Friday, June 29, 2012

DIY Tight Rope

 The temperature that registered on my car's dashboard yesterday.  Yikes!
Connor preparing to compete in the backstroke event at yesterday's meet.

Ever since becoming a mom, I've found personal hygiene to be a chore.  Trying to squeeze in a shower while tending to four little ones is no easy task.  As they've grown older, things have gotten easier.  I can leave them (somewhat) unattended while I rush through a rinse off.  I've learned that taking a shower is a risk.  If mayhem, injury, or disagreement is going to happen, it will happen when I'm in the shower.

Today, I noticed all four boys getting along swimmingly.  I sensed my opportunity.  I snuck into my bedroom and stripped off my sweaty running clothes.  I slipped into the shower and savored the blasts of warm water saturating my skin.  I indulged in about five minutes of pure heaven before pulling myself out.

As I was drying off, I heard the sounds of cheering filtering from outside my door.  I shuffled out of the bathroom so I could listen more clearly to the words.  I heard four little voices chanting, "Do It.  Do It.  Do It."

Warning bells blared in my head.

I dashed out into the hall and gasped at the scene.  Chris's exercise bands were wrapped around the top stair banisters.  Cooper stood next to one end of the bands.  A pile of pillows and blankets were strewn underneath the bands and along the stairs.  Cooper's brothers stood at the base of the stairs, smiling as they gazed upward at the scene.

I almost didn't want to ask, but I had to know.  I screamed, "What's going on here?"

Caleb quickly answered, "Cooper made a tight rope and is about to walk across."

Needless to say, the "tight rope" was dismantled on the spot and Cooper's show was canceled, permanently.

Later, I recounted this story to another mom of boys.  She replied, "Well, at least they thought of the pillows for the landing."

It was too soon to laugh.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gold Friends

 Eating a pizza lunch on the porch with friends.

Katie's super fun pool.
 Katie giving the kids instructions on how to play "Kick the Can."
 The kids listening to the instructions.

My sweet childhood friends, Katie and Erin.  (Bummer this picture came out so light!)

This summer really hasn't felt like summer as of late.  Kid activities have pushed out the leisurely feel of June.  I miss the summer days where the kids wake up and say, "What should we do?"  And I greet that question with a smile and an empty schedule.

Despite the busyness, I squeezed in my annual summer play date with my two childhood friends, Katie and Erin.  We met as kindergartners and have maintained our friendship for three plus decades.

Katie graciously offered her home for the play date locale.  The kids (all 11 of them...neighbor kids too!) frolicked in the yard and throughout her house as we friends sat on her sunporch and guzzled diet sodas while catching up on the last year.  Our conversation flowed from childhood memories to adult frustrations (budget woes, child rearing, household needs).  I thought about how easily we've slipped from childhood pals into adult friends.

Katie talked about sitting under a tree playing board games with her daughter.  She reminded us that's what she did growing up.  She didn't have to explain it, we were there.  We remember.

As I left the play date, I thought about the blessings of friendships with longevity.  How grateful I am to have those two in my life.

Monday, June 25, 2012

King of the Sideline Siblings

A friend told me each week she has one of her kids plan out the dinner menu and make that dinner for the family.  I loved her idea and designated Caleb as the first chef.  For his meal he selected hamburgers, oven baked fries, apple slices, and carrot  sticks.

It was interesting cooking with him.  He opened my eyes to how sensory stimulating the whole cooking experience can be to an Asperger's child.  Even though it was painful at times to work with him, he seemed very pleased with his finished product (and so was I).

Every morning, Connor has swim team practice.  As Connor is perfecting his strokes in the water, I spend my time poolside keeping his brothers occupied.  The boys have developed a routine.  Caleb melts into a lounge chair and quickly becomes engrossed in books.  The younger boys rush to the play set located next to the baby pool where they are always greeted by the same kiddos.  Their playmates are all younger siblings that constantly get dragged to an older sibling's practice, recital, and game.  This crew is used to keeping themselves occupied on the sidelines and quickly learned the sibling rules for spectator etiquette.  They know they can play by a soccer field, but they don't dare cross over the sideline.  They can explore the deck of a pool, but can never actually dive into the water.  They can listen to a school concert, but not ever jump on stage.

Cooper's quickly become the king of the sideline siblings and has begun entertaining his "court" with daily performances.  I've coined it the "Cooper Show."  As soon as all the kids have descended on the play set, Cooper climbs to the highest portion of the set.  This is the signal for the other kids to select their "seats."   They form a circle at Cooper's feet gazing upward, eager to see what incredible feat Cooper will be performing that morning.  Cooper doesn't want to disappoint and certainly tries to provide his audience with a spectacular, cutting edge performance.  Once on the top of the play set, he stands, swings, jumps, and balances on tiny metal bars.  During all his moves, Cooper flashes his signature smile at the audience and the kids ooh and aah in response.

I allow some of the performances to go on, but Cooper always takes it one step too far.  (Like the times he grasped for a nearby tree branch ten feet off the ground.  I imagine he hopped to incorporate a Tarzan-like move into his performance.)  And so his shows always seem to end the same way with me yelling "Cooper, get down this very instance before you break every single bone in your body."  He climbs down and the crowd disperses.  But I can see the wheels in his head turning as I imagine he's planning dazzling performances to come.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Power of "I'm Sorry"

 Connor finished his final t ball game of the season.  His sweet coach gave each boy a personalized baseball pillow.  So adorable and thoughtful!

 Our friends the Blakes are moving to Atlanta.  Last night, we attended a going away party in their honor.  The hosts set up a "photo booth" where guests could pose for silly photos (we were all told to wear white).  The photos will be given to the Blakes in an album to take with them to Georgia.  We had a great time with our friends and wish the Blakes the best in Georgia. 

If there's one thing I strive to be, it's a good friend.  I aim to be all the things a good friend should be:  loyal, kind, thoughtful, and on and on.  I suppose that's why I harbored such deep regret for my actions towards some friends yesterday.  Of course, I had plenty of excuses.  I was tired.  I was stressed.  There was some miscommunication.  But despite all the excuses, I was wrong.  Guilt washed over me.  Regret pierced my core.  I knew what needed to be done.

I shot the offended parties a heart-felt email.  In it, I poured out my anguish and then typed some of the most powerful words in the English language, "I'm sorry."  As my fingers breezed over the keystrokes to write those little words, I felt a weight lift off my chest and a peace permeate my soul.

Within the hour, the friends shot back replies.  They all were extremely understanding and indicated the same thing: we forgive you.  A second wave of serenity showered my soul.  In that moment, I thought about forgiveness.  It's forceful, restorative, and completely necessary to find peace for the soul.  How grateful am I to have friends so freely offer the gift of forgiveness!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Best Way to Compete

Connor and his swim team friends waiting to compete.

The boys enjoyed a play date with my friend Erin's girls.

Connor perched at the end of the swimming pool.  He stood ready to participate in yet another swim meet.  This one was different, bigger.  Junior swimmers from two other swim clubs were competing against his team.  The pool was teeming with swimmers, anxious parents, and active siblings.

At the last swim meet, Connor placed 5th and 6th.  For this race, Cooper gave his big brother a pre-race pep talk.  "Aim for 4th," he instructed.  And, so that became his brass ring.

The starter bleep rang and Connor dove into the water.  I watched his strokes, choppy but persistent.  With all the energy he could muster, he maneuvered down the lane and slapped his hand against the finishing wall.  He finished.  He placed 8th.  Out of 8.

I smiled at him as he tugged his saturated body out of the pool.  I braced myself for the reaction he could have for finishing last behind all his peers and competitors.

He glanced at me and beamed, "Mom, I finished four-seconds faster than last week."

I sat speechless, grateful for many things.  I loved the fact that he remained positive, but I was even more thankful that only person he really focused on was himself.  He didn't compare his finish time with his competitors.  His success and self worth was merely measured on his own performance and progress forward. 

How I'd love to mirror Connor's outlook.  How many times do I lose focus of my own "lane" and start comparing myself to the successes of others and then my own perceived "failures."  Shouldn't I adopt Connor's philosophy where I celebrate my own steps forward regardless of how that compares to the actions of anyone else?

Connor inspired me and taught me the best way to race.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Surviving Cooper

Connor shows off his Boy Scout shirt on his first day of Boy Scout camp.

The boys and I lunched with my 90 year old Grandmother.  I said to the boys, "Grandma has lots of interesting stories from her childhood she can share."  I hinted at her being a child of the Depression and a young woman during World War II.

Before my Grandmother had time to elaborate, Caleb piped up.  "Well Grandma, I have lots of good stories from Cooper."  He shared his Cooper stories.  He talked about the time Cooper hurled a golf ball into a brand-new big screen TV and then provided details about all the other shenanigans Cooper attempts.  Caleb shared his stories with the same sort of passion a victim may have relaying stories of past traumas or intense challenges.  He certainly felt his experiences with Cooper ranked even with Grandma's time in the Depression and World War II.

I couldn't help but giggle thinking about how Caleb sees himself as a Cooper "survivor."  Just think of all the stories he'll have to tell as an adult!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

 Our church held a Father's Day celebration on the church grounds following the worship service.  Volunteers handed out fishing rods.  The boys eagerly snagged a rod and raced down to the pond.  Connor caught two fist-size fish.  He was SO excited.

 They also tossed balls at a target in hopes of dunking a pastor.  Connor and Collin (with help) were successful.  Is it wrong that they were super excited about dunking a pastor?

 Chris worked an afternoon/evening shift in the ER.  The boys and I made a Father's Day visit to the hospital.
 We were able to celebrate Father's Day with my Dad/Papa too.  
Memaw joined in the festivities.

I strolled into the ER clutching a flimsy aluminum pan.  My four sons tagged along behind.  I had warned (threatened) them sufficiently about proper ER etiquette.  Quite voices.  No running. Kind manners.  We breezed through the waiting room and quickly located Chris perched behind a computer.

He lit up when he saw our entourage.  The boys sang in chorus "Happy Father's Day."  Chris beamed.  We handed over the pan.  Chris peeled back the aluminum foil covering and gazed at our attempt at a Father's Day present to the ER:  Texas sheet cake.  Somehow in transit the pan contorted and the cake slid into the center.  I sheepishly glanced at the pan, clearly disappointed.  If Chris minded, he certainly didn't show it.  He proudly placed the mangled cake in the break room.  I secretly hoped he wouldn't announced we were the guilty bakers and prayed the chocolately flavor made up for the cake's appearance.

Our visit to the ER was brief.  Chris was busy.  A parade of patients filtered in and out of the department.  Chris didn't reveal their names or ailments, but I knew he was assisting someone's father and some father's son or daughter.  That prospect sobered me and caused me to ache for those individuals celebrating Father's Day within the walls of the hospital.

If Chris was angry about working on his Father's Day, he certainly didn't show it.  I thought about how selfless he certainly is when it comes to squeezing out his own Father's Day celebration.  It reminded me of a couple of things I love about Chris:  He's selfless, kind, and generous to patients, friends, and family alike.

On a day like Father's Day, I reflect on Chris, the father.  When we were childless, I certainly imagined Chris would make a wonderful father.  After all, he spent years working with pediatric patients and he adored his role as Uncle to his young nephews.  When we had our first son, I watched Chris easily slip into the role of father.  Three sons later, he has exceeded even my high expectations for him as a father.  He lights up when he sees his boys.  Even with his hectic schedule, he squeezes in time for each and every one.  He strives to make personal connections.  He has fun with them.

As we walked out of the Emergency Room, I reminded the boys of how blessed they are to have Chris as a father.  Somehow, I don't think they need reminding.


Happy Father's Day to my wonderful Dad.  He is a blessing to each member of my family.

Happy Father's Day to my great Father-in-Law.  I appreciate his encouragement and the time we have together.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fond Memories of Holiday World and Kentucky

 Bright and early yesterday morning, we jaunted down to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.  We met our friends the Brinkruffs.  The kids and adults enjoyed the rides and water park.  Cooper kept saying, "This is SO awesome. "  

 We stayed at Holiday World until the park closed down and so we decided to spend the night at a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.  This morning, Cooper checked out the hotel's exercise room.  He begged me to take a picture of him "working out" and then wanted me to send the photo to his teenage babysitter/"girlfriend" Tricia. 

 Last year when I ran the Louisville Mini Marathon, we discovered Lynn's Paradise Cafe.  We had absolutely wonderful meals and I desperately wanted to go again.  We ate lunch at Lynn's again today.  It certainly didn't disappoint.  We ordered Fried Green Tomatoes, a first.  Delicious!

 After lunch, we hopped over the Ohio River and landed back in Indiana.  We visited the Falls of Ohio park.  The boys explored the banks of the Ohio River look for fossils and interesting rock.  They had a ball.  It reaffirmed my notion that all boys really need are rocks and sticks to have a good time.

We ended our Saturday with dinner at the Maxwell house.  The kids reclined in blankets and lawn chairs and watched a movie outside while munching on pizza and popcorn.  The adults lounged around the patio table.  We so enjoyed spending time with our good friends.  My friend Ali is always a wonderful hostess!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Caught being kind

 We hit the Strawberry Festival in downtown Indianapolis this afternoon with the Brinkruffs.

Connor competed in his first swim meet.

There are many things Connor did today that may be proud.  Definitely competing in his first swim meet is one of them.  But I can clearly say his actions this afternoon tops the lists.  We meandered through the downtown streets on our way to the Strawberry Festival.  Several times we'd pass homeless people huddled against a wall clutching a cardboard sign with an open cup stationed on the ground.  I glanced at the individuals and kept walking.  I noticed Connor really soaking in the scene.  In our little section of suburbia we rarely encounter homeless people.

After we got our ice cream and our bellies were full, we headed back to the car and passed by the same homeless people.  Connor tugged at my hand and pulled my down to his level.  He said, "Mom, I want to give my allowance to those people."  I was speechless and incredibly touched.  I then watched him pull several coins from his pocket and then approach a homeless man on the street.  He plopped the coin down into the cup.  

I was prouder than proud.  I love to see such kindness pour from his heart.