Time Marches On

June 2, 2013

Image 1Another school year has ended and I am now the mother of a 6th grader, two 5th graders and a sophomore in high school.  How can this be possible?  It seems like only yesterday I had three in diapers and one in kindergarten and today I rode in the car with my oldest son, Drew, behind the wheel.

He was driving to graduation to play in the band and I couldn’t help but think that three years from now it will be HIS graduation we will be driving to!  I mentioned that to him and he said, “Don’t remind me!”

I was a little surprised by his response and so I said, “Why do you say that? I would think you’d be excited to graduate. You know, no more school.”

“Well, I guess, but I’m not looking forward to leaving you and Dad and all my friends at school.  I’ll probably go to college close by so I can see you but it won’t be the same as living at home with you guys and being able to talk to you whenever I want.” Drew explained.

I thought it was just a mom thing that I was so worried about Drew growing up, but I guess he has worries of his own. I started to think back to my teen years and I remember having some of those same fears.  As I got closer to graduating I found myself more and more excited to finish and be done with high school, but I still had some anxiety about leaving all that was familiar and venturing out into the unknown.

I look over at my son, who now towers above me at 6’2”, as he carefully concentrates on the road and realize how lucky I am to have such a great kid. He really has a sweet, kind heart and has always been such a big help with Caleb and the twins.  Being the oldest is never easy, but he has never complained.

Pretty soon he will have his actual license and be able to drive alone and probably start dating and hanging out with friends more and more.  I am proud of the fact that he likes his family enough to want to hang out with us. He still gets along pretty well still with his siblings but they do have their moments when they get on each others last nerve.

The other day I was reading a book to the twins and it had the word “sibling” in it. I asked them if they knew what “sibling” meant.  Emma said, “Someone who drives you crazy but you love them so much you couldn’t imagine life without them.”  Wow, I thought …  that is a pretty accurate description!

ImageHere is the photo I took on the last day of school.  As you can see, Drew looks much less thrilled than the younger three.  After the photo was taken Emma said, “Geez Drew, you could at least smile and look happy. It’s the last day of school – it’s gonna be a fun day!”

“Maybe for you” Drew replied. “You are going to have parties and play games all day.  I have three finals to take. It’s not such a fun day when you’re in high school. Enjoy your elementary years while you can, pretty soon you’ll be taking finals too!”

Drew is absolutely right … pretty soon it will be Emma and Ethan taking finals and driving and that is an even scarier thought!




ImageDon’t forget to check out my new book, Running Through the Raindrops … Finding Joy in the Chaos of Raising Kids

Now Available on Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle

Party in the Parsonage

January 25, 2012

The past two weeks have been just party, party, party here in the parsonage. “What could be that party-worthy?” you may be thinking. Well, if you guessed a birthday you would be wrong. But if you guessed TWO birthdays you would right on the money.  The twins, Emma and Ethan (aka: Fred and Ethel), turned nine last week and we have been celebrating their birthday like it was Mardi Gras. 

Party # 1 was with my side of the family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc) and with 9 grandchildren on that side of the family it was one rowdy party!  We had ice cream cake to top off a delicious taco dinner – a birthday fiesta!

Then a few days later we had party # 2 which was a high energy bouncing party at an inflatable wonderland called Monkey Joe’s with cousins from the other side of the family.

Later that same evening we had Party # 3 with my husband’s parents where there was lots of yummy food and, of course, cake (what’s a party without cake?)

After that party was over and we got the kids home and tucked in bed I found myself up at 2:00 am making brownies and scotcharoos for the class party(s) the following day (Party # 4 & # 5 since the twins are in separate classrooms).

Party #6 was on their actual birthday and was a small intimate gathering of just our family and we ate dinner, sang “Happy Birthday”, opened presents and …. Hmmmm …. What else? Oh, yeah … ate cake!

Then this past weekend we had Party # 7 at the parsonage and it was an exciting hour-and-a-half of high energy boys screaming and cheering in one room and giggling, giddy girls laughing and squealing in the other.  Ethan and all his friends played football in our living room (with a Nerf football, thank goodness) while Emma and her friends painted nails (toes and fingers) and made cards with stamps and colored markers in the family room (my coffee table …. my poor, poor, coffee table).  They did all congregate in the same room for the important stuff like when the pizza was served, when it was time for cake and when they were opening presents. But other than that the girls pretty much stayed in one room and the boys in the other.

After Party # 7 was over and the kids had all gone home (well, except the four that live here – we let them stay) I walked through the house trying to decide where to start cleaning up the party aftermath.

Ethan was eating his third piece of birthday cake for the evening and asked, “So, is that all the parties we are gonna have?”

“Yep, that’s about it. Mommy is about partied out and needs a siesta before we have any more fiestas!”

“Oh, I get it.” Ethan said with a smile. “Siesta and Fiesta rhyme.  I know what a fiesta is, but what is a siesta?”

“It’s a nap” I said sighing as I wiped chocolate frosting out of the carpet.

“Why would you need a nap?” he asked innocently. “Parties don’t make me tired at all. They just make me very hyper and happy!”

We went out to dinner last Friday night since we had been snowed in most of the week and cabin fever was in full swing.  While we were waiting for our food Ethan was telling us that he had been a little down because he got an F on his spelling test.  Apparently there were 11 children that got F’s since the week had been cut short with snow days and 2 hour delays.  We told him to not worry about it because it was just one spelling test and he would do better next week.  He seemed to brighten up when the food arrived even though he had eaten five waffles before we left the house (he must be going through a growth spurt I guess!)

Toward the end of the meal we were asking the kids what the best part of their day was. When we got to Ethan I said, “What was the best part of your day Ethan?” and then teasingly added “I’m guessing it wouldn’t be the spelling test.”  He laughed and said “No, definitely not the spelling test.”  Dwight asked him, “So, Ethan … was there a point in the spelling test when you knew that things weren’t going well?”  Ethan thought for a few moments and then Dwight asked, “Was there a certain word that made you think, ‘Oh, no … not good'”  Ethan nodded and smiled, but before he could answer Emma piped up and said, “Intelligence?”   We all burst out laughing and Emma just smiled and asked, “What? Intelligence is a word, isn’t it?”


January 20, 2011

Ethan came running into the room one evening and said, “Hey mom, what’s it called when you like someone a lot and dream about being their boyfriend or girlfriend?” I thought for a moment and asked, “Do you mean a ‘crush’?” Ethan replied, “Ha ! Yes!! I’m right …. Emma kept telling me it’s called a ‘mush’ !”  Ethan ran back to the room where he had been playing with Emma to perform one of his favorite duties : announcing that he was RIGHT and she was WRONG.

I listened as Emma fought back by teasing Ethan over a girl at school that he had a mush .., I mean CRUSH on.  “Is she your girlfriend? Are you going to marry her?”  Ethan sighed and said, “I don’t think I’m ready for marriage yet …. It sounds like a lot of work!”  He continued on and said, “But when I do get married if me and my wife are rich we will have maids to do stuff for us. We might even pay them if they do stuff the way we want and do a good job.”  Ethan paused and then asked Emma, “So who’s going to be your husband?”  Emma looked up at him with her big brown eyes and said, “I thought maybe you would.”  Ethan was silent for a moment and then Emma said, “Well, that is unless you don’t want to be my husband.”  Ethan thought about the offer and then replied, “Yeah, well, I guess I could be your husband and then we could go to Mc Donald’s together. That would be a pretty fun life.”


January 18, 2011

“There’s baby # 1 and there’s baby #2” the doctor pointed to the two fuzzy objects as I sat straight up and stared in disbelief at the ultrasound monitor. I was in my fourth month and had just recently come to terms with how I was going to handle a third child, but a third AND a fourth?  Dwight and I had been married 9 years and had 2 beautiful little boys : Drew, who was 5 and Caleb who was 17 months old.  We had always planned to have 3 children, and although I had gotten pregnant sooner than expected we were very excited and we were already talking about names and deciding where we would put the crib. However, we had no idea that we were getting the two-for-one special (aka: twins) “Where in the world are we going to put them?” I wondered as I continued to stare at the two heartbeats on the ultrasound.

This pregnancy had gone much like the other two except for 1) I had been eating non-stop and 2) I was gaining weight at a much faster pace.  However, since eating and gaining weight are related I just thought I really needed to cut back on the pizza, french fries and cheeseburgers I had been craving.   I had come in for my monthly check-up and thought this would be a pretty uneventful visit.  However,  I was measuring larger than normal for 18 weeks along and so the doctor had decided  it wouldn’t hurt to do a quick ultrasound there in his office to check and see if there might be more than one baby.

“Well, all I can say is that God must have a sense of humor” I said to the doctor as I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that I had two babies growing inside me.  “Of course he does” the doctor replied back with a smile.  Dr. Blake had been my doctor for all of my pregnancies including my first which was only 8 weeks and ended in miscarriage.  He and his staff were all wonderful and I knew I was in good hands as far as the pregnancy and delivery were concerned – it was what would happen after the birth that scared me. There was no way I would be able to return to work after this  – how would I afford childcare for 4 small children ?  How would we feed four children if I wasn’t working ? So many questions – my head was spinning and I know that it must have shown on my face because the nurses were very encouraging and kept saying things like “Everything will be work out”  “If anyone can handle this we know you can”, etc.  Very sweet of them, but I wasn’t as confident in myself and my mothering skills as they were. 

The rest of the pregnancy with the twins went quickly and the closer I got to my due date the more scared I became.  I was put on bed rest at 32 weeks because I had already dilated to 4 cm and was having contractions 5 minutes apart.  I was also given medicine to stop the contractions.  This medicine did not help at all with my nerves because it made me very jittery and high-strung.   I had to go in for a non-stress test every week.  It’s a good thing these tests were measuring the babies stress levels and not my own personal stress level because I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown. With all the worrying about the impending birth of the twins, the racing hormones in my body and the side effects of the medicine to stop the contractions I was an emotional wreck.  I was torn between just wanting to have the twins and get it over with and wanting them to stay in my uterus where they were a lot easier to care for than they would be when they came out.  At 36 weeks the doctor decided it was time and we welcomed Ethan Thomas (7 lbs, 5 oz) and Emma Nicole (5 lbs, 8 oz) into our family.

When we brought the twins home from the hospital their oldest brother Drew was very excited and wanted to help bring diapers, pacifiers, or whatever else we needed and even wanted to help entertain the babies when they were cranky.  During the pregnancy he had been a little unsure how he felt about adding to our family. One night he had told Dwight and I that once the babies came he would be moving in with Grandma and Grandpa Brock.  “It’s been nice living here, but I think it’s time for me to move on.”  Dwight and I were shocked by this news and asked him why he didn’t want to live with us anymore. “Oh, it’s not that I don’t like it here … it’s a pretty nice place and the food is OK, but once the new babies come there won’t be room for me to live here anymore.”  Drew is a smart boy and he had counted up the bedrooms and knew that there weren’t enough rooms for two more family members.  Since he was the oldest he assumed it was time for him to move out.   We explained to Drew that we already had plans to build on an addition to our house with two more bedrooms and another bathroom, but that even if we hadn’t we would never kick him out.  “Whew, that’s a relief!” Drew said as he gave me a big hug. “I’ve really kinda gotten used to you guys and I think I might miss you.”

Caleb was not even two when the twins came to invade his home and he was not happy at all.  He had been the baby of the family and he already had been upset that during the pregnancy Mommy’s lap had continued to get smaller and smaller. Now that the babies were here it seemed to him that Mommy was always holding one of them and these babies sure were noisy for being as small as they were.  If I were holding one (or both) of the twins he would walk past me by going out to the other side of the room, making sure to be as far away from the babies as possible.  He once found one of Emma’s socks and brought it to me but he carried it by a small string sticking out from the toe of the sock as if it had cooties or baby germs that he wanted no part of. 

Caleb was first diagnosed with Autism when the twins were only around a year old I remember worrying that I had been given more than I could handle.  I know they say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, but maybe God had more faith in me than I did in myself.  However, looking back I can see how the twins being born when they were really was perfect.  They have helped Caleb so much that I know he would never have made the progress he has without his little brother and sister to keep him engaged in the world around him and to help include him and love him just the way he is.  Emma is like a second mommy to Caleb and she helps watch out for him and make sure he is safe. Ethan is a great buddy for Caleb and when we were teaching Caleb sign language Ethan made up a special sign for “chase” since that was a game that he and Caleb loved to play together.  It’s amazing how an unexpected surprise turned out to really be an unexpected blessing.

Chocolate or Poop?

January 12, 2011

Before I had kids I thought poop was the most disgusting thing in the world, but now that I’m a mother poop has become part of everyday life.  One of my favorite lines in the movie “Baby Momma” is when a little kid runs into the room with an unknown brown substance on his hand and his mom grabs him and says, “Tyler, is that chocolate or poop?”  He doesn’t answer so she asks again in a louder voice, “Is it chocolate or poop?” Again the child is silent so the mother takes a quick sniff and then a lick. She smiles and says “It’s Chocolate”.  The other woman in the room is her sister (who has no children yet) and she looks over in horror and says, “What if that had been poop?”

Life with kids is messy and poop is a big part of that mess.  There are the dirty diapers when they are babies (who knew poop came in some many different colors) and then as they graduate into the toddler stage you have that lovely experience called “potty training”.  I remember with my first son, Drew, I naively thought that potty training would be a simple process where you simply showed the child how to go pee and poop in the toilet and then sat them on the toilet at regular intervals to avoid accidents.  I bought a “Bear in the Big Blue House” video about potty training and several pairs of big boy underwear.   Little did I know that 6 months later Drew would still not be any closer to being out of diapers as he was on the day I purchased the underwear.  I quickly learned the important lesson that a child has to be ready to give up diapers or it’s just not going to happen.

The first stage of potty training is convincing the child that they WANT to be potty trained. With Drew and Caleb that decision took longer than with Emma and Ethan. Emma and Ethan potty trained together (one plus of having twins) and it was like a competition so the motivation was always high. With Drew, he was still an only child the first time I attempted potty training and he was just not interested at all.   He thought it was neat to sit on the little potty and watch videos, but he didn’t actually use the potty to pee in.  Caleb was very similar to Drew in that he was not very motivated and since he didn’t like any kinds of candy or gum bribery was not an option.  With Drew the decision to be “ready” came about a year after I was ready for him to be potty trained.  However, when he made that decision it was a difference of night and day.  With Caleb it was the twins’ potty training that finally convinced him that he was ready. He knew they were younger than him and there was no way he was going to be the only one left in diapers.  I remember him looking at Ethan in his big boy underwear and then looking down at his own diaper. Since Caleb was still not talking at this point due to his Autism, he simply pointed to Ethan’s underwear and then proceeded to take off his diaper. This was his way of saying “I’m ready Mom”.  As many of you know, that moment when a child decides they are ready to give up diapers it’s like turning a switch and suddenly everything starts to go a lot smoother.

The second stage of potty training is teaching the child to tell when they need to potty enough in advance that they can actually make it to the potty in time.  Once they realize how to recognize the feeling you might think you are done with this stage, but when you add things like playing with their favorite toy or watching TV in the mix they become distracted and may not make it all the way to the potty. “Close, but not close enough” is what I always told them in these instances.   “Close” still means Mommy has quite a mess to clean up.  Another obstacle is going out of the house.  When you are home your child knows where the potty is and it is easily accessible. When you go out you have not only the challenge of making it all the way from the back of Wal-Mart to the bathrooms in the front in time, but you also have the issue of what to do when you are driving along and you hear from the backseat “Mom, I have to go potty!”  This usually happens when you are on some remote road and the next gas station or McDonalds is twenty miles down the road.  With boys you can always make a pit stop and pull off on the side of road to have them pee in the bushes or grass, but with girls you don’t really have that option.  This always upset Emma and she thought it was “just not fair” that she couldn’t pee standing up like all of her brothers.   When the twins were in this stage my husband was a youth pastor at a church about an hour away from our home so we started bringing the portable potty in the car with us so that we were prepared in case we happened to be out in the middle of nowhere when we heard the shout out from the backseat.

When your child moves onto stage 3 they are pretty self-sufficient in the area of pee but may need a little help with poop because wiping their bottom can be a very difficult task. A task that can end up leaving such a mess for you to clean up that you want to just say, “Next time just call me and I’ll come help you wipe.”    The other part of this stage that causes messes is that children are fascinated with their poop.   Once they get it on their hand and smear it on the wall they realize it’s really just like finger painting.  I have had to clean up poop off the walls, the toilet seat and my children’s bodies so many times that it doesn’t even phase me anymore.  I also have had the unique experience of cleaning poop out of a bathtub when a child claims “I thought I just had to fart”.   So I guess we can just give this stage the nickname of “The Poop Stage”.

When they make it though all three stages you are pretty much footloose and diaper-free.  There may still be the occasional accident, but you are relieved to know that this project is just about complete.  When Ethan was getting ready to start Kindergarten he still needed some help with wiping his bottom and I would usually hear a “Mom … I’m done!” from the bathroom when he needed my assistance.  One day he came into my room with a big smile on his face and announced “I wiped my bottom all by myself!”   I told him how proud I was of him and that he was such a “big boy” for doing it all by himself and he replied, “Yeah, I think I’m ready to go to college now.”