Pernicious Sarcophagus Suspect Tarantula

We play this game in the car a lot. One of M-itos friends taught it to us on vacation last year.

One person says a word, any word, and the next person has to come up with a word that begins with the last letter of the word that was said.

Is there a way to win? No. Not the way we play. So what’s the point? Well… it’s fun. Also we’ve come up with the following to add some spice to long car trips:

  1. try to use the biggest and most obscure words you can. Why say “end” when you can say ecstatic, or essential, or effervescent?
  2. try to stick the person who goes after you with the same letter each time. M-ito likes to end words with “y” or “k”. Hah. Even ending words in “e” can get challenging after a while.
  3. ask people to define a word if you think they don’t know what it means. For example, I recently used the word pernicious. Everyone knows it’s the sound that ‘nicious cats make.
  4. try to do this game only using the names of geographic places (cities, states, countries, mountains, rivers, anything that would appear on a map). Not as easy as it sounds, unless you have a map handy.

It used to be we’d play Who am I or I spy. I love that my son finds using words to be fun. I’m also just happy to have found another thing to do during downtime that doesn’t include the sound of electronic texting or app-tapping.

Disney in August

With M-ito 8 years old these are  some of the things we did right this time:

  • We went for 6-nights and 7 days which was just enough time, not too much and not too little (though we’d rather have stayed on vacation another week). We left on a Tuesday, early so we could go to a park in the afternoon and evening. We left in the evening on Labor Day so we had the whole day to play before we loaded up and got to the airport. Mom-ita planned everything out and it was just about perfect.
  • We slept in almost every day and didn’t get to the parks until 11 or 12 each day which was just fine with all of us. I got up and did my yoga practice as the sun rose, before Mom-ita and M-ito got up. We hit two parks almost every day but one in the afternoon and one in the evening. It didn’t feel rushed that way.
  • We spent a lot of time in EPCOT exploring the countries, the attractions, and the fireworks. There’s still plenty more to explore on future trips. I am amazed at how much there is to explore there.
  • We used fast passes only once but that was because it wasn’t too crowded and the most we waited for anything was maybe fifteen minutes. Mostly we walked on rides without a wait or a five-minute wait.
  • We came the last week of August when kids in Florida are back in school. The parks were pretty empty (as empty as I’ve ever seen them) which meant there were minimal lines.
  • We spent a lot of time at the hotel pool almost every day.
  • We went to Wilderness lodge – a good choice even if the food choices are not the greatest (Animal Kingdom lodge had the best food as far as we’re concerned). It’s beautiful and the rooms were good size – the staff very nice and helpful.
  • We found a ride we liked and went on it again and again. This trip it was Buzz Lightyear’s ride. M-ito loved it and going on the ride (with no line) meant we could actually get better and better at ray-gunning invading aliens so that by the time we finished with it all of us felt like we had some proficiency and M-ito’s confidence on rides in general was boosted.
  • Half of our trip was with a friend of M-ito’s and his mom. M-ito and K-ito played well together and were good company for each other. We all got along and had a good time together. The second half of the trip we were on our own and had some good alone family time. It was a nice balance.

Some things that didn’t work out:

  • As great as it was to have empty parks and few lines for most of the time we were there it is HOT HOT HOT in August. So we sweat alot and we found ourselves doing the it’s-ninety-plus-and-we’re-sweating-shuffle. It’s a slow walk from shade spot to shade spot, cooling station to cooling station. M-ito had a little trouble with the heat on our second to last day, needing to sit down, drink, and cool off. Mom-ita bought him a canvas hat. I soaked it in a vendors ice water and put it on his head. Then I had him put his hands up to his wrists into the water. Along with drinking lots of water these things brought him back to himself.
  • The middle restaurant at the Wilderness Lodge was okay but not something we looked forward to eating at so that left us with the fast food area (crowded and an okay selection but again not something I looked forward to every day). Note, we did find the expensive restaurant to be excellent and had our last evening meal there – well worth it but not feasible for every day because of the price.
  • Bus to Animal Kingdom took an hour each time – way too long.
  • We never made it to Disney Studios – M-ito just didn’t feel like it so we skipped it this time.
  • We never made it to Harry Potter at Universal – different park experience, and needs its own trip to do. Also we heard it was packed and the lines were too too long.

Some things we did that were either new or just fun:

  • We took small two person motor boats out onto the lake for an hour. Very cool.
  • We could take ferries to Magic Kingdom and back. Very cool.
  • Pin trading again was a blast.
  • We did two Kim Possibles (Japan and Mexico – both were excellent and lots of fun) at EPCOT.
  • M-ito went on his first official roller coaster – Goofy’s Barnstorming – which looked very slow but once you got on was really a good ride and a good one for him to go on first. We went on once and that was all but M-ito said he really liked it. This was the same roller coaster we tried to get on in April and left after one look at the coaster roaring by. Good confidence builder for M-ito. Plus I had fun.
  • We spent an hour in Dino Land at Animal Kingdom in the Boneyard playground playing hide and seek then digging for fossils. Some things never get old.
  • We went on the Animal Safari at Animal Kingdom 2x and it was just as good as all the other times we’ve been on it over the years even if the “poacher” chatter is getting a little old.
  • Pangani Jungle Walk was a great experience and the gorillas were awesome. This trip M-ito seemed to want to see all the animals in Animal Kingdom – which was great, if tiring for Mom-ita nd Dad-dito.
  • Buzz Light Year at Magic Kingdom was a great surprise. A large shooting video game with a real skill factor that we all enjoyed about eight times (I think).
  • We also went on Soaring at EPCOT which was great. M-ito loved it and it was also a great confidence builder as it dealt with heights (even if imaginary), movement, and the feeling of flying.
  • We went on an hour guided tour with a naturalist/botanist behind the scenes at The Land in EPCOT that was really great. They showed us their hydroponics gardens and fishery. Great for ideas about future science projects even if it was hot in the hot-house.

School tomorrow. First day of Third Grade. So it goes. We’re all breathing big sighs and preparing ourselves for the fall. We’re going to pick up Spike today also! Dog in the house again!

Fireflies

Hank called me over to the courtyard at the Marriott in the middle of the French Quarter in New Orleans. This was last September. He was smoking a cigar. We were both presenting to a group of drug court practitioners – me for one day, him for the whole week. In the courtyard he told me a story about his son that he savored between puffs on his stogie, the burning end reminding me of a giant firefly. It’s been haunting me a bit since last year. He lives up in Buffalo and one year his at that time teenage son asked him to get tickets to the Syracuse football team’s home games. It was a two and a half hour drive each way. Hank told him yes and bought the tickets. He said it was the best two and a half hours of his life because all the way there and all the way back he and his son talked. “We’re best friends,” he told me in his deep, raspy, one of a kind voice. Two months later Hank had a major stroke and now almost a year later he still hasn’t recovered, though he lives and breathes.

Today my son asked me to go with him to Carvel after dinner. It’s a fifteen minute walk. “I love to go to Carvel after dinner, ” he said. We talk all the way there and all the way back. The whole trip takes almost an hour. We talk about alien creatures, summer fireflies, favorite things we’ve done so far this summer, determine how many days are left in the summer, play improv games that he makes up as we walk like making up a story one word at a time alternating between the two of us, eat our ice-cream cones before they melt, and hold hands a good part of the way with him sometimes even reaching for mine. It’s one of the best hours of my life.

The Battle of Ordinary Things

M-ito had been bugging me for two weeks to play. He’d been preparing his forces all that time, wandering into his room and organizing. I told him today was the day. “Mom-ita,” I asked. “Can we play on the table before dinner?” She gave me the thumbs up.

I had 14 paperclips, an eyeglass case, a small roll of plumbers tape, a circular paperclip, a clay flute, and a small plastic box. That was my army of ordinary things. M-ito had a pull cord from the cieling fan, a portable vegetable steamer, a small scope breath spray, a USB flash drive, two rubber ducks with pens for weapons, two plastic chip clips, a foam pad, a rubber band, and a smasher k’nex structure built specially for its ability to immobilize opponents through the use of its frozen hammer fist.

The table was covered with our forces. The right flank met the left flank. Dice were rolled, one for each attack. A 5 or 6 hit and a 4,5 or 6 saved against each hit. Objects tool anywhere from 1 to 10 hits each. M-ito’s hands always seemed to be filled with two times the number of dice I had. “I’m making up the game,” he said, when I rolled one eye up questioningly after he pulled out 18 dice to attack me with. I made him stick to the rules he made up after that, like when he tried to charge with his pull-cord twice in one turn. “Only once,” I said and though he pouted for a second we continued without further protest. An attack by a chip clip on my rear was defended against and repulsed by a troop of paperclips. Then my paperclip forces crumbled in the center as my box and flute ran away after my general was defeated by the frozen hammer fist.

Just in time for dinner.

Batter Up!

Second week of sports camp – baseball is in and lacrosse is out. I watched the lacrosse players, much fewer this week, maybe two-thirds of the number they had the week before, maybe half. They’re in one group and not two anymore but they still have three coaches.

On the other side of the field, where M-ito, Momita and I went was filled with kids from 6 years old to 14. There were four age groups and M-ito was with two friends and about 18 other 8-year olds. He had three coaches. They warmed up. The coaches coached and kept discipline. One kid pushed another and the head coach for the group pulled him aside and, within my hearing (I had to listen carefully) told the kid the two rules of play. 1) Don’t push anyone ever again. 2) If a kids calls you a name you come to him (the coach) and he’ll take care of it. Then the head coach pulled the other kid aside and told him the same thing. There were no more problems the whole day. They broke up into three groups, one with each coach and they did 8 minute drills moving from one station to the next every 8 minutes. They learned how to throw a ball, how to pick off a runner, how to do a “4” slide, and then went to the batting cage for practice hitting. It looked like so much fun I wanted to join in. After another cycle of drills and the snack station where nutritious snacks like seventeen kinds of candy and popcorn in addition to Gatorade and ices were served – they played a game for the last hour putting all that they learned into practice. The coaches said, “good try” to every kid who made a mistake and there was a ton of individual attention.

Every morning I packed a cooler for M-ito with ice, water, cut oranges, and a snack. By the end of the week both of his friends were sending their water bottles home with the cooler and I had to put extra money in the side pocket for them too. Cold water and ice was at a premium.

It was like night and day compared to the lacrosse.

Don’t get me wrong there were some low points.

  • The hardest part was watching M-ito strike out each time he was up at bat. I know he hit the ball the day before but it was hard to watch him walk off with his head down. The coaches all gave him “good trys” and I have to say he did a good job of shaking it off.
  • On the last day a kid on the other team threw his helmet onto the ground after striking out every time also and the coaches only told him to stop it one time (I thinnk they didn’t see the other times – perhaps because of the heat haze). I would have benched him (even if that would have left them with only 6 players).
  • A really good player on M-ito’s team kept playing M-it’s position for him. M-ito was playing third and the boy was at second. He kept wandering the field because he was good and he knew where to go – but this didn’t help M-ito to learn what to do or get him the ball. The coaches missed that.
  • I’m ashamed to say this but it’s true. The same good player is a great hitter who had a home run and a double and single. The last time he got up he struck out and the other team cheered. The boy laughed it off – his ego strong enough to survive with ease. He took it as a compliment. Me, I gave him a silent cheer. I was glad he struck out. I told M-ito later, “You see, even the kid who was really good – he struck out too at the end!” It was all I could come up with.

M-ito gave it a 10 – both the coaches and the playing.

I watched him play most of the first morning and all of the fourth and last.

His team won the last game on the last day – billed as the world series of the games and like the kid he is, he jumped up and down with the rest of his teammates, happy to have been a part of the game and winning regardless of how big or small a part he’d played.

Final outcome – I didn’t have to coach. I just watched.

I didn’t know what to do with myself. I took out my camera and took some pictures. What else is a Dad-dito to do?

M-ito said he wants to play on both a lacrosse and baseball team. But… he’s had enough of sport camp for a while and is glad to be done for the summer. We think he lost five pounds sweating in the polyester baseball pants. He also has a wicked tan from all that time in the sun, even with sunscreen. When he got home he picked up the first of the Harry Potter books and started to read.

Lacrosse Camp – Day One

9:15am

Momita and I are driving out to Long Island for lacrosse camp – day one. M-ito is in the back seat all geared up. We’ve got shoulder pads, shin guards, cleats, helmet, stick, and mouthpiece. We hear a knocking sound, like a knuckle on wood. It’s the sound of M-ito knocking on his cup. It’s his first one and he’s been fascinated by it ever since he put it on.

“This is so cool. Can you imagine if you got hit super hard with a ball right here?”

“It would hurt,” I say from the front seat.

M-ito ignores me and keeps knocking on his plastic cup.

I can’t remember the first time I wore one, but it was probably when I was seven and played my first year of football. I don’t remember it being anything fun to explore. But for my son – it is.

Knock, knock, knock.

9:55am

All the parents have pulled out, the moms, the dads, the aunts and uncles. There’s thirty kids and three coaches, and me. M-ito goes with the older kids, sixteen in all and one of the coaches. the younger group goes with the two other coaches. I talk to one coach about my son and how new he is but the coach assures me they’ll figure out his skill level and put him in the right group soon enough. M-ito’s friend from school is four months younger and goes with the younger group.

I last sitting on the sidelines for half an hour, watching the young man with a lot of energy but not a lot of skills when it comes to keeping sixteen rambunctious kids of all different skill levels occupied, try to coach them through some drills. He’s young enough to still try and show off, doing back flips to impress the boys. He yells a lot and is constantly trying to get the kids in line. But he’s alone and doing drills with one boy going at a time leaves too many idle. That means fifteen are waiting around looking for something to do while they wait on line. That’s trouble waiting to happen. The temperature is high, already over ninety degrees. When he ends a drill I yell, “Water break,” and the coach says, “Good idea. Go get some water!” As he passes me I offer to help. “I’m going to be here all day so if you need any help, I’ll be glad to. Just tell me what to do.” The young man hesitates a second, then says, “Sure.”

I walk on to the field and I hear my son say, “Why does it have to be you?”

I know he’s talking about me and it stings but a Dad-dito’s gotta do what a Dad-dito’s gotta do. I get placed on a line and tell the kids to shoot on goal when they get to me while they’re doing drills. I tell kids to chase the ball they threw past the goal. I ask kids to get in line. I help them put on helmets , snap chin straps, put on elbow guards, put on mesh jerseys, hand out oranges to the kids who want them because I brought extras. I tap each one on the helmet when I’m done helping them with their equipment and tell them to “go.” One boy makes two comments about girls that are as old and sexist as they come. Some of the kids laugh. The coach asks him to watch his mouth the first time. The second time I go over to him on water break, tap him on the shoulder, point his face up to me a few inches away, and quietly say, “I don’t ever want to hear that language again. You understand?” The boy looks at me then nods and looks away. I tap him on the helmet and he keeps his mouth shut the rest of the day.

Mostly I keep my mouth shut and watch, do what the coach tells me to do and try to make sure no one gets hurt.

M-ito does well in the drills, is tentative in the skirmishes as he should be as a first timer, needs help on where to position himself on the field  on both offense and defense but the coach is hot and tired and hasn’t explained the rules or any team tactics so he along with the other inexperienced kids are left to guess. I shout some suggestions during the scrimmage. “Spread out. Pass to the open man. Some concepts are the same no matter what sport.” Maybe the tactics talk will come tomorrow. There is one kid who knocks another kid down, cleans his clock actually. It was uncalled for and done not while he was going for the ball. He’s made to take a lap. He head checks another kid a few minutes later and I see it but the coach doesn’t. I let it go even though there are words between the players. It’s the same kid I talked to about his mouth earlier. That one’s trouble.

The first day of camp ends in a deep sweat with the kids getting hosed off with a power washer and the coach glad his first day is over. I wonder what he’s got in store for tomorrow. I talk to Mom-ita and we both agree M-ito ‘s going in the younger group with the newer players tomorrow. He argues at first, but his friend convinces him. He signed up to play with his friend in the first place and it’s a good reason to play with the other two coaches, who seemed to be a little more adept at what they were doing.

1:31pm

Gino’s Pizza and M-ito and his friend are laughing and fooling around, tickling each other and chomping their pizza alternately. The air conditioner is on. It’s 96 degrees outside. They both said they had a good time and want to go back tomorrow for more.

I hear it’s supposed to rain.

At least it’ll be cooler.

The Contact in Contact Sports

I asked my friend, Big A (father of Little A), to put on a small lacrosse workshop for M-ito and a few of his friends. It was supposed to be an informal afternoon of learning the basics and maybe a little game playing. Big A played in college, was the captain of his team and coached when he got hurt. As he would say, “I wasn’t very good, there were a lot of others way better than me.” Sure, Big A. Sure.

Five kids and three parents with lacrosse sticks and Big A in the lead at Mik-ito’s house out on the Island. He’s got a good size yard and two goals so we went out there to practice. The rain held off. M-ito got frustrated after about a half an hour because one of his friends kept stealing the ball from him when they were supposed to be having a catch. I didn’t see it coming. Tears came to his eyes and he melted down. After we figured out what had happened the drills went on and then we played a game. There wasn’t supposed to be any stick checking (we had no pads and no gloves so that made sense). We should have made it the kids against the adults. That would have been a good idea but I didn’t think of it at the time, and neither did the other dads. Big A refereed and after another half an hour of play M-ito, in a scuffle to get the ball with sticks hacking at it on the ground, got hit in the shin and nose and went down in tears again.

There are so many parts to this experience that were both good and bad for my son. The good thing is these things happened with his friends and not at his first day of lacrosse camp with some strangers whacking him . The bad thing it they happened with his friends and he doesn’t understand why they hit him. I told him they didn’t do it on purpose, they were just going for the ball and got carried away. My son has never played a contact sport before and there is a certain energy to them, a certain amount of testosterone that gets plugged into the equation that helps things like this happen. I played until when I was seven, full pads (because my brother played and I wanted to do everything he did – go figure), tackle. I remember getting upset at the violence and being scared much of the time. It took me three years to get my footing with the idea that I was going to hit people and they were going to hit me – tackle and be tackled, block and be blocked. It took me that long to trust the pads to protect me and to find allow myself to use aggression in my game. One year I quit because the coach was a maniac and I developed twitches because he used to have us do tackling drills that were like gladiator fights with everyone watching (not the first time or the last I’d play those kinds of games with coaches). I played eleven years of football through the end of high school.

So I sat next to M-ito on our friend’s couch with Mom-ita on the other side as he cried and let the intensity of the experience run through him. It raged then settled and a rain came down outside that mirrored the tears falling inside and ended the game just in time. My son has not learned to be aggressive in sports yet, and he is only just learning to get his sense of this game called lacrosse. For that matter I’m learning how it’s played too. Team sports are good vehicles in which to learn about aggression and assertiveness, using your temper in constructive ways to play better but still within the confines of the rules and without hurting anyone. He started down that road today. Man it’s hard to watch.

What I noticed about my son’s lacrosse game is that he passed the ball when his friends did not – one pass to me scored us a goal. After running forward he stopped when he was cut off and looked to pass the ball to his team-mates. He played a good defensive game, covering well. He just hadn’t counted on getting hit in the face and shin. Maybe the shin was okay but the face was a surprise. One thing he doesn’t need is a nose like his Dad-dito’s. Mine’s been broken twelve times (once by a doctor so it could be pushed back into place from the far left side of my face back into the center – that was ugly).

I wonder how he’ll do in three weeks when he starts lacrosse camp. He’ll be helmeted and padded up so the knocks won’t be felt so much. Gloves will help. I hope the coaches are good and teach the kids to be good sports. I’m going the first day in any case so I can watch over the experience, and pick up the pieces if need be. I’m proud of him in any case for trying something new and different and for learning something about himself in the process.