Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mission Impossible: Doing Everything



The boys did their best yesterday to look cool.  I think the hats and smug expressions helped!

Chris called from work.  

"Watcha doing," he sang.

"Working," I mumbled over the phone lines.

He teased, "Not cleaning the house?"

I'm sure he expected a chuckle and a round of friendly banter.  Instead, I greeted his response with silence.  Unbeknownst to him, his comments touched a soft spot in me and stung.  

For the last couple of days I've felt like I'm neglecting our home and all things related to my job as the homemaker (kids, husband, etc.).  Piles of mail and school projects seem to be multiplying on my kitchen counter.  Dust and dirt are procreating.  To do lists sit untouched.  Children went to school today without library books and gloves.  

I've been busy, you see.  I'm writing another magazine article.  Gleefully I accepted the assignment, but didn't anticipate the amount of work and the short deadline.  And so I've spent whatever free time I have grinding away on the article (it seems) to the detriment of my home.

After I hung up the phone with Chris, I scanned my filthy house.

I desperately wanted to:

A)  Cry profusely,
B) Yell loudly at anyone or no one,
C)  Drink as many caffeinated drinks as I could slurp down so I could pull an all nighter and accomplish absolutely everything during those twilight hours (and still be completely fresh the next day),
D) Clone myself in an amount equal to the number of my projects/responsibilities, or
E)  All of the above.

E.  

I chose E!

I think about Ann Voskamp.  She penned "1,000 Gifts" while tending to her six home schooling kiddos on a farm.  Or there's the Duggars.  They wrote several books while raising 19 kids (and counting).

If they could do it, surely I could draft a few articles while still tending to a home, a husband, and only four boys. 

But I wasn't.

I contemplated how to proceed.  Writing for magazines is what I love to do.  It's what I enjoy.  But then another little part of me that feels guilty.   An inner voice shames me for being selfish and neglectful.

A voice of reason seeks a compromise.  Surely, I can do both.  But how?

And so I mentally formulate a plan.  A new way of operating so I can write free of guilt and without slighting all my other responsibilities.  I think of ways the boys can pitch in more with the housework and take over more personal responsibilities.  I readjust expectations.  I remind myself that the house can stay messy for a season (or until I reach a deadline) without the world crashing down.  I make a vow to keep my priorities in line: faith and family first over house and work.

And so I continue to write, making time for family dinner while refusing to make eye contact with the laundry. 

  













Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Brother Bond

An old picture of Connor and Collin.  Love this shot!

Before we added each new son, I braced myself for the reaction of the older siblings.  I tried to make the transition positive and smooth and so I gathered advice from seasoned moms.  I read books to the boys that touted the joys of being a big brother.  I tried to lavish them with attention even as I cradled a new baby bundle in my arms.

Amazingly enough, the addition of brothers two and three caused nary a ripple in our family.  But, the addition of brother number four was not as peaceful.  Connor, four-years-old at the time, was distraught.  We were shocked.  Connor was the one that rolled with the punches and tended to maintain a sunny disposition regardless of the circumstances.  But Connor was so disruptive while I was at the hospital tending to his two-day-old brother that Chris left my bedside and devoted some individual time to his sassy son.

 With such a rocky start, one would never expect that those two turned into the best of buds (definitely the strongest alliance among my brood of boys).  There's a bond between those two brothers that makes me smile and pray that their relationship always stays that strong.  Connor relishes his roll as the heroic older brother.  In turn, Collin laps up all the attention and affection showered upon him by his older brother.  It works for both of them and it makes me happy.

Lately, Collin is struggling with a nasty case of separation anxiety.  He greets transitions into the preschool class or the Sunday school class with batches of tears and a round of wails.  I braced myself for Collin's same reaction this morning to a preschool drop-off.  Connor understood the situation.  As Collin was preparing to walk out the door, Connor handed him a green, furry stuffed animal about the size of his little brother.  It was Hopper.  One of Connor's favorites.  Something Connor doesn't part with easily.  Something he won at a birthday party.

Connor pulled his little brother over and asked, "Would you like to bring Hopper to preschool with you?"

Collin's face erupted into joy.  He snagged the stuffed animal and waltzed out of our house.  At preschool, Collin lugged this ginormous (really Connor, you couldn't pick a smaller one?) stuffed animal around the halls.  Then, he practically skipped into the preschool classroom, sans tears or any sort of drama.  I could tell he was proud.  I knew it really wasn't about the mangy stuffed animal in his arms, but more about the adoration he had for the brother that gave it to him.









Saturday, January 26, 2013

Empathy

 Enjoyed a Thai lunch this week with my sweet friend, Cara.

 Collin invited a few preschool/neighbor friends over to our house for a casual birthday party.  At Collin's Batman birthday party, the kids had to crawl under "laser beams" to get to the treasure.  

 Then, they played "Batman, Batman, Joker." The Superhero version of "Duck, Duck, Goose."
 A pizza, apple, and goldfish lunch followed the games.


 A Batman cake was the favorite part.

Of course, Collin appreciated the present opening the most!

Caleb has a classmate infatuated by diseases.  His friend is so enthralled with the subject that he planned a party to educate his classmates on the topic through games and other activities.  He called it the "Parasite Party."

Caleb was giddy about the party invite.  Although Caleb is more of a reptile guy, I think he appreciated the fact that a fellow classmate held such a passionate and distinct interest (like him).

Today was the party.  I picked him up two hours into the celebrating.  He waltzed into the car happy.  Without me digging for details, Caleb said, "I feel sorry for Nicholas.  He spent so much time preparing for the party and lots of the kids didn't appreciate it."

I almost jerked the car off the road.  He statement was so darn sweet and more importantly so...empathetic.

Empathy.

It's something I've rarely seen from Caleb as he tends to stay in his little bubble, vastly unaware of the emotional responses of others.  But today's comment gave me hope.  He did understand the emotions of another and it made him sad.

I showered Caleb with praises on his comments, hoping to encourage a greater awareness of the emotions of others.  I hope he could tell I was happy, over the moon excited, about his consideration.




Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Baby Turned Four


 Per the Wood family tradition, Collin opened his birthday presents with breakfast.  He was so excited when he received these Batman pajamas.




 The birthday boy requested his day be spent at the children's museum.  We brought his preschool pal, Hadley, along with us.  The kids had so much fun!
Dinner was capped off with a red velvet birthday cake (thanks to Memaw!).

Tuesday night, I crept into Collin's room.  He was nestled under his blankets, hours into a deep slumber.  I swooped him into my arms and carried him into my bedroom.  I placed him on my bed and tucked him under my covers.  The transition caused nary a ripple in his sleep as he continued to doze.  

I gazed at my little boy.  I soaked in the image realizing I was looking at my little three-year-old for the last time.  Within hours, he would turn four.  FOUR!  There's something about four-year-olds that seem just so much older than threes.  Four-year-olds dress themselves, use utensils, and don't need to be carried.  Four-year-olds are preschoolers, not toddlers, not babies.  A little part of me ached.

I put him into my bed to savor those last few minutes.  The last moments I'd have with a three-year-old.  I knew in the morning, he'd look and act the same, but somehow he'd seem older.

I've had trouble coming to grips with the fact my last baby is turning four.  For weeks, I've told him in jest "I'm not letting you have any more birthdays."

Two days ago, he said to me, "Mom, even if you won't let me have any more birthdays, God will."

It's true.  I can't stop the birthdays and so I'm working on curbing my grief.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Birthday Blessings



 The six of us went out to lunch for my birthday at an Indian restaurant.
In the evening, we celebrated with birthday cake.  (Don't you love Cooper's disco pose?)  Cooper looked at the candles on this cake and asked if I was 39 or 93.

Thanks for all the wonderful birthday wishes today.  So blessed with wonderful family and friends. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Birthday Celebration Alone?

 Collin and I celebrate our birthdays together at my parent's house.
 Collin is so excited to open big presents.
After all the celebrating, Caleb and Papa enjoy a board game.

On my birthday eve, Chris offered to give me a little "time off."  He suggested I spend the afternoon alone doing, well that was up to me.  I was ecstatic and began formulating plans for a glorious, peaceful afternoon.  I imagined spending hours meandering through the mall or sifting through the racks at a book store.

That never happened.

One child needed discipline.  I changed my plans to watch that child endure an extended time out at home while Chris left with the other boys for a planned afternoon outing.

Sure, I was disappointed, but I quickly came up with a Plan B.  Time at home would be just as fun, I reasoned.  I'll work on my writing and other home projects.  Feeling sleepy, I opted for a nap instead.

Minutes into my slumber, a son burst through my door.  He loudly exclaimed, "Mom, we decided we couldn't leave you on your birthday so we all came back."

I opened one eye to see him perched next to my bed waiting for my reaction.

I tried not to groan.  

Within minutes, Collin sustained an injury (with chopsticks, don't ask) and another twosome began to argue.

Plan B...officially out the window.

Plan C.

Time with family.  Maybe a chance to squeeze in an errand alone.

And so went the afternoon.

How birthdays change once little ones are in the picture!

 

 

 


   

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Confidence on the Court


So proud of Caleb.  Here is his latest masterpiece!

Cooper joined a basketball team filled with kindergarten boys and girls.  Saturday was his first game.  

From a folding chair on the side of the court, I watched the game.  Eight little players darted around the court engaging in something that only slightly resembled basketball.  Dribbling was sparse.  Successful baskets seemed few and far between.  Offense and defense appeared to be foreign concepts.

Cooper snagged the ball several times and ran (literally ran..no dribbling) down to his goal.  At first, he attempted to make a few baskets.  Each shot fell flat.  Airball after airball.  Cooper began to notice a teammate's play.  This particular boy seemed to be the only one with even a hint of athletic ability and the good fortune to make a few successful baskets.

That's when Cooper became the master of the assist.  Everyone time he ran (remember..literally ran) the ball down the goal, Cooper passed the ball to his athletic teammate.  This little boy then catapulted the ball into the basket, many times successfully.

As I watched Cooper's play, I began to question his performance.  I wondered if Cooper was being a savvy player or a fearful one.  I'm certainly glad that Cooper found a way to maximize team points by utilizing the athletic talents of a teammate, but at the same time I don't want Cooper to always feel like his success depend on another's success.  I'd like Cooper to have confidence in Cooper.  I want Cooper to know he can be the leader too and not always the follower.

After the game, I commended Cooper on his excellent team work, but then encouraged him to work on his own shot.  I told him not be afraid of missed baskets.  Success comes with practice.  The assistance of teammates can aid his efforts, but shouldn't replace his own work.  I reminded him, I'm always cheering for "Team Cooper."
  




 




Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Putting Things In Perspective




 The temperatures hit the 60s this weekend!  The boys and I hiked at a local park.  (Yes, Cooper is wearing shorts...in January!)  They had a blast throwing rocks into a semi-frozen pond and watching the ice crack.  The little things!
That night the rain came and the cold returned.  I think we all felt a little like this.

It began Saturday night. A torrential rainfall pelted our house.  By Sunday morning, showers continued, but in a softer, more sporadic fashion.  

The rain took a toll on our house.  It flooded our basement and seeped through an upstairs window.  As I scanned my saturated house, I was officially over rain and water.  My mood turned foul.  My countenance soured.

Later that night, from a pocket of dry space within the house, I worked on an article on Zambia I'm writing for my church.  I conducted a phone interview with a parishioner who leads mission trips to Zambia. He talked about the drought that plagued Zambia over the summer.  He said a Zambian pastor arose every day at 3 a.m. to search desperately for water for his village.  The church stepped in during the crisis and purchased a well for the village providing water for many.

After I finished the interview, I thought about how much of my day centered on water.  

Our water nuisance.  

Zambia's water crisis.  

It certainly put things into perspective.  I decided right then and there not to complain.  






Saturday, January 12, 2013

When Mom Is Embarrassing

 Cooper cuddles with Coach Dad.

Chris hands out stars to Cooper's Upward basketball team.

I want to make more connections with my boys.  With that goal in mind, I've tried to make little affectionate gestures towards each son.  Like this week, I slipped lunch box love letters into my son's lunchbox.  I scribbled "I Love You" on paper napkins with a row of XOXs and my name.  I tucked the notes in between his peanut butter sandwich and potato chips.

The response?

Nothing.

So finally, I asked whether he received anything special in his lunch box.

Without looking up from his book, he sighed and said, "Mom, can't you find a less embarrassing form of communication!"

And there it was.  I was embarrassing.

Gone are the days where he screamed and clung to my neck when I left him in the church nursery or the preschool class.  When he raced to the door when I got home and swooped me into an embrace.  The days where he treated me like a rock star, like his everything.

Now, he yanks his hand back to his side when I reach to grab it.   When I try to pull him into a hug, his body stiffens so it turns into one of those awkward side hugs.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my title of a rock star.

A little part of me hurts.

But then I remember doing the same thing to my parents.  Years where I treated them more as pests than parents.  The funny thing is as I aged, my parents turned into something better than rockstars...confidants/mentors/friends.

And so I'm waiting (eagerly) for that day too.









Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Asperger Success

This picture was actually snapped a few days ago, but still makes me laugh.  I guess when you shovel snow you get hungry.

The other night, my autism support group met at a Mexican restaurant.  Over tortilla chips and sizzling fajitas, we shared the joys and challenges of raising our spectrum kiddos.  At one point in the evening, a mom had us in stitches as she discussed her son's antics on the soccer field.  Soon, other moms chimed in with their own tragic/comic (depending on the story) experiences with their specturm children and sports.

Finally, I cut into the conversation and asked, "Has anyone here ever found success with their spectrum children and a/any sport?"

Not one single hand was raised.  

Mine certainly wasn't.

I've blogged about it before.  Sports and my Aspie son just don't mesh.  I've made peace with that fact and searched instead for other non-physical activities that could provide social opportunites and allow him to develop special skills.  He's attempted a parade of activities, anything from the Boy Scouts to science classes.  He's greeted each new opportunity with anything from mild anxiety to kicking and screaming defiance.  Somewhere along the way, I gave up.  I couldn't do it anymore.

We/I took some months to regroup.  Weeks and days where we/he just mastered going to school, doing homework, and functioning with the family.  But in the back of my mind, I knew the time would come where we'd attempt an activity again.  I prayed we'd find a fit.

Over Christmas break, my son mentioned art classes.  I practically jumped out of my seat with delight.  He wanted to do an activityYipee!  Yipee! I couldn't run fast enough to the computer to search local art classes and offerings.  I quickly signed him up for a beginner art class at a local studio.

He seemed jazzed about the classes until minutes before we walked out the door.  Then that old familiar anxiety reared its head.  

He wasn't going.  

He made that VERY clear to me.  

This time I took a different stance.  We'd take baby steps, I assured him.  Let's just look at the studio.  That's it.  No more.  Promise!

Shock beyond shock, he agreed.

Within minutes, we landed at the art studio.  It was a small room nestled in the confines of a historic, brick building.  Multicolored children's artworks lined the walls and seemed to be displayed in every nook and cranny.  Boxes of crayons, pencils, and paint sets took up residence on bookshelves and tables.  My son scanned the environment and immediately softened.  He seemed at peace.
  
He fell into the group and listened to Jenny, his art teacher's, discourse on Frank Lloyd Wright.  From my position in the room, I couldn't see my son, but I could hear his voice.  As Jenny talked, he chimed in with fact upon fact about Frank Lloyd Wright's work (things he's read in books).  I know it sounds annoying, but actually his words added to the discussion and were greeted by the teacher with care and appreciation.

Jenny gave each child a paper replica of a Frank Lloyd Wright creation to color.  My son received a picture of the stained glass window featured in the Coonley playhouse.  He worked dilligently and gleefully coloring in every single shaped window pane.  He varied the colors but focused on a mixture of neons and bright primary colors.  His final product looked bright, cheerful, hopeful even.

I stared at his picture and thought, this is how I feel too. 

 



Monday, January 7, 2013

Go Irish

OK, so the picture came out poorly, but here's my dear husband over the moon excited about tonight's Notre Dame game.

Weeks ago, my husband burst through our front door clutching a white piece of paper.  He was beaming as he announced, "I have my January work schedule."

"Great," I replied.  "Did you get a day off work for the BIG day?"

He grinned, "Yes, I'm off on the night of the Notre Dame game!"

I couldn't help but chuckle as I explained, "The BIG day I was talking about was my birthday."

Chris shot me a sheepish smile.

Tonight is the night Chris has dreamed about for at least this season (maybe his entire life).  He is over the moon and back excited about tonight's Notre Dame game.  He's been clad in an array of Notre Dame garb all day...changing shirts once.

Today, Cooper found a way to really get under Chris's skin.  Anytime Cooper was irritated with his father, he announced his allegiance to Alabama.  I know I shouldn't laugh, but I couldn't help chuckling just a bit.