Sometimes I find it hard to watch.
Sometimes I wonder whether I’ll survive the emotions. I can’t explain rationally why I care so much–not whether she wins or loses, but whether she’s out there believing in herself and playing with confidence.
Sometimes I wonder whether it’s helping her in the least to have a pacing anxious mother on the sidelines. After a really tough loss on Saturday afternoon, I went to visit her under the tent where she and her teammates were resting and waiting for another game. She looked despondent. I tried to think of the right things to say: praise, mostly, for another game well-played regardless of outcome. I couldn’t tell whether it helped. Kevin took a turn too, and then I went back again just to hang out, appreciating how the coaches were keeping the atmosphere light, and glad to see that a Freezie had put some colour back in her cheeks. Both Kevin and I know we can’t force our kids to believe in themselves; all we can do is believe in them and let them know that we do. I’ll admit it: I was worried to see her so down.
“Did it help when Daddy and I came over to talk to you yesterday?” I asked her when we were talking after the tournament was over. We were talking about winning and losing and playing with consistency no matter what’s going on around us. I was wondering how to help her cope with the ups and downs that are part of competitive sport.
A warm, appreciative smile, a simple: “Yes.”
(My silent response: relief that our offerings of help are welcome; hard to tell in the moment.)
What amazed me and made me most proud was that by the time her team went onto the field for their next game, Saturday evening, she was ready. She played a big game, making aggressive saves that were audacious and, frankly, heart-stopping. She drew the impressed notice of other coaches. Her team dug out a win.
This season, in these tournaments, she’s been fighting nerves before games. Butterflies. Feeling sick. But as soon as she takes her place on the field, you’d never guess it. She throws herself in time after time. She looks like she loves what she’s doing.
The least I can do is watch.
for full view of misery, click on photo
So far, our long weekend has had its share of ups and downs: emotional highs, boredom, excitement, complaints, getting along, and, perhaps just as often, not so much. We’ve been at AppleApple’s third tournament of the summer, and the first for which we brought the whole family along. It’s tough on her siblings, and Kevin and I get it. Being dragged along to an event that is not your own. Sitting on the sidelines watching game after game. Waiting in between games.
Everyone also stayed up late in the hotel last night, and had to be woken before they were ready this morning.
Yesterday was also maybe the hottest, most humid, least windy, sunniest days of the year. This morning, for variety, it poured rain.
Hence the accuracy of the grumpy face above.
But that said, we also had a lot of fun. Swimming, a little holiday away, a kids-eat-free breakfast buffet, our first experience of shopping at a pet store for supplies (!!), not to mention some really inspired soccer playing. More on that soon.
1. Staying up late. Sleeping in.
Yes, I still get up early two mornings a week to exercise, but early morning exercise isn’t so critical during the summer — I’ve got lots of other opportunities. So on all the other days of the week I sleep in, often until 8! The kids sleep in too. And we’re all up much later than during the school year, out at soccer fields, or just playing in the back yard until it’s dark. And we’ve been letting the kids stay up even later to watch Olympic coverage on TV.
Which I’ve already rhapsodized enough about, but hey. I didn’t skip out on my writing time today, but today has been the exception. Around 11am, you can find me at the pool, swimming lengths, most weekdays so far this summer.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this last luxury. On Monday evenings, Kevin plays soccer and AppleApple has a practice, so I’ve been taking all of the kids to practice, along with snacks and water and a bag of soccer balls, and we’ve been playing on the empty field nearby. Often, I’m practicing skills to try to improve my own soccer game, and the kids are kicking balls at me, or we’re all running up the field doing passes, taking shots on net, pretending to let CJ score on us or save our shots, or whatever we’ve decided to do. Whatever develops.
I’ve noticed that while fathers can often be seen playing with their kids — kicking a ball, coaching, running around, winding up to take shots on net — I rarely see other mothers doing this. I might almost say I’ve never seen another mother doing this. I’ve seen the occasional mother coaching her kid’s soccer team. But I’ve never seen another mother playing pickup soccer with her kids — running hard, getting sweaty, shouting, playing.
Is this your experience too? I’ll admit I do feel self-conscious being the only mom (and often the only parent, period) running around. (My purple soccer cleats make me twice as geeky).
I wonder why I don’t see groups of young women gathering at the park to play pickup soccer. I see lots of groups of young men — probably university students — gathering, and, yes, there is often a young woman or two in their midst; but I’ve never seen a group of young women gather spontaneously like that. I see women in the park doing boot camp together. I also meet friends to go to exercise classes together. But let’s face it, that’s not really playing.
Here’s what I’ve been wondering: Is it taboo to play, as a grown woman?
Honestly, I don’t care if it is because I’ll tell you this — it’s fun. It’s so fun.
Well, what do you think of these girls?
We think they’re awfully sweet, and can imagine them fitting right in with our crew. They’re not ours yet, as there is still an adoption process to go through, and after that a trial period, but we’re hoping to have them here within the next week (or so).
AppleApple was particularly crushed that we couldn’t keep them after their visit yesterday, but they need to be vetted, and we really weren’t entirely prepared. In fact, Kevin is working right now to fix our gates, which have fairly wide openings underneath. The girls have an adventuring streak and they’re really quick tiny.
DJ is a spaniel cross, and Suzi appears to be part Jack Russell terrier and part chihuahua (those ears!). They’re middle-aged, and have been together for a long time, which is why they’re being adopted together. Old friends.
Our other weekend activity is WATCHING THE OLYMPICS! Anyone else out there insatiable Olympics fans? We are! Also enjoyable is hearing the kids imagine which Olympic events they’d like to compete in. Fooey and CJ are keen on gymnastics (although Fooey wasn’t sure she’d like doing it in front of so many people; “I’ll just cheer you on, Mama!”). AppleApple, of course, is planning to play for Canada’s women’s soccer team. (Albus appears not to harbour Olympic ambitions.)
I especially enjoyed seeing the Canadian women’s soccer team in action yesterday against South Africa. Somehow, I was able to write at the same time (whether or not it’s my best work is, however, debatable.) This evening, I’m playing a soccer game, and I found myself irresistably drawn to the commentating voice. “The Kickers are going in as the underdogs in this match and unfortunately they’ll be missing their strongest player today, but if the team can keep their focus and hold it together, they might just hang on and keep their position in the standings.” (Which is, um, last, so that shouldn’t prove too trying a task).
Kevin coached Albus’s team to a fifth place finish (of twelve teams) in their tournament this weekend. This was unexpected given that the team had only won twice all season. They were a bunch of average-skilled kids, with a few who hadn’t played before, and they were hampered by team members who failed to show up all season too, and often had to play games with no subs. (Sometimes, in house league, I suspect parents sign their kids up, but the kids themselves aren’t that interested.) The good news is that the core group really learned how to work as a team. We were very proud of their effort and finish at the end.
I’ve been quiet here. Blame summer. Our days are feeling lazy and hazy and kind of effortless, even though it’s also busy. Swim lessons have occupied our mornings for these past two weeks. Tomorrow’s the last day, which feels bittersweet. The kids will be happy to be done, but I’ll miss the routine, and the feeling that we’re soaking up summer.
In other news, I almost hesitate to say it, in case it falls through, but we may soon have a real family pet (and not just an ant farm–which the children made yesterday with their very creative babysitter). I won’t say more … yet. But excitement is high, and I include the parents in that too.
On yet another note, one small soccer observation. I’ve figured out that there’s one really simple way to be part of a team: show up. I’ve noticed that as the season has gone on, I’ve gained affection for those teammates who arrive every week, ready to try their hardest, regardless of skill level. That said, I’m hoping to continue to improve my skills, even while I recognize more and more what my weaknesses are (that’s a good thing, right? I mean recognizing weaknesses?). I’m considering looking to play indoor this winter. I hate getting beat up on the field, but I actually love the game itself; so the game is winning out, at least so far. I want to play it, I enjoy playing it, I enjoy talking strategy after the game, and I enjoy visualizing how I can get better at it.
Finally, I participated in a project this week called For the Love of It. I’ll let you know when it’s up, with more behind-the-scenes info then. (I’ve gotten used to being on the other side of the camera/questions, so this felt a little strange.)
And now, I’m off to write — fiction. Which you know I’m doing for the love of it. And that’s a pretty awesome reason to do anything (see all of the above).
I’ve been making some really good summer meals — sometimes. Sometimes the creativity fails, and I throw hot dogs on the barbeque. Here are a few memorable meals from the last two weeks (since I missed posting last week.)
**Last Thursday’s menu** Quinoa salad with black beans. Gazpacho.
**Keepin’ it cool** The kids requested something cold. I mentioned that certain soups are served cold and all were intrigued. I could not find a recipe for gazpacho, so I winged it. Pureed chopped tomato, cucumber, garlic, green pepper, and a handful of stale bread bits with 6-8 cups of water (can’t remember). Added salt, pepper to taste, plus a good slug of vinegar, and a sprinkle of oregano. Albus was a huge fan. Meanwhile, I steamed the quinoa, and chopped similar veggies, and tossed a lemon dressing together in a large bowl, to which I added the cooked quinoa and a cup or two of cooked, leftover black beans. Did not add feta (kids don’t like feta). Did add huge bunch of chopped basil picked fresh from backyard.
**Last Friday’s menu** Gallo pinto picnic (beans fried with rice).
**Not entirely sure I’d recommend this, but …** AppleApple was playing an extra soccer game, fairly early, a week ago Friday. There wasn’t time to eat supper before leaving, which I only realized while in the process of whipping up the gallo pinto. So I packed it into a large bowl and added extras to the picnic basket: grated cheese, grape tomatoes, tortilla chips, salsa. Add plates and cutlery, and fruit for desssert, and it all worked out. Yes, we looked a little odd eating our supper by the field. But at least there was a picnic table.
**Monday’s menu** Tomato sauce tossed with pasta. Green salad with maple dressing.
**Cooked by AppleApple!** She made this meal essentially by herself. She followed a recipe for the sauce, which did come within a hair of burning to the bottom of the pot, but was rescued just in time. Still, we only had about half the amount of sauce I usually make; this inspired us to toss it with the hot pasta. She also made the salad dressing herself. It’s so easy to make homemade salad dressing in a small glass jar with a lid! (A bit of oil, a bit of vinegar or the juice of a lemon, maple syrup, dijon, salt and pepper. Shake. Pour. Toss. Done.)
**Miracles do happen** CJ and Fooey ate the pasta covered with sauce. If the sauce is separated out, they refuse it. They didn’t even question eating this meal, and requested seconds. I think we have a winning recipe here — fewer options are sometimes better.
**Tuesday’s menu** Quinoa salad. Sausages on grill.
**Sausage splits** To economize, and because I don’t think we need to be eating that much meat, I grilled three sausages, split them in half and lengthwise, and served them already in buns, one bun each. It turned out not to be enough to satisfy big kid appetites, at which point I forced the quinoa salad on them, at which point we discovered the quinoa wasn’t as good this time round (even I had to admit it). At which point, Kevin finally arrived home from Toronto just in time for all of us to leave for soccer. He took his sausage to go.
**Wednesday’s menu** Gado gado: an Indonesian feast!
**What was I thinking** So … Kevin was working late in Toronto, and the two big kids had invited friends for a sleepover. Naturally, I decided to emerge from my office goggle-eyed and semi-present and whip up an elaborate Indonesian feast. Right?! That is exactly what happened. Of course, in some senses it’s really easy food to make. In others, it’s time-consuming, takes a ton of chopping, and uses lots of dishes. However, it all worked out because Kevin arrived home just as I was placing food on the table. We all ate together. The tofu was not popular with the children who were not mine; but otherwise, this meal was a hit.
**Gado gado, what is it?** Gado gado goes like this. A heap of yellow rice (1/2 tsp turmeric flavours two cups of uncooked rice) served upon a bed of spinach. I arranged halved hard-cooked eggs around the side, one half for each of us. Toppings can then be added, as desired. I offered: steamed broccoli, fried onions with zucchini, fried tofu cubes, crushed peanuts, unsweetened coconut, and hot pepper flakes. Once a plate has been made, a lovely peanut sauce is poured over top. I will say this: it was phenomenally good. I will serve it again, perhaps at the next big family gathering. Other topping options include finely chopped cabbage, banana slices, or other fruit. Flexible! Delicious! Vegan!
**Thursday’s menu** Hot dogs on grill.
**Sigh** It was all I could manage. In fact, I barely managed it.
**Friday’s menu** Lonely grilled bun with cheese and garlic. Plus fruit.
**Context** The kids were spending the night at my mom’s. We had a Bailey’s pickup (so much fruit! Cherries, peaches, plums, and blueberries!!) There was a stale bun on the counter. Kevin had to take Fooey to a soccer game. I ate alone, reeking of garlic. It wasn’t half bad.
**Saturday’s menu** Noodles in peanut sauce. Chopped napa and fennel and radish. Cupcakes and plum cake for dessert.
**Ho-hum** The peanut sauce was bland. I used actual peanuts, as we’d run out of peanut butter. It was made with coconut milk and curry. It needed more curry, more salt, and more peanuts.
**Dessert** If there’s dessert on the menu, you know something’s up. Yes, we had guests, and one arrived with yummy cupcakes and plum cake from a new bakery across from the Kitchener market called, I think, The Yeti. Correct me if I’m wrong …
**Sunday’s menu** Pizza from Pepi’s.
**The start of a tradition?** This Sunday and last Sunday everyone came along to my soccer game, which is usually scheduled for Sunday afternoon/evening. Both games involved travel, and by the time they’d ended, we knew everyone would be hot, tired, and hungry. So last Sunday, we offered pizza as a reward for 90 minutes of Mom-playing-soccer. Honestly, it was a reward for everyone. Pepi’s makes great pizza (downtown Kitchener). We order one Hawaiian, one vegetarian with tons of green olives. It makes for a happy supper, few dishes, and a good end to the weekend. Plus I really like having everyone come to my games. Even if they have to watch their mother get slide-tackled/clotheslined/or otherwise badly fouled at least once a match. Apparently this is how (some) grown women play recreational soccer?