Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (Family Movie Review)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

In a special weekend movie review, I give my thoughts on the final film in The Hunger Games series - Mockingjay, Part 2.  And what a finale it was.  

Before I go any further, let me mention that this review is strictly for those who have seen the first three films. If you haven't, you will be lost reading this review AND, most definitely, seeing this film. 

"It's war, Katniss. Sometimes killing isn't personal." ~ Mockingjay Part 2

In my review of Mockingjay Part 1, I admit I actually preferred the films over the novels by Suzanne Collins. And this last film was no exception.  The film picks up right where Part 1 left us. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is recovering from injuries sustained in an attack on her by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who has become brainwashed by Panem's President Snow played by Donald Sutherland. Still the voice and face of the rebellion, Katniss is out for revenge and Snow's blood.  

District 13's President Coin (Julianne Moore) leads the rebels in an all-out war against the loyalists supporting the Capitol and Snow.  With the two presidents pitted against each other for power, many moral dilemmas are faced - showing war is a terrible business. Manipulation and propaganda are key elements to succeeding, but at what cost? 

"The thirst for blood is a difficult urge to satisfy." ~ Mockingjay Part 2

Katniss fights to bring Peeta back from the mental hold of Snow while dealing with the harsh reality that the one she loves is now her enemy. Peeta, on the other hand, must try to make sense of what is real and what isn't.  

My son and I liked the film very much.  My only real disappointment came from the fact that the role of Prim Everdeen (Willow Shields) was downplayed in the film. Mockingjay Part 2 is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and for some thematic material. I strongly caution parents not to bring those younger than middle school to this film.  Not only is there graphic war violence, there is one scene that is quite terrifying. 

Overall, the film was a great ending to what has been an amazing series. 

Watch Official Trailer

On a final note, this was the final performance for actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch) who died of a drug overdose prior to the movie wrapping up. However, his character's words - words Hoffman never got to film - still provided one of the more emotional scenes of the film as Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) reads the words to Katniss instead. While the words themselves were beautiful, I was more touched by the fact that I knew they should have been spoken by Hoffman.  

Read more of my Family Movie Reviews

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Truth About Santa for Parents and Children

Last November I wrote about the sadness I felt that the tradition of Santa Claus would be coming to an end soon in my home.  We managed to make it through Christmas of 2014 with my youngest, then 10 years old, still believing. He was already older than most children who had stopped believing in the magic and if you knew this little boy, you would understand why.  His entire existence is built on imagination and fantasy.  A talent he hopes to use as a screenwriter and director when he grows up. 

Throughout it all though, my older son kept pulling me aside and insisting that I tell his brother the truth!  

The Truth?  Well, what the hell is the truth?  Isn't the truth anything we care to believe?

OK, ok - I'll get my own head out of the clouds.

So as we grew closer and closer to the official holiday season of 2015, with my younger son still believing, and my older son still giving me "the look" I started researching the situation online. Normally children start questioning things on their own, piecing things together and then realizing "the truth" (again with the stupid word).  But I admit I was beginning to panic that the longer this facade continued, the worse the impact of "the truth" would have on my son. I knew I would have to tread lightly. 

I found some useful information, validations that the entire Santa Claus tradition, in fact, has it's benefits to children.  According to experts, the belief in Santa teaches our children to have faith in things they cannot see or touch - a skill that is "important throughout life as they learn to believe in themselves, their friends, their talents, and their family." One article, or maybe it was a Pinterest post, said it helps them "believe in something [they] can't measure or even hold in [their] hand - love, that great power that will light [their] life from the inside out, even during the darkest,coldest moments."  

WOW - pretty deep, huh?  

As we approached Thanksgiving, my young son, now 11 years old, expressed to me his excitement that his Elf on the Shelf would be arriving this week. And, the chore I was putting off all these months, of telling him "the truth," hit me like a ton of bricks. I decided to pull up the sample letter I had pulled off the Internet a few years ago (and quoted above) and had saved as "THE Letter." I tweaked it a bit because I wanted to add the history of Saint Nicholas - which to me is extremely important - and even included a copy of an old newspaper clipping I found online.  I took Noel the Elf out of his box where I carefully stored him for eleven months, folded the letter and clipping into an envelop and tucked it under his arm. On the envelop I wrote, "Do not open. Bring this to mommy."  

I know this is going to sound weird, but I did that for two reasons. One) because I wanted him to be with me when his spirits were broken by what I was now referring to as "the damn truth" and Two) because it gave me one final chance to change my mind and not show him the letter - after all, it WAS addressed to me. 

At 6:00am, he stumbled into my room, saw his Elf on my nightstand with the aforementioned envelop in his arms and right there - in that split second - my heart broke.  He "woke" me up (little did he know that I had been awake starring at that envelop most of the night, even getting up and removing it at one point.)  I sat up, acted surprised, and then - as he handed me the envelop - I took a deep breath.  

I tore it open and read the letter - yes, I f*cking read the letter to myself in its entirety, the letter I WROTE - and then, looked up into his innocent eyes for one last time and said, "Baby, come sit next to mommy." I handed him the letter and watched his face as he read it, watched as the innocence left his soul for the last time. He finished the letter, looked at me with his now ghost-white face, and said, "Oh, so you lied?" Do you want to talk about a knife going into a mother's heart? 

Now, with him cuddling next to me, I said, "No, baby, this doesn't change who Santa is and what he stands for. Santa is alive in our hearts and our souls.  The belief in Santa and ALL the magic he represents is the essence of humanity."  I then read him the newspaper clipping, which I thought would be difficult for him to understand, yet, once again, I underestimated his old soul.  He loved it and it gave him comfort, which is why I am sharing it with you.   

Throughout the day, he asked me some questions about the tradition as he tried to make sense of it all - the realization that mommy and daddy bought the presents (the funny thing was he apologized for always choosing the most expensive LEGO set for Santa to bring), that daddy and, in more recent years, his older brother ate the cookies that he left out for Santa, and the hardest one, that his Elf, Noel, was nothing more than a toy doll.  "So, mom, who replied to all the letters I wrote to Noel?" he asked. "Oh," he replied looking into my eyes. 

That night when I was tucking him into bed, we spoke one last time about the revelation of the day. I explained how difficult the decision to tell him had been for me.  He asked why.  "Because, my baby is all grown up now." 

As I stood to walk out of his room, he called, "Mom! If I continue to write letters to Noel, um, will you answer them?"  

"Oh, absolutely, my love. Absolutely."  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Release the Restraints and Live

They say the number one rule of successful blogging is consistency. And I couldn't agree more.  That is why over the last year I have worked hard on not only being consistent with the frequency of my posts but also the subject matter.  For instance, Mondays were for my weekly book review. Wednesdays (admittedly, this was the least consistent day) I posted something personal.  Fridays were for my family movie reviews.

However, what I have discovered is that I was feeling so pressured.  Pressure to finish my latest book, pressure to sit down and watch a film, pressure to put my often mundane world into words.  So between now and the end of the year (What is that -like six weeks?), I am going to loosen the reigns a bit.  Not take a break from blogging - oh no, heavens to Betsy I do that - but allow myself (yes, "allow" is the right word because the pressure has been all self-inflicted) to write what I want, when I want. 

Being just a little bit flexible will have a twofold result.  It will allow me to explore other areas - such as being able to occasionally contribute to other blogs, such as +The Whacko Blogs, with topics that are outside my usual realm, and it will enable me the chance to recharge and come back, possibly - hopefully - with new found focus.  I also may relax and enjoy the holiday season more (I know, that's three effects.)

The biggest obstacle with this new freedom I'm giving myself for the next six weeks will be ME.  Even as I write this I am staring at a children's book (actually more of a reference book) that I wanted to have reviewed for today - guess that will have to wait for NEXT Monday.  I am also staring at my latest read and calculating the number of pages I have left in order to finish it.  That isn't the way to read a book (By the way, the answer is 289 pages and my deadline is tomorrow!)  What did I tell you? I am my own worst enemy.

The holidays are busy enough as it is without all this added stress that I put on myself.  I expect my numbers may drop a bit, but to my loyal readers, I do ask for your patience.  ALSO, now would be the perfect time to tell me which subject(s) you prefer - the reviews, the life posts, parenting issues, etc., which will allow me to regroup for the new year.

Will I still write reviews? - Absolutely.  But instead of one a week (Do you realize the amount of reading I've had to do this past year to finish a 400-500 page novel in 5 days so I have time to write the review????), maybe I'll do one a month - or something. I don't know yet. And it's OK that I don't know yet.  At this stage in my life (not just age, but situation) I am tired of restraints. In other words, it is truly "now or never" to decide how I live the rest of my life and how I handle my blog is symbolic of that much bigger picture.

To my readers in the States, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, November 20, 2015

IMPORTANT INFORMATION For Women, Men Who Love a Woman, or Anyone Who Knows a Woman

I can't exactly have a blog about being a midlife woman without discussing the elephant in the room - menopause! So listen up if you are a woman, love a woman, or know a woman - keep reading! 


While waiting in line at the coffee shop in late August, my cell phone rang. Looking down I noticed it was my doctor's office so I stepped outside to take the call anticipating how this conversation was going to go. After initial pleasantries were exchanged between the nurse and me, she proceeded to get down to the point of her call. The doctor received my blood tests results confirming that I am, in fact, menopausal.

Last spring I went to see my doctor for some routine tests.  I mentioned that I hadn't had a period since November and I suggested I might be menopausal.  For the last three years (maybe more) I was complaining of an irregular cycle and had asked if I could be starting menopause.  "Possible," she would always say, "but unlikely." Apparently she felt I was a bit too young. Now, with no period at all for six months, she was still doubting that I was in menopause claiming it could be stress or some other medical reason. 

So when I returned to her in August, now 9 months since my last menstrual cycle, she questioned me further.  "What other symptoms are you experiencing?" she asked. 

I proceeded to tell her I was having the usual hot flashes and night sweats (Which makes living in Florida a living hell. I've secretly considered packing up and moving to Antarctica.) I also have noticed increased acne especially along my jaw line (Did you know breakouts along your jaw line are typically hormone related?). Plus, every 28 days I noticed I was still getting PMS symptoms - bloating, moodiness, irritability, and a RAVENOUS appetite. Ladies, you know what I mean - when you can't stop shoveling the food into your mouth. And, I have to tell you, there isn't enough vegan chocolate in the world to satisfy my sweet tooth during these few days. 

However, I was also experiencing new, scarier symptoms such as major insomnia, forgetfulness, heart palpitations, increased anxiety and dry eyes making wearing contact lenses very uncomfortable.  

She looked at me, "Well, those sure are the symptoms, but you are still so young."  This is when she declared she wanted to have blood work done, to know for sure that it was menopause and not something else. She needed concrete medical results. Well, okay, now we have them.  What now?

I called my mom and gave her the news - I mean, it is "news" right? She laughed and said, "Yes, dear, I could've told you that."  Was that a dig at my unbalanced mood swings? Ah, who cares. I couldn't deny that if I tried.  

I know some women have a difficult time psychologically with the implications of menopause. We are no longer able to bear children, and I understand this can be a painful realization for many. Not to be insensitive, but me, not so much. I am blessed to have two beautiful children but will admit - I was not a happy pregnant woman. I didn't glow in the glory of being pregnant. I was physically uncomfortable, an anxious mess, and had somewhat unpleasant deliveries. So much so, that during the delivery of my second son, I turned to my husband and said, "NEVER again!"  My doctor joked that she wished she had a dime for every time I said, "I can't do this" during my second delivery. 

Other women might say they feel a loss of femininity and sexuality.  Personally, I am not experiencing that either. In fact, I am feeling better about myself in that regard than I have in a very long time. So far, fingers crossed, I haven't experienced the weight gain I hear so much about either, but I am being very proactive in that area.  I am sure it also has something to do with my vegan eating as well. 

It has now officially been a year since my last cycle and I can't say I miss it - not psychologically and certainly not physically. The other symptoms I've mentioned are starting to subside and / or I am learning how to cope with them better (All hail the newly installed ceiling fan above my bed, for example.)  Exercise, eating healthy, and taking time for myself - all have helped. 

I do not need a menstrual cycle to feel like a whole woman. So, will I miss it? Please! That is like asking me if I'll miss a monthly hostile-takeover by an alien of my mind and body. As soon as I am absolutely certain that sucker isn't coming back, I am throwing a party with Champagne. So men, if you have made it this far in the post, kudos to you  - now go hug the women in your life because all I can say is, menopause sucks! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Top 5 Books to Give in 2015

The 2015 holiday shopping season is well underway.  Today I release my annual list of top books I read this year and recommend to the reader in your life (Although, no one will blame you if you buy them for yourself!) Complete reviews can be found at Book Reviews or by clicking on the link in the description below.  

For more gift ideas, see my list of Top Summer Reads (2015) and Top Five Books to Give as Gifts (2014 edition).  As always, happy reading! 

1. Crime / Historical fiction: A mix of a love story, a crime novel, and a psychological look at human behavior under the most dire of circumstances makes The Paying Guests one of the most fascinating and addicting books I've read in ages.  I quickly became sucked into the plight of the characters. I felt elated, heartbroken, and even frightened along with them. (Read full description and review here.) 

2. Women's Fiction / Drama: Me Before You is not your typical love story. Rather, it is a love story of the mind, friendship, and deep connection.  It is a close look at how one human being can inspire another to be the best he can be. It will leave you on an emotional overload craving for more. I personally didn't want this one to end and had to pace myself so I wouldn't finish it too quickly. The sequel was released in September and the film adaptation is due out in June of 2016!  (Read full description and review here.) 

3. Thriller: People everywhere are talking about The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and with good cause. In Hawkins' first thriller, she takes the reader on an emotional ride as her characters deal with the intense issues of alcoholism, depression, and human relationships. The novel is narrated in the first person by three different characters on two different timelines, which off the bat makes it interesting to read.  The Girl on the Train reminds us that we should never assume we know what is going on behind closed doors. (Read full description and review here.)  

4. Historical FictionBrooklyn is so beautifully written, so authentic, I felt like I melted into the pages. Tóibín captures the innocence of the era wonderfully including the strong family relationships and unspoken social etiquette and pure romance between men and women. Honestly, it is one of those novels that I cannot say enough good things about, but I will admit that it will not be for everyone. Do not expect edge of your seat suspense or in your face action. This book is pure heart and soul and poetic storytelling as it focuses on the inherently assumed sacrifices often made by women. I must have read the last paragraph of the novel five times or more, each time letting it sink further and further into my psyche.  Along with the readings came both tears of pain and smiles of warmth. (Read full description and review here.)

5. Fiction: Zevin gives us the right amount of tender moments and romance, even an unexpected twist or two, and proves people can be brought together because of their love of a book.  In the end, all of us readers leave behind a list of favorites that somehow explains what's in our hearts.  I recommend this novel to all lovers of literature and to anyone who has ever been touched by the written word.  (Read full description and review here.)  

Don't forget to check out my complete list of book reviews to find the perfect gift for the reader on your shopping list.  

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Christmas Wish (Book Review)

It's not too early for a Christmas story, is it?  

The Christmas Wish

"Be Brave.
Be Kind.

From author Lori Evert comes a Christmas storybook sure to become a classic. The Christmas Wish is about a kind, little girl, Anja, who dreams of becoming one of Santa's elves. Strapped in her skies, Anja sets out on her journey to the North Pole. In a race to reach it before Christmas, Anja relies on the help of animal friends to ensure her success. In the end she learns that her joy and kindness make her special and help keep the true spirit of Christmas alive all year for those around her. 

Set in Norway, a winter wonderland in its own right, The Christmas Wish will warm the hearts of all those who read it. With stunning photographs by Per Breiehagen that will captivate your child's attention (and are truly the highlight of this book), it is sure to become a favorite holiday story. Just don't be surprised if your own children decide to set off on their own magical trek to the North Pole.

Read more of my Book Reviews. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I'm Bringing Sexy Back

If you follow my blog you'll understand why I felt the need to respond to +Joanne Smith 's recent blog post: A Woman's Worth. In her post (which I encourage you to check out) Ms. Smith touches on how the Internet has escalated the notion that a woman's worth is based on her outward appearance. Women and, sadly, girls of all ages are obsessed with sharing selfies and are basing their worth on how many likes the photo gets. Let me share something with those women right now:

It is such a shame that women who practice this public display of being attention whores don't comprehend that they are demoralizing all women and making it that much harder for ANY of us to be taken serious by men and society as a whole. So it is easy for me to be angry with them, but I am also embarrassed for them. 

Yet men eat that crap up and then feel like they can treat all women as sex objects. I have an acquaintance on Facebook. She is in her fifties. She is what society would consider a knockout. Tall, slender, large-breasted, and blonde, but I'll remind you - IN. HER. FIFTIES. She actually hires professional photographers to take pictures of her in lingerie, the bath tub, leather get-ups etc. and then posts them on her wall. It is actually quite comical to  then sit back and watch how all the dogs comment on how hot she makes them. Ewwwww!

I mean really?? I expect this vain, superficial behavior from twenty-year-old women, not 50-somethings. I mean there are some attributes of hers I wouldn't mind having, but not at the expense of my intelligence, personality, wit, and humor (and, apparently, modesty - LOL) -not my ass, although it happens to be a fine ass! 

Being sexy is one thing I think all people (especially women) strive for. But sexy is not the same thing - it is NOT what +Joanne Smith and I are talking about. Portraying yourself as a sex object is the exact opposite, in fact. True sexiness is subtle and mysterious. Not "don't you like my boobs?" 

Ok, I have probably ranted long enough. But just one more thing before I go:

To the men whose virtual drool I have to wipe off my computer screen just from their comments on such posts, you realize that these women you're falling over wouldn't give you the time of day. And the smart, amazing and attractive women that would have otherwise taken notice of you, are instead just laughing at your behavior. Just thought you'd want to know the truth. 


This blog post was in response to +Joanne Smith 's post A Woman's Worth - check it out!  

Going Vegan in 2015: When Your Family Isn't

Last week I was at my sons' school volunteering and the Edu-Garden teacher decided to take me on an impromptu tour of the school's organically grown garden. In addition to the abundance of vegetable crops the students are in charge of cultivating and harvesting, they also have about a dozen free range hens and a bunch of bunnies. The teacher specifically wanted to show me the nearly fenced area my son and a group of other students recently built for the hens so they can still roam freely without eating (and destroying) all the crops.

I could not get over the personalities of these hens.  It was still early in the morning and they were still in their night coops. So the minute the teacher and I walked up to them, they immediately all crowded the door and started chirping (Is that what chickens do? Chirp?) Clearly very excited, the hens obviously knew that it was nearing the time for them to be relocated to their open air enclosure and were expressing their restlessness. The teacher told them they had to wait a few more minutes for her first students to arrive. 

As she and I stood near them and chatted, I could't believe all the little personalities of these chickens. Not only were they super friendly and beautiful, they were clearly quite familiar with their daily routine. I couldn't help but ask how the students move the chickens from their coops to their field. She said the students either carry them or they follow the students - GET OUT! How cute must that sight be! 

When I marveled at the little characters that they were, the teacher admitted that now having worked with them for some time, and seeing their individuality and intelligence, it was getting harder and harder for her to eat chicken. BUT, she said, it is difficult to be vegetarian when the rest of your family isn't.

This is a statement I hear often. While it is very helpful to have your family and friends on board, supporting your decision to go vegetarian or vegan, they don't have to make the change too in order for you to be successful. This decision is very personal and one that needs to be made from within an individual's own heart and mind. Forcing your family to go along with your new lifestyle may not always work or be easy. Much gratitude is owed my mother who has become quite the vegan cook and always goes out of her way to prepare vegan dishes for me when we go over her house.

Unfortunately, my sons are such picky eaters that I am lucky they eat anything. So when people ask if it is a pain to cook multiple meals, I laugh because I have been doing that long before I became vegan. Ironically, they are almost self-proclaimed vegetarians anyway and eat very little meat. Had I had the foresight to raise them vegan then we wouldn't be having this discussion at all. Consider yourself fortunate if you have a family that will easily switch to vegan meals. The hardest part for me isn't necessarily preparing multiple dishes, but handling the meat products themselves, which is becoming increasingly repulsive to me.  
My youngest son has made the switch to chocolate almond milk. 

I am fortunate that my sons attend a school that promotes plant-based eating and many of the staff are either vegetarian or vegan. I know the students are picking up on these values and that is having such a positive impact.  One time my older son refused to eat his baked chicken stating, "He didn't feel right eating animals." Now how am I going to argue with that? Unfortunately, I also knew that he was just telling me what I wanted to hear because he didn't feel like eating it for THAT particular meal.  While I didn't make him eat the chicken, I gently reminded him that giving up animal products is a full-time commitment and not based on mood.

But just because your family isn't vegan doesn't mean you can't be.  Most meals can be made vegan with simple substitutions and, if you have children that eat the non-vegan version, they will most likely eat the vegan alternative (mine generally won't eat either!) I make a mean vegan baked ziti and even vegan eggplant "parmigiano" with portobello mushrooms. I even made vegan tacos the other night! If worst comes to worst and your family is as picky as my sons are, you may have to do a little more cooking each night making one vegan dish and one non-vegan dish. Try introducing vegan foods to them gradually. I bet if they are generally good eaters, they will soon discover how delicious being vegan is. I have made some small adjustments to my sons' diets, but not enough - not for a lack of trying.  At this point, all I can do is educate them on why I went vegan - gruesome details and all. Then, perhaps in the future, they will make the connection themselves and decide to pursue veganism. It may take a bit more commitment and work on your part if you rfamily isn't also vegan, but the bottom line is, it can be done! 

Read more of my Going Vegan in 2015 series. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Vanishing Acts (Book Review)

"I could tell her from personal experience that when people we love make choices, we don't always understand them.  But we can go on loving them, just the same.  It isn't a matter of comprehension. It's forgiveness." ~ Vanishing Acts

It takes only 25 pages for author, Jodi Picoult, to stun her reader.  In Picoult's Vanishing Acts, we see the repercussions of discovering there is another reality to your life than you have always believed. When the past comes back to wreak havoc on Delia Hopkins and those she loves, she must learn to forgive and dig deep inside her soul to trust the ones she loves and, more importantly, her own heart.

Vanishing Acts starts off in rural New Hampshire and is narrated by multiple characters. In the forefront is Delia, a young woman raised solely by her father, Andrew, since the age of four. She is engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Eric, and is protected by her best friend, Fitz. The novel is predominately narrated by these four characters and gives the reader an interesting advantage point as we see events through the eyes of different people.

One day there is a knock on the door, one that will forever change all their lives.  

"Bad is not an absolute, but a relative term......just because you break the law doesn't mean you have intentionally crossed the line into evil.  Sometimes the line creeps up on you, and before you know it, you're standing on the other side." ~ Vanishing Acts

As the plot takes our four main characters to the desert of Arizona, Picoult gives her readers interesting insight into the Hopi tribe. Ruthann, a Hopi who befriends Delia while in Arizona, is one of the more fascinating characters. The second element that I loved, being that Eric is an attorney, was Picoult's statement on prison life and inmates, one that really kept me glued to the novel even during times I wanted to give up on it.

"We make messes of our lives, but every now and then, we manage to do something that's exactly right. The challenge is figuring out which is which." ~ Vanishing Acts

While this story started off with a bang, the momentum quickly sizzled out for me and didn't pick back up until the last one-third of the book.  However, I am glad I pushed on.  The story culminates into a courtroom drama that focuses on redemption and forgiveness and makes the entire novel worth reading. There are some beautifully written lines - too many for me to quote them all here, and, overall, this novel will have you rethinking events in your own life, proving there really are two sides to every story. I recommend this book, particularly to fans of literary fiction and family / courtroom dramas.

Read more of my Book Reviews

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Another Youth Sports Rant

My son's soccer league decided to cut the last three regular season games and start the playoffs yesterday. My son's team was good enough to squeak into the top four seeds but that meant that they had to play the number one team in the first round, a team where the average player has about 4 inches in height and 35 or more pounds on each of the players on my son's team. But that's okay.  My son's team proved time and time again this season that their skill level was top notch despite being the smallest team in stature. During the regular season they tied once, and lost 3-2 the second time they met this team. So we knew they had a shot. 

No crisp fall days for us on the fields.  With a  start time of 12:30, it was brutal out there, and I am just speaking as a spectator!  As usual my son played goal first and fourth quarter. We managed to hold them off 0-0 after one.  In the second quarter, one of amazon players nailed one and it went in- nothing our goalie could do about that one!  Then my son scored to tie the game!  In the third quarter they sneaked another past our goalie and we spent the remainder of the game trying to even the score. We were unsuccessful and lost 2-1. 

Luckily it is a double elimination bracket so we get to do this all over again tomorrow night. But none of this is the point of my story.  

Our opponents were not only bigger - they were meaner. And had parents on the sidelines that were actually encouraging their sons to play rough.  There is one player in particular that is just nasty (we'll call him #7)  and I've been hearing him yell at his OWN teammates all season, "UGH, I set you up perfectly and you miss the shot, unbelievable!" - crap like that.  I really don't know how his coach tolerates it. Who knows? Maybe he perpetuates it. It was clear his parents, who were sitting next to me, sure did! 

In the first quarter, #7 grabbed our coach's son by the jersey and threw him off the ball he was dribbling. So now, not only with 35 extra pounds and 4 inches on our player, he also feels the need to manhandle our guys.  I couldn't believe the referee didn't call this blatant yellow card that I actually screamed some statement of disbelief - did I mention I was surrounded on both sides by parents from the other team. I didn't care. Well, the game finished and throughout I continued to be amazed at this one kid's bad sportsmanship.

After the game, I went to a shadier spot to wait for my son. When he met up with me, he had quite the story to tell. Apparently I wasn't the only one appalled at this player's, #7, attitude and behavior. After the game my son's coach had a "little talk" (well, not so little from what I heard) with the referee who also happens to be the league's director explaining that this child not only should have gotten a yellow card for the incident I witnessed, but had, apparently, been verbally threatening the players on my son's team. From what I can gather, this player must have a reputation for such behavior.  The referee agreed to suspend him for his next playoff game. I'm telling you this older league, although recreational, is intense! 

I only wish I could have witnessed the referee telling #7's parents - who I sat near during the game and were super obnoxious. At one point after his mother called "out, black ball" I said, "Guess parents are linesmen now?"  As another season of soccer comes to an end this week, I am reminded of how truly blessed my son has been in his three seasons of rec soccer. He has had amazingly supportive and encouraging coaches and just the best group of boys as teammates each time. I have seen how he has matured as a player and has grown to love the sport even more. Isn't that what it's all about?  

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