Category Archives: My Little Jocks

Best sports accessories for bleacher parents

My dugout devotees are at it again. All three of my boys (ages 8, 11, and 14) are playing rec and summer travel baseball this year, and Wilson is coaching several of their teams.

Baseball accessories on carpoolcandy.com

Right now, we’re juggling practices and games for six teams. Don’t get me wrong. I really like watching my kids play baseball and I don’t mind being outside for hours in the spring and summer. But you know what they say about too much of a good thing, right? Variety is the spice of life?

Too much baseball can make me cranky.

But all four of my boys love it, so I’ve joined ’em and found ways to make so many games enjoyable. Making friends with fellow fans is number 1. We look forward to spending time with many baseball families every summer.

Another way is to be prepared. Last year, I wrote a post about the Top 7 best baseball accessories. I’ve updated the items and most of the list works for any sporty family.

It’s quite possible my guys will play as many as 60 games this summer. But I’ll be ready. Read this and you will too!

Cooler for drinks/snacks— Usually peanuts and Cracker Jack don’t cut it. I would not be caught dead without cold drinks and snacks, especially for away games. You never know how long you could be stuck on a field somewhere. I did some research and I like this E-bags Crew Cooler because it’s soft so less heavy, holds a lot, and has several extra compartments for dry snacks and other necessities.

e-bags crew cooler on carpoolcandy.com

Tent – It took years of burning in the bleachers before I finally wised up and purchased a tent for shade. After polling mom experts, I chose this Quik Shade tent because it’s easy to put up and transport. I also try to always have sunscreen in the car. If only there were somewhere to plug-in a fan….

quick shade tent on carpoolcandy.comWater bottles-– I’m a big fan of Contigo vacuum-insulated stainless steel water bottles. My friend, fellow baseball mom, and stuff expert, Judy, gave me the heads up on them and they did not disappoint. They keep drinks icy cold for up to 8 hours, even sitting in the hot sun.

Contigo metal water bottle on carpoolcandy.comCooling towel-– I don’t understand how these bright-colored rubbery things work but they do. You wet the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad in cold water and it miraculously becomes considerably cooler than the outside air, but somehow feels dry. It provides cold relief to players and fans on a hot day and lasts a few hours. When it stops cooling, you can rewet it and use it again. And it’s machine washable– a home run!

baseball accessories: frogg togg cooling towel on carpoolcandy.com

Stadium chair— I have lower back issues so sitting in the bleachers or even on a folding chair for hours is a killer. This stadium chair is pretty light and clamps onto most bleacher types. It was very useful until we somehow lost the back piece in the bowels of our minivan trunk.

stadium chair on carpoolcandy.com

Eye black— For my kids, it’s all about the baseball fashion accessories. My oldest son, Jacob found these personalized eye black stickers, made to block out the sun. But the fact that my kids wear them on cloudy days convinces me they’re just for show. He has some with his jersey number, and some with his team name, but you can create any message you want on the Eyeblack.com website. They only cost $1 per pair so they make a great gift for sluggers.

baseball accessories: eyeblack on carpoolcandy.com

Aden’s eyeblack stickers say “Cougars.” He also has ones with his number.

Evo shields  —  And while we’re talking unnecessary accessories, my boys love these neoprene compression sleeves called Evo shields. They are for any athlete who has a weakened area, like the wrist– and needs extra protection from injury. They also have sleeves that cover almost an entire child’s arm. The website says the tight-fitting sleeve provides enhanced circulation and muscle support to reduce fatigue and improve muscle recovery. But my kids wear them because they think they look cool.

evo shield on carpoolcandy.com

Umbrella– As they say in Bull Durham, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains….” and a wet fan is an unhappy fan. We always have a golf umbrella in the trunk just in case. It fits nicely in the cup holder of your chair so your hands are free to clap!

rainstoppers golf umbrella on carpoolcandy.com

Sunflower seeds-– Food is usually frowned upon in the dugout but there are certain holy snacks permitted and sunflower seeds is probably the most popular. There’s something about spitting and baseball…and nothing eases the strikeout sting like a big bag of seeds. Kids get extra excited about the flavored ones like BBQ, ranch, salsa, nacho cheese, and dill.

David's sunflower seeds on carpoolcandy.comWine tote-– When you’re sick of complaints about the umpire, or need inspiration for extra innings, a little sip can be helpful. This wine tote keeps your bottle from breaking when it knocks up against the batting helmets in the car and keeps your vino at the right temperature. (For non-drivers only.) Also has glasses and a corkscrew and looks discreet, so no one needs to know.  Bleacher boozing is probably against the rules so you didn’t hear this one from me.

wine duffel on carpoolcandy.com

Do you have any favorite sports accessories? Please share in the comments.

 

Why these unlikely triathletes are my heroes

Paralyzed triathlete on carpool candy.com

Cristina Ramirez (left) , Kerry Gruson (center) and Liliana Montes their swimming coach

One of the best parts about my gig writing features for the Today show website is the interesting people I get to interview. Last week, I wrote a story about two inspiring women who participated in a mini-triathlon in Florida Sunday. As I said in my lead, they are literally the last people you would ever think could compete in a triathlon, given their backgrounds.

But both Cristina Ramirez and Kerry Gruson are gals who like surprising people. By crossing the finish line Sunday, they probably even surprised themselves.

You can read details of their incredible story here.

Gruson is 66 and paralyzed after an attack 40 years ago. I spoke to her by phone for the story. Her voice is shaky and slow and it was difficult to understand her at first. But as we continued talking, it became much easier to communicate because her ideas and passion are so clear.  I was humbled by our conversation. Her spirit and energy outshine any of her disabilities.

Ramirez was also lovely and impressive. She has a family, trains for marathons and triathlons, and writes a blog called Triathlonmami.com. But somehow she finds time to train with Kerry, which has led to a friendship.

Paralyzed triathlete on carpool candy.com

The two were determined to finish the half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bike ride, and four-mile run and luckily had help along the way. There were several people assisting in Kerry’s transition from boat to bike carrier and many who knew their story cheering them on.

You can see video of the race and their triumphant finish here.

While Ramirez swam through the choppy ocean near Miami, she was tethered to a kayak by a long strap, pulling Gruson, who weighs about 100 pounds. The waves kept breaking over the boat, causing Gruson, lying supine in the kayak, staring skyward, to swallow sea water.

Here’s an excerpt from Cristina’s blog following the race.  You can read the full post and see pictures here. 

“Water rushes into my mouth and up my nose,” Gruson wrote after the race. “It hurts but I pay it no mind. More clearly than ever, I know why I am participating. And if it were easy, if there was no price to pay, this would have very little meaning.”

The two crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 23 seconds. Amazing!!

Paralyzed triathlete on carpool candy.com

I hope you’ll click on Cristina’s blog and read more of Kerry’s thoughtful comments about the race. Her mind is sharp and she and Cristina write beautifully about their experience.

I told my boys (8, 10, and 14)  about Kerry and Cristina and their incredible feat. The hook for them was the race. Any competition gets their attention. I’m hoping the women’s uplifting message that no challenge is impossible sunk in too.

My teenaged son is obsessed with sneakers

As the mom of three boys (ages 8, 10, and 14) I consider myself lucky that I don’t have to spend gobs of money and time on nurturing their wardrobes.

I have friends with daughters whose mood often depends on whether they have the right outfit on any given day. In my testosterone-fueled world, a pair of sweats, and a sports-logo t-shirt is the standard uniform.

boys wearing sports logo tshirts on carpoolcandy.com

But recently, my boys have become fixated on having the right sneakers for every activity. There are everyday school sneakers, basketball high tops, and “dressy” kicks to only be worn on special occasions.

My oldest son, Jacob, began having unrealistic shoe-buying expectations last year, so to avoid arguing over whether spending upwards of $150 for a pair of kids sneakers was reasonable, I told him to ask for Nike gift cards for birthdays and holidays. Once my wallet was off the table, I could sit back and marvel at the absurdity of this footwear frenzy.

For weeks, the family computer had multiple windows up on Nike’s customizing page. Soon Jacob had pulled his brothers into the shoe vortex, and all three were constantly checking for new colors and designs, and readjusting their dream shoes on the Nike website. It was essential that they represent their style on the basketball court with the latest LeBrons, Jordans, or KD’s.

boys Nike sneakers on carpool candy.com
KD’s– a line of multi-colored leather Nikes inspired by NBA star Kevin Durant– run anywhere from $100 to$200 a pair. That’s a lot of saved allowance.

Jacob swears there are kids at school who spend $300 to $400 for these status symbols. Custom Nikes have become the Hermes Birkin bags of the teen boy set: outrageously expensive, rare, and coveted.

The pinnacle of our shoe adventures was Jacob’s unrelenting quest for a pair of Nike KD VI Aunt Pearl’s. Another Nike ploy is to hype up a new pair of shoes and then warn customers there will only be a finite number of pairs sold, so demand is off the charts.

Kevin Durant was inseparable with his late Aunt Pearl who passed away from lung cancer in 2000, the Nike website says. The floral motif on the shoe is similar to the pattern on a robe that Aunt Pearl often wore. For the life of me, I’ll never understand why a boy would think these shoes are cool.

Nike KD VI Aunt Pearl shoes on carpoolcandy.com

Nike is always releasing new collectible shoes –often via social media– and jokers like my otherwise intelligent son jump through basketball hoops to get them.

The Aunt Pearls were going on sale on a Thursday at 6pm and Jacob had a basketball playoff game at the same time. Instead of giving up, he somehow enlisted one of his minions (that’s me) to jockey for him.

He wrote down a list of detailed instructions. He set a timer so I would be on the computer at least 10 minutes before 6pm. He opened his Nike account and entered all the payment and shipping information so none of that would slow me down. He was so worked up, I actually got nervous about whether I could pull off buying this spectacular pair of shoes.

At 5:55pm I was at the computer, trolling Nike’s Twitter feed, waiting for the announcement with the link to buy the shoes. I did everything I was supposed to do and then I waited…..and waited….and waited.

buying Nike sneakers on carpool candy.com

Anxiously staring at the screen reminded me of the old days when I’d wait on hold forever, trying to get concert tickets by phone. Although a pink swoosh stamped on leather sneakers did not seem nearly as motivating as a magical night hearing Bruce belt out “Jungleland.”

But something about the experience was amusing, and I was kind of proud of Jacob’s tenacity. But alas, after about 20 minutes of staring, we got this screen….

buying Nike sneakers on carpool candy.com

And just like that, the dream of Aunt Pearl was gone.

Now Jacob is regularly cruising eBay, negotiating shoe trades for unusual designs. He swears the shoes he’s buying have never been worn, but he’s sold some of his old shoes to fools looking for discontinued styles.

It’s good you can only see merchandise online. If prospective buyers could smell his used shoes, he wouldn’t make a dime.

Do your kids have a crazy retail obsession? Commiserate in the comments.

Three boys and a lady: how I mother males

Today I spent the afternoon at the Giants game with Wilson and my sons (ages 8, 10, and 13,) and as I was feigning interest in something called a Pick 6 play, I had a big-picture moment about being a mom of three boys.

Young Giants fans at the game on carpoolcandy.com

I often find myself in situations I could have never expected. Like this weekend, when I froze my ass off in the bleachers for 4 hours as I watched my middle son play 2 fall baseball play off games. Or when I came dangerously close to sitting on the toilet in my bathroom, only to realize it was unflushed and the seat sprinkled with pee droplets. Or when I had to redirect the dinner conversation from fantasy football stats to anything non-sports related.

I’m the blond-haired black sheep in my family. I’m a girl.

There are benefits to being the only chick in the house. There isn’t a ton of drama, and my boys don’t hold a grudge. None of them really care how I look and so far, they don’t judge me.

Mom and sons on carpoolcandy.com

Before I had kids, I thought my perfect family would be two boys and a girl. I pictured my daughter and I having the close relationship I share with my mother. We would get manicures, go shopping and whisper secrets. She would borrow my clothes and I’d tell her and her friends about all the stupid adolescent mistakes I made, while we ate cookies we baked together.

But that wasn’t to be.

When I had Eli– my third healthy baby boy– any smidge of disappointment about his gender was quickly replaced by gratitude and relief.

While I was a pretty clueless teenager, I bloomed into a capable, confident mother. I knew how to parent boys and I was on a roll. Throwing a girl in there may have disrupted my swerve. Plus, the chances of me screwing her up were extremely high.

I believe you get what you’re supposed to get.

So I find my moments with my boys. I may not love the 24/7 sports engagement…their dirty, smelly, slovenly ways…or their complete disregard for my feelings most of the time. But I’ve found common ground with each of them.

13-year-old Jacob is a huge gossip. His uncanny ability to listen to two conversations at once and remember details about people and events serves us both well. He loves to hear any story I tell — old or new, about strangers or friends. We’re both fascinated by people and why they do the crazy things they do.

Aden, 10, is my sensitive, deep thinker. The other day we curled up on the couch and watched a movie (it was “The Way, Way Back,” a coming of age story which I highly recommend) and when the bittersweet ending came, both of us sobbed. He snuggled with me under a blanket and we watched the entire roll of credits, tears splashing down our faces.

boy wearing nail polish on carpoolcandy.com

Eli is my style maven. He cares about his clothes and understands the difference between clashing and matching. He’s my go-to when I need an opinion on which outfit is more flattering or cool.  When I wear something new, he actually notices, and is the first to compliment me on a haircut or new pair of shoes. He also loves accompanying me to the nail salon and even enjoys a manicure now and then. This week he chose blue for the Giants.

I love being the mom of three boys.

You get what you’re supposed to get, and then you find what you need.

And the worst parent award goes to….

I like to keep it real with you people so I’m going to admit to a recent low parenting moment.

I was in the middle of a very busy day last week when my 10-year-old son, Aden, came home with an ice pack on his slumped shoulder and a miserable puss on his face. He’d been tackled while playing football at the park with friends.

He was wincing–but not crying– as he summoned all his medical knowledge to explain that he had dislocated his shoulder. I’m no doctor but I know that a dislocated joint looks nasty and causes constant pain and discomfort, similar to labor.

There was no way he dislocated his shoulder.

I was headed out to volunteer in my younger son’s art class and luckily my mother was visiting and agreed to stay with Aden while I fulfilled my smock duty.  I gave him a pain reliever and instructions to ice the spot on and off for the next hour.

But as I went through the motions, all I kept thinking was what a pain in the ass this sudden injury was and how it was completely disrupting my day. And then what a rotten mother I was to think such evil thoughts.

It’s easy to feel empathy and want to comfort my kids when they’re feverish or throwing up. I’ve been on many a playing field, clutching my stomach with worry over a bad hit or a wound gushing blood.

But this was one of those nebulous, ‘could be nothing’ injuries that drive me nuts.

By the time I got back, Aden was sitting on the couch, engrossed in some Disney channel show and seemed just fine to me. When he realized I was in the room, he grabbed at his bad shoulder and slumped it further down to Quasimodo standards.

It’s not that I thought he was faking exactly, but I was pretty sure he was experiencing a dull ache and a sharp need for attention. He continued to insist the shoulder was dislocated,  and whined about the pain.

I reluctantly called the orthopedist. The nurse said their X-ray technician had left so I could make an appointment– the soonest one was two days later.  Or I could go to the emergency room, wait two hours for an X-ray, and have a physician’s assistant tell me to go see an orthopedist.

I opted to wait and see.

I also called a close friend who’s an orthopedic surgeon who told me that of course he couldn’t diagnose him over the phone but he definitely had not dislocated it, and would probably feel sore for at least a week.

Both medical opinions made me feel a little less guilty that I was basically neglecting my child.

Aden slept fine and didn’t complain of pain in the morning so I sent him to school. Within two hours, I got a call from the nurse claiming he was in so much pain he couldn’t finish the day and I had to pick him up and not return until we had seen a doctor.  She didn’t ask him to take his sweatshirt off (a sweatshirt he managed to pull over his head without apparent distress that morning) to examine the injury, she just acted on his pain complaints.

Sprained arm on carpoolcandy.com

Instead of feeling bad for the kid,  I was annoyed that I had to pick him up early and couldn’t get work or errands done. The nurse added to my errand list by suggesting I go immediately to CVS to buy Aden a sling to relieve his pain.

When I picked him up, he got in the car grinning and asked what we were doing the rest of the day, like it was a sunny Saturday afternoon.

GRRRR.

(I’m a terrible horrible person.)

I was snippy with him in the car as we drove to CVS, and refused to get him candy at the register. “There will be no treats! There will be no TV! You should be in school!” I yelled. He shrugged his one good shoulder and skipped out of the store. We had tried on the sling to make sure it fit, and he was smiling ear to ear as we walked to the car.

” I kind of like it when I get to wear a cast or a sling,” he admitted cheerfully.

Remember, he’s my middle child of three boys. His brothers each have huge personalities, talk incessantly, and often suck all the air out of a room. So when Aden can briefly grab the spotlight, he milks it.

Realizing that made me soften a bit and drop my sassy attitude for the rest of the day.

The next morning, the orthopedist looked at the slight swelling in Aden’s shoulder and asked him to move his arms to demonstrate his range of motion. He took an X-ray and guess what?

Sprained arm on carpoolcandy.com See the tiny little line at the end of his collarbone? Hairline fracture!

That little stinker has a medium sprain and torn shoulder ligaments and a tiny fracture on his collarbone!

It’s basically the equivalent of an adult’s separated shoulder, but kids are so rubbery and active, it heals much faster. Course of treatment? Three weeks in a fancy sling (upgraded from CVS model) and no activity whatsoever until he sees the doctor again.

I was surprised and chagrinned.

Sprained arm on carpoolcandy.com

I still don’t think a trip to the emergency room was necessary that first day, but I might have offered a little more compassion.

In the end, Aden wasn’t looking for sympathy, he just liked having something that made him feel special.  Everywhere he goes, people ask what happened and he happily explains the injury and diagnosis in great detail.

I’m thinking the novelty will wear off in about a week when people stop asking and he realizes he still can’t play on his fall ball team or with his friends for another two weeks.  Then he’ll really need me, and I’ll make sure to be there for him.

That is, if I can work sensitivity into my busy schedule.

These top sports museums charm even non-fans (like me)

Basketball Hall of Fame carpoolcandy.com

As the mother of three little jocks and wife to one big sports fan, I’ve visited many a sports museum and stadium.  Before I met Wilson, I was as likely to spend an afternoon at the Hockey Hall of Fame as I was to perform a triple axel in the Olympics.

But we do crazy things for the people we love, so I’ve actually been the one to plan trips to several sports museums.  I recently wrote a travel piece about the best ones which ran on FoxNews.com. You can read the full story here.

The story will give you the facts on the Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, and Football Halls of Fame, but this post offers my opinion.

My boys love anything sports-related but they generally resent museums. Each of these Halls has the requisite history of the sport, the evolution of uniforms and equipment, and tributes to the best players. But modern facilities have wised up and added lots of interactive exhibits to engage kids.  Here’s the inside scoop:

Kids at baseball hall of fame  carpoolcandy.com

baseball hall of fame kids carpoolcandy.com

Baseball Hall of Fame  (Cooperstown, New York)  is Wilson’s and my favorite of the four. The history of baseball is really the history of America, and I enjoyed learning about its role in pop culture. There are also great tributes to women and minorities in the sport. A letter from an angry bigot to Hank Aaron when Aaron was poised to break Babe Ruth’s home run record and his brave response brought me to tears. I also loved the art gallery on the first floor with works by some huge names, all focused on baseball.

basketball hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

basketball hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

Basketball Hall of Fame  (Springfield, Massachusetts)  is the most modern, high-tech museum and my kids’ favorite. The structure looks like the Guggenheim in New York, with a winding ramp taking you up the three floors of exhibits, overlooking a full basketball court on the ground floor.  There are tons of games and interactive displays, plus a media center where kids can record their own sportscast.

hockey hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

hockey hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

Hockey Hall of Fame (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) We’re not huge hockey fans but while in Toronto, why not, eh? You can take a picture with the Stanley Cup, see the first skates ever worn in the game, and hockey uniforms from countries all over the world. Highlights for the kids were the replica of the Canadiens locker room and the interactive shooting games.

football hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

football hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

Football Hall of Fame  (Canton, Ohio) We visited this one on a Midwest road trip. While it’s mecca for football fans, it’s extremely out of the way. Wilson liked the historical exhibits and I liked the bling on the Super Bowl rings. The kids loved running around on the Pro Football Hall of Fame field across the street from the museum.

If you find yourself in one of these cities, these sports museums are worth a stop.  The Baseball Hall in Cooperstown is definitely one of those places you should see before you die, even if you can’t appreciate a double play or a perfect game.

Would I still rather look at Monet’s “Water Lilies” than Shaq’s old shoe?    You bet. But if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

I could live out of my minivan, could you?

I was at my son’s baseball game when one of his brothers fell and scraped his knee. No problem, I thought. I reached into my oversized purse to retrieve Neosporin and a band-aid and all was well in the world again. About a half hour later, another mom spilled food on her shorts. I whipped out a Tide clean stick and blotted the stain, which faded within minutes.

The other parents teased and applauded me for my readiness for any situation.  I started to wonder how long my family could survive living out of my handbag and car.

If you emptied the storage spaces and explored the nooks and crannies of my minivan, you could probably exist quite comfortably for at least three days. I’m not certain why I feel a strong need to be prepared for so many situations — perhaps I was some sort of foreign refugee in a former life. All I know is not having something I might need makes me anxious.

Ever since my children were babies and I started carrying around a twenty pound diaper bag, I’ve accumulated more stuff to lug “just in case.” With kids “just in case” happens all the time. Extra clothes if they spill or get cold…snack options if they’re hungry….wipes to clean up. It began with the basics, but once we got a minivan, the stockpiling really took off.

Honda Odyssey living out of my minivan

We travel a lot in that minivan: the beach, the city, vacation, sporting events, concerts, etc. Each time we go, I seem to stow more stuff. But I rarely remove, so the arsenal keeps growing.

My minivan is a bit like a tiny Target store. The front seats are where you would find the snacks, cleaning supplies, reading materials and health and hygiene items.  Dig deep into the front bins and you might score pretzels, granola bars, fruit leathers, protein bars, raisins, and gum. Thirsty after all those snacks? How about some Gatorade or water? If you don’t mind backwash, you’re in business.

For sticky fingers, a spill, or a good cry, try my anti-bacterial wipes and tissues.

I could live out of my minivan

If your lips are dry, you have a choice of lip balm and two shades of gloss. There are ponytail holders and headbands for hair control and hand cream to moisturize on the go. I have Benadryl in case of allergic reactions (bees! pollen! peanut butter!)  and A&D soothes minor cuts and prevents diaper rash.

I’m not done.

The second row houses toys, games, and clothing in my tiny Target. I have Matchbox cars, crayons, and Uno cards.  A selection of shorts, sweatshirts, and raincoats in various sizes clutter the trunk.

In the electronics department, there’s a GPS, iPod, CD’s, and phone rechargers for devices we haven’t used in a year.

Sports enthusiasts will never be bored with the equipment in the trunk: baseball bats, mitts, and hats…two footballs and a frisbee.  Fans can borrow folding chairs, an umbrella, and two outdoor blankets for watching games.

I could live out of my minivan

Am I nuts or do you have similar stashes in your car?

Why do we do it? For me, it’s primarily the fear of an unhappy child. The wares I’ve amassed stave off boredom, hunger, and physical discomfort. Have my children experienced these hardships? Of course! But it’s always more pleasant for mommy if I can prevent them whenever possible. Like much of my experience in parenthood, it’s organized chaos.

One of the downsides—besides you people thinking I’m a great candidate for an episode of “Hoarders,” —is that my kids have come to expect the snacks, amusement, and extra layers. Am I limiting their coping skills? The way I see it, easing their pain is really easing mine. My car coffer keeps the whining to a minimum.

When I’m in a friend’s car that’s spare and orderly with no sign of survival stuff, I wince with guilt. But I wouldn’t be comfortable feeling unprepared. What if their kids wanted to toss a football while chewing gum and listening to music? What if they were so cold, they started sneezing and fell down and scraped their elbow? That’s one less thing I have to worry about.