Sunday, March 22, 2015

Confessions from "One of Those Parents"

The alarm clock sounds at an early hour on a Saturday morning.  It's cold and dark and a part of me wants to bury myself deep in the blankets and drift back to sleep.  I hit the snooze button once and claim just a few more minutes of peacefulness.  The alarm sounds a second time and I know we must all arise.

I get out of bed and begin the Saturday morning routine.  I pull on my maroon and gold and tie my tennis shoes.  I start the coffee pot and rouse the troops.  Quickly the kitchen fills with activity as kids grab breakfast and hurriedly making cold lunches, grabbing snacks and packing an activity bag for the youngest Love Bugs.  We double check schedules and ensure we all know the plan for the day.

We depart, miraculously on time, and head to our destination.  We arrive with our brood and all of our bags. With a hot cup of coffee in hand, we enter our home for the next few hours (and in some cases, the day).  I can smell the freshly polished floors.  I hear the squeak of shoes, the echo of balls being dribbled and the occasional "swoosh" of the net.  This environment awakens a passion within me and I am now wide awake and excited for the day ahead.

We have 3 kids on 3 different teams with 3 different schedules.  We have had to rely on family and friends to assist us with this season.  Monkey and I divide our time the best we can among the 3.  This is basketball and this is our life for 4 months.

I can honestly say, that just a few short years ago, if you would have described this scenario to me and said this would be my life, I would have scoffed and said, "no way."  Monkey and I knew families who did this and we thought it was ridiculous.  We even agreed that our kids would not participate in organized athletics at least until 7th grade.  Those parents who ran their kids all over creation were, for lack of a better word(s), nuts.  Crazy.  Loco.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when we considered allowing our children to participate in organized sports.  I cannot tell you the exact time when Monkey and I said, "okay, let's sign them up."  What I do know, is that  it was not an easy nor quick decision for us, nor has this decision come free from guilt.

How I Sleep At Night
Disclosure:  I am fully aware that the following is a list of justifications.  

1.  Mass is our first and foremost priority of the week.  If anything conflicts with Mass attendance, then IT will lose out.  We will never choose basketball (or any other activity for that matter) over our faith.

2.  Family trumps all extra-curricular activities.  If we have a family commitment; a birthday party, a special dinner, etc., we will choose the family activity.  Hands down.  The kids missed a handful of practices this past season due to family gatherings.

3.  School trumps all extra-curricular activities.  If homework is not completed, there is no practice or games.  If grades begin to fall, there will be no basketball (kinda catchy and a little corny, but very effective).

4.  Music trumps basketball.  We have kids who play piano, guitar, sax, and trumpet.  Lessons, concerts and recitals take precedent.  We did some rearranging of lesson schedules to permit basketball practice, but if that was not an option, then basketball would have been reconsidered.  Music is a life-long gift.

5.  Since there are some sacrifices involved for the entire family in allowing a few to play basketball, those few had to make some sacrifices as well; for example, giving in to the little Love Bugs in any number of situations (choosing games to play, giving them control of the remote, reading to them and helping them with their homework, etc.).

6.  Our winters in Minnesota are long and cold.  We are not outdoor winter enthusiasts.  Basketball gave the kids an outlet for their energy and an opportunity to exercise.

7.  The kids love to play basketball.

Even with our priorities intact, there were times when I felt guilty for doing something I was convinced we would never do.  I would even ask Monkey Toes the question, "are we ruining our kids?," to which he would jovially respond, "I don't think we can mess them up anymore than they already are."

So here's my confession.

I love this game.  I have loved it from the earliest of times when my parents would drag me to the gym to watch my older sisters practice and play.  I loved it when my Dad would take me out to the driveway and feed me balls and then would show me some of his "moves", in particular his hook shot.  I loved that I always had at least one fan in the crowd cheering me on (usually my Mom and Dad and least one of my sisters - they never missed a game my senior year in high school).  I loved playing and being a part of a team; contributing to something greater than myself.  I love the lessons I learned at home, which were reinforced on the court; commitment, discipline, hard work, good sportsmanship, and good character.  I love that I can share these same qualities with my own children.

We have turned into the parents we swore we would never become.  We are a basketball family.

“Not only is there more to life than basketball, there’s a lot more to basketball than basketball” – Phil Jackson

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Sweet Potato, my 12 year old, came barreling out of the bathroom this morning shouting, "this is one of the worst weeks of my life!"

Me:  Sweetie, you realize it is only Tuesday.
Sweet Potato:  Ugh!

After inquiring the problem, Sweet Potato says that for starters, he had a cold shower because Honey Bunches used up all the hot water.

Me:  I know it's hard to do, but why don't you offer it up?
Sweet Potato:  I don't know how to do that.
Me:  Well, first think of all the people in this world who don't have clean water, let alone a warm shower to take.  Be grateful that you have the resources to keep your body clean and healthy.  Then, you say a prayer and tell Jesus that you're offering this small suffering up to him for all those who don't have this luxury.
Sweet Potato:  Well that's not the only thing that is making this a bad week.

He then shared with me that he scored very low on one of his tests.  It happened to be in Religion.

Sweet Potato:  The questions weren't even fair.  I bet you couldn't even get them right.
Me:  So did you ask your teacher to explain the answers to you?
Sweet Potato:  No.
Me:  So how did the rest of your class do on the test?

Hanging his head, Sweet Potato answered, "I scored the lowest in the class."

Me: Have you ever failed a test?
Sweet Potato:  No.
Me: Would you say that you're embarrassed by your score?
Sweet Potato:  Yes.
Me: Do you think it's fair to blame your teacher on something you didn't understand?
Sweet Potato:  No.
Me:  Do you really think the test and its questions were unfair?
Sweet Potato:  No.
Me:  Sweet Potato, you are a smart kid.  Your Dad and I don't expect you to get perfect scores.  In this situation, your score isn't the issue as much as the way you're choosing to deal with it.   Never place blame on someone or something else, when you need to take responsibility for your part.

Sweet Potato:  I'm mad at one of my friends too because he wanted to talk to me when I didn't want to talk.

This poor kid really is having a bad week!

Me:  And why didn't you want to talk?
Sweet Potato:  Because my team got annihilated at recess during our football game.
Me:  So did you tell your friend you were in a bad mood and you would talk to him later?
Sweet Potato:  No.
Me:  Do you think your friend was just concerned about you and wanted to help?
Sweet Potato:  Maybe.
Me:  Should we call it a day and just go back to bed?
Sweet Potato: (With a little smile on his face) No.

Part of being a parent is to help our kids keep life in perspective.  Their problems may seem like "no big deal" to us, but to them, they look daunting and impossible.  As easy as it was for me to give quick solutions to Sweet Potato, I don't always heed my own advice.

This Lenten season has been one of a struggle for me.  It has nothing to do with my penance and alms giving, but prayerfully, some of the days have been more difficult than others.  My mind just doesn't shut off during times that I am desiring reflection and quiet.  There are some outside challenges in my life too, that I rely on friends and family to help me see the bigger picture.  Along with that perspective often comes a very scary reality of surrender; to be able to let go and let be.  It means giving up control and stepping aside to allow others, allow God, to take over.  It means exposing my vulnerability and reliance on others and on God. Not being in control means having faith.

These 40 days have me working on surrender; in looking at the bigger picture and not doing my will, but rather God's will for my life.  It has less to do with the small sacrifices I attempt to make and more about growing closer to Christ on this journey.

I continue to keep my Gratitude journal which, in our priest's words, has kept "my heart buoyant."  At the end of each day I can't help but smile about the things my kids and my husband say and do, or the kind deeds shown my way.  It certainly helps me keep life in perspective.

If you set your heart aright
and stretch out your hands toward him,

If iniquity is in your hand, remove it,
and do not let injustice dwell in your tent,

Surely then you may lift up your face in innocence;
you may stand firm and unafraid.

For then you shall forget your misery,
like water that has ebbed away you shall regard it.

Then your life shall be brighter than the noonday;
its gloom shall become like the morning,

And you shall be secure, because there is hope;
you shall look round you and lie down in safety;

you shall lie down and no one will disturb you.
Many shall entreat your favor,

but the wicked, looking on, shall be consumed with envy.
Escape shall be cut off from them,
their only hope their last breath.

Job 11:13-20 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Honey Bunches Birthday

Honey's Stats

Birthday:  February 6
Age:  11
Birth Order:  Second
Grade:  Fifth
Color:  Red
Food:  Pizza
Sport:  Basketball
Subject:  Art
Book:  Hunger Games
Game:  Master Mind and Rubik's Cube
Holiday:  Easter
Season:  Summer
Instrument:  Guitar
Activity:  Neighborhood pick-up Football Game
Prayer:  The Lord's Prayer

Honey Bunches Bio
Written by Sweet Potato

Honey Bunches is my younger brother by exactly 17 months.  He is a good brother.  Sometimes he gets into trouble, but he still helps my sisters and me with chores.  He enjoys playing video games, card games and basketball. He likes reading books like the Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings.  He loves playing his guitar and saxophone.  He enjoys playing football with me and our neighbor.  Honey Bunches is an awesome brother!

Heading out for our date.

Honey Bunches cashed in one of his Mother/Son Date coupons on his birthday.  He wanted to go out to eat at his favorite restaurant - Buffalo Wild Wings, and go to a movie of his choice - Sponge Bob Sponge Out of Water.

The restaurant was very busy, so we were seated in the bar area.  Midway through our dinner, the bartender came over with a microphone and announced that it was Honey's birthday.  Everyone sang Happy Birthday to him, including a rowdy table of 40 somethings sitting next to us who whooped and hollered.  Honey was slightly embarrassed.

The following day, we had ice cream cake with our family and Honey opened his gifts.

Gifts included a Rubik's Cube, the game Master Mind, a swim shirt, a Mind Craft shirt, cereal, cash and a stuffed animal (given by Pumpkin)

He also received this cookie bouquet from his Nina & Nino.

Due to travel schedules and basketball schedules, we decided to wait until the end of the month to celebrate with family and then also include his cousin Peanut Butter, whose birthday is 2 days before Honey's.  We went snow tubing at a semi-local ski hill.  

It.  Was.  Awesome.  

The adults had just as much fun as the kids.  

Unfortunately, we have no pictures of anyone tubing.  Both Monkey and I left our phones/cameras in the warming house.  Here is a picture of a few of the boys, enjoying hot chocolate while they warm up their cheeks and toes.

Afterwards, we had pizza and cake.

As Sweet Potato stated above, Honey is a great brother.  He does get annoyed by his sisters, but he still reads to them and helps them clean their room when asked.  He loves being outside (more so when the weather is nice) and riding his bike and playing football.  He could spend an entire day playing video games if we allowed it.  He is pretty social at school, but he does enjoy alone time with his guitar and Lego's when at home.   There are times when Honey challenges every ounce of patience in me, but at the end of the day, he will still give me a hug and say "I love you."  

Happy 11th Birthday Honey Bunches!  Always know how much I admire your gifts and talents.  They help to make you who you are and whom God created you to be.  Share them generously with others.  I love you forever!