Important Lessons for Boys: Girls Play Sports

I became an accidental soccer coach this spring, volunteering to help out on the sidelines at Flora’s soccer games. Turns out I was making decisions about where the girls were playing, when and who to sub, and calling out actual coaching instructions, including, for the defense, “To the outside!” and for offense, “Talk to each other!”

Saturday the girls had a tournament, and despite all expectations that it would be canceled – the weather was chilly and rainy, and by 2 p.m. when our first game was scheduled to start, the field was a mud pit – the tournament carried on. Apparently, it was the last weekend the youth referees were due to work, so the tournament had to go on.

Girls and parents stood under umbrellas and a small tent canopy complaining about the conditions. “Can you believe it?” we asked each other. “I can’t believe they didn’t cancel. The field is getting destroyed!” The soccer leagues in my area are usually quite fussy about their fields.

And then we split the girls into two teams, and they went out and played. And even with their complaining, mostly about how cold it was, they played well.

They fell in the mud, and got back up. They ran, they kicked, they scored goals (our girls teams came in first and second in their round of the tournament). They adjusted to the conditions, quickly realizing the soccer ball was going to bog down in the large puddles that dotted thefield. Staying clean and dry was not an option, so they embraced the mud.

Flora in mud.
Is there mud on my face?

Among the girls I coached on Saturday, a couple of them had their best game of the season. I was floored by the defensive work of Emily. It turns out Madi is a leader, instructing and encouraging her teammates. Ariel was all in as a wing, and then held off the other team in goal. Flora’s team has amazing goalies, girls who love the position and the adrenaline and challenge it brings. And Taylor, who was playing her first year of soccer, proved herself unafraid to get down and dirty. She showed more tenacity on Saturday than I had seen to date, and her reward was a goal. Rea was hesitant — she was cold and didn’t like the mud at all — but she dug deep and found her spirit. Cassidy kept her foot on the ball, kept trying to score, and eventually got the goal that had been eluding her. Sophie, too, had to push past the ick factor, and then played extraordinarily well on both offense and defense.

Flora has been playing soccer since she was about 5. In my experience, third or fourth grade is when the mechanics of the game start clicking for players. They start to understand positions, passing, dribbling, and playing the ball. They start challenging and crashing the box. They learn to play to the whistle. This year has seen her greatest improvement yet. It helped that she played year-round this year: fall and spring are outdoor seasons, and a winter indoor season.

Indoor soccer is a different beast than outdoor. It is faster, for one, and the ball is seldom out of play – there are no sidelines or throw ins. The field is bigger, too, and there are no offsides. It is all running, and if there’s one thing Flora can do, it’s run. She prefers to play defense, and she does not want to get beat. At the Saturday tournament, she even challenged a boy (we mixed boys and girls for the second game because the boys did not have enough players) a whole head taller than she is, and quite often beat him.

One of the fathers on the sidelines remarked, “I liked having the girls and boys play together. I thought the skill level would be unequal, but it was on par.” Another coach and father of one of the daughters on Flora’s team said, “Between the girls and boys?” Like it was the stupidest thing he heard.

It was the stupidest thing I had heard. Flora’s teams this year for the first time were mostly all girl. But she’s been playing with boys since she started, and she also practiced with boys all spring. So I don’t know why this father thought girls’ skills would be underpar when compared to boys. I just gave him a look, and went back to coaching.

There are probably studies out there about how good sports are for girls. That they boost confidence and self esteem, as well as health and possibly body image.

None of the girls I coach care about that. They just want to play hard and do well, do the best they can. Winning is nice, especially when they play well. Losing is hard, especially when they play well. And maybe they are learning from lessons from that, too: perseverance, that life can be disappointing, that win or lose, it really is how you play.

I know Flora had her best year of soccer ever. She was one of the best players on her indoor team; also one of the oldest. Her spring league was 5th and 6th graders, so while she wasn’t the best on her team, she was certainly on a good squad of skilled players, and she totally added to that.

The squad of girls I coached came in first in their four-way tournament. I told each and every one of them they earned their trophy. Taylor was so proud. “Not bad for my first year.”


What do you think of girls in sports?

Lessons for Boys, Part I and Part II.

Fruit and veggie rainbow

Family Dinner is Overrated

By Wednesday, I am burned out on dinner as a family. Well, as a foursome, because Dan usually only joins us for family dinner Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday.

Flora has super sonic hearing, and it is attuned to Kate. She can probably hear Kate’s heart beating. And it probably bugs her.

Kate squirms, she hums, she sings songs. I don’t even notice the majority of the time.

But Flora notices. “Kate, please stop.” “Kate, please stop.” “Kate! Stop!” “KAAAATTTEEEE!”

In all honesty, I find Flora more annoying than Kate.

Sometimes, to prevent Kate’s aimless humming and singing, I actually play music at dinner. This backfires, too, though. No one can agree on a song or a genre. Classical — of which I’m not a fan either — earns me whines and eye rolls. Rock and roll gets Kate bouncing off the walls, which is the opposite of what I’m going for.

Kate is unable to sit like a regular person at the dinner table (or anywhere, really): butt in chair, knees down, feet on floor, back straight. She eats with her fingers, which drives me right around the bend as well.

And Michael emulates Kate.

Family dinners are chaotic! People jumping up and down to get water and silverware (because whoever forgot to set the table forgot it) and seconds — usually before I’ve even had firsts. Kate and Flora do riffs from YouTube and Vine; I am left utterly clueless as they go on. “Have you seen the one where…?” And they break up into girlish giggles.

And trying to get some assistance in the kitchen unless Dan is home is fruitless. Flora has to be reminded to put away ALL the clean dishes, not just from the dishwasher, but from the drying pad as well. Kate is supposed to set the table; half the time she forgets I’m actually going to eat too, and the table is set for three not four. Michael is supposed to put away the clean silverware and clear his plate from the table.

And once they’ve finished, rinsed their dishes, and put them in the dishwasher — poof. Off to read and play and watch more Vines. I’ve started calling them back to finish clearing the table, put food away, and, since we are in the kitchen anyway, pack their lunches.

To say mileage varies would be putting it mildly.

And half the time — literally, almost half, between soccer practices and gymnastics, and date night (for Dan and me, not the children) — half the time, we don’t actually sit down together for dinner; we bolt it down our gullets and run right back out the door. (I need to figure this out a little better; suggestions welcome.)

family yukking it up at dinner
Ha ha ha! Family dinners are SO delightful! Pass the carrots, please! Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

Not one dinner I have had with my family looks like this.

And yet. I keep doing it. I cook nearly every night, and sit down with my children almost every night. Experts insist it’s important, and I believe them. Because every now and again, we get it right. We manage to have an actual conversation about school, or playing, or the books that are being read. We remember to do our Q&A journals. Dinner time is usually better when Dan is there; the children are better behaved, and I can sit while he directs after dinner clean up.

So while yes, I get tired of the acting up, the bickering, the cleaning cycle, I do love feeding my children, and seeing what is up with them, and just *being there*, all in the same room. I may get exasperated from time to time, but I probably won’t change the routine.

Although it would be nice if the children would start to *cook* the dinners. How do I make that happen?

Do you get to eat dinner as a family?

a 45 record

Age Is Just a Number

One morning a few months ago, I rolled over in bed and stretched my arms over my head. Just like I do every morning. On this day though, a horrible popping crunch and pain in my left shoulder area ensued.

It hurt. A lot.

I was so busy at work that I couldn’t get to my chiropractor right away. By the time I saw her (Dr. Amber Capra — go to her!), about two-three weeks had passed. The pain was less, but hadn’t disappeared yet.

She checked me out, and then informed me that I had actually not “injured” my shoulder, but had popped my ribs out of position and they were misaligned.

“Stretching my arms over my head?” I asked, incredulous.

“Um. Yes.”

God bless Dr. Capra. The poor woman had to tell me — and probably has to break it to many of her patients — that age is a terrible terrible curse that makes the body do stupid things like pop ribs when one stretches her arms over her head.

Those are not the words she used, but that’s what it boiled down to.

So, she put my ribs back in. It hurt.

This has been a cycle since that first time I did this. It seems to be when I reach and then twist my torso, my ribs, where they are connected to my sternum, stretch and pop. It hurts when it happens, and it hurts when Dr. Capra fixes me, and it hurts when it happens again.


When I was a teen, maybe 13 or 15, I woke up to the sound of my mother crying in our upstairs hallway. She was rummaging through our upstairs linen closet / medicine pantry. Being the sensitive teen I was, I thought nothing of it and went back to sleep. (Empathetic, I know.)

The next day, I asked her about it.

“Oh, it’s so stupid!” she said angrily. (Sadness and anger in 24 hours was a lot of emotion for my mom. She’s a rather stoic woman, always has been.) “I think I have bursitis in my shoulder. Bursitis! That’s an old person’s disease.”

My mother wasn’t yet 40.


Dr. Capra and I have discussed how to keep the rib popping thing from happening, but so far, it hasn’t helped — or only helps until I forget that I’m not supposed to reach and twist at the same time, and I pop shit out of alignment doing something perfectly normal like putting away groceries. I’m doing planks and pushups to try to strengthen the rhomboid and stretch the pectoral, but so far, it hasn’t prevented the ribs from moving.

I have never felt old until now. I feel I am young at heart, that my children keep me young feeling, that even though I’m 45, I feel like a 30-year-old. I am stronger than I’ve been in a long time, and even though I can’t run (I have the left hip of a 72-year-old; I’ve named it Gertrude), I am in good, even great, shape.

But here I am, unable to downward dog because something stupid could happen.

And I need to find a new chiropractor, because Dr. Capra practices in Upper St. Claire and Shadyside, neither of which are convenient to my new office.


Another reason I struggle with the concept of being “old” is that I really, really like new music. Like, I am always listening to new stuff, and finding bands — young, newish bands, that excite me.

I’ve become obsessed with twenty one pilots — which if you follow me on Twitter, you already know. It started with “Stressed Out” from their latest album. The obsession really took hold once I started watching their videos.

If you notice, the lead singer’s neck and hands are black — colored with marker or something. I mused about it on Twitter, and one of my young cousins, who loves the band too, tipped me off to the fact that Tyler (the singer) uses the black as an outward expression of his inner anxiety.

I know, I know, two white boys from Columbus, expressing the millennial angst.

But I don’t know. twenty one pilots is, IMO, expressing something, capturing something, that maybe some of us would do well to watch without the usual eye-rolling that an older generation does toward the latest generation. Just give it a pause for these guys.

Also, I can’t stop listening to this song, or watching this video, or singing along to it in the car while chair dancing behind the wheel.

Flora is mortified, so I’m doing my job there.

Copyright for featured image: whitestone / 123RF Stock Photo

My Top 10 Women in Music

(March is Women’s History Month, so starting today until March 31 I’m going to write about women who have influenced me in one way or another, or about feminism and women’s issues in general.)

I have always been a fan of music. Here are a list of my 10 favorite women musicians, in no particular order.

1. Tori Amos
The voice of an angel, and the mind of a whore. She was coy, had a powerful voice and a piano, and a message that said, “You may have fucked with me, boy, but I’m coming out on top.”

2. Liz Phair
A mind just as dirty as Tori’s, minus the tragedy, plus a little wistfulness for a normal boyfriend. Her first album is a masterpiece.

3. Sleater-Kinney
Of all the Pacific Northwest riot grrl bands, they were my favs. I’m so glad they reunited last year. Now, I just need to catch them live.

4. Nina Simone
Confession: I heard OF Nina Simone years before I actually heard Nina Simone. I did not listen to her regularly until Dan started playing her for me. Thank goodness for that gift, in addition to all the others he has given to me over the years.

5. Missy Elliot
I have no idea how I got introduced to Missy Elliot’s music. It was fun and funky hip hop, and I’m sure I’m much to white for it, but Miss E doesn’t mind. She is unabashed in every way. Also, her videos are awesome.

6. M.I.A.
I first hear M.I.A. on World Cafe, and I will confess, my clearest memory is toddler Kate standing transfixed through the song “Paper Planes” — Kate, who stands still for nothing — and then when the song was over, turning to me and saying, “More!” So I checked out Kala and Arular, and made sure we skipped the songs with more adult language when listening. I agreed with Kate: More.

7. Hole
I was a Nirvana fan, and the Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love relationship was the grunge train wreck of the 1990s. Whatever she contributed to his death, she screamed her pain to the world afterwards. I couldn’t turn away.

8. P.J. Harvey
Poetic, brooding, darkly sexual, passionate and raw.

9. Kim Deal
Pixies would not have been what they had been without her, and The Breeders have always been one of my favorites. She was refreshingly, deceptively blunt.

10. Lady Gaga
Whatever you may think of her art pop confections, girl’s got chops. I hope she plumbs her rock depths, and picks up where Born This Way left off.

Who are your favorite women in music?

Random Thoughts: The Friday RPM Rants Saturday Edition

Bodies have been on my mind lately.

I’m still thinking about Coates book The Difference Between the World and Me. In a letter to his son, he talks about the great shame of this nation, that it was built on the backs of black bodies — and that the building continues today. Given the current prison industrial complex, and the sacrifices exemplified in the Flint water crisis, and the number of black boys killed by police, it’s hard to say that he’s wrong.

And I don’t know what to do about it.


Of course, one of the most famous bodies in the world is that of Barbie. A recent Time magazine cover asks, “Can We Stop Talking About My Body Now?” and the short answer of course is, No. No we can’t apparently.


Ultimately, though, it’s not the way we talk about Barbie’s body that is the problem though: it’s the way we talk about women’s bodies in general that is the problem.

It’s about how women talk about their own bodies.
It’s about how we talk about our daughter’s bodies.
It’s the way other people, especially men, talk about women’s bodies.

We have a problem — again, possibly very specific to this nation — about treating women’s bodies like objects, like there aren’t people living inside of them. We can’t seem to stop judging the shapes and sizes and functions of these bodies — our bodies! — as if the size, and shape, and function of these bodies are the end-all-be-all of personhood.

Instead of constructing conversations about strength and health and joy. I am trying to do this with my own daughters, my own children, but man, it’s hard. I’m fighting an uphill battle against dress codes and a shallow lifestyle media and people who talk about dessert as if it’s a crime.


Which of course brings me to the CDC guidelines on women and alcohol, and leads me down a path to nearly incoherent rage.

The choice of whether or not to drink alcohol and how much should be left up to each individual woman. For no reason. For any reason.

The idea that a woman has to over think — or think at all — about her alcohol consumption misses the point.

I mean, sure, if you’ve had difficulty conceiving, and your healthcare provider suggests that cutting back on how many drinks you have in a week, it’s probably worth a try.

But to put out a blanket statement that young women who are not on birth control shouldn’t drink or drink very much is just… just unfreakingbelievable.

If you believe the helpful infographic they released to clarify the statement… well, alcohol is responsible for miscarriages, stillbirths, violence, STDs, and unplanned pregnancies.

Wait a… that’s not how that works! To paraphrase this writer, they are missing a step. You should read her article. I can’t write about this without descending into blithering anger. Women aren’t children. We aren’t incubators.

We aren’t just bodies.

We are people.

Nothing to See Here

I keep thinking to myself: I need to put up a post.

But I don’t have much to say. Or conversely I have so much to say — Trump! Guns! Feminist observations! — that I simply cannot find a starting place.

My depression and despair of last week was somewhat alleviated by Christmas music and sunny if short days. Also: the act of reconciliation and Mass. I am going to have to watch for those gray heavy days. They literally weigh on me, make me tired and blue, even possibly cause headaches. This is a new development I don’t like.

At the same time, though, my FIL is still struggling with health issues, I am waking up with anxiety about things that need to be done before Christmas Eve, and Flora is fighting me on homework.

Actually, here’s something to address: Losing her shit has been Flora’s reaction to everything lately. She goes full ballistic is a hot minute when her siblings are driving her bonkers. Which is a lesson for ME. I have got to keep my cool when things upset me, find a way to express my frustration with my children without going foul-mouthed fishwife. (Ahem, Dan, you too.)

I know she is entering a rocky time emotionally, socially, and physically. She needs some calm space. And I have to help her get it. And show her how to find it. So.

All right. Just wanted to get something up for you loyal visitors. I’m still here, and I’m still chugging along. For some good stuff to read, go see my article on, and if you need fun music, watch Pentatonix sing “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.”

Project: Food Budget, Week 4

Project: Food Budget

Aldi (2 trips) = $76.20 and $44.62
Target = $45.80
Farmers Market = $40 (green beans, snap peas, strawberries, broccoli, cucumber, honey sticks, 2 packages of pierogies, bottle of wine from 6 Mile Cellar)
Giant Eagle = $38.27

We were a little over budget at Aldi this week (about $20) due to the fact that we had to restock when we got back from Chicago. My poor children had nothing to eat on Wednesday except dry cereal. M headed next door at 9 a.m. for breakfast.

I had to add a trip to Giant Eagle for FOUR THINGS this week, which was frustrating. I blame Father’s Day. Dan’s worth every penny of course! We got the salmon there — incidentally, two of my three children REALLY LIKE salmon; Dan could’ve bought twice as much, and I don’t think we would’ve had leftovers — plus ginger beer, bananas, and yogurt. As much as I have tried, I just have not found satisfactory yogurt at Target or Aldi.

Aside, the yogurt tangent version: I HATE fat-free yogurt, and I REALLY HATE fat-free Greek yogurt. If that’s is your preference, that is fine, but I want another option. The Target brand of low-fat yogurt is chalky. All the yogurt at Aldi is 0% fat. The brand I prefer the most is almost impossible to find — I think the brand name is Greek Gods? Greek Goddess? It ranges in fat content from 1% to 10%; their honey vanilla yogurt is delectable. I find it at a health food store near my office. Otherwise, it’s Stonyfield 1% French Vanilla, the 32 ounce container.

Aside from the Giant Eagle trip, though, I feel we did well! The $40 at the farmers market included some treats for the children (namely honey sticks and strawberries), plus I splurged on a bottle of wine to pair with the salmon I was going to make for Father’s Day dinner. I got there too late for eggs this week! Curses, foiled again.

6 Mile Cellars
This was one of the dry whites, and it’s name is escaping me at the moment. Pairs very nicely with salmon.

Sunday: Grilled salmon with pesto and red peppers, rice, green beans
Monday: Ramen, tofu, frozen vegetable mix
Tuesday: Santa Fe Soup (recipe below)
Wednesday: Vegetarian chili and pierogies
Thursday: Fried rice, stir fried protein and vegetables
Friday: Sesame noodles
Saturday: Pizza and salad

Note: A lot of us Food Budget people seem to like coconut oil a whole lot. It has changed rice from something Flora will barely touch to something she asks for seconds and thirds of. I also use it when I make stovetop popcorn. Do you use it? If so, how?


Sante Fe Soup with Melted Cheese

Adapted from the Fix It and Forget It Cookbook.

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 lb. soy crumbles (I use Morningstar Farms)

Chili powder to taste

1 can corn, drained

1 can kidney beans, drained

1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies

1 can diced tomatoes

1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed

Tortilla chips

1. Put olive oil and garlic in slow cooker; turn it on high. Let “saute” for about 5 minutes. (You can saute the garlic and crumbles in a separate pan and add to the slow cooker, but I like to minimize clean up where I can.)

2. Add soy crumbles and chili powder to taste. Stir and let warm through.

3. Combine the rest of the ingredients (minus the chips) with the soy crumbles in the slow cooker. Cover; cook on high for 3 hours.

4. Serve with tortilla chips as a side or crumbled on top.

Let’s see how everyone else is doing!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller
Shea Lennon

Project: Food Budget: The Meal Plan Edition

Project: Food Budget

(We are in Chicago this week, no doubt blowing the food budget out of the water.)

I won’t lie: My meal plans are not fancy.

I’m feeding five people on a budget, and three of the people are children. We are mostly vegetarian, although Dan, Kate, and Michael are omnivores.

The actual, written meal plan took shape when Bella and I found ourselves feeding between six and 11 people a couple of times a week. Bella was constantly fretting about what to feed everyone, and calling me to see if I had ideas.

Before that, I had a general plan in my head, and usually spent some time worrying whether I had what I needed in the freezer, pantry, or crisper drawers.

Meal planning reduces stress, reduces food costs, and reduces waste. What’s not to like?

The general shape of my meal plan is this:

Monday: Pasta, protein, vegetable
Tuesday: Tacos (or other ethnic — quesadillas, sesame noodles, channa masala and naan)
Wednesday: Child friendly (think mac and cheese, hot/not dogs, vegetarian beans); or brinner
Thursday: Rice and protein; stir fry
Friday: soup and sandwiches or burgers, fries, and salad
Saturday: pizza and salad
Sunday: Sunday dinner-ish

See? Not complicated.

I usually shop on Saturday, which is one reason that evening’s dinner is something fast and easy. Ever spent the day running errands and shopping and not felt like cooking a big dinner? That’s how I do Saturdays many weekends. Shopping, errands, cleaning, soccer, and so on. Everyone likes pizza and salad! I usually get take-and-bake from Aldi or Costco, although I have been known to make pizza crust on occasion. (It’s sinfully easy, and yet.) Costco’s is better than Aldi’s in my opinion, but not by much.

Also, I tend to cook or bake on weekends if I have time. So, I may put on a big pot of lentil soup, for example, for later in the week. Or I’ll bake a batch of brownies. Instead of making another mess in the kitchen, I just pop a pizza in the oven.

Sundays, OTOH, I do like to make a big dinner. Sometimes we collaborate with the in-laws next door, and I’ll do a couple of vegetable dishes and my MIL will throw something in the crockpot. Sunday dinner usually is something that takes more time, or something I can put in a slow cooker. It’s also something that I usually want to eat, not something I’m throwing together to feed the kids. For example, I’ll make falafel and rice; or gingered chickpeas; or something that’s just a touch more complicated than the weekday dinners. The children are getting better about trying everything, which helps.

My children and I eat at home almost every night. It’s better for the budget, and we get the advantages of eating as a family, although Dan is absent Monday through Thursday. The children help with setting and clearing the table, and rinsing dishes.

They help with meal planning, too, usually along the lines of me saying to one of them, “Pick a meal for next week.” They aren’t cooking yet, although I do let them make their own dinner if they don’t like what I make. This drives Dan crazy.

So that’s how I do a meal plan: a general idea that I fill out once I go to the store or farmers market. Monday’s pasta dinner could be gnocchi with pesto sauce and beans and greens, or spaghetti, “meat”balls, and salad; Thursday’s dinner could be rice, vegetable stir fry, and tofu or chicken, with the vegetables frozen from Aldi or fresh from the farmers market. With enough foresight, you could put together a whole month of meal plans! (No, really, you can do it!)

Let’s see how everyone else did!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Erra Creations
Eryn Says…
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller

Do you have a meal plan?

Chicago Blues

Our dining experiences in Chicago have been *fabulous* so far.

When we finally trundled into the city proper last night at 7 pm Central time, we headed straight to the Chicago Diner in Logan Square. Our hotel was still very distant — more on this in a bit — but we were hungry and irritated from having been in a car since 11 am East Coast time.

Plus, we had white-knuckled our way through serious storms in Indiana, and nerves were frayed.

Dinner came quickly; the children were fairly well behaved considering how tired they were; the drinks took too long (mine was comped). I think I was the happiest with my meal, but *everyone* loved dessert.

Then it was time to find the hotel and go to bed.

M promptly barfed in the car — not a lot, but still, barf — and leaping out of the car to help him, I pulled my left thigh muscle. So.

Hotel, checked in, yadda yadda yadda. I took some ibuprofen. Everyone fell asleep.


The hotel where we are staying is not as convenient to the city as I had hoped. I should’ve done my homework better. Driving in Chicago is insane.

We got started too late today, and basically, we got to the city, ate another fantastic meal (the Eleven City Diner this time), cut our losses, drove back to the hotel and swam for an hour or so.


Of course, we also managed to play and barely win gas tank chicken; find parking for $3; and lose my debit card.


I canceled my card, and pulled my *other* thigh muscle at the pool. We snacked at the hotel room, and we’ve reset our for tomorrow. We found out where the Metra is — my stupid GPS told us we’d be on public transportation for 2+ hours, and this is not the case — and we’re going to head to the city for The Blues Fest.

It’s going to get better. We’re going to do more than just eat great in this city!