Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Magic

Well, I believe we reached another parenting milestone last night. Milestone may not be the right word though. I don't want to imply that it was some achievement that was reached. You just seem to know when you have one of those moments in your life as a parent that is significant in the development of your child. You just know, in that moment, that your child and you will remember it for the rest of your lives. Because you remember when this particular event from your own childhood.
Last night we had the Santa talk with Caz. To be fair, Demi did most of the talking. Caz finally got the nerve to ask about Santa outright. I think we were fortunate to get this far. I think Caz has some serious suspicions last year. But he still had enough of that fear of "what if I am wrong" to keep him from asking or actively trying to verify his hypothesis. This year, he overcame that fear and fired that shot across the bow. But it was still posed with a lot of hesitation. Demi caught the brunt of it. She tried to appeal to me for help with the patented eyebrow raise. But I was really concerned that I was not catching the right signal. I really didn't know which way she wanted me to go. No way was I blowing this one. I hadn't caught the first few questions. The last thing we needed was to take a pitch when a hit and run was called. It wouldn't be the first time. By the end of it though, Caz had his answer. He also seemed to understand that this conversation was top secret. He was not to discuss this with any of his friends, and especially not with his brother. I think he got the point. I remember my own conversation with my parents. Having a little brother, I got the same follow up talk. And I got the point too.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Bowl 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! Football and food. This could be the best holiday every conceived. Almost. This has actually been on of the Top Thanksgivings in Chin lore. Usually it is the days leading in the create the stress. I can't really complain, as Demi does the lion share of the work and preparation. But I feel like I can't sit when I get home at night that week of Thanksgiving. There's cleaning, brine, prep work, and the general organized chaos that goes with each holiday. Even more so when you are the household hosting the big meal. I dreaded the lead in even more than in years past, since Demi was very sick the weekend before this Thanksgiving. This may have actually lessened the stress, since she could not be up and about until 2 days before. I did actually try to clean the place but believe it or not, that is normal. I generally clean a lot on weekends. While I cook the boys breakfast, I seem to constantly be cleaning up the kitchen. Boys are indeed gross. They make a mess. You would be surprised by the debris they leave in their wake when the just pour themselves a drink. Even sick and with limited time, Demi outdid herself this year. I think she had the perfect amount of appetizers, sides and turkey. The turkey itself was outstanding. Between the brine and the hours she spent on line tyring to find the perfect way to cook a bird, this was the juiciest turkey ever. Coco was actually her sous chef. He was great. He was full arm deep into the bird, rubbing butter and spices under the skin and on the skin. He stuffed the cavity with veggies and herbs. He peeled the sweet potatoes and orchestrated the whole sweet potato casserole with crushed pecan topping. He was very proud of himself, and he earned it. Demi should be proud of herself as well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Raking Leaves

An amazing thing happened this past weekend. I asked for and received immediate help with the yard work. I actually didn't even utter the words "rake leaves" but before I could get out there in the front yard, Caz was already out with rake in hand. Coco was on his way too. I don't want to imply that the kids never help. But usually there is a fair amount of cajoling, bartering, pleading, whining, and/or complaining, by one or all of us. This time it was pleasant and respectful all the way around. It is one of those times that you can sense that your hard work in parenting is paying off and maybe, just maybe, you are doing the right thing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dancing with the Stars

Caz started ballroom dancing this year. Coach Lenny and I compared notes, and this class of students, meaning the 5th grade in general, does everything. And they do it all together. This class participates in everything. Especially the boys. And actually, in this ballroom dancing class the boys outnumber the girls. Caz looks likes such a young man in his suit and tie. He went willing with Demi to pick out the whole ensemble. He requested a black suit and tie. I am fairly certain it was so he would look like MIB and/or FBI. I ask him what he learns each time. He sort of shrugs it off, giving the standard replies: "Nothing" or "Not much". But that goes for school, football, and other activities as well. I think he secretly digs it.


Proof that our environment is getting more and more out of control each day: I now have to dodge coyotes on the highway on the way to work. Around 5:30 AM, on my way to work, I had a medium size coyote (and yes, I now see them frequently enough to be able to gauge the average size of an adult coyote) dart out in front of me on the highway. Fortunately for both of us, it was far enough ahead of me and I had my eye on it the whole way. I was able to not have to swerve or slow down a whole lot. Progress and evolution just changing out environment rapidly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Adventures in NH

Family vacation time again. I am so glad that we are able to get back on track and take a weekend hiatus this year. We really missed it last season. Football season with two kids is always hectic. But this season, with kids in two leagues, it was even more so. I think Demi and I actually worked a bit harder, so that we didn't short either league with our volunteering. Although, I think if you asked either league, they may not have agreed. You can only be in one place at one time. Fortunately, there was not a whole lot of overlap during games.
I really enjoy our weekends in NH. This time of year is just so peaceful there. It's after summer resort, lake, and family attraction season but still before ski season. We did some of our usual hikes. But this year we got to share them with my brother and his family. It's like seeing the place for the first time. You get a fresh perspective with the rookies along. It was nice to spend some time with them too.
I think we ate a whole herd of cattle though. BBQ almost every night. Coco started the trend. He ordered the ribs the first night and ended up with the best meal by far. We ordered him a full rack figuring we would pitch in, but that little bugger ate the lion's share by far. I don't know where he packs it on that skinny frame. Here I was trying to set a good example by ordering something I hadn't eaten before. Rainbow trout. It was fine. Demi hated it, and she loves fish. But I got scrod. I should have gone with my initial instinct and gotten the burger.
The boys really traveled well. No DVD player. No movies. They actually napped a bit. No bickering. We played some family games. The "initial game". There are actually two version of that game. The traditional you have to name a famous person who's first name begins with the first letter of the last name the player before you uses. Double letters reverses directions. In college this was played with the "drink while you think rule". Then there is guessing the initials. The person has to be known to all players. It usually ends up being a hybrid of 20 questions too.
That is the quality family time that is precious. That is what these trips are all about.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Coach's Log - Part 2

Being the head coach of Coco's team was challenging to put it politely. To tell the truth, it was a nightmare. I have mentioned before that as a class, Caz's grade is the gold standard for athleticism. So I try to keep that in perspective. But Coco's class? Well......not quite as fortunate. Just not the same caliber.
Mite level coaching is always a challenge. As much as one think they have loads of football knowledge and experience, it is quite a different endeavor to communicate that knowledge to 7, 8, or 9 year olds. I feel for teachers. I only have them for 90 mins of practice a couple times a week. Duxbury separate their grade schools. K-2 are one school and 3-5 are at another. Now to say that the K-2 school is over nurturing, is a vast understatement. "Hands are for helping" Great for school. Lousy for football. It's hard enough to get kids past their instincts. Running full speed and creating a big collision with another moving objects, is not a natural reaction. Add the very passive undertones of our daily education to the mix and I had my work cut out for me.
I had quite an array of talent. I had one kid that was on his back, wailing most of practice. He wailed, "he's trying to kill me" during his first contact drill. I had kids that didn't really want to be their. Picking daisies in T-Ball is not the same as picking daisies in football. It can get you or someone else hurt. I had some kids who were really into it. But they became my shadow. I had some very hyper personalities. I had some kids who were athletically gifted but directionally challenged (had trouble with left and right). But overall, they were a good bunch of kids. The kids I can deal with.
The parents on the other hand? Well, it's like any youth sport. You have some really good, supportive parents. Even some of my good parents were high maintenance. Constantly needed something. I am a planner, but I think a few have OCD. Every email I sent generated a dozen questions. Then I have parents that really needed their hands held throughout the season. I did try to create open lines of communications. I wanted to head off any grumbling or "why isn't Johnny the QB?" talk before it happened. I would rather parents come to me that b*tch behind my back. I had some very open and honest dialogue and I think folks respected that. But I still had one mom that wanted to be my offensive coordinator. I did hear she'd complain that I couldn't get the kids to block for her "gifted and special" son. Meanwhile, special son ran left when the play was called right.
Some problems were my own doing. I was trying to be a nice guy. I had one kid that was too old for my team, and two kids that were over the weight limit. But they all wanted to stay with the team. So I had kids that practiced but didn't play. In extra games (non-playoff impacting games commonly referred to as JV games), I would have to get special permission from the other coach for these kids to play. I had to generate these extra games to accommodate my large roster. After being told that as a coach, I would control my roster and limit it to anything 25 or over, I was informally told by the Board President not to say no to anyone. Even though 6 or so parents, could not be bothered to sign up by the deadline. So I signed on for 8 games and ended up with 12. We were 0-7-1 in official games, so there was no postseason impact there. Trying to balance all those games, in addition to Caz's games, was a logistical cluster.
I will spare you all of the in depth details. But I really did not enjoy coaching this team this year. I know it's awful to say. But it's true. I relay don't know that I want to do it all again next year. I will not pull a Brett Favre. So I will not voice any hint of a decision at this time. I do need some time to pass to gain some perspective.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Coach's Log - Part One

This was a very interesting year of coaching. I thought this year might be a lot like last year, all Coco's team and none with Caz's. But I was hopeful that it might be different. I was hoping that I might be able to take an active part in Caz's football season.
Caz was in his new league. No only am I a head coach in the "other" league, but an active Board member as well. I had inquired into attending the Board meetings of Caz's league, just to get sense of what goes on and how things are handled. I didn't end up going but I did make it clear that I intended to support my son and his team in his league, just as much as I would for my youngest son. So the first week of preseason, I made my pitch. Oh, and did I tell you that Caz's head coach was also the President of the league. If ever there a man that had a lot of reasons not to accept my pitch.......I offered to hold tackling dummies and keep my mouth shut, whatever he wanted. As I pointed out in my preseason blog, I was very impressed with the early practices. I thought he ran good practices, and motivated the kids well. He instilled discipline and was tough, but he reinforced with positive teaching. It was my mentor, Coach Lenny, that started my involvement with the team. He beckoned me over, when I was hanging out, watching practice. He had me help out on Defense, like we did in the old days. At the end of practice, Caz's head coach, Gino, has each coach speak to the kids. He saw me helping out Lenny, and asked me to join in on the end of practice talk. He accepted my pitch. And he was very gracious about it.
From there, I helped out as much as I could. I could make at least one practice a week and parts of others. I just jumped right in the old routine with Coach Lenny. I think the first game, really solidified my role on the team. Fortunately, Caz started one week earlier that Coco, so I had no conflict with Coco's practices or games. I could concentrate only on Caz and his team for a weekend. It was a really exciting game. We led the entire game, up until the last 2 and half minutes. Then the wheels came off. But in the process of the game, I established a niche for myself with the kids and the other coaches. I was there to stay.
I really had a lot of fun coaching this team. Certainly, there was a lot less pressure, since I was not the head coach. They were also kids older that I had coached. These kids had a bit more understanding that what I was used to. But I just flat out loved being with this team. I found the joy in coaching again. And for that I am thankful. So I owe a lot to Gino. The man had every incentive and right to send me packing. But he took me in. I think that is a good start for the leagues. Both leagues should have a good repoire. It is supposed to be about the kids. If both leagues and work together, then all the kids win.