Thursday, June 30, 2011

Learning to Race

The last day of swim classes for this session.
All three boys proudly clutched their swim certificates.

Cooper seemed the most proud, and insisted I take an individual photo of him.

Connor and Brock Maxwell enjoyed a play date. Connor introduced him to the latest Wood boy obsession: water mixed with chalk.

Caleb participated in his first track meet. I was very proud of him!

Caleb (third from the right) in full sprint.

Cooper zoomed along in his heat. He finished second, and (again) kept running.

Tonight, all three older boys participated in the 100 meter race at the All Comers track meet. Connor and Cooper had one race under the belt, and returned to compete again. Surprisingly, Caleb agreed to run in his first race!

I walked the boys to the starting line. As the unofficial coach of the Wood boys' team, I provided instruction to my runners. I told the boys, "Try your best. Don't stop. Run to the finish line." Of course, I hoped my words transcended the track, and this mantra would apply to many other areas of their lives.

I watched each boy run hard and cross the finish line. Although no Wood boy officially won a race, they were all winners to me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Riverwood Park

We continue to cross off coveted locales on our summer bucket list. With a free afternoon, Caleb begged me to take them to location #3: Riverwood Park, a spray park located in northeast Indianapolis (near Broad Ripple). The brand new play equipment and splash ground made the drive worthwhile.

Some general reflections on the park:

Pros: Beautiful new equipment, few visitors (at first we were the only ones there during prime playground time...3-5, later only a hand full of kids joined the boys at the park), super fun splay grounds.

Cons: Sun-drenched play equipment (without a lick of shade), the park appeared to be still under construction (although the play equipment was fully constructed).

The boys can't wait to hit location #4....soon!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I just read The Secret Life of Bees. One of the book characters makes a candlestick salad comprised of a pineapple slice, banana chunk, and maraschino cherry. As a lunch treat, I whipped the salads up for the boys. They all seemed impressed, except for Connor. He told me his friend's mom makes the same thing.

And, I thought it was so original!

Near bedtime tonight, I recalled how many times I asked the question, "Why?" to my boys. Here's a couple (just from today):

1) Why did you squirt spray butter directly into your mouth at breakfast? (Does anyone really want to use it after that?)

2) Why did you mix the chalk with water and then smear the cloudy, gooey mixture onto our car and mailbox?

3) Why did you turn everything into a "gun," especially any hanger you can get your hands on?

4) Why did you climb the mounds of paper towels at Costco (when my back was turned) so you sat about eight feet off the ground?

5) Why did you think clothes were optional when you ran out of the house?

6) Why did you think aiming somewhat near the toilet was as good as actually hitting it?

7) Why did you think calling your brother "Fluffer Nutter" would end well?

8) Why did you think the lost and found pile at the pool meant you could snag anything you could grab?

9) Why did you think to sign me up to receive multiple Pokemon emails?

10) Why did you think I would believe your foot "accidentally" touched your brother's face?

Obviously, it was quite a day.

Wonder what's in store for tomorrow?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Selling Potty Training

The boys had a blast at the new Treasures of the Earth exhibit at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

A few blogs ago, I mentioned how motherhood involves sales, no better example than potty training.

For months, I've been pitching potty training to two-year-old Collin:

All your brothers use the potty.

Don't you want to be a big boy.

No more diapers.

After months of cajoling, I'm flabbergasted. I've heard plenty of stories from other moms about their youngest children. It seemed many a youngest children wanted to be like big brother/sister. They just slid right into the process without one tear shed or an iota of work.

So far, Collin isn't one of those children. He seems perfectly happy with diapers. I can see the wheels in his head turning, "Why would I change what seems to be working?"

Today, I broke out the big guns; I purchased superhero big boy underwear (in the super size pack). In addition, I acquired a bag of jelly beans I'm eagerly waiting to distribute. When I showed Collin my goods, he was beside himself with excitement. Could this be the trick?

Tomorrow, I'm delivering my pitch again.

Cross your fingers I'll make a sale soon.

Collin wanted to sleep with his big boy underwear tonight!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It's Like Riding a Bike

Cooper claimed he was ready. He assured us training wheels were no longer necessary for such an accomplished cyclist. He begged us to help him make the proper bike modifications that would push him into official big boy status. Tonight, the wheels were shed and Cooper's first bike riding lesson commenced.

Cooper beamed as he rushed towards the bike. He wore a roomy helmet that slid down over his eyes, but still exposed his signature smile. He mounted the bike and then clutched the handle bars. Then, he gazed up at me for instructions.

You think I'd be an expert as I've have taught two other kids to ride a bike. But, suddenly I was at a loss as to exactly what to do.

You see you want your hands.....(hmmm)

Make sure you pedal like.....(what was that again?)

Focus on....(I really don't know)

I went on, "Forget formal instructions, let's just try."

Try we did. He'd position himself on the bike. I'd grasp the seat and run along side the wheels. Within seconds, I'd release my hold and watch him.....

hit a tree,
run into a mailbox,
fall, get the point.

To give Cooper credit, with each fall he got back up (still smiling) and tried it again.

After the end of our mini-lesson, Cooper exclaimed, "I think there's something wrong with my bike."

I laughed and responded, "It's not the bike. It just takes practice."

That's the hard part, isn't it?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Snow in June

Collin squeezes in some time with Chris before he leaves for work.

This morning the boys decided to do crafts while I got ready. As I primped, I wondered exactly what sort of crafts they were doing around the kitchen table. Had my check book been used for origami? Had our couch turned into a coloring book?

I held my breath as I descended down the stairs. The first thing I noticed was the kitchen floor; it was blanketed in little scraps and slivers of white paper. A decade ago, a scene like this would have rocked my world. But, with the addition of each boy, my obsession with cleanliness and order has diminished by necessity. Yet, like any hang-up, it's still a struggle.

I was seconds away from unloading on the boys, when I glanced at Caleb. He bore a broad smile, and seemed uncharacteristically cheery. He proudly held up sheets of white paper cut into intricate patterns.

"I know how to make snowflakes. I made some for you, " he beamed.

Rarely, has Caleb offered up any sort of gift to a loved one. He has so many amazing qualities, but empathy and compassion have never been his strong suit. I was touched, completely and utterly awed.

I instructed my eyes not to look at the cluttered floor, but instead focused on Caleb. I treated those snowflakes as if they were gold, and praised Caleb as if he just painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

I kept reminding myself: floors can be always be cleaned, moments like this need to be cherished.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peaceful Playdate

The boys helped decorate cookies.

The boys (Chris included) and the Hermacinski girls enjoying a movie.

Cara and her girls came over for a pizza and movie dinner date. We flipped on a movie for the kids, and then Cara and I retired to the kitchen. Over pizza and salads, we swapped vacation stories. (Ironically, we both visited Napa and San Francisco within days of each other.)

As our travel tales unraveled, I realized we'd talked for several hours (with only a break for dinner). What I began to notice was not so much the conversation, but the quiet....from our kids. All six of them snuggled on the couches enjoying the movie. Not once did I break up a fight or referee a disagreement. In the long history of Wood play dates I think this was a first!

I began to feel a little smug. Has my crew graduated to participating in successful play dates? Can I start to actually have adult conversation with my friends while they chum up with their pals?

Here's hoping.

For now, I'll cherish a peaceful evening with friends, big and little.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Honeymoon's Over

Connor and Cooper (in the middle) listening to coach Nelson provide tennis instruction.

Connor and Cooper ran their first track meet tonight.
Here Connor prepares for the start.

Connor zooming around the track during the 200 meter race. He was SO proud that he finished 7th (out of 8)! I was proud of him too.

Cooper competes in the youngest age division of the 200 m race.Cooper (2nd from left) finished second. He kept running past the finish line. We had to tell him to stop. I'm hoping to channel that energy! He definitely runs me in circles.

This morning was the first time I laid eyes on my kids in six days. I plucked Cooper and Collin from their beds, and plopped them into mine. We snuggled for as long as they allowed. I gazed into their cherub faces and never wanted to let go. The rest of the morning was heavenly. They all seemed bigger, cuter, and basically more fantastic. All the little things that annoyed me but a week ago, seemed rather cute. I delighted in refilling sippy cups. I rejoiced in preparing meals. I adored hearing their little voices (even in the midst of an argument).

I remember talking to my friend, Ali, around noon. I recounted my pleasant morning, and I could tell by the tone in her voice that she suspected I may be in a honeymoon period with the kids. Of course, she was right.

As the day rolled by swimmingly, I decided to tackle the grocery store with my four "angels." As we progressed through the store, my rosy disposition began to fade. Keeping the boys together and with the cart was about as easy as herding cats (to use an expression from my husband).

By the time we landed at the check out counter, my countenance had soured.

I began to imagine those California mountains again. I pictured myself (just days ago) lounging on the side of the pool, encircled by those majestic, grandeur, peaceful mountains.

Suddenly, those mountains seemed even further away.


Quick story: As I was wandering around the grocery store, a gentleman approached my crew. He seemed the sort of individual with lots to say, but with no cerebral hinderance to his comments. After a few exchanges, he glanced at my brood of boys and said, "Are you Catholic or something?"

I responded, "No."

As I walked away, I mumbled, "I suppose I'm just crazy."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

California Dreaming

My very favorite cupcake, ever!

The last time I set foot in California was 1985 (according to my mom). So, when Chris and I decided to combine a medical conference with a belated 10 year anniversary celebration, I was thrilled. I vowed to savor every minute of our West Coast travel, imaging it could be decades (if ever) before I returned again.

Chris landed in San Francisco first. A few days later, I joined him. In between conferences, we toured the city by foot and trolley. We stumbled upon several observation points that provided a panoramic view of the bay, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. We meandered through a street art fair, and strolled through a beautiful historic catholic church.

On Sunday, I vowed to run across the Golden Gate Bridge. The run was a little lengthier than I expected, but the experience was priceless. As I ran across the bridge, I gained a greater appreciation of the grandeur and magnitude of the structure. My view from the bridge was hindered by a blanket of fog. Through the haze, I could only see the waves of the bay swirling underneath. With each stride, my emotions teetered between trepidation, exhilaration, and awe.

The remainder of the trip was spent in the Napa Valley. Chris and I immediately took to the landscape. As native Hoosiers, we savored the lush valley surrounded by mountains. We kept saying, "Look at those mountains. Remember those mountains. I hope we see mountains again."

The highlight of Napa was the day we rented bikes. The temperatures were in the high 90s, but we peddled along, dripping in sweat. The bike rental company placed our picnic lunch at the top of a hill (of course). We were just hungry enough to travel up the steep incline. Once we made it, the view made up for our fatigue.

Tonight, we landed back in Indiana. I reflected on all of the beauty we encountered, but most of all I appreciated the days spent with Chris. As we've added children, we've become well aware that a marriage needs to be cultivated and nurtured or it's easily squeezed out of the priority list. We're grateful for the time spent together and the individuals who made that possible. Including:

Grandmother Wood: She took the first shift. We're grateful for her generosity and kindness. We know she sacrificed a lot (visiting with a brother from out of town and spending time with her husband on Father's Day).

Grandma and Grandpa Joseph: They watched all four boys for days. We appreciate all the energy and time you spent to help with the boys. I'm sure they have great memories with their grandparents.

Ali Maxwell: Ali had Connor over for a marathon play date on Saturday. She's supermom! We're always awed by her thoughtfulness!

Tonight, I asked Chris if the grandparents would ever watch our kids again for a future trip. He said, "Give them five more years and maybe they'll consider it." I'm hoping, after a little rest, they'll remember fondly the time with their grandsons.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Doing It Alone

Caleb at the Nature Camp ice cream social.

Grandma Wood pushes Collin and cousin Grace on the swings.

Connor and Cooper making Lego creations at the library.

Connor modeling his finished product.

I have to apologize to my friends with husbands that travel. For years, I've been telling myself that Chris's schedule is akin to a spouse away on business travels. When friends complained about their husband's absence, I was sympathetic because I believed I understood...until Chris went out of town.

Chris went to California for a conference. I imagined we'd get along fine without him. Didn't we spend most of our time functioning as a unit of five while he was cocooned within the ER? But, I've learned having a spouse out of town is way worse. In the course of his days away, we had a plumbing emergency, sick toddler, major meltdowns (not just by me), and on and on.

During all of the domestic drama, Chris was texting me pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and calling with glowing reports of his travels. The whole time I was reminding myself, "Be happy for him. Be happy for him...."

As I was telling my friend about the last several days, I said, "Taking care of four children is just fine as long as everything goes as anticipated."

She replied, "Does that ever happen with four kids?"

Good point.

But, we all survived the last several days*, and as I've walked in the shoes of others
, my appreciation has grown.

*Thanks to my mother in law and my niece, Grace. They came in last night, and have been a huge help!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From the Mouth of Babes

Feeling like I needed a little encouragement today, I dressed Collin in this shirt.
It reads, "My mommy is the best mommy, hands down." It actually made me smile every time I looked at it.

Story from a few days ago.....

The boys and I went to church on Sunday. Post-church chats are always peppered with such interesting theological questions from my little ones. Many of the inquiries center on heaven.

They'll ask:

Do they have ice cream in heaven?
Do dogs go to heaven?
Do I get to celebrate my birthday in heaven?
Do I have to share my room in heaven?

On Sunday, Connor announced that he wanted to ask God a question when he gets to heaven.

I waited, fully anticipating a question about heaven and say...TV...or video games.

He continued, "I want to ask why I was created."

Wow. Jaw dropping silence.

Fortunately, Chris overheard the conversation. Chris provided Connor a very basic, yet pointed answer. (I suppose Chris has much practice simplifying complex answers into simpler terms; think of all the fancy medicalese he translates into WebMD appropriate lingo for his many medically illiterate included!) He responded, "God created you because he loves you and he wants a relationship with you."

Later, I thought, "Why was he created?"

Where do I start?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Passing the Running Baton to Connor

Caleb posing on his second day of swim lessons.

Connor and I went to play tennis at the middle school. As we were chasing balls, I eyed the running track inches away from our court. The wheels started to turn in my head.

I said, "Connor, want to run a lap....for a quarter." (Did I mention my kids can be bought?)

In kid terms, it was as if I offered him my first born. He eagerly accepted my challenge, and we landed on the track. Connor shed his Crocs, and began his barefoot stride. I ran the first lap with him (he'd stop periodically, but always picked up running where he left off). After the first lap, he asked if I'd double the money if he ran another lap.

Sure, I replied. This time I watched from the starting line.

As I yelled encouragements at my racer son, I began to understand those crazy soccer moms and fervent hockey dads. Running is one of my passions, and to have a child show even the slightest bit of interest in the same activity was completely and utterly riveting.

I began to hear the Chariots of Fire theme song in my head.

Then, I experienced visions....

Connor, the high school running star,

Connor, the college running standout,

Connor, the gold medal Olympian (who dedicated his winning race to his mother).

As he neared the ending of his final lap, I pulled myself together. It was only two laps that he ran purely to become 50 cents richer.

But, there was a twinkle in my eye that wouldn't go away.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Selling Swim Lessons

Swim lessons have began for the three oldest boys. Lessons are held at Azionaqua, Zionsville's only pool. Azionaqua is a private pool, but far from being classified as a country club. It lacks any real competition, so operates under the assumption that it's patrons only really need water in the pool. In it's fifty plus years of operation, it's exterior has seen few updates. Extravagances like pool heaters (and showers that operate without the use of a pull rope) seem just silly to those in charge.

This morning, temperatures dipped into the 50s. I knew the pool would be frigid, and convincing the boys to participate in lessons would be a challenge. Right then, I thought about how much motherhood involves sales. (Practicing math will be so fun!) And, for those of us inexperienced salesmen, how challenging the pitch can be.

Me: Boys, I think swim lessons are going to be so fun!

Boys eyeing me with skepticism.

Me: I bet once you get in, it really won't feel that cold.

Three boys completely unconvinced.

Me: You'll be moving so fast, you'll probably get hot.

No one responds.

Me: Would a root beer with lunch be enough to convince you?

Three boys practically jumping in the pool.

I'm working on my delivery and pitch, but realizing they can be bought.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

100 Acre Woods

Chris awoke after noon (thanks to a friendly nudge from his wife). His recent nocturnal shifts have left him craving natural sunlight and outdoor activity. His four young sons were full of outdoor ideas, and desperate to visit another one of their summer bucket list destinations.

The boys selected our next destination: the 100 Acre Woods at the Indianapolis Art Museum. Within minutes, the boys packed the car, and we landed at the grounds of the Art Museum. After wandering around the impeccably groomed IMA gardens, we crossed over the Central Canal, and arrived at the gateway to the Woods.

Initially, we followed a nature path that dissected the untamed vegetation. Then, the woods parted to reveal a large meadow flanked by a lake and surrounding woods. Contemporary artwork dotted the landscape (and even in the water). We quickly understand the rules of the woods: the artwork is to appreciated in any way possible. Translation: the kids could touch/jump/climb/scale every square inch of the masterpieces.

Within hesitation, the boys embraced the artwork, and had a ball running along the trails and through the Woods at times.

Later, Chris thanked me for getting him out of the house. He said, "Sometimes I need to be watered, fed, and placed in the sunlight."

Don't we all.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Bummer Summer Moment

Today's home casualty.

Deep down, I knew not every summer day would be blissful. Today, I experienced some of the downsides of summer:

-increased laundry, dishes, and food consumption;
-rising sibling squabbles;
-injuries inflicted on our home; and
-(the most painful) taking four kids on a large grocery run.

This afternoon, I hauled the four boys to the grocery store. Most of the trip rolled by fine. Generally, we stayed together, and pleas for toys and junk food stayed at a minimum. But, maneuvering through the aisles and purchases with my four little ones was definitely draining.

Finally, we hit the dreaded check out line. At that moment, I cursed the creators of the Targets and Walmarts of the world. They knew just what they were doing when they strategically placed all the doodads, trinkets, and goodies at eye level and arm's reach of antsy toddlers and exhausted mothers. The boys ogled the items at first, and then practically mauled the packaging.

To restore order, I instructed all four boys to sit at a nearby bench until I paid. After I ferried the boys to their seats, sweat beads surfaced along my forehead. Frustrated with my "helpers," I thought, "This can't get any worse." Just at that moment, I grabbed a plastic grocery bag from the clerk. As I transferred the bag to the cart, it burst and the contents tumbled down. A glass Ragu jar plummeted to the floor, and shattered on impact. Marinara sauce and shared glass exploded, blanketing the surroundings. From my torso down, I resemble a trauma victim standing among a crime scene. As if we hadn't attracted enough attention, the crash silenced the crowd and left all eyes dangling on spaghetti-sauce drenched, completely frazzled me.

At that moment, I thought, "There's always a worse."

I easily could have lost it, but instead I smirked. Then, I sighed.

Summer, I thought.