Friday, August 31, 2012

Washer Woes: Saying Goodbye to a Trusty Friend




My running friends congregated on a playground today to let our three-year-olds commingle.  It was fun to watch Collin with his buddies.

Weeks ago we began to notice it.  It happened right after I placed a load of whites into my front loading washer and shuffled into the kitchen.  Within minutes, it sounded as if a freight train was racing through my house.  I rushed into the laundry room to locate the source, barely able to hear myself think over the racket.  It was as I suspected; the sound bellowed from my washer.

She was old.  That I knew.  So, I chalked up the clamor to old age and convinced myself just because she was elderly didn't mean she was useless.  In her golden years she had character, I declared.  I could live as if I resided on a busy tarmac as long as my trusty washing companion could still brighten my whites and eradicate the dirt and grime from little boys' apparel.

But as the weeks wore by and the noise intensified, I began to feel it.  She was getting close to the end.  I think I fell into the stages of grief.  I was in denial.  Surely she wasn't ready to go.  We had been through so much together.  She had served as my faithful friend in the wee hours of the night when a flu bug circulated through the house and soiled sheets, quilts, and pajamas.  She performed miracles on favorite t-shirts splattered in paint and uniforms doused in dirt.  She stood with me during the potty training years (times four).

I became angry.  She couldn't leave me now that football and soccer season were in full swing!

I bargained with her.  I begged her to hold on, just at least through another year of preschool.  But she grew louder and louder still.  

I grew depressed as I knew our days were numbered.

Then it happened.  

After I loaded an armful of colors into her open belly and shut the metal door, that familiar rattle echoed through the house.  Within minutes it stopped.  The house fell silent.  I rushed into the laundry room.  She sat lifeless.  I tried to talk to her.  I shook her and even tried to kick the life back into her.  No response.

I motioned my physician husband over to her.  He tried a few measures to resuscitate but then mumbled something about the "bearings" and needing to call in an expert and then he jetted off into the kitchen.

A repairman arrived hours later.  He told us what we already knew.  She was gone and any measures we could take to revive her or prolong her life wouldn't last long.  It was time to say our goodbyes.

My husband was more stoic about her passing.  He immediately went looking for her replacement, a younger model with more bells and whistles than she ever had.  But I couldn't let her go without acknowledging what she meant to me for the last seven years.  I patted her lifeless top and thanked her for the ways she brightening (literally) my life.

RIP dear washer, you won't be forgotten.

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SO EXCITED to share that one of my articles will be published again in the November issue of MomSense magazine.  

When I told the boys, Cooper looked at his brothers and said, "Hey guys, I think that means we're going to day care."









Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Tricky Thing About Asperger's

Yesterday it finally rained.  The boys were so excited to dust off our umbrella and use it with their friends on the bus stop.

My Aspie son has had a banner few weeks.  He's greeted several new changes with ease (dare I say even giddiness).  Many of the transitions we expected would rock his world, nary caused a ripple.    He embraced the first day of school with a smile.  He entered a new carpool situation with little reaction.  He has thrived (according to his teacher) in his new fourth grade Sunday School class.  Things were good and a calmness swept through our house.

It's times like these that I realize my memory is short.  I sail into a new reality where I think things are fine, and will always be fine.  The challenges we faced are in the past.  I smile as I imagine the last chapter of our lives may be just a challenging memory never to be experienced again.

But shame on me for not learning a thing or two over the last several years.  The thing is, Asperger's can be tricky.  Months can fly by peacefully and then something triggers former behavior and somehow we've landed back to the place we didn't think we'd return.

With our Aspie son's newfound tranquility we decided to place him in an activity.  Over the years, we tried everything from fencing to science classes.  He greeted each new venture with everything from tears to outright defiance.  I pulled out all my mommy tricks just to get him to enter classrooms and sports fields, anything from threats to bribery.  Nothing worked, or worked well.  

Last night, we tried the Bible Bowl team at our church.  My thought was he loves trivia and might thrive in a "jeopardy" type environment.  No such luck.  He entered the classroom semi-willingly but by the time I picked him up his face was crimson and tears were streaming down his cheeks.  Even the supervising teacher looked flustered.  It was clear to every single person in the room that Bible Bowl was not a good fit.  Not now.  Probably not ever.

I walked out of the classroom frustrated.  At home, I spewed the story onto Chris.  With a pained expression he finally said, "How's he going to be able to function for the rest of his life?"

His words struck me hard.  He said what I don't really want to think about.  I want to live with the mindset that he's in a phase.  With age, things will change.  He'll go to college.  He'll get a good job.  He'll have a family.  I don't want to think things may play out any differently than this.

I thought about Chris's words and decided I had two choices with how I would respond.  I could: 1)  fret endlessly about how his life will unfold, or 2)  appreciate the progress he's made, continue to work with him, relentlessly pray for his future, and joyfully accept the child God gave us.  

I selected choice two.










Sunday, August 26, 2012

Keeping a Record of Rights

Enjoyed an evening out with our friends the Maxwells (pictured here with my dear friend Ali).

Yesterday, I fluttered around the house doing this, that, and the other.  While I worked, I silently stewed about my husband and everything I perceived he wasn't doing (or doing wrong) around the house.

Finally, I blurted out, "I'm really trying to not get angry, but you... (then I unleashed a litany of complaints)."

He listened and then with a sly smile responded, "I thought love doesn't keep a record of wrongs."

I glared.

He continued, "If we're keeping records, what happened to the records of what I'm doing right."

I stood speechless.

The man had a point.  

In fact, I think those same exact words have tumbled off my lips a time or two.  I stopped and thought about the things I was angry about and then started to remember all the stuff he's done right.

The first things that flashed into my mind were times he helped me that very day.  He watched the boys so I could complete a training run.  He made breakfast for everyone.  He escorted one son to a football game.

Then, I thought about the bigger things he's done right:

-He gets my humor and I get his.  Our home is filled with laughter.

-He listens to me.  

-He's not afraid to tell me the truth.

-He provides really good advice.

-He loves our kids and spends as much time as he can with them. 

-He works hard and share the fruits of that work generously.

-He's compassionate and kind.

-He's firm in his faith.

...and on my list continued.  

After awhile, my anger simmered and the little things I was irritated about didn't seem so bad.  We agreed that if records were to be kept, we would keep them for rights.  

Let's just hope I remember.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Small Town Feel

 My friend Melinda hosted a Back to School brunch for her school mom friends.  She's super creative and had school decorations (like this) everywhere.  Had so much fun and ate way too many apple decorated cake balls.






We took the boys (and a friend) to Eaglefest to kick off the high school football game.

Seven years ago, we began looking for homes in our little suburb of Indianapolis.  I remember our realtor saying, "It's like a small town."  I nodded, trying to mask my skepticism.

After living here for years, building roots and developing friendships, I've come to agree with that realtor.  Nights like tonight, when the community hosts a festival to kick off the high school football game, the small town feel is overwhelming.

We brought all four boys (and a friend) to Eaglefest, located on the grassy field next to the high school football stadium.  The field was decorated with bounce houses and food tents.  Everyone was clad in the high school's colors of green and white.  Parent volunteers smiled as they dished out brats and juicy hamburgers.  The kids dashed between bounce houses, giggling with school buddies.  We parents intermingled with neighbors and friends alike.

As the time neared for the game to begin, a sea of green migrated to the stadium with the band leading the procession.  It felt like a small town and we loved it.




Thursday, August 23, 2012

He's Back....To The Nurse's Office

With all his big brothers at school, Collin is on the playdate circuit.  He had his first play date today with friend Nathan.  It was really cute.  Collin brought Nathan a snack.  Nathan brought Collin a frisbee.

A few posts ago, I mentioned that Cooper has become well acquainted with the school nurse.  Last week, she tended to a slew of his "boo-boos" and "owies."  After he became a repeat visitor, I sat Cooper down and explained the difference between a school medical emergency and a fun trip to the nurse's office.  I left our chat feeling confident he'd seen the last of the nurse's office.

Yesterday, I was rummaging through his backpack when I stumbled upon a familiar yellow note.  It happened again.  He was back.  Yet again, the extent of his medical care included a bandaid and a sympathetic ear.

Feeling a bit like Groundhog's Day, I sat him down (yet again) and had the same discussion from last week.  This time, I added a more forceful "and you are in no way/don't even think about/you'll be sorry to go to the nurse's office tomorrow."  An understanding look flashed across his eyes.  I let out a sigh of relief.

This morning, I watched him get onto the school bus confident he would NOT be seeing the nurse today.  

Hours later, a friend informed me his school bus had been in a minor accident (sideswiped a park car).  Every single child in the bus was absolutely fine and the bus sustained only minimal damage.  Nonetheless, the school district was extra vigilant in the care and treatment of each child.  Evidently, the school checked each child at the scene and then again once they reached school.  A later email from the principal indicated that each child was evaluated for emotional and physical damage by (wait for it)...the school nurse.

Chris and I couldn't stop laughing.  We wondered how Cooper responded to seeing the nurse.  Was he nervous because we specifically gave him instructions not to visit the nurse today or was he delighted that he happened again into her office?  We imagined all the "mental and emotional" distress he concocted and relayed to that poor, overworked nurse.

When the boys got home the bus accident story tumbled out.  It was a bit like a fish story, where the minor bus accident morphed into a crash that sounded like a "boom."  Cooper let out that devilish grin as he admitted he visited the school nurse.  I couldn't help but smile thinking how lucky he must have felt in how the day's events unfolded.






Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It pays to be the baby

Caleb poses in front of his locker on his first day of fourth grade.

Who holds the best position in the birth order?

It's been a question highly debated for years.  As the eldest, I can see advantages to being the first born (younger parents, the newness of each milestone, an actual completed baby book).  But after today, I'm thinking the baby of the family may actually hold the prime birth order position.

Today Caleb started fourth grade and as my other two boys were already in school, that left the "baby" of the family and me to putz the hours away.  It's been years since I've only had one child at home.  It was so quite/easy/lonely/nice.  

I devoted some of the day to much needed home maintenance projects, but the majority of the day was allotted to my youngest son.  He picked the lunch.  I read to him when he asked.  We played games when he wanted.  I talked to him all morning.  I didn't have my attention torn between multiple siblings.  I was relaxed.  I was pleasant.  I was fun.  I wondered if any of his brothers saw me today would they even recognized this new and improved mother?

As much as I was happy for my youngest son receiving a boat load of attention, that old familiar mom guilt crept into my core.  Why couldn't I do this for all of my sons?  Did the middle boys get shafted merely because of their birth dates (the Jan Brady syndrome)?  Will my oldest son ever remember the two years I spent exclusively with him?  What's a mom to do to even the playing field?

The fact of the matter is birth order does impact mothering and the experience each child has in childhood.  I just pray I can make each child feel loved in whatever place they fall in the family (with whatever time I have with each child).

******************************************************

Caleb had his best start to school yet!  Thanks to everyone for the prayers!!










Sunday, August 19, 2012

Grandma's Wedding: Newlyweds in their 90s








Several weeks ago my Dad called bearing news.  "You'll never guess," he announced.  My mind raced wondering which relative did what.  New pregnancy?  Pregnancy with twins?  Divorce?  With all the possible scenarios that dashed through my skull, I certainly never guessed what words would pass my Dad's lips.

"Your Grandma's engaged," he blurted out.

I felt like I needed to sit down to try to process his statement.  After a few minutes, the words started to sink in: my 90-year-old Grandma was engaged to her 93-year-old beau.  I fluctuated between stunned silence and fits of giggles.  Who would have thought!

Later, I called my Grandma to extend my congratulations.  We talked about Gus, her fiancee and a lifelong friend of my late Grandpa's.  She reminisced about her first husband, my Grandfather, and about their marriage.  She said, "I was so busy with the day to day that I didn't appreciate the blessing of a marriage until it was gone."  It made me think about my marriage and how the daily grind so quickly pushes the blessing of marriage from the forefront of my mind.

Yesterday, Grandma married Gus.  She wore a powder blue lacy dress with a sequin shawl and her fancy sandals.  Perhaps the most radiant part of the outfit was her smile.  She was happy.  Happy to be with Gus.  Happy to be married again.

After the ceremony, Gus's daughter talked to me about Gus's first wife who battled Alzheimer's.  At the end of her life, Gus tended to his wife's every physical need.  The daughter asked Gus, "What keeps you going to help mom?"  She said he answered, "Because I made a promise."

I watched Gus make that same promise to my Grandmother.  I thought what a blessed woman.  So glad they have each other.








Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thank Goodness for School Notes


With two boys at school and one on a playdate, I enjoyed some individual time with Collin.

The common question we moms have tossed around the last couple of days is "How's school going for ______(child)"

Some moms gush with information.  They know every single detail of their child's school days, right down to the color crayons used on each art project.  In my experience, those moms are the mothers of girls.

My boys certainly don't convey as much information.  Here's how our after school chats typically go:

Me:  How was your day?

Son:  Fine.

Me:  Any favorite parts?

Son:  Not really.

Me:  If you'd have to name one.

Son:  I don't know, lunch.

Then, said son rushes out the room feeling confident he just summed up the entire day to my liking.

The great thing about the teachers and school is that they know many a child are like mine.  Therefore, they send notes home so we moms gather just the slightest bit of information about our child's goings-on at school.

Today as I was rummaging through Cooper's bag, I found a yellow note from the office.  The letter indicated Cooper was seen by the school nurse.

"Cooper," I asked.  "Were you seen by the school nurse today?"

He nodded yes.

"For what?"  I probed.

He answered, "Which time?"

Which begged the question..."How many times did you see the school nurse," I asked.

"Which day?" he replied.

I paused, "Cooper, you've only been to school for two days.  How many times have you seen her?"

Evidently, Cooper's become quite familiar with the school nurse and infirmary.  The nurse has seen him for all sorts of "life threatening conditions" such as nose scrapes and boo boos.  I'm imaging Cooper found his trips to the school nurse to be an adventure of sorts and an opportunity to get a self-guided tour around the school and the administrative offices.

I sat Cooper down and explained just when and why we see the school nurse.  Then, I encouraged him to limit his visits to severe illnesses and injuries.  Cooper nodded in agreement, but I could see the disappointment in his eyes.  

*************************************************

Cooper did also share that he met a new friend at school.  He said, "He doesn't speak Indiana."  (Cooper speak for:  He's still learning English.)





Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Day of Kindergarten and Second Grade

 It's a tradition in our house that we take our incoming kindergartner out on an individual date after back-to-school night.  The kindergartner gets to pick the restaurant.  Cooper said he wanted to go to a "fancy restaurant" and selected Red Robin.  We booked a sitter for the other boys and enjoyed an evening just with Cooper.
 The boys on their first day of 2nd grade and kindergarten.  Our first day outfits had to be scraped as the school asked them to dress in a particular color.
 New personalized backpacks.
 The boys on the bus stop (minus Cooper)
 The entire bus stop (minus Cooper).  The girls and boys segregated for pictures.
This picture was snapped by my friend Gwen (her daughter Morgan is in the pink backpack).  It captures Cooper getting off the bus at school.  What a big boy!

A crowd of school children had already assembled at the base of our driveway by the time the boys burst out our door.  According to my morning calculations, we were late.  I blamed last minute wardrobe changes, hair issues, and missing lunch money for our tardy departure.  But we didn't miss the bus and we still made it into the neighbor group photos.  A success, I decided.

Seconds after the last photo was snapped, Bus #11 rolled up to our driveway.  The kids raced up the steps and snagged empty seats.  It all happened so fast I didn't have time to plant kisses on foreheads or impart last minute advice.  I watched as the bus peeled away from our home.  I caught a glance of Cooper and Connor nestled into a rear seat.  Cooper's grin shone through the bus window.

We parents lingered at the bus stop, swapping summer stories and fall plans.  Finally, one dad shouted above the others, "Becky, are those tears falling down your cheeks."

The crowd silenced.

"Yes," I admitted.  "Tears of joy."

The fact of the matter is, I'm grateful we made it to summer's finishing line and that school has begun.  It always seems like summer lasts just a few days late.  In those matter of days, the pleasantness of the summer seems to fade as sibling squabbles and disobedience rises.  They (and me) become a little "summered out."  We all start to crave what school has to offer: routine and separation.

The boys arrived home from school happy (and so was I).









Monday, August 13, 2012

Going round and round with my three-year-old






The boys (minus Cooper who was on an overnight date with Memaw and Papa) enjoyed the Indiana State Fair.

Last night, I tucked my sweet cherub, Collin into bed.  I smothered him with kisses and whispered I love you.  He smiled as his eye lids grew heavy and he drifted off to sleep.  It was such a precious sight!

This morning, I returned to his room eager to snuggle my little angel.  Somehow, during the night my angel lost his wings because  he woke in a devilish mood with a nasty scowl plastered on his face.  From the minute his feet hit the floor, everything in the world was wrong and he wasn't the least bit shy about telling me about it.

In disbelief, I glanced at my sweet little baby.  Since when did he become such a, a.....three-year-old!

And so we began going round by round to decide who truly was running the show.

Round One (7:09 a.m.):

Collin throws a piece of trash onto the floor.

Me:  Collin, you need to put that paper in the trash can, not the floor.

Collin (with every ounce of defiance):  NO

Time out one.

Round Two (7:15 a.m.):

Collin requests waffles for breakfast.  I prepare two waffles and place them on his favorite breakfast plate.  I place the plate in front of his chair.

Collin:  I don't want waffles.  I want cereal.

Me:  Well, this is breakfast.

Tantrum.  

Time out.

Round Three (7:30 a.m.):

Collin emerges from time out and sits back at the breakfast table.  The waffles have sat in front of his place for fifteen minutes and the syrup has caused the waffles to take on a soggy texture.

Collin is absolutely/in no way/don't even think about it/he can't be fooled going to have those waffles.

Fit.

Time Out.

Round Four (7:45 a.m.):

I return to his room to retrieve him from time out.  When I walk in the room an odd, familiar aroma smacks me in the face.  I'm trying to guess the smell when I notice a white, pasty substance strewn all over a lamp, the floor, and the dresser.  I see an empty diaper rash cream tube crumbled up on the floor.

Collin shot me a look that said, "And you thought you'd win?"

I hand him a rag and we work together on removing the cream  from the walls and carpets.

From there, the morning improves.  The battle is over, but somehow I think there's still a little bit of a fight left in him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Neighbor vs. neighbor soccer match

Connor spent his camp concession money on a pack of fake mustaches.  This afternoon, I had to do a double take at his little brother Cooper.  He had adhered one of those mustaches onto his face and was proudly promenading around the house with his new more mature look.

Cooper has a small radius of space around our house where he's allowed to roam.  Being that Cooper isn't the least bit shy, he's become well acquainted with the neighbors that live within this space.  He adores them all, but seems to have formed a special soft spot for our neighbors, the Duncans.

The Duncans moved here in the dead of winter from North Carolina.  I swore the cold temperatures and icy conditions would scare them away, but they braved that first winter and several years later they still live next door.  


We hit the neighbor jackpot when the Duncans moved next door.  They keep their yard and house immaculate and show us ample grace when our yard is in desperate need of a mow and in serious need of a good weeding.  They laugh abundantly and still seem to enjoy our boys even when I'm sure they've stepped on their flowers or been a little too rough with their dogs.  They ooze everything I love about southerners: hospitality, warmth, and charm.


 Many a nights, I'll see the Duncans nestled on their patio chairs, enjoying pleasant evening temperatures and warm conversation.  Those are just the evenings when Cooper feels like he's part of their family and parks himself at the next patio chair quickly diving into their conversation.


After Cooper's last visit with the Duncans, he came racing home.  Winded, he announced, "We've got to practice soccer tonight."


I shot him a puzzled glance.


"We're playing the Duncans tomorrow," he announced as if we were two Olympic competitive teams squaring off.


I couldn't help but chuckle imaging our ragamuffin team versus the adult Duncans and their two teenage boys.


Tonight, we ate dinner on our patio.  We glanced over at the Duncans yard where they too were enjoying the evening in their lounge chairs.


I shouted over "There's our competition."


After a couple friendly exchanges, the boys dug out our soccer goals and positioned them in our yard.  I'm sure the Duncans were none too pleased to be leaving the comfy confines of their armchairs to chase a soccer ball around our yard, but they were such (literally) wonderful sports about the whole thing.


Pretty soon, the Duncans (Mom, Dad, and Sam...with an arm brace) faced off against our crew (the whole gang).  We didn't exactly look the part of top notch athletes.  Two boys were wearing swimsuits, one wore his church clothes, and another didn't seem to wear anything that actually covered his backside.


We had a cheerleader (neighbor girl) sitting on the sideline and a sports fan (another neighbor) watching the action.


Our teamwork and athletic skills need some serious practice.  The boys seemed to treat each other as competition as much as the Duncans.  And for one boy, the idea of anyone scoring but him was really quite devastating.  But the boys ran around and seemed (mostly) delighted by the play.


I think our team (the Dominators) eventually won, thanks to the Duncans kindness and Sam's need to leave for football practice.  We parted with smiles and a promise for a rematch...unless Cooper finds another neighbor family to challenge.









Friday, August 10, 2012

Vacation vs. Trip: Traveling with Kids

 The scenery that kept me company during my early morning jogs.

It took me years to realize a vacation with kids is not a vacation, it's a trip.

A vacation means the traveler can:

-sleep in late
-dine at extravagant restaurants
-lounge poolside
-read novels
-engage in meaningful adult conversation

A trip involves:
-arising when the little ones wake (usually at the crack of dawn)
-eating at dining establishments that "supersize" portions and serve courses with plastic utensils
-chasing a toddler around the deck of a pool, getting drenched over and over by the endless cannonballs from older brothers.

That's a trip.  

A trip is what we took to Asheville, North Carolina...with our kids.

You (the ones without kids) may ask, "Who in their right mind would even take a trip?  It sounds like a lot of money and work.  Where's the fun in that?"

True.  Trips with kids require oodles of energy and money too, but the payback for the family in precious memories makes the whole experience priceless.

To be honest, we did have our "inconvenient" moments.  The car ride was energetic and argumentative at times.  I heard "He ...(fill in the blank with some heinous offense)" an endless amount of times.  I kept thinking if my mom was the vindictive type (which she's not), she'd find a certain satisfaction in knowing my own children were putting me through exactly what I put my mother through on childhood family trips.  I vividly recall spending hours squabbling with my siblings over personal space and other equally important matters on countless family vacations.  I'm truly surprised my mother still speaks to me after some of those trips!

But despite the moments of chaos/complaining/arguing, we truly had a wonderful time in North Carolina.  

Highlights included:


 Dining on authentic Southern cuisine at Asheville's Tupelo Honey Cafe.  We ordered fried green tomatoes served over a plate of hot grits...yes ma'am it was tasty.

Making connections with my boys..kisses and hugs.
 Wandering through an endless array of souvenir shops.  Connor's face mirrored how I felt trying to pry them from each store or talk them out of buying "fool's gold."







 climbing up to the top of Chimney Rock and to the falls below.  Connor was paralyzed with fear and clutched the railing for dear life.  Fearless Cooper felt at home on the top.  He even suggested, "Let's play hide and seek."  I almost passed out at the thought.



 reaching the apex of Mt. Mitchell (highest point east of the Mississippi River).



Touring the Biltmore Estate

Other favorites:

-Staying at my friend Emily's cabin in the mountains of North Carolina.  Without a TV, evenings were spent watching the sun fall behind the mountains as we passed the time doing puzzles, boardgames, and reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

-Morning runs that cut through rural North Carolina landscape.  I'll admit, I was very apprehensive about running through rural Appalachia.  I feared stumbling into bears, rattlesnakes, crazed mountain men, meth dealers (Chris suggested this fear), and distracted drivers.  After a few runs, I started to relax and truly appreciate the scenery...rugged mountains, rocky streams, lush vegetation.  It was absolutely gorgeous.

We arrived home today exhausted but grateful for an amazing trip.