Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Playmates or Soulmates

Cooper and Kevin.

My friend, Sarah, is parenting three kids alone for a few months while her husband works overseas. She's holding up beautifully, but has mentioned a couple of times that her middle son, Kevin, is wearing her out. She describes him as happy and smiley most of the time, but prone to bursts of energy and tantrums. Hmmm... sounds familiar! To give Sarah a little break, I invited Kevin over for a play date.

If Cooper could be cloned or reincarnated, I think he'd resurface as Kevin. The two bear striking resemblances to each other; both are energetic, imaginative, silly, fun-loving adventure seekers. One Cooper is quite a handful. Put Cooper with Kevin and you have a scene straight out of a Ritalin commercial.

They greeted each other in a bear hug that quickly morphed into a wrestling match. Both boys emerged from the floor grinning and took enough of a breather to take chase. They circled the house and then raced out of the house. The boys fought with sticks and threw rocks. They raced up to the top of the play set, snow sled in hand, and then whizzed down the slide. I watched how well the boys complimented each other, each boy exhibiting limitless energy coupled with equally vivid imaginations. What one boy thought of the other boy added to it. No idea seemed bad or out of reach as long as it involved danger and loads of energy.

I watched the scene with a mixture of amusement and horror, clutching a phone and expecting to dial EMS at any moment. But with each shenanigan, they'd emerge even happier than the time before.

I pondered whether Cooper and Kevin are a good combination. Surely a more sedate playmate might be easier, but Cooper's found a soulmate of sorts. How wonderful it is for Cooper to find someone who gets him and loves him all the more.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Phone Grief

The beautiful weather provided a great backdrop for a Sunday nature hike.

Chris's fancy phone met an untimely passing this week (thanks to one unexpected plunge into the commode). Chris took it hard, but I think Caleb took it harder. Each male went through the stages of grief:

Chris: Just dry it off a bit and in no time it will be up and running.

Caleb: Really, why can't they make phones that endure water?

Caleb: I promise I'll be good forever if that phone springs back to life.

Both: I'm not sure life's worth living without that phone.

Caleb felt they both needed closure before they could move onto the final stage of grief: acceptance. This afternoon, he proposed burying the phone in the backyard. (I suggested a cremation might be just as nice; Caleb reminded me he can't play with matches.) We tossed around the idea of a casket, but decided the phone's case could work just as well. Caleb proposed making a headstone constructed from popsicle sticks and cardboard. He suggested the words, "Here lies Dad's phone" might be appropriate for the headstone.

I told Caleb no funeral is complete without a eulogy. After a few moments, he said, "It was a good phone. I liked playing angry birds on it." Short, yet meaningful. Perfect.

The funeral has yet to happen as we're still working out details. Later, Caleb casually mentioned his grief could eradicate even quicker, without the need of a fancy funeral, if we merely bought a new (and better) phone.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A few weekend pics

I served as the mystery reader at Cooper's preschool class. I selected a Shel Silverstein book that brought giggles to the group. Every time I heard a little one snicker, I couldn't help but smile.

Memaw helped me out with Collin this week. Collin was SO excited to have an individual play date with Memaw. He kept saying, "I love her."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lifetime Mom Appointment

Collin decided markers weren't just for paper. He had a ball "decorating" his face. Silly boy!

A few days ago, Caleb approached me. He looked me square in the eyes and said, "Your poll numbers are dropping. If you don't watch it, you might not get reelected."

I smiled and asked him if that was a promise or a threat. It certainly depends on that day whether I wish for a lifetime mom appointment or a position subject to term limits. Nonetheless, I told Caleb I'm a lifetime civil servant to four young boys, meaning I'm not swayed by public opinion (or bribery). Instead, I strive to represent and serve my constituents (sons) based on firmly held principals and ideals.

I told Caleb I'd love if my "public" persona rose, but that might not happen for a year or two.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bedtime Hugs

A sign Caleb made and affixed to his door during a moment he was less than pleased with us.

I sat on Caleb's bed and said his bedtime prayers. Afterwards, I glanced in his direction. He seemed a little awkward and unsure. His actions reminded me of the ending moments of a date where neither party quite knows how to end it. Finally, he slung his arms around my waist and gave me a quick squeeze.

I was flabbergasted. I have few, if any, memories of Caleb pulling me into a hug. I praised him for his affection and then grilled him on just what prompted his spontaneous embrace. After a lot of prompting, he explained that he hugs his stuffed iguana all the time. He wondered how a hug would feel with someone else.

He continued, "I wanted to know how it felt to be close."

"How did it feel," I asked, incredibly touched by the whole encounter.

He finished, "It felt good."

It certainly did.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Is There a Fashion Gene?

I volunteered at Cooper's preschool class on Thursday. Cooper and friend, Drew worked on counting candy hearts.

I really enjoyed visiting with my 90-year-old Grandma. She looks great!

Last night, we had a blast at our friend, Coby Maxwell's 40th birthday party. As always, I enjoyed time with my friend, Ali.

The weather continues to be nice, permitting lots of outdoor play.

Lately, I've been working with the boys on personal responsibility. So, when Connor left his coat at a neighbor's house, I thought it was a great time to put that principle into action. I helped Connor dial our neighbor's phone number and walked him through what to say. He got off the phone and announced he was running over to the neighbor's to retrieve his coat.

I watched him prepare for the journey; he pulled on canary yellow pajama shorts, a blue ski coat that was open to expose his bare chest, and my oversized black snow boots.

I smirked as I examined his ensemble and then questioned, "Connor, is that really want you want to wear to our neighbor's house?"

He nodded and dashed out the door.

I wasn't surprised when my neighbor called minutes later in full hysterics. She recounted Connor's outfit. Mid-giggle, she announced, "I really should have snapped a picture."

"No need," I said. "I think that image is burned into both of our minds."

It got me to thinking: when it comes to fashion, is it a matter of nature versus nurture? Are some kids born with the fashion gene? What about the rest? Do they pick up appropriate fashion cues as they age with exposure to their more fashion savvy peers or is it up to mothers to steer their children in the appropriate direction through gently nudging or strong-armed force?

Unfortunately for my boys, I'm pretty sure I'm not a fashion gene carrier. What Not to Wear would have a field day with plenty of my former and current duds. But, I do know a few things: Costume clad kids are only publicly accepted on Halloween. Pajamas can only be worn to school on designated pajama days (any other day and the teachers start to talk). It's not ok to wear a swimsuit to the park in February (a request from yesterday).

As for the more "grey" areas of fashion, well, we're learning together one bad outfit at a time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Lessons in Love

A friend passed along a great Valentine's idea. Last year, she and her kids made a sign for her husband listing all the reasons he was loved. She then affixed the sign to the door leading to the house. Her husband was greeted by the sign when he arrived home that night. Evidently, he was thrilled.

I loved the idea and did the same for Chris this year. The kids and I found a poster board and listed Chris's most lovable aspects on the front. We then placed the sign on the door to our house. When Chris saw the sign, tears welled in his eyes. Later, he told me it was one of the nicest, most thoughtful things we've ever done for him.

Really, I thought later. The nicest thing ever? It's just poster board!

After more thought, I realized he's right; those little, thoughtful things can really touch a heart. For example, I was delighted when my friend Ali popped over yesterday with a chocolate cupcake from my favorite local bakery. And, my next door neighbor Michele was so thoughtful when she gave each one of the boys a Valentine's candy box. Each gesture showed so much loved to our family.

So often we think loving gestures are best expressed in grandiose ways. Really, love is best demonstrated when it is thought out and from the heart.

The cost of a full love tank...priceless.

Valentine's goodies for the kids from us and Ali Maxwell.

Yummy candy gift from our sweet (literally) neighbor, Michele.

The boys were so excited to receive thoughtful valentine's cards from both grandparents.

Caleb performed his poem "Iguana Rap" at his school's Valentine's party.

Memaw and Papa came to watch him perform.

Proud parents.
Caleb posed with his grandparents.

This was the first time he's worn a tie. I asked him what he thought about wearing a tie. He said, "I feel important." I told him he was important, tie or not.

We capped off Valentine's Day with carryout sushi served on our nice plates in the dining room. Caleb was the only one that warmed to sushi.

Monday, February 13, 2012


The boys had fun playing at the library's playroom. They skipped the train tracks and beelined for the dollhouse.

Yesterday, I picked up Collin from his Sunday school class. His teacher greeted me at the door with a concerned look on her face. She whispered, "The head teacher wants to talk to you."

My heart sank as I imagined every possible reasons why the head teacher needed my attention. Was Collin wildly disobedient? Did he perform some hideous shenanigan in the classroom? I began to sweat as the head teacher approached.

She bore the same grave expression as the first teacher and hesitated before she spoke. "You see," she began. "We had an incident."

Oh no, I thought. Here it comes.

"Collin, well, he got bit. I'm so sorry," she murmured.

My teeth unclenched and I almost smiled. Of course, I felt bad for Collin but a wee bit grateful that he was the victim and not the perpetrator. How much nicer it is to play the role of the victim's mom!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


The little boys had dentist appointments yesterday. It was Collin's first trip to the dentist. He did great and changed before my eyes into a big boy!

Today, Collin attended a friend's 3rd birthday party. Collin toured the Zionsville fire station and then enjoyed a pizza/cupcake lunch. Collin was in heaven!

Tonight, the dinner conversation turned to the topic of bravery.

Caleb described bravery as a person that walks on a tight rope between Mount Everest peaks. True, but we pushed him to describe something a little more practical. His forward crinkled and a puzzled expression landed on his face.

I said, "Bravery is completing a swim lesson even when it's uncomfortable or doing a school project despite the fact it's hard."

His eyes flashed in recognition. He added, "Bravery is raising four boys."

I smiled and thought, Let's be brave together.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mishap versus Calamity

Cooper working on Valentine's card for his class.

This last week our family has been hit with a multitude of life speed bumps. I think it started with our first plumbing issue and then continued into yesterday's climax (let's hope). The final straw came when our accountant called with bad news. As he disclosed the final total owed, I reached for a chair and plopped myself down. Ouch, I muttered as I rubbed my temples.

A few minutes later, I relayed the call to Chris. He stayed calm and soaked in the news. How can he be so placid, I wondered? I've shown a greater reaction over an empty jar of peanut butter.

As I recounted our divergent reactions to my mom, she reminded me that Chris knows the difference between a bad day and a truly bad day. So true. As an ER doctor, he's constantly witnesses people's truly bad days. He sees terminal patients. He imparts new scary diagnoses. He passes along bad news to family members concerning their loved ones. Sometimes I wonder how many people weave his face with memories of their worst day?

I rethought my seemingly bad days. Plumbing woes and tax headaches are mishaps, not calamities. Thanks to my husband (and mom) for teaching me the difference.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Mystery and Wonderment of the Asperger's Mind

Is this really February? Collin playing in the spring-like weather.

I'm desperate to go see the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as I've heard the main character has Asperger's. Today, I watched the trailer on the computer. The Aspie boy says, "My Dad said the way I saw the world is a gift. That I was different than everyone else." I thought about the truth in the statement. Aspie kids do have that gift, and we neurotypicals peek into their world with amazement at some of the things they learn so naturally or some of the fascinations they hold so tight. But, with those gifts comes added challenges, something we know a little about lately with our Aspie son.

Tonight, he was having a hard time. Fully exasperated, he blurts out, "You just don't understand. You don't have Asperger's." The words seemed to dangle in the air and I pondered how exactly to respond. I put my hands on his shoulders and gazed into his eyes. I admitted not fully knowing how he feels but asked him to help me understand. A stood waiting for his reply, sort of feeling like a dog begging for morsels of food under the dinner table. As expected, he shut down and went silent. I used to take his silence as obstinate, but now I believe he truly doesn't understand even himself.

So, I listen to experts. I read books. I put together every tiny sliver of information he provides and try to put together the puzzle of my Aspie son. What I know is he's very smart, obsessively interested in reptiles and electronics, sensitive to moisture and change, happy in his bubble of solitude. Apart from that, he's a mystery. Just when I think I know him or can anticipate his behavior, things change and for no apparent reason (to me).

We struggle to know how to raise him. Many a day, I just want to wrap him in bubble wrap and protect him from the challenges of the world. Some days, I think, "If only we were stricter, maybe..." or "He just needs more love, more understanding, more freedom to be who he is..." The truth is we just don't have all the answers, and the answers seem to always change.

We love our Aspie son desperately and know he came to us for a reason. He's changed us like none other and grown us in amazing ways. We'll continue to seek to understand and appreciate his world with each peek he provides.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday

The kids had a "super bowl" party with the babysitter. It was a "stadium" themed dinner (i.e. junk food). They loved it!

Chris and I spent some of the night at an adult super bowl party. Super yummy food and great company!

Caleb: I think you should take 15 minutes a day to yourself.

Me: Thanks Caleb. Why do you say that?

Caleb: You look stressed out.

Me: Why do I looked stressed out?

Caleb: Because you have four boys.

Me: That sums it up.

I can only imagine what they would be doing while I took my 15 minutes.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Making New Friends

Zbowl in Zionsville, a local celebration in conjunction with the Super Bowl. The two little boys and I whizzed down the slide. So fun!

Cooper and Collin attended a gymnastic party. It was Collin's first party to experience without mom. He was such a big boy!

This morning I babysat for a friend's two kids. Before they came over, I informed Collin that three-year-old Patrick would be coming over. Collin beamed and said, "He's my best friend." I smiled at the fact Collin labeled Patrick as his "best friend" as he's barely laid eyes on the boy. I guess I really wasn't surprised. It's amazing how many "best friends" my boys can accumulate within a day. Any trip to the park or visit to a local restaurant provides opportunities for new best friends. The only real criteria, it seems, is the child is the same general age as my sons.

After Collin made his comments, I thought about adult "best friends" versus kid "best friends." Once you surpass the adolescence, things just don't work the same way. Having a friend the same age is a consideration, but that's just the start. More than likely, a good friend shares similar experiences, interests, and life situations. Then, what separates the friends from the good friends is a development of trust, loyalty and kindness. These things aren't discovered in the course of one play date. They take time.

Although I may not accumulate as many best friends as the boys, I'm grateful for the deep, time-tested friendships I've maintained.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Just like a brother...

We had so much fun the first time (and didn't get to see it all), that we returned tonight. The boys had a blast in Superbowl Village.

Last night, Caleb had a particularly challenging swim lessons. As we left the pool and headed for home, I confronted Caleb about his behavior. Initially, Caleb was angry, but his mood quickly softened and transferred into self-pity.

The other boys soaked in the conversation. Finally, Connor cleared his throat. I eagerly awaited his response. As the more sensitive sort, I expected Connor would impart comforting words to his older brother.

"Caleb," he murmured with a sympathetic look. "It's ok if you run away."

Spoken just like a brother!