The dog days are over

Sayonara, summer. It’s been real. Continue reading

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Resolutions are mean. Goals are your friends.

IMG_3858I’m not much of a resolution-maker but I am a goal-setter. The two may be interchangeable for some, but in my book there’s a big difference between them.

A resolution is more weighty to me. There’s no gray area with a resolution, it’s stern and strict. You either succeed or you don’t. If I resolve to do something then I’d better do it or else it sounds like I’m potentially going suffer some serious consequences. If I don’t meet the expectations I resolve to meet, I’ll beat myself up about it until I feel like a  huge failure. This self-inflicted torment may go on for days, weeks, months, or, who knows, it may even eat away at me forever. Resolutions are mean. They’re no good.

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Goals, on the other hand, are much more likeable. They’re more easy-going, they want you to reach them, and they won’t make you feel less than if you try but just can’t get there in the timeframe you initially planned. I can set a goal and even if I don’t reach the goal I set by the date I expect, I can examine the progress I’ve made and at least celebrate how far I’ve come if I’ve truly worked towards achieving it. I can look at where I went wrong, reevaluate my plan and make adjustments so that I will be able to meet the goal in the future. Goals are your fun-loving friends.

I set a few goals last year. I didn’t meet them all, but the sense of personal pride and accomplishment I got from reaching a few of them far outweighed any feeling of disappointment from not reaching each one of them. Even though I didn’t cross them all off my list, I’m happy knowing I am at least a little closer than I was last year at this time. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude that will carry me forward to my next accomplishment. I’ll set some new goals and keep working on the couple I already had going, and I’ll continue to celebrate the little victories along the way. For it’s those little victories, the baby steps that sometimes seem insignificant, that make achieving the big goal possible.

One fun-loving goal I have for this year (that was also a goal for last year) is to meditate every day. I didn’t manage to do it every day, but I did read a meditation each day last year. Some days I was able to sit in silence after reading it and experience the amazing effects of meditation, while other days I read it just before yelling at the kids to get their shoes on so we could rush out the door. I tried to keep it in my mind throughout the days when I couldn’t dedicate the time to meditate. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn’t, but every day I tried again.

Here’s a snippet of the one delivered to my inbox yesterday. I found it really beautiful and simple. If you are looking to make a change or set a goal for 2014, this is the best one you can make:

“In this New Year, there are many things that I would like to “fix.”  But if I spend time focusing on things that I do well and get even better at them, what kind of potential might I create for myself?  What kinds of heights might I scale?  What kinds of things might I do, and how might I be able to help others even more by strengthening my gifts, the things that make me uniquely me?

For this New Year, I want to focus on developing my gifts and strengths, and as I do so, I know that I’ll watch my flaws and shortcomings fade into nothingness.”

Best wishes for a year filled with abundant personal growth. Go get ’em!

Reflections on a sports season gone wrong

The thing with having three boys is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to participate in every type of sport you can think of at some point in their lives. So far we’ve done t-ball, machine pitch baseball, soccer, football, karate, swim team, and hockey. That doesn’t include sports-related summer camps they’ve done, like the time they tried diving and gymnastics. Or what they’ve said they still want to do, which includes wrestling, track, lacrosse, basketball, more hockey, and more baseball. It’s really enough to make even the most enthusiastic and organized sports mom lose her umph, along with her mind, sometimes.

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Although I do love exposing my kids to new things and allowing them the opportunity to be the decision-makers on what activities they’ll take part in each sports season, there were many times during the fall that had me exhausted, stressed, and completely doubting myself.

CCE on Mondays at 5pm  meant that Ryan missed one baseball practice every week. Add to that the fact that it was his first season–no t-ball experience or anything to warm him up–and I was pretty anxious about his performance when game time rolled around each week. Mix in multiple practices for different sports at completely different locations at overlapping times on the same days, with a husband whose job requires periodic travel, and you have the makings for a potential disaster. Or at least great potential for a lot of balls to come crashing to the ground. Frequently.

To get you in the right frame of mind, here’s what the back of my car has looked like for the past 2 months.

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Dropping the ball, like the time we got to baseball practice without Ryan’s batting helmet. Or the other time we forgot his ball cap at home. Or the time I forgot to write his name in his ball cap so he spent all his time in the dugout during a game stressed and looking for it, complaining that the one he was wearing wasn’t his. Or the time we got to his final game and realized his glove was at home.

Nothing gives a kid more confidence than showing up to practice or a game haphazardly prepared without all of his equipment; that’s my motto anyway. Only by the grace of God was I was able to make it home and back to the fields–crossing the same set of railroad tracks 4 times and not getting delayed–with his glove just in time for his last game to start. And I wrote his name in his hat immediately when we got home from that other stressful game.

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Maintaining my frazzled reputation,  I missed recording the first part of his coach’s speech at his end of season party. He started off by saying, “Ryan, you are what I like to call a gamer. You know what that is?”

Well, how about that hockey season? It’s long from over. I think we’re actually only about halfway through it, so there’s still plenty of time for some major hiccups. Hopefully none as bad as the season when he showed up an entire day late for his game. That one still stings when I think about it.

So far this season, Nicholas had to miss a practice because of a conflict with one of Ryan’s baseball games. It was a week when Chris was traveling, and since it’s not too common in Houston to find another 9-year-old hockey player in your neighborhood, carpooling to the rink was not (and is never) an option.

Missing a practice isn’t that big a deal since he’s one who’s always  there, but show up to play without all the required gear and you can’t even step foot on the ice.  Like the time he got to practice without his mouth guard or the other time when he arrived for a game without his gloves. Since the rink is 20 minutes from our house, both instances resulted in making on-the-spot purchases of new, pricey gear.

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A good shot of the $20 replacement mouth guard, hanging halfway out of his mouth.

I guess we could have had him sit out the game or practice because of his carelessness and hope he’d learn his lesson, but we didn’t. He loves the sport and looks forward to any chance he has to play it. He’s an aggressive player who’s fun to watch, and honestly, we wanted him to play. Shame on us, maybe. We did, however, tell him that if it happens again he’ll have to break open his piggy bank to pay for any replacement gear. So far so good, but like I said, the hockey season is still young and filled with lots of opportunities for potential ball dropping.

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Some stick handling with his $50 replacement gloves.

By the way, I didn’t take any of these pictures. I do have one of those fancy cameras. You know, the ones made specifically for capturing fast paced action shots, perfect for a mom who has three boys in sports? It’s been tucked away in my closet all season, but I really did have every intention of using it this fall.

No, these pictures are shots from other moms–moms who have it all together or who are at least really good at faking it. They were nice enough to take pictures of my kids with their fancy cameras and share them with me.

I did get this video from N’s last game, but I missed the one of him where he actually made the goal. He’s the white helmet, blue jersey number 10, jamming to Ice, Ice Baby as the video starts.

Then there was soccer. We (I) almost made it all the way through the season without any fails. We came so very close, even making it all the way to the last game of the season. We somehow managed to make every practice, never forgetting anything, until his last game when he showed up wearing a practice jersey instead of his game jersey.

I felt the guilt immediately when I remembered that I was the one who grabbed the uniform out of his drawer and stuffed it into his soccer bag as he headed out the door to make his First Reconciliation before his game that morning. Somehow he made it to the game on time, and they still let him play even though he wasn’t wearing the required uniform.

I’m not sure if he got credit for the goal he scored though, since his shirt was missing his usual number 20 on the back. I didn’t capture the goal on video, but I did get one of his thoughtful assists. And one very bad picture with my iPhone.

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So what did I learn from this fall sports season? A few things, all pretty important:

  1. I am not as organized as I thought.
  2. My kids are pretty forgiving.
  3. I think I might like baseball after all.
  4. Watching my kids gain confidence through trying new things and practicing old ones may be my greatest source of joy.
  5. I should be more appreciative of my husband and the sacrifices he makes.

Not just for the divide and conquer capability that’s possible when he’s around, but for all of his hard work and dedication to our family that makes all this possible. When he’s home and the kids ask him to go for a bike ride, take them fishing, play catch, kick the soccer ball, or watch them play street hockey, he rarely hesitates. He’s eager to guide them along their boyhood journey. Right now they’re oblivious to how lucky they are, but there will come a time when they’ll look back with admiration and gratitude, remembering the quality time he spent with them rather than the time he was away.

And for all those times he was out-of-town when I know he would’ve rather been sitting in the bleachers, I apologize for my very poor baseball play-by-play via text message. I hope to get better during spring ball, but I probably won’t. My biggest goal for spring is to arrive on time for every practice and game with all the required sports gear, and children, in tow. Anything above that will just be icing.

Bah, humbug!

Scrooge.

Just call me Scrooge.

Is it January yet? Don’t get me wrong, I love the fall season. It’s by far my favorite of the four with its’ crisp, cool, cute boot weather. I love all the holidays that fall brings and I look forward to celebrating them each year with the traditions I’ve worked hard to create for our family. But it’s only mid-way through the month of October, we’ve only had one official “cold front” (high of 73, seriously?), and I’m already suffering from holiday season burnout due to the never-ending list of October responsibilities and expenses.

When did October become the new December, anyway? I remember October as being the kickoff to a 3-month long season of football game partying, Christmas shopping, hot-chocolate sipping, holiday house decorating, new boot wearing good time. (Fyi, shoes are important to me.)

But that was when I had the luxury of time. Back when every second of my days, evenings, and weekends weren’t scheduled with a commitment that wasn’t even really my commitment. I was kid-less and free to do whatever I wanted. There was no putting my leisurely cup of hot cocoa or those beautiful boots I’d been eyeing on the back burner because of soccer games or the sudden need for new hockey equipment. Not only did I have the gift of time, I had the extra money to do whatever I wanted since I didn’t have to pay for the jaw-dropping number of kid-related October expenses.

Like the fall school fundraiser. Or wristbands to attend the school carnival. Or the monetary class party donations. Or school t-shirts. Or school carnival booth donations. Or working (or paying someone else to work) the school carnival. Or church bazaar silent auction basket donations for CCE. Or baseball concession stand duty. Or the school carnival silent auction basket donations. Or the book fair. Or school pictures. Or soccer pictures. Or jersey day or coloring contest participation fees. Or Halloween costumes. Or birthday parties (both attending and hosting, since H’s is this month).

Sure, some of these costs are only a few bucks, but multiply each of these by two, three, or more, if you are lucky to be so blessed, and it quickly becomes outrageous. I put my foot down on the book fair orders, only allowing each of the kids to buy one book this year. They complained and I felt bad and thought how insane it was that I was restricting them on books. But something has to give, so it may as well be my kids education, right? This October over-spending has reached an obnoxious new level and I am very close to flipping my lid.

Maybe it’s my fault for not thinking about all of these incidentals when I decided to have kids. Sure, I thought about the cost of diapers and formula when I was pregnant. I thought of the cost of buying my teenagers a car. Chris and I both thought about how the heck we would pay for college, if, by the grace of God, it even turns out that our kids are smart enough, well-rounded enough, and have enough extracurricular activities to actually get accepted to a college these days. But the October over-spending  was not even on our radar. Someone really should have warned us.

At least some kind friends, who are the parents of teenagers, informed me recently that this is only the beginning. It apparently gets much worse from here on out, so I better buckle up. I thank them for giving me something to really look forward to–a day when I’ll look back at this ignorant little rant of mine with a heartfelt longing, thinking of how good I had it then when my expenses were simple, like book fairs and school pictures, and were all neatly consolidated into one stressful month.

Maybe once the kids are out of college October will be the fun-loving month I remember. Only 15 more years, if all goes as planned. Which we all know it will.