Traditions

I’ve been gone.  I know you missed me. {despite your silence that would say otherwise.  no hard feelings.}

Every now and then I disappear because I can’t figure out how to write about what’s going on, but every now and then I just give myself permission to take care of what’s going on around me without worrying about sharing it, or enjoy some time without then writing.  That’s what this was- and I find that after I take a short break, I’m grateful to get back and have the chance to share.  Sometimes I write because I’m ‘supposed’ to, much like I do many things in life because I’m ‘supposed’ to.

Especially at Christmastime, when traditions are everything.

We have to decorate and shop and sing and watch movies and make cocoa and visit Santa and make lists and look at lights and make cookies and visit friends and send cards and host parties and volunteer and take photos and and and and…. Oh, and then there’s Ben’s birthday right in the middle and there’s a whole list of must do’s there too, to make sure his birthday isn’t overshadowed.

I LOVE all those things.  But when they become more about checking off a list and making sure we do all the things than about enjoying the things we do, we’ve put tradition over what we’re really meant to get from it.

And this year, once again, I started stressing about what I hadn’t yet checked off that list and when I would.  But then, one of my best friend’s brother died very unexpectedly and I only cared that week about what she was feeling.  And then I got knocked on my butt by a bad cold and days of migraine.  And then I realized that my husband was slowing down and that we were probably entering the pre-phase of a an episode of his chronic illness.  And when I asked friends about what they consider must do’s so I could alter my list, a good friend called bullsh!t and said that nothing was a must do.  She’s a genius.

So, I switched gears and am really trying to focus on simply enjoying what we are able to do.

It’s not as much as I’d like.  I’d always like to do more.

But yesterday, on my youngest son’s birthday as I worried that it hadn’t been magical enough a day, he reminded me again.

Me:  Ben, what do you want to do tonight for the last part of your birthday celebration?

Ben:  Watch Diego and play with my new toys. 

Me:  But I thought we’d go look at lights and get hot chocolate, or …. You really just want to stay home and play?

Ben:  Yep.

Me:  But did you have a happy birthday?

Ben:  Yes!

So we stayed home, ate ice cream and played.

Yes, in my ideal world my husband would be full of energy and able to fully participate, and every day would be full of lifetime worthy memories.

But maybe just enjoying what we do, whatever that is, and being together makes the best tradition.

Do you have a checklist and must do’s, or do you just enjoy what comes?  I’m not sure I’ll ever drop the list without being reminded, it’s my nature.  But I’m trying to learn.

 

minnie

one of the memories we did make- Ben kissing Minnie!

 

Not About the Turkey

A peek at social media during November and you’ll know immediately that it’s the season of thanks.  I don’t participate in the 30 days of thanks, just because to me it feels forced and something to worry about making sure you don’t forget anyone or hurt feelings.  But it’s also because I’m sometimes overwhelmed with gratitude to a point of not being able to express it.

We’re blessed.  Truly.  No other way to say it.

And as much as I want to say that Thanksgiving is just about being together and enjoying family and friends, we *may* have been stress balls trying to get our house ready for guests.  Michael’s sister and her family are spending a few days with us, and we are pretty excited about that.  Our time with his family is rare, and them traveling to us has been happening about once a year since long travel for us became too hard.  It’s hard for some of his family to understand his illness or the difficulties we face because of it, and that’s caused some issues.  Which makes it even more special when we have time with some of them.

And we like them.  You know how you love family but have some you just don’t like?  These are not them.  We like them and love them.  Awesome.
So it should be easier to just relax, let the house be what it is and enjoy them.  But instead, Michael is trying to get 82 last minute things done, I’m shopping and meal prepping and organizing and cleaning.  And working.

What about you- have you mastered “relax and enjoy it” or are you so busy cooking and baking and planning that you’re feeling more stressed than grateful?  If you’re like me and haven’t, these are the things I’m reminding myself, and you may want to also:

It’s not about the Turkey.

pieOr the dressing, pies, cranberry or potatoes.

It’s not about the perfect table setting.

Or photo worthy outfits.

It’s not about the Black Friday shopping.

Or Thanksgiving evening shopping.

It’s about being together, being thankful for memories with those not with you, and having one whole day to reflect on all we have and all those who helped us get here.

From my family to yours- Happy Thanksgiving.

p.s.  The easy delicious caramel pie I’m making in the photo is courtesy of my friend Jill at Made with Moxie.  You can find her recipe here.

Why I love Halloween

When I was little, I wanted to be a monkey.  Not for Halloween, but all the time.  Olympic gymnast was a long time dream.  Then I hoped to be a marine biologist, then a psychologist, followed by working in sports administration, which after a long round about path through event planning, non-profit management and fundraising, has eventually led to me to work in software.  If you look at my path from what I wanted to do to where I am, it would seem that I’m off track.  But if you truly followed the steps, you’d see that each step led to another in a meaningful way that eventually led me to a something that I never knew I wanted to do but fits so well with my skills and desires.  And it took a lot of people to help me get there.

I think that’s what I love about this week.  We can all go back to the days of dreaming about what we want to be, and for one night a year, we open our doors to strangers who trick or treat and greet each other with smiles, helping the dream feel real.  We’re cautious as we drive, watching for firemen, princesses and superheros in our sights. We pretend to be braver and stronger.

anita_4

We encourage dreaming.  We reward creativity.

As we grow up, we often give up on dreaming.  We forget who we wanted to be.  We forget how to dream big and we stop believing that we can be brave and strong.

What did you dream of when you were little?

Maybe I can’t really become a monkey or reach the Olympics.  Okay, I definitely can’t.  But I can remember the dreams and find elements of myself that maybe I’d lost. I can use the help of those around me, who encourage my dreams and see the possibilities.

What are your dreams now?

Watch this week- the kids who dream of being something different, the parents who encourage the creativity, the friends who open their doors and reward all of those.

Let’s recapture that.  Dream big this week, but don’t throw the dream off at the end of the week.

Starting Off Right

The kids have been in school for about 4 weeks now, and we decided to make a change to how we started our day.  Okay, I decided and had to find a way to get them on board.  Because here is how our normal school/work mornings look.

6:30 My first alarm  (hit snooze till it quits)

7:00 My second alarm  (turn off then lay there for a few)

7:05 Start waking everyone up

7:15 Get in shower

7:30 Realize that no one is actually yet up and moving though they are awake

7:31  Yelling to move! move! move! as I put on clothes, brush teeth and decide makeup and fixed hair is overrated

7:50 Grab stuff (including travel mug of coffee) while yelling:  brush teeth!  put on shoes!  we’ve all got to go! and getting quick kisses and hugs as I run out the door and hubs gets them finished and out to school.

That routine stinks. 

So we started this school year differently.  I convinced Drew that this was a great workout to help him with baseball, so now he is on board, and as tough as it is, it now starts us off MUCH MUCH better.

Now, we’re starting off right and the new school/work mornings look like this:

6:30 My alarm and Drew’s alarm go off.  I lay there till he comes in and ‘wakes’ me

6:38  We are dressed and out the door on our bikes.  Or, now that the mornings are getting darker, doing a cardio video on TV.  Bike time was especially great, as we were able to chat some and pick different routes each day

7:05  Walk in the door to hubs starting the dishwasher, picking out clothes or getting lunches ready

7:06  Make sure Ben is up, put him in the bath, and Drew and I head to different bathrooms to shower

7:20 Everyone out and getting dressed

7:30 Breakfast for the boys, me finishing up getting ready

7:40  Finish making lunches, checking backpacks, drink coffee

7:45 Kiss boys, walk out door as the guys do final prep to leave

 

It’s not been easy, and it gets tougher as we have to figure out an indoor activity that we’ll both enjoy until the time changes and we can start biking again.  But the difference it’s making is well worth it.

What are your tips for getting the right start to your day?

 

 riding

 

 

For my Boys: Know Who You Are

formyboys

Strong, Brave, Kind

Silly, Wild, Playful

Inquisitive, Driven, Expanding

Loved, Cherished, Wanted

Growing, Challenging, Seeking

Boys, as you settle into this new school year, that is so full of promise and excitement for you both, I resist the urge to go before you and tell everyone all that they should know about you.  I want to send pages and pages of notes to your teachers, letting them know enough about you that they love you and want to see you grow as much as I do.  I want to let them know of your weaknesses so they can encourage you, let them know of your strengths so they can push you, let them know of the children who are mean so they can protect you, and let them know of the children who lift you so they can place you with them.

I want them to know you.

But what I’ve learned, is that the most important thing is that you know yourself.  Those words above?  Those are the words I think of when I think of you.  You are so very different, but so very much the same.  You are years apart and much different people, so each one is exhibited differently and at different times in different ways.  But know those things.  Know you are each of those.

Know who you are.

And when you forget, I will remind you.

 

I’m Not Ready!

School starts this week for the big and the little.

We have the supplies, we’ve met the teachers, and even been shopping for food to make lunch boxes.

But we had hopes of more beach trips, more time with family, more some craft projects, more bike rides, more popsicles.  We were going to get organized (you know, for the first time ever) and have our home office area a space we would want to work in and keep things well organized in.  We were going to finish some painting, finish some floors, and finally design our bedroom retreat.

Now we jump into mornings of hurry, nights of homework and bedtimes, worse traffic, calendars and papers galore, and juggling more than ever.  I’d like to put a hold on time.

I’m not ready!

Since I can’t, my backup technique is reminding myself of all the good things.  So here is my list of the top things I’m looking forward to in the next few months, and why I’m almost celebrating back to school.

1.  Sports.  We’re just weeks away from the start of College Football- here in the South, NFL is fun, but mostly for when there is no College game on.  Go Gators!  Along with that is the start of another baseball season.  We don’t take many breaks with Drew, but he’s had a longer than expected break this summer, and we’re all ready to get going.  PLUS!  Ben starts t-ball!  For all this alone, it’s almost worth the end of summer.

2.  Cooler Weather.  HA!  Summer is only actually halfway over, and we have plenty of near 100 degree weather left here in Florida.  But we like to think that it’s around the corner, and start to believe that we’ll have relief one day.

3.  Learning & Independence.  Drew likes to learn, and even Ben has been pretending to do homework recently.  They soak up knowledge and the chance to expand their thinking.  I love seeing that happen, and as many good things as we’ve had about the summer, lots of learning was not one of them.  It’s also time where they can be outside of our wings, but still in a protected place, growing and finding out who they are.

4Time with Friends.  It’s so much fun to hear the stories back from school of the friends being reconnected with, and new friendships being made.  And for us, we reconnect with some baseball families that we’re all friends with, connect with new families, and start to build upon the amazing network we already have.

5.  New Possibilities.  At the start of a new year, there are so many possibilities.  We can’t know everything that will unfold, and that’s pretty exciting.  What doors will God open?  What opportunities present themselves?  What closes?  While sometimes nerve wracking to think about, it also is faith building.  To know that God is in control, and tomorrow may not look like today.  Tomorrow may be even better.

We start back before a lot of other areas do, so some of you may just be starting to think of Back to School.  Are you ready, are your kids ready?  What are you looking forward to?

 

Leading the Way

Leading the Way

Vacation- Moments in Photos

Our vacation planning was tough this year, like most years.  I had a week off planned; we wanted something fun yet relaxing, and it needed to be not too far away, have a kitchen, be reasonably super low priced, and have activities on site.  Michael has had a rough summer, so being close by, very relaxing and have a kitchen was key (the biggest triggers for his CVS are travel, being overtired, and eating out).

But as my week off approached, we had no plans.  So I postponed 3 weeks, hoped Michael would be feeling better by then, and asked him to help plan this time.  He came up aces.  He found a lake house to rent about an hour away, a used jet-ski to buy to entertain us while we were there, and agreed to a day at Disney World to make it even better- all within our very small budget.  (One day we’re going to have help with all those darn medical bills and get to take a bigger budget vacation!)

But, in keeping with our traditions, he stayed sick much most of the week, Ben got a terrible infection and had to avoid the lake most of the week, baseball drama kept us fuming over that as much as relaxing one day, and our sweet dog died while we were gone.

I may have pouted about it all.  But I also found moments to lay in the hammock and read, or just listen for God.  He was there, just like He always is.  And without as many distractions it was easier to hear His voice.

And among the junk, were other moments that were priceless, and like everything in life, we had to choose to be thankful for the good between the bad. We found that Disney World will do their best to help kids with a sick dad have a great day anyway, we found a very kid friendly urgent care doctor to treat Ben quickly, we had a few friends share one day with us on the water, and we had quite a lot of together time.

Vacation- Moments in Photos

 

BigDog Life is Here!

A few weeks ago, Drew came to me with an idea to start doing videos on YouTube, like he had been watching for years with his Dad.  He loves funny ones, and instructional ones about things like Wiffle Ball.  So we filmed his first few, and decided to start a blog where he could post them and share them.

I am so proud of this kid’s creativity, drive, and desire to make things happen when he wants something.  We set it all up, and he’s looking forward to sharing a lot more about ‘BigDog Life’- want to know where that name came from?  Check out his site to find out!

BigDog Life

BigDog Life:  Meet Drew

BigDog Life:  His Intro Video

Drew & Mom 2013

Independence Day

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[Read more…]

The Baseball Mom Rules

Our baseball season just wrapped up, much differently than we expected or hoped.  Drew watched the last game from the dugout, with an injured knee, but cheering his team on and still a big part of it.  He’s played through illness and injury, with a bruised and taped hand, with a busted lip, a busted nose, a tweaked ankle, with ibuprofen and with many puffs of his inhaler.  The only games he’d ever missed in 6 years of baseball were when his breathing was so bad he was either in the hospital or about to go in.  So it took a lot to hold him back.  Parenting an athlete is much like parenting in general, with a lot of lessons to share.  So as we wrap up the year and look forward to next season, whatever that may bring,

I thought I’d share my observations, on how to be a good baseball mom.  For those of you just entering this fun season of life, or for those who can relate:

1.  Cheer them on.   Seems simple and obvious.  But so many moms, including myself sometimes often, want to correct them and coach them, and point out what they did wrong.  Let the coaches do that.  You only cheer.  (And hey, if you want to cheer so loudly that no one else can hear and it’s positive?  Great!  Just don’t be offended when I sit on the other side!)

greatestplayer

2.  Be prepared.  From the time they’re little, there are seemingly 1,000 things to bring to the park.  Snacks, water bottles, sunscreen, cooling rags, chairs, umbrellas, entertainment for siblings, cameras, and of course the cleats, bats, balls, gloves, batting gloves, helmets, hat, and on and on and on.  A list will make your life easier.  Especially when you’re leaving the house at 5:45am.  Yep, 5:45am.  (And yep, I’ve been that mom who shows up missing things- including his entire bat bag in the days before that was his responsibility)

2010 Season

2010 Season

3.  Leave the game at the field.  Some great advice I’ve heard from one of our favorite coaches, is to leave the game at the field when you get in the car.  When they’re young, they should just be having fun and not rehashing what happened.  As they get older, they already know what they did right and wrong.  Let them move on.  (I may have been known to break this one and threaten my kid because he didn’t swing the bat in a game.)

2011 SandGnats

2011 SandGnats

4.  Surround yourselves with good people.  The most important thing your kid will learn on the field has nothing to do with baseball.  Find coaches who you want them to grow to be like.  Unless your kid is one of the very tiny % of players who will go on to college or the pros, learning baseball skills is less important than life skills.  And even then, they should be hand in hand.  (We have the best around us.  And sometimes the worst!)

2013 Spring Season

2013 Spring Season

5.  Remind yourself that “It’s a Small World After All.”  Be nice.  Unless you’re in the world of travel baseball, it’s hard to imagine how many people become ugly and personal and hurtful.  But it’s a very small world unless you move far away, and you’ll see each other often.  Heck, there’s a good chance your kids will play together again one day.  (Though please God don’t let some of them end up with us again!)

2011 All Stars

2011 All Stars

6.  Toughen’ up.  Mom, I’m talking about you.  We’ve seen a lot of injuries on the field, a lot of blood, and a lot of tears.  Some of it from our son, and some from kids we love.  Let the coaches handle it until they ask you to come help.  This is a tough one.  But your kid will probably bounce back a lot quicker without you running onto the field.  (I’ve never broken this one- mostly because I’m scared of seeing how bad it is, but whatever it takes.)

last game of Spring '13 season

last game of Spring ’13 season

7.  Let them lose.  Some of the best lessons are in a loss.  Even a losing season.  Our kids are going to face tough times in life, they’re not always going to win.  Let them learn to not give up, to trust their teammates, and to give it their all and still come up short.  They’ll grow.  (I HATE losing!  Apparently I haven’t grown enough.)

8.  Push till it’s time.  Drew loves baseball more than just about anything.  He wants to play at as high a level he can.  He can’t imagine life without it.  But sometimes, he’s not giving it his all or wanting the extra workouts, or to miss something because of practice.  If and when he decides he no longer wants to play one day, I’ll support that.  But until that time, I’ll push him to give his all and be his best.  (“That knee doesn’t hurt that bad!  Come on!”  may have been yelled before I realized the current injury was real.)

9.  Enjoy it.  I love our hours at a ball field.  We’re all together, and my kid is doing what he loves best.  Six years ago we started this journey, with a tiny little four year old who couldn’t tell you which base was which.  Watching him grow into the ballplayer his is today has been a great joy.  Not because of baseball, but because of how it’s helped him grow.

Our immediate plans are to rehab Drew’s knee for a few weeks (hopefully that’s all it takes!) and get him back on the field.  We’ll enjoy a bit of summer downtime too.  But before long, we’ll all be ready to get back to what we love.

And guess what’s next?

Ben starts t-ball in the Fall!  More hours at a field, but back to where it’s all fun and cute.  I can’t wait.

Ben_NLA

Play Ball!