Monday, May 31, 2010

No Boys Allowed

Out of the blue, Tucker said, "Mommy, I just love you like crazy."

(Right now, I can't think of seven words that I love more than those.)

With a smile from that started in my toes, I said, "Well, Tuck, I love you like crazy, too."

And suddenly, his voice changed. "No. You can't. I'm not a girl." (Apparently "love you like crazy" is an exclusively feminine expression.)

We settled on, "I'm wild about you." That one's gender neutral.

(And it's pretty great to be the first girl who gets his crazy love.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Tucker.

And his mommy and daddy loved him so very much. He was the first little boy they called their own, and he gave them their names, Mommy and Daddy.

But it took a long time for him to find those words, to say those names.

Children all around him learned to talk, but his words didn't come as easily. His mommy worried a lot about him, and she finally took him to a special team of people who knew just what to do. They told her she had done the right thing, that her son was very, very, very smart, but that he needed help.

And she did everything it took to get help for her little boy.

They learned a language all their own, filled with pictures, signs, and symbols. She helped the world to know his stories, and she taught him every sign he knew. Their hearts were woven together, as she knew his thoughts before anyone. He told her his favorite things, in a wordless place that only she could hold.

And her heart was sad as she waited to hear his voice.

"Speak, baby, speak... Love is begging, please. Don't worry, baby, Momma is waiting, anticipating, when silence sleeps."

And then, a few at a time, his words began to arrive.

One day, he said, "Mommy."

Another day, he said, "Daddy."

And then he counted to ten.

And his words began to grow, and he began to string them together like beads on a necklace. Sometimes two or three, sometimes a whole handful of precious pearls.

And his mommy listened. And she believed in how smart he was, while he began to show her.

And three years passed, filled with an ocean of months and a journey of weeks, with countless long days in between.

And he learned to talk.

And this week, his mommy signed papers to set him free. Because he can talk now. He can sing, and tell stories, and remember names, and imagine out loud.

And at the bottom of the page, she read the words, "Ineligible. No academic need." Because he had improved - he was "ineligible" for services. He had "no academic need" for help.

And she signed her name.

And they did it.

And a chapter ended, and they began to write a new one.

You did it, precious boy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Other Guy

When people ask about Tyler's black eye and stitches, Robb has taught him to say, "You should see the other guy."

It would really be very charming from his three-year-old frame and sassy attitude, except that he doesn't have it quite straight.

Instead, when people ask, Tyler says, "The other guy did it to me."

And this puts us in a precarious place of explanation.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chicks Dig Scars

I was upstairs. I heard a crash and a scream. One of those screams. The kind that means Real Deal. Come now.

And as I was rushing to the scene, I heard Robb say, "Oh, buddy, did it get your face?"
Your face. Whose face?


He was sitting on the steps putting on his shoes. Daddy was just home from the conference in Connecticut (like just home three hours ago), and we were celebrating with a trip to ride bikes at a new park. We were stoked, for a few minutes anyway.

Suddenly, a toy was tossed or a brother was pushed, and a picture frame came crashing down onto Tyler, gashing his left cheekbone in two places. I came rushing down the stairs, and Tyler was bleeding, bleeding, bleeding. No question: this was beyond a band-aid.

Robb and I sprang into action on Team Parenting. Within minutes, we had made the necessary phone calls and were in the van, heading first to drop Tuck with Grandma and then to get Tyler on the mend. I sat on the floor next to him the entire way, and my sweet child never, ever broke eye contact with me. You may disagree, but there are times when eye contact is more important than a mom's seatbelt. It's an entirely separate form of safety.

Our pediatrician's office has an ER/Trauma Room, so they have often spared us a trip to the hospital. (Often. In fact, for a brief summer, that room was called the Tucker Room because of our frequent visits. Thank you, Tyler, for waiting three years to take your turn.)

We made a beeline for the designated room to suit our needs, and the doctor followed right behind us. He took one look at Tyler and said, "Oh, yep. Sure enough. Okay. I think I can take care of the smaller one with some adhesive and a steri-strip. But the other one will need stitches. I'll put some cream on it to take the edge off. It won't numb him completely, but it will help with the shot. After the shot, we'll stitch him up. Just give me a few minutes."

He left the room, and I listed in my mind all the steps he had just described. (I cussed in my head.) I tried to get my mind around the maternal task at hand, all the while with my crying baby snuggled so still in my arms.

And then... my ears started ringing. I felt warmer and warmer. My vision got fuzzy around the edges, closing in like a tunnel.

"Water. Water," I whispered to Robb.

My request alerted a nurse who said, "Oh, my. The mom. The mom. The mom. Get a chair under that mom."

She put a chair under me just as I fell into it.

Yep. I'm that mom.

Robb took over with Tyler as they escorted me into an exam room where I could lie down. I kept saying, "I have to do this. That's my baby."

"We know, Mom. That's why you're having a hard time - he's your baby. Just take a minute." She reclined me with my glass of water, and she went back to the trauma room. Another patient needed her more.

But that other patient needed me more.

I waited until the dizziness went away, and I headed straight to Tyler. And as I walked in, they were lying him on the table for his shot - a shot to be administered a half-inch from his eye. Daddy was holding him down, the nurse was holding his head, a doctor was aiming for his face, and Tyler was screaming.

And all those symptoms washed over me again. The nurse looked up and said, kindly but firmly, "Don't come in here, Mom. Do not come in here."
She didn't have to tell me twice. I stayed in the hallway, crying and praying, catching my breath, trying not to throw up.

For the very first time in the life of either of my children, I could not 'man up.' I was so frustrated with myself. I have always been able to stand beside them, through shots, pricks, tests, broken arms, and a surgery. If he has to experience it, I'll sit right beside him the whole time. But today, no dice.

To my credit, this one was a doozy. Not exactly par for the course.

Finally, when that task was complete, I rushed in and scooped him up. I could hold him until the next phase: the stitches. He just wanted me; I just wanted him. Together, we would fuel ourselves for a few minutes.

I held his sweaty little body so close, rocked him as I always have, and said, "Tyler, I'm so proud of you. You did so great, buddy. So great. That was the worst part. Now, here's the plan. In a few minutes, the doctor will give you your stitches. He's going to tie some knots on your face just like we tie knots on your shoes. It might feel scary, but it won't hurt. I promise. Okay, buddy?"

He whispered a tender, weepy, "Okay, Mommy."

And just like that, it was game time again.

I lay him down on the table, determined to keep my mind, pulse, nausea, and emotions under control. Everything was happening right under his eye, which meant he had to watch everything coming at him. Well, not on my watch, kiddo. I positioned my face directly over his, and I kept his eyes on me. Stare down, kiddo.

You can do this.

And by letting him watch me, I had to watch them put five stitches in his sweet, freckled face. I know how that procedure is done, now. I know all too well. And every once in a while, I felt the heat rushing up my neck, the dizziness sweeping in, and my breath getting faster. So I would stop, look away, focus on the picture of a clown on the wall, and find my maternal strength again.

And all the while, I leaned hard against my husband. Physically, I leaned. Team Parenting. Team Us.

Tyler cried, asking them, "Can you please stop? Can I be done? Can I sit up? I just don't like this." Of course you didn't, tough guy. But you were so brave.

He did it. We did it.

And now, five stitches later, there's a story to tell, a scar to prove, and another notch on the belt of boyhood.

We have a family portrait session next weekend. We're choosing not to reschedule, regardless of the stitches and pending black eye. This - this, right here - is our life. Let's document it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


...listening to the iPod in the car...

Tyler said, "I really liked that song, but I was listening and listening for a tuba. And I just didn't hear one. Maybe he was playing quietly."

My three-year-old knows how to listen for a specific instrument in a song. And my brass-playing husband and brother are pleased.

Never too early.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eat Dessert First.

Today is Grandma Carnahan's birthday. She would have been 95 today.

I am like her in many ways. Some of the most prominent things about me were hers first.

My face falls into a smile more easily than any other expression; Grams was perpetually smiling.

I will not be put in a corner, by anyone, in any way. Grams knew herself well, loved others hard and strong, but would be neither controlled nor manipulated.

I can carry a conversation with anyone at any time, even strangers; Grams once talked on the phone with a stranger -- for 45 minutes -- when they dialed her phone number on accident.

She taught me many things. To crochet, play Finch, cross stitch, prepare a meal for a friend, open my home to others, and love my family well and first.

She taught me that there are days, and they pop up more often than most people realize, when it's just best to eat dessert first.

And I'm not sure, but I would imagine they do birthdays pretty big in heaven. Or I hope they do. Maybe it's a whole separate birthday that matters. But I imagine there was some serious celebrating today.

One thing is for sure: each of her grandchildren celebrated her today. We sent pictures and texts across the country, reminding each other what we loved most about her. We sang her songs, remembered her words, and smiled all day long.

Today, I taught my boys that there are just some days, and they pop up more often than most people realize, when it's just best to eat dessert first.

Here's to you, Grams.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Percussion Section

Today, my mom took my plate out from under my very own lunch (that I was still eating), because her youngest grandson needed another cymbal for his imaginary marching band.

Yep. She's that kind of Grandma. :)

Applause, please.

Dare I say it: Tyler is potty trained. Oh, yes. Yes, he is. (And a full six months before his brother was, on our first trek down the Avenue of Three-Year-Old Boys.)

It was not without heartache to his mother, of course. We thought we had mastered this a month ago. We counted the stickers, mastered days of dryness, sang, danced, and chocolated ourselves into each bathroom stall, and we finally celebrated mightily with a grand trip to Chuck E Cheese. (Because what says milestone better than bad pizza?)

And the next day, when Tyler used the potty, he said, "And where is my m&m?"

"Oh, you don't need one anymore. Because you're a big boy now, and you wear big kid underwear, and we went to Chuck E Cheese, and you don't need an m&m. That's just while you're learning. You know how now."

And he looked at me, like, "Oh, really? You think I do? Wanna bet?"

And we regressed entirely. The boy decided that if it wasn't a party, if there would be no singing, dancing, cheering, and celebrating, then he wasn't interested.

Well, he wins. Out came the m&m's. Because really, it's a small price to pay for a diaper-free home. And who can't benefit from a handful of extrinsic motivation, I ask you?

All of that to say: he is a master at it now. He knows the signs, he can anticipate the warnings, and he is a total pro.

So much so that on a recent lunch date with my mom, he stopped mid-meal and said, "Mommy! My poop is coming out right now!"

And if you have potty trained, you know that there is a brief window in which you will accept such graphic representations of bodily functions, even at the dinner table, if it means that we avoid the looming threat.

So, I scooped him up, we ran to the bathroom, and we made it just in time. Whew. Good work, kiddo.

And as he ran back to our table at Qdoba, on a grand display before the world, he shouted, "Grandma! I POOPED ON THE POTTY!"

And as I followed behind him, three women patted me on the back. Two of them applauded him.
Because apparently, they've done this journey, too.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bad Hair Day

In the early evening, Tyler ran his fingers through my hair.

"Hey, Mommy, there's lunch in your hair."

Slightly alarmed, a quick mental slideshow scrolled through my mind, reviewing all the places I had been since lunchtime, all with an unidentified something in my hair. I immediately began fishing through my curly mane to find it.


He reached above my ear and retrieved something he recognized.

"Yep. I put it there. At lunchtime."

The Best Stories

"What makes a great story a great story is precision...
the kind that makes the tales we love worthy of the room they take up in our hearts and minds - a story's ability to pierce this present world in which we live
and which we think we already understand,
and through that piercing bring us to a deeper understanding of ourselves;
the best stories reveal ourselves to ourselves
and ask us how then we shall live."
~ Brett Lott

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why Multiple Cakes and Parties are a Good Idea

Some little buddy at our house is three years old. And let me tell you: we celebrate in an extensively celebratory way, for a week or more, until the whole thing is sufficiently mentioned. I'm quite the party girl, so sufficiency is by my definition only.

The first party: At Grandma and Poppa's, with this decadent beauty made by Grandma herself.

And the week continued, with no small fanfare. Every morning was joyful, as we drew closer to his big day. I planned small celebrations at the park, at McDonald's, in our living room, at bath time, and everywhere in between. (Because we would have been to all those places anyway, but it's so much more fun when we're going because it's someone's birthday.)
I think we sang Happy Birthday no less than 47 times. So that by the time his day arrived, he kept delaying it. "No, don't sing yet. Not yet." Perhaps he had had his fill.
See this beautiful 'second' cake? It was for Tyler's 'second' party, and this picture was taken just before I dropped the cake down the garage steps. Yep. I did. Oh, and I did something similar last year.

Only this year, there were no pictures. Because the party had not started yet, and I was not up to taking pictures of my own folly. Repeated folly.

(Another reason it's a good idea to extend the celebration: it leaves room for maternal error and recovery.)

The boys recovered nicely from my little episode. Somehow, and I really don't know how, Tyler ended up with frosting down the entire right leg of his jeans. He didn't mind; he tasted it and pronounced it good.

Tucker merely said, "Mommy, please don't touch the cake anymore." Fair enough, kiddo.

And yet, two years of the same behavior makes it far too close to tradition. And certainly established as legendary. I think I will forever be remembered for this twice occurence. I can foresee my boys at their wedding reception. Someone I birthed will hold a microphone in his hand and say: "See that cake over there? The three-tiered one with the waterfall? Please. Don't anyone let my mother near it."

Again I say: Fair enough.

Now, we have sung, jumped, unwrapped, eaten, and blown out the candles to welcome another year of Tyler.

And I'd do it all again. (Except for, you know, that one part.)

Happy Birthday, my sweet Tyler boy. Here's to you and every single thing about your freckled face, dimpled cheeks, silly jokes, funny faces, and spirit spilling over with joy.

Here's to you, and here's to three.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Keeping It Real

"Tricia, your blog is so funny. I love reading it... I mean, you seem so put together otherwsie. Not that you're not, but you know. It's just good to know somebody else had a hard day too."

"Tricia, you wrote about that horrible meltdown of a day you had... what was that like for you?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, they happen to me all the time. But they never happen to you. So, what was that like?"
Perhaps it's time for some clarity.
I appreciate the misguided notion that I am otherwise put together, and especially that I might never have a horrible meltdown of a day. But here's the truth: I am very much real, messy, cluttered, frayed, and on the very edge of a perfectly good cliff.
And that's one of the biggest reasons I keep this blog: to keep it real. To give you something to read, so you can (hopefully laugh) and say, "Yep. I so get that." If you can't yet laugh at your hard day, maybe you can laugh at mine.
Real moms are better at our jobs when we're real with each other. And far too often, we get caught up in the comparison games, the But I'm Not Her, and the If Only I Were-Had-Could-Would-Should.
And it's a waste of time.
I mean, aren't we all exhausted enough, without the score keeping? Isn't there enough laundry to fold, noses to wipe, shoes to tie, stories to read, gifts to wrap, and dates to keep... all without an endless ledger about who's doing it better, wiser, more efficiently, or with greater ease?
So, I chuck all that out the window, and I invite you to do the same. We're all doing our darn best, and we do it better when we can say to one another, with words or with a glance, "This is one !#&?% of a day. And how are you?"
I'll keep writing. Please keep reading. And please, let's keep it real.
Real Mothers don't eat quiche;
they don't have time to make it.
Real Mothers know that their kitchen utensils
are probably in the sandbox.
Real Mothers often have sticky floors,
filthy ovens, and happy kids.
Real Mothers know that dried play dough
doesn't come out of carpets.
Real Mothers don't want to know
what the vacuum just sucked up.
Real Mothers sometimes ask, "Why me?"
And they find their answer when a little voice says,
"Because I love you best."
Real Mothers know that a child's growth
is not measured by height or years or grade...
It is marked by the progression of
to Mom,
to Mother.
~ Author Unknown

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Yield to Pedestrians

I asked the boys to please park all their bikes, cars, scooters, and other vehicles in a safe place on the deck, since it was time to come inside.

They looked at me blankly.

"I said, please park your bikes and scooters."


"Boys. Like this."

I gathered two toddler-sized vehicles, carried them to the side of the deck, and lined them up.

Tucker's blank expression was replaced with exasperation.

Pointing, he said, "Mommy, that is NOT the parking lot. That is the grocery store."

Ah. Clearly nobody informed me of the specifics in the imaginary neighborhood in the backyard.

Where are the parking signs, please, little sheriffs?

Now I Know My...

Tucker: I can spell my name. T-U-C-K-E-R.

Tyler: So can I! T-Y-C-11-8-9-10-E-R.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Love Notes

Dear Tucker and Tyler,

My goodness, I love you.

Tucker, I love your careful, linear thinking, your problem solving, and your great ideas. I love the freckles on your nose, the cowlick that matches mine, and your sturdy little body that is solid as a rock. I love how gentle you are with children, how careful you are with your brother, and how eager you are to try new things. I love that you can make me think. I love your thankful spirit. I love your caution and your humor, and I love the budding character that is beginning to take root. May you forever be kind, confident, and careful, my precious firstborn.

You are one great kid.

Tyler, I love your silly, random thoughts, your mind that never, ever stops going. I love that you make me laugh, every single day. I love your ideas, your jokes, your tricks, and your fearlessness. I love that you love people, that you're ready for a party, that your hypersocial tendencies can only come from me. I love that you love books. I love the freckles on your nose, your sweeping eyelashes, your straight, red hair, that cowlick that matches mine, and those irresistible dimples. I love that nothing, ever, slows you down. May you always be so resilient and courageous, my sweet second boy.

You are one great kid.

I love learning you both.

I think I could never possibly tell you how much I love you, but I'm pretty sure I'll spend the rest of my life trying.

I know I could never pray quite enough for you, and the thought of asking God for all the things I desire for you is nearly paralyzing to me and my prayer life. Still, I'm absolutely sure I'll spend the rest of my life trying.

You are the best things that ever, ever happened to me. I wouldn't trade you for all the little girls in the world, and I wouldn't trade a single day with you for a million days with anyone else.

I love being your mom. And don't you forget it.

Eskimo kisses and big bear hugs,


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bound for Greatness

"And what is your last name?" asked the woman I had only just met.

We were making polite, get-to-know-you conversation among crowds at a ladies' breakfast that would later be profound and insightful.

"It's Williford."

"Ah. Good one. Nice and long." She stretched her hands to exemplify the greatness of a lengthy name.

"Well, yes. Thank you. My maiden name was Lott, so a longer name is new to me. Or, new ten years ago."

"Lott! Yes! Nice and choppy!" And she clapped her hands together, like, chop-chop.

Clearly this woman had some opinions and thoughts on length and syllables of names.

She asked about my boys' names. When I told her, she frowned. "Now, you know they'll never be President, of course. Too many syllables."

"(?)," said the look on my face.

"I mean, think about it. Look at the pattern. Bill. Clin-ton. George. Bush. Ba-rack. O-ba-ma." She clapped her hands with every first and last name.

"So... (insert 'unsure of where this is going...') I don't think I see a pattern."

"Oh, but there is one."


"Tyler could shorten his last name and take after Gerald Ford. He could be President Ford."

"Except that's not his name."

"Oh, right, of course. And you'll also need to send them to Yale or Harvard if they plan to lead the country, and well, you know, those are tough to get into."

"Right. And so today, I think we'll make sure we don't have any potty training accidents. Maybe we'll master that first."

"Oh, sure. Good idea."

Courtesy laughter.

Then she adds, "Did you know you are part Indian, since you and your husband are arranged?"

She was a wealth of theories, I'm telling you. I began listening politely, as I seemed to have little to offer that made any sense at all.