Friday, September 28, 2007

Volleyball Game #4 -- Noblesville (away)

Tuesday evening was the scene of a promising-looking match between our girls and the Noblesville Lady Knights, but things took a turn for the worse, I'm afraid.

Our JV Angels took the floor after a particularly impressive warm up session. I sat and read The Yearling and kept an eye out for stray balls moving with increasing velocity toward my head, but couldn't help but notice that the setting, bumping and spiking was all looking very, very nice.

And it was! The first game of the best-out-of-three match was a really good one. Our girls, inexperienced as they are (we do have five twelve-year-olds, after all), played brilliantly, they truly did. They kept the Lady Knights scrambling ingloriously. We won the first game with ease. But then the second game came along, as inexorably as February follows January, no matter how sick you are of snow and how much you wish you'd been born in Hawaii. You might take from this that the second game did not go well.

Nor, for that matter, did the fifteen point tiebreaker.

I'm not sure what happened to our junior varsity girls, whether they psyched themselves out by winning the first game with such ease, or whether they got complacent and felt that they really didn't need to expend much effort since the Lady Knights weren't that good, but the Lady Knights came back and administered a couple of smackdowns that left the Angels reeling.

Frankly, our girls played like poo. They just did. I'd like to be one of those "they didn't win, but it was still a great game" type of people right now, but I can't. When a serve is sailing over the net and it looks easily returnable but six girls on the court all just stand there and watch it land right smack in the middle of the court, I can't say it was a good game. Or when, after being told over and over again to talk to each other, calling out "Mine!" when a ball is coming toward them, they all stand silently...I can't.

There's another problem happening with volleyball that is straining things between the JV coach and my husband and I. Aisling, who went to volleyball camp way back in June and also attended all August practices, is being left to sit on the bench, while our other young members of the team, some of whom are no better than she is (and a couple of them not as good) are getting playing time.

She did not play one single second of this match with Noblesville.

My husband and I are both extremely opposed to this type of coaching, not just for Aisling, but for anyone left sitting on a bench. I know that bench-sitting happens - it is such a refined practice that it has been given the more catchy title of "red shirting" in college sports -- but this volleyball team isn't, in our opinion, supposed to be about leaving girls to sit while their morale droops and their skills suffer from lack of the challenge of a game.

It would be hard to take if this were a college or even a high school team where kids eagerly try out just for a hope of bench sitting. But our volleyball team is one where we practically have to stand in the mall and beg girls to join. In circumstances like those, everyone should get a chance to play.

Especially someone who came and worked all summer.

Especially someone whose parents are paying through the nose to give their daughter this opportunity to sit on the bench match after match after match.

Especially when other girls, who didn't attend the camp and perhaps only joined the team within the past few weeks are getting playing time.

Especially when the coach, who repeatedly tells the team, "This is not about winning. This is about playing volleyball and developing your skill" pulled a tearful Aisling aside after the Noblesville match and said, "Look, Aisling, it's nothing personal that I didn't play you. It's just that I wanted to go with the same lineup I used for the Columbus match and see if we could pull off a win with those girls."

Which seems a little hypocritical to me. Or maybe he was just thinking of any excuse that came to mind when he saw the expression on the faces of her parents. I don't know.

Last year, a girl who had just learned to play volleyball spent a lot of time on the bench. She and Meelyn became friends because it was the first year for both of them. There were many times when I was indignant on her behalf. I thought the coach was doing her a great disservice by allowing her to sit, but I wasn't her mother and there was nothing I could do. I did politely ask the coach why Meelyn only played about two minutes of one game in an entire day's worth of tournament matches that we traveled all the way to Ft. Wayne to attend. That brief appearance on the court was not worth the money it took to drive up there with gas at $3.60 per gallon, and it wasn't worth the nine hours we spent there, either.

He was very polite in return, but personally, I thought his response, which was, "Well, everyone doesn't get to play in every single game," was just as stupid when I heard it last year as it is hearing it this year.

Why not? On a Christian homeschool volleyball team, why not? On a Christian homeschool volleyball team where parents like us, with two girls on the roster, are paying several hundred dollars in fees to the team (not including all the travel, uniforms, equipment, et cetera), why not?

I am really ticked off about this.

My husband and I are not the kind of people who will ever get in this coach's face and make idiots of ourselves about this. We aren't like that. It's one thing to politely say, "I was wondering if you could explain your motivation in not allowing my daughter any playing time?" but it's another thing to do what a lot of parents do and scream abuse at him until his hair blows backward.

So last Tuesday, my husband spoke his piece. He spoke it politely and the coach received it politely. I just stayed away. I was so angry, I was almost incandescent and sometimes it's just better to remove yourself to the van while your husband is talking with the coach because that way, you can slouch down and mutter the most ferociously insulting epithets under your breath and no one is the wiser except the Lord your God and He knows that I used no profanity in my whispered diatribe.

Tonight we play a home game at 6:30. I guess we'll see how things go from there. If there's no change, my husband and I have already told Aisling that this may well be something we'll have to offer up, to unite this suffering with the suffering of Christ, realizing that we haven't been called to shed blood. We've told her that even if nothing changes, we won't let one bad coach ruin for her a sport that she really loves.

And next year, Daddy will likely be coaching in his place since the current coach will be moving on. And he will make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen to her or to any other girl as long as he holds that position.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thursday's List

READING: Brother Odd by Dean Koontz. I liked Odd Thomas so much, I decided to go back to the library and find the second book about Odd, although it turns out that it was really the third. Somewhere along the line, I missed the first book in the series, titled Odd Fellow, but oh well. Just something to read later, right? Brother Odd is set in a monastery and very Catholic are its themes. The monastery is peopled with a number of delightful characters, including a Mother Superior of the nearby convent who was so real, I could nearly see her. Plus, the explanation of the three portraits on her office wall (George Washington, Flannery O'Connor and Harper Lee) made me cry. It's a great book, but I would definitely recommend reading the other books in the series first, so you'll understand the back story.

LISTENING TO: The sound of schoolwork going on around me.

FAVORITE NEW FIND: Insight's combination digital cable with DVR, telephone service and broadband internet, which will cost less than we're currently paying with our phone and DSL service through a well-known provider and Insight digital cable all by it's lonesome. Plus, it will cut us down one more bill per month.

FAVORITE THING TODAY: Going to the scrapbooking workshop today! Yippee!!!!

HOURS OF SLEEP LOGGED LAST NIGHT: I've been sleeping really well in the past week, which is very, very good. I've been drinking water or milk at dinner instead of a diet soda, hoping that a little less caffeine in my system would break that annoying cycle of insomnia I was experiencing last week.

THE CAUSE OF MY STRESS: I somehow, in a manner unbeknownst to me, became the person who is organizing the volleyball sports banquet in mid-November.

THE CAUSE OF MY JOY: The Hamlet Workshop is nearly over -- all we have left to complete is seeing the production at IRT and then the "wrap party" one week later and it's all done. I think it has gone really well and I'm proud of how has turned out. I have an enormous sense of accomplishment. And boy, will I ever be relieved to be done with the work! Each class is three hours long and requires at least four hours of preparation each week, if not more. I am exhausted and see Hamlet, Gertrude and Claudius in my dreams with alarming frequency. (The other night I dreamed that I was trying to haul Ophelia out of the pool at our swim club while screaming for a lifeguard to come save her - she was so heavy and I couldn't get her out of the water because, naturally, she was dressed in the clothing of the twelfth century instead of a bathing suit.)

But the good news is, if I ever teach this particular workshop again, I'll have it all right from the start.

LOOKING FORWARD TO: The Fishers Renaissance Faire on October 6 and 7. My friend Gloria is playing the role of a Spanish Infanta and I can hardly wait to see her. She's not allowed to break character, so that's going to seem strange, but how cool is it that she's part of the cast?

PRAYING FOR: Paul, Barb and their family, who gave us an enormous blessing recently.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

On the way to the grocery today

My husband and I were on the way to the grocery this afternoon, driving along in the van on what was a truly beautiful last day of summer, getting ready to lay down some serious cash on the food we not only find necessary to sustain life, but also keep us reasonably civilized, like Diet Coke and sugar-free jam for our bagels. And if you think I'm kidding about that, just you show up here some morning when I've reached into the fridge and discovered that the colorful box I thought was holding at least one more can of soda is actually empty.

Anyway, my husband had the radio on and one of my favorite songs started to play, a romantic little waltz-tempo piece by the Christian crossover group, Lifehouse. It's titled "You and Me" and you should read the sweet lyrics below.

"You And Me"

What day is it? And in what month?
The clock never seemed so alive
I can't keep up and I can't back down
I've been losing so much time

'Cause it's you and me and all of the people
with nothing to do,
nothing to lose

And it's you and me and all of these people
and I don't know why,
but I can't keep my eyes off of you

One of the things that I want to say
just isn't coming out right
I'm tripping on words
You've got my head spinning
I don't know where to go from here

'Cause it's you and me and all of the people
with nothing to do
nothing to prove

And it's you and me and all other people
I just don't know why,
But I can't keep my eyes off of you

There's something about you now
I can't quite figure out..

(Everything she does is beautiful
Everything she does is right)

'Cause it's you and me and all of these people
with nothing to do,
nothing to lose

And it's you and me and all other people
and I don't know why,
But I can't keep my eyes off of you and me
and all other people
with nothing to do,
and nothing to prove

It's just you and me and all other people
and I don't know why, I can't keep my eyes off of you

What day is it?

And in what month?

This clock never seemed so alive...

I've always thought of songs like this in terms of me and my husband, but today, a new thought flashed through my mind, probably because of the lilting nature of that tempo, which lends itself perfectly to a ballroom and a young woman in a long white gown with flowers in her hair, being swept around the room while the crowd stands and sighs with pleasure at the sight of them.


My Meelyn in a white dress, flowing gracefully (but hopefully not the bouffant horror I was corseted and buttoned into), dancing the bride's dance with her new husband, only he's not the only one who can't take his eyes off of her. Her dad and I are watching, too.

So suddenly, I am crying and my husband, looking at me with understandable alarm, said, "What's wrong now?"

Sixteen years of marriage have taught me to ignore little things like that "now," so I told him what I was thinking.

He said, "Oh, my gosh. Stop. It. You're killing me, here. Kill. Ing. Me."

"She's just getting to be such a big girl," I said, sniffling.

"I know," he agreed, handing me a paper napkin from Hardee's. "Before we know it."

"It will be beautiful," I said staunchly. "But I think we may need a lot of champagne."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday's List

READING: Father Melancholy's Daughter by Gail Godwin. I just finished this book yesterday and closed the cover with a feeling of admiration for what the author accomplished, accompanied by a strange feeling of ambivalence. This book is the story of a girl, Margaret, growing up in Virginia, the daughter of an Episcopal clergyman and his much-younger wife. Margaret's father is inclined toward depressions, which he likens to a trip "behind the Black Curtain," and her mother, an artistic soul, begins to realize that these "trips" are bordering on the self-indulgent. When a woman friend from her boarding school days comes to the rectory for a flying visit, Margaret's mother goes off on a few days' "vacation," with Father Melancholy robustly encouraging this bold move (this was taking place in the early 1970s - I'm just glad that the lady went off on a trip to New York and I was spared some screechy, ranting bra-burning scene.)

The story unfolds as the "vacation" stretches from two weeks into a month, from a month into three months. Margaret, who was six, struggles with her mother's abandonment, especially when her mother and the friend go on a trip to England a year after the initial departure and Margaret's mother is killed in an accident while driving on the wrong side of the road.

Margaret and her father shore one another up: He raises her and she takes her mother's unenviable place in coddling her dad through his Black Curtain periods, finding peace and even joy in doing their duty to one another.

It was a good book, possibly even brilliant in parts. But the theology expressed in the book was just so annoying. I find it very hard to be patient with people who find it difficult to accept the inscrutable simplicity of a relationship with Jesus and instead bother their heads with questions like the one Father Melancholy asked a fellow priest: "The resurrection as it applies to each of us means coming up through what you were born into, then understanding objectively the people your parents were and how they influenced you. Then finding out who you yourself are, in terms of how you carry forward what they put in you and how your circumstances have shaped you. And then...and here's the hard part! You have to go on to find out what you are in the human drama, or body of God. The what beyond the who, so to speak."

Whatever happened to finding out who your yourself are in terms of how you carry forward the new life birthed into your soul through, say, the sacrament of baptism? Who are you in -- just as a for instance -- Jesus Christ? How does a daily relationship with Him form your personhood, your conscience and your soul, combined with the circumstances of the way you were raised, the home life you experienced, the education you received?


LISTENING TO: A little Chopin, from one of those CDs that tickles me with a ridiculous title: Chopin's Greatest Hits. Could Chopin: Unplugged or Chopin: Live at Leeds be far behind?

FAVORITE NEW FIND: Webkinz World! Aisling was finally successful in registering at the Webkinz site and oh. My. Gosh. Webkinz World is, like, the most fun place ever. I am completely over my initial fury and now wish to own a Webkinz plush pet of my own, so that I can make a little virtual house for it, with a virtual piano and a virtual canopy bed and a virtual back yard with a virtual water feature. I have my eye on a Chinese pug at our neighborhood gift shop. I would like to name her Martha Jean and she will be my very own.

FAVORITE THING TODAY: This is the first day this week that we have not been moving at the speed of light. It is lovely to have a day of hanging around the house. Tomorrow it all starts back up again and continues on until next Wednesday. Aaaaahhhh.....

HOURS OF SLEEP LOGGED LAST WEEK: I feel CHEATED AND BETRAYED by the fact that I have taken a Benadryl three times this week and still have had trouble falling (and staying) asleep. Is my box of Benadryl....expired? Dreadful thought. Must go to upstairs medicine cabinet and check the date stamped on the little flap.

THE CAUSE OF MY STRESS: Last few weeks of the Shakespeare Workshop are wrapping up, which is not a bad stress. It's been a wonderful class. However, earlier this week, I thought to send out (in my weekly email to the Shakespeare Moms) a note about the adult tickets I had ordered, asking them to check the list and make sure I had things right. Well, it is a DARNED GOOD THING I did that, because I had completely forgotten all about ordering one extra student ticket and two adult tickets. I had been somewhat uneasily feeling that I had too much Shakespeare money left - now I know why. I got those tickets ordered just under the deadline. Can you imagine how much those mothers would have wanted to administer a beatdown to me if they showed up at the theater for the Hamlet performance and I'd stammered out, "Uhhhmmm....errrrr....It seems I forgot to order your ticket, Mrs. Pleasedon'tleavevisiblebruises."

PRAYING FOR: Baby Lily is home! Young Peter is home! Baby Lily's G-tube surgery is healed of the staph infection she contracted in the hospital (!) and she is now presumably surrounded by a swarm of older brothers and wearing lots of pink. Young Peter's proton radiation therapy is over - now it's just the waiting to see if the radiation successfully annihilates the cancer. He is home, surrounded by a swarm of older (and younger) sisters and wearing whatever little boys wear when they spend late-summer days outside playing. His mother reports that his appetite and his energy level are both very good. Deo gratias!

Also praying for the S. and the C. families, because they are so faithful to pray for us.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

How my heart became firmly lodged in my throat

I was doing a final tidy of the kitchen tonight before my husband and I went upstairs for bed; swiping down the counters, removing library books and a pew bulletin from the kitchen table, turning on the dishwasher.

It was a night that was unextraordinary in its alikeness to just about every other night of my life.

Except on this particular night, my husband, in a yarn-spinning sort of voice, said, "Did I ever tell you about the day I came downstairs to walk the dogs and there was a bat in the laundry room?"

I froze in the act of adding detergent to the dishwasher, and I swear the very falling of the soap crystals was arrested in descent. "Excuse me?" I said, when my power of speech returned. "What was in the laundry room? And please say something like, 'poodle' or 'baby monkey' or 'Jimmy Hoffa,' but please do not say what I think you just said and may be planning to say again."

"No, it's true," he said comfortably. "There was a bat, a very tiny little bat."

"I want to move," I said urgently. "Now. Do we have any boxes? Can you balance the couch on your back?"

"You know there are bats around here, honey," he said. "We live in an historic neighborhood. There's an empty house right across the street. It has everything bats want except a sign that says, 'Vacancy, bats welcome!' on the front."

"But those are their bats," I said stubbornly. "They belong over there, to whoever it is that owns that house."

"The bats in this neighborhood are the reason why we can sit outside on the patio all summer long and never be approached by a mosquito."

"This is my house and I don't want to share it with a bat!"

"You aren't sharing it with a bat. I took the broom and just swept it off the ceiling out the back door."

"There might be more," I whispered, looking furtively at the tops of my kitchen cabinets, which have the absolute cutest garland of deep red berries and rusty stars arranged artistically across them, perhaps forming a place where a bat might lurk undetected. I went back to the laundry room, cringing, and looked fiercely at the dogs, who were already in their kennels for the night. They both squish their blankets around to make pillows for their worthless heads to rest on as they watch bats wheel merrily through the air, no doubt. "What good are you two, anyway?" I asked them with contempt.

My husband, with the air of a man who wishes he had just kept his mouth shut, said, "You know, I probably just dreamed that. About the bat and all."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, I'm sure I dreamed it. It has a dreamlike quality about it, because, uhhh, when I opened the back door, Johnny Bench was standing there and he said, 'Thanks, pal! You can never have enough bats!' and then I realized that our back yard had turned into Riverfront Stadium, circa 1975."

"Nice try, you big liar."

"I'm sorry," he sighed. "I'm much better with the truth."

"Okay, well....sometimes the truth is better left unspoken. When it's about bats, especially."

"I'll try to remember that," he said wearily, and turned off the kitchen light. And then, from beside me in the dark, he put his mouth close to my ear, so near that his moustache ticked my earring and hissed, "Hey! Did you hear that flapping sound just now?" and lightly mussed my hair with his fingers.


Volleyball Game #3 - Indy Lightning (here)

Oh, they played so hard, those junior varsity girls! The Indy Lightning team is our nemesis, our greatest rival, mostly because they are so wickedly fast and good. We played them at our invitational and managed, at least to keep up with them, even though they ended up winning.

Which is what happened tonight. It was best two-out-of-three and Indy Lightning won. But at least it wasn't a total humiliation. We lost respectably. We maintained our dignity. We ate walking tacos afterwards and pretended that we'd really kind of won.

Two incidents marred the evening, however. Incident #1 concerned One of Those Dads, who was sitting in the stands behind me and my parents. He's one of those tall men who stand with the chest pushed forward intimidatingly, arms squared off and fingers curled inward, leaning into you with their shoulders in a subtle act of dominance, even if all they're doing is saying, "Great weather we're having lately." Which, you know, I really hate. I mean, really hate. There's something about that type of male aggression that makes my spine stiffen and my teeth bite down hard against each other.


He's the sort of person who has a snarky bit of criticism for every player on the team out there, and from the sound of it, the girls are missing returns and goofing up their serves on purpose to offend him. He whined and complained and shouted KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL, GIRLS in his big, bellowing sarcastic man-voice until I thought I was going to have to turn around and damage him physically. Because you know what he said every time his own daughter sent a serve into the net or bumped a ball out of bounds?


It's very hard, because his daughter is a treasure - funny, sweet and smiling. Easy to coach; anxious to please and develop her skills. And she's a good volleyball player, too. But how that lovely girl sprung from those obnoxious loins is something I'd do well not to contemplate, or I may never sleep again.

Incident #2 was Aisling's playing only about two seconds in the entire match, which makes me so impatient with the coach. I'm resigned to it because that's the way it works in this coach's purview. I don't agree with him; I think the only way to challenge players to become better is to give them some worthwhile time to play. I'm not reconciled to bench-sitting. It's counter productive, in my opinion.'s his team. And it isn't my business to be One of Those Mothers. And I have to admit that Aisling did spend a lot of time back in August getting clocked in the face with a ball at almost every practice, which resulted in a lot of tears and the coach having to deal with her. I can understand why his confidence in her ability is underwhelmed.

It's a learning experience, we tell her. For you and for us. Not an easy one. But the world already has its quota of parents who make idiots of themselves shouting at coaches, and we're not going to add to that sum.

Meelyn spent a lot of time at the net, which is her least favorite place to play. She made another great tip; her serves were strong and her setting was impeccable. She looks so beautiful and grown up out there, her entire being focused on what's happening on the court, radiating an energy so intense, even her ponytail seems to be zinging. The coach's wife, who was sitting next to me keeping stats, looked over once and said in admiration, "I can't believe how much that girl has improved this year." I glowed with pride. It's true! She has!

So. Another loss, but we're still very encouraged. If we can hang with the Indy Lightning, that is a sure sign that things are moving in a positive direction.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The unbearable brightness of seeing

I drove by our Center for the Arts here in town today and noticed a colorful banner strung between the two gracious marble columns at the front entrance.

September 27

I can't decide if it makes me want to laugh or slip into an existential despair that I live in a city where Oktoberfest is being celebrated in September. Doesn't October have thirty-one entire days in which Oktoberfest could be celebrated?

Next thing you know, we'll be having March Madness in April.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thursday's List

READING: Cape Refuge by Terri Blackstock, which was a really interesting murder mystery. I enjoyed it, except for the two main characters. They were sisters, Morgan and Blair, and they were so irritating that I was looking for them to be the next victims. The book was worth the read because of Sadie and Cade, although Cade spent a lot of time hoping to break through Blair's shell of brusqueness. He was laboring under some misguided notion that, like a crab, she was all shell and claws on the outside, yet sweet on the inside. Men are so adorable that way. I wanted to stick my head through the pages and say, "Cade. Honey. Give it up. She is not sweet. She hasn't had one sweet thought through this entire book. Myself, I keep hoping for someone to shoot her."

LISTENING TO: Late afternoon traffic slipping by outside the window. The temperature is a lovely 76 degrees and all the windows are open. Someone just stopped for the stoplight with Norah Jones playing on the stereo. If I had a glass of chardonnay here on the desk beside me, it would just be perfect.

FAVORITE NEW FIND: My mother brought me a magazine with an article featuring an old friend from my early twenties who grew up to write a New York Times #1 bestseller. We lost touch long ago as we both moved on from our apartment in Muncie, Indiana to get real jobs (way back when, I was a substitute teacher and she was a waitress) and get married and have kids of our own, but it was nice to see her face and read about her success.

FAVORITE THING TODAY: I'm not sure how this worked out in the grand scheme of things, but I just inherited two chandeliers that belonged to my great-great-grandmother. They were originally powered by lamp oil, but were converted to electricity somewhere early on in the last century. One is perfect for my dining room. The other may go in my bedroom. With our high ceilings and no ladder, I wonder how long it will take me to convince my husband to install them both? They're so beautiful, one done in light blue with handpainted flowers and the other in cranberry glass with cut glass dangles. I can hardly wait to see them on my ceilings. I've known them since forever.

HOURS OF SLEEP LOGGED LAST WEEK: Couple of dodgy nights around Sunday and Monday, but pretty good the past few nights.

THE CAUSE OF MY STRESS: School. School, school, school.

PRAYING FOR: Baby Lily and her family -- the g-tube surgery went well; the trach placement has healed. Young Peter and his family will be traveling home soon from the proton radiation treatments in California soon. Pray with me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Today's math problem

Q: What rate of speed can an upright vaccuum cleaner achieve as it hurtles down fourteen steps to the landing?

A: I'm not sure because I never could do problems like that, but one thing's for certain: It is really, really loud and sounds something like a body, especially when accompanied by the screams of the girl in the upstairs hallway who accidentally lost her grip on the handle.

Volleyball Game #2 -- Columbus (away)

We had a good match last night.

The trip to Columbus went off without a hitch, other than the fact that my husband sat waiting for us at the McDonald's on 116th Street in Fishers at the I-69 interchange instead of the McDonald's at 96th Street in Fishers at the I-69 interchange. We managed to rectify this problem without too much irritated bickering.

It was a beautiful afternoon for a drive. Our directions were very clear. Aisling had packed the little cooler with some turkey sandwiches, and we were all set. I was driving because I have nerves of steel when it comes to interstate driving during rush hour (my husband once looked at me, his eyes wide and said, "You drive like a dude," which was a high compliment from someone who thinks that he drives better than everyone else in the world, including Jeff Gordon.) My basic method is to get in the fast lane and put my foot down, which I did, only causing my husband to close his eyes and blanch in terror twice.

The gym of our opponents, the Columbus Inferno, was a very nice one. I sat in the bleachers with all the other volleyball moms, as pleasant a group of ladies as you could ever hope to meet.

Our junior varsity girls took the floor at 6:00 and from the first return, it was obvious that the two teams were well-matched. The score went up and down, favoring first one team and then the other. We finally won the first game, to much cheering from the moms.

The second game went the same way, up and down, up and down, and the JV Inferno won that one.

The tie-breaker is played to fifteen points. The Inferno emerged victorious and thus took the match, but our junior varisty played SO well. The coaches were very pleased with them, and in spite of the loss, the girls seemed pleased with themselves. We saw very little of that business we saw far too often last season, which is the ball falling with a dismal thud while the players all stand around and look at each other: "Was that mine? Was I supposed to get that? No, that was yours. You were supposed to get it."

That's the kind of thing that makes the coaches go pop-eyed as they try to restrain themselves from saying things that will make the girls cry. The JV head coach, whose name is Kevin, gloomily says, "I've coached boys and I've coached girls and girls are a million times harder." If you tell a group of boys on a team that their playing stinks and that they need to get their heads in the game, the boys apparently respond by saying, "You got it, coach." The teenage girls respond by crying, because you've hurt their feelings by (justifiably) criticizing their level of play and insulted their heads into the bargain. I mean, can't you see that they've taken extra trouble to arrange their headbands, ponytail scrunchies and team-color-coordinating ribbons, coach? What is wrong with their heads? Sheeeesh, lighten up already and pass the tissues.

So last night's match was great fun. We didn't get home until 10:00 p.m., which meant that we had been gone from the house almost twelve hours yesterday, so the tiredness factor was urgent and compelling. We all took showers and fell into bed with actual blankies pulled over us; my husband got up in the middle of the night and put a second blanket on us and it felt so gooood.

I could grow used to these cooler temperatures.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Busy week, file under "very"


Yesterday, we were at ARCHES from 9:00 until 3:00, kicking off the new year with Mass and then the large group activity with the kids in first through eighth grade, and a very successful activity it was, too. I know this because there is a large cardboard structure with a sign on it that reads "THEATER" sitting on the back seat of the van. I am hoping the paint on it was completely dry when it was placed there yesterday.

ARCHES is a one-a-month program for students aged 6-14, although this year, we've seen some happy changes. Now that the primary program is established, the program for the younger group, called MiniARCHES is falling into place - now all those little curtain-climbing siblings aged 2-5 have a program all their own.

I feel blessed to taking a part in this as well. Not with the younger, no. I am an older kid kind of person. So the director of ARCHES and a couple of other mothers and I are working now to establish a TeenARCHES program for the older siblings in the group. We have a considerable number of these teenage children, and another mom and I had the pleasure of talking to them yesterday to find out what their main interests are.

Surprisingly enough, the greatest interest was in forming a Teen Speakers Bureau and a book club. The third item of interest was an apologetics group featuring round-table discussions. They were completely disinterested in the idea of forming a yearbook staff, which is what I thought they'd be really excited about. What do I know?

As it turns out, the public speaking offer was one that was met with great enthusiasm. Many of these kids attended a public speaking workshop last spring and enjoyed themselves to the point of wanting to do more. Public speaking. More public speaking. Who'd have thought...?

Anyway, I proposed the idea of a book group, saying, "You know, there are always classic novels that your mom has you read every year..."

They nooded gloomily, several of them groaning "The Yearling...." in pained voices.

I smiled. "Yes, like The Yearling. What I'd like to propose for your discernment is the possiblilty of a book group, where we could do a study guide and discuss the novel together. This would ease some of your mother's burden, because you'd be taking care of that here at ARCHES. It would also ease some of your burden, because you'd have the pleasure of discussing the novel with your friends instead of just reading on your own."

Their heads were nodding enthusiastically at this point. Frankly, I was shocked. I was certain they'd shoot down the idea of a book group, just as certain as I am that my right shoe won't fit comfortably on my left foot. Because, The Yearling? It isn't a bad book at all, but it isn't one of those books that kept me up at night with the light on, reading, or anything.

The mom with me, my friend Jane, threw out the idea of The Red Badge of Courage and Where the Red Fern Grows. Still with the agreeable nodding from the kids. Imagine my shock. Could Great Expectations be far behind?

So I feel very pleased about this!

I guess we'll just have to keep on doing the yearbook the same way its always been done.

Yesterday reminded me again of why ARCHES was probably our favorite activity last year.

I like it, first and foremost, that it is Catholic: We start every meeting with Mass. We pray together. Father Bob Robeson attends every meeting and walks around with his coffee, affably talking to moms and kids alike. The chapel is right upstairs and there's time both before and after the meetings to take a few minutes to sit in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

I like the creative activities that we do, centered on our Catholic faith, art, science, math, geography, music, essay writing, the theater and more.

I like ARCHES because it is open to kids of all ages, from babies and toddlers all the way up to high school students, with meaningful learning opportunities for them all. This, to me, is what homeschooling is about -- allowing all ages to learn together. Sometimes not everyone can participate in the same activity -- I don't think we're going to have all that many five-year-olds reading Where the Red Fern Grows with our teen group -- but at least we're all invited to be part of activities in the same building, where we come together for Mass, for group prayer, for all-age activities, for lunch! This is so much easier on mothers, who don't have to think, "Well, my first-thru-eighth graders are taken care of. Now what am I supposed to do with my tenth grader and my four-year-old?"

I appreciate ARCHES because it happens once a month. Our director helps us stay in close contact, sending us reminders via email every Monday. That way, we always know what we're preparing for. It makes event days so easy. Plus, we're never burned out. Every new month at ARCHES is something to look forward to.

And most of all, this year is the first year that we've all stayed for lunch after the main meeting. I like lunch! Yesterday, we were served roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad and bread with ice cream for dessert. A nice, hot lunch with no dishes to wash....wheeeeee!!!!


Today is our third session of the Shakespeare Workshop. We're watching scenes from the Franco Zeffirelli and Kenneth Branagh DVD versions of Hamlet, plus a brief snippet from Sir Laurence Olivier's 1948 version. It's interesting to see what different actors and directors do to make the characters live for the audience.

To make up for the fact that we had about fifteen handouts last week, I have a treat for this week -- Shakespeare Jeopardy.

As soon as the Workshop is over, the girls and I have to hit the road to go meet Daddy. We'll then be driving down to Columbus for our first away game. Columbus! Good grief! That's a two hour drive! On a Tuesday!

I plan to be tired tomorrow, with intermittent patches of grumpiness.


I can't think of anything, but that could just be my own mental deficiency. We do have schoolwork, obviously, and plenty of it.


Nanny and Poppy are coming over in the afternoon. We haven't seen those people in two weeks!


Home game, 6:00. Nanny and Poppy are coming to see it, so I'll have someone to do The Wave with. It isn't as effective when I'm just doing it by myself.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Webkinz - the zone of agony

Today, Aisling purchased her first Webkinz pet, a little beagle about the size of a [whispering] Beanie Baby that cost $11. This Webkinz thing, a whole new racket to rope in the 8-12 giggle demographic, has been something that Aisling has talked about non-stop for weeks.

Webkinz, as you might have ascertained from the name, is a largely internet-driven fake activity for children to make virtual visits to their friends and play virtual games, instead of actually seeing their friends in person and playing an actual game, like Monopoly, where the money is fake but at least can be held in your hand.

In Webkinz, your "pet" exists in virtual form in a "house" that you "build" for it by nurturing your beagle, kitty cat, lion, elephant, husky or other of any number of plush creatures. For taking care of your virtual pet (even if presumably the actual plush toy has slipped down between the wall and your bed with the dirty socks you threw back there, and the dust bunnies, and for doing well at virtual games, you win "money" to furnish your "house" and make it as posh as you can; then you can invite your friends' virtual pets over to visit you.

It sounds absolutely mad, doesn't it? Whoever thought this one up is probably down in Aruba, swimming in a pool filled with Mai Tais instead of water and laughing like a hyena as they tip the salamanders clinging to the garden wall $5 apiece for being green.

I used to tip my hat to Build-a-Bear-Workshop, but this...this is much more complex, involving each child registering a hundred Webkinz toys on the internet, more of which are probably being sewn together by other less fortunate children, who seem to come from CHINA, according to the tag.

It's a funny old world, isn't it?

(The only other toy I can think of that has generated money in bale form are those horrible American Girl dolls, which I loathe with every fiber of my being. First of all, for being ugly and pop-eyed; second of all for being insanely expensive; and thirdly for being dumb.)

Anyway, back to the Webkinz. Each little plushie comes with a tag around its wee paw that has a secret code attached, all hermetically sealed up in a little plastic bag. The secret code is what you use to log on to the Webkinz World website to register your pet and set up housekeeping.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Thursday's List

READING: Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. I've never read anything by Dean Koontz before, but a friend told me that he writes a good, slightly skeery suspense novel with no blood, guts and gore and no horror factor that makes you still wake up in the night wishing you hadn't read Salem's Lot, like, twenty-five years ago. I love this book. I love Odd Thomas, the main character. I love Stormy, his destiny. I love Dean Koontz's Catholic themes in the book. I hope all his novels are as good as this one.

LISTENING TO: Sean Hannity's talk radio show. Sean is so full of bombast that I'd like to tweak his nose every now and then, but I was interested in hearing what he and his callers had to say about the Republican debate last night on FoxNews.

FAVORITE NEW FIND: A Subway sandwich shop near Aisling's piano teacher's house that has nice decor, comfortable tables and chairs, "oldies" music (from the 70s and 80s, natch) playing on the sound system and an atmosphere redolent of baking bread. N-i-i-i-ice!

FAVORITE THING TODAY: Hearing "Close to You" while sitting at Subway, a song I used to sing to the girls when they were babies. Heaven knows I try not to get tears in my eyes when hearing Karen Carpenter's beautiful voice, but it's very difficult.

HOURS OF SLEEP LOGGED LAST NIGHT: Not nearly enough. I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. reading, apparently under the impression that I was still basking in the lazy days of summer and could remain snuggled up in my pillows until 9:00 or so. When the alarm went off at 6:30, I wanted to smite myself. And the clock.

THE CAUSE OF MY STRESS: Nothing. As I said a couple of weeks ago, this makes me nervouse. Surely I should be worried about something? But we have the assignment sheets for the entire first semester printed out and dated; I'm ahead of the game in the Hamlet Workshop and HISTO; I have no overdue library books. Oh, wait...I forgot to call my parents on their anniversary last Saturday and I feel like a selfish pig. Yup, that did it. Stress.

PRAYING FOR: A good year of homeschooling and other various needs and wants. Plus, Carol and Uncle Graham are flying out west tomorrow for a weeks' vacation - they plan to go to Sunday Mass at an old mission church near San Diego. I hope they'll have safe travels and a wonderful time. And Susie's younger French-named daughter took off on a plane across the sea a few days ago for the start of a semester abroad in France through Pepperdine's exchange program.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Volleyball Game #1 (here)

There was wildness and much drama surrounding last Friday's first home match of the season. As far as I can unravel the many details, here's what happened:

Last Friday, the girls hosted their first volleyball match at our home gym. Until about sixteen hours before the match, everything looked like it was going to be completely as usual, but then our scheduling secretary got an email from the opposing team's coach saying that:

1) they weren't going to bring their junior varsity team, just varsity

2) our junior varsity would have to play their varsity because they didn't want to forfeit the match


3) out of deference for their varsity players, who would be tired after playing so many games, the opposing team's coach proposed that the varisty and junior varsity games be played as best-two-out-of-three, instead of the regular five varsity games and three junior varsity, as was originally agreed upon.

Our team plays in a league of teams from homeschool groups and Christian schools that are governed by IHSAA (Indiana High School Athletics Association) rules. We pay an IHSAA official a goodly sum out of our meager bank account so that he/she can officiate and make sure all standards are being abided by. So you can imagine how worried the coaches, the president of the board of directors and the scheduling secretary were. Oh, yes...and they were mad, too. What if the IHSAA official came to our match and decided that he couldn't qualify our games? Then we'd have to pay him anyway and send him straight home with a flea in his ear.

(Currently, the board president is beginning to think that it would be a good idea to go with signed contracts for matches. That way, the opposing team, if they or any other team tried to pull a last minute bit of rudeness like this, they'd have to forfeit the game, instead of just arrogantly setting their own rules for somebody else's gym.)

I'm sure this is all terribly boring to anyone who isn't involved in this organization, but let me tell you, it was a powder keg in there on Friday night.

Unless our junior varsity wanted to forfeit the match, they'd be stuck playing the opposing team's varsity girls. Our junior varsity players range in age from just-turned-12 to around 14.5 years old. Our varsity girls, six of whom are high school seniors, are all 16, 17 and 18 years old. As were their varsity players. "Better a loss than a forfeit," the JV coach sighed philosophically, so our little tiny Davids went out to meet the great big Goliaths from the City That Shall Not Be Named. Because we are really, really mad at them. But it starts with an H and has both an ing and a ton on the end of the word with a u-n-t in the middle.

Yeah, you know who you are.

I'd like to say that things worked out for our JV just like things worked out for David in the Bible, but, well, not so much. Those varsity players looked like they were more than willing to cram the volleyball down our JV girls' little throats and then maybe eat their legs into the bargain. Our girls didn't stand a chance. They had some good moments when they valiantly defended their court, but the other team's players were bigger, stronger and much more experienced than our girls and it was pretty much a massacre.

My husband and I told the girls that we were proud of them -- they fought back instead of just knuckling under. They played well and it wasn't their fault that they were extremely mismatched with their opponents. If the opposing team had actually honored their committment and brought their junior varsity team to play ours (and the reason why they didn't is still extremely unclear to me), our girls would have stood a good chance of winning.

"The best comeuppance would be to go to their game in a few weeks and for both of our teams to whip the snot out of those girls," my husband said thoughtfully.

"From your lips to God's ear," I said solemnly.

"Yeah," said Meelyn, setter and server extraordinaire.

"Yeah," said Aisling, visions of digs and spikes dancing through her head.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The first day of school

The girls are both excited. I'm a little more hesitant, myself. I am going to miss sleeping in late. A lot.

So today was our first day. We got up early; we had a bagel and some milk for breakfast. Afterwards, we prayed matins together, after a brief scuffle and a lecture over who was going to sit in the upholstered chair and who wasn't.

Afterwards, I showed the girls the materials we're going to use for their religious education class this year. One item is the Seth H. Murray book I read this summer, titled Lord, Open My Lips: The Liturgy of the Hours as Daily Prayer. It is such a good book and I think the girls will both enjoy it and benefit from it.

The second book we're using is titled Did Adam and Eve Have Bellybuttons? (And 199 Other Questions from Catholic Teenagers) by Matthew J. Pinto. This, despite the silly title, is a rich, rich apologetics work for young people, designed to help them "give reasons for the hope that is within them" (I Peter 3:15). I want them to be knowledgeable about their Catholic faith, able to seek answers for the things they don't know; able to evangelize other people.

But most of all, able to provide answers to questions like "Do you worship that statue?" (last year from a member of the volleyball team upon seeing a pretty little figurine of the Blessed Mother on the girls' dresser) and "Is it true that nuns put on shrouds at night and sleep in coffins?"

Good grief.

We're going to continue with our Bible reading in the manner of St. Benedict, the ancient practice of lectio divina, which is reading the scriptures slowly, slowly, and waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts. This is a skill tha has to be learned, because in our fast-paced society, we're used to gobbling up information in sound bites and top-of-the-hour news briefs. It's hard to be still, but the Bible wasn't necessarily meant to be scanned or skimmed, just for the sake of saying, "Yes, I read it!"

What's the purpose if it's being read so quickly, nothing is being absorbed into the mind or the soul?

We did the four Gospels last year, so now we're moving on to the epistles.

That's all we had time for this morning, because today was the second day of the Hamlet Workshop. We drove over to Indianapolis to Michelle's house and I held a class of twenty students and two parents absolutely enthralled for three and a half hours.

Well, okay. Maybe "enthralled" isn't the right word. But nobody threw rotten fruit (but that could have just been respect for Michelle's carpet) and nobody booed me (at least not that I could hear) and I think it's important to be positive, don't you?

This week I was so nervous that I was one continuous hot flash, so I had to stand in front of the group with a hanky, dabbing my forehead. What a silly idiot I am. But these parents paid a good bit and are driving their kids considerable distances for them to learn about Shakespeare and Hamlet and I want to do a good job. I want the kids to enjoy Shakespeare's plays and I want the parents to feel that they've gotten their money's worth.

I think I slept for about four hours last night. But my nerves kept me full of energy from the first moment to the last, so I don't think it was totally hideous. I sure wish I had the technological ability to put all my nine million handouts into a Power Point presentation, or even on overlays with an old-fashioned overhead projector, beloved friend of my ninth grade algebra teacher.

All in all, an extremely busy first day back.

(I think I may have a sinus infection.)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

45 years ago, my mother didn't get married

Today is my parents' forty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Or it would be if they'd actually gotten married.

My father, a very moral man who was understandably a bit nervous at the irregular circumstances of his relationship with my mother, what with two kids and two dogs and a mortgage and everything, attempted to marry my mother again on September 1, 1982. This was the date that marked their "twentieth anniversary," but unfortunately it didn't happen. For the second time, my father stood in the front of the church with a minister and the ear of God and the presence of friends and family, but walked out of the church just as much of a sinner as when he went in.

My mother, having donned a pretty dress and a veil and the whole works, has never been able to say her wedding vows. The two ministers, circa 1962 and 1982, have tried to pry an "I do" or an "I will" or even a head-nod out of her, but she's never been able to do it. She has always been obscured by a fog of tears, weeping stormily into lace hankies, standing there by my father who might or might not have been wondering: What have I got myself into?

"Never said her vows?" I said incredulously on the occasion of being told that I was a love child, conceived in sin. I think I was about thirty-seven at the time. "Never said...?"

"Nope," said my father, dealing out a hand of Hearts. "No 'I do,' no 'I will,' no nothing. Just with the crying and all."

"What's the matter with you, woman?" I asked, turning to my mother as she sorted through her cards, emitting a small shriek of displeasure when she found the Queen of Spades. "Can you imagine what the congregation was thinking?"

"I was beyond thinking about congregations," she said.

"Well, yeah, because everybody probably thought that Grandpa brought a shotgun to the church and said, 'You get yourself married, you little...."

"Okay, first of all," she interrupted, "your grandpa doesn't talk like that. You do, and I don't know why because I raised you right. Second of all, I was pregnant a month after we got married, not before."

True. That's true. They were married on September 1, 1962 and I was born on June 29, 1963, which is plenty of time to incubate a suitably full-term infant, especially one as gigantic as I was.

My father threw the two of clubs out into the middle of the table to start the game. "You were born in plenty of time to avoid any kind of scandal. Or you would have been if your mom and I were actually married. Which I still don't think we really are."

I played the ace of clubs; my mother played the king. "Oh, Bob, you stop that talk," she rebuked him.

I played the jack of spades and she reached over and hit me on the arm, throwing her queen of spades onto the table. My father, with a self-satisfied smirk, played the ten of spades and my mother hit him, too.

"So why were you crying then, if you weren't being forced down the aisle to give your unborn child a name?" I teased her.

"Well, I guess just because....well, because I loved your dad..."

"You do mean this man right here, don't you?"

"I did NOT raise you to say things like that..."

"I'm just checking."

"Besides, you look just like him."

"You are very lucky," my father advised me, raking in the next trick.

"Were you hedging your bets, just in case your high school boyfriend turned up again? What was his name?" I tapped my finger on my pursed lips.

"That would be Dennis," said my dad. And then, in a squeaky falsetto, "Ohhh, Dennis! You're so dreaaaaamy! Dennis, can I wear your frat pin? Oh, Dennis, you're soooo handsome in your Red Devils varsity letter sweater!"

"You're just like Pat Boone, only even more handsome," I joined him and we fell about laughing.

My mother viewed us both with displeasure, her brows drawn together and her spine straight. "I was not hedging my bets," she said with dignity. "I was moved by the ceremony! My heart was touched! I was marrying the man of my dreams!"

"Weren't you....nineteen?" I asked.

"Shut up," she said.

"Because when I wanted to get married at age twenty-seven, you told me I didn't know my own mind."

"I was very mature for my age," she said repressively.

"Besides," my dad added, "the ministers - both of them - felt that since she didn't actually bolt for an exit, that implied that she wanted to go throught the ceremony - both of them."

"Are you happy now?" my mother asked, trying to avoid taking in some hearts.

"So I'm not a love child?"

"Well, you are loved, but not that kind of love child."

"Darn. That was a good story, about how my parents have never been married."

"I raised you better than that..."