Struggles of the Basket Life: Burning Off the Kids Energy

Most people have heard about the extremely cold weather Eastern Europe has been having.  Although we haven’t felt any effects of the blizzard here, it is very cold.  And as is the case for most people during the winter time, that means more inside time for the kids.  It is often harder overseas during the winter because we have smaller living situations that what we would have if we were at home in the U.S.  Plus for us this year, our kids aren’t attending any school, so they are home much more than they would be if we were home.  But there are lots of ways we have found to burn off some of the kids excess energy they have from being inside so much.

1. Basketball Games and Practice

For our kids, one main outlet for energy is going to Joe’s games and having the opportunity to run around the court and play afterwards.  We bring balls and play basketball or soccer, run races and do flips and cartwheels.  They usually work up a good sweat (and sometimes me too).  Elijah also has the opprtunity to go to practice with Joe at times.  Afterwards he usually gets to play one-on-one with Joe or hit baseballs.  Sometimes he even joins in during weight workouts to do his own little workouts.

2. Activities Around Town

Depending on what your city has to offer, there are a lot of things you can get the kids involved in to keep them active.  These are a few activities we have available to us this year.

  • Bowling- The bowling alley provides a fun activity that 3 out of our 4 kids can do.
  • Ice Skating- Only Abby and Elijah are able to ice skate right now, but both have enjoyed this activity.
  • Play Places- They have a couple of indoor play centers for kids here around town.  You drop the kids off and pay in 15 minute increments.  I usually use the time to go sit and have a cup of tea and read.  They have a jump house, swing, slide, and jungle gym.
  • Sledding and Skiing- Now that the weather is cold and snow is ever present on the ground, there is a sledding and skiing hill here that the kids can go to.  They can even take ski lessons.
  • Parks- There are a few good parks here in the city.  Right now with it being usually around 5F for a high, it is a bit too cold to be out at them.  But when it warms up a bit again, we will be back to frequent them.  Nearby one there is even a place to feed the birds.
  • Going for Walks- Again, right now it is cold, but I am thankful for the nice wide sidewalks they have here that makes it very easy to walk side-by-side with the older three kids while Isaiah is in the stroller.
  • Basketball Clubs, Gymnastics Classes- Most places we have been in Europe offer basketball teams and gymnastics classes for young kids.  It often differs what age the youngest children are though.

3. Making Use of the Decks

We have had some great decks while living overseas.  This year we don’t have one, but in the past we have used our deck areas for roller blading, playing soccer and basketball and just for getting some fresh air.

4. Family Fitness Time

At times when I really feel like the kids need a little workout we will do a family fitness session.  This is just basically me leading the kids for 10-20 minutes in simple exercises like running in place, jumping jacks, squats, punches, kicks, etc.  If you switch the exercise every 30-60 seconds they can stay engaged and the time passes quickly.

5. Playing Wii

Certain Wii games can provide some energy release for kids.  We have Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort that includes things like boxing, sword fighting and bicycling that leave the kids breathless.

6. Dancing with Mommy or Wrestling with Daddy

Turning on the music and dancing around with Mommy or wrestling with Daddy can get the antsy pants out too.

7. Walking Up the Steps of the Apartment Building

We turn getting back into the apartment after we have been out a game by having the kids run up the stairs and race the elevator.  Or in our case this year with us being on such a high floor, we use the time to walk stairs and work on our counting.

How have you been helping your kids to burn off energy this winter?


The Biggest Struggle of the Basket Life: Not Getting Caught Up in Your Own 4 Walls

Although I have mentioned various struggles of living the professional basketball lifestyle before, I think I can confidently say that the biggest one I have encountered is not becoming self-consumed. Another way I say it is “not getting caught up in your own 4 walls”. It is a very real struggle because not only do our husbands jobs mean that attention is often focused on them (and therefore us), but we are also isolated and away from community. This self-focus manifests itself in various ways int he basket life:

- Being so used to the conversation focusing around your husband or your life that you struggle to remember to talk about others
- Interacting mostly with people in your same lifestyle so that as you talk about their struggles, you can talk about yourself as well
- Not knowing what is going on back home in your community, church or family
- Having small inconveniences or trials blow up into major catastrophes, whether in your house or just in your mind
- Thinking your struggles are relatively important and wanting to share them (or blog of them…busted) in such a way as to receive attention for yourself

Those are just a few examples of the way I have struggled with this lifestyle. I think it is part of the reason I struggle over whether to blog and why I decided to ultimately do away with social media. At the heart of all of us is the ultimate struggle to want to make life about us. And the basket life makes that struggle even tougher in many ways.

So this week I am just going to share some quotes I have read lately that have been challenging and encouraging to me not to make my life about me. I want to be someone who stops trying to “make something” of myself, but to rest in who I already am in Jesus. I hope you are challenged and encouraged this week as well,

Struggles of the Basket Life: Change of Pace in the Off-Season

I will be the first to admit that when we live abroad during Joe’s basketball season, our life pace is very slow and relaxed.  We have very few commitments because we don’t have any family and only a few friends around.  Holidays are low key, the kids’ activities are limited and Joe’s work hours are pretty limited.  We also usually have no church or fellowship while abroad.  All of this is part of what can make being overseas tough at times.  Since I have 4 kids to take care of, I myself am never bored, but sometimes finding ways for the kids to outlet their energy can be tough.

But when the off-season rolls around and we are back in the U.S., all of that changes.  Now we have to discern through what activities to put the kids in.  All of the sudden we have family events we want to be at and people we want to spend time with.  We now have a church to attend, along with Sunday School, small group fellowship and Bible study.   Holidays are no longer trying to figure out what you might be able to cook and how you can re-create U.S. traditions, but trying to decided where to spend the holiday or how to get to multiple places over the span of a few days.

For most people who live in the U.S., this is an every day occurrence.  That is simply life: lots of things to do but not enough hours in the day to do them.  But for us, who live abroad for 8-9 months out of the year, it is a significant change when we come home.  It is like we have been riding at tricycle pace all year and all of the sudden we are driving a Porsche.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been enjoying the fast paced lifestyle since arriving home.  It is like I was a dry plant who is now sucking up all the water I can.  But I do need to remember to step back at times and not do too much.  One way I am able to do this is by scheduling in the priorities first, before we ever even get home.  I have in our calendar the time we spend at both our parents’ houses and the vacation week we spend at the shore with Joe’s extended family.  My parents are also treating Joe and I to our own time away this summer as our Christmas present, so that also got scheduled in early.  Then church activities go on the calendar (1-2 we think are manageable usually), doctors’ appointments (we fit in every single appointment for all 6 of us when we are home) and we make sure each of the kids has 1-2 extra activities that they would like to enjoy for the summer.  After that, I try and look to make sure we have some down days as a family and then fit in the rest of what we can.

We also try to remember that trying to fit in what most people do throughout an entire year into 3 months is going to leave us tired.  But a little tiredness is worth it to re-connect with the people in our lives who mean so much.  Plus, we will have 8-9 months of slow-paced life to recover,

Struggles of the Basket Life: Not Hoarding Our Money Away

My husband is on a plane from Rome to the U.S. right now.  It isn’t because his team finished the season, but because of a knee injury that cut his season short.  Thankfully it wasn’t anything major, won’t require surgery and should have him back playing in a month, Lord-willing.

But injuries and the uncertainty of a job are a reality every day when your husband plays professional sports.  You are always living with the thought in the back of your mind that this job, life and experience could be over any minute and you aren’t really in control of when that might be.

Because of this, I have seen the struggle in my own heart to want to control all that I can.  Whether it is our daily schedule or our future in the years to come, the battle in my heart wages the same war.  And one area where it is an especially tough fight is when it comes to money.

We have all heard of athletes who end up broke.  They had great careers, made tons of cash and yet somehow were unwise with their finances and end up with nothing.  It seems almost impossible and strikes fear in a lot of us in the professional sports world.  We certainly don’t want to end up like that.

So we get our planning hats on.  We figure out how to invest, save and budget our money so that the transition out of the professional sports career will be as smooth and seamless as possible.  And this is all a great idea (and all things we have done). It especially lines up with my scheduled, type A, saving personality.  But I know the state of my heart doesn’t always line up with the way God calls me to trust Him and to live, love and give radically.

As I think about how short Joe’s career might be, how small the window of opportunity is to make the money he is making, the kind of job he may have after we are done and the family we have to support, my heart for others grows smaller and smaller.  Surely the Bible calls us to provide for our family (1 Timothy 5:8), but when I am honest with myself, much more often does it call me to give to those in need (1 John 3:17), to have a heart for the poor, orphaned and widowed (James 1:27) and to be a cheerful giver as I sow bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).   Thankfully these promises have a perfect return, unlike the unstable market and economy.

This has been a tough struggle for me, not because I am a spender, but because I am a saver.  I am more like the rich fool who wants to store up all sorts of goods for himself so that the rest of my life will be comfortable and easy.  But Jesus has very harsh words for this man, and for me when I have that attitude (Luke 12:13-21).

Again, I am not saying planning for the future is wrong or sinful or evil.  But I know that in my own life, I have to be very on guard about how it is done.  The words of Romans 14:23 are always ringing in my ears:

For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

I truly want my life to be one of faith and trust in God and this is an area where I know I need to be on guard,

Struggles of the Basket Life: Complimenting the Baller

I think my husband is wonderful. And I could go on and on about how great he is, but you have probably heard it before. I don’t have any problems sharing publicly how great I think he is. But when it comes to our time in private, I tend not to be as expressive. Interestingly enough, I think he is much more vocal privately and a little more tight-lipped publicly. Not really sure why we are that way, but I know we are both working to be better in communicating our thankfulness for one another in all arenas.

A couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about why I am not as quick to dole out the compliments at home. Joe had just written a blog post and wanted me to read it to see what I thought. I could tell he was excited about it and kind of fishing for a compliment from me about it. And that is when the thought went through my mind that often does:

“Do you really need to hear how great you are? Don’t you get to hear it enough?”

Ugly thought, but it is one I have had. Maybe other wives don’t struggle with this, but I do. I am home taking care of the 4 kids, cleaning, cooking, and doing other various tasks to help Joe do his job better. Now that is my job. I am happy to be where I am. But there are times when it is hard to do it day-after-day without any public recognition. No one is cheering my name. In fact usually I hear more about how we need something from the grocery store or how someone doesn’t like the dinner I made or how the outfit they wore just yesterday isn’t clean yet.

In contrast, Joe is applauded for his job by many people. They have a cheer for him at the games. People want his autograph. His Facebook fan page has over 1,000 people. He gets e-mails almost daily from people contacting him telling him in some way how they appreciate what he does. So I don’t think it was totally insane to wonder in that moment why he needed more.

Bu then I stopped to think for a moment and realized that he doesn’t need more pats on the back from people who don’t know him very well (although he appreciates them more than most professional athletes I know), he wanted to hear confirmation of love from the one he is in a covenant relationship with.

The Bible defines marriage as a covenant (Malachi 2:14). This covenant relationship is to be the representation to the world of the covenant relationship that God entered into with human beings. God made covenants with Noah and Adam in the book of Genesis, which was a binding agreement from which God Himself would never depart. And the covenant was not made because of something that Noah or Adam had done, but initiated by God as a demonstration of His gracious love. There is plenty of other talk of covenant in the Bible, but one of the most powerful passages to me is found in Ezekiel 16:

Again the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, and say, Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.

And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.

When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. (verses 1-14)

The reason I find this passage of Scripture breathtaking is because God is talking about the way He saw us in our sin before we as Christians were cleansed through Jesus (although at this point the reference is to Israel and how God redeemed them as His people). The image God paints of us in our sin is pretty gross. We were covered in blood, naked, helpless, unwanted by anyone. And yet He set His love upon us and treated us as royalty. When you connect this picture of covenant with the picture of the convenient of marriage it is extremely powerful.

Almost anyone that is married would probably admit that their spouse has seen them at their worst. Joe and I see the parts of each their that no one else sees. It is sinful and ugly and gross. Yet what a powerful image of God’s love when we see that and yet look at one another and say with our words and actions, “I love you despite all of your sin and all your shortcomings. You are still the only one I want to spend the rest of my life with. And I think you are the absolute best.” When we can love like that, the world can understand the kind of love that God pursued us with while we were still dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:5 and Colossians 2:13).

So that is why Joe (and I so often) are looking for affirmation from our spouses. It is not because we necessarily needs more strokes to our ego (although it can be), but more often than not is is because the covenant love of marriage speaks the gospel to us. That is why the crowd may get pointed to when Joe hits a three, but it is only me who gets a look of desperation in a time of struggle or frustration during the game. That look says, “You know me more than any other person.  You know what I am feeling right now and how to pray for me.”

That kind of covenant love is beautiful and something I want to be quick to remind my spouse of every single day.

Struggles of the Basket Life: Revolving Your Life Around Another

All of my life right now revolves around Joe’s job.

His job determines:

- That we move overseas every year for 9 months

- Where we live those 9 months

- What people I will be around for those 9 months

- What language I will need to (struggle) learn to speak for 9 months

- What activities and school  our children will be involved with for 9 months

- What our home will look like for 9 months

But what I have been learning in a big way over this last year is that Joe’s job (and all of that listed above and more) does not need to determine my attitude.  I determine my attitude.

This has been an ongoing battle for me to have my entire life revolve around my husband’s job.  I have been doing this for the last 8.5 years and I am still learning how to let go of my own selfishness. This past year was even more of a test because now I also have 4 children to care for.  There are times I just want to stop in the middle of the kitchen and shout “What about me?”  But when I step back and look at where that attitude is coming from, I know this is a major area of sin God is gently working out in my life.

Here is some of what I have been reflecting upon over the last year as I struggle to serve and give of myself to my husband, my children and the basketball lifestyle.

1. I do need time for myself. Jesus gave of Himself more than I can ever imagine and He found it a priority to take time for Himself.

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. Matthew 14:23

The time I need alone though needs to be time to rejuvenate my soul. That often requires me getting up early so I can read, pray and meditate on the truths of God. In addition to those things, I need to spend some of the free time I do have in things that will build me up: reading encouraging books, working out, sharing with friends, writing posts that cause me to see my life in a proper light and with thankfulness. Too often I spend my free time on useless internet searching or checking of Facebook pages that don’t feed me, but stir up some of the temptations I am trying to fight against: discontentment, criticalness, and envy. Yes, sometimes my mind just needs a break, so in those times a more edifying thing to do may be to rest on the couch for a bit or just sit out on the deck with a cup of tea. Jesus’ free time was limited, so He made the most of it and I must do the same.

2. I am in the right place. Joe and I both believe we are to be together right now as a family, so this is the perfect place for me. And when I am where God has called me to be, He will grant the grace for whatever I need to do.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

3. Serving as the least will produce greater rewards later. If I am living with an eternal perspective, I know that this life is but a breath (James 4:14).  And I have the opportunity now to store up eternal treasures that will never perish.

- to clean what will be dirty in 10 minutes

- to wash the clothes that will need to be washed again tomorrow

- to make the bed that will be unmade at the end of the day

- to cook the meal that will leave dirty dishes

- to unpack what will need to be packed up again in 9 months

- to set up the apartment that will be left in 9 months

- to learn the language that may not be needed again

- to support Joe playing a game that may not matter in 2 years

All of these things that will not last, if done for God’s glory with a thankful and humble heart, are being made into lasting treasures in haven that I can one day enjoy forever.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20

So I have seen that as I grow to see things more from an eternal perspective, the time that I do have will be spent better and be more rejuvenating. And the time where I spend serving and loving and revolving around the precious ones in my life will be refreshing as well because I will have joy from knowing that I am blessing them and my life for all eternity.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

May 2011 be a year of humbling serving and giving of myself,

Struggles of the Basket Life: Adults Viewed Casually

My cell phone rang about 30 minutes after Joe left for practice this morning.  It was an unknonw number, but I picked it up and said “Hello?”

“Pronto.  This is ______ (Joe’s teammate).  Is Elijah there?”

I don’t normally get phone calls for Elijah on my cell phone.  But it didn’t totally surprise me because Elijah usually goes to practice with Joe on Tuesday mornings but was home after being sick last night.  And Joe’s teammates are “his buddies”, so I wasn’t surprised he got a call.  I have said it many times, that I am so thankful Joe can take Elijah to practice and Elijah can bond with other guys.

The only thing that concerns me at times is that in this lifestyle where your Dad plays a game for a living and his fellow employees are guys you can just hang out with, is that adults can be viewed very casually.  Not we aren’t super conservative when it comes to how we interact with the kids.  They don’t have to call us “sir” or “ma’am”.  We give our kids high fives, which some parents think is too casual.  But I do want the kids to grow up respecting their elders (Leviticus 19:32).

I grew up always calling adults Mr. or Mrs. except in rare cases of very close family friends.  Our kids barely know any Mr. or Mrs. because so many of the adults that they know are in the basketball world.  Elijah doesn’t go to practice calling Joe’s teammate Mr. ____.  In fact, most of the time he refers to Joe’s teammates by the nicknames that Joe himself calls them!  He gives them high fives, wrestles with them, plays games with them and invites them over for brunch.

I love that our kids get to interact in Joe’s job in such an intimate way because of the casualness of it, but I do wonder how they will transition into the culture of Mr. and Mrs. when Joe’s career is done?

Struggles of the Basket Life: Sickness

As I mentioned yesterday, trying to figure out what drugs are given to us is one of the many skills I have learned as a basketball wife living abroad.  It is just one of the aspects of being sick while living overseas that I find challenging.

This past week I have been fighting some sort of stomach bug and have at times been “out of commission”.  Thankfully, we have a teammate and his wife right next door and she has been more than willing to help when I need the time just to lay down and get myself together.  I do miss our community at home though that is always willing to lend a hand.  And not being able to run to the grocery store for general medicines is another component that is lacking when living abroad.

For me, the toughest part though is when the kids are sick.  The language barrier makes me very hesitant to take them to a doctor.  But then I wonder if I am keeping them from medical help when they really need it.  It seems I am always second guessing myself.  So a couple of things that help me to survive the medical life overseas are:

1. Focusing on preventative medicine. Having the kids (and us) getting plenty of rest, good food, exercise, fresh air and lots of water is even more crucial for me when we are overseas.  Often at the first sign of illness, I may need to increase one of these areas.

2. Having general medical necessities on hand. I always bring over things like probiotics, thermometers, vapor chest rub, tylenol, ibuprofen, cough drops, multi-vitamins, antibiotic cream, band-aids, etc.  For me, it is worth bringing over just so that I don’t have to run out to the pharmacy and try to figure out what everything is in a new language.

3. Keeping a good relationship with doctors back at home. We are very fortunate to have a pediatrician who goes to our church and has always been helpful through e-mail or phone calls when it comes to issues with the kids.  During my pregnancies abroad, my doctor’s office at home has always been very helpful as well.  For me, having the access to our doctors while away is a huge reason for selecting the doctors that we do.

4. Getting general well check-ups while at home. We try and see all of our respective doctors (pediatricians, dentists, eye doctors, dermatologists, etc.) while we are in the States in the summer to establish a good medical history.  I then try and always bring the medical histories of each of us overseas when we travel.

Although adjusting health care from country-to-country is just a small inconvenience, planning ahead and being prepared has helped me to make a smoother adjustment.

Struggles of the Basket Life: Being a Good Conversationalist

One of the biggest declines I have seen in my personal life due to being a basket wife is my ability to be a good conversationalist. Being in the position of one whose life is constantly changing, and is at times very interesting to others, makes Joe and I the target of many questions. So many of our conversations end up centered around us. It has caused us to step back and see that if we are going to find out about others, we have to be really intentional about turning the conversation from ourselves.

A book I am looking forward to reading on the subject is Mortimer Adler’s “How to Speak, How to Listen“. I am hoping that it will challenge and encourage me to be a better conversationalist.  Any other tips or recommendations on improving conversation skills?

Struggles of the Basket Life: Date Night

One of the toughest habits for Joe and I to get into after we had kids, was to establish a consistent date date.  While living overseas, it is tough to find babysitters and sometimes even harder to deal with inconsistent basketball schedules and odd work hours.  We do have the benefit of a slower pace of life and less “things to do” overseas, so we are able to spend a lot of date nights in.  When we get back to the U.S. for the summer, it is much easier to find babysitters, but our life seems to move at such a frantic pace at times, that we often go weeks without a date.

Last night we had our first date night in 3 months.  It was not only wonderful to get out and talk without interruption and eat a meal straight through without having to clean up a mess, but more importantly to re-establish the intimacy and communication that can be so hard to come by in the normal pace of life.  Even when we try to stay home and do things, it is hard not to be distracted by the things around us.

I would advise any married couple to make date nights a habit, whether it is once a week or once a month.  It doesn’t have to be expensive; just the time out by yourselves will reap great benefits.  And if you can try to get away for a few days every year or so.  Those extended times can be precious and a time to store up refreshment for busier times of the year!