Saturday, March 31, 2012

Caught Green-Handed

The little boys got along swimmingly the other day. They walked around the park clutching each other's hand. My mommy buttons almost burst. A bystander even stopped me and referred to them as "good boys." I smiled and thought how wonderful it is to hear the good things.

Another beautiful spring day.

The six of us gathered around the dinner table. We said grace before diving into our meals. Minutes later, Connor requested a bathroom break. He jumped out of his seat and abruptly spun around and raised his arms. He rested his palms on the wall and spread his legs apart. He planted his feet firmly shoulder width apart. He gazed over his shoulder in my direction. To the casual bystander, this scene may appear odd. Connor resembled more of a hooligan preparing to be frisked for weapons rather than a seven-year-old boy simply needing to use the potty.

Let me explain...

Weeks ago, we noticed a sharp decline in our nightly dinner struggles with the boys over vegetable consumption. The boys seemed to devour their veggies with nary a complaint. For a while, my naive self imagined the boys had turned a corner and realized the health benefits of ingesting leafy greens, but a nagging suspicion forced me to look closer. I began to notice a correlation between increased bathroom visits during dinner and clean plates. Hmm.

Instead of confronting the boys, I want to catch one of them red (or green)-handed. I waited patiently until the next boy requested a restroom break. I watched him walk into the bathroom and slide the door closed. I sensed my moment. I burst into the bathroom just in time to see said son tossing broccoli florets into the commode.

Aha! Busted!

After that, trips to the bathroom were scrutinized closely. We checked pockets, socks, shirts, underwear even, for stashed veggies. (Believe me, drug smugglers could learn a thing or two from the stealth tactics my boys used to secretly run veggies into the bathroom!)

Now, the boys are back to eating veggies the honest (and hard) way. They begrudgingly pile carrot sticks and Brussels sprouts onto their forks. They wrinkle their nose and gaze in my direction. I imagine the wheels are turning in their head and it's only a matter of time before they think of something else.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned Running

Kudos to Connor for his fine portrayal of a cricket in his school Frog and Toad play. We are so proud!

I've said it before, Cooper exudes enough energy to power a small village. Lately, Cooper's energy has landed him in all sorts of mischief. After the umpteenth unsuccessful time I disciplined him, I began to question my approach. I want to bend Cooper's will, but not break his spirit. The fact Cooper has boundless energy is not all bad. If channeled the right direction, great things can happen. The trick is finding the right channel.

Last week, I was running and Cooper popped into my mind. My pace quickened and my pulse increased as I recapped his latest antics. As I worked out my frustration with each stride I thought about how Cooper needed to do this too. So, that night I asked him if he wanted to go for a run. He beamed and eagerly excepted my offer. He pulled on his sneakers and emerged from his room clad in athletic shorts and a t-shirt. I let him wear my running watch. He lit up as I fastened it around his wrist. He fiddled with the buttons.

We walked onto the driveway and performed a few perfunctory stretches.

"Let's run a mile," I announced.

He nodded enthusiastically, clearly having no idea what distance constitutes a mile.

I nodded in his direction and we were off. He fell into stride and we whizzed by our neighbor's driveway and then the next. By the third driveway, he questioned our distance. I urged him forward. We began to make small to the next driveway, then to the stop sign, the fire hydrant, the black truck. The first day we took breaks at each destination. On our second run, we merely used each locale as a mini goal that spurred us towards our ultimate destination.

As we ran, we'd talk. At times, he even held my hand. (Is this the way olympic runners start, by clutching the hands of their mothers while they run?) I began to throw out running tips.

Just set small goals at first.

Even when it's hard, keep going.

Keep looking forward.

Celebrate what you've accomplished.

After awhile, I wondered if running would be a forum for me to teach Cooper life lessons. Maybe, the tips he's learning pounding the pavement will transfer and apply to many other areas of his life. It certainly has for me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Confessions of a Health Nut

Collin (aka Batman) flies through the yard, cape swaying in the wind.

Last week, Chris and I shopped at the grocery store. We meandered through the frozen foods until we landed at the waffle section.

"Can you grab a pack," I called out to Chris as I crossed off another item on my grocery list.

He pulled open the freezer door and reemerged clutching a whole wheat nutri-grain Eggo box.

I gasped, picturing the response my boys could have to the nutri-grain version of their favorite breakfast food. I voiced my concern to Chris, but he brushed my fears aside.

"It's healthier," he asserted. "They'll be fine."

I wasn't convinced.

This morning, I served the new whole wheat waffles to the boys. At first glance, the new waffles looked different, sporting a darker shade of brown. I silently cursed the waffle makers for failing to be just a wee bit sneakier. Is it really too much trouble for the Eggo people to create all the waffles in the same shade of brown? Haven't they heard of the stealth tactics used by the Deceptively Delicious folks?

The boys approached the breakfast table and gazed down at the waffles. They wrinkled their noses and their eyebrows furled. They questioned what exactly happened to their favorite breakfast food, the one single thing they never thought I'd touch.

Before I had a chance to answer, Caleb quieted the crowd. He announced, "They mutligrained it."

The boys gasped.

He continued, "They've turned into health nuts and they're trying to turn us into ones too."

A silence fell upon the room and they shot me a "How could you!" look. It was as if Caleb announced we were communists or Democrats/Republicans (depending on your political persuasion).

I thought about denying it, but the truth was already out. I pulled back my shoulders and hung my head high. I stared into each boys eyes and the truth tumbled off my tongue. With no regrets, I admitted changing the waffles and fessed up to the fact we've turned into full-fledged health nuts (or wanna be health nuts at least).

After the boys got over the shock of my admission and the trauma of switching a breakfast favorite, Caleb took the first bite. Three other boys eyed him with suspicion. He chewed for what seemed like an eternity and then nodded to the others. "It's not bad," he uttered. Three other boys dived into their waffles and quickly four plates were left with only crumbs.

I exhaled. Converts, I thought and smiled.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Remembering Kindness

Annabel and Collin over three years ago.

My friend Cara emailed me a picture yesterday. The photograph shows three-year-old Annabel clutching four-day-old Collin. Under the picture, Cara wrote, "Remember this?"

How can I not!

The day this picture was taken was my first day home from the hospital after Collin's birth. That day, Chris went back to work. To top it off, snow walloped our house and school was cancelled. I was cocooned inside my house with my four young sons, ages six to newborn. To say I was a tad bit overwhelmed would be an understatement.

I tried to keep it together. I honestly did. But, my wise friend Cara knew better, sensing I may need a wee bit of help. She called me and announced my whole crew would come over to her house for a play date. She even maneuvered through the snow drifts to pick us up.

Once at her house, she showered me with help and attention. I lounged on her couch while she fed me, allowing me to tend to my newborn in peace. My other three boys descended on her basement, frolicking with her girls. It was rowdy and I'm sure her basement was destroyed, but Cara didn't seem to mind. She announced, "We'll only go downstairs if we see blood." And, so we sat in the peace and quiet of her living room.

Cara got me through that first day and many days thereafter. When she asked, "Do you remember?" I think, "How can I forgot?"

The kindness of a friend is never forgotten.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Motherhood Bliss

Caleb presented a speech on Costa Rica amphibians and reptiles. He was clearly loving it!

I bemoaned my mothering challenges from the last several days to my friend, Erin. She listened and offered encouragement and advice. Finally, she said, "Well, not every day can be bliss."

I laughed. So true. As much as I envisioned motherhood to be this amazing journey, there are bumps in the road and hurdles to jump through along the way. Not every day do the boys wear halos, somedays they sprout horns. But, they're kids and learning, growing, and improving along the way.

In the midst of these challenging days, I watched Caleb present his Costa Rica project to his classmates and their parents. His presentation focused on the reptiles and amphibians of the region. I watched him explain the photos and describe in detail the characteristics of each animal. After the final slide, he spun around to face the audience. His eyes twinkled and his face beamed. He was clearly in his element and absolutely loving sharing his passions with the group.

I watched him from my seat, my grin matching his. I was so proud of him and grateful he found something he totally loves and can share with others.

Maybe every day can't be blissful, but that moment sure was.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What Happens Outside Vegas

Weeks ago, I contacted a travel agent.

"I need to book a flight to Vegas," I announced. "I'm going to Vegas to run a race."

Silence. Then giggles. "No one goes to Vegas to run a race," she laughed.

Well, I did.

This weekend, Chris and I and friends, the Brinkruffs jetted down to Vegas sans kids. (Thanks to our wonderful babysitters, Memaw and Papa!)

Claudia and I spent our first morning in Vegas running the "Six Tunnels to the Hoover Dam" mini marathon. The race course cut through the beautiful southwestern landscape around Lake Mead.

I started the race with optimism, soaking in the gorgeous scenery with each stride. My gaiety waned midway as pounding winds; gravel, dusty trails; and sharp inclines proved to be formidable adversaries. Even as I panted, I remained in awe of our surroundings as we cut through abandoned railroad tunnels and steep, rocky paths.

When I finished the race, I experienced the sensation one feels after childbirth: grateful it's done, but then missing the beauty of the experience and even forgetting some of the pain.

Although the race did pass by the Hoover Dam lookout, we wanted to experience the Dam and new Colorado River Bridge firsthand. Chris stepped into Arizona for the first time.

Finally, we landed on the Vegas strip. We ate good food. Watched a great show. Won $14 in a casino. Had a good time with friends. Hated to say goodbye, but missed our boys too.

I'm thinking about calling my travel agent back. I want to tell her if people don't go to Vegas to run a race, they should.

Thanks so much to my parents for watching the boys! Thanks also to all our friends that offered to help with the boys.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Baby Buzz

Yesterday, Cooper said summer and winter got confused. It certainly seems that way. It's still technically winter with weather forecasted for 80 degrees this afternoon. The boys played so hard yesterday that Collin zonked out in the car.

A childhood friend shot out an email gushing with the news. At almost 39, she was expecting her first baby. Her excitement radiated off the screen. It caused me to reminesce about my first pregnancy and the similar emotions I held as my belly swelled with my first baby. I spent nine months eagerly anticipating and planning his arrival. When he appeared, I was in love.

But after the first pregnancy, those emotions seemed to change. I greeted each new baby with an equal amount of excitement, but it was tempered by experience, rooted in the reality of child rearing. I pondered my change in emotions. Does the fact that I was less giddy with my fourth pregnancy signify I valued or cared less about that baby than my first? Of course not, but things had changed.

I began to think of my emotions as I would a seasoned relationship. At first, everything is new and exciting. With time and the onset of reality, the excitement dwindles but lends itself to a deeper love and admiration. It's the same with my babies. The giddiness flickered but the appreciation of the miraculous gift of life grew with each new child.

I'm so happy for my friend and her new pregnancy buzz. Someday, her infatuation will blossom into true love. I can tell her, there's certainly is nothing like it.

Evidently, Dateline is doing a piece on my college friend, Rusty's death (to right). They asked for college photos and I emailed a few. Here's one of Rusty, his wife Andrea and me. It was really sad to unearth old photos last night. I'm grieving for his children that lost a wonderful dad.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stealth Escape

The weather has been absolutely beautiful the last few days. Of course, the boys broke out water guns. (I stopped them from pulling on their swimsuits.)

Cooper clutched J. R. R. Tolkien's massive Lord of the Rings book. He told me he was going to read it during the night (an extremely lofty goal for a new reader). I suggested Dad might help him. They enjoyed reading a little together before bed.

This morning, Caleb was discussing how he could leave the house. He described cutting a small sliver of his window and sending out a string in the crack. Then, he would attach the string to a roof shingle. He'd crawl out the window and land on the roof. Then, he'd toss the string to a nearby tree. He'd somehow fasten the string around the tree trunk and then catapult himself onto a branch and down the trunk, landing with a kerplunk on the ground.

The boys listened to the very detailed description of the escape. Finally, Connor piped in, "Caleb, couldn't you just exit out the door?"

Caleb replied, "Sure, but that's not stealthy enough."

Four heads nodded in agreement. They all concurred, where's the fun in simply leaving out the door?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pinewood Victory

Connor had pal Nick spend the night on Friday night. After staying up late, they awoke at 5:55 a.m.

Zionsville held the Boy Scout Pinewood Derby. Connor was SO excited his car placed first in the Tiger Cub division. We're so proud of him.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Making Friends

We had a rocky weekend with Caleb that definitely pulled me into despair. I tried to focus on the lesson I've learned from the past: his journey can be bumpy at times, but he continues to move forward.

Last night, I watched him take a giant leap forward.

I took all four boys to the high school aquatics center for swim lessons. My three little boys joined their class in the pool. Caleb and I watched the scene from an upstairs viewing area. Usually, I plop down near a bunch of girlfriends and divide my time between spectator and friend. Caleb brings a few books and curls up in a corner, quickly engrossed in the pages.

Last night, I watched him meander over to a group of boys. He hovered around the boys as they played with Legos and trading cards. Then, he approached the group and joined in the activities. I held my breath, wondered how the boys would react. The boys seemed pleased. Caleb quickly morphed into the average adolescent boy.

For many a mom, this event would seem commonplace. But, for the mom of an Aspie, it's a milestone. I wanted to rush home and whip out his baby book and document this momentous occasion.

Hope rushed from my insides. Perhaps, he would be social. Maybe, he'll make lots of friends. Hopefully, this is one small glimpse into what's to come.

As the swim lesson finished, I pulled Caleb away from his new friends.

He was happy, and so was I.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Hole to China

In my neighbor Sy's yard sits a cluster of trees. The tree branches mesh together to form a canopy over a pile of gravel and dirt. Some may consider this barren patch an eyesore, but to the neighbor kids, it's a little slice of paradise.

This afternoon, warm temperatures and blue skies drew neighbor kids outdoors. My boys raced to the pit, greeted by other neighbor children who had already begun to congregate. At first, the kids took turns burying Matchbox cars within the recesses of the gravel and dirt.

Then, a better, bigger idea was announced. Perhaps, they could dig a hole to China. I watched their reactions. Quickly the children fell into two categories: the dreamers and the realists. The dreamers jumped at the idea, dragging a backhoe (under my supervision) from the garage and vigorously and repetitively jabbing the dirt surface. The realists stood on the side, shaking their heads. One uttered, "That's just crazy. You can't dig a hole half-way across the world." But, the dreamers would not be deterred. They intensified their efforts and worked on strategy. After awhile, even the realists caved and joined in the fun.

By the time kids were summoned back home for dinner, the hole only formed a slight hiccup in Sy's yard. The naysayers were right; they never reached China. But, that didn't seem to upset the kids. Every child left happy, giddy even, from the afternoon activities.

As I thought about the scene, I realized how sometimes the adventure can be much more fun than the destination.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sick Mom Pass

We made these treats for Connor's last basketball game.

Breakfast for Dinner.
Collin couldn't be happier.

I've come down with a nasty flu-like bug, as diagnosed by Dr. Wood. The last day or two, I've been exhausted with a myriad of aches. Rather than blog about all my woes, I'd like to write about the upside to being a sick mom.

It is well known that sick moms don't get a day off, but I do believe sick moms get a "sick pass" of sorts. The "sick pass" lowers the domestic and hygienic expectations normally tagged to a healthy mother without one single family member saying a word.

When mom's sick, her "sick pass" lets her:

-Leave dinner dishes scattered on the kitchen counter until the next morning

-Go days on end without showering

-Wear pajamas from morning until night

-Let laundry stack to the ceiling

-Turn the TV into the babysitter

-Serve meals from a cereal box

-Plop down on the couch without one lick of guilt and cuddle her boys (praying they don't get it too). A few hugs does wonders for the heart of a sick mom.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Camp Lessons From the Woods

Celebrated my friend Claudia's birthday with a lunch at McAlister's Deli topped off with a yummy birthday cupcake.

The boys had a blast at the Indianapolis Children's Museum. The new Mr. Potato exhibit was a hit with the boys.

A letter arrived today from Grace, my niece. In her best fourth grade hand writing, she asked if she could visit our family over the summer visit for a few days or a week. The letter was signed with hearts and bubbles.

Sweet girl!

As I pondered her request, it got me thinking of the notion of a Wood Family camp. What could we possibly teach "campers"?

I came up with a list of programs or courses we could offer from all the wisdom we've gleaned as parents. The course list would read as such:

Breaking Up Fights Without Losing Your Cool

Develop the skills to diffuse or stop any sibling disagreement from the small scale scuffle to the full out brawl.
Warning: recommended for those with some martial arts or self defense training. A medical clearance is required before beginning this course.

Advanced Bedtime Skills

Learn the tricks to putting four little boys to bed in a timely fashion while maintaining complete sanity.
Warning: participants will be prone to drowsiness and are discouraged from driving or operating heavy machinery while taking this course.

Navigating the Pool with Four Boys

Develop the confidence to safely and happily escort four young boys to any swimming pool.
Warning: only recommended for strong swimmers with eyes in the back of their head and lightning fast reflexes. Never recommended for those only interested in lounging on the side of the pool with a breezy novel and a cold drink.

Sharing 101

Learn to teach the finer points of sharing to multiple siblings. Course participants will have numerous opportunities to practice these tips as sharing issues will likely break out over everything from rocks in the yard to popsicles in the freezer.
Warning: due to the extreme conditions participants will be placed in, those with heart issues and high blood pressure should not attend this class.

Learning to Speak Boy

Learn to speak Boy fluently in only a matter of weeks. Participants will learn how to converse on everything from Pokemon cards to basketball scores. Advanced students will even be able to translate grunt replies.
Warning: just because you can translate it, doesn't mean you'll understand it. Somethings may be, as they say, lost in translation.

Learning to Live in a Well-Loved House

Participants will learn to scrub out everything from silly putty in the carpet to crayon marks on the walls. If, and when, the cleaning is unsuccessful, the "grin and bear it" skills of adapting to a well-loved house will be taught.
Warning: never recommended for those with OCD or perfectionist tendencies.

Thinking One Step Ahead of a Five-Year-Old

For those who like the chess mentality of thinking. Learn to anticipate an unpredictable five-year-old's next move and be prepared for the possible repercussions.
Warning: It's harder than it sounds.

Loving Someone So Much It Hurts
Grasp the deep love a mother holds for her children. Understand how children turn a life upside down for the better.
Warning: Guaranteed to Make One Fall in Love.