B-ball woes 

This weekend blew the big one. Maria had a basketball tournament all weekend long; Mario had one on Sunday. I wish we would’ve had both kids tourneys this weekend  so we could’ve been done with basketball for the season.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Maria isn’t a superstar at basketball. She just started playing last year, and was on the fence about whether to play this year. She’s always looked at it as more of a sport to play in the winter in order to be around friends than a sport to play because she absolutely loved the game. We’ve talked about that on numerous occasions – if she wants to get really good at basketball she’s going to need to practice like a mad woman. However, she really has no desire to practice like a mad woman so it is what it is, right? She goes to each practice, tries her hardest, gets to hang with her friends, and goes to the games. Take it for what it is.

Throughout the season, she has not played as much as her girlfriends. She’s been fairly ambivalent about it because … “it is what it is” to continue the theme above. But in the last couple of weeks, it’s gotten more under her skin. I’m sure it’s because another girlfriend started complaining about not playing as much as some other girls. I talked with her about letting it go since it was near the end of the season; besides, she didn’t think she’d play again anyway.

Maria looked completely dejected at her last tournament game; they were down 28 to 6 and she was still on the bench. It broke my heart as a mom. She’d always been happy go lucky during these games, rooting on her teammates and sitting on the sideline smiling. But this last game, she didn’t break a smile once. After the game, she came over to me and mouthed tersely  “let’s go, now.” I asked her what was wrong. Dumb question from me but I didn’t know what else to say. Ri looked away and explained as we walked out of the gym: “I’m not part of this team. I can’t play well. They told the girls not to throw it to me. I just want to leave.” 

The mama bear in me wanted to go up to everyone of her teammates and the coaches and demand an explanation. The rational woman in me knew there was more to this and that confronting anyone right after the game would not be a good idea. Maria made it an easy choice for me because she just stormed out of the building to the car. We both sat in silence as we pulled out of the parking lot. Maria asked for my phone. I threw it back to her in anger – not anger at her so much as  anger at the situation. I hate leaving a game like that – not wrapping up and saying goodbye to the adults and the kids. I should have made her walk back into the building and say goodbye to everyone – mad or not.

Maria asked what was the matter with me. I chirped “what do you think is the matter? I’m upset at the way that ended.”

Ri sat silent for a minute but then began to talk. “I was just upset, mom, because I feel like I let my teammates down. I feel like the coaches think I’m the worst player ever because they tell my teammates not to throw to me. I’m just upset about the season and not being good.”

Why doesn’t someone just rip my heart out of my chest and stomp on it? It would probably feel better than how I felt driving down the highway hearing this from Maria. I hate these parental moments with such a passion.

I can’t remember how I responded to Maria except that it brought out a whole conversation about basketball, coaches, sports, life. Yeah, we got real philosophical because that’s how mama works in those situations. I asked her how much she loved bball. She responded “not much.” I asked her how  many times she went outside to shoot layups and free throws. She responded “not much.” I asked her how much she enjoyed being with her friends during practice. She responded “a lot.” I tried to help her put it all in perspective. This was not a sport she loved through and through. She didn’t put much effort into it outside of practice and games. And that was perfectly fine. But that also meant that she might not get as much playing time as other girls on the court. The harder piece to tackle was her opinion of self based on the comments made to her by her friends and her coaches. Like I said earlier, I was torn between calling up the coach and giving her a piece of my mind and just letting it be. Coaches are going to have different personalities. There are going to be some that are super supportive and some that are not. But we are  dealing with sixth-grade girls. They need positive reinforcement; they need encouragement and support. I understand when they make a bad play, coaching. But coaching them in a supportive manner. I just don’t fathom how a coach can call some girls “good players” thereby implying there are “bad players.” 

I reinforced to Maria she cannot take what others say – be it a friend, another adult, or even a teacher – to heart and let it determine who she is as a person. She needs to believe in herself and trust  in herself. I can’t be there all the time when a coach or a teacher or a friend says something hurtful to her so I need to arm her with the ability to deal with those situations herself.

It’s hard as hell to be a parent, especially when you’re dealing with a pre-pubescent girl. You remember how it was to be that age, you have major flashbacks to the hell that it was at times. And you want to just avoid it all for your daughter. But you can’t. You got to help her as best as you can to move through it and find her strength. I so hope that’s what happens for her. 

As her mother, I will reinforce how wonderful she is, how I love her dreams, how she cares, how she wants the best in life, how she loves new experiences, how she has to believe in herself, and how she should treat others the way she wants to be treated.

In the end, I just want Ri to be able to get through these situations with a healthy attitude and confidence. I know she’s not always going to be happy and filled with joy – that’s just not life – but I want her to be stable and confident enough that when times aren’t particularly happy, she can weather through them and come out upright and stable, just like she has learned on those 80’s roller skates…..

Ri’s caramel hot chocolate dream drink

The boys went to the high school basketball game last night, while Ri and I worked furiously on her math and social studies homework. My gosh, I thought sixth grade math would be fairly simple- fractions, decimals, division. But I was wrong. I could not figure out the solution to three questions to save my life. I started to go a bit nuts. Maria, seeing me a bit irritated, decided to make me a treat. Here is a video of her explaining the concoction she created:


Yea, it tasted as good as it looks. It had all the foods I love – chocolate, caramel, whipped cream, ice cream, and nuts. I had to throw on a pair of elastic sweats after eating it but it was oh, so worth it. And I wouldn’t blink paying $10 for it (she changed it to $8 after I turned the video off). 

And the sugar high helped. I figured out the solutions to two out of the three questions and gave a daggone good guess on the third one. 

Twice-baked potato

Our girl hooked us up for Super Bowl night. She was planning out the snacks and appetizers long before the Super Bowl occurred. What did she want most of all? 

Twice-baked potatoes! 

She had eaten them at grandma Meg’s farm and loved them. She asked Meg for the recipe and was set on making them for us. This was in addition to nachos, wings, chips and dip, and 7-Up. Yeah, there is no-holds-barred on Super Bowl evening.

I bought Maria a 5 pound sack of potatoes, a block of Velveeta cheese (the only cheese Jon wanted on his twice-baked potatoes because that’s what his mom uses), onion, and sour cream. She came running in from her basketball game ready to start the potatoes. She baked them for the requisite 45 minutes, and then cut them “in the shape of a canoe.” She begged me to help her so that she could mix the butter and sour cream and potato together. 

“We need to get these in the oven within 10 minutes so that they are ready for the kick off!”

She is a little kitchen dictator. She watched over me as I scooped out the potato to make sure that I was getting all of the potato and there was only skin remaining. I was actually quite nervous.

But the little dictator can be nice when you follow her directions; she she told me that I did a good job in my scooping duties. She loaded the potato skins with the potato combination and we put them back in the oven with the cheese laid on top of each. And, ta-da, 15 minutes later, look at this beauty (Ri added some crumbled bacon on top for added flavor).


Thank goodness we have one chef in the house, and a beauty at that.

Lattes and swings

Sundays can be rough for me. I know I have to get up early the next morning, start a new work week, make sure the kids get homework done, take them to practices, make lunches … but they become much more tolerable when I can start them with a Stauf’s coffee and scone with my babies. 

Of course, we all enjoy different modes of transportation to Staufs: Maria roller skates, I walk, and Mario bikes. Ri talked about a trip to California and how excited she’d be to visit the Kardashidans’ house. Mario wants to hit Hollywood with the hopes of being spotted as the next heartthrob movie star. Always interesting conversations heading to Staufs. 


At Stauf’s, Mario decided that he wanted to try a latte. The boy wants to be 25 years old so badly. I decided to allow him to try it with the thought that he would inevitably hate it and then I could drink it. It was a piece of art when it was delivered to us. Maria had to Instagram it.


Maria got her everything bagel and onion cream cheese, Mario got his black Russian bagel with cream cheese, and I got my yummy chocolate chip scone. We decided to play the political question game that Stauf’s houses in a game cabinet. The first question was “what foods best embody America?” Without hesitation, Maria shouted “hamburgers and fries!” Mario went with hot dogs and apple pie. The next question was “describe a holiday you’d create.” Maria said that she’d create a “giving” holiday in June that would be exactly six months after Christmas. It would be a holiday where everybody would give to the poor and the needy and not take any gifts themselves. Sweet. Mario pondered the question for a bit and then decided that he would go with the “after Super Bowl holiday.” He was looking out for his immediate interest.

After Stauf’s, we hit the old church park we used to go to all the time. We even managed to still be able to all go down the enclosed slide together.


But the most fun was the swings. Mario started a jumping contest. He had me give him an underdog push and when he got as high as he could, he’d jump off – sometimes on his feet and sometimes on his side and sometimes in a roll. Ri was nervous but then did her typical Ri move – she swung her arms and stood tall and pronounced “if Mario can do it then I can do it!” And she did (although she did land on her side the first time but quickly shook off the pain).


We spent nearly an hour trying to choreograph a simultaneous jump. This is as good as we got.


Not bad, heh?!

The sun was shining as we walked home, and I couldn’t have been happier. Now, to just keep this feeling later in the evening when Sunday evening blues creep in….

Trying out the skate park

I love Mario’s constant quest for new activities.  One day it is boxing, the next day it is parkour. He got really into wrestling for a while, but then his attention turned to running. He would get up at 6:30 AM and go for a run up to the library and back.

This weekend, he decided he wanted to try out a skate park. I reminded him that he had not used the skateboard we bought him for at least a year. I was a bit worried with him trying to do tricks, and not having been on it for quite some time. He informed me that he actually wanted to do some BMX training at the park. Granted, he does not have a BMX bike but he thinks he does.

“it’s just like a BMX bike, mom. I can do some sweet moves on it, I’m sure.”

He mapquested the closest skate park to our house and we drove over that way an hour later. Maria wanted to check it out with us as well. Except she did not want to ride her bike, she wanted to rollerskate. This could lead to some serious injuries, I know. But we all have to live life to the fullest, right?

The skate park did not disappoint either child. Mario loved biking down the ramps and struggling his way back up. He got more confident biking faster down hills to get the speed to ride back up the ramps. Maria loved skating down the concrete hill into the pit. She held onto me the first few times and then went down the steep hill all by herself. Daredevils.



It was freezing but we stayed for 30 minutes. Mario begged to go back on Sunday with his friend who had slept over. I really had no desire to head back because it was freezing cold but I caved in as always. We actually had a great time. Mario was a pro this time around – he was able to take on the ramps and make some sweet turns. Then we put the bikes down and ended up running down into the bowl and scaling back up the ramp. They were amazed that the old person could take them on in their obstacles. Gotta keep them on their toes. We topped off the skate park fun with some Frostys from Wendy’s as we took in the view of downtown. 

Team player 

Basketball has never been my sport. I don’t know any of the plays involved in it, and can barely shoot a lay up even when nobody is blocking me. But I love the intensity of the game and the great work out. Maria played with her gradeschool friends last year and had a decent time (mostly because she was with her friends and the coach was a good friend of mine who she’s always liked a lot). 

This year, that same good friend of mine, decided to coach a league a step above the school league, COBA. Most of the girls that had been in the school league last year decided to go to the COBA league this year. So Maria had to decide whether to try the COBA league or stick with the school league. In the end, my girlfriend influenced her to join the COBA league in order to take her play a notch up and be with the girls she played with last year. The “being with the girls from last year” part of the conversation swayed Ri. 

It’s been a long season so far. They had no wins until this weekend when they pulled one out against Dublin. Ri has struggled with understanding plays, especially offense (however, she does know how to disorient the opposing player who is throwing the ball inbounds – she is a spaz waving her arms and jumping up and down and screaming). She doesn’t get as much playing time as the others although she makes it to every practice. If it was me, I’d either have called it a day and quit or would be outside dribbling and shooting three hours a day. 

I said as much to my stepmom the other day as we were catching up. I was laughing at how different Ri and I are in dealing with situations. Her response:

“Ri was given to you for a reason…. And you were given to her for a reason.”

I thought about our conversation as I drove home with Ri in the backseat watching Dance Moms and petting Rocco. Ri has a very different approach to sports than I did at her age. I needed to rock everyone’s world with my athleticism; I hated losing. She does not have that intensity and need for glory. She could probably take sports or leave them, but for her friends being on the team. She sat on that bench during the last game knowing she likely would not go into play but still rooting for her teammates nonstop. She does not let the fact that she does not play a lot ruin her experience. I envy her for that. She finds joy in the social time with her friends. Don’t get me wrong, she does enjoy a win, and when she plays, she tries with all her might. She gets upset with the rest of the team when they aren’t playing well or the other team is trouncing them. But she can shake it off quickly and move onto the next thing. And she can give consolation and a lift-up to her teammates who aren’t able to move on 30 minutes after the game.

When they won on Saturday, she was ecstatic lifting her teammates in the air and hugging them all. She projects joy and I’ll take that any day over a lay up.

ER, ER, ER

We got to visit the ER for the fifth time in 12 months yesterday. Joyous. Mario went to bed on Tuesday night complaining that his lower abdomen hurt. He could not sit up without pain. If he turned to his left side, it does not hurt as bad. I felt around his lower abdomen to see if I could feel a hernia. I did not feel anything protruding so I rubbed his head and told him to try to get a good night of sleep. He brushed my hand away complaining that it really hurt and asking if he could skip school on Wednesday if it still hurt in the morning. The kid will do anything not to go to school. I left it that we would see in the am.
He woke up on Wednesday morning with the same pain. He could not sit directly up and his right side hurt to the touch. Luckily, Jon was home for the day so Mario could stay with him. Jon took him to the doctor’s office at 2:30, and called me at 3:30 to tell me that they were on their way to the emergency room. The doctor had checked out Mario and believed there was a “moderate risk” that he had appendicitis or a hernia. I met the boys in the ER at 4:30. They were still in the waiting room.

I walked to the check-in line with Mario to get a visitor badge. Mario wanted to cut in front of the three families before us but I held him back. As we stood in line, a mother approached us from behind. Her daughter was laying in a wagon. I said hello and she began to talk with me about her crazy drive to the hospital. I waved at her daughter and asked her name. The mother informed me that her daughter was diagnosed with cancer at seven weeks old. She was now almost 2 years old and cancer-free. But, she had lingering issues and that evening she couldn’t stop throwing up. The mother leaned down and pulled the covers over her daughter as she began to cough. She smiled at Mario and commented “at least she is loving the wagon ride.” 

Being a parent is rough. Seeing your child in pain and hurt is even rougher. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for that mother to see her child through cancer starting at seven weeks old; yet, here she was with a smile on her face and iron-clad perseverance on her sleeve. Throughout the evening, as I started to get irritated at our wait-time, I thought about that little girl and her mom. How many times have they visited the hospital in two years? How many times was the mom scared her child may die? How many times did the girl get poked with needles? I told Mario what I was thinking so that he would hopefully take some time to ponder how other children were facing tough battles and empathize with their situation. 

They called us back to the room around 5 o’clock. We sat in the room for an hour and a half before the resident doctor appeared. Poor Mario got another female doctor – he was so embarrassed at having to be checked over by a female. After looking him over, she was also concerned about appendicitis, and ordered an ultrasound. Mario started to get nervous thinking about an operation if he had appendicitis. 

What if they take out the wrong Organ when they operate?” “What if they make me lose too much blood?” 

He was really working himself up and it took all our might to calm him down. We turned on “Outrageous Science” and watched all sorts of amazing science experiments being performed. The show calmed him down a bit.

Someone eventually came to take us to the ultrasound room. Boy, did that bring back memories. I thought about being pregnant with Maria and Mario and watching their little bodies on the screen. Pure joy. 

We headed back to the room after the ultrasound and waited, and waited, and waited. We continued to watch our science program. And then, the doctor showed up. Good results. No sign of appendicitis and no sign of a hernia. She opined that it was likely a pulled abdominal muscle that was causing him the pain. Mario was at once relieved but also a little bummed out, I think. I have a feeling he was hoping to tell his friends that he would need surgery (but somehow magically without actually having to get the surgery). You can’t have it both ways, bud.

As we waited for the discharge papers, Mario asked if he could not go to school again on Thursday. I asked him what reason he had to not go to school? He responded that he needed to rest his abdominal muscles. This kid. 

I told him that if he wanted to sleep in we would take him to school late because we were getting out of the ER so late. He responded that he may just sleep in until 3 in the afternoon for the first time ever in his life. Very cute, he is. Very cute.