Dis expectations and embrace appreciation

I listened to just the right podcast this weekend. I was sitting at the skate park watching Mario and his friend do tricks on their scooters. Meanwhile, there were some serious skate dudes performing incredible flips and tricks. Mario and his friend looked precious as they scootered down a small ramp and looked over at me excited about their feat.

After watching them scores of times, my mind started to drift to Thanksgiving day. We are hosting Jon‘s family this year, which takes the burden off a bit because there are not as many people for dinner. In addition, they tend to be a rather quiet crew so I do not need to worry about anything getting broken, fights ensuing, or hurt feelings at the end of the night. But I do want to have a lively, entertaining day with them; so, I started thinking of ways that we could create such an atmosphere. 

I heard about an app that allows you to record people‘s stories, and thought that we could use it to record stories of Jon’s mom and his brothers. Maria could craft five questions for each of them and post them during Thanksgiving meal. I then played my sweet husband’s reaction when I told him that that was our plan.

“Mar, you have got to be kidding. People Just want to eat dinner and relax with one another. You don’t always have to have activities happening all the time.”

So my mind moved on to something that was not so intrusive. Maybe we would have paper and pencil laid out so people could write gratitude notes to one another. We did something similar with my side of the family a few years back, and it was a lot of fun. At least for me. On further thought, I realized that only one of Jon’s family members – his mom – would really enjoy writing such notes. Scratch that idea, also.

I tend to do this to myself. Exaggerate how awesome the day is going to be and all of the things that I hope to get out of it – be it gratitude notes, interviews with family where they detail a magnificent hidden secret that we would have never known about but for the interview, incessant laughter while playing an awesome board game. Then the day comes and goes, and I am disappointed. I am disappointed because people didn’t laugh as much as I thought they would, I didn’t get to interview anybody, no one expressed gratitude to one another…..

The perfectionist mind comes into play again. But not this year, baby. 

I have set no expectations. 

None. 

Rather, I have focused on appreciation. I learned that from one of Oprah’s SuperSoul Podcasts. Yes, I never thought that I would be an Oprah podcast listener but she has some good ones on there. And you can’t help but love how she finds such joy in wanting to better understand humanity, meaning, and spirituality on a deeper level. Her guest talked about how a death knell is having expectations of anything. He said that expectations will automatically destroy you. Rather, he recommends fostering appreciation; appreciation takes it off you and puts it on others. You change your mindset from wanting to giving. I no longer want things to happen the way I expect; rather, I give appreciation to those around me and for all that I have in my life. 

And guess what? It worked! I even caught myself at the dinner table starting down that path of expectations. I hoped someone would bring up a topic that would burst into a magnificent conversation. As soon as my mind started going down that path, I took a deep breath and shoved in a pile of potatoes. I looked around the table at my hubby, who had drank a few wines and was making me laugh all day long; my kids, who were on their phones making videos of one another; and my family, who are all very different from one another but who love each other and feel comfortable enough together to simply sit at the dining room table and eat.


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…..

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.

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….

   
 
   

Cupcake war

Maria obsesses over the show Cupcake Wars. Absolutely loves it. 

Yesterday, we had some down time between having friends over. Ri was shuffling through the boxes in the pantry and found a box of chocolate cake mix and icing (because we are the family that never is without sugar). She looked at me with her Maria smile and sweetly asked “can I do a cupcake war in the kitchen?”

Yes, it was her against herself. She retrieved all the ingredients and cupcake pans, and placed them on the counter. She wrote down the names of all the neighbors she’d give the cupcakes to and totaled the numbers. She needed 26 cupcakes. I stood at the oven and calibrated the timer to one hour and thirty minutes. 

She yelled “go” and I started the timer. She whipped over my way and preheated the oven. Then she poured her batter and mixed her eggs, water and oil. She was in a mad frenzy from the start. And she loved the thrill. I acted as assistant reacting to commands she belted out.

“Open the icing and put it in the plastic dispenser! Make sure the silver decorating tip is all the way down!”

As I did that, she poured the mix in the cupcake cups. She only had enough mix for 20. 

“Assistant, you need to run to the store and get another box of mix! And I need a topper. How about cherries or bananas?” I darted out of the house to Kroger’s. I had 18 minutes.

I grabbed a bunch of bananas and a box of mix. I also grabbed a can of frosting, in case (smart move in the end). Then I saw some decorative colored balls of chocolate so I grabbed a green and blue package. I thought Ri would love them. 

I arrived home to a daughter who was flying around the kitchen.

“Thank goodness you are home! We need more mix made into batter! Did you get the bananas?”

I gave her the bananas and then brought the two packs of chocolate balls from behind my back to surprise her.

“What are these?” She made a scrunched-up disgusted face.

“I thought you’d like them for your cupcakes.”

“Ahh, mom, they do not at all go with my theme. Thanks though.”

Theme?!

She proceeded to sprinkle crushed graham cracker on her cupcakes. She sliced four bananas out of the six because she calculated 7 slices per banana. Glad her math is up to par.    

   
She kept on me about the mix until I had stirred it up enough to bring it over to her. She poured it quickly (chocolate everywhere) and threw the pans into the oven. She dictated my next task: put the icing into the plastic decorating tube. 

There was 6 minutes left when Ri took out the cupcakes. Some were finished but some were not. This led to a scolding from Ri about how I needed to buy the same kind of mix. My mix required a 25 minute bake time and Ri’s required 20. This meant they needed 5 more minutes – that would only leave one minute to decorate! Agh!

I took the fully cooked cupcakes out to decorate and Ri threw the remaining cupcakes into the oven. At two minutes, she made an executive decision and took the cupcakes out of the oven – ready they were fully done or not!

She topped the cupcakes with icing and I moved them over to the table to sprinkle with crushed graham cracker. She finished and put the bananas on top. We had 1 minute … she placed the last banana on the last cupcake and we were done! We high-fived each other and breathed a sigh of relief.   

I could have eaten this girl up from head to toe as we stood there looking at her creations. She amazes me with her independence and strong will. She has a gift for design and a love of food. A pathway to executive pastry chef is beginning to be carved out….

Now, if she can just learn how to CLEAN UP!

Put it in perspective 

So I think I’ve written previously about how I believe Ri was my mom in a past life. Actually, I’m not a believer or non-believer in reincarnation – who knows what’s in store for us at the end of this crazy life. But I remember reading Shirley MacLaine’s book and her writing that she believed her daughter was her mother in a past life (at least I think that’s what she said after all these years). That passage stuck with me when I read it and it feels relevant on so many occasions with Ri. I sometimes wonder if I’m teaching her half of what she is teaching me.

She had picture day this morning. She was up all night coughing and hacking with the ugly virus that the rest of us have had this month. When she woke up, her nose was Rudolph red and her eyes were swollen. Nonetheless, she got dressed and turned on her flat iron for me to straighten her hair. She never complained about how she looked or felt. To the contrary, after she found an outfit to wear, she smiled and commented “I really like this on me.”

As I did her hair and brushed some powder on her face to try to tone down the redness, I told her I was sorry she felt bad. She shrugged her shoulders and looked in the mirror. She gave me the smile she’d give for pictures. Beautiful. Then she blew her nose hard into the tissue laying on the sink and went down for breakfast.

Lesson taught: put it in perspective. It’s just class pictures. She’s healthy, got a cute outfit, biking to school rather than walking, and gets Cocoa Krispies for breakfast. Others may be freaking out (I think back to me at that age and I’m quite sure a meltdown may have occurred) but she goes with the flow. 

And as work explodes through the day, I will think of her and put it in perspective. I’ve got a good lunch waiting for me, I got to bike to work, I got a shower this morning, and I have two incredible kids who keep me aware of what matters.