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Full of awesome

Matt had the best weekend in the history of ever, because his team won their age group finals at this weekend’s soccer tournament.

Awesomeness in motion

The boys’ Dad took them to their Sunday morning games, and this is the text message exchange I had with Matt after his last regular game win, letting me know that there was more awesomeness to come:


Matt always introduces himself to me at the start of every phone call and text. Otherwise, I might not know who he is. I love him so much.

The finals were seriously badass, going into overtime AND requiring ten penalty kicks (one made by Matt) to decide the game.  The final game was similar to the World Cup finals, in case you’re trying to picture it.

Matt is now so full of soccer awesome, you could poke him with a stick and awesome would ooze out.  You could squeeze him like a sponge, and you’d soon be standing in a puddle of rainbow-colored soccer awesome.  He is the valedictorian of soccer awesomeness.

AND, if you want any part of any of his four games reenacted?  He can do that for you, because he is also the valedictorian of soccer play reenactment.

Such awesomeness is very tiring, however, especially for one so young.  The boy and his awesomeness  have gone to bed early this evening.

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The boy. He rocks so hard.

Photo by Buren Foster, one of the team’s Dads.

I love my Riley.

Sometimes I’m a bit overwhelmed by the demands  the boys’ soccer puts upon me,  but then I see pictures like this one taken at last weekend’s tournament.

My boys go full-throttle, caution-to-the-wind, go-big-or-go-home, and I admire them for it.

How could I not go the extra mile to let them do something that makes them feel like this?  Because this?  This must feel pretty awesome.


*Visit Buren Foster Photography


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Tournament + Katie = No

I don’t think I’m a good fit for the boys’ out-of-town soccer tournaments.   I’m not sure that I’m equipped for that level and type of stress.

Mike has always handled these away trips, and so Riley’s tournament in Richmond this weekend was my first.   Mike seemed surprised when I volunteered for this trip, but I was adamant:  I felt as if I was missing out on something, and so I would be taking the boys to the Richmond tournament.

Ima tell ya why I won’t be doing this again.

1. Hotels often have balconies. This one did. The first four floors sported balconies overlooking the lobby (why? WHY?).  Does picking up your teammates and acting as if you are going to throw them four floors to their death ever get old? No! In fact it gets better each time someone does it, because each successive attempt is that much more out of control; that much more fueled by rising adrenaline and unbridled testosterone.  It is an awesome, awesome game, blogosphere, and you missed it.

“Guys!  Stop!  Please!”  I’d say.

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”  The thirteen-year-olds would say.

2. They go out, and they can’t get back in. Because all the team’s rooms were clustered together, there was a great need to go in and out of our room. In and out.  In and out.  But the IN part was difficult because my boys had lost two keys and demagnetized a third by Saturday morning, and I was not handing over the last key.

Every time I’d hear the door click shut, I’d hold my breath, waiting for it….. Two minutes later:  Bang, bang, bang, bang.

“Mom! It’s me!  Mom! Mom! Can you let me in? Mom! Mom!”

And then, a chorus of:

“Dude!  Your Mom locked you out!”

“Aw, man, Riley’s Mom locked him out!”

“Your Mom hates you because you suck!”

I’d open the door to a sea of disappointed thirteen year old faces (it was much better when Riley’s Mom had locked him out because he sucked), only to have Riley grab his cell phone and head back out for another five minutes.

And, repeat.

3. “Hotel Tag” in the parking lot after dark is not a good game.

4. Hotels have hallways, and soccer players have balls. Lots and lots of balls.

5. Eating in public with a team of thirteen year old boys is a stressful thing. The spitball fight.  The cup of team-concocted “soup,” passed around with dares to drink it.  The way they kept putting the “soup” in front of me, because the way Ms. Stein gagged was hysterical. The sneaking off to the bathroom to dump the “soup” in the toilet.  The cup that went into the toilet.  The young, pregnant waitress who looked with terror upon her future by the time we left.

We left her an enormous tip, but really, is there any tip big enough to compensate for the soccer team-induced, pre-partum disillusionment in parenthood which she must be feeling?  No.  No, there isn’t.

6. Hotels have hair dryers. I don’t understand this: every drip of water on Matt’s body or clothing called for the use of the built-in hair dryer in the bathroom.   I’d never before realized how wet Matt must perpetually be.

Having just fallen asleep, I awoke at 10 o’clock to “ZZZHHHHHH!!!”

“Honey, what are you doing?”  I asked.

“I had a wet spot on my sleeve.  I dried it.” Said Matt.

And the next morning, “honey what are you doing?”

“I’m just warming up my clothes in case they’re wet.” Said Matt.

“Well…..are they wet?”

“I don’t think so.” Said Matt.

7.  Driving with a car full of thirteen-year olds is challenging. Especially when they sing this song to each other, whilst rubbing each other’s heads.

After that, they needed to sing it to inanimate objects.  “Soft shin guard, warm shin guard….”

Most challenging was when they decided to sing it to me, while trying to rub my head.  “Soft Ms. Stein, warm Ms. Stein, little ball of fur……”

I feel their behavior was why I kept getting lost.



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Cool like Riley

Riley was in Alabama for a soccer tournament from Thursday until late last night.  When I picked him up at 10:30, he was only half awake, and when we got home I poured him into bed.  This morning he woke up pretty pleased with his bad self, and details of the tournament have been trickling out all day.

– He received a yellow card, and this has raised him to hero-like status among the other soccer players.  A YELLOW card!  You badass.  You have to practically kill a man to get a yellow card!  It equals a prison tattoo in terms of street cred.  Blogosphere, you can only hope that someday you can be so cool.  As pleased with himself as he is, Riley does not feel the yellow card was warranted.  The other team’s player locked his arm through Riley’s, and Riley shook him off, causing the boy to fall on the ground where he writhed in pain of questionable authenticity.  The yellow card was for tripping.

– He broke another boy’s arm.  “He just kind of ran into me and fell down.  It was confusing.”

– He went through a very tall player, causing the boy to sustain a groin injury.  “Oh no!”  I said.  “Was he alright?”   “He fell on the ground and cried a lot.  He didn’t play after that.”

-He lost a tooth, which was not particularly loose yet when he left for the tournament. “It was hurting so much, so I just pulled it out.”   Oh. Good. Lord.

I asked a lot of questions about the injuries to other players, and came to the same conclusion his coaches and referees did: Ri was not at fault.   The other players seemed to think Riley, with his small stature, would get out of the way for them.  He didn’t, and they went down.

I can’t lie, I am a bit proud of the boy.  I admire his go-big-or-go-home attitude, and I always have.  This is a boy who has always been happy to end up with stitches if they were worth it, and I don’t think he’s ever felt they weren’t.  I’ve tried to teach my boys to play hard, work hard, love hard and laugh hard, and Riley does all those things in soccer.  He has a lot of fun playing, and he plays with his whole heart.

I’m so glad he’s home, wandering around speaking in accents and making us all laugh with his wicked-quick sense of humor.  I really love him.

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It’s the FINALS

On his way out the door this morning, Riley stopped and sheepishly asked me, “Mom?  Can you pick me up from school early today?”

“Why?”  I’ve never picked him up early before.

Riley puts both of  his hands up,  a gesture imploring me to stop being unreasonable, “No, listen.  Listen.  OK? “

“Oooh, this should be good.”

“Don’t laugh.  Don’t laugh?”  But he’s laughing, so clearly he knows whatever he is about to say will sound absurd.

“Not laughing.  Just…smiling.”

“OK.  It’s the UEFA finals, and it’s on at 2:45, and if I get home from the bus at 4:30 I’ll miss the whole game.”

“The UE..   The what?”

“United European Football Association.  It’s BARCELONA VERSUS MANCHESTER UNITED!!!” Says the little American boy.

“BARCELONA VERSUS MANCHESTER UNITED!  Why didn’t they cancel school?  What were they thinking?” Now I’m laughing.

‘Mom.  I’m serious, can you?”

“You’re asking me to take you out of school to watch European soccer?

“Can you?  It’s the finals.”

“Not the FINALS!”


I love the way my boys sometimes make “Mom” a rebuke, a command, a judgement.  I am so immature, how can they work with this?  How can we have a serious discussion about forgoing school in order to watch a soccer game on TV, when I won’t address the subject with the proper gravitas?

But how can I say no?  He’s laughing, but I know he wouldn’t ask if this weren’t important to him.  This is, after all, a boy who asked to be beaten instead of grounded so he wouldn’t miss playing a soccer game.

All the boys have been promised an international trip when they are thirteen.  Jake spent the summer based in The Netherlands, shooting out from there to visit the surrounding countries.  Riley’s only request has been that his trip includes European soccer, and maybe the chance to wear a kilt. He doesn’t care where he goes, or how long he stays, as long as a big soccer game is involved.  It would be heaven if that soccer game involved violent, passionate crowds,  police needed to impose order, and several spectators hospitalized.  He’s a bit disgusted with American sports fans being so reasonable.

After making sure he has solid A’s in the classes he will miss, I agree to spring the boy early.

“Two o’clock, ” Riley says, “and tell them it’s a doctor’s appointment?”

“I’m writing “Barcelona vs. Manchester United” on the dismissal form.”

“Mom.  Doctor’s appointment?”

“Take your chances,” I say.

He will, because it’s BARCELONA VERSUS MANCHESTER UNITED!!!! ,  and there’s not much he wouldn’t do for soccer.

Happy to forgo education for soccer
Happy to forgo education for soccer

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I really love him, continued

I’m dying here.

It occurred to me that while I’ve put punishments in place for behavioral issues at school, I haven’t offered Riley any rewards for behaving well.  There is a part of me that thinks it’s ridiculous to hand out rewards for doing what you’re supposed to be doing in the first place, and Riley has actually pointed this out to me when I’ve offered his younger brother rewards for behaving well.

And there it is, the thought that stopped me and made me think:  I’ve offered his younger brother rewards for good behavior in the past.  Why does Ri get a different system?

And so I came up with an awesome reward.  If we get to the year’s end without any phone calls from school regarding behavior, Riley gets the  current Holy Grail of soccer paraphernalia, the product he’s been telling me about for months.  Behold, blogosphere, Nike ID, customizable soccer cleats. I would show you a picture of them, but they would burn your eyes and blind you,  just like God when you look upon him.

Riley has spent hours on Nike’s site, designing and redesigning the perfect shoe, regaling me with details of the many different configurations one can create for specific game situations: cleats for dry grass, wet grass, turf, indoor, outdoor, playing Spanish speaking countries, dictatorships….you name it, they have a way to customize these shoes.

And after I’m done buying these cleats as a reward for the boy?  I will take any money I have left in the bank, pile it up in the backyard and burn it, while maybe dancing around the flames. Which is almost the same thing as buying these cleats for a 12 year old.

When I woke Ri up for school yesterday, I told him about my great idea, and at first his eyes got big, and his face split into a huge grin.  Then the grin quickly faded, and he got quiet.

“Could I trade the cleats for Saturday’s game?”

Ohhh.  Oh.  I can’t do it.  I cannot stick to this punishment.

What would you do, blogosphere?


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I really love him

One of Riley’s teachers called to tell me Ri’s been socializing excessively and being disruptive in class.   His Dad and I have decided that on a week-to-week basis, he will lose soccer if we’ve heard from teachers that there has been a behavior issue.

I didn’t get upset when I heard from the teacher; there wasn’t any point in it.  I didn’t remind Riley of what he’s lost, because I know he’s kicking himself for it already, and I feel bad for him.

“Mom, did I lose soccer on Saturday?”

“I’m sorry baby, you did.  You knew.”

“I know.  I’m mad at myself.”

Ri was quiet for a bit before he spoke again.

“Mom?  Is there anything we could trade?  Like trade something for soccer?”

“Like what?  What do you mean?”

“Like,  switch punishments so I can play on Saturday.”

“I don’t know, Ri.  You knew you’d lose soccer if I got a call.  I’m sorry sweetie.”

“Maybe you could beat me?”


“Yeah, just beat me now, and then I get soccer back?”

“Beat you.  You’re asking me to beat you?”

“You always say you’re going to.  Maybe you should.  Just beat me.”

“Beat you?  That wouldn’t be any punishment at all. You’d probably like it.”

“Yeah.  I might.  That sucks. So you won’t beat me?”

“No.  I don’t think that’s going to happen.”


Oh, he’s killing me.  I am this close to caving on soccer.

Not opposed to beatings
Not opposed to beatings

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Aye, Lad. I know.

My 12 year old is a huge soccer fan, and loves to listen to Scotsman Tommy Smith commentate European matches.  Riley does a dead-on impression of Smith.   During one of these matches, Ri swaggered into the kitchen, Scot’s accent in full force, and propped one leg up on a kitchen chair.

“You know lass, I’ve always wanted to wear a kilt and feel the breeze on my manliness.”  He cocked an eyebrow, and pointed a finger gun at me, “You know what I mean by my manliness, don’tcha?

Oh good Lord, yes I do.

Winking at me, he swaggered away nodding, “Yeaaah.”

Likes breeze on manliness
Likes breeze on manliness