Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thoughts on Tee Ball Season

Yes, as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, Tee Ball season is in full swing. It's really our first official sport with our oldest daughter. I was very excited to get out there and see our little girl on the field! I also promised myself not to add any more than was absolutely necessary to my already hectic schedule. I was practicing the word "no". (As one of my best friends has told me, I need to tatoo "no" on my forehead.) In lieu of the possible attention grabbing tatoo, I decided to "just say no". And I did. And I did more than once. Then my husband, the dear man that he is, got roped into managing the team (in baseball speak that's the head coach). He's not traveling for work much at all, he says. He'll be around, he says. Sure, I say...

Here's how the conversation went. "Jennifer, I think I'm going to be the manager of the team instead of the coach." (coach is baseball speak for assistant coach) "They really need a manager. There are no volunteers and not enough people."
Me: "So, you're saying I get to be the manager."
Hubby: "No. I'm  not adding anything else to your plate. I will be around. I promise."
Me: "So, I'm going to be the manager."
Hubby: "No! I'll be here. I really want you to just stick to your plan."
Me: "Here's what I'm hearing you say: Your managing, your managing your managing...
Hubby: frustration ensues..
Me: "It's okay. I know we need a manager and I'll help. Is it okay if I just co-manage? So if you're not here I'll take over otherwise you're in charge?"
Hubby: "There's another team that does that. It should be fine."

Flash forward to now. I'm managing the team and Ryan is co-managing when he's here. Hey, I totally understand his schedule is unpredictable at best. It's okay. And it turns out, I enjoy it (though we may not want to pass that on to the hubby.) I also enjoy giving him a hard time. It's kind of my job. He does a great job when he's there and I pull it all together somehow when he's gone.

Well, being the creative, over achieving mom/manager...I created a few things. You might find them useful too. So here they are. They are mostly self-explanatory so I won't spend a whole lot of time explaining. I am apparently too old to figure out how to link to the files so just send me a message if you want a version of this for your file. I'll be happy to email it out.

1. The diagram...A baseball diagram that will help manage those tiny tee ball players. I just took a plain baseball diagram from the internet (there are about a hundred different options) and then started changing it. My particular diagram started at I brought the outfielders in (basically to the infield) because, let's face it, it's tee ball. I labeled all the positions, created a few extras like: batting order, a box for the game specifics i.e., day, time, field, and inning, and a place for notes (like player abilities, ect). Then saved it as a pdf. Add in your batting order for the game, change the inning number and print however many you need. We typically only play three innings so that's how many I print.
It turned out pretty neat, huh? Well, at least I think so. Please feel free to request the file to use it. I hate having to recreate the wheel and wouldn't have if I'd had this. This is a great resource for the game and makes lassoing those kids a lot easier. It takes all the thinking out of the game. I would suggest setting up a few extras just in case you need them though. It would be a bummer to be caught unawares.

2. An excell sheet. Now, what in the world do you need an excel sheet for? You might be asking. Well, in my infinite OCD fashion I've created a sheet to guarantee all my tee ball kids get to try every position. This is obviously not a practice for the older kids but at this age it's good to have. Our kiddos don't keep score, we just have everyone playing every inning so they learn the game and have a good time. The competition doesn't begin until they're older. It also cuts down on the length as the kiddos have a hard time being there for too long.

This excel sheet just needs your personal choices. I have the first row as the field positions, and the first column as the kids names. Then as I assign positions on the field I mark off the child's name with a tally mark so I know they've played that position at least once. By the end of the season each child will have one or two positions they are strong at, for now they get to try them all. Again, this is a use it if you like and how you like kind of item. Just let me know if you're interested and I can email them out.
After the first game I decided we needed a few other things too. Like:

4. Some kind of large diagram for the kids so they know where they are going on the field. Basically, I turned the pdf into a posterboard. I made three (one for each inning) and covered it with contact paper. I hadn't used contact paper since I was a kid but it was pretty darn easy. I just used posterboard (though I did find that it looked best on green and if you want to use other colors make sure they are light colors. My dark blue is hard to read).

I took some scrapbook cardstock paper I had on hand and cut it down to a 10 x 10 to create the in-field. Then I just extended the square with black marker and a ruler. My bases were 1.5 x 1.5 squares and homeplate was just cut down from those. I then made my curved line to create the look of an outfield. And yes, I only used one since my kids will never get out to the actual outfield. Add a few labels and contact paper and it's ready for the dry erase makers. I keep a couple with me so if I need to make changes during the game I can. I also hole punched the top and added a few rings but you could easily add some small carabiners which is probably easier. Just use those to hang the diagram from the chain link fence.

4. The last thing I added were 9 plastic bins from the dollar tree with each child's name on it to keep under the bench in the appropriate batting position. Each child will deposit their mitt and their hat before batting and then easily find them before going back to the field. The first game we tried to get them to put them under their seats but since they sometimes move their hats and mitts got strewn about. Now our games have a place for everything and everything in its place...hopefully.

So now we're back to my friend threatening to tatoo "no" on my forehead again. Hey, at least I've got someone looking out for me...I think. Hey Donna, do you think I could I get that tatoo in pink?

Happy Creations! Jennifer

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How Children Learn

Last night ended late. Very late...My kids finally had dinner and headed off to bed. (I won't say how late as that might put my mother-of-the-year award in jeopardy. wink...)

Anway...this was our bedtime scene:
My youngest daughter acquiesced to the oldest and got out of my oldest daughters bunk and into her own toddler bed. She listened to her older sisters' desperate whispers of getting into bed and quietly settling into sleep after a full and exhausting day. I waited until they did, in fact, settle down and went to tuck them in. All three were peacefully at rest.

My middle daughter was aglow with a flashlight that was resting in the covers she adamantly refuses to pull up herself instead insisting I'm the only one who can do it just right. My oldest was sleeping under the covers, a surprise for me. She usually lies on top of them so as not to mess up the covers thereby skipping the step of making the bed the next day.

And then there was my youngest. There she was lying on the toddler bed under a mess of multiple "blankies" a mere head visible from the mess. I straightened the covers and realized she needed to have her pajamas fixed. She had put her shirt on her legs and then her pants, leaving on her shirt from the day (hey, she is only 2). As I stripped off the pj pants I saw that one of the sleeves of her pajamas was on her leg and the pants had been put on over that. "Interesting concept", I thought to myself as I stifled a chuckle. At least her leg would be really, really warm.

As I got her properly dressed and tucked in, I started thinking. How do children learn what they learn?  I'm sure this thought has passed other parents' minds too. Now, of course, the most obvious answer to that would be that they learn by watching us parent (the nurture argument). The other camp might say that it's our environment (nature). But I've always believed that it's a little of both. This view became very clear to me after I was connected with a long lost family member. He and I had many (and I mean a whole giant multitude) of similarities.

It surprised me at first.

And then the old nature vs nurture issue that I had learned about during all those many months, years, and dollars came to light. It occurred to me that the fact that I had, for all my childhood and into adulthood, convinced myself I was just a standout in the family was anything but. I was a standout in my immediate family. The one's that shared my day to day life. But I was by no means as unique as I thought I was. I was not as much of a wanderer, traveler, free spirit, a diversion in the road, a change from the norm that I thought I was. This was a bit hard to take at first. I mean, let's face it, I am pretty general. I'm, as my middle daughter would say, "special". And I revel in the unique, the extraordinary, the different. I've never been one to desperately try to fit in. I've never been one to desperately stand out. I just didn't follow everyone else. And I found out  how much there is to be learned from all those people who took chances.

And I took chances. I never realized they were chances at the time, it was just what I did (we really, as my husband has been such an integral part of my life for so long). Were I alone, I have no idea the path I would have chosen. But with Ryan, I may have honeymooned in anywhere but an exotic place (a mere few hours from our hometown) yet we moved 4,000 miles away from home, friends, family. We wanted to try something new. Learn a different way of life from a different type of people. Search out ourselves, search out God, in a breathtaking place. For us, that meant a major we did it. With an adventurous spirit, a trailer, a cat, a ferret and a fat tailed gecko, we went west young, woman...and man. And we loved it. That journey has led us many more places and landed us here, in the beautifully breathtaking Pacific Northwest.

But where did I get that traveling spirit when all my family lives close to where we grew up? (As an aside, I do miss my family terribly but we are home here.) Back to the point, how did I end up so different: looks, attitude, interests. And yet so the same. Well, it all goes back to how children learn. It all goes back to last night.

I believe God makes us perfect in His image. It's stated right there in the Bible. He didn't make a mistake when he gave me the gift of gab, my sarcastic wit, or my family. I was put right where I needed to be with the people I needed to be with. I believe God gave children the ability to learn but He also blessed everyone with an internal intelligence. We learn from our families, friends, and society, but we also have certain traits that are part of our DNA so to speak. It's a balance of nature and nurture that create who we are. This became evident tonight, as I tucked in my tuckered out kids.

I started analyzing the situation. My middle girl had the flashlight on even though the hall light lit her room well. This could be either nurture or nature. We all have innate fears of things, the dark being high on that list due it's unknown factor. But, society and myself and her older sister could have taught her that fear through inadvertent means.

My oldest daughter convincing, coaching, directing her younger sisters. Also, a possible nature or nurture issue. Oldest child syndrome but also being old enough to mimick mommy's behavior. (Note to self on that one!!) And also her switch on sleeping under the blankets tonight. Did all my explanations that she really doesn't save time or effort by sleeping on top and being chilly all night finally kick in? Or was it just because it was too cold out tonight to do that.

And my youngest, getting into bed on her own and covering up with her shirt on legs covered by her pants. Clearly, she's learned some of the behavior. This would be evident in learning to listen to her older sisters since they seem to know the ropes. But, she still pushed the rules by climbing onto that bunk bed to start with. I don't see myself as leading by example on that one but maybe somehow I do. Maybe it's just that nature issue. She was born with that attitude. And would she dress that way if she'd had no influence otherwise, say stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a suitcase full of clothes and some food. Would she learn how to properly dress and care for herself? She's obviously still learning that.

So my answer to how children learn is, I don't have a clue. My girls sure do seem to learn all my bad habits with no problem. Obviously that is nurture. And not good nurture. But nature also plays a vital role. Do you ever think of this issue? Do you ever wonder why one child does this and the other does that when they clearly grew up the same way? Have you solved one of life's great mysteries? Cause I'd sure like to know!

Happy Creations! Jennifer