Tag Archives: family

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,

Mom…

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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.

Fall, Change & Community In The Air

The turnaround began on an ugly late-August day. Not ugly outside, just inside — my head. It was a Saturday, to be precise, the morning I was to do a 17-mile run for my New York City Marathon training. As the miles built, and the time seemed to drag – so did my body. Negative thoughts and self-talk gripped me, soon overtaking everything positive about the quiet morning. By the time I got home, words like “pathetic,” “misery” and “stupid marathon” escaped my lips. I grabbed the trusty Louisville Slugger from the garage, and like a grown-up version of Whack-a-Mole, started pounding the lawn. My husband stood by, quietly offering words of encouragement. “If I was a quitter, I’d quit,” I declared. Upon which I berated myself even further for the poor word choice: “If I were a quitter, were a quitter…”

I didn’t recognize myself after that run. More to the point, I didn’t recognize my feelings about running. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t fun. I questioned why I was even doing the Marathon, wishing I’d simply gotten my money back from the one cancelled three years ago. Instead of keeping the negatitivy to myself though, like any good sister, I shared it with mine. Every pessimistic thought and emotion, I dumped on her. I was brutally honest. In talking about solutions to work through my crabby mindset, the idea popped up to run 18 miles with her the following weekend. Secretly, I rejected it. “Why drive all the way to Portland to be miserable? Why slow her down? And her friends?” I thought of every excuse in the book not to go. But the idea of one last summertime Hurrah for my boys won out and we planned to head South.

It was clear to me after that run that something needed to change and that my training couldn’t continue like it was. The peaceful solitude that had once carried me through my solo runs had been replaced by dread and defeat.

Upon arriving in Portland, my sister directed me to the guest room where a book awaited me, Tales from Another Mother Runner. I opened it to find an inscription from one of the editors: “When the going gets tough…lean on your sister and draw strength from her and other mother runners.” I swallowed hard at this reality check. I realized I wasn’t going to get through my downward running spiral alone.

The next day we set out for 18 miles. We picked up some of her best running friends early on. Wonderful and inspiring ladies that I’d met and run with before, they listened to my recent travails. We talked cross training, over training, moon phases. They got it. They understood. They offered insight and encouragement. And just like the words in the book, I drew strength from them. After that 18 miles I was like a new person, a renewed person. Hopeful. Positive.

When I returned to Washington that week, I carried on with my newfound community-seeking skills. I asked a running friend, the captain of our Ragnar team, if I could meet up with her and some ladies two Saturdays later to do part of my training’s longest run, twenty, with them. She replied with an enthusiastic “yes.” I asked my dearest running friend if she was available at any time that same morning to do a couple miles with me. As it turned out, she unselfishly skipped her spinning class to do the last three with me. And stood there afterwards, coach-like, reminding and encouraging me to stretch.

My training changed after those runs in which I called upon my community. I no longer viewed myself as a slow, sluggish old snail. I no longer saw myself finishing with the 80-year-olds. Once I leaned on and drew strength from all those mother runners, I saw myself through their eyes: strong, capable, ready.

Community.

In two days I’m taking off for New York City, flying 2,082 nautical miles away from my husband, boys, and my immediate community. I get to run the New York City Marathon alongside my sister, with my mom, aunt and cousins there to cheer us on. “Grateful” doesn’t quite cover the emotion—in every ounce of my being I feel blessed.

There are also friends and family in Washington, California, Florida, on the East Coast and beyond who I want to share it with. Ones who’ve offered encouragement, prayers, support. The community I’ve relied on stretches far and wide; people I’ve leaned on when the going got tough, who I’ve drawn strength from through the years.

We have a doctor friend who doesn’t have a fax machine. Doesn’t use one. Doesn’t seem to need it. He sticks with phone, mail—the more traditional modes of communication. I admire that about him—that he conducts his business in the tried-and-true ways that have worked for him through the years. I suppose there’s the flip side: faster records, more instantaneous communication. But he’s not swayed by the changing tides of communication, and like I said, I respect that.

I, too, have been comfortable sticking with more traditional modes of communication: email, texts, phone calls—it has always felt more personal, more real, more about talking and checking in with people than “liking.”

But I have ever so slowly come to the realization that there’s only one way to share this New York City Marathon experience with my community—and to continue to feel everyone’s presence and support while I’m there. A way to keep in touch across the miles—to share the Mets mania, Halloween in Manhattan and the Finish Line in Central Park. In a sense, it’s like taking everyone with me. And it’s no longer by lurking, eavesdropping, stalking—or hiding behind— my sister’s or husband’s accounts.

So thank you, to my community, for accompanying me on this journey.

I’ll see you in New York.

On Facebook.

Ragnarian Runner Recollections

This weekend, I took part in my first running relay, the Ragnar Relay/Northwest Passage to be specific. A total of 539 teams participated. Here’s how it works: each 12-person team has two vans with six runners each. (Except Ultra teams, which have only six people to share the running duties, making for more individual miles—hence the word “Ultra”). Van 1 (which I was in) kicks things off. Each runner in the van runs one leg (ranging from about three to nine miles), and then Van 2 takes over and those six runners do their legs. After that, it’s Van 1’s turn again. And so on. Over the course of 24+ hours, each runner does a total of three legs, for a team grand total of 200ish miles, all the way to Langley, Washington on picturesque Whidbey Island.

We met at 4 a.m. Friday and headed North to Peace Arch Park right next to the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington. Our first runner was to take off at 6:30. As a newbie, I got my first taste of the fun, personality and creativity that were in store for the weekend. Colorful vans, mini-vans and SUVs were decorated and painted with team names and phrases, like “Sole Mates,” “Van Haulin’ – Running from the devil,” “I think I just PR’ed a little,” the Marshawn Lynch-inspired “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” “Running better than Congress,” “There’s No ‘I’ in ‘Beer,'” “In Pain Since Blaine” and the “Honey Bucketeers.” People were also dolled up in various costumes —everything from Alice in Wonderland to Elvis to beavers—and flashy (think leather, and sparkles) running attire. Everything had a lighthearted, festive feel to it, including the safety video we were required to watch. Runners left in half-hour waves, and soon my friend was on her way. We hopped in the van when she left so that we could meet up with her at our first “exchange” approximately five miles away. This is where she would hand over the bracelet “baton” to our next runner. I was the third runner in our van and thankful to witness a couple exchanges so I knew what to expect. At about 8 a.m. my 8.2-mile uphill run began. A light breeze accompanied me and I was happy to be on the road. Another good-natured yet competitive part of Ragnar is keeping track of “kills” – when you pass another runner. Kills are then tallied on van windows for all to see. I started mentally noting my kills, although they weren’t astronomical.

Our van finished up at Bellingham High School, where Van 2 took over. We hit the road for some lunch and rest time before our early-evening running would begin. I was most concerned about my second leg. I have never run twice in one day. I do not run at night. And I wasn’t sure how my chicken ciabatta sandwich, fries and pint of beer would feel when I did so. It was a warm 76 degrees when I finally set out for my 6.7-mile run. I had one simple goal for this leg: to make it to the exchange by 7:45 so that our next runner —a speedy Ironman athlete — could take off before 8 p.m. so he wouldn’t have to wear safety gear (head lamp, tail lamp, vest). I had roughly 70 minutes, give or take.

As I hit a quiet country road, I settled in and found my groove. I was feeling pretty good. Thankfully, my lunch wasn’t coming back to haunt me. I looked out across the fields, cleared my head, and decided I was just going to think about my dad, since the day marked the anniversary of his departure from earth. A couple miles in, my legs started feeling tired. I was hot. I didn’t feel like I had much left in the tank. “That’s OK,” I told myself. Even if I slowed way, way down, I would make it back in time for our Ironman to go safety gear-free.

Out of nowhere, with about three miles to go, a runner appeared over my right shoulder. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “Someone’s going in for the kill.” I glanced over. It was a woman. Surprisingly, she didn’t pass me. In fact, we fell in step together. We struck up a conversation. She asked if the pace was OK and I said yes. She agreed, and said she felt like she’d started out a little fast.

She was 64-years-old, doing her sixth Ragnar. She’d been running for 38 years. “What team are you on?” I asked. “The Matriarchs,” she replied, a team of women in their late forties through sixties. Her name was Francie. “My mom’s Fran,” I said. We chatted about running, where we lived, and our families. She said she used to run with her husband but his knee started giving him trouble so he biked. Her GPS watch beeped in the background. I felt myself slow down a little. “You can go on if you need to,” I assured her. “I’m afraid I’ll get discouraged if I don’t stay with you,” she answered. I smiled, thankful and relieved—I felt the same. We continued on, the watch beeping, more time passing. True to her team name, she was a comforting presence. Maybe there was something about the peaceful setting that prompted me to share.

“My dad passed away four years ago today,” I said, my voice catching. She expressed sorrow and understanding. I could hear the strength, wisdom and compassion in her voice: “It’s so hard to lose a parent.” She talked about losing her dad; we talked about loss for a little awhile. Another beep. A few minutes later she announced “We’re gonna finish this thing together, holding hands.” I was moved by the thought. Actually, I could think of nothing better.

We turned right on Fir Island Road and ran single file across the South Fork of the Skagit River. She looked back to see if I was still behind her. As the sunshine blazed in the distance, behind the small white building of Fir Conway Lutheran Church — with its cross set beautifully against the golden sky — the Matriarch took my hand in hers and we raised them together triumphantly, in celebration.

Of running.

Of accomplishment.

Of dads.

I suppose as I went into Ragnar weekend I expected things like painted vans, goofy team names, new friends, camaraderie, kills, lots of laughs and questionable digestion.

But I could not have imagined that in the midst of all of that, along a quiet country road, a Matriarch would find — and run alongside — a girl remembering her dad, and take hold of her hand.

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.

Done.

 

 

This Is Dedicated To The One I Love

My dad entered the world eighty years ago yesterday. It was a bit of an unusual feeling milestone, the idea of “My dad would be eighty today” or “Today’s my dad’s birthday – he’s just not around to celebrate it.” But celebrate I did, in a somewhat surprising way.

Saturday afternoon, as I unloaded beauty bark from the bed of my mother-in-law’s truck and spread it around our yard, I was compelled, almost inexplicably, to dig out my Mama’s & the Papa’s Greatest Hits CD. I turned it on in the house, opening doors and windows so I could hear it while I worked outside. “Huckster music,” I declared to my husband and his mom. I sang along as I shoveled, heaved, dumped and spread. “Young girls are coming to the canyon….” I talked to my five-year-old about my dad, telling him how daddad blew out his knee stepping down from the bed of a truck like the one we were in. “Was he alive then?” he asked curiously. “Yep, he was alive.” I continued singing yesterday, too. As I drove east to our church’s new campus, with the orange sunrise burning through the fog. “Look through my window, to the street below, see the people hurrying by…” In the afternoon, I took the boys to a nearby lake to swim. Without complaining, they listened to daddad’s music as it played loudly. We discussed “whenever Monday comes you can find me crying all of the time” and how those lyrics are still fitting today, especially when you have to go to school. My 11-year-old even hit repeat on “I Call Your Name” a few times.

I did wear my dad’s favorite button (If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going), handed out some of his favorite candy bars (Milky Ways) and carried one of my favorite pictures of him in my pocket. But mostly, I sang. And thanks to the Mamas & the Papas, I spent his 80th birthday with him, back in the living room of our quiet country home — his joyful presence so strong and close in the familiar songs and lyrics.

So whether you knew Huckster or simply know of him, consider grabbing yourself a Milky Way, doing some Dancing in the Street or California Dreamin’ – and he’ll be right there with you this Monday, Monday.

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.