Keeping Score – Playing Hardball

Take me out to the ball game.
Take me out to the ball game.

So now it’s time to learn me some baseball.

In the future, I think I’ll volunteer only for things I like to do (or can, actually, do.) Something like official team pizza eater. Or World of Tanks Game adviser. Or napping manager.

Even though being the hockey team treasurer took way more time than I thought it would, I wasn’t too stressed out about it, especially after The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world helped me through relearning Excel.

But this whole score keeping thing, man, that was turning out to be hardcore.

So, what do I do when faced with something hard?

First, I curl up into a ball and hide under my writing desk. I have worn a special place in the shag carpet there. It’s where I go when I receive a rejection letter.

But after that, it’s time to figure it all out.

Here’s my top 6 ways I will use to learn me some baseball.

  • Find baseball movies. Bad New Bears. Bull Durham. League of Their Own. Sadly, none of them deal with being a score keeper, though.
    There's no crying in baseball
    There’s no crying in baseball

    One might ask why? Maybe there’s a movie there. Maybe I’ll get Ryan Reynolds to play me. We kinda look alike. But the things I’ve learned so far…. there’s no crying in baseball. I learned sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. And I learned that this quitting thing is a hard habit to break.

  •  Look up score keeping on You Tube. Ok, I did that. I found a great site that explained a lot of it. I even found another one that had a clearer explanation of the terms and abbreviations and what exact is a ‘fielder’s choice.’ Never doubt the internet, folks. It’s just jammed packed with truths and explanations, and for some reason, lots of pictures of naked girls wearing only baseball caps (though that could have been a search problem).
  • Read the official scorekeeping book. Actually this didn’t help much. I think they keep it deliberately vague because only a moron who doesn’t completely understand baseball would ever volunteer to be a score keeper.
  • Ask for help. Ok, for me this is the hardest thing to do. But I emailed one of the parents who seemed to know a thing or two about the game. He agreed to help me out. He was even super nice about it.
  • Talk to other parents who’ve done this before. This, oddly, yielded some of my best information. I mean, sure, I got less pictures of naked women, but I did learn that I don’t have to sweat the more complex part of the game. Not at this level. There simply isn’t such a big concern with errors and RBIs and that mysterious passed ball thingee (which I still believe might be someone pooping a ball out.)
  • Go to a game. And bring a score sheet. I’ll see if I can figure it all out on the fly. Oh, how I wish I was in Victoria. I know a couple of people who could school me on this whole baseball thing.

So that was my plan.

I did my best studying everything that I could ahead of time, and then the game came. I was in a full body sweat, but everyone there was so nice, mostly because either they have done it before and remember the terror of that first game, or they haven’t done it before and hope I don’t bugger it up so badly that they have to do it next week.

horrible scorecardAll in all, with the help of my experienced baseball buddy, I did ok. I didn’t make any huge errors and recorded 99% of the game without any confusion.

But, ah, that 1%. Oh my goodness. When there’s actually a hit and then the fielders miss it, then mis-throw it, then mis-catch it, and the runners all get confused and run into each other and no one is sure where to go or where to throw and then, all of a sudden, it stops and one of the runners is walking off the field and another looks like he’s tagged the plate and I had to turn to ask,

“What the f*%# just happened?” I asked my guru. A zombie melee looked less chaotic.

“One run. 6-4 out at second. Runner one advanced to third. Hitter got a double. No errors.”

“Oh. No errors? Really? What abou…?”

“It’s ok. You got this.”

Thank God I had help. I would have either recorded that as 42 errors, one run and someone out somewhere, I’m still not sure where.

But I survived my first game.

Not that I won’t keep learning.

Wait is there an f…ing app?

Oh and for anyone interested in one of the great speeches of all time. Please be aware, there’s some NSFW language.


Top 10 Things Learned From the Tournament

happinessThere’s always something to be learned from every situation and I’m a life-long learner, which means I usually screw up constantly.

Here are the top 10 things I learned from the hockey tournament…

  • There is a sliding scale of when good behavior becomes bad. Mathematicians will like this and one day properly quantify it, but for now, let’s take a look. Joe-style. One kid will behave about 90% of the time. 2 kids, probably 60%. 3 kids, perhaps 40%, but it’ll depend on the kids. 4 kids…you’re now against the odds. Maybe 10% chance they’ll behave. 5 kids? The odds are akin to me winning the lottery. 6 kids. The odds are equal to the me winning the lottery and being hit by lightning at the same time. Any more and the odds are so astronomical that Karl Sagan, Einstein and Sheldon Cooper would fail to calculate them, the chance is so small.  There is a greater chance that somewhere in the universe there is a monkey typing out this exact blog at this exact moment. Plus, the damage that can be done is exponentially worse.
  • When in a group, all table manners go out the window. Again, this can be a sliding scale, just not as bad as the chance one of them will do something dumb. Have you ever seen a pack of starving wild dogs savage a wildebeest? It’s that disturbing. I point, as evidence to the pizza box with four bites out of it.
  • There are gods of hockey. Like a long-lost Norse god out to prove he can still influence the world of men. Sometimes the puck bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t, but in some games, sometimes it’s everything or nothing. I kid you not. It’s like 4 pings off the goal posts, 2 off the crossbar, one puck hits the tip of the goalie’s skate and deflects wide, another shot has so little strength that it actually stops in the crease after being completely mis-saved. Or, your team mate will shoot it through the goalie’s skates, the puck will hit the crossbar and bounce off his back and into the net… you get the idea. And yes, The-Youngest had both those games.
  • liesYour child will lie to you. Oh, you think he’s going to be the most truthful boy on the planet, but tell him not to run on the ferry, and he’ll come back all red-faced from running and actually try to claim he wasn’t running. With sweat dripping down his face. While panting.
  • Great friendships can be made from great suffering. Or great triumph. Mostly our team is usually all about the suffering, but they bonded so well at this tournament that I’m sure some of them will be friends for life. (And it’s not just about the hockey bonding, oh no, it’s about trying to drown your coach or shooting a mini-hockey ball at someone’s crotch or trying to sneak into the boiler room on a ferry.) Me? I had some great moments with some of the parents and bonded with a few well. I mean, who could not? We all shared the same experiences, good and bad.
  • I could almost do a whole weekend of being marginally extrovertie. Oh, you extroverts may not realize how hard it is for an introvert to be all chatty, and be all chatty for 3 whole days, while not getting much sleep and not being able to drink a lot. But I did it. And, to be truthful, so did the-Youngest. It can be done, but mostly because I was lucky enough to go with a great group pf parents, some of whom I suspect were introverts as well.
  • If you have a 5:45 ferry and a game is supposed to start at 3:15, it will not. I suspect the same naughty Norse gods, but whatever, it should be like some sort of universal rule. If you don’t have a lot of time for buggering around, the universe will send people to bugger things around.
  • You can fit a goalie bag, two player bags, 5 suitcases, 2 backpacks, 3 9 year olds and 2 adults in a Rav 4. Certainly you would have bet against it, but with the proper application of pressure and swearing, you can get everything in. Plus 3 sticks. And 3 bags of tournament goodies. I should contact Toyota and get them to do a commercial like that. With me and my Hollywood good looks.
  • You get out of the tournament, whatever you expect. By that I mean if you think you’re going to have a crappy time, there is a ton of stuff that will prove you right. Bad refs. Bad coffee. No heat in the arena. Or you can think this is going to be one hell of an experience and there is tons of stuff to prove you right. Bad refs. Bad coffee. No heat in the arena. It’s like a quick reminder of what life’s about. There’s always good and bad, but it’s what you focus on. Or to quote The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world, “it’s whatever wolf you feed.”
  • Every game needs more cowbell.

Tournament Trials – The Loss – Part 7

They did their best to keep their heads held high
So, after 5 games, the boys had won four and lost one. The last one. And we were in serious danger of missing the ferry. Worse, we still had a ceremony to get through.

The boys lined up on the ice. A carpet was laid out between the two teams. Several old men in blue jackets and berets walked out to stand with the coaches. Veterans. Medals on their chests.

An announcement was made about the winners. The winners cheered. They were the better team. They deserved their moment. Then our time came and our coach took the mic. He looked over at his team. They had their heads up but their shoulders were slumped, like all the air had gone out of them.

He told them they hadn’t lost the tournament. He told them that they had won second place. Won. Second. Place.


He told them that they had beaten 4 other teams. That they’d played well.

He gave a great speech, but then he’s a pastor in his church and, I would think, not unused to giving people inspiration when they’re down.

Then the boys got their trophies. Pretty damn nice ones, too. The organizers did good.

Ok, it wasn’t a very big carpet they rolled out.

After each trophy was handed out, the boys would shake hands with the vets. “They had soft hands,” The-Youngest said. He wanted to know what wars they’d fought in, but I couldn’t answer that. “They each had two medals, he said, so that must mean they’ve fought in two wars.”

He could be right.

By the time everyone got their trophy, we had to really make time to catch the ferry. It was 5pm. The ferry left at 5:45. I had a reservation, but not all our team did and it would be a small New Years’ miracle if we all made it. The drive was 20-25 minutes. And we had to still get our gear off.

It was decided that the only thing they’d get off was their skates. Well, sure, fair and fine for players, but to get goalie skates off means you have to untie the pads as well. But we were up to the task, and while most of the team left ahead of us, we were not far behind.

We stuffed our gear in the car. We stuffed the gear of two other boys in the car. We stuffed, 3 kids and 2 adults in. Somehow. And sped off. Now is usually the time I get epically lost, but with the aid of my iphone, I weaved my way in and out of traffic like a Nascar pro.

We made it into the line-up at 5:25. The ferry was 93% full. The attendant gave people without a reservation about 50/50 if they’d get on.

While we waited in the lot, the boys changed their gear. At first, they wanted to change outside of the car. OUTSIDE OF THE CAR. Like, in the open! Like with people in cars on either side looking at them!!!

The answer to that was, ah, no. No way. So they took turns inside the Rav 4 getting out of their sweaty, wet gear and into civilian clothes.

In the end, we all got on and assembled at the front of the ferry. The boys’ good humor had returned, and they were all so excited that they’d done so well. Mad props to the coach for finding exactly the right thing to say to them when the game ended.

The coach gave another speech about behaving, but this went largely unheard as the boys roared off to cause problems. Not The-Youngest though. He was given 20 min then a few quarters to play some video games, then kept by my side (mostly playing games on my phone.)

Yes, this is what two people decided to do on a busy, busy ferry. Lets put our hands together for their humanity
Yes, this is what two people decided to do on a busy, busy ferry. Lets put our hands together for their humanity. Thank goodness their snowboards had seats.

Most of the parents did the same thing and those who didn’t quickly gathered up their sons after supper. However, as goofy as the kids may have been, the epic award for being a complete asshat goes to a couple who occupied 6 seats in the cafeteria.

The ferry was 95% full when it left. There was a massive wait for food and for tables.

The staff even gave an announcement that anyone who’s finished eating, if they could please bugger off so that others could sit down.

Not those two entitled pricks though. They saved 4 seats for their snowboards. So, I took their picture. To quote Red Foreman, my fathering mentor, ‘Dumbasses!!!”

wft star trekAs we  sat down, I told The-Youngest to see what a sense of entitlement leads to.

How many people had they inconvenienced so they could store their coats and snowboards? How fair was that to our team that could have used those seats to eat?

He said he’d never do that, and I believed him.

All things considered, he’d been great on this trip. Not perfect, sure, but he’s 9 and he was with his hockey buddies, so he needed to have a good time as well.

The best picture of The-Youngest yet.
The best picture of The-Youngest yet.

We got home in time for him to tell everyone about the games they’d won, the saves he’d made, the MVP medal he’d won and the trophy the team got for ‘winning second place’.

I declared the weekend a success and went to bed and slept for 20 hours.


Tournament Trials – Playoffs – Part 6

16 teams. 2 days. Add one motel, one ferry and 16 wild and crazy kids. Yeah, that is a good idea.
16 teams. 2 days. And they were in the finals.

After 3 games, the boys should have been near catatonic exhaustion. I know I was. But no, they were full of excited energy. Hell, they’d just won 3 games in a row and were going to the finals. Top 4 out of 16 teams. They were proud and they were loud.

But mostly they couldn’t wait for the final games. They were sure they had the talent and skills to win.

I forced The-Youngest to be in bed by 7:30. It took him an hour to stop wanting to chat, but that’s ok, he was asleep by 8:30. And was asleep by 8:31.

The first game came at 10am on Sunday, and if we won, we’d go on to the finals at 3:15. Games are an hour long, so we’d catch the 5:45 ferry back, easily. Or so I thought. I forgot that we were on the Island, and Island time is sometimes a little different. If we missed it, the boys wouldn’t get home until 10:30, and they had school the next morning!

However, if we lost that first game, we’d play for the bronze medal at 1:30.

Was it bad of me to hope we’d lose so I could catch an earlier ferry? Am I a bad parent?

The boys, though, were psyched. To quote The-Youngest as I tied up his skates, “So Joe, it feels like I’m at the top of a roller coaster and it’s just about to go down. It feels like that in my tummy. It’s not a bad feeling though. Kinda like being scared and excited at the same time.”

Exactly right. He nailed it. All the boys had nerves. Even the parents.

I'm pretty sure this was the Victoria team picture
I’m pretty sure this was the Victoria team picture

Their first game was against Victoria, a good team with a perfect record just like us. When the puck dropped, our boys flittered around like moths in search of a flame.

Game jitters had gotten to them.

They all wanted to score. They all wanted to dazzle their parents. They all wanted to be superstars.

In the end, they managed to remember to pass, to back-check and play their positions. They played hard and won. Honestly, it could have gone either way, but a win is a win.

That meant we played for the big trophy, for first place!

Now the boys were as excited as I’ve ever seen them. They were sure they could take the top prize. They were so sure they were that good.

Would it be a Mighty Ducks ending?

Only the Oceanside team stood in their way. They, too, had won all their games, even getting a shut-out. These boys came from a small town where there’d be no rep team, all boys, good or bad, would suit up for Oceanside.

We had a LOT of time to burn so we went to Boston Pizza, ate pizza, watched a good 2 hours of sports fails on TV and waited. “Waiting is the worst,” The-Youngest told me. And, again, he’s bang-on.

At 3:15 the final started. Well, let’s say it started to start. Unlike the other games, there was a bit of a ceremony. The teams turned to face the flag. A little girl came out and sang O Canada.

That was cool. Later the Youngest would say it was like a real playoff game. Then the game began.

Within the first minute, it was 0-1. Then 0-2. And it was apparent that Oceanside had a really good team.

Now we have a few good players for sure, and one outstanding one, but even our outstanding one (who could normally skate through the entire opposing team and score), ran into problems. They had 4 or 5 like him. Big kids. Fast skaters. As soon as our outstanding boy would get the puck, he’d be mobbed by those skaters as fast as him.



I watched the parent’s shoulders slump.

The Youngest getting some final instructions.

Then we scored one, a brilliant NHL level pass from the boards to the man by the net. Bang! 1-4. But they scored right back. 1-5. Then, 1-6.

Our star player got hurt trying to stop yet another breakaway. He had to go off to the bench. Then another of our players fell into the boards. Hard. He went to the bench.

It wasn’t like the boys weren’t trying. They were. They gave it their all. But we were simply playing a better team.

Before the 1st period was out, we got another goal. 2-6. At this point, just keeping it close would be a win.

And they played even harder in the second period. We got 2 goals, they got 2 goals. The-Youngest even made one of his most epic saves of all time! Having his stick knocked away from him, he fell on his side and failed his arms and legs, somehow managing to block not one, but two shots.

Then, for some reason, when the play moved away from him and one of his players had pushed his goalie stick back within reach, he just stood over his stick and looked at it. Like he was talking to it.

“Bad stick. Bad. You shouldn’t go walkabout. Bad stick.”

He stared at it for a long time as our team fought hard at the other end of the ice, the coach shouting for him to pick it up. Maybe The-Youngest was debating whether or not he even needed a stick. Maybe his epic saves had convinced him sticks were unnecessary.

Then the play shifted and the other team roared back down the ice towards him, fast skaters skating fast. As they reached our blue line, the Youngest slowly bent down and picked up this stick like he had all the time in the world, and prepared to make another save.

Such things make my hair go white.

The final was 6-10. From the 2nd period on, we matched them goal for goal, an amazing achievement in my mind, but we couldn’t overcome the 4 goal lead they got in the first period.

As the boys skated to the trophy ceremony, I wondered how they would take it, and as I looked up at the clock, 4:35 (far past the time the game should have ended and there was still the medals to be given out), our chances of making the 5:45 ferry were fading fast.

Tournament Trials – The Games – Part 5

calvin in bedNormally, getting the Youngest out of bed is like prying a clam out of its shell, but not on this day, the day of the tournament.

I won’t say he leapt out of bed, cuz, you know, that would be a total lie, but he did roll over, fall out of bed and crawl to the bathroom in a reasonable amount of time.

I call that a win, dammit!

IMG_8373[1]Of the two of us, though, I looked more tired. Outside, it was cold. Frost covered the car windows. I wanted to crawl back under the warm covers and hide.

But we had to get dressed, eat, and find the other parent (and his kids) I was supposed to give a ride to… then get us all to the first game.

Had I been a lot smarter, I would have arranged to meet the other parent and his kids in the morning somewhere. But no, I didn’t think of that until the morning. So we had to track them down after eating. It wasn’t that hard in the end, the motel isn’t that big, so we all loaded up the gear and drove off.

The boys were excited. Despite a night of running around and playing, they were keen to get on the ice and play. I was keen to get more coffee. The previous night I’d marked all the nearby Timmies in my phone. Not the hospitals. Not the arenas. No, the vital coffee shops that would keep me alive.

So, we had 3 games ahead of us. 3. I didn’t know how the boys would be by the 3rd game, but for the first one, they came out skating hard. Hey, I thought, maybe we’d actually win a game. Wouldn’t that be cool?

But then the puck was dropped. The opposing team’s center took it and skated left, skated right, dodged here, dodged there then pretty much zipped through our entire team, ending his run with a goal on the Youngest who looked like his skates were mired in molasses.

It wasn’t a good start. 8 seconds into the game, and we had a goal scored on us.

goalie failI began to envision a very depressing ride home. Plus, within a few more minutes, it became apparent that the Youngest had caught a case of the goalie derps. It’s a horrible disease of fate where every bounce goes against the goalie. If a shot hits the crossbar, it bounces off the goalie’s back and into the net. Or a puck decides to randomly hop up in the air and over the goalie’s stick. Or, worse, one of your own players deflects the puck into the net.

All these things happened in the 1st period. It was looking grim.

But the team rallied. We scored one, they scored two, we got two back, then one more, then they scored, again, then us again. After 3 periods of hard fought hockey, somehow, we won! Won!!!

The boys were ecstatic. Talk of future NHL careers filled the change room.

I thought, wow, how cool is this? They won one. Now they can go home with their heads held high. They’d won one.

But wait, the 2nd game proved to be a slaughter. For us. We won 9-7. We outplayed the other team, out hustled them, certainly out shot them, and won.

Now, you have to understand that our team has won maybe 2 games this year. Ok 3. But 2 in a row was unheard of.

The boys began to actually believe they could do this. They could win the whole thing.

The 3rd game began with us annihilating the other team in the first period 7-1. Good God, we were on fire. Passing the puck. Sniping the top corners of the net. Back-checking. It was amazing to see.

Then for the 2nd period, the other team changed their goalie. I felt so bad for the little guy who had to go to the bench. Being a goalie parent, I know the pain he would have felt. But the new kid they brought in, oh, boy, was he good.

He saved breakaways. He gloved shots fired to the upper corners. He poke-checked the puck in scrambles. He smothered rebounds.

You could sense the game change. That kid was a wall. Nothing was getting by him, and by the end of the 2nd period, we were at 7-7. Not that our team played poorly, but it is said that every dog has its day and boy did that goalie have his doggie day on this day.

We skated out for the 3rd period looking weary, but determined. Our best player fought his way to get into an open shooting lane and fired the puck in the top corner. 8-7. Then the other team scored on the Youngest, a mad scramble around the front of the net where someone poked the puck in. 8-8. Then, with minutes left in the game, we punched in another goal. 9-8.

All we had to do was hold on. All the parents were sitting forward in their seats or standing up with hands over their mouths. The other team knew time was running out and attacked with fury. But, where as in the first game, the Youngest couldn’t catch a break, on this night, on this ice, in the last minute of the game, he became a wall. He saved shot after shot, and even when they pulled the goalie, he was able to stop them time and time, again.

And time ran out.

We’d won. 3 games straight. We were going to the playoffs!

IMG_8390[1]The boys were so excited!

They had believed in themselves and they had won. No matter what the result was on Sunday, they had done Langley proud.

For his efforts, the Youngest even got the MVP award for the 3rd game.

It was, to quote the Youngest, “the best day of my life.”

But they all knew the really hard games would come tomorrow.




Adventures in Parenting – Swimming Lessons

Pool Party

spong bobA week has passed. It’s time to see if the boys can swim, if they’ve passed their tests. The youngest, as always, is pretty sure he passed, but he’s also pretty sure he should be teaching swimming to the other kids. The oldest is confident, but not cocky. He knows that he wants to get out of the kiddie pool and get out fast.

We sit with the other parents, one reading beside a mountain of towels. In front of us is a pool of cute.  Who knew there was such a thing, but they’ve built the kiddie pool to look a bit like a beach. One end is basically 4” of water that slopes to a terrifying 4’ of water at the far end. Closest to us is an adorable little girl trying to climb on a soft swimming board. It’s like trying to climb onto a wet sandwich and float away on it. I would find it amazingly frustrating, but she’s giggling and having a great time.

Farther away, a huge man with the most intricate tree tattoo on his back I’ve ever seen is holding his tiny daughter like someone holding an apple for all to see. He kneels, dips his little girl in the water, just the toes, then her legs. She doesn’t cry. Maybe it’s like a big bath to her. Then her dad submerges her up to her neck. She giggles and slaps the water. I wonder when we learn to be afraid of water. I had a huge problem when I first tried to swim. Little, wee kidlings unable to walk, don’t seem to have that.

But we’re not here for cute. We’re here to watch the boys.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and I are super happy to see that the youngest has come so far! He no longer dog-paddles his way to the bottom on the pool and half-drowns himself. He can now paddle like a poodle. Sure there’s a lot of splashing, but he’s staying afloat. Same when he goes onto his back. He forms his mouth like a great funnel and there’s a vague look of panic on his face, but, again, he doesn’t sink.

And he’s proud of himself. You can see that. He’s proud to show us what he can do. Sadly, he also proud to show us how well he splashes the other kids and nearly kicks a little kid in the face while using his legs and holding on the edge. But it’s clear he’s made progress.

The oldest is on a mission. You can see it in his face. He WILL pass and he WILL NOT be stuck in a pool with half a dozen 5-6 year old girls who giggle too much, who cry at odd times and who seem to love to splash more than swim.

He means business.

And it shows. He looks good with his strokes, swimming not quite straight, but with confidence. He’s learned to put his head down, swim a few feet, pop his head to the side to gulp in a breath while continuing swimming.

Likewise, he’s confident on his back. There’s no panic on his face. He glides along like an otter that likes to splash a lot.

The instructor basically ignores him. The oldest’s clearly better than the level that he’s at, but rules are rules and he needs to pass this level to move on. And move on he does. I think he’s proud of what he’s accomplished, too, even if the look he gives us is more, Ha, THERE! DONE DAT!

In the end, they both move on.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and I are proud of them. The youngest goes to celebrate on the slide, and yes, he slides face first, on his stomach, with his arms at his side. Cuz that’s how he rolls. The oldest goes to sit in the hot pool with the other adults and think deep thoughts.

We read the report cards then sign them up for their next lessons.

swim medalThey didn’t win any gold medals in swimming (yet), but they’re learning a vital skill. Everyone needs to learn to swim. It’s part of growing up.

I’m happy to have been a very small part of that.

Adventures in Parenting – Swimming Lessons

Sink or Swim


After the pool experience in San Diego, where the youngest claimed he could swim and basically dog paddled his way to the bottom of the pool, it was clear that proper training would be required. So we booked lessons for both boys at the local pool. The WGRC.

walnut grove poolThe Walnut Grove Recreation Center is a model of recreation centers. It has a pool, a weight room, a sauna, a ping-pong table in the middle of a staircase landing, a full basketball court where sweaty teenagers push each other around, a library (with actual people in it reading actual books) and a huge staff information area where there’s a sign that says, please check in, but where the staff seem to largely ignore you in favour of talking to each other about the latest, omg catz video on youtube.

But the pool is a thing of beauty. Or should I say, ‘pools’. There’s huge hot tub pool where sweaty parents and bored kids hang out. There is a gigantic kiddie’s pool where any struggling 7 year old can stand up, get splashed by water buckets overhead or paddle around in what looks like a nerf canoe. And there’s a gigantic, dare I say, Olympic-sized pool where the more dedicated swimmers swim. A diving platform towers above the large pool, a rope swing hangs about 10 feet from one side of it, and above everything, twisting, winding, swooping ever downward, the most awesome waterslide of all time, (according to the youngest), a full 300 feet of slippery, slidiness.

From the Red Cross Guide
But we’re not here for fun. The boys are here to learn.

Seems the oldest never got past his level 3 swimming course. Not that he can’t swim, but the red cross –  being an institution of order – requires that someone finish lvl 3 before they move on to lvl 4. The oldest is not pleased.

Not pleased at all.

Because… well, let me put it this way…

There will be a time in his life that when he’s given the chance to hang out with a group of younger women, he’ll jump at it. Hell, he’ll pray for it. But at his age, 11, girls are still kinda icky and, worse, he’s been assigned to a group that has 5 younger girls. I’m not talking like 10 year olds. I’m talking 5-7 year olds.

He towers above them, his arms crossed over his chest, glowering as they giggle and splash and flail around. If there was a look that said, one day, I’m gonna get you for this, mommy, he had that look in the pool. Poor guy. But it’s the price of not completing something, of getting distracted and not finishing. So, he learns with the little kids.

However, there’s no goofing around on his part. None. There is no way in hell that he wants to stay in that group. He has to prove to the instructor that he can swim 5 meters, float a bit, go under water without panicking and perform some sort of backstoke I don’t quite recognize.

He’s motivated. He’s driven. He wants to be out of that group. Like Sting out of the Police.

The youngest, too, is on a mission. He has to learn to swim or he won’t be swimming. Saying “I can swim,” is, much to his surprise, not enough.

The bonus is that he’s fearless in water. Like I noted when we went in the hotel pool, that is both a good thing and a bad thing. Like having no fear of hairy, venomous spiders. Less screaming and flailing around when you see one and more, you know, death for trying to play with it.

So the youngest is going to try hard. Like his life depends on it. And, it kinda does. But he’s got some challenges a well. There are other kids in his group that’ll be fun to play with. There’s all kinds of cool things to do in the water rather than swim. And, towering above him, a slide that has to be tried, then tried again, face first, then tried, again, face first on his stomach, then face first, on his stomach, with his hands behind his back…

You can see the look in his eyes as he stares up at it, his instructor beginning to explain something super important.

The course takes a week.

They both have a week to pass.

But I have to wonder…Will their willpower to succeed overcome the obstacles?

Adventures In Parenting – Let’s Get Ready To Rrrrrrrumble!

Let’s Get Ready to Rrrrrrumble!!

The boys’ first lesson in Jujitsu was about to begin.

giWould it be a complete disaster, the type that gets a billion hits on youtube? Or would they find it fun, would they learn something, would they become elite MMA bad-asses?

They looked nervous in their t-shirts and shorts as they stood waiting to go onto the mat. The other boys were dressed in proper gis.  The instructor was dressed in a gi. However, I think they were less concerned with how they were dressed than with the idea that they were about to get their arms ripped off. I had exactly the opposite concern.

[wpvideo 1VmrDj6e] Then it was time to start. I’d hoped this would be good exercise for them. Maybe teach them more discipline, maybe some respect for authority (ok, respect for MY authority) and maybe some life-long skills to survive in a harsh world.

They were 2 of 4 kids. They marched onto the mat then looked back at me like they were unsure that this all wasn’t some big Joe-joke being played on them.

They all began with exercises. First up, what looked like a crab walk, then the instructor changed to something called shrimping, which made me think of how long it’s been since I’d eaten shrimp. Shrimping looks basically how it sounds. They lie on their side and shuffle up, then curl up, then shuffle from the other side, then repeat. The youngest took it as a challenge to beat all the other kids. His technique looked more like… well, you know when you put a glob on water on a hot pan, how it hops around… yup, that was him.

The oldest, however, watched and listened to the instructor’s directions and did his absolute best to repeat the movements. When corrected, he adjusted his body as needed. When the youngest was corrected, he gave the instructor a look, (a look I’d seen on his grandad’s face several times), that basically said why are you bothering me, I’m doing everything perfectly and should, in fact, be teaching this class myself.

Then it was on to other exercises where the instructor both encouraged and pushed the boys. Sure they were new, but they had to finish. Sure they weren’t as fast, but he required they try hard. No harder. Come on, you’re nearly done, finish it up. There you go!

The instructor was fantastic. He just had that fun, outgoing energy that I’m sure gets him laid a lot. He was patient and supportive and always down on the mats with the kids, showing them how it was done. He made them laugh, and he made them sweat.

Much to my surprise, the oldest rocked at the exercises. The youngest, giggling, sprawling around trying to figure out how make his young body move, was less successful. But he didn’t care. To him it was a race and he usually won.

Then, when it came to actually learning the moves, again it was the oldest who seemed to grasp it all very quickly. Oh, he wasn’t perfect, but he was limber enough to do all the holds and because he listened and because he watched with fierce intensity, he was able to duplicate the complicated moves.

There was no way I could have done as well. Not even close. I have a hard time lifting my legs to put on a footrest. The ability to wrap them around another human being and vice-grip that lock is about as far beyond me as trigonometry is for my dog.

[wpvideo hEYoQeS9]But color me stunned. The oldest is the guy who hates sports. Or at least says he does. Me thinks he might just hates group sports where he would let the team down if he dropped the ball or didn’t understand what to do.

For the youngest, it was a good gigglefest. He didn’t like that he had to be serious. He’s 7. Being serious is a long way off for him. Maybe 40 years. But he did enjoy the dodgeball, he loved trying to beat his brother at shrimping and when he learned that the next session, they’d work on choke holds, he was ten tons of excited.

But as I watched the oldest do so well, it occurred to me that maybe no one’s every explained something like soccer to him on a really basic level. In martial arts, they break it down. Move here. Hold this, Twist that. Stop poking your brother in the eye with your elbow. It’s methodical. It’s scripted. A-B-C-D.

More importantly, though, than being good at it, he actually seemed to like doing it!

I can’t tell you how proud I was. Not that he could do things easily, (he remains a far, far, far better singer than I’ll ever be – honestly, a pitch-prefect singer), but that he was having fun by pushing his boundaries. He had to touch other people, grab them, shift them about. He had to listen, to learn, to replicate what he’d seen. And he did it better than I could have ever imagined.

Could it be he’d found his niche?

Only time will tell.

At the end, a little red-faced, he still stood against the wall with his brother and enjoyed a good game of dodgeball, giggling, flailing out of the way of the ball. On the mat, he’d had the intensity of an adult. Dodging the ball, he was a kid, again. What an amazingly awkward time of life. That shift from being a kid to being a teenager/adult.

The next week, we signed them both up for more classes, bought them both Gis, and their first belt, a pristine white one.

Another journey for them had begun, each taking a different route.

But things would get harder and harder for them.

Would this martial art be for them?






Adventures in Parenting – Them’s Fighting Words

Them’s Fighting Words

IMG_0090With no vacations or hockey schools or lumber work- camps available to us, we had to choose something different for the boys to do. Maybe even chose something where they learned a thing or two. After all, playing Terraria every waking hour of their existence might be fun, but did it allow them to expand their experiences?

Ah, no.

But what we could get them to do?

Ballet? Swimming? Sky diving?

In the end, we decided on something less dangerous – we signed the boys up for jiu-jitsu, something I still can’t spell right without a spellchecker. Brazilian jiu-jitsu to be exact.

BJJNow BJJ’s basically a martial art that relies on holds, submissions and takedowns. Way, way back in the day (yes, I say that now) jiu-jitsu ruled the MMA world. A wee little guy name Hoyce Gracie took down bigger men, stronger men, meaner men. How? By quietly working their limbs into a position that would make even a seasoned professional wrestler wince. Or by choking them out.

So, we thought, that’s the ticket. Something like wrestling.

But what did the boys think when we told them?

The youngest was super excited until he found out he couldn’t actually punch people in the face. That’s another discipline. He was even more concerned when he found out he couldn’t kick anyone either.

The oldest simply shrugged, but much to our surprise, didn’t offer any real resistance. I think we caught him while he was a bit sleepy.

So the search began for a good gym. It had to be close to us. It had to have a good teacher. And it had to have a spirit of fun and learning. There were some bigger gyms out there, some with good reputations, but in the end, we chose a smaller one. Mostly so the boys wouldn’t be stuck in a class of 20 kids who knew a ton more than they did.

Infinity MMA was our choice.

They offered, as most gyms do, the first few weeks for free. And I love free. So we took the boys there, dressed in shorts and t-shirts. Covering the floor were blue mats were ringed with red mats. The walls had mirrors. In the corner was a dummy the youngest begged to punch. It smelled like most gyms do, that kind of sweaty funk that I swear seeps into the very walls. Both boys looked nervous. Like I was taking them to be shot. Or have shots.

We came early so the boys could also take a look at kickboxing. Now there was a sport the youngest could love. The other kids were kicking and punching each other like crazy, but when the youngest saw that they ended every session with a dodgeball game, he was sold. Apparently they played that after the BJJ, too. He could forgo fisticuffs, if he could play dodgeball at the end. So BJJ was ok.

The oldest, however, watched everything with great intensity. How they moved. What instructions were being given. If anyone was being yelled at.

The instructor was a young man. Oh god, I said young man. Early 20’s. Tall. Lean. Smiled a lot. He radiated youthful enthusiasm. The other kids seemed to respect him and, more importantly perhaps, listen to him.

I liked the guy. I thought he’d be good for the boys.

IMG_4106The kickboxing class ended and it was the boys’ turn.

Now we would find out if they liked it or not.