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Tag Archives | soccer

Mosque: Usual. Rain: Unusual.

It’s been raining here off and on for almost a week.  And not just little drizzles, either, but serious pelting rain, with occasional thunderstorms. People here freak out in the rain: the driving becomes even more erratic (I know, it seems impossible, but it’s true), and no  one knows quite what to do. Liam’s friend called the other day to ask if soccer practice would be canceled because it was raining, to which Liam replied “the coaches are English. Rain is what they know.” They played as scheduled.

I’m loving the respite from hot-and-sunny, but of course context is everything: by this time of year in the States, I’m always craving sunshine.

At that rainy practice the other day, I went for a run (yet another strange event) and afterwards walked by the Grand Mosque, which is just down the road from the sports complex where the boys play soccer.


Continue Reading · on May 3, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, environment, expat, Kids

second banana

Caleb is the little brother, the youngest, the baby.  His older brother, who isn’t very tall, nevertheless casts a long, long shadow: Liam almost always gets the top honor, the award, the prize. True, Liam’s competitive spirit would make Napoleon nervous, but–maternal boasting aside–Liam is both talented and a ridiculously hard worker.

Wait. See what happened?

I started this post about Caleb and just spent almost four sentences talking about Liam, who of course can’t help the shadow he casts; he’s just doing his thing. I do wonder what it’s like for Caleb, though, growing up in that long shadow.  How does he find his own light?

A long time ago, a nursery school teacher told me that Caleb had a Luca Brasi problem–too willing to be second banana, too willing to go along with the alpha dog, even if he “knows better”–and her comment has stuck with me.  Perhaps that’s not surprising–I mean, probably anyone would remember having her not-yet-in-kindergartener be compared to a Mafia hit man, right?

Caleb had been disappointed earlier this year when he wasn’t selected for a speaking role in the Year Four play (Liam was, of course, chosen for a role in the Year Seven play even though he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it); Caleb wasn’t chosen for “development squad” at soccer (promising kids from each age bracket are chosen for an extra skills/scrimmage session – Liam has been picked every term).  And while Liam sails on, frequently oblivious to his younger brother, Caleb wants only Liam’s attention and approval.  Sometimes it seems as if that long-ago teacher is right: maybe Caleb will be happiest as a wing man rather than a pilot.  Perhaps that’s a good thing: the world needs happy wing men and fewer pilot wannabes.

Or maybe Caleb is just a bit like the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz,” who felt immediately braver when the Wizard gave him a medal for his courage during the battle with the Wicked Witch of the West.  The other day, the soccer coaches gave out their end-of-term awards and Caleb got “Player of the Term” from his coach:


The award is only a plexiglass triangle, but to Caleb it sparkles like crystal–if he’d buttons on his jersey, they would’ve popped with pride. Maybe this trophy will give Caleb the little confidence booster he needs so that he’s less willing to take the back seat.

Of course, the first thing he said after he showed me his award: “I can’t wait to tell Liam.”  Does that mean that he needs Liam’s approval to seal his achievement? Or is he wanting to challenge his brother’s supremacy (Liam has gotten this award three times)?

I’m not sure. But I do wonder if Luca Brasi had an older brother.

Continue Reading · on March 23, 2013 in exercise, family, growing up, Kids, Parenting, sports

Saturday’s Snapshot (surat al-sabat): لقطة السبت

Sidelines at Caleb’s soccer football match last week:


I think we classify this image under “the new normal.” (Plus that little kid in the jacket looks like he’s developing some mad skillz)

When I wasn’t standing on the sidelines watching Caleb play, I wrote a post for the World Moms Blog about female heroines in YA literature.  Which is to say, the surprising lack of female heroines in YA literature, relatively speaking.  What heroines come to your mind? Leave a comment and join the conversation.

Continue Reading · on March 23, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, Books, family, Kids, sports, World Moms Blog

a physics lesson, or, bleeding from the head

Let’s talk objects in space, shall we?

There are some things that should not collide: cars and occupied strollers, our planet and massive asteroids, Michelle Obama and John Boehner.

Also? This:

should not collide with the head of a twelve year old.  Or to put it another way, the head of a twelve year old should not collide with a goal post.

To go back to our physics lesson, would you like to know what happens when a twelve year old body, moving rapidly through space, collides with a stationary metal pole?

Here’s the answer: An inch-long gash along the top said child’s skull.

Yes, my friends, my child was, in fact, bleeding from the head. Blood dripping down his face, sopping onto his hands as he tried to mop himself up.

IMG_2046 His coach called with that odd mixed message “he’s fine but his head is bleeding, quite a bit, actually…” Which you know? anytime “his head is bleeding” is part of the conversation, “fine” seems just a tad incongruous.

This being Abu Dhabi, I had to drive drive drive to the soccer field and then drive drive drive to the ER with Liam clutching a towel to his head, muttering that it wasn’t fair that he had to miss the game, that he wasn’t bleeding that much.  This being Abu Dhabi, I also had to drive to hell and gone to find a parking place at the ER, and this being Abu Dhabi and the Sheikh Khalifa Hospital, the intake nurses in the ER carry late-model iPads (Liam found this fascinating and forgot the injustice of a self-inflicted head injury).  This being Abu Dhabi, in the pediatric ER waiting room, there was a woman doing her evening prayers in front of the plastic doll house and just under the TV blaring reruns of “Ben 10.” This being Abu Dhabi, the Irish nurse liked the name Liam, the Filipina nurses thought maybe Liam was Filipino, and the attending physician asked us slowly and carefully “can I talk to you in English?”

The doctor rinsed the head wound with saline, sloshing out the dried blood and a little bright red fresh blood. Here’s a thing: One really never wants to see the blood of one’s children. A biology lesson: blood should stay subcutaneous.  Seeing Liam stretched out on the hospital bed, I had a weird flashback to the second-to-last day of his stay in the NICU, when after two months he’d finally hit the magical weight of four pounds, which meant he could be discharged. But first, he had to have an operation on a double hernia.  Four pounds (1.8 kilos) is like a very small sack of rice, basically, and it amazed me that anyone could even diagnose a double-hernia in something so small, much less operate on it.  But operate they did, and the sight of that tiny little body on a huge hospital gurney (which was, in fact, probably child-sized) rendered Husband and I into teary-eyed pulp.

Liam wasn’t even knocked out for this procedure, just as he wasn’t for the chin-on-the-edge-of-the-swimming-pool procedure, or the running-full-tilt-into-a-cement-wall procedure. This procedure only required a BIG needle of anesthetic and four staples.

Pause for a minute, please, and remember the sound of a stapler chunking into, say, a bulletin board. Now instead of a bulletin board, imagine that stapler ka-chungk,, ka-chungk, ka-chungk, ka-chungk into your child’s skull.


Staples. Who knew.

He’s fine, is this hard-headed twelve-year old. He has a headache, duh, but no concussion, no wobblies, no nothing. Wolfed down pizza for dinner, snapped at his brother, muttered about the fact that his team went 1-1 instead winning outright.  Simple: we wash the wound every day with saline and the staples  come out in ten days. The doctor who ulp stapled Liam’s head said that basically, Liam could go play soccer that evening (I said no fucking way, or words to that effect).

What did I learn? I learned that even if you don’t know them very well, moms on the sidelines of your kid’s sports team will hold shut bleeding scalps, will offer to drive your kid to the ER, will give a lift to the team-mate you were supposed to drive home, will scrounge up an old towel to put on top of the bloody gauze bandage. I learned that having a next-door neighbor who is a nurse familiar with the city’s ERs is a really, really great thing.

I learned that even if you know it’s all going to be all right, driving your kid to the ER is never, in fact, all right.

And I learned my physics lesson: that if your child’s skull collides with a metal goal post, those forces will combine to create an abiding need for a glass of wine after the stapled-head child goes to bed.

Continue Reading · on January 23, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Kids, sports

a helicopter moment, brought to you by the agony of sport

Caleb plays soccer. He loves soccer, if not with the fire of a thousand white-hot suns, then with the flames of at least one or two firebolts.

He’s not a bad soccer player, for an eight year old. We’re not calling up Arsenal and saying they should come scout this little kid, but, you know, he always runs towards the right goal; he doesn’t stop to pick flowers or fiddle with his shoes; and he’s pretty cheerful about taking directions from his coach.  Even Liam concedes–grudgingly–that Caleb is “pretty good, for a little kid.” (Yes, implied in this phrase is “not as good as I was at eight.”) Caleb can dribble and pass, take reasonably competent shots on goal, and talks big talk about Maradona-ing this, and nutmegging that.  Whether he can actually do whatever those things are, I have no idea, but he thinks he can.

So. Do you know where this story is going yet? Yep. Tryouts for the school soccer team, last week, in the 110F steamy-wet heat of a late afternoon. An hour of scrimmage on a field with no shade, with all the other little Messi wannabes.

The results of the team were posted last night, an A team and a B team.

Caleb’s name was not on the list. His friend X, who hates soccer? On the list. His friend Y, who Caleb regularly runs circles around on the field? On the list. His friends ABD and Z…? All, on the list.

Not the A team, not the B team. Twenty-five kids on the list, of about thirty who tried out.

Husband and I feel awful, and even Liam, the harshest critic of all, sputtered with indignation.  And Caleb? He moped, maybe cried a little, and then later on in the evening said that he is a New Yorker and he lives in New York and Abu Dhabi sucks. Which I think we have to translate as “all my friends made the soccer team and I didn’t and it’s not fair.”

It’s hard for any of us to believe that Caleb was the twenty-sixth worst kid who tried out, or the thirtieth. Or that one sweaty hour will be the only opportunity the kids have to make the team.

And so the inner dialogue began:

The inner Great Santini says, “Yep, that’s it, you had your shot kid, and for whatever reason, you whuffed it. Bummer. Live and learn, try harder next time, and suck it up.”


The helicopter mommy says “Oh poor baby, that’s awful, I can’t believe that my child wasn’t chosen, I’m going to call the coach and see what happened because my kid is sad and maybe this is all a misunderstanding.”

As a professor and administrator, I’ve been on the receiving end of these helicopter calls, and it’s never pretty, because usually the answers I have to give are not what parents want to hear.  I didn’t want to put the coach in the position of having to say, bluntly, “lady your kid isn’t any good and maybe he should think about bowling.”

So I got Husband to do it.

Well, truth be told, Husband (bless him) came to this conclusion on his own. He wrote a very diplomatic little email, asking if perhaps there’d been an oversight because Caleb seems like a pretty competent player, but if in fact Caleb had not made the team, perhaps the coach could offer some suggestions for what Caleb might work on for next year.  Really, there are times when having a husband who is a literature professor really pays off. He’s good with words, that guy.

Then we waited. No response, no response, no response.


Thank you for bring this matter to my attention.
 Caleb was indeed on the original squad list but an administrative error has led to him being missed off the final squad list when it was typed up.
 Please accept my sincere apologies, I was hoping something like this wouldn’t happen as I know it can be very disappointing for the children when they do not see their name on the sheet. Please let Caleb know that he is in the squad. I will also find time to speak to him today.
 Sorry for any inconvenience that this has caused.

Helicopter mommy just punched inner Santini in the face and then did a little victory dance in the endzone.

Sometimes it pays to hover.




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Continue Reading · on September 17, 2012 in Kids, Parenting, sports

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