Super (Crazy) Mom

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I have thirty seconds that aren’t even really spare to write this because I am in the midst of Gabriel getting dressed for football–which is like a WWF event since eventually I will have to threaten to body slam him before he’ll believe that he can IN FACT tie his own dang shoes—and preparing for whirlwind Kate to get home from tennis to switch her school uniform out for her Brownie uniform and head to Scouts.

At this point in the day, I can only pray that I remember to high five Shea as we pass in the garage and make sure that Annie gets into someone’s car.

Although I recently showed her how to push the stool over to the fridge to reach the food, so if she does get left behind, she will be able to feed her 3 year old self. Plus, she’s a third 3 year old, which means she’s resourceful.

Annie is the one prompting this post because in between emptying backpacks and skinning a butternut squash that will get cooked at some point this evening, my brain said “Hey, what happens when Annie needs to be somewhere too?”

I said “I don’t know” with a capital F.

When Gabe handed me the Join Beginning Band form last week and said “I think the trombone would be cool”, I just barely managed not to laugh in his face.

Oh really? You think I want to be at school by 8 to drop off, 11 to pick up Annie, 3 to pick up Kate and 5:30 to get you?

We told him no, just like I told the altar server coordinator no on Sunday. “After football, for sure” I said. “So football is more important than God?” he asked, predictably. I rolled my eyes at him. My mom will tell you guilt hasn’t worked on me since way back.

“He will be at Mass and Sunday school. It’s no sin to not be an altar server” I told him.

I know there are super moms out there who can make it all happen, but I am not of their ilk. Not to mention that shuttling kids from one activity to the next on a schedule with Tick Tock precision, fueled by OCD and Starbucks, makes one neither super nor a mom.

We call those people “handlers”. I didn’t have kids to handle them. I’m trying to build a family of God-loving, kind human beings who eat as a family at the table and discuss ways to make this world a better place than we found it.

Please.

Right now we’re lucky if we can eat Taco Bell in the same car once a week without squirting hot sauce on somebody.

So if you’re the mom who swore you would never over-schedule your kids, knows how to say no and still finds herself split into a hundred car-pooling pieces?

You are not alone. I don’t know what the heck happened either.

At this point, there’s nothing left to do except salute each other with our water bottles full of (vodka) Gatorade and soldier on.

Surviving a Mixed Marriage

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I knew it going in.

And I knew what a big deal it was. Marriages have broken up over less. But Shea is such a good man.

So I did what women do: I told myself he would change. For me. Or when the kids came. And if he didn’t, I resolved to stick it out no matter what. I put on a brave face for my concerned family and friends.

When my hair dresser took me by the hands and said “Jen, you cannot yoke with a non-believer” I laughed it off.

“Darlene. It’s not like he doesn’t believe in God. He’s just an Angels fan. We’ll make it work.”

I come from a family that bleeds Dodger Blue, so far back that my grandparents watched them play in the Coliseum when they first came to LA from Brooklyn. All through my twenties, I was the queen of the last minute $8 ticket.

I know how to get out of Chavez Ravine ten different ways. Only real Dodger fans will understand the value of that. They also know that we don’t need no stinking tail-gating, not when there’s Dodger dogs and cold beer walking up and down the aisles. Plus, there’s nothing like a late September sunset over the hills of Griffith Park.

And Vin. Let’s don’t forget about Vin.

Shea became an Angels fan during his college years. He and his two best men were season ticket holders. They have tail-gating under the A down to a science. He was at that World Series game in 2002—you know the one, Game Six when the Angels were trailing 5-0 to the Giants going into the 7th inning. They rallied to win, forcing a Game 7. Which they won.

I don’t mind telling that story since, it’s about the Giants. I’m sad to say that we have Giants fans in the family. Every family has a burden to carry and this is ours. We married into them, but still. Shameful.

Before I would agree to Shea’s proposal, I protected myself. Our pre-nuptial agreement concerned one issue—team loyalty. We agreed that our male children could be Angels fans and the females would wear Dodger Blue.  That technically puts me up 5-2, if we count the four-legged females (and we do).

After a few years, we amended the agreement to include the rule that there could be no quoting of statistics over breakfast. No late night discussions on the strength of the NL West vs the AL West. No usurping of football games for baseball games unless it was a playoff situation. We do not rush home from anywhere for a baseball game and HGTV trumps baseball every time.

If either team ever made the World Series again, we would go.

If both teams made the World Series at the same time, we would legally separate for the duration of the Series and only reunite after a renegotiation of the terms of the agreement.

Every year at this time, we revisit the rules of our mixed marriage. Because almost every year, both teams hover on the edge of the playoff picture, forcing us to consider our options.

We also have a football conflict. I am a NY Jets fan. Shea is a Buffalo Bills fan. These teams play in the Same. Dang. Division. So two Sundays a year, we invoke the pre-nup for football.

This is a less stressful situation because neither of our teams have been any good for a long time.

I am sharing our story so that others know it can be done. Marriages can survive rivalries. Children of these marriages can grow up to be normal, functioning sports fans. It is even possible to sit in a rival team’s stadium and enjoy a game for the sake of your spouse. I always wear my Dodger Blue when I go to Angels stadium.

Once, a guy bought Shea beer out of sympathy.

Sometimes, you have to take one for the team.

Playing for Diamonds

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We’re playing football.

I’m using the Royal We because it’s a whole family commitment. Practice most nights, games all over So Cal on Saturdays, in stadiums where somebody thought it was a good idea to put aluminum bleachers. Last week it was 105 degrees. Aluminum bleachers.

I have lots of mama friends who think we are crazy to let our 8 year play tackle football. Heck, I used to be one of them.

Although one of those mama friends only has daughters, and if she and her husband had a son, he’d be the size of Gabriel, so who knows what decision they would make. I won’t name any names but she writes on this blog with me.

And another mama friend, who is related to me and lives internationally, told me she thought I was nuts to let him play but in the next breath admitted her son starts his first season of ice hockey this year.

Right. There but for the grace of God and all that good stuff.

Here we are, proud-ish Patriots. Ish because as Bills and Jets fans, Shea and I can’t get totally on board with the Pats. Even the 8 year old version.

In fact, here’s a funny story. (Stranded at JFK) Amy’s husband, Dave is a BIG TIME Chargers fan. Season ticket holders from waaaaay back.

One night we had dinner at their house and Gabe brought his Patriots helmet over to show Dave. After dinner the kids were making a huge racket upstairs, so Shea went to check it out. He came back and said to Dave and Amy “Well, your daughter is riding my son like a bucking Bronco, wearing his Patriots helmet.”

Dave’s eyebrows crashed together. “Are you kidding me?! She’s wearing a Patriots helmet????”

Priorities.

By far the most difficult part of football for me has been the whole football mom thing. Currently, half the veteran moms on our team are not speaking or even looking at the other half. No one really knows what happened, but the sides formed up pretty quickly. I sit in the middle with the other new moms and just smile at everyone.

AYSO, it’s not.

Then there’s the fact that I am a football brat, born and raised, from a long line of season ticket holders and folks who think that if they yell loud enough at the TV, the coaches or refs will hear them. Plus I have some experience with the whole competition thing.

So I am torn every single practice and game between Grizzly Bear and Mama Bear.

The thrill of the clash of the helmets (which is bad, I know and we are a head’s up league but there’s still something about that sound…)

The fear when someone doesn’t get up from a play.

The almost over-powering urge to scream “F*CK YEAH!” when my son sacks the quarterback.

The anger when one of the coaches tells him to get up and stop being such a whiner.

The fierce pride of watching him go back to the line and do it again.

Saturday, we played a team that won the national championship three years ago. They are some of the best 8 and 9 year olds in the nation. They have creamed everyone so far, and we were next to go. Gabe lined up against a kid who was five inches taller and at least 50 lbs heavier than he was. Lined up against him a lot, since our offense didn’t spend much time on the field.

We lost. Big.

But not as big as everyone else.

It wasn’t until we were in the parking lot that Gabe showed me his arms. Scratches and cuts everywhere. “He held me almost every time, Mom” he told me, tears welling up in his eyes. “He had long fingernails and he dug them into my skin. It hurt sooo bad.”  And then the sobs came, thirty hard seconds where all the frustration and stress of having to face that kid over and over finally got to him.

Mama Bear was all over that.

She got there in front of Grizzly Bear only because Grizzly paused for a second to consider whether there were enough Patriot dads around to back her up if she told that kid’s dad and uncles exactly what she thought about his fingernails.

It’s ok. Gabe learned a lesson, and it was not that he needs to grow out his fingernails.

It was that if other kids choose to play a bit outside the rules and spirit of the game, he has little control over it. There will always be cheaters. All he can do is what he did today, get back in there and try again.

And I have to let him, first of all because he wants to. He loves football. But also because these are the kinds of life experiences that grow kids into adults, the kind of adults who face adversity with determination and manage their fear with action.

No pressure, no diamonds.