Thursday, December 31, 2009


Up until Wednesday, Christmas break was calm and relaxing. The weather was cold but beautiful, and the boys have been riding bikes from the crack of dawn until I make them come in late in the day. In fact, on the first day of Christmas vacation, Tucker called me out into the driveway to show me he had learned how to ride his bike, something we spent all of last summer trying to do. I guess just leaving him alone to do it on his own was the solution to that one.

The calm atmosphere melted away yesterday with the yucky, rainy weather, and as the day went on things became frantic and crazy. I had started taking down the Christmas decorations the day before, so I was determined to get my house totally put back together yesterday. The boys had other ideas.

First, there are the foam swords. Someone who doesn't have kids (Nathan Barrett) got the boys these huge foam swords for Christmas. You're never going to believe what they do with them.

They beat the hell out of each other. (Aren't you surprised?) Then they take turns crying because the other one has beaten the hell out of them with a giant foam sword. It's great fun. One of my other favorite sword-related activities is when Tucker slams the sword flat onto the surface of my IKEA leather couch, creating what I'm certain is a sonic boom. Then he looks up at me like, "What? I didn't smack Keaton on the head with it this time. Lighten up, you old hag."

So yesterday morning I offered some harsh words and confiscated the swords. Over and over again. I hid them. I threatened. I sent kids to their rooms. Still the swords surfaced all morning.

Keaton was in a particularly grouchy mood, so anytime I said anything to him he responded like an angst-ridden teenager. For example:

Me: Keaton, you cannot ride your bike in the house.

Me: Keaton, you cannot play outside in the rain.
Me: The temperature is 47, and it's raining!

And so on and so forth. As a result, Keaton spent much of the day in his room where he "WAS JUST GOING TO PLAY AND HAVE FUN ANYWAY SO I DON'T CARE IF YOU SEND ME TO MY ROOM."

God help us when that kid is sixteen.

Finally, the Lord smiled on me and the sun came out. I "suggested" that the boys go outside, and they jumped on the idea. This was, of course, followed by several hundred admonitions to "CLOSE THE DOOR" and "PUT ON YOUR JACKET," which were, of course, ignored. It's like I had totally lost my voice, but I didn't know it. I thought I heard words coming out of my mouth, but clearly there was nothing because the words had no impact.

As the boys played outside and I put away decorations, I checked every five or ten minutes to make sure they were within sight and everything was okay. Things began to settle down. On several checks they were actually wearing jackets and playing nicely with one another. That must be when I let my guard down.

Because the next time I opened the door I found the boys washing my car. Now, I know what you're thinking -- how sweet that they wanted to do something nice for their mother after such a crazy day! Well, you're wrong. Very, very wrong.

See, they were washing my car with water from the mud puddle in the driveway, and they had taken off their jackets, shoes, and socks to do so. And their clothes were soaking wet, and my previously relatively clean car was covered in mud. Doesn't sound too sweet now, does it?

In the house they came, stripped from their muddy, wet clothes and sent straight to their room. I think they understood at that point that they had gone too far because things were a little bit calm around here for an hour or so.

That's when they started sweetly begging for hot chocolate. Of course, I said no, but they begged and begged until in my exceeding motherly kindness I relented. It was Christmas break, after all, and they had already made so many messes that I'd already cleaned up they had to know that I was at my limit. I felt the the hot chocolate was as safe as anything.

So I made it, told them to keep it in the kitchen and make no messes, and then retired to my room to sit in the massage chair and pick up my book. The house was clean and successfully un-Christmas-decorated, the boys had calmed down, and the day was finally starting to look up.

It was at this point that Keaton came running in to tell me, "MAAAHHHHMMMM. WE HAVE A BIG PROBLEM!"

"Just clean it up," I replied. "You better make sure it's cleaned up before I get in there or you're both going to be in so much trouble." Then I went back to my book. How bad could it be?

Pretty bad, apparently. When I finally made it into the kitchen there was chocolate-tinted water all over the bar, the counter, and the floor, and no boys to be found. They were kind enough, however, to take the "wet floor" sign from the garage (that I'm pretty sure Trey stole from somewhere when he was in college) and place it at the entrance to the kitchen. I guess they didn't want me to slip. How kind.

So here we are the next morning, me blogging about the ridiculous day before and the boys, parked in their room, calling my cell phone from the house phone. I keep clicking "ignore" on the phone, but I'm afraid I might have several anonymous voice mails explaining that I'm a "poo poo head." I'm up to twelve missed calls so far.

When does school start again?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's my blog, and I'll rant if I want to

On Sunday nights I enjoy listening to Focus on the Family Weekend Magazine. It plays on our Christian radio station, and I either find the week's topic enlightening or offensive, and both make great food for thought. I've greatly enjoyed the recent discussions of adoption and how it parallels our relationship with Christ, we being fully adopted into his family. On the other hand, of particular offense to me are the weeks when a woman gets on the radio and talks about submission to one's husband as taking care of all the laundry and cooking so that when he gets home from what was no doubt a difficult day at the office he can sit quietly and not be bothered with household chores, and she then frets over us poor souls who are forced to work outside the home. I do my best not to scream at the radio, but I'm not promising I don't.

One of the evening's topics tonight was teens and movies.

A listener had written in for advice. The scenario: she thought her teenage daughters should be able to see movies with a little profanity and maybe even some sexually suggestive stuff, but she always researched movies before taking them (she used the Plugged in Movie Review, which I love). Her husband, however, did not allow them to see anything with even one word of profanity, and if he heard it in a movie he would get up and leave every time. What were they to do?

My thoughts are plentiful on the issue, including 1) the woman is rude to her husband for taking the girls to movies he is vehemently against (which she admitted to in the letter), and she had to know of his extreme views before she married him, so she kind of signed up to live with those extreme views, and 2) I hope those kids are home-schooled because if I stormed out of a room every time I heard profanity I would have to flee from my school building about forty-seven-thousand times a day. That doesn't mean I like it, but it does mean that I live in reality, 3) Who actually writes letters to strangers for random advice on movie watching? Did she call her friends tonight to gleefully explain that they had actually read her letter on the air? Lame.

The oh-so-wise Focus on the Family advice guy (whose name I do not know) had a very different take on the situation. His response to the woman was something to the effect of "Your marriage is in trouble! If you and your husband can't compromise on this movie issue then there must be much bigger issues lurking there, waiting to jump out and cause you to disagree. God forbid!"

Yes, I'm paraphrasing. But it gets better.

"You should run out right now and purchase This Random Marriage Book from Focus on the Family to save your marriage! Hurry! There's no time to waste!"

I wanted to scream.

Thanks, Weekend Magazine for taking a little issue of life and calling it a marriage in trouble. Thanks for explaining to what is likely millions of listeners that if you disagree with your spouse, something must be terribly wrong. Thanks for trying to sell your book instead of actually answering a question.

It frustrates me to no end when Christian organizations put forth this super-human expectation of perfection when life is so far from perfect that it's not even funny.

End of rant.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Where are your hands right now?

I'm just going to guess, okay I'm going to hope, that your hands aren't in your pants. And I'm going to assume that the reason your hands aren't in your pants is that your mom diligently reminded you (and nagged, and yelled, and scolded) that polite little boys and girls don't walk around with their hands in their pants. And it worked for you, didn't it? Please tell me it worked.

You see, my oldest child has developed the habit of going through life with his hands down his pants. Now don't get ahead of me here because there's nothing vulgar about this. It's just a bad habit that I WILL BREAK.

I'm no stranger to bad habits. I think I started chewing my nails in the womb, and on any given day I will have one beautiful, well-manicured nail just to prove I can grow nails. My small victory. And for a short period of my life I had those fabulous solar nails that looked perfect and couldn't be chewed, but it's just not economically feasible for me to buy nails when God gave me the ability to grow them. So I chew them. All the time.

I also have the fabulous bad habit of munching (on food, not nails) when I need to do a mundane task. Jelly Belly jelly beans are my favorite, and I can go through an average sized bag of them every time I give a TAKS test. While I "actively monitor" students, I eat jelly beans one at a time, and sometimes I count to a certain number in between beans. Or I park the beans at one area of the room and allow myself to have one on every third pass. I usually end up with a little stomach ache, but I keep my sanity during four hours of watching people take tests.

I also need to munch when I'm trying to focus really hard something tedious. I tried to buy lots of almonds last year when I was working on the English department master schedule because I knew I would need to munch. Peanut M&M's work well, too, but I have to eat them in three steps each. You know, take a bite, eat it, eat the peanut from the middle, then eat the other chocolate candy half. Everyone does that right? Somehow it makes me focus - like my chewing jaws are a little motor for my brain. Now that I think about it, munching might give me genius superpowers.

But I never put my hands down my pants. That's just weird.

Tuck's a pretty smart kid, and I think he's decided that pants without pockets can have make-shift pockets if you stick your hands down the waistband. It's been colder lately, so perhaps he's trying to keep his hands warm while wearing pocket-less pants.

Either way, I find myself constantly saying, "Get your hands out of your pants." I thought the problem was confined to home, but yesterday we were Christmas shopping and I caught him with his hands warming just under his waistband. I called him over, grabbed his little face, and whispered, "You do not want me to scream at you across the store to get your hands out of your pants. You will be very embarrassed. It's just not polite." That seemed to fix the problem for the rest of the shopping trip.

But it didn't stop the problem. And it didn't stop me from thinking about him being the weird kid at school who the girls describe with a disapproving scowl: "Tucker always has his hands in his pants. It's sooooo gross." Just ask Wesley Green, the kid in my third grade class who picked his nose. He could tell you. I'm sure he ended up as a social outcast who had to get a job at the North Pole because everyone knew he picked his boogers in the third grade and he couldn't stand the humiliation.

So I persevere. "Get your hands out of your pants," I say, and I mean it. Then five minutes later I say it again. And again. And again.

So this holiday season, thank your mom that you're not reading this post with your hands in your pants. Trust me, it was no easy job to get you here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's me again!

Whew. It's been a long time without a blog post. I've been busy, but I'm well aware that my busy isn't any more than anyone else's busy this time of year. I just got a little bit behind in my life, and it didn't seem like catching up was possible. (As a side note, the Hickman family Christmas card hasn't been done, so it's just turned into the Hickman family New Year's card, and you can expect it in January.)

Now that things have calmed down, I would like to extend a special bit of gratitude to those of you who kept me sane when I edged myself closer to the brink in the last week and a half or so. You know who you are because you ran scantrons, wrote me a nice note, stayed married to me, attended interviews with me well after you were supposed to be gone home for the holidays, checked email on your day off so I could turn my homework in, and/or listened to me whine (gasp! not me! whine? I'm so ashamed, but it happened, and I think it happened a lot. Foxy could tell you for sure.)

Anyway, I work with the gosh-darned awesomest people on the planet and my husband is a saint, and I thanked God for you all lots and lots of times last week when things got crazy.

Now on to the blogging part. These are unrelated items that need to be documented here for posterity.

1) Keaton is certain that all angels have names, and he is downright offended when we don't call them by their names. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing? There are angels in that nativity scene? "Which ones?" he wants to know, and he isn't satisfied until we throw out names that seem fitting for angels. In addition, we always have to mention Gabriel. If we don't, he'll add, "And Gabriel. I think it was Gabriel, too."

2) Tucker's random fact-ness is getting a little out of control. As usual, he entertains us during breakfast each morning with sports facts from the night before. Unfortunately, all sports in the world don't end when he goes to bed, so he has to read all the updates on and YELL THEM AT US while we get ready for school/work/church. It usually goes something like this:


Trey and I pretend to care for a few minutes (because that's what good parents do, right?) and then when I reach my breaking point I have to tell him to use his inside voice and STOP YELLING SCORES AT ME BEFORE BREAKFAST! After all, his inside voice is much easier to tune out before 8:00 a.m. (and that's what great parents do, right?).

On the way to church yesterday morning, we sat quietly in the car listening to softly playing Christmas music when Tucker screamed, "LAWRENCE TAYLOR WAS BORN IN 1959! HOW OLD IS HE NOW? FIFTY! LAWRENCE TAYLOR IS FIFTY!"

Is there a version of Turrets for sports fan? I think Tucker has it.

3) Keaton was nicely dressed for church yesterday morning in jeans, boots, and a blue long-sleeved collared shirt. It wasn't until we got into the car that I realized he had added a giant sun hat and a green plastic lei to the ensemble. When I asked him about it, he told me he wasn't going to wear the hat into church.

Great. So he was planning to wear the lei? I let it go until we were getting out of the car at church, and then I gently took it off of him and explained that he couldn't wear that inside either. He huffed at me a little, "Ooookaaaaay."

That didn't, however, stop him from trying to wear both accessories into the restaurant after church. God help us when this kid is allowed to dress himself.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Creeper Santa

We were having one of those mornings.

Okay, we were all fine, but Keaton was having one of those mornings.

He woke up early and announced, "I am not eating at home this morning. You will stop and get me breakfast." You know I LOVED that.

Then he started with "I'm not feeling well. Mommy! I'm not feeeeeeliiiing welllllll. I'm siiiiiiick. I want to stay home." I told him he was welcome to stay home all by himself, but there was no one to stay with him because we all had things to do.

Things progressed as expected with significant crying, screaming, demanding, etc. As I picked him to take him in our room to get him dressed, he began squirming and kicking. So I held him out away from me, my hands under his armpits, his skinny little body flopping around in a full-on temper tantrum.

I've learned that Keaton reacts if I react, so I pretended it wasn't happening until the time came that I couldn't get his pants on his squirming little legs. In desperation and frustration, I blurted out, "SANTA IS WATCHING YOU!"

And there was silence. Immediate silence. Surprised, he finally asked, "What did you say?"

Me: I said Santa is watching to see if you're a good boy or a bad boy.

Keaton: He's watching me right now?

Me: Yes. He's always watching you.

Now this is where Bad Santa comes in. I had this evil moment-slash-moment of genius when I realized the Wild Thing was paying attention. I realized it and I used it. I used it good.

Me: You know what happens to bad little boys?

Keaton (not sure he wants to know): What?

Me (in my super-scary voice): They get rocks in their stockings. (This was followed by Vincent Price-style evil laughter in my head, and I am only a little ashamed.)

Keaton: Rocks?

Me: Yes, rocks. Only the good boys and girls get toys, and Santa is always watching so he can put you on his good list or his bad list to see if you get toys or ROCKS.

We finished getting him dressed in total, compliant silence, and I felt I had entered a new world. I realized this is it. This is THE YEAR that I can use this. It's never worked before, and it will never work again, but THIS YEAR I will use it until bedtime Christmas Eve. I wondered if it would be possible for Santa to mail a behavior report card to Keaton just to let him know that the Big Guy is keeping tabs. I pictured myself slipping a ten to the mall Santa and whispering in his ear whatever boyish trouble Keaton had gotten in that day so he could have a little heart to heart with the kid. This is big, I thought, and I'm a freaking genius for figuring it out.

After a reasonably quiet breakfast at home (turkey bacon and juice, the breakfast of champions), Keaton was climbing the ladder that's still in the living room along with the half-displayed Christmas decorations and their boxes. "Mommy?" he asked in a sweet voice, "is Santa outside the window right now?"

Sensing his timidity, I responded kindly, "No, baby. He's not outside."

Keaton shrugged his disbelief and turned his freaked out little face to the window.

And that's how I made Santa a creeper. Will that get me Mother of the Year?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One time there was this goat, The Finale

Before you read this, you should check out part one and part two.

As I stood in my friend's classroom in my pleated black slacks, fitted blouse, and fabulous Steve Madden pumps with my new goat under my arm, the plan began to formulate. One of the ag teachers offered for the vet tech kids to help take care of the goat during the day, and I must have looked like she offered me a million bucks because I agreed so quickly!

It was Wednesday, which meant that the boys had to be picked up from choir at five. As soon as I could get away from school (about 4:15), I sped to the feed store in Wellborn, waited impatiently behind a man buying some sort of livestock feed, and then asked the cashier for a bottle to feed a baby goat. Up until then we'd been using a nipple on a water bottle, and it leaked terribly.

The nice young man got me a bottle, and I flew home to change out of my dress clothes and into my goat-handling gear. I tossed the dog's kennel (now a makeshift goat kennel) in the back of the Prius and headed to church.

I was only about five minutes late picking up the boys, and on the way out of the church I whispered to them that we had to hurry because we had to go get the goat. I thought Keaton's head was going to pop off because he was so excited! He must have said the word "goat" one hundred times on the ten minute drive to my school.

Because this story is getting a little too long, let's just say we loaded up Goat in the kennel and headed home.

I had already decided that she could live on the tile floor in the entry until I could get her to mom, so I asked the boys to make a wall to keep her in. Here's what they did:

Yes, friends, those are football helmets. It only took Goat about two seconds to escape from that impregnable fortress.

There were two "best things" about having the goat.

The first is that even Trey (clearly not a natural goat-lover) got into the fun. He called my niece Jodi to say, "Hey. Are you going to come see my goat?" Not long after that phone call there were pictures on facebook of Goat posing with Jodi and Goat posing with Tiffany.

Also, when Goat got restless, Trey picked her up and held her really close, and she was instantly quiet and still. It reminded me of when the boys were babies. For some reason when I held them they would just get wiggly-er, but he has such a calming effect on people (and goats). It was sweet.

Best thing number two was Farmer Keaton. In case you didn't know, Keaton tells people that he is a farmer and has a farm. He has named most of my dad's cows, has deemed his black boots his "farmer boots," and often talks about his tractors (some real, some not-so-real).

He was so darn happy to have that goat. He decided to train her to stay in the entry, and he was so patient in dealing with her. I was completely shocked because, let's be honest, I would never use the word "patient" to describe him and if you've met him you wouldn't either.

When she would get out of the entry, he would gently pick her up and put her back. Then he would stroke her back and quietly tell her, "Marion, this is your room. See the brown walls? The brown walls are your room, and you have to stay in here, okay?"

Of course, she'd get right back out, and he'd repeat the lesson all over again. It was amazing to watch.

(Sidebar: Mom named her goat Marion despite the fact that she will forever be Ethel to the English department of A&M Consolidated High School. Why Ethel? Why Marion? I have no idea what the answer is to either question.)

One time Marion peed on the carpet (because Tucker let her out when I said not to), and before I could get to the mess, Keaton had cleaned it up. For real! I think this little farmer is ready for his own pet.

Each morning I would get up, feed the goat, get dressed, and load her in the car to take her to school. During my conference period I'd feed her, and at the end of the day the goat and I would head back home. It must have been quite the picture to see me bringing my goat to school every morning.

On Friday after school, something came up and I needed to meet a friend in Bryan. Believe it or not, Trey suggested I just drop off the goat at the bank rather than trying to get her home and being late to my engagement. So not only did this goat go to school every day, she also went to the bank one afternoon.

Saturday afternoon Trey and I met my parents in Jewett to pass off the goat. We also decided to loan them Keaton until Thanksgiving, so he could "do some farmin'" and help out with the goat. I don't know how much help he was, but he had a great time.

And so the saga of the goat begins. She now lives on the farm with Grandma (who insists the goat can be house trained but Daddy won't let her even think about trying). I think Marion may have even gotten a goat friend or two today so she won't be too lonely.

I love that my kids will always remember the day their mom brought home a goat. I want them to know that sometimes I did (and let them do) something crazy just for the adventure of it. I want them to find exciting things everywhere they look and jump at opportunities to do the unexpected.

If they look really hard, they just might find a goat.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One time there was this goat, part 2

When I learned that the goat had survived the night and made it to school, I sent an email to my friends: "So I have this goat..." Of course, wit and hilarity ensued via email, and we made all of the applicable jokes:

  • "Stormy has a new kid!"

  • "Who is going to get your goat?"

  • "Did it follow you to school one day?"(okay, that one was about a lamb, but remember this was hilarity, so it didn't matter)

During lunch we all decided to go see the goat, so my friends and I traipsed down to the ag department kennels and found this:

I know what you're thinking. That goat is pretty darn cute, right? Well, she was cute, and "oohs" and "aawwws" commenced as soon as my friends and I saw her. Someone asked her name, and I was very clear that this was grandma's goat so grandma would be naming her. I decided that for the time being she could just be called "Goat."

So then word was out about Goat, and I had to show her off so as not to leave anyone out. I decided to first take her to the yearbook lab because it's very close to the ag rooms, and I knew my yearbook peeps would love to see her.

I scooped the sweet, quiet little thing up into my arms, and she immediately began screaming like her tail was on fire. I don't know how else to describe the sound except to say screamed. Perhaps bleating is appropriate goat-lingo, but that doesn't capture the sound made by a two-day old goat in a high school being carried around like a baby. In hindsight, I'm just glad Goat didn't pee all over me.

We "oohed" and "awwed" over her in the yearbook lab for a moment, and then I returned her to the safety of her kennel and got back to work. Right away I learned that some of the life skills students had come to see her, so I grabbed her up to take her to them for a quick visit.

But I couldn't handle the screaming the second time around. She screamed so much and so loud that in a moment of panic I just deposited her on the floor, at which point she immediately quieted. In fact, I'm pretty sure she smiled a sweet little goat smile. Trust me, I was there.

Not sure what to do next, I called to her, "Goat. Come here Goat. Some kids want to meet you," and she followed me through a classroom and across the hall, skipping and jumping all the while. The life skills kids petted her and spoke to her, and then Goat followed me back across the hall and classroom to her kennel where she calmly stayed the rest of the day. Her willingness to blindly follow me over the river and through the woods, so to speak, led to my new title of Stormy the Goat Whisperer.

However, at some point in the afternoon it occurred to me that I needed to get her home, but I also realized that the Prius isn't really made for hauling goats. In addition, the fact that she needed to be fed every 2-3 hours the next day became problematic because I have this job that they liked me to show up for, and I'm pretty sure there's no button in our absence system that says, "out for goat care."

Clearly, I had not thought this completely through. I needed a plan, and I needed it to look like a simple, flawless plan so that Trey wouldn't have me committed for bringing home a baby goat.

It's a good thing I'm really good at making plans...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

One time there was this goat, part one

It all began on a Tuesday during lunch. Morgan, a friend and fellow teacher, came into our lunch-eating area and asked, "Does anyone know of somebody who would want a baby goat? We've got one that lost her momma, and she needs to be bottle fed." I offered that my mom had been talking about getting goats, and that I would ask her if she was interested.

On way home, I made my daily phone call to Mom (on the bluetooth in my car which I'm pretty sure irritates her but that I have to use because I'm in a school zone when I call) and when I asked her about the goat, she said, "Sure. Yeah. I'd like to take the goat." I did a little cheer inside as I became excited about the possibilities that were beginning to unfold.

I called Morgan and made arrangements for her to bring the goat to school with her the next day. Then I called my favorite ag teacher and asked if there was a place to keep the goat for the day until I could take it home. I made all of the appropriate arrangements. Except one.

Later that evening Trey and I stood next to each other at the kitchen counter making dinner. Here's how the conversation went down.

Me: Anything exciting happen today?
Trey: Not really, just ___________

(See, here I was trying to think of how I was going to tell him that we were getting a goat. I'm sure I was listening carefully to what he was saying, but I don't actually remember it.)

Me:'s a possibility that I'll be bringing a goat home from school tomorrow.

Trey (without looking up from what he's doing): What are you going to do with a goat?

Me: Well...bottle feed it.

Trey (now he looks up because he realizes that I'm seriously talking about a real goat): Why?

Me: It's only a couple of days old, and its mom died, and Morgan can't care for it because it has to be bottle fed every couple of hours. (Clearly he wasn't asking why the goat would need to be bottle fed, but why I would be bringing home a goat. I wasn't quite sure how to answer that one yet, so I skimmed past it.)

Trey: What are you going to do with the goat?

Me: Mom wants it (good thing he loves my mom), and we'll just have to keep it until we see her. But it's an orphan and may not even make it through tonight, so we'll just see, okay.

Trey (with "that" look): okay

And so I began wondering what in the green earth I was going to do with a goat in my house. I wondered if the goat would live. Okay, I secretly prayed that the goat would live because I would be the coolest mom in the world if I brought a goat home to Keaton. I thought of the memories my kids would have, and I thought of how much my mom would enjoy watching a goat act ridiculous (WAY more fun than chickens, if you ask me).

At school the next morning, I waited anxiously for Morgan to arrive so I could determine if I would actually get to take the goat home. But it was meeting day for me, so I left a note asking her to take the goat to the ag shop if she had brought it and went on about my morning.

When I returned to my classroom, I learned that I did, in fact, have a goat.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today was a success. Not the perfect, nothing-ever-goes-wrong kind of success, but a more guttural kind. The kind of success you find when you take a risk and step WAY out of your comfort zone and don't get hit by a truck.

A few weeks ago, I masterminded a guest speaker for all of the on-level junior English students. A retired CIA operative and current teacher at the Bush School agreed to come and talk to our students about what it was like to live undercover as a spy in the modern world.

I say masterminded because this isn't something I've ever done before - scheduled a guest speaker to talk to 350 teenagers in a formal setting. First, I had to ask permission and explain how this lecture would fit into our TEKS (the standards that the State of Texas says we must follow). We were reading Fahrenheit 451 at the time, and I knew the technology of the CIA would be fun to compare to the technology in the novel that is implied to be almost innately evil. Our administrators are supportive people who look forward to providing opportunities for our kids, so they gave me the green light.

Then I scheduled with the speaker, unfortunately for a time well after the completion of our novel study. I was so far into the process that I determined the timing didn't matter that much, and I pressed on.

But then I went all crazy the way I do. I started seeing opportunity upon opportunity brought on by this one event. I knew that this was our chance to work with kids on how to behave during a formal occasion. Honestly, many of the students who would attend had never had an experience being part of an audience, and I was beside myself excited about giving them the education and opportunity to be able to do so.

Every time someone asked, "So are just the AP kids going or the honors, too?" I responded with defiant joy that only the on-level kids were going, and I loved the confused looks I got which were usually followed by a timid "Oh. Good for them."

I envisioned one of my students in ten years, invited to attend a formal banquet fundraiser on behalf of his employer. I saw him walk into the room properly dressed, shaking hands and introducing himself, feeling confident that he knew exactly what to do and expect. And in this little dream of mine, somewhere in the back of that kid's head he remembered his first experience listening to a formal speaker, and he remembered something -- anything -- I told him to do, and he did it. And he felt good about himself and people noticed.

In preparation for the speaker, I talked to my students about how to behave, when to applaud, what to listen for, and all the other odds and ends about being an audience. I asked one student to read the speaker's introduction and another to present him with a thank you gift after his presentation. I doled out my best "responsibility" speech, complete with "I worked hard to make this happen for you, and I want this man to leave here and tell everyone he sees how wonderful this school is, and only you can make that happen."

When the big day came today, I dressed in my most professional outfit, re-applied my lip gloss (that never happens), and set out to be the model of perfect formality to these kids. While 75% of students listened attentively and behaved perfectly, I couldn't let go of the 25% who weren't.

I threw out every teacher and mom strategy known to man. I gave disapproving looks. I mouthed "stop it" in my sternest, most silent whisper. I held my eyes in such a way that said, "If you don't cut it out I will make you rue the day you behaved this way. RUE IT!" I marched around in my fabulous heels as discreetly as possible to pull the proximity card on ne'er-do-wells. I prayed. I prayed as hard and fast as I have prayed in many years that the kids would be perfect and that the whole thing would end soon so I could breathe. I thought, "I will never do this again. Never!" All the while knowing that I will do it again and making mental notes about how I'll do it better.

At the conclusion of our assembly, we thanked our speaker, and I dismissed the students from the auditorium. As I turned to exit the stage, a crowd of students ascended the stairs. They shook the speaker's hand, told him how grateful they were for his taking the time to speak to us, and they asked wonderful, intriguing questions that he seemed excited to answer.

And I remembered that young man in my fantasy at his first formal event as a professional, and I remembered that today that young man was seventeen and so were all of his friends.

It wasn't perfection, but it was success.

Two final notes: One. Today's guest speaker and the conversations leading up to and after fulfilled one of the state's requirements for the year, TEKS 14 and 16 regarding listening and responding appropriately. Yes, I'm that nerdy.

Two. After the presentation, one of the students asked the speaker if the government is really making light sabers. I laughed out loud until he very seriously said, "I know what you're talking about, and we have the technology." light sabers? wow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Expletive

We knew this day would come. Before Tucker was even born, we knew the day would come that he would discover that his name rhymes with THE bad word, the worst word a person could say. We made it all the way to first grade.

Tonight as Trey was helping Tucker get his pajamas on, they were talking about what went on today at school. Trey always asks the boys, "What was the best part of your day?" and that was the exact conversation they were having tonight.

Tucker explained that his friends had a new way of making nicknames for each other. Last year, he said, they would replace the first letter of each person's with an "s," making Donovan into Sonovan, Luke into Suke, and Tucker into Sucker. We knew about this last year, and Tucker thought it was pretty funny, so it was no big deal.

This year, however, the boys have decided to replace the first letter of their names with "f." Yep. You do the Tucker announced, "So they're calling me *ucker. Isn't that funny!"

My jaw dropped. Trey's jaw dropped.

I'm not going to lie, I wanted to explode with laughter, but I knew that was an inappropriate and un-parent-like response. I knew that if we over-reacted then he would decide this word should be used often around the boys at school, so I composed myself and quickly formulated my response.

Me: Tucker, that is a very bad word. Of all the bad words you could say, that's the worst one.

Tucker: *ucker? Why is that a bad word? What kind of bad word is it?

Me: Just a regular bad word, but a really bad one.

Tucker: But, what kind of bad word. Like why do people say *ucker?

Me: you want me to use it in a sentence or something?

At this point I was trying to hide my giggles while being very grown up and rational. It didn't help that Trey's eyes were laughing hysterically, and I don't think he could look at Tucker. For some reason, this conversation required Tucker to say this very bad word in every sentence.

Trey made an attempt at explanation: Tucker, you know how sometimes people say bad words? That's one of them. (thanks, Trey, because I apparently wasn't getting that across)

Tucker: But WHY do they say it?

Trey: You know how sometimes you say "dang it"?

Tucker: Oh, yeah, I say that all the time.

Trey: Well that word isn't too bad, but if you put an "f" in front of your name it's very bad.

Me (trying to help): It's so bad they won't let you say it on TV!

Tucker: Hmmm... well, what does *ucker mean?

Okay, at this point I just wanted to run from the room. It's bad enough that my six year old is dropping the "f" bomb in every other sentence, but it's SO much worse that he wants to know what it means. Seriously. This could make me change his name.

Me: Tucker, don't worry about what it means. You just need to know that it's a horrible word, and if a teacher hears you or your friends saying it, then you will probably go straight to the office and be in big trouble.

On that note, Trey left the room (probably because his eyes were going to pop out if he didn't laugh out loud soon). Sensing my distress, and an opening now that his dad left the room, Tucker got that evil little "I'm about to pick on my mom grin" on his face and proudly said, "*ucker *ucker *ucker *ucker *ucker."

I just left the room. I got up and walked away. There was nothing left to say at that point, and I couldn't stand it anymore.

Trey insists that the boys Tucker hangs out with know exactly what they are doing, and I don't disagree. I also think about my own name, and all the times that people have asked me if I was made fun of as a child. My answer is always, "If they did, I didn't know it!"

I guess I've passed that along to my oldest son.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Never

My kids have horrible lives. They never get to do anything. Just spend a day or two with them and you'll feel so bad for them that you'll probably want to take them in and care for them because they are so mistreated here. Just a few pieces of evidence heard around the Hickman house today:

I never get to sit in the red chair!
I never get to sleep on the couch!
I never get the star blanket!
I never get to wear long pants!
I never get to pour in the milk!
I never get to watch Little Bill!
I never get to play Wii!

Sometimes I think I'd rather have them rattling off four letter words on their way home from punching kids at school than say "I never."

I think the parent version of the "I never" list is more like "I always" (or "we always" around here).

I always pick up your shoes.
I always put away all of your laundry.
I always make sure you have plenty to eat, and it's usually stuff you like.
I always pick you up from school.
I always take care of you when you're sick.
I always make sure you have lunch money.

Don't you feel bad for my kids? They may as well live on the street and fend for themselves with the care they get around here. Trey and I are just going to have to do better.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Trey and I were having a great conversation about life, and things we're looking forward to, and what went on in our days at work. Keaton apparently wasn't getting enough attention because he spontaneously shouted, "I KNOW LOTS OF BAD WORDS! SHUT UP, STUPID, OH MY GOD. THOSE ARE BAD WORDS AND I DON'T SAY THEM!"

He certainly got our attention.

The Candy Corn Caper

I don't buy candy corn because I would eat it all in one sitting.

That's a lie. I should have said that I buy candy corn and eat it all in one sitting, so I try to buy small bags.

But that would be a lie, too, because we all know the more candy corn the better, so I buy great big bags of it. I love the candy corn pumpkins, too, and bats, and witch heads, and, well, pretty much anything candy corn-like. I have no control over myself when it comes to candy corn, and I eat it until my stomach hurts and begin to drool sugar. I just can't stop myself.

On Saturday, Keaton went with me to the grocery store. We were having a fine time shopping, and I carefully monitored the extra things he requested to keep us within our budget for the trip. He got to pick which kind of yogurt and which bunch of bananas he wanted, and he got fruit gushers and a large bunch of grapes, and he was very happy because nothing makes him happier than getting his way.

Then he spotted the candy corn. "Mom, can we have some candy corn for Halloween?!" he squealed.

"We'll see," I told him, mentally calculating how many non-list items we'd already gotten and remembering my candy corn addiction. I honestly thought he would just forget about it, but the folks at HEB made sure that didn't happen because there was candy corn at every turn. Finally I gave in, and we bought one small bag of store-brand candy corn. It didn't break my budget, and I figured it probably wouldn't be as good as the name brand crack. I mean candy corn.

I lasted about two hours before I opened the package. I thought I'd just have one handful and that would do it -- fix me up for a little while. But I couldn't help myself. I kept going back for more and more. I found myself getting just enough to hide in my fist so that Keaton wouldn't see that I was eating it and want some, too. After all, we bought a small bag.

I'm not proud. Addiction is a difficult thing.

Just before bedtime, I was sitting at the computer working on an eHow article with a fist-sized pile of candy corn in front of me on the desk where I could eat them in thirds while I worked. (Everyone knows the best way to eat candy corn is one color at a time.) In walked Keaton just as I popped the yellow end of one of the corns into my mouth.

"What are you eating?" he asked.


"Mom! What is it?" he insisted. Then he noticed the three remaining corns on the table. "Mom! These are for Halloween! When did you open them?"

"Earlier," I said, beginning to feel ashamed.

Keaton took the three remaining candy corns, popped them in his mouth, and scolded me through the sugar, "No more until Halloween. Do you understand?"

I just nodded in defeat.

But I couldn't help myself. On Sunday after church I went for my usual fist-sized hit, and the little rat busted me again! This time he didn't yell, however. This time he just shook his head, put his hands on his hips, and said, "Do you know what 'no more' means?"

It looks like I'm going to have to finish off this bag and get him a new one before Halloween. There are only about six left anyway.

Clearly I do not know what "no more" means. Yes, addiction is a difficult thing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Lesson in Church...

Every week at church we get sermon notes to fill in as we listen. Tucker's been practicing filling his in, but this week it was Keaton's turn. He looked at me and mumbled what were apparently questions, and then he began writing on the notes page. The result is adorable, yet perhaps sacriligious. (HINT: The first blank says "Keaton" and the second says "Tucker."

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Part of being a good mom is fulfilling your children's expectations. Sometimes those expectations are simple, like "Mom, can you get me some more chocolate milk?" Other times, they are ridiculous, like "Mom, can we buy a box at the new Cowboys stadium? We get to keep it forever." Sometimes, however, we are faced with expectations that we're certain we, ourselves, forced our children to adopt.

For example, Keaton had a field trip yesterday with his preschool class. They planned to go to the library and the park to have a picnic lunch. Keaton was SO excited! He went on and on and on about it for days leading up to the trip.

On the way to school on the big day, we had this conversation:

Keaton: Mom, do you have anything to tell me?

Me: Am I supposed to tell you something?

Keaton (thinks for a minute): Well, I'm not going to eat the sand at the park. They have sand at parks, you know.

That's when I realized what I was supposed to tell him. He needed his "Special Day Lecture." So I gave it to him:

Me: Okay, remember to listen to Ms. Monica and be a very good boy -- on your best behavior. Don't forget to remember everything so that you can tell me all about it.

Keaton (exasperated, with his "duh" voice): I will...

I can't believe I had forgotten our obligatory mom lecture and son frustration. I didn't realize Keaton and I were there yet with him being only four years old. He made it very clear, however, that these conversations are expected. I'll have to remember that.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Today at school, my ipod was stolen. With all of my classes, plus two other teachers and their students who float in and out of my room at various times of the day, there is truly no telling from whence the culprit came.

Yes, I know the ipod should have been hidden away somewhere safe. However, its resting place next to my computer and behind my printer doesn't exactly invite people to touch it, so I left it there today just like most other days. My faith in humanity told me that no one would steal my old, beat up ipod from behind my desk. That faith, however, proved to be unfounded today when an individual decided he needed my ipod more than I.

The other teachers who come into my room feel somehow responsible for this theft, but 'tis not their responsibility. This twisted thief is solely at fault; therefore, I wish upon him a terrible hex which causes his under-active conscience to eat away at his cold, black heart well into each night, causing him many anguished hours of lost sleep whilst he tosses and turns in bedsheets lined with his own misdeeds.

I shall complete this rant with a quote from Khaled Hosseini's brilliant debut novel, The Kite Runner:

"Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft...When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness...There is no act more wretched than stealing, Amir."

During first period tomorrow when I cannot listen to Ben Folds lift up his voice about how carefully Annie Waits, I will think of you, thief, with sadness. Sad that in your youth you have chosen to be a person who makes negative choices that impact others around you. Sad that you feel entitled to items you have not worked for. Sad that you have likely stolen before and likely will steal again.

My faith in humanity, however, you can never steal.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

They're Playing My Song

On the way home from soccer practice, I was listening to a wonderful classic country radio station (country legends 97.1 out of Houston- you can listen online), and the song "Daddy's Hands" by Holly Dunn came on the radio. This song holds good memories for me because I remember singing it at church on Father's Day many years and barely being able to get through it without crying. (I wonder where Tucker gets his over-emotional-ness from?) Anyway, I'm certain that Keaton has never heard this song before, but that didn't stop him from singing along. He said, "Oh I love this song. I used to sing it all the time when I was a little boy. Like when I was two." Hmmmm....

Thursdays are special because the boys get McDonalds. This is because we have football games, soccer games, and Grey's Anatomy after the boys go to bed. Life is better on Thursday nights when we're all happy.

Tonight Keaton announced that he wanted to go to Burger King because he could get a Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs toy. I was only slightly appalled by the impact on my child of too much tv and too many commericals, and off to BK we went.

When we got home, I intentionally turned on music instead of the tv (small steps, right?). When Keaton recognized James Taylor's voice, he immediately yelled for me to turn it to "Sweet Baby James" - his song.

As he sang along and I worked on this morning's dishes, this is the conversation we had:

Keaton:Why does he only call me James?
Me: Who?
Keaton: The person singing. Why does he only call me James instead of Keaton James?
Me: I guess that's just how the song goes.

I realized at this point that he really thinks the song was written and performed exclusively for and about him. I'll admit I chuckled. He sang along some more, then, this:

Keaton: Mom?
Me: Yes?
Keaton: Is that God singing my song to me?
Me: No, baby, it's James Taylor.
Keaton: Oh! Like Taylor Swift. Only her name is Taylor Swift and his name is James Taylor!
Me: Yes. Exactly like that.

Oh to live in Keaton's little brain...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A New Realm

It's been two weeks since my last update. We've entered a new realm of parenthood in the last two weeks - we have both boys playing sports. Tucker has started flag football season with games on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 6:00 and practices on Saturdays. This coming Tuesday is his first game, but he's been practicing on his regular schedule for two weeks. I've found I can get lots of Saturday afternoon grading done at football practice!

Keaton has finally delved into the world of childhood soccer, and it's wonderful! He's been waiting for half of his life (about two years) to put that soccer uniform on, and I think it's everything he ever dreamed of.

You see, when Keaton plays soccer, people yell and clap and cheer for him and the rest of his team. He adores the glory of it all, and he can't help but to turn to the crowd of his adoring fans and share a smile, even during the middle of the game. He runs and runs, and waves and waves, but he doesn't actually kick the ball. It doesn't matter, though, as long as the people will cheer.

As an added bonus, he was amazed and excited to learn that at half time he gets to eat oranges. And sometimes there's Gatorade. What more could a kid ask for?

While Tucker has always been very serious and competitive in everything, Keaton continues to find ways to make every single undertaking a world a fun, and it makes me happy to watch! Somehow it seems calmer around here even though we're busy. We're spending lots of time together without watching tv or being on the computer, and it's good to be together.

Cutting down on the tv is probably a good idea, too, because tonight as we were watching The Amazing Race the teams had to eat super-spicy wasabi bombs. After one girl finished her challenge, Trey said to me, completely under his breath, "She's going to be crapping fire."
To which Keaton replied emphatically, "Oh yeah! She's going to be crapping fire! Whew! Fire! That's right. Crapping fire!"

Yeah, I think we might need to cut down on the tv.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

One of each

Yep, I have a story from each boy this weekend.

First, Keaton. Yesterday, Keaton cut his hair. Not just a little trim, either, but a serious hair cut. He lost inches off the top, and the front of his hair was barely half an inch long. This, my baby with his handsome flowing locks, now all gone. Well, gone in chunks, anyway, because he's not particularly good at cutting hair.

I wasn't home when this happened. The story goes that Keaton was a little too quiet, so Trey went to check on him in our bathroom and found him weilding the scissors. The damage had already been done, however. Trey explained to him that he looked ridiculous and needed to go to his room.

Keaton fell apart in dispair. He sobbed, wailed in physical pain, and almost hyperventilated. He refused to look in the mirror at his hair. This went on for at least half an hour, and that's when I called. Trey explained the situation and his facisnation with how upset Keaton was about his beutiful hair being chopped to pieces.

Trey put Keaton on the phone, and what he said to me was incomprehensible. He was so broken about his hair. I've never seen or heard him so upset.

Yes, it was quite funny.

I came home, took him to Classic Cuts, and got the mess cleaned up a little. It doesn't look ridiculous, but it doesn't look like Keaton's flowing locks either. Maybe in a few weeks.

Now Tucker.

Tucker's fantasy football team is doing very well this week so far. He scored 19 points in the Thursday night with Sanantonio Holmes, and today things just got better. Most of his players had noon games, so he was going crazy. He had the stat tracker up on the computer and the Texans on the tv. He was yelling at the tv and the computer and shouting updated scores at us every thirty seconds or so. It was football season as it's best.

At some point he said to me, "Mom, I can smack talk my opponent on yahoo!"

I had seen the instant message-type link that allowed you to communicate with your opponent, but I hoped Tucker wouldn't find it (yeah, right). I explained that he really didn't need to be smack talking people he didn't know on the internet and let it go.

A little later I took a seventeen minute nap. After seventeen minutes Tucker yelled for me to wake up and Keaton climbed on top of me and kicked me in the face, so I gave up and woke up. As I walked past the computer I saw this in the "smack talk" box: "I"AM WINNING 94-36"

My first thought was that some internet stranger is about to start cussing out my six year old. I couldn't figure out how to delete the smack talk, so I took the only action a mother could take. I smack talked as well. It said this:

"FYI -- the superjacks team belongs to a six year old. I had no idea he would 'smack talk' while I was taking a nap. Yes, he's a freak about football. This is his mother."

And there you have it. Tucker saw that I posted, and I think he was a little annoyed by me, but thankfully he's too young to be humiliated.

But there's a lesson to be learned here, and I hope he learned it. If it's for his own good, I will humiliate him. It's my job as his mother, and while I may not like it, I'm not afraid to do it. So hoiw's that for smack talk?

I wonder how the guy feels that now knows he's getting killed by a six year old whose mother won't let him smack talk?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

Today is Labor Day, and while I didn't mind too much that I had to work, it turned out to be one of those days that I just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and start over.

I guess it started yesterday when every time I opened my mouth I ended up thinking "should I have said that?" It continued into today, where I just kept almost doing things right. You know as well as I do that almost just ain't gonna cut it. I'd rather totally screw up than get things almost right.

With a sigh of relief, I left school around 3:05 to attend my annual exam at the gynecologist. Turns out it's been about 18 months since I've been, and when I started getting threatening notes from the pharmacist about how he's not going to refill any more pills until I visit the doc, I decided to make an appointment. Today was the big day.

As I sat in the waiting room reading my book, an extended family came in, including two men, two women (one very pregnant), and two kids. One of the kids immediately began scraping a toy against the wall of the waiting room making the most awful sound. It was all I could do not to walk over and yank the toy from the kid's hands.

His parents (I guess they were his parents) didn't notice because they were having this conversation as loud as possible:

Man (to wife, I assume): You're an a*******.
Woman #1: You're a jerk.

Then everyone roared with laughter.

Woman #1: Are we all going to go in there?
Man: I'm not. I don't want to see her hoohah.
Woman #2: Whatever. They all look the same.
Man: The difference is that it's your hoohah and I only look at her hoohah. I don't want to see yours.

Roaring laughter again accompanied various profanities and the annoying SSCCCCRRRAAAPPPEE of the toy against the wall.

Here's what I was thinking: "PLEASE let me get back there to the doctor. PLEASE! I don't know how long I can take this without throwing things at them. I might kill them. No. I can't kill anybody. But I could hurt them. And I could make a scene, and then the nurses would come out, and they would think I was crazy and go ahead and call me out of the waiting room because they don't want the crazy lady to scare people. I could hurt them with my book. Yeah. Books are always the answer!"

I don't think I've ever looked so forward to seeing the gynecologist in my life.

Finally, just before I "accidentally" hurled Lord of the Flies across the room, they called my name. We did the usual weight and blood pressure thing (mine was higher than usual. wonder why?), and then off to the room we went. On the way, the nurse informed me that Dr. Davis had a student with him today.

I've had two kids which involved lots of people in the room. After a few hours of labor, modesty just seems a bit overrated. So bring on the students. I really don't think I'm interesting enough to be the one thing they remember from their day shadowing Dr. Davis. Mainly because I've seen the waiting room.

So I psych myself up for the impending exam, get naked, put on the gown open in the front, cover myself with the sheet, and sit.

And sit.

I was so grateful to be sitting semi-naked in a cold room all alone that I didn't even mind waiting. I could have sat there all day. It actually occurred to me to get my book back out and lay down on the bed until the doctor came in. Escape from the day a little, you know.

But then he did come in. He stuck his head in the door to say, "Hey Stormy! I've got to go deliver a baby. I'm sorry."

Humph. Of course. I should have known this would happen. I quickly reminded myself that he likely ditched some appointments throughout my two childbirth sessions, and smiled and told him no big deal. He asked when I was available again, and I mentally listed the several meetings I have scheduled this week. Finally I offered to go to the front desk and schedule something that I could later cancel after I checked my planner. Poor Dr. Davis was very apologetic, and I'm afraid I didn't look "carefree" enough about listening to Bret Michaels and family and then getting naked and mentally prepared to be medically violated all for nothing.

I really did (and do) understand. It was just the icing on my cake of day.

And now, after Fish Daddy's for dinner (to go and paid for with a gift certificate) and a rather large glass of wine, I am officially calling this day over.

Tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


As Trey was helping me plan my outfit for 80s day at school tomorrow, Keaton made suggestions about what I should wear and how I should wear it. Then he took a piece of fabric we were thinking of using as a belt, and had me tie it around him to be his belt. It looked more like a sarong.

Next, he got a hot dog lunchable out of the refrigerator, tossed it at me, and barked, "Heat that up for me." After I recovered from my shock, I tossed it right back to him and said, "No."

So he picked it up, handed it to me politely and said, "May you please heat up my lunchable, Mommy?"

"I'd be happy to," I replied.

Then he began joyously shouting something about a "pic-a-nick" and making dozens of trips from the pantry to my room carrying things like poptarts, oreos, and gummies.

Trey asked me, "What's he doing?"

"Something we'll have to clean up later, I'm sure," I replied.

And so goes another quiet evening at the Hickman house.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Grade

Can you believe I have a first grader?

Since the first day of school (we're three days in), I have asked Tucker all about first grade. I ask him what books he's read, who his new friends are, if his teacher is nice, if they do any work yet, if the work is math or science or reading, and on and on and on.

Here's what I've learned:
1. They still have recess.
2. Lunch is earlier than in kindergarten. This is a good thing.
3. Tucker has drawn his face.

That's it. I'm not even exaggerating when I say that I had to take his responses to my incessant questioning and add words to make them complete sentences. I began to think he got a strange pleasure from torturing me with no details. Today I'm convinced this is true.
We were sitting down having dinner, and I was telling him how much I've missed him this week after spending the whole summer with him. I was trying to be cool, asking casual questions about his day, secretly hoping he would give me some nugget of what life in first grade is like for him. Finally, I said, "Do you like Mrs. Patton?"

Tucker: Yeah. She's nice. If you're tired, she lets you go into the office and lay down so you can sleep.
Me: Really? (I think I must have looked surprised because he kept going.)
Tucker: Yep! Anytime you're tired.
Me: Have you been to the office to lay down?
Tucker: Yeah! Today I went to the office and took a long nap. Actually, I slept like all day.
Me: You did not! Did you really go to the office and sleep because you were tired?
Tucker: Yep! I slept all day long.

My jaw dropped. I looked at Trey, and my eyes said "I can't believe he went to the office to sleep all day because he was tired! He is taking advantage! He will go to bed at 6:30 tonight if he doesn't have enough rest. This is unacceptable!"

Trey then responded to my look with, "I think he got you. He's pulling your leg."
I looked up to see Tucker who was now in the living room peeking at me from behind a chair, trying not to roll on the floor with laughter.

Rotten kid. Taking advantage of a poor, loving mother who just wants to know about first grade!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Apparently my kids are toothpaste challenged.

For their entire lives, we've spoiled them in various ways. One of those ways is that when they're tired, we'll go get their toothbrush, put some toothpaste on it, and bring it to them for their brushing needs. Kind of like a mobile tooth-brushing unit. We realized the error of our ways when we started finding toothbrushes all over the house and the boys felt that they were physically incapable of getting their own pasted-up toothbrushes. At least that's what I gathered from the screaming when we asked them to go to the bathroom and brush their teeth all alone.

So, this summer when I devised the chore chart and paired it up with potential allowance, one of the chores the boys took on is brushing their teeth and putting their toothbrushes away. Yes, all by themselves, with no deliveries involved. This is revolutionary! (You can make your own customized chore chart here.)

I have to say we've made progress. Generally they enjoy checking things off the list on the chore chart, and that's often the encouragement they need to get up and do something themselves. Well, that along with my threat of "I'm about to start taking dollars!" from their allowance.

However, their new found independence has come with a price. It appears that their are either unskilled with toothpaste tubes, OR their goal is to make the entire bathroom minty fresh. I just scrubbed toothpaste from the top of the mirror (how did it get there?), the side of the bathtub, underneath the soap dispenser, and various spots on both bathroom rugs. This doesn't include the countertop itself and one lone spot on the hallway carpet. Seriously? I now have this mental picture of me saying "Go brush," and them catching the other's eye with a knowing look that means "Let the toothpaste wars begin!"

I was really thinking that the next big mom pet peeve we'd work on is the spit trail in the sink. It grosses me out that they just spit on the side of the sink wall and leave it there to harden. I mean people have to wash their hands in that sink, and they don't want to look at your calcified spit trail while they do it. But now I see I have a different priority.

We've mastered potty training years ago, but is there such a thing as toothpaste training?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Break Up

I need to half break up with our allergist.

Last August, we finally took Tucker to a local allergist for the disgusting skin problems he's had since birth. After that scary day of back scratch testing, the doc determined that he is allergic to eggs. Many other tests were run that day, and Tucker was officially diagnosed with asthma. We'd known for a few years he has asthma, but besides a few flare-ups a year that are really bad, he's a healthy little kid.

Anyway, he stopped eating egg products, his skin was miraculously better, and life was grand. I'm not even being dramatic when I say that his quality life was drastically changed for the better when he suddenly didn't have the skin of a leper. It was so good, in fact, that we made an appointment for Keaton to be tested, too. His skin had been bad all along, but I don't think it bothered us too much because our perspective was skewed by Tucker's awful skin.

Keaton's back scratch test day revealed that he is allergic to eggs, peanuts, and just about every airborne thing a person can be allergic to. Since then, he doesn't eat eggs or peanut butter, and he gets allergy shots every week so that in three to five years he'll be all better.

So basically, Keaton needs to keep going to the allergist because he gets shots every week and check-ups every six months or so.

When Tucker goes to the allergist, they do a lung function test (he has something crazy like 157% lung capacity), give him a breathing treatment, do another lung function test, and send us away with about $200 of new asthma meds to try. This process takes from two to three hours, and the only real issue I have with it is that Tucker is fine. He's a healthy little boy, and Trey and I see no need to test and medicate him for something that doesn't affect his life at all. It's time for Tucker and the allergist to break it off.

"This will be easy," I thought. I cancelled Tucker's next check-up and thought I had ended things in a polite, non-confrontational way. Trey suggested that I not take Tucker with us to Keaton's appointment in case it reminded the doctor that he thinks he needs to see Tucker. I talked all big about how I was okay with telling the doc that we felt that our pediatrician could handle Tucker's asthma, so we wouldn't be coming back. But I went ahead and left Tucker with Trey's mom when we went for Keaton's visit.

At the very end of Keaton's check up, the doctor said, "When do I see Tucker again?"

"Ummmm... I don't think he has anything scheduled."

"Okay, well, I'll just check him out next time I see Keaton," he replied.

"Ummmm... okay."

Then he followed me up to the counter where I was to check out and told the receptionist that he'd see Keaton and his brother Tucker together in three months. He told me to have a good day, and that was that.

I am such a chicken. I have until November 18th to devise a break-up plan. Do you think you can break up with a doctor via text?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Checking In...

Tomorrow is the last day of a fabulous summer. Here are a few updates.

Joe, a student from King College in Tennessee has lived with us this summer while he played for the Brazos Valley Bombers baseball team. We were his host family. As such, we got season tickets to the games, and the boys got a live-in famous hero for the summer. He may as well play for the Astros because he is just that famous to them.

Tucker spent a good bit of the summer googling "cheapest catcher's mask" and calculating how many weeks of allowance it would take him to buy one. On Sunday, Joe went to the store and bought him one. I don't think he took it off for three days straight. He wore it to HEB, to my school, and everywhere in between. Joe got Keaton a "super cool" racetrack that has a shark that tries to eat the cars. It's still in the living room floor so we can play with it all the time.

Tucker has increased his technological savvy this summer, too. He's created his own blog (I helped set it up, but I'm hands off now), he's bookmarked ESPN, the Texas Collegiate League, and the Brazos Valley Bombers, and he's started emailing. I worried about him not reading or doing any math all summer, but between scores and emails, he done plenty.

Keaton's been on the computer some, too. He really loves to do online jigsaw puzzles. He REALLY loves them. He's also started to do some things for himself. Let's be honest, I wasn't sure that would ever happen! :) He wants to buckle his own seatbelt and get his own peaches off the counter. I'm happy to see him finding some independence. We've just signed him up for his first go at soccer this fall, and I think I'm more excited than he is. I'm sure there will be many stories to come out of that.

I've been having fun writing for money. It's a silly little project, but it's fun for me to get paid to see my name in "print." You can check my work out here.

Trey's working like crazy, and glad to be. I think he leaves work every day thinking he has enough stuff to do to stay for a few more hours, but I'm glad he comes home to us. He's also been working really hard to get in shape, and I can tell that he looks better and feels better which makes me very happy. You can find details on that here.

School starts for me on Friday, without students for six days, then full force. Everyone's kind of laughed at me because I'm so excited about the beginning of the year, but I just love it. I love the idea of new beginnings: new people to laugh with, new students to help, new friends for the boys. More than that, I really hate the ends of things. Most of my yearbook kids are leaving for college in the next two weeks, Joe went back to Tennessee this morning, summer's over, and I hate goodbyes and see you laters and all that. So I'm choosing to get excited about the beginnings instead of being sad about the endings.

So I hope to be back to my usual zany posts once the fall semester returns us to the wonderful routines of life. In the meantime, it's been a great summer.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Verse or Three

I taught our Sunday school class this morning. (I'm the "C" team and glad to be!) Anyway, we read this scripture and it really got me. It's Isaiah 58:9-11.

"Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and He will say: Here I am. If you do away with the yoke of opression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the opressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."

I just needed to share. :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

And the King of the Pukers is...

A quick little stomach virus has attacked our children, and it's reminded me once again how different the boys are. What follows is not for the faint of heart (or stomach).

Tucker got sick while we were on vacation. First, he threw up in the parking lot of the Alamodome. We poured a bottle of water over the evidence and went inside to see the Dallas Cowboys training camp.

My dear husband with all of his foresight made sure that we picked up a merchandise bag for the trip home. That turned out to be evidence of his brilliance.

Further evidence is that he sat in the front seat while I held a plastic bag full of barf all the way from San Antonio to new Braunfels. I'm not going to lie, he offered to switch, but I was already left "holding the bag" and it seemed silly to trade.

We got Tucker back to the rented house, cleaned him up, and put him in the bed next to a trash can with clear instructions about where he was to vomit.

Then he puked in the bed. Everywhere in the bed. So we cleaned him up, removed the sheets that didn't belong to us, and put him back in the bed with a reminder about the trash can.

Then he puked in the bed with no sheets. We repeated our clean up procedure, and this time scrubbed and disinfected the mattress that didn't belong to us. Then we repeated, much more clearly this time, that when you have to throw up, you should make sure your face is positioned over a receptacle to hold the vomit so that it can be easily cleaned up. We put him on a towel in the bed away from the previous vomit spots.

Then he puked on the carpet. Only this time, the blue Imodium we had given him came up, too. I believe Trey's exact words to Tucker at this point were "What the hell are you doing?" As a result of this outburst, Trey got a very stern look from me, but I have to be honest that I could see where he was coming from.

Finally...FINALLY...Tucker puked in the toilet. It was so momentous that Trey gave him a dollar. I think it was also to alleviate some of his guilt for the frustration he had shown earlier.

Fast forward about a week. We had put the boys to bed and started watching The Next Food Network Star when I heard Keaton coughing. After a third cough it occurred to me that he could be throwing up, so I ran to our bed where he was sleeping. He had emptied his stomach all over our comforter.

So Trey took him in the bathroom to comfort him and hose him off while I spray-n-washed the heck out of the bedspread. I got the sheets, Keaton's PJs, pillow cases, and comforter and started the washer.

We put Keaton on a towel on the couch and placed a trash can beside him. For the rest of the night my little angel puked his guts up in the trash can, and I was so proud. After each vomiting episode he would say, "I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm okay."

And he IS okay, because he is the King of the Pukers!


So it all started like this:

Trey and I had packed and loaded the truck, and we were each strapping in one of the portable DVD screens so the boys could watch a movie on the road. The tailgate was down, and Keaton wasn't paying attention. So *BAM* went Keaton's face into the tailgate.

We called Dr. Don (resident saint), went by his house, and then went on to Scott and White Urgent Care to see Dr. Ransom (pediatric resident saint). Ultimately, once the wound under his eye was cleaned out it began to go back together, so we decided against stitches or skin glue. We decided he'd live.
Sidenote: Keaton was laughing and talking before I got the camera out. As soon as he saw it, he put on his best pitiful face. Pretty good, huh?

Finally, we drove to New Braunfels where my parents had rented a lake house for the week. Mom, Dad, Brian, Colton, and Melanie were all there waiting for us. On day one, we visited Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, and then swam all afternoon at the Landa Park Pool in New Braunfels.
Day two we went to San Antonio, where we visited the San Antonio Zoo, the IMAX movie, and the Alamo. We also ate a delicious lunch on the Riverwalk.

A note about the IMAX: We decided to take the kids to see the Alamo movie at IMAX. We thought it would be cool to see the movie and then go to the actual Alamo. It wasn't until we got into our seats that I remembered the details of the Alamo. Yep. Everyone dies. Everyone. So we saw James Bowie, Davy Crockett, and William B. Travis get shot, stabbed, and otherwise hacked up by Santa Anna's army. All in surround sound and on a wall-sized screen.

The boys loved it.

Day three we slept in, fished a little, and basically hung out in the morning. In the afternoon, however, Dad, Trey, Tucker, Keaton, and I drove into San Antonio to visit the Dallas Cowboys training camp. I don't know if Dad or Tucker was more excited.

The anticipation grew as we pulled into the Alamodome parking lot, exited the car, and began the long trek up to the entrance. That's when Tucker started vomiting everywhere.

After a moment of weakness, he manned up and decided he wanted to see the Cowboys with or without vomit, and we let him. The #7 in the middle is the Aggies' own Stephen McGee.

I think we were there about 45 minutes before Tucker started feeling really sick, so we told him it was time to go. This is how he spent the last night of his vacation:

Despite two small incidents of illness and injury, we had a fabulous time. It was really fun to spend so much time with my parents, and I know the boys enjoyed Grandma and Pop and the cousins. It was a wonderful break from life in general! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

So I'm a terrible summer blogger. I really need to write about our vacation, but that's not what I want to do right now.

Today at church we had one of those fabulously imperfect services. More specifically, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Our senior pastor was out of town, so our two new associate pastors were leading the service. It all started when the minister was welcoming people to church and an old man in the front row interrupted him to tell him that the volume wasn't up loud enough. (That never happens at our church.) The wrong words were projected on the screen, the choir was singing one verse while the congregation was singing another, the ministers tried to do a special liturgy before communion that, well, just bombed (can you say that about a liturgy?). It looked like a disaster.

But it was so far from a disaster. It was wonderful.

Preacher Tommy was preaching. (I think here they would call him "Reverend," which is weird to me because my Baptist upbringing tells me he's "Brother." So I'll just call him "Preacher" for fun.)

Anyway, Preacher Tommy was talking about the lesson in John Wesley's sermon #7 "The Circumcision of the Heart," and it was based on Romans 2:29 which says this:

"No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God."

Now, this is obviously not an anatomy lesson. It's the idea that all of our outward signs of goodness don't mean anything. Preacher Tommy reiterated the fact that circumcision is a private matter. I hope you'll agree that it's not something you know about everyone you know, right? It served as a private reminder of who the Jews were and who they belonged to.

It struck me that my life's successes are not measured by how I stack up to the people around me. That's a bit of a revelation. Here's why:

I'm competitive. I like to be good at things. How do people measure how good they are? We weigh ourselves against other people and evaluate who's on top. The only problem is that I'm neither Michael Jordan nor Ernest Hemingway nor Abraham Lincoln, so there's always someone better than me at, well, everything.

I left school last year "beat down" (for lack of better words). I measured myself against everyone around me and felt that I didn't hold a candle to them. I know better teachers than me, better moms, better wives, better Christians. I looked around me and saw that I wasn't the best at anything, so I felt like I was good at nothing.

This is the part where all of my friends reading this feel bad for me, so let me just head them off here. This is no pity party. This is me calling myself out. Dare I say it? It was sinful for me to measure myself in such a way.

God doesn't call us to line ourselves up and see who's done the most charity work or worked the most hours or made the most homemade pies. He measures our hearts, and he calls us to do the same. That's why the circumcision was a private thing, you see? It's not about where we stack up with the world, it's about where we stack up with God.

Preacher Tommy also gave us an excerpt of Wesley's "22 Questions to Ask Yourself Daily." (You can read them all here.) They are questions such as:
  • Can I be trusted?
  • Am I enjoying prayer?
  • Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  • Am I defeated in any part of my life?

None of them, and I mean NONE of them, say "Am I as good as that person?"

For some reason, these really hard questions bring me immense relief. I know that if I'm living right - if what's on the inside is right - then everything else is exactly as it should be.

Back to the delicious disaster that was our service this morning. On the outside, it may have looked like nothing went right, but on the inside, nothing went wrong.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Today I told a four year old child that there was no more food so he couldn't have lunch. Then I watched him cry.

I was ten minutes from my house.

One of the outreach missions of our church is called Southgate Lunches. In the summer, various groups take a day or two and deliver sack lunches to kids at Southgate Village Apartments who otherwise wouldn't have lunch. I assume these kids gets free breakfasts and lunches at school, but in the summer there just isn't enough money for the two extra meals per day per kid. Our church also collects breakfast cereal to deliver to these kids.

This week, our Sunday school class was assigned three days: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. There was some debate over whether we needed 100 or 120 lunches, and we chose to go ahead and make 300 for the three days. Monday night, we met at the church and assembly-lined ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, fruit snacks, and juice boxes into paper bags, and then we loaded them into the church's giant refrigerator.

Yesterday, a few members from our class delivered the lunches, and I signed up to help today (Wednesday) and tomorrow. One of yesterday's volunteers told me that they used all 100 lunches they took, but there were no extra. So I decided to take 120, but leave 20 in the car to use today if necessary, but keep until tomorrow if not necessary.

The boys and I loaded up 5 boxes of lunches and headed to Southgate. When we arrived at 12:10, there were more kids in line at the distribution table than I could count. There were so many that I thought I was late, but the coordinator who met me there (Bonnie) assured me that the delivery time was, in fact, 12:15. Trey came on his lunch break to help, too, so he unloaded lunches from the car while I helped Bonnie.

Then we started passing out lunches. Bonnie asked each child their apartment number, and then the kids rattled off the names of the children in that apartment. Some had as many as five kids. We made sure each child was present to personally pick up the lunch, and Bonnie checked them off in her notebook as I handed kids sack lunches.

We had barely gotten started when a young woman walked up with her little boy who looked about four - Keaton's age. She asked for a form. I realized then that parents have to complete a registration form for their children to receive the lunches. I'm sure there are bureaucratic reasons for this, but I also know that's how we figure out if kids are allergic to certain foods and things like that. Anyway, Bonnie quickly handed her a form, and we continued passing out lunches.

The woman's little boy came around to the side of the distribution table, anxiously awaiting his delicious sack lunch. Bonnie calmly reminded him that his mom was filling out the form, and we had to make sure everyone on the list got a lunch first, but then he could have one. He sweetly said, "okay" and just stayed right there with his big brown eyes watching us pass lunch after lunch across the table.

As we neared the end of the lunches, Trey got my attention to tell me he only found five boxes in the car. Yes, I told him, I brought five boxes. That's when I realized there were 20 lunches in each box. I had only brought 100 lunches.

About fifteen kids in line didn't get a lunch today, and when they realized the food was gone they just turned to walk back home. Bonnie, knowing many of them by name, called out that we'd be ready for them tomorrow and we were sorry. The little boy waiting by the table turned to his mom, buried his face in her leg just like my kids do to me, and cried silently. She told him it was okay. There'd be more tomorrow.

We were ten minutes from my house.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tuck's Town

Tucker REALLY wanted to start his own blog, and Trey and I decided it would be okay. Go check him out at

Keaton wants a blog, too, but he's not a very good speller yet.



Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Talk

Can we talk about books for just a sec?

In the summer, I usually devour books. Many years I find a wonderful, inspiring piece of literature that makes me a little more who I am, and I look forward to this experience when school lets out every year.

This year, however, has been a disappointment.

Let me begin at the beginning. When school let out, I finished Gone With the Wind which I had been reading for several months during the spring semester. I loved this book, and I can see why it's a classic. It's an epic tale with characters that surpass their time period. It was good.

Then I read The Last Child. This is a book I picked up on a whim because, well, there were killers in it and I enjoy reading about killers from time to time. The book itself is okay. The only real issue I can find with it is that the plot isn't as well produced as it could have been. For me, the plot of a story needs to either be believable or so well-constructed and mystical that I don't care that it's not believable. This book was neither. There was a kid, whose ancestors were Native Americans, who killed an eagle for its feather, who put on war paint to find the killer. It was just kind of "eh."

Then I read Rhett Butler's People, the sequel to Gone With the Wind that was commissioned by Margaret Mitchell's estate. It was good, too. Not as good as the original (that would be blasphemous), but good nonetheless. Rhett Butler is the perfect man in that he is perfectly imperfect, and reading his side of the Scarlet O'Hara affair was a pleasure (even if Melanie became a suspicious, catty little thing).

Next I began The Picture of Dorian Gray. I say began because I didn't finish it, although I probably will some day. It's just not what I was looking for in a summer read.

So I started reading The Doctor's Wife thinking it would be a good, quick, fluff read. As I got into it I realized it's about a doctor who performs abortions in his free time but doesn't have time to spend with his family, his wife who rationalizes having a physical relationship with someone other than her husband because he works too much, and some wildly crazy fundamental Christians who want to blow up everything that isn't pasted with a Jesus bumper sticker.

Early on, when I realize the doctor's beliefs regarding abortion, I start hoping this thing doesn't get too preachy. I'm firmly against abortion, but don't be offended because I don't think you're a malicious idiot or anything if you disagree with me. In fact, I felt more convicted to keep reading because it's often good for us to read about people and ideas we disagree with. It's sometimes called education, and I'm strongly in favor of it. So I kept reading.

But I don't like these people.

I realize yet again that I'm addicted to characters that I either love or hate. I need a book with someone I can root for. Someone I can watch grow and change for the better or worse. But I've happened on this book with mediocre, morally-depraved people who rationalize their physical relationships with people other than their spouses because he/she doesn't pay enough/pays too much attention to them. In short, I don't like them at all. Not because I don't agree with them, but because they're, well, pedestrian.

(Hey, I just realized a little irony from Fahrenheit 451 where they arrest people for being pedestrians but encourage people to be commonplace. hmmm)

Anyway, in the words of Bonnie Tyler, I need a hero. I need Amir from The Kite Runner, a boy who makes mistakes he must pay for well into his adulthood as he learns how important it is to find redemption and forgive himself. I need Edgar Sawtelle, a young man whose life as he knows it is ripped from him and he has to use every faculty he has to save his mother and himself from a family past they don't even know is haunting them. I need someone to love or hate as he or she travels life's weary road and finds beauty and gritty sadness along the path.

So, dear blogfans, please recommend a book for me before summer is over. I think it's sufficed to say that I am, indeed, a book snob, and this summer is proof. Give me something good.