Thursday, April 17, 2014

Disaster Strikes Again

 I was so touched by this goodie bag from my running friends!  They packed it with runner's necessities and added some money to buy a souvenir.  So thoughtful!  Thanks to my sister in law Heather for sending me goodies too (sorry no photo!)!

Cooper's latest...  I left this note for my husband.

When the boys were younger, I always had a story to swap with friends on the playground or at the grocery store.  The stories were always the same.  They started with a son (or four) getting into something (shaving cream, flour, nail polish, syrup).  They ended with a complete and utter disaster and lots of tears (by me!).  Mark Twain said, "Humor is tragedy plus time."  And so, as we've become more removed from those moments, I've learned to laugh. 

Until today....

Today Cooper proved that he is never too old to be the mastermind behind disaster and chaos.

Cooper thinks he is the next Picasso.  He's created all sorts of masterpieces using unique mediums and methods.  Today his artistic vision required melted crayons.  Need I say more?

I heard popping sounds and Cooper screaming, "It exploded!"

It was one of those moments where I had to take a few breaths before I surveyed the scene.  Once I mentally prepared myself for the disaster, I gazed at what was my microwave.  It now resembled a three-dimensional Jackson Pollock painting.

Cooper bore a sheepish look and sputtered out some apologizes.

I mentally counted to ten and then removed myself from the room so as not to inflict bodily harm upon him.

When I returned, the mess was still there.  Cooper was packing up for school and tossed out a few more, "Sorry mommy." 

I was left with the disaster.  It took an hour of scrubbing with various solutions before I landed on my savior: Goo Gone.  I'm sure the chemicals in the solution will do wonders for the next warmed entree.

And as for Cooper, I'm going to encourage him to stick with watercolor.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Property Law: Sibling Style

Armed and Dangerous!  Connor and neighbor Stephen get creative!

When I was in law school, I took this little class called Property Law.  Basically, it explored the "finders, keepers" theory and questioned the truth to "this land is your land."  I found the whole class is to be about as riveting as drying paint.  I gleaned one very important thing from the class: A career in property law was not in my future.

Fast forward a decade (plus).  

My law degree sits on a wall collecting dust.  I traded in my brief case for a pair of yoga pants, dish towels, and laundry detergent (the staples in a stay-at-home mom's arsenal)!  The closest I come to practicing law is to watch a good episode of "Law and Order."  Many of the fancy legal terms and twenty-syllabel words I learned in law school have slipped my mind.  My legal days have fallen into the "remember when" category.  (And yes, I barely remember!)

But lately, I've reflected back on that Property Law class.

It's because most of the boys' arguments center around tangible personal property (a.k.a. stuff).  They can have a knock-down, drag-out fight over a plastic doodad or a random stick in the yard.  It's enough to make one mom cry "uncle!" 

They beg me to arbitrate their conflicts.  They want me to determine: 

1) Who has possession of the item?, 

2) Does the owner have a superior right to the property?, 


3) If so, what are the damages?  

(Ugh...I'm having ugly flashbacks to the Bar Exam.)  

I scratch my head and think WWSD ("What Would Solomon Do?") or WWJJD ("What Would Judge Judy Do?").

Today I hit my limit after an argument over a singular (ONE!) library book turned ugly.  One boy confiscated the library book from another boy's room.  Both boys, red-faced and fired-up, aired their grievances.

Book Thief's argument (cue the hysterics):  It's a library book.  He doesn't own it.  He wasn't reading it.

Offended Brother's argument (cue the fury):  It was "my" book in my room.

Doesn't that sounds like the makings of a good bar exam question?

It was my breaking point. I collected all four boys and had them sit in a circle.  We tossed out our ideas about stuff: possession, rights, and damages.  They listened and offered up ideas and thoughts (some better than others).  We formulated a new set of property guidelines for the home and vehicles.

I'm hoping this does the trick.  If not, they may have to appeal their decisions to a higher level: Dad!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Letter to the Newbie Soccer Parents

Cooper in his inaugural season of soccer.  

Dear New Soccer Parents:

It was a pleasure sitting by you on the soccer bleachers.  Although I was engrossed in a book, I noticed you and your husband right away.  Meaning no disrespect, you had all the markings of newbie soccer parents: you both attended practicing, watching the drills like hawks, and shouting out instructions with vigor.  (While the "been there, done that" moms barely looked up from their People magazines!)

You noticed me too.  Perhaps I had the look of one who had been around the soccer fields a time or two.  Was it the permanent bleacher indentations on my backside?  Or maybe the weathered look of my skin from exposure to the  range of soccer field elements: hurricane force winds, bitter chills, and sweltering temps?  Whatever the case, you pulled me into a conversation, peppering me with questions and concerns.

You pointed to your four-year-old son on the soccer field.  He is the oldest, you said.  He's never played soccer before, you announced.  He has trouble listening, hitting, pushing, and following directions, you lamented in a hushed tone.  

I watched your son prance around the soccer field.  Just to prove you right, he did everything you described.  He was squirrelly and high-spirited, treating the soccer field as his own personal playground.  You shook your heads and cringed.  You pulled him aside from time to time to offer instructions, hard looks, and stern warnings.

But because you were hyper-focused on your own child, you failed to really watch your son's teammates.  His four-year-old companions galavanted around the field with an equal amount of zip.  While one was pushing, another was twirling, and a third stood motionless staring at the sky.  To put it mildly, it was a couple bulls shy of a rodeo.

You asked my advice.

I laughed.

The advice I can offer is to learn from my mistakes.  I've made a few.  

I tossed out a few words on the spot, but later I formulated a better response with hopefully sage advice.  Here goes, I would:

1.  Talk to the coach

Be direct with the coach.  Ask how he or she wants you to be involved.  Does the coach want you to intervene when your child is not focusing or misbehaving?  If so, when?  Know: you are the parent.  Sometimes you absolutely need to yank a kid from the game. I remember one of my sons pulled his pants down mid-soccer field (don't ask).  Before he could blink, I snatched him off the field.

2.  Put it in perspective

Four-year-old boys are going to act like four-year-old boys.  From my experience, it takes a season or two, coupled with a tad bit more maturity, for a child to participate fully and properly in a practice.  Support a child in that process and celebrate the little ways he evolves.

3.  Remember why he's there

More than likely, your child is not the next David Beckham. Sure, he may be on a team to learn soccer, but the lessons he acquires on the field transcend sports skills.  He's learning to follow directions, support teammates, and be a good sport.  Encourage those behaviors first and foremost.

4.  Bottom Line: Let Him have fun

At four years old, soccer is pure fun.  They adore wearing a uniform, coming up with a silly team name, playing with friends, and devouring snacks after games.  Let your child have fun and enjoy the time too. 

Remember, someday you'll reflect on your son's first soccer season and laugh.  Keep that in mind when you watch him twirl.


Been there soccer mom

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How to Love Thy Neighbor: Embrace Interruptions

Feeling brave....I boxed up all the snow pants and winter gear today.  If the weather takes a turn, the boys will have to cut through the snow in flip flops!

I sat by my neighbors at church.  It happened by accident.  They had snagged spots in my "turf."  (I was tempted to become territorial, but in the interest of Christian harmony, I held my tongue!)

It was the first time I had seen them in the church sanctuary, although I knew they were members.  This can be explained by the size of our church—large enough to become lost in a sea of faces.

Although we're friendly with many of our neighbors, we've had little contact with this couple throughout the years.  They're friendly enough, but our paths just didn't cross like it has with many of the other neighbors.  Their children are older.  They both hold down busy jobs.  

Yada. Yada. Yada.  

Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  

Excuse. Excuse.  Excuse.

Bottom Line:  We hardly know them.

We hardly know these neighbors.

What we do know is that their son died just a few months ago, on New Year's Eve.  He was in college, much to young to fill a casket.  We went to the memorial service.  I couldn't take my eyes off the neighbor mom.  She was just so very sad.  Her tears sparked a flood of emotion from every mother in the room.  We grieved for her and couldn't possibly imagine enduring even an ounce of her pain.  To stand there making pleasantries, while her child's lifeless body rested inches away, seemed unimaginable.  

Today, three months later, the neighbors and I sat side-by-side in the same space.  We exchanged pleasantries before the lights dimmed and the worship music began.  Although I tried to focus on the band, from the corner of my eye I noticed my neighbor was crying.  

It's interesting that the music unearthed such emotions.  Another friend, who recently went through a tough patch, told me she always cries during the worship time.  I think there's something about worship music that exposes the raw vulnerability of a soul.  It cuts through superficial facades and tears down artificial boundaries.

When the music stopped, the pastor appeared on stage.  He preached on compassion and specifically touched on the story of the Good Samaritan.  The parable was one I've heard many times over the years.  But this time, the pastor dissected the story and provided application.

He said the first thing the Good Samaritan did was stop.  You may ask, why is that important?  It's important because the Good Samaritan had to stop to help.  He wasn't planning on stopping.  Stopping might have been inconvenient, but he did it anyway.  The pastor said, "Interruptions are opportunities for compassion."  And then he went into a discussion on loving your neighbor.  "Your neighbor is the person who needs your help," he announced.

My neighbor was crying again.  She whimpered softly, trying not to attract attention, but with each of her tears I felt a little part of me sting.

God was hitting me over the head.

I knew the pastor was speaking about "neighbors" in a metaphoric sense, but it seemed like no coincidence that I was sitting by my actual neighbors.

For the many years we lived next to each other, why didn't I stop and get to know them?  Because it would have been an interruption.  We were busy and didn't have time to devote to forging relationships or meeting their needs (emotional or otherwise).  We never stopped.

We can't change the past, but we can work on the future.  I vowed to stop.  To make a point to be interrupted.  To always have the time for those in need be they far or even next door.

At the end of service, my neighbor pulled me into a hug.  Her tears were still trickling down her cheeks.  I stopped to hug her back and to exchange words.  

It was a first step.

My first stop.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Runner's Stream of Consciousness

How I miss this weather and scenery!  Chilly temps and pouring rain greeted us at home.  Boo Hiss!

My friend shared a blog post in which the writer outlined his stream of consciousness during a run.  I chuckled at his words and furiously nodded my head in agreement.  This I know: A runner's mind is as active as his or her feet.

It got me thinking about today's run.  In preparation for the hilly Boston Marathon, I journeyed down to Bloomington (home of my alma mater) where the terrain promised plenty of inclines.  Halfway into the run, my watch died as did my cell phone.  Without the beat of a song drumming in my ear, my inner thoughts became more audible.

As inspired by the words of the post's author, here's a snippet of my internal musing during the run: 

1.  I'm freezing.  Why is Indiana so cold in April?

2.  I wish I wore gloves, a hat, a ski mask, and a parka.

3.  Perhaps it's not that cold!

5.  Maybe I overdressed.

6.  Am I running as fast as I did in college?

7.  Do I look like a college kid anymore or like someone's mother?

8.  Could I be mistaken for someone's grandmother?

9.  Do the wisps of hair around my face look platinum or white?  

10.  Even if I'm old, I could probably outrun most college students.

11.  Well, maybe I could outrun the Freshmen who have already put on the obligatory 15 pounds.

12.  I bet I'd race past those students recovering from happy hour.

13.  How did that guy get so fast?

14.  Perhaps he's in training for the Olympics and only three people on Earth could maintain that pace.

15.  Maybe he's running from the scene of a crime.

16.  Should I wave at him?  Smile?  Make eye contact?

17.  Boy, he was rude.

18.  I should have had more fun in college.

19.  Why wasn't I playing tug-o-war in Dunn Meadow on a Friday afternoon?

20.  Will any of those students frolicking in the meadow end up in med school?  Are all the future doctors holed up in a library right now?  Surely they know "tug-of-war" is not an acceptable activity for a grad school application.

21.  I can't believe she (with the white hair...not platinum) just whizzed past me.

22.  That woman is rocking her run too.  Is she pregnant?

23.  This hill is quite possibly the worst thing that's ever happened to me.

24.  This hill wants to kill me.

25.  If given the choice between this hill and a bad case of bed bugs, I'd choose door #2.

26.  This hill or lice?  Lice please.

27.  That hill wasn't so bad.  I think it was more of an incline.

28.  I'm totally going to rock the Boston Marathon.

29.  I'll do the best I can.

30.  It's going to be horrible.  Perhaps I could just say I ran it and hang out by the food tents instead.

31.  I wonder how many calories I'm burning.

32.  Should I celebrate my run with a trip to Jiffy Treat?  Do they still make those cookie dough flurries?

33.  Some nachos sound really good right about now.

34.  Do I look fat in these running pants?

35.  Do sit ups really do anything after four babies stretched the elasticity out of tummy muscles?

36.  Does God talk to me on a run?

37.  Should I try to erase all thoughts from my mind and just listen for His voice?

38.  I'm releasing all thoughts from my mind.

39.  Go thoughts, go!

40.  It's not working.

41.  He might have to talk louder.

42.  Boy that guy is creepy.  Did I see him on Dateline once?

43.  What if he has a gun/knife/taser?

44.  Just act natural.  Smile.  Make minimal eye contact.

45.  This run is almost over.


47.  This run has dragged on forever.

47.  Thank you God that this run is almost over.

48.  I can't believe that run is over.

49.  It went so fast.

50.  When can I do it again?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fun in the Sunshine State

Every good vacation involves a reptile the size of a child (says Caleb).  

The fin is that of a dolphin, not a shark [as Cooper screamed to a (then) petrified group of kids].

The tranquil moments of our trip.

Caleb almost had a breakdown at the beach.  Too much sand, he moaned!  Memaw talked him off his sandy ledge and distracted him by crafting a lizard in the sand.

Not to be outdone, Connor and I made our own creation (of sorts).  It's a sand castle, silly.

We went, went, went...until we crashed.

The family that beaches together...

The best part of Florida...grandparents!  We were blessed with two sets!

Cooper on a boat!  I'm nervous too!

Lesson from this picture: photos lie!  Don't I look relaxed and carefree as if I'm on an episode of The Love Boat?  Inside I'm a wreck wondering which boy will be the first to do a swan dive off the side without a life preserver.

Cuddles with the Grandparents after a dinner at a Japanese steakhouse.  Our adventurous eaters snacked mainly on white rice.  I could have just opened a box of Uncle Ben's and saved the money, but where's the fun in that!  Every boy knows you go to a Japanese steak house to watch things being set on fire!

A precious group (in serious need of a good dose of vitamin D)!

Last Wednesday we boarded a plane bound for Florida.  When we landed in the Sunshine State, I felt a bit like Tim Robbins' character in Shawshank Redemption when he escaped from prison.  Where he was constrained by bars of a cell, we had been held prisoner by a relentless polar vortex.  (Just like Robbins, I would have dug my way to Florida, if needed, to escape winter's clutches!)

The weather that greeted us was chilly by Florida standards.  But for a family that's worn its body weight in outer layers since forever, we were thrilled.  We shed layer after layer, exposing inch after inch of pasty skin, flirty with a nasty burn while praying for (the unlikely) tropical tan.

Quickly we fell into our usual spring break routine.  In the morning, Chris and I took turns working out.  Chris purchased a weekly pass to a local gym that caters to the senior set.  My husband's blue-haired workout pals called themselves the "Silver Sneakers" (no joke!).  If just for a week, Chris appreciated being referred to as a "young whippersnapper" instead of "sir"  or "____'s dad."

As for me, my runner's arrogance got the best of me.  On our first day in Florida, I decided to go out on a long(ish), speedwork run.  If only I had a time machine and could go back to that moment and shake myself silly.  Let's just say one runner's body didn't respond well to running in temperatures above freezing.  When I finished the run, I collapsed on the couch, red-faced with sweat gushing from every single pore and muscles that screamed "You idiot!"  I moaned to my husband, "That run was SO hard!"  Chris's response:  "It can't be the temperature; It's not that hot!"  What was he saying there?  


Bless their hearts.

Afternoons were spent at the pool, beach, playground.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard an adult say, "We just need to get (insert boy's name) outside to run off some of that energy."  And so we did.  Again.  And Again.  

We realized taking the kids to Florida was easier this year.  As they've grown, we're no longer chasing toddlers around the beach, ensuring sandy cigarette butts stay out of little mouths.  Now, from the confines of comfy beach chairs, we can watch the boys frolic in the sand and among the waves.  Of course, we are required to intervene at times.  Like to curb Cooper's vacation Tourettes: Cooper's ability to toss out whatever comment pops into his mind.  Cooperisms of the week:

"This ocean smells like pee!"

"Is this some sort of old people's room."

"Those rich people must be swimming in money."

And at other times we left the lounge chairs to join the boys' fun.  Sand creations became our speciality and we crafted all sorts of masterpieces together.  One day, I exclaimed to Caleb, "Let's make something impressive in the sand!"

He beamed, "Yes, let's make the Battle of Gettysburg!"

I suggested a garden-variety sand castle instead.  Perhaps we could get fancy with the moat.

But a week of togetherness was not without its challenges.  I recall one especially memorable moment where two boys fought tooth and nail over a Ballpoint pen.  One. Ballpoint. Pen. ONE!

And just when their squabbling reached a crescendo, a moment came that warmed my heart.  While running around a playground, the boys ran into Florida's #1 playground bully.  This little boy/stinker unleashed an unpopular cocktail of salty language, insulting remarks, and physical aggression.  And to give that little boy credit, he certainly didn't want to leave anyone out.  So he spewed out his "specialness" equally among my boys.  I watched as my boys, who just minutes before treated each other as mortal enemies, transform into allies against a common threat.  They worked as a pack to defend each other and emerged victorious.

They walked away from the park with arms slug over each other's shoulders.  They rehashed "playground war stories."  Compliments were tossed out.  Laughter was had.

At that moment, I knew exactly why we came to Florida.



Monday, March 24, 2014

When the Sports Field Feels Like Siberia

In high school, I played on the tennis team.  What I remember about tennis is:

-that we spent more time perfecting the look of our uniforms than practicing our forehand strokes (that may explain our unsuccessful seasons); and

-tennis seasons (which started in March) could be downright cold.

In fact, it could be so cold that we sometimes shed our stylish tennis skirts in lieu of bulky, lined sweatpants.  (A teen who choices practical wear over stylish attire is COLD!)  I remember one time when the ball froze in mid-air...  (Maybe not, but you get my point.)

I remember my "woe is me" attitude during those frigid matches, but I don't recall my mother displaying a matching demeanor.  Actually, I never really thought about my mother and how warm/cold/comfortable she felt in the bleachers.  You want to know why?  Because I was thinking of me.  Only me.

Lately, I've thought about my poor mother and those bleachers. I've thought about her because I am now a mother in the bleachers or along the sidelines of a frigid sports field.  And let me tell you, it's not pleasant.

Today I stood along the side of a soccer field watching Cooper dribble the ball.  It felt like I was standing in my freezer during a wind storm. I had layers on, but I'm not sure they make enough clothing for conditions like those.  At that moment, I wondered if Cooper could just play soccer on the Wii and get the same workout.  I'd be happy to sit along side him on the couch (indoors. in heat.)!

I desperately wanted to flee to the warmth of my car.  To scoop him up in my arms and say, "Let's think about choir instead!"  But parents don't do that.

Parents sit on the sidelines and cheer.  They slap on a smile and say not word one about the miserable conditions.

Why do they do that?

Because love transcends temperatures.

Because pride isn't blown away by the wind.

Because that's what our parents did.