Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy Trails

We took our first camping trip as a family over Memorial Day weekend. Lehr and Eli have camped half a dozen times, but Maddux had never been, and I hadn't been in years. We planned on a more mild hike out, one with flatter terrain, and a one-night stay. The trail we chose was Panther Creek; I've hiked it several times, but not in close to five years. Eli and Maddux were super-psyched to go, especially because D would be accompanying us. They each packed their camel-backs with water, a snack and a few toys or books (small ones, of course). Lehr and David suited up about 25 lbs worth of gear on each of them and I hauled the food and more water.

We arrived at the trail head around 3PM on Sunday. We figured we had about a 3mile hike to the spot we had in mind, so we'd be safe with daylight. As we went, the kids did great, stopping to ask Daddy for food every few minutes, and chatting us up the whole time. We passed several great spots, but we held out for the main waterfall. Around 6PM we passed yet another great spot, and it was starting to show signs of decreased light. The group decided I should run ahead for about 10 minutes to see if I could get a better feel for how close we were to the waterfall. I ran, didn't feel any more confident, and had to hurdle a snake. About this time I was ready to go home.

We turned around and hiked another 20 minutes back to one of the good spots we passed and set up camp. The kids had a blast 'helping' D and Daddy cook the food while I set up some of our tent. We dined on red beans and rice (from a bag) on top of a huge rock. Try as they could, the boys couldn't get any wet wood to light for a fire, so the kids had to roast their marshmallows over the 'stove'. We all fell asleep pretty quickly and soundly, due largely to the loud, white-noise producing waterfall next to our camp site. (BTW - we had the site ALL to ourselves!)

We rose about 7AM on Monday, well after light came. D and Daddy tried to make pancakes, but they weren't great. Eli still ate three. We packed up and hiked back out, a little slower than we'd come in the day before. Monday found more whining by Eli, but Maddux was still amazing. She played "Animal, Animal", yelled out "Pe-CAWWW!" whenever we got separated, and sang and danced her way back to the parking lot. What a trooper!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ballet Buddies

For Maddux's last ballet class this week, she was allowed to bring a friend along to participate in the class with her. Maddux chose Anni, a slightly older friend we hang with whenever we can. We picked Anni up on the way to class and Maddux was SOO excited to have it just be the girls in the car. (The stars aligned and Lehr ended up with an appointment at the house at the same time, so Eli stayed with him.) The girls were so cute, dressed almost identically. Since I'm not allowed to watch the class, I couldn't see all they did, but the laughter was indicative of a good time. Maddux assured me that she stayed with Anni during the class, "cuz she didn't know anyone else".

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Championship Game

Eli and his team (the Twins) had their last game tonight: the championship game for the Shetland league. Up until that point they were undefeated throughout the season and the tournament. Pretty crazy, but the boys were really good in fielding, and I think that is what held other teams off thus far. The team we were playing was the one that caused us extra innings just about a week ago; they were tough! The boys flip flopped the score with the other team a few times, winning and then getting behind. Eli had a few great throws from center field; his arm is getting much stronger. Eli smacked the ball every time he got up there, getting a double, scoring two runs, and getting out at home one time. After five innings of battle, the Twins came out on top. Such excitement. For the parents, it was relief too; had they lost, the boys would have had to play the same team again immediately. A double header, at night, on the last day of school. None of us wanted to go down that road!

Trophies for both teams followed, and our coach was great with his short speech, complimenting the other team as well as all coaches and parents involved with both teams. When we got to the snack table, he awarded two game balls and had some words of praise for a few key players. He called Eli a 'double machine' because of the way he was hitting. That was really cool. Later, when I emailed pictures to all of the parents, one of the dads (who is an assistant coach), had this to say about Eli: "... Eli is such a wonderfully fun kid and I enjoyed helping coach him. He is always smiling and no one had more fun than him. Plus he is turning into one heck of a good baseball player." Mommy was pretty proud of that. As we'd done before, we praised Eli up and down for always keeping a 'happy heart' during the game, even when it looked like his team would lose. And we reminded him that his effort was what caused us pride, not the outcome of the game.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Last Day of School

Today was bittersweet. Eli loves school, but we're all excited about pool, park, family, fun times in the next two months. Lehr shot a quick video of Eli walking up to the bus, without his backpack, for the last time as a Kindergartner. I met them at the bus stop to give him a big hug and a high five. When Maddux and I met him there after school, a friend had brought Popsicles to celebrate the day. Also, a neighbor was graduating from Elementary School, so her family was waiting to bomb her with water balloons and squirt guns; awesome! We had a fun afternoon talking about all of the things we will fill our days with now. Eli is most concerned about our 'school time' at home....he's already got a plan of action for us!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Last Week of School

Hard to believe, but this is Eli's last week of Kindergarten. He has 1/2 days this week and will finish the year completely on Wednesday. I can't even describe how impressed I am with the progress he's made in such a seemingly short time. I know it happens to most Kindergartners, given that they usually start out as pre-readers and limited writers, but wow. Eli writes 'books', reads anything he can get his hands on, adds and subtracts, remembers random facts about things he reads (space shuttles and baseball, specifically)... He's already asking when I am going to start 'school' with him over the summer. I guess that means he doesn't want to wait until next week as I'd originally planned!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Swim Team

Eli is finally old enough to join our neighborhood swim team. He was so anxious last year as he watched the older kids, including a few of his friends...this summer could not get here fast enough for him. We've had a few weeks of practices and Eli is already improving in endurance, big time! He can know swim a 25 and about 1/4 of that back without stopping to grab the side and take a breather. (Better than Mommy!) His first meet (a practice one) will take place this coming week. I'm pretty sure he will not compete against other kids, just against his own time.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Holy Roller-Coaster, Batman!

Wow. Eli's baseball season has been amazing, but tonight takes the cake. The Twins finished the regular season, undefeated. Even through a few tough games, even when three key players were gone for Spring Break, even when they didn't have their "A" game. So far the difference Lehr and I have seen setting this team apart from any others we've been a part of is the consistency across the board with the boys. We have two or three older, better players, as each team has, but what we don't have is a big drop-off to the rest of the team. These boys are all at a very solid playing level, on the field and at bat. It's been really fun to watch in amazement at some of the fielding that happens with the Twins.

Saturday's game was so crazy; we only played three innings because at that point we were so far ahead that the other team couldn't come back to win. Eli hit TWO doubles in that game. Tonight was the second or third tournament game (I can't remember!).We started out getting five (the max allowed) runs in the first and the other team matched us. Then we shut them out and they shut us out. Then we got two and they got four. Then they got a few more runs ahead (maybe a total of six?), and it wasn't looking good. Unfortunately what a winning season has done to a few boys is given them a false sense that success is only found in a "W". There were several tears by a few, but we rallied back and ended the fifth inning tied up again. Now we're in extra innings and we played two solid where we matched whatever they threw at us. The third extra inning went to tournament rules which meant the other team started at the beginning of their line-up and batted through. They could score up to 11 runs, but outs still counted. We held them at three runs. Our turn and we had two runs on the board before they got the first out. Eli smacks it outfield and advances to first. Then third, and we're tied. One of our sluggers hits it deep outfield and Eli gets to score the winning run.

Adrenaline. Emotion. We were all drained...I can't stop smiling and yet I feel like crying in pride. Even when the few boys struggled to keep an optimistic outlook, they STILL played their best. The fielding on this team is amazing. At least three innings started with one of our players catching a pop-fly or line drive. One was a diving catch!! When it came time for coach to talk to the boys, he held up two balls. He reminded the team that he really needed 12 game balls because each and every boy had contributed so much. The first went to one of the kids who hit solidly every time at bat and really helped us advance the runners. The second went to Eli for his outstanding hits. (I forgot to mention: Eli hits HARD now, usually to the grass or beyond, and he hasn't been tagged out in several games.) Coach said he was 'just so proud' of Eli.

This was very unexpected and reaaaaallllly cool to me. During the regular season, it works out so each player gets a game ball; the coaches make sure of it. But the tournament games are 100% based on who showed up and put the work in; no quotas to fill. Eli has never received a tournament ball before, and we've played many tournament games. Life is good.

I was way proud of Eli, but what I reminded him the whole ride home was that I wasn't proud of the win - I was proud of the playing. The boys never played like they were giving up; they left it all on the field each time and THAT'S why they ended up with the win. I also drilled into Eli's head that I was proud of his hits, but I was even more proud that he listened to his coaches and kept the love of the game in focus. Eli has yet to get down or beat himself (or the team) up when a play doesn't go right or when they are losing. He has a happy innocence about it that I hope he never loses; Eli loves baseball and that's all that matters to him right now.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Jazz Fest 2011

What a weekend! The four of us drove to New Orleans on Thursday, and arrived just in time for bed. We were staying with friends who were awesome enough to offer up TWO rooms for us to sleep in. I got Maddux, the Twister-player through the night, while Lehr stayed with Eli, teeth-grinder extraordinaire. We did not sleep much.

Friday morning we woke up and hung out with our friends and their twin boys all morning before heading to Jazz Fest in time for the first show just before noon. Satchmo, the dog, was a big hit with the kids. Maddux does not understand that dogs don't all know her well, so 'gentle' was something I had to remind her often.

Of course, red beans and rice was on the menu as soon as we arrived at Fest. Maddux got her face painted almost immediately by a traveling artist. Just before our second show started we ran into friends from Atlanta, and Eli ASKED to have a nap in the BOB. The rest of the day we visited a few stages, ate a few helpings of awesome food, and took in some great music. Dinnertime found us at a great restaurant we visited last year. Both kids opted for red beans and rice...AGAIN.

Saturday morning was great; we had awesome weather and spent most of it on a trolley. The twins had never been before, so Eli and Maddux got to show them the ropes. Once at fest, we hit a few tents early on in anticipation of a few stage (outdoor) shows to come. One of the tents we visited early on was the Economy tent where we dance and 'second line' every year. It was a blast until Maddux took a kick to the shoulder. She was fine, but yikes!

From there we went to a stage and Eli got to ride Daddy's shoulders up front to see Trombone Shorty really close. Maddux napped most of that show, so I remained towards the back and just listened. We didn't last long after that show. Dinner was really close to our friends' house, so we walked there once we returned home. Grilled oysters, fish, cornbread...we had it all. When we finished, we walked to a gelato shop and the kids were beside themselves with excitement over a sugary treat. Eli even commented, "This is the best day ever...I'm gonna dream about this tonight!"

Our last day included beignets...yum. We stopped off for the sweet dough before fest; Happy Mothers' Day! Sunday was another awesome day of music. We saw some brass bands, Michael Franti, and closed out with Robert Randolf. Maddux napped hard at the end, but Eli lasted the whole day. Both kids rode Daddy's shoulders during the Franti concert; they had a blast!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Maddux's Year-End Songs

The day we left for Jazz Fest, Maddux's class had a performance including their favorite songs from each month of school. Quite the medley of yell-singing, but it was fun to see. Maddux sings these songs (and MANY more) every day at home, so none of them were new to us. The highlight for Maddie? Daddy taking her to school and attending the performance.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Space Shuttle Book

Eli is very into writing these days. Sometimes it's labeling a picture he drew, sometimes it's writing lyrics to a song (current or one he's creating), and sometimes it's making a book. Before we left for Fest, Eli made a book about shuttles. He has certain facts totally memorized, so he didn't have to do any additional research to write this book. Eli does not like to look up spelling, and if he's already written out the word, he doesn't like to hear that it's not correct, so most of the time he ends up just sounding words out. Below are a few pages of the book....the rest are in this album.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Good Day

Eli had THE best day today. It would figure that it started out rough with a capital 'ROUGH'. Lehr's short time with him before school this morning was nothing short of yuck. But by the time I got to his class around 9:45 to work, he was in a great mood.

He got 4 +'s. He came home happy. He had a play date and was an angel. He listened to me. He included Maddux. He followed rules even when his friend didn't. He was pleasant after we dropped his friend off. He asked me if he could do a handful of things once we returned home and I made dinner. Even though the answer was 'no' most to most of those requests, he stayed happy. Even better, he actually said, "OK, Mommy!", when I told him 'no'. Weird. Very odd. And oh-so cool.

Great dinner. Great after dinner play. Normally bedtime is when it would all crumble. He was amazing. He kept his happy heart all of the way to the end. When I tucked him in and kissed him good-night, Eli told me, "Mommy, I'm proud that I made a lot of good choices today." Melt, melt.