Watching You Play

Little league rule 101: if the pitcher hits two batters, he is relieved of his pitching duties.

Charlie was selected to be the team’s starting pitcher for the first game of the season.  He earned it.  He throws really hard,  when he warms up, our parent coaches are constantly shaking their mitted hands in pain.  But, Charlie is not too accurate.

While he did well in the first inning, he had gotten himself into a bit of a jam in the second inning – he hit a batter, and loaded the bases without getting any outs.  After taking a deep breath, Charlie winds up and hurls. The baseball smacks the batter. We all know what this means, especially Charlie.  He lowers his head and pulls his cap down, covering his face.  The coach jogs to the mound, gets down to his level, takes the ball, and pats the brim of his cap.  With his head down, Charlie slowly walks to the outfield.

“Hey, left field, you want to pitch?”

The left fielder is my kid.

My guy did not pitch a lot last season although he really wanted to.  He did, however, show promise at the first practice. I could feel his surprise that he was called to the mound.  Me? He trotted to his new position and took the ball from the coach.    

There are many types of parents and relatives watching a little league game.  I am the pacing, loud baseball-loving mom. I am a bit annoying to talk to while watching my kid play.  In the middle of a an intense conversation, I will interrupt with a “ GOOD EYE” or “THAT’S ALL RIGHT WE WILL GET EM NEXT TIME”

I tend to sit alone sometimes.  I am quite aware that it is hard to speak to someone who has baseball Tourette’s syndrome. Eighty-seven percent of the time, I want my only child to endure triumph and failure through challenging personal experiences.  I know successful people are resilient; it is a quality I want my kid to possess. But, thirteen percent of the time, I want him to live in a land filled with bubble gum that whitens your teeth and  vaccines that truly feel like a pinch.  As he approaches the mound, I am thinking maybe we can go for fortitude in the next game, I don’t want him to be the goat of the first game of the season.

Especially, since, his team, the Fireballs are the reigning champions.  Last year, the kids played in the  Pony League for eight to nine year olds.  Every other year, the last game of the season ended with lots of donuts and trophies for all who played.  In the Pony League, every team played two playoff games.  The two teams who had the most points scored and best win/loss record qualified for the championship game. Only winner and runner-up earned trophies.  And, the winner’s trophy was much bigger than the runner up’s.  Most kids would go home trophyless. You read that right, there would be tears, disappointment, but, still donuts.

As much as we love our little fireballs, nary a mom or dad thought the team would be the champions.  So much so, many parents made plans to go away the weekend of the big game.  We were not terrible, but, you know the team that comes from behind?  We were the other team. While we lost the first game 3 to 2 (as usual, we held the other team scoreless until the bottom of the last inning), we won the second game, 15 to 1 having won the lottery in being chosen to play the worst team in the league.  Unfireballish, we won the championship game in a nail-biting 2 to 0 victory.  

My little guy breaths in deep. And, I hear him say:

This Is  AWESOME.

While he hits the first batter, he strikes out the side.  

I would like to tell you that that was the moment he became the ace pitcher of the team, but, alas, this is baseball, the metaphor for life.  In the next game, he got three easy outs and bonus we scored five runs so my kid was protecting a lead. I was so happy.  The sun was shining, it was going to be a great day.  But, I forgot there are seven innings in a little league game (or two hour limit, whatever comes first).  

In the next inning, he walked the first two batters.  The next batter got a hit and a run scored.  Still, no outs, and a man on first and second.  A few more walks and an error (that really hurt) and now bases are loaded and no outs.  Batter up.  My nine year old pitches and the batter hits a long fly ball that passes third base just where I am standing.  I can see my kid watching the ball and I feel his praying that the ball go foul.  It does not.  It drops  in front of me barely in fair territory.  Worse yet, the ball rolls and rolls and rolls.  Our left fielder is now chasing the ball and not gaining any ground.  My husband/videographer presses stop on the record button of his phone.  This is not a video we are going to play at Thanksgiving for the grandparents. Meanwhile, the  base runners dash around the bases. And, when the batter comes home, the whole team greets him. Loud cheers, baseball caps flying in the air.  My guy puts his head down, the coach sends him to the outfield.  I fight all I have not to run on the field, pick him up, and take him home.  It was a long car ride home.  I would like to say that we used this as a learning lesson but we all felt so heartsick.  We lost the game and my little leaguer felt like he let his team down.

This team feels like his April to June brothers as most of the team has been together for four seasons.  My guy started this league when he was in kindergarten.  These kids knew nothing about the rules of baseball.  A ball gets hit and the whole team, even some members of the opposing team, run after it. The outfielder missed the fly ball because he was busy picking his nose.  The second baseman runs off the field because he had to go the bathroom.  Parents trying to give some form of encouragement, like screaming good eye when the batter does not swing at a ball ten feet over the batter’s head.

The core of this team stayed together over the years and we watched them grow into big boys and pretty decent players.  Now, they are hitting the ball, making defensive plays, and arguing with the umpire.  They developed a love for the game, one player eats dinner wearing his helmet.

Throughout the years, it was fun to watch the families, too. Pregnant one season, chasing a kid the next.  The fedora wearing grandfather sitting  in his fold up chair, not saying a peep until someone asks what’s the score.  Some parents getting a little too competitive: stopping the game to bring out the baseball looseleaf rule book, and arguing the rules to the volunteer umpire, a high school senior.  

When we got home, our baseball player announced that he was no longer going to pitch.  While we did our best to tell him stories of great resilience (did you know Michael Jordan did not make the junior varsity team?), we knew that this experience could potentially crush his desire to play this sport, and we did not want that outcome.  

Next morning, it was time for another game.  It did not help that it was raining but not hard enough to cancel the game.  My kid who is normally pretty happy and hyper was somber matching the weather.  

The coach sent Paul to pitch and my guy trotted off to left field.  Our pitcher was doing well, got two outs.  But, his luck changed. He loaded the bases, and he was shaking his foot.  The coach went to the mound, checked the foot, and took him out of the game. As the two walked off the field, the coach turned towards the outfield and signaled that my guy should take the mound.

Anybody have xanax?  Is there a cardiologist in the house?

I was so proud of him that he did not refuse to take the ball, and, like in the first game, he trotted to the mound.  But, I still needed a schedule IV narcotic.   Like he was starring in his own G rated feel good movie, he struck out the next batter.  And, lucky for us, the skies opened up and the game was canceled.  

What happened to our team? We found out that Charlie was holding the ball wrong and he became quite the Nolan Ryan junior.  We made it to the championship game, but lost 5 to 3.  In tears, the coach thanked the team for playing so well and added that he felt like he had 10 sons.  Me too.

Eight years from now when my little guy asks, what should I write my college essay on, I know these experiences will be at the top of my idea list.   I am hopeful that after this season, I will be a little calmer watching him next year.   Even so, it is a real joy to watch my kid play in times of errors and hits.

 

 

Pet Shopping

scorpion-23158_1280 (2)I was not drinking at the time I promised my nine year old a pet scorpion.

My fourth grader, after much thought, decided to write about scorpions for his independent study. From the second he made that selection, we were all about scorpions: researching and ordering books from the library, talking about these arachnids, and discussing how to structure his report. In our search, I found a book titled “How to Take Care of Your Pet Scorpion.” As I have perennial guilt for not giving him a sibling, I started thinking maybe we can get him a pet scorpion! We would be the cool family on the block. “Come over and see Frank our pet emperor scorpion.” Without doing any further investigation or consultation with my husband (whoops!), I asked my child if he would like a pet scorpion.

In a millisecond after I enunciated the “en” in scorpion, his eyes enlarged to owl size and his mouth opened to snake aperture before it eats its prey.

“Can we go now to get one?”

It was eight in the morning on a Sunday. So, I had three grueling hours of “what time is it?” until the local pet store opened. More important, I now had the time to do some research.

This is what I found. According to the Health Code of New York City, it is illegal to own “all bears (including polar, grizzly, brown and black [not teddy]…venomous spiders… and scorpions” Uh oh. I am in big trouble. I rushed back to the source, flipped to the very very very back of the book and found in a small grey box “scorpions are dangerous, check state regulations to assure that you can own one.” Now you tell me. Clearly, this should have been in the prologue or in the title, something like, “How to Take Care of Your Pet Scorpion: If Your State Allows It.” I guess the book would not sell with such a title.

Lucky for me, my kid took it pretty well when I pinched his dreams of being a scorpion owner. I think he knew that New York City would never allow one of its residents to have a pet that could sting causing pain and/or death. (I guess the first rule in getting a pet is: don’t get one that can kill you). I, however, now had double the guilt, and I was desperate to atone for my sin and make my offspring happy. A mantra was playing in my head “I must get my child a pet” and it was on repeat, getting louder by the minute.

On the way to the pet store, we discussed the types of pets to be considered to join our family, and my kid’s first idea was snake. I really hate snakes. My ophiophobia can be traced to my fourth grade year when one of my male classmates brought in his pet snake for show and tell. But, it was not just the snake in the tank; it was temporarily sharing his home with an unsuspecting cute white mouse, aka dinner. As part of the learning experience, we watched the snake and mouse hang in the tank together for a while until the snake got hungry. How terrifying to not only watch the mouse being swallowed whole but also to bear witness to it being digested. When I found out I was having a boy, my first fear, among many, was that he would want a snake. I was now starring in my own horror movie.

I resigned myself to the fact that I just may have to get him a snake to make-up for my broken promise. I now had a new song sounding in my head, on calm whisper, snakes are okay, snakes are okay, snakes are okay. I prayed for a vegetarian one.

We made a beeline to the reptile and “non dog and cat” section (my kid has allergies). Along with the snakes, there was a tank with one gecko. I did not know much about this creature but at first glance I was in love.

“What do you think?” My little guy was slightly intrigued, inspecting the gecko in the tank. Meanwhile, my husband, who was surprisingly and eerily quiet, was checking out the gerbil and hamster selection. I did my frantic mommy wave to come over, mouthing I think I found something good.

Like spidergeckoman, our future family pet was walking all over the sides of the tank taking pauses to look at us, confirming the feeling was mutual. He had great qualities for a pet: loving, playful, and on sale!

“What does he eat?” I asked the salesperson.

“Live crickets. And, worms, mostly”

“Worms?”

“Worms are like candy to them.”

I never thought I would say worms are the least of my problems. Getting back to the crickets, we found out that geckos eat these buggers about three times a week. As you have to buy them live, you need to get about ten on a weekly basis.

“When are you going to get them?” asked my husband trying very hard to suppress his doubts and laughter.

“I’m off on Fridays.” I really wanted this to work.

“You can also store many in a cricket pen,” the salesperson chimed in. So, for the eight inch gecko, I would need a gecko habitat, tank for its live food, and shelf for the worms.

“Is there such a thing as dried crickets?”

“We do carry dried crickets” yay! “but” crap “geckos like to hunt for their food, and they get kind of sad if they don’t.”

Nobody wants a depressed gecko. Then, what would be the next step? Prozac? How do you feed a pill to a reptile? I took a deep breath, meditated for a second, convincing my conscience that I could deal with crickets and worms residing in my apartment that I worked very hard to decorate. There was, however, another issue looming in the gecko feeding process.

“How do you get the crickets in the tank without the gecko jumping out?”

“Easy, some of my customers spray water on the gecko while dropping the crickets in the tank.”

I have caused numerous long lines and hmmphs and eye rolls at several grocery stores with my inability to put away my dollar bills and change at the same time. During feeding time, I envisioned spritzes of water all over the tank and me, crickets hopping, and a gecko geckoing all over my apartment and parts of Brooklyn. Worse yet, signs on our building door, asking has anyone seen Gordon our gecko (with a cute picture) and apologizing for the cricket infestation. We certainly would not be the cool family; we would be that family.

I turned to my kid. “How do you feel about the gecko?”

“I have a problem feeding my pet something live.”

When we got home gecko-less, my husband ordered our little non pet owner several scorpion keychains and doodads and a scorpion necklace for me. And, through a not for profit, I adopted a scorpion in my kid’s name.

Done. Now time for that drink.

 

Bro

Last year, we were lucky; our little guy was just a half inch short of the height requirement necessary to go down the cannonball slide. Kids grow. So, this year, he just made it, and he was excited to put his new height into good use.

Neither my husband nor I have the amusement park/fearless gene (I was born with the easily nauseated, scaredy-cat DNA) so we did not scream yippee! when the top of his head peaked over the red line. I drew the short straw so I was forcibly elected to be the one to take the cannonball-heighted kid down the ride. While my son was excited to take this plunge, deep down — really afraid. So, I had to look strong and enthusiastic about the journey.

Step, step, step, platform, turn, step, step, step, platform, turn, when is this climb going to end? I should have realized it was going to take a long while to get to the top of a 60 foot drop. Trekking up this monstrous slide, gave the rider (me) a ridiculous amount of time to contemplate this decision. By the time I got to the top, I could have been legally committed. I fantasized a pharmacy or drug dealer nearby.

But, I had to snap out of this haze as I had an eager companion, my eight year old kid who just schlepped this heavy toboggan looking sled up an infinite number of steps. (He looked really cute, too). Because of the cloudy weather, when we reached the top, nary a soul was there; with one exception, the waterslide attendant who was reclining on the fold-up chair with his feet lying yet on another chair. He wore aviator sunglasses, had a skin color that could have been named Benjamin Moore summer suntan, and thick black shiny hair. Clearly, he worked out. I assumed he had cool name, like Jake or Luke; and Katie, was one of his many girlfriends.

“Hey, bro, which slide do you want?”

I was trying very hard to control my nerves but I was having trouble breathing from the arduous hike, the Colorado like air quality, and my imminent heart attack. Bro boy was not helping.

“Which slide is the fastest?”

“Bro, both slides are the same.”

With all his might, my offspring lifts his very heavy sled in the groove of the slide. He is ready to go.

“Need some help there, bro?”

Meanwhile, I am frozen, cannot put my sled into the other slide. I take a look at the drop; the path my sled will go. This does not help; I feel my breakfast coming up. The slide will fall straight down, not even a hint of an angle. I’m done. Perhaps, it is time for my child to learn the lesson that you don’t do things that you are not comfortable with. I convince myself that he will find this useful in his teens when he is pressured to try drugs.

“I don’t think I can go down.”

“Well, mom, if you don’t go, I won’t go.” Oy. Bad mommy. I just ruined his joy of reaching cannonball slide height.

Bro-boy came over to me. I whisper to him, “has anyone ever died on this thing?” In a low voice back to me, without the bro and surfer tone, “ I promise, it is very safe. You’ll have a great time.”

With new bro-confidence, I put my sled in the slide and get aboard. My guy gets in his.

“Need a push, bro?”

“You’re not going to push me until I say it’s okay?”

“Hey, bro, it’s my job to make sure you have a good time.”

If I survive this ride, I am going to give this guy a recommendation. And, off we go. I must admit, it was a tremendous amount of fun. And, me and my guy went again. And again.

Thanks, bro.

Disease Notice

I couldn’t understand why my husband got that upset. Diagnosis: benign. Worst case scenario, I grow my hair long.

I reported to my other half that the doctor confirmed that the newly discovered lump on the side of my face was a lipoma, a fatty deposit aka no cancer. He, however, heard lymphoma, a tumor in the lymph nodes which meant the Big C, very bad news. Say lipoma ten times fast on a cell phone with so-so reception and it does sounds a lot like lymphoma.
Which made me wonder, who decided on this name? And, didn’t anyone say, hey Bob, you know lipoma differs from lymphoma only by four letters, shouldn’t we rename it? We are going to cause heart attacks and unnecessary tears.

Discovering new diseases, frequently named with malpractice is commonplace for me. As a parent, I am forced to learn the symptoms, treatment, and prognosis of ailments, rashes, and diseases.

And, any mom or dad will tell you that you find out about the latest epidemic from opening up the red folder in your kid’s school knapsack. There is usually a long letter from the principal describing the latest infection that is going around the school. What disease could my little angel get today? Equally heart-racing is opening up an email from camp or school with the subject line NAME OF DISEASE REPORTED or my personal favorite, ANOTHER CASE OF NAME OF DISEASE CONFIRMED.

Here are the top three:

FIFTH DISEASE

Does your child look like someone slapped him/her? No need to call the principal to find out what is going on in the classroom. More likely than not your child has contracted fifth disease. When I got this letter, I thought I missed the first four letters discussing first, second, third and fourth disease. The practical joker who named this disease chose it because it is the fifth of six rash-forming sicknesses. Rashes numbering 1 through 4 and 6 use their aliases like rubella, measles, and roseola. It is like naming your six children, Abby, Betty, Carlos, David, Five, and Freddy.

COXSACKIE

This blister and temperature rising virus is also called hand foot and mouth disease because that’s where your kid will have these pustules. Don’t fret; it is not foot and mouth disease which farm animals get. Phew. You can go back to the zoo. As this virus was first confirmed in the lovely village of Coxsackie, New York, the town became its namesake. When the mayor got the news that they were chosen to be the name of the virus, did he/she complain or was there a parade?

LICE

Are you itchy? Just getting this notice will make you scratch your head, a lot. I had lice in college, and at that time, you could get kwell, a shampoo that killed lice on contact. It is no longer on the market, I think, because it causes cancer (or maybe lipomas?). I miss kwell. I would buy it on the black market if I could. Now, if you contract the non-jumping crawling buggers, you get them out using a not so potent non cancer causing shampoo and Pantene conditioner (to comb out the dead critters) in several uses. Buy a lot of candy; you’ll need it to get your kid do yet another comb out. A good sign of a lice epidemic is checking the local pharmacy. An empty shelf where the Pantene is supposed to be or a sign “Pantene on order” equals lice infestation.

I think it is safe to say that you won’t just get one letter or email alerting a case of lice; there will be several. Your kid will not have a case of louse; it will always be the plural, lice.

I didn’t need to consult the Merck Manual or WebMD for this contagion. At the very least, this one is aptly named.