How to Play Family Baseball: An Instructional Guide

Jul 29 2011

It came down to Girls vs. Boys at the neighborhood baseball game challenge last weekend.  I had a full battery of physically functional kids at the time, so you’ll see my oldest boy sans-cast… ah, the good old days, way back last Saturday…

Oh, yeah, baby!  We girls can bring it.

You don’t even KNOW what yer in fer, boys.  Even if you do have a veritable Baseball Legend like my husband, Greg, on your team.

Yep.  That’s Greggy, circa 1983 or so, smack dab in the middle of his Little League career.  It’s far and away my favorite childhood picture of him.  If I could, I’d leap right back in time and straight into this photo, just so I could give Greg a little side-squeeze.  He’d undoubtedly wonder why the old mom-looking stranger-lady is hugging him.  But too bad.  He’s just so darn cute.

I’ve convinced Greg to guest post tomorrow on his prolific baseball career and how he came to the all-important decision to hang up his large, black calculator watch and call it a day.  The way sports stars decide how and when to retire is always a fascinating bit o’ story-time.

In the meantime, I’ll tell you about neighborhood baseball.

See, our friend Mitchell turned 10 years old a while back.  Go, Mitchell!

And, for his birthday party, Mr. Mitch decided that a neighborhood baseball game was just the ticket.

So we all grabbed our hats, and our… well, our hats, since we don’t really own any baseball gear other than my husband’s retired little league mitt (proudly donned by Ian)… and we trooped out to our local baseball diamond for a friendly an all-out, THIS-IS-WAR game of gender-divided baseball.

Here’s how it worked.

  1. No one knew what they were doing except Mitchell.  And maybe a couple of the dads, who mostly (and heroically) kept their mouths shut.
  2. We took the rules of baseball and we smashed ’em.  We stomped on ’em.  We ripped ’em to pieces.
  3. We realized that our pitchers pretty much couldn’t pitch, so we decided that there were no strikes and no walks.  Everyone was forced to swing at every pitch… even if you had to run to get to the ball.
  4. Mitchell completely ruined pitching for everyone else because he’s a good pitcher.  The show-off.  Sheesh.  What is this?  Your birthday or something?

I, of course, was spectacular.  I’m sure you’re not surprised.

I got right out there with my bat and heckled my 11-year-old son who was pitching to me.

And then, because it was just too easy with that tiny, skinny bat, I switched it up with a gigantic, orange, plastic bat.

But not because I couldn’t hit the ball with the regular bat.  I just wanted to make the little kids feel better.

I showed ’em a little-known, hit-the-ball-overhand move…

…’cause I think it’s important to teach new things to my kids.

And then, so the little kids would know they weren’t alone, I hit the ball (yep – I HIT that ball), um, off of a T.

Just a few tips for you newbies out there:  1)  When you’re hitting off of a T, you should concentrate really, really hard.  2)  Sticking your tongue out helps.

I’m a little bit embarrassed to show you all of that, because I’m pretty sure the professional baseball offers are going to start rolling in.  I feel bad that I’m so busy, and I’ll have to turn them all down.  It’s going to be such a disappointment to the big leagues.

Now, of course the girls BROUGHT it to the game.

And just because I mostly have pictures of us standing in the outfield

while the boys were on base

doesn’t mean we spent most of the game there.

Right, ladies?


OK.  Fine.

The boys squashed us.

Good thing we weren’t keeping score.

(I was totally keeping score.  It was a blow-out.)

Frankly, I blame Aden for fraternizing with the enemy.

It’s like she thought we were all being friendly or something.  Don’t worry; I busted her later for this irreverent behavior. (No, I didn’t.)

In good news, no one got bashed in the face with a bat or a ball, despite some seriously strong attempts to do so.

Hey — given our family injury stats of late, I think you’ll agree that an accident-free game lands somewhere in the realm of the miraculous!

And we passed on a very important family tradition to our kids in the process.  Namely, proper techniques and strategies for gathering four-leaf-clovers during your stint as an outfielder.

Based on his illustrious baseball career, Greg instructed the littles, and they took to four-leaf clover harvesting… well, about like you’d expect.  They were brilliant.

Thanks, Mitchell, for one of the most fabulous and fun kids’ parties we’ve ever attended.

Happy Birthday!

The Importance of Consistency

Jul 28 2011

It’s nice for my kids and my dog that I’m such a consistent rule enforcer.

After all, experts say that consistency and boundaries are essential for helping kids and animals feel secure and safe.

For example, my dog isn’t allowed on our couch.


Not ever.

FYI, he looked guilty as heck.  But he did not budge.

The punk.

The Dodgeball of Life: Ready to Catch

Jul 27 2011

You know, you just never know what life’s gonna throw at you.

It’s like a massive game of dodgeball.

Sometimes you catch a ball, all victorious and triumphant.  Woohoo!  Oh yeah.  Uh huh.

And you sit there thinking, You just keep chucking those balls, Life, ’cause I’m a really, really ridiculously good catcher. Which, for the record, is tantamount to taunting and should be avoided.

(FYI, that was the part of the story called foreshadowing, in case you keep track at home.)

Sometimes, Life – that super good ball thrower – gives you a chance to do your victory celebration.

But sometimes, just when you let out a good, loud YEEEEEHAW!, another ball flies out of nowhere and smashes you in the face.

Am I getting a little too analogous without any specifics?

OK, I’ll give you a scenario.  A What If.  A For Example.

Let’s say, for example, that you get a kid out of the embedded-needle-in-his-leg surgery woods.  He is, for all intents and purposes, recovered.  And you’re patting yourself on the back a little ’cause, even though the lead-up to surgery wasn’t fun and the surgery itself had some bumps, it’s two days later and your kid is doing great.  You might be jumping around the dodgeball court with that surgery ball, thinking, “Whew!  I caught that ball!  I have five – count them, FIVE – healthy kids.  Yeeeeehaw!”

And then a ball comes out of nowhere, and another kid – let’s call him Ian – runs down your neighbor’s driveway and breaks his ankle.

Yep.  That’s what happened today.

Aw, baby.  I’m sorry.

That there’s the dodgeball of Life, folks.  And, not unlike elementary school dodgeball, I often feel nervous, unprepared, and like I may not be the best person to be running around my kids’ court… despite the ball I just caught a couple of days ago.

What is it they say?  “You’re only as good as the ball that’s flying at your face.”

OK – no one says that.  But I wish they did, ’cause that’s the perfect quote for our crazy life.

I’m back in the game tomorrow, Life.  Even though victory was yours today, I think it’s only fair to tell you…

I don’t stay down long, and I’m ready to catch.

We mamas and our thoughts about food…

Jul 26 2011

We spent the weekend prepping for unexpected, needle-embedded-in-my-preschooler’s-leg surgery.

Cael prepped by running around, playing baseball, and digging mud pits al fresco with his brother and cousin.

I prepped by thinking about food.

See, due to the rather unplanned nature of this entire event, he got pot luck when it came to a surgery slot for Monday.  Surgery was scheduled for 2:00pm, as opposed to the early morning spots usually reserved for young kiddos.

2:00pm on Monday with instructions for no food or beverage after bedtime Sunday.

I understood the instructions.  I even believe in them, since I think it’s pretty important to not have my kid asphyxiate on his own vomit during the surgery or recovery process.  That’s just the kind of loving mom I am.

But I’m also a mom who feeds my kids, and, since propelling my kid through Monday was up to me, that meant dreaming up plans to distract him from a day of hunger.

I made and discarded several plans.

Movie?  Nah.  Scheduling didn’t work, and the popcorn smell might drive Cael (and me) a little nuts.

Pool?  Almost.  ‘Til I remembered that a 4-year-old + a pool = swallowed water.  Not to mention how hungry we always feel after swimming.

In the end, I settled on a multi-tiered plan, tailored to Cael’s interests.

For example, I recently learned that I’m a Car Wash Scrooge.  My kids reported to my friend Heidi — after she was Santa Freaking Claus and took them through one — that Greg and I save car washes for our special alone time.  I hear we never, ever, ever let the kids go with us.  Oh, how they cheered for Heidi and her extravagant car-washing ways.

On surgery day, I broke my Car Wash rule (the one I didn’t know I had) and took Cael through it.

Yep, it was as though the heavens parted.  The sun beams shone through the clouds and onto my anointed head.  Cael was astonished.  He was grateful.  He was endlessly entertained for the 4 minutes that activity lasted.

4 minutes down.  5 hours and 56 minutes to go.

While Cael rode the car wash, I thought about food.

We went to the toy store.

While Cael played, I thought about food.

Was he hungry?

We went miniature golfing.

While Cael sank his first hole-in-one, I thought about food.

Was he getting tired from lack of nutrition?  Should we slow down?  Speed up?

We went to the arcade.  I thought about food.

We drove to the bank.  I thought about food.

We drove to the hospital to check in.


I thought about food.

Surgery was delayed and delayed and delayed again…

so, for two additional hours, until 4:00pm, I thought about food.

In the end, the surgeon took a little, pesky needle out of my baby.


And I stopped thinking about food for just a while.

Instead, I thought about my son’s life.

I thought about how very much I didn’t want him in surgery.

I thought about how very grateful I was that we only had to do this for a day, because I also thought a lot about Cael’s cousin, Kay, and her mommy and daddy, who have had to do this hospital thing for days and days and weeks and months as she battles cancer.

And then I thought about food.

I thought about the worry I felt, knowing my child would go hungry for part of a day.

I thought about how I planned and prepared and organized for our 6 (or 8 ) waking food-free hours.

I thought about the money I spent to distract Cael.  The money on gas.  On a new book.  On golf and the arcade.

And I thought about the mamas in East Africa right now who are experiencing drought and watching their babies go hungry for far more than a part of one day.

I thought about how very much I don’t like to think about that because it makes me feel helpless, and it’s just easier not to think about all of the tragedies in the world, and all of the sad mommies and hurting kids.

But Cael’s brief hunger was like a sharp lens that reminds me to focus on our global journey through life together.  We mamas.  Because I can’t experience my own child’s pain without knowing that another’s is greater… a child whose name I don’t know, but who needs my help.

Remember We Are The World? I’m a child of the 70’s and 80’s, and, even though my jelly shoes and sky-high bangs make me wonder with acute embarrassment whether my taste is worth mentioning, the energy and hope around that song carried profound meaning for me.

They say this famine could be worse.  The worst in 60 years.

Which made me think about what we might do if we mamas work together to spread the word about this disaster and small ways we might actually make a huge difference.

Here’s one idea:

If you want to help families in East Africa, Medical Teams International is responding.  I donate through Medical Teams because I believe in their mission and because of their financial accountability.

I donate through Medical Teams because my $30 donation is able to deliver more than $5,976 in humanitarian aid.

I donate through Medical Teams because “aid” — which can be so clinical and remote a term to me, as I type on my laptop on my cushy mattress next to my sleeping child who’s already recovered from his surgery — doesn’t mean simply “help” to the mamas who have to think about food and hunger every minute of every day.

“Aid” means life.

And life, after all, is what we mamas are all about.

Managing The Mama Bear Instinct (To be filed under “Things I Suck At”)

Jul 22 2011

How in the world did a needle manage to lodge itself in my son’s leg?

Well, here’s the deal.  I HAVE NO IDEA!  And that fact drives me a little bit crazy because it begs the question… how do I make sure it never, ever happens again?  ‘Cause if we mamas can’t prevent every bad thing, we sure want to learn from the experience and at least not repeat the bad things that have already happened.

If you ask Cael how he hurt his leg — and I believe that now 2 parents, 4 siblings, 3 nurses, 2 x-ray techs, 1 doctor, and 100 of our closest friends and family have done exactly that — Cael will tell you, “I stepped on a button.”

Seriously.  That’s his story, and he’s stickin’ to it.  “I was packing my suitcase for Grandma’s house, and I stepped on a button.”

Which would make a ton of sense if a) buttons had long needles attached to them, b) he’d felt anything at all penetrate his skin, and c) the needle was in his foot instead of below his knee.

Here we are, on Friday evening, and my kid is still playing host to the needle.

Yep, that little stinker will be hanging out in Cael’s leg for the weekend.

I’m trying very hard to just think of it as an overnight house guest.  A naughty, naughty overnight house guest who gets no popcorn or movies followed by a forceable ejection on Monday afternoon.

I learned something from this episode.

When I grow up, I never, ever, ever want to be a surgery scheduler and deal with half-crazed mothers of preschoolers… or probably half-crazed mothers of any type.

I was on the war path this morning when I discovered that Cael’s surgery consult is scheduled for Monday.  Not the surgery.  Just the consultation.

I found myself on the phone using Irrational Mommy Voice… the trembling sotto voce of “Will the Mommy cry?  Or will she lose her poo and flood the phone with a torrent of nasty words and accusations?”

I said things like, “My 4-year-old has a NEEDLE stuck in his LEG.  I – I mean, he – cannot wait indefinitely for it to be removed.  Yes, you can call me back.  Actually – wait – I’ll call you back in 30 minutes.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Cael played blissfully on the slide.  He was not perturbed.  He was not disturbed.  He was not dismayed or emotional or put out.

Cael, in fact, giggled.

I was bug-eyed and ready to rip someone’s head off.  Greg got in my way once, and I talked to him from between clenched teeth with my eyebrows up to my hairline.

Emotional Mommy threatened to take permanent control of my mind and my body.  My speech sped up.  My heart rate quickened.

Cael ran to the sand box with his brother.  They made a playland for their cars.  Then he hung out on the slide again.


(Actually, do you see the wump on the right leg?  That there’s a needle under the skin.  Nice, right?)

I called the surgeon’s office again.  They assured me someone would return my call as soon as possible.  I said I’d call back in 30 minutes.  Again.  I said, “I know you’re working hard to accommodate me, and I’m grateful.  I really am.  But it’s Friday, and lunch time, and I need to make sure we solve this today so we can do surgery on Monday.  I’ll keep calling.”  The scheduling lady deserves a medal.  She didn’t sigh at me or anything.

Cael ate a Popsicle and played dress-up with his sister.  They convinced Cai to put on make-up and a dress, and then they had a parade.  Poor Cael.  His suffering just goes on and on.

The surgeon’s office called me back.  The scheduler was unfailingly polite.  They rearranged their Monday, and Cael’s surgery is on the schedule.  She didn’t even say it through clenched teeth, and her eyebrows sounded perfectly normal over the phone.  She was amazing!

Cael was so relieved.

OK, fine.  I was so relieved.  There’s just nothing like knowing there’s a needle stuck inside of my kid that makes every single Mommy instinct I have scream, “GET IT OUT!”

So that’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to get that sucker out of my baby.

But not ’til Monday.  Which I’m sure will be no problem at all.

For Cael.

For me, we shall just have to wait and see.

Trusting My Mommy Gut: The Good, The Bad, & The X-Ray

Jul 21 2011

Good news!  My mama instincts are fully functional.

They’re in excellent condition.

They’re operating exactly right.

Also under the subject line of “Good News:”

  1. Meeting our annual medical deductible WAY too early in the year — even though we had no idea how to pay it at the time — means that current and future injuries, illnesses and accidents are covered.
  2. Cael thoroughly enjoyed his leg x-ray today, and he rocked the “still as a statue” instructions, earning staff kudos and two sparkly star stickers.  He really, really likes sparkly star stickers.

There are some tricks to this whole parenting gig, and I’m still smack dab in the middle of figuring out the puzzles.  Among them?  What to do with a kiddo who can walk, run, jump, and climb… who can play in the sand box, falls asleep easily at night, has no fever or atypical fussiness… but who every once in a while limps.  Who occasionally cries out in pain.  And who sometimes favors his right leg.

“Don’t touch my weg, Mom!” Cael reminded me every day this week.

“I won’t, Cael.”  I assured him.  “How about a teensy, tiny little kiss to make it better?”

“Well, Mom, I’ll fink about it.”

You’ll fink about it?  You’ll fink about it?!  Excuse me, mister.  Have you forgotten that Mommy’s kisses are magic?

This fink-about-it nonsense came from my snuggliest kid.  My kissin’est kisser.  Alarm bells rang in my head.  But then Cael ran ahead of me to the park, so I dismissed my worries and thought perhaps we were entering a less kissy phase of our relationship.  It’s inevitable, really (and I suppose someday his wife will be pleased), so I tried not to let my chin quiver too much.

But it happened day after day after day this week.  The weg wouldn’t quit hurting.

There were little signs something wasn’t quite right… followed almost immediately by another sign that everything was fine.

Well, I already royally screwed up once this season with the allergy-related medical woes of my eldest.  See, I foolishly thought that, at some point, she would become so incredibly miserable that she’d be willing to see an allergist, even if it meant having shots.  Then injection treatment would be at her impetus, and I’d be off the hook (and released from the 15-State Complaints Tour) for blame later.  Sadly, I let that go way, way (way, way) too far.  Retrospectively, I’m glad my child, who has asthmatic symptoms (um, that whole breathing thing is kind of important) didn’t have a more dramatic episode.  As it was, her allergist wasn’t extraordinarily impressed with our “let her be miserable” approach to parenting.

And so I learned.  Natural consequences are not equally good for all things.  Sometimes, I have to be the Mommy, buck up, and gather my bandmates for Complaints Tour 2011, even if that means injections are All My Fault.

Eight prescription medications later, and my oldest baby can see, breathe and isn’t wounding herself by scratching too much.  I can’t say I feel exactly good about my role in the whole thing, but I can say I’m trying to apply my lessons to future parenting.

Coming off of that rather epic failure, I was lookin’ at Mr. Cael with new eyes and renewed attention to my Mommy Gut.

I took Cael to the doctor.

The doctor, bless his heart, did not make me feel like an overprotective mama bear worrying for nothing.  He was, however, the first one to use the words “puncture wound.”  I think I responded with something like, “What the wha…?  WHAT?” And then he sent us to the hospital.

The x-ray tech, bless her soul, also did not make me feel like an overprotective mama bear worrying for nothing.  Particularly when I noticed the long, skinny, straight, obviously foreign item that showed up in stark detail on the lovely bone pictures.  “Huh,” I said, intelligently.  “Would you look at that?”  And, although she’s legally prohibited from saying anything of a diagnostic nature, she sagely nodded her head, looked at my happy boy and said, “That’s one brave kid you’ve got.”

She got that right.

Tomorrow, we consult with the doctor so we can remove a foreign object that unkindly lodged itself in my baby’s leg.

Tomorrow, I take a page out of Brave Cael’s book, put on my Brave Mommy face, and work — again — to make medical procedures fun, interesting, and not scary.  While smiling brightly, I’ll use sentences like “You get to go the hospital!” and “It’s your turn for more stickers!”

Tomorrow, my world will revolve around Cael, and he will wisely use his power to milk me of every last Popsicle our freezer holds.

Tonight, though, my kids are asleep in bed, and I’m alone with my thoughts.

Tonight, I’m going to work very hard to use my nice words — or maybe just my no words — lest the Angst that I feel inside stages a coup attempt for control of my tongue and proceeds to wreak havoc on the husband I love with ill-timed and thoughtless bursts of fear which I disguise poorly as anger.

Tonight, I’m going to avoid my kitchen, because I can hear both Chocolate and Potato Chips telling me they can make me feel better.  They’re very convincing.  But, sadly, they’re liars.

Tonight, I’m going to hijack my brain space and use it for gratitude instead of for sadness or personal remonstration.

I’m going to remember to be grateful that we live where we have medical care at our beck and call.

And to be grateful that this medical incident is so very minor.

And to be grateful for my babies.

And to be grateful for the privilege of being their mama.

And to be grateful.  And to be grateful.  And to be grateful.

Good night, y’all.

See you tomorrow!  Hopefully with a kid free from foreign objects.

Back to Life. Back to Reality.

Jul 18 2011

Camp’s over, and I’m back to life.  Back to reality.

Sing it with me… Back to life.  Back to reality.

Those are the only words I know to that song, which make them super irritating when they run around and around inside my brain.

Back to life.  Back to reality.  Boom!

I don’t know why I say the boom at the end.  It’s like my mind needs a place holder so I can keep repeating those 2 lines over and over.

Back to life.  Back to reality.  Boom!

Back to life.  Back to reality.  Boom!

Back to life.  Back to reality.  Boom!

Sincere apologies if you’ve got it stuck in your head now, too.  And for the booms.

Usually, my life involves rushing around, doing one million things at once, juggling bottom-wiping, kool-aid cleaning, cookie-making, and STOP YELLING yelling… all while trying to suck down as much caffeine as my heart can stand.

Greg can testify that my last 48 hours – the post-camp hours – have involved sitting on my hind end in a puddle of uselessness and drooling while staring without any focus into outer space.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is why camps hire college-aged counselors.  ‘Cause they can take a middle-school camp licking and keep on ticking.  Whereas I take a middle-school camp licking and need to be plugged into the wall to recharge.

It’s not pretty.  It’s just true.

Here we are, mid-July, and our schedule is as crazy as always this time of year.  So crazy, in fact, that it’s hardly worth mentioning, because it’s like saying “the leaves are green” or “I’m tired” or “stop wiping boogers on me.”  Obvious.  Par for the course.  Normal.

July, in case you hadn’t already noticed, is Camp Month.

At Girls Camp, Aden was a grand success.  Hooray!

At Tween Camp, I only embarrassed Abby 3 times.  Yay, me!  That’s got to be my personal record.  It’s practically a miracle.

And this week it’s Ian’s turn at Boys Camp.  Which makes me think almost exclusively about personal hygiene.

Aden spent a week at camp and showered once.  I’m pretty sure the once was because her counselor made her.  Since sometimes Aden smells like butt, I think her counselor is a rock star for showing so much shower flexibility.  Aden came home with 1/2 dirty clothes and 1/2 clean clothes.  That was not due to overpacking on our part.  Oh, no.  That was due to underchanging on hers.  And it’s yet another reason why college students are Way Better at camp counseling than I am… and one of a gazillion reasons why kids relish the freedom that is a week away from Mom.

Last year, I’m uncertain whether Ian showered at all at camp.  In fact, Ian returned from Boys Camp with 6 out of 8 pairs of undies clean and most of his clothes still folded and in pristine condition.  As for those 2, poor, used pairs of undies… well, let’s just say that they lovingly and selflessly gave their life for camp, and we laid them to rest with respect, honor, and a 21-gun salute into the garbage can.  The outside garbage can where I was less likely to smell them.

Yesterday, Greg packed Ian for camp.  I was still in Useless Puddle mode, and Greg wisely decided to save his wife’s energy for other things later.  (Greg’s a smart, smart man.)  But I got to field Greg’s important packing questions.  Questions like, “Should I pack the amount of shampoo I want Ian to use, or the amount he’ll actually use?”  Ah – the age-old question!  Do I believe the best or accept reality?

Well, around these parts, we’re all about perspective.  While we strive to make things better and to give our kids new skills all the time, we also believe that living into reality makes things kick-in-the-dirty-undies funny.  So, although we packed Ian a full bottle of shampoo, we expect it to come back to reality… still full.

Ian will return from camp on Friday.  I think it will take us that long to finish installing the special, outdoor HazMat shower and to plan appropriate memorial services for the undies we deployed on this mission.

I love camp.  But I also love life.  I love reality.  And I love my stinky, sweaty, crusty kids.