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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Youth Team Sports: An Exercise in Parental Frustration

Originally Published to my WordPress Blog as:
YOUTH TEAM SPORTS: AN ADVENTURE IN PARENTAL FRUSTRATION

Youth Team Sports: An Exercise in Parental Frustration

My son has been looking forward to baseball season and joining a team all year. But I am filled with trepidation. Maybe other parents are too — maybe there’s something more we can do?

Sign Up

Part of the reason (but not all, certainly) we decided to homeschool this semester was that my son wanted to play baseball. I knew from other parents that practices were more than one night a week and could run late in the evening. Games, too, could make for long nights. Homeschooling would allow our son — who was already struggling academically — to play ball, get plenty of rest, and still devote quality time and energy to his education.
My first problem was that there was no “sign up on (date).” Every information channel (other parents, school gym teacher, the gym that hosts the sign ups, the website for online sign ups) informed me only to “watch for it.”
“Maybe sometime in February.”
“Don’t wait too long to sign up.”
Really?
Summer camp signups open April 1. School registration is also due April 1. Fall soccer sign ups close September 1. Martial arts classes can be joined anytime, but are generally considered month to month. Same with music and technology classes. What gives baseball this magic pass to be elusive with basic information?

But one day in late January the website didn’t say “coming soon,” and I was able to sign up. I paid the fees ($100!), and I thought the next screen would give me confirmation, a list of dates, a list of equipment, notice of when to expect to hear from the coach — something. Any of the above so I could plan and budget for the necessary expenses. I’d hate to spend a whole lot of money buying the wrong things.
Instead, nothing. I received an email from my bank that an online payment I had made had cleared, but not even a confirmation screen from the sign up portal. For me, this was not a good sign.

The entire month of February…

Nothing happened.
No phone calls, no updates. I knew it. This fly-by-night operation had taken my money and run. My son had his homeschool classes, I wrote a few articles, we showed our house and eventually found a buyer, and we found a new place to live. All without a word from the baseball people who had my son’s information, my emergency contact information, and my money. Must be nice for them. I asked other parents when to expect to hear something, and got the reply “Spring.”
Spring? Really?
Spring Semester? Spring Break? Before Spring Break? After Spring Break? Six weeks after Groundhog Day? After Farmer Fitzgibbon starts plowing his field? “Spring” is not a concrete date concept for me, and I prefer to deal in concrete facts — dates I can mark on a calendar or on my phone.

March

Important Dates in March:
March 1 — we moved.
March 2 — another big snow- and ice- storm
March 4-7 — we finished moving and cleaning out the house we were selling.
March 7 — we closed on the house we sold.

March 11 — we get a call from the coach. The call came in at 8:58pm. (In this area, as in many places of the American South, it is unusual and bordering on impolite to call someone one doesn’t know after 9pm. This guy was cutting it close.) The coach sounded like a teenager. He did not sound like one of my son’s friends’ dads. He does not sound old enough to have kids my son’s age. (I did have the wherewithal to ask and confirm that he had no kids.) He told me that the first practice was Thursday (the 13th), that practice would be Tuesdays and Thursdays. He told me where practice would be, and asked if I had any questions.
I had tons of questions for my son’s coach. I just couldn’t think of them. I mentioned a schedule conflict (see next section). I had written down a list of questions in January when I signed up, but mislaid them among the many stacks of papers that had moved from house A to house B in the 10 days prior to the call. And when talking to a teenager (which I amended to college undergrad after the first practice), I was in no way reassured that my son’s dream sports activity was going to end well.

First Practice: Class Conflict

My son had one other outside the house activity this semester — a computer programming class. Just one night a week. Thursday afternoon, for 90 minutes.
Baseball practice also met for 90 minutes, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, starting one half hour later than the computer class. The class and ball practice were at least 15 minutes from each other by car, depending on traffic.
I told the coach about the conflict. He didn’t seem too concerned. “Well, he can just come when he can.”
I’ve heard that before. It means that while my child can put something else ahead of team practice, he can also spend games as a bench warmer. I’ve seen coaches do that to kids. As if kids can control their parents’ schedules, their siblings, or their siblings’ activities. I’ve already got the potential stigma for homeschooling. I don’t need to be “that” parent, too, bullying the coach or trying to get exceptions made for my kid. My son does need to learn to pick and choose activities. We work very hard to keep him from being over-scheduled and overwhelmed. However, we did not want baseball to be his only activity. We don’t even know if he’ll really like it — and when we signed up for the computer class in January, we didn’t even know when baseball would start or what days it would occupy.
The coach did not suggest changing teams to one that met on different days. (I should have asked, but like I said, I was caught completely off guard by the call, and then all I could think about was the immediate conflict.) Surely this problem had come up before with coaches waiting until the week of first practice to call players and inform them. And there isn’t a list of other coaches to call and ask to be traded.
We e-mailed the computer class director so she’d know why my son was absent (and we got a personal reply a few hours later wishing us luck). That made me feel even worse: I really hate canceling a good class with good customer service to pursue a questionable class with bad customer service.

However, I thought if I did not try to do both, I would be less stressed about interrupting both, being late, leaving early, and so on. We pay for the computer class monthly; had I known by the 5th that baseball would start the next week, I would have cancelled the computer class until after baseball season. One week’s prior notice would have saved me money and reduced my stress. But maybe I’m just being overly sensitive. It isn’t like I didn’t know baseball was coming — I just didn’t know when.

First Practice: Preparations

I can exhibit many characteristics of Type A personality, and I don’t know everything. Maybe the coaches wait until they see their teams to hand out handouts with all the information I knew I needed to ask but couldn’t remember in the heat of the moment. Maybe players got traded after the first week and so things were in flux until all necessary changes had been made. So all I had to do was get through the first practice. Then someone would be able to tell me all I needed to know — set me on the right path. I just needed to be patient — not a strong suit of mine.
I sent a message to some knowledgeable baseball parents inquiring as to whether my son could play the first practice in tennis shoes — and was told emphatically NO! He needed cleats and he needed ball pants, too. The latter was no big deal. I had bought some at a consignment sale back in October. As long as they fit, we were in business. Right?
But of course the pants bought in October didn’t fit in March. Welcome to growing kids.
I was out of time. I didn’t have a weekend to scour garage sales for used equipment. I had two days. Did my signup fee include a uniform, as I suspected? Nope. It covers a T-shirt. It cost twice as much to sign up for baseball as it had to sign up for indoor soccer a few years ago, and for all I knew, the only benefit my son would receive was a lousy t-shirt.

First Practice: Equipment Failure



So the pants didn’t fit, and my son still needed cleats. He had a new bat, ball, and glove — though some leagues play with metal bats and others with wood and we’re lucky our league (so far) says it doesn’t matter.
When I played baseball as a kid, though admittedly, never on a team, we were fine so long as we had a ball and something to hit it with, and could agree upon the bases: any branch on the bush was first, but you could not break the branch to take the base with you; second was the cherry tree — the one on the left; third was any part of the cement patio. Home should have been obvious — it was where we started batting from — but as the catcher (when we had one) moved to tag other bases out, we lost home a lot.
In contrast, my son was playing on a no-try-outs, no cuts league on actual baseball diamonds. I expected they’d all get team shirts from some corporate sponsor (or as part of our sign up fee) and beyond that, what does a kid really need to play a little ball?
It turns out he needed:
  • cleats
  • pants (white) — I bought grey. Obviously this coach doesn’t do laundry.
  • belt (team color) — to hold up the pants.
  • cup and compression shorts (oh, I’m not old enough to have a kid who needs these!)
  • socks (team color) — I bought white socks (how cliche) because they would go with any color. I suppose he can still wear them to practice(s).
  • helmet (team color) — they had some “community” helmets, but a parent warned me about head lice… Ugh! Been there, don’t want to repeat that!
  • gloves (for batting)
Even with some items on sale, we spent $100 on equipment before the first practice, only to find out we had the wrong color pants and socks and needed a belt and a helmet. Tough on the budget, but not terrible if my son was an aspiring ball player. Or a terrible player who nonetheless enjoyed sucking at baseball. However, not knowing if my son will still be interested in baseball after a few practices, it was (and will still be) a lot of money to spend.

First practice: Where Were the Other Parents?



We’re a few minutes late, but not the last ones. By the end of practice, nine players were on the field. Without a list, I don’t know if there are other players, or if each team has exactly nine so everyone gets a chance to play and all positions are filled exactly. The latter would work out great so long as everyone showed up, but there are conflicts, or people get sick, go to birthday parties, become injured and unable to play. And without knowing dates and times for games in advance of them — do some people simply stop their lives for their child’s team sport?
Two women were sitting on the bleachers when I approached. One was a mom, like me. And like me, her son was playing league baseball for the first time. The other was “just the ride” — filling in because the parents couldn’t be there for some reason. I engaged both of them in light banter, but neither offered a name other than the first name of the player they brought, so I didn’t either.
Two fathers came mid-practice. They did not appear to know each other. They watched the practice for about fifteen minutes, engaged each other about work — one was in sales, apparently, the other, construction. After some signal that I apparently missed, they both got up and left, and weren’t seen again until the end of practice.
When the assistant coach (the coach’s adult male relative, by looks and later confirmed by the assistant) had told the players their team name and the next practice date and time, parents started to come out of the woodwork. At the coach’s request, they gave T-shirt sizes to the coach and left. No introductions were offered. No sheet of information was given. Another parent asked the coach about the team color (a specific kind of blue) and various uniform and equipment needs, and I wrote these things down on my clipboard. The fact that I wasn’t planning to keep this information in my head seemed to bother the coaches. Did they think they were sharing secrets that I did not need to know?
I asked the coach if there was a list of everything needed. He looked at me like I had two heads. I told him “hey, we’re new at this. I just want to make sure I have everything my son needs.” He told me I’d be “alright.” Whatever that means.
I asked if we’d get a list of players’ names, a team directory, or anything like that. You know, in the event the parents wanted to get together to give the coach something nice at the end of the season. Or if game time meant parents brought snacks and drinks on a rotating schedule. Phone trees were part of any group activity that I was part of growing up. Now we have text and email and Facebook and all sorts of ways to communicate to help each other and be part of a community. But Coach said, “I don’t think the league would like that. I mean, what if you and another parent got mad at each other and started sending bad texts and then sued the league for giving each other your numbers or something. Doesn’t that make sense to you?”
“No.” I said.
Sadly, it did. A little. It does — that same little. But my son was supposed to be on a team with kids from his (albeit his old brick and mortar) school. I was supposed to know some other parents because our kids were on the same team. I was counting on it. Or maybe they’d have enough homeschoolers to comprise a team, so more parents would be on equal footing with me — more eager to make introductions and share information. Instead, my son (from what I overheard or could tell) is the only 5th grader playing on a team of 6th and 7th graders. They attend the same middle school he will attend next year, but the 6th graders will be in a different section of the school and the 7th graders will move on to junior high. Their paths may never cross meaningfully off the field. They don’t have phones to exchange numbers with each other.
  • How is my child supposed to invite a new friend over?
  • How do I get to know any of the other parents I might sit beside during practices and games (without coming across as pushy)?
  • How will I know whether I am sitting next to a teammate’s parent or a parent of the opposing team?
Parting Thoughts
So I still don’t understand how teams were chosen, if any thought was given to it at all. Why couldn’t parents choose when practice days or times were, since apparently teams were picked by drawing names from a hat? (I have since learned that another boy in the league has practice on different nights from my son. Another has practice on the same nights, but at a later time. Either would have allowed my son to keep attending his computer class without missing baseball.) Should I ask for my son to be traded? And how would I go about that?

I don’t understand how parents continue to pay for a league with so little organization and planning.
 But I’ve talked to parents in three different states so far — they all tell me to relax and just “go with it.” I realize that baseball is America’s National Pastime (I don’t get it, but whatever), but is that an excuse for little leagues to make money hand over fist just so that parents can involve their children in a team sport? And why make it so complicated that to do the sport, everything else must be on hold? Do I just need to “chill”? What can I do to get through this season (or until my son tires of it) and how can I better prepare myself for next time? Because you know there’s always a next time…

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Why Didn't I Just Say That?

So… It happened again.
I offered my opinion on FB, some person who is a friend of my friend disagreed with me, debating my data with their OPINION and asking me for more and better data, on their terms. I bowed out of the conversation, and was called uncivil by the mutual friend.

Hang on a minute. Why was I called out as the uncivil one?

So I sent the OP a PM -- after ignoring the four attacking comments from the male persona I didn’t know, which caused the OP to censure MY behavior. OP had an issue with the term I used - sealioning - because neither OP nor friend of OP knew what it meant. So they took it as a personal attack.

So now I feel the need to post data about what sealioning is. I am being sealioned about sealioning. Terrific.

After I explained via PM that I was literally being sealioned and stated that I called out the attack as my reason not to continue to engage, I told the OP it was inappropriate to ask me to be civil as I was disengaging.

In my defense, the OP posts a new comment to the sealioner saying I thought the discussion had gotten heated and was so I trying to bow out. Really? Talk about a kick in the teeth. If that’s a message in my defense, and not coddling a manbaby, then I really am a legless mermaid.

So why do I keep at it? Because ignorant people are making decisions every day that affect me and people I care about. Privileged people can disengage, and that’s fine (It’s really not fine, but I can’t even deal with that right now, so…). I don’t feel I have that luxury. At the same time, I can’t continue to engage people I don’t know. When they engage me, through mutual friends, I do expect the friends to moderate fairly.

When a woman tries to be civil, and someone accuses her of the opposite, I’m going to have words for that. Especially when the woman being accused of being uncivil is ME. Fuck that shit! (Which, let’s face it, IS uncivil.) The policing of females who back up their points of view is inappropriate. Period. Women who disengage and cite a reason should be supported. Women need to be loud, proud, and supportive of each other. Full stop.

I don’t resort to name-calling. I don’t bash people over the head with my profound intelligence. So if I say something they don’t understand, why not ask me before assuming ill intent?

Because I can call a manbaby a manbaby. I can denounce a 45 supporter with all the gusto that the pig-headed pea-brain deserves. I can overwhelm with links, stats, facts, and so much data to support my intelligence that -- well, it would be a lot. But I was being civil. To my own perceived detriment. I left the conversation and was told I did so uncivilly.

The male persona responded to my comment “I don’t engage with sea lions” by calling me a whale and the OP thought it was tit for tat. Honestly? My eyes could not roll back in my head any farther. Male persona - person I don’t know - made three or four comments that I didn’t intend to read within the five minutes after I made my comment and left. Initially, they commented on my comment to the OP - in other words, I did not initiate engagement with them. If they weren’t trolling me before, how many comments after a disengagement before I get to call the sealion a sealion? Had the OP not tagged ME - and not the other person - and asked ME to be civil, I never would have read the comments where the stranger attacked and baited me. That’s why I’m creating this post.

Even if a post doesn’t seem political, one can bet it probably is. Even if I seem shrill or uncivil, I can promise — I don’t have to play nicely at all. Polite women rarely make history, much less change history, resist oppression, or implode a patriarchy.

But if I’m going to insult a person — not just disengage, but truly insult a person — know that I will make damn sure they know how I’m insulting them. I will do so with little words that they should have learned by about third grade. Then they can take my pedantic words and go fuck themselves to the moon.

Some will say that this post has been created because someone has touched a nerve. They’re right, but not the nerve they’re thinking. I’m writing this post because ignorant people are overwhelming social media platforms as well as manipulating the data available via the internet (usually to skew right of right of center to the point that moderate opinions look left-leaning). People who have taken the time to become well-informed can’t spend all day fighting all of them. Women in particular take more time to educate and remain social, so need to be given more respect in online engagements.

Women being called out for incivility is inappropriate. If someone doesn’t understand a term, they should look it up before embarrassing themselves by displaying such wanton ignorance. Especially among people who label themselves as woke progressives. [eye roll, eye roll]

I want to be done, but I’m not done. There will be more ignorance to battle tomorrow.

Be ye man or woman - or both or neither or fluid - support people who civilly engage so that people like me can take a break every once in a while. Regularly post descriptions of trolls and logical fallacies so that people know when they’re being called an animal and when they’re simply being called out on their behaviors. Support women who disengage from conversations in ways that make them feel confident they left with dignity to fight other battles elsewhere. Moderate the men who think everything must come on their terms. If not capable of these small acts of kindness, please STFD & STFU. (Fair enough? I thought so.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Landmines


Landmines

A happy child enters my car and slams the door.
“So, how was school?” I ask. I am cautiously optimistic for a response.
“Fine.”
With one word, the battle begins. The mines are buried. I know I will trip every one.
“Just fine?  Can you tell me more?”  No pressure. Tread lightly here. “ I just want to know what you do for eight hours a day without me.”
Silence from the passenger seat.
“Did you learn anything?” I venture cautiously.
“Well, my friend likes this one girl, and last week he didn’t, but now he does.”
“That’s nice. Did you learn anything, say, academic?”
“I don’t remember.”
Defensive positions by the opposition. I am ready for this. I return to neutral territory.
“OK. How was lunch?” I ask. Lunch, packed by me, is usually safe. “Did you have a good lunch?”
“Yeah. I shared my ketchup but a little bit of milk got in it.”
I don’t even care where the milk came from, or if it was his. He is talking to me. I venture further, and step on a landmine. “Little like a few drops or little like the whole box?”
“I don’t knoooooooowwwwww.” The bottom lip starts to quiver.
Evasive maneuvers — change the subject. “OK. How was PE?” He likes PE.
“Fine.”
“What did you do?”
“You know, stuff.”
I take a deep breath and jump into the minefield. Mothers know, this really should not be attempted while driving.
“What about spelling?” I ask bravely.
“What?”  He would much rather ignore me, but my pursuit is dogged.
D

“Spelling? What did you learn about your spelling words today?” I persist.
“I don’t remember. Can we not talk about this?” He crosses his arms and turns away from me to stare out the window.
Seriously? You’re 9, not 19. What’s wrong with this? I don’t dare voice that thought out loud.
I don’t text while driving; I operate battle stations. My target is the back of my son’s head, which is all I can see when he’s turned away from me.
“Well, what about science? You love science.”
“We didn’t even DOOOOOOO science today!”
“I’m sorry. I know you like science. I’m sorry you had to miss it.”
“Yeah, we had to do [insert random unintelligible words] earthworm.”
“Earthworm?” Desperately latching onto something that sounds science-y. “You studied something about an earthworm?”
“We read a book.”
“You read a book about earthworms?”
“Yeah.” The ‘duh, you idiot,’ may not be spoken, but it is more than implied.
“Well, earthworms are living, and that’s science. That’s cool.”
“Mom, it was a book. Books aren’t science.”
It’s rather hard to refute this logic.
“Mom, where’s my snack?”
How could I forget the key ingredient in my arsenal? “I got you chocolate chip cookies.”
Mothers in the 60s could always get their kids to open up with a snack of cookies and milk. However, no one told my son about Leave it to Beaver. However, he is very polite about the cookies.
“Thanks, Mom. This is the best cookie I ever had!”
There has been no advance on the son who is not my enemy. And I won’t bother to point out to him that I still have no idea what he has been through during his eight hours at school. I feel like I have been dodging landmines set by friendlies, and I am mentally and emotionally exhausted. I hate this game. The problem is, my son loves this game.  If I’m going to win the war on parenting, this battle must be given over to him. So I’m sitting down, buckled up, and trying not to ask too many questions.  My white flag is in the air. And sometimes, I will learn something — if I listen between the crumbs.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Mermaid's Revenge Table Top Game

At a gaming convention, Save Against Fear, a few weeks ago, I got to share the latest update of my game, Mermaid's Revenge. A few people pointed out that I didn't have a detailed explanation of my game available on my website. So I'm hoping to remedy that.
Jump to: Background + Idea & Story Tie-In + Rules + Buy your copy!


This is the logo I chose for the game.
This image was created by Ellen Avigliano, who created the amazing images for my
Mermaid book covers and all the art for the Mermaid and Friends Coloring Book

Mermaid's Revenge (Background)

My son (a cool teenager) and I developed this game to accompany my book series. Josh is my expert on all things Magic, D&D, tabletop and role-playing. I enjoy more classical games. And of course, I wanted something that was easy to learn and hard to master. There is a little more luck in the current version of Mermaid's Revenge than strategy, and I'm still working on that.

I originally wanted an app or a download, print, assemble and play game. This was based on amounts my son was asking me to shell out for the table top games he was playing. At $60 per box game, I realized I wanted something much more affordable to play - available to anyone with an email address. But I did want something for the idea. So the first version of Mermaid's Revenge was a $5 download. Versions in my store range from $10-$20 -- but I need to change that to $10 in person and $15 if I'm mailing out the game with dice and movers (use movers and dice from games you already own - that's my advice!).

However, my target market is 4th-8th graders. Many of them have school emails, but not ones that can make purchases or communicate with people without school accounts. If I was going to sell to them, I needed to have a version of the game I could put in their hands.

A year later, I updated my merchandising plan for events and made a version of the game that was much smaller - the current version of the game fits in a pouch in the palms of open hands.

The ducks enjoy playing Mermaid's Revenge!
Ducks and mermaid scale cloth are not included with the Mermaid's Revenge game.

Mermaid's Revenge (Idea & Story Tie In)

Mermaid's Revenge is a game where the players are Lost Boys (gender neutral term) searching for treasure they can take to the final port. Mermaids are in the waters the boys travel, looking for Pirates to take revenge on. Sometimes the Mermaids can't tell Lost Boys from Pirates. If players can prove they are Lost Boys (by rolls of the dice), Mermaids may even help them get treasure.

Optional game play encourages the Lost Boys to visit Ireland for a +3 token. This token ensures that a Lost Boy won't be mistaken for a Pirate.

Optional game play also encourages Lost Boy Battles. Lost Boy Battles can happen when a Lost Boy has found treasure, then shares a space with another Lost Boy.

The ducks enjoy Mermaid's Revenge!

Mermaid's Revenge (Rules)


Welcome to
Mermaid’s Revenge!!
Created by Phyl and josh Campbell

In this game, Lost Boys[1] must find three treasures and take them to the port marked Network.
Lost Boys can find treasure at any spot marked X. Pirates[2] steal from other Lost Boys with treasure.
Mermaids help Lost Boys, but also look for pirates so they can take their revenge!
Can they tell which is which?

Game Set Up
Place Xs on empty blue spaces.
More Xs may make a shorter/easier game, fewer Xs may make a longer/more challenging game.
(Draw Xs on spaces to create a permanent game board.)
Place the +3 tokens on the board where Ireland is. (See Optional Play)

Game Play
Lost Boys roll 1d6 which determine their starting ports. If two people roll the same number, the older player rolls again – youngest player wins the port. The lowest port goes first.
On their turn, Lost Boys roll 1d6 and advance NO MORE that many spaces towards any X (or Ireland).
At each X, Lost Boys draw a card which might be:
treasure – collect 3 to win the game
mermaid help – follow the card
Mermaid’s Revenge – keep reading, get ready to roll!
  
Mermaid’s Revenge Card
Players who draw Revenge Cards must roll 1d6
1 –Mermaids say, “lose a treasure and return to your port, pirate!”
2 –Mermaids say, “return to your port, pirate!” (but keep treasure)
3 – Mermaids say “Hmmm.” Nothing good or bad happens. The player’s turn ends.
4 –Mermaids allow the Lost Boy to advance one space in any direction.
5 –Mermaids allow the Lost Boy to draw another card.
6 –Mermaids allow the Lost Boy to draw cards until they find treasure!

Lost Boy Battles
When two ships land in the same space,
the Lost Boys will battle the Pirates!
Each player rolls one d6 die.
The player who rolls the lowest number will get knocked back to their starting port for repairs.
In addition, if the high roller rolled a 6, they steal a treasure from the low roller.
If the low roller has no treasure, too bad!
If the low roller rolled a 1, they lose ONE treasure to the discard pile.
Lost treasures do not go to high rollers unless they rolled 6.

Optional Play
Help Mandy’s family! Players may travel to Ireland to help Mandy’s family.
Players who help Mandy’s family earn a +3 token which is used during Mermaid’s Revenge.




[1] Lost Boys is a gender-neutral term in this game. Mandy is a Lost Boy even though she is a girl.
  Anyone of any gender is a Lost Boy for this game – unless they are a pirate!!
[2] Pirates are any Lost Boys who steal treasures instead of finding them or getting them from the Mermaids.
Here is a basic set up of the Mermaid's Revenge Game.
The map is an 8.5x11 sheet, the rules fit on two sides of a half sheet of 8.5 x 11.
These and the other parts fit into a small see-through pouch that measures 4"x 6".