Monday, January 31, 2011

Ice, Ice Go Away

Chris's parents stopped by our house during their return trip from Florida. (I'm guessing they're asking themselves right about now, why exactly they left the sunshine state?)

The boys enjoyed a nice dinner with their grandparents! (above)

Ali and I enjoyed a dinner out. Always fun to chat, laugh, and laugh again with Ali. (below)

For a month or more I've been looking forward to February 1st: the day Chris and I had scheduled an overnight date. I dreamed of February 1st and it motivated me to get through any rough patches (a shattered plasma TV, a week's worth of illness, a child that vomited smack dab in the middle of Walmart). I imagined spending those hours soaking up alone time with Chris, catching up on months spent as two passing ships.

So, I became extremely distraught when my local weather man starting talking about February 1st. Big storm, I heard. Lots of ice, he predicted. Snow too, he announced. Yet, the internal optimist in me, kept thinking: maybe not.

As days passed, weather predictors unanimously forecasted a storm, and a big one at that. The next few days were predicted to be full of all the good stuff: freezing rain, sheets of ice, frigid temps, and mounds of snow. My carefree dreams began to vanish with every dire report, yet I still held onto a modicum of hope; that is, until today.

Today, I finally faced reality: the trip was not going to happen. The rational side of me realized, in terms of catastrophes, this was minor. On a scale of one to ten calamities, it would land squarely on a one. By the emotional side of me, beginning throwing a private pity party: occupation one.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in a royal funk. I was still a little weepy as I was listening to the boys' bedtime prayers. I heard Connor say, "God, please help all those who don't have a home that they will be protected from the storm."

Ouch. His words softened my heart, and the pity party dispersed. Time to turn lemons into lemonade, I suppose. Or, freezing rain into.........hmmm.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Sleepy Saturday

Connor attended a cowboy/cowgirl themed birthday party. Love the party favors!

Saturday was busy: one basketball game, one birthday party, and one school carnival (organized beautifully by my lovely friend, Cara). By the end of the day, I was plum exhausted. But, I wasn't the only one.

Caleb spent the whole day in a sleepy state. He napped about three hours this morning. (I think the last time he took a nap that long, he was in diapers!). Then, he proclaimed he was exhausted, and tucked himself into bed around seven.

On one hand, I'm concerned. Is some mysterious bug wreaking havoc on my young son? But, on the other hand, I'm secretly savoring his calmer, quieter demeanor. He wants to cuddle. He'll actually sit on the couch. He's former feistiness is beginning to be a memory.

Chris recommended one more day of observation before we call his actual pediatrician. Here's hoping for a short illness, with lasting (calmer) effects.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thanks Old Friend

My friend Erin with two of her daughters.

Connor and Mackenzie practiced their dance moves with the wii.

Connor adores his little brother. Here they steal a few moments of hugs and cuddles.

The Hermacinski girls joined the boys for our regular Friday night routine: pizza and a movie.

My friend Erin came over today, bearing a delicious lunch and a birthday gift. She and two of her daughters stayed for a couple of hours. The conversation flowed, like it always does. At the end of her visit, I felt a little sad; it just wasn't enough time.

Even though our friendship spans three plus decades, we've never run out of things to discuss. Over the years, our conversations have spanned from:

Strawberry shortcake
Dance and tennis classes
Bike parades in the neighborhood
Church camps
High school classes (physics comes to mind)
Driver's Licenses
Double date to prom
High School Graduation
Freshman roommates
Death of our other best friend
College Graduation
First Jobs
New Houses
More Babies
Even More Babies
Play dates
School schedules name a few.

Our conversations have changed over the years, but our friendship hasn't. Erin is still the same thoughtful, fun girl I met at five-years-old. I take that back, she's even better!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Too Sick for School?

Cooper brought home "Snickers" from preschool. Each preschooler gets to take Snickers home for the week and then record and photograph his adventures. (In the above picture, we were seeking to recreate the ET stuffed animal scene!)

Cooper snuggles up to Snickers.

Here's how Snickers really felt at the Wood house.

The last couple of mornings, Caleb's announced he is too sick to attend school. He accompanies his announcement with a litany of symptoms paired by full theatrics. Yesterday morning was no exception. He started by clutching his head, and then grasped his throat (throwing in a raspy cough). Finally he clasped his stomach and doubled over. That's when the moaning really began in ernest.

"My stomach," he cried.

"It hurts," he added in a whispered tone.

Despite the heavy theatrics, he really did appear fine. So, I threw out a compromise. "Caleb, go upstairs and get dressed and then we'll figure it out."

Suddenly, he's expression turned, he unclenched his stomach and replied, "OK, once I finish my breakfast."


Monday, January 24, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Babies

Cooper having fun at library story time.

They learned swahili today (something used so frequently in the heart of Indiana).

I was chatting with another mom friend today. We're both in the same spot: late thirties, already moms (three or four times over), mothers to children age toddlers and up. The topic came up, as it frequently does between mothers, whether we're finished bearing children.

She opened up about her internal wrangling about future fertility. She adores babies, and wants to hold just one more in her arms. But, then reality comes rushing in (more kids=more nuttiness, expenses, and on and on), and her thoughts swing over to perfect contentment at her current family size.

It's funny, I think two years after having my last son I can understand how she feels. Right after Collin was born, there was no question in my mind that my child-bearing days were finished. I practically burned my maternity clothes on the front lawn, and the baby clothes were shipped out of my door the minute they became snug.

But, then Collin grew from a fussy, needy newborn into an adorable toddler than grips my neck in a full bear hug, and says in toddler-ese, "I Love You." My heart melts, and I think..."Are we really done?" I look at all my former babies, and realize they're too old for Elmo, laps, and high chairs. I get a little weepy, not sure if I'm ready to bid all things baby goodbye.

But just as my eyes get moist, the boys squabble or someone attempts something truly insane, and I realize (just like my friend), having babies is a thing of the past. Our family is growing up, and good things come in big packages too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Collin

Connor sharing a moment with the birthday boy.

Collin's Batman cake with football birthday candles (all Collin's favorites).

Collin eyeing up his cake, excited to blow out the candles and dig in!

Did he eat the cake or just mush it around?

Collin opening his presents amid all his "helpers."

Today, I thought about how grateful I am that God gave me Collin last. Collin has just the right personality for a last child: He's affectionate, attached, and easy going. Collin loves to cuddle (ditto for his mom). So, everyday after Collin awakes from a nap, we snag a spot on his rocking chair and sway in tandem while flipping through board books and chattering about the pictures.

Today, we followed suit. I pulled Collin from his crib and found a seat on the rocker. Collin's chest lay on my chest, and his face nestled my shoulder. His pudgy legs rested across my thighs with his feet dangling off my knees. We swayed back and forth for almost a half an hour, mostly in silence.

I suppose because it is his second birthday, I kept thinking, "How many more times will he want to rock? Am I savoring these moments enough? Is there anyway to freeze time?"

I can't freeze time and I know the rocking will eventually end, I just hope the memories don't.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pizza with Friends

Some friends from residency invited our family over for dinner. The kids got to eat dinner IN FRONT OF the TV. They were in heaven! Such brave people....the kids were eating on new carpet!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Birthday

Cooper and I cuddling at lunch.

Chris and Collin pose for a picture (above). Our birthday lunch companions: my parents (below).

The Maxwells invited us over for a little birthday celebrating. Cooper and Bryn enjoying a few moments together.

I turned the big 3-7 together, inches closer to 40, steps further from 30. Chris asked the boys this morning what we should do for my birthday. Cooper: Let's take her to King's Island.
Caleb: That's not going to happen.

No, we didn't go to King's Island, but my day included all my favorites: time with family, laughs with friends, and receipt of several sweet birthday wishes. I didn't need anything new for my birthday, as I already have what I want: loving husband, four beautiful boys, and wonderful, thoughtful friends and family.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

TV Time Out

Cooper's preschool had a pajama party day. Cooper decided to combine his two favorite pajamas (dinosaur top paired with superhero pajama pants). Why not? I suppose he won't have the problem of anyone wearing the same thing.

Went to MOPS today, and won a makeup makeover. Here's the final product (not the best angle!). All made up with nowhere to go!

For Christmas, the boys received a nice big plasma TV. I'd have to say, no one was more excited than my biggest boy (Chris) with our new acquisition. Chris savored all his moments in front of the screen, mostly viewing his beloved sports with larger and brighter images. So, it was with great sadness, that I write about the happenings in the Wood house as of yesterday.

The boys were huddled around the new TV, mesmerized by their new favorite show (Wild Kratts). I snuck upstairs, to fold some laundry among the peace and quiet. Within minutes my serenity was shattered with the words, "Somethings wrong with the TV." My heart skipped a beat, and I flew down the stairs. Unfortunately, it was just as I had expected, the TV screen had been cracked and left lifeless from its injuries.

Pretty soon, the story came tumbling out from the mouth of four babes. Of course, the stories had variations depending on who was speaking, but the consensus was a golf ball sailed into the screen, complements of my four year old son, Cooper.

I was in a tizzy, utterly, completely unglued. It was one of those moments, where I needed a time out from my golf ball slinging offspring. I scooped Cooper up, and placed him in his room for the entire evening while I simmered, stewed, and then began to fret. How would Chris, busy at work, take the news?

I thought telling him in the midst of his shift seemed a little cruel. So, I waited until midnight when he had tucked in his last patient, and headed for home. I began the conversation with such profuse apologizes that Chris began to fear the worst. I think once the news tumbled out of my mouth, he was a little relieved that something completely catastrophic had not occurred.

Chris blew me away, he said, "Well, at least no person was injured. This is what happens when you have four boys. We'll figure it out." To say I was shocked, would be an understatement. I'm really not sure how he found the grace to be so understanding. I suppose when you spend the last ten hours treating people that are having REALLY bad days, it puts everything else in perspective.

Nonetheless, Cooper is grounded from TV for the month (guess who is suffering the most from that?). Chris is finding other ways to watch his sports, and I am marveling at a husband who loves his children more than his things.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Savoring Science

Caleb and Connor enjoying a lunch out.

Collin cuddling big brother, Cooper.

Connor constructing a bridge with toothpicks and marshmallows.

Connor spent an hour constructing this robot.

Caleb made the same robot.

Collin stuck with the magnetic blocks.

Martin Luther King Day was spent at the Wonderlab in Bloomington (as requested by the boys). IU students manned experiment tables and the boys meandered among the science stations. The two older boys flocked to the robotics, but also spent some time at the toothpick/marshmallow bridge locale. Of course, the latter they treated more as a snack bar than an educational site. The quote they learned from the day: "We don't eat our science."

Great memories! Lots of fun!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Discussing Grief

Chris reading the boys a bedtime story.

With a 3:30 a.m. wake up for Chris, I think bedtime books put him to sleep too.

My friend Joanne and I were chatting on the phone this week. As a recent widow, she mentioned her need for some adult conversation. So, we arranged a dinner play date. Collin and I joined Joanne and her three year old son for dinner followed by lots of basement play.

I entered the evening wondering how our conversation would flow. Would we discuss her late husband and the previous difficult months? Or, would we choose to engage in light, breezy chit chat and fill the air with words, muffling any emotions that could bubble to the surface?

Joanne took the conversation lead, and discussed her grief in depth. She said, "Grief is a funny thing." But, as our conversation progressed I didn't find grief funny, as much as plain painful. Her words fluttered between tender moments, amusing memories, deep regrets, and finally to painful recollections.

She mentioned her hardest moments are in the evening. A few months ago, she had a partner to laugh, converse, and share the highs and lows of parenting. Now, she faces her nights alone. She teared up, and my eyes began to water too.

At the end of the night, I came home to Chris (dog tired). I shared my evening and asked him, "What would you miss the most if something happened to me?" He smirked and then replied (in jest), "Laundry service, dishwashing, childcare." We laughed and exchanged a few more jabs.

The truth is, I'd miss that...the laughter, the connection, the company. My heart goes out to Joanne and hope we (and others) can provide just a sliver of the companionship she needs.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Cure for Pesky Phone Calls

Connor had his first Upward Bound basketball game today.

Connor and his teammate, Trevor, share a smile pre-game.

Collin hung out with Trevor's little sister, Claire.

I've started early potty training with Collin. He's modeling his big boy pants!

Not loving his big boy pants, he decided to run around au naturel.

I had just walked in the house from grocery shopping with the boys. Both hands were weighed down with bags when I heard the phone ring. Cooper eagerly picked up the phone, and I heard, "Papa." He paused, then proceeded to recount details from the last several days.

I smiled and thought, "How sweet, and perfect timing. I can haul bags in from the car while he's enjoying a chat with his grandpa."

As I ferried bags from the car to the kitchen, I watched Cooper continue to chat, and then pass the phone over to older brother, Connor. Connor, kept the conversation going, and added details from his morning's basketball game.

When the last bag was inside the kitchen, I noticed the phone lay on the counter. The boys announced that Papa had hung up the phone. Sad I'd missed the call, I checked our caller ID to determine the best number to reach my Dad.

I was shocked the number that appears was that of a telemarketer (a pesky one that calls us quite frequently), and not their grandfather. (My Dad confirmed later, he never talked to the boys on the phone this morning.) The boys had carried on a lengthy conversation with one of our beloved telemarketers!

Chris and I got quite a laugh about the whole thing. I'm just betting he doesn't call back!


We went over to some friends' house for dinner tonight. The kids actually behaved quite nicely. As we were returning home, Chris complimented the boys on their behavior.

Caleb said, "So what do we get?"

"Just the satisfaction of our love and admiration," Chris replied.

Caleb retorted, "So nothing good then."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Missing Kisses

I was dropping off Cooper at preschool today. We hung his backpack on a hook and handed his folder to his teacher. Then, I took one last look at my sweet son and moved in for my goodbye kiss. I noticed Cooper scanning the perimeters, seeing if any of his preschool pals were watching the scene. Then, while I was still mid-pucker, he shuffled back and put up his hand in protest.

"Mom, no kisses," he uttered.

Thinking there was some mistake, I went for a second kiss. My second attempt was again met with rejection.

Sadly, I watched Cooper scamper into class, kiss-free. I guess I expected him to rebuff my acts of affection (hand holding, kisses, hugs, and on and on) as a teen, but a four year old?

So sad!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Clashes over Clothes

Connor having fun in the snow!

I've seen
those kids. You know, the kids that happily wear their Sunday bests even when it's not Sunday. The kids that willingly lounge around in a polo shirt (or sweater vest this time of year), perfectly starched slacks, and matching argyle socks.

I don't happen to have any of those kids. My kids prefer to wear their own version of "leisure wear" (to put it kindly). Their sense of fashion is heavy on action hero embellished shirts paired with any one of their beloved array of sweat pants.

I held out hope that my beloved fourth son, Collin, would somehow be different. I dreamed that he would slide into slacks without a fuss. I imagined him smiling, even when bundled in a Christmas sweater.

Unfortunately, Collin has fallen into line with his older brothers. He's passionate about his appearance, but not in the way I hoped. He adores football shirts. He insists on wearing football attire almost every day. Most days its fine to wear the sports themed attire, but I've learned from experience my sweet little one year can transform into a terror should anyone attempt to remove his beloved garment.

Tonight, I had to replace the football shirt with pajamas. I tried to cajoling, maneuvering, and tugging the shirt free. No luck. Finally, I had to practically rip it off like a bandaid and then straddle him on the floor to apply his pajamas. After several minutes of struggle, I realized I was sweating. This was work!

I think I'll look into football pajamas tomorrow, and save the struggle more something a little more important.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Accepting Aspergers

Today, Chris and I sat down with Caleb's new doctor (his former doctor is on maternity leave). This doctor is familiar with Caleb (she taught a social skills class he attended), and has a firm understanding of his personality and associated challenges.

We spent most of the meeting rehashing his quirks and airing our grievances. She listened intently, scribbled some notes, and threw out a few suggestions.

At the end of the meeting, I threw out the question I ask every doctor, "Is he like your other kids on the autism spectrum?"

She nodded and added, "He's got aspergers, but you knew that." She went on, "Aspergers' kids have a hard time all the way up until college, then they do great."

I thought, "Wow, just a decade of challenges and then smooth sailing, huh?" Her idea of a pep talk, I'm assuming.

"But he's so smart too," she continued.

I guess she was searching for the silver lining.

But, I listened as she threw out terms that identified my son. This time I didn't even flinch or shed one single tear. I think I've finally landed at acceptance, and it's made the moving forward process so much easier....for all of us.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Baking Cookies

After Caleb made his comment last week about my skills, I've been reflected on what exactly I do all day. Today, I baked cookies. They weren't just any cookies, I baked the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies (actual name of the recipe). Hands down, they're the best cookies I've ever made. They're full of all the good stuff: oodles of butter crisco, mounds of brown sugar, and hands-full of chocolate chips. They're sinful and decadent at the same time.

No matter what the boys are doing in the house, when they hear the whirl of the mixer, they run. They hover around the kitchen, inhaling the sugary aroma, and salivating at the first glimpse of freshly baked cookies. They love to eat them warm, where the gooey chocolate perfectly mixes with the soft dough to create just a tiny bit of heaven.

When I bake cookies, I always think about Hillary Clinton's infamous quote: "Well I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas." I guess I've turned into that woman: the woman donning an apron baking cookies while her law degree is used as something that just decorates the wall.

But in all honesty, I like baking cookies, and staying home really isn't that bad either.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Making Friends

Whereas many things come easy to Caleb, making friends is definitely not one of them. Most of the time he's just plain disinterested in making connections with his peers and other acquaintances. The times he does engage, the interaction is awkward and messy. I think part of the problem is he holds passionate quirky interests. He's not the friend to discuss sports or share an inside joke. He's the friend that'll talk your ear off about lizards or get lost in his world of electronics.

So, Chris and I decided if Caleb is going to have friends, we need to act as his matchmaker, social director, and friendship coach. This weekend, we made his first match. We invited a classmate to accompany Caleb to a video game/pizza parlor locale. His companion was chosen with care. We selected someone who appeared to share similar interests and seemed willing to accept Caleb, quirks and all.

Chris took the two boys on their "date." According to Chris, it went well. The boys mostly engaged in parallel play, but I believe connections were made nonetheless.

When Caleb came home, I asked him how it went. A man of few words, Caleb responded, "Good."

"Is he your friend," I asked?

He replied, "One of them."

I hope so, and we're looking forward to helping him make many more.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mommy Skills

Cooper's preschool Christmas party was snowed out a few weeks ago. The makeup party was today. I worked the "snowman building station." Here's Cooper helping to create our "snowman."

The final product.

A few days ago, Caleb was discussing Chris and my skills. Stone-faced, he listed my skills as:

-washing dishes,
-washing clothes,
-working on the computer, and
-watching TV.

I reminded him I clean the house too. Then, I thought how terribly sad that was that this was the only other skill I could recall.

I'm resolving to work on some skills for the new year!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fitness Class

Caleb posing during class.

Showing off his moves.

Lately, Caleb's been doing great. Many a day, I think is he really an aspie or just a misdiagnosed quirky neurotypical (to borrow a term from the autism community). But throw Caleb on a sports' field or in a fitness class, and all my questions fade away.

Such was the case this afternoon. Caleb has been taking a fitness class. He starts the class out well, but quickly begins to look like a fish out of water. I still don't know if he gets frustrated because his motor skills are slightly delayed or if he's a little overwhelmed. Whatever the case, the class has yet to end pretty.

At the end of the class, I was standing on the mats coaching him in conjunction with his instructor. I could feel the other parents' eyeballs piercing the back of my head. But, I think I've moved past embarrassment at this point, to accepting the fact that he's different and so am I, and that's o.k.