Sunday, January 31, 2010

Teacher's Words Transcend The Classroom

One would assume a family with four sons would be spending a lot of time on the sports' fields. For our family, so far, that has not be the case. Our oldest son, especially, has opted for the library over the sports field. So, when we heard about children's science classes offered at Purdue, we knew we found a match. Despite being IU alums, we made a commitment to venture into black and gold country for the next six weeks so our son could do something he truly enjoys.

On Saturday I took him to his first class. Because Chris was working, I took all four boys on the hour commute to the Purdue campus. After dropping Caleb off at class, the younger boys scampered around the Chick Fil A playground. The second half of the morning they took a swim lesson at the local YMCA. It was fun to watch the younger boys frolic around in the liquid basin.

After their class, I suddenly realized time was tighter than I thought. The boys quickly threw on dry clothes and scurried to the car. We sped towards campus. Once we hit campus, we found a spot (OK, we parked illegally!). I looked at my watch: 11:59. We had one minute to get to Caleb's class. I tried to usher the boys quickly out of the car. Right at that moment Connor decides to take a huge bite out of his brother's coveted snack. Cooper let out a huge wail. From the sounds of the screams, someone might have assumed he had been shot. This was enough to put this seemingly calm mom over the edge. Let's just say I didn't use my Mary Poppins voice when I again instructed the kids to get out of the car. (I'll admit it wasn't my best mom moment.)

Once the kids were out of the car, Cooper is still sobbing and deeply distraught. I'm holding his 25 pound brother and pushing a stroller while encouraging the boys to pick up the pace. Even with our favorable parking spot, the building was still quite a distance. What is it about college campuses that everything involves so much walking!? I'm amazed anyone can gain the freshman 15 with the amount of physical activity involved to just get to one classroom.

We finally make it to Caleb's classroom (a little late). Caleb was smiling. His teacher told me not once, but twice, that he did a great job. At that moment I thought the individual who coined the adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" got it wrong! Words are the most powerful things a person can radiate. I know! When you have a child with challenges and you don't hear a lot of encouraging comments, those instances when someone makes a positive remarks are priceless.

Despite the morning chaos, I'm glad Caleb is taking the class. That teacher may a difference in two lives that morning. Caleb learned a lot from his teacher, but I think the person who got the most out of the morning was me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Which job is harder?

My husband is an ER Doctor. His job is really diverse and full of adventure. To steal a quote from Forest Gump, "His shifts are like a box of chocolates you never know what you'll get." When he gets to work he's bombarded with a waiting room full of patients all suffering different ailments and injuries. I've asked him before how he knows which patient to treat first. He said they use the triage system in the ER. That means he assesses all patients' situations and treats by order of importance. Chris then proceeds to treat the sick, the injured and the mentally ill in a rapid manner. All the while he must maintain calmness and make quick smart decisions. He performs these tasks at all times of a day because unfortunately emergencies don't seem to be planned.

I always enjoy hearing about his patients (no names of course). His stories range from the hilarious to the tragic. Some become cautionary tales for our kids while others become welded in our minds because of the uniqueness or the severity of the situation.

In some ways Chris's job is similar to mine. Like Chris, I've implemented the triage system at home. Here's an example of how it works: one son has an accident in his pants- at the same time there is a fight- at the same time someone spills milk- at the same time the phone rings. What to do? Assess the situation and treat in order of importance: break up the fight, clean the soiled pants, mop up the spilled milk, and then let the phone go to voicemail. Much like my ER Doctor husband, I've learned as a mother to stay calm in these situations, make quick smart decisions and get to work. Similar to Chris, I work the morning, afternoon and night shift too. Finally, I go into my "shift" not knowing what it will bring: tragedy, humor or a little of both.

I've often ask Chris after he spends some time at home which job is harder working as an ER doctor or as a stay at home mom. He says it depends on the day. Good answer.

It's 9 p.m., time for both of us to start our night shifts.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lt. Mom, Navy SEAL

Once I received my final college degree, I believed I'd experienced my last all nighter. Then came my newborns and I got to pull successive all nighters. Now that my newborns are toddlers and beyond, I've again felt confident all nighters are a thing of the past. That is until last night. Here's why:

A sick one year old + night in a hotel shared by the entire family = no sleep

At first I was a little angry about the situation. Then I remembered: he's one, he's sick, and he's pretty darn cute. Chris and I switched shifts, trying to help other members of the family squeeze in a little sleep without hearing the wails of their little brother. The on call parent would spend his/her shift making laps in the car, attempting to soothe and induce slumber for our infirmed toddler. On my 5 a.m. shift, I took Collin into McDonalds for an early breakfast. I was hoping a McD's yogurt parfait would do the trick. No luck, more crying and lots of enraged senior citizens annoyed that we were disrupting their usually peaceful breakfast hour.

Once morning finally arrived, the two sleep deprived adults were a little bleary eyed and loopy. I turned on the Today show to unwind. A story came on about the Navy SEALs training. The reporter made an interesting statement at the end of her piece. She said a need for greater physical endurance is not the reason most Navy SEALs drop out of training. Rather, most drop out of training because of the need for greater mental toughness.

I thought about this statement in relation to parenting. Motherhood can be completely physically exhausting between sleep deprivation and additional physical demands placed upon a body. However, the thing that is most crucial to surviving and succeeding in motherhood, despite its physical demands, is mental toughness. I decided to have the Navy SEALs mentaility for the day. We were tired, we were physically exhausted, but we aspired for mental toughness (at least until bedtime!).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Story Time Struggles

Yesterday was Cooper's library story time. About 20 three and four year olds (and their caregivers) packed a small class room. Upon entering the classroom I became aware that the moms could easily be segregated into two groups. The first group consisted of the perfectly coiffed, put together moms. You know the moms with monogrammed diaper bags, children dressed beautifully in polo shirts and a full stash of hand sanitizer ready to be dispensed on a moments' notice should their child touch anything remotely messy or germ infected. Group B consisted of the more frazzled moms. The moms clad in sweats covered in remnants of breakfast (maybe breakfast from the day before!), accompanying crusty nose kids and pushing a stroller that looks like a wheel may break free.

Immediately my gaze fell upon a mom who could be classified in Group B. She was toting two little squirmy boys. One was on a verge of a meltdown. The second looked like he was in serious need of the services of some tissue paper. The class began and as I suspected son #1 was not feeling like today was his day to sing "The Wheels on the Bus." He immediately made his feelings known to his mother and all other members of the class who were interested and within earshot. His mother blushed, scooped up her two young sons and fled the classroom.

After class, I took my boys to eat a goldfish snack in the lobby. The Blushing Mom was in the lobby too, two boys in tow. We struck up a conversation.

She just moved from Wisconsin.
Must be hard, I thought.

All her friends work. She stays home.
One more challenge, I imagined.

Her three year old refused to potty train.
Gotta love strong willed boys, I mused.

She was embarrassed about class.
Been there, I sighed.

At that moment I felt a connection. We were two sweat wearing, squirmy kid carrying, not have all the answers moms. What we did know is motherhood becomes easier when another mother is just there to say, "It's hard. Keep going. You're doing fine. Week two will be better."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Birthday Wisdom

I am two days shy of turning 36! As I reflect on the last 36 years, I have to say I've learned a couple of things. Here are some things I've learned in my three plus decades on Earth:

-Everything taste better with peanut butter on it

-Never use baby oil to expidite the tanning process

-No one's hair looks good with Sun-In, frizzy perms or a crimping iron

-Double check a restaurant leftover container for foil before you pop it in the microwave (learned that the hard way)

-It is possible to do $3,000 damage to a vehicle and never hit anything (true story!)

-My parents actually knew what they were doing all those years and made parenting look easier than it actually is

-Testing out new recipes on dinner guests is not a good idea

-Some women were just not meant to experience natural childbirth

-Cheetos do taste better than brocolli, unfortunately

-Be the friend you want to have

-Take advantage of all your time (36 years went by in a flash)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Reflections on Motherhood

We took the kids swimming at the Monon Center today. It was a fun way to pretend we were somewhere warm where we could just frolic around in our swim suits. At the pool, I saw a dear friend from church. She also is a mother of four children born in quick succession. We were reflecting on our experiences with motherhood when she made this comment, "I know this is bad, but sometimes I don't feel like doing it anymore. You know, being a mother." She blushed a little bit after uttering her remarks and looked like she wished she could snag the words back. I was a little surprised at her candor and then relieved that someone else said it. Sometimes I too have had it. It's not fun cleaning up bodily fluids from the bathtub (yes, that happened today). I'm not overjoyed that I spend the majority of my day changing diapers, potty training and doing dishes. I guess we all have those days where we feel like we've "had it."

But, there are the days where you baby hugs you for the first time. He doesn't just put his arms around your neck. You feel actual pressure on your skin and know he is actually trying to communicate a feeling of love. There are days when one of your children refers to his brother as his "best friend." There are days when you are having so much fun with your kids that you think you wish the moment would not end and think this is what you envisioned parenthood to be.

One of my friend's daughters brought her mom in for show and tell. The topic? Something more precious than gold. On that day I can guarantee you my friend knew why she was a mother.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Never a Dull Moment

Another couple of days filled with laughter and tears. The laughter centered a lot around Cooper. Where to begin? For starters, he decided it was time to wear makeup. Of course, he came to this conclusion while I was busy; why bother with a pesky thing like permission? A few minutes later, he appeared downstairs with a blackened face from his mascara application. I guess we'll have to work on his technique.

Another point of the day, I noticed a red substance covering his face and hands. I began to panic thinking he may be bleeding profusely. On a closer look I discovered it was red food coloring. I almost didn't want to check the pantry, afraid of what I may find. Unfortunately, the pantry looked like what I expected: a crime scene in a murder mystery with red liquid plastering the wall and floors. At the point I was definitely seeing red in more ways than one.

The final funny moment came yesterday morning. I woke up and checked on Cooper. He wasn't in his bed, bedroom or bathroom. I began to panic. I think I've seen one to many Law and Order episodes because I immediately concluded that he'd been abducted. I continued to search with no luck. Just because I had exhausted all other locations, I checked our linen closet. Sure enough, there he was on the floor of the closet. Amid his giggles, he couldn't explain why or how he ended up there.

As for the tears, we sought a second opinion today on Caleb. The doctor affirmed the prior diagnosises and added ADD. I guess I'm not surprised. I kind of feel like he just placed a name on something we already knew. Again, I'm trying to remain optimistic. We have a diagnosis, a plan and hope, and most importantly prayer.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Day's Recreations and Revelations

"Snow, snow, go away." No time soon I think. Four of us spent the day holed up in the house. I always picture a snow day to include such magical times. I imagine us doing crafts, baking cookies and exchanging lots of hugs and pleasantries. Here's the reality: the boys are completely bored and find outrageous ways to entertain themselves. Their newest source of entertainment: the human pinball machine. Here's how it work. One boy stands at the top of the stairs to the basement with my humongous exercise ball. Another boy (usually a smaller one who is more naive) stands at the bottom of the stairs. The boy holding the huge ball yells, "Human pinball" as he hurls the ball directly towards the petrified brother. It always ends in tears on one end and giggles on the other. Another source of entertainment has been creating their own "indoor water slide." Three boys sit in the Christmas tree box (OK, I admit our tree isn't down yet!) at the top of the stairs. Then one brother pushes the box down the stairs. Totally dangerous, but providing lots of entertainment.

My oldest son had a really hard day yesterday. After prodding, he revealed he was having a problem at school. Evidently another kid (supposedly a good friend of his) has been telling Caleb that no one likes him. We sat on his bed and talked for awhile. First, we talked about how good friends treat you kindly and don't say things that hurt. Second, we talked about being kind even when others aren't. Finally, we talked about not letting others make us feel bad. We control our feelings.

At the end of our conversation I felt like the person that got the most out of our talk was me. During all of our challenges with Caleb, I've learned to appreciate true friends who show constant compassion and support. I've learned to maintain kindness to those who have shown acrimony during our struggles (the hardest part for me). Finally, I've learned Caleb's challenges are hard to take as a parent, but ultimately I have control over how I feel about the situation. Right then I decided I would no longer be a passive parent, letting my emotions hang on every hiccup in Caleb's life. It was my "Rocky" moment. Even though I'm feeling pretty beaten up, I'm ready to get back up and fight. I'm not giving up on Caleb and I'm more determined then ever that we're going to win!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Christmas Break Conclusion

It's official. Christmas break is over. I have to say I feel like a survivor. I survived the last fourteen days in close quarters with four rambunctious little boys hyped up on the excitement of Christmas. We had some really amazing moments in the last two weeks, but some crazy times too.

Monday mornings mean three of my kids are in school. At drop off I noticed all the moms seemed to have a little more spring in their step, more kind words were exchanged and smiles abounded. With drop-off complete, most moms made the block commute to their sanctuary, "Target." At 9:05 the parking lot was filled with minivans. As the moms exited their vehicles, it looked a lot like the scene from Braveheart. I could almost hear them yell in chorus, "Freedom" as they stormed the store. Once inside I noticed the Starbucks was packed and a line was quickly forming around the diet coke dispenser. The morning was spent swapping break stories, snagging discounted Christmas items and rummaging through aisles at a nice slow pace.

I have to say I miss my boys when they are in school, but as they say, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Christmas break was a little more challenging with my third son, Cooper. He is as cute as a button, but what some would refer to as a "spitfire" or "pistol." There are no areas in our house that cannot become accessible to his little three year old physique. Candy at the apex of the pantry? No problem. Cutting knives at the pinnacle of the cabinet? Piece of cake. Yard tools on the top shelf in the garage? Like that's hard! He has a gift. The gift to know how to find random household items, strategically place them together and reach his coveted destination. Overturned laundry baskets, empty shoeboxes, pots and pans, whatever he can find can easily be turned into a tool for climbing. I hope he uses his gift for good someday. I can imagine him a member of the Special Operations. They've come to a point in a mission where they need to scale a huge wall to retrieve some sort of super bad guy. Everyone turns to watch Cooper do his magic because they know he has the gift. Bad guys are caught. Cooper's the hero.

Today life seems back to normal. We all seem happier with some sort of routine. But in the back of my mind I think, "How many weeks do I have until summer break?"