Gramma's soccer superstar

Gramma's soccer superstar

As the youngest of three boys in a sports-loving—watching and playing—family, Declan has spent many an afternoon, evening, and weekend cheering on Brayden and Camden as they compete on the court, field, track, and more.

The four-year-old finally got a chance to shine on the other side of the stands when Megan signed him up for youth soccer, his first time on a team.

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Final football photos! Plus GRAND Social No. 289 link party for grandparents

Final football photos! Plus GRAND Social No. 289 link party for grandparents

Final football photos!

With Sunday's (spectacular!) Super Bowl marking the end of football season, I figure I should go ahead and share my favorite football photos of the season. Photos I forgot to share soon after they were shot.

My favorite football photos of this past season are — surprise, surprise — of my three desert-dwelling grandsons. Photos not of them playing football, but watching football. Well, even better than watching football, my grandsons were attending their very first professional football game!

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Saturday movie review: Queen of Katwe

I don't know how to play chess. Disney's QUEEN OF KATWE is about chess. Despite my lack of knowledge of the game, I found the film intriguing — even suspenseful at times — but most of all inspiring. Because QUEEN OF KATWE is about much more than excelling at a board game.

Queen of Katwe

QUEEN OF KATWE tells the true tale of a 10-year-old girl living in Katwe (pronounced CAT wee or CAT way), a slum in Kampala, Uganda. Phiona Mutesi (newcomer Madina Nalwanga) and ...

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Wherein a grandson samples sports and a grandma admits her paranoia

My oldest grandson, at seven-years-old, has already tried his hand at many sports.

Bubby has mastered swimming. He's progressed from T-ball to baseball. He's sampled soccer and running and basketball and wall climbing. Plus others I've likely forgot (or didn't photograph).

Bubby's latest sporty venture? Flag football!

youth sports flag football 

Bubby loves it! (Please note that despite...

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Sweet reward for sweaty work

Thomas Edison has been quoted as saying, "The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense."

I'm pretty sure Mac would add to Edison's adage a fourth essential for achievement: frozen yogurt afterward!

Mac's frozen yogurt 

Mac enjoyed his sweet reward for his...

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Sports and my efforts to be a fan

Sharing a love for sports, watching a game (or round or match or any other term for an organized competetion) together seems to be the ultimate bonding experience.

I'm a loser when it comes to such a bonding experience, for I really stink at watching sports. I try. But something always grabs my attention far more easily than the action on the field or court or whatever.

I wanted to be a football fan. I even bought a Tebow jersey last season when Tim Tebow seemed to be the savior of the Broncos (of course, real fans would have plenty to say about that statement). I did enthusiastically watch the televised games in which Tebow played. But I must admit that more so than his throwing game—or lack thereof—I continually found myself entranced by that yellow line that magically appeared on the field to show where the ball is...or should go for there to be a first down...or something like that. I marveled again and again, much to the chagrin of Jim and Brianna who really did want to watch the game not bond with my babbling self, about the money surely made by the guy who came up with that magical line on the field, the marking that's not really on the field but visible only to those watching from home. Forget post-game interviews with game MVPs and winners and losers—I want to hear from the genius that invented that line.

Basketball distractions are similar. Sort of. It's not really anything magical or technical that distracts me when watching the tall and tattooed (and, honestly, rather thug like) players dart from end to end, passing and shooting, though. It's the squeaking that distracts me. Yes, squeaking. That incessant squeaking of their darn athletic shoes catching on the shiny court floor. Makes. Me. Nuts. So nuts, in fact, that I can't concentrate. So nuts that I usually won't watch. If I end up with no choice but to watch, I'm not really watching, I'm thinking about those squeaks and shoes. Or thinking about something completely different as I try to not think about those <cuss> squeaks.

Thinking about something totally different is typically my default game while watching baseball, too. I try, I really do try to keep up with an inning, from beginning to end. But I can't. I'll watch one hit, maybe two. Or possibly a few strikes or balls or whatever else takes place. But then I realize everyone around me is cheering—or booing—and I have no idea why. Because I'm lost. Not by way of misunderstanding the game, but by simply being lost in thought about something monumental and important. Like how much it might cost for the advertising signs lining the ballpark fence. Or how hot the mascot might be in his or her costume. Or how often birds must duck and dodge foul balls.

I'm just not meant to be a sports fan, I think.

Jim, on the other hand—like most normal folks—seems to manage just fine, despite not being one of those heavy hitter widow makers who watches any and all sports on television, season in and season out. Yet his first question to Brianna about a guy she recently went on a date with was, "What kind of sports does he like?" Which, of course, created a moment of bonding between Jim and Brianna.

Sports are undoubtedly important to men. And many women, too. My longtime friend Debbie is a top-notch Rockies and Broncos fan, rivaled in her dedication to the orange and blue of the Broncos only by my diehard, forever fan Carol. Most of my sisters? Football fans. Brianna and Andrea? Well, they're fans of most sports, too.

Fortunately my middle daughter, Megan, is much like me when it comes to sports. At least baseball. Which was quite fortunate the evening my entire family spent at a Sky Sox game (that's the local AA team, for those readers as unsporty as I am). Megan and I chatted, roamed the place with Mac and Bubby. As others bonded while watching the game, Megan and I bonded while not watching the game...but still at the game, giving the illusion we were just as much sports-bonding fans as the next guy. Or gal.

While at the stadium, Mac made it abundantly clear he's more like his grandma and his mom in his inability to concentrate on the game, as he required lots of distraction by lots of different family members. Of course, he just recently turned one, so what else might we expect. Odds are it won't be long before Mac's right there in the thick of spectating along with all the other sporty folk with whom I can't quite relate.

Odds are even higher, though, that Mac won't be one of those watching sports but will be one of those out on the field playing, especially considering his early prowess at ball play.

I look forward to such games. They may be just the ticket to making me a fan, as I have no doubt I'll be fully engaged in watching Mac—or Bubby or any other grandchild in the future—from the first whistle to the last.

I may not be a sports fan, but I'm definitely a fan of my grandchildren—even if they choose to be one of those squeaky kids on the basketball court.

Today's question:

What organized sports to your grandkids and/or kids play?

Photo replay: Run, Andie, run

My youngest daughter, Andrea, set a personal record in her most recent five-mile run, yesterday's Frosty's Frozen 5 & 10 in Denver. With a final time of 42.32, she broke the 9-minute-mile barrier and averaged 8.5-minute miles. Woo-hoo!

Congratulations to Andie, not only for the PR but for finishing 171st out of 714 overall and 17 out of 82 in her division. (Plus, major props for picture-perfect posing for mom mere moments after crossing the finish line!)

Today's question:

If you could set a personal record in anything—sports-related or not—what would you like your record to be?

No trophies for this grandma

Megan after Mad Mud Run 2011I've never been an athlete, never been competitive when it comes to sports and physical exertion. The only time I came even close to thinking I could come out on top in a sporting event was in first grade. It was field day and I was so enthralled with Frankie, the cutest of cute boys in my class, that I felt I could do anything, beat anyone in any competition I was signed up for—which was only the three-legged race and the tug-of-war every kid in the class was signed up for but, hey, I was ready.

Elementary school field days are a magical day near the end of the school year when the sun is warm, the excitability high, and the festive agenda includes running, racing, jumping and more. One of the highlights of field days back in my day (and back in the cold of Minnesota) was the rare opportunity to eat outside on blankets carefully placed across the school lawn instead of crammed onto cafeteria tables with built-in benches inside the dank, stale lunchroom. The picnic-style lunch was a favorite of students one and all.

My main event—the three-legged race—was scheduled for late afternoon, so I joyfully ate my lunch, sneaking peeks at Frankie across the lawn every chance I could, then looking away the second his head turned my way. We'd not yet spoken to one another; he likely didn't even know my name. But I was determined to change all that on our glorious day on the field.

My opportunity to do exactly that came just after lunch. A creek ran through the grounds just behind the school, and when we weren't on the roster for field events, many of us played along its banks awaiting our competition. Frankie was in the group of boys daring one another to jump across the water, I was in the group of girls fawning over their agility.

My eyes were in all-out adoration mode, focused on Frankie...until I saw in my peripheral vision a frog. A hopping amphibian of magical proportions that I was sure would garner me attention from Frankie, if only I could capture the creature and present it to him.

As the boys jumped and the girls watched, I stealthily approached the frog no one else seemed to have seen. The frog hopped ahead a bit. Then it hopped farther...and faster...with each step I took toward it. But I, too, moved faster and faster, determined to nab the prize and present it to my potential beau. Sensing my plan, the frog took one fantastic leap, right over the muddy bank and downward into the stream. Thanks to the momentum built in my pursuit, I, too, went over the muddy bank—then tripped and landed face first in the mud and tumbled on into the stream.

By then my stream-mates had gathered at the top of the bank, giggling as the frog hopped away. I gave up on the frog and, doing my best to hold back the tears, began my ascent up the muddy bank, slipping, sliding, stumbling as I tried to grab hold of anything that might help me reach the top. I finally made it—with no help from any of the other kids. Not from my girl friends, not from the boys, and especially not from Frankie.

I was a mess, a stinky, muddy mess. My mom was called, I was brought home to change, and I arrived back at the field just in time to join the three-legged race, which I reluctantly ran only for the sake of my assigned partner.

I can't remember whether we won or lost the race that day, but I do remember the entire experience revealed Frankie as a creep unwilling to help a lass in need. My crush was over, gone, abated for ever more.

My Frankie-and-the-frog incident had little to do with my athletic ability, but I don't recall ever being as excited about my subsequent field days and athletic attempts as I was that first fateful one. I grudgingly participated in P.E. classes throughout my school career, had a brief stint as a junior-high cheerleader, and joined a summer softball team only once as an adult—and quit soon after the team captain told me in not-so-polite terms that I really shouldn't be allowed on the field after flubbing the art of catching, throwing, batting so horrendously during practices.

There's no question about it: I'm no athlete. Jim is definitely more athletic than I, having been on wrestling, baseball, and football teams in high school, but he was never considered, by ability or association, a full-fledged jock.

Which is why it's so surprising our daughters were...and are. We could never afford for the girls to be on park & rec or club teams as youngsters, but from middle school on, all three were firmly entrenched in school sports. They continually impressed me with their participation in swimming, cross country, track, cheerleading, volleyball, soccer. Brianna and Andrea both received high-school letters and letter jackets for being three-sport athletes; Megan received the same for being in two sports plus choir.

Now that my daughters are adults, they continue to impress me with their athletic pursuits. Primarily as runners...running long distances.

Turkey Trot 2010

My daughters happily, willingly participate in 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and more. This weekend, in fact, both Megan and Andrea are running some sort of Jingle Bell race, each in their respective cities.

The athletic (although not yet all that competitive) spirit continues with Bubby. At three years old, he's an avid swimmer, loves to hike and bike, and just last week he finished up his soccer season. For his effort on the team, Bubby garnered his very first sports trophy ever.

It surely won't be his last, especially if his mommy and aunts (and daddy, too) have anything to do with it. And if he's fleet-footed enough to dodge any non-athletic influence his grandma may have on him.

Today's question:

To whom would you award the Most Athletic trophy in your family?

Soc(cer) it to me, baby

My youngest daughter, Andrea, was a soccer player. She got a late start at the game, first playing in high school, and only then because she wanted a spring sport but didn't want to run track. Her position was goal keeper, a spot no one else wanted. But she was a dandy keeper and even ended up getting a scholarship for college based on her soccer involvement. Our little Andie did quite well on the college level, too.

Our oldest grandson, Bubby, is now a soccer player, starting at a far younger age than his Aunt Andie. The week he, Baby Mac, and Megan visited in October was the week of his first soccer practice. So he missed his very first official instruction. Andrea, being the sole soccer player on either side of Bubby's extended family, gave him a few preliminary pointers while he was here so he'd be ready to roll once he returned home.

At three years old, being ready to roll...or pass or dribble or kick the ball into the goal is, understandably, a foreign concept. Right up there with not being able to touch the ball with your hands in the game of soccer...unless you're throwing it in from the side to your teammates whenever the confusing gameplay requires such.

Bubby's giving it the ol' college, er, toddler try, though, and Jim and I were fortunate to attend one of his soccer games during our recent visit. Here's a sampling of the action (Bubby's in the hood):

Like I said, it's a confusing game, especially for toddlers, I think. Even more confusing when you're the tiniest (probably youngest, too) peanut on the team. He'll get it though, I'm sure. He's off to a good start.



The best part—at least to Bubby, I think—is when the game is done and it's time to collect snacks to replenish after the hard work of playing.

Did Bubby and his teammates win the game Jim and I saw? I honestly couldn't tell ya. Soccer's a confusing game—especially when you're a three-year-old...or the grandma who had eyes only for that three-year-old out on the field.

Today's question:

What is your favorite sport to watch?