“THAT” Kid

FADE IN:

EXT. TEE BALL FIELD PARKING LOT NOON

A MOM and her five-year-old KID climb out of an XL SUV.  He is dressed in used baseball gear and holding a water bottle.  She is carrying his equipment.  They hold hands as they walk toward the field.

MOM

We are a few minutes early.

KID

(not really listening to MOM)

Am I gonna get to run the bases?

EXT. TEE BALL FIELD DUGOUT

The KID drops his water bottle in the red Georgia clay.  The MOM picks it up and places it on the bench.  She makes a quiet groaning noise as she stands back up.

MOM

You might.  Depends on what the coach wants to do.  Are you excited to meet him?

KID

(starts to act shy and grabs the MOM’s pant leg)

Other parents (mostly DADS) and PLAYERS, also dressed in mismatched t-shirts, baseball caps, and cleats begin to arrive at the field.  The DADS are making small-talk and greeting one another.  The PLAYERS are all hanging back, sticking close to their parent(s).

EXT. TEE BALL FIELD PITCHERS MOUND

COACH

(loudly, with a commanding, yet friendly, voice)

OK, players, welcome to tee ball!  Why don’t you grab your gloves and come join me here on the field!

The DADS and PLAYERS follow his instructions.  Everyone goes around in a circle and introduces themselves and their PLAYER to the COACH.  They all shake hands.  The last people to meet the coach are the MOM and her KID.  The KID is obviously getting more and more anxious.

COACH

And who do we have here?

MOM

(extending a hand to shake)

I am Stacy and this is Kid E.  We are excited for tee ball.  Thanks for being the coach.

KID

(Not moving out from behind his MOM’S leg)

MOM

(to the KID)

Say hello to the COACH and shake his hand.

KID

(releasing the death-grip from his MOM’S leg, he reluctantly and timidly extends his right hand)

Hi.

MOM

(to the COACH)

It seems he is a little nervous about the first practice.  I’m sorry about that.  He’ll be fine once they get to playing.  If not, I’ll do some cartwheels to make him laugh.

COACH

(giggling)

Nothing to worry about!  And I’m glad to meet you… I knew you’d be a fun one when I saw your upside-down picture on Google.  I linked in to everyone on the team.

(to the KID and the other PLAYERS)

We are going to have some fun here on the tee ball field!  Now let’s divide into squads and start some drills!

The KID is once again attached to MOM’S leg.  He has now started to shake.  Tears are falling down his chubby cheeks and he begins to make a wailing noise that brings to mind torture or wild animals.  They make their way off of the field.  MOM quickly realizes the direction this is heading and squats down to eye level with the KID.

EXT. TEE BALL FIELD DUGOUT

MOM

What’s the matter, baby?  Why are you getting upset?  This is supposed to be fun.  Please don’t cry.

KID

(between body-wracking sobs)

I am trying not to.

MOM

(sarcastically)

You are not doing a very good job.

(clearly frustrated, but trying to remain calm and cool)

I don’t want you to be sad.  Take a drink of water and calm down.  Let’s just go out on the field and join the rest of your team.  Please.  I’d really like you to stop crying.  Please.

KID

(gesturing all around the field)

I don’t know about this.

MOM

(loving but firm)

Well, I do.  You asked to play baseball, so I signed you up for baseball.  This is not torture.  This is not dangerous.  This is supposed to be fun.  Great American Pastime fun.  Now let’s go and play.

EXT. TEE BALL FIELD OUTFIELD

The KID looks unsure, but the MOM and her KID walk slowly onto the field.  Practice has already begun.  The COACH is teaching one squad how to field ground balls.  The ASSISTANT COACH is teaching the other squad how to throw.  They are clearly having fun.  The COACH and ASSISTANT COACH are upbeat and encouraging.

COACH

(to the KID)

Hey, Kid E!  Let’s see if you can field a ground ball.  Can you show me “ready position?”

(COACH crouches down into “ready position”)

The KID starts to cry even louder.  The death grip intensifies.  MOM extracts herself and looks the KID in the eyes.

MOM

I can not make you stop crying, but I can help these other players practice “ready position.”  We came here to practice baseball and that’s what I’m going to do.

(to MICHAEL, one of the PLAYERS)

Michael, can you show me “ready position?”  Here comes the ball.  Keep your eye on it!

The MOM continues to have a catch with other PLAYERS.  She doesn’t even have a glove, but no matter.  It is getting hotter and she starts to sweat.  The KID keeps on crying.  The moaning noise waxes and wanes.  He does not leave his MOM’S side.  He almost gets hit with the ball several times, but she just works around it.  After several minutes, the COACH calls for a water break.  The PLAYERS disperse.

EXT. TEE BALL FIELD DUGOUT

MOM

(hanging on to her last threads of patience)

Here… take another drink of water.  And please, for the love of all things holy, stop making that noise.  I am hungover and tired and your father should be here right now but he is erecting a deer stand with Paul in the woods somewhere.  I did not force you to play baseball this season, but I will absolutely make you finish out this practice – tears or no tears – because you made a choice.  This is what you committed to do, and you are going to suck it up and do it.  Do you understand me?

The KID suddenly stops crying.  He wipes the snot from his face.

KID

(with the face of an angel)

I’m sorry, Mommy.  I’m ready to play now.

MOM

(sighing)

That’s my good boy.

The MOM takes a drink from the KID’S water bottle and checks her phone for text messages.

FADE OUT.

photo

OMG, this is going to be the longest tee ball season ever.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

His Cup Runneth Over

It’s that time of year again, friends.  School is back in session and the kids are settling in to their classes, adjusting to the homework load, and – if they haven’t already – it’s about time to add a sport or activity to the mix.  Load ’em up!  Yeah!

When playing youth sports now-a-days, there is likely the obligatory shopping trip to your local sporting goods store to stock up on the essentials.  Not only do they suck away all of your time; they also suck away all of your money.  And since both boys are playing baseball this season, we tried on some last-season and hand-me-down clothing and equipment first.  It figures that very little of what we had in stock was transferable, so we headed out to buy what was left on our list… grey pants for both boys, cleats because little feet never stop growing, batting gloves to replace the ones that got gum on them last season for Kid D (don’t even ask), and a helmet with a cage for Kid E (gotta protect that pretty face… that’s his moneymaker!).

All of that stuff was important to them, but what do you think was the number one, non-negotiable thing on their lists?  You guessed it… the boys decided that it was imperative that they go athletic cup shopping.

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you may have read about Kid D and his first experience with a protective cup (Protecting the Family Jewels).  I’ve also mentioned his obsession with his junk a time or two before, but Sheepdog assures me that this is standard male behavior.  And Kid E is even more enthusiastic about his, if you can imagine.  So, while we were taking inventory of our baseball gear prior to shopping for more, a very large part of our discussion centered around the balls that are nearest and dearest to their hearts… their own.

Now, the cup that Sheepdog and Kid D settled on last time is likely the smallest size they make.  It is marketed to Age 7 and Under.  And since Kid D is almost 9, he announced that he had outgrown his old cup and needed a bigger one.  Isn’t that always the way?  I did not need Sheepdog’s expertise to recognize that as standard male behavior.  Nevertheless, since we now need two protective cups in the family, it made sense to buy the next size up for Kid D.  And since it was plastic and got washed every time, Kid E could use the old one.

Sheepdog, the boys and I were in the cup aisle at Dick’s (c’mon… where else did you expect we would go?), and they were figuring out sizing.  It turns out the youth cups are all white and then color-coded around the edges (our original one is green).  The one appropriately sized for Kid D came in a standard red color.  Except that the color red on plastic, especially when it is next to a bulge of white, looks a lot more like something you would find in the Barbie aisle.  I steeled myself for a hissy fit in the store because Kid D thought it was bad enough he has to be on the Purple Team (the park is using colors for the first time this season instead of major league team names).  Now he would have to endure sporting a pink cup?

"It's time to protect your nuts, guys!" - Bloodsport (1988)

“It’s time to protect your nuts, guys!” – Bloodsport (1988)

But the fit never came.  Fortunately, Kid D was not fazed in the least by his new pink accessory.  I guess he is more secure in his masculinity than I thought.  He is still beaming about his new cleats, his new gear bag, and the fact that his cup had runneth over in the first place.

Play ball!

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Magic Markers

Every year I take the kids back to school shopping for new supplies.   I usually despise shopping, but I love this particular trip, as I am hot for office supply stores and the wares they peddle.  I can’t really explain it, but I can tell you that I get a little tingly every time I go down the padded envelope aisle.  And I have a thing for 5″ X 8″ notepads too.  I like to touch the paper.  My favorite thing is the sound it makes when I fan the pages.  It’s like a magical purring noise. “Puuuuurrrrrrrrr.”  So sexy.  But I digress.

Anyway, each August the kids come with me to Staples and Target to pick out new folders and notebooks and binders.  The younger ones also get rulers and scissors and crayons and index cards.  And everyone gets a new box of markers.  Now, some are classic colors and some are dry erase, some are highlighters and some are washable.  None of them are actually called “magic” anymore, but to me they will always be magical and special, because they mark another important milestone in each kid’s life… the start of a brand new school year.

This year the markers led me to thinking about other milestones in my life and the kids’ lives and how quickly time is passing.  This summer, in particular, seemed to whiz past us in a spectacle of raindrops and road trips and beach sand.  It marked the first summer we didn’t get to relax together as a family (until one week near the very end, which was pretty awesome).

I realized that this marks the last year that all five of my kids will be heading out the door on the first day of school together.  Kid A is starting her senior year in high school.  Next year she will be off at college, starting her own life with some pretty significant new markers of her own.

Then I realized that Kid E still has twelve more “first days of school” ahead of him.  He is not thrilled about this, especially because “school does not have very much Minecraft.”  Sorry, kid.

Kid B started high school this year – a big marker made complicated because her boyfriend also started, but at a different high school.

This is the year that Kid C started dancing en pointe in ballet.  Kid D will begin kid-pitch in baseball next week.  They are in 7th and 3rd grades, respectively, which can be full of all kinds of markers… middle school relationship drama, puberty, playground fights.

Sheepdog and I made it to the 20-year mark of marriage this summer.

And today marks exactly three months since Braden died.

So many markers.  Not all of them are magic.  And not all of them are huge.  But together they become the stories that make up our lives.  So I write them down and take pictures on film and in my mind so we won’t forget.  And we can look back on them and remember each one of the markers and what they meant to us at that time in our lives.  And they will shape us and affect us and make us who we are.  But they can also inspire us to make change, to do more and be more, if that is what we want.  So much possibility can come from those markers, big or small.

And that is truly magical.  Just like the purr of a good notepad.

I get high with a little help from my friends.  You say "toluene and xylene," I say "magic."

I get high with a little help from my friends. You say “toluene and xylene,” I say “magic.”  Source:  Google Images

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

All the Way Home

Last Sunday Kid B asked Sheepdog to take her to the park so she could do some goalkeeper training.  Kid C tagged along and they worked out together for a couple of hours.  There was lots of punting, drop-kicking and goal kicking.  I’m sure there were some dive drills as well.  Afterwards, Sheepdog and Kid C got back into the car.

“We are stopping at the grocery store for a few things on the way home.  You should run back from here,” Sheepdog said to Kid B.

Kid B hates running as much as I do, but she is required to do it for her overall soccer conditioning.  Sheepdog convinced her that is was only about three miles to our house, and he explained the route that cut through a safe neighborhood and kept her (mostly) off of the busy main roads.  She grumbled at him, but nevertheless she put one foot in front of the other and soon she was running.

Run, Forrest, Run.

Run, Forrest, Run.

I had taken both of the boys to the pool for a bit that morning while they were training.  But the weather had taken a turn for the worse, so we were back at the house even before Sheepdog and Kid C returned with their groceries.  I inquired about the missing Kid B.

Sheepdog explained the plan for her to run home with a very proud smile.  I knew that he had been trying to get her to do this for months now.  But I also knew that Kid B didn’t know the route very well and Sheepdog is beyond horrible at giving directions.  I was not happy.

“Did she actually want to run home, or did you force her to do it?”

“She knows it is good for her!”

“Did you show her exactly where to go?”

“No, I didn’t show her… but I told her.”

“It has been a while since you left her.  You even stopped at the store.  Shouldn’t she be home by now?  Does she at least have her phone with her in case she gets lost, or it turns out instead to be 10 miles from there to here?”

“Um… (quietly) no.  But I’m sure she’s fine.”

“Great, Dumbass.  I am going to go give Kid E a bath.  Kid B had better be back under this roof, safe and sound, by the time I am done.  Go get back in your car and drive around to find her if you have to.  Don’t you dare lose one of my babies!”

Sheepdog laughed at me, but I gave him a look so he knew I was not joshing.

A few minutes later, I heard the garage door open and his car was gone.

By the time I finished with bath duty, Kid B and Sheepdog were both standing in the kitchen.  Kid B was sweaty and tired, but she was, indeed, just fine.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and then I asked exactly what happened.  This is what they told me:

Sheepdog’s directions were wrong (well, duh).  First, she got lost in the park.  Then she got lost in the neighborhood.  Eventually, she made it out to the main road and started heading back to our house, but only after she had added a couple of extra miles to her run.  By then, Sheepdog had driven out to find her.  He had the top down on the car and he saw her running on the sidewalk and made a gesture that conveyed, “What’s up?  Where’ve you been?  What’s taking you so long?”

At first, Kid B just smiled back at him.  But then, overcome by frustration from him making her run home and getting lost in the process, on the side of a very busy road, my fourteen-year-old daughter flipped her Dad the bird, real big and dramatic-like.  And then she just kept on running… all the way home.

Coincidentally, I would have done the same, exact thing.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

I’m Sitting in the Bathroom

… but not doing what you’d expect.  I’m on my computer while everyone else in my hotel room sleeps.

I am currently in a Westin in Huntsville, Alabama, along with Kid C and Kid E, and of course Kid B as her team is playing in the US Youth Soccer Region III Presidents Cup, representing Georgia in the U14 Girls division.  Kid B is the team’s goal keeper and she rocks.

We drove here Thursday on a few highways, but many more country roads.  After passing four hours worth of farms and swimming holes, we finally arrived.  Then I realized Kid B was burning up with fever.

One day into the playing part of the tournament, and lots of water, ibuprofen and rest later, her team is leading their flight in points.  They play again this afternoon, but regardless of the outcome, they will be playing in the semi-finals tonight against a wildcard team.  The winner of that game goes on to play in the finals on Sunday.

The hotel brought in a rollaway last night.  Kid C slept in it.  Kid B is in one bed, Kid E and I are in the other.  I woke up at 6:30 (7:30EST) to Kid E playing a DS game that requires tap-tap-tapping on the screen.
This is how we do hotel rooms (and this is us down two kids and one Sheepdog)

This is how we do hotel rooms (and this is us down two kids and one Sheepdog)

Tap-tap-tappity-tap-tap.

Then he had to poop.  So we did that as quietly as we could (but my kids like to chat while they are on the toilet… so there was that).  It wasn’t even 7AM and I knew I needed to let the girls rest more (Kid C was showing signs of illness last night too), so Kid E and I put our bathing suits on and headed down to the hotel pool.  But first he insisted we go out to the car to fetch his goggles, so as to ensure that even more people saw me with early morning bed head and my pool cover-up.  Thanks, Kid E.

After about forty-five minutes of brand new swimmer, half-swimming-half-drowning by my youngest child while I stood right next to him to fish him up after the drowning halves (lobby coffee in hand the whole time) in the “heated” indoor pool, we headed back up to the room.  I use quotation marks because, two hours later, we are both still shivering.

I put Kid E back in his pajamas (at his insistence) and tucked him into the warm Westin Heavenly bed.  Then I went to take a hot shower.  When I was done, all three kids were sound asleep, so that’s how I ended up here… in the bathroom on the third floor of a very nice hotel, trying to keep myself quietly occupied.

I am hopeful that they will all wake up rested, fever-free, and ready for another day of awesome soccer.  Go Ambush!

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Animals Gone Wild Kingdom

Sheepdog quite possibly killed a rabbit.  Or maybe he did not.  He could just be hopping around totally unharmed.  We will never know.

This is what I do know…

For a decade Sheepdog has been working in Buckhead, which is the uptown district of Atlanta.  It is about 25 miles (approximately 3.17 hours in ATL real traffic time) from our house.  For at least a couple of years now Sheepdog has been taking public transportation to work.  This means that he wakes up during the 5 o’clock (Good Lord, I didn’t even know that was humanly possible) hour, drives his car to the MARTA bus stop at Windward, rides the bus to the northern-most Red Line MARTA train station at North Springs (exit 5C on GA-400N), then takes a train to Buckhead.  Finally, he walks the last block or so to his office.  It saves us a ton of money in gas and he is often able to work, make phone calls or read/ sleep during his commute.  According to Sheepdog this really sucks, especially when gas prices skyrocket and public transportation becomes SRO (standing room only).  But he is the ultimate team player, so he endures.

Then sometime around the end of October Sheepdog came home and announced that he wanted to start commuting to work on his bicycle.  And no, I’m not joking.  My immediate response was that he was certainly NOT riding a bike to work because he would surely make me a widow (with five freaking children!), especially given the fact that drivers despise cyclists around here and often try to nudge them off of the roads.  And it’s not just me that does this.  Soooooo… End of the Crazy Discussion.

Whenever Sheepdog talks about wanting (in fact NEEDING) to ride his bike, I always start singing the song "Bicycle Race" by Queen in my head. It is awesome (the song, not my singing)

As always is the case when I flex my muscles in the “And That’s Final!” way, the jokester that is my God immediately brought a new person into my life to expose me to a different perspective on things.  On Halloween night I walked around our neighborhood shadowing Kid C and her friends.  With me were a few of the friends’ parents, some of whom I did not know.  At some point during the night I talked to a dad who, as it turns out, does triathlons and is an especially enthusiastic cyclist and thought it was just the best thing ever that Sheepdog was considering a 2-wheeled commute to his office.  He proceeded to tell me all of the reasons why throughout the long evening.  Awesome.

I then went home and told Sheepdog that he could look into riding his bike to work.  As long as I was convinced that it wasn’t a suicide mission, I would consider endorsing his plan.

The word “tenacious” was brought up by my dad during a toast to Sheepdog and I at our wedding all those many years ago.  My dad explained that it takes tenacity to have a successful marriage, and I believe that Sheepdog took that sage advice to heart.  Moreover, he also applies that same tenacity to other aspects of his life.  When Sheepdog gets an idea in his head, he is more often than not tirelessly persistent until that idea comes to fruition.  I knew that once he started considering riding to his office, he would figure out a way to make it happen even if I wasn’t totally on board.  My dad also said during that same speech at our wedding, “Stacy’s personality is such that it takes a very special man to live with her,” but I forgave him for that because it is kind of true.

So Sheepdog promised that approximately 90% of this commute would take place on “very safe” bike path routes, and after he successfully dispelled my fears that he would be on said bike path routes when it was mostly dark outside (“…and do you know who is on bike path routes at these insane times?  Undesirables fleeing from the law, serial killers, sex offenders and vampires, that’s who!”), I agreed with the plan for him to ride his bike to work.  But I had some conditions.

1.  No intentional riding in the rain.

2.  Always be defensive and alert while riding, especially on the 10% of the ride that is not classified as “very safe.”

3.  He must text me every day when he gets to work to let me know that he has arrived safely so I can cross “call life insurance company” off my To-Do list (at least on that day).

I will have to say that the arrangement seems to be working out fine.  Sheepdog has gotten caught in some sudden and unexpected (Me: “Why didn’t you check the forecast, dummy?”) downpours, but he hasn’t melted yet.  He says he is very careful, yet he insists on listening to his iPod while riding, which I am less than thrilled about because it means he is not paying attention as fully as I would want him to.  But he wears a very bright, flashy light thing and he does text me that he is safe every morning, even though I forget I have a phone and often don’t check my messages until after 10 a.m. or sometimes not at all.

Then one day Sheepdog posted this on Facebook:

Rabbit run! Crazy commute this morning. Lots of rabbits on the bike path. Hit one but we are both okay (think he bounced off of the crank).
app.strava.com
commuted 21.9 miles by bike.

What the what?  A rabbit?  Here I am worried about angry drivers crashing into him, or murderers and the undead chasing him in the dark woods, and he gets attacked by Little Bunny Foo-Foo?  Then today I saw about eight deer running through our neighborhood around 7:00 a.m. when I was driving some kids to school.  And don’t get me started on the darting, schizophrenic squirrel population.  They could all easily hit my Sheepdog.  It is like Jumanji out there.  It just goes to show that you never know what dangers may be lurking, even in the “very safe” sections of the world.

Please be safe, Sheepdog.  And please take off the damn headphones. xo

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Fight Like a Girl

Sheepdog and I both are firm believers in teaching our kids how to protect themselves.  The boys seem to have some instinctive fist fight/ wrestling thing that I am guessing brothers bring out in each other.  I have no first hand knowledge of this, but I am watching Kid D and Kid E beat the feathers out of each other and I find myself screaming, “Take it down a notch” or “Take that outside so you don’t break my house” no less than twenty times a day.  Neither Sheepdog nor I taught them these moves, and they still primarily watch only Disney shows, so I’m guessing it is most likely hard-wired in them.  But these girls are a different story.

They are lovers, not fighters.  They like make-up and they spend ridiculous amounts of time on their hair.  They play(ed) school and dress-up and beauty parlor.  They never once pretended that they were in a G.L.O.W. match with each other.  They might put on costumes and skates, but they would never do it to have a roller derby.  And although they follow the first rule of Fight Club (“Don’t ever talk about Fight Club”), it is only because they have never heard of Fight Club.  No, these girls are not prepared at all.

We have been looking for a self-defense class for the girls for a while now.  We looked into karate and it seemed to be a good solution, but many places around here were requiring a three year contractual commitment, which was not something that would work for us, especially since the girls were already involved in other activities.  We have a friend who learned self-defense at the hands of an (ex-CIA/ black ops) expert and she was going to give them a “lesson” based upon what she had learned, but we just can’t seem to make our schedules work together.

So I was excited when I heard about a local class that teaches teenage girls how to make smart choices, recognize safety compromises, react in dangerous situations, and generally protect themselves.  They even encourage the moms to sit in on the class, so I would also get a refresher course.

The class was pretty good.  They used a DVD format to show certain potential attack/ kidnapping-by-a-stranger situations (bus stop, ATM, parking lot) and they showed two different girls – one who always reacted the wrong way (she got taken away in the van every time) and one who reacted the better way (she was more aware of her surroundings and used some fairly simple defense moves to successfully evade her attacker).  They also briefly covered date/ acquaintance assault (including rape and other acts of violence) and showed the girls a Dating Bill of Rights that reminded them that they have to stand up for themselves, even against someone they think that they love.  They showed them how to “fight like a girl”…go for the eyes (poke them out), ears (rip them off) and then groin (knee as a battering ram into) anybody who was threatening or menacing to them in any way.  They showed them things that even tiny, little girls can use against much bigger and stronger opponents.

Sheepdog was a little disappointed that they didn’t get more slam the base-of-the-hand-to-the nose-of-your-attacker training in the class, but I am not looking for them to go all Million Dollar Baby into the boxing or MMA rings.  If that were the case, I would just enroll them in a Brazilian jiujitsu or Muay Thai class and call it a day.  I just think that is a little bit of overkill.

What I want is for my daughters to be prepared to instinctively fend off an attacking stranger or a bad date.  I want them to be aware of their surroundings.  I want them to have self-esteem and confidence.  I do not ever want them to be victims.

So here’s to praying that bad things never happen.  But if they do, at least my daughters will know how to fight like a girl.

George I, George II, George III, George IV and George V... Foreman, that is

Wish me luck for tomorrow…