Wednesday, March 24, 2010

home opener

Following Erin's lead, the twins decided that this spring they wanted to play softball also. Erin, a two-year veteran of the 5 and 6 year-olds division, got to move up and be in the 8 year-old division this year. They all have practice on tuesday evenings (but different places, naturally). They all have games on saturday mornings, and Erin additionally has games on thursday nights. But we ditched not only a day of school with our last ski trip, but also the girls' first softball games of the season. A small concession in my eyes, and the girls really didn't seem to mind either. So last weekend was our home opener, and everyone was very excited.

Opa reported to the field at an unearthly hour for a saturday (8am) to warm up with the girls.

Then the game was on. Kate and Allison play for the Blue Dolphins, and it's hard to believe that it's been only 2 years since Erin played her first game, because it kind of feels like a decade. Watching 5 year-olds play softball is sometimes painful, but I think the twins did well. They certainly paid attention to the game better than Erin ever did at that age.

For my part, I am their team admin, or official team mom as some people call it, because I don't have enough to do.

Since Erin's game started later, she and Opa enjoyed hot chocolate and were no doubt discussing the finer points of the game since dad used to play quite a bit of baseball.

Each of the girls managed to hit the ball, which isn't a given at this age even with a tee.

But I was most impressed with Kate as she played first base. She was alert and focused, and in practicing with her I think she has a bit of natural talent for throwing and catching. She may be our most conservative skier, but she has the makings of our best softball player.

Allison played first base at one point too, but she was always so distracted by what the first base coach was yelling to the runners that she was never looking at her teammates in order to catch the balls they were throwing to her.

After their game we drove across town to see Erin play.

New in this higher division is the position of catcher. Erin had a fun with her first time there.

It was a hectic morning, but a good first (of many, many) softball saturdays.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

spring ski weekend

Our second and final ski trip of the year came and went quickly, the weekend before St. Pat's day. The monday of that weekend was a day off from school because of one of those mysterious teacher inservice days, or some such nonsense thing. I decided to have our kids play hookey the friday before it also (again) so we could leave thursday after school and have a 4-day weekend in the mountains.

Some friends and long-time ski partners with two young sons joined us. On friday we started the day with some nice, though overcast weather and a couple of pictures.

Then it started to snow, and snow HARD. Their sons and our girls we all in ski school and I kept wondering if I dressed them warm enough and I kept checking my cell phone all day, expecting a call about this or that daughter that was cold and miserable and wanted to call it quits. A phone call never came.

Between it being a friday and the storm, ski school wasn't crowded that day and they even split up Kate and Allison and gave each their own instructors. We didn't see Erin or Allison all day, but we happened upon Kate and her teacher at one point later in the afternoon. Check out the wonderful weather:

As soon as we said hello to her, she started crying. Her teacher reported that she had been fine all day, but we thought maybe the weather was finally getting to her, though she said she wasn't cold. She skied a few more runs with her teacher and us tagging along behind for reassurance.

Then we picked up Erin and Allison, who each reported having a great day and I figured Kate especially, and maybe everyone, would be ready to head inside the hotel, out of the weather. Nothing doing. There was SO much fresh snow accumulated everywhere and all they wanted to do was play in it.

Climbing on, jumping in, sliding on, eating snow. I certainly have some snow bunnies.

The next day was clear and gloriously sunny, but still a nice cool temperature which kept all of that fresh wonderful snow (18" at the mountain top) nice and dry. The girls headed out for ski school day number two.

John and I had fun skiing all over the place. In the morning the fresh powder had me buried up to my knees at times, it was AWESOME. Perfect conditions. I couldn't imagine anything better.

In the later afternoon I split away from John and ventured to one of my very favorite parts of Squaw Valley, the area under High Camp and the Silverado chair. I've noticed that my photos never do a ski area justice. These runs are super steep, double black diamonds-rated, with rocky cliffs here and there. John doesn't like it when I venture off to places like this alone, but he likes joining me on them even less. It was so fantastic back there, as I knew it would be.

That evening, our friends came over to our room for a spaghetti dinner and we got the full ski school report from the boys. Though the oldest is 7 and youngest is 5, they weren't grouped with our girls because this was their very first weekend skiing. Their parents weren't sure how they would like to skiing and lessons, but they took to it like most kids do--they loved it, especially their older boy.

The next day our friends set off for home and we skied with the kids.

Since it was Erin's first weekend with poles and Allison was given longer rental skis that I think she had previously used, we decided to head to a beginner's slope to make sure everyone was okay with their equipment.
"This is BORING!" Kate, the most cautious skier of our group informed me. "Let's go to a BIGGER slope." On to intermediates we went.

Later, at her request, I took Erin on some even harder intermediate runs and a few advanced ones too. She did really fabulously well on everything, she has made such amazing progress since this time last year.

She's cautious and doesn't seem interested in being the fastest skier around, but she gets the job done well.
Allison, on the other hand, seemed determined to turn every run into a ski race whether she really had the technique to ski that fast or not.

Erin and Allison were both practically begging to ski more this year, but with 3 days per week of softball starting, like, now, I don't see how we can fit in another trip. It's always sad to put away that ski gear for good.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

happy st.pat's day

On their way to school this morning:

I think Kate's forced smaile was scaring Allison.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

spring plays

Well, I guess they are end of winter plays. Erin's was first, a play for her grade 2 and 3 village about how americans "come from everywhere". In the play a group of students from her elementary school are riding a train and decide to interview their fellow passengers about their origins.

Time travel wasn't expressly detailed, but implied. Erin, along with 4 others, played a chinese immigrant who came to California during the gold rush to work in gold mines and/or build railroads. Others were mexicans who are looking for work, Indians who came here for their college education and decided to stay to work in Silicon Valley's high tech industry, people fleeing the Irish potato famine, a group of English settlers from the 17th century who settled in Virginia in order to surf the warmer atlantic waves, and my personal favorite, a Russian mail-order bride.

It was a cute play featuring clever songs and obvious not really politically correct generalities, though I guess I really can't argue with the history of a lot of it.

How Erin allowed herself to be cast as Chinese instead of one of the Irish immigrants, I don't know. She is fascinated with Ireland, but I thought she looked good in the borrowed traditional Chinese outfit and she always seemed happy with the part she got.

A couple of weeks later was the more anticipated twins' play, since it was their first. Kate hasn't usually been a fan of being on stage and performing anything, as evidenced by her behavior in many of her little German school productions over the past many months. Oma and Opa even altered their driving schedule to be sure to arrive here in time to see the performance.

The play was called "The Weather Show", about a climatologist in NYC in search of a special antique barometer to purchase. As the scientist and the companions she met along the way travelled across NYC, they encountered and talked about all kinds of weather topics. It doesn't sound really exciting, but this show was so creative and, better than that, actually quite hilarious.

Allison played a water drop, and her song was about the cycle of water in the atmosphere. I think she played this part about as enthusiastically as anyone could have. She had a blast up there.

I know, this doesn't sound funny so far. The real humor came with the groundhog song, about the way we always blame the poor groundhogs for our bad winter weather every year. And then there was warm front versus cold front song, which went down like a street rumble from West Side Story. The two boys in the black vests and hats in the center of the battle were the announcers, speaking like a couple of sports commentators calling the plays and their dialogue was just hysterical. I hadn't laughed that hard in a long time. I know, you had to be there.

Kate played the violet spectrum in a rainbow. She was really nervous about the little twirling and dancing she had to do, but she did it, and it was cute.

A great first performance for the twins, and a great little play in general.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


It's been long overdue, but my favorite "little" cousin Joel, this cousin Joel, arrived for a visit with us this past weekend. "He shoots bad guys," the girls sometimes say, though that's not something we've told them, exactly. I've told them he captures bad guys, arrests them, gives them to the police to take to jail. They came up with the rest of that on their own. But he was our first house guest who, right after taking his suitcase into our guest room, took off his gun, disassembled it, and asked John to hide the pieces someplace John thought the kids wouldn't find them.

I told Joel I thought simply putting the various pieces back in his suitcase would be good enough. I mean, the girls don't tend to rummage through others' things. And even if they did and found all the parts AND managed to assemble the weapon correctly, I think I'd have to be more proud of them than mad.

He was too busy with traveling nearly all the time with work during 2007 and 2008 to visit with us, though I did get to see him briefly while he worked at a campaign stop in my area in 2008. After the campaign he talked to me about coming here for a visit, except that was the week when we were moving back into our remodeled house, and it would have been too chaotic.

Then he rejoined the Marines and spent a year deployed, which always had me kind of worried in the back of my mind. For that assignment he wasn't allowed to say where he was or what he was doing. Now that he's home and out of the Marines and back working with the Secret Service, he told me about how he spent his year and I now know that I wasn't worried enough. Yemen is no place for a nice, midwestern-born white boy, a Major in the Marines or not. Joel is from Chicago and currently works at the SS Chicago office. I got to know him when I was living in Chicago for school and during those years he and his father and I had many fun outings together and plenty of good memories.

When he arrived on friday afternoon, we had lunch at a nice restaurant sat outside, and then we took a drive up into the hills to a nearby winery, where we spent a couple of hours enjoying the views and wines and lack of predicted rain. We talked about the old days back in Chicago, friends of his I met there, friends of mine he met there, his year in the middle east, all kinds of overdue catching up. Before we knew it, it was time to pick up the kids from school and meet the rest of the family for dinner. "If there are any bad guys in the restaurant is Joel going to get them?" Erin asked.

The next morning, Joel got out his laptop with his collection of AP campaign photos and he and the girls played "where's Joel?" since many of them were photos taken of huge crowds at campaign rallies. John hooked up Joel's computer to our main TV so he could show us many of his photos from the 60+ countries he's visited over the past few years, with both the Marines and the SS. He narrated as he went along but Erin kept interrupting him to clarify details.
"What was the name of that city?"
"How do you spell that?"
"Is that in Asia or Europe?"
"What other countries does it border?"
"What's the name of that river?"
"What's the capital of that country?"
Joel thought she could have a future as a professional interrogator.

The girls also had their first softball practice of the season this weekend. Kate and Allison are on the same team, their first season playing. After practice Joel and Erin practiced some more in the yard.

On saturday evening, Brad joined us at home for dinner and then he and Joel went to a hockey game together. On sunday I thought it would be fun to spend a day at the coast. About a dozen years ago, Joel graduated from college and spent a week out here with me and we went kayaking along the coast in this area, but we didn't walk around downtown much or see the aquarium or eat a wonderful, huge dinner at a great local seafood restaurant, so we did all of those things this time.

The girls absolutely adored him. He and I took them to school on monday morning and he said goodbye to them there, and after a leisurely breakfast I took him to the airport. The first thing the girls asked when I picked them up was where Joel was and when we'd get to see him again.

It was so great to have Joel visit. He and John have tentative plans to attend a hockey game in Chicago later this season, if our teams meet in the playoffs. He promised to be back before another dozen years go by, and I hope to be in Chicago sooner than later as well. If we wait too long, we'll have to go to Washington to see him, since he'll be transferring to presidential duty sometime next year.