Best part of our basketball season (it’s not what you think)

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The benefits for kids in sports and activities are well-documented. Kids’ sports build youngster’s confidence, skills, friendships, competitive spirit and a soulful comfort for being part of something.

Our youngest, Caroline, again played basketball this year, and she garnered all those benefits. You should have seen how all the girls’ dribbles, shots and rebounds improved! We even figured out how to NOT double-dribble and travel (kinda…).

But the best part of our “Slam Dunkers” basketball season wasn’t anyone on the team, a coach, a game or the girls’ improvement performance. It was an amazing young lady we met just before our season began. She was perhaps as heartwarmed as all of us to learn how just little things really touch lives.

Tip-off night

The Lakeville North Panthers Girls Basketball Association coordinates a “Panther” program where each in-house has an assigned high school player. We met our Panther, Logan, at tip-off night. While we waited in the stands, the JV and Varsity players were introduced, then took their spots to meet their in-house teams. Photo credits to Jodi D. (aka Logan’s mom).

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She had their attention!
She had their attention!

She signed posters for the girls, talked hoops and doled out lots of candy.

There's our Logan. | photo credit: Jodi D. (aka Logan's mom)
There’s our Logan!

Game on

We then saw her at one of her games. The girls came to our house beforehand for some team fun, and we made her cookies and a sign. Logan had called all the girls and invited them to her game. They were thrilled!

Glitter galore!
Glitter galore!
Some sweet creations for our #22!
Some sweet creations for our #22!

Of course Logan didn’t get ALL the goodies!

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Fueled up with icing, we headed to Lakeville North for the game. Again, photo credits to Jodi D.

Look who came over to say Hello during warm-ups!
Look who came over to say Hello during warm-ups!

Since Logan is young, and predominantly a B and JV player, she doesn’t always log court time in Varsity games. But since the Panthers were ahead by quite a few baskets, she got to go in! Our girls cheered everything Logan did (as they ought to). She had a great stint and our girls stood and yelled and clapped their little hearts out the entire time.

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P-i-z-z-a!

After the game, the Panthers hosted a pizza party for all the in-house players. Logan joined our team and stayed to chat with our girls longer than any other Panther. She was attentive, encouraging, silly and clever. Exactly what our little Panthers needed. Bonus: Our older daughter Julia was there, too. She will be a freshman next year, and Logan had some great insights to high school life. (Her mom also had insights for this mom, +whew+.) Her surprise news? She was coming to their game the next day!

Win for Logan

Sitting across the court that morning, watching our little Panthers step it up while their mentor cheered ’em on just warmed my heart. Here’s a young lady who was 9 years old not so very long ago. And yet now, she’s a role model. A POSITIVE role model that spirit, guts, smiling and cheering is the way to live your life.

This had nothing to do with basketball, even though that was our original common ground. It had everything to do with living life with fire and passion and goals.

On behalf of moms of girls everywhere, thank you, Logan. You did more than you can ever know for these girls–well, if you are a mom someday, you’ll know then. And you’ll hopefully fondly, proudly remember your season as Our Panther.

Hi-five!
Hi-five!
Good game!
Good game!

Overtime!

Fast-forwarding a few weeks, Logan even refereed our team’s final game of the season. She was one of our better refs, taking teachable moments, encouraging the players and yet not babying them.

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Afterwards, she gave each girl a gift bag of treasures, including a CD of photos (many of which I used in this post), handmade bracelet, personalized symbol for each girl with their key personality trait (peace, bravery, friendship) and this homemade artwork:

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Our real trophy

Of course the girls also got big trophies at the end of our season. But I pray (and somehow know) what will truly stick with each of them is their time with an amazing young lady. I know someday, they will be great mentors to others, too. That’s how all this works, you know…

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“I can’t listen to that M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A chant one. more. time.”

That’s our Matt, born and raised a staunch UND Fighting Sioux fan. Groomed to despise the Gopher hockey team. So even though his Sioux football squad does not play the Gophers, it was torture to listen to the U of M chant while at a Gopher football game on a perfect autumn afternoon. And, the Gophers scored early and often, so Matty’s ears were blazing.

TCF Bank Stadium, aka “The Bank” and “The Gopher Hole” is a beautiful venue, shimmied in on the West Bank near Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena. Gorgeous views of the River, vibrant Stadium Village and other U of M landmarks. It’s on the former Memorial Stadium site, so there’s a nice rich sense of history. It’s a horseshoe design, and can accommodate future expansion (when the maroon and gold starts winning more, more often to justify it…).

Smile, Sioux fan.

Ironically (or not), the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux agreed to donate $10 million to the stadium, the U matched parts of that and created an endowment for scholarships to go to Native American and low-income U of M students. A respectful plaza commemorates the “history, presence and cultural contributions of all 11 tribes in Minnesota.” Interesting. Our state’s history with Native Americans is complicated and definitely not proud. All Minnesota counties are represented on the stadium exterior, including ours:

Our seats were comfy, especially when we added some Sioux padding.

It was a great game on a day perfectly designed for football.

QB MarQueis Gray romped.

It was a great way to spend part of a Saturday. On our way out of the stadium, we spotted Mariucci Arena. “How long until hockey season?” Matt asked. Not long, buddy. And hopefully we won’t hear that annoying chant much at all this winter.

A BLAST: Mill City Museum

It’s the ultimate combination: kids think they’re having fun; parents know they’re learning. One of the best things about living near a vibrant city is the rich arts and culture. Minneapolis – St Paul has incredible museums I’m always happy to visit.

My mom and dad and I took 3 of their grandkids for a day at Mill City Museum, one of my favorite haunts. Niece Allison had been there for a field trip this spring and took us directly to the Flour Tower. Hi, Dad!

That’s an excellent place to start your visit to this museum. As your elevator moves you through 8 floors, you learn the story of the Washburn Mill. Nearly 100 years of flour power on the banks of the river in Minneapolis. The boom times, sad times, unsafe times, and boom (as in explosion) times.

Look where you land! The top of the Mill, overlooking beautiful Minneapolis. Hi, Mom!

A glass elevator overlooks the Mill ruins and the historical yet modern city all around.

Other highlights in the Museum:

Interactive, hands-on water area. Move the logs, feel the power of water, harness the river’s energy.

How to market the flour and flour-made products

Betty Crocker (see? Minnesota girls age better than most.) Must be the water, fresh air and grains.
Create your own cereal box.

Build a huge puzzle!

Nice teamwork, kids (and Grandpa, the ultimate puzzle-builder).’

Appreciate quirks

Kevin Kling’s movie, Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat, should be required viewing for all Minnesotans. It completely captures our history, habits, lifestyles, values, traditions and, yep sure you betcha, quirks. Watch a clip here. Gosh darn it.

Sobering new display

Mill City is home to the recently unveiled tribute to those involved in the 35W Bridge Collapse. It’s a simply beautiful display.

YUM!

And where do you lunch after a morning at Mill City Museum? Well somewhere with good old fashioned durum pasta, of course. The Old Spaghetti Factory!

Thanks for a lovely day, fellow Minnesotans!

The making of a young lady: a weekend with Caroline

“My favorite things are to organize stuff, take care of dogs, bake and play outside.” I hope those are ALWAYS some of our Caroline’s fave things! We did many together over the weekend for Girls Scouts and 1st Communion Prep.

Saturday was Girl Scout Badge Day, and little C. and her troop mates earned three badges:

1. Stamp Out Hunger

We gloved up and made turkey and cheese sandwiches for the Lewis House, a shelter for women and kids who need a safe, supportive place to get back to their best.
When you give girls a goal, they figure out a great system to reach it.
Hope the lucky sandwich recipients knew how much love and care went into each layer. Hope that gives THEM hope.

The Lakeville Girl Scouts ended up making 1,300 sandwiches. Way to go, girls!

2. Dog Sledding

Musher Caroline's friend, Iya.

In short sleeves and capris, the girls got a GREAT education on sled dogs, mushing, the Iditarod and all the gear. I was really impressed how each portion of this was incredibly hands-on!

The girls tried on gear, including these thick mittens for mushers.
Meet Mac, our grooming object who savored all the brushing, cuddling and kisses the girls doled out to him. (He is one of the sled dog handler's pet.)
Nice bed.
Nice booties, pups. (We practiced on the stuffed huskies.)
The ladies also each took a turn AS a sled dog. Hint: Lead dogs need to listen very, very well.
Hike! (Go) Gee! (right) Haw! (left) and of course, Whoa.

Meeting the athletes

The sled dog team had six of their dogs there, and the girls were able to get up close and personal. Five of the dogs were calm yet alert and polite and eager to interact with the girls. One dog snoozed through it all, and we learned she is a new mom to a litter of puppies. (“Let her sleep!” the moms all advised the girls.) Congratulations, mom.

My kindred spirit, Burr. We commiserated about the lack of snow and cold this winter. He is a beautiful guy.
Cara with Loopy, a Lead Dog. The musher explained that he puts her up front and "the bozos" (two much larger, stronger male dogs) behind her for power. Ah, I love women in leadership.

3. (cup)Cake Decorating

Baking is a daily event at our house. This session, too, was really hands-on for the girls. And you can tell a lot about someone’s personality when they decorate with icing! This also hopefully taught the girls that with the right tools, imagination, sugar, inspiration and a tall hat — you can do anything.

Decorate slowly and wear a Big Hat.
Nirvana.

Great group!

Those of you with multiple kids know how challenging–yet important–it is to carve out some one-on-one time with each one, doing their “things.” I’m grateful for two blessed days with our Caroline.

My favorite things are anything with the people I most adore, admire–and who make me smile. Mission accomplished.

Can’t wait to see what else catches her attention — whatever it is, I’m all in.