Monday, October 29, 2007

Hop on the Wagon!

As if Sweet Pea wasn't busy enough with Kindergarten, gymnastics and piano lessons, now she has joined a Girl Scout troop. She is thrilled with her new endeavor. Lady Di is trying to find the 25th and 26th hour of the day to get everything in.

Her troop has been active from the start. One of the scout leaders hosted a get to know you picnic and bonfire at their residence in September. Since then, the girls have visited a corn maze and have gone on a hayride. Sweet Pea earned her first patch for the corn maze.

Last week, her troop went to a local farm for a hayride. Sweet Pea loves horses, so this was very exciting for her. Lady Di was the fortunate one to get to go with her. So they bundled up in heavy coats and stylish hats. Well, Sweet Pea had a stylish hat. They arrived at the farm around 6:30pm. Our little cowgirl ran to join her troop members who were already there. Eventually, all twelve girls arrived and were peeping back and forth like a dozen fuzzy chicks. As they all piled on the wagon, the owner warned them not to pet the horses. Which was disappointing to Sweet Pea, but I guess they didn't want a runaway wagon with twelve ponytails flying into the woods.

The hayride lasted an hour and forty five minutes. Which got to be a little long for some of the girls. The farmer had a roaring bonfire ready for them at the end of the ride. The girls were so tired they all half heartedly ate one smore, and were ready to leave. If you know Sweet Pea, you know that she usually starts with a half dozen smores before we have to start hiding the marshmallows and graham crackers.

The girls made it home late with bonfire smoke in their hair, but they had a lot of fun. It looks like Sweet Pea is in a pretty good girl scout troop. They definitely are active. She has also found yet another place to make friends. I hope she sticks with scouting and I hope I can go with her on a few of her outings in the future.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lego My Idea

When I work late, the drive home is usually my time to zone out my mind. I usually find some mellow radio station and blank out. Last night, however, a persistent little thought dug it's way into my brain. I was thinking about Number One Son. I often think of the kids when driving. Anyway, I was mentally listing the things that he likes to do. Of course, Legos were at the top of the list. He has so many Lego sets, I have lost track. He has half a dozen animal sets that he has put together. He has a fleet of Star Wars ships of various designs. If his Star Wars play battles get stale, then his Batman Lego's come to the rescue. To say that N1S is a Lego-maniac is an understatement. He even attends an after school Lego League once a week. Lego Magazine (a disguised catalog) comes each month and N1S feels like he's won a contest every time it comes in the mail.

So as I was driving with Lego's rattling in my head, I tried to think of some Lego that N1S didn't have yet. What would be fun for him to do next? Then I had a brainstorm. If I ever win the lottery and money isn't a concern, I am going to get N1S a life sized Lego house kit. Wouldn't it be cool if Lego made life sized bricks?

A truck would have to come and unload all of the Lego's for a garden shed sized play house. Imagine the clattering noise, that a dump truck full of Legos would make. I can envision big cinder block gray Lego's for the foundation. Next would come regular brick sized Lego's about the size of a shoe box. A big green flat Lego would serve as the floor. You could also snap in Lego doors, windows, flower pots or other accessories. You could even use some fancy arch bricks or clear Lego's or ones that glow in the dark. The instruction booklet would look like blue prints and it would come with a hard hat to complete the set.

As big as the Lego's would be, you might need an official Lego rubber mallet to make sure the bricks fit tightly. You wouldn't want the inspector to find gaps in your walls. And since all of the bricks would be hollow plastic, the whole play house would probably weigh less than a couple hundred pounds.

Not only would this idea give some lucky child hours of entertainment, it would teach him or her a trade to use later in life. As the kits advance, Lego could put out a house wiring and plumbing kit. A pair of pants that sag in the back would come with those kits. Making Legos waterproof may prove difficult though. The heating system may require some advanced engineering as well. I don't believe a working fireplace would last too long. Although, what's to stop them from developing metal and cement Legos? I guess they wouldn't be official Legos then, would they? But at least the structure of the house would be strong, even with plastic bricks. Especially if a lot of small flat Lego's are used, since the only way to separate those are with your teeth. I also might have a little issue with the Lego furniture you would have to make. That would be one hard Lego couch. After napping on it, you would have hundreds of little dimples all over your back too. I'm not going to say anything about a Lego bathroom.

Looking ahead, when the house is finished, the next kit to buy would be the race car to park out in front of your house. The car could only be used for short trips since you have to pull it backwards to build enough tension in the Lego motor. Heck, as long as you have the race car, you might as well assemble the life sized Star Destroyer space ship and cruise in style.

Can you tell I may have spent a little too much time and thought on this?

I hope the Lego company will consider my idea and maybe even let us test the first house kit. I'm sure once it is on the market, all the responsible parents of the world (Brittney, Jacko,Brangelina) will have to have one.

I suppose I had better let Lego know about my idea before they think of it themselves. I know they make life sized soft bricks for toddlers, so they will probably say that they already thought of my idea and they don't have to pay me for it. Which is too bad, because the only way I would be able to afford a Lego House kit, would be if I made it my primary place of residence. And I don't know if I am ready for plastic grass and multi-colored walls.
Although, with the holidays coming soon, wouldn't it be fun to build a nine foot tall Lego Christmas tree?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Walk The Plank

This Saturday, Number One Son hosted a pirate party for some of his friends. Since he has a summer birthday, Lady Di thought it would be nice to invite some of N1S's new 3rd grade classmates to a pre-Halloween Pirate Party. N1S's guest list included everyone from his class, everyone from his Sunday school class and a few others. Since we are not related to Johnny Depp, and his bank account, we whittled the list down to eight close friends which eventually grew to twelve.

Lady Di was in charge of the food. I tackled the games and decorations. We had pizza and cupcakes. Typical kid party food. Since this wasn't actually N1S's birthday, we just wanted the kids to eat and play games. A few guests brought gifts anyway, much to N1S's delight.

We started the Pirate Party off with a good, old fashioned vest decorating. What? You haven't heard of that before? Well, Lady Di had this great idea. She got some black material on clearance and sewed it into twelve or so simple vests. Then we got some glue guns and a tub of Gramma Ollie's multi-colored beads and let the kids decorate their vests with 'pirate jewels'. Some kids were really into placing their beads in certain patterns and certain colors. Others tried to see how long of a glue strand they could get all over themselves. Once the vests were properly adorned, and glue gun burns properly bandaged (my own), we brought out the paper bags for the treasure hunt. The kids used markers to write their names on the bags. Most of the boys also drew skeletons and various pirate themed pictures on their bags, many with realistic bloody battles. With an emphasis on the blood.

Once the bags were done, it was pizza time. I prepared the treasure hunt while the kids were chowing down. We had around nine stations set up in the backyard with a clue and a pirate prize at each one. As the boys found each clue, they got to put a prize in their bag. We divided the boys into teams of three. While one team worked on the hunt, we tried to entertain the rest of the group with a game of Simon Says. We were immediately informed that Simon Says is no longer the 'in' game. The boys taught us a game called, "I Love You Honey, But I Just Can't Smile". You basically stand in a circle and say to the person next to you, "I love you Honey, but I just can't smile". If the person who is listening smiles, they have to sit down. A couple of the boys couldn't even keep a straight face before they heard the first word. When it was N1S's turn he said, "I love you Honey......, what was I supposed to say again?" The best player at the party was his sister Sweet Pea. She stared stone faced at the third grader next to her, daring him to make her smile. She is going to be trouble for the boys in Junior High, I'm afraid.

Once all the teams had located the treasure, we had to do something else with the unruly mob. It's amazing how fast those games go when third grade boys play them. The games seemed to last a lot longer on paper.

Anyway, the next game was 'tie an apple on a string and see who can bite it first without using their hands'. Can you tell I don't know the real name for this game. About three of the boys had mouths big enough to bite half of the apple. The good thing was that almost every boy wanted to finish his apple regardless if they won or not. At least they got something healthy that day.

Our last game of the evening was 'Walk the Plank'. You can't have a pirate party without that. We blindfolded each boy and led each one around the yard to a long board plank. One end of the plank was elevated about six inches. It is supposed to seem a lot higher when you are blindfolded. When the boy would reach the end of the plank I would yell 'jump' and would usually have to nudge them off a little. I would say about half of the boys were fooled.

After the plank it was group picture time and then cupcakes. Luckily, we had just enough activities planned to reach the time that parents started showing up. The parents got to see their fine young boys racing around with cupcake highs, trying to skewer each other with their new plastic pirate daggers. I'm sure we impressed.

We didn't want to throw another birthday party. We just wanted a party for N1S and some of his old and new friends. He got to get some peer interaction practice and hopefully, his friends got to know him a little better. The party seemed to be a success, as all of the boys pretty much got along. They all participated in all of the games. We paired up boys differently for each game and they all seemed to enjoy themselves.

This would be fun to do again next year. I will have to think up something a little more scary than 'walk the plank' though. And the treasure hunt will definitely involve some sort of monster jumping out of something. And probably more blood too.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

You Gotta be a Football Hero.

Number One Son just finished taking a Community Ed. Football class. This class taught the basics of football. No pads, no helmets, no end zone dances. Lady Di and I were very nervous about signing him up for the class. N1S has had trouble with team sports in the past. It takes him awhile to grasp the concept of playing with teammates against another team. He usually is busy concentrating on what he is supposed to do so much that he loses sight of what the team is doing or even whose team he is on. We didn't want him to feel self conscious and we didn't want him to get teased. It's a class after school and I wouldn't be able to watch because of work.
But we took the plunge anyway in the hopes that he would learn more about the sport and maybe fit in better with his peers.

A few days before his first class, I thought it would be a good idea to get the football out and play catch. We tossed the ball back and forth trying see how many times we could catch it without dropping it. I think we got up to twelve or so.

N1S struggles a little with throwing a baseball. He isn't able to coordinate his feet to step forward as he throws. He usually has to think about which foot to step forward each time. Throwing the football is a different matter. He still has to think a little about his feet, but he can throw a tight, accurate spiral almost every time. For some reason his herky-jerky throwing style is very conducive to throwing a football. Score one for N1S.

With this success, I decided to go to the next level. I showed N1S how to run a football play. We got into a huddle. I traced the passing route on my hand for him to run. We lined up. I said 'hut' and off he ran. We ran the 'down and out' play. We ran 'the post'. We ran 'the fly'. I had to tell N1S how many steps to take before looking back for the ball. Otherwise, he would've run all the way to the neighbor's yard before looking back. Playing catch while standing still is hard enough. Now I was asking him to catch a ball while running and looking back over his shoulder. He tried very hard, but catching and running is difficult for anybody. He got a little frustrated and fell down a lot. But ,overall, it was a pretty positive day.

On the day before his football class, N1s was nervous and didn't want to go. I think he was afraid that he wouldn't be able to catch the ball well enough. It about broke my heart. We found out who his coach was going to be and, luckily, it was N1S's old gym teacher from first grade. It made a world of difference for N1S to know someone at the class.
He went to the class and was excited to go to the next one. He found out that there was a former baseball teammate in the class. He is definitely more excited about football now. He said he learned some more pass routes, and he's learned how to pass block. I know a certain 'purple' team who could use some training in that area.

His class then moved on to learning how to play as a team. He said that his team beat the other team, one touchdown to none. I said, "Great, how did you do?" He said he blocked on that play. He also said he almost scored a touchdown, but ran out of bounds. I guess the coach, who is the quarterback, faked a pass and then handed the ball to him. I would have loved to see that.

He is also learning a little football discipline. N1S said that one of the boys in his class didn't listen to the coach. Because of that, everyone had to run an extra lap around the field. "If one is punished, we all get punished.", he stated. Although, running a lap around the field may not really be punishment for a bunch of nine year boys. They are usually running everywhere anyway. I guess it's punishment if you tell them it is.

Overall, his experience was very positive. He is learning. His coordination is improving. And he is making friends and building confidence. Plus, we actually watched an entire football game together last Sunday. I'm glad that we actually had a good game to watch. He followed the play pretty well and cheered at the right time. He got excited when the Vikings did well and asked a lot of questions. There were a few times he accidentally booed at the Vikings. I think they were accidents anyway. Anyway, it was just nice to interact with him and enjoy something together. Adrian Peterson is now his favorite player.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Are You Scared?

Now that October is here, I'm feeling that creepy feeling again. And I mean creepy in a Halloweenie sense. For some reason, every year, when the air gets cooler and trees start to look barer, I'm more interested in spooky things. Our satellite television also starts to show more horror movies. It seems a dozen or more channels are running Hitchcock marathons. That's fine with me since I do not usually watch horror films, but I love Hitchcock movies. Along with Hitchcock films, I can choose from one of the Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, or Friday the 13th sequels. If you add up all of the movies in those three series I think you come up with seventy-three or so. Or maybe it just seems like that many.

Anyway, it's a great time to catch up on horror classics as well. Nosferatu is a great silent vampire film. Plus, any movie with Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff is worth trying out. I also like the cheesy vampire movies from the seventies. The Captain Kronos, vampire hunter, series is campy enough for all. As you can see, I don't require actual fright when choosing my horror films. I like suspense and old castles. And I can even live without the suspense, as long a film has a crumbling, ancient, dusty, castle on a cliff with constant lightning in the background. Some creepy 'Phantom of the Opera' organ music is a must too. I am not a big fan of slasher movies. I don't care much for the gore, torture or rape. I'm pretty sure that I will never watch Saw. That is why I watch more of the older films. The first Halloween movie now seems tame enough for me after twenty plus years.

I am also drawn to reading more horror stories in October. There is nothing better than reading the Tell-Tale Heart by Poe on a chilly, drizzly day. Again, I like the classics better than more modern tales. Among my favorites are Frankenstein by Shelly, because it has a castle in it, and The Halloween Tree by Bradbury. Ray Bradbury has a whole list of good October stories. I usually lean more toward stories with bleak, depressing settings to match the weather. I just seem to get more out of them. This fall I decided to re-read Bram Stoker's Dracula. (Wow! Another rocking castle) I'm reading it slowly this time to really get into it.

This is the only time of year that I feel this way. I don't seem to enjoy spookiness (or castles) as much during the rest of the year. Once October is over, I have to start looking forward to Thanksgiving and then on to Christmas. By then, all of the macabre has left me. So now is the time get your Halloween fix, before the 'Happy' holidays start. Put out your pumpkins and 'bring out yer dead'.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Twelve years ago today, Lady Di foolishly said, "I do", standing next to me in a church in Eagan, Mn. It's hard to believe that it has been twelve years already.

I remember that it was a sunny day with a strong, cold, autumn wind. All of our family and friends were there. Our nieces and nephews were so much younger then. When I think of that, it seems long ago. And yet, not too long ago. Everyone else has changed, but I don't feel that we have. Lady Di is still as beautiful now as she was on that past October day. Our family has grown by two since then. It's hard to remember a time without the kids, but it's as though they were there on that day too.

When Lady Di and I were married, we really became one. When the kids came, they became one with us also. It is difficult to separate a part of you, just because memory says you should.

Am I the same person I was before that day in October? Am I the same person now? I don't know if life changes one, or if life adds to one. Is a person the sum of his experiences, or do his experiences change and shape who he is? The answer will not be found by me.

I just know that looking back on our wedding day brings back memories of, not only what we did, but who we were. I believe that we are still, essentially, the same people. Everything and everyone else around us has changed. In my mind, we are still two young kids in love. I just hope that Lady Di remains foolish enough to stay with me. I love you Honey. Happy Anniversary.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Under the Knife

As some of you know, I had injured my knee a couple weeks back with a torn meniscus. Last week, I was lamenting upon my poor state of affairs and listing all of the things I couldn't do while limping around the house. I was feeling sorry for myself.

My lamenting is at an end. On Tuesday, I went in for surgery to repair my pesky meniscus. We had to hurry up and wait quite a bit. We had to arrive at 8:45am for a 10:45 procedure. The extra two hours were used by multiple doctors and nurses to each ask who I was, why I was there, and if I had eaten anything since last night. I guess they didn't want me to secretly eat a gauze pad while I starvingly waited in my paper gown.
I discovered something new in hospital gown technology while I waited. They now have a gown warming system called Bair Paws. It basically is an oval shaped unit, about the size of a dessert plate, mounted to the wall. A long vacuum tube is attached to the unit. You then insert the other end of the tube into a hole in your hospital gown. The ready made hole in the gown looks exactly like the opening of a vacuum bag. Once you are hooked up, you turn on the heat. It acts like a weak hair dryer and sends warm air up your skirt. It worked pretty well since the pre-op and operating rooms were so frigid. I can remember my grandmother having a similar hair drying system at home. With her unit, the tube would connect to a shower cap like thing and inflate it with warm air like a Jiffy Pop pan on your head.

In pre-op I got hooked up with an IV. I waited patiently for my sticker for being brave, but none was offered. The anesthesia was administered and I don't remember leaving the room. I woke up just before noon and, as was the case last time, I was starving. I got my saltines and cranberry juice cocktail. They were so good, I had to have seconds. Lady Di then waited with me in recovery for another forty-five minutes or so before they gave me the go ahead to skedaddle. I had to use the bathroom first and I couldn't believe why I had to go so bad. All I had had to drink since last night were two small cups of cranberry juice. I voided enough to fill an IV bag. Then I remembered, "Oh yeah. The IV".

Now I get to rest my knee and limp around the house like Igor. I've been reading, sleeping and watching TV. I am bored out of my skull. I tried to watch Sweet Pea play chalk in the driveway. I have a few more days of recovery before I can do that again. My life now revolves around ice and how much I can put on my grapefruit sized knee.

Lady Di has been great as my at home nurse. She has been keeping up with the house and kids in spite of my handicap. I'm just trying not to be too much of a bother. The kids even seem to know that their Dad needs some help. They are doing more things on their own and helping Lady Di a lot. I hope they continue that after I have recovered.

Well, my knee is telling me that I have sat at the computer long enough. Time to ice and think of something a little more interesting for next post.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You Know You Make Me Want To Shout!

A few weeks ago, before bed, the kids wanted to play a game. I offered them free time in their rooms before bed, but they both wanted a game with me. I said, "OK, get a game from the basement." They both clamored down the steps like stampeding bison. I was hoping for a nice quick game of UNO. Then they came up grinning ear to ear with the 'Twister' game.

They must not have seen my shoulders fall in disappointment.
"Look, Dad, your favorite game!", they shouted.
And there was much rejoicing. (yay)

I don't remember exactly when I got so old, but this game does a good job of reminding me. Well, let's make the best of this, I thought to myself. If it is good enough for 450 North Dakota students, then we can have fun too. I put in my Animal House CD for mood music. It just seemed appropriate for Twister. Especially when Twistin the Night Away played. The kids reminded me of the rules. If you fall, you're the spinner. If you don't fall, your the winner. Winners win, losers spin. "Daddy, you're the first spinner."

That's fine with me. Does that mean I'm the first loser too?

Luckily, all three of us know our lefts, rights and colors. Sweet Pea sometimes gets left/right amnesia when it is strategically advantageous. Number One Son never seems to catch on to this.

The first game lasted pretty long. Both kids kept their balance and played by the rules pretty well. Sweet Pea was the first casualty. That 'right foot red' always gets her.

Sweet Pea always has to be a little different, and her spinning was no exception. When she was spinner she would call out, "Yellow foot left." Number One Son would giggle and say, "I don't have a yellow foot". She kept calling, without knowing what we were laughing at. "Blue hand right". Both kids thought it was funny when Dad would have to step completely over one of them to find his spot. "You're just like a tent, Daddy." Well, we all won some and we all lost some and, astonishingly, there were no fights.

The 'Animal House' CD came around to the song 'Shout'. That was the official end to 'Twister' and the official start to our dance party. I let them dance to that song three or four times to get them tired enough for bed. It did the trick.

If any of you parents are having trouble getting your kids to bed at night, try using the Twister method. Every night, get the Twister game out. Play about a dozen games and end the night dancing to Otis Day singing Shout.

It works every time. Now where's my ice pack?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Negotiator

We had some good news from school this week. On Friday, the mailbox had a postcard addressed to Number One Son. It was a CBG from his school. This was not a recruiting letter from Russian intelligence. A CBG is a 'Caught Being Good' notice. When a student is observed doing the right thing in a difficult situation at school, the witnessing teacher rewards the student with a CBG.

Number One Son's situation happened on the playground during recess. While playing a game, a bunch of kids were arguing with one boy. The teacher said that N1S was trying really hard to convince all of the kids to stop arguing and continue playing. He was then very consoling to the one boy who was ganged up on. The teacher said N1S showed a lot of empathy for the boy. Empathy is one thing we are constantly working on with N1S. We were very proud of him. Kids with Asperger's very often have trouble recognizing an other's point of view. For the last five years, N1S has been slowly improving his ability to recognize social cues to choose appropriate responses. He also has been having improved interactions with some neighborhood boys his age. He no longer is hesitant about initiating play, but he actually takes part and enjoys the games they play together. A couple years ago, these same boys would just walk away when N1S would say something off the mark or play in an unorthodox way. We now feel comfortable letting him go off and join in the group on his own. He still needs a little 'pre-play coaching' once in a while, but it is considerably less than before.

The CBG notice from school was definitely a high point of the week for N1S and us. It says that something is going right in his world. I hope we have a little something to do with that. I know that he deserves most of the credit for his effort. Maybe this will be the first of a long line of CBG's. Even if it isn't, we know that he is working hard and doing his best.

We showed N1S his CBG and asked him for his view of how he handled the situation. He said he saw all of the kids fighting and he told them to stop. He said, "Guys, if you don't stop arguing, you'll lose all of your play time." Very logical. I'm not sure if his empathy was for a friend or for wasting play time.

Either way, we are pleased with N1S's choice of action.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

South Dakota Vacation

This weekend we gave Lady Di a break from us. The kids and I went to South Dakota to visit my folks. Lady Di was in charge of a fund raiser for Number One Son's school and she had to work there on Saturday. I can't recall when Lady Di has had a weekend at home to herself. She will either love it or go stir crazy.

This weekend was also my Mom's birthday. The kids each made her cards and we gave her a gift certificate to a local store. We gave the cards to her a day early because we just couldn't wait. The next morning, the kids sang Happy Birthday to Gramma just before lunch. Fifteen minutes later we sat down to lunch and couldn't find Grampa anywhere. The car was gone and so was he. We started to eat anyway. He showed up about ten minutes later. We asked him where he went. He suspiciously said, "Oh, just an errand I had to run."

Immediately, Gramma said, "You had to buy a card, huh?"
Number One Son and Sweet Pea instantly looked up from their food, wide eyed. They saw Grampa's face turn pink as he was trying not to smile, assuring his guilt. Sweet Pea then asked in her sing-song girlie voice, "Grampa, did you forget Gramma's birthday?"
You just can't slip anything past her.

We had a really nice weekend. It could have been better if I hadn't strained my knee last week. I twisted my knee while trying to save orphans from a burning building. I mean, I was showing Sweet Pea my advanced gymnastic routine when I caught my ankle on the basketball hoop and twisted........Oh, all right! The truth is, I over extended my knee putting in a shelf at work. That somehow doesn't sound as heroic. Grampa got to golf with the kids while I rode along in the golf cart and held up the 'Quiet Please' sign. This was SP's first time golfing on a real golf course. Once I explained that she can't dig a hole in the green with her putter, she was fine. N1S had quite a few good shots and is a very good putter. He may need to teach Grampa a few putting tips.

Anyway, I had an MRI done this week and I have a torn meniscus. I get to meet with the orthopedic to schedule a procedure to fix the tear. The same thing happened to my other knee a year and a half ago. I guess I just have weak meniscuses.

Besides walking around in constant pain, the real bummer is that I can't do the normal things I do with the kids. The weather, lately, has been perfect for walks, bike rides, and yard work. I haven't been able to do any of it. I wanted to help Sweet Pea with her cartwheels this week. I wanted to help Number One Son with his football class this week. A knee injury is never convenient, but it seems this week couldn't have been worse.

The up side is that after the knee is fixed, it should only be a couple days of recovery and it will be as good as new. That's what happened a year and a half ago anyway. I should be able to get it fixed next week. Then a few days of recovery and then 'watch out fun!' I will get to mow and winterize the lawn, blow out the sprinkler system, rake some leaves and take down the window screens. Wait a minute. I think I had it better when I was incapacitated.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Is Cartwheeling an Olympic Sport?

The school extracurriculars are starting. Sweet Pea had her first gymnastics class last week. She loves it! She has four coaches. She couldn't remember their names, but she said one coach was a girl and three were boys. Is this true? When I think of gymnastics, I think of leotards and Mary Lou Retton. I know that men compete in gymnastics too, but I thought that only happened in California. Gymnastics is a very physical and demanding sport. I just didn't think it was that popular with men in the Midwest. I'm glad to see that it is.

Sweet Pea said her coaches are all really nice. I even found out that one of her coaches is famous. SP said one of her coaches is that guy that says "Bam!" all the time.
"And he is always selling that soap on television."
"Do you mean 'Oxiclean'?", I ventured. "The guy who says Ka-boom?"
"Yeah, that's him.", she said.
Her coach does have a beard like the guy on TV. So I asked her, "Oh, I see, your coach looks like the guy on the Oxiclean commercials?"
She answered, "No, it is him. He has a beard and he shouts a lot."


While watching her practice, I could tell she was enjoying herself. There are about twenty girls and one boy in her class. They all split up into four stations of various gymnastics arts. This is SP's first gymnastics class. She has a little trouble with cartwheels, but she is working so hard. She's not afraid of falling down. When she attempts a cartwheel, she gets her little legs switching back and forth like an electric scissors. She buries her chin in her chest for extra speed and purses her lips in determination. She jumps, puts her hands down, kicks her legs up, twists, and slams her hip down to the mat like a professional wrestler. She then bounces back up to skip to the next station. I'm very proud of her. There are a few other girls who have more gymnastic experience, but Sweet Pea keeps trying and doesn't get upset or discouraged.

I was really impressed with her 'Oxiclean' coach too. He took many of the girls aside to give individual instruction. He helped SP a few times with her cartwheels. She showed some improvement too.

I'm happy that SP has this opportunity try something new. Our school district is fortunate to have the quality of athletic equipment it has. I saw five balance beams, two sets of uneven bars, a set of rings, a trampoline and loads of mats. And this is just in the junior high! My small town school had plenty of mats too, but they were for wrestling. And the only rings we had where class rings. When I was growing up, gymnastics was something you watched on television every four years. Not something ordinary people could master. Gymnastics is something new to me. I want to help SP but I have no idea how to coach cartwheels. I had better attend as many practices as I can, to figure out what my SP is doing. I don't want to yell out the wrong cheer. I also don't want to end up in traction while practicing with her at home. As hard as SP works, she will easily outpace my knowledge of tumbling.
I better start dusting off a place to put her gold medal for cartwheels.


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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.