Monday, September 26, 2011

The First Lady of Little League

Baseball takes up A LOT of time in our lives, especially with Hubby coaching.  As the Coach’s Wife, I have many of my own responsibilities.  I like to refer to myself as the First Lady of Little League.  It’s exactly like being the President’s wife, or having some equally as prestigious position, except with cleats and athletic supporters.  (Take THAT Michele Obama.)  And don’t get me started on the orange baseball dirt . . . you baseball mommies know of what I speak.

A brief list of my responsibilities as the First Lady of Little League:
  • Make sure that no cleats make it past the bin in the garage and into the house.  Cleats are to be removed and applied on the steps in the garage, and at no time are they to be introduced to my hardwood floors and/or my white carpet.
  • Wash, dry, fold, and put away 2 red practice jerseys, 2 blue practice jerseys, 1 uniform jersey, 1 coach’s jersey, 2 athletic supporters, red socks, navy socks, and 3 sets of those horrible polyester baseball pants that NEVER come clean of baseball dirt and whose washing instructions include the direction do not bleach.  Are you kidding me?
  • Help Large pack his bag for practice/games so that he has his glove, his bats, his batting glove, his batting helmet, his ball cap, and his water bottle.  One or more of these items is always missing, which we discover at 4:59 pm.  This sometimes necessitates a special trip in a separate car to the ball-field. 
  • Remind Hubby that while it IS important that Large be responsible for his own things, Large is 8 years old.  Sh*t happens.  Also, do NOT snicker knowingly when Hubby can’t find his own hat.  And definitely do NOT tell Large that he should say, “Daddy, you have GOT to take more responsibility for your belongings” as Hubby frantically searches for said ball cap.
  • Facilitate snack distribution and a concession stand.

This leads me to Part B of today’s blog:  what happened yesterday.

Here is a timeline of how it SHOULD have happened.
Tuesday: Boymommy goes to the pizza store (let's call it Father J’s, shall we?) where I speak directly to the manager.  I place two separate orders for 4 pizzas; the first order to be delivered at 1:00 and the second order to be delivered at 3:00 on Sunday.   I provide my credit card number, my telephone number, the physical address for the Ball Park and the name of the specific field we will be using.  Good day to you, sir.

Wednesday: the Manager thinks to himself, hmmmm . . . I’m concerned my driver may not know where to go on Sunday, so I’m going to do some research and provide him with the necessary information.

Sunday: Order #1 arrives at 12:55, is delivered hot, straight from the oven, and in an insulated bag, and the order is prepaid.  Order #2 arrives at 2:55.  Both drivers are professional and friendly. 
The end. 

Now.  You wanna know how it really went down?

Tuesday: Same as above . . . store, order, credit card, address.  Good day to you, sir.

Friday: I call and speak with the manager with whom I placed the order and confirm that we are all set for delivery on Sunday.

Sunday, 10:00 AM: Father J’s opens for the day.  I call to confirm that our orders will be delivered at 1:00 and 3:00.  I am put on hold.  I listen to annoying reassurances that my call is very important to them, that they are thankful for my call, and that they will be with me momentarily.  A haggard-sounding employee answers and says that indeed, my pizzas will be delivered. 

Sunday, 1:00 PM: the concession stand is set up and the game has started.  Anyone who would like a slice of pizza for lunch is sh*t outta luck.

Sunday, 1:04 PM:  No pizzas yet.

Sunday, 1:10 PM: I call Father J’s and ask to speak with a manager. 
“I’m calling to check the status of an order that is supposed to be delivered to the ball field?” I say pleasantly.  Because at this point, I’m still pleasant.

“I apologize for the delay, ma’am.  It is on its way as we speak.”  Of course it is.

Sunday, 1:40 PM:  No pizza.  And I’m no longer pleasant.  I call again.
“I’m calling to check the status of an order I placed 4 days ago which was supposed to be delivered 40 minutes ago?”  Yep, annoyed, and getting a tad b*tchy. 

“Hang on, I’ve got my driver on the other line.  I’m going to have him call you directly.”

Driver: “Where ARE you?  I’ve been driving up and down the street and I don’t see a B***** Field.”

Me:  “We are at ***** Park, and the FIELD is B******.  I explained all of this to the manager when I placed the order!”

Driver: Big sigh . . . “all right, I’m on my way.”

Sunday, 1:45 PM:  Driver finally arrives, all smiles.
Driver: “Hi, how are you?”

Me:  “Annoyed.”

Driver: “What?  Why?” 

Seriously, dude?

Me:  “This order was supposed to be here 45 minutes ago!  We have lost out on 45 minutes of selling pizza to the lunch crowd.”

Driver: “It’s not my fault.  I didn’t know where you were.”

Oh, it’s ON.

Me:  “Stop.  This is what I need you to say:  ‘I apologize for the delay and I will make SURE your 3:00 order arrives on time.  I am sorry.  I will make it right.’

At this point the driver turns around, heads straight for his car, and then peels out of the parking lot, sending gravel and dust everywhere and frightening young children.  (I added the young children thing for dramatic effect.)

A little while later, the manager calls and asks for my credit card number.  You have GOT to be kidding me. 

“I provided my credit card information on Tuesday when I placed the order.  You know what?  Here . . it’s 1234567812345678.  If it hits my credit card twice, I am going to be.  Pissed.  Off.”

My 3:00 order arrived at 2:55, and the delivery driver was different.  It was not the same highwater-wearing, white-socks-with-black-shoes, bespectacled, still-living-in-his-parents’-basement, 30-year-old pizza delivery boy.  I’m thinking he was afraid to come back, but I’m willing to concede that he probably spit in my pizza.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mean Boys

Large has been athletic since he was a little guy.  He mostly plays baseball, but he’s also played football and basketball and he loved both.  This year, however, he has decided that he doesn’t want to play basketball, and we think we know why.

Two years ago, Hubby was coaching Upward basketball.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is a Christian basketball league, complete with a little halftime prayer and an everybody-wins mentality.  You know,  just like real life.   Personally I don’t like to mix religion and sports unless I, myself, am playing, and then it’s relegated to the occasional prayer for my safety and/or a quick and painless death. 
Look at that sweet face . . . 

Coaches are given strict instructions on how to match skill levels and how to keep any actual competition to a minimum.  I guess God’s not a fan of competitive sports.  Who knew?  

Unfortunately, there was a young player, whom I’ll call John, on Hubby’s team who had some behavioral issues.  During one particular play, John felt the ball should have been thrown in to him, but a teammate threw it to Large instead.  In a flash of anger and frustration, John threw Large to the floor and began punching him in the stomach.  Large was stunned and shaken, but physically he was unharmed even though the other child outweighed him by at least 20 lbs.  Yet another reason why he needs to eat his veggies.

We assured Large that he hadn’t done anything wrong and that he hadn’t provoked John in any way.  But how do you explain to a 6-year-old that a teammate has "behavioral issues"?  And how do you do so without excusing the other child’s inappropriate reaction?

Fast forward two years:  guess who’s in Large’s PE class, music class, art class, etc.  (If you don’t know the answer to this rhetorical question, please begin visiting another blog as this one is way too intellectual and smart-like for you.) 

It’s the third week of school.  Already Large has said that he covers his head or puts his hood up when John enters the room because he doesn’t want John to notice him.  He even told Hubby he doesn’t like going to PE.  And not for any of the reasons I hated PE:
  • Fear of imminent danger from any object resembling a ball
  • Ridicule by classmates who were able to run without tripping over their own feet
  • Fear of tooting during sit-ups
  • Lack of cat-like reflexes.  Or even turtle-like
  • General shortness of breath and aversion to physical exertion

He doesn’t want to go to PE because he’s afraid John will get frustrated and have a temper tantrum, which scares him.

Large is not being bullied, so I don’t want to come across as melodramatic or to minimize the unfortunate incidents of bullying that are happening in schools.  On the other hand, I certainly don’t want to ignore what could become a bigger problem.  And it’s only the beginning of the school year . . . I don’t want Large to ever not enjoy going to school. 

I have been on the other side of the fence.  I’ve been the teacher in the inclusion classroom who tries her best to educate ALL of the students, regardless of their learning issues, behavioral or otherwise.  It’s difficult to strike a fair balance between giving every child an opportunity to learn and protecting every child’s right to an education.  At what point does a behaviorally-challenged child become a hindrance to every other student’s positive learning environment?  I’m generally not one to cry “it’s not fair” because I have a pretty solid understanding of life not being fair.  Why else would Ryan Seacrest be a cultural phenomenon? 

See?  Life’s not fair. 

But here’s the thing: it’s NOT fair that our child is frightened in the classroom because of another student’s propensity for inappropriate outbursts of anger.

Large’s teacher suggested that she reassure him that he is safe at school and that he can tell her or another grown-up if he’s having a problem with John.  She’s in a tough position, because the fact is that she’s John’s teacher too and she is professionally bound to advocate for him as well. 

We keep reminding him that he should be nice to everyone but that he should never let anyone treat him badly.  Meanwhile, I feel like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Stay tuned!

Monday, September 19, 2011

BoyMommy's Athletic Prowess

Okay, time to lighten things up a bit.  (I apologize for being such a Debbie Downer during my last two posts.)

I am not athletic.

My brothers both ran track in high school, and Slim is still quite the runner.  I only run if there’s cake in front of me or a big dog behind me.  I tried to get into it when we were in Manhattan, but I just don’t love it.  My dad ran track and played football in high school, and my mom played field hockey and softball.  The gene skipped me.  In fact, the athletic gene saw me and made a bee line in the other direction. 

My lack of athletic prowess did not stop me from trying out for various teams in middle and high school. You know the old saying “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”?  For me, the rest of that phrase is “and continue to not succeed, because you suck.”

  • Softball: apparently the coach wants you to catch the ball when thrown at to you, run to first base if you actually hit the ball, and pay attention when you’re in the outfield.  Guess what?  Didn’t make the team.

  • Volleyball: OVER the net.  Oh.

  • Cheerleading: tryouts for cheerleading were an epic showcase of awkwardness and lack of coordination.  I had team spirit, yes I did, but apparently one needs rhythm as well.  I wanted so badly to have my own pom pons and I could totally rock a ribboned, spirally-curled pony tail, but alas, I did not make the cut either time I tried out.  That’s right, the selection committee got an encore presentation as I tried out twice.  You’re welcome.

  • Finally I settled on band . . . because you didn’t have to try out for that.  I brought sexy back to the high-waisted, suspendered, marching band uniform, complete with feather plume and a sassy chin strap reminiscent of old-skool orthodontia.  Again, you’re welcome.

One of these things is not like the others . . . 
Recently, I’ve decided that I want to learn how to play golf.  Mostly because I digs the preppy little outfits and what’s not to love about a sport that has cute shoes and post-game drinking? 

A few months ago I sent out a distress call to ALL the other mommies in my golf-community neighborhood.  Some of these women have more money than they know what to do with and pedigrees to match.  (A few also have what is known in our ‘hood as too much friggin’ time on their hands, and they complain about such socially responsible topics as lawn care personnel, front gate security, and where to get one’s BMW serviced.) Naturally I sent the following email:

So I have a tacky question to ask. . . . I'm making an effort to learn how to golf, and I want to look just as cute as everyone else while doing it.  I'm a bit on the "fluffy" side, so I want to know where other "fluffy" girls get cute golf skorts.  Dicks has limited selection and I have googled plus sized golf skorts, but again, there's a limited selection.  I appreciate any suggestions, and I'll be sitting here making bad food choices while I await replies.  ;)

I got several helpful responses, but to some women, mostly of the plastic/botoxed variety, “Plus size” is anything over a 10.  My idea of “fluffy” is XL and above.  Fat girls wanna golf too.  I finally found a skort online and was excited when it finally arrived in the mail.  I had ordered an 18.  (That’s right, I said it!)  I put it on to go golf with hubby one evening; it fit, but it was a little snug, which sent me into my dark place in which I think hateful thoughts about myself.  I try to wear clothes that fit and I seldom worry about what number is on the tag; I am what I am, and I just need to own it.  BUT I also have a theory: just because it zips doesn’t mean it should.  After yet another round of golf which could really only be described as "tragic," I undressed, only to discover that my skort had been mislabeled.  The outside tag said 18, but the inside tag said 14.  No wonder I couldn’t breathe.

Hubby, ever supportive, only fussed at me a few times while we were out on the course.  He was frustrated that it took me 27 shots to get to the green, which I think was a slight exaggeration.  I have a stroke counter, but it only goes up to 10.  Ten beads often does not suffice.  I’d be better off with a rosary – then I could tick off a bead every time I took a stroke AND maybe get a little help from the Big Guy.  The fact that I’m not Catholic is irrelevant.  Hubby made me skip a few holes altogether, and he reminded me how much golf balls cost when I sent three in a row straight into the water.  At least I’m consistent.

A few weeks later, after finally receiving the properly-sized fluffy golf skort, I went to play with some girlfriends.  It was difficult to maintain a sense of decorum when what I really wanted to do was go all Happy Gilmore on the course.  At one point I told my friend Laura that my handicap was so high, I really need my own placard and a special parking space for the golf cart. 

Perhaps some new fluffy golf clothes would improve my game.  

Click on the ads, folks.  Mama needs some fluffy golf clothes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Losing a Child

For days I’ve been trying to think of something clever and witty to write about, as I’m hoping to keep up with the blog a little better now that Medium and Large are at school all day.  I’m trying to get Small on a regular nap schedule – mostly because I’m anal and can’t handle it when I don’t have a schedule or a plan.  I hope to be able to write more frequently while he’s napping. 

I could write about Tuesday when we overslept until 6:58, but I still managed to get the boys up to the bus stop by 7:12.  Or I could write about purging my closet of clothes I haven’t worn in years, but which have moved from our townhouse, to Manhattan, to our temporary housing, and finally stopping here in our home.  Or I could put a humorous spin on trying to find a nerdy teenager with no social life so that I can have a babysitter at my beck and call.

The problem is that I keep thinking about Anna Donaldson and her family:

The Donaldson Family, of Vienna, VA lost their 12-year-old son, Jack, in the floods we had last week.

I first heard this story from my former “boss” at JMU, who was a sorority sister to Anna Donaldson.  Then I discovered that, in the it’s-a-small-world department, my across-the-street neighbor was also a sorority sister.  My connection to this woman is six-degrees-of-Kevin-Baconish, but still, her story was brought to my awareness more than once.  Then this morning, a high school friend posted a link to Anna's blog, An Inch of Gray.  I just can’t keep quiet anymore.  So this one’s not funny.

For all the b*tching I sometimes do about mothers who don’t support each other, make other mothers feel bad about their parenting, or try to one-up each other, I must admit that in a time of tragedy, there is a bond between mothers that is almost spiritual.  And I don’t mean spiritual in the religious sense. 

I mean I hope that the heartbreak and grief I feel for this woman whom I have never met will help ease some of her burden, because it pains me to think of her suffering “alone.” 

I know she has a family, and perhaps it seems insensitive for me to imply that NO ONE, not even her husband, feels the grief as tangibly as she does.  I have a notion that collectively, mothers everywhere who are hearing her story are shouldering a bit of her heartbreak. 

When I lost my mother, I remember thinking that I truly understood where the term "broken-hearted" originated.  I literally felt an ache in my heart - a physical pain.  It struck me as surreal that people still went to the grocery store, picked up their mail, filled their cars with gas when my world had fallen apart.  I’ve always said that losing my mother has been the greatest loss of my life, and I am the first to admit that I had a difficult time dealing with my grief.  But here’s the thing: children expect to lose their parents at some point.  Hopefully it won’t be until the parent has lived a full life, but we all accept mortality as the final chapter of life. 

Parents are not emotionally equipped to lose a child.  That’s not how it’s supposed to happen.  

Ten years ago, my girlfriend, The Mormon, lost a child.  Hubby and I hadn’t started our family yet, so while I grieved with my friend, I grieved with her as a friend, not as a mother.  I hurt because my friend was hurting.  It wasn’t until I had Large that I truly understood that having a child is having a part of you live outside your body.  Your child is an appendage that’s not physically attached.  (Sometimes I feel like my kids are the middle finger . . . )

As diligent followers of this blog (hint, hint) you know that I don’t discuss politics or religion.  I believe what I believe, and I don’t need to rationalize it to anyone.  No matter what you believe (or don’t) my simple request is this: pause for just a moment today and send good “Mommy” vibes to Anna Donaldson.  Motherhood is a sorority of its own, and today our Sister needs us. 

*Anna's friend Glennon writes a blog called Momastery.  Her most recent entry, simply called "Anna," is a powerful post in which she reminds us that one doesn't stop being a Mother when your child leaves the earth.

Medium, Small, Large
And finally, my boys.  I LOVE them with every ounce of my being.  They drive me absoultely insane sometimes, but I am thankful every day for their sweet smiles.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

Ten years ago today, I was just getting to know a new crop of students.  It was my 8th year of teaching high school English; I had four sections of senior English 12 and one section of English 9.  My English 9 class was a “team” class, which means that there was a special education teacher in the classroom with me as it was an inclusion class.  Some of the students had learning difficulties ranging from ADHD to behavioral issues. 

Hubby and I lived in Alexandria, VA, a suburb of Washington, D.C., which is located about 10 miles southwest of the Pentagon.  It was a prime location for us because we were almost exactly halfway between each of our places of employment; he in McLean, VA, and I in Woodbridge, VA.  Because the D.C. suburbs span such a large area, many people in Northern Virginia hold government jobs, either in the city, or at the Pentagon, or at various military bases.  It never occurred to me that living in or around our Nation’s Capital would pose a security risk. 

Yes, it was an absolutely gorgeous day – one of those days you wish you could spend outside, but I was also filled with the excitement of beginning a new school year.  First period came and went without incident, and soon enough it was time for my freshmen to arrive.  Everything was status quo and while they were busy working on an assignment (diligently hanging on to my every educational word and obediently following my instruction . . . because this is MY version of events,) I told my team teacher that I needed to run to the copy center.

Intent on my task, I walked into the copy center and was focused on getting back to class quickly.  But then I noticed the attendant staring at the TV on the wall.  I glared at the TV when she said, “someone just flew two planes into the World Trade Center!”

My first thought was that some jackass had been flying too close and didn’t see the giant building in front of him, or that the pilot was someone who had the GED equivalent of a pilot’s license and should not have been flying in the first place, a la John Denver.  (God rest his soul.) 

“Was it an accident?” I asked, even as I tried to grasp the concept that TWO planes had crashed.  It just didn’t make any sense.

“It couldn’t have been an accident,” she replied, still staring at the news footage that was repeating images of the fireballs emanating from the buildings. 

I walked back to class, stunned.  I walked into my classroom and held my papers to my mouth, all stealth-like, like football coaches who know the Jumbo Tron is focused on them and don’t want lip-readers to figure out their next move. 

“Two planes have just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York,” I whispered. 

“My daughter is in New York,” she gasped. 

We kept the students busy at their desks while we huddled at my computer and pulled up  My email was already up and running (which I know is no surprise to many of my colleagues) so, using my email account, we emailed Debbie’s daughter at work in New York and anxiously waited for a reply.  Luckily, within the hour, her daughter responded and said that she was okay, but that they were evacuating and she’d be in touch as soon as possible.  Of course, we didn’t know at the time that communication would come to a stand-still as people all over the country tried to reach their loved ones. 

My department head and good friend, Lisa, stopped at every classroom and announced that we would be getting out of school early.  I remember calmly telling my students about the planes in New York and that we had recently found out the Pentagon had also been attacked.  One student, whose name I will never forget, said, “I don’t mean to be mean, but who cares?”  I thought to myself, one day when/if he matures, he’ll regret EVER saying that.

I do,” I said.  It’s the human way to feel, I thought, but all I said was “some of your classmates may have family or friends working at the Pentagon.”  Still, though many of them were shocked, they were generally excited to be getting out of school early.  This reaction bothered me at the time, but in hindsight I realize they didn’t know how to feel.  Nothing like this had happened in my lifetime; it certainly hadn’t happened in theirs.  Once they were released, the principal came over the loud speaker and told his staff to “go home and be with your families.” 

I worried about Hubby, as I wasn’t sure if he was in his office in McLean or at a client site in the city.  Finally he emailed and said he was leaving the office in McLean and he’d meet me at home.  I drove home in stunned silence while listening to news coverage.   Traffic began to get increasingly heavier as I traveled 95 North towards home, and I noticed as traffic slowed that all the other drivers on the road had the same somber expression.   As I approached my exit I stared at thick black smoke above the trees in the direction of the Pentagon.  This is really happening, I thought. 

Raising the flag at Capon Springs, WV with P&P's sons
(an important rite of passage the year children turn
5-years-old and can understand why we respect the flag.)
Later that evening, we gathered at the home of our good friends, P & P.  What was once planned as a birthday celebration with close friends was now a group of us sitting around the TV in their kitchen, sharing stories of office evacuations and soldiers with assault rifles along the highway commute. 

Normally I am an emotional nightmare.  I can’t stand to see other people cry and my family teases me about being a pillar of strength in times of crisis. 

I didn’t cry for days.

I watched television footage every hour I was awake, and though my mind was spinning, I did not cry. 

Upon returning to school a couple days later, I learned that one of my senior’s mother was missing at the Pentagon.  Oscar came to school every day ... his family was one of profound faith and his father wanted his sons to maintain as much normalcy as possible.  Days passed.  Then a week.  Finally his mother was identified and they were able to lay her to rest.  I so admired his strength and perseverance, and I think of Oscar and his family often.

Then my meltdown happened.  (And it was way bigger than my normal quarterly meltdown.)  I sobbed uncontrollably and could not reign in my emotions.  I cried for Oscar.  I cried for ALL those people in New York.  I cried for first responders, and caregivers, and families who were seeking loved ones; I cried for my country and for what once was; and I prayed my president would have the strength to lead in a time of absolute crisis.  I questioned whether I wanted to start a family, even though Hubby and I had been discussing it for some time.  Is it fair to bring a child into a world where so much evil exists?  I hadn’t realized . . . I mean really realized, that EVIL is a real thing and it exists. 

I cried when I watched the news.  I cried when I saw an American flag.  I cried when I heard stories of how my country was mourning.  And though I never talk politics and I feel very strongly that each citizen is entitled to his/her opinion regardless of how anyone else feels about it, I must say that I supported my president.  Hubby and I are a bipartisan family and we vote on different issues.  But in a culture of divisiveness, I placed my faith and my respect in my president and his decisions.  (Even though I didn’t vote for him and I think Will Ferrell impressions are hilarious.  The end.)

For the past few weeks, my boys have been asking about 9/11 and we have tried to explain as best we can without being too sensationalistic or the-world-is-coming-to-an-endish.  Helping my children understand has made me realize just how much our country has changed in the past 10 years. 

To Large and Medium, airport security has always been intense.  (One of the greatest joys in life? Going through security with an infant in the baby Bjorn and carrying-on all the accoutrements that said infant will need on a flight.  You can’t wear the Bjorn through the scanner, and security personnel are not allowed to hold your infant for you.  Good times.)  To them, schools have always required photo identification for visitors and museums have always checked Mommy’s bag. 

On the flip side . . . and I have to believe SOME good can come out of this situation . . . I love seeing flags hang outside my neighbors’ homes, and though a military funeral is always tragic, there’s something beautiful about the ceremony and reverence afforded our veterans.  I feel such respect and gratitude when I see a flag-covered coffin carried by white-gloved hands.  Our boys know and sing the Star Spangled Banner.  They don’t get all the words right and their tone is at times, um, deafening, but they belt it out with pride.  And I have to say, seeing my babies remove their hats and put their hands on their little hearts gives me goose bumps EVERY time. 

God bless America, today and every day.