Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More on My Neck

Tyler leaned in close, studying just under my chin.

"Mommy, what is that on your neck? I think it's germs."


Good grief. First last week's episode, and now this.

I'm beginning to develop a complex about my neck.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

How To Do This (?)

See, the thing is, I have stories to tell. And my children keep me in high supply. And I love using my mind to think, write, convey, share, encourage, and bring laughter. And sometimes, my blogging minutes are the most alive I feel all day long.

Like I stop holding my breath. Like it all spills out, like I have found newness and clarity in saying it all.

And so I will continue, because it would be an unspeakable detriment to my spirit if I gave it up.

But in my three years of blogging, I have recently encountered a new challenge: My boys are getting older, and I am publicizing their antics. I write them for the purposes of my own insight, reflection, documentation, and posterity... but sometimes, it means laying my soul bare for the world.

And thereby their souls as well.

This leads me to think carefully: how should I do this?

Some people make money on their blogs. They advertise in appropriate places and bring in the bucks through a passive income of other people's ads and clicking. I've thought on this, because who wouldn't love passive income? But when that is married to the full disclosure of my family in an unprotected, unlimited way that makes me filter my every word or inadvertantly exploit my kids for income? No thanks. Not worth it. Really, not at all.

I want to write unfiltered, with humor and transparency. But I want to guard my family.

I can't run the risk of this whole thing backfiring on all of us, the risk of anyone using these stories against me - or worse, against them.

So, it makes me think. And I don't have answers. I guess when you tell any story at all, you risk the backlash of vulnerability. And when you write it for others to read in the privacy of their own homes, you risk responses that can be taken backwards, sideways, and every way in between. Comparisons for the good of anyone lead to comparisons for the weakness of someone else.

So what am I saying? I'm not sure. Please keep reading my words... and read carefully, I guess.

Because these are my kids we're talking about.


Today, the volunteers in the church nursery returned my whatever-cum-laude medal from my college graduation. Turns out, Tyler took it to church a few weeks ago, wearing it proudly as his newly acquired DigiMedal.

(A special thank you to Special Agent Oso, of Disney Channel Fame, who awards children everywhere with DigiMedals for accomplishing their Three Special Steps for the day's task at hand. Usually, the tasks include picking berries, washing dishes, or jumping rope. And apparently, Tyler earned one of his very own.)

It's like the Olympics for three-year-olds. And the fact that he found it in the basement, snuck it to church, and wore it proudly without my ever noticing - that is rather award-winning in itself.

Way to go, Tyler.

(You also get the award for Making My Heart Sing.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Writer

I always wanted to be a teacher. Always. It was my favorite thing to imagine as a child, my career path was linear and measurable, and I knew when I became one. I graduated from college, I acquired my degree, and I landed a job teaching third grade. Done.

I became a teacher.

I've also always wanted to a be a writer. I've been drawn to words, I've collected them obsessively, and I have forever loved the joy of learning, using, and piecing them together with careful precision.

But that career path is not quite so linear, measurable, or tangibly acquired.

Still, it recently occurred to me: maybe I'm a writer.

When I voiced my discovery to a close friend, she gave me that girlfriend look that says, "You must be joking. What a ridiculous thing to say. Of course you are."

(And as I recall, her facial expression was accompanied by, "What?! Are you freaking kidding me?!")

But it's less of an 'of course' than you might think. There isn't a clear-cut mantle of acquisition. And I've read, from those who truly are, that the acquisition of such a title can be a bit of a let down, if it's what you've been waiting forever for.

"Here. Congratulations. You are a Writer." Voila.

What I have discovered is this: A writer must claim her role and her identity. Because the truth is, if you want someone to ever hire you for what you believe you are capable of doing, you must have already invested much time, energy, belief, and persona into the craft.

Being a writer is akin to being a philosopher or a theologian; the work of it is intangible, unless you truly claim the time, effort, energy, and being. Once you do, it's yours.

And so, I think I have become what I hereby choose to be.

I'm a writer.

Um, what?

On a drive to a newly discovered park, Tyler said, "Hey! Someone isn't here! Let's drive to the park and see someone who isn't there!"

His plan was crystal clear. I'm still a little curious about who we were missing.


"Mommy, what is that part inside your neck that points the wrong way?" ~ Tucker

I think I need to stock up in some bulky necklaces and lightweight scarves, if in fact something in my neck is distractingly awry.


"Tyler, go into time-out right this minute. And do not say a word."

"Word, Mommy. I'm saying it."

"I said, 'not a word,' young man."

"Word. Word. I said it. Word."


(And I hear that my mom wished for me to have a *talker* just like me someday.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Late Night Showing

We are big fans of Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Like, I just really can't tell you how often they come up in conversation. For example, Tyler recently started calling me 'Little Lady', since Woody coined the phrase. If only my three-year-old had a cowboy hat to tip in my direction.

With Toy Story 3 now playing in the theaters, we knew it was high time we introduced them to the first sequel to their beloved favorite. Also knowing we would need to watch it no less than 83 times, we didn't bother with renting. We went all in: we purchased Toy Story 2.

After dinner, baths, and fresh Toy Story jammies, we made a nest on the floor with blankets, pillows, and (of course) Woody and Buzz. With chocolate chip cookies in the oven and Cindrella's castle filling the screen, we were set. Family Movie Night.

But nobody told me that Woody gets kidnapped in this movie. Nobody told Tyler either.

Sidenote: Tucker is my linear thinker. He is logical, careful, black and white, and somewhat aware of what he should or should not be concerned with. Tyler is... not so much that way. He is a dreamer, his ideas are big and his limits are small, and he has no filter for what is real, what is make believe, and what is worth his 100% consumed concern.

Ten minutes into the movie, he hopped up from the nest of blankets and climbed into my lap. "Mommy, I need to sit wiff you."

He nestled in beside me, and together we narrated the entire movie. He asked questions and talked about the bad men, and I put my maternal spin on it, reminding him he was safe. (Part of me wanted to remind him that we have scene a dozen previews for Toy Story 3, so we can all rest assured that Woody lands safely in the end.)

He chewed his fingernails and his fists, and he couldn't even think about his fresh, warm, chocolate chip cookie. Who can eat when one's hero is in danger?

He didn't move out of my arms, not an inch, until the out-takes were finished and the credits were rolling. We were tight, my little guy and me.

And I discovered two things:

1. He will not be allowed to watch a truly sad movie until he is at least twelve years old. His little mind cannot handle things like that... and I get it. (I think a whole lot like this little boy.)

2. Tonight, he knew he could tackle this scene if only he could sit with me. He held my hand and talked to me, thinking it all out loud. Someday, it won't be quite so easy to soothe and reassure. Someday, he'll no longer think I can help him.

But that was not today.

Today, we settled in, snuggled up, and watched Woody and Buzz save each other again and again.

And I loved it, from start to finish.


"Life is only worth living if you're being loved by a kid."

~ Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story 2

In the Flower Beds

A book lover can never be completely without her cherished companion, so when we packed our bag for a morning at the park, I chucked my current dog-eared favorite inside. You just never know when you can catch a paragraph or two.

The boys were sunscreened, snacked, and playing nicely, so I whipped out the book. I read a paragraph... okay, two of them. And after those less-than-two minutes had passed, I looked up to check on my little men. But they weren't there.

Don't panic. I didn't. They were both gone. That can only mean they are together.

Still, I calmly dropped everything to find them. And when I didn't spot them immediately, I picked up my pace. And my heartrate.

That's when I heard snickering - from innocent bystanders. Other moms, older children, all in the know, snickering and pointing with glances in my direction. Glances that said, 'Wait 'til she sees what we see...'

And then I found them.


In the course of my two paragraphs, the boys had stripped their clothes and headed to the flowerbed. They were standing with their shorts around their ankles and their t-shirts pulled high. I came running, pulling their clothes on as fast as I could.

I used my loud stage whisper as I whisked their clothes back on. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

"We had to poop in the flowers."

They had to poop in the flowers.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


They were playing at the park, and suddenly the urge hit them both: we have to go potty.

In general, public restrooms are not my favorite, and I avoid them at all costs. But these children of mine have stretched my boundaries, since they need to go far more often than I am willing to trot us all back home. So we invest in hand sanitizer, we use it liberally, and we do what we need to do.

But. Even I have my limits. I just couldn't let them go in there. I couldn't. Not without a HazMat team close by.

So, clever mom that I am (and with coaching from the presence of two other moms of boys), I taught them to pee on trees. Of course, my coaching can only go so far, since I am not equipped with the necessary gear. Still, they learned the alternative, and we escaped the park scene with neither an encounter with the bathroom nor a citation for public nudity.

And I stopped Tyler just before he squatted to Poop on the tree. No, we won't be doing that, kiddo. Standing only. Enjoy the perks of your masculinity, but don't take it too far.

Fast forward two days...

I was upstairs, finishing my morning tasks before we could leave the house for the day.

"Hey, Mommy? I have to go potty!"

"Okay, buddy. Go ahead."

"I'm going outside now!"

"Okay. Wait... what?"

I came around the corner to find both boys, completely naked, lined up to head outside to pee on trees.

Nope. We won't be doing that either. As long as there is a viable option, please feel free to use the indoor bathroom. And allow me to reacquaint you with our very acceptable option.

For heaven's sake.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Far Superior

The boys were playing in their backyard swimming pool, and they had begun to exhaust the obvious water play possibilities. They needed a few suggestions to keep this summer activity vibrant and fun. Turns out, I have a few, and I'm always willing to offer them my ideas, lest they draw from their own creativity and thereby invent a situation for us all. Please, allow me to guide your creative flow.

"You know, guys, when Uncle Rob and I were young, we had a little pool in our backyard too. Sometimes we liked to have splashing contests. We would curl into a tight ball, or stretch out like a long pencil, and we would see who could make the biggest splash."

They listened, considering and thinking it through.

Tucker said, "I bet Uncle Rob's splash was the biggest. Because he's Uncle Rob."

Naturally. He is far superior in every way, little men of mine.

"I often wish I could come back to life as your uncle so I could give you more."
~ Kelly Corrigan

Monday, June 14, 2010

There are Days

It's been a long time since we've had a morning like this one. A morning that leads me to call others for emotional support, to call my husband in a rage, to call my mom to ask for sympathy. It's been a while. But today?

Oh, sweet watermelons, today.

Let me say this: on occasion, I get to cash in on some perks with Robb's travel schedule. Sometimes, when the stars align and everything is right with the world, I get to go too. This week is one of those blessings, and I didn't need much convincing to pack my suitcase and my bag of books. Say no more: I'm in.

Today was departure day, and I had nothing to do this morning except to pack myself for my getaway and the boys for their vacation at Grandma&Poppa Camp. Snip-Snap, Lickety Split, right? I mean, really.


Enter two boys.

They began with a breakfast picnic in front of the Disney Channel, while I brought suitcases up from the basement. That childcare plan lasted until WWF began on the living room floor.

Okay, boys. New plan. Let's get you dressed, and then outside with you. Moments later, in their t-shirts and cut-off shorts, I tossed them out the door, confident in their outdoor options. I headed up the stairs to count and pack their pairs of socks and underwear...until I heard giggling and unwelcome sounds. The punchline: One had turned on the hose; the other had opened the screen door in the kitchen. And both of them were wet, and my kitchen had been watered.

So, great. New clothes all around. But not before the cherubs got towels of their own to handle this clean up.

Next plan: Playroom. I sent them to the basement, where they could play and play in the indestructible place that both God and their daddy gave to them. But when the crashes got too loud for me to ignore, I called them upstairs. (Confession. I didn't investigate too closely. I still don't know what happened. I couldn't bring myself to look. A woman knows her limits.)

Let's try TV again. Here you go, boys: A visit with Chicken Little.

Four minutes after I left the scene, just long enough to choose pajamas appropriate for cool nights or warm ones, I heard from the living room: "Hip-hip, Hooray! Hip-hip, Hooray!" I peeked over the landing to find them each poised on the windowsill, jumping onto the couch. Turns out, there's a cheer for that maneuver.

Nope. Not gonna work for me. Outside again, gentlemen. (My patience was waning.) We had a discussion about the hose and the kitchen door, and I naively sent them out with my highest of hopes. How bad can it be? What can go wrong?


After they immersed Buzz Lightyear and Woody in the kiddy pool from their previous adventure, Tyler climbed over the deck railing and down into the garden, while Tucker practiced his high wire routine on the railing of the deck.

I nearly lost my mind. I called Robb in a rage, describing in a fury the scene from Lord of the Flies. I called my mom, asking for sympathy. I *nearly* called the pediatrician to ask if I could just book an appointment, since the pending visit was only a matter of time.

Did I mention I had suitcases to pack? More than one?

I brought them inside, discussed the perils of their choices and the greater dangers of pushing me further toward my ragged edge, and I broke out the puzzles and PlayDoh. Bring on the mess. I'll be upstairs.

Sure enough: they brought on the mess. (PlayDoh crumbs are my favorite, only second to mixed, jumbled puzzle pieces.)

Robb came home for our 'early' departure, only to find that the house was trashed, nobody was packed, and his travel companion was more than slightly frayed. The wise, wise man sent me upstairs, inviting me to lock the door, turn up the radio, and check off those items on my packing lists. Meanwhile, he and the boys set about the PlayDoh-Puzzle-Piece-Playroom Debachle.

(Could I just say, right here and right now, that I really don't know of any parents of three- and four-year-old boys who entertain the blissful idea of homeschooling? I don't know of ANY. I'm just sayin'. When does preschool start up again? Can we sign up for a summer option?)

Finally, we dropped them off at my parents' house - complete with their packed suitcases, swimtrunks, movies, and sleeping bags. (Thank you, Mom and Dad.)

And now, hours later, in my jammies in our hotel room, I can smile about the atrocity of it all.

But only because I get a reprieve from that scene for a few more days.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sophisticated Humor

I sincerely hope, with all my heart, that my sweet children's humor matures with the rest of their development.

That perhaps they'll find something funnier to say than the word Poop. 800 times.

At the end of a long day in the car.

One can only hope.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Inside My Bubble

"I've written two books and I can tell you
that writing one word at a time,
when there are 60,000 words to go,
requires a state of flat out dissociation.
You need to blow up a nice,
big bubble,
and find a way to live in it long enough to forget
the world of reason and probability,
the world that is staring through the filmy edge of your bubble,
barely obscured,
mouthing the words,
'Who do you think you are, anyway?'"
~ Kelly Corrigan, I Dare You

Happy Endings

The boys finished their big day with a few minutes of The Good Night Show, where Kipper the dog briefly encountered a green dragon with red eyes.

I confess, I didn't personally see it. But believe you me, I heard about it.

On their way to bed, there were multiple references and reminders of the dragon, which naturally led to many reminders that dragons are not real, boys are always safe, and you can always ask God to help you feel brave and safe when you are afraid.

Still, the topic lingered.

Finally, after teeth were brushed and blankets were tucked, I decided to call on one of my child psychology classes in college, and I composed an impromptu Me Story about a boy who successfully overcomes a struggle nearly identical to their own.


"Boys, let me tell you a story."

(Insert precious, clean, sweet-smelling boys, with blankets pulled up to their chins.)

"Once upon a time, there was a boy named Benny. And he was watching TV one day, and he saw a blue dragon with yellow eyes. And no matter what he did, he couldn't stop thinking about that scary dragon. Finally, he asked God to help him. He said, 'Dear God, I know that dragons are not real, and I am safe. Please help me to be brave tonight, and help me to sleep well. Amen.' And just like that, Benny snuggled into his bed, pulled his blankets close, and fell asleep feeling brave and safe. The end."

Tyler smiled.

And Tucker said, "Mommy, I want to tell you a story."

"Okay. Go for it."

"Once upon a time, there was a boy named David. And he was watching TV, and he saw a green dragon with red eyes. And when he went to sleep, the dragon flew around the room and bit him."

Tyler's eyes got great big.

"But was David safe?"

"Yes. Until the dragon came into his bedroom and bit him."

"Tuck, make sure this story ends happy."

"Okay. And finally, they ate lunch and had dessert and cookies and popsicles. The end."

So much for this bedtime success story.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Everyone's Favorite

Uncle Rob came to visit.
I like him.
Really, everyone does.

Quite enamored.
(Fiddling with the shirts is always a dead give away.)

The boys were elated in the car ride to the airport, when they suddenly discovered they matched. "Hey! Our shirts match! And our shorts match! And our flip flops match! And even our arms match!"
Thankfully, they are not yet above matching (for my sake).

Sweet reunions all around.

Uncle Rob colored with Tucker for half an hour at Red Robin.
(And Uncle Rob hates to color.)
(And so does Tucker.)
(And neither of them minded.)

We spent a morning at Pump It Up, and let me tell you,
nobody knows how to jump and slide like Uncle Rob.

And what's a visit without a belated birthday party?

And of course a trip to the playground, for a team effort on the Monkey Bars.

And let's not forget the blind tour of the house.
"Close your eyes, Uncle Rob."

He has gone home now.
And the boys were sorely disappointed to learn that the stuffed animals no longer have their voices or livelihood in the absence of their brilliantly entertaining uncle.
Car rides aren't as much fun, without a companion to make them laugh.
Everyday life is now, just, everyday life.
But rest assured: we talk about him a million times a day.
Because he's the Amazing Uncle Rob.