Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When A Mother's Kiss No Longer Heals Wounds

 Definitely, the highlight of his fall break: raking leaves for three plus hours!  His expression mirrors his excitement over the whole experience!

We surprised dear friend Erin with a 40th birthday overnighter.  Love that I captured her excitement and surprise!

Sweets for the sweet birthday girl!

Thirty-five years of friendship flew by.  I love her more every year!

Five-year-old Collin raced into the room clutching his knee. Tears streamed down his face.  

He whimpered, "I hit the wall."

I pulled him into my lap and inspected the slight scrapes that covered his knee cap.  As my doctor-husband says, it was a "Drama One:" an injury heavy on emotion, and light on injury. 

"Do you want me to kiss it," I murmured.

Between sobs, he cried, "Kissing doesn't help it!"

I couldn't help but laugh, but then I reflected on the magnitude of his statement: he no longer believes kisses heal wounds.

When a child no longer believes in the healing touch of a kiss, he or she has graduated to a new phase of childhood.  Gone are the days of picture books, PBS shows, Megablocks, and naps.  The child has moved onto comic books, superhero shows, Minecraft, and sports teams.

When a child no longer believes in the healing touch of a kiss, hand holding is unwelcome; independence is craved.

When a child no longer believes in the healing touch of a kiss, mothers become supportive cast members; friends reign supreme.

And so I greeted Collin's words with a bit of sadness.  I pulled out a bandaid and attached it to Collin's knee.  His tears slowed, and he jumped off my lap and raced outside to play.

The bandaid soothed the injury, not a mother's kiss.  It's a realization every child will have, but at that moment, it's the mother who feels a bit wounded.   

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When Did Rides Become Scary?

Love family weddings!  

We all donned our finest duds and left the kids with sitters.  After years worth of interrupted conversations (thanks to a slew of little ones), we discovered we actually enjoy talking to each other!

Love the smiles radiating from two of my favorite guys:  my brother and Dad.

My very favorite guy!

The next day we headed down to Bloomington for IU's Homecoming.  We (my brother and sister-in-law too) tried our best to blend in with the co-eds, but the fact we brought seven kids aged us all!

Never actually made it to the game.  It's much more fun to climb stone walls and throw rocks in the creeks!

The annual Sample Gates photo tradition continues!

After the kids tired of campus, we headed over to Oliver Winery for play around the pond.

Cousins:  so much better than brothers (says the boys).

On Sunday, we headed over to Six Flags in St. Louis for Fall Break.  One of the first stops was the Ferris Wheel.  Connor was skittish about the height.

Slowly he began to warm to the idea.

Finally, he relaxed and enjoyed the ride and view!

The rest of the day we hopped from ride to ride until we practically collapsed from exhaustion.  

 St. Louis: Day Two.  

We traveled up to the top of the arch in an elevator the size of my shower.  (And yes, all six of us crammed into that space!)

Some viewed the journey to the top as a cool ride; others saw it as an instrument of terror.  

The picture that made the ride to the top completely worth it!


Appreciating the magnitude of the arch height!

After the arch, we filled our tummies at Fitz's Root Beer, as recommended by one of our neighbors.

It just didn't seem right to leave the place without trying a root beer float.

Of course, I had to make sure it was OK for the boys, as any good mother would.

And then we waddled over to the Forrest Park boat yard to burn the calories off on a paddleboat ride.

Day three:  St. Louis Zoo trip.

Caleb matched his wardrobe to the excursion!

It was as if he died and went to lizard heaven!

When I was a kid, my parents took us to lots of interesting places.  We traveled to many of those destinations on airplanes.  I recall those flights fondly.  I remember snacking on salty peanuts while downing sodas (a childhood novelty) and jamming on in-flight headphones.  Never once did I worry about safety.  Not once.

Weeks ago, I flew to New Jersey.  The minute the airplane taxed down the runway, my nails clutched the armrests,  making deep indentations into the leather.  My pulse quickened.  I offered up a few prayers.  My mind started to race.  

I thought about the pilots.  

Did they look old enough to fly? Did they get enough sleep?  Will they be checking Facebook when they should be scanning the control panel?  

I analyzed the plane.  

Did it appear sturdy?  Are there any cracks on the wings?  Did the engine sound solid?

As I spiraled into a wave of worry, I wondered when flying lost its appeal.

I had these same thoughts when we ventured to Six Flags this weekend.

As a child and teen, I adored amusement parks.  I gravitated towards rides that soared to unthinkable heights, whipped around curves, and pulled riders through loops.  Not once did I fret about structural soundness or operator error.  Not once.

But this weekend was different.  As I stepped onto each ride, my blood pressure rose.  Frantic thoughts raced through my mind.

Can this (seemingly) wimpy steel track clutch our cars?  What is Plan B if a cord snaps?  Does the teen manning the ride truly know what to do if this car skids off the tracks?  Did the engineer who designed this ride have the foggiest idea of what he/she was doing?  

The fun of the ride seemed lost on me.  

How and when did this happen?

I'll blame years of watching news reports and Dateline specials that cover accidents and tragedies and after each segment feeling like I learned just a little more of what "not to do."

I'll blame being a mother of four children and feeling like I have the responsibility to be around for a while to make sure the boys brush their teeth and date respectable girls and eat their vegetables.

I'll blame age and the feeling that life is fleeting and perhaps I don't want to meet my demise on the log ride.

But being a Fraidy cat is not a good think.

In fact, it's contagious.

It trickles down to one's children.  

I noticed this too when we went to Six Flags.

One son, particularly susceptible to his own range of phobias, fed on my unease.  He eyed the Ferris Wheel and refused to step foot in the car.

After much cajoling and coaxing, he (and the rest of the family) hopped into the car; we settled in for the rotation.  

At first, he was very apprehensive.  I was too, but I tried to mask my discomfort.  But as the wheel continued to spin, and we soared upward, he started to relax.

At the top of the rotation, the wheel stopped.  Chris made a joke about "being stuck."  I smiled (secretly plotting his demise when we hit solid ground!).

The nervous son gazed at the view.  A kaleidoscope of leaf colors blanketed the landscape and decorated neighboring hills.  The view was seemingly endless and absolutely spectacular.

He said, "You could only get this view from the top!"

I agreed and thought about the truth in his statement.  

The depth of beauty and joy this life has to offer can only truly be experienced if uninhibited or prevented by fear. 

 This is what I want my children to experience.

And so this is what I must model.

I vow to spend less time fretting and more time praying.  

And then, I plan to smile and enjoy the ride.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Knowing My Limits

My buddy and helper at Oktoberfest.  We were tattoo artists-in-training, manning the temporary tattoo booth.

Saturday night we soaked in Fall at my Aunt Kathryn's farm.  Uncle Gary fired up the tractor and carted us around the fields.  One relative found it hysterical to hide behind tree branches and leap out at our unsuspecting crew.  I may or may not have unleashed a blood-curdling scream.  

We roasted S'mores, guzzled cider, and raced four wheelers.  We all left with smiles.

We finished up our fall weekend at Stuckey's Orchard.  After traveling through the endless labyrinth of the corn maze, the next time I want to see a corn stalk is never.

In three weeks, I will be running a marathon.  This is my third marathon in the course of a year.  As such, my body has become accustomed to the training.  What used to be considered a long run, has now melted into my normal routine and become a bit commonplace.

This sets the stage for what transpired on Friday.

On Friday, I ran my longest run of this training period: 22 miles.  Afterwards, I felt tired; it wasn't the debilitating sort, but the curl-up-on-the-couch kind.  I pushed through the fatigue and picked up the boys from school.  That's when the day headed south.

I forgot two things:

1)  Even if I can function after 22 miles, I may not be functioning well.

2)  Four boys are a lot of work.

Did I mention four boys are a lot of work?

I decided that after school (post 22 miles) was the perfect time to take four boys clothes shopping.  (I can almost hear the gasps!)  

Marshalls was our first stop.  The boys gleefully perused the racks of athletic wear.  We selected a few finds.  Everyone walked out peacefully and happy.  Success!  I was feeling good.

Kohls was our next destination.  That's when things started to unravel.  One son expressed extreme displeasure over the shopping experience.  Another son became fixated on an over-budget sports jersey.  Two boys chased each other around the racks.  I could feel myself begin to fade.

That's when I saw another family meandering through the boys' department.  The mother wore a smile and seemed to have an angelic presence.  She pushed a stroller while doting on her other sons.  Yes, she was the mom of four boys too!  Her sons seemed to savor the shopping experience.  They were practically holding hands and belting out Kumbaya by the sweatshirts.

The contrast between the two groups of boys added insult to injury.  My internal dialogue went something like this: Why aren't my boys joyfully picking out socks and answering every question with "yes, mom," "you're right mom," and "This is the best thing I've ever done."

I could feel myself edging towards the boiling point.

But I'm not a quitter (or a slow learner).  We pushed forward.

We left Kohls and went to Costco.  By the end of the trip, one son was officially on my bad side.  I had stopped talking for fear of the words I would unleash.  My fingers gripped the steering wheel so tightly that I feared they'd leave permanent indentations.

At home, I plopped myself down on the couch in pure exhaustion.  A few minutes later, my youngest son snuggled next to me.  He uncurled his fingers and handed me a $5 bill.

"I'm sorry mom," he whispered.  "Here's some money."

(Later, when I told my friend this story, she said I should have responded that I don't forgive for under a $20!)

I pulled him into an embrace and we burrowed into the cushions.  I reflected on the afternoon.  Perhaps the boys weren't solely to blame for the afternoon's failures.  Maybe my fatigue fueled a short-fuse and low coping skills that set the excursion up for a disaster.

Lesson learned: Know my limits.

This applies to days when I'm running long or running on empty.  Those are the times when we should skip the unpopular shopping excursions or abhorred errand choices.  Those are the moments I should set us (all) up for success by engaging in simpler, less taxing alternatives.

Lesson learned.

I hope.

Did I mention I'm a slow learner?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Boo Season

The third son is the first to get braces!  

As such, I've been thrust into the role of "Keeper of the Braces."  I'm now his diet watchdog and oral hygiene enforcer.  Cooper's a smart one; he's quickly learned how to use the braces to his advantage.  "It hurts to eat broccoli, asparagus, and Brussel sprouts," he'll whine.  But somehow, the braces don't impact his intake of sugary items.

I had a blast running the Mallow Run Wine to the Line five miler with friends, but I think my friend Kara misunderstood my "let's just run for fun" idea.  At about mile four, I was sorely regretted the Mexican lunch I ate just hours before.

The best picture I snapped of my mother at her birthday celebration.  She doesn't look a day over 40!

When the calendar turns to October, the boys get excited.  Fall is in the air and Halloween is a mere days away.  More importantly, it's booing season in the neighborhood.  

Booing occurs after nightfall.  A knock is heard, and then little boys can't run fast enough to swing open the door.  The visitor is gone, but has left a trace of his or her appearance: a bag of candy and a boo notice on the porch.

Being the recipient of a boo is a bit like winning the lottery to the boys.  They can't believe their luck: free candy magically appearing on their doorstep...and it's not even Halloween!  They pinch themselves with glee!

Then comes the speculation.  The boys inspect the candy and the condition of the boo notice and offer up theories on which neighbor they'd peg for Kit Kats vs. M & Ms.  And discuss how so-and-so neighbor would likely skimp on the amount of candy vs. so-and-so neighbor who would more likely gravitate towards the "more is more" theory.

But the best part is that they boo back.

Last night, under the cover of darkness, the boys and I snuck into the van.  Caleb addressed his brothers as if they were his troops.

"Listen up," he uttered.  "This is a stealth mission.  We need everyone to work together.  We leave no man behind!"

His brothers nodded their heads in agreement.

We agreed on the target house and crept closer to our destination.  Caleb instructed me to park a few houses away and turn off my lights.

Then Caleb rehashed the plans with the precision of one directing a covert operation.  He assessed their readiness of the group and then issued the go order.  

The boys flew out the side and rushed towards the house.  The designated dropper, Cooper, descended on the porch and punched the doorbell.  (I suppose he's the one who would most likely to survive an enemy capture!)  Then I watched as all four raced back to the car, huffing and giggling at the same time.  

I manned the get away car and took care to uphold my part of the operation: leave the scene without being detected.

By the end of the night, we descended on three households. The boys felt confident they were undiscovered by their targets.  

We laughed about the experience while eating a Kit Kat.