Monday, June 29, 2009

Hot Times in the Ice Rink

Having spent most of my lifetime in Southern California, it seemed only natural to me that when my kids were old enough to participate in youth sports programs, they'd select sports that were natural to their environment. To encourage adoption of what I assumed would be obvious choices, I enrolled all three in a local swim team. As my daughter would say, "Sports Fail."

You see, swim team meets early in the morning, a time when it's kinda cold (until you get into the water). And, with most of the meets in June (So. Cal. residents are familiar with 'June Gloom') there were meets at which I kept two sets of towels: one to keep them warm as they stood in the pea soup fog and one to dry them off in the pea soup fog). Not surprisingly, nobody warmed up, so to speak, to competitive swimming.

From there I tried Junior Lifeguard Camp. My version of bootcamp for pre-teens, to me this was the coolest thing ever. I would march the kids down to the beach at 7:00 a.m., armed with mini-coolers filled with Gatorade, water and snacks. I would pick them up at 3:00 p.m., so exhausted they fell asleep in the car on the ride home. In between, they enjoyed buoy swims, running on the beach, beach games and an assortment of beach activities. Again, to me, nirvana. Again, to my kids: Sand Fail.

Since then I've tried gymnastics, diving, basketball, ballet and flag football. All great sports. None stuck.

Katie found her sport on her own (I gave up on her after paying for 12 ballet lessons only to have her spend most of the time ignoring the teacher and posing for herself in the mirror, well, she was only five). Jumping. On a horse.

James, an excellent diver and fairly adept swimmer also found his own sport: ice hockey. Yeah. Ice hockey. In Southern California. Where rink time is so limited that there are leagues that compete in the middle of the night. Given that these are kids, they don't do that to the parents. They set us up for practices at 5:45 a.m. —on Saturday. Or, if it's an especially low-interest weekend (like Fourth of July weekend), Saturday AND Sunday. Oh, and Monday. 

Now, having been born in the midwest, I totally get ice hockey. We used to play it on our pond. The pond that didn't have a Zamboni. With skates that were not professionally sharpened. And with equipment that we created ourselves, not that our parents spent hundreds on at the Ice Hockey Warehouse O' Competitive Crap (my name, not theirs, for the Superstore of all things Ice Hockey found in Anaheim). My son loves this game and the fact that it requires amazing refrigeration, a 45-minute-drive and a LOT of expensive equipment (did I mention "expensive"?) does not deter him in the least. The 45-minute drive (for a 5:45 a.m. game) deters me, but that's not important. My July, and his, will be spent at Anaheim Ice, where he will eventually score his first goal, land more assists, and become (at least in his pretty humble head) the Teemu Selanne of his Squirt team. Not because he is a natural. Because in his heart, it is all he wants. And he has a coach that is supportive and encouraging. Not the best skater, not the best shooter, not the "best" of anything that could be labelled, he has received excellent coaching from someone who has encouraged him to go ahead and believe. And believing, as I have witnessed, does amazing things. Suddenly, the skater who isn't the fastest pushes harder. The kid who's a little clumsy with the puck gets determined. The kid who wants the assist gets it. 

No, he doesn't have his goal yet. And I still grumble at the 4:45 a.m. alarms. But after the game, when he talks about the "I almost..." and smiles, somehow that makes it worth it. Is he going to be Teemu Selanne? Probably not. Is he my family's Teemu Selanne? Absolutely. And I have to give a big hats off to the coaches at Anaheim Ice who have helped us along. Inspiring my child and every other child on these teams to do their best, push their hardest and see how believing in themselves can make a difference. 

Parents make a difference by trying to find a good youth sports program for their child. The coaches who give of themselves to make every kid on the team the best he or she can be complete the picture. Teaching our kids to create goals, learn from failure and find out what they are really made of is what every parent strives to accomplish. Youth sports programs and the coaches that encourage that process ensure that these life skills are experienced. 

Whether your kid is playing soccer (hats off to you, I see those all-day meets), baseball, football, basketball or Lacrosse, we're all in these programs. Be sure to thank the coaches at the end of the day. And, if anyone is interested in getting some great tips on how you can be a supportive parent, or how to be that inspiring coach, visit

As for me, I'm thinking about inventing a skate-lacer, because I swear my husband nor I will ever get those skates laced tight enough. As for William, our youngest, his goal is to be a Nascar driver. I have no idea how we're going to find a program for that...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Random Thoughts From a Weird Week

It's the first week since school let out, so, as a veteran, I knew that this week would have its share of trials and tribulations as the kids get used to their 10-week "freedom from schedules" break. It is also the week in which O'Neill Park in the canyon is transformed into Cub Scout Coven, with boys ranging from 6 to 11 participating in activities that truly delight boys: archery, hitting each other, wood crafts, poking each other, obstacle courses, spitting on each other, dissecting owl scat, kicking each other, and the best of all is saved for last: the mud fight. This year, my two oldest are "orange shirts," aka "helpers," so for one more week, my house is quiet from 1:30 until 9:00 p.m. I have tried my best to savor the silence, but work keeps intruding. Which leads me to my random thoughts for this wacked out week:

• Why did Michael Jackson turn up on my Google Alerts for "children's health records" (I'm writing a piece on those). There are jokes that could be made, but today, I'm not feeling snarky enough to do it.
• Is Ryan O'Neal for real or fame-whoring it a bit? I really can't tell.
• Why aren't there any fast food restaurants that sell really healthy food? Last night, at about 10 p.m. driving home, I could have used a drive through that offered a grilled salmon with salad, or tofu and salad, or something...(well, on top of the salad). 
• Why do I continue to attempt wear white, when my kids are walking stain magnets?
• Who invented flipflops, and WHY?
• Why does the cat insist on puking on the carpet, when the tile is just a scant 3 inches further?
• Why do squats work? 
• I am not convinced crunches work. 
And finally, if you have one deadline for each day of the week, it is inevitable that they will all converge and become due on the same day, within hours of each other. 

Can't wait to find out what wackiness awaits me tomorrow!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Survivor: Seattle

For anyone else in my family, my current trip would be the urban equivalent of Survivor. Two days (and counting) without one second of televised content. Who knew it could be done? Clearly no one from my household.

It's not me. I hate TV. Mostly. I like the occasional program and a movie or two, but I do not live and breathe to touch the remote. And mostly, I find myself turning the damned thing OFF because everyone leaves it on. 24/7. Probably to specifically annoy me.

So, for this trip, where I have enjoyed two nights' worth of room service and peace and quiet, I can happily say I haven't even looked for the remote. Each evening I've diligently completed within six hours what would take me at home about 12 (maybe 14 given Squirrel's recent proclivity to projectile puke across my office) and I've even made decent progress through "Atlas Shrugged." (Anyone familiar with that tome knows that it's not a light or fast read).

With sadness, I know my time is coming to its end and tomorrow evening I must return home, where the biggest battles are waged over "remote possession," and I will once again become point person for finding/cleaning/distributing all things essential and non-essential.

But until then, I am going to savor my last night in Survivor: Seattle. Quiet is the ultimate elixir. Well, that and a good book. 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

business travel, u r doing it wrong

I'll admit that I am out of practice with the business travel. Before I had kids, I had mad packing skills that enabled me to load a suitcase with precisely everything I needed, including a good book for the flight, in less than 30 minutes. Maybe it's the interruptions. Maybe it's the cat puking on the floor. Maybe it's just because all of my stuff is now scattered across a larger footprint. But this time around packing was a chore rivaled only by sorting whites and darks in my laundry room. 

Being the "expert" traveler that I am, I dutifully searched to determine what would be the best array of attire. And, having remembered the days back when I had time to read Glamour or any other magazine, now that I come to think about it, I pulled out of my memory that clever girls traveled with color-coordinated gear so that one skirt, a scarf, a blouse and two pairs of shoes could get her through an entire week PLUS a formal dinner. Which is why I found myself in Payless today, seeking a flirty pair of flats to replace the ones that Fred the Cat had gnawed on so that I could travel with my three-item ensemble. Why spend $80 on nice skimmers when $15 wouldn't make me nearly half as heartbroken should Fred set his fangs upon a new pair, I thought. And the whole gig would have gone off without a hitch had not another woman in what appeared to be a similar predicament want the exact same pair of shoes that I had under my arm. Now, I'm all for helping out a friend in need, but that extended no further than helping this poor soul searching the racks, ask the counter person to run the style code and then, taking a "I'm so sorry" tone, rushing off with my shoes. Because clever girls need their flirty shoes, especially when they have a flight to catch in 1 1/2 hours.

Had I known that these same "comfortable" flats would have me walking like I had trekked the Sierra Madre barefoot later that same day, I might have just handed them off, taken my sneakers and told everyone in Seattle that the sneakers + skirt look is all the rage in the OC. Instead, rather than striding with confidence through the SEATAC airport, I slogged along wincing with each step, wishing I had some arch supports handy. This would also explain the side-eye I inadvertently slung at the one-legged lady who was exiting the bathroom through the entrance. I was on a roll, and on a mission, and my expectations were not to encounter anyone coming out through the in. I'll berate myself later for thinking any negative thoughts about anyone who clearly is overcoming greater odds than falling arches. 

In fact, come to think about it, I found it rather impressive that she also was talking on her cell. Now there's a feat, pun intended, I could not have pulled off.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Frog is Dead.

Admittedly, I took a break. A long one. Not from work. Not by a long shot. Just from thinking. So a lot of time has passed. In four short weeks I have been to Seattle (which was working fun, but still fun), Las Vegas (which was working fun, but not nearly as much as Seattle) and to so many "end of the year" functions I feel like I'm running an "end of the year" marathon. And in the midst of all of this work and running and getting ready for the "end of the year," the frog died.

Froggy arrived at our doorstep as a tadpole; the coolest part of the neighbor's camping adventure down in the canyon. He arrived with three siblings, as it were. He alone survived the sweat shop that is my boys' bathroom. Having transformed the surf frog habitat where once Discovery Science Center spawn had attempted to thrive into a new nursery, Froggy and his friends splashed about in mostly complete peace. The only exception was when Fred, the frog killing cat, was lurking.

Froggy's siblings died a bizarre and sudden death one evening. But Froggy kept on going. And Froggy became Froggy. Transfered to a new and luxurious home downstairs, Froggy adapted well, even to the piercing blue eyes that gazed upon him like he was the greatest delicacy known to cat-kind. But as the weeks progressed, the only two humans still curious about Froggy were mom and dad, who made sure that he had a ready supply of fruit flies and ample water. 

That is, until William's birthday weekend. And, for two long days, absorbed in details and running between boy scouts, neighbor's houses and ice hockey, as well as William's Disneyland birthday extravaganza, nobody checked on Froggy. And in that 48-hour span of time, Froggy died. 

William, devastated to find his little friend lifeless and shriveled, is a mixture of perplexed and distraught. When pets die it opens up a window to have valuable discussions with our children about the fragility of life and how to live in the "now" (which kids do in spades, anyway). But having your reptilian buddy die over your birthday is never ideal. And no amount of cuddles and rationalizations can ever adequately explain what transpired.

So we will bury Froggy somberly with the assorted hamsters and mice who have shared their lives with us; the furry friends lasted much much longer, but all have had their special time with us. And the only downside to this backyard memorial is that as I garden, I secretly hope I don't displace a burial spot I may have forgotten.

And now Fred has absolutely nothing to terrorize. To which I suggest, you know, the boys really want a dog...

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