Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fascination With The CUP

  I am raising three very different boys.  All 3 born to the same set of parents.  All raised with the same rules and beliefs.  All 3 attend the same school and church.  All 3 are surrounded by the same people.

And all 3 are as different as can be. 

They have different likes and dislikes.  Different temperaments.  They show love in different ways.  They have different strengths and weaknesses. Their differences fascinate me.  I could write for days about their differences, but I won't do that right now.  I am only pointing out their differences on the baseball field.

All three boys like to play sports and are a part of practically every sport team offered in our area. This is one way that they are all similar. It's just how we roll.  Baseball is the sport we are playing right now.  Tucker is on the high school team and plays short stop and third base.  Sawyer plays "kid pitch" this year and is both a pitcher and short stop.  Carter has moved out of t-ball this year and is playing "coach pitch".

On the field, the boys all approach the game of baseball so differently.

Tucker is a thinker on the field.  He excels at the sport because before the ball is ever pitched, he has already thought through every possible scenario for what he should do with the ball.  When the ball is hit to him, he fields it clean and without hesitation. He makes the play at the perfect spot with impeccable timing.  His brains help him shine on the field.  If he ever makes a mistake, Tucker is very hard on himself and very unforgiving.  He takes losses personally.

Sawyer is a natural.  He steps out on the field and doesn't even have to think about what to do.  His moves are fluid and seem absolutely effortless.  Without even thinking, he makes the play at the correct base.  He has a natural instinct for the game.  If his team loses, he generally breaks down and is very upset.  He hates to lose more than he loves to win.  Sawyer's competitive nature keeps him at the top of his game at all times.

And then .... there is Carter.

Carter just simply loves life.  He is content with whatever the outcome of the game.  He is more often seen smiling at the crowd than he is watching the ball.  He thinks that his team does awesome at every single game, even if they stink it up.  He has all the self confidence in the world and proudly proclaims that he is a great baseball player.  He does not have a competitive bone in his body and is perfectly or lose. 

Carter loves to play sports, but I always wonder if it isn't the social aspect of it that he enjoys the most.  Upon announcement of practice time, the other two boys generally cheer and race to grab their gear.  They are disappointed from a rain out and totally bummed on "no practice days".   Carter is indifferent.  He is just as happy at home as he is at practice.  He seems to like wherever he happens to be at the time the best.  He has never been passionate about any sport like the other two are.

Well, never UNTIL......

....He was assigned the position of catcher this year.

Oh. My. Stars.
This kid is obsessed with his catcher's gear.

He played catcher two years ago in t-ball.  Basically because I was the coach and no one else wanted to play back there.  So, I stuck my own kid back there.  I know.  I'm a great Mom.

Anyway, he liked it back there. So, this year his coach asked the team if anyone was interested in playing catcher. His hand shot up.  He was pumped to have been given back his favorite spot.

After his first practice, Carter informed us that we would have to buy him a cup.  He said, "I need a cup to play catcher.  Girls don't have to wear 'em, but I do. Can you go buy me one?"

So we did.

And when we got in the car from buying it, he shouted....
"I can't WAIT to try on my cup!"

We all laughed at him, but then realized he was dead serious.

After we bought it, he 'practiced' wearing the cup many times.
He wore it around the house, out on the trampoline, playing in the back yard, and even watching TV.

He told us that real catchers wore their cups and he needed to get used to it.  He needed lots of practice wearing his cup.

The first few nights he even wanted to sleep in it.  After I shut that suggestion down, he settled for sleeping in the sliding shorts that the cup slides down into and putting the cup on his bedside table.

At the time, the cup was the only real catching equipment he had.

A few days later, we bought the whole shebang.  The complete set of catching gear.

You would have thought we handed Carter a set of tickets to Disney World.

Seriously.  He went bonkers over it.

We just thought he was obsessed with the cup.  Getting the whole set of gear brought his obsession to a whole new level.

So now, Carter is just as passionate about baseball as his brothers are.  Although it's more about the gear than the game, we are gonna roll with it.

So now, when the umpire asks the coach before the game..
"Is your catcher properly equipped?"
Carter's coach can answer "Yes" with the utmost certainty.

Play Ball!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Competitive Gene

  Is there a such thing as being too competitive?  Apparently so.  And..... I may be in trouble.  I found this article online in Glamour magazine. (Oh, yes it IS a very trustworthy source of health information...what do you mean questioning my sources?) is a segment of the article....

Are you competitive? Would you label yourself as "aggressive" in terms of going after what you want? Here's the warning for people, our competitive nature may be slowly ... killing us.

Researchers who published a major study in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association say that those who are most competitive are at increased risk for stroke and heart attack than folks who are more laid back.
The details: Italian researchers studied 5,614 Italians and found that those who scored highest for competitiveness on standard personality tests had a greater thickening of the neck arteries, an risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

Killing me??!!  Yikes!  That's harsh.

Thankfully, the article did go on to say that if your competitiveness is mostly geared toward your fitness and athletic competitions, that the competitiveness could in theory, be helpful instead of harmful.  The competitiveness gets dangerous when it spills over into friendships, your love life, and everyday tasks.  I think I may not die from being too competitive after all.

I have always known that I inherited my Dad's competitive gene.  All through grade school, I wanted to have the best grades.  In high school, I wanted to be the best softball player on the team....or even the county.  I always felt let down if I didn't get chosen for something or didn't win something. And I don't think that competitive tendency has disappeared over the years.  It still rears it's head up on occasion.

My competitive nature was in full force this past Saturday night.  I entered a unique night time trail run with two of my friends.

The idea of the run was that teams would compete out on the trails in the dark.  The event coordinators had hidden 12 books along the trails marked with reflective tape to be seen only in the dark.  Runners were to head out onto the trails wearing headlamps and run the trails in search of the hidden books.   When a hidden book was found, teams were instructed to tear out the page of the book that corresponded with their team number.  We were team #30, so we were to remove page number 30 from each book and bring it back to the finish line at the end.

Some hints to the books' locations were emailed to runners prior to the race and others were sent via text message during the race.  Prior to the start of the race, using the clues, we had determined that there was one book hidden on each of the trails that covered the mountain.  To collect all 12 books, our team would need to split up to cover all of the miles of the trails in the 3 1/2 hour time limit.

Our basic plan for the race was that I would cover the longer trails alone and my partners would cover some of the shorter, more challenging trails as a pair.  In the end, we hoped to find about half of the books each and meet back at the finish line as winners.

Our plan started out great.  I headed off on the first trail and within minutes found the first hidden book.  I ripped out page #30 and tucked it into my running belt.  I texted my team and alerted them that the first book was found.  I conquered the second trail, Buckeye Trail, and found book #2 almost as quickly.  I jogged on to my third trail, which looped around a wetlands area.  I was stumped a bit when looking for this book and ended up looping around the trail three times before finding book #3.  I moved on to Sandstone Ridge Trail which had some really steep inclines and grabbed book #4 at the top of the trail. 

On my way down this trail heading to my next trail is when I got the alert from my team that they had struggled to find their first book, but had finally located it.  We were now up to 5 books as a team.  I continued on to a long leg of my trail running and covered the Pipeline Trail, which was almost two miles round trip.  Then, Lizard Loop Trail, which was a mile long loop that I ended up running twice because I couldn't find the book the first time.  Locating the book on Lizard Loop was insane.  The book was hidden well off the trail and I had to cross a running stream to get to it.  I ran the rest of the night in shoes and socks saturated with mud, but I was determined to find the book for the team.

After all this trail running is when my competetiveness and determination really took over.  I really picked up my running pace and backtracked some of the previous trails to get to a new section of the mountain.  There were books hidden on The Crusher Trail and The Ridge and Valley Trail.  I looked at the trail map and realized that these were the most challenging trails on the mountain, but I was NOT going to let my team down.  I had books to find!

So I headed off on Crusher Trail and found the book fairly easily, despite the changes in elevation and the fact that I somehow ended up off the trail and was lost for a brief period of time.  I had now found 6 of the 12 books.  I had an hour left to return to the finish line.  I had one last trail to conquer....The Ridge and Valley Trail.  The trail map describes it like this.....

Ridge and Valley Trail (1.5 miles)
Our most demanding trail, it goes through 1000 feet of elevation change over its length. You will cross several small streambeds as you hike.

About 3/4 of the way through the Ridge and Valley Trail.....I thought I was going to die.  I was out of water in my water bottle.  My legs were ON FIRE from running the hills.  My body was exhausted.  I texted Bradley, who was at home with the boys, and told him.....
"I don't know if I will make it off this trail.  I haven't seen another human in forever.  I don't think I can make it back to the finish line. And I think I may even be lost or something.  This trail is sooo long."

But just as I was about to throw in the towel....I saw the faint glow of another person's headlamp.  The person ended up being the event photographer.  He snapped this picture of me as I was climbing yet another "Ridge" on the trail.

He had a thick Indian accent as he shouted...

"Hello, runner!  Are you OK runner?  I haven't seen any other peoples on this trail, runner.  I am take your picture, then I leave this trail.  Are you feel OK runner?  Yay, runner."

I have never been so happy to see another human as I was to see Suman the Indian at that moment.  He let me know that I wasn't lost in the the woods after all.  And I knew that I might make it to the book, get the page out, and get back to the finish line alive.

I continued running and finally got to the end where the most glorious book awaited me.  I cheerfully took the page and put it into my running belt.  I was more than elated to get to the end of the Ridge and Valley Trail to see that there was an alternative trail back to the finish line.  I think that if someone had told me that I would have to retrace my steps and run Ridge and Valley again, that I may have died right there on the spot.

I made it back to the finish line and my team mates arrived shortly after with the books they had found.  My legs were shaking like jello.  I was thirsty and hungry and exhausted, but I had had probably my best run ever.

I ended up covering close to 10 miles of trails in the dark and collected 7 of our team's 10 book pages.  Our collection of 10 hidden book pages was enough to win our team a 3rd place. 

For the past 3 days since the race, I have taken Ibuprofen every 4 hours to help with my aching muscles.  My legs have hurt so bad that I could barely walk.  I have never, ever been so sore from any exercise.
What did we get for this punishment to our bodies???

This medal.....

I know you are jealous.

And bragging rights for completing the race.

Was it worth it?
I don't know.

I'll let you know the answer to that when I am finally able to walk normally again without Ibuprofen.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Being Real About Teaching

  I'm just gonna lay it out there. 

The truth.

The truth is that most days, I am a pretty stinking good teacher.....not to toot my horn, but I just really enjoy what I do.  I think the Big Guy Upstairs picked my occupation for me as he was creating me. I was born to teach.  I feel that Kindergarten is a wonderland.  A room bursting with eagerness and ideas and energy and excitement and enjoyment and paint and dirt and booboos that need kissed and playfulness and giggles and messy hair and sticky faces and bright eyes and big smiles.  My kindergarten classroom is the perfect combination of laughter and learning and it is filled with 18 unique little individuals who all need me in a different way.

The truth is that I take pride in a job well done.  I take pride in the fact that my class is as prepared as possible for first grade.

But the truth is that today....

I sucked.

I know that I just said the major bad "S" word. 

But it's true.  I was major suckage today.

Nothing I tried to teach seemed to stick.  I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to teach one of my reading groups today because they just weren't "getting it".  The kids were beyond wild...probably because of the FREAKIN full moon.  I was cranky.  The kids were snippy with each other.  I was snippy with the kids.  I had NO fun ideas today.  We did NO art. We played NO games. I barely danced with them during music time. I completed the required lessons, but totally lacked any sort of pizazz.  Did I even smile today?  Probably not. 
Why? Because today.....
I was a loser. 
I stunk it up. 
I reeked. 
I sucked.

The good news is that I don't think I did any permanent emotional damage to any of my students.   They are a pretty forgiving bunch.  One student even said,

 "Mrs. Heptinstall, you are one of the bestest teachers I have had in my whole life."

I was relieved that she still loved me despite my numerous shortcomings today.

But then, I remembered.....
 I am the only teacher she has ever had in her whole life.

Good For You Ranch Dressing

Healthy Homeade Ranch Dressing

I overhead someone mention yesterday that they had found a recipe for homemade ranch dressing that was actually healthy.

Healthy Ranch?

Yeah, right.

I have seen Fat Free Ranch dressing and Light Ranch Dressing, but they are still full of preservatives and sugars and other stuff that is less than healthy.

I was curious, so I looked it up on Pinterest.

It took a bit of searching, but I finally found this super simple recipe that has only THREE ingredients!

1 cup Fat Free Cottage Cheese
1 Cup No Fat Buttermilk
1 Package Powder Ranch Dressing Mix

Mix in a blender/magic bullet until completely smooth.

This recipe makes two absolutely delicious creamy cups of dressing.

It has TONS of protein, zero fat, and very few calories.

So dip those veggies....guilt free!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Broom Trick Bonanza

For several days I have been seeing people post photos on facebook of their brooms standing up unassisted.  I didn't really take the time to see what the fuss was all about.  I honestly figured people were playing pranks or something and there was some sort of string holding the brooms up.

But today, at our school, the broom trick caught on.  One of our teacher aides walked down and asked if I had seen the "Broom Trick".  I told her about seeing it on facebook, but didn't know what it was.  She walked over to the corner of the room, opened the closet, got out a broom, and stood it up.  It was as simple as that.

 What?  Hey.... How did you do that?

She replied with, "I don't know.  It is suppose to be something about the alignment of the planets."

That didn't sound exactly right to me, but it was still a pretty impressive trick.  Simple, but quite impressive.

Before long, this is what our hallway looked like.....

Almost every teacher in the school had taken their brooms outside their doorway and stuck them in the hall.  All standing with no strings. Unassissted.
The kids were completely amazed.  Heck, even the adults were amazed!

Our class did a little bit of research to answer the questions of why it worked. We learned that the trick is really nothing more than a balancing act.  We learned that it has nothing to do with the alignment of the planets and everything to do with the broom's center of gravity being directly over it.  We tried to have a little mini lesson on balance and gravity, but I think some of my kindergartners still believe on some level that a bit of magic was involved.

The whole trick was all in good fun.......until the maintenance department arrived. 

The maintenance men marched right past the brooms, without even checking up.  They didn't smile.  They didn't seem to take notice of 30 brooms standing on their own power, balanced in the hall.  They just kept walking.  They made it all the way to my door at the end of the hall passing broom after broom outside each teacher's door.

They arrived at my door ready to fix a leak in my classroom, but paused before coming into my room.  One of the men nodded over at the brooms and said.... 

"Did all of the teachers decide to park their rides out in the hall today?"

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Green Egg Disaster

Today we celebrated the brilliant and wacky author, Dr. Seuss.  Tomorrow is his birthday, so we have read his books, watched one of his movies, created art, and made rhymes.  We have written stories, made illustrations and dressed up. Today, we read his book Green Eggs and Ham.  And to properly celebrate Dr. Seuss, you absolutely must eat some green eggs and ham!

The kindergarteners all gathered around me as I cracked open two dozen eggs.
Whisked them up.
Added green food coloring.
And poured them onto the hot griddle.

The kids were mesermerized.
I had them eating out of the palm of my hand.


Something went wrong.

Horribly wrong.

Can you see the problem?

Look more closely.

I thought the kids were squealing with delight because the eggs were sizzling on the pan.

But no.  Oh, no.
I didn't realize that they were screaming because all the eggs were pouring straight onto the floor through the hole in the griddle.

I noticed it after half of the green eggs were already on the floor.

Oh, the horror!

Have you ever spilled an egg on the floor?
It's not very easy to clean up.

Try spilling over a dozen eggs that are dyed green on the floor.... while 18 kindergarteners watch.

And then try to regain control of the situation.

You should try it.

Just for kicks.