That Time I Didn’t Ruin My Daughter’s Soccer Career

Every time I think I’m starting to get motherhood figured out, some new situation or experience comes along to give me a nice beat down. Organized team sports, soccer to be specific, has been the latest. Here’s a little story to illustrate:

For the past two months, my older girls have been playing on a soccer team together. And as with most things, their vastly different personalities were very apparent when watching them on the soccer field.

Miss was a bit hesitant in her first game, but then something seemed to click for her and she was suddenly all over the place, scoring tons of goals and seemingly having a great time. She was confident and played hard whenever she was on the field.

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Lass complained every time they had to go to practice or a game. She rarely seemed to put a in lot of effort, and during each practice and game she complained of her “tummy hurting” any time she ran much at all. She seemed insecure, and didn’t like to do most of the games or drills they did at practice, because she didn’t like to lose or make a mistake. I gave her all the gentle encouragement I could, but also a bit of tough love with, “In our family, we don’t quit and we always give our best effort. So get going.” She actually perked up a little bit at that point, though she still seemed to dread soccer days.

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The season was going along well enough, but then I made a mistake that I thought was going to ruin the rest of the soccer season for my eldest child.

Miss was really on fire one night, scoring lots of goals and running all over the field. She kept yelling to her coach the tally of the number of goals she had scored (from that game and the previous one). It was something like this, “I’ve got seven! I’VE GOT SEVEN!” then “NOW I’VE GOT EIGHT!” The coach often didn’t hear her or was trying to give instructions to other kids, so she just kept yelling it over and over. I was thrilled that she was so excited, but thought to myself that perhaps we might need to have a little bit of a talk about humility at some point. . .

Later in the game she was running next to her teammate who was taking the ball to the goal and about to score. Miss took the ball from her teammate and scored the goal herself.

After the game, we congratulated her on a game well played and shared in her excitement about her successes. We praised Lass for an increase in energy and playing hard. As always, we tried to keep the post-game talks positive and encouraging of all efforts.

However, I wanted to say something to Miss about learning to display humility and also about being part of a team and supporting teammates without taking the ball away from them. I didn’t want to rain on her parade right after her exciting game, so I waited until the next day to talk to her about these things. We talked about how to be happy and excited about accomplishments without boasting. She seemed to easily understand the idea of not wanting to come across as bragging about the number of goals scored (we had recently studied humility in Little Flowers). Then we talked about playing on a team and not trying to take the ball away from her teammates. She seemed to get that just fine too, so I left it at that.

However, during her next game, she not only avoided taking the ball away from her teammates, she also barely kicked the ball at all. She held back so much that she didn’t even try to take the ball away from the other team!

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I was horrified. I tried to talk to her briefly during the game to clarify what I had meant about just not taking the ball from her teammate when she is actively kicking it, and I encourage her to go after the ball, but it didn’t help.

For the rest of that game, she was hesitant and seemed to have lost the confidence that she had displayed in previous games.

Afterwards I tried to talk to her even more about what I meant. I over-explained. I apologized for perhaps confusing her or causing her to think that I wanted her to hold back. I encouraged her to go after the ball and play hard.

None of it made any difference. For the next several weeks, she played tentatively. Her spark was gone.

Do I need to tell you how terribly I was beating myself up? How my stomach clenched every time I saw her let the ball go by?

I had thought I was doing a good thing. I had thought I wasn’t criticizing, just providing a gentle lesson about how to play on a team. I had thought I was doing my job of teaching and guiding her in the ways of things.

Instead, I ended up fearing that I had crushed her little spirit and ruined her soccer career forever.

I talked to my husband about it. I talked to my mom about it. I talked to Super Friend about it (who assured me that the same thing had happened with her son and it would be okay). I prayed about it. I reminded myself that she’s only six. Still, every time I watched her, I felt awful and feared what horrible thing I had done to her.

I didn’t really know what to do. I felt like I had talked the issue to death in trying to backtrack and clarify what I had meant. So I just tried to encourage both girls to play hard, have fun, and get after the ball at each practice and game.

For a while, this didn’t seem to be making any change in Miss, but Lass was starting to show quite an improvement. The girls’ coach was wonderful and really put extra effort into helping her to enjoy the game and to score a goal either at practice or at a game. She mostly stopped complaining that her tummy hurt. She started having more fun. She really wanted to be able to score a goal, and though we always told the girls that the number of goals they scored wasn’t the most important thing, I suspected she would find the game much more enjoyable if she could experience that taste of success.

Last weekend, my husband and I decided to spend a lot of extra time playing running and kicking games with the girls. We all played duck-duck-goose and kickball, he played sharks and minnows and kicked the soccer ball around with them.

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Thursday night was their last game. I prayed that they would both end their soccer season on a positive note. They were on the field together, and both started out playing hard.

And then, within a few minutes of getting into the game, Lass scored a goal!! Her first goal ever. I was standing up and cheering, and I actually started to cry, I was so happy to see her joy in her achievement. Her sister picked her up and hugged her fiercely. Lass ran back to her coach and said, “I love soccer!!” She looked over to us on the sideline with a beaming smile and said with two thumbs up, “I scored a goal!”

And her accomplishment seemed to finally light the fire in her sister again. Within minutes of her sister’s success, Miss scored three goals, one right after the other. I felt like my heart was going to burst with happiness for both of them. And with relief that I really hadn’t ruined my daughter forever.

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I’ve found this soccer mom thing to be kind of tricky. I want to encourage my girls and push them to do their best, but not push them in such a way that they feel that approval is contingent upon scoring goals or some other specific measure of performance. I want to help them learn about how to be a good sport and a good teammate, but not squash their enthusiasm or desire for individual achievement.

In this situation, I had such good intentions, and still I totally blew it. Even now, I get a little teary thinking about it. I want nothing more than to help my daughters be confident and joyful in all the things they do. I know I will continue to make mistakes, so I only hope that an abundance of love and prayer will help them to overcome all of my shortcomings in the future.

At least I know they will never be lacking in those two things.

Bookroo Review and a Discount for You

I love books. I especially love finding good books for my kids. I read to my girls every day, at least at bedtime and during school, and usually at other times of the day too, like over lunch or breakfast, and any other time they pick up a book and ask me to read it. I just love how reading sparks their imaginations and gets them thinking and talking about all sorts of things.

Children’s books are kind of my thing.

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Sooo, when Jane from Bookroo contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to do a review of the Bookroo service, I was pretty intrigued*. I know there are a lot of crafting and activity subscriptions for kids out there, but I had never heard of a book subscription. Um, yes please. That is right up my alley. I looked into it, and I really liked what I found out.

Bookroo is a small, family run business. I like small businesses, and I like the mission of the people at Bookroo:

Our mission is to enable and empower parents to build their children’s book collections in an affordable and exciting way through curated monthly book deliveries. We believe in the power and impact of the written word in the life of a child, and believe it’s never too early to start reading to children!

Amen to that!! (You can read more about the company and the people behind it here.)

The service works like most other monthly subscription programs. They offer month-to-month, three-month, and six-month packages. You can choose to get board books or picture books, and they guarantee that the retail price of the books you receive will always exceed your monthly fee (you get three board books or two picture books per box).

It’s that simple.

I really loved the idea of trying the service, but I have to say that I was a little worried that we would end up getting books we already have. That was the only thing that caused me to hesitate when considering Jane’s invitation. We have a lot of books, and I didn’t want to get stuck paying for books we already have. But, how exciting is it to look forward to a package every month, which may contain fabulous books you’ve never heard of?

I’m sure you can guess that I decided to take a gamble and go ahead with trying out the service. I figured if we got books we already have, I can just hold on to them to give as gifts.

I chose the month-to-month picture book package, and our books arrived last Monday.

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My older girls were at camp all day, so it wasn’t until fairly late in the evening that I was able to bring out the packages and let them open them up. Surprise books are the best!

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The books we received were Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always and Harry and Horsie. Happily, we don’t own either of these books! My girls were excited to see the Squid and Octopus book, which we got from the library a few months ago. But the real winner of the package was Harry and Horsie. My girls requested that I read it right away, and they absolutely loved it.

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It was a very cute book that provided many opportunities for theatrical reading and suspense. We were all laughing at several points in the book, and after I finished reading it, my girls began to fight over who would get to keep the book in her bed that night (they all like to sleep with books).

At least one of them has requested it every night for a week, and Miss even took it with her on the bus to her camp field trip last Wednesday. The book has some wonderful lines that the girls all love to say together with me, and we’ve even added in a few things for dramatic effect.

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Daddy has even enjoyed reading it.

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So, the bottom line on the books we received is that they’re wonderful. Neither of them is an extremely popular picture book that everyone already has, and one of them I had never even heard of before. I like that in our first package we were able to discover a fun new book that we may not have run across on our own. The books are fun for me to read and enjoyable for my kids. Win-win.

The only bummer is that they don’t have a chapter book package too (yet??). I think I’d even love a grown-up package!

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Clearly, the verdict is thumbs up on this service. I think a Bookroo subscription would be a fantastic birthday or Christmas gift for any young child, or a perfect baby shower/new baby gift.

Now, here’s the fun part. Bookroo provided me with a link that I could give to all of you to get $4 off an order of any package. To get your discount, just click HERE and the $4 will automatically be taken off when you check out.

I highly recommend, and if you give it a try, let me know how you like it!

 

*I received a discount on a Bookroo package in exchange for writing a review, but all opinions about this company, the service, and the books are mine.

Answer Me This – Another Husband Bonus

I really enjoy this link up of random questions from Kendra. So I’m joining in again for Answer Me This.

Like I did once last summer, I’m also including my husband’s answers to the questions after mine.

1 – How long have you lived in your current home?

Me – Just over six years. We moved here when Miss was about three months old.

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Our house is now officially on the market, and hopefully our new house will be finished in September.

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I have wanted a white farmhouse with a tin roof for all of my adult life. I smile every time I drive up to this house.

Ben – “Too long.”

2 – How do you find out about news and current events? 

Me – Mostly on Facebook or from my husband and sometimes my mom. When important stuff happens, it’s usually all over my FB feed, and I can’t stand to watch the news. The cadence of a newscaster’s voice  is like nails on a chalkboard to me (they all seem to sound the same), and I have yet to find an online news source that I like.

Ben – “Internet, I guess.”

3 – Would you be able to make change for a twenty right now? For a dollar?

Me – No and yes. I almost never carry cash in my wallet, but I do have some change in there right now that adds up to a little over a dollar (I had to go check, because usually I don’t even have that).

Ben – (Change for 20?) “Hell no.” (For a dollar) – “Huh?” (he doesn’t carry change).

4 – What’s the craziest food you’ve ever eaten?

Me - Although I grew up eating very safe, normal, not-at-all crazy foods, I have become more adventurous in my food endeavors as an adult. I’ve eaten some mildly daring things, like raw oysters and squid-ink sauce on ravioli, but not much I would consider crazy. I guess the craziest things are those I made when Ben and I used to do our at-home version of the show Chopped. The dish that comes to mind immediately is The Great Pickled Herring Disaster from a few years ago. The other might be the dish I made with plantains, tofu, and bacon bits.

Ben – “I grew up eating cow tongue.” (I’d like to add that he also once ate blood sausage and likes to eat raw shrimp heads, shell and all, when we get sushi in Des Moines)

5 – Which of the commonly removed parts have you had removed? (tonsils, wisdom teeth, appendix, etc.)

Me – None of them. I still have all my original parts. Every time I go to a new dentist, he or she is always shocked to find that I still have my wisdom teeth. The only thing I’ve ever had surgically removed from my body was a nine-pound baby.

Ben – “Well, I am sans appendix”

6 – What’s your favorite sport to watch on TV?

Me – I used to watch college football a lot. I grew up watching Michigan football, and continued to watch it up until a few years ago, when life with little ones made it difficult, and the team was so bad it wasn’t worth the effort. I don’t think I watched a single game last year in its entirety. Now that Coach Harbaugh has come home, I may find it worth my while to watch again.

These days most of my sports watching is on a bit smaller scale though.

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Ben – “Wrestling, of course. (pause) People are going to read that and think I mean pro wrestling (laughs)”

For Kendra’s answers and more, check out her post here.

Thanks to my husband for playing along. What about you??

Teaching Girls to Respect Themselves is Not Shaming Them

The other day I read a blog post that I found interesting and refreshing. It’s called “To the Middle School Girls at the Pool Who Told My son He Was Hot.” (Go on over and read it real quick.)

I saw it as a reasonable commentary on the way that young girls sometimes act inappropriately, and as an appeal to them to stop and/or to their parents to guide them away from this way of acting. The post isn’t hateful, or judge-y, or hurtful.

I didn’t have a super strong reaction to it, and would have just filed it away in my mind as a nice thing I had read and then moved on, except that I saw at the bottom of the post that the author decided to close the comments because some commenters attacked her personally, even going so far as to call her shameful and disgusting. Wait, what?

Naturally, that piqued my curiosity so I scrolled down to see just what had been so “offensive” about the post.

The main problem commenters seemed to have with the post was that they thought that the mom’s words were shaming young girls and contributing to the “rape culture.”

Hmmm. I did not see that coming. The take home message of the post seemed to be this, “I’m trying to teach my son to respect girls/women. And girls, you should also respect yourselves.”

In my opinion, the author was not shaming girls, nor was she contributing to the rape culture at all.

However, the post comments made me think about the concept of “rape culture” in general and how it seems to get thrown around a lot on social media, perhaps without a clear understanding of what it actually is. So, I Googled it. Here’s a definition:

Rape culture is a culture in which dominant cultural ideologies, media images, social practices, and societal institutions support and condone sexual abuse by normalizing, trivializing and eroticizing male violence against women and blaming victims for their own abuse (Huffington Post)

Okay. So:

Rape culture is making jokes about sexual assault.

It is not a mom pleading with young girls to stop throwing themselves at young boys.

Rape culture is blaming a rape victim because of what she was wearing.

It is not telling girls that they should have respect for themselves.

Rape culture is Fifty Shade of Grey, for pete’s sake.

It is not teaching girls that they can and should be responsible for their own behavior and make good choices for themselves.

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It seems to me that our society has become so hypersensitive to never, ever offending anyone, that we have made it inappropriate and often offensive to tell people to make good choices and take responsibility for themselves. If we dare to suggest that someone might be doing something that isn’t in her best interest, we can attacked as being judgmental and hateful. Just like the mom in the above-linked post, who simply said in essence, “Come on girls, you’re better than that,” and was then chastised for “blaming the victim” (except that there was no victim).

This doesn’t help anyone, and I find it really disturbing as I think ahead to what I want my own daughters to know as they get older.

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As a mom of three girls, I think it does much more harm than good to send the message to girls that they can do whatever they want, wear whatever they want, and say whatever they want, no matter how sexually suggestive it may be, and no one should ever say anything to them about it, because correcting them perpetuates rape culture, or is misogynistic, or sexist, or whatever.

I want to teach my daughters to have respect for themselves and for others in all situations. And that means (when they get older) not posting duck-lipped scantily-clad selfies all over the place, or making suggestive comments to boys, or being sexually aggressive and pushy, and so on. I aim to teach them this stuff not because if they behave this way they’ll be attacked and it will then be their fault. Of course not. But because:

  1. Behaving in a sexually aggressive way could actually put them in a situation where they are at risk for assault, and
  2. Acting in a suggestive way and throwing themselves at boys will make them feel terribly about themselves, and
  3. I want them to know that getting a boy to notice them is not the most important thing and is not what gives them value, and
  4. They need to understand that if a boy does notice them, it should not be because their bodies are barely covered but because of the other many, many wonderful qualities they possess.

I could go on and on with many more reasons, but you get the picture.

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Trying to help young girls understand why they should have self respect and stop throwing themselves at boys is not shaming them. It’s empowering them in a real way. Not a fake, “you’re a woman, you can do whatever you want, sleep with whomever you want” sexual-revolution kind of way. That’s not empowerment. That’s crap.

Teaching girls that they shouldn’t always just do whatever the heck they feel like doing and dress in a provocative way and say suggestive things to boys does not contribute to the rape culture. It contributes to their healthy development.

I’m not trying to diminish the reality of rape culture with this post. I despise the attitudes that lead to this type of mindset. However, I think in some ways, as a society, we’re missing the mark in efforts to get rid of the rape culture. We should be crying out against the magazines and ads that portray women falsely and place an overemphasis on their bodies and appearance and sexy poses. We should be voicing opposition when the media publishes stories, like the recent one about the Duggar family, purely for the sake of sensationalizing and getting ratings, without any regard for the poor victims and their privacy. We should be turning away from books and shows and movies that positively portray sexual violence instead of turning them into bestsellers and major hit movies (ahem, Fifty Shades of Grey!!).

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I know my daughters will not be this innocent forever. It breaks my heart and scares the daylights out of me to know that they will be exposed more and more to the smut that is the “entertainment” industry in our country as they get older. I can only encourage them to try to seek out things that promote truth and beauty and love, and to always have respect and love for themselves and others. There’s no shame in that.

The world doesn’t need what women have, it needs what women are. – Edith Stein (AKA St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

Answer Me This – Summer!

For the summer, Kendra is back with her Answer Me This link up. Yay!

Here are her questions, and my answers:

1. Any big plans for the summer?

We’re putting our house on the market, and building a new house. That’s pretty big.

Also, I’m going to Edel, with Super Friend! That’s definitely big.

And we’re going to a wedding at the beginning of August, where I will be singing many songs for the reception afterward, along with the band that consists of my husband, his brother, two of his cousins, and a family friend. Big.

Other than that, we’re at the Farm for the rest of this week, we’ll be going to the pool a lot, the girls have a few weeks of YMCA camp, and we’ll be soaking in the gloriousness of summer in Wisconsin.

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2. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

Well, I think I’ve mentioned before that I had an imaginary friend named Banny. At some point in my childhood, I guess I no longer felt the need to have Banny around. My explanation for his departure was that I accidentally killed him by jumping on my bed without realizing he was taking a nap between my mattress and box spring (which was where he slept?). You’d think this would have been traumatic for me, but it wasn’t at all. Perhaps I should be disturbed by that, but I’m not at all.

3. What is your favorite amusement park ride? (can be a specific one at a specific park or just a type of ride)

When I was a kid, I used to go to an amusement park called Boblo Island.

 

They had a ferris-wheel-type ride there that I don’t remember the name of. As I recall, it started out flat on the ground and you got into these little cars that started to rotate around the wheel and rise up off the ground. It went very fast, and in addition to that, there was a steering wheel inside the car that you could turn as fast as you wanted to make your individual car spin around. It was my favorite ever.

Beyond that, I always like pretty much all roller coasters and fast rides.

4. What’s on your summer reading list?

Surprisingly, I don’t actually have a summer reading list this year. Right now I’m finishing Confessions by St. Augustine.

After that, I think I’ll read Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us and A Dark Lure, which are on my Kindle waiting to be read (the latter of those was a free download). I also have a lot of other books at home that I want to read, like 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, St. Rita of Cascia, The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home, and Therese, Faustina, and Bernadette: Three Saints Who Challenged my Faith, Gave Me Hope, and Taught Me How to Love

5. Have you ever fallen asleep in public?

Yes, on a plane. I don’t think anywhere else.

6. What is your favorite smell?

New baby. And a very close second is newly baptized baby/chrism oil.

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That’s it for this week.

You can see Kendra’s answers to these and check out others’ posts/answers here.

 

This and That – A Quick Update

Just a quick update on why I’ve been absent for almost two weeks:

This week, our house is going on the market.

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So for the past week, pretty much every spare moment was spent cleaning, or fixing, or weed-pulling, or staging (other than the moments when I took my kids to the pool for the first time this summer or when I took my kids for a play date with Super Friend’s kids, both absolutely necessary breaks from the house prep).

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My house is so different now. My school room is now a dining room again.

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There’s no more paint splattered on the wall or play doh smooshed on the floor. The few things that I kept around for us to do art projects and some finishing of reading lessons over the summer are crammed into that green cabinet in the photo above. If you walked in my house right now, you would have no idea that I homeschool my kids.

My kitchen no longer has brass cabinet pulls.

Before:

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After:

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Same pulls + a can of metallic spray paint + a little bit of work = cheap fix for ugly hardware!

Furniture has been moved all around. Tons of stuff got moved out to a storage unit. Everything has been scrubbed and dusted and tidied and polished, and I hate this process already, and I’m glad I will never have to do it again.

And I’m really, really glad to be on vacation this week. It’s only Monday, and vacay has been just delightful already. We started out visiting my husband’s cousin and his wife and daughters for a band practice.

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My husband’s other cousin (the sister of two of the band members), is getting married in a month and a half, and we are going to be playing for her wedding. No pressure. And also, how crazy fun and awesome is that?? It’s going to be the most rocking wedding reception, and I can’t wait.

And speaking of awesome, my husband’s aunt (the mom of previously mentioned cousins) took me and my girls and our hostess and her daughters to the Grotto of the Redemption on Saturday. What an incredible monument to faith, envisioned and built by Fr. Dobberstein for over 40 years in small-town northern Iowa (it was then nearly completed by Fr. Dobberstein’s helpers and successors after his death, with two more statues now needed for its completion). It has rocks from every state and from all over the world, and depicts various scenes showing the fall and redemption of humanity. It is breathtaking and truly indescribable.

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Miss got her first taste of singing with the band. After each song she said, “Can we do another one?” I think she’s hooked.

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It was such a fantastic weekend. Now we’re at the Farm, doing all the Farm things.

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It’s going to be a good week.

On Becoming a Runner. Again.

My husband came to visit me once when I was in graduate school, in the very early days of our courtship. That was back when I used to smoke, and stay up until three or four every night, and hit the bar scene hard, and sleep until noon most days, and so forth. At one point during his visit to my apartment, he got himself dressed in exercise garb and said he was going for a run. I blinked a few times at him while I took in such a foreign notion, and then told him to have fun while waving and lighting up a cigarette from my spot on my couch.

A few years later, I went to DC with him and cheered him on while he ran his first marathon. It was such an exciting event, and I decided I wanted to run a marathon myself.

So I did. Twice.

We did the Grandma’s Marathon in the summer of 2007

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Standing in Lake Superior after the race made our feet and legs feel so good!

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It was really cold.

And we did the Disney World Marathon in January 2008.

I did not much enjoy the Disney World Marathon, so after doing it I decided to take a break from running for a while. I had no idea it would be for over seven years.

Within five months after the DWM, Ben and I got married, and then I got pregnant. I then ended up being pregnant and/or nursing for the next five years, and though my husband has continued to run various events, during that time running just wasn’t on my radar. I had zero interest in it. I was focusing more on survival than on going out for an “invigorating” run when someone was available to watch my kids for me.

After I weaned Sis, I started to toy with the idea of running again. But it was really hard to get back into shape after my third baby in so many years, and I just couldn’t seem to get myself in gear to do it.

I even made a specific goal for 2014 to run some sort of event. Even if it was just a 5K, I wanted to do something. And then I got pregnant. And then I lost that baby. I had gained a lot of weight during that brief pregnancy, and I just lost all motivation to think about races, and training, and running in general.

Actually, if I’m really honest, for the past two years I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a run but not going through with it  in part because of thinking, “But what if I get pregnant?” I’ve been avoiding signing up for any sort of race because of this possibility. Registering for such a long race is a bit of a commitment, and I kept thinking maybe and what if? and this could change things.

Well. A few months ago, my husband told me he wanted to run the Dam to Dam Half Marathon again in his home town area of Des Moines. He challenged all of his siblings to run the race with him, and he casually mentioned that perhaps I’d like to do it too.

I debated. I thought (again) about the what if? of potentially becoming pregnant. I told myself I wouldn’t have time to train because of the girls. I thought about the logistics of the race day and how it might be difficult to have someone take care of our girls and our dogs while we ran the race.

And then I decided to stop making excuses.

I realized that, if I did get pregnant, I would only be out fifty bucks or so for the entry fee. And that would not be a big deal.

I acknowledged that I wouldn’t be able to spend hours running every day like I used to. And then I decided that I could commit to doing enough. I knew that might not get in lots of long training runs (the longest I managed to do was seven miles), but I would still be able to train enough to finish the run.

I reminded myself that, of course my in laws would help with the girls and the dogs and it would be fine.

So I signed up for the run. And then I started running.

The majority of my runs were only about two or three miles, because that’s about as much as I could stand to do on my treadmill at one time. I did one four, one six, and one seven mile run (all outside). I did CrossFit to help strengthen my muscles and get my lungs in shape.

I knew I would be able to finish the race, though I would probably be slow and it would likely be painful.

And I did. And I was. And it was.

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It was hard and it was painful, but it was also fun and very, very rewarding, just like my first two marathons.

This time, I had a few new strategies for getting through. Throughout the two and a half hours I was running (yes, it took me that long to run 13.1 miles, I got passed by a speed walker at one point), I focused intently on the fun of the experience and the beauty of the run and the people around me. I laughed at the antics of some of the other runners. I said “Thank you!” to the spectators. I offered up every ache and pain that I could (the stitch in my side, the ache in my thighs because I did too much of a squat workout three days before the run, the blister forming on my left foot, the pebble in my shoe for six miles, etc.). And I thought every. step. of the way. about my girls waiting for me at the finish line.

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Maybe at some point, I can use my running as an example to them of how we can do hard things and have fun doing them. Or of how it’s okay to do something for the simple joy of accomplishment. Or how you can have fun doing something and not feel embarrassed even when you aren’t the best or fastest at doing it (did I mention I got passed by a speed walker??).

After I completed the run, they all asked me if they can run with me when they get bigger. And that’s the best motivation I could ever have.

Our Homeschool Curriculum for Next Year

Look what came in the mail the other day:

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I decided to go with the full, packaged first grade curriculum from Sonlight. I mentioned before that I felt a little concerned about losing the fun and creative stuff I like to do with the girls if I bought an already planned/packaged curriculum. But, in my decision to go ahead with it, my rationale was that, by getting a program that has already laid out everything for me, I will actually have more time to come up with little extras and fun things to do with the girls, because I won’t be spending as much time planning my next week’s lessons.

At the moment, I’m in the process of packing up everything in our school room and turning it back into a dining room in preparation for putting our house on the market.

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So I didn’t take the time yet to unpack and go through everything in the boxes (though I really, really want to!!). But check out the few things that I did pull out.

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Isn’t it beautiful? And even more wonderful:

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This entire box is full of books. I nearly fainted. My husband is making fun of me for how excited I am over these materials, but look at all those books!! The colors and the feel and the smell of them. Okay. I’m a big nerd. Moving on.

The girls will do most of the science and social studies parts of this curriculum (and our religion and art curricula, below) all together. I have lots of materials that I can use to make the reading more challenging for Miss and to do phonics, reading, math, and handwriting with Lass, as well as a beginning phonics program for Sis (she always asks for something to do during school time).

And speaking of the religion component of our homeschool, another reason I hesitated to pull the trigger on purchasing this one, is that Sonlight is a Protestant Christian curriculum. This is great, because it includes lots of learning of Bible verses and includes important Christian history. And I thought about and decided that I’m okay with the likelihood that we will need to have some discussions about what this curriculum has to say about things like the Reformation, since I think it’s good for the girls to know that our Church has historically had some bad times and people, and that others have different ways of viewing things, and why we still believe that our Church is the right one for us.

BUT, though I kept coming back to this curriculum as the one I liked the best, and I decided I’m okay with the fact that it’s not specifically a Catholic curriculum, I wanted to make sure I was including the teachings of the Catholic Church and the beauty and history of our Faith in our school days. I wanted to Catholicize our curriculum, if you will. So I bought some extra materials with Catholic teachings, a character program, and a Catholic art program from Catholic Heritage Curricula.

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This is actually two art programs, one for art appreciation and one for art appreciation/production. They both incorporate teachings of the Catholic faith, and I think they’re going to be really fun. For example, the girls will see many images of Mary from different cultures, and then be able to make their own crayon resist Mother Mary.

We haven’t even finished up this school year yet, and I’m already eager for next year!

An Adventure in Chicago

Last week my husband was bear hunting in Alaska.

So I took the girls to Chicago for a girls’ road trip/ultimate field trip extravaganza.

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I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, so I’m not unfamiliar with big cities, but I had never been to Chicago. It’s been a long time since I lived in a large metropolitan area, and I was kind of nervous to take the girls by myself to a huge city I’m unfamiliar with, but I did it anyway. I planned the trip so that we would not have to drive much downtown, crossed my fingers that it would work the way I planned, and went for it.

It was perfect (if I do say so myself).

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The main Chicago attraction I wanted to be sure to visit was the Shedd Aquarium. We were reading and talking about sea animals in school, and I knew my girls would just love an opportunity to see so many of them in person, so I pretty much planned the trip around that goal. I found a hotel that I thought would be within walking distance of the aquarium and that also had two-room suites for a reasonable price (because I wanted to be able to put my kids to bed and still have my own place to be awake; the lumpy pull-out was worth it). We drove down Wednesday after Miss finished school, battled the ridiculous traffic, pulled into the hotel’s valet parking garage (because driving and parking downtown was the biggest thing I was NOT willing to do), and began our adventure.

Our hotel was right across the street from Grant Park, and the girls loved the big statue we passed right away in the morning while walking to the aquarium.

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I think they would have been happy just to play on and around it all morning, but we eventually did press on, and the Shedd was so worth the trip.

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I could go on and on about all the things we saw, but I will just note that I just loved hearing things like, “WOW! Mom look!” and “This is so cool!” and “I think he likes me!” (while face to face with some creature through the glass of a tank), and all the giggling while looking at strange animals.

The highlights of the day, the things the girls begged to go back and do again, were seeing the sharks and touching the stingrays. We also really enjoyed the 4D Sea Monsters show, though it was kind of scary for them too. The aquatic show was a big dud. The girls kept asking when it was going to be over. I think because the aquarium folks spent a lot of time talking about how they train the animals rather than just allowing us to watch the animals in action. Meh.

When we left the aquarium, we were exhausted, but also wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather. We stopped a few times on our walk back to the hotel for the girls to get out of the stroller and run around.

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Then it was back to the hotel for a little break, some sea animal DVDs on my computer, and some room service dinner.

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They took turns checking for stinky feet after our long day of walking and running around.

After dinner, we went out for another walk. I think one of the highlights of the whole trip was for the girls to see the various statues in and around Grant Park. We didn’t really walk very far, because they asked to get out and play on/around every statue and fountain we came across. I wanted to explore by walking and looking. They wanted to explore by touching and playing and imagining. We did some of both, but they were off the stroller and playing much more than they were on and being walked around. As it should be.

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I had planned to take the girls to the Field Museum on Friday, but then one of my friends (who lived in Chicago years ago) suggested we check out the Lincoln Park Zoo instead. I debated a bit whether to change my original plan and take them to the zoo, but then a few different things lined up to make the decision easy for me. The hotel people told me I could only keep my car in their parking garage until noon after check out that day, the weather turned out to be beautiful, and the girls said they wanted to go to the zoo.

So to the zoo we went.

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It was a little bit crazy in the morning because there were tons of school groups there and it was extremely crowded. But as the day went on it cleared out a bit. The girls were really tired, but we still had a great time.

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It was a successful and extremely fun trip. We learned a lot and made many wonderful memories. I will definitely be taking them back again, and I’m already thinking about other fun road trips to take them on. A Little House on the Prairie trip comes to mind or maybe some cool museums in Minneapolis?

“Evangelize” is Not a Four-Letter Word

All my life, even before I was an atheist, I felt uncomfortable with the way many Christian people try to share their faith with others.  I found the door-to-door peddling of Christian leaflets to be obnoxious, and kind of insulting. I ridiculed people who would say things like, “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?” When I first moved from Detroit to small-town Kentucky with my parents in 1997, I thought it was weird and kind of hilarious that some (very nice) people came to our door to tell us about their church’s “tent revival.” They had heard we were new in town and just wanted to extend an invitation, but I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.

I had a few not-so-nice names for people who tried to spread the word about Jesus, like “Bible Thumper,” and in some cases, “Jesus Freak.”

To be perfectly honest, one of the things I first liked about Catholicism was that it didn’t seem too heavy on the push to evangelize people. I knew that no one was going to ask me to go door to door handing out rosaries or anything. People didn’t call out “Praise Jesus!” or “Amen!” during Mass, so certainly no one was expected or encouraged to walk around saying these things to others outside the church.

However. . .

I was kind of wrong about two things.

First of all, obviously I was being a big jerk about judging people who try to spread their love of their faith to others.

And second, I was mistaken to think that Catholics don’t or aren’t called to share our faith.

I mean, Jesus told His apostles to do it, so yeah, probably I should too.

But how? I’m not ever going to be that person who goes door to door. I will never go up to a stranger and invite her to pray with me. Geez, I’m getting kind of clammy just thinking about it.

I’ve thought and prayed a lot about this, because I think it’s important, but I cannot be an “in-your-face evangelizer.” My introverted heart just couldn’t take that. Happily, my Church does not demand that of me.

So what’s a girl to do? I try to show my Faith by living it in my daily life. I go to Mass every Sunday and on holy days of obligation, whether I’m at home or traveling. I talk to my children a lot about our Faith, and then, as every good parent does, I let them do some of the work for me when they proudly and sweetly say things like, “I want to be a nun when I grow up!” or “Who’s your saint?” to people whom often have no idea what they’re talking about (Kidding!). I try to live my Catholic Faith confidently, but not in a pushy way, and to teach my children to do the same.

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And then there’s this here blog.

I write about faith and the Faith here a lot. But it is not easy for me. Every single time a thought comes to my mind for a post that has something to do with Christianity or Catholicism, I get nervous. Every. Single. Time.

I put it off. I resist. I fear that people might think things like, “Wow, she’s ‘found Jesus’ and now she won’t shut up about it,” or “Here’s she goes pushing that Catholic stuff on us again,” or “Man, I really miss the days when all she used to write about was potty training and trying to get her kids to nap and other everyday-motherhood stuff.”

If you feel that way, I’m sorry. But probably not really. Because I love the Catholic Faith and Jesus, and it is part of my everyday stuff now. I misunderstood it and ridiculed it and scorned it for so long. Now I can share with others the beauty and mysteries of the Church, and that’s something I feel is right for me to do. Even though it makes me nervous.

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Coincidentally, during the weeks that I’ve mulled this post over, a new thing came up that I wanted to share. You might have noticed that I have a new image/button on my sidebar. I chose to put it there as part of The Credo Project, put together by Molly, and Kendra, and Bonnie. From Molly’s post:

This is “The Credo Project”. We are a group of bloggers who love the richness and fullness of our Catholic Faith. We want to help our readers grow in their own walk with God and share our own journeys and experiences.

If you click on the image, it will take you to the website Catholics Come Home, which has lots of information for people who are interested in becoming Catholic or in returning to the Church.