Tuesday, March 25, 2008

easter week

We've been busy this past week and I have many pictures to share, but I'm not in a lengthy story writing mood so this is a mostly photo post.

Last weekend we got a call kind of last minute, from Susan, to join them at the aquarium if we could. The girls were so excited to go and spend some time with Susan's daughters.

herding cats for a group photo, part I

herding cats for a group photo, part II

Later in the week we met up with old friends Quinton and Rylan and their moms for some pizza. Quinton, Rylan, and Erin, all in kindergarten but in three different schools, don't see nearly as much of each other as they used to. It was fun to get together again.

herding cats for a group photo, part III

Then the day before Easter was upon us. Erin had her second game that morning and she got to take her turn in the all important position of "pitcher". The kids are hitting from a tee for the first three games, then after that the coaches will pitch to them. For now, the "pitcher" is important because many of the balls travel that direction and just about that distance, so the pitcher needs to be alert and get them quickly. Erin took this job very seriously at first.

Then after while she became more and more interested in trying to rub the chalk lines out with her feet, and collecting pebbles on the ground, and less interested in watching the batter. Another tie game...or whatever. Miraculous!

We finally got around to dying some eggs at 8pm , which became yummy deviled eggs the next day.

I think the Easter Bunny had considerable help from Grandma this year. The girls loved their basket treats and toys, and enjoyed a little egg hunt in the backyard after a big breakfast.

By mid-morning Poppy came over to hang out (Grandma was away for the weekend) and in the afternoon Uncle Jeff and the kids joined us for dinner--shrimp appetizer then ham, roast beef, veggie salad, deviled eggs, and corn on the cob. We made the roast beef, Jeff brought a ham. Unofficial family slogan: there can never be too much meat.

Monday, March 17, 2008

magnificent seven

Saturday was Erin's softball team's grand and highly anticipated season opening game. I think I mentioned that her team is the Sharks, and these particular Sharks are purple, in case you were wondering.

I gotta say that at practice a couple of days before the game (their third practice so far), I really noticed quite an improvement in the kids' skills already. They were throwing and actually getting some distance much of the time, and hitting the ball solidly off the tee rather than knocking the tee over with their bats and having the ball just roll off. They seemed to grasp, kinda, what the game was about and no one ran the bases with the bat in hand nor headed for third base after hitting anymore. This was quite a transformation in such a short period of time.

We had team pictures first thing in the morning and Erin was all clean and shiny and all smiles in her new uniform (she is #7 by the way), though she doesn't like the cleats. I already described the trend, unbeknownst to me sometime over the past 20 years to move away from "boring" brown baseball mitts, but cleats are still just black and white. And black, as Erin informed me, is really not her color.

A bit before game time we arrived at the field so the team could get some warm-up and pep talk time in, and as all that was going on I glanced at the opposing team as they warmed up. We had an apparent oceanic-themed home opener of the Sharks versus the Dolphins and as one might expect, the Dolphins certainly looked more highly evolved.

They were big--really big. In fact, I couldn't believe that these girls were in our girls' division. Another parent informed me that in our division, intended for 5 and 6 year-olds, you actually can enroll any girl from 4 to 7 years. And this team looked like it was, somehow, stacked with 7 year-olds who, when out in the field, were all facing the batter. Gloves open and in position. Alert, attentive, ready to catch a fly ball. Not a one using their glove for a hat. I thought our girls were going to get creamed.

"Oh, there's no chance of that," I was informed.
"Nope. They don't keep score in this division."

Then the game got underway and several things became clear immediately:
1. These tall Dolphins, with their larger cerebral cortexes and sophisticated chatter, didn't have any more experience playing softball than our team did.
2. The coach needs to explain the difference between softball and rugby at practice in the near future, because when our team takes the field and the ball is hit they all try to pile on top of the ball and sometimes each other in a contest for it.
3. I'm not sure any reader of this blog will be able to appreciate the true hilarity of watching this game, but here is some of what I captured on video. First, Erin's team in the field, then Erin at bat:

John, who hadn't been to Erin's practices, was giggling all throughout at the mayhem. Allison and Kate were very pleased to see their big sister in such a serious endeavor and they enthusiastically clapped and cheered for her.

Despite themselves, our little toothless Sharks did manage one really, genuinely, solid play. The other team was batting and the Sharks got the ball to first base and tagged the runner out in a surprisingly sudden burst of coordination and cooperation.

And so the Sharks emerged victorious that afternoon. Or at least it seemed like they might have, as far as anybody could tell. Or whatever.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

the softballer

About a month ago, as I was looking through the spring edition of the city parks and recreation department's catalog to determine an available gymnastics class for the twins, I asked Erin if there was any sort of activity she would like me to find for her.

"Ah....YEAH....softball," she answered in a tone that suggested that we'd not only had a prior conversation about this topic, but in fact, several, and she was slightly annoyed at having to remind me of her thoughts on the subject yet again. Only we had not had such conversation in the past. Details, I guess.

"Softball? Really? Do you know what softball is?"
"Well....yeah. I do."

Softball wasn't one of the activities offered in the catalog I had with me, but I remembered a sign displayed at Erin's school about open registration in a local girls' softball league, so I found that website and showed Erin some of the photos in their gallery.

"So, Erin, this is softball. See all the girls with their gloves and catching and throwing, and hitting the ball with a bat. Is this what you want to play? Do you want to be on a softball team like this?"
"Yes, softball, that's it. What color will my uniform be?"
Oh, good grief. I really had my doubts about this.

I signed her up in the girls' five and six year-old division and she was assigned to team "Sharks" (gotta love that!), and tonight was her second practice. So far she's having a great time. Before her first practice I asked John to take her out and get her a glove and some softballs and Erin proudly modeled her new equipment back at home.

I thought gloves only came in brown and softballs only in white. Boy, did I have that wrong. I wondered what the reaction would be when Erin showed up to practice with this pink glove. It turns out that she fits right in with all of the other girls and their colorful gloves. Two of the girls have a black & pink glove that features red flashing lights when they catch a ball. I only wish I were making that up.

Erin and almost all of her teammates share meager coordination, athleticism, and attention span, but good enthusiasm. Keeping their eyes on the ball, or even facing the direction of the batter or the person throwing to them are not naturally occurring concepts, and all of the girls have discovered that gloves worn as hats is much more entertaining than gloves worn as...gloves. But the season is young, and so are they.

The exception to all of this is one girl who is about 4 inches taller than all of the others and according to her mother, has never played a sport before. Her mother also says she is 6.5 years old but I think she may actually be a very short teenager. She is the Michael Jordan of the team. She can hit, throw, and catch. Her first time up at bat she whacked the ball over the coach's head. She's a real secret weapon for the team and I only hope she is able to finish the season with us before signing an endorsement deal and turning pro.

Opening day is this saturday. Check local listings for wrap-up highlights.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

princess-palooza, on the rocks

Some time ago I saw an ad on the side of a bus for a Disney Princesses on Ice show to be in town in the near future and that future arrived today. After seeing the ad I told John I wanted to get some tickets and his response was, "Am I being punished? Do I have to go?" I bought the tickets about a month ago with the plan that John could be spared the experience and so today was very much anticipated by most, but not all of our household. I was mostly ambivalent about it. I knew something like this had great potential for being extremely nauseating, but I knew the girls would love it.

They are obsessed with everything princess-ish and I'm not sure how this all came about. They never saw the movies Snow White or Cinderella until a couple of weeks ago. They saw The Little Mermaid sometime last year for the first time, and Aladdin much more recently. They met all of the princesses at Disneyworld last november but they were hooked on them far, far before their grand introduction. It's a mysterious, powerful, and hopefully temporary, attraction.

As we neared the arena (the inside almost unrecognizable as the place I've seen professional hockey countless times) we saw the mobs of little girls and their parents walking in. A sizable number of the girls were dressed up as princesses themselves. One large SUV near mine in the parking lot had their destination, this show, written on their back and side windows in white marker in the way other some people write "Just Married" on their cars. It was truly bizarre. All of it.

We were joined by Erin's friend, Mary, from her school and her mom. Each pair of kids got a giant tub of popcorn to share and they settled in for the show. I noticed that there were some little boys in the audience too. I'd say it was 90/10 girls to boys and the all the boys I observed had sisters. There were some fathers in the audience too, though in the minority they were in no obvious distress, which I reported to John when we got home. "Yeah, but how many of them WANTED to be there?" he wondered.

I was impressed by the scenery--it was pretty elaborate but it didn't photograph well at all. I do have a few decent shots of the skaters out of the many I took. Many things, though easily seen by us, just weren't lighted enough to show up well in a photo. And the night scene setting didn't work because of the action, so in that mode everything came out totally blurry. I'm not enough of a photographer to know what else I might have done.

Once things got started the girls were absolutely spellbound. The only parts of Erin or Allison that moved were their eyelids (occasionally), their jaws, and their hands going from popcorn buckets to mouth and back again in a constant, smooth, motion. Kate, speechless for a change and easily the most engrossed of all of them, even gave up on snacking once the show started. About 10 minutes into it she emerged briefly from her stupor in order to turn to me and say, "Oh, Mama--this is just amazing!"

Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Tinkerbell and Goofy were all there and came out in between skits to talk about the previous story and talk up the next one.

In short we heard songs and bits of the stories from each of the movies that feature one of the princesses. The costumes were great, the skating was fantastic, the special effects were much better than expected. At one point a gigantic dragon emerged onto the ice to go after some prince or another (I really don't know the stories very well) and then as he retreated he breathed fire which ignited a large area of ice for a minute or so. It was pretty cool. None of those pictures came out of course.

And perhaps the most impressive aspect of the day--Erin and Mary polished off that entire tub of popcorn in about half an hour and with Kate paralyzed with fascination the entire time, Allison finished her bucket almost entirely by herself.