Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Centerfield


Well, a-beat the drum and hold the phone
The sun came out today
We're born again, there's new grass on the field

A-roundin' third and headed for home
It's a brown-eyed handsome man
Anyone can understand the way I feel

Oh, put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Look at me, I can be centerfield

This past summer our local Little League boys went for quite a run, winning the state championship, landing on ESPN, and coming up just shy of heading to the Little World Series. It was great to see boys that we've known for years mature into a special moment that they will remember for the rest of their lives. As I sat and watched the games I thought back to another championship that may not have gained the fame of this year’s team, but sure brought a bit of excitement to our house.

The 2009 girls’ softball season arrived right on time.  The cool of winter was behind us and spring was in full bloom.  It was the perfect time to head to the field.  That season started out the same as others before with no indication that it might be special.  All interested girls went through hitting and fielding exercises to organize their skills, the coaches met over pizza to draft teams, and practice began.

Over the years, Maddie had played various sports from soccer to basketball, but softball was her favorite.  Perhaps it was a love of the game, time outside with her friends, or because her coaches (Donna and our good friend) focused on fundamentals with plenty of laughs on the side.  I am not sure.  All I know is Maddie enjoyed playing pitcher, to catcher, to second base, and centerfield.

Before the first game I was asked to help out the team.  Maybe I was chosen because I used to score baseball games as a kid or maybe because I didn't mind carrying the coach's clipboard.  Either way, after a complete review of all the other candidates (there were none), I was given the unofficial title of Scorekeeper. My job was to list the teams' lineups, keep track of the game, make sure the girls were ready to bat, and verify the score with the umpire. 

While this may sound like stressful work to some, I did receive fringe benefits. Because my official duties required me to be in the dugout, I was able to pass on my secrets to hitting, fielding, and sneaking pieces of the post game snack when the game got a little slow.  I was also schooled in the ways of the softball cheer. For some reason, when you get a group of girls in a dugout they have to sing things like "to the green 13, to the green 13", "hey you on two, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle", or "we want a single just a little single, we want a double just a little double...".  I didn't recall that from baseball, but found myself quietly cheering alongside.  Sorry, they are catchy!

We started out the season with a win, then another, then another. There were struggles and there were successes, but from my dugout view I quickly realized we had something special. We had more than just a group of girls. We had a team.  In game after game, different girls stepped up for that timely hit or to turn that rare double play.  Before we knew it they finished the regular season undefeated and were headed to the playoffs.  Game after game they took the field with a confidence I did not see at the beginning of the season and won out. In the end, they were the recreational league champs. 

A few things have changed since the summer of 2009. Some girls, like Maddie, played one more season of softball, trying to regain the magic of 2009, but it wasn’t there.  Other teams hit their stride and took the league by storm.  Maddie decided to stop after a realization that her skills no longer matched those of the stronger girls heading into travel softball.  She enjoyed every minute of the rec. league game and was not ready to commit to the next stage.  For her, the timing was right as she had discovered her love for acting and singing and wanted to dedicate her free time to that. Some of the other girls transitioned into gymnastics and lacrosse while others continued with softball and are playing for the high school team today.

As we all do, I remember certain special moments from my childhood, which brought me happiness.  Depending on situation, I remember a lot of details or just a moment in time.  Looking back, these didn’t seem to be significant at the time.  They were just regular days where something special occurred.  As a father, I watch our kids and wonder what they will recall when age 30 becomes age 40. Maybe it will be a family vacation, laughs around the school lunch table, or success on a sports field.  It’s impossible to tell which moments of their childhood they will remember fondly, but I hope there are many.

I'm not sure if 2009’s softball season will make the list of the many wonders that Maddie will experience in her life, but I hope so because its made mine. If by chance it does, I hope to be by her side when she looks at me, recalls the story and says "remember when…".  With any luck, we will laugh about the cheers, smile about the wins, and remember the days when I stood by, clipboard in hand, and overheard a little girl say... 

Oh, put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Look at me, gotta be, centerfield

Credit to: John Fogerty, "Centerfield"

Here are a few photos from the season: 


Staring down the batter and prepping for strike 3 

The slugger's stance

Hammin' it up in the dugout 

One happy catcher! 

The 2009 Champs!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sail on Silver Girl

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I'm on your side

When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Some posts come to me in a flash. I hear a song or think of a recent event and they are there just waiting to be written.  Very few are thought out and planned far in advance.  This is the latter.  I saw this one coming far before I began to write a blog or we knew anything about Pompe.  I saw it coming the first time I watched her walk away. The strange thing is I encouraged her to do this twice.  Both times I made a promise to always be there for her. The difference this time is she's not coming home for an afternoon snack and a nap. The first time was elementary school.  This time it's college.


During Emma's graduation party, a good friend of mine told me he realized some time ago that he was living on borrowed time with his kids. From elementary school to middle school and high school, the years went so slow, but yet moved so fast.  He recognized that any extra time he could spend with them while they were still home was a gift.  Sure, they'd always be in his life, but never the same way as when they are young.  As I listened, I realized I had never thought about it that way, but he was absolutely right.  As I watched my daughter circulate across the party that night, laughing with her friends and greeting guests, I was hit with the realization that my time with her home was almost up.  

For those of you who have not gone through it, preparing a child for college is an adventure.  During the summer before junior year of high school and throughout the following 12+ months, you find yourself knee deep in college tours, reading about scholarships, talking about SATs, and encouraging your child to consider what they want to be when they "grow up".  It is a very important yet strange time.  You are asking them to think about where they want to live, what size school they want to attend, what they want to major in, and who they want to be.  It's a lot a pressure for someone you just recently were worried about handing the car keys to.  This wasn't a drive to a friend's house.  This is big time grown up stuff.

We approached the process using the advice of someone I heard speak a few years ago.  He was a college coach who told the prospective players to use the "broken leg" concept if they were lucky enough to obtain an athletic scholarship.  By sharing examples of athletes he coached in the past his message was simple.  When choosing a college, consider what you want out of it, not just who appears to have the best team because if you broke your leg and couldn't play, would you still want to be there? So, if you thrive in large groups, choose a big college , but if you learn better in more intimate environments, choose a smaller school.  If you love the cold days of winter, move North, but if you want to be warm in February, move South.  In short, pick a college that suits who you are and you will set yourself up to succeed. 

During our first college visit we quickly realized that a small school was the right thing for Emma.  As I walked from one side of the campus to the other listening to the tour guide and thinking about how cool it would be to go to college again, I was reminded again and again to slow down.  I like to say it was due to my long athletic strides, but my lovely children tell me it's nervous energy.  Either way, I walk fast and my Pompe girls don't.  Not only do they not walk fast, they need to take frequent breaks after walking too far.  So, the idea of walking 30 minutes from one side of the campus to another for classes or visits to the dorm would not work.  Large schools out, small schools in.

Fortunately there are many, many small schools within 2-3 hours from our home.  In fact, there are so many it was tough to limit the choices.  However, being the logical one in the family, Emma defined her criteria, scheduled tours for the handful she really wanted to see, and chose representative schools for the others.  It worked out well. By the end of the process the applications were sent in and we waited.  Halfway through the process she had to make a decision none of us thought of.  If she went more than a two hour drive from our home, our home infusion nurse might not be able to continue with her.  His schedule is quite tight and servicing patients far outside the regular route would just not work.  We weighed the options of other nursing services or infusion centers, but she shot this down.  She and her nurse are close and changing this on top of all the standard changes that come with college would just be too much. That settled it.  She would choose a small school within a reasonable distance from home, but still live on campus.  It was the best of both worlds.  Fortunately, she was accepted by her first choice and it all fell into place perfectly.

Months past by before she was to graduate high school and the realization of our first child off to college truly hit us.  Sure, we took the tours, filled out the papers, and talked about it over and over again, but suddenly it was really here.  The planning went into full steam with Donna and Emma hitting store after store for dorm supplies and the three of us attending orientation seminars.  All the while I tried my best to spend a little more time with her each and every week.  Hour after hour we would talk, laugh, and I would out-stay my welcome as she needed to complete her homework or see her friends who too were soon off to college.  Like my friend would clarify weeks later, I was on borrowed time and I didn't like it.

As I sat in her room those nights talking about life and laughing, I couldn't help but think about those first few months with Emma.  We were in our mid 20's with very little to call our own, but it didn't matter.  Life with daddy's first little girl was magical. Every morning there was a smile to greet you and every night a baby rocking away to sleep.  Day by day she learned to sit up, then to crawl, then to talk, and then to walk. Every morning and every night she held our hand and allowed us to learn how to be parents and mature as adults.  It was a wonderful time.  Our wish was that one day she would be strong woman, a smart lady, and most importantly a good person.  Little did we know how fortunate we would become.       

Move in day arrived on the calendar and off we went.  We had to take two cars for all the supplies so Donna drove with Emma and I with Maddie.  After checking in, finishing the dorm move-in, exchanging hugs, and a final bit of advice, I did something I had been dreading for years.  I drove away alone.  I wasn't sure how I'd feel, but was positive I would break down, but didn't.  I thought for sure I would be sad, but I wasn't.  No matter how much sadness started to enter my mind, I stopped because she was so very happy.  She had been waiting for this day for so long and was finally on her way.  Today was about her and it was perfect. 

On my drive home I didn't listen to music, I just thought about the day and the so many days that lead up to it.  Doing so, I realized we did good.  Our wish was that one day she would be strong woman, a smart lady, and a good person. She is that and so much more.  The courage she shows in her daily fight continues to be my inspiration and I have no doubt grand things are waiting for her.  It is her time to excel far beyond what I could ever imagine.  It is her time to shine.

So in the end, I know three things for certain.  First, I cannot be prouder of who our daughter has become.  Second, I will miss her something crazy.  Third, my message to her is quite simple and is stated by a couple of my favorite songwriters much better than I ever could...

Sail on Silver Girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine

If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Credit to: Simon and Garfunkel, "Bridge Over Troubled Water"


A few photos along the way:


She's here, overjoyed!



 Special times at Disneyland

 Proud of my girl


Summer 2013 - France