Saturday, January 29, 2011

Soccer Mom

This is my son Cody..doing what he loves best. Playing soccer. This pic was at a pick-up game during an O.M. tournament a couple of summers ago.

My name is Nicole.....and I am a soccer mom.

Or at least I have been for the past 14 and 1/2 years. I have chauffeured, fed, laundered countless muddy/bloody jerseys,cheered, complained, played a little ball (emphasis on little) know in a jam. I have been supportive..and I have been obnoxious...and tonight? It is all coming to a close.

Cody is playing the last game of his senior year with the FEAST Patriots. After starting at the ripe old age of 3, when they color coded goal posts and everything. We are finishing this chapter in our lives.

Cody has decided that he will not play for college (unless necessary for finances). That he would (gasp) like to focus on his studies his freshman year.

And let me tell you..we are finishing out in true soccer family style. Lack of compassion and everything. The kiddo is sick. Like he ran a fever for 3 days..but THIS? THIS was his last tournament..and a State tournament at that? So what did we do? Like a good soccer mom..I loaded him with Tylenol, EmergenC and Day-Quill..and said..are you sure you want to do this? Just let me know if we need to leave...and then we headed to the tournament.

I visit with other parents while he practices with his team. I cheer with every goal he blocks. I complain when I think there are unfair calls...and when he comes back at the 1/2? I rush down to the bench and ask
How are you holding up? Should we go? 

And Cody? Well..he looks at me like I had grown a third head..and very matter of factly holds up a bottle of Tylenol and says..I'm fine..I'm popping my pills. 
..He drinks some water..and goes off with his team.

I return to the know..I'm fine, I popped my pills is just what all mothers want to hear.(yes..that was a touch of sarcasm there) and then I proceeded to watch the second half.

They won. Cody lied down on the cement to rest between games. I can't let it be.
Do you want some food?

No..Cody peers up at me through squinted eyes,again with the three-headed mom look I'll throw up.

  How's your head? I persist. Does it still hurt?

Honestly?..I can't even tell. I offer to take him home again. He wants to stay..and relieved. Because sick or not? This is where I want to be..on our final weekend. We both know we need the closure.

So Cody shuts his eyes and takes a mini-nap..right there on the cement between games.

Big B and I leave him there to find some food for us, because we are not sick. We reminisce. We discuss how quickly the years have gone. When Cody first started playing he still did not talk. I mean really did not talk. But he was drawn to soccer, and Big B and I were pleased to see him interacting with other kids without, you know, hitting them. So Cody started soccer at the ridiculously young age of 3.

He had an awesome coach that just pointed him in the right direction and let him take the ball to the goal. Every game he would give the team (all those 3, 4 and 5 year olds..because Cody played with this team for 3 years) the same directions.  Did everyone get there magic gum for after the game? (Bazooka gum). Does everyone have their tattoos? (they often wore matching wash-off scare the other team)..and then Coach Ray would end with're the pilot of the're the left wing, A you're the right wing...and don't forget..get the ball to Cody and point him in the right direction. If he scores for the wrong team? I hold the entire team responsible. Just turn him in the right direction. 

And this strategy worked for 3 years! When we moved to Bandera..there was no year-round ball. Cody played seasonally, and attended some camps at the Jewish Community Center and one of the local colleges.

Then? We hit high school and realized we need to expand our ball playing to other cities. Cody played with the homeschoolers in the private school league..he played Club Ball (Div. 2, Div. 1, Select, etc.).He played rec. ball. He played pick-up games.  Until the Fall season of his Junior year. Cody was starting to play in more and more competitive leagues. Which he thought he wanted..but once he hit that top level? He realized it wasn't for him. Cody missed playing for fun. So he decided to resign from Club ball..and just play for fun and the home-schoolers.

And during all this time we spend endless hours in the car. We listen to books on tape when he is We listen to c.d..with songs like "wordplay" by Jason Miraz and "wiseman" by James Blunt..and always..or almost always..In Italia. Because In Italia? his getting in the zone song.

So now here we are. 14 and 1/2 years of soccer games...and we are still ending with obsessive ridiculousness. Cody's fever broke. Thank goodness. But he did manage to sprain his ankle during the second game last night. So after sleeping late, we discovered..a swollen, slightly discolored ankle. Before I could say it Cody responded. I'm playing. We'll deal with it later. So I prop him in front of the t.v. with a bag of frozen spinach on his ankle. He spends the morning watching Shaoulin Monks throwing hay through an eye of a needle..and a documentary on the organic coco industry. We serve him french-bread pizza for lunch. Big B informs me in a panicked whisper that Super S is out of bazooka gum! (Big B sees this as a very bad omen) 

And now? Cody is dressed..ankle wrapped and ready to go to his last game.

It is the State Final (They made the final round) The Patriots from Tyler vs. the Patriots from San Antonio. I'm betting the Patriots Win!

But win or lose? We are about to have some closure. Cody is leaving this part of his life behind..and moving onto other things. Schools, jobs, etc. My boy is growing doors are opening.

So I leave you with our final traveling song.  Ciao.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Wanna Play?

It has been almost a year since I engaged in true, unadulterated, childhood type play. I remember it fondly.

I had promised the Odyssey of the Mind teams from the Boys and Girls Club a nerf-gun war. It was their end of year party..and I even promised to participate. The play began a week before. I make arrangements with parents and kids to have the Club to ourselves on a Saturday afternoon so we can take over for our war. We are forming teams (randomly) and playing some weird mix of "capture the flag" and "dying a dramatic death" if you get shot.

It feels weird to plan play. But I realize, it has been a long time since I, myself, a 40something year old adult..have engaged in imaginary play. This realization hits home a week before the big event, when one of the boys pulls me aside to share his strategy.

Miss see, I'm gonna be in stealth mode. are the decoy. R and L are the snipers..and ...I listen to the plan..for another 20 minutes. I can imagine it. I am the decoy. Ooh..I think..what if I pretend to go downstairs..and really? I'm behind the couch...How could I distract them?

and it hits me. I am already playing. I have let my mind engage in an imaginary world that is so vivid I can smell it. I have begun creating characters..I am slightly euphoric. I am beginning to remember how to play.

I played A LOT as a child. Our neighborhood was the mecca of childhood play.

Starsky and Hutch?  I was always Hutch because I was blond. Bubba was Starsky. Yvonne was the Boss. Everyone else? The bad guys! We rode our big-wheels, communicated with our walkie-talkies..and we played day after day. Week after week, summer after summer. But we were not limited to Starsky and Hutch. There was also..Charlies Angels...or more original. Candy Land. Where the entire neighborhood would engage in an imaginary game where there were chocolate lakes, and candy cane trees..and an evil king that was trying to make our world (gasp) ordinary. We spent evenings looking for U.F.O's. We started a Private Eye Club. I mean..come on..we knew how to play!

When my children were young, I decided I wanted this for them. This childhood of play.

So Big B and I minimized the use of electronics...and let their imaginations run wild. They were ninjas, and oil diggers (I still have a large hole in my back yard), they were Pokemon. There were neighborhood treehouse wars and flashlight tag. In hindsight..I think this is the best gift. The gift of unstructured, childhood play..that Big B and I could have given them.

I am writing about this now...because play has been on my mind a lot lately.

I think it started as I was going through some of Bug's toys. He is only 8 months. At this time..he is happy with a box. He seems to spend a lot of time investigating blocks (when his cousins don't steal them) and investigating the teeth and eyes of various stuffed animals. This is plenty for now.

Then? We discover at a recent visit to the pediatrician that Bug is dealing with some mild hip dsyplasia. His hips can go either way (in the words of the doc.) he is being monitored. He may develop okay..or he may need a spica cast.

So then I begin to wonder? How do we keep a baby in a spica cast engaged in play? I am so not a stick the baby in front of the t.v. person.  So we start searching for ideas. We brainstorm a quick list. There are still his animals, interaction with people (a given), a wagon to transport him to the garden, maybe some bongos?, We realize the possibilities are endless. That, yes..there will be times when we may (gasp) put Winnie the Pooh on t.v. but mostly? We will let the kiddo play. We simply will have to come to him..and meet him in an imaginary world.

After I realize we have him covered in that all important play department, I quit worrying. We will know soon enough how life will unfold for him.

About this same time we see a news feature on "sports training for infants an toddlers." Big B and I watch in stunned silence. Not just at the concept..but at the numbers of families who choose to train infants and toddlers for organized sports. Wow. 'Nough said.

And then I have a dream..that I am playing in the snow. Pure play. My friend Laura (yes, and I are intentionally sliding in snow to fit through a door of an igloo. The igloo door is our target. We had a blast.

And then I woke up.

I realize that I need to find an outlet for my own need for play. I am still working on this. Because truth is? It is harder to find adults who just want to play. But it can be done.

Today the kids and I are off to my friend Brenda's ranch. Why? Because she called me last week..and when I answered the phone. You know what she said? She said. Nicole..this is Brenda..what are you doing next week.

Wanna come over and play?  You betcha!

What's for dinner?
Monday-Community Dining: baked fish, rice, salad
Tuesday-meatball sandwich casserole (or veggie burgers), sliced apples with caramel
Wednesday-herb crusted  chicken ratatouille, veggie nuggets, peach cobbler
Thursday-stuffed (spinach and cheese) pasta shells, french bread, green beans
Friday-soccer tournament? Pizza?
Saturday-soccer tournament/ Wild Game Dinner at Grace.
Sunday- grandma's house

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK March 2011

  This is our 12th year of attending the M.L.K. March in San Antonio. One of the biggest marches in the nation.

This year we did not go with any organization. (homeschoolers, Darfur Coallition, Trinity, etc.) We simply went..and then hooked up with a group of Lutherans from various churches around S.A.

On the way to the March the kids and I discussed briefly why we still march. Our country has come a long way in civil rights for ALL people since it's founding. It still has a long way to go.
 We meet up with Rhonda and her USAA crowd 1/2 through the march. Here she is with Jack.

Cody decides to be sneaky and secretly fill Rhonda's pockets with fliers and water-bottles. Thing is? There were  lot less politics today than in years pass. People marched for peace. As opposed to x cause or y cause. I have not seen this happen in almost a decade. It created a different sense of unity. And in lieu of recent political discourse/divide in this nation..I think it was a welcome break for all.

But back to the sneaky boy . Rhonda should soon discover all sorts of treasures in her pocket. Also? Cody gave out gold stars. Okay one gold star. To Jack..because he believed he should receive one for traveling the farthest in the Lutheran contingent. I don't know which was funnier that Jack wanted a star, or that Cody happened to have stars in his wallet!

  This next picture is an attempt to portray the numbers of people..but it was hard to get might get run over.AND...the boys were in a hurry. They now know what to expect on this march.

See the Boys and Girls Club. Perfect I just happen to have my Club card. (Austen) The hot-chocolate is around the corner. (Devin) I already's still here!..but the line is too long.(Cody)..and so on.

After the march we meet up with my sister and Bug where they are staying. We swing by grandma's for lunch...and while we are there grandpa books a flight for Cody and I to visit Kettering U. because CODY  HAS BEEN ACCEPTED TO KETTERING! Which right now, is his first choice. He will attend Kettering's Prep for Success workshop (with co-op info) and look closely at finances before making any final decisions.

 So we hang at grandma and grandpa's long enough to discuss college angst, the march and watch Bug and Cody fall asleep in the living room, before returning home to prepare for community dining.

What's for Dinner?
Monday:community dining- beans, ham, biscuits, baby carrots
Tuesday: (soccer game) lazy day stew and/or veggie burgers
Wednesday: mini Italian (venison) meat-balls, mushroom risotto
Thursday: sole in saor, baked zucchini, french bread
Friday: (soccer game) eat out? Soup or Salad?
Saturday: chicken parmigiana or veggie nuggets with noodles and sauce
Sunday:  roast, Sicilian potatoes, fried okra,salad

Friday, January 14, 2011


 This is my son Brian on his 20th birthday. He spent it with friends at the river in our backyard.

Brian is well, the taller, skinnier,anglo guy in the pic. Also? You wouldn't know it by looking, but he is the one with partial vision.

Partial vision, being the technical term. My son can see some shapes and hues. With glasses he is still legally blind. But with medical contacts (which reshape his cornea) he is partially sighted. He wears these contacts minimally. A few hours a day at the most. They hurt.

Sight loss can affect anyone. While it may cause some real problems, it in no way makes the visually impaired a victim. Brian is one example- of many- with legal blindness, blindness or partial vision who live full, active lives.

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month...and while Brian does not have glaucoma. He does have keratakonous. So I thought I would take this time to share a little of Brian's journey into this world of limited far.

 Brian left home at the age of 16 to attend the Texas Academy of Math and Science at the University of North Texas. On his first semester home, he complained of headaches and a scratch in his eye. We did not think much of it. He had severe allergies and had done fine on his eye-chart in his physical not 4 months earlier. We gave him allergy meds and sent him back to school.

The following summer Brian returned to Bandera and worked at a biomedical engineering lab in San Antonio. At the end of the summer, he received his drivers license. He still complained of a scratch in his eye. But we could find nothing.

Brian graduated from TAMS, complaining his eyes were tired, but we all assumed it was too much late-night studying. Then? He went to renew his license shortly after his 18th birthday. I received a call.

Mom..I can't pass the vision screening. Angee (his girlfriend) is taking me to get glasses and then I'll try again.

We chat briefly..and then the phone rings.

Mrs. Bates..uhm..this is Angee. We're at the office..and's not good. Here you talk to the optometrist..and by the way. He's a REAL JERK. He's yelling at Brian in the waiting room and everything.

I wait for this optometrist. Angee is not one to over-exaggerate..and I am still trying to process what is happening...and she is right. This guy is a real piece of work.

Mrs. Bates?! Are you this boy's mother?!  Have you EVER taken this boy to have his eyes tested?! I am testing him..and he is blind. He has keratakonous. Do you know what that is?! You need to take care of him or he is going to be at the Lighthouse for the Blind...and then I just here blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

My mind races. Is that bad? Lighthouse for the Blind..and hey..wait a minute. We took him regularly when he was younger...and where is my son now?..and why is this man yelling at us? God..let me talk to Brian. I want to know if he is okay. ..and guilt. Brian TOLD us something was wrong.

Angee gets back on the phone. 

Just leave.I tell her. Get Brian and leave. We will schedule an appointment with an opthomologist, but you guys don't need to be there. 

No..she says.Brian wants to stay. He says the guys a jerk but he needs to hear what he says. I'll call you when we're done.

and she hangs up.

I call  Big B..He is already halfway home. I call my mom since she lives near the office the kiddoes are at. (I am still over an hour away). She talks to Angee and they agree to meet.

A few hours later my mom and Brian call. They went to another office for a second opinion. This doc says he understands the first optometrists concern but to please disregard the panic. He is a bit excitable sometimes.(now if THAT wasn't an understatement) Still..a follow up with an ophthalmologist would be advised.

A few days later we are at the University Health System for an appointment. Several tests are run on machines that are NOT EVEN AVAILABLE at the optometrist..and in the end. The jerk optometrist was right. Brian has keratakonous. Now what?

Brian is referred to a keratakonous specialist..and guess what? The doc has keratakonous himself!

Brian and Dr. Z spend a lot of time discussing possibilities..and decide, for a leave things alone. Glasses help his vision and they will revisit medical contacts down the line, if necessary. Because..after all..they hurt. Dr. Z asks what Brian is studying..and encourages him to keep maintaining his lifestyle and pursuing his dreams. After all..look at me, says Dr. Z, I'm still practicing after all these years! (He is an older gentlemen)

So Brian gets his first apartment in Austin where he starts UT's School of Engineering. He learns the bus routes..and crashes on his bike. A lot. But Brian is happy.

That first Christmas Angee drives Brian to his follow up with Dr. Z. You know..says Brian, casually, my glasses really don't help much. He and Angee report that Dr. Z agrees. His eyes are getting worse..but neither Brian or Dr. Z want to try contacts yet.

Then? Summer. Brian is walking up to and squinting at EVERYTHING. I insist on going to this appointment. He makes me promise not to get too worked up. I promise.

Holy Moly. As he reads the eye-chart (WITH GLASSES ON!)with his first eye. He says..Hmm..yeah..let's try another line. Next line up.(Big Grin) How about another line? The woman giving him the screening skips a few lines. Yup.says Brian,Just what I thought. I propose that there are probably some letters there. 

I see the slight panic on this nurse. She checks his chart and with a sigh of relief says're one of Dr. Z's. She skips straight to the one big letter at the top. And Brian with another big grin says...yeah..that would be a letter too.

I remember that I promised I wouldn't over-react.

Really Brian? I laugh..That was quite sad.

He shrugs.

I am relieved to discover that on his other eye -his good eye- Brian can still read the top 3 lines, sort-of.

Brian meets with Dr. Z..they agree that the time for contacts is now. I watch as he teaches Brian how to put them in..and gives him a plunger (YES..a plunger) to remove the contacts. I watch Brian's tears of pain. I hold back my own tears.Why? I wonder..does there have to be so much pain.

The following year Brian and Angee share an apartment. Brian invests in some good sunglasses(because the light hurts his eyes..especially if he has his contacts on)  and a more user friendly computer keyboard (that allows him to make things really big on a screen). Brian and Angee agree on a bottom floor apartment so Brian will not have to navigate steps. Over the next year and a 1/2 they develop a lifestyle for themselves. Angee works with Brian not to make faces when he is trying to see. They develop a way of communicating you're shoes are backwards or describing things on a t.v. screen discreetly so others don't know. They ski, they travel, they work, they study, they play.

Yesterday, Brian and Angee were visiting one last time before returning to Austin for the Spring semester. Brian mentions that when his good eye gets worse..he will probably need a cane. We touch on the possibility of a corneal transplant. But when would be a good time?

Apparently..never. Because the kiddo graduates this Spring with his BA in electrical engineering!!!..and hopefully, will be accepted to grad school in the Fall. Essentially Brian believes he is too busy for such a thing as a corneal transplant. Angee suggests scheduling a time for this between their "life plans". Brian will meet with Dr. Z again during Spring Break.( I suspect Dr. Z would like some input on this planning of theirs.)

Somehow our discussion turns to how many authors of The Great Books of Western Thought...were blind.

As we perused The Great Books Collection we found more and more. So I thought I would share the list we compiled here today:

  Milton, Galileo, Homer, Huxley..

and then we got sidetracked by the French artists...Monet and Degas.

Then just the list in general (other than the obvious Louis Braille and Helen Keller) There was Franklin Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Joseph Pulitzer, Handel..and many, many more.

So there you have it folks. The sky's the limit.

I am so grateful for my son Brian. I am grateful for his girlfriend Angee, who helps him develop a lifestyle that allows them both to live fully. I am grateful for the strong support of friends he has, that truly enjoy Brian for who he is.

A brilliant, goofy and awesome young man.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Starting off the New Year with a Bang.

 and that is not a joke!

7 teenage boys. A yard that is firework legal...and boys who have been making explosions for a year. Now with the perfect excuse to BLOW THINGS UP!!

and that is what they did.

But in the meantime? We ate..and ate..and ate.

Here are some pics. All are too dark because the camera is just funky that way. Sorry folks. My house really doesn't have a permanent orange haze.

First I would like to introduce the cooks as they prepare for a Party of 25.

          Austen really is in his element in the kitchen. Here he is filling the pots. 2 large pots..One for crab with for crab without. You know..I really can see this kid with an organic cajun cafe' one day. If not..well his family will still eat well! the way..reminds me. For anyone who is aware of the cut the dreads or not question. Austen was accepted into the local Explorers program. However he  is  respectfully delaying/declining this opportunity.

Still trying to prepare academically to enter a culinary arts program (dual credit) next Fall..and he is assistant coach for an O.M. team. As soon as O.M is done he will be headed for his month of living off the land. Literally. So it looks like he will be the dreaded boy for just a tad longer.

As for the rest of the cooks?
First we have Brian and Richard in the kitchen. Brian loves to cook. So, Austen comes by it honestly.

 Angee and Mrs. Ong were drafted. Apparently? I do not have the proper cooking gene. Angee and her mom politely let me know that they would be happy to "not waste so much shrimp." I was fired from shrimp prep.

Before long....4 tables were set with butcher paper, wooden hammers and crab forks. (some from a nice crab opening set and some stolen from Joe's Crab Shack). Food was poured directly onto the tables.

Wah lah!  Party In Full Swing!

Devin, Mason and Austen eat while plotting what explosions to create next.
 Katherine and Chris..also explosion plotting.

The rest of us just enjoying our food!

What can I say? We eat. We laugh. We visit.

Bug decides it is way past his bedtime at 10:30. No amount of noise will awake him. He sleeps through firecrackers and all.

We visit some more..and some brave souls even venture out onto the back deck to warm themselves by the chiminea while watching the kids. Devin puts on some awesome fire-works displays. Mason teaches the other boys how to build more explosives..and oops. Sorry Uncle Brian..that wasn't supposed to land between your legs! Big B gives us all a scare..but he is fine and rejoins the deck crew for more.

At midnight we toast eachother with Mimosas and Sparkling Ciders.

Below is a sampling of some of the awesome but frightening explosions of the kids.

Happy New Years!

New Year's Ammonium Percholorate det (20 gram)