Monday, March 24, 2014

When the Sports Field Feels Like Siberia

In high school, I played on the tennis team.  What I remember about tennis is:

-that we spent more time perfecting the look of our uniforms than practicing our forehand strokes (that may explain our unsuccessful seasons); and

-tennis seasons (which started in March) could be downright cold.

In fact, it could be so cold that we sometimes shed our stylish tennis skirts in lieu of bulky, lined sweatpants.  (A teen who choices practical wear over stylish attire is COLD!)  I remember one time when the ball froze in mid-air...  (Maybe not, but you get my point.)

I remember my "woe is me" attitude during those frigid matches, but I don't recall my mother displaying a matching demeanor.  Actually, I never really thought about my mother and how warm/cold/comfortable she felt in the bleachers.  You want to know why?  Because I was thinking of me.  Only me.

Lately, I've thought about my poor mother and those bleachers. I've thought about her because I am now a mother in the bleachers or along the sidelines of a frigid sports field.  And let me tell you, it's not pleasant.

Today I stood along the side of a soccer field watching Cooper dribble the ball.  It felt like I was standing in my freezer during a wind storm. I had layers on, but I'm not sure they make enough clothing for conditions like those.  At that moment, I wondered if Cooper could just play soccer on the Wii and get the same workout.  I'd be happy to sit along side him on the couch (indoors. in heat.)!

I desperately wanted to flee to the warmth of my car.  To scoop him up in my arms and say, "Let's think about choir instead!"  But parents don't do that.

Parents sit on the sidelines and cheer.  They slap on a smile and say not word one about the miserable conditions.

Why do they do that?

Because love transcends temperatures.

Because pride isn't blown away by the wind.

Because that's what our parents did.

Friday, March 21, 2014

School Projects: To Help or Not To Help

There's nothing that makes a mom feel more conflicted than a school project.

Take it from me.

To Help or Not to Help, that is the question.

When I was a kid, school projects involved poster board, a good set of markers, and the imagination of a child.


Those days are gone.  

Today's projects are fancy, elaborate, and high-tech.  They are to be made by the kids (wink-wink), but I've yet to find a third-grader who can do calligraphy or papier-mâché without some serious adult assistance.  Nor have I met a child with the artistic vision to transform a blank poster board into a three-dimensional, rain forest wonderland.

I'm crying foul.

And so I struggle.

Do I:

A)  step-in and serve as the voice of reason/taste/logic/direction/creativity on a child's school project;


B)  allow my child to craft whatever project his little mind can create knowing full well the finished product may appear about as legible as my doctor-husband's handwriting.

For Connor's latest project, I chose B.

Connor's assignment was to capture the essence of a Tasmanian Devil on a poster board.  He had a vision for his project; it went like this:
  • print out facts on Tasmanian Devils, 
  • cover board with brown paper, and
  • include a few pictures.
Done (and fulfilling the required guidelines of the project!).

I encouraged:

"Don't you want to make it in a Game Show Fashion?  Include some quizzes?"


"How about you dress as a zoologist?"

Seriously mom?

And so today he displayed his brown paper project amid a sea of museum-worthy masterpieces (aka school projects).  I gazed at the other stellar work and immediately felt unworthy.  Mommy guilt almost knocked the wind out of me.  Thoughts raced through my mind like:

"Why didn't I scour Pinterest for project ideas?"

"I should have bought a glue gun!"

"Why didn't I think about adding a motor?"

But I noticed that the one person who didn't seem to mind was Connor.

I asked, "Are you happy with your project?"

He beamed.

And so I stood a little taller.

I continued to wander around the room and soak in the scene.  Another mom stopped me to chat.  She cried, "My husband stayed up so late working on this project."

I smiled, "Really, I was up late watching TV."

And you know, I don't feel bad about it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Four Kids Means Four Times The...

Of all the accolades I want our children to receive, this award ranks the most important.  Congrats Caleb!

My husband has been a bit huffy lately.  He's scowled a bit more and, at times, retreated into a place of silence.  When I finally questioned his mood, he cried, "I feel like our life is on a roller coaster.  We're just so, so busy!"


The question is: 

Can we get off of the ride?  

Will we ever get off of the ride?

I don't think we fully thought this four kid thing through. When we were young parents with toddlers and a baby, we thought we were busy.  Four kids meant four times the amount of diapers, baby food jars, car seats, and toddler beds/cribs.

We didn't think we could possibly get any busier.

Then they grew.  

Suddenly, four kids meant four times the amount of preschool pick ups, story times, play dates, swim classes, and nap times.

Then they grew some more.

At that time, four kids meant four times the amount of kindergarten round ups, packed lunches, class parties, sight words, and math facts.

They kept growing.

Now four kids means four times the amount of sports practices, boy scout meetings, school conferences, homework (and more homework), projects, birthday parties, and musical performances.

Not to mention:

Four times the amount of laundry, clutter, dishes, and filth.

And don't forgot:

Four times the amount of shoes, coats, gloves, boots, pants, shirts, lunch boxes, and sports equipment.

But then I remember:

It's four times the amount of laughter, joy, and love.

Because of that fact, we'll stay on the roller coaster and figure out ways to make the ride less bumpy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Way to My Heart: A Clean Room

Cooper created this countdown to spring break.  He said, "I just can't get spring break out of my head!" Me neither.

Connor screamed, "Don't come in my room!"

Warning bells blared.  

I immediately worried about the goings-on in his bedroom.

Was he:

1)  covering up a large spill/break/dent/ding;

2)  trying to channel his inner Jackson Pollock by creating a splatter-masterpiece on the wall:

3)  putting the final touches on an explosive device; or

4)  harboring a stowaway animal (Please God, don't let it be a snake!).

I tried to suppress those thoughts; I had to force myself to remain in my room.

Within minutes, Connor appeared with a flushed face and a large grin.  "Come see my room," he beamed.

I expected to see a room in shambles, instead I walked into a spotless, orderly space.  I had to sit down. I almost needed to breathe into a paper bag and put my head between my legs.  I've never seen his room look so, so....clean.

You could tell he was so proud.  He escorted me around the room as a tour guide would a museum.  He pointed out special details.

"Notice the Lego boxes are lined up in a row."

"Did you see that the books are all in the box?" 

"I put all the toothbrushes back in the cup!" 

I oohed and aahed at every last thing.  I certainly wasn't feigning adoration; I was impressed.  Really, impressed.  This cleanliness came from the same boy that seems unaffected by filth and clutter.  The one who routinely needs to be begged/bribed/encouraged to take care of his space.  The same one who has a strong possibility of ending up on a "Hoarders" episode one day.

I pondered how this son could experience such a radical change in personality/lifestyle.  (Did God finally answer my prayers?)  As I watched Connor glow, I realized my son cleaned and organized his room for me.  He wanted to make me happy.  He wanted me to be proud of him.  He knew that clean,organized spaces make me giddy. He wanted to do that for me.

I was so touched by his actions, but a bit worried at the same time.  I want Connor to know that he doesn't have to keep a spotless room to be loved and appreciated.  I love Connor for who he is, regardless of the state of his room.  And so I praised his hard work and reminded him that clean or not clean, he is loved.  

(But let's try for clean!)


Funny from last couple of days:

Caleb:  We're playing "Sugar Games" in our Bible Study class.    It's like the "Hunger Games" but without the killing.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Insanity of Marathon Running

The carnage from my Boston Marathon training.

I'm 11 weeks into training for the Boston Marathon.  This week is the dreaded pinnacle week of the plan; the week where I seem to run farther than I drive.  Each morning, I slip on my (tired) running shoes and glance at the plan's suggested run/torture du jour.  As I read over instructions on intervals, pacing, and distance, I often question the complete sanity of it all.

I think, there are people out there with completely happy lives who have never run a marathon.  

There are people who are sleeping right now and will wake up rested.

There are people who don't know a lick about sports drinks, negative splits, and PRs, and are still content.

There are people who don't wake up with aches and pains due to the pounding of the pavement over and over again.

There are people who have never stepped onto a treadmill (let alone spent hours on one).

There are people who have perfectly smooth skin without the scars and raw wounds from chafing and rubbing.

There are people with pretty feet and perfectly polished toenails (not one single nail is black or missing!).

As these thoughts run through my head, I wonder why I am not one of those people.

It's because...

Those people don't understand the feeling one gets from running miles on end: the high, the freedom, the clarity of thought, the sense of accomplishment.  These are things that can't be understood without slipping on a pair of running shoes and racing further than you thought possible.  These are thoughts that continue to spur me forward just one more mile or 26.2.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

How To Clear Out a Pool

Best laid plans.  

I certainly didn't expect the afternoon to unfold this way.  When I escorted my four boys and one little friend to the pool, I envisioned endless play and fun.  Instead, an hour later, I stood on the pool deck watching a lifeguard wind "caution" tape around the outskirts of a vacant basin.

Why, you asked?

Look no further than my son.

While the boys splashed and frolicked in the pool, I noticed Caleb slowly cutting his way through the water towards the steps.  He lacked his usual pep.  His expression was downcast; his coloring was ashen.

Before I had time to ask, he cried, "I'm going to get sick!"

And then it happened so fast.  I didn't have a minute to react before he unleashed a flurry of....(yuck!).

And just like that, I landed in a pivotal mommy moral moment.  I debated my options.  Do I:

1)  yank Caleb from the pool, swear him to secrecy, and then feign surprise when the first swimmer notices floating chunks?


2)  fess up.  Admit to the lifeguard and fellow swimmers that my son was the reason the pool smelled/looked funny.

As painful as it was, I confessed to the lifeguard and he instantly jumped into action.  It was the pool equivalent of a "code blue."  The lifeguard blew his whistle and announced that all swimmers needed to evacuate the pool IMMEDIATELY.   I've never seen my children (and other children/adults) move so quickly.  Remember the scene in Caddy Shack when the doodie/Babe Ruth bar cleared out the pool?  Yeah, it went something like that.

Then the lifeguard rushed onto his walkie talkie.  He screamed instructions.  Management and maintenance workers raced onto the pool deck.  Immediately, the pool looked as if it had been the victim of a terrible hazardous waste crime.  All workers applied safety gloves.  (They were one step away from pulling on hazmat suits!)  Caution tape was applied.  Chemicals were tossed into the pool.  

An announcement was made that the pool was officially closed for 12 hours.  I tried not to make eye contact with the other (disappointed) swimmers, but I began to worry about our safety in the locker room among the angry masses.

I apologized profusely to the lifeguard.  He nodded, but seemed to quietly seethe.  I found solace in the fact that maybe one day he'd understand: the day he becomes a parent.

As we walked out of the pool, Caleb regained his vigor.  He asked for a bag of chips.  He fussed with his brother.  He appeared completely back to normal.

I sighed.  

Clearly this wasn't our day.



Monday, March 3, 2014

Preparing to Let the Baby Go

My friend Gwen gave me this sign.  I love it!  I put it by my kitchen sink and think about the blessing of my sweet boys every time I read these words.

The preschool sent an email to the parents.  Due to the high volume of snow days, preschool students could make up those missed school days on non-scheduled preschool days.  That meant my preschooler could bump up his normal three-day school week to a complete (five-day) week.

I greeted the news with mixed-emotions.  Collin is the baby, my last little boy at home.  I've become accustomed to his company on everything from grocery trips to doctor visits.  I imagined existing without my constant companion would feel a bit like a missing appendage with the accompanying phantom pains. 

But, I was also excited about the prospective of having SO much free time.  I envisioned all the productivity and fun that could be crammed into the space of five days.  Perhaps I would finally tackle my "size of a phone book" to-do list.  Maybe I would do something really crazy like organize my spice racks or color-code my sock drawer.  The possibilities seemed endless!

I chatted with other parents about their thoughts on the full-week of preschool.  Many voiced the same sentiments, "It's good practice for the kids.  It's preparing them for next year's jump to full-day, all-week kindergarten."

That made sense to me.

Today I dropped Collin off for his first preschool class of the week.  He skipped into class happily.  I was joyful too as I mentally mapped out how I would spend the next few hours alone.

I was still smiling when I returned home, but then I entered the house.  It was SO quiet.  I missed the sounds of squabbling boys, dribbling balls, and blaring (off-key) musical instruments.  I sat down at the computer and checked emails.  No one interrupted.  No one called my name or begged to get on the computer to do something really important like check the Pokemon website.  I grabbed a snack from the refrigerator.  I selected a singular snack.  Not one single boy emerged and asked for one too. (And so I grabbed a slice of chocolate cake just because I could.)

All the quiet, the peacefulness, the was a bit much for a mother to take after living a decade plus in constant chaos, clamor, and clutter.

Tears welled and my stomach felt like it had just been punched.  I resisted the urge to run down to the preschool and pluck Collin out of his classroom.  The rational side of me knew it was time.  It was time for him to prepare for school and it was time for me to let him.

I realized that this week isn't really about preparing Collin to attend all-day school, it is about preparing me.  The growing pains hurt, but I'm working on moving onward and forward (hopefully without the need to eat more chocolate cake).