Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sports Overload: Blame the kids or their parents?

Second-graders playing contact football. 4-year olds clenching hockey sticks. Music movement classes for 6-month olds. 12-year old boys spending more time playing and practicing basketball than they do in school classrooms each day. Accelerated soccer treadmill training for 7-year olds. 9-year old ballerinas dancing for hours in studio classes. Who is responsible for all of these "over-the-top" activities for kids? You and I. Their loving (and competitive) parents.

As I parent, I am certainly guilty. Like the rest of you, I've spent hours driving kids to activities, bundling up for cold Spring baseball games, cheering on my boys at the ice arena, and volunteering time to sew sequins on tutus. I believe that team sports and club involvement is important for kids to maintain their physical health and to promote working together as a team. But when does it get to be too much for both parents and kids?

Activities for kids really have changed over the years. I remember baseball and softball starting in 7th grade, not when I was 7. Track started in high school. We didn't even have a gymnastics or tennis team. I think the only organized sport that started by the 4th grade was wrestling. If you come from Central Wisconsin, you will understand the logic behind breeding young wrestlers. However, today it seems if your child doesn't start seriously playing a sport at a young age, they are pretty much shut out by the time they are a teenager.

Only because I live in hockey-obsessed Minnesota, let me use hockey as an example. Some kids start working with a hockey stick and skating when they are three. Mini-mites starts when they are 4- or 5- years old with weekly practices and games. Your time and monetary hockey commitment only escalates from here. Boys and girls skate daily at all hours of the day and night. Some kids are out there every day. Parents seem to have the dream that their kid will play for the Minnesota Wild one day. Unless they are incredibly gifted, they have a slim chance of even playing on their Varsity team in high school much less being recruited for college or professional hockey.

Ballet is my other extreme example. Parents are completely sucked into the prima ballerina dream when they enroll their sweet 5-year old daughter for ballet. (I was one of those parents.) As she progresses throughout the years it becomes tougher and more expensive. Parents and their dancers are rewarded by seeing their child dancing on stage for the Nutcracker or Swan Lake, but at what cost? Broken feet, sprained ankles, damaged psyches from overzealous, critical instructors. All for the ballet dream that is unattainable for most dancers. If they do reach the pinnacle of becoming a principal dancer, their career is basically over before they hit the ripe old age of 30.

As a parent, I guess that I am to blame. I want my children to succeed in sports, music, dance, or whatever they choose to pursue. My problem lies in having three kids and a vast array of sports and musical activities. How do you possibly choose? Some parents choose only one sport for their child and set them on the fast-track for years. I would bet that a  lot of these kids do get burned out before they reach their prime. Other parents dabble in everything, resulting in an over scheduled child and stressed out parents who shuttle their kids to and from activities while volunteering to manage the teams. How do parents squeeze in a full-time job when practices start before the end of rush hour?

Proving that I am just as guilty as everyone else on this issue, I now must take my son to his outdoor baseball practice despite the fact that it is only 30° outside and the baseball field is covered in 6 inches of snow. An obsession? Perhaps.
Spring baseball—Minnesota style

My Delta "No Fly Zone"

I'm done flying Delta. Finished. I'll donate my frequent flyer miles to the Japanese earthquake victims and cut up my Delta AMEX card. Even though Delta nearly has a monopoly on flights in and out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, I am going out of my way NOT to fly Delta.

You may recall my Delta horror story from this summer when Delta left me, my kids, and my sister-in-law stranded at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for 36 hours before they finally let us rebook our flight on an airplane that worked. To refresh your memory, go to my blog archives in January 2011 and look for:  DELTA = Doesn't Ever Leave the Airport.

The Delta flight crew and gate attendants asked us to save all of our receipts as we would be reimbursed by Delta for our misery, including reimbursement for our missed days at Disney World. Well, someone forgot to inform corporate Delta about our woes and promised reimbursements. 

After days stuck in the airport, hours spent on the phone, and countless emails sent back and forth, Delta finally settled my claim 9 months later. They generously gave each of us a $50 voucher to spend on another Delta flight. Just what I wanted! So much for the thousands of dollars in Disney resort fees, our pre-purchased park tickets, and days with our friends that we lost while waiting for Delta to find us a battery, pilot, flight crews, and plane. The $250 in vouchers certainly makes up for Delta's glaring incompetence. 

My next step? I considered filing my complaint against Delta with the Department of Transportation (DOT) but noticed that they already have a record number of complaints already filed against Delta for 2010. Given the sluggish pace of the DOT, the government probably would not get me the justice I seek. Instead, I'll hit them in the wallet where it really counts and vow never fly Delta ever again. I urge you to boycott Delta as well. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Aid to Japan

The incredible destruction in Japan from the earthquake and resulting tsunami is too indescribable for words. The images coming out of Japan speak volumes more than any words I could ever write. Having spent more time in Japan over the past 3 years than I ever imagined, I feel compelled to do something to help the people of Japan. Even if it is to write and post the Salvation Army, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Red Cross Japan relief sites on this blog.

Please consider making a donation to the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, or any other Japan relief agency that you desire. What if this was your neighborhood? I would want help. Please donate what you can. I did.

The Salvation Army:

The Red Cross:

ELCA Disaster Response:

Thursday, March 10, 2011


While looking through the high school curriculum options at a few different schools for my now 8th grade daughter, I ran across a new word that made me do a double-take and then laugh. "Freshperson." What in the world is a freshperson? As I continued reading about the curriculum, it became crystal clear—they are talking about a "Freshman!"

I'm sorry but I see this as an absolutely ridiculous creation of a new word. What woman or girl would seriously take offense at being called a Freshman? Are women today that insecure that we as womankind must now go around erasing any reference to "man" and changing "man" words to a neutral "person?" As modern 21st Century women, why should we take offense to the archaic use of "man" tagged onto general reference words.

I looked up the word "Freshperson" in my Webster's Dictionary on my computer and on the app on my phone. Freshperson isn't a word, but freshman is listed. It also comes up as a misspelled word on my blog spell check. However, according to the Internet urban dictionary, freshperson is defined as a "politically correct term for an American 1st year high school student." I guess I'm just not "politically correct."

I really shouldn't be surprised at freshperson given that the mailman is now a postal carrier, a stewardess is retitled a flight attendant, and your Congressman is now a Congressperson. My all-time favorite is changing waitress to waitron. Sounds like a robotic name to me.  But freshperson may be my new favorite!

What's next? Snowpeople? Long live the snowman.

Our politically incorrect snowman.