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Archive for October, 2011

Dear coach

Dear Coach,

I know how much time you have invested in this team, and I do appreciate it.  You should be commended for spending 90 minutes five days a week with a gaggle of teen girls.  It must be miserably difficult, like wrangling feral cats on a sugar high after they’ve been caged for the whole day.  You must go home needing a drink every day.  Vodka must call your name.  In that alone, you have earned the coach’s gift ten times over.

I know about the after school practices five days a week.  It happens that I chauffeur my kid to and from those practices.  The only difference, I don’t get paid to do it.  I actually paid half a kidney for my kid to play.  After I spent the half a kidney’s profits on the “school athletic fee” I then spent the rest of the kidney on the incidentals for my kid to be part of the team.  I had to buy, at a minimum, 2 pairs of volley ball shorts (which should be considered high way robbery) and knee pads and a practice volley ball and the secret player snacks and a coach’s gift.

Here is the thing coach, this is junior high volleyball.  The volleyball team isn’t curing cancer.  They aren’t being scouted by colleges.  These girls are 8th and 9th graders playing volleyball.  I know you want to win.  We all want to win.  No one likes to lose.  I haven’t met anyone, ever, who said “Let’s go out there and lose!”  Sometimes though, by focusing so intently on the goal, you lose sight of the big picture.

All of these girls tried out for the team.  They all were good enough to be picked.  They should all be good enough to play more than 2 minutes in the final game.  I understand that some girls are better than others.  I know that relatively some of these kids suck.  But when they sit on the bench of 98% of the game, you crush their spirits.

When my kid asks you, “What can I do to get more game time?”  Your response, “Everyone will get to play, just some will play more than others”, was a crappy answer.  Repeating your answer doesn’t make it any less crappy.  I was expecting something like, “learn how to serve” or maybe “you should go home and do 100 of those silly exercises after practice”  or even “suck less”.  I thought after pointing this out to you before game 2, you’d be a little more sensitive to the 4 girls who sat on the bench the for 98% of  game 1, only playing the last 5 minutes when all hope was lost or our win was secured.  You weren’t.  They spent game 3 and 4 only playing the last game after we’ve already lost.  I though that you’d be more aware of the situation when McKayla told you she was thinking about conducting a study on which school had the most comfortable benches because she was spending so much time sitting on them.  You weren’t.  The little group of benchwarmers spent 95% of the games on the bench during games 5, 6, and 7.  I thought that things would turn around when we’d lost so many games that it was impossible to win the season.  I thought it would turn from trying to win, to having fun.  It didn’t though.  They spent games 8 and 9 on the bench too. I thought that after someone’s dad yelled “WHY ISN’T EVERYONE GETTING TO PLAY” numerous times during game 9, you’d let them play a majority of the last game.  You didn’t.

I felt bad for McKayla.  I especially felt bad because her siblings and I came to every game, only missing one.  Sometimes the drive was 20 minutes away. In the beginning we came with posters and snacks.  By the last game we were packing books and toys and crochet supplies because we knew there wouldn’t be any cheering on our favorite player. How demoralizing, knowing you have a cheering section who takes up a whole bleacher but you won’t be doing any playing for them to cheer.

I’m sure you don’t have any kids yet, but let me tell you something about childhood sports, sometimes it can be torturous for us parents.  We drive back and forth to practices multiple times a week.  Often the practices aren’t long enough for us to do anything productive, so we’re stuck in the car reading, entertaining, bribing our other children.  We come to the games because we’re obligated.  We’re supporting our kids because we love them, but there are lots more interesting things I could be doing.  Even when our kid is amazing (and I have one of those) we don’t wake up thinking “YES!  I get to go to a little league game today!  I’m so lucky!  I wish we could watch two games today!”

I’ve never seen an adult follow children’s sports, I’ve never met anyone in the stands of a junior high volleyball game who wasn’t related to a kid on the team.  Heck, there are rarely teens in the stands, let alone parents.  So when you see us every week, you should throw me a bone.  Put my kid in.  Let her play.  She might suck.  She might miss every ball, every ball she serves might come up short, but I still want to see her play.  I’m still going to cheer her on in hopes that she doesn’t suck.  And some days, those 2 minutes she plays are the best two minutes of the whole game.  She hits every ball, they rally, they volley, they are amazing, this group of benchwarmers.  Maybe it’s because she’s my kid, maybe it’s because I like the underdog, or maybe it’s because they really want to prove themselves to you.

Next year, you should find out whose parents are in the stands, and put them in.  Let them play.  Because most people are working during the week from 3:30-6, you should take a poll.  If you’re mom comes, you’re guaranteed 25% playing time.  If you’re dad comes 50%.  Let the drive and 90 minutes of spectating be worth it.  Please.

Sincerely,

The benchwarmer’s mom

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I hate cereal

The kids love cold cereal. If they could have it for every meal and then for a snack twice a day, I don’t think there would be any complaining.  I on the other hand am not cereal’s biggest fan.  If I never ate another bowl of cereal again, I don’t think I’d complain, not even once.  I would happily never set foot on the cereal aisle ever again.

There are many things I don’t like about cereal.  There seems to be a direct link with the amount of sugar and artificial flavorings and the amount that the children like the cereal.  I have one blonde hair boy (who shall remain nameless) who picks out all the sugary raisins in raisin bran and leaves the bran flakes.  There is also a direct correlation between the sugar in the cereal and how quickly the cereal gets eaten.  Plain cheerios will stay in the pantry until there is no cereal left. Sugar for breakfast usually results in someone crashing from the sugar high and crying.  Cereal = crying

Besides the lack of nutritional value, I hate the waste factor.

If the child’s appropriate milk to cereal ratio is used, then we are left with cups of milk and cereal remnants in the bowl.  When I insist the left over milk is drank, crying ensues. If my milk to cereal ratio is used, the result is crying, lots of crying.  I can guarantee that either way, someone will cry.  Cereal = crying.

Cereal also seems to be accompanied by these two phrases:

I think you’re eyes are bigger than your stomach. 

and

You can always have more but you can’t have less.

When my kids look back on their childhood, I’m sure that these will be the things that they strive not to say to their kids.  Along with my favorite

You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit

which is usually said when I am insisting that my milk to cereal ratio is used and the back ground noise is crying.  Lots of it.

Cereal’s one saving grace might be the convenience factor.  It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s simple.  It’s particularly nice now that even my youngest can pour themselves a bowl of cereal.  This is extremely nice when someone wakes up at 5 am and is starving.  Without cereal, every 5 minutes, Nathaniel (it’s always Nathaniel) pokes me while I’m sleeping and says:  “I’m hungry.”  Every five minutes!

In theory, cereal should grant me a few extra hours of sleep.  Yet, if the milk is too high, too full, the favorite cereal eaten, the bowl gets too full, not full enough, the milk to cereal ratio is thrown off of balance, then there is crying.  So once again:  Cereal = crying.

And being woken up at 5 am to crying about spilled milk, cereal ratios, and anything to do with cereal is never the perfect start to the morning.  Also, waking up and finding full bowls of wasted milk littering the table makes my blood boil, which results in someone crying (namely me).

This is why I hate cereal.

The day the cereal runs out is a happy day for me. I purchase cereal once a month.  While at the store, everyone can pick their favorite bag (because the bag is just as good as the box AND the bag doesn’t have a cartoon character, a prize, or extra packaging) of cereal.  That’s 6 bags of cereal.  Enough for a month.  When it runs out, we don’t buy more until the following month (and sometimes it can be longer).  The kids usually spend a day or two complaining of the lack of cold cereal, but I find that though I’m a slave to the kitchen for one extra meal, there seems to be so much less crying.  And I can always do with less crying!

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After moving from California to Washington, we seem to look at the map a lot.

Nathaniel and Jacob drag the globe around looking for Washington state and lamenting on how close, yet how far away California is.

Mike is still obsessed with all things military.  He has now expanded past World War II.  The librarian has opened his eyes to others wars; including the Korean War, Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm and probably some lesser known skirmishes too.

“Mom, where is Vietnam?”  “Where is Iraq?”,  “Afghanistan”,  “Libya”, “Germany”?

The history we are doing this year requires map work daily.  Currently we are talking about countries and empires that no longer exist.  It’s not like after the Assyrian empire fell the land crumbled away like in the Neverending Story and ceased to exist.  All of these events took place in places that exist now, they just have  different names.  We are constantly referencing our modern map looking for were Ancient Babylon is at now or were the Fertile Crescent is in relation to us.

We’ve tried many different things with maps.  I’m a sucker for a good map. I’ve hung  maps on the walls.  For awhile we had a large blank map on the wall that we colored in and named countries that we were learning about.  Our new house doesn’t really have a large wall in our school area to house a map though.  We have a fold-able blank laminated map that we wrote on with an overhead projector marker.  All of the fill in maps are a huge hassle though.  They usually requires me looking up the country before we find it on the map.  I’m pretty good about guessing which general region a country is in, but by mere, shape I’m terrible.

I thought about trying to find a small map that we could keep in our history book, but the smaller the map, the less detail, and I love things like mountain ranges and rivers and populated cities.  I tried breaking out the 1978 Britannica World Atlas, but that was completely above all of our heads.  I love details, but not that much detail.

I thought about investing in a cool pull down map like I had in 5th grade. I could mount it over my sliding glass doors.  I could purchase a long pointer stick too. Envision the Awesomeness!  For a mere $200 plus shipping I could be rapping my stick on the table and wall on for the sake of teaching these kids.  I couldn’t convince dave to go for it though.

And then Jessica posted about her table map!

I immediately took my 40% off coupon to Joanne’s to buy myself 3 yards of vinyl because my table is HUGE!   While in line to get the vinyl cut, there was another lady with a roll of vinyl standing in line.   The curiosity within couldn’t resist asking her what she was doing with hers.

Her:  We’re using it to cover our table.

Me:  Us too!  Are you going to put something under it? 

Her:  Yes, we put pictures and the kids artwork under it.  Sometimes postcards from friends that kind of thing.

Me:  We’re putting the WORLD under our ours! (This is when I received the you are crazy lady look).  Well, I mean we’re putting the world map under it. 

Her:  Oh, that’s nice. 

And she turned from us and asked the lady to cut one yard of vinyl for her.

Mike:  She must have a small table.  I don’t think they’ll fit very much artwork and postcards under that.  

Then it was our turn.

Me:  I’d like three yards please.

Cutting Lady:  Wow!  Three yards!  You guys must have a big table!

Mike:  Yep.  We could fit lots of postcards under our plastic.  We can fit the whole world under ours!  The world muahahahaha (because he’s currently obsessed with the evil laugh)!

Nate:  We need a big table because we have lots of kids!

Her:  Oh yes, I can see!  You have 4 boys! 

Nate:  And only one sister. 

We took our 3 yards of plastic home.  Unrolled our world map, trimmed the edges and viola!

This map has been absolutely wonderful!  Dave and Mike had a discussion about colonialism while looking for all the islands which are labeled US.  When the kids start getting particularly rowdy during a meal, I’ll call out a country and everyone will immediately stop talking and start looking.  Amazingly, the preschoolers  are pretty good at finding Canada, The United States and Russia.  Mostly though, they look for letters and play I spy.  (I spy an M on a purple country).

The added bonus of our map is that the bottom portion has the flags of the world.  At first, I was going to cut the flags off.  I’m a perfectionist and lazy though.  I couldn’t find my paper-cutter and it turns out I can’t cut a straight line to save my life.  I’m not quite sure why I’d have to cut a straight line to save my life, but if I did, you could pretty much start planning my funeral.  Thankfully the maps stayed.

Dave suggested we take our country hunt and turn it into a full-fledged game.  I pulled out these stone things from my craft closet and had the boys look for all the flags with stars on them.  We put a marker on them.  Then I divided the flags in half and they tried to see how fast they could find them.  They took the markers from the flag and placed them on the countries as they found them.

Some of them were easy like North Korea, and others were hard and required some mom assistance like Burkina Faso.

Me:  I’m not quite sure where that’s at.  But Burkina sounds like Burkini, so look in the middle east while I consult google maps.

Mike:  Mom!  I need another clue!

Me:  How about Africa.

Mike:   I still can’t find it!

Me:  How about near Ghana?

Mike:  Found it!!!!!

About half way through the game Marshall whined, “Why do so many countries have stars on their flags!”

Mike on the other hand loved it.  “Next time, we should time ourselves and then we can try to beat our time!”

By far, I think this $10 has probably been my favorite purchase this school year!

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