Monday, September 30, 2013

Grateful

I scanned the room.  Pictures of smiling children flanked the walls.  An assortment of American girl dolls coated tables.  Pop music and Disney tunes piped through speakers.  If one didn't know any better, the scene would appear festive, light.

But it wasn't.

A white casket—in a size way too terribly small—stood in the room.  Two grieving parents remained by its side.

We stood in line waiting to express our condolences and pay our respects.  I tugged on Chris's sleeve and whispered into his ear, "I don't know what to say?"  What do you say to parents that just lost their seven-year-old daughter?  Most words seemed trite, not powerful enough to express the depth of our sympathy.  Chris shrugged.

By the time we landed face-to-face with our friends, words came.  Hugs were exchanged.  Tears flowed.

We inched away from the casket and struck up a conversation with another friend standing nearby.  Her countenance was heavy.  Tears streamed down her cheeks.  She recounted the connection between her daughter and the deceased little girl.  They were in class together.  Neighbors.  Friends.  

She sobbed, "My daughter said 'Why didn't God take away the cancer like I prayed?'"

She paused, "What do you say?"

I soaked up her words and ruminated on a response.  Finally I said, "These things we don't understand, but we know God works all things for good and His glory."

She softened.

I imagine finding the good will be a process and something that may be witnessed in years to come.

When we returned home, the boys were still awake.  I pulled them into impossibly tight hugs, grateful beyond words.










Saturday, September 28, 2013

Holding A Head High

I had a son make a bad choice this week.  It wasn't a life-changing bad choice, but a "wish ya hadn't" sorta choice.  He was caught in his malfeasance and a punishment was doled out...publicly.

I listened to his story and then I doled out advice and suggestions.  He hung his head low and expressed a deep sense of embarrassment and remorse over the whole ordeal.  

"I'm not going back," he cried.  "I can't."

"You can," I replied.  "You will."

That's when I knew he was about to embark on a major life lesson; he would learn the art of holding one's head high when it would be so much more comfortable to crawl into a hole.  A lesson even adults find difficult!

I clutched his shoulder and gazed into his eyes.  I said, "Remember, we are not defined by our mistakes.  You are not defined by your mistakes.  You are more than your mistakes.  You are walking into a room of imperfect people.  They'll forget about yours in a week, if that."

He rallied.

The next night he returned to the "scene of the crime."  He was quiet.  I could tell he was nervous.  But he pulled his shoulders back and held his head high.  That a boy!  That's my boy!

















Thursday, September 26, 2013

Boston Marathon Bound

My cheerleading section at my Boston qualifying race.

Yesterday I received some much anticipated news; I was officially accepted into the Boston Marathon!  To say I was excited would be an understatement.  Running the iconic Boston Marathon has been a dream.  (A nightmare sometimes, depending on the training run!)

I knew qualifying for Boston would be tough.  I've heard the statistics.  Runner's World Magazine said only 10% of finishers who run U.S. marathons qualify for the Boston Marathon.  But as my son's swim coach says, "We don't know our limits until we push them."  And so I pushed and ran, and ran some more.

Running the Boston Marathon is important to me.  I decided it would be my birthday present for my 40th year.  In some way it has eased my feelings about hitting this milestone year.  At 40 and beyond, I vowed not to be "over the hill" but to run over the hill (Heartbreak Hill, that is).  As they say, age is only a number and the only number I plan to wear proudly is my Boston Marathon bib number.

Can't wait to run down Boylston Street in April! 














Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Blessing of Children

Cooper, our little salesman, about to embark on his first round of Boy Scout popcorn sales around the neighborhood.
When Fall officially began on Sunday, Cooper was ecstatic.  He couldn't wait to rake leaves.  Too bad there's few fallen leaves!

I wrestled with what to post today.  As always, I have plenty of material.  The boys didn't disappoint with their share of funny antics and discourse within the last few days.  As another boy mom said, "We don't make these things up; we just record them." 

But my heart isn't in to writing funny today; it's too heavy (broken, really).

A little seven-year-old girl in our town is battling Leukemia.  Since her first post, I've followed her Caring Bridge site religiously.  Months ago, the news was positive, hopeful.  Things were looking good.  But then she took a turn for the worst.  Her health declined, drastically.

This morning's news was dismal.  My stomach twisted into knots and fresh tears streamed down my face as I read the latest.  

The boys watched my reaction.  They know a little about this  child's battle and have sent the family cards and included her in prayers.  At the breakfast table, I gathered them around for more urgent prayers.  As we offered up petitions for healing, I peeked an eye open; every single boy had their hands folded, eyes closed, bearing an expression of deep reflection.  Nothing short of a miracle!

After the prayers, I announced, "I'm sick for that mother.  I would be devastated if anything happened to one of you!"

Connor piped up, "Well, at least you'd have three more sons!"

I couldn't suppress a smile through the tears.

"True," I said.  "But no one can replace the loss of one child.  No one."

As the day progressed, I busied myself by tackling a rapidly expanding to-do list.  Number one on the list: plan a birthday party for Cooper.  As I contemplated all the money and effort involved in a party, I groaned.  Party planning is not my gift.  But then I thought about birthday parties.  We hold birthday parties to celebrate another year of life.  Another year of precious time with that child.

Today I am grateful for experiencing the "hassles" of planning a birthday party.  I pray that mom has another birthday party to plan for her daughter too.  












Friday, September 20, 2013

R.I.P. Dear Goldfish

Connor and friend Cooper stand next to Andrew Luck's locker.  In awe!

For the last several weeks, he was my companion in the kitchen. As I scoured pots and pans, he watched.  When I chopped veggies into little bites, he seemed to take notice.  He made no comments about my cooking (or lack there of).  On his place atop the kitchen counter, he frittered his days away, gliding around the confines of his watery home and nibbling on goldfish flakes.

He was Frito the fish and he was a part of our family for the last two weeks.  

Frito came into our lives at the Fall Festival.  Caleb made a lucky toss at a carnival game and won a coral-colored goldfish.  He was elated.  In Caleb's world, it was if he held the winning lottery ticket!

I eyed Frito with pity.  History taught me carnival fish last about as long as matching socks in our household.  But I wasn't about to dash the excitement in one son's eyes and so we brought Frito home with great optimism that perhaps this fish would be different; this fish would be a survivor!  

The first day home, I checked on Frito constantly.  Each time I expected to see Frito's lifeless body floating along the surface.  But he made it through that first day...and then the next...and then a week....and on it went.  Frito long outlived the fish that preceded him in that tank.  Things were going along swimmingly (literally) ...until yesterday.

Chris watched the boys in the morning while I went out for a run.  When I returned, I glanced over at Frito's tank.  Water stood in the tank, but its inhabitant was missing.  When I asked about Frito's whereabouts, Chris motioned to the commode.

Immediately, I worried about the boys' reaction.

"How did you break the news to the kids?" I asked.

Barely looking up for the computer, Chris said, "I told them Frito was dead."

"Were those your exact words?"  I moaned.  "You're an ER Doctor; you tell patients bad news all the time.  Is that your delivery?  Straight to the point?  Don't you have a gentler, more humane way of letting someone know a loved one has passed?  Why didn't you say something like, 'God needed one more goldfish in that celestial pond in the sky?'"

Exasperated, Chris said, "It's. A. Fish."

True, but he was our fish, if just for a little while.

Chris said the kids took the news in stride.  They were more concerned about the breakfast menu than Frito's fate.  It seemed the only one reacting to Frito's passing was me (the same person most reluctant to add him to the mix).

I pondered the reason for my reaction.  I realized that Frito added joy and excitement to the boys' lives.  They were constantly content to watch Frito swim laps around the tank.  In a world where entertainment gravitates towards fast-paced images, I appreciated the simple pleasure Frito brought to the boys.  And for that, Frito will be missed.  












Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Outrunning Mom



Connor's football team practiced at the Colts Practice Complex.  For an eight-year-old boy, life doesn't get any better!

It was Jog-A-Thon day at school—a fundraising event for the PTO.  Here's how it works: Students run laps for an hour and earn donations based on pledges per lap.  Parent volunteers stand along the course marking the number of laps completed with tally marks on a child's shirt.

Cooper ended up with 21 tally marks (roughly 5.25 miles!).

Before you call Cooper the next Carl Lewis (OK, maybe that's just me!), let me explain Cooper's phenomenal showing at the Jog-A-Thon: his mother showed up.

I wasn't planning to attend the Jog-A-Thon.  I had a day filled with projects and errands galore, but a little thing called "mommy guilt" overtook me.  I imagined my sons trotting along the path with gloomy expressions, desperately missing their maternal cheerleader.  

Guilt won.  

I headed for the Jog-A-Thon.

The Jog-A-Thon was already in full swing by the time I arrived.  Children dressed in their official Jog-A-Thon shirts were walking and jogging along the course.  Parents lined the route and some fell into stride with their children.

Immediately, I felt at home.  I may not have mastered the school's laminator, but running is something I know a thing or two about.

I spotted Cooper.  His face was flushed and his hair was matted down to his forehead.  His shirt was wet.  He looked beat, but continued to pound the pavement.

We locked eyes and I jumped onto the course.

"Hey Cooper," I chirped.  "I'll run some laps with you!"

He huffed, "No, that's OK." 

Cooper sped up. 

"It will be fun!  I can help you finish up your laps," I gushed.

Cooper started to sprint.

Suddenly it dawned on me: He was trying to shake me and I wasn't interested in being shook.

My inner voice screamed, "On no he didn't!" and I fell into an equally swift sprint.

"Cooper," I gasped.  "You can't outrun me.  I run marathons!"

He shot me a look that said, "Wanna bet?" and ran faster.

We whizzed past parents and spectators.  Perhaps they thought Cooper was racking up laps to earn big bucks for the PTO. 

Ha!

I knew better.

Cooper was darting around the course to beat/ditch his mother.

The thing is: Cooper reminded me of me.

Ages ago when I ran cross country, somewhere along the race course my mother would emerge.  She'd pop out from around a curb or behind a hill.  Once our eyes met, she'd run along side me and cheer me along.

I ran faster when I saw my mother.  It was partially because she spurred me on with her inspirational words and encouragement, but it was mostly because I wasn't going to let my mother outrun me (never, ever, ever).

Cooper had that same fire today.  He wasn't about to let some middle-aged mama whomp him.  He had pride, after all.  Of course, I was bummed a bit.  In my mind, I had us running laps in unison, sharing a memory and treasuring the time.  But I was also proud.  An inner fire and drive is not a bad thing.  It gets people places, in the least it helps them outrun their mothers. 


























Sunday, September 15, 2013

Guided Minivan Tour


 Collin and his buddy Nathan paid a visit to the new playscape at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.  

 Had a great time celebrating my dear friend Cara's 29th (ahem) Birthday!
Finished up the weekend picking/eating apples at Stuckey's Apple Orchard.  

I offered to drive a friend's son to preschool.  My friend was eager to accept my offer but her tot had his misgivings.  In an effort to ease his transition into my car, she suggested he and I have a "meet and greet" followed by a guided tour of my vehicle.

When she tossed out the idea, I giggled at the thought of a van tour.  I can't think of many (even little ones) that would scan the confines of my minivan and think, "Can't wait to jump into the backseat of this sweet ride!"

How can I say it...

My minivan is well-loved (to put it kindly). 

Honestly, its shabby appearance can thrust my car aficionado father-in-law into convulsions.  

As for a guided tour, I rehearsed what I would say....

"Welcome to the Wood minivan.  Before we start the guided tour, I'd like to offer a few safety instructions.  Remember, never light a match.  We can't rule out the existence of combustible materials in the backseat.  And, if you have any heart conditions, this may not be the vehicle for you."

After a few hard tugs at the "automatic" door, I'd brace myself for that first "ooh" (or "ugh") moment when the complete backseat is exposed.  The tour would continue....

"I'd love to talk about some of the perks with riding in my car:

Have confidence in the fact that you'll never starve.  Should we ever be stranded, we could feast for weeks on the amount of goldfish crumbs that litter the floor!

Every day is a new experience in the minivan.  Sifting through the "goodies" on the floor is "like a box of chocolate's, you never know what you're going to get."

Finally, my vehicle has little to no chance of ever being carjacked.  Even the criminals have higher standards!"

In conclusion...

"Please remember, we are not responsible for damage to clothes, shoes, backpacks, or mental stability.  

Now, what about that ride?"



















Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cool Enough for School Cafeteria?

Lunch buddies!

Yesterday, my plans changed and a free hour was left wide open.  I decided to surprise the boys with a guest appearance at their school lunch tables.  

Eating lunch in the school cafeteria is an experience. I wasn't a big fan of the whole school lunch scene the first time around, and decades later it appears as if little has changed.  [OK, one big change...I've heard (via my boys) that peas are no longer served with lunch.  Back in my day, it was a school lunch staple and the bane of my existence!]

Connor was giddy to see me.  He immediately pulled me into a hug and paraded me around the room like I was a celebrity.  I felt a bit like a rock star as we walked arm in arm.  We sat at the table and giggled with his friends over a silly game of Telephone.  It was glorious!

Cooper's lunch was different.  I greeted Cooper by the trays and tried to pull him into a hug and plant a kiss on his cheek.  Cooper pulled away right at the moment I was leaning forward and puckering up.  It was like a scene from an awkward first date where the suitor is left smooching thin air.

At the lunch table, Cooper permitted me to sit near him...a few seats over.  I tried my darnedest to play it cool for the remainder of the lunch period, not fessing up to the group that we were in any form related.  As he left, he allowed me to snag a "high-five."

Cooper's lunch period confirmed in my mind that there is such a thing as karma or pay back (whatever term one prefers).  Several decades ago, I was Cooper.  As attractive, smart, and wonderful as my mother was then (and now), I did not embrace her warmly when among my peers.  She was my mother, for pete's sake, and mothers can't possibly be cool (so I said back then).

As the years progressed, my mom's cool status rose and I grew into a Connor.  I was proud to parade her around and eager to be in her presence.

And so I walked away from Cooper's lunch without a bruised ego.  Give it a decade, I told myself, I'll be redeemed in his eyes.  

















Monday, September 9, 2013

What We Got From the Fall Festival

 We snagged curbside seats for the Zionsville Fall Festival parade.
 Waiting for the parade to start was hard for little boys.  So much excitement!  (Note Cooper's right hand.  Cursing the lady that handed out cowbells to little spectators!)
 The boys were absolutely giddy over the amount of candy they received!
 The Zionsville Eagle generously donated to the boys' bulging candy stash.
 Caleb's friend Nicholas joined our crew.  


Post-parade, the festivities continued at the carnival in the park.  This ride was more Collin's speed (literally).  

 After a full day at the Zionsville Fall Festival, we headed over the Indianapolis Airport to welcome back the Indy Honor Flight.  Friends and family members packed the airport atrium eager to greet World War II veterans from their trip to the World War II monument in Washington, D.C.

 Great Uncle Bud was one of the returning World War II veterans.  
 Cousin David had a sign too.  
 Connor waved his sign proudly.
 Enjoyed visiting with other family at the airport:  Aunt Kathryn, Cousin Laura, and Aunt Linda (among others).

The weekend after Labor Day is a favorite for our family; it's Fall Festival weekend in our little town.  The boys know one important thing about the weekend: they will walk away with stuff, and lots of it.

The accumulation of stuff began at the parade.  The minute our backsides landed on the curb, we were handed plastic sacks big enough to store a wardrobe.  Within seconds, the first goodies arrived.  A balloon from a local insurance agent.  A toothbrush from a dentist.  A pencil from a politician.  And so it went.

The bags were already starting to swell when the parade started.  That's when candy rained down like manna from heaven.  Each float, fire truck, police vehicle, cheerleader tossed out stray pieces.  The boys lapped up the candy as if they hadn't touched a lick of sugar in years (as if).  By the end of the parade, each boy lugged around enough candy to stock the Halloween goody aisle at Target.

But it didn't end there.

We followed the parade with a trip to the carnival.  At the carnival, the boys became the proud owners of a blowup hammer, plastic ball, and (wait for it) another goldfish.

The acquisition of the goldfish caused a ripple effect of new purchases (or begged for purchases).  I told Chris it was a bit like "If You Give A Mouse a Cookie".....

If you give a kid a goldfish, they'll need an aquarium tank.

And so you'll purchase an aquarium tank.  Then, you'll realize the tank needs decorating.

You'll purchase a plastic palm tree and some rocks.  Despite the tree and the rocks, the fish looks lonely.  So, you'll purchase more fish.

Once you've purchased more fish, you realize all the fish need more food.

You'll buy food.  Then, the boys will insist the fish need more friends.  They'll plead for more pets.

(Caleb suggested we buy turtles.  He said, "They're great animals because they won't attack you in your sleep!"  Whew!)

Anyway, the truth is.....

If you go to the Fall Festival, then you'll became the proud owner of stuff.












Thursday, September 5, 2013

Say Cheese

 Daddy and Collin pose before Collin's first day of preschool.
 My little man, so excited for his first day.
 Time for cuddles with mom too.
 He insisted on a silly picture.
This picture (although blurry) makes me want to cry.  It shows Chris walking Collin into his preschool classroom.  This is our very last time walking a child into a preschool classroom on the first day of school.  A little part of me hurts just thinking about it!

The minute I dropped the kids off at school, I slipped on my running clothes and pounded the pavement.  With frustrations aplenty, I quickly fell into a swift rhythm.  I tried my darnedest to unwind from my hairy morning with each stride.

It was the morning I dread all year: picture day.  My boys greet picture day as warmly as a tooth extraction or math test.  They know picture day means I select "church" clothes for them to wear  and they, in turn, comply and smile on cue.  Easy peasy, one would think.  But for boys that don't see the value in showering (we just did it yesterday!), teeth brushing (can't we just swish around water?), wearing underwear (no one sees it anyway), convincing them to slip on a polo shirt and matching shorts is a feat not to be undertaken by the faint of heart.  

This year, I tried to bypass some of the morning conflict.  The night before,  I placed a perfectly appropriate picture day outfit next to their dressers.  They noticed but said not word one secretly praying picture day would magically disappear or perhaps, even better, I'd forget (a very likely scenario!).

This morning, the grumbling began.  They tried every tactic in a little boy's arsenal:

Nobody else's mom makes them dress up for picture day.

Seriously doubt that one. 

I'll wear the top, but I'm putting basketball shorts with it.

Not a chance.  

I'll be uncomfortable.

Don't talk to the woman who wears Spanx and high heels about comfort!  

They slowly realized defeat was inevitable, but they weren't willing to wave the white surrender flag just yet.  They decided if they were going to wear church clothes, they'd do it with their own flair.  Connor slipped on a stripped polo shirt with gingham shorts.  Cooper pulled out a turtleneck (with temperatures predicted in the high 80s!).

I couldn't take it anymore.  I unleashed the mother of all rants proclaiming that:  


  • I don't ask for much. 
  • I watch them go to school everyday in clothes that look like they're ready to hit the gym.  
  • I endured weight gain, labor, childbirth, and breastfeeding for their behalf.


So, please, oh please, put on the stinkin' CHURCH CLOTHES!  (And don't forget to smile!)

They did.

We'll see if they smile.  




















Monday, September 2, 2013

Vacation's Little Pleasures


The rough life of a six year old!
Grandpa's Party Boat.  (Sure wish Cooper would get over his fear of the camera:))
 Connor and friend Nicholas pose with first mate"Hannah Banana."
 Cooper and cousin Grace took the first ride on the tube.
 Connor and Nicholas went second.  
 Last but not least, Chris and Collin rode at a more modest speed.
 The highlight of the weekend for Chris was going to a Notre Dame football game with Connor and friends.  
 The highlight of my weekend: attending our friend Ashley's wedding.  
 The beautiful bride and her handsome groom exchanging vows.  
 After the ceremony, I snagged a moment with the gorgeous bride.  
 Loved sitting with my friend Ali at the reception.
 First dance!
 The highlight of the boys' weekend: Grandparent time!
One more shot!

We'd been on the road for maybe 30 minutes when a little boy in the backseat whimpered, "My tummy's not feeling good."

I did what I always do when I receive this sort of news: try to talk him out of it.

"I really think you look fine," I chirped.  "Your cheeks even look a bit rosy, like you got some color this weekend!  You simply glow!"  

Unconvinced, said son repeated his mantra.

"I bet if you simply close your eyes it will all go away," I suggested/dreamed.

He moaned.

Plan B:  Bribery

"I just know a nice piece of gum will make you feel better," I gushed.

He cradled his stomach and began to take on a greenish-tone.  

Plan C:  Stop the car ASAP.  

Houston, we have a problem.  

We squealed into a gas station and I slid open the van doors.  Within seconds, said son shot his head out the van and spewed vomit all over the grounds of pump 11.  Sincere Apologies to that lucky Speedway Gas Station!

Now that's when you know you're on vacation!

Our "vacation" weekend was spent at Grandma and Grandpa Wood's house in South Bend.  At one point in the weekend, Cooper confided in Grandma, "The best part of vacation is watching TV in the morning!"  (A novelty in his world!)

Ah, I thought.  It's the little things that's truly make it a vacation for the boys.  

On vacation to Grandma's house, the boys:

-drank root beer at dinner,
-slept on an endlessly entertaining air mattress,
-inherited a 2008 pocket calendar (Cooper acted as if he won the lottery!),
-discovered Grandma's stash of donut holes (Caleb sniffed that one out!),
-and on went the list of amazing "little things" that made their vacations.  

I realized that it's the little things that make a vacation for me too. 

I:

-never washed a dish,
-placed not one single finger on a laundry machine,
-sat on the couch and did....absolutely nothing.
-and on and on went my list of vacation pleasures.

It's the little things that made this weekend fun and indeed fun was had by all.