Field of painful dreams

When I was in little league, I got a colored T-shirt with a stenciled team name on the front and a cap with a solid color in front and white mesh on the back (the kind farmers wear when they are out combining corn).

Baseball has come a long way since then. Big Brother’s team has jerseys with numbers, baseball pants, socks, and caps with real Major League logos on them. Parents pay significantly more for sports leagues now than mine ever did, so I guess there should be more stylish outfits to get dirty.

This is Big Brother’s second year in a kid-pitch league. The kids pitch to opposing batters, unless it takes more than five pitches to get the batter out, in which case the coach finishes him off. Elementary school boys are not the most accurate throwers, and there are no walks issued, so this system keeps the game from bogging down into a wild-pitch duel.

Big Brother has a strong arm, but like all the elementary school boys, he has some control issues. Most of these stem from his fear of hurting the kid up to bat. He can throw a number of good strikes during warm-ups, but when a kid steps into the batter’s box, Big Brother’s head fills with images of hardball carnage leading to predictably wild results. As he explained it himself: “I’m a good pitcher as long as there’s no batter.”

Baseball can be a cruel and ironic game.

batting practice

Getting in some batting practice from a pitcher that probably won’t bean you.

Kids need to face their fears, so he was scheduled to pitch the first two innings of their opening game. He nailed the first batter in the back. The boy lived, and after wiping a few tears, even trotted down to first base.

I wouldn’t have wished Big Brother to hit a batter, but in the long run, it may have saved future batters from pain. Big Brother realized he wasn’t likely to kill or maim another kid with a wild pitch and stopped worrying so much about it. He relaxed and recorded a couple of strikeouts in two scoreless innings on the mound.

The flip side of this fear is getting hit with a pitch while batting. In this case, fear hinders a kid with a good swing from playing up to his potential. Somehow, I don’t think getting nailed by a pitch will help him relax, so there needs to be an alternate solution for this.

It’s difficult to be a good hitter when you are leaving your bat on your shoulder until you determine whether or not to duck. He needs to learn the mechanics of hitting in the proper order: step into the pitch first, then assess whether you need to dive out of the way. That way, if you are not ground zero, you still have a chance to contact the ball with the bat.

It turns out hardball wouldn’t be nearly so complicated to learn if it weren’t for the hard and the ball.

 

 

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Case studies in chicken dinner

Ten years and three kids later, I finally learned something useful. It’s probably too late for us. Maybe some other parents can make use of this lesson.

Why will some kids eat a variety of foods while others get lockjaw when you try to feed them anything not a nugget made from, or at least named after, chicken?

You’re probably thinking: “I know this one. It’s because some kids are nice and some are little devil bastards.”

While that may be true, I’ve discovered a correlation between how my kids sense food and their willingness to eat it.

Case Study #1: The Good Eater

I was cooking Italian sausage for our spaghetti. Big Man followed his nose into the kitchen. “Are you making my favorite chicken?” he asked.

“I’m making sausage”

He’s not tall enough to see the stovetop. “Pick me up so I can see it,” he said. I lifted him. His eyes confirmed what his nose had already told him. “Yup. That’s my favorite chicken! Can I have some?”

Big Man initially senses food with his nose. He cares less for its appearance, or for what odd name this particular variety of chicken is given. If it smells good, he wants some. When offered something new, his response is, “Let me smell it.”

This is how he discovered he liked sautéed asparagus. His brothers will suffer a week of nightmares if a single asparagus stalk touches their plates.

rice chicken

“Smells like my favorite chicken!”

 

Case Study #2: The Not Good Eater

On Buster’s short list of edible foods is teriyaki chicken from a particular restaurant. We could frequent this restaurant, on our way to the poor house, or we can make teriyaki chicken at home.

My teriyaki chicken isn’t five star restaurant quality, but it’s good. It’s good unless you are a six-year-old who first senses food visually. Buster took one look at my teriyaki chicken and it fused his lips together. It didn’t look exactly like the chicken he was used to; therefore it was not fit for consumption.

Case #3: The Recovering Not Good Eater

Big Brother was once like Buster, but he’s gotten old enough to not want to miss out on something good. He too was suspicious of my teriyaki chicken, but he was wise enough to note the similarities to the coveted restaurant version. It was worth a taste, and that’s all our chicken needed to win him.

Study Results

Based upon this anecdotal study with a sample size of three, I consider the science settled. Children who experience new foods with their noses become good eaters. Children who use their eyes don’t. Picky eaters will grow to be less infuriatingly selective once they realize they are missing out.

Caveat

I’m mostly happy to finally be raising a good eater. Mostly, except on the days when I come home to find the little delicacy I was saving for myself gone and an empty container on the counter. It must have smelled good.

“Who ate my sausage chicken?”

Toys R Us dies the way it lived: disappointing children

Guess who got stuck holding a Toys R Us gift card?

No, it wasn’t me. That would have been sad.

It was my nine-year-old son. That’s even sadder.

Last weekend Big Brother decided it was time to buy a new game for the PS4 he got for Christmas. He dug through his wallet to count his money. In the midst of digging, he exclaimed, “We can just get a game from Toys R Us. I have a gift card!”

He produced a bright, festive, probably worthless, Toys R Us gift card with the unfulfillable words, “happy birthday” emblazoned across it. He must have got it at his party last summer.

bankrupt

What kid doesn’t want a lesson in bankruptcy law for his birthday?

I knew Toys R Us is going out of business, and even though they are still selling toys for cash money, some bankruptcy court somewhere had given them the right to refuse their own gift cards as payment.

Did I know my son was holding one of those quickly-expiring cards? Nope.

My son probably knew he had a Toys R Us gift card, and maybe he knew Toys R Us is in the process of going out of business, but being too young to understand the logic of the adult world, he certainly did not know that a business can lawfully stop honoring its obligations to its customers even though it is alive enough to accept money from those same customers.

Toys R Us has been in the business of killing joy for years. One Christmas I tried to order something online for my kids. It was in stock online, but I couldn’t have it delivered because it was available in stores, except it wasn’t in stock in any store within 100 miles, so I couldn’t get it either way. They’ve always played these games, which explains their demise.

I warned my son to ask the Toys R Us cashier about his gift card before he picked out a game. Sure enough, we’d missed the deadline for redeeming by one week. The worker couldn’t even tell us how much the card was worth. Instead, she handed him this paper.

File a claim

Step 1: File a claim. Step 2: Hold your breath.

As much as I would like all the stiffed nine-year-olds in the nation to file claims with the US Bankruptcy Court, I would advise them it’s not worth the effort. The form is several pages long. If they fill it out and file it properly, they might get some portion of their $20 gift card refunded, but probably not, because unsecured creditors (e.g. gift card holders) are last in line for repayment.

Big Brother found a game on sale at a different store and used his money. He got over the gift card disappointment faster than I did. (I’m sure I’ll get over it soon.) I can’t even completely pin this on Toys R Us, though I’m not ready to exonerate them. It seems to me, this is the American legal system putting giant corporate lenders before individual children.

The foolish children spent their money on games instead of lobbyists.

Everybody’s talkin’ at me

Sunday was Big Man’s 4th birthday. That meant a Saturday trip to the store in preparation for the big event. This, in theory, would give me a chance to use the new coupon binder my wife had made for us. We are not extreme couponers by any means, but if stores mail you little pieces of paper that are worth money, you might as well use them.

In my head, I had planned out everything I needed to do in order to run a successful errand. The first step was to grab the coupon book on the way out. On my way to do that, I was interrupted. “You wanna drop this extra pizza off at Fran’s house on your way?” my wife asked. Why does my wife have an extra pizza? It’s a long story, but let’s just say she’s a natural redistributor of goods from areas of surplus to areas of demand.

I took the pizza. I left the coupon book. This happens to me often on my way out the door. As a man, I can think of only one thing at a time. That thing used to be sex, mostly, but as I’ve gotten old and domesticated, it has changed into things like coupons books. Family members see me going out as the time to make requests of me, new thoughts which drive the old thought, about why I was going, completely out of my mind.

I did make it to the store, but I paid full price.

coupon organizer

Our new coupon binder: handsome and useful – especially when you remember to take it to the store.

On Sunday morning, I went to pick up the birthday cake. I fled the house before anyone could make me lose my focus on cake.  At the store, I ran into a friend who’d bought Big Man an ice cream maker for his birthday. I volunteered to pick up the half & half and ice to make the ice cream. The ice was by the door, so I’d grab it on the way out.

I got the half & half, and a few other things my wife texted me to get, and headed for the checkout.  If I hadn’t passed the cake mix aisle I would have left without our cake. Good save, Duncan Hines! I got our cake and went through the checkout, only needing to pay for the bag of ice.

Apparently I had left my Don’t-Talk-To-Me face at home, which is odd because my wife says I wear it whenever I go out. I’ve been trying it on at home lately, but nobody respects it there. The young lady bagging the groceries saw our Paw Patrol cake and went off about her little nephew. Of course, when your Don’t-Talk-To-Me face fails, you have to be polite, even when it makes you forget to present your coupons, the ones you brought all the way to the store this time, to the cashier.

“My nephew this; my nephew that.”

“Uh-huh. Uh-huh, that’s nice.”

Needless to say, I had to go back to into the store for ice.

Big Man had a happy birthday, but I’m the one who aged.

The perfect birthday gift for a boy who loves tools and belts.