Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Another Goodbye

Or maybe I should say so long til later, because it's not like we're never going to see him again.  Today we bid Coach C farewell as he heads off to Georgetown Law School.  We're proud of him and excited to see him pursuing his dreams to the fullest.

 When we first met Coach C back in April 2011, none of us had any inkling of the wonderful friendship we were about to be blessed with.  I was simply hoping for a decent baseball coach for my kid.  What I got was so much more.  Coach C was certainly a fabulous coach.  He also became a true friend to all of us, a treasured member of our family.  Hubby and I often joke that he's our honorary fourth kid.  To J he has been coach, mentor, friend, and brother, always encouraging, pushing, and challenging him to pursue his dreams.  He's been a terrific role model to all the kids, always showing them kindness and love, even while arguing endlessly with N.  N loves to match wits with him and Coach C is always happy to oblige.   And he remains A's hero, the object of her first crush, and without a doubt one of her favorite people in the world.

Together the six of us have enjoyed  baseball games, dinners, chess games, debates, laughs, and good times. I think we're all going to miss being able to get together on a more regular basis.  But I'm confident there will be a lot more memories made.  After all, roads were meant to be traveled, and this friendship got it's start traveling to baseball tournaments.  So even though things will forever be different with Coach C at Georgetown and J at BAC, it doesn't mean they'll be any less special.  Our boys have bright futures ahead of them and I'm so grateful to get to see them achieve the greatness I know they're destined for. I have no doubt they'll make us all proud.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Abbey Bound

The time has come.  In approximately twelve hours, hubby and I will be driving J up to North Carolina to college.  All the plans have been made, his stuff has been packed, goodbyes have been said.  All that's left to do is make the trip.  Move in day is Friday, followed by orientation weekend.  We are staying until Sunday, then it will be time to hug my little boy tight one last time before leaving him to begin this exciting new chapter in his life.  He may be 18 and college bound, but he is still my little boy.  The same little boy who was born with a sweet disposition and a heart of gold.  The little boy with the big dream that he never gave up on.  The same little boy who gets to live the next stage of that big dream now.  He's ready, a bit nervous, but so excited to get on the field.  To prove himself worthy of the opportunity he's been given.  In his heart, he's already a Crusader, ready to give his whole heart to this new team he'll be a part of.  So even though my heart is full of tears, I can't truly be sad.  I know he's doing what he was meant to do, where he was meant to do it.  And even though I'm not a t-shirt girl, I'll wear my Crusader baseball mom t shirt with pride.  Because once upon a time, my little boy told me he was going to be a baseball player.  And he did it.  He became a baseball player, never letting anything deter him from his dream.  He's made it to college ball.  Who's to say the pros aren't right around the corner.  My tortoise is winning his race, slow and steady, one game at a time.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer wrap Up

Hard as it is to wrap my mind around it, summer vacation is near it's end.  N and A start school in two weeks.  J will also be moving to college later in that same week.  The summer has flown by.  We've had a lot of good times and I'm sorry to see it coming to an end.

A competed in two baton competitions.  The first was Southeast Regionals, held just an hour and a half from home this year.  The second was Grand Champs on the Grand Strand held in Myrtle beach, SC.  She did well at both, bringing home several trophies and medals.  She wrapped up the baton season with tryouts for next years team.  She made the team and will begin her fourth season of baton in just a few short weeks.  She continues to play baseball every chance she gets and has enjoyed some training time on the field with Coach C this summer.  She'll be in third grade this year, which seems impossible to me.

N tried something new this summer.  He attended a theater camp at the community theater, then performed in the cast of Tarzan as an ape for eight shows.  He really enjoyed it and plans to try out for some of the plays coming up this year.  He will be in eighth grade this year.  He will once again sing in the community children's chorus and will continue as a student teacher for a boy's gymnastics class.

Last week we spent a fun family day at a state park.  I really wanted a day to just relax and spend time together.  Coach C joined us, as did my brother D and his significant other K.  We had a great time swimming in the springs, canoeing, and picnicking.  The weather was perfect and it was exactly the kind of day I was hoping for before we have to say goodbye to J and Coach C.

Other things we've done include spending fourth of July weekend at my brother', baseball lessons, and a great visit with dear friends.  We've also been fostering a mama cat and her litter of five kittens.  They came to us when the kittens were ten days old.  They're now five weeks old and it has been quite an experience  In several more weeks we'll find good homes for most of the kittens.  we're keeping mama and at least one kitten.  Two kittens if A has her way and I have to admit I'm leaning in her favor.  I'd keep them all if I could!

Of course, the big milestone that we are fast approaching is J leaving for college in  North Carolina.  Two weeks from tomorrow hubby and I will drive him up for move in and orientation weekend.  I'm both looking forward to it and dreading it.  He's so excited to begin this new chapter in his life, especially beginning his college baseball career.  For me, my heart is cracked in pieces knowing how much life is about to change for us all.  I'm confident that he'll do well and will continue to make us proud with his dedication to his dream.  Last night Coach C was over for dinner.  We were sitting around the kitchen table, discussing the upcoming year and all we hope it holds for J.  It hit me that just three years ago, we sat around that very same table discussing Coach C mentoring J. It seems like both yesterday and a lifetime ago.  Coach C has agreed to do a guest post with his thoughts on how far J has come and where he is headed.  Look for that in the next few days.  In the meantime, enjoy what's left of your summer!    


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer Update

Kind of left everyone hanging after my last post!  Sorry!  My only excuse is that April and May were a whirlwind, filled with lots of exciting moments and milestones.  A recap:

J wrapped up his senior season mid April.  His team was knocked out of the district tournament after one game and he hung up his high school cleats for good.  The team banquet followed on May 4.  After four years of ups and downs, he was ready to bid high school baseball farewell and move onto the next chapter of his career.  On May 6, J officially signed with Belmont Abbey College to play baseball for the Crusaders.  He had a signing party at school with friends and family in attendance.  It was one of my proudest moments as J's mom.  Knowing how long and hard he had worked towards his goal, and to see the joy in his face as he signed his letter of commitment was so very special.  Here he is with Coach C at his signing party.
And a shot of all of us, including my parents and brother,Coach C, the school athletic director and two of his high school coaches. 

Next up was A's First Holy Communion on Mother's day.  My last baby has reached this important milestone in our catholic faith, which is so hard to believe.  She should still be crawling around in diapers and here she is, eight years old.  I so enjoyed taking her shopping for a dress and veil and was pleasantly surprised when my often times rough and tumble little girl chose a very girly dress and veil along with a tiara and gloves.  Here she is on her communion day:

Two weeks after A's communion, J graduated from high school.  I'm trying to figure out where 18 years went!  We were able to celebrate with many family and friends, on both his graduation day and with a big party the day after.  My aunt and cousins were able to make the trip from Virginia to be with us which meant so much to J.  Here are a few photos from the weekend:
 Our graduate
 Hubby and J
 Me and J
A rare shot of the five of us

In the few weeks since J's graduation we have been settling into our summer routine.  N is attending a three week theater camp at the local playhouse.  He will be performing as a singing ape in eight performances of Tarzan at the end of the month.  A has two baton competitions this month.  The first is the regional competition that is being held about an hour away from us.  The second is a big competition in Myrtle Beach.  J is training with Coach C to get in the best shape possible before he leaves for college.  Speaking of Coach C, he graduated from the University of Florida last month and is headed to Georgetown for law school this fall.  We're so proud of him, even though we're going to miss him like crazy!  Luckily, my aunt and cousins live right outside DC, so it will be easy to visit him while visiting them. For now, we're all just enjoying spending time together, knowing that the summer will fly by at the speed of light.  All too soon it's going to be time for me to pack up the car and drive J up to Belmont Abbey, eight hours from home.  I get weepy every time I think about it, though I always knew that his dreams of baseball would likely take him away.  I have mentally prepared for it as best I can, though I know my heart is going to crack into pieces when he actually goes.  But I know he'll be doing what he loves and that will make it easier.  And I'm already making plans for us all to be in the stands for his first game as a Crusader!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Bittersweet Ending

Thursday night, J's high school team played their final regular season game.  It was against their cross town rivals and I'm happy to be able to report that they won, 4-1.  They had a tough season, ending with a record of 5 wins and 17 losses.  Throughout the season the team as a whole worked hard to improve and come together as a true team.  I'm glad that they got to end their season on a high note.

As I sat watching Thursday's game, there were a lot of emotions bubbling inside.  J's high school baseball years have been an experience that is hard to put into words.  In fact, I've avoided doing so except to all but our closest friends(I just know Coach C is rolling his eyes reading this because he's been my sounding board throughout it all!) because I knew it was important to try and maintain a positive attitude.  Now that his high school career is finished, I feel the need to share my thoughts.  However, those thoughts are somewhat different than I expected.

J's four years in high school baseball have been a learning experience.  Things didn't always go the way he hoped and certainly not the way I had hoped when he was a freshman, looking forward to the next step in his baseball journey.  I suppose I had naively hoped that J's talent, skill, and love of the game would magically make everything fall into place for him and that he would immediately become an integral part of the team. And it did and he was, but not quite the way I had envisioned and not right away. As a freshman, he paid his dues on the bench for the majority of the season, as he should have.  He made the most of each inning he got on the field and when he wasn't on the field his was the loudest voice in the dugout, cheering his teammates on.  As a sophomore, he was confident that he would make varsity.  At that point, he had a summer and a fall season with TP under his belt and Coach C had become both mentor and friend.  He came home from the first day of practice crushed that he had been left on JV while the majority of his teammates had been taken to varsity.  I admit to being furious at what I considered the unjustness of the situation.  Yet J made his peace with the situation quickly and determined to have the best season he could.  He went out and gave his all at every practice and game.  As one of the few sophomores on JV he played the majority of the season and played well.  As a junior, he made the varsity team and once again found himself on the bench.  Here's where things really started to get frustrating for me because I could see how the team was doing and it wasn't great.  I had a hard time understanding why J and others like him were left to sit while the same kids played every game with the same dismal results.  Coach C was truly a rock for me, always lending me an ear to vent my frustrations to and  talking me down when the anger became almost more than I could bear. He assured me J would get his due and that I wouldn't be doing him any favors if I expressed my anger.  I bit my tongue and once again J made the best of things, never wavering in his support of his team.  The first glimmer that J was important to the team came at that season's banquet when his teammates voted him as the recipient of the 110% award.

During those first three years, in addition to being frustrated over J's situation I was also dealing with my own feelings of being an outcast.  I didn't feel a sense of camaraderie with the other parents and often times felt very self conscious sitting at games.   I offered numerous times to help out with the team and was always shot down.  There was definitely a clique and I wasn't part of it.  For someone who loves volunteering and being a team mom, that was a hard pill to swallow.  I cried more than once during those years, many times in private because I tried really hard to put on a positive face for J.  But he knew and did everything he could to keep my spirits, as well as his, up.  

When the time came for this season to begin, I was determined to stay positive no matter what happened and enjoy J's senior season.  I decided to once again offer my help, knowing that a lot of the parents who had helped in the past were now gone.  Once J made the team again, I offered my help to the head coach and he accepted my offer.  I ran the concession stand and was pleasantly surprised by the help and support I received from the other parents.  For the first time, I felt some of that camaraderie that I had been missing the previous years.   Not only were people willing to help in the concession stand, they responded positively to the team photo sharing site I set up, chatted with me at games, and volunteered their help in whatever way was needed.  I'm not sure what was different.  Maybe my outlook and determination to be positive changed things or maybe others had felt the way I had in years past and they also wanted to make the season better.  I'm just thankful for the change and can honestly say I have enjoyed getting to know everyone a little bit this year.

As for J, he had a season that made him happy.  He played nearly every inning and played well.  He continued to support his teammates in every way he could.  When he and I arrived at the field Thursday night, he stood looking out over the field with a wistful expression.  I asked him if he was okay and he said he was sadder than he thought he'd be that this chapter in his baseball career was ending, even though he knows that another chapter is ready to begin.  I feel much the same.  As I watched he and his teammates walk out to shake hands with the opposing team at the end of the game, the tears came.  While the past four years may not have been what we envisioned at the beginning, the end is very bittersweet.  These four years, bad moments, good moments, and everything in between, have helped mold J into the player he is today.  I wouldn't go back and change anything about them.  To do so would change the end result.  And J is right where he needs to be; where he is destined to be.  Whatever happens these next four years in college ball, the past four in high school ball will leave a lasting mark on J.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Reflecting on the Journey

I've been wanting to write this post for some time now, yet every time I sat down the words just wouldn't come.  Perhaps it just wasn't the time for it before now. I've had so many thoughts and emotions tumbling around in my head and heart for the past few days as I watched J's excitement over his success at achieving his goal to play college baseball.  I can't help reflecting on the journey that has brought him to this point.

The journey of course began when J was small and we signed him up for Little League.  My dad was his coach for 6 of his nine years of  Little League, laying the foundation for what would become a lifelong love of the sport.  J loved his Little League years for the most part, even the disappointments he faced.  And there were disappointments.  More times than once he was passed over for All Stars or told he just didn't have what it takes to be a star.  And while those disappointments hurt at the time, they ultimately fueled J's determination to never give up on his dream.  My heart broke for my boy every time he faced one of those disappointments; there were times when I was almost consumed by anger towards the people crushing his young heart.  But J just kept working and soon left Little League behind for high school ball, where I naively thought we would leave behind the politics and games of Little League.  If anything, it was worse and that anger turned to outright rage as once again J had to deal with disappointments and set backs.  There were many times I would have unleashed that rage on J's behalf yet he always asked me not to.  Hard as it was I bit my tongue and let J deal with the situation, taking solace in his winning attitude, no matter the circumstances.  Coach C was a huge help, allowing me to vent my frustrations as often as I needed, and reassuring me that everything would be okay.  Speaking of Coach C, J's high school years led us to TP, which were the best years of J's baseball career to date.  Those two summer seasons with Coach C honed J into the player he is today.  And of course, for J and for all of us, the best thing we took away from TP is Coach C himself, who has truly become part of our family.   And now, J is on the threshold of the most exciting time in his baseball career yet, college ball.  Sitting in the coach's office Friday, listening to what he had to say about the program, his goals for the team, and what he expects from J was a little surreal.  I was so nervous it's a wonder I didn't topple right off the couch I was perched on.  And when the coach told J what scholarship amount he could offer him and asked if he wanted to be a part of Belmont Abbey baseball it took everything I had not to burst into tears.  Especially when before answering J looked at me, with every baseball dream he's ever had clearly visible in his eyes, waiting for my nod of approval.  I gladly gave him that approval, blinking back tears, as I watched and listened to my boy accept the opportunity he's worked a lifetime to have.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Officially A Crusader

As a parent,  I am always proud of my kids. But there are times when that pride fills me up to near bursting. Today was one of those times.  I posted a few months back about J having a college interested in having him play baseball for them next year.  He's emailed with the coach several times, but we hadn't heard anything definite back.  Until today.  It so happened that Belmont Abbey College was having an Open House this weekend.  So I decided to bring J up for a closer look at the school.  He notified the baseball coach we were coming and had the opportunity to meet with both the head and assistant coaches today.  And I am thrilled to announce that my J is now officially a Crusader, having verbally committed to attend Belmont Abbey and play baseball next year.  For those who have followed J's baseball journey on this blog, you know how much this means to us all. To say I am proud of him is not nearly an adequate enough expression for all I am feeling.  I am full to bursting.  With pride, joy, excitement, and even a little sadness, for the realization of J's dream will take him away from those who love him the most.  Yet the joy far outweighs the sadness.  For so long I've watched J working towards his dream, never wavering in his determination.  I've cried watching him suffer disappointments and set backs.  I've shared the thrill of his many successes.  And I've had the privilege to watch him grow from the tiny boy who wanted to be a baseball player into a young man who is a baseball player in his very soul.  Sitting in that coach's office today, I experienced one of my most joyful moments as a mother, watching J as he accepted the chance to live out his dream.  It's a moment that will stay with me forever.

Monday, January 20, 2014

More words from Coach C

In the weeks since my last post, a lot has happened for J.  He was accepted into Belmont Abbey College. BAC is the school that is interested in having J play for them next year.  In fact, we've progressed to the point that they are putting together a financial aid package for him.  He's thrilled to have this opportunity and is looking forward to hearing from the coach there soon.  In addition to being accepted at BAC and being offered the chance to play baseball there, J has also been accepted into Saint Leo University here in Florida. We're not sure yet if baseball will be a possibility there; we're waiting to hear from the coach.  In the coming weeks, J will have some big decisions to make regarding his college plans.  Which brings me to the point of this post.  Two years ago, I asked Coach C to do a guest post regarding his thoughts on J's training and progress.  If you missed that post the first time around, you can read it here: A Word From Coach C.  So much has been happening for J lately that I thought everyone would enjoy hearing from Coach C again.  He was all set to do another guest post when he sent us the letter of recommendation that he wrote for J.  He sent it to me via email, which I opened and read while sitting at dance class waiting for A.  It took approximately 15 seconds for the tears to start pouring.  As a parent, one of the things I hope for is for my children to be fortunate enough to have people in their lives who appreciate their gifts, support them in their dreams, and above all else, love and respect who they are.  When I read Coach C's letter, it only reinforced what I already knew, that J has all of those things in Coach C.  So instead of having him write another  guest post, I asked him if I could simply post the beautiful letter of recommendation he wrote for J.  He agreed, so I will let it speak for itself.  I omitted J and Coach C's full names for privacy.  Other than that, the letter is exactly as Coach C wrote it.

To Whom It May Concern:
            The dictionary defines the word superlative as being of the highest kind, quality, or order. Surpassing all others, and in doing so reigns supreme. I define the word superlative as J.M.: an ambitious young man of the highest kind, quality, and order. A person whose dedication to the betterment of humankind surpasses all others, and whose compassion for his life and the lives of those around him, reigns supreme.
            I first had the pleasure of meeting J when he tried out as a freshman for my travel baseball organization. As both a catcher and a corner infielder, I was thoroughly impressed with his arm strength, soft hands, and seemingly advanced knowledge of the game for someone of his age. First and foremost, J is one of the last of a dying breed: a true leader of his peers. His happy go lucky attitude and fierce playing style inspired his teammates on numerous occasions to push themselves to limits they never knew they could reach. He displayed a love of learning that was refreshing to me, and in him I saw much of myself at his age. From day one I was very excited with his unyielding drive to better not only himself, but also all those who surrounded him. At the plate he led a fairly young 16 and under team by example, constantly coming through when his team needed him the most.
Over the past few years I have come to view him as a young person with tremendous potential—a guaranteed future leader. His intellectual and scholastic success, coupled with his commitment to his team, masterful leadership abilities, creative drive, and unshakable will, form a foundation for future full of possibilities.
            However, while his accomplisments are outstanding to say the least, they pale in comparison to his most shining attribute: his awe-inspiring ability to inspire. From my experience with this exceptional young person, I have come to learn that J does not purely plan, but acts. Does not simply succeed, but excels. Does not solely enhance his own life, but enriches the lives of all he touches. To truly understand what makes this remarkable young man so successful, one must only look to the words of Mr. Mark Twain: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” J.M. is among these select few that we deem as great in our society, not merely because of his wide array of impressive accomplishments, but because he has been blessed with the capacity to inspire the ordinary to aspire to the extraordinary. He has been endowed with an unparalleled ability to make others feel through example that, they too, can become great: and in a world where it is quite easy to get caught up solely in the affairs of one’s self, this level of maturity is unrivaled and of incalculable value.
            If you have the opportunity to meet this incredible young man, please do so. I promise you will not regret it, because words simply cannot measure such an immeasurable degree of character. We owe this shining star all the support we can give, because the world deserves, desires, and desperately needs leaders of his kind, quality, and order. I assure you that your program emulates all the values that make him the remarkable young person he is today, and that in any tasks you require of him, he will reign supreme. With all this being said, I recommend to you, unconditionally, Mr. J.M. I know that he will make as large an impact on your lives as he has made on my own. Thank you for your time.
Best Regards,

Coach C

Head Coach Top Prospects 16u