Friday, May 27, 2011

Where Grandma is recruited to do a little work

My parents have come to visit and I always like to have a little project going on. Sometimes, they're even planned. Like "let's paint the loft!" Sometimes, they just happen.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the fabric store and purchased supplies to make the girls each something. They flipped through the pattern books and waffled over their favorites. They dragged me from one side of the store to the other looking for the perfect fabric. We raced through to find the necessary notions before the store closed. I took it all home with the plan to get it done the week before my parents arrived.

It didn't happen.

That meant that when my parents arrived, a large bag sat in the dining room waiting. I finally got around to cutting out the patterns, then asked my mom if she'd like to help sew. She does love to sew, after all, and is the one who taught me. She readily agreed and I allowed her to pick whichever one she wanted. She grabbed to pretty flowered fabric on top, which was L's outfit.

I was kinda hoping she'd pick the other one as K had chosen a fancy top made of shiny crepe with a frill and ruching, which seemed intimidating. But it turned out to be easy.

L's outfit, though marked as "easy", had a top with a balloon skirt, there were pleats and gathers, 3 different fabrics, and it turned out that the pattern instructions were terrible. I'm happy that one got left to the expert. While I made K's shirt and L's shorts, Mom wrestled with that top, arguing with the instructions out loud and doing things her own way. In the end, she won the fight and L has an awesome new outfit.

Isn't it cute? Thanks, Mom! Yes, it is supposed to be a top and shorts, but it turned out long enough for a dress. (I'm glad we didn't make the "dress" length.)

I haven't gotten K to pose in her new shirt yet. She promised to wear it Sunday, so I'll try to catch her then.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beautiful AND smart AND athletic

It was a very busy weekend.

I know organizations want to get everything in before Memorial Day weekend and school getting out, but they always end up packing it all in on the same weekend. Wednesday, I started feeling the beginnings of a sore throat. Thursday saw some final errands and my parents arriving before K had a softball game that night. Thankfully, their win that night meant that she wouldn't have any games on Saturday. I also went to the doctor just to make sure it wasn't strep. It wasn't. Just a nasty cold that I would have to power through. Friday was L's dress rehearsal for her year-end recital, then early to bed.

Saturday morning, the alarm went off at 5:22. Actually 2 or 3 alarms went off because I *had* to get up. K and I got dressed quietly and quickly and headed out before 6am, toward a local university for our area Science Olympiad. The rest of the morning was devoted to three events that K and her partner were competing in. They felt they did well in a technical writing event and a physics event, but they were fuming over an event called Secret Structures where the rules stated they would build a bridge or a tower, but they ended up having to construct a ramp with inadequate materials and *no one* could build one that met the requirements. They felt cheated and angry, but they did admit that they felt their ramp was the best in their group. After they finished their events, I left K with her partner's mom and headed back across town for the next event of the day.

L's first recital was at 3pm and I'll put together a post focused on her next, but this post is for K. All during the recital, I kept my phone out because K was supposed to text me with the results. L was in two dances, but during the others, I kept a close eye on my phone. K texted that they hadn't won anything in their first event. Then nothing in another. Then she sent me a text that they had won 2nd in Secret Structures! The one event that frustrated them, that they couldn't achieve the goal, that's the one they nailed. It's a big deal as it's the first year they've allowed homeschool teams and so the first year this team has existed and there were 33 schools and groups involved.

Mr. At Home left the recital to pick up K, then took her home with a headache while the rest of us stayed through the second recital. A late dinner out finished the evening and we all came home and collapsed, because our weekend and our busyness wasn't over.

Sunday afternoon was the championship game for K's softball league. Her team sailed through the double-elimination tournament and stayed in the winner's bracket. That meant that they played the winner of the loser's bracket for 1st place. If they won, they got first. If they lost, they would play a double-header and the winner of the second game would win 1st place. It was terribly hot, sunny, and humid and everyone was hoping we'd get it won in the first game. We had 4 canopies, a big fan for the dugout, and coolers of water and cold bandannas standing ready.

We won the game 8-0.

Congratulations to K for her brains and her brawn!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Building a Softball Team

Have I mentioned that K plays softball?

Not just plays softball, but really loves softball?

She's played every spring since she was 5 and every fall for the past few years. Over all those seasons, we've learned a little about what it takes to make a successful team and a successful player at each of the age levels we've played so far.

When we started this season, we had a great coach and some great players that we've been with before, but the team just wasn't at the same high level of play that they should've been. Sure, we had some new girls and some weaker players, but we had a good core of good players. They just weren't living up to their potential.

We had girls that could pitch, but only one good, consistent pitcher.

We had girls that could hit, but no good, consistent hitters.

We had girls that could field, but the girls were getting bored and inattentive in the field.

I puzzled over the difference as we hit a slump and lost game after game. Why were a historically good coach and players having such a hard time this season? I finally decided it was that the team lacked an aggressive, superstar talent that could motivate the others. We have talent and we even have an aggressive personality or two, but not anyone that could lead. The girls were defeated and they were digging the pit even deeper.

But then

We tied a high-scoring game. And we won a game. And the coach created a new training program for the pitchers and they started pitching well. And he encouraged everyone to swing the bat. And we won another game. And all that defense practice started to be used in games. And we won another game.

Suddenly the pitching wasn't losing the game no matter what the rest of the team did. The girls gained confidence and started enjoying playing and became more aggressive at the plate, on the mound, and in the field. We don't need one aggressive, superstar talent to motivate the team. They can see the difference themselves in the way they're playing and they LOVE it. Yes, it's not all about winning, but it is more fun when you win.

For awhile there, Lazy K had come back. She was taking it easy and getting bored and didn't really care all that much. She was getting shuffled between the outfield and third and batting toward the bottom of the line-up, which she didn't like, but didn't care to make the effort to prove herself.

The past few games have seen a huge turnaround in her play. When she's in the field, she's on her toes, bouncing and ready for the ball. When it comes toward her at 3rd, she's charging and making smart decisions of what play she needs to make. Their season tournament has started and tonight K made 2 double-plays and you never see double-plays at this age level. She has earned her spot at 3rd and is responsible for a large percentage of the outs of the last few games. Even the opposing coaches have complimented her.

Our team still has the same players we had at the beginning of the season. They are no more talented than they were back then. They have worked hard this season, but probably no more than any other team. We just found our winning formula. Once the pitching fell into place, the games finally became interesting to the other players and they've proved they have the stuff to play well. These girls became aggressive, knowing they have a chance to win. Our team is now the total package - we can pitch, we can defend, and we can hit.

And they are a whole lotta fun to watch.

Sent from my iPad

Monday, May 2, 2011


There are several major milestones in the life of a child and a parent.

- Learning to walk

- Being potty trained

- The first day of school

- Losing the first tooth

- Learning to ride a bike

Considering the long and difficult process that many of those were for my youngest, I should have known that the bike-riding thing would be tough.

L has one of those tiny bikes, made for toddlers who decide they are too cool for tricycles. She's not shown a whole lot of interest in it and she's still fairly small, so we never worried about buying her anything bigger. A couple months ago, we decided that it was time that she learn to ride a 2-wheeler. She is seven, after all, and she said she was ready. I took off her training wheels and we went to work. After 20 minutes of her screeching in my ear in dramatic terror, I gave up.

Obviously, we weren't ready.

I did refuse to put the training wheel back on, figuring that it would be an incentive to her to learn. K learned when she was 5, but she also had the motivation of a street full of kids who could all ride. She simply couldn't keep up with them using her training wheels, so she had to learn so she wouldn't keep getting left behind. She also didn't spend the whole practice session shrieking in my ear.

Recently, my parents got new cruiser bikes - very cool things that they're bringing with them on their trip to NC in a few weeks and if L wanted to ride with them, she knew she needed to learn 2-wheeling. She begged me to put her training wheel back on, but I had conveniently thrown them away and I told her she wouldn't be able to go fast enough anyway. She HAD to learn.

This morning, she routed me out of bed asking me to teach her to ride her bike. I sent K and L down to the little park up the street to get started while I got dressed. Then for the next 30 minutes, we went round and round the walkway with L going a few feet, then swerving into the grass. We were both frustrated, but at least she wasn't shrieking. After one particularly snarky, grumpy complaint from her, I left her sitting in the grass while she she cried in a temper and I walked back to the big swing and waited her out. Even while I sat and thought out elaborate punishments for her attitude, I had to admire her tenacity in trying to outsit me. She finally had to admit defeat and she picked herself and her bike up and started trying again.

We decided that her bike was a little too addicted to the grass (and she needed to have enough room to learn to ride before having to worry so much about steering), so we went back closer to home where the nice wide street slopes gently down to the cul-de-sac. And what do you know, that kid CAN ride her bike! She proudly rode it up and down the street, learning quickly to get it started and stopped and to steer it around the manhole covers.

She still needs a little work steering it around curves, but she and her sister have been riding their bikes all day, so it won't be much longer. I guess she's proven that she can do it and I need to invest in a bigger bike and helmet for her.

If you'd like to check it out, I made a video of her riding just a few minutes after she figured out that she could do it. It's at