Lucky 13!

My firstborn turns 13 today.

A watershed event.

The last of “The Gerber Gang” becomes a teen. The Gang was our very first playgroup. Six babies (3 girls, 3 boys), all born within 6 weeks of each other. My guy was the youngest of The Gang, and now they’re all teenagers.

Lots of things have changed since days of The Gang. No more strollers, no more diapers.

Some things remain the same, however, despite the passage of time and the achievements of milestones.

My boy still loves to read.

I’m proud of him for a lot of reasons, but being a lover of books is on the top 10 list, for sure.

He still loves animals. 

Baseball remains his all-consuming passion. He’s always been reliable at the plate, and this past summer during All Stars was known as “The Doubles Machine.” He knows how to keep the line moving.

Little League has been a constant every year since he was old enough to play. 

His very first season, as a kindergartener, was the start of some exciting time spent at the ballpark.

This is his last season of Little League. While it won’t be the end of baseball for him, there’s something special about Little League, and the innocence and purity of the game up to the age of 12.

 

He’s a Red Sox fan to the core.

A proud member of Red Sox Nation practically since birth. He even wore his favorite Nomar jersey on the first day of kindergarten.

He loves his junk food!

And he does not like to try new foods!

He loves the beach.

He’s still not a fan of dressing up, and his idea of formal wear is shorts and a polo.

He still refuses to wear long pants, even when it’s cold (well, cold for Texas, anyway).

He’s not a big fan of smiling for the camera, either.

But sometimes he slips up and flashes a little grin.

His eyelashes have always gone on for days.

And his smile has always grabbed me by the heart-strings. 

Happy birthday, Pal. You’re not too old for your mama to give you a hug & a kiss!


Baseball blues

I’m not trying to keep ya hanging about the outcome of the game last night; I haven’t been home much today. It was not a good night for the Raiders. I wish I had better news to report, but the 13-3 thrashing by Pearland Maroon was b-a-d bad. The boys in red were off in just about every possible way, but the concession stand at West U has 25-cent snowcones, so at least Macy was happy.

Tonight it’s do or die for the boys in red. We face the All Star team from the Heights, and plan to bring our game faces.

Meanwhile, check out this guy in his spiffy white cowboy boots. 

I spied him the other day at Town Square and spent a good little while wondering who he was meeting and where he was going in those oh-so-fine kicks. It also made me think about my own pair of super-fine cowboy boots, and how much I’d love to wear my boots every single day if not for my blasted plantar fasciitis and my aching feet. Sigh.

Those black & white cowhair boots and I go way back. I bought them at a kitschy little shop on South Congress in Austin in the early days of my editorial career. I paid cash for them from my hard-earned paycheck, and I loved them dearly. Still do.

I love how there’s just enough white to set off the glossy black hide. Or hair. Or fur. Or whatever it is. Don’t tell PETA, but I love the hide/hair/fur. I’m as nutsy-kookoo for animals as always, but that poor cow was doomed anyway, so that fact that his/her hide/hair/fur ended up on a pair of boots is a part of life. If I thought for one second that that cow had a shot at living a long, bucolic life eating grass into his/her old age somewhere in the great state of Texas, I’d say thanks but no thanks on the boots. But we all know the cows around here are destined to end up on someone’s grill or smoker; this is Texas after all. Funny how I wouldn’t think of eating that cow, but wearing it doesn’t bother me one bit.

Oh well. Thinking about boots is a nice distraction from last night’s agony of defeat.


Red Sox + Houston = happy girl

ballparks.com

I know, I know, I’m behind in my blogging. I’ve been busy. No idea what’s keeping me so busy, but suspect it has something to do with drinking Malibu black in the Cremers’ pool; time seems suspended there. Must be something in the water. (I’m all about full disclosure here.) The Sox were in town this past weekend, and we went to see them; the fact that I’m just now getting around to posting about it is wrong, just wrong.

Minute Maid Park is a gorgeous ballpark, if I do say so myself, and I hope the Sox enjoyed their visit as much as we did. The retractable roof is pretty cool, and the glassed-in views of downtown Houston show off our fine city in all its corporate splendor. 

The outfield wall is capped off with a train full of giant orange blobs. I’m not the only person who wondered why in the world there was a train-load of pumpkins at the ballpark only to realize that, duh! they’re oranges. Minute Maid Park. Get it? If an Astros player hits a home run, the train chug-chugs along the length of the outfield wall. Suffice to say that train has been pretty dormant lately. 

The picture below shows you what the stadium looks like with the roof open. There are little tiny motors that turn as the giant walls of glass slowly, slowly slide apart before your very eyes. At first the movement is so slight as to be nearly undetectable. But before long, the chink between the seams of the walls becomes wider.

The trainload full of oranges. Betcha I could make a lot of mimosas with them. 

Before the game, we did something I’ve always wanted to do, and now that we’ve done it, I feel like a true Houstonian. We ate at Mama Ninfa’s–the original one on Navigation, very close to the stadium. Ninfa’s is a Houston institution, with franchises all over the city, but the one on Navigation is where it all started. She’s credited with creating the beef fajita, which is now a mainstay in most Mexican restaurants. 

I can’t vouch for the beef, but can safely say that the michelada was delicious. There’s a section on the drinks menu devoted to micheladas, with the opportunity to choose which beer will be mixed with the addictive array of spices. There are 15 choices. I have no idea what the spicy salt was on the rim of the glass, but my lips burned for 2 days after consuming every last crystal.

The seafood cocktail was out of this world. Gulf shrimp and sea scallops tossed with avocado chunks and a spicy, lemony cocktail sauce. Yum.

As tempting as it was to get a 2nd michelada, it was time to scoot on over to the ballpark. Ninfa’s offers a shuttle from the restaurant to the park, and we happily jumped on. The passenger van was perfectly pleasant for the short hop on the way to the game; coming home, with at least 40 people crammed into that same van, was a different story. Wooshegaga, that’s a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare: tight quarters, hordes of people and Houston traffic. Yikes.

It was all worth it, though, to see my favorite team and my favorite player. Ells wasn’t in the line-up for the Friday night game because of the flu he picked up from Josh Beckett. He rallied with the help of some IV fluids, though, and sparkled in center field and dazzled as the lead-off hitter. Here he is, at his first at-bat. I know, the pictures are terrible. I finally got a new camera, since the iPhone camera leaves much to be desired, and forgot to take it to the game. Sheesh.

Nobody covers center field quite like Ells.

He’s in the middle, with his hat off for better close-ups. One of the Boston papers ran a headline today that says “Ellsbury displays All-Star form” and I think it refers to his play, but could just as easily refer to his form.

He got his 500th hit today, and was selected for his first All Star game on Sunday. All that, plus a mention on this blog? He’s in tall cotton. 

Now all he needs is a mohawk, like the All Star player who lives at my house:

before...

...and after


As promised…

Here’s the link to the latest newspaper article in which Super P was interviewed. I’m so glad the sports editor didn’t include Payton’s answer to his question about the best thing about going to the State Championship last summer: “The hotel was pretty nice.”


The much-anticipated results of last night’s game

It was do-or-die for the mighty First Colony Red Raiders last night, and the cause of my nervous stomach all day yesterday. I would love to keep everyone in suspense about the outcome, and bury it at the bottom of a long, blabbedy-blab post, but that would be mean, and while I’m not above being mean, I do believe in the great karma wheel and want it to spin my way.

So, without further ado….RAIDERS WIN!!!

The stands were packed, the tension was high, and the mighty Raiders were pumped. Lots of non-Raider First Colony families turned out to support the boys in red. That’s one of the great things about our league (besides our utter dominance thus far in the All Star tournament, with the American League 9, 10, and 11-year-old teams winning district); we support each other. We hear comments from teams we pummel into the ground about our league having a “A” team and a “B” team, but it’s just not true. Nothing but sour grapes. Our league is divided into an American and a National league based on geography, pure & simple. Where a player lives in relation to the dividing line determines whether he (or she) is on an American or National team. No gerrymandering at FCLL.

And now, back to the game…

We had our starting pitcher on the mound, fresh after a day of rest and reset pitch count. The West U team did not. We faced the same pitcher who started for the boys in green on Monday, in which we delivered a 7-4 victory.

Our starting line-up remained unchanged: Max, Cody, Payton, Mark–ready to slug it out. Then comes Gus, Kyle, Camden, Taylor, and Carl. Cooper and Anthony are ready to assist at a moment’s notice. The bats were hot and the Raiders took an early 5-0 lead. No sloppy errors last night, as our boys delivered some first-class fielding and shut the West U team down seamlessly.

Final score: 12-2 in a run-rule (for the uninitiated, in this tournament, it’s considered a run-rule if one team leads by 10 runs after the 4th inning. What it means is the other team can’t catch up, so the game ends early. It’s rather demoralizing for the team who is behind, and exhilarating for the team with the big lead).

Celebration abounded as the Raiders and their parents whooped with joy at the victory. If the baseball gods had not smiled upon us, we’d be done with All Stars for the summer, and a certain gamer at my house would be in a foul mood for the rest of the summer. All Star families pretty much plan our summers around the idea of going all the way in the tournament, which means daily practice from the first week of June to the State Championship at the end of July. I am so very glad I don’t have the entire month of July to fill. It will be baseball, baseball, and more baseball — just the way we like it.

Apologies for the crummy photo quality — the iPhone is a wonderful device, but even with all the improvements the camera still doesn’t handle motion well. You get the gist, though, even with less-than-stellar pics.

Payton receiving his district pin from the league pooh-bah (in the black shorts).

Close-up of the district pin, which is quite an honor to wear. And a mighty fine profile, if I do say so myself!

Getting congrats from the West U team and coaches (who were very nice throughout, by the way, and that’s not always the case with opposing teams. A couple of their players cried in the field when they realized their run to State was ending, but the parents and coaches were quite civil). 

The ceremonial dousing of the coach with the water cooler. Craig is a very good sport. 

One of my favorite family shots — with a victorious boy under the scoreboard (which I cropped out because the glare off the board was heinous).

Payton being interviewed by a local sports reporter. And yes, of course I will link to the story when it comes out. See this, though, for a previous game’s story. 

Proudly displaying the district banner, which will be on display at our home field, hopefully surrounded by that of the sectional tournament and finally, the State Championship!


A whole new ball game

I’m as nervous as a cat. On a hot tin roof.

Payton’s All Star team was one game away from being district champions last night, and they went down in flames. We’d already beaten the West University team but they came back with a vengeance (and their best pitcher). As a seasoned baseball mom who’s used to watching a confident & uber-talented team, I can usually get a read on the game and have a sense of how it’s going to end. Last night I didn’t have my usual “sixth sense” before the game, and even when our boys launched 2 homers in their first at-bat to take a 3-0 lead, I didn’t settle in with my usual feel-good feeling about the outcome.

My kid got hit by a pitch during his first at-bat. Not a wimpy pitch, either, but a smokin’ fastball. That fastball thumped his thigh, just above the knee, quite audibly. My mama- bear instinct kicked in and I was on my feet, wondering if my boy would crumple in a heap on top of home plate. Then my rational brain kicked in and reminded me that my boy is tough as nails and meaner than a red hog on the field. He takes pain like it’s a cool summer breeze, as if it’s a “woonty” on the shore of Salisbury Beach. His pain tolerance is incredible, and yes, he gets that from me. He’s the ideal football player — a coach’s dream — because he’d rather take a beating than admit he’s hurt. Most kids take a “test jog” down the right-field line after being hit by a pitch, to make sure they can still run without a hitch in their giddy-up. Not my kid. After being pounded, my kid just casually tossed his bat and trotted to first base. Not a wince or a whimper from him.

Here’s the after-effect. I expect it to become much more colorful in the coming days. 

Payton’s teammate Gus responded to the bean-ball by hitting a homer off the pitcher who pegged my kid. Way to go, Gus!

Sadly, the First Colony bats weren’t as hot for the rest of the game, and we came up short. Errors in the field added insult to injury, and the boys in red got a long, stern talking-to from their coaches instead of a celebratory toast at the local pizza joint.

We face West U again tonight, and will likely bring a renewed vigor for victory. It’s winner take all tonight, so the stakes are high. Whichever team goes home tonight with a victory moves on to the sectional tournament, with hopes of progressing through that and onto the State Championship. Last year, that team was ours, and we’re all hoping for a repeat performance.

No one wants this more than me, since I missed every bit of it last summer. Thanks to a post-mastectomy infection, I was in the hospital instead of in the stands.  The team honored me by wearing pink sweatbands throughout the summer, and Payton still wears his. We had to get a new pair, though, because the original pair was filthy. The kind of filth that repeated washings and soakings and pre-treating can’t remove. Lots of sweat but no tears last summer.

Apparently I’m a bit nervous , as I was awake at 4:20 a.m. thinking about tonight’s game. Someone asked me at the gym the other day if I’m one of “those baseball moms.” I wasn’t sure what she meant — the kind of baseball mom who attends all the games and cheers for everyone on the team? Or the kind of baseball mom who gripes at the coach and yells at the umpire about being unfair toward her baby? I’ve seen both kinds. I like to think of myself as the former, but I have been known to yell at an ump a time or two over a particularly egregious call. I am the kind of baseball mom who wears my kid’s jersey to the games, proudly displaying #11 on my back just as my kid does. I am the kind of baseball mom who decorates the car windows, as is tradition around here, so that everyone on the road and in the parking lot know that there’s an All Star on board. 

I am the kind of baseball mom who feels deep pride at my kid being selected for All Stars. 20 players are chosen, then that group is whittled down to 11 or 12 for the traveling team. Lots of players — and lots of moms — would give their eye teeth to be a part of this team. Missing the games and the camaraderie last summer was hard. Really hard. I was able to follow along with the games via an iPad app that allows a user at the game to enter the pitch-by-pitch action so a user on the other end can follow the play-by-play. One of the moms asked me last night if it’s more nerve-wracking to follow along or to watch the game live. I said watching live is way more nerve-wracking. Sitting in a hospital bed staring at the iPad screen isn’t nearly as complete an experience as being in the stands, in the heat, with the roar of the crowd and the sounds of the game. I do have fond memories, though, of the nurses who were constantly in and out of my room getting involved and asking for updates on the game. And I distinctly remember forgoing pain medicine so I could be lucid enough to follow the game. This summer is a whole new ball game, for me.