Friday, December 31, 2010
The Saturday after Christmas, we packed up the boys and drove to Orlando, Florida and Walt Disney World. It was a 15-hour trip, and suffice it to say, long in many ways other than just duration. But, we did have a fantastic week at WDW, and this time the boys have drunk the Kool-Aid. They were just old enough to really appreciate every last bit, but young enough to really feel the magic (Disney magic = something you feel as a young'un, sometimes lose as a teen, but get it back as an adult!). More on our trip later.
After we got back from Florida, the Christmas season was in full-swing! I felt so behind, it was as if I'd woken up late and couldn't catch up with the rest of the class. We lost one weekend in December traveling back home, so we were forced to fit a month's worth of Christmas fun into only two weekends (it didn't help that Christmas fell on a Saturday). We went to the tree farm, decorated the house, rode the Christmas train, and did all of our gift shopping in what seemed like a whirlwind....all for the big day, which, as it always does, passed by in the blink of an eye.
All in all, December was a crazy month in which we didn't slow down even for a minute. I am so ready for 2011...I am looking forward to spending the winter getting organized, sharing some downtime with the family, and we are fortunate to have many exciting things to anticipate in the new year. Happy New Year, everyone!
Thursday, November 25, 2010
As I reflect today (before I start my patriotic duty of overeating), I feel very, very lucky that it takes as long as it does for me to count my blessings.
I thank God for:
- My family. Those people who have known my my entire life and helped me become the woman I am today. My amazing husband, who has stuck by me through thick and thin for close to 14 years, who is my best friend and partner in crime. My beautiful boys who are my entire world, and who make my life sparkle.
- My friends. My old friends. My new friends. My Twitter friends. I love each and everyone of you, and my world wouldn't be the same without all of you to love.
- Our home. It might not be the biggest house in town, and there are some projects around here that need doing, but we have nice warm beds to sleep in, a snuggly couch to watch movies together, and a stocked up kitchen to keep our bellies full. Some people definitely don't have it as easy, and thank God for our house.
- Work. In this economy, there are many, many families who have lost jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. I am so grateful for my husband's job. Yes, he works crazy hours, and sometimes misses some of the fun stuff the boys are doing, but he has a job that puts food on our table and clothing on our backs.
- Strength and health. The boys are healthy! They both must wear glasses, but if that is the most of my worries, I am quite lucky!! So many parents and children must struggle with life-threatening illnesses and disabilities, and I am in awe of their strength. And speaking of strength, I am so blessed that God gave me a certain amount of strength during some crazy times...the strength to deal with my arthritis -- live with it for 20 years now, and keep on truckin'...the strength to have a stroke at a young age but persevere through it and continue on without a scratch.
- Last but not least, I'm thankful for a little football club up in the North of England that provides us with drama, entertainment, and passion for the entire family...! :)
Friday, November 12, 2010
In a town about an hour and a half away from our home, a 14-year old boy walked in front of a tractor trailer and killed himself. He was being bullied by children at school and thought death was the only way he could escape. The news showed a picture of the little guy, and between that and how he was described in news articles, this latest example of the harm bullying can cause has really hit home for me. "Always smiling," "a sweet kid," and his grinning, bespectacled face just made me sob. All things that made me think of my own son.
Unfortunately, this little boy's death is just the latest in a rash of similar suicides caused by bullying.
Your child's classmates are supposed to be their peers, their community, their friends; not their tormentors. Just because someone marches to the beat of their own drummer they do not deserve to be treated as an outcast. School is meant to be a place of enlightenment, not bigotry. I am outraged. I am heartbroken. I am angry; I'm sad. The underlying emotion is disbelief. How can this be happening?? We as parents need to, of course, watch our children for signs of being bullied, but what about the parents of the bullies?? You need to WAKE UP! You know your child. Talk to your kids. It is as important for you to be involved and cognizant of the signs of a bully as it is for the rest of us to look for signs of children being bullied.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
I am sure you're probably scratching your head and wondering why this is blog-worthy at all. But, if you're a parent, and especially a football-loving parent, this a pretty big deal.
The first season we played U6, it was basically everything a soccer team should be for a four-year-0ld. They had cute little t-shirts (not kits), they played on a field with orange cones as goals, and they basically all swarmed after the ball up and down the field like one big rugby scrum! It was unbearably cute, all the little preschoolers running, dancing, twirling, and falling down on the pitch -- basically doing anything but actually playing the ball. Positions? Pah - even the goalkeeper didn't stay in the goal. And you can forget about passing. Most of the children were stealing the ball from their own teammates! Big Guy was the epitome of all of this...and my husband and I thought -- will he ever be ready for the big leagues (U8)?
This last season for Big Guy was different though. Towards the end of the season, my little attention seeker had stopped running along the sidelines, waving to the crowd. No more was he on the opposite side of the pitch from the swarm of kids around the ball. He wasn't dancing anymore -- he was dribbling, and he was scoring. All of a sudden, it was like a light switch turned on in his mind. He knew what to do, and he was doing it.
I can't even begin to tell you what this means to my husband. He's been an avid football player his entire life, and still plays twice a week. He'll say, "Whatever the boys want to do, it's fine with me. As long as they're happy." But you can bet your bottom dollar that seeing the Big Guy in action as he scored his first goal -- his big old macho heart was just bursting with pride.
Who knows where our son's big epiphany came from...coaching from Dad? The fact that we watch Manchester United religiously every week on television with him? Brainwashing? Haven't a clue. All we know Big Guy is really starting to develop the skills he needs to match the passion he has in his heart. I can only imagine his excitement when he dons his numbered jersey for the very first time. The look on his face will be priceless and I can't wait. He may be only moving up to U8, but for him, this will be a dream come true.
(Now we just hope and pray for the same epiphany for Little Guy! :)
Monday, November 1, 2010
Big Guy's school Halloween party...lots of fun, games, crafts and dancing!
Next up, Little Guy's preschool Halloween parade...the PreK-4 class marched around their little courtyard. So cute. His classmate was the very first female Iron Man that I've ever seen!
The weekend of Halloween, the boys were lucky enough to have not one, but two trick-or-treating trips! The first was Saturday night in our neighborhood. They came home with some pretty decent - sized candy hauls.
Finally, Sunday, October 31st finally arrived. The boys culminated the spooky season by trick-or-treating at my mom and dad's house alongside their cousins/best friends.
A good time was definitely had by all...and the memories (and candy!) will last long after this Halloween. Though I think we're all pretty happy that it's November -- we're going to Walt Disney World this month!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Wayne Rooney has come to personify our team. For better or worse, he is the current face of United, and most people, supporters and not, identify him as an integral part of this team. In fact, earlier in the year, Rooney went so far as saying he would love to sign a lifelong contract with the club -- expressing the desire to play for the Red Devils forever.
On Tuesday, October 19th, our stalwart manager, Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed these rumors and my darkest fears. Wayne Rooney, indeed, wanted to leave United. The next day, in a statement, Rooney himself verified it. There were a whole host of issues surrounding this change of heart, and United fans across the globe debated the motivation for this. Was our man looking for more money? Did he really feel the current squad wasn't up to par? Did any of it really matter, as Wayne's form has been lackluster in the past 6 months?
I, of course, as all United fans did, had my own opinions on the situation. But, being a mother, I had one concern that trumped all the others - how was my Big Guy going to react to the news?
Big Guy has always been indoctrinated with United love ever since birth. However, ever since he really started to 'get' football and play it himself, he has loved Wayne Rooney. Number 10 is his favorite player, and as much as I hate to admit that my boy idolizes an athlete, Wayne Rooney is Big Guy's hero. Last week, as Rooney was spouting his hurtful and insulting comments about our cherished team, all that kept running through my mind was, "How in the world am I going to break this news to him?" I knew he'd be inconsolable; after all, I was taking away his first boyhood role model.
As I gently told him, he started to cry and then stopped himself. I could see him making a decision in his little head. "Don't tell me. It's not true." And he just began to refuse to believe it! For two entire days, he just ignored the facts and pretended it wasn't happening. Burying his head in the sand to say the least.
Finally, after meetings with the owners and manager, Rooney did a complete 180 and signed a 5-year contract with the club! On one hand, I was exuberant - I told Big Guy straight away that Sir Alex convinced Rooney that staying with the club was the right thing to do (true or not). He'd be able to keep wearing his precious Rooney top and watching his hero play in a red jersey. On the other hand, his mother is not so forgiving. I was a huge Rooney fan, too, but this whole ride has made me wary. You better watch your step, Wayne Rooney. If you ever break my child's heart again, there will be hell to pay.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
We. Are. Going. To. MANCHESTER!!
My husband has been to Manchester and Old Trafford before. When the family visited London in 2004, he took the train up north and was able to see a United match. He was hooked! He has been wanting to go back ever since. This spring, he decided it was time to do it, and take me along to my first ever pilgrimage to Old Trafford.
We are taking the boys to Walt Disney World in November, so we knew our little parents-only vacay would have to wait until after the first of the year. We waited patiently until mid-June when United's match schedule was released. We wanted to go to a 'big game' but we couldn't go in April or May because the boys' schedules are just so full at that time of year. As luck would have it, the Manchester derby (when Manchester United plays Manchester City) occurs in February. We found our date!!
Vacationing in England at that time of year is old hat for us. We have only been to Jolly Old in February or March in all the times we've been before. Compared to the weather here, it's absolutely balmy over there! Besides, I hate sweaty sight-seeing!
So, now all that's left to do is wait, and count down the days. 134 and counting until we make our way...home.
PS -- Check out my countdown on the right hand column of the blog!
Monday, September 27, 2010
Of late, we've been attending Crystal Palace Baltimore matches. CPB is a small, professional soccer team that competes in the United States Soccer Federation's 2nd Division. It's a really fun club to watch, and while not on par with the skill & talent level of United, it's a great way for the boys to get to watch live football. It's also a small enough club that they are able to go meet the players and get their autographs after home matches.
CPB is the sister club of the English Crystal Palace Football Club. Unfortunately, we are now hearing that the American club is facing the same financial problems as its UK counterpart. However, here, the club's problems lie with their lack of support. They don't have very many fans, and they don't even have their own stadium. And, as CPB was only founded in 2006, they don't have the history of their sister club, nor the deep bond with the fans they do have. I find this situation to be very sad...although my family has only been to two matches so far, both of the boys loved every minute. Especially the Big Guy. It is simply amazing how moved and inspired he was when he watched live football. It is safe to say that it solidified his love for the sport and his passion for the beautiful game. Between his loyalty to United, and seeing football played "in real life" right before his eyes, there is no doubt that he will be a lifelong football enthusiast.
And that's what makes the woes of CPB even more regrettable and disheartening. It feels as though they weren't even given the tools or the opportunity to succeed. All I can do is continue to give my family's support for the club, and desperately hope for some miracle to turn things around for CPB, like the happy ending that arrived in Selhurst Park.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
“Most of us are in this more than just for playing soccer. We're in it for the bigger goal: to move it along for the next generation.” --Landon Donovan
Something very exciting happened today!! This weekend, Big Guy decided that he wanted to be Landon Donovan for Halloween. Now we all know that this family eats, sleeps and breathes Manchester United, but dressing as Landon is very timely because of the World Cup this year, and there's nothing wrong with expressing a little patriotism in your Halloween costume! :)
On Twitter today, I tweeted to Landon Donovan that my son was going to be him for Halloween. It was on a whim, and not expected to really go anywhere. My tweets are 'protected' which means no one who isn't following me can see them. And if fellow tweeters want to follow me, I have to accept them (a la Facebook). My friend Robin thought it was cute and she retweeted my comment. And then the craziest thing happened. Landon. Donovan. Replied!!!
He made a joke about the costume, and making sure that the accompanying wig would have plenty of hair. I, of course, immediately started freaking out..."fan girl-ing" squealing, jumping around, the whole bit. Now I can't WAIT for Big Guy to get home from school to show him. Eeeeeeee!!!! :)
Monday, September 20, 2010
The time passes so quickly, I need to slow down and start savoring these little people. On a daily basis, they crack me up with some of the comments they make and conversations they have with each other and me. I really need to start writing everything they say down -- they will be mortifying memories in high school, but they will love it when they get older...or at least their wives will!
Here is just a sampling of gems -- one day in the life of the Big Guy:
- "Can I wear my Manchester United jersey to my First Holy Communion?"
- Getting ready for CCD: "God school is fun!"
- As we are driving to my dad's birthday dinner: "So, how old is Papa now? One hundred?"
- Looking at his new winter coat: "Wow!! That is brilliant!"
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Nine years ago today, I was working as a legislative aide for a United States Senator. I was driving to work, and the only thing that seemed out of the ordinary was the weather. That particular Tuesday was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was shining grandly, but it wasn’t too hot. It was a positively glorious autumn morning.
I pulled into the parking lot of the Senate Office Building where I worked, and I heard on the news radio station I was listening to in the car that someone had flown a plane in to one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I simply thought, “Some idiot with a Cessna who doesn’t know what they’re doing. I hope not too many people are hurt.”
I walked into my office, and turn on the television. All legislative staff in the Senate offices have their own TVs to keep an eye on proceedings on the Senate floor. Everyone watched as the second plane flew directly into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m.
No one knew what was going on. Everyone was panicking on the inside, but we were all trying to keep it together on the outside. Our supervisor called us into the conference room for our normal morning staff meeting. She said, “I know everyone is upset and confused. But we need to stay focused.” As our Senator was on the Armed Services Committee, we had a National Security team, comprised of three staffers. She said that those three could watch the developments on the news, but the rest of us had to watch the floor, as per usual. Especially me, as the Senators were debating an Appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice and State Departments, which I was covering.
After the meeting, we returned to our offices. At 9:37, as I was diligently watching the floor business, all the Senators and staff vacated the Senate floor. We heard that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. My Chief of Staff came in to my office and said, “Get out NOW. The Senator wants everyone OUT.” I protested, “What about the CJS Approps bill!??” Looking back now, that was incredibly silly, but we were all losing it at that point.
What we didn’t know then was that Flight 93 had already been hijacked, reversed course, and was barreling its way back to Washington, DC with the United States Capitol as it's intended target.
I quickly dialed my husband, who had worked a late shift the night prior and was sleeping. “We’re under attack.” I told him, and the line went dead.
Luckily, our Senator had the foresight to evacuate us before the formal evacuation orders came from Capitol Police. Because of that, those of us that lived outside of DC were able to leave the city before they started closing roads down.
I got to my car, and tried to call my husband again on my cell phone. It took me a few tries, but I got through to him. I told him what was going on, and that I was coming home. By this time, he knew what was going on because he’d seen the news. While I was talking to him, there was a loud BOOM! I said, “What was that??” And my cell phone went dead. They had closed down the cell towers in the city. My poor husband didn’t hear from me again for another two hours, and he didn’t know what was happening or if I was okay. We never did find out what that noise was…the fighter jets scrambling, an explosion at the Pentagon, who knows…
During my interminable ride home, the radio was crazed with rumors. There was a car bomb at the State Department; the White House was under attack, etc. I also heard as the Towers of the World Trade Center fell to the ground. And when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. When I finally made it home, my husband hugged me and left…the city’s entire police department had been called in.
I sat glued to the television for the next eight or so hours. There were many times I felt I couldn’t breathe. It was all so surreal, so impossibly frightening. Silly as it sounds, I kept thinking back to the ‘80s movie “Red Dawn.” It was so implausible because no one could ever touch us, as we were safely entrenched behind American borders. And yet, here this all was happening to us. It was like a nightmare.Needless to say, it was a day that will live forever in the hearts and minds of everyone who was touched by September 11th in any way. And today, we take time to remember all of those who were lost in those cowardly, horrific attacks on our beloved country. I also like to think that they are looking down on us, proud of how our nation kept moving. Proud of how determined we were and still are to not let them break us. Proud of how we all stood together and proclaimed our love for this great American nation. Proud of how we vowed to never forget.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
This year, he started the 1st Grade. He was beyond excited; he couldn't wait to go to sleep last night to make sure he got "good rest" for his new year. He woke up this morning, and immediately wanted to get dressed and put on his backpack -- who needs breakfast?!?
I have mixed emotions about the boys starting back to school. We have had a great summer together, laughing, playing, just being together. I am going to miss not having my little buddies with me all day long. We've had a blast being bosom buddies for three months!
The beginning of another school year also serves as a milestone marker: they're another year older, and another year more independent from me. When they were babies, they relied on me for everything...and while they're still only 4 and 6, I see them getting their own snacks, going to the bathroom by themselves and getting dressed solo and it makes me realize: they're needing me less and less. Case in point: yesterday, a song came on the radio, and I started dancing around the family room. While they used to jump in and dance along with me, Big Guy said, "Mommy, can you please stop it?" It's going to be a tough transition for me from the center of their universe to the 'embarrassing mom!'
On the other hand, I do have to admit a little part of me is excited...Little Guy will be in preschool three days a week, and with Big Guy in school all day long -- that means Mommy will actually get some 'me' time!! There will be errands I can run and just jump in and out of the car -- no handing holding in parking lots or buckling and unbuckling of carseat belts. I can spend some time shopping for me or getting my nails done, stuff I can't do with two crazy boys in tow. Even cleaning the house without little messmakers following me around is (somewhat of) a luxury...
At any rate, school is here, whether it makes me happy or sad. They're growing up and stepping out, and I can either long for the days of babyhood or look excitedly to the next phase of their lives. Every year with them has been an adventure, and this one won't be any different. And, it doesn't hurt that a little bit of my 'pre-kids' self is coming back slowly as they grow. I'll just hold on tight to their little hands for as long as I can and say, "Bring on the future!"
Monday, August 9, 2010
And a big part of our war cry yesterday was our new signing, Javier Hernandez, aka 'Chicharito.' Our first signing of the season, way back before the World Cup, Manchester United fans the world over have been waiting to see what he can do in a red shirt. He was relatively unknown before WC2010, but he quickly made an international name for himself as a player for the Mexican national team. He not only scored two goals, but also was clocked as the fastest player of the World Cup by FIFA statisticians.
So, yesterday, we all waited with bated breath to see what this kid from Mexico would show us. And, he did not disappoint. With the second half of the match just underway he scored a goal...not just any goal, mind you. He kicked into his own face and basically netted the ball with his nose! I think the way he scored is going to be symbolic of his style...he's going to work and try and be successful at Manchester United - no matter how it gets done, he will persevere until the mission is accomplished.
Another harbinger of great things to come was Chicharito celebrating that goal. He kissed the United badge on his jersey. While that act seems to mean less and less in these days of billion pound transfers, Chicharito's kiss seemed authentic. He seems genuinely thrilled to be in a United uniform, and in my opinion, sincerely sees his future with the Red Devils. I think that Chicharito represents a bright new future for Manchester United fans, and I have no doubt that the feeling is mutual.
Monday, August 2, 2010
This blog brought to you thanks to Sarah's Blog
Five years ago, I'd just had a stroke (see more here). I had no residual effects, and I was well on the road to recovery. I actually had no idea just how 'normal' I was...two months after my stroke and subsequent neurosurgery, I found out I was expecting a child!! After everything my body had been through, my husband and I had a sort of unspoken agreement that we were lucky to have our family just as it was, the three of us. But, apparently, God had a different plan for us. A complete shock, and a lesson to all you young people -- it only takes once! :)
This is a tough one...one which I ask myself on a daily basis, though. In five years, the boys will be 11 and 9 years old and obviously in school all day. I would love to be working in the political arena again, with a job that's incredibly important yet extremely flexible. A job where I can do meaningful work, but yet allows me as much time as need or want to continue to raise my family. Does that exist?
2.) Fold laundry
3.) Get in touch with the travel agent about November trip to Disney
4.) Order United shorts for the boys for football camp next week
5.) Finish this blog entry! :)
Wow, I could write a book to answer this question! If I won the lottery, first things first, I would take my family (including grandparents and cousins) to Walt Disney World. This would not only be a vacation, it would be time for the husband and me to figure out exactly what our plan would be for the money. We would make sure all of our family and extended family were taken care of. We would buy a new house. (Not too huge, mind you, but with all of the latest green technologies.) We would set aside a trust for the boys' university. And then we would travel. We would see everywhere and do everything. My goal would be to become as familiar with all of the great cities of the globe as I am with my hometown. Finally, last but not least...I would buy a little football club in Manchester, England...!
Thursday, July 22, 2010
My beloved Manchester United continued their North American tour, taking on the MLS team, Philadelphia Union. The match took place at Lincoln Financial Field, because although the Union has recently opened their own stadium, it wasn't large enough to hold all the spectators that attended last night's game.
My husband and I took the big guy, who at six years old, is already crazy for United. We live fairly close to Philadelphia, so we hit the road with the intention of arriving about an hour and a half before kick-off. As Murphy's Law would dictate, on our way there, we were stuck in some pretty awful traffic. As the minutes ticked by, and our car didn't move, I started to get very anxious. I had been counting down to this day for months and I couldn't believe this was happening!
We finally arrived at the field and got to our seats, with maybe 15 minutes to spare...whew! I certainly wish that we had been able to meander a bit and take our time soaking up the atmosphere, but we made it for the most important part and really that was all that mattered.
There were over 44,000 fans filling the stadium. Although the Union is in it's inaugural year, they already have some very dedicated (and vocal) supporters. Their group, Sons of Ben, was out in force, singing and chanting. Even though we were rooting for the other team, it was very encouraging to see that kind of support from Americans for an MLS team.
The match itself was a very fast-paced and exciting one. I don't know if United was playing down a bit, or the club's youngsters were still kind of feeling their way, but the Union definitely held its own. Philly had some great chances - while most were lacking a competent finish, some were only saved by the skill of our keeper, Tomasz Kusczak. United and the Union went to halftime, 0-0.
Finally, in the 76th minute, Gaby Obertan scored a sweet goal, and United was up 1-0. And while the Union continued to press and had one goal disallowed as offside, the game finished with my beloved Manchester United victorious.
As for me, had the Red Devils won or lost, it was an experience that truly left me awestruck. Being able to watch the legendary Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs in action was incredible. Sitting in the stadium while my beloved club was working their magic on the pitch was as compelling as I'd imagined. I can't wait until the day when I finally set foot in Old Trafford. As magnificent as my experience last night was, I know being there will be most extraordinary dream come true of them all.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Of course, in the interim, we have been lucky enough to have a month of international football thanks to the 2010 World Cup. And while that kept us entertained for a while, I am quite sure that any United supporter, if asked, would tell you in no uncertain terms that it just wasn't the same as watching our precious club.
So, today Manchester United begins their pre-season tour of North America in Toronto, Canada against Scottish side, Celtic. I know all of us who love the club have barely quelled elation today and hearts pounding from excitement and anticipation...so, in honor of our treasured team, here's a few recipes to fill your glass as you raise it to those beautiful boys in Red.
½ shot Cointreau
2 shots raspberry vodka
½ shot raspberry liqueur
1 shot lime juice
¾ shot sugar syrup
Fill a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Add all the ingredients and shake very well. Strain into an ice-filled tumbler and serve garnished with a fresh raspberry.
1 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz sloe gin
2 dashes orange bitters
Pour the sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, sloe gin and orange bitters into an old-fashioned glass two-thirds filled with crushed ice. Stir well, garnish with a slice of orange, and serve.
Red Devil Cocktail
1 1/2 oz vodka
1 1/2 oz peach schnapps
1 1/2 oz Southern Comfort
1 1/2 oz sloe gin
2 oz triple sec
2 oz orange juice
1 splash grenadine
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
As we (my mother, husband, son & I) were enjoying the morning, I started to get a ringing in my ears. It was not the normal ringing that everyone gets occasionally. It was so loud, it drowned out everything, the television, my toddler, everything. I started to panic and exclaimed to my husband, "I can't move!!" and indeed, I felt like I couldn't move my arms or legs. However, according to my husband, I was flailing wildly, thrashing all of my limbs about.
My husband called an ambulance and I was taken to the hospital right away. We spent the entire day in the Emergency Room where none of the doctors could figure out what was wrong with me. I was in and out of consciousness while they ran myriad tests. They were reluctant to give me a CT scan to check me out neurologically, because I was too young for that type of ailment. Finally, at the end of the day when the doctors had exhausted all of their options, they scheduled me for a CT scan. Turns out I'd had a stroke with a cerebellar infarction, which had caused a clot in my brain.
I was pretty much out of it as they came to this diagnosis, and my parents were home taking care of my son. The neurologist and the neurosurgeon were at odds on how to treat me. The neurosurgeon took my husband into a utility closet, and basically said to him, "If we don't operate on your wife, she is going to die." My poor husband, he said he immediately wanted to call a 'grown-up' because he didn't know what to do. He decided to sign the consent papers and go ahead with the surgery.
To make a long story short, they put me into a medically-induced coma, performed the surgery to remove part of my cerebellum and I stayed in the ICU for about a week. While this was an excruciating time for my family, I barely remember any of it. The recovery wasn't too bad either. I was in physical therapy for about a month, and then I was released. I have a huge scar from the base of my skull to about half way up my head but that's it. I have absolutely no residual effects.
I would never, ever say I am glad this happened, but I am thankful for the awesome perspective it gave me, and how it demonstrated what is important. My family, friends, health, happiness are really all that matters in this life. It also really taught me that things I thought were so vital, like material possessions or petty jealousies, really aren't worth it.
So, five years later, not only going strong, but almost like my stroke never even happened. I never much thought about the phrase, "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" until this. I'm happy to say I'm living proof.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Say what? While these comments, (and many, many others by Mr. Beck et al) seem outrageous and preposterous to me, this is not an abnormal view of soccer by Americans. For example, I recently posted a video tribute to the Men's National Team on my Facebook page, and someone commented, "That's great. Now when will we win a cup?" In spite of all the progress soccer has made, and all the hard work our national team has done, there are still so many people out there that scorn the sport. They don't just 'not follow' it -- they actively hate it. Why?
There are so many theories out there on why Americans haven't taken to soccer. Some people find the game slow, not enough goals, they don't understand draws, find the rules confusing and so on. But those 'explanations' don't justify the out-and-out hostility some folks have toward the sport. Nobody ridicules a fan because hockey isn't as mainstream as baseball. Even golf has a level of respect greater than soccer in this country. Mystifying.
Personally, I think people like Mr. Beck, ESPN's Jim Rome and their ilk are so outspoken in their soccer-scorn because they are threatened by it. He basically came out and said so in his quote above -- "exceptionalism." Because you don't automatically come into a sport and kick ass and take names, it's stupid? Because you actually have to compete with the rest of the world, soccer must be communist? Because you actually have to work your way up to be the best and it's not given to you on a red, white, and blue platter, soccer should be mocked?
This is America, of course. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and to make it known (no matter how ludicrous). But these hateful, foolish words about not only a sport, but those other Americans who love it, only demonstrate how out-of-touch these people are. Is it not American to work as hard as you can to achieve the improbable? It's a shame - not only do they misunderstand soccer, but they obviously misunderstand the American dream.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
I did it! I finally did it! I got a 'smartphone!' After years of hearing others rave about their Blackberries, iPhones, and now Droids, I finally got one! My husband ordered it for me about three weeks ago, but the Incredible was backordered and it didn't arrive until this week.
I was so very excited for this new adventure...I talked about it incessantly to everyone who would listen (special apology to my Twitter friends who probably endured hundreds of tweets on the subject!).
Hurray! I have finally arrived... But in the immortal words of Luke Skywalker, I'm pretty sure that considering I can barely put this little Droid down, it's probably going to get me into some trouble!! :)
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
1.) I could get lost for days in a bookstore.
2.) I honestly enjoy working out very much. I hate running, though.
3.) I am a deeply religious person. But, I don't hit you over the head with it.
4.) My husband is simply one of the best people I know. And I love him as much as I did when he came stumbling into my dorm room, wasted, the first night of college.
5.) There has never been a time in my life that I didn't think I needed to lose at least 5 lbs.
6.) I constantly worry about my sons' health. And their social skills. And their intellect. And whether they will be polite, won't hit, will go to college, etc. Parenthood is by far the hardest job I have ever, or will ever, have.
7.) I kinda want to be British.
8.) I love tweeting!! I was pretty resistant to it at first, but I've met some amazing people through Twitter.
9.) I am most terrified of failing as a parent.
10.) I LOVE television (I know, I know). But I reconcile this fact with the following: a.) for the most part, I dig 'smart' shows like Lost, and I loved Studio 60 and West Wing, and b.) I love to read just as much.
11.) My life is SO not what I'd imagined. Completely different, but infinitely better.
12.) My grandparents were both born in the very early years of the 20th century. I think of them on a daily basis and wonder how they would react to various forms of technology.
13.) I believe that it should be REQUIRED for everyone to watch What Not To Wear, and follow Clinton and Stacey's rules TO THE LETTER.
14.) I often wonder what my boys will be like as men.
15.) My dream vacation would be a trip around the world, capped off by a week in Disney World. There's nothing I would rather do more than travel.
16.) I miss DC (sometimes violently) and especially the people I worked with down there.
17.) I feel that grammar and eloquent speech are of vital importance.
18.) One of the greatest gifts my husband has ever given me is an appreciation and love for soccer and Manchester United.
19.) I dream of writing a novel, if I could just get over myself. And, find the time.
20.) I love being Catholic. Just going to Mass can make me feel better about almost anything.
21.) Looking back, I was a baby when I got married just a month after my 24th birthday. I would NOT change a thing, but I also would strenuously object if either of my boys wanted to get
married that young!
22.) I talk to my mother, my father, and my sister via telephone at least once a day, if not more.
23.) No matter how hard I try, or how closely I follow a recipe, I cannot cook to save my life.
24.) I am a straight-up, unapologetic girly-girl. I was a cheerleader in high school and in a sorority in college. I love hair, make-up, fashion, shoes, handbags, shopping...need I go on? I am convinced God gave me two little boys to offset this a bit.
25.) If you were my friend at any point in time, you're stuck with me for life.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Okay, okay, I know I see everything through "soccer-colored glasses." But, on this particular 4th of July there is no better example of what it means to be an American than our Men's National soccer team.
As an American, the ideals I associate with our great country are: Passion. Bravery. Perseverance. Grit. Spirit. We, as Americans, pride ourselves on the fact that we stand up for ourselves, and we love to accomplish the impossible. While Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and the others might not have achieved everything they set out to do, they certainly embodied the American spirit to a tee. Their integrity and honor shows us all how to be the best Americans we can be. Stars and Stripes Forever!
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Like I said, crappy two weeks. Awful to the Nth degree.
I spent Sunday in full stages-of-grief mode. I bemoaned the fact that Little Guy missed two birthday parties, the first session of swim lessons, and a trip to see Thomas the Tank Engine at the local railroad. I mourned the US team's loss to Ghana and their missed opportunities. I nursed the sting of loss. Luckily, before I spiraled out of control, Monday came.
Not traditionally anyone's favorite day, no one can argue that Monday is always the day for fresh starts. Little Guy started his first day of swim lessons! We opened our paddling pool, sandbox, and umbrella picnic table - we spent the entire day outside splashing and playing and picnic-ing. And I came to grips with our wonderful soccer team's loss. Those boys gave an entire country something to be proud of. They gave their all in every single match and played with undeniable heart and spirit. It was amazing the way they captured the love of the entire nation, even those Americans who aren't usually soccer fans. It was heart-warming the way the country continued to respect and be grateful to them even when they lost.
I guess the lesson of all this IS the lesson...every difficult time you go through teaches you something. With the Little Guy, we went through two incredibly tough weeks, but the happy ending we got was worth every minute. With our soccer team, we weren't lucky enough to get that happy ending. But, supporting them, seeing the country rally around them, and being awed by their courage, character, and never-say-die attitude -- I wouldn't have traded a minute of that for the world.
Everything happens for a reason, and whether you come out happier on the other side or not, you come out wiser and stronger nonetheless. Lesson learned.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
We've all long heard, "Americans can't play soccer." Or the infamous English newspaper headline, "E(ngland)-A(lgeria)-S(lovenia)-Y(anks)" Well, I think Team USA has proved one thing today all the detractors, in the United States and across the globe - YOU'RE WRONG. Today, not only did the United States win their game against Algeria, but we garnered enough points and goals throughout the past three matches that we won our group - for the first time since 1930. In the 91st minuted of the match, Landon Donovan scored the game-winning goal that advanced us to the next round of the World Cup.
"This team embodies what the American spirit is about," Donovan said. "We had a goal disallowed the other night. We had another good goal disallowed tonight. But we just keep going. And I think that's what people admire so much about Americans. And I'm damn proud."
You said it, Landon - the American spirit. We keep on keeping on. We keep driving, enduring, pursuing. Today, you are proud. We are proud of you. And we are all proud to be Americans.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
It's a cliche, but this was definitely a story of two halves. Team USA played their hearts out after the half. Captain Landon Donovan scored an absolutely beautiful goal to put us right back in the game. Next, Michael Bradley, son of our manager, scored the equalizer. In the final minutes of the match, Maurice Edu volleyed a free kick from our Landy-cakes, and we took the match 3-2!! And that's the fairy-tale, comeback ending we deserved. Unfortunately, the match official, Koman Coulibaly, saw a penalty in the play and called the goal back. The final score was a 2-2 draw.
I could go on and on about how unfair this was. About how spot-on, penalty-free the goal actually was. But I've come to terms with it, I think (although we were CLEARLY robbed!). US Soccer Daily's blog has a pretty accurate description of what US fans felt today.
However, whether we gained 3 points or 1 today, the heart we showed in today's game was undeniable. People around the globe discount the United States when it comes to soccer, and I think today's match may just have them doing a little re-thinking. We still have a long way to go to catch up with countries whose football is a way of life and a national passion. But it's irrefutable that we are getting stronger every single year. We have the best team we've ever had and we're just going to get better. Never underestimate the power of the American spirit -- it can take us anywhere. Don't tread on me, baby!
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The surgery went fine, it was a routine procedure, and was finished in about 20 minutes. However, his recovery and recuperation are another story completely. After the first two nights being uneventful, the pain in his throat is now at the point where it is getting worse before it gets better. The past two nights, he's slept very fitfully, waking up almost like clockwork every two hours or so. To top it off, he's also taking Tylenol with codeine, which makes him very groggy, and, I would imagine, makes it tougher to get back to normal.
Of course, me being me, I did some research online to find other stories of similar situations. I found a blog, called 'Type A Mama' (a kindred spirit!) and Little Guy seems to be following the footsteps of her son almost exactly. (Read about her experience here.)
So, for the two weeks between the procedure and his follow-up appointment with the surgeon, Little Guy and I are hunkering down, drinking lots of water, getting lots of snuggles in, and probably watching too much Thomas the Tank Engine. We are soldiering through this metamorphosis of his, looking for that light at the end of the tunnel which will hopefully shine on a brand-new, rested, happy little boy.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Currently, the ownership of Manchester United is the source of great protest by the United faithful. They feel that the current owner, Malcolm Glazer et al, are driving this proud and great football club into the ground. With soaring debts, no money to acquire good players, the supporters have banded together in protest, and are doing their best to hit the owners where it hurts - in the pocketbook.
So, using mighty dollar (or pound, in this case) as a weapon, the truly dedicated are even giving up their season tickets. Those who can't bear to not see United play will not buy the new season's kit (uniform) in protest. But, I wonder, where does that leave the international fan?
The protest begs the question -- a true fan loves and supports his/her club. Without the option of purchasing season tickets and absolutely nothing else, how are foreign supporters supposed to demonstrate our loyalty to the club? There's a very fine line between supporting your club and supporting the owners. Of course, I want the club to be owned by trustworthy, steadfast and devoted leaders. But, I also want the players, other fans and really, the entire world to know that I am a United girl - through and through.
And beyond the obvious indications of support that manifest themselves via merchandise, doesn't sucking the owners dry also starve the players, too? If the club's owners have no money, doesn't that translate to less money for our players? The inability for them to get new teammates that play at their level? The forcing of players to look, in spite of their heart's desires, for greener pastures?
I don't mean to insinuate that what I know about the Glazer situation even scratches the surface its complexity. To a certain degree, I think there are some things about it that you can only understand if you live in Manchester. I am just trying to figure out what my duty as a fan in America is, and how to do the right thing for our beloved players.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Let's go Fightin' Blue Hens! Woot!
Last night my husband and I went back in time. Just for one night, and really only in our minds, but still! We attended "Mug Night on the Green" at the University of Delaware Alumni Weekend.
The night had us slipping back into our old college roles: I played the blonde sorority chick, while my husband starred as the quintessential fraternity brother, (minus the beer funnel accessory, though...!)
To start, we stayed in the dorms! Actual, real residence halls that were vacated by university students only a week prior. Our 'suite' was two dorm rooms, connected by a bath - each room with its own twin bed, of course. It's been a looong time since the husband and I spent the night together in a twin bed. Needless to say, we ended up sleeping in the two separate rooms!
After we checked in at our dorms, we headed to the husband's fraternity house for a pre-party happy hour. At our university, EVERY fraternity/sorority event (formal, date party, etc) was always accompanied by a pre-party happy hour, and a post-party late night. Leave it to college kids to make a four hour event last at least eight hours! At any rate, we will strolled down memory lane and into the grand fraternity house in which we spent a lot of time. My husband actually lived there, and between parties, mixers and then dating him, I felt like I did, too. It was so great to see everyone! There were folks there that we had not seen in the 15 years since we graduated from school.
After the happy hour, we headed down to the mall (it's a really big square of grass flanked by academic buildings - they call it "The Green" now) to Mug Night. When we were in school, THE bar to go to was the Stone Balloon, and every Thursday night, they had Mug Night. You bought a mug at the beginning of the year, and every Thursday night, beer refills in that mug were only a dollar.
At Mug Night, the Delaware band called Love Seed Mama Jump was an institution. They were playing at the reunion last night, so the time warp was complete! We had such an incredible time, catching up with people we hadn't seen in forever, drinking from our commemorative mugs, and dancing the night away to our college band. At one point while we were dancing, I think I closed my eyes and actually thought it was 1994 again. But, believe me, when I woke up the next morning, I knew it was 2010!!
Taking a trip back in time was quite a lark. My husband and I both had a grand time. Love you, Delaware, but I couldn't do it all over again! I look back on my years there not only fondly, but also with a little awe -- did we really do that EVERY weekend??
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
It's been absolutely priceless to be able to stay at home with the boys for the past five years. I've been able to be there to see all of their baby 'firsts': first step, first word, first food, first everything. Everything has been irreplaceable, and I wouldn't trade one minute of it for the world. But, I have to admit, there are those days when stay-at-home-mamaness starts feels like I'm sentenced to a loony bin! I envy my husband's job, even when he's had an awful day, because he at least had that awful day with other grown-ups!
So what do I do in two years? Some days, all I can think about is getting a 'real' job, going back being a professional. I would get to wear my cute suits, exercise my brain, and have colleagues again! But, I would miss having the flexibility to attend the boys' sporting events, being able to stay home with them when they're sick.
Another key factor is money. Vulgar, "everybody wants me," money. When I worked, it was nothing for me to go buy a $600 Burberry bag because I'd happened to walk by the shop during lunchtime. Now, being on one income, we can still manage quite nicely, but we definitely have a stricter budget. As the boys get older, I always want to have enough to provide them with whatever they need. Their toys and clothes are going to get progressively more expensive as they grow up. I never want to say, "No, we can't afford to send you on the school ski trip." And college?? Yikes.
What is a mama to do...?
So it wasn't unusual to produce an informational packet on Prague for the Congresswoman. However, she demanded that it include walking routes through the city (although they'd be using automobiles), details about monuments they wouldn't see, and even menus for the restaurants they'd be patronizing! In the end though, I should thank this unnamed Congresswoman -- by giving me that incredibly mundane, time-consuming task, she gave me a great desire to experience for myself this magical city filled with rich history and beautiful architecture.
We've had several friends visit Prague, and all came back singing the praises of this Czech town. The Prague Castle (the largest in the world), Kafka's grave, and the Metronome (actually functioning!) are among the beautiful city's offerings, just to name a few. Along with the beautiful sights to see, there is also apparently very good shopping in Prague (who knew?). And of course, we would have to go see Slavia Prague - for our family, what visit would be complete without a soccer match?
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
As we all know, I am a die-hard Manchester United supporter. But, unfortunately, I've never made it to Manchester to see them. Last year, when my husband and I spent a long weekend in London to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary, I insisted that we see a football game. (It was between this trip and the last that I had morphed from casual United supporter into a full-fledged footy maniac!)
Well, obviously, there was no way on earth that we would set foot into Stamford Bridge or the Emirates if United weren't the visiting team. So, we decided to head to south London and Selhurst Park to see the Championship side, Crystal Palace. It was actually quite a good fit, considering that our area in the USA has its own Crystal Palace -- Crystal Palace Baltimore.
Selhurst Park was amazing, the home supporters' pub was boisterous and happy, and the match itself was incredibly atmospheric and exciting. All in all, we had a marvelous time celebrating Palace's win and experiencing true English football.
Alas, this year has been a rough one for Crystal Palace Football Club. They have long been saddled with financial woes, and in January, they went in to administration (bankruptcy). With administration comes a deduction of 10-points, and the Eagles were able to play well enough to avoid regulation in spite of it. But, even the club's football skills weren't enough to put them in the clear: their huge debts (£30million) resulted in the threat of liquidation today at 3pm GMT.
But, happily, today turned out like a movie script! A group of London businessmen, called CPFC 2010, swooped in at the eleventh hour to save the proverbial day!! Crystal Palace is saved!! There are many grateful hearts across the world today - those who've loved Palace all of their lives, those in Baltimore who love Palace, and those who love the institution of football.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Today is Little Guy's 'official' birthday. Four years ago today, he made his grand (and very fast) entrance in to our family's hearts. He was 3 weeks early, and I was in the hospital for all of 45 minutes before he was born. I guess he just couldn't wait to get his life started! He hasn't slowed down since.
Happy birthday, ya wee monster -- we love your crazy energy, your boundless passion, and your beautiful soul.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Ahhh...the Seychelles Islands. The Seychelles have been a longtime tropical fantasy for me. Located off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, Seychelles is comprised of 115 islands. In addition to the main island of Mahé (which I hear boasts lots of fun, tourist-y things like bars, restaurants & shopping), there are 16 other islands that offer rest and respite for the visiting traveler.
Everything I've read about the Seychelles Islands just screams (or rather whispers softly in your ear) romance. From the many secluded spots on island beaches to the enchanting acommodations to the intimate restaurants -- all of these elements would make for the perfect quixotic getaway for my husband and me. The boys would definitely have to stay home for this one!
I close my eyes, and I almost feel the year-round warmth of the Seychelles sun...
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
There's nothing in the world like the feeling I get when I know I have a trip coming. From the moment I book it, just the knowledge that I am GOING somewhere, anywhere, gives me a combination of stomach-flutters, body tingles and involuntary idiot-like grinning. I am big on countdowns; I love watching the number of days 'til I leave get smaller and smaller. I produce detailed packing strategy spreadsheets (this is very ME) and when I can actually put clothes in a suitcase, I get so excited that I nearly jump out of my skin!
However, since I became a mama, our freedom to travel has been just a little inhibited. With our first son, it was more difficult to get away, but we made it work. We took the Big Guy to London for a week when he was just ten months old. But as he got older, and Little Guy came along, it just became too difficult logistically to do it. Our travel destinations were rerouted to Walt Disney World. Make no mistake, though -- I love, love, love to go to Disney and I am truly blessed to be able to share my childhood memories with my boys. But we will have to wait until the boys get a little older to do the kind of traveling we fantasize about. Until then, I must patiently suffer through this wanderlust I have -- the voracious, ever-present desire within me to GO. SEE. EXPERIENCE.
'Weathering Wanderlust' is going to be a multi-part post. In order to deal with my temporarily postponed adventures (the aforementioned weathering), I am constantly dreaming of new places to go. This list is long, varied, and fantastic. I am excited to delve a little deeper into the culture and character of my dream destinations. And even more excited for the day my dreams become reality!
That brings me to the point of this post...the 2010 World Cup in South Africa will begin in less than three weeks. The United States Men's National Team (USMNT) is set to play their first match against jolly old England. And of course, who are some of England's players? United players! This presents somewhat of a pickle for me.
Being a United fan (a gift that keeps on giving, thanks much to my husband) has taught me to appreciate the intrinsic value & beauty of soccer itself. I love its fast-pace, the skill and fitness it requires, the whole spirit of the sport. I dream of a US that has the kind of football culture that England, Italy, Argentina -- basically every other country in the world has. It has become my mission in life to tell anyone and everyone, at every opportunity, why soccer is a superior sport. Therefore, it is my patriotic duty to change the hearts and minds of Americans - which starts with supporting the USMNT in the World Cup. Of course I must! I can't expect my fellow Americans to ever catch up with the world in terms of soccer if we don't cultivate our fledgling program.
So patriotism vs club loyalty in the World Cup. I have to admit that it will be awkward, unfamiliar, and even perverse to root against Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand from United. (I am kind of hoping to win 2-1 with Wazza scoring the only goal.) But, if I am ever to live in a United States where soccer is king, I know what I have to do...
USA! USA! USA! USA!
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
So, it's not unusual to see our entire family dressed exactly the same on a weekend - of course, we'll all be wearing Manchester United jerseys. It's not unusual for Fox Soccer Channel to be almost constantly on our television while not one NFL game is ever turned on. It's not unusual for us that the Big Guy has a Manchester United duvet. It's not unusual that Little Guy could say "Liverpool - blech!" since he was 2.
We are a soccer family -- it's our fetish, our fixation, our faith.