Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Kind of Sports Hero

I'm a sports nut who raises daughters, so naturally I get asked if we are going to have another kid to, you know, try for a boy. People don't mean it to be sexist or to imply that girls can't play sports. I'm sure they figure I want to teach someone how to play football or how to properly scratch himself and then spit really far when he is up to bat in baseball. And unfortunately, there aren't as many female sports role models as there are male, for media or social or gender reasons that I'm not going to try to delve into here. Boys have thousands of male athletes to idolize; girls have a much smaller pool to pick from - and if you remove (as I would like Clara and Kate to) those female athletes who think they also need to pose in their skivvies to get attention, the list gets smaller. Where have you gone, Mia Hamm? Please don't get me wrong - the country is filled with girls who are quietly and anonymously accomplishing great things, and they are heroes themselves. But a new kind of sports hero emerged this weekend, and she is exactly the kind of female athlete I want my girls to look up to.

In the Great Northwest Atlantic Conference softball game between Western Oregon and Central Washington, two seniors who had played against each other for four years came together in what will be considered one of the greatest moments of sports(wo)manship. Western Oregon outfielder Sara Tucholsky had never hit a home run before, and was mired in a pretty bad slump. Central Washington first base(wo)man Mallory Holtman holds her school record for home runs, as well as just about every other offensive record. In the top of the second inning, with two runners on, Sara hit her first home run, putting Western Oregon ahead 3-0. Theoretically.

In her excitement over watching her ball clear the fence, Sara missed first base and had to come back to touch it. If this sounds like something only college softball players would do, check out Mark McGwire's 62nd home run. Somewhere in her stopping and coming back to touch first base, she crumbled to the ground, apparently injuring her knee. Coaches and trainers came to her aid but feared that helping her would erase her only home run. Umpires warned (with sympathy, I hope) that if any of Sara's coaches or teammates touched her, she would be out. They allowed that a pinch runner could come in, but the home run would be reduced to a 2 run single.

I know what you're probably thinking, and I thought the same thing when I saw this on Sportscenter last night: there's nothing more important than Sara's health - who cares about the damn home run! I'm sure that's what the coaches were thinking when their conference with the umpires was interrupted by Mallory Holtman, the other team's first baseman: "Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?"

I can only imagine the faces of the coaches, trainers, and umpires as they turned to look at Mallory. Really? Central Washington was trying to get into the playoffs, and a loss to Western Oregon would jeopardize that. The umpires agreed that she could be assisted by members of the other team, but did Mallory really want to help the other team score? Mallory Holtman said later, "She hit the ball over her fence. She's a senior; it's her last year. … I don't know, it's just one of those things I guess that maybe because compared to everyone on the field at the time, I had been playing longer and knew we could touch her, it was my idea first. But I think anyone who knew that we could touch her would have offered to do it, just because it's the right thing to do. She was obviously in agony."

So Mallory and Central Washington shortstop Liz Wallace lifted Sara and slowly moved her around the bases, stopping to allow her to touch each bag and complete her only home run. The crowds and ovations greeting the girls as they reached home were in part for Sara, in part for Mallory and Liz, but mostly for the state of athletics as a whole, where greatness can be achieved in a simple act of kindness, where a young woman can be remembered not just for the records she broke for her school but for the impact she made on young girls just by offering a hand when she was the only one who could.

If I lived in Washington, I would drive my girls over to Central Washington so they could meet her. I honestly would.

You can read more about the story here, but before you click on that, leave a comment below, even if it's just a "hi." That's a picture of Sara up there.

Update: I've added the ESPN interview video of Sara, Mallory, and Liz below. Thanks to Sara's Dad for leaving a comment below.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bells and Whistles

You might notice some new stuff along the left side of the page. You see, yesterday I had a rare day where both kids were at school and it was cold as heck for late April so I wasn't stepping foot outside. Allergies are killing me this week - picture me typing with tissues sticking out of both nostrils, or even passed out on my keyboard. Thus, new bells and whistles for STL Homeboy.

Up there on the left is the logo and link for the St. Louis Bloggers Guild, a group I just joined that promotes and protects St. Louis bloggers in issues such as copyright. In fact, if you click on that link, you'll see some recent copyright issues involving Mamalogues, an excellent St. Louis blog that I check in on frequently. The people involved in the guild so far have been great, and I look forward to meeting many of them in person. Blogging can be an isolating experience at times and it's good to commiserate with some local bloggers.

Just under the guild link is the symbol for the Green Options media network. This particular link will take you to my green articles, which are published every Thursday. If you read an article, leave a quick comment, if only a quick "thanks for the information." We have a program to see how many people read them, but other readers can only judge traffic by the number of comments. The more comments, the more likely they are to join in on the conversation. The more active the community the more good information gets shared and the stronger the network (and the more I get paid for the work I do.)

Under the recent posts are links. I've added Michelle's link, Mom Without a Map. If you know Michelle make sure to stop by over there and say hi. They had a great time in Mexico, and here's a picture to prove it:

And with just a touch of terrible photoshopping, I can show what it would have been like if we had made the trip:

I'm still getting over my sunburn.

A ways down on the left are two added features: a "On the Night Table" pic and some "In Heavy Rotation" pics. I've resisted doing something like this in the past because I feared it would look self-indulgent, and really who cares what I'm reading or listening to? But studies of blog readers found that when readers see they have interests in common with the blogger the more likely they are become regular readers. If you are interested in them, mouse over the pics for the artist and title - the music pics should link to their amazon pages (not to promote amazon but to give more information on the album.)

The blogupp widget under the music pics is just a social networking tool for bloggers. If you mouse over it you can see another blogger's site and title. Someone else somewhere is showing mine.

Lastly, some of you outside of St. Louis may not have heard that we had an earthquake at 4:30 in the morning a couple of weeks ago. Actually, Illinois had an earthquake, which was felt at least a state away in each direction. You might think that as a Californian I wouldn't be affected by earthquakes, but now that I have kids and live in a house that is not earthquake proof, I shot up out of bed. We were close to getting the girls out of the house when I felt that the rumbles were subsiding. Clara opened her door and with big eyes said, "My bed was shaking!" The next day, she pointed to everything in her room: "My flowers were shaking. My lamp was shaking. My Chumley was shaking." Chumley is her bear. Clara calls it "the earthshake." There was an aftershock the next day, and St. Louisans have stepped up their talk of the inevitable big one that should hit any day now...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No Vacation for You!

So there we were, the four of us standing in the airport with our backpacks full of travel snacks and luggage full of sunscreen and swimsuits, ready to hit the beach in Mexico with our friends the Etters and the Walls. We had our tickets, our passports, and the girls' birth certificates. Some of you might know where this is heading...

We couldn't get on the plane. Starting January of this year, birth certificates are no longer accepted for children flying in and out of the country - they need their own passports. Toddlers. Need passports. I never would have thought to check on children's passports since as long as I've known a birth certificate has been sufficient. It's our fault we didn't know, but sheesh, passports for children? Really?

So we took the long drive back home while trying to scramble to find a way to get everyone down to Ixtapa, which is as south in Mexico as you can get. We tried to get an emergency passport but those aren't available on the weekends. We tried to get a flight on Monday or Tuesday but that particular flight is only available on Saturday. We thought about driving (since birth certificates are OK for driving or boating into the country - makes sense, right?) but then remembered that we're not lunatics. Then we thought about Megan flying the girls to south Texas where I would drive and pick them up to drive the rest of the way through Mexico, but then we realized again that we're not lunatics. And all these options would have cost us several thousand dollars more than we had already spent on the trip.

I measured the girls to see if they'd fit in our carry-on luggage.

Eventually we had to give up and accept the fact that we were not going to make our vacation. Kate didn't know what was going on, which was lucky, but Clara wanted to go to the beach with Andrew and Justin Etter. She understood that something was wrong because Megan was upset at the airport, so Clara crawled into her lap and comforted her. "Mommy cried because we forgot our papers."

We were all a bit sad this weekend. The more I thought about it, the more angry I got about the new child passport requirement. It boggles my mind that a toddler needs a passport. For "Homeland Security" reasons? Really?

I present the new targets of paranoia:

One of the reasons mentioned for the requirement is to curb child abduction, but evidently it's OK to abduct a child by car or boat. Even an infant needs a passport! This is what an infant passport looks like:

Can someone explain to me how this passport is supposed to stop a child abduction? First off, almost all child abductions are by a family member, who I'm sure would have just as much access to the child's passport as he or she has to the child. But in the (thankfully) super-rare instance that the abductor is not a family member, the holder of the passport above can abduct any 1-year-old child and use this passport. Do you honestly think an immigration official would say, "I'm sorry, Mr. Surnameredacted, your child does not look like the infant in this passport. This infant looks quite blobby and doesn't have nearly as much hair as your child does." And this passport will work until 2012!


/end rant

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Helping by not helping

This morning, on the official first day of spring (meaning I pulled my flip-flops out of the closet,) I took the girls to Tilles Park and its acre-wide playground. They ate their muffies on a park bench while eying with jealousy the kids who were already playing on the swings. They stuffed the last bits in their mouths and jumped down, running with their mouths full toward the swings. After tiring me out there, they turned their attention to the playground monstrosity - three stories of ladders and slides. The third story is only accessible by a tall ladder that Kate has never attempted. She walked over and looked up the ladder. A mom who was standing there scooped up Kate and lifted her up onto the third story, which I really wish she hadn't done because I knew what would result. Kate now found herself placed higher than she had ever been with no clue how to get down. She started crying. If she had been able to get herself up there I don't think she would have been as scared. I had to climb up and get her down.

A little while later she made her way back to the ladder and asked me to help her up. Instead of doing what the mom did, I helped her move her hands and feet up the ladder to learn how to climb it herself. She flashed a proud smile when she reached the top and found the big slide to get herself down. She ran back to the ladder and asked for help again. I didn't help her. "Try to do it yourself." She didn't like that. She cried and jumped up and down asking for help. "You can do it." She threw herself on the ground crying.

Kate is stubborn and independent, but she gives up on things much too easily. One of her most common phrases at home is, "I can't do it," often before she's really tried. As the younger sibling who has a dad who comes to her rescue, she has started to rely on me to do things she finds difficult. I'm not OK with that. I'll lend a hand, but not as a substitute for her to do things herself.

So there she was having a mini tantrum on the playground. I said, "if you can't get up there yourself then maybe you're not ready to play up there." That did it. She looked up at me with anger in her eyes, stood up and went back to the ladder. She never looked back at me as she slowly placed one foot above the other, reaching her little hands up to the next bar. There was a moment near the top where her body started shaking and I had to stop myself from coming to her aid. She lifted her leg over onto the third floor and stood up. "I did it!" She held her arms up and I clapped for her.

For the next twenty minutes, Kate did nothing but climb the ladder and slide down the big slide over and over and over.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Overheard at the Bittle Household

Kate: Good morning, sissy.
Clara: Good morning, Kate.
Kate: I'm drinking milk.
Clara: It's raining. We can't play outside.
Kate: Oh.

Clara: Thank you for not slamming the door on my finger, Daddy.
Me: You're welcome.

Kate: Hi, Daddy.
Me: Hello, beautiful.
Kate: I'm not boo-ful.
Me: You're not?
Kate: No, I'm Kate!

Clara: (riding fast on her tricycle) ROCK AND ROLL!!!

Me: Who wants to watch Shrek?
Kate: ME!
Clara: ME! But I don't like the part I don't like.
Me: What part is that?
Clara: The part I don't like.
Me: OK... Why don't you like it?
Clara: It's scary.
Me: It is? Which part scares you?
Clara: The part I don't like.

Kate: Superhero to the rescue!

(picking Kate up at Kids Day Out)
Me: Pssst, Kate.
Kate: Daddy!
Me: Ready to go?
Kate: (turning back to the other kids) Bye, friends!

(at the dinner table:)
Me: Clara! What do you say?
Clara: Cowabunga!

Kate: (taking my hand) Come on, Daddy.
Me: Where are we going?
Kate: Grandma's house.
Me: Oh yeah? Where's Grandma's house?
Kate: Over here.
Me: I've been wanting to see Grandma.
Kate: Ta-da!
Me: Oh, is this Grandma's house? Where's Grandma?
Kate: (after thinking for a second) Sacramento.

Clara: Mommy, my tummy says I can't eat any more.
Megan: Oh, yeah? I was going to give you some ice cream.
Clara: Mommy, my tummy says it would like some ice cream.
Megan: I thought it might.

(last night, while walking side by side up the stairs:)
Clara: I love you, Kate.
Kate: I love you, sissy.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Edible Hugs

Actual conversations with Nana:

Nana: Would the girls like some scrambled eggs?
Me: Oh, thanks, but we ate before coming over.
Nana: How about some fruit?
Me: No, thank you.
Nana: Cereal?

I look over to Megan, who is smiling and shaking her head.

Nana: Toast?
Me: They're fine, really.
Nana: (Quieter) Pancakes?

I'm starting to understand why Nana loves to feed her grandchildren. Early on, after the girls graduated from bottles, the rice cereal phase was followed by the testing of solid foods, which was followed by the get-them-to-eat-vegetables phase. Feeding them was part of the work it takes to care for a child. But now that they're a little bit older, I can discover and create new meals for them, and I've found that feeding a child is just an extension of loving a child.

Nana: French toast?

Think about it: we have all these pa/ma-ternal instincts that place the health and safety of our child as our highest priority. Just about everything any parent does, from providing for his or her family financially to changing diapers, is an extension of those instincts. So when a parent puts some food together and offers it on a plate, and when that child sits down and quietly eats, maybe with one foot on the ground and the other knee on the chair like Clara does, it's as much a connection between parent and child as a hug, an edible one.

Nana: English muffins?

I know that it won't be long until activities and sports and work get in the way of having a nice, quiet meal with our kids, so I make sure to appreciate the connection now. In more than a few years, when the girls return home on their college spring break, they'll be comforted by my "who wants scrambled eggs?"

Nana: Donuts?
Me: You have donuts?
Nana: No, but you could go get some.