Monday, January 31, 2011

Memorial Day in Manteca

They cut seven boys from the Mavericks team after the tryouts. Gosh, that's a lot! I like to think some of them (or their parents) reconsidered after being reminded how much the club team expects from you. I don't like to think of seven crushed little boys who didn't make it. I saw those kids play and I know some of them personally.

None of them, however, is my kid. I don't know that he'll be pitching, but he will definitely be playing his heart out for the Mavericks. My little boy...the one who can barely string a sentence together right now because he stutters so badly and has a big oral report looming (he seems undaunted), the one I still take for physical therapy because he walks like a ballerina, the one who's probably one of the tiniest third graders at school. He likes school, he does well, but there is nothing at all in his life that comes close to his passion for baseball. And, yeah, I've fostered that passion, but it was there without my prodding.

And that means we'll be spending Memorial Day weekend in Manteca this a baseball tournament. I can't wait! (Hey, I even have a friend or two in Manteca...I hope you'll be around so we can visit!)

Congratulations, Smunch! You earned it...and I couldn't be prouder.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Getting Serious

Tired of seeing the same ol' photos of my kid playing baseball? Uh...tough?

Today, he tried out for the "club team" in his division of the PONY baseball league. This year, the team is called the Mavericks. Tryouts were kind of a big deal. Daddy and Grandpa had made a point of practicing with him for the last couple of weeks since the "evaluations" for the Mustang 1 division. Lots of focus on catching fly balls and grounders...his two weakest areas at the evals.Smunch had a basketball game this morning. Basketball is not really his sport. The game got him all wound up, even though he touched the ball just once the whole time. Then he had to watch Mam's game. We had a couple of hours before the tryouts started, so we tried to make him chill out. But he was still kinda wired. It took forever for him to get dressed for baseball. I yelled and threatened to be really angry if he blew the tryouts because he didn't focus and do his best. And then we casually walked to the tryout venue.We got there right as the kids were going out to warm up. There was a parent meeting where it was impressed on all of us that the club team is a big committment and if we want to do a lot of traveling or play other sports in the spring, we'd best be on our way. Of course, I'd already had these discussions with Smunch. Smunch was committed and now, we may be too...if he makes the team.

The boys were a familiar cast of are the coaches at this point. He's played with many of the boys in camps, on last year's club team or on the all-star team. The head coach for the team is a guy I really like and have a lot of respect for. I think he's really good with the kids.I hope Smunch makes this team, even if it will be a big pain in the ass on our schedule. The team's first tournament is scheduled for before the baseball season even starts.

When warm-ups were over, catching fly balls was the first order of business. After his performance last time, I was nervous for Smunch. But this time, the fly balls were being launched by one of the coaches, using a bat instead of a pitching machine, so they were less consistent, but not as fast.The coach launched four balls in Smunch's direction and Smunch caught.. Every. Single. One. It was awesome!

He went to the batting cage for the batting evaluation. It was far less stellar. They had him bunt, but he's so short that the balls coming from the pitching machine were really to high for him. He got one decent bunt down out of three. He whiffed the other two. The rest of the hitting wasn't great either. I think he whiffed at least one and probably would have popped out on most of the others. Oh well. No pictures because shooting through two layers of netting is such a waste of time.

They evaluated his base running. He ran well, but had a lousy slide into second. Oh, well.

Next, he was back on the diamond fielding grounders.The idea was to field each ball from between second and third base and throw to first. He fielded four balls cleanly (a marked improvement over two weeks ago) and threw pretty accurately. Then he moved over to first and caught a couple balls from the other kids trying out...their throws weren't so accurate though.

Last order of the day was to play a "scrimmage". It wasn't really a scrimmage. Some of the kids were evaluated on pitching while others were evaluated on batting and fielding, I guess. There wasn't much fielding going on. Smunch did O.K. He made some pretty good moves on fielding, even though he didn't have much hit his direction. He hit the ball one of the other kids pitched to him...even though it was a kind of wimpy hit straight to the first baseman. And he did a pretty passable job of pitching. He's certainly not the strongest pitcher out there, especially as a little guy, but he's pretty accurate.More than two hours after the tryouts started, the boys were done. I believe he did his best, but I don't have a feel for whether he made the team. I'm hoping it's a plus that the coach knows him, but I'm not sure about that either.

By and large, the kids who show up for this tryout are good. There were about 20 of them and no one ever said how many they were planning to have on the team. I figure they might not cut any, or they might cut as many as eight.

I didn't really watch all the other kids. I was too busy watching my own kid.

I know there were a few kids who really stood out for their skills. Smunch wasn't one of them. I know there are some kids who will make the team because their dads are really involved...or their dads have volunteered to coach. Smunch isn't one of those either.

For those who make it, practice starts in a week or so. I guess we'll see...

Say What?

A couple of nights ago, I was stuck picking Mam and a friend up at a birthday party and Daddy made dinner...a yummy dinner with grilled chicken. In hopes of being all wonderfully healthful, I stirred up some Swiss chard with garlic and dried cranberries. I never expect my kids to eat such things, so I made peas too.

Despite some complaints about "chicken, again??!!" the kids ate pretty well. They polished off their food and then a funny thing happened.

"Is there any more Swiss chard?" Smunch asked.

Uh, well no. Daddy and I had polished that off. Gosh, did he really want some? He did and I was shocked into getting up from the table and stir-frying him up his own batch.I'm still kinda flabbergasted.


Somewhere on the drive home from the tidepools the other day, I remembered that I'd meant to get Mam started on her snowman project over the four-day weekend. When I asked her when it was due, I found it was the very next day. Awesome! So, we had less than an evening to come up with a way to make a snowman with things from around the house and to get Mam to write a story about said snowman. Smunch did this project a couple of years ago, but I felt compelled to come up with something different this time.

So, as soon as Mam got home from basketball and dinner was done, we started in on a little origami with hot glue, confetti, ribbon, puff balls and googly eyes. Mam named her snowgirl Snowflake and wrote a story about how Snowflake made herself a snow dog and a snow fort, had a snowball fight with her friends and then had her dog scare them all away. Very first grade.


Some time ago, Gram gave Mam and Smunch a crystal growing kit as a gift. It seemed like a cool little project. But that just meant we didn't get around to it for a long, long time. But one of the first days of the holiday vacation, we set the little kit up.

I didn't have high hopes. Had I been more hopeful about this project, I would have taken photos every few days to show what was going on. But I didn't. In fact, I was shocked when Mam made me come look at the little tank a few days later and there were some pretty little crystals growing. We'd started with a couple of rocks and a scary yellow solution.

I made her wait a couple more weeks before draining off the liquid. By then, it looked kind of like this:The big, clear crystals had sprouted a sparkly, yellow tree of tiny crystals. And then there were other, more classic-looking crystals around the sides of the rocks.As soon as school was back in, Mam was begging to take the crystals to school for "sharing". So the yellow "tree" is gone now, but having done a successful scientific experiment at home was pretty darned fun...a lot more fun than all those unsuccessful science projects I did when it was my job!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Free Time at Low Tide

For years now, I've been wanting to visit Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at low tide and check out all the critters there. But tides are quirky things. When we had free time, the tide wasn't sufficiently low, or it was super low, but only at 4 a.m. More often than not, I just didn't think to look.

But on Monday evening, I happened to check a blog I sometimes frequent and there was an invitation to go tidepooling...for earlier that day. Of course, I'd missed that opportunity, but it just so happened that the kids had Tuesday off for a teacher in service. Not only were the tides nice and low, but they were even lower than they'd been on Monday. And what a fabulous place this is!It was a beautiful day. It's January, so it wasn't exactly balmy, but beaches in Northern California are rarely balmy, so it was lovely. My mom joined us. Admittedly, I was a lousy caretaker, often forgetting that she's not so stable on the slippery rocks...getting far ahead of her and then going back to get her. Each time, she seemed pretty happy with whatever tidepool she was looking at...only reinforcing my lousy daughterness.There were all kinds of critters to see...and parts of critters. This must've been one mighty crab before it became someone's meal.And it's always exciting to find an intact sea urchin shell or two.I got to watch for a few minutes while this great blue heron fished in the shallow water. He was pretty successful!And then there was this thing:It's not one of my prettiest pictures, but I'm glad I managed to capture it. It looked like a long, pink centipede with a pointy head and when I touched it, it disappeared in the blink of an eye. I asked the ranger about it and her best guess (not having seen it herself) was that it was a clam's feeding tube. If anyone out there has better information, I'd be curious to know!

We ended up running into some good friends from school...a big surprise since I didn't think tidepooling would be on their list of family activities. And you know what they say about assuming. Yup. That's me. I'd even thought about asking them to go earlier, but decided that a quiet afternoon with the four of us would be nice. It ended up being the seven of us having a lovely time in the late afternoon sunshine and thankfully, my friend did a better job of helping my mom out than my mom's own daughter was doing.Mam had basketball practice at 5 and it was getting chilly, so we forced ourselves out of the tidepools and trudged back up to the mommymobile to dry off and eat some cookies. I really need to make a bigger point of doing these things more often. I'm still not convinced that tidepooling is my friend's bag, but getting wet and looking at cool critters? I'll take a whole suitcase of that, please!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back to Hoops

As you may or may not remember, only Mam opted to play basketball last year. Neither kid had played before that. It was fine with me. It made for a nice winter lull in youth sports before baseball season started back up. But after watching Mam play for a full season, Smunch decided it looked like too much fun for him to pass up this year.

Fortunately, the YBL program, through the local Y, isn't particularly competitive and is perfect for my newest hoops player.That's him, number 2. Uh-huh. Not a lot of dunking gonna be goin' on, you know?

Fortunately, Smunch has an awesome coach, as far as I can tell. I don't know how old he is. I'd guess 24 or or 25. He's on active duty for the Navy and has a two-year-old at home. He's coaching two of this year's YBL teams, Smunch's team and a team of 7th graders. Oh, and he's about 5'7" tall shoes. He's perfect for these kids.

Last weekend was the first weekend of basketball games. Naturally, Smunch and Mam had back-to-back games in different locations. So, I only got to see the first 20 minutes or so of Smunch's game. It reminded me of the way he plays soccer. He's not really in the game, even though he's obviously happy to be on the court. He bopped around happily, never once touching the ball.I think his team was losing 4-0 when I left for Mam's game.

As luck would have it, Mam's team is almost identical to the team she had last year. Having played together before, they're pretty awesome for a bunch of first grade girls.And Mam, being Mam, is right there in the fray, often with the ball. She made some nice assists...because she's familiar enough with her team to know who can shoot it in if she passes to them...and she scored three baskets on her own. I don't know why this sport seems to suit her so well, but it does. She seems significantly happier than she did playing soccer this year, but maybe it's the coach. She loves her basketball coaches, especially "Coach Dan", the dad of one of her friends from school. He is a terrific coach, but gosh, I swear she tries extra hard just for him.I have it on good authority that Smunch's game actually improved quite a bit. He even took a shot, I gather. His team rallied and they won their game. Maybe this season will be more fun that I'd expected!


It's no great big surprise to feel exhausted when you have a couple of kids. Life seems like one big, long series of chores, especially when school is in session and my brain is usually fried at the end of the day...not from all that intricate thinking I've been doing, but by all the machinations needed to keep chldren engaged...or at least out of my way.

I'd complained to my doctor about feeling exhausted before. This year, I also complained about the raging PMS that takes over once a month. Blood tests and more blood tests. Turns out I have a pretty signficant vitamin D deficiency and I'm anemic as well. So, just in time to make me feel truly old before the big 4-0 hits, I now have a pill box with three or four pills to take every day. Oh, and one of those pills is iron, so cue daily doses of extra fiber as well.

Of course, I'm not particularly good at taking pills. So, now my body is on some kind of iron, vitamin D, fiber rollercoaster. Makes me wonder how big a favor I'm doing myself.

I went off all the pills a little while ago, when I developed an irregular heartbeat. I called the doctor, got an EKG, got diagnosed with PVCs and referred to a cardiologist, despite being told that they're totally benign. Of course, the PVCs, which had been bugging me day and night, were gone before I had a chance to call the cardiologist, so I didn't go. And I begrudgingly went back on all those pills.

Of course, it's not just my blood that's deficient these days. I've got way too many things on my plate. So many, in fact, that I have to remind myself to breathe and not think so much about it when I'm looking at the latest things we've signed ourselves up for. Today, that was the club baseball team. Sure, I can secretly hope that Smunch won't make the team at tryouts this weekend, but it doesn't seem altogether likely. And when he makes it, practice starts in early February. Eek. He won't be done with basketball for a month after that.

I've spread myself too thin with things I enjoy doing. And that's kind of O.K....except when you interject birthdays and other things that upset my very delicate balance. Then I end up with insomnia and trouble remembering not to stress about things. Silly me. I like my job. I like volunteering at school and being on the PTA board, I like having the kids play sports. I'm looking forward to giving up my PTA board position next year. It's been a worthwhile job, but I need my time back. I need to take better care of myself.

I'm to the point where I make it to a yoga class and a pilates class weekly, but I don't have time for more than that and my yoga schedule has to move around every week because no single class fits in my schedule every week. I feel better, but it's not enough. I used to make it out to the elliptical trainer in our backyard "studio" several times a week. No more.

So, I'm not really doing a great job of anything, but doing a passable job at a whole lot of things. Not a great place for a perfectionist to be.

Still, I imagine the pills and increased exercise are helping me feeling better. Except for a couple of days a month when PMS now just makes me exhausted, I have more energy and I don't feel such a burning need for a nap all the time. (A need that was almost never met regardless.) But gosh, it's just the beginning, isn't it? My pill box is nothing compared to my mother's.

Let's hope I get a whole lot better about taking pills...and saying 'no' to additional jobs...before my life depends on it!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Evaluation Day

Happy New Year! I'm back! Well, almost back. All that cleaning and laundry I caught up on after the holidays is already starting to get away from me again. Ugh.

At the dawn of the New Year, I've discovered that Borders is perhaps one of the best places to stock up on birthday presents for birthday parties throughout the year. The stock all kinds of interesting kits at Christmastime and they're crazy cheap as soon as Christmas is over. Origami, friendship bracelets, paper airplanes, painting, clay, drawing, you name it. Unfortunately, most of these kits seem more appropriate for girls than boys. And naturally, my daughter was invited to two boys' parties as her first parties of the year. Go figure.

I also need to stay out of sporting goods stores these days. The kids play so many sports and Daddy does so much working out that there's always something to buy...usually something expensive. I just went back to weekly yoga as well, so you know how many cute little yoga tops are out there for the purchasing. Well, I do anyway.

So, the holidays are over, as is the first week of 2011. You know what that means? Baseball!

But then, what doesn't mean baseball in our family?

Today may have meant two boys' birthday parties for Mam, but for Smunch it was Mustang evaluation day. After his stint in Pinto 2 last year, he's ready to move on to the next level, Mustang 1, but that means that he actually has to "try out" for the first time in his short baseball career. It's not so much a tryout as it is an evaluation. They evaluate all the boys who want to play and rank them for a draft next month. I guess the top 40 players are drafted. The rest are otherwise assigned to teams. I have no idea if Smunch could make the top 40. Maybe. Maybe not.

They timed him running.He's short, but I don't think he's particularly slow.

They evaluated his batting skills. I didn't take pictures because he was in a batting cage where I'd have to shoot through chain link and netting. Besides, I didn't want to distract him. I learned that he can hit really well off a tee, which I didn't think he could do to save his life. And he did a passable job at hitting pitches from a pitching machine, even though the PONY league he plays in never uses them.

He waited patiently, in the 48 degree weather, for the fielding evaluations.They had him field grounders...standing at shortstop and throwing to first. He only fielded one cleanly, but his throws to first were dead on. They had him field high fly balls from the pitching machine.That didn't go so well. He misjudged the ball every time. I'd hoped he'd catch just one of them, but you could tell it was hard. Many of the boys couldn't do it. And honestly, Smunch can. But he couldn't today.

Then Smunch volunteered for the optional pitching evaluation. Daddy said he did well. I was so busy shooting pictures that I honestly can't say. He looked good through my lens, but I couldn't see where the ball went...other than to note that the catcher always caught it. I took that as a good sign.It was a chilly day, but Smunch was proud of himself and we were proud of the way he handled himself, even when he didn't do quite as well as he might have wanted.

It was a good afternoon, but a reminder that baseball season isn't nearly as far away as it seems like it should be!