Monday, March 29, 2010

Sick Day

My youngest stayed home from school today. He is sick. I will spare you the gory details. He saw the pediatrician, received a diagnosis (bronchitis), got the prescription. So he is sick, but not feeling particularly bad.

He has hardly ever stayed home from school for being sick. Not that I send him to school spreading germs everywhere, it's that he is rarely sick.

He thought today was a bonanza of freedom that he wasn't quite sure what to do with. He slept in, got to have chocolate ice cream before lunch while waiting for his prescription to be filled, and only had to compete with the dog and my email for attention.

He played Wii for a short time, then read a book for about an hour. I was thinking he might fall asleep but no such luck, why waste a day like today sleeping?? He went outside. I walked out a few minutes later to see what he was doing and found him skateboarding. I had to draw the line at that and tell him "no skateboarding when you are sick." Geesh, can you imagine if he fell and broke his arm and I had to go back to the doctor again the same day? And can you imagine the lecture I would get about having a kid with bronchitis who is home from school sick but out skateboarding around??

He got off the skateboard as directed and wandered around the yard. A little while later he came back in to announce, "You know, Mom, catching ants is a lot harder than you think it is."

Later, he decided to put his brother's suit jacket on and wear it around the house. It made his sweatpants look quite formal.

Still later, with him in another outfit altogether, we ran to the grocery store to get supplies for dinner. He whizzed around the store in his Heelys, talking to me incessantly about the new Cadillac something-something he just saw in the parking lot.

I think it was about then that I decided he was going to school tomorrow. This kid might have bronchitis but he is not sick enough to stay home, cuddle on the couch, listlessly watch TV, take naps, and drink herbal tea with honey. Nope. When the alarm goes off in the morning, he is up and out of here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Heavy Sports Weekend

I think I have Toxic Sports Syndrome after this weekend.

Saturday: four games. Starting at 9:00, a baseball game for my youngest son. Followed by a noon game for my middle, then a 3:30 soccer game for the oldest, and topping off the day with a basketball game at 6:15 for my middle son.

Then after the basketball game, a group of parents and boys decided to get something to eat. Sounded like a good idea after a long day. It's not like I had time to get dinner organized at home anyway.

We sat down to chat with some parents we didn't know very well. The conversation veered immediately to the refereeing of the game, the bad calls, and the unfairness. This is after our team won the game. And this was from a mom sitting right next to me. If she was looking to get to know me, she didn't get very far. I didn't participate in the complaining. After trying to steer the conversation to something less sporty several times, I gave up. I had enough. I packed up my terrible restaurant meal in a to-go container and left my husband to pay the bill and round up the boys. I had my own car and drove home enjoying the quiet.

Sunday: two games. Both basketball games for my middle son. He played one game at 2:30, which his team won. That means . . . yes, folks, that means MORE GAMES!!! Actually it is rather exciting. His All-Star basketball team qualified for the state tournament in southern California by winning that game. They played another game at 6:15 which they lost. Again there was a whole lot of complaining, whining and shouting about the quality of refereeing coming from the stands near me. Sometimes I wish there was a section to sit in labeled I'm just hear to sit and watch the game and not the referees, so any complaining you hear is not coming from this section.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dirty Job for Candy

What will an eleven-year-old boy do for $2 worth of candy?

More than I thought.

I offered $2 for unrestricted candy purchases at our Little League snack shack if one of the boys would do a job for me. It's a job I didn't want to do. I asked my husband to do it and he didn't want to either. So more than a week later, I tried the candy bribe. I didn't think it would work.

You see, about eight weeks ago we hosted an event. There was some leftover food that, unbeknownst to me, was placed in our small outside drink refrigerator. Last week, when the weather warmed up, I went out to uncover the BBQ and opened up the refrigerator to check out what was in there. Repulsed by the smell and the mold, I recoiled. The refrigerator wasn't on. I gagged and quickly shut the door again.

My middle son decided to take on the task before he really knew the situation. After checking it out, and gagging, he shut the refrigerator door and thought for a minute. Then, holding his breath, he got out one of the containers of what he called "alien barf" out. He got a whiff and a good look at it, which caused him to gag violently. He set it down and backed away for some fresh air. Watching him pacing and trying to control his gag reflex from in the house, I thought "that's it, he is not going to do it." But he went back! Taking a large breath and then holding it, he approached the toxic mess again with a very concerned yet determined look on his face. After another attempt and getting a small amount of goo on his hand, he sprayed the area down with water, then came to the door requesting a garbage bag and rubber gloves. I handed him both. He took another deep breath and and advanced on the mess yet again.

I should have taken a picture but I was laughing too hard. Then I noticed he was doing all this in his socks. I locked the door to the house so he couldn't come inside until he removed the socks.

Wow did he earn that $2! I might even give him a bonus.

I better figure out what to make for dinner because NO ONE is going to go for leftovers tonight. Gag.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Movie Night

Watching movies with boys ages thirteen, eleven and nine can be painful or siesta-inducing for parents. At least for me it is. I don't necessarily enjoy their choices in movies. I don't want to see animated monsters, hamsters who save the world, anything with the name Transformer in it, or anything with fart jokes.

Fine, call me picky.

Then one day a good friend recommended a movie to me. A sports movie. I was shocked.

I was shocked because this friend, like me, grew up with two sisters, no brothers, and is struggling to understand and cope with this species called "athletic boy."

Of course I had to watch it.

More Than A Game turned out to be one of the best movies I have ever seen with my kids. We laughed, we cheered, we bit our nails, we cried. Well, three out of the four of us cried. The nine year old was a little disappointed there were no fart jokes.

The movie is about LeBron James and his journey to basketball success through high school with his group of four close friends and his coach. There are very few female characters in the movie at all, except for LeBron talking about how important his single mother is to him. Maybe because of the lack of female characters, the movie really felt like a window into the male mind and some of the things that make it tick. It has given me more insight into how important sports can be to boys. It has created an opportunity to talk about sportsmanship, effort, and friendship with my boys.

I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie, and any other kind of tear-inducing, emotionally-wrenching movie with my mom. When these movies come out, I still want to see them with my mom and sisters.

The boy thing, it's different. Sports movies, believe it or not, can make both moms and boys happy. I have a whole new genre of movies to explore. There are several lists online for Best Sports Movies and I plan to add some to my Netflix list.

A Netflix movie has just arrived and it's not a sports movie. It's Lord of the Rings. A friend recently revoked my geek status when I admitted to never having seen it. He shamed me into bumping it to the top of my list. So now I will see if I have any fantasy/science fiction fans in the house while I earn my geek status back.

Add a comment if you have a favorite sports movie you think would appeal to moms, and why.

Tell Me, Show Me, Involve Me

One of my sons' science teachers (who is amazing) has this quote at the end of her emails:

"Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand."

This is a great philosophy for a science teacher who works with 4th, 5th and 6th graders. It turns out that this gem of a quote can apply to all kinds of things besides teaching science. It can also work amazingly well with a 7th grader who has a bad bout of refrigerator blindness and a chronic case of "I'm starving."

A couple months ago, when my son turned thirteen, his food intake, which was not shabby to begin with, started to really ramp up. A check up with the pediatrician confirmed the start of his adolescent growth spurt. An inch in height since then has put us all on notice: this kid needs a lot of food. He even asked me, "Why am I always SO hungry?"

So what's the problem with this?

1. We don't have hot & cold running help that can plan, shop, prep, cook, and manage our family's food.
2. After all the effort I go through to provide healthy delicious food for my family, my teenager stands at the refrigerator with the door open and exclaims, "There is nothing to eat! I'm starving!"

The quote above is so true. I tell him what there is to eat. He forgets. So I started merchandising the refrigerator to make it easier to "shop" inside it for food (see How to Feed A Teenage Boy by Georgia Orcutt for tips). After showing him what was in the refrigerator, that helped. But it wasn't perfect, and he didn't always make good choices for snack or mini meals. So out of frustration, I decided to involve him. And I mean REALLY involve him.

I chose a day when we didn't have a booked schedule and let him know ahead of time that he was going to spend the day with me in the kitchen. We were going to have a "food day." He eyed me suspiciously, thinking it sounded good but not quite trusting what I had up my sleeve.

To prepare for this day, I let my refrigerator get disorganized for about a week and a half. I brushed up on the nutritional requirements of teenage boys. Then the day before our Food Day I went to Costco and the grocery store, stocking up on items for the week and ingredients to make a few recipes. I just stuffed everything in the refrigerator. Now even I couldn't find anything in there.

Then, the morning of Food Day, I had my son go out to the garage and find two big ice chests and bring them inside. Then I put an apron on him (so he felt he had a uniform) and we got down to business.

Emptying out the freezer. Gloves were very helpful to keep hands from freezing!

I had my son completely empty out the entire refrigerator AND the freezer, loading all the contents into the ice chests. As he handled all the food, we talked about his changing nutritional needs. I figured by the time he unloaded everything, he would know what we have. Then I realized this was an excellent opportunity to clean the entire inside of the refrigerator and freezer, so we did that too, talking about food safety a bit also (something teenage boys know NOTHING about by the way). Then I asked him to think about all the contents of both the refrigerator and freezer and how we should organize it and put it all back. We talked more about eating vegetables, fruit, protein, and how many servings of each thing you should shoot for a day. You know, the whole food pyramid thing. He learns about nutrition in school but we talked about specific foods as we were organizing them; what made good snacks, what needed prep or cooking and how to do it, what could be thrown in a soccer bag. What was good to eat just before dinner or after dinner if he was still hungry.

Taking a break from all this work, I taught my son how to make real macaroni and cheese. It was a fairly healthy version from the book mentioned above. He grated cheese, he made a roux, he made dinner for that night.

By the time we sat down that night to eat the macaroni and cheese, I was exhausted. But I was happy because my refrigerator, freezer, snack drawer and pantry cabinet were more organized than they had ever been, and there were TWO people in the house that knew everything we have in the house.

Proudly showing off his organization!

I think I started a tradition because my other two sons asked if they were going to have a Food Day when they become teenagers. I said, "Of course!"

Since Food Day, I have noticed a significant change in the way my oldest son eats at home. He knows where things are. He is making better and more varied choices for snacks. And he is doing a lot more in the kitchen independently, which means less work for me. He still goes for the easy and quick items, he still forgets to put his dishes in the dishwasher, and he isn't great at cleaning up after himself, but I see big progress!

Oh, and last but not least, we had fun together on Food Day. I realized it had been a long time since we spent the entire day together, just he and I, working on something. I think we will both remember the day with fondness and a sense of accomplishment: he as an eater, me as a parent.

"Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Would You Like to Dance?

My oldest son, in seventh grade, has recently gone to his first school dance.

He did not go to the first dance of the year, I think because of fright. But he screwed up his courage, rallied a few friends, and decided to go to the next one.

He came downstairs ready to go. I took one look at him and said, "You are NOT wearing that to the dance. You look like you are going outside to play basketball!" He was in a tshirt and shorts. Basketball shorts.

While I am a HUGE fan of the school uniform on a daily basis, I sometimes think it creates a clothing impairment. My son has a hard time dressing appropriately (in my opinion) for many things except for sports practices or games (which require a uniform). This is compounded by the fact that he doesn't usually have much to choose from given that he is growing at an alarming rate at the moment, one inch in height in the last 60 days.

I understand the desire to fit in with his peers, and not to stand out. This is one of the difficult stages of parenting, both understanding that desire, dimly remembering it, and simultaneously wanting that conformity to be tossed off as soon as possible.

This understanding was not enough for me to drive him anywhere near a dance dressed like that though. Knowing there was absolutely no way he could win the battle, he resigned himself to his new cool jeans and a nice—but not too nice—shirt which featured the apparently unusual qualities of long sleeves and a collar.

Once appropriately attired, I drove him to the dance and dropped him off. On the way, I made sure he knew how to ask a girl to dance. I could feel him rolling his eyes in the dim light of the car. I completely forgot that dances cost money, so I didn't send him with any. Luckily one of his teachers working at the door loaned him the $10.

When I picked him up, I desperately wanted to pepper him with questions, but with effort stayed quiet and let him talk. The first thing he told me was that he was by far the most dressed up person there. I saw this as an advantage, he did not. The second thing he told me was that the girls ask the boys to dance, not the other way around.

WTF? Can things really have changed THAT much since I was in middle school? Apparently they have.

During the first slow song, he was asked to dance by a beautiful seventh grader. I smiled with pride. Then I got the funniest mental picture of them dancing. This particular girl, probably the tallest in seventh grade, is at least seven inches taller than my son. Where exactly was he looking as he danced with her: up at her beautiful smiling face . . . or straight ahead? I couldn't ask that question, but noticed when he talked about that dance he had a certain smile on his face.

Going to the dance seems to have given my son a certain new kind of subtle social confidence. It's hard to define but I see it. Another step toward growing up.

This is a picture of my friend and I going to a middle school dance. We were the epitome of fashion: Gunny Sax dresses by Jessica McClintock. My son looked at this picture with some amusement as a relic from long long ago. Probably he was surprised it was in color and not black and white. Trying to look at it from his perspective, I suppose we did look somewhat bridal. If my son looks at this picture from my perspective, he will understand why wearing BASKETBALL shorts to a dance is just NOT going to happen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Out Standing in the Field

Dearest Friends and Relatives,

Little League season has started. From now until June, you will rarely see or hear from me unless you come out to the field or call me on my cell phone which I will answer from the field (unless I am scorekeeping).

Why, you might ask, is being a Little League mom different from a NJB basketball mom? After all, I have only two boys playing Little League this year, and all three boys played NJB. (One still is still playing basketball, it's that confounding extension of the season called All Stars which overlaps in a big way whatever sport comes next) Being a Little League mom is different because the baseball games last two-and-a-half to three hours, plus the hour-long warm up before the game. From this week on, we have FOUR games a week. Now do you begin to understand why I always say I live out at the field? Because I do! The games are so long, they preempt at least one meal. This necessitates so much organization of snacks and groceries and advanced cooking methods that I sometimes can't keep it together. It makes the fact that my family, and I, don't really like to eat out, a disability. I really should embrace my crockpot but I only have one recipe that I really like made in it.

My boys are very happy during Little League season, they would live in their uniforms if they could. I too have grown to appreciate most of what Little League season brings. So here we go, once again!


Friday, March 5, 2010

Goodbye to Show Business (For A Month or Two)

The show is over.

It took a few days for me to recover. It took my son no time at all. He is thinking ahead to the next show. But first, he must don his cleats and his cup and head out to a few Little League games. Yes, that's right, he chose to play baseball and then try out for the next show which will be staged in the summer.

We are putting away the makeup box and getting out the eye black, trading in the glittery costume for grass-stained knees, and putting the jazz shoes away and lacing up the cleats.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed my stint as stage mom and will miss it. But I've also honed a keen appreciation for Little League over the last several years so I'm happy to hang out on the metal bleachers and breathe in dust for a while.

A few photos from the meet and greet after the last performance.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rain Out

To a mom with three sporty active boys, a rainy day is both a gift and a curse. On one hand, it's like a Get Out of Jail Free card, as I am free from driving to and from any outdoor sport practice or game. This usually leaves me with a little extra time to, oh, I don't know, eat dinner.

On the other hand, dealing with the long faces, moaning, whining, and attempts to throw the baseball around a bit inside the house are not so fun.

I do welcome the occasional opportunity to wipe one or two items off my calendar for a reason that I have no control over.