Saturday, April 26, 2014

Musical Lament

Kids have it so easy these days.

Way back when, we listened to cassette tapes.  We had to wait for them to rewind, fast forward and had to flip them over manually.  If the tape got pulled out, we had to use a pencil to wind it all back together.  And to this day, I still sing a section of Billy Joel's Pressure all wonky - the tape had twisted in one section and played a warped version of the flip side.

When my kids want to hear a song they like, they pull it up on Spotify.  No waiting for a parent to drive them to Camelot Music to spend their hard earned pennies on a new cassette!  They look for about two seconds, then listen to whatever they want, for free. 

And does anyone remember taping songs off the radio?  You kept your blank cassette in the deck, (with record and pause both pushed), waiting for the moment the DJ would play your latest fave.  Then as soon as you heard the coveted strains, you released the pause so it would start recording. Then you hoped no one would enter your bedroom and talk and ruin it all.  Or worse yet, the DJ come on at the end, jabbering over the last chorus.  Lucky were the kids who had a dual-cassette deck player - they didn't have to worry about parents coming in and messing up the recording.

Remember the days of listening intently to catch that garbled lyric?  Now we can just google the lyrics and be rewarded instantaneously.  Or use SoundHound to find out who the group is - or push info on the Sirius!  Gone are the days of calling the radio station to ask who sang the last song.

And one last thought to my rant:  Storage!  Now our music is in the palm of our hands.  Our iPhone, iPod or equivalent holds it all.  Gone are the days of special cassette-tape-storage boxes.  When you go to college, you don't have to make choices such as this: "Do I take my extensive cassette collection, or do I take my clothes?".  Kids nowadays can have both!

Sheesh.  If only they realized how good they've got it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

For the Love of the Game

I found myself at a 4-way stop this afternoon, belting out Whitney Houston.  After several seconds of sitting at the stop sign, I realized I did not, in fact, have to continue sitting there indefinitely.  I don't know if I was waiting for the (nonexistent) light to change or what, but I was definitely distracted, and not by the stellar Whitney lyrics.  Do you know what had my mind so pre-occupied, dear reader?

Baseball socks.

Yessir, baseball socks.  My three boys are playing Little League this year, and let me tell you, it's an experience heretofore unmatched by any other.  And we've only had one week of practices!

First, let me tell you about the practice schedule.  Between the three boys, we have 8 practices a week, plus extra voluntary ones for my oldest son.  Thankfully, a couple overlap, so we haven't had to take a sleeping bag and build a shelter.  Yet.  When the games start, I am told the older boys have 30 games or so EACH.  I am not sure how many my youngest son will have, but if it's more than one, it's gonna be cray-cray.  But I was given this reassuring piece of news:  The older boys' games are "only 2.5 hours long".  That is an actual direct quote.  I wouldn't kid around here.  For realsies.

Secondly, there is a whole lotta paraphernalia involved in America's Pastime.  At their first practices, the boys came home with a laundry list of uniform items they needed, ranging from socks (re: my mental engrossment at the stop sign) to cleats to belts to pants to all manner of protective accoutrement (I shall leave it at that, so as not to alarm any of my more delicate readers).  It was enough to make a girl run for the hills.  Instead, I ran to Facebook to poll all of my 771 closest friends on where I could find the cheapest cleats.  And also ask - what the heck is the difference between soccer cleats and baseball cleats?  Because we got a bunch of soccer cleats around this joint.  I was informed, however, that those will not do.  They are missing a little cleat on the toe that would render a baseball player useless were he to attempt to play without it.  I was, however, informed by my dear Facebook family that I could find some used ones at a store nearby.  Home run!

The boys and I also had to sign a code of conduct.  It seems that there are some people who play baseball (or parent children who do), who don't play well with others!  We had to agree to respect the coaches, not swear or drink in the park, not yell at the umps and several other things that seem like common sense, but are apparently NOT.  What is the world coming to?

Ok, so this sounds like a whine fest, doesn't it?   It all is a bit. . .daunting, I admit, but the upside is that the boys are really enjoying so far.  And while sitting at the ballpark for basically the entire months of May and June doesn't sound as good as say, sitting on the beach, I am looking forward to watching my boys play and improve.  And I am oh-so-happy with all three of their coaches.  Each boy has a coach who is encouraging and challenging, as well as understanding of our family's other commitments.  Last week was Holy Week, so the boys had to miss a couple practices for church.  One of my son's coaches even said "faith before baseball" when I told him we had to miss practice.

It's going to be a crazy couple months, but we're ready to step up to the plate and take it one base at a time.  I know, I know!  But did you know there is a whole glossary full of baseball idioms?  Seriously, the internet has everything!  I had to use a couple of them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Large Family Checklist

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times.

 "How do you do it?" 

Five kids seems to constitute a huge family in today's world (though it's really not - I know many, many families with more children than our little five). 

So here's a few things we can't live without, in no particular order:

A tabletop griddle.  Grilled cheese, pancakes, french toast, bacon. . .When there are seven people waiting hungrily for a meal, a measly stovetop square griddle just ain't gonna cut it.

A well-running dishwasher.  I must say, we are hanging on by a thread with this one.  Ours is 14 years old, and I fear she may not be long for this world.  But she stills churns out a load every night after dinner, without fail.  If the kids are home all day (as in weekends, summer break etc.), then it is usually run twice a day.  Most pans and large items still have to be hand washed every night. But remember - we have five kids, so that doesn't mean I'm doing all that washing.

4-slot toaster.  Breakfast is so very much more pleasant when I can pop out four pieces at a time.  With seconds on toast, I only have to run it about three times a morning.

Bunk beds and lofts.  We have two lofts and one set of bunk beds. They make our average-sized bedrooms seem roomy (as does a large set of utility shelving in lieu of dressers in the boys' room - huge spacesaver).

Front loading washer/dryer.  Seven people wear a lot of clothes.  A lot of clothes.  I do laundry twice a week and our large washer/dryer set make the whole process go much more quickly.

A van/suburban.  We currently have both.  Older models, but in good shape.  Our van is not a looker, but it's paid for and utilitarian (two things I love in a vehicle).  The suburban is a thing of beauty to me, and it's plenty spacious.  

And now I'll tell you a few things that are not needed to have a large family.

A lot of money.  Yes, some money is essential.  But kids don't need to be involved in every expensive sport offered.  They don't need to have the latest Uggs and iPhone.  They don't need to have birthday parties with astronomical price tags.  They don't need trips to Mexico and Florida two to three times a year.  Are these things nice?  Absolutely.  And if you can afford to give them to your kids, great!  But they're not necessary to a person's childhood.  

Superhuman patience.  Five kids can really tax my sanity, not gonna lie.  The volume, the fighting, the constant activity and scheduling can be a lot.  But I don't have any more patience than the next person (and quite possibly less than the next person) and somehow we manage.  

Lots of spare time.  People always ask "How do you find enough time to spend with all the kids one-on-one?"  It is a challenge, but it can be done.  We are creative with carving out time with each of the kids.  This doesn't have to mean major events.  Just quality time talking or throwing a baseball or going to the grocery can be wonderful opportunities to connect.  

A huge house.  As we kept having children, people would ask "Are you going to have to move into a larger house?"  My answer continued to be "No".  Our house is 2100 square feet, with four bedrooms  and a partial basement, and it is just fine.  Sure, if a huge house were to fall into our lap, that would be great.  But who's going to clean it?  Kids can share bedrooms.  It doesn't kill them.  It might teach compromise (we're working on that).  And here's a strange phenomenon I've noticed over here.  It doesn't matter the size of your house -  your kids are going to be in the same room you are in 90% of the time anyway.  When our kids were a little younger, that meant our master bathroom.  Smallest room in the house, and everyone seemed to congregate there when we were trying to get ready in the mornings.  True story.  These days it's the family room/kitchen.  Most of the time, all of us are there, doing our various activities.  Why have all those other rooms to clean?  Might as well keep it to a minimum.  Bonus - I know what's going on when everyone is within earshot.

Okay, true confession.  We don't need all those items I listed above.  They make life easier, for sure, but we could certainly get along without them (but man!  I would miss that dishwasher!).  What we really need is love.  And grace.  And the love just grows with each child.  There never seems to be a shortage.  Being surrounded by your children (whether it's one child or nineteen) has to be one of God's greatest gifts, don't you agree?  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Random Thoughts on a Blustery Friday Afternoon

In no particular order of importance in my (scattered) brain, especially since none of the following observations are of any importance at all:

My children have been trained by Disney DVD, in the manner of Pavlov's dogs.  When watching a Disney movie, when the children hear "Fast Play", they all dash to the DVD player to push play.  Because everyone knows that "Fast Play" is, in essence, "Slow Play" and shows about a million trailers before starting the feature.

A couple of things I don't understand about Facebook:  I realize I am not a hipster, but why must young people call their boyfriend or girlfriend Boo and Baby on Facebook?  In all honesty, I once read a status in which someone called their significant other Baby.  I was legitimately confused, thinking they had a baby I was unaware of.  Help a girl out, people.  Call your boyfriend by name!  And the other thing - check-ins.  Why is that necessary?  I watch people check into Walmart, the dentist, a restaurant, the Carribean.  It's good to know where everyone is at every second of the day in case I might need to track down the girl who I worked with in 11th grade, but it just seems like overkill to me.  And perhaps dangerous?  It seems like a bad idea to advertise to 500+ people that your house is currently unsupervised.  Maybe it's just me.  Re:  I am not a hipster.

You will be oh-so-happy to hear, dear reader, that I can now listen to/watch "Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?" without crying.  This only took me about 25 tries.  I feel ridiculously proud about it.  I just knew you would too.

And another thing about Frozen.  Have you noticed how many times the characters say "Wait, what?"  I have.  It's a lot.  Trust me.  Or don't and watch it for yourself.

The weather today is disgusting.  Windy, cold and rainy.  Better than snow, yes, but seriously.  My flip-flops really want to be worn.

Wow.  There is a whole lot of nothing in this post.  To the few of you who made it this far, I'm truly impressed.