Welcome to my adventure. This blog started out focused on parenting and school but now that Katie's nearly baked, it's way more about me these days. My experiences, more likely my point of view and good times to share.
Welcome! I'm glad to have you aboard.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Open Letter to Team Sports Folks: Please Don't Sacrifice the Virgins!

Did I mention it was 72 degrees outside? It was a nice day!

Katie has never participated on a team sport.

Yep. Totally true. She thought she might do soccer but on the free trial day, she was clobbered in the head and never went back. She kind of likes basketball but not enough to commit. Instead, she's been a dancer and an artist. Now fast forward to sixth grade and sports are happening at middle school. Her friends are on all kinds of teams but still nothing really called her name.

Then I had a great idea: what about softball?

We have a great league with a terrific reputation, plus I could walk while she practiced so we would both be "working out" at the same time. C'mon, I pushed, let's give it a try. She acquiesced. Of course, that's where the story gets interesting.

Our great local league sacrificed a virgin.

It started with the web site. Apart from figuring out how to register, there's no way to know what we are really signing up for! When should I expect practices? When are games? I know they can't commit to exact days and times but a little expectation setting wouldn't hurt. Katie also had to attend a "pre-team selection screening" (my term not theirs). That was scheduled for last Saturday. Fine.

We arrived at the screening and immediately told the folks there that we were virgins: we have never done anything like this before and didn't know what to do. They told Katie to warm-up. Hmmm, what the heck does that mean? Jumping jacks like Jack LaLanne? Throw on a blanket? We didn't recognize a soul, we just looked at each other - lost. Katie was nervous as hell but to her credit, she hung tough. Finally, a woman spotted us struggling and she got Katie involved.

Then the actual "screening" began. Katie got in line and waited to do her first task: fielding a ground ball and then catching at first base. She was able to stop the ground balls just great but disaster hit at first base. Mind you, my daughter has never even held a glove before that day. The only reason she knows anything about softball is because the Giants won the Series and we made her watch every darn game. Otherwise, she knows nothing.

She caught the first ball.

Amazing. She used the glove and managed to catch that first throw. But the second one was well-thrown, fast and hit her full on in her stomach. The whole place gasped. She stood strong, tossed the ball home and walked off the field. Then, very quietly, she started crying because it hurt so badly. I managed to get her off the field and to the car without any fanfare (she was already humiliated, she so didn't want folks to know how badly she was hurt).

I got her home and at that point, I think I was crying harder because I felt so damn guilty. I couldn't believe I put her through that. I couldn't believe they were making someone who had readily admit she sucked, said she was inexperienced, acknowledged she should be "last pick" on the roster, I couldn't believe they would put her through that. To top things off, she got hurt. It was one super-crappy parent moment. Eventually we ate some lunch and Katie started to recover. Then she blew my mind.

"Mom, let's go buy a softball," she said.

"Really?" I looked at her completely shocked. Yep, she wanted to get a ball and head to the school to practice. So we did. We got two used balls, some cleats, went to the school, and started to practice using that glove. I could not have been more pleased with her. And she's still practicing!

So the teams haven't been decided yet and hopefully we'll have a good season and a great "team sports" experience. But officially I implore team sports teams to make space for the virgins! Here's what we need:
  1. On your website or brochure, tell us how things work. About how often are practices? When are games played? Where?
  2. What are the volunteering commitments?
  3. What kind of things does the child need to buy? Uniforms? Shoes? Equipment? What should we NOT buy until we talk to our coach first?
  4. Are novices welcome? And if so, can we get a "pass" on the tryouts because we are likely to get hurt or humiliated in front of our future team members.
  5. Please, please make sure you don't use league code on things regular people read. I don't know what a 12U is - just go ahead and use the extra words so we new folks can understand.

First impressions matter and taking time to help us understand not just the rules but also the culture is so important! We really want to join you and I know you want us.

In the meantime, we'll get ready to play ball!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Out Here in The Middle: Changing America One Parent at a Time

Patricia Heaton as Frankie Heck on ABC's The Middle.
I was extremely moved by the events in Arizona last weekend (and this week). I listened to President Obama's speech, hanging on every word about the incredible people who died and those who survived the brutal attack. And I have been caught up in the national frustration this week of those of us who want everyone to settle down.
"All of us -- we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations." - Barack Obama (transcript)
I feel like Patricia Heaton's character, Frankie Heck caught in The Middle. The show often opens with; "out here in The Middle..." referring not just to the middle of our country but also to the great unwashed masses of us who are simply doing our best to live day to day, trying to raise our children with good values with a hope they will be positive contributors to society; so much like those people in Arizona simply attending a political get-together.

I feel like Frankie Heck because I have no idea how to have an impact on my world beyond my small sphere of influence. I don't want people to stop having opinions - I actually love a good debate. But I would like to regain our civility. And I do want us to live up to my daughter's expectations. Just like Frankie who goes out of her way to make sure she's there for Sue's cross country track meet - no matter what she has to sacrifice to do it.

So I wonder, given this situation, what would Frankie do? And I realize, she would look at this situation the same way so many of us would: I need to operate within my sphere of influence. Based on that, I came up with a short list of things I can actually do:
  1. Turn off morning news shows. The network morning shows focus on the vitriol as entertainment. Don't think so? Take a closer look. I want Katie to know about the news, I don't want her to hear pundits and talking heads speculating and sparring. I used to have GMA on in the morning while we got ready. No more.

  2. Stop rewarding bad behavior. I am simply not going to support television people, radio people and others who offer no substance but a lot of hype. I have my list of who they are; you can choose your targets, but either way you slice it they need to be turned off. They don't need to be on in my home. And if enough of us turn them off, they won't sell advertising and maybe, just maybe, they will go away all-together.

  3. I vow to limit my vitriol. Most parenting is modeling. So I am making a concerted effort to monitor my reactions. When I disagree with someone, I am trying not to use a label (eg "that idiot") and focus on explaining why I disagree. I am hoping Katie will learn more about my thought process and less about my extensive "off color" vocabulary.
Obama ended his speech speaking about little Christina who died so tragically last weekend. He spoke of the book being written about the children born on 9/11. He said:
"Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called "Faces of Hope." On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child's life. "I hope you help those in need," read one. "I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles."
If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit."
My hand is over my heart. I am committed to working toward this goal. I look forward to having you join me - out here in the middle.


Here's something to remind you of connection we share with our children:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Movies Should Every Kid See for "Cultural Intelligence"

I am talking pop-culture here. Those movies we have all seen that people reference in comedy routines. I am not worried about television right now (I know that's another whole can of worms) but really looking for movies that kids should know about so they can relate to grown-ups!

Post a comment here or tweet it to me @jcarole. I will pull together the list and post it shortly.

Here's what I have so far:

Annie Hall
Breakfast Club
Back to the Future
Dirty Dancing
Ghost Busters
It's a Wonderful Life
Karate Kid (original)
Rocky Horror Picture Show

What else...? Let me know!