Sunday, July 31, 2016

He Will Always be the Baby in my Heart........

I sat there watching his lips moving as he talked about work but I didn’t hear a single word he said.  Instead, my attention was drawn to the stubble that sprinkled his cheeks and chin.

He’s no longer my baby boy…..
This man, my Tyler, is turning 20.   And as ridiculous and dramatic as it sounds, it's moments like these when I notice… really notice… that he truly is grown up now.
I ache for the years that have melted away.
I ache…
...for the years when his chin was a place I wiped dribbles of mac and cheese from, not a place he needed to shave.
...for the years when I was drawn into his little face by his cheesy grin  and adorable cheeks. I could stare at him for hours back then… while he slept, while he ate, while we just cuddled in the rocking chair.  
It’s not so cool to stare at him now.
I remember holding him in the hospital….his quiet gaze, looking right into my eyes, as if he were memorizing my face; his cute little button nose; his teeny fingernails; …I treasure countless memories of that day.
I blinked, and it’s now 20 years later.
We coexist as adults for the most part, chatting about school or work, and mostly doing our own thing.  I love having adult conversations with him, especially when we discuss  baseball and college basketball.  And although I love to hear his laugh, I miss hearing his devilish childhood giggle.  I miss seeing his feet stick out from under a blanket pretending to be asleep and then tensing up because he knew I was coming to tickle him.  Life moves forward and it’s easy to forget that he was my baby.
Is my baby, still.
I know that 21 is supposed to be the big exciting age because a person can legally drink alcohol.  But to me, 20 is more significant.  Tyler is leaving his teens behind forever.  As a man in his 20's, he’s part of the adult world now, and this decade of his life will probably see the greatest number of meaningful changes.
Tyler turning 20 also means that I’ve been doing this mother-thing for two decades.  Wow, are you kidding me?  How do I wrap my mind around this? Like all new moms, I had no idea what I was doing.  I guess at some point along the way, I figured it out.  I needed to parent, to counsel and to adore. To build his confidence and his character, to help him survive heartbreak and disappointment and move forward with dignity.  I raised him for the future and not the present day.  He needs to be able to survive when I’m no longer around.  
As I watched him talk and laugh I was awed by the simple fact that I am his mom. That I was given these 20 years with him unconditionally, even though I had no experience and there were no guarantees that I would be a good mother.
I just made it up as I went along.
There are no second chances….No do-overs.  But you know what?  I wouldn’t really change a thing. Because my boy, this young man who will be turning 20 in a couple days, has given me the incredible gift of just being his mom.
And he will always be the baby in my heart.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

“All I Really Need To Know I Learned Coaching Preschool Basketball”

Working with these little ones reminds me of the poem, "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten", by Robert Fulghum. The poem starts like this….

Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sand pile at Sunday school.

The poem goes on to list important life lessons that are learned in kindergarten such as….

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.

I’ve created my own list and called it, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned Coaching Preschool Basketball”.

These are the things I learned from my little kiddos:

  • Who cares what your jumping jacks look like, just do them.
  • It’s okay to admit that your legs are tired and they need to sit.
  • No matter the age, girls stick together.
  • When you gotta pee, you gotta pee no matter what you are doing or how old you are.
  • The coach is expected to provide snacks.
  • Water breaks are important even if you use them to go say hi to Nana.
  • If the offense wants to be called “princesses” instead of “offense”, its’ okay.
  • If the defense wants to be Ninjas, it’s okay.
  • Let them run…And run....And run.
  • Hugs are going to happen….just give in and let it happen.
  • New shoes are the BEST, even if they are on the wrong feet!
  • If you kneel on the floor, they will use you as a jungle gym….don’t fight it.
  • Red light, green light, purple light is always appropriate.
  • Nose picking will happen.
  • When a preschool boy covers his jewels, he is NOT preparing to set a pick like the high    school boys, he has to pee NOW.
  • Not every child knows the game of basketball, but every child does want to have fun and be part of a group.
  • Lastly, it’s okay to scrap the agenda and just have fun. 

 At the end of the night, each child puts on his/her coat and hugs me before they leave.  They thank me and tell me where they are going for dinner and a couple have even invited me to join them.  

I've learned that my preschool players can make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside no matter what kind of day I've had.  

I can’t wait to see what I learn next week…….

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I'm Never Coaching Again......

I decided eight years ago that I was done with coaching.  
From age 22 to 40 I had coached 
   varsity volleyball,   
      junior varsity volleyball,
          junior varsity basketball,
              youth softball,
                   young women’s softball,
                       t-ball, and
 youth basketball grades two- six.  

I attended team camps,
ran team camps,
attended award ceremonies,
spoke at award ceremonies,
attended team parties,
planned team parties,
ordered trophies, bought trophies
       and gave out trophies.  
I planned practices,
fought for gym time to have practices,
   ran practices,
      made calls about practices,
         cancelled practices,
             made calls about cancelled practices,
                  arranged my schedule for practices, and
                         missed family functions for practices.
I dealt with great parents,
         great players with great attitudes,
              not-so-great players with great attitudes,
                    great players with terrible attitudes,
                           parents with terrible attitudes, and
                                 a few parents and players that were absolutely crazy.

After 18 years of that plus so much more, I decided I was done coaching.  I wanted to be the parent, or aunt or friend in the stands who cheered too loudly and took pictures.  I was never going to coach a team again.  And I didn’t…

Until last week.

I got a message that my great-niece would have a basketball game January 23rd.  Sweet! I could go and take pictures.  Then another message came through that said IF they find a coach.  Long story short, after the second email from the program director at the YMCA, I was coaching two age groups; 3-4 year olds and 8-11 year olds.  

On Friday evening I showed up at the YMCA for my hour long practices with my basketball coaching clipboard holding my practice plans for both age groups, my new whistle, and a sharpie and name-tags.  I had no idea what to expect since coaching at the YMCA was something new to add to my resume.  Nonetheless, I was super excited to get started.

I introduced myself to the program director (who had laryngitis) and he gave me a quick run down.  Basically, it went something like this:

“Hi, Kim, nice to meet you.  You will be on this side of the court with the 3 and 4 year olds while the other parent volunteer is on the other side with the 5 to 7 year olds.  The main priority with the preschool age kids is that they have fun.  They will use the very small balls and plastic hoops. You have 10 kids on the roster and probably a few more will be added on later this week.  They will practice for an hour tonight and starting next week they will play games on Saturdays. Any questions? No? Good.  I’ll be around for a little while but then I need to take off.  It’s great to have a volunteer with experience.”

And off he went.  Sure, I had questions…..such as who is assisting me but I never got the chance to ask it.  

No big deal.  I can do this!  I’ll just keep it simple the first night and stick to my practice agenda. Simple is good! 

The other volunteer working with the 5-7 year olds had assembled her group in a neat little circle so I figured I better get started with my group.  I walked over to the group of parents and introduced myself.  I asked them to have their child follow me to the blue mat by the wall so we could get started.  Easy, right?

Have you ever dropped a handful of little bouncy balls on the floor?  Each goes its own way and while you chase one, the others still bounce and roll away.  Gathering up 3 and 4 year olds was kinda like gathering up bouncy balls.  I would get one kiddo where I wanted him and while I went and gathered another, the first wandered off.  I didn’t know any of their names which made it hard and on top of that, Miss-I’ve-Got-My-Group-Under-Control was already doing dribbling drills.  

By the time I had my group sitting in front of me, I was in a lather of sweat.  Thank God only five were there!  I can’t imagine rounding up twelve of them!  We spent some time going over my name, their names and if they ever watched basketball. 

Okay, I can do this!  I now had control and they were eager and ready to learn about basketball.  Because we were already behind on what I had on my agenda, I decided to skip the stretching and go right into dribbling drills.  I handed each one of them a small basketball and before I could even start talking, each one went off in a different direction. 
     One was kicking the ball like a soccer ball,
one was shooting at the Little Tykes hoop,
        one was sitting by her mom eating Pringles,
               one was heading to the group on the other side and
                       one had the boxing gloves on and started hitting the
      punching bag hanging on the wall.  
Man, these kids were quick!!! The only one standing there waiting for instructions from me was my great-niece, who had come in a little late.  I told her to hang there while I gathered up the others.

The next 30 minutes went sorta like this…….
   Please don’t hit!
      Please don’t cry….
         Thank you, I like my earrings too.  Ouch! Don’t pull them, please.  
            Ohhh! Do you need to use the bathroom?  Hurry! Hurry! GO!
                I know there isn’t a purple light on a stop light, we are pretending.
                      Don’t kick the ball, please.
                           He didn’t hit you with the basketball on purpose. 
                               Can you say you are sorry?
                                   Stay over here with us, please.
                                       No, you can’t use the punching bag.
                                              No, I’m not crying, I’m okay……

And at one point when I knelt down to talk to them, three of them were trying to cuddle up and tell me about their day.  

After an hour of working with 3 and 4 year olds, I perfected the art of talking over the loud bouncing basketballs from the other side while chasing a stray preschool kid and bringing him back to the group while nicely removing a finger that was lodged up in a nostril while hugging a kid that looked like he wanted to cry while talking about basketball.  Whew!

The second hour of my night with the 8-11 year old kids was more like I expected.  I didn't have to chase any of them, no one tried to pull out my earring, and they even laughed at a couple of my jokes.

At the end of the night I decided I never wanted to coach another team again.

Instead of coaching these kids, I want them to simply have fun and hopefully plant a seed that could materialize into something meaningful later in life.  Instead of stressing how important it is to make the shot and shoot the ball when open, I want to encourage friendship etiquette. Share the ball, share the shots and encourage them to encourage each other. What I have found over my years of coaching is that more and longer lasting friendships are made on the court than in the classroom.

I want each player to leave with a smile and feel good about himself/herself even if that means I need to take a few minutes and let the 3 and 4 years olds sit on my lap and tell me what they had for lunch.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Last Inning Whether I'm Ready or Not.....

Eventually the time comes when you have to call the last strike in the last inning to end the game.  In other words, the time comes for your son's baseball journey to end.  Often times, the decision is a difficult one for your son and quite possibly for you as a parent.  

That's where I am.  Tyler decided not to play baseball at La Roche College anymore.  As hard as this is on me, I can't imagine what he went through to make that decision.  

Like any good parent, I will be supportive but I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't miss the sound of a well thrown pitch hitting the catcher's mitt, the thrill of seeing him strike out a batter, the opportunity to express my discontent with the umpire's ruling.  And what a waste of talent it is that I no longer get to bust out my well-honed infield dirt removal skills.  

Little did I know when I took this picture that it would be his last pitch.......

.....that this would be the last time he walked off the field as a player....

So, I'm sure there is life after being a baseball mom.  I'm certain I can take up a hobby such as yodeling or soap carving but the truth is that I love baseball and I loved watching my son play more than anything in this world. But for now, I'll just pack up my gear, wipe my tears and thank God for giving Tyler the talent to play as long as he did.  

Thank you, Tyler! It's been one helluva ride!  I love you and couldn't be more proud of you than I am right now!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Back to Reality....and Re-Training My Bladder

To most of you today is simply August 19th.  To me it is the last day of summer vacation....the last day for long naps during the day....for not knowing or caring what day it is.....for being lazy....for no makeup...for peeing whenever I needed to....

As I sit here and watch Cali and Wrigley play, I realize that I've wasted an entire summer doing nothing!  

I didn't go to the beach
     I didn't work on my tan
          I didn't lose the Freshman 15 that I gained while Tyler was a Freshman
               I didn't go to the mall 
                    I often didn't know what day it was
                         I didn't get monthly pedicures
                              I didn't go out to dinner
                                   I didn't hang out at my mom's pool
                                        I didn't buy any new clothes or shoes!

Now summer is over.  So much for doing great things this summer! So now I'm kinda kicking myself for wasting so much time.  What did I do ALL summer? 

Let's see....well, I vacuumed A LOT.  Between Wrigley and Cali and burgundy carpet, it was hard to keep up.

I took an online grad class  
     I watched 99% of the Pirate games on TV
          I took a lot of pictures of Tyler playing baseball
               I ventured out to take some pictures in Pittsburgh and McConnell's Mill
                    I spent time with some of my favorite little humans
                         I went to a few Pirate games
                               I watched Tyler play baseball....
                                                    .....quite possibly for the last time  

I did a lot of self-reflecting about my life and my attitude
     I worked on being a more positive person
           I spent time thinking about what I need to do to be a stronger person
                      ..... mentally and emotionally
                 I spent time with Tyler
                      I reflected on what I need to do to be a better mom to a young adult child
                            I practiced being a better mom to a young adult child

I sat back and watched my son make adult decisions without interfering
     I bit my lip when I didn't agree with a couple of his decisions
          I cried alone in the bathroom over the pain my son is feeling in his heart 
               I cried alone over the pain my son is feeling over baseball....
                                        ..on that same day I also contemplated causing 
                                                 ....bodily harm to the person causing his pain

So tomorrow I'll go to school without an amazing tan, without a great vacation story to tell, and wearing my old shoes.  However, I will be more positive person, a stronger person mentally and emotionally, and I will know what day of the week  it is!