A Born Politician

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So, it was election night at the 11yo’s junior roller derby practice tonight (all the skaters had to vote for two individuals to represent them on the team’s Skater Council). Each skater interested in the position had to stand up in front of the all the other skaters and explain why they were the best candidate. My daughter, of course, was MORE THAN VERY interested, so gave a little speech… I *so* wish I’d been there to witness the awesomeness of this moment, but luckily another derby mama filled me in on Lyka Livewire’s campaign spiel:

(Go ahead and picture a room full of sweaty girls, ages 8-11, cheeks still happily flushed from a rip-roaring hour and a half practice, all staring at this living ball of energy I call my child who, I’m sure, has – skates still on – just literally JUMPED into the center of their makeshift stage.)

“FIRST,” she grandly declares, her hands thrown out to her adoring audience in her best imitation of a vaudeville performer I can only assume she knows about via Looney Tunes, “you should vote for me because… I AM AWESOME!!!”

(Quick aside: um, yeah, pretty sure EVERY speech should start out this way. Right?! But I digress…)

“SECOND! You should vote for me because… I have LOTS of ideas.

And THIRD! You should vote for me because… I will give you all CANDY!!!!!!!”

To which, yes, all the skaters threw their yummy little hands up in the air and (very very loudly) ROARED (yes, yes, I believe ROARED is the proper word) ROARED with approval.

So…

Obviously, my daughter was elected to the Skater Council.

Of course.

Well, at least now I know what to do with all that leftover Halloween candy…

And yeah, I’m pretty sure my daughter is going to be President of the United States someday.

And seriously… I dare you not to vote for her.

MVP

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As voted on by her (beloved) teammates and coaches, my (adorable and sassy) little Lyka Livewire was just named MVP (!!!!) of her roller derby team this season (!!!!) at their end-of-the-season award show (and if you’re wondering about the opera gloves, the theme of the night was “formal” – which opera gloves most assuredly are…).

(!!!!)

Okay, I’m a little excited… and proud….

She, however, just wanted to play in the fountain behind her. Which she did.

And, I might add, had a marvelous time doing so.

Seeing Stars

Like any good parent, I believe my children are exceptional. Sometimes they’re exceptional troublemakers, but for the most part, they blow me away with their never-ending curiosity, their intuitive insights, their quirky senses of humor, their good good hearts. However, it’s not every day – or any Saturday night as the case may be – where your 10yo daughter gets to demonstrate to you, to herself, and to, oh, you know, 7,000 screaming fans just how exceptional she can be…

Two weeks ago, at her weekly roller derby practice, Paisley (aka Lyka Livewire) and her roller derby team (she skates for the youngest division, ages 8-12, of the Seattle Derby Brats, the junior league for the Rat City Rollergirls, the premiere roller derby team here in Seattle) were invited to skate an exhibition bout at the half-time show of the Rat City Rollergirls’ first big event of the 2013 season. Wow – you should’ve heard the screams of excitement! Heck, maybe you did; if your ears started ringing a couple of Friday nights ago, yeah, that was them.

The big night finally arrived. As it was a special occasion, we took a little extra time to dress ourselves up (or rather, at least one of us did). The application of make-up took an especially long time, but I think the end result was well worth the work.

Looking fierce. Game face ON!

Looking fierce. Game face ON!

Off we went, face paint on and suitcase full of gear in tow, to the back entrance of Key Arena (yeah, that Key Arena – you know, just the largest entertainment venue in the city of Seattle, the place where acts like, oh, say, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen perform when they’re in town). We dropped off our daughter backstage to stow her gear (in a room aptly titled “Halftime Act”), and then Bill and I headed upstairs to find some good seats. After purchasing a hot dog, a salted pretzel with “cheese” (what is that stuff?! I know it’s not cheese, but it’s so dang good!), and a Panini sandwich for our dinners (the dinner of champions!), Paisley was able to join us to watch the first half of the first bout (The Throttle Rockets vs The Sockit Wenches), declaring her former coach, Luna Negra of the Throttle Rockets, “the best jammer EVER!!” (though the Sockit Wenches would pull off a narrow win, 176-163, Paisley was okay with this since another of her former workshop coaches, Neutrino, is a fantastic jammer for the Sockit Wenches), before taking off yet again with her teammates to lace up their skates and start warming up.

And then, finally, the half-time show started. The Tootsy Rollers took the track!

Paisley’s super-wonderful coach had whispered to me, before the girls headed backstage to warm up, that Lyka (as they call her on the team) would be skating as jammer in the fourth jam… This was VERY exciting, as all last season and most of this season, Lyka adamantly refused to skate jammer at all (the jammer is the skater who makes all the points every time she skates through the pack of other skaters – you can always pick out the jammer, as she’s the one with the stars on her helmet cover), preferring to skate pivot, the lead blocker (the pivot is the one with the stripe on her helmet cover; she and her three blocker teammates create the defensive, and sometimes offensive, part of the team, keeping the other team’s jammer from passing and helping their own jammer get through the pack to make points). With a few nudges from her coach (“a good pivot knows what her jammer needs, and in order to know that, a pivot needs to know what it’s like to be a jammer”), Lyka finally pulled the jammer cover – stars and all – over her helmet about a month or so ago during a practice scrimmage… and she ROCKED IT.

I hurried back to my seat, told Bill about Paisley’s upcoming jam, and we fired up the video apps on our iPhones. This was going to be epic!

The whistles blew and the bout began. I don’t even know what happened during the first jam, I was screaming so loudly for the Orange Crush and the Turquoise Terrors, as they took the track (the Tootsy Rollers are divided into two teams – the Orange Crush and the Turquoise Terrors – more for convenience than for any sense of rivalry; the girls might be separated by the color of their jerseys, but they are all ONE team and support and love each other like sisters). The second jam, featuring two of the Tootsy Rollers’ most talented jammers, was just pure high-octane action. Thrilling! I fiddled with my phone (my battery was dying; I was very worried that I wouldn’t catch this milestone moment!), and looked up and – oh my goodness! – there she was! On the JUMBOTRON!

Lyka Livewire, jersey number 100 Amps, had skated up to the line for the Orange Crush. Her toe stop was down. She crouched, waiting… ready for the whistle… The announcer introduced her. Lyka was jammer during what is called a power jam – the other team’s jammer was in the penalty box – and my little roller derby queen took full advantage of the situation. The whistle blew, and she RAN off that line, her arms pumping, her skates gaining speed, and looked for the line that would take her through the pack… Some jostling… some more jostling… around the corner… on the inside… and she BROKE FREE! SHE WAS LEAD JAMMER!! In the clear… Still focused, she quickly made it around the track once… twice… and came back up on the pack. She didn’t even slow down!! She cut right on through! And then, DOWN SHE WENT. A blocker for the Turquoise Terror did an excellent job of defense, leaning Lyka right off the track. Unfazed, Lyka popped right up and was back on the track before you could say “roller derby rocks!” She saw the opening on the inside and cut right past most of the pack, engaging once again the Turquoise Terror’s tenacious blocker that had brought her down. Lyka skated side to side looking for an opening, nimbly avoiding any more defensive “leaning.” And then, even the announcer went crazy with the skill these young teams possess: one of Lyka’s teammates expertly came in with some crazy good offensive moves, cutting the Turquoise Terror’s blocker off and giving Lyka the room to pass! By this time the other blockers had caught up, and one of her own blockers was in the penalty box; Lyka now faced a veritable wall of backs, and the blocker she’d left behind was BACK, ready for more! But this proved no-big-deal for Lyka, who quickly side-stepped around the other skaters, put on a burst of speed, and zipped on by TO SCORE!!! As she came up on her bench and her coach, her hands went to her hips and flew up in the air in the gesture that calls off the jam. All this in one minute. A mere 60-seconds of adrenaline-spiking, out-of-your-seats-screeching-your-head-off EXCITEMENT!

YES, EXCITEMENT!! All Caps doesn’t even come close to explaining how bubbly and giggly and happy I was feeling for Lyka/Paisley and all of the Tootsy Rollers! Indeed, I was so excited I accidentally posted the above video to Facebook TWICE, totally killing the battery in my phone in the process. I have no idea how many points my daughter scored, or even what was the final score of the short 10-minute exhibition bout. But really, the points scored and who won or lost is completely beside the point – ALL those girls skated their HEARTS AND SOULS out, out there in that big big arena, in front of literally THOUSANDS of screaming fans.

I was – and am – so impressed by how these girls, these amazingly awesome athletes, even as young as they are, handled themselves at this major event: with both intense energy and easy confidence, quietly demanding the respect of everyone who was – and is – lucky enough to watch them. They should all be so very proud of themselves. These girls are just going to keep getting better, too. And one day soon, sooner than I’m ready for I’m sure, these girls will be old enough to skate with the Rat City Rollergirls themselves. And here’s the thing… What happened in that short 10-minute bout will last these girls a lifetime. They might not know it now, of course (to them it was just a blast!), but someday, maybe, they’ll look back and really see, really appreciate, what they demonstrated that one Saturday night…

Indeed, I truly hope that short, one-minute power jam will stay with my daughter forever: I hope she will always face life with the fierce determination she showed when she put her toe to the line; I hope she will always bounce back from a fall as quickly as she did during that bout; I hope she will always surround herself with allies who support her and protect her back, running interference for anyone who gets in her way; I hope she will always step around any obstacle that gets in her way, as deftly as she did the girls blocking her; I hope she will marvel and delight in her strength, resiliency and her persevering spirit whenever she crosses any finish line; and I hope she will always remember that she can – and did – do something (scary, intimidating, and over-whelming) that she didn’t think she could (skating jammer – and even doing so in front of an arena full of complete strangers!), and the satisfaction and self-respect that come with doing so. But mostly, I hope that she (and I wish this for each girl on her team) will know – know deep in the core of her being – that she is, just as her parents have always known, exceptional, whether she wears that jammer helmet cover or not.

(I suspect, however, that after the excitement of this last weekend, she’s going to want to wear those stars on her helmet for many more bouts to come. And I’ll be there rooting her on, every time.)

***

Because I don’t want to step on any toes, I didn’t include any of the professionally shot photographs that were taken during the bout. But if you want to take a look, here are the links to some truly amazing shots. From what I understand, roller derby photography is REALLY tough due to the fast nature of the sport and usually terrible lighting conditions. These guys did a fantastic job of covering the Tootsy Rollers and the first RCRG bout of the season, and I want to thank them for making their photos available for the public to see. Having said that, these are their photos, wholly and completely, and all rights belong to them. Thanks!

Waiting backstage for the bout to begin: think she’s having fun?!
Lyka and her teammates on the bench.
Ready to rumble! On the starting line (check out that focus!!).
And this is what it looks like from the inside of the track. WOW.
Another angle at the start line.
How much do I love the look in her eyes?!
And she’s off!
Lyka Livewire, cutting through the pack.
An AMAZING shot.  She’s flying!
There is no slowing this girl down!
Passing the other team’s blocker.
Around the track.
Looking for a way through as she spots the pack.
And around again!
Love this one: in black and white.
Listening to her coach and calling off the jam.
Calling off the jam: in black and white.
And here’s another video of Lyka’s jam, closer to the track.

Dates with My Daughter (and My Son and My Son)

Mama Daughter Date Night

In the words of the very wise Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

With three kids to shuttle to various activities (or, in the toddler’s case, to shuttle home for much needed and much appreciated nap times), two dogs who need long walks (our motto: a tired puppy is a good puppy), one cat who needs prescription medicine (note to self: call vet for refill), one cat who needs to be on a diet (but I gave up that one a long time ago), a house that could be significantly cleaner than it is (if you see Mary Poppins gallivanting around town, could you send her my way? Please?), an endless supply of laundry (add to that a month of laundry duty for the 5yo’s kindergarten class), groceries (read: wine) to buy, meals to make (or pizza to order, let’s be honest), a mud pit for a backyard that desperately needs attention (I have a plan! I do! I just need time. Like maybe five years…), and two jobs between us (okay, mine is part-time, but I work hard in those hours), carving out date times for me and my husband is rather tough. Carving out date times for me and one of my children? Well, that’s nearly impossible.

For one thing, it’s not like I never see my kids. I work part-time FROM HOME. I am here whenever they are here. I take them to school and I pick them up. I tend to stay with them at most of their activities, and I attend almost every scheduled game or bout (and if I’m not there, Bill is, and he texts me play-by-play commentary so I know everything that’s going on). I take my kids to the park (where they can run around like hooligans and occasionally get into fights with each other), and to the Zoo (where they can run around like hooligans and occasionally see a cool animal or two). I play games with them (I kicked the 5yo’s butt in chess the other morning, and then felt bad about taking his king with a pawn in less than five moves – luckily he’s a better sport than I am and happily continued the game on his own, returning his king to the board in some elaborate and illegal maneuver and then, playing my pieces as well as his own, rapidly taking out my king in a vicious attack by his beloved rook), and read books to them every night (I admit, I love this part of the day – I love that they love to read, too). But almost all of this is done in conjunction with at least one sibling and a furry family member or four. One-on-one parent-child time is fairly rare these days.

So, on Friday, when Bill texted me from the 9yo’s roller derby practice – while I put the boys to bed and counted down the minutes until I could pour a glass of wine – that I should take Paisley to the Rat City Rollergirl’s Championship bout at Key Arena the next night, I thought: that’d be a blast! It’d be great to have a Mama-Daughter Date! And then I quickly forgot about it as I had to put the phone down in order to catch the naked and wet toddler who was streaking and shrieking down the hall after his bath…

…until the next afternoon when Bill reminded me about the big bout that night as he and Paisley headed out the door, this time for a joint birthday party for two of her friends and derby teammates at the local skating rink (the weekend was full of skate dates!). With Broder down for a nap and Liam busy playing himself in chess (see above), I went to the computer to see if I could even buy day-of tickets online. It took all of two minutes before I texted Bill to tell Paisley that we were going on a date that night!

Paisley was SO thrilled. She held my hand (she held my hand!!) as we walked up to the security guy who inspected my purse for illegal contraband, bubbling over with excitement as she animatedly explained to him, speaking as fast as she could (noticing the line forming behind us), that we were going to see the Rat City Rollergirls, and that she also skated roller derby, that her derby name was Lyka Livewire, and that her coach, Coach Luna, was on the Rat City Rollergirls (we had to start walking away at this time, but she kept talking, just louder, to the now smiling security guard), and Coach Luna skated for the Throttle Rockets, and WE WERE GOING TO ROOT FOR HER–

And then we were inside the building and she had to stop talking – or at least, stop talking to the security guard. She kept up a steady stream of chatter as she held my hand (she held my hand!!) and we looked for our seats – I’d gone all out for our date and bought General Admission “VIP” seats for the two of us. I didn’t quite know what General Admission “VIP” meant, but I figured I am too dang old (well, I am!) for nosebleed seats, and gosh darn it, my daughter and I are on a date and we deserve the finer things in life! So I broke the bank and spent the extra (wait for it…) $13 for the good seats. (Right?! It was a no-brainer!)

And the good seats were worth every one of those extra 13 dollars. General Admission “VIP” seats apparently meant that all the seats in the first 15 rows in the two reserved sections along the straight sides of the oval track were available on a first-come-first-served basis. So, betraying every inherited, ingrained and borderline-pathological Scandinavian-Lutheran instinct I’ve been born and raised with that adamantly insists, in any and every assembly of people EVER (school classrooms and workshops, weddings, wherever one is allowed to pick one’s own seat), that I sit in the farthest back row possible (I’m always in AWE of those people who boldly sit smack-dab in front of a teacher or lecturer), I led Paisley (who was still holding my hand!!) down to the VERY FRONT ROW, where we boldly (so boldly!) stepped (we didn’t mean to) on the feet of the two (grouchy) people sitting on the aisle (note to attendees of any event where SEATS are involved: if you don’t like having to stand up for people to pass you when they need to get in and out, DON’T SIT ON THE AISLE – just a thought), and found two seats as close to the track as could be possible without actually being on one of the roller derby teams.

Because the teams were LITERALLY right in front of us. It was SO crazy fun.

The best seats to watch the Rat City Rollergirls!

The best seats in the house! It’s like we were ON the track.

The first bout – the Sockit Wenches versus the Derby Liberation Front – was a blast to watch; especially because one of Paisley’s coaches from last summer’s New Skater Camp (Clobberin’ Mame) is an amazing blocker for the Sockit Wenches. Paisley kept asking me if she could say hello to “Coach Mame” – she (not very patiently, but understanding that she shouldn’t take a skater’s attention away from the bout) managed to wait until half-time, when she finally had the chance to wave and say hi, and beamed in turn when Mame smiled and waved back. Paisley was only disappointed by the Sockit Wenches’ loss, the Derby Liberation Front winning the bout 168-114.

The main event – the Championship Bout between the Throttle Rockets and the returning champs, Grave Danger – was INTENSE. Paisley’s roller derby team, The Orange Crush, is coached by the Throttle Rocket’s extremely talented jammer, Luna Negra. We were, therefore and of course, rooting for the Throttle Rockets. Paisley managed to say hi and wave to “Coach Luna” before the bout this time, so was quite happy to sit back and watch the action. And eat some cotton candy, of course.

Eating Cotton Candy

The skating was so insanely intense and thrilling that the 9yo even forgot to eat her cotton candy!

The Throttle Rockets were up at halftime, 72-50, and stayed in the lead until about the last ten minutes, when the two teams began trading the lead back-and-forth every single jam for the rest of the bout. I felt like I was watching North Carolina play Duke during the NCAA championships, I was so tense (I’m a Tar Heel; I know tense)!! The bout came down to the last jam; the Throttle Rockets were at a distinct disadvantage with two blockers in the penalty box, and as incredibly talented as their jammer, Missile America, is (“Coach Luna” had skated jammer in the previous round, having miraculously pulled off lead jammer with some ridiculously good skating and putting the Throttle Rockets up again), with only two other teammates on the track, she just couldn’t get through the solid wall of four Grave Danger blockers, and in attempting to do so, managed to end up in the penalty box herself. Missile America would end up MVP of the bout (and deservedly so), but the Throttle Rockets lost 171-165…

… and Paisley started crying!

It was so sweet. She was so disappointed for her coach and for the Throttle Rockets. I put my arm around her and while other folks started packing up and walking out we talked about how each player had skated their very best, and in spite of the loss should be very proud of themselves for their herculean efforts, sheer determination, and admirable dedication to their sport and teammates. She noticed that Missile America had left the track for the penalty box with tears in her eyes – and was quite worried that she “was ashamed” of herself. Oh no, I said. She was disappointed by the loss, and probably would worry that she could’ve done something different to change the final result, but she won MVP and would know, or should know, that she skated her heart out and should be very proud of herself.

And Paisley wiped her eyes with the sleeves of her Orange Crush hoodie, nodded her head in understanding, stuffed the remains of our greasy pizza slices and drinks into the empty cotton candy bag (!!) to deposit in the nearest garbage can (yes, I actually had to pinch myself), and…

Grabbed my hand. And held it all the way back to the car.

I’m not sure our Mama-Daughter dates will always serve as such wonderful life lessons and be quite so exciting as a championship sporting event at Key Arena, but the evening made me realize that one-on-one time with my children is priceless, invaluable, to be cherished, and to be given more of a priority in my crazy busy life. I loved having the opportunity, for just a moment, to appreciate and celebrate my daughter’s empathy for her coaches, her passion for derby, her pride in her own team when she talks with the people sitting next to us, the ushers, and random security guards. I shouldn’t have needed Bill to remind me TWICE to take my daughter to this event. Next time, the laundry can wrinkle in the dryer, the dogs can chase each other in the backyard and drive the neighbors mad with their barking, the toddler can run around naked while chasing the fat cat (she needs the exercise, anyway, right?) as long as he wants (well, maybe with a diaper on…), and I’ll remember that going out to ice cream for dinner is a brilliant idea. Hey – maybe that can be my next one-on-one date with the 5yo? After all, he’s an ice cream junkie…

You know, I don’t think I need to be asked twice – I know a good idea when I read one… Salted caramel ice cream in a waffle cone, here we come!!

And maybe, just maybe, he’ll hold my hand the whole time we’re out, too.

To learn more about Paisley’s (aka Lyka Livewire’s) love affair with roller derby, you can always read My Roller Derby Queen: Seeing Life Through Orange-Colored Glasses.