We ended the Northern California part of our journey in the best possible way: water skiing on Lake Tahoe.
Davey grew up skiing on the lake, and 21 years ago he taught me to ski there. Now it was time for the kidlets to learn.
Although the boys gave a valiant effort, and loved rocking the wetsuits, it was The Girl who was the most determined to make it happen.
And I loved watching her determination.
The persistence, the strong will, the absolute refusal to quit.
It isn’t an easy skill to learn, and it isn’t an easy place to learn, either. The water is so cold, and that feeling of floating there in the enormous lake, shivering, as the boat circles around to once again pass you the rope is not exactly a fun feeling.
But I knew by the look in her eyes that she would not quit.
And then finally the time came. She was ready.
Her sweet little voice yelled out, “Hit it!”
Davey took off, and she popped up. For two whole seconds, she was skiing.
We all cheered and yelled.
I was so proud of her and happy for her. Not because it was the best ski run ever, and not because I have visions of her being a professional water athlete.
But because she saw what it was like to stick it out, even when it isn’t exactly fun anymore, and have it pay off.
She saw that grit and guts are very, very good things to have. It’s a lesson I hope she never forgets.
As we went back to get her, all three of her brothers were smiling and happy for her, and as we reviewed the highlights of the day, watching their sister get up definitely made the cut.
I love this more than they will ever know.
All of our time wasn’t spent on the water. We also visited the Bay Area and Sacramento, taking in all of the sights. Sea Lions, Cable Cars, Boats, and Bridges filled our days.
Throughout this Northern California time we ate great food, drank great coffee, and reconnected with more friends and family. We also met up with wonderful people who had been in our youth group years ago, and got in quality time with two girls who think nothing of spending hours talking with the kidlets and their stuffed animals.
All in all, it was awesome.
We are three weeks into the journey. 3900 miles, 65 hours in the car.
And now we head east.
See you soon.
In this first week of our journey, I sure have learned a lot from the two youngest kids. We call them The Littles. Now, I know that 4th and 5th graders aren’t normally considered little, but in this family, they are. The older two are The Boys and the younger two are The Littles. That’s just how it is.
We spent three wonderful days camping in Flagstaff, AZ. Those days were full of dirt, relaxing, campfires, and outdoor living. You know, all of the things that make life just a little bit better.
One of the days that we were there we went and explored the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful and incredible and breathtaking and all of the adjectives you would expect when you go and see one of the Natural Wonders of the World. We stood and looked and pondered the wonder of it all and our insignificance and our significance and all of the Thoughts You Think at the Grand Canyon.
Well, all of us except Jar. Jar was more interested in the people. As we walked through the parking lot, he read all of the license plates. He wondered about the families, where they came from, and where they were going. He listened to the accents he heard, watched the different customs taking place, and wanted to know more about the lives of the people he saw. He was fascinated by everyone around us, noticing the little things that we all ignored.
As we pushed past the people to stare and watch and think, he saw the people and wanted to know their story.
I want to be more like my son.
When the camping was over, we came back down to the Greater Phoenix Area. The Girl had some softball to play and we had some cheering to do.
This is The Girl’s first year playing fast pitch softball. She played baseball for five years before this and knows the fundamentals, but this was her first time with the bows and the cheers and all the softballness. She loved it. She is still a bit confused about the bow, but she loves softball.
Her team went undefeated for the regular season, and the pitcher was incredible. I’m talking several no-hitters, way beyond the rest of the league incredible. Strike after strike after strike. It sure was impressive.
The Girl plays 3rd base and shortstop, and I never got tired of watching her out there. Every single pitch of every single inning, she was ready. She would hop into position, glove down, eager to make a play. Now, 19 times out of 20 there was no play to be made, but she didn’t care. She was ready.
She received no attention, no glory, and most of the time there was no external reward for her actions. But that didn’t stop her. Every pitch, every inning, every game. Doing her job to the best of her abilities, no matter what.
I want to be more like my daughter.
So now we are off again, ready to see what we see and learn what we learn. Oh, and also enjoy the company of our kids, who are pretty awesome people.
See you much later, Arizona.
Nevada, Oregon, and Washington… we’re coming for ya.
See you soon.
“I’m just a young boy, living in the journey…”
Those are the lyrics to a song my youngest son wrote. One time I asked him what the song meant, and his response was simple.
“Well, Mom. It means that I’m just a young boy. And I’m living in the journey.”
I love it.
Living in the journey. And I get to live there with him.
This summer our family is living in an extended journey. My husband is a teacher, so he has the next two months off. He’s also switching schools and districts, which means we are moving as well. We had two options: Move in to our new neighborhood in June and spend the summer in the Valley of the Sun (uh….), or throw our stuff in storage and travel the country.
For the next 60 days we are traveling all over the Lower 48. West Coast, East Coast, Northwest, the South… you name it, we’ll be there. Seeing friends and family, exploring new places, visiting our favorite spots. Camping, hotels, couches… we’re doing this.
And I’m going to chronicle it all here. Because that’s what I do.
So… before we get started, I’d like to introduce you to the characters in this journey.
J is Jeremy. He is 15 and just finished his Freshman year of high school. He likes reading, music, and all things baseball.
The Kid is Micah. He is 12 and just finished 6th grade. He loves building, creating, and all things baseball.
The Girl is Alexis. She is 10 and just finished 4th grade. It is because of her that we get to explore all of the National Parks for free! She loves drawing, writing, and all things baseball and softball.
Jar is Elijah. He is eight and just finished 3rd grade. He loves camping, swimming, and all things baseball.
“Davey and Jane”
We are Davey and Jane. We love our family, traveling, and all things baseball and softball.
Marvin is Dr. Leo Marvin, our 7-month old lab-mix. We were told he was lab/golden retriever. We see the lab… He loves playing, sleeping, and all things chewing.
Goliath is our new tent. We figured that since we would be spending at least 2/3 of the next 60 nights in a tent, we might as well get a good one. It fits 14 people. We are a family of six, so this is a very good thing.
And here we go.
Just a family, living in the journey. Maybe you’ll join us!
See you soon!
I am a baseball mom. Well, to be a bit more precise, I am a baseball, softball, soccer, cheer, football, and basketball mom. But out of all of those, baseball is our family sport. From the beginning of February through the end of October, seven days a week, we are doing something related to baseball. Major Leagues, Minor Leagues, College Ball, Little League… we love it all.
But with all of my time watching my kids play, I have realized that there is a problem with youth sports. A very, very big problem. Now, the first thing that someone says when you dare to criticize youth sports is some variation of, “Well if you think you can do better then you can get out there and coach.”
Okay. Challenge accepted. I am a coach. My husband is a coach. Over the course of the last ten years we have coached a total of 51 seasons, from Kindergarteners to high schoolers, in six different sports.
So I have earned the right to say something.
But you know what? I don’t need to have earned the right to say something. And my speaking out isn’t a right – it’s a necessity. Because the problem with youth sports is that young people are being mistreated. And it’s not okay.
I’m not talking about the constant practicing. Although at times it gets a bit excessive, I understand the need to practice. I firmly believe in encouraging kids to strive for excellence, and excellence does not come without a lot of hard work.
I’m also not talking about kids being over-committed. If your kid wants to be involved in ten different activities at a time, and you want to pay for and take them to all of those activities, then go for it. Work that out with your family.
What I am talking about is that in the arena of youth sports it seems to have become accepted that adults will yell and scream at children. Belittling them. Humiliating them. Often times swearing at them.
The very same actions that if we saw it happening on the street, we would stop and intervene. Yet when it happens on the field, or the diamond, or the court, we all sit by and let it continue.
This is not okay.
My oldest son is an umpire and this season he has received a lot of verbal abuse. I understand that in professional baseball the manager yelling at the ump and getting tossed from the game is just something that happens. And you know what? Fine. Two adults throwing a fit and yelling at each other while millions of people watch? It’s a baseball thing. But when it is in the context of youth sports, where the umpire is a high school or middle school student, the dynamic has to change. We cannot simply accept it as normal that a 40-year-old man is going to shout insults at a child.
It is not okay.
All three of my sons play baseball and my daughter plays softball. I have seen countless coaches yelling at their players. Not helpful instruction, not even constructive criticism, simply out of control yelling and screaming. I have seen coaches throw things, slam things, and stomp around, raging at their kids.
I even overhead one coach yelling at his players in the dugout, “This is not a game in here!”
Uh… Coach? It is a game. And those boys you just yelled at? They’re 9 and 10 years old. Almost everything is a game for them. And that’s how it should be.
I realize that I have the option of not having my kids involved in youth sports. My son doesn’t have to umpire, and we can find other ways for them to get exercise and be a part of a team. But I have also seen the benefits that come from playing. Not only the physical benefits, but other benefits as well. I love the responsibility that they learn. I like seeing them helping teach the younger players, cheering for their siblings, and the confidence that comes with mastering a new skill. I like the fact that my oldest son is learning how to stand his ground, and realizing that he can take charge of an incredibly intense situation. These are valuable things to know.
Every day we have conversations about the things that they have seen at the ballpark, the good and the bad. And they are learning from everything. But far too often what they are learning from the adults is what not to do and how not to treat people.
And that’s not okay.
So what do we do? Do we just accept that it’s part of the culture? Do we just roll our eyes, vent on Facebook, and occasionally throw passive-aggressive remarks towards the coach?
Yes. I have done that.
But that’s not okay either.
And so I am speaking out. And speaking up. And I will continue to speak out and speak up. Because even if I remove my four children from this environment, that leaves 996 other kids in this league who are being subjected to verbal abuse.
And it’s not okay.
So what can we do? What can you do?
Speak with your coach and make it clear that you will not allow your child, or any other child, to be mistreated. Request a meeting with the director of your league and let him or her know that you are concerned about the fact that kids are being humiliated.
Because it is possible to coach kids without belittling them. It is possible to help them learn and excel, without making them miserable in the process.
I’ve seen it.
Last season my son’s team was undefeated the entire season, including the championship game. And his coach never once yelled and screamed at the players. He was passionate and he was intense, but he never bullied the children.
There are several organizations that have been created to help coaches learn how to coach without the abuse. Contact these groups and have someone work with your league.
Don’t just sit by and watch it happen. Do something.
I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I am not someone who thinks that everyone should get a trophy and that there should never be losers. I am fiercely competitive, and I believe that games are played to be won. I also believe that part of coaching is teaching kids how to win and lose with dignity.
I don’t tell my kids, “Good swing,” when they are chopping wood, and I don’t just shrug it off when a softly hit grounder rolls through their legs. We work on it, and I expect them to do better the next time.
So I’m not saying we need to be soft.
What I am saying is that we need to make sure that the adults who are leading and shaping and influencing children are doing so in a way that is not abusive. It is not too much to ask.
In fact, why would we accept anything else?
So do something.
See you soon.
Last night I watched the ESPY Awards.
I knew Caitlyn Jenner would be winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. And I knew that there would be a broad spectrum of reactions.
Now, I didn’t watch the awards live. I was at my son’s baseball game and we didn’t get back until close to midnight. I got home, checked Facebook, and there I saw reactions to the evening, from every end of the spectrum.
Deeply touched, proud, disgusted, horrified.
They were all there.
So I turned on the television and watched for myself.
How did I feel?
I felt sad. So very, very sad.
Sad that this woman has struggled for over 60 years.
Has never felt true. Never felt whole.
At 65 years old, when most of her peers are settling into retirement, she is stepping out, trying to be who she feels she really is for the first time in her life.
As an athlete, Bruce Jenner reached the ultimate goal for so many, seeming to symbolize all that was worthy of attaining. By his own admission he thought of nothing else. It was all that mattered. A single-minded pursuit of being the best in the world.
And he got there.
But it didn’t satisfy.
It didn’t stop the pain. The loneliness. The confusion.
It wasn’t enough.
Marriages. Children. Fame and fortune.
It wasn’t enough.
And so Bruce is now Caitlyn.
Is she happy?
I don’t know. I don’t know her. At times I see her and she doesn’t look happy. But I don’t know her. I haven’t talked with her. I haven’t asked her.
Other times I see her and she looks incredibly happy. But again, I don’t know.
Is it enough for her? Only Caitlyn knows the answer to that.
I do know that something she said last night kept me awake.
“If you want to call me names, make jokes and doubt my intentions, go ahead because the reality is I can take it. But for thousands of kids out there coming to terms with the reality of who they are they shouldn’t have to take it.”
Caitlyn shouldn’t have to take it, either.
It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of her choice, she doesn’t deserve to be ridiculed. She doesn’t deserve to be harassed.
No one deserves that.
Someone once discussed what they thought Jesus would say to Caitlyn Jenner. Which made me think about what I think Jesus would say to Caitlyn.
My conclusion: I. Don’t. Know.
But I do know this: She would feel loved. She would feel valued. She would feel treasured. She would be offered wholeness in Him.
Because Jesus changes lives and makes people whole.
How would Caitlyn respond to Jesus?
I. Don’t. Know.
I don’t know her. I’ve never asked her what she thinks about Jesus. I doubt I’ll ever get the chance.
But you know who I will probably get the chance to talk with?
One of the thousands of kids out there that she talked about. One of the ones coming to terms with who they are.
One of the ones feeling harassed, tormented, shamed for being honest about who they are, what they feel, and where they struggle.
And I hope, I truly hope, that if I do get the chance, that person will feel loved. Valued. Treasured. That he or she will see Jesus, and know that wholeness comes from Him.
Because Jesus changes lives and makes people whole.
See you soon!
This morning it started.
David’s phone rang at 6:00 AM. (Yeah, um… not an effective marketing technique. Sure, maybe we did want to further our education with your fine establishment, but at 6:00 in the morning I don’t want to further a thing, homeboy. Just sayin’.)
Anyway, once that happened my mind started working overtime:
It’s December 1st! You need to start the countdown today. How are you going to make Christmas memorable for your kids if you spend December 1st in Las Vegas, New Mexico, eating free nachos? I mean, where’s the Baby Jesus in the gooey cheese sauce?
The cheerleaders are competing in State this Saturday! The chants. The baskets! The signs!! The bows!!! Oh, the bows. Do they all have their bows?
I have bills to pay, the house to clean, cookies to bake, presents to buy, and Gilder to frame for it.
In the middle of this epic freakout, a beautiful face came to mind, and I was instantly calmed:
Before you think that I’ve completely lost it, let me explain. (No, let there is no time. Let me sum up.)
About a year ago I wrote a post about the Noise of Christmas. And in the post I gave myself – and all of you – a wonderful gift.
As the year went by I forgot about this, but thankfully I was reminded this morning. So I want to share it with you, again:
All the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise (Originally posted December 23, 2013)
Today is Christmas Eve Eve. I know that it might seem silly to acknowledge the eve of Christmas Eve, but in our house we have been acknowledging eves since Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve…Eve…Eve.
We have been doing a fun advent calendar where every day we do a Christmas activity. We’ve strung popcorn, made snowflakes, had baking days, and the kidlets even took some time to ring the bell at the Salvation Army kettle and hand out candy.
One of the most common activities, though, is family movie night. The reason should be obvious… it’s cheap (thank you, Netflix) and everyone loves it.
Do you know how many interpretations of A Christmas Carol are out there? I wonder what Charles Dickens would have done if someone told him that 170 years after he published his story, cartoon ducks would be learning the same lesson as Ebenezer Scrooge. (The other night my daughter said, “Wow, ducks sure don’t have the Christmas spirit. Donald didn’t. Daffy didn’t. What’s wrong with the ducks?”)
Another one of our favorites is The Grinch. I prefer the live action one, but this is mainly because I have a panic attack every time the cartoon Grinch gets stuck in the chimney. Seriously. My heart starts pounding and I have to look away. I know he’ll get unstuck – he always does – but still. I just can’t take it. What if this time it’s different?
My favorite line in both versions of that movie is when the Grinch is airing his grievances with Christmas and he complains about all the noise (noise, noise, noise).
If I had a complaint about Christmas, that would be mine as well.
All the noise. (Noise, noise, noise.)
Now, I’m a homeschooling mother of four, a youth pastor’s wife, and a former teacher. I am used to noise. Especially Christmas noise. I’m used to the giggles, the squeals, the drums (pa rum pum pum pum), the questions, the toys, and the sound of glass ornaments shattering on the ground.
Those aren’t the noises that bother me.
The noise (noise, noise, noise) that bothers me most is actually noise that no one else can hear. And unfortunately it isn’t just limited to Christmas time.
It’s the noise inside my head, the constant battle I have with myself.
And I know I’m not alone.
“I’m not doing enough for my kids.”
“I’m spoiling my kids.”
“We’re focusing too much on the secular aspects of Christmas.”
“There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun.”
“I should do that elf thing.”
“There’s no way I’m doing that creepy elf thing.”
“What is wrong with those moms who put so much effort into that creepy elf thing?”
“I really admire those moms who go the extra mile to give their kids incredible Christmas memories.”
“She looks really pretty today.”
“Why didn’t I wear my nice clothes? I look frumpy next to her.”
“My kids are running all around the church. I’m a terrible mother.”
“I hope someone notices I curled my daughter’s hair. At least I put some effort into getting her ready today.”
“I should bake cookies with the kids.”
“The last thing I need to eat is another cookie.”
And on, and on, and on.
Noise. Noise. Noise. Noise.
So you know what I am giving myself this Christmas? And the gift I want to give to all of you out there who are tired of the noise?
The realization that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and His works are wonderful.
The knowledge that yes, parenting is hard. Yes, life is hard. But we are not alone. Our God is with us, the Mighty Warrior who saves. And He delights in us, and He sings over us.
So enjoy the silence, and let it last beyond the Christmas season.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
See you soon.
This morning David and I woke up with an extra little one in our bed. Yesterday it was an extra little two. And you know what? I love it.
Okay, so I don’t necessarily love getting kicked in the ribs all night long or the intense heat that comes from four bodies squished into a bed, but I love the fact that I still have little ones who want to cuddle.
My youngest comes in several nights a week, usually after he has a middle of the night potty trip. And yes, I’ve read the articles about sleep training, and I’ve read the books about developing independence. I’ve also read the articles and books about co-sleeping and the wonders of the family bed.
Truth? I don’t really care what the experts have to say, especially when my little guy is standing there at 3:00 AM whispering, “Mama! Mama! I’m here.” I throw back the covers, he climbs in, and it’s a good night.
When he was little he used to come in when he’d have a bad dream, crying and sniffling. I’d comfort him, and he’d fall asleep.
As he got a bit older, he would just come in and whine a bit, saying, “I had a bad dream.”
But then something started to change. He would come running into the room, giggling. I’d look at him and as he would jump into the bed he’d say, “Had a bad dream!”
Now he just skips the excuse and cuts straight to saying one of two things: “Mama! Mama! I’m here,” or my favorite, “Hey, can I get in there?”
This morning as I looked at him sleeping, I was thinking about how he just comes in with confidence now, knowing that he is welcome. He finds comfort and warmth in our bed, and he feels secure.
I also thought about Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
We don’t need an excuse to come to the Lord. We don’t need an elaborate plan, ritual, or recitation.
We can simply approach the throne with confidence, knowing that we will receive mercy and grace, and help in our time of need.
“Lord, Lord, I’m here.”
And He welcomes us in, giving us comfort, security, warmth, and whatever we need.
See you soon!
For the last few months, David and I have both been completely out of our element: We have been coaching sports. Okay, so coaching’s not out of our element… we’ve been coaching for years and we love it. But the strange part of our life right now is what we’ve been coaching.
David’s been coaching track, and I’ve been coaching football and soccer.
Now, David’s an athletic guy, but he never ran track. Ever. He knew nothing about track when the season started. In fact, there were times when he’d leave for practice and I’d go on to the computer and find YouTube videos open about starting blocks, sprinting form, and other track-y stuff.
But the school needed a track coach, so he’s doing it.
While he’s been at the school every day imparting his YouTube wisdom to the youth of the community, I’ve been down at the rec league soccer and football fields, imparting wisdom to the children of the community. Now, I haven’t utilized YouTube, but my PE for Elementary Students textbook from college has come in handy. Very, very handy.
Soccer with the little ones hasn’t been too difficult. I know enough of the basics to handle the 5, 6, and 7 year olds. Yesterday we had a helicopter fly overhead during practice, so that brought us a whole new series of challenges, but we made it.
But moving up just one level, to the 8 and 9 year olds? Oh. Boy.
Yesterday before practice my assistant coach told me his ideas for working with the goalies, complete with several specific and technical descriptions… I just smiled and said, “Great!” and sent him off with my two best goalies.
(Yes, he should be the head coach. I know that, he knows that, and anyone who is around my team for more than 3 seconds knows that. But he runs a restaurant in town and couldn’t commit to being a head coach. So there’s that.)
Anyway, while he went with the goalies and did the soccery stuff, I worked with the rest of the kids. We dribbled, we passed, we ran. Then I told one of my defenders (see, I’m not totally clueless) that she should pass the ball up to her teammate who will then try and score.
The little girl nodded in earnest and said, “Okay, Coach! I will! I’ll make sure he’s not offsides though.”
I just looked at her and nodded, “Okay, (little 8 year old girl), good call.”
Later, in the privacy of my own home, I said to David, “Um, so what does it mean to be offsides in soccer?”
Yeah. I’m that coach.
And football? Thankfully I have a very wise and capable assistant there, too. He and his freshman in high school self has answered many a question, made many helpful suggestions, and graciously hid his laughter.
I mean, I know football. I know the rules, I know the plays and positions, and I do know what offsides means in football… but knowing the sport and knowing how to coach the sport are two totally different things.
Plus – flag football and tackle football are two totally different things.
But the rec league desperately needed coaches, so I’m doing it.
But last night something pretty great happened – David started coaching baseball, and I started coaching cheer.
I left soccer practice and walked up to the high school gym, heading for cheer. David passed me on the way, leaving track and heading for the baseball fields. We high fived as we passed, and we each knew that the other was going, well, home.
I walked into the gym and within 30 seconds I knew where I was. Stunt pods, cinnamon rolls, 5-6-7-8, bows, and toe touches – that’s my language. That I know. I was comfortable, I was happy, I was home.
After practice I walked back to the fields for the end of baseball, and yes, that is home for David and the kidlets, and home for me too. (So I have two homes… work with me here.) Watching the pitching coach, listening to the base running coach, seeing the kids working on their swings, calling for pop flies, and charging the ball and tossing it to first – again, the language of home.
When we got back to the house after our marathon day, David and I couldn’t stop smiling. He with a baseball in his hand, me with the cheer catalogues, finally where we wanted to be.
But you know what? Today there is no baseball, and today there is only a little bit of cheer. But today there is track, and today there is football, and we need to give all that we can give while we are there. The kids deserve our best. And while the sports are different, the underlying lessons we want to instill – sportsmanship, commitment, striving for excellence – are all the same. And that is the reason we got into coaching in the first place.
While we were talking about all of this, I was reminded of the verse that talks about the fact that this world is not our true home.
“For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.” Hebrews 13:14
So while we are here, we are out of our element. Sure, we will have glimpses of Home – when we worship, spend time with the Lord, and spend time in fellowship with other believers – but we are not Home yet.
We have work to do here still. We have to go into the world and teach others about the saving grace of Jesus. We have to shine the light into the darkness.
We have to be uncomfortable at times, awkward at times, and yes, even be laughed at at times – but that’s okay. That’s why we are here.
There’s a need, and so we must do it.
And eventually we’ll be Home. We’ll be comfortable. We’ll be at rest.
But until then, let’s give our best. Let’s go where we’re needed, shine the light, and bring others the Hope of one day finally going Home.
See you soon!