Tag Archives: sports

Best and worst end-of-year gifts

Kids are gearing up for the end of the year, eagerly anticipating the start of summer vacation. And if you’re like me, you’ve been racking your brain for what to give the people who have meant the most to your child throughout the school year. First on the list is their teacher. But on that same list are their daycare providers, bus driver, crossing guard, sports coach, librarian….

What do you give the people that have been shaping your child’s life all school year long?

1. A simple thank you note. The best way to say thank you is to, well, say thank you. A handwritten card by your child (and maybe a little note from you as well) can go a long way in letting your child’s teacher know they’re appreciated.

2. Make a Scrapbook. This is fantastic for a coach or a teacher. Each child takes a page with their photo on it, and then writes a favorite memory of the year or season on it.

3. Your time. At the end of the year, teachers, librarians, and daycare providers are busy taking down the room so that it’s ready to be prepped for the next year. As you can imagine, this takes a lot of work. And an offer to help out might be much appreciated.

4. A gift card. It sounds impersonal, but it’s the perfect way for the person you’re thanking to be able to get what they need or want. A nice dinner out, a day at the spa, coffee… And for teachers who are most likely using their own money in the classroom, a gift card to the local bookstore or school supply shop will be highly appreciated.

5. Gift basket of school supplies. Along with the mention above, teachers can never have too much help in stocking up their classroom. Pens, dry erase supplies, Kleenex, paper, scissors, tape refills, paper clips, staples…. The list goes on and on. This would be a fantastic gift from just your child, or even a whole classroom.

6. Photos. If you’ve been taking pictures all year long, burn them onto a CD and give them to your teacher or coach. You can also print them out and make a photo album or collage. You can include them on a digital frame. Or you can create a book from them using the programs with Snapfish, Shutterfly, or other programs that allows you to bind them in a hardcover book. You can even create a calendar for the following year so that when your teacher has a new class, she’ll also have memories to share of her old class.

7. Growing a thank you. A potted plant can last long past the summertime. And it doesn’t just have to be flowers. It can be a start for a tomato plant, some fresh herbs, or even some seeds so that your child’s teacher or bus driver can plant their own garden. Even a gift card to the local Seed Bank can be a wonderful gift.

8. Movie Night In. Tie a ribbon around a package of microwave popcorn, a box of candy, and a gift card to the movie store. To make it extra fun, put it all in a pail with a couple glass bottles of soda. Who wouldn’t enjoy an excuse to stay in?

9. Recipe Book. Have each child in the class write out their favorite recipe on an index card and then tie it with a ribbon to a new apron. Or photo copy each recipe and bind it together in a book.

10. And don’t forget to have your child include their address in the thank you card with a few extra stamps. They may just receive a summertime pen pal from their teacher, crossing guard, bus driver, daycare provider, librarian, coach, or anyone else who has made a huge difference in their life this school year. And through the years, teachers don’t forget their students. Proof – I just heard from my 1st grade teacher who hasn’t seen me in over 20 years!

Of course, while those we are thanking would never tell you this, there are a few gifts that you should avoid giving if you can.

Coffee cups. I guarantee each teacher receives several each year. Multiply that now by every year the teacher is in the classroom. That’s a lot of coffee cups.

Ornaments. Unless you know your teacher is an avid collector of all things Christmas, there comes a point when their tree just can’t take anymore.

Gifts that are TOO personal. Skip the Victoria’s Secret gift certificate or the fishnet stockings. I’m not saying teachers don’t need lingerie too, but it probably shouldn’t come from their student.

Anything that says “World’s Best Teacher” on it (or anything else teacher related). They might just be the world’s best teacher. They don’t need 20 plaques that say it all over their home or classroom that were given to them by numerous students. Same goes for Chicken Soup for a Teacher’s Soul. I know the stories are tear-jerking. I also know that each teacher has probably been gifted this more than once.

Religious gifts. Saying thank you while saving their soul might not feel like much of a thank you, especially if they don’t share your faith. Just saying.

Baked goods. Some might appreciate it, but most just end up in the teacher’s lounge. Just like us, teachers are watching their waist lines too. And let’s face it, even if you are the best baker in the county there are plenty of others who are not. After years of braving mediocre homemade goodies, the teacher may just decide they can’t chance it even on your prize winning banana bread.

Scented gifts. Candles, lotions, body soaps… They might smell lovely to you, but they also might induce an allergic reaction in your teacher. Not only that, some of the lesser expensive scented gifts smell AWFUL. Best to skip it in favor of a gift card to your favorite bath shop.

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Are you a teacher, daycare provider, librarian, coach, principal, teacher’s aide, bus driver…? What was the best end of year/season gift you have ever received? And are you brave enough to share the worst (I’ll totally accept anonymous comments if you’ll dish!)?

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Baseball Mitt

It was a recent Friday night, and I got rid of the kid.  The Taz’ friend in Windsor asked if he could spend the night after school.  Actually, it was more like his friend’s MOM asked. I always think that’s way cool because it means that my kid has made a good impression on another parent – which is never a bad thing when the nickname for your kid is short for Tasmanian Devil.  Of course, I’m friends with this woman, so I had to make sure she knew what she was doing.  But she insisted, and then became the heir to the vast fortune of pens I’ve stolen inherited from work, just because I love her that much.  If I’d thought things through a little harder I would have also asked if she were interested in a couple teenagers so that Mr. W and I could skip town.  But instead, Mr. W and I spent a riveting night with the teens catching up on our shows.  Of course, if they weren’t there, we’d probably be camped out on the couch doing the same.  Naked.  Alright, we’d be sporting sweats.  But they’d be damn sexy.

The Taz had baseball Saturday morning, which meant I had to be super organized to coordinate everything.  Organization is not my forte.  Since moving to Petaluma a month ago, I still have numerous boxes piles up in the garage titled “Miscellaneous Crap”.  And that’s exactly what they are.  There are things in those boxes that I’m actually missing.  But rather than go through them I’d prefer to complain about my missing items loudly to anyone not smart enough to change rooms once they see me rummaging around in the same place they’re NOT over and over.

“Seriously guys, why can’t I find my cheese collection from the old house?  And what the hell is that smell?!?”

No, the organization thing is not my best suit.  But I was way ahead of myself this time in my excitement that another parent liked my Taz enough to ask him over.  I washed and folded the Taz’ uniform and put it in a neat pile with his shoes, hat, and belt.  I made sure to remind him several times to pack his toothbrush, pajamas, and a clean pair of boxers.  And when I sent him off, I was pleased that everything was in order.  I mean, even his teacher looks at me funny when I mention I write a parenting column, and before she asks why the Taz doesn’t have his homework.  Again.  But this time?  I was ready for anything.

My organization skills were solid the next morning when I left the house at the exact time I needed to leave to pick him up.  DQ and I made it to Windsor in perfect time, had a couple minutes to chat at the house, and were on our way.  From the looks of things, we would even be 10 minutes early.  We were almost there when the Taz piped up in the back seat.

“Did you bring my glove?”

You know that moment when the whole world stops and you can see little bits of air particles moving slowly around you in slow motion before the impact happens?  Yeah.  It was that. 

I cannot repeat here the exact words that left my mouth at that point, though I admit it was not my proudest of moments.  And as I mimicked pirates, I also became acutely aware of my dwindling gas tank as we neared the field in Santa Rosa and I knew I’d end up driving all the way to Petaluma and back to retrieve the stupid glove.  Rather than make him late, I dropped him off at the field with his sister, booked it to the gas station, raced back home, and made it back to the field just in time to miss my son do some of his best pitching in the first two innings (using a borrowed glove), and a ball he hit to the fence in a double.  And, as the Ump further relayed to me, I also missed his play of the game when he ran off the pitcher’s mound and covered home to get a guy out.

“Way to go, Mom of the Year,” the Ump teased, and I played my mini violin as I described my martyrdom that had made me late.  But seriously, a Mom of the Year wouldn’t have dropped everything to perform an hour of drive-time to get the glove that was her 10 year old son’s responsibility to get.  Instead, she would have let her son risk sitting out the entire game, thus ensuring his glove wouldn’t be forgotten again (in theory, of course, as lessons in our house tend to take several tries – like video game priveleges….)

But let’s face it, I’ll probably end up doing it again next time it happens.

Stripping schools of their sports

(Cardinal Newman's Karl Kobler, right and Danny Binz. Photo by Crista Jeremiason.)

Imagine, if you will. Colleges send their scouts out to all the different high schools looking for their next Tim Lincecum or Zack Greinke. They sit in the stands at numerous games, taking notes and writing down names for those ballplayers they wish to extend invitations to for the next season’s college teams. Several students will receive scholarships to guarantee their entrance to their college. And a select few of those star ballplayers will go even farther and be drafted to a major league baseball team.

These scouts will not be attending any Santa Rosa high school games.

Last night the school board voted to strip the Jr. High and High Schools of their spring sports. This includes, not only baseball, but track, swimming, softball, badminton, boys tennis and boys golf. They also voted to shorten the school year by 3 more days, increase the class size from 28 to 29*, and take away the IB program that is dedicated to those students excelling in their studies. On the only bright side of the evening, the board agreed to defer the vote on eliminating 7-8 librarian positions – a move that could mean much less study time for students who use the library during school breaks and study periods. That vote will take place February 17th.

Read the article that ran in the Press Democrat today.

Frankly, I’m furious. It is true the Santa Rosa schools are strapped for funds right now. And budget cuts have to come somewhere. But taking away school sports? To be a part of a high school team, a student must maintain a minimum of a C average and stay out of trouble. For some students, this is their motivation for keeping up their grades and behavior. For some students, being a part of the high school team is equal to breathing. It is their passion, their drive. And we are yanking it away. And yes, this vote strikes a personal chord with me. My 9 year old son is passionate about sports, and is exceptionally good at baseball. I am excited for the day when I can be in the stands at his high school, cheering him on as he plays. This vote takes that future hope away from me. If I am outraged over this vote before my son has even reached that stage, I can only imagine the anger and disappointment of those students and their families that this vote affects now.

Santa Rosa High student, Hannah Croft, also voiced her outrage in the Teen Life blog. “…as I’ve learned in my month in economics, there is money left unspent. The reserve funds, a percentage of the district’s annual income, are untouchable. However, even without the reserve funds, the district finishes each year in the black, with more money than they expected. We are tightening the budget at this point, because our school board isn’t much for estimation. Our projected spending exceeds the actual spending year after year, by thousands of dollars.” She continues that “steps can be taken to save money before we cut spring sports, leave Mesa students in the dust, or throw forty students in one English class. Ask teachers to unplug their refrigerators, microwaves, computers, and other appliances over the weekends. Turn off heating and air conditioning when no one is on campus. These steps seem simple, yet we’ve bypassed them, and jumped into these anvil-sized budget cuts.”

My opinion as far as budget cuts go? Reduce the amount of school districts by combining them. Does Santa Rosa really need 41 school districts, complete with their own staff and offices and all the other costs that go along with them? Increase fundraising efforts from those participating in sports. Cut classes or programs that aren’t as popular or necessary in the school program. There has to be other avenues and measures that can be taken before taking away programs that are beneficial to our students.

The board promises to revisit this issue in April or May to see if any of these changes can be reversed. Parents, if you are as outraged as I am, I urge you to be a part of this meeting and make some noise. Our high school students deserve so much better than this.

*Note: class sizes are not being increased to 40 as previously stated, but are only increasing in size by 1 student.  Thank you, Tad, for bringing this to my attention.  🙂

Baseball tryouts

Just like all 9 year old baseball players and older, the Taz had baseball tryouts this past weekend. Graduating from the Rookies to be a part of the Minors, this was our first year ever to have to tryout before being placed on a team. Ours were held in the gym over at Elsie Allen High School – which was pretty cool because there is no chance of it being rained out. The kids were tested on their catching and throwing skills, and their batting skills.

But rather than describe it, here is a short clip of the Taz during his tryouts.

In the car on the way home, the Taz did a commentary on his performance. Note: he held the video camera (i.e. iPhone) the whole time, as I was driving.

(of course, there were the outtakes…..)

Anyone else do tryouts yesterday?
Have any links to photos or videos you want to share to showcase your talented son or daughter?
Leave it in the comments!

City Cup Tournament

We’d had a good weekend. Between the two kids, we had participated in 5 games. Now was game #6, my daughter’s 3rd game of the City Cup Soccer Tournament. We had played the opposing team before, and knew that they were tough. But we had our game faces on. So far, the girls had tied the first game, and only lost the 2nd game by a couple goals. They were in high spirits because they had played their hardest, and they knew it.

The game started out competitively. Our defense was rock solid as we blocked numerous attempts at the goal. The goalie was in her A game as she slid on the grass to deflect the ball, and jumped in the air to catch another. But the ball stayed on our side of the field too many times and eventually they scored against us. The girls didn’t let it bother them, and laughed as they got back into position. ‘It’s alright, it’s just one.’ But then another slid past, and then another. It was enough to wear them thin, and their smiles faded as the whistle blew half time and they ran off the field. The score was 4-0.

The coach gave them a pep talk, let them know that they were playing great and to just get out there and do their best. Half time ended and our girls went out there, determined to win back what they had lost. Almost immediately the 5th goal was scored. The score was now 5-0. The other team, due to sportsmanship rules, was not allowed to score any more goals. It was a slap in the face. But it was our chance to move our defense up and help in the offense, and maybe still get our team on the board. But our spirits were down. And the other team’s spirit was inflated. One girl with some of the fanciest footwork I’ve seen proceeded to take the ball and move it back and forth across the field, making a cat and mouse game of it as our girls chased her back and forth. Several of the girls on the other team resorted to pushing and shoving our girls with no call ever made from the Ref. One of the repeat offenders kept shoving our girls repeatedly behind the Ref’s back, and sometimes in front of her. I watched as she picked on some of our smaller girls, blatantly shoving them when they had the ball so she could steal it back. And then I witnessed her doing it to my own daughter. The girl shoved her hard, my daughter stumbling over her feet as she lost the ball in the process. I looked at the Ref to see if she noticed. Nothing. Game on.

At the same time I heard a commotion over near our coach, and the whistle was called. One of our girls was down, a little firecracker who never seemed to be phased by pain when the ball would slam into her full force. But she was down on the ground, crumpled over in agony and tears. The Ref hadn’t noticed, but this girl’s mother sure had. The coach and mother ran out on the field. Anger flared as the mother questioned the Ref’s ability to do her job. As my daughter’s teammate was gathered up and carried off the field, our coach was issued a yellow card for the mother’s questioning.

We were all in a bad state. With 10 minutes left to play, we were ready for the game to end. It had stopped being fun. Our girls had lost their spirit, despite having played their best against a really good team. No matter how hard the game is played, it never feels good to lose. The other team was definitely skilled. But the brutality that went along with their skill, as well as the ill-timed yellow card, left a bad taste in our mouths. The game soberly ended and the score never changed. 5-0, we had lost.

My daughter helped gather up our belongings and walked quietly back to the car. She had very little to say. As we got home I could see that she was angry and dejected. We had just signed her up for indoor soccer, something that she had been begging for me to do for her. But the news that she was in was hardly exciting for her. The defeat blew the whole weekend up.

It’s hard to not let losses get in the way of the purpose of playing. A teammate plays because they love the game. And that is true about any one of those players. We walked into this tournament with our heads held high. The girls spray painted each other’s hair and giggled and cheered with each other. They got on the field and ran like they never ran before, attacking that ball in a way we had never seen. And even in the last game, they fought the bitter fight until the whistle ended the game. Some of the girls still held their smiles, wishing each other ‘good game’ as each one left. And some of the girls, like my daughter, took it personally. Knowing my daughter, she just needs some time to unwind and get over it in her own way. There is nothing I can say that will take away her disappointment. So far, pointing out how well she played has only fallen on deaf ears.

At any rate, the tournament is over. Our family survived the whirlwind of a weekend. And while this year was rough, it goes without saying that we will be back out there next year, anticipating the tournament as if we were waiting for Christmas.

Don’t miss your chance to enter to win a free Spray Tanning Party for yourself and 9 friends.  We’re in the final days!  Contest ends Tuesday, Oct 13th.  See the forum for details.

Overscheduling and Activity Burnout

The beginning of the school year can be an exciting time. Dressed in brand new clothes and carrying new backpacks filled with sharpened pencils and clean binders of white, school-lined paper, your kids get to see friends they haven’t seen for 3 months and sit in classrooms with a new teacher, breaking up their day in ways they haven’t had to in months. But it can also bring dread to kids who have already endured a very busy summer of camps, summer school, and workshops, only to have an even busier schedule with school, sports, and music, among other things. Time that once was used for independent play, sitting quietly with a book, or a spur of the moment neighborhood game of baseball has now been taken over by after school daycare, Little League practices, and piano lessons. There is no time for play. There is no time to unwind. There is barely time for homework. From the time an overscheduled kid wakes up to the time they go to bed, they are on the go. And what is the result? Activity burnout.

During the soccer season both of my kids’ days consist of going to school, then going to after school care. I pick them up and they dress in their uniforms while eating a snack as we drive to the field. An hour and a half later we’re at home. I’ll cook dinner while they do homework. After eating it is time for showers and then bed. There is no downtime. We don’t get to hang out. And all of us are more tired than ever. Quitting soccer is not an option, it is a sport that both of them love and will never give up. And being that they each have to attend practices (2 days a week per child) and a game (once or twice a week), this is bound to give us only one day off a week. And I need to work, so I can’t exactly quit their daycare either. So I get that sometimes schedules are hectic and there is no way around it. But is there an easier way to lighten the burden for kids?

Just this past weekend my son asked me if he could take golf lessons, on top of playing soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring. And he had previously asked if he could continue with the martial arts we had given up last year. I said “no” for his benefit and well being, but mostly I said “no” for mine. With a full time job, and being that I am already pulled in separate directions with both kids activities, I couldn’t fathom adding more. And of course he was disappointed. But we follow one simple rule in our house – if you want to add another activity, you have to take away an activity. Since there is only one driver in our household, we can only do one sport a season. If he wants to play golf in the fall, he has to give up soccer (which is already paid for, so it’s not really an option). If he wants to play year-round, baseball goes as well. For him, that was not a trade he was willing to make. So until he can drive himself, adding another sport is not going to happen.

Activity burnout goes both ways, too. As an overscheduled parent, it is hard to not feel exhausted at all times when the whole day consists of carting kids from one activity to another, volunteering for the PTA, assisting as team mom for the soccer team, and keeping the household together. Dinners need to be made, the grocery shopping has to be done, the budget needs to be balanced and the floor is not going to vacuum itself. When going to work feels like a vacation, it’s time to reevaluate your time.

Everyone needs a break, parents and kids. TwoKidMom on the Santa Rosa Mom forums suggested that if at all possible, take one day a week and schedule NOTHING. “I like to find one day in the week and keep that day open – no sports, meetings, anything. And if I can keep one of the weekend days open so that the kids and I can hang out, even better! It’s hard to not be on the run during the week (especially with school starting!), but if there is at least a little bit of a break to just slow down, it helps.” It also helps to strategically planning out your week so that several things can be done on the same day (like grocery shopping while the munchkins are at soccer practice). And every day needs at least a few moments of silence. Even just waking up early to sit in silence with your morning cup of coffee can do wonders for preparing you for the day.

How do you refrain from burning your child out without keeping them from doing what they like? And how do you keep yourself from being overscheduled? Have you found a happy medium?

Speaking of school…..how have you prepared your kids in the transition from a summer schedule to a busy school schedule? And what do you do to make the school schedule less hectic? Do you have any recommendations for other parents out there? Share them on the forums at SantaRosaMom.com.