A Side of Rice

Hopefully Humorous (and sometimes R-rated) Musings About Life


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Maybe, the First Cut Isn’t the Deepest

On Thursday, July 12, my son Alex had a baseball game at Heritage Farm Park in Walkersville, MD. For most people that know us, this is not in any way unusual. He’s been playing baseball for 10 Springs/Summers, starting with Tball back in 2009.

heritagefarm_park

Our home field — regardless of the age level — has always been one in Heritage Farm Park. Well, with the exception of the high school team, which plays at a field on the high school property.

I have spent countless hours in Heritage Farm Park on a variety of ball fields, freezing my ass off in unseasonalby cold and rainy Springs, and questioning the power of my own deodorant in the blisteringly hot and humid heat of Summer.

And then, of course, there is concession stand duty, which all baseball moms know as the 10th circle of hell. If Dante had run that manuscript by his wife first, his list of circles would have been completed properly.

Calm SnoCones

2017 was Alex’s freshman year in high school. He had tried out for and made the JV team. But this Spring, he tried out for and was cut from the baseball team.

Wait…what?  For the first time in 10 years, Alex was cut from a team and would not be  playing baseball in the Spring. And neither Alex nor his parents were prepared for that because he’d made every travel team and All Star team that required tryouts since 2010.

Well, there was the exception of a regional elite team in 2015. We hadn’t expected him to make that team, but thought it would be a good idea for him to try out. The extra exercise in the days between baseball and football seasons would serve him well. And heaven freakin’ forbid there be a full week where he didn’t need to wear cleats for some reason.

It’s not like 2015 was a washout — though he didn’t make the elite team, he played rec/travel baseball with his regular team that Spring and Summer.

This Summer, he tried out for an American Legion team. He made the team, but it was a regional team, with fewer of the teammates he’d grown up with and a new coaching staff. And because he’d missed Spring with the high school team, he struggled with his skills.

After this season’s experience with baseball, Alex made the decision that football is his priority sport. At 6′ 2″ and over 250 pounds (and only 3/4 of the way through puberty, according to his pediatrician), he’s built for football. He’ll be the starting center on the varsity football team this Fall, when he begins his junior year in high school.

Alex has also decided he won’t be trying out for high school baseball next Spring. Instead, he’ll be doing the Field part of Track and Field with some of his football lineman buddies. And in a fantastic — though bittersweet — twist, his Track and Field coach will be the wife of one of his former baseball (and basketball) coaches, who passed away suddenly last year.

Steve and Alex 1

Alex and Coach Steve at The Ripken Experience in Aberdeen. RIP Steve ❤️

Steve and Alex 2

Steve coaching Alex at first base. RIP Steve ❤️

On Thursday, as I drove through the park on my way to watch Alex’s game, I realized this was the last baseball game of the season at Heritage Farm Park. His last baseball game at Heritage Farm Park. Ever. The realization of this choked me up a bit, the way it did when he walked off the field after his last game with the GVAA Junior Lions football team in 2015, since he would be moving on to high school the following Fall.

IMG_4523

October 10, 2015: Alex (#68) leaves the football field at Heritage Farm Park for the last time of his GVAA Junior Lion football career, though the team would go on to the playoffs at other locations. Walking with him are his dad and his younger brother Nick, who missed most of the season with a broken collar bone, courtesy of some backyard football shenanigans with his brother Alex.                                                                                                                                                                                      I’m pretty sure I boo hoo’d as I took this photo.

Field #5 where he currently plays baseball is the last field on the loop that you drive through in Heritage Farm Park. This night, I stopped at every field and took a picture, which stirred a number of memories…

2009: Tball

Alex in Tball

Alex as a Tball Pirate – 8 years old.

Tball Field

Tball field in 2018: fences in front of the benches, behind home plate, and to outline the outfield have been added since Alex played – compared to the picture above. From this vantage point, you can see three other baseball fields, of the six total baseball fields in the park. There are also 2 softball fields, multiple soccer fields, a frisbee gold course, a par-3 golf course, a football/lacrosse field, multiple football practice fields, two playground and picnic areas and a variety of walking paths. Plus a community garden and mulch pile for yard waste.

 

2010: Machine pitch

Machine pitch 2010

The 2010 GVAA Wildcats All Star Team – Alex is in the second row, far left. They once played in a tournament as the lowest seed on the championship day. They battled through 4 games that day in 100+ degree heat to win the tournament.

Machine and kid pitch field

2018: The machine pitch field, which can also be used for kid pitch. On this evening, the machine pitch All Star team was practicing.

2011: First year of kid pitch

2011 2nd Place in State Tournament

2011 GVAA All Star Team – Runners-up in the Maryland State Tournament that year. Alex is in the second row, far left (#22)

Kid pitch field

2018: Kid pitch field where the heartbreaking runner up finish in the Maryland State Tournament took place.

2012: Kid pitch

2012

Alex took on the new position of catcher in 2012. He was a big force behind the plate and a run blocking machine, which he successfully did in this picture.  It’s the same field they played on in 2011.

2013: Kid pitch field, a bit larger as they hit the pre-teen years

2013

Alex at bat

Preteen Field

2018: The field that kids play on after they move up from the smaller kid pitch field. A father and son are doing some batting practice on this evening.

2014: Still on the kid pitch field; the year of The Ripken Experience

2014 Ripken Experience

Alex on the mound during a game at the 2014 Ripken Experience Beach Blast Tournament. The team did fundraising and preparation for 2+ years to make the trek to this event. It was a great week. We made it to the playoff round, but were knocked out of the tournament by a team from Georgia that played baseball year-round.

2015: We move up to a larger field

2015

Alex takes a foul ball off the mask. He stayed in the game after getting his bell rung.

2015A

Alex and his brother Nick, who (perhaps not so willingly) served as the bat boy for the team

Field 4

Field #4 – one step away from the “big” boy/adult field. On Thursday night, the 14U All Star team is getting ready to practice, as they prep for the state tournament taking place this weekend.

2016: Same field, becoming young men

2016

A between innings chat with the umpire

2017: We move to the big field; Alex plays high school ball in his freshman year

2017 JV

Alex on the JV high school baseball team in the Spring

2017 GVAA Travel

Playing for the travel team in the Summer

Big boy field

The “big boy” field, the evening of July 12, 2018. Getting ready to play ball.

2018: The final year

2018

My baseball knight, in his catcher’s armour

Last Night Behind the Plate at Heritage.JPG

Alex catching in the last baseball game he will ever play at Heritage Farm Park, Thursday, July 12, 2018

The memories I have from Alex’s youth baseball career are deep. They include…

…10 years of physical growth, skill honing and emotional development

…10 years of amazing wins and heartbreaking losses

…10 years of community and friendship building in a new town we had moved to when Alex was just 2 years old, with no family or established friend support system locally

…10 years of new teammates coming, old teammates going and some teammates being there for the entire ride, like these two:

IMG_4273A

Teammate Mason Long

IMG_4377A

Teammate Jacob Kutchey

All of these baseball memories cut deep into my psyche. And they are stronger than any disappointment I may have temporarily felt about Alex not making the high school baseball team this year.

Painful cuts can be deep. We feel them more. Or, perhaps, when we reflect on all the memories, we just think we feel them more.

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Our Last Supper

I’ve been hobbling around on my foot for a year and a half, which I thought was just a twisted ankle taking too long to heal. PSYCH! It was really a partial rupture to my Achilles that after every conservative therapy possible, required surgery on May 31 to repair/rebuild. And removal of the bone spur jutting out of my heel. Go big or go home, right, bitches?

I learned a number of things during my post-surgical recovery:

  • the anesthesia you can get will be so good, you’ll have no idea who dressed you after surgery, how you got into the car after surgery, and whether or not you were wearing a bra the first few days after surgery
  • when entering your house after surgery via the practical (for the temporarily one-legged) but not very graceful method of butt scooting, refrain from placing your hands on the metal door frame on a hot, Summer day
  • if you must enter your house butt-scooting and placing your hands on the metal door frame plate on a hot, Summer day, be sure to do it when there is plenty of anesthesia still coursing through your body so that you barely feel the burn
  • Christian Louboutin is missing out on huge bank by not catering to the post-surgical marketJokes2
  • just because you’ve had surgery, doesn’t mean you can’t play “who wore it better?”

Jokes1

  • dogs make the best nursing assistants
  • never start taking pain killers if you don’t also take stool softener
  • the maximum number of days one can go without a shower before smelling oneself is no longer than 3 days — tops!
  • there will always be some entrepreneur that will make you feel guilty about recovery, and shame your (literally) lame ass to get off of itiwalk05
  • your knee scooter makes an excellent margarita caddy, after a long day of sitting around a baseball field watching your kid playIMG_0442
  • when your friends extend kindness – accept it

Because I was going to be fairly immobile — and not able to use my left foot at all — for 6 weeks, my friend Rebecca set up a Meal Train for me. She invited friends from many of the sports families in our community to participate. I protested this and Rebecca replied with “just shut it and let people do something nice for you for a change.”

So I shut it. The kindness started the evening of my surgery, with a delivery of fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese, and probably some other yummy stuff that I can’t remember now. I barely recall my friend Michelle bringing it by, but I’m pretty sure I gave her a hug from my horizontal location on the couch. Sorry, Michelle, if I was braless…I can’t seem to remember if I was wearing one after surgery.

There were kind gestures and messages…

General June 4General June 16General June 20General June 21General June 22General June 22_2General June 24General June 24_2June 30

There were also special deliveries…

General June 3

General June 8

We were well fed 31 days – everything from full meals to gift cards for local restaurants:

June 1June 2June 3June 4June 5June 6June 7June 8June 9June 10June 11June 12June 14June 15June 17June 17_2June 19June 21June 22June 22_2June 23June 26June 28June 29July 1July 2July 3

On July 3, the final delivery from the Meal Train arrived.  One of my friends replied to a post with this:

Tami

What a fabulous reminder of the kindness, compassion and community outreach that was exemplified by our last supper. All our suppers, really.

#LifeIsGood  #WalkersvillePeepsRock


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Home

I usually write funny stuff. Self-deprecating stuff. Making fun of ego-driven celebrities stuff. And then there are times when I want to share something much more important.

Yesterday, my family and I were cleaning out closets to make a donation to the Frederick Rescue Mission. Our home had plenty of clothes, shoes and linens that we have outgrown or no longer need. We have an embarrassment of riches.

Our riches include more than clothes and linens — there is furniture, food, warmth in the Winter and — when there isn’t a major malfunction — cooling in the Summer. We have family we can count on. We own our home. Our kids play sports that require registration fees and lots of expensive equipment. We have really good health care through my employer, which is a boon when you have two boys. We have two labrador retriever mixes that we adopted from a rescue. Our cars are in great shape. The community we live in is overwhelmingly supportive and full of lots of wonderful people.

So when a friend on Facebook posted a poem, asking folks to read it in the context of the rampant state of anger and nastiness exhibited in today’s political climate, I did.

I thought about what this poem shares from the perspective of people who do not have an embarrassment of riches. People who barely have the basic necessities. Heck, some people who have only the clothes on their backs.

It makes me forever grateful and humble that my “Home” is not the mouth of a shark.

Note: poem copied in its entirety and not redacted for offensive language.

“Home” by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here


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Being First Lady – Not As Cool As I Thought It Would Be

Our boys — now 13 and 14 — have participated for more than 8 years in organized sports through our local community organization, GVAA. We tried soccer briefly, but found our niche in the following areas: baseball (for the oldest in Spring/Summer), lacrosse (for the past three years for our youngest in Spring), football (for both in the Fall),  and basketball (for both in the Winter).

And we have volunteered our time (and money) in numerous ways:

  • Taxi driver: toting our kids (and friends of our kids who may need a ride) to practices, workouts, tryouts, games, tournaments, urgent care, and end-of-season parties.
  • Baggage handler: shoving any combination (depending on the season/sport) of coolers, camera bags, lawn chairs, pop-up canopies, smelly football pads, extremely heavy catcher’s gear bags, and lacrosse sticks that don’t @#$%-ing fit within the limited length of an SUV, to haul over countless miles. Only to unpack it once you arrive at your destination and drag it all what seems like 26.2 miles to the field. And — finally — fruitlessly try to repack the vehicle at the end of the day, cussing out your morning self for being so much more spatially aware than your afternoon/evening self who wants to know how the hell all this crap fit in the car less than 12 hours ago. (It’s obviously that souvenir tournament tee shirt we bought that put us over the edge).
  • Scorekeeper: score keeping is the easy part. The real work is dealing with the parents who ask you to “rethink” that error you assigned to their little superstar when he kicked the baseball instead of catching in it his glove. Or making sure you give their kid credit for the assist on the three-pointer, when it was actually an errant throw that bounced off their kid’s head and into the hands of the player who shot the basketball. 17_times_rolling_your_eyes_was_totally_acceptable__16_
  • Groundskeeper: over the years, we have cut more grass and raked more dirt than is quantifiable. We have helped shop-vac rain off of baseball fields, spread sawdust on wet fields, and paint lines on football and baseball fields. And our HOA wonders why we don’t have any free time to so much as paint our mailbox post.
  • Photographer: photography has become a hobby, and I take photos at many of my kids’ games. I take pictures of all the players and share them via private team groups on Facebook and Shutterfly. This includes baseball, lacrosse, football, and basketball. It also involves a lot of standing, crouching, walking/running the length of the field to get a great shot or catch up with the action. I’ve also been told at least once by a grandparent “you need to move because you are in my way and I can’t see the game” (Really? Because, I was here first, granny.). And at least twice, I was chastised because I “obviously favor some kids over others, because you don’t take nearly enough photos of my kid.” (well, then, buy your own camera and take your own photos, freeloader).
  • Coach: in the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished category, this is probably the worst. No parent of a player is ever satisfied with: 1) the practice schedule, 2) the coach’s plans for skills that will be focused on during practices, 3) their kid’s playing time, 4) the fact that every game isn’t a home game, 5) weather-related delays, postponements, and reschedulings, 6) having to work the concession stand, 7) fundraisers being required in addition to the player registration fee, 8) the team mom’s blatant disregard for establishing a proper snack and drink schedule, 9) the end of season awards party menu, and 10) the fact that the grievance process has to start with the coach, who has already said he finds parental complaints to be totally unfounded and the result of “the petty BS of them trying to relive their childhood sports prowess through their kid(s), who would rather be watching Minecraft videos on YouTube than paying attention at practice.”
  • Food service worker: I consider any time spent working the concession stand, paying my penance here on earth. Because my delusional husband considers his groundskeeping (football)/scorekeeping (baseball and basketball)/coaching (basketball) work to be equal to food service work, I get stuck frying chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks, concocting walking tacos (don’t ask), smothering nacho chips and hot pretzels with cheese, waiting three minutes for a 6 year old to select what color of Gatorade they want when the line of customers is 20+ long, and — worst of all — making those damn sno-cones.Calm SnoCones
  • Philanthropist: I have supported the organization through player registration fees, in addition to all these other volunteer opportunities listed above. I have also purchased more pizza kits, cookie dough, coupon books, spirit wear, dance tickets, dine-around-town dinners, tournament tee shirts, food and drinks at the concession stand, drinkware, car decals, and team/individual photos than I can remember.

    New Pilot

    Now, we are road ready.

This year, after not much thought, my husband decided to run for President of the kids’ sports organization. For a small town of around 5,800 that pulls participants from 3 small elementary schools and one middle school, it seemed like a fabulous way to volunteer and give back to an entity that had provided so much fun and entertainment for our kids.

And he won! How fabulous that he’ll be able to help guide policy and programs to help future players and their parents through our tight-knit town’s offerings.

And me? I get to be First Lady. Here’s what wikipedia says about being the First Lady:

The position of the First Lady is unofficial and carries no official duties. The role of the First Lady has evolved over the centuries. The main role of the First Ladies, besides their private role as spouse, has been as host and organizer to the White House.[2] She organizes and attends official ceremonies and functions of state either along with, or in place of, the president.

The position is largely one of status, and First Ladies have held influence in a range of sectors, from fashion to public opinion on policy.

No official duties? Host and organizer of ceremonies and functions? Status? Influence in fashion? (we’re all going to get bling spirit wear, bitches!)

Lions Mom Bling

Lion sports mom – bling it!

And unlike that do-gooder Michelle Obama (who advocates for healthy families, higher education, and international adolescent girls education…BO-ring!), I can focus on my pet project, water conservation:

Tequila

Hot damn!

But, so far, being the First Lady is not really the life of glamour and prestige I imaged it to be. Why?

  • I don’t get a cool nick-name: Unlike FLOTUS, which sounds like a lush, tropical bloom with an aroma that transports you to an ethereal, peaceful place, my nick-name is FLGVAA (pronounced “flog-va”). Which sounds more like an S&M expert, with an unnatural leather/chain/pain fetish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I guess. You freaks.
  • I still have to keep my real (paying) job: According to wikipedia, since 2001, the president has earned a $400,000 annual salary, along with a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment. My husband’s new presidency comes with an annual salary of $0, with a big, fat nothing else for expenses, travel, and/or entertainment. Unless we pay for it. Lame, huh?
  • We don’t get a break on volunteering: Our time as taxi driver, baggage handler, scorekeeper, groundskeeper, photographer, coach, and food service worker does not get reduced in any way. In fact, it will be even more obvious if we don’t do these things. So that doesn’t leave much time for all the potential highfalutin official ceremonies and functions of state. Seems I’ll need to continue to carve out plenty of time for all the lowfalutin crap I’m already doing. Yay.
  • And some volunteer roles are expanded: Like philanthropy. It’s not enough for us to purchase something from every fundraiser that gets dreamed up, and just call it a day. Now we have to show up for every “dine-around-town” and stay for the duration of the event thanking all the players, families and fans who show up to make a purchase for a percent of the proceeds going to our organization. If the Prez gets…say…’stuck at work late’ or ‘delayed due to bad traffic’, the First Lady has to fill in, greeting and thanking everyone. And for the fundraising dances, the First Couple can’t arrive fashionably late as has been their custom (i.e., at the point where all our friends are good and sauced) and then leave early (“to get home and make sure the kids aren’t trying to kill each other”). No. We have to show up early and stay until last call the event is over and everyone has cleared out.

All of this only means one thing — the FLGVAA’s water conservation program starts now. Bottom’s up, my people.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Why I Will Never Be in Charge of the Community Sign Board

I drove past the community sign board yesterday and the message on the right piqued my interest:

Phone number removed to protect the privacy of the poor schmuck who can't wait to get rid of this gig.

Phone number removed to protect the privacy of the poor schmuck who can’t wait to get rid of this gig.

Because in between my four hour round trip commute to work each day, my actual job, baking for fun, not making dinner, attending my kids’ sporting events, taking a ton of pictures at my kids’ sporting events, worrying about the lack of indoor plumbing at my kids’ sporting events, complaining about having to work the concession stand at my kids’ sporting events, decorating my dining room table with the equipment from my kids’ sporting events, Happy Hours with the other sports moms, dog walking, and getting mani/pedis and massages, why wouldn’t I take on something else?

Earlier in the year, this encouraging — yet cringe-inducing — message was posted for students in our neighborhood:

DearboughtSign

It’s the message on the left…the message on the right doesn’t induce much cringing.

It made me think maybe I should volunteer for the gig. I mean, think of editorializing I could do with the message requests for so many individuals and special interest groups…

Message request: REMINDER:  FOLLOWING HOA RULES KEEP OUR NEIGHBORHOOD VALUES HIGH!

My version:

Message request: NRA CHAPTER RECRUITMENT SOCIAL SATURDAY AT 2:00PM

My version:

Sponsored by the NRA

Message request: LOST BOY’S BLUE BIKE. IF FOUND PLS RETURN TO COMMUNITY CENTER

My version:

Sponsored by Neighborhood Watch

Message request: OUR GHOULS AND GOBLINS WILL BE TRICK OR TREATING FROM 5-8PM

My version:

For real, kids.

Message request: WEED AND WATER: IT KEEPS A LAWN AND OUR NEIGHBORHOOD BEAUTIFUL!

My version:

Sponsored by Mrs. Rice's husband who was her designated driver that one night she did puke in her front yard.

Message request: JOIN US FOR A PTA FUNDRAISING MEETING ON MONDAY EVENING at 6:30PM

My version:

DearboughtSignPTA

And of course, there are the general public service announcements…

Sponsored by Team Not-the-Whore

I’m not going to volunteer though. I have a feeling it would just end up like this:

Those sports mom Happy Hours will do it ever time.

Those sports mom Happy Hours will do it every time.


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Any Given Saturday

Bert Bell, NFL Commissioner from 1946 – 1959, coined the phrase “on any given Sunday.” It means that no matter what the odds are, on any given Sunday any team can beat any other team.

I feel like we live it every single week when we cross our fingers and hope the Steelers show up on NFL Red Zone channel trying to score. Most of the time, they show up on the Red Zone channel trying to prevent the other team from scoring. We are just thrilled if they squeeze out a win any given Sunday.

But last weekend, we definitely experienced this phrase up close and personal. My oldest son’s football team had worked hard through the season to make it to the Super Bowl for his age group. My other son gets to play up with the D1 boys in this age group, since his D2 team had won their bowl game weeks ago. Our league plays the Super Bowl games for each age group on Saturday.

We were playing a team that we had gone up against in the regular season, having won by a touchdown in that game. We knew the game would be a good one; a tough one. But by beating them in the regular season, the odds should have been in our favor, right?

The game was a defensive gem. Both teams made plays that prevented scoring through the first three quarters of the game. As time wound down in the final quarter, with just 22 seconds left in the game, my friend Michelle’s son made this catch that I captured with my camera:

Brett's amazing catch over a tall defender

Brett’s amazing catch over a tall defender

With that and the kicked extra point (in this league, you get two points for an extra point kick since it’s harder for these kids), we were ahead 8 – 0. Elation!

On the ensuing kick off, that same #6 who had tried and failed to disrupt our pass play in the end zone got the ball and ran it all the way back for a touchdown. And their kicker got the extra point, so we were tied 8-8 and had to head to overtime. What’s the opposite of elation, cuz that’s how watching that play unfold felt.

In overtime, each team gets the ball on the 10 yard line and 4 downs to score. We won the toss and got the ball first. The defense for the other team did it’s job for the first three downs and on 4th down we weren’t able to run the ball in to score. Our defense took the field, and their offense ran three plays that resulted in no gain. On 4th down, they put their kicker in and he booted it through the uprights.

Now I — and the entire Lions Nation who came out to cheer our boys on — definitely felt the opposite of elation.

This was the second time in three years our boys made it to the Super Bowl for their age group in our league, against a team they beat in the regular season, only to lose in the last seconds of the game.  In 2012, they had played an undefeated season up until that Super Bowl game.

In 2012, there were lots of 9-, 10-, and 11-year old tears after that loss. And the coaches were pretty emotional as well. The parents and fans gathered around the boys as the coaches spoke to them after the game. I had painted my face with blue and gold Lion paws, and as the head defensive coach spoke to them after the game — crying through his speech — I ended up with runny paws on my cheeks from my own tears as I handed out the post-game cupcakes.

This year, the parents and fans gave the team their space during the post-game comments. My friend Michelle and I were standing near the team, ready to hand out the goodies I made them this year.

This year, there were tears again. Not as many, and not as strong, but 11-, 12-, and 13-year old boys still feel the sting of loss. So do their coaches, parents, and fans.

The Monday after the game, the boys had to turn in their uniforms. The team mom said that they were all sad and still upset about the loss, until one kid came in. She said to him “You doing ok, Nick?”  He quickly smiled and responded, “Sure am. Third time’s the charm, right?”

That’s right Nick…on any given Saturday, the third time could be the charm.

Any given Saturday, you may see the occasional tear.

Any given Saturday, you may see the occasional tear.

 

 


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Lessoning the Pain

When my husband and I moved to the little burb of Walkersville just over ten years ago, we didn’t know anyone. Well, except for his uncle and aunt, who showed up on the evening we moved in and asked for a tour of our new place. We really had nothing to show because the moving truck with all our stuff broke down halfway to our new home, but it was nice to know family would feel comfortable stopping by, uninvited at any inconvenient time they pleased.

Our social isolation didn’t last long, as we made friends with the parents of our boys’ classmates in daycare. But the real place we found our circle of friends was with the organized sports of baseball, football, and basketball.  We typically saw the same kids and parents throughout the year as we cheered the kids to victory, and supported them in defeat.

And it’s been that way for the past 6 years. We’ve spent some of our evenings and many of our weekends with these folks. So our closest friends are not our neighbors, but the families we spend the majority of our free kids’ sports time with.

Two years ago, our community was rocked by a tragic accident. Our next door neighbor’s teenage daughter was driving a car that was involved in an accident. One of the passengers was seriously injured. He was a teenager from our neighborhood. And the other passenger in the car — the driver’s very good friend — was killed in the accident. She lived 5 houses away from us.

We didn’t run in the same circles as the parents of these teenagers, but as a mom, it broke my heart to know what these parents were going through. The parents who did run in their circles and had been part of their kids’ lives were all going to be grieving. And while I was too, I was an outsider looking in. A safe distance from the major hurt.

Saturday, my sons had their first football playoff game, en route to a possible Super Bowl game.  On the way home, I checked Facebook and saw a post in the local high school news feed about a player who graduated in June 2014 who had died Friday night/Saturday morning.  My heart sank thinking the high school community would be suffering again.

Then this series of events took place, and I began to piece together how close yet another tragedy was:

  • when we arrived home from the football game on Saturday, there were more cars than usual at our neighbor’s house. “Must be having a party tonight,” I thought to myself.
  • cars kept showing up at our neighbor’s house all day on Sunday, and my son Alex said “they must be having a game watching party.”
  • later Sunday afternoon, the high school principal sent a message to parents and students to let them know June 2014 graduate Jon Sandoval had died due to possible alcohol poisoning, combined with over-the-counter medicine. The message was circulated via Facebook as well. Jon’s mom had asked that all parents use this as a teaching moment with their own children.Letter_from_Principal
  • while watching Sunday Night Football at my friend Rebecca’s house, her son told me he heard that the kid who died lived in our neighborhood
  • another mom texted me while we were watching Sunday Night Football and said she heard the kid lived on my street

On Monday afternoon there was a knock on our door. When I answered, the delivery man asked “Do you know the family across the street?”  I slowly responded “the Sandovals?”. And confirming what I pretty much had already figured out, the deliver driver said “Yes.”

The family wasn’t home and he had a delivery, so he asked if I could make sure they got it.  “Sure,” I quietly responded.

Later that night, as more cars came and went, I walked over to my neighbor’s house to deliver the basket. I stumbled and fumbled over my words, as I handed the basket to Jon’s younger sister Emily who had answered the door. I was barely able to choke out, “Uh…I’m your neighbor from across the street. This arrived today while you were out. Um…the delivery driver left it with me. So…I wanted to make sure you got it. And I  just want you to know that my family is thinking of your family and we offer you our sympathy.”

Emily very graciously took the basket and thanked me.

I was no longer a safe distance from the hurt. Even though we didn’t really know the family, this hurt felt up close and personal.

We’ve already talked to our 12 and 11 year old sons about this, as honestly and openly as we could. I write this post to respect the wishes of a grieving mother. She asked us to share Jon’s story, with the hope that it could make the difference for just one kid.

So, while I’m doing this to help with lessoning the pain, I really wish I could lessen the pain for my whole community.

RIP Jon Sandoval

RIP Jon Sandoval