Sunday, March 30, 2008

Boo Hoo

Villanova scored first in its NCAA Sweet Sixteen game against Kansas, and lead for the next 3 seconds.

Unfortunately, the team never regained the lead and lost to the Jayhawks 72-57. Or, as the esteemed New York Times described it, we got "clobbered."

When told of the loss, Thing One and Two said, "Better luck next year."


Friday, March 28, 2008

Being Far From March Madness Can Be Maddening

LONDON -- Philosophy 101 Question: If a Villanova fan in a foreign country screams victoriously in the middle of the night during March Madness, can anyone who cares hear her?

This is a question I ponder nearly every year in March. As a Villanova alumna living in London since 1998, I have learned how to be a faithful fan surrounded by people who think that March Madness is some sort of psychiatric condition.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, being a far-flung fan is not as difficult as it once was. When I first moved to London and the Internet was still in its infancy, I could only keep up with the Wildcats by reading the scores the next day. This year, I can watch the games themselves, which is the closest thing to nirvana an international NCAA basketball fan can experience in March.

The Internet has even enabled me to participate in the most storied of March traditions, the NCAA Tournament Pool. For my first March Madness abroad in 1999, I found myself on the floor of the Rome airport, filling out my brackets in a very expensive copy of USA Today. The exercise was for my own amusement only, but I felt such a profound loss in not being able to participate in a pool that I thought if I filled out the brackets, I would feel better. I didn’t, even if I was the winner of my pool-of-one, and Villanova lost in the first round anyway.

But sitting on the dusty floor of an airport using a pen and paper for bracket filling is a thing of the past. A fellow ‘Nova alum set up an Internet site for people to make their choices, and payment is via PayPal. While my location may put me at a distinct disadvantage in knowing who’s hot and who’s not, at least I have the distinction of being the only international player in a pool of nearly 300 people.

Even though I play in a pool, it doesn’t replicate the community of hope I experienced while a student on Villanova’s Main Line campus. I do what I can, mostly using my two sons (age 8 and 4) for my own amusement. After all, isn’t that what children are for? I taught them both how to sing the Villanova fight song and they both proudly wear Villanova gear. Even my husband, who isn’t exactly a Wildcat fan but knows what’s good for him, will be supportive during this crucial month.

But it still isn’t quite right. Singing the fight song can cheer me to no end, but my son’s friends don’t understand what they’re doing. Proudly wearing the Villanova colors might make my day, but the people my sons pass on the street think they’re making a fashion statement, not showing their support.

After Villanova’s victory in the first round, I found that the Gods of Scheduling had smiled on me for the Easter Sunday game against Siena at 12:10 p.m. Eastern Time (4:10 p.m. London time). The only problem was we were guests at an Easter lunch party. My host, a Temple University alumnus, understood my need to check on the score periodically throughout the meal. The rest of the guests, though, were far more interested in the outcome of the Arsenal-Chelsea football match that was playing on the radio in the kitchen.

When I returned to the dining room upon the completion of the first half, I found myself in the unusual situation of explaining the significance of the NCAA Tournament to several people who had never heard of it. Once I finished my monologue about the beauty of basketball, 65 collegiate teams, Cinderella stories and Villanova’s place in it all, the British guests all nodded their heads politely, as if they understood. I’m quite certain they thought I was bonkers. But because my fellow guests were British, and therefore exceedingly polite, they congratulated me on Villanova’s win at the end of the evening.

So when you’re gathered around the television set on Friday night to watch the Villanova Wildcats take on the Kansas Jayhawks, spare a thought for those of us on the other side of the world, up in the middle of the night, and cheering as quietly as possible so we don’t wake up the rest of the house.

This is an Op-Ed I submitted to the Philadelphia Inquirer. They didn't take it. I like to think I submitted it too late, but it's possible they just didn't like it. Now you can enjoy it on MarathonMum instead.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Weekend in London: A Weather Recap

Even though it was officially Spring as of Friday, it didn't feel like it this Easter weekend, the earliest since 1913*. The next time it will be this early will be in 2228, provided the Earth is still a viable living planet then.

* If you're wondering how Easter Sunday is determined, it is always the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring Equinox. Since the full moon fell on the first day of spring this year, Easter was Sunday. The earliest Easter can be is March 22 and the latest it can be is April 25, according to this formula set in 325 A.D.

I guess since we were straddling two seasons, we had EVERY type of weather this weekend. No meteorological stone was left unturned. Here in Greenwich, we experienced:
• Hail (see picture above);
• Sun;
• Snow;
• Wind;
• Rain;
• Thunder;
• Lightening.
I don't think I left anything out. For that matter, I don't think there's anything left.

Of course, because Thing One and Thing Two are back in school today, it is lovely and sunny, albeit cold.

However, MarathonMum HQ is warmed by the fact that VILLANOVA IS IN THE SWEET SIXTEEN! Sweet!!

Friday, March 21, 2008

March Madness! Go Nova!

Two of London's Villanova fans gather on the Prime Meridian to show their support before tonight's game. The sign, which is difficult to read, says,
"Clemson Stinks!" and has a picture of a stinkbomb on it.

Villanova faces Clemson tonight in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. As you can see from above, we have a fair amount of Wildcat Pride in this house. The boys can even sing the fight song (though not the last verse, which I can never remember, so I can't teach it to them, either.)

Currently I'm tied for 43rd in my pool of 230 people. Not bad, considering I haven't seen one game this year. But I couldn't be prouder. Unless, of course, I end of winning. Now THAT would be cool.

I'm currently trying to decide if I want to wake up at 1:40 a.m. to watch the game or if my bad cold will keep me in bed. Only time will tell.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March Madness, International Style

Like clockwork, every year at certain times, I get a pang of yearning to be in the U.S. Those times include (in no particular order):
• Halloween (So Thing One and Thing Two could experience the true meaning of the holiday);
• Thanksgiving (Though I've become quite attached to our own Thanksgiving extravaganza);
• Any Sunday in January (So we could sit around and watch American football in the afternoon);
• March Madness (Otherwise known as the NCAA Tournament).

I adore March Madness, even from afar. You get 66 collegiate basketball teams, some you know, some you don't, playing their heart out to win the title of the nation's best. The best time of the entire tournament is the first four frantic days, when you get basketball joy from morning until night.

I come by my love for March Madness honestly. I'm a Villanova Wildcat, so I learned from my first year at school how much fun March Madness can be, ESPECIALLY when your team wins unexpectedly and thousands of people rush the Quad to celebrate our good fortune.

But times have changed, and I don't have a quad to rush or a keg to tap any more. Now I have to participate in March Madness remotely, which just isn't the same. Thanks to the wonders of the Interweb, I can still play in a pool, and last year I even held first place for a day! Whoo-hoo!! I also thought I'd be a lock for being the furthest participant, but I was foiled in that title by someone from China. 

This morning I dutifully filled out my brackets and sent in my payment via PayPal. I'm hoping that the CBS March Madness website will actually work this year and I'll be able to watch my beloved Wildcats (they've promised that I'd be able to do so since 2006, but it hasn't worked yet). The sad part is that if we win, I'll probably be the only person in London who cares. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hip! Hip! Hooray!

It was a dark and stormy night...

OK. It wasn't stormy (because it wasn't Sunday night) but it was dark, because it was the middle of the night one day last week. 

"Mom?" Thing Two said, and within a nanosecond, I was bolt upright in bed and wide awake.

"What is it, honey?" I asked.

"I had a bad dream. Can I sleep with you?" he asked.

As there was a vacancy, since Mr. MarathonMum was out of town, I said, "Climb on up!"

We both fell back to sleep quickly. The next morning, I could hear him just beginning to wake up. He was rustling around a bit when all of the sudden I heard him say, "Hip! Hip! Hooray! Hip! Hip! Hooray!"

I don't know who or what he was cheering for, but it was nice to hear someone start the day on the right foot.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Man Cold

This is a clip from the BBC show Man/Woman, which I haven't ever seen, but I now plan to look it up. For my American readers, 999 is what you dial instead of 911, "Lemsip" is a well-known cold remedy and CBeebies is a children's television channel that plays "Teletubbies" and other pre-school fare.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Where the Wild Things Are

Please note the distance between Thing One's ankles and the bottom of the costume.

Children in the United Kingdom celebrated World Book Day last week, and Thing One and Thing Two did so in style.

Thing One went as Max from "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak because that was the book his class was reading that week. But Thing One was not just any old Max, oh no. His Max costume was 37 years old-- first worn by his Uncle Mike in Kindergarten, lovingingly made by MarathonMum's Mom (Thing One's grandma).

Luckily for him, Thing One is a very tall and skinny eight-year-old, so he was Just Able (see above) to fit into a costume made for a five-year-old originally. Thing One/Max was so excited about World Book Day that he awoke an hour early, got dressed immediately and then came downstairs to wake me up. "Why are you already dressed?" I asked him. "Because I didn't want to waste any time getting to school!" That's got to be a first.

The Max costume is a serious part of MarathonMum's family history; MarathonMumMum spent a long time laboring over it, and years later the love and handiwork that went into it is evident. Following Uncle Mike's legendary performance as Max-- he brought the house down at Rockaway Valley School-- the costume went on to have several incarnations, including, if memory serves, as a muskrat when MarathonMum performed "Muskrat Love" by Captain and Tenille at a talent show when she was eight or so.

So Max lives on. The original Max, Uncle Mike, wanted to know if this Max could "Stare into their yellow eyes without blinking once," and I believe he could. Just as so long as the Wild Thing wasn't his brother, Thing Two, who knows all of this Max's weaknesses and truly is a Wild Thing.

Thing Two dressed as a Spider, because his class was singing, "The Incy Wincy Spider" in assembly.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Greenwich Park 2K Fun Run

Thing One and Thing Two mentally preparing for the run.

What better way to celebrate Mothering Sunday than a 2K Fun Run with your sons?

It was a spectacular Sunday, perfect for a morning race. Thing One spent most of the morning running around the house, saying that he needed to practice. I kept trying to explain to him that he ought to conserve his energy, not spend it. Thing Two just kept worrying about falling again at the start, which was fair enough.

Both Thing One and Thing Two are race veterans, having done this same race a year ago. The family mantra for the race was, "No sitting on benches!" since after the race last year, Thing One admitted that he wanted a little rest in the middle of the race, so sat down on one of the many benches along the route.

We got to the start, with Thing One lined up at the front and Thing Two and I hanging all the way in the back. Thing Two kept tugging on my hand, wanting us to go farther forward in the start scrum, but I kept telling him, "No. We're good back here. Trust me."

The gun sounded and we were off. Thing One sprinted ahead, while Thing Two and I held hands and did a nice slow and steady run. Luckily, we didn't trip over anyone at the start, so that's already an improvement on previous performances.

This year, we weren't battling for last (that honour went to a boy who looked about 3 and his dad), and in fact, our "slow and steady" race strategy proved to be a winner as we passed about five people in the latter part of the race. Constant encouragement-- "You're doing awesome" or "You're so fast!"-- seemed to help.

Before I knew it, we were on the final straightaway to the finish. "Run as fast as you can!" I told him, "You could even beat that girl in front of you!" (and he did).

At the finish, we met up with Thing One, who told me, "My lungs were about to burst!" to which I replied, "That's the fun part!"

I don't know what our times were, but it doesn't matter. Thing Two was convinced he had won, because he got a medal. But our official times don't matter, it was a brilliant morning.
Thing Two and Thing One exhausted after the race.