Thursday, October 28, 2010

Soccer Practice

I coach my 4 yr old son’s soccer team. I love this job. It’s fun for me. I enjoy being outside and engaging with the kids. I also like the idea that I’m helping to teach the kids, even if it’s in a small way, the value of physical exercise, working as a team, practicing new skills and techniques, and reaping the rewards of hard work.

The kids range in ages from 4-6, so they are all still very young. The beginners have a hard time even making contact with the ball. The more seasoned players are just barely learning how to pass to their team mates. Most players focus solely on the ball and chase it loyally around the field in an attempt to kick it, if they happen to get it going in the right direction, that’s a bonus.

My husband coaches our oldest son’s team at the same time and place I do. This means I usually end up carrying my daughter (our youngest, 19 mos) on my hip throughout my practice. Sometimes she’s content to roam free or stay with another parent, or if all the stars align, my husband will take her.

I am very competitive (and yes, that may be putting it lightly). I like to win, I like to perform well. I try (trust me, I do!) not to pass this along to my son’s soccer team. Like I said, they are only 4-6 years old. I truly do not want them to feel pressure from me. I just want them to have fun and learn something new. Having said this, on occasion I do find myself having to bite my tongue, take a few deep breaths, and just relax……

Here’s an example of how our practices go (I’ve changed all the names):

My daughter is firmly planted on my hip. She refuses to be put down, I just tried…again.

Me: Ok kids! Gather round, we’re beginng!

James: I’m going to a carnival today!

Me: Wow! How exciting!

Sara: I went to Lego Land last week!

Me: Very cool!

Johnny: I went somewhere you fly a plane to!

Me: Awesome! Where was it? Do you remember?

Before Johnny can reply. Lucas: I went to a beach house last year and I’m going again next year so that will be two times!

Me: Super cool, I love the beach too! Ok kids today we’re going to start off with ball control, so first off we’ll run around the outside of the field, as fast as you can, keeping the ball in front of you at all times. Remember, little kicks!

We’ve done this warm up exercise before so the kids are familiar with it. Most of them begin the routine. Dylan does not.

Dylan: Why do I have to kick the ball? I want to sit down and rest.

Me: Well Dylan this is what we do at soccer practice. We learn how to play soccer. Stand up and follow the other kids please.

Dylan: Ok!
Then he proceeds to run in random circles in the middle of the field. Dylan is adorable, a great kid, but he is a novice player and has difficulty following my soccer directions.

After about 4 minutes of this warm up, still holding my daughter, I call them all back in.

Aaron: I’m so thirsty! Are we done yet? Can we have a water break?

Me: We just started, we have a long time left so I we’re not going to complain about being tired. Go ahead and have some water, quickly, then come back.

I begin explaining the next exercise. This is a one-on-one drill they are also familiar with. I painstakingly line them all up, get each person in place, walking up and down the field with my daughter in tow. When I’m finally ready to begin I notice that half of them are not in their spots, some are just wondering aimlessly. Sigh…… Then, sigh again…. Deep breath…. All better. Ok.

Me: Everyone line up where I put you right now please! Hurry, we’re beginning!

Jacob: What are we doing? Why are there so many balls out here? We only need one.

Me: Jacob, I just explained this, remember? You are working with Michael and no one else for this exercise. Just you and him, don’t worry about anyone else for now.

Jacob: Oh yeah. Ok!

Blake: Which way am I going?

Me: Which way are you facing?

Blake: (pointing) That way.

Me: Right, so you are going that way. Jeremy, come back please. We are starting.

Jeremy is seated in the middle of the filed picking the grass. He mosies on back, no hurry whatsoever.

Me: Ok, pick up the speed, Jeremy. This is soccer. We run in soccer, remember? No walking. Let’s go! Ok everyone when I say go, you go. Ready…… Go!!!!

Madness ensues. Kids are running everywhere. Balls are flying. Kids are falling. Goals are being made. I’m shouting out instructions and praises continually as I watch their movements, my daughter firmly attached. I love it. Action. Chaos. Laughter. Cheers.

The remainder of practice continues on in this fashion, a blending of storytelling by the kids, many questions being asked (not all soccer related) and actual soccer practice taking place.

Yes, I want the kids to do well. Yes, I get frustrated now and then. Yes, they are easily distracted. And yes, at times I raise my voice too loudly (I did say I was competitive). But I also strive to be nurturing and encouraging. I offer tons of verbal praise and support too. I have a great time. Man is it fun! I love watching them improve and learn. They grow before my very eyes in just a few short weeks.

It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s so very rewarding.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Finer Side Of Life

So much of my life revolves around the kids. My days are scheduled around drop off and pick up times for school and sports, naps and food prep, not to mention all the loathsome cleaning and maintenance the house requires. In between the comings and goings, the cleaning, the shopping, the feedings, the naps, the changing of diapers, the playing of games, the breaking up of squabbles, I manage to squeeze in time for my own things (such as blogging!).

I love this phase of my life and thoroughly enjoy activities with the kids. But every now and then it's nice to entertain a different age group. Over the weekend I attended a luncheon put on by my grandmother's China painting club. My grandmother, in her eighties, is a highly talented, extraordinary China painter. Her work is full of detail and perfection. It's truly beautiful to look at.

For the past three years her club has put on these luncheons as a fundraiser. We purchase a ticket to attend and are provided with a scrumptious meal, a small handmade China painted gift, a fashion show, and conversation. This sort of outing for me is far from the norm. Most things I do involve chasing after kids and somehow getting dirty with something. However, I delight in the change of pace, as well as the change of company.

Most of the China painters associated with the club are a good deal older than me, close to my grandmother's age, so the entire production has an older generation feel to it. The women are dressed elegantly, the food is entirely homemade, potluck style, and the fashion show is put on by and geared towards women over 50. It's quite a difference to be one of the youngest in the room.

I enjoy the changes from my regular days, though. The older generation perspective, the topics of conversation (nothing baby or kid related), the chance to actually sit down for two whole hours! It's a welcomed change. Days like these are far from my norm but I try to soak them up and remember that life is about so many varying things for so many varying people. Life for these women takes on a completely different form than my own. It's a nice reminder to continue to look beyond ourselves, to be there for others, to appreciate new lifestyles, to be inspired by the women who have gone before us.

May we consider their actions and continue to pave the way for our children as they have paved the way for us.

Give thanks for the older women in your life. We have much to learn from them. They have much to give. Let us not take them for granted.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nature's Beauty

What a blessing to be outdoors and enjoy nature's beauty. We were able to get away for a few days and spend some time in the cabin up North, just South of Flagstaff. The cabin is surrounded by gorgeous trees, mountains, wildlife and an overall sense of peace. Some of our most cherished moments as a family are up at the cabin.

We love to explore the scenery around us so we go on lots of hikes together. I'm always amazed at the overwhelming beauty this place provides. Every time we're up there I see the landscape through new eyes, taking in changes and variations. It continually renews itself.

This time we were fortunate to see the gorgeous Aspen trees as their leaves were turning. We saw pockets of bright yellow nestled in amongst vibrant greens, all layered in front of a deep blue sky that was dotted with puffy, pure white clouds. I couldn't stop commenting on just how breathtaking the views were. Aren't we so lucky to inhabit such an astounding planet? We are surrounded by stupendous creation.

Experiencing this lush garden with my kids brings me such joy. I am thrilled to be able to share in what out world has to offer with them. We look at leaves and trees. We discuss the animal prints we see along the trail, guessing what they might be. We listen to the wind rustle the leaves. We notice the variation from one trail to another. We pause and take a minute to absorb the scenery around us. It's a time to learn but also a time to appreciate.

Taking the time to actually stop and look at the world around us and then give thanks for the pleasure it brings us is something we should all remember to do. You don't even have to take a trip to bask in nature's wonders. Your own back yard can do the trick! Or just look up. The sky is gorgeous and ever changing.

How do you and your family enjoy our amazing planet? Don't forget to stop and smell the roses!! You'll feel better for it!

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Holy Hail!

Weather in the Phoenix area is usually pretty boring. Gorgeous, no doubt, but boring. Sunny skies dominate our climate with variations in temperature from cool to scorching hot. We may get an occasional shower or monsoon, possibly even a cloudy day here and there. But for the most part, weather changes are not expected or experienced often.

So yesterday's occurrence is definitely noteworthy. It was mid-afternoon. My oldest is on Fall Break (year round school) so I planned a project for the boys to work on to keep them both occupied: they had to re-organize all the toys in the playroom. Quite a daunting undertaking for two young boys. It was a task that desperately needed to be done and this seemed like an opportune moment to seize. (This playroom project is a whole story in and of itself! Why did I ever think they would actually do this on their own??? Such wishful thinking on my part.)

So, back to story # 1. The setting: The boys were playing, I mean re-organizing their toys. My daughter was asleep, about to wake up any minute (perfect timing for what was to come), I was at my laptop working (where else would I be?). And Rick was upstairs in his office working (where else would he be?). As I was sitting there typing away I notice that it's suddenly gotten very dark, I can barely see. I get up to switch on the lights and see that it's begun to rain. A second later it's raining hard. "Torrential downpour" is an understatement. About 2 seconds after this I see hail. Hail!!! In Phoenix! (The hail was about the size of a quarter).

I quickly call for the boys to come to the window. The hail is so deafeningly loud that Rick has already rushed into the baby's room (she's obviously awake, no one could sleep through that), and runs downstairs to join us. The entire family is standing there in the back patio doorway completely dumbfounded at what we're witnessing. Rain so heavy and thick I can barely see, with huge balls of hail mixed in, all at the mercy of violent winds that thrash, beat, tear and pelt at anything and everything in its way. It was relentless!

The storm was over in a matter of minutes but it left a hefty wake of destruction in its path. My yard was covered with ice, pushed up in piles. The rain/hail came down at a fierce slant and with such force generated by the winds that the ice was not evenly distributed. Rather, it was blown up against any sort of wall it encountered. I later read that the winds were blowing up to 70mph!

As soon as the rain/hail ceased we ran out front and opened the door to a river rushing by our house! The water had risen so rapidly that it covered the sidewalks on either side of the road and formed a river of ice rushing past us. It really was moving at a decent speed. It was an incredible sight. Debris was littered everywhere, tree branches and leaves decorated lawns and floated down the river. A tree in the park by our house was completely uprooted and overturned. We lost a few roof shingles and suffered a couple other minor inconveniences. Nothing serious, thankfully.

Then the sirens started. Ambulances, cop cars, and fire trucks revved their engines, turned on their lights and got right to work. We heard the sirens for hours afterwards.

It was an interesting experience for us. Watching the incredible storm with fascination, awe, wonder, a little fright and a lot of confusion made me reflect on how great and powerful the forces of nature are. What grand beauty and horrific destruction at once, the both combined. The kids and I discussed this and talked about how wonderfully diverse life can be. This led to all sorts of brilliant conversation.

We also gave thanks for our safety and paused for a moment to send out thoughts of healing and well being for those who were negatively affected by the storm.

Life, circumstances and situations can change in an instant. The world as we know it has the potential to shift before our very eyes. How we choose to interpret and respond to change helps define who we are. Who do you want to be? Do you want to see opportunity or defeat?

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Let Me Show You How It's Done, Honey

So I was completely "one-upped" by my husband recently. My daughter just turned 18 months and her hair is finally getting long enough to do something with. A proud moment for any mother, especially when you haven't been able to get anything to stay put or even stick to her head thus far.

About a month ago I bought all sorts of hair accessories for her, full of excitement and anticipation at whipping up all sorts of cute do's. I'm not an overly girly mama to begin with so I was pretty proud of myself to be doing this for my daughter. She would thank me in years to come as she gazed back at photos of herself all dolled up as cute as a button! I had my pile of accessories in one hand, my camera in the other, and my daughter sitting compliantly on the bathroom counter. I was all set to go!

To make a long story short, about 1/2 hour later I had gone through every single hair clip, bow and scrunchy at my disposal, even those impossibly tiny plastic ones that are meant for fine baby hair, and nothing, not one single item agreed to hold her hair in place. My daughter was also at the end of her patience, I mean, 1/2 hour is a long time to just sit there while someone is desperately tugging at your head. she had emptied and sorted through the contents of my entire make-up bag and was now itching to be on the move once again.

I reluctantly admitted defeat, let my baby down, much to her delight, and faced the fact that it appeared as though her hair was indeed not long enough to style as of yet. We would have to make do with her untamed whispy locks for a while longer. Ok, no biggie. I had waited 17 months already, a few more weeks were fine.... (Sigh).

A few days ago my daughter comes running to me full speed ahead, a HUGE grin on her little face, looking absolutely freakin' adorable!!! I know every mother thinks her children are adorable, especially at the cute, pudgy, toddler stage (and rightfully so!), but I must say she truly was as cute as they come. Her hair was done up in two teeny, tiny (very whispy) pigtails! She actually had pigtails!! Well, they stuck straight out on either side of her head, her hair not being long enough to go down yet, but pigtails nonetheless.

My husband had done it! He found my stash, sat down with our daughter, did her hair (rather perfectly, I might add) and it stayed. He actually was the one to create the cute hairstyle I had been dreaming of for months. Even though he kind of stole my thunder, I had to give him huge props. He did an amazing job and she looked fabulous. My husband actually had to show me how he did it so I could learn too (yes, I had a huge bite of humble pie that day!).

What are some ways your husbands have surprised you with their ability or breakthroughs with your kids?

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