Tag Archives: boys

Youth Sports: Loving Our Kids or Losing Our Marbles?

The final moments of the eight-game, third-grade season are winding down. While the blue team is comfortably ahead, there is one player who still has not scored this season. The coach calls a time-out and devises a play to pass the ball to him. It’s executed beautifully; the cheerful blond boy is wide-open when he gets the ball and shoots from the key. Splash! The entire team erupts in celebration—the boy grins from ear to ear in delight—there is a feeling of sheer joy in that middle-school gymnasium. As the boys walk off the court for the last time, the mood is exuberant. It is a storybook finish to the season. While it has been an exciting victory, there is more elation around the fact that the team shared in their friend’s accomplishment. They’re his biggest supporters, encouragers and cheerleaders. We leave smiling and proud—that’s what youth sports are all about, right? That’s what we do as
parents, too, isn’t it?

Or is it?

Just support, encourage and cheerlead?

Or are we losing our marbles?

Aren’t we the ones who grumble and gripe as we shake our heads in complete and utter disbelief at that third strike, because we ascertained—with our superior vision—that the pitch was low and outside? Or collectively gasp, jump to our feet, throw our hands in the air and offer a few choice words when the guy behind the plate suffers a split-second lapse in judgment and calls our own flesh and blood out—OUT!?—on a slide.

What is it about youth sports that’s making us lose our marbles? Is it the public display of our child’s athletic prowess that evokes such passion? After all, we don’t react the same way when, say, they’re doing their homework. In fact, that Common Core math has us all so confused that we gladly take a step back and let their teachers teach. We shrug our shoulders defeatedly and say, “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to help you. When we were kids we just memorized stuff.”

So what exactly is bringing out our crazy?

Coaching experts tell us that on the drive home after the game, we’re simply supposed to gaze warmly upon our kids and say, “I love watching you play.”


Is that true?

I’ve watched as my son painfully balked in a run. I’ve seen him kick up more dirt than Pig-Pen, almost disappearing in a cloud of dust that swirled up and around him on the mound, while he desperately spun around trying to determine which base to throw to for an out. I’ve witnessed him leaning so far into pitches in the batter’s box that he nearly toppled himself over, like a tipsy Weeble.

“Love” was not what came to mind.

More like “get me out of here” as I eyed the sweltering Honey Bucket—frequented by a slew of man-boys playing in a doubleheader—as my only escape.

Losing my marbles.

We’re not just spectators at their games anymore, either. We’ve become experts in every facet of the sport. It would be such a shame to waste all that knowledge we’ve gleaned from MLB Network, SportsCenter and the NFL Combine, so we generously help out our coaches—without them even having to ask—by calling out two-word instructional tips and reminders that are sure to help our kids feel relaxed and confident out there in the

“Load earlier,” “Box out,” “Choke up,” “Head in,” “Sneak through,” “Hands up,” and on and on.

Even our encouraging words sometimes seem to contain veiled meanings. “Nice hustle,” code for “How come he’s not doing that in the timed mile?” “Not your pitch,” means “Don’t just stand there, swing the bat, for crying out loud.” “Get the rebound!” short for “I guess somebody needs to work on his lay-ups.”

And if we’re not critiquing or offering helpful advice from the stands, we’re discussing our kids like we’re sports-talk radio analysts, unpacking every plate appearance, stat, missed opportunity and our athlete’s dietary keys to success: the weekly intake of Taco Bell Beefy Five-Layer Burritos, a bagful of Takis and Sour Patch Watermelon Slurpees.

We can even find a way to complain about the officiating after a win.

Losing our marbles.

Whatever happened to just cheering for our kids?

Maybe some old-fashioned clapping along with an enthusiastic “Way to go!”?

My son will be fifteen this summer. Those car rides home with us will soon be a thing of the past. I want him to feel (and remember) that I truly did love watching him play. I want to make sure that I’m authentic with my words, tone and actions, so that even my body language is telling him that truth, and that seeking out a Honey Bucket for refuge—or the urge to bite my nails in my stadium chair—doesn’t enter my mind. That when I say “I love watching you play” it means just that, not “I love watching you play, but that third inning was a doozy.”

Another parental window is coming to an all-too-quick close.

I say we just clap, cheer and celebrate like a bunch of giddy, victorious third graders—and simply gaze warmly upon our kids on that car ride home—while we still have the chance.


Teetering, At Thirteen

You greet me with a warm smile and “Hi Mom.” The next day, with a gruff “You don’t need to talk to me every day.” You laugh uncontrollably with friends at a pizza joint, your eyes sparkling with delight. You erupt in anger, breaking pencils and hurling them across the room. You rave about stew. You complain about mac and cheese. You’re of age for PG-13 movies and Instagram. You’re over the recommended age limit for a Slip ‘n’ Slide. You enthusiastically encourage me to bowl with you. You scold me for taking a sip of your Coke because your friends might see. You laugh at Zootopia. You’re curious about Deadpool. When I reach my hand over and rest it above your knee or on your shoulder, in the car, or on the couch, you let it linger for a bit—a couple blocks, a few seconds. Sometimes you fling or shrug it off immediately.

Even the way you say “Mom” is changing. I’m becoming keenly aware of the nuances, your varied tones providing insight into your feelings and outlook. Your inflection reveals everything. Sometimes it’s an urgent “Mom, mom, mom!” for “Do we have more AA batteries for the Xbox controller?” Other times it’s a thoughtful “Mom…” that trails off, ready to open up and share a little something about your day. “Mom?” lets me in when you want to point out the differences between the Rawlings and Wilson gloves. It’s “Mom!!!” when you’re wondering “Is my orange t-shirt clean?” “Mom.” simply confirms my presence in the next room.

I gauge the subtleties and search your face for clues, so I can offer the right response. Asking a question after “Mom!!!” is futile, but after “Mom…” can lead to a meaningful conversation. I’m learning to follow your lead, to not push too hard as you meander through this time of ups and downs, highs and lows, mountains and valleys.

I know that soon the teetering will become a full-fledged plunge and you’ll find yourself immersed in your teenage years—years that will bring changes and challenges. Any day now your voice will deepen. You’ll no longer be at eye level.

My wish for you as you turn thirteen is this: that you will experience more of that sidesplitting laughter, finding joy in people and relationships.

Laugh ‘til it hurts.

With friends.

With the world.

At yourself.

(Just not at your brother.)

My prayer, as it’s been throughout the spring, is that you will be strong, firm and steadfast.

And finally, know this: I will continue to reach my hand over.

In the car.

On the couch.

Maybe in the backyard.

Whether you fling or shrug it off, or let it rest for a minute, may it say to you on some level, no matter what your age:

I’m here.

I’m present.

I love you.

With all my heart,


So Long, Freedom Field

Version 2The name carries with it a sense of opportunity and promise, a spiritedness that accompanies America’s pastime. Freedom Field. Nestled in a quiet neighborhood at our local sports park, the turf field features a tranquil Northwest backdrop, with evergreens towering beyond the outfield, a cluster of bright green alders poised gracefully in front of them, an American flag in center, and a lighted scoreboard a little to its left. Lights surround the field, too, slowly coming to life for the week’s 7 o’clock games. The sports park is complete with a skate park, snack shack and announcer’s booth.

By Monday night, 47 twelve-year-olds on eight Little League teams in our community will have played their last regular-season games there.

It’s the place all the young boys aspired to play when they started off their careers in Tee Ball. They practiced and played at various neighborhood venues—one obscure park was tucked back so far that no one even knew it existed. As they moved up through the years, from Rookies 1 and 2 to Farm and Minors, the locations changed, each level taking the boys to a different elementary school. Every season, though, they’d look forward to playing at least one game at Freedom—it has always symbolized the Big Leagues to them. As the home field of the Majors division, they now proudly play there three times a week. It has become the quintessential community gathering place, as we ask “Heading down to Freedom tonight?” or meet up to watch a neighbor’s son play and order a Freedom burger. It is a beloved springtime hangout where families and friends take in a ball game and socialize, support, connect and catch up.

Some of these boys have been friends since preschool; they now walk the halls of middle school together. They are competitors on the field and the best of buds off of it. They ride the school bus together and sit next to each other in band; they zing fastballs across the plate and smash homeruns over the outfield fence.

As parents, we also share a common experience. We wince as foul balls pop into the parking lot, waiting for the ‘crash’ atop some poor soul’s car. We hold our breath a little as one of our boys gets hit by a pitch or clutches his arm or leg after a base running or sliding mishap. We huddle under tarps during downpours. We talk hit vs. error in scorekeeping, discuss the latest book we’ve read, grumble about the sixth grade history assignment. Dads pace. Moms chit-chat.

But some of my favorite memories at Freedom are not just about baseball. They’re the moments between games, or after. When a sea of red, royal blue, black, gold, navy and orange crowds behind the backstop or meanders along the skate park to enjoy a game of flyers up or pickle behind right field. A colorful medley of friends from all teams, hanging out, playing wall ball, eating burgers at the picnic tables, sitting in the stands to watch another game.

A few Thursday nights ago while we were driving down to a friend’s game, my son said, “I don’t want Little League to be over.” I agreed. The realization that it is drawing to a close seemed to hit him. And I don’t think he was just talking about the games. I think it was also that sense of community and togetherness.

Sure, baseball will continue. They’ll have a couple post-season tournaments. Some will go on to play All Stars, Select or Intermediate. But as twelve-year-olds, this will soon be it for them as far as what they’ve known: the 46’ pitching distance, 60’ base paths and 200’ homerun fences. Their days at Freedom—their field— will be a thing of the past. Another rung on the ladder of their growing-up years. Another reminder of how fast it all goes.

My favorite author, Harlan Coben said it best when he shared these words with the crowd when he was inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence before the start of the 2013 Little League Baseball World Series Championship game. “I don’t remember my stats. I don’t remember my batting average. I don’t remember wins and losses,” he said. “But I remember my parents in those stands, and that, my young friends, is the memory I hope you cherish above all else.”

I agree with him fully. But I’d like to take it a step further.

I hope they remember the wall ball. I hope they remember eating cheeseburgers and drinking Gatorade on the picnic tables outside the skate park on a sunny afternoon. I hope they remember trying to out-scramble each other for foul balls just to get a free 25-cent candy from the snack shack.

But mostly, I hope they remember—and cherish— that sea of friends that moved like a pack around their field, Freedom Field.

Balls in. Coming down.

So long, Freedom Field.

You hold a special place in the hearts of these twelves.

Losing. Learning. Growing. Finding.

Six years ago — half my oldest son’s life ago, when he was going into Kindergarten— I wrote this story. It holds a special place in my heart and I’ve held it close for a long time. I’ve taken a look at it recently for a number of reasons. First, we returned to Whistler last month for our annual vacation and it continues to be one of my favorite spots on earth, and what’s even better, it’s one of my boys’ favorite spots now, too. They have their own special memories of it that we relive and laugh about each year. In a way, this story feels like a tribute to the place I love.

At 7:30 this morning, my son Rass stepped on the bus for Middle School after some tears, “I don’t wanna go. I’m gonna die,” and “It’s like I’m in Kindergarten again.” Last week, it was my nephew who started Kindergarten. I know my sister is experiencing all those emotions that go along with that milestone. As I’ve looked back at this story, it gives me a renewed sense of gratitude for the moms I encounter, the ones near and far, seen and unseen, who seem to show up during just the right season of life. Maybe they, too, would agree: with losing, there always comes finding. Sometimes it’s just a matter of time. And as I can now replace “Kindergarten” with “Middle School,” I’m reminding myself of that very thing, too.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         *          *

It was our first night of vacation in the glorious, breathtaking, feel-God’s-presence-town of Whistler, BC. With the Seahawks game on in the bedroom, the Mariners on in the living room and our nine-month-old eating Cheerios off the floor, I escaped to the condo’s one bathroom for a self-pedicure. I added a splash of fragrant body wash to the warm water and settled in on the side of the tub. Not bad. The water covered my feet and the sweet smell began to fill up the bathroom.

Ahhh….This is nice, I convince myself.

Rass walks in and plops down on the toilet.

“I have to poop,” he announces and starts his business, a foot from my makeshift spa chair.


I feel my relaxation dissipating.

“Mom, which sport do you like best?

The quiet solitude evaporates.

“Um, I’m not sure….” I answer, trying to shift gears.

“But which is your favorite, there are only three: basketball, football or baseball. Which one?

“Well” I stall. “I don’t know, I like watching baseball with you and watching you play, but football is really cool, too.

The odor begins to rise and pretty soon it overtakes the sweetness of my coconut lime foot soak.

“Is it diarrhea?” he asks, “I don’t want to look.

 My spa experience screams to a halt.

“Let me see…no…not really…”

I stand up, back to reality, and offer to help him wipe.

The next day as we sat around the living room, the packing, shopping, traveling, 4 ½ hours in the car and six-year-old comebacks of “never, fine,” and “that’s not fair,” finally caught up with me.

My tears come. Not the sobbing, loud kind, but the silent kind, like warm rivulets quietly streaking my face—the kind no one notices. And I don’t know exactly why I’m crying: if it’s because in this moment I don’t really like him or because I feel like I’m losing him.

Or maybe because I feel like I’ve already lost him.

The next morning we hit the Adventure Zone at the base of Blackcomb Mountain—a collection of games and rides, miniature golf, bungee trampoline, walk-through maze and trapeze. Rass wanted to attempt The Rope Zone, sort of an aerial obstacle course—a series of obstacles suspended ten feet in the air—a tightrope, rope-wall climb, a wooden step bridge. He got harnessed in and was reminded to keep his rope tether between his shoulders. He was instructed to yank it along with him from stunt to stunt. I saw the concentration on his face as he attempted to walk, step, focus and keep the harness strap close. Off he went.

He moves to the outer obstacle. It’s like a hanging bridge made up of detached wooden swings. The goal is to step from swing to swing, holding onto each rope, making it to the other side. Meanwhile, he’s teetering, bobbing and trying to keep his balance.

He gets halfway across, and I am standing below watching him. He starts to slip and nearly falls between the swings.

His tears come. Not the sobbing, loud kind but the silent kind that show fear, frustration and embarrassment. He does not want to lose control of his emotions up there. The attendant comes over and stands below him, too. She speaks gently, talking him through it.

I approach to stand beside her.

“You can do it, focus….concentrate…pull yourself up,” I encourage.

He continues to dangle and swing. He looks out of control. I know he can’t fall, but I want to climb up and do something. I want to rescue him.

His tears give way to determination and he somehow pulls himself up. He doesn’t let go, or lose his grip. He works his way through it. After he makes it back up to one of the swings, there is an unmistakable look on his face: pride. He has done it. He has conquered.

I am not up there with him, but in a way I am.

And while his face beams with pride, my heart swells with it.

Ready for more adventures, we waited in line at the ticket booth. A mom stood in front of us with her two boys. They were waiting to redeem their prize for the walk-through maze. Apparently the younger boy—who appeared to be about eleven—was not happy with the time it took him to get through the maze and in turn, the prize options available to him. He blamed his mom for his misfortune.

He stands in front of her, nearly nose-to-nose, looking her straight in the eye.

“Mom, you’re mean….

She maintains her composure and speaks very quietly. She doesn’t lose her cool, yell or storm away. All I can hear is “I’m not mean” and she goes on to explain the reason for their performance and, hence, their finish time.

He disagrees.

Coldly, he repeats it:

“Mom, you’re mean.

She doesn’t flinch.

I’m amazed at her calmness. Does it crush her? Does it hurt? Or is this his favorite thing to say these days, a notch up from my-most-often-heard “I already know that?

They approached the ticket window, got their prizes, and left to join the rest of their family. As they walked away, I felt somewhat reassured, realizing that the volatile yet loving relationship I shared with an independent, headstrong boy wouldn’t end—not even in Kindergarten. In fact, it was really just beginning.

The next night, after we lingered over a breathtaking alpine dining experience 6,030 feet up Whistler Mountain, we made our way back to the gondola for the trip back down the mountain. A twentysomething man was perched atop his mountain bike, decked out in full riding gear, helmet under his arm, talking on his cellphone.

He looks off in the distance, toward the highest peak, where the glaciers roll. Rugged looking, with longish hair, I imagine it must be quite a special conversation to interrupt an afternoon of some of the finest terrain around. He seems to be delighting in the conversation…pleasant, wistful, focused. I wonder if it might be his girlfriend who lives here in the Village? Or someone he’s just met at the mountain bike festival going on this weekend— “the largest one in the world…for sure”—the emcee has told us. As we pass him, I’m taken by the sense of freedom and adventure that this young man must experience. Surrounded by incomparable beauty on this clear summer night, I wonder who is sharing this moment with him?

“Bye mom,” I hear him say as we walk by.

I turn to look again.

Spoken with such warmth, caring and love, and so simply: bye mom.

Hope, in two words.

The last night of our vacation, we headed down to the pool. It was a warm, beautiful night. We were the only ones there.

As Rass cannon balls, swims underwater, practices tall arms and leaps for a plastic cup that his dad tosses, he couldn’t be happier. It’s joyful exuberance—something he has always displayed in the water, since his baby days in the bathtub. He’s energetic and enthusiastic, full of excitement and life.

He is here, in all his glory, the boy I recognize.

Despite his growing up and away, he is here.

I have found him.

And maybe that’s what I need to take with me as he begins Kindergarten. That he is in there, somewhere, underneath all the levels and layers. That as he learns different lingo, picks on his brother, makes new friends, tests and pushes his limits, explores and discovers, he is there.

All I need to do is find him.

The Case Of The Iron Gut & A Runner’s Perspective

For the second time since I’ve been the lone female amongst three males in the house, the stomach flu has bypassed me. While my boys and husband have retched, heaved and bolted to the bathroom, I’ve been left relatively unscathed. Sure, I’ve been a bit headachy, had an appetite for crackers, etc, but overall I’ve felt good. However, it has not left me totally unaffected – in fact, the effect of this particular bug has shown up in my running routine.

In 2013, my sister and I did our first running streak. We ran every day – a minimum of one mile – from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. We both continued on after that, too. At the time she told me of an instance or two when she ran her daily mile in jeans. What? Jeans? “That’s just weird,” I thought. How busy can you be that you don’t have time to put on running clothes? Who, besides someone in an airport, would run in jeans? Running down the street in denim? No thanks. Note to self: never run in jeans. After enjoying the commitment and accountability that the running streak provided, we decided to do it again this holiday season.

Round one of the flu hit last Sunday, as the Seahawks played their home field advantage-clinching game against the Rams. My pale, pasty, puking 11-year-old sprawled out on the couch, covered in a blanket, noticeably quiet. Not the usual officiating that echoes his dad’s, “Whaaaat? That’s not pass interference!!!” Silence. The air was flat. Germs seemed to hang there. Watching him “watch” a game with his eyes closed was torture. I needed to get out for my mile but didn’t feel like changing clothes. Just to the bend and back, I told myself. Who cares? Who would see me? I headed out in jeans and my Hawks long-sleeved shirt. Close to home I saw our neighbor. I explained that I was on a running streak and just needed to do a quick run, hence the attire. “I thought you looked a little less prepared than usual,” he observed.

One mile. Done.

Round two of the bug hit two mornings later at 3 a.m. My six-year-old stumbled into our room with a warning that he felt like he was going to puke. He did. And kept going. Although, impressively, he went ten-for-ten, making it into the toilet or a bowl each time. My mom escaped back to California with only a cold.

Feeling like we were in the clear and contagious no longer, we headed over to my in-laws in Port Townsend on New Year’s Day. I woke up January 2nd cold, achey, and ugh— I was certain it was my time. I rested, refrained from eating and even belted out some “You Give Love a Bad Name” karaoke. I also contemplated the idea of abandoning the streak. I reminded myself that technically it was over anyway, that my sister and I were just the ones who wanted to keep it going. There’s something about ending on your own terms.

As we hopped out of the car at my in-laws that afternoon, I said “I’m just gonna go run.” “What? Now?” my 11-year-old asked. “Yes. I’m just gonna get it over with.” I hurried off, not wanting any time to change my mind. As I clomped down the driveway in my green cords, bright pink LL Bean winter boots and white parka, Rassy yelled after me “You look ridiculous.” “I know,” I hollered back. “I don’t care.”

One mile. Done.

We returned home Saturday morning, after Grandma had unfortunately been making her own visits to the bathroom.

I awoke Sunday at 3 a.m. to find the downstairs bathroom light on — and Mo on the floor. “Oh no,” I cried. False alarm. He returned to bed. “Maybe I just have an iron gut,” he theorized.

Maybe not.

Three hours later, male #3 was officially hit.

That day, all six-foot-four of Mo stretched out on the couch, dozing. Reminiscent of the previous Sunday, the germs seemed to hang in the air. Stale. Sleepy. Sickly. A downer. I sent my sister a text: “Thinking I may not run.?!?”

She replied: “What about a brisk walk? Fresh air will feel good” and then reminded me “It’s a mile.”

Ah, perspective. Already a breath of fresh air.

I put on my running shoes and called out to Rassy, “You thought the other day was embarrassing? Check this out,” and headed out the door in my purple snowman flannel pants, a hoodie, down vest and earrings.

One mile. Done.

Over the past week, while all the males in my house have been overtaken with the flu, thanks to my sister, I’ve been out running —just one mile— in jeans, cords, flannel pants, boots and hoodies. With no embarrassment in the least.

The streak is alive.

As I begin the year in which I will return to New York City for the marathon – my guaranteed-entry for the cancellation of the one in 2012 –  I am hoping beyond hope that my sister will win the lottery to get in – or we’ll figure out another way for her to do it.

Because just when I needed it, she’s the one who…

… made me see that, sometimes, running in jeans isn’t so bad.

… reminded me that fresh air feels good.

And that “it’s a mile.”

One more mile.




Say Mohawk: Creativity In The Coifs

The Sunday after school started, I returned home to find my five-year-old and eleven-year-old boys with Mohawks. Not faux-hawks, as I’m accustomed to, but full-on, shaved on the side Mohawk haircuts. I stared disbelievingly and curiously for awhile, somewhat bemused at the hardened blue-and-green Hawks-inspired gel that made strips of their hair – from the napes of their necks to their foreheads – stand up like porcupine quills. My brand-new Kindergartner, who had just three days of elementary school under his belt, sat on the couch with a hairstyle that seemed so grown-up, so Billy Idol or Brian Bosworth, so punk rocker, that I could hardly take him seriously. And then four words flew into my brain:

School pictures. Two weeks. 

I hit the roof.

Then shot right through it and continued into orbit.

I was angry. Mad. Furious.

“I’m livid,” I fumed.

“What’s that mean?” asked my Fifth Grader Rassy, thus turning it into a vocabulary lesson.

Fearing a call from the Principal about the Monica boys being classroom distractions, I came up with two choices: don’t use styling products during the week or return immediately to the hair place and get the rest of it buzzed off. They opted for the former. I solidified my overreaction by continuing to make my opinion loud and clear: nope, I didn’t like it. Not one bit. Didn’t care for it in the least. And I would take them to get it shaved off again before school pictures or they would do retakes at a later date. Period.

The next morning, I stifled a smile as Rassy woke up with second thoughts. “I don’t want to go to school. Why did I get my hair cut like this?” he asked. We talked about having an eye-catching, severe haircut and how people were bound to have an opinion. He set off that morning with his baseball cap on, ready to tackle whatever was in store. When both boys got off the bus that afternoon, they shared how they’d gotten mixed reactions. Big brother’s teacher loved it. Little brother’s teacher didn’t recognize him (I could relate). But by the next day, Rassy had come to a new conclusion: “Mom, you know what I like about my hair? It’s unique. Not everybody has it.” And with a twinge of guilt, I agreed. He then set off for the bus with no baseball cap on.

And so I’ve spent the past couple of weeks looking at moles and divots on their heads that I didn’t know existed, watching beads of sweat literally form on their noggins, observing the temple muscles moving as they ate dinner, listening to them delight in the fact that they look like Seattle rapper Macklemore (which I’ve come to learn is technically incorrect—his style is a Pompadour) and tenderly reminiscing at the faded stork bites on the back of my five-year-old’s head.

I’ve listened to—and watched— lots of reactions. Nearly all positive. Coaches: “Sweet hair,” “I love your haircut – what’d your mom think?” Moms: “It’s awesome!” “I love it.” “It looks great” and “It takes a certain kind of confidence to wear that kind of style.” And with a touch of pride that my somewhat reserved guy would step out with such a bold look, I agreed.

It seems that creative expression has found a new form in our household—not just in the ways I’m used to like, words, birthday poems or the colors of our walls—but through hairstyles.

So this morning they headed off with their picture day order forms and checks in hand. The Mohawk brothers—with their strips of glistening, California-blond hair spiked up atop growing-out, not-quite-bald heads—will be preserved for all posterity, in the only yearbook they’ll appear in together during their school years. And should there come a day when they look back and wonder why, I’ll say—although it eluded me sixteen days ago—with a big, fond grin “That was all you. I had nothing to do with it.”

I’ll also remember what those Mohawks really stood for: brotherhood, uniqueness, creativity and confidence.

No, they still aren’t my favorite ‘dos.

But they brought with them mom’s first big lesson of the school year:
creative expression comes in many forms.

Sometimes in double doses.



Training Camp Of The Champs

Summer 2014 recently brought our family a brand-new experience: NFL training camp. Since this year’s attempt to get tickets to a regular season game was fruitless, we were especially excited to participate in this activity to support the Super Bowl Champions. After successfully registering on June 26, we were among the 2,500 or so fortunate fans who were able to head down to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Washington on Friday to witness Practice #7 of the 2014 Seahawks Training Camp (presented by Bing). Decked out in our Seahawks gear, we drove south at 8 a.m. and, per instructions, parked at The Landing shopping center nearby. We soon learned that the whole process was exceptionally organized, smooth and streamlined. We made our way to check-in, where we got wristbands and then wound our way around a building to wait for school buses that would shuttle us to the practice facility. Staff members in neon green t-shirts took charge, as we were quickly herded onto buses and politely yet firmly guided, appropriately enough, with teacher-like directions, including “I need two to a seat” and “continue to the back of the bus unless you’re instructed to do otherwise.”

A few minutes later we arrived at the mammoth VMAC facility which sits on the edge of Lake Washington. With camping chairs in tow, we meandered by tents of gear, merchandise and kettle corn, and food from the Metropolitan Grill. We bypassed the SeaGals photo line, enjoyed an entertaining four-piece marching band and started up a hill to the practice area, which consists of three playing fields in a T-shape. We picked an empty spot on the hillside by a barricade, along the sidelines of one of the fields closest to the building. Before we settled in, my boys went through a bouncy house obstacle course and we picked up an ear of corn and beef brisket sandwiches.

At ten a.m, players started wandering out to the far field (at the top of the “T”), so we watched them walk by in the distance. I soon spotted Richard Sherman. He seemed to be surveying the crowd. Convinced that he’d see the #25 blazing across my chest, I started waving my arms eagerly, like someone flagging down roadside assistance. I was sure he’d see me, and in a flash of recognition, wave fondly and appreciatively at my show of support. Nope. Nothing. He simply moseyed by with his teammates. Feeling slightly dejected, I just stood there watching until Blitz, the mascot, came by and enthusiastically high-fived me, lifting my spirits.

Upbeat music blared from the surrounding speakers, old favorites like TNT, Welcome to the Jungle, Whip It, Working Day and Night. Some Usher, too. In the distance, Pete Carroll hustled and scurried about in his cream-colored pants and white long-sleeved shirt. The sidelines were also streaming with people: men in long-sleeved button downs with clipboards and notebooks in hand. Well-coiffed ladies in flowing dresses and high heels. Local sports broadcasters who said hello to people.

As most of the team ran drills and scrimmaged on the far field, we watched long snapper Clint Gresham (who recently came to speak at our church) run up and down the field in front of us with punter Jon Ryan, who astonishingly and impressively seemed to be able to hold a plank for five minutes at a time. Steven Hauschka, the field goal kicker, also worked out with them.

At 10:29, a bit of action ensued in the distance. Marshawn Lynch, fresh from his hold out, emerged from the far side of the building, escaping the throng of reporters who had been staking him out by the glass doors. He sauntered across the field, greeted by some cheers and some boos, as the reporters, duped, literally ran by with video cameras to catch up with him and the rest of the team at the end of the field.

A horn sounded at 11, signifying the end of outdoor practice (we’d learned on the bus that it was weight lifting day). My boys and I hung over the barricade as players walked by, on their way to the weight room. Mo soon alerted me to the hoopla on my left: “Russell Wilson.” There, with three Sharpies in hand, the Super Bowl quarterback was graciously signing autographs in his red practice jersey. Soon, he was right in front of us and signed my 5-year-old’s #3 jersey and my 11-year-old’s Super Bowl program. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Max Unger and Heath Farwell stopped, too, taking time to sign hats, balls and various gear for those who had pens (training camp note: bring your own pen).

We then headed back to the bus line for our return trip to the shopping center, where the driver strictly informed us that he could “have no body parts touching the window.” As Mo and I bumped along on the bus with our hot, sweaty boys we felt happily surprised and exhilarated—after being far away from most of the on-field action, we ended the morning in a memorable way: face-to-face with the Super Bowl Champions.