Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Insanity of School Supply Shopping

Despite the cooler temps, we visited the Monon Aquatic Center with Memaw, Papa, and cousins. 

 The older two boys and I hit the FlowRider, a surf simulator ride.  (Note:  I am the only one old enough to have a driver's license in the line.)

The reason adults opt out of the surf simulator ride: the next day I could barely move!

 Some kids prefer to spend their water park time this way...
 Papa gravitated to the Lazy River over the water slides.  Go figure.
Cooper desperately tried to reach the 48" height requirement for the mega water slides.  He stood on his tiptoes and stretched out his back.  The hard-nosed life guards wouldn't budge!
Fun was had by all.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, than I'm insane.  Absolutely crazy.

Exhibit A:  school supply shopping.

This is the umpteenth year in a row where I approached school supply shopping with optimism.  I insisted on including the boys in the purchasing process believing a trip down the Crayola aisle would collectively raise excitement about the upcoming school year.

I imagined the experience to be exciting, bonding, rewarding.

Hence, the insanity.

What I forgot was:

1) The school supply list is about as large as the phone book.

2)  The (wonderful) school teachers wouldn't dare request a singular folder.  Instead, it has to be a yellow, pocket, regular-sized, with fasteners folder.  Finding a yellow, pocket, regular-sized, with fasteners folder in a Walmart aisle that looks like it has been pillaged is a bit like finding a tiny button in one of those (delightful) I Spy books.

3)  Four boys see little need to strictly follow a school supply list.  In their minds, a teacher doesn't really mean to list Scotch tape when a Lego eraser set would be so much more fun.

After I'd spent an inordinate amount of time looking for an ultra-fine black sharpie appropriate for an art class, I lost it.  I whined, "This is just so, so, so....stressful."  It was as if a collective Amen went up from the school supply aisle as fellow mom shoppers joined in my sentiments and bemoaned their own list stress.

With the list (finally) completed, the four boys and I dragged two carts up to the register.  We piled a heap of school supplies (plus groceries...a true glutton I am) onto the conveyer belt.  The not-so-nice Walmart employee shot me a disgusted look.  She moaned, "You really need to separate the school supplies from the groceries on the conveyer belt."

Imagine if a swimmer who just crossed the Atlantic Ocean was greeted with "you should have done the backstroke instead." 

That's how I felt.  

I wanted to say: 

Lady, if you only knew what I've been through to get to the conveyer belt finishing line you would just say, "Congratulations." "Well done."  "I'll happily ring up your groceries and school supplies despite the fact that they are intermingled."  "Here's a medal."

I chewed my lip.  I kept it together. I said not word one.

I vowed to break the cycle of insanity next year.

Hope I remember.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Oasis amid the chaos

 Blogging seems to be on the back burner as life has been busy. First part of the week, we played with the Miller girls and neighbor friends.  
We got a kick out of watching neighbor girl Tate chauffeur Cooper, clad in wizard wear, around the block.

 The two youngest boys completed their last summer swim lesson.  Collin received his swim certificate and ran through the kick board congratulation line.

 Spent Friday night on the prairie with the symphony.  The Brinkruffs accompanied us to this cool July performance.

Finished the weekend with family in Cincinnati.  We enjoyed visiting with Uncle Matt, Aunt Heather, Aunt Andrea, and cousins.

Friday night I relaxed on a prairie with my husband and friends.  We plopped down blankets and chairs on a hill among a few hundred others.  We unpacked coolers and created a savory spread: an assortment of vegetables, fruits, crackers, and dips.

Our little prairie offered the most spectacular pastoral views.  We sat amid cornfields with patches of trees and brush outlining the horizon.

Within minutes, a makeshift stage glowed and the crowd fell to a hush.  A vibrant harmony swept over the prairie, a brilliant combination of winds, horns, and percussion.

The evening felt little like July.  The temperatures were brisk.  So chilly, in fact, that we swept up our picnic blanket and wrapped it around our knees and torso for warmth.

Snuggled under a blanket, among the stars, with friends, and full bellies, surrounded by the most amazing instrumentals...we were happy.  I thought how one would never assume this prairie sits just miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

It was an oasis.

In a busy, tumultuous week, it was welcomed.

It made me think refuges can always be found among chaos.  Perhaps they are not as grand as a symphony orchestra on a prairie, but they can be just as peaceful.

This week, I found refuge in several things:

-focused prayers,
-long runs where I could become lost in my thoughts,
-page-turning novels,
-precious moments with friends and family. 


Monday, July 22, 2013

Apple Camp

Today, the older two boys went to Apple Camp (with pal Emma).  Those born before 1980 imagine a camp held at an orchard filled with Galas, Granny Smiths, and Honey Crisps.  But for the Generation Y's, apples no longer connote fruit, but computers and igadgets.

Apple Camp stems from the brilliant minds of the higher-ups at Apple, that I'm sure.  It's a FREE camp that teaches the youth of America the art of computer cinematography.  During the 1½ hours of camp, parents are required to remain in the store.  What does one do in the store for 1½ hours?  Gaze/pine for/try out/buy....all the shiny new toys.

While the older boys busied themselves with creating a theme song, I watched my four year old master the ipad quicker than I can flip on the power.  He was having SO much fun that he didn't want to stop for anything, ANYTHING...not even a bathroom break.

Just about that time, I noticed a yellow puddle pooled on the floor and my son's newly saturated shorts.  I scooped him up and contemplated what to do.  It was one of those morally pivotal moments, do I:

A)  rush him to the bathroom, snag new pants, slink back into the store, and feign surprise at the fresh liquid blanketing the floor?


B)  fess up.  

I chose the road less traveled; I selected option B.

Clutching Collin's hand, we meandered over to a 20-something (seemingly childless) employee.  I tumbled out a confession with an accompanied apology.  His sparkling smile soured.  I offered to clean it up (with what, I'm not sure).  Begrudgingly, he declined my offer.

I chirped, "They should have a mop app, right?"

My humor fell flat.

I grabbed Collin and we took a swift trip to the bathroom and neighboring Gymboree (replacement pants).  On our return, we were greeted at the door by a yellow "CAUTION" sign and a scowling employee.  I refused to make eye contact and maintained an expression that read, "I wonder whose kid did that?"

At the end of camp, the counselors/Apple employee doled out homework instructions.  She rattled off a lengthy explanation peppered with terms such as zip drive, landscape, storyboards, and so forth.  The boys nodded their heads as if the instructions were as plain as day.  I wondered if this woman was even speaking English.

At home, the boys eagerly started their homework assignments: making a video.  Connor clearly had a vision and his vision needed to be played out by talented actors, or siblings.  He typecasted Cooper as the villain.  Cooper declined the role.  Negotiations began.  It quickly became apparent that Cooper can be bought.  For four quarters, Cooper agreed to the part.

Once filming began, Cooper proved to be a volatile actor.  He became the Lindsey Lohan of the set, prone to fits and creative disagreements with the director  We extras feared the film was doomed.  But then the director upped Cooper's wages.  A chocolate chip cookie was offered.  Cooper couldn't resist.  He played the villain well, but still with his own artistic flair.

The final footage is shaky.  The featured villain speaks incoherently (due to his mask) and flutters in and out of the scene with utter abandon.  The plot?  Not sure.  Climax?  Hmm.  Conclusion?  Who knows.  Greater moral statement? Beats me.

But the camera captured little smiles.

The point of Apple camp?  

Pure Fun.  

Constant Entertainment.  

Good Stories.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Excursion Days: Cures for Conflicts

 The boys had a ball at the Fort Wayne Zoo.

Ivanhoe's ice cream in Upland, Indiana was a huge treat!

A friend recently booked a cruise with her kids.  After she described the cruise features and amenities, she said, "I just want to go some place where I won't yell at my kids and everyone gets along."

We laughed.  If that place exists, I've yet to find it.

Today I felt a little like my friend.  I was ready for a day where my "yes" responses outweighed my "nos."  A day where the laughter exceeded the sighs.  (A mom can dream, right?)

I deemed today an excursion day−a day guaranteed to minimize conflict−and allowed the boys to select an outing (within reason).  They picked a trip to the Fort Wayne Zoo.  Done.

We packed up the car and made the trek to Fort Wayne.  The zoo was smaller than our "big city" zoo which in some ways made things easier for one mom greatly outnumbered by her boys.  We traveled past lions, monkeys, and zebras.  They stroked a giraffe's cheek−a first.  We piled into a log ride and sailed past a pack of wallabies and kangaroos.  They brushed a goat.

The 90-degree temps finally caught up with us and we cooled off at the renowned Upland, Indiana ice cream shop, Ivanhoe's.  With over 200 choices, the boys mulled over their decisions with the same intensity as naming a child.  When they finally made a decision−an orange sherbet milkshake and Kit Kat sundaes, they were pleased with their choices, as evidenced by the speed in which the treats were devoured!

During the entire afternoon they were angels.  Not a cross word or even a scowl.  

By the time we reached home, we were all still basking in the glow of our day. But then things started to unravel.  I blame it on fatigue.  One boy lost his Friday night movie privilege.  His response: I'll change my heart if you let me watch the movie.  Hmm...not sure it works that way.  Double sigh.

Welcome home.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kids are exhausting and expensive, but I'd have it no other way

Caleb was in heaven during the reptile show at Town Hall.

This summer, I've tried to spend individual time with each boy.  Every son seems to have a favored activity.  For Connor, he prefers any game that is painfully long and never ending.  This summer, his favorite choices include:

-kickball with just the two of us playing (can you only imagine how long that takes?)

-monopoly (no explanation required)

-checkers (I've heard this game can move swiftly, I've just never personally experienced it)

During those moments when I've circled the Monopoly board for the millionth time or run around the kickball bases until my head spins, I think about why I'm doing it.  I internally chant, "It's because I love him.  It's because I love him.  It's because I love him."  Amid these marathon games, I've been thrilled to discover Connor really opens up to me.

Today Connor and I squared off in a mean (and endless) game of checkers.  As we were nearing 45 minutes of play, Connor tossed out a random comment.

"I'm only going to have two kids," he announced.

I questioned, "Why?"

Connor engaged in a monologue about how kids are a lot of work and expensive and maybe if he was an NFL football player (like he plans) he could afford more than two kids.

I found his explanation both amusing and distressing.  Obviously he put some thought into the whole thing, but did his words mimic some of the sentiments that have escaped from my own mouth?  Have my whole "money doesn't grow on trees" lectures gone a little far?  Have I complained one too many times about exhaustion and fatigue?

I gathered my thoughts and told Connor that kids are expensive, but it's the best money we've ever spent.  They're tiring too, but I'd rather have my four little boys than rest.

He listened, but didn't comment.  I listened too and learned a thing or two about what I say and what little boys hear.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Selling Pet Ownership

 Stopped by a few relatives' houses today plus added on a visit to my childhood friend Katie's house.  She broke out her super cool water slide for my boys, her kids, and the neighbors.
 This one "cracked" me up.

 Two of my boys, Katie's kids, and two friends.
A friendship that has lasted 35 years.  So blessed!  Missed our friend Erin today!

For the last several months, we have seriously considering dog ownership.  Chris contacted breeders.  The boys read books and perused websites.  I.......tried to act like it wouldn't happen.  (Just kidding, sort of.)  What I did do was solicit advice from my pet-loving friends.  I've learned pet owners LOVE to talk about their pets.  They'll pepper you with advice, witty stories, tear-jerking moments, blog posts, book recommendations, websites, and on and on.

Typically, our conversations go like this:

ME:  We're thinking about getting a dog.

PET-LOVING FRIEND: Dogs are the best.  I love my dog, except for the time when he ate all of my socks and gnawed the legs off our kitchen table. Anywho, you'll love it!

ME:  We're thinking about getting a dog.

ANOTHER PET-LOVING FRIEND:  Dogs are wonderful!  Just know, the first two years are AWFUL.  I didn't get any sleep, the dog ruined our carpets, and he bit our neighbor.  Aren't you excited about getting a dog?

ME:  We're thinking about getting a dog.

ADDITIONAL PET-LOVING FRIEND:  Great!  Make sure you budget for a crate, vet bills, dog food, dog beds, electric fence, dog collars....what else am I forgetting?

After the umpteenth conversation like this, I wondered if pet owners need to collectively decide on a better sales pitches to give to us non-pet owners.  We're unconvinced!

But then I thought about how'd I describe parenthood to the childless.

CHILDLESS FRIEND:  We're thinking about getting a child.

ME:  Great!  You'll love it.  Just know the first two years will be rough.  You won't get any sleep and until the child is potty trained there is a high chance your carpet and couches will get stained.  Know children are expensive, crazy expensive.  I won't even itemized all you will expend.  What am I missing?  They're difficult at times.  They frustrate you to no end.  They break your heart like no other.  Despite all this, it's the best thing you'll ever do and you'll never understand a love as deep and strong until you become a parent.

See the problem?  The childless friend probably couldn't move past the scary intro!

...not that I'm comparing children to pets (but I sorta am).  

Perhaps I can't truly fathom the joys of pet ownership until placed in the role.  After Caleb's allergy tests last week, pet ownership has been tabled for a year, but it's something we're still considering and I'm opening my heart to the (good?) possibilities.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Little Things

 Feeling adventurous, we rent a double surrey and tour around downtown Indianapolis.  We quickly learn our ride was less of a social outing and more of a workout (especially when only the parents are peddling).  Collin misses it all as he was spending time with Grandma and Grandpa.
 The boys land at Camp Springhill.

 Chris enjoys another stint as the Camp Doctor.  
 Connor is thrilled that his cabin includes many best buddies from school.
Connor snags a favorite spot right away.
 Caleb stays next door to Connor at the "big boy" cabin.
 The camp mode of transportation for the kiddos.

 The non-campers tour the Hendricks County Fair.  We were wowed by the Miller girls' 4-H projects.
Erin, always the bad influence, encourages Collin to wear this Hail Purdue sticker.  Can't believe he is smiling while wearing black and gold! 

The boys and I stopped at Subway today.  As I ordered my sandwich, the boys explored the refrigerator.  Collin snagged a Powerade from the top rack and then glanced my way to gauge my reaction.  Delighted by my silence, he begged "Please?"  Insert puppy dog eyes and angelic smile.

I wanted to say "no."  No is a word that slips off my tongue with ease and frequency, but in a surprising turn of events (for all of us) I said "Yes."  "Why not?"  "One for Cooper too!"

The boys clutched red Powerade bottles and pranced around the restaurant as if they just won the lottery.

The Subway employee took in the scene with a smile.  He finally said, "It's the little things, right?"

I laughed and said, "I guess after 30, it's not that exciting anymore."

He nodded in agreement.

Later, I thought about our conversation and wondered, if Powerade is no longer exciting, what little things make me giddy at the tender age of 39.  I reflected back on the last several days and concluded that these "little things" shoot me over the moon:

-Little boys endless enjoyment over the hunt for pond creatures.  Watching boys squeal with delight when they cup a squirmy frog in a palm.

-Attending a church camp worship service with hundreds of teenage counselors.  Knowing good teens exist and fill the room.

-Grandparents kissing grandchildren goodbye and wishing them well at camp.

-A childhood friend who holds the same place in my heart today as she did when we were five.

-Free stuff from the fair.  (Candy, water bottles, plastic doodads, parking)

-Sweet text messages from my husband.

-A moment on the couch with my six year old.  He clutches a Dr. Seuss book and recites the silly phrases.  His words are disjointed, but sound sweet all the same.

-Two little boys playing with Legos without one single spat or harsh word.

My reactions to each thing are not be as bold and dramatic as my little boys' responses, but I'm just as happy.