For Real…Or Just A Dream?

IMG_2982blogpostI think that lots of little kids dream about being in the Olympics. This kind of story is not new, I’m sure. To know that you’re one of the best in the world in your sport? To compete on the world’s stage against the best from other countries? How mind-blowing is that? And is your kid really one that could be at the top in her sport? Is this dream that MK has, one that could come true if she works hard enough?

The short answer is…I don’t know. I have faith. I’ve seen her perform. I think she’s good. I think she’s really, really good. And so is her twin. So, I signed them both up for the USA Futures Field Hockey program so they could get good training…and to see how well they would fare amongst other field hockey players in the area. I know they both have a ways to go but their skill sets at this age are pretty darn good.

To get into Futures, each player has to go through a time trial. I don’t know what the criteria for invitation was but both of my girls made it the first time. I think this is a way to filter out the beginners that don’t have the basics of stick and ball handling. At the end of the seven training sessions, all Futures athletes are invited to play in their respective regional tournaments…or showcases, actually.

In the Regional Futures showcases around the country, individual players were put onto teams with teammates they had never met before from across their region. A coach was assigned to each team but it seemed they were there primarily, to make sure all players got good playing time.  It seemed odd at first but it forced the players to be assertive on the field. It forced them to learn to communicate quickly. And it forced them to perform…in front of evaluators sitting on the sidelines with their clipboards jotting notes down as they watched. There were no playoffs, no winners or losers bracket…just play your four games and we’ll get back to you.

IMG_0040My girls participated this year to see how well they stacked up against other players in their age group in the Western region. They don’t have a good sense of that because during the season they usually play one (or two) age groups up. And we were really curious what the Elite Training Center was like in San Diego. Both played well but only MK was invited to the National Futures Championships.

And yea, that was a surprise. It’s not something you count on happening. There were many really good players that did not receive an invitation. My girls came away from the Regional Futures games learning what they had to work on, where they could improve, what they were good at, how well they responded to the pressure. They played and saw how they stood against others in the region. That was the main goal for the weekend. Mission accomplished.

But now, there’s this invitation…to play in the National Futures Championships. A chance for MK to see how she stands amongst her peers across the country. To see if she really could be in the running for that Olympic dream. For a competitor like her, this would be Nirvana.

This opportunity, though, came up suddenly. Traveling from the West coast to Spooky Nook Sports Center in Pennsylvania, is a long, expensive trek. Not only is there a large fee to participate, the travel expenses alone are daunting. Financially, this is difficult to pull off on very short notice. But MK will not be deterred. She has come up with ways to earn money and one of those is a GoFundMe campaign. Check it out: MK would certainly appreciate your help in her efforts to get to the National Futures Championships. This is the first step in chasing her dream and she’s hoping she can take it.

An original post by mommytwingirls for It’s Never Easy…But It’s Always Fun blog.




MK’s Olympic Dream…

IMG_2903 crop collage4Yea, it’s been a really, really, really long time since I posted on this blog. Why? Well, life. Since my girls are no longer toddlers or elementary school students, I subconsciously…or maybe consciously…decided to scale back on stories about them. After all, they’ve become quite the young ladies and have minds and feelings of their own…for which I haven’t felt comfortable sharing stories about without their consent. And honestly, they were always my muses for posts to this blog.

Yes, we’ve had several vacations over the years to write about but I’m going to blame Facebook for that because they made it too easy to share short comments and photos with all of my friends.

However now, for once, one of my daughters welcomes my sharing of her latest story. In fact, she encourages it, so, here goes.

Way back in 2013, I wrote this post about how I decided to teach my daughters about my old college sport of field hockey. They fell in love with it way back then and have continued to play as often as they can. And because they started younger than many of their friends, they’re actually quite good for their age group. In fact, both play for clubs where they routinely play in one or two age groups older in area tournaments.

In 1990, after my prime field hockey playing years, USA Field Hockey began the Futures field hockey program in an effort to identify and develop young field hockey talent with the goal of creating future Olympic athletes. My daughters participated in the program this year and one of them was selected to take the next step and play in the National Futures championship. The top 12% of all Futures athletes are invited to this event after competing in the Regional Futures tournaments around the country.

IMG_3069 copy collage3This is an amazing opportunity for her and we couldn’t be prouder of how hard she worked and played for this honor. This is, however, unplanned and of course, unbudgeted…and quite expensive. So, she has taken it upon herself to make it happen. She is planning a garage sale, selling books, and refereeing soccer (her other sport) but she needs a lot more help and $$ to make it happen. So now, she has put together a GoFundMe campaign: and she is hoping that others will support her journey to the Olympics by donating or spreading the word. And, if you can help, thank you…from the bottom of her field hockey heart.

An original post by mommytwingirls for It’s Never Easy…But It’s Always Fun blog.


A Postcard-Image-Worthy Hike

Norway is a country filled with incredible drama in its natural landscape. As you can imagine, this land of numerous fjords, lush green valleys, and enormous glaciers offers unending opportunities for creating awe-inspiring images. One of those is called Preikestolen. Preikestolen_Board10 My husband first brought this place up a few months ago when he was planning our annual sojourn to the motherland. In a 2-3 week family vacation, we have plenty of time to visit family, relatives, and friends, and insert an excursion to parts of Norway we’ve yet to see. One of the images you’ll often see in a Norway postcard is that of Preikestolen or “Pulpit Rock.” Preikestolen_Board01 Preikestolen_Board02 Pulpit Rock is as dramatic as they come. Sheer drop-offs over 600 meters (or about 1800 feet) with no guardrail in sight to secure any curious tourists reminds us that we are no longer in the States. Here, you accept the risks and consequences of your actions. If you happen to fall over the edge, well then, that’s your fault. Nobody to blame; no one to sue. I like that philosophy…but I digress. Preikestolen_Board03 Preikestolen_Board04Preikestolen_Board05 A 2-hour hike to the top and a 2-hour hike to the bottom. Couldn’t be that bad, right? I mean, my hikes to St. Josephs Hill at home should have been good preparation for such a journey, right? Hahaha Well, it was and it wasn’t. Perhaps the idea of trudging uphill for a couple of hours didn’t bother me because of the weekly St. Josephs Hill hikes. But I didn’t expect that most of the way up to Preikestolen would be along paths created with various sizes of uneven rocks. Ugh. I hadn’t counted on the fact that it would take a bit of concentration on my part to pick out my line along these steps. And some of those steps were rather high, at least with respect to the level of flexibility and strength I have with my artificial hips. Preikestolen_Board06 Preikestolen_Board07 Preikestolen_Board13 Preikestolen_Board11 Preikestolen_Board09 Ugh. I’m sooooo glad I was never curious enough to see if anyone provided a description of what this hike would be like (on the Internet) beyond elevation and duration. All I knew was to bring my hiking boots. Had I known the path would be a rocky one, I may not have attempted it at all.

Hiking uphill is far better and easier for me than hiking downhill. After all, hips are what help slow me down and that strength is still building. Then again, hiking uphill does take strength to move from step to step, especially the big ones.

We took frequent rest stops as our girls ran up ahead to check things out and wait for us to catch up. I was a little worried that our girls would get bored, tired, and whine most of the way. Not so. Not at all. They were as curious and bouncy the entire way up and down as I could have hoped. They are in great shape from their hours of sports and their youthful curiosity kept them going until we returned to our car. We often caught up to them standing atop a nearby boulder ready to point the way forward. They were also very good about showing me the smallest steps up the rocky pathway for me. Once we reached the top with the rest of the early crowd, it was truly breathtaking. Did I mention the absence of guardrails? Preikestolen_Board12 Preikestolen_Pic02 I could feel my legs get a little wobbly anytime I got a little close to the edge. The view over the sheer drop is enough to make you a little dizzy and lose your balance. Because of that, we crawled to the edge to take a quick peek. And that was all we needed. The all encompassing vista was easily and safely seen from at least 5 feet from the edge. The views down and around the fjord were nothing less than spectacular. I don’t have enough adjectives at hand to justify the beauty of the site. Let’s just say that you have to see it to experience it.

Likewise, the climb itself offered several postcard-worthy spots. Of course, there were several brave [or stupid] tourists who sat with their legs hanging over the edge. Did you know that only two people have lost their lives falling over the edge? It was not an accident, though. They had created a suicide pact together and Preikestolen was their choice for death by elevation.

The climb down the mountain took just as long as climbing up. It wasn’t an easy descent because you still had to pick your lines along the same rocky paths you took uphill. And for me, it was a little scarier making sure I didn’t get going too quickly, lose concentration, and miss the next step. Preikestolen_Board14 Preikestolen_Pic01 But I’m glad I did it. I knew my legs would be screaming at me the next day (and they did!) but it would be a soreness well earned. One that would remind me, painful though it might be, I did it!

An original post by mommytwingirls for It’s Never Easy…But It’s Always Fun blog.

Field Hockey Is Comin’ ‘Round Again…

FieldHockey_IMG_1600 copy cMany, many, many, many (well, you get the point) years ago, I played field hockey. It was a new sport to me and all of my teammates in high school. At the time, my high school was a new one. In fact, my senior class would be the first four-year graduating class of the school. That was back in 1980.

I discovered field hockey in my Freshman year. I had just been cut from the junior varsity softball team and I was bummed…and relieved at the same time. I mean, the only reason I tried out and played at all was because my best friend and several other friends played. I knew I wasn’t good at it. I hated it when it was my turn at bat. I had visions of being hit by a wild pitch every time I stepped up to the plate. On defense, I always chose the outfield. I hoped and prayed the ball would never come near me. And when it did? I’d start praying even harder and asking myself, what the heck am I doing here?

So, the cut was a blessing in disguise. As I walked away from the softball field and headed to the upper field, I spied several girls holding sticks and balls in the distance. I was curious. I stopped to watch a little and the coach approached me. She asked if I wanted to try it out. Since I had nothing else to do, I said, “Sure.” She showed me a few basics and I was off and running. Literally. She said I was a natural. I didn’t believe her. I thought she was just saying that to be encouraging…but it did motivate me.

I had so much fun playing field hockey that year. And the very next year, I made the all-CIF sectional First Team (all stars). It was an honorary thing and an awesome feeling. I learned a lot from being part of a team, competing together, striving to be the best. Losing games motivated us; winning games fueled us. Eventually, we won the CIF section title in my senior year – the biggest championship for our sport back then. Playing field hockey was such a major part of my high school life. It helped define my place as an athlete during those uncertain young adult years. When I graduated and hung up my stick and cleats, field hockey  would be a fond memory from my high school years.

But then there was college. My high school coach played at San Diego State University. She knew that many schools offered athletic scholarships. She made phone calls and made sure coaches came to watch our team play, including the Stanford coach. Coach Barb had already given out her scholarships for the coming Freshman year but she encouraged me to walk on and she would see what she could do. Guess field hockey wasn’t over for me as I’d originally thought.

Playing a sport in college is hard, particularly without an athletic scholarship. Balancing time between studies, classes, practices, and traveling for games was a struggle for me. I worked part-time as part of my financial aid package and I was ready to quit field hockey in my sophomore year, though I’d made the Varsity team that year. I was very sad but it would be a relief. I convinced myself I was done playing. I could focus all of my time on studying. Getting my degree was the reason I was there anyway. But my coach didn’t agree. She offered me a scholarship for my final two years there. I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Oh. Hmm. Guess I wasn’t done playing just yet.

By the time my senior year rolled around, I was definitely done. I was tired. During the last game of my college career, I was hobbling on the field. I’d hurt my back and developed shin splints in the previous game. The trainer could find nothing wrong with my back but we treated it, along with my shin splints. I was not 100% by the next and final game. I was in pain. Mentally and physically, I was done. I never wanted to pick up another field hockey stick again. And I didn’t…until now. Or more accurately, last December…28 years later.

Last December, I got it into my head that I’d like to show my daughters the sport that I used to play. They’re 9 years old and have been playing soccer, tennis, volleyball, street hockey (in school), and lots of other sports. My daughters have been curious about “Mommy’s sport.” I haven’t been physically active since they were born largely because of the pain I developed from hip dysplasia. Most of the learning and playing of sports has been with my husband. Two years ago, I had both of my hips replaced. Last year, I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee. Finally, I’m ready to get back to my once athletic self…and show my girls a few things.

They thought it was fun but they needed more instruction to really get into it…and probably just as importantly, friends that played. I found a couple of local field hockey camps this past summer. One daughter was able to attend both. The other had time for only one. They LOVED it! They met several other girls that play and/or were learning to play. They were the youngest. Most were middle school and high school ages. But since my girls are tall for their age, they weren’t small at all. And their natural athleticism kept them right in the mix with the bigger, older kids.

Once again, field hockey has become a part of my life. I admit that the reason I’m engaging in it again is mainly because of my daughters. While one has found that soccer is her sport (she plays competitive soccer and is quite good at it), the other has announced that she believes that field hockey just may be her sport. [I should add that AL has confided in me in the past, that she was feeling a bit down because she felt like everyone in our family had a sport (e.g., Pappa has tennis and basketball, her sister has soccer, I had field hockey and tennis) and she had yet to figure out her own sport that she loved to play…and was really good at.] And since she has decided that field hockey is that sport, I will do everything I can to make sure she has a chance to play. At 9 years old, it’s not as easy as signing her up for a class through the local town recreational organizations.

FieldHockey_CollageSo I find myself volunteering to see if I can get field hockey into my daughters’ school’s SPARK P.E. program. I’m working with a local high school coach to see if I can obtain field hockey sticks for the program. I’m inviting her friends to try out field hockey when they can at any practices that come up. I got both of my girls memberships in the USA Field Hockey Association, and signed them up for the new Fall field hockey season spearheaded by the local Stryker field hockey club (for which they are members of as well). And at some point, I’m going to have to bone up on the rules of the game since I played back in the 80’s.

I have to laugh at myself, though. I truly thought that field hockey was a thing of my past. Fondly remembered but over and done. And…I guess not.

Original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog by Mommytwingirls.

Could Soccer Burnout Be in Our Near Future?

SoccerBurnout_IMG_8496 copySchool just began and we’re all still getting used to the routines. That, unfortunately, included a few days at home sick for one of my girls after the long Labor Day weekend. Ugh. And though the other one didn’t stay home ill, the effects of her bad cold and sore throat still lingered each day at school. To top it off, she’s the one with the intense almost-everyday soccer schedule. I am Mommy, so I worry.

MK’s Tues/Thurs soccer practices with her comp team expanded to optional skills practices on Wednesdays and goalie practices on Fridays. Now, you might ask, why did I sign her up for the additional two days? Well, basically, that was what MK wanted to do. She loves soccer and if given the chance, she’ll play everyday. But I wonder if it’s one of those things that I, as Mommy, should regulate for her. I mean, she doesn’t understand the concept of burnout. She is 9 years old with an endless source of energy and enthusiasm for the sports she plays.

I kinda think that this much soccer at such a young age is a bit much…isn’t it? In fact, I think that this much playing of any sport at this young age is a bit much. Oh yea, I know that the best players in many sports – tennis, swimming, soccer, football, basketball, etc. – started playing when they were very young. The question is, how much did they really compete?

I’d read a long time ago that the father of Venus and Serena Williams kept them away from tournaments when they were very young in order to ensure that they developed gradually and didn’t burn out quickly. I wonder, should I be doing a similar thing?

I’m not saying that MK will be the next Mia Hamm or Hope Solo (who knows?) but generally speaking, should I start curbing how much time she’s spending on this one sport? There are many other sports I’d like her (and her sister) to try out – tennis, basketball, field hockey, swimming – that a year-long commitment to soccer pre-empts. At least we’re still making time for Tae Kwon Do.

Anyway, I guess we’ll see what the end of this first year on the comp soccer team brings. December is the end of the year-long commitment and if she hasn’t burned out by then, maybe this will be her sport…and maybe I won’t feel so guilty about it…a few years from now.

SoccerBurnout_Collage1 SoccerBurnout_Collage2

Original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog by Mommytwingirls.

Valentines Day 2013

It’s been a really, really long time since I pulled an all-nighter. And while I was soooo very sleepy with my eyes at half mast for most of the day, I have to admit that it was worth it yesterday morning to hear my girls say, “Thank you, Mommy. You are always there for us.”

It was a busy time the afternoon before Valentines Day shopping for a little something at Affordable Treasures for my girls’ classmates, stopping briefly to drop off Girl Scout cookies at my chiropractor’s office, making a couple of visits to local grocery stores for baking supplies, taking photos for their cards, and settling in to bake and do homework. The hours between after school care and bedtime seem impossibly short at times like these. Times when big projects and special days at school come around…like Valentines Day.

As in the last couple of years, my girls were looking forward to sharing their Valentines. In fact, they said that all the other kids can’t wait to see their Valentines each year. It’s my fault. I’d gotten a kick out of the mini me idea other photographers have done in Photoshop and tried it a couple of years ago. My girls and all their classmates loved them. And now it’s stuck. It’s become an annual thing. And since they’re older, they like to plan their shots with me. They’ve started visualizing the final images they would like to create. These cards have become a real collaboration between my girls and myself and it’s kinda fun.

I woke my girls at 6:00 yesterday morning as requested. They knew they still had to package their class treats and sign their Valentines Day cards. We’ve come a long way in our annual Valentines Day projects. Not only do my girls plan their photo shoots with me, they have also taken over all the baking (well, I still handle the oven part) and they’re happy to do the packaging and signing of cards. Now, if I can just get this project started a lot earlier than the night before Valentines Day….

Their 2013 Valentines Day cards:

Swinging Valentines Dancing Mini Me'sSharing Heart LollipopsChocolate?Chalkboard Heart Dancing Mini Me'sAnd a Happy [belated] Valentines Day to you!

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog by MommyTwinGirls.

My Old Creative Outlet…

Every time I rummage through my digital folders of photos and run into old scrapbooking layouts, I start getting a little nostalgic. It might be because it was such an obsession for such a long time, it’s hard to ignore. I created this one during my really artsy fartsy phase of scrapbooking. Distressed papers with brown archival inks, 3-D frames for depth to protect real shells mounted on the page, printing on transparencies, and the like – I could start my own art class where I was teacher and student whenever I wanted. It was fun experimenting with various art techniques and creating these little art pieces. I still miss those days. Especially the times when I enticed my friends to come over and work on their scrapbooks with me until very late in the evening.   <heavy sigh>

The photos on this layout are some of my favorites – love the stark contrast in size between my husband and our [then] toddler girls barely taller than his knees. They make me smile.

The poem reads:

Pappa, would you hold my hand and walk me to the shore?

I see the waves are crashing; I hear the ocean’s roar.

The water is washing up on the sand.

I want to go explore.

And if you’ll stay right by my side; I’ll feel so safe and free.

To scream and run along the beach, if you’ll watch over me.”

Original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

A Pumpkin Patch Just Right for 8-Year-Olds – Swank Farms

The cuteness factor of tiny tots running through pumpkin patches is always high around this time of year. Unfortunately, my girls are beyond the age when their stature rivaled that of the most commonly-sized pumpkins. Likewise, it takes a bit of entertainment to keep them interested in a visit to a pumpkin patch than the standard train ride or pumpkin picking. So when my friend, Akemi, mentioned Swank Farms in Hollister, I was looking forward to checking it out.

Last Friday, a Staff Development day at school, my plans were already set. To Swank Farms we went…and a few other friends from school. Can I just say that Akemi was absolutely right? None of the kids were ready to leave when we moms were but as always, we’re the ones keeping everyone on schedule. My girls had soccer practice in the afternoon and we couldn’t be late for that. But let me tell ya, Swank Farms kept all the kids happily distracted while we (moms) got to chit chat. A giant jumping pillow, two tall pumpkin sling shots, a corncob cannon, pedal karts, a cornfield maze, a cow train, a place to mine for gems, piggy races, and of course, feeding the goats. All of this kept our crew of eight 8-year-olds happily entertained as they rushed from one attraction to another.

And can I say how warm and friendly the staff at Swank Farms is? After a couple of our kids ended up with bloody hands from falling during the hunt through the corn maze, the staff was ready with First Aid in hand. When one of my daughters dropped her plastic baggie of gems she’d just mined down the water hole, a staff member hurriedly ran out to help her retrieve her collection. When my girls and their classmate wanted to use the giant pumpkin sling shot and fire the corncob cannon, a staff member was right there to show them how…and add a little brawn to the actual pulling back of the sling. Now, it was a relatively light day in terms of visitors last Friday (I imagine the threat of rain and the fact we were there on a regular school day for other districts) and the staff had a lot less kids to worry about but still, that kind of hospitality is always appreciated and makes us want to return…or at least tell all our friends about it.  🙂

Original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

I Am 50. Lucky, Happy ME!

At some point in my life, I began feeling like I didn’t really need to celebrate my birthdays in a big way. With the exception of my 40th birthday, dinner with family and sometimes, friends, was all I really wanted. It’s the same for this one. This milestone. I don’t really know why. It seems that when many people hit this age, they have to do something big. I…don’t.

The other day, I jokingly explained my lackadaisical attitude about my upcoming birthday to a dear friend of mine thus, “Maybe it’s because I’m so happy with my life that I don’t really want anything more.” We laughed and she said something about rationalizing it any way I like.

But in truth, I am. My best friend and greatest love is my husband. My pride and joy are my daughters. My family (in San Diego and Norway), though far away, love and support us (as we do them). All of my friends have a special place in my heart with bonds forged from my high school and college years, motherhood and twinsdom, my girls’ school activities and events, my photography work, friends of friends and other walks of life. I have a career where I not only meet new families and play with their kids, they often become friends – and there aren’t many careers where that can happen.

I’m not one that’s uncomfortable with telling anyone how old I am…though I admit to getting it wrong from time to time when asked. And it’s not in the way you think. Most times, I add another year or two to my correct age. hahaha

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t care that it’s my birthday. And it’s not that I don’t love all the Happy Birthday wishes (because I do). It’s just that I don’t feel the need to do something big…something out of the ordinary. Not like my 40th birthday.

On my 40th, I had been thinking of spending a spa weekend somewhere…with my girlfriends. And I did. A day of pampering at Berkeley’s Claremont Resort, a fabulous dinner at Chez Panisse, and non-stop laughter throughout the weekend. It was great. I’ll never forget it.

But this year? Well…over the last few months, my husband has asked me several times what I would like to do for my 50th birthday. Such a sweetheart. Willing to do a bit of advance planning for whatever I decide…but I really couldn’t think of a thing. We’d already had a rather wonderful summer vacation visiting family in Norway (love hangin’ out with my in-laws), checking out Tivoli in Copenhagen, visiting a glass factory on the isle of Murano and walking around Venice, relaxing at a beach resort near Rovinj, Croatia, strolling the streets of Old Town Dubrovnik, and exploring Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was an amazing trip – the perfect balance between relaxation (at the beach) and curious exploration (of new and different places). Soooooooooo…I’m not feeling the need to travel anywhere new and different to mark my 50th(well, until next year).

A spa day? Well, yea, I could do that. And I still might. No reason I couldn’t stretch out several little birthday celebrations throughout the year in honor of turning 50. In fact, turning 50 will likely be an oft-used reason for doing/buying a few things here and there over this next year. hahaha

But honestly, hangin’ with my family, toasting with my friends – that’s all I really want to mark the beginning of this milestone year. Anything more than that is as they say, icing on the cake (oh, a stop there may be something I just realized I need).

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

New Grade, New Class, New School Year

So, how was your first day of school? In this 3rd grade year, I think the first day of school is starting to feel more “ordinary.” I mean, we were in a rush to get to school on time (yea, like most of the year) and in past years, we’ve always left plenty of time to stroll to the new classroom, take photos and wait around until the kids were ushered into the classroom. In past years, I always thought it’d be cute for the girls to get a “first day of school” outfit but this year, they chose to go with new jeans and old shirts they’d already had for a while. The first day jitters were still there, of course. But thankfully, the nervousness did not turn into a morning meltdown (like last year) when they found “bumps” in their new shoes that “did not feel right.”

And at school? Well, we barely arrived in time for one of my twins to walk with the rest of her class into the room. And her twin? Fortunately, her teacher greeted each student individually before each walked into the classroom. Since she was last, I was able to capture a few more images of this first day experience. I would have to wait until pickup time in the afternoon, which I did. And happily, it was a great day for both girls.

First Day of School, 3rd Grade

Original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.