April   

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April means Spring Break, Doug's Birthday and, very often, Easter.  Easter was a little different this year, and Spring Break was completely different.
After weeks of training, months of Bike Club, and literally years of anticipation, Brad spent Spring Break on the fifth grade Ride Across California.  Keith went along, well, for the ride.  Kristi and Doug dropped them off, went out to visit them en route one night, and went to pick them up, but otherwise had a rare week to themselves without Brad and Dad's interference. A 7 day, 6 night, 260 mile Odyssey can't be constrained to just a single paragraph or a picture or two on this page, so the adventure is described separately.  
Because days of rest are for wimps, the day after completing the Ride Across California, we went to Little League day at the baseball stadium.  This year the Rancho Penasquitos Little League eschewed the Padres and chose instead to participate in the Anaheim Angels’ Little League day.  Now Mom and Dad are wimps, and they tried to convince the boys weeks earlier that going to Anaheim the day after the bike ride was a bad idea, but the kids prevailed.  And a good thing, too, because we had a great time.  And saw at least two other parents and boys that went on the Bike Ride, so we weren't the only crazy ones. The kids got thunder sticks (those inflatable tubes you bang together) while the adults got thunder stick induced headaches.
Keith also got close to two balls, which is two more than he’s ever gotten close to before.  One was a homerun ball that landed across the aisle and one row down.  Keith was literally within an arm’s length of the ball when he stopped scrambling for it since it was underneath a child’s seat, and therefore obviously his.  Another adult had no such compunction, however, and dove right in, swatting Little Leaguers aside, and emerged with his inglorious trophy. The second ball was a third out ball tossed into the crowd by the retiring outfielder.  This ball actually landed in Keith’s outstretched hand, but he failed to time his clinch, so the ball ricocheted around until the girl behind Keith eventually ended up with it.
Doug's eighth birthday was April 23rd.  Because Brad likes it when Kristi makes "Happy Birthday" signs for him, he has taken up the tradition for his brother.  This year a couple were hidden like Easter eggs.  Brad was particularly pleased and Doug particularly surprised when he found the one on the right.
For his birthday party this year, Doug chose to have a baseball party on a local park ball field. You would think that an old fashioned party at the park would be less expensive and less organization than an "event" party at the bowling alley or rock climbing gym.  But considering the grocery store catered chicken tray and carrying everything from the car around the locked fence, it was neither!  Still, it was a lot of fun, and worth it.  We split into two teams with Keith all time pitcher and a little parent help in the out field.  We played an inning and then ate, then played an inning and had a water balloon toss, then played an inning and...  It was especially fun because while half the kids played Little League, the other half didn't, and so this was their first opportunity to play a quasi-organized game of baseball in forever.
This Easter we had the usual kite flying picnic with the Kristi's brother's wife's family, but we switched from the bay to a park near their home.  No matter, the weather still cooperated and the crowds were still large.  Keith and the boys ended up playing "pick up softball" with another group there.
Everybody has their volunteer positions at church: Keith is vice chair of the Board, Sunday School Teacher, member Pastoral Relations Committee, and Deacon; Kristi is in charge of Wednesday night dinners for 30, nursery volunteer, communion tray provisioner, and Deacon; and Brad is nursery volunteer and acolyte.  So everybody but Douglas.  Until now.  Doug has been trained and accepted the position of acolyte.   Doug's first scheduled rotation came with his brother, something we're sure the scheduler will repeat since it makes the congregation sigh with recognition and then compliment the boy's parents.
Each boy had a project due this month.  Doug made a pinewood derby car for Indian Guides.  Last year, our first, Keith did the vast majority of work (including making Doug cry when Keith wouldn't let him spray paint the car because he might make drips in the finish).  This year Keith was determined to only help, not do.  Turns out Doug was just as determined to do, and not watch.  We picked a very simple design, and Doug learned about coping saw, file, and sanding.  He did the glueing and the painting.  The only thing Keith still insisted on doing was melting the lead and pouring it into the hollowed out bottom.  The results were a car Doug could proudly call his own, and a quick exit when the race-off began.
Brad's April class assignment was to spend a million dollars.  More precisely, they had to come up with a "million dollar project" and make a poster board presentation.  Brad chose to build a ball park with Little League dimensions but minor league amenities.  He did extensive Internet research costing out concrete, sod, seats, all the way down to chalk, bases and turnstiles!  As is always the case with Brad, once his imagination caught fire, he couldn't be stopped.  Mom helped him construct a poster board that was "a feast for the eyes."
Brad's baseball team was not very good in March and half of April.  Although they had good pitching, they weren't hitting and they were making lots of errors fielding.  But midway through April they began coming together as a team and playing some very fine baseball.  Brad still struggles at the plate against curve balls, and he's lost his favorite in field position.  But he's doing a fine job catching and is an outstanding left fielder , making excellent catches and throws, but most importantly displaying his sense of baseball geometry (reading the speed and direction of the hit ball and knowing where to go to intercept it) that has always set him apart.
None of the 8 year olds on Doug's team have developed a sense of geometry yet .  But the manager and I are very excited about the level of play the kids are giving us.  The team hasn't reached the fielding plateau of making 18 outs (3 outs in all 6 innings) but we've gotten very close.  I'd also like to see the kids get a "true" double play (short to second to first) as opposed to the "catch the ball and double up the runner" double play. Doug continues to be a strong pull hitter and his fielding is definitely improving.  He and his brother have occasionally been sighted playing catch, which will improve his skills a lot more than the fantasy whiffle ball games he and his brother are so found of.
You won't see very many pictures of Doug because Keith's busy coaching.  When we're batting, that means that he is feeding the pitching machine and being the on field umpire for the game.
The last weekend in the month we started training the next generation for the ride across California.  Doug has just three years, and he’d better start preparing now.  He is not an accomplished bike rider.  In fact, he is just short of passable.  He didn’t go to a friend’s birthday party a couple of months back because it was a bike party at a BMX track.  He’s never found it enjoyable, and like his brother, has an aversion to practicing.  So his bike has gathered dust for two years.  But no longer.
Instead of saying we’d ride to the ice cream store when he practiced and got better, Keith just took him on the mile ride to the ice cream store. This was huge, as he had never been more than a 100 yards away from the house before.  But like the Pinewood Derby car, Doug got determined, and with a clear goal and reward, did a great job.
Take Our Kids to Work day occured the day after Doug's Birthday. He was old enough by a day to attend, but didn't so that Brad could go to his first ever by himself.  Last year Brad lost the privledge at the last moment, and the year before that Intuit didn't have one, and the year before that Intuit had a really good one but Brad wasn't old enough.  So he'd been looking forward to going to Dad's work for years.  He had a good time; Intuit does a really good job with activities for the kids, and I lined up a special tour for us of the server lab where Intuit has its hundreds of World Wide Web computers. Keith remembers very fondly the Open Houses they would have at Los Alamos National Laboratory when his father would show the family around work.  Kristi, on the other hand, found little joy in being forced to go to her father's work (the fields) and "walk beans" (pull weeds from among the soybeans). 

Puppy Chronicles :  
Dancer is shedding.  Hair everywhere.  We knew it would be like this.  Doesn’t make it easier to keep the house clean. 
She has expanded her domain to the entire down stairs.  Like any child she just keeps pushing (in this case, keep going into the living room and dining rooms) until the parent tires of correcting.  So she’s added the kitchen and living room to the rooms she’s allowed into.  Put we’re drawing the line at the stairs and the upstairs.  Really.
She’s become an excellent walker.  She doesn’t pull on the leash much any more, but matches your pace.  For Easter, we gave her an old stuffed Easter bunny we had in the decorations box.  She loved it.  Would chew on it for hours.  Eventually she tore it open and we had to throw it away.
Dancer does not particularly care for Bradley’s trumpet playing.  In fact, it has been known to send her into barking hysterics.  She nips at Brad and his trumpet, barks, tries to grab at his music and steal it.  The boys find great sport in her torment.

They Said It:
Kristi, upon watching the baseball thrown into the crowd bounce off first Keith (the coach) and than the manager of Doug’s baseball team: “I guess that’s why you guys coach and don’t play.”
Doug: “It’s a good thing beer doesn’t taste like root beer or I’d be an alcoholic."


Related web sites:
Keith's Pictures of Bike Club rides




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Text and Pictures Copyright © 2003 Keith Sherwood - All Rights Reserved
Questions or comments? Write keith at virtualsherwoods dot com .