Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Football and jewelry. They have so much in common.

As you may know, three out of my four children are of the male variety.

As I have also mentioned a time or thrice, I am the second oldest of six girls.

We have zero-point-zero brothers.

Needless to say, before I married a wonderful man 13 years ago, and gave birth to one boy, then another, and another, the male species was somewhat of a mystery to me.

It still is, to some extent.

Living in a house with seven women (plus my dad, of course) was quite different than my current living situation of four boys (including my husband) and two girls (my daughter and I).

Quite different.

Sure, we played sports when we were younger, but we were more interested in Barbies, and dolls, and books, and clothes, and hair, and eventually, make-up.

More specifically, unlike in my current living situation, you would have never, ever, EVER found yourself tripping over a stray football in the hallway.

Check that. Actually, one of our Ken dolls might have been a football player with a tiny plastic football. But you know how Ken rolls. I'm sure his uniform was blinged out, and he was always way more concerned with the state of his perfect coif instead of scoring touchdowns.

Fast forward a few decades, and I am now the mother to three boys (and a girl) who, among many their many interests, love sports. My oldest son, in particular, is passionate about anything that involves a ball and some type of running in a open area. Fortunately for his love of sports, he is also very athletic, and not only enjoys watching sports, but playing them as well.

Over the years, I have been schooled in the ins and outs of various sports. I have learned what a force out is in baseball. What a full count is. What a balk is. Why pitchers pitch from the wind-up or the stretch. I have learned about technical fouls in basketball. What constitutes man-to-man defense versus zone defense. What a double dribble is. When to yell, "Get the rebound!"

And then, there is football.


No, not European soccer, but true-blue, American football.

With a pigskin.

Who knew that football was so confusing? Who knew that there were so many rules? So many plays?

Who knew?

Well, I'm sure most of you knew.

But I?

Did not know.

My oldest son started playing tackle football in first grade. He loved it. I loved it. It was fun to cheer for him and his team, and get a basic understanding of what exactly we were all cheering about. Of course I have always understood the basic premise of football: Two teams. Each trying to score a touchdown. A touchdown is worth 6 points. The team with possession of the ball is called the offense. They get four tries to move the ball down the field, and each try is called a, "down". If they move the ball ten yards, it goes back to being a first down, and they get four more chances. Unless the other team intercepts the ball. Then the other team gets to be offense.

Duh. To the uh.

I'm not stupid.

I get all that.

Except when I don't.

Except when I'm standing on the sidelines cheering for my boy and his team, and one of those yellow flags goes down on the ground and I'm all, "Huh? Holding? Face-masking? False starting?" Or everyone else is cheering and I'm all, "What just happened? Why are we cheering? I just see a pile of bodies on 30-yard line! Whuh?"

You know what is particularly fun? And not at all embarrassing?

When you think something good just went down for your team, and you start cheering, but then you realize that no one else on your side is cheering, so you immediately stop cheering and turn it in a cough, like you totally meant to cough instead, but a cheer escaped? And you think, "Whuh? I thought that was a first down? But no? Oh. The other team intercepted it? Stop cheering, Clare. STOP. CHEERING."

And then you stop cheering.

And you look around and hope that no one saw you cheering.

And you cough once more for good measure.

Because that was totally a cough that escaped your throat before. NOT a cheer.

That is your story, and you are sticking to it.

My almost-11-year old son plays Center for his football team. As you know, the Center snaps the ball to the Quarterback, and blocks on the offensive line. My son is also the Punter. On the defensive line, he plays the Left End.

It is not enough that I, The Sports Illiterate One, had to learn the ins and outs and how to cheer for the one position he plays. I had to learn how to cheer for the three different positions that he plays. I had to learn when to yell, "Good blocking!" or "Great tackle!" or "Awesome punt!" lest I look like a total fool.

Because only a fool would yell the wrong thing.

Like I have.


I am a work in progress.

On Sunday afternoon, as my boy was playing the defensive line, he saw that the quarterback passed it to tailback? halfback? um...Guy Who Runs The Ball After The Quarterback Hands It To Him? and was going in for a, "reverse play" (Please don't ask me to explain what this is, for I fear that I will come up tragically short on accurate details.) and before the "guy" could advance any further, or gain any yardage, (Look at me with the fancy football talk!) my son tackled him to the ground. I cheered and yelled, "YEAH! AWESOME TACKLE! WOOOOO!"

Which, of course, was the right thing to say.

My son's team lost anyway, but after the game I made sure to compliment him on a few of his great plays. "That was a great tackle you had in the last quarter!" I said as I put my arm around him, as he was still wearing his bulky shoulder pads.

"Thanks!" he replied. "It was a 15-yard sack!"

A what-yard what?

"Well, technically, it wasn't a sack. But it was a 15-yard tackle!"

Don't ask. Some things are better left unknown.

But I couldn't let it go. After all, I have several years ahead of me of cheering for various sports.

Mama better know what she's talking 'bout.

Later that evening, my son came to my bedroom to say goodnight to me, and I was folding laundry. I said, "Dude, today you were talking about your 15-yard sack-slash-tackle. What did you mean by that? Did it mean that you stopped him from going 15-yards?"

"No, Mom. I stopped him 15-yards behind the original line of scrimmage, which moved the play to a new line of scrimmage. But 15 yards back."

"Umm-hmm. So you stopped him from going 15 yards forward?"

"NO. MOM. I said that I stopped him 15 yards BEHIND the line of scrimmage, before he could advance the ball, therefore putting the new line of scrimmage BACK an additional 15 yards."

"So you mean you stopped him from going 15 yards?"

"MOM. That's not what I said."

It's not? Whuh?

Something was not clicking in my brain, and I fervently wanted to understand.

At that moment, I realized that our relationship had changed. I used to know it all. I used to be the smartest person in his life. He used to look up at me with his bright eyes and chubby cheeks and ask, "Why, Mommy? Why?" And he would believe anything I would tell him.

In his world, I used to be The All Knowing.

Somewhere along the line, however, he started knowing things I don't know. He started understanding things that I don't understand. He started knowing about lines of scrimmage and 15-yard sacks.

And I was left behind.

He looked at me, and I could tell that he was feeling frustrated that I just wasn't understanding what he was trying to tell me about the play that I had so innocently complimented. My boy, my 11-year old sports fanatic, took a deep breath and said calmly, "All right, Mom. First of all, I originally called it a 15-yard sack. It wasn't a sack. It was just a tackle. You can only call it a sack if you tackle the Quarterback. Okay?'

"Yep, got that."

I watched his eyes dart around the room as he tried to explain the play. He looked at a pile of jewelry on my nightstand and smiled. He arranged it to form the offensive line and began, "See this blue necklace? That's the line of scrimmage, even though the actual line of scrimmage is invisible."

"Yep, got that."

"And these small silver hoops back to back? The front one is the Center. The back one is the Quarterback. The pink stones on either side of the Center are the Guards. Then, the medium hoops are the Tackles. The big hoops on the end are the Ends. The other fancy hoops behind the Quarterback are the Tailback or Fullback, but they can move around. Got it?"

"Got it."

"So the small hoop behind the Center, the Quarterback, passed it to one of the fancy hoops, who was about to run with the ball. But I stopped the fancy hoop all the way back here, which was 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and he wasn't able to advance at all."

"Okay, got it."

"Now, the blue necklace, the line of scrimmage, has to scoot back 15 yards to begin the play again. And then they start the play all over. Got it?"

"Oh, dude! I totally get it. Why didn't you just say it like that in the first place?"

"Mommmmm. I did."

"Oh. Yeah. Right. You did. But now? I understand it better."

Football. It's much easier and prettier when explained with jewelry.

Men? Throw some diamond studs into that offensive line display, and you will have our rapt attention.


Monday, September 12, 2011

There are no limits to my wimpiness.

What has two thumbs and is a big wimp?

This girl. 

Yes, I have birthed four children into this world without hesitation. Yes, I have played, "What's That Smell?" in the minivan many times without fear. Yes, I have endured the wrath of shortie projectile vomit aimed at my direction without flinching. Yes, I once tasted an indescribably disgusting concoction that my children cooked up one fine day in our kitchen that they simply titled, "Mystery Soup". Yes, once a week I confidently stride into the bathroom my three sons share, with various cleaning solutions and snap on my yellow Playtex gloves, open the lid of the toilet, unsure, but unafraid of what awaits me. Yes, I have bravely held a crying child in my lap many times as I watched a vaccination needle pierce their cherubic skin. Yes, I have stuck my head under the kitchen sink and cleaned out a clogged, slimy pipe.

I am not always a wimp.

But everyone has their kryptonite.

Bugs are my kryptonite. Not all bugs. Big bugs, to be exact.

The larger the bug, the harder I fall. Large wood spiders? Forget it.

Bring out the defibrillator.

This is most definitely not the first time I have blogged about my fear of icky, disgusting bugs. It probably won't be the last. 

There are many reasons why I married my husband. He is hilarious, kind, compassionate, ambitious, and patient. 

He can also kill a bug like it's nobody's business. 

I have already told you how he is also known as The Fly Hunter. But this blog entry isn't about him and his mad skills.

I love him. However, I hate that I need a man to kill bugs for me.

It's so last millennium for a girl to shriek, "ACK! A BUG!" jump up on a chair and yell, "HONEY! QUICK! KILL IT FOR ME!"

I hate this about myself. But I can't help it. I am what I am.

Today, as I was cooking dinner, I heard a gasp coming from my 9-year old son, who was in the front hall. 

"Mom. You do NOT want to see this. You do NOT. Stay away from here! You do NOT want to see this!" he urged me. 

Well then. Now I have to see this. 

I took three steps toward the dining room, and I hadn't even reached the front hall when I saw it. 


A horsefly.

A huge horsefly.

A ginormous horsefly.

A horsefly that juices on 'roids nightly.

This horsefly.

Don't let the picture fool you, friends. He was enormous.

I'm about 97.6% positive that he growled at me.

Of course, I did what any sane, normal, calm person would do.

I screamed.

I shrieked.

I cried out, "AAAAACCCCKKKKK!!!"

I yelled something that sounded like, "GAAAAAHHHH!!!"

Then I ran.

You know. Like a normal person.

My 9-year old son just stood there staring, as I'm sure he thought, "Um, woman? Are you done with your borderline psychotic episode yet? Because it's a horsefly. Not an actual horse that flies. A HORSE. FLY."

Instead he bravely said, "Mom! I'll get rid of it for you!"

To which I quickly replied, "OH NO YOU WILL NOT! NOT MY BABY!"

It was very Debra Winger-slash-Merryl Streep of me.

Hollywood? Call me. I have free time every day between 12:30 and 2:30 in between preschool drop off and elementary school pick-up.


Less than a minute later, my cell phone rang and it was my husband, Bill. As I answered, his familiar voice said, "Hey honey, I'm on my way home."


"Um, Clare? What do you mean, 'Are you just leaving now?' It's only 5:15. "


"What? Horsefly?" Bill asked. Then, he laughed at me.

He laughed at me.

Nice. I'm about to be eaten alive by a monster in my front hall. He's about to come home to just a carcass and a pair of flip flops where his wife used to be. Yet he laughs.

"It's not funny!" I asserted. "There is a HUGE horsefly in the front hall and I need you to kill him! Now!"

"But I'm driving, Clare."

"Are you any closer?!?"

"Um, I'm about a half mile further than when we started this conversation."


"Oooookay, Clare. Just watch it. It's not going anywhere. And close the bedroom doors so he doesn't go into our rooms and have horsefly babies," Bill said.

Horsefly babies? That hadn't crossed my mind. There will be no horsefly babies in this house. Not on my watch.

Once again, I did what any sane, normal, calm person would do.

I stood far back, zoomed in with my camera phone, took a picture of it, and made it my Facebook status.

You know. Like normal folk.

I figured if I stared it down, it wouldn't go anywhere; therefore, it wouldn't attack me or my babies.

Do horseflies even attack?


My boy offered again to, "get rid of it" for me, like the brave soul that he is, but I wouldn't let him. My little soldier was not ready for field duty yet.

I heard the kitchen stove timer beeping, and I had to leave my horsefly-watching post temporarily.

"Watch him for me," I instructed my son.

It was less than five seconds later that I heard a scream coming from the front hall. "HE'S DOWN MY SHIRT! HE'S DOWN MY SHIRT!"my boy cried.

"WHAT?!?! THE HORSEFLY?!?! TAKE IT OFF! TAKE IT OFF!" I shrieked like a banshee instructed him through my fear.

As he threw his shirt down to the ground, there was no sign of the horsefly.

Great. The Secretariat of flies is loose in Case de We Don't Need No Stinkin' Horseflies In This House.

Just. Great.

I hugged my boy and made sure he was okay as he cried. "How did it get in your shirt, anyway?" I asked. He sniffled and responded, "I was trying to whap him for you and he bit me!"

"You were trying to whap him for me?"

"Yeah! You were scared, mom!"

Normally, I wouldn't think that my child attempting to kill a living thing for me was sweet. All God's creatures great and small, right?

But this? Touched my heart.

He took a bullet for me.

A horsefly bullet.

A horsefly bullet that left a small, but painful bite on his chest.

Stupid horsefly.

We eventually found the horsefly right here, on the railing leading upstairs, where he stayed until Bill came home a few minutes later and painlessly ended his journey with a resounding, "WHAP" of today's newspaper.

After my children gathered around to study the enormous creature splattered among the newsprint, my husband allowed my valiant boy the privilege of the ceremonial, "Flushing the Horsefly Down the Toilet" because of his bravery and protection of his mother.

My boy. My hero.

Sidenote: Horsefly flying in the heavens, I'm sorry for hating you so much. I'm sorry that your lovely horsefly life ended today. I'm sorry that you flew into my open screen door instead of into the home of a horsefly-loving person. But I can't help it. Bugs creep me out. It's not you, it's me. Godspeed to you, Horsefly. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Epic failure. Kind of.

A few weeks ago, one of my hilarious Facebook friends called for a proper burial of the overused word, "epic".

I wholeheartedly agree with her.

In the most epic of epic ways.

But not before I sneak the word into my lastest blog entry, of course, because there is no other way to describe how I feel.

Friends, I have failed.

Epically failed.

Last year, on my 36th birthday, I challenged myself to a 365-day photo project. I wanted to take at least one picture a day in the life of our family. I wanted to capture the random. The mundane. The minutiae. The small moments. The candid shots of the life we live all together in this home that will one day be just memories.

I started out strong, and my camera was my constant companion. The first picture I took was one of my daughter who didn't know I was watching her as she excitedly laid out all her new Pull-Ups just so she could see the gloriousness that is the Disney princesses.

The next day, my shorties found a toad in the mulch as they were doing a scavenger hunt in the yard. I couldn't care less about the toad. However, I am a sucker for a picture of my kids doing something all together, and of course, I can't resist a picture of a precious, chubby toddler hand.

Then there was the day that my oldest son begged my husband to let him mow the lawn for the first time. Bill was easily persuaded.

We took a family walk through a forest preserve on a sunny fall day. This was also the day that my children wore matching red t-shirts with the words, "Thing 1", "Thing 2", " Thing 3", and "Thing 4" and we took our Christmas card picture.

Who can resist a picture of three agreeable shorties getting along, courtesy of a Nintendo DS, sitting on the steps leading to the playroom? I could not.

Then, there are those days that you just need to photograph a Friday evening at wine o'clock, because you put your shorties to bed before you remembered to take a picture.

Because it was just one of those days.

I couldn't resist capturing the simple, paradoxical beauty in Christmas lights trapped in ice during a winter ice storm that simultaneously sparkled on tree branches, yet threatened to bring down power lines and trapped us in our house for two days in a row.

There were many day, many special moments, and many pictures in between all of these pictures of course, and my momentum was high. I was rarely without my small, pocket-sized camera.


Life got busy, as it has a tendency to do around here.

Priorities shifted.

365 Challenges were largely forgotten.


I did remember to pick up my camera many times, but no longer on a daily basis. Over the last year, I took well more than 365 pictures, but there is not one for every day of the last year.

But I will not beat myself up for it.

Such is life. And this life? Is a wonderful one. Chaos and all.

Ironically, on the day before my 37th birthday recently, I looked out my kitchen window and saw my beloved shorties playing with a kite that we found for $2.00 in the bargain bin at our grocery store. I ran to find my camera and captured the moment. Clearly, I am a novice photographer at best, but I love this picture because it shows pure joy on my children's faces.

After all, any day that you can capture four pieces of your heart on film is a good day.

Epic fail?

Maybe not so much.