Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I have always been a champion of the underdog. My loyalties invariably lay with the team with the hard luck story or with the less popular member of a duo or group.  I was never a fan of Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods. I never have and never will root for the Dallas Cowboys or the New York Yankees. They have enough fans, enough fuss, enough people telling them how wonderful they are. They don’t need me. I truly don’t know if these choices are purposeful or if that’s how I’m wired. I suspect it’s a combination.

What I do know is that when everyone else was starry-eyed over Shaun Cassidy (yes, I’m talking about the 70’s), I was hopelessly devoted to Parker Stevenson. He played the smarter of the two Hardy Boys – even then I was a sucker for the brainy ones. And during the endless 8th grade playground conversations about just which member of Duran Duran truly was the cutest, mine was always the only vote for Roger Taylor. He was the drummer and the only one who didn’t have long hair and didn’t wear makeup. Even then I was a sucker for the clean-cut ones. Those of you who know my husband know that these tastes held true!
The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries dvd cover.jpg That's dreamy Parker Stevenson on the right.

I believe that there’s much to be discovered when you take the time to consider the less than obvious choices in life – and in people. I’m trying to instill this in my kids, without being all lesson-y about it. It’s already clear that there are always going to be kids in every class who are magnets. Whether it’s looks, personality, athletic ability, family status, humor, there’s something that pulls the other kids into their orbit. Why I was surprised to see this in action in kindergarten – and even preschool – I don’t know. It was true when I was a kid – and I’m sure even before I was a kid – and it’s true today.

But I want my three beans to look deeper. To look beyond who everyone else thinks is the coolest or the funniest or the most popular. To take the time and make the effort to get to know the people around them well enough to make those less obvious choices. The kid who might be a little quiet when you first get to know him but who is wickedly funny or super smart. The girl who daydreams during class just might be blessed with an incredible imagination that would guarantee to take any game of make-believe to new heights.

What I want my beans to know and understand is this. I’ve found in my life that when you make less-than-obvious choices, you make discoveries that other people don’t get to make. When you take the time to really look, you’ll discover the true gems in your life. And you’ll treasure them. And they’ll treasure you right back.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I am someone who tends to think in absolutes. My beliefs are strong and not easily swayed. This is true even when it comes to what I believe about myself. And for the first 41 ½ years of my life, I believed -- very strongly and with all of my being -- that I was not a runner.

There was plenty of evidence to support this belief.

The summer I turned nine, my mom signed my brother and I up for track through our local parks and recreation program. I still don’t know why she thought this was a good idea. My brother did well, giving it his all, as was – and still is – his way. I, on the other hand, figured out the first day that running was hard -- and sweaty. I quit.

Then there was eighth grade softball. I tried out for and made the team, which was pretty surprising to everyone involved J I played first base – not particularly well. But what I remember most – other than laughing with my friends until I could hardly stand up – was the running.  At the beginning of each practice, after doing some calisthenics, we were required to run to the end of the road and back. It was not a long road. I never ran the entire distance. While every other member of the team ran down to the corner and back, I would run down two or three houses, hang out in that person’s driveway and then join the rest of the team on their return trip.

So you can see that when I say I was not a runner, I don’t say it lightly.

When my youngest – Pinky Bean – was approaching her second birthday, I realized that the 40 extra pounds I was carrying around could no longer be termed “baby weight.” It had become just “weight.” This was no longer okay with me. I followed the Weight Watchers program to a tee and followed a daily exercise routine of cardio DVDs in the wee hours of the morning. I’m proud to say I lost 42 pounds and have kept all but a couple of them off. (Christmas cookies are yummy – and dangerous. I’m almost done working them back off. J)

It was very shortly after I’d lost the weight that I got an email from a friend. Like me, she’s a mom – of four kids, not three. Like me, she’s busy – but actually busier with that extra kid and three of her kids being in school full-time and all four playing a variety of sports. Like me, she’s involved in our church and our kids’ schools – but more so. Unlike me, she’s a natural and enthusiastic athlete. She runs marathons and I – don’t. She’s someone I enjoy and who I admire a great deal. She’s also someone who makes me laugh until my face hurts J

The gist of the email was that this friend, who would become Coach Moe, was starting a Couch to 5K running program and was seeking out participants. You didn’t have to be a runner or to have ever really thought much about running. She promised it would be low-pressure and fun. Maybe it was because I do admire Moe or maybe I’d had too much diet coke that morning, but I fired off a quick, “count me in,” response before I gave myself time to think about it. Then I did think about it. And panic set in.

The first night was a little scary. It was cold and there was a light rain falling. But there were a group of us in it together. Amid nervous laughter, we set out. I had no idea where that night would lead me. It led me to the next night and the night after that and the night after that. Soon I was running for ten minutes at a time – unheard of when we started and I would be panting and in pain after 90 seconds of running. For despite being in pretty good shape (remember all the cardio DVDs), running takes it to a whole new level.

As we progressed through the program, I discovered something that blew my mind:


What? How could this be true? But it was. There is something that is so wonderfully calming and yet so challenging about running. It clears your mind and lets you feel what your body can do – what you can do.

I finished the Couch to 5K program and ran a race in July, 2012. Now for anyone who might be thinking of taking up running, if you live in a place like say, North Carolina, don’t run your first race in July. Also, don’t get so amped up at the starting line that you start out at a dead sprint with the professional caliber runners. Despite these errors in judgment, I did it. I ran a race. I had a time in mind to beat. And I beat it – by 13 seconds. And when I crossed the finish line, there were my hubby and my three precious beans cheering me on. BEST. FEELING. EVER.

I am still a runner. I will run faster and I will run farther. I will probably never run a marathon. But then again, never say never.

The most important thing is what I’ve learned. It’s a lesson I hold dear and one that I hope to pass on to my beans. I learned that I can do more. Coach Moe is tough. She smiles and laughs and does completely awesome things like having an 80s theme night run, but she’s tough. She lets you know that she believes in you and that she expects you to do more. She pushed me. I wanted to show her that her belief in me was well-placed. And in doing so, her belief became my belief.

I am strong. I am capable of many things. That feels even better than putting on a pair of jeans in a size I hadn’t worn since before kids.

I want my kids to feel strong. I want them to know that they are capable. That even if something seems outside of what they think they can do, it’s worth trying. I want to do for each of them what Coach Moe did for me. I’ll show them the path. I’ll run alongside them for a while if they need me to. But then I’ll let them know that they are strong enough. That they can do it.

And when they reach the finish line, I’ll be cheering louder than anyone.

Monday, January 21, 2013


There is a truth in my life that I tried to deny for many years. It is this – my mother is ALWAYS right. There’s no use denying. She knows it. I know it. My dad and my husband both know it. She’s just always right. Her rightness is not limited to certain areas of expertise. It’s a wide-reaching “rightness” that can be both awe-inspiring and intensely irritating.

When I was pregnant – all three times – my husband and I chose not to find out the gender of our babies. Naturally, there was guessing and each time I had strong instincts. All three times I was wrong. All three times my mother was right. And all three times she was smug about her rightness. You can see how this could be irritating J

There is one thing I’m glad she was right about. It was the way she taught me not to worry about what other people have. Not to focus on the stuff of life. Not to care if someone has more than I do, because someone always will.

As my little beans are out in the world more and more and seeing for themselves that some people have more than we do and many people have less, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how my parents taught me not to care, not to focus on the stuff. Because yes, Professor Bean has gone to a friend’s house and seen that friend has access to much “cooler” electronics than we have. Sunshine Bean has seen that a friend has a dress-up chest that is every little girl’s dream.

My children are very blessed. All of their little needs, and many of their little wants, are met. My husband and I are grateful to have the ability to meet them. However, our family’s priorities mean that there are some wants that will go unmet. Some of their friends will no doubt have those same wants and they will be met.

When I was a kid, my needs and many of my wants were met. However, several of my friends came from families whose lifestyles were more luxurious than ours. Many of my friends had more “things” than I did. And truly, I didn’t care. I was happy and secure with what I had. I still am. I still don’t care.

I know that this contentment I feel is due to my mother. Upon reflection, I realized the answer I was seeking was simple. I didn’t care because my mom didn’t care. You would never hear her talking enviously about a neighbor buying a fancy car or having designer clothes or an expensive purse. It’s not that she didn’t notice, but the “stuff” didn’t matter to her. And by her example, it didn’t mean much to me.

I am unbelievably content in my own life. There are things about myself I strive to improve upon, but my life is rich and full of love. It is my greatest hope that I can be as right as my mom was. That I can teach my three precious beans by my example how to “not care” about the stuff.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Other than my husband and our three wonderful beans, there are truly only two things in life without which I know I could not survive.

One is chocolate. My love for chocolate started early. It has never wavered. And it never will J

The other is books. Some of my earliest and most treasured childhood memories involve books. My mom sitting in the middle of the green and gold plaid couch (yes, it was the mid-70’s) reading to us, my brother tucked in close on one side, me tucked in just as close on the other. She read us stacks and stacks of books. Even after I was an independent and capable reader, she read from books we would both enjoy. One that stayed with me is Adopted Jane by Helen Fern Daringer. I know I loved the story, but more than that I remember the feeling of snuggling down in bed, listening to my mom tell it to me.

A love for books is a gift that my mom gave me and that I give to my beans every day. We have books all over our house. We take regular trips to the library and come home with our own stacks of books, something for everyone.

So it wasn’t a complete surprise when one day Professor Bean came to me and asked if he could start a book club. Of course I said, “yes!” In that moment, the “All Boys Book Club” was born. The Professor and I talked about some friends who we thought would enjoy it and issued our invitations to three fellow kindergartners and two first graders. We were thrilled when all invitees accepted with pleasure.

The overwhelming success of the first meeting of our book club took me by surprise. All six of the boys were excited. Really excited. The kind of excited that only five and six year-old boys can achieve and sustain. It was loud, it was chaotic, and it was FUN. There were book related crafts and activities, of course there were snacks, and there were discussions about the book. We’re now three meetings in and going strong.

There is a lot of talk about boys and books not going together. Boys are too busy. Boys don’t like to read. I say bull to all of that. I say give it a try. Pick books the boys will enjoy – we’ve read from series featuring fantastic, boy-relatable characters like Stink Moody, Nate the Great and Mercy Watson. As long as you have some structure in place, the support of all of the moms, good snacks, and a healthy tolerance for noise and the occasional potty joke, I promise a good time will be had by all.


Saturday, January 12, 2013


Time is moving so quickly. Too quickly. My three little beans are growing up. Kindergarten readiness screenings, smiles with missing teeth, preschool registration. I keep looking around for the magic button that will freeze time and give me the chance to soak it all up. Soak them up. Apparently there is no magic button J Instead there’s this. I wrote the original more than a year ago. It still fits and - with a few tweaks - captures as best I can just how I love each of them right now.

 “Look at those eyes.”

No matter where I go with my three kids, I can be sure someone will utter those four words. Old ladies at the grocery store, the cashier at Target, the unfortunate souls who sit behind us in church. It never fails.

My kids happen to all have the same very big, very blue eyes and their daddy’s very long eyelashes. So yes, look at those eyes. But for me, it’s not look at them, it’s look into them. That’s where you’ll find the real beauty.

Look into my 5-½-year-old son’s eyes and meet Professor Bean. See his sensitivity and curiosity. His hunger to learn and learn and then learn some more. And his caring—his concern for a friend or a sister who’s hurt or sad. His certainty that a hug and kiss from him can take away whatever stress or crabbiness a day with three children under six may have brought me. And he’s right: it works every time! And although the Professor tends to be a bit serious by nature, when something – or someone – tickles him, he has the most gloriously infectious giggle. It’s one of my favorite sounds.

Look into my 4-½-year-old daughter’s eyes. And see such pure sweetness it will take your breath away. See the contentment when she snuggles in your lap with a favorite book or sits with you to work on a puzzle or play a game. My Sunshine Bean approaches each day with joy and openness, certain that everyone will want to be her friend and that any day is made better by wearing a tutu and twirling. She’s as happy – or happier - when a friend wins as she is when the victory is her own. She’s who I’d like to be when I grow up.

Look into the eyes of my youngest—my not-a-baby-anymore almost three-year-old girl. And see how strong she is. How determined to keep up, to not be left behind, to solve that problem or climb to the top of that slide -- the tall one, thank you very much. See how sweet and loving she is and how hilarious she can be. The one and only Pinky Bean is an irresistible combination of sweetness and spunk that makes me anxious to find out just who she’s going to be.

Then look into my eyes. If you ignore the occasional dark circles and hint of crow’s feet, you’ll see that my eyes look a lot like theirs.

In my eyes you’ll see worry -- worry that I’m not doing it right enough, not being the mom that they deserve. And guilt -- every time I have to give less of me to one in order to give more to the one who needs it most. And the exhaustion. I had my first baby at 36 and my last at 39. Sometimes they make me feel like I’m 25 again, other times my body would tell you it feels at least 70.

You’ll also see pride. Pride in who these three little people are and who they’re becoming. Pride when they’re kind and thoughtful and even pride when one or more of them is stubborn in the exact way I’m stubborn. Because sometimes, stubborn can be a good thing!

But if you look past the worry and guilt and exhaustion—and even the pride—you’ll see only two things. Joy and love.

So yes, please do. Look at those eyes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


They don’t sell patience at Target. I’ve checked.

If I look at myself honestly, and truly that’s the only way I know how to look at myself, I have many of the qualities that make for a good mom. I’m loving (my three beans are hugged and kissed to excess all day every day), I’m nurturing, I’m skilled at the art of extreme silliness, and I’m a good teacher. What I’m not by nature is patient.

My lack of patience is somewhat legendary in my family, and in my marriage. It shows its less-than-pretty face in any number of situations from driving (it took years to adjust to the slower driving pace of the south) to walking behind a slow person at the mall. And yes, it shows itself in my life as a mom. There are days when I feel like I wake up with a short supply and days when a seeming surplus is all used up by dinnertime.

I’ve often thought about patience as either a gift or a commodity. Something you were born with or something you could acquire. And if you could acquire it, where better to look than Target? I mean I’m there at least three times a week, and they seem to have everything else I need and so very many things I don’t need but end up in my cart anyway.

As I pondered and prayed about and wished for patience again this week, I had a surprising thought. I’m nearly certain that I’ve been thinking about patience all wrong. Sure there are people who have more gentle, even-keel dispositions who probably do have a deeper well of patience. I will never have a gentle, even-keel disposition. But I do think there’s something I can do to gain more patience. It starts with a shift in thinking.

I am going to cultivate patience.

For me, patience is going to be like a garden. Something that you tend to and care for, providing it with enough water and sunlight. It’s going to be up to me to determine what is the right combination of water and sunlight for my particular garden to grow. I know that getting up and exercising before my kids wake up helps. So does getting even ten minutes of quiet time in the afternoon. An adequate amount of sleep is a big factor but one that I forget to prioritize.

I’m hoping to discover more secrets – maybe even some things I can do that will act like a fertilizer, helping my garden of patience grow. Because I know that with greater patience I can be a better mom.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on patience and any strategies that work for you!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


My 4 ½ year old, the Sunshine Bean, is this week’s student of the week in her preschool class. This, of course, is very exciting. It involved a homework assignment which we completed together. She had to answer questions about things like her favorite color – red – and favorite subject – math. One of the questions was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and Sunshine answered without hesitation.

“Just a mommy, like you.”

Just a mommy.

I’m sure I should have rushed to tell her that she can be anything she wants to be. And she can. My middle child is blessed – and blesses us – with a sweetness and generosity of heart that amaze me daily. She is a true nurturer. She also loves mathJ I can see her growing up to be a teacher, an engineer, or somehow be involved in healthcare. But I have to admit that her response made me smile – inside and out – and made me proud. Proud of both of us.

See I am “just a mommy.” But not in the sense that being just a mommy is somehow less than being a mommy who is also something else. Rather, for me being “just a mommy” is exactly and fully what I want to be. I take pride in my role as a full-time mom to my three little beans. I love being here to take care of them and hear their little stories and make their lunches and clean up after them all day every day. Sure there are times when I hide in the pantry and sneak cookies out of the bag just to get two minutes of peace. But the truth is that I love being “just a mommy.” There is a contentment I feel in this role that nothing else ever gave me and I don’t believe anything else ever could. I am proud of the people my kids are growing up to be and I am proud of me.

Today I learned that Sunshine is proud of me, too. For when she said that she wants to be “just a mommy,” what was in her face and voice was that being a mommy was a happy, proud, valuable thing to be. So yes, she will continue to learn and grow and find out all of the many, many things that she can be when she grows up. But she will also grow up knowing that being “just a mommy,” can provide fulfillment and joy. That if she chooses it one day, it is a title she can wear with pride.

I do.



Thursday, January 3, 2013


It’s the start of a new year which of course makes me stop and take stock of things. When December 31st rolls around, I’m too exhausted from the whole Thanksgiving to Christmas sprint to have the energy to think deeply about my life. For me, that thinking usually happens at a different time of year – during an entirely different season. For me, it happens as July approaches. Yep, I’m talking about my birthday, which comes a mere day after we celebrate our country’s independence.

But this year I find myself doing my thinking now, in January. Yep, I’ve been thinking. (This scares my husband.) This year I’ll be 43. Gulp. That sounds terribly grown up – there’s no denying anymore that I am fully an adult. And I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a woman in her forties. See, when I turned 40, I had a 3 year-old, a 2 year-old and a 4 month-old. I didn’t have the time or energy to think about – or even care much about – what it meant to be turning 40. And for the past two years, I was just excited not to be pregnant or caring for an infant!

But this year, there’s time to think. And reflect. And here’s what I’ve come up with. My sense of what each decade of adulthood means, or at least those I’ve experienced so far.

The twenties. Oh, the beautiful twenties when you have all the rights and benefits of being an adult but are still young enough not to take yourself too seriously. There’s typically some dating of the wrong type of guy as well as hopefully some dating of the right type of guy. You find a career you love, or at least like; or you make the discovery that what you thought you wanted to do isn’t what you want to do at all. And in your twenties, such a discovery feels like an opportunity rather than a mistake. The twenties are a time to have a lot of fun and do a few stupid things. Or maybe that was just me.  

Then come the thirties. I really, really loved my thirties. Sure they started out a little rough. End of a long-term dating relationship, job changes (more than one) and jumping back into the dating pool at the age of 32. Ugh. There were some growing pains to be sure. But there was a lot of wonder there as well. Discovering a new career that became a passion. Meeting my wonderful, perfect-for-me husband and becoming a mother three times over. The thirties are a time for figuring out exactly who you are – and making the decision to like that person. I found out a lot about myself during my thirties, not all of it pretty. And I made the conscious decision to be happy about who and what I am.

Ah, the forties. If I hadn’t been so exhausted when I turned 40, I might have been apprehensive, nervous, or just plain scared. So much is made of that particular milestone birthday. And it’s true, turning 40 does feel major. But what I’ve discovered so far is that my forties truly are fabulous. Coming into them with the full knowledge of who and what I am freed me to take chances. I dreamt for years of writing for children. Shortly after I turned 40, I decided to give it a try. And this year I will celebrate the publication of my first novel. It still seems like a dream. Almost as surprising as becoming an author, this was also the year I discovered my inner athlete!

I’m thinking of my forties as the decade to tweak. Taking the knowledge and acceptance that I earned in my thirties and using it to make tweaks and adjustments here and there. Not changing who I am, just making myself a better me. At least that’s my hope. So I face this 43rd year with excitement. Okay, I’m not excited about the multiplying gray hairs or these weird lines from my nose to my mouth that keep getting deeper. But excitement about both the challenges and the opportunities that the rest of this decade of my life will bring.