Haikus written by girls in the "Under 6" soccer league
Dribble, dribble, stop
for no apparent reason.
Ooh, a gopher hole!
- Kate, age 4
I’m the best out here.
Much better than the others.
Because I’m seven.
- Lisa, age 7
I’m good at soccer.
Used to think I was the best.
Until Lisa. Bitch.
- Haley, age 5
We’re the Butterflies!
Today we play the…Dragons.
This will not end well.
- Kate, Isabelle, Lauren, Graysen, Maya, Brooke, Mia
Went to kick the ball
And then my teammate kicked me.
What the hell, Jessie?!
- Susie, age 5
Why am I out here?
I could be home watching Sprout.
My parents are cruel.
- Ashley, age 4
I don’t like soccer.
Just doing my part to fight
- Rebecca, age 4½
About a month ago, my wife and decided to sign up our daughter for soccer. After a web search, we found out there are two leagues in our area for kids under six. We checked out the two websites and it seemed that both leagues are well-run and well-liked. We also learned that, in both leagues, scores aren’t kept for the “under 6” group. One league emphasized this with their slogan, “The final score is always fun to fun!” We chose the other league just because they don’t have a stupid slogan.
I agree that scores shouldn’t be kept for the little kids, but I don’t think the final score is always "fun to fun." For the Under 6 group, I think more realistic final scores are:
“fun to slightly discouraged!”
“fun to tired and cranky!”
“fun to why were we out there chasing a ball?”
The season started last Saturday and Kate’s team had their first practice from 8:30 to 9:00. Immediately following their practice, from 9:00 to 9:30, was a scrimmage with another team. Teaching a bunch of four- and five-year-olds how to play something that even slightly resembles soccer is no easy task. It’s like herding cats…who are all wearing ridiculously huge shorts. Kate’s coach, Tom, did a good job introducing the girls to the sport and running some drills with them. At 9:00 sharp, our team was excited as they gathered on the field to play their first game.
About a minute into the game, we discovered that other team was a formidable opponent mostly because they remembered which direction to kick the ball. One player in particular, who I’ll call “Becky,” was really good. She clearly had played the game before and I wouldn’t be surprised if she has a personal trainer. Becky not only knew the rules of the game, she consistently attacked our goal with a vengeance, while her father encouraged her from the sidelines. And by “encouraged her” I mean “yelled at her at the top of his lungs.”
If you were only to listen to the game, what you’d hear would be:
Laughter from parents
Some clapping and cheering
Becky’s dad shouting things like, “JESUS, BECKY! SHOOT IT!" and “NO, NO, NO! STOP HER!”
Becky’s dad was the epitome of the super intense, overly competitive parent. The guy was saying whatever he could, as loudly as he could, to motivate his daughter to win. I was half expecting him to yell something like, “YOU WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN, BECKY? GOD DOESN’T TAKE LOSERS!”
While Becky was dribbling downfield and taking shots on goal, Kate was looking at gopher holes. To be fair, Kate wasn’t completely clueless—she had some good moments in the game—but just when I thought she was really getting into it, she ran by us on the sideline and said, “Can I get my ears pierced after this?”
After a brief “halftime”(which involved me reminding Kate that she’s not supposed to pick up the ball up with her hands) and 15 more minutes of a small herd of kids awkwardly chasing the ball, the game came to an end. As the kids walked off the field, three things were clear:
1. They all had fun out there,
2. The other team was much better than ours, and
3. Becky will go on to become a great soccer player or she’ll burn out by age 9.
Who knows whether or not Kate will become a good soccer player. The only thing that’s pretty certain is that kid is going to get her ears pierced.
Today is my birthday. For math nerds and people who like to Google stuff: the year I was born is the 38th through 41st digits of pi.
I had to Google the pi thing because I only know pi up to 15 digits. In my freshman year in high school, I made this utterly dorky, useless goal to memorize pi up to 100 digits. I must’ve thought I’d impress my classmates by being able to casually rattle off dozens of pi digits. I had the first 30 down cold but somewhere along the line I lost interest. Instead, I ended up memorizing other things, like Steven Wright one-liners and commercial jingles.
Did I mention I never had any girlfriends in high school?
Anyway, it's my birthday and I’m 41 years old. I don’t care about turning 41, probably because I don’t feel like that age. I’m not sure what age I feel but it’s not 41. On a bad day, I feel like I’m in my late 30s. On a good day or when I’m drunk, I feel about 25. And if someone tells a fart joke, I feel 11 because I end up chuckling like a 6th grader. In general, I feel younger than I am. I think I feel this way, in part, because I spend most of my waking hours around people who were born during the Coolidge Administration.
My day job involves working with older adults. When you regularly talk to people who are in their 80s and 90s, you can’t help but feel young—a lot younger than you really are. When I visit the retirement community next door to my office and run up the stairs, I often hear comments like, “My goodness, you are fast!” and “Look at the kid go!”
To be called “kid” at 40 is ridiculous but it’s also kind of fun, along the lines of being carded when you buy alcohol. You know it’s a sham—they don’t really think you’re all that young—but you somehow let yourself be flattered by it anyway.
Since I’ve been around people 40-50 years my senior for the past several years, I feel like I’ve been living in a bubble. Generally speaking, I’ve always felt young. But that recently came to an end. The bubble popped.
This past weekend, my wife, daughter and I went to Lake Tahoe. One of my wife’s friends (her former coworker, Libby) was celebrating her birthday. Every year, she rents a condo in Tahoe for the week of her birthday and invites people to come celebrate with her. This year, Libby’s nephew and a few of his friends (who are all in their early 20s) were in attendance. All of us had fun swimming in the lake, joking around, drinking, watching the Olympics, talking politics, etc.
One morning, Libby cooked a huge breakfast and, when we were finished, I thought I’d get off my lazy butt and wash the dishes. A little bit later, I heard Libby’s 23-year-old nephew, Pat, say to her, “I guess we’d better do the dishes.”
Libby replied, “No, Scott just finished them. They’re all done.”
Then I heard Pat yell, “Thanks, surrogate dad!”
At first, I thought, Dad? How old does this guy think I am?
Then it hit me: I really am old enough to be this guy’s dad. This dude I had been treating as a peer could, in theory, be my kid. I suddenly felt old. Ancient. And it just got worse when I talked Pat’s friend, Matt, about Rowan Atkinson’s hilarious skit in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. When I started talking about how I love the movie “Chariots of Fire,” Matt’s eyes glazed over. I said, “Have you seen Chariots of Fire?”
“I’ve heard of it,” Matt replied. “I think my mom told me about it. Isn't it pretty old?” I might as well have been talking about flappers or rumble seats.
Later, Pat started raving about The Dark Knight Rises. Pat is a huge fan of Batman, he loved the latest movie, and was pretty shocked when I told him that I hadn’t seen it.
“But you’ve seen the other movies in the trilogy, right?” he asked.
Before I could say “No” someone jumped in with a comment about something else, which was good because I think Pat’s head would’ve exploded. Eventually, Pat got back to talking about Batman and I got back to feeling old.
“The Dark Knight trilogy is so awesome,” Pat said to me. “You know how your generation was really into the original Star Wars trilogy? The Dark Knight trilogy is like my generation’s Star Wars.”
I had the urge to reply, “Star Wars should be your Star Wars! Go wash your mouth out with soap!” But I held back.
It was a strange feeling to be the “old guy,” but it’s okay. I embrace it. As the cliché goes, age is just a number. Like pi.
Or 1981. The year Chariots of Fire came out. Which was….31 years ago.
Man, that makes me feel old.
EDIT: I saw Chariots of Fire the other day - the first time I've seen it in about 20 years. I was wrong. The movie sucks.
Recently my sister gave my wife Katrina and me few puzzles her children had outgrown. One of them is a wooden “sound puzzle.” Here’s what it looks like:
The child pulls out all the animal pieces and when they put each one back over the matching animal, it makes the sound for that animal. When you fit the bird piece into the bird slot, the sensor activates and it chirps. The cat meows. The dark barks. The child has fun and learns at the same time. That’s the idea.
When our 17-month-old daughter Kate started playing with the puzzle, she instantly loved it. It was great. But then the puzzle started messing with me.
A couple weeks ago, I came home late and Katrina was upstairs. I closed the front door, walked past Kate’s toys in the living room and suddenly heard “ROWF! ROWF! ROWF!” It scared the crap out of me. A second later, I realized it was just the animal puzzle.
Over the next several days, it kept making noises by itself—sometimes it would chirp, sometimes it would meow, sometimes it would bark. Eventually the puzzle settled on the bullfrog sound. Whenever I’d walk in the room, it would croak. Loudly.
One night, as we were getting ready for bed, Katrina said, “That animal puzzle keeps making noises when I’m near it.”
I said, “It’s been doing that to me too. Every time I’m in the living room, it makes the bullfrog noise.”
“For me, it’s the guinea pig,” she replied.
“You always get the same animal too?”
“Yeah. And just when I think it’s not going to happen – it happens.” She paused for a few seconds and added, “I wonder if it’s your dad trying to communicate with us.”
My dad passed away six years ago and whenever either of us experiences what could be paranormal activity—lights turning on by themselves, objects moving by themselves, etc.—Katrina suggests that it might be my dad letting us know he’s around. While I believe in ghosts, I don’t think my dad would try to communicate through a kid’s puzzle.
“I doubt it,” I said.
“You never know. It’s certainly interesting that the puzzle makes a specific noise for each of us.”
As Katrina finished putting her clothes in the dresser, we were both silent. Then she turned and said, “Did you turn off the front light?”
“I think so.”
“Could you go check?”
“Okay,” I said. “But if the puzzle makes the frog noise while I’m down there, that would be a little too freaky.”
As I walked downstairs, I yelled “Hey Puzzle!” I wanted to catch it off guard.
I walked past the living room to the front door and opened it. The front light was on, so I turned it off. Then I turned around and glanced over at Kate’s little table. Sitting silently on the table in the dark corner of the room was the puzzle. It looked ominous. I walked away and was near the foot of the stairs when the puzzle let out a loud “CROOOAAK! CROOOAAK! CROOOAAK!”
I ran up the stairs faster than usual. The stupid puzzle was messing with my head.
When I got to bed, Katrina came up with a more plausible theory about the puzzle: perhaps the sensors are light sensitive. This theory was corroborated the next day by my brother-in-law, Sean.
“The puzzle is definitely light sensitive,” Sean said. “It would meow at me. It’s a little freaky.”
“Yeah, it is.” I said. “For me, it always makes the bullfrog noise.”
“Really?” Sean said. “It’s always the bullfrog?”
“Yeah. It just did it last night.” I decided not to mention the part about me running upstairs like a little girl.
Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, the puzzle was silent. No croaking, no barking, no meowing—nothing. Then early this morning, as I walked into the kitchen to make coffee, I heard what sounded like an indignant mouse. “SQUEAK! SQUEAK! SQUEAK!” Even though I knew why it was making the noise, it still was a little creepy.
It could be worse, though. At least it's not a talking Elmo doll that makes death threats.
When I was looking for a job several years ago, I registered with a temp agency. A couple weeks later, they called with my first assignment.
“I have a filing job available,” a woman told me. “It’s for a company downtown. Are you interested?”
I don't like filing. I guess no one really enjoys filing but I especially can't stand it. And I'm not even very good at it. It’s a mundane task, so I eventually get bored, lose focus, and the next thing you know it’s “Who put the Advanced Textiles invoice in the Advanced Engineering folder?”
“Sure, I’ll take the job,” I said to the woman. “When does it start?”
The next morning, I walked into a large office building in downtown San Francisco. I don’t remember the name of the company but they took up four floors of the office building. They were huge. I got to the lobby and told the receptionist, “I’m here for the temporary position.”
A couple minutes later, a plain-looking woman walked into the lobby. As we shook hands, she said, “I’m Glenda.” Glenda’s handshake was firm and she was all business. All three and a half feet of her.
Glenda was a “little person.” The top of her head was only a couple inches above my belly button. It was the closest I’d been to a little person and I found her fascinating.
“Follow me,” Glenda said in her semi-squeaky voice, and we walked to the elevator, which we took down to the enormous Accounting department. She led me to the kitchen and said, “The coffee is here and the mugs are in the cupboard over there.”
Meanwhile, I was thinking: That cupboard is pretty high. How does Glenda reach the mugs? She must use a stepstool. Or maybe she has her own mug and washes it herself. But how can she reach the sink? Even on her tiptoes it would be hard for her to turn on the---
“Hello?” Glenda said. “I said do you drink coffee?”
“Yes. Coffee. I like it.” So far, I could tell I wasn’t impressing Glenda.
Along with being a little person, Glenda had a lazy eye. As she began describing the job, I tried to keep eye contact with the eye that was looking at me, but my mind began to wander.
How does Glenda open the top drawer of that filing cabinet? Maybe she can open it but she definitely can’t see what’s inside. Not without a step stool. There should be step stools all around the office for Glenda, but I don’t see any. She probably has her own step stool that she carries around the office when she---
“So that’s the job. Any questions?” One of Glenda’s eyes was looking at me expectantly. The other one was looking out the window.
I had missed about 90% of what she had just said. I only remembered something about groups of numbers and making photocopies. I had to get Glenda to explain the entire job again, without looking like an idiot.
“Could you...go over it more time,” I said. “I want to make sure I have it right.”
Glenda sighed and explained the job again. She described everything slowly and loudly, with big, sweeping gestures. She was clearly frustrated with me, but she looked so cute waving her little arms and pointing her little fingers.
“Each piece of paper in this cabinet has a list of numbers on it. See?” Glenda took out a pink sheet and pointed to a group of numbers—each one eight or nine digits long—at the top of the page. “You need to match each PINK sheet with its corresponding document in the cabinet over there.” Glenda pointed to another cabinet across the room. “Those sheets are YELLOW and each one has a group of numbers, just like this one. You need to MATCH them up. Got it?”
“After you match them up, make a photocopy of both documents, staple the copies together and put them in a pile on this table.”
“Then put the originals back in their respective cabinets—in the appropriate client folders.” Glenda smacked the side of the cabinet as she said those last three words.
“Sure,” I said.
“They have to be put back in the appropriate client folders. Very important.”
“Yes, of course. Got it.”
“Seriously, don’t mess it up. I spent months organizing these files,” Glenda said, and then she waddled away.
A thought immediately crossed my mind: I am SO going to mess this up.
As I began working, I had another thought. The best way to succeed at this is to go SLOWLY and stay focused. No need to go super fast. No need to prove anything. I just need to avoid screwing up. Slow but accurate. Slow but accurate. Slow but--
“That’s IT? That’s all you’ve done?” About 30 minutes had passed and Glenda was checking on my work. “Please tell me you’ve done more than this.”
I looked down at my pile of work, which consisted of two stapled matches. “No, that’s pretty much it,” I said.
“What’s taking you so long?” Apparently Glenda was a micro-manager. In more ways than one.
Before I could answer, she said, “Well, I’m sure you’ll pick up the pace.” I caught a few people peeking up from their cubicles to check out the stupid temp.
Since my “slow but accurate” strategy wasn’t cutting it, I made an effort to go faster. Matching up groups of numbers written in 8-point font, while trying to keep everything in perfect order was too much for me. I was going faster at the expense of accuracy. The wheels were coming off and this had to stop. I walked over to Glenda’s office.
“I’m sorry, you’ll have to get someone else to finish this job,” I said.
Glenda’s eyes widened with concern. “What’s wrong?”
Filing is wrong. I’m wrong. Everything about this job assignment is wrong.
“I’m just not a good fit for this,” I said.
“That’s okay! That’s okay! You’ll get the hang of it!” Glenda’s semi-squeaky voice suddenly became full-fledged squeaky.
“I think it’s best that you get someone who’s more efficient. I have the agency’s number – I’ll call and ask them to send someone else.”
“Oompa, loompa, doopity doo. I have a telephone you can use.”
Okay, Glenda didn’t really say that but she did let me borrow her phone. I knew the temp agency would never call me again after bailing on this job and I didn’t know if I’d find work somewhere else. That was unsettling to think about, but as I walked out of the building, I knew I had made the right decision.
I also knew that when Glenda went back to look at my work, she would discover that the stupid temp messed up her files. I envisioned her shaking her tiny fist and yelling “Noooooooo,” her voice reaching a whole new level of squeakiness. I was glad I wouldn’t be around to see that.
In less than two hours, I screwed up files that had been painstakingly organized by an anal-retentive midget with a lazy eye. That’s nothing to be proud of but it makes for a good story.