Summer of sports

Isn’t summer supposed to bring rest and relaxation? If not for parents who are working year round, at least for kids? I feel like Jon and I and the kids have been running around like chickens with our heads cut off more so in the last few weeks since school has been let out then throughout the entire school year. 

Mario shot straight into basketball camp a week after school was out. He went there from 9 AM until noon every day, came home and ate lunch, and headed to the pool for a few hours with his buddies. Then, he would return home to eat a sandwich and head off to the baseball field for a game. The entire family has been living on hot dogs, KitKats and Gatorade through the month of June. 

Mario is pitching this year; all last year, he could not wait to move out of coach pitch and into player pitch. He had Jon and I out back with him every night catching his pitches. He’s got a nice throw on him. His first game he struck out quite a few batters. He ran into the dugout after he pitched with a serious, intense look on his face not showing any emotion relating to his performance. He was super cool. Although, Jon and I both knew his heart was thumping and he was pumped. 


He’s been getting his bat around, too. He had a beauty of a hit to right field one game but the only player that can catch from the other team was playing right that night. He loves baseball; Jon and I agree that may be his long-term sport. 


He’s off to football camp this week from 9 am to noon again. This week is a scorcher with temps in the 90s. I made him wear sunscreen this morning and he was less than happy. 

“Nobody wears the stuff, mom. That is how I have my bronzed look.”

This comment was made after he gelled his hair into a perfect wave on his head. 


Meanwhile, our other child barely manages to gather her thick, tussled hair in a ponytail for her practices. Maria decided to do swim team this summer. I still don’t know the real reason why. I have begged her to join swim team for the last four years and she always declined. And when I say “declined”, I mean she was adamant that she had no desire to join swim team. But her friend Evelyn seemed to convince her this winter while they were playing basketball (another sport she always refused to play until recently) that she should come out to swim team. She talked about how much fun it was with the other girls and how they all just played around and had a great time together. Something that Ev said resonated with Maria and she informed me in late winter that she wanted to sign up. I didn’t hesitate; I went to the Gators website and signed her up. I thought it would be good for her to get up early in the summer and start her day. I think she romanticized about how nice it would be to do the same. As of late last week, I think she was second guessing her decision. When I went to wake her up at 6:50 AM, she kicked the covers off of her nearly kickinh me in the thigh and huffed and puffed around her room as she looked for her bathing suit.  

There is a whole other blog post waiting to be written about how proud I am of Maria going out for swim team. Most tweens, I believe, would never try out for a team where they have never practiced in that sport before and knew that they would be far behind other kids. But that did not deter Maria, who is in it for the comraderie and for the laughs. However, Maria is not superhuman and she did suffer a bit of anxiety and nerves prior to her first meet. She was unable to dive off the diving board because she was concerned about hitting her head in the water. The concussion she got in soccer last spring still messes with her at times. She also was concerned about not being fast at all and losing to a bunch of third-graders. Luckily, my girlfriend was at one of our softball games and talked with her about how these meets were all about beating your personal time and not worrying about whether you beat the person in the next lane. I also reiterated that Jon and I did not expect her to win at any meet – swim team was more of a conditioning to get her ready for soccer and to make her a better swimmer. I was up all night wondering whether I should give her an out and let her get off the team, wondering if I had put too much on her this Summer. I decided to have her do the one meet and see how it went. 

When I arrived at the pool for the meet, she had “eat my bubbles” written on her back and came running up to me with a couple of her friends smiling. I was relieved. She made it across the pool and back for each of her swims, and I was proud as heck of her. She has now gotten to the point of wanting to beat her time from the last meet – she does have her mom’s competitive spirit in her! 


Maria is also playing softball. She is in the same boat as Mario – coming home from swim, doing homework, playing with a friend, making slime, choking down some pasta, and then warming up with me prior to heading to her game. 

I decided to coach one more year since Maria will be on the middle school team next year. I think overall Maria enjoys me being her coach although there are many a times when we get on each other’s last nerve. She refuses to allow me to root for her when she is up to bat. She is doing great with her pitching – thank god – because she is one of only two pitcher for our team this year. I think she embraces that responsibility and has taken it on herself to be a leader for the girls, which means she yells at them to cheer and talk in the field! She is a mini-me in that way. 

So there we have it; evidence as to why there have been a lack of posts in June – busy, busy, busy!

Mario’s b-ball tourney

Mario can be intense. I think he got both my competitive nature and Jon’s desire to win, which creates a firestorm of emotion when he does not do as well he likes. 

He had tournaments all weekend for basketball. When we worked at the tournament, he was outside shooting hoops. At times, he was swishing them. At other times, he couldn’t shoot a basket to save his life. Unfortunately, the latter occurred right before we were leaving for his next tournament game. We got in the car upset as could be – slamming the car door as he plopped in his seat. Jon and I were frustrated at his attitude, and then proceeded to get irritated with one another about something stupid. We all sat in the car on the way to the tournament in cold stone silence. About 15 minutes into the trip, Mario whispered “A my name is Alan, my wife’s name is Addie…” 

Whenever it’s quiet in the car or I want the kids to stop looking at their tablets, I tell them we are going to play the alphabet game. They usually roll their eyes but go along with me. I wanted to keep the frown on my face when Mario spoke up with “A my name is” but I couldn’t. I immediately smiled, and was touched that he would break free from his anger and engage with us. It was quite impressive that the nine-year old could speak up but the 45 year-olds could not….

We arrived at the tournament in good spirits. He had a possibility of three games – all one and out. We thought it was a long shot that his team would advance since they didn’t have the best record but low and behold, they won the first game! Ri recorded it for the coach while rooting on her brother. Mario had to attend her tournament games so Maria was forced to attend his.


The boys got icees after their game. They waited around for another hour before their next game, wrestling around and being insane nine-year-old boys. We all questioned again whether we’d get through the second game or not. But these boys believed in themselves, and sure enough they won. Mario played another great game getting a couple of shots and playing magnificent defense. I think my talk earlier in the morning helped. I talked with him about trying to get his head out of the game. This seems like an oxymoron but I’ve been reading a book called “The inner game of tennis.” Jackson recommended it to me and said that it helped him a lot with his music. I immediately thought of Mario when I began to read it. He gets very upset with himself when he makes a poor shot or let’s an opponent get a shot on him and then he continues to do poorly because he is so upset. The book tries to help you understand that you need to simply play the game – get your head out of the judgment of whether you are playing good or bad – and just play. It also talks about letting go of the words “good” and “bad” and just letting the experience be what it is while moving onto the next one.  

We had a two hour wait between the second game and the championship game. Of course, they played on a day that it was 60° outside and sunny. I get a mom-of-the-year award for sticking around in that dark, dank gymnasium to watch my son play instead of being outside….

And they almost pulled out the championship game. They lost by four measly points. But they were really good sports about it, even cheering for the other team when they won their awards. It helped that they also got recognized for being a runner-up in the championship game; they all got medals. I was so proud of Mario for trying so hard in each game. 


And after sitting in a gymnasium all day long, we got to sit around a restaurant for the next two hours trying to calm down nine insane boys as they got balloon animals and grilled cheeses. Ahhh, what we endure as parents.


Busy but bountiful

This is how we rolled on Sunday morning.


Boys stuck together and girls stuck together. Ri wanted to roller skate and I wanted to walk to Stauf’s. Jon wanted his coffee and Mario wanted to hang with his dad (and score a cinnamon roll).  We ended up meeting each other on the Avenue. The boys were grooving to music as Ri and I talked about her school project – making bath balls. They ended up following us to Stauf’s because who can pass up Stauf’s?!

After Stauf’s, we hung together through one of Mario’s basketball games and then took Ri home so she could get to her soccer scrimmage. Jon and I watched Mario’s second game and then I drove back to watch the end of RI’s scrimmage. I made sure she got started on homework and then headed backwards up north to Mario’s championship game. He almost won it (and played so hard). 

We headed back home for some evening b-ball outside. Jon and I commented how we couldn’t wait for Spring while the kids played one-on-one and poked at each other. 


These days are busy yet bountiful. I want to ensure that they are not forgotten because I’m confident they will bring us comfort and joy when the kids have moved out, and Jon and I are playing our fifth round of Yahtzee on the back porch. 

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…..

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.

Weekend fare

Ri fasted with her friend on Friday morning through Saturday afternoon in order to raise awareness and money for individuals who die from starvation every day. She did not eat breakfast Friday morning even though I told her that she should at least have a piece of fruit since she would be in school all day. She called me once she arrived at school, and was hysterically laughing.

“Mom, we don’t need to fast until noon today. I could’ve had breakfast!”

Lucky for her, I stashed a few cereal bars in her book bag. She came home from the fasting event at her friend’s church on Friday night around 9:30 PM. She told me about learning how much starvation occurs in the world, what it’s like to not have enough money for clothes and food and medications, and how to help those in need. I am so grateful that she is interested in social justice issues and does not shy away from discussing them.

I asked her if she was going to continue to fast through Saturday and she looked at me like I was crazy.

“Of course I am, Mom. This is a very very important issue and we need more people to get concerned about it.” 

Then she leaned over to me and asked if she could have one lick oh my whipped cream… 

Sure enough, she left on Saturday morning for her babysitter class without any breakfast. The class ended up being ok but not ideal. They learned safety tips and “every way you can get hurt” while babysitting (scraped, burned, cut – they were cracking me up as they described that session) and they got to change a real live baby’s diaper, which Maria could do with her eyes closed. But they did not learn CPR, which is one thing I had hoped would be included in the training.  Nonetheless, they had a good time together and got a “good sitter” certificate. Now, they want to get together and start their own babysitting business to earn money to go to a camp this summer. More power to them!


Meanwhile, Mario had begged me to take him to the mall on Saturday. I had absolutely no desire to drive 20 minutes to walk around that box so we agreed that we would go to GameStop instead. His friend was over when I got home from working out so he went with us. They each brought old video games to turn in for cash. GameStop was filled with mighty fine folks in their sandals and sweatpants and disheveled hair ready to buy the latest Pokémon game. I felt a bit out of place. Mario’s friend had six video games to turn in –they offered him a total of $5.40 for them (3 cents for one of them). Mario had two recent video games, and he got a total of $7. His friend commented how sad it was that his dad spent $60 on each of the games and he only got back $5 for all of them. His comment was a perfect segway for my speech to Mario about spending all of his money on games he would play for a week and then discard. Mario listened to me but obviously didn’t hear me because he walked over to me with several “mature” video games he wanted. I swiftly declined each request much to his dismay. The “dude” at the front desk saw his dismay and pointed out an “awesome” video game that had a teen rating. Mario looked skeptical but decided that he would try it out. When we arrived home, he immediately loved it. I have to thank the dude because I got two hours of cleaning done as Mario described his every move while playing the game.

Ri spent the night at Alana’s on Saturday night so she could spend time with Alana’s new kitten. Yes, she got a kitten for her birthday. Her name is Lillian and she is adorable. Mario and I watched Dude Perfect videos and I let him sleep with Jon, which made him so happy.

On Sunday, Mario and I washed Rocco at the Doggy Spa; Mario had missed out at our last washing so he was excited to go with just me. 


We went to Stauf’s afterwards and ate a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin. Yum. Sweet Rocco waited outside and we watched him through the window. Several people walked up and petted him. Such a doll baby. 

Ri came home at noon and we all headed to her basketball tournament up north. She’s on a tougher team this year and has to step her play up a notch. Jon and I were very proud of her defensive skills and we know her offensive skills will improve with practice. She was hard on herself, as always, but settled down after the coaches talked to her (and Jon – she doesn’t like to talk to me until after the game).


We finished the night with Mario’s practice and some stuffed green peppers compliments of our loving chef, Maria. 

Enjoying the game

Maria played indoor soccer on Saturday afternoon and basketball on Sunday afternoon. Her teams lost both games.

She expressed no irritation or anger as she walked off the playing field and court. She smiled and joked with the coaches. She was happy. 

I have always been competitive. If I wasn’t scoring a few goals a game, I was mad. If we lost to another team and I played poorly, I would beat myself up over it. 

But Ri, she just enjoys the play. She appreciates the time with her friends. She likes the comraderie of the team. She loves hugging her coaches and talking to them about their newest hair color. She’s out on the court rooting on her team mates as they score baskets even if she hasn’t made one after three tries. She isn’t jealous of their success.

I only noticed this after Jon got on me for yelling at Ri during basketball. Ri had went for a shot and missed. The ball bounced off the rim close to her so she could have rebounded and tried for another shot but she got distracted and the other team got it. I yelled (gently) “Ri, go after those rebounds!” Jon looked at me and hinted to cool it. He was right. This is her first year of basketball. Heck, I’ve never understood the plays in the sport ever. 

I sat on the bench next to Jon and took a few breaths. I remained quiet for a few minutes (that’s a miracle for those that see me at sporting events). And that’s when it hit me. I saw Ri skipping down the court and placing herself next to girl from the other team. She wasn’t muscling towards the net like a couple other girls on her team. She wasn’t elbowing the other team to get open. But she was in the game, moving around, doing picks to help move the ball. And she was giving high fives to her teammates when they scored. I realized that is a gift. She can play the game and also enjoy it. I needed to appreciate that gift, sit back, and simply watch. And that’s what I did, for the most part….