Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

 Easter church picture.  

Wish we could have picked a more scenic section of church for a backdrop!  This highlights our church's construction project:)

The boys get ready for an Easter egg hunt in our yard.

Happy Easter!!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chore Day: Cleaning is Secondary to the Life Lessons Learned

The boys had a great time at Liam Brinkruff's birthday party.

My Dad tells a story from his childhood.  He said his Mother (my Grandmother) made him pick up sticks in the yard and then place those sticks at one side of the lawn.  When the sticks were all in a pile, my Grandmother instructed him to carry the same sticks to the other side of the yard.

As my Grandmother is no longer with us, I can't ask her why exactly she required my father to move sticks all over creation, but I certainly have my theories.  Perhaps, she wanted my Father to burn off a little energy.  Maybe, she hoped to instill the value of hard work.  Or, conceivably, she wanted to teach my Father the benefit of contributing to the family.  Whatever the case, I'm sure she had her reasons...good reasons.  I also imagine that my Father didn't quite understand or appreciate those reasons as a child.

I thought about the stick story today as my boys were performing their weekly "Chores for Champs" (our catchphrase).  For the last several months, I compiled a list of chores they can perform during the weekend.  Keep in mind, my expectations are low.  They certainly aren't repainting a deck, patching walls, or putting on a home addition.  I merely require them to empty a few trashcans, spray bathroom mirrors, and other basic household tasks.

At first, they groaned and moaned about the chores.  They acted like I was inflicting the most terrible, awful child abuse.  After a while, they succumbed to the fact the chores were here to stay, like it or not.

I always know when it's chore day.  The boys operate on one cleaning principal: use two parts cleaner to one part work.  The one thing the boys love about cleaning is the sprayers.   On chore day, the stench of household cleaners engulf the house.  They blanket Windex on mirrors and flood sinks with 409.  I cough and sputter as the fumes radiate up my nostrils and gag my throat.

After a generous application of cleaner, I watch each boy take a quick swipe of the rag (barely flicking a wrist) to the exposed dirty surface, leaving behind a trail of untouched cleaner and caked on grime.

My husband gets frustrated.  He things the point of chore day is to get the house clean.  I differ.  To me, the cleaning is secondary to the life lessons learned.  I implemented chore day for the same reason my Grandmother forced my Father to move sticks around the lawn.  I'm teaching them the value of hard work, pitching in around the house, and helping the family (with the side benefit of burning off a little energy).  In the process, if they learn how to properly mop a floor or clean a window, well, that's icing on the cake!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sick Days

Sick days!

Sometimes I blame myself.  I wonder if the mass quantities of sugary desserts I devoured while pregnant with Cooper (thanks to some heavy cravings!) somehow transferred in utero and permanently set Cooper's energy level on high.  Practically from birth, he whizzed around the house at a speed that would make the Tasmanian Devil dizzy.  He never seemed to tire and appeared most comfortable in the midst of commotion.

Two days ago, I found Cooper reclined on the couch (as in stationary!).  I did a double take and immediately checked his forehead.  As suspected, he was warm.  Within minutes, he was racing through the find the toilet.  He was sick.  Really sick...with a nasty stomach bug.

He missed school for two days and spent his time in a very un-Cooper like fashion.  He was so darn calm.  It was scary!

I savored the last two days.  Cooper and I enjoyed some quiet moments together.  I read him a handful of Magic School Bus and Curious George books.  We watched movies curled up on the couch.  We even indulged in an extended nap, wrapped up in blankets.  Several times during the day, I found myself almost cradling him on my lap.  The last time I did that, he was a newborn!

As much as I adore calm Cooper, I know it's not him.  Cooper is energetic and spunky and exhausting and fun.  Get well soon, Cooper.  I miss the old you!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Snow Storm

March weather madness!

For the last week or so, I've been a tad cranky.  I realized that my cantankerous mood was directly correlated with the frigid late March temps.  My temperament certainly didn't brighten when I heard the first predictions of a winter storm.  The local meteorologist displayed a radar map with a big blue blob blanketing the mid-section of the country with a direct path our way.  I desperately prayed the blob would somehow dissipate before it hit our state line.  No such luck! 

As predicted, the snow hit and walloped our yard.  After breakfast, I pulled on some snow boots and grabbed a ruler.  I slipped out into the snow and sliced the ruler through the white piles until I felt it hit the ground.  According to my (unscientific) calculations, nine inches of snow flakes rested on our lawn (with more falling throughout the morning).

School was cancelled.  Our first snow day of the season!  The boys greeted the snow and the day off school with pure delight.  They raced outside and spent over an hour frolicking among the flakes.  Then, we pulled out the snow sleds and traveled to the best sledding hill in town.

We spent our afternoon warming up indoors.  We switched back on the fireplace and cries rang out for hot chocolate and marshmallows.

As much as I wanted to hate the spring storm, I started to appreciate the unspring-like scenery and the precious time I enjoyed with my boys.....but not enough to want it to last very much longer.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The "S" word

I walked into the classroom to pick up Collin.

The preschool teacher motioned me over.  She whispered, "We had a little problem with Collin today."

My heart sank.

She continued, "He said the 's' word."  

My face flushed.

"He said (pause, throat clear) stupid," she murmured.

The teacher expanded on the incident.  Evidently, Collin referred to a Mr. Potato Head doll as "stupid" and then threw out the same term at lunch (for no particular reason).  Upon hearing the word, his preschool pals were more than happy and willing to rat him out to his teachers.

I quickly rattled off an apology and expressed bewilderment that Collin would so easily toss out the "s" word.  After all, I couldn't recall a single time when he uttered that term at home.

She shot me a skeptical glance before adding, "Sometimes, at home, I've been known to use that word too and then I remember my kids are listening to me say it."  She smiled.

I smiled.  

I might not be the brightest bulb in the bunch, but I realized where she was going with this.  She was hinting at the fact that I was the source of the "s" word.  That, perhaps, I was firing off the "s" word with abandon at home and little Collin was soaking up my "foul" mouth and then mirroring my language at school.

At that point, I went into attorney mode.  I had to defend myself.  I assured her that I had not contributed to Collin's malfeasance.  Then, I gave her my word that Collin would have a stern talking to about his classroom language.

She nodded.

I snatched Collin from the classroom and reminded him how we never use the "s" word anywhere, especially at school.  He listened without responding while munching on a granola bar.

Later, I thought how grateful I might be someday that the 's' word he's using is "stupid."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Training a Palate to Eat Healthy

Even with freezing March temperatures, Collin is still thinking spring!  He slipped on a warm weather baseball outfit.

"What happened to my bagel?" Cooper screeched.  With a look of disdain, he held up his breakfast: a 100% whole-wheat, 100 calorie bagel thin smothered in low-fat American cheese.

"It's still a bagel," I chirped.  "Just healthier."

He shot me a skeptic glance.

Today's breakfast was different.  His morning breakfast plate didn't feature a plump, calorie-laden bagel blanketed in Nutella or drenched in butter.  No sir.  His breakfast makeover arrived thanks to a weekend vow I made to eat healthier.  And by my vow, I meant our vow, the boys too.

I spent my weekend with my sweet friend, Claudia, a dietician.  The thing I love about Claudia is that even though she's a dietician, she's just as mortal as the rest of us.  I've seen Claudia indulge in a slice of birthday cake and even reach for a second piece.  She eats out of her kid's Halloween candy bags and munches on pizza too.  But, most of the time, Claudia is a model eater and has taught her kids the same healthy habits.  

During a weekend discussion on food, Claudia encouraged me to increase my boys' dinner portions of veggies.  Their dinner plates always include a vegetable side, but I must admit I tend to serve them only a minute amount of broccoli florets or Brussels sprouts.  Small quantity of veggies= less protests, you see!  

Claudia inspired me.  The night I arrived home, I loaded up the boys plates with a handful of cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots.  (Claudia recommended 3/4 cup of veggies.)

The boys took one glance at their plates and wrinkled their noses.  Within a few nanoseconds of sitting at the table, the groaning began.  "How could I do this?" they cried.  "There's just so many of them," they whined.  

Right then and there, I threw Claudia under the bus.

"Mrs. Claudia told me to add more veggies," I replied.

Claudia suddenly became public enemy number one in the Wood house.  If Claudia had been sitting at our dinner table, I would have certainly worried about her safety.

Along with the veggies, I made other small modifications.  I replaced white bread with whole wheat products.  I encouraged a snack choice of nuts over Goldfish.  I offered them yogurt and apples over corn chips.  

So far, the changes have not been greeted warmly.  Claudia told me sometimes it takes time to train a palate to eat healthier.  And so, we're (all) in training, taking it one veggie at a time.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Boys Weekend With Dad

While I was in D.C., Chris manned the home front, alone.  The boys were left in his care for four days.  I had my hesitations.  Would he be able to manage our lively lot?  Would he feel overwhelmed?  Would he keep the boys alive?  (Surely, being an ER Doctor, he could do that!)

Throughout the weekend, Chris kept me posted on the boys.  We exchanged a flurry of texts and a handful of phone calls.  Each time we spoke, Chris's voice chirped over the phone lines.  If he was stressed, he certainly didn't hint at that fact.  He gushed about a trip to the local yogurt shop and a shopping excursion to purchase baseball gear.  With each word from home, I relaxed just a bit.

On our return flight, I imagined the condition of our home.  Would fast food wrappers blanket the kitchen counters?  Would the laundry be piled up sky high?  Would little boys' rooms be littered with toys?  As these scenarios flashed through my mind, I could feel my pulse quicken.  Just when I started to sweat, my inner voice of reason bellowed, "Don't say one single negative word about the condition of the house or question Chris's weekend parenting of the boys.  Just be grateful for the wonderful man that took on this job for the weekend."  Right then and there, I made that promise.

When I arrive home, I learned that the boys ate pizza practically every meal (Chris assured me they had carrots for lunch at least once!) and the laundry set untouched, but the boys greeted me with smiles and a slew of fun stories from the last few days.

Someday, I think the boys may reflect fondly on the weekend mom went away.  I can almost hear them say, "Remember, the time we ate pizza all weekend with Dad..."  I imagine them smiling while they rehash those memories.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rocking Washington, D.C.

 My dear friend, Claudia, and I spent the weekend in Washington, D.C.

 We spent our first full day in D.C. touring the city by foot and eating our way across town.
 The second day, we (and Claudia's cousin, Diana, a D.C. local) participated in the Washington, D.C. Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon.  We snapped this shot minutes before the start.
 The after picture.  

We opted to take this picture on the metro ride home as we were too cold to pose outside!

Later in the day, we lounged on chaise chairs next to the Anacostia River to relax our sore legs.

Almost twenty years ago, while in college, I spent a semester in Washington, D.C.  I have fond memories of those months I lived in our nation's capital.  I adored the fast pace of the city and the seemingly endless array of activities within walking distance of my front door.  As my semester in D.C. came to a close, I certainly anticipated I would revisit the city soon.

This weekend, I finally came back − nearly two decades later − and with my friend, Claudia.

When we landed in D.C., memories flooded back.  I recalled familiar metro stops and favorite tourist spots.  I anticipated easily slipping back into urban life and falling back in love with the city I've missed.

Instead, at first, we felt overwhelmed.  It was as if two country bumpkins were transported from Mayberry into the "big city."  We became anxious on the Metro.  The pace and mass of pedestrian traffic was staggering.  Our eyes were flooded with unfamiliar sights: street musicians, beggars, foreign tourists, armed military guards. 

But then things started to change.

After we adjusted to our urban culture shock, we started to appreciate Washington, D.C. for what it is.  It's a place where patriotism and history converge to provide the most magnificent tourist experience.

Our first full day in the city, we traveled over to the Capital and then continued along the National Mall, walking by a collection of tourist hot spots: the Smithsonian, the White House, the Vietnam War Memorial, and the Washington Monument.  We landed at the Lincoln Memorial and plopped ourselves down on the steps, grateful to finally find rest and with a breathtaking view.

The next day, we lined up for the Rock 'n Roll Washington, D.C. Half Marathon.  The race started along the National Mall.  Then, the course wound around the Lincoln Memorial and the White House.  We surged past the Kennedy Center.  During the final miles, the Capital formed the backdrop of our final sprint.  It was an amazing race experience and certainly one that won't easily be duplicated.

As our weekend wrapped up and I gazed at the Capital and the monuments for the last time, I wondered if D.C. locals find such images to be commonplace.  I certainly didn't.  I was grateful that, two decades later, I could gaze upon these once familiar sights with an even greater appreciation.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The formidable task of calling a sick day

Sick Day!

To go to school or not go to school, that is the question. 

I've grappled with this question many a time during my decade of motherhood.  Sure, the school sends out guidelines −a list of symptoms that merit a sick day.  But sometimes a child's ailments don't fit squarely within the list.  He looks green, but he hasn't vomited.  He's drowsy, with no fever.  It's then up to the parent to use his or her best (non-medical) judgement to gauge a child's ability to attend school (and not infect any other students).

Today was one of those days where I was asked to determine Caleb's school readiness.  He was tired, really tired.  He slept almost continuously since yesterday afternoon.  He wasn't eating much.  He had a glazed look in his eyes and a raspy voice.  But, he didn't have a fever.  He never vomited.  He had no intestinal issues.  What to do?

You may think, aren't you married to a doctor?  Shouldn't he be making the "school or no school" call?  

The thing about daddy doctors are:

1)  More than likely, they are working and not home to exam their own children.

2)  If they are home (or available by phone), they'll probably say the child is fine.  

I've learned from experience, a daddy doctor's definition of "fine" differs from a school's definition of "fine."  The daddy doctor will ask, "Is he bleeding profusely?  Does he have a pulse?  Are any limbs missing?  Is he unconscious?"  Upon hearing that the child has merely a nasty cold or seems particularly tired, the daddy doctor will laugh and toss out "he's fine."  And so the child will go to school.  Within minutes of arrival in a classroom, the nurse will call requesting a parent pick up for the very not-fine child.

And so, it's up to me to use my best medical judgment to make the call (pulling from all the knowledge I gained from watching ER reruns and General Hospital).

Today, I deemed Caleb sick.  I'm thinking a day on the couch will do wonders, until the next child is infected.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Aspie On the Run

 Saturday was spent watching the Pinewood Derby.  

The weather finally took a turn for the warmer.  The boys (and Chris) enjoyed several bike rides over the weekend.

I've blogged about it before; sports and my Aspie son just don't mix.  As the athletic sort, I grieve the fact my son doesn't participate in sports.  I think about all the things he's missing: 

  • the camaraderie of a team,
  • the thrill of winning competitions, and
  • the satisfaction of improving a skill.
Most importantly, I bemoan the fact that he's lacking exercise.  I think of some of the issues he's struggled with (sleep and mood management, among others) and believe the addition of exercise might diminish some of these challenges.

With that in mind, I made it my mission to find a way to get him active, while still taking into account some of his fears/objections.  I knew team sports were out.  Even individual sports, in the company of a class, presented challenges.  But I imagined he could exercise alone without too much struggle.

I tossed out the idea of running (something near and dear to my heart).  I suggested he participate in the Couch to 5K program −a nine-week running program that prepares a novice runner for a 5K race.  To my surprise, he didn't grunt out a "no" (nor did he sing out a "yes").  To get to the place of "yes" required a serious amount of bribery (or positive reinforcement...pick your wording).  When we finally reached an agreement, he began his training.  I was over the moon excited. 

For the last five weeks, I've watched him do workouts on the treadmill.  The plan calls for 30 minute workouts, three times a week.  The first few workouts, he alternated running a minute and then walking a minute with a cool down and warm up.  Five weeks later, he ran twenty minutes straight!

He wants me to stand by the treadmill during his runs.  And so I find a place nearby and clutch his workout schedule.  I act as his cheerleader and coach.  When I see him start to languish, I belt out encouragement.  I shout out phrases from my own internal race mantra:

Every step is one step closer.

Think about all you've accomplished, not what is left to do.

Find peace in each stride.

I repeat these phrases over and over to my son, week after week, step after step.

During the last workout,  his energy began to wane.  I heard him say, "I'm thinking about how far I've come."

I loved hearing those words from his lips.  He's certainly come far in his running, but even farther in his life.  I celebrate with him on the distance he's traveled and work diligently with him to continue to move forward.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Praying They Get Caught

My drive to school is absolutely beautiful with the snow-covered trees.

 The boys are having so much fun in the snow. 

As much as I wanted to hate our (hopefully) last blast of winter, the snow makes everything so pretty and the boys enjoy their time playing amid the flakes.

Cooper didn't quite understand how to apply a hand warmer.  He taped it to the outside of his glove.  I couldn't stop laughing when I saw him gear up for the snow looking like this.

A friend with older boys told me she prays her sons get caught.  She said when one of her sons get "caught" in sin, she (as the parent) has the opportunity to work with the child and teach him how to respond to a situation and better react in the future.  

Although I agreed with my friend's advice, I laughed.  I don't really need to utter that prayer; my boys seem to be doing just fine getting busted for their acts of naughtiness and mischief.

But I thought about my friend's comments a few days ago and decided to include her words in my prayers.  Sure enough, that day one of my sons came home with a "Dear Dad" letter that outlined that son's antics in the classroom.  I was distraught and wondered if there was any "take backs" on prayers.  Can I say later, "I didn't really mean it?"  

It's painful to see your child "get caught."  It can be embarrassing, hard-wrenching, emotionally draining, and time-consuming.  It's certainly easier to live in a world where I child is moving along perfectly through life (even if it's only on the surface things look perfect).

But as any parent knows, easy and parenting don't often land in the same sentence.  Parenting with an eye on long-term benefits requires work and can be a laborious process in the short term.

For the situation with my son, I listened to some advice from my mother; something she pulled out from her own parenting tool bag that she used during my childhood.  She called it the "double or nothing" approach (love that my mom incorporated gambling into her parenting!).  She said the first time a child committed an "offense," she talked the child through the situation and provided guidance on how to respond better in the future.  She informed the child of the punishment she would have doled out.  Then, she told the child if they committed the same "crime" again, she would hand out twice the original punishment because at that time the child knew the act was wrong.


I used this same approach on my son.  I have to say he was very responsive.  He appreciated the grace I extended him for a "first time offense" and seemed to understand the magnitude of a second lapse in judgement.

After this situation, I'm hesitant to offer up the same "Please let them get caught" request, but I see the benefits to answered prayer.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Night Shift Mommy

 Cooper moving dirt today (his idea!). 

This is Collin.  I found him asleep behind a chair this afternoon.  Such is the life of the fourth child!

Lately, I've put 110% into my parenting.  I've tried extra hard to be more Mary Poppins and less Peg Bundy.  I think I've made great strides.  Let me clarify:  I've done a good job during my normal parenting day, but I'm still struggling with the overtime hours.

Somewhere I've definitely this notion that once my boys are tucked into bed, I'm off the clock.  At that time, I feel like I've earned the right to lounge on the couch or dive into a novel with absolutely no one to worry about but me.

That's where the frustration comes in.  

As of late, I have two little boys that pop out of their beds more than the critters in the Whac-a-Mole game.  The minute I've reclined on the couch, they appear.  They need something...a drink, a snack, a book.  They want to air their grievances...a brother is too loud, a brother took a favorite book, a brother shot a funny look.  They want to share a story...did you hear what was for lunch today?

It's about this time where I realize nice mommy only works during the day. Mean, impatient mom runs the night shift.  The night shift mommy doesn't want to listen to stories that would have been cute an hour earlier.  Night shift mommy won't say, "Sure sweetie, I'd love to get you a drink."  The night shift mommy doesn't really care what problems one brother has against another brother because there shouldn't be any problems if both boys are in their beds!  Night shift mommy will bark, scowl and be generally disagreeable until she is left ALONE.

The problem with the night shift mommy is that she can eradicate all the wonderful memories and progress made by the day shift mom.  And so the night shift mommy is in the process of retraining.  She realizes that while the night shift can be exhausting to work, it still needs to be done well.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What I Heard From My Mother

Connor's swim team buddies at last night's swim dinner.  (Thanks to Cara for the fun picture!)

The Post was motivated by the BlogHer "Listen to Your Mother Tour."  Found out a little too late!

I was born determined; some may have called me "spirited."  I knew what I wanted and certainly wasn't interested in anyone else's opinions/advice on the matter.  My mother, bless her heart, tried to tame my inner spunk.  During my adolescence, she flooded me with words of wisdom.   Most of the time I didn't listen.  Her words were not my words after all.  

I may not have listened, but I heard.

I haven't scanned the Webster's Dictionary, but in my world hearing and listening are different.  Listening is the physical act of perceiving sounds.  Hearing is soaking in words, phrases, and concepts.  Sometimes hearing doesn't involve one iota of noise, but rather relies on observation.

I heard my mother say many things during my childhood.

I heard my mother say I was important.  

She certainly showered me with words of affirmation and compliments during my childhood, but I learned I was important by her actions.  At every game, match and award ceremony, I could just glance up in the stands and see my mother perched on a bleacher.  She carved out time in her schedule to serve as my biggest cheerleader.  She made time for the things that were important and I was important to her.

I heard my mother say I was special.

Special is different from important.  Special appreciates the qualities in an individual that are unique.  My mother appreciated my uniqueness.  She encouraged me in my individual path by providing all the lessons, tools, and affirmation I needed to move forward.

I heard my mother say I was loved.

We were(are) a family that frequently tosses out the phase "I love you."  Rarely, the sun set without my mother uttering those words.  But I learned she loved me by how she responded to me.  The days when I was anything but lovable, she still treated me with kindness, gentleness, and warmth.  She showed me unconditional love (love that certainly wasn't merited by a cantankerous, mouthy teenager).

Years later, I'm grateful I didn't listen to my mother, but heard her voice loud and clear.