Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The boys in my house were entirely uninterested in decorating the tree. They didn't want to help do the lights either. So I decided to decorate it in my own way, and boy was it fun!

Each Barbie is dressed in her fanciest dress and it makes for a very colorful tree. It is really quite beautiful.

I just can't seem to get the boys to pose by the tree for a photo this year. I don't understand it.


White lights and more than 35 Barbies
adorn my tree this year.

A Christmas dress!

This one was nominated "Most like a Los Gatos mom" of the Barbies on my tree.

Sparkly tights with a miniskirt.

The sneer on this Barbie's face just kills me.


One of several dreamy pink dresses.

Red catsuit with a red coat and fur collar.

Her hair is crazy complicated.

The tree topper is a Christmas Barbie.

My tree had just one Ken and he is wearing a gold lame mesh shirt.

Yes her dress really does match her hair.

I wish a special Merry Christmas to all of those moms of boys out there.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Text that Almost Made My Heart Stop, and Not In A Good Way

One of the parental responsibilities I don't particularly enjoy is monitoring my sons' cell phone use. I'm not super turbo about it but I do check in once in a while. This mostly involves looking over text conversations and Facebook activities and a little bit of email. To encourage responsible use I have one of my sons "park" his phone in my room at night where it charges and gets the rest it needs. Just the other day, I was a little surprised when I saw a late-night text come in, lighting up my bathroom with a blue glow. Mildly curious, I got up to see what it was. It was from a girl I don't know. And it contained the phrase "blow job."


After a complete freak-out which involved my husband and I throwing the phone to each other and yelling in whispers, we determined an immediate conference with the owner of the phone was in order. And I mean NOW. After a frank conversation (oh wow no pun intended) with our son, in which I was forced to utter the words "blow job" to him more than once, the situation came into focus. We determined that my son's cell phone had gotten in the wrong hands. Hands that sent wildly inappropriate texts to some of his contacts. And, it turns out, some of his contacts aren't all that appropriate in their responses either.

It's quite obvious that the thirteen year old girl that responded to texts from my son's phone doesn't have a parent paying any kind of attention to her phone. And thank god. I would have gotten one irate phone call and rightfully so. But that parent would also have seen the provocative response she sent to my son. Which I deleted. And the photo that followed the next day. Which I also deleted. 

I'm pretty sure this is the expression I had while reading the texts on my son's phone.
Teenage cell phones are a contradiction of private and public conversations. They often confuse what is, or should be private, and what is public. Despite the fact that I was able to verify that my son did not send the texts in question, I feel he is still responsible for what is sent from his phone. He needs to protect his phone and not let others use his phone or learn his password. Since he almost always has his phone with him, my son's friends sometimes "borrow" it from his baseball bag or locker, and then have access to his text messaging and contact list. He claims he can't control what other people do on his phone but I don't understand how other kids think his phone and the information on it is to be shared. As an adult, I would never grab a friend's cell phone from her purse and start looking through it and texting her friends. Yet some kids, both boys and girls, seem to think it's perfectly reasonable, or funny to do this. I view this as a real lack of respect and good judgement. Which, now that I think about it, is exactly how I would describe some teenage behavior.

At the same time, teens feel like their email, texts and Facebook posts are fairly private, limited to a recipient or group of friends. Here they are wrong again, because lots of people have access to that information, including parents, friends of friends of friends (which could be anyone really), and institutions. Figuring out limits and boundaries is something they are learning. In fact, it is something we are all learning, which is why the constantly changing privacy settings on Facebook are so maddening.
This is the funky phone I used as a teenager. It was the only one in the house and located on the kitchen wall. My sisters and I had to take turns. Yes it was rotary dial and no we didn't have to put money in it.

When I was a teenager, the only privacy issues I had involved the security of the lock on my diary and trying to whisper into the family phone in the kitchen so my little sister wouldn't overhear me. These were not so complex as the issues raised today with smart phones. They are wonderful and useful devices that seem to make the job of parenting a lot more complicated. Removing a phone from use is such a nice thing to do once in a while, it's like giving yourself a break. And I definitely need a break from reading text messages to my son from a young girl mentioning blow jobs and proclaiming I'm single! Call me!

I learned years later that my sister could easily pick the lock.
Have you looked at your teenager's phone lately?

It might give you a heart attack but you should check it out once in a while.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Epic Fail in the Kitchen Department

I don't want to brag, but I rarely have failures of more than a minor nature in the kitchen. That is why my recent attempt at making cherpumple, the turducken of desserts, for my son's 15th birthday was a notable occasion.

He thought the idea of the apple, cherry, and pumpkin pies baked inside of cakes and then stacked together to make one colossal cake sounded "awesome," so I watched the YouTube video, bought all the ingredients at a store where I wouldn't see anyone I knew, and started baking.

There was no preventing the collapse once it started.
Family and a few friends were coming over shortly. All the layers were baked and my middle son helped me frost them. When the last layer went on top, it sunk in the middle, a crater formed across it, and it collapsed into a gooey horrible mess. I shrieked, I laughed, I cried. I called my mom. She answered my call in the grocery store where she couldn't understand my incoherent babbling and entertained the shoppers around her by shouting into the phone, "I can't understand you! Are you OK? Slow down. Are you laughing or crying? It what? Send me a picture." Then I called my husband, who called our favorite bakery, ordered two huge cakes and then went and picked them up. His quick use of cell phone and credit card saved the day.

The birthday boy looked at the epic fail and decided to pick up a fork and take a bite. He reasoned that it should still taste good. I was not going near it, it looked like a regurgitated dessert buffet.

It almost distracted me from the fact that in one year I will have a licensed driver.

Hold on, this could still taste good! Um, no.

OK these birthday cakes look and taste much better.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's Beginning to Smell A Lot Like . . .

I'm not sure what to say about this deodorant packaging.

What is the deal with boys being so smelly? Beyond the obvious such as hygiene, and the dogmatic such as "eating meat causes body odor," what is it? Hormones? And if it's hormones, is it theirs or mine that are causing the problem? The pits, the feet, the sports equipment, the shoes, the breath . . . it all smells pretty horrid.

I got so fed up today I went shopping for any and all odor-mitigating products I could find.

Huh, what do you know? I must not be the only one in this situation. There is an entire isle at my local Target devoted to Odor Elimination.

Oh yeah. Exactly what I am looking for.

Label that says now eliminates up to 2X as many odors and extra strength eliminates odors at the source? Bingo! In the cart.

Destroys odor on contact, absorbs sweat?
Oh yeah.

Penetrates deep to eliminate sports odors from shoes, apparel, and unwashable equipment?
I'll take two.

Odor neutralizing gel beads?
WTF I'll try them.

Contains odor-fighting "atomic robots" that "shoot lasers" at your "stench monsters" and replaces them with fresh, clean, masculine "scent elves."
OK WHAT? Seriously? I am not making this up, that is what it actually says on the back of the deodorant packaging, including the quotation marks.

Eliminates odors and freshens with the scent of New Zealand springs?
Why not, I love New Zealand. It does in fact smell good there.

Products I have added to my son's bathroom

I hope some of this stuff works or I'm going to have to resort to a good old fashioned clothespin.

Truly stupid packaging

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Giving Thanks for Benadryl and Penis-Shaped Pancakes

The lovely Thanksgiving table at my sister's house.

I am thankful for so much. I am thankful for my boys who insure that life is never boring. I'm thankful that we gathered with family to spend the holiday together. 

I woke up early Thanksgiving morning with kitchen tasks on my mind. After a short walk with my husband and dog, I made a cup of coffee and prepared to get to work. I had dough retarding in the refrigerator, I had rolls to make from scratch, and I had a lot of clean up from making various things the day before. The weather was misty and filled the kitchen with a soft light as I preheated the oven and poured some half and half in my coffee. I chatted a bit with my husband as he warily looked around at all the projects in progress.

Thanksgiving rolls rising before they go in the oven.

Soon my oldest son appeared. "Mom, what's for breakfast?" He is a pretty bright kid and he figured out fairly quickly that I had other projects going on and was not going to be serving him. He fumbled around the kitchen a bit and then decided to make pancakes. This did not thrill me as I was occupying most of the counter space. But OK.

Then my youngest appeared. "Mom. I'm really itchy." As I mixed dough for my rolls, I looked over at his body covered by an angry red rash. With flour all over my hands, I called out to my husband to find the Benadryl. It came flying into the kitchen from upstairs, express delivery. My son informed me that this rash started yesterday morning. He was obviously having an allergic reaction to something. We tried to think through what he had to eat the day before yesterday.

The Thanksgiving Costco rash. We never figured out the cause.

That's when I realized that it will be impossible to figure out what has caused this rash. We spent several hours taste-testing our way through Costco, a great way to entertain boys while shopping. Too many foods to even remember. I sip my coffee thoughtfully.

After my youngest is dosed up with Benadryl (yes the thought had occurred to me that it was not a bad thing to have him acting a bit more mellow for the day) I turned my attention back to the dough. The oven was preheated and it was time to put the bread in the oven. The dough for rolls needed to rise. As I got this organized my middle son came downstairs and sat watching the activity. He was way too savvy to ask what was for breakfast. Then my oldest, who was weaving and darting around me in the kitchen working on his pancake batter, said "Mom, I think something is wrong."

First of all, he has taken my largest mixing bowl and made what appears to be about two galloons of batter. He has used an entire package of whole-grain mix. But indeed there is something wrong with the batter; it is very very thin. I accused him of not following the directions. He insisted that he did. We figured out by reviewing the directions that in fact this honors math student made two errors in calculating the ingredients. He doubled the number of eggs needed (10 instead of 5) and somehow put too much milk. He stabbed at the lumpy mess with a whisk and it slopped out of the over-filled bowl. I informed him he will figure out how to personally cook and eat all of it.

Very thin pancake batter on the griddle.
Unfortunately this meant he would be standing at the griddle for some time while I was using the oven. My middle son came in to watch as he gamely scooped the watery batter onto the griddle and watched for signs that it would turn into something edible. My youngest, somewhat sedated, was out of the way at least. I got one beautiful loaf out of the oven and put the other in. The two boys were producing pancakes, if you can call them that. My oldest insisted they tasted perfectly normal. I told that was lucky because he was going to be eating them for many mornings to come.

I guess this is why I have two spatulas.
I took a quick break to check on Facebook and look at all the normal people posting pictures of their clean and well dressed children happily helping in their neat and organized kitchens, when I was struck in the head by a pancake. It turns out they make excellent frisbees. One steaming pancake landed on top of the stove hood. My husband got out of the shower to see what all the yelling/laughing was about. He took one look and disappeared. More giggling at the stove. I looked over at the giant pancake they were laughing over. REALLY??? A penis-shaped pancake?

Testosterone overload. Again. I left the kitchen to take a shower. When I came back down to finish up the rolls, my husband had done a bunch of dishes and the boys were no longer in the kitchen. I made myself a fresh cup of coffee (without an alcoholic shot but it was tempting) and put the last of the rolls and bread in the oven.

A loaf of homemade bread cools on the counter.

I'm thankful that I was able to finish up the items for our Thanksgiving feast. I had plans to pelt the boys in the head with a roll when we sat down to eat. But by the time I did sit down to eat, I was enjoying the food and family and hospitality a little too much to start a food fight.

Three of the slightly more mature men in my family overseeing the turkey on the BBQ.

My sister and her husband are justifiably excited about the turkey they prepared.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Running to the End

Big sigh.
Cross country season is over. The final race of the season for freshmen occurred on an uncharacteristically warm, windless clear day on a winding and hilly course called Crystal Springs. There were views of the Crystal Springs reservoir to the west, and the San Francisco Bay to the east. The huge group of freshmen ran well, sweeping first place like they did for every other race they ran this year.

It was an emotional end to the season for my son for various reasons. He experienced the power of a team, of what he could do when he challenged himself, about trust, and about excellent coaching. The season was an intense experience for my son and it has changed him profoundly. He started as a kid who liked to run. He finished the season as a Runner with a capital R, now a part of his identity.

After cross country season was over, he had one day off. He spent that day working on piles of homework. Then, the very next day he joined soccer tryouts.

Unlike cross country, soccer is a cut sport. Over 60 freshmen boys start tryouts and only 18 make the team. One round of cuts happened before he joined the tryouts. Another round just happened yesterday. The final selections are made in about a week from now. By my calculations, my son will go to 12 tryout/practice sessions before he finds out if he has a spot on the team. I have rarely seen him so nervous as before the cuts last night. They happen like this: the coaches run the tryout and then at the end, they tape a piece of paper on the back side of a small outbuilding with a list of names of those boys invited to continue with the tryouts. The boys run or walk over to the outbuilding, crowd around, find their name (or not), and then make their way to their waiting car. Inside the car is a parent who doesn't know what sort of creature will get in. Elated? Dejected? Angry? Relieved? Celebratory? Withdrawn? The whole range of human emotion could be climbing into the passenger seat. It's hard to be ready for that.

What did I get? A boy who was quiet, relieved, and not feeling well. He made it through the round of cuts but only after did I see how intensely he wants to be on this team. The release of emotion actually made him ill and exhausted. It may sound strange but he may have very well had a similar reaction if he was cut.

Big sigh. One more week. He will either have a jersey or he won't. But either way he will have a huge amount of respect for what it takes to be on the team.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Forms are Formally a Formality

For those of you following the No Freakin' at the Formal story, you will remember the permission slip that required five signatures to attend the dance. Tonight during dinner, I remembered to ask my son if anyone was "grinding or freaking." He gave that look. The look of pity for the poor, pathetic clueless mother. Yes, he informed me, at least half of the kids danced that way, of course. And the adults did nothing about it.

"What?" I asked, truly surprised after the incredibly detailed and legal form we had to sign promising our children would not so much as think about any sexual moves for the entire night. I was expecting if any of the kids even touched each other they would spend the night in jail, followed by rehab in a residential facility made famous by Tiger Woods.

"Mom," my middle son in 8th grade piped up, "that form is just to make the parents feel secure."

Well how did he know that and I didn't? It's not going to work on me again!


The big day was here. The formal.

But first, my son had early morning cross country practice. After running eight miles, he is home throwing on his soccer uniform and trying to grab something to eat.

"I ordered the corsage for you. But next time you need to do it."
"Mom, I don't even know what a corsage is!"
"It's a . . . it's a . . . flower bracelet."
"Oh. One of those things."

As we depart toward the district cup soccer tournament, my husband is already on his way with our other two boys to a baseball tournament. The florist is not anywhere near where my husband is going. I have to pick up the corsage. It is hours before the dance, it is a hot day, and that corsage is going to have to sit in my car all day long. Crap.

An hour later I feel like I am an organ courier. The orchid corsage is safely on ice in the backseat of my car. A soccer game is played and lost. A baseball game is lost. The temperature soars. Another baseball game is won. Much food is consumed. After the soccer game we run to buy a tie and pick up the suit pants which had to be altered for a slimmer physique. Yet all the while that orchid is safely chilling in my car.

We convene at home to get ready for the pre-party, an extravagance of parental paparazzi before the dance starts. When we get there, all the boys stand awkwardly around holding their corsages, waiting for all the girls to be ready to receive them. There is some happy confusion as the traditional flowers are exchanged between teenagers that have just learned what corsages and boutonnières are, but not how to apply them to the other person.

My son's boutonni√®re is pinned on by his date's father, as she looks on.
Oh that's how you pin on a boutonniere!

My son gives her the corsage. The parents maneuver around taking lots of photos. There is a mother/daughter group shot but none of us Boy Moms wanted to risk the extreme embarrassment of our sons to take a mother/son photo. I thought about it, then decided to take another sip of my wine and enjoy the scene. I enjoyed it even more after chatting with one mother who was just exhausted. After the drama this mother endured with her daughter's hair, makeup, dress, manicure, shoes, and purse, she could barely stand up.
Ready for the dance!
I'm absolutely certain there is less drama for moms of boys. We also hear less about the details of the evening. When my son got home, he was understandably absolutely exhausted. The only comment he could muster up for me before he collapsed was, "They only played ONE slow song."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

No Freakin' At the Formal!

It's another milestone in our all-boy household. My oldest son, a freshman at an all-boys high school, has been invited to a formal dance at an all-girls school.

My first reaction was to text my mom and ask her if she would make my son's suit. It was a joke, a pointed one, as she made every dress I wore to a formal. No dresses to make in my house. Her response was, "And so it starts. Without all the drama."

Yes, there was a fair amount of drama around formal dances in my house growing up. With three girls, how could it be any other way? Looking back, I realize that the researching, dreaming, and designing of each dress, picking out fabrics, and watching the dress come to life at my mom's sewing machine was a lot more memorable than the dance itself. I was so proud to wear my custom-made beautiful creations. My dates were little more than accessories to my outfits. Well, I certainly didn't think that at the time, but in hindsight I realize it was true.

My son, in a suit, will be an accessory for his date at this dance. And he knows it. Therefore, there is no drama.

That is where any similarity to my high school formal dance experience and modern times ends.

In my day, my custom-made dress was only for my family and maybe a friend or two to see before it premiered at the dance. A color hint was given to the date so he could provide an appropriate corsage.
My first formal. I loved my dress. Please no comments about the mullet hairstyle, it was the early 80s.

Today, a photo of a model wearing the dress a girl has purchased or is going to purchase is posted on Facebook for all to see. This gives the date an idea of exactly what she will look like. He can coordinate his tie and any flowers. Easy. No drama. Apparently this also serves to warn other girls that the dress is taken, a way to stake a claim on the desired dress. Creates lots of drama for the girls.
The posting of the dress, visible to all friends of both kids. Names hidden to protect the innocent. We can note from this post that a wrist corsage is the way to go, much like my first formal in the picture above.
In my day, the boy purchased tickets for the dance at school and that was the only necessary exchange needed to attend.

Today, HOLY COW. You will not believe what you have to do.

I was given a two page permission slip that requires FIVE signatures and contains a medical treatment permission, emergency information, a schedule for the evening, when they must arrive and how, when the students may and may not leave, the policy on dress code, alcohol, drugs, smoking, valuables, and page references to various other policies in the student handbook. This form was signed by five school officials, and requires that a business card from the boy's school's Dean be stapled to the top. This must all be completed and turned in two weeks before the dance.

Now remember, I am filling all this out as the mom of the boy who is the human accessory for the dance. I'm surprised that there is no essay requirement. If they could just add that, we could photocopy it and send it off as his college application.

My very favorite part of this permission slip is the section on dancing.
"All dance styles must comply with standards of modesty and safety. Inappropriate dancing includes, but is not limited to, the following: slam dancing, moshing, any dancing that has sexual innuendo such as freaking or booty dancing ("sandwich", crotch to crotch or butt to crotch) (See full Diocesan Dance Policy on Page 25-26 of Student Handbook). Also, shoes must be worn at all times."

If this is an excerpt, I'd love to see the full-length version of the dance policy in the handbook.

Schools across the country are struggling with the modern styles of dancing (see this article). One person I know who happens to work at the school hosting this dance says parents should be required to chaperone these dances to get a good idea of what is going on. They would be shocked.

This principal had a more creative solution than a permission slip/contract to get rid of over-sexualized dancing. I'm not going to imbed a video on what grinding is. If you don't know, get out from under your rock and look it up on YouTube. You might be shocked.

Before you get to the dancing, however, you have to eat dinner. In my day, before the formal, my date and I went out for a fancy and elegant dinner. For my first formal, he took me to the Velvet Turtle,  a now extinct restaurant in San Jose. I was a sophomore, going with a Junior from a different school to his Prom. He ordered escargot. I can't remember what I ordered but it was not escargot. I do remember that while attempting to eat the snails, he accidentally shot one about 20 feet across the dining room. I thought it was hysterical but judging by his blush he was pretty embarrassed.

Today, my son is invited to attend a catered dinner at the home of the girl he is escorting to the dance. She and six other girls, and their dates, AND their parents, are invited to have dinner and take pictures before the dance. The parents will be offered a glass of wine, and I suspect the parents of girls will drink more than the parents of the boys. I will have to watch and see if I'm right.

We have tried to educate our son on how to be a good accessory, including the slightly more advanced role of accessory-to-the-hostess, at this pre-party. I think as long as he avoids any booty dancing he will do fine, as my mom says, "without all the drama."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ice Cream Excavation

I hardly ever buy ice cream.

It gives my husband a reason (besides getting the emergency gallon of milk) to venture into the fluorescent isles of the grocery store in his pajamas with cocktail glasses printed all over them.

My ice cream standards:
1. Chocolate and/or coffee is one of the first five ingredients
2. Full fat content
3. No air-fluffed crap marketed as "extra churned"
4. Some sort of crunchy nut content preferred

My husband's ice cream standards:
1. Price
2. Quantity
3. Two for the price of one! sale (price AND quantity)

To me, ice cream is an occasional treat. He would love to eat a giant bowl every night.

I know. Our ice cream standards are mutually exclusive. Sometimes even we wonder why we are married. Despite our ice cream differences, we make it work. The boys adapt as best they can.

Tonight my sweet tooth got the better of me and even though there was only the cheap stuff in the freezer, I had to have a little bowl. I opened the lid to find . . . a crater right down the middle.

Difficult to capture in a photo, this ice cream "swirled and trailed" with rich creamy buttery classic golden and chocolaty items only has those items in the center. Sides are left unadorned. Hence the crater.
You see, the ice cream purchased for its price and quantity properties does not have even distribution of ingredients. My kids know that with this type of ice cream, the caramel and tiny little chocolate-like pieces are only present down the middle of the carton. And who wants the flavorless plain ice cream around the sides? Not the person who last attacked this ice cream.

Well you know what? I don't want the stuff around the sides either. So I carefully continued the crater right down to the bottom of the carton, excavating a small scoop of ice cream with lots of caramel in it. Then I put it back in the freezer.

My oldest son later wandered into the kitchen, opened the freezer, and grabbed the ice cream. He opened it up and groaned. All the good stuff was gone.

Only traces of "thick golden caramel" and "caramel cups sprinkled throughout" remain.  
Just for fun, let's look at how many adjectives on the carton try to convince us this ice cream is exactly like the good stuff. 
Premium (printed all over the lid)
I don't think I could add any more to this list except for maybe "cold." It sounds good but is completely unsatisfying. I guess I just prefer the stuff made with just a few quality ingredients and less copywriting. When we have the good ice cream in the house there is never a crater in it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cross Country: More Lessons

It was my oldest son's third cross country meet. My husband and I got there in time, no heroic driving necessary. The fog was very thick, the visibility low. We parked and found the start in time to position ourselves for maximum viewing. It was a staggered start this time, which means that there are several lines of runners, all arranged by some as-yet mysterious formula. Our son was one of the runners in the front line. The gun went off BOOM and almost immediately, a runner fell. This caused a chain reaction of about eight boys tumbling over each other. BOOM BOOM BOOM. A false start. In cross country, this means a re-do. To make things fair, they had everyone line back up in the same exact positions and start again. BOOM. But is a staggered start really all that fair to begin with? I'm not sure, it seems a huge advantage to be in the front row.

The race was on and the course route was twice around the track and then up a hill, into the fog, and around a course. One clear leader emerged immediately. This race would start as many others around the world do, with a tall thin Ethiopian who looks like he was born running way out in front. My son was in the pack chasing him around the track. We watched them rocket up the muddy hill and out of sight. We decided to go up the hill and find a place to watch the runners come by. We stood near what we were pretty sure was a turn in the course. It was a bit difficult to tell, as ladies in big furry jackets, walking dogs and drinking lattes, were sauntering all over. They barely got out of the way as the Ethiopian came out of the fog and rounded the corner. And chasing him was our son! And chasing our son was the pack. I just about jumped out of my skin to see that my son was clearly in second place and pushing hard to catch up with the kid in front of him. I totally forgot I had a camera around my neck. No pictures.

We rushed down the wet muddy stairs, avoiding the texting woman also running down the stairs, and made our way to a good viewing area at the finish. Soon, out of the fog the runners emerged.
We look. We look again. We strain to see who is coming down the track.

No Ethiopian. No son chasing Ethiopian.


Then they appear, running as fast as they can, in about 30th place. What happened?

Word quickly spreads; the leader and perhaps the first 20 kids went the WRONG WAY.
I was totally unaware this could happen in a race. I wanted to cry. I wanted to find the race organizers and strangle someone.

We hear later that the lead group ran an additional hilly part of the course, misdirected by a bystander.

I couldn't imagine how upset my son was going to be. I couldn't believe how upset I was. I couldn't believe how calm my husband was. He knew something I didn't; the results of this race didn't really "count." Count or not count, I didn't care, someone screwed this whole race up. There were some very upset and sweaty runners wandering around, and a few parents who were fired up but couldn't figure out who to talk to.

The next freshman boys' heat lined up and BOOM they were off. After one lap around the track, they were off. Oops. They were supposed to run two laps around the track. So neither heat ran the race correctly and all the results were seriously messed up.

I created this tshirt for my son. Did you have a son in the race? Buy a shirt here:
Now comes the truly beautiful thing about cross country: it is a team sport. My son's coaches immediately gathered the freshman boys from his school and took them to cool down and to talk. When it was announced that our school won the meet despite the debacle, an enthusiastic and heart-felt cheer went up, and all was well. They won as a team and that was the important thing. I didn't see a tear or a show of poor sportsmanship. I saw boys supporting each other. I saw all the sophomores, juniors and seniors who had not raced yet desperately trying to decipher the course map, like cramming for a surprise exam that is 50% of your grade.

In talking to other parents, I learned that running off course during a race is not all that uncommon. In a race last year, the leader finished, and five minutes later kids came running out of the woods from all directions to the finish line.

This weekend I learned that not only do you have to be a great runner, you also have to be good at guessing which unmarked path to take and making instant judgements about whether to trust bystanders or not.

Cross country is a whole lot harder than I thought.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Food Math

So if I spend approximately two hours shopping, loading, unloading, prepping, cooking, and serving a meal, and it is consumed in four minutes flat by one teenage boy who had football practice, and in seven minutes by another teenage boy who ran nine miles in 90 degree heat, what is the average bed time less glasses of milk consumed, expressed as a sum of two or more consecutive positive integers?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Athletic Supporter: Cross Country

Maybe it's better to say sports fan rather than athletic supporter.

My oldest is in high school and I've been to two high school athletic events so far. What, you say, is this news? Well yes, in my case it is.

I spent my three high school years (9th grade was part of Jr. High in my school system) trying to avoid PE class and sports by any means possible. When it couldn't be avoided I did my best to melt into the background and steel myself for being the last person picked for a team, every single time. I was fast, when motivated (which rarely happened) but had no hand-eye coordination and no knowledge of how any of the games I was forced to play actually worked. Like I often say, if I knew I would have three athletic boys later in life, I would have paid a lot more attention in PE. I was not a part of an athletic team until college, which is not a usual place to start for most people. Call me a late bloomer.

My high school freshman is on the Cross Country team. I am learning about how this all works as an observer, and I have to admit it is pretty exciting.

Both meets have been over an hour away, which is a long way to go for such a short race. One was over in 17 minutes, 33 seconds (three miles). The second one was over in 12 minutes and 25 seconds (two miles). Or those were my son's times, and he has a medal from both races, coming in 1st for his school, 7th overall in his first race, and 2nd for his school and 2nd overall in the second race. That is part of why it's so exciting. The other part is that his school has dominated both meets. Hanging around, watching my son bonding with such a fast, fit and fiercely competitive group of boys is pretty fun too.

Things I have learned so far about Cross Country meets:
1. Leave early. If you are late you will miss the whole thing. Sometimes this can mean heroic driving.
2. If you are unfamiliar with the course, follow the parents with long-lense cameras running around.
Not all parents with big cameras look like this. She wins most stylish spectator.
3. Wear running shoes. You need them to watch runners.
4. If you are watching someone at the front of the pack, you might see the start and the middle, but they will beat you to the finish. If you want to see the finish you have to go directly from the start to the finish.
This photo is from the Earlybird Invitational in Salinas, taken about mid-way through the race.

First place freshman boy's team at the Earlybird Invitational

Medal winner in his first race
The start of the freshman race at the Lowell Invitational in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park 
The lead pack about half way through the race. I was excited to get this shot, but then I didn't make it to the finish in time!

Medal winner!