Thursday, May 31, 2012

Swim Team

 Caleb posed for a picture with his third grade teachers on his last day of third grade (fellow classmate Denis joined the photo too).  Caleb insisted on bringing his stuffed iguana to class too.

The boys enjoyed having the Hermacinski girls over to play.  They swapped Pokemon cards with their friends.

I stood on the side of the pool, anxiously awaiting Connor's turn.  He bobbed under the water and clutched the side of the wall.  The teenage swim instructor nodded and he was off.  It wasn't a  polished stroke.  He didn't gracefully slice the water with his fingertips, but rather muddled through with lots of splashing and a modified kick that eventually landed him at his destination: the ladder.

I turned to the instructor with much anticipation.  She directed him towards the diving well where he repeated the test in deeper water.  When he arrived at the other wall, she announced he had made it.  Connor was on the swim team.  He beamed.  I glowed.  I piled him into a towel and smothered his cheek with kisses.

 This is a first for our family.  We've never had a child try out for a team.  As a maternal spectator, I learned it's an experience that's not for the feint of heart.  His victories are sweet, and his disappointments pierce.  I stood on the side prepared for either.  

I was ecstatic for Connor.  Now, I need to ready myself for watching the meets.  I foresee many more white-knuckled evenings to come.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Finding the Joy in Asperger's

 I was so glad my college friend Rachel and her son Alex came to visit from Chicago.  She is such a sweet friend and Alex was a wonderful playmate to the boys.

Collin talked me into having a bubble bath.  He had a blast.

Today it's official.  The school district identified our son under the Autism/Asperger's label.  We welcomed the declaration and felt grateful that he was given a label that provides greater understanding and services.  Getting to this place has been a process, and not without a trail of tears and effort.  As difficult as it's been, I reflected on the "joys" we've experienced along the way (inspired by my reading of Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts"). 

I'm thankful for:

-a school that is so willing to work with our son and grow him in so many areas,

-wonderful teachers that cultivate a positive relationship with him (even incorporating lizards into curriculum),

-an extended family and good friends that are extremely supportive of him and us,

-a Sunday school teacher that loves him right where he is (even baking him Christmas cookies for Christmas!),

-Boy Scouts, such a great organization for kids that don't fit the sports mold,

-the friends he's developed this year,

-the few hugs we've received,

-the times he's complimented me on my chocolate chip cookies,

-the times I've seen him smile, and 

-his amazing doctor (and her wonderful therapy dogs),

Most of all we're thankful to be his parents.  He's grown us and taught us in countless ways.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Befriending the New Kid on the Block

We visited the Zionsville Pool for the first time today.  With temperatures soaring past 90, it was a perfect day to swim.

I'd heard rumors about the new neighbor boy.  Evidently, he's attracted quite a following among the neighbor kids.  It seems his growing lists of admirers span both gender and age.  I was intrigued that one child could spark such adoration from the masses.

We invited the new neighbor family to our ice cream party.  He arrived on our driveway with his mother and older sister.  Without hesitation, he jumped right into the festivities, spraying water guns and tossing water balloons.  At the end of the party, I caught the new neighbor boy hurling Connor into our plastic pool.  Connor emerged in full grin and raced after his newfound friend.  It was as if they were familiar frat brothers, not mere acquaintances. 

After the party, Connor begged me to ask the neighbor over for a play date.  Within days it was arranged, and yesterday he arrived on my doorstep with his mom.  As a native Texan, he uttered a lot of "yes ma'ams" in his polite Southern drawl.  I swooned over his sweet accent.  

Just before he stepped into the house, he offered me a piece of gum.  From his pocket, he pulled out a Juicy Fruit pack with one piece extended from the wrapping.  I tugged on the piece and suddenly felt a jolt of electricity surge through my fingertips.  Trick gum, he laughed.  My four little boys erupted into giggles and begged for their turns.  From there, he dug out a trick pencil and a funny laser.  The boys huddled around him in utter admiration and pure amusement.  

I watched my four boys interact with their newfound friend.  It's funny, those four can't even agree on a TV show, but every single son seemed to find this boy equally delightful.  I examined their friend with suspicion.  Could he perhaps be the Eddie Haskell sort that appeared harmless but when my back was turned was teaching my boys to make pipe bombs in the backyard?  But the more I watched, the more my fears washed away while my adoration grew.

I tried to pinpoint exactly what qualities made him so attractive to the masses.  If I could decipher that secret, could I mimic his charisma, bottle it up and pour it all over my own boys (maybe even myself)?  I never quite figured it out.  All I can say is that his list of admirers swelled and we (every single one of us) hold out hope his play date dance card never gets too full.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Thoughts on Summer

 We enjoyed having the Brinkruffs over for dinner topped off with strawberry birthday cake for Jim. 

 Cooper and I went to his babysitter Trisha's high school graduation party.  Cooper told me last week Trisha was his girlfriend.  When I asked what that meant, he explained that a girlfriend is a girl you have play dates with and invite to your birthday party.

Savoring in the laziness of summer.

For weeks, I've eyed the calendar with concern.  Knots formed in my stomach as I checked off the days leading up to summer break.  Two weeks.  One week.  Five days...   I couldn't shake a feeling of summer dread.  Gone would be our comfy school schedule.  Hello to months of all-out parenting.  Sure, I had pleasant memories from summer pasts, but I also vividly recalled sibling bickering, endless "I'm boreds," and a mommy to-do lists that barely got touched.  

I'd listen to friends gush in eager anticipation over summer plans and I'd hold my tongue.  I prayed my heart would change and as the days heated up and summer neared my anxiety waned.  Good summer memories flooded back.  Big breakfasts with kids still in pajamas until noon.  Plastic pools in the backyard.  Water gun fights in the driveway.  Playground trips with friends.  Amusement parks.  Cookouts.  Vacations.  

On the first day of summer (minutes after waking up), I heard one boy angrily shout at his brother, "You're not allowed in my room for the whole summer."

Oh boy.  My enthusiasm plunged.

But as the day progressed, I witnessed the joys of summer.  The boys spent the afternoon in a park and worked for an hour rearranging logs and sticks to make a "room."  I sat on a park bench in the sunshine grinning as I watched their collective efforts and big smiles.  The evening was spent with friends where we feasted on the staples of summer: a meal fresh from the grill and produce straight from the vine.

I'm not naive enough to think summer will fly by in a series of blissful days, but I'm excited to experience what it has to offer.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

School's Out for Summer

At yesterday's neighborhood party, I was manning the ice cream stand and supervising little boys.  I wasn't able to take in even a fraction of yesterday's party activities.  My mom, however, captured some beautiful photos that she sent to me. Sorry if some are repeats from yesterday's post.

 My boys loved the paint station.

 Collin had a ball.

 I was still getting paint out of his ear tonight!

 Love this photo of my boys!

 The kids went crazy for the ice cream station.  Thanks to my sweet friend Ali who helped with ice cream distribution.
 The boys had a lot of fun in the pool.

 They devoured ice cream with the Maxwell boys.

 Collin enjoyed his ice cream next to the adorable Hermacinski girls.

 The Wanner kids snagged a blanket and took in the scene.

 Chris supervised the party and fortunately wasn't needed for any medical care.

 We actually assembled most of the kids for a picture.  Amazing!

The moms and dads snagged pictures.

 Cooper's last day of preschool was capped off with a pizza party.  He was SO excited.

Connor walked off the school bus today as a new second grader.

For three of my boys, today marked the last day of school.  Cooper skipped out of preschool grinning from ear to ear.  Connor raced off the bus, not looking back even once.  They burst into the kitchen and unloaded their stuffed backpacks all over the counters.  Months worth of papers and art projects littered the surface.  I examined each piece with interest.  Connor's first grade memory booklet sat on the top of the heap.  I flipped through his homemade book and marveled at some of the things I learned about Connor.  He said he wants to be an army man and that he likes jazz (really?).  His friends consider him funny.  His teacher called him creative.

I placed the booklet back in the heap and my eyes started to swell.  I'm not surprised.  The last day of school always gets to me.  I find it's a day I have trouble staying in the present.  My mind seems to fluctuate between flashing to the past (wasn't he just a baby?) and jumping into the future (will I wake up tomorrow and he'll be an adult?).  I talked myself back to the present reality and tried to see the more mature sons standing in front of me.  The ones that want their mom to be happy that they've finished another year.

I stifled the tears and extended my congratulations.  I prayed the next year doesn't move as quickly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

End of School Year Party

 We hosted our annual "School's Out for Summer" party and invited the neighbors.

 About 50 kids showed up. 
(The sign met its end this year!)

 They enjoyed water play.  Some kids brought water guns this year that added extra fun (and chaos).

 The slip n slide returned.

 The kids lined up for their favorite part: the water balloon fight.  The Inmans made 150 balloons.  I blew up 300.  My friend Ali brought some too.

The kids had a ball with the fight and no one got hurt!!!

This year the party had a different, more active vibe.  I think all the kids are getting bigger and we've got to adjust our party for this change.  But, the boys really enjoyed the party.  It's always a fun way to kick off summer.

Thanks to everyone that helped with the party and the party prep!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Preschool Graduation

 Cooper participated in his preschool graduation program.  He even wore a mortar board.  Too cute!

 Cooper shares a hug with his preschool teacher, Mrs. Benedict.

Family photos post-graduation ceremony.  Couldn't shake the sillies out of some of the boys.

Cooper's preschool class hosted a concert and graduation night.  I sat in the audience with my knees knocking.  The fact that Cooper would be on stage with access to a microphone and audience put me on edge.

Cooper paraded onto the stage clad in his "church clothes" with a mortar board perched on his head.  He positioned himself in the front row and faced the audience.  His signature smile radiated through the darkened room.

The performance began.  The preschoolers sang alphabet and Bible songs.  Cooper even recited a few solo lines at a speed on par with an auctioneer.  He sang his little heart out and in typical Cooper style added his own charisma and pizazz.

I smiled at my little "graduate" and wondered how fast the years will fly by until I watch him graduate again.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Garage Sale Generosity

Cooper's last soccer game of the season.  Chris's last game to coach.  It was wonderful to see Cooper out playing, despite the heat.  Great to hear such nice words from the other parents about Coach Chris.  I am so proud of them both.

One story from yesterday's garage sales:

At our first garage sale, Cooper first eyed the toys.  He inspected each and every item.  He selected a few favorites and still had money to spare.  He then meandered over to another table.  Costume jewelry dotted the surface, a collection of circa 1980s earrings and a few tarnished necklaces.  He scanned the items and then smiled.

He said, "Mom, I want to buy you jewelry.  What do you want?"  

He surveyed the table with pride.  It was if he escorted me into a fine jewelry store and announced, "Purchase anything, the tabs on me."

His words touched my heart. I glanced at the array of well-loved jewelry with $1 price tags and then looked back at the toys.  I smiled and tried to hold back tears.  I insisted he purchase a toy for himself.  Without much prodding, he agreed.  But, I was grateful for his gesture that showed me the kindness that sits in his heart.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Garage Sale Day

We zipped over to Cincinnati this afternoon to celebrate my niece Caroline's first birthday.  It was such a fun party for the boys and a great time with family.

Today was the neighborhood garage sale day.  Many a neighbor adore garage sale day, holding out high hopes of scoping up fabulous deals and securing great finds.  I, on the other hand, loathe garage sale day.  Don't get me wrong, I love a deal as much as the next neighbor, but it's the addition of my four little boys to an array of garage sales that makes me batty.

You can't hide garage sale day from the boys (believe me I've tried).  The neighborhood posted signs at each entrance for weeks in advance.  The fact that some of my boys can read turned into a disadvantage, as they broadcasted it to their younger brothers and made mental notes of the date with each glance at the sign.  

This morning, they leaped out of bed and raced downstairs clutching wads of dollar bills and spare change from their piggy banks.  Still clad in pajamas, they insisted on dashing out the door hoping to secure the "finds" before all the other neighborhood kids.

I urged them to change clothes before hitting the sidewalk and then demanded they sit down for some garage sale instructions.  Hands to side.  You break it, you buy it.  If you spend it all at the first garage sale, you're shopping is done.  Bargain.  Bargain.  Bargain.  They wiggled in their seat and nodded their heads as I rambled on.  The minute I stopped talking, they were off.  

They darted out the door and raced to the first sale.  A box of well-loved matchbox cars sat on the concrete.  A half completed model airplane sat on a chair.  An array of stuffed animals blanketed a bench.  The boys scoped up item after item, eyes wide, hearts beating fast.  Cooper handed over money like it was hot.  He purchased a model airplane kit and a car.  The other boys watched Cooper clutching all his finds and suddenly couldn't walk away empty handed.  And, so their money quickly dwindled after hitting garage sale one.

The boys arrived home about an hour later with full grins.  I imagined they thought Christmas had arrived in May.  I scanned their array of "new" goodies with dismay.  More stuff, I sighed.  Garage sale day, I silently cursed.