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.

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…..

I love to watch you play … But I also like to see you play well…!

We had a full day of sports yesterday. Ri had a double header softball game at 10 am, Mario had a two hour football game at 12:30, and Ri finished out the day with a soccer game at 3:30. I know, I know. All my friends with older kids remind me of how much I will miss these packed days when my kiddos are grown. And I know I will because I actually don’t mind watching them for hours straight on a weekend (as long as I can get my teeny workout in and I may wish they played a bit closer to Grandview but that’s about it). 

However, when I watch them play, I do expect them to give it their all. If I’m putting in the time to watch, they should put in the time to play hard. I was complaining to my girlfriend a few weeks ago about Ri not running up to the ball hard enough. I told her I felt bad because after Ri’s game I coached Ri and told her that she’s gotta concentrate on the ball ahead of her more. Ri responded flippantly “how about saying nice game, Ri?”  My girlfriend counseled me that I need to simply say after her game “I love to watch you play.”

After thinking about it more, I resolved to take my friend’s advise but add to it. I’m gonna tell my kids “I love to watch you play, and I also love to give you feedback on things I thought you did well and things to look out for next game.” That’s fair, right? Heck, that’s what I do with school work so why can’t I do it for sports? 

And so I did just that yesterday without too much negative feedback from either child. They were too high on their performances to give me any negative feedback: they both did amazing jobs in their games. Ri cranked out two strikeouts and a play at home. I got a bit of it on video for once. 

Mario had two great runs in his football game and I scored big for getting them on video. He loved watching himself last night….

And then Ri finished the day with a shot in the goal form the right wing position. Her face was priceless after the shot went into the goal. I was too busy jumping up and down to capture it! But I did capture some smiling faces after the game.

So maybe my feedback after the “I love to watch you play” comment is working…or getting them so irritated that they take out their aggression on the field. Either way, I will take it.


Take me out to the ballgame

We are in the thick of softball/baseball season. About two more weeks of regular season left. You’d think it was mid-July with the temperaturs soaring in the 90s. That makes for sticky, sweaty games with complaints of thirst and bugs and fatigue. It also makes moods a bit more irritable…. Ri lashed out at me during our game because I put her at shortstop (“why would you put me there when I never play it!” and then a dramatic stomp off out to short).

But I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love coaching Ri and the other girls. I love the thrill of the inning – waiting to see the girls hit the ball and run to base with a huge smile on their faces and watching them make plays in the field (85% of those plays don’t result in an out but they are getting better). I had a come to Jesus moment in one of my first games – I saw how competitive I can be and how unnecessary it was at this level of play. I have since toned down my anxiety and competition genes and just tried to enjoy the play. It has been a welcome change to my soul. I enjoy the girls more and the fun of the game (but I still get goosebumps when my girl strikes a batter out). 

It has also been a blast watching Mario play in coach-pitch baseball this year – so much better than tee-ball. Jon has been able to assist this year, which Mario loves. He is a complete daddy’s boy and has no issues telling me that again and again. He will choose Jon for anything. It is darling. The other night Jon acted as umpire because the ump failed to show to the game. After the game ended, Mario said “dad, I don’t want you to ump because I like you in the dugout close to me.” Mario’s a champ at bat – he’s got some good hits. We still need to work on the fielding, especially grounders. He gets so mad at himself when he misses one – after one of his games where he missed a couple, he asked Jon to stay so they could practice grounders for a while. My competitive gene got passed down to that boy, for sure. 


We had the Clippers game last night. All the Grandview teams got to walk the perimeter of the field and see themselves on the giant tv screen. My girls were hilarious as always – we have some real cards on the team this year. They performed cartwheels on the field and made faces when the camera landed on them. 


Meanwhile, I didn’t get to see Mario walk around the field since I was honing in my girls. It looks like he was having a good time from my girl friend’s picture. 


But then I walked up the stairs with my girls who were bouncing around and screaming, and found this sight before my eyes. Mr. Cool. 

  I could have eaten this kid up right in the stands but he would have killed me for embarrassing him. 

I don’t think the kids watched a lick of the actual game; rather, they played in the fountain, ate hot dogs, ran around the stadium, and got caricatures drawn of themselves. 

Who needs a game when you have all that?!


Dreaming of first

Mario is a competitor. He wants to win. Always has. His grade school, Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS) is hosting a Yearbook contest. Kids from kindergarten through third grade are able to draw a picture and enter it into a contest to try to win the prize – having their picture grace the front cover of the 2014-15 yearbook.
Now, if this was the extent of the prize, he would likely have blown off the contest. But I believe you also win $25 (I told him this without verifying so $25 may be coming out of my pocket). Any contest where money is the prize automatically sucks Mario in.
He sat at the table and thought about what to draw. He wanted silence. He looked up Bobcat images on the computer (the school mascot). He began to draw. Frustration set in. Then muffled yells. Then tears. He gets so upset with himself when he doesn’t do something exactly as he sees it being done. He’s gotten a lot better at calming himself down and I find if I just talk in a soft voice to him, he starts to mellow. I had to do this a lot last night. He went to bed with half of the drawing done. I told him I was proud of him for trying his best. He told me he wanted to win the contest. I rubbed his head and told him to have sweet dreams.
I got up early this morning and slowly walked down the hall towards the steps to go for a run.
“Yeah, dude-man. What’s up?”
“Kiki is really good at drawing. I think she’s gonna win the contest.”
Seriously? He’s thinking about this when he first gets up? A sign of perseverance and determination or obsession with winning?! I told him that all he could do was give his all and just let things fall as they may.
When I got home tonight, he finished his drawing.

Not without some tears and screams. At one point, I was helping Ri with her multiplication exercise and I heard a muffled cry. I walked in the kitchen and he showed me where he drew with pen on his paper. He had tried to draw a bobcat and he did not like it.
“I can’t believe I used pen!”
“It’s ok, we can use white-out.” A glimmer of hope came over his face.
“I used it all”, shouted Maria from the other room. Mario plopped his head into his hands.
“We will buy some after we vote, dude-man. Why don’t you practice drawing the bobcat on another sheet and then you can feel comfortable drawing it on your paper.”
He drew an amazing bobcat on a separate sheet of paper. Then I had a great idea, which I usually never have when it comes to art. We cut out his bobcat and taped it over the one he messed up so that it almost looked 3-D. He loved it, and smiled as he stared at the finished product.
A win no matter what. Now we have to talk about winning … and possibly losing – gracefully. That could be a little tougher than the bobcat art.


Mario’s ride

Mario could not wait to participate in the Kids Bike Race held on Friday night as part of the adult bike races that come to Grandview every year. I mentioned it to him and Ri about a month ago and Ri had zero interest but Mario jumped on it.

He had his last baseball game that night, too. I told him we’d have to leave early if we wanted to make the race. He was willing to do it in order to be in the race. Of course, the race was 20 minutes behind so we sat there waiting and waiting. He had the pre-race jitters like I get before running. He kept looking around at his competition.

“I will beat that boy; he’s on training wheels.”
“Is he racing me? He looks too old.”
“That boy doesn’t have muscles like me.”

And the quotes kept coming. Maria just kept rolling her eyes and begging to go to Doris and Kim’s party. The announcer finally called for the kids to line up. Mario dutifully sat on his bike awaiting instructions.



I kept coaching him to get his foot on the pedal so he could get a good start but everyone was taking pictures and there was confusion abound. When the announcer yelled “Go!” one big kid took off and blew everyone away. Mario hung in there with the group and didn’t come in last – but I think he was second to last – which meant fourth because there were only five kids in each heat.


He was not a happy camper. When I got to the finish line to see him, he exclaimed “That was it, mom?! That was the entire race? That is so stupid! I want to race like those guys!” He pointed to the professional riders. I had tried to explain to him that his race was a short race – one block in length – but he didn’t grasp it. He looked around and said “did I win at least?” I told him that he didn’t but he did a good job. He stomped his foot on the ground and pronounced “I want to race again!” A dad walked up to his son and looked at Mario. “Good job, Mario. I think you were third.”

I went with it. He was at the finish line when they crossed sobI trusted his memory and it was oh so much better than fourth in Mario’s eyes. He asked if he won anything and I told him no. He again proclaimed his irritation with the race. I think I will need to sign him up for at least a ten-mile one in the future.

He rode his bike to Doris and Kim’s house with Ri and I following. When he arrived, he got a winner’s welcome with everyone clapping for him. This brought a smile to his face. If he can’t win, at least he gets attention. The rest of the night he told everyone he raced and came in third. And he beamed all the while folks gushed over him.

To Swim or not to Swim

Maria cried and cried last night when we got home from work. She had gone to Swim Team practice earlier in the day and hated every second of it.

Why? Because “she just hates it. She’s bored. She came in last and she just doesn’t enjoy practice.”

Let’s parse out those reasons. The first one I tend to not give much credence to because she’s got to learn to give reasons why she doesn’t want to do something. The second – she’s bored – I also have trouble with. Life can be boring, girl. We have spoiled you by engaging in activities all the time and this is what happens.

The third one made me think and review my decision. I don’t want her to hate going to practice everyday and I don’t want her to feel self conscious about her swimming. Right now, she just enjoys being in the water and playing around and jumping off the diving board. I don’t want to push her away from that by forcing her into a sport she doesn’t want to participate in at this time. But I balance that with my strong desire to have her learn swim strokes and be a better swimmer. I could care less about the meets and competition. So which one weighs out the other?

One girlfriend said that her daughter hated it too and she told her daughter she could give swimming up but she had to take up at least one sport. Her daughter chose tennis and loved it. I am warming up to that idea with the thought that I’d still make Ri take individual swim lessons this Summer.

I am still conflicted though. I played piano for four years when I was ages 7-11 but then I begged to not practice anymore. I can’t remember how long or intensely I begged, but my parents agreed to let me stop. Now I wish they would have “made” me continue practicing. But maybe I would have rebelled if they made me keep it up at age 11 and run away and met up with bad seeds and gotten into prostitution and been killed…. It’s always easier to look at things in the past and think “if only.”

So, my gut tells me to keep her on Swim Team for two weeks. If she still hates it, then she can choose another activity. I think Jon is on board with the plan, too. Mario just thinks Maria is crazy – who wouldn’t want to compete?!