Sunday, June 28, 2009

Making Text Bigger

I'm slowly learning how to do things on this web site. I really need to find some book like "Blogspot for Dummies." I see other cool looking blogs that use blogspot but I can't figure out how to do many of the things that should be easy and would help the looks of my posts. Maybe that's why I don't have my own Facebook or Myspace page. This stuff is just not intuitive to me. My excuse for everything technology related is that I'm fifty something and I'm doing the best I can.

But at least I have figured out how to MAKE TEXT BIGGER - a very important feature if I want my generation of friends to read any of these posts. You young folks better not snicker, your turn is coming and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

So I went back and edited my posts to enlarge the font and add some pictures. Now if I just had a clue how to put pictures where I want them within the post and if I knew how to enlarge the font on the post titles..... The other thing that seems to be above my pay grade is linking to another web site from within a post.

After reading a few FAQ's, some of my difficulties may be related to the fact that I'm using a Mac with the Safari browser. Evidently with Safari you have to do some things "manually." What does that mean? How do you do something "manually" on a computer?

Maybe eventually I will install Firefox, the browser that blogspot favors, or just use the Windows side of my computer to connect to blogspot through Internet Explorer.

Or maybe my blog will just stay rather plain. Works for me.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Meet the Parents

Today we're meeting the parents of the soccer team we think our son is switching to. We've been invited to the pre-season swim party and cookout. I made chocolate chip cookies to take. They turned out all right. You can be sure I did NOT make my chocolate cinnamon cake.

Club soccer is truly a family activity. In our world of competitive soccer there are usually two to three practices a week that last about an hour and half each. The nine league games each fall and spring are played at fields about an hour away. The players usually have to be there forty five minutes before the game starts,. With the games lasting at least an hour and a half, that's a lot of time spent with the same people each week. Add to that a few tournaments during the year, some of them out of town, and you can rack up the hours.

But unlike getting together with relatives , there is no requirement that soccer parents like each other or try to get along.

It can be tricky getting along with the parents of your child's teammates (particularly with school teams.) Some parents are screamers, at the referees or the coaches or the kids on the field. It's particularly grating when a parent screams at his own child. Some are complainers, muttering just audibly enough for you to know that they think your child is screwing up or getting too much playing time. Some parents think their child is the MVP of the team, never responsible for an error or missed opportunity. If you have kids who've played sports, you know what I mean.

With club sports, parents do influence the tone of the team. We've been fortunate with our boys' soccer teams so far. A majority of the team parents have been encouraging fans and pleasant companions at the games and as we travel.

Now, after being with the same core group of parents for four years, we are switching teams. Our primary goal has been to keep soccer fun for our boy and for us. In changing, we only considered teams in our part of town. This will cut our commuting time by almost an hour per practice, giving our son more time for his academics and school activities. (It will free up even more time for me and Ricky since it will no longer be impractical for us to drop him off and then return to pick him up from practice.)

There are three teams in our area. All three are good, solid teams moving up. We did not even consider letting him try out for the top ranked of those three teams, though. Why? The best way I can say it is that the parents on that team just seem a little unkind. They are quick to yell at the officials and the parents of the opposing team. They don't hesitate to call out opposing players, young boys, for perceived fouls. It's unpleasant to be near them on the sidelines.

The other two teams both have good kids and good parents and have open spots to fill so Wiley had a choice. Either one would have been just fine.

We're looking forward to joining this new club and blending into the family. Hope they like us!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Who's the favorite?

My two boys were recently overheard in the grocery store discussing which child was which parent's favorite. The reason I know this is that my husband is a high school teacher at the school my kids have attended. So my husband's students know our family and are comfortable passing along gossip. And since high school students and recent graduates tend to the fill the registers at grocery and other retail stores our spies are everywhere.

The boys came to their conclusion. I might or might not agree. Let me at least say that it probably varies more than they realize.

I adore my children, but freely admit I don't necessarily like each child all the time. When I had three children under the age of five, it was usually okay. They were all cute. Then they got a little older and the tantrums and whininess were not so cute. Then that pesky fourth child (that never slept) joined the group six years later. So we couldn't all operate on the same page and that added to various frustrations. In middle school and high school the hormones came into play, which speaks for itself.

But that's the joy of having more than the usual two children. With my four kids, I usually like at least two of them at any given point. Sometimes it's three (as long as they're not in the car together.) Every now and then the planets align and they're all delightful. Thankfully, they're all very much part of our family, whether it's pleasant or not.

Last year a third boy married into our mix. So now there are five to pick from and that has improved the odds. It especially helps that he's still trying to earn brownie points with us. His wife is in graduate school and too busy to cause any trouble. Of course, she's also too busy to play with us. Our oldest has done a good job living on her own the past couple of years, but she's too far away and I hope she moves back to our state soon. The older son is the entertainer of the family, and while he's not in school at the moment, he's pleasant to have at home and is really getting along with his brother. Our fourteen year old has his video game issues, but he hasn't hit the "disgusted with parents" stage.

So who is my favorite today? I don't know, I'll have to think about it.

UPDATE: Both boys were in the den this afternoon when I mentioned I wrote about them - about who's my favorite.

"I'm your favorite. You didn't want him to move back home and you don't like doing his laundry."

"That's crap! I'm your favorite, I've always been your favorite, and you know it. Besides, you love my goatee."

We'll find out if they're interested in the issue enough to post a comment!

Monday, June 22, 2009


I don't cook a lot, but there are a few (chocolate) items that generally turn out well. My chocolate chip cookies and my Christmas time fudge approach legendary status among family and friends. I can throw down chocolate chip cookies in my sleep. My fudge is the perfect gift for the client who already has everything money can buy.

Then there is my chocolate cinnamon sheet cake, my husband's favorite. It's made from scratch with a cooked icing as well. Nothing complicated, just not out of a box. For years it was a staple dessert for family celebrations and dinner with friends. Not so much anymore.

Sometime starting about ten years ago, things just began to go wrong. That's about when my kids hit middle school and the household activity level ratcheted up. That's about when I started having to use my adding machine to add two plus three. That's about when somebody cursed my chocolate cinnamon cake.

The family joke became "What did Mom do to the cake this time?"

I have made the cake without baking soda - it's flat. I have made it without vanilla - it's tasteless. I have made it without cinnamon - it's boring. I have made it without eggs - it's a disaster. I've made it with too little or too much cocoa or milk. These ingredients are measured in tablespoons (four or six) and I either lose count (no adding machine in the kitchen) or I mistake the spoon which holds one and a half tablespoons for the correct single tablespoon.

I have undercooked the icing - it's runny. And trust me, you can't save it by just adding more powdered sugar. I've overcooked the icing - it's so thick you can't cut if with a knife, much less spread it or enjoyably eat it.

The last few times I've studied the recipe, crossed my fingers and it's been okay. On Sunday, breathing a little easier, I made the chocolate cinnamon cake for the father of my children. It's the least I can do for the man who puts up with our knuckleheads. Unfortunately, something distracted me during the icing preparation. The butter cooked down before I added the other ingredients, but I didn't think that would make a difference. Evidently it did. The icing turned out rather runny with not quite the right flavor. I'm blaming it on the dog.

Sigh. Cursed again.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Have to Smile

My son is playing his trumpet.

My dog is either trying to harmonize or make a new friend.

You haven't lived until you've owned a yodeling dog.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Taking a Pass

Our younger daughter was an athlete in school. Beginning age eleven, she played AAU basketball, a select basketball league for players with more talent and drive than average. My husband and I loved to watch her compete and did all we could to support her ambition to improve. (That little girl is now twenty-three and still loves to play basketball.)

During the second or third year, when she was twelve or thirteen, we were approached by an AAU coach about whether she would be interested in playing on the team he coached and substantially funded. He was a retired professional baseball player in his mid thirties who enjoyed basketball. It was quite flattering to have our child courted by a coach with his background of athletic success. And with his sponsorship of the team, it would have saved us some dollars as well.

But after thinking about it we decided to pass on that opportunity and stay with the team she was already on. It seemed just a little odd that a relatively young, attractive man would choose to spend himself that way. The vague feeling of uneasiness was enough to dismiss the opportunity.

Today the coach was convicted of sexually assaulting one of the girls on the team (when she was twelve) and he is awaiting a second trial with respect to another victim. The first victim eventually told the police a couple of years ago. Her parents were the last to know. The girl testified "I felt like if they knew, they would blame themselves. It's not their fault. It's not my fault."

I read the description of the trial in the newspaper today. My heart breaks for those parents who trusted that man and let him into their home and family. You want so much what is best for your children. Someone comes into your sphere and tells you how talented and special your child is. He says what a privilege to help support that talent. And you think "Wow, my girl must really be special to get that kind of attention." Et cetera, et cetera.

I can understand how the mom and dad were deceived. They were deceived by someone who they thought had their child's best interests at heart. It was outside the realm of possibility that someone they admired and trusted could hurt a child, their child. Thank God that dad's testimony was able to help convict this horrible man. Good parents do the best they can. Sometimes terrible things happen.

I can't tell you why we had reservations when others did not. In this case we just happened to find out we were right. I wish for the sake of those other little girls that we had been wrong. But thankfully some courageous young ladies and their families are making sure the "coach" is retired from life, not just baseball.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Flyover Country Funeral

My mother's sister's husband died last week.   On Saturday I made the 5 hour round trip drive for my uncle Herb's 1:00 funeral and was back in time to see my son's 6:00 soccer game as he tries out for a new team.  A five hour drive isn't that far here in the flyover part of America between New York and California.

The funeral was simple and appropriate for a man who lived to be 95 years, 5 months and 4 days.

I've got the funeral routine down by now.  You see, my mother (the ninth of ten) had six brothers and three sisters, none of whom were closer in age than three years.  My dad has four sisters and a brother who died in infancy.  My dad gave the eulogy for my uncle and referred to the fact that at one time he (my dad) had thirteen brothers-in-law and he had been a brother-in-law to Herb for over fifty years.  

There have been a bunch of funerals the past few years. Three of my mom's brothers married three sisters from another family and they're all gone now. Most of them are buried in the country cemetery where my grandparents are buried and their parents and eventually my parents.  My dad has remaining four brothers-in-law, four sisters and two sisters-in-law from the original set of twenty-six.  The same crowd is at each funeral but a little smaller every time.

A funeral is a good time to catch up with people you have a shared history with. Nobody's watching TV or listening to an ipod.  You don't even have to stand aside for cell phone calls and texts since there's not really a consistent cell phone signal in rural southeastern Oklahoma.  So people visit and remember. Someone may step out for a smoke, but most of those are gone now, too. Everyone follows the casket from the funeral to the cemetery. People acknowledge the graves from prior funerals and compare decorations. This particular cemetery is always colorful with flowers and ornaments. The visiting continues and then we all drift off.

Usually there is a big meal at the church before the funeral at which pictures are shared and stories swapped. I've actually learned some interesting things about my parents that I wouldn't have known otherwise. This time there was no meal. My aunt is a very private person and always disliked funerals in general and funeral meals in specific. She was secretly worried that no one would come to her husband's funeral, but there were about fifty people there, a nice turnout.

I was reminded at the funeral of a few things about my uncle. And I'm writing about them now because they are typical of things said at each family funeral I've been to - anecdotes that illustrate the matter of fact way in which each person lived. Herb was an oil field worker as a young man. He had a work related accident that left one leg permanently shorter than the other. He was told he would never be able to work again, but after over two years of self-created physical therapy he not only recovered his ability to walk but continued to work for the rest of his life. He didn't whine or make excuses, he just went on with his life. He didn't expect a handout or a bailout, he just worked the best he could. Even with his crooked leg he could be fast as lightning when needed - one day reaching me to knock a black widow spider off my shoulder before I could react.

Herb and his brothers-in-law liked to laugh. When they hunted together, the joke was they had to hunt clockwise around a mountain so that Herb could stand up straight on his short leg. Herb's favorite joke was one he played on his nieces and nephews. We'd be driving with him somewhere in the cab of his pickup and he would challenge us to a contest. Whoever could stick a finger up his nose the farthest would win. Herb always won no matter how hard we squeezed and pushed our fingers. At some point, usually by the time we were eight or ten, we would realize that his pinky finger was mostly missing. He'd been cheating all those years, holding his sawed off finger to the end of his nose and pretending it was stuck all the way in. Then we would be mad at him, mad at our older cousins for not telling and mad at ourselves for being so stupid. But he just laughed and we had to laugh, too.

That's what I like about my aunts and uncles and my cousins who are old enough to be my aunts and uncles - the examples of work ethic, contentment and humor.  There's a real advantage to being from flyover country.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

You can't leave me like this.

My favorite sports anchor, Dale Hansen, is taking the month of June off. Of course the month of June is rather slow in our wide, wide world of sports. But I expect he's now at the top of that slippery slope heading toward retirement.  He's probably a little more fifty something than I am and has been so successful for so long that there will be fewer and fewer incentives for him to retain a consistent schedule.

Why should I care?  Well you see, I absolutely love sports.  And I'm still that generation who watches the 10:00 news.  (Actually, I watch the 10:15 weather and sports since I have the news on the radio or TV most of the day.)  I've watched Mr. Hansen since moving to this area in 1985. And Dale Hansen loves sports, whether it's little league or the Texas Rangers, high school playoffs or the Dallas Cowboys.  He's even managed to slog his way through hockey with Our Dallas Stars.  He admires the achievement and passion and calls out the slackers and whiners. If he reports on an event, I can rely on the description and the conclusion.  I don't always agree with his opinions, but I usually do and if I don't I can at least respect them.  And best of all, there's no "political correctness."  If something is ridiculous, including his Hawaiian style shirts, he calls it out, no excuses or apologies.  If something is courageous or poignant, he honors it. He appreciates and pointedly honors those who display character.

Is that a generational thing?  When Dale Hansen is no longer reporting the sports activities of the day, will someone take his place?  Or is this next generation indifferent to passion and glory, the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat," and most of all sheer effort? Or am I just a sentimentalist?  I hate to think so.

Meanwhile, my message to Dale......Come back to work soon, you can't leave me like this.