Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cosmic Sports Collison

What do baseball, soccer, tennis and football have in common? This date in history. At least that's true for our family.

I was on my way to baseball camp with Smunch this morning while the U.S. played in the FIFA 2010 World Cup. Smunch had been watching on TV before we left, so I turned it on the radio in the car for our drive. There were only a couple of minutes left when we got to the ballpark. The game was tied with no score. If the U.S. didn't score, they were going home. If they did, the got to move on to the round of 16. We sat in the parking lot to listen to the end. Regulation time ended. No score. Then there were 4 minutes of make-up time for all the timeouts they'd had. The radio announcers talk so fast when calling soccer games that Smunch couldn't really keep track of what was going on. And American announcers are apparently too staid to yell GOOOAAAALLLLLLLLL! So he just about missed it when the U.S. kicked a goal with three minutes to spare. What a FUN end to a long game!

On the way home, there was another sports story on the radio. A match at Wimbledon was still going on...after 8.5 hours! Turns out it went on for 10 hours and then they stopped for the evening. It isn't even over yet. It's 58-58 in the 5th set. Ridiculous and kind of unfathomable.

But perhaps the most unfathomable thing happened last. I went to pick Smunch up from baseball camp at 4 o'clock this afternoon. He was tired and happy, as usual. As we left, I saw a familiar-looking guy getting into a shiny, white minivan. Nah, I thought. Couldn't be. But I stopped and told the kids to stop to see who it was backing out of that parking spot right there. Sure enough. I felt stupid standing there gawking at the man, so I waved awkwardly...and he waved back. "Dang, Smunch." I said. "Steve Young just waved to you!"

Baseball Camping and Team #4

This is the kids' first week of camp for the summer. They're in two camps each this year, so the next week of camp will also be their last week. I decided to go easy on the schedule this year after our camp/vacation marathon last year. This week, Mam is going to half-day cooking camp in one direction while Smunch is in full-day baseball camp in the other.

Think this is too much pressure?Nah! This baseball camp has a really good reputation, so I enrolled Smunch this year. At the end of last year's week of baseball camp (a different camp) Smunch never wanted to go back, but I talked him into this one...and he's having a blast.

Having spent so much time on the baseball diamond already this year, Smunch knows enough other kids who love baseball that he already knew a couple of the kids there (thankfully) and they make a cute little bunch that sits together every morning.They spend their mornings learning baseball skills and then spend their afternoons on teams, playing ball. Smunch is on the Mets and although he got separated from most of the other boys, he's still with one he knows. And it turns out he's happy with that.

'Cause the other boys ended up playing for the Dodgers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Slip and Slide

Ah, great memories of my own childhood! It never really mattered that there was some uncomfortable tree root under the plastic or that we were covered in grass. In my own kids' case, it didn't even matter that it wasn't quite warm enough to be soaking wet in the backyard. Too much fun!

Daddy's Day

When it comes to Father's Day, it's kind of a bummer that my parents live so close by. Daddy always has to share the day with my dad. Of course, my dad is hardly an attention hog (just the opposite), so we had a nice, relaxed day where we met my parents for breakfast at their favorite breakfast joint, Daddy took a nice, quiet trip to the farmer's market on his own, then we packed up a picnic lunch and re-met my parents for a picnic in the park. We all played catch for a long time, hung out on the grass, munched sandwiches. Then we parted ways and Daddy opted for pizza and movie night.

All in all, it probably wasn't as much celebration as my kids' Daddy deserved. 'Cause see, he's gotta be one of the best dads ever.He's the perfect complement to my parenting style. When I'm out of patience, he usually has some to spare (and vice versa). He knows all kind of random crap, so when I say "I don't know, you'll have to ask Daddy." I really mean it. And he loves to explain all that random crap to his kids...especially his ever-curious son. He beams with pride at Smunch's quest for random knowledge. His little boy worships him.

And although Mam appears to worship me (a position in which I'm decidedly uncomfortable), no one should underestimate her love for Daddy either. If she has to get stitches or go for any other medical procedure she deems scary, no one is as good as Daddy. I just don't have the kind of comforting skills that he has in those situations. I think I get too stressed out myself.

He brushes teeth, packs lunches, coaxes splinters out of little fingers, fixes computer problems, sets television limits and keeps the daily clutter from becoming unbearable.

And, of course, he's been a fantastic partner is this grand adventure of parenting. He's the reason I don't know how anyone does this on their own.

Back to Baseball

I think the blog got more of a break from baseball than our family did. The last tournament ended on Sunday, with the next one...more of a scrimmage tournament against our local Little League All-Star teams...on Wednesday.Predictably, Smunch didn't mind.

I didn't really mind least not until I got an e-mail from the coach saying that he needed me to figure out how to feed 40 people between the two games. I got that e-mail Tuesday morning. I'm a planner. When not given time to plan? I become a snarky, irritated stress case. Despite the coach's suggestion that I somehow get Costco pizzas to the school for dinner, I ended up getting in touch with the mom-in-charge on our other All-Star Team. They already had it all figured out (with an additional 12 hours of notice), so we joined them in barbequing hotdogs, supplying watermelon, veggies, chips, cookies and drinks for our team and the Little League team we'd just played. It turned out fine.

Somewhere around Tuesday night, however, I began to stew about the fact that I was expected to put on this dinner thing (although I don't consider myself team mom AT ALL), yet the coach doesn't really let my kid play. He'd mentioned something via e-mail about putting the kids at different positions for this tournament since it wasn't a very serious one. But at practice Tuesday afternoon, he put Smunch in the catcher's gear and barely let him out...even though he had no real need for a catcher. I was peeved.

I realize there's a significant amount of mommy bear-ness to my reaction. But it's tough to put in all the effort to get him to practice and tournaments when you feel like your kid is seriously underappreciated. Yeah. I know he's the smallest on the team and I know he doesn't have the meanest bat and can't throw perhaps as far as the other kids can. But he wasn't even getting a chance to show off any of his "stuff" or really gain any skills. I lay in bed mulling this whole thing over until I couldn't stand it anymore and mommy bear won.

I got up and composed a quick e-mail to his coach, requesting that he give Smunch a chance to play pitcher or 2nd base the next addition to catcher and right field, if necessary. Maybe just an inning? The next morning, I got a surprisingly accomodating e-mail back thanking me for reminding him about his promise and saying Gavin would get to play pitcher, at least against the "B Team". Fair enough.

And wouldn't you know it? Smunch was on the bench for the first inning. Then he played catcher in the second inning. While behind the mask, he snagged a poorly hit ball and threw the hitter out at first. Awesome! It was one of the first real plays by a catcher I'd seen all year. I wasn't as irritated that he was at catcher, but still hoping the coach is going to make good on his e-mail.

And then? Smunch was at pitcher. The ball only came his direction once...a pop fly that he caught. And then I had to go cook hot dogs. I figured his inning was up. I wasn't missing anything.Or was I? Turns out, he played pitcher again and caught two more balls, throwing players out at first and third during the 6th inning. And he drove in a run while batting. It was a banner day after all!After dinner, The Fireballs played the Little League A Team. It was a much tougher game, but Smunch got to play pitcher (Pitcher, I should add, is a purely defensive position. The coaches were pitching. Smunch was just there for fielding purposes) for two more innings, doing a good job. And...he played right field. Right field is another throw-away kind of position at this level. Only left-handed players are likely to hit it out there and there aren't so many of those. So imagine my surprise when a ball got launched to right field. These kids can really hit at this level. And there was my tiny little Smunch, glove in the air.

Having spoken to him about "the play", I think he was probably a surprised as I was that he caught the ball. Even some of the parents started calling him the MVP for the evening. I don't know if it was because he was really that impressive or because they'd never gotten the chance to see him do anything before. He was thrilled. I was thrilled. They may have lost their second game, but no one in our family cared. The kids were tired and they played well.

I felt a little sheepish for having stuck my neck out like that for my kid. Of course I think he deserves better. What kid doesn't? It was a huge relief to see him do so well, given the opportunity. I'm so proud of him. And I hope I can hold onto that for the next time he needs someone to show a little more faith in him.

Learning to Share

We used to have two wimpy little apricot trees along the side of our house. Then, last year, one of them croaked unexpectedly. Everything above about 3 feet off the ground just died. Bummer. The surviving tree looks to be in peril as well, with a big, expanding black crack a couple feet up the trunk. But it flowered and produced plenty of fruit this year.

I tried to wait until it was ripe to pick, but I noticed lots and lots of half-eaten apricots on the ground and decided to pick as many as I could reach before there were none left.I probably picked about three dozen. But they weren't ripe. I had to put them in paper bags on the counter to ripen. It worked well and now they're delicious! But...there were lots of apricots I couldn't reach. I wasn't even sure how the squirrels could reach them. I thought maybe I'd get out the big clippers and just cut off whole branches to get to them.

But, I hesitated. And these guys didn't. I accept that I need to share with the wildlife, such as it is. But really, couldn't they share a little more with us?


I'm really not this kind of mom. I believe that part of parenting should be teaching your kids how to live independently and I understand that part of that might be teaching them to cook.But I'm not the kind of mom who wants my kids help me cook dinner. I'm all about efficiency and cooking dinner with kid help has got to be one of the most inefficient processes in the whole world.

So, you can imagine why Daddy would have picked up the camera upon seeing me teaching the kids to make turkey tacos. I figured it's easy and the kids were bugging me...and they'd bug me less if they were helping me. Of course, they weren't all that helpful. In all my years of cooking, I forgot that it actually requires practice to brown ground meat properly...making sure it's not in giant hard-to-cook clumps and that you're not flinging it out of the frying pan.There were tears (on Mam's part) and frustration (on all of our parts), but they helped make the whole dinner. And maybe, just maybe, they ate just a little more for their part in the process.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Team #3, Tournament #2

Smunch is now playing on his third baseball team of the season. Is it still "the season"? I'm not even sure anymore.This time around, Smunch refused to be #1, opting instead for #3, despite the fact that he's the smallest kid on the PONY All-Stars Red at least two inches.See him out there during the national anthem? Yeah, that's him. The shrimpy little kid in the middle.

I hate to admit that I haven't been enjoying the All Star team as much as either of his other teams. Some of the parents take things seriously enough to be real jerks on occassion. The coach is no exception. He's normally a great coach and a nice guy, but if things get a little intense during the game...well, I'd call yanking a kid out in the middle of the inning for bobbling the ball a couple times an excessive move. And he thinks it's cool to cheat, by secretly coaching the kids while he's pitching to them. Nice role model, dude.

Still, I hide most of this distain from Smunch. Despite the fact that he sits on the bench for half the game and has been relegated to playing catcher...a position that could be important, but his coach seems to consider disposable...he's happy to be there. He's going to all the practices with little complaint. And he had practice every day last week, so a little complaining was probably in order. He's really been a super sport out there.He's rarely put in a position where he really gets to play much defense, but he's hitting the ball, driving in runs and scoring a few too.He doesn't get to bat much either. Apparently, he's permanently stuck at the bottom of the batting order. Still, no complaints.

The Fireballs played in their first tournament last weekend. They had three games...Thursday, Saturday and a town about 45 minutes away. The Thursday evening game was windy and cold. Daddy didn't look happy as he kept score on his iPad.This is no longer an official duty, but the coaches get a kick out of all the data he can capture about the players.

The team was only just finding its feet at the tournament level. Many of the boys had never played in a tournament before. They lost rather handily, 12-6.The team they played on Saturday had already lost twice. The Fireballs started out strong, but faded towards the end, still coming in with a 21-15 victory. Smunch had a great game and had three great hits, making it to base every time. He even made a couple of good moves in the outfield. Despite being a scorcher, it was a fun day.Sunday was a fun day too, even though the Fireballs lost to a team that made it to the championship finals. Smunch didn't have a great game, hitting into the third out of the inning...twice. He still didn't let it get him down. I know I've said it before, but even though he can be a real pain in the rear at home, Smunch turns into an awesome sportsman-like kid in the unlikeliest of situations. Gosh, how I admire that!Now, if I could just turn everyday into a game.


I was out inspecting my vegetable garden last weekend and was surprised to find this lovely little specimen just hanging out next to the house. I was thrilled that it stuck around for a little photo shoot.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Farewell to Kindergarten

I feel a little weird about no longer having a kindergartner. I'm not altogether sad about it except that I know Mam will be lucky to get a first grade class as fantastic as her kindergarten class. They really were a great group of kids. Six of them won't be joining her in first grade, either because they need to repeat or because they're going to school elsewhere. I'll miss them.

The presentation of kindergarten diplomas came the day before the last day of school because they spend that last day at the park (a different park from the one the other kids go to). I rushed from a rare business meeting for the occasion and was happy to find that I hadn't missed a thing.The teacher said something sweet about each child as she handed them their diplomas. She managed to hold it together, but I think most of the audience was at least a little teary.I suspect this teacher knows how lucky she was with this class and she'll miss them too, at least a little.

I joined a few other parents and went to the park early on Wednesday to hold down the spot for 80 kindergartners to take over. We spent much of our time hanging donuts for the traditional donut-eating contest.Before the kids were allowed near the 60s-style donut curtain, there was a whole lot of other fun to be had.But the donut-eating contest/game (it's not really a contest) is the best part of all. Not only do the kids get to eat a donut each, but it's one of the best kids' photo opportunities ever.And finally...This alone makes me a little wistful about having no more kindergartners.

Once the slightly-organized chaos was over, each class met with their teacher for one last goodbye. Mam didn't really want to pose for one last photo with her first elementary school teacher, but in the end, you can't even tell. What a great year it was!

A Day at the Park

As is tradition at Smunch and Mam's school, all the grades except kindergarten have a day at the park to celebrate the end of the year. They walk to the park from school and arrive to find a wonderland of fun activities to occupy them for the rest of the day. I chose to help set up said wonderland, which gives me the fun opportunity to see the funny orange snake of children come in from the street and slither across the park. Watching them arrive is one of the highlights for me.And then the fun and games begin, not ending 'til it's time to go home for the day. I don't have a lot to say about the festivities (and it would be dead boring if I did), so I'll let the photos and their captions speak for themselves.
{A little ball play}

{Some opportunities for cooperative building}

{Hula hoop relay...standing next to his teacher}

{A whole different kind of ball play}

{A little volleyball}

{Getting a marshmallow handoff from buddy, Connor}

{Whole class silliness}

{Waiting anxiously for Splash Ball to begin}

{The wettest and most fun part of the afternoon for all!}

Friday, June 11, 2010

Baseball Therapy

As promised, I skipped writing a post about the last game of Smunch's first baseball tournament. It wasn't actually that dismal of a game. It was the best of the bunch and lasted more than an hour. But the final outcome was the same, more or less. The Thunder lost 18-8, by the mercy rule, again.

But that meant we had Memorial Day free. And what better way to forget all your baseball woes than to dress up...and remind yourself that even the highly-paid pros lose.

Of course, it might've been better if this guy hadn't been on the losing end.It's been a rough several outings for Timmy lately. And this guy, Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies, now 12-1 and the heir apparent to Timmy's Cy Young domination,...wasn't really what he needed to get his mojo back.

But a day at the ballpark, complete with hotdogs and Dibs for both Mam and Smunch, had the Ryders back on track at least!