Thursday, December 14, 2017

Another Teenager in the Wood House


This is my new 15 year old!


His crew of friends came over to celebrate with pizza and cake.


Can't believe my baby is in a tux!


New teenager!


Officially half of our sons are teens!


Connor celebrated his day at a Pacers game!

I've always heard the expression, "The days are long, but the years are short."  I believe this quote primarily applies to motherhood.

For years, I was knee-deep in diapers and baby food.  Then, before I had a chance to protest, I'm knee-deep in hormones and acne.

Time stand still.

It was birthday weekend for the Woods.  Our two older sons have birthdays within a day of each other.  (We really should have thought that through!)  Both birthdays fell on the weekend.

This birthday weekend felt monumental.  Caleb is now 15 years old.  He has reached the age where he can attain a learners permit.  Driving is within his near future.

Connor is 13 years old.  He's a teenager, in every sense of the word.  Toy trucks and legos are no longer part of his world.  Sports, friends, and phones dominate his thinking.

Half of our sons are now teenagers.

I've become a teenage boy mom.

This fact has caused me to rethink my role.  

Gone are the days where I'm cutting up food into little bites.  Now I am purchasing and preparing food....all the time.  I'm no longer putting little ones to bed, but desperately wanted to put myself to bed while teenage boys are still going strong.  I'm monitoring iPhones, and not playdates.

I pray the next amount of days don't move too fast.  The years these boys are remaining in the house are short.  This fact I know from experience.






Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Learning to be a good neighbor from a child


Christmas Tree is Up!

For about two months, we've lived in the "country."  By country, I mean we no longer live in a neighborhood.  Our mailing address consists of a series of numbers and directions.  Farm fields run along the back of our property.

We do have two neighbors that live on either side of our home.  Upon moving into our home, one set of neighbors quickly made their introductions.  They are a friendly young couple with a baby on the hip and a toddler racing around the yard.  They welcomed us into their "neighborhood," but warned that the neighbors on the other side of our home were not, shall we say, "social."

The neighbors' warning came as no surprise to our family.  By the appearance of the house alone, we had reservations on whether these neighbors would welcome us with open arms.  The home could best be described as a warehouse-like structure.  Rarely, if ever, did I see anyone outside the home.  With my runaway imagination, I wandered if they were stockpiling weapons or creating some sort of militia group within the walls (which we wouldn't be able to see because the house lacks many windows).  
We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be neighbors who merely coexisted in close proximity to each other lacking any sort of relationship.  

Yesterday, Cooper and I decided to walk through the farm field behind our property.  As our feet crunched the broken corn husks, Cooper gazed at the warehouse home.

"Let's go meet the neighbors," he proclaimed.  "And bring them cookies."

I tried to talk him out of it.

"They look busy," I guessed.

"What if they have weapons," I warned.

"Wouldn't that be a better activity for another day," I suggested.

Cooper would not waiver on his resolution to make our acquaintances.

We grabbed a plate of homemade cookies sitting on our counter and piled them on a paper plate.  Then, we made the (seemingly) long walk over to the warehouse.  Cooper raced ahead, while I lagged behind battling the multitude of reservations bubbling in my mind.

He rang the bell and knocked on the door to ensure our presence was known.  Within seconds, a man appeared.

He wasn't clutching a weapon or wearing fatigues.  He didn't appear gruff.  In fact, he looked completely normal with a welcoming smile.  After happily accepting the paper plate of cookies, we began a series of small talk and introductions.  Slowly my built up anxiety began to wane and a feeling of shame grew in my heart.  It took my 11 year old to teach me to be a good neighbor, look past the outer appearances, and work past fear.

I walked back to our house with a feel of gratefulness for a son who taught me a lesson in the true meaning of how to love a neighbor.  






Monday, December 4, 2017

Weekend Recap: First Dance, Quiz Bowl, and Moon Gazing


Lunch birthday celebration for our friend Suzanne.




Quiz bowl match.  What I learned is that I am too dumb to make the high school team!


First dance for these two dapper men!



Absolutely beautiful December day (look no coats!).  Perfect day to spend at a Christmas tree farm.




I remember that at one time weekends were relaxing.  I have vague memories about spending hours on the couch without a set agenda or a massive to do list.

How I miss those days.

Weekends now, with four growing boys, have transformed into revolving carpools, endless sporting events, constant birthday parties or social events, and a slew more.

This weekend was no different.

On Saturday morning, Caleb participated in a quiz bowl competition, and I was his designated cheerleader.  Caleb and three other equally shrewd high school students sat on one side of the table with an ingenious group of opponents placed on the opposite side.

I took a seat in the back within earshot of the moderator reading the questions.  By the second question, I knew that I lacked the brain power to make the team.  Famous Dutch painters and complex mathematical equations are no longer in my wheelhouse of knowledge.  (Who am I kidding....they never were.)  At that moment, I realized that we share similar biological traits, but a love of quiz bowl in no way was inherited from my genes.  Be grateful, sweet son, that you have a father who could give any Jeopardy contestant a run for his or her money.

By the evening, our family experienced a first.  Connor went to his first boy-girl dance.  He made the decision to attend the night before, which put us into a tailspin to hunt down the proper dance clothing.  We selected brown leather shoes from Target which Connor complained looked like tap shoes.  A tie was selected from Kohls.  We landed on a comprise: a clip on tie that was appropriate, yet functional.

I tried to prep Connor about interacting with a girl.  He expressed displeasure in continuing the conversation and questioned whether I was in a position to coach him on girl interaction.  I reminded him that I am in fact a female, and may have a bit of personal experience dealing with my own gender.  I also tried to coach him on dance moves to which he also rebuked my offers. (I guess he's never really seen me bust a move on the dance floor!)

Although I had some fears about the going ons at the dance (images of Connor holed up in the corner with a girl while locking lips), Connor recounted that he didn't dance one bit and claimed to not even talk to a single female all evening.  But, he seemed pleased to have spent the evening with same-gender friends while wearing a clip on tie and tap shoes.  Success in my book!

On Sunday, the weekends' activities had me spent.  The holiday season left me with a massive to do list. I struggled with what to tackle first.  While I was frantically running around my kitchen, Cooper asked me to sit outside with him and stare at the moon. 

Last night, you see, the super moon made an appearance.  It was a giant illuminating figure that dressed up the sky in the most fantastic way.  I dropped what I was doing and followed Cooper out to the front porch.  We slipped under a blanket and stared out into the sky.  He pointed out the craters as I slipped back into the bench.  

The hustle and bustle of life almost stopped me from this experience.  I'm grateful for tournaments, dances, and kids' activities, but sometimes I just need to take a minute to sit with a son and gaze at the sky.  Of all the moments from the weekend, this one was the most precious.




Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving with kids


Thanksgiving morning started with the Gravy Chase 4.5 mile run in Zionsville with my friend Suzanne.  We both were trying to counter all the future calories to be consumed in the afternoon!



A porch full of loved ones on Thanksgiving.



And the eating continued at the Brinkruffs' house.

On the morning after Thanksgiving, Connor raced into the kitchen and announced his cousin Will was vomiting.

"Where?" I asked with visions of carpets damaged beyond repair.  (And yes, the carpets were my first concern and the wellbeing of my nephew came second.  I'm confessing this as a personal shortfall that has caused me to rethink the goodness of my heart.)

Connor motioned me to the upstairs bathroom.

The good news is that he made it to the bathroom.

The bad news is that he failed to hit the toilet.

While my brother and I were mopping up the floors and tending to poor Will, I heard repetitive thuds coming from the direction of the stairwell.  Still clutching bleach cleaner and a wad of paper towels, I gazed out towards the hall.  Cooper was hauling our Christmas boxes down the stairs.

"Cooper, what are you doing?" I wailed in a tone that can best be used in this exact situation.

"Putting up Christmas decoration, of course," he said while grinning and tugging out fragile, glass ornaments and tossing them on the ground like they were beachballs.

Which fire to put out first?

While I was trying to encourage Cooper to (temporarily) squash his inner Joanna Gaines, I was simultaneously sanitizing the bathroom and consoling my ailing nephew.  

With kids, Thanksgiving is an experience.

On Thanksgiving, nine children packed into our house.  The cousins and siblings mixed together to fight/play/eat/laugh together.  

They filled the "kids'" table for our Thanksgiving meal.  As I spectated from the adult table, I couldn't hear their conversation, but I could observe the tone and volume that emanated from that portion of the house.  They were having a ball.  I'm sure topics like the conflict in North Korea or Trump's effectiveness in office weren't being analyzed (my bet is that flatulence humor dominated the discussion).  But, this was a like-minded group who all shared and enjoyed the same juvenile banter.

From the table, the kids piled outside into the yard.  A spirited game of Capture the Flag was soon underway (Memaw and I even joined a team).  While most of the game lent itself to grins and laughs, the game eventually erupted into an unresolved conflict over who exactly "cheated." And yes, it appears we have an epidemic of cheaters in the family.  Cheating, it appears, is contagious.  When one family member exhibits the signs of cheating, it's jut a matter of time before everyone displays similar symptoms.  It appears that it is easier to spot this illness in others than in yourself!

Apples to Apples saved the day.  The beauty of this game is that there are no winners or loser (a concept that seemed lost to some).  The possibility that someone could cheat at this game seems non-existent!  We all settled in and laughed while young ones tried to explain why Hellen Keller is smelly or a burrito is manly (these comments only makes sense if you have played the game).  Bruised relationships from the prior game seemed to repair with each silly card and shared chuckle.

One day, I imagine our Thanksgivings will be more docile.  I'm guessing there won't be cheating cries, flatulence jokes, vomit-stained bathrooms, and over-eager children.  But I'm also guessing those holidays will lack the personality and joy that can only be experienced when kids are involved in a celebration.






Friday, November 17, 2017

Mother-Son Dance With Unexpected Visitors




My own karate kid graduated to a green belt.


Mother-Son dance with friends.


Seventh grade basketball buddies.

Lately, I've been acutely aware that I am the odd man out at the fraternity.  The boys have gravitated towards masculine pursuits, and I am holding firm on my (seemingly) dwindling femininity.  When we're wrestling with a movie choice, those films with action heroes and suspense always win.  When we're questioning how to use our free time, something with a ball, nerf gun, or a video game controller is always the crowd favorite.

I miss frilly, mushy, pastel, quiet, dainty stuff.

But the catch is that I love my crew.  Because I love them so much, I've become acquainted with Ironman and all his cronies.  I can rattle off NBA statistics and NFL wins with the best of them.

What's the expression, "If you can't beat em, join em."

I'm a joiner.

Last Friday night, I accompanied Collin to the mother-son dance at his elementary school.  From prior mother-son dance experiences, I knew what to expect: little dancing, lots of action.

As soon as I walked into the elementary school gym, I became keenly aware that we had not entered into a dainty dance hall.  The DJ was clad in a superhero costume and screaming into a microphone.  The scene on the dance floor looked less like Footless and more like WWF meet.  Activity booths lined the gym with a sugar, upon more sugar buffet near the stage (which may explain the scene on the dance floor).

Collin opted for the activity booths.  I chatted with other moms while keeping an eye on Collin's whereabouts.

Early in the evening, I noticed that the room seemed particularly smoggy.  The fog machine was definitely working on overdrive, I noted.  But, the boys seemed to love the hazy environment.

About 30 minutes into our evening, the fire alarm began to blare.  At first, no one batted an eye.  Then, the principal ushered us all into the halls as firemen entered the gym to assess the situation.

After an extended period of hall time, we were allowed back into the gym.  It seems someone "accidentally" clicked the fog machine on the continuous button (thus explaining the extra foggy room).  The firemen continued to hang around the gym as the boys wandered back into their party.  A few firetrucks were parked outside the school.

I went up to one firefighter and explained that having the trucks and the men at the party was the best thing that happened to these boys in ages.  Real life firemen with real life trucks at a party made the night complete!

After we left, I thought about how much different the daddy-daughter dance must go for those who attend.  I'm imaging the fire department has never showed up to their parties.  How quiet and peaceful those evenings must be for those lucky girls and their fathers.....but I bet their stories aren't as good as the moms with the boys!




Sunday, November 5, 2017

My Best Worst Race


On Cooper's 11th birthday, I busted him out of school for a pizza birthday lunch.



The birthday boy had a chocolate birthday cake, per his request.




When cake is involved, the brothers are eager to help celebrate!



A few school friends joined Cooper for indoor climbing.



Collin never reached the top, but had fun trying!



Buddies!





Memaw and Papa dropped by to give some birthday wishes.




Halloween 2017 brought out Napoleon Dynamite, Dad (aka Chris), and a Star Wars guy



Trick or treating is best done with friends!


Chris kept a good sense of humor about his Halloween mini me.  






Cooper has his first band concert. I believe you are looking at the next Kenny G!



The before picture for the Monumental Marathon.





Finishing a marathon/half marathon calls for a celebration with friends!



A few of my favorite gals to run through life along side.

For the last eight weeks, I've nursed back to health one wounded hamstring.  As you may remember from a prior post, my physical therapist recommended six full weeks of rest.  And his version was absolutely, no way, don't think about it running.  (I kept telling him I felt like there was wiggle room with that statement!)

Even though I was tempted to sneak in a few (painful) runs, I was compliant.  For six weeks, I transformed into a race walker which was something, but not something enough for one former runner itching to run.

After six weeks, I gradually started to get back to running.  I steadily inched up the miles and picked up the pace to a place that was a slower, shorter version of before.

And that was the place I was for the Monumental Marathon (in which I signed up months before my injury).  Up until the race, I was waffling between what to do: marathon, half marathon, or nothing.  Nothing was not a good option.  Yet, the thought of running a marathon with hardly any training and a recuperating hamstring seemed daunting.

I started the race with my friend Kara who was also battling a sprained ankle.  We agreed to enjoy the first few miles together, and then make a race day decision at mile seven (the split off) as to which race to run (half or full).  The first seven miles were lovely.  Kara is an engaging running partner and the conversation filled the miles.

By mile seven, it became apparent to me that the half marathon was my best option.  An aching hamstring and lack of training made 20 more miles a bad choice.

I decided to just enjoy the rest of the race.  This wasn't a race that would gain me a PR, or even a respectable time.  I pulled in my headphones and flipped on peppy music, but left the volume low so as to not drown out the vibrant sounds of the race.

Without race tunnel vision, I could truly enjoy the sights and sounds that can be found on and along the course.  I slapped hands with the children that lined the course desperate to cheer.  I thanked the police officers who acted as traffic patrol at the busy intersections.  I gazed in gratitude at the intercity middle school band fumbling with saxophones and baritones while performing a variety of spirited tunes.  I cheered on the young runners racing along side parents.  I read the hilarious signs created by spectators along the course.

And when I entered the finishing shoot, I didn't sprint to the finish line.  Instead, I took in the exuberance and energy radiating from the crowds.  This was a party, and I was able to run through the center stage.

What I learned at this Monumental was that sometimes running a race is not about gaining a PR or nailing a competitive pace, but learning and enjoying getting back on your feet.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Eulogizing a Life Well Lived


It takes a funeral to get an endless supply of family pictures.




Sweet Great Uncle Bud




Caleb plopped into my car after a full day at school.  He immediately flipped on his phone and fiddled with the screen.

"How was the funeral?" he asked in a polite, distracted manner without looking up from his device (he wasn't able to attend due to a full load of Friday tests).

"It was great," I gushed.

My response caught his attention.  It was like the record skipped.  He lifted his eyes off his phone and eyed me with suspicion.

"Isn't that an oxymoron,?" he questioned.  "A funeral cannot be great." 

But it can.  It did.  It was.

My Great Uncle Bud passed away on Sunday.  He reached the tender age of 98 in impeccable health and with complete clarity of mind.   He lived independently, even driving up until the end.  His demeanor never changed; he was lovable, kind, and faith-filled up until he took his last breath.

Eulogizing Uncle Bud was easy.  He lived a life fit to be eulogized well.  The words that were spoken about this joy-filled, small town man were abundantly glowing.  He faithfully worked for Diamond Chain for 43 years.  He loved and outlived two wives.  He served our country in World War II while stationed in the Pacific.  He served neighbors, family, community, and church members with complete abandon.  

Near the end of the service, an elderly man walked up to the microphone.  He apologized for his raspy, well-used voice and joked about God limiting his words. But his scratchy delivery didn't silence the story he wanted to tell.

Once upon a time, he was Bud's neighbor.  He spoke about Bud wandering into his yard and inviting him to church.  But this man was too busy, or wanted to be too busy, to go to church.  He told Bud that he had yard work, mowing, and every other chore under the sun that prohibited him from walking through the sanctuary door.  Bud responded to the list of excuses, "Well, when you're not busy."

This man eventually caved to Bud's repeated invitations and accompanied him to a Billy Graham crusade.  At that crusade, this man accepted Jesus.

That story enough brought chills to my spine.

But there was more.

The man plugged into Bible studies and church programs, all with the encouragement and support of my Great Uncle Bud.  As the man grew in his faith, Bud suggested he should be a pastor.

And he did.

This man they call pastor didn't leave a dry eye in the house.

I could have sat in that stained-glass church and listened to these stories forever.  But within minutes of the pastor's last word, we were following a line of cars to the cemetery.  A group of family members and close friends huddled under a green tent, trying desperately to get shelter from the pounding rain and chilly wind gusts.

Around the casket stood two men in uniform.  They held an American flag and paid their respects to Bud.  Outside the tent,  a brigade of World War II veterans formed a line between the grave stones.  At the appropriate time, the senior veterans fired a 21-gun salute (which was equal part touching and concerning with many of the aging service members displaying shaky grips and wobbly gaits).

After the graveside goodbye, the family filed back into the country church that Bud called home for almost a century.  An army of church ladies had whipped up the best in funeral dishes and made a spread that screamed Hoosier hospitality.  We feasted on whipped mashed potatoes, cheesy potato casserole, cooked green beans, slices of ham, warm yeast rolls, and pecan pies (among others).

Sisters, brothers, cousins, parents, friends all found places around tables covered in plastic wrap. The conversation was warm and the laughter was hearty.  Bud would have been so pleased to survey the scene, I imagine.  But I'm guessing he is just fine where he is right now.  I bet the first words he heard as he entered the gates of heaven were "Well done good and faithful servant."

Well done Great Uncle Bud.

You will be missed.