Five things Friday – the TGIF edition

1. This has been an excruciatingly long week for me. I have been having one of those days all week. But, it’s Friday, and it’s almost time to go home, so nothing but blue skies are ahead.

2. One of my very best friends is pregnant, and is having a boy! Yay for tiny little over-alls, ball caps and jammies with monsters on them!

3. I finally paid my fine at the library (I swear, the only reason they even let me in anymore is because they need my fines to build an extension), and I just finished The Night Circus, which was awesome. I can also check out books on my iPad, and they automatically return themselves after 14 days. (Take that, library extension planners!!)

4. Sometime this weekend, I hope to win a game of pool against Denver all by myself – meaning, he doesn’t scratch on the 8 ball, and I win by default.

5. Sunday is Father’s Day!! Big hugs to all the fathers and fathers-to-be!

 

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Instant karma’s gonna get you

    As a parent , there are a lot of things that I can teach my kids by example, and a lot of things that they have to learn on their own. No matter how much we talk about being a gracious winner, there are times when we all get a little too big for our britches, and can’t help but rub in a hard fought win. Likewise, even though we’ve discussed accepting a loss, and not acting like a sore loser, there are times when a sulk magically makes everything better. I’m still the mom, though, and so I’m trying really hard to keep my gloating at a minimum. Remember that tournament that Toby didn’t get invited to? Turns out, the team lost all of the games they played. I do feel a tiny bit bad for the boys who did play, even though a couple of them really are arrogant little jerks. I feel really bad for the kids who played their hearts out and probably still got crap from the coach for messing something up. Mostly, though, I’m secretly thrilled that what goes around really does come around.

 

    

I don’t care if I never go back

    “Hey,” I say to the coach’s wife, “can I ask you a question?” We’re sitting along the ball field fence, waiting for the game to start. I’ve been there for about 30 minutes, as requested by the coach, so the boys can warm up and have batting practice before the game. I’ve been hearing other parents and grandparents talking about having an 8 a.m. game on Saturday, but I don’t know anything about it, and I’m confused. “Is there a tournament game tomorrow morning?”

    She looks up from her score book. “Oh, no, tomorrow’s game is cancelled,” she says. “It was against that team that we beat 15 to 1, and we won’t get any better playing them, so we just decided to cancel it.”

    “Oh, okay,” I say, “just, everyone is talking about some tournament game tomorrow. My husband gets the texts, and he isn’t always the best about passing on the information.” This isn’t actually true, but I think that maybe I can draw her into my confidence, and she’ll explain why I don’t know anything about tomorrow’s game.

    “Well, I do get the emails,” she says, ” and there is no game tomorrow. Our tournaments aren’t until next weekend, we just haven’t gotten the bracket yet.”

    “Okay, thanks.” I check my watch to see how much longer it will be until the game starts, make sure Mason is still sitting in the bleachers with the other kids, and go back to a game on my phone to pass the time. The two head coaches are standing with the umpire at home plate, discussing whatever it is that they discuss before every game. It’s hot, but I’ve managed to snag a place in the shade, and there’s a breeze blowing against the back of my neck.

    “Yeah, we have to be in Scottsboro for a game at 8 tomorrow morning,” someone says behind me. I turn to see two sets of grandparents, trying to maneuver their chairs next to each other, but still make sure everyone is in the shade.

    “Excuse me,” I say, “did you say that we have a game tomorrow?”

    “Yeah, but I don’t think I’ll make the 8 o’clock game. If we win, though, we play again at a different field in the afternoon.”

    “The whole team is playing?” I want to make sure, because the coach’s wife has just assured me that no, there is no game tomorrow, tournament or otherwise.

    “Well, yeah, I guess so.” The man has a strange look on his face, as if he can’t figure out why I would ask such a strange question. Truth is, I feel dumb asking. I mean, shouldn’t I already know? The game is just about to start, so I turn back around and really begin to wonder what the heck is going on. Surely there has been some sort of mistake?

    Another team mom sets up her chair next to the coach’s wife, her original spot having been appropriated by the grandparents. She’s on the phone, and I can hear her side of the conversation. “Yeah, we have to be there for a game at 8, and then again at 9:45…”

    “Shhh!” The coach’s wife leans over and motions that she should be quiet. She says something else to the woman on the phone, but I can’t hear what it is. It seems like she points at me, though, and I start to think that maybe I’m not paranoid after all. Maybe she really did just lie to me about the game.

    Denver walks up behind me, a little late to the game, and I stand up so we can walk a little and I can tell him what I think is going on. Between tears of anger and hurt, I tell him what I think is happening. “Let’s go,” he says, “we’re quitting.”

    He pulls Toby out of the dugout, and I pack up my things and get Mason’s attention. Toby has no idea what’s going on, and he’s crying, too, because he thinks Denver is mad at him. I try to explain what has happened, but I am so angry that I can barely form the words. The words I do manage to spit out are not polite. As I drive home, my hands are clenched so tightly on the steering wheel, my knuckles are white and I end up with half-moons pressed into my palms from my fingernails.

I don’t understand why the coach and his wife decided that it was acceptable to lie to Toby and me. Do they think so little of us that we don’t deserve to be told the truth? If someone had explained that the tournament was only for the best 9 kids on the team, Toby and I would both have understood. Toby recognizes that he isn’t the best player on the team. He probably would have been happy that he didn’t have to get up early on a Saturday. To be lied to is exponentially worse than to be told a difficult truth. Toby has already mentioned that this would be his last year playing baseball, and like a typical guy, he’s already over it. I’m trying to get over it, but my inner 12-year-old keeps crossing her arms and yelling, “that’s not fair!”. This feeling of unfairness, of helplessness to explain why the jocks get to win this one, is regressing me into the girl who always got picked last for the team, who hated gym class, who wanted, just once, to be good at a sport.

I’m sure there’s a lesson here, but I can’t help thinking that it’s a lesson that the coach and his wife will never learn.

Three strikes, mom’s out

    Several weeks ago, just as basketball was ending, we were already talking about starting baseball. I assumed Toby would play, because I assumed he enjoyed it. The grandpa of one of his teammates said, repeatedly, that he really wanted Toby to play baseball for him, that he would be coaching this year, and he thought Toby could be not just good, but great. I secretly hoped that Toby could be a great baseball player, but I didn’t want to be unrealistic or set him with unreachable expectations, and so I signed him up to play. I don’t even remember if I asked him if he actually wanted to. At any rate, the first practice came along, and he refused to go. He was really upset, and he wouldn’t tell me why he didn’t want to play. Since I had already paid the fee, I kept pressing him to tell me why he didn’t want to play anymore. He finally said, “I suck at sports, every team I’m ever on always loses, and it’s all because of me.”

 

My heart broke for him, and I wanted to wrap him up in a big blanket and fix everything. I know that failure is inevitable, but I hated that he blamed himself for games that were neither won nor lost by just one person. I tried to explain to him that an entire team is responsible for both wins and losses. I told him that he was a good first base-man, and that I wasn’t just saying that because I am his mother. I tried just about everything I could think of to coax him out of his funk, but he was so worked up, he was in no mood to be coaxed. Then *I* started to cry, because all I could think was that I has screwed up my job as a mom, if this was how he felt about himself. It was a big ol’ weepfest.

 

Finally, we both calmed down, and I asked Toby if he would at least go to one practice, and if he still didn’t like it, I promised I wouldn’t make him go ever again. He said he would try. The happy ending is that he had fun at practice, and he remembered that he actually did like baseball. The unhappy ending is that even though I am convinced that I did the right thing by making him try one more time, my heart still hurts for him. I don’t subscribe to the belief that we need to coddle our children, always telling them “yes” and “no, of course it isn’t your fault”, because if they don’t learn how to deal with failure or learn to take responsibility for their actions now, then they will get an extremely rude awakening when they leave home and enter the “real” world. I can’t help but think, though, that I must have messed up somewhere along the line, because a 10 year old kid should not be blaming himself for every loss, ever. It seems like parenting is mostly trial and error, and hopefully, I’m getting the important things right.

That was kinda fun

It’s been a very long time since we visited friends in Georgia and Mason first fell in love with horses. Unlike most things, he has not forgotten about Babe and how much he liked riding. Victory Alliance Ranch, which is a therapy horse farm, is just down the road from us, and I finally got in touch with the owner, Karen. She said she’d love to meet us and yes, she’d be happy for us to volunteer.

    As we were driving up, I told Mason that we weren’t here for riding – that we’d have to help around the farm. He was upset by this, and didn’t even want to get out of the car. I probably could have done a better job of explaining everything to him, but I thought that seeing the horses would be enough. When we met Karen, I explained that Mason was upset about not getting to ride. Karen was great, and told Mason that as long as he helped, he would get to ride. Karen had some things to take care of, so one of the other volunteers showed us around the farm and introduced us to the horses. She mentioned that Karen likes for the younger horses to have a buddy, and that maybe Mason could be Cash’s buddy. If I remember correctly, Cash is about 6 months old. When Mason learned that he would have his own horse to look after, he was over the moon. Karen brought Cash in from the pasture, and Mason brushed him. Then, true to her promise, Karen saddled up Beau, and Mason got to ride.


The look on his face says it all. (His face is painted from an earlier trip to the school carnival. He has not grown whiskers recently, as far as I know.)

    We went back last weekend, after making a quick run to the store for barn boots, and mucked stalls. I was a little worried that Mason would not be very happy about scooping poop, but he actually jumped right in and started scooping. When we were done, he said, “That was kinda fun”, sealing his fate as a horse person. He didn’t get to ride, but he did get to visit with Cash again. We will go back this weekend, and there should be at least one new foal for us to see. I’m so glad that Mason has found something just for himself that doesn’t involve his brother. I worry sometimes that he gets stuck tagging along with all of Toby’s sports, and feels left out. I don’t think there’s much chance of Toby thinking stall mucking is fun, so Mason gets this experience all to himself.

    Thanks, Karen, for including us in the herd!


Cash, eyeballing us from his stall.

Mojo lost

    You guys, I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately, but I have just been feeling super uncreative. Every time I go into the sewing room, I look around at the mess I will have to clean up before I can really get anything else done, and I just turn around and walk right back out. For the past two months, at least one person in the house has been sick, and it’s wearing me out, all this sniffling and coughing and general malaise. We have probably used a forest’s worth of Kleenex. I’m thankful that none of us had the flu, but I still wish everyone were back to 100%.

    I haven’t posted any books lately, I know, but I haven’t read anything that I wanted to recommend. In fact, I was so unhappy about the way one ended, I almost didn’t want to start another. I almost posted it yesterday, but I didn’t because I knew I would end up ranting about it. You know what, though? I’m totally going to rant about it now. Spoilers ahead!

    Here’s how Amazon summarizes The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson:

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa has always felt powerless, useless. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could save his people. And he looks at her in a way no man has ever looked at her before. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.”

    Sounds pretty good, right? The concept wasn’t bad, really, it was the characterization that really annoyed me. Elisa is fat – not just pleasantly plump – she is so fat that she can’t see her feet. The author actually points this out on more than one occasion. Her father and sister are perfect and slim and have swan-like necks. Her mother was also slim and perfect, but she died giving birth to Elisa – probably because she was fat, then, too. She is married off to a widowed King with a six year old son and a mistress – who are all also slim and perfect, by the way. The wedding is a political match, but Elisa still hopes that the King will eventually love her as his wife. On top of all of this, Elisa has a Godstone in her navel, given to her by God on her naming day. It means she has been chosen to perform a task that will…. Well, she doesn’t really know what her task is, and so neither does the reader. The fact that she has the Godstone – something that only appears every 100 years – makes her the target of kidnappers who think she can save their people. The kidnappers live miles away, across a dangerous and desolate desert (yay for alliteration!), and in the course of her being forced to travel with them – because to try to escape would mean certain death – she loses weight. She can see her feet! It’s a miracle!! She becomes sympathetic to the kidnappers and realizes that she might not be able to save them, but she can help them fight. The war planning goes on for awhile, she and some others sneak off to spy on the enemy, she learns more about the Godstone and her task, and of course, one of the kidnappers (Humberto) falls for her. I actually liked this part of the story since Elisa wasn’t constantly comparing herself to all of the other…. Oh wait, yes she was. ALL THE TIME. Even as she was explaining her totally brilliant strategy, she was lamenting the fact that she was fat and clumsy. Finally, FINALLY, Humberto kisses her, and she FINALLY realizes that maybe she isn’t a “worthless princess” after all. Yay! (Maybe.) Part of her strategy is to sneak in to the city and basically blackmail the Prince (Councilman? Mayor? Post Man? I forget.) into helping her. They are caught, of course, and HUMBERTO IS KILLED RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER!!! What the poop??!?!?!?? Of course, she goes on to fix everything, but I didn’t even care because I was so annoyed that Humberto had been killed, I wanted to throw the book. I can’t even… Ugh, the whole thing just ticked me off. The entire story could have happened the exact same way without ever mentioning how anyone looked. I could almost forgive the author for making such a big deal about it, if she hadn’t killed off the love interest. So glad that I got that off my chest!!

    Have a good weekend, everyone! Is anyone planning on watching the Super Bowl?

Things I’m reading Thursday – Code Name Verity

    This book. THIS BOOK!!! It broke my heart into a million tiny pieces. I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful this book is because I could not do it justice.


 

    There are two main characters in Code Name Verity, and they both desperately want to help in the war effort as much as possible. But it is WWII, and women don’t fly planes or become spies. Until they do. The book starts with “Verity”, who has been captured by the Gestapo, exchanging secrets to avoid torture and execution. Her captors make her write down everything she knows on any paper that can be found. She writes of her best friend Maddie, the pilot who dropped her off on the mission that resulted in her capture. She writes of how she and Maddie became friends and ended up flying missions, and wonders what happened to Maddie after she flew away. Maddie takes over in the second half of the book, but the plot does not slow down, and there are some truly heartbreaking twists. If you like stories of heroism and history, you are sure to enjoy this book. Just make sure you have some tissues close by.

    What books have you read that made you cry?