Archive for the ‘Jacob’Category

Third Grade, Day One

Last night was “Back to School” night.

A couple of friends and I decided to hit a local pub just before the festivities began, which was not to my advantage, since in my foggy stupor, I ended up volunteering for events that I had planned on attending for pleasure. Yay me.

In the mean time, toward the end of the presentation given by my son’s very cool-awesome-fantastical 3rd grade teacher, we were given an assignment — write our child a note that he/she will be given on the 1st day of school.

And all of the sudden I wished I’d had at least one more shot of Patron, since the whole activity got me all verclempt and watery eyed and had me pretending that I needed to sneeze for TWELVE MINUTES STRAIGHT. Here is what I wrote (or something close to it):

Dear Jacob,

Welcome to the 3rd grade! Your dad and I are so very proud of you!

Please remember to be a good boy, follow Mrs. Teacher’s rules, and try not to talk too much. You know better than that!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you get confused. Remember – YOU ARE NOT “STUPID.” You’re an awesome boy and don’t let anybody tell you any different. Just do your best, always give 100 percent, and never EVER give up.

We love you, and we know you will do great things this year!

Love, Mom & Dad

I know . . . Cue the tears . . . But in retrospect, I wish I’d at least told him to have fun. I’m such a downer sometimes.

Good luck, sweet boy. Third grade is NO JOKE.


08 2011

Coach’s Wife

The minute I knew I’d be a Coach’s Wife forever came almost two years ago when my husband returned home from his first practice. The gig: First Grade Little Dribblers Basketball.

ME: “So, how’d it go?”

LOML: “Oh. My. GOD! It was like . . . like . . . Ohmygod. There’s this one kid. And he’s like, I don’t know, supertall. And he’s like . . . like . . . OhmyGOD hon, I think KOBE is trapped in this little kid’s body!”

ME: “Okay, so, you’ve got one kid on your team.”

LOML: “Shut up.”

But I knew. I KNEW.

He was hooked.

And then at the first game, I saw first hand how it would always be with him.

He felt the pain and disappointment of every missed shot. And the joy and excitement of every basket and free throw made. He was like a visual equalizer, bouncing and moving to the pulse of the team.

Even the parents in line at the snack bar could see it. It was an “away” game, so they didn’t know him personally. Behind me, I overheard one parent said to another, “That coach is friggin’ HILARIOUS. Dude’s all covered in sweat and shit from being all over the friggin’ court.” And then the other parent said, “Dude’s gettin’ the shit done, though. Hell he’s motivatin’ ME and I ain’t even a player!”

Fast forward to October 2010.

Jake was still smack in the middle of football season when the LOML decided to coach basketball again.

New school. New team. New drama. (Yes, there’s drama with 2nd grade basketball.) And even though there was a point during the season when I had to physically keep him from going after a parent who picked a fight with him not once, but TWICE in a span of 5 minutes (in addition to using profanity in front of Benny), he STILL maintained he was having the time of his life. Most of the team’s parents also maintained that if it weren’t for Troy (and his awesome assistant coaches), they probably wouldn’t have signed their kids up to play.

And at the end of basketball season, I settled in to what I thought would be a nice break before football when he got a request to coach little league.

And all I can say about THAT is I hated that he chose to do it, but glad he did it. If that makes sense at all.

Two weeks after the last baseball game, we signed Jake up for football. At the same time,Troy submitted his application for a coaching position on Jake’s team. A few days after that, he got a call to meet with the head coach.

When he returned home, I could tell he seemed disappointed.

“They’ve got too many apps for Jake’s team. The guy wants me to coach up one level because they need more people up there. I think he’s worried that I’ll let being Jake’s dad get in the way of coaching the rest of the team.”

And, after much discussion, we came to the conclusion that it was all or nothing – either coach Jake’s team, or take a seat in the stands.Troy called the coach to let him know, and that was the last we had heard of it.

In the mean time,Troy continued to toss the ball around and run drills with the boys in the front yard, getting Jake ready for the upcoming season.

Then yesterday, after I returned home from the grocery store, the LOML said, “What’s for dinner? Coach is HUNGRY.”

It only took a second for me to realize what he was telling me.

He got the job.

ME: “Wait . . . What?!!”

LOML: “Yep! I’ll be an assistant. Probably O-Line.”

And then he smiled. And his blue eyes did that thing that they always did when he knew he’d be coaching.

Father and son playing football in front yard.


ME, to Benny: “What’s mama’s name?”

BENNY: “Kaftheen.”

ME: “And what’s daddy’s name?”

BENNY AND JAKE [Together, in unison]: “Coach.”


07 2011

The One Where Jacob Was Brave and Taught His Class About What It’s Like to Be Bullied

I would be remiss not to share this story with you, since bullying is on the minds of so many people right now.

And, it’s lengthy, just like most of my other posts.

But I beg you to READ IT.

Then forward it to all the parents, aunts, uncles, caregivers, babysitters, and educators that you know.

Because this story has a happy ending. And it contains a message that something positive CAN result from a negative situation.

Gay (as well as straight) children and teens are committing suicide at an epidemic pace because they are being teased and bullied. I say children because some of these kids aren’t even 13 when they choose to end their lives over these vicious attacks on their character.

As a parent, I will not tolerate teasing and bullying. If another child comes at either of my boys sideways EVEN ONCE, they — AND THEIR PARENTS — are going to hear about it. If it continues, then we will go so far as to remove our boys from the scenario entirely.

Troy and I also taught Jake at an early age that teasing and bullying is unacceptable, and if he ever experienced it, to tell a teacher right away.

Jake’s been through his fair share of torment, just like any other kid, and for the most part has handled it like you’d expect a kid to handle being teased: He didn’t like it, told a teacher, and got over it.

These past couple of months, however, have been extraordinarily tough for Jake.

In August, he was supposed to start the 2nd grade at a school that he’d been attending since Kindergarten. This was a place where he was most comfortable — he loved that school and felt at ease with even the oldest of the 8th graders.

Then he decided that he wanted to play football — just like “that,” after attending one practice.

He didn’t even know how to PLAY football. Didn’t know the rules. And certainly didn’t know that he’d have to wear a helmet and pads on 100+ degree days.

He just knew that when he put the uniform on and went out onto the field, it felt right. It fit. And he wanted in.

The problem was, that, the school he loved so much changed their academic structure, and if he was to attend in the fall, he’d be kept in class until 5:00pm. Which didn’t leave much time to get to practice, which started at 5:30pm.

Those of you who know us personally know that we tried everything we could to get the school to allow Jake to leave at 4:00pm on practice days, but were ultimately shut down in our attempt to find common ground between Jake’s athletic commitments and the administration’s firm stance on the new school schedule.

So, Jake gave it all up.

He gave up the friends he knew, the school that he loved, and the environment that was so comfortable to him — all so he could participate in a sport that he’d never even played before.

That alone should be a testament to his character.

But apparently (as I just learned today), Jacob’s character knows no boundaries.

At seven years old, standing 4’7″ tall and weighing 115 pounds, Jake’s a sizeable kid. But he doesn’t look like he weighs 115 pounds. He just looks like a big kid that could do some damage if he wanted to. Yet, anyone who knows my Jacob knows that HE WOULDN’T HURT A FLY.

So much so that his coaches are punishing him for not being aggressive enough on the football field. They scream, “HIT SOMEBODY, LANCASTER! FOR CHRIS’SAKES THEY’VE GOT PADS ON! YOU’RE NOT GOING TO KILL THEM!!”

This kid can open a hole like nobody’s business, and can also hold his own against two defenders while STANDING ON HIS BACK FOOT. But he doesn’t want to HURT anybody. Safe to say he’s the nicest player that the Sacramento Youth Pee Wee Football League has ever seen.

So you can imagine my emotional torment when I picked him up from school this past Monday and he announced to me that he wanted to change schools at the end of the year.

“Why? What happened?”

“These two girls were being really mean to me, and they poked me [pointing to his chest and belly] and called me fat.”

“WHO DID THIS? Were they older girls?”

“No, they were from my class.”

Now, my first reaction was to turn the car around and confront the teacher since I’d not heard anything about it. Which in itself was quite unusual, because his teacher is one of the most engaging and brilliant educators I’ve ever met.

“Did you tell the teacher.”


“Then what happened?”

“They got in trouble. Bad trouble.”

Okay, I thought, she’s got his back. I can come in from the ledge now.

Then, after we got home, I found a note in Jacob’s backpack:

“Dear Mr. & Mrs. Lancaster,

Today during lunch recess a couple of girls were teasing Jacob. He was very upset (I would have been too).

I spoke with both girls to try and explain the seriousness of their actions. They will be in tomorrow at recess.

I hope that this doesn’t happen again.

Please, bring it to my attention if it does and I will discuss it with them further. I don’t believe they meant to hurt him, but it hurt Jacob just the same.

Thank you & Sorry”

After I wiped the tears from my eyes, I asked Jacob if he was okay, and he said yes. Then I asked him if he wanted to talk about it, and he said no. Then I explained to him that sometimes kids are mean, and I really didn’t know why — maybe because someone had been being mean to them and they want to take it out on someone else. He seemed fine with that, and, when I asked him if he wanted me to talk to his teacher about it, he said no, because his “teacher got the girls in trouble.” So I left it at that.

But I was heartbroken for my son. The whole scenario must have been SO AWFUL FOR HIM. I never, EVER wanted this to happen to Jacob, and I felt a pang of guilt for encouraging him to switch schools just so he could play football.

Then today, as I was walking down the school corridors to pick him up from school, his teacher flagged me down and asked me if he told me about “what he did.”

“No . . . what happened?”

“Okay. Did you get my note?”


And then we talked a little bit about what he said to me, and why she didn’t hear from me after it happened, and how we both felt absolutely horrible about the situation. She also let me know that she spoke to both of the girls’ parents, who were as equally distressed as we were.

“You should be proud of him. He did a VERY brave thing.”

Then she proceeded to tell me something so profound about my son that it made me cry.

And I’m still crying as I write this, pausing in between sobs to type.

First, she explained that she kept the girls in from recess THREE TIMES in one day. In the morning, she had them write a note of apology to Jacob. After lunch, she edited the notes and made them re-write them. In the afternoon, she looked the notes over one more time. Then she made the girls apologize to Jacob in person (again), and asked them to give him the notes.

He must have kept the notes in his classroom folder, because I never saw them.

The following day, he asked the teacher if he could share the notes with his class. At first, the teacher was reluctant to let him do it, and said that she intended them to be just for Jacob.

But he persisted, and asked again if he could read them aloud in class.

Now, I have to stop for a minute and explain to you that reading out loud is Jacob’s KRYPTONITE. He HATES to read out loud. But he felt a need to share his experience with his class, and convinced his teacher to let him go forward.

So, in front of a class that he barely knew, doing something that he openly despised, he began to read the notes.

Then, something else happened as he started his mission: Another new student — newer than Jacob, and a little girl who has just as much fear of reading out loud as he does — stood at his side and held his hand. Even putting her head on his arm when things got difficult.

And as Jake read the notes out loud and explained what it felt like to be teased and bullied, the class listened attentively. Some of the kids, including the girls in question, had tears streaming down their face. Jacob’s teacher also cried.

When he was finished, his teacher made sure that the entire class could see her reaction. She wanted them to know that what Jake had done was extremely brave, and that bullying would not be tolerated.

After a few minutes had passed, the kids began raising their hands.

Because THEY wanted to talk about how they had experienced being bullied too.

As Jacob’s teacher was telling me the story, I was bursting with pride and wet from tears and feeling terribly guilty for not believing that he could do something so bold.

But that’s not the end.

Later that day (the day Jacob read out loud to his class), as his teacher was cleaning up, she began to find little folded up pieces of paper.

They were notes.

Notes from students who were apologizing to others for acting like a bully.

“I’m sorry for treating you badly.”

“I’m sorry if I hurt you.”

“I’m sorry that I made you cry.”

All because Jake decided that he’d had enough.

He didn’t hide his feelings. He didn’t run away from the problem.

He instead chose to face bullying head-on, and perhaps changed the lives of his classmates forever.


10 2010

Conversations With Jake: The “Nay Kit” Flash (Or, Why You Should REALLY Make Sure Your Kid is Asleep Before Listening to Podcasts in Your Car)

Earlier this year, I wrote about a photographer named James Beltz (who I now refer to as “Professor Jimmy” around the house, because, as it turns out, he really DID feel uncomfortable with my calling him “The Jimmy Lama”).

To know him (through his podcasts) is to love him. He’s southern and charming and hilariously funny in his A.D.D./silly ranting kind of way and frankly, the LOML is starting to get jealous of my constant bringing up of his name. But the fact of the matter is that Jimmy is the only photography instructor that I know that totally gets “it.” He doesn’t take himself too seriously, gets his audience/students to relax, and teaches in a way that is both fun and challenging. And I honestly have NO IDEA where I’d be without his classes or podcasts.

ANYWAY, most of you know that I do quite a bit of my podcast listening while driving. And sometimes even while the kids are in the car. (Usually while they are sleeping, or else I get pelted with Cheerios or Cheetos until I tune the dial to Radio Disney. ACK.)

A few weeks ago, I had picked up Jake from day camp and didn’t even get out of the parking lot when noticed that his eyes were getting heavy and he had leaned the seat back a little bit in order to settle in for a nap on the way home. So I decided that as soon as he was “out,” I would plug in my iTouch and listen to one of Professor Jimmy’s podcasts.

And wouldn’t you know, it would be one where Jimmy uses the phrase “Nekkid” flash about 678 times. (“Nekkid” is southern for “Naked.” And a “Nekkid Flash” is what you would call one of those big long flashes you see on professional cameras WITHOUT what you would call “a white thingy” on the end. A “white thingy” is a flash diffuser, which helps soften and spread light evenly.).

And I remember thinking, Holy CRAP it’s a good thing that Jake is asleep or he’d be asking me what the word “nekkid” meant. BECAUSE YOU KNOW HOW INQUISITIVE THIS KID CAN BE.

Fast forward a few days.

I had hopped on to the computer before going to work to check out some recipes I was thinking about trying for dinner. And without remembering to bookmark the page that I’d found, I shut the browser down and turned the computer off.

When I returned home later that evening, I fired up the browser and decided to go to my internet history in order to find the site I’d been on earlier that morning. And this is what I found:



Yes, you read that right.

There were searches for “NEY KIT FLASH,” “NAY KIT FLASH,” and “Professor Jimmy,” among other things.

Now, if you are slow to get this, bear with me. BECAUSE THIS IS A DAMN FUNNY STORY. (The LOML had me add, “Damn funny to photographers, maybe . . .”)

After discovering the search queries I laughed. HARD. For, like, TWENTY MINUTES.

Then I picked up the phone and called the LOML.



“Uh, can I ask you a question?”

“Oh . . . ‘kay. What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. Nothing. Just wondering if you happened to be on the computer at lunch, looking for something to buy me for my birthday.”


And then I was all, REALLY? Have you NOT ever heard of the INTERNET HISTORY BUTTON?

“You’re joking, right? I KNOW EVERYTHING.”

“[Loud silence, and then a long sigh.] Fine. YES, I was looking up stuff I wanted to buy you for your birthday. But I couldn’t find what I was looking for.”

“And what exactly, dear, were you looking for?”

“Well, this morning on the way to drop Jake off at summer camp, I asked him what he thought we should buy you for your birthday next month, and he said, ‘The man on mama’s radio says that you can do just about anything with a nay kit flash, so maybe we should get her one of those.’”

Aged Two Years in About Four Weeks

So I was processing images taken from Jake’s football picture day, and I realized that with the stroke of some clippers and the addition of a football uniform, he looks as if he’s gotten two years older.

This was Jake at the California State Fair in July:



Here's Jacob, looking all little and innocent and like he'd never hurt a fly.


Now, the photo below is Jake over the weekend. He knows nothing of the man named “Mean Joe Green,” but he sure resembles him in miniature stature:



"Hey kid . . . what the hell you're parents feeding ya, anyway?"


He had no idea I was photographing him, and I have no idea what he was thinking about. All I know is that Jake, in the picture below, reminded me of Bobby Boucher thinking about something that was pissing him off so he could tackle the hell out of someone.



"Captain Insano shows no mercy!"


There’s a story out there about how, when I was little, I would wear a football helmet EVERYWHERE. Once I get the facts together, I’ll write about it. In the mean time, Benzilla now wants a football helmet of his own. Anyone got an extra one lying around?



Well, if he puts it on backwards, he won't see the hit coming.



08 2010