Get the gear ready!

Elizabeth's first baseball game of the season.

Elizabeth’s first baseball game of the season.

Second week of May and spring sports season is here!  Many parents will give wonderful advice about how to prepare for this time of year. (Me included!) Going into my fourth year of the kid-time hustle, here are some pointers on how to look like you are way more organized than you really are.

1. Your vehicle is a mess from the winter. Salt stains on the carpets. Food encrusted everywhere. It’s going to get worse. First, clean your vehicle or get it detailed. People won’t believe how you manage to keep crumbs off the floor because chances are, as you pop open the side doors and trunks of your multi-child vehicle of choice, people are peeking in to see if the interior of your car is worse than theirs.

2. If you don’t have them, buy enough camp chairs as you have seats of your car. Keep two or three in the vehicle and the rest in the garage just in case your mother – in -law decides to come and watch the kids.

3. Invest in a good waterproof picnic blanket. It will save damp butt syndrome especially when your kids want to sit on the dew-misted grass.

4. Find a friend who sells cool gear like Thirty-One. Tons of bags and organization ideas. Invest in one per sport. I have a large bag that can hold baseball helmets, extra bat, gloves for the family and anything else.  The worst thing is looking for a baseball glove and find instead a bike helmet in that closet you just can’t seem to get organized. If you can, leave the bag in the van. Why bring it inside?

5. In our house, I often have to take sibling along to game nights. This year I am going to have pre-packed knapsack per person for: sunblock, hats, sweaters and toys/colouring etc. Having a couple of cool toys also brings kids together. The best distraction for your kids, the other siblings at the games. If they don’t find a kindred spirit, a good book or colouring helps distract them. Your knapsack should include the water/snacks for your family, camera/camera phone for snapping candid pictures and an umbrella.

6. Don’t stress if your kid can’t make every game or practice. Nobody can.

7. If your kid’s coach isn’t pushing the “every parent rotate to bring snacks for the whole team,” don’t suggest it! I prefer to bring snacks for my own kids that are not juice boxes or granola bars. They had a full dinners before or will be having a full dinners after. Snacks are at my discretion and to be honest, lugging all my kids plus snacks for fifteen other kids through ankle deep grasses to the field the farthest from the parking lot is not high on my wish list.  Plus, I have two extra kids and I’m sure most families have other kids there too, it’s like a virus. If one sees another having a snack, they want one too and where does it stop?

8. Throw an extra blanket or two in your vehicle. It gets cold some nights and you (or your other kids) will want it at some point.

9. Bring a book/magazine or crossword puzzle for yourself. Sometimes it works out and we find new parent friends to pass the time with. Other times, we don’t. Bring something just in case for that inning your kid is on the bench. We are pro multi-taskers and baseball games are long. Don’t be afraid to finish that chapter if you want.

10. BUT, make sure you are off your device/looking up when your kid is up to bat or is just about to score on net. You don’t want to miss it and make sure to cheer every time your kid’s team gets a hit or scores. Your kid will notice if you weren’t watching that.

And lastly, (because that’s how I roll) after you get home, get your kids cleaned up and into bed, make those nights your special drink of choice night. Could be that new wine, beer, summer cocktail or mint tea. Drink it and relax. It all starts again tomorrow.

Good luck to us all!

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Let’s go out to the ballgame!

Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game!” 
― Babe Ruth

Baseball. The sport of spring and summer. Baseball started last week and two out of my three munchkins have been eagerly dressed in their newly pressed uniforms ready to go even before the season started. Gritting my teeth, I mentally prepared myself for the packing up of equipment and mapping out the different parks across two cities. This is the year my girls are split in two different directions. No longer able to be on the same team in the same league, their two-year age difference brings about the first indicator what my future holds trying to manage three different sets of activities. At the end of last week I was left wondering if it was yet possible to clone oneself in order to be in different places at different times?

Fortunately, the first game for my five-year old was on a pleasant evening. Driving frantically from swimming class to the nearest drive-through to grab dinner and a coffee before trying to program the GPS to find the obscure park where the Angels  t-ball team were playing. My little guy was tucked safely at home with our standard Tuesday night babysitter and my elder girl was munching away on her french fries in the back seat of our van. Driving around one hand on the steering wheel and the other clutched around my chicken wrap, I found the park, scanned the no parking signs until a side street brought relief where we carefully steered into a vacant spot. As I gobbled down my dinner, I was calculating the least amount of items I would have to bring on the brief walk to the diamond. Chair. Check. Blanket for Elizabeth to sit on and try to complete her homework. Check. Elizabeth’s homework. Check. Audrey’s batting helmet and glove. Check. Water for everyone. Check. Thanks goodness it was not my night on snack duty!

After settling into a damp grassy spot behind home plate, Elizabeth and I sat down to watch her younger sister. Then Elizabeth was up, kicking stones trying to get her younger sister’s attention. Wanting to talk to the coach who was her coach last year. Wandering in the grass. After many attempts and finally a veiled threat to take her back to the car, she sat down to do her homework. Her attention diverted, I could finally watch my sometimes timid five-year old strike out on her own without the comfort of her sister. She kept up with the group, looking back once in a while to assure herself we were still there. Eventually I saw her start to relax and have fun running the bases jumping up and down making them squeak. Elizabeth finished her reading. I had finished my last coffee of the day. So, I drew out Elizabeth’s glove and my own thinking what a great opportunity for us to play catch.

Audrey on the Angels.

Audrey on the Angels.

I had played baseball as a youngster. Although never the best on a co-ed team, I had enjoyed being outside and the team spirit. It wasn’t until last year at a Jays game with my parents and daughters I remembered that once upon a time, I had loved baseball.

I used to cheer when my team got a home run and loved hearing the crickets chirping as I stood out in field watching dusk approach. Eventually, I was even able to hit decently for a petite sized girl. I was always a little afraid of the ball and I appreciated that no one judged me for my abilities but just worked around them. I was never playing first base when my team was in the field, but my coaches did try to expose me to different positions and encouraged me to open my eyes as the ball came hurtling towards me. Most importantly, I learned about being on a team and having fun. My only real regret from playing baseball in my younger years was that my parents did not come very often to my games. My Mom, also being a Mom of three, had to juggle two other kids so I was dropped off and then picked up at a pre-arranged meeting place. I missed having someone there cheer me on. To be honest, I did not put a lot of effort into playing.  That is probably why today, as a parent, I make such an effort to be at every game cheering my girls on.  Encouraging them to keep trying and advising them after the game to “keep their eyes open and glove ready.”

The next night it was Elizabeth’s turn to play baseball on her new team. A completely different kind of baseball night, it was rainy and damp. I pulled out my umbrella and kept hoping they would call it off. As I switched vehicles with Mr. L who had come to take the younger kids home, I tried to answer his insistence the game should be cancelled that Elizabeth was now in “real” baseball having moved up to Soft Toss. They don’t cancel games unless there is a thunderstorm. He had shrugged, happy to escape the hour and half commitment and securing my place as the baseball parent.

Elizabeth is also in a different city league on a co-ed team due to other previously committed activities. This means she plays twice a week rather than one and I have to try to navigate numerous parks instead of just one throughout the season. A Pirate this year, she happily pulled on her yellow jersey as we sauntered up to the coach and ran out into the field where she watched each play, running towards the ball albeit not making any attempt to pick it up and throw it. Like mother, like daughter. I sat smiling chatting to another Mom while we shook fat rain droplets off our umbrellas.

Elder girl at baseball.

Elder girl at baseball.

This year, soft toss means she is “off the tee” and hitting from a slow-moving pitching machine. The coaches, a little more rigorous in their approach, gamely take her aside and well, coach her. She is after all, only one of two girls on the team. However, she watches the boys who can hit the home runs in awe and I hope she soaks up some of their glory and feelings of victory. Watching her high-five the only other kid she knows, a boy from her class at school, I sit back and let her go. Unlike her younger sister who looked for me every ten minutes, Elizabeth was not looking back but listening to her coaches tell her where to go and where to stand. She grew up a little bit for me after that game, even after watching her eat the watermelon in the rain afterwards her face stained red from the juice as she wiped her hands on her jersey, looking up at me with a guilty look on her face as she chatted to her teammates. All I did was wave and shrug and I let her be. After all, being with your team and getting wet and dirty, isn’t that part of baseball?

As I plunge into baseball season I wish for good weather, fun times, learning where to grab hot coffee and most importantly, that my girls continue to love the game as much as I do.