There was an audible “Oh” from many in the congregation at church when it was announced that my daughter, a fast-pitch softball player, would be pitching for both teams at the annual father/son softball game.  Boys age 12 and up and their fathers were invited.  One dad told my daughter that he was going to the batting cages that week so that he would be ready.  Others simply said, “This will be interesting.”

On the night of the game some of the older boys started talking smack, claiming they would have no problem hitting off of Huh.  One in particular, a senior nicknamed Petunia, was quite confident in his ability to hit whatever Huh threw at him.  “Not only am I going to hit off of her, I’m going to hit a home run.”  This boy has the natural good looks that girls swoon over.  He is very comfortable in his own skin, hence the reason he doesn’t mind being called Petunia.

The game started.  I sat in the stands just waiting for my daughter to show her skills to the doubters.  My mom pride was going strong.  I was sure this would be a no-hitter.  First batter struck out.  Second batter the same.  My pride swelled.  The good-natured ribbing could be heard.  “Man you just got beat by a girl!” 

Then Petunia was up.  “Okay, Huh, give it to me.”  She did.  And he struck out.  I cheered from the stands.

Time for the other team to face Huh.  Strike out.  Strike out.  Another Senior was the third batter.  “Zing it in there, Huh,”  I yelled.  “He’s a Senior, he can handle it!”  The boy whirled around and looked at me with panic in his eyes.  He struck out.  I cheered again. 

In the second inning I saw a change come over my daughter.  She watched each batter as he came to the plate and she purposely slowed her pitches for certain boys.  The young ones.  The boys who came up to the plate with their head down, visibly nervous.  Those who had probably never held a bat in their life but were there to participate in an activity with their dad.  The first boy who actually hit the ball received loud cheers and high fives from his team. 

Huh continued to slow her pitches and the taunts began.  “So, you’re not so fast after all!”

“Thought nobody could hit off of ya!  Well, we’re hittin’ now.  Ha!”

As a mom I bristled and muttered to myself, “She’s not throwing hard, if she was you wouldn’t be hitting it.”  

Huh just smiled at the taunts and kept modifying her pitches where she saw fit.  Every once in awhile, for those who were cocky, she would fire it in there.  But most of the time her pitches were slow.  There was one young boy with glasses who had two strikes on him and looked like he just wanted the third strike to come so that he could go sit down.  Huh threw even slower and he connected with the ball.  It was a slow grounder to Huh who chose to walk to the ball, slowly scoop it up, and then lob it to first base, giving the boy plenty of time to get there.  Of course he was safe.  His team cheered and he grinned.

“What are you doing?” hollered the second baseman, “He could have been out!” 

Huh just smiled and got ready to face the next batter.  Over and over again I saw my daughter modify her pitches so that boys (and some dads) could hit the ball.  She went easy on her stepdad and stepbrother, who both got good hits.  It was clear she was having a good time.

After the game, there were a few that requested Huh to pitch to them like she normally does so they could see if they could really hit off of her.  I left the ball diamond and walked over to where the rest were having a barbecue.  “Well, that was fun,” said one of the dads.

“Yeah,” I replied.  “But I wish she would have thrown as hard as she usually does.”

“But she did what we needed her to do,” said one of the youth leaders.  “For some of those boys who have never played before and those who have a low self-esteem, it was good that they got to hit the ball.”

Duh.

I hadn’t been “getting it.”  My pride had been in the way.  Sometimes I can be so s-l-o-w.

My daughter got it.  She understood that the real purpose of the game was to get fathers and sons playing a game together.  It was to get high school boys interacting with younger boys.  It was to help all involved cheer each other on and build relationships.  She wasn’t there to prove that girls can beat boys in sports.  It would have served no earthly purpose for her to humiliate some of those boys.  She picked up on the need for some of them to look good in front of their peers.  And she willingly helped supply that need in spite of the taunts.

I’m a little embarrassed at my early attitude.  My desire for my daughter to show her skills blinded me to what really needed to happen.  Sometimes it takes me awhile to “get it.”  But, at least I can be proud of my daughter and the way she handled herself that night.  She “got it.”

To me, she is a winner.

 

 

One morning this week, as I stood at the stove making omelets, my seventeen-year-old daughter appeared in the kitchen, grabbed me in a big bear hug and gave me a kiss on my cheek.  She didn’t say a thing.  After she’d kissed me she smiled and went back to her room to finish getting ready for school.  Of course, as a mother, I was pleased with this unexpected show of affection, but I also found myself wondering what brought it on. 

I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary.  I’d opened all the blinds and a few windows to catch the morning breeze, lit a scented candle, set out dishes, and was making breakfast (only one of my omelets turned out picture perfect).  Things I do every morning.  Was this enough to earn such an enthusiastic greeting?

As I reflected on it later that day, I remembered a magazine article I had recently read about family traditions and rituals.  I hadn’t really thought about it, but my morning ritual of opening blinds and windows (turning on the fireplace in the winter time), lighting candles, and making sure something is ready for breakfast, even if it is just cold cereal, is kind of like a tradition.  I do it every morning.  My family knows they can count on me “waking the house” in this manner every single day.  From the perspective of a kid, this type of tradition might be comforting because it is a constant, it is stable.  For our house it is normal.  

I started to list in my mind all the family traditions and rituals that are a part of my life.  The second Sunday of every month my mom has dinner at her house for the entire family, the annual Halloween party and Christmas party at my mom’s house are traditions, it is a tradition for me, my mom, and my sisters to get together annually in Phoenix, in our little blended family we have certain birthday rituals and we stuff stockings for each other at Christmas, we make Sunday a day for worship and family only, we make Monday evenings “Family Home Evening” and spend the night as a family, Hub’s family has a family reunion every summer, there are certain weekends during the summer and fall that we go to the family cabin, I always bake cookies on the first day of school, we pray as a family before every meal and before we retire for the night, the stupid dog thinks he needs to go every morning when Hub takes Yawlin to school.  Our lives are full of rituals and traditions.

Some traditions have been in place for years, others started more recently simply because we did them once and decided we liked them so we will continue.  Traditions and positive family rituals can be the glue that holds families together.   Sweet memories are created by participating in traditions.  Cheryl C. Lant recently stated in an article titled, “Righteous Traditions” (Ensign, May 2008, pg. 13), “The most important traditions are connected with the way we live our lives and will last beyond us as our children’s lives are influenced and shaped.”  

I don’t know whether or not my daughter was showing me her gratitude for my morning ritual when she hugged and kissed me.  Most likely she was prepping me so she can ask for something big.  🙂  But, when I hear my step kids say thanks for the breakfast I have served, or my own kids tease me by blowing out my candle, or Hub walks up behind and gives me a hug, I do know I am glad that I have established this morning tradition for my family.

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I would be interested in hearing of any family traditions and rituals others have.  I just may incorporate them into my own family life.  Please share, if you desire.  And thanks!

It only takes a few seconds if you are good at it.  If you are a newbie it might take a few minutes.  But, taking the time to send an occasional text to your kids can help you maintain a positive relationship with them.

It took me awhile to join the texting craze.  “Why spend the time to punch in a message when it would be easier and quicker to talk to the person on the phone?”  I always asked.  My kids would just roll their eyes and tell me that I just didn’t “get it.”  Part of my reluctance, I readily admit, was because I simply didn’t know how to text.

One day my daughters sat me down and gave me a texting lesson.  I was very s-l-o-w, but I learned the basics.  The excitement of my daughters at having taught Mom how to text was enough to keep me trying.  I had to endure much teasing and laughing at my expense though, as I tried to master the mysterious technological world of texting. 

My daughter and her softball team, unknown to me, watched me at a softball tournament as I was trying to send a text to another daughter at home.  They thought it quite funny that I only use one hand to text, which really slows one down.  I didn’t catch on that they were watching me until my daughter hollered, “Hey Mom, whatcha doin’?”  When I looked up they all waved and laughed. 

I waved the phone and proudly said, “Texting!”

I made mistakes in the beginning.  Once, my daughter sent me a text that she thought quite funny.  I attempted to send the word “Dork” back (a term of endearment in our family), but my phone was set in the word recognition mode and wouldn’t recognize the word dork.  It kept showing Fork everytime I tried to punch in Dork.  I didn’t know how to go into the spell mode so I finally gave up and sent “Fork” knowing my daughter would know what I meant. 

She tells me she laughed out loud when she received that text.  She quickly sent her reply, “Spoon!” 

It has now become a joke in our family.  Whenever someone does something silly we call them a fork.  I did finally learn how to put my phone in spell mode, but I still haven’t learned how to get it out of ALL CAPS when I am spelling a word the phone doesn’t recognize.  My kids tell me that they can always tell when I have had to spell a new word because the text YELLS at them!

I’ve gotten comfortable enough with texting that I now send occasional random texts to my kids.  Sometimes a stupid joke, “What kind of bedding do gingerbread men use?  Cookie sheets!  Ha ha ha!”  Or I use a text to check up on my kids, like the time I asked two of my daugthers, “How’s your shirt?”  because they’d each left to school in shirts that had the potential to be immodest if not kept pulled up.   Sometimes I send a simple, “I love you!”

I didn’t know if my efforts were having any effect until I overheard my daughters talking with someone else.  They had mentioned that I had sent a text that day.  “Your mom sends you texts?”

“Yeah, every once in awhile she will send something totally random.”  There was silence.

Then Mack said, “Sometimes it makes my day.”

“Yeah,” said Huh.  “I like that my mom sends texts.”

A simple action, and alot of teasing endured, but it has been worth it.  “Send yr teen a txt.”  It just might make their day!

There is vinyl lettering on our front door proclaiming that “Huh” is now 17 but still “car-less” (she keeps hinting that she could really use a car).  Back in January the door letters advertised that I had reached the ripe old age of 40 and so all visitors should be quiet around the “nearly dead.”  Thanks to my husband, and his latest hobby, vinyl stickers on the front door are our newest family tradition for birthdays.  It is a tradition the neighbors like witnessing.  I love celebrating birthdays, so over the years our family has developed several rituals that we use to celebrate.  Since birthdays have continued to be on my mind since my last post I have decided to share some of the ways we celebrate birthdays in our family.

One easy way of singling out the birthday child is reassigning their chores to their siblings.  They enjoy taking it easy and watching while their siblings (and sometimes parents) wash the dishes, take out the trash, or clean up dog doo in the yard for the day.  I also take my kids to lunch for their birthday.  If their birthday happens to fall on a school day I check them out of school during the lunch period.  They get to choose the restaurant and we usually end up getting back to school slightly late.  They have never complained about being tardy.  I take full advantage of the one-on-one time by asking them all about school, their friends, and whatever else comes to mind.

For the other two meals of the day the birthday child gets to choose the menu and I fix it.  For breakfast we’ve had everything from fruit crepes, to oatmeal, to breakfast burritos.  One child even requested their favorite cold cereal.  Dinner requests tend to be Italian in nature, pizza or spaghetti or lasagna, although once we had submarine sandwiches and another time we had shepherd’s pie.

As far as gifts go, we set a limit on cost and allow the birthday child to ask for gifts within that amount.  The siblings all shop at the local dollar store and choose one gift that they think fits the birthday child. We parents also get something from the dollar store in addition to the regular gifts we’ve purchased.  On the evening of the birthday celebration we all gather in the family room to present our gifts one at a time.  It has been amazing and sometimes hilarious to see how creative the kids can be in their purchases.  Once, one of the football players in the family received foot odor spray to use in his very ripe cleats.  I believe he received deodorant at the same time from someone else.  Fortunately he’s a good sport.

Of course we always have the traditional birthday cake with candles and we sing “Happy Birthday” in the worst voices possible.  Sometimes I am able to talk one of the kids into baking the cake for the birthday child.  One cake ended up with every candy sprinkle we had in the house.  The six year old baker was quite proud of his creation.  Birthday rituals, however simple, can add some fun to birthdays and can help the one whose life is being celebrated feel special.  Some traditions can begin quite unintentionally, such as our latest vinyl letter tradition, but the unintentional traditions are sometimes the most enjoyable.  All of the kids are now wondering what the front door is going to proclaim on their birthday.

NOTE:  For more birthday ideas please see the page “Nifty Notions.”