When we first decided to move to South Africa we had hoped to leave mid-July. Correction: I had hoped to leave mid-July. The rest of the family would hear nothing of it. Why not? you might ask? They wanted to enjoy their last Summer in the US? The boys wanted to celebrate their birthday with their friends?  Nope.  Nope.
The answer as it inevitably is when I am in conflict with my family was…of course… SOCCER.
We had tickets for a soccer match. And thus our life’s plans had to be adjusted accordingly. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times. “Soccer Rules Our Lives”.  And usually that rather infuriates and disgusts me.  But this time I couldn’t muster huge outrage. It wasn’t any soccer match. Kind of a once in a lifetime.  Here’s the thing. Benj’s all time favourite team Real Madrid played Finny’s all time favourite team Manchester United.  An hour away from our home. It was kind of a huge deal. 


Being so close to their birthdays and considering the lifelong consuming soccer obsession passion going on around here,  we figured that it would be a memorable family event and invested approximately 500, 000 dollars in tickets for the family. Really bad tickets actually (they sold out before they were supposed to even be on sale and we had to take what we could get.  Scalpers! You’re ruining it for everyone!)  Happily,  Benj’s coach scored some good seats and so we were able to get Benj and Gabe into those, but the rest of us were relegated to the oxygen seats. I didn’t have particularly high hopes with regards to actually seeing everything but figured it would be enough to be in the same stadium with such legends as Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney…and 109,000 other folk.
 
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At last the day arrived. We squared away the dog and the toddler and were on our way. Yay!  There were two slight dampers on the day…the promise of thunder storms and news that Cristiano Ronaldo was injured and would not be playing.  But we were still plenty excited as seen below. (Ella is looking at this as I post it and is most indignant not to be included in the shot).
  
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We left home with plenty of time to spare we thought but by the time we parked, walked a couple of miles to the stadium, consumed a 7oo dollar hotdog each  (this was some terrible planning on our part…..always, always come into the stadium well-fed my friends,) it was getting fairly close to game time.
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I made them pose for this picture  before I would give them their tickets. Benj especially was delighted about it.
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We came into the stadium and as we gasped for oxygen (we seriously were in the second to last row) the first thing our younger 2 kids saw, (the older 2 ditched us as soon as they were in possession of their $2,000 hotdogs,)  were some of their favourite players warming up.  That moment was pure magic. They both involuntarily gasped and shrieked. They were there! They were real! They were playing! In living breathing colour!  Even I felt giddy. It was the coolest thing. Worth every penny, even the ones for the terrible hotdog. And turns out there aren’t really any bad seats in The Big House.  We could see the action a lot better than we anticipated (don’t judge the view from the terrible phone picture).
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The pre-game atmosphere was awesome and it got off to a stirring start with the national anthem followed by an awesome flyover (you can watch it on my instagram account). Being the the nosebleed seats meant that we were the closest to it….sooo neener.
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These are our “yay! We don’t have a three year old with us!” smiles.
It was a great action packed game with a final score of 3-1
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the halftime entertainment was cool..in fact a kid from the boy’s school was in there somewhere…
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The weather ended up being perfect and toward the end of the 2nd half me and Gracie thought we saw a familiar face on the big screen…but surely not…yes it was! The pretty boy himself…warming up..the crowd went beserk.
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Everyone regardless of which team they allied with was beside themselves. He’s a soccer god. It’s got to be hard to be humble and it’s also got to suck being on a team with this guy. Basically you’re just along for the ride.  But he’s not just a pretty face man, that guy’s footwork is just….well it’s beautiful.
This kid had to have been pretty excited. (He had CR 7 carved into the other side).
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In the end, pretty boy not withstanding MY pretty boy’s team won and he was stoked.
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And so naturally we were too. This picture taken by an extremely inebriated yet pleasant young man who claimed to be a professional photographer. He got us all in the shot…can’t ask for more than that!
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We hung out for a little while after and got to watch some post game playing,  a fully clothed “streaker” who managed to evade several burly security men for an admirable stretch of time touching various players before he surrendered and was unceremoniously piled upon and handcuffed.  I’m sure the next few hours weren’t particularly fun for him but it’s something to tell the grandkids after all. I overheard the woman in front of me telling her very well behaved three year old. “You’re not allowed to run onto the soccer field but if you don’t do that at least once in your 20’s I’ll be very disappointed.” Who says soccer moms aren’t cool? 😉
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And then it was time to return to the real world… the scenic walk to our car
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practicing our newly discovered moves along the way was the fun part. A little less fun was waiting in traffic for a couple of hours while officials figured out how to get 109,000 people out a small area which had been (prudently) mostly closed for construction. It’s not as if they had any warning that this was going to happen….erhem.
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It was touch and go there for some people who had not had enough sustenance in the stadium…we did not expect another 2 hour wait for dinner but happily everyone survived and we ended our trip with a frantic run on Trader Joe’s whereupon we acted like animals and ripped open packages of food in the aisles in a feeding frenzy. What we didn’t eat on site we bought because…never let it be said that we do not learn from our mistakes of find ourselves snack-less in a vehicle and after all…we had to get back in the car again to drive home. When I got home last night and surveyed what we had bought it can only be summed up as a Celebration of Carbs. Holy moses. 
The drive home was probably  my sweetest memory though. Much as we all adore the Ella-bee she does tend to monopolize our energies on trips and when she is in the car we are mostly focused on entertaining her or studiously ignoring her. But yesterday it was just the first four and we got to crank the (non-Frozen soundtrack or Pharrell Williams’ Happy) music and just be silly together.  I was reminded again of how much of my mojo was lost to my foray into later in life motherhood and it made me resolved to access the fun and silly side more often. Babies and toddlers awesome as they are tend to put one into survival mode more often than not.  It was just a great experience for all of us.
Speaking of accessing my mojo…project reconnect is still in full swing over here (hence the 3rd blog post this week…say whhhhhat???” and check it out…today I went for my first run…well mostly run with a little walking…well mostly shuffling with a little walking or as we like to call it “wuffling” in something like…forever.  It was wonderful and a tiny bit terrible. Hello shin-splints my old friends. But mostly wonderful.  Oh trail, how I have missed you. Oh discomfort from something that is actually natural and good and challenging…how I have missed you. Oh workout playlist…how I have missed you.  I even finished with some crunches and a say whhhaaat,…one minute plank. Don’t scoff. I used to be the community center plank queen don’t forget (3 mins 33 seconds or something not that I cling to faded glories or anything I mean, who am I? Napoleon Dynamite’s uncle????” but everyone has to start (again) somewhere, am I right? Oh it felt so good. It felt so.good.
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I’ve gained some weight due to my various illnesses, minor surgeries and injuries and subsequent mindless eating over the last several months which is somewhat concerning knowing that my metabolism is increasingly not on my side, but not nearly as devastating as it once was before I had my life-changing weight loss/body acceptance epiphany. I know that when I decide to lose it (and I think I’m just about ready), I will, and that the whole process might be a challenge but that it’s totally in my control.  I am actually feeling pretty good in my skin lately which has nothing to do with how I look.
I used to think people said they loved getting older because they were trying to compensate for how atrocious it is to get older, but truly, while some parts of getting older are atrocious, there are some things about it that totally freaking rock.  Finding your voice, finding your courage, not caring about what people think about you as much.  Starting to figure out what does and what doesn’t matter, become less fearful in general.  I mean I have a million miles still to go in every one of those areas..a million and one. But I feel so much more accepting of myself lately, more patient with my flaws and foibles uncertainties and questions, less interested with fitting into an uncomfortable and unnatural mold where I will never fit and was never meant to fit. 
Speaking of aging, here are my handsome boys. I got some weird shots on their birthday so I took the opportunity to snap a couple (dozen) of them while they were still all beautified after church. Ok seriously, I felt like they got into a time machine for this first one and went back to 6 and 4 just as a special present for me….they are going to die if they see it but that’s what you get for being goofy every time your mom tries to get decent picture of you.  The brotherly hug was spontaneous by the way. Awww…
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These boys live to mess with me. Jerks…<3
 
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And here’s my newest baby.  I insist on daily picture and video of her and Thalia has been quite kind in obliging me.  I remember picking out this little frog outfit and thinking it was so cute.  OMG I had NO IDEA how cute it could be.
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Happy SUNflowerDAY! Hope it was a good one for you too.
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