"Mommy, I need more blanket."
I didn't even know he was sleeping next to me,
the dandelion boy.
He came some time during the night.
He earned a Captain America for five consecutive nights in his own bed,
but he tells me that what scares him most are the crabs and spiders that climb out of his dreams.
Such is the grief process of a four-year-old artist. Creatures meet him in his sleep.
Sure, buddy. Mommy's here.
And I don't let spiders into my bed.
You're safe here.
I woke up before both of them today.
That's always a great way to start the day.
I stand in the warm shower,
enjoying silence and breathing truth.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my hope in you.
Show me the way that I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
Establish the work of my hands, O Lord.
Not to us, but to Your Name be the glory.
"Stop kicking me!"
"I need more blanket!"
"I don't like your breath!"
"My breath isn't anywhere near you!"
"YOU move over!"
So, looks like they're awake then.
I call to them, "That blanket was big enough to cover Daddy and me. It's big enough to cover the two of you. Find a way to fit if you're going to lay there."
I am nearly ready before I step into their morning dance. It's hard when they start the day fighting; it's like waking up to a loud, buzzing alarm. It makes me a little grumpy.
"Good morning, guys. Let's get you dressed."
"I don't want to get dressed. Ever. Zero dressed."
"Tyler, you need to. It's what people do. Tucker, it's silly day at PreK today. Let's pick out some silliness for you to wear."
It's truly unfortunate that it's not silly day in Tyler's class.
Tucker finds a Hawaiian lei, a Lightning McQueen hat, and fuzzy slipper socks of green and blue stripes. Silly: Check.
Tyler has taken a framed picture of Robb from the credenza in my office. It's 17-year-old Robb, a picture from his senior year in high school.
Handsome Robb. Tucker looks so much like him.
Tyler is carrying it around, hoarding and teasing.
"But I want to see the picture too!" The older brother whines.
The little brother is in the corner of the bedroom, between the bed and the wall, his eyebrows furrowed in knots. "No. I'm holding Daddy."
I am torn; is his heart wrapped around a picture of Robb, or is the greater joy in having something he doesn't want to share?
"Tyler, please share it with Tucker. That's his daddy too."
"I don't want him to touch it."
"He won't touch it. Just show him."
"I'll touch it," Tucker says defiantly.
"Give me the picture, Tyler." I strike a happy medium, holding the picture Tyler doesn't want Tucker to hold, and letting Tucker study the red hair and sturdy jaw line of his dad.
The room is silent, for just a few seconds.
"My daddy," Tuck whispers.
"My picture!" Tyler stomps.
Mommy's picture, really. It's a good thing I like you both.
I divide and conquer, sending them to get dressed at opposite ends of the upstairs.
I go downstairs to let Winston out, only to find a flood of yellow in the powder room that is his.
Well, shoot. I didn't make it down fast enough to let him outside before the urge hit. That was one full bladder for such a small dog. Bummer.
I gather paper towels, Resolve for Pet Stains, Lysol, and Clorox wipes. Wishing now I had remembered to get more Swiffer Wet Jet solution yesterday at WalMart. Ah, make do, Tricia. Just clean and sterilize. The boys need breakfast.
I kneel, a silver sunflower dancing on my beaded pearl necklace, my white sundress brushing against the wood floor. I try not to get it wet in this mess of yuck.
"Mommy, I don't like these."
"You don't like what?"
"I can't see you. I can't see what you don't like."
"Then come upstairs."
"Tuck, Winston made a big mess on the floor. I'm cleaning it up. Please come here and show me what you're talking about."
He appears behind me. "Hi, buddy. What do you not like?"
"Um, I don't remember."
"It sounded like Crocs?"
"Oh. These socks. I don't like these. They make me trip."
"Okay. You don't have to wear them."
"I don't want to wear the flowers on my neck either."
"What about the Lightning McQueen hat?"
"No, I don't want to."
"But it's silly day."
"But I don't want to."
I understand this dichotomy. I remember it well. I suspect an idea was born in his head, but now he's not sure if his classmates' silly ideas will match his courage. Better to lay low than to stand out when confidence wanes. I respect that, kiddo.
"That's up to you, Tuck. You don't have to. Can you help me with breakfast?"
"Yes. Let's do PopTarts."
He roots through the pantry while I throw away the mess of paper towels. He pulls a stool over to the toaster while I wash my hands, again.
The toaster is jammed with broken PopTarts gone awry from other mornings. I begin exploratory surgery. I retrieve two of them, but one is smashed into the bottom of the toaster - pulling out the tray underneath only scatters crumbs everywhere across my counter. No dice on retrieving the PopTart. Unsuccessful surgery.
"Tuck, let's put the PopTarts in the microwave."
"But I need scissors to open them."
"Just give them here. I'll open them." I insist on opening them myself, plating them myself, putting them in the microwave - myself. I am all about empowering, but honestly, sometimes I just need to get the task done. (Sometimes independence is a top commodity in our house; it's hard to know who wants it more.)
"Tyler, can you come downstairs, please?"
No word from Tyler.
It crosses my mind that some silent tragedy has perhaps happened upstairs, since that has happened in our home and my mind no longer naturally claims optimism or even reality. I decide to give him one minute to come downstairs before I race upstairs, prepared to call 9-1-1.
(Maternal instincts are not always reasonable, but neither is Post Traumatic Stress.)
I hear him coughing as he comes down the stairs. Ah, there we go. Coughing means breathing.
"Ready for breakfast, Tyler?"
"I need markers."
"We're not doing markers. Do you want a NutriGrain bar or a PopTart?"
"Can I have gum?"
"But I found this piece upstairs. I want it."
It's Robb's gum. One piece left in my office drawer.
"We're having breakfast, Tyler. It's not time for gum." I choose not to be sentimental about the Spearmint Extra. I simply choose to tell Tyler no, not now. He is angry that he cannot have gum, then angry that I offered cherry NutriGrain instead of raspberry, when he knows he chose raspberry at Walmart yesterdfay, and I realize I said the wrong thing. I meant raspberry. He chooses a PopTart.
"Mommy," Tucker calls, "My foot is bleeding."
He holds his foot in his hand, twisting his ankle sideways so I can see between his toes on the underside of his foot. A blister is heeling, after he hiked in flip flops because I forgot to pack tennis shoes.
"It looks like it's getting better, Tuck."
"But it's bleeding. Why would God send blood? Why would God do that to me?"
We are dangerously close to a dialogue about the sovereignty of God in relation to a blister between his toes, and this is a topic I feel particularly uneasy about these days.
"Tuck, God doesn't do things to hurt us. If it's bleeding, it might be just because it's bleeding."
"Or it could be because I picked at it."
"Yes. Yes, it could be because you picked at it. Does anyone want blueberries?"
They are perched on their tall chairs at the table. They cheer for blueberries.
I carry the Tupperware bowl to the table, take off the seal, and offer them each a handful of blue to set alongside their brown sugar cinnamon, no longer fresh from the microwave.
Tyler takes the Tupperware seal for his plate. "Tyler, I need that to keep the blueberries fresh."
"Well, I need it to keep my blueberries off the table."
"That's what your plate is for."
I tilt the seal and let the blueberries spill onto his plate, rolling around the perimeter of the PopTart. I close up the Tupperware bowl, pressing firmly in the center of the seal, just like my Tupperware mom taught me when I was Tucker's age.
It breaks in my hand. Damn. My mind races through the knowledge I have about Tupperware replacements, the pieces Robb had set aside to be replaced, where did he put them, who was the sales consultant he worked with... oh, for crying out loud.
I get another seal from the cupboard.
"Mommy, I sat on a blueberry."
"Clean it up, please."
"You clean it up."
"I will not. The napkins are over there. Please clean it up."
"It's okay. I'm full anyway," he says, pointing to the two bites missing. "My preschool teacher says I only have to eat a little."
"True. But I think your tummy is probably still hungry. Plus, you asked for blueberries. I need you to eat them if you ask for them."
I join the boys at the table with my bowl of Raisin Bran Crunch, just in time to see Tyler toss a blueberry squarely into Tucker's glass of milk.
"Tyler, go sit on the rug by the door. We don't throw food."
I'm wishing I had finished my makeup and hair before I had stepped onto this Mommy Dance Floor this morning. Time is running out.
Tucker cleans up the splashes of milk from the blueberry score, Tyler whines on the rug, and I eat a few bites of fiber with raisins.
It's after 8:00. I've taught the boys that we leave when the short hand is on the eight, and the big hand is pointing tall to the twelve.
I'm running late.
I dismiss Tyler from the rug. I dismiss Tucker from the table. I turn on NickJr. My fellow parent for the next ten minutes.
I rush upstairs, diffuse the curly mop, brush on some mascara and eyeliner, and slide my feet into flip flops. I grab the gray 'classic piece' cardigan, since Starbucks is cold. So is iced soy chai.
I come down the stairs to find Tyler spraying Lysol across the wood floor.
"I'm spraying for ants," he tells me.
Way to go, SuperMom. Leave the toxic stuff on the floor. Let him go crazy with it.
"Tyler, stop. Go wash your hands. Tucker, shoes."
Tucker is standing on his tiptoes on top of a stool, reaching above the refrigerator to retrieve Spiderman from the basket that is called Toy Jail.
I'm about finished with this morning. I really, really am.
"Tucker, get down. Put on shoes. And put the stool away."
"Please, just do it."
Tyler says, "I think we should call it a Stool-Aid. That rhymes with KoolAid."
"I think you should put on your shoes, Tyler. Tuck, shoes and stool."
"She meant shoes and Stool-Aid, Tuck. That's what we're calling it now."
Oh, my word. I'm living this.
Somehow we make it into the car. I'm not really sure how that happened; the details are a blur.
The boys argue over who gets first music choice. Then they argue over if VeggieTales are real since Pandas are.
Then Tucker realizes we are on our way to school and he isn't wearing a single silly thing for silly day.
And at some point, I realize that I have kept up with them this morning.
And that's a really, really big deal.