Thursday, February 27, 2014

I a soccer player!

Our girl has made her first foray into the world of organized sports.

Yes.  They have soccer teams for kids under the age of three.

There has been a lot said about starting kids too young in organized sports - they say that kids need unstructured time to run and jump while using their imagination and developing their ideas about social constructs.  As an educator and at the very core, an advocate for the interests of children, I completely understand where people are coming from in this regard. with anything in life, there is no black and white answer, no overarching rule that applies to everyone, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach.

We put Natalie in soccer because NATALIE wants to play.  She has lived her entire three years on this Earth going to basketball games, volleyball matches and watching endless hours of sports on the television.  She has wanted so badly to suit up in a uniform, put her hair in a ponytail and PLAY on on a team...just like the big girls she idolizes every Monday and Thursday night at Craig's basketball games.

Of course there are opportunities for girls to receive scholarships for athletics, but that cannot be the main reason we as parents enter our daughters into sports.  There are so many valuable lessons that can be learned on the volleyball or basketball court, soccer pitch, or softball field.  Natalie is learning about having fun, taking turns and working towards a goal...literally and figuratively.

As coaches and lifelong athletes, Craig and I would obviously be thrilled if Natalie's passion and joy in life has something to do with sports, but we aren't placing all our eggs in that basket right now.  We're following her lead - she asked for a team shirt and expressed the desire to play some sort of sport.  

And goodness gracious...she absolutely LOVES it. Nothing makes my heart happier than seeing the pride she has after scoring a goal and the determination on her face when someone else has the ball.  
And then what did we hear the whole way home?  

"I a soccer player.  I a BIG girl."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thoughts on a Championship

So often in a marriage, you get tied up in the day-to-day survival of being an adult - cleaning up the house, paying bills, cooking meals, keeping track of a schedule and raising a child.  In a world where romantic comedies and Disney princesses tend to live "happily ever after," there seems to be a struggle for many people to rest and find contentment in the ordinary.  But for the most part, Craig and I are good with the "ordinary" because neither of us entered into this covenant with the idea that it would be a magical experience every day.  We both spent so much time in our personal chaos that we relish the calm in our life.  And in this ordinary life we are leading, there is plenty of continual love - the kind of love that is found in discussions while cooking a favorite meal, or by bringing home a surprise Sonic drink after a long day.  We move along from day to day, raising Natalie, doing our jobs and enjoying each other's company....and this is good.  We are good with this.

But then there are those moments in life that take your breath away with the magnitude of HOW.  MUCH.  you love your partner.  When you see them not as the guy who helps empty the dishwasher or reads bedtime stories...but as an amazing human being.

I had one of those overwhelming moments on Friday night.

Craig won another basketball championship this weekend.  And although we have been through several winning seasons together and even the occasional district championship together...there was something different about this win.  The 8th grade girls he coached this year will leave his school and his athletic program never having lost a basketball game in the two years as his players.  

It's not entirely unheard of to do this through a 7th grade year because sometimes a coach can just get a great group of athletes who have skills far beyond their peers.  But by 8th grade, the rest of the district has usually caught up and the girls have a much harder time staying on top than the year before.

Craig and his girls set their eyes on the goal of having an undefeated season ending in another district championship early on in the year...and from that point, the pressure was on.  Every team and coach in the district were gunning to beat them - to have the bragging rights of being THAT team to bit the undefeated district champs.  

And for the most part, no one got close...except for the district championship, of course.  It was a back and forth game, with seven three point shots made, several free throws missed and some terrible calls by the refs.  A tie at the end of the regulation time meant three minutes of overtime - three more minutes for me to stress, chew my fingernails, twirl my hair, yell at the refs and try to calm the butterflies in my stomach.  With ten seconds left, Craig's girls were down by one point but had possession under the basket.  The clock ticked slowly down and I knew this was husband's greatest unspoken fear - that his girls would get all the way to the final game, only to have their goal destroyed by a single loss.  

And then his most talented post got the ball, tossed it up with one second on the clock...and swish...then the buzzer.  The opposing team collapsed in tears and Craig's girls dogpiled in cheers.  

And my husband finally stood up tall on the sidelines and took a deep breath.  It was over.  The girls had done it.  He hadn't let them down.

I teared up as my little girl raced across the court excitedly yelling, "Daddy, you win!  You win, Daddy!"  He swung her up off the ground and our eyes met across the gym.  That's when it hit me.  That surge of pride and admiration and love for the man I get to call my husband.  

All season, we sat every night at the dinner table and discussed the girls...the team...the STREAK...and most importantly, the PRESSURE that it was putting on him and his athletes.  In that moment, all those conversations, the worries, the sheer time and energy he put into crafting his team into back-to-back district champions had paid off.  But it wasn't just the win that got to me, it was the care and consideration he put into his season - he cares about those girls as if they were his own.  He called them on their poor behavior, and mentored them to better choices.  He gave high fives while doling out expectations and consequences.  He pushed them to be better, faster, and more skilled - any other coach would sit back and relax after such a long winning streak, but Craig never let them settle for allowing just "winning" the game to be enough.  Simply put...he is an amazing coach, not just because he understands the game of basketball, but because he understands the brain of a teenage girl and how to reach in there and pull out the highest potential an athlete has to give.

So after team pictures, a bus ride home and a quick change into comfortable clothes, we found ourselves at the local Chili's for a late dinner.  As we were walking in, we could hear his girls before we saw a town like ours, there aren't many choices for an 8:00 dinner with a large group of people.  We got a table by ourselves, but of course he had to go around the restaurant greeting the players and families - only to be met with cheers and a round of applause.  Our dinner consisted of chips with queso, three meals, four adult beverages and one giant dessert - it was a celebration, after all!  

When it came time to pay for this monstrous meal we consumed, our sweet waitress (who knew what we were celebrating and why all those teenage girls had invaded the restaurant) informed us that our entire dinner had been paid for "by the team."  It was at this point that Craig and I teared up for the third time during the course of the evening.  The kindness and gratitude that his girls and their families have shown to Craig over the past two years has been incredible...I know this will be a difficult group to say good-bye to at the end of the year.

These are the moments that make our marriage stronger - when we are able to appreciate the talents of our partner and be proud of the title of husband or wife.  As I sat in the stands (or stood up and yelled at the refs) during the game, I felt the eyes of the crowd upon me.  After the win, I was congratulated on the win and thanked for the efforts of my husband.  I'm proud to have this recognition - win or lose, I am the wife to an amazing man.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Soldier on

Hey Momma in the aisle at Target,

Yeah, you...the one with the cute brunette bob and the round (but tired), blue eyes. The one with the oversized green sweatshirt, who I caught holding your hands to your forehead while speaking tersely to your husband as he tried to calm you down. 

You seemed stressed and a little overwhelmed. 

Your beautiful little girl, who inherited the round, blue beauty of your eyes, well, she was a little squirmy, a little fussy - as toddlers are apt to do during a Sunday afternoon shopping trip. Your handsome son with the Harry Potter glasses was obviously bored and unhelpful...also like young boys are apt to be during a Sunday afternoon shopping trip. 

Our shopping paths crossed several times as we meandered the aisles, both trying to cross things off our list while also wrangling our children...and our husbands. Our eyes met each other frequently and I tried to smile warmly...but I was awkward. That glimpse of the moment with your meltdown in aisle felt like I intruded on a private moment - one of those moments of frustration and weakness all us women try to keep hidden in public. 

I just want you to know that I didn't judge you. I didn't allow that one brief glimpse into your world to define who I thought you must be as a woman, a wife and a mother.  I didn't pity or shame you. I didn't think that I was superior because my daughter was better behaved (at that moment in time).  

What I did instead was say a little prayer. You looked tired, you looked worn out. You seemed frustrated as you rubbed your temples and your husband delicately held your elbows. I prayed that you would make it through the trip relatively unscathed and that you would be blessed with patience and strength to soldier on through the hell on Earth that is Sunday afternoon grocery shopping. Because I have been there. I have been frazzled and frustrated - just trying to survive something that feels like it should be so much simpler than it really is. 

So tired Momma with the bright blue eyes, I hope you're relaxing at home right now. Curled up at the couch with a good book and a fluffy animal keeping your feet warm and your heart full. I hope your little girl went down easily for a long nap, only to wake refreshed and full of delightful sweetness. I hope your young man unloaded groceries in the kitchen and then played quietly with his Skylander figures. I hope your husband continues to be gracious, understanding and supportive. 

I wish you the loveliest of peaceful Sunday afternoons....because God knows, we all need it. 

Soldier on, Momma.