My first of four weeks off involved lots of boating, eating, and browsing the internet. I dealt with some home issues and ignored many more. We hosted Alex from the Challenger Soccer program for the second week this summer, so had the pleasure of both his company and seeing our lives through his eyes.

Everybody needs a good left tackle.

Most of you know how obsessed I am with the New England Patriots. I celebrated this week as Pats news turned from lockout doldrums to a flood of signings, trades, retirements, practice reports and other treats. BB and his team did some flashy things, but the most significant happened this morning, as we re-signed our left tackle Matt Light allowing him to continue playing for the only team he has ever known for an 11th season. This keeps our entire starting offensive line in place.

For those of you who aren’t so freakishly into football, lets oversimplify its elegance and say the left tackle’s job is to protect the quarterback. Catch the blitzes, and knock those bullies down so you can go on about your business of passing the ball. Your left tackle needs to have great scripted instruction (the team’s responsibility) , as well as be able to improvise with you (unteachable.)

Wouldn’t it be great to have one of those in our everyday lives? I think we probably already do.

Who is it that knows your plays and has your back? Your partner? Mother? Assistant? Friend from college? It might help them do their jobs if we shared our play books. What was that? The sound of the metaphor crashing and burning? I’m with you. 

New Habits are EASY to pick up.

Last week Oliver pulled the drawer front off of our silverware drawer. Steve was out of town so Oliver, Leo, Alex and I looked at it for a bit. Saw that there was some actual breakage and set it aside. I thought maybe it would be the drawer front that catalyzed the whole new kitchen. Perhaps I even said that out loud.

For the first day it made me aware of how much silverware I use. If you had asked me how many times a day I open that drawer I would have told you 3/4. Turns out it is more like 20. Still don’t know why, but by the end of the day and my 20 reps I had already developed the muscle memory to use a little claw like grasp around the side of the sliding shelf (what do you call a drawer without a front?).

Steve came back and after a day or two decided that he would just bludgeon the thing back on.

That was Saturday.

My weird claw grip and I are still trying to access the drawer the old new way.

This ability to adapt, and learn new habits is liberating. It should help us feel confident when we approach something new we want to integrate into our lives, like social media, exercise. If my hand can learn to make a claw for that drawer without taking up any extra mental effort, I certainly can work google + into my day. Or the freaking treadmill.

It reminds me of the freedom I felt after I learned that Oliver could be
sleep trained” in 3 days when he was a baby. Three days! We could survive that. That meant we weren’t so locked down to our sleep routine. We could travel, stay out late at a party, whatever and get him back on track quickly.

Strangers aren’t always so strange.

After a bit of lobbying the weird web that is Challenger soccer our British Soccer coach Alex returned for 6 more days making our grand total of acquaintance 12 days. 12 days sounds like a lot for a house guest, but house guest he was not.  In exchange for meals, a bed, (and I would have thought a towel but he came with his own) Alex:

Steve, Oliver, Alex, and a little of Natalie, another great soccer coach

  • Played ‘heavy’ with the kids– in both senses. When Steve and I sat back he removed the exacto knife from Leo with 1/100th the fuss we would have caused- he also wrestled, flipped, rough and tumbled in a way I NEVER and Steve RARELY does
  • Golfed with Steve. Steve has had a rotten year on the course since his dad (and golf coach died) and Alex brought joy back to the golf course driving the buggie (or whatever british term he had for it) and the ball with equal eagerness
  • Shopped with me. I got to pick out clothes and shoes with someone who at least PRETENDED to care about my opinion. My kids could care less, my husband has his own style, my mother as she will tell you, has not bought a stitch of clothing for herself in 20 decades.
  • Appreciated our state, and town. While teaching us a bit about his countryside (Lake district= Lake Champlain) and culinary habits (each and every filling combo of a pasty) he raved about ours. It made me feel pride of place. Which hasn’t really been lacking, but is always nice to experience. Helping out in that effort was Shelburne Farms, Church Street, the Field House, and our spot on the bay.
  • Exposed us to new language. Trainers-sneakers, buttie (?)= sandwich, kit= uniform, uni=college, tea=dinner, dinner= lunch and on it goes. The best though was whole phrases…with accent. Hen do and Stag do for bachelorette and bachelor parties call to mind an entirely different sort of affair than ours. Referring to a waitress with particularly poor services he remarked that he was “surprised she hadn’t been sacked yet.”
  • Reminded us what it is like to be 20 (or previewed for our boys), confident, and optimistic.  Unlike most 20 year olds Alex enjoyed making plans, making small talk, making eye contact, and  making everyone feel comfortable. Like most 20 year olds he was more fun in the afternoon and evening, he was happiest with groups of friends around, he was often looking for a game to play (and win if possible, although he lost with a good attitude), and can recap TV, and movies with ease. What struck me most though was how he looked forward. Whether it is his age or his personality that makes him positive and forward looking it was a pleasure to be around. It was also a bit infectious. A few work bumps came up this week, and I moved through them with some thin-skinned fussing, but less than normal. There was stuff to look forward to.

For anyone considering hosting through challenger or some other program, my sample size of one says do it. It was great for all of us. My four year old, who has spent his entire life loving a cousin Alex remarked to me yesterday: “I don’t have a favorite Alex…they are all my favorite.”

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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

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