Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tournament Time

I know this is starting to sound more like The Ryder's Baseball Diary than an account of the interesting moments in our lives. Truth be told, our lives are all about baseball right now, so it's as appropriate as it can be.

Smunch's club team, the Thunder, has been practicing all season for a single tournament this weekend. One shot at glory.Too bad I took that photo during warm-ups. There were few heroic plays like this in the two games on least not by Smunch's team.

But the organizers made the tournament a big deal for the boys, complete with a stencilled path of stars between the batting circle and the plate.Each player was introduced over the loudspeaker before batting, with their cool team-chosen nickname. "And next up to bat, Smunch, the S-man, Ryder!" It was cute at the very least. Smunch's team all got painted with "whiskers" as well...just to make them look extra cool.Turns out, the tournment circuit is a completely different experience than what most of the boys were faced with during the regular season. The basepaths (the distance between bases) is longer, the balls are harder and take weirder bounces, the opponents hit the ball to the outfield as a matter of course and the rules are all different. It's entirely coach-pitch. You get six pitches and you're done no matter if you foul them off or not. (We never saw a player strike out on strikes alone.) The defensive pitcher (the kid who stands next to the opposing team's pitcher coach to field the ball) stands in a circle. If/when the ball gets back to the circle, all play stops. The strategy is different. And although teams are still limited to five runs per inning, the tournament includes a "mercy rule" stating that the game is over once one team is 10 runs ahead of the other.This rule proved crucial to the Thunder.

The Thunder were scheduled for two games on Saturday and one on Sunday, so we arrived bright and early at the field for warm-ups before Smunch's 9am game.It was bright and sunny and warm...a marked improvement over the weeks of cold and drizzle we've had to this point.

Smunch played right field and second base. I strongly suspect he plays right field (where only left-handed batters are likely to hit the ball) because he's one of the weaker players on the team. The fact that they gave him a shot at second base was nice, but he had no spectacular plays there. Mam, as usual, held court with the other younger sisters, having finally warmed up to each other now that the season's almost over.The Thunder's first game lasted just 45 minutes, then ended according to the Mercy Rule...LABT 13, Thunder 3. Ouch. It was eye-opening to say the least. The Thunder isn't a bad team. It turns out they just aren't very good, especially with all the new rules. I suspect they are also playing against teams that have practiced together a lot more and not just for a couple of hours most Sundays for the past few months.

Smunch was mad. As the last kid in the batting order, he got to bat only once and popped out to the pitcher in his one attempt. "We were AWFUL!!!" he spouted, with not a little vitriol in his voice. I'm somehow going to have to get used to managing this kind of frustration and anger in him. Compared to the other team, they did look pretty awful. Compared to his regular season team, they rocked.

We went home for several hours and returned to the park at 3:15 for his 4pm game. More warm-ups. They don't look bad warming up.The game, however, was much the same as the first one, lasting about 10 minutes longer, but with a similar result -- Cambrian Pumas 12, Thunder 2. Smunch, still batting last, got to bat only once again. This time he made it to first on a pretty little line drive between second and third. It was beautiful. And the next batter drove him over to second. When the third batter hit a giant fly ball to the outfield, it looked like Smunch would score and he started for third, only to have the ball caught and have to dash back to second with a slide to the base to stay safe. *phew* And then he was forced out at third by the next batter. And the game came to another abrupt end.

Today, game 3 is at 3:30, but I don't expect to be blogging about it. They'll be playing a team that beat both teams the Thunder played yesterday. And they'll be missing two of their best players. But maybe Smunch will get more field time. And maybe he'll get to bat more than once. It's all possible. I still expect it to be a short affair. Fortunately, Smunch seems content with the idea that he can go out there, have a good time and learn from the better teams.

Today will mark a farewell to club team play, but the All-Star team will be set to go. Should be an interesting sight to see... I think we'll spend tomorrow watching the big boys play. Timmy's on the mound. Buster Posey's on first. The weather should be fantastic. The Giants may not win. They'll be facing Ubaldo Jimenez, the Rockies' pitcher who is having an incredible season (to Timmy's current slump), but it should be a fitting end to the weekend...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Season's End

Saturday could have been Smunch's last baseball game of the season. His tenure with the Giants was certainly over after yet another crushing loss. I give his coach a lot of credit for the fact that the boys never really knew they lost, even when the score was 20-5. They didn't notice and they didn't care enough to keep track of the score themselves. Despite their dismal performance, I honestly think almost all the boys had fun and came away feeling like they were pretty decent baseball players.Although it was clear from the moment he got up that morning that Smunch didn't have the focus to play baseball, we got him out the door. He got one last chance to pitch. He did a great job and it was a little bittersweet. No more opportunities to pitch this year.Bummer. He was really beginning to fancy himself a miniature Tim Lincecum!He's developed some crazy little hand signal/celebratory flourishes. We'd seen him emulate Brian Wilson an Pablo Sandoval. This one seemed a little more generic.The rest of his game was pretty unremarkable. Smunch was angry after striking out twice and angrier yet when he realized that he wouldn't get another opportunity to bat. I tried to remind him that he'd have other opportunities to bat. After all, the club team has a big tournament this coming weekend. He wasn't going for it. Nothing a little season-ending trophy couldn't cure though.I didn't even get to see that part because Mam and I had to jet off to her final softball game of the season. Mam's team was playing a team called the Blue Butterflies. If you remember, this was also the name of her soccer team. Might not have been a coincidence. The coach from her soccer team was coaching this butterfly team too. And she adores him. All of a sudden, she turned into a super softball player, making outs everywhere and even catching a fly ball that she turned into a double play when she ran back to third with it.As usual, there was no score and the girls who were out stayed on base. But it was a fitting end to a fun little season. Still, kinda glad we're done with Friday evening practices and splitting our time between two kids' games.But, wait! There's more! I already mentioned that Smunch has a baseball tournament coming up this weekend. Beyond that, we just got confirmation that he'll be playing on the league's All-Star traveling team. That means tournaments almost every weekend through Independence Day. It's a big honor. The kids on the traveling teams are nominated by the coaches of the opposing teams they've played. I'm super proud of him, but not because he's got any kind of incredible baseball prowess. I'm proud of him because he's figured out what it takes to be dedicated to something and it shows. He really wants to be good at baseball. He listens, he knows what to do. Gosh, he's a pain in the butt sometimes, but he's such a cool little kid when he's in the vicinity of a baseball diamond!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In N Out, Up and Down

Today was Smunch's class's field trip to supplement their "Producers and Consumers" unit . So, where did they go?Well, In-N-Out Burger, of course!

Truth be told, I'd never set foot in an In-N-Out Burger before. Likely as not, I'll never set foot in one again (unless Mam does this same field trip). It's not exactly the kind of food I "approve" of. But it was a super cute field trip.

They all got In-N-Out hats. They got to see the 50-pound bags of potatoes, boxes of tomatoes, boxes of soda syrup. Then they got to cut their own french fries (as Smunch is doing in the above photo, courtesy of my cell phone). That was a big highlight!

After that, they got to order whatever they wanted from the menu. It was 10am, so the sight of a bunch of 8-year-olds with burger and fries was pretty funny. Smunch only ate a few fries. he was more excited about getting lemonade from the soda machine.

I'm fine with that.

The Bug

I arrived home from the road trip to Los Angeles to find the front door open...because Daddy was home...because Smunch was sick. Oh, that hadn't been part of the plan at all! As if abondoning Daddy on our anniversary wasn't enough, he ended up taking the day off work to tend to a sick Smunch!

Of course, Mam had strep recently, as mentioned in a previous post, so naturally my mind went there and I took him to the doctor just a few hours after I arrived. No strep. But he had a 102 fever, which meant I had to keep him home the next day. That was O.K. with me, although my discombobulated self forgot to call the attendance line the next day...when he awoke with no fever at all. I took Mam to school and left him at home.

When I got back, I decided this was a plum opportunity to get started on an at-home art project Smunch needed to do. He needed to make a real or imaginary insect out of "household objects". I started gathering random stuff. A strawberry basket, tissue paper, a Ziploc plastic container, poker chips, leftover jewels from Mam's birthday party, wired ribbon, old wine corks and popsicle sticks, whatever. It just had to have all the parts of an insect that Smunch had learned about.I let Smunch play creative director while I handled the hot glue gun. We had a lot of fun...when Smunch was paying attention. And I think you'll agree that the outcome was...well...creepy crawly at the very least!

An a-ha Moment

Last weekend, I took a little trip to a not-so-little city a ways south of here. In a rare instance of independence, I went without any of my family. And although I took this photo while I was there, it's not what you'd think.There was no baseball involved.

See, I've got some really old friends. Well, I mean, they're not old. They're younger than I am, but I've got a good friend from pre-school who I still hang out with from time to time and one from kindergarten. I've written about these girls before. But I digress.

My best bud from kindergarten e-mailed me a few months ago to ask if I'd like to go see one of the iconic bands from our high school days in their farewell Los May. Her treat, she said. Well, sure! Well, better ask the husband. What date was that again? May 16th? Oooooooh... You mean the anniversary of that day when you were the maid of honor in my wedding? How do I even bring this up with the husband?

Now, I've been married for 11 years and I know my husband pretty well. He's a nice guy. And he's always supportive of things I want to do for myself. He was, I suspect, a lot more understanding of this situation than I would have been, had the roles been reversed. I felt horribly guilty for even asking if I could abandon him with the kids on our anniversary, but a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see a band I'd loved, but never seen, for the last possible time with one of my dearest friends? There would be other anniversaries, right? Eeek.

My husband does not get resentful about things like this. I'm so very, very lucky. Because I went. And it was so awesome that the high is only just wearing off. (And no, there weren't drugs involved.)

I learned a lot of things on this trip.

1. Although L.A. intimidates me in general, the financial district is pretty darned tame...especially on a Sunday. 2. That funny Scandinavian cell phone company builds some pretty kick-ass concert venues.3. A long road trip with a good girlfriend isn't really so long at all. (A lot shorter, in fact, than a long road trip with two quarrelsome children.)4. Not all pop-rockstars from the 80s age poorly. At least not those from Norway.5. The addition of a far-larger-than-life chameleon as a backdrop adds very little to concert atmosphere.6. If, as a teenager, you loved your music like some kind of alternate religion, you never ever forget the lyrics and the nostalgia is almost unbearable.

7. It sucks to be reminded of how much you loved a particular band right when they're going away. And hard to fathom that it's been 25 years.8. Some concert venues have given up entirely on keeping out cameras. I guess they figure they can't keep out the cell phones...oh, the irony if Club Nokia banned cell phones. If you need a blast from the 80s past, I'm including one of their songs. If you were alive, and particularly in high school, during the 80s, you already know it. If you were a fan of more classic rock, you'll doubtlessly want to skip it. Apologies for the pretty crappy sound quality, which varies because, as I discovered, the microphone on my camera is on the top. I also think it picked up the audience singing more than the band here and there. In real life, they sounded great and the lead singer could still hit all the high notes. Hopefully, those horribly out of tune warbly notes aren't me!

9. I'm not actually a teenager anymore. The long roadtrip and unfamiliar bed with no husband to snuggle up to took more wind out of my sails than I anticipated.

10. Every stay-at-home mom should have a husband so awesome that he comes home shortly after lunch, just so you can take a really, really long nap...even though your kid was too sick for school on Monday and he had to take the whole day off just for that.

When opportunities like this one come up, I should jump at them more often than not. I had so much fun reliving a tiny piece of my life with someone else who was there for it.

I am so grateful for the opportunity.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Baby Cakes

I have a friend who's kind of crazy. This surprises you? She may have caught it from me because she's developing a rather particular kind of crazy. One day last week, she gave me a call, "What are you doing after pick-up?" she asked, referring to the time post-kindergarten. I had lunch plans and Mam was scheduled to be elsewhere, but I was curious. Turns out, she was making cupcakes to celebrate her kindergarten teacher's last day at school before maternity leave.

She and I have different kindergarten teachers. You know that because you haven't heard me whining about losing yet another kindergarten teacher just weeks before the end of school.

Anyway, my friend needed help. I think she'd gotten into a project without appreciating its complexity. I offered to come over after my lunch date and help her finish up.

Oh, my gosh, what fun! These were seriously adorable little cupcakes. Why she needed to do this when she'd already arranged and pulled off a baby shower for the same teacher, I just don't know, but they sure were cute! And I got to help by piping on eyelashes and hair..on little mini Nilla wafers stuck to half marshmallows. Awesome!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Not as Snarky as Intended

I know it's been a while since I've posted and that's largely because nothing photo-worthy has happened. I have some more great baseball shots of Smunch. But they look just like last month's baseball photos. And I tried to get some shots of the beautiful little chickadees nesting under our eves, but they weren't very cooperative.

Besides that, it's been a weird couple of weeks. See, a while ago, our PTA president, W., tried to recruit me for a volunteer position as the liaison between our elementary school and a parcel tax renewal/increase campaign. It's a cause I really truly support...because I'd probably be drawn and quartered as a PTA board member if I did not. And, because I have two kids in elementary school and I know how bad the buget issues are. But politics really isn't my game. And after talking to a woman who had held this sort of position before, I realized very quickly that this wasn't a job for me. Setting up calling nights, cold calling people. It's just not my thing. I don't even answer my phone when the caller ID says "Unavailable" or "Out of Area". Why would I make those calls to someone else?

So, I politely told our PTA president that I just couldn't do it. She was gracious in accepting my refusal, but she was stressed. "Oh, it's fine," she said. "I'm just stressed because I need to find someone to handle school supplies next year as well."

School supplies? Well, that's the kind of coordination effort that is up my alley. And, feeling badly that I didn't want to help in the political realm, I offered to take the school supplies job. I think W nearly died of shock at her good fortune. Not only did she get someone to take on school supplies, but she found someone else for the parcel tax job shortly thereafter.

So, school supplies... This is a job that requires working with a fantastic vendor, School-Pak, in Wisconsin and with the teachers at school. All I had to do was get their supply lists for next year, then arrange with School-Pak to provide those items for each child whose parents wanted to avoid the shopping trip and pay to have their child's supplies shipped directlly to school. Oh yeah, and to coordinate that delivery and get all the supplies to the different classrooms before school starts. Easy, right?

Well, no, but in fairness, I knew what I'd signed up for. See, before I was a mom, I was a writer, which means I have a lot of experience trying to get documents out of people who have no time for you. And I'm O.K. with the back-and-forth involved. Fortunately, School-Pak is so accomodating and forgiving that at least that part of the job was easy. It's teachers who are difficult.

Now, on the whole, I love our teachers. I've only met one I didn't like and she's long since gone. Fired, actually. But trying to get teachers to agree with their teams on what they're going to need for the next year can be a little daunting.

One wanted different pencil boxes than the others on her team. (We don't know which kids will be in which class, so that's not really possible.)

One grade wanted to make sure all their pencil boxes were the same color so as not to offend the senses when gazing over the classroom. (I could hardly believe School-Pak was willing to make that accomodation, but they were, even though the boxes normally come in assorted colors.)

One class wants their supplies delivered in November instead of August.

No one thought to collect the money from the incoming kindergarten parents with their registration this year (I hadn't been recruited yet), so I'd need to somehow convince them to pay up for their kids' school supplies. (Oh, that's what that "registration fee" was for!?)

And halfway through the process I was deluged with reports of wastage in the supplies program and parents who didn't want to purchase yet another pencil box and pair of scissors that would come home at the end of the year. (A valid concern, but nothing I was prepared for or equipped to address at that point.)

I had to request several samples to ensure the quality was up to par. That was kinda fun. I put lists together. Checked, cross checked and priced things...because oh, not all of this stuff would be purchased from School-Pak. Some needs to be purchased at Costco...and in my infinite wisdom, I decided that much of it would need to be purchased in person because I wasn't willing to have everyone pay for the exorbitant shipping costs for more than 100 cases of baby wipes.

Finally, in the past week, I've been able to get through all the number crunching, set some prices and go over the lists one last time...partly thanks to the fact that Mam came down with Strep on Friday night. As she lay motionless and painfully feverish on the sofa, I pored over spreadsheets and made some final changes.

The Strep was brutal. Three days of fevers over 105 in the midst of a recall on Children's Tylenol and Children's Motrin. Naturally, we'd given her three doses of recalled Tylenol before word of the recall hit my inbox.

And then it was a frenzy to get something she could take. The generic stuff was O.K., but largely swept off the shelves by parents better informed than I. Daddy found the last bottle of generic acetominophen at our local CVS.

After suffering through Friday afternoon's softball practice with a headache (which led me to suspect she was coming down with something), Mam missed the kindergarten tea party, her softball game and her elementary school's night at the ballpark.

She made a midnight visit to the ER with Daddy on Saturday (when he had a hard time getting her fever down and I was at the ballpark with Smunch)...where they failed to test her for Strep.

She missed a good friend's birthday party (for which I'd helped make the cake) on Sunday with another rip roaring fever. I took her to the pediatrician on Monday, where she was promptly diagnosed with Strep and sent home with a prescription for Amoxicillin. She still missed three days of school and now that the fever is gone, she seems to have a cold. Little germ monster.

So, today is a big milestone and perhaps a new start to blogging. All those school supplies lists are live, online for parents to order. Mam went back to school and appears to have an insatiable appetite for food all of a sudden.

Thank goodness that's over!