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My Braveheart Moment

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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Stand by me!

My girls had their very first school concert the other day. They’ve been seeing their brother’s concerts for years now and thus were THRILLED to be standing on stage the gym floor, belting out some tunes.

This year, the theme was kind of like a sock hop. Poodle skirts were worn by those girls whose mothers had lots of time to acquire/make them. My girls wore the other costume – jeans and white shirt.

Sigh.

However, my twinges of guilt over not supplying the poodle skirt vanished with the first note of the concert. I love watching school shows! I love them more than just about any other kind of entertainment. School concerts are filled with top performers and wiggly children and shy people who would rather be anywhere else than singing in public in front of a large audience of parents. (I had fallen in the latter category as a child – my heart goes out to the children who hate to perform!)

Three classes were represented at this show – 2nd graders, 5th graders and the kindergarteners. They placed the kindergartners next to the fifth graders. It was fascinating to see the growth we can expect in the next 5 years. The older girls were so tall and poised and beautiful. The kindergartners were so small and tiny.

In the kindergarten group, one girl in particular was not enjoying the show. She cried; she held her arms out beseeching her mother to rescue her. And well into the first song, the mother obliged, and the little girl was whisked away.

The little girl next to the shy child decided that she really didn’t want to participate either. She didn’t cry; she didn’t wait for her mother to rescue her; she just casually walked off the risers, done with the show.

That left the boy on the end standing alone. And when the kindergarteners all sang “Stand by Me,” and placed their arms around their neighbor, this boy had no neighbor to embrace.

So he stood there, singing passionately, and stretched his arm out, pretending to embrace the neighbors who’d fled.

A hilarious moment in a night full of emotion.

My girls were nervous prior to the show. I could tell. But they rose to the occasion. They sang. They did the dance moves. They embraced their neighbor when it was time to do so.

But in my mind, the night belonged to the little boy who didn’t let the absence of a neighbor inhibit him from performing as directed. He stood; he sang; he embraced the air; he was completely engaged in the show.

And the first school concert for my girls was a concert that was wonderful to watch.

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.

JT Hilarity

Just have to say, watching my son watch Justin Timberlake dance in a leotard with Beyonce is one of the very funniest experiences I’ve had on this earth.

You can see the clip here. (Ignore weird Georgian music at intro and outro…)

“All politics is personal,” so the quote goes. The decade of the “aughts” – the 2000s – is known in some circles as “the lost decade,” the decade where our nation elected a president based on the ruling of the Supreme Court, lost a surplus, gained a deficit, held prisoners of war without charges, saw the vice president of the United States advocate torture as official policy.

For me, the “aughts” also represent my first decade as a mother. My son was born in the waning moments of the 20th century, arriving nearly two weeks early and in time to ring in the New Millennium.

His life has been my joy. Motherhood has been one of the best jobs I’ve had in my life. Not perfect, not easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but rewarding in ways I never could have imagined.

My son is 10 now, a tall boy, eager to do well in math, learning a musical instrument, loving legos, exploring downloads for his iPod. He already knows how to use a computer (something I never touched until my early 20s.) He’ll never experience an “album” but will create his own playlists on his iPod. He’ll never roll down a car window manually; he’ll probably never drive a stick shift.

When I was his age, the great enemy of the US was the USSR, a nation that he’ll only read about in books. The solar system held nine planets, not eight. Pluto was big enough in those days to be thought of as a planet, not as the “dwarf planet” we’ve come to know today.

When I was his age, the twin towers in New York stood tall over the American landscape. Terrorism existed, yes, in other parts of the world.

My son’s world is different than my world was when I was 10, but the basics remain the same. Doing one’s best is how we should approach our activities in life. Family and friends remain a much-needed staple in a successful life. Looking forward into a future that will bring inevitable changes to the world we know today, I wish for a safe, secure and successful environment for my children and my children’s children.

Our icicles decorate the house, white lights that twinkle like tiny stars. We’re set to get the tree this weekend. Christmas is in less than one month.

And Dexter has returned, an event that has been highly celebrated by two young girls who’ve been waiting for this all year.

Dexter is our “elf on a shelf.” He arrived last year to remind us every day in December that Santa watches us to make sure we’re nice, not naughty. He left for the North Pole with Santa on Christmas Eve.

We’ve yearned for him ever since. And yesterday, he returned.

The night before his return, the last day of November, Lindsey and Nora could not sleep. They’d heard that Dexter would return that night and thus, sleep became impossible. Lindsey woke up several times in the night, anxious for morning.

And by the time morning came, I was exhausted.

But not so tired that I could not appreciate the joy Dexter brought with him. My girls shrieked with delight when they saw him. Then they started filling him in on the events of the year.

“Mommy is working.”

“Aidan will be 10.”

“WE’RE in kindergarten!”

The narratives they shared with our elf were adorable. Dexter listened patiently. And said not a word…

Aidan, the 4th grader, is a bit smug about the whole thing. Let’s just say he’s not a believer this year.

I reminded him that when he was in kindergarten, he saw Santa on Christmas Eve, and it made him one of the happiest children in the universe that night. I asked him to share the joy. To keep his doubts to himself.

“It was Santa’s shadow,” he said.

Never the less, I told him, it’s time to share that magic with your sisters. Not bust it up. Santa’s watching. That list you wrote out might get ignored…

Tonight as we went to bed, after watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on TV, the girls chimed a cheery good night to their good friend, Dexter.

Their brother said not a word.

The magic continues. At least for this year.

Of Manicures & Motherhood

I recently left the world of freelance for a job in an office. Love the work. Love the people I work with.

Hate the fact I’m not working in my basement any more. Hate the fact that I have to pack A LOT OF ACTIVITY into the weekends, activities I used to be able to spread out during the week. When you work for yourself in the basement, your time is truly your own.

When you work for a company, your time belongs to them. Such is the sacrifice we make for a regular paycheck with decent health benefits…

Thus I found myself last Saturday with two little girls and a vast list of chores to accomplish. And what I REALLY wanted to do more than anything was get a manicure so that I would look kind of groomed when I participated in a major client presentation the following Tuesday.

In dropping off my dry cleaning, I realized the nail salon was open ahead of schedule. I took a peak inside, and they said they’d polish my daughters’ nails for just $3.

A price point I could NOT resist.

Nora was gung-ho from the get-go.

Lindsey, usually the fearless one, wanted to stick to me. But when she saw the darling little flowers the manicurist had put on Nora’s nails, she wanted some of that for herself.

And thus I found myself having a mani-party with my daughters. I loved it. I never had the chance to get a manicure with my mother; but I’ve already had the chance to beautify myself with my girls.

It was a blast. An investment in a manicure that reaps enormous dividends in my memory. Looking forward to doing it again…