Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Short funny

Caleb had a truly miserable morning. After I dropped him off at school and the car quieted, I looked back at my three remaining sons and said, "Is anybody feeling as stressed as I am right now?"

Two-year old Collin pipped up, "Not me."

I erupted into giggles. So glad to hear he wasn't stressed. It was just the comic relief I needed
.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Now I'm a Fencer



Cooper had Bryn Maxwell over for a play date (and I enjoyed some time with Ali). Lately, Cooper and Bryn have started to "swap" beloved items. I think last week she gave him a rock, and Cooper gave her some broken toys. This week, they exchanged silly bands for trinket toys. Cooper told me tonight that Bryn was his "best girl friend."

I signed up for a fencing class tonight. How I landed there is a story in itself.

I suppose it all started with Chris's philosophy "Some life lessons can't be learned anywhere other than the sports field." As the athletic sort, I wholeheartedly agreed. So, we encouraged all of our big boys to pick one sport, thinking all the physical activity and social interaction would be an added benefit. Our two middle sons eagerly signed up for teams. Caleb was none so pleased. After much prodding, Caleb finally located a fencing class offered at our local Boys and Girls Club. We happily signed him up, hoping this might be the perfect fit for Caleb.

The first week went well. We breathed a sigh of relief. Week two was not as successful, but he still managed to participate in half of the class. (He expressed anxiety over the number of people in the class.) Tonight was week three.

This evening, Caleb adamantly refused to join the class. He sat on the side and refused to put on his gear, and sobbed on the side of the court. Chris and I had made a decision he would finish the class because: 1) he made a commitment to the class, 2) we think he needs to work through his anxiety, and 3) he needs the physical activity. So, I stood firm. Caleb would participate in the class.

I cajoled him for what seemed like hours. Finally, I told him I was signing up for the class too. We'd do it together and I'd help him work through his fears. I ran to the heap of uniforms and desperately searched for the proper equipment and sizes. Right at that moment, a mom ran up to me and helped me with my selection.

She looked me in the eyes and said, "I've been watching you with tears in my eyes. My son is on the autism spectrum, and I think your son is too. I imagine he's further on the spectrum though (that's when I began to tear up). I've been there too, and you're doing great."

As I hadn't noticed that mom before, I wondered for a second if she was an angel. Her timing and presence were so calming and reassuring that she had to have be sent straight from above. In the least, she was an angel to me. She gently informed me that I was putting my fencing jacket on backward, and taught me how to adjust my mask.

That's when we noticed Caleb was gone. That same woman located him behind the basketball hoop and shot me a look that said, "Keep going."

So, Caleb and I stepped on the court and into the class. I stood in the fencing line among the mostly prepubescent boys. I listened to the instructor, and then taught Caleb the moves. Bend. Lunge. Shuffle. Jab. I could feel the eyes of the other bystander parents piercing the back of my mask. But, I gazed into the eyes of my masked son, and realized he was the only person in the room that truly mattered to me.

The remainder of the class was difficult. It took all the strength I could muster to teach, encourage, and keep my son focused.

At the end of class, Caleb was crying. As we went into the car, he said, "Everyone thinks I'm bad. I was a disappointment."

Right then and there, I transformed from Caleb's fencing opponent to his cheerleader. With tears in my eyes, I said, "Caleb, you finished class. You're a winner in my eyes. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks."

As the words came tumbling out, I thought about how much Caleb has taught me these same exact lessons. Helping Caleb is all the matters, even if it involves learning to fence.


Monday, August 29, 2011

The World's Largest Sling Shot


My two younger boys enjoyed an outdoor lunch with some friends. Beautiful weather provided a wonderful backdrop.


As I was doing dinner dishes, I heard a commotion upstairs, followed by loads of giggles and several loud thuds. I gazed up the stairs and eyed three boys rigging one of Chris's exercise band to the banisters. I watched the boys position different objects in the middle of the band, and then tug the band towards the wall. After a small countdown, they'd release the band and scream with delight as the object propelled through the air.

When I inquired about their activity, Caleb (the mastermind) eagerly replied. "We're making the world's largest sling shot."

Of course they are.






Sunday, August 28, 2011

Just Another Sunday


Collin and Cooper enjoyed some time at the splash park while Connor participated in football practice.

Connor's second football game of the season.

At the end, the parents formed a tunnel. The kids had a ball running through the hands.

Cooper had two soccer games this weekend.

Our pastor once said, "What good is going to church if you sin all the way to get there." How many Sundays can I relate to that statement? Certainly, the Sundays where I attempt to take all four boys to church alone the sinning runs rampant. This morning was no exception.

Chris was working this morning, so I readied my four boys to go to church
sans dad. It all started so pleasant, but as the morning progressed the myriad of hurdles multiplied. One son peed his pants. Two sons squabbled incessantly. One son expressed outrage at his church clothes selection. Two sons got into my makeup and had an utter ball applying eyeshadow on their hands and cheeks. One son refused to get out of the car in the church parking lot.

By the time I finally made it to the church entrance with four boys in tow, I felt like I deserved accolades. Wouldn't it be nice if a team of parishioners applauded when I walked in the door? Would it be too much to expect a crowd to chant my name and hoist me on their shoulders?

Nonetheless, I slipped into church without a hint of fanfare. I was completely exhausted and muttering under my breathe. I kept thinking, "Is it really worth it?"

Once the last son was tucked into class, I slipped into the sanctuary. A friendly parishioner gave me a smile. The music started. The energy level rose. The muttering stopped.

It was worth it.




Friday, August 26, 2011

The Great Outdoors


School may have begun, but summer fun is still going for the boys. The boys set up a mud slide this afternoon. They drenched our play set slide with a garden hose. Then, they used kick boards and flotation devices to whiz down the slide. They'd land with a huge thud in a mud puddle. Each time, I was sure they'd broken a tail bone or chipped a tooth, but they'd emerge amid giggles and grins. They'd race back to the top, eager to take another turn.

I suppose I should be grateful. In an age where so many kids obsess over electronics (I'm very familiar with one), I have several boys completely enthralled with the great outdoors. The minute they awake and plant a foot on the floor, the magnetic pull to the outside begins. They can barely scarf down breakfast quick enough before they're whizzing out the door, wondering what mother nature has in store for them today.

The problem is we have neighbors. Although, they love to hear our boys happy squeals, they don't like to awaken to them.
* And, we do have some family standards on modesty (romping around half-naked seems not to be an issue for said boys).

So, I was forced to set some outdoor rules:

1) Boys cannot run around outside until a normal hour (normal hour shall be defined by me).

2) Boys need to wear actual clothing to run around outside (ok, swimsuits are allowed too...and seem to be their uniform).

3) Boys must realize we have neighbors, and must keep their feelings into consideration when roaming around outdoors (volume and activity level kept in moderation).

Since then, the boys pace by the front door until the moment they're unleashed from the confines of our home. The minute they step foot outdoors, I allow a few inaugural, celebratory squeals. I can see it in their eyes, they're home.

*
A neighbor girl recounted a recent morning where she heard two big wheels racing down the sidewalk accompanied by the unmistakable squeals from my boys. The sounds interrupted her slumber, and for that she was none so pleased.

When I told Connor her comments, he said, "What does she expect? She lives by four boys."


************************************************************************

A Cooper moment from the day: I found Cooper clutching scissors standing outdoors this afternoon. When I inquired about his actions, he informed me he was cutting down our trees.

Where to start?


















Thursday, August 25, 2011

Love Letter from Mom

With Collin freshly potty trained, we played in safe and stuck around home. We were SO excited that he finished the day accident-free. Let's hope it continues.

Last night was first grade Back to School Night. Connor's teacher passed on critical first grade information and allowed time for parent questions. During the evening, the parents were able to write a letter to their child. With much gusto, I drafted a beautiful letter to Connor. Then, I left it on his desk and smiled.

Today, when Connor arrived home from school, I asked how he liked my letter.

He wrinkled his nose and frowned. Then, he said, "It was disgusting. It was like a love letter. Gross."

I laughed and said, "It was a love letter. A love letter to my son."

My comments were greeted by a collective "yuck" from the boys, followed by running from the room.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Potty Party

The guest of honor at the potty party wearing proper party attire.

When Collin awoke this morning, I plucked him out of his crib and announced with much fanfare, "It's your party day."

Still bleary-eyed, he looked perplexed.

"Remember," I continued. "It's your potty party day."

He perked up and quickly fed off my enthusiasm.

We raced down the stairs, and I announced to his older brothers the special occasion. They nodded, and then the two older boys beelined off to school as quick as possible. With two brothers gone, the number of party guests landed at two (with me serving as hostess).

Older brother Cooper didn't remember his own party, and soon began to inquire about the goings-on of the potty party.

Cooper: Would there be cake?

Me: Well, no.

Cooper: Would there be balloons?

Me: Hadn't thought of that, so no.

Cooper: Would there be any sort of entertainment, say a clown or face painter?

Me: Yet again, no.

But, I promised Cooper we'd serve plenty of liquid refreshment, and potty talk would actually be encouraged at this party.

Cooper looked skeptical, and soon began to take over the position of party planner. He added balloons. He suggested activities. He brought out some snacks. But, he soon realized his visions of a successful party just weren't being met by this (in his mind) sub-par fiesta.

With a slight bit of attitude, Cooper decided to throw his own competing party in the next room. He selected favorite toys. He added balloons. He brought in really loud music. He seemed content, until he realized a great party really needs guests.

That's when he went on to Plan C: sabotage the competing party. He sneaked over to our party. He confiscated jelly beans. He demanded equal treatment as the party boy (same amount of liquid refreshments and jelly bean treats). He hijacked favorite toys. He caused a ruckus, and we eventually had to ask him to leave the party. Security (me) escorted him out.

After a significant amount of sulking, he returned to our soiree. He came to realize our party could be fun too, even if it wasn't on par with the average birthday party.

As for the party host (Collin), he exited the party mostly trained. (Hallelujah!)

As for the hostess (moi), I only had to mop up a few minor accidents (on tile) and only fish one hot wheels car out of the commode.

I'd call the party a success.





Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Superheroes

Brand new third-grader! Caleb poses before heading out to his first day of school.

With Caleb, you never really know how a day will unfold. Throw in something momentous, like a first day of school, and my mom anxiety level skyrockets. I brace myself for his responses. As I've mentioned before, change is hard for Caleb. Transitions are difficult. My Aspie son frequently greets new routines with lots of theatrics and obstinance.

To my surprise, this morning advanced with about as much fanfare as any other morning. Caleb pleasantly arrived at the breakfast table. He pulled on his school clothes rapidly. He collected his backpack and lunchbox without hesitation. He slipped in the carpool vehicle without a scene.

I waved as Caleb's left the driveway, and marveled at how truly wonderful the morning progressed. He started a new chapter of his life, and he handled the transition in stride. I walked back to the house beaming.

Wonderful baby steps.

I'm so grateful!

*******************************************************************

Cooper ran up to me this morning, bursting with excitement.

"Batman's real," he exclaimed. "He lives in a real live state...Gothman City. It's next to the Atlantis ocean."

I smiled and asked where he received such reliable information.

"From Connor. He told me all about it," Cooper replied.

Burst his bubble or let him continue to believe Gotham City is one of our 50 states (next to the Atlantis Ocean)?

What to do....

Today, I just let him believe.

We'll work on a geography lesson tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Caleb's Last Summer Day



I let Caleb pick a special last day of summer activity. He selected a visit to the Indianapolis Children's Museum. The boys had a blast.

When Caleb arose, I reminded him it was his last day of summer.

In a blithe manner, he replied, "Summer was a blast."

So true.

I spent most of today eagerly anticipating the return of one more child to school. But tonight, as I'm writing this blog, feelings of melancholy wash over me. Caleb's a third grader. THIRD GRADER. When did he get so old?

Even though, I'm ready to return to the familiarity of a school schedule, my hearts aching just a bit that another one of my little boys is becoming not so little.



Sunday, August 21, 2011

True Grit

Cooper became the proud owner of a new bike today. His old Lightning McQueen bike was traded in for a cobalt blue, 16-inch, Viper bike. Cooper's new bike is just a smidgen too big (purchased with room to grow). As such, Cooper cannot plant both feet on the ground while resting his backside firmly on the seat. Translation: Cooper needs the assistance of a parent to start his ride down the sidewalk. (This fact has not sat well with independent minded Cooper!)

Chris attempted to help Cooper several times today. Chris held onto Cooper's handlebars and try to plop Cooper down on the seat. But, Cooper resisted and repeatedly declared, "I'll do it myself." After several attempts to assist, Chris collapsed onto a nearby bench, totally exasperated by his son's persistence.

Cooper spent most of the afternoon trying to jump on the bike BY HIMSELF. He would not give up. Defeat appeared not to be an option. Logical reasoning rested on deaf ears.

As I watched Cooper's efforts, I thought about how Cooper's personality was so strongly displayed with his efforts with the bike. Cooper exudes gumption and iron grit (teamed with complete and utter fearlessness). This combination could (and does) produce a mighty powerful personality.

I imagine individuals with similar personalities are the type that later engage in hobbies such as skydiving or parasailing. Then, these individuals recount their perilous exploits to their poor, nervous mothers. Said mothers listen, and then endure many a sleepless night and countless grey hairs.

But, I also imagine these are the strong-willed individuals that run marathons in record times. They build businesses and refuse to let a few "noes" get in the way of one major "yes." They change the world, relying on steel determination and loads of spunk.

At least I'm hoping.

For the moment, it provides comfort to one nervous, rapidly greying mother.





Spent part of the afternoon at the Zion Nature Center. Caleb was in heaven with the Indiana Lizard display.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

You know you're the fourth child when...


We spent some time with our friends, the Brinkruffs, today. During our visit, we discovered Collin asleep on the floor. Claudia laughed and said, "Isn't that such a fourth child thing." She then encouraged me to write a book about the tragic life of a fourth child.

Maybe not a book, but how about a blog post.

You know you're a fourth child when....

You can fall asleep anywhere at anytime (future doctor, perhaps?).





Your wardrobe is largely composed of "vintage" pieces handed down by your older siblings. (Does anything look familiar in the two picture above?)


You skip the fixation with Barney and Big Bird, and go straight into an obsession with superheros and Star Wars.

You get shipped off to Grandma and Grandpa's house while your older brothers get to do big boy fun.

You have plenty of siblings (frenemies?) to enjoy your leisure time with.


You spend most of your early years staring at a car seat.


You're confined to a stroller on pretty much every outing.

You get to eat the "good stuff" much earlier than your older siblings.

Your older brothers teach you plenty (all the really good words, phrases, and habits!).

You spend lots of time on the sidelines of sports fields, swimming pools, athletic bleachers, and school auditoriums "cheering" on your older siblings.

You stay up later than older brothers ever did (perhaps even gazing at Fourth of July fireworks at the tender age of two).

But, the fourth child holds a tender spot in the heart of his mother and father. Even though he tells us he's a big boy, he'll always be our baby.

Warning: Shameless Parental Bragging Ahead:

Connor participated in his first football game today and scored his first touch down! We were so proud! Here he enjoys the sweet taste of victory (a special snack from the coach's wife). It's amazing how nice his brothers were to him while he clutched his gooey treat.



Friday, August 19, 2011

Preparing for Third Grade

What a bunch of animals!
The Hermacinski girls joined my boys for a lunch play date in the park. Had a great time catching up with Cara. I always walk away from a play date with Cara grateful that she's my friend.

Caleb gets familiar with his new third grade desk at Back to School night.

Tonight, Caleb and I strolled into his school, hand in hand. As we approached the entrance, I could sense Caleb stiffen. He clutched my hand a little tighter. He started to grumble. We wandered through the halls, searching for the third grade classrooms. He scowled and huffed.

When we finally made it to his classroom, I glanced at the class rooster. I noticed many familiar (and favorite) classmates landed in Caleb's class. Caleb perked up just a tad.

Then, we walked into his classroom. We found his desk, located in the back and directly near a full stack of books. Caleb's eyes darted among the titles etched on each book's spine. Nestled within the stacks, he eyed several books on Greek mythology and many more books on animals. He beamed. His eyes seemed to warm to the whole idea of school, his teacher, and third grade in general.

By the time we left the building, his spirits were lifted. Let's hope his enthusiasm continues until the start of school!




Thursday, August 18, 2011

Returning to Our Good Graces

Visited with Caleb's third grade teachers today. They're all seasoned teachers with experience working with kids like Caleb. They seemed enthusiastic about having him in their classrooms. I'm so grateful!



The boys met up with the Wanner kids for some bike riding. They seemed to enjoy making laps and having time with their friends.

Chris had Connor and Cooper out tonight. When they returned, steam was pouring out of Chris's ears. He began to mutter. I heard lots of talk about Connor, a rock and our mini van. I'll spare you the details, but you can just imagine the story.

Chris was livid and I could feel my blood pressure rise as the drama came tumbling out about "my son" (as Chris kept referring to him). Chris asked, "So what should we do?" At that moment, my mind jumped to the worst possible punishment. No TV until you're 20. No allowance until you drive. No dinner for a week. But, after we both simmered a bit, we jointly enacted an appropriate punishment for the crime.

During our fuming, Cooper began to console Connor. Cooper handed his most beloved stuffed animal to Connor. Then, Cooper told Connor all the gifts he would give him for his birthday (in December). Finally, Cooper came up to me and said, "Would it help if Connor cracked his head open?"

A little unsure of his question, I said, "Why would he crack his head open?"

Cooper went on, "When I cracked my head open and Daddy fixed it, I got cookies. Could Connor crack his head open and get something too?"

Despite my frustration, I couldn't help but smile. I said, "Please don't crack his head open. It won't help."

Cooper seemed skeptical, and a little too eager to help with his brother's injury.

A few minutes later, Connor came into our room. His expression was downcast and his mood somber. He looked us both in the eye and expressed regret for his actions. Then, he asked if he could pray for forgiveness. We gladly listened to his prayer.

At that moment, my anger vanished and the mood lightened. I told him we all make mistakes, it's how we fix them that really matters.

Tonight ended well thanks to Connor's perfect fix: a heartfelt apology.
















Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Waiting for Connor

Cooper decided to sell his Lego creations at the base of our driveway. He priced his masterpieces at $18. He was a wee bit disappointed in his lack of sales.



We told Caleb he had to pick a fall sport. Caleb selected fencing, offered at the Zionsville Boys and Girls Club. Tonight was his first lesson. Chris accompanied him and said he did well.

We have a beat-up rocking chair that's currently residing in purgatory (our garage) until it lands in its final resting place (the junkyard). The last two days, I've plucked it out of our garage and pulled it into the driveway facing the street. Then, I've sat Collin on my lap. We've gazed to the South, waiting for Connor's bus to arrive.

Today, Collin sat on my lap, clutching a snack. The temperatures were pleasant, and a slight breezed whipped around. We rocked and I sang, "The Wheels on the Bus." He was content, as we eagerly awaited seeing his brother. When the bus finally came into view, we both popped up and ran for Connor.

I kept thinking, someday Collin will be on that bus too.
How I'll miss these moments.











Monday, August 15, 2011

First Day of First Grade

Connor exiting the bus on his first day of first grade.

We all migrated to the end of the street. By the stop sign, a congregation of neighbor moms, dads, and anxious children huddled together waiting for the bus. The adults clutched cameras and tissues.

Moms photographed their children in different poses and combinations of kids. Dads gave farewell kisses. Both parents conveyed last minute instructions and advice to their kiddos.

Some parents looked somber. They gazed at their school age child with bewilderment. Their bleary eyes seemed to say, "Where did the time go?"

Others seemed downright giddy. After weeks of togetherness, they craved alone time. Their minds raced as to just how they could spend the next several hours...lunch dates, workouts, house cleaning, paying bills, tackling the laundry, and on and on.

I fell somewhere in between. Last night, I was a little bit sentimental. I pictured Connor as the adorable baby with strawberry blond hair and bright blue eyes. I remembered how much he liked to be held, and how hard it was for me to get anything accomplished unless it was a task that could be completed while clutching a baby. When did he turn into a first grader?

But then the memories of the last few days flooded back. The boys have displayed, by words and deeds, a need to return to routine. And, after months of accumulated filth and unproductivity, I need to get a few things accomplished.

As the bus neared our stop, I planted a big kiss on Connor's cheek. I told him I loved him. Then, I watched him gleefully ascend the stairs to the bus.

He was happy, and I was happy for him.






Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Art of Sitting

I actually forgot to take a picture today. My favorite picture from yesterday, recycled.

I've seen the Duggars interviewed several times on various news segments. I've watched in amazement as all 19 children sit perfectly still during an interview. Not once have I seen Duggar siblings scuffle during a Today show interview. Nor, have I seen Duggar toddlers darting around the set during a Fox News taping. I've sat mesmerized on the screen, jaw on the floor, wondering if the Duggars struck the genetic lottery and happened to get 19 perfectly calm children or was there some sort of training involved. Ms. Duggar provided my answer. She admitted during a television interview that she trains her kids to sit. The Duggar kids practice sitting. Genius.

It's funny, you'd thinking sitting (or standing) would be an ingrained skill. But, in my experience, for young males this is a skill that has to be developed and taught. I'd love for my boys to stand with me in the post office line without turning bubble wrap tubes into weapons and reenacting a Star Wars duel. Or, stand in the church hall without wrestling on the floor in front of their Sunday school teachers. (Purely fictional scenarios, of course!) During those moments, I think: why can't you just stand and do absolutely nothing. Is it really that hard?

Today, after a particularly physical and energetic period (when standing against the wall would have been the preferred method of passing time), I remembered my vow to train boys to sit. When we arrived home, I instructed all four boys (well, really three) to stand against the wall quietly, without touching/harming/harassing a brother. I set the timer for five minutes and watched.

You would have thought I asked them to swim the Atlantic ocean with one hand tied behind their back. They begrudgingly placed their backsides against the wall and glared at me. The wiggled, they dangled their arms dangerously close to their siblings, but they stopped with the threat of resetting the timer hanging over their heads.

At the end of five minutes, they leaped out of their positions and dashed around the house. I could almost hear the collective cries of freedom.

I'm happy to know they're physically able to be still, at least for five minutes. But, I'm thinking we'll need more practice.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Show Me the Money


Tough decisions!

It was the day the boys eagerly anticipated for months: allowance spending day. At the beginning of the summer, we established an allowance system, with payment due upon the boys meeting daily expectations and household chores. I promised them at the end of the summer, they could take their accumulated money to the store and spend it.

Today, we counted up their piggy banks. I stuffed four ziploc bags with dollar bills and change, then four beaming boys jumped in the car bound for Target. At Target, they sprinted to the toy aisles. It felt a little Christmas, as the boys eagerly eyed aisle after aisle of coveted goodies.

It was interesting watching the boys spend money. Some (Caleb) easily parted with their accumulated loot. Others (Connor) struggled with releasing even a portion of their cash. Nonetheless, all four made wise selections, and appeared happy about their choices.

Then, four boys lugging their goods in one hand and a ziploc bag full of cash in the other up to the check out lane. The poor clerk patiently scanned each item and watched as we counted a slew of dimes, nickles, and pennies. (You can only imagine the looks I got from my fellow Target patrons.)

At the end, the boys walked out happy, and I'm hoping a slight bit more educated on money.





Our friend, Audrey Brinkruff, is a budding junior equestrian. Today, she invited our family to her horse barn to participate in the barn's fundraiser. Without hesitation, we accepted (minus Chris recovering from a post overnight ER shift).

Audrey's horse barn offered a slew of fun family activities. Connor enjoyed a horse ride. All the boys bounced in the bounce houses. Collin painted a horse with his bare hands.

At the end of the afternoon, both families enjoyed a hay ride. The driver took us along the country roads in Greenfield. We were surrounded by peaceful pastoral scenery: thriving cornfields and classic farm houses. Along the way, the driver pointed out an electrocuted raccoon stuck on a telephone wire. The boys found this morbid discovery quite interesting (and maybe even the highlight of their ride).

At the end of the afternoon, I reflected on the simplicity and delightfulness of rural living.