Friday, July 30, 2010

The Great Sleep Debate

I really enjoy sleeping through the night. I really, really do.

But then a little Linus with his blue blanket arrives in my doorway, wimpering only loud enough to awaken just his Momma Bear. And I simply can't just send him back to bed with a verbal cue.

So I get my sleepy self up and onto two feet, I scoop him up, and I carry him back to his bottom bunk.

I lay him down, almost ready to go back to my slumber before the sheets can cool, and then he says, "Mommy, I wish you would rock me."

Well, surely I can't say no to that request. Since I have always loved rocking him, and now he has the verbal skills to tell me he loves it too.

So I hold him in my arms, with his legs around my waist, and his soft, downy head nestled right beneath my chin.

And just as I start to think about laying him on his pillow, just as I begin to count the hours until morning and weigh the cost of sleepy parenting, I think about the truth that someday his head won't fit quite so perfectly underneath my chin.

And I can't bring myself to let go of him quite yet.

A few minutes later, he crawls out of my lap and onto his pillow, into his snuggly spot, all by himself.

And I go back to my bed, with cool sheets and a ticking clock, and I chase my mind around that tender scene with my little boy.

Maybe I'll get more sleep in the next life stage.

But, somehow, it's okay if I don't.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Enough about the Bags.

The boys and I have been diligently working to sharpen their behavior in the grocery store.

For example, we'll have a little more of the quiet obedience, and quite a bit less of the wrestling, whining, showing off, dancing around, touching produce, knocking over displays, arguing with brothers, and begging for rewards.

I have many strategies for altering behavior, and they have varying degrees of effectiveness. And as you might expect, what works on one day does not at all work on the next, and what has never worked before sometimes comes through quite swimmingly. Live and learn; choose your battles; keep buying groceries.

I had committed to visiting the grocery store every day of the week, to buy only five items or less, just to show them that less than exemplary behavior will result in our leaving the store immediately and consequences ensuing. (Hence, the five items or less. Such a threat is empty when my cart is full. At that point, I'm buying the dag-gum groceries, even with my children hanging on my heels and begging for mercy.)

We had made some great strides in the dailiness of our practice, and our most recent trip had only a few hiccups. We finally arrived at the checkout, and I had a full cart to show for our valiant efforts toward behavior.

But, I have to say: they were nearing their limit. They were like horses with the barn in sight, or perhaps young shoppers with the penny horse in view. "Please, let us go. Let us free. We did what you've asked, now let us be free men."

Here's the point of this whole blog post: why is it, in this moment of all, that the cashier must ask me fourteen questions about how I'd like my groceries bagged?

The boys are now both out of the cart, eyeing the penny horse, steering clear of the gum and candy, loving the shelf for writing checks, hanging from the chained pen... wearing me down.

And here stands the 19-year-old cashier.

"Ma'am, would you like paper or plastic?"

"I brought my own bags, thank you. You can use those."

"Oh, of course."

I gather the children around me knees once again. (Almost finished, guys.)

"Do you want your meat in a separate plastic bag?"

"Um, sure."

They start wrestling with each other. Tickling, poking, slapping, pushing, shoving, breathing. I intervene. Only to be interrupted.

"Ma'am, do you want your milk in a bag?"

"What? Um, yes. Sure."

I go back to navigating World War III that's happening under my elbows.

"Ma'am? Do you want your milk in your bags or ours?"

"What? Oh, mine. Mine are fine. Thank you."

Wrestle, wrestle, wrestle.

"And do you want them both in one bag? Or separate?"

At this point, I want to scream, "For the love of all things sane, please make your own decision about the &#@%$ bags. I chose this grocery store because I trust you to bag my meat and milk appropriately, with care, and without my constant supervision. Please. Make a decision without my approval, right this moment. Because many other things are begging for my disapproval."

But instead, I deeply exhale. And I say, "Yes. Mine. Sure. Whatever. Thank you."

And somehow, we finish the whole exchange, I have my groceries, the boys have their pony ride, and I get out the door with my meat and milk bagged precisely as I reluctantly requested.

Until next week, when we'll try it all again. And everyone will want my careful instruction - everyone, that is, except my children.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


"After a while, you just want to be with the one that makes you laugh."
~ anonymous

Muddy Puddles

I mean, if you're doing to play in the sandbox, then play in the sandbox.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stage Struck

The boys attended Vacation Bible Adventure last week. (Also known as Vacation Bible School to most of us, but you have to admit, Adventure sounds more entincing than School. It's true.) They attended everyday with their little circle of friends, and they gave a full report when they got home.

On the first day, Tyler explained, "Peter was in jail, and he just falled asleep. And an angel came and woked him up, and now he's not in jail. And I made a Cheerio necklace, and every time I eat a Cheerio, I'll pray that someone gets out of jail. And God is far from us. He's in China."

Almost true on almost a few levels.

They made crafts, they listened to stories, they played with their friends, and they sang songs. By golly, they sang songs. They came home with their CD of tunes, and we have played them nonstop in the car, at home, on the go, as they fall asleep - you name it. We're rockin' it out to the VBA songs.

The children were invited to lead worship on the Sunday morning after VBA. We were invited to come a little early so they could join their friends on the stage, and they would lead us all in the songs they had been practicing day in and day out. I coached them on appropriate 'stage behavior': sing nicely, stand quietly, keep your eyes on the music director, and of course, wave to your parents.

When Sunday morning arrived, they were primed and ready. Until it was Time.

At the last minute, from the front row of the stage, Tucker panicked. His eyes filled with tears, his face went white, and I watched the panic rise. I didn't run to rescue him, since I was only ten feet away from him, seated in the front row. Still, he didn't need rescue; he fled the scene. He came down and sat with me, choosing instead to lead, encourage, and direct from the front row. He did all the motions, and he reminded the other children to do theirs: all from the front row.

"Want to go up there?" "No. No, I do not."

Tyler, on the other hand, was ready to shine. He walked up on stage, claimed his moment in the spotlight, and took it on. He sang, showed all the motions, smiled at the crowd.

He also wrestled with the little boy beside him.

He engaged in a Tug of War over a microphone cord.

He worked to keep his pants on, since he has no hips and I forgot to put a belt on him.

He ran off the stage to see if Tucker wanted to sing.

He ran off the stage to tell me his pants were falling down.

He ran off the stage to tell me, thank you, his pants were now staying on much better.

He talked during the prayer.

He sang, sang, sang.

And at the very end, he bowed. Deeply, with drama, and all by himself.

When we finished, there was much discussion about the little redheaded boy on stage. Comments like,

"Oh, what a boy you have."

"That's what boys do."

"Wasn't he just adorable?"

"I loved watching him. I just love your boys!"

And one woman actually said, "Oh, how I love watching him, and oh, how thankful I am that he isn't mine."

Thankful he isn't yours.

Here's the deal. Sure, my son was very busy on that stage. Yes, he didn't stand quite as still or focused as the older children who have done this before. Sure, I envisioned it happening differently. Sure, I whispered loudly from the front row and gave him The Mom Look to try to rein him in.

But the truth is: My son led us in worship. He sang about the deep, deep love of Jesus. He sang about sharing the love of God with others. He sang about how the Word of God is alive, active, and real. He sang.

And he smiled and laughed. And he was very much the joyful three-year-old God created him to be. And that is very much an act of worship.

So, you know what? I'm too am glad he doesn't belong to her.

Because he's mine.

You made me proud, Tyler. Keep singing your heart out, my joyful little boy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Tucker has confused the terms moustache, marshmallow, and mushroom. Understandable, really.

He has asked for a moustache on his s'more, pointed to the marshmallows in the produce section, and talked about the mushroom growing on Daddy's face.

I'm not going to correct him. I just love when he asks for a big moustache for his snack.

Also, his word for fly swatter: The Face Smacker.

And yet to my knowledge, nobody in our house uses it to smack faces. But maybe I'm upstairs when that happens.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Twenty Lessons from Mexico

  1. Stretchmarks do not tan.
  2. It takes 2.4 hours for me to miss my children.
  3. It takes 2.4 minutes in white sand, foaming waves, and extra salt on the rim of my glass to feel confident that they're A-OK.
  4. La Margarita es mucho delicioso.
  5. A woman with the boldness to wear a thong swimsuit should also have the innate self awareness to never, ever run while she's wearing it. EVER.
  6. Choose traveling books wisely; no books about sick, abandoned, neglected children, while I cannot have the assurance of kissing mine goodnight.
  7. My husband can dance and sing. He really can. :)
  8. I could grow quickly accustomed to hired help for my every whim. Dangerously so.
  9. Nachos with guacamole and pico de gallo make for a great mid-morning snack. On the beach. Six days in a row.
  10. All-Inclusive is the only way.
  11. Mexican waiters have a thing for girls with freckles and curls.
  12. Honeymooners (as in, just married two days ago) are easy to spot. With their brand new, shiny rings and their honeymoon clothes and their hand-holding across the breakfast buffet. And they think they're all sly.
  13. A pedicure can beautifully survive a week of sand, sun, and saltwater. A manicure cannot.
  14. We prefer a table overlooking the ocean. Especially at sunset.
  15. Shins need sunscreen, too.
  16. I love a book slightly stained by saltwater.
  17. Waves at night make a chorus of praise.
  18. I can tackle 500+ pages in five days or less.
  19. I should have taken the Christmas and VeggieTales songs off my iPod. "Shuffle" brings some odd ones sometimes.
  20. Spanglish is easily acquired; never mind that it isn't really a language.

In the novel of our marriage, Ten Years = Part I. Here's to Part II.

Robb, I'd marry you all over again. And don't you forget it.

Happy Honeymooners

The biggest difference between our first honeymoon and our second:
We now have two little faces to come home to.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

An Heirloom

It seems to me that every girl with a happy childhood has a favorite aunt. Lucky me: I had two.

There's just nothing like a mom who isn't yours but who loves you like she is. She can be all the best things: the one who says yes, the one who gives more, the one who laughs loudest, the one who makes everything more fun for a child, more enticing to a teenager, and more classy to an adult.

My aunts set the standard high, and they defined the essence of being a favorite aunt.

My mom and her sisters (these blessed aunts of mine) had their own favorite aunt: Aunt Ruth. Our generation of the family tree is rooted in the stories of Aunt Ruth from New York City. She flew into town once a year with gifts for everyone. She smoked cigarettes when that's what only the most elegant women chose to do. She sent the best birthday cards but never signed her name, because of course everyone knew who sent them. She nicknamed my mom 'Miss Jones,' which I think is perhaps the most charming nickname a little girl can have. She dressed in a business suit for her airline flights, she told fascinating stories that held the family spellbound, and she captured their hearts with her elusive grandeur.

I only have a handful of my own memories of her, as she was very old and small by the time I was born. I remember her white hair in a bun and her cigarette in her hand, but more than anything, I remember that she bought me books.

Even in her later years, when she was too frail to present them herself, she sent them on her behalf. She gave me classics: The Pied Piper. Heidi. Little Women. A Children's Garden of Favorites.

I didn't know her well, but I captured a bit of her in my heart: after all, she gave me books.

Well, just this week, my mom happened onto a hidden treasure in her basement. I am a die-hard lover of used books. Dog-eared, tattered, and loved - all the better. Look what she found...

It's Aunt Ruth's copy of Gone With the Wind. Dog-eared, tattered, and loved.

And the hand-written date on the inside: 1938.

On the inside cover, she pasted newspaper clippings from the movie that swept the nation, when her beloved characters took on real life on the silver screen.

Aunt Ruth received this book when she was nearly 31.
Interestingly, so have I.

Thank you, Aunt Ruth, for giving me books.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The 'Stache

Tucker told me this morning that he is working on a moustache.
He feels like he has a pretty solid start.
He's four.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Little Campers

Camping is 85% ridiculous amount of work to make homelessness feel like home, and 15% incredible moments that make it totally worth it.

Our trip included eight families (16 adults, 17 children), 2 dogs, 6 tents, 2 trailers, meals for over 30, plans for 4 days, and loads of courage, careful planning, and ever-present willingness to abandon all the planning and embrace the chaos.
We started with ideas, and then lists. And then days of planning, stacking, storing, refrigerating, packing, and forgetting a thing or two, and then remembering again. And writing it down this time.
We packed up the car, at which point Tucker said, "It's okay, Mommy. If there isn't enough room in the car, we'll just get a new car." A good thought, really. Hooray for Daddy and his innate, genetic packing abilities. If it were up to me, well, let's not go there. Spacial awareness is not my spiritual gift.
Finally - yes, boys, finally - it was Time To Go.

Every little camper needs a head lamp.

And we even saw a bear. We really did.

See that black dot in the middle? It's a black bear.
I realize you can't see it well; we couldn't either.
Enter this little wonder. Perfectly pointed, and when one poised on his very tippy toes, that bear was up close and personal.
And on a 'dollar bet', I entered this glacial, mountain run-off lake, all the way up to my knees.

The things I'll do for a buck. 'Freeze my own limbs' is apparently notwithstanding.
(And in an easier bet, I earned a dollar for faking a dramatic sighting of Charlie Sheen in Aspen, Colorado. That was a fine moment, right there.)
And then, of course, there was an evening of sparklers. I know birthdays, and America demands sparklers on her birthday.

There are no pictures of Tyler with a sparkler, mostly because he believed I had nearly lost my mind when I tried to hand him an ignited, flaming torch. He gave me a look that said, "Are you kidding? Do you know me? I'm three."
Instead, Tucker entertained him with his sparkler routine, which included swirls, flips, and handwriting practice. He even said, "It's okay, Tyler. You don't have to be afraid. I'll write your name, too. T for Tyler, Y for Tyler, L for Tyler, E for Tyler, and R for Tyler."
(And I didn't know he coule spell his brother's name.)

(That has been one of my favorite moments of their life together thus far.)

Our Crew...
The Kid Crew...

The Whole Crew.
In the camping equation, those last 15% are totally the moments that make it all come together.