Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Another Kind of Ball

There was a lot of gardening done last weekend, but we took a break Saturday evening to spend some time at another professional sporting event. And, no, it wasn't baseball. In fact, apart from the fact that it involved a ball, it didn't seem particularly related to our nation's pasttime.

At the elementary school auction, I'd bid on and won, a pair of tickets to see the FC Gold Pride...our local professional women's soccer team.I originally thought that Mam and I would go to the game on our own. That was before I learned that the team had moved from a local stadium to one across the bay. Daddy bought additional tickets for himself and Smunch and we all went. As Murphy's Law would have it, Daddy and Smunch ended up with the better seats. Go figure. My seats had been donated by the coach of the team. You'd think he might've done better than gotten general admission tickets on the 10 yard line. Still, the Pride was shooting at our end of the field for the first half, so that was fun to watch...and photograph!

Their move across the Bay messed things up a bit and their "permanent" stadium was still undergoing renovations. Instead, the team, playing the New Jersey Sky Blue FC, played in a high school stadium that night.No matter. It meant there were really no horrible seats. And it was really a fun, relatively low-key event, where they auctioned off the ball that was used for the first goal and the honor of meeting the goal scorer on the field after the game.

The highlight of the home opener was the Gold Pride's newest player, world-famous that she apparently needs only one name. And Marta did not disappoint.She's got incredible foot control and is lightning fast. Her legs actually look like this when you watch her play:And yes, the Sky Blue really has violent orange visiting uniforms.

Mam was really tired after a long day of "gardening" and was pretty grumpy, but watched gamely, especially after we moved to sit next to Daddy and Gavin for the second half.Still looks a little dazed though, doesn't she?

On the whole, it was a fun night. Although the game was tied for much of the time, the Gold Pride ended up winning 3-1. The kids were happy, we spent nothing on food (unlike the small fortune we spend at baseball games) and had a good time. Oh, if we'd only had more of this during the oh-so-long Spring Break!


Ah, Spring! The time when I finally look at the black, moldy skeletons of last year's tomato plants and think "Huh...what are those still doing there?" And eventually, I even pull them out and start thinking about planting again.

This year, I was even on the ball with all this stuff. I even went to a clinic on how to grow tomatoes. I probably got snowed into buying all kinds of stuff I don't really need, but at least it'll be fun to find out. Who knows? Maybe I'll have a huge crop of colorful tomatoes this year and I'll be eternally grateful to tomato guru, Steve Goto.

But first, I set Daddy to work doing some soil amending and I went to work on my compost bin. I've found the easiest way to deal with my inferior compost bin is to just take the whole bin off the pile.Wow. Full of slugs and sow bugs and worms this year! I'll take it as a good sign that all those critters want to feast in there.

But then I have to sift the whole goopy pile to get out all the solid bits and come up with some really awesome compost-y dirt.And finally, I got to plant the five baby tomato plants I'd picked out a few days earlier...and a few other veggies as well. I got some monster tomato cages. Maybe I'm being too optimistic!The yard is finally back to looking like someone cares about it. I forget how happy this whole thing makes me...and how sore! Gardening ought to be an Olympic event.One last gardening note. I was really bummed to have to cut down our ailing plum and loquat trees last summer. But in January Daddy planted a little 3-variety apple tree in their place. I watched and watched as spring began, but there were no signs of leaves, much less blossoms. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to see the first green buds. And now?Yay!!

The Good Day

A whole week off from school and there was only one day when the three of us (I don't include Daddy, who had to work) had a really good time. Not surprisingly, we weren't all together either. A friend of Daddy's had offered to sell us her season ticket seats for the Giants game on Wednesday. I wasn't about to pass up that offer, so I found a benevolent friend to take Mam for half the day and drove Smunch up to the park.

We drove only because we would have missed the train. Having paid the $30 to park, I will make more effort not to miss the train again.But this face was worth the $30. He was happy the whole time. And I was psyched to be there. It was a beautiful sunny day and the weather was just right at AT&T park. The weekday, season ticketholder crowd is a lot different from the Saturday night crowd. The people surrounding us weren't yelling obscenities or speaking in ways that made me want to cover Smunch's ears. They appeared to be largely retirees who had decided that retirement meant more chance to see their team play. The "older" woman in front of me even had her scorebook and kept score the entire game. I watched over her shoulder when I wanted to see how she score the in-the-park home run by Aubrey Huff or the latest strikeout (amounting to 11) thrown by Jonathan Sanchez.We were so close to the visiting team's bullpen that it felt like their pitchers were only about 10 feet away from us.Naturally, that meant there was a lot of heckling going on around us. Smunch's favorite epithet? "Hey, Hanrahan, you've just been traded to the Brewers for an Italian sausage!" Even the heckling was relatively polite.

In the end, Smunch got to witness his first in-the-field home run...or he would have witnessed it if he'd been taller anyway...and two more home runs to the bleachers. The Giants beat the Pirates 6-0.And one of the fans behind us complimented me on what a nice boy I have. "Yes," I said. "As long as he's at the ballpark, he's awesome. At home? Not so much." So nice to have one fun and happy day with the little guy though.And Mam? She had such a grand time with her friend that she had a big tantrum about leaving when I arrived to pick her up 5 hours later. Let the fun begin again!

The Island

It's been a real struggle to recover from Spring Break and get back to our routine this week. It's not that Spring Break was so wonderful and relaxing. It wasn't. There was an immense amount of sibling squabbling, which made the whole week exhausting. But before that...

The week before Spring Break was Open House at the elementary school. That meant that I spent an inordinate amount of time and plastic laminating and binding all the second grader's stories for the teacher. It also meant that Smunch had to finish a model of his island.Sometime in the previous couple of weeks, the kids in his class had all written adventure stories about their own make-believe islands. There were candy islands, snowflake islands, Lego islands, volcano islands...and Smunch's ever-so-inspired "Tropical Island".

I'm still not entirely clear on what happens in Smunch's adventure story. I never saw it before stirring up some play dough and guiding him through his own interpretation of his story. I read the story at Open House, but it didn't resemble the story I'd imagined as we put his island together. Whatever. There was a jaguar (or jajuar, if you were Smuch).And there was a monkey in a tree.There was the main character, Rob, who had arrived at Tropical Island by surfboard, which you can see in the first picture.There was a goo swamp (the round greenish area) and the ever elusive "banjo leaf"...pictured next to the monkey. I'm told it was supposed to contain "helpful medicine". And now you understand about as much about the story as I do.

By the way, don't try to paint drying play dough unless you're looking for texture. We got a whole lotta that!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bat and Ball Extravaganza

It's been a long week. And really, it's only been a few days since my last post. It was a long few days. Those days included a big baseball milestone for Smunch. That happened Thursday, but wasn't "celebrated" until early Friday morning when Daddy went to work out in the room we call "the studio" and found a sharp breeze blowing through, even after he'd closed the doors that Mam had left wide open all night.

I should have known. I'd looked outside and saw Smunch hitting baseballs in the backyard off a tee. I told him he needed to stop before he broke a window. He was unusually compliant. That's because it was already too late. When I stopped him from hitting baseballs and went back to my own business, he started decimating plants around the yard. He's 8. When is this kind of ridiculous disregard for my plants ever going to subside? I may have to break out the tears next time. Instead, I sent him to his room. He was punished heavily for the destruction in the yard, so I didn't bother giving him more for the window when I found out the next day.

I picked him up from school on Friday. On our walk home (Mam was off with SPENCER!), I started a little conversation with him.

"So, bud...when you were playing baseball in the backyard yesterday..."


"Anything bad happen?"

"Um...I broke a window?"

It comes in very handy having a kid who is incapable of lying. Too bad I didn't get two.

Anyway, one thing I was fairly unwilling to take away from Smunch for any of the week's transgressions was his trip to AT&T Park to see the Giants play their home opening night game. Part of that was because I knew he'd be happy and have great behavior as long as we're headed to see his team or we're there or we were on our way home. Part of that was because I really wanted to go. The weather was beautiful for the Giants' home opener on Friday afternoon. Not so much on Saturday. I hung out at the field while Mam played softball in the drizzle against another team with only four players. Regardless, it was a tie. It's always a tie.

She and I headed straight from that game to Smunch's PONY Pinto 2 Giants game at another park across town. I half-heartedly scored in my paper scorebook while Daddy reveled in scoring the game on his new iPad. Admittedly, it looked cool. He's been scoring on his iPhone, so it was a big improvement. The Giants lost by their slimmest margin yet...14-16. Smunch pitched and did a good job, but his crowning acheivement of the day was making a double play...all by himself. He caught a pop fly (a miracle in and of itself on his team) and then tagged 3rd base. The runner from 3rd was at homeplate and was easily forced out. Smunch won the "bolt award" for the game, which goes to the player with the most outstanding performance. He was proud and I was proud of him too. Sometimes, when he's not destroying things, he can show so much poise.

After a couple of hours at home, it was time to catch the train to the park. This, of course, was not just any ol' home opening night either. It was the night where our pitching hero, Tim Lincecum, was officially awarded his Cy Young trophy for being named the best pitcher in the National League last year. There have been many photos of Timmy and his award already, so goodness knows it wasn't like the first time he'd touched the thing, but it was still fun to be there to see it and see him, looking so charmingly uncomfortable in front of his teammates and the sold-out crowd.He's 25 and he's reached the pinnacle of his career. What have I done with my life?I love this photo of Tim walking off the field with his dad, each of them with one Cy Young trophy in his hand. Tim won this award last year too. In between the two awards, he got himself an adorable little French bulldog and named him Cy too. They did a photo shoot of Timmy and his 3 Cys for the latest Giants Magazine. It's so darned cute that I had to have Daddy buy me one. While most girls might gush over the Cy Young award-winner, Mam couldn't stop gushing over the canine Cy.I also love this picture because he looks so casual walking back to the dugout with his award. This award is a big deal, but I like that he seems to take it all in stride. Always fun to imagine top notch athletes as being regular ol' normal people who just happen to be ridiculously good at something you barely understand. Except Smunch, of course, I'm pretty sure he believes he's the PONY version of Tim Lincecum already!

And this was really the highlight of the game. It was otherwise pretty forgettable, with the Giants losing 7-2...a larger margin than Smunch's Giants lost by earlier that day. Mam made us (under threat of crocodile-sized tears) suffer through the whole thing and stay for the post-game fireworks. They were fun, but we didn't get home 'til midnight. Hopefully I won't be paying for that for the entire spring break this week!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Well, maybe not so many strikes really, but a big, big change has finally happened this year in PONY baseball. The boys are starting to pitch! And Smunch appears to be one of the go-to pitchers for the Giants. It's not all that surprising really, considering that he spends every free moment "air pitching" (think air guitar, only for baseball). Still, he's kind of a little guy. It's a real effort just to throw it hard enough to get it across the plate. Forget actually aiming it at the plate at the same time!The kids pitch to their own teammates, presumably to keep the injuries in the family rather than injuring children from other schools. A good number of batters are hit by pitches. They don't even get to take a base for their pains. Fortunately, by Smunch's second outing he was pitching well enough that a couple of batters actually hit the ball. And that's kinda what it's all about at this level.

And Smunch? Well, he loves to be out there in the limelight, as you might imagine. I suspect he tries to imagine he's Timmy pitching in the World Series or something fantastical like that. He's always jazzed when he comes off the mound. My funny, yet deadly serious, little guy.

Hopping Down the Bunny Trail

It was sort of an abreviated Easter this year. We usually manage to go to a community egg hunt or two and extend the holiday into an entire week or so. This year, either softball or baseball got in the way for all three of the potential hunts we might have attended, so we didn't go to any of them. But Aunt Karen and her family arrived, so that made the holiday extra festive anyway.

For instance, the presence of SPENCER! meant that we made the time to actually dye eggs this year.And Easter morning was at least 30 percent more fun with an extra kid around. I love the part of Easter where the kids are in their jammies looking out the window to see how many eggs they can find without going outside at all. So cute.And then they investigate the Easter baskets that were left on the though they'd just discovered them. They're counting each and every item, of course.At some point, they actually bothered to get dressed and go out to pick up all those eggs in the yard. SPENCER! didn't necessarily appreciate that part so much. His cousins are bigger and faster. Funny. I remember the days when my kids were the ones who got frustrated and went home empty handed. Fortunately, SPENCER! was far from empty-handed, at least!Somehow it never seems to matter how many eggs are out there. They're all scooped up in what seems like an instant. And that's just as well really. It was a cold Easter morning this year and coming in for coffee, sweet rolls, eggs and bacon was just the ticket we were all looking for!

The Other Batter

Based on blog posts alone, you might think there's only one kid playing sports in our family this Spring, but that's far from the truth. Mam wields a pretty mean bat as well.Although Mam doesn't really seem to have the same kind of enthusiasm for softball as she did for soccer and basketball, she's still her feisty little self. And she still has a big brother who loves baseball like nothing else, so she's got a little bit of a leg up on many of the other girls.What you can't tell is that she flings the bat right at that coach behind her as soon as she hits the ball. I think he's got it figured out so that he doesn't get injured at least. Because that's gonna be a nasty injury if he doesn't get out of the way!

The funny thing is, you can't really tell that this isn't her favorite sport. She likes to go for the ball, no matter whose it really is and she runs like someone might actually tag her out...even though that's not even allowed in 6U softball.


Gosh, what didn't happen a couple of weeks ago? The weekend before last, Smunch had his first game with the Thunder, his "club" team. They played a team put together from some of the best players from all the teams at their level. And it was a pretty even match. Smunch did well.It was so much different than his games with the Giants. The boys paid attention, by and large. They could throw, they could catch and they had a clue what they were doing.Smunch is better too, when the kids around him are really into the game. His sister, I might add, was not into the game.Mam was bored. As usual. If there are no hot dogs, baseball is hardly worth her while. Don't know why she didn't run off to the playground on this particular day. But she sat there and scowled instead, although the scowling was mostly for the camera.There won't be a whole lot of these games this year, so I'm trying to appreciate each one, no matter that they're long and Mam's bored and I'm cold. Because really, if this kind of enthusiasm doesn't warm you up just a little, what will?

My Artists

Also a couple of weeks ago (where does the time go?) the school district had an art show. You don't have to be any kind of Picasso to be featured here. Every child in the district gets a piece of art on the wall. It's fun to pop in and hunt for your own piece of art. Fortunately, Mam didn't seem to notice that the placement of her painting was less than ideal, even after it took us 10 minutes to find it!Smunch got a much better spot on the wall, but he wasn't feeling very photogenic, even though he was pretty happy. So...all you're going to get is a photo of his thumbprint artwork.

Photo Safari

I'm way behind on posting photos from this and that. We went for a lovely little hike with the kids a couple of weeks ago and I had fun with my camera. That's just about all I've got to say about these!
ground squirrel

a lamb at the farm

bellying up to the bar

miner's lettuce

cool fungi on a fallen tree

trillium in bloom

wild blue flowers

mosquitoes loved these cool green, speckly flowers

baby poison oak

meadow flowers on a fence

lavendar meadow flowers