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.

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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!

 

 

Summer Fun!

Today is the last day of school, and Drew is especially looking forward to summer.  To him that means staying up late, sleeping in, vacation with us (to who knows where as of today), vacation with extended family (to the Bahamas!), riding bikes and surfing.  To me, it means no morning fights to get out the door, less traffic to battle on the way to work, and being jealous of my sleeping family.  But I love the downtime for them, and the freedom that comes with summer.  Mostly, I love their excitement over the possibilities.

Drew finished the year with his year end grades being SUPER! and several awards including a black belt in Recorder Club (oh how I love the sound of the practice.  *sarcasm*), a Citizenship award (apparently he saves it all for school and is plum out of respect by the time he gets home), and a few others.  Next year he’ll be in 5th grade- the last year of elementary school.  How did this happen?  Wasn’t I just writing about his first day of 3rd grade?

Drew at 4th Grade Awards with one of several he earned

Drew at 4th Grade Awards with one of several he earned

 

Ben finished his first year of preschool a few weeks ago.  He loved every minute of the small class that he spent two mornings a week in.  He learned so much, and we were so thankful for his precious teachers.  But he’s moving on!  He was accepted as a ‘model student’ (don’t laugh, I have no idea how this has happened) for the pre-K program at Drew’s school.  We thought they’d never be at the same school at the same time, but now they’ll share one year there together.  We love the school, and are thrilled with the opportunity it’s going to give Ben to grow and learn.  He’ll end up there for 8 years!

 

ben_endyear

We’re ready for Summer fun!

 

p.s.  I’m linking up with a Wordy Wednesday prompt today- lots of people do Wordless Wednesday’s but that’s not quite possible for me!  So check out some of the other great posts here at CarrieElle.com. 

10 Years & 24 Babies

Christmas 2002 was good.  I was pregnant with our first child, we were able to spend time with family, and we had the best of friends just down the street to share more good times with.  Michael was in the Navy and we were stationed at CBC Gulfport with NMCB 133.  We were enjoying the last few months of home port, knowing that soon the battalion would deploy, bound for Rota, Spain. We were not a nation officially at war, though the last deployment had started with a bang- quite literally, as just a few days after Michael left, our country was devastated by 9/11.

Christmas stand down, a few weeks of mostly vacations, was not quite over for the battalion.  But yet, the phone rang at 9pm, calling the entire 600+ in.  It was another 13 hours before I saw Michael again, when he came home for some much needed sleep after the unexpected all nighter.  But by then, word had spread throughout the base and families, that they were loading cargo planes.  The first wave of our Seabees would be leaving the next morning, bound for the Middle East.

The next few days were a blur, as preparations were made to deploy unexpectedly early and to an unexpected location.  I was nervous for many reasons.  Being pregnant while your husband goes to war is never the dream.  The fact that he had been hospitalized 8 times in the past year, and that his battalion seemed unaware added to the fear.

But there were these women.

I was surrounded by some of the bravest and strongest women I’d ever met.  Women who were raising children mostly alone, who had faced many more deployments than me, and who literally kept the home fires burning.  And men too.  Days before our husband’s and wives left,  we gathered in a base chapel, for a family briefing.  We were told limited info on the mission and destination.  Not even a country was named, though we believed they were headed to Kuwait to prepare for the Iraq invasion.  (We were right.)  I looked around at these women and knew I was in the company of the best.

One of those, was my rock.  She lived a quick walk away, had a few more deployments under her belt, and was pregnant with their second child.  She fed me and kept me going.  Another one was my example.  She was the wife of the battalion Commanding Officer, the mother of two teenagers, and wise.  I’ll never forget her answer to my question of how she stayed so strong.  She told me that she didn’t.  That the mornings her husband left, she said goodbye at home, and cried.  She could barely get out of bed she cried so much, but not for long.  After that first day, she picked up and started life.  She made me know it was okay to be sad.  But it was also okay to enjoy life while they were gone.  Other women were simply my friends.  They shared fears and tears, but even more, just shared life and laughs.

My rock and I were due about 2 weeks apart from each other, both in June.  My husband was scheduled to come home and discharge from the Navy, hopefully just in time to see our son born.  Her husband was in for the duration, and we knew would miss the birth of their daughter.  The plan was for me to be with her, and have the joy of being the first to meet that sweet girl.  But first, we were going to have a day of lunch, pedicures, and a movie.  It was May 24.  By the time we ate our salads, I realized she was checking her watch frequently.  While we had our toes painted, I noticed she was uncomfortable.  When we set out for the car, I knew we weren’t seeing a movie.

You’d think that the almost 9 months pregnant woman pushing the wheelchair with the laboring 9 months pregnant woman in it would attract attention and get us some help.  No such luck.  But we laughed.  And laughed.  Several hours later, the most beautiful baby girl was born.  I was in love.  Her daddy was leaving on a convoy into Iraq just a few hours later where he would have no access to email, so getting photos and news of her arrival to him was top priority.  I spent the next few weeks loving on her as often as possible, and in disbelief that I’d have my own very soon.

Michael made it home the first week of June, with about 10 days to spare before my due date.  Drew has always had his own time frame for things, and being born was no different.  When he was 6 days late, I packed my bag in the car and announced that I wasn’t coming home from my doctor’s appointment that day, they were going to keep me.  My blood pressure, which had been high all pregnancy, was high enough that inducing was needed.  It was June 24.  After a rough labor and delivery, Drew was born at 8:56pm in the same room I’d witnessed my friend’s daughter born in.

He was just as beautiful.  We laughed about the irony of our babies both being born on the 24th, and in the very same room.

Ashley, 4 mos & Drew, 3 mos

A month later, as we were packing up our home and preparing to take our newborn and forge a new life, I got a phone call.  A friend of ours who was due with their first any day, was in labor.  We’d been through pregnancy together, and I could do nothing but laugh.  Because it was the 24th.  Amazingly enough, her precious son arrived later that day in the very same room.

May 24.  June 24.  July 24.  In the same room of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

Leaving a few days later was the hardest thing I’d ever done.  I knew I’d always remember those days of fear that turned into days of Joy, surrounded by women of strength and character.

It’s now been 10 years since I helped welcome the first of the 24 babies.

A month later we met our own son.  And a month after that we welcomed one more to the world, as we said goodbye and turned our world upside down by leaving the security of jobs, in lieu of the comfort of being together.

So much has happened in these 10 years since.  But I cherish those days as much as any I’ve ever had.  I learned that I was stronger than I thought, that joy can come through pain, and that love is stronger than anything.  I pray our 24 babies grow to know the same.