Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A True Joy: Watching A Child Overcome A Fear

Over President's Day weekend, the family laced up ice skates and hit the rink.  Only one family member stood upright the entire time and that would be (drumroll please)!

 Connor transformed from a boy in 2015 into Knute Rockne, famed Notre Dame football coach in the 1920s, for the Hoosier History Wax Museum at school.

It's a mystery to me.  The fact that I have four sons, with the same biological parents, who exhibit such different personalities.  I could go on about the ways their personalities diverge, but this weekend I thought about their fear/anxiety levels.  

I have some sons who exhibit a total lack of fear.  They are the boys who can be found leaping from the top of the bunkbeds and scaling the pinnacle point of the playground.

Then I have other sons who comfortably fall into the "risk averse" category.  They shy away from activities that have even an iota potential of bodily harm or damage.  Although these are the sons I can most relate, they are also the sons missing out on amazing experiences and memories.  They are the sons who opt out of the roller coaster ride, but also the sons who likely will NOT end up in casts.

Connor is one of the fearful sons.  A fact that baffles many, as he is confident and successful in so many aspects of his life.  For the last several months, he's expressed a strong dislike and fear of public speaking.  And so when his class began the Hoosier History Wax Museum project that includes a 3-5 minute speech, he trembled.

Friday night, Connor's teacher emailed me.  Connor said he couldn't give his speech.  He blamed nerves.  The teacher was empathetic, but firm.  Connor was to give the speech on Monday.

Our weekend could be summed in this way: preparing Connor for his speech.  Every spare minute and late into the evenings, he practiced.  He practiced clad in pajamas, while watching his brother's basketball game, and while seated around the dinner table.  He practiced so much that I memorized the speech.

Monday morning rolled around.  I dropped him off at school.   The entire day, I sat and wondered about Connor's speech.  Did his nerves get the best of him?  Was he able to belt out the words without a moment of hesitation?

His teacher emailed me in the afternoon.  She said Connor delivered the speech without a hint of nerves.  I gleefully soaked in her words.

I was happy that Connor presented a good speech.  But more importantly, I was proud that he tackled and overcame a fear.  I realized one of the true joys as a parent is seeing a child really work at something and be successful, and this can only be seen when they face a challenge head-on.

Connor insists the speech team is not in his future.  It's probably not.  But, I'm thinking he'll approach the next school speech with a little less hesitation.  He earned it.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Valentine's Day Fail

We had our annual take-in Valentine's Dinner at home.  The boys think it's fancy...cloth napkins, real plates, tablecloth, and candles!

Always the life of the Valentine's party!

Nothing says Valentine's like a Hoosier Herpetology Shirt!

And pink lemonade was served!  In the boys' little lives, it doesn't get much better!

And unfortunately, we live in Siberia as of late.  The snow has made room for frigid temps.  Everyday I ask myself why can't we move to Florida.  (And mystery solved as to where all my hats are going!)

I think I'm the 90% mom. And 90% may be generous!  Holidays really drill this home to me.  It seems like I always get about 90% (again generous at times) right, and a strong 10% I miss.

This Valentine's Day was no exception.

I honestly thought I had every last Valentine's detail covered.  Three boys (middle school son is past valentine distribution) spent days diligently crafting valentines for each classmate and attaching a piece of candy to each.  (Lesson learned from a prior Valentine's: valentines need candy attachment.)

I sent out Valentine's cards to dear family members with plenty of time to arrive on the big day.  (Lesson learned from a prior Valentine's:  send cards early.)

I store-bought snacks for the Valentine's party at school.  (Lesson learned from a prior Valentine's: store-buying is so much easier!)

I assembled our annual stay-in Valentine's dinner with the boys.  I picked up the food, purchased their favorite pink lemonade, and set the table.  (Lesson learned from a prior Valentine's: boys expect Valentine's dinner tradition.)

I had Valentine's treats ready for the boys.  (Lesson learned from a prior Valentine's:  make sure treats are selected and ready for the big day.)

Then I attended Cooper's Valentine's party.  At one point, the kids snuggled around the teacher as he opened up his Valentine's box and admired all his hand-crafted and thoughtful valentines.  I realized I forgot to get valentines for the teachers.  The teachers of all people!  Why oh why!  Suddenly, I felt like a Valentine's failure.

The day after Cooper's Valentine's party was the actual Valentine's Day.  I was still feeling a bit in a funk from the previous day's Valentine's omission.  The boys rushed to the table and gleamed at the sight of the Valentine's goodies.  Each boy had a gift card and a small box of chocolates.

Connor opened up his box and admired the chocolates.  Then, somehow, the chocolates in his box tumbled to the ground and scattered all over the floor.  He burst into tears and lamented the fact that his chocolates were dirty and Valentine's Day was ruined.

Let me recap:  Valentine's Day was ruined in the span of the first five minutes.

Cooper gazed at his weeping brother and then at his own chocolates.  He walked over to Connor and said, "You can have my chocolate box."

Connor turned him down, but he stopped crying.

And just like that Valentine's Day was restored for Connor and for me.  With Cooper's little action, I witnessed what Valentine's Day was truly meant to be: a day to show the ones we love that they are loved.  I think the Hallmarks of the world tell us we show love in the form of a card or a gift, but I think love is better shown by the sacrificial offer of a brother to give up his chocolates.

This year, our Valentine's Day wasn't perfect (sorry teachers!), but it was meaningful and full of love.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mermaid Half Marathon-San Diego

Fresh off the plane to San Diego, we visited the Torrey Pines PGA golf tournament.  I know zilch about golf (just scored PGA tickets from our friend's brother).  However, I knew enough to identify this guy as Tiger Woods.  

 Soon after this hole, he dropped out of the tournament for back issues.

And this golfer is Phil Mickelson!


Second day in California, we hiked around this little piece of paradise.

And toured around towns that I hope to visit again.

 And imagined we were surfers.

Honestly, I'm expected to return to the Midwest after gazing at these sights?

Found this cross at the top of Mt. Soledad, an amazing place to take in views of all of San Diego and the ocean.

Day three, we awoke early and traveled down to downtown San Diego for the Mermaid Half Marathon.

Picture is totally out of order....But smiles tell it all!

Best rate yet!  I got a PR and dipped finally into the 1:30s.  This was my pacer during most of the race.

Claudia rocker her race with a 1:33.

Enjoying the after race glow.

Claudia scored a second place age group win.

I walked away with a third place age group win.

Stretched out our legs on an afternoon hike.  Someone forgot to mention the incline (and that we'd be walking six more miles)!

But the scenery made everything worth it!

And before I had a chance to blink, we were back on a plane home.  We traveled back over the mountains to the midwest.

Where I was met with a mountain of laundry and reality!

This morning, I awoke minutes before the boys.  With bleary eyes, I fumbled for the light and dragged myself out of bed.  If any morning required a solid dose of caffeine, it would be this one.  My body was still on California time, but my life and children were not.

Caleb greeted me at the door.  There was no grand display of affection.  No kisses.  No hugs.  No squeals of delight accompanied with "Mom, I missed you!"  Instead, he said, "I have lots of laundry for you to do."

And welcome home to me.

Back to reality.  The carefree, glamorous (well, we did "sort of" have a brush with a celebrity) weekend in California seemed miles (literally) away.  I was back to full time mom mode.  

And honestly, that was ok.

It was a weekend that we [Claudia, her friend (and now my friend too) Sarah, and I] squeezed the life out of every single minute.  Fresh off an early plane into San Diego, we jumped into the sunshine and tried our best to blend into the golf crowd at the Torrey Pines Golf Tournament.  In my book, the sport played second to the views along the golf course.  Pacific cliffs stood steps away from the golfers as if to ensure the athletes knew their place in the hierarchy of magnificence.

The next day, we continued to feast on the scenery.  A morning hike offered panoramic views of the desert landscape and the ocean.  An afternoon stroll took us through quintessential surf towns with easy access to sandy beaches. 

Day three, we did what we traveled to California for: to race.  Sarah, Claudia, and I ran in the Mermaid Half Marathon.  Much to my delight, the course flanked the (flat) bay and shied away from San Diego's notoriously hilly terrain.  I became Laura's, the pacer's, shadow for most of the race.  She kept me running a solid race and pushed me into the finish line seconds under my goal.

To celebrate, we spent the afternoon exploring another one of San Diego's park with trails.  This one was hilly.  The sort where one wrong step could result in an ER visit. (And did I mention the many warnings about rattlesnakes and mountain lions?)  But the views?  Oh the views!  San Diego you're killing me here.  You're making the rest of the country look bad.  We just can't compete!

The next day, we headed back to the Midwest.  We arrived in the dark and the cold.  The flat terrain and the endless cornfields welcomed me home.  I wanted to jump back onto the plane and return to the place where it is warm and beautiful.  But, home for me is more than sunshine and beaches.  Home is where there's a house full of boys and a place teeming with love...and laundry.