Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tribute To A Volunteer

I hope a lot of people read this today. Tomorrow it may not be up.

But with the school year having ended, I wanted to say something about a special elementary school volunteer.

When we moved here several years ago, it was so that we could be closer to family. However, it was also because I had a job offer that would allow my wife the opportunity of being a stay-at-home Mom. She made the kids lunches in the morning, drove them to school, and was able to pick them up when the school day ended. From there, she planned activities, made sure they did their homework, and had dinner ready when I got home. It was fine for a while.

But after awhile it didn’t work for her.

So, with the idea of getting more involved in the education of our kids as well as getting to know their teachers, my wife began volunteering at the elementary school. It started slow. She helped in the classroom, but mostly she volunteered in the Media Center (what we used to call a library). She soon found herself at school four days a week, not only working in the Media Center but also teaching science labs. Not only do the teachers know her well, but the kids do, too.

Our older son is in middle school now and will be in eighth grade next year, so he doesn’t see his Mom during the school day anymore. However, he did for the three years he attended elementary school here in Georgia. It kept him on his toes and studying. Our younger son will be in the fourth grade next fall. I don’t know how he feels about seeing his Mom everyday. Secretly, though, he seems to enjoy it.

And I know that her contribution to our kids’ education has been inestimable.

I said at the beginning that this post may not be up tomorrow. My lovely wife is very private. Lauding her contribution to the school and our children’s education publicly could have me sleeping on the couch. At the very least, it will likely get me a call sometime today asking that I remove this.

For now, though, I just want her to know what I think of her.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Finally a Champion (Baseball Part Two)

My two boys enjoy sports. I’ve said that here before. Their experiences are a little different. My younger son plays baseball and has added football. He is pushing us to let him play basketball this coming winter. Though my older son has played basketball and soccer, he prefers baseball and plays that both fall and spring.

They are competitive with each other, when it comes to sports, even though their likes are different. I’m guessing brothers are like that. One of things they’ve competed on is Championships. Each of them was in a Championship game a couple of years ago. My younger son’s team won their game and brought home the trophy.

My older son’s team lost a heartbreaker, up two runs in the final inning before losing by one. I remember that latter game very well. My older son’s team trailed by one going into the final inning and he was first up. He finagled a walk, stole second, and then was brought home for the tying run by a teammate’s hit to center. I remember that my son missed home plate and I began yelling at him to go back and touch it before he got called out. (He didn’t listen to me, but he did listen to his coaches who had realized it as well.)

This season brought my older son back to his second championship game and a shot at finally matching his brother.

My older son is in his first year of Pony League, having moved up last fall. Most kids in Pony are in either 8th or 9th grade. (My son is in finishing 7th grade.) It's his fifth year overall to play. He started in Minor leagues, and then went into Major. Now, he’s completed his first year of Pony.

And it was a nervous night for parents.

To begin with, my son’s team, the Mill Creek Tigers, had an excellent season this spring and were seeded #1 in their post-season tournament. It meant they got to skip the opening round, playing the winner of the game between the #4 and #5 seeds. They had a good night in that second round game and propelled themselves to the championship two days later.

And that’s what brought the nervousness. The Championship game was against the #3 seed, the Mill Creek Reds, a team that started the season slow but finished strong. They were the only team my son’s team didn’t beat during the season. The Tigers played two games against the Reds and both were close. In each game, my son’s team fell apart in one inning and that was the difference.

In this game, it looked to be different. Going into the top of the 5th inning of a seven-inning game, the Tigers led the Reds 9-2. And then the roof caved in. The Reds scored seven runs in one inning, the maximum allowed, tying it up. With the score tied 9-9, my son’s team managed to plate another run in their half of the 5th and made it 10-9.

With hearts in our throats, the Tiger parents watch as the Reds threatened in the 6th and 7th but couldn’t score. The final was Tigers 10, Reds 9. And my son had the championship and trophy he so desperately wanted and that my wife and I wanted for him.

Pony is a different league from the previous ones that little kids play in because Pony is where kids start to drop out of some rec league sports either to play on school teams or concentrate on other sports. In all the leagues below Pony, there are plenty of teams in the league to make up a good season. For Pony (and higher levels), the rec league combines its season with another rec league in order to produce a full slate of games.

My son is looking forward to playing baseball again in the fall and then again in the spring. I do not know, however, if he’ll play beyond that. He’s recognized that his talents may not match his love for the game. Also, there are things he wants to do in high school that may not allow room for baseball.

He’s had great seasons and has game balls from all the times he played, except for this season. The coach didn’t believe in game balls, saying that baseball was a team sport and that the team won or lost. My son understands this. Of all the game balls he has won, one of them is extra special. One season, he had a coach that only gave out a game ball if the team won. The team went .500 that season. My son received one of the game balls for having a two-hit day in which his second hit brought home both the tying and winning run. Until this season, nothing had eclipsed that ball.

Congratulations to my son and to the Mill Creek Tigers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Strike Three (Baseball Part 1)

My nine-year old son takes winning seriously.

In games at home, he pushes the rules trying to eke out any advantage that he can. If he starts losing, he begins to mope, making the game less fun. We cautioned him about his attitude, telling him that he can’t win everything and he needs to learn to be a better sport. Though we think he’s improved, he still shows signs of disgust.

One of the places he does occasionally lose it is on the baseball field. I’ve seen him strike out with kids on base and he goes into the dugout and looks ready to cry. Else, he gets mad and slams his helmet. If his team should lose and one of his hits might have meant the difference, he pouts all the way home.

We’ve told him to cut it out.

We’ve explained to him that it’s a game. It’s okay to be competitive. But, when you cross the line between competitive and being a bad sport, that’s unacceptable behavior.

So it was with trepidation as we watched his at bat at a crucial juncture in a playoff game last week. His 7th seeded Reds were leading the 2nd seeded Rays 5-2 in the third inning. Bases were loaded and there was no one out. My wife and I were hoping he could get it through the infield. He’d singled up the middle in his previous time at the plate. He fouled off six pitches, including a long fly ball, before the ump rung him up looking. He turned, disgusted with himself, his face showing anger. If he could have squeezed a dent in the aluminum bat, he would have done so.

And then he walked back to the dugout and sat down. He was mad. But he didn’t let it get to him.

I walked over, high-fived it with him, and told it was a great at bat.

“Dad, that ball was outside,” he said.

“I know,” I told him. “Nothing you can do about it.”

The next two kids struck out to end the inning. No runs scored. The other team came back in the bottom of the third inning and took the lead 6-5. After the third inning, the game was called on account of time elapsed.

My son felt as if he let his team down.

I assured him he hadn’t.

Trailing 6-5 and with only one out, he took the mound. The previous pitcher had run out of pitches and his team needed two quick outs to hopefully get another inning. He gave up a hit to a close friend on his first pitch, before striking out the next two kids (which included another close friend). However, time had elapsed anyway. They didn’t get another shot.

After the game, my wife and I told him how proud we were of his attitude. We bought him his favorite, french fries, his treat for when he does well.

Because he had.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shirts and Caps

I spent four years in Japan, living there from July 1990 – July 1994. When I moved there (can’t believe it’s now more than 20 years ago), I worked in the public school system for my first year, teaching English to Japanese middle school kids. From there, I spent two years with a machine tool company and one with a magazine publisher.

One of the things I always noticed when I lived there was when school kids went on field trips. I don’t mean like going to baseball game or some other type of school function. I mean field trips where they would go sightseeing various temples for a day or possibly an overnight trip. It was hard to miss these kids.

Every one of them was wearing matching shirts, caps, and backpacks.

I always thought of it as being a good idea, though I didn’t remember doing the same when I was a kid. Also, I heard some parents in Japan complain about the costs of these items (particularly the backpacks, though these were obtained for school and they all happened to match). Still, as I saw a small number of teachers and chaperones herding a large number of kids, I couldn’t help but appreciate the safety aspect of it all.

I never imagined seeing anything like that here in the U.S.

And technically I still haven’t.

However, my older son recently went on his first overnight school trip for a music competition in Tennessee. I was thankful a little bit of safety. They bought three t-shirts, one for each day of the trip. They wore the shirts on a schedule that made sure all of the students were dressed the same each day. I’m sure it made life easier for the chaperones, though I’m sure it was still difficult keeping up with a bunch of teenagers. They didn’t have the caps and backpacks, but that was okay.

They all came home safe.

They even finished second in their musical competition.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Exhibition of Pictures

My third grade son took a trip recently to downtown Atlanta to see how government works. (A bunch of third graders watching adults act like third graders. It promised to be fun.)

One of the things he wanted to do on his visit to the capitol was to take pictures. This was not a first for him. He often borrows his Mom’s camera and takes pictures of my wife and me when we’re on family trips. He will also borrow the camera at family gatherings. (My wife says he’s a better photographer than I am. My wife also blames my poor photography as the reason for having no decent pictures of her for several years of our marriage.)

Still, there was no way my son was going to be allowed to take my wife’s camera to downtown Atlanta without his Mother or I with him. So, my wife bought a disposable camera for about five bucks at Wal-Mart. He happily took it with him and finished off the roll that afternoon.

The problem came when we tried to get them developed.

My wife initially took the camera to CostCo, a place where we get pictures developed when we want prints made from the disc in her camera. CostCo turned her away. They don’t handle film anymore. She drove to a couple more places. No luck

Eventually, she figured out one place that might take the pictures (I think she went back to Wal-Mart.) and was able to drop them off. It was relatively costly compared to what people used to pay for things like this. Gone were the days of double prints for a low price. Developing film was a service the store still offered, but they didn’t do a lot of it. We got single prints and it was costlier than what we pay for prints from a disc.

My older son has a school trip soon. He’s going up to Tennessee. My wife is considering sending a disposable camera with him as well. (Yes, he’s also a better photographer than I am.) I look forward to seeing the pictures of his trip.

A few weeks ago, my younger son asked me if I was around when people played music on ‘big black CDs.” I told him the word was “records” and said I had been around.

I never expected developing film to go the way of the record.