September 4, 2014

Pick a Team, People!



Girls collage

So many parents have their children in sports or other extra curricular activities outside of school.  There seem to be so many options when it comes to learning about the value of hard work, practice, exercise, winning and losing with grace, and being a part of a team.  Those are all very important things that our kids can learn through all of these games and events.  Between soccer, baseball, softball, football, cheerleading, 4-H, Destination Imagination, school plays….let’s just say we have a lot of opportunities for our children to learn these basic life skills.  As parents, we seem to be overrun with options when it comes to extra curricular activities for our smaller humans.  We have so many options that we tend to bite off more than our children should have to chew.


Right now, I have a soccer player, a cheerleader, and a cheer coach.  (I can barely count the cheer coach as my responsibility because she is 18, in college, and gets herself where she needs to go.  However, she’s still MINE.)  We have practice four days a week for those two different teams.  Games are on Saturday, but the soccer schedule won’t be made until after the seeding tournament, which is…oh crap, I think that’s coming up soon! I’d better check on that, huh?  Those games can be anywhere between 10 minutes and 2 hours away from our house.    I know that Saturdays are going to be crazy and David and I might have to divide and conquer to get both younger girls to their respective games when they need to be.  Sometimes, one of my girls may have to catch a ride with one of their friends’ parents to get to their game.  They are learning to understand that we will make every effort to be at their games,  but we make no promises.  There are very few good excuses for us to miss their games, as the kids are our priority right now.  I usually stay and watch most of the practices too.  It’s a good chance for me to see how they are interacting with their teammates and coaches and to actually see their progress as it happens.  (Okay, so it’s a good chance for me to read as well.  I can multitask!)


Enter:  More options.


There is a play coming up.  My girls would love to be in it, but rehearsals would overlap with their current practice schedules.  This is the part where I feel like we start sort of failing our kids.  If I allowed them to audition for the play and they made it, they would be forced to choose who they are going to let down on a regular basis.  Will we let the soccer team down in favor of play practice?  Will we miss half of play practice in order to make it to soccer practice on time?  What if there is a soccer game on the actual day of the play?  We would be forced to make a choice and would be disappointing someone no matter which choice we made.  And somehow, parents are making that seem like it’s okay.  It’s okay to let the team down and not show up for soccer because we want to do this other thing this weekend.  After all, team loyalty and commitment aren’t really all that important, right? 


So, so wrong.


In addition to the play, the girls have also expressed an interest in taking piano lessons and gymnastics.  I know these kids are young.  I know they have so many possibilities ahead of them that we can’t help but sign them up for as many activities and experiences as possible.  I also know that the world wouldn’t end if 11YO didn’t show up for a soccer game or 8YO missed a football game.  But the lessons they really need to learn from these activities aren’t just about getting better control over a soccer ball or learning how to kick higher.  When you sign your child up for a team or activity, they are making a commitment to their team to always show up and do their best.  (Within reason, of course.  Illness and one-time family commitments are pretty much the only things that should take priority over that promise they made to their team.)  Whether our kids ended up enjoying their team sports or not, they have to finish out the season.  They made a commitment and it should be honored.  Even if they get injured and cannot participate, they should be at those games cheering on their teammates.  That also helps reinforce the feeling that they are an important part of that team.  Kids need to feel important to people besides their family members and that doesn’t usually happen when they are allowed to half-participate in a dozen different things. 


On top of practice schedules and games, kids also need to squeeze in homework, time with friends, and time to just be kids without anyplace to go or anything that has to be done.  Basically, they need time to be bored.  They need time to be kicked outside to wander around the yard or ride  bikes.  They need the chance to build a blanket fort in the living room or to work on crafts or put a puzzle together.  Some of my favorite days are the ones where nothing is planned.  (Those are, truthfully, my most favorite days EVER!)  They don’t usually start out very fun, though.  My kids usually approach me and point out that we NEVER do anything fun and all of their friends have way more exciting lives than they do.  Why can’t we DO something fun?  Why can’t we GO somewhere?  Those days start out with lots of complaints from the peanut gallery, but usually end with a board game that has been hiding in a closet or an adventure in the yard where they pretend they are running a restaurant or trying to survive in the wilderness.  I don’t initiate those things.  I simply ignore their whining and they eventually end up doing things that kids are supposed to be doing and having way more fun than they expected to have.  Like it or not, they are going to have to live with themselves for the rest of their lives.  They need to know what to do with themselves when there is nothing to do.  That’s when they truly start to figure out who they are as people. 


No, my kids won’t be auditioning for the upcoming play.  8YO won’t be playing Fall Ball, even though she loves softball, because the practice schedules are likely to either overlap with cheer practice or fill up the rest of our week with obligations.  It would probably either burn her out, cause her grades to suffer, or make her feel like giving less effort because she will be spreading herself so thin.  She is eight years old.  The skills she would learn in a second sport or activity at this time in her life aren’t as important as the lesson she is learning about prioritizing and following through on her commitments.  In the spring, she plans to play softball again.  If she changes her mind before signups and wants to do something else, then she won’t be playing softball.  I allow my kids to choose their activities, but it’s up to David and me to make sure they learn how to follow through.  According to my kids, I am the mean mom that won’t let them do more than one extra curricular activity at a time. 


I can live with that. 

April 16, 2014

Prioritizing, Nudist Colonies, and Houseplant Homicide



Hello, my name is Leann…and I have some bad habits.

Don’t we all, though?

(Seriously, I need you to say that I’m not alone here.)

And just like that, I reveal what is probably my worst and most self-destructive habit:  I spend a good part of each day second-guessing myself.  What am I doing right now that I actually should be doing?  Well, it’s quite obvious that I am writing this…but is that the most important thing?  I guess everyone needs an outlet, but it’s hard to tell myself that this is the thing that I should be doing right now.  After all, there are dozens of other things that I could and probably should be doing.  The kitchen tablecloth should be changed.  There are crumbs on it.  I seriously need to give my floors a good mopping.  And vacuum my couch.  There is always laundry that could be washed.  And I do realize that closing the blinds is only a temporary solution to dirty windows.  (At least, that’s what I keep telling myself!)

In case you haven’t noticed, this is not one of those blogs you can refer to for cleaning and organizing tips!

The  sad reality is that those things will always need to  be done.  Sure, I have joked about dragging my family to live on a nudist colony for the sole reason that I would be more likely to feel like the laundry is actually DONE at some point.  Even when it’s all washed, dried, folded, and put away, the stuff we’re wearing…IT’S DIRTY!  (Sure…it would be awkward, but I’m hoping the sense of accomplishment I might get from having the laundry completed a more attainable goal would outweigh the things I and my family would not be able to UNsee.)

On a day like today, it’s fairly easy to convince myself that all those chores are not the most important thing.  I can argue a good case in favor of this theory, really.  After all, do I really want my headstone to say, “Leann…Beloved Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, and she kept a very tidy pantry?”  In all honesty, I don’t think I could really be the sort of person who stays on top of everything amiss in my home.  I don’t seem to be able to find any middle ground between acting like I don’t really care and screaming, “YOU PEOPLE ARE RUINING MY LIFE AND ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH ANYTHING OR SIT ANYWHERE EVER AGAIN.”  I can’t seem to find the motivation to follow behind my family members and pick up the trails of crap they leave behind as they meander from one room to another without building up a fair amount of resentment toward them.   

And how exactly does a pair of shoes end up with each one in a different room?  Also, do not get me started on the Rainbow Loom rubber bands that can be found along the baseboards, under the furniture, and in every pile of crap I sweep up from any room in the house!

I don’t think we are  necessarily messier than other people; we just don’t have good habits in place to stay on top of things.  I don’t think to do a nightly sweep of the living room and other common areas to put things away and straighten up everything.  (How are people find that kind of energy and ambition at the end of their day?)  But, in all fairness, I also don’t think to water plants or feed fish on a regular basis either.  My children and pets stay alive because THEY TELL ME WHEN THEY NEED SOMETHING. AND THEY DO NOT LET ME FORGET.

I’m also pretty sure there is a mug shot of me somewhere behind the register of every garden area in every chain store in this county with the caption, ‘DO NOT sell live plants to this woman.    She’s a threat to houseplants and basic horticulture as we know it.  Selling a live plant (of any kind, no matter how drought or flood tolerant you might think it to be) to her is basically giving that plant a death sentence.’

Part of my problem is my whole thought process.  Most people might notice that a plant needs water and….oh, I don’t know….WATER IT.  For me, it’s not that simple.  First of all, I will need to get some form of container full of water in my hands.  Usually, I just dump a half-full water bottle that is probably left on the coffee table or wherever.  That’s is not always a guaranteed thing to find, though I usually find it more often than not!  Even then, the number of things that grabs my attention before I can get the water to the plant and actually water it can be staggering.  I might see something else that needs to be put away.  I might remember a phone call I was supposed to make or something crucial that might need to be added to that week’s shopping list.  If any one thing gets in my way between me and the act of watering that plant, that poor plant doesn’t stand a chance of being watered on that particular day!  The next day doesn’t usually look good either.  (Sadly, the problem with grabbing half-empty water bottles to water my plants is that I sometimes end up overwatering the plants.  I possess absolutely no intuition whatsoever when it comes to the needs of all things green.  Also, I have little to no natural sunlight in my house…and I like it that way!)

A couple of years ago, I read a book that made an impact on how I see things.  I should probably read it again.  It’s called ‘The Power of Habit:  Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.’  It really spoke to me.  In the book, they talk about how the creators of Febreeze first struggled to even give the product away and then went on to make it a household name. They did this by making people believe that it should be a crucial part of their daily routine. It also talks about Target and how they give us all these deals in order to track our purchases and send us coupons relevant to where we appear to be in our lives, thus getting us back in their store more often.  For example, an adult female who purchases a pregnancy test and yoga pants is most likely pregnant and they will mail her coupons for baby stuff.  An adult male who purchases dinnerware and linens is probably going through a divorce or moving to a new place and they will send him coupons for frozen dinners and basic toiletries.  If they can predict the habits of the customer, they can make themselves more relevant and necessary in the everyday lives of those customers .  Shopping at Target will become a regular habit for people and they will go there more often.  It’s genius, really!  I imagine the stores that require a membership have that same ability.  Just recently, I went to Sam’s Club and purchased nothing but a jar of coconut oil and a package of men’s underwear.

What does that say about my life, Mr. Walton?

I need to get into the habit of….getting into better habits.  I just feel like all the jobs I need to do as a mother are distracting me from the jobs I need to do as a mother!  I usually spend most days in survival mode and just conquer what seems to be most important that day.  If 8YO has a softball game or 11YO has a soccer game, laundry is likely to seem more important.  If we run out of clean forks, running the dishwasher gets bumped to the top of my list of things to do.  (But seriously, how do these people go through so many forks?)  Some days, my priorities don’t concern anything in the house and are all about running errands and shuttling the kids from one place to another.  If someone is coming over, well…then it becomes my priority to go into ‘crisis mode’ and run around screaming at those fork-overusing, shoe-losing, Rainbow Loom rubber band-dropping people I seem to have spawned.  They are actually able to clean quite well when you put a little pressure on them.  (The fact that I am usually shooting flames out of my eyes and foaming at the mouth by that point doesn’t hurt either.)  

Thanks to that book, I’ve realized that we all have the power to overcome addiction, poverty, depression, and improve our overall lives by being honest with where we are in life and replacing one bad habit at a time with a good one.

But will I ever have the power to keep houseplants alive? 

Probably not.