Small Blue Snow Boot

From the Archives of Teaching Tuck and Ty

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We decided to do a family trip to King Soopers on Saturday night. (For my readers in the midwest, this is the Colorado version of Kroger. Think Giant Eagle… with mountains.)


The boys were both happy and cooperative when we left the house, but as we strolled the aisles and balanced food around them in the cart, they began to lose their patience with us and the whole grocery shopping process. Well, to be specific, Tyler wasn’t particularly bothered, since he sat above it all in his carseat, but Tucker was wishing to be down, down, down.


He has started this new sassy, back-talking thing, where he shouts at us, “Bah!” He does it in response to any kind of sharp tone from either one of us, and when he’s really mad, he couples it with ramming his head into my thigh. It’s darling.


Robb and I have had enough of this attitude of his, and we had decided together that from now on, he gets one warning when he is mean, and then he gets a spanking. (I am not opposed to spanking; I think it is a very important and appropriate punishment when done correctly, but unfortunately a few overly angry, out of control parents out there have given it a bad name.)


He needs to know that it is never okay to be mean, no matter how angry he is.


(Could I just say, this is an especially fine line for us to determine, since Tucker doesn’t have other words to show us his anger and frustration. I have taught him the sign for mad, but other than that, his choices are few in showing his emotions. As I said, it’s definitely okay for him to be angry, but he cannot be mean. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference, but I am asking the Lord for wisdom on that one.)




Tucker was growing more and more agitated as I checked things off my list, and he finally crossed the line into the yelling and talking back. “Bah! Bah! Bah!”


Robb looked at me, and we shared a parental, nonverbal exchange, in which we agreed: it was time. He had been warned enough, and it was time for a trip to the bathroom. Robb snatched him out of his seat in the cart, and he carried him to the front of the store to the men’s restroom.


Meanwhile, I finished my shopping.


The two of them joined me at the checkout counter, and that’s when I noticed: Tucker was missing one of his snowboots. And you know, after filling my cart with this week’s recipe ingredients, that boot could have been anywhere. I suspected he lost it in his transition from the cart to the restroom, but who could know for sure?


Robb began the search, tracing our steps. The clerk said to me, “Ma’am, is he missing a shoe?”


“Yes, and my husband is looking for it. Thank you for asking.”


And just like that, before I knew what was happening, he picked up his telephone and announced over the intercom:


“Attention, King Soopers Customers. Attention, King Soopers Customers. If anyone finds a small blue snowboot, please deliver it to the customer service desk. I repeat: If anyone finds a small blue snowboot, please deliver it to the customer service desk. Thank you.”




He began scanning my items, while employees came from far and wide: “Oh, you’re missing a shoe? Can we see the other one, so we know what to look for? Would you like to give us your name and phone number, so we can call you if it shows up?”


Meanwhile, Tucker is still crying his head off. I knew he was still crying over his conversation with Daddy in the bathroom, and anyone who knows American Sign Language knew that he had asked if he could please still ride the penny horse before we left, and I had said no. His tears had nothing to do with his feet, but everything to do with this will being thwarted.


But to all the passersby, and there were many, he appeared to be terribly brokenhearted over a lost boot. They were patting his hand, smiling, consoling, and saying, “We’ll find it, little buddy.” They all but offered him a candy bar to dry his tears.


Finally, Robb came back, with the boot in his hand. Get this: He had found it in the cleaning aisle, on the bottom shelf, behind some merchandise.


That was one good kick, Tucker. I’ll give you that.


Everyone was relieved the boot was found, not the least of which was myself, since this meant we could go home. Finally.


We bid farewell to all the sojourners who helped us complete the journey, we bundled our children to go out into the winter’s night, and we loaded the groceries into the minivan to drive the 4 minutes to our home.


The boys were now starving to death, as evidenced by their wailing and gnashing of teeth, so I got them settled in their high chairs and began fixing a baby meal, a toddler meal, and two adult meals; all the while, Robb carried in bag after bag of food from the garage.


Before we could eat, several new things went wrong; I won’t bother you with the details or the list of errors, but suffice it to say that I was drawing dangerously close to my limit. The boys were still screaming, and I had really had enough.


We finally sat down to join Tucker who was already eating and to continue feeding Tyler his jar of Ginger Chicken and Vegetables (which he would not swallow, but held his mouth open with it sitting just inside his lower lip, waiting for someone to catch what he would not consume). I tried to pull the high chair closer to me, but it got caught on the Elmo backpack underneath the table, and I couldn’t move it closer.


This, my friends, was the last straw.


In total exasperation, I held my head in my hands. I needed a moment. I wasn’t sure what was coming next with my emotions, but I was at the end of my rope.


Robb jumped up from his chair and said, “What do you need?”


“The high chair. Can’t move it. The backpack. In the way.” I was reduced to fragmented sentences, which is really not my style. It’s the sign of a near mental breakdown.


In an act of pure chivalry, he picked up the backpack and launched it into the living room, and he rolled Tyler’s chair closer to me.


“What else do you need?” he asked.


“I think that’s all.”


My poor, sweet, very tired husband knelt in front of me and said with great intensity, “I need you to stay with me. I can’t have you losing it when they are both already out of control. If you lose it in a moment like this, Tricia, I swear to you, I will get in the car and go somewhere. Please. Stay with me.”


I burst out laughing.


He was so right! I can’t lose it right now! What on earth would he do if I started bawling right along with the children? I can’t do that to him. I laughed and laughed, because that’s just what you do when you can only either laugh or cry. You make your choice, and you give in to it.


I said, “Fair enough. I’m here.”


And I was. And I will be.

For the Love of Tyler

Tyler was building a sand castle on the shores of Oceanside beach.


“Hey, Mommy, do you have a little bucket?  Or a hat or something?”


“What do you need it for?”


“To collect tips.”


* * *


He has a solid theory on how the inside of his nose could get a sunburn.  And he has thereby taught me to be thankful that my nostrils do not point the other way, and neither does the flesh of my nose open like an umbrella.


* * *


I unpacked our snacks at the pool, including chips, carrots, cheese, and giant marshmallows – so big that Tyler can eat them like an apple.  He chose the marshmallow first.


I said, “I’m guessing you won’t get to the cheese.”


He laughed to himself.  “You’re guessing?!”


* * *


He scraped his chin on a trampoline.

I offered him a BandAid.

He opted for an ace bandage.

He wrapped it around his neck in thick loops.

And he wore it for the rest of the evening.

All throughout the neighborhood.


* * *


I am in love with this kid.  I told him so.

He raised his eyebrows, horrified.

“In love?!  What?!  No.  I won’t have that.”

Loving Well

“Loving well,

stepping over hurt,

laying aside self and desires,

draws on more of our interior resources than investing in a career,

a skill, a personal pursuit.

And yet, there are no promotions.

No public status. No guarantees.”

~ Ann Voskamp


I saw a snake.

And I need for you to respect the great restraint and control in those four words. I actually cannot handle the idea of them, let alone a face to face encounter. Even as I write, simply remembering the scene, I’m lifting my feet off the floor. I could scream like a little girl over the mention of a snake. I lose all decorum and sense of maturity and control. So read those first four words with this intensity in mind.

I .SAW. A. SNAKE. Holy cats. There was a snake. S-N-A-K-E.

Our California friends had warned us – quite casually, actually – that snakes do in fact live in that mountainous, desert climate. This was nearly enough to send me with my packed luggage on the first flight back to Colorado, where snakes also live but I pretend they don’t.

“We’ve seen a few of them this summer – rattlesnakes that is. Let’s see. There was one in the garage and one on the deck. And there was one in the kitchen one day.”

In the kitchen, she said.

They showed us the shovel they use to kill snakes as needed. It’s also the shovel they use to scoop dog poop as needed. Handy tool, that shovel.

A week later, Kate walked out to the pool with a tray of beverages, and she said with measured steadiness, “Oh! Oh. Hello, you. Snake, you.”

We all jumped from our beach chairs and came running to see it, stopping in a frozen pose at an appropriate, safe distance. I’ll tell you what, I don’t know how big he was or how long or how fierce. Because it doesn’t matter. They are all the same degree of terror for me.

I’ve only ever seen snakes in a great big hurry to slither to their hidden safety. I’ve never seen a snake move so slowly, with such intention. As if he owned the place.


My brother is brave. My hero. He reached for that handy shovel with plans to save the family from our demise. Rather than chop it into a million pieces that would leave snake entrails smeared on the pool deck, he slid the shovel underneath Mr. Snakey McTerror and planned to toss him over the fence.

Kate said, “Tricia, look out over there. This thing could come your way. I mean, he won’t mean to, but he may throw it right at you.”

“I won’t throw it at her,” Rob said.

“I’m just saying. You’re a musical theater kid who’s about to try to throw a snake over a fence. Tricia, look out.”

* * *

We all survived. My brother saved the day.

And weeks later, here I sit with my ankles in the air, my laptop precarioiusly balanced on my knees.