Friday, April 30, 2010

Variety Show

"Mommy, come down here, please. We need to sing a song for you."

Well, you betcha. I'm on my way.

I came down the stairs to find the boys, still in their jammies, standing side by side next to the coffee table, each with a microphone in his hand. (One was a legitimate microphone, now minus batteries and a chord; the other was a Magnetix rod and ball jammed together. Both were equally useful for the task at hand.)

I took my seat on the coffee table, as instructed. My little men sang a song about fishies swimming in the water, with a chorus about poopie diapers, because no song is complete without the mention of the latter.

And then... "Mommy, come on the stage please."

Me?? I put my hand to my chest, and raised my eyebrows in question: the common response from named audience members, worldwide.

"Yes. Please. Come onto the stage."

"Why, yes. Of course." I stood and took my one step 'on stage.'

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, Mommy will do a trick. Mommy, go."

A trick.

Well.

Lucky for them, I have a tap dancing routine I keep in my back pocket, just for such an occasion. I did not disappoint, if I do say so myself.

We got loads of applause. A standing ovation, even, which called for an encore. We bowed many times, and we blew kisses to our adoring fans.

It was a stellar performance. Sorry you missed it.

When Skies are Gray

"Mommy, it's cloudy today, but that's okay. You are my sunshine."
~ Tyler

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Keep Your Voice Down.

On a recent lunch outing, we happened on to two of the most out-of-control brothers I have ever, ever seen. They were rude, disobedient, and a menace to the entire environment. They were a walking (climbing, running, hitting, and spitting) example of precisely why I fight the good fight on a daily basis: because I am working hard to teach my boys what is acceptable.

(And they were bullying Tucker, and I will never in my life tolerate anything that falls under that category.)

On my cue, we gathered our things and quietly moved to another part of the dining room. Once we were settled, I said quietly to my children, "Boys, I am so proud of you because you know how to behave in a restaurant. I feel sad for those boys, because nobody has taught them good manners."

With no hesitation, Tyler agreed fully. "You are right, Mommy."

And then... (wait for it)...

He tossed his head back, pointed in their direction, and shouted, "I feel sad for YOU BOYS because you don't have any manners at all!"

Awesome. We'll work on that particular manner next time.

Frequent Topics

Recapping the night with Erica, the boys' favorite babysitter, I wondered if the potty training had stayed in effect in my absence. I asked, "Where there any accidents?"

"Well, no, but there were some significant conversations about poop."

Of course there were.

Because this is what we do at my house, all the livelong day.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

997, 998, 999...

One THOUSAND!
That's right, ladies and gentlemen:
You have hereby witnessed the 1,000th blogpost on Teaching Tuck and Ty.
One thousand.
One thousand thoughts, quotes, stories, reflections, anecdotes (and perhaps antidotes?),
and moments.
Laughable,
victorious,
transparent,
emotional,
inspirational,
careful,
detailed,
heart tugging,
captured,
unbelievable,
and undeniably honest.
A thousand of them.
(Thanks for reading them, for catching every pitch I toss your way.)
Heaps of confetti and balloons just fell from the ceiling in my writing office,
and that is perhaps only true in my imagination.
Here's to a few thousand more.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chocolate

Okay. So. We were standing in line at Wendy's. I had told the boys they could each have a Frosty, and they had chosen chocolate. (Because as we all know: a vanilla Frosty isn't really a Frosty.)

Tucker had scouted a table, and Tyler was dancing all around my legs and hopping around the people in front of us, because he's nearly three and I choose my battles. He was dancing and hopping, talking all about chocolate.

"Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate on your face. Yep. There's chocolate on your face."

I was only half-listening, as I was also half-thinking about what to order for my crew.

Just then, my mom tapped my arm and said, "Um, you want to, um, tone that down a bit?"

Oh, him? The squirming child who's hopping all about? Sure.

"Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate on your face." Now he was pointing.

As I leaned around the person standing in front of us in my efforts to scoop up Tyler, I saw the person in Tyler's line of vision: a black man, with a skin tone precisely the color of milk chocolate.

"Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate on your face!"

(That's what my mom suggested I 'tone down a bit.')

I scooped him up and jumped back to our place in line, feeling my face flush and my temperature rise. Oh. My. Goodness.

I did the Fierce Mom Whisper. "Tyler, he doesn't have chocolate on his face. Stop saying that." Except I couldn't stop laughing (from nerves, embarrassment, and downright humor), and Tyler felt like he had hit the jackpot for standup comedy.

"Chocolate! Chocolate!"

"Stop it! Stop it!"

"Chocolate? Where did he go??"

"Tyler, stop."

"Chocolate."

I tried a different approach. I responded with other flavors. "Vanilla."

"Chocolate!"

"Strawberry."

"No, chocolate. Chocolate on your face!"

Oh. This is not happening. In such a public place, with nowhere to go. No.

Except it was.

Mom placed her order while I cowered behind other customers. I certainly couldn't let my child any closer to thise kind man, and I certainly wouldn't try to order chocolate Frosties while Tyler drew comparisons. She placed her order, and I shuffled him off to sit down with her.

When we were finally seated, I began a lesson in diversity, how God makes people of all colors and sizes.

And believe me: it doesn't mean anyone has been dipped in chocolate.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Parenthood

"If John Lennon was right that life is what happens when you're making other plans, parenthood is what happens when everything is flipped over and spilling everywhere and you can't find a towel or a sponge or your 'inside' voice."

~ Kelly Corrigan, Lift

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Unspeakably So

Tyler and I were snuggled together in my big, comfy chair. I nudged him and whispered, "Hey. I like you."

He smiled with his famous dimples, and he said, "I like... oh, wait."

With great concentration, he folded his little tiny fingers.




"Here, Mommy. I love you."
~
If it is possible to have experienced an absolute favorite moment of his nearly three years,
this may very well be it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Worth a Thousand Words

I took the boys for professional photos today, and let's just begin with this sentence: this whole process is so much easier than it was two years ago. Or even one year ago. Everyone understands the purpose, they know how to independently sit up and momentarily sit still, and they smile on command. I'm telling you: a breeze.

And, I may be perhaps slightly biased, but my kids pose for some brilliantly adorable photos. That only gets tricky when it's time to make purchasing choices... which is when the whole scene seemed to go downhill today.

Cody, photographer extraordinaire, downloaded heaps of adorable photos for us (my mom and me) to view on the ginormous computer screen. I'm telling you, he took like 85 shots, and at least 79 of them were worth framing.

So then he said, "Now, if you'd like to go ahead and order all of these, your total will be $780."

Okay, it wasn't quite that astronomical, but it was high. And it was flashing at me in bright red numbers in the right hand corner of the screen.

Okay, no, it wasn't. But it was there for me to see and affirm that these charming photos would not all come home with us.

"Well, I think I'd like to narrow it down a bit." Because I love my children far more than you do, Cody, but 79 new poses to display in our home would really be quite a few.

"Oh, of course. Let's go through and and select the favorites."

We narrowed it down to 56.

"Excellent. And if you'd like to purchase all of these, your total will be $473."

"Well, see, what I'd really like is to choose this one pose, my very favorite, and take advantage of your special to get four million of them to share. And I may choose one other collage of a few photos. That's what I'd really like to do."

"Mm-hmmm. And you know that by not choosing a package you will not get the CD of all the photos taken today? And you know we keep nothing on file?"

Translation: If you don't spend at least half your monthly income, we're trashing everything you leave behind.

"Well, I would like to spend fifty dollars. So, show me how far that will get me."

He was not pleased. As long as we were both talking straight up numbers, we were operating on opposing teams.

Still, he showed me once again these darling photos, one after another. "Ma'am, if you choose this package of seven poses, then your total will be $109.89."

"But I'd like to keep it under fifty. Can I choose this collection and that collage?"

"We're not ready to choose the collage yet."

Right. Because you're busy ripping my heart out as you delete one photo at a time. "Could we scoot ahead to the collage part?"

To his credit, he was patient. And I seemed to lose all focus and decision-making abilities just as I realized Tyler wasn't in fact clothed and playing with blocks, but he was in fact naked and headed straight for me.

Naked.

In the photo studio.

So, you know, we'll go ahead and take care of that. One moment, Cody.

Then Tucker was jumping on the chairs, and Tyler (now dressed) barked at a woman to get her purse off his house (the chair he had claimed for his imagination and play needs). Awesome.

"Cody, could we speed this up?"

"Absolutely. If you choose these five poses, your total will be $99.99."

Yikes.

"Okay. Here's what I want. Give me this pose, in the package that gives me four million, and give me this collage of three poses. That's what I want."

"And that will bring your total to $46.00."

"Perfect."

He did not agree, and I apologize to his commission check for my personal budget constraints.

We slipped out of there with the hard-fought pictures I wanted, and I had to force myself not to think about the dozens and dozens left behind.

Because the ones that we got are pretty freaking amazing. I'm just sayin'.

Signs of Spring



The meaning of my role is perhaps measured in nanoseconds,
but there are some moments I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Magenta

In the stack of papers Tucker brought home from preschool today, I found a little painting on cardstock. A 6-inch square, it is covered in broad strokes of magenta paint. And on the bottom in his teacher's perfect handwriting: Tucker.I sorted through the papers... a birthday invitation, a Weekly Reader, a Scholastic book order, some stickers, and the painting.

Absently, I tossed them in the trash, keeping only the birthday invitation so we can choose whether to RSVP.

We finished our lunch, took a trip to the park with scooters and bikes, and settled in for naps. All in all, it was relatively uneventful but certainly worthy of rest.I decided to give the first thirty minutes to myself, and I sat down to read.

That's when I found this quote:


"The knowledge of impermanence that haunts our days is their very fragrance." - Rilke

I thought about the little moments of today...
Tyler is in his second "dry day" in big boy underwear...
Tucker hopped off his bike to help Tyler on his scooter...
they argued over who could hold the toy clock in the car...
Tyler asked me to take off my sunglasses so he could kiss my eye...
Tucker learned the phrase, "Nice one..."
Tucker wiped his nose on my cheek...
Tyler built a snowman with PlayDoh...
and that magenta painting.


Immediately, I went straight to the kitchen and fished through the trash, in search of the piece of art. I found it: safely protected between the Weekly Reader and Scholastic book order.

I'm framing it.


It will hang in my office for a lifetime to come, inspiring me to write, remember, be present, and enjoy. I suspect his fondness will vary, as he will someday be embarrassed that he chose to paint in a shade of pink, but someday he'll show somebody what he made when he was four years old.
I captured one piece of today's impermanence, and it will forever hang on my wall.

In broad strokes of magenta.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Ma'am, It's What They Do."

Rough morning. Let's leave it at that.

Except to add that it involved a cart full of groceries, two boys most enthralled with the other's giddy humor, the help of three adults to get us through the checkout lane and out the door, and even still I forgot my receipt and my greeting cards.

And everyone got an extended, isolated timeout when we got home.

And Tucker said, "Mommy, what means 'shame?'"

"It means you should feel very sorry, because you did the wrong thing."

"Oh."

"Do you feel that way?" I asked.

"Nope."

Well, okay then.

By the time we met my mom for lunch, my head was spinning in all directions. Lunch was no small feat, as they wanted to sit next to one another but didn't care to be near one another. (Go figure.) They both wanted to use the bathroom before, during, and after the meal. They both wanted booster seats, but neither wanted to sit in his. They both danced circles around me, and they bounced off my brain.

As we stood to leave (and Tyler went to the bathroom yet again with Grandma), the gentlemen at the table beside us said, "Ma'am, we've just been enjoying your fellas today."

"Oh, dear. I mean, oh, thank you." I think I straightened my hair or tugged on my shirt with that comment - a gesture that says I'm trying so hard to keep a measure of myself and this environment under control.

Extending his arm with a handful of grace, he said, "Ma'am, it's okay. They're boys. This is what they do. They're doing just what they were made to do."

And just like that, my blood pressure knocked it down a few pegs.

His lunch companion chimed in: "It's so true, ma'am. It's what we do. When I was young, my mom used to take me grocery shopping. And when I was finished with the errand, I would step on the back of her heels until her shoes came off. She would yell at me and swat at me, but I would just keep doing it until her heels were raw and we finally went home. It's what boys do."

(Little did he know that we had just returned from the grocery store, and I was thankful that my son who would love to do some such thing was off to the bathroom, yet again.)

"Ma'am, they're charming young men. And you're doing a great job. And they're doing what they do."

And may God bless their generous hearts for encouraging a woman whose name they did not know.

By the time we got home, I heard myself say, "Oh, those sweet boys..."

A little affirmation can go a long, long way.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Benchmarks

Our family is complete. Unless God sends an unexpected blessing (for whom he would also circumvent certain anatomical changes that we have set in place), we have chosen to stop adding to our crew and set about the blessed journey of raising these two.

With this joyful decision and simple procedure behind us, we decided to plan a just celebration:

A Garage Sale.

We cleared out the basement of things piled high, the items that had been hibernating 'until we needed them again.' This past weekend, we sorted them all, priced them fairly, and lined the driveway with these beauties. We prayed for sunshine and for customers. Both arrived promptly on Saturday morning.

(Fear not, fellow sentimental parents: I did not dare part with the favorite blankets, homemade treasures, and special outfits that will belong to only me forever. Those are sticking around.) I felt just fine about all of these decisions and their varying degrees of permanence.

Just fine, I tell you.

Until I watched from our bedroom window (a safe and important distance for my heart) as strangers loaded these belongings into their vehicles. The baby gates. The high chair. The Boppy. The crib. The Exersaucer. The swing(s). The stroller(s). The carseat(s).

The bassinette.

Oh, my. I did not plan on this wave of emotions.

I was flooded with memories from the season when we collected each of those things. With joyful anticipation, we scouted Babies R Us and certainly garage sales all over town, accumulating the treasures we needed most for the next life stage. I remember bringing them home, setting them up, and delighting in the tangible proof that someone new would live here soon. I remember staring at, caressing, organizing, and straightening everything again and again, with dreams in my head of the sweet babies who held my heart.

Babies who are now little boys. And growing fast, I might add.

I'm not typically sentimental over new life stages. I haven't yet grieved anything new or the passing of what is over. By and large, I practice the philosophy of doing this well and embracing what's next. But suddenly, that was all talk. Just as I began to worry about all these permanent decisions (and miles too late on so many of them), I recognized this familiar tug.

Wait. I know this feeling.

I felt the same way when my first car was towed away, my faithful companion through marching band practice, football games, McDonald's runs, and countless high school antics.

I felt the same way when the buyer of our first home told me all the simple changes she planned to make once she moved in. When all of her changes were direct offenses to the decisions we had made when we bought the house and made it our own. Our first house was about to become hers.

I felt the same way when we traded in our Honda Accord for a Honda Odyssey. That four-door sedan had driven us from Ohio to Colorado, to everyday of my first years of teaching... and we left it behind at the dealership, because our new minivan suited our next life stage.

The 'things' do not hold the memories, but by golly, they sure are benchmarks for the journey.

So I stood in the window, and reminded myself:

We don't need those things. We simply don't need them. And that young couple really looks like they do, she with her growing middle and he with his eager checkbook. Enjoy my treasures, young families. They served us well in that precious season. It's your turn now. Take them, and be blessed.

By the end of the morning, we had pocketed more than we had hoped from the sale, and every penny belongs to our upcoming trip to Cancun, Mexico for our tenth wedding anniversary this summer. From our profits, we plan to treat ourselves to massages on the beach. When I'm lying on the beach, holding a fruity drink, reading a good book, and enjoying ten years with this man I would say yes to all over again, I don't think I'll feel so sad about selling baby furniture.

(But I may still wish we had kept the bassinette.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cul de Sac Kickball

Six players.



One beachball.



Four bases of welcome mats and gardening pads.



Short innings.



Interchangeable teams



(because two players didn't understand the concept of playing against someone else).



A pitcher who kicks.



A runner who picks dandelions.



A toddler who plays from a piggyback position.



Grandparents who alternate between running, pitching, and taking pictures.



Lots of home runs.



Nobody's keeping score.




Count me in.




Oh, and Tucker calls it Ring Around the Rosie.

Tricky Task

I'm not sure what I love most about this video:
their legs flip-flopped over each other on the Sit-n'-Spin,
their science of negotiating a spin when they're both inclined to turn the wheel in opposite directions,
or Tyler's generous pause to help Tucker with his flip flop.
video
(Always make me wonder what I love most.
Always be buddies, please.
Always.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Love Language

We were enjoying an afternoon movie matinee. Snacks in hand, sippy cups full, and Gaston chasing down the Beast in our very own living room.

Tyler sat on the floor while Tucker stood behind him, affectionately rubbing Tyler's head. Only Tyler didn't wish to be touched, thank you. He kept swatting at Tucker's hand, and Tucker would move just in time so Tyler kept smacking himself on the back of his own neck.

Repeatedly.

The scene unfolded again and again, with both boys' eyes locked on the screen. They can do it all without missing a blink.

I said, "Tuck, I think he doesn't want you to touch him. I think you should step back."

He slowly turned to me and said, very gently, "But, Mommy. I just love him."

Well, who am I to argue?

Tyler, with his eyes glued to the chase scene through the forest, called over his shoulder, "Mommy! Tucker isn't stepping back!"

"I know, Tyler. He said it's because he loves you."

And there wasn't another word. Suddenly the proximity and the head rubbing was perfectly okay.

With everyone.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rico Suave

I'm not sure where he learned it, but Tyler has adopted the phrase: "Nice and smooooth."

He uses it freely, but never quite appropriately.

"I'm going to read my book, nice and smooooooth."

"I'm going to ride my bike, nice and smooooooth."

And my personal favorite: "I'm going to eat this hot dog, nice and smooooooth."

Cracks me up every time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

And so it goes...

We were having a rough day. Tyler woke up with the firm determination to take me on, and he was not backing down. It was a new day, and perhaps his time had come to claim authority in our house.

We argued over everything. I gave him choices A and B, and without fail, he demanded C. He spent much of the morning angry, or pretending to be for the sake of argument.

And then he didn't nap.

When Tucker woke up from his, he was delightful and ready to play, and I finally decided I would concede to Tyler's plan for no nap. Fine, kiddo. You win. And I'm taking you to McDonald's - not as a reward for YOU, but as a gift to me. Run it off, my sweet cherub. Let's each give each other a little space.

Except... he fell asleep before we left the driveway. That carseat was far more snuggly than his bottom bunk, apparently. And, there was nobody waiting for him to sleep then. In fact, it was the exact opposite of my plan.

But he slept soundly. Through the entire visit to the coveted McDonald's playland. My book sat by my side, while I held a sleepy little bundle.

And he woke up just as I put him back in his carseat to go home.
This is the face of a boy who just missed out on a good time.



And so it goes, little man. Not sure what to tell you.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

...Of the Beholder

Beauty is one of the best argumetns that there is a God.
If we are simply animals at the top of the food chain,
then there is no need for art.
But we can love beauty and art and people -
This is the thumbprint of God.
~ Brad Strait

Friday, April 9, 2010

I Try.

A visit to the bookstore.
Pick a good one, buddy.

And now Mommy will read aloud, right here next to the blocks.

And now Mommy will read aloud to herself, while little boys play with said blocks.


Forget it.


Enjoy the blocks.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Built-In Teammate

A friend asked me recently: How are your boys different in their patterns of obedience? Is one more compliant than another?

Well. In general, I would say that Tucker is more compliant than Tyler, but that is only because Tyler has a free spirit and needs someone to hold the string to his kite. (And perhaps it is because Tyler is still in the throes of toddlerdome, and Tuck seems to have just emerged on the other side of the darkness.)

But as for their patterns of disobedience, and who is more eager to cause a problem at our house, here is my thought: I don't know.

I don't know, because they are always in kahootz with one another. I don't know, because there's no way to tell whose idea it was. I don't know, because I'm always out-numbered and often the target of their great idea. Only one needs a lightbulb moment, and then he must merely whisper his brother's name, and... voila.

We have a situation on our hands.

For example, I don't know whose idea it was to empty the laundry baskets of freshly folded clothes. I don't know who decided to pour buckets of sand on each other's heads. I don't know who decided to fill the watering cans with birdseed and "feed the grass." I don't know whose idea it was to stick lunchmeat to the wall. I don't know whose idea it was to pour bath water into the trash can. I don't know.

I think this will be a lifelong pattern for my two buddies, and I can see a lot coming at me in years ahead. When they are eight and ten, or ten and twelve, or God help us, fifteen and seventeen.

I foresee some calls from the teachers, principal, other parents, and perhaps even the police, because my boys will be up for a good time - and they have a built-in accomplice.

I see it coming.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

So Much Leisure Time (?)

Well, apparently a recently released study indicates that stay-at-home moms have 30+ hours of leisure time each week. Yep. That's what the experts say. That there's no reason to complain about busyness or exhaustion, because really, most of it's leisure time.

This evokes a few dialogue bubbles to pop up from my curly head.

Now, let me toss out this caveat: compared to the lifestyle of my stay-at-home grandmother, my life is pretty darn leisurely. For example, I have a car, a washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, and grocery store within a moment's distance. So, it's true: I don't have to do my laundry all by hand, I don't have to pluck the chickens in order to roast one for dinner, and I can head out and about at anytime. In fact, I could be more appropriately referred to as a stay-in-the-van mom.

And to add a second caveat, I recognize that men and women who work fulltime do indeed work fulltime. So it can sound ridiculous for some stay-at-homes to complain about how hard the day is, when a day is also demanding for their office-bound counterparts. It's not like a day at the office is filled with 'leisure time' either.

But if I may, I have thought of a few ways in which the shared work space at home is slightly different than that in the office.

For example, in the office:

You do not finish filing a stack of paperwork, only to have a coworker come into your office and undo everything you've just done.

If things grow quiet, you don't have to grow suspicious. ("Uh-oh, gentlemen, it's getting a little quiet in the conference room... do I need to check on you??")

At a lunch meeting, you don't have to pack a bag of tricks to keep everyone entertained and wipes to clean everyone up.

You don't have to negotiate with your coworkers to "please just take two more bites."

You can rest assured that nobody will intentionally wipe their hands on your shirt or spill their drink in your lap.

If coworkers resort to 'potty language,' it's not because they simply love the sound of the word poopie, over and over and over again.

In most conference meetings, they don't kick each other under the table so you find yourself swatting at their thighs.

When you're on the phone, a coworker doesn't pour out all your paperclips and cry because you won't build a paperclip tower with him. Right now.

When you're typing an email, you don't have a coworker in your lap, tapping the keyboard, while another tugs on your elbow and drags the mouse across your desk.

In general, nobody follows you around, pulling on your pantleg, repeating your name incessantly, and then forgetting what he needs.

If one needs to use the restroom, you don't feel compelled to scoop him up to make sure he gets there fast enough. And you don't have to keep others from joining him, out of fear that they'll pee all over each other.

If you need to use the restroom, nobody asks to sit on the floor beside you while you get the job done.

It's just a different work environment, entirely. (I know. I've done both.)

So, it's not as though the tasks of the day are far beyond manageable; they can most certainly be done. It's the teeny tiny interruptions, the incessant little battles, the unforeseen issues, and the emergencies great and small - these are what make groceries, dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and patience a little tough to maintain.

Having said that, I think I'll enjoy some of my measured 'leisure time' now: the kids are up from their naps.