Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cottonelle Generation

I was reading an article today about a kid who was banned from pitching in Little League because he was too good.

Are you serious?

Too good to play? Isn't skill and ability something we WANT our kids to develop?

I agree with the author of the article that it's more likely that they're worried that the other kids won't be able to hit against him. The author called this current age of overcaution the Cottonelle generation. I liked that.

We *are* teaching our kids to be too soft. Too many of our kids are afraid to be truly competitive. They don't learn about being aggressive on the field. They never overcome our instructions to be fair and kind and take turns. Mark is in eighth grade and he is still overly cautious during sports not to bump into anyone, and he backs off entirely too much when someone takes the ball away from him.

When we were kids, we came home from games dirty and bloody with skinned knees and bruises, and we didn't think anything of it. We didn't wear our "good" clothes to play because we knew we'd be getting them ripped up and stained.

Kira has played three years of baseball and has yet to play with anything approximating the real rules. They don't keep score, everyone gets up to bat and gets pitched to until they hit. Half the time, even when they are "out," they still stay on base. It doesn't matter if they're out anyway, because nobody keeps track of outs either.

This drives me crazy.

Games are not the time to be doing this. That's what practice is for. Games are when you apply the rules of the game, so that kids can LEARN the rules. And if you're out, you're out, and maybe next time you'll try harder.

Teams are SUPPOSED to be afraid of a kid on another team who's really good. But they're also supposed to PLAY against him. Not make him play another position.

I'm pretty sure that Mark is not going to make the junior varsity or varsity teams when he gets to high school, because he hasn't been trained to play hard. And I mean HARD. In order to really compete at the high school level, you need to be driven. You need to play against people who are way better than you are, because that's how you step up your game. You need to be challenged, not coddled.

There's a phrase I heard awhile back that I have adopted regarding sports: Earn your shower.

Get grimy. Pour sweat. Grind dirt into your skin from diving for the goal or sliding into base. Get scabs. Ache at the end of the day. Work hard. Don't just show up.

I'm not talking about *playing* dirty. Good sportsmanship is essential, and playing by the rules. Don't *play* dirty, but *get* dirty. Earn. Your. Shower.

Bring your best game, and expect that everyone else has, too. mk

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Please, can we get back to our regularly scheduled program?

The schedule with the kids and X has been just nuts this month. He's had a vacation, and some extra days off, and as a result it's looked like this:

Sat, 8/9, evening: kids w/ X (vacation)
Sun, 8/17, evening: kids home
Wed, 8/20, morning: kids w/ X
Fri, 8/22, morning: kids home
Sat, 8/23, evening: kids w/ X
Sun, 8/24, evening: kids home
Wed, 8/27: 1st day of school, kids start at my house, end w/ X
Fri, 8/29: kids home after school
Sat, 8/30, evening: kids w/ X
Mon, 9/1, evening: kids home
Tues, 9/2, morning: Mark to Leadership camp until Sept 7
Wed, 9/3: Kira to school, home w/ X after
Thurs, 9/4: Kira home after school
Sat, 9/6: 1:00 Mark home, 7:00 both kids go w/ X
Sun, 9/7, evening: kids home

They are spending more time with X lately than me, and I'm the "primary custodial parent." Plus, I just flat-out MISS the kids when they are gone. I know, he's their father, yada yada, think of what he feels when it's reversed, blah blah blah, but he's also got a wife and two other kids, and it's just me over here, and I'm LONELY without them.

Hopefully after Labor Day and Mark's leadership camp, the schedule will settle down some and we'll get back to the way it usually is. Can't wait. mk

p.s. First day of school picture.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How on EARTH did this make it past the editors?

I've been reading a lot of what I consider "junk" novels lately. You know, books that are purely for entertainment, no real "value" to them, no lasting message, yada yada. I've been devouring them, reading one after another, and not really paying much attention to them.

Well, I've just finished one, and I just have to talk about it. Not because the book changed my life in any meaningful way...or maybe it has. This book is a New York Times Bestseller. The author has published over sixty books. She started her novels, according to Wikipedia, because she was reading a particularly bad romance novel and threw it across the room, asserting that even she could write better.

And this is what she has come up with as "better:"

'We're sitting here like two folks who've been sitting here for a very long time.'

Are you friggin' kidding me?

She's big into similes, this author. Some of the other gems from this same book:

'She pushed away from him to see him grinning like a thief who'd just lifted Bill Gates' wallet.'

'her laughter cut off like water from a spigot'

'the rain pelted hard against the windows like pebbles thrown hard by angry children'

'the tea tasted as dark as (his) eyes'

'he grinned like a schoolboy who'd just shot a three-pointer from twenty feet'

I'm more than a little floored that this kind of crap (and there was more...MUCH more) made it past the editor. I mean, at some point, wouldn't you think there'd be a little red ink taking pity on the reader? Yes, some similes are fine, and some can be really powerful, but really. This book is swamped with them, and I spent so much time thinking about the horrible similes that the rest of the book just kind of drifted by.

So where this was lifechanging was to decrease the intimidation factor about my own writing. I mean, if this stuff gets published and is a bestseller, that lowers the bar WAY down, in my opinion.

Anyway, sometimes I just have to pour this stuff out in the blog and rant until it's out of my head. You know, like a rant that emptied my head. mk

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sushi Night

Friday night I hosted dinner at my house. My friend Kimmie knows how to make sushi, my friend Ro wanted to learn how to make sushi, and I added my mom for a fourth.

We had vegetable sushi (cucumber and avocado) with sliced ginger and wasabi paste, jasmine rice with vinegar, tankatsu (panko breaded pork) with sōsu (sauce), (also panko chicken), miso soup, and a basic salad with a soy sauce/oil/ginger dressing. We ended with Pocky, which are chocolate-covered biscuit sticks. Pre-dinner munchies consisted of various rice crackers, wasabi crackers (I was the only one who liked those), sesame sticks, maki rolls (seaweed-wrapped crackers), and edamame (soybeans)--both fresh/frozen and dried-roasted.

We had a lot of fun. We tried all kinds of different foods, including sake (which none of us liked AT ALL), laughed a lot. The evening was such a success, in fact, that we have decided to make this a regular event, trying foods from different countries. We made a list of a dozen or so countries that we would be interested in, and picked one out of a bowl for next time. So, in early October, we are going to Ro's for French cuisine.

We'll all bring something, and the general rule is no fair doing the easy way out. For example, when we do Italian night, we can't do spaghetti.

So now I'm trying to think of something cool to bring for French night. Any suggestions? mk

The table is set for sushi night!

Nobody liked the sake. Cool bottle, though!

A welcome sign by the door.

Of course there was wine. Mom, me, Kim.

Ro slices her first sushi roll.

We got Dad to take a picture of us when he came to pick up Mom. Kim, Ro, Mom, me.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Bloodmobile

So I'm in the bloodmobile outside the Belfast Co-Op, getting ready to drain a little of the ol' AB-positive, and the woman hands me something to squeeze periodically to increase blood flow. I look at it. It is a brain. Specifically, one of these. I look up at the tech.

mk: It's a brain.
tech: Yeah, it is.
mk: It's a rainbow brain.
tech: Yes.
mk: A brain.
tech: Would you like something else?
mk: No, that's ok, I'm good. But I will be talking about this later.

I wish they had been handing those out instead of the little squeezy water bottles.

By the way, I asked the woman if they had any particular goal for today's blood drive. She said they didn't have anything specific, but they had been hoping for maybe 15-20. (The bloodmobile could have three people at a time donating.) I know that the area where they were running the drive is pretty small, but that still seemed to be to be a very tiny number of people they were hoping to get. Blood donations are still far below the level of need, so if you are healthy and over 18, please try to find a donation site in your area!!!!!!

Family Portrait

My aunt Dianna sent this picture that she took last month during her visit. Finally, a family portrait that I actually like!! mk

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Frog Race

We had the most incredible fun at camp yesterday. It was the last day that our friends/family from Florida were here, my kids were going with their dad that night for eight days (eight! what am I going to do with all that spare time?), and we were doing nothing more exciting than hanging out at camp, relaxing. Kenneth spent an hour and a half slow-grilling some extremely delicious barbecued chicken, Mom made her potato salad and cooked up some green beans that had been in a garden that morning, along with some homemade pickles. There was swimming, board games, card games, a fire in the fireplace...all the best of camp.

My parents decided that in addition to having my sister along for the ride, they would invite her son (who doesn't live with her, as she is not capable of caring for him--she lives in a group home). We hadn't seen him in quite awhile, but he blended in very well with the rest of us. Much of that, I think, was that we were getting such a kick out of him. He's twelve.

He was catching frogs. And he's very good at it. Not the best at *keeping* the frogs, because they would escape again and he would have to re-catch them, but man, he was fun to watch.

He inspired the rest of the kids to new heights of camp creativity. Suddenly Kira and Kristin were catching bugs in the water, to feed the frogs as a reward after the race that the kids decided to have at the end of the day. Stephen also managed to re-create an event that Mark did many years ago, namely catching a fish in a five-gallon bucket, and the bugs were for the fish as well.

At the end of the day, after dinner and final photos of the group, we got ready for the frog race. Lines were drawn, and where there were only three frogs (well, technically, two frogs and a toad), Kira and Mark decided to just cheer on while Stephen, Kristin (age 9), and Kaitlyn (16 next week) were the frog-holders.

Kaitlyn was nearly hysterical (and hysterically funny) when she had to hold her frog. She was holding it as far away as her arm could stretch, and was just making this wonderful faces and shrieking. It was great.

It took a number of false starts (meaning that Stephen's big bullfrog kept escaping and heading for freedom) before they got the contestants all lined up and released. Naturally, Stephen's won, being both at least three times the size of the other two and having had those practice runs. Kristin's got to just before the finish line and stopped cold, so she had to nudge it with her sandal before it finally made a little waddle across and then stopped again. And Kaitlyn's headed completely off course, veering away to the woods.

There was a lot of screaming and yelling and laughter, and I got some great photos (which I'm not going to share because none of these were my kids and I don't have the right to put them out on the 'net) and we all had an awesome time. What a way for two city kids from Florida to end a vacation in Maine. Frog races. Yeah. mk

Friday, August 08, 2008

Question for the "Normals"

How many people have to have a weird habit in common before it is no longer a weird habit?

For example, in the people I have talked to about this, more people than not prefer to sleep with no limbs dangling over the edge of the bed, in case something "gets them." (it's not always expressed about the WHY, but it's pretty obvious to me that if you aren't comfortable sleeping with pieces of you sticking out into the air, in the dark, it's because you think something might happen to them.) Does this majority preference mean that it is NORMAL to be afraid of a monster under the bed?

I was discussing different personal quirks with some people today and a couple of us separately mentioned that we know we probably do a bunch of things that are weird, but because they are "normal" to *us,* how are we suppose to know that they are weird?

And when does quirkiness cross the line into a disorder? Like, does it have to be disruptive to your life and bothersome to you personally before it's considered obsessive-compulsive? What if you LIKE being OCD? Is it still a "disorder?"

Who gets to make these decisions? And how do I get on that panel? mk

My Leper Boy

Saturday afternoon Mark started getting a rash while we were at camp. We thought he might have gotten stung when he swatted at a bee on his arm, although all we saw was a scratch from his fingernail. We gave him some Benedryl, he felt better, end of story, right?

Oh, so wrong.

Sunday morning I went to go wake him up and he was absolutely COVERED. Face, neck, arms, legs, back, chest, buttocks. It went up into his scalp. His lips were swollen. So were his hands. So were his *ears.* What didn't have angry red bumps had just plain ol' angry red. It freaked me all out. I got the Benedryl in him as fast as I could. He fell asleep on the couch.

Dad came up and got Kira, dropped off a couple of Zyrtec that our friend Kenneth had with him. When Mark finally woke up, looking quite a bit better, I told him to go take one. He took them both. Dosage is one every 24 hours. I told him to take a cool shower. He took a hot one. The hives (for that is what it was, as confirmed by crazed Googling by spazzed-out mom) got worse. I gave him some more Benedryl. The hives went crazy. By the time he went to bed (on the floor in my room, where I could keep an eye on him and where there was air-conditioning), he looked like he had been dipped a vat of them.

The scariest part about it was that it kept changing. Every time I looked at him the hives were in a different pattern, on different parts. The swelling on his lips and face came and went. Sometimes it looked like they were going away. Then they would come back even worse. He would look near normal, then he looked like a leper. He never had any problem with his breathing, so I didn't take him to the emergency room (although I was driving him crazy with the repeated asking: "How's your breathing?").

Monday morning I called the doctor first thing and brought Mark in. I didn't give him any Benedryl that morning, because I wasn't sure what they'd do at the doctor's and I didn't want him to be overdosed with anything.

Doctor confirmed that he had "acute urticaria (hives) of unknown origin" and put him on a five-day course of Prednisone. He told me that the oral steroid would make Mark extremely hungry, very emotional after about three days, and that he wouldn't sleep well.

So, basically he was saying I would have a ravenous, hyper, cranky teenager. Great.

On the extremely positive side, the hives are now completely gone. We have decided not to give Mark Benedryl anymore, because it does seem that every time we have done so, the hives have just gotten worse, so it is very possible that he's allergic or something. Wonderful.


No more leper boy. This is a good thing. mk

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Life Motto We Should All Adopt

Overheard as Kira was playing on the couch the other day with tiny stuffed leopard and tiger:

"I won't eat your friends if you don't eat mine."

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Women's Works

I went to see a wonderful performance last night at Unity Centre for the Performing Arts. It is called "Women's Works: An Evening of Contemporary Dance." I had never gone to anything like that, and it was just the most amazing, powerful event. The interpretations and the movements were just fascinating, and there was such an energy, I was very impressed. I'm definitely going to seek out more of this type of thing.

My favorite was a piece called "Two Into One," which was (apparently...they don't spoon-feed you this stuff) about the conflict between work and family, and balancing the two. It was performed by an artist named Joan Proudman, who also designed the artwork used to promote the event. I also loved the art, and purchased a fine-art print. She does mixed media and paper collage, and I really encourage you to check out her website and see some of the work she has done. She has some awesome stuff there.Another piece that was just awesome was called "Coming Home" and was performed by Shana Bloomstein, to background sound of an interview of her grandfather about his journey to the United States. Very cool.

There were also two different pieces of Contact Improvisation. I hadn't seen any of that, and it was really something to see. Very personal and explorative; intriging.

I really enjoyed my evening, and I really want to continue to broaden my horizons regarding music, dance, and the visual and performing arts in general. Hey, if you happen to be in the Unity area tonight (yeah, I know, not likely, but you are missing out!), go check it out, people. mk