Saturday, July 31, 2010

Breakfast of champions

“I don’t feel like playing baseball anymore.” My middle son was playing with toy soldiers on the floor in my office.

“What do you mean, honey?”

“Well, just summer ball, really…I mean, I like baseball...”

I wondered if he didn’t feel that he had enough free time in the summer. As it was, his baseball and football seasons would be overlapping.

“Oh, well, your season is just about over. Today is your first tournament game…”

My sentence trailed off as I realized he was probably worried about the pressure of competition. The tournament had actually started last week, but the top three teams (his was #2) didn’t have to play the first round.

“Yeah, who are we playing?”

“You’re playing abc team. They finished the season 5th overall.”

“Well, if we beat them today, then who are we playing?”

“Let’s look it up. I think they update the standings every night.”

He came over to my computer. I navigated to the tournament website. “You’re playing the winner of the game at 1:00 today. Let’s see who those teams are.”

When I pointed out that he had already beat both of those teams, told me, “Yeah, well, I hope xyz team loses. I don’t want to play them again.”

“You had a great game that day!” Xyz team finished the season in first place; their one loss was to our team.

“I hope I can pitch today.”

“You will be, your coach already told me.”

“I hope I can pitch three innings.”

“The more strikes you throw, the longer you can pitch. Just do your best.” There’s a 50-pitch per game rule.

“What if…”

“…we just focus on today’s game. You can’t win Monday’s game today.”

He went on, “They were really hard to beat. I hope they lose today. I’d rather play the other team.”

“You never know, but really, I wouldn’t waste time worrying about it now. Just do your best today and listen to your coach and I’m sure you’ll have a great game. Remember, you had 'Breakfast of Champions' today."

My son had recently graduated from Cocoa Krispies® and other pre-sweetened cereal to Wheaties®. I was certain that no matter how many spoonfuls of sugar he added, it would still be less than what he was consuming with the other cereals, plus the first ingredient on the box is “whole wheat.” I leveraged the sports-themed marketing campaign to convince him.

“You have to tell me as soon as you know who wins that game. Check the website at 2:30,” he instructed as he left the room. “I’m gonna go have more Breakfast of Champions now.”

Aye aye, Cap'n. Uh huh. “Well...I'm not so sure they’ll update the website again until tonight.” I wasn’t planning to tell him anything either way about the other game. Why add fuel to his worry-about-the-future fire? “And anyway, wouldn’t that be ‘Lunch of Champions?’ ” Then I realized the game wouldn’t be over at 2:30 – in fact, it would probably still be going on when we arrived at the field for warm-ups.

Not much later he came back upstairs fully dressed in his uniform and started obsessing again.

“We can pray about it if you want.”

“I already did.”

I was momentarily impressed. I imagined him sitting with his bowl of cereal thanking God for his gifts and talents and asking Him to help him use them to glorify Him in the game today and so on…”

“I prayed that xyz team would lose today.”

“Oh.” More discussion ensued, along with additional review of the entire season (the whole season was documented online), further analysis of standings, and subsequently predictions about possible outcomes, during which time his brothers had gravitated to my office. “What are you doing?”

“Talking about baseball.”

My middle son chimed in, “The team we play Monday is the team we beat by one. It all came down to that last pitch...we barely won.”

My oldest asked, “Yeah, well, who are you playing today?”

“Abc team. They finished 5th overall,” he answered, parroting the answer I had given him earlier.

“Would you encourage your brother, please? He's obsessing.” I enlisted his older brother to give him a pep talk.

“You’re gonna win today,” was the extent of his input.

“I’m not worried about today’s game…” he snapped at his brother, who was taken aback by my middle son’s huffiness.

“You can’t win Monday’s game today,” I sighed.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thought power

“There sure are a lot more VWs around these days,” my middle son commented.

“You think so, honey?” The kids had learned recently how to play Punch Buggy and had extended the game to include all versions of Volkswagens. They are in their glory (and I hold my breath) when we drive down Daniel Webster Highway past the VW dealership.

“Punch Buggy Red! No punch backs!”
“VW! Blue one.”
“Green one.”
“Black one.”
Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack!
“Hey” – whack – “I said no punch backs!”
A melee usually ensues.

“Yeah, I never used to see them before,” he replied.

“Well, does that mean they weren’t there? Or that you just didn’t notice them?” Volkswagen reintroduced the new beetle in 1998, so while there was a period of time in my lifetime where you didn’t see too many, they have always been around for his.


I continued, “This is just like the idea that if you think everyone is grumpy and miserable, you’re going to run into grumpy and miserable people. But if you think most people are happy and cheerful, those will be the people you encounter. It can really color your outlook.” I used that as an example for my youngest’s benefit. He had the dark cloud over his head that morning.

More silence.

“Okay, here’s another example. Before I was a mom, I didn’t think so much about babies. But after I became a mom, I saw babies everywhere! And now that I don’t have any babies anymore (also for my youngest’s benefit) now I don’t see babies so much, I see all big kids.”

Silence again.

“Okay, let’s look at a more similar – and perhaps relevant – scenario. Jeeps.” The Bigs, especially have become super aware of cars these days. So much so that I have begun similarly raising their awareness of what kinds of jobs they’d be qualified for as young teens in order to begin financing the cars of their dreams.

“Why don’t you see what happens when you affirm, ‘I will see a Jeep wherever I go.’ ”


“Go ahead. Say it.”

My youngest went first, “I will see a Jeep wherever I go.” I could hear his eyes rolling in the tone of his voice.

“Oh, look at that – a Jeep, right in CVS parking lot!”

“Oh! Yeah!” my youngest said, excitedly.

I glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed my middle son perk up and acknowledge the Jeep. “Your turn, honey.”

He said, reluctantly, “I will see a Jeep wherever I go.”

As we turned down the street towards their day camp, we did, indeed see the Jeep parked in our friends’ driveway. (Luckily this was my ace in the hole because we didn't see one before that.)

Beep beep beep. I honked as we drove by.

When it was time to go to baseball practice that night, I asked the boys to repeat their affirmation. Lo and behold, on the way to practice and in the field of dreams parking lot itself, we saw more Jeeps than we could even count. After practice, were escorted all the way to our next destination by a Jeep that had pulled out in front of us.

“I guess it works,” my son concluded.

“Yes, honey, it definitely works. Not always within the time frame you expect (sometimes it was a few minutes after affirming that he would see a Jeep before he actually saw one) and sometimes not in the form you might want (sometimes he saw the SUV variety as opposed to the roofless and doorless ATV style that he preferred).

I have begun teaching my children to apply the principles of the law of attraction to other life situations.

“I can’t do this stoopid math homework!”
“If you think you can’t, you can’t. If you think you can, you can.”

“I can’t hit past the short stop.”
“If you say so…”

“I can’t reach the faucet.”
“If you…”
“I know, I know…you don’t haveta say it! I’ll get the stool.”

We’ve also become wary of using the words “always” and “never.”

“Our team always loses” might become “our team has lost up until now, but the past is history and tomorrow’s a mystery.”

“I never get to go first” could be “My turn to go first will come.”

I want my boys to know that they have the power to create their own reality, depending on how they think and where they direct their energy. The mind is a powerful force. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

I will see a Jeep wherever I go.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Just show up

My middle son had a terrible sun burn after apparently spending a good portion of the day shirtless at an amusement park, complete with enormous blisters on his shoulders. Two days later, he had made it through his first day of summer camp, but was adamantly opposed to going to his baseball scrimmage that night because the blisters had begun bursting. I told him he owed it to his team to show up, whether he played or not.

I had called the pediatrician that day for advice on how to treat the burn – after doing too much internet research, I had mixed messages. So when we got home from camp, as the doctor suggested, I gave my son an ibuprofen, had him take off his shirt (which was an agonizing ordeal, complete with much wincing, since he “couldn’t move” his arms), and rest in the recliner in the man cave (our basement where the TV is). I sprayed him with the aloe vera spray I bought on the way home from camp (as opposed to the spray I bought on the way to camp that contained lidocaine, since I imagined that would sting where the blisters had popped), and then put ice packs on his shoulders.

I checked on him a couple of times during the next 45 minutes while I was moving laundry around. I noticed his spirits improve, but am not sure if it was from the pharmaceuticals or the attention. He became more amenable to the idea of putting on his uniform, with the caveat that he remain “on the disabled list.”

I helped him dress. It was difficult to persuade him to do this expeditiously, not only since he had convinced himself he wouldn’t be playing, but also because he was being dramatic, and “couldn’t move” his arms. “You gotta show up, honey. On time.”

We got to the field with just minutes to spare. I bent over and tied his shoes for him (because he “couldn’t move” his arms) and then propelled him in the direction of his team.

As it turned out, he was slated to be the opening pitcher that night.

He made a miraculous recovery. Good thing he showed up.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Double booked

“Can’t I just skip the concert?”

We were at the town field picking up a pair of tickets for the Lowell Spinners home opener that night. My oldest’s whole team was going – in fact, they’d be leaving in just a few minutes. He’d be joining them later, after his band concert.


“Aw, c’mon mom! I don’t want to go to the concert.”

“Honey, we talked about this already.”

“But I’m going to be doing band next year. There will be another concert.”

“Yep, and there will be other baseball games, too. And anyway, you thought of a good solution. This is all gonna work out.”



“So-and-so’s missing the concert…”

“Let’s not talk about this any more,” I said through a smile plastered over my clenched teeth.


I glared at him. “You will feel good about yourself when you do the right thing. This is the right thing to do. It was your idea. Now let’s go get your brother.” I had left his brother at extended day because he wanted to play basketball.

My oldest had missed his last baseball game of the season because he was away that weekend with his dad, so going to the Spinners game with his team would be an important “last hurrah” for him and his dad.

The concert was also an important event, since he’d been taking clarinet lessons all year and it would be his first opportunity to perform.

Even though it would have been easier to just send him along with the rest of his team, I wasn’t going to do it. We went to get his brother and then went home to eat dinner and change into concert-wear. My oldest was morose and flung himself face down on the couch, which is uncharacteristic for him. He wouldn’t eat. Eventually, I presented him with a choice of two “party shirts” alongside his khaki pants and dress shoes. Then we worked out how he could change his clothes and hand off the clarinet for a quick getaway.

“Will you help me talk to Mr. Band Director?” he looked up at me with wide brown eyes.

“Of course I will, honey,” I said, squeezing his hand. This concert had already been rescheduled twice, and if it had just remained where it was on the calendar after the first reschedule, we wouldn’t be double-booked.

Arriving at the performing arts center early, we saw Mr. Band Director setting up chairs on the stage. I took a program as we marched into the hall, and noticed that fortunately, my son and his group were slated to play early in the performance.

“We’re supposed to meet in the cafeteria, Mom.”

“Yes, honey, I know.” That is standard operating procedure for all of the kids’ events. “But Mr. Band Director is here and we can go up on stage and talk to him and then you can get comfortable with where you’ll be sitting and how you can off the stage discreetly.”

We walked up on stage. I could tell my son was a little nervous, so I began explaining, “My son’s baseball team was awarded these tickets…the game is tonight…so he has a conflict. He wants to perform with his group, but needs to leave right afterwards…”

I was glad that Mr. Band Director addressed my son directly. “That’s fine, son. You’ll miss the combined performance but I understand completely.”

Later, when the kids began filing on stage, I chuckled at where my son ended up sitting. It was the farthest possible seat from the exit-stage-left. Oh, well, so much for a discreet departure.

On common ground

“You work? What do you do?”
“I manage a worldwide marketing program for one of the software brands at xyz company.” (As I write this, xyz company has an advertisement running on the “Welcome To The Mom Blog” screen on this website.)


The conversation ended so abruptly that I didn’t even feel like I could add the disclaimer, “I telecommute,” as an attempt to bridge the gap between me and the at-home mom with whom I was sitting, and the other two at-home moms to whom she had introduced.

We were at a bandstand concert in the town next to where some of our other sons were at baseball practice. She had warmly extended the invite to join them. My oldest and her oldest, as well as several of her friends’ sons would all be playing on either the same summer baseball team or the same football team or both. So we had all that in common and while two of their husbands coached football and would be coaching my kids, I had gone to high school with one of the people who started the football league in our town, so we had a lot to talk about. Until my disclosure that I worked.

Oftentimes a mom’s – especially a working mom’s – circle of friends is influenced by who their kids’ friends are, which is influenced by the activities in which kids participate, since our “leisure” (i.e., “nonworking”) time overlaps with our kids’ activities (I normally do not bring my work with me). It was a beautiful day and the band sounded great. I had felt particularly elated that I had met these ladies. Until my disclosure. Then I began mentally tallying my litany of faults.

As I squirmed uncomfortably, I realized it was more than just the ants on the ground and my youngest in my lap (since this was an impromptu thing to do, I did not bring a folding chair or blanket like seemingly all of the other people at the common.)

I also became self conscious about the poison ivy rash on my arms, which I had become convinced “everyone” must have noticed when I shook their hands. They probably don’t do their own yardwork, either, I thought to myself.

Hmmmph, I continued. I work because I like to work and it is an economic necessity for our family ten months out of the year. Does it make economic sense to work in the summer months when I operate at a deficit after taxes and the cost of keeping my kids in camp full time? No. But I can’t work with them at home (and anyone who thinks I can is welcome to take my three to his place of employment and see how much he gets done). Do I really want to work full time? No. But the corporate world doesn’t get school vacations and summers off. Do I think the government should let us subtract 100% of the cost of childcare from our taxable income? Yes! If it weren’t for childcare, I wouldn’t be contributing to the economy at all.

I knew I had to stop before I went too far down the path of defensive indignation in my head, where I would only be widening the chasm between my new friends and me. Of course, I had no idea what my friend was thinking; I am not a mind reader!

After what felt like an eternity (fortunately for the band, it was not silent), I said, “Well, I’ve got to get back to pick up my son...”

My friend turned and smiled at me. “My husband will be picking mine up. Make sure you introduce yourself and see you next week!” she replied with a smile.

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...