Pink Cleats and Salt (aka: Still a Soccer Mom)

I am still a soccer mom.

I know; that’s kind of a weird thing to say when none of your three kids even play soccer anymore. My oldest, who played soccer since preschool, quit after not making the high school team. My daughter, the former competitive gymnast, tried soccer for one year, then decided she was more into track and cross-country. The youngest kid detests sports of any kind. Go figure.

But I am still a soccer mom. I am as passionate as ever about the sport, and will happily spend an entire weekend shouting at the television, rooting for my favorite teams from around the world and here in the USA (while doing homework, of course). And though my kids no longer play the sport, I am currently on two indoor soccer teams and one outdoor team.

Yes, outdoor soccer. That’s my newest adventure, running around in the wet, muddy grass on a field that seems as large as three football fields by the end of the game. Here’s a picture of my favorite ball and my pretty pink cleats, which are now muddy and not-so-pretty:

Tiare Soccer Ball and Pink Shoes 2015 (2)

Am I any good at it? Well, if you judge the skill of a forward by her ability to score goals, then I’m not very good yet. And maybe I’ll never be quite as good as the other women I play with, many of whom have been playing outdoor soccer for years and have far more skill. But it’s fun. Mostly.

Here’s the part that’s not fun: all the running. I am just not that into running. I love to run fast, but only for like, ten seconds. After that, I’m ready for a nap. That’s why I’m not a midfielder (unless I have to be).

Here’s the other part that’s not fun: the salt.

Yes, you read that right. Apparently, whenever I play outdoor soccer, I sweat salt. Great salty beads that drip into my eyes and sting like soap. Salty sweat that crusts on my skin and clothes when it dries, so I look like I rolled in chalk after each game.

Yeah, I know it’s just salt, but IT’S SO GRODY!! Ew!

Apparently, salty sweat is a perfectly natural, healthy thing. It tends to happen to athletes who eat a low-sodium diet, which I guess I do (unless I’m eating my favorite food, popcorn). So I just have to wipe the salt from my brow, drink a lot of Gatorade, and suck it up until I can get home and hop in the shower (not a bath, unless I want to turn the tub into a mini-ocean).

More on this salty sweat thing: http://www.training-conditioning.com/2007/08/09/salt_in_their_sweat/index.php

Yesterday, I did something really crazy. I played in a women’s soccer tournament. That meant three games in one day. That also meant two small bottles of water, two large bottles of Gatorade, and a very, very long shower afterward. And then what did this soccer fanatic do? No, sadly, I missed the USA vs. Mexico soccer match (which we lost, thanks to Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez). Instead, I baked sugar cookies with my kids, then snuggled with them on the couch, watching Pitch Perfect 2. Because I’m a soccer mom. And the Mom part always comes first.

C Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Mom’s Yelling at the TV Again (aka: Cheering On My Teams)

Gritar a la pantalla“Mom’s yelling at the TV again,” I’ve overheard my kids say on more than one occasion. And, of course, they are usually right – especially during the weekends, which tend to revolve around two things: kids’ sports and my TV sports schedule. On weekends when the kids are home, they’ve learned to put up with having a mom who is constantly yelling things at the TV screen, like, “COME ON YOU IDIOTS! GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!” or “WHAT DO YOU MEAN A YELLOW CARD? ARE YOU BLIND, REF?” Not to mention the gasps, groans, and cheers as I watch my favorite athletes stumble, miss, or score.

Seattle Sounders Clint Dempsey

My current favorite MLS team are the Seattle Sounders — in part due to this guy, Clint Dempsey, and in part due to their awesome XBOX uniforms.

I know, I know, the players and refs can’t really hear me. But it is fun to get absorbed in the game, and to pretend that I am there in the stands with my invisible group of friends, decked out in my team’s colors, sloshing my drink around and rooting for my team at the top of my lungs. “WOOHOOO! GO TEAM, YOU CAN DO IT!”

 

 

My Favorite Hot Tennis Players

My two favorites are right up front – Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

Now that the Barclay’s Premier League and La Liga’s seasons have come to an end (with Atletico Madrid disappointingly walking away with the title and Manchester City deservingly so); my attention has turned toward three competitions: ATP tennis matches (Nadal, Federer, Serena Williams, Sharapova, Andy Murray), MLS soccer (Seattle Sounders, San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy), my local USL-Pro soccer team (Sac Republic), and the 2014 World Cup (which begins next month – GO USA!!).

Naturally, all of these great sports will mean an awful lot of yelling at the television screen. I guess I’d better invest in some ear plugs for my kids. 😉 World Cup 2014

No Longer a Gym Mom (aka: When Your Kid Quits)

Gymnastics Team Coaching

My daughter is the tiny one on the right

My daughter quit competitive gymnastics last year. At the end of a great Level 8 season, she announced, “I’m done.” And that was it. I thought it would be so hard when she gave up her sport. After all, she had been a gymnast since the age of 4 – nearly 8 years. Nearly 8 years of eating, breathing, and sleeping gymnastics. 8 years of living in leotards and eating meals at the gym, and being covered in chalk dust.

But you know what? It wasn’t that hard. My daughter was done. And she happily moved on to explore new things – a soccer team, drawing cute comic books, and playing with her brothers and toys and hamsters more often. Every now and then, she complains that she can no longer do a great split or a standing back tuck. But then…who cares? She is no longer being judged on her ability to do so. And I am no longer shelling out thousands of dollars a year to fund her sport. Which I did, because yes – I thought my daughter had that special something that could take her to the Olympics, or at least a university scholarship. (But then again, she is a disciplined, dedicated, mostly straight-A student. So who needs gymnastics for a scholarship?)

bye bye money

 

It’s funny, how our culture convinces us parents that it is not good enough for our kids to just explore the world. To paint pictures for fun. To try a few different sports for the joy of it. To toss a Frisbee, fly a kite, ride a bike. Remember when that was childhood? But now, ours is a culture of elitism and one-upmanship. Part of it is for parental bragging rights (Look at my Johnny! He just won the state Taekwondo Championship!). Part of it is fear (If my kid isn’t the best of the best at something, she won’t get into a good university).

All of it is rather ridiculous. Because here’s the thing – great universities still accept great students. Good universities still accept good students. And it makes more sense to invest those thousands of dollars into a college savings fund each year instead of throwing it toward competitive sports, hoping for that rare scholarship.

And we parents, we know this. We know perfectly well that if little Jenny never accomplishes much more than a few Girl Scout badges and a season or two of recreational volleyball, then she will not be any less of an accomplished adult than the kid who played first-chair violin until graduating high school (because we also know that hardly anyone continues to play their band instruments beyond high school, even for pleasure). And yet, we persist in our ridiculousness, pushing our kids through the gamut of competitive lacrosse and football and soccer and gymnastics, feeding them dinner in the car, and helping them with homework late into the night. And we assure ourselves that we are creating for our children a better future. competitive running for medals kids lacrosse

So I, too, told myself. Until my daughter quit. And I didn’t know before what a good thing it was to quit, until suddenly, I realized that my daughter has time. She has time to daydream. She has time to finish her homework, then play with her dollhouse, or watch Spongebob, or ride her scooter around the neighborhood. She has time to be a kid who is not on the fast-track toward becoming an elite athlete. And maybe this is what it takes to create for her a better future. Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, s

Obsessing About My Great Love (Soccer, of Course!)

Tiare Loves Soccer 4everWorld, I must confess that I am in love. Not just a silly schoolgirl crush, either. Topsy-turvy, head-over-heels, inside-out love. With soccer.  In fact, soccer and I have had an ongoing relationship for almost 27 years now (not counting those dark years when I had no team, and no way to watch my beloved sport on TV, but we won’t discuss that sad time).

Yes, I have always been kind of a sports nut, since childhood. I have played on baseball, basketball, track, swim, and, of course, soccer teams. I was (and remain) a 49ers fan, an A’s fan, a Giants fan, and a Lakers fan. I have followed tennis almost religiously since Venus and Serena came on the scene, and am a die-hard fan of Nadal and Federer. But soccer still tops them all, in my opinion. As soon as the internet made it possible, I began to follow the world of football (the “real” name for the sport). I became an instant fan of the English Premiere League, especially Manchester United, and occasionally Chelsea. Eventually, Barcelona from La Liga España and the Seattle Sounders from MLS also joined my list of favorites. Eventually, my cable provider made it possible to actually watch regular games on TV, which really brought the sport to life in a way that radio programs and internet commentaries could not. I was hooked, addicted, obsessed with The Beautiful Game. watching live soccer 2013

It was only natural that my children would play soccer, whether they liked it or not. Fortunately, my oldest son did like it, and has played the sport every year since the age of 5. This year, he plans to try out for his high school Junior Varsity team. And if he doesn’t make it – well, it’s still been a fun ride. My 11-yo daughter, who recently retired from a high level of competitive gymnastics, is planning to play soccer for the first time ever this season. My youngest son, unfortunately, has sworn off soccer forever after one lousy season. No matter how hard I try, I can’t convince him that soccer — or any sport, for that matter — is worth his time and effort. (Yes, the competitive tiger mom inside of me is banging her head against the wall in frustration).

Still, even though I play soccer, and most of my children play soccer, and I watch it on TV and listen to it on the radio and follow it on the internet, I simply cannot get enough of my favorite sport. I have long dreamt of being at a live, professional soccer match, right in the middle of the excitement, cheering on my teams along with crowds of supporters. And yesterday, for the first time in my life, I had that opportunity. No,Daughter and me at pro soccer 2013 it was not Manchester United or Barcelona, or even the Seattle Sounders. But I did get to see Norwich City from the English Premiere League take on the Dorados from Mexico, and the MLS San Jose Earthquakes reserve team play against a team of local all-stars. Not only were these matches incredibly fun to watch in person, but my daughter and I got to be present as our city’s new USL professional soccer team was unveiled — the Sacramento Republic FC. I practically danced home after such an amazing date with my beloved sport, dizzy with excitement, and ready to hop aboard the Sac Republic bandwagon and support our new team, from the minor leagues, all the way to MLS. Sac Republic FC

My biggest fantasy is that one day, I will get to travel to see the World Cup in person. That is probably the ultimate fantasy of every person who is in love with soccer. (Yes– you see, my favorite sport has many lovers). Sadly, I will probably be stuck at home, parked in front of the television for Brazil in 2014. But there is always Russia. Or maybe Qatar. One can dream.

Life Has No Pause Button (a.k.a. Changes)

Everything has its season. Change is inevitable. Of course, of course, like so many others, I am very familiar with these sayings. And of course, they are true. Life has no pause button. Children do not remain small. People grow and change. Our interests and abilities shift as time marches forward. But although we understand these things, when the tide shifts and change arrives, it is unsettling, like walking on wet sand.

My daughter is quitting gymnastics. It is a huge change – not just for her, but for everyone in our family. She has spent most of her childhood as a gymnast, breathing in chalk dust, traveling to competitions throughout the state and beyond, and executing difficult skills as her team and her family cheer her on. She has been our little athletic superstar, smiling for the camera with shiny medals hanging around her neck. Our tiny Olympic hopeful. But now, at the young age of eleven, she has decided that she has had enough. She is currently competing as a Level 8 gymnast (out of 10 levels). This will be her final season.

Balancing on the balance beam

I love my daughter to pieces, and naturally, I respect her decision. Gymnastics is one of the most demanding youth sports, and one of the most expensive in terms of money as well as time. Unless a child dreams of obtaining Olympic gold, or at least university scholarships, there is not much point in continuing at the highest levels. But still, I will miss it. I will miss seeing her do amazing flips across the balance beam and swing around the bars in her adorable leotards. I will miss her huge grin as she salutes for the judges and earns high scores. I will miss the proud idea that she is The Gymnast of the family. Oh, change is hard. Boo, change!

Swinging around the high bar

But on the other hand, change can be a very good thing. No more gymnastics means no more scheduling our family life around her 25-hour per week sports schedule. It means no more cooking dinner before two in the afternoon and packing it in thermoses and containers for her to eat at the gym. It means no more silent homework times in the car during the long commute, no more missing out on birthday parties or school events, and more time for her to play with her brothers, and maybe make a friend or two.  And perhaps best of all, no more gymnastics means more money in the family budget. Wow – money to save for a new car, money to replace our aging household furniture, money to save for family vacations – money!

“What would you like to try after gymnastics is over?” I asked my daughter, because with her natural athletic ability, it is impossible to imagine that she is not doing some sort of sport. “Perhaps a dance class or swim team?”

My daughter’s next words completely shocked me. “I think it would be fun to play soccer. I’ve never done it before, but it looks like fun.”

Soccer? Soccer? My daughter is ready to quit gymnastics and try playing soccer? Wow! Okay, change isn’t such a bad thing after all. Hooray for new beginnings! Open the door; bring on the change!

Medals for gymnastics winners

Onigiri — IKEA-Style (My Version of Fast Food)

So our family does a lot of sports. At the moment, my 10-year-old daughter is training to compete in Level 8 gymnastics (22 hrs. of training per week!). My 12-year-old son plays soccer almost year round and practices 2-3 times per week. My youngest starts soccer again this summer, and I play indoor soccer three times per week.

Sports, I love. Kids’ sports, I love. Feeding my family fast food? I loathe. With a passion. I’d much rather throw together a bunch of homemade bean and rice burritos than swing through the drive-thru of Taco Smell. I prefer to prepare and freeze a dozen healthy mini pizza calzones to warm up on the run, or even pack good old-fashioned sandwiches for dinner. And here is one of our family favorites: Onigiri. But, being a true Californian, we had to turn our Japanese favorite into a fusion dish by adding some frozen meatballs from our friendly-neighborhood IKEA store. Ta-daa!! Swedish Onigiri! Here’s how we do it:

STEP ONE:

Throw some Calrose Rice into the rice cooker (the good, sticky Japanese sushi rice works best, although we have tried this with Thai glutinous rice, too. Totally different awesome fusion dish). While the rice is cooking, warm up your meatballs. No IKEA where you live? Any basic 1-inch meatballs will do. When the rice is cooked, line a small cup (like the one on the right) with plastic wrap and add some rice. Make a little “nest” in the center for the meatball.

STEP TWO:

Easiest step of all. Add the meatball to the nest. Cover with more rice (not too much, or your onigiri will be huge!)

STEP THREE:

Lift the saran wrap from the cup and twist around until very tight. If you can stand the heat, then use your hands to shape the onigiri into the perfect ball (or whichever fun shape strikes your imagination).

STEP FOUR:

Unwrap onigiri and sprinkle with salt for flavor and to reduce the stickiness. Best way to eat it? With the hands, of course, especially while sitting in the car driving kids to sports, or while sitting in the stands and watching. Also works well for school lunches, and probably even the dinner table. But who has time for that?

From Tomboy to Temptress (Okay, Not Really)

Always a tomboy, I now play indoor soccer 3 days per week

On the outside, I was a total tomboy. I wore nothing but jeans, dirty sneakers, and messy ponytails. Instead of hanging out and chatting with other girls, you could find me throwing a baseball, kicking a soccer ball, or racing around the school playground with boys. But this was a deceptive picture of me. At home, where no one could see, I secretly wore frilly dresses and played with dolls.

By the time I reached middle school, being a tomboy was no longer acceptable. Other girls were busy experimenting with makeup and hairstyles, parading around in cute, girly clothes. Me? I still wore boys’ 501 jeans and dirty sneakers and treated makeup like it was poisonous.

“You hate dressing like a girl?” a girl asked me once, when I was in 8th grade. She seemed genuinely puzzled. “Then how do you express your femininity?” She didn’t know it, but her words had a tremendous impact on me. Why did I dislike being feminine? Why did I insist upon being “one of the guys,” more focused on playing sports and computer games than shopping at the mall? I was not gay. I was frightened. Frightened of growing up and changing. Frightened about entering this alien territory of makeup and boyfriends and kissing. It was so much easier to pretend that I was not a girl, to pretend that none of it mattered, when in fact, it mattered very much!

So I studied. The summer before I began high school, I pored over magazines for teenage girls. I experimented with clothes and hair. I begged my older sister, who lived in another town, to come and teach me how to shop for clothes, since my dad was completely clueless about the needs of a growing young woman. On the first day of school, I shocked my classmates by wearing a skirt–a skirt! And makeup! Electric blue mascara, blue eyeshadow, and shiny red lipstick. Okay, yes, it took me a few years to get the makeup thing just right. But the message was clear: the tomboy was growing up. I was making an effort to become what I was always meant to be: a woman.

I will confess, at the age of 36, I still struggle to balance my tomboyish tendencies with my inner girly girl. I live in jeans, but still wear makeup and earrings. I am still more comfortable on a soccer field or virtual battlefield than hanging out with groups of women, but I have learned to enjoy “feminine” activities, too, like baking, homemaking, and handicrafts. I am still frightened and clueless in some ways. I have never had a pedicure or had my eyebrows done or waxing of any kind (I’m supposed to shave where? Eek!).

I guess I am just not finished growing up. Just as I did as a teenager, I have begun to turn to Cosmopolitan for advice on how to become the sexy, confident woman who hides inside of me, so afraid to embrace her potential. I do not have to leave the tomboy behind. Today, I allowed her to come out and play soccer and watch the Superbowl. But first, I went to the mall to buy a sexy, pink, lacy new bra.

Expressing my femininity