22 Truths Baseball Moms Know

  1. Baseball dirt does not stay on the field. It will be found in your car and will also come home in your slugger’s cleats, socks, and sometimes even – inexplicably – in his underwear.
  1. Baseball uniform laundry is a serious chore. See above.
  1. Why hasn’t anyone popularized baseball pants the color of baseball dirt? See above.
  1. If your kid strikes out, it’s quite possible you’re sitting in the wrong seat. For the team’s sake, be sure to move before his next at-bat.
  1. If the team won when you wore that blue shirt, you should probably wear it again to the next game. And the same earrings just to be on the safe side.
  1. To reiterate #4 and #5, superstitions have actual power in baseball.
  1. If you know how to keep the scorebook, you will be asked to keep the scorebook.
  1. Most moms claim they don’t know how to keep the scorebook.
  1. If you keep the scorebook, you have to pay attention to the game and can’t talk to your fellow fans.
  1. If you keep the scorebook, you don’t have to talk to your fellow fans.
  1. A good stadium chair is worth every penny.
  1. You have to pick your battles during baseball season. Just go ahead and concede the excessive concession stand candy.
  1. On a related note, your standards of a decent dinner for the family will probably slide during baseball season as much as your kid does into second base.
  1. Try not to feel too guilty about this lack of home-cooked meals. Think of all the people you’re keeping employed at Chick-Fil-A.
  1. After a few seasons, you will accumulate a variety of team t-shirts you will wear again never. Hence the (surprising) popularity of generic – but heavily blinged – “Baseball Mom” tees.
  1. Somebody will always yell, “Be a hitter!” when kids head to the plate. Don’t be that somebody. Of course they want to be a hitter.
  1. Somebody will also always yell at her kid to get his elbow up while he’s batting. Don’t be that somebody either. Leave the coaching to the coaches.
  1. There are a lot of good life lessons to be learned from bad calls and tough losses. That doesn’t make them any less heartbreaking for us to watch.
  1. Winning isn’t everything. But it does make the ride home more enjoyable.
  1. Odds are he won’t ever play in the MLB, so enjoy this while it lasts. Someday you might miss scrubbing those stains out of his uniform pants.
  1. Ha! No, you won’t actually miss scrubbing those stains. But you just might miss seeing that triumphant look on his face when he hits a double, slides in safe, or scores the winning run.
  1. After all, sharing in his joy is what baseball moms do best.


I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into my first ladies’ Bible study a couple of years ago. Joining one had been on my list of “things I’ll do when the kids are both in school,” so there I was. I figured I would learn more about faith from the study book in front of me. I didn’t realize how much I would learn, too, from the quiet woman across from me.

The registration form had asked my age, so I was hoping they’d group all of us young moms together. Those were the people I knew, that I had more in common with, I thought. The group at my table was actually a mix of ladies, some like me in our thirties, some veteran moms, some grandmothers. Despite our differences in age, though, we chatted, laughed, and connected from that very first day.

Our small group’s appointed prayer leader was a longtime church member named Kathleen. As she prayed with us and for us every Thursday morning, she shared her strong faith with us. Occasionally she would also share a story or two about mission trips she’d taken to Guatemala.

Later that fall, though, it was our turn to pray for Kathleen as she tearfully told us she’d been diagnosed with an advanced cancer. We rallied around her as best we could, with flowers, phone calls, notes, and prayer after prayer. She fought bravely, relying on her faith at every turn. She came to the first week of the spring semester that January, disappointed that her chemo had not worked as expected but hopeful about a new treatment she was about to start.

And then, two very short weeks later, we were stunned by the news that her brave fight was over. She was no longer with us, but instead with our heavenly Father.

The celebration of her life was a beautiful remembrance. As her family and many friends spoke about her, I was taken aback to learn the extent of her mission work. She didn’t just go on medical mission trips to Guatemala; she was the one who organized them. She and her husband had years ago sold their lake house and luxury cars here and traded their comfortable life to provide health care to thousands of people who otherwise wouldn’t have had any – and shared the Gospel with them. I had no idea.

I thought about all those Thursday mornings when our group had discussed the weekly lessons. We should have all been sitting around taking notes from her. To think how much we would have learned from her if she had spent the entire time sharing stories of her work, of the countless lives she touched, of how she trusted in God through every challenge and struggle.

But to think how much we learned from her by the fact that she didn’t.

Despite all Kathleen already knew about life, she came to learn and to listen. She didn’t consider her remarkable accomplishments to be her own. She believed them to be God’s work through her. Her grace and quiet strength were such a testament to putting your full trust in God, and she exemplified true humility. Humility, it has been said, is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.

I wish I’d had more months or years to learn from Kathleen, but I’m grateful for the time when our paths did cross. It was time I wouldn’t have had if the group had gone according to my original plan. God’s plans, though, are always better.

The best of intentions

I have been intending to write again for some time now. Obviously, I have not been very intentional about sitting down to do it, since my last post was in August, and I actually started writing this one in January. It’s funny, isn’t it, how the shades of meaning convey such difference between our intentions and being intentional?

We all have good intentions, no more so than every New Year as we pronounce our resolutions with such determination. Eat healthy and exercise this year! Organize the whole house! Never be late again!

Yet, in spite of the best intentions of so many, those who actually succeed in achieving their goals are intentional, or deliberate, about them. They plan healthy meals and time to work out. They tackle clutter one area at a time. And they somehow figure out how to always be on time. (Still a mystery to me.)

Being intentional often means finding ways to break ingrained habits that interfere with our intentions. Our brains love habits; relying on them conserves a tremendous amount of mental energy. The mind seems to like reverting to autopilot and not having to think through every single one of the countless decisions we make every day.

I started reading a really interesting book about this over spring break called “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.” The first 68 pages were great. I have not yet finished it, though, since among my bad habits is only finding time to read books while on vacation. I must not be alone, though – Amazon also offers three different “summary” versions of that title for those who aren’t in the habit of finding time to read a whole book.

The big problem with habits is when what we tend to do is not we really intend to do. If these tendencies are affecting our health, our relationships, how we spend the precious gift of time we’re given every morning, it’s time to hijack the habit. That kind of change requires a very intentional and sustained effort.

Fortunately, we don’t have to do it all at one time. Sometimes making a different choice just for today is enough to get the ball rolling.

Today I chose to finally finish this. I challenge you today to do something you’ve been intending to do. After all, being intentional is much more fulfilling than being full of intentions.

Parting (with Summer) is such sweet sorrow

My dearest Summer,

So, I guess this is it. You’re leaving me. We both knew this wouldn’t last. But, oh, Summer – I still love you.

You’re easygoing and fun. You have no baggage, like homework and committees and bedtimes. You have given me the gift of time – time to do important things with my kids, like play Go Fish and Monopoly. Time to swim and laugh all afternoon. Time to read books just because we want to, not because we have to log all the minutes. Time to indulge their interests, presently baseball cards and golf games. Time to impart important life lessons like how to bake tasty cookies and how to play along watching The Price is Right. That’s Americana at its finest, no?

I know this School Year will be a good companion, too. It’s a fresh start – shiny and new, full of promise. Still, I will always cherish our days together, Summer, and all the wonderful memories. Most of all – like I knew I would – I have loved that when I’m with you, my little loves have been all mine. They’re not that little anymore, which makes precious weeks together all the sweeter.

So long for now. You will always have a special place in my heart.


Is it June yet?

Dear School Year,

This has been great, but I think we need to take a break. It’s not you – it’s me. And yes, there is someone else. I’ve been spending some time with Summer. Summer is different and fun. Summer is splashing in the pool and playing baseball in the driveway after dinner because it’s still light outside. Summer is the beach and a Fourth of July parade and cousins and the freedom to do as much or as little as we want on any given day.

You’re a little needy, School Year. You demand my kids seven hours a day and then, on top of that, give them a pile of homework? Summer lets me hang out with them all day, which I love. I know – they’ll fight with each other sometimes. Or maybe even a lot. I might miss running errands by myself. But, oh, the glorious promise of these weeks of leisurely independence from your demands!

It started out well nine months ago. School Year, I had such grand plans for our time together: get into fantastic shape, read books, get lots done around the house, and volunteer for you. Yet, you and I both know I’m no closer to six-pack abs, left many pages unturned, and still have clutter chic décor. I did greatly enjoy all my time helping with you, although admittedly the luster is starting to wear off even that. (To wit, I may have muttered some unkind comments as I sifted through no fewer than 6,000 of your fiendish little pink Box Tops this weekend.)

School Year, it’s getting awkward. We both know it’s essentially over, and yet you’re going to hang around until next Friday? Look, the teachers are as eager for you to be history as the kids are. Just wrap it up and leave us the yearbooks.

Let’s keep in touch, though. How about I call you in August, when you will be the one coming back on the scene fresh and full of possibility like a new box of crayons? We’ll probably be ready for you then – and tanned and relaxed, too.

So you take the worksheets, and I’ll take the kids. My boys will be all mine again, and these long Summer days ours to treasure.

But, hey, we can still be friends.

Take care,


Just Mom

I’m not Mommy anymore. Just Mom. I’m not sure when it even happened, but it did. While out with my boys recently, I heard a child call out, “Mommy!” and was struck by the fact that the small voice was definitely not looking for me. My subconscious filter that, in a public place, used to instantly compare a “Mommy!” call with my own kids’ exact pitch and tone didn’t even seem to listen.

This realization struck me, fittingly enough, as I was lounging poolside while the boys were splashing and swimming on our last vacation. It’s a nice perk of graduating to Mom, among others. Nobody needs me in the middle of the night. Diapers are a somewhat distant memory. I can go places like sporting events with my family and carry just a small handbag, no Goldfish or small toys required. Travel is a relative breeze.

It’s liberating, of course, but I must admit I did enjoy the Mommy days, too. I treasured the peace of holding a baby I had just rocked to sleep. I loved the mirth of toddler laughs – when the same silly thing was funny over and over and over. I adored the feeling of holding their small hand in mine as we walked along.

They don’t need to hold my hand in parking lots anymore. They don’t need me to sing them to sleep. They can dress themselves, and they can get their own snacks. They prefer playing with their friends than with me. They manage for seven hours a day at school completely without my assistance.

I’m glad for all these age-appropriate measures of independence. But the truth is, when they were small, I used to be able to fix everything. Hungry, tired, hurt, or bored? I could reliably feed, lull, soothe, or entertain. It wasn’t always easy, especially at first, but I learned a few tricks, as moms do. My own mom – a wise, wise woman – taught me many.

As children grow, though, so does the complexity of their problems. Not all the boo-boos can be kissed and made better. Schoolwork, peer relationships, self-image: moms do their best to help but can’t fix it all the way mommies can when their little ones’ needs are simpler, although more round-the-clock.

At the outset, it’s a frustrating revelation. All these years of being in charge of countless aspects of our children’s lives, it seemed quite often like the way things turned out was a direct result of our decision making, for better or worse. The books and web sites and blogs and fellow mothers proclaimed the path to follow: which baby contraptions you absolutely need, which foods to introduce first, what your toddler should have exposure to (sign language! music! gymnastics!). It’s a dizzying amount to digest these days, but we’ve been assured that we can shape our children with our correct choices.

Moms, we’ve been misled. For all we are in charge of, and all we are responsible for, we are not ultimately in control of what we spend more time worrying about than all else: who our children become. The older they get, the more I’ve come to realize that it is God who is in control. Our job is to nurture our children and love them for just exactly who they are, the wonderfully unique individuals He created them to be.

I may be just Mom to my kids these days. But at least I know now they are not just mine. They are His. They may rely on me for less, but I rely on Him more. And that knowledge is an even better perk than sleeping through the night.


A STAARtling Realization

Springtime in Texas: the pollen descends upon us, and so does the STAAR. Debate over this standardized testing tends to focus on the impact on students and teachers. Another party with a vested interest merits mention, however – a party who, unlike students and teachers, actually benefits from this assessment.

A company called Pearson creates and administers the STAAR and other standardized state tests under a $500 million contract with the Texas Education Agency. As the self-proclaimed “market leader in educational publishing and services,” they also conveniently sell the test prep materials and tutoring programs for the exams – some of which are required to graduate from high school. If that doesn’t happen, guess who also owns the GED exam?

Over the last 15 years, this British conglomerate has set their sights on the burgeoning American education industry and acquired a laundry list of testing and publishing companies to aid in that pursuit. The education market to capture grew all the more lucrative in no small part due to government mandated accountability testing. By numerous accounts, Pearson, of course, helped lobby successfully in support of these measures. They continue to invest in legislative lobbying to protect their interests.

But Pearson’s sphere of influence expands beyond publishing and standardized testing. They now control teacher certification in seven states. Last year they acquired BioBehavioral Diagnostics and their Quotient ADHD test. The move, which they announced as a “strategic entry into healthcare markets,” should come as no surprise. The new book “The ADHD Explosion” presents significant research correlating a dramatic rise in ADHD diagnosis with – wait for it – increased state testing.

The propensity of corporations to profit where the opportunity exists, even from educational products or services, is not inherently pernicious. That’s supply and demand. But a company paid with our tax dollars for the exclusive supply of a demand they aided in orchestrating – and are continuing to perpetuate – should raise red flags.

Bolstering the testing behemoth, though, are a legion of lawmakers, administrators and even some parents who have been drinking the accountability Kool-Aid. They support this seemingly endless educational data collection and one-size-fits-all approach believing it offers proof of instructional success. Regardless of their intentions to ensure educational parity, the reality has been that more assessments just equal more anxiety, for both students and teachers.

Parents, teachers, and administrators would like to believe that their children are subjected to the rigors of these high-stakes tests for some tangible benefit to the greater good. But the $500 million elephant in the room is getting harder to ignore.

In celebration of celebrations

It appeared again after St. Patrick’s Day like a pile of green laundry. The mom blogger of Rage Against the Minivan, Kristen Howerton, beseeched in a witty post (linked below), “Can we bring the holidays down a notch?” I read it this time last year, and my response hasn’t changed.

In a word, no. No, I’m not going to bring them down a notch.

Yes, I am one of those moms who, to quote the chagrined author, sent in a “whole freaking goodie bag” for my kindergarten son’s Valentine exchange. And for his birthday treats earlier that week, I baked sugar cookies with alphabet cookie cutters, so each child in his class got the first letter of their name. I’m pretty sure she would frown upon that, too.

I didn’t plan either of those out of any sense of expectation, though. I just wanted to, because I thought the kids would enjoy them. For lack of a more apt phrase, that’s just how I roll. I love celebrating holidays with what I consider fun traditions. I don’t expect anyone else to feel compelled to do so.

I respect Howerton’s desire to carry on the tradition of pre-made plastic Easter baskets she says she had growing up. But that’s not what I grew up with. My mom baked wonderful homemade cookies, the recipes I use now. And I still have the special Easter basket she gave me that I looked forward to setting out every year.  My sister had a matching one. These are traditions I want to carry on, but to each his own.

Is there more holiday hoopla now? Maybe so. The creative Elf tableaus noted in her rant, for one, do seem to be a more recent addition. I was reluctant to embrace that one myself. It came to our family in the manner the blogger mom decries – something heard about at school followed by choruses of “But where is our elf?”

At first it did strike me as a bit much, and I recognize why the phrase “holiday overkill” came to her mind. But I must admit that Elf grew on me. It’s hard to argue with the gleeful excitement on my sons’ faces when they wake up wondering where they’ll find Elfie that day. I, too, delight in the fun of Elfie hanging from a chandelier, wrapping the Christmas tree with toilet paper, and driving the toy cars.

So no, I don’t think we would all be happier to take a more “slacker” approach to special occasions, as she suggests. For that matter, I don’t think there’s any reason we all have to take the same approach to holidays. We don’t all take the same approach to a lot of matters. Other moms have a lot less clutter in their houses than I do. Hats off to them! And by hats, I mean the ones strewn across my house, while theirs are hanging tidily. That discrepancy doesn’t bother me, though. I don’t tell them they’re “setting up expectations I just can’t maintain,” to quote the post again. That’s just how they roll.

The truth is, we may debate this seemingly endless parade of celebrations while our kids are in kindergarten, but by the time third grade rolls around it will be a moot point. In those few years the joyous 100 Days of School celebration gives way to the killjoy hundred school days of preparing for standardized tests.  The hours of blowing bubbles carefree cede all too soon to hours of carefully bubbling in bubbles.

So can we bring down the complaining a notch? We’re just trying to have fun over here and aren’t inclined to rein in our revelry to the lowest common denominator. You do your thing, I’ll do mine, or you’re of course welcome to join us. Just like holidays – in my book, the more the merrier 🙂


Toxic testing?

The standardized testing juggernaut in our schools shows no signs of slowing down. Recent headlines announce that now even kindergarteners in some parts of the country are being required to bubble in answers so their skills can be assessed.

In a seemingly unrelated headline, the self-appointed Food Babe, blogger Vani Hari, petitioned Subway to remove the chemical azodicarbonamide, a dough conditioner, from its bread. They announced three days later that they would phase it out.

My suggestion: Let’s have the Food Babe see if she can find some azodicarbonamide in standardized testing. Maybe then elementary schools would finally be able to toss the endless pages of test prep to the trash bin where they belong.

The Subway petition actually struck me as over-the-top, although that’s in keeping with Food Babe’s style. She investigates the food industry extensively, but her reports have been decried by some observers as “fear mongering.” Her letter to Subway cited studies questioning potential health risks but grabbed attention by emphasizing that azodicarbonamide is also used in making yoga mats. “We want to really eat fresh, not yoga mat,” her petition declared.

How silly, I thought. Eat yoga mat? Regardless of whether or not this additive is harmful, surely she would reach a wider audience and gain more credibility if it weren’t so overly dramatic and alarmist. Every can of Play-Doh is labeled as containing wheat, but nobody thinks we need to remove wheat from bread because it’s in Play-Doh. And nobody thinks we’re eating Play-Doh when we eat wheat.

But within 24 hours 50,000 people had signed the petition, and Subway conceded (or seized an opportunity for good p.r. by agreeing to something they were already planning to do – your call.) The Food Babe declared victory.

So why don’t we put her to work figuring out what kind of mental yoga mat our young kids are consuming by spending hours upon hours preparing for these tests? It hasn’t worked that teachers have spoken out against them. Neither has it made a difference that parents loathe them. Perhaps if there were some chemical we know to be harmful – like red food dye or trans fat – involved we could rally support to just say no to multiple choice. I can see the headlines now: Students subjected to toxic testing, parents protest.

We know growing kids need healthy food for their bodies, but the trickle-down effect of this mandated testing robs them of another valuable resource for their minds: time. Time to learn at their own pace, to read when they’re ready, to delight in the joy of learning before the endless drumbeat of A, B, C or D drains the fun out of it all.

Is there anyone who thinks these legions of tests are making our kids smarter and better thinkers? Are any teachers pleased with these exacting standards to which they are required to tailor their instruction? Do any parents look at the page after page of multiple choice worksheets coming home in their kids’ folders as early as second grade and think it was a commendable use of their class time?

Surely so. Otherwise the reality of public education today wouldn’t be that excellent schools with excellent teachers are handed a myopic definition of education to which they’re expected to adhere and told that test scores will determine their success. Dedicated, caring teachers and school administrators today still succeed in preparing our children for the future – but it’s wholly in spite of standardized testing, not because of it. It’s because they are caring and dedicated that they find a way to teach our children regardless of these restrictions.

Calling Food Babe: Help us find the academic azodicarbonamide. Maybe an alarming trend needs an alarmist response after all.

Better late than never?

Interested in joining my new club? Membership is open to anyone who will have trouble getting to the meetings on time. Maybe we’ll be more of a support group. Let’s call it “Likely to Arrive Tardy Excessively.”

Yes, LATE.

Truthfully, it’s a club I’d rather not charter. I’d prefer to be a reformed ex-member, not the poster child. I have tried before, unsuccessfully, to disqualify myself from this not-so-prompt posse.

I know I’m not alone. At my Bible study yesterday, a group of several hundred women, the coordinator announced that a table in the back of the room by the doors would be reserved so those coming in late would still have a place to sit. I applaud this welcoming gesture. I couldn’t tell you, however, what she announced last week. I had arrived after the announcements, regrettably late. Hopefully I wasn’t, in fact, the inspiration for the tardy table.

The real kick in the pants, though, was when I recently found myself the next-to-last car in morning car line at school. My children were not tardy, but I do know that arriving at 8:04 (and a half) for an 8:05 bell is not acceptable. I felt terrible and decided then to take action to rehabilitate myself. Guilt, in appropriate doses, can be an excellent motivator.

I started tackling the delay dilemma by seeking advice from my ever-punctual husband. “Just be on time,” he said. As if it were that easy. “If you can be there at 9, you can be there at 8,” he continued. Hmm, how? Anyway, I’m not ever that late. His final analysis: “You let the discretionary get in the way of the have-to-do.”

There may be some truth to that point. I struggle with time management and prioritizing tasks. I also tend to underestimate how long tasks will take and overestimate how much time I have available.  And if procrastination is the thief of time, there’s been grand larceny around here.

It’s not that I’m always late. I do somehow arrive on time – sometimes – and do enjoy the feeling of not being rushed. It’s pleasant to sit at a stoplight and not clench the wheel wondering how much longer it’s going to stay red. The lights are always red, of course, when you’re running late.

Or is that just another rationalization those of us who are habitually late tend to find? I got every red light. We couldn’t find my son’s shoes. I accidentally hit the snooze button twice. The morning I was bringing up the rear in car line, for example, I was helping with an 8:15 classroom volunteer shift because no one else had signed up. I found myself thinking after the fact that having to make myself presentable, too, made us late leaving. Truthfully, I should have gotten up earlier to allow myself more time. Sometimes what we see as a reason is actually just an excuse.

Excuses are a slippery slope. We all too easily find countless ways to justify to ourselves bad habits we know we should change. And then comes the real danger – when the habit is so entrenched that it has become part of how we see ourselves, consciously or not. I am a person who is always late.

When the habit is etched somewhere in self-identity, the idea of change seems overwhelming. Conquering all the reasons (excuses?) at once looms so insurmountable, that our resolutions for drastic change seldom fare well. Is there an effective solution to always be on time – or, for that matter, to always eat well, exercise more, get better sleep, waste less time, et cetera)? If so the world surely would be populated entirely with punctual, thin, fit, well-rested and productive people.

No, we have to change our habits one day at a time. What we choose today is what matters. We can make changes just for today. And then tomorrow we can work on tomorrow. If we string enough good todays together, our new and improved habits eventually gain ground.

In the wake of the 8:04 arrival debacle, I now focus each morning on what I need to do to be on time today. I set my alarm earlier. I wake the boys up earlier. I do the essentials first, like pack lunches. It may seem obvious, but the results have been promising. The first rehabbed day I dropped the boys off at 7:46.  The next day was 7:48. Fridays must be our Achilles heel: today, in week two of reform, they hopped out of the car at 7:57. I did hit the snooze button today, though. I will set my alarm a bit earlier on Monday.

Little by little, day by day, we can become who we want to be. Our lives are essentially the sum of our days. As Mark Twain said, “Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.”

Let’s rename the club. How about “Getting Ready Earlier Achieves Timeliness.” GREAT. Or maybe “On Time One Day at a Time.”

We’ll have an empty table in the back. But hopefully we won’t need it.