Thursday, February 27, 2014

Yucky Romance Parts

Connor and his friends Josh and Sam Wanner served as ball boys for a University of Indianapolis basketball game.  They were so excited! Thanks to Papa for hooking them up with the gig and Matt Wanner for the pictures.

The boys plopped down at the kitchen table.  They munched on after school snacks while I sifted through school folders.

"How was your day?"  I asked the group.

Between bites Collin offered,  "It was disgusting!"

My interest was piqued.  For a child that finds little experiences to be repulsive (and believe me, there have been plenty!), what could elicit such a strong reaction?  

I questioned, "Why was it disgusting?"

"Kids were talking about getting married. B* and S* said they will marry.  It was SO disgusting!" he moaned.

I could barely contain my giggles before asserting, "Yeah, that does sound disgusting!"

Cooper piped up, "If I ever make a movie, I'm going to leave out all the romance and marrying parts.  Nobody likes those parts anyway."

That did it.  I had to laugh.

I asked, "What about girls?  Do you think they like the romance parts?"

"Only moms," Cooper said.

I tried to commit those comments to my memory, to take a mental snapshot of the moment.  I wondered how many years will pass before they no longer find girls gruesome.   I'm betting one day we will sit around the same kitchen table and have a very different conversation about girls, romance, and maybe even marriage.

*Names kept anonymous to protect the innocent!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Introducing the Boys to Classic TV: 70s and 80s style

A bit belated, but these are photos from our family Valentine's dinner.  I suggested the boys wear a Valentine's Day outfit.  I was thinking along the lines of a nice red sweater; they threw on their (red) boy scout shirts.  Certainly we hold different visions of festive holiday wear. 

Cuddle time with one of my favorite cuddlers!

I sat the boys down and told them there are somethings in life that should be experienced at least once.  I rattled off a few traditional bucket list items —visiting national parks, exploring foreign countries, tasting exotic foods—and then dove into more commonplace experiences.  We brainstormed a few items and then jumped into the first on the list.  Experience #1: viewing vintage TV shows. And by vintage, I mean the TV programs that were a part of my the dark ages (the 70s and the 80s).

First stop: The Cosby Show.  

Thanks to Amazon, we accessed an array of Cosby episodes.  The Cosby Show was a favorite in my house during my tween/teen years.  I fondly remember Dr. Huxtable, alway clad in vibrant sweaters, delivering funny punch lines teamed with his signature animated expressions and physical comedy.  

I loved all the Huxtables and can't tell you which I adored the most.  Too-smart-for-her-own-good Sandra.  Flighty Denise.  Girl crazy/academically challenged Theo.  Independent Vanessa.  Baby Rudy.  I cherished them all.  With each episode, I felt like I was part of the family.  I was standing alongside them when the goldfish met his watery demise in the commode, when Theo pierced his ear, and when Vanessa got busted for sneaking out of the house.

The boys found the Huxtable clan to be absolutely hilarious and I appreciated the humor even more as I've slipped into the role of parent.  The kids and I mocked the wardrobes and the 80s lingo, but the meat of the show—the love and humor found in family— still captivates today.

Second destination: The Brady Bunch

With such a warm reception to the Cosby Show, the boys were eager to view the next sitcom.  As I flipped through the cable channels, I came across The Brady Bunch. It was as if the heavens opened and choirs of angels sang "hallelujah." 

The Brady Bunch was my all-time favorite childhood sitcom.  I dreamed of being a Brady.  Sitting between Jan and Marsha at the dinner table. Tossing the football out back with Greg and Peter (hoping it didn't hit my nose like it did Jan's!).  Braiding Cindy's hair.  Eating Alice's dinners.  Visiting Sam the Butcher.  And on and on.

I couldn't corral the boys quick enough around the TV.  The boys liked The Brady Bunch, but perhaps it didn't live up to my hype.  (I may or may not have called it "the best show to ever hit TV.")  They liked the fact that a heavy male presence was part of the family (although they didn't understand the need to add sisters).  The story lines kept their attention, but the pace of the action was slow.  That was apparent.  In our fast-paced, visually stimulating world, the Brady story failed to dazzle the boys.  But the frequent use of "neat-o" and "groovy" kept us all in stitches.

Third stop: The Dukes of Hazzard

I hold vivid memories of sitting on the couch next to my siblings gazing at the General Lee.  I recall Roscoe's silly antics and Bo and Luke Duke's fancy driving.  Who can forget Boss Hogg's nastiness and Lulu Hogg's color?  

When I discovered The Dukes of Hazzard on Amazon (also on cable TV), I thought the boys would be hooked.  It certainly had all the ingredients of a successful boy show: 

fast cars + chase scenes + a dog + good guys + bad guys = a winner.

The boys found the General Lee to be fascinating.  A car with a horn that blares "Dixie" and access only through the windows was perhaps the coolest thing they've ever experienced.  (I instantly wondered which child would be the first to attempt a window-entry into the vehicle...anyone else betting on Cooper?)  The chase scenes were fun, but special effects/stunt actions have certainly improved in a few decades.  I think my minivan could race faster than the General Lee!

Watching the show through parent eyes was an experience. Did Daisy's shorts shrink?  Did Roscoe's language become saltier?  Is the premise of each episode that law enforcement is a bunch of bumbling, corrupt idiots?  (Perhaps I'm reading into things too much.)  

(Word of warning to any parent: the word "virgin" was tossed out in the pilot episode.  That fact was not lost on the eldest Wood boy and sparked a bit of conversation!)

But decades later, The Dukes of Hazzard is still beloved by my boys.  Any show with cars scores well in their books, even if the video is grainy and the action is slow.

The boys and I have only hit the tip of the TV iceberg.  I have yet to introduce them to other "classics" such as Family Ties, Saved by the Bell, Knight Rider, The A Team, Different Strokes, Mork and Mindy, and more.  Just give it time.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Asperger's Growing Pains

This sweet homemade Valentine was made by Collin for his big brother.

The most challenging thing about having a child with Asperger's is the lack of understanding.  After many difficult moments, I'll shake my head and say, "I just don't understand."  I pray for understanding.  I ask God for the ability to see the world through his eyes.

Yesterday my prayers were answered.

He's been attending a social skills class filled with middle school boys on the spectrum.  I affectionally refer to his teachers as the "Autism Whisperers."  I swear they were directly sent from heaven to help my boy.  They are the most lovingly relentless people I know, pushing him beyond the point I think he is capable.  And just when I think he'll snap or crumble, he complies and grows in the process.  

He's changing.  It's not an easy change, but he is.  The process reminds me of childbirth; the experience is difficult, but the result is amazing.

Yesterday they forced him to explain a situation, to put words to his feelings.  He drew silent and scowled.  They pushed.  They refused to retreat.  He stood his ground for a while and then he caved.  Words tumbled out of his mouth.  I could see a picture.  I could feel his emotions.  I visualized the situation.  I understood. And when I understood, I had to fight back tears.  With one toe in his world, I had a glimpse of his life.  The experiences most of us find commonplace, he sees as overwhelming and anxiety-inducing.

It would be easy to let him stay in the place where he retreats when life closes in, but that won't serve him well.   We know that.  His teachers are working on him (and us).  They are pushing him out of the hole he burrows and into the (sometimes) scary world.  They don't use kid gloves, but they do use love.  For that, I'm grateful. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tween First at the Department Store

Enjoyed celebrating my friend Gwen and my 40th birthdays with our running friends.

When I was a parent of little ones, I eagerly anticipated the firsts.  I greeted the first clap, step, and word with pure joy, careful to chronicle every glorious detail in the confines of a baby book.

But as my children have grown, the firsts have dwindled.  The milestone moments have become less frequent and expected.

But today brought new milestone moments (of sorts).

Lately, I've noticed that either Caleb's pants have shrunk or he's gained a few inches.  Regardless of the cause, his high waters need to be replaced.  I loaded up the boys, prayed a few "Lord help me survive the store without totally losing it or them" prayers, and walked into Kohl's.

The Boys' Department sits in the back of the store.  To get there involved a jaunt through the women's lingerie section.  The boys could barely contain their disgust at the mannequins'  "barely there" ensembles.  Cooper covered his eyes and kept shrieking, "This is SO gross!"  I tried to suppress my giggles as I seconded his sentiments.

When we arrived at the Boys' Department, the boys dispersed and fluttered among the racks.  Caleb sifted through the selection and then pulled a few sweatpants into his arms.  We debated about sizes.  

"I think you need to try them on,"  I tossed out.

He looked stunned and then questioned, "Where?"

I motioned to a fitting room.  It was virgin territory for him;  He had never tried on clothes at a store.  I wasn't invited into the fitting room, but instead ushered to my place against an outside wall.  Periodically, Caleb exited the room and modeled his pants.  We debated about length and waist size.  Then, he'd return to the room and click the lock again.

Suddenly, I became fully aware of how Caleb had grown.  I can no longer sling a handful of 2T pants into a cart.  He's graduated to the stage where he wants/needs to be involved in the clothing selection process.  A little part of me found this weighty.

As I was still processing the fitting room first, we wandered over to the shoe department.  Caleb selected a new pair of running shoes.  He tried on a few, but they were all too snug.  It became apparent that Caleb had outgrown the boy aisle.  He was ready to move up to the men's shoe department.  

We walked over to the same shoe aisles where my husband shops.  The shoes looked ginormous and my knee-jerk reaction was to direct him back to the velcro, light-up, character-laced Keds.  I could barely contain my shock when he pulled a pair of adult-size shoes on his feet and

I kept mumbling, "When did you get this old?"

In the blink of an eye, he's graduated from onesies, footy pajamas, and character underwear.  I never grieved that fact until today.

The experience at the store was just another confirmation that my son is getting older.  His clothes are a reflection of his transformation from boy to man.  But just like he needs my assistance at the store, he still needs my guidance in his  life.  

I'll help him navigate the space into adulthood, but I'm realizing my place in his life will continue to change.  I won't be making his decisions and doing things for him.  Just like the fitting room, I'll hold a spot outside the door, hoping he can hear me over the wall, and praying he comes out from time to time and still listens to my words.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How I Look At A Morning

Loved eating dinner with my dear friend Erin!  Treasure our 35 year friendship!!  Enjoyed a postponed (due to weather) birthday celebration!

Pancake batter dripped from a dangling spatula and cascaded into puddles on the tiles.  Mounds of baking powder and flour took up residence on my kitchen counter.  Amid the wreckage stood Caleb, clutching the spatula and gripping a can of cooking spray.

He eyed the clutter and moaned, "I think I'm not equipped for this."

This being cooking pancakes.

I snickered and thought, "I think I'm not equipped for this either."

This being the morning chaos.

Some mornings, the boys slowly transition from bed to breakfast table.  They inhale spoonfuls of cereal in a sluggish state with nary a word spoken.  I treasure those mornings when I can gently ease into the daylight.

Other mornings, like today, they pop out of bed as if sprung free from the confines of a jack-in-the-box.  Their energy is contagious and magnetic; they seem to instantly gravitate towards each other.  As a collective unit, this boisterous bunch can be a bit much for one bleary-eyed mom.

This morning, the energy, the noise, and the mess were a bit overwhelming.  At several points in the before school rush, I had to bite my tongue and pray fervently for patience and self control.  I was spent, at it wasn't even 8 a.m!

On the verge of losing it, I paused and noticed something.  In the midst of the commotion, good things were happening too.  Once I looked past the dishes, the dirty clothes, and the squirrely behavior and really focused on my boys, little actions made me smile.

I caught Connor assembling and packing a lunch for his little brother.  He smothered dollops of peanut butter on slices of bread and placed the completed sandwich in a plastic baggie.

I focused my eyes on Connor's kind actions and not the sticky peanut butter residue splattered on the counter.  

I eyed Collin pulling on his socks all by himself without being prompted by many mommy nags.

I concentrated on Collin's obedience and independence without stressing over the minutes we would be late for school.  

I studied Cooper as he devoured a book.  He mouthed the words and seemed to savor the illustrations.

I appreciated his love of books and ability to read while suppressing the urge to hurry him along.

I gazed at Caleb flipping pancakes onto a plate.

I zoned in on Caleb's helpfulness while averting my eyes from the state of my kitchen. 

Once I adjusted how I looked at the morning, a wave of tranquility fell upon the house. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Best Play Ever

What do you do on a snow day?  

Go sledding, of course!  Pal Woody joined Collin and I on the sled.

It was the end of another snow day and I had run out of steam.  I reclined in front of the fireplace as the boys milled around.  

Cooper plopped down by my side.  "Wanna play?" he asked.

I inwardly moaned.  I certainly didn't have the energy to play stuffed animal catapult again.  Before I had a chance to respond, he continued, "Let's play massage!  You just stay there and we'll give you a massage."

My ears perked.  I certainly had the energy to play this game.  Why hadn't one of my brilliant sons come up with this idea before!

The boys introduced themselves with their massage therapist names.  One went by the name "Deathkill."  (Personally I felt like that name was better suited for the time we play tattoo parlor, but I let it slide.)  They instructed me to lounge on my belly.  Then they took turns rubbing or lightly (I swear, it was gentle) pounding my back.

To play my part to the fullest, I requested additional services: a hot beverage, soft pillow, and serene music.  The boys ran around tending to my every whim.  It. Was. Delightful.

It was all too good to be true.  I knew there was a catch.

At the conclusion of the massage, the therapist demanded to be paid.  The going rate for amateur home massages is $2 a boy.

It was worth every penny.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Finding Beauty in the Snow Storm

I saw this on Facebook the other day.  It made me laugh and nod my head in agreement.

I have a friend who moved to the Midwest from Texas.  She treats snow and frigid temps as a delightful novelty.  Every time our town is walloped with snow, I shoot her a text.

Me:  Doing ok in the snow?

Her:  Love it!

I predict that one day her response will change.  Someday she'll hit her breaking point.  She'll land at that moment where snow and cold transform from delightful to dreadful.  But as for now, she's smitten.  Her response to our intense winter is similar to my boys; their level of excitement and glee raises exponentially with the inches of snow blanketing the ground.

As I was out shoveling the driveway the dark (before round #2 of snow falls overnight), I reflected on how differently I react to snow versus my friend and my children.  When did snow become such a nuisance, a bother, a pain?  When did I develop such an adult-like reaction to snow?

Perhaps it was the first time I was forced to shovel a driveway?  Or maybe when I started navigating a vehicle along slippery, slick street?  Or the times snow cancelled plans and ruined get togethers?  Or moments where I feared icy sidewalks would break bones and twist ankles?

As I piled snow drifts onto my shovel, I cursed the snow. I scowled and grimaced.  The roar of a snow blower snapped me out of my private pity party.  I watched a man push his snow blower over to another neighbor's driveway.  He took his time clearing that driveway completely.  

His little act brought tears to my eyes.  You see, that driveway belonged to a neighbor who just (unexpectedly) lost a teenage son.  I thought about the kindness and care he was extended to that family with his little gesture.

I'm not a fan of snow and cold, but moments like that made me once again see the beauty in the flakes.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Finding the Right Notes

To make things really confusing, it was neon day AND the 100th day of school.  To commemorate both, Cooper took on the form of a bright centenarian.  

Collin and buddy Nathan get the sillies out before swim class.

Caleb's band quartet became the proud new owners of gold medals!

The boys were all about the Super Bowl today.  Even Lego play revolved around the big game.

I discovered running at the age of sixteen, accidentally.  Running wasn't on my radar.  I was a volleyball player, until I was cut from the high school team.  My high school "tragedy" turned into a blessing.  I adored running and performed well for the team.  Running became my passion then and still today.

Because running is such an integral part of my life, I imagined it would somehow be embedded in my children's DNA too.  (Perhaps they'd even emerge from the womb clad in a sweatband and running shoes!)  I dreamed about the day I'd cheer my sons along from the track sidelines.  I anticipated that my boys would be as smitten by running as their mother.

But my boys aren't me.  

It's a lesson I imagine many parents learn.  Our passions may not be their passions.  Our gifts are not their gifts.

This lesson was hit home yesterday.

We spent our morning at a band competition for Caleb.  I think it was apparent to all involved that I was a band competition newbie.  It was like walking into a brand new world filled with different vernaculars and customs.

In this musical world, Caleb thrived.  I watched him play a number with his quartet.  In his bow tie and cummerbund, he looked so grown up.  He stood confidently in front of the judges and spoke for the group.  I listened as he belted out the medley, hitting the notes just right.  He beamed when he walked away with a gold medal (three by the end of the day).

I thought about how many times I've watched him on a sports field...awkward, miserable, and defiant.  He wasn't meant for a sports field.  Perhaps he was meant for the concert hall.

More than likely, Caleb won't take a shining to running, and so I need to take a shining to his passions.  And I so I relish in the title of "band mom."