Archive | sports

in which I am humiliated by a fiberglass plank

I have good balance. I can do standing balance poses in yoga (the mildly twisty ones, not the super-twisty ones); I have mastered the rudiments of stand-up paddle-boarding; I’ve even done some yoga moves on a paddle-board.

So I figured that learning to surf would be easy. Liam and Caleb did it in one lesson, in Weligama Bay, where the waves break evenly along a broad expanse of beach. The Sri Lankan teen-agers who were teaching them simply pushed the boards out to where the waves broke, aimed the board in the right direction and gave it a shove, saying “paddle, paddle, paddle.”  The boys paddled, they wobbled, they stood, they hung ten.

And suddenly they were surfin’ safari dudes who couldn’t wait to do it again.


Watching the boys, I says to myself, I says “self, you’ve got balance, and you’ve got an Athleta bathing suit–what more does a gal need?”

The next day we got a tuk-tuk to bring us back to the bay and I rented myself a board. I paddled out into those nice gentle waves ignoring the twinges of pain in what’s become a Middle Aged Shoulder, I watched the boys and the other beginning surfers, I got myself lined up, I paddled, I wobbled, I…

…went face first into the ocean.

That board kicked my ass.

Who knew there were so many ways to face-plant into a wave? Even with the help of the surf teacher, who tugged me into the right alignment on the wave, the same thing happened again and again: the board would dart forward on the energy of the wave, I would start to stand, and…


Again and again and again, as my kids whizzed by doing that bouncing thing with their front leg to make the board go faster, and clamoring to go out to the big waves.

I was not an Athleta gal shredding across the wave’s curl. I was that Athleta gal’s middle-aged mom with a bad sunburn and a borrowed rash guard t-shirt belly flopping off a tongue-shaped piece of fiberglass.

Athleta, summer catalog 2007, Sayulita,Mexico, surfer Julie Coxthis is not me

But you know, mom’s got some pride, and I didn’t want to hurl the board onto the sand and stomp off down the beach.  Especially because it was only about nine in the morning, too early to drown my sorrows in a festive tropical drink.

One more, one more, one more…flop, flop, flop.

Then on what I told myself would be the absolute last time, I stood up! Flying, gloriously, for probably an entire 2.5 seconds, before again eating the wave.

It was enough, that tiny ride. We’re planning a return trip to Sri Lanka and before we go, I’m going to tend to the Middle Aged Shoulder, find some muscles somewhere (maybe on the internet? you can get everything on the internet, can’t you?), study the pictures in the Athleta catalog in order to find the bathing suit that comes with mad surfing skillz.

Besides, by the time we go back to Sri Lanka, I might finally have gotten all the seawater out of my lungs—and how better to go into my next decade than on a surf board?


Continue Reading · on April 8, 2013 in exercise, Kids, me my own personal self, sports, Travel, yoga

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

abu dhabi bicycle

When women started riding bicycles, it was considered shocking. A bicycle has to be, you know, straddled.  Plus there was the possibility that a bicyclist might wear a split skirt…or, worse, bloomers.

Plus there was always the chance her ankles might show.

Susan B Anthony is reported to have said that bicycles have “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world…it gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

And now, more than a century later? I’m not sure that bikes are still a feminist vehicle, but they are certainly an alternative means of transportation.

My column about the pleasure – and serious perils – of bike riding in Abu Dhabi appears today in The National.  Click here to read the article – and then feel free to share the article with all your bike-loving friends.

Look, if the women in this picture can ride bikes in long skirts and truly ridiculous hats, you can ride your bike to the grocery store.






photo image credit here

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Continue Reading · on November 16, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, exercise, Feminism, sports, UAE

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