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Blast from the Past

Last Friday, the Mr. took my car and traveled a few hours to eat lunch and spend time with his parents.

When he returned, I got ready to take the car out to my school’s football game.

“There’s a tent in the back,” he said.  “I’ll get it out this weekend.”

Well, Sunday came, and the tent was still in there, so after grocery shopping, I went to get it out.

I had to stop and collect myself for a moment or two.

Y’all…the sight of this tent brought back so many memories.

We bought it eons ago when the kids were playing travel soccer.

It was the thing that parents did.  They bought tents, bought big SUVs to hold such tents, and they traveled from one tournament to another with said tents.

Then, each dad loaded his tent on his shoulders and walked the forever distance from the parking lot to the field the team was playing on.

Sometimes, it took two or three dads to put up a tent.  They weren’t super easy back in the day.

The sight resembled what I imagine to be a barn raising of old.

We got to be pros at this by the time the kids had graduated.

If those tent flaps could talk, boy would they have stories to tell.

They would tell of screams of joy and tears of sadness, depending on how the games were going.

They would speak of many shouted “Ohhhhhhhhhs” at good plays and the covering of faces at missed opportunities.

They might contain strands of pulled hair from stressful games when all we could do was grip our tendrils in desperation.

The tent would certainly tell of frigid days when prayers were offered up for the cessation of rain and, during the heat of summer, a lessening of the hotter-than-hell temperatures that rendered hair straighteners useless and wet, cold towels a blessing.

They might tell of muttered, multi-colored words spoken against horrible refs who either needed glasses or retirement papers.

Oh yes, our tent would be able to speak volumes, let me tell you.

We passed our tent down to Super Sis and her husband.  Our youngest nephew had begun his baseball career, and they were living our lives all over again, with a different sport.

Nephew boy is now a senior.  They have no need for the tent, so the Mr.’s mom gave it back.

I’ll be looking to either sell or donate it.

The memories, however, will stay.

Going Under the Knife

Today, Chicky is finally going to have surgery to repair her torn ACL.

Because she tore her left one eight years ago (wow, it seems like only yesterday!), we know what to expect this time.

That doesn’t make it any easier though.

She goes under the knife at 1:30 Eastern time, and we sure would appreciate your prayers.

She’s a tough young lady with a high pain tolerance, but this is brutal surgery to recover from, so there will be some long days (and nights) ahead of us.

She’s a very mobile young lady.  Being limited by an immobilizer and a knee that will be painful to bend will not be her cup of tea.

She’s resilient, though, and determined to come back as strong as before.

I know she will.  She the type of girl that champions are made of…full of grit and stubbornness.

Ultimately, it will be the Lord who restores her…of this I am sure.

3 John 1:2

English Standard Version (ESV)

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

From Last to First

Source: USA Today

I love the way USA Today opens up its article about Auburn winning the SEC Championship last night:

From last to first. From winless in the Southeastern Conference to confetti-splashed champions. From dysfunction to destiny.

You guys know I am a die-hard Auburn fan.

My students often give me a hard time about my allegiance, but I do teach mostly Alabama and FSU fans, so what can you expect.

😉

Last year was particularly brutal, so I, along with the rest of my family and Auburn fans everywhere, held my breath when the 2013 season began.

I can’t say Auburn was impressive at the beginning.

It took several wins in a row to build trust.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but after only a few short weeks, Auburn fans began smiling…genuinely…as we watched our guys, so full of character, come back time after time to win improbable games.

My Rooster was fortunate to attend the Mississippi State, Georgia, and Alabama games…nail-biters to the end.

He came home exhausted and nearly voiceless from stress, fatigue, and excitement.

As the mother of an athlete, I’ve watched hundreds of games and sat through many, many close finishes.  My heart has fluttered with nerves for the mamas and daddys watching their young men out on that field.

I cannot tell you how much I admire the Auburn players and coaches.

They dared to dream when hardly anyone believed in them.

They dared to defy the odds, disproving so-called “expert” predictions.

Led by a fearless group of coaches, they attempted the impossible and pulled rabbits from their hats.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget this season.  It ranks up there with the 2010 season when we won the National Championship.

In some ways, this year has been even sweeter because of how the team rebounded from the previous season when the stands were often half-empty and fans left at halftime.

I am definitely in the minority where I live…in a state dominated by Florida college football loyalty and, for some odd reason, Alabama too.

I am so proud to call myself an Auburn fan.

Thanks, guys, for showing, by example, what it means to pick yourself up and not allow anyone to label you as failures.

You are a wonderful example to the struggling readers I teach, and I nod my head in respect to your accomplishments this season.

Up To My Eyeballs in Sports

Yes, I’ve been a bad blogger lately.

I’ve wanted to write, but I’ve been swamped with teaching responsibilities and extracurricular activities such as these…

Although I don’t have children playing high school soccer anymore, I still love the kids from Rooster’s school, and I feel like I’ve got this, my last year, to support a few more kids and get them graduated.

The basketball?  Well, see, I have five students playing on JV and Varsity, so I wanted to support them too.

I don’t think that most people realize that a teacher’s job extends way beyond academic activities.

We invest huge chunks of ourselves into our charges’ non-academic lives.

We can’t help it.

Students have a way of working themselves into our hearts.

And so, if my blogging is sporadic for the next little while, it’s either because I’m lesson planning, attending sporting events, or sleeping from the fatigue that has overtaken the remaining hours of my life.

Retiring the Hat

You may remember The Hat.  Last winter, I talked a whole lot of people into modeling it for me.

At first, they laughed…

Until they put it on and discovered that ohhh laaaa laaaa…the hat was warm…

Well, this soccer season, I pulled out the hat again.

The hat traveled with me everywhere.  I dared not put it away in fear that I would leave it behind and, thus, freeze my ears off.

The season began in October.

Chicky’s team began on a rough note, losing its first game to the team that had defeated it during last year’s Regional Semi-Finals.

The team had lost several seniors from the year before, so it was expected that adjustments were in the works.

The team went on to win all of its games during the next several weeks and prepped for a December tournament.

The results were as poor as the weather, with the team losing both of its games.  Nobody could believe it.  This was the team that had won the entire competition the year before.

We went home…spirits low.

However, the girls had other plans.  They picked themselves up and worked hard, winning all of their remaining regular-season games.

Woo Hoo!  The team went to Districts, where it had to beat a team it had previously played (and beaten) two times.  This was a rough team, so we knew it would not be easy.

It was also Chicky’s birthday.

The weather was dismal (why didn’t Chicky play an indoor sport?).  The girls worked hard and WON!  They sang Happy Birthday to Chicky and jokingly told her they had gotten her the trophy for a gift.  She was allowed to take it home for the weekend.

Such a sweet victory.

The work was only beginning.  Regionals loomed on the horizon.

The first game was against a fairly physical team.  I dreaded it, but I shouldn’t have.  The girls won.

Next up was Regional Semi-Finals…against the team it had beaten for Districts.  How could this happen…for the second year in a row?  The media didn’t hesitate to remind viewers that it was a repeat scenario from last year.  We hoped that the outcome would be different.

I was nearly physically sick the night before and day of the game.  The team would play a very physical game, and I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.

As I stood in the stands for the Star Spangled Banner, I shed a few tears.  This could, quite possibly, be Chicky’s last high school game.  It was a bittersweet moment.

The girls stepped up, though, and beat its opponent soundly, sweet redemption from the year before.

We celebrated like nobody’s business.

On to Regional Finals, where the team we were playing was said to be tres excellent.  A couple of Chicky’s travel teammates were on the other team, so we knew the game would be tough.  We were fortunate, though, to be playing at home.

When the other team arrived, I saw one of the moms, who told me that the other teammate would not be there that night.

Whew!  I breathed a small sigh of relief, but I still held my breath.

Strangely, I was calm.  I can only attribute it to God.

The stands were full; our school’s student body attended in full force.

It felt like a regular football game.  Kids were dressed in school spirited attire.  Students had made homemade signs and decorated t-shirts.

When we scored our first goal, the cheer was loud.  The second goal, a header off a corner kick, led to even louder cheers.

And then we scored our third goal.

My mouth dropped open, and I covered it with my hand…shocked.

With every goal, the crowd cheered louder.

Five goals later, the other team still had not answered back.

I turned off my camera to conserve my battery.

That’s when I heard people hollering Chicky’s name.  Coach had moved her from her defensive position to forward.

How had I missed this?

And she had the ball, passed from a teammate, and she was dribbling down the field.

The goalie came out, and Chicky went around her, shooting and scoring!!!!

The crowd went wild.  I stood in shock and joy.

My baby had scored, and I had missed getting it on camera (a teammate’s father got it on video though).

A few minutes later, the game ended.

We had won…6-0.

Nobody expected this…completely anyhow.

We were now going to Final Four…almost unheard of in our part of the state, and a record for our high school.

That was on a Friday night.

The soccer booster club scrambled and called an emergency meeting the next morning.

We determined that we would need $4,000 to cover the cost of a chartered bus, lodging, and meals for the trip.

Oy!

It seemed insurmountable.  I was confident, though, that we could reach our goal.  I had just witnessed 23 ninth graders raise almost $300 in spare change in five days.  They were my inspiration, and God had used them to show me that He will provide.

The others looked doubtful, but my enthusiasm caught on.

We quickly made plans, each person taking on one or two tasks.

What happened over the course of the next four days is, quite simply, a miracle.

We blitzed the media and canvassed businesses, asking for donations.  We had three fundraisers, two at restaurants and one at the school (wear your favorite shirt for $1).  I arranged for a couple of players to be on one of the local morning news shows and drove them there at the wee hour of 6am.  God had provided a cancellation that enabled us to have this airtime.  The producer said it was “weird.”  I told him “it was God.”

By Monday, we had determined that the first estimate was too low.  We needed about $4,700.  Almost $1,000 more than originally stated.

Still, I was confident.

By Wednesday, we had enough money to cover the trip.  I was not altogether surprised because I had known all along that God would provide.

The outpouring from the community, despite the economic conditions, had enabled us to pay the bills.  The girls were going to Tampa debt-free.

We had a huge send-off party with the school’s drum line (in which Rooster is a part) escorting the team around the school playing a beat along the way.  Parents followed, slapping high fives to the students.

And then they were off…parents following behind in their own vehicles.

The weather was expected to be bad.  I prayed, but God chose to allow the rain to arrive.  All high school Final Four games (1A-6A) were being played at the University of Tampa…

The girls played hard against a formidable opponent.

The rain came down…hard and fast…

The score remained tied at 0-0 through regulation time.

Ugh.

Overtime.

It only took a couple of minutes before the other team scored.

Game over.

I did not expect it, and I think the girls were surprised as well.

Chicky was very upset.  She wanted this…had come so close two years in a row.

Fortunately, Guy Friend had skipped his college classes that day to attend the game, and his presence cheered her up.

Everyone went back to the hotel.  We would be staying the night and leaving early the next morning.

I sat in the car a few minutes, tears flowing.  I felt a mixture of gratitude, sadness, and relief, along with a touch of disbelief that Chicky had just played her last high school game.

As I sit here reflecting on the last couple of weeks, I cannot help but be amazed at the way my community came together.  One rival school had a message of good luck on its marquee… UNHEARD of for cross-town schools.  We received a substantial donation from another rival school’s graduating class.  Businesses donated chunks of money, and restaurants donated gift cards (thanks, Beef O’ Brady’s) and proceeds from “share nights.”

Some of the students at school threw five-dollar bills in the girls’ buckets as they collected for t-shirt day.  These kids were still in dress code, wearing school approved t-shirts and polos.  They wanted to contribute to the cause.

Although it’s sad that the team did not make it to the final game, I sit here full of joy and thankfulness.  What an honor to have witnessed 21 girls come together.  What a privilege to work with a fantastic group of parents…a group that stepped up when the need arose.  Nobody complained (except about the horrible bus driver).  Everyone pitched in, helping sort the laundry and tote the players around when the bus driver refused.

I love this sport.  I love these kids.  I love these parents.  I am thankful for the support of students..many of whom had parents drive them down to Tampa or rode the church bus (thank you N and T for arranging this) to cheer on the girls.  The administration pulled out all stops to make this a special experience for all involved.

Stinky shin guards, chili, and portable heaters are the things that helped us bond (along with our girls); memories will keep the ties intact.  We will never be able to hear each others’ names without smiling and remembering how sweet the journey was.

Through it all, God was glorified.  He is amazing, and I will always give credit to the One who made it happen.

Meanwhile, the hat is going into retirement.  I’m sure, like Michael Jordan and Brett Favre, it will “un-retire” to make a visit at a few high school games next year (I can’t totally cut the umbilical cord).

Until then, I plan on catching a few Zzzzzz’s…at least for the next few days…to catch up on some much-needed rest.  This was an exhilarating, exhausting week.  God provided the fuel that kept me going.  Now, I trust He’ll provide the rest that’s needed by all, Chicky, teammates, and parents included.

Something About This Game

What is it about this…

That can make people wear silly hats like this (and no, it’s not me with the Mr., but it is the Big Seed Pom Pom Hat I made last year and that I’ve been getting people…in this case school district higher-ups who possess a good sense of humor…to model for pictures during the games, much to Soccer Chick’s chagrin)…

Something interesting has happened to Soccer Chick’s high school team this season.  They have evolved from a collection of individual players to a unit  with one mindset…to win.  And they’ve done this without the usual girl fights you observe in the school hallways or the mall, where competition is fierce for attention.

When I see them in their huddle before each game…

My heart is stirred in a profound way.

The game that I have watched Soccer Chick play since she was seven years old has bonded these girls together in a unique way.  For 90 minutes, the girls leave the stress of boy problems, class loads, and SAT exams off the field to focus on putting one small ball into a sometimes seemingly small net across the field.  It’s a job that one girl cannot do alone, and each player knows this.

And oh, the joy, when success is achieved…

This game, that turns ordinarily mild-mannered parents into screetching lunatics (err…I am perhaps speaking of myself here) has had the opposite affect on the girls.  Despite bad calls (depending on the perspective, of course), the girls have the grace to play on.

And so they did.

And here was the result (hint…we were the Home team)…

And how did the girls feel about the score?  Take a look for yourself…

District Champions - First Time Ever!

Even in the moment of celebration, as they were about to gather their belongings and rejoin their families, they stopped, when asked by Your’s Truly, and regrouped for the above photo.

Such lovely ladies.

The game has taught them well.

Sports and Knitting

You may not know this about me, but I am becoming a sports junkie. This is something that has long been in the making.

I remember spending my youth holed up in my room on Sundays watching the Redskins and Broncos — two of my favorite teams. My love for sports extended beyond football though. I loved Wide World of Sports. It highlighted such sports as skiing and the seldom-watched log rolling.

I watched Nadia Comaneci win the Olympic gold medal. Every little girl wanted to somersault like her and be hugged by Bela Karolyi. Do you remember when the Olympics were held every four years…both the Winter and Summer games? I was thrilled when the Olympic Committee changed this so that there would be games every two years. Now I didn’t have to wait so long to be submerged in the competition.

I sometimes wonder where this love of sports came from. I am, by no means, coordinated. I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. Walking across the stage at my recent graduation should have been an Olympic sport all on its own.

I stunk at tether ball in elementary school. Have you ever seen the movie The Benchwarmers? Do you remember the scene where Will Ferrell is playing against his father? That could have been me and any other kid on the playground. I used to get beaten quite badly. I’m not sure I ever really understood the rules. I don’t think I do to this day.

I did play basketball in high school. I spent more time on the bench than on the court. I only played when the team was either way ahead (and my entrance wouldn’t allow the opponent to catch up too quickly) or we were way behind, when all hope was lost anyway. I just did not function well under pressure.

Take the time I was on the court at an away game. Keep in mind that I went to a small, private school. To give you an idea of the size, the school only had one class of every grade, and my graduating class had 18 students. So, everyone knew everyone else…even at the other schools

So, I got buzzed onto the court. I was so excited! I finally got to play! I usually played point guard because I was so small. There I went, dribbling happily down the court.

All of sudden…

Pop.

What’s that, I wondered, just as my boobs gained their freedom. My bra strap had broken. These were the days before sports bras.

Now, I was covered up, and nobody could tell what was happening. But to a 16 year old teen, every crisis is magnified. I did what most teens would do.

I dropped the ball and went running down the court with my arms crossed over my chest, advertising the fact that my body was, quite literally, celebrating its freedom from that bench.

Yeah, I had not yet mastered the art of being discreet.

So, I ran down the court, arms over my chest, looking at my coach saying, “My bra strap broke…substitute me NOW.”

“What?” he hollered.

Typical man. Just didn’t get it. The entire gym sure did because everyone was laughing their heads off.

The rest of the night is a blur in my memory…thankfully. I think I eventually got off the court, and someone had safety pins and fixed me up so I could go back out there, red face and all. I never lived that one down either.

So, that being said, I really don’t know why I love sports so much. I think it’s because I do not possess such skills myself and can truly appreciate those who do. Also, having children who are quite talented also helps. It’s a safe bet that they got their sports genes from Mr. AuburnChick. (They got their brains from me, and you can advertise that all you want.)

Ok…you must be wondering…

What in the world has possessed AuburnChick to talk about this?

Well, I just spent most of the day watching Wimbledon’s men’s finals. Wow! What a marvelous display of artistry. It was one of the best finals I’ve ever seen, and as noted above, I’ve seen quite a few.

What I most admire is Federer and Nadal’s humbleness afterwards. The mutual respect they displayed are marks of true champions. Federer had won five straight Wimbledon trophies, beating Nadal during the last two years. He lost the first two sets and was prime to lose the third, when he dug down deep and pulled off one miraculous shot after another. It was simply amazing to watch.

Nadal, to his credit, never gave in. Despite two rain interruptions, he came back and beat Federer in the fifth set.

Wimbledon at its finest.

Throughout the six + hour match, I did what any other knitter would do…knit!

I am stuck on my Froot Loop socks and have sent out a couple requests for help on the heel. That’s what I get for trying to adjust a pattern. Remember that I don’t think well on my feet. Stick to the pattern, I keep trying to tell myself. But no, I have to try to challenge myself.

Silly girl.

Rather than sitting idly by, I pulled out that marvelous skein of Malabrigo that one of my KH friends sent me.

I began work (for the second time) on my Leaf Lace Scarf. It’s an easy pattern, but my previous attempt was with a similar yarn, almost identical color, and similar weight. For some reason, the first yarn didn’t go with the pattern. It was almost too thin.

Enter in the Malabrigo.

I LOVE this yarn! It’s the first time I’ve ever knit with the fabulous Mmmmmm. Now, I understand the reverence knitters ascribe to it. Simply winding it up (I have yet to buy a ball winder) was a sensory experience.

I’ve completed seven pattern repeats, and I love how it’s turning out so far.

So, sports and knitting. Two of my favorite things. Can life get any better?

I think not.

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