• Bring It On

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    The annual Foosball tournament is Bill’s pet project, and he applies the same concentration and diligence to creating the teams and brackets as he does in crafting a legal brief.

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    None of the moms play foosball on a regular basis during the year, what with raising children and all, and the kids who are saddled with a mother as a teammate struggle to hide their disappointment.

    I was paired with Kimberly’s husband.  I was counting on his innate athleticism (he runs and plays tennis) to at least get us through the first round.  Finn and Drew were having none of it, though, and beat us before I was completely sure the game had started.  Maybe I should have worn my reading glasses to better track that tiny ball.

    Although her husband’s tennis skills weren’t helpful, Kimberly is even better and plays at level AA1.  I don’t understand the ranking system, but in practical terms this means she must play with the tennis pro or someone who was on the tour in order to find decent competition.  And she’s all about competition.

    I’m thinking it was her insane competitive drive that carried her and the Voice of Reason’s son through to the finals against Finn and Drew.  It was a ball-buster, and Drew was visibly nervous that he would let Finn down.
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    It was best 2 out of 3, and after the first game Finn and Drew did a few exercises to keep their wrists supple.

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    Finn was encouraging to Drew and put on a fabulous big brother act: “Way to save the goal, Drew.  Good defense.  Dude, that point was all you.”
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    It was sweet to watch, but his act was diluted when Finn them turned around and kicked Porter in the shins, saying, “Quit crowding me!  You’re always in my way!”  When I counseled him on his attitude toward Porter, he said, “I’ll be his brother, but I won’t be his friend if he keeps acting like such a baby all the time.”  He has a point.  Porter is socially immature, but the solution is not a kick in the scrotum, as far as I’ve read.

    Finn and Drew emerged victorious and pleased with themselves, and there was much high-fiving throughout the house.
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    This morning the boys were headed to the beach.

    “Have you buttered the boys?” I asked Bill, who was loading his backpack with his newly purchased kite, another of his favorite beach activities.  He really should have been a camp counselor.

    “No, but if it’s eating you, butter them yourself,” he said.

    “It’s not eating at me,” I said, and I let them go.

    Our Memphis friend shook his head at the whole exchange.  “I know a bunch of Yankees who’d need some serious translation for that.”

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    I’m traveling with people, including my husband, who “don’t get” blogs.  Bill insists I’m living in Second Life, although where he picked up that term I don’t know.  He also says that writing on a blog is like putting earrings on a pig.  You can call it what you want, but it’s not “real” writing, he says.  He’s no different from Richard Schickel in this regard.

    They’re both wrong, of course.  Why should the quality of the writing be based on whether it’s published in print or on the internet?

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    A look back in My Tiny Kingdom: Schickel Insults Blogs; Melee Ensues

  • Out Of Reach At The Beach

    I’m in a house at the beach with double the number of penises I usually live with.  This year we’re sharing a house with our friends from Memphis, who also have three boys.  One is Finn’s age and the others are four and eighteen months– precious reminders of those ages which seem so far away with my own guys.  The other two families we vacation with are just across the street.  It’s our own beach kibbutz.

    Last year the mothers (we were all college roommates) were afraid that the oldest kids, two boys and two girls, might stop being friendly and start being romantic.  We were lucky then, and  this year, although the hormones have definitely increased, the twelves are primarily concerned with protecting the whereabouts of their secret hiding place, reachable only by bike.  “Let’s go play cards” is code for an imminent meeting, and so far even Drew, determined teen-wannabe, hasn’t cracked it.

    This is the eleventh year we’ve taken this trip, and having the two littlest boys reminds us of how far we’ve come.  Was Drew really just eighteen months old the year he got stitches in his lip from a shady Doc O’ The Beach?  He seemed so OLD.  Remember the year we started bringing bikes without training wheels?    How long have I been making this delicious bean dip we eat every evening while the adults drink and play dice games?

    Traditionally we go to the beach in the morning.  Porter skimboards,
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    the majority of the children dig and make castles,
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    and a few holdouts stick close to the grownups waiting for the goldfish and pretzels to come out.
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    Goldfish served on a plastic tennis paddle

    Some members of our group have amused themselves by sitting on the beach and watching the people who walk by, then determining whether they are wearing proper beachwear.  Should that lady’s cleavage be more covered?  Is a Speedo ever appropriate outside the Olympics?  (No- our husbands deserve to see some buxomness without having to buy a magazine for that particular purpose.  Yes- it is also permissible to wear a Speedo at the Olympic trials, but these are not typically held at the beach.)

    Finn and I have taken a couple of walks and determined that this year’s popular beach read is The Shack, a book that I was too snobby to order when Bill asked me to because the reviews castigated its poor writing.  Other reviewers have called it the greatest “guy meets God” book EVER and the beach readers appear entertained.

    After so many years we’re used to each other’s idiosyncrasy’s. For example, Kimberly refuses to buy any food that contains calories.  Also, she loves the beach, except for the sand.  We’ve spent many years bribing children to spill sand on her pristine feet so that we can watch her freak out and them carefully de-sand herself with the Diet Dr. Pepper can of water she keeps handy just for this purpose.

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    I’m still practicing with my camera, and Me Ra Koh is my new hero.  At BlogHer she was able to make concepts I’ve read about and struggled to understand seem easy-peasy.  I’ve picked a different tip to work on each day, and I’ve filled the frame, learned to blur the background, experimented with higher and lower ISO to increase color saturation and get shots in a dimmer setting. The pictures of Drew digging and this one and the one above of Porter skim boarding were taken at a lower ISO and should have more color saturation.

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    I took these below of Porter on the Auto setting and they should have less saturation, although it’s hard for me to tell after a couple of glasses of wine:

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    Some things don’t change, whether you’re home or away. We came home from an adult evening out last night. All three of my boys had put themselves to sleep, as instructed, although Porter put his special twist on it.

    Goodnight, Finn.

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    Goodnight, Drew.

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    Well, maybe not exactly as instructed. Porter is buried under those pillows, and plans to sleep in this fort for the rest of the week.

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    Two years ago at the beach in My Tiny Kingdom: No Smooching In The Boys’ Room
    Good Lord!  That was TWO years ago?
  • Card Sharks & Bats

    Bill and I were a bit worried that the twins wouldn’t enjoy Cooperstown as much as Finn would. The main purpose of the trip was for Finn to play baseball, after all, and Porter and Drew were required to watch a couple of games a day. We hadn’t been there an hour before I realized I’d underestimated their ability to enjoy themselves regardless of the circumstances, although they did so in very different ways.

    Drew idolized the big kids and wanted nothing more than to be part of their card games, particularly one called “Presidents.” The winner of each hand was the President for the next round, while the lowest two were designated “Dirt” and “Scum.” Drew achieved his goal and played joyously with the high-schoolers, and even got to be President a time or two.

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    He hung out with the high-schoolers in the stands, cheering, one smooth-faced midget sandwiched between the six foot tall whiskered teens. (Here, of course, I’m referring to the males; the females were also smooth-faced and delicate.) By the end of the week he was convinced that he was as hip as any fifteen-year-old.

    Porter, of course, followed his own muse. He was frustrated by not being able to see the entire field from the stands, so he created a perch that solved that problem to everyone’s satisfaction, unless you were the person left without a chair.

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    He also played cards, but preferred to play poker with the dads. There were no chips to be found, but we were flush with pretzels and Ritz crackers, and Porter collected a sizable stash.
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    During breaks between games, the boys found all manner of bugs and critters to play with. Their greatest coup was the discovery of a small bat, which was either hurt or asleep.

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    This finding was made on day three, when I was suffering from exhaustion and baseball overload. I’d also had so much quality time with the twins that the quality of our time together was rapidly diminishing. That could explain my thought process, to the extent there was one, when I told them they could play with the bat BUT NOT TOUCH IT, while I headed to the nearest bed and fell asleep. I didn’t dream of rabies or bat bites, either.

    I awoke to find that they’d obeyed my instructions, although they had broadly interpreted my command. After they observed the bat, they concluded that if he was not dead, his demise was imminent. Porter slid a playing card under him which acted as a stretcher, and they deposited him into an empty cardboard box which they then filled with dirt and grass to imitate his natural habitat. Alternatively, it could serve as a coffin if he died.

    Other parents were aghast that I had let them anywhere in the vicinity of the bat, but they didn’t need 76 minutes of sleep as desperately as I did. No one has foamed at the mouth yet, so I may be in the clear despite my less than hands-on mothering.

    Porter also used my new camera a lot, and as usual, saw things his own way, just as he did when we were in Lisbon. He produced photos of our fans in action,
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    the Baseball Hall of Fame,
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    Sally the Moth, (another beloved, less menacing pet)

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    Finn pitching,

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    and Drew playing cards.

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    Truly, if he doesn’t decide to be a mama’s boy when he grows up, I think he should pursue photography. Although given the success of his amazingly high Baseball Chair, he may be an “inventor guy” after all.

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    One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Finn Chases A Dream

  • Itchy Packages and Other Ballpark Tales

    Genital matters have come to the forefront in the barracks at Cooperstown. The coaches realized that they had more than baseball to deal with yesterday when several players complained that they were itchy underneath their baseball pants. It’s no wonder; they wear sliding shorts and play in the hot sun, then head to the barracks and trade pins and eat lunch before they shower.

    They’re required to wear their bathing suits in community showers, and apparently the lack of privacy and nudity has hampered their bathing efforts. The buildup of dust and sweat in such a tender area has resulted in a condition that Bill bluntly calls “crotch rot.” Regardless of its true name, once a couple of players contracted it, the disease became a badge of honor. It’s become widespread, so although some of our guys are walking a bit gingerly, they’re holding their heads high. We’re hopeful that the tutorial on scrotal cleansing and the ointment our team doctor has administered will lick the problem.

    Tuesday morning we played the North Carolina Riptide. Before the game we were warned that the Riptide had a “troublesome parent” among their fans, who would be escorted away by security if he had another outburst. This was heartening, as we had missed the holiday fireworks due to baseball, and we felt we deserved some. We spent the game leaving men on base at the end of each inning and scanning the opposing team’s fans for the offender. Could it be the man in the red polo? The one in the orange and white T-shirt? Sadly, we lost the game, the fan behaved himself and we left the game feeling we’d lost twice.

    Losing doesn’t affect the spirit of our cheering section, which appears to be one of the strongest at the park. We haven’t seen another team sing the ESPN theme in harmony, act out a riptide, namecheck the players in order, or yell, “Let’s get up in their kitchen, Blaze!” or “Tag the bag!” with such fervor. We’ve recently added “Shake and Bake!” to the repertoire, which hasn’t helped the team but cracks up the stands.

    Tuesday afternoon we were surprised when West Pines Florida’s high school football team showed up in baseball uniforms ready to play. The Guinness Book of World Records needs to head down there when updating its entry for “World’s Largest 12-year-old,” as the team had fourteen contenders. Finn pitched and I tried yelling, “Give ‘em your easy greasy, baby!” but he shook me off, and I reverted to more traditional forms of encouragement.

    If you’re organizing a baseball team, it helps to have a parent who owns two gourmet restaurants with you. After three days of pizza and chicken fingers, parents and players were getting grumpy. We gathered at a house and worshipped at the chef’s altar as he directed the preparation of grilled chicken and flank steak, guacamole, Greek salad, and four cheese macaroni. Our able bartender Ephraim (his choice of pseudonym) continued his winning streak, serving beer, wine, and exotic mixed drinks.

    Although we thought this was going to be a family vacation, I haven’t spent much time with Bill at all, as he’s staying in the barracks with the team. We’ve resorted to kissing through the fence at the start of each game. The cookout gave us time to sit down together and talk. That’s when I learned about the itch. I also found that this is many of the boys’ first experience dressing and undressing in front of others. Bill said he stripped down the other night while our pitcher looked on and said, “That just don’t bother you none at all, does it? “

    I also discovered that the Cooperstown laundry service, while highly praised, hasn’t been so dependable for our team. The Blaze has sent off the correct number of uniforms but received only partials back, and Bill’s underwear is AWOL in the Park, rather than on his derriere.

    We appreciate all your well wishes. Our team isn’t nearly the best here, but we’re set on having the best time of any group, and so far we’re succeeding.