Are We There Yet? (A year in review)

I preach it to other parents all the time: let your kids fail. Let them make mistakes. Help them learn from the stumbling and they will be more steady on their feet and stronger for it. I preach it all day long. If the parents promised not to call the PsychWard, I'd get it tatooed on my forehead and make them read it at every encounter.

And 2020 hit. Boy did it hit. I was trying to journey back in my mind to recall how this year began (yes, I was in the photo app on my phone....no way my brain would ever remember all of THAT!) and it kind of hit me...this year was like my view on failing magnified by alien zombies who are clearly experimenting with torture using my own darn sermon topic (with some additional random BS thrown in for good measure.) 

A quick review of my year includes:

January: The septic system clogging up and backing all the way into our basement (which subsequently took about 10 hours of cleaning and throwing away $h!t, metaphorically and otherwise, and 6 months of psychological recovery....I mean, how can that smell just stay on you and permeate your entire being when drenched in that much bleach!!!!) (I am not including the actual pictures....you're welcome!) But, I learned so much about the septic system....and my kids were given a treatise on what you can AND CANNOT put in toilets.....so much learning.....and THAT is why Sloth made his way into our home....to offer stability and humor. 

February: A carbon monoxide leak that was on the verge of killing our whole family ("you would not have woken up tomorrow" was a common statement by the fire department, the EMTs and air/heat/plumbing guys as they miraculously discovered the problem, evacuated a very confused us out of our own home, turned off the gas, capped the hole and made sure our blood oxygen levels were ok enough to not require further care.) We now own carbon monoxide detectors that actually work and I thank God often for the incredible timing of that random Air/Heat appointment. 

March: Oooooh, when those March winds blew....while it started with this tiny little GLOBAL PANDEMIC, we took a splendid trip down to FL where everything was ok, so long as you were on the beach, breathing in the salt air, soaking in the salt water and around absolutely no salty people. The trip ended quite abruptly, right after I secured a quick little concussion, when we found out school would be starting back up again, but this time, at home. ALL FIVE KIDS TOGETHER.... USING THE SAME INTERNET!!! But, not to be outdone by January or February, March threw in a tree almost falling on Liam and me while we went for our daily run. And again, we thanked God for the impeccable timing. 

April: I can honest to God say....April would, maybe, have been our best month (if it weren't for the lights and noise and screens all continually hurting my head)....and oh, the anxiety. So, here's the thing, I have experience limited episodes of anxiety in my adult life. For the most part, I am fairly resilient and soldier through random stresses and fears and don't get too anxious about random life stuff. But then I had a concussion, during Covid, and the insomnia at night was unbearable and I got to the place that I was scared I had hurt my brain badly enough that, this time, I was actually going to die. And that is when I realized anxiety had crept in while I was unawares, and I needed to go to the doctor about this silly head problem. By the time they got me in, I was on my way out of it, I had broken down and had a mini-midlife crisis in which I finally surrendered to whatever might be because I felt like my life had had purpose and meaning and so, it was okay if I died. (Seriously, that was a conclusion I drew in order to keep myself going.) Luckily, the anxiety started to lessen as the concussion healed and I was given the go ahead to get back to my normal life.....which of course, by that point, was nothing even close to resembling normal. 

May: By May, we had things better figured out. We were using most of our time wisely, spending solid hours connecting with each other at home, had learned how to zoom and google chat and group facetime, were not sitting in the car for thirty minutes every time we went to the grocery store because of the anxiety over having to wear a mask (a true story....it took me weeks to bravely wear a mask into a store, and still, I rush through most shopping experiences as quickly as possible because it gets me into the fresh air sooner.) My girls made my birthday one of the most special ever and I can honestly say, May was a saving grace to this year in many ways for me. Really, the only big negatives were those raccoon attacks in the coop but even there, we just threw up our hands to the universe and then started catching all those babies, (and then their parents...and cousins....) and finding them new homes that don't involve my chicken coops. It was like our own little Mini-Raccoon Rescue. Kind of. 

June: Oh sweet Jesus....things were looking better....things were opening up! There was hope. We saw beautiful sunsets, gorgeous days outside, Liam even played baseball. Sure, we were still catching the rest of the raccoon's extended family (man they are prolific breeders), but all in all, June was almost amazing. 

July: We were still coming off our June high, living summer life to the fullest, lake trips, fluffy clouds and rainbows, so when I cut my finger deeply trying to cut a late night snack, Lily and I just patched it up by ourselves because, shoot, is THAT all you got 2020? (Never, ever test fate like that y'all....it just isn't worth it!)

August: I never thought I would say this but I LOVED Middle School Soccer tryouts this year. It meant we were on the field, together, and yes, it meant coming up with all sorts of crazy activities due to the covid protocols we had to follow and yes, it took me a few days to stop being harsh underneath the mask (did I mention masks are not my favorite things ever?) but generally speaking, it was fantastic. And when the time came to make cuts, I was very honest with the girls: I don't know any coach with half a heart that actually likes making cuts. Cutting kids is hard. But it is not the hardest thing I have ever had to do and I knew those girls who did not make it this year would face it bravely and go on to do great things. And then, Solomon played football! Like, real tackle football! And Liam tried out for a travel baseball team and honestly, it may have been one of the proudest moments in my life. He was a little nervous the day before....I'll admit, I was nervous for him. My instincts were to talk him out of it, protect him from failure, but then I heard my own sermon play through my head and I knew he needed to do it. 

"What if I don't make the team?" he asked.

"Is that any different than now?" I asked back. ("No.) "Will you die?" I asked. ("No.") "Then there is no reason not to try. If you don't try, you will never know. If you do try, you will either be on a team or be right where you are but better because now you know what you need to work on."

He gave it his best. He fielded the balls. He caught the pop flies. He even pitched! And I was completely shocked at how far he had come. For a split second, I thought he might actually have a chance. But then he had to bat. And he needs a lot more work on that. But, now he knows exactly what he needs to do. And the smile on his face when it was all over, well, that was worth every bit of it. And then, in 2020 fashion, he found out he didn't make the team from kids at school. But, no worries because he was already off running cross country and he never really looked back!

September: Oh, September.....2020 decided to rear its ugly head again....multiple hospital visits and that doozie run in with one of my players that had me in a brace for what felt like eternity. While fully tearing both my MCL and ACL, was never on my bucket list, the experience has been chalk full of real life moments. I learned how to navigate the insurance system and workers comp, I'm fairly familiar now with the internal structure of the knee, the strengthening and injury prevention methods to better help my players, and I learned what a wonderful community I have supporting me. I am so thankful for the generous outreach of unfettered help from so many people. I was injured, without a doubt but I was also blessed in so many ways. 

October: October was spent relearning how to use my leg, through injury and pain, while also strengthening it to prep for surgery. I was unable to drive for almost the entire month. Try that sometime, with 5 kids....so much fun. 

November: Surgery.....for anyone who has had surgery you know what I am talking about....I am glad that is behind me. I am so thankful my brother was able to be here but pretty much the rest of it was just icky. But, Madeline also turned 16 and bravely faced some new life experiences herself and oh, we got a new puppy! Not all was lost!

December: Outside of that random dog fight between Storm and the neighbor's Doberman, you know the one in which my 16 year old thought to tackle the doberman in order to save our dog.....it was a pretty smooth month all things considered. But I will admit, as we enter 2021, we are so thankful to start anew. 

And before you think I am delusional enough to believe that 2021 is going to turn everything around (Madeline did jinx the entire year within the first few minutes by jokingly saying: Ah, 2021, what's the worst that could happen?!....Why Maddie why??), I will just say this: I am grateful for the opportunity to believe in fresh starts and for the turn of the year to offer just that. I also believe 2020 has prepared a lot of us for the unknown in ways no other year ever has. And that is something. Maybe the January addition of Sloth to our household was just a sign of things to come....of days spent together, enjoying each other's company. And for me, of a time when slow was the new norm and smiling for no good reason was really the best way to be. (I have started to think of that smile as the smile of survival. Thanks, Sloth!)

Happy New Year Everyone....or at least, Yay! A New Year.....at last!

Much love. -K


Last Bat

[Note to reader: When I originally started this post, we were in the month of July....and then some life stuff happened and now it is October and I opened this up and thought, Oh.My.Gosh. It is no longer almost August, it is ALMOST NOVEMBER! And that pretty much sums up the entire year....I left the post as it was though and will try to get to the next post within the decade. Thanks for your patience.]

So here's the thing: I have no idea how it is already July, much less about to be AUGUST! WHAAAT? 

JULY! As in J-U-L-Y! The 7th month of the year, going on the 8th month and soon, back to school, whatever that might mean! I'm personally stuck somewhere between: "Where the heck did months 3 through 6 go??" and "Argh! We still have FIVE months in this year of insanity!"

We started 2020 with all this awesomeness and then March hit and HOLY GUACAMOLE! At first, I spent hours on end laughing at all the funny Covid memes, excited about the little "Spring break" we were having. But after a whirlwind trip to FL, a dumb concussion, and having to become my kids homeschool teacher long enough to realize I don't care enough about elementary school grades to actually worry about whether my boys were actually completing their work or not, (and then realizing that trying to explain that to their teachers was not my best idea ever)....well, like everyone else, we spent a lot of time in the trenches of this thing, trying to figure out how to spend so much time together in our house without kicking anyone off the island while also testing the social distancing waters and make our way back into our former life, now through a completely different lens. 


And still, FIVE months left in this year! 

I have been asked to keep writing. Well, I think someone may have mentioned it like six months ago but since I can't really recall what we did yesterday, I could be making that story up in my head. I am going to have to get back in the habit of making mental notes and getting to my computer every night. I wish I had been better about it from the beginning of this thing but instead, I had to learn how to Zoom....and how to coach soccer teams via the internet and how to make masks (note: I have a love hate relationship with my sewing machine and after a dozen tries, several cursed at bobbins, a broken needle or two, and that extra half hour it took me to remember how to put the presser foot back on correctly, I broke down and bought them like the other non-crafty people I know. Kind of kicking myself for not starting THERE but, I have in fact used my sewing machine for so many other fixes recently that I guess it is all worth it. Thanks, Covid!)

At any rate, I wanted to share a semi-uplifting story about one of my favorite characters: Liam. If you have been a reader long enough, (or are related) you know that Liam is a special kid. Yeah, yeah, we all think our kid is special, but as an extroverted kid on the Autistic Spectrum, who can't help but smile at just about everything and whose love for sports surpasses that of most athletes I know, well, he really is special.

And he LOVES baseball. I will be honest. I don't know how. I have such little patience for it myself but seeing how baseball lights up his face even more than it is naturally, well, his radiant joy becomes contagious. 

The only problem is, he is now 12 and there is no longer "rec" baseball for him to play. The only real option he has is to try out for a travel team and if we are honest with his ability at this point, his chance is slim to none. 

I was pondering this last night at the final game: a pick-up "sandlot" style game for the kids who don't play football. They chose captains and the captains chose the teams. I will admit, my stomach turned a little, knowing Liam would be one of the last ones selected. He was next to last but his huge smile and the cheers of his teammates eased this mama's heart. The camaraderie and supportiveness he has experienced in this league have been incredible. I took a deep breath and the game began. 

One of Liam's big struggles is hitting. He was okay when it was coach pitch and they could adjust the speed of the balls thrown for him. But with the kids getting so big and throwing so fast, Liam hadn't hit a ball all season, not even a tip. Last night though, the coaches pitched and as Liam made his way to the plate for the first time, I prayed my mama prayer: Please, just connect, just this once, in what might be his final game of baseball as a kid, please let him hit the ball.

The coach lobbed the ball his way; Liam let it go by. Again, the coach pitched and Liam swung and missed. And then, something awesome happened: as the next pitch came in, Liam got a sly little look on his face and bunted the ball. The coach took his time fielding the ball, threw to first and Liam found himself safe at the base! 

The boys went WILD! Liam was grinning ear to ear! 

Three times at bat, three bunted balls. And in that last bat, Liam bunted and started running; the coach slowly fielded the ball, purposefully overthrew first and round and round the bases Liam ran as the other boys scurried to catch up to the play. When Liam stopped at third base, everyone cheered and Liam could hardly stop laughing. 

While my heart grew three sizes that day, I still don't prefer baseball, but I am so glad Liam does. And I can't wait to see what he conjures up next! 


That Time Mom Bought a Sloth

So here's the thing: I don't think anyone walks into a store with the intention of buying a pet sloth. Is it a LIVE pet sloth you ask? Well, of course not. I'm not crazy! (Wait, can you get a live one somewhere?)

But, sometimes things happen. And while it had been less than a week since Kurt told me we needed to cut back on our spending, there I was with this unfortunate dilemma. I really needed to buy a sloth. I couldn't explain it. Don't ask me why. It was definitely impulsive but once strapped into my car, I knew it was the right thing to do with that $20. (Some people might think it is questionable that I am being told to cut back on spending when clearly I make very good choices....hee hee.....apparently those people do not know me AT ALL!)

In my defense, I don't shop at Walmart if I can help it and when I do, I don't usually let my eyes wander to the big bargain bins of fun things. And I usually am not talking to my soccer team manager while doing those two things and wouldn't then mention the hilarity of the gigantic Llama stuffed animal that 'I am sure I need to get for my daughter Lily.....and oh look! A Smiling Sloth!' I blame my manager for telling me her daughter would love the sloth....because now I have one. In my car.

At any rate, here is Sloth strapped in.

Seriously. Something's very wrong with me. But look how happy he is!

So I picked up the girls from the bus stop that day.

"Mom, do we need to ask?" one of them said.

"No. Better if you don't. But, oh, you are giving a Sloth to your little sister, Leah, by the way." (They are in a mentorship program with my soccer teams and Leah is their little sis. It justifies everything.)

Anyway, they know me pretty well, so they snickered a bit, and I am pretty sure there may have been some eye rolling action going on, but they knew to leave it alone.

A little later, I went to the elementary school to pick up Solomon. He got into the car and there was this silent pause before he closed the door. Then I looked in my rearview mirror and saw him glaring at Sloth. The next thing I know, he is beating the snot out of Sloth with his book bag!

"Solly! Why are you beating up my pet Sloth?!" I intensely asked.

"Because.... HE STOLE MY SEAT!" Solly yelled back.


Later that night, a coaching friend texted me a bit upset because a basketball parent had become belligerent with him at his Futsal practice, called him arrogant, told him soccer did not belong on a basketball court, among other things.

"Want me to stick Sloth on him?" I texted back, hoping to lighten up the situation.

"No, the parent would probably just call him lazy," he said.

"Well," I replied, "Sloth's been sitting in the same damn seat ALL DAY! He IS lazy!"

I probably need to work on my empathy skills.


Meanwhile, Liam knew nothing about Sloth. He had been picked up and dropped off in my car several times during the day, but had been in and out of the front seat and never looked back. We were on the way to school and running a bit late the next morning when I came to a quick stop and commented, "Hopefully my pet Sloth doesn't fall out of his seat."

Liam looked at me confused as he struggled to get his seatbelt on.

"Are you calling me a Sloth?" he questioned.

"Um, no. I am referring to my pet Sloth," I said, pointing to the back seat.

Liam turned around and immediately started belly laughing like I have never heard from him. He was so tickled he could hardly contain it.

Solly, quietly sitting next to Sloth, was not amused.

"It really isn't that funny," Solly scolded Liam.

"Yes, it really is!" Liam snorted.

"No, he is REALLY ANNOYING!" Solomon exclaimed. "Why do we even have to have him IN THE CAR?!"

"Well," I said calmly. "I could hide him in your bed as a little surprise if you'd rather."

"Well then I will just put him outside your bedroom door before you wake up and see how YOU like it!" Solly exclaimed.

"You are right. That would probably startle me....Sloth would definitely make me jump first thing in the morning," I admitted.

Solly got really quiet....and then, out of nowhere, starts laughing and laughing and laughing....

"Mom, why can't you take me to school first? I might be late now!" Solly asked once he got a hold of himself.

"Just tell your teacher Sloth made you late," I told him.

"But I blame you!" he said.

"That may be more true, but it is WAY more interesting if you tell her it was your pet sloth!"

"Still annoying," he said before getting out of the car, a half smile still planted on his face.

"Have a great day, Solly!" I yelled back.

It's about making memories y'all!

I heard a quote recently that resonated with me. It went something like this:
"Now I know, my life will not make me happy but happiness will make my life."

And that is why I bought the happiest Sloth ever.....

(Totally. Worth. Every. Penny! hee hee hee)

The Sunrise

Sloth watching the sunrise

Sloth meeting the cat

Totally. Worth. It.