Thursday, November 12, 2009

Anticipation Thursday

Who doesn't like having something to look forward to?

No one... that's who.

I am looking forward to the next several days, nearly giddy with anticipation because...
1.) Tonight is possibly just the greatest night for television. The Office, 30 Rock and Grey's Anatomy. Bliss.

2.) I get to go to Indianapolis tomorrow and spend belated birthday time with Shipley. For years, I have made it down to the big city in October to celebrate her birthday. Oh, yes. We whoop it up big time. Usually a nice dinner or lunch somewhere, followed by a trip to Target. Or Kohl's. Or both. To us, this constitutes a great time. I mean, just hanging out and schlepping around with your best friend of 20+ years? What isn't to like?

3.) We are expecting relatives from Illinois on Saturday for Festivus. Yes, we stole that from Frank Costanza on "Seinfeld." But last year we were desperate to get everyone together for the holidays, and schedules weren't jiving with traditional dates. So we picked a weekend that worked for everyone and had "Festivus for the Rest of Us." It was great fun: the exploding pot-o-spaghetti (and the Chicago deep-dish pizza that was promptly ordered afterward), a very special visit from The Unibomber during the guys' poker game, a day at Brookfield Zoo and having the place to ourselves, a lovely window-shopping stroll through Crystal Lake with Stacy and Jenny... just having family together to visit, laugh, chat, laugh, drink good coffee and laugh. Oh, did I mention the laughter? We are a quirky, funny bunch.

4.) Getting the Christmas decorations out Sunday and getting them organized. We have designated the Sunday before Thanksgiving as our chief decorating day. All the kids will be home, and I foresee a big hot pot of something extra-good for dinner that night while we put up the tree. The following week, Tyler and Kate travel out east with the marching band while we are perhaps road tripping to NY for the holiday. How nice it will be to all return home to our beautifully decorated home, ready for Christmas!

All of these things are well worth anticipating. And photos will follow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Long-lost friend

I call myself a writer. Most days, though, I feel like a big, fat fraud. How on earth can I even think of myself as a writer when all I seem to have time for is thinking about writing? Should that be my occupation?

Random person: "Hi! Nice to meet you. What do you do?"

Me: "I'm a thinker."

Random person: ????

At any given moment, I am thinking about how I would write something. Driving the kids to school, cooking dinner, folding laundry... chances are I am mulling over something that has happened or is on my mind and having an internal dialogue on how I would write it -- if I were sitting at the computer. Several years ago I received an AlphaSmart for Christmas. If you know not of what I speak, it's a small, portable keyboard that is powered by a handful of AA batteries. It holds about eight files, and the files can hold an impressive number of words. It is truly a writer's best friend -- unfortunately, mine is currently hiding in a pile of importance somewhere. Yesterday, I spent 90 minutes in the waiting room of a medical building. How lovely it would have been to have whipped out the AlphaSmart and tip-tap-typed my way to writer's bliss! As it stood, I watched Jack read (and finish) a book and Charlie begin (and finish) all of his homework. Sam and I occupied our time by smooshing our green-colored gum up against our teeth, then taking pictures of ourselves with my phone, smiling with "green teeth." (Some might argue where the intellectuals are in the family after that comment, but I say laughter makes time fly a lot faster! Now THAT'S smart!)

Long story short, I am unearthing my trusty AlphaSmart today. I will dust it off, replace batteries and pledge to carry it with me and MAKE myself a writer, damn it. For real.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What's worth 1,000 words?

These pictures, that's what.

This past Sunday we attended Jack and Charlie's football banquet. When awards and trophies were presented, the green squad was up first. I was aware the boys would receive a trophy for JV-North Division Champions--which was very nice.

What I wasn't aware of, was that these boys... the boys who regularly arrived at practice 15 minutes early to run down pass after pass from the coaches, who ran warm-ups and sprints with every ounce of energy they had, who threw themselves heart, soul and spirit into every play of every game this season to the point of tears when they lost their bid for the city championship... these boys were awarded for their effort. Jack was named JV-Green Defensive Back of the Year and Charlie was named JV-Green Offensive Back of the Year.

And, once again, I was a proud Mama Duck. :)

Seeing them awarded and recognized for their efforts went far beyond "hey-you-did-a-great-job-this-season." For me, watching my sons receive the awards from their coach made me realize all their work so far--both on and off the playing field--is coming full circle. For years I've watched them "play football." Now, Jack and Charlie are football players... and I cannot wait for next year. They won't be part of the "new kids" anymore. They will be well-versed in the warm-ups, drills and plays and I hope they will grow into leadership roles for the incoming green squad boys.

Congratulations, Jack and Charlie. You continue to make your family proud! :)

Foul weather is not our friend

So, I may have been a bit hazy on the end of the boys' football season. Their team consists of varsity and junior varsity divisions, with JV split into a green squad and orange squad. Jack and Charlie were on green, as this was their first season with the team. All three levels moved to playoffs, but the green squad's championship hopes were squashed with a devastating loss on October 24. The weather was disgusting -- temps in the 40s, alternating rain/mist and a bitter wind. We arrived at their game a few minutes after kickoff, and proceeded to watch the boys participate in every play through all four quarters. The kids had been out at the field an hour before the game started, so they'd had a head start on being cold and wet. Things didn't get any better, either. By the end of the game, the score was 7-0, and the Raiders were on the losing end. Coach Torres gave the boys a quick talk as varsity took the field for their game. I saw Charlie's face through his helmet facemask--he was crying. My heart immediately broke, and my own eyes filled with tears. This team of 10-yr. olds had given this game everything they had... and it came down to one play that lost it for them. Charlie's fingers were so cold, he couldn't get his helmet unsnapped, and an assistant coach stepped in to help him. They were dismissed, and Jack turned to face me. He, too, was crying. The boys came up to me, and I realized as Charlie threw his arms around me for a hug that his right wrist was wrapped with athletic tape. Apparently on one of the first plays of the game, he'd injured it slightly at the bottom of a pile-up. Jack then informed me he felt like he was going to throw up. I quickly ushered them away from full view of the spectators on the bleachers and tried to further assess the situation. It was a bit frantic, but we eventually got to the car and warmed up. They felt much better--Charlie's wrist was sore, but at least Jack's stomach had settled down. The next day, Coach called to ask how Jack was feeling and how Charlie's wrist was shaping up. I hadn't known that Jack felt unwell the entire game; he wanted to sit out, but the team needed him and he toughed it out. I assured Coach both boys were fine, although nursing the disappointment of losing their chance of playing in the championship game. He had good news, though. Because of their performance on the green squad, the coaching staff asked if they would like to practice and possibly play on the orange squad the following weekend in their championship game. Needless to say, the boys excitedly accepted and planned to extend their season by a few more days. Saturday arrived, and the playing conditions were just as awful as they had been for the game the green squad lost. It had rained a good two days or so prior, and the wind that morning could be felt swaying the van as we drove the interstate over to the game.

Do you see the standing water/mud puddles beyond the banner?

Jack (gray coat) and Charlie (red sweatshirt) on the sidelines as the game gets underway.

And the grassy, uh... muddy field. Charlie on the sidelines later in the game. Where is Jack you wonder? He would be in the locker room... throwing up. We now know that when Jack is mildly hypothermic (a.k.a., really, really, really cold) his body will react by vomiting. Good to know. And that day? The boys were really, really, really cold. Soaking wet and muddy after warm-ups. Yes, I see the irony there. Do you?
In the end, the Raiders couldn't match the Packer's lone touchdown, and they lost 7-0. Again. For Jack and Charlie, this was now two tough losses -- yet they still love the game and play hard no matter what. The only consolation for me was sitting in the stands with Packer fans around us cheering--because some lady next to us constantly yelling "GO PACKERS!" ended up sounding like she was saying "GO PECKERS!" Oh, come on... you would laugh too. And she was borderline obnoxious, so it made it much more funny.

At the end of the game, I just wanted to turn to her and say, "Well, our team may have lost, but at least we aren't a bunch of peckers."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

October 31, 2009

Goal achieved. Proud parent moment: Tyler playing his solo on the jumbotron screen

Waiting for the judging results.At the end of the evening, after seeing 10 fabulous bands perform, the results were tallied. Snider received a respectable 8th place finish. Congratulation to the Snider marching band on a wonderful season! What a wonderful memory for Tyler's senior year. :)

When hard work pays big

Back in early August, Tyler and Kate (and the rest of the Snider HS marching band) began working on their competition show. Even before school began, these kids endured eight hours every day in the school parking lot -- in the often oppressive Indiana heat and humidity. They came home almost every day smelling of sunscreen and wet with sweat... hungry and exhausted. They fell into bed relatively early, only to rise the next morning and arrive at school by 9am. As the school year got underway, their practices were from 3-5pm each day, with extended hours on Thursday evenings. There were performances at football games on Friday nights, only to have to be up and at school before 7am Saturday, putting in hours of practice before departing for out of town competitions. Quite often, they would not return home until well after midnight -- sometimes 1-2am. As all this was going on, the kids were expected to handle classwork, tests and exams without missing a beat.

Their goal? Make it to state and play at Lucas Oil stadium. They narrowly missed going last year. Their fate would be determined on October 24 at semi-state competition in Indianapolis. The top 10 bands would advance to state competition on October 31. The weather in Fort Wayne that morning was less than desirable--cold, rainy, gross. As luck would have it, everything cleared and the kids had a sunny (albeit brisk) afternoon to perform in Indy. They brought it -- and brought it big time.

Kate during performance... she's in the center.

And here is Tyler's solo...

The entire band...

And the trophy for being a top 10 finishing band. On to state! And the added bonus? Both Tyler and Kate finished the first grading period with an A in every subject and on the honor roll.