Why the high five tunnel needs to go

I knew we were in trouble when she spent three minutes telling me how she just wanted her team to have fun.

I remembered her from last year–she just wanted the kids to have fun then too, which meant playing her two best players the whole game and objecting when we stopped her team’s breakaway because it was happening on the field next to ours. “It’s just for FUN!” she yelled.

On Saturday she said “Gosh, they’re only seven.”

When I was seven, I won my first President’s Cup. When Gabe was seven, he lost his (it was five years ago and the details are hazy, but it was something like: the ref, who had a grandson on the other team, allowed an extra minute of play in which the other team scored the tying goal and then he awarded a pk in OT on an incidental handball).

One of my players has scored 15 goals in two games—four of them left footed and one that she pegged out of the air as it flew across the front of the goal. I don’t have to ask her to back off in the second half—she hangs back on defense all on her own. She’s seven.

One of my players hates it when the other team scores so much that she chased down a breakaway last week, waited til the other player slowed down to shoot and ran her off the ball. Then she cleared the ball to the sideline, not the goal line, because throw-ins are better than corners. She’s seven.

A girl on the other team saved a breakaway by grabbing my player by her jersey, allowing her teammate to steal the ball. Her coach told her never to do that again. I told her next time don’t get caught. She smiled at me because she knew I knew.  She’s seven.

My own daughter buried her head in my hip and burst into tears at halftime—because she’d only scored one goal. She’s seven.

So they’re not only seven. They’re already seven. And a meat-eater is a meat-eater they day she is born.

After the game, we shook hands and my girls went for their snacks. “Hey,” Just-For-Fun called “Don’t you do the high five tunnel?” This is where the parents make a tunnel and the kids run through it all together after the game. Fun and necessary for four and five year olds.  Last Spring, my team decided it was dumb. At the end of the game, they want one thing: snack.

“We don’t” I told her.

“Really? Why not?” she asked incredulously.

I shrugged. “They don’t like it. They’re seven.”

“Right, ” an outraged voice belonging to the dad coaching on the field next to us piped in.  “They’re only seven.”

“Yeah, you know they do the high five tunnel with the 5th graders, right?” Just-For-Fun said.

“Right,” random coach dad said, shaking his head at me. “Wow. Whatever.”

I didn’t say any of the words in my head.  

But I did watch her team run the high five tunnel, game completely forgotten.

Then I watched one of my girls Facetime her mom at work to tell her she’d scored twice. I watched another get an up in the air hug from her dad for a pull back move she used to change direction and break away.  I watched Annie kick dirt over to Shea with a puss on her face because she didn’t play the way she wanted to play. I didn’t have to hear it to know that the man I married honored her frustration by saying “Ok. What are you going to do better next time?”

And I thought What a load of BS.

This sports parenting culture that asks the meat-eaters to make themselves smaller so no one else feels badly is ridiculous.  So is flatline parenting—we can’t eliminate the highs and lows. We have to teach kids to negotiate them. And don’t even get me started on random guy popping off from the other sideline. This isn’t Facebook, friend. You don’t get to comment.

Beware the parents who are so intent on manufacturing every emotion their child feels that they will even try to control other people’s kids. Which is what Just-For-Fun coach really wanted—for my team to act like winning wasn’t important so that her team would feel better about losing.

I’m not doing that. We won 11-4. I played all eight players the same amount of time. Four of them scored. We don’t need the high five tunnel–we had lots of fun all on our own.

A $10,000 Kitchen Make-Over

Sometimes you want a $50,000 kitchen. And sometimes your husband says “We have $10,000.”

The kitchen in our 1968 ranch house was marketed as “newly remodeled”.  My husband thought it was nice.

 I thought there was a giant kitchen trying to break free, so I called my good friend Bethany from Reclaimed Cottage and asked her to bring her husband David and her color wheel and come on over.

I love Bethany because she doesn’t make crazy eyes when I say things like “Let’s cut the peninsula and make it an island” Or “Let’s flatten the ceiling and panel it”.

David, though. David had a prescient warning: “You never know what you’re going to find behind the walls. And once you find it, you have to fix it”.

We discovered that the “kitchen remodel” mentioned in the listing was DIY with box store pre-fab cabinets. They must have been on sale because two sections were of the under-the-sink variety, with faux drawers. Ditto in the bathroom, btw. The quartz countertops were also self-installed, as was the laminate counter on the back wall.

Glass half full–once the quartz on the peninsula was cut, the cabinets underneath separated easily into their prefab sections and were very easy to turn.

Opening the walls and doorways was a bigger issue. The electrical was a maze.  In order to fit the refrigerator we had to knock out a half wall and relocate the main light switches. In the process, we somehow cut a line to the back of the house. There were so many wires in the attic, it took a two week process of elimination to find and then rewire the circuits.

The peninsula did not just magically turn into an island. It was too long for code on both ends and had to be shortened. Then it just looked like a bunch of cut cabinets. Bethany designed a “look” for the island, which included beadboard, trim and a cute little bookshelf at one end, and David made it so.

We opened both the doorways and took them up to the ceiling. David removed the soffet where the peninsula used to be and we paneled the ceiling with tongue and groove pine, purchased at Home Depot and stained just a hinch to call in the mantel in the family room.

In the middle of this madness, I found a wall clock.  It’s my most favorite color palette and it informed the colors choices for the entire house.

White walls, light blue cabinets and a cherry red island in the kitchen. Soft blue throughout the core of the home. Refuge blue—the same color from our last house—in the dining room. The family room walls lean about three shades away from white towards gray and while we need a new couch and curtains in there, I am waiting to find the right ones.

I did the dishes one night in the middle of all this and realized we were missing cabinets to the left of the sink. Didn’t have the budget for one more cabinet. So I went to Home Depot, bought a stair tread, cut it in half, stained and hung it with brackets I got from an Etsy shop. Total cost: $23.

Viola-ish.

The laminate counter is still there. The quartz counters too, rough cut edges and all. The ten year old appliances. It’s all there, and will be until we can save up to replace them.

Also, the bathrooms. They are an homage to 80s wallpaper:

They have to wait. My husband said “We have $10,000”. It is what it is.

Things I have learned from having a daughter in 5th grade.

  1. This is not your son’s fifth grade. Not even close.
  2. However, the way you parented your son when he was ages 2-6 will come in handy for your daughter’s fifth grade.
  3. Fifth grade girls don’t hit with their hands, but they hit. Hard.
  4. Yes, your daughter too. I don’t care who she’s been for the last ten years. She is full of hormones and no longer in control of her body, mind or emotions.
  5. It doesn’t matter how she acts at home. Group think has kicked in and no fifth grader is strong enough to resist it.
  6. Good luck figuring out the truth. When she was little, she spoke full truth or full lie. Now she lives firmly in the gray area, embroidering her stories with perceptions, assumptions, exaggerations. Sometimes, this will leave your family howling laughing. And sometimes—almost always after you have moved heaven and earth to set up a parent-teacher-principal meeting to demand an explanation—she will concede “Well, that was the way it made me feel.”
  7. Not all teachers are equipped to handle this. They will need your patience, your permission and your help. They may think you haven’t noticed that shrieking harpy is now a facet of your daughter’s personality. The earlier you let her know that you see truth, the easier it will be to cage the harpy.
  8. Not all moms are equipped to handle this. There are a lot of reasons for this—denial, defense, deflection, among others. Moms who haven’t walked in truth the first five years you’ve known them at school are not going to wake up one morning and see. It is not your job to help them see. Fifth grade is where Mom’s Nights Out go to die.
  9. It is past time to transition away from words as your primary form of discipline. It was never a good idea, but now it’s malpractice. Words are not a consequence. Fifth graders figure out that words just have to be endured. 9th graders see words as a challenge. YOU NEED TO GET IN FRONT OF THIS. Actions are consequences. You should clear a secret space high among the shelves in your closet for all the stuff you are going to take away from your fifth grade daughter.
  10. Somewhere along the year, your girl will outwit you. When your son did it, he thought it was funny and then apologized. When she does it, she will file it away as R&D. If she’s still got a smidge of sugar and spice left, she will remind you constantly that she “got you”. If she never brings it up again, you should know she is laying strategic groundwork to own you in ways explicit and implicit for the next 7 years. At this point, her dad is already a casualty. You are the last stand. Train accordingly.
  11. Finally, if you haven’t started talking about sisterhood to your daughter, you are behind the game. In fifth grade, girls want to be friends with other girls. The problem is that they still think this has to happen in pairs. They leave their friends they have had for years and cleave to new friends. You can see how this sucks. Sisterhood is the answer.

Enjoy your summer, moms of fourth grade daughters.

Then fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy year.  

Do You Want To Know?

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So, Fortnight.

Don’t worry, I’m not going all Prince Harry here. To me, there’s very little difference between spending hours on Fortnight talking to friends and the hours I spent on the phone when I was 13 talking to friends.

But.

My mom couldn’t hear my friends unless she picked up the extension.

I can hear it all from the Fortnight.

I have said before that my teenage parenting strategy is to establish my crazy mom cred when my kids were young. I believe that I have done this with Gabe and his friends—the right mix of cool and I will pull my car over to yell at you, I don’t care whose kid you are.

So no one blinks that Gabe’s Fortnight is where I can hear it all. Or his phone has a mad mama control that allows me to read all his text messages. I don’t—our agreement is that I won’t unless my mom radar tells me I should.

But I could. And they all know I would.

So yeah, I have rolled into the middle of Fortnight and told some young men to watch their language and play nicely or they won’t like what happens next.

Here’s what I need to know though—if your kid is a douchebag when you aren’t listening, do you want to know?

My girlfriend’s son is 11. He plays with a kid who drops the F bomb so often she swears he’d give me a run for my money. It’s natural that my friend thinks his mom must know this, since the child is so fluent. Hard not to judge that, a house where 11 year olds use the F word in all the parts of speech and sometimes in the same sentence.

But what if his mom has no idea? What if the xBox is in his room upstairs in a house with a main floor master and all she knows is thank god for Fortnight because he’s not constantly asking her what’s for dinner?

It’s an age old mama question.

Do you want to know?

If your kid is the one with the anonymous Instagram who posts crap about other kids, do you want to know?

If your daughter is changing her clothes on the way to school into something less…modest…do you want to know?

If you kid is downlow dating someone (and by downlow, I mean that YOU don’t know but all the followers on their mom-free snapchat account know) do you want to know?

In this age where our kids are putting their lives into permanent public spaces without the proper brain function to understand the implications—or thankfully, that they aren’t as smart as they think they are—do you want to know?

I do.

I want to know.

I have told my sister mamas this. Not when my child comes to them in second mom status for a perspective that’s different than mine.

But when there is skulking, lying or tomfoolery? I need to know.

Do you?

Violet and the Bangs

It has been a few months now, but a while back, I noticed one day that Violet, my 6-year-old, had bangs.  Suddenly. They appeared out of nowhere. The girls had just come back from a weekend at their dad’s and I asked her if she had gotten a haircut…. Nope.

Well, did your dad cut your bangs?  No.

Did your grandma?  No.

Violet, did you cut your bangs?  No.

And the Mystery of the Cut Bangs began.  

Periodically I would ask Violet about the bangs.  She always replied that she didn’t know what happened.  She couldn’t remember. She didn’t know if someone cut her bangs, or who.  It was all very strange.

Then about three months later, my older daughter, Mazie, who is 8, and I were cleaning out one of the toy bins.  I picked up a red plastic cup and Mazie said to me, “That’s the cup that Violet put her hair in.” What? “Yeah, after she cut her bangs.”

Mystery solved.  

I really didn’t care if Violet cut her bangs or not, and I told that to her.  She wouldn’t have gotten in trouble. But now, now she had been lying to me for months.  Lying to my face. And that hurt.  I do not want to raise a liar. 

Lies are slippery little suckers, aren’t they?  They’re a practiced behavior that sometimes start out so small and insignificant.  I’ve often told students that the first lie you tell someone is the hardest one to tell.  The first time you break that trust tears your guts out.  The next time you lie though, it’s easier. And the easier it gets, the bigger the lies become.  

I dated a guy once that would lie about anything.  If he had eggs for breakfast, he could swear on the Bible that he’d eaten cereal.  And he would lie about little things like that. At the time, it just didn’t make any sense to me, but when I found his emails with 4 other women, all of the lies began to unravel.  

Truth is big around these parts.  Jen and I had lots of conversations when we created this blog about Truth being the cornerstone of our writing.  I challenge you today to live in truth.  If you’re doing something you feel you need to lie about, I have an idea:  don’t do that thing! Don’t practice lying. Stop being good at it.  Walk in integrity. It’s so worth it.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what happened with little Violet, this is how it went down:  She walked back in the room while we were cleaning, and I said, “Hey Violet, is this the cup you put your hair in when you cut your bangs?”  The poor little girl never had a chance. Without missing a beat she said, “Yep!”  And then her eyes got real big.  

Mama always knows. Game. Set. Match.

50 Years

Three years ago I wrote a post about an EPIC night shared by my parents and aunt and uncle on the occasion of their 1st and 5th wedding anniversaries.

It involved fishsticks and champagne and steep San Francisco streets and a poor dude who had the nerve to drive through an intersection when it was not his turn.

This year is my aunt’s and uncle’s 54th wedding anniversary. Two weeks ago, they were there for my parents’ 50th anniversary party. We had fishsticks and champagne. I understand why there was puking the first time.

Two days later, there was a party and everybody came. My dad asked my brothers and me to speak at the party, and we did. But before the party, I told my parents this:

The world knows how we feel about you. That will not be news to anyone in the room. 

But the ones who should talk are you. You’re the ones who made it. You know the secret for being married 50 years and still liking each other so much that you spent 7 weeks in a trailer the size of a laundry room and lived to tell. Explain that there was lots of champagne and there were also fishsticks. Probably more fishsticks than champagne on the day to day, if we’re being honest. Dispel the myth of the perfect marriage for everyone in that room.

I knew what I was asking: that they consider speaking with truth about their relationship on a day when it would have been so easy to sit at the head table and let the admiration wash over them like a wave.

But I also know my parents. They want to serve others, even at a party in their honor.

So they did it. They told the truth about being married 50 years. They did it with humor and grace, and they did it for the newlyweds in the room, and the couple with young kids who haven’t slept in years, and ones with three kids going 12 different directions who feel like ships passing in the night, and the empty nesters who are about to get to know each other all over again, and the almost retireds who are worried about how they will fill their time together, and the ones where “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” has become a challenging reality. They lived each of those seasons, and spoke about them with wisdom and faith.

They took a room full of married people and reminded us that our experiences are common, the good and the bad, and that we have each other to lean on. It was hopeful and life-giving.

It was so much better than a champagne toast in their honor.

(We did that too, though.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice for the Bride

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Last weekend we had a bridal shower for Teresa and I had this brainstorm that as we ate, all the wives could give her advice based on the length of their marriage. I called it Sage by Age.

We probably had 20 married women at the tables. Their advice was amazing and honest and funny.

The first wife was Rachel (5 years) and her advice was to argue naked and never go to bed angry.

The middle wife was Teresa’s mom Lorri (26 years) who said she does go to bed angry but maybe she’d try the naked thing and see if that helped.

The last was my mom, married 50 years in August.

I filmed her. I should have started earlier, but the whole thing was off the cuff and then it was so good that I was listening and learning and it didn’t occur to me to film until it was my mom’s turn.

But I got my mom and it was worth it for that alone.

Share with the brides and wives in your life!