(Don’t) Put Me In, Coach!

There wasn’t much I did well in gym class. I never ran a 12-minute mile, never made it up the rope, and was worried I’d get my face smashed by the volleyball.

But I could do the Arm Hang like no other!

Is that a sport, you ask? It is when you’re one of the skinniest, lankiest girls in her 7th grade class, underweight by at least 20 pounds. Hold my chin (and the rest of my body) above that bar with my undefined biceps and triceps? I wondered if I’d even get my forehead up there.

I sat on the blue mats with my classmates, nervous sweat on my palms. BTW – that does not help when hanging from a slippery steel bar. I watched each of the boys make it – some for 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 17 seconds. A few girls with close times. If I remember correctly (and granted, this was eons ago), no one much above 30 or so. Then it was my turn. I glanced at my gym teacher (bless her, she was tough). Her face was neutral – I don’t think she expected any difference from the last 12 kids.


I decided that steel bar wouldn’t take me down. I was going to stay up there as long as my breath would hold. (Oh, wait, we were supposed to keep breathing.) I was determined, stubborn – it was me and the bar. I was better than the bar. It was my moment. Like Rocky running up the stairs to his theme song. Except it was dead silent in that weight room…until the seconds started passing. Then, I faintly heard my gym teacher – keep it up, you can do it – and my classmates, too. Only faintly, though, because it was mostly just me and the bar.

I stayed up there…for 59 seconds.

That’s right! Skinny girl whooped that bar! You may not think that’s long, but after a little web surfing, I found the 50th percentile (for girls) is only 9 seconds. I think I surprised my teacher. I’ll never forget her grin. And I definitely surprised myself. It pays to be a stubborn, skinny girl.

I hate strongly dislike sports analogies. Not because they don’t work. Just because they’re everywhere. Business, motivational speakers, magazine articles, even our church sermons regularly refer to our NFL team.

But here I am using a sports analogy. I dislike myself right now. 🙂

I blame this on my son’s school ceremony I attended last week. They recognized six teachers retiring at year end, and one was the gym teacher. I was taken down memory lane.

Gym and team sports weren’t my thing. I preferred competing alone. If I was going to let anyone down, it would simply be me.

There is something to be said for accomplishing things on your own through self-motivation and sheer determination. But I can’t ignore the fact that I am, in fact, now on a team. A permanent one. My family.

And my role as coach is one of the many facets of my motherhood title. As my 2-year old reminded me.

  • [Me: Hmmm, what should I do next?] I was doing chores around the house…and talking to myself.
  • [Him: You’re going to change the basketball player.] As in, his diaper, which he had asked me to change several minutes earlier as I was multi-tasking. 🙂
  • [Me: Oh, yes. Thank you, basketball player.]
  • [Him: You’re welcome, coach!]

Using this terminology was unexpected. I didn’t even know he knew what a coach was. And he was using it in the right context.

And he’s right. There are times I’m the family coach. The thing is I’ve been taking the role too seriously. I need to remember I’m not just a coach, I’m not the only coach, and I’m certainly not the head coach.

Just a Coach: I have dual roles – coach and player – but am too focused on my role as coach. I make sure the team is well-rested, uniforms are clean, snacks are made, lists are checked, and instructions tossed around. I forget to be a player. I forget to have fun with my teammates.

Some mornings it feels like I’m reviewing the same game plan 5 times – eat your breakfast, brush your teeth, pack your snack, make your bed, grab a sweatshirt – be ready for school before doing anything else. This morning, I could have reminded my son of all this. Instead, I played ball with my toddler. Guess what? We still got out the door on time.

Only Coach: I’m not playing this parenting game solo. Yet, there are days I place all the responsibilities on my shoulders alone. Why? It won’t do my hubby any good to not know the game. How can he help coach the team if he doesn’t have the playbook? And let’s be honest. I’m not his coach. I should be running the plays by him beforehand. There are times I need to take the role of assistant coach.

I’m so bad at this, I’m having a hard time thinking of a recent situation where I did this. 🙂

Head Coach: Speaking of assistant coach, I’m not the head honcho. It’s really God’s playing field, not mine. Sometimes I don’t even know the rules. The good news is I may blunder some plays, but he won’t take me out of the game for it. And if the rules change, he’ll coach me through. I just need to listen and wait.

Waiting for a baby was definitely one of those times I tried to coach my own way. Ovulation tests, calendar monitoring, temperature checks. I thought if I did all the right things, I’d score eventually. But when you hit the 1-year mark, you’re on the rocky cliff of giving up or trying harder. That’s when I submitted. “Okay, God,” I said. “I obviously can’t do this myself. I’ll just keep doing what I can and leave the rest up to you.” And six months later, I finally saw those two pink lines I was sure I’d never see. Some games go into major overtime!

Now, if you’re as sick of sports analogies as I am, please forgive me. And if you think sports analogies are the only way to go, I forgive you. Just kidding – forgive my sports rebellion.

My family members are my teammates, and I don’t want to disappoint them. If I’m not fully engaged in the game, stop going up to bat, and instead throw in the towel (oops, more sports metaphors!), then I’ve definitely let my team down. I have to keep playing and trying my best. I have to be player and coach, navigating the difference. And never forget who’s head coach in this game of life.

With His help, the steely bar above my head will not get the best of me!

Heart Monitor: The past two days have been really great. I’m back on green, friends!! But wow, this post’s photo shows how white I am – I need some sun!

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That’s Not My Monster!

We have a well-enjoyed book with this same title. It’s a touch-and-feel book with bobbly noses and fuzzy ears. The friendliest monsters you’d ever wish to see under your bed. But the ones nipping at my heels are not always friendly.

One is lurking in the bathroom – the Pee-Pee Monster. It was garbage day recently. When I grabbed the small trash can from the main bathroom, I was pretty sure I smelled pee. Sniffing the can didn’t confirm it, so I checked inside the potty training chair. Nope, none there. I checked the big boy toilet. Sure enough, someone’s aim was off, and the back of the toilet seat was no longer white. The Pee-Pee Monster wanted to march out to my son to demand a cleaning.

Another is lurking in the living room – the Toy Monster. Last month, I attempted to re-organize the toy area…again. Lego people were mixed with cars, monster trucks with play food, and every type of play thing stuck under the shelf unit. No wonder they can’t find anything, and yet still have everything. The Toy Monster raises my temperature, darn sure it had put away that ocean puzzle just an hour ago. I ask for an organizational  rescue and get the look, You want me to do what?

my monster_pinterest

Still another is lurking in the laundry room – the Sock Monster. Sorting the laundry, I found a balled up sock. I unrolled it, turned it right-side out so it could be washed. Digging in the hamper, I found its partner, also rolled into a tight ball. By the time I got through the pile, I had unrolled 6 pairs of socks. I was pretty sure I could smell the feet sweat in between my fingers. I don’t understand how removing a sock is all that complicated. How do they end up as a ball? It seems to be a guy thing. Is it the basketball-like hamper-tossing that causes it, or did my hubby teach them to roll them off the heel that way? I don’t know of any woman who would put them in the laundry like that, knowing it can’t possibly get clean all scrunched together. The Sock Monster whispers in my ear. Let them get washed and dried that way, it says. They can grab it from their drawer later to find it’s still damp. Such a nasty Sock Monster!

While I’d like to think these monsters are hiding out in the rooms of my house, they are actually inside me. All rolled into one – the Nag Monster.

The Nag Monster has shown its ugly head many times. Its talent is rolling one thing off my tongue after another in a matter of minutes like a Krispy Kreme donut line. “There’s a pile of markers left on the floor… granola bar wrappers belong in the garbage can, not my sofa table… who went into the fridge and didn’t close the door all the way?”

Oh, I have perfectly good reasons for each of them. But it does no good. The Nag Monster is put on mute by my kids. Not purposely. They just can’t keep up with that many complaints.

Pick your battles, my mother always said. And it’s true. Nagging doesn’t work. Just because it’s nagging me doesn’t mean I have to nag them. If I truly want them to do something differently, I have to choose when and how I ask them. Select one or two at a time. Not expect them to fix the seven things I just rattled off like a machine gun.

Plus, nagging is a funny thing. It’s more than just annoying. It actually has a way of causing harm, even with the best of intentions.

A trusted friend shared a story with me about her daughter years ago. She would sweetly say, “Let’s try to keep your shoes off the couch, dear,” and “Uh-oh, let’s wipe up the drink you spilled on the table.” Her reminders were always given in a calm and loving way. Or so she thought. Imagine her surprise when one day, the tween daughter blew up. “You’re always nagging me. Always pointing out what I do wrong. I feel like I can’t do anything right!” All the time my friend thought she was being super patient trying to encourage good habits, she was actually making her daughter feel like a failure.

I thought this was incredibly insightful. Nagging can actually be damaging…beating down your child’s confidence. And your relationship.

One of the things I hope for my kids is strength. That they feel they can accomplish anything. They have confidence to go after their dreams, no matter how far off they seem. And at the same time, they have strength to accept failures along the way, but not lose hope for the next time. Will my nagging help that? Not at all!

Now, rather than let the Nag Monster prevail, I’m pursuing the Love Monster.

It’s there in the mornings when I catch my oldest son’s sleepy-eyed face stumbling to the bathroom and saying, “Morning, Mama” to me. One day, his mornings will be spent elsewhere.

It’s there in the imaginative destruction of my living room where pillows, tissue boxes, and Are those my new Tupperware containers? build a dirt bike track over my couches. I hope they enjoy this freedom and comfort in their own homes.

Yes, it’s even in the laundry room, where I realize that someday all the socks for the three most important men in my life will be the same size. I’ll miss these miniature versions. And the ability to know which is whose. 🙂

We’re not perfect. Never will be. Never CAN be. Our best is to keep trying. To improve.

        Let us not become weary in doing
        good, for at the proper time we will
reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

I started this journey to a yell-free home 48 days ago. I’ve had some successful days (the first 9 were fantastic!) and some not so good days (any day I attempt to clean the house). The journey to date has definitely not been 100%, but I didn’t expect it to be. I won’t beat myself up over it either.

Because in this journey I’ve discovered things that have led to good. Little things. Smiling more. Whispering to get their attention. Asking why they are upset rather than asking them to stop crying. Picking my battles. Most things I was aware of before, but I had gotten out of practice remembering them. And more importantly…using them.

In our minds, we see failures too often. We must look at ourselves through our kids’ eyes. They will recognize a failure, but our failures are forgiven. And most days, they see perfection.

It’s time I see their perfection more than their failures. When I stop to look at them…truly look at them…they are miraculous. The biggest blessing I’m not sure I always deserve. I remind myself that God chose them for me, and me for them. And He always knows what He’s doing.

Your child is perfect in so many ways, too. I’d love to hear about them!

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More Cheeto Fingers, Please!

I love Cheetos. So do my kids. Not sure if it’s a genetics thing, or Cheetos are just THAT good.

I’m in awe of how quickly they devour them. And how despite the fact that you only need one hand to eat them, that cheese powder is clinging to all ten fingers when they’re done.

As I watch my 2-year old…yes, I let him eat Cheetos now and then. Seriously, you need to see his joyous grin and hear his giggle when I give him this treat. It’s this low chuckle like an evil scientist plotting taking over the world. He should rub his hands together and throw his head back just to match the image with the sound. It’s the funniest thing – you would give him Cheetos, too, just to hear it. Trust me.

Anyway, he stuffs his cheeks two halves at a time, licks each finger, and dives in the bag for more. Here’s what I imagine he’s thinking.

  • [Mmmm, Cheetos are yummy.]
  • [Hey, my fingers are orange.]
  • [Oh, that’s cheese, too. I better lick that.]
  • [Wait. There are more in the bag.]
  • [Mmmm, I love Cheetos.]

I am in total agreement with him. Except the licking part. I’ve managed to keep my cheese-finger coverage to a minimum because I stuff them in my mouth whole. 🙂


BTW – If anyone who works for FritoLay ends up reading this, I have a question. Why did the Cheetos Puffs get BIGGER? They used to be the perfect pop-in-your-mouth size. Never did I think to myself, Gee, these should be bigger so I can feel like an even bigger PIG trying to stuff them in my mouth. If I were honest, they are a little too big. I really have to cram them in. Come on, FritoLay. Don’t you realize I’d pop them in my mouth faster and probably eat more if they were smaller? Well…at least you don’t wrap them individually, like my other love, Dove chocolates. I’d devour more of those if I didn’t have to unwrap each one (probably a good thing).

Now, when my little one has finished his helping and comes at me with those ten cheese-lovin digits, I balk. “Stop! You have Cheeto fingers!” I say.

He has a face of bewilderment. But is patient as I use a diaper wipe on his pudgy hands (hey, those things are good for more than just butts).

He’s not thinking about his fingers. Or the couch arm he just touched as he does a quick jump in the air from his cheese dust high. Or my pants leg as he reaches up to whisper in my ear, “I love you, Mama.” (I just gave him Cheetos after all.)

He is simply in a moment of joy. This moment. Right now.

In the past, I know I’ve grown frustrated about those cheesy fingers. Wondering if I should try cleaning my pants or just give up and throw them in the wash. I’m sure I’ve shown this irritation to him.

Who am I to ruin his simple joy by getting flustered over his fingers? And, God forbid, causing him to think he’s doing something wrong? After all, I gave him the Cheetos.

I want to be more like him. Less uptight about things like this. To be in the moment. To savor the joy before thinking about what’s next. Forget the “what ifs.” No predicting what might come.

Do you remember the biblical story of Martha and Mary? Martha was uptight about taking care of their guests, while Mary simply sat down to enjoy the teachings from Jesus.

        “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“you are worried and upset about

        many things, but few things are
needed. Mary has chosen what is better,
and it will not be taken away from her.”

                                                          Luke 10:41-42

Now, my cheesy situation is not exactly similar. Jesus wasn’t talking about Mary enjoying her favorite treat – like Cheetos. But this scripture gives a lesson about Martha’s distractions and forgetting what’s important at the moment. I see this in other areas of my life, too.

When I get home from work, my little guy routinely grabs my neck, and says, “I missed you Mama. Let’s play ball.”

I acknowledge and respond, “I missed you, too. I love you.” But then my brain immediately runs a tally of what’s next. What to do for dinner. The mortgage payment I need to make that night. Starting a load of laundry because I’m wearing my last clean bra.

He hasn’t seen me all day. Why can’t I stop and spend 15 minutes asking about his day and tossing the baseball to him?

Because I have things to do. It’s my job to keep things moving in this home. It never ends.

But that’s the point. It never ends. It never will.

But this WILL end. This sweet, innocent, toddler stage. I need to soak it in.

So is it really my job to always tackle the list? Or is my job to be in his world right now?

Another blogger, Hands Free Mama, hit me in the forehead with an incredibly perceptive statement. BTW – If you haven’t read her, she’s fantastic!

She reminded her readers that, You can’t kiss a moving target.

Woah! That’s me! I’m on hyperdrive. How are my kids ever going to connect with me? (Not to mention, my hubby.)

So I need to make an effort to stop more, be present in the now, not get irritated by messes I’ll have to clean up later, not take away from their enjoyment by nagging at them to eat over their plates. Just enjoy their joy…because they Grow. So. Fast.

Hopefully I can learn to love Cheeto fingers, too. Granted, I’m still popping them in my mouth whole to avoid my own cheesy mess, but I don’t need to worry about his so much.

His joy is something to be savored…just like the Cheetos!

YOUR joy is something to be savored. Take the time to enjoy the joy.

Darn this post. Now I’m hungry for Cheetos. And I may top it off with some chocolate. What’s for dinner? 🙂

Heart Monitor: Ups and downs this week. Friday was great! Today not so good – trying to clean the house always gets me (ugh)!

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From One Mom to Another, You Are Awesome!

A special tribute to every recipient of Mother’s Day celebrations out there. Please feel free to insert dad, grandparent, aunt/uncle, older sibling, family friend, etc. into any of the mom references below, recognizing that there are plenty of non-traditional families out there with someone other than “mom” fulfilling a mother’s role!

To the mom with a misbehaving child in the store (on the plane, at the park, wherever), please see the empathy in my eyes, not disdain. See the encouragement in a weak smile, not judgment. Hear my thoughts saying, You’re a good mom. We’ve all been there. ALL of us.

To the mom of 4+ kids, your superhero suit is in the mail. Think Elastigirl from The Incredibles. Oh, well, I wouldn’t want to wear that stretchy material either, but I bet you can pull it off. No idea how you do it. Truly. Wait, who am I kidding? This goes to any mom whose number of kids outweighs the number of adults.

To the childless mom, our hearts hear yours. Many of us have been where you sit, hands in your lap, searching the heavens. But only YOU know your pain. Know that God has a plan. And that we’re praying for you, too.


To the new mom, you have so much to learn (snicker). But we envy the beautiful stage you are at right now. Full of wonder and possibility. Grasp it every day – it’s magical. And then don’t lose it as the years fly by.

To the mom of pre-teens and teens, I’ve heard it only gets harder as they get older. So please take notes so you can help me out when I get there. 🙂

To the adoptive mom, welcome to the club! We are all moms no matter how we got here. Warning: advice will be loaded upon you.

To the single mom, let go of the guilt. Ask for help. We see you, and we know how hard it is with two parents, let alone one.

To the mom who’s lost a child, I have no words. My heart breaks. I have no words at all.

To the empty nest mom, you’ve been through stages your kids have yet to face. They will always need you. Always.

To the foster mom, bless you. You fall in love with these kids, and still find the strength to let go when it’s time. Amazing.

To the mom already lifted up to heaven, put a good word in for us, will you? Thank you for all you did. You will always be loved and never forgotten.

To MY mom, who says, Never stop dreaming. Thank you. Sorry I didn’t give you these grandkids sooner.

To …me, your kids love you, and you adore them. Don’t stress. From the mouths of your own babes, You’re a good mama.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

[Read more…]

Squeeze Your Own Orange Juice (once)!

I say No a lot.

A lot.

I realized this when my son answered his own question the other day.

  • [Him: Mom, can we play videos?]
  • [Him: No.]

It’s become my default. I anticipate them asking for something I’m not going to like. It hinders my agenda. Hey, it’s not on MY to do list.

Like when my 2-year old poked his head into the lazy susan and thrust a juicer at me when I was starting breakfast. (It’s made of heavy glass, so I freaked a little, a squeak escaping me, and I grabbed it before he dropped it. He looked at me funny.) He declared he wanted orange juice, and I muttered something about there already being some in the fridge and put the juicer away.

orange juice_pinterest

I don’t think I’ve ever used that juicer. I’m not sure how he even knows what it is.

I tossed his request in the trash just like the mess I was predicting. I didn’t want the extra work. I just wanted to feed everyone.

Feeding their bodies is one thing. But maybe he’d love to see how a juicer worked. Maybe savoring the sweet juice he squeezed himself (all two Tablespoons of them, I’m sure) would be an experience remembered. What about feeding their minds?

Why am I always saying No?

This post isn’t about a raised voice. But writing this blog has me staring at my reflection and asking myself, Why do I say the things I say? What irritates me and why? What can I change? Saying No a lot is one of those things I saw in the rear view mirror. It was closer than it appeared.

We have, like, a zillion books. I believe in reading. Go figure. We have our favorites, but also lots of volume for choices. I remembered one of these not-often-read books titled, Yes Day!

It’s about a boy whose parents say Yes to absolutely everything he asks for that day. Can I have pizza for breakfast? Yes. Can we have a food fight? Yes. Can we stay up really late? Yes.

The first time we read this, my son asked if we could have a Yes day. My answer was, Probably not.

What if it’s Yes day, and he asks for something that I can’t say yes to – Can we go to Florida this weekend? Or something I shouldn’t say yes to – Can I play video games all day? Or, let’s be honest, it’s not something I want to say yes to – Can I get a dog?

I wonder what it would be like to actually have a Yes day. Think of the freedom! No weighing the circumstances, no thinking about tomorrow. Imagine the shock on their faces! What fun that would be. What a gift to them – deciding their own agenda for the whole day.

Guess what?

It wouldn’t work out so well in the end.

Kids focus on the fun. They don’t think about the tummy ache that pizza may cause. Or gross chicken gravy dried in their hair. Or how grumpy they are after their midnight marathon. Kids want – and NEED – our direction.

But I’ve always believed in allowing them choices along the way. After all, they are their own people. There are ways we can allow their own choices by altering the request a bit. If staying up late is out of the question, why not add 15 extra minutes to story time? They’re in bed already, and reading can be restful. Or if a food fight makes you cringe, suggest a water fight instead (weather permitting, of course!).

I can say Yes more. A little preparation and creative thinking goes a long way.

Some afternoon I can drape the counter with an oversized beach towel, get that juicer out, place my largest baking pan beneath it, drop an apron over my son’s head (maybe even some goggles – if an orange has ever squirted you in the eye, you know why this is smart), and let him at it.

Or maybe I’ll just get it out and clean up any mess later. Probably the same amount of work in the long run. 🙂

Then I can enjoy his smile as the sticky stuff dribbles down his chin. Those two Tablespoons, anyway.

I should say Yes more, because I want to feed their minds, too. I can say Yes more, if I really think about it.

I came home from the grocery store tonight with…you guessed it. Oranges!

What could you say Yes to, when you might normally say No?

I did get the juicer out. My guess of two Tablespoons was generous. And I was right about the effort not being worth the work. But he can say he’s used a juicer. And I can say I showed him how. And it tasted so sweet!!!

Heart Monitor:
Days 19-27 – Few of these days have been perfect. Among sibling arguments, picking up the same messes for the zillionth time, and no one actually listening to me when I was trying to calm them down or get help with cleaning, my voice did increase in volume. Not that it helped, but habits are hard to break.

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