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All Heart

8 Jul

Barrow County 7U All-Stars

They went out there and never gave up. Never. Two games played. Two games lost. Two games full of heart.

This was the first year for Barrow County to have a 7 and under All-Star team. The first year for the 7U to place in the district tournament. The first year for the 7U to make it to the Dizzy Dean State Tournament.

No, they didn’t win. In fact, they didn’t score a single run in either game. What they did though was keep playing with all their heart. They kept that heart in the pouring rain and after a two-hour mid-game rain delay where they had their concession stand hot dogs and french fries passed to them through the dugout fence. They kept that heart as their side of the board still glowed “0” inning after inning. Diving for catches, hustling for hits to outfield, swinging away, earning each base they ran or slid to claim. In the end, Nate didn’t cry because the team lost. He cried at dinner, hours after the game, because “I don’t want my season to be over” and “I won’t get to see my friends for a long time now.”

I’m beyond proud of these boys. They had so much fun playing the sport they love and hanging out as a team. They became that team within days after playing against each other in the regular spring season. Watching them on and off the field, you would never think they were ever opponents. They swam and laughed together, hunted slugs together until way past their bedtime, enjoyed a funny movie together, ate meal after meal together … On the field, they cheered each other on during the games and always showed support and concern for each other.

Nate can’t tie his shoes. He needs help cutting his steak. He can’t reach the hotel sink to brush his teeth. He can, however, track a hit baseball in the air and know exactly how to move to make the catch. They all know what they need to do to try to stay on that dirt for just one inning more. These little boys are so remarkable. Sure, they will lose games – but I have a feeling they will never lose their heart.

He Caught That

He Caught That?!

Diamond Dreams

5 Jul

There you sleep, barely a wrinkle in the blankets of the hotel queen bed next to ours. You are so sweet and peaceful. Hours before you had batting practice at the cages, ate four pieces of pizza and pounded that kid-sized root beer while sharing a table with your team. After dinner, you played a “who could pick up who” game and begged to hit the pool “just for a little bit” before bed. We traveled two hours for this adventure. A chance to play in the Dizzy Dean State Tournament. You are an All-Star. You are seven.

What will you remember of this trip? Could this be the one time you experience something as neat as this? You were supposed to play your first game tonight. Instead, rain delayed your fun on the field and opened up another kind of bliss. Goofing off with the guys. Cannonball contests in the pool until the sky turned dark from night instead of storm clouds. Curiosity about what the other boys are doing as we headed back to the room for bed. “Where’s Bryte staying? Are they all still awake? When will we play tomorrow?”

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I’m sure they were all like you … eyes more than ready for sleep with baseball diamond dreams in their heads. Sleep well, Barrow County 7U All-Stars. I hope this is a weekend full of special memories for you.

Sleepy baseball boy

Sleepy Baseball Boy

Perception of Me

1 Jul

It’s taken quite some time – and I really am not sure how long this feeling will last – but lately I’ve had an oddly immense feeling of self-esteem.

It’s weird how even typing that makes me feel like I’m bragging or something. Why do I feel like having self-esteem is an arrogant thing? Oh well, boastfulness aside, it feels so free – and awesome – to not put others’ opinions of me before my own.

I wore a dress this weekend that was a pre-baby belly dress. Yes, it fit just fine but that doesn’t necessarily mean I should wear it. I actually liked how this dress looked on me. I felt womanly and I was pleased with my curves. Sure, my belly popped out causing Nate to rub it and innocently observe, “It looks like there’s a baby in there.” (No. There is not.) A comment like this would’ve destroyed me prior to this week or so of feeling secure. (The grocery store bagger crushed me when she said it to me a few months ago.) Now, I giggled at him and said, “Nope. That’s just mommy. It’s my comfortable belly.”

I think womanly/curvy is hot. Why does it seem that as soon as a lady has a non-flat stomach, the perception is she’s with child? Decades ago it just meant you were one fine and foxy female. I’m working toward that opinion again. I’m glad I have my comfortable belly. It helped carry my two worlds and cocooned them in love, life and nourishment in the forms of Spicy V8 and ice cream. (Not at the same time.) I eat the foods I like so I’m not grumpy and I work out so those foods (and beverages) don’t push me to the unhealthily zone. I’m sure if I really pushed myself I could turn my comfy tummy to a flat one but I’m a happy lady in my skin. My body shape and size is just-right healthy. That statement makes me restroom selfie-secure.

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Feelin’ fine so I took a restroom selfie.

All-Stars for Sure

27 Jun

They are little boys. Most of them are 7 years old. They like to pack their mouths with bubble gum and run through the mud. They make up nicknames for each other and knock hats off heads. They wear their sports drink mustaches and red dirt-coated skin with pride. They are a baseball team.

These past few weeks of summer break for Nate have been filled (happily) with baseball. The Barrow County 7U All-Stars have been practicing so hard and all that teamwork paid off for them during the Dizzy Dean Regional Tournament. They won three games and placed third and are now on their way to the State Tournament.

Watching them out there was something to see. They are little boys but they have so much courage, heart and skill that I find myself forgetting how little they are.

For some, their bat bags are bigger than they are. Some need help tying their shoes. A few saw a bird in the outfield and chased it before the inning started. Another player swatted a bee with his bat before he went for his swing at the plate. Some pounded their protective cups with their fist as they waited for batters to swing. A few escaped the dugout to get a kiss and praise from mommy or daddy. At the end of the games, they waited in hope that their name would be called for the treat bag given out for good dugout behavior or teamwork. I saw one drop his shoulders and sigh when his name wasn’t called. (Maybe next time, buddy.)

Little boys, right? But then there is so much more to these young players.

When an injured player was down on the dirt, they ran to that player and took a knee to make sure he was ok. They’ve been playing each game for a teammate who had to miss the tournament for health reasons – shouting his name after each team huddle. (We are so happy to know he is feeling better now.) They cheered each other on so adorably during the games – one even decided one thumbs-up wasn’t good enough so he dropped his glove and gave his teammate double thumbs for a great catch. They make split second actions through all the voices cheering for them or the other team. They carry on when that action didn’t pay off or the play didn’t work out like they imagined in their head. (The next play rocked, by the way.) They looked the other team’s players up and down to size them up. Sometimes, I saw them talking to each other at the base. Chatting about tv shows they like? Right.

Shaking it off. Feeling the joy. Dealing with the heartache of a hard-fought loss. Staying a team. Sliding at Home after “good game” high fives were exchanged. Taking the W or L and thinking about how they can’t wait to play the next game. These little boys have taught me so much.

Barrow County 7U All-Stars

Barrow County 7U All-Stars

She Made Me “Aunt Cole”

25 May

In a few days, the first baby I ever loved, held and missed will graduate from high school. I feel so lucky that my sister wanted me with her when her first daughter was going to be born. Savannah Nicole entered the world with classic red hair and greeted us with her first baby sound. I swear she said, “Hi.” She’s just that cool too.

A talented musician and artist. A clever and creative personality. Kind, considerate, funny and unique in every way. I couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments and ability to overcome. She captured my heart with her first hello …

Therapy
(Written by me about Savannah in 1998)

She makes me smile when I feel sad
Thinking of her, looking at her picture
Because I miss her, miss her goofy
Miss her loud, miss her maniac, miss her “fier”

Bundles of screams, giggles and whines
Running around the room, spinning circles
Watching her do crazy baby things
Wishing I could see her now

Hours away, her giggles through the wire
“Where Aunt Cole go?” echoes in my mind
Puts a dimple in my cheek and a warmth in my heart
I don’t feel sad anymore
She is therapy

I love you, Savannah. Congratulations on your high school graduation. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you.

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Parenting: Contents Under Pressure

21 May

“I am so happy when I just think about kid stuff!” The comment seem to dance around the living room by a little girl struggling lately with a range of different thoughts and emotions making her feel confused and worried.

WarningIt’s been an interesting (read challenging and stressful) few days for us. I couldn’t agree more with her exclamation. However, I sadly understand and pointed out to her that the other (less fun) stuff is indeed still “kid” stuff as well. Just growing up kid stuff.

From what I remember about puberty, it was different from all this business I’m hearing about from our oldest baby. Maybe because I blocked out the awkward? Maybe because I don’t remember such specific thoughts? Maybe because I wasn’t a parent on the other side?

I know one thing for sure – I certainly did not tell my parents everything Nia tells us. I’m sure I will miss her openness when she stops sharing her thoughts with me. I just think it would be better for all of us if she didn’t share quite so much. Some thoughts should stay private. I don’t even want people to know everything I think. I could be in big trouble if I told someone my thoughts when I thought them. I told her that so she knows she’s not the only one who thinks things she doesn’t want to or understand. I told her the thoughts are normal. It’s ok to have them. It’s the choosing not to act on them that matters. I stress to her that she’s a kind, caring little girl. She worries she has a “bad” part. Don’t we all?

It’s just tough to teach a child who wants so much to do the right thing that she doesn’t need to tattle on herself for every little hiccup of growing up. We’ve talked about it and talked about it (and talked about it some more) and I’m hoping we can find a way for her to best manage her feelings without feeling like she needs to confess or seek reassurance for all things. It’s a tricky thing to balance because I tell her I’m always here to talk about her concerns but then I say – we just don’t need to talk about all things. I’ve tried to tell her she’ll soon be able to distinguish between the harmless (although maybe a bit uneasy) thoughts that she’s a-ok to keep private and the thoughts/experiences she feels that could hurt her or others. Those are shareable.

Because I don’t want to mess this whole parenting thing up, I’m planning to get guidance on how I can best handle my responses and direct her feelings the safest way. I guess that’s what Nia does when she shares with me. From one confessing, worried soul to another, this situation is fragile.

Puppet Masters

19 May

I’m proud to be a card-carrying member of the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. We experienced our first visit and performance this weekend. “Brer Rabbit and Friends” had us all giggling, singing along and learning about how they put on the entertaining show. They are such talented entertainers – the person as an actor bringing the puppet to life. Such a unique talent.

After the play, the kids enjoyed walking around to see all the puppets on display – especially some of Jim Henson’s stars from the Muppets, Labyrinth, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. I also loved the Skeksis from the Dark Crystal. So cool (and still creepy all these grown up years later) to see up close.

The museum also offered us the chance to create our own puppets after the show – something both kids and adults found fun.

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Nate & Nia Bear Puppets

Happy Puppet Masters

Happy Puppet Masters

Can’t wait to go back! (I see Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are on the calendar!)

Then Came Ten

27 Apr

Where did nine go? It was just here a sleep or two ago. The year was so fun, busy and marked with many changes for our (not-so) Baby Bean.

November 2012

November 2012

You sprouted like crazy. At the end of your Third Grade year, you were frustrated how the older kids would say you looked like you were a Kindergartener. Now, you may likely challenge some of those kids on inches. You are catching up to mine, now almost up to my shoulder. I had you sit on my lap the other day and almost cried. You will always “fit” there (love-wise) but it was then that I realized, you don’t fit there (size-wise) anymore.

Bean Sprout

Bean Sprout – April 2013

A braver Bean also started forming this year. “I’m auditioning to be Elfis in the class musical “Elfis,” you informed me. Out of your shy shell, you put on the costume, rocked the Wii guitar and sang in the microphone in front of three audiences of all ages. You memorized your lines and delivered them in character, getting giggles from the crowd. It was wonderful watching you on the stage and not even flinch when a child yelled out, “That’s a girl! My dad told me!” You even made one boy slap his own face when he discovered you were a girl hiding under that Elvis wig. What a moment.

In Character - December 2012

In Character – December 2012

The year of Nine had you caring about how you did in Gym Class for the first time ever. Each year, they offer medals for how many Phys.Ed. challenges students pass. They are handed out at the end of the year awards ceremony, along with the academic achievements. You always get “gold” for great grades and behavior but you’ve never earned a medal for athletics. You worked hard at this. You came home and practiced volleyball. You practiced stretching for several nights so you could improve your reach test. You succeeded. This athletic spirit also started showing when you ran in Mile Fun Run races. You pushed yourself and earned a place medal. Get it, girl!

Brother First | Sister Second

Brother First | Sister Second

Nine will also be known as the year when you began being ok with saying goodbye to your Barbies and dollhouses. I thought this would be a more gradual process but you made up your mind and started piling the dolls in a box. You gave eighty dolls to bring love to another child. It made room for a zebra-striped reading bean bag and a desk that will take you through high school or longer. You also want to paint over the princess crowns and castle lining your wall with a big purple stripe. However, while you are working your way to “older” things, you still find room in your heart for a few things from your “younger” years.

Annie and Nia

Annie and Nia – January 2013

Your interests also started expanding this past year. Your daddy introduced you and Nate to Star Wars and you couldn’t love it more. You watched all the movies and then watched all the movies again within a few weeks. You know more about the characters and events of the movies than I do and I’ve watched the movies more. The love of the movies has made you love all things Star Wars. Your Angry Birds Star Wars drawing is a great example of that.

Angry Birds Star Wars by Nia

Angry Birds Star Wars by Nia

You are such a considerate and caring person and it really showed this year. You have a helping heart and I’m amazed how you can easily play with children of all ages. Your patience and selflessness with younger children is beautiful. You also genuinely worry about others. You have a compassionate sense of right and wrong and try to protect people from being hurt. That includes yourself. When another student tried to hurt your feelings by calling out your “unibrow,” you calmly replied to her with, “I know I have one. So?” I know this is tough for you because you are a sensitive soul. I am so proud of you and often think of you to remind me how to react to things as well.

Protecting

Protector Bean

Helping Bean

Helping Bean

This year also meant taking boys more seriously. Well really, “boy” more seriously. You’ve had the same “boyfriend” since Second Grade but you never really blushed when you talked about him until this year. Now, things he says to you or gifts he gives you are very special. You keep them close and let us know about things that happened that day around him. All of this is comfortable for us because you are both sweet kids and you tell us EVERYTHING. Seriously, everything. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining because I’m glad you share things with us. I know there will be a time when you will stop sharing. Thank  you for letting us into your world and trusting us with your heart.

Gift from a Special Someone

Gift from a Special Someone

Your heart also has so much room in it for your little brother. You love him dearly – even when you are nah-nahing each other. He looks up to you too and is proud of you. When you told us about your possible gold medal in P.E., Nate was the first to praise, “Great job, Nia!” I hope you two will continue to be each other’s biggest fans. I can’t explain how happy it makes me to see you showing unconditional love for each other.

Little Brother | Big Sister

Little Brother | Big Sister

It’s difficult to capture the beauty of your heart, Bean, but I hope when you read this it gives you a glimpse of the amazing young lady you are. You are a treasure to everyone who knows you because of your attitude, kindness and hope to bring happiness to others. One example of that is how you love to make up jokes to make us laugh. “Why is my coat on the floor? It’s tired because I wore it out.”

Silly sweetheart, I love you so much. Happy birthday, 10-year-old.

Emotionally Yours

23 Apr

They said the same thing three weeks ago. I didn’t think twice about it. I even likely laughed with them. Ha, good one. Not offended at all. Didn’t read into it. Took it for exactly what it was. Maybe it was a one sentence email. Maybe it was an all-in-good-fun comment made in the kitchen. No issues.

Then, three weeks pass. So, what are you trying to say? You don’t think I do a good job. He’s criticizing me. I can’t do anything right. Ohnoyou’renotgonna use that email tone with me, lady.

I now know to stop and readjust my mindset before letting those emotional thoughts flood my sanity. That took me some time to realize and I still struggle with it. Especially if other factors are hitting that week – lack of sleep, major event planning, kid struggles …

What is proving really tough for me now though is that we’re starting to see glimpses of this in Nia. Emotional changes she/we can’t link to anything. She was fine when I said those same three words to her before – now, I’m the meanest person in the world and she can’t stop crying.

I know it’s part of life and we get through it but it hurts that I can’t rationalize it away for her. I see myself so much in her. We are such sensitive souls and then the emotional swings intensify our moods. I know she will need to sort through these powerful emotions and learn how to best deal with them without becoming a crazy. It’s just so difficult for me to not be able to help her understand. Why did that make you so upset? Whoa, Bean, what happened? Where are all these tears coming from? My words of comfort and support aren’t enough to calm her. Sometimes, she just needs to get it all out. I get it.

In a way, it feels like we just go through the stages of growing up over and over again. The toddler years featured many unexplainable and inconsolable fits. Then, after a nap, snack or time out, it was all better. I wish it’ll be that easy. (Although it certainly wasn’t easy at the time going through the toddler stage.) I just know this will be a much longer phase and I plan to do all I can to handle with care – and not let my emotions get away with me too.

Bean                                     |                                               Mom

Caution: Bridge May Ice in Winter

21 Apr

So many life lessons exist for the kids within the miles and hours spent in a cocoon on wheels with other people.

  • We need fuel to run. This can be taught by the amount of gas fill-ups needed or snack food fixes you’ll require. Even though we know they aren’t good for us, we will most often invite things we don’t eat on any other normal day – chips, beef jerky, Combos, giant pickles in bags and Swedish Fish – to be an additional travel companions.
  • Sleep happens.
  • Interstate billboards offer you plenty of knowledge nuggets about religion, sex, eating habits and laws we should follow to make society better and safer.

21 is the legal drinking age.

Litter is bad.

Speed limit is slower than you’re driving.

Seat belts even keep a picture of the state of Georgia safe.

  • Stretching is important.
  • Too much time trapped with the same people causes fits of laughter, whining, tested nerves and lunacy. Such are the emotions many of us go through on a given day.
  • The road trip games we play can offer quite a few lessons. For example, we enjoy the alphabet game. We play ours by finding words on signs, billboards and cars that go in alphabetical order. You can’t say the same word as another person unless it’s for Q, X and Z. (The toughest to find.) First person to find the Z word, wins. This most recent road trip showed me how this game wad teaching the kids:
    • Patience – sometimes you need to wait for 20 minutes and few signs before finding your word.
    • Things don’t always come easy – daddy was driving too fast by signs, some signs were blocked by other vehicles, one person would say a word faster, etc.
    • Make the best of a situation – when you are the only one still looking for a G word, sing a silly song about the letter G and how it is hiding from you. (Nia had a lot of original tunes.)
  • Be ready for the speed bumps. Traffic, accidents, car issues, items accidentally left on the roof, wrong or misread directions, a threatening wasp unexpectedly trapped in the small space with you, a spilled drink, and/or extra pit stops will attempt to throw you off course and shatter your spirit. How you handle these situations is a glimpse at how you’d handle problems at school, work or relationships. Proceed with caution.
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