Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kindergarten graduation: the pain of letting go

Boston runners converged with Indiana runners in Burlington, Vermont for the Vermont City Marathon (and to celebrate Jessica's big birthday!).

Never seen in Indiana: a dog with dreadlocks!

The night before the marathon, we savored the sights (and the chill)!

Minutes before the race started.  

The fact that we were in tanks and not the least bit cold was my first clue it was going to be a tough marathon.  Heat and hills were a toxic mix for me.  Unfortunately, it was a slow (and miserable) race. Nevertheless, I finished.  Another marathon complete.

Days after returning home, I watched my "baby" graduate from kindergarten.  

Trying my best to celebrate my new first grader!

I completed my sixth marathon on Sunday.  It was a miserable experience that I don't plan to replicate......for months.  And at that point, I hope I remember the glorious parts of the race (I plan to discover those with time!).

But those grueling hours on my feet were nothing compared with the pain I experienced at Collin's kindergarten graduation.  It was a different sort of pain.  It wasn't the kind that makes me clutch my side, but it was the sort that makes me hold my heart.  

Collin is the baby of the family.  It's a term I will myself to never utter in his presence.  Boys don't want to be called babies.  They like to be big boys or men.  I try to remind myself of that fact.  But, he's my baby.  He's the one that I can still pick up.  The child that still wants his mother to cuddle him in a chair and read him a book.  The son that still finds enjoyment in matchbox cars and superheroes.

Yesterday was his kindergarten graduation.  I watched as he walked across the stage and received his kindergarten certificate.  He hugged his teacher, and he didn't once look into the audience to seek reassurance from his mother.  He was excited.  He was thrilled to be with his friends and eager to enter the next stage of his education as a first grader.

After the diplomas were distributed, a slideshow flashed on the screen.  The audience gazed at images of smiling children engaging in playground fun and classroom antics.  

My heart burst and the floodgates under my eyelids crashed open.  Cue the waterworks.  Enter one blubbering mess of a mother.  I was one step away from collapsing on the floor into the fetal position.  He was no longer a sweet infant I could cradle or a curious toddler cruising across the kitchen floor.  My baby is a first grader.  I blinked and six years flew by.  

By the time the program was finished, I pulled myself together and tried to convince my sons allergies got the best of me.  They are no fools.  Collin raced back to our group.  He was grinning. I tried to mimic his expression.

In the span of a week, I experienced two sort of discomfort, but kindergarten graduation was by far the most painful.  But like the marathon, with time, I'll see the glorious parts too.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dangers of Big Families: Being Left

Warning:  be prepared to be hit with a random compilation of photos.

I've been on a blogging break.  May is busy.  With what, you ask?

Field trips.  

Photo is the best a dad chaperone can snap in a cave.


Family time.

Mother's Day.

The sweet photographer at the church tried her best to capture the perfect mother's day picture.  She must have taken about 300 pictures before our crew wore her down and she admitted defeat.


Love the photobomber behind us!  Even bought cowboy boots to blend in with my fellow country concertgoers.

Did I mention field trips?

A garage and bake sale.

And more sports, end of the year concerts, and award ceremonies!

Every big family has at least one story.  The time when one child accidentally gets left behind.  It's almost like a requirement to get into the club of children who come from big families.

We had such a time last week.

It was one of those nights where most of our gang was on the soccer fields, while Caleb and I attended a track meet.

Around 6:45, I received a text from Collin's soccer coach.  His tone appeared light as he asked, "Are you guys picking up Collin?"

Soccer practice ended up 6:30.  Chris was his ride. 

I frantically texted and called Chris and received no response.

I talked to the coach, and Collin seemed fine.

6:55.  Coach texted again.  Collin still stood on the soccer field.  No response from Chris.  At this point, the coach agreed to take Collin back to his house.

7:00.  Finally hear from Chris.

He was so busy with ferrying a few other children home from soccer practice (as well as our children), that he forgot to take Collin home.  Evidently, he was pulling into our neighborhood, when one of the boys casually mentioned from the back, "Hey, where's Collin?"

Upon hearing this question, one son reported that Chris looked pale and screeched out of the neighborhood.  He made it to the soccer field within minutes.  (One son gladly reported to me that he thought Dad may have been driving over the speed limit.)

And how did Collin fare during the wait?

When he saw his Dad race onto the soccer field, Collin appeared disappointed and uttered, "Does that mean I can't ride in the coach's van?"

No harm done.

Kids from big families learn to be tough.  They become resilient.  They realize life doesn't always work smoothly, and so best to enjoy the ride....once it comes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Best Mother's Day gifts

Love these pictures from last weekend's baptism.

Saturday was spent on the soccer field.  On the sidelines, I visited with friends and neighbors.  Most conversations turned to Mother's Day and expected plans.  I outlined how I imagined the day would go:  church, lunch, soccer game, and then tending to the boys alone when Chris raced off to work.  Sometimes I would emphasize the fact that I would be solo with the boys most of the day as I hoped to conjure up a morsel of pity. (And to properly debunk any notion that my Mother's Day would be glamorous, lazy, and pamper-filled.)

After reciting my plans to yet another friend, she said, "So, you're just being a mother on Mother's Day."

We laughed, but something in what she said stuck.

I realized I had been bemoaning my Mother's Day because I felt that the day deserved a grandiose present or elaborate celebration.  But, the best gift I could receive on Mother's Day are not found in a jewelry box or in the form of a spa gift card, but in my children.

I wasn't just being a mom on Mother's Day, I was blessed to be a mom on Mother's Day.  All four boys, with their accompanying joys and challenges, are the best possible gifts.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Common Foe Unites a Neighborhood

It was a good day!  Two sons were baptized at church by the youth pastor and Chris. These are the best pictures we could snap without totally making a spectacle of ourselves at church!

Baptism was followed by a birthday lunch for Papa's 70th birthday!

Grateful for so much family to come!

And we celebrated my niece's and nephew's birthday too!

After family left, the neighbor kids congregated in our yard to fight a common foe.  See blog post.

Quite frequently a pack of neighborhood kids congregate in our yard.  The group is composed of a sweet mix of kids that love each other, but rarely agrees on anything.  A conflict over the placement of a kick ball base can unleash a feud rivaling the Hatfields and McCoys.

Tonight I was fiddling with dishes in the sink when I peeked out the kitchen window.  I noticed neighbor kids trickling into our yard.  One was armed with a water gun.  A recipe for disaster.  It only takes one "accidental" spraying to release a typhoon of tears and trouble.

But then I became distracted, and thoughts of water guns and neighbor kids slipped my mind.

Fifteen minutes later, I return to my post by the kitchen sink and peeked out the window.  I spied the pack working in unison.  Intrigued, I placed my kitchen towel by the sink and slipped out the back door to observe the scene more closely.

Caleb screamed, "Everyone grab your best weapons."

The neighbor kids sprang to action.  Some clasps water guns.  Others gripped frisbees.  One held a bat.  A few wore protective gear in the form of lifejackets (smart thinking in a landlocked state like Indiana!). 

Caleb continued, "Everyone hide behind the tree."

A half dozen children raced behind a tree the width of my leg.  Perhaps a 1/3 of one child was hidden behind the thin trunk.  

I had to ask.

"What ya doing?" I inquired with a smirk.

In a sergeant-worthy tone, Caleb barked back, "We're getting rid of the bees on the play set."

Of course.

So obvious!

Caleb returned to his military mission.  He instructed the neighborhood infantry, "When I say go, storm the play set."

The neighborhood kids braced for his command.  At the count of three, the soldiers pushed forward.  My unsuspecting play set appeared to be no match to the barrage of attacks from frisbees, water sprays, and baseballs.

Still, the bees stood their ground.

Caleb instructed the troops on Plan B.  

Bait was needed.

He pulled out a Diet Coke can from our refrigerator and placed the open can near the slide.  The group crouched behind the swing and waited to attack the enemy.

Apparently one solider got thirsty during the wait and decided to drink the bait.  He was immediately scolded and shamed by his fellow warriors.

Plan B (or was it Plan Bee:)) was somewhat successful. One carpenter bee and two wasps fell victim to the attacks.

At that point, children were called home.  Baths were required.  Dinners were served.

The bees turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  These winged insects served as a uniting force among the neighbor kids.  They dropped petty disagreements over whose turn it was on the swings to stand next to their neighbor clutching a water gun facing a common nemesis.  The neighbor kids used their collective wisdom and creativity to face their adversary together.  The bees transformed a ragamuffin group of kids into a skillful team of vigilantes.

Neighbor kids: 1

Bees: 0

For today.....