Saturday, March 28, 2009

Play Ball!

Baseball officially started for us today at 9am when Theo's Rainier District Little League coach pitch team had its first practice. Thanks to his Daddy and his Uncle, Theo loves the game. Unfortunately his primary teacher (that'd be me) knows very little about the sport or the skills.

I've spent the last few weeks gathering information about how to teach basic baseball skills. Several websites out there made great sense to me and, via a search on, I found our public library owns several highly recommended resources. 

Based on what I read, I've decided to take Theo's baseball practice in slow steps and make it part of our daily homeschool routine. After watching him at the skills day for the league, it was clear that he is comfortable with throwing, needs practice with his batting and struggles with catching. So in reverse order, we're working mostly on catching with a little throwing (mostly because the two are so closely linked).  As these skills mature, we've started to batting skills and practice.

The sources I've gotten the most out of so far are:
QCBaseball - webseite created by a man who played through college and coaches little leagues
Backyard Baseball Drills also by Marty Schupak

Focusing on catching first, one of the websites suggested children learn best if they start by throwing to themselves.  Also, most every source devotes several paragraphs to helping children conquer their fear of getting hit by the ball.  To this effect, Marty Schupak, introduces the "rag ball" - an ingenious device that consists of wrapping rags in masking tape to create soft "balls."  Since I was short on time for making rag balls, we started Theo's catching/throwing practice with a stuffed animal. He humored me with this for a few days until he could throw it up over his head and catch it about 20 times. We moved to a tennis ball from there and once he could throw and catch the tennis ball 100 times, I let him get out his mitt.  Figuring out mitt catching took him a few days, and after about a week's practice, he was successfully throwing the ball over his head and catching it with the mitt about 100 times easily.  

Wanting to get some fielding practice in, I started rolling Theo grounders in the living room. He found it hard and boring.  Our first viewing of the Marty Shupak video introduced us to the goalie game.  Theo stands between two chairs spread about 6 feet apart with his mitt and I try to roll balls past him.  He doesn't have to catch them, just bat them away from the goal.  Turns out this is hilarious to an 8 year old and he begs to do it over and over.  I notice the game has has him both moving his body to get to the ball and really focusing. Since we've been playing baseball goalie for a few weeks, I've started occasionally challenging him to catch the balls and throw them into a bucket to represent 1st base. I'm amazed at how his abilities have grown.

Once the throwing/catching to himself started to lock in, we made the rag balls.  Next to our rag ball construction area happened to be a blank wall where his sister had hung a homemade stop sign.  Theo started throwing the rags balls at the sign to test them and that immediately became the throwing spot.  He started by trying to hit the stop sign with the rag balls, again 100 throws.  At some point I suggested he throw the tennis ball (gently) against the wall to see if he could catch it.  Now he spends about 10 minutes every morning with the tennis ball and mitt, which makes a great alarm clock for anyone in the house who might have been still sleeping.

We've just started working on batting practice.  Thus far everything I've used comes straight from the Shupak videos.  One suggestion was a rag ball on a rope, using masking tape instead of duct tape.  I jumped on this immediately because I can't pitch.  Somehow, we're out of duct tape (Theo swears he knows nothing about this), so we tried with masking tape.  The batting practice was super fun for two days until Theo beat all the masking tape off the rag, so we're currently stuck waiting on a trip to the hardware store. 

I really like Schupak pointers for what good batting form should look like. Once we get the new tape, I'll be using several of his other tricks to help insure that Theo learns good footwork habits while batting.  

A few weeks ago, a super nice woman at playing Sunday morning softball loaned us her tee.  Along with the loaner came a quick lecture on how hitting off the tee is some of the best batting practice possible.  As this echoed more Shupak advice, I'm currently on the prowl for a hit quality tee and a tarp that Theo can hit into so we won't spend half the day chasing down balls.  

After several weeks of home practice, this morning was my chance to see how much progress we were actually making.  Most importantly, Theo had a great time - even though it was pouring rain and freezing cold!  And, I saw great strides.  His catching is wildly better than it was at the skills days.  He has a strong throwing arm, so I was stunned to see he didn't throw the ball all the way to the little boy he was partnered with more than once.  I was concerned the small kitchen space was stunting him and my first thought was that we need to get outside and do lots more long throws, which we will.  But it also turns out Theo didn't want to hurt the much smaller boy with the hard ball so he was aiming in front of him.  Isn't my boy sweet? 

Currently we have baseball built into our morning homeschool work.  I'm hoping to expand our equipment and games so eventually our time can involve a combination of skills games. As usual, because I am schooling two children, I need to find a balance with things he can do independently and games that require me. Here are my ideas thus far.

 - against the wall
 - relay games into tarp
 - catch with a real person
 - with ball on a rope
 - with tee into tarp
 - with soft toss rag balls
 - goalie games
 - pop fly games
Running and sliding drills

My favorite tidbit from everything I've seen and read so far is from Marty Shupak and I've taken it as my mantra:
Baseball practice should always be more fun than work.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All Sides of the Triangle

Adoption is sometimes referred to as a triangle: the child, the biological parents and the adoptive parents.  

On the triangle, we're all connected.  We need to know and be known to make this crazy thing that is adoption work for everyone. From personal experience, I know being an adoptive parent is complex and emotionally laden. Through conversations, reading and lectures/panels I attend, I get opportunity to reach to understand the experiences of adoptees. What I rarely find is a way to connect to the experience of first moms.  

Once in a while, on the blogosphere, I find a post like this post.  In a world where so many women's truths are silenced, I'm glad to hear her speak out. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Guess What We Did Today


What a sweet little museum.  Just the right size and information for Theo's interests with plenty of Seattle history for me and mom.  The docent enhanced the displays with interesting stories of her own.  And the padded window seats up front created a lovely napping spot for a certain tired 5 year old!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

888: Throwing in the Towel

Last year, MamaPeep put me on to the 888 Challenge - read 8 books in 8 catagories in 2008. 

With 2008 safely complete, I can say this challenge kicked my butt.  I read a lot, but it turns out a huge portion of the books I read are for the kids.  One of the attractions of taking the challenge was a commitment to doing some Sara reading.  

Below is my final count.  I put the books I fully read in bold, noted ones I started, and sighed wistfully at all the ones I missed. No doubt there are 5 or 6 information gathering books I ingested but didn't record, so they are gone forever.

Thus far, dominates my 2009 book tracking attention.  I'm liking the format, it seems quick and easy, plus updates with the few people I've managed to "friend." I'm considering starting an account for Theo so he can share recommendations with buddies.

Sara's 888
Adoption and Race
1. Outsiders Within (started)
2. Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Tatum
3. Can We Talk about Race? by Tatum (started)
4. Real parents, Real Children by van Gulden
5. Bone Black by bell hooks
6. Rock My Soul: Black People and Self Esteem by bell hooks
7. I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla by Wright
8. … Looking for a book by first moms… ideas anyone?

Parenting (some of these are re-reads)
1. Kids are worth it by Coloroso
2. Playful Parenting by Cohen
3. Kids, Parents and Power Struggles by Kurchinka
4. Protecting the Gift by deBecker
5. The book about raising healthy black children on my desk
6. How to Really Love You Child by Campbell
7. Temperment Tools by Neville and Johnston
8. Mama Rocks' Rule by Rose Rock

Education (for me about teaching the kids)
1. Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African American Students by Steele
2. Smart Girls by Barbara Kerr
3. Dumbing us Down
4. The African history book hiding in one of the unpacked boxes
5. Brain Rules by Medina 

Homeschool (novels for us to read together)
1. Battle for the Castle
2. D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire (started)
3. Return of the Indian by Banks
4. The Trumpet of the Swan – E.B. White
5. The Sword in the Tree – Clyde Robert Bulla
6. Thimble Summer – Elizabeth Enright
7. Call It Courage – Armstrong Perry
8. The Door in the Wall – Marguerite di Angeli

Graphic Novels
1. Usagi Yojimbo book 7
2. Usagi Yojimbo book 8
3. Elfquest 4
4. Elfquest 5
5. The next Girl Genius
6. More Usagi
7. Elfquest 9
8. More Usagi, again

Make me laugh, make me cry
1. Thank you Jeeves by PG Wodehouse
2. Right Ho Jeeves
3. Something by bell hooks
4. The Tower at Sony Wood by Patricia A. Mchillip
5. iPhone, The Missing Manual (started)
6. Strong Enough? By Mark Rippetoe

The Wanna Read Someday Shelf
1. Healing the New Childhood Epidemics by Kenneth Bock
2. Home Comforts by Mendleson
3. Body Clutter by FlyLady
4. Good Calories, Bad Calories by Taubes
5. Fiber Menace by Monatryrsky

8 Great Plays (to accompany the lecture series by Leonard Peikoff)
  this catagory was "Victorian Pulp Fiction"
Antigone by Sophocles
2. Othello by Shakespeare (just couldn't do it.  I hate Othello, it's too dark for me. I listened to the lecture unsupported.)
3. Le Cid by Corneille
4. Don Carols by Schiller
5. An Enemy of the People by Ibsen
6. Saint Joan by Shaw
7. Monna Vanna by Maeterlinck
8. Cyrao de Bergerac by Rostand

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In Praise of Vitamin D

I went for my "annual" check up last week. Since my last "annual" checkup in 2004 my naturopath has learned volumes about breast cancer, the hard way.  Whereas before she took this subject seriously, she now is very sober and very knowledgeable about many aspects and issues concerning healthy breasts.  

Many years ago, when Rosie was a tiny baby, I found a lump on my breast.  Dr. F looked at it and while the lump was on my breast, not in it, she quickly sent me to have it checked.  In the few days of waiting it took for me to get in to the radiologist, I lived in shock and fear.  In fact, I was so scared I never told anyone but Bill about the whole experience.  The lump turned out to be fatty tissue, but my attitude is also quite sober when it comes to breast health.

For years, I have known that we women living in the Pacific Northwest are at highest risk for breast cancer, joined in hazard by our sisters in Northern Europe. Same with multiple sclerosis.  So while we joke about the number of rainy days and our personal confusion when that big yellow ball appears in the sky, it may turn out not to be so funny.  There is a high correlation between lack of vitamin D and rate of breast cancer/MS.  The sobering fact that Dr. F shared with me is that 95% of all humans - man, woman, child - living in the Pacific Northwest are vitamin D deficient.  

Since my last "annual" checkup 5 years ago, the medical establishment has created an easy blood test measuring levels of vitamin D.  Dr. F and I quickly agreed I should be checked.  My assumption was that my levels would be fine or very close to fine because I am serious about my health care, and I take my cod liver and coconut oil on a daily basis. 

My results came back yesterday.  The scale for vitamin D sufficency is measured, I am pretty sure, on a scale from 0-100.  Healthy range is 33-100, and acknowledging that is a crazy huge range, Dr. F says she likes to see her patients at around 50. I weighed in at an alarmingly low 12. Armed with my little dropper bottle of high potency D, I will be super-saturating my body with the liquid sunshine for the next 3 months.   And while I've already started the kids and Bill on an appropriate amount of the high dosage vitamin D, they will also be feeling the prick of information gathering in the next few weeks to check for extreme deficiencies. 

Again, the link between low vitamin D and breast cancer/MS is still just a correlation, with some studies supporting and others denying the marriage of the two. But for now with it being our best guess, taking large doses of preventative vitamin D is neither hard nor dangerous.

If you read this blog, it is because I know you and care about you.  Please, take this post as a cautionary tale and make an appointment with your primary care physician (or mine, she's great) and get tested.  A little knowledge now can save us both a ton of pain and fear later.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rosie Looses a Tooth

While eating an apple this week, Rosie lost her first tooth.  She'd been sporting the wiggler for almost a month (through 2 trips and 4 states) and was thrilled to have it finally come out. 

Isn't she delightful?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cute Kid Story

As you may well have figured out by now, our family spent the first half of February in the thralls of Disney mania.  First 4 days of a Disney Cruise followed by 5 days in DisneyWorld.  We had a great time. Disney's attention to detail is everything I remembered it.  The ship was beautiful, the service excellent, we danced with dolphins and rode countless roller coasters.

Here's my favorite part.  If you ask my kids if they recommend a cruise to the Bahamas, here's their answer: "Yeah, it's really fun.  But bring your hat and coat because it's really cold there."

Traveling in the offseason has its hazards.  

Locked Out!

I spent more than enough time last week trying to get into my Google accounts.  Apparently while I was vacationing in Florida, people at Google were busy making "changes."  Somehow said changes locked me out of my accounts.

After 3 separate emails with their automated userid and password wizard, I'm magically back in with the userid and password I was trying to use in the first place.

The internet is a weird and wild place. But aren't you glad I'm back?