Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bedtime with Cooper

We had the honor of meeting our new niece Amelia.

I didn't feel the least bit guilty about hogging time with the baby.

During nap time for my nephew, the boys hopscotched along rocks in a Cincinnati river.

When we were under our first tornado warning last week, the boys and I moved dinner to the basement.  They found the whole concept of a "tornado dinner party" to be fun.

The TV meteorologist recommended going to the basement and wearing a bicycle helmet during our second round of tornado warnings.  We hate to be insensitive, but Chris found humor in the situation.

Bedtime is my favorite part of the day.

That's a statement I never imagined writing without having my nose grow like Pinocchio. 

For years, I dreaded bedtime.  Bedtime was like the final six miles in a marathon.  It was the portion of the day when I was already exhausted, and then required to put on a final sprint (with lots of additional hurdles).

I loathed evening bath time.  Our baths were a bit more active than those vintage Calgon commercials.  By the end of bathing four boys, the bathroom looked like a soggy aquatic center.  My sons would emerge from the soapy water with more energy and vigor than before they stepped foot in the tub.  Oftentimes, they would sprint out of the bathroom and frolic around in their wet birthday suits.  I was forced to race after them with a towel big enough to wrestle them to the ground.

When I finally tucked them into their beds and turned off the lights, I braced myself for the second leg of the race.  It was the unexpected extra mileage that crept up when boys would reemerge from their darkended rooms with cries for water, hugs, snacks, and extra books.

My boys are older now.  They shower independently.  In fact, they would be mortified if I was any part of their bathing or changing process.  They all know how to read.  And, several sons routinely pick comic books in those final minutes of the day before sleep takes hold.   

A few months ago, I asked Cooper if we could read a book together before bed.  Surprisingly, he agreed.  We both traveled down to the local library and scanned the stacks.  He pulled out Bridge to Terabithia.  It was a unique selection, but something that seemed appealing to both of us.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I looked forward to reading that book together.  It was a story that captivated us both and tugged at our heart strings.  And when a death occurred in the book (sorry...hope not to ruin it:)), Cooper stopped me mid-sentence and asked, " she died?"  It was a possibility neither one of us wanted to acknowledge.  When I nodded, we both tried to hold back tears.  And when the book finally ended, we both seemed to be a little lost.

Now, we are reading the kids version of Boys in a Boat.  It's been timely to read about the struggles to secure an Olympic spot in the 1930s while the Rio games were being held.  

I'm jealous and protective of this time with Cooper. Unwilling to even allow Chris to take a turn.  While I'm loving the storylines, the time nestled with Cooper in his bed while clutching a book is the most precious part of the experience.  

One day he'll be too old for this time, but every evening we have together is a beautiful part of our story.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Starting The School Year Off With a Bang

Our new 6th grader!

8th grader!

4th grade!

Ready for a new school year!

They can only hold it together for so long!

I'll admit, I've been less than humble the last few days.  I keep telling Chris, "I'm nailing it."  Then, I point out the twelve things I've done right that very day.

"I packed the kids' lunches the night before.  When they awoke, I had a hot breakfast sitting on their placements.  They all went to school with clean clothes and well brushed teeth," I gushed.

"And then," I exclaimed and paused for a dramatic effect.  "I had dinner completely ready when they arrived home from school."

Chris, my sweet husband, smiles and silently indulges me in my (misguided) notions that I can keep this up until the end of the school year.

This is how I roll.  I always start out the school year with a bang.  In August, I'm ready to start routines.  I believe all past mom-mistakes can be wiped away with the start of a new school year.  This year, I vow, my kids will brush their hair....every day.  This year, I promise, we will never be late for the first period.  This year, I exclaim, dinners with always include vegetables, lunch boxes will include handwritten notes scribbled on a napkin, playdates will be secured, carpools will be orchestrated, volunteer work will be performed, homework will be checked, practice time will be performed, and .......

But if history is any indicator, with the flip of the calendar my mom steam runs out.

This year, I hope things work out differently.

Nonetheless, I'm enjoying the few days where we're all on track.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Imagination Takes a Neighborhood

I ran by this scene on a recent morning jog.  I just couldn't just pass by it without snapping a photo.

Grandma and Grandpa Wood came by for a visit.  We took Grandma on her very first canoe ride!

We had to celebrate her birthday too!

Cooper sprawled out on the living room floor clutching a pen and a white sheet of paper.  I watched as he vigorously scribbled on the page.  Curious, I peeked over his shoulder.  He inscribed "laws" on the top of the page.  Under this heading, he outlined half a dozen rules.  Immediately, I knew the meaning of his document.

Cooper is the co-President and founder of the Dinosaur Club.  Currently, there are four active members (three neighbor kids who happened to be related to each other).  As one in the leadership position of the club, he takes his job seriously.  Rules and bylaws must be drafted.  Meetings and excursions must be organized.  It's a lot of responsibility for anyone, let alone a nine year old who is also creating a town.

Yes, when Cooper's not leading the Dinosaur club, he and the other club members are active members of a town (name only disclosed between members).  Cooper told me he's the busy doctor/pet shop owner/sheriff while upholding his civic duties to be active in town planning/governance/regulations.

But there's more. 

When the club's not running and the town is quiet,  there are dragons to be slain in mythical kingdoms.  Holes need to be dug in the backyard to escape to China.  Treasure hunters must be captured before they escape with our "finds."  Treehouses must be created with whatever materials are found within the backyard.  Fortunately for Cooper, he has companions on all these adventures who live just feet away from our home.  

When I call him in for bedtime at the end of the night, he's sad to leave the town/club/village/kingdom.  But, I remind him that the next morning he'll arrive at a new location and, fortunately, with the same group of friends.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Surviving Summer

Although this looks like enough school supplies to meet the needs of a classroom, it's merely enough supplies for my four kids.  It took four hours and a lot of $, but we're done.

Caleb took his buddy downtown to rent bikes and eat pizza.

The 13 year olds insisted on driving.  I got an early glimpse of how terrifying it will be to train my teens behind the wheel:)

Holiday World trip with our friends the Brinkruffs.

So, not the weather we ordered for our amusement park day....

Watching these kids transform from toddlers to teens has been precious.  We used to chat about potty training.  Our conversation at lunch revolved around braces:)

Beach towels that transformed into makeshift rain ponchos.

We've graduated to a new phase in life with these kids.  We went to a sit down restaurant where we placed the kids on one side of the table and had minimal disruptions.  Woo Hoo!

 This afternoon, we traveled to our local pool.  The boys splashed in the water while I sat poolside.  A friend pulled her chair up to next to mine.  We exchanged pleasantries as I watched my crew and she eyed her two sons.

When her boys started to fiddle with each other, my friend opened up about their bickering and how it has intensified within the last week.  She then explained her new behavior system designed to encourage sibling harmony.

Honestly, although her system was well-intentioned, it sounded a bit complicated.  I was tired just listening to the details.  

When she finished, I cleared my throat and said, "My main goal this last week of summer is to survive."

She laughed as if she imagined I was joking.

It wasn't a joke.

This summer has been fun.  So fun.  But, we've arrived at the point where we need to go back to school.

I'm starting to lose my fight.

If asked one more time, I just might allow candy for breakfast.

I may consider a bowl of cereal a healthy dinner option.

I could possibly be talked into more Pokemon Go time just to give this mamma a few minutes to empty the dishwasher (even sounds pathetic:)).

I may feign ignorance about my child's bathing regularity.

I may sidestep and muffle sibling conflicts.

Eleven weeks into summer, and I'm tired.

Then I think about the demands of daily homework, lunch box packing, and an endless amount of after school activities.

Suddenly, I have the energy to tackle the next week.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Youngest: The Hugger

Friends Mica and Mackenzie showed off their fowl friends at the Hendricks County Fair.

Cooper says he wants to be an architect.  So, we went looking for good architecture within Indiana.

We found one close to home.  Within an hour of our house sits a Frank Lloyd Wright home that can be toured.

Connor's summer basketball league.

Young concert goers for the Jim Gaffigan show.

My concert friend:)
All smiles at church camp drop off:)

Around 9 a.m. this morning, my youngest son emerged from his bedroom.  Sleep still nestled in his eyes, and his hair looked like a porcupine.  He stumbled onto the couch and stretched out upon the cushions.  A few minutes later, he wandered into the kitchen and helped himself to some leftover muffins.

This, my friends, is Collin.

The son that takes life slow, easy, and leisurely.

The one that doesn't work himself up over much.

He's always the last one at the dinner table.  He treats meals as if they are to be savored.  He'll chew bites politely and drink his milk with grace.

He's also the one who will still slip into a cuddle and huddle under a blanket with his parents.

Recently, I was feeling a little blue.  Chris went to give me a hug, and Collin cut him off.

"Let me handle this Dad," Collin said.  "I'm the master."

Then, Collin pulled me into the most comforting of bear hugs.  He most certainly is the master of hugs and comforts.

Collin is the youngest.

Is it because of his birth order that Collin exhibits an easy going, affectionate nature?

I'm not sure.  But, I'm grateful that my youngest is the one that's not yet too old to hug.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Camp Pickup

The boys survived a week at Springhill Camp.  They even remained buddies with their friends.

I visited Chris (camp doctor) one night and witnessed the "crud wars" (aka teen mud fight).  It was like a car accident, I literally couldn't look away!

On my visit, I went for a run and had this lovely backdrop.

Collin received the bravery award from his counselors.

Collin's sweet counselors.  Bless their hearts for spending the week with seven year old boys.  

Connor received the leadership award.

Cooper was awarded the creativity award (Shockingly he didn't receive the cleanliness award as displayed by his shirt!).

Bless this counselor's heart for working with middle school boys.

Cooper's counselors may have earned saint status.

Cooper's cabin mates from the week.

Over the span of a week, I made the trek to Springhill Camp three times.  Sunday was drop-off.  Wednesday was pickup for Collin.  Today, I picked up the remaining boys.

It's roughly 90 miles to Springhill, which doesn't seem like a lot.  But when your ancient minivan's air condition suddenly goes kaboom, 90 miles can feel like eternity.  I kept reminding myself about the major problems going on in our world today.  In the grand scheme of life, whether a car has air conditioning cannot compare to those struggling with world peace.  But when my backside was adhered to the leather seats with a heavy layer of sweat and my shirt looked like I jumped into a pool, it was hard for me to meditate on my (seemingly) inconsequential problems.

When I arrived at Springhill for the last pick up.  I looked as if I had just ran a marathon.  My hair was matted to my neck with sweat.  Any makeup remnants melted away a few miles into our trip.

I located the boys right away.  I've learned a little parenting tip this week: When greeting the boys from camp, I have to play it cool.  As much as I want to pull them into a bearhug and kiss their foreheads while calling them mushy names, those gestures of affection will be returned with a scowl.  Outwardly I greeted them with a "what's up," while inwardly I was screaming, "There's mommy's little baby!"

When we finally arrived home tonight, I instructed the boys to drop their bags by the front door (unsure what "goodies" may have returned in their bags from camp).  When I opened the first bag, I instantly pined for a hazmat suit and a sturdy mask.  The stench that drifted from the bag was deadly.  

I gagged.

Connor replied, "What do you expect?  It's camp!"

In fact, I did expect it. 

I expected the piles of dirty clothes, the filthy kids, the funny stories, and the sad reality that a return to camp is 365 days away.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

First Overnight Camp for the Baby of the Family

In my last post, I failed to include pictures from the boys' visit to the Michigan Dunes and Lake Michigan.

The water temperatures were borderline frigid, but that didn't stop the boys from jumping into the waves.

Looking at this photos, one might think we were at a tropical location!

But note, the sweatshirts:)

Enjoyed our summer weekend tradition with my brother and his family.

We braved a restaurant with the whole crew.

Cuddles with Uncle Matt are the best!

And Aunt Becky likes to spoil with sugar (donuts!).

A belated photo.  Sadly it takes a funeral for the boys to look this nice.  My gentleman looked very dapper at my Grandmother's funeral!

The boys returned to Springhill Camp.  On Saturday, we rushed around packing for a week of church camp.  The camp provided a packing list.  And so, we grabbed flashlights, bug spray, and other essentials and dropped them in their duffle bags.

With the placement of each object in the bag, I silently said my goodbyes.  So long pajamas!  Nice knowing you toothpaste.  From experience, I know camp is like the Bermuda Triangle.  Things that go to camp tend not to return (and if they do, they take on an entire different appearance).

The next day, we drove for 1 1/2 hours to arrive at camp.  Three boys would spend the next few nights in cabin.  For Collin, this would be his first overnight camp experience.  As the baby of the family, he is the one who tends to still enjoy hanging out with his mama (and vice versa), I imagined a big tearful goodbye. Perhaps there would be a big scene where he clung to my leg and sobbed, "Don't leave."

But, Collin surprised me.

When we arrived at his teepee (air conditioned!) cabin, he immediately wanted to disassociate with me.  He even tried to shoo me out of the cabin before I placed his bag on the ground.  I went to give him a goodbye kiss, and he opted for a hug instead.

What happened to my baby?

I explained Collin's goodbye behavior to my husband.  I said that Collin was just trying to be strong for the both of us.  He smiled, the sort of smile that says, "Keep believing that."

I want to believe that.  But, deep down I know it's a good thing that he wants to be independent and experience overnight camps without a parent hovering around him.

Independence is the end goal, but we moms are the ones that suffer sometimes from the growing pains.