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Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

For those not in the know, lacrosse is a barbaric sport. Sure there is padding to protect the arm and shoulder from whacks. Yes, there is a helmet to protect the head.

But it is a sport that involves a small, hard ball and sticks. And to be successful, there is a whole lot of whacking going on with those sticks.

It is not a game for the faint of heart.

To parent a child who plays lacrosse is also not for the faint of heart. At least that’s what I learned during the last game of the winter season.

It had been a fairly miserable season, for the most part. Filled with losses by many points. But on this, the last game of the indoor season, our team had played exceptionally well. At half-time, the score was 2 – 7, but by the end of the game, our team had tied the score, 8 – 8.

However, there are no ties in junior lacrosse.

So the ref called for the Braveheart. (You will not find college lacrosse players involved in a Braveheart; this is a play only found in junior lacrosse, apparently.)

In the Braveheart play, four boys take the field – two from each team, a goalie and an offensive player. First team that scores, wins.

On this, the last game of the season, I saw my son trot to the center line, the designated offensive player for our team. Apparently, he’d volunteered for this role. He was up against a fifth grader, a boy who was a year older, a year bigger than my son.

I was worried. Very worried. We’d seen this play just once before, last year, and it was exceptionally stressful to watch. And at that game, my son was not on the field.

Now he was the sole offensive player, THE boy who needed to score if his team was to win.

The ref dropped the ball. The fifth grader hustled and pushed and it looked grim for a minute. But my son did not give up. He pushed back. He fought for the ball.

And he came up with the ball. And he swiftly ran toward the goal. Crowd was screaming. I was screaming. He lined up the shot.

And missed.

The goalie ran out of the goal cage, got the ball, tossed it to his teammate.

My son hustled, but could not catch up. The boy threw the ball at our goalie.

And scored.

We lost.

And I realized why the Braveheart was given that name: if you lose, you feel as eviscerated as Mel Gibson’s character at the end of Braveheart, the award-winning bio pic about Scotsman William Wallace.

My son was devastated. Crushed. Feeling like he’d failed, that he’d let his team down.

He held it together until we got to the car, and then the tears came. So I said the only thing a mother could possible say in this situation.

“I’m so very proud that you volunteered for that exceptionally challenging play.”

And I was proud. I was proud that when a difficult moment came for the team, my son put himself into consideration. I was proud that he did not hide from the challenge. I was proud that the coach felt he was capable enough to be put into the Braveheart play. I was proud that he out-hustled the older boy at the face off.

For all those reasons, I was proud. But still, watching my boy lose was painful to watch.

We engage in sports for fun, for the physical activity, to pursue something we enjoy. But sometimes, we learn lessons that can be painful. We learn that showing up doesn’t guarantee a medal. We learn that even when we hustle to the point of exhaustion, the opponent can still out-hustle us.

We learn what it means to lose.

Losing sucks.

But in life, losing is inevitable. You simply cannot win every game every time.

What I want my son to know is that losing means defeat only if we decide to give up as a result of the loss. Losing should inspire us to work harder to achieve our goals and experience success. Losing us should force us to take stock of what we really and truly want out of our life, how we really want to expend our energy.

Spring lacrosse started this week. My son is out there on the field, working hard to improve his game. I know that as a parent of an athlete, there are more Braveheart moments in my future. I know that all I want is to experience the same kind of pride I felt when I watched my son during the final moments of the last game of the winter season.

I was proud because he worked hard and gave it his all. That made him a winner in the eyes of his mother.

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Ronald Howes, Sr., the inventor of the Easy Bake Oven, died just the other day. He was 83 years old.

Truth be told, I’ve cursed out that inventor on occasion. I don’t find much that is easy about the Easy Bake Oven. I never had one growing up – for whatever reason, our family bucked the easy baking trend that Mr. Howes had foisted upon America back in the early 1960s – a trend that has lasted for more than 40 years.

But this Christmas, the Easy Bake Oven had gleamed brightly as an object of desire for my girls; it was one of the few things on their wish list (alongside a dream catcher and candy necklace); the sale price at Target prior to Christmas made it an imperative purchase.

So even though my girls are five-years-old (a tad young for unsupervised baking) “Santa” felt compelled to bring them an Easy-Bake Oven to share. Thus, we became one of the 20 million families that can claim ownership of an Easy Bake Oven.

The first hint of trouble came when we opened the box on Christmas day, a day that has been set aside for family and celebration, not for shopping. On this day, we discovered that the oven did not come with a heat source – i.e. no lightbulb included.

Channeling Gertrude Stein
Now there are philosophers that will say that a lightbulb is a lightbulb is a lightbulb, but when the lightbulb for the Easy Bake Oven is missing and the oven won’t work without it, then the lightbulb is an issue.

In our case, the missing lightbulb was an issue we skirted until December 26th, when two hopeful little girls REALLY wanted to bake a cake. So “Santa” went out and got some bulbs for the oven and the easy baking commenced.

A Darkening Mood
Only it was not so easy. The mixes seemed dry and crumbly. One mix, the S’Mores packet, required the baker to pat out graham cracker squares to put into the round cake pan. I didn’t understand this concept – patting out square items to place in the Easy Bake Oven’s very round pan.

But we made S’More squares out of that dry, crumbly batter. And we shoved those little pans into the Easy Bake Oven, one pan at a time. And we attempted to commence the baking process.

Instructions said you had to make sure to place the pan in such a way that the oven doors were closed. But lacking a window to look into the oven, I discovered it was difficult to tell exactly where the pan needed to be to get maximum exposure to the lightbulb. So we shoved the pan and peered in through the sides only to realize we’d shoved the damn pan right out the other side.

So we had to pull out the pan and try it all over again. Frankly, it was an irritating process and I wanted very much to move on with my day. However, two little girls eager to eat some Easy Baked goods made it impossible for me to quit the Easy Bake process.

None of this seemed easy to me. The process was so challenging that I began to wonder how the hell this product had lasted for 40 years on the market. How could something so irritating be so enduring?

An Enduring Legacy
I started asking around. And what I found was remarkable. All the women I knew who had an Easy Bake Oven as a child loved it. They LOVED it.

That’s what my girls were telling me as we baked. They loved it. They really really loved it. And I realized that even though there was nothing easy about the Easy Bake Oven, it was something little girls loved doing. And thus, though I loathe the process, I know there will be many Easy Bake Oven activities in my future.

And I have Ronald Howes, Sr. to thank for that. He’s a man who gave millions of little girls a toy they loved to play with. And that is truly a wonderful legacy – to create a toy that brings happiness and the promise of something sweet to the children who play with it. So even though I’m not a true fan, I will be using Ronald Howes’s invention to create memories with my girls that will endure long after our Easy-Bake Oven experiences come to an end.

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Right this minute, as I type this, all three of my children are in grammar school. My girls, my baby girls, are in kindergarten. My beloved first born, in fourth grade.

I’m once again overwhelmed by a parenting milestone. Emotional, and even, yes, a little teary-eyed.

This time around, I did not sob publicly at the bus stop, as I had done when my son boarded the bus on that first full day of kindergarten. He was completely perplexed that a day that gave him such a thrill caused me such obvious sorrow.

As he boarded that yellow bus, I cried. Yes I cried. I cried, not because my son was leaving me, or that I worried about his ability to do well in kindergarten. I cried because my son was going off onto the bus that would take him to the world where I could no longer protect him. I put him on that bus and with him went all the impossible dreams shared by all parents. We want our children to sail easily through life. No tragedies. No missteps. We want our sons and daughters to be beloved by all, to succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

And so they go to school, and that’s why I cried. When I think of school, I remember being inspired by the rare great teacher but I also remember unending boredom at the hands of people who no longer cared for teaching. I remember the cruelty of children towards other children. I’ve sent my children off into that world and I hope I’ve given them the skills they need to thrive, but I worry. One cannot help but worry.

This year, I held it together on Monday, the open-house day, when the parents got to go to school with their kindergartners.

I held it together when the teacher read a poem about the fears parents had the night before the first day.

I held it together yesterday, when my baby girls got off the big yellow bus by themselves, after their first full day in the classroom.

I held it together – and even enjoyed the family back-to-school barbecue last night.

Today, I’m a mess. I’m a mess because I’ve launched my babies into the world and yes, it’s all good – they’re ready.

But I’m a mess because maybe, just maybe, I’m not ready for my obsolescence.

Nearly ten years ago I became a parent, and was immediately overwhelmed by the constancy of my baby’s need. He ate all the time; he slept hardly ever. Between the two, I was literally blown away by how tethered I felt as the mother of a newborn.

Then the twins came, and I was tethered, yes, but used to it by then. I had learned to fit pieces of me into little slices of naptime and other bits of time like that.

And then my son went to kindergarten and my girls went to preschool.

And today, they’re all in grammar school. All three of them are “big kids” now. And my life as the mother of babies has come to an end forever.

Today, I am sad.

Tomorrow I will celebrate this milestone. But I never realized how much of parenthood was learning to let go….

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Why it’s Bristol Palin, of course.

I’m at the grocery store yesterday, stocking up on celebrity gossip groceries, and I find myself inevitably drawn to the vision of Bristol Palin on the cover of People Magazine, wearing both her graduation gown and her baby….

Just a couple of months ago, Bristol was chatting up the failures of abstinence with Greta Van Susteren.

Today, the daughter of Alaskan royalty has become the most visible spokesperson for the “just say no (to sex)” movement.

“Think about the consequences,” she’s telling teen girls via the People story (because teen boys, as exemplified by the Palin situation, don’t need to bear the burden of parenthood.)

I’m just not sure that pictures of a pretty teenager and her adorable baby are the right medium for this particular message. She is, after all, a teenager raising her baby outside of the sanctity of marriage. In my opinion, Bristol has taken on one of the very hardest jobs available today, that of single parent.

And I’m not sure that pointing to her baby as an “ooops – I did something you don’t want to do at all” is the right message for any mother to be saying about her child. That’s a tricky road to navigate, frankly.

And I honestly don’t know how she does it. According to the People story, the Palin family has no nanny – but the girl has the time to take care of her baby AND study for finals too.

(With both Sarah and Todd working, I do wonder who’s minding the children, with no nanny or parent around to supervise at home….)

Certainly, with interviews on Fox and a cover story in People, it seems like Bristol’s post-high school career is taking shape – talking about the downside of having a baby, with her own baby on her lap. We wish her and her baby the very best.

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Shortly after my girls were born five years ago, I was given a gift certificate to 1154 Lill Studio, a fabulous boutique in Lincoln Park where you get to customize a purse by selecting fabrics and a design of your choice.

Immediately after I received the certificate, we moved out of the city to the ‘burbs and the certificate languished in a drawer for four years, forgotten. I found the expired certificate a couple of weeks ago, called the store, which made the delightful decision to honor the certificate anyway, despite its age and expired status.

Last week I headed into the city with my daughters to utilize the gift certificate. A field trip to the old sod, Chicago, a city I had called home for 20 years before moving to the ‘burbs.

(In all honesty, suburbia had not factored prominently in my life’s goal, but three kids tipped the scales in favor of a move out of the city four years ago….)

So I went back to the city, back with my daughters, who were just six months old when we moved. We had a good time at the purse studio, picking out a new purse (after I realized I needed to seat the wild things known as my daughters and have them utilize their energy drawing lovely pictures of hearts and flowers.)

We had lunch at the Athenian Room – and then I decided to give them of a tour of my life before babies. We drove by my first city apartment – and Nora, my sweet, emotional, intuitive Nora asked me, “Is that where you lived back when you was real, mommy?”

Her question caught me off-guard. (more…)

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…Teddy Roosevelt, that is.

Aidan’s school recently had its open house – and it is tradition for the 3rd graders to host a “wax museum.” The students pick a historical figure, write a speech in the voice of that person, then dress up and present the speech at the open house when their “button” (drawn in red sharpie!) is pushed.

My boy choose Teddy Roosevelt.

Here he is, in costume:

A new millennial version of the original Rough Rider himself....

A new millennial version of the original Rough Rider himself....

He was very nervous before the open house – was a little soft-spoken during his time as a wax figure – but I was very proud of his performance. He did not let his fears get in his way – he memorized a wonderful speech he’d written – and he really worked very hard at this project.

As a parent, it was great.

And the bonus was seeing all the other 3rd grade students in their roles as historical figures. At the open house, we learned about Marco Polo, Babe Didricksen, Princess Diana, Marian Anderson, Anne Frank, Lou Gehrig, among others. It was a rich evening of great performances and interesting lessons about famous people who made a difference.

In our house, what Aidan does never goes unnoticed. Here’s another version of TR – Lindsey style:

Teddy (Lindsey) holds Teddy Bear in the all-family salute to Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy (Lindsey) holds Teddy Bear in the all-family salute to Teddy Roosevelt

Nora also paid tribute to the Rough Rider…

Nora's version of TR

Nora's version of TR

Of course, without Teddy Roosevelt there would not have been the Teddy Bear…

Here's a copy of the original tribute to TR - the teddy bear

Here's a copy of the original tribute to TR - the teddy bear

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The girls had an unusually busy Saturday that started out on the soccer field at 8 a.m. I’m the assistant coach this season – I was quite proud of how the team played. One of our little friends, who had never even seen a soccer game before last fall, has figured out the game this season and even scored a goal! It is really wonderful to watch a child when a new skill clicks in – the joy in this little girl’s face was contagious.

Lindsey and Nora played hard and also scored goals. They play 3 on 3 – no goalie.

I never really care about scoring goals. All I care is that they play 100 percent when on the field. And my girls were fierce out there!

Then it was time to transform into dancers. We precipitously left the game to head over to the racetrack (!) for their first Feis.

A feis, for the uninitiated (like me) is an Irish dance competition. The girls are in the midst of their first session of Irish dancing lessons, and so off we went, to dance at the feis.

For whatever reason, this feis was held at a not-so-nearby racetrack – in a big room upstairs. We got there in time to clean up the grassy knees before dancing in front of the judges. At one point in our journey to the Feis, Lindsey sobbed a little sob and when I asked her what was wrong, she burst out, “I don’t want my knee to be dirty, mommy!”

It was clear that there would be no dancing without cleaning up.

We did get to clean the grass off the knees prior to dancing, but we were a bit raggedy none-the-less, thanks to a couple of playground incidents. Lindsey had a big scab under her nose from when she did a face plant onto the wood chips at the school playground. Nora had a shiner from when she and her sister bopped heads, also on the playground at school. (Though in Nora’s narrative, they did not “bop heads;” as she explains it, Lindsey’s head hit Nora’s eye.)

Nothing dainty about these tiny dancers.

The shiner and the scab...the girls don't let the minor wounds get them down!

The shiner and the scab...the girls don't let the minor wounds get them down!

They had but one dance to perform – the beginner jig. Neither Lindsey nor Nora really knew the moves (they’ve had all of four lessons!) but they gave it a go.

Nora doing her version of the jig...

Nora doing her version of the jig...

Lindsey's turn for self-expression!

Lindsey's turn for self-expression!

In their group, everyone was a winner.

Everyone's a winner in the beginner jig category!

Everyone's a winner in the beginner jig category!

A good day all around….

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