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. 

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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.

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What a dad will do.

So I came up with the bright idea to use a tarp as a slip-n-slide in order to try to teach my softball girls how to slide. We placed it out on the front lawn, added dishwashing detergent, and sprayed it with the hose. I think I may have seen one actual legitimate slide by one of the girls. The rest was nonsense. But well-earned nonsense after winning their last two games.


Maria was scared half to death to slide. I don’t blame her – the bumps in the grass hurt like heck when you hit them. The other girls were running and sliding on their knees or head first though so Ri felt the need to keep up. But when she couldn’t allow herself to get down on the tarp, she got upset and cried. Jon and I kept reinforcing to her that she didn’t need to try it or if she wanted to try it, to start it slow and just place a leg down first. She kept trying but then stopping. Finally, Jon knew what to do. He told her that he’d slide if she would. Her eyes widened. She was in. She tried again and again until she finally did a half slide. We told Jon it was good enough for him to have to go through with his bet. 

And so he did.


He didn’t get too far but he did it. We all laughed hysterically, and Ri was smitten. Her dad usually would not engage in such antics but he did for her to get her to overcome her anxiety. I think she clearly understood and appreciated this very point, and as we all belly-laughed, she looked over at him and gave him a wickedly sweet smile.

Take me out to the ball game…again and again and again.

The beginning of Summer break has consisted of baseball, softball, and more softball. We should be used to this chaos that lasts from Memorial Day through the first week of July since I’ve been coaching Ri’s team for the last three years and Mario’s been playing baseball during that time, but this year feels different. I think it’s because Mario’s games are more exciting due to him making great plays and big hits, and Ri’s games are exhilarating between the sliding and the third-dropped-strike rule. I am a nut job during Ri’s games trying to watch for the dropped strike, the runner stealing, the fake bunt…. 

Mario looks like a pro baseball player in an eight year old body. He is in position before every play and in the batter’s box swinging away before he gets up to bat. He loves baseball this year. One reason why: he’s the oldest on the team this year. He’s one of four second graders. The rest are first graders. And he is one of the best players on the team. Hence, super stardom at every game when he makes an out or gets a hit. And he’s been making them like mad. He got all three outs on numerous occasions. He’s hit quite a few doubles. And his face is priceless when he gets an out. He hears the cheers but he just keeps on his game face and stares straight ahead. Mr. Cool.


And holy cow, Maria! She has stepped it up to the nth degree this year. The first game, she caught two fly balls. Jon and I stood with mouths agape, so proud of her. And unlike Mario, she shows her enthusiasm. She smiles as wide as the outfield and does a little dance shuffle. It is so sweet. I keep wanting to get a picture but since I’m coaching, I have no ability to think about a snapshot. Strategize, strategize, strategize.

Jon and I are both so impressed with Ri. She has made nearly every catch thrown to her. I’m playing her at first base and she is covering it like a glove. She’s completely aware and ready during the games. She moves. It’s a beautiful thing that was not seen much by any of the girls last year. This year is a different ball game. 

I hit the jackpot with my team this year, too. All the girls root each other on and have a great time together. I have a sixth grader from another school who is a star pitcher and batter. She’s got a heckuva arm and hit one to the fence the other night. But she is the most humble and considerate girl. She cheers on the other pitchers who are struggling to make it over the plate. She gives tips to the girls up to bat. She never whines or gets mad when we lose a game. She’s been an awesome 6th grade leader. Ri has gotten close to her over the past few weeks and looks up to her. Ri has stepped up to lead the team as well. It helps that she has her mother’s lungs and so it’s easy to scream for the girl up to bat or pitching on the mound. 

Ri cranked it the other night as pitcher. She had not been happy with her pitching a couple of games back. She had gotten some walks and gotten hit on a few times. She looked at me several times and whispered “pull me.” Yea, I’m serious. The girl gets really frustrated, really quickly. We are trying to work with her to calm her emotions down and take deep breaths. It’s the only way she will be able to pitch well, much less have fun with the game. I’m so happy to have Jon near me doing the scorebook because he’s able to grab her when she’s upset and talk some sense into her (or give her a wet willy). 

I took her out to the front yard before our game this past Monday to throw with her. She started to get angrier and angrier with each minute because she was throwing balls and only a rare strike. After ten minutes, she threw her glove down and ran inside. She was hysterically crying and telling me she could not play. She didn’t want to lose. She didn’t want to mess up. She was hugging me and sobbing. I felt so badly for her and was worried because I had not seen her act like this before. After a few minutes, she settled down and laid her back against the kitchen wall. I rubbed her back and got her water. After some breathing exercises, we drove down to the game. She jumped out of the car – completely unphased by the past twenty minutes –  and chatted it up with her teammates while they watched the remainder of the game before us. 

I put her on first base the first inning and she made an out. When she came in for the bottom of the inning, she said she wanted to pitch. I told Jon if she started to flip out, I’d have to pull her. But what did she do? Threw strikes and caught a pop up ball to get out of the inning with no runs scored. She was so charged up. And the next inning, she hit a double! Oh, the intense feeling of joy you get when you see your daughter in her element and so happy. I was at once relieved and excited and proud. She had a heck of a night. I think melt-downs pre-game may need to occur in the future….


As hectic as June is with baseball and softball, Jon and I would not change a thing. It is a treasure to be able to watch our kids play hard and achieve new feats (as well as learn how to deal with the hardship of a missed play or loss). And I get the added boost of being able to coach a group of girls who love the game and want to learn and succeed. Couldn’t ask for a better start to the summer.

Season Opening

Grandview turns into Mayberry on the Saturday before Memorial Day. Folks line up lawn chairs and place tiny American flags on their lawns. 1st Avenue is lined with cheerful kids extending out their hands to catch candy thrown from cars and trucks. Parents sip on their beverages and wave at friends walking in the parade. 

Grandma Ionno came in town to ride with Jon in my dad’s truck. 


Jon was charged to be to drive Ri and her softball team in the truck. He was super protective of it for my dad’s sake. A boy threw a bouncey ball at it and Jon warned him not to throw things at the truck. Ri loves that story. Mario was in a separate truck with his teammates, and talk about pelting things at trucks…. I left it to his coaches to discipline Mario and his crew; I had enough on my hands keeping my team from throwing out all the candy in the first two blocks. 


Jon dropped the girls off at the field and we all lined up for the opening ceremony. We chuckled at Patty waltzing across the field with seven bottles of water for Mario and his teammates. She’s precious. We sang the anthem, Mrs. McCauley threw out the opening pitch, and the ketchup, mustard and relish guys raced down the field. Play ball!

Sunday sports

We started our Sunday off early – up at 7:30 am to head to Ri’s double-header softball games. Ri is a trooper: she was up all night coughing her head off and I thought for sure she’d wake up begging not to go to softball. But instead she woke up and went downstairs to eat a bowl of cereal. Now, I’m not saying she was jumping up and down to get to her game – in fact, when I asked her if she could go to the game she shrugged her head mimicking “I don’t know.” But when I told her that if she skipped softball there would be no afternoon play dates, she put on her cleats and was ready to go. 

She cranked out a hit and walked three times.

 
  
Our softball girl! She also got a play at third base but still has no clue how it happened! The ball was hit to left field and she moved to third base like her coach told her to do whenever she heard the ball hit the bat. But she was not aware of the girl heading to third or that she could make an out. She was standing there ready to get the ball to the pitcher. The left fielder threw it to Ri and she happened to turn towards the girl running to third and tag her right before her foot touched the bag! The ump called an out and Ri looked baffled until she realized she made the out. Gotta love her. Actually, what I love more is that she readily admits it! I asked her after the game if she knew what she was doing and she laughed “ugh, no, I had no idea! I was ready to throw it to the pitcher!” And yet another reason I love her so. She is completely comfortable with herself to the point that she doesn’t need to make up a story to look better. 

Now, Mario, on the other hand, would have crafted a story to make it seem he knew exactly what he was doing! And he would have convinced us all he did know what he was doing even if that wasn’t the case. He enjoys the limelight and looking cool. I think it’s partly being an eight year old boy but also partly his personality. Whereas Ri can laugh at her foibles, Mario does not want to draw attention to them. 

Mario cranked out a tough football game in the afternoon. He played both offense and defense and ran the ball a few times. He didn’t get too far because defenders swarmed him but it was enjoyable as heck to watch.   

  He will undoubtedly come home tonight and show me all his moves he did on the field. He will talk about how they got robbed of a win. And he will jump on XBox and play some more football. 

I’m so glad that I have two kids that love the outdoors and have taken to Fall sports – both very different in their approach but I love watching them both all the same.

Seriously?!

So we were down to one kid Saturday night. And it was Ri. And she had slept overnight at a friend’s house Friday night so she was exhausted. There was a good chance she may sleep in until 8 or 8:30 on Sunday morning. Jon and I stayed up later than usual. It was a wild night – bed after 11 pm!

If it’s not the kids, it’s the dog. Jon heard Rocco at 6 am crying in his kennel. I barely heard him get out of bed but then, five minutes later, he was in our room jostling me. 

“Rocco got sick – I need your help.” The stench overpowered me as soon as I hit the bottom stair. His kennel looked like a murder scene. Diarrhea everywhere. The walls and cabinets were splattered with brown flakes. 

Lovely. 

I went outside and saw blood droplets on the steps. Then in the grass. Poor guy was bleeding, too. I went upstairs, got dressed, grabbed a cereal bar, and we were off to the ER. Jon stayed back with Ri. 

Three hours later I was back home running a brush through my hair and trying to find Ri’s softball shirt. Jon got her bag and water bottle, we rushed into the car, picked up Ri’s friend, and headed 30 minutes up north to her double header softball game. Meanwhile, I waited to hear from the ER vet. It was scorching hot outside – 88 degrees. The temp was extra hellish after being treated to 65-70 degree days for a few days. I could have laid in the grass under the oak tree and napped the entire game. But I cheered on my girl who got two hits and was so happy. 

We got home at 5 pm. Jon crashed upstairs and I ate two bags of Whoppers. I was starving. I tried to nap on the couch but Mario was playing Madden Football so every 30 seconds he yelled “Mom, look at this play!”

I dragged my body off the couch and drove to the grocery with Ri. The vet called. Rocco needed to stay overnight to keep fluids in him. At least we’d get a full night of sleep (we’d end up paying $500 for that night of sleep but hey…). Ri and I picked out brownie mix and cookie mix at the store to make treats for my girlfriend’s birthday. Then we shopped for lunch and dinner necessities. She could have thrown ten bags of donuts in the cart and I wouldn’t have noticed. I was beat.

We arrived home to Mario greeting us. I asked him to help with the groceries and he declined. I loudly commented about how strong Ri was to carry so many grocery bags and he ran over to carry just as many. I still have it….

 We stepped in the house and missed our Rocco immediately. We take for granted that warm, leaping hello we get from him every time we enter the house. Ri grabbed bowls and measuring cups and we started our chocolate chip cookie batter. Between the two of us licking the spoon and the spatula and the sides of the bowl, we probably only baked half the mix. 
The brownie batter was even worse. The cookie dough was our appetizer and the brownie mix was our dinner. We did make a bowl of green beans to go with it though. By 9 pm, the desserts were complete and we were all ready to crash. I’m not sure teeth even got brushed before bed – we all just zombied our ways to our rooms and called it a day. 

Party animal and fitness freak

Maria had four parties to attend this weekend. Mario had a 150 pound tire to pick up and turn over. Let me explain….

Maria is up for most anything. She went to the 4-8 grade swim party on Friday night from 8:30-10:30 pm with her friend Henley. There were only five fourth grade girls who showed up, including Ri, but lots of boys. She hung in the entire time going off the diving boards and eating chips and cookies. 

  
On Saturday, she played softball and then went straight to her girlfriend’s house for a birthday party sleepover. When we walked in the condo lobby, seven girls ran across the hall to greet her. So precious. She didn’t even say goodbye as she ran with them towards the elevator. 

I picked her up at 11 am on Sunday morning and she went straight to the basement to get revived for her 1 pm soccer party. She was ready to go at 12:45. She chowed on pizza and lemonade and ran around with her girlfriends while one of the parents got the Kaoroke machine running. Then they all let loose singing Lady Gaga and Katy Perry songs.

 

After some brownie batter ice cream (La Tavola ice cream is the BEST), we hit the road to go grocery shopping. We came home with 50 minutes left before book club, and cranked out some lemon zest cookies to take over to her friend’s house.  I picked her up at 7 pm and we went home to throw the softball with the boys  until 8:30. Party girl!

  
And then there’s Mario. I am sure he will follow in his sister’s footsteps in a couple of years – running around with his buddies to their different houses. But for now, he still hangs with mom and dad more often than not. He’s my biking and running buddy – we walked to Stauf’s and ran Rocco on Saturday. 

On Sunday, Mario’s friend Henry was available to play. We biked over to get him at 11:30 am (it was blazing hot already) and decided to hit the football field. 

  
These two ran the steps with me and threw the football together. While we were tossing the frisbee, we noticed two guys close to us who were doing a Crossfit workout with a huge tire and weighted sled. Mario was entranced. One of the guys asked if the boys wanted to help him flip the tire. Neither of them hesitated.

  
After the thrill of flipping it with one of the guys, they had to try it themselves. I tried to help them but Mario shoved me away. “We can do it, mom!” And they did. 

   


The testosterone was pumping after the tire flip so they moved over to the weighted sled. They looked like mini weightlifters with their shirts off and muscles pulsating. 

  
But what did they like most? Acting like hamsters in a hamster wheel when I let them run in the tire as I rolled it across the field.  They may be strong men but they are still kids at heart.