Thanksgiving 2016 Vaca

If you are any person on this planet other than my Mother, wife or two kids, stop reading this immediately.  This post will be beyond boring and somewhat torturous as I put pen to paper on our week long excursion to the Sunshine State and the “Money DOES grow on trees” locale otherwise known as Orlando, aka Disney, aka Universal, aka “How much cash does it take to have a good time down there?  Answer: All of it.”  But, I do understand that money is just money and these kids won’t love this stuff forever so there is some serious value with this trip and to be honest, I had a blast this time.  Probably more fun than I’ve ever had.

Friday, November 18th – marks the day that little Miss Katie got to experience her very first plane ride, which she was extremely excited about and it was the first time we all 4 flew together ever.  The day started rough because of having to wake up at 4:30 am but other than that, it was pretty smooth.  A quick trip to the St. Louis airport and then we were on our way down south.  Everything went well and as far as travel snags go, we had very little as we had gone out of our comfort zone and actually planned ahead on the details of the trip.  It was tough doing something that is so foreign for us, but we got through it and as crazy as it sounds, it actually paid off.  Things went a little easier when you are organized.  Shocker.   So we got there, got the rental car, checked in and went straight for the water park which is on the grounds of the resort.  Other than that…not much to speak of.

Saturday, November 19th – Stayed around the resort all day to recover from the day of travel and did some goof off stuff because we knew that the Saturday before the week of Thanksgiving was going to be a mad house at the parks, so we pushed all of that back a day and just settled in to our new environment by doing things like putt putt, paddle boats, water park (again), etc. etc.  Nothing too dramatic to report here.

Sunday, November 20th – We couldn’t wait any longer so we took off to our first of 4 parks we hit for the week which was one of our favorites from last trip – the Magic Kingdom.  We were down here 3 years ago (ages 7 and 5) so we learned a thing or two about how the rides work and how to get on the stuff that you really wanted to do a little faster so again we planned it out what all we wanted to do.  Things didn’t go exactly as planned but nonetheless, we hit all the big stuff.  Now that the kids are 10 and 8, they have gotten so much braver and they both wanted to attack the scariest thing this park had to offer and that of course is the one of the most famous roller coasters (been around since 1975) Space Mountain.  Even Sonya and I had the courage to get after it and it did not disappoint.  An indoor, in the dark, high speed rocket in and around a large cone sized building and we were pumped about it.  Matthew’s favorite ride was at this park which was the other decent sized roller coaster by the name of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a coaster that goes in and out of a rock mountain with an occasional waterfall mixed in.  We had done this one 3 years ago but had forgotten just how incredible it was.  We did all the standard cool stuff as well – Monster’s Inc comedy show, It’s a Small World, the Haunted Mansion, The Go Carts, Cinderella’s Castle, The Little Mermaid show, the Railroad, and the stage show that has been performed more than any other show in the world – Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress.  A spinning theater where the actors are dummies who take us through the technology changes of the 20th century.  A good warmup start to the trip.

Monday, November 21st – We could have hit Epcot (which would have been our first trip there), or Animal Kingdom (again), but we decided to stay with what we knew would be a good time – Hollywood Studios, mainly because there was so much there that the kids would know about (Star Wars, Toy Story, etc).  We got to the park late this day (wardrobe malfunctions, etc) so we didn’t get to do as much, but between the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Muppet 3D Vision, the Great Movie Ride, another Little Mermaid show, the Toy Story 3d (incredible) ride and the mother of all mothers, the Star Wars Millennium Falcon ride, we had a pretty decent day.  We were in line for the Tower of Terror, but much to Matthew’s happiness, Katie had to go to the bathroom really bad therefore we weren’t subjected to that mess.

Tuesday, November 22nd – We took a day off from all the park festivities and hung out at the resort.  Matthew played about 2 hours of somewhat intense basketball (and I did the same…only for about 15 minutes though) so we were wiped for a few hours.  This was one of the first introductions he has had to playground basketball, where the rules and the play are a little bit different from what he is used to.  I grew up playing pick up games like this so I tried to lay down all the ‘unwritten’ rules for him so he could maneuver through all the pitfalls.  He was playing against much older kids but he gained their respect very quickly as he crossed over a 12 year old and hit a floater on the baseline and his worries of being accepted were over.  We also did more putt putt, paddle boats and one of the more interesting activities of the week – a ping pong tournament.  About 15 people signed up and at the end of the day there was only 1 winner.  The last thing I want to do is brag, so I’ll just say….I’m the best….that ever was.  It took me a bit to warm up and thanks to a fairly lucky draw, I didn’t have to play a real tough opponent until the finals where I got in a serious rhythm and beat him 21-2.  Yes….that’s not a typo.  Sonya played and although she lost her first round by just a couple of points, she actually did very well.  She had that 5 year old blind girl shaking in her boots there toward the end and Sonya almost pulled off the upset.  Kidding of course….all is true except it was a teenage boy who was pretty darn good.  The same boy I had struggled to beat in the 2nd round.  The evening was capped off by the dinner Pirate show, which was obviously campy and corny, but surprisingly funny as well.  The kids liked it and there was some entertainment value for Sonya and myself as well.

Wednesday, November 23rd – This was the first of two days at the parks we had heard so much about but had never been to and that was the Universal Studios.  They have their main park (Thursday’s destinations) and their new one – Islands of Adventure.  These attractions seemed a step in from Disney in the reality/thrill department.  The Spider Man ride was ridiculously real and you literally felt like you were flying through the air with Spidey himself.  The Harry Potter ride was more of the same and it might have taken the cake as greatest ride ever.  That cake is very debatable though as I was the only one in our family to dare the Incredible Hulk roller coaster – a ride that shoots you out of a cannon and throws you upside down a couple of times at breakneck speeds.  Their newest attraction was the King Kong 3 D that terrified the kids…and most of the adults as well.  The Pteranodon Flyers, the Cat in the Hat, the smallish Harry Potter roller coaster and the Trolley Train were cool also.  Everything was awesome except for the Water Rapids ride…which sucked.  Really bad.  Really, really bad.  Thanks Sonya.

Thursday, November 24th – My favorite park – the original Universal Studios.  We got lucky because it seems like the parks just kept building up throughout the week.  This park was filled with home runs like the Transformers 3D ride, E.T., MIB Alien Attack, Animal Actors show, Fear Factor, Minion Mayhem, The Simpsons Ride and another awesome Harry Potter ride which was deep in the heart of an entire HP village.  Very cool architecture and adventures for very uncool kids.  But the prize of this park was Katie’s favorite ride – The Mummy roller coaster.  This thing had so many things going on, it was hard to keep up.  Mummies popping up and scaring you, real fire on the ceiling, backwards riding, high speed in the dark, a video warning about “The Curse” and a cameo from Brendan Frazier himself (kind of.)  She was scared off her gord but wanted to keep going back again and again.  Matthew had enough with one time as he moved on to less dead things.  I loved it as well although for some reason, I liked that goofy Simpsons ride, for the sheer sarcasm and adult humor attached to it all.  In fact there was a whole section dedicated to the show with the Quickie Mart, Moe’s (the bar) and the Krusty Burger having a presence inside the abbreviated Simpson’s Village.

Friday, November 25th – we packed up and just hung around the resort with the boys playing ping pong and the girls riding bikes around the smallish lake.  We hated to go but couldn’t wait to feel the cool Arkansas air.  It was a phenomenal vacation and one we will soon not forget.  Or at least I hope not…that’s the point of this stupid blog anyway.

 

 

Finally Fall

It’s October 24th and literally, this is the first week that our family thermostat isn’t going to hit the 90 degree mark at any point.  It’s been a long, brutal Summer but brighter days are on their way.  Arkansas should receive at least 2, maybe even 3 whole weeks of Fall.  Lots to catch up on so let’s get right to it.

Our little Miss Priss may have found her calling.  Katie has been taking piano lessons from her Grandma New over the past several weeks and the pace of her improvement has been nothing short of astounding.  Not only is she clearing doing well, it is obvious that she truly loves it.  In a matter of a just a handful of sessions, she has gone from hunting and pecking to literally playing (and memorizing) songs using both hands and having a good understanding of sheet music.  We are certainly spoiled to have what I consider to be a world class music teacher in the family as my Mother can teach someone to play anything that has keys or strings.  I believe she taught her first student when she was about 16 years old and as she approaches the big Eight Oh, she hasn’t lost a step.  Well, the step part might be a slight exaggeration but only by a smidge.  No matter, I’m very excited that Katie has found something she truly loves instead of just doing something she thinks we will be proud of.  Once that confidence kicks in, she will be an entertainer in some form or fashion and I can’t wait to pull up a front row seat.

The boy is just finishing up his first flag football season in Cabot and while the team managed to come in 2nd place in most games, they rallied at the end and started to figure it out at the exact right time.  They found a way to make it to the final four of the season ending tournament which was quite the long shot at the beginning of the weekend.  Matthew got some quality reps at quarterback and at wide receiver and while there are no official statisticians on the grounds, I would have to estimate his total number of touchdowns both throwing and receiving to be in the neighborhood of 12 to 15 or so.  It’s been a pleasure as always to watch him do his work and he has done said work well enough to earn a spot in the season ending All Star game which takes at least 2 players from each team and plays a game just for the fun of it.  We tell him to appreciate opportunities like this because they don’t always come around.

Now, on to the highly anticipated basketball season where both of our little offsprings will be strutting their stuff in a game of high stakes, high pressure and most certainly high anxiety round ball where only the fittest of the fit will survive and advance.  Athletics have literally become a 12 month activity and I’m not sure we would know what to do with ourselves if we had a month or two off from the constant shuttling from one practice to another, but I believe I’m getting to the point where I would like to give it a try.  The concept of a family vacation seem like a distant memory but I foresee something happening soon or stir crazy might be the prevalent feeling floating around the New compound.

I must mention my back, if for no other reason than so I don’t forget how bad it was.  For the first time in my life, 911 was called on my behalf.  Yes, it might have been a little bit hasty, but nonetheless, I was struggling.  The damn thing has gone out twice in the past 3 weeks, and about a week ago, I woke up with such a painful spasm that when I was physically able to sit up on the side of the bed, my whole body went all tingly and I suddenly felt like I had the flu (simultaneous hot and cold feeling).  I was trying to be as still as possible and apparently I wasn’t being responsive enough for Sonya so she said to herself “Ok, I see how it is, well, if you won’t respond to me, I’ll get some people in the bedroom that you WILL respond to.”  The feeling went away and things started to come back in to focus and the threat of passing out had subsided so everybody (including me) was breathing a little easier, yet the ridiculous pain remained.  So, after some X-rays, shots, pills and rest, today will be the day I slip in to one of those massive tube thingies to conduct an MRI and see what is exactly going on.  Wish me luck.

July 26, 2016

Yes, if you read the title, you can easily tell that the author has thrown in the towel.  Not only can he not keep up his rigorous “once a quarter” schedule, he has now lowered himself to not even giving an effort on the header.  Just a simple date, which implies there was absolutely nothing kicking around in his head that could have qualified for a sufficient title.  He could have basically put anything down for a title (like “Pants” or “Tootsie Roll”) and it would have been an improvement over a ridiculously boring date.  If there was such a thing as a blogging police (is there?), then they would have lowered the boom on this hack for an author and banished him back to the 140 character world of Twitter or the “look at my lunch” crowd on Facebook.

Now let’s move on to something real.  The Summer of 2016 is rapidly coming to a close, a new school year sits on the horizon and this is the first word I have documented on the fantastic journey.  This is where I would normally chastise myself regarding the irregularity of the post but instead I am going to take the high road and proclaim that my life is just so darn action packed that finding the time to bloggify between hang gliding, jet-setting and skydiving is just too hard.  I just can’t slow down enough to put the finger to the keyboard and as I check my schedule, by writing these two paragraphs, I have missed 2 going away parties, 3 high end art shows and a one high powered meeting of the minds where many crucial decisions are being made concerning lots of important stuff.

Also by that one look to the calendar, it also shows that I have yet to say a word about the entire baseball season which is considered by all standards a real and actual tragedy in this household.  Many a post have centered around our time at our favorite city ball park and for me to wrap up the entire campaign in a few short paragraphs is an embarrassment for everyone involved…especially a season like this one.  2016 marks the year that the Cardinals went all the way….took the big prize….knocked it out of the park….grabbed the hardware….climbed the mountain….lapped the field….and yes….in case you couldn’t figure it out…won the championship.  One might think it was a smooth sail all the way to title town, but I can promise you it was anything but.  How this team endured and conquered will remain a mystery to not only myself, but to all those we stepped on….er….humbly defeated along the way.

Many people have said that a coach’s first year in live arm pitching is usually his roughest, yet we bucked the trend and took it home.  How did we do it?   Well, from a very early age, my father said something that has stuck, and stuck, and stuck:  “Son….great pitching stops great hitting all the time.”  I’ve often questioned this simple phrase and thought to myself “Does he really know anything or is he making this stuff up as he goes?”  I can assure you, he does not know anything, but once in a while he gets lucky…as proven by another one of his annoying sayings: “Even a blind hog stumbles upon an acorn once in a while.”  So, going in to the draft, I committed myself to this moniker that had played in my head over and over like a broken record.  I went for pitching, defense, pitching, defense, pitching and then some more defense.  Yes, it was rough early, and after we went 1-3 in the first tournament, I was starting to question everything that I thought I knew about anything.  The 2nd tourney went much better but still a loss in the championship game left the Cardinals without a preseason tourney win for the first time in 4 years.  Then add an opening day loss and I was an unhappy camper.  But then something clicked and over the next 13 games, the Cards never allowed more than 4 runs (while averaging less than 3 for the entire season) and cruised to the end with a 10-3-1 record to claim the highly sought after top prize (and don’t think for a minute that this group of coaches don’t grind it out like it’s our job is on the line).  Competition is the name of the game and this park has plenty of it.  9 teams and you could lose to (almost) any of them.

One might assume that this season was all giggles, snow cones and ring pops, but I can assure you…..one would be wrong.  I don’t know what it was but the challenges were plentiful in this field of dreams wannabe as there were obstacles of all kinds thrown at us from all directions.  The names have all been omitted to protect the guilty but safe it to say, this was an experience I shall soon not forget.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved the journey.  I’ve quoted it many times and I shall do it again (mainly because I can’t think of anything else to say right here) “It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everybody would do it.  It’s the hard that makes it great.”  Baseball is a microcosm of life and nothing explains it better than that.

I coach baseball for several reasons – 1. I love it. 2. I love to spend time with kids who want to learn to play a game better and 3. The time spent with my little assistant coach is time we will both treasure for the rest of our lives (and 4. I love it).  Little man actually had a bit of a down year compared to years past, but that didn’t stop him from loving all the team’s wins (and blaming me for the few team loses.)  As he approaches his first double digit birthday, the maturity is finally kicking in a little bit and our discussions are at an even more advanced level then they were before.  He now understands my thought process a little more and can actually add something positive to a practice or game strategy.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world (although I wouldn’t be a very effective GM if I didn’t at least consider the trade that lay in front of me….I mean, the world is a pretty big place and I might even be able to parlay that into at least a small part of the universe to be named later.)

Matthew is currently at church camp and is spending a week away from home for the first time.  I’m proud of the little booger for doing something out of his comfort zone and I’m also proud of Katie for loving the fact that her annoying brother is gone.  She’s got Ma and Pa all to herself and she seems to be relishing in the opportunity for the spotlight.  Her and the aforementioned Ma took off today to head to Memphis for a day of fun at the heralded Memphis Zoo and Children’s Museum while I get to hit buttons and stare at a screen for most of the day.  Actually I got the good end of the deal…a day gawking at a Monkey’s ass is a day I would like to forget.  “Oh look….another bird.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Katie Bug’s standardized test scores.  While both kids did awesome, she got a freaking 99 percentile in the nation in a handful of subjects.  I’m no genius but that seems pretty high.  I hope she doesn’t get bored talking to me.  I need to dust off my old Encyclopedia Britannica.  All the letters.

Ok, on to fall where little man will be checking out the flag football scene and princess Katertot will hit the gymnastics trail….all the while dreading that first day of school like it was truly the end of the universe.  End of the universe?  Good thing I didn’t make that trade.

 

 

Easter decisions

And here we are.  As promised, a couple of months down the road and another blog post will (maybe) enter the books.  I’m actually ahead of schedule.  I originally had May 15th penciled in as a tentative date to hit ‘publish’ on this not so frequent collection of thoughts so I will continue to look on the bright side of things and claim that I am keeping up quite nicely.  Today is Easter, which is obviously significant.  In fact, it’s probably the most significant day on the calendar.  It’s not every day that someone takes a bullet for you, and that’s exactly what happened (metaphorically speaking of course) some 2000 years ago so it is a day to be celebrated and remembered for all of eternity.

Before I get to the happenings of this glorious Easter Sunday, I must recap.  I went back and read the most recent entry and decided there are a few things that have happened in the child world that need to be documented as to not let them fade away like the sands of the hourglass (cue the Days of our Lives theme music).  When I left you last, I had started a basketball discussion about the switching of leagues and the playing for our school.  Well, the season has wrapped up and as fun and interesting as it was when we last spoke, the playoffs took it to a new level.  We won 2 games and then lost in the semifinals to a much better team but in those 3 games, we saw a bit of everything.  The first game was a mismatch as we rolled over a team void of much talent, but as the 2nd game loomed, we knew it would be a much tougher task because we were facing the 1st of 3 LR Christian teams which were amazingly all good and a case could be made that they were the top 3 teams in the entire 14 team league.  To say that LRC is stacked at basketball is to say that the sun is bright and that telemarketers are annoying.  We knew we were in for a fight but whatever happened, we had had a great year with so many kids playing for the first time.  As the game went on, it was becoming evident that both teams were playing their best defensive game of the year.  Both teams routinely score in the 20’s and sometimes 30’s, but at half time, the score was a whopping 3-2.  It was almost strange how neither team could score, but it was just one of those days where every shot was contested and there were no easy buckets.  The 2nd half was no better as it was down to the last few minutes with us trailing 9-5.  It was a strange, strange game, but nonetheless, the winner was going to march on while the loser packed their bags and headed…….to some kid friendly destination.  Our little aggressive fireball had not scored all day (just like basically everybody else), when he was fouled with about a minute left and headed to the line.  He calmly rattled home 2 shots and we were down by a bucket.  After another stop, we had the ball with about 14 seconds left.  We called timeout and setup a give and go for our most athletic player.  As usual the play broke down and he had to figure something else out on the fly.  Matthew kept sliding around until he found the soft spot in the lane, then received a long pass and turned and nailed a high arcing bank shot to tie the game as time expired.  The crowd went crazy (along with the coaching staff) and we headed to OT.  He then proceeded to score the first 2 in overtime and we went on to win 15-9 as we didn’t let the other team score the entire period.  It was a memorable moment in a season filled with good memories and one he will soon not forget.  I played for years without any type of buzzer beater and this kid has one before he hits the ripe old age of 10.  We fought hard in the semis but came up well short of the undefeated LRC team who went on to win the championship against the OTHER undefeated LRC team but it was almost anticlimactic because we knew that the previous game was the one that was going to be remembered.  For us to make it to the semis was way ahead of what we had hoped so for those kids to celebrate that quarterfinal game was the cherry on top of the sundae.  They are a close knit group in the classroom and out, so for them to do this together was a special, special moment.  Another situation that I must mention and not forget was our crowd (principal, teachers, parents, some of the girls team, people from the LR campus and just other bystanders) all began to rally behind our team by chanting C-A-C over and over again, despite playing the game in LR Christian’s gym.  To be able to be on that sidelines and share those moments with my son is something I will never forget.  I am so lucky and blessed to be able to do this and I would give anything to be able to share something like these moments with Katie as well.  I am confident it will happen, but it will most likely be in an area besides sports, which is totally cool and just the way God designed it.  She amazes me every single day and I know some special things await her as her creativity is her calling card and I can’t wait to see where that takes us.

Now, after that not so quick diversion, I must get to the subject at hand.  Easter and the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ is tricky when you have a sarcastic, clever and reasonable 9 year old coupled with a “believe anything that Daddy says” 7 year old.  As parents, Sonya and I are pretty run of the mill.  We would die for our kids and we generally take good care of them.  We teach them the ways of the world and what to do and what not to do in certain situations.  I believe they will both be well adjusted adults based on what we are doing with them in their formative years.  With all that said, we are also facing the dilemma that millions of other run of the mill parents have faced.  We all back ourselves into the corner with the notions of such mythical, commercialized characters such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the oh so tricky Tooth Fairy.   Matthew has hit the stage that he doesn’t believe in jack squat and he has no problem telling Katie about it.  Katie is in the stage that anything she is told must be correct, because nobody she knows would EVER lie to her and since she definitely leans toward the materialistic side, she will be happy to believe in anything she has to believe in, in order to continue receiving her goods that she oh so longs for.  Still it’s an odd place to be as a parent to be trapped in this made up world of cartoon characters playing along as if we are right in the middle of the story as well.  At the end of the day, we rationalize it by remembering that a good childhood is about happy moments with family.  In the midst of all the ridiculousness and overspending is some quality time with the kids that slowly but surely form their minds toward family and how important it is to spend time together doing pretty much anything.  Yes, it’s going to be painful to have to tell the (not-so) innocent face of Ms. Katie about how things really happen, but if done properly, I believe that one awkward moment won’t scar her for life or throw her existence in to a spiraling tailspin.  So, another Easter went off without a hitch as the 2 munchkins spent the early morning hours hunting candy filled plastic eggs in our plentiful back yard and fun was had by all, especially when they fight over one.  That’s our favorite part.

 

4th Quarter – 2015

As stated many times before, this is no longer a blog, but a quarterly gathering of words.  A bare minimum effort to at least make an attempt to document the current happenings of this family, more specifically our rapidly expanding munchkins whom are growing at the speed of light.  It blows my mind that in about 9 months, we will actually have a double digit child living in our midst.  But as the world turns, so do the lives of the New’s and with each new season, a new sport on the horizon for our young padawan.

Basketball season kicks off this week and for the first time, he will be allowed to represent his school in a sporting event.  It does seem a little different with the school colors on your back instead of Joe’s Pizza or some animal nickname that is often copied many thousands of times over.  There is only one CAC 3rd grade basketball team (actually I believe there are two considering the Little Rock campus, but who’s counting?) and with that comes a sense of pride no matter how many dozens of points we will most likely lose by in each contest.

UPDATE – those first two paragraphs were drafted on December 2, 2015.  Today is February 6, 2016.  Sad.  Very sad.  I can’t even get past two paragraphs without taking more than 2 months off.  But, I must look to the positive.  The conversation I started regarding basketball?  I now have plenty of data and experience to actually say something of substance.  The season is extremely short in this well organized private school league.  Only 7 games made it on the regular season docket and one of those got iced out, so after 6 contests, we sit at 4-2 and are awaiting our seeding in the 14 team tournament that starts this coming week.  This experience has been tremendous.  I am the assistant coach and to watch these guys figure stuff out on the fly has been pretty cool.  We run a more complicated offense (motion) than any other team and while they are not completely ready for it, we are certain this experience will help them down the road when they become more athletically skilled and more aggressive.

Speaking of aggressiveness, I present exhibit one, also known as Matthew New.  Out of 12 kids, he’s probably the 2nd or 3rd shortest.  Not exactly the best trait when it comes to this vertical game of hoopage.  He is also not our most gifted athletically, but without question, he is our most aggressive.  Our 6th contest, which ended less than 2 hours ago saw him score 8 points, have 3 assists, at least 3 steals, 2 or 3 jump ball tie-ups and a rebound or two.  8 points doesn’t sound like much until you realize that most 3rd grade basketball games only get in the 20’s, which was the case today – 24 to 12.  I’m amazed every time I watch that little sh*t play (a term of endearment, I promise) because sometimes his focus is not all that good in practice, but for some reason when the lights go on, he flat out balls with all the effort and determination his little frame can handle.

This experience vs. last year (Sherwood Rec Center) has been like night and day.  We have our own gym to practice in, we play 5 on 5 (instead of 4 on 4) and we play on 9 foot goals instead of 8.  The toughest part we’ve had to deal with is that we carry a whopping 12 on our roster, whereas most the teams we play only carry 7 or 8.  What a huge advantage they have as they routinely keep their best two players in the game the entire time while we do our best to get all 12 some significant playing time.  But at the end of the day, we are here to develop these kids for later in life when this game gets a little more serious, so as we focus on the future, we try to make the experience the best we can and that experience is always better with a few wins under your belt.  Just today, we asked a kid to go back in the game with just a minute left and he declined.  He saw how these guys were playing and they would easily finish it off.  They know what’s up and have shown maturity and unselfishness well beyond their years.  There is nothing like being a part of a team if the proper attitude is there and generally we do pretty good in that area.

Now on to the happenings of our little freebird Katie.  While it is still tough dealing with her high maintenance ways, she is really coming in to her own when it comes to school.  Matthew has always been a solid student but Katie’s academics are flat out off the charts.  Here we are, several weeks in to the 2nd semester and she has yet to study for a spelling test and she has yet to miss a single word on the weekly exams.  She routinely knocks out her brother’s 3rd grade list and the reading is at a level that is well beyond her days.  I’m constantly amazed and surprised when reviewing her daily worksheets what she is able to comprehend.  I’m not sure where she gets it but it clear she has a lot of it.  She is also maturing and the daily (or was it hourly?) fits she used to distribute have reduced a little bit in frequency.  Is home life always rosy and gleeful?  I would most certainly say not, but the increased maturity has certainly helped….except of course for the 87 daily expressions that contain the word “poop” in them.

Her creativity is the thing I am most excited about.  Her imagination allows her to write things off the top of her head that are extremely descriptive and detailed.  She writes, draws, makes, creates, or imagines on a daily basis and it will be interesting to see where she takes that as she approaches middle and high school where those opportunities are much more prevalent.

I could go on for quite some time, but I hear footsteps, so I will pick this time to shut it down.  Much more to follow….in a month or two.

How Long Has It Been?

I’ve completely lost control of this space.  It’s embarrassing really.  If the average daily temperature has changed roughly 70 degrees between blog posts, then this spot has ceased in being known as a blog and has turned into a semi annual general overview of random happenings that nobody really cares about.  Nonetheless, I press on with these keys as to not let this space disintegrate into thin air, which would obviously be an epic tragedy beyond comprehension.

Last we spoke, the baseball season for both kids was freshly upon us and Spring was just starting to kick up it’s heels.  Now we are in the dog days of Summer and our attention has turned firmly to a new sport.  One that has not yet been attempted and remains to be seen what type of impact it will have on this household.  More on this later, but for now, a recap is in order.

As you may recall, Katie participated in team sports for the first time.  She didn’t have a lot of interest in it and some might say she was doing it just to make her dear old Dad proud and to possibly just spend some more time with me during a busy part of the year.  I can’t say that this approach is the best one, but I do in fact have to give her credit for actually going through with it.  She didn’t particularly like it and made a couple of attempts to quit along the way, but she stuck it out (for the most part) and reached the end with her head held high.   Who knows if she ever tries it again, but she can at least say she did it which is something she seems to take a little pride in.  Nothing is going to replace the girly stuff in her life, but for at least one Spring, she did indeed join in the festivities at our local ball park, and to see her run (which is something she can do quite well), made it worth all the extra time and effort for me.  Even though it was clear that her heart wasn’t in it, I was so proud of her for making the effort to do something new and for stepping out of her comfort zone.  A lesson we can all learn from.

Now, on to the boy and his seemingly never ending season.  59 games.  59 freaking games all together.  When an 8 year old plays over a 1/3 of a major league baseball season, something is a little off.  But what a year it was.  Our regular season team for which I coached, the Cardinals, went 20-3 (including preseason games) and came in 2nd in the league and had a ton of fun along the way.  This group was special as 60% of the roster earned spots on 3 different all-star teams, the most of any team in the league, but more importantly, the kids just flat out had a ball.  The older kids took care of the younger ones and the team just gelled from the get go.  Every team has its own personality and this one took scrappy to a new level.

Matthew played well enough to earn a spot on the top all star team for his age group, and that team did extremely well although its goal of a state championship was unfortunately not reached, placing 5th.  It went on to compete in the Regional tournament in Hattiesburg, MS and went 3-2 against some of the best competition that the Southeast United States has to offer.  While we beat both Louisiana state champs, the Alabama state champs and the Mississippi runner ups were just too much to overcome, but all in all it was a great experience.  And while Matthew will never be confused with a power hitter, he waited until his 59th and final game of the year to record his first and only strikeout of the season.  58 straight games putting the ball in play and while official stats aren’t kept, I put the number at approximately 170 straight at bats that this boy put pressure on the defense in one way or the another.  Well done, boy.  Well done.

So much more can be said about this season but in the spirit of moving things along, I must now address the new frontier.  All Summer long, Matthew has said he was going to play football in the Fall.  I honestly didn’t think it would happen.  Once he felt the heat of the preseason, he would fold like a cheap tent and opt for the comforts of his living room where his trusty X Box would keep him company for the remainder of his school break.  But 8 practices in, here we are and a football player has been born.  Yes, I admit that I thought once he got his first good pop, he would run for the hills, but that notion has CERTAINLY not come to pass as he has been used as a human pinata on more than one occasion.  After just a few practices, it appears he has ‘won’ the spot of backup quarterback (and one of many running backs).  ‘Winning’ this QB spot is a bit dubious because you generally have to run all your plays in practice with the 2nd string offense against the 1st string defense, so more times than not, he would find himself at the bottom of a small pile of Jacksonville kids who are considerably bigger, stronger and faster than he is.  Welcome to football big boy.  But, to his credit, he’s gotten up every single time and gotten back in there for more punishment.  About his 5th practice, he seemed as though he was losing a little of his moxie until he broke it loose on the left side for about 20 yards and from that moment on, he’s been all in.

I’m not sure how much playing time he’s going to get because this team seems extremely athletic, talented and experienced but the coaches have taken a liking to him because of his ability to pick up on the plays and strategy very quickly so we will just have to wait and see.  I think my favorite part is seeing Momma sitting on pins and needles worried about her little angel getting his world rocked by some defensive end that is a foot taller and 40 lbs heavier than him.  Once again, welcome to football.

School is nearly here and a routine will soon be established, but one thing is for sure, this household will have no shortage of things to occupy its time.  One can only hope that blogging will make it in the rotation.

One for the ages

Quick disclaimer – if you have zero interest in baseball, move along.  This post isn’t for you and you should go no where near it.  In fact, you should run for your life and continue on to that home and garden website you have been dying to check out.  This one is going deep and you aren’t going to like it.

Some of you may (or may not) remember the 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants.  It was an unbelievable, down to the wire, back and forth contest that was highlighted by Game 6 in which the home team, the Cardinals, came back from the dead (twice) to win the game in extra innings amidst extremely dire conditions and circumstances.  Down to their last strike of the season (twice), they somehow mustered enough will power to continue to fight and eventually pulled one out of their proverbial rear ends to win the game and force a game 7 in which they ultimately won as well.  Fast forward 3 and 1/2 years to the Spring of 2015 and two different teams with same names, the Cardinals and the Giants, waged a similar battle.  One that mirrored that game in so many ways that it is scary.

The biggest difference in these games is the age of its contestants (and the balance in their checkbooks).  The game that we will be examining in detail occurred this past Sunday in beautiful 70 degree weather at our local municipal baseball park – the Sylvan Hills Sports Complex in Sherwood AR.  Yes, I know, a far cry from Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis, but work with me here.  I’m trying to set the scene and you rolling your eyes at me isn’t helping one bit.  Anyway……these 7 and 8 year olds have been marred in one of the wettest Springs in quite some time.  In fact, the Cardinals have had exactly ZERO actual field practices.  Yes, you read that right….zero.  Now, we HAVE scrapped together some makeshift practices at some extremely inferior locations, but nonetheless, they have gotten SOME work in.  But we knew that most teams are in the same boat (almost literally) so coming in to the 2015 Early Bird Tournament, we knew it might look a little on the ugly side.  I couldn’t have been more wrong as all these teams rose to the challenge and yet again completely blew me away with their skill and ability to pick up some things very quickly during this brand new baseball year.  Every single season I see something accomplished and it blows me away that these kids who were literally just babies a few years ago, can do such amazing things.

Both the Giants and the Cardinals had a very challenging road to the championship game.  They had to play some really tough teams with some extremely talented players on their rosters, yet they managed to navigate the choppy waters only to come up against a big wave in the form of each other at the end of the day.  The Cardinals jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead and looked as if they might make quick work of things but the Giants were way too good for that.  They steadied the ship and were facing just a 5-3 deficit in the top of the 5th.  That’s when things started to get a little interesting and the two heavyweights started to throw some blows that would knock the other back on their heels, but nobody could seem to deliver that knock out shot.  One of the Giants sluggers who will remain nameless (although his name quite possibly rhymes with Mack Binmon) stepped up to deliver a 3 run shot to right field that single handily wiped away said deficit and pushed the G Men into the lead for the first time – 6 to 5.  Emotions started to get a little frazzled as the game was entering the “do or die” stage and you could cut the tension with a knife (steak knife…not butter) in the stands where the fingernails where getting closer and closer to a non existent state.

The bottom of the 5th rolled around and the Giants quickly got two outs and clearly the momentum was all headed in one direction when one of the smaller competitors stepped up and strolled to the plate.  This player, who will NOT remain nameless….was none only than my offspring whom I gush (and also complain) about way too much in this particular web space.  This boy can be beyond frustrating.  He can look extremely pedestrian during any and every practice, yet when the lights are on, he somehow finds the ability to do things that he just simply can’t do when the stakes are low.  I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again…he’s the Allen Iverson of the Sherwood Baseball Complex (and for those that have stuck around this long with this blog post, please Google “Iverson Practice speech” to see what I’m talkin ’bout.)  He can go out to the hitting cage, actually give it an honest effort, and still, he can’t match the performance that he so commonly produces when the “at bats” actually count…..but I digress.  So, as Matthew was about to hit, I told him that I needed him to get to 2nd one way or the other.  If he got on first, to steal, and if he got thrown out, it would be ok because we had some teammates right behind him in the order that would pick him up the following inning.  It’s an aggressive stance but that’s the way we roll.  He agreed and he stepped up to the plate and had other ideas.  He launched one deep to center field, a space usually reserved for the bigger, stronger kids, that afforded him the time to circle the bases and to tie the game with one mighty swing.  I told him that his strategy was better than mine and he strolled back to the dugout with a fairly massive grin on his face.

Our next batter got out and with the game was tied headed into the 6th and last (scheduled) inning, the Giants went back to work.  They scored two to take the lead back 8-6, with the help from an error by a kid who has the heart of a champion (more from this kid later).  He was down but not out which has been a bit of a motto for the Cards during the initial stages of this year’s  campaign.  The bottom of the 6th came and without hesitation, the Cardinals struck back with 2 more to tie it again at 8-8, but with 2 more runners on that would have won it, the Giants defense did what it had done most of the game and stuffed the rally sending the championship game into extra innings.  Just like the script from the 2011 World Series, the Giants took the lead again in the top of the seventh 10-8, but a third run was cut down at home by another great defensive play from the Cardinals, but it had appeared that the damage had already been done.

Things looked bleak yet again, but with one out, little Logan got his first hit of the tourney which seemed to ignite the dugout and start the whole thing over one last time.  Matthew singled up the middle setting the stage for Chai to do his thing.  Another hit from him but as Logan was coming around to score, the Giants made an incredible team play to cut him down leaving the G men just one out away (yet again) for the title.  With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Joe Joe (the player whom made the error from earlier) ripped a double up the middle scoring the tying runs (again) bringing the score to 10-10 with 2 outs in the 7th.  The next batter, Reagan, had carried us all day and this was going to be no different.  He did his thing yet again with a solid single over the infield and the miracle from 3 years ago had been recreated with an 11-10 victory for the Cards.  The two teams (and fans) were totally spent and there were no losers on that field.  It was truly baseball at it’s finest, and win or lose, I was proud to be a part of it.  Since it’s a city park, we get to know the kids and the families on the other side of the bleachers and it’s always bitter sweet to see some of the kids from the other teams hurting so much because I care about them just as much as my own team, but the games must go on, and this one was one for the ages.  At least the ages of 7 and 8.

The victory capped off the 3rd straight Early Bird Championship for this father/son coach combo and to share these moments with him are ones that will live with me for the rest of time.  My father coached me on the Cardinals way back when and with any luck, Matthew will get the chance to do the same thing for his boy.  It’s a special feeling seeing not only him, but all these boys have fun and compete in the right way.  We constantly preach sportsmanship, attitude and effort and if you have all 3, there is literally no way to lose.  The mistakes will come, but it’s how you respond to those mistakes that matters and this team kept responding, and responding and responding.  Life lessons are littered all over the baseball diamond and it’s truly a privilege to be one of the guys to distribute them.

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