A Bunch of 10-Year-Olds Handled Their Loss More Gracefully Than a Grown Person (Hint: That’s Me) Tonight

My daughter’s softball team won their first game all season on Tuesday night. There was a lot of rejoicing, high-fives and chest bumps. The girls were excited, too. It was an away game and on the adjacent field I saw the team we’d be facing tonight. The players looked huge, even from a distance, and the pitcher intimidating: she threw fast and accurately.

That team thumped us tonight. And that really wasn’t so terrible, in and of itself. They had at least two girls who were older than the rest and probably were filling in for players who couldn’t make it. (Last spring, we had older girls.) The pitcher was good. We didn’t get a base runner until she–and her replacement–came out.

As the visiting team, we sat on the third base side. And got to listen to the other team’s third base coach aggressively manage the running game. I can understand sending runners the first two innings of a game, just to get a feel for the opponent and take advantage of any jitters. But each and every inning ended with the mercy rule: the other team scored five runs. And the coach was just as aggressive in the first inning as he was in the fourth, when he was up by 15 runs and it was pretty obvious there was no way we could come back and win. And when I mean aggressive, I mean he sent runners for extra bases on every single overthrow and error our team made (again, when he was up by 15 runs) and got angry when his players didn’t follow his direction.

It was difficult to watch as a parent, not because of the losing but because of the lack of sportsmanship. It’s an educational league. A W is a W. You don’t get super secret bonus runs for triggering the mercy rule.

But our team never gave up. The third-string pitcher wasn’t nearly as intimidating, and the girls started to hit. And it turned out the other team was capable of making throwing and fielding errors too. My daughter hit the ball two feet in front of the plate and not only was she safe on an overthrow, she knocked in a run. The girls, who never stopped chanting, shouting out cheers and supporting their teammates, loaded the bases and kept on fighting. It would have been understandable if they were sullen or sarcastic. (I, on the other hand, was acting like a cast member for a new reality show called Softball Moms.) Two of the girls got hurt and stayed in the game.

I’m proud of the girls and for the coaches who instilled those values in our players. And I promise to be a better sport the next time we play this team.

A Bunch of 10-Year-Olds Handled Their Loss More Gracefully Than a Grown Person (Hint: That’s Me) Tonight

Our Second Child

My parenting spirit animal is Bunmi Laditan, a writer who is behind the hilarious Honest Toddler on Twitter. I’m still a social media square so I follow her on Facebook. She posted a gem last week: “Our second child is a drunk version of our first child.”

It’s like this woman lives in our home.

My daughter has a quiz today on state capitals. I usually let her manage her own studies, but considering how well she prepared for her piano exam, and how she was watching a lot of television that was not about state capitals, yesterday I randomly asked her what the capital of Kentucky is. After doing her best impression of a deer in headlights, she admitted she needed to brush up, so I made her some flash cards. (The capital of Kentucky is Frankfort.)


(On her first go round with the cards, my daughter missed 15 capitals. I told her that would be a 70 percent, and she said, “That’s still considered proficient,” and then I asked if she ever met me, because I know she’s capable of a lot more than proficient and I’m not going to let her slide.) 

We were reviewing the flashcards this morning before school. It went something like this:

Mom: “Kansas.”

First child: “Topeka.”

Second child: “Butts!”

Mom: “Wyoming. Wyoming is important because it was the first state to ratify the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.”

First child: “Sha-nay.”

Mom: “It’s pronounced Shy-Anne.”

First child: “I know it as Sha-nay. I’m the one taking the test.”

Second child: “The capital of Wyoming is Butts!”

Mom: “You’re being inappropriate. Stop saying that. Nevada.”

Second child: “Carson City!”

First child: “MOM!”

Pause while I glare at second child.

Second child: “Butts City.”

Our Second Child

Letting Kids Fail

My daughter’s personality has her perfectly poised for a successful school career. She responds well to direction and thrives in an environment with rules. For the most part (two examples will be discussed in depth below), she is extraordinarily self-motivated in group and solo projects. I don’t help her with anything unless she asks; her projects for school and for scouting (which instills leadership by insisting all projects be girl-led) are truly her own.

We’re in the throes of the spring sports season. My daughter plays on an Under 10 softball team that travels twice a week for games. Let me explain: softball isn’t nearly as popular as it was when I was 10. Girls in our neck of the woods tend to gravitate toward soccer and lacrosse during the spring. We travel to play other girls in our county. It’s an educational league. We don’t go up and down the eastern seaboard playing in tournaments. In fact, our team hasn’t won a game yet. Our coach, who’s worked with all kinds of softball teams at all different levels, told us at the beginning of the season that his expectations for the team were all about learning the game, and not necessarily winning. Many of the girls have never played before. They lose every game, but each time they improve: They get more hits. They score a run or two. They steal bases. They get more base runners. They get more outs (instead of the mercy rule constantly kicking in). They know where they need to throw the ball. This is softball, so they learn all kinds of ridiculous cheers to support their teammates. Yes, it can be disheartening to never win. But they wouldn’t be able to learn the game otherwise.

When the team plays an away game, it’s a huge chunk of time out of our evening. I usually leave the house at 4:30 and don’t get home until 8:30. There’s not a lot of time to do much else after school except pack sandwiches for dinner and change into the uniform. My daughter doesn’t get a lot of homework that she isn’t able to finish in school, so the only thing that suffers is piano practice.


My children have lessons once a week and in theory are supposed to practice every day. Practice has been much more of an issue lately because it’s exam time. The teacher, who is kind and patient, gives a mock exam a month before the actual test, the week before. My daughter struggled to learn one of her selections for the exam, and then blew off practicing regularly over the last few weeks for one reason or another. (She always had time for TV, however!) At her last lesson, she was inconsolable because the teacher told her unless there was dramatic improvement, she’d fail. Then the teacher asked me if I wanted to cancel the exam, and I said no. I didn’t make matters any better by reminding my daughter this could have been avoided if she’d managed her time better and didn’t watch as much television. But she wasn’t going to learn anything unless she failed her exam. Even after the disastrous lesson, she still fought me about practicing. She took the exam yesterday morning and in all likelihood didn’t pass. But if I cancelled the exam, she would have learned that her behavior led to an avoidance of the consequences of her actions. She’s got to learn that her choices can have unpleasant results, and the only way to do that is to let her fail.

Letting Kids Fail

Eternally Awkward

Besides this blog, I’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts. My oldest is going to start fifth grade next year and I feel the need to master as much social media as I can before she does, so I can monitor her digital footprint. I’m OK with everything so far but Snapchat, which feels like one big seizure waiting to happen. I know there are others; I have sources who see me as a harmless square and will tell me what everyone is using on their phones.

The Internet has a perfect memory, and anything–ANYTHING–stupid is helpfully archived for perpetuity. I’m so thankful we didn’t have it when I was my daughter’s age. Middle school was difficult enough with call waiting, in which one person would be on hold while the other two talked about her. 

I was reminded of middle school (and all of the emotions surrounding that time in my life) yesterday when one of my former classmates posted our eighth grade graduation photos. I couldn’t even tell you why I’m Facebook friends with this person, because she barely talked to me when we were in school; she ran with a much more popular crowd. But she sent me an invite a few years ago, I shrugged and accepted her request, and didn’t think too much of it. During the past year or so, she posted random throwback photos, and it culminated in her yearbook post today. Now there is a permanent worldwide digital evidence of me at my most awkward.

We graduated in 1990 and as you can expect the hair on the girls is pretty egregious. I remember fretting over my hair for hours, trying to tease and spray my bangs just so. I have a cowlick smack dab in the middle of my forehead and there was no way I should have had bangs in the first place. My hair wasn’t nearly as tall as some of the other girls in the class, but you definitely can tell I had a mullet: it was my mother’s version of a compromise. I wanted to grow my hair out and she wanted it short. In seventh grade, one of the nuns was standing behind me and thought I was a boy. I was so mortified that I became obsessed with becoming more feminine. There was nothing I could do about my bust, so that left my hair. It easily was the number one topic my mother and I fought over until I grew my hair out at 15. It’s never been that short again, although I had bangs until senior year of college.

But there’s more than the hair! There’s the large glasses; I’ve been near-sighted since the third grade. There’s a monstrous overbite that wouldn’t get corrected until high school, after a two-and-half year stint of orthodontics.

A few classmates liked the photo; others responded to reminisce about the school. (It was closed in the aftermath of a sex abuse scandal; the archdiocese shuttered several schoolsand parishes to make up the money it had lost paying legal fees to lawyers and settlements to victims.) There was a thread devoted to the nun who was our homeroom teacher. I’ll always remember her for being forthright and honest about the Catholic Church’s history (“Luther made some great points. The Church was undoubtedly corrupt.”) but she was incredibly nasty and in general an unhappy person. She would have us diagram long sentences and if anything were wrong, she’d write the student’s name on the board for everyone to see, and she’d assign difficult homework. You know, instead of actually showing us how to do it correctly so we wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

I ended up not saying anything because I didn’t have anything to productive to say. I mean, most days I feel just as awkward as I looked at 13, even though I filled out and now lots of people (except my mom of course) like my hair. I certainly don’t miss that time in my life, although others said they did. But now I know I pretty much can’t run for public office.

Eternally Awkward

Power and Rationality Outage

A couple thunderstorms ripped through our area last night and we lost power for a couple hours. We live in a part of the country where spring and summer storms can be volatile; it’s nothing unusual. The kids learned our piano is not electric and therefore they could still practice despite Electronic Armageddon: May Edition.

On the other hand, it took a great deal of strength to keep myself together. Power outages didn’t bother me until about three years ago, when a vicious ice storm left us without power for four days. I learned our house is the only one hooked up to its own transistor that needed to be replaced, so when the power company was restoring outages, staff worked on those  areas where the greatest number of people were affected. A single house on its own transistor got kicked way down the priority list. To be fair, our neighbors offered us everything from generators to their own homes while we waited an extra two days. The power company called in reinforcements from Georgia and Alabama. (Despite my fervent promise that I would not talk smack about Atlanta Braves legend  tool Chipper Jones for a whole entire week, the Georgia Peaches did not have the equipment to help and as they drove away, I taunted “LAR-RY, LAR-RY” really loudly because that’s Chipper’s real name and I’m extremely mature.)

Last night, power was restored within two hours. But in those two hours, my anxiety kicked in big-time. We have noise machines to help us sleep. My husband has slept with one since we were dating and I always considered him a special snowflake for constantly taking it with him, everywhere, but now I can’t sleep without one either. Without the noise machines, I could hear everything. Even when the power came back, I lay for hours hearing phantom bumps and noises and I maniacally checked on the children every 30 minutes. I was convinced that the garage door was open and people easily could come in and kill us. The following statements are what my anxiety-riddled brain convinced me were completely rational things to consider:

  • Our living wills were updated but we never discussed where we would be buried. I wanted to be cremated but I wasn’t sure about my husband. We’d all need to be together because despite cremation, I’m sure a stray sock would end up in my son’s urn and I have to keep on top of him about that.
  • Do burglars/murderers judge the houses they enter? There was an epic battle last night in the never ending Picking Up and Putting AwayThe Legos War and I’m pretty sure I lost. However, all the counters were clean.
  • The Phillies are in second place in the National League East and I’d be pretty pissed if I were murdered before I got to see how the rest of the season played out.
  • HOWEVER, I would be spared any and all disappointment stemming from a post-All Star Break 24-game losing streak.
  • What would our funeral be like? Who would attend? Who would proofread the programs? Would they be in Comic Sans font? Surely I have enough good friends to prevent that from happening.
  • I’m afraid to go downstairs but I have a notebook and pencil right here so I can start rough drafts of everyone’s obituaries.
  • Would anyone name anything after us? I’d be all right with local sporting fields, several park benches and/or bridges. Not OK: turnpike rest stops.
  • Food at the funeral has to be gluten- and dairy-free; no red meat or fish. Just like at our house.
  • Do you think George RR Martin would send me an advance copy of Wars of Winter if I emailed him right now? I’d be happy to read whatever he has, whatever stage it’s in.
  • Wake playlist. ON IT. 
  • Is that sunlight? Are those birds? Thank goodness. Maybe I’d better shut my mind down now.
Power and Rationality Outage

Hot Take: Game of Thrones Women Rock, But Tyrion Is the Only One Fit to Rule Westeros

One of the few celebrities I follow on Instagram is Mayim Bialik, of Beaches and Blossom fame. Last year, she launched a website called GrokNation, which is a collection of essays about everything from parenting to feminism to Judaism to STEM. I like that the site promotes understanding and empathy. It’s like the opposite of Twitter.

When the sixth series of Game of Thrones debuted, Mayim (I call her Mayim because we are pretend friends) posted that she doesn’t watch the show because of the way it depicts women. I agree with most of what she says, but I think my pretend buddy Mayim isn’t watching the same show I am.

Let’s review the main female characters still alive as of the sixth season, third episode of Game of Thrones, taking into consideration that the series takes place in a time in which opportunities for women were extremely limited and their roles tightly controlled.

Arya Stark

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After being raised in Winterfell and steadfastly denying her grim future as a lady and eventual marriage for alliance purposes, the younger of the Stark sisters initially flees her home alone in pursuit of the Lannisters who imprisoned her sister and eventually survives the bloody Red Wedding, adding a whole list of characters to her Vengeance List. She lives on the streets of King’s Landing, travels with a handful of boys posing as a recruit for the Night Watch, and eventually becomes captive to the Hound and survives everything, leaving the Hound for dead. She ends up in Braavos, alone, training under the tutelage of the mysterious Jaqen H’ghar.

Sansa Stark

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Sansa, who once embraced her role as future Lady of the North, instead has been betrothed to the sadistic Joffrey and immediately made prisoner when her brother rebelled against the prisoner; shipped off to the Eyrie, where she witnessed her savior and possible future husband, Littlefinger, kill her aunt. She ends up back at Winterfell asĀ  trophy to the truly insane Ramsay Bolton, before escaping with Theon Greyjoy and finally being saved by Lady Brienne.

Brienne of Tarth

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Lady Brienne would like to save a Stark, any Stark at all. After being humiliated in her youth for her size and her ability to slay as a soldier, she won a jousting contest to serve on the King’s Court to her beloved King Renly (Robert Baratheon’s youngest brother), only to see him assassinated. She allied herself with Catelyn Stark and promised to save her daughters, imprisoning (and sort of befriending) the High and Mighty Jaime Lannister along the way. She just saved Sansa from Winterfell with her protegee, Rodrick Payne.

Daenerys Targaryen

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Daenerys Targaryen started off the series as payment for a Dothraki army so her brother, son of Westeros’ mad king, could reclaim the throne from Robert Baratheon. Daenerys dutifully became Khaleesi but what her brother did not count on was her husband actually falling in love with her. After a particularly brutal episode of physical and mental abuse, her husband killed her brother. The Khaleesi was beloved by her people but after her husband died, she faced an uncertain political future. Embracing her legacy as a Targaryen, she escaped death when dragon eggs, a wedding present, hatched. Aided by a former knight of Westeros, she went south with her children and proceeded to free slaves from several cities and buy an army for her own damn self. However, her advisor revealed his role in spying on her, the dragons got out of hand, the emancipation of the slaves have disrupted the careful social and political order of three cities and after escaping one of the city on her dragon’s back, now she’s been collected by the Dothraki to resume her rightful place as a widow to the great Khal Drogo in what can only kindly be described as a convent.

Cersei Lannister

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Cersei got the whole ball in Westeros rolling by poisoning her husband, Robert Baratheon, so her son, Joffrey, could take the throne. However, there was the slight problem of their children not actually being their children and it resulted in three different people vying for the crown. Cersei’s been the only child of House Lannister as conniving as her father. Her twin brother (and lover) Jaime Lannister was relegated to the King’s Guard, where he can’t marry. Their younger brother, Tyrion, is deformed and not taken seriously. So it was up to Cersei to manipulate herself into a position of power in a place where women cannot rule. Her machinations finally backfired and although she ended up taking the infamous walk of shame at the end of last season, she is all geared up for revenge this season.

So, despite all the strong women above, I strongly believe that Tyrion Lannister is the only one who can lead Westeros at this point.

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Let’s look at his qualifications:

He’s been all over the kingdom: in glory as a Lannister, as a captive to the Eyrie, in an advisory capacity to the Khaleesi in the South. He’s developed a heck of a lot of empathy for all different clans and families in seeing where they live and getting a sense of alliances that hold the kingdom together.

He’s got administrative experience: he was Master of Coin and then eventually the Hand of the King. He knows what wheeling and dealing have to take place to raise armies, get food, and keep everyone else in line.

He’s wined and dined with the best of the manipulators: he’s outwitted his own father, his own sister, and council stalwarts Littlefinger and Lord Varys.

In the last episode, he’s unlocked the dragons. No one’s been able to get close to the dragons. He’s got to appease many, many unhappy people that the Khaleesi has left in her wake (I love the Khaleesi, but she did not exactly leave her kingdom in tip top shape).

 

Hot Take: Game of Thrones Women Rock, But Tyrion Is the Only One Fit to Rule Westeros

In Honor of Mother’s Day, Please Stop Taking Passive-Aggressive Shots at Moms

We belong to an interesting culture that simultaneously makes motherhood an ideal and skewers those who have achieved that goal. It’s not just men and it’s not just women, either: the people who have uttered possibly the least supportive (and completely unsolicited) statements to me have been other mothers. I don’t know if it’s just a way of masking their own insecurity in an aggressive manner or they completely forget how overwhelming and vulnerable motherhood is.


Anyway, here are some things that people have said to me over the past 10-plus years of being a mom, and my Mother’s Day wish is that no one else has to hear them. (Statements are usually accompanied by gasping and pearl-clutching.)

  1. I don’t want to see you back in a delivery room until your newborn is walking at the very earliest.
  2. You’re not going back to work, are you.
  3. You’re not staying home and giving up on your career, are you.
  4. Your child’s a year old, you’re going to stop breastfeeding now, right?
  5. You don’t know how easy you have it. We didn’t have cell phones back then.
  6. I don’t understand why you just can’t pump in the bathroom.
  7. You realize how awful daycare is, right? Surely you can afford a nanny.
  8. When are you going to have your second?
  9. You can’t have just one baby!
  10. You think it’s hard juggling two kids’ schedules? We had twice as many kids as you.
  11. We don’t want to disturb your husband at his job so that’s why we are calling you at yours.
  12. Staying home is a job, too, of course.
  13. Oh, is your husband babysitting your kids today?
  14. I told my daughter the only two careers she could have as a mom are a teacher or a nurse.
  15. Why aren’t you sending your children to private school? Public school is the worst.
  16. Why do your kids ride the bus to school? You know what happens on those buses.
  17. What do you mean, you don’t take your kids to church? 
  18. Why do you let your son play with girl toys?
  19. Why do you let your daughter play with boy toys?
  20. Are you done having children?
In Honor of Mother’s Day, Please Stop Taking Passive-Aggressive Shots at Moms