Friday, August 7, 2009

It's sometimes very spooky how much Lindy and I have in common -- not to mention how much we think alike. I had planned this post without so much as a word to her. Imagine my surprise when I saw her post today.

Spooky or not, there's no denying she and I are about to go knee-deep in football season. Granted, Austin is playing with the big boys, while Jack and Charlie are just beginning. We're still going to deal with sweaty sons, even sweatier (and often stinkier) practice garb and lots of driving the boys to practices. Lots. Of. Driving. But we'll also get to enjoy watching our kids play their hearts out, for a game we love, in the crisp autumn air.

And, just like Lindy, I have to be a little sneaky -- OK, maybe A LOT sneaky -- to capture a few memories. See the kid in the blue shorts and white shirt at the center? That's Jack. Just to the right, standing in the next row over in orange shorts and a black shirt is Charlie. The team had lined up to learn their warm-ups and calisthenics routine. The older boys led the group by shouting, "HOW DO WE DO THIS?" To which the rest of the team shouts, "TOGETHER!" Then the leader commands, "TEN.... LOUD... JUMPING-JACKS... READY? BEGIN!"

I am sure Jack and Charlie imagined practice would be all about throwing the football and knocking people down. Huh-uh. THIS is where you begin, boys.

Later, I asked how they liked their first practice. They said they really liked it. Then I asked if they were tired. Their words said no. But their voices said yes. They were beat.

And just like their coach said, I reminded them that the hard work they put in now will show up later in the game, when it counts.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Dream Come True

It's been said, "Good things come to those who wait." And for two boys, just 25 days away from being 10 years old, all the waiting has paid off.

Tackle football (or "real football" as they would say) has been something Jack and Charlie have wanted to do for years. Yeeeeeeaaaaarrrrrsssssssss. This summer, they met all requirements to join PAL football. This stuff is hard-core, folks. There were sign ups in May. Then came the 2+ month wait for the draft. Yes, I said draft. The coaches met Tuesday night and chose teams. The boys knew from the get-go there was a chance they may not get drafted, in which case they would be assured a spot on a team next year. You have no idea how much I hoped and prayed they would make the cut. Because, seriously? Waiting another year -- another loooooong year -- would just about put me over the edge. Why? Because whether associated with a bona fide football-playing organization, these kids will throw together a pick-up game with the boys in the neighborhood and tackle anyway. That's tackling without pads and (most importantly) helmets.

But the call came Tuesday night. Jack and Charlie are officially Raiders.

At the informational meeting/equipment pick-up last night, their coach reviewed rules and expectations for the kids. Some were returning to the PAL program; others, like Jack and Charlie, were fresh-faced and new. The coach spoke to us as you would expect a coach to speak -- loudly, forcefully and full of enthusiasm. There was no putting it lightly when he told the boys grades and schoolwork come first. And if the parents have a disciplinary problem at home and want to enforce sitting out of a practice or game, all we have to do is let him know. He highlighted the past local football players (mostly high school) who had been part of the "Raider family." Even Rod Woodson, of the Pittsburgh Steelers and new Hall-of-Famer, had been a Raider.

As predicted, about two-and-a-half minutes after leaving the meeting, the boys were already fitting pads into the football pants. When we arrived home, they were in full garb in the front yard, tackling each other all over the place.

I tried snapping a few shots of them to mark the occasion, but I got "the look." OMG. The "MOM!-Don't-embarrass-me" look. I know when to take a hint, though, and have my ways of getting what I want, too. Which led me to feel slightly stalker-ish when I snapped this shot from Sam's bedroom window upstairs:

But, seriously, when these two football-crazy boys get their full uniform? And are dressed for their first game? Yeah,... they WILL be posing for an official Mom Photo. Because I won't hesitate to remind them not only is this one of their dreams come true, but it's one of mine, too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

He's so lucky....

After much cajoling, I finally got Jeff to sign up for a Facebook account last week. As in, last Thursday or Friday night. As in less than a week ago. And in the less than seven days that have passed, Jeff has become quite the FB afficianado, finding old friends and building an impressive network of 64 friends in a few days' time. That's all good, but it's this Farmville stuff that has me wondering if an intervention isn't in order. Tyler started the Farmville buzz several weeks back, planting cyber crops, harvesting and tending to whichever lonely cow or goat happened to wander onto his farm. Then Kate got in on the action. Seeing the two of them so enthusiastic about this cyber-agribusiness must've piqued Jeff's interest. By Saturday afternoon, he was aligning errands so that he'd be free by 1pm to harvest his strawberries. I have managed to somehow resist the charms of the farmin' life while my family seems to be donning their virtual straw hats and overalls.

Until today.

Jeff is on duty for the next 24 hours, and asked me this morning via text if I could harvest his crops for him. "I don't suppose you want to harvest my strawberries?" he wrote. My guess is that the look I'd have given him had he asked face-to-face would've translated well in the gap of silence he'd hear over the phone. Being the dutiful wife I am, and with the love I have for my husband, I agreed.

And, now I'm planting a farm full of soybeans for him.

Pray for me...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Happiest Place on Earth

Sitting here at the desk, giving Bobby a bottle (and hoping for a nap to follow!) I find myself drawn to the photo on the memo board above the desk. It's the obligatory Main Street USA/in-front-of-Cinderella's-castle photo from our day at Disney last summer. In fact, it was almost exactly one year ago.

My, how things have changed. I look at the seven people smiling back at me... in the past year,
One got his driver's license.
One has grown several inches.
One now has a boyfriend. (No, not me.)
Two have much, much longer hair.
One person turned 39. (Not me either -- hello, 40!)
And the last person became a mommy. Again. (Ah, yes. THAT would be me.)

But that day... that single, hell-hot day the Cameron family decided to take on the Magic Kingdom was a happy day. We didn't tell the kids we were going. All Jeff said was that they might want to go to bed early, because we were going to be on the road the next morning by 6. "We're going out on a river to look for alligators!" he blatantly lied. The kids let out a collective groan. We'd had them up equally early that day to go on a deep sea fishing trip. The next morning, the kids woke, piled into the van and promptly fell back asleep. Jeff and I smiled slyly at each other. We wanted this day to be a surprise. Tyler and Kate had been to Disney before, but it was the first time for Jack, Charlie and Sam. By the time we reached Orlando, some were beginning to stir, and I still laugh as I remember Jeff practically climbing out the driver's window at a toll booth to whisper, "What's the quickest way to the Magic Kingdom?"

As we neared the park, the kids began waking up. One of the younger boys asked about a sign that said something about Disney. Tyler told him the place we were going was nearby. (Still not sure if he really knew where we were headed or not. But a million thanks to him for not blowing the surprise!) Finally, we arrived and parked. A tram pulled up immediately, its loudspeaker blaring, "REMEMBER YOUR PARKING LOT. YOU ARE IN GOOFY 22." I looked expectantly at Jack, Charlie and Sam.

"Do you know where we are, guys?" I asked.
Sam looked up at me and wrinkeled his freckled nose. "Florida?" he guessed. Adorable!
"Yes," I said, "but do you know where in Florida?"
I couldn't stand it anymore. "DISNEY WORLD, BOYS! WE'RE AT DISNEY WORLD!"

Needless to say, there was much excitement and merriment as we entered the park. Rides were a top priority -- for everyone but newly-pregnant me, that is. Jeff and I hadn't told the kids yet, as it was still quite early. However, Tyler had some fairly high expectations about me and my willingness to ride roller coasters. Especially since I'd admitted a few months earlier I love, love, LOVE rollercoasters. As we approached Big Thunder Mountain, I lagged behind, telling the six others I'd sit this one out and take a picture of everyone. I tried that excuse again on Splash Mountain, too. When Tyler began growing irritated with the excuses, I wondered how long we could keep our little secret. Later, he all but demanded I ride with them on Space Mountain. As luck and height requirements would have it, Sam was too short to ride, so my excuse was to stay with him. I managed to join everyone for other rides, though: The Haunted Mansion, Mickey's 3-D show, Buzz Lightyear and the most agonizing of all... It's a Small World. Actually, it wasn't so bad -- the boys even enjoyed it. Mostly because it was a slow boat ride in an air conditioned building.

The day went quickly, and before we knew it, Jeff, Tyler, Jack and Charlie were in line for the final ride on Space Mountain. Kate, Sam and I headed to do our souvenir shopping on Main Street. We all met up again to watch the fireworks show, narrated through loudspeakers by Jiminy Cricket. Let me tell you -- if you have never seen or waited around for Disney's end-of-the-day fireworks show, do yourself a favor and go. Yes, you are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder and there will probably be a little kid standing next to you having the mother of all meltdowns. But I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't worth it. We stayed. We watched. A few of us even teared up. It was quite honestly one of the best days of my adult life. The last time I was there was 1976, and I was Sam's age. Watching the excitement through the kids' eyes was a priceless gift. And despite the fatigue, despite quite a few waves of morning/all-day sickness, despite the oppressive heat we had spent a wonderful day together at the happiest place on earth.

A week later, back at home, we took the kids our for ice cream one night. Jeff came back to the patio table with cones, and everyone quickly noticed there was one extra... an itty-bitty baby cone.

Suddenly, Tyler's face lit up and he laughed, "So THAT'S why you wouldn't ride any rollercoasters!"