27 October 2007

Mandi's Off To DC

Just a quick reminder to everyone that Mandi's off to Washington DC this morning to sign in for the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon! She's currently enjoying all the creature comforts of the Atlanta airport, then it's off to our nation's capital for a rendez-vous with a few of her "bitches" from her online community. This is her second year doing the MCM, and one of the best parts about last year's 'thon was being able to track her progress right here on my computer. I've already set myself up to do that again this year, and I'm excited because they've added some features that will allow me to follow her without being tethered to the desk. The site allows you to have updates sent to your cell phone or pager when she crosses all of the splits, as well as by email, so I can take the girls to the park and not lose touch with Mommy. And if you're in front of the computer, they have an interactive course map that will show you where she is in relation to all of the monuments and landmarks in DC. If you want to keep track of her progress, visit the link at the left side of the blog that says "Mandi's Marathon Tracking" and follow the instructions. It's free, and it takes no time to set up.

26 October 2007

Always A Bridesmaid . .

Unfortunately Ave didn't win the prize for the craziest hair today. Her teacher told her hers was definitely the cutest, but cute was not the goal. The winner, her friend Elise, had her naturally curly hair teased up around a plastic soda bottle ala Marge Simpson. I guess it was a shock value thing. I should have expected that Elise would come out guns-a-blazin' for this contest . . she is, after all, the one Avery got the iPhone idea from. The silver lining is that Ave came home with a red ribbon pinned to her shirt that reads "The future relies on you & me, be drug free." There I go again, in typical underdog fashion, trying to come out of this week with a moral victory . . I suppose one of these days I'll start expecting to win. Maybe I'll start after Lily's potty trained.

Crazy Hair Day

Yesterday was "Wear Your Favorite Jersey" Day, which in most households I'm sure translated into "Wear Dad's Favorite Jersey" Day. No exception here, as I paraded out an old Vanderbilt Football jersey I have had for years and told Avery "This is what you're wearing today." To my delight she did not object, and we got her all dressed up, complete with matching Black and Gold bows in her hair. Mandi doesn't exactly keep costume make-up around the house, otherwise I would have had the black stripes under her eyes too. Well apparently the slack-ass teacher ran out of prizes and no official winner was named, but unofficially Avery was told that "If there was going to be a winner, it'd be you." Not to worry, when it comes to things associated with Vandy Football we've grown quite accustomed to those 'moral victories'. So today was our last chance at a prize for the week, the ever popular "Crazy Hair" Day. In the past we've done Shrek hair and other variations . . Avery's got a pretty good canvas for being creative on this one. Today our theme was "Everything but the kitchen sink", and I think we've got a legitimate shot at victory. We'd better win, it took me so long to do it that we missed the bus and I had to drive Ave to school! I'll let you know later on how we did . .

25 October 2007

Greatness, whether you're a fan or not . .

One of the things I've said a lot recently is that when you have an opportunity to witness greatness, you should stop and take it in. Whether you're a fan of sports or not, there's something awe inspiring about watching an athlete who's just head-and-shoulders better than all of their competition. I have used this speech at work in the past, when some extra motivation was required to get my team really fired up. To watch an athlete who has combined a God-given ability with an extraordinary work ethic to make him or herself a dominant figure in a sport is remarkable. It's the pinnacle of achievement and perseverance. In my lifetime I can think of six athletes that were (or are) completely untouchable, some of whom I can appreciate right now and others I wish I had stopped to marvel at when they were playing. The guys from the past who in my memory stand out are Nolan Ryan, who still holds the record for the most no-hitters in baseball history; Joe Montana, who re-invented the quarterback position; and Michael Jordan, who is the most complete and dominant player in NBA history. I look back on my fleeting memories of those three players and wish I had learned earlier to appreciate greatness.

While those three played in what I would consider mainstream sports, two of the three playing right now are dominating largely niche sports. But their greatness takes events that the majority would otherwise ignore and thrusts them into the spotlight. That's called transcendence, and it's what turns above-average into great. Roger Federer is poised to be the most dominant player in the history of professional tennis, a sport that a grand total of zero non-tennis enthusiasts pay attention to. But I'm telling you, watch him play once and you too will be awestruck. Tiger Woods, the most dominant and intimidating golfer ever to walk a fairway, not only shone the world spotlight on the game of golf, but he did it as a minority. That's what great does . . it walks in, takes all your best shots, beats all your odds, and then punches you in the mouth and leaves you cowering in a corner.

The player that precipitated this post had his A-game on display last night, and while I only stayed awake for about a third of it, I was able to fall asleep completely confident that I'd read about his dominating results this morning. Josh Beckett, the Red Sox staff ace, has become one of the best post-season pitchers ever. He took on a Colorado Rockies team last night that hadn't lost a baseball game in over 3 weeks and completely dismantled them. You could see the dominance in his smirk as he stood on the mound, impervious to the rain and the pressure of the World Series. The look on his face said simply "We're going to do this my way, and there's nothing you can say or do to change that." It was exhilarating to watch, and I can only hope to have one more chance to see him pitch before the series ends. If it happens, it'll be Monday night, and I strongly encourage you to watch a few innings of the game. I'll bet it makes you, like it does me, want to improve yourself and inch closer to greatness in your life.

24 October 2007

Ayúdeme, Or Something Like That

Anybody that says kids shouldn't watch too much TV is full of crap. I mean, I know there's some garbage on some of the channels (even the public ones) . . Teletubbies comes to mind . . but kids soak up this stuff like sponges. I think the key is that they more readily pick up the things you reinforce while you're watching it with them. If you watch Sesame Street, and you sit silently until until Elmo's World comes on, at which point you break into the song and dance and start jumping around like an idiot, chances are the kid will get excited the next time Elmo comes on. Pretty simple stuff, you don't need a degree in psychology to figure that one out.

Lily, who I'd say picks up and repeats about 400% more things from her environment than the average 2 1/2 year old, proved my point for me this morning at the park. She was climbing up the little rock wall thing, which is missing about 2/3 of its pegs and was still damp from the overnight rain. As she got to the top her foot slipped and she grabbed hold as she started to slide down the thing. Before I go any further, understand that this thing is about 3 feet long and the top is no more than 18 inches higher than the bottom, so she was in a grand total of zero danger. Because she doesn't ever shut up, it took me a minute to re-focus on the words coming out of her mouth as she hung on for dear life and her volume shot up precipitously. She was looking over at me yelling "ayúdeme, ayúdeme!" For those of you who aren't ardent fans of Dora or fluent in Espanol, ayúdeme is Spanish for "help me". Are you kidding me right now? I have occasionally repeated one or two of the Spanish words with her . . abre means "open", azul means "blue" . . but most of the Spanish I could reinforce is stuff I learned from the cooks and dishwashers at the Ruby Tuesday, and she doesn't want to know how to say "take out the trash". I was floored when she busted out ayúdeme on me . . how smart is this kid? I'm bound to be far more impressed by this than most of you would since she's got my DNA, but you've gotta tip your cap to the people who make these cartoons too. They put these shows together knowing that kids learn from the repetition and reinforcement, and I think Dora (and her cousin Diego) in particular are really good stuff. You say TV ruins their mind and gives them A.D.D., I say p'shaw!

23 October 2007

I'm Not Competitive, Am I?

The picture you see here is what Avery's wearing to school today. It's Crazy Sock Day, a part of the school's week-long drug awareness campaign . . Sock it to drugs or something like that. We dressed her for Red Day yesterday, but it was nothing spectacular . . then when she came home and told me her friend won a prize for the best outfit, the competitive itch kicked in and I concocted this hair brained scheme to ensure victory on Crazy Sock Day. By itself I'm quite sure this story wouldn't be very interesting, but when coupled with what went on last Saturday it really starts to expose a pretty serious flaw of mine.

Avery's soccer game last weekend started much as the rest of them have, a handful of players doing most of the work and the rest practically sleepwalking up and down the field. It was chilly, wet, and our first 9 a.m. game, so the usual lethargy was compounded by the proximity to breakfast. Her team was undefeated coming in, having tied once but won convincingly in the other 5 games, so when it became obvious early that we were going to get thoroughly smoked if somebody didn't wake these kids up, I turned up my volume. Substantially. Well, to make a short story long, my attempts at motivation bubbled over into an obnoxious display of referee taunting that you'd expect to see on Montel Williams. That's right, for a brief moment my competitive streak turned me into that guy. I mean, we really were getting hosed out of some calls . . God, no way, just shut up. The other coach said to me, just passing by, "Hey, it's just youth soccer, chill out." So I sucked it up and apologized to him and the referees after the game. I've gotta get a handle on this competitiveness before I get banned from the soccer league and am relegated to a spectator!

Well, tomorrow's Wear Your Favorite Hat Day, so I'm off to figure out our strategy on winning that one. Maybe I could safety pin a bunch of hats together and make her look like the Cat In The Hat . . or maybe I should just concentrate on a plan for Crazy Hair Day on Friday. Thursday is the only day with no wiggle room in the plan . . it's Wear Your Favorite Team Jersey Day, and I've already got the Vandy football jersey laid out!

21 October 2007

A Group For Dads

Remember when I wrote about the weekly newspaper column I didn't get asked to write? You know, they ran an ad for neighborhood reporters and I didn't get chosen, and in typical male fashion I hated on the woman who they did choose after reading her first edition? Yeah, well I hate to admit it, but in her third column she wrote about a group called Charlotte Area Dads, which I joined last night. It pains me to give her credit for it, but I'll be the grown up I'm supposed to be and say that I'm glad she opened my eyes to this forum. The group operates a website, charlotteareadads.com, where dads from the area can have a place to chat, make friends, and plan dads-only events and outings. The few things I've seen so far seem really interesting, like a weekly basketball game in a nearby subdivision and some weekend no-moms-allowed breakfast outings. The website itself will most certainly be the biggest draw for me . . it's set up with bulletin-board type forums and chatrooms where dads from a really diverse set of circumstances and backgrounds can get together and chat and talk about whatever they want. I've long been jealous of the online forums that Mandi's a part of (she calls her friends from her Weightwatchers board "her bitches", and I feel like we'll need to put a spare bedroom in our next house for them). Now I'll have my own online gossip outlet, and everyone on it is local. I feel compelled to come up with a clever nickname for the group of guys I become friends with . . my homies? Nah. My dudes? G-A-Y. The Boys? Too backstreet. Let's hear your ideas in the form of comments to this post . . winner receives a some-expenses-paid trip to somewhere utterly unspectacular, which will be paid in the form of a 20-year worthless annuity held by a company that went bankrupt last week. If you're curious, I've placed a link to the Charlotte Area Dads website on the left of the page among my other links.