Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Good Moment Among New Friends

A couple of posts ago I mentioned trying to find the greater good amid the challenges we are currently experiencing with our son. Today I experienced a "greater good" moment. A neighbor called this morning with a request to peruse our basement. Her family was considering finishing their basement and she wanted to examine the underbelly of our house. After we discussed contractor names and plumbing tips, we began conversing about our kids. From prior discussions, I knew her son had some special challenges and delays. She expounded on our prior conversations and began to cry as she revealed some of the struggles she's experiencing with her very special son. My heart went out to her.

During our conversation I was thinking how I would respond if someone ever ask when we became friends. I would say, "We were neighbors first and became friends the morning we cried in my basement together." This morning, our conversation went beyond landscaping tips and recipes. We shared our puzzlement over the parenting hand we've been dealt. We cried over the challenges we both have experienced. We encouraged each other with our child's progress. We voiced a hope that someday we wouldn't be having this discussion at all. Finally, we promised each other our struggles should not be experienced alone.

Shared challenges turned two disconnected neighbors into dear friends. I found a "good."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Dynamic Duo Works as a Team

We declared today, "Bathroom Cleaning Day." (You can just imagine how Caleb felt about this declaration.) It's one of those "wish I didn't have to" kind of days, but the need greatly outweighed all personal feelings on the activity. In case you've wondered if we actually have four boys, you can find the proof by looking at the bathrooms. What I've learned about boys is that aiming and hitting the toilet must be a skill learned over time. It certainly has not been mastered by my three potty trained males. I've got the walls, floors and counters to demonstrate that fact.

Chris and I began our scrubbing and shining of the sinks, commodes, and tubs. Connor and Cooper decided they wanted to partake in the cleaning process too. One was clad in a Power Ranger's uniform. The other adorned Batman garb. Both boys chose a cleaning product and a roll of paper towels. The dynamic duo decided to tackle their nemesis: the spots and stains on the walls and baseboards. They found their first opponent: a smear of (hopefully) chocolate encrusted upon the wall. The boys drew their weapons. One clutched a bottle of Fantastic and the other grasped a Windex container. They uttered, "Ready, aim, fire." The boys unleashed the cleaning products on the unsuspected spot. Then came their second round of ammunition: paper towels. With all of their superhero might, they scrubbed until the spot admitted defeat and disappeared.

What we noticed was their cleaning was subpar at best, but the experience was thrilling to observe. We watched in amazement as the boys shared, cooperated, encouraged each other and enjoyed the process. We were thrilled. Who knew cleaning could bring out the "superheroes" in our two boys?!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The remedy for heartache

Yesterday Chris came home from work and saw that I had a burn on my arm. He asked me if it hurt. I said, "No, that's not the body part that hurts right now." I pointed to my heart and said, "It hurts here." In fact, my heart doesn't actually hurt, but more aches. The last couple of days Caleb has had some really rough moments causing the aching to intestify.

The situation is a challenge, but I'm trying not to ask "why me?" I've heard people who are in formidable situations can't move forward if they dwell on the "whys." Rather, the people who flourish in difficult situations: accept the situation, learn how to make it better, and find the good in the midst of a challenge.

Trying to abide by this philosophy, I called my church with an offer to intitate a support group for special needs' families. A church employee called me back. She excitedly announced that she and the pastor couldn't believe my message. She said they had been discussing the need for a special needs' support group when I left the message. I said, "I bet you were shocked with the timing of my call." She replied, "Not really, this sort of thing happens all the time."

Her comments hit home. I was reminded that: 1) God is in control, 2) He promises to work all things for good, and 3) I can trust him. This situation is out of my hands, and in the hands of someone even better.

I think I've found the remedy for my aches.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Pantry Bandit Strikes Again

It amazes me what my boys will and will not put in their mouths. Take my one year old. Today alone I caught him with chalk, crayons and a vacuum attachment in his mouth. But, put a piece of broccoli near his face and he'll run the other way. I just don't get it.

We're really having trouble with what our three year old son, Cooper, puts in his mouth. I've coined him the "pantry bandit." We have consistently found him huddled in the pantry cramming (typically junk food) into his mouth. Here's an example from last night. After dinner, I went into the pantry and first noticed a pair of scissors resting on the floor. My eyes traveled up to the second shelf where a package of chocolate chips was sliced open and chocolate morsels were cascading out of the packaging and onto the floor. Another glance at the floor and I noticed the morsels seemed to have formed a line from the package out the pantry door, through the kitchen, up the stairs and into Connor and Cooper's shared bedroom. At this point, I kept in mind the statement "innocent until proven guilty."

I asked both boys if they had entered the pantry and absconded with the chocolate chips. Connor denied it and appeared credible. Then, I glanced at Cooper. He's cheeks were bulging out like a chipmunk storing nuts for the winter. He had a brown substance adorning his cheeks and chin. When I asked him about his whereabouts, he opened his mouth and revealed a gooey brown substance coating his teeth and gums. I confronted him with the mounting evidence leading me to a conclusion that he is the guilty party (along with the fact that he is a repeat offender). I asked him how he pleaded to the charges. He indicated "not guilty." Since I serve as the executive and judicial branch in the family I immediately found him guilty of entering the pantry and partaking of a forbidden sweet (without permission) and the resulting deception that followed. The sentencing phase began at once: a brief incarceration in time out and probation from certain toys and electronics. Tears were shed during sentencing. Demands for an appeal were made. We're hoping Cooper is on the road to recovery!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day with a Heart

Today is Valentine's Day, the day marked with hearts. Just look around and you'll find heart shaped cookies, heart shaped cards, heart shaped candy, etc. Although we think of hearts with Valentine's Day, I am focused on the heart 365 days a year. In fact, as a mom, I'm in the business of changing my children's hearts, for the better. In return, they have warmed, broken, softened and most importantly touched my heart.

Today I received a wonderful valentine's present. I took the boys to Subway for lunch. An older gentleman came up to our table and complimented the boys on their excellent behavior (I almost had a heart attack!). I was touched by the comments, mostly because those words came from his heart.

From the bottom of my heart I wish all my friends and family members a Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The snow arrived, again! Schools were cancelled on Tuesday. Here's how our snow day went:

6:30 a.m. Received the e-mail announcing school is cancelled. The boys received the "good" news. We all are excited to have a leisurely morning. No rush to change clothes, brush our teeth or scarf down breakfast. This is going to be a great day!!

7:30 a.m. OK, we've eaten and changed. We're ready to relax and just lounge around the house. What memories we'll make!!

8:30 a.m. Cooper insists on a snack, even though I remind him he literally just finished breakfast. Is it ever too early to eat goldfish? Still excited about the day!

9:30 a.m. The boys decide they want to play with Collin's baby monitors. They act like it's their cell phone. (In fact, Caleb told me I should keep one in my car in case my cell phone died.) Of course, they keep the baby monitor on the wrong frequency. The sound is akin to nails clawing a blackboard. This repulsive noise does not prevent them from insisting the monitor stay on maximum volume. I think they must have discovered some sort of torture technique the US military has used in Guantanamo Bay.

10:30 a.m. We've moved on to assembling our valentines for their school parties. I actually purchased the valentines days early and they prepared them on Saturday. I learned a lesson from this experience. Never leave children unattended with valentines. Upon checking their work, I discovered they prepared seven valentines for one kid and none for other classmates. In addition, Connor decided to use permanent marker on the school directory to cross out the names of every kid in his class. Without written documentation of his classmates' names I asked for his recollection. Here's how it went:

Me: "Isn't Delaney in your class?"

Connor: "I don't know."

Me: "Is Laura in your class?"

Connor: "I don't know."

It made me seriously wonder if he actually walks into the classroom when I drop him off at preschool.

11:30 a.m. Lunch time. Big disagreement over grilled cheese versus mac n cheese. Mac n cheese wins. The proponents of grilled cheese protest the decision and show their disdain. Snow day fun is decreasing.

12:30 p.m. Nap/Rest time. Snow day is feeling better! I "enjoy" some time shoveling snow.

1:30 p.m. Driveway is done. Kids are out of quiet time. They insist on going outside. We started a little tradition of drinking hot cocoa after snow fun. The kids love the hot cocoa more than the snow. In the past, they've gotten all dressed up in their snow gear and put one foot in the snow. Then they race back inside and insist on a cocoa. I've gotten wiser. New rule: 15 minutes of snow play is required for hot cocoa.

2:30 p.m. We do some crafts. It ends in stickers, crayons, markers and stamps littering the floor. When did craft time become a high impact sport?

3:30 p.m. We all miss school!!!

4:30 p.m. Daddy's home. I don't know who is happier!

Wednesday: School is back in session. Hooray!!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Birthday Treasures

For his seventh birthday, Caleb received a quartz mining kit from a friend. It was just the sort of thing you would get as a present and never actually buy for your own child. The reasoning? It made a complete mess of our house! The box consisted of a big slab of congealed gravel and sand accompanied by a tiny miners' pick. The child was to use the pick to chisel away at the gravel until hidden quartz and crystal pieces were discovered within the slab. Caleb absolutely loved it. The opportunity to make a complete mess and work with a tool that may lead to an ER visit was thrilling for him. Our house looked like we lived on the beach for weeks. Sand and gravel residue could be found in every nook and cranny.

About a month later my birthday rolled around. Caleb surprised me with a beautiful pink crystal (my favorite color) he had retrieved from his mining kit. I was incredibly touched! I treasure all the gifts from my children, but this gift was really special to me. I thought about how much the gift was truly symbolic of that child and our relationship. By just examining the kit's gravel slab, who would imagine beautiful crystals lie under the surface? Yet, with a little work the hard surface can be eroded and the beauty exposed. Caleb is like the slab. He has a tough exterior and some may not be aware of all the gems lying under his surface. Yet, we've been chiseling away at the hard patches exposing more and more of the beauty. I'm hoping one day we can drop our picks because the rough surface has been eliminated and all that remains are luminous treasures.

I'm keeping the crystal in a safe place. I'm going to regift it to him once all of the treasures surface.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Mom's Perspective on February

The month of February has commenced. Some people think of February as the month of love. Others associate this February with the winter olympics. For mothers of preschoolers, February is the month for preschool registrations. Once the Christmas season is over, mothers of preschoolers immediatley center all their time and efforts into preparing for the all important preschool registration. January is spent visting preschools, consulting other moms about their preschool decisions and making numerous pros and cons lists for all of the prospective preschools. Of couse, most mothers mull over their decisions with their husbands. But let me say from personal experience, husbands don't really give that much thought to where their children go to preschool. (Unless you bring up the cost of preschool!) You see, while you're busy talking to them about preschools they are thinking about football because men basically associate the month of February with the Super Bowl.

Although we're only two days into the month of February, I have already spent a chunk of the last two days agonizing over my preschool decisions. It some how feels like I making a decision impacting the rest of his life. Questions race through my head: Does this preschool have computer time, because what if he is the next Bill Gates? Do they do enough art projects, what if he's got the artistic talents of Van Gogh? If he only goes half day does this mean the difference between a degree from Harvard versus beauty school? Should we really be encouraging play, or should he be aspiring to read Moby-Dick by the age of four?

Once you've decided on a preschool, the question becomes whether you can actually get into the program. Preschools have a hierarchy for admissions: current students and siblings, church members (if associated with a church) and then the rest. This year we're in the "rest" category which adds an extra layer of urgency. Being in the "rest" category means you may be up at an ungodly hour waiting in line in frigid temperatures outside of a preschool office just to get your child that coveted preschool spot. It could also mean standing by your computer and logging in at the exact moment registration begins. For example, an 8:00 a.m. registration means you start logging in no later than 7:59. Don't even think about making breakfast at that moment, preschool registration is first priority!

After much consideration, we finally decided to base our preschool decisions not on academic curriculum or artistic capabilities, rather we based our decision on what time works best for our family. We also decided to put our one year old into the "Breaktime" (gets to the point, right?) program. We've never put a child into a mother's morning out program at that young of age. I bet the class is full of third and fourth born children. With our first we wouldn't dream of missing an ounce of time together. By the time our fourth son has arrived I'm counting the days until I can actually arrive at the groccery store sans kids! Maybe I'll have time to linger a little bit in the frozen foods, or actually check the expiration dates on the dairy products.

It feels nice to finally make a decision on preschool. Now we're just waiting to see if we actually got in!