Friday, December 24, 2010

My Beloved Mine, I His.





Robb Williford
August 27, 1975 - December 23, 2010
He died in my arms, and I will hold him forever.
There are no words for an ache this deep.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Planting Seeds of Brass




video

Look out, brass section. We've got one coming your way.

Vessel

The ideas don't come from you.
The songs don't come from you.
The creativity doesn't come from you.
The leadership doesn't come from you.
They just come through you.
~ Louie Giglio

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Foul Language

The boys have discovered the words 'butthead' and 'butthole.' They love the sound, timbre, and texture of these words. Can't get enough.

I do not love these words. Yes, it's likely I won't succeed in making them say benign words like 'bottom' and 'toot' their whole lives through, but when does one choose to lift the gate on the various levels of propriety?

I have administered warnings, disciplines, nags, and consequences to varying magnitudes. No help. Constantly, I'm hearing from another room, "Hey, Mommy! He said ____________ again!"

Finally, in exasperation, I looked at my mom and said, "Oh, what on earth am I to do with this?!"

In her wisdom, she said, "Well, I'd only punish it if you hear it with your own ears. If they're at the dinner table or running around the kitchen while you're fixing dinner, and they're shouting these words constantly, then tell them it's not okay. But that's different from the two of tem holding this power over each other in the other room, constantly tattling."

So true.

"And Tricia, you might as well know they're going to learn those words anyway. They're going to learn them, and they're going to say them. Heavens, you and your brother STILL say things I wish you wouldn't. And there are years of late night discussions in bunkbeds ahead of you, and you just won't be able to monitor everything that happens there. And much will happen there."

So true.

"And Tricia, I hope to hear about it when your boys are men, taller than you, and Tyler says with that little grin, 'Hey, Tuck, watch this: Mom? Butthole.' Because that will happen."

So true.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stuck.

Tuck found himself wedged between the shoekeeper and the wall at McDonald's.
I wish I could tell you he was retrieving a shoe,
but really he just climbed the thing like playground equipment,
slid down the other side,
and found himself swallowed whole.
And then we got the giggles, him and me,
trying to heave him without leverage.
It was no small task.

video

Maybe some moms just go to McDonald's.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Starbucks for Four










Starbucks for Four
+
Christmas Playlist
+
Comfy blankets in the car
+
Christmas Lights all over town
+
"Look, Mommy! Look!"
=
A Tradition Worth Repeating

Latrines

"Tyler, please get off your brother."
"I was just pretending he was a toilet."
(It never ends around here.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Prince and the Pea

"Tyler, we forgot to choose something for Show and Tell at preschool. Want me to grab Doc before we go?"

He was already buckled in his carseat, or I would have sent him into snag it on his own.

(Incidentally, I referred to his carseat as his suitcase today. As in, "Everybody get in your suitcases." Ah, well. Blank stares.)

"Mommy, how about if you go get Lightning McQueen. He's under my pillow."

"Under your pillow?"

"Yep."

I buzzed into his room, on my one final errand before we trekked off to preschool. I lifted his pillow, and not only did I find Lightning McQueen, but 9 other toys, too.

Little Hoarder. Stocking up for a rainy day. Or a boring quiet time.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Overwhelming Truth

As Tyler helped Grandma set up the nativity at her house, he shoved everyone into the stable. Shepherds, sheep, wise men, the donkey - and even the camels stuck their heads in.

"Everybody wants to be close to Jesus, Grandma. They all like him."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Endings

We recorded The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and now it's a daily routine at our house. Sometimes multiple times each day, when the boys get their way.

Tyler has recently been calling him "The Junk."

Tonight, as we watched the Grinch and his antlered pup, Max, we sang Dahoo-Dooray with all the Whos down in Whoville as they awoke on Christmas morning.

Embracing a teachable moment, I said, "Tuck, look how happy they are, even though they don't have any of their presents. Why do you think they're so happy?"

Without breaking eye contact from the screen, he said, "Because they know he'll change his mind in a few minutes."

Excellent. So, lesson learned, then.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Real Living Translation

"Mommy, do you know what God says? He says, 'Don't say Butthead.'"

Well, he says, "Be kind to one another."

Interpret as needed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All Are Welcome

Buzz Lightyear and the Batmobile have made their way into our Nativity scene.

To this, my blogging friend Amanda responded,

"...and upon seeing the Holy Savior asleep, Buzz Lightyear proclaimed, 'Here is our gift! To eternity and beyond!' Meanwhile, on the other side of the manger, Batmobile flapped its doors and sent up a mighty spray of fireworks that rivaled the glow of the Bethlehem Star."

Not a bad approach. All are welcome. Fiction and nonfiction, the story welcomes you, too.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Life, Here and Now.

Some things are too sacred to blog. This one has asked for a few days of quiet. But a few days later, it has floated to the top, now asking to be written.

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, we honored the sixth anniversary of our first miscarriage. The first child of our hearts, the first one who went straight to heaven with no stops in between, to be joined two years later by a sibling.

The heart and psyche are a puzzling pair. My subconscious is inextricably tied to the tangible; even if I paid no attention to the calendar, my spirit would remind me when this anniversary arrives. In fact, this most often happens. I find myself struggling under a dark cloud, a melancholy countenance, and when I stop to think why, I find the answer.

My heart knows.

Robb and I began the process of helping the boys to know there are four children in our family. At breakfast, I forged the waters. "Guys, do you remember how you were born?"

Tuck nodded. "Yes, we grew in your tummy, and then we came out."

I said, "Yes, you both did. And there are two other babies who grew in my tummy, but they died before they were born. They went straight to heaven."

Tucker said, "Maybe they are living in our new house."

(We have taught them that God is preparing a place for us, a house for us in heaven. They talk often about the heavenly home they hope for.)

Tyler said, "I bet God made them whole."

(Yes, I do believe both are true.)

Late in the afternoon, after my heart had spent a day remembering, I bought two balloons. No gender specific colors, since I don't want to create truths we cannot be sure of. I chose lime green and orange. We would choose a sunny spot, launch our balloons, and watch them float into the sky. I wanted to talk to the boys about the symbol, take pictures with my camera or with my mind, and I wanted to let myself remember. We would create a tradition to help them understand and know.

But when the moment came, Tyler opened the back door and simply let his balloon go. He let it go, because he is three. And he does not understand or know. But I was sad, because the launch and the memory and the moment didn't happen the way I had planned. I wasn't there fast enough. I didn't watch it float away. I didn't grab the string and hold on tight, to keep it for just a little longer. It didn't happen the way I wanted it to.

(Much like the pregnancy it symbolized.)

Robb recognized the magnitude of the mistake, the gravity of the moment, of unmet expectations and a moment lost. Instantly, he said, "It's okay. It wasn't your fault. We'll get a new one. We'll get another one. We can fix this."

(In the heart of our loss, he whispered those same things to me.)

Tyler watched and waited, unsure of what went wrong, unsure of what might happen next. In Robb's fatherly wisdom, he said, "How 'bout you go hold Tyler? I think you both need that."

I gathered my boy. I gathered my heart. I slowed down.

I remembered that Tyler is life. That I should not sacrifice his heart on the altar of remembering. I needed to love him, hold him, capture him, and not give greater worth to a lime green balloon that was merely a symbol in the first place. A symbol that I had given too much worth.

Yes, the anniversary was important, and the grief of my heart deserved attention. But I also had a darling three-year-old and a handsome five-year-old, with life, breath, freckles, and charm, who needed me to love them well.

To remember life.

We watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, my boys and me - Tucker splayed across the carpet and Tyler nestled in my arms - and we didn't move.

Except to breathe each other in.

~~
Lord, thank you for knowing all of my children.
Thank you for gathering me, for slowing me down, for reminding me.
Thank you for my Tucker and my Tyler, the precious life in my days and joy in my heart.
Thank you that we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Defy

I ask you right now to please agree with me that a scar is never ugly.
That is what the scar makers want us to think.
But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them.
We must see all scars as beauty.
Okay?
This will be our secret.
Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying.
A scar means I survived.

~ Chris Cleave, Little Bee

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Great Dichotomy

If she tells you she wishes her car got better gas mileage, that doesn't mean she wishes she'd never learned to drive.

If she tells you she didn't like the middle of the book, that doesn't mean it wasn't worth reading.

If she tells you she doesn't love her job, that doesn't mean she won't come back tomorrow.

If she tells you she needs a few hours by herself, that doesn't mean she's not committed to her family.

If she tells you today was hard, that doesn't mean there was nothing to smile about.

If she tells you she's tired, it doesn't mean she'll never find rest.

If she tells you this is harder than she thought, it doesn't mean she's done.

If she tells you she doesn't love the tasks, that doesn't mean she doesn't love the role.

Sometimes it just means what it means.

The thoughts inside a woman's head are one tangled mass of cooked spaghetti. The noodles wrap all around one another, and it's tricky to pull one long strand from the bowl without getting lumps of marinara on the placemat. Everything connects to something else. It's hard to set boundaries, boxes, or even perforated lines around the things we think and feel, because we don't usually think and feel in a linear, organized fashion.

So, if we are honest with ourselves, there are things we might say, if only we could be sure they would land safely apart from the thoughts that surround them.

I don't love doing laundry; I will, however, make sure my children have clean clothes to wear.

I'm not always good at forgiving myself; I can easily share grace to others.

I'm utterly exhausted; I do not wish someone else had rocked my sick baby during the night.

I don't love the tasks of motherhood; I dearly love being a mom.

I need a break; this doesn't mean I want out.

Those get tangled and messy, and when a woman says, "This is harder than I thought," she follows it up, with her hand on your arm, saying, "I love my children. I do. I love my children. I do. I love them. Know that I do."

Because saying that we don't love serving someone else every minute of everyday is dangerously close to saying we don't love them every millisecond in between.

And we do. Know that we do.

It just gets messy sometimes. The laundry, the dishes, the tasks, the spaghetti, and the thoughts.

I think we could all breathe a little easier if we just let ourselves say it sometimes.

It's harder than I thought it would be.

(But I love them. I do.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Role Playing

Today, Tucker began calling Tyler "Pedro."

Pedro is a cat who does many tricks, the most popular of which is his ability to go to sleep on command. Or eat imaginary cookies out of his 'owner's' hand.

Tyler loved the new identity, and he spent the day insisting on this alias. "Call me Pedro."

"Tyler, please pick up your toys."

Ignored.

"Tyler?"

"Tyler?"

"Tyler."

"Hmm? What? I'm Pedro."

And so Pedro it is. My son has become a Spanish version of Peter, so benamed by his brother. And he loved it.

All of this reminded me of a similar game I invented with my little brother: Queen and Slave.

He loved it too. Seriously.

(There are some perks to being the older sibling.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Alphabetical Interpretation

Look who can spell his name with Wiki Sticks. :)


And look who else.

Check out the arms on that E.



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Left Brain... Right Brain.

I have two artists.



I have one linear thinker.



And one who is not so much.



I like how they think.

Bring it on, world.

Together, I think these two can handle whatever you've got.

Awe and Wonder

There are few things more magical than the very first snowfall of the winter.

There were big, furry flakes that you could very nearly catch just by watching.

Later in the season, I think they'll remember what to do in the snow.
But today, they just watched.
In awe and wonder.

Random Rest


"Tyler, what are you doing?"

"I just need to rest. Right now."

Right on the sidewalk, in front of the entrance to Qdoba.

Gotta love a three-year-old.

Halloween Highlights

Introducing, Green Power Ranger and his brother, Blue Power Ranger. They prefer to be introduced as such. And they speak to each other as such.

I simultaneously love Tyler's sewn-in muscles, his need to touch them, and his preparedness to bow deeply at any moment.

The trick or treating family: Power Rangers, TBDBITL member, and a bride, or a princess, or a princess bride. I answered to all three.


The Loot. 116 in each basket. Roughly. Dwindling by the day, as I have eaten approximately 4,000 m&ms.
And because nobody can get quite enough of these Power Rangers, we lived in those alter egos for days.



If I had a dollar for every time a person said, "So, it's still Halloween at your house then?" I'd go ahead and buy next year's costumes.
I sure would.
Here's to a holiday for pretending, dressing up, and sharing chocolates with Mommy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I've Got Sunshine On a Cloudy Day.

Today, Tyler learned the song My Girl.

He has changed the chorus:

I guess you'd say,
what can make me feel this way?
My Mom, My Mom.

~~~

At bedtime, we put on his jammies, and he ran downstairs for final moments of play. He came running back moments later. "Mommy, I forgot something!"

"Whadja forget, kiddo?"

"You."

~~~

(I would pretty much buy him the moon, this very day.)

Merrily, merrily...

"Row, row, row your boat, gently down the drain."

~ Tyler

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Celestial Topics

As we drove the route to preschool this morning, the boys had much to say.

"Mommy, the sun is in outer space. And other planets too."

"You're right, Tuck. Lots of planets. Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, Pluto..."

"Pluto?!"

They're thinking of a big, happy dog with a long, sloppy tongue.

"Yep, Pluto."

Tyler, occasionally the voice of reason, warned us all, "But Tucker, the sun can burn you. Don't go there."

"I still might like to go there," Tuck said, glancing absently out the window of the minivan, up into the sky.

"You know what, guys? When I was a little girl, my friends and I used to play spaceship on the swings on the playground. We would swing as high as we could, and we pretended to take off into outer space. Then we would slow down our swings, hop off, and pretend that we had landed on the sun. We hopped around in the grass, shouting, 'Our shoes are burning! Our shoes are burning!' And then we'd hop back on our spaceships and go back to earth, just before we all melted to bits on the face of the sun."

Their faces smile gently with the idea of their mom as a little girl with an imagination.

"Did you really go, Mommy?" asked Tyler, ever unclear about that hazy line between reality and fantasy.

"No, buddy. We just pretended. We pretended to go up there to see all those planets."

Tucker, still looking out the window, said, "God made all those planets."

"He sure did. And he made you."

"I can't see God, Mommy. See? I'm looking all around, and I can't see him." Tuck waved his arms in his carseat, as if reaching for the Invisible God.

"I know, kiddo. But he's there. And if you ask him, he'll come into your heart. And he'll live there. He'll help you to feel loved, and he'll help you do the right thing, and he'll listen to everything you say, and when you die, he'll take you to heaven. Jesus is in my heart, and he's in Daddy's too."

Tyler perked up. "But, Mommy, you didn't die."

"No, I didn't. But someday I will. And when I do, I'll go to heaven. Because I invited Jesus to live in my heart."

Tyler wanted to talk all about heaven, so I told him the things I believe to be true: We'll eat our favorite things. We'll have a big party, where we'll sing and dance all night long. We'll run and play together in wide open fields, as fast and as far as we want. And we'll get to be with God, every single day. In fact, he's building a house for us to live in.

And then, Tucker handed me some pretty important words.

With a far away voice, he said, "Mommy, sometimes I don't like this place at all. I really think heaven will be so much better. I just want to go there."

I agreed, with all my heart.

And I asked him not to go without me.

Divulging

We hosted a colleague of Robb's for dinner tonight. Tyler greeted him and said, "Hi, Mr. Nate. This is my Mommy. She drops birthday cakes. Daddy doesn't. Mommy does."

Yep. Let's just lay it all out there. Make sure he knows the truest bits of my character.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Not My Idea.

Grapes in Honey Mustard.

Mandarin Oranges in Ketchup.

Whatev.

Fruit with accessories.

Dig in, Little Dippers.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You Happened.

Tomorrow morning, I will speak to a room filled with women in honor of The Day Of Remembrance for Pregnancy and Early Infant Loss.

And so today, I am in a place of remembering.

Remembering ...
waiting,
counting days,
pregnancy tests,
spilling joy,
hearing a heartbeat,
seeing a blinking white light on an ultrasound screen,
dreaming,
hoping,
loving.

Remembering...

fear,
blood,
tears,
frantic phone calls,
the silence of no heartbeat,
spilling heartache,
dreaming,
wishing,
loving.

I have two boys who play at my feet, with their imaginations, matchbox cars, and ever growing friendship. They're happening, right here, in the kitchen with me.

And I have two other children. They happened too.

If your heart grieves with a mother's lost love, know this: It happened. The life, the love, the truth of it all. It happened, no matter for how long.

And if you've never lost one, but if you have the honor of walking closely with someone who will, help her to know, beyond all doubt: It happened. It matters. No matter for how long.

Sweet babies, you happened. I miss you today.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

One of a Kind

Tucker pointed across the table to me.

"Mommy, I'm counting. Let me count you. One. There is one of you."

You bet, kiddo. Just one of me.

And just one of you.

And just one of your brother.

And just one of your daddy.

Just one.

Let's love that way.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finger Painting









Finger Painting is a decision.
One does not enter this journey without careful planning, thought, and decision.
But who can pass up a keepsake like this?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It IS a Liquid. I'll Give Him That.

"Mommy, I'm thirsty. Can I have a drink, please?"

Enjoying my last minutes of solitude in the shower before I started the day in their presence, I gave the verbal nod.

"Yes, help yourself. I'll be down soon."

And when I came down the stairs, I found Tucker drinking maple syrup straight from the bottle.

He held a washcloth in his other hand, since he was feeling slightly sticky.

Perhaps we need to more carefully define 'beverages' at our house.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Lowercase Shower

Tyler asked if he could please take a 'lowercase shower.'

That's his word for 'bath.'

The boy speaks in literary terms.

Be still my heart.

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Party of Three."

They seated us on the patio, just under the speaker from the hostess stand. And thus their every announcement guided the boys' conversation, for the entire meal.

"Dave, Party of 4."

"Dave? Who's Dave?"

"He's probably the guy who just walked in."

"Where is he?"

"He probably just walked in. Over there. Inside."

"Steve, Party of 10."

"Hey, what's that noises? Who said that?"

"The girl at the hostess stand. Inside."

"How?"

"She has a microphone."

"Where?"

"Inside."

"There?" Pointing to the speaker.

"Sure." I know, I know. It's a speaker, not a microphone. But I suspect you'd have given it a perfunctory nod, too.

"Robb, Party of 7."

"Robb? Is that Daddy?"

"No, Daddy is here with us. It's another Robb."

"Another Daddy?"

"Maybe." Not really. But who can answer all these questions with accuracy?

"Chris, Party of 6."

"Chris? I know him!"

"Is it him? Is it our friend?"

"I don't know. Could be."

"Steve, Party of 10."

"Ten? I love ten!"

We talked about every single family. Every-single-family.

Riveting details occupy the dinner conversation of a family of small children. Riveting.

Let's Make a Deal.

"Tyler, please pick up the cheese you dropped on the floor."

"Um, no thank you."

"Let's try this again."

~

"Tyler, you may have your lollipop after lunch or never. When do you choose?"

"I choose never."

"I'm pretty sure you don't know what that means."

~

"Tyler, you may play for ten more minutes."

"No, I'll play for six minutes. Or three."

"Deal."

~

A master negotiator, of sorts, this three-year-old. Or so he thinks.

A Thousand Gestures of Delight

"To make conversation,
to share a joke,
to perform mutual acts of kindness,
to read together well-written books,
to share in the trifling and the serious matters,
to disagree though without animosity --
just as a person debates with himself --
and in the rarity of disgreement to find the salt of normal harmony,
to teach each other something or to learn from one another,
to long with impatience for those absent,
to welcome them with gladness upon their arrival.
These and other signs come from the heart
of those who love and are loved
and are expressed through the mouth,
through the tongue,
through the eyes,
and a thousand gestures of delight,
acting as fuel to set our minds on fire
and out of many to forge unity.

This is what we love in friends."

~ Augustine, 397 A.D.
(Quoted from Externally Focused Quest,
Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When the Lights Go Out

Robb was traveling. Let's start there.
After dinner and playtime at Chick Fil A,
showers
(which are no longer baths and also new evidence God's goodness in my life),
we settled in for the last part of the day:
Between the Lions,
a bedtime show for all the children in our house who are ready for bed
and for their Momma, who was ready to send them.
And then... Bzzzt.
No electricity.
None. Zip. Zilch.
Awesome.
So, you know, this does not bode well for the bedtime routine.
I had one boy in terror, who immediately began pacing.
(Insert: a certain firstborn.)
I had one boy in love with adventure,
who immediately began listing the rules that were now
null and void since the lights were out.
(Insert a certain free spirit.)

I declared: The First Ever Mother/Son Book Party. Flashlights all around.

We read lots of them.
LOTS of them.
And still no electricity.
I called Robb in Wyoming, who called Excel Energy in Denver, begging on my behalf.
"Please, help my wife. You can add the special favor to our October bill, if you must."
Apparently, we were one of 250 in the blackout zone.
So, no special treatment, single mom or not.
Bedtime did not go well.
The electricity came on and off.
Flashlights were mildly helpful, in the sense of light source.
Not so much in the sense of monstery shadow source.
Nix.
Tucker chewed his fists and fingernails,
praying in earnest for God to deliver us all.
Tyler asked questions about Buzz Lightyear and Woody,
and he explored every perameter of his bottom bunk by means of escape.
I sat in their bedroom, clicking away on my battery powered laptop.
Because momma's gotta work, and deadlines don't wait for electricity.
And there's something soothing about a laptop keyboard.
You have to admit.
We found a formula that worked:
1. Flashlights turned on, placed high on the shelf, lighting up the ceiling (but not moving or creating shadows).
2. Battery powered iPod, set to lullaby tunes.
3. Clicking of the keyboard.
4. Humming from the mommy.
Voila.
An hour later: Sleeping Boys.


We made the most.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In Another Life

Tucker is learning more and more about writing his name as well as other letters, and I'd like to give him a few helpful pointers on pencil grip. He seems to think I know nothing about this, that I have no expertise to bring to the table.

I said, "Tuck, did you know I had a job before you were born?"

"Yep."

"Do you know what I did every single day?" (Waiting to wow him with my professional background that matches his kindergarten aspirations.)

"Yep. You were a princess."

From the kitchen, my husband grumbled sardonically, "Yeah, she was."

Ahem.

Times change, people change. Now, about that pencil.

Grand Proportions

The new phrase at our house: "...in the whole world."

As in:

"Mommy, you have the best boys in the whole world."

(Indeed, I do.)

"Daddy, you make the best pizza in the whole world."

(Easy to please, straight from the freezer.)

"My seatbelt isn't making this the best day in the whole world."

(Wear it anyway.)

Hey, sweet boys:
You are my whole world.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Metaphors and Idioms

Equipped with heaps of new stickers, stamps, and art supplies, I said, "Boys, would you like to make a poster today? Something new to put in your room?"

"Oh, yes. I want to make a poster. And what is a poster?"

"A poster is a big picture you can hang on your wall. You can decorate it anyway you want. Stickers, stamps, markers, the whole deal. You can go to town."

"But will you go to the town too?" Tyler asked.

"Well, it's not a real town. I didn't mean we were going anywhere. That just means have a good time. 'Go to town' means have so much fun."

"But I don't want you to go to the town without us."

"Right. I won't. I just meant have a good time."

"But you're going to go to the town and have fun? Can't we come?"

For crying out loud. (And he was quite nearly doing just that. The whole plan was lost on him, as far gone as the matter of the idiom.)

"Let's start over. Wanna make a poster? Let's do it. It'll be fun."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Life Lessons

We arrived at the park alongside a large van of adults with special needs. They gathered around the picnic table with their packed lunches, and they shared a picnic with one another. They played on the playground, they laughed with one another, and they enjoyed the sunshine, right alongside us.

My boys were very interested. Who were these children, as tall as Mommy and Daddy, who played with hearts and minds like small children? They watched, implicitly noticing a difference.

One girl, Michelle, took an extraordinary interest in them. She asked for High Fives; she ran with them and played their games. It was impossible to know how old she was, since she was as tall as I am, but her motor skills and emotional capacity seemed comparable to three-year-old Tyler.

From a nearby bench, I watched. I said nothing.

I wasn't sure what lesson I wanted them to learn. Should I teach them to be friendly, warm, and compassionate to others who have different needs? Or should I teach them that this is the exception, that unknown adults are not always safe, and that distance is generally safer, even if her fun loving spirit was absolutely safe for them?

I said nothing.

And then their game of Follow the Leader took them straight up the climbing wall. Tucker first, Tyler right behind. Michelle followed after them, her wiry frame working hard to manage the climb.

My children stood at the top: Encouraging her.

They showed her where to step, they coached her where to grasp, and they reminded her to be careful. And when she made it to the top, they cheered for her. High Fives all around.

Some lessons don't need me at all. Some lessons teach themselves.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Self Portraits

Tyler's preschool class created self portraits. Can you find Tyler?



Here he is.

The red yarn is a dead give away.
Also, he depicted himself as a werewolf.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Driving in Cars with Tyler

"Mommy, what starts with T?"

"Tyler. And Tucker. And Tricia."

"What starts with M?"

"Mommy."

"No, Mommy starts with T."

"No, Tricia does. Mommy starts with M."

"But Mommy is Tricia."

Um, right. Moving on.

"Mommy, what starts with W?"

"Worms."

"What starts with N?"

"Nose."

"What starts with Two?"

"Nothing. It's a number."

"But what starts with it?"

"Well, it starts with T."

"And what starts with octopus?"

A roundabout question.

"O."

"And what starts with Tucker?"

"What do you hear at the beginning?"

"I hear Tucker."

"It's T. T-T-T-Tucker."

"Oh. And what says W?"

Another roundabout.

"W says Wuh. Like, Wuh, wuh, Watermelon."

"Oh. Wuh. Like, Wuh, wuh, Tucker."

Right. Like that. Sort of.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Protective Instincts

Tuck is a bike rider now, and every day involves a trip to the park. Tyler plays in the sand and happily meets other children while Tuck rides in wide, looping circles around us all. It's a really great scene, fitting for every last one of us.

(And sometimes, I bring a book. Those are the best days of all.)

Not too long ago, the scene played out like the one above, and Tuck was riding on the far corners of the park. He was well within sight, but far out of reach. These are both okay, as the boundaries are clear and he mostly stays within them.

But on this day, I suddenly saw a Parks and Recreation Truck headed straight for him. (I don't love that they can drive on sidewalks, but I suppose they must. Hence, their job in our lands of parks and recreation.) The truck was driving slowly, and Tuck was riding quickly, but they traveled the same path: directly toward one another.

They were a football field's distance from me. I could not get to him, I was afraid that the sound of my shouting would distract him from making a wise decision, and I could only wait and watch it unfold. My breath caught in my throat, as I watched.

"Please, God. Show Tucker what to do right now. Please."

And just like that, before the truck got any closer, Tuck rode his bike off the sidewalk and far into the grass. He laid down his bike, to resolve any question for the driver: "I'm staying here. You can pass me."

Way to go, sweet child. Boy who followed the rules and remembered.

When he rode his bike back to me, now in clear and danger-free zone, I heaped praise on him by the handful.

"Tuck, I was afraid as I watched you. You were so far away, and I knew I couldn't help you. So I prayed for you. I asked God to take care of you and show you what to do, and he did. That very same moment, you did the right thing."

I praised him for the decision at his end of the park, and I told him about the praying at my end of the park. Because it's never too early to teach my little boy that the Holy Spirit can guide his actions.

And quite possibly save his life.

Thank you for listening, Tuck. And thanks to you, too, Creator and Protector of my children.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Covers

I'm a journaler.

I write what I think.

(I'm sure you're shocked.)

I just finished the last page in a hardback journal today, one with stripes of grass green, chocolate brown, burnt orange, and deep sugar plum.

My heart has traveled a ragged road since I began the journal. Those pages held my worries, concerns, questions, waiting, wondering. All poured out. Every last drop.

But as I wrote the last page, I realized this chapter ended with closure, answers, clarity, and a woven theme throughout: faithfulness, goodness, strength, and peace.

Not a bad storyline.

The book covers of my journals bind the pages of my life.

Off to the bookstore to buy a new journal. Time to write the next chapter.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rhyming Shmyming

"Boys, let's play the rhyming game. I'll say some words, and you tell me one that rhymes."

"Okay. We're ready."

I tossed them an easy one. "Cat, Bat."

Tucker jumped in, "Cat in the Hat."

"Nice, Tuck! Okay. Here's another one: Star, Jar."

"Cat in the hat."

Oh. So maybe that first right answer was a fluke. A shining moment where the right words accidentally fell into the right place.

"Well, Cat and Hat rhyme, but not with Star and Jar. How about Cow and Now?"

Tuck tried again. "Cow in the hat."

Tyler chimed in. "Cow on my nose."

"Um, no. Let's try a new one. I'll say one word, and you tell me a word that sounds just like it. Bug."

"Nose."

"Shoe."

Oh, dear.

"Let's try a new one. You give me a word, and I'll tell you one that rhymes with it."

"Okay, Mommy. "Boat, Nose, Cat, Show."

"Can you pick one?"

"I did."

So, maybe we'll keep practicing then.

Apparently I had this coming straight at me. One of my mom's favorite stories of my childhood is when she tried this very same game with three-year-old Tricia.

"Tricia, tell me a word, and I'll give you one that rhymes."

"Okay, Mom. Tell me a word that rhymes with Refrigerator."

Yep. Had it coming.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Homework Assignment

Tucker came home with a half-page assignment description:

In the PreK classroom, we are learning about families.
Please create a Family Crest.
At the top, put your family's name.
One one side, show the foods your family enjoys.
On the other side, show the things your family likes to do together.
At the bottom, display pictures of your family.

A School Project. The wheels in my head began to spin. After all, I'm a (former) scrapbooker. (I say former because I switched to blogging years ago. See? On the plus side, there is much more documentation than I ever would have accomplished with acid free products. On the flip side, Tyler has nearly nothing hardbound in our house to show his arrival and first year in our family. So, you know.) Ultimately, this looked like a scrapbooking task, and I was ready to break out the colored paper, stickers, and of course the pictures.

And as I got to work, Robb said ever-so-casually, "Um, what are you doing? Why are you doing Tucker's homework?"

Gasp. I just became That Mom.

Suddenly, I had flashbacks into my classroom, when students displayed their animal reports and projects. Anyone could clearly distinguish the ones the students had been in charge of, as opposed to, well, the others. One little girl even said, "Well, first my mom found a pattern for a panda online. Then my mom went to Michael's to buy the fabric. Then my mom... then my mom... then my mom..."
My Mom.

See, the thing is, her mom had already finished third grade. I hadn't assigned the project for Mom to repeat it again. It was more so for her eight-year-old daughter.

And yet, suddenly, here I was: shaping my son's artwork to display my skills. Not so much his.

Awesome. That's a fun look in the ol' mirror.

So, we rerouted the plan. I began by inviting Tucker to join me at the table, since that seemed like a great place to start.

After lots of cooperation, cutting, gluing, and teamwork, I present to you: Our Family Crest.


And of course, from the other side of the kitchen table: Tyler's independent project.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Legend Established

One of Tucker's birthday cards had a bright red and yellow Super Hero on the front.

He opened it, held it proudly like one experienced in public speaking, and (pretended to) read aloud:

"This card says,
'Happy Birthday, Tucker.
Here is a Super Hero to carry your cake.
Don't let your mommy carry it, because she will only drop it.
All Mommy ever does is drop cakes.
Be sure your Super Hero carries the cake,
and not Mommy.
Happy Birthday, Super Tuck.'"
~
Perhaps sarcasm is the gift that arrives with age five, because I'm pretty sure that's the first time my son threw an intentional softball of sarcasm right at me.
(I laughed and laughed. Hooray for sense of humor, T. It's a family value.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crumbling Pillars

We were standing around the church lobby in clusters of various sizes, our community of young families: a handful of adults - and dozens of children. While we parents talked about this, that, and the rest, our children played, played, played.

If you grew up in the church, then perhaps you remember along with me the seemingly endless hours of waiting for parents to finish their adult laughter and conversation, while you waited for the cue to head to the car. And if you're like me, you and the friends with whom you grew up made the most of those endless gab sessions, by wreaking havoc in the church lobby and sanctuary.

(I confess: I remember water fights at the drinking fountain and races on our tummies, crawling under the pews from the back of the sanctuary to the front.)

A fellow mom (and dear friend) standing beside me said, "I know we should probably stop this; there's probably something wrong with letting them run all over the place. But I just love it. I love how they all know each other, how they're having such fun together."

I affirmed: I loved it too.

And then... CRASH. All heads turned to see a ceramic pillar, knocked on its side, now laying in shattered pieces.

Um, oopsie daisy. That would be my son, the one who just turned five, standing next to the crashed pillar. He is my cautious, careful boy, and yet he was guilty of the crash, boom, shatter.

He made eye contact with me, that panicked look that says, "Oh, Mommy. I made a bit of an error in judgement. Please still stand by me, come what may."

All the parents jumped to save the scene; yes, the defendant was my son, but it could have easily been any one of the crew of dozens. Glances and quiet lectures ensued, all about church behavior, being careful, and respecting the things that don't belong to us.

And after all of that, I said, "It's okay, Buddy. It was an accident."

As we gathered the pieces of the shattered pillar, one of the church pastors walked by. We snagged him to report: "I'm afraid we've had a bit of a Young Families Incident."

He smiled, "Oh, that's okay. These things happen."

"Can we do something to replace it? What should we do?"

"You shouldn't worry about it at all. These things happen, and that's what makes a church a church."

That's what makes a church a church: Grace.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Parting Words

The boys have transitioned to a new emotional process in the preschool drop off.

On the first day, Tyler was eager to join his friends, ready for me to go, and happily waved me right on out the door. Now, two weeks later, there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, while he claws at my clothes and begs me to stay.

But I don't stay.

He is safe and in good hands, with a teacher I trust and a community he loves. And the kindergarten teacher in me knows that this is part of the process, he's earning his own emotional chips, and every recovery adds to his personal knowledge of who he is and what he can do. So I don't stay.

(But I do leave a good bit of my heart for him to keep until I return.)

Meanwhile, in the PreK classroom down the hall, Tucker was cautious and careful on the first day of school. He stayed close, he held my hand, and silently begged for a healthy dose of reassurance and security before I quietly slipped out the door.

Now, his heart has found a new confidence.

One day this week, I knelt down and whispered, "Hey, buddy, you're going to have a great day. You're smart and important and such a great kid, and I am so proud of you."

And he whispered, "Yep. I know. Just come back before lunchtime." And he scampered off with his friends.

On our second goodbye this week, he leaned in really close, held my face in his hands, and whispered, "Mommy, I just want you to be real careful out there today."

My sweet firstborn feels personally responsible for the safety of his family, and he learns best when he knows he has wished us well.

And so I meet all their requests: I come back, always by lunchtime, and I am always 'real careful out there.'

Always.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Parallels

"My child's feelings are hurt. I tell her she is special.

My child is injured. I do whatever it takes to make her feel better.

My child is afraid. I won't go to sleep until she is secure.

I'm not a hero... I'm a parent.

When a child hurts, a parent does what comes naturally. He helps.

Why don't I let my Father do for me what I am more than willing to do for my own children?

I'm learning... being a father is teaching me that when I am criticized, injured or afraid, there is a Father who is ready to comfort me.

There is a Father who will hold me until I'm better,

help me until I can live with the hurt,

and who won't go to sleep when I'm afraid of waking up and seeing the dark.

Ever."

~ Max Lucado, Applause of Heaven

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Here's to Simplicity.

"Somehow Jesus mastered the art of maintaining a clear perspective while accomplishing every one of his objectives. A major reason for his being able to say he finished all the father had in mind for him is that he simplified his life.

He followed his own agenda instead of everyone else's.

He also set predetermined limits.

He chose twelve (not twelve hundred) whom he trained to carry on in his absence.

He stayed with his set of priorities without apology, which means he must have said no a score of times every month.

He balanced work and rest, accomplishment and refreshment, never feeling the need to ask permission for spending time in quietness and solitude.

He refused to be sidetracked by tempting opportunities that drained energy and time.

He was a servant of his father, not a slave of the people.

Even though misunderstood, maligned, misquoted, and opposed by numerous enemies and even a few friends, he stayed at it.

His simplicity kept him balanced."

~ C. Swindoll

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Growing Pains

Tyler made a grand announcement on the way to church this morning.

"Mommy, I think I don't want to grow up."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, I really don't want to. At all."

"Why not?"

"Because I really like these flip-flops. If I grow up, they won't fit anymore."

Sweet boy, if only it were that easy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

For the Love

"Mommy."


"Yes?"



"Mommy."



"Hmmm?"



"Mommy."



"What?"



"Mommy."



"Yes. What."



"Mommy? Mommy? Mommy!"



"What, Tucker? WHAT???"



"I love you."



I really wonder if that's what he had in mind when he started reciting my name. Perhaps he thought it was just the best choice for a happier ending to the dialogue.



It worked.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Me and Bette Midler.

Turns out, I have a celebrity look alike: Bette Midler. And her pronouncement as my look alike did not come easily, nor without a story. It's time I went public with this nonsense.


My brother was the featured entertainment for a professional fundraising gala my dad was hosting. (Not nepotism. My brother is That Good.) I will go anywhere to see my brother do anything, but the charity tickets cost something astronomical. Instead, I signed up to 'volunteer' as an usher. I would read people's tickets and guide them to their seats, all under the guise of watching my brother perform. I just had to be okay with standing in the doorway, gesturing with an open hand, and minding the subtly lit aisle.


You betcha. Can do.


Oh, and this job of ushering came with one other agreement: A Quick Tutorial on Emergency Exits in Case of a Fire. I had inadvertantly placed myself in the theater version of an airplane emergency exit row, all just to see my brother. Still, totally worth it.


I should add: I hadn't really planned to be an usher. I had only planned to look busy and watch my brother. Or hide in a corner and watch my brother. You see the common denominator, I'm sure.


Well, along came the Meeting of the Ushers. The Head Usher, a woman who most assuredly took her job too seriously - I mean, what are the odds of a fire-related emergency, really?? - gathered us all around her for a verbal presentation. Had she the technology, I'm sure she would have elaborated with PowerPoint.


"Ladies and gentlemen, your job is to stand at the doorway, collect tickets, and guide people to their seats. Should there be an emergency, we are counting on your undying faithfulness to get these cherished guests out of the building safely."


(Yada, yada, yada, yeah, yeah. Right. My brother's on stage soon. Can you wrap this up?)


She continues, "The emergency exits are here, here, here, and --"


She stops. Cold. Mid sentence. She zeroes in on me.


"Oh. My. Heavens. Has anyone EVER told you that you look EXACTLY like Bette Midler?? Wow. It's uncanny, really."

















And just as quickly, she was back on topic, gesturing with an open hand to all the emergency exits. But her little tirade had given her just a few seconds to photograph my face, file my mugshot into her Bette Midler file, and keep close tabs on me all night.


I had not meant for anyone to keep close tabs on me that night. I wanted to be invisible; I wanted to watch my brother and only pretend to be altruistic and servant minded. But she kept finding me in my off-task state. She continued to lead me by the hand to my subtly lit aisle.


She did.


And she called me Bette.


(Not Amy Adams? Julia Roberts? Meg Ryan in her early years? Nope. Bette. The Wind Beneath My Wings.)

And so it is. I suppose.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cloud Gazing

"Mommy, that one looks like a hand.
And that one looks like a snowman.
Did you see that one?
It's a bridge.
Oh, I see a buffalo!"
"And that one? That one right there is Snorfia."
Now that's a new word. "What is Snorfia?"
"That cloud."
Hungry for more, I probed.
"But what does Snorfia do?"
"It stays up in the sky. With the clouds. I just showed you."
Apparently, Snorfia is a little known word, mastered by my little known meteorologist.

Hooray for a perfect afternoon.

Visual Aide, please.

"Tyler, please obey the first time you hear my voice. Do you hear me calling you?"

"Sorry, Mommy, I only heard you with my ears."

Ah. He was only listening with his ears. I see.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I've Got Your Back.

I was out and about yesterday, completing a list of errands, when I got a frantic text from a faithful reader of my blog.

"Hurry! Fix the typo on your blog! I'm in a panic on your behalf!"

Gasp.

And yet, there I was, out and about, exposed and vulnerable, unable to save my reputation. I called her, gave her my passwords, and invited her to clean my slate. Please: Add an o in enough. It's just not okay to send that word out into the world without all its necessary vowels.

This whole episode was the writer's version of not letting me walk around with toilet paper stuck to my shoe.

"I've got your back, sister."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Listen Hard.

"Mommy. Mommy. Hey, Mommy. Listen."

Tucker stuck out his chin and cast his eyes to the left: the international sign for I'm listening for something that might be coming from over there.

"Do you hear it?"

"I don't hear it, buddy."

"Listen."

"I'm listening..."

"See? I'm not sneezing anymore!"

Ah. Sure enough. Next time, I may need some more clues on the absence of what we're listening for.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Enter: The Smart Phone.

It wasn't an impulsive decision. I took on a few extra editing assignments, and we spent the summer waiting, researching, watching ebay, and carefully scouting out my entrance into the world of Smart Phones.

We decided to purchase a gently used one, to take advantage of the hobbies of the utmost techies: those who love to have the newest technology, so they sell their gently used - still good as new - phones on ebay. After multiple auctions and careful bidding, we found it. My Droid.

And it arrived. Oh, it arrived.

We headed straight to the phone store, de-activated the old phone, upgraded to the new, and with only a few small hiccups, I entered the world of online capabilities right in my pocket. Or most often, in my hand.

The next day, we began a new tradition in our family: Friday Fun. Since the boys are not in preschool on Friday, and since naps have been relegated to some of my favorite memories, we need to beef up our Fridays. Leave it to me: bring on the fun. And on our first Friday of the new regime, I declared a day at the pool.

We loaded up with swim trunks, towels, dry clothes, pool noodles, snacks, juice, and monkey inner tubes, and we settled in. They splashed and played, and I sat nearby: watching them, and enjoying my new companion and all her said capabilities. I updated my calendar. I surfed the internet. I scrolled through Facebook udpates. I watched my little splashers and their together fun, and then I thought, "Oh! The Camera option! Well, I haven't taken a picture yet! Let's see what this baby can do."

And I am not sure what happened next. It unfolded like a slow motion, horrifying thriller movie scene. Suddenly, the phone was out of my hands. It crashed on the cement, bounced twice, broke in pieces (the back popped off and the battery fell out), and then splashed into the pool.

Dunk. Straight to the bottom.

I said one word. Six times. I won't be blogging it.

And then I jumped in the water. Fully clothed. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, and I would have done the same thing for $200 cash in the bottom of the pool. I would have. This was the technological equivalent. I dove down and recovered it, and I use that term loosely. I gathered all its drippy pieces in my hands.

I gathered the boys out of the water, under the premise that I had made a horrible mistake and the promise that I would bring them back to the pool as soon as possible. (The poor children had been swimming for all of 17 minutes.) I sloshed them to the locker room and put them in dry clothes, sadly having no dry options for myself. But frankly, I didn't care. I was so distracted by the magnitude of the situation that it didn't occur to me that I looked like a drowned rat.

(Long curly hair does noticeable things in its various states of unexpected pooltime recovery.)

To their credit, the boys adapted well to the change in plans. They were most impressed with my plunge into the pool, and they talked again and again about my splash to the bottom. Oh, and there was mention of the broken phone. And Tucker, who evokes whatever emotion his mother currently presents, offered to spank the swimming pool. A thoughtful gesture.

At home, I immersed all the separate parts into a bowl of rice, which I had been told is the smartest thing to do for wet electronics. And we might have been fine. We really might have. See, I later learned that there is nothing inside a phone that cannot dry. A wet phone can be salvaged, if you just give it enough time to completely dry. ("Enough Time" = Days, people. Days.) It's a wet phone combined with a wet battery: this is a problem. And this is where I made my mistake. Impatient to measure the damage, I inadvertantly created more. I put the phone back together, turned it on, and it buzzed in my hand. Not the "You have a Text" buzz. More of a "Fried to a Crisp" buzz. And then it got hot in my hand.

That's probably not usually good.

And it proved not to be. This was my mistake. The beginning of the end. With my long-awaited Smart Phone, that had been mine for 14 hours.

The boys and I headed back to the phone store to reactivate my 'old phone', the one I had been using just the day before. The girls behind the counter even remembered me from the night before. Only now I was holding both a broken phone and a broken heart.

Now, if you're still reading, allow me to paint this scene: I stand by my assertion that a phone store is the worst place in the world to take two small children. There is plenty to entice them, but nothing they may hold. There is plenty to draw them in, but nothing I may say yes to. There are plenty of people around, plenty of waiting, and plenty of problems lurking. Add to that: this particular store boasts a 1930s model of a motorcycle as well as a replica of some kind of big deal car. Real deal. Heavy. Expensive. Enticing to little boys.

So you can imagine that they wanted to climb, touch, run, play - frankly, get back in the pool I had whisked them out of. After frantic attempts to corral them, I finally got down one knee and said, "Guys, here's the deal. Think of your favorite toy. That phone was mine. It was my favorite toy, and Daddy gave it to me. And today I broke it. So my heart is very sad, and I really just don't have the energy to chase you around the store. Please just stand beside me, be kind, still, and respectful. Please."

And when I stood up, the man in front of me sneered, "Nice try, Mom. I give you credit: you do better than most."

Nice Try.

Excellent. Because that's the sarcasm I needed right now. 'Preciate it.

Here's how the rest of it went down: I got the old phone working again. I called my husband to tell him what had happened, but I was far past the point of verbal clarity. I was in that indecipherable place with monosyllabic sobbing that is closer to the native tongue of Chewbacca.

Still, he understood. He got me. And he came home. And he gave me his phone. To keep.

(Insert sidenote: We decided that I would acquire his, which was newer than the gently used one I had only just wrapped my heart around, and he would upgrade to a newer version. It was a sly plan: he was both noble and opportunistic. But hey, I got a phone. His. A man who loves his wife so well should get some technological perks. Go get a new phone, honey. I'll happily take yours.)

And that is how the two people in this marital union ended up with brand new Smart Phones. So much for careful planning, research, saved money, and shrewd bidding. Bring on the impulsive quick fix. Sometimes, it's just the solution.

The following evening, we went on a date with our Smart Phones. Nothing says romance like two lovebirds addicted to isolating technology. But it was ours, and we were together, and we took pictures of our togetherness for our spousal caller ID. I downloaded Dictionary.com; he downloaded the Periodic Table. We spoke our love languages.

P.S. I went back to the phone store today, for a separate matter totally unrelated to a wet phone. And the girl behind the counter, who has now seen me many times and on many levels of emotional status, said, "Ma'am, when you left the store, we couldn't stop talking about you."

"Oh? About the tragedy of the sunken phone?"

"No, about what a great mom you are. You really are. Nobody keeps their kids off the car and the motorcycle, but you did. We talked about you all day. You're doing a great job. I don't know why I'm crying right now, ma'am. I just had to tell you: You're a Great Mom."

That right there? Worth the whole ordeal. Or at least most of it.

I think I'll download a new App: Affirmation for the On the Go Mom.

Who has a new Smart Phone.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hidden Beauty

Today, my barista created intricate, detailed foam art on top of my mocha, only to cover it with the lid of my to-go cup.

She handed it to me with a wink: "It's the beauty on the inside that counts."

Indeed it is.

A cup of coffee and a metaphor for life.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Loose Translation

"Tucker, why did I send you to time out? Tell me."

"Because I was being deliculous?"

That's would be ridiculous, my friends. And I assure you, I offered him a more concrete explanation prior to his sentence to solitude.

But I imagine it did contain that word: ridiculous. Or, you know, deliculous.

Nobody Really Knows.

"Mommy, why does the cheese have to stand alone?" Tyler asked.

A question of the ages, really, of all singers, thinkers, and philosphers of the Farmer in the Dell. Each generation sings the song without ever really knowing.

And so, my son, I have no real answers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sunny Afternoon.

They began with separate adventures.
The bicycle and the sandbox.
Then they found separate shade, yours and mine.
Then they redefined separate: Mommy's and ours.
And they played for three hours.
They played leap frog, which consists of sloppy jumping, landing, curling, and ribbets.
They were a marching band, using flipflops for cymbals.
Singing loudly, "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."
They tipped their water bottles on their faces, splashing their eyelashes.
They put matchbox cars inside socks, swinging them wildly like numbchucks, inventing a game called Pocket Time.
They lost two socks in a tree.
Then they lost a shoe in the tree.
The shoe is saved.
One sock will live there forever. We will visit him.
One sock was retrieved, falling smack into my face, with a matchbox car still in it.
My lip burst and bled.
The last straw in an emotional day after a sleepless night... I cried.
I didn't want to.
Sometimes these things can't be avoided.
"Mommy, are you crying?"
"Mommy is crying?"
"Oh. That makes me cry too."
"Mommy, I will help you. Oh, look. I'll fix that tear for you."
"Mommy, are you happy again?"
"I think you are. See? You are. I love you, Mommy. Be happy like me."
They played house and naptime.
They played climb and run.
They hiked the entire length of the field, and all the way back, hand in hand.
They threw sand.
They threw rocks.
They greeted dogs.
They collected rocks.
They got sunburns.
Three hours will do this.
They skipped their naps.
Bedtime came easily.
Time well spent.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First Day Bliss

Oh, man, were we ready. New shirts, new shoes, new teachers, new friends. Preschool, here we come.

After our preview visit earlier this week, Tucker was most thrilled with the giant cleaner fish in the aquarium, who sucks the scum off the walls and the shiny stones inside the tank. Tyler was most looking forward to learning more about "the little black boy in the pink dress." (I saw no such child, but Tyler talked quite a bit about 'him.' I suspect it was a little girl in a brown and pink dress, as those are the often interchanged words in his vocabulary.)

Finally, this morning arrived, and we were up bright and early, ready to embrace the day. First Day Bliss.

Tucker gave Tyler a pep talk all the way to preschool, reminding him that although he is in PreK now, he most assuredly remembers what preschool is like. He gave him some pointers on routines, kindness, and obedience, which were far more helpful than anything I could say - not because I don't know, but because Tyler trusts Tucker as the reigning expert on such things.

We arrived at preschool, I delivered them to their classrooms. (Tucker found the giant fish still swimming and sucking around the tank, and Tyler didn't find the boy he had remembered, but he was enamored with the train table and the microscope instead.)

I seem to be in the very small minority in the world of moms, but I didn't feel sad today. I seem to be hardwired to embrace the next stage, rather than grieve the passing of the one before. I regularly checked my emotional thermometer as today approached, and it remained solidly in place: "Nope. Still not sad. Let's do this."

They were all smiles and waves as I left. After each farewell, I disappeared beyond their view, and I invisibly watched them enter their new communities. Their separate communities: new friends, new teachers, new chapters.

Suddenly, a lump began to swell in my throat... not out of sentiment or loss, but - really and truly - out of such joy and pride. You did it, sweet boys. Go get 'em today, my little preschoolers.

And then - oh, and then - I marched myself straight away to my favorite coffee shop. I unpacked, settled in, and made myself very much at home in this scene that shall become my work space, five hours a week, for many, many months to come.


For two and a half hours. I read, I wrote, I breathed. I began to embrace the beauty of quiet, hands-on, boundless streams of thought and creativity. If one of my dreams comes true, a novel will be born of this space. Today, I began to give breath to that balloon of a dream.
At 11:30, and not a moment sooner, I packed up and went to pick up my boys. From their first day of school, of course.
They were all smiles upon my return. Tucker was listening to a story. Tyler was playing a game he later called "Dice" but seemed to involve a large square pillow. They both ran to me with hugs and heaps of stories to tell.
But, our milestone was not yet complete, and this is the very best part. Before we left the PreK classroom, Tucker said, "Mommy, I need to go to Tyler's classroom. I need to say thank you."
With clear confidence, he marched right down the hall to Tyler's classroom (formerly his own), stood in the doorway and called, "Miss Emily? Thank you. Thank you very much for taking care of my brother today."
Her eyes met mine for the split-second that held paragraphs, and then she said, "Well, you're welcome, Tucker. And how was PreK? Are they treating you okay down there?"
"Yep. Real good. Real good."
"Okay, buddy. Have a good day, then. Bring Tyler back on Thursday."
That's when I felt those tears making their sneaky debut. My little boy, five years after I wondered how this journey would go, just showed clarity, confidence, and gratitude. Gratitude on behalf of someone else, no less (even if that someone is the brother whom he occasionally hits, ignores, and yells at).
And so, I have two preschoolers now. Happy little preschoolers with stories to tell, letters and numbers to learn, and songs to sing.
Bring it on, Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We all welcome you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Everyday, Ordinary Life.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you:
Take your everyday, ordinary life -
your sleeping, eating,
going-to-work and walking-around life,
and place it before God as an offering.
Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture
that you fit into it without even thinking.
Instead, fix your attention on God.
You'll be changed from the inside out.
Readily recognize what he wants from you and quickly respond to it.
Unlike the culture around you,
always dragging you down to its level of immaturity,
God brings out the best in you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

~ Romans 12: 1-2 (The Message)
~
I love those last two sentences, especially in this daily preschool culture in which I am fully immersed.
I feel like God is saying, "I know. Just please, be the adult."

Blue.

That's blue marker.
The good news:
an hour in the pool can erase excessive blue marker off a three-year-old's face.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Very Best

I read sometime ago about a woman who begins each day with a simple prayer:

God, let me be the answer to someone's prayer today.
Guide my path, that I will cross theirs.
And whatever you put before me today, I promise to do my very best.

I began to claim it too. I have awaited God's plan for my days, and sometimes I have been abundantly aware of his direction as my day has held moments that can only be divinely planned, inspired, and orchestrated. I belonged to conversations, moments, and encounters that were wholly destined.

But, somewhere along the way, my heart began to hope for the consistency of these bigger things. "Whatever you put before me today, Lord, I promise to do my very best." In praying these words, I began to await divine adventure, bigger plans, moments I couldn't have created on my own. On some days, he has handed them to me.

Some days hold no such moments.

Some days, what he places before me is a list of menial tasks. It's endless sippy cups, constant Mommy-Mommy-Mommy, folding laundry, cutting coupons, planning menus, monitoring time-outs, adjusting attitudes, teaching how to share, and acting as referee to little boys who wish to be neither divided nor conquered.

Some days, he places before me a call to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness, all on one harried trip to the grocery store.

Some days, the call to quiet faithfulness, to loving others and watching their dreams unfold, to being the backstage manager who minds the cues and the curtain call - some days, this is what he has for me.

Some days, I find myself doing all of that, as if it's on the side - while I watch for what he really has for my day. Instead of doing my best, I seem to save my energy for what will really require my very best.

But some days, that's all he has for my day.

I have found it's easier to obey my own prayer when it calls me to bigger, better, wiser, sparkly, twinkling moments. It's not so easy when there's nothing shiny, sparkly, or even appreciated about the task at all.

Maybe that's when he is most at work in me.

"Whatever you put before me today, Lord, I promise to do my very best."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010