Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ahhh...Christmas Break

So the whole family has been home together for about twelve days now. Christmas week isn't exactly a good time for job-hunting, but Trey's been doing what he can. We've recognized that it's a blessing to have him home while we're all off.

The children. Well, I don't know if you know this about my kids, but they're crazy. They tackle one another at least twice per hour just for good measure. I think they must be afraid of carpet because if they can see it, they have to immediately get out everything they can find and cover it up. Everything - and I mean everything - is more fun if you throw it. Balls, sure, but also candy canes, plastic food from the toy kitchen, m&ms, shoes, socks, ornaments, clothes, hot wheels, everything.

Tattling is also a favorite past time of children. There must be a secret contest somewhere to determine the grand champion tattler, and Keaton must be in the finals or something. After the 112th time he started a sentence with "Tucker did..." Trey had enough. He answered Keaton's complaint (I think it was "Tucker hit me") with "Oh, good! Good job, Tucker!"

Keaton gave a little nod and turned around to trot off - his job of being the little tattle tale was done. He took about two steps and then whirled around on one foot, a look of disgust on his face. "WHAT??? I SAID Tucker HIT me!"

"Yeah, I know," Trey replied nonchalantly. We laughed and laughed as Keaton got more and more offended. Yes, we're terrible people.

The boys have had some interesting conversations, though. Just a few minutes ago they were taking turns throwing a plastic egg into my cup of water from across the room, and a program on the TV caught their attention. It was one of those talk shows where a zookeeper was bringing on various animals. Here's the conversation they had:

Keaton: Is that a cheeto?
Tucker (exasperated at his younger brother's lack of knowledge): No! That's a leopard.
Keaton: Oh, I thought it was a cheeto.
(the plastic egg flies, the next animal comes out)
Tucker: Look! It's a chimp-a-zene!
Keaton: What?
Tucker (explaining in all of his wisdom): It's a chimp-a-zene. See, it looks like a monkey.

Well, I better go check on things. I don't hear much going on right now, and any mom worth her salt knows it can only be the calm before the storm. Should I check on them? Just lock my bedroom door and turn up the TV really loud? I suppose if the fire alarm goes off, I'll hear it.

Before I could spell check they returned. They were carrying a six foot long metal bar, claiming that it "fell off" Tucker's bed. When does school start?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Christmas Pics

The family on Christmas morning - all of us in our Christmas jammies!


My sweet boys show off their Christmas morning pjs.


Tucker and Keaton got their daddy a bike so they could all go ride together. They were so excited to wheel it in to him!

Keaton's favorite gift was the new truck Santa brought him. He's had a blast with it inside, but I can't wait until it stops raining long enough to park it outdoors!


Of course, Tucker has most enjoyed his Backyard Football game for the Wii, his new Cowboys uniform, and his new Nerf Cowboys football. He says he can throw great spirals with this ball, and most of the time he can. Sidenote: Keaton also got a Cowboys jersey - the very gift that Tucker convinced him to ask Santa for. It wasn't the right number, but Santa did his best.

Then we have the Fathead that Santa brought Tucker. It's a lifesize cutout of Andre Johnson, one of his favorite players for the Texans. You can also see the Texans logo Tucker made himself and taped to the wall in the bottom right corner. He is proud about the fact that he comes up to Andre's elbow. (and Keaton never missed a photo opportunity)


And finally, my favorite non-person-having picture. The Fathead came with lots of other little vinyl stick-ons, including the player's name and number (which you can see in the above picture). It also came with this stick-on that says "Are you fan enough?" Tucker promptly pasted the sticker on the playroom door, and then, in true Tucker fashion, answered the question. I'll be laughing about this for a long, long time.




Check out all the family Christmas pics here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Random Christmas Eve Musings

We had a great Christmas Eve. We finished the last bit of shopping; made nanaimo bars, armadillo eggs, toffee, and tomorrow morning's breakfast casseroles; went to church; and laughed uncontrollably at our kids who are, quite literally, like kids on Christmas.

As we were leaving for church, Keaton insisted that he take two Bibles with him. So we frantically searched for the specific Bibles he needed, and then ran to the car. There, Tucker realized he didn't have a Bible and asked Keaton if he would share one of the two he had. Keaton refused, so I explained that we were celebrating Jesus's birthday, and Jesus asks us to share with one another. Keaton thought for a moment, and then stated firmly, "I will share in three weeks."

Of course, we accidentally left the two Bibles in the car when we went into church. Keaton begged and begged for us to go back to the car to get them, but the service has started so I told him no. Finally, he acquiesced to my decision and opened up one of the pew Bibles during the sermon.

When the preacher made the first of his three points, that God wants you, Keaton replied in his best preacher voice, "God wants you!" The stares from the people around us made me turn my attention quickly to my youngest son. He sat there with the upside-down Bible on his lap, completely wrapped up in the Christmas message.

When he saw me looking at him after his spirit-filled outburst, he tapped the upside-down Bible and whispered, "I need my glasses."

I have to point out here that Keaton doesn't wear glasses. However, his Mimi, Papa, Grandma, and Pop all comment about needed their glasses when there's something they need to read.

His request sent me into silent, uncontrollable laughter. I could feel my shoulders shaking, and I knew that at any moment my audible cackling would interrupt church. Once I composed myself, I looked to Trey and whispered to him that Keaton needed his glasses. Trey didn't miss a beat. He handed me the sunglasses he was wearing on top of his head, and I passed them to Keaton.

And there he sat through the rest of the message. Keaton Hickman, 3 1/2 years old,wearing his most serious expression, sporting adult sunglasses and alternately studying a preaching minister and an upside-down Bible. If I had taken my phone into church, I would have taken a picture even though every part of me knows it would have been wrong to do so in the middle of the service. It was that funny.

We came home from church, had baths, and put out our cookies and milk for Santa. The boys sang various new versions of Feliz Navidad, incuding "I wanna wish you a feliz navidad," and "Feliz navidad to you." As I was writing this, I had to pause to see Keaton perform "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."

And soon they'll be asleep with visions of sugarplums (okay, football jerseys and candy) dancing in their heads. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why We'll be Terrible Old Ladies

My friend Erin's mom died suddenly on Sunday morning. Erin and I are the same age, and her mom was only 58. The memorial service was today. It was unique, personal, and beautiful. Several people spoke, people who knew Linda (Erin's mom) from all times and walks of her life - a childhood friend, a teacher friend, a boating buddy, and others. I had met Erin's mom at least once, but I didn't really know her. However, I'm certain I would have liked her very much. Her daughter, my friend, turned out pretty well, so she must have been a great mom.

On Sunday morning my friends and I became grown ups dealing with grown-up things like losing parents. One other friend confessed she didn't know what to say. Lord knows I didn't either. If you know me, you know I have no emotional control when it comes to tears, and I'm going to cry and cry and cry and there's nothing I can do about it. When it came to what to say, my friend Tiffany was way better than I because she could speak. I was just a blubbering mess. Thank God for text messages. They're comprehensible even when the sender is a total wreck.

Today we drove down for the memorial, and we saw Erin handle every moment with such grace that I am still in awe. We just stood around and took instructions. It's weird to be a grown-up when you don't know what to do. Please say a special prayer for this family as they deal with this devestating loss.

Now on to the terrible old lady part. Our other friend April went with us to the service even though she had a beast of a cold. During the service, April started coughing and couldn't stop. Now, this was not one of those loud, hacky coughs. She was trying not to make any noise so she just kind of sucked air for a minute or two. I felt bad for her, but I was quite impressed with her self-control. As she gasped, relief came flying at her from all around us. Lozenge-like medication was pelted at her from every old lady within two rows.

Neither Tiffany nor I had any throat relief at all. I'm afraid we shall be terrible old ladies.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Visit with Santa

For weeks we prepared for our visit with Santa. We asked the boys what they would tell Santa they wanted. Keaton came up with various things - usually whatever he saw on TV last or what someone was playing with at school that day. Once he was going to ask for Barbies, then race cars, then a dump truck and some mulch so he could help me in the backyard, then, finally, a robot.

Now, you may be asking yourself, how did a three year old come up with the idea to ask for a robot? An older brother, of course! Consistently, Tucker's answer to the Santa question (or the Jolly Old Guy, as he sometimes calls him) was this: "a robot that will throw footballs to me when Daddy gets tired." Because of his brother, Keaton decided he needed a robot.

The moment of truth finally arrived, and in the car on the way to the mall we asked one last time. What will you be asking Santa for? That's when Tucker threw us for a loop (big surprise, right?).

He explained in great detail what he would like for Christmas -- a Dallas Cowboys uniform without the helmet because he already has one. However, this uniform needs to have the number 80 on it and the name Bennett on the back. For those of you who haven't yet memorized players of various football teams and their numbers, Martellus Bennett is a tight end for the Cowboys who used played college ball for the Aggies. Yes, he is number 80.

Okay, so Tucker and his too-specific, number happy request wasn't all that surprising. Of course he had a request like that - I would expect nothing less. The twist came next.

In the small amount of time it took us to get from our house to the mall - approximately 13 minutes - he convinced Keaton to ask for a Cowboys uniform, too (with the helmet because Keaton doesn't have one). Keaton eagerly agreed to request a uniform with the number 81 and the name Owens on the back. That's right - my poor, happy-go-lucky, unsuspecting Keaton decided then and there to ask for Terrell Owens's uniform.

Imagine Santa's surprise. Tucker was nervous about talking to him and could hardly keep his hands out of his mouth the whole time. He did manage to explain in clear detail the football uniform of his choosing, and you should have seen Santa's face. He asked Tucker "What?," but he was looking at me.

"Martellus Bennett's Cowboys uniform," I replied. Duh, Santa.

Then, sure enough, Tucker prompted his brother to ask for TO's uniform, and Keaton gleefully did as he was told. Santa looked at me again, more confusion on his face, and I could only reply "He wants Terrel Owens's uniform." Santa seemed genuinely confused by this. They must not get Fox at the North Pole.

Anywa, wish Santa luck!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Layout

Yep. I'm playing with layout on the ol' blog.

Am I avoiding unpacking from our weekend trip and cleaning my house? Absolutely.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Keaton Version

Keaton heard the song "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" for the first time recently. It must have been on the radio or something - I don't remember.

Anyway, he's been singing his own version of the song ever since - "Papaw ran over a reindeer! Reindeer! Reindeer!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas List

Today at school Tucker made a Christmas list. Here it is (spelling intact).

my Dad a jod (I'm pretty sure he meant job)
a good Christmas to give love and joy and help pepul
for Jesus to have a good birthday

Keaton would like a robot and some birthday cake

Friday, December 12, 2008

Just another Christmas movie?

There's some random animated Christmas movie on tonight, and the boys decided to put on their pajamas and lay down to watch the movie. This was a great idea! We got them ready for bed, Trey put their pillows on the couch in our room, and they curled up to watch the movie.

I came into the living room where the movie is also on, and began to pick up what's left of our night at home together. As I was cleaning, I heard some lines from the movie. Apparently Nico the reindeer is quizzing three grown-up reindeer to determine which of them slept with his mother one Christmas Eve. He wants to know who his father is.

Really???? A Christmas cartoon all about the search for a reindeer Baby Daddy? I think I am appalled.

On another note, Tucker got in trouble for being mean to another kid at Kids Club. Then he got home and was in BIG trouble for this incident, and he hates to be in trouble. Trey (after he decided not to kill Tucker) had him read Ephesians 4:32 "Be ye kind to one another." Then they talked about how God wants us to treat other people kindly, even with our words.

I was proud of them both.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow Pics!

After I left this morning, Trey and the boys played in the snow! Here are the pics he sent me:





























The Great Blizzard of 2008

I had the privilege this morning of traveling with the school district leadership to the Food for Families Food Drive to deliver canned goods that were collected at our schools. The leadership team from the high school makes this trip each year, but this was my first time to go. This privilege included getting up at 5 a.m. so that I could board the bus at 6 a.m. with everyone else.

Now, 5 a.m. doesn't exist in my world unless there's a sick child in my bed. This occurred just yesterday when Tucker couldn't stop coughing at 5 a.m. Thankfully, Trey didn't have to work yesterday (more on that another time) so he took Tucker in the living room to give him a breathing treatment and let me continue sleeping until my 6:30 wake up time.

So at five o'clock this morning (okay, it was like 5:06) I crawl out of bed and into the bathroom to get ready. Over my blaring radio I could hear the leaky faucet in my bathtub getting louder and louder. I thought to myself, "Trey should try to fix that while he's home. I'll have to start dropping hints about it." The sound continued to get louder. Finally I glanced over at the tub and noticed that the sound didn't match up with the drips of water coming from the faucet. Was my brain awake? Were my sleepy eyes playing tricks on me?

I turned off the radio momentarily to concentrate on the drips only to discover that the sound was coming from the window and it was caused by sleet! Yesterday it was 70 something degrees - I didn't even wear a jacket - and now it's sleeting. And I'm about to go stand outside in the great blizzard of 2008 for this food drive. Great.

However, all is not lost with me. I'm trying this new thing where I remember to be grateful for all of my blessings first thing in the morning instead of waiting for a less un-Godly hour when I'm more awake. I checked my attitude, got ready, and started to bundle up. Trey got up, too, at some point. He checked the weather, peeked out the window, informed me that I was going to be cold, and then kissed me goodbye before heading back to bed. His moral support that early in the morning made me feel good - he and Tucker are the only people I know who are less of a morning person than I (morning people? whatever).

Off I go on empty, dark streets amidst rain and sleet and snow. It was still and quiet, yet somehow I was awake and alive and excited about the snow. I thought about the cold, and then I remembered that I was going to a food drive. Being cold for a few minutes was nothing compared to being worried about feeding your family, so I began to welcome the opportunity to freeze outside. The snow and the sleet just added to my Christmas spirit. Was it snowing in Bethlehem? Did Mary look out at sleet?

As we left the administration building to load into the special "Tiger Pride" school bus I was grinning like kid. It was snowing these real snowflakes - not the kind you have to squint to see and convince yourself it's actual snow. They were substantial, stick to your eyelashes, reflecting under-the-street-lamp snowflakes.

Someone had decorated the Tiger Pride bus with Christmas lights, and our former principal "made" us sing Christmas carols on the way to the food drive. It was wonderful! Snow falling on a cold, pitch-dark morning as we bumped down an empty highway in the bus - it was a perfect picture to save in my memory.

Now back to the snowflakes - okay loosely back to the snowflakes. I have this thing about rain. There was a vacation Bible school song when I was a kid called "It's Beginning to Rain" (at least I think it was VBS). Anyway, it goes like this:

"It's beginning to rain, hear the voice of the Father
Saying whosoever will come and drink of this water
I will pour my blessings out on your sons and your daughters
So if you're thirsty and dry, look up to the sky
It's beginning to rain."

So I have this weird kind of obsession with rain and rainy days and gloomy days and cloudy days and such. I tell Trey that my obsession is Biblical - the rain is a way that God still physically, tangibly blesses us today. He waters the flowers, the farmer's crops, gives new life to stagnant rivers and lakes, and makes a great day to read a book. I see rain as a symbol of God's blessings. It's Him saying "Hey! Remember me? Your Heavenly dad? I got this. I'm taking care of you, remember."

"Look up to the sky. It's beginning to rain."

This morning, when on any other day of the year I would be sleeping, it rained giant, eyelash tickling snowflakes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Insert Clever Title Here

I should blog something terribly witty.

But I have a cold, and so do the other three people who live here.

Sometimes I wish I had a million dollars, but then on days like today I remember that I would still have a cold and papers to grade if I had a million dollars. And then I remember my sweet and inspiring friend Emily and her blog post about how because I have a car I'm like one of the three richest people in the world or something. (You can check her awesome blog out here: http://plasticcupcake.wordpress.com/page/3/) And then I feel kind of greedy for wishing I had a million dollars.

While on vacation, I was inspired to write this brilliant post about nakedness and vanity, and I had these beautiful lines already composed in my brain, and it was moving.


But then this cold began to impede my creative writing genius.

So here are pictures of my kids and Elvis the Hound Dog with Dad's chickens. Standby for brillance at a later date.












Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bad Guys and Ghosts

During a 6 minute drive to my sister-in-law's house last night, we had this conversation:

Keaton (nonchalantly): You know if a bad guy comes to me, I will punch him in the mouth and in the nose. Then I can also cut him in the belly.

Me: What???

Keaton: A bad guy. That's what I'll do. Punch him in the mouth and the nose and cut his belly open.

Me: Where did you learn that?

Keaton: From Tucker.

Me: Tucker, did you teach him that?

Tucker: Nope. If a bad guy comes to me I'll run away. You never know if he might have a gun.

Me: Keaton, who taught you that?

Keaton: Daddy

Tucker: Yeah, if a bad comes I will run away. Or if a ghost comes.

Keaton: I saw a ghost yesterday, but he didn't have a gun.

Tucker: Where?

Keaton: At my school.

Tucker (doesn't believe him): Really? Where was he?

Keaton: We were eating lunch, and Miller had chicken nuggets. The ghost was up in the air, and then he came down so fast to get Miller's chicken nuggets.

Thank goodness we arrived at our destination. Who knows what other topics we may have covered.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hello, my name is Stormy, and I have a Christmas card problem.

I admit it. I have a problem. Making our Christmas card each year fills my every waking thought from October 1st until they're in the mail. I love making them. I want to surprise people with the awesomeness of our card each year. I want the cards to be unlike anything our family and friends have ever seen. I want people to stand at their mailboxes every day hoping and praying that our card will arrive.

Sometimes my friends say things like, "I don't know how you have time for that," or "That seems like a lot of work." Those who ask haven't yet understood the magic of the perfect, original Christmas card with pictures of my boys. They haven't experienced the pride that I feel when someone expresses their astonishment at the Christmas card made with my very own computer.

Once the cards are mailed, I think about them even more often. I secretly hope that all December conversations will turn to the subject of greeting cards and that at least one person involved in that conversation has received a Stormy Original. I want to see my cards displayed on "Regis and Kelly" and oohed and ahhed over by people all across this great nation. I want the attention...the glory...the fame that comes with being the Queen of the Cards.

Is this quest for the perfect card healthy? I don't have time to care. It's almost Thanksgiving, and I have only a concept for this year's card. I've been pondering the design for months, and now it's time to bring that design to fruition - to bring joy to the hearts of all who know us by sending them an amazing half sheet of paper with our pictures on it. It's a lofty goal, but I shall prevail.

This is the first card I designed - Christmas 2005. It was a year of much loss and much gain, and it was Keaton's first Christmas.



2006 brought a new challenge. I chose to center the card's theme around our love for Christmas music. It took many hours of scouring the internet to find a company that printed CD case inserts, but it was well worth it in the end. The first picture is the front and back of the card/CD case insert, and the second picture is the inside. I loved that card.




And then the 2007 version came along. The background is a picture of our actual Christmas tree that year. I just couldn't find an image up to my standards, so we had to put up the tree before I could finish the card. Making the mock-Polaroids was an exciting challenge.


And now I must bid you farewell. There is much work to be done, and I know you're all waiting with bated breath not for Santa nor Christmas carols nor blessed church services, but for the Hickman Family Christmas Card. Fear not, the card cometh.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Of course he does that!

I learned something new from Tucker's teacher last week. We were emailing about something, and she added "It's so cute how Tucker kneels like a football player during the moment of silence every day."

Really? It's the twelfth week of school. Is he praying? Does he think there's a player injured somewhere in the world and he has to "take a knee"?

I don't even know what to say.

Theme Music

I like to keep things simple and uncomplicated. You know, not over think every little decision until it drives me crazy.

One example of my non-obsessive nature is my daily theme music. When I'm selecting music from my ipod to listen to at school, I simply have to ask myself some very basic questions:
1) How am I feeling today? Excited? Stressed? Tired?
2) How do I want to feel today?
3) What do I need to get accomplished today?
3) What music will make me most productive in my current state?

Does a musical checklist make me neurotic? Of course not! It only makes me thorough. That's a good trait to have - just ask my students when they get papers back from me.

Anyway, from these questions, I can ascertain what sort of music I should be listening to. I've decided to share some of my most often played theme music to perhaps save you some time in deciding on yours.

Scenario #1 - I have some important tasks that need to be completed carefully and methodically. I am not quite awake yet, and I need to focus on the task and not the fact that I'd rather be at home sleeping.

Music #1 - Corinne Bailey Rae or Norah Jones

Scenario #2 - I have lots of little things that need to be done, but I'm too tired to move too fast. With this music option I can sing along without losing focus on my tasks, but too much dancing could cause me to give up on accomplishing anything at all and go down the hall to find someone to chat with. I need to stay on task while leisurely enjoying the music.

Music#2 - The Police or James Taylor

Scenario #3 - Anything and everything is driving me nuts. I'm going to snap and scream obscenities at the next person who says any words to me. I need a vacation.

Music #3 - Tim McGraw's song "That's Why God Made Mexico" on repeat

Scenario #4 - I am a multi-tasking machine. I am sorting stacks of papers, returning emails, and making copies all at the same time. Need something? Bring it on.

Music #4 - The Killers or Fall Out Boy (Maybe I've got some lame emo kid inside trying to get out. Somebody call Trey if I show up at school in skinny jeans.)

Scenario #5 - I know that I will be faced with negative attitudes and/or situations, and I know that I need to handle them with positive words and grace and dignity for everyone. I also know that I am in no way capable of doing this on my own.

Music#5 - Chris Rice, Rich Mullins, or (lately) Bart Millard's "Hymned" and/or "Hymned Again" OR Willie Nelson. I know, right? Willie Nelson? But it reminds me of where I came from and where my priorities really are and what's most important. And Willie is awesome.

Scenario #6 - I can't answer any of the questions. I don't know anything. I can't make another decision because my brain is mushy. Choosing music is just too hard, and it's a choice I should never have to make.

Music #6 - I choose the playlist titled "An Eclectic Mix." It has Johnny Cash, The Bangles, Chicago, Willie Nelson, Journey, Green Day, Prince, Patsy Cline and lots of other songs and artists I just like.

So, I'm curious. What's your theme music?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Perspective

Yesterday the bank Trey works for went under - as in the FDIC came in to take over. He worked from 8:00 Friday morning until 1:30 Saturday morning, then from 7:30 Saturday morning until 6:00 Saturday night. He's going back in tomorrow at 8 a.m. He is exhausted, but such an amazing trooper. Never have I known anyone so committed to getting done what needs to be done even at his own expense.

The bank has been purchased and will be open bright and early Monday morning, so he still has a job. We don't know if things will stay that way, so please pray for God's direction in this uncertain time for him and our family.

In the midst of all this, I realize yet again that when life gets messy everyone I know wants to help. My friends and family want to do something - anything - for us. Unfortunately, the FDIC really doesn't want us up there at the bank lending moral support. (I can't imagine why not - we're very fun people!) So folks have other ways to support us.

I called my mom a million times, and she didn't even seem to care that I kept bugging her.

I called my friend and went from perfectly fine to crying in less than a second, and she didn't question my mental stability once. The drink she bought me at the Chicken on a beautiful Friday afternoon helped, too. ;)

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law just showed up to pick up the boys and take them to lunch. Trey's parents took the boys to the Aggie game. They did this both so the boys wouldn't miss out on the game and so that I could get some much needed grading done.

My sister called to check in.

Everywhere we look we see people who mobilize. That's what God's people do. They move. We are so very blessed to surrounded by people who - without even thinking about it - get up and do something.

Then my bizarre perspective on life in general kicked in. If you know me at all, you know it was only a matter of time. I had this epiphany that since I found out about the bank failure I felt like someone died. It seemed like at any moment old ladies would start showing up at my door with pie and the sympathy cards would start pouring in.

I was forced to laugh at the ridiculous seriousness of the whole situation. We're all here. We're all fine. No one is dying, or even sick (although Trey's really tired). I honestly don't mean to make light of the situation. It's pretty scary and I know it's even more stressful for Trey than I can imagine, but the reality is that - job or no job - life is still pretty darn good.

I've never known God to leave us high and dry, and I'd be a fool to think he will this time. We'll be fine. Better than fine, actually, because we'll have one more testament to God's divine omnipotence and intervention.

So, with that, two random kid things:

Kid Thing #1: When Keaton and I stopped to pick up Tucker on Thursday, Keaton stepped out of the car and exclaimed, "Oh, Mommy! It's a corn. Do you see it? It's a corn. I found a corn!" He was excited - not the screaming kind of excited, but the "in awe" kind of excited. It wasn't until he asked me to pick him up so he could get the corn out of the tree that I realized "a corn" meant "acorn."

Kid Thing #2: Tucker brought home a paper from the library on Monday. It explained a contest between all of the elementary schools. Students who read 250 pages will get two free tickets to an Aggie basketball game, and the school with the most readers will have an Aggie basketball player come to their school to read with them. They have until early December to finish.

Tucker loves contests. More specifically he loves to win contests. So much so that my five year old read 251 pages in five nights, including I Love Trains, Lasso Moon, The Night Before Christmas, and (my favorite) The Poky Little Puppy. He read them out loud to me all by himself. I sure hope his school wins!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Still a Rockstar

At 6:46 this evening I kissed the boys goodbye and zipped off to the closest nail salon for a much needed eyebrow wax.

I have to - I mean get to - attend a function tomorrow night with Trey's new office people. I've thought a hundred times this week that I'm going to stop on the way home to get my unruly eyebrows under control so as not to distract these new people with my lack of grooming, new people who should decide the moment they meet me that I'm wonderful, only to realize that I'm WAY more than wonderful the second I open my mouth. So wonderful, in fact, that Trey must be the smartest man in the world because he chose to marry me. As a result he will become better respected in his job and be a part of the team instead of the new guy.

Yes, I realize he's already done all those things on his own, but I still feel like it's my job as "the wife" to reinforce them. Or at least not shoot down everything he's worked for by getting drunk and cursing out the waiter.

Unfortunately, I've never remembered the eyebrow wax when I'm actually on my way home. Tonight, however, I was out of time. It was now or never, and the nail place closed at seven.

So I found myself driving alone at night - which never happens. I flew down the road listening to Pink's "So What" and rocking out. I screamed the lyrics in my best "Pink" voice - angry and full of angst, ready to take out anyone who gets in my way (or at least call them a tool). I was awesome. A rockstar. It was a beautiful, ageless moment.

And then in a flash I remembered I'm a 31 year old slightly overweight mom and teacher - definitely not Pink, and definitely not about to get into a bar fight just because I've had a bad day. To make matters worse, I was going 53 mph in a 55 mph zone on my way to an emergency eyebrow wax. So much for rockstar.

Oh well, I'll take mom and teacher any day. Well-groomed mom and teacher, that is. ;)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Okay, so I started and deleted a philosophical political diatribe on this Election Day. I decided that my random thoughts on the political process really aren't all that entertaining, and that most of you couldn't care less about the anxiety I feel about this election. Let's just say we're good ol' God-fearing Republicans in this house and leave it at that.

This election will be an historic one for many reasons, but mostly because it will be the first election Tucker will remember. (I guess it's also historic because of all those reasons you hear about on the news, too.) Anyway, he's been very excited - asking questions and watching the television coverage.

They voted at his school today, and he was proud to announce last night that he had decided to vote for McCain. When he came home this evening, we realized how much he's come to love democracy.

He made these campaign signs:




Then, I guess he realized that voting and running for office was exciting because he decided to hold his own little election. HE wanted to be president. So just like any other good leader, he tallied all of the votes himself:

As you can see, he won. So no matter which way the US presidential election goes, at least one of our candidates is victorious!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Pumpkin Carvers

We finally carved our pumpkins! The boys have been reciting Tucker's poem from school for two weeks: Pumpkin, pumpkin, round and fat. Turn into a jack-o-lantern just like that!

I found a kit at Target that was a lot like a "lite-brite" (that was one of my all time favorite toys). Keaton used this kit because he could pound the little stakes into the pumpkin all by himself. Tucker needed a real-live carved pumpkin, so he served as Dad's assistant.
Here are the boys hard at work.

And here they are posing with the finished products.

The spooky jack-o-lanterns!

Keaton thought he should get to blow out the candles like on a birthday cake.

Life Without Peanut Butter

When we had Keaton allergy tested in September, the test results showed a severe allergy to peanuts. Not the anaphalaxis, need an epipen kind of allergy. The break-out and scratch your skin off kind. So we've taken all peanut products out of his life, including peanut butter.

The problem is that Keaton loves peanut butter. We used to come in from another room and find him sitting in the kitchen floor with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon, chowing down. He's the only other person in this house who would share apples and peanut butter with me, and a peanut butter and banana sandwich was about the best dinner we could make him.

This hasn't been a huge struggle because we've attempted to keep all things peanut from his line of sight - "out of sight, out of mind," right? Until tonight.

Tonight he was digging through the snack basket and amidst the rice krispie treats, one hundred calorie packs of fudge striped cookies, and fruit roll-ups, he found a package of peanut butter crackers. He brought them to me. "Do these have butter, Mommy?"

"Yes, they have peanut butter. You'll need to choose a different snack," I replied.

He studied the package for a moment, then told me, "No, they don't."

Back and forth we went - my three year old and I. We discussed the nature of the cracker filling, how it was made from peanuts, how Dr. Paull said he couldn't have peanuts, etc. All the while he adamantly protested that there were no peanuts in the peanut butter crackers. Finally I told him to go ask Daddy - I needed backup.

"I don't want to ask Daddy," he snapped at me.

About that time Trey walked into the room and attempted to offer his assistance. He suggested to Keaton that they read the package to see what it said. This is when we discovered that Keaton thinks Tucker is the only one in our house who can read. "Fine," Trey told him, "ask Tucker to read it."

Tucker confirmed our diagnosis of peanut butter (see, we can read!), and Keaton lost it. He yelled at me, "It don't have peanut butter and YOU DON'T CARE!"

I'm not exactly sure what I don't care about, but it was apparently very upsetting to Keaton because he crushed the peanut butter crackers in his hands and stomped away. But not for long.

Two minutes later he came back to continue the fight. "It don't have peanut butter and I'm going to hide from you now!" Then he stomped into his room and closed the door. In his defense, hiding is really no fun unless someone knows you're hiding.

I waited a while before going in search of him. So long, in fact, that he came back. He came striding into the room holding an opened package of peanut butter crackers and chewing what had to be an entire peanut butter and cracker sandwich. I guess he showed me.

I went to him and put my hand out. He proudly handed over the remaining five crackers, cocked his victorious little head to one side and announced with a full mouth, "I opened them with scissors!"

Obviously, life without peanut butter is just too much to take.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guess what I learned...

There is a bowl of cereal on the counter in the kitchen that has soaked up all of the milk that it was floating in when we left the house this morning. It's like one giant blob of blueberry crunchies and engorged flakes.

There are cleats, socks, underwear, hats, lunchboxes, and markers all over the living room floor. I'll likely have to push everything over to one side before I go to bed so that I won't trip and kill myself if I have to get up in the night.

The remnants of a cherry poptart rest on a paper plate on the coffee table. All of the filled parts have been eaten and only the crusty corners remain. The plate is surrounded by half empty juice boxes and the hand drawn logos of virtually every NFL team.

I'm reasonably certain there is a cup of milk coagulating somewhere in our home. A cup of milk that I will find one day when I'm cleaning and then debate whether to leave it on the counter for Trey to wash or throw it in the trash.

My house is a disaster. But I can't seem to make myself care.

Tonight I learned from Tucker that the way you keep from running out of bounds in football is to concentrate. You have to keep one eye on the touchdown and one eye on the line, and you have to concentrate on getting the touchdown without touching the line.

Keaton taught me that the reason we can't see the stars tonight has nothing to do with the clouds. We can't see them because they have all closed their eyes and gone right to sleep.

How could I possibly think about cleaning house when there are all these things I need to learn?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Leaving

Tonight the boys were playing football in the living room. Keaton was the Aggies and Tucker was Nebraska. They were having a great time even though Keaton needed frequent time outs to just sit down on the fireplace or whatever. Eventually I was named the coach of the Aggies so that I could dictate the length of Keaton's time outs. So when he needed a break I called from the kitchen for a 30 second time out, to which Keaton replied, "No, I think I need five minutes." This, of course, launched Tucker into a detailed explanation about how 5 minute time outs do not exist and that Keaton needed to rest quickly so he could get back in the game. Both boys started calling me "Coach," and it was all fairly entertaining.

A little while later, Keaton, in his toughest, deepest football player voice, boomed at me from the living room. "Coach! I need to go to the potty. Can you turn the light on, Coach?" Being the exceptional coach that I am, I turned on the bathroom light.

A few minutes later he called from the bathroom, "COOOAAAACCHHH!!!!"

When he could see me coming, the deep, manly voice returned, this time accompanied by a very stern and serious face. "Coach. I need you to wipe my bottom."

I bet the real Aggie coach never gets that.

I don't know what's more awkward - the fact that my sons called me coach all night or the fact that I just typed the words "wipe my bottom." Hmmmm.

It's been an evening of wonderful family fun here. The boys played and colored and danced. Tucker made us all take turns being "Fabulous Falcons" (Falcons are his school's mascot), and he gave us each a plaque-like something to commemorate our ability to "use kind words and kind touches and no put-downs and take care of our things." We just enjoyed each other.

Why is this significant? This week our school lost a student in a car accident. She was 16. I didn't know her, and I can only imagine in the darkest places of my heart the pain that her family, friends, and teachers must be going through. Certainly my own children have always been precious to me, but times such as these help us all to cherish every little moment we can share.

Then I think about my students. When I read that a Consol student had been killed, my immediate reaction was to start calling all of my kids one by one to make sure they were safe. That would be the work of a crazy lady, and I earn that title well enough without creating additional evidence during a time of tragedy. So I just waited. It was about two hours before the young girl's name was released, and the empathetic grief I felt was overshadowed by the guilty relief that it wasn't one of mine. It's hard to admit, but it's true.

As teachers, we get to take other people's children and love them like our own for a short time. Then they go away. The plan all along is that at some point they go away. Of course, they go on to things bigger and better than high school. They go on to change the world and hopefully remember the years they spent with us fondly, or at least as not too painful. This tragic event makes me want to hold on to them a little bit longer.

In May, some really great kids are going to be leaving me - some of the best students I have known in my teaching career. I know we'll keep in touch and I'll hear from their parents about all of their accomplishments and I'll likely vote for one of them for president one day. However, the mere mention of the fact that they're seniors still produces a knot in my throat.

This week I remembered how very blessed I will be on graduation day to get to watch them leave.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sometimes I have no idea what I'm talking about...who's surprised?

First of all, my parents are amazing. They drove over two hours to see my boys and to watch Tucker play football, then they drove over two hours home.

So tonight was a special game. Tucker was so excited about his Grandma and Pop coming to the game, and he was determined to show them his mad five year old flag football skills.

Of course my parents have heard me brag about how good Tucker is (if you can't brag to the grandparents who can you brag to, right?). So I had to inform them that Tucker usually gets the ball on the fourth down. The coach is great, and he gives everyone an opportunity to run the ball. When they need the first down, Tucker is the go-to guy.

On the first fourth down play of the game, just like I predicted, Tucker got the ball. And just like most times he gets the ball, he broke free of the defense and took off down the field. He was flying.

Then something strange happened. He slowed down - dare I say he trotted on the last 20 yards of the field? To top it off, he stepped across the goal line and immediately out of bounds. He barely made the touchdown.

There was no one around him, no defensive player trying to pull his flag, no pressure. And he cut the corner of the goal line and trotted out of bounds.

Trey commented that he was trying to be cool and cut the corner, but I was not happy. Tucker knows he's good, but acting like he knows he's good is simply unacceptable. This is a team sport, and by golly he's going to play like a member of a team. My radar was on full force and I was watching his every breath.

During the next few plays, our team pulled the flags off the offense like it was the easiest thing they'd ever done. Tucker pulled a few, and he followed his "tackles" with a shout and fist in the air - just like any other professional athlete, you know. Just like he sees on TV.

So now I'm really fired up. Yes, his grandparents were there, but that did not mean he could act like an overpaid NFL starter.

We get the ball back, fourth down comes up again, and Tucker gets the ball. It's the same story as before - he runs full-on, then slows up near the end of the field, and this time steps out of bounds just before the goal line.

Now I'm steaming. My super-powered mom telepathy forced him to look at me as he went passed. I mom-whispered across the field, "You better cut out that show-boating. It just cost you a touchdown." He nodded and kept going.

We scored a couple of more touchdowns and pulled a few more flags, and then halftime was upon us. Tucker came over and grabbed a gatorade. I wasn't surprised to see the coach come jogging over after him. I thought he was about to get a productive little chat about attitude.

"Great job, Tucker. Thanks!" the coach said.

He must have seen the shock on my face because he explained, "I asked Tucker to step out of bounds right before the goal line. It's my best chance to make sure every kid gets a touchdown. He just missed it that first time and scored the touchdown, but then he got it." With a quick pat on Tucker's back, he jogged away.

And thus my coaching ability and mom-sense were thrown out the proverbial window. What I percieved as taunting was actually a way to help out his teammates and do what the coach said to do.

I think he stepped out of bounds two more times in the second half, and I was proud every time. I think Grandma and Pop were impressed, too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Peace and fruit

The word "peace" today has gotten a controversial reputation. Often it brings forth images of wars and politics and debates and right and wrong. Peace-keeping and peace-making just seem like an awful lot of work.

This has troubled me of late because I've been a little frazzled. I mean, take a look at the SAT essay post below and realized that those are the words of a crazy woman. Without peace (not the "world peace" variety - the personal kind) we fall into a trap of self-doubt, stress, and negativity.

But I'm a busy girl. I often comment that a good day is when you cross more things off your list than you add to it. So how in the heck am I supposed to find peace in all that?

Then today, on what is perhaps my busiest day of the year (school picture day), I had the best day. It was wonderful! I'm tired and my feet hurt, but it doesn't even matter because I had a great day. The surprise is that tonight, I feel more at peace than I have in a couple of weeks.

Welcome to the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. When I look at this list and consider which of these I have been putting into practice in the last week or two, well, I fall terribly short.

I've said things that should never be said and responded to people in an emotional, mean-spirited way. Mostly in my head and in repeating situations to Trey the way they should have gone, but that doesn't make it acceptable behavior. When the students haven't listened, I've snapped at them. My kids have frustrated me. I have found something wrong with everything.

Until today God showed me in a very basic and real way through an uneventful day at school that I have joy in my life. Not just a good day here and there, but I have actual and complete and total life-changing joy. And I've let others and myself take it away. What a waste!

Consider Isiah 61:10: I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Seriously. Now that's some joy. I mean "clothed me with garments of salvation" and "wrapped me in a robe of righteousness." That's some pretty joyful stuff. And some responsibility, too.

Add to that the fact that I love my job - really love it in an obsessive way - I have a great family, church, life. Joy should be seeping out of my eyeballs!

Today I rediscovered peace through remembering to hang on to my joy and to wear it on my face and spill it out onto every person I know. Some gentleness and temperance may help me be the one bringing others up instead of dragging them down into the muck. I have a good feeling God's going to provide those, too.

I leave you with this brilliant piece of poetry because it makes me happy. From one of those middle versus of "Amazing Grace":

"The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call'd me here below,
Will be forever mine."

Randomness

Three interesting things about my boys:

Keaton thinks that breakfast happens twice a day, once in the morning and again before you go to bed at night. The boys always want a snack before bed, and we always let them have something to avoid the "I can't sleep because I'm so hungry" argument. Tonight we skipped the snack, and sure enough Keaton couldn't go to sleep because he missed breakfast.

Keaton had a little runny nose this weekend - nothing terrible, just a little allergy problem. We had quite a busy weekend, and for some reason Keaton wanted to wear his tennis shoes everywhere. Usually on the weekends he wants to wear his crocs or his flip flops. I kept thinking it was odd, until I realized Sunday night that he was saying "tennis shoes" instead of "tissue." He kept saying, "Mom, I need a tennis shoe!" because his nose was running - not because he wanted to put his shoes on.

Yesterday Trey's mom gave Tucker and Keaton each a book. Tucker got "Brown Bear" and Keaton got "Panda Bear." Keaton had been at his Mimi's that afternoon, and it was when Tucker and I went to pick him up that he presented Tucker with the book from Mimi. "It's Brown Bear! Mimi got you Brown Bear!" Keaton excitedly explained. Tucker joined in on the excitement. "Thank you, Mimi. I love this book. Did you know it's written by Bill Martin, Jr. with pictures by Eric Carle?" How does he remember this stuff?

It gets better. Today when I picked him up from school he couldn't wait to show me that he had drawn Brown Bear. "You drew a Brown Bear?" I asked.

"No, I drew all of the animals in the book, but I think I forgot one," he replied. He proceeded to show me each of the hand-drawn animals he had created and cut out during art time - a brown bear, a red bird, a yellow duck, a green frog, a purple cat, a black sheep, a goldfish, the teacher, and the children. As he was showing me, he realized he had forgotten the blue horse. Victory! He remembered!

Several hours later we got home (the homecoming carnival was tonight at my school), and he went straight to the paper and markers. To make a blue horse, of course. He couldn't stand that it was missing.

Let me also note that until yesterday, we didn't own this book. Can you say "rainman."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What's a girl to do?

I decided that I want to score essays for the SAT. Why? Well, there's the philosophical reason that I will be better able to prepare my students for the SAT if I am an actual scorer - credibility and all that. Then there's the cash factor. It pays something like $18.00 per hour, and I would work something like 40-50 hours in a scoring period - potentially eight or nine hundred dollars in two weeks. A trip to Vegas coming up makes this a great idea.

So I spent the afternoon yesterday going through the training and practicing scoring papers. For each of my practice sets I scored within range to qualify as a scorer. You see, you have to grade all of these practice papers - three sets of ten - and score within a certain range to qualify. But then I was tired. Turns out looking at hand written essays on a computer screen for two or three hours is not as exciting as it sounds.

Then I couldn't sleep last night. What if I don't qualify? I mean, these people are grading my grading, and that's a little scary to me. It's hard to adjust my expectations to someone else's expectations and then use those expectations to assess student work. It's complicated even writing it! On the scores where I was off by a point, I was always scoring the essay one point lower than the approved score.

This leads to all kinds of issues - am I too hard on my students? are my expectations too high? am I grading harder because I don't know these computer students? do I cut my own kids more slack? am I good at assessing student performance? do I even know what I'm doing? how did I get to be a teacher anyway? do the people who pay me know that I'm an awful teacher and grader? when am I going to get fired?

I couldn't sleep.

Today I decide I just have to get the qualification over with because it's stressing me out. I'd rather work in my yard or read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle again or make a key for my Scarlet Letter test. But this is me, and I'm task-oriented. So I sit down to do my first of 3 qualification sets. (I have to qualify in 2 out of the 3.)

It was miserable. Tucker was in the bathtub splashing and the sound was driving me crazy. Just splashing - not screaming or bugging or anything - just splashing water. I kept telling myself that I just had to get through that one set.

Then it got worse. I didn't qualify by one point. One point. This means that I must qualify in the other two sets or I'll get a "thanks for your time" from Pearson. No pressure, right? Arrgghh!!!

I'm left with this: do I really want to do this? I mean 40 extra hours of work in two weeks when I already have a job, a husband, and two kids seems like crazy talk. However, an extra $800 in Vegas would buy more than one Jackie Collins cocktail at Spago. Am I being greedy? Maybe I'm being a quitter. I mean, had I qualified today would I even be having these thoughts? It's true that while I don't mind being wrong from time to time, I really despise failure. Really, honestly, truly despise it.

I have a couple of days to sort this out, I guess. I don't have to finish the qualification until Wednesday night. But I need to sleep between now and then. I have to decide if I'm using my family and work obligations as an excuse to not risk failure, or if I've just decided that Spago isn't as important as 40 hours of my life. Ugh. Whatever I decide, the answer tonight is to turn off my brain and stop thinking about it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Literal One...

Tucker had to go to the allergist today. Since we visited the allergist in August, Tucker has had clearer skin than he's ever had in his life. Suddenly he's all broken out, so we're off to the doctor.

The plan was for Trey to pick up Tucker before lunch, take him to the doctor, pick up some lunch for him, and take him back to school.

Apparently, before Tuck left school he told his teacher he was going to get some lunch on his way back to school. She innocently replied, "Don't forget my lunch, too." He said he would bring her one and that was that.

So Trey picked Tucker up from school before lunch, took him to the doctor, and offered to stop and pick up some lunch for him on his way back to school. Tucker didn't particularly want to go back to school, but he refused to go back to school without taking lunch to his teacher.

He was so adamant that Trey let him get his teacher a sandwich at Subway. Tucker chose ham and cheese for her with apples and water as her drink and side, and proudly marched into school with a special lunch for himself and one his teacher. Just like he said he would.

She sent me a sweet email this afternoon thanking me for the nice lunch. I don't know how to tell her she can thank Tucker. He truly believed she told him to get her lunch, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

I wish he listened to me that well!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tucker's Lifelong Dream

Tucker's lifelong dream - all 5 1/2 years - is to play football. His second game was tonight, and he is having so much fun! Here are some pics.





First, you should know that screaming helps you get the flag. I love Tucker's face in this pic.



In between plays he noticed the camera.








You're not supposed to tackle in flag football, but that didn't stop Tucker from getting that flag!





Here he's running for his first touchdown of the night. His coach called him "Speedy" and I think he liked it.



I think this one is touchdown number 2.

He's checking out the playing field...

If you care to catch the action we're at Central Park on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Things Worth Complaining About

or, as an alternate title, 5 Things that Suck.

I've been complaining today. It's gotten bad enough that I told several people I'm going to stop complaining for the rest of the day, but then I didn't. So I decided to get it out of my system by creating this list of five things worth complaining about:

1) Sugar Free Jelly Bellies. They're just awfulness masquerading as a healthier alternative. Once you realize you're chewing on gobs of nothing with sweet and low mixed in, you kind of have to gag.

2) When grades are due eighteen hours and fifteen minutes after the end of the six weeks. Really? I mean, really? Let's say on the weekend you were totally caught up - everything graded (yes, we're pretending. I realize that a teacher is never actually finished grading). Anyway, Monday and Tuesday are good, productive class days, and suddenly you have 2 assignments times 130 kids (for some teachers) that must be graded in eighteen hours and fifteen minutes. During that time you must also feed your kids, make their lunches for the next day, give them baths, consider getting some sleep, and teach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd periods. Is this humanly possible? I'm gonna go with no. Major suckage.

3) When you realize your fat pants are now your normal pants and you need new, larger, fat pants. How does this happen? It's like I'm a perfectly normal size I'll never put in print, and then suddenly I realize I've expanded. Could changes in atmospheric pressure cause this? Do I need medical attention for my swelling? Perhaps the cafeteria lady is sabotaging my balanced meal by secretly tossing a vat of butter into my spicy chicken sandwich. Maybe the people at the cleaners hate me because I always use my teacher discount so they shrink all my clothes by a centimeter every time I take them in. No matter the culprit, fat pants becoming normal pants is something to complain about.

4) Haagen Dazs Creme Brulee ice cream. This delicious treat should be illegal because it is very much like crack - if crack had a delicious caramelized sugar mixed into a frozen, creamy custard, that is. At 280 calories per serving (that's 1,120 calories in a pint - not that I'd ever consider eating a whole pint), it's like opening up your thighs with a butter knife and packing them full of cream cheese kolaches until your skin won't stretch anymore. (I'm certain this has nothing to do with the fat pants to normal pants problem, by the way.)

5) Visits to the eye doctor. Did you know that they actually touch your eyeball when you go there? They put drops in your eyes and tap, tap, tap with the pressure checker thingy and then shine ungodly wattages of light into your eyes and then ask things like "Which line is the clearest?" Hey doc, I can't see a thing because you've just blinded me with that ridiculous light. If you wanted me to see something you should have asked me before you tapped on my eyeball. Did you have to go to school to learn how to do this or just spend a week in a Afghanistan torture chamber?

So there ya go. Need to get any complaining out of your system? This is the place! I'm sure there are others things worth complaining about I've left out, so feel free to add your own.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Keaton can read...he thinks.

I picked Keaton up from school, and we were on our way to get Tucker. He opened his lunch box and pulled out a piece of paper, then handed it to me to read.

"Read this," he orders, and hands me the receipt for September's payment to Longmire Learning Center.

"It says we paid all our money," I explain as I hand it back to him.

"Okay, let me read this," he begins as he holds the paper upside down. "It says today is the right day and we have to go to Maggie Moo's but not until after we eat supper." (Maggie Moo's is an ice cream place.)

"I don't think it says that, honey," I reply as I gently crush his hopes of ice cream.

He didn't flinch. He mustered up his firmest voice to say, "Yes it does, Mommy. You call Daddy right now and tell him that my school says we have to go to Maggie Moo's tonight."

Thank goodness we arrived at Tucker's school so he could forget all about it. At least I hope so!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I love a good metaphor...

What would you do if you were the last good person on earth, surrounded by evil and madness? Could you keep your "fire of goodness" burning?

What if your fire were reduced to embers in the absence of your metaphorical firewood - family, friends, God. Could you continue to stoke those embers?


Such is the question posed in Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece, The Road. Yes, I said masterpiece. This is my best description of a novel I almost didn't finish. It is both horrendous and elegant. The story is of a man and his son in a post-apocalyptic world, struggling to keep the fire.


Those of you who regularly hang out with me (my lunch buddies and Trey) know that I started reading the book this summer but had to put it down because it sent me into despair. I am still amazed that McCarthy was able to pull the awful contents of the novel from deep inside his brain and articulate the details on the page. If that place exists my brain, I choose not to go there. I dreamt of the novel. It haunted me. So I put it down.


But I needed to finish it. The "obsessive" part of my perceived OCD reared its ugly head as I talked about the novel all of the time. I wanted someone - everyone - who had read it to encourage me to finish. I needed someone who had been into the book's darkness to tell me that I could wade into it without getting sucked in. My friends and fellow readers came through, and I finished the book.


Now, if you know my taste in books at all you've figured out that my mental rubric of book quality has the most weight on theme - the "why do I care? how does this apply to me?" part of the book. That's not to say that I don't enjoy a good fluff book from time to time (see Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea on my book list for this year), but the books I love are the ones that give me something to chew on, something to consider in the twists and turns of normal and not-so-normal life.


Yet the best thing about McCarthy's road is where it didn't take me. Unlike the nameless father and son trudging through the end of the world, I am not the only good guy left. Neither are you.

And there's the lesson. This afternoon I was able to walk down the hallways of school and through the rooms of my house and see good guys everywhere I turned.

The student who sees that my hands are more than full and offers to help - he's one.

The friend who sends a kind email for no reason on a day I feel less than inadequate - she's one.

My niece who always notices when something or someone just isn't okay and always tries to help - she's a good guy, too.

My husband, my favorite person in the world, also on our team.

We're the good guys, and we're everywhere.

Look around you and know that you are one of many. And we're all carrying the fire.



Sidenote: I did not reveal more about the novel here than one would learn from the jacket of the book, however I would caution you that McCarthy's style of writing is a bit unusual. When discussing it with a friend (and one of the most intelligent people I know), he described McCarthy as having a sort of existential style in which the feelings of the characters aren't often revealed. I encourage you to pick up the novel, but be forewarned of the uniqueness of McCarthy's work.

Oh yeah, and the guy doesn't like punctuation.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Remember to be nice!

Keaton has been nice to Trey most of the day. Why is this surprising? Because of the way he's behaved all week.


If he needs juice or something to eat or to go potty or to brush his teeth, he needs Mommy to help him. If Trey comes to his rescue, he screams uncontrollably and yells things like "You stop it!" Sweet, huh?


I'm not sure how to handle this. On one hand, I'm always glad to step in and take care of Keaton because he's got to be driving Trey crazy with the screaming. On the other hand, me stepping in is probably part of the problem because it means Keaton gets what he wants. So I've implemented a three-prong plan of attack against Keaton's campaign against Trey and, well, pretty much everyone but me.


Prong #1: Every time we're alone I remind Keaton how much Daddy takes care of us and how nice he is. I tell him that I sure do love Daddy.


Prong #2: When Keaton specifically requests that I do a particular task for him, I make him wait. Forever. So long that when Trey offers to help he's so tired of sitting on the potty - or whatever - that he gladly accepts the offer.


Prong #3: When Keaton is rude to Trey or Tucker because he only wants to talk to me, I respond to him like he responded to his dad and brother. Then I explain to him that it doesn't feel very nice to be treated like that.


Okay, so I'm a pretty smart lady with just a little type-A inspired OCD, and I'm pretty sure that developing an intricate plan to solve a problem is the best way to approach it. I'm confident. I'm going to fix this.


Of course, the next part of this little datribe is what has gone wrong.


Prong #1 Problems: We're in the car on Wednesday on our way home from school. I had just talked to Trey on the phone. When I hang up, Keaton asks if I was talking to Daddy. I tell him that it was Daddy, and that I can't wait for Daddy to get home because I've missed him all day.


Keaton, being the random person that he is, responds, "Tucker is my favorite friend."


I'm touched. "How sweet," I think, "the boys are so lucky to have each other - brothers are a ready made best friend. I hope they're always close. I hope Tucker takes care of Keaton when he's a freshman and Tucker is a junior and Keaton has acne and likes a girl who doesn't like him back and that Tucker will help him with his homework and that Keaton will always idolize him and that Tucker will see that as a responsibility to make good choices...."


And then Keaton interrupts my plan for their high school years with a follow up to his random brotherly love: "And mommy is my favorite friend, too. But not daddy."


I explain how rude he's being, and Keaton tells me in his rational voice, "I not rude. I don't wike (some kid at school who's name I don't remember) either."


Basically his argument is that he doesn't have to like everyone. Get over it. Prong #1 is a bust.


So then I go on to prong #2. It turns out that prong #2 only causes additional screaming. Lots of screaming. Lots and lots of screaming. Screaming that usually goes like this: "MOMMYMOMMYMOMMYMOMMYMOMMYMOMMYMOMMY!" And then there's the obligatory "GET OUT OF HERE!! YOU STOP THAT!" when Trey comes in the room.


Prong #2 is a bust.


And finally I'm left with prong #3. Today in the car Keaton gave me the greatest opportunity to put my final attempt into play. He asked a question (I don't remember what it was) and when Tucker tried to answer him he snapped, "You stop it! I not talking to you! I talking to Mommy only!"


And then he asked me the question. To which I replied, "You stop it! I'm not talking to you because I'm only talking to Tucker."


Silence. He didn't cry. His feelings weren't hurt. He just sat there. Seemingly stunned.


So I calmly said, "That was a very ugly way to treat you, wasn't it? It doesn't feel very good. That's why I don't think you should speak that way to other people. Now what did you want to ask me?"


He asked me in a calm, sweet voice, and we moved on.


That was about eight hours ago. We haven't had another outburst from him in eight hours. Not only that, he went with Trey to the bathroom at the football game and took the toothpasted toothbrush that Trey delivered before bed.


While I'm certain prong #3 didn't solve the problem, it may have gotten us a new record for Keaton's niceness. He is a very sweet boy, sometimes he just forgets. That's his explanation anyway. Here's the story he told on the way home from school Friday (I wish I had a recording because no one can tell a story like Keaton):


"Mommy, I had one thinking spot today. It was for hitting. Blake was reading a book and Andrew tried to take that book away from him, and so I hit him!" (with a punch in the air for emphasis)


I asked, "Keaton, was that a good choice?"

He replied, "No ma'am. It was a bad choice so I had to sit in a thinking spot." Then with a sigh, "I guess I just forgot to be nice."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We'll be at the ball field...

Has it really been so long since I've written anything here? What on earth could the problem be? I know it's not that we have jobs and kids. It MUST be something else...

Oh yeah, wait a minute...I think I've got it...the problem is insanity!


That's right, Trey and I have lost our minds. But it wasn't on purpose. We lost our minds accidentally.


Here's why: What Tucker wants to do more than anything in the world is play football. College Station has a flag football league, but we couldn't figure out if he was old enough to play this fall. Next thing you know, it was the last day to sign up for t-ball which is Tucker's second activity of choice.


So we were faced with a terrible delimma. If we didn't sign him up for t-ball, and he wasn't old enough to play football, he gets nothing. Now, I understand that a five year old with no activities is not a tragic event. But we told Tucker he could play something. Frantically, Trey sped up to the t-ball sign up at the last possible minute and got him on a team.


Then we learned he's old enough for football. We signed him up like we said we would. And here, friends, is the evidence of the insanity.


Mondays at 6 - football game

Tuesdays at 6 - t-ball game

Wednesdays at 6 - football game

Thursdays at 6 - t-ball game

Fridays - tiger football

Saturdays - football games (Tucker's and the Aggies')


Seriously. He's five. I'm waiting for the invitation to Dr. Phil any minute. I am almost certain that my friends are making fun of me in their own blogs right now.


On the up side, tonight was his first football practice, so we all went. Tucker had even more fun than I imagined. He was laughing so hard and cheering on his teammates and running up and down the field and yelling "hike." He loved it.


Then there's Keaton - our little tagalong forgotten child. I told Trey I feel like Keaton's neglected, so I committed to getting Keaton involved in an activity he likes. (He really should be in gymnastics since he spends three quarters of his life standing on his head.) To allay my guilt I decided to ask him what he wanted to do:


Me: Keaton, do you want to go to gymnastics?

Keaton ponders thoughtfully for a moment, then: No.

Me: How about soccer? You might be old enough.

Keaton: Well....no.

Me: Do you want to go to choir at church? They have choir for boys your age.

Keaton: I think about it, Mommy.


Hmmm...then it hits me. We are not the parents who push Tucker. He is the kid who pushes us. We would be perfectly content to be at home every night, but that's not what Tucker wants. He wants constant sports involvement - while he was in the bath tonight he asked me to check his ranking on his fantasy football team, for crying out loud! Can you say obsessed?


So first I have for you Keaton's picture from football practice. This is the bouquet of grass that he picked and placed in the chair. Then he asked me to take his picture with it. He did this, of course, after taking the arms off of his firefighter (he took it to practice to play with) and replacing said arms with grass so that the firefighter was "full of grass arms!"


And here are some pictures of my baby at his very first football practice having the time of his life:



Yes. We're insane. If you need us, we'll be at the ball field.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Waiting on Ike

So there's this hurricane, and the news keep saying things about it like "worst case scenario" and "certain death." They even put those words up in one of the 17 boxes on the screen meant to constantly entertain every nerve center of your brain with information that changes every point-zero-eight seconds.

Trey has been very Trey-like about it. All week he's been saying that the weatherman's dream is that we have a hurricane. Tonight he's been making fun of the reporters standing on the Galveston Seawall talking about, well, "certain death." However, we did move all of our patio furniture so that it's stacked together and hopefully can't be used as a hurricane weapon.

Likewise, Tucker has been very Tucker-like. He's been checking our local tv station's website and clicking on all the links to different formats of weather maps. He's been studying the red, orange, and yellow and what they mean. He's been learning about hurricane names and categories. I think it's been stressing him out a little and he's dealt with it by becoming informed times one hundred. I think he could do the weather on the ten o'clock news.

Keaton has made up stories about the hurricane. He says there are two of them, and he knows them. One is nice and one is mean. Then he saw the hurricane on the way home - it was at church. I guess that was the nice one. He also said that he "wikes" hurricanes and that daddy's cousin Will used to be a hurricane. Tonight he says he's afraid, but I think he's just tired.

Finally tonight, when the weather folks issued a "hurricane wind warning" for College Station, I decided that we really could have some damage. I'm not really worried so much as I don't want to look stupid - you know, be that guy on the news who says, "Golly. I heard something 'bout a hurricane in College Station but I thought they was just kiddin'."

So I took pictures all around the casa of the stuff that would have to be replaced if the roof blew off or something. Then I asked Trey to make sure the flashlights had batteries. Then I remembered the two boxes in the top of my closet that are irreplaceable - one contains items related to my brother-in-law James and his death and the other contains items that came from my grandmother (things she made by hand, mainly). I asked Trey where to put stuff like that, and he kind of laughed at me. Anyway, I stuffed them in the tiny hall closet on the shelf along with our wedding album.

The only other irreplaceable thing here is our pictures - most of which are on the computer. If you're watching the news and see a crazy lady in her pajamas chasing a CPU down the street, just pretend she doesn't look like me.

And then I took some serious cough medicine - the kind I had to get at the doctor today because wishing my cough away doesn't seem to be very effective. Suddenly this storm seems less important than some sleep.

So I send thoughts and prayers to all of the people in Ike's path, even those people (*ahem* idiots *ahem*) who chose to stay when some important person (I don't remember who) said words like "worse case scenario" and "certain death." It's a comforting thing to believe we'll all be fine and everything else is just stuff. Happy Hurricane, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Things and Such

I was going to start off by saying I have a bad cold, but the truth is that it's just a normal cold and the only thing that makes it bad is that I have it. It's my back to school cold.

Keaton had his allergy testing done today. Turns out he is allergic to EVERYTHING! Well, everything except milk, which is what we thought he was allergic to. He showed a marked response to all trees, all grass, dogs, peanuts, and eggs. So we start allergy shots next week and we've sworn him off the peanut butter. Fun.

Tucker had t-ball practice tonight, which meant McDonalds for supper (because I'm good mom, that's why). The boys were playing more than eating, so I told Tucker he'd better hurry it up because he was first in the bath tonight. See, who goes first in the bath is a huge fight every night, so Trey made a schedule. This way we know who goes first by what day it is and there's no fight. Simple, right?

Wrong. Tucker kept arguing with me. He kept on and on and on that he went first yesterday and Tuesday is Keaton's day and blah blah blah. Finally, I put my foot down, "We are not speaking about this anymore. Tuesday is your day. The end."

My wonderful husband was trying to keep me from taping Tucker's little arguing mouth closed in a back-to-school-cold-driven stupor, so he pulled up the page where he wrote it down. He explained, "Here Tucker, I'll show you. I wrote it down so we wouldn't forget. See?"

Then Trey looked at me and I knew. I knew Tucker was right. Then Tucker - AKA "Rainman" - looked at me with that impish little grin of his. And I knew he knew he was right.

And I asked Trey if I could lock myself in our room until tomorrow.

Maybe it is a bad cold.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

It's My Blog and I'll Write What I Want To...

So, today I'm deviating from my usual crazy stories to share something exciting I learned today. First, a reminder of some scripture you've probably heard before from Matthew 14 (courtesy of Bible Gateway.com):

25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
27But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
29"Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

Today in my Sunday school class we watched a video lesson about this Bible story. Now, don't get me wrong, I really love our Sunday school class, but this is a story I've heard many, many times. So when I realized the lesson was about Peter walking on water I wasn't expecting to hear anything new.

Boy was I wrong! Rob Bell, the super-cool, frosted-tipped video teacher (his hair has been quite the topic in our class), pointed out something I've never even considered.

When Peter started to sink, Jesus said, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

I've always thought this passage of scripture indicates that we shouldn't doubt the power of Christ. We should believe that God can do anything - even give a man the ability to walk on water. And I still believe that to be a true lesson found here.

But the question I've never asked is this: Who was Peter doubting?

Peter didn't doubt that Jesus could walk on water - Jesus wasn't sinking. Peter was. Here comes the new part.

He was doubting himself.

He was doubting his ability to follow through on what God told him to do. He didn't think he could do it, and the fact that Jesus himself was just a few steps away didn't keep him from doubting.

I was immediately reminded of all the times in my life that I didn't think I could do something - like the one kid I couldn't reach, or the one person I just couldn't get along with, or even little things like I can't listen to Keaton scream anymore without having a nervous breakdown. Rob Bell, super-cool video Sunday school teacher, said very simply, "God believes in you."

Wow.

The story goes on. As I've reflected on this today I've remembered my parents who always made me think that they believed I could do anything. Whether they believed it or not isn't all that relevant because they made me believe that they believed in me.

And such is the parental nature of our God. With his support, we can do anything - duh, right? I mean, those of us fortunate enough to be brought up in Christianity are taught that from the time we're little.

Don't get me wrong - this isn't some kind of new age, "I can do it myself," power of humanity revelation that I've had. It's just as simple as God won't ask me - call me - to do something unless he believes that we can do it together.

And so the fact that God believes in me is a new, powerful revelation for me.

So powerful, in fact, that I wanted to share. I wanted to tell you that God believes in you. Even when you don't believe in yourself.

He believes that you can make a difference. He believes that you can be better today than you were yesterday. He believes that you are worthwhile. If he didn't believe in you, he wouldn't have asked you to do all of those things.

Feels good, doesn't it?