It’s Been A While…

A few years ago, I started this blog to capture all that was going on in this head of mine. I wrote almost weekly for about 18 months about my family, current events that interested me, my job, and other odds and ends. I enjoyed using this form of media to express myself, and I found that lots of people read what I wrote. I was honored.

Over the past few years, a lot has changed in my world. My girls have grown a lot. Lydia is in 8th grade, and is training to be a world class pole-vaulter. She cleared 7’6″ the other day – only 8 more feet to go and she could be an Olympian. I’m hoping 4 or 5 more feet gets her a college scholarship of some sort. Ansley is in 6th grade, and has become a well-rounded tween girl – music, sports, school, and talking back are her specialties. Clarissa is in 2nd grade and is always smiling and laughing. She loves soccer and writing and singing and watching her shows. Lydia and Ansley are taller than their mother, Carrie. Clarissa is taller than Lydia and Ansley were when they were 8.

Our pet population has changed. Babe the mini-beagle is our eldest pup. We have Asuna the slightly psychotic cat. And now we have Arlo our “bagle” – beagle/basset hound mix. Arlo is an interesting pup. We rescued him from a lady who rescued him from some shady people who had him in a cardboard box in the back of a pick-up truck. She brought him home and let him live in a barn until she could find a good home for him. He’s slightly stubborn, and he still thinks he lives in a barn from time to time. We also have a beta-fish who no one really takes care of but continues to survive.

The world has changed a lot over the past few years. We have gone from the first black president in our nation’s history in Barack Obama to a president whose most recent claim to fame is starring in The Apprentice. Mr. Donald Trump has turned our country and world on its proverbial ear, and we’re still trying to get our bearings back. His speeches are normally 140 characters and can be found on Twitter. It would be awesome to be a speech writer for Trump. Not much editing involved. Just random streams of thought in 140 character bursts. The Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series after over 100 years of futility. Joe Maddon, the Cubs’ manager is the Phil Jackson of Major League Baseball. There’s a new series of Star Wars movies. The next one is called The Last Jedi. Now the world is wondering what that really means especially after Luke Skywalker’s brief appearance at the end of The Force Awakens. The New England Patriots just won their 5th Super Bowl thanks to Tom Brady and Darth Belichick.

Who would have dreamed any of this stuff could happen?

My work life is virtually the same. I still have the same job in the same place. Carrie does too. We still attend the same church. And we still have the 2013 Honda Odyssey EX-L I blogged about in April 2013.

We still live in the same house on the same street. We do have some new neighbors who have lots of kids and have recently opened their home to foster kids. They are truly special people. I would like to have more kids, but Carrie says we’re too old for that.

I have 592 Facebook friends. I’m hoping to get to 600 soon, but I’ve become more selective about my friend choices thanks to the election. I can only handle so many political posts, and that’s all Facebook is these days. Political posts and advertisements for companies and products I purchased a long time ago. I miss the days of pictures of people’s kids and constant bragging about how perfect people’s lives are. Today my feed is filled with posts about why Trump is awesome and why Trump is an idiot, and why Obama is the reason Trump is having so many problems. I did enjoy the Obama/Biden meme’s for a little while. Some of them were hilarious.

That’s all for now. Gotta go pick up Lydia from her friend’s house.

She’ll be driving soon.

That’s a scary thought.

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The Return of Soccer Dad

Soccer ball

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of leaving work a little early on Tuesdays to go and help coach Ansley’s U8 soccer team.  The team consists of 7 little girls of various shapes and sizes and skill levels that have very, very short attention spans.  Activities at these practices are very short in duration and involve lots of water breaks.  At times, it’s more like herding cats, but it’s a lot of fun.

Ansley and my oldest daughter, Lydia, both play in the local AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) region. The league is comprised of kids from across the central and southern portion of Spartanburg County.  So the girls get to play with kids from all walks of life, which I think is a very important part of the experience itself – not only for the girls but for the parents too.

To be a coach, you have to take a couple of training classes.  One is called the AYSO Safe Haven course, which covers the dos and don’ts of coaching.  You know things like don’t curse at the kids or the referees or other coaches or the parents.  We also learn about the AYSO values – things like positive reinforcement and teaching the kids the value of being on a team.   The other class is coaching fundamentals for kids under the age of 8 or what I like to call Cat-Herding 101.  But this coach missed the training.  And how did I miss the training you might ask?  Well, I forgot to write it on the calendar, and apparently, the AYSO coordinator sent the reminder to the wrong e-mail address.  So I had to take the training online.  Not that I was upset about this.  I’m only the Assistant Coach, and I didn’t have to spend an entire Saturday in a training class.

Our practices last just over an hour, which is a bit of a stretch.  We start out each practice with some stretches.  The stretching is mainly for my benefit and for the Head Coach too.  We’re not spring chickens.  As I have aged and gotten more out shape, my need to properly stretch has increased a great deal.  My muscles don’t respond as well to high speed activity as they used to.  My knees and ankles pop and creak and are normally swollen after physical activity.  I assume that’s normal when you’re 38ish.

After the stretches, we move into the drills.  The girls seem to enjoy this part.  We do easy things like dribbling between the cones, practicing shots on goal, passing drills, and practicing throw-ins.  We work on other drills that help improve dexterity as well as speed.  These are normally fast paced and usually only take about 20 minutes to complete – which is a problem when you have over an hour of practice time.  After the drills, we work on situational drills like practicing goal kicks and corner kicks and defensive positioning.

Finally, we move on to games like Bear in the Cave and Ball Touch.  Bear in the Cave requires way too much running for the coaches.  The goal of the game is for the girls to move from one “cave” to the other while maintaining control of the soccer ball.  If the “Bear” kicks the ball out, then the person that loses the ball becomes a “Bear” too.  The last person standing wins.  Ball Touch is like playing tag with the soccer ball.

Of course, we have lots of breaks in between each set of drills.  At the beginning of practice, the water breaks are short.  By the end of practice, the duration increases quite a bit.  I think this is by design.  It allows the coaches to catch their breath and allows me to rest my sore left ankle and sore right knee.

We normally end the practice with a scrimmage.  I think the girls would prefer to spend all of practice scrimmaging.  Coach Jesse and I usually join in on the fun.  We focus on making good passes and staying in front of the opponent when playing defense.  When 7 and 8 year olds play soccer, they typically move in the direction of the ball in one giant mass.  Occasionally, the girls playing on the same team will even try to steal the ball from each other.  It’s during these times that we try to reinforce the importance of spacing and not being a defender against your own team.  Again, there is lots of running, and I think this is where I do the most damage to my ankles and knees.

After an hour and 15 minutes of fun, it’s time to go home, and by then I’m usually ready to go.  The girls came up with a great name for the team this year.  We are the Leaping Leprachauns.  And yes…our uniforms are kelly green.  So we end each practice with a team cheer.  Usually, we get in a circle and the girls put their hands in the middle – a sign of team unity.  Most of the time, the girls like to see who can put their hand on top of the pile.  It’s entertaining.  No one has gotten hurt yet, but I think it will happen sooner or later.

We’ve been practicing for the past 4 weeks or so, and games start next week.  Actually they started last weekend, but we didn’t play.  The other team didn’t show-up.  Something about being away for Spring Break.  Some people need to get their priorities straight – I guess.  S0, we won by forfeit.

A win is a win in my book.

So Saturday is our first real game.  The team gets to show its stuff.  We have a good team in my opinion.

Let’s hope the coaches don’t ruin it for them.  I will utilize the skills I learned in my online training courses.

I promise to abide by the training manual and not to curse at the referee – even when he/she makes the worst call ever.

Wish me luck.

 

 

Easter, Shopping, and a Final Thought or Two

 

Things at the Vereen house have been a little out of control since my last post.  It all started the week before Easter when our oldest daughter, Lydia, came down with the flu.  And then Clarissa came down with the flu.  And then Ansley came down with the flu.  And finally, Carrie (aka Mommy) came down with the flu on Good Friday.  Somehow I managed to miss out on this extravaganza. I guess it could be the due to the fact I did get a flu shot in October – but only because they offered them for free at work.

Needless to say Easter was a bit chaotic.  A trip to visit the grandparents and a much needed vacation for me at the beach was scrapped.  A planned getaway for Carrie and I to celebrate 15 years of wedded bliss was also cancelled .  The unexpected change in plans left me in a precarious situation.  The Easter dresses and sweaters, which were purchased by Nana (my mom) were at the beach, and the girls and I were still in the ‘Burg.  With Carrie sick in bed, I took on the dubious task of taking them shopping for the aforementioned Easter dresses, sweaters, and shoes.  I took a few deep breaths and mustered up some courage and ventured out to our local Belk department store.

I won’t go on about the overall experience, but we did have fun.  The girls, with a little prodding, picked out nice dresses and respectable shoes – actually, I vetoed quite a few of their choices based on either appearance or cost.  It was funny to hear them laughing as they all stood in the dressing room trying on dresses – I had to wait outside.  Lydia and Ansley liked helping their little sister try on different dresses – especially the ones that were too big for her.  The most interesting part about the whole experience was really seeing how different all three girls are.  They each have their own style, and I think that’s a good thing.    Overall, Easter was a success.  The girls and I made it to Easter service at church, and Carrie finally felt well enough to get out of bed to join us for Easter dinner.  I was able to get a couple of nice pictures of the girls for the grandparents.  The Easter Bunny delivered treats for the girls, and Lydia lost a tooth (her first molar).  She lost a tooth on Christmas Day too.  This is starting to become a holiday tradition.

Final Thoughts….
As a follow-up to my blog about my unorthodox method for planting grass in January.  It appears to have worked quite nicely. The front yard is green and full of life.  The azaleas are in bloom and the dogwood trees are showing signs of life.  And my helper, Lydia, is very proud of the results of her hard work.  She has stopped looking at other yards and saying, “I wish our grass looked like that.” Our next planting adventure is a hanging herb garden on our deck.  At this point, this is a mother/daughter project.  We’ll have to see how it goes.

With spring comes my favorite time of year – the start of baseball season.  Unlike football and basketball, which are fairly fast-paced, baseball is a game of patience.  It is also a game of great tradition.  Wrigley Field.  Fenway Park.  The Seventh Inning Stretch.  The Chicago Cubs and their 100 year chase for a World Series title.  I can spend hours watching games.  The constant chess match between pitchers and hitters as well as the opposing managers is something I enjoy.  It’s tough to explain the elegance of the sport to the generation of today because it’s not like football or basketball.  It is slow.  No one gets tackled.  No one dunks.  You may not see an exciting play the entire game.  Baseball stresses the importance of the routine – the fundamental – not the spectacular.  Teams win by doing those things well.  So, my hope for this season is that the Atlanta Braves make it back to the World Series, that the Minnesota Twins are respectable, and that the Philadelphia Phillies’ Roy Halladay figures out what has him pitching like this might be his last season.  After watching him pitch tonight against the New York Mets, it looks like he has some issues with opening his hips too soon during his delivery which is making his release point too high.  This has caused him to lose some velocity and movement, but I’m not a pitching coach.  Although the Braves and Phillies are rivals, I do appreciate a good pitcher.  Like Greg Maddux before him, Halladay can make a ball dance in ways that can baffle even the best hitters.  I hope he recovers.  The season is still young.

Wrigley_field_720

If you have a chance, go watch a game – college, minor league or major league.  Put away the smart phone after you take a few photos.  Grab some peanuts and a drink and enjoy the game for what it is.  Take the family.

I know I will.