Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Remnants of snow still dotted our yard. There was not enough snow to cause problems, but just enough to add to little boy fun.

Lately, I've been thinking about all the contradictions I face as a mother. It seems all my boys are working on something, and it's the opposite of what another brother's working on.

For instance:

One boy needs to talk more, one needs to talk less.

One needs to venture outside more, one needs to stay inside more.

One needs to slow down, one needs to speed up.

One needs to be more serious, one needs to lighten up.

One needs to be more afraid, one needs to be less afraid.

One needs to be more attached, one needs to be less attached.

One needs to care less what peers think, one needs to care a little more about his peers.

Sometimes I think wouldn't it be easier if they were all the same, with the same challenges. But, their differences bring richness to our family, and gray hairs to one mother.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Euphoria of Snow, a Child's Perspective

The last few days, rain plummeted from the sky. The boys and I darted between rain pellets during our rare outdoor excursions.

This afternoon, the rain transformed to white flakes. This time, the flakes accumulated, blanketing our yard in ivory. The two youngest boys bundled up in wool hats and mittens, snow boots and puffer jackets. They dashed between the flurries, turning their heads towards the sky with mouths opened wide. They caught flurries on their tongues and devoured the slippery flakes.

My day unfurled in a flurry of errands and appointments. While they raced between flakes, I drove through them. While they devoured ice, I purchased groceries. While they smiled at the weather, I cringed.

I eyed the boys with a mixture of jealousy and admiration, remembering the euphoria of being a child on a snowy day.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Recap

The boys and I took a weekend excursion down to Evansville. They loved the Children's Museum of Evansville (cMoe).

The boys decorated the Christmas tree with much enthusiasm. They enjoyed looking at old ornaments and talking about the memories tied to each special one.

Caleb's Christmas List (sorry it's sideways). Obviously, we won't be lacking for ideas.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Questions

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. Today, it feels like we woke up to Christmas. This morning, we began to unpack the Christmas decorations. The whole process inspired my MOPs article of the month.

Here's what I wrote:

The boys and I unearthed the Christmas boxes, buried deep within the recesses of our basement. We spewed the contents on the floor. The boys eyed the evergreen wreaths, nativity scenes, and peppermint scented candles. They inspected each item, tossing out Christmas memories as they played.

My two-year-old son Collin picked up a nutcracker. It looked regal, clad in a deep purple jacket with crimson cuffs. A bejeweled metallic crown perched on its head.

Collin gazed at me and said, “Is this Jesus?”

I smiled, and shook my head.

“No, that’s not Jesus,” I replied.

Then, I picked up a Fisher Price plastic baby Jesus, part of a children’s nativity set. The baby figurine lay in a wooden box, nestled among the plastic hay strands.

“This is Jesus, “ I said as I pointed to the baby.

Collin looked perplexed, and insisted that the regal nutcracker was Jesus.

I understood his confusion. I’m sure he’s heard about this majestic Jesus, “King of Kings, Lord of Lords.” Certainly, this tiny baby didn’t fit his mental image of a savior. Wouldn’t Jesus look more like a king?

It got me to thinking: Why did Jesus come into Earth in such a humble fashion? Couldn’t He have chosen a more regal entrance, a more dazzling form?

But, his entrance to the world, in a form of an infant, showed his humanity and humility. As John Saward said, “The Son of God became little to make us great, and yet He also became little to help us to be little, to be high in sanctity by becoming low in humility.” How grateful I am that He came as He did.

Two-year-old Collin won’t understand all this quite yet.

I gathered Collin onto my lap and pulled out a Christmas picture book. We read about Jesus the infant, born in a stable, placed in a manager.

Right now it’s just a story to him; someday it will be more.

We celebrated Grandma's 90th birthday and my niece, Savannah's first birthday.

During the party, Caleb kept busy working on Lego creations.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Sounds of Thanksgiving

A mom of an only child told me her son begged for siblings for years. Then, he visited a home with five kids. Her son was so overwhelmed with the commotion that he ran around alone outside just to find some solace. After that, he never asked for a sibling again.

I suppose I can relate to that little boy. There days I'd love to run around outside, hiding from the clamor and commotion that flows from a big family. At those time, I understand the phrase, "Silence is golden."

But, on Thanksgiving, the sounds that radiates from a house full of family is divine. The cries and coos of babies. The giggles of cousins. The laughs between siblings. The stories from grandparents. The praises of parents.

Although I spent the greater part of the last two days preparing and cooking, I think the food was secondary to the sounds of family.

No sweeter sound.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Eve

Caleb showing off turkey cookies.

The Thanksgiving tables all dressed and ready for tomorrow.

With the tables occupied, the boys enjoyed a picnic dinner on the floor.

Tomorrow, I'm set to host my first Thanksgiving meal. Thanks to the help of my mother and mother-in-law, I think we're ready. The boys (and I) are very excited for Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cycles of Frustration

Collin and his friend, Nora, play with the parachute during library story time.

Caleb was particularly edgy this evening. As we clicked down the minutes until bedtime, he's inner irritation began to bubble to the surface. Feeling frustrated with my son, I finally blurted out, "Why are you on the edge? Why are you so angry?" As the words tumbled from my lips, I felt convicted. I began to wonder who exactly I was talking to: him or me?

The last two days, my own fussiness festered, the product of four lively sons, bickering siblings, one busy husband, and household woes. Did my cantankerous disposition trickle down to the boys? I pondered the old chicken and egg argument. Did Caleb's anger lead to mine, or mine to his?

The truth is it really doesn't matter where and why the anger originated, as long as it's removed. I stopped lecturing and gazed into Caleb's eyes and said with all sincerity, "I'm sorry."

The house fell silent, peaceful even. The tension flew from the space. Caleb calmed, and so did I.

Someone had to stop the cycle, and I'm glad it was me.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wasted time?

This evening I disciplined Cooper. Mid lecture, Cooper interjected by saying, "You're wasting your time." After a little prodding, he meant, I'll probably do it again.

I ruminated on his words and thought how well that summed up my general feelings from the day. It was one of those days where I questioned whether I was wasting my time.

I disciplined boys, just to turn around and discipline them again..for the same offense

I picked up rooms, and then spotted the same rooms, just minutes later, completely unraveled

I taught the boys important lessons, like placing dirty clothes in hampers, just to spot dirty laundry spewed all over the floor

Wasted time indeed, I huffed.

Entrenched in self pity, I put Collin to bed. I plopped down on his quilt and heard him whisper his bedtime prayer. With chubby hands folded, he said, "Thank you God for mommy."

I realized today was hard, but not wasted.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wood Boy Ingenuity: A Zip Line for Stuff Animals

The stuffed animal zip line concocted by the boys.

The battle scene. The boys explained it was the army versus the navy. I informed them those two groups fight on the same team. Chris interjected, "Unless you're talking football."

Mix a little free time with one distracted mother. Add four young boys with vivid imaginations. Stir well and, viola...ingenuity, Wood boy style.

This morning, I primped in the bathroom, checking periodically on the boys. Again, those familiar warning bells blared when silence blanketed the house. I peeked downstairs and noticed the boys had rigged a ball of yarn between door handles and banister knobs. Petrified looking stuffed animals, attached to paper clips, dangled from the string. Connor manned one end of the string and maneuvered the stuffed animals along with a rigged pulley system.

I scanned the living room, criss crossed with blue yarn, and asked the obvious, "What are you doing?"

To which the boys eagerly replied, "Making a zip line for our stuffed animals."

Of course they are.

I suppose I should be happy their creative juices flow so freely, especially when working as a group. Haven't other inventive brothers revolutionized the world? Think Wright, Manning, Bush, and Jonas (to name a few).

But I'm wondered why creativity isn't synonymous with tidiness.

Friday, November 18, 2011

To play with the big boys, you have to be a big boy

Unbeknownst to me, Cooper snagged my camera and snapped a few close ups.

I washed dinner dishes in the sink, grateful that for once the house was silent. The boys had all filtered upstairs and were quietly playing together.

How nice, I thought. They're playing so well together.

Then it clicked, They're playing well......what's wrong?

Just then the silence was pierced with giggles and squeals that cropped up from the upstairs bedroom and meandered down the stairs.

Warning bells blared in my head.

I bolted into the boys' room, and spotted two-year-old Collin gripping the railing and dangling from his older brother's top bunk. His feet sliced the air and his face radiated pure joy. Older brother, Connor, sat Indian style directly under his airborne brother. Connor outstretched his arms, anticipating serving as the landing gear for the inevitable plunge.

I cried, "What are you doing? He's only two? He could get hurt."

Then, I snatched my fearless toddler and placed him on the floor.

Both boys scowled at me with a look that said, "Safety's such a downer."

I gave them a swift talking to, and prayed that from now they'd play with two feet firmly planted on the ground.

As I resumed dishes, I thought about how different Collin probably plays from the average two-year-old. As the fourth son of four boys, he learned early: If you want to hang with the big boys, you better play like a big boy. So, he bypassed the baby pools, Sesame Streets, and blocks for deep ends, Star Wars and Legos. While other two year olds skimmed down the slides, he whizzed along on skateboards. While many two year olds soaked in the alphabet, he learned about superheroes.

As much as I'd like Collin to fit that stereotypical toddler mold, I have a greater desire for him to build strong relationships with his older brothers. Building those relationships require gumption and endurance, hopefully common sense too.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful List

I've had a couple of rough days with Connor. His typically pleasant temperament has turned disagreeable. I began to worry about his future. Was this a little taste of things to come? Will he transform into a hideous teen? A miserable adult?

Mid fret, Connor unpacked the contents of his backpack and scattered his school papers on the counter. I picked up the above paper: Connor's thankful list. I read the words in pure amazement and joy. Connor crafted an incredibly thoughtful list (even added six more items than required).

I let out a sigh of relief. Maybe he really will be o.k.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Breakfast Date

A cute picture of the boys from a few days ago.

We pushed our trays into an empty booth at McDonalds. He unwrapped his breakfast sandwich and I nibbled on my oatmeal. The restaurant was humming with the voices of regulars. An entire section of the dining room was filled with blue haired retirees. Their conversation meandered between local politics to hunting techniques. They sipped black coffee and gazed out the window between swigs.

Connor and I sat in silence. He woofed down a biscuit, crumb parcels dripping from his chin, littering the tabletop.

I cleared my throat, “So, how’s it going?”

"Good," he announced, barely looking up before offering his perfunctory response.

Grasping for more, I peppered him with more questions about everything from school lunch to his school bus companions. For me, our breakfast was not a social occasion, but a fact finding mission. Connor had been shutting me out from his little world. I thought a date over a breakfast sandwich could reopen that door.

As the morning progressed, I'd say at least the door is cracked. Connor divulged a few tidbits from school and a some silly anecdotes. I soaked in all his words, trying hard to focus on all the details.

As we walked out, I draped my arm over his shoulder, grateful for a start.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Releasing Batman

Caleb adores going to his doctor because her dogs hang out in the office. Today he asked if he could read them stories. It melted my heart when he sat by the dogs and read them a book.

Collin has an affinity for all things Batman. His admiration transcends mere delight to outright obsession. Batman attire fills his wardrobe. He carries a Batman backpack to school. He sleeps on Batman sheets. He clutches three pint size Batmen everywhere he travels.

Tonight, Collin pulled out the Batman cave. He maneuvered his three Batmen around the perimeters of the cave, mumbling stories about the bad guys and menacing weapons.

Older brother, Cooper, gazed at Collin and asked, "Can I play with your Batman?"

I held my breath, fully anticipating an explosion.

Collin stared at his most valuable possession, and then eyed his brother. Without hesitation, he planted his Batman into Cooper's hands. I observed the interaction with utter amazement. Collin just handed over Batman, no tears, no hysterics, no questions. He released it to his brother merely because his brother asked. Amazing!

It made me think about my morning's Bible study. We discussed how God wants us to release those things that hold us captive, meaning separate from God. I mulled over how that applied to my life and wondered if I had the strength to let go of the things I hold near and dear. Could I hand over my "Batmen" merely because He asked, without tears, theatrics, or hesitation?

Truth is, I'm not sure, but I'm learning a lot from my two-year-old.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Skater Boy

Cooper convinced me to take him to the skateboard park. We were the only ones there, and had a blast "learning" to skateboard. We ended the afternoon without injury. I'd call the trip a success!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Lesson in Cinnamon Rolls

Some of my fondest childhood memories stem from big family holiday dinners. My Grandmother Joseph whipped up wonderful holiday dishes, but none more memorable than her homemade cinnamon rolls. She always timed it just right so the rolls popped out of the oven just minutes before saying grace. After the amens, I'd rush towards the rolls and toss one onto my plate, still warm. I'd quickly smother my Aunt Linda's homemade strawberry preserves on the tip. Within nanoseconds, it was devoured and I was back for more.

After my Grandmother passed, my aunts and my mother carried on the tradition, with a modern twist. They introduced a box mix to the recipe that eliminated a few steps, but still required loads of TLC. Today, my mom passed the baton to me, the next generation of family cooks. She taught me the skill of making (practically) homemade cinnamon rolls. It felt like a rite of passage in some ways. Like, I'd officially graduated to the big girl table.

Our lesson began this afternoon. My mother waltzed into my kitchen, clutching two box mixes and a bag full of kitchen utensils and supplies. We both pulled on kitchen aprons as she strewed the staples across the counter. We chatted in between mixes, rolls, kneads, and cuts. At the end, 24 perfect cinnamon rolls lined two metal pan. We covered the pans in aluminum foil and placed them in the freezer until Thanksgiving.

As we pulled off our aprons, I couldn't help thinking about my Grandmother. I imagined she'd be tickled to know cinnamon rolls still grace the holiday table. But, I suppose she'd be most pleased to hear the table was surrounded by family.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Swapping Stories

Boy Scout Camp

South Bend

Tonight, we congregated around the kitchen table. A pizza box sat in the center, and the six of us eagerly devoured the slices. It was a reunion of sorts for our family, as the whole of us was split down the middle for the last 24 hours. Chris whisked the older boys down to southeastern Indiana for Boy Scout camp. I escorted the little boys to South Bend to visit Chris's parents.

We swapped memories of the weekend:

Grandma Wood's chicken tetrazzini

Sloppy Joes in the mess hall

Notre Dame Basketball Game

Twillight Nature Hike

Popcorn at the game

S'mores around the fire

Sleeping with mom

Sleeping in a yurt

South Bend playground

Climbing Wall

South Bend's Healthworks

Bow and Arrows, BB guns