Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend - Together, and at the Zoo!

We started the weekend out with hamburgers on the grill Friday night. I think I grilled those in the rain, but I can't be certain, because we ended up having a GREAT weekend together :) My daughter helped my wife put some vegetable plants in the garden on Sunday. I think I even helped a bit with the garden this year - putting that fence around it with my wife.

 I did go watch some high school baseball on Saturday and then Sunday, we went to church. Had some friends of the family over for Sunday afternoon and evening - and had a blast with them. Then, on Memorial Day, we decided to head out to our Zoo. The kids were happy to get going - even in the rain.

It was probably the best day and time to go, to be honest. By the time we got to the zoo, the rain had stopped, and it was still a bit overcast. The temps would reach 90 in our backyard later in the day, but the morning at the zoo was pretty comfortable and enjoyable - even for green eggs and ham. (Dr. Seuss statues at the zoo this month!)

No Grinches today! All the animals seemed to be up and moving or close to the fences or windows.

The amur leopard was on a rock about 10 feet from the glass (see above). And the Tiger was even up and roaming around the HUGE habitat that it has (see below).

The Takin were actually moving around and eating, too. They always seem to be laying around at our zoo, so this was a pretty good indication that the weather and time of day were perfect - which we would continue to find with ALL the animals today!

The bison roam in a fenced habitat with the pronhorn deer. It was awesome enough that when we got to the fence, the bison were within 50 feet, but then the pronghorn started to run back and forth across the hills of the habitat. Then the bison took their own jog. It. Was. Cool. :)

Next up were my favorite ... the prairie dogs. They like the sunny, hot weather better, so most of them were inside their home/holes, but there were enough out to get a few good pics. One of the little guys even stood up to pose for me :)

My daughter loves the camels. They weren't very active, but they all settled in close to the fence so we could take a good look. (They're dirty.)

As we walked around the corner, I thought I heard a wolf howl. Sure enough, this guy was a few feet from the fence, and let out a few howls, just so we could hear and get a good look at him. We eventually went into the observation area and he came pretty close to the glass, as well. My daughter said that he wasn't even as big as the neighbor dog.

Reindeer in the spring? Yep. Caribou. Their fur looks funny as it's falling off, too. But they were playing around, running back and forth - and darn close to that fence, too.

The moose seemed to be one of the only ones who didn't want to get close. Good thing I have a decent zoom. Looks like his antlers need to get going. Nothing but nubbins so far.

We ened up seeing the entire outside zoo (except the farm and Minnesota trail - which we figured we had seen enough). And we ended up back by the tiger lair. Had to take the annual picture atop the big cat. Apparently the play area at the zoo is pretty fun, too. The kids loved it - spent a little while there while mommy and daddy rested up. Even climbed a cargo net. Sat on a big ant, and road some other bugs. Nothing like a little brother-sister time to let mom and dad relax :)

That's the Lorax (below).

Apparently, he's a Dr. Seuss character. My daughter kept saying that we got to see him in real-life color! My son says that he saves the trees in his book. I'll take his word for it. 

These guys don't look like they're going to save any trees.

Everyone seemed to be napping inside the tropics trail. Oh well. I took a good picture of the napping fresh water otters. The sea otters were actually pretty playful, and so were the bears. Got to see them at the start of the day in the Grizzlie Coast. No pictures of that - sorry. But this red panda was pretty cool, too - even if he is just napping in a tree.

The turtles were up and moving around, though. And they closed out the day perfectly. Time for lunch!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mother, Son ... Weather

My wife and my son had a "Mother, Son" date last weekend. I think it's a response by our nieghbor mom to the "Father, Daughter Dance" that goes on every spring. Not sure, because I haven't had any part in the dance yet. I do know that the "Mother, Son" date was a nice idea, and I'm glad our neighbor helped set up the group event for the mom's and son's in our nieghborhood.

My wife and son looked awesome for the night. Trying to get him to dress up usually is difficult, but, for some reason, I think he enjoyed putting the shirt and khaki shorts on - probably because he was promised that he could change into oversized shorts and a comfy tee once they got back from dinner for the 'dance' and party.

Speaking of dinner - it was held at the California Pizza Kitchen. Now, the food must've been good, because there weren't any left-overs (or maybe there was another explanation for those not coming home? - more on that later). My son ate three pieces of pizza and was generally well-behaved, I'm told. With eighteen (yes, 18) boys at the place - all seated at the same table, I'm not sure I would've been able to consider my behavior "well-behaved" if I had gone.

The real story of the night - besides the nice dinner and eventually nice party back at our neighbor's house - was the weather. The tornado sirens went off for our county while many of the "Mother, Son" group was still at the restaurant (apparently it's not as easy to split up a bill as most of the restaurant employees I've had wait on me actually tell me that it is). The employees at CPK didn't have a clue - about the weather, either - as I'm told, and I was worried about my family.

See, the funnel cloud was spotted just south and west of our house (maybe 20 miles) and was heading due north. If you follow the weather, you know that a strong storm will make a hard right turn eventually. So ... the next time I heard about where the funnel cloud (or the storm that created it) was spotted, they said the name of my town.

Thankfully, this storm didn't produce much, if any, destruction. My wife and son got home safely (and enjoyed the party at the neighbor's once the tornado warning expired). And the weather, for one day, in one location, looked worse that it actually was.

By the way - the rest of the story on the food - the little bit that was left over from the restaurant ... got left behind amid the confusion caused by the weather. Oh well :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Baseball is a funny game ...

And I don't mean that in the "funny, ha, ha" kind of way. What I mean is that baseball can be hard to figure out at times - and so can the people playing it. We (I mean owners of course, but WE do pay for tickets and merchandise) pay star athletes millions of dollars, have high expectations for success, watch as the athletes do whatever they can to succeed, but ultimately show their human weaknesses.

Baseball is a funny game because at the heart of it is the idea that we want to play the game as well as we can so that we can have as much fun as we can. So, we practice, right? But practice isn't that fun ... is it? Well, in the end, it comes back to the idea of 'funny.' To me, it's funny that kids can call baseball practice 'boring' or 'work.' How can that be? Maybe they need to taste a bit more of what WORK really is. Maybe?

Well, my son isn't to that point yet. He still asks to hit off a tee into a net. He still wants to play catch for as long as he can and get a third person so that we can play 'pickle' in the back yard. He still wants to watch and learn and improve - and he thinks that's FUN!

It's fun to watch what young kids do. To help them - really to help anyone who is interested in learning. And I relish the fact that I have this summer to continue watching and enjoying this 'funny' game that I love so much. At it's root, it has the elements of what I'm all about and what I'd love to teach everyone else:

- Team. It's a team game. Life is. And so, too, is baseball.
- Sacrifice. And not just the bunts and fly balls.
(Sitting on the bench while someone else plays.)
(Putting in the time during practice so that you are better during games.)
- Helping others. Assisting, shagging, rooting, cheering, carrying, communicating. It's all there for us.
- Learning. You can learn ABOUT this game. And get better.You can learn FROM this game. And each other.
- Having fun. Not goofing around. Having fun. Enjoying the ability to move, run, hit, throw, think ... and work hard at it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pre-school at Karing Kingdom ... officially ... done ... :*(

Yes, graduation took place this past week. And although our little one will not be headed to kindergarten next fall, she will be going to an elementary school for district-sponsored pre-school, so she is officially done with our favorite pre-school IN THE WHOLE WORLD!

Thank you, teachers for all you've done for our two wonderful kiddos. Both my son and daughter attended this school and they absolutely loved it (so did we!). You can see that my daughter made some great friends, and enjoyed being with her teachers, as well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


pride noun \ˈprīd\

- delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship (parental pride)

FYI: I wasn't at this game, but got the low-down from my wife, son, and mother. Apparently, he went 3 for 3, hitting twice from the left side and once from the right. Plus, he made at least two nice plays on defense. The picture above shows him fielding a grounder at third base. My wife and my mom tell me that he also made a nice backhanded play while at the pitcher's rubber - and made a nice throw to first base with it as well.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


frus·tra·tion noun \(ˌ)frəs-ˈtrā-shən\

 - a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs

Okay, so now that you have the best definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, let me explain something to you. In the horrible sequel to the movie Major League (obviously named Major League II), the manager claims that all the players can do is make excuses:

"... excuses. That's all u guys do good. It's either a leg thing or a spiritual thing or a psychological thing or a heart attack."

He obviously ends his statement with a fairly legitimate excuse, but the fact remains that there are a number of "reasons" for the lack of focus on baseball and the losing that the Cleveland Indians are going through in the movie.

I can relate.

This year has basically been one thing after another. It started with an apendectomy and a broken collar bone - no, wait, it really started with the Metrodome collapsing and our conference 'Day at the Dome' being cancelled. We also had a late winter snowfall and had to push back our first week of games. Several of the boys in our program went on spring break trips with their families - thereby missing four days of practice in a short season of practices. Work has gotten in the way of several practices and at least a game or two for a couple of players. Sore arms (most likely from not throwing in pre-season) have felled some players for days at a time. We have had three incidents of players getting 'spiked' in the hand (and receiving stitches or other medical attention and missing a game or two). Sadly, one of our players lost his grandmother. IB testing at school has held some players from being on time for a bus, a practice, or both. The flu, stomach viruses, and sinus infections have taken practice and game time. Detention has kept some younger players from participating fully. College visits also have interfered with our ability to practice. As have making up tests, umpiring youth tournaments, allergies, and finally, a field trip to the local amusement park (for physics).

Needless to say, the word of the year is 'frustration.' Yesterday at practice, out of sixteen (16) players that we have on the varsity roster, I had seven (7) show up for practice. A number of them were at the physics field trip (a few 'forgot' to mention that they would be gone for it). At least one was sick. And one player who did show up told me that he would have to have surgery on the date of our first playoff game.

Really? ... really?

Did I mention that we have two players hitting over .300 on the team? ... total. And that the one having surgery is one of those players hitting over .300?

Now, I'm not going to judge, because that's not my job. But I'm frustrated that we can't get the commitment level to work at baseball. And the consequences of not being at that level have shown this year ...

... one win.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Day at the Children's Museum

Can you really beat a day at the Children's Museum? Only if you ad in Church, a stop for coffee (for Mom and Dad, of course), and a beautiful day in the sixties with sun to cut the grass, do some gardening, play around, grill out, and relax. Church certainly provided the nice start-up to the day ("Count your blessings." "The Lord is your Shepherd. There is nothing you shall want."), while the Children's Museum provided the necessary physical kick-start for the kids - plus, it seemed to be nice variety for their minds to wander and just think.

As you can clearly see, they had ZERO fun :) What with the roof top sensory exhibit, the human-sized ant hill, the weather warning wheels, the castle Legos, the hands-on water and bubbles, and the grocery store, the kids needed much more to do. They also had fun using their imaginations with the community clinic, metro transit, and US post office exhibits. My daughter threw on the USPS smock/coat and satchel and delivered mail for a good 10-15 minutes :) I told her that it was in her blood :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Baseball season is here ... for my son ...

My high school team hasn't been doing too well - in case you've missed it in my mood (or if you haven't been checking THAT blog). I take solace in the fact that my son is now playing ball - and having a great time doing so. He's moved up to the highest level of coach pitch and is really enjoying himself. I even made it to watch a game the other night. He just started this week and it seems like the boys are a bit more into it than in last year's league - which is good, since my son wants it to be that way.

The transition from coaching high school to watching elementary school kids play baseball in the same day has never really been an easy one for me, but it does seem a lot more similar lately :) Mostly because my son is getting better (**chest out**) - not because my high school team is much worse (**big sigh**). Anyway, it looks like my son actually knows what he's doing here at shortstop - knees bent, good ready position, glove out and presented to move to the ball, eyes on the action. Pretty cool for a dad to watch.

Now, if only I could get my high school kids to come watch ... :)

Just kidding ... kind of ... :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

That was weird

Okay. Not exactly sure what the Blogger network was doing. But they shut down the system, removed blog posts and now have the system back up and working - but without a few of the posts that have been made over the past couple of days.

If you missed my post on 'rain is a good thing?', I'm sorry, but I don't have the time or energy now to repeat it. Besides, it ended up not ending up like I originally posted that it ended up. Got all that?

Anyway, my high school team is going to attempt to win our second game of the season today (instead of Tuesday, like i THOUGHT we had already decided on for the rescheduled date). I guess the other school's AD said that they couldn't play on Friday because they had lower level (ninth grade) teams playing on their fields - so they didn't have fields available.

... except that IT'S OUR HOME GAME. (???) Not sure what the actual reasoning was behing the move to play today - except maybe that the other team would have to play five games in six days next week, instead of four games in six days. Whatever the reason, we'll give it a go today.

We beat them last time we faced them this season - for our only 'W' of the year, of course. Hopefully we can put together some effort today and hit the ball enough to beat them again. Two wins would be nice :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rain is a good thing? Sure is! ... sometimes :)

It's one of those days, where the rain cancelled our baseball game - and maybe that's okay. We rescheduled and we'll play on Tuesday, so not that much of a loss. We could use a couple days of conditioning inside :)

Plus, what's not to like about a good country song? (Sorry for those of you who are country-phobic.) I was in a good mood, because my AD actually listened to my input on when to reschedule, and my JV coach gets to watch his youngest son play tomorrow night instead of missing it to coach a game that was rescheduled without input. Yeah!

My yard looks good with all this rain, and I'm in the best mood I could be in without the sun shining down on me. God bless, ya'all!!! :)

(5/14/2011) - PS to this message: blogger network was all screwed up, we actually ended up playing Friday - and losing, and it keeps raining, so my mood isn't quite what it could be, but watching "Little Fockers" Friday night with my wife after a nice dinner out at Champps with our neighbors did help quite a bit :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Okay, so I'm a day late. But really, I'm right on time. See, yesterday was my wife's day, so I stayed off the computer. We went to church, got coffee, read the newspaper, she took the kids to the park, we had lunch, she had some time to herself while my daughter slept and my son and I went to the store(s). I made parmesian chicken with egg noodles and wax beans for dinner, we had a couple glasses of wine, and the kids went to bed.

Then, my wife couldn't help it ... she had to iron :( One of these days, I'll get her to relax for an entire day - or at least not do any of the work she doesn't want to do.

Anyway, I backdated a blog and posted a poem that I like. Happy Mother's Day to all the wives, moms, grandma's, aunts, and other women out there who are the best support system, friend, role model, disciplinarian, driver, cook, cleaner, listener - MOTHER, out there!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Angels are Mothers

There are Angels God puts on this Earth
Who care for us and guide us.
You can feel their love and gentleness
as they walk through life beside us.

They do great things for us every day
they whisper in our ears,
they even hold us in their hearts
when we are filled with all our fears.

They are always there to give a hug
and try to make us smile.
They treat us with respect and love,
they treat us like their child.

God blessed me with an Angel,
I’m proud to call my own.
She’s been with me throughout my
life, been with me as I’ve grown.

She’s guided me the best she can,
she’s taught me like no other,
and I’m thankful I’m the lucky one
who get’s to call her... MOTHER

- Kathleen J. Shields

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Random thoughts ... and pics ...

What if families were able to live in the same state ... or (*gasp*) ... the same city/town, like they used to? Would we all be happier - or would we end up getting on each others' nerves and metaphorically killing each other?

Somehow I don't think these guys (and girls) would have a problem with living closer. Just sayin' :)

Would we all be closer to nature (like me - being part of this tree), because of the lack of need for all the airports, interstates, and other things that take up space? I don't know. But I sure would like to live closer to ALL of my family.

And kids ... since when can kids not behave appropriately in church - maybe since parents won't ask them to behave? Caught some of the other 1st communicants mis-behaving in mass on Saturday night. Sitting right by their parents. Religious education teachers were asking them to behave instead of their parents. Interesting. My niece was an angel, by the way. No need to remind her. But you could tell that, just looking at her, right? :)

And how come the only pen that you WANT to work, doesn't? My little one pouted a bit about it, but what could I do? It's not like she had NINE other pens to use, or at least one that was very similar in color, right? :) Oh well. She's still a cutie.

She cleans up nicely and figures out how to behave most of the time anyway. Besides, how much more can you ask, when she's been sick all week but gets better at the perfect time to take a late night flight to another state (with a brother getting better at just the right time, too), so that we can all enjoy a 1st communion weekend with family in Oho?

Come on?! Could you NOT be melted by this on Easter morning? Easter Bunny brought a stuffed bunny. And a bat :)

Happy Easter, again, everyone. All my love. Just help me get through this spring baseball season and we'll be alright ... maybe.