Puddle Jumping

Let’s just stick with the teenage boy for another post. I came home from choir practice the other day and he was sitting at the table doing homework. He was calling out questions to his dad and asking Siri about socialism and communism and suffrage. I was surprised. I don’t catch him doing homework very often.

I passed through the room and walked down the hall through our bedroom to the master bath. Once there, I settled on “the throne” for a bit of quiet me time. It wasn’t quiet for long. He came into the room wanting to show me something on his phone.

It was a Snapchat video of a bunch of football players. They were running and then leaping or sliding into huge puddles of water. It’s been raining a fair amount around here lately. And it’s cold. Ok, not northern-states cold, but cold for Texas. Hovering around freezing at night and not getting out of the forties or low fifties during the day.

He was naming each of the boys as they came into view and threw themselves into the mud. “And here’s ME!!! BOY!!!” he exclaimed just as I saw his lean frame make a smooth slide through the puddle. He finished naming the boys before pulling his phone back.

“There was that puddle and then another bigger one over there. We were all doing it. Even Big Mo and {honestly, I don’t remember the names…you get the idea}. It was fun!”

“You know who else likes to jump in puddles?” I asked.

“Who?”

“Four-year-olds. Four-year-olds like to jump in puddles.”

“It was fun!! But, man! It was cold. Like really, really cold.” He said that as if I would be unaware it was cold without his first-hand account.

“And it soaked my underwear and socks!” He gave a small laugh. “I didn’t know we were going to do that. I didn’t bring extra underwear and socks.” (They wear school-provided workout clothes during Athletics).

He stuck his foot out. “Man, I’m not wearing white socks anymore. Look at these!”

I soon heard him regaling his father with the same tale. He was very proud and very excited. I mean, he had to be. What 16-year-old boy wants to hang out with his mom while she’s using the bathroom?

Like I’ve said before, he can go days or weeks without having any substantive conversation with me at all. And then there’s days like this. I guess it’s the age, but it always, without fail, is about something stupid he’s done, a friend has done, or he’s heard. But it’s always fun. He’s living the good life.

Daryl and the AIDS-laden Turtle

I turned down a long narrow road after picking Daryl up from football practice. As I approached the end of the road, I noticed something in the way. At first I thought it was just a bit of tire from a semi-truck, but as I got closer, I saw it for what it was.

There was a medium/smallish turtle standing still in the center of my lane, head stretched up toward the sky. The road was a divided two-lane road with curbs on the side and on the median. There was literally no way for me to go around the turtle. Maybe my truck could pass over the top of him, if he ducked his head into his shell, but I didn’t want to chance it.

“Hey,” I said to my oblivious son. “Go move the turtle.”

“Huh?”

“Go move the turtle. Take him all the way over to the other side. Not just the median and not back that way,” I said, as I motioned around us. Since my last turtle-in-the-road debacle, I had learned that you move turtles in the direction they are going. Doing anything else will just cause them to enter the road again.

“What?”

“GET OUT OF THE TRUCK. GO MOVE THE TURTLE.”

“Huh?” He looked up from his phone. “Oh, hey! Look! There’s a turtle!”

“YES! That’s what I said. Now go move him,” I said, repeating all the details of where.

“But why?”

“He’s blocking my path. Just go move him!” I said, checking that there was no one behind us.

“But what if it’s a snapping turtle?”

“It’s not.”

“But what if it is?”

“Then be careful. Just get out there and pick him up.”

Daryl exited the truck and approached the turtle with a level of caution I would typically reserve for mountain lions or rattle snakes – assuming I was being forced to approach them for some reason.

He started to pick up the turtle and it moved suddenly. Daryl jumped back. He started trying to “shoo” the turtle by pushing it with his foot. The turtle responded by running in the wrong direction and then turning to face him.

The dance continued as I rolled down my window and called out, “Just pick him up and move him!”

“But he’s trying to bite me!”

“No he’s not!”

“Yes he is!”

“Just move the turtle, boy! What’s wrong with you?” I asked, exasperated but reaching for my cell phone to catch his hesitation on film.

His fourth or fifth attempt at lifting the turtle, he didn’t jerk and let go when it moved its legs and he quickly moved it… to the median. Not to the other side of the other lane as I had instructed.

“No!” I cried out, knowing that the turtle would now have to cross the other lane as well. “Move him all the way to the other side!”

“No!” he responded in kind as he returned to the car. “He’s out of the way and there’s a car coming up behind us now.”

“Only because you took so long! Now he’s going to have to cross the other street.”

“That’ll take him a million years to get to it.” (The median was very narrow).

“No it won’t. I saw how fast he moved on you! Why were you afraid of the turtle?”

“I wasn’t afraid of the turtle.”

“You were totally afraid of the turtle.”

“No. It was an alligator snapping turtle.”

“It was not.”

“It was trying to bite me!”

“No it wasn’t!”

“It kept touching me.”

“So?”

“I’d go to pick it up and then it would start walking and its leg would touch my hand. Yuck!”

“So what?”

“It might give me AIDS.”

“You can’t get AIDS from a turtle!”

“You don’t know that.”

“Actually, I do.”

“I could have gotten AIDS.”

“Turtles don’t get AIDS. You can’t get AIDS from touching a turtle.”

“Uh-huh. He could have been rolling around in it. He could have had it all over him.”

“AIDS is a condition that you can develop if you contract the HIV virus. It’s not something that turtles can ‘pick up’ from ‘rolling around’ in the grass. HIV can’t survive out in the open long enough for that to be a thing.”

“Yes it can. I know these things. I’m in Biology.”

We traveled in silence for a while before I brought it back up. “If you had just finished picking it up, then its legs would have just sagged and not been touching you anymore.”

“No! It’d keep running. Vrrr-vrrr-vrrr,” he said, making rapid ‘running’ motions with his arms and sound effects with his mouth.

“It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s just a turtle. You are a wuss.”

“No I’m not. Man, I’m tough. That was an alligator snapping turtle!”

“No it wasn’t!”

He answered his phone about then. His dad was calling. Daryl gave him our approximate location and then sat silently as he listened to his dad talk.

I leaned over slightly and called out, “Your son was afraid of a turtle!”

“It was an alligator turtle,” he protested, “and it could have given me AIDS!”

His dad must have mentioned that the turtle couldn’t give him AIDS because turtles are cold blooded, because Daryl then said, “It’s called cold blooded AIDS. C-B-A-I-D-S. It’s real man.”

Daryl then passed on a question from his dad – what were my plans for the night.

“I need to write a blog post,” I responded.

Daryl dutifully told his dad, “She’s going to write a blog post.” Then there was the briefest pause as realization of the topic struck him, “{Smack} Hey!”

I just laughed. The phone conversation ended and we drove along in silence some more. As we approached the intersection at which I had totaled a previous car due to rubber-necking while people were dealing with a very large honest-to-goodness alligator snapping turtle, I brought it up again.

“You know, I watched an eleven year old girl in a dance leotard – BARE FOOTED – pick up an actual alligator snapping turtle, much bigger than the one you were afraid of, and carry it all the way across the highway.”

“I wasn’t afraid of it!”

“Yes you were. You are a wuss. Weaker than an eleven year old girl.”

“No! Eleven year old girls are just too young! They don’t know any better. They are too stupid to avoid them.”

“Whatever. You are a wuss.”

“Uh-huh. And is that eleven year old girl going to play football? Huh? I don’t think so.” He sat back with a smug, self-satisfied smile.

“Don’t try to change the subject. You might play football but you were afraid of a little turtle. Wuss.”

You know, don’t tell Daryl, but it might really have been a snapping turtle. It wasn’t big and I don’t think it could have gotten its head around to bite Daryl, but it was responding rather aggressively. Just don’t tell him I said that though. OK?

And in case you are wondering, Daryl knows he can’t get AIDS from a turtle. It’s just fun when he pretends to be a confidently wrong idiot and we banter back and forth. He also knows he was being timid and I know (and he knows that I know) he’s not really a wuss. Except when it comes to turtles, of course.

 

 

God vs. Football

Sometimes it is oh so hard to live in Texas. I was dismayed to hear that some of our legislators were proposing we stop observing Daylight Savings Time. And even more dismayed (yet not surprised) to see my next-door cube mate had posted a difficult-to-interpret poster advocating dropping it.

It’s not that I’m in love with Daylight Savings Time. I’m not sure I care one way or the other, really. I love gaining an hour in the Fall and I hate losing one in the Spring. I don’t find it cumbersome to change the handful of clocks I have that don’t already do it automatically. Yet I don’t think I’d particularly notice or mind if we stopped.

What I do have a problem with, though, is being different from the rest of the country. Right now, I’m in the same time zone as the rest of my family, save a handful that are in Mountain Time. It’s simple. But if Texas drops out of DST, then I have to think about whether the rest of the country is in it and adjust my understanding of what time it is there accordingly.

Now, Texans seem to like to be fairly insular so maybe a lot of them don’t interact with people from other states – I don’t know. I, for one, would find it a much heavier burden to remember the temporary time shift between Texas and Oklahoma for part of the year than I do taking a few minutes two days out of the year to change my clocks.

I had hoped the measure would fail, but suspected it would succeed. Texas politicians do crazy things all the time. I was elated to find out a couple of months ago that the measure had collapsed. But shocked and deeply embarrassed about why.

Proponents for the change had argued about the (in my opinion faulty) burden of changing the clocks. They had also made a slightly more reasonable argument about the safety issue that had children walking to school in the dark. The opponents’ response to the risk of children getting hit by cars that can’t see them?

“I don’t want to have to choose between whether to go to church or whether to watch the Dallas Cowboys. I don’t want to miss either one.”

That’s right. Church start times wouldn’t change if we no longer went to DST. But the NFL schedule would stick to the national concept of time, not Texas’s. The result? For a handful of Sundays in the Fall, people without DVRs and/or without the ability to avoid media until they got home would have to choose between God and Football.

And that choice is apparently a difficult one to make. And not just a difficult one, but one best avoided.

This reminded me of conversations I’ve had with (typically older) fellow Christians who bemoan the loss of blue laws or other evidence that we are a “Christian Nation”. They’ll shake their heads that sports leagues schedule games on Sundays, that schools schedule events on Wednesday nights. They laud Chick-fil-a for being closed on Sundays.

Yet they go out to eat on Sundays at other restaurants. They take care of their grocery shopping. They maybe even catch their grandchild’s game. Because, well, they don’t want to miss it. Or they don’t feel like fixing lunch. Or they really need to pick up some bread and milk.

Part of the angst about the loss of a Christian face to our society is fear that the country as a whole is moving away from God. But I think another part – quite possibly a bigger, but not thought about part – is that it exposes how far we are from how we’d like to be. How we think we should be. How we think God wants us to be.

Consider this. If sports leagues never schedule games on Sundays, then there is no conflict. There is no choice to be made. You never have to decide between church and your kid’s baseball game. You can live your wholesome Christian life without ever being challenged. Without sacrifice.

In today’s environment, however, you have to make that choice. You paid all that money for your child to play in the select league. The team is depending on her. Do you tell the coach she won’t play in any Sunday tournaments?

You see, Seventh Day Adventists and Jewish worshipers have been making these difficult decisions for decades. Why shouldn’t we share the burden? Why shouldn’t we take the opportunity to examine our faith and our priorities and how we live out our life? Why do we want society to enforce it for us so we don’t have to sacrifice? What does that say about us?

Seriously. It’s a standing joke that football is as big as God in Texas. But it’s just a joke. Or, at least… it’s supposed to be.

 

Lucky Radio Happenstance

“Oh! It’s USA vs. Portugal!” he exclaimed, looking up at the dashboard and putting away the game he was playing on his phone. From the driver’s seat, I gave an internal sigh and retracted my hand from the search button on the radio.

If only I’d found something interesting before we got here. I could have stayed on the Mexican station. That music is kind of fun… even if I can’t understand the commercials. Was the country station really all that bad? Now I’m stuck listening to a soccer game? Groan.

As if reading my mind, he laughed and said, “Do you know what the only sport is more boring to listen to on the radio than baseball?”

“Soccer?” I asked.

“No! It’s golf!” And he dissolved into laughter. “Seriously. It is. Oh, hey!” He turned his attention back to the radio. “We’re tied! That’s awesome!”

I settled myself with the prospect of listening to a British guy and an Irish guy talk about players whose names I didn’t know running up and down the field and absolutely no goals scored. I’m not a soccer football fan. I don’t dislike the sport – in fact, I enjoy watching it. I’m just not a fan. Then again, I’m not really a fan of any sport… except hockey.

Anyway, I was contemplating the possibilities of glazing over mentally and whether that would impact our safety since I was the driver, when the British and Irish guys started getting excited. I didn’t know who had the ball but obviously someone stood a chance of scoring. I didn’t expect it to actually happen but the excitement crescendo-ed and I realized that… someone… had just scored.

And a split second later, I figured out it was us.

My husband and I thrust our arms in the air and yelled, “GOAL!”

Suddenly, I was feeling the World Cup fever. I was excited. Our pastor, a major sports buff, had used the World Cup as the starting point for his sermon that morning. He had jokingly indicated that our chances of advancing were extremely slim.

I turned to my husband and said, “I guess our chances of advancing are a bit better than somewhere between 1 in a million and 1 in a hundred?” (This a reference to the sermon).

He smiled and we settled in to listen to the last 9 minutes of the game. The guys (I enjoyed listening to the Irish guy in particular) kept remarking on how Portugal looked like they had already given up. How great the American team looked. How it was already over and USA was locked into at least second place and thus advancing.

It was exciting. I remarked on the good fortune to turn to the game right before an exciting conclusion, instead of having to listen to nothing happening.

The ref then added 5 minutes to the clock as soccer refs are prone to do, estimating the stoppage of play throughout the game. I sighed but trusted my British and Irish eyes and ears. This game was all but over.

As an Oklahoma State Cowboys fan, I wasn’t relaxing, mind you. I have plenty of experience with teams losing it at the end. Still. There was maybe a minute left. I could hear the crowd chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”

And then those dang guys started to get excited again. And with a disbelieving tone. And then. And then.

And then.

Portugal scored a goal in the final seconds. That might happen a lot in basketball. And maybe even in American football. But soccer?

We both sat there stunned. We had lost.

Fifteen minutes ago, I hadn’t even known that the game was going on. Was no more than mildly interested in the outcome. And now I felt like someone had just stolen my ice cream cone.

We listened to commentary for a few more minutes and then I resumed my search for music.

“Well that sucked,” he said.

“Mmm-hmmm,” I replied, feeling down.

And, yeah, the loss kind of sucked. But it feels kind of special that we caught it. And got to be a part of it. I guess it was better than catching a good song. They play those on the radio all the time.

Stone Age

A coworker today told me that I’m living in the Stone Age. He said this when he found out we don’t have cable. Actually any TV reception at all.

We watch our TV from Netflix and Amazon Prime via our Roku box. I hear that’s how the cavemen did it too. My coworker, on the other hand, recently upgraded from taping his shows to using a DVR.

I depend heavily on my smart phone. It serves as my alarm clock, cooking timer, stopwatch, address book, calendar and day planner, email portal, to-do list, notebook, map, GPS, dictionary, camera, video camera, newspaper, reference book, casual gaming device, and more. I even use it to make phone calls from time to time.

My coworker, the Renaissance Man that he is, doesn’t have a smart phone. Actually, he doesn’t have a cell phone at all. Or a computer. No internet at home. What separates sophisticates like him from stone-agers like me is apparently not technology at all but merely whether you have access to catch the Super Bowl this weekend.

As much as I love watching big beefy guys crash into each other, I think I’ll just stay in my cave. Besides, I can get a pretty good idea how the game is going by watching my Facebook newsfeed. On my phone. While watching Dr. Who on my Roku. And all the commercials will likely be on YouTube by Monday.

Playing the Game

We found ourselves in Kansas City for a wedding this past weekend.  My husband had done some homework and found that the Kansas City Royals would be playing the Detroit Tigers that Sunday afternoon.  For reasons that we do not understand, the Tigers is Daryl’s declared favorite team.  We do not understand this because a) we live nowhere near Michigan and b) we never watch baseball.  Our only guess is that they were the opposing team when we went to a Rangers game last year and Daryl likes to be contrary.

I had concerns about getting home sometime after midnight on a school night, but my husband insisted that the “family day” activities would be a great experience and a lot of fun.  And they could sleep in the car.  Right.

Anyway, he was right that it was a lot of fun.  We enjoyed the free face painting and balloon animals, carousel rides and miniature golf.  All the kids got a souvenir and got it signed by Slugger, the mascot.  We shared “nachos in a helmet” – a plastic batting helmet full of nachos.

As we settled in for the start of the game, however, I had a conversation with Jane that made me sad.  We had great seats – up high, but directly behind home plate.  They were announcing the players and people were finding their seats.

Seemingly out of the blue, Jane commented, “I can see why Auntie Grace gets so upset about equality.”

I looked around, wondering if there were some scantily-clad “cheerleaders” somewhere, but I didn’t find any.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, all the big sporting events that people go to see.  They are always men.  I mean, there are softball teams but there aren’t big stadiums and professional teams that people go to watch.  And women can’t even play football at all.  It’s really not fair.”

“That’s true,” I said.  And I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

In fact, there’s not much to say that would make her feel better.  Here’s a girl – a very strong and athletic girl, who is just reaching a competitive sporting environment and what does she see ahead of her?  Those boys playing football are not working harder than she is.  They aren’t more competitive than her or more dedicated.  They practice more than her team does, but not because of a lack of dedication on the girls’ parts.  They practice more because we live in Texas and this state is bat-s**t crazy about football.

No, the fact is that this is the society we live in.  People go to watch men’s sports more than women’s sports simply because that’s the way it’s always been.  They grew up rooting for their favorite football or baseball team.  You can start a women’s professional basketball or soccer league and the players can be really good, but people aren’t going to go because… well… they aren’t invested in those teams.

Add to that the persistent perception so many have that women are the “weaker” sex.  And that most sports spectators are men and many of them have this fear that an interest in women’s sports might somehow reduce their manliness.  And then there’s just the general skew of society toward all things male and things aren’t likely to improve too much in her lifetime.

So what can I say?  I can point out men who do support women’s athletics, like my mom’s boyfriend.  I can remind her that in the long run, she’s better off depending on her mind than her prowess on the volleyball court anyway.  I can urge her to stand up for equality when she can.  I can try to teach her the nuances of living in this world female.  I can encourage her to fight for change but not get disheartened when it is slow to come.  I can point out how much better off she is than her great-great grandmother was.  And I can agree, that yes, it really is not fair. Now, honey, let’s enjoy the game anyway.

The Perils of Pole Climbing

Daryl loves to climb poles. He’s gotten pretty good at it over the years too, perfecting his wrap-around leg technique to grasp the pole with the edges of his shoes. We recently found ourselves at the high school football field, where Daryl saw an excellent pole climbing challenge: the field goal.

This pole was considerably fatter than his usual regimen and a bit taller as well. With some effort, however, he was soon calling out from the cross bar, “Mommy! Daddy! Look at me! I did it!”

We congratulated his success but told him to hurry down because we were leaving. He slid back down the pole and joined us. As we walked, he began to explain the proper approach to climbing a fat pole.

“With a big pole like that, it’s all about speed. You’ve got to keep moving or you’ll slip back down.”

“I see,” I responded. “I’m glad you got it figured out.”

“The pole was pretty rough, though. Look at my leg,” he said, turning to show me the scraped inside of his right leg.

“Ouch,” I said.

“Yeah, it kind of hurts. I’m all scratched up.”

“Looks like it.”

When we got to the car, he resumed the complaints, possibly because he didn’t feel that I had given his injuries the attention they deserved. “Why did that pole have to be so rough? I’ve got scratches all over. It really hurts.”

“Well, maybe when you realize that a pole is so rough, you should stop trying to climb it.”

In a fierce and determined voice, he declaimed, “No. I Do Not. Give Up.”

“Well then maybe you should quit whining about how rough the pole was. You don’t sound very tough complaining about it so much.”

Seriously, son. You don’t get to be tough and whiny at the same time. Pick one.

Ball Games

“Daddy, what is your favorite ball game? Like, baseball, football, you know.”

“Playing or watching? And if watching, on TV or in person?”

“Playing.”

“Let me think.”

Now, I knew the answer to this. Of course I did. Hockey uses a puck so that leaves soccer. I know my husband. We’ve been married for over half our lives. So why was it taking him so long to answer?

“Ok, well there’s several.” What?! “Which one I like best changes. But I’d say soccer, foosball, and bocce.”

“What’s bocce?”

“It’s a yard game. Oh, and I love me a mean game of bingo.”

I may know my husband better than anyone else does, but he still manages to surprise me. Then again, I should have known that he’d look beyond sports when asked about ball games. Anything to catch a person off guard.

Why Won’t You Marry Me?

Jane has a boyfriend. Well, she has a boyfriend in the sixth grade sense of the word, which is to say that the other kids at school call him her boyfriend and she accepts it. Even though they don’t go on dates. Or hold hands. Or hang out together at lunch. Or do much of anything except say hi in the halls.

They did go to the high school homecoming football game together. His mom even made her a “mum” to wear. I took pictures of the nervous couple and then off they went with his mom.

Mat has liked Jane for a very long time. It all began ten years ago in the 18 month old class at the preschool. He started off calling her his girlfriend. It didn’t seem to have much of an effect on her. She was still almost as likely to bite him as she was her best friend.

As they got older, he began to insist that she was going to marry him. Sometimes, he outright called her his wife. For the most part, she tolerated the attention with good grace. They attended each other’s birthday parties and enjoyed each other’s company.

By the time they were turning five and in their last year at the preschool, she began to chafe a bit. One day, Mat became exasperated.

“Why, Jane? WHY won’t you say that you’ll marry me?”

“I’m not going to marry you, Mat.”

“Yes you are! I’ve already decided!”

“No! You don’t get to decide.” At this point she thrust her arm straight up into the air with her index finger pointing to the sky. “GOD decides!”

The next year, they headed to separate elementary schools, still inviting each other to their birthday parties. One year, Jane was the only girl invited to dinner and swimming. The boys were spending the night at a hotel. When it was time for us to pick up Jane, she begged us to let her stay.

Eventually, the distance seemed to make a difference. We heard rumors that Mat had a girlfriend and it wasn’t Jane. Jane was fine with that. She saw him once a week in TAG (talented and gifted). She became upset if we teased her about him being her “boyfriend”. She insisted she wasn’t interested.

Apparently, he still had a soft spot for her though. Once he claimed to a mutual friend, “Jane still likes me.”

The boy responded, “No, no, I don’t think so.”

“Yeah, she still likes me. I know she does.”

“No, she pretty much hates you,” he insisted. And that was my assessment of the relationship too. Not that she hated him, but that she didn’t like him. At least, not that way.

Needless to say, I was caught off guard when she climbed in the car one day after school and said, “Mat asked me to go to homecoming with him.”

“Oh, really? What did you say?”

“I said no, of course! That’s like four years away!”

“I’m pretty sure he was referring to this year’s football game, honey.”

“Oh. Well I still don’t want to go. He didn’t actually ask me. He asked Bella to ask me and when she told me, I said no and then he called out, ‘Don’t listen to her, Jane! She’s lying!'”

“Well, just tell him that your parents said you are too young to date.”

The next morning, she approached me saying that she still kind of liked Mat and didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I told her she didn’t have to go out with a boy just to avoid hurting his feelings. “Just be nice.”

A few days later, I received this off-hand remark: “Oh, by the way Mom, I told Mat that I wanted to go with him so you need to call his mom and work it out.”

“What happened to ‘my parents said I can’t date’?” She shrugged and hurried away.

A day or two after that: “I changed my mind. I don’t want to go.”

“Well, you need to tell Mat since you already said yes.”

“I don’t think he really heard me anyway.”

I was beginning to get whiplash. A couple of days later, a message arrived from his mom. My phone displayed the first part: So Mat sorta kinda asked Jane to homecoming.

I showed her the message and raised my eyebrows. “Looks like he did hear you.”

“Oh, yeah. I forgot. I decided I do want to go, so you need to talk to his mom.”

We had several conversations after that about expectations and proper behavior, what she should and shouldn’t do. We gave her a cell phone for the night and talked about what to do if she was at all uncomfortable at any point. I even stopped by the football game to see how she was doing.

It was a lot of worrying over nothing. They were just hanging out. Sometimes together. Sometimes apart, each with their own friends. At the end of the night, his sister encouraged him to give Jane a hug. He declined. It’s a sixth grade “romance”.

Who knows whether it will grow into something more. Probably not. But I’ll always find it kind of sweet that her first “date”, no matter how innocent, was with a young man that first fell in love with her before either was potty trained.