Friday, July 22, 2011

U8 Soccer: Blood, Sweat, Tears, Glory

Two weeks ago Tristan and Ava had the privilege of playing soccer in the under 8 category in the Southern Alberta Summer Games which were held in our home city.  I had two “games” experiences myself - one as a dancer in the Opening Ceremonies of the Northern BC Winter Games and one as an athlete, (I skied) in the BC Winter Games.  Oh wait, I also have a vague memory of doing something with ribbons and glow sticks in the Yukon Winter Games when I was in Grade 4.  Which makes me think of Cherry Pie.  Not sure why...  Anyway, I was super excited that my kids were getting to have their own Games experience.

Day One they played two games.  Both games their team got absolutely smoked.  Like 8-0 smoked in the first game and some other high number - 0 in the second.  When the first team ran onto the field in their proper jerseys I looked at our little peeps in their matching t-shirts and thought, “uh-oh.”  At the beginning of the second game the ref said our goalie had to wear a different colour shirt than the rest of the team.  No one had anything extra so Sebastian sacrificed his size 3 shirt to a very slight seven year old girl.  It was obvious the other teams had practiced quite a bit more than our once but each half saw our team play better and better.  It was so much fun watching the team come together and improve so dramatically each game.  I cheered till my throat hurt.

That evening was a community bbq and the Opening Ceremonies.  Tristan and Ava marched in the parade of athletes and Tristan got to carry the Redcliff/Cypress County sign.  (Which I realize is not technically we live, long story.)  

On the way home after all the speeches and a couple of Bollywood numbers I asked the kids what they thought of being part of it all.  “Oh, Mom!” Ava said, “I felt so proud!”

Day 2 of soccer began with a warm up at 7:45am.  Their team lost again that morning 1-0, the goal coming late in the second half.  It was such an exciting game to watch and though it was a bit of a heartbreaker for us parents the kids were thrilled that the game had been so close. 

On their second and final game on Day two our team scored a goal.  All the parents on the sidelines went nuts.  I was literally jumping up and down cheering.  And I was not alone.  Three goals later I said to one of the other moms jumping beside me, “The other team probably thinks we are so obnoxious!”  But they didn’t know the journey our kids had gone through in the tournament.  These kids never got down that they were losing, they didn't get upset they hadn't scored a single goal in three games, and they never gave up - even if they were down 4-0 in the first half.   They played as hard in the last five minutes of a game when they were were losing by eight goals as they did in the first five minutes when anything was still possible.  (Canucks?  Are you paying attention?) It was not the goals that made me jump up and down on the sidelines - it was the indomitable spirit of these six- and seven-year-olds who played with such determination and perseverance and joy no matter what the numbers were - and then saw it pay off.

At half-time of that game Ava came to me with a tomato-red face and said, “Mom, I don’t feel very good.”  Did I mention that the kids were playing in 38 degrees weather both days?  I doused her head and face in water and pumped her full of a combo of water, gatorade and orange slices but she was still falling apart as the second half began.  The rule for co-ed soccer is that every team needs to have at least two girls on the field at all times.  Our team only had three girls and, as I said, it was 38 degrees.  Ava had no choice.  She had to play.  The coach let her sit out the first shift while I talked to her about how sometimes when we think we can’t do something if we try really hard we find out we can.  And also she didn’t have to really run she just had to be on the field. 

Ava was still teary when the coach called for subs but he gave her a little pep talk and managed to get a slightly-more-than-half-hearted high five from her.  I and the other parents were cheering her on as she took to the field but I was biting my nails on the inside hoping she wasn’t going to run off the field crying.  Was I in for a surprise.  She didn’t just stand around on the field being the token girl.  She didn’t even play half-heartedly.  She ran her heart out, got right into every play and in fact, played the best soccer she had played all tournament.  She ended up playing the rest of the half and when the final whistle blew she ran off the field, threw her arms around my waist and shouted, “I did it!  I did it, Mom! I dug deep and I did it!”

I could stand to take a few notes from this girl.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lessons from the Calgary Zoo

One summer I was an intern at my home church.  One of my “duties” was to take a turn in the dunk tank during a particular summer event.  Which is how I found myself sitting on a little wooden platform, on an unfortunately cool summer day, suspended over a tank of cold water basically waiting to fall in.  Every time someone new stepped up to the throwing line I would tense in expectation.  Sometimes the throw went wide and I’d exhale, shoulders slumping forward in relief.  Sometimes the throw would hit the target but without much force and I’d turn to look at the bulls-eye out of half-closed eyes, holding my breath, waiting to see if the balance had been tipped.  And then there were times the throw was straight and true and forceful and the floor was yanked out from underneath me.  Even though I was braced for it, even though I knew sitting on that platform meant I’d be dunked, somehow, as my stomach flew up into the back of my throat, it still came as a surprise to me.  Every time. 

Life is a little like that I think.  We know trouble is going to come.  The Bible says we are guaranteed it.  Sometimes we tense in expectation of it and sometimes the floor just drops with no warning at all.  Either way we are always surprised, every time, that it has happened to us. 

Which is exactly how I felt when we lost Tristan at the Calgary Zoo over the Canada Day weekend.  In some ways I was tensed in expectation of trouble.  It’s a huge place, height of the tourist season and we were a large group.  Plus when you’re with young kids in a crowded place I think as parents you’re always a little bit tense, you always have an eye out for the wanderer.   On the other hand we were six adults to eight kids and the rest of the kids were all older than mine so I didn’t expect anything to really happen. 

A short way into the Zoo, nearish one of the entrances, are the elephants.  We got to them just as a woman began an informational session.  We stopped to listen for a bit but it was actually quite boring so the adults turned into a circle to discuss where to go next while the kids kept watching the elephants from the fence.  We broke to gather everyone up and when I did a quick head count I realized Tristan wasn’t standing with the rest of the kids.  A little alarmed, but not really panicking, the adults dispersed with strict instructions to the rest of the kids not to move.  After a quick walkabout didn’t turn Tristan up I scanned the crowd sitting in the bleachers watching the elephant demo.  I was getting shakier but still not fully panicking.  I felt more like I was holding my breath, eyes half-closed, watching the bulls-eye, waiting to see if there was anything to truly panic about. 

When I couldn’t see him in the bleachers my panic climbed to reach my tear ducts.  The other adults in our group were still combing the walkways near us without result so I interrupted the elephant lady and asked her to call Tristan’s name over her speaker system in case I just wasn’t seeing him in the see of people in the bleachers.  She called.  And the floor dropped out beneath me.  No Tristan.  The elephant lady stopped her demo and called security while I tried to keep breathing in and out.  The time spent waiting for security to come felt interminable.  Every minute that passed made Tristan feel farther and farther away.  I was choking on my fear, drowning in it.  Hugh decided to run back to the entrance in case someone had taken Tristan and was trying to leave the Zoo with him.  I couldn’t even process that thought.  Couldn’t even begin to imagine what might be involved in trying to find him if he wasn’t even in the Zoo any longer.  I was just describing Tristan’s striped shorts and blue t-shirt to security when I saw them come towards me slumped in Hugh’s arms.  Hugh had found him crying and terrified wandering around the entrance looking for us.  Somehow, when Tristan looked up from the elephant demo he didn't see us and had gone looking.

I can’t begin to describe the look on Hugh’s face as he carried our lost boy back to us.  There are no words for how I felt looking at the back of Tristan’s tousled head, seeing the curve of his cheek as he pressed his face against his dad’s chest.  As I watched Hugh carry Tristan towards me I lost all feeling in my limbs and could only stand and wait for them to reach me.  When they did I fell against Tristan’s back, wrapped my arms around him and Hugh and started sobbing - great big heaving convulsive gasps of relief that left no room to be embarrassed about making such a display in public.  I felt Ava collapse against my legs and I reached a hand down to smooth her hair as she sobbed out her own relief that her brother had come back to us. 

Losing Tristan reminded me again that life is fragile, uncertain, tenuous. 
Losing Tristan reminded me of an author I’ve read who writes a little blurb about each member of her family in the dedication then adds “and to God who has, for now, blessed me with these.”
Losing Tristan reminded me that life is fragile, uncertain, precious. 
Trouble is going to come but I choose not to live constantly holding my breath bracing for the ball that will hit the bulls-eye with enough force to dump me into the freezing water.  I choose arms wide open, twirling in the sun, wiping up the third spill of milk at dinner without yelling, kind of living.  I choose, consciously, to enjoy all the moments, ordinary or extra, with these precious gifts God has, for now, blessed me with.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Calaway Adventures

During the Canada Day weekend we met some good friends in Calgary and spent the weekend camping at Calaway Park which is a permanent amusement park with a campground attached.  My kids had never been on rides before and I couldn't believe how much Tristan and Ava loved them.

Even big rides.  Scary rides.  Rides that I, um... cried on.  Like the swings.  True story, I cried on the swings.  It was the first ride we did and I thought Ava was going to freak out.  She doesn't even like an underduck at home.  I knew she was going to freak out.  And then it was me who cried - seriously those swings are really high! - and she loved it and wanted to do it again.

They even liked this big boat thing that swung back and forth like an enormous terrifying pendulum.  This picture does not do justice to how big the pendulum arc is.

Tristan and Ava really wanted me to do this one with them.  As the pendulum swung higher and higher I could hear a woman screaming and screaming near me and thought yep, that's how I feel too.  And then I realized the sound was coming from me!  As the day progressed I got much braver, pat on the back for me.  I still can't get over how brave Tristan and Ava were!  Sebastian on the other hand...

This little balloon ride started out so well.  We went up, we went down, we were very happy.  All was well.  And then the balloon started to spin... And I spent the rest of the ride trying to calm Sebastian down while strong-arming the little disc in the centre in an effort to keep the balloon from spinning.  It's incredibly difficult to be soothing when you're gritting your teeth.  I think the only ride that didn't end it tears was this one: 

Along its track is a speed sign that says Alberta 1 1/2.  As in Kilometres per hour.  So much more his speed than say, the kiddie roller coaster.   After which he refused to go on anymore rides.  This is him and Tristan before it started.

I so wish I had gotten a picture of his face after the ride was over... Is it bad that Hugh and I laughed?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

The past two weeks were as busy as the two weeks before that.  So busy in fact that I managed to get myself not one, not two but three, that's right three! coldsores.  I only ever get coldsores when I am worn out and/or stressed.  I have never ever in my whole life had more than one coldsore at a time and I have been plenty worn out and/or stressed lots of other times in my life.  The time I brought twin babies home from the hospital sort of comes to mind...

Anyway, we were supposed to go away this past weekend but I decided to listen to what my body was saying and we stayed home so I could catch up and try to prevent another three month crash.  The nonstop-crying?  That was also hard to ignore. 

We had a great weekend at home and after days spent in the sun and the water and evenings curled up on the couch I feel incredibly refreshed and ready to face the world again.  And I feel like summer in all its glory is finally here and I have time to enjoy it.  Is there anything better than sweating glasses of Italian soda and fingers and faces sticky with the memory of sun-warmed cherries?

I'm also ready to tell you some stories of our past couple of weeks. Rather than try to cram it all into one post I'm going to tell you over the course of this week.   For now I will leave you with the conversation we had in the van on the way home from dinner at a friends last night when Ava said, "Mom, guess what?  I know the "s" word and the "c" word."
Hugh and I exchanged shocked glances before I cautiously said, "You do?"
"Yep!  Snow and cold."
And then my heart started beating again.