Friday, April 30, 2010

The Cost of Sick Kids

The Cost of Sick Kids:

Professional carpet cleaning $100

Plumber $ 85

Gatorade $ 5ish

Over the counter medication $ 10ish

Replacement underwear $ 10ish

Replacement clothes Not yet purchased

Cost of days missed from private
school I don't want to know

Diet cokes drank to maintain
my energy level Again, I don't want to know

Chocolate consumed to
reduce anxiety Too much

Costs of phone calls to mom
to gather advice Whatever it is, it's worth it

Costs of phone calls to friends
to share all my woes I owe them a lot

Costs of mothering four boys
(whether sick or healthy) Priceless

Pray we eventually get healthy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Contentment in the Chaos

Today started with another sick kid. If you're keeping track (like I am), that makes 12 consecutive days of at least one ill child. The lesson I've learned from this experience: don't get your carpets cleaned unless you're absolutely sure an illness has run its course through your family. We learned that lesson the hard way. The carpets were cleaned on Saturday just in time to be saturated with another round of spew (and this one hurled over a top bunk!).

Caleb was our sick child du jour, resulting in yet another sick day from school. Having a sick child is a balancing act. I try to make the day pleasant for the whole family but not so enjoyable that a particular young man prefers sick days over school days.

The day actually went pretty well. Bringing four kids back into the mix is an adjustment when you're use to having one in school all day. Everything can be going smoothly and within a moment's notice all chaos can break loose.

Cooper is typically the one who begins the chaos. When Cooper's not around and the house is eerily quiet, I become concerned. Today, during some of those "quiet" moments, I found him sitting on top of the dresser and at another time exploring our grill. The other day I found him holding safety scissors dangerously close to his little brother's chest. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, "I'm trying to see his heart." Poor Collin!

As expected, today's chaos began with Cooper. I was rushing around the house when suddenly I noticed the quiet. Upon further exploration, I discovered Cooper holding a measuring cup sitting on the washing machine. Laundry detergent was cascading down the sides of the machine and blanketing the floor. As I'm dealing with Cooper and the powdery floor, I hear Caleb say, "Mom, don't worry I've got the car keys and I'm putting the kids in the car." In my head I'm thinking, "That is exactly why I should worry!" Enter chaos!

As the day progressed, the realities of caring for sick and squirmy children took its toll. In the afternoon, I was reading a children's book to Connor when I came across this passage, "His heart was light, for he possessed the best thing in the world, which is contentment." That passage resonated with me. Today I have sick and crazy kids, tomorrow may bring a new set of challenges, but the best way to parent is just to find the contentment in it all. For the rest of the day, I did.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Caleb was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome; I'm not sure if I've written that before. I guess it has taken me a little while to admit. The word "Asperger's" conjures up images of Rainmanesque individuals who can ramble off facts and memorize phone books but can't function with the rest of society. Caleb's no Rainman, but he does exhibit some characteristics that fall under the umbrella of Asperger's: little eye contact, fixation on things or people, sensory issues and trouble with transitions.

He's been identified as high-functioning. There are times when Caleb appears to be your average seven year old boy. Then there are days like today when his behavior is so strikingly atypical from his peers that I am aware of how vastly different he behaves.

That being said, my opinion on the diagnosis has wavered. Recently I indicated this to Chris and solicited his thoughts on the matter. I was surprised when he responded, "I've never questioned the diagnosis." It made me wonder if my questions didn't stem from mother's intuition as much as denial. I think when you hear a diagnosis like Asperger's you actually experience the stages of grief. The grief is the loss of the child you thought you would have and the reality of what is. I was going through the first stage: denial.

Today I think I've moved to the second stage: anger. Here's what happened: We signed up Caleb for a karate class at his school. Our intentions were pure: a chance for physical activity and extra time outside of class with his classmates. No, we did not consult Caleb on the class, but we assumed he would be thrilled. We forgot something critical about Caleb: he doesn't respond like your "average" child. To say he was upset would be an understatement. You see Caleb doesn't "go with the flow." Transitions and new activities are a major undertaking for him.

We were now in a parenting quandary: do we force him to take the class with the possibility for lots of conflict or do we allow him to bow out of the class but potentially send the message you can quit a class if you put up enough of a fight. We decided that we Woods don't quit and that Caleb would carry forth with the class.

Chris accompanied him to the first class with disastrous results. We decided we would see if Caleb fared any better on his second attempt. I was the lucky parent that would be accompanying him to his second class (by myself with three other kids in tow). Caleb was a wreck from the minute I spotted him at school. He was adamant he would not be attending the class. By force, I dressed him in his karate garb and escorted him into the room. He wouldn't stay in the room, he was upset, he was defiant and he was inconsolable.

The whole time I was looking into the class and watching 30+ boys happily practicing their karate moves and interacting with their peers. I was thinking, "Why can't Caleb be like them? Why does he make things so difficult?" I was mad. I was mad at him for being different and making me look different too.

I can't say I've been the best parent tonight. When I'm angry, I'm silent. I spent most of the evening silently stewing about the afternoon events. You see, Caleb is a enigma to me. I think the thing that makes me most upset is I just don't get him yet. I wish he could verbalize all his fears and frustrations and I could parent him accordingly. That has not yet been the case.

He fell asleep while I was putting the others to bed. I watched him laying in his bed. He looked so tranquil and sweet. I saw him as my little boy again. The events of the afternoon seemed to vanish. My silence was broken and I whispered a little prayer, "Thank you God for Caleb." God made Caleb who he is. I'm praying God will help me be the parent Caleb needs.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Treat from Dad

As I suspected, our household bug had not run its course. Connor's symptoms resurfaced this morning. As a courtesy to our friends and neighbors, we voluntarily quarantined the boys within the walls of our house for the majority of the day. By late afternoon, the boys were ready to climb the walls. We decided to make an excursion to the emergency room to bring Daddy dinner. We figured wasn't everyone there sick already?

When I was growing up it was a treat to visit my Dad at work. It was interesting to see where he spent his days. My siblings and I loved seeing our pictures displayed in his office. We loved to meet his co-workers.

My most vivid memory of those office visits centered on the candy. Somewhere in my Dad's office we could always find a bowl full of hard candies. Candy was a novelty for us and we couldn't wait to fill our mouths with those sugary treats -the red spicy ones were the most memorable!

Reflecting on my memories makes me wonder what the boys will remember about visiting Chris at the hospital. I'm sure they enjoy seeing all the interesting medical equipment and gadgets. I know they like meeting all the delightful people that work within the ER: nurses, office staff, paramedics, and doctors. But, their favorite part of the visit has to be the sprite cans Chris dispenses to each boy. The boys know the ER houses a refrigerator stocked full of sprites, a treat drink for the boys. You can see them beaming as they hold their own individual can, gulping down the fizzy, clear substance.

In 20 years will the boys remember their Dad treating sick patients or handing them sprites? I'm betting the latter!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Bug with Nine Lives

We have a bug (the virus type, not the insect) meandering its way around the house. So far two boys have been hit. (Chris said he might have just have received a pat.) Once hit, vomiting and intestinal problems ensue. Being that the victims are minors, they haven't mastered the ability to anticipate the onset of illness, arrive at the appropriate location to dispense of their discharge and most importantly-aim!! You can just guess how the last couple of days have been for me! I think I need to wear a holster carrying lysol on one hip and carpet spray on the other considering how frequently I am dispensing of those two products!

This isn't your ordinary bug; It's tricky! Caleb had a version of it this weekend. Come Sunday he appeared healthy and ready to go to school (to his dismay!). We sent all three boys to school on Monday. They spent lots of time probably hugging and licking all of their classmates just to ensure they shared all the germs with their favorite friends. That afternoon Connor succumbed to the illness. On Tuesday Connor appeared healthy again. I thought we had bid the bug adieu.

Today the bug came back with a vengeance. Of course, the bug reared its head at the most inopportune time. Connor's symptoms resurfaced in the morning right in the midst of our mad dash out of the door. He had some intestinal issues in the car when I was accompanying Caleb into the building and he remained in the car. Being the thoughtful boy he is, he attempted to clean up the car by himself. You can just imagine the stench and the appearance of our car when I returned!

I spent the morning assisting and cleaning up Connor and all impacted areas. Around noon, Caleb's school called to pick him up. He had spent the morning with intestinal troubles. I felt a little sheepish picking him up. I imagined the school secretary saw me as one of those mothers that tried to dump their sick children on the school so they can go on to other "important" things like tennis matches or shopping excursions. I apologized profusely to the secretary and escorted Caleb out of the building.

Once home, Caleb announced, "So guys, where should we go for the afternoon?" He didn't appear the least bit sick and seemed thrilled to have an afternoon that he could potentially tour the city. I reminded him sick kids don't do museums or libraries or parks. I tried to make the sick afternoon as un-fun as possible!

All the boys appear healthy at this juncture, but this virus may have nine lives! I'm crossing my fingers and toes that I don't get hit! Who takes care of a sick mom?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Words Can Hurt You

Once upon a time I couldn't wait to hear my kids speak. Their first words were magical. Now, words have become a real problem in this house- the bad ones that is. Fortunately, the words they use aren't the four letter type. Although, we did have one son come close. Around Christmas, this particular son shouted, "That sucks!" I think because we had just finished watching A Christmas Story, we implemented the old "soap in the mouth" sanction that worked on Ralphie in the movie. I'm not sure if this is a parenting technique promoted by Dr. Spock but let me just say it's not been said since!

The most popular "bad" words uttered in our house always begin with the word "fluffer." Some favorite variations of the word include: "fluffer face," "fluffer head," or "fluffer brain." I'm not sure if fluffer by itself is a bad word. To make such a determination, Chris and I have taken the "I know it when I hear it" approach. This approach allows us to examine the context, manner and intention of the party uttering the words. I have to say I've yet to hear "fluffer face" be used to encourage a brother or promote peace within the house.

We're trying to teach the boys contrary to popular nursery rhymes, "Words can hurt a brother" even if it's a made up one!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Boy Who Cried Ants

Oftentimes when I get together with my mom friends, we swap our "bad mom" stories. You know the stories where we've somehow botched our roles as mothers, but fortunately an amusing or lighthearted outcome arises from our mishaps. We share our self-deprecating tales to sympathetic friends who can relate, encourage and more than likely done the same thing.

Recently I had a really good story. In fact, now when one of my mom friends calls and shares her "bad mom" story I have the perfect story to convince her that she is not in fact the worst mom in the world. I think I've taken that title!

Here it goes: After returning from Florida, the boys slept in their own beds on Saturday night. Sunday morning we engaged in Easter festivities. In the midst of all the celebrating, Connor said, "My bed had like a hundred ants on it last night and they're crawling up the wall too." Connor is known for many wonderful things, but truth telling is not one of them. I thought, "Ants in a bed? I've never heard of it. Kitchen, maybe! Not a bed!" I dismissed his comments and we went on with our day.

Monday morning Connor woke up and said the same thing. My first thought was to disregard his "crazy talk," but a little voice in my head suggested I at least check out the bed. Good thing I did. I was completely shocked to see a slew of ants congregating on his comforter and ants indeed streaming up and down his wall. After the shock subsided, the guilt washed over me. Poor Connor, he slept in a pool of ants the last two nights even after informing his mom of his plight. I felt horrible. I apologized profusely to Connor and an exterminator arrived that day to rid the bed of the unwanted pests.

Connor and I discussed why I didn't believe him. It was his version of the "Boy who cried wolf." Connor's going to make more of an effort to tell the truth. I'm going to make more of an effort to believe him!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dinner Disputes

When Chris and I were newlyweds, dinnertime was something we savored. At dinner, we would unwind from our day, catch up on each other's lives and relish homemade cuisines. Boy have dinners changed! Almost ten years and four kids later, dinnertime has transformed from serene to stressful.

Tonight was a fight. I made pesto chicken. I knew before the boys hit the table that pesto chicken was going to be a hard sell. It's chicken that's not in nugget form and smothered in a green, grass like substance. Of course I was right, the boys were beside themselves. How could I do this to chicken? I couldn't possibly expect them to eat this, right?

You see, the boys have two beefs with dinner. First, they detest our family's "one dinner fits all" policy. We are an equal opportunity dining family: the same dinner is provided to each member of the family regardless of age, dietary preferences and propensity to protest. This policy has come under fire by the under seven constituency in our house. To their dismay, the matriarch of the family insists the "one family, one dish" policy will remain. This means dinner will oftentimes not include a box of macaroni and cheese or even a dollop of peanut butter!

Secondly, the boys are irked (to put it kindly) that each dinner includes a (gasp) vegetable. Of course, it's the first thing they notice on their plate. Then they express how upsetting this entire class of foods is to them. They comment on the icky colors, the squishy texture and the general unpleasantness of it all.

All this being said, the boys typically finish dinner for one reason alone: dessert. Clean plates can be redeemed for the sugary treat of their choice. It's an offer too tempting for them to refuse!

Tonight they wanted reassurance that the dessert was really good and worth all the gagging that would ensue. I pulled out the holy grail of desserts: homemade chocolate chip cookies. A hush fell over the table and the boys began eating.

I've learned you've got to watch the boys like a hawk during dinner. They'll try just about anything to bypass eating green and leafy produce. One son will "accidently" drop his vegetables on the floor and indicate how sorry he is that he won't be able to eat them. Another son will ask to go to the restroom. I'll notice his fist is clinched with a green substance oozing out the sides. Moments later I'll hear the toilet flush and he'll return with an empty hand and miraculous a plate clean of vegetables. Another son's trick of choice is to place all his vegetables on his brother's plate. That always ends really well!

Tonight we compromised. The boys promised to consume the chicken as long as they could scrape off the "yucky green stuff." Dinner was devoured (with a limited number of vegetable avoiding shenanigans) and desserts were then distributed.

Fortunately, tomorrow is pizza night. I'm anticipating no complaints!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Secret of Happiness

I would describe Connor, my second son, as typically content. He's content to sit and color for extended periods of time. He's content to play legos for hours. He's content to play by himself. Because he's so content and I have other children who aren't so content, he tends to have a lot of time being content alone.

Today Chris and I were busy. We had garages to clean, weeds to pull, grass to mow and laundry to fold. While we were trying to accomplish everything on our to do lists, we had to stop intermittently to deal with the not so content sons. As the day progressed Connor finally stopped me and said, "You can play with me if you want." He added, "You can play with me anytime you want." It broke my heart! Here we spent our day doing "needed" things while we missed out on the "thing" that needed us the most: Connor.

Our to do list got brushed aside. Connor sat on my lap and we read. While we were reading I could tell that he was more than content, he was happy and so was I.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Baby Steps of Parenting

My littlest one, Collin, is now 14 months. I guess technically you'd call him a toddler (despite my attempts to keep him as a baby). Fourteen month olds are adorable. They have infectious smiles and giggles. They have pudgy legs and arms that make my heart melt. They can light up a room simply by waving "bye bye."

Despite their adorableness, 14 month olds are a lot of work! They're needy when you want them to be a little more independent. (Have you ever tried to chop veggies holding a 14 month old?) Then, they're independent when you want them to be a little more needy. (Try keeping a 14 months old in a shopping cart. They suddenly embrace their inner "free spirit"!)

The biggest challenge with 14 month olds is that they are unpredictable. You never know what new skill they will pick up at any moment. Within the last month Collin has learned to climb up and (somewhat) down stairs, mount the couch and open up toilet lids.

Yesterday was one of those days; Collin discovered a new skill. The kids and I were off for a Costco run. I was scurrying around the house gathering everything needed for the store. A few minutes later I discovered Collin was no longer sitting at my feet playing quietly. I frantically searched my parameters. I noticed the door to our garage was ajar. I then spotted Collin toddling around the garage. You see, Collin had learned how to open the door. My world was about to be rocked!

I'm not sure if I'm ready for Collin to open doors. That makes my job a lot harder, in more ways than one. I've got to watch what doors he opens and decide whether he can handle what lies beyond the door.

Right now the doors just lead to the garage, but who knows what other "doors" he'll attempt to open in the future. Will I be prepared for that? Will I know if Collin can handle all that resides beyond each egress he'll encounter?

Doors keep can keep things out and keep other things in, but you can't get anywhere without opening them. My job as a parent is to help him open (the right) doors and watch him get to the place he needs to be. As much as I want to keep him on my side of the door, the journey of motherhood begins by helping him make that exit. I just hope someday he'll walk back in.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Bungled Easte

I bungled Easter. I know what you're thinking, "How is that possible? Target has only had about a dozen rows of Easter goodies on display since Christmas! Haven't you passed those rows a million times! Haven't you noticed the Lenten decor at church?" I have no good answer; it just happened.

The boys awoke us this morning with grins plastered on the face. Caleb announced they couldn't wait to discover what goodies the Easter bunny had left them. My eyes flew open and I jumped out of bed. I fabricated some story about Daddy needing to talk to them while I ran downstairs. Fortunately, I have a bag of spare sale toys I keep for birthday gifts. I grabbed four toys and launched them onto our breakfast table. Just in time, I might add, the boys arrived about ten seconds later and none the wiser.

There was no advance planning on cute little Easter outfits. When I dropped the boys off at their Sunday School class, they stuck out like a sore thumb. All the other little boys adorned pastel argyle sweater vests with matching khaki or madras shorts. The girls were decked out in floral dresses with velvet hairbands and satin shoes. My boys wore the outfits we had on hand and some even wore (gasp) tennis shoes!

We did hold an Easter egg hunt for the boys. I didn't have much "Easter" candy, so I filled most of the easter eggs with candy hearts. One of the boys commented that they looked like the same candy hearts from Valentine's Day. (Darn kids with their memories, he was right!)

Easter was not a total loss. We made it to church as a family. And, church was followed by a sit down meal, just the six of us. We feasted on actual homemade cuisine: juicy roast beef, creamy mashed potatoes, rich green bean casserole and out of this world orange rolls (thanks to a recipe from Paula Deen).

My Easter omissions, though unintended, helped our family keep the main purpose of Easter center in the day: a risen Christ who came for those who even forgot his day.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Family Fun in Florida

Some of my favorite childhood memories centered on an annual spring break week in Florida. Every March my family made the pilgrimage down to the Sunshine State to enjoy sandy beaches, glassy pools and most importantly time with my snow bird grandparents. The weeks were magical: a time where subtropical play collided with impromptu family reunions.

Fortunately, we've continued this tradition with our family. Every spring break, we gather the kids and head south for the week: Naples, Florida to be exact. We bring four kids, three suitcases, three backpacks and our secret sanity sustaining weapon: Grandma and Grandpa! This year we even had Uncle Matt and Aunt Heather with extra hands and bigger hearts! (Great Aunt Kathyrn and Great Uncle Gary even joined our group for a night!)

The week didn't disappoint. The kids adored splashing around in the pool. They waded in the liquid basins until they shriveled. When their hands turned scaly, we hit the beach. The boys spent their time hunting for coastal wildlife. They loved to spot jellyfish resting in the sand and hunt for lizards scurrying among the beach brush.

I think their favorite memories of the week centered on individual "dates" with Grandma and Grandpa. Being one of four, individual time is a huge luxury for the boys. Grandma and Grandpa took the boys to places we wouldn't dare attempt with four boys in tow. Each of the older boys went miniature golfing (golf clubs and four boys, no way!) and a shell shop (breakables galore, need I say more!). The afternoon was topped off with a trip to the ice cream store. Cooper went to a train museum. (One of Cooper is still too much in a shell store!!)

Thinking about the week makes me recall what a soldier bound for Iraq told us in the airport. When we were boarding our flight to Florida, I was aware we might not be the most popular family on the plane. Bringing four little ones on a plane can produce a lot of eye rolling and sighs from other passengers as they anticipate all the commotion our crew could generate. I apologized to the solider for any potential disruption we could make on the flight. He responded with a smile and answered, "You're making family memories, that's what is important." He's right. Our week was rich with memories, and the best ones centered on family.