7th grade dance

Maria mentioned going shopping for a dress for her seventh grade dance about a month and a half before the dance. Our weekends have been replete with Mario’s basketball games and Maria’s soccer games. We finally found a Sunday to shop. We decided to hit IKEA first to buy a couch we’d been wanting for six months, and then head over to the mall. But Ikea drained the entire family and none of us wanted to go to the mall, including Maria. She was willing to find a dress on the Internet rather than brave a shopping center (our type of girl). She perused the Internet off and on and reported nothing back to me. At some point, I realized we only had another week or so before her dance.

“I’m not spending $45 on shipping fees, Maria. So you need to find a dress in order for it to get here on time.” Sigh.

She found two black dresses off two different websites that I had never heard of before. She sent the sites to me and at 10 PM one evening, I got on the sites. They were ones that infiltrated you with 20 different advertisements while you were trying to check out of the site. They also wanted me to add my email address and personal information several times over. I was getting a bit concerned with the validity of the sites. But, I did not want my girl to stress out about a dress so I continued plugging away. After I completed the sales on both sites, I received email confirmations. The confirmation for the dress that Maria really wanted informed me that although they shipped within two days they may not have the dress for another couple of weeks. Are you kidding?! They did not tell me that information as I checked out, of course. The other confirmation email confirmed that it would arrive “soon.” Seriously? I spent the next hour trying to cancel my orders but had no luck. Frustrated, I searched for the dresses on Amazon. Why did I not look at that before I made the order? Amazon had the exact same dresses and I could get them in two days. I ordered them at midnight. What we do for these kids of ours.

Amazon came through, and we received the dresses two days after I ordered them. Maria loved one of them. She made a video for me trying both of them on and sent it to me while I was at work. It made my day. The dress she liked was classy. Black, off the shoulders, knee-length. Thank goodness. Jon and I are relieved not to have to worry about short, tight skirts and dresses at this period of time.

Two days before the dance, Maria, Mario, and I drove to Target to try to find black shoes. No luck. We tried two other places with no luck. We ended up back at Target. Maria pleaded for some stilettos but compromised with me on a pair of chunky heels. I bought her a little silver chain with a silver ball in the middle; I told her the ball represented the ball of energy she carried everywhere she went.

The day of the dance, Ri got her hair done at a salon. I had said no way to the request but Jon caved. He knew my horrible hair styling skills and felt bad for Maria. After her styling session, three of her girlfriends came over to eat pizza and get ready.

Maria allowed me to do her nail polish. Wrong move. I couldn’t even get that right. We had to have a girlfriend of mine reapply. She did cave in after the nail polish debacle and allow me to try her make-up. I succeeded on that front because she only wanted minimal application. I could handle that.

Next thing we knew, the girls went from Saturday morning chill wear to glamour red-carpet wear! Were these our baby girls?!

They we’re so excited to go to the dance. However, they wanted to keep their cool so they asked me to drive them around so that they would be dropped off at 6:38 instead of 6:30 when it started. Hilarious. Sure enough, there was a group of boys sitting at the picnic table when we drove by doing one of our loops. They were thinking the same thing.

I got a call at the end of the dance informing me that the girls would walk home. When they arrived, much to Maria’s dismay, her girlfriends told me that she danced with a boy. The boy being the boy that she has been friends with since she was in third grade. His nickname is Cookie and he is the sweetest boy in her class. They had video of the two of them dancing to the last song of the night. Again, hilarious. I liked that they were arms distance apart….

The night did not end for them, however. I had agreed that I would take them to a 10 PM movie. I dropped them off in their PJs. They said the movie was awful but they had a blast drinking their Icees and eating their cookie dough treats.

Mother/son dance

So, Maria had her seventh grade dance a couple of weeks ago. It was time for Mario to have to participate in a dance as well. I am sure he would’ve been fine if it was a boy/girl dance like Maria had but instead it was a dance where you had to take your mom! Yuck! All the boys acted like they could not stand the thought of having to attend this event even though I think deep down inside, they were more comfortable going with their moms then going with girls.

A mom of one of Mario’s friends was offered a limo ride from one of her neighborhood friends. She invited A bunch of her sons friends, including Mario. I knew Mario would think it was a fun idea and be in for it, but I was a bit on the brink. What were we setting our sons up for? They get a limo for their fourth grade dance? Will it be a jet for their high school prom?!

The weeks before the dance were very different than the weeks before Maria’s dance. There was no scouring the Internet to try to find the perfect suit for the dance. There was no running to Target and five other stores to find the best shoes possible. It basically went down like this: we had to be at DK Diner at 5:30. At 5:00, I stopped vacuuming the house and told Mario I was taking a shower. Mario continued to play his video game. At 5:20, I yelled for Mario to come upstairs and get dressed. He tried on a pair of jeans and the only button-down shirt he had. He looked ridiculous. He and I are meant to live in sweatpants and T-shirts. He tried to get comfortable in the attire but after a few minutes of trying to jump around and pretend like he was throwing a dodgeball, he commented that there was no way he would be able to stay in those clothes for two hours and play. I completely understood. He changed back into Adidas sweatpants and a “nice “sports shirt. I bit the bullet and wore a pair of nice shoes with my jeans and tank top. I think I’m going to start up a mother/son event where everybody must wear gym shoes, lounge pants, and T-shirts or else you cannot get in. We got to DK a few minutes late but he grabbed a seat with all of his buddies and took down a cheeseburger and fries while I chatted it up with the moms.

We left a half hour later to head down to Mario’s friend’s house. The limo came shortly after we arrived and all of the boys went running up to it like there was a celebrity waiting inside. The boys oooohhh’d and ahhhh’d for ten minutes, and then we all settled in and began our ride around Grandview. A few of the moms brought some champagne. I played some jams. We kept asking the boys what songs they wanted to listen to but no one would chime in. Therefore, they got to hear some good 80s and 90s jams. After about 20 minutes of driving around, the boys were ready to jump out and head to the dance. They were gone as soon as the limo slowed down and all of the moms were left barreling out of the limo and walking into the dance by ourselves. And that was pretty much how the night was spent. The boys went off and played dodgeball or football games and the moms stood around and caught up (actually, it was a lot like Maria’s dance that way:)).

Mario was ready to leave after half of an hour. He just wanted to head home and watch a show on the couch with me. Precious. I was right there with him but we had promised the other moms and sons a long night so we hung in there. Eventually, Mario ended up finding things to do and running around until 8:30 when the limousine picked us back up. We headed to the chocolate café for some malts and brownies, and then the sugar-infested kids danced in the limo for the next 20 minutes. The moms, by this time, were ready to head home and put on their pjs.

Mario and I thanked his friends mom for the limousine service and hopped in our little ball though to head home. I watched him play his video game for an hour when we got home, and then he asked me to carry him to bed. Yes, I can still pick him up and carry him up the stairs for bed. I think that was my favorite part of the evening (that, and doing the chicken dance with him in the gym!).

Partyin’ with the Ritz

Once our girl gets wind that there is a party, she is raring to go! We finally were able to schedule our annual dunk tank party for Mario’s baseball team and Maria’s softball team this year. It was pathetic that we could find no weekends in July or beginning of August to have the party because of all of the activities the kids were in during the summer. We ended up choosing the Sunday after the first week of school, and we had surprisingly great weather. 85° and sunny. 

But back to our party planner, Maria Grace. She began planning the party is soon as I told her the date. It’s all about the good food with her so she immediately looked up all sorts of recipes. But, alas, the Internet was trumped by the good old-fashioned recipes on a box. Yep, our girl found delicious appetizer recipes on the back of a Ritz cracker box. We are so proud that she represents our Reading, Ohio and Marietta, Ohio roots as well as she does! 

She found two recipes that she thought would be best for the party. One was a little bit more “posh” for the adults at the party and the other one was more likely to suit the taste buds of the kids at the party. The “posh” one included guacamole, sour cream and black beans and the kid one included pasta sauce, pepperoni and cheese. Both on top of a delicious Ritz cracker!

We drove off to Kroger’s to gather the ingredients. 

The crackers were a hit. Ri taste-tested a few of them to make sure that they were edible. She was proud of herself as she chimed “now those are some good Ritz crackers!”

They were gobbled up in minutes by the guests. Hilarious. The kids needed fuel before spending the next three hours in the dunk tank, and leave it to Ri to deliver mighty fine fuel there way.

Mario heads off to camp

Mario went on his first three-night camp adventure two weeks ago. He heard Maria talking excitedly about the camp last year and wanted to go this year. It was the first year that he was eligible since you have to be going into fourth grade. I signed him up late; he was waitlisted at about number 50 when I checked on it in late May. The topic came up at the dinner table one night and I let him know that I was not sure he would be able to get into the camp. This fact led to many tears and anger and sadness, which led me to many phone calls and pleading and begging. I found out two other mothers were in my boat and had switched their sons to a different time – over the July 4 holiday. There were not a lot of kids signed up so I was able to get Mario in. I told him that I had worked some magic, and he was so excited.

As the time I got near, Mario seemed to have a bit of trepidation about the trip. He was not so much concerned about spending the night at the camp, but about his two buddies and how he would fit in. His two buddies are very close, and he was worried that they would partner up the entire time and he would be left with no one. I tried to explain to him that the reason for camp is to make new friends and that he would make new friends in his cabin. His response “I can’t make new friends because I will never see them again after we leave camp.” I told him that we could easily drive around Columbus to have a play date with a new friend. He looked at me like I was crazy. We let it be at that. I didn’t really mention anything more about the trip and he didn’t either prior to it arriving on a Friday morning. 

The night before he was to leave, he and I packed up his things. Actually, I should say I packed up his things while he shot baskets in his room. Yeah, another moment when I should have made him help me out but I was enjoying him in his element making slam dunks and trying to impress me. He found a flashlight, which was really the only item he was concerned about being packed.  I kept hugging him through the evening and teasing him that I did not want him to leave me.

I came home from work early on Friday and took Mario to camp. As we drove over together, he kept asking me if I wanted him to stay. I think it was his way of being nervous but putting it on me. I told him that he would be just fine at camp as long as he let himself have a good time and not worry about who was hanging with who. The drop off seemed easier with Maria – maybe because more of her girlfriends were going – but I think also because Maria just tends to have a different attitude with these things. She’s more able to go and make new friends or just find fun herself. Mario needs to know his buddies are there and worries more about being cool and wanting to impress. 

On a side note, Mario also gets freaked out when it is dark outside (because we have let him watch way too many horror films). He always needs me to come upstairs with him in the evening so I was a bit concerned that he may freak out in the cabin once night hit, and everyone would make fun of him.

When we arrived at our destination he grabbed his sleeping bag and slung his mesh bag over his shoulders. Two teenage boys greeted us under a tent. One of the kids’ names was Mario. Mario told him his name and the high school Mario didn’t react. I thought “come on, at least give him a high-five or something to make him feel more at ease.” My mama antennae were shooting up. We moved inside to the nurse’s line next and one of the high school boys saw Mario’s name tag. He put out his fist to Mario and said “I’m one of your counselors, Matt.” Mario fist bumped him and I felt better. 

We found Mario’s two buddies and they hung out looking all cool while us moms talked about how we thought they’d do at camp. Mario seemed to be relaxed and they were all talking together so I felt good. 

Then we started to see people walk out the front door. We grabbed the boys and told them we thought it was time for the departure. They moved outside with us still looking pretty cool. We made them take an obligatory photo for us. 

Then we moved them towards the buses. They still remained calm and collected, even giving me a wave when I told them to look back at me. 

They finally got on their bus; I saw Mario’s two friends sit together. My heart dropped. I saw Mario slide into the seat across from them. Dammit.

Then, I saw Mario jump up and lean over the two boys out their window. He yelled “bye mom” and waved to me. Thank goodness. He sat back down and chatted with his buddies across the aisle. The two other moms left but I waited until the bus took off. I moved to the side of the bus where Mario sat. I waited for him to look out the window at me but he was busy talking with his friends. So when I saw some buses ahead starting to move, I yelled “bye Mario, I love you.” He looked out the window at me and for the first time I saw a bit of trepidation in his eyes. He yelled back “bye mom, I love you too!” He usually would be embarrassed to say such a thing but I think the nervousness got to him and he wanted to let me know that he loved me before I left. And then he was off.

I only checked the camp website every 45 seconds to see if a picture was posted of him. Thank goodness there was the first night – he was smiling and running to the lake. Ahhhh.

There were more in the following days – not as many as I would have liked – but enough to make me feel at ease that he was alive and having a good time. 

Jon picked Mario up from camp three days later and brought him and Ri to my work for lunch. We peppered him with questions about his time at camp and we got one or two word responses. He talked about the soap slide and the lake and the hike. He thought the food was ok. He liked most boys in his cabin. It wasn’t until me and Jon were playing cards this weekend that we truly had some insight into what he did at camp.

“What are you guys playing?”

We told him we were playing Gin Rummy.

“How about we all play some blackjack?” 

Jon and I looked at him with mouths agape. 

“My counselors taught me how to play at camp. We would play for food each night. We can play for money if you want.”

And so there you go – no need for me to worry about him having a good time at camp.

Softball/baseball Wrap Up!

We officially hit the end of baseball and softball season last night. Four weeks straight of pretty much a game every evening, if not two. Four weeks straight of hot dogs, chips, famous Amos cookies, and orange pop. Four weeks straight of up and down moods based on how much sleep the night before, how much activity the day of, how much irritation at the thought of homework the following day.

Maria ended with a bang. Who would’ve thought that this ragtag group of girls would make it to the championship game? I was busy just getting them to talk to one another and cheer for each other during the game. But something clicked midway through the season and I heard girls that I had never heard before rooting for their teammates. I had girls that had never caught a ball catching flies in the outfield. It was amazing. Maria rocked out pitching for us this year – I basically had her and a fifth grader to get us through the season. She stepped up. She also got her bat around well this year. And last but not least, she was the voice of the team, as always. I think that’s why the shy, quiet girls on the team finally began to speak – they were worried of the wrath of Maria! Ri possesses the ability to get people to smile and to engage and maybe get out of their comfort zone for a while. That is because she can so easily act silly and goofy and wild without a care about what anyone thinks. 

She riled up the girls for the semi championship game, which led to a decisive win over the opposing team. The girls were so excited. 

However, me and my assistant coach were a bit less excited just because we were playing a team that can bring a bit of drama to the game. I learned a great deal about my personality over the two day period between winning the semi-championship and playing in the championship. I could not believe how sick to my stomach I was in that 48 hour period – second-guessing myself, worrying I hurt people’s feelings, concerned that people may be upset with me. Just throw me back to my childhood because that’s where all this crap began. I had at least 50 come to Jesus talks with myself over that short time period but it wasn’t until after the game that I began to feel less stressed. A huge lesson for me for the future – I am allowed to take a stance and I am allowed to have people be upset by it. Not all of my viewpoints are going to be loved. 

We ended up losing the championship game. I was surprisingly relieved after all the tension leading up to it. I would usually be madly disappointed but I wasn’t this year because of all the angst prior to the game and because I was mindful of my group of girls who gained experience and skill and had a most wonderful season together. They knew how to have fun. You would have thought we won the championship by the way they were laughing and playing and goofing around. 

Mario’s team got to the championships, too. They played a nail-biter of a game against the number one team in the league to win the semi-championship. Mario played his heart along with the rest of the kids. He had a killer nab at shortstop with a bullet of a throw to first. He also pitched like a rock star. I was so proud of him and so happy for him and his teammates. They were on cloud 9. 

They did not catch a break in the championship game; they hit line drives but they went straight to an opposing player. The other team hit line drives on the gaps in the field. There was nothing to do about that; it’s simply a matter of luck. Mario was upset as were his teammates. There were tears. There was anger. But they still got second place trophies and within twenty minutes were all feeling better and ready to move on. I told Mario over and over that no matter if he won or lost, he’d forget about it twenty minutes later. I think there’s a study that confirms you bask in your glory for about 15 minutes and then you are back to usual. 

We had Gio with us that night so I told the boys we could take a bike ride to Jeni’s and Mario was fine. 

What will I do next year now that Maria will play for the middle school team and I can’t coach her? Watch out Mario…:)

Shopping and eating…

Maria begged me to take her and her girlfriend to the mall on Friday night. Mario stayed with Patty this weekend – loving his time with his grandma before she moves from Marion. 

It was a cold night on Friday so I knew that we would not be able to play outside. This was pretty much the only reason I agreed to the mall – that, and it allowed for me to at least walk around and get some exercise while they looked at clothes. It also brings back fond memories of my girlfriend Beth and I going to Kenwood Mall on the weekends. We would spend hours up there just walking around, eating lunch, looking to see if any other friends or boys were around. We inevitably would find other friends hanging out because that is what we did in the 1980s. Nowadays, kids actually go there just to shop. How strange is that?

 I couldn’t believe how long Maria and her friend could remain in one store. I waited out on the couches for them, catching up on emails, but after 25 minutes I thought maybe they had been held hostage in there. I went to check on them and, sure enough, they were trying on there seventh shirt in the dressing room – just as happy as can be. 

Ri walked out with this snazzy top and I told her there was no way her father would allow her to wear that outside the house. She loved it though, and of course, I caved in and got it for her – but required her to agree that she would only wear it this summer, not beforeehand. I’m a real stickler aren’t I?!

They finally decided to move to a different store. They chose Bare Minerals. I watched a video of how to put on make up, and realized how little I know about proper application of that stuff. I was tempted to buy everything that was on the video because the older lady starring in it transformed from wrinkles and blemishes to a supermodel. But the  practical part of me, along with many generations of women who have never been consumed by that stuff, overpowered any remaining desire I had. I grabbed the girls and told them we needed to move on to another store. But this was not before they both applied some funky pink lipstick.

We moved on to Lush. I actually liked the store – all organic bath products. The bath bombs smelled delicious. I caved in and bought each girl one of them. These are the times that I wish we had a huge bathtub – I could get into using one of those bath bombs every night to relax me.

We hit a few more clothing stores, including the newly designed Abercrombie and Fitch store, which the girls geeked over. Finally, 2 1/2 hours later, they were starving and ready to go. Everyone was craving Mexican food so we decided to head to El Vaquero. Not a smart move when you are starving and they feed you nonstop chips and salsa. 

We were ill or by the time our food came but how can you reject fish tacos and enchiladas? And to top it off and make us truly stuffed, we had to get the fried ice cream for dessert!  I was positive we would all have stomachaches at 2 am.

Surprisingly, we all slept like logs. In fact, we woke up the next morning and decided to top off our Mexican grub from the previous evening with some timbits from Tim Hortons. If you are gonna splurge, splurge big!

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…..