We are the minivan

A few weeks ago, I began pulling out of a parking space and my rear bumper sensor indicated someone was walking by behind me. Actually, the sensor let loose a piercing screech that caused all three kids to cover their ears and me to throw the car in park and karate chop the air while screaming HIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYAAAAAHHHHH!

Apparently my rear sensor was on the fritz. That was its last swan song. My bumper will never beep another warning. May we all share in a moment’s silence.

When I first figured out that I wouldn’t have the beep to warn me if I was going to run over a bike, or a plastic basketball goal…or the dog, I panicked slightly.

“How will I back up if I don’t have the warning signal?” I lamented.

“Um…the same way you did for the first fourteen years you drove a car,” my annoyingly amazingly practical husband answered. “Use your mirrors and turn around and look.”

Ah. Novel idea. He’s a keeper, that fella of mine. A keeper.

Of course this won’t save a stray bike that finds its way behind the back bumper, but if I hit their bikes, then hopefully lesson learned. Don’t leave your bikes under my dead rear bumper, kids. Don’t do it.

We could, naturally, get the sensor fixed – that would solve the problem lickety split, but I’m not sure I want to spend the money on that when, you know, I could just use my mirrors and turn my head around. Right?

I realize that my minivan, being a little over four years old at this point, is quickly heading down the hoopty van track. In fact, she’s sprinting there. When the bells and whistles start fading and the scratches from wayward bicycles and scooters make patterns down the sides, the luster of the minivan wanes.

Not hot.

This is part of the stigma of driving a minivan. People don’t want to drive them because when sticky, Nutella laden fingers slide down the sides and dot the windows, it becomes apparent that we’re farther away from the carefree days of our youth than we want to acknowledge.

Our moms drove minivans. Weren’t they old?

Sorry mom.

There’s another thing. Minivans get dirty. I’m pretty sure our minivan had the new car smell for 12.4 minutes. That was it.

That’s not very long.

Minivans take a beating on a daily basis for hours on end, and those of us driving them, while well-intentioned, simply can’t keep every stray french fry or Cheez-it or ham sandwich accounted for.

Some of them simply fall beneath the cracks.

Incidentally, have you noticed that french fries never mold? This is why they are the perfect food for feeding young children on the go. Drop those bad boys under the seat and never fear. They will harden into a perfect fossil – a reminder of the days when life was crazy and kids couldn’t get the food from a box to their mouths.

But no mold.

Good job McDonalds.

I’ll tell you what, though. Minivans have something something those shiny, fancy SUV’s and sports cars don’t. That’s right. They have that one thing that makes them hotter than all the rest. And that one thing is…

Um…

Ahem.

This is awkward…

Okay so a scratched up, sticky, faded, smells-like-sweaty-children-and-french-fries-fosselizing-under-the-seats minivan may not be anything more than convenient, alright? HOWEVER!

Those of us that drive the minivan, even the minivan with a broken sensor, we know that there is just something about them that makes us feel a teensy bit proud. Because every time we get in our minivans, whether they have all the bells and whistles, or perhaps just a solitary bell on its very last leg, we know that we are in the trenches. Life teems from the backseat and KidzBop screams from the speakers.

We make the minivan hot. Our families make the minivan hot. This season of life makes the minivan hot.

Hawt if you will.

And that is all.

So tell me, you minivan driving moms and dads? What about your minivan makes you feel hot/hawt?

Yes. Pick me. I’ll Go.

Comments now closed. The lucky winner is Emily! Emily I sent you and email. Send me your address and I will get the book in the mail ASAP. Thanks everyone for entering. Now go buy the book!

I’m currently nearly finished reading Kisses from Katie and I can barely contain the tears that have been flowing since I opened this book. Have you read it?

Why not?

“I fell in love with Uganda as soon as I arrived. After I woke up the first morning of our stay, I looked around and saw glistening bright white smiles against ebony faces; I heard happy voices, lilting language, and gentle laughter. I saw strength and depth of character in people’s eyes. I found Uganda to be a beautiful land filled with beautiful people.” Katie Davis, Kisses from Katie

Change a few adjectives and this is the exact way I would describe my feeling the first time I stepped off the plane in the former Soviet Union. It was as though a part of my soul – a piece of myself I hadn’t known existed until that moment – came alive and I would never be the same.

I am awed by Katie Davie and her willingness to say “Yes, Lord. I’ll go.” As I’ve read, I’ve found myself thinking more than once that somehow the decision she made was easier. She was young – she didn’t have anything tying her down. Of course she could just pick up and go. Of course she could say yes.

This thought is selfish at best and outright offensive at worst.

Katie was an eighteen year old Homecoming Queen with the world at her fingertips and the resources to grasp it. Instead, she “quit her life,” left everything comfortable and known – all her dreams and plans, her parents’ dreams and hopes and desires – and she moved to Uganda. Forever.

Katie Davis said “Yes.” And it was a hard “Yes.”

I am a wife with three young children. My “yes” may look different, but I have the exact same ability to say “Yes, Lord. I’ll go.” But would I mean it? Can I say it? Because honestly, the responsibilities in front of me are real, and necessary and daunting and when I think of saying “Yes, Lord. I’ll go,” my mind automatically thinks so big and so vast and I feel immediately incapable of succeeding.

I wish my “yes” could be in another country where the harsh but beautiful lilt of the Russian language filled my ears and the laughter of children in need quenched the thirst in my soul.

But that’s not where He has me right now. And I sometimes fear that maybe I long ago closed my ears, gave a resounding “No” and relinquished my ability to impact His kingdom.

Then I pull out the Math books and the history book and the Russian books and realize that I already said “Yes, Lord. I’ll go.” Every single day, as I shepherd and mold the small hearts entrusted to me, I say “Yes.” I didn’t want to home school. Honestly, most days I still don’t. But I’m supposed to. I know with all my heart that right now, at this moment, I’m where I’m supposed to be.

“Yes”.

Katie Davis’ “Yes” took her to Uganda. It made her the mother of fourteen children before she could legally drink in America. Her “Yes,” by my standards, is huge. Her “Yes” by any standards, actually, is huge. How many of us were willing to give up everything at eighteen to go serve the poorest of poor on the other wide of the world?

But guess what? We all have the ability and the obligation to say “Yes” to that which is right in front of us. My “Yes” to home schooling is not that big, especially when you take into consideration the reluctance with which I agreed. But still I said, “Yes.” Just thinking about it in these terms has renewed a passion in me for discipling my children this year while I have them home.

Consider Katie’s words: Sometimes, the everyday routine of my life feels so normal to me. At other times the idea of raising all these children seems like quite a daunting task. I realize that since I have chosen an unusual path it is easier for outsiders to look at my life and come to the conclusion that it is something extraordinary. That I am courageous. That I am strong. That I am apecial. But I am just a plain girl from Tennessee. Broken in many ways, sinful, and inadequate. Common and simply with nothing special about me. Nothing special except I chose to say “yes.” “Yes” to the things God asks of me and “yes” to the people He places in front of me. You can too. I am just an ordinary person. An ordinary person serving an extraordinay God.”

We can all say yes. We can say yes to the man on the street corner with a sign for food and a plea for help crying from his desperate eyes. Small? Not to Him and not to God.

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

We can take food to a neighbor in need, visit someone in a nursing home, hug a hurting friend or give out of the abundance of our resources to those who have little. “Yes” takes many forms, but we have to be willing to say it, then do it.

In the interest of giving everyone the chance to be inspired and encouraged and challenged and convicted, I have purchased a copy of Kisses from Katie to give away to one reader. Simply leave a comment for your entry. I will choose a winner randomly on Wednesday morning, February 1, at 9:00 am EST.

Mom, Interrupted

When I gave birth to my first child, more than one person commented how calm and natural I was with him. I wasn’t stressed or worried about people holding him or coming to visit. I didn’t ask people to wash their hands before picking up the baby and I didn’t fuss over his every sound and movement.

Part of that stems from the fact that I am an anti-germaphobe. Seriously, I kind of have to make myself worry about germs because honestly, that stuff just doesn’t bother me. (But I draw the line at my child licking ketchup off of a McDonald’s PlayWorld floor – which has happened. I’ll give you one guess as to which child it was.)

Part of it, though, came from the fact that motherhood did come naturally. I wasn’t fussy and worried about every little thing with my first child. From the moment he was born I felt completely at ease with being his Mom.

At least that’s what I thought, anyway.

Now that I look back on those early parenting years, I have to shake my head and chuckle at my obvious insanity.Was it obvious to every one else?

Don’t answer that.

I was Nazi Mom when it came to eating and sleeping. I had that child on such a rigid schedule that nothing was permitted to penetrate the iron walls of my control. I planned our entire day around Sloan’s eating and sleeping schedule and I refused to let anything interrupt that.

And today I have a first born who thrives on predictability. Coincidence? Doubt it.

Poor kid.

The problem with my tight little ship (yes, I know – there’s more than one problem with it) was that I was totally closed to spontaneity. I was completely uninterruptible.

If someone called and asked if I could watch their child while they ran an errand or went to the doctor, many times I hesitated. Having someone over would mess up the routine. Sweet Jesus, NOT THE ROUTINE!

As Sloan got older, and more babies came along, I loosened up a little, but I still did not love having our routine interrupted. I was also terrible about inviting other children into my home. I didn’t like it. Having to parent my child with others around made me crazy, so I avoided it.

I was so terribly selfish about my routine and schedule back then. While I often claimed to have a welcoming home, I did little to live that.

Until I met my friend Suzanne.

Suzanne was always willing to have my kids over – all three of them. Despite the fact that Tia and Landon were very young and required more time and attention, Suzanne would constantly offer to have them in her home. She picked them up for me. She fed them and played with them and loved on them. And I watched in awe at the way she allowed her day and her time to be interrupted without complaint.

My friend Bethany was equally amazing. If I had anywhere to be, she was always the first to offer to keep my kids. Even if they were sick, despite the fact that she had little ones herself, she’d wave her hand and say, “Who cares?” and urge me to bring them anyway.

Tia met her best friend, Noelle, on her first day of preschool two years ago. And I had yet another amazing example of someone willing to have their day and schedule interrupted. Noelle’s mom, Jennifer, had such a desire to foster good, healthy relationships between her children and their friends and she was rarely alone with her children. She constantly had someone else’s child with her, and Tia was one of the kids privileged to experience Jennifer’s love and grace.

Those three women weren’t the only ones who modeled to me what it meant to be interruptible. I had many, many friends show me how to be a true servant in this role called Motherhood and with each example, I found myself slowly but surely loosening the grip on my rigid schedule.

I’m still learning to be interruptible. I want my kids to know that they can invite people into our home and that I will welcome others with a warm greeting and not a frustrated sigh. I want to be willing to drop what I want to do so that I can foster and build healthy relationships for my children. I want to be Mom, Interrupted and to fill that role with a smile on my face and, every once in awhile, a plate of cookies in my hand.

I want to bless other parents and other children the way those women blessed me.

What about you? Are you interruptible?

Deep and Funny

A Party Pic Circa 1996. I lifted this off Facebook, so it was already out for the masses to see and laugh at. Good times.

You know when you want to write something really deep and poignant and you feel like it’s all just right beneath the surface, but for some reason you can’t dig it out of your brain because you’re bone tired and you can’t seem to string a coherent thought together other than, “Geez I’m glad Facebook wasn’t around when I was in high school“?

Yeah…that’s super fun.

OR…

You know when you decide to scratch the idea of being super deep and poignant and you decide to write something that’s wickedly funny, that’s sure to make people laugh until they cry and share until it goes viral, but you realize that you can’t dig any humor out because you’re bone tired and all you can think about is how much you would have embarrassed yourself if Facebook had been around in high school?

That’s swell.

Then remember that time when you used the word “swell” while writing a hypothetical post and you began to wonder whether or not you could incorporated the words “rad,” “groovy,” and “righteous” into the same sentence without being too obvious that you were just trying to complete an exercise in writing through writer’s block?

That rules.

Remember that time when you realized the movie Reality Bites is coming up on its 18th anniversary and you remember watching it when it first came out on VHS?

Um…that kinda bites.

You know how sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all, but you feel compelled to say something because if you say nothing people might think you have nothing to say, when really you have tons to say but you’re just tired so you just start typing nonsense thinking that something really deep or really funny, (or maybe something deeply funny?) will spill forth from your fingertips but then you realize that you’re pumping a dry well and the best thing to do is shut up and go to sleep?

That’s good advice. Shut up. We don’t say that word in our house. Unless you mean it and it’s necessary.

I’m kidding.

As far as you know, anyway.

Remember that time you scoured the internet looking for some bit of current news you could use as a launch pad for a post, but instead of reading up on the important matters of the world, you got sucked into celebrity gossip and before you knew it you were yelling at the computer, infuriated by yet another celebrity couple telling the world, “we just grew apart” and you wanted to hulk smash something because you’re tired of marriage being so quickly cast aside?

And then you stumbled over this video that caused you to forget all about the selfish celebrities of the world and instead crumble into a puddle of tears and long to adopt a baby or four from every single country in the world?

This then leads you down memory lane to the day you called your husband sobbing after watching Oprah one afternoon and her coverage of the underground slave trade of young girls in Romania. “We need to go to Romania today and bring home three or four little girls,” you cried. Then your husband asked you not to watch Oprah anymore.

Remember that? That was super.

This is all hypothetical, of course. Merely conjecture. I clearly need to go to bed. Or drink a glass of wine. Or both.

Of course, if any of this were true and did happen to actually spin through my mind, I would tell you that I came up with more than one Status Update circa 1996. And I may have developed a few from 1995, 1994 and 1993, too. I said MAY.

STATUS UPDATE: Last night’s episode of ER was the bomb. Dr. Ross is sooooo hot. (Maybe I would have spelled it hott?)

STATUS UPDATE: Today was, like, so lame. Someone played “I Like It, I Love It” on the cafeteria juke box like 52 times. Ick. Hate that song.

STATUS UPDATE: I hit a parked car at the Homecoming football game tonight. OMG. I’m gonna die of embarrassment. #imadope

STATUS UPDATE: Tonight at the dance the DJ played “Shake Your Rump!” and “Ice, Ice Baby.” #bestsongsever

STATUS UPDATE: OMG! Like, I totally made Hockey Cheerleading today. #wickedawesome

STATUS UPDATE: Wait…why do hockey players need cheerleaders? Can they even hear us behind that glass? #confused

STATUS UPDATE: Reality totally bites. And Winona Ryder is, like, the coolest girl ever.

So tell me, my friends, what would your high school self’s Facebook Status say? We’d all love to know.


The one where we go on a date.

I gave him a goal to start the year. A goal for my first born with a natural bent for learning, but not a love for the process. “If you finish two books before the month is over, I will take you some place extra special – just you and me.”

That’s all he needed. Motivated by encouragement and a promise, he zipped through two books in less than two weeks. Perhaps the goal was too easy, but I wanted it to be attainable. I wanted him to succeed because I wanted to reward him. And today, the reward comes to be.

Sloan and I are headed to Busch Gardens today, just the two of us. Wendy wrote a whole series of posts on dating our sons (and daughters) and every post was precious, but I was particularly fond of this one. One of our Christmas gifts from my parents was season passes to Busch Gardens and I am so excited to break in those passes with Sloan.

Of my three children, fostering a relationship with Sloan has been the most difficult journey, mainly because he and I are so very much alike in a lot of ways and so very different in other ways. Add to that the fact that he is simply getting older and he needs to be fusing more to his Dad at this time in his life, and you have a recipe for hard moments in our sometimes long days.

Sloan and I need to have some uninterrupted, do what we want, no-one-pulling-my-attention-away fun and tomorrow will be that day. The weather is going to be beautiful (seriously, I totally get why people come to Florida for the winter – it’s freaky awesome), and we are going to ride rides, play games and simply enjoy one another with no set schedule.

It’s been way too long since I dated my son.

So that’s where I am today. I’m building an altar with my cherished first born; an altar of remembrance to look back on with grace and fondness and, hopefully, a few secretive giggles. A lifetime’s worth of memories awaits us.

*happy dance*

Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Sports World

BRAG ALERT! BRAG ALERT! BRAG ALERT! BRAG ALERT! BRAG ALERT! BRAG ALERT!

My husband is a freakishly good athlete. It’s actually annoying, really, how good he is a sports. He can play pretty much any sport well and when I say well, I mean better than the average population.

In college, one of my favorite past times was rollerblading. Oftentimes, I went out with a bunch of guy friends and I prided myself in being able to at least keep up with them as we buzzed around the Baylor campus, leaping down flights of stairs and doing various tricks without helmets…

So when Lee and I were dating and he told me he had never been on roller blades, I jumped at the chance to take him because I figured finally something I could do better.

Within fifteen minutes on his roller blades he was jumping, turning circles, skating backwards and doing tricks I would never even dare to try.

Punk.

It is with a small ridiculously large amount of glee that I tell you, however, that my husband can’t water ski to save his life. Image Gumby trying to get up on skis and that is about what Lee looks like. It is like a balm to my wounded pride to watch him water ski because I can do that better!

Anyway, the point is, my husband is an amazing athlete. He was a full ride scholarship collegiate basketball player. He was asked to play basketball professionally in Germany just before we got married. And we declined. It is our greatest regret to this day.

So it’s no surprise that I have three kids who are all good little athletes, with the youngest being so much like his Dad it’s a little eery. Landon is a natural with a ball. He always has been. Remember this video?

If you can get past my husband’s glaring hotness you’ll see a then 18 month old Landon dribbling the ball beautifully. Today, he can dribble with both hands while walking. Lee has him dribbling to the beat of music and many days, when he’s decided he’s had enough of the school thing, I can hear the basketball rhythmically bouncing outside…or inside.

And this Saturday, Landon’s four year old dreams came true when he got to start basketball. It was just a YMCA league so we could start slow, but Landon didn’t care. As we headed out Saturday morning, he confidently told us he was headed to the NBA finals.

Tell me, is there anything cuter than a four year old playing basketball?

Defense!

He scored four out of the five baskets his team made.

Landon isn’t the only Stuart child to get their father’s athleticism, though. Sloan is also a pretty amazing little athlete. While he enjoys basketball, the agression of that sport doesn’t match his personality, but baseball and golf are right up his alley.

In fact, we had a pro golf player pull us aside last week and tell us to start getting Sloan lessons and enrolling him in tournaments because he’s a natural with the golf club. “He could be great,” the instructor told us and I believe it. I’ve always known Sloan was gifted in golf, but it was so nice to hear it affirmed by someone else.

I don’t know much about golf, but apparently this is a great swing. I have pictures of him doing this when he was three. The first time we took Sloan to the driving range, he had just turned three. Lee set down a golf and we watched as he hit ball after ball anywhere from 25 to 50 yards.

College ticket?

And of course, Tia loves gymnastics and while she isn’t quite as coordinated with a ball, I could see her being a great soccer player. Mainly because I think she’ll bowl over anyone who tries to take the ball from her. She may have inherited the full brunt of her Daddy’s competitiveness.

Honestly, all three of my kids could grow up to be just average athletes. It doesn’t matter to me whether they’re great at sports or not. I want them to play what they love and love what they play. Sports are secondary. More than anything, though, I love the relationship that is growing between us and the kids as we bond over athletics. It’s fun. We love to go out in the yard as a family and just play.

And this picture is worth far more than any word I’ve typed today. It communicates wholly and fully the love and admiration that my kids have for their Dad and there’s a reason for that.

As good as Lee is as an athlete, he far more excels at being a father.

My children are blessed. (I might be, too).

McKenna: An All American Girl

Did you know I’m a ninja? Seriously, I’m like the master at stealth. I’m so good that sometimes?

Sometimes I take myself by surprise.

For example, today’s post about the recent launch of American Girl’s newest Girl of the Year, McKenna comes right on the heels of my post about gymnastics and what an impact that sport has had on my life and continues to have through my daughter.

And it just so happens that McKenna’s story is a gymnastics story.

See how I did that? You might be prone to think that I planned these two posts so that one followed the other – that I worked a bit of organizational magic. But if that’s what you thought, you would be wrong. I placed these two posts side by side without even thinking about it.

Because I’m that good…

Ahem.

So American Girl has officially launched McKenna and I couldn’t be more in love with this new doll. She’s adorable (no surprise there) and her story is inspirational as you would only expect from American Girl. I can’t wait to show Tia this new doll.

From American Girl: McKenna’s story is about a young gymnast who overcomes her struggles with reading by using her strengths. Through tutoring, friendship, and hard work, McKenna gradually develops a renewed, deeper confidence in her abilities. She learns that confidence lies in balancing strengths with weaknesses and using what you know to master what you don’t know. We hope that girls who read McKenna’s stories discover that by focusing on their strengths they can achieve great things, whether it is in academics or any other activities they want to pursue.

McKenna’s story is a chance for young girls to relate to the challenges and obstacles that come with passion and drive. McKenna loves her sport and excels in it, but when she struggles in another area of life, namely academics, she has to admit that she needs help. Mary Casanova, author of the two McKenna books, took some time to share a bit of her heart behind writing McKenna’s story.

“There are many aspects to McKenna’s story that I hope will inspire young girls,” says Casanova. “When McKenna struggles with reading and faces academic challenges at school, she must admit that she needs help and also be willing to accept help to overcome her challenges. That’s not an easy thing to do. It would be wonderful if success in one area, such as sports, equated success in every other area, such as academics. But life doesn’t always work that way. That’s why one of the life skills that is emphasized in the McKenna books is: finding balance.”

With this idea in mind, American Girl has partnered with Save the Children in support of their U.S. Literacy Program. By introducing a companion nonfiction book, Take the Challenge!, featuring various activities, games, and quizzes, American Girl strives to help girls explore their different strengths and abilities. And for every trophy a girl earns through the McKenna Take the Challenge online activity, American Girl is donating $.25 (up to a maximum of $50,000) to help Save the Children supply the tools children in grades K-8 need to increase their reading achievement and provide the guidance and support they need to grow as readers.

In addition to the Take the Challenge initiative,  American Girl will continue its partnership with Save the Children in May as part of their Summer Reading initiative, where they will be donating $1.00 (up to a maximum of $100,000) for every American Girl book purchased in the proprietary channels during the promotional time frame. More information on the initiative will be available on the American Girl website later this spring.

I’m not going to lie – American Girl dolls bring out the little girl in me. I may, or may not, have spent time brushing and fixing the hair of Tia’s dolls by myself on more than one occasion. I mean, I’m not saying for sure, but there’s a chance that that’s happened.

More and more, though, I find myself impressed with the company itself and their heartfelt desire to encourage and build up little girls. If any of you were thinking about taking the plunge into American Girl, McKenna is a great place to start – particularly if you have a little girl who needs a little inspiration and encouragement. Visit American Girl.com for more information.

Disclaimer: I am working in conjunction with American Girl to promote the launch of the Girl of the Year, McKenna. In return for my help, I received a McKenna doll. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions expressed are my own. I am grateful to American Girl for the opportunity.

All I know about gymnastics I learned at WOGA

update: We attended a different gym yesterday where Tia was evaluated by a new coach. It was a wonderful experience for me and for her. This coach was extremely encouraging and kind. He actually smiled and praised Tia. Thank you for your encouragement and prayers. Now I have to have the unpleasant conversation with her current gym about why we will be leaving.

Good times…

“You want a job?” he asked in his thick accent and I blinked in surprise. I had only stopped by to meet some local Russians so I could have contacts that would help me practice my language skills. I hadn’t even been thinking of asking for a job, but as I looked around the building I could see something special there so without missing a beat, I answered.

“Da.”

It was August of 2000 and I had been married all of one month. Neither Lee nor I had jobs when we got married. It was very exciting then. Or stressful.

Depends on who you ask.

We moved to Dallas after marriage because we thought Lee had a job lined up there, but it fell through on our honeymoon. I had just graduated from Baylor with a degree in English Professional Writing so it only seemed natural that I should work as a gymnastics coach.

The plan was for me to work at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy for a little while until I found a full time job, but unexpectedly, coaching at WOGA wound up being the best job I’ve ever had. I loved it so much, in fact, that I continued to work there for two years. While I interviewed for some real, big girl office jobs, I just couldn’t leave the gym.

The environment was so electric that many days I went into work early just to watch the girls train. I watched Carly Patterson learn her famous Arabian dismount and and marveled at a teeny tiny Nastia Liukin flipping up and over the vault.

You never knew who else would be at WOGA, either. Some days you might walk in to see the cast of the Cirque Du Soleil warming up and practicing. Other times I came face to face with five time Olympian Oksana Chusivitania. It was always a surprise coming to work and I loved it.

One of the saddest things about moving away from Dallas was having to leave WOGA. It wasn’t just my work place. The coaches all became dear friends. Because I spoke Russian, Lee and I spent a lot of time with Evgeny Marchenko, Valeryi Liukin and the many, many other wonderful Russian coaches. For me, working there was like a dream. I was paid well and I got to speak Russian every single day.

Having grown up around gymnastics and working in that environment, I have a pretty good understanding of what good coaching is. I watched two All Round Gold Medalists train in their early years and I was mentored and guided as a coach myself. I know what good coaching looks like.

Unfortunately, for the last few months I have had my daughter in a bad coaching environment.

Tia is very good at gymnastics, but I’m a realist. Her daddy is six foot two and I’m five six so math tells me that she is probably going to outgrow gymnastics pretty quickly. I’m not looking to create a champion, but I do want to give her the chance to succeed in a sport she loves for as long as she loves it.

Sadly, the coaches at the gym we’ve had her at have almost killed her love of gymnastics.

Never in my life have I witnessed coaching like this, particularly from a head coach in charge of running the team program. I should have pulled Tia out of this program months ago, but I kept talking to other parents who would assure me this woman wasn’t that bad and she really was good with the kids and everyone who gives her a chance ends up loving her.

I gave her a chance for three months. It’s not working. Every time we need to leave for gymnastics, Tia develops a stomach ache and gets very weepy. She is terrified of this coach – and this woman doesn’t even coach Tia’s team. But she’s in close proximity screaming and shouting at other girls. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it and I worried it was just me.

Maybe I’m too judgemental? Maybe my experience at WOGA turned me into a coaching snob. Nobody else seemed as offended by this coach’s cruelty, so what is my problem?

Saturday I volunteered at a meet at the girl’s gym where I watched the little ones, levels two and three, compete. They didn’t do great, but it was their first meet and good grief they were cute in their little leotards and sparkly hair. As this coach walked by, I remarked, “The girls are doing great.” She cut her eyes at me and shrugged. “Your job is to be encouraging and tell them they’re great,” she said. “My job is to tell them they are never good enough. Unless they make it to State. Then I can tell them they’re good.”

And then I scraped my jaw off the floor, picked up my things and began researching new programs.

Yesterday I called another gym to talk to them about their team program. I wanted to be sensitive to the situation. While I find the coach’s methods at our current gym just short of abusive, I am not going to bad mouth her around town. So I delicately asked, “Do you all make gymnastics fun? Because my daughter is five and I just want her to enjoy it, not spend an hour and a half doing sit ups and pull ups and being barked at to suck in her stomach.”

“Aaahhh…” said the coach on the other end of the phone, “You must be coming from —. We have 2-3 new gymnasts enrolling in our gym every week who are coming from that gym and I can promise you, we do things differently here.”

So it turns out I’m NOT the only one appalled by bad coaching.

If you feel so led, please say a prayer for my sweet daughter’s heart as we try out this new gym. At this point, I think she may be slightly traumatized and we’ve already decided that if we need to pull her out of gymnastics for awhile (or forever) we will. While good coaching can take little girls to the gold medal platform, bad coaching has the power to kill their dreams altogether.

I’m kicking myself for waiting this long.

The Migraine

No post today. I’m recovering from a wicked headache that’s left me feeling sluggish, tired and a fuzzy-brained. So for fun I give you the video Lee and I made last year.

We are such dorks.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Pass the Bon Bon’s Please

I’m writing this with a cup of coffee by my side. My hair is a mess and I have no make up on. I haven’t brushed my teeth yet and so far all I’ve managed to accomplish this morning is putting a few dishes in the sink, dressing my four year old (and doling out a few dozen kisses and hugs) and eating some eggs that my husband made for me.

You heard that, right?

I didn’t even make breakfast for anyone this morning. My oldest fed his sister, my husband fed me and the four year old doesn’t want to eat.

Some would call me lazy. Literally. Watch this clip. Those two women think I’m lazy and that I’m using my family as an excuse to not take care of responsibilities.

I watched this clip last night with a bit of amusement because, really? Are we really still having this debate? Did someone really spend time and money on research to determine that working moms are happier than stay at home moms?

And what qualifies happier? What does that even mean?

If I can get my obviously underused brain charged enough to make a decent argument, I would tell you that I think the panel of women featured on this segment do not speak for the majority of women. I get it. Controversial statements like “stay at home moms are lazy” stir emotion and emotion increases viewership.

Good job Mr. Cooper.

But really? Is anyone else tired of this argument? For every study that says working moms are happier, there is one that says kids are better off with a parent at home. And what does every single one of these arguments do for us moms?

Keeps us locked in guilt.

Working moms feel guilty that they can’t provide the stable environment that “the studies” claim children need and stay at home moms feel guilty for not being “more responsible” and contributing financially to the family. You know what I say?

STOP IT!

Motherhood is hard. It’s the hardest thing any of us will ever do. And if you’re not outright abusing or neglecting your child, then chances are you are doing everything in your power to do the right thing for him. I have friends who work outside the home not because they have to, but because they love it. They love their jobs and working outside the home gives them joy and pleasure.

This makes me happy.

I have friends who work outside the home because they have to. The circumstances of life simply require this of them and though they may not love it, they do it everyday with grateful hearts because in this economy, if you have a job that’s a good thing.

Most of my friends, however, are like me. Staying home by choice. Sure we could all work if we wanted to, but we don’t want to (most days – let’s face it…we all dream of escaping some days) and we are blessed to not have to. And we are okay for it.

We’re all okay. So let’s quit judging one another and start supporting each other instead.

Working women around the world this morning got up, showered, fed their kids and got everyone out the door on time. My hat is off to all of you.

Stay at home moms around the world got up this morning, some showered (well done!), fed their kids and got them out the door on time this morning. I praise you for it.

Home school moms around the world this morning got up, some showered (seriously…I am amazed by you), fed their children and pulled out the books to begin teaching and training their children this morning. Way to go!

All of us, though, got up this morning and straightened our shoulders, ready to face another day as a Mom. Ready to fight the battle as a Mom. We all accomplished something great this morning – we got up and set forth to conquer another day. We all deserve a trophy.

How could we ever classify one another as lazy? I don’t understand this. This argument is as ancient as is the idea that women sit at home in the afternoons eating Bon Bons and watching soaps. Honestly…I would like to see a show of hands. Have a single one of you ever eaten Bon Bons and watched soaps in the middle of the day? EVER?!

I’ve never even seen a Bon Bon. Seriously. I don’t know what they look like.

We’re not lazy, Moms. And we’re all on the same team. Instead of judging and tearing each other down, let’s help each other out. Do you know a working mom who is frazzled and needs a little extra help with the kids or around the house? Help her! Offer to pick the kids up from day care once a week or pick up her groceries for her every once in awhile.

Do you know a stay at home mom who is fraying, at the end of her rope having not had a chance to get away in awhile. Help her out! Offer to take the kids out for ice cream so she can have thirty minutes alone, or ask her to meet you for coffee one evening for grown up conversation.

What if, instead of calling names and slinging labels – she doesn’t care, she’s lazy, she’s irresponsible, she’s selfish – we filled in the gaps for one another? What if we all stopped every once in awhile and ate Bon Bons together.

That’s assuming we can find them, of course. I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Bon Bons are a mythical food conjured up for the sole purpose of adding to this ridiculous argument.

No more judging, Moms and no more debating. Let’s fight the fight together. Who’s with me?!

To watch more of the ridiculousness, click here.