Thursday, July 29, 2010

And We're Off

It's the biggest contradiction in motherhood: being insanely busy all day, but never actually getting anything done. On days like today, when I really need to be productive, I struggle with this the most.

Tomorrow we're heading out of town. Destination: South Bend and Chicago. We're hoping to squeeze into the next five days: a high school reunion, visit with relatives, visits with dear college friends, and lots of kid friendly entertainment. (Just writing this, I'm not sure it is even physically possible to accomplish with four kids in tow, but we're going to give it a try!)

Preparation for almost a week's vacation is always interesting with the kids. They're at that age where they want to pack themselves. My "helpers" stuff bags full with all kids of trinkets and doodads, and no actual clothes or hygiene items. I'm left to wait until bedtime, to repack all luggage so that at least one full outfit (with underwear) will make the trip.

After they've packed, they're wired, not quite sure what to do with themselves. So, they do crazy things. Here's how it goes: I pack one item, check on the boys, pack another item, clean up a spill, pack another item, break up a fight, and on. One hour later, I'm not sure much has been accomplished.

Despite all the challenges, vacationing with the boys is amazing. It's fun to experience new places and adventures through their eyes. I can't wait to see the boys gawk at the Chicago skyline, run around Millennium park, and step foot on Navy Pier. What memories we'll have!

Hope to blog again in a week!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Connor was a disaster. His eyes were red and tear soaked. His mouth was puffy and swollen on one side. The other side of his mouth was curled into a scowl. He glanced at me with a "How could you" look.

The dentist emerged by his side and declared his dental procedure a success, but that didn't provide any comfort to my sad five year old.

I escorted him out of the office, and he burst into tears, that erupted into wails. He kept attempting to communicate something important, but between the sobs and heaves I could only make out the word "mouth."

I'm still not sure if the tears stemmed from pain, discomfort or anger (or maybe a little of each). But, what I do know about Connor is that he's the kind of patient Chris refers to in the ER as a "drama one": a patient big on emotions, questionable on pain.

I listened to the cries for the entire half an hour ride to my friend Erin's house for a scheduled lunch date. He entered her house head downcast, sullen and somber.

But Erin has a way of transforming any child from gloomy to gleeful. She brought out the instant smile-maker: cup cake ice cream cones. It didn't take long for Connor to bop around Erin's house, acting like the dental procedure was a distant memory.

Some sugar and toys, and Connor was smiling again (albeit a little crooked for awhile)!

(No pictures for a little while due to yesterday's turn of events. Hopefully we'll be a working camera owning family within the week!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

All It Takes Is A Creek

Caleb with his creek "find."

Cooper having a blast at the splash park!

The boys and I ventured over to a new park (Dillon Park) on the recommendation of a neighbor. Dillon park offers play equipment, a splash park, but most importantly (at least in the eyes of the boys) a shallow creek perfect for exploration and entertainment.

After a little play, the boys raced to the shallow portion of the creek. In no time, shoes were flung off as bare toes splashed in the water. Collin and I sat on a small bridge, with a bird's eye view of all the action.

A few minutes later, Caleb said, "Mom, look what I found."

From a distance, I saw him holding some sort of creature. My stomach started to churn and I prayed that he wasn't holding a snake!

He followed up with, "Don't worry, it's dead!"

At that point, I'm wondering if I should be thrilled that he isn't holding a live animal or disgusted that he's grasping a dead one (maybe a little of both). He ventured closer and proudly displayed a deceased crayfish. What's the proper response to seeing your son holding a dead animal? Congrats?

While I'm discussing the crayfish with Caleb, Collin decides to empty the contents of my pool bag from the bridge into the creek. From the corner of my eye, I watched towels, spare clothes and other personal items float under the bridge. To top it off, my camera became engulfed in liquid and I think may have snapped its last photo. (I'm so sad!)

After the items were retrieved from the creek and I grieved for my camera, I sat and really watched the boys. There they were: three boys clad in swimsuits, frolicking in the water, squishing mud between their toes, dashing after crayfish and other aquatic wildlife. There was a gleam in their eyes and I thought the whole scene reminded me of a postcard for summer or a Norman Rockwell painting.

No, I didn't have a working camera ready to snap their pictures, but I think those images are burned into my brain: pictures of little boys in summer doing what little boys do.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sledding in July

I was going through storage today, when the boys spotted our snow sleds packed away among the luggage and the snow boots. Cries rang out and they were aghast that we would dare presume sleds were just for winter. I handed over the sleds to four eager little boys with my mind racing as to just what they planned to do.

It didn't take them long to find the perfect fit for a snow sled with no snow. Why not use it on the play set slide?

So I watched the boys ascend our play set clutching their sleds. Once at the top of the slide, they mounted the sleds and grasped the handles. With one heave, they whizzed down the slide only to land with a thud in a fresh patch of mud. They emerged dirty and a little winded, but totally giddy from the experience.

They taught me a lesson. Who knew snow sleds could be so much fun in July?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A New Summer Activitity

Snuggling with the boys (pre-bath!)
The boys at a tranquil moment during the day!

With summer activities dwindling and the countdown to school days away, the boys are a little stir crazy. But, they've found a way to fill their days until school begins: fighting with a brother (or two). In their eyes, the great thing about fighting is:

1) there are three brothers easily engaged in any type of squabble;
2) feuds can be initiated and enacted at anytime and anyplace; and
3) the reasons for engaging in a melee are endless and don't even have to be particularly meaningful to the fight initiator.

So, from morning until night I am doing everything from refereeing minor disagreement to breaking up WWFesque type skirmishes. At the end of the day, I wonder if I really even accomplished anything other than keeping the boys alive. (I keep reminding myself, at least I'm using a little bit of my arbitration training from law school!)

Just when I'm kicking myself for not having an only child, the boys engage in wonderful, imaginary play with a sibling. My heart melts at those moments, and I realize-despite the fighting-why we gave them siblings.

But, a few minutes later I hear that familiar cry, "Mom, he did....."


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shower Swinging

Cooper climbing a tree during Connor's football practice!

The boys on their last day of swim classes!

The challenge about having boys is I (being female) can't supervise the boys' locker room time. Unfortunately, at our pool, there is no way around the boys entering the men's locker room. The locker rooms serve as the only source of egress and ingress into the pool. So, I bite my nails outside the door only imagining what sorts of shenanigans are transpiring within the confines of the room.

Today, after swim lessons, the boys entered the locker room with simple instructions: shower quickly, change clothes and leave.

I stood outside the locker room, awaiting the boys arrival when I heard a male employee yell, "Get down." His instructions were followed by a thud. I knew right away that my boys were involved in some sort of mischief.

Later, I pieced together the story. Evidently, Cooper was in the showers. (The locker room showers are extremely antiquated; patrons must pull and hold a string to operate the shower.) Cooper thought the string looked like loads of fun and would really be better suited as a Tarzanesque vine. So, he was swinging from the string, swaying among the liquid pellets. I envision him naked as a jay bird wearing only a smile as he propelled himself from one side to the next.

Alas, the pool employee was none so pleased, and Cooper was instructed to finally land. On cue, he plopped to the floor in a heap.

When the boys emerged, I was extremely disappointed in their choices. Cooper apologized to the male employee. But, I noticed a twinkle in his eyes that told me he was still savoring those moments of fun.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finding Peace in Different

Almost a year ago, Caleb was placed on the autism spectrum. In the months since, I've been plagued with questions about the accuracy of the diagnosis. I'm sure I've bugged friends and family to no end with the one burning question: "Is he or isn't he?" I know they wanted to respond with, "Well, what do you want me to say?" The truth is, I really didn't know what I wanted to hear.

After months of insomnia, lots of prayer and a little research, I've finally come to terms with his diagnosis and in my heart I feel this label fits. Once I made this declaration, I was flooded with the inner peace I've so desperately sought.

You're probably wondering why it really matters; It's just a label after all. But, it matters to me. I can't really explain it. No, it doesn't impact how I see Caleb or drastically affect our relationship. I guess the label makes me feel like I am closer to unraveling the mystery of Caleb.

Caleb's teacher referred to him this year as an "outlier." I think that fits. He is a boy functioning outside the norm in temperament, personality and intellect. Basically, it means he's different. Different can be frustrating. It can cause us to scratch our heads and weep in frustration. But, different can be amazing. It can cause us to laugh and stand in awe of someone wise beyond his years. Most importantly, different grows us all and makes us appreciate all that different can be.

I asked Caleb's doctor this week how his diagnosis would impact him later in life. She replied, "I think he'll be just fine, maybe a little quirky."

I can live with quirky. In fact, I'm learning to embrace it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Selling Stuff

Not related to the blog, but cute pic from the day!

One of the salesmen from the garage sale!

Garage sale advertisement!

I overheard murmurings about a garage sale, but paid no attention to the chatter as I continued sprucing up the house. A few minutes later, I noticed all three boys shuffling arm fulls of toys and books into the garage. My focus shifted, and I followed the boys into the garage.

In the garage, the boys had compiled a mass of toys and books on a wagon. They had taped a homemade "Garage Sale" sign to the wagon's edge.

"What's going on," I questioned the boys.

Connor piped up, "We decided to have a garage sale. We want money to buy more stuff."

Scanning the sale, I was amazed at how quickly they were willing to separate from some of their "stuff," especially when just a week ago a casual mention of toy downsizing was met with loud protests and cries. Today, with dollar signs in their eyes, all sentimental attachments seemed to have faded, and they were ready to wheel and deal.

Caleb appears to be the mastermind and executive officer of the garage sale (no surprise!). Caleb was very hands-on, directing his brothers in every aspect of the sale, including the advertising! He insisted we advertise the sale by taping a garage sale advertisement (a sheet of construction paper with crayon writing) on my car. He reasoned that more potential consumers would see our advertisement as we zoomed around town. (I placed the sign on the van doors, but I'm not even sure it stayed attached while backing out of our driveway!)

The boys didn't have any customers today, but they didn't seem that upset. They had a ball positioning their toys, working together and dreaming of profits!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

From the Mouth of Caleb

Connor at the park today!

"Are you done having babies," Caleb asked matter-of-factly from the breakfast table. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he uttered the words. I'm sure he wanted some assurance that:

1) he'd probably never have to share a room; and
2) no sisters are in the foreseeable future.

I replied, "Yes Caleb, I think Collin is the last baby."

Caleb paused and then replied with a sigh, "Well, at least that's over."

I laughed at his comments, but then reflected on some truth in his statement. I've been so blessed to have four healthy boys, in a span of six year! Those years were a blur of pregnancy, nursing and babies. The time was exciting...and adorable...and fun...and exhausting! But my baby is almost 18 months, and I've finally had some time to develop a waist, tote around only one set of diapers and sleep (mostly) through the night. I have to say I'm not missing the maternity clothes, or the nursing bras or the baby slings. I'm content with a toddler, and a toddler only!

I don't know if I'm ready to say, "at least that's over," but I'm definitely ready to see what the next stage brings.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer Memories

Collin having fun at the Farmer's Market!

Today felt like summer. The kids and I filled the day with stereotypical summer activities: a trip to the farmer's market followed by a dip in the swimming pool. It's been fun to experience summer with the kids, and oftentimes it causes me to reminisce about my own childhood summers. My memories are vivid and wonderful: spending hours at the local YMCA swimming pool, frolicking outdoors with neighborhood pals, partaking in summer trips with my family, and, of course, visiting Grandma Joseph's farm.

Grandma lived in a magnificent old farm house encircled with land as far as the eye could see only interrupted by an oval shaped mossy pond. The best part about Grandma's house was the tire swing! Situated next to her house, a vertically suspended tire dangled from a grandiose oak.

Once we arrived at Grandma's house, I would race to the swing and mount the tire, dangling my legs over the side while clutching the rope. Usually a cousin or sibling grasped the tire and tugged the swing back than released. In an instant, the tire swayed back and forth. I pumped my legs, bare feet grazing the wind. My torso swayed in rhythm. I flung my head back letting the breeze flap my hair around. Then I opened my mouth with glee: inhaling childhood, and exhaling happiness.

Ah, summer!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cake Catastrophe

What use to be chocolate cake!

Last night, we feasted on an amazingly decadent chocolate fudge cake. It was truly love at first bite (at least for me). When the last fork hit the table, one piece remained. From that moment on, I mentally claimed it as mine and fully intending to do whatever it took to savor that one last piece (all other family members beware!).

This morning, I was wiping off the kitchen counters when one wrong swipe toppled the cake over the counter ledge smearing icing and cake crumbs all over the tiles. I was devastated! At that moment, I was thinking about that Friends episode where they dropped the cheesecake on the floor, and then grabbed forks and ate the sweet right off the ground. I remember watching that episode with pure disgust. Now...well....maybe? My small bit of dignity prohibited me from eating it off the floor. With great sadness, I snatched the icing mound and chunk of cake and tossed it into the trash can. I kept thinking how sad it was that a perfectly delicious chunk of cake went to waste!

Even though I was mourning the loss of my chocolate cake, I found other sugary treats to provide me comfort (maybe a little too much) and lots of happiness!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Night In With Friends

You know the kind of friends who:

-have heard all your stories, but will politely listen to them again;
-know all your kids' birthdays and ages;
-have seen your kids at their worst and love them just the same;
-can "pop" over to your house any time and be fine if you just serve them frozen peas and fish sticks;
-don't care if your house has a little or a lot of dirt, they look at the people not the dust;
-call just to see how you are;
-stay late and laugh hard;
-give generous and personal gifts;
-visit you in the hospital just to lay eyes on your brand new baby;
-tell you the truth and encourage you when you need it;
-are reliable, and kind, and fun, and wonderful!

Thanks to our friends the Brinkruffs! We enjoyed having an evening with friends who are all of that and so much more!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Henry was our friend. We weren't everyday friends, but we enjoyed the occasional dinner, email exchange and of course Christmas card update. For all the years we knew Henry, his body was weak, but his mind, spirit and faith remained strong. After years of ailments, his flesh foundered and he passed away a few days ago.

Chris and I attended the visitation tonight. It was emotional. After all, Henry was only in his 40s. The words "tragic" and "abbreviated" kept floating in my head. As we entered the sanctuary, I choked back tears when I glanced over at a blond haired two year old racing matchbox cars directly in front of his father's casket. I tugged my eyes away from the toddler to stare at a video montage that displayed numerous photos capturing a father very much in love with his son. Grief flooded my soul and of course the "why?" word popped into my skull.

After the visitation, Chris and I grabbed a quick dinner. We reflected on the visitation and the prospect of one of us passing away. The conversation teetered between amusing and emotional. I made Chris promise he would not include any photos from the years 1988-1994 in any postmortem video montage (the bad hair years!). He promised me I don't have to bury him in any Notre Dame memorabilia. When the smiles faded, I told him how I'd feel if anything happened to him and all that he is and always will be to me. He responded with heartfelt words of love and devotion and a desire to never have to eulogize a wife too young.

At the end of the dinner, I was grateful. I was grateful I was able to have just one more dinner with my husband and hope for many more dinners to come!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Miracle Moments

It could have ended a lot differently if her timing had been different... if her reactions had been delayed... if the others hadn't stopped... if... if... if...

At 11 a.m. this morning my friend's husband called. He informed me my grandmother had been in a car accident on I-65 a few minutes from our house. The kids and I had been waiting for Grandma to accompany us on a day of swimming and lunch by the pool. I was surprised by her delayed arrival, and the phone call explained her absence.

I threw the kids in the car and we raced to the accident site. We discovered Grandma's ivory cadillac resting on the side of the road, slightly battered and torn, but still standing (just like my Grandmother). Grandma sat on the side of the road looking disheveled and solemn. My friend's sweet husband, Roger, was standing next to her, providing her comfort and facilitating conversation with her and the police.

After hearing from multiple parties, the details of the accident sounded horrifying and cemented in my mind how truly fortunate she was to walk away with nary a scratch. Evidently, Grandma and a trucker were attempting to merge at the same time. Something happened during the merge (there are conflicting stories on just what) that flung her car into the median on two-wheels (a witness said she almost rolled). Then the car skidded across the median into the opposite lane traffic on I-65. My 88 year old Grandmother was somehow able to regain control of her vehicle and maneuver the caddy to the side just inches away from being smashed by a semi-truck. The semi-truck driver stopped immediately and assisted my Grandmother. He would later describe the series of events as "miraculous."

Another car sat inches away from the fresh accident site. In the vehicle, Roger witnessed a little old lady that reminded him of his own Grandmother. He said later he felt compelled to assist her, thinking of how he would want someone else to treat his own Grandmother. He had no idea he was helping a friend's family member, more than he can even imagine. He ended up staying about 1 1/2 hours helping all of us, and showed up really late for work.

It was certainly an interesting experience maintaining four little boys and one 88 year old Grandmother on the side of I-65 (by the way, I was still wearing my bathing suit with just a cover up on!). The boys did o.k. for the first 30 minutes, then they became quite antsy and grumpy. (Cooper was literally doing flips in the car!) I turned on the car DVD and let them watch cartoons for the next hour while accident details were documented and confirmed.

After 1 1/2 hours, the caddy was ready to be towed and we were directed to take Grandma to the ER for a checkup. I switched on the ignition to head south when I got... nothing! The hour DVD usage caused the van's battery to die. The comedy of errors continued! The fortunate part: we were with a policemen and tow truck operators that gladly jumped our car and bid us adieu. We were finally on the road and Grandma finally made it to her destination (in one piece!)

Reflected back on the afternoon, we marvel at all God's handiwork and one heck of a story!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chris's Big Adventure

Chris helps Collin bike!

Caleb had two doctors' appointments today. Fortunately, Chris had a day off work so just one of us would accompany Caleb to his appointments while the other monitored the remaining boys at home. When given the choice to either:

a) stay home and keep three wiggly boys occupied; or
b) accompany ONE child to doctors' appointments with time in waiting rooms full of People magazines and Entertainment Weeklys (as well as my 590 page August book club book!).....

Well, you can imagine the most popular option!

Today I won option B! I savored those moments: spending time alone with Caleb, actually listening to a doctor, and (of course) making headway in a book (o.k., a little People magazine too!).

After several hours, Caleb and I returned home. When I walked in the door, the first thing I noticed was Collin standing in the kitchen clutching two pairs of scissors. Once I alerted Chris to the scene, he sheepishly snatched the scissors and redirected our toddler son to tamer activities. I then noticed Cooper's nostril was encircled with dried blood. Before I even had time to ask, Chris explained. Evidently, Cooper shoved an M & M up his nose. (Why is a really good question.) Fortunately, Chris was able to maneuver the candy piece from his nostrils without a trip to the ER.

All in all, Chris's time at home seemed full of adventures, but sometimes that's good. I think after days like today, Chris really is just amazed that I keep them alive all day and all expectations on cleanliness or personal hygiene seem to be an afterthought.

After walking a few hours in my shoes, Chris marveled at how the journey can be exhausting and wonderful at the same time!

P.S. Chris did amazing with the boys. They had a lot of fun with him!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Learning to Lose

The boys adored these shirts brought back from
California from Memaw and Papa. Connor completed the
look by wearing all camouflage!

The boys have been super into games lately: card games, board games and anything in between. Each day a new game becomes the "it" game of the day. Uno was hot for several days in a row. Today, it appears Candy Land has taken the lead. Great! Candy Land is actually a game all three boys understand and can play!

I love that the boys adore games; it's a non-destructive, tranquil way for three boys to spend their time. However, there's always a catch! The downside with games is that nobody likes to lose (shocking, right?)!

I've engaged in the game debate with friends: whether you let your kids win. I know "assisting" your children to victory sure makes things easy and boosts their spirits. But in my experience, the boys have no problem learning to win; learning to lose is a different story.

So, today we all played fair. I insisted we all draw cards from the top of the deck ONLY. No scanning the pile for the Lollypop card or rummaging through the deck until a double blue pops up. No scooting the king a couple of steps forward on the sly. No continual slides up rainbow pass without actually landing on the correct square.

Incredibly enough, I won each time! (I wish my fortune was always this good!) My male competitors were none so pleased with my victories. I heard a lot of, "That's no fair" and "I don't like this game!"

Although the boys were none to pleased with Candy Land today, they were learning a lesson. They learned losing is the risk you take when playing a game, but the only way to come out a "winner" is by how you play (and lose!).

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cincy Visit

Heather and I pre-run (still smiling!).

Matt and I braved the hot tub with the kids!

My nephew Will

With four kids, I can't say we receive that many invitations for overnight visits. But, I'm fortunate to have an amazing brother and sister in law who throw caution (and cleanliness) to the wind, and open their home to our brood. Yesterday we made our semi-annual pilgrimage to Uncle Matt and Aunt Heather's house in Cincinnati. What a treat!

The best thing about visiting Matt and Heather is that you don't actually have to go anywhere to have a good time; the fun is just being in their company. Truth be told, we didn't venture far from their house, but that really didn't matter to the kids. The boys splashed around in their neighborhood pool, lounged in the hot tub and enjoyed relaxed TV rules. I think their very favorite part of Matt and Heather's house is the numerous candy jars Heather displays around the house. Poor Heather, I think she spent the last 24 hours picking up candy wrappers from every nook and cranny!

Chris and I truly treasured the time just the four of us were able to converse after the kids were tucked into bed. The conversation flowed between hilarious (Matt recalled my bad perm days and I responded with my memories of Matt's short shorts) and meaningful. When all words were said and we headed to bed, I grew a little sad. I wished for more nights of laughter, tears and memories.

This morning, Heather and I enjoyed a long run. I treasured that time! We rolled months of conversation into one run. It was a delight to catch up on just a portion of her life. Heather has always said she learns things from me because I am older and farther along in my parenting journey than her. In reality, I learn more from her and I'm a better wife, mother and person because of our relationship!

Thanks Matt and Heather for opening your home to our crew! We're blessed to have family members that double as best friends!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blooming Book Club

The boys playing War (picture unrelated to blog topic...but cute!)

Last night was book club. Each month we rotate homes and take turns acting as hostess, duties that include: selecting a book, leading the literary discussion and preparing snacks and beverages for the evening.

July's featured novel was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The book dives into the world of African American maids and their caucasian employers in the south of the 1960s. I loved it! I'm not sure what word I would use to describe it: educational, poignant, hilarious, engrossing or enchanting (so I think I'll use them all!).

July's hostess whipped up an impressive buffet: chunks of beer bread and chopped veggies paired with creamy dip, a mound of whipped topping encircled by fresh berries, and crunchy pita chips accompanied by pipping hot artichoke dip. Perched above the finger food on a cake stand lay Minnie's carmel cake (a baked good referred to in the book). Finally, an assortment of beverages flanked the buffet providing choice after choice for our brood of bibliophiles. I situated myself in a perfect position next to a plethora of finger foods, and devoured more than I care to remember!

But, we were there to discuss the book, so eventually the gals peeled themselves away from the snacks and gravitated towards the couches. Then, the hostess fired off literary questions and we all chimed in with our opinions and comments.

Every discussion has been enlightening! Our group contains amazing women who offer rich comments, intriguing opinions and brilliant insights. Of course, they've taught me a lot about each book. But, what I've learned the most is about them. Each meeting, at least one woman throws out a personal comment or experience somewhat related to the book. I guess it takes a novel to teach me about the other members.

With each meeting I feel like I'm peeling back the layer of acquaintance, and covering up the bare patches with new friendship growth. I can't wait to see what blooms!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Books for Toys

Fortunately the boys love to read, but they especially love to read in the summer. You see, the Hussey Mayfield Memorial Public Library knows exactly what to do to keep kids flipping pages in the heat: the summer reading program. The boys love it! With each five hours of documented reading, they can redeem the hours for the trinket(s) of their choice. Yes, I did say trinket! The kids are escorted into a little room where any and all carnivalesque toys are displayed on shelf after shelf. The boys can then pick the plastic doodad of their choice. For the seven and under set, it's heaven!

After several years of participating in the reading program, I'm beginning to think all the trinkets are donated. The last couple of years the "prizes" we've received have been extremely unpopular (at least in the eyes of the adults in the house!).

Last year the boys chose silly putty. I've never purchased silly putty, and naively thought silly putty was similar in consistency to play dough. Boy was I wrong! Silly putty is akin to gum, with adhesiveness like you wouldn't believe! Thanks to the silly putty, I have a couch that will never be the same (although decorative pillows can do wonders)!

The year before the boys selected a recorder type device as a prize. At all times of day and night, we'd hear the "enchanting" sounds of the recorder. I kept wishing our walls had better insulation!

Today, fortunately, the boys selected some silly bands. I can live with those...non-adhesive, silent, and somewhat functional.

Couches will come and go, recorders get broken (accidently of course), but a love of reading is forever!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Sound of Dinner

The boys had their first day of group swimming lessons!

I flipped the TV on as background noise while I was preparing dinner. The Barefoot Contessa filled the screen. After a few minutes, I gazed at the television in awe. No, I wasn't drooling over some fabulous meringue, nor was I ogling over an amazing soufflé. I stared wide eyed as the Barefoot Contessa calmly diced veggies and sautéed butter. While she was cooking, I noticed her calm and tranquil surroundings. She was taking her time preparing a feast, because everything was serene at Ina's. There was no child clinging to Ina's leg sobbing, she wasn't breaking up a fight in between whipping up a gourmet bisque. Ina was even smiling as she prepared a multitude of culinary masterpieces!

The Wood kitchen looks nothings like Ina's at dinner time. I've got a 17 month old that puts a dagger in all my attempts to peacefully assemble a delicious (and somewhat healthy) meal. You see, Collin is mobile (vertically, horizontally and every way in between)...enough said! While I'm attempting to slice something like a bell pepper, he's maneuvering towards anything and everything not made for a 17 month old; if it's sharp and hot, he'll find it!

I've had friends recommend that I place toddler entertainment in the kitchen. Believe me, I've tried it! I've placed arm loads of puzzles and toddler toys on the kitchen tiles. He'll explore the items for a few minutes, but then he's done. I guess a puzzle can't compete with all the fun he can have with a cheese grater or a garlic press? So, Wood dinner preparation is fragmented: a few chops..discipline..a couple of whips...comfort a sad child...some assembling...remove a child from the counter... and so on.

As I watched the Barefoot Contessa, I noticed a chirpy melody accompanied the program. This light background noise harmonized perfectly with the peaceful scene and hostess. It made me wonder what kind of music would be played if my kitchen was filmed during dinner prep? I'm thinking something like the "William Tell Overture." It's fast paced, dynamic and dramatic..much like my dinner prep!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth!

The boys and friends watching neighborhood fireworks!

Our Uncle Sam ice cream treats!

When the boys arose, they were thrilled that it was July 4th. But, it really didn't seem like much of a holiday until 7 p.m. I spent the entire day responding to the questions: "What time is it?" and "When do the fireworks start?" It's hard for little boys to spend a day waiting for all their favorite things: loud noises, danger, sugar and late bedtimes.

Finally 7 p.m. rolled around. Some neighbor kids joined the boys for our Uncle Sam ice cream treats. The kids devoured their frozen treats, leaving a sticky residue on their hands and faces. Just when they finished the last bite, fireworks boomed from neighbors' driveways. The kids claimed a viewing area by the street, and the adults landed on the bench. The kids watched with wide eyes as their pyromaniac "big kid" neighbors released fireworks into the air. Some fizzled, other crackled and the really big ones boomed! I think the boys had the most fun just guessing what they'd do and where they'd land.

To top off the neighborhood light shows, Chris took the boys to our town's firework display. I'm here at home on baby duty...writing my blog! As I write this, the neighbors have resumed their show. My evening silence is pierced with sizzles and pops. It's the sound of celebrating, and for that I am glad!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Star Gazing

The boys enjoyed a picnic lunch!

The boys have always wanted to visit the Indiana University Observatory. We've had horrible luck in the past. Every time we've attempted a visit, it's been closed. The observatory is picky, only opening its doors when the sky is pristine. Today we had the good fortune to visit at just the right time as clear skies engulfed the campus.

The observatory was constructed over a century old. It's interesting to tour a structure that is a unique fusion of history and science. We climbed the three stories to the top of the domed structure. Our astronomy students/tour guides allowed the boys to pull the appropriate levers to open a portion of the roof, flooding the room with the sky. Then the students motioned the boys to the impressively large vintage (yet functional) telescope. The boys took turns maneuvering the telescope to just the appropriate spot to gaze at intergalactic wonders. (Unfortunately because it was 2 p.m., we were not able to observe anything but blue sky; the cool stuff is only seen at night!)

The whole experience was amazing. I could have just sat for hours and gazed at the telescope, imagining a century's worth of little boys peering into the lens, discovering the moon.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My dear friends, Erin and Katie!

Katie and Erin's kids with Cooper!

Today we had a pool party. The invited guests included my two oldest (in friendship years) friends, Katie and Erin, and their kids. We met in kindergarten (31 years ago), and now we have kindergartners! I'm blessed to have friends who literally know everything about me and still love me. As our friendship gets older, it gets better! I love you both!

* * * * * * * *

After four days of swimming lessons, Caleb's swimming like a fish. He's doing so well, that we decided he was ready to dive off the diving board. Caleb and I ventured over to the diving well. I snagged a lounge chair with a perfect view of the board. Caleb started for the line and then hesitated. He begged me, "Jump off the board too!" I quickly replied, "I'm not sure adults can dive off the board." One of the "helpful" moms who overheard our conversation quickly piped in, "Adults can dive too." In my mind I was thinking, "You really couldn't keep that to yourself?"

So I left my comfy lounge chair surrounded by other moms relaxing over fluffy novels or skimming through People magazines to join the diving board line. I'm sure I was quite a sight; I think I was the only member of the line who had hit puberty and wasn't wearing a Silly Band™. But I stood among the adolescents and tweens because Caleb needed me and I wanted to be there.

Once Caleb's turn arose, he hopped onto the diving board. His confidence soared as he sprinted across the length of the board and plunged into the pristine waters. Within seconds he bobbed up to the surface. His arms formed circles around his head and his fluttering legs propelled him to the wall. I could see the pride and glee radiating from his skull. I was beaming and joy was seeping out of my pores.

Suddenly, I realized it was my turn. I stepped up onto the board sensing the other mothers' eyeballs glued to my suit (and I think I might have heard some snickers from kids in line). I sauntered the length of the board and peered into the water with fear and trepidation. After all, I hadn't been on a diving board for at least 20 years! With my eyes closed, I dove in slicing the water with my hands. My body glided under the surface. It was exhilarating... and peaceful... and magnificent. Once I resurfaced, I noticed Caleb back in line holding a place for his maternal diving companion.

My journey with Caleb is a lot like our diving experience. Caleb's taken me out of my comfort zone, made me work harder and stand out from other mothers given the opportunity to lounge on the sidelines. But I'm a stronger mom because I've taken the plunge and we're both learning how to get to the other side.