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Archive for September, 2009

Sep 30 2009

What’s Your Number?

Posted by Mugs @ 9:57 am in Family,Running

Josiah’s cross country team hosted a meet yesterday. This meet was a bit of a surprise to the coach as there had been a small miscommunication between the coach and the athletic department. The coach found out about the meet a few weeks ago when other coaches began asking him about it. So, preparations for this meet were sparse.

The coach asked the parents of team members to help. Thinking “how hard can it be?”, I offered my assistance. I was assigned the task of writing down the race number of each student as they crossed the line. I was the backup in case the computer went down. This task may sound quite easy when you assume the students are wearing large numbers normally worn in a race.

However, because of the unexpected nature of this meet, the coach didn’t have regular race numbers. Each runner was given a small tag (1.5″ x 2″) with a number written on it. This tag was attached to a single pin.

The runners attached this number tag in all variety of places on their uniforms. My favorite was the team that pinned them in their pockets. Because I could not see hardly any of the numbers as they crossed the line, I was forced to ask 73 boys and 60 girls “What’s your number?”

Keep in mind at the end of a cross country race many runners are dazed, having trouble breathing, and in a few cases about to throw up. When the dry heaves start, I just back away and leave their space blank until they have recovered enough for Abby to find out what their number is.

I asked one kid “What’s your number?” and looked up to discover it was my own son. No time for cheering, no “Good job!”, no words of encouragement, no asking how he felt. There was a kid behind him. “What’s your number?”, I asked the next kid.

Next week is another home meet. Luckily, the coach knew about this one at the start of the year. There are 800 runners attending. I am sincerely hoping he has ordered actual race numbers for this event. Even if he has, with 800 runners, I may be a bit slower to volunteer.

Sep 28 2009

When A Smart Alec Procrastinates

Posted by Mugs @ 10:29 am in Family

Kids grow up. Fathers are ignorant of this until the day they look around and discover the house is empty and all their children have moved out. Mothers are aware of their children growing up and attempt to train their children to be responsible for themselves. Yet, there is a part of a mother which does not want to see her children fail in their responsibilities. This part of the Mother reminds her children of their responsibilities. My children would most likely replace the word “reminds” with “nags” in the previous sentence.

To illustrate the difficulty of this training, I give you the following example:

1530 hrs: Josiah has a lot of homework. Josiah has trouble keeping track of his homework. Josiah waits until the last possible moment to do his homework. Josiah’s mother reminds Josiah to do his homework.

1600 hrs: Josiah’s mother watches the Bears game on T.V. and forgets about Josiah. Josiah reads a book instead of doing his homework.

1915 hrs: The Bears win football game and Josiah’s mother is in a good mood until she goes to find Josiah reading a book instead of doing homework. Josiah’s mother is now in a bad mood. Josiah becomes aware of this. Josiah’s mother gives yet another speech about responsibility.

1930 hrs: Josiah is suddenly inspired and writes an excellent conjugating verb essay using complaining, procrastinating, and falling asleep as examples.

2130 hrs: Josiah hands essay to his mother for proofreading. Josiah’s mother tries hard not to laugh while reading the essay. Josiah’s father laughs heartily while reading the essay. Smart Alec son laughs to himself.

Sep 25 2009

Cross Country Dad

Posted by Mugs @ 7:29 am in Family,Running

All parents commit to not becoming “the crazy sports parent” when their kids start competing. Then, when their child’s sporting interest intersects their own sporting interest, some parents start slowly losing their grip. It takes a bit more resolve to pull back from the edge.

Dale has encouraged Josiah’s running for years. They have competed together in several 5k road races and Dale has mapped several neighborhood routes for Josiah’s training runs. When Josiah joined the cross country team, Dale asked him about practice and took him to buy shoes – return shoes- buy different shoes. He was helpful, but not overly involved.

Then, Josiah started competing. Dale drove Josiah to his first big race. It was a massive race with competitors from the top public schools in Northern Virginia. Runners from small private schools like ours were shocked at the size and skill of the public school teams. Dale wanted to see it all.

When Gabe and I finally arrived, Dale briefed us on the race route and then he was off and running. While Gabe and I sat on lawn chairs overlooking the finish, Dale ran back and forth to various mile points on the course to cheer for our school’s runners. This racing about would have been easier had he just worn his running gear, but in an attempt to project “laid back parent” he had worn khaki shorts, t-shirt, and leather sandals. When the day was done, his back was splattered with mud from feet to shoulders and his sandals were completely mud encrusted from running through a ditch.

For another race, Dale did wear his running shoes and running shirt, but offset it with a pair of jeans to project “almost laid back parent.” He dashed through the woods again to various mile points to cheer on our school’s runners with “Looking Good! Keep Your Pace! Finish Strong!” He does this as a counterpoint to the coach who says things like “What’s wrong? You can run faster than that. Look at all those people in front of you.” On that day, Dale returned home with a large scrape on his arm from falling after tripping on a tree root.

Although he was falling in the mud and on the path, he had kept himself from falling completely into the “crazy sport parent” category. Then, Josiah ran a race and posted his best time ever. Dale arrived home, checked the race results online, and saw that Josiah had been omitted. He emailed Josiah’s coach and attached a photo of Josiah crossing the line behind another runner who was on the list. The coach emailed back that he didn’t know if the other school would change the results.

Another email was written with photo attached to the coach of the school who posted the results. Welcome to the world of Cross Country Dads!

Sep 24 2009

I’m First

Posted by Mugs @ 8:35 am in Family

Zeke is a child who believes every thing should be a competition. He will turn all manner of activities into a race, a level, a versus event. I suspect he comes by this trait genetically. When it comes to competing, he may be his Papaw reborn. Dale’s Daddy, Tom, is very competitive in racing and sports. Most people drive their cars to travel from one place to another. Tom figures, if you have to be driving, you might as well be racing. He has raced his cars, trucks, and motorcycles against many an unsuspecting motorist. Rumor has it, he occasionally raced his vehicle to outrun a ticket. This is only a rumor, of course, and cannot be verified.

It is bowling, however, which brings his fiercely competitive nature to the fore. Tom loves to bowl and has been in leagues for years. When Dale calls home, Tom gives him the rundown on who is in what place individually and by team. So, when Zeke begins to inform each member of our family in which order they have placed for his current competition, I tell myself “it is genetic and he cannot help it.” I also tell myself, “this kid is driving me nuts.” A few nights ago when Josiah walked into Zeke’s room for bedtime prayers, Zeke said, “You’re last.” Then, Josiah threw something at him.

Before the end of dinner each night, he lines himself up in the doorway of the sun room for a race around the house. The race route is past the table, down the hall, around the corner, through the office, along the kitchen island, and back through the door of the sun room. He taunts fellow family members until someone agrees to race him. If we all refuse to race, then he demands we time him so he can race the clock.

This race course is often altered by backpacks and books strewn in the hallway, a cat underfoot, forgotten shoes, aggressive elbowing, and starting before “GO” is yelled. The race ends with one of the following statements: “I win! You lose!” or “You’re a big cheater!” No matter how it ends, Zeke’s next statement is always “Let’s go again.”

A month ago, at dinner with a family from church, Zeke was fooling around and not eating. The Dad remarked, “I bet I’ll finish my dinner before you.” The “GAME ON” sign lit up over Zeke’s head and he began to shovel in the food.

The most aggravating competition happens repeatedly throughout the day. It is called “The race to the door.” Whenever we pull into the garage, there is a race to see who can get to the house door first. Initially this competition was much more violent, because the door was locked and stepping across the threshold declared you the winner. In the time it took me to gather my purse and close the van doors, there would be a scrum on the small top step as everyone jockeyed for the best position. After numerous bruises, bumps, and tears, Dale changed the finish line. Now, whoever touches the door first is the winner.

The competitions come so often and in such varied forms, I often lose track of them. On the way to pick up Gabe and Abby from school, Zeke asked me when I thought we would get back home. I said, “3:21.” Zeke replied, “I say 3:33.” I immediately forgot this conversation, because his talking and questioning can be relentless. However, as we were 4 blocks from our house and the clock clicked to 3:22, I heard from the back, “You lose, Mommy!”

Sep 21 2009

Adjusting the Pace

Posted by Mugs @ 9:49 am in Family,Pets

Golden Retrievers are remarkably intelligent dogs. We often think we have set the parameters of a game with Blaze, our 18 month old dog and then watch in amazement as he changes the parameters of the game.

The most obvious adjustment he makes is his rate of speed. If he and Josiah are playing keep away in the backyard, he zips around with bursts of speed high enough to outrun Josiah. Yet, when he and Zeke are playing keep away, Blaze runs just fast enough to stay barely out of reach of Zeke. He slows down and speeds up, so Zeke can almost, but not quite catch a hold of the rope. When Zeke has the keep away rope, Blaze trails behind him at pace until he can maneuver and grab his end and tug it out of Zeke’s hands.

Gabe goes outside with treats in his pockets to insure Blaze will drop the ball he retrieves during a game of fetch. The last time they played, Gabe could not find the ball, so he threw a stick. Blaze decided not to bother fetching it and searched until he found the ball. He then brought it to Gabe, but would not drop it until Gabe gave him a treat.

When I play fetch with Blaze, he will bring back the ball right to me the first few times, then he will begin to test my distance of tolerance. He will drop the ball 1 foot away, then 2 feet away, then 3 feet away, etc until I turn my back on him and say forget it. He then immediately brings the ball right to me to get me back in the game.

After he tests my distance of tolerance, he will test my time delay acceptance. I will throw the ball, he will fetch it, but he will not bring it back. I turn my back and begin walking towards the back door. He catches up to me before I get to the patio. The scenario repeats, but he allows me to get onto the patio before he catches me. Then he allows me to get to the foot of the stairs. Next time, to the top of the stairs. Finally, I just go inside and close the sliding glass door with him standing on the step, ball in mouth, sad look in eyes. An observer of this final scene would be convinced Blaze was bringing me the ball faithfully and I am just a poor sport.

Our neighbors have a female black lab and when she is out, Blaze loves to run up and down the fence line with her. After the first few dashes back and forth, Blaze decides to vary his route. He begins to run figure eights around bushes, stops to pick up and drop balls or carry sticks all at top speed in his attempt to impress the girl next door.

Dale finds Blaze’s rate of speed particularly galling when he attempts to take Blaze with him on a run. Blaze will fly around the yard at a full sprint in some imaginary game, but after jogging a quarter mile, he drops back and pretends to be exhausted. If Dale’s route is not one Blaze wishes to follow. Blaze pulls back and sometimes sits down and refuses to move. Blaze is actually adjusting to Dale’s pace. Not Dale’s current pace, but one Blaze has observed before.