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!"


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."


"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."


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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happy Discovery

"Mommy, are you happy?" Tyler asked, snuggled up beside me while I read and he watched his bedtime TV.

"Sure, buddy. I'm happy."

"Then let me see your mouth do this."

He flattened his lips against his teeth and turned them up, ever so slightly at each end.

"See, Mommy? Do that."

"Do you know what that's called, Ty? That's your smile."

"It IS??"

He bounded off the chair and into the bathroom to study his new discovery. He stared into the mirror, and he practiced smiling.

Tyler discovered his smile today. He learned that it's more than just a permanent fixture on his face, like ears or a nose. He learned he can make it happen. Such a discovery will carry him pretty far on the bumpy, frowning roads ahead of him.

And I watched it happen.

Monday, August 9, 2010

On Two Wheels

He decided: It's Time. So long, training wheels.

And on his first stretch, he took off. Took. Off.

Naturally, subsequent stretches contained a bit of this.

But in no time at all, he was up and running. Or, really, up and riding.

Perhaps my favorite part was Tyler's vicarious joy. He is one proud little brother. (And currently offers no interest in trying it on his own.)

But he sure makes a great encourager.


Introducing: Tucker. An official Bike Rider. Way to go, Kiddo. Go hit the open sidewalk.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Pay Off

"Excuse me, ma'am, is he your son?"

"This one? Oh, yes. Yes, he is."

(Big smile.) "He's very polite."

"Thank you."

See? We're working on it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Mommy, this is stuck on me."

That's a potty seat, ladies and gentlemen.
That's alarming on so many levels.
And sadly, this isn't the first time we've handled this dilemma.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Playground Schemes

My little guys, in their shade at the park, planning and scheming as only little boys can.

But part of me likes to picture this as the budding roots of a forever friendship.

"Hey, remember when we..."


A gift to each other.

A gift to me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Birthday Girls

July 24: My Birthday.

July 28: My Mom's Birthday.

Annually, this calls for a Birthday Girl Celebration, circa July 24-28.

This year's destination: Fort Collins, Colorado.

Just to be clear, Fort Collins has little to do with an actual fort, since we are far from the fort-going type. We are, however, very much all about charming college towns filled with quaint shops, nooks, crannies, and undiscovered treasures that beckon us to while away the day.

I found that I am particularly -and rather predictably - drawn to splashes of color.
I am not actually in love with the look on my face in the following picture, but it does quite capture giddiness. That's what I felt upon this encounter with my dream dishes.

My dream, I tell you.

And, I actually did a pirouette near the placemats. Such was my love for these colorful splashes of domesticity that seemed to audibly call my name.

We shopped, strolled, bought, and talked, talked, talked. Lunch at a sidewalk cafe. Dessert with gelato. I'm telling you, we were a force of feminity.

I allowed myself this personal splurge of birthdayness: the most magnificent skirt ever. One that required me to slip into a public restroom and put it on immediately.

(Secret: It's actually an Indian sari. It's wrapped around me about 2 1/2 times and held together with a happy little - very secure - knot.)

And a day together is of course only complete with a fit of giggles and a picture with a totem pole.

When it was finally good and time, we ventured back home to join the men in our lives for our collective birthday party. Which looked a little something like this.

Happy Birthday: To Us.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Especially #6.

  1. The path is not straight.
  2. Mistakes need not be fatal.
  3. People are more important than achievements or possessions.
  4. Be gentle with your parents.
  5. Never stop doing what you care most about.
  6. Learn to use a semicolon.
  7. You will find love.

~ Marion Winik

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Starting Early

Grandma's birthday was quickly approaching, and we had in mind one more gift: handmade jewelry. A plan like this calls for careful planning: An Afternoon Date for Tucker and Mommy.

Naturally, we stopped at Starbucks first, because every great date with me begins with something delicious in a cup. It's an important tradition. (Feel free to schedule your next date with me; there are no exceptions.)

Next, we arrived at String Beads, a beading boutique I have enjoyed since Tucker was 12 days old. Literally. He rode along in his carseat, way back then. This time, I brought him for artistic inspiration. Get busy, kiddo.

I told Tucker he could be totally in charge of our bead choices, until he landed solidly on a strand of chunky, orange beads. While I'm confident Grandma would wear it, I'd rather we offer her something she'll want to wear - with an endearing description, not a charming apology.

I guided him toward red, blue, or purple, and I learned henceforth that Tucker likes for girls to wear sparkly things. He chose a very sparkly strand of blue, a matching strand of white, and he asked the beading consultant: "I would like to make a necklace and earrings for my Grandma, please."

(Listen to those manners, folks. I think we're making progress.)

And then we set to task. I was in charge of white, he was in charge of blue, and together we made a pattern.

(Check out the tongue action. An important part of the process.)

As we took our turns, we talked about anything he wanted to, which was largely rooted in Buzz Lightyear and milkshakes. And every once in a while, he patted my cheek and kissed my face. All elements of a charming date, I assure you.

I love a great date. And time with just one boy at a time grants me a whole new appreciation for each of my children, for their separate places in my heart. And of course, it's never to early to teach a growing boy how to make something amazing for a girl he loves.
Happy Birthday, Grandma.
Made specially for you.