Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Fun





As the boys are growing older, their schedules are getting fuller. I've struggled with determining which activities are best for our family unit and each individual boy.

I solicited Chris's advice, and he responded, "They're so young. Leave time for our boys to be boys."

Good advice.

On a night like tonight, I'm glad they have time just to be boys.

Tonight, the boys collaborated with the neighbor kids to transport leaves from one yard into another yard (our yard, of course!). I watched as the children worked together and took such pride in each individual task. They gathered heaps of leaves into a bucket and then raced into our yard. Each child tossed handfuls of leaves into the quickly accumulating pile. Beaming, they'd race back to locate more multicolored foliage.

Once the children determined the pile had reached an adequate height, the entire slew of neighbor children had a ball plummeting into the leaves. They'd emerge leaf-covered and smiling, ready to do it again.

The afternoon was so simple and pleasant. It made me grateful for a schedule with pockets of nothing to fill with the delightful.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Birthday lunch

Today, I was able to celebrate the birthday of my dear friend, Ali. I had a wonderful time completing full conversations and catching up on her life. Wish it could have lasted longer!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dinner Disorder

Connor getting a haircut from Dad.

Tonight's dinner was greeted with scowls and disappointment. I served fish (and not the sort that's formed into a stick) with tomato soup (that they quickly deduced was not the same as ketchup). The mood was gloomy and misbehavior ran rapid. I think the boys spent more time in the time out chair then their dining room chairs.

By the end of the meal, Chris and I looked worn. The boys looked peeved. As we were about ready to clear the plates, Cooper vomits all over the table and surroundings.

Chris and I just exchanged glances and then started to laugh (sorry Cooper). We didn't just giggle, but belly laughed until we almost cried. I think we were laughing because we couldn't imagine the evening could get any worse...and then it did.

I suppose sometimes you just have to laugh at the mayhem and commotion, or else..

you'll cry.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flu Shots

The two little boys getting ready for bed.

This afternoon, I packed the four boys into the van. Destination: CVS. Flu Shots. As we approached the store, I admitted to the boys the reason for our visit. I felt like the information had to be presented honestly, but tactfully enough to not incite mass hysteria.

Of course, with the casual mention of the word "shot," panic multiplied. Connor was practically hyperventilating. Caleb was flat our refusing to get out of the car. Collin looked mildly concerned, but a little unsure of why.

Cooper surprised me the most. He began to beam. Then announced, "I love shots." He continued to chant this mantra as we entered the clinic and selected our seats by the nurse.

The nurse gazed at all four boys, and uttered, "Who wants to be first?"

Connor quivered. Caleb shot her look like, "Don't even think about it." Collin looked perplexed.

Cooper immediately shot up his hand and said, "I'll go first."

Without hesitation, Cooper dropped his pants and took the shot in stride. The nurses announced they'd never seen such a thing: a kid who likes shots.

I laughed through the whole ordeal.

It was so Cooper.

Fearless.

Thrill Seeker.

Comedian.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Church


The boys indoor play on a rainy day.

The fact that it was a rainy day was apropos. The gloomy weather mirrored the melancholy sentiment blanketing our house. I suppose our household blahs began at church (of all places).

Our Sunday morning progressed as many prior Sundays. The boys dressed in a mostly timely fashion, and I whisked the five of us to church (minus Chris working in the ER). Caleb, my Aspie son, appeared fine until he hit the Sunday school classroom; that's when my morning began to unravel. I'll spare the details, but say the service ended with me in tears, Caleb wedged behind an array of boxes, and a legion of church staff and volunteers hovering around the perimeter.

As I pulled out of the church parking lot, tears still stinging my eyes, I wondered if I should ever return. Wasn't the morning painful enough to even consider returning? Could I ever really endure that again?

Then, I thought about why I take the boys to church. The messages all four boys are receiving. The friendships they're forming. How could I not return?

I reflected on my race in Asheville, North Carolina. I remembered how difficult it was to scale hill after hill. I recalled how many times I wanted to quit, preferring to fall in a heap on the side. A week later, I'm so glad I pushed through the pain and difficulty and finished the race strong.

I think it's like that with Caleb. Some moments are quite painful. It's so easy to want to fall to the side, seeking the easier route. But I'm hoping the effort and endurance expended will reap good things (for Caleb) in the future.

So, I'm preparing to return to church next week, four boys in tow. I'll hope for even terrain, but be prepared for any ascensions.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Outdoorsman

Cooper imitating Daddy.

In just a few months, we'll be in the thick of winter. We'll be cocooned within our house, more than likely encircled by snow. Frigid temps will discourage outdoor play. The boys will spend hours engaging in more sedate activities, such as puzzles and blocks.

I'm worried how Cooper will handle this.

You see Cooper adores the outdoors. The minute he devours the last morsel of breakfast, he bursts through our front door. Still clad in pajamas, he hops on his bike and peddles along his allowed perimeter. As he rides along the sidewalk, he runs into various neighbors. He pets dogs being walked. He talks the ears off of my sweet neighbor, Michelle. He invites himself over to various neighbors' houses for play dates. They accept because Cooper fills his brazen invitation with charisma and spunk.

I'll call him back to the house periodically to brush his teeth or change his clothes. But as soon as he completes my request, he's perched back on his bike seat, racing down the sidewalk. He's happy and most at home.

What will Cooper do come winter?

Is he too young to learn to ski?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Love Thy Neighbor




Some neighbor kids and my boys competed in driveway races. They had a ball running/biking/jumping down our driveway.

A while back, a neighbor made some comments that stung. Her word pierced a tender, sensitive spot, my Achilles' heel. I imagined time would heal the wound. Instead, the lesion festered and gaped, refusing to be nursed.

I knew the only true way to repair the wound was to mend the relationship, but my bruised psyche refused to budge.

My emotional side screamed, "But, she...." Then, I'd privately recount all those seemingly horrible comments and feel a smug satisfaction in all of her wrongness. But, as my psyche beamed, my wound oozed.

My reasonable side reflected on the Biblical mandate to love and forgive neighbors. It seemed hard to dispute what I needed to do when I was trying to forgive and love my actual neighbor.

As I've worked through my emotions, healing and forgiveness has come to pass. Tonight, we even had an actual pleasant conversation. As we gazed into each others' eyes and exchanged pleasantries, I realized it was becoming more and more difficult to sustain my anger. As much as it pained the stubborn side of me, I enjoyed our conversation. That old familiar knot in my stomach recoiled. Peace washed over me. I discovered the needed remedy.

As we parted ways and headed to our separate homes, I felt my wound soothe. I'm thinking it won't even leave a scar.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Celebration

Had fun watching the Witham Health Foundation fashion show. Cheered on my friend/model, Andrea (on the catwalk).

Chris and I took my parents out to dinner. We were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. We selected a favorite restaurant and booked a babysitter.

The evening felt a little strange, as we completed actual conversations. For almost a full decade, rarely have we spent time with my parents without four little ones milling around. Tonight, they transformed from my kids' grandparents back to my parents.

We had a wonderful time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shades of Boys



Cooper had a blast sculpting his hair and then hamming it up for the camera.

My mother will soon celebrate a milestone birthday. She requested only one present from her family: the participation of her children and grandchildren in a family photo. How can you say no to the woman who gave you life?

Without hesitation, we agreed. Since then, I've spent the last few weeks hunting for family photo worthy attire. I easily snagged appropriate garb for Chris and I. The boys' wardrobe has not come as easy.

In the past, I've dressed all four boys alike. Four white button downs. Four sweater vests. Four khakis. Quick. Easy. Wonderful.

This year, I questioned whether the boys were past looking like a set of quadruplets. Shouldn't I embrace their individualism by selecting unique items for each and every one?

With that thought in mind, I scoured adolescent clothing racks. But without a lick of ingrained fashion sense, I felt lost and confused among the myriad of sweaters and shirts. Does argyle work with stripes? Checks with solids? Charcoals with navy? As my confusion mounted, I decided to phone a fashion savvy neighbor to solicit advice.

"Dress them in solids in different colors. In fact, select the colors that best match their personalities," she advised.

I found her advice to be golden, but started to chuckle about selecting colors to match their personalities. It got me to thinking....what colors match their personalities.

Here's my thoughts:

Caleb: Green

As my nature and reptile enthusiast, green is the perfect color hue for Caleb.

Connor: Blue

Shades of deep blue connotate loyalty. The phrase "true-blue friend" comes to mind. Connor is a true blue friend to many of his classmates and neighbors.

Cooper: Fire Engine Red

Cooper's fiery personality is best matched to a bold shade. He's electric crimson (an actual color): hard to miss, but beautiful all the same.

Collin: Powder Blue

Powder blue conjures up images of snuggling infant boys. I suppose I still (and maybe always will) see Collin as my little baby wrapped up in powder blue.

Hmmm....maybe we should just stick to white.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Journey to Asheville

Pre-race.

Claudia, Stephanie Marshall (Claudia's Asheville friend and gracious hostess) and me.


Post-race.

Claudia and I. Still smiling. Still walking. Barely.


The real reason for the trip...

On Friday, my dear friend Claudia and I loaded up a rental car and made the trek to North Carolina. We landed in Asheville and spent our Saturday morning running the Asheville Citizens-Times Mini Marathon. We imagined the course would have a hill or two, but had we known the magnitude of the incline and the frequency of our ascent, we never would have crossed the Mason Dixon Line.

Our confidence soared as we raced through the first flat mile. Around the first mile marker, a fellow runner exclaimed, "I can't wait to tackle Lookout Road."

Claudia and I exchanged glances, imagining "Lookout Road" to include a hill or two.

We'd find out soon enough. The hills we ascended to arrive at Lookout Road were certainly strenuous, but appeared meek and amateurish compared to the much anticipated Lookout Road.

Lookout Road was a mile (clocked on my watch) up hill. I huffed, puffed, wheezed and complained the whole way. When we arrived at the peak, a medical entourage lay in wait. A bystander cheered us on and shouted, "You made it. That's the last hill until the finish line."

Soaking in his words, we mustered up renewed energy and surged towards the finish line. That's when I felt lied to. At mile 12.7, we turned a corner and eyeballed a truly heinous final incline. I cursed that man's name the entire way to the finish line.

Since our finish, Claudia and I have limped and ached. We laugh at the fact that we drove eight hours to experience utter pain. (Although, I have to admit the views were breathtaking.)


After the race, we celebrated at the Tupelo Honey Cafe.




On Sunday, we hiked in the Blue Ridge Mountains.


We topped off the weekend with a girl's night. Dinner at Salsa's. Dessert at a chocolatier.

The other reason for the trip....

Of course, we journeyed down to Asheville for the race, but a side benefit was all the girl time. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Claudia and her childhood friend, Stephanie.

Some highlights of the weekend:

1) The Tupelo Honey Cafe.

Recommended by Stephanie, the cafe offered a genuine Southern dining experience. The cafe's mouthwatering buttermilk biscuits paired with blueberry jam and Tupelo honey won our hearts. I devoured a grilled pimento cheese sandwich served with okra. Claudia sat next to me, sipping a sweet tea. Stephanie's po boy sandwiches included fried green tomatoes. Delicious.

2) Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Just miles away from Stephanie's house sat the Blue Ridge Mountains. We packed into her van, and meandered through the peaks. We stopped at Craggy Gardens and took the short hike up the mountain. At the top, we spread out blankets and unpacked sandwiches. The view was breathtaking and the company divine.

3) Southern Hospitality

Stephanie and Brian Marshall opened their home to us this weekend. They showed us true southern hospitality by making us feel welcome and like part of their family. They prepared wonderful meals, gave up their beds (the boys even slept outside), and did our laundry. I loved hearing their polite children say, "yes ma'am" and "no, ma'am." Precious.

4) Spending time with Claudia

For a decade, she's been my runner partner and most importantly my dear friend. I love having a friend that knows me well, and loves me all the same.

Special thanks....

1) Chris:

He juggled a packed schedule and four sons all weekend. Every time we spoke on the phone, he sounded upbeat and encouraged me to enjoy my time off.

When, I arrived home, he said, "I appreciate you even more after this weekend."

That's really all I ever want to hear him say.

2) My parents:

They helped with the boys two days this weekend. Their extra set of hands were greatly appreciated by Chris. I know the boys adored the time with their grandparents.




Thursday, September 15, 2011

Protesting Homework

Cooper dangling from the swing set.

Caleb stormed through the door after school. He scanned the room and then declared, "Let's get it over with."

I knew exactly what it was. It is my (and Caleb's) new nemesis. It's the source of much frustration/disagreement/anguish/tears in our house. It wreaks havoc on my otherwise semi-peaceful home during the hour of 4-5p.m. It is...homework.

Homework has become Caleb's new hot button issue. He's become an activist, protesting the injustice of (in his mind) excessive and unnecessary homework. He's mostly taken to nonviolent (but vocal) protests. He's tried to rally supporters (his brothers). He's staged sit-ins (sitting at the kitchen table staring at the paper, refusing to move). He's even picketed the local establishment (refusing to eat dinner).

Despite his best efforts, we've stood firm. Homework is non-negotiable. Period.

Finally, Chris told him, "You better get use to homework. You have at least nine more years of it, plus any in college and after."

I don't know who was more upset by these words, Caleb or me?

Today, it appears Caleb may have succumbed to reality. Homework is here to stay. Best course of action: get it over with quick.

What will he protest next?









Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lunch Date

We indulged in a lunch date today. Wednesdays all four kids attend school, so we used our time to reconnect over a nice juicy veggie burger (me) and a heaping of eggs (Chris). It felt good (and strange) to be lounging among adults midday. We finished full conversations. We engaged in meaningful discourse. We savored our food.

I think I'm going to like Wednesdays.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fencing Friends

All smiles after completing fencing class.

"He's nine and he's never had a friend," a mom declared tonight at our autism support group.

Another mom piped up, "My son is sixteen and never had a friend."

It soon became apparent that all of the moms in the group had similar problems/concerns with their spectrum children (including me).

As I listened to the conversation, I reflected back to tonight's fencing class. Caleb's finally reached the point where he will willingly attend class. Now, I'm working on making him a friend. Last week, I introduced him to two classmates. Tonight, I picked two more. We met Abby, a super sweet sixth grader. Then, there was Evan, quirky and loveable.

Caleb kept his distance from his new acquaintances, but I noticed they began to look out for him. One helped him select the correct Foil (fencing sword). Another, showed him the proper lunge position. Relationships may not have formed in a single class, but it's a start.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Big Boy Beds


The little boys had the Bagley sisters over for a short lunch/play date.

Cooper was deep in play when I announced lunch time. He was very hesitant to leave his toys and had to be wrangled over to the table.

Annika Bagley watched the struggle. She then said (with complete seriousness), "Cooper, we can do this the hard way or the easy way."

I couldn't stop laughing. I may need to bring Annika over more often. She certainly knows how to keep Cooper in line.

Batman sheets...of course!
It's official. We've dismantled our crib. For the first time since becoming parents, all of our boys have big boy beds. For years, I imagined this day. I envisioned watching the crib rails plummet to the floor would put me into a complete and utter emotional tizzy. But much to my surprise, not one single tear was shed. In fact, the whole transition to a big boy bed flew by without much fanfare.



Sunday, September 11, 2011

Explaining September 11th

Connor sporting his Colts jersey for the game.

Caleb asked me the date this morning.

I responded, "September 11th."

He pondered it for awhile, and then asked, "Isn't that a holiday?"

"It's not a holiday," I replied.

He asked, "Then, what is it?"

I sat there and wondered how to respond. Obviously, he's heard the term September 11th. He seemed aware that something major happened upon that date; he just didn't know what. At 8 years old, I felt like he was old enough to know the significance of September 11th, but I didn't want to provide too much graphic information and spark fear in his heart. So, I decided to provide a minimal, basic response.

I responded, "Ten years ago, on September 11th, terrorist attacked our country. Two towers fell and it was very sad."

He digested my words in silence and never responded.

I didn't tell him about the 3,000 people that perished on that day. When he's a little older, he'll know.

I suppose children are the only ones that can truly live in a pre-September 11th world. They know bad guys exist, they just don't know how bad. To maintain that innocence, if just for awhile, seems like the suitable thing to do.

How I yearn to regain that innocence, especially on a day like today.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fun at the Fall Festival










I always get a little giddy about the weekend after Labor Day. Historically, that's when Zionsville's Fall Festival takes place. Today, the boys and I savored Fall Festival weekend.

This morning, we attended the Festival parade. We plopped down on a patch of cement and eagerly anticipated the show. It didn't disappoint. The boys adored watching all the bands, cheerleaders, floats, and fire trucks meander along Zionsville's brick main street. Their favorite part: corralling as much tossed candy, pencils and stickers as could be collected into their plastic bags. (Now I have four bags of candy calling to me from my pantry...grr!) My favorite part: seeing our babysitters, neighbors, and friends strolling along the parade route. A feeling of being plugged into our community reverberated through my being. Wonderful.

Later in the afternoon, I took the little boys to the carnival. They had a ball gazing at all the attractions, booths, and people. At the end of the day, Cooper begged me to jump on a trampoline/bungee cord contraption. I agreed, and he quickly snatched a place in line among a myriad of other eager children. When it became his turn, I warned the operator that his newest participant had absolutely no fear, preferred height, and lived for danger. He listened and then eyed my petite four year old with skepticism....until he made his first jump.

Cooper certainly didn't disappoint. He bounced with gusto. He even added some crowd-pleasing flips. He wore a huge grin, and let out giggles in between springs.

As we exited the Fall Festival, I grew a little sad. It always goes so fast!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Some Good News...




The boys enjoyed some fun play dates today.

I'd love to share some good news....

Tonight, I got an e-mail from MomSense magazine (MOPs national magazine with a readership of over 100,000..per its website). They will be publishing one of my articles in their November/December edition. I'm really excited and wanted to share the good news!