Thursday, February 27, 2014

I a soccer player!

Our girl has made her first foray into the world of organized sports.

Yes.  They have soccer teams for kids under the age of three.

There has been a lot said about starting kids too young in organized sports - they say that kids need unstructured time to run and jump while using their imagination and developing their ideas about social constructs.  As an educator and at the very core, an advocate for the interests of children, I completely understand where people are coming from in this regard. with anything in life, there is no black and white answer, no overarching rule that applies to everyone, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach.

We put Natalie in soccer because NATALIE wants to play.  She has lived her entire three years on this Earth going to basketball games, volleyball matches and watching endless hours of sports on the television.  She has wanted so badly to suit up in a uniform, put her hair in a ponytail and PLAY on on a team...just like the big girls she idolizes every Monday and Thursday night at Craig's basketball games.

Of course there are opportunities for girls to receive scholarships for athletics, but that cannot be the main reason we as parents enter our daughters into sports.  There are so many valuable lessons that can be learned on the volleyball or basketball court, soccer pitch, or softball field.  Natalie is learning about having fun, taking turns and working towards a goal...literally and figuratively.

As coaches and lifelong athletes, Craig and I would obviously be thrilled if Natalie's passion and joy in life has something to do with sports, but we aren't placing all our eggs in that basket right now.  We're following her lead - she asked for a team shirt and expressed the desire to play some sort of sport.  

And goodness gracious...she absolutely LOVES it. Nothing makes my heart happier than seeing the pride she has after scoring a goal and the determination on her face when someone else has the ball.  
And then what did we hear the whole way home?  

"I a soccer player.  I a BIG girl."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thoughts on a Championship

So often in a marriage, you get tied up in the day-to-day survival of being an adult - cleaning up the house, paying bills, cooking meals, keeping track of a schedule and raising a child.  In a world where romantic comedies and Disney princesses tend to live "happily ever after," there seems to be a struggle for many people to rest and find contentment in the ordinary.  But for the most part, Craig and I are good with the "ordinary" because neither of us entered into this covenant with the idea that it would be a magical experience every day.  We both spent so much time in our personal chaos that we relish the calm in our life.  And in this ordinary life we are leading, there is plenty of continual love - the kind of love that is found in discussions while cooking a favorite meal, or by bringing home a surprise Sonic drink after a long day.  We move along from day to day, raising Natalie, doing our jobs and enjoying each other's company....and this is good.  We are good with this.

But then there are those moments in life that take your breath away with the magnitude of HOW.  MUCH.  you love your partner.  When you see them not as the guy who helps empty the dishwasher or reads bedtime stories...but as an amazing human being.

I had one of those overwhelming moments on Friday night.

Craig won another basketball championship this weekend.  And although we have been through several winning seasons together and even the occasional district championship together...there was something different about this win.  The 8th grade girls he coached this year will leave his school and his athletic program never having lost a basketball game in the two years as his players.  

It's not entirely unheard of to do this through a 7th grade year because sometimes a coach can just get a great group of athletes who have skills far beyond their peers.  But by 8th grade, the rest of the district has usually caught up and the girls have a much harder time staying on top than the year before.

Craig and his girls set their eyes on the goal of having an undefeated season ending in another district championship early on in the year...and from that point, the pressure was on.  Every team and coach in the district were gunning to beat them - to have the bragging rights of being THAT team to bit the undefeated district champs.  

And for the most part, no one got close...except for the district championship, of course.  It was a back and forth game, with seven three point shots made, several free throws missed and some terrible calls by the refs.  A tie at the end of the regulation time meant three minutes of overtime - three more minutes for me to stress, chew my fingernails, twirl my hair, yell at the refs and try to calm the butterflies in my stomach.  With ten seconds left, Craig's girls were down by one point but had possession under the basket.  The clock ticked slowly down and I knew this was husband's greatest unspoken fear - that his girls would get all the way to the final game, only to have their goal destroyed by a single loss.  

And then his most talented post got the ball, tossed it up with one second on the clock...and swish...then the buzzer.  The opposing team collapsed in tears and Craig's girls dogpiled in cheers.  

And my husband finally stood up tall on the sidelines and took a deep breath.  It was over.  The girls had done it.  He hadn't let them down.

I teared up as my little girl raced across the court excitedly yelling, "Daddy, you win!  You win, Daddy!"  He swung her up off the ground and our eyes met across the gym.  That's when it hit me.  That surge of pride and admiration and love for the man I get to call my husband.  

All season, we sat every night at the dinner table and discussed the girls...the team...the STREAK...and most importantly, the PRESSURE that it was putting on him and his athletes.  In that moment, all those conversations, the worries, the sheer time and energy he put into crafting his team into back-to-back district champions had paid off.  But it wasn't just the win that got to me, it was the care and consideration he put into his season - he cares about those girls as if they were his own.  He called them on their poor behavior, and mentored them to better choices.  He gave high fives while doling out expectations and consequences.  He pushed them to be better, faster, and more skilled - any other coach would sit back and relax after such a long winning streak, but Craig never let them settle for allowing just "winning" the game to be enough.  Simply put...he is an amazing coach, not just because he understands the game of basketball, but because he understands the brain of a teenage girl and how to reach in there and pull out the highest potential an athlete has to give.

So after team pictures, a bus ride home and a quick change into comfortable clothes, we found ourselves at the local Chili's for a late dinner.  As we were walking in, we could hear his girls before we saw a town like ours, there aren't many choices for an 8:00 dinner with a large group of people.  We got a table by ourselves, but of course he had to go around the restaurant greeting the players and families - only to be met with cheers and a round of applause.  Our dinner consisted of chips with queso, three meals, four adult beverages and one giant dessert - it was a celebration, after all!  

When it came time to pay for this monstrous meal we consumed, our sweet waitress (who knew what we were celebrating and why all those teenage girls had invaded the restaurant) informed us that our entire dinner had been paid for "by the team."  It was at this point that Craig and I teared up for the third time during the course of the evening.  The kindness and gratitude that his girls and their families have shown to Craig over the past two years has been incredible...I know this will be a difficult group to say good-bye to at the end of the year.

These are the moments that make our marriage stronger - when we are able to appreciate the talents of our partner and be proud of the title of husband or wife.  As I sat in the stands (or stood up and yelled at the refs) during the game, I felt the eyes of the crowd upon me.  After the win, I was congratulated on the win and thanked for the efforts of my husband.  I'm proud to have this recognition - win or lose, I am the wife to an amazing man.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Soldier on

Hey Momma in the aisle at Target,

Yeah, you...the one with the cute brunette bob and the round (but tired), blue eyes. The one with the oversized green sweatshirt, who I caught holding your hands to your forehead while speaking tersely to your husband as he tried to calm you down. 

You seemed stressed and a little overwhelmed. 

Your beautiful little girl, who inherited the round, blue beauty of your eyes, well, she was a little squirmy, a little fussy - as toddlers are apt to do during a Sunday afternoon shopping trip. Your handsome son with the Harry Potter glasses was obviously bored and unhelpful...also like young boys are apt to be during a Sunday afternoon shopping trip. 

Our shopping paths crossed several times as we meandered the aisles, both trying to cross things off our list while also wrangling our children...and our husbands. Our eyes met each other frequently and I tried to smile warmly...but I was awkward. That glimpse of the moment with your meltdown in aisle felt like I intruded on a private moment - one of those moments of frustration and weakness all us women try to keep hidden in public. 

I just want you to know that I didn't judge you. I didn't allow that one brief glimpse into your world to define who I thought you must be as a woman, a wife and a mother.  I didn't pity or shame you. I didn't think that I was superior because my daughter was better behaved (at that moment in time).  

What I did instead was say a little prayer. You looked tired, you looked worn out. You seemed frustrated as you rubbed your temples and your husband delicately held your elbows. I prayed that you would make it through the trip relatively unscathed and that you would be blessed with patience and strength to soldier on through the hell on Earth that is Sunday afternoon grocery shopping. Because I have been there. I have been frazzled and frustrated - just trying to survive something that feels like it should be so much simpler than it really is. 

So tired Momma with the bright blue eyes, I hope you're relaxing at home right now. Curled up at the couch with a good book and a fluffy animal keeping your feet warm and your heart full. I hope your little girl went down easily for a long nap, only to wake refreshed and full of delightful sweetness. I hope your young man unloaded groceries in the kitchen and then played quietly with his Skylander figures. I hope your husband continues to be gracious, understanding and supportive. 

I wish you the loveliest of peaceful Sunday afternoons....because God knows, we all need it. 

Soldier on, Momma.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Baby Clothes

Life is funny in the way it works sometimes. Or perhaps I should mention that it's funny how God leaves out little bread crumbs for us that lead us to bigger realizations. 

A few posts back I wrote about the clothes in the attic that were staring me in the face - a visual reminder of the second baby that probably wasn't going to happen. When I wrote those words, I pretty much knew that Craig and I were done having children, but saying that out loud is, for whatever reason, much tougher than silent acknowledgement between two parents. So even though I knew the direction our life was headed, I was still afraid to get rid of the clothes because those baby clothes hold intense memories of joy, frustration, exhaustion and of a pure miracle. 

The light pink sleeper that she wore her first night home. My mother and I swaddled her together, placed her in the bassinet and stared, both of us giddy and emotional from the presence of the next generation of women in our family. 

Her first pair of tennis shoes, given to her by one of my closest friends and my former coaching buddy. The first in a large collection that is filled with Converse and Nike - the kinds of shoes which also fill my closet as well. 

The coming home outfit I bought in 0-3 month size, thinking it would fit a newborn but in reality it was much too big. My abnormal and agitated reaction to dressing her in an ill-fitting coming home outfit was the first sign of darker things to come. I felt like a huge mothering failure for not picking the "right" coming home outfit. Three years later, this seems utterly ridiculous but at the time it was SO. DAMN. IMPORTANT. (And now, I'm just happy if she is dressed in semi-appropriate clothes.)

Birthing a baby and then making it through the first year was no small feat for me. There were day days and long nights. Lots of tears, fears, struggles and fights. So I can't just toss the clothes in a bag and take them to the Goodwill. Getting rid of this baby stuff, for me at least, has to be done in a way that is healing and peaceful.

So yesterday as I was standing in the hall, catching up with the new (pregnant) volleyball coach, I felt a sort of calm come over me and before I knew it, the words "I have a ton of baby stuff for you" came out of my mouth.  And it's true.  I've got loads of toys barely used and clothes hardly worn.  Clothes that need to go and snuggle another precious baby girl...just not one that I give birth to.  

But more than that, in the small moment where we stood in the hall discussing different aspects of pregnancy and motherhood, I felt at peace with our decision for only having our only. Having one child doesn't make me any less of a mother than my friends with four. It doesn't discount the hours I spent cuddling a sick little girl, worrying about her safety or praying for her future. I wanted to be a mother and have a family and I DO. A family doesn't have to match certain specs of size and numbers...a family is defined by the love shown and shared with one another. And sure, in our family two of the people sharing and showing love just happen to have four legs and a tail...but there is love between the five of us and just like there is grace and forgiveness, gratitude and faith. 

As I re-folded and packed all the baby clothes away in the container to haul up to school this morning, I smiled wistfully as I glanced at my own baby, so big and independent at almost-three. I prayed for the new little sweet girl who will inherit these clothes, prayed for a healthy pregnancy and smooth transition to motherhood for her momma. But mostly, I thanked God for the girl he gave me and the peace I have with our decision. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A New Year, A New Room!

At this point in time, it seems like Craig and I are here in our current house, our current town and current job positions for the long haul.  And in making that decision, I decided awhile back that we need to maximize the space we have in our home.  By all standards, it is a pretty big house - we've got a very open plan in the downstairs with four large and very functional rooms.  Upstairs are two modestly sized bedrooms, our large master suite and a huge playroom for all of Natalie's adventures.

But for all the space we do have, we weren't using it properly.  I'm a firm believer in functionality and purpose - it's not the size of the space, but how you use it that makes the difference.

Having said that, I am probably IKEA's dream consumer.

So with this idea of functionality and purpose, I began crafting an idea for rearranging certain areas of the house so that the needs of our family were better served.  First of all, we do not throw enough parties or eat enough fancy dinners to necessitate three separate dining areas.  

Here is a rough sketch of our downstairs that I made through the free online program, Floorplanner.

Originally when we moved into our home, we had the front study, the formal dining room AND the breakfast area in the kitchen as potential eating places, complete with tables and chairs.  Over time we realized that three dining areas MIGHT be a little excessive for a family of two people, one small child and two lazy dogs.

So things got shifted around.  We sold off one of the tables and chairs, moved the dining set from the study into the formal dining room, bought a few new pieces of office furniture and I've been slowly (as in over the past eight months) putting together a functional, comfortable and overall useful study for us.

But before I really got too crazy with the furniture and design, I needed to think about what purpose this study really needed to serve:

1. Craig has really gotten into the buying, selling and trading of baseball cards and he needs space to store cards, print invoices and package cards to send to buyers.  He also is still scheduling games and referees for local basketball tournaments so he needs an organized space to do that kind of complicated work.

2. Over the years, Craig has collected lots of sports memorabilia, many items of which hold a lot of sentimental value.  I wanted a place to display these items in a manner that wasn't so obvious as a "trophy room" but instead as the backdrop to an area where work and relaxation take place.

3. There are two rooms in our house that we occupy the most - the open living room and kitchen area and our master bedroom.  Both of these spaces have large, flat screen televisions.  As much as I enjoy my DVR, I felt like we all need a space where there isn't a television.  An area where I can curl up with a book, Craig can work on schedules or baseball cards, and Natalie can color, play games or read books.

4. Eventually Natalie will be in school and will come home with homework.  She will need a space to do work on the computer, or a large floor area to create a project.  As one of our personal technology rules for her, there will never be a computer in her room so I felt like we needed to establish an area of the house where work (and eventually, her homework) is completed away from the distraction of toys and television.

So, without further is the progress on our study thus far:

View into the room through the archway from the foyer.

My reading and computer nook.  The general theme for the room is dark brown furniture accented with stark white, steel gray and soft turquoise.  I got the bird canvas on sale at Hobby Lobby and the candle pilaster was a Mother's Day gift from Craig and Natalie.  And of course...the puppy dogs MUST have their space in our new room.

Craig's desk and memorabilia wall.  We bought the desk last summer through Staples, the shelves were a Father's Day gift from IKEA and all the office supplies were either Christmas presents or stocking stuffers.  In the picture on the right, you can see all of Craig's special framed items - his second place medal and team picture from his his run in the state tournament way back when he first started coaching, there's also a piece of the net from when the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup, and most importantly, a signed football by Aikman and Staubach that Craig's father gave him before he passed away.

I tried to arrange the shelves in a way that filled up the space without being too cluttered or too "sporty."  There a painting that Natalie created last year, a picture from our trip to the beach last summer, as well as the yearbooks from the three years we worked together at the same school.  And of course...lots of signed sports stuff.

For Christmas we were gifted with some money from my parents and the first big purchase we made in the new year was this Hemnes bookshelf from IKEA.  I definitely wanted something that had doors - more of a cabinet than a true bookshelf - but even more than that, I really liked how only the top few shelves are exposed to the glass and the bottom is covered up.  This allows for a pretty display up above and major organization of baseball cards, family pictures, art supplies, etc. hidden down below.  On the top shelf is another signed football along with some baseballs of Craig's, on the second shelf, I emptied our upstairs bookshelf of some of my hardback books (I took the covers off because I think for display purposes, the naked books look better), a few childhood photos of Craig and myself and then finally signed team photos of Craig's current 7th and 8th graders along with a signed basketball from the University of Texas basketball players.  While we were at IKEA buying the bookshelf, I also stocked up on four gray storage boxes with lids for prettier organization.

And what's missing?  I'm still on the hunt for the perfect second hand side table that I can strip down, paint turquoise and plop a lamp on with a coaster next to my chair.  If I'm going to be reading and typing in this room...I'm going to need a place to put my wine glass.

Although the basic pieces of this room are in place and it is incredibly functional for all of us to use, there are still a few BIG things that we need to address...eventually:

1. Painting the walls a soft gray above the chair rail and a dark gray below.

2. Scraping the popcorn off the ceiling and then replacing the old air vents.

3. Replacing the light that screams "dining room" with a higher placed funky lighting fixture.

4. Pulling up the light colored flooring and replacing it with the same dark manufactured wood flooring that we have in our living room.

5. Finding and hanging curtains - the windows are HUGE and the curtains are going to be a lot of work but I'm thinking of something light, white and very airy.

6. I'd like to put a soft rug in the middle of the floor - something with a mixture of white, gray and a dash of turquoise.

Overall, I am VERY pleased with the progress that we have made in this room and it already has served its many purposes.  As much as I would love to have it all done and perfect RIGHT NOW, with our bank account the way it is right now with a child in day-care and two car payments...well, lets just go with the old saying - good things will come to those who wait.  I know that it this is all just a phase and eventually, we will have the disposable income to do the necessary repairs and updates to our home but in the meantime I will take joy in the little things that we accomplish along the way.

Friday, January 3, 2014


I am in baby purgatory.  Something must be done about this.

See...we have meticulously stored all of Natalie's baby items (clothes, toys, supplies, etc) in the attic build out that is off of the upstairs playroom.  All her clothes are folded in bins and stacked up against the wall.  There is a car seat, her jumper, a few walkers and the Bumbo just sitting in that room, taking space while simultaneously mocking me...tempting me...forcing me to sit in this purgatory, a limbo of sorts.

Craig is pretty firm on the "no more babies" idea for a myriad of reasons - a little bit financial (two years away from NO car payments and NO day-care!) and a lot bit just the overall comfort level of our life right now (no sleepless nights, easy to get up and go, no diapers or bottles).  And for the most part I am right there with him.

But then there is the stuff in our pseudo-attic.

If we keep it around then it signals the idea that we're not really sold on this only-child thing and there is space to change our mind in the future.  But if we get rid of the big ticket items and I cut down the amount of clothes from her babyhood that I save, then it is pretty final that we are done having children.

I can't make either decision.  I hate having all that stuff in that room taking up good, usable space, but I also don't feel like I'm ready, at thirty years old, to say that I will never bear another child.  Either decision is just too,

And so it all sits there and I just keep the door closed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Prayers for My Daughter

Like any mother, I pray on a daily basis for my daughter. And like any mother, my gut prayer is for an all-encompassing protection of her life and safety. For some sort of promise from God that she will always be well cared for, well treated and well loved.  

But I know better 

I know that my God doesn't say IF you encounter trials, but instead...WHEN you encounter trials. He is guaranteeing that my beautiful, innocent daughter will someday grow up and experience the wrath, hatred, jealousy and evil this world has to offer. 

It is not a question of IF she will be hurt, mistreated and broken....but WHEN.  There will come a day when my daughter is down on her knees, broken from the weight of the world, from the devastation of life and the emptiness in her heart. And no amount of fervent prayers will protect her from those trials. 

So instead of setting myself up for disappointment and frustration with God (Why didn't you protect her? Were you not listening to me?), I must instead change my prayers. 

I have to pray for the inevitable. 

I must pray for her courage to walk head first into the unknown. I must pray for wisdom to guide her path and enlighten her heart...and even the wisdom to know when to walk away. I must pray for her strength - that she know the measure of her worth and the power of her voice. 

I must pray, not that she escapes the storms of life, but that she has the fortitude to withstand them. And more importantly, for her relationship with God so that she find sanctuary in his arms when the seas get rough.