Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Taking a Break

I want to thank everyone for stopping by. I appreciate all of you that read my posts. I hope it provides you with laughs as well as reflections on times with your own kids.

This note is to let you know that I’ll be taking a break from this blog, but will be back in April. This is not a March Madness break, just a chance to refresh and come back.

Look for my next post on Tuesday, April 6th. I hope to see you then.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Two Places at Once

For the first two games of the baseball season, I kept score for my younger son’s team. I wanted to help my kids’ teams in some way and this was the most I could do. Given my commute, I never have time to be an assistant coach. Just getting to the games is hard enough.

On Tuesday night, though, I couldn’t even keep score.

On Tuesday night, both my sons had games at the same time. They were two fields apart. To keep score at one meant I couldn’t watch the other. So, I spent 90 minutes walking back and forth between two fields. It’s not a big deal. I’ve done it before. When the boys played in the Buford City League, they often played at adjacent fields. I’d watch both games from the outfield, thankful that none of the kids on either team had the capability to put it over the fence, especially while I was facing the other direction. There are often times that practices are about the same time. My wife and I do our best to get the kids where they need to be.

And then there are days like Thursday.

Both boys had practice at 5:30, a time which is nearly impossible for me to be at home to help my wife. The practice locations were at least ten miles apart. My wife, as amazing as she is, still can’t be in two places at once. And unfortunately, I couldn’t help her. She had to drop off one son at one place and get the other so to his practice late.

Sometimes, in this situation, you can ask friends. In the fall, there was another kid in the neighborhood who played on the same team as my older son. My son sometimes got a ride from them. No such luck this time around.

So, what do you do when faced with these situations? I’d love to her some suggestions.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March

John Belushi did a funny SNL skit about how March comes in differently in other countries vs. the U.S. In Norway, for example, March comes in like a polar bear and goes out like a walrus. There was one country (and it wasn’t Australia) where March hops in like a kangaroo and goes out like a wild dingo. However, my personal favorite was that there are nine different countries where March comes in like a frog and goes out like a golden retriever. (I tried to find a copy of this skit on youtube, but no luck.)

But, in Georgia, I don’t think anyone ever expected March to come in like a lion. Given the schedule of my sons’ baseball league, the Mill Creek Athletic Association, it’s obvious they didn’t.

There’s a rule in Mill Creek baseball: No playing if it’s below 45 degrees. The rule used to be honored, at least as far as I knew. However, weather like this was such a rarity that it was rarely ever invoked. Unfortunately, with the weird weather we’ve been having, the rule needed to be broken.

It all started with tryouts. Tryouts were in late January. They postponed it one day due to rain, but had to run it as soon as they could. The practice schedule through February was tight and they had no choice.

My younger son’s team tried to meet out of the gate. Cold weather and more rain sent them to the batting cages. Field time was a rarity and the kids were blowing on their hands when they weren’t throwing that ball. Everyone kept hoping, it seemed, that the weather would improve, but to no avail. We had more practices at The Cage (a batting cage in Buford). And, if you had field practice, you were thankful that you weren’t on a late evening practice team as the thermos that could keep hot chocolate warm through an entire practice hasn’t been invented yet. And there were stories of pee-wee kids crying during practice games because it was so cold.

My older son’s team had the same problem (minus the crying). Rain killed their field times and they got in a lot of hitting practice, too.

The arrival of March signaled, I had hoped, the last of the cold weather. Still, temperatures of around forty degrees plagued my older son’s game last Thursday and my younger son’s first game last Friday. However, on Saturday, the weather finally brightened and a hint of spring broke through. Saturday felt closer to baseball weather and I hope it stays that way. However, news weather teasers suggest more cold weather ahead.

The oddest March I remember form my childhood happened when I was in middle school. My Dad had somehow wrangled tickets for the ACC tourney. The weekend of the tourney, the first weekend in March back then, saw North Carolina hit with a huge ice storm. The Greensboro Coliseum was over half-empty. Never imagined that. We parked on the street, outside the coliseum, and walked in facing a strong wind.

The following weekend featured temps in the 80s. This was good as (and I don’t rightly remember) we either headed to the beach the following weekend or else they were running at Rockingham.

Back to the present, I’m sure that all of us look forward to the warmer weather. Hopefully, not too hot though.

After all, Mill Creek football practice supposedly starts in late June.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bunco

For the longest time, the word “bunco” meant one thing to me: swindling. I’d learned it watching cop shows growing up. And being a clueless male, I’d never thought about anything else.

Then, last summer, I went to a book signing over at Books 4 Less in Buford, where four published authors answered questions about the publishing world as well as signed copies of their books. I picked up two books and had a blast.

One of the authors had a women’s lit book related to “bunco.” I again thought “swindling.” The woman said it was the latest craze. Kind of an excuse for women to get together. “Ok,” I said with a shrug. Still, it didn’t register.

Then, about a month or so ago, someone placed a flyer in our mailbox. One of our neighbors was organizing a bunco group and was trying to find 12 women, plus alternates, to participate

“What’s bunco?” my wife asked.

Armed with the limited knowledge I had from the book signing, acumen, which barely exceeds my knowledge of curling, I responded without hesitation. “A way for women to party with the girls, sort of like a Tupperware party, except nobody’s selling anything.”

“Not interested,” my wife said.

“Why not? Go. It’ll be a good chance to get to know a number of women in the neighborhood. Nothing wrong with that.”

“I don’t know.”

“You’ll have fun.”

My wife eventually respond in the affirmative to the party, but she wasn’t’ completely excited about it. She knew a few of the women that were going to be there already, either from school where she volunteers or from seeing them at local baseball games involving everybody’s kids. However, she was nervous. When the big night came, my wife steeled herself for it.

The boys and I were looking forward to our own male bonding that night, over a pizza and a superhero movie we’d all already seen. Maybe we’d get lucky and there’d be something on one of the movie channels that we could watch. Given her expression when she left, I figured my wife would be back to help tuck the boys in.

9:30…nothing.

10:00…nothing.

It was a Friday night and I’d let the boys stay up late as they wanted to see their Mom, but now they needed to go to bed. They both took a shower and got in their PJs.

“Dad, will you tell Mommy to come give me a hug when she gets home?” my younger son asked

“Sure,” I said, nodding. “She should be here any minute.”

11:00?

11:30?

Finally, around a quarter to 12:00, I heard the garage door open and a car pull in. My wife entered shortly thereafter, a smile on her face.

“I’m guessing you had fun?

“Yes,” she said. “It was great.”

“That’s good.”

She removed her shoes at the entry and came into the house. “By the way, we set up a schedule for the next 12 months. I’m on the schedule for late in the summer. You and the boys will have to vacate the house.

“Leave?”

“Well, you can stay upstairs all night. It’s women only. Or we can finish our basement.”

I looked away briefly and thought for a second. “Ok. I’m sure we can find something to do. Glad you had a good time.”

“Me, too. Can’t wait for the next one. I almost won a prize for being the worst player, but I won the last round.”

I stared, uncertain how being bad was actually good. (William Hung notwithstanding). However, I was glad she’d gone to the party.

And the boys and I have a date for the Bobby Cox farewell tour.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Trying to Kick Canadian Buttocks

I watched a lot of the Olympics.

I yelled in surprise at moguls, ski jumping, incredible snow boarding tricks, and just amazing overall feats.

My boys, particularly the younger one, were into something different. They were watching hockey.

For most of last weekend, as tension built up to the gold medal hockey game, my 8-year old son treated us with a periodic yell of “Let’s kick some Canadian buttocks.”

“Where did you hear that word?” I asked.

“Jimmy Neutron,” he replied and then treated me to a brief replay of that part of the movie.

And while I wondered why he couldn’t have picked up a phrase like, “I may be small, but I’ve got a BIG BRAIN,” my wife and I thought that his use of the word “buttocks” at home was funny.

On the other hand, when he yelled it as we were headed to the parking lot after Sunday school, I thought maybe I should have tried to curtail his enthusiasm.

Oddly, though, as excited as my little guy had been, part of him didn’t want to watch the final contest. The games rekindled an interest he had in hockey. His uncle played hockey growing up and during college and still plays in a rec league now. Years ago, he even gave my sons a couple of his old sticks.

But, as the game approached, he just wanted to play.

When America started winning, both my boys decided it was time to pull the sticks out of the garage and this old soccer net we had in the basement. It was meant for them when they were younger and was now too small to be a real soccer net, but it definitely served as a hockey net. The boys took the sticks, practiced passing with a tennis ball, and scored goal after goal. They pretended to play the gold medal game. When it was over, America won the gold medal 17-16 over Canada in a penalty shoot-out.

So why didn’t he want to watch when the game started.

It turned out, that watching the U.S. was nerve-wracking to him. He’d been in school when the U.S. was playing Finland and it was already 6-0 when he got home. No pressure. But he’d watched the previous U.S. - Canada game as long as he could (until we told him to go to bed) living and dying on every slapshot.

It was easier to play than watch.

So, the two of stayed outside as long as we could, having a shoot-out in the garage. Eventually, my wife called us in, saying they were about to drop the puck. He hesitated. He just wanted to play.

Shortly thereafter, we did go inside and cheered for America. My formerly Japanese (now officially American) wife had spent six years in Canada and loved it while she as there. She’s not a sports fan and tried to ignore us, but felt compelled to serenade us with “O Canada” every time our screams woke her from her afternoon nap.

And when the game was over, the Olympics were done for me. It had been two weeks of quality, albeit overly schmaltzy at times, entertainment that I could watch with the boys, but I was Olympic’d out.

I even decided to skip the closing ceremony, though this may not have a been a good idea. This may or may not have been a good idea. While the Olympic organizers made a joke of fixing the torch, NBC supposedly showed it hadn’t learned anything in over forty years, cutting off the ending (a la a Heidi resurrection) to show its overly hyped new show The Marriage Ref.

It wasn't a good idea to skip the rest of the closing ceremony as I, like NBC, cut back too soon to real life. I turned on the new episode of Desperate Housewives, knowing that my wife would watch “Brothers and Sisters” an hour later. My 8-year old walked in on the entrance of DH, and I winced as he caught an eyeful of a bra-and-panties clad character on the screen. “Step back. Don’t look. Did you finish brushing your teeth?”

“Yes, Daddy. She’s naked.”

“Almost. Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s go floss.”

"Daddy, U.S.A. lost."

"We'll get 'em next time."

And I tucked him in for what had been a pretty good day.