Monday, October 28, 2013

Equity for All

I have so much to write about right now.  I have been doing LOTS of PTA stuff and we have raised about $50,000 this year already.  Amazing!  I have been advocating for our school by making sure that the PPS board and Facilities people know how desperate we are for space at our schools.  I am involved with the high school redesign process for the 3 high schools that will be fully rebuilt over the next 6 years.  The BCS Foundation has kicked off their fundraising efforts and I am there to be supportive.  There is also the parenting thing that includes, 5 soccer practices per week, 3 games and now parties (thank goodness that is drawing to a close).  And there's AWOL 2-3 times per week, rock climbing, band and choir.  There are other responsibilities like, playing ball with the dog.  The meals 3 times a day....every day, seriously, I feel like I am always in the kitchen.  Maintaining the house....kinda.  6:15 daily walks with Bob.  Yoga.  Stair walks.  And so on.  There is no way I could do half of that if I had a job.  Kudos to those of you that can do both.  I couldn't.

I am not going to write about any of that today.  I am going to talk about equity.  It is something that most of us understand conceptually but really we only know the word.  I don't think most people feel it in their soul.  Equity is greatly misunderstood and I want people to really stop and look at themselves and consider what equity is and how it effects what and who is around you.

First, I want to talk about equity between men and women.  This is one that we can all basically understand ........ sort of.   This one goes way back in our culture.  There are other cultures where men and women are equal but ours is not one of them.   Women have not been equal on any level.

Women have been put in the kitchen to feed our families, have been the baby makers and been there to please men for generations.  Look all around you and it's everywhere.  In the Bible a wife must submit to her husband. Check this out, numbers 3 and 8 are my personal favorites.  

Women have been reduced to objects, objects to make fun of, judge, take revenge on, belittle and to put in their place.  Well I am here to tell you that that reduces us all.  Every time a man makes fun of or harms a woman it reduces him.  It takes away part of his humanity.  In reality it makes him less.  The woman feels less than but the truth is, it hurts both parties.   Many times when this happens other boys or men see the put down or harm of a woman and encourage it.  "Awe man, you told her." "She had it coming." "She deserved it." They give the harm power. It's wrong, so very wrong.  As that man reduces himself he looses self esteem.  Let's be honest here, if that man had high self esteem he wouldn't hurt another.  Both parties loose.  Objectification is what makes it easier for men to rape women and even kill them.  Take the case in Maryville High School in Missouri.   She was an object and he was the conqueror.  Take a look at the young man's statement at the bottom of the page, he has no remorse and there was no ultimately no penalty.  This is just one of a million similar stories.

In advertising women are objects.  Go ahead, click it, it's obscene!  Women don't have anything to do with most of the objects being sold but there they are, naked, beaten, choked, stunned, unconscious, shown with heads covered.   These objects belong to everyone but the women in those bodies.  Those aren't women.  If you aren't skinny enough you should be ashamed and withdraw.  You are worth less and there by end up feeling worthless.

These are real women.  They are all shapes, sizes, colors and look, most of them are smiling.  You don't see that in the objectified women because what, a smile is not sexy?   I don't know.  And while these images are beautiful and real they are from one campaign that I can see.  DOVE!  Thank you Dove for standing up for the 99%+ of us that are real, have lumps, scars, crazy hair etc.

It is frightening to think of what our kids are seeing.  They're little and don't know what's being thrown at them.  I have tried to teach my kids but not everyone does.  Many go along with the notion that you need to be what you see.  I try very hard to introduce my kids to all sorts of things so they have many options of what they can be.  Skinny is not one of the things I want my kids to be.  I want them happy, healthy, smart, successful and fulfilled.  I want them to respect and see themselves so they can respect and really see others.

And some of my favorite disses of women are in politics.  When men discussed Hillary Clinton it was often times more about what a "bitch" she was, how she acted "Hysterical" or what her her pant suit looked like or how attractive she is/was or is/not.  What the hell does that matter?  Not any of that speaks to her politics.  How often have you heard "real news" outlets report what a "bastard" any male politician is or commented about his suit or what his hair looked like?  I am not a Sarah Palin fan but I was out raged to hear men speaking about her in a sexual manner and that it was on "legitimate" new channels.  The same thing goes for Michele Bachman, I'm not a fan but let's talk politics.  I don't care what she looks like or what she wears.

And there is social inequity. "Haves" vs. "Have Nots" is always a big one.  It is in play in our country and all over the world.  The real "Haves" are the top .01% and they are in such control that we, the other 99.99%, can't even imagine their wealth and power and how far it goes.  If you are interested in how big the disparity is check this out, I think it will blow your mind how inequitable our finances really are.

Most of the people I know are "Haves," not the .01% "Haves" but are well enough off.  When a "Have Not" sees all the stuff and the life that a "Have" has they may think, "I want that stuff and that life."  Let's say that person is a hard worker and they go get their first job at a fast food place.  They'll probably make minimum wage of $7.25 (in Oregon it's $8.95) or $15,000 per year.  That does not get you very much stuff.  It's discouraging.

That same person may have a kid.  That complicates things.  Or maybe they decide to get an education so they take on debt and are still working a job.  There are lots of scenarios.  In the best circumstances that person succeeds and they become a success.  Terrific.  Or, in another scenario, that person becomes a criminal.  When you are at the bottom of the food chain and have nothing to lose it is easier to take risks to potentially improve your life.

It seems that it makes more sense to even things out.  If someone makes $15.00 per hour that takes their pay to just over $30,000.  Now that makes life a whole lot more comfortable.  Someone with health care and a decent home is much more apt to be a law abiding citizen.  They are now part of the group with more to lose and thus more of a part of our society.  They also pay more taxes so it's good for the city, state and federal governments.  They can participate in consumerism  Heck, they may decide they need more education so they can make even more money.  I see that as only positive.

That is a different topic of equity but again, it seems that when we have more social equity, we all have more to gain than to lose.  I am for giving a hand up and out, not a handout.  

There is inequity in marriage, education, living conditions, pay, health care, mental health, incarceration, for people of color, people from other countries and of other religions.  As those with more power drive the top higher and the low, lower we will see more of the same.  I am not saying socialism or communism is the answer. I do believe the ideal is much different then the reality.  Again, fiscally I refer to above mentioned video.   I think those graphs suit social injustices too but they are much harder to measure.  So much inequity starts with money.

There is inequity all across our planet.  I don't know what the answers are but I encourage you to look at equity where you are.  Study it.  Empathize with the "others."  Try to see things from their perspective.  Where have you not been treated equitably?  How are you teaching your children about it?  How are you teaching them to treat others equitably? What are you doing to make sure your daughters are treated with respect and your sons treat women with respect?  What do you do to show that equity is important in your life?  Will you step in to right inequity when you see it?  I believe until we are all given the opportunity to be on equal footing none of us is free.  It is an ongoing conversation that I look at every day and I hope you will too.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Sweet Spot

School started last week.  Bob started a new job 2 weeks ago.  PTA stuff started 3 weeks ago. Soccer is back.  Aerial dance has started up again.  Rock climbing is in the mix too.  Yes the Leeks have a lot going on.  Wednesdays are particularly busy with Aerial dance, 2 soccer practices and rock climbing.  Yes, today is our busiest day of the week.

With Bob's new job he is able to be here in the morning.  It's so great.  He's a morning person so it's nice to have him here helping the kids ready for their day.  They are handling most of their stuff (getting dressed, making lunch, determining a mode of transportation) on their own but they often need to be reminded to "stay on task." Reading, building Legos, checking out a comic book... those are all secondary to the morning task of eating breakfast and making a lunch.   I know it's early in the year but Sophia has been setting her alarm and getting up every day.  They boys are easy to get up too.  As the days get shorter and the mornings darker, I'm sure it will get harder to get going in the morning but for now it's great.

While things are rolling downstairs I am able to move a bit slower than in past years.  I check my email and get ready for the day.  I am loving that part.

This morning I got up, got dressed and came downstairs at about 7:45.  I asked Bob what his day looked like.  He said he was going to take the kids to school and then go in for a meeting at 9.  I said, "Why don't you ride your bike?"  He's been talking about doing that since he got his new job.  His work is about 20 minutes from here door to door on a bike.  I timed it yesterday.  He said he couldn't get there in time after dropping off the kids.  I asked Sophia if she could get everyone off and she said, "Yes!" So now it is 8:05 and there are no excuses.  Bob agrees to ride.

We got out our bikes, put his stuff in panniers and took off.  It was a nice ride and it's almost all down hill on the way there.  It was a bit humid so Bob was pretty sweaty when we got to his office 20 minutes later.  Poor guy, I hope he cooled down.

I headed home up the hill. Yes, it is almost all uphill on the way home. Once again, this is confirmed.  As I rode I was noting what a sweet spot we are in.  We have nice kids who are pretty responsible.  Their "responsibleness" has allowed Bob and I to go out on dates and leave them home alone.  And today it allowed us to leave them home and for them to take them selves to school.  I was confident that they could do it and be on time.

We have good kids.  I am told fairly often how nice my kids are, how personable they are and that they are kind.  It is a huge compliment and I choose to believe people when they tell me these things.  If they were rude or unpleasant I don't think people would say anything.  No one is forcing anyone to say anything yet I hear the same compliments very often.  I am grateful.  And, I will take some credit along with Bob.  We have worked hard to instill good values and manners in them.  They are over privileged and indulged just like most kids are in our neighborhood but they also know how to work.  They do laundry, clean their rooms, are learning to cook, they make their lunches, balance their own finances, vacuum, sweep and pick up dog poop.  They have also been taught to carry a conversation.  That is big with adults.  My kids ask questions and engage.  Heck, Coulter is great at a party because by the end he knows everyone and can tell you something about them.

We (mostly) enjoy being with our kids.  Last Sunday the weather was perfect!  We were all up and at 'em by 9.  I noted that there was nothing on our calendar and decided we needed a family adventure day. We have been in Portland for 14 years and have NEVER been to the Vista House. That's ridiculous.  It's 20 minutes from our house and it is stunning.   That's where our day began.  We did a bit of hiking, viewing, skateboarding (the boys), fish viewing and dam touring.  It was such fun.  Again, it's part of the sweet spot.  Sophia wasn't so keen at first but once we were on the road she was happy.  Everyone was happy.  We enjoyed the weather, the experiences and each other.  Perhaps soon the sweet spot will change and the kids won't want to spend time with us but for now they do and I am going to enjoy the heck out of it.

Bob and I decided that there would be no screen this month.  It's not hard core but there is no gaming and no TV shows.  The rules have been broken a couple times; once for a sleep over and once for a daddy and Kees night.  So now we have more of the sweet spot.  More games, more family time, less arguing and less whinny kids.  I am loving this.

So I, we, all of us are in this great sweet spot right now.  I am aware that it will change.  The kids and our priorities will be different and the sweet spot will look differently.  But for now fun family time is in our sweet spot.  Allowing the kids freedom to go to and from school alone is in the sweet spot.  And being able to go out to dinner alone with Bob and without hiring a babysitter is in our sweet spot.  All of these freedoms and all of these experiences are sweet and I am savoring the right now.  I appreciate all the hard work it took to get here and I know that it was totally worth it.  And knowing that makes all the hard work to come more acceptable and tolerable.  We will keep working with our kids and giving them the skills to become responsible, friendly, honest, hard working and capable people.  Those life skills will give us more sweet spots in time and hopefully, the ultimate sweet spot in the future where we can watch our great kids become great adults who create their sweet spot of a future.   But for now I am going to totally absorb this sweet spot and take in every positive aspect of the NOW!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

ATDC the 2nd Generation

When Sophia was little she went to a day camp called Apple Tree Day Camp.  It was run by 3 teenage girls; Clara, Mackenzie and Alice.  It was very cute and they really did an excellent job.  They started it when they were 12 and did their last camp at 21.  That's 10 years!  All my kids attended this camp at one time or another and many of their friends attended too.  It was fantastic.

Clara and Mackenzie have been babysitters for our kids for about 10 years.  Just this summer Mackenzie stayed with my kids when Bob and I were out of town.  Both girls have travelled with us extensively and even went to the Bahamas with us.  Clara's parents have become good friends with Bob and I as well.  It's been a great experience witnessing the growth of these girls and their journey to becoming adults.  They are lovely adults.

Fast forward to today.  Mackenzie and Clara bequeathed all of their "stuff" from the camp to Sophia.  I look around my house and I think, "What do I need?" and the answer is not more stuff.  But this stuff is the stuff of love, of sweat and of tears.  The stuff the original 3 girls collected and boxed for use in the future.   In this case Sophia's future.  Sophia has been talking about taking over ATDC since she first went to the camp.

Sophia talked to a couple of her friends about a month ago and they decided they would do it.  Grace was the first one to meet with Sophia.  Grace went to ATDC and she and Sophia have been friends since Sophia was 3.  They spent about 6 hours working on plans.  Next her friend Ella joined in.  Sophia and Ella have been friends since birth.  Unfortunately, Grace's grandmother fell ill and she had to leave town.  Ella and Sophia spent the next week, almost 9 days working diligently.  They put in about 40 hours each working hard and very well together.  They worked the neighborhood getting kids to sign up, they arranged before and aftercare, put together projects, made schedules, considered what snacks to have and did most of the planning on their own.

The way the camp was run in the past they knew they would need 3 people to do the same kind of thing.  They hired Sophia's friend Reese.  They have been friends for a long time and his personality was such that he would fit in nicely.  He was out of town the 5 or so days before camp so he was hired as an employee.  As it turns out, Grace's grandmother got better and she came home just in time for camp to start.  She couldn't help that her grandma got sick.  So she was hired as an employee too.

The first day of camp the kids (the councilors) were so excited.  They were driving me NUTS!  But, the camp looked great.  They had a welcome sign, a sign in sheet, their projects were all tidy and in boxes ready to go, they had their song lists and all was in order.  They even made chalk art welcoming the families.  It was very cute.

The kids arrived and there was singing, chanting and lots of excitement.  There was also lots of chaos!  The councilors were talking over each other, changing direction, disagreeing and the like.  As a former boss it was torture not to step in.  I tried my best but eventually I had to step in and assist Sophia and Ella.  I tried to guide them.  My friend Nolee, Ella's mom, was here too.  She too jumped in.  We both agreed that something had to change.  Nolee was more hands on for the projects and the day to day schedule.  I won't get too into it but the week before school starts is not a lot of fun for the PTA President, i.e. me.

At the end of the camp day Nolee and I told the kids that they needed to have the kids singing songs.  That no matter how the day went, if the parents saw their kids organized and singing songs the perception of success would be inevitable.  BINGO!  Every parent that walked in sighed and commented on how cute the camp was.  The kids had done 2 art projects to take home so those were all set up on the table.
The parents were very impressed.  Each kid got to take home a decorated can (a can with a face, then filled with dirt and seeds so that it would grow "hair" and a paper flower.  They were simple projects but they were cute and done!

After camp the councilors had a meeting.  They started out with, "Let's all say what went right." and then said one right thing and the rest was bashing each other.  Let's keep in mind there were 3, 12 year olds and an 11 year old.  After about a half hour of heated talk I went in and tried to coach them.  Grace and Reese complained that Sophia and Ella were acting like the bosses and telling them what to do. "Do this, do that, go get....etc."  I reminded Reese and Grace that Sophia and Ella had put in a lot of time and they kind of were the bosses.  With that said, I reminded Sophia and Ella that there are ways to ask people that don't seem as pushy.  They all agreed to all of that.  Then they agreed that they would have a code.  If anyone said, "Snakes on a Plane" to you then you were being annoying and getting on their nerves.  They all thought that made sense.  Snakes on a Plane would make anyone uncomfortable.   Great.  A few more back and forth and then they needed to work on the next day.  I did have to pull Sophia aside.  Since it was our house and I was right there it was easier to fall back on mom.  She needed a little mommy pep talk.  It worked. 

Day 2 went smoother and day 3 smoother yet....until....  When the day was over and Reese and Grace had gone I decided to pull Ella and Sophia in for a financial talk.  We went over the numbers.  I explained how a profit and loss statement works and that their P&L was looking more L than P.  They looked concerned.  They hadn't planned on 4 people working.  This was an issue.  Their expenses were higher than either thought.  In the past moms had always picked up the tab.  And they didn't have as many kids as they originally thought they would.  All of that lead to the fact that they were going to make hard decisions.  Either they would get virtually nothing or they had to change things up.  They eventually decided that they would have to approach Grace and Reese and explain the situation.  

Grace and Reese had one of two choices.  They could stay on for the remainder of the camp and make only $3.00 +/- an hour for the whole of the camp or take their $5.00 to date and be off Thursday and Friday.  Grace took the $5.00 and Reese took the $3.00.  While that may not seem like much it was very stressful for Sophia.  She was the one who had to deliver the news.  Her first employee individual meetings.  The decisions made then were the ones that would either make a little money for Sophia and Ella or not.  It was very hard.   

Wed had been water day and their largest group of the week.  They had 10 kids and they did before and after care for a few of the kids. It was huge!  Water day was a great success.  Balloon tosses, guessing games, play in the fountain and so on.  It was great and I think all the kids had fun.  That evening was the kindergarten and 1st grade welcome back to school picnic.  There were 3 sets of camp parents there and all of them gushed about how great it was.  A couple parents even said it was the best camp of the summer for their kids.  WOW!  What a compliment!  I was so proud.  I had other parents come up and ask me about the camp and how they could get in the next year.  I think the kids were one to something here.  

On the last day of camp Mackenzie came over and brought cup cakes decorated like apples.  Clara came over too.  It was fun to see the first generation with the second.  Clara and Mackenzie were very complimentary of the kids and their work.  I know it felt good to hear that from the big girls, the really big grownup girls.   

I have heard something positive each day about ATDC from someone in the neighborhood.  I could not be prouder of my daughter and her pals.  They did an excellent job.  When Sophia first committed to this I told her that if she was going to do this, she had to do it right.  "When you do something you not only represent yourself but you represent me and our family and I will not watch you fail, you will properly prepare."  And she heard me.  I know my friend Nolee well enough to know she felt the same.  

So next year there will most likely be more ATDC.  It may involve the same players and it may not.  I know Reese and Ella play club soccer and Grace plays softball.  It's hard to work around everyone's schedule but I know they want to.  I am bursting with pride for my little entrepreneur.  She is a chip off the old block and an improved version if I do say so myself.  Keep it up little lady!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Selling to our Psyche

I have noticed an alarming trend in the media lately.  The “new” selling to our psyche is directed at a man’s worth and physical appearance.  I have seen this coming for a long time but it has become very apparent in the past few months. 

Ordinarily I am not very good at remembering exact examples but this time I do have two for you.  I saw the first one about a month ago.  I was flipping through the channels and ABC was advertising “Man Candy Mondays” coming this fall.  It was disgusting.  You can check if out for yourself.  This week I saw a commercial for a men's groomer.  Hey, I'm all for trimming hair here and there but this was ridiculous.  There was a man walking around and pointing at women.  He says something like, "This is Shelly.  She likes a man with no facial or back hair." Then they show a guy trimming with their product.  "This is Tina.  She likes a man with a smooth chest."  More trimming. And finally, "And this is Regina and she likes a man with no hair at all."  Then she responds shrugging and acting "innocent" "What?  It's true." Giggle, giggle.  The final statement by the man is, "Give her what she wants."  And then there is a final shot of the product.  I was shocked by the whole thing.  The media has been objectifying our daughters for decades and now they are going after our sons. 

I am a feminist.  If you think that means I am for women and not men you would be wrong.  I am for all of us.  I am a feminist because women have been made less than for centuries and damn it, the buck stops here.  Or I should say I wish I could stop that mind set.  Women are incredible, strong, smart, multi tasking, caring, supportive and dang it, we just get things done.  Because we have been taught that it's not lady like to brag about our accomplishments, we often go under the radar with our successes.  Men, on the other hand, have been taught to be strong, tough, non emotional and just take it, whatever "it" is.  When you get "it" you can brag about it and talk up your accomplishments.  It's a double standard.  

Over the past 40 years women have been overtly objectified by the media in increasing proportions. "In one week American teenagers spend 31 hours watching TV, 17 hours listening to music, 3 hours watching movies, 4 hours reading magazines, 10 hours online. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day." courtesy of Miss Representation.  That is a LOT of media time.  Women are made fun of and deemed "less than" for being; fat, gangly, ugly, not pretty enough, dumb, smart, not wearing the right thing, having all the wrong clothes, not wearing make up, wearing too much make up, covering up, not covering up and so on.  It's a no win situation for our girls AND our boys.  They absorb all this information no matter what we do.  Our girls are being taught that their value lies in their external shell.  Our boys are taught to treat our girls as objects and to ogle at them.  They are taught that it is their right, nay duty to judge women according to the media's unattainable standards.  By being fed these values they are missing the greater part of the other, their being. 

Some say just look away.  Don't give them the power.  Unless you live off the grid and in a hole there is no way to get away from their message. It's written into movies and TV shows, it's on the "news," it's in the paper, in the supermarkets, drug stores, in commercials and don't get me started on the irritainment shows.  I don't get fashion magazines, I talk to my kids about what the media says vs. the truth, I challenge them to see people and not image.  We do not have cable or Dish.  I strive to educate and divert the attention of my children.  I want them to see people, really see them.  If you were wearing a blind fold and talked to someone what would you take away?  It is what we all should strive for.  It's what someone knows, stands for, how they treat another person and what their values are that count.  

I saw a Dustin Hoffman video today that made me think.  When he made the movie Tootsie in 1982 he asked the make up artists to make him "beautiful" and they basically said, "That's as good as it gets." It made him sad, very sad.  He knew he looked like a woman but he was not an attractive one.  He got to thinking.  He thought he made an interesting woman and was sad because our society trained him to ignore a woman that looked like he did.  He felt he had really missed out on some great people because of how they looked not because of who they were.  It was a hard realization.   

While this has happened to women for many many years, the media is now directing their machine at a man's value.  To the men, if she wants you hairless then you need to fulfill that desire.  To the women, if you want him hairless you don't need to accept who he is now, make him into a standard that is irrational.  To the women again, Man Candy Monday.  Oohhh, look at all that hairless tan skin, tight butt, big muscles, great head of hair.  There is Not one real thing about who that man is.  Does he have good values, work hard, is he smart, does he love kids, is he kind, funny, loud, quiet, introspective, caring and is he someone I could talk to.  No, none of those values are important on Man Candy Monday.  It is a sad state of affairs that has brought our culture to where it is now.  Bit by bit the fiber of our quality of being has been stripped away and is being replaced by smoke and mirrors.

I understand that there is a lot of money to be made by the companies that nip and tuck, by the companies that advertise for them, by the gyms, personal trainers, dietitians, supplement companies, specialty food industries, diet programs and so on.  I understand where their motivation lies.  They prey on our innate need to be accepted and liked.  It is unforgivable that the media is dragging us all down.  

Wouldn't we all be better off if we liked our selves for who we are?  Wouldn't someone be more apt to take care of their body if they were taught that it is a miracle vehicle to get your true being from A to B?  We need to celebrate who we are not what we appear to be.  I pray that I can get that message through to my beautiful, smart, talented, funny little people.  

As I move forward I will continue to celebrate my people, I will celebrate me and I will celebrate you because you are my friend and would be if I met you with (or with out) a blindfold on.    

Monday, May 13, 2013

Coulter's Baseball Experience

Coulter decided that he had enough baseball for the year this past Saturday.  His team wasn't nice to him, he didn't get to play much and he was very disheartened.  After Bob went up to the field to let the coaches know Coulter was done I wrote to the head coach.

This is what I wish I could have said........

I am writing to give feed back.  This is meant to be constructive and to let you know what Coulter's experience has been in baseball this year.

First off I want to say that I greatly appreciate your skills and dedication to the boys and your team. I am also grateful to Brock and Chris.  I know that it takes a great deal of dedication, time and patience. I agree that the kids need to be responsible for their gear, be on time (usually not Coulter's fault) and pay attention when they are at practice or a game.  They need to respect the fact that you are the coach and that you are giving them your time.   

Coulter has only been playing baseball for a year.  Last season was his first.  I realize that he doesn't have the skill set that some of the other boys do....yet.  I asked him a few weeks ago, "Coulter, is is hard not starting every time?"  God bless him, he said, "Well mom, there are too many guys and not everyone can play at the same time."  I was very proud of him for having such a positive attitude.  My heart broke a little bit for him each time he was on the bench.  Game after game Coulter was on the bench and batted 12th out of 12.  Again, I realize he isn't the best player but I thought this league was for learning.  It is very unfortunate that a 9 year old boy's baseball career could be over because he didn't get a chance to play.

9 year olds are still learning their basic skills in many things including baseball.   This isn't a Blue Thunder issue, I see this issue as it runs through the entire system.  When I was a kid no one really played organized sports until 6th grade.  I know that was a very long time ago but by the age of 12 one has better basic skills and controll of their limbs.  I know this doesn't help but what I am getting at is, most of them (the boys) are just learning how to controll their bodies.  Throwing, catching and hitting are fairly complicated endeavors.  I believe Coulter will figure it out and be a good athlete but he's just not there yet.  I was disappointed to hear that one of the coaches said, "Maybe baseball just isn't Coulter's thing."

Coulter was teased in the dugout endlessly.  I am not sure what the relationship is between the other players is but whatever it was, it was apparent that they were buddies and Coulter was not their buddy, not anyone's buddy.  Again, it was hard to watch.  Riley pushed Coulter's stuff off of the bench and onto the ground almost every time Coulter set his stuff down.  I saw this happen over and over again.  I probably should have said something to you but there was usually a coach or parent in the dugout.  I would think that was their job to make sure things were going smoothly.  That did not happen.

I didn't stick around for practice but it doesn't seem like that was much more fun than the games for Coulter.  He said that when he missed the ball Brock would just yell for him to "try harder."  He was trying as hard as he was capable and 9 year olds are not motivated by yelling.

When I asked Coulter what was best about baseball he said, "That hit I got that one time."  When I asked him what was the worst thing he said, "That I had to bat last every time."  Why in the world he had to bat last every time is beyond me.  That I am quite frustrated with.  I don't believe it would have made much if any difference to the outcomes of the games and it sent a message  to Coulter every time that, "You aren't good enough to bat anywhere but last."   Additionally, I didn't find the skill level of the other players to be so superior.  Coulter could just as easily miss a ball at 2nd as any of the other kids.  Let's be honest, none of those kids are AAA material.  They missed throws and catches 95% of the time.  That is not a judgement, that is an easy observation.  And the fact that Coulter missed more in practice than the other kids shouldn't have precluded him from missing throws and catches in a game, just like the other kids did.

I played highly competitive  softball in high school.  I was first base all state and had the highest batting average in the state tournament my junior and senior years.  I had many scholarships offered to me for college.  I tell you this because I know softball / baseball.  I even signed up to be a coach this year but never heard back from anyone.  Actually I was quite disappointed. Again, this isn't your issue, I am just saying this because I am willing to assist and I recognize that Coulter needs to work on his game.   I am also telling you this because I do have the skills to back up my assessment of various situations.

I just returned from watching Coulter play baseball with his brother's farm team.  We asked the other coach if it was OK to have an older kid play and he agreed.  Coulter hit, played out field and then played 3rd base where he stopped a grounder and made the play at 3rd.  Yep, he did it.  After the game he was glowing.  He had a great time, the kids were all having fun and everyone got to play.  The parents were supportive of all the kids (on both teams).  It was the most fun I have had at a game this season.  In talking to these parents about what is coming (Minors) none of them are looking forward to it.  They want their kids to have fun.

Bob and I have talked and are trying to figure out how to let him play at a level that is comfortable for him, that is fun and way less competitive. I talked to the other farm parents and none of them are looking forward to the minors.  I see two issues.  First, there is WAY too much of a time commitment.  I didn't do anything (other than school) for 6-8 hours per week when I was a kid. Won't this burn them out? My kids are usually in bed by 8:30.  Recently we have been eating dinner at 8 because I insist that we eat together.  Second, they are little boys with little boy skills.  I believe they should have less emphasis on skill level and more emphasis on fun, cooperation, good sportsmanship and supporting your team members.  Coulter did not feel welcome, supported or liked by his team members.  He's a pretty affable kid, he has lots of friends and wants nothing more than to have fun. I don't think that is too much to ask for a 9 year old boy who is playing on a little league team.

I am unsure about what is going to happen with Coulter and baseball.  He wants to play but was sick of being mistreated by the boys, he was sick of being last in the batting order and finally he was sick of being on the bench. I can't blame him.  He dedicated just as much time this season as the other players but only played 1/4 of the time they did.

And while I am at it.....  Most of the parents were just as cold.  I am pretty easy to get along with and hardly anyone acknowledged that I was even alive.  I tried to be friendly but to no avail. I even brought coffee for all the parents of BOTH teams last Saturday and again, hardly anyone said thanks.  Perhaps Coulter didn't have any buddies because the kids were like the parents.  At this point I am so relieved to be done but mostly glad that Coulter's suffering is over.  He is such a happy kid it was very hard to see him so down.

Change is coming because these types of situations can't continue. 

And this is the letter I did send.... toned down for sure...... 

After talking to Coulter this past weekend and thinking about it a great deal I am writing to give feed back and to let you know what Coulter's experience has been in baseball this year.   Please know that it is meant to be informational.  I know being a coach is difficult at best and there are 4 times as many kids as there are coaches.  And with 3rd - 5th graders it is even more difficult. Their attention span is less than adequate.

First off, I want to say that I greatly appreciate your skills and dedication to the boys and your team.  I am also grateful to Brock and Chris.  I know that it takes a great deal of dedication, time and patience. I agree that the kids need to be responsible for their gear, be on time (usually not Coulter's fault if we were late) and they need to pay attention when they are at practice or a game.  They need to respect the fact that you are the coach and that you are giving them your time.    

Coulter has only been playing baseball for a year.  Last season was his first.  I realize that he doesn't have the skill set that some of the other boys do....yet.  I asked him a few weeks ago, "Coulter, is it hard not starting every time?"  God bless him, he said, "Well mom, there are too many guys and not everyone can play at the same time."  I was very proud of him for having such a positive attitude.  My heart broke a little bit for him each time he was on the bench.  Game after game Coulter was on the bench and batted last.  When Bob went to let you all know that Coulter was done, Brock said, "Well maybe baseball isn't Coulter's thing."  That seems fairly short sighted when he's 9 and he is still learning.  It was probably an off the cuff comment but none the less, when I was 9 I hadn’t even started playing ball yet and I ended up being selected for the all state team 7 years later.

Coulter was teased in the dugout a lot.  I am not sure what the relationship is between the other players is but whatever it was, it was apparent that they were buddies and Coulter was not their buddy, not anyone's buddy except for Ben.  Ben was nice to him.  Again, it was hard to watch.  Riley pushed Coulter's stuff off of the bench and onto the ground.  I saw this happen a couple times but Coulter told me on Saturday that it happened all the time during the games.  I probably should have said something to you when I saw it happen but there was usually a coach or parent in the dugout.  I thought it was their job to make sure things were running smoothly.  I would have said something to one of you had I known more sooner.  Coulter shared these things with me after he decided not to play any more.   He was trying to be tough enough and let it roll off his back but it did hurt his feelings.

When I asked Coulter what was best about baseball he said, "That hit I got that one time."  When I asked him what was the worst thing he said, "That I had to bat last every time."  He got the message. Additionally, I didn't find the skill level of the other players to be so superior.  Coulter could just as easily miss a ball at 2nd base as any of the other kids.  They missed throws and catches the vast majority of the time, it’s what 9 year olds do.   And the fact that Coulter wasn't at the same level shouldn't have precluded him from missing throws and catches in a game, just like the other kids did.  I don't believe the out-come of the games would have suffered.  I am not questioning your coaching but I do question the league.  If the primary emphasis is on winning I believe it is misplaced and needs to change.

On Saturday afternoon Coulter played baseball with his brother's farm team.  We asked the other coach if it was OK to have an older kid play and he agreed.  Coulter hit, played out field and then played 3rd base where he stopped a grounder and made the play at 3rd.  Yep, he did it.  After the game he was glowing.  He had a great time, the kids were all having fun and everyone got to play.  The parents were supportive of all the kids (on both teams).  It was great fun.  I know Minors is more competitive but the swing from fun and learning to seriousness and winning takes a toll on kids and parents in my case.

I am unsure about what is going to happen with Coulter and baseball.  He wants to play but wants to have fun.  I don't believe one needs to preclude the other.  We, as a league, have to figure out how to make that happen.  I spent a bit of time talking with Andy Brown on Saturday night and talked about change in the league.  I am willing to put my money where my mouth is.  I will coach if needed.  I will assist too.  I want my kids to have a positive experience and if that means I am there every time, I will be there.  I gave him a brief of what happened with Coulter and told him that I would write to you.  I don’t want to blind side you nor tell someone what happened with out letting you know too.  I am sorry to unload on you now. Honestly Ben, I really wasn’t aware of the whole of what was happening until Coulter opened up. I should have been more present for him.  Had I known that he was suffering I would have been upfront sooner. 

I wish you and the team luck over the next few games.  Coulter will be working on his game because he wants to be a good baseball player.  Perhaps we’ll cross paths over the next year.  I want to help create solutions for the kids, all the kids.

Thanks Ben,
Heather Leek

I'm not sure how he'll take it but I had to say it.  What kind of mom would I be if I just let them beat up on my sweet, sweet son.  We'll see how this goes!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Submarine Mom

I have been pondering helicopter parents.  It's so not my style.  They are in on everything.  They manage their kids' lives.  I guess that's all fine but I want my kids to learn how to manage their own lives.  I got to thinking of the analysis and have determined that I am a Submarine Mom.  I am there, just under the surface.  I have my periscope up and I am paying attention.  If someone messes with my kid or if my kid misbehaves I can shoot out a torpedo.  Do not mistake my different parenting for not caring.  I care very, very much.  I remember bringing Sophia home from the hospital and thinking, "I only have 18 years to teach this little person everything she'll need to know to survive on her own.

My kids are more free range than most.  They have a fair amount of freedom.  We live across the street from the park and, from a a young age, my kids have had the freedom to go over there.  At first all three had to stick together.  If one kid was uncomfortable or wanted to go home, all three had to stick together and go together.  Now they can go alone if they are going to the school or to meet a buddy.  Almost any time they go to the Hollyrood School there is someone there to play with.  I love it.  I can see them and they come running the instant that I whistle for them.

Yes, I am a Submarine Mom so watch out.  Just because you can't see me doesn't mean I can't see you. And, I will defend my little people with the most ferocity available to me.  Periscope up.... I am ready

A Little Thorn by My Side

Today I had the pleasure of taking my daughter to the Portland Thorns soccer game.  It was their first game EVER and they won.  What a great time.

Before the game, one of the players sang the National Anthem.  She was better than almost any other singer I have heard at a game.  There were fireworks and I have to admit, tears. I get choked up every time I hear the National Anthem.  It was truly thrilling to see 16,000+ fans all shouting and on their feet to support a professional women's soccer team and the Thorns Army was "on"for the entire game.  I explained to Sophia that when I was a young girl there was nothing like this.  Women didn't play team sports professionally.  The only sports that women did professionally were tennis and some skiing.  If you can't see it, it's hard to be it.

I was talking to the woman next to me who was a little older than I am.  I told her what I conveyed to Sophia.  She said, "They'll never know what it was like not to have these professional teams."  I said, "Like we didn't know what it was like to fight for the vote." and she agreed.   Every generation has it's fights as we learn what is right.  I am grateful that Sophia gets to see women in professional sports receiving big applause from their fans, men and women, respecting their abilities.  It is encouraging.

We cheered, and were thrilled to see 2 Thorn goals to the Reign's 1.  It was their home opener, and first professional win in front of a record breaking crowd.  Way to go Portland, way to go Thorns, here we go WOMEN!

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Few Weekends Ago...

It's been a quick one over here.  Friday, Bob and I stayed up LATE.  We watched a movie and then sat up talking until about 1 am.  What's wrong with me?  I am not in college any more....sheesh.  Saturday we did a few things around the house and then boys had basketball at NECC, one after the other.  

Bob is coaching Kees' team and they were up first.  This is the cutest league, I swear.  The baskets are adjustable so they are set at about 7 feet.  I am pretty sure I could slam-a-dunk on one of these.  I'd be all, "In your face you 5-7 year old!"  Oh, that's not a pretty picture.  Kees' is one of the biggest kids out there and one of the best.  It is for kindergarten and 1st grade.  I know it seems like it's not a big gap but when you are just 5 playing a 7-1/2 year old, it's a big diff.  

Coach Earl heads up the program for all the levels.  This man is the closest thing Portland has to a super hero.  He has been doing this forever and attends every practice and every game.   That is 6 nights per week!  And he loves it.  I have never seen him mad and have only seen his love of the kids and the game.  He is amazing.  If one team is stomping on the other he'll stop the game and get everyone to back up so the loosing team can shoot (and make) a basket.  He lets them shoot until one goes in.  In his games, everyone has a victory!  There is no score (though the kids always know a score) and there is lots of learning.  It is great fun to watch.

Coulter's team played right after Kees' team.  Last year Coulter was all over the place.  He was more likely to be waving at me than playing basketball.  He was hit with the ball a few times last year when someone would pass him the ball and he hadn't been paying attention.  Not this year, he's a different kid!  He is all over his "person", he is shooting and making baskets and he's paying attention to his team mates.  I have really enjoyed watching his growth as an athlete.  He scored a few baskets and was all smiles.  Goodness I love that kid.

At the end of the game he got ready to go to a play with a buddy.  They were going to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at the NW Children's Theater.  We dropped him off and then got ready for the next event.....COMEDY NIGHT!

Comedy Night is a fund raiser for our school.  We have a comedian that was a parent at BCS and volunteered to set this up and he's been doing it for 3 years now.  Unfortunately for us, his son is now at a different school.  We'll have to see what happens from here on out.  Anyway...

3 families decided that we'd let the kids babysit each other.  I brought pizza and the other families brought dessert and beverages.  And, as it turns out, they all had a great time.    

I had a table with 3 other couples so we didn't have to worry about where we would sit but we did want to get there early so we could order food and drinks.  We had an hour to wait for the show so there was lots of time to chat.  Right before the show started Art (the former  BCS parent / comedian) came to me and informed me that one of our comedians was in Atlanta.  He forgot about us.  On the plus side, a local comedian showed up and was willing to assist.  God bless her!  The show was fun, there were LOTS of laughs and we raised a little money.  It was great fun!

When we got home, stupid night guys took over and Bob and I stayed up until 1 AGAIN!  Morning guy was not happy about that decision!  

So Sunday I slept in for a bit, went for a nice long walk with a friend and then had to prep for......Sophia's 12th birthday party.  She had a few friends from school for a sleep over.  I made her cake and prepped for her request of a pasta bar.  Those 8 girls ate 3 lbs of pasta!  I couldn't believe it.  I had Alfredo Sauce, a cheese sauce, pesto and a marinara.  They were in heaven.  

The party was pretty free form.  They all ran from room to room just playing.  At one point they all came up and decided it was time for gifts so that's what they did.  Later they watched Brave.  And finally they played hide and seek.  It's pretty cute to see a bunch of preteen girls playing like little kids.  It was very cute.  There was little to no drama and I think everyone had fun!

I went to bed at midnight and insisted they do the same.  Last time they stayed up all night and were all a wreck for days.  Not this time.  They went to bed right after I did.  

I was sleeping soundly when Coulter woke me up at 2:30 to inform me that he just threw up.  He and Kees were having a sleep over in our room because they couldn't sleep in the basement with the girls.  It only seemed fair.  Yep, he sure did throw up, all over his blankets.  At least it wasn't on the floor.  Bob put all his blankets wadded up in his room.  We couldn't take barfy blankets to the laundry, that's close to where the girls were.  I set Coulter up in the closet so he could be near the bathroom in case he got sick again.  He did and I was glad he was contained.  

When I got up this morning I listened to the inauguration on the radio and got ready to feed the masses again.  Breakfast was apples, sausage and pancakes.  Thank goodness I had the foresight to cook the sausage in advance!  It all went off well.  The girls cleaned up their stuff and were all gone by 11:15.  

Today I am getting my house back in order and taking care of a sick boy.  He looks terrible but he doesn't have a fever and he hasn't thrown up in a while.  We'll see how he does.  Man, I hope he didn't pass that nastiness off to anyone else!  Yuck.

So it's been pretty busy around here although fairly standard for the Leeks house.  I hope Sophia had fun and that Coulter is feeling better.  Kees and Sophia are playing together right now.  I love that they're pals.  I am going to take it easy this after noon.  I need a bit of down time.