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Birthday Idea!

My older son is a sports fanatic.  He’d rather pick up a ball (basketball, baseball, football, soccer ball…) over anything – including FOOD – most any day.  Give that boy a ball and a big grassy area and he’s in heaven.  So, it only stands to reason that those are the things that he should have for his 10th birthday this year.  Thus, the tailgate birthday party is born!

For my son’s birthday this year, we are decorating our family vehicle with window paint and markers, much like the high school kids in town do for a football game.  We have permission to use our church’s multi-use sports field, and all of our guests are meeting there.  We are grilling in the parking lot (hamburgers and hot dogs), serving up root beer in the bottles (complete with koozies that we are personalizing for the occasion), and then the kids will play some ball in the field for entertainment.

An additional idea for this type of party is to plan it around a local high school’s sporting event.  Depending on the time of year, most schools offer some sort of sport during the school calendar.  Purchase tickets to the game, and tailgate in the parking lot beforehand.  Then, watch the game or event and cheer on the local team!  It is a fun and economical way to celebrate with your little sports fan!

Extracurricular Activities

We all have opinons about how much our children “need” extracurricular activities.  Some people believe in a maximum of one per grade level, others abide by the one-sport/one-art rule, and on and on.  The fact is, we all do what is best for our children, and every child is different.  If you are looking for some ways to get your kids involved in structured, group activities this Spring, try these sources:

  • Community theater.  Many local theater groups are always looking for children to fill bit-parts or extras.  Even if your child isn’t interested in the spotlight, perhaps check out opportunities to help with set design and costuming.
  • Check out your Parks and Recreation department.  Many areas offer low-cost and non-competitive activities, from sports to sewing, sign language to cooking.  Classes are offered at various times, and they are typically short-term opportunities – perfect for trying something new.
  • Your local library may offer classes as well, or even evening book clubs for young readers.  Check with the Children’s librarian; most larger libraries have one on staff.  Libraries are also a great resource for community opportunities as well.
  • Sign up for a sport, such as baseball, soccer, swimming or tennis.  Even if your child isn’t the best soccer goalie, he or she will have fun getting to know other kids and learning to play on a team.  Or, look into less traditional activities, such as yoga or modern dance!

Cupcakes For The Team

(aka How I Became The COOL Team Mom)

My son’s basketball season is starting.  We had our first practice last week, and our first game will be this week.  While I don’t actively set out to be the over-the-top mom that everyone rolls their eyes at, I do like to find ways to reward our team for an effort well done.  And this week, I found a perfect and easy treat to make for the boys that was a definite slam dunk!  I made basketball goal cupcakes!

Make or purchase mini-cupcakes.  I prefer to make my own, simply because the ones at the store always come with a slew of frosting on them.  For this snack, I make sure that all the cupcakes are frosted flush with the wrapper with white frosting.  Then, using orange gel icing, I trim the outside edge of the cupcake.  Set these to the side.  Next, take a sugar cookie (again, either homemade or pre-made – a cookie that is about 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter works bets) and frost half of it (like a half circle).  Pipe the orange gel along the frosted edge, and pipe an orange square box in the middle for the “backboard” of the goal.    Then, dab a bit of frosting on the unfrosted part of the cookie (in the center) and press the cupcake into it (the cupcake is the “net”).  Use a mini basketball chocolate (you can usually find these around Valentine’s Day in the candy aisle for those sports enthusiasts) and use frosting to secure it to the backboard and net.  Let the whole thing set for about 30 minutes before standing up.

These were so easy to create and were a hit with the boys!

Life Lessons From Little League

Baseball season has come to an end in our small town.  Gone are the weeknight practices, the games under the big lights, the umpires and the concession stand.  No more bug spray, no more coolers of Gatorade in the stands, no more scoreboard lights.  The bases have been collected and the buckets of balls stored for yet another season.

This year, my older son played “PeeWee” baseball.  It is a step up from “Coach Pitch”, which just so happens to be a step up from T-ball.  In the PeeWee division, boys get to pitch the ball.  Bases can be stolen, and run limits are not always enforced.  It is more like “real” baseball, which can be a bit intimidating to an eight year old.  In our three months in baseball this Spring, though, we learned more about ourselves and about life than we ever thought possible.

Our biggest lesson was on our final game.  Ahead by three runs, our team took the field with confidence and cockiness.  Forty-five minutes later, our boys came in, defeated, a score of 17-4 run on them, and my child had been the pitcher of record.  It was devastating on so many levels.  Yet, there was so much to be learned from that one experience.

Not everyone wins.  Someone loses every time.  Sometimes, you are the winner.  Sometimes, you’re not.  But, you don’t lose ALONE.  Everyone works together to earn whatever outcome there is.  The pitcher pitches the ball.  The fielders field the ball.  The batters try and hit the ball.  And, if those components fail, the team doesn’t win.  That’s the key, though – the TEAM doesn’t win.  No one is singled out; everyone has to work together.  The team is only as strong as its weakest player, but it is the strength of the TEAM that achieves the goal.

Sitting there, watching each pitch my child threw, I saw him grow.  He was patient, he was calm, he persevered.  He rallied his teammates, never putting them down but always encouraging them and cheering them on.  He did not put the blame for the devastating loss on anyone but the team as a whole, himself included.  And, when the game was over, he was the first to go over and congratulate the winner, shaking each hand and looking each player in the eye.

Part of me is sad that our team suffered such a huge loss in the end.  My heart aches for each of those boys who held the championship in the palm of their hands, only to watch it run through their fingers.  Another part of me is thrilled to be done with the practices, the sweaty games and the laundry.  Yet, I am wholeheartedly proud of my son for being so diligent, so mature and such an amazing player in the midst of everything that happened.  That was the best lesson – for all of us.

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