Busy but bountiful

This is how we rolled on Sunday morning.


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

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

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


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

What did you learn?

So just a day after I posted my last blog about giving the kids feedback on how they played during their games, I read this article. Life is about constantly growing and learning, right?
I love this approach. It isn’t off-putting like giving feedback may be to a kid who just listened to the coach drone on about the game for 15 minutes. It’s not accusatory like giving feedback about certain plays on the field. It allows the child to think through actions on the field and arrive at his or her own self-feedback. It also reinforces that we are all here to learn – in sport, in school, in relationships. We are far from perfect at any age, and need to embrace the constant quest. 

To that end, I think I will add this to my repertoire and ask myself this same question at the end of my days. 

“What did I learn in that meeting?

“What did I learn from giving that presentation?”

“What did I learn from chowing on that sheetcake at 11 pm?!”

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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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.

More soccer in the family

Mario played soccer at school recess after he broke his arm on New Year’s Eve. He used to only care for football at recess but with a bum arm, that’s impossible. So soccer it was for 6 weeks straight. 

He enjoyed it. 

A few times over dinners, he asked if he could play on Spring soccer. I told him I’d look into it. It so happened that I was picking him up at school one evening after a Kids Night Out function and one of the dads there asked me if Mario played soccer. I told him he had never played but was interested. And voila! The next day I got a Facebook message from a Kiwanis coach asking Mario to join them for practice. 

When I told Mario, he was charged up. 

When I told Ri, she cried.

Soccer has always been her sport. She’s worked her way up from Kiwanis to OCL and she’s proud. She loves the game. She does not want to share it with her brother. She worries that Mario will excel in it and become the “soccer star.” She broke my heart as she relayed all these emotions to me while getting ready for bed.

A part of me thought I should take Mario out of soccer. After all, he’s also playing flag football this Spring. But that’s not fair. And Ri needed to understand that we’d always love watching her play and it would always be her sport. 

Jon was out of town this week when Mario had his first practice. I took him up to it and dropped him off. Ri did not want to go. I went back home after walking Rocco and told Ri that I wanted her to walk up to Mario’s practice with me to pick him up. I bribed her with ice cream.

We arrived with ten minutes left to practice. They were scrimmaging. Ri and I watched Mario run the field. Ri didn’t say much for the first couple of minutes. Then, as Mario stopped the ball mid-field, she shouted:

“Go Mario! Get that ball and score!”

I melted. My girl – although not too happy about Mario’s choice to play “her sport” – still rooted on her brother to victory. Her heart is as big as the cosmos. And I know Mario heard her and ran harder to impress his big sis.

I told Ri that a reason he wanted to play was because he had seen her enjoy playing the sport so much. She has an influence on him as his big sis. She liked that thought. 

After practice, she begged me to take them to Target to buy him shin guards and a ball so that he’d beprepared for their next practice. The girl takes care of her little bro, no matter what.

   

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….

   
 
   

Missing the chaos

Bike home. Take the pup for a walk. Take off work clothes and put on shorts and t-shirt. Bike to Mario’s practice. Say hi to moms and watch Mario make tackles. Leave practice to head to Maria’s practice. Say hi to moms and watch Ri kick the soccer ball. Gather up Ri and her girlfriends and bike them home. Eat random foods for dinner: cmhslice of ham, noodles, cereal, Klondike bar, peas. Make the kids brush teeth. Wrestle with them. Scold them to settle down. Tell them a funny story from when I was little. Rub their backs. Turn off lights. Let the pup out. Kennel him. Eat some chocolate chips. Wash face. Brush teeth. Go to bed.

Just like I thought my evenings would be twenty-five years ago when I daydreamed about life after college.

This weekend marks the end of practices and games (at least for another month when basketball starts). Ri has four soccer tournament games – two on Saturday and two on Sunday. The first one on Saturday starts at 8 am and it’s 35 minutes away. Ugh. 

But as hectic as life has been, I find myself melancholy at the thought of it all ending. It’s a blast watching Mario in his football pads blocking Hilliard kids from tackling the receiver. It’s thrilling watching Ri get the ball and kick it to her team mate. It’s much more fun than watching them do homework or play Minecraft on the computer. And it gets our family up and moving. Jon assisted coaching Mario’s team and went to nearly every practice and every game. The boys all looked up to him and Mario loved having him around. Maria loved heading to practice to see her friends and her coaches. I loved being able to walk the pup without Mario whining that I “always have to walk the dog” (even though he stares into the computer screen the entire time he whines). 

But it does get tiring doing it every night. Mario on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and/or Sunday. Ri on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and/or Sunday. 

It will feel strange to walk in the door from work and have no plans. Be able to look over homework. Talk about our days. Make dinner. Sit together. 

Ha, who am I kidding? It’s Fall: we will be riding our bikes to the park and heading to La Tavola for an ice cream dinner. Or Ri will head to the basement with her frozen dinner to watch Say Yes to the Dress. Or Mario will go down to Quinn’s and snack. Maybe we will sit down together in Winter. Wait, there’s sled riding and playing in the snow….