Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Daddy Say 'K"

This is Olivia, as you may be able to tell from the photo. As you can see, she likes chocolate. She's trying to smile while mowing on a beater lathered up in some sort of chocolate concoction. She is very 2ish, with all the baggage that goes with being a post-toddler child thinking the world is theirs for the taking and that whatever her long-lashed eyes spy is, in her words, "mine." This morning she bit Eli, I immediately caught wind of it and Olivia was soon made to understand this doesn't qualify as playing nicely. She refused to say, "Sorry" to Eli, (Hmmmm Eli, where do you think she learned that?) but after some not so gentle encouragement eventually ponied up with the word of apology. She also is understanding the art of deception. Or maybe it's lying, but I'm not really sure if her newly minted 2-year-old mind understands that concept. You see, yesterday I was downstairs working on a story and she was upstairs with Claire and some other kids. My office is right at the foot of the stairs so I can hear everything going on up there -- for better and worse. (For example, today the little boys and Olivia were upstairs playing when they decided they didn't want to play Ezra's game and walked out of his bedroom. "Well," Ezra said very loudly, "everyone is stupid." That qualified him for some behavioral reformation remediation efforts.) Anyway, Olivia is who we're talking about. So I hear Olivia ask Claire if she can watch a movie and from the sound of things she's holding a DVD.
Claire: "Go ask Daddy."
Olivia: (Walking to the top of the stairs) "Dada, can I watch movie?"
Before I can answer, Olivia turns around to Claire.
Olivia: "Daddy say 'k."
Then I hear Claire laugh. I have to admit, I found it amusing as well. I can only shake my head and think I have my work cut out for me already. Kids are fascinating creatures. She's learned to put words in my mouth at 2 years old. This could get interesting.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another Ezra-ism

Some people have uncanny abilities to do great things. Like the woman who holds the world record for bearing children. In the 18th century in Russia, Mrs. Feodor Vassilyev birthed 69 children. That is not a typo. That's 69 children...from the womb of one woman. Talk about a fertile Myrtle. Sheesh. Imagine the blogging that woman could have done, calling it "Sixty-nine kids ... and counting?" So Mrs. Vassilyev had 27 pregnancies, birthing 16 sets of doubles, seven sets of triples and four sets of quads. An impressive feat, no doubt and something that qualifies as an uncanny ability to do great things. Imagine family reunions in the Vassilyev clan. Christmas must have been a hoot. Or something like that.

Anyway, enough about Mrs. Vassilyev. Let's get down to the nitty gritty. We're here to talk about Ezra and the uncanny verbal greatness about him. It's something that comes naturally. You can't teach it. He's a child prodigy of the spoken word. Among his more infamous utterances include the time he shut the door during a thunderstorm: "Don't let the thunder in!" he said. Or his defiant statement when he's making a point: "That's just how it be's!" His latest gem of the tongue came the other morning when he and his younger brothers and sisters were outside riding bikes. Ezra hopped on his trike, but lo and behold the seat was wet. Whe he got back up and ran around a bit he stopped and scrunched up his face. "Hey," he said in his wet britches, "someone peed in my pants."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Isn't It Just A Game?

The 15- and 16-year-old boys on the Gloucester High School junior varsity baseball team filed off the bus single file toting their baseball mitts, bats and bags with their heads down. They hardly said a word to each other. Julie and I were sitting in the van waiting to pick up Ethan watching them walk to the Gloucester High School locker room. "Look at them," I said quietly. "You would think they lost." The JV Dukes had traveled to Newport News to face Woodside's team and prevailed 6-2. It wasn't necessarily a pretty win. Mistakes were made but Gloucester did plenty of things right as well, obviously. You would never know it from the coach, however. After the game I was chatting behind the dugout with a couple of other fathers after the game when the coach walked nearby. "I hope they get some TLC from you all," he said. "Because they're not getting it from me."

Ethan and the rest of the team played a solid game overall. Good pitching, some timely hitting, some plays were made when it counted. The kids came through. Ethan batted leadoff and went 1 for 2 with a double and RBI. But he also reached base on an error, drew two walks and stole three bases, though he did get thrown out once on what I would say was a disputed call at second base. In the field he played third base and fielded two grounders, throwing guys out at first base both times. He also had one error when he threw a ball into centerfield and another inexplicable play when he fielded the ball hit to him and stepped on third base -- except it wasn't a force out. He knew right away he had blown it. No one needed to tell him that because he's hard enough on himself. So how did his coach handle it? Here's what he said to Ethan afterwards: "Ethan, you're a genius in the classroom, but an idiot on the field. You'll never play an inning of varsity baseball doing that." He had plenty more to say to him, but that was the lowlight.

The coach ripped into everyone he could. One kid walked away from the field in tears. Ethan took it well; a lot better than I'm taking it. I talked to Ethan on the walk to the bus after the game and told him he played well. "It wasn't good enough," Ethan said. I told him he got on base all four times. "It wasn't good enough," Ethan said. "You made a couple plays at third. Had a real nice tag on that kid trying to steal," I said. "It wasn't good enough," Ethan said. We talked about what the coach said and I said to pay no attention to him. If the coach wants to give him pointers on fundamentals and actually be a coach, that's one thing. If the coach wants to be a raving, abusive idiot, just block that stuff out of your head. We got near the bus and our paths diverged. I told him he played well. Ethan shook his head: "Imagine if we had lost."

I don't understand this style of "coaching." I get that there are times when you need to crack down on the kids and get their attention or point out the mistakes they made and get them to understand how to make the play correctly. It's one thing if the kids aren't playing hard, or as some say, "disrespecting" the game. That's not the case here with these kids, it looks to me. They play hard. They're not perfect. Excuse me, but baseball is a game where it's considered a success if you get a hit every three or four times at bat. You can get your message across without getting personal. Without demeaning them. Without calling them idiots. A good coach can demand a lot from his players, but still have their respect. A great coach prepares his team to succeed on the field and his players play hard as much as for themselves as for their coach. When winning a game isn't any fun, something is wrong. Hey coach, it's a game. A game played by kids who are playing because they love the game. And who are hoping to have some fun.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Blur

These days are a blur. Whether it's because of the explosion of pollen or the fact that we have so much going on -- in addition to all the regular activities, the 4 kids playing soccer and Ethan playing baseball and shuttling Taylor back and forth to work, it's kind of crazy around here -- I can't be sure. Olivia turned 2 on March 30 and she was going around the house in the days leading up to her birthday singing, "Happy day, happy day!" And she kept trying to show how old she was going to be by holding up two fingers but always had her thumb sticking out. The hand coordination thing is a work in progress. It was a grand birthday party and at some point we'll track down some photos of it. You see a couple of photos up there of some folks rather dressed up who appear to be "dancing." Several weeks ago we attended a "Sweet Sixteen" party for two local young ladies who are close friends of the family and someone caught some of us on camera in a "dancing" type of activity. Taylor and Claire were looking sharp, eh?

We went from winter to summer in about a day this year. It was a long, hard winter with record amounts of snowfall around Virginia -- parts of Northern Virginia had more than 5 feet this year -- and then one day it was 75 degrees. Then 85 degrees the next day and 91 the next day. It was crazy. The kids have been running through the sprinkler every day this week, the pollen was so thick I about needed a snow shovel to get it off the cars and the air conditioning units were roaring. Spring? A fleeting thought at this point. But I woke up this morning and it had rained all night and cooled things off. It's supposed to be upper 60s this weekend, which should make perfect soccer weather. Eli has proven to be a goal-scoring machine. He had another 2 goals last Saturday, the second time he's done that. Madeline is a crowd favorite and Gabe has shown amazing improvement on the pitch in just a few weeks. He's been playing a lot of soccer in the back yard and it's paying off. Abram scored a goal this year that was really cool. Usually he plays a lot of defense but when he got his chance he put one in the back of the net. It's great stuff.