Wednesday is the big day, and my son will be the cow.

I mean, the sheep.

There was a slight change in the costuming department this morning, and his role has been adapted. The artist formerly known as Cow will now play a slightly different role. Thankfully, the line is the same, and the change only requires the emotional preparation.

Which is not small. But we have a couple of days to get into character.

And to convince him to perform onstage without me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pronouns Shmonouns

"I like Mommy because he is nice to me," says Tucker.

I prefer she. But we'll work on it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Thing about a Shower Curtain

Somehow, it only took me four years to realize that if I just close the shower curtain, with the liner tucked safely inside the bath tub, they can play and play together without flooding my entire bathroom.

(And I can listen carefully for laughter that confirms safety.)

I was so thrilled with my personal discovery... until I realized that the closed shower curtain simply granted them a private sanctum for excessive splashing.

I've never seen such a wet ceiling.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reflections on a Snowy Morning

A few inches of snow on the ground: nature's playground on our deck.

Sweet. "Boys, when you're finished with breakfast, you can go outside to play in the snow all by yourselves!!"

(Insert my most excited voice. Since I have minimal desire to join them. Sometimes I do. Just not today.)

Breakfast is finished in record time. Check.

Break out the snow pants, gloves, hats, boots, and coats. Let the warm clothes commence.

My head is filled with visions of Ralphie and Randy in A Christmas Story.

And also Cliff Huxtable as he dresses Rudy's little chubby friend for a day in the snow, flipping him upside down in the process.

And also, toddler gloves are a joke.

Tucker is in his jammies and snow pants, when he announces proudly,"Look at me, Tyler. I'm Joseph." As in, Jesus' daddy? Apparently he believes Joseph was appropriately dressed in arctic wear.

Finally, I send them out - with the dog, thank you - to play and and play and play. Trucks and bulldozers have a whole new appeal when there is fresh powder to truck and bulldoze.

I take a picture to send to Traveling Daddy. Look at our snow cherubs. Darling and so self contained.

I settle in with my coffee and my laptop at the dining room table, right next to the sliding glass door. I can see and hear it all. Now this is a plan. Nature's playground is also an excellent babysitter.

Perhaps I'll tick away at a few writing/editing projects this morning. The ones I usually save for naptime and bedtime. Look at me... getting ahead.

Knock. Knock. "Mommy, my truck is full of snow."

Hero Mommy teaches him how to tap it on the side of the house to make the packed snow fall to the ground. Tada!

Back to our separate endeavors.

Knock. Knock. "Mommy, my hands are cold."

Ah, yes. The perils of those blasted toddler gloves. Cotton is only warm when it's dry.

Hero Mommy holds his hands for a moment, warms them up, and then sends him on his way.

Knock. Knock. "Mommy, I'm done." "Me too, Mommy."

"Really? Done?"


But what about the snowballs? Snowmen? Snow angels? No dice? Really?

The snow cherubs are cold and wet. And D-O-N-E.

Let the undressing commence. Hero Mommy is not so heroic when the plan has been thwarted.

And now my kitchen is filled with snowpants, hats, gloves, and boots, all lined up to dry.

A short lived adventure. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's Not Done Yet.

To finish this evening in a long week without the companionship of my traveling husband, I declared Movie Night. We made cookies, gathered bears and blankets, and snuggled up. Our choice: Cars. Lightning McQueen and all his buddies took us right up to bedtime.

With easily a half-hour left in the movie, Tucker began to sense the end coming. But instead of watching closely and enjoying the good bit left, he wanted to make sure I didn't turn it off prematurely. Somewhere in every scene, he said, "Mommy, it's not done yet."

"Mommy, it's not done yet."

"It's not done yet, Mommy. Not yet."

I finally said, "Tuck, I know. I won't turn it off until it's over. Just keep watching. You don't want to miss anything."

And suddenly the parallels began to unfold in my mind.

Because this has been a year of transitions for me. Few of my tangibles have changed, but many dramatic changes have taken place among people who are close to me... and the ripple effect is fierce.

Lots of goodbyes. To stability. To routines. To the familiar. Lots of farewells with people I love. Lots. Too many. Some have moved away, across the country. Others have finished their lives on earth. My heart has felt fragile, tenuous, spread thin, but somehow also strengthened, deepened, and brave.

I am naturally resistant to change, and with each transition or goodbye, I found myself watching the end as it loomed ominously ahead.

Sometimes, I acted like Tucker, falsely buying more time with my best delay tactics. "It's not done yet. It's not done yet. Don't panic. It's not done yet." But I became so consumed with delaying the inevitable that I nearly missed some really great scenes.

Other times, I felt the credits start to roll, but they didn't slow me down. With an entirely different attitude, I promised myself, "It's not done yet. Don't worry. It's not done yet." And I dug my heels in, intent on absorbing it all... even the out-takes.

Today marked the end of an era for my family, as my dad transitions to a new job to finish the years in his career. As I hugged one of his faithful friends goodbye today, I whispered to her, "Don't worry. It's not done yet."

There are many ways to view those words. I need to choose wisely which perspective to claim.

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
~ Dr. Seuss