“Cause Your Invited to a Barbeque That’s Startin’ at 4”

The traditional kickoff to summer is Memorial Day. Not for me however. The traditional kickoff to summer is today. It’s my birthday and that’s just how I roll.

Nearly everything you need to know about summer can be learned by listening to this:

Summertime

School is out there’s sort of a buzz, but back then I didn’t really know what it was…

Now I know. Because something else is almost here. The last day of school. Every day we reach a new level of freedom. Saturday night about 8:45 the third of our three dance recitals ended. With it, another year of dance classes are completed. Tuesday night about 8:40 we arrived home from the last of this year’s gymnastics classes.

Which, not coincidentally, means that we should see a ratings bounce for Tuesdays and Thursdays. Not to mention how May is closing the month in strong fashion.

Thursday Riley finishes all orchestra and band related activities.

On Sunday June 5th, we’ll be done with softball for Riley and Kinsey. Bailey will have three games remaining. But “games” is really a loosely defined term at Bailey’s level. Like “reality TV.”

I feel like Mel Gibson in Braveheart everytime we finish something. FREEDOM! We’ve had softball games cancelled the last two nights too. So we’re sitting around last night with nothing on the schedule and I was completely uncomfortable. Like Obama in a debate on fiscal policy with Paul Ryan. Although Dancing with the Stars and American Idol are now finished which means I get a degree of control back in regards to the TV.

Totally forgot it was my birthday this morning though. Woke up, sweated my way through a work out and then I’m standing in the kitchen as the girls eat breakfast and Mom is on her way out the door. She asks me what time and where was Riley’s concert this evening. I grab the note from school, “Thursday, May 26 please arrive….hey…”

“OH! It’s your birthday! Happy birthday!” Nobody really wanted to give me a hug though because I was drenched with dude sweat. Which meant that most of the birthday wishes were qualified with a “Dad, happy birthday…but you’re gross.”

So have you ever really thought about what you want for your birthday? I have. I’d like a grant. Or an endowment. Short of that, I’d like the entire full-length original broadcast tapes of every NFL game from 1974-1979. I’d like to find a suitable replacement for LOST too.

Of course Mom baked me cookies…and that’s pretty cool too.

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Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Money, Its Gotta Be the Gloves!

There are days that you remember as being awesome. February 27, 1988 – nicknamed The Longest Day by my high school buddies and I…September 12, 1998 – the day we broke the streak against the hawks…and May 19, 2011.

Best Day Ever. Seriously.

It is important to remember context here. Last week was recital week. Recital week is notorious ‘round these parts. It consisted of 6 softball games, 2 gymnastics classes, 2 recital rehearsals, a normal dance class on Thursday, 1 spring concert at school, 1 softball practice and 3 separate dance recitals. I was lucky enough to attend all three. Plus we had a morning routine disruption Wednesday when Rye had to be at a band concert practice.

We’re motoring through recital week with virtually no snafus going into Thursday. Nobody was mentioning the relative smoothness of the week because doing that would be like telling the guy on the free throw line with no time left and your team down one…”Dude, don’t miss these.”

We do a quick but thorough check of our after school/work activities. Dance class and three softball games. Plus Grandpa and Grandma are back in town too. They come up every year to see the state track meet. Three future Cyclone football players all ran by the way. Anyway, I rush home, change clothes and head to the softball fields. Mom and her folks are already there. I get there just in time to see Bailey rounding 3rd base headed for home with her second run scored. On the field next to her is Kinsey who is standing on third base getting ready to head home.

Unfortunately, I only get about 15 minutes to watch before I have to head to the Last Dance Class Of The Year and pick up Riley. We sorta lucked out on the location of the dance studio and the softball fields. If you hit the lights you make the trip in under 10 minutes. Made it in 8 two weeks ago. Rye has become an expert at the back seat leotard-to-softball-uniform-switch as we’ve done it at least four times this spring. Thursday she set a personal best change time of three minutes. It’s not easy either. Imagine yourself changing from a dance leotard and tights to softball pants, socks, jersey and cleats. In the backseat. That’s a major kid activity genre shift in both attire and attitude.

I get back to learn that Bails went 5-5. She’s almost freaking Rennie Stennet circa 1975. Five real hits. Not the cheap ones you often get in games played by 1st and 2nd graders. They all made it through the infield onto the grass. Although, one of these days we’re going to have to teach her about rounding first and heading to second. She blazes down the line so focused an entire legion of American Girl dolls could be marching by and she wouldn’t notice.

Kinz went 1-2 and her team won. That’s pretty normal for her but this time she was super excited because she got a hit her first time at bat. Normally, she’ll strike out the first time and then rap one out the second time up. She still goes 1-2 but she’s mad about striking out in her first at bat. But getting a hit the first time, combined with her team winning for only the 4th time this season and the fact that her birthday was the next day…well that is a lot of happiness for a just about to be 9 year-old to contain. And happiness containment is not one of Kinsey’s strengths.

“Dad! I got a hit the first time up! And we won! Can you believe it! And tomorrow is my birthday! And Grampy and Grammy are here too!”

I’m not exaggerating with my use of exclamation points either.

Plus we let them have hot dogs and french fries from the concession stand for dinner. Which, for kids, is like free beer and nachos night for grown-ups.

Then we walk over to the field where Riley’s team is getting to play. Riley has struggled with her hitting this season. It’s not because of bad fundamentals, a weak swing or a bad eye…she just won’t swing the bat. Literally. She’s probably played 13 or 14 games and this is just a guess but she’s probably swung the bat a total of 25 times while standing in the batter’s box. Think about that for a second…2 or 3 at-bats per game…14 games…that’s not really a lot of swings.

So Mom goes out and buys her batting gloves earlier in the week. She’s excited about them. I tell her they are pretty sweet but the only way you can’t look cool wearing batting gloves is if you don’t swing.

Then one of her coaches tells her, “Riley, swing at the first two pitches. I don’t care where they are. You’re swinging.”

Just before the game starts, I remind her that batting gloves are only useful if you swing…and if she doesn’t swing, I’m taking the gloves right there while she’s sitting on the bench with her teammates.

So we’re hitting her from all sides on the whole be aggressive at the plate strategy.

“Don’t worry Dad. I have a great swing. I’m gonna get a hit tonight.”

Her coach overhears this newfound confidence and says, “Okay girls if Riley gets TWO hits tonight, I’m buying Diary Queen for everybody!”

First at bat, she goes up there swings and misses at the first two. I’m beside myself with excitement! She’s doubled her total number of swings from the last two games in just two pitches. I’m ready to call it good and go home.

Then the third pitch. Pitchers winds and throws. Seems as though she took a little off it and I’m thinking that Rye might take it and revert to form. But then again if she’s swings, she’ll be way out in front and strike out. Then I heard it. This weird foreign “plink” sound. It sounded suspiciously like a bat hitting a ball. Then along the 3rd base line there it was…a yellow softball in a shallow bounce just inside the line.

“Rye! RUN!” somebody yelled that sounded a helluva lot like me.

The girl playing third hesitates and then gets caught in that no man’s land between waiting for it to go foul or fielding it and throwing to first…she finally decides to field it…she scoops it cleanly and throws to first…as I look back to see if Rye will beat the throw she’s already standing there getting a double high five from her coach.

I remember my first real basket in 5th grade basketball. I remember the first three pointer I hit the year they added the three point line to high school basketball my senior year. But neither was as freaking cool as this.

She eventually came all the way around to score and as she walked back to the bench her coach says, “It’s gotta be the gloves!”

She strike out her next time up after fouling one off. Which means that she made contact in both of her at-bats. Combine that with Bailey’s 5-5 game and Kinsey’s boundless excitement over her game and the fact that it happened in the middle of recital week and, well, that’s the best day ever.

Although Rye’s team did lose out on the ice cream…

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Softball Update

I realized that I haven’t really given an update this spring on the girls’ softball season this year. Not that anyone has been clamoring for it but we have had a few interesting things happen this season. Now the season isn’t over yet but it is hard to imagine anything will top Grandma’s experience during the opening day parade.

Rye’s team got to ride on a ladder truck for one of the local fire departments. That’s what happens the Chief is your coach. Kinz and Bails had to settle for pickup trucks. But they all were armed with bags of candy to throw to the throngs of parade watchers along the route. And by throngs I mean parents, grandparents and other folks attracted to parades.

We get the girls to their assigned vehicles and take up position right near the start of the parade route. Other things present: large oak tree, small children and…dog poop. All of us managed to avoid the dog poop. And by all of us I mean Mom, myself and grandpa. Grandma suddenly sticks her arm out at Mom and I and says, “oh my gosh, this is dog poop.”

It was one of those weird moments like when you’re at a restaurant and somebody visits the buffet and brings back something yet to be indentified. They taste it, gag and then say, “Omigosh, this is horrible…taste it.”

We made her ride home with her hand out the window.

But back to the parade. The rest of us cleaned up on the free candy. If your goal is to wave at your kids and take pictures, you can pretty much choose any spot along the route. However, if the accumulation of ridiculous amount of candy is among your goals, then we had freaking pole position. Logic tells you that if you’re near the start of the route, the kids will be a little over anxious and unload far too much of their loot the first chance they get. Here’s a pic. That’s us down in the corner below the tree.

Anyhow, once we got past Grandma’s poopy hands, the season has gone pretty well. Well, except for May 7th. Bails came down with something the weekend before. It started with lethargy, morphed into some tummy rumbling manifested through the technicolor yawn and finally ends with frequent trips to the toilet as the evacuation process moves to the rear exit.

Kinz then wakes up the morning of the 7th with an upset tummy. Hmmm…we’ve got Rye’s game at 9, Bails’ game at 10:30 and Kinz’ game at 12. She’s going to be out at the fields for awhile. We give her some Gatorade and waffles. Hydration and carbs…mmm. Settles her tummy for a few minutes but then, during Rye’s game, she says her tummy hurts too much and she doesn’t think she can play. It’s about 9:30.

“Hey, she’s not going to make it until noon out here. I’ll take her home, let her take nap and we’ll make the call later.” Mom says cool and Kinz and I head for my truck.

Later turned about to be about 40 yards.

“Dad, I don’t think I’m going to make it.”

And each word she said had more urgency and came at a faster rate. I take a look back to the bathroom near where we had been sitting and then to my truck. We’re dead center between the two. Quick thinking on my part led to the following:

“Okay, kiddo, you’re throwing up in the grass. Let’s go over here.”

One hand on an ash tree, the other on her knee and the stomach cavity relinquished its conents.

Otherwise, things are going pretty well. In a strange twist of fate, and I’m not talking about John Travolta’s and Olivia Newton-John’s ill-fated 1983 attempt to recapture the magic of Grease, all the girls ended up with jersey #1. Rye with a black Jaguars #1, Kinz with a navy Bulldogs #1 and Bails with a neon green Fireflies #1. At Kinsey’s and Bailey’s level they move the girls around the diamond to help them learn all the positions. But at Riley’s level they start settling in. Rye’s coach has her moving between 2nd base and centerfield. Here’s a fairly representative indicator of her skills at second.

Neil Walker is Awesome

Kinsey, dispite her cute smile, blond hair and diminutive statue…has displayed some healthy competitiveness on the field not to mention a pretty good swing and a helluva an arm. She’s got a gun. Last week she’s playing 2nd base when she cleanly fields a grounder and threw out the batter at first. She gave a couple fist pumps and jumped about three feet into the air. Which was about the same amount of feet she over threw the girl playing 1st base earlier in the inning when she fielded her first grounder. That may be why the coach moved her over to shortstop on Thursday. Result? She still over threw the girl playing 1st base and hit the fence. She also spent a couple innings catching. Kinsey’s team has a girl, Megan, who is a pretty good pitcher. Accurate and fast. So Kinz walks in there wearing the catcher’s armor and takes one off the knee, then the helmet, then another off the chest protector. She knocked a few down and cleanly caught a few too. She said she was pretty scared but she figured she had to be tough to help her team win. Yes…it brought tears to my eyes.

Bailey seems to do a little better in the infield than the outfield. Although its really a catch-22. Not many balls make it to the grass which leads some lapses in concentration but then there is the infield dirt which leads to a lot of diamond art. But when she actually is lucky enough to see some action in the field, she’s locked in. For example, two Saturdays ago she was playing pitcher. All three hits went to her. She got her glove down and fielded each one. Likely due to the base fundamentals she learned last year from her coach…which was also me in case you forgot.

First one she threw to an unmanned first base. Girl playing first forgot to cover. Throw was on line but that’s kind of a hollow victory. Second one is dropped by the girl playing first. Finally on the last one, Bails fields it and just takes off running at the batter as she ran down the first base line. Tagged her out before she got to the base. Enough was evidently enough…

So everybody, including us, is still having fun. But this week is the dreaded recital week…

May’s Approval Ratings

May’s approval ratings in our house are volatile. It’s not really May’s fault either. Same with Thursday. As I’ve said before, I used to really like Thursday. In college it was the start of the weekend, it used to be home to Magnum, P.I. and currently contains Archer. But it’s also claimed the girls’ dance class for the last few years and that association alone has beaten down Thursday’s approval ratings down near Rashard Mendenhall’s.

May, not to be left out, is making a serious run. Back in the day, May could solidly position itself as my second favorite month. October, of course, ranking first due to football, the smell of burning leaves and pumpkin beer. May is Scottie Pippen to October’s Michael Jordan. It’s the first really warm month of the year, it always foretold the end of school and it will forever have my birthday. That combination has given May an advantage in regards to say February, which is obviously the crappiest month of the year. Although I’ve always struggled with which birthday was my actual favorite. Hmmmm….back in ’80, Dad took my friends and I to see The Nude Bomb but in ’83 I went to Return of the Jedi with my buddies. Which, by the way, still ranks as my favorite Star Wars movie. These are the quandaries in which I often find myself.

Anyway, back to May sucking. When you combine dance class, dance recitals, dance recital rehearsals, gymnastics, softball (games and practices), band and orchestra concerts along with all the field trips school schedules for May to kill time…well you have a month that sucks worse than that Steve Ontiveros/Manny Trillo double-play combo the Cubs once fielded.

Oh, and Mom and I both have jobs. And mine, for reasons beyond my control, is far busier than normal this May.

Now the girls have been taking dance lessons from the same teacher since they were in preschool. It’s a small dance studio – both in numbers and square footage. I’ve detailed the square footage challenge more than once. The folks who run the studio are great and far more patient than I would be…but organization and detail are not something at which they excel.

For example, Thursday, in yet another hit to its approval rating, was the day Bailey’s and Kinsey’s class received their dance costume for the upcoming recital. Each of the girls had to try on their costumes to make sure they fit and then practice their performance wearing the costumes.

Sounds logical…but it went poorly.

You take 13 girls age 7 through 9 and give them blue sequined, shiny, feathery leotards with the expectation that they will get dressed in an orderly manner while keeping the four pieces to each of their costumes separated from one another then you’ll likely be more disappointed than I was after seeing National Treasure 2. Especially if your labeling system is a sticky note on the plastic bag in which each costume was delivered. Because, and I’m only spitballin’ here, I don’t think the adhesive on the sticky notes is engineered to be permanent. It’s like counting on Joe Flacco in a playoff game against the Steelers. At some point, it’s just going to fail.

Thankfully, Riley was present to help the other two get dressed. Or at least mostly dressed. The four pieces of the dance outfit are a leotard, a jacket-like thing, a feathery head piece and a feathery thing that kinda looks like a teeny skirt.

Only Kinz came up with the feathery skirt on. Neither had a head piece or a jacket. So I send Rye back downstairs to the dressing room to round up the rest of the costumes.

She returns with a look of outright astonishment on her face.

“Dad, it’s like somebody blew up a giant blue chicken down there. There’s feathers everywhere.”

Great. We both head down in futile attempt to find two head pieces and a skirt type thing among the blue feathery carnage.

Stunningly, we come up with one head piece, one jacket and a skirt. So, if you’re keeping score at home, we’re missing a head piece and a jacket. I spy a jacket , undefended, sitting on a chair. Straight snatch and grab mission. Turns out it was Bails jacket anyway and her teacher had left her head piece sitting on a desk. So we’re all good.

Until it was time to leave.

“Girls go down stairs and get your clothes on quick. We need to get home, eat and get Bails to her softball game.”

They listened in a general sense and came back up stairs. Bails sporting just one shoe.

“Bailey where’s your other shoe?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean? Didn’t you see it in the changing room?”

“No. It’s gone.”

“Get back down there and find it.”

She returns after a few minutes. Still wearing one purple converse sneaker. This does not make me happy especially after the whole blue feather fiasco. I head down the stairs, into the dressing room and begin a search.

I’m thinking I must be part American Indian. I could be on Mantracker. Took about 14 seconds, but I found the shoe.

So all we had left for the weekend was 6 softball games between Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon. Naturally that came with some complications. But that’s for a forthcoming blog post…