Friday, March 29, 2013

Apple Picking Goofiness

We found our calendars open on the Monday of Columbus Day weekend and made plans with our friends to go apple picking at our favorite spot in Connecticut. It turned out there weren't a lot of apples to choose from....about 2-3 different varieties, and none that excited any of us.  But we made it there and had to pick some apples!

The views are usually picturesque.  The clouds were masking the blue skies for the most part.  I attempted to get a group shot of my kids but what I got was a whole lot of silliness.  Chica gave us her best "ducky" pose which for some reason is THE teenage pose these days.

Jack was not helping at all. He wanted no part of posing for a family shot and although I was totally annoyed, the resulting pictures are pretty funny. Ben couldn't contain his laughs.

As a little pay back for his noncompliance...SNIPE.

A couple more attempts at a group shot. Ben, Luke and Chica were helpful. Jack, not so much. At least I got to show him how his pants look from behind.

Eventually, my kids were guilted into a group shot with our friends.

Fun time!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Photowalk Getaway

My friend, Becky, invited me to join in her a Scott Kelby photowalk that was happening at a place I've been wanting to see for a long time - Quabbin Reservoir. I was so excited to get away for a little bit and take pictures,  although I was a little unsure of how it would be meeting up and photographing with strangers.  I don't do well forcing myself to take photos and I don't feel like I have confidence about my natural eye for photos.
We had a gorgeous day and Quabbin was more beautiful than I expected. The only surprise was that the foliage was not much to see.  The second week October should be peak or past peak foliage and the vibrant fall New England colors were lacking.
Our first stop was to meet the group at a tower. Wow....the views were glorious.

After we were done viewing the scene from the top of the tower I grabbed a couple shots of the tower itself. I think I submitted the second shot to the Kelby Photowalk contest.

Our next stop was Enfield Lookout.  The sites were so pretty, but I couldn't think of a way to make a landscape photo unique.

Across the road from the lookout was a wooded area with a little pond. There were pretty reflections and colors in this little area.

After the Lookout we went to the dam. By then the clouds had come and the light wasn't that great and I just wasn't feeling the love for photographing the scenery. But I did find some rocky love along the way.

Becky and I did circle back to these trees which looked pretty awesome from the road.  Unfortunately they seemed to be diseased and were being cut down.
As we were leaving the Quabbin area we stopped at a bridge where there is a river.  There were two guys finishing up some fishing.  That was a treat to see and I went over to see if I could photograph their catch.

Typical photograph enthusiasts, most of us chased the last of the light to photograph a pretty church down the road.  Finally some pretty foliage!

It was a nice day with Becky.  I always learn a lot from her and enjoy her company. We had a nice dinner together and then went home to examine our photographic prizes!

Annual Squinty Eyes Photo - 2012

After a great trip to Cooperstown and a good summer overall, it was time to head back to school.  The backpacks were filled with brand new supplies and the kids were eager to see who was in their classes. I was eager to regain some organization and sanity and watch our major house project come together.

Jack and Ben were back on the bus together, both heading to the Middle School at an ungodly early hour. Chris was away for the first day of school but thanks to Apple technology, he was there to say good morning and good luck to the kids and to have coffee with me.

I knew I probably didn't have much of a chance to get a picture of Jack but after much threatening and promising not to post on Facebook or Instagram he gave me a nice smile. That beautiful new smile.....I don't get enough photographs of that these days.

 Ben, my excited new middle schooler, managed to give me a silly smile. I can't believe he is going into 6th grade!! It seems like he was just chasing me down the street with a gallon of orange juice (inside family joke).

I was happy to have the boys reunite as schoolmates.

The next group was much more compliant for pictures. No problems getting smiles from Luke.....heading into 3rd grade this year and ready to conquer the world.

And my baby girl....already in 1st grade.  Not sure how the heck that happened. This would be my last year at her school and I was already sad to be done when the year hadn't even started.

Squinty eyes, smiles, and poorly exposed photos....but at least I captured them all.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Our Journey to Cooperstown

One last, big, long baseball blog post for now.  This is a big one because it is about a BIG trip to a place we have been hearing about since the kids were toddlers and a place we have been thinking about for the last several years.
In Cooperstown, NY, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, 104 teams from around the country are invited to play in a tournament each week during the summer.  The teams stay at the Cooperstown Dreams Park in barracks during their weeks of play.  Some teams, including ours,  raise money for many months to pay for this experience, which includes the lodging, all meals, uniforms, laundry service,  a tournament 'ring' and lots of baseball on immaculately maintained fields.  It is a pricey trip and obviously considered a family vacation since the families have to rent a house to stay for the week in Cooperstown as well. Another big part of the experience is to trade pins with the opposing teams of the week. This was something that the players as well as the siblings did for fun. It would have made for a very long week if  I hadn't purchased pins for Chica and Luke to trade.
We rented a pretty big house a few miles away from the Dreams Park that had a heated inground pool and a big playroom in the basement.  We rented the place with a couple other families whose young kids are good friends with ours. We figured we needed some place for the little ones to hang out between games and at night, etc. We arrived at the house on a Friday just after dinner to find a whole lot of flies inside. That was very unpleasant but we got it resolved eventually. Cooperstown has a lot of rolling hills and farm areas and there was a beautiful hill behind our rental house that had cows grazing in the distance. The area is quite beautiful.
We dropped off the players at the barracks that night and helped them get their beds made, bags unpacked and locks for their footlockers set.  We only had about 15 minutes or so to do this and then we left them and went back to the house.  That was the only time we were allowed in the player barracks area the entire week.  The kids had no problems saying goodbye and before we knew it they were off trading pins! We wouldn't see them again until opening ceremonies the next afternoon!
We had such great weather for our week which really showcased the beauty of the area. I could hardly believe it was finally my boys' turn to play at Cooperstown. We hung around at the house the next day until it was time to go to the opening ceremonies. The moms took a nice long walk and the kids swam in the pool and played. How exciting when we drove into the park to see our kids in uniform for the first time! 

Oh boy was it hot during opening ceremonies.  It didn't take long for the little ones to beg for water and cold treats.  All 104 teams were dressed in either their red or blue uniforms and began a procession from the barracks to Little Majors Stadium in alphabetical order. The man whose family started the Dreams Park told its story and we were introduced to the staff. Parachuters fell out of the sky onto the field in front of us.  The teams all came walking by the stadium in the distance and I, personally, felt enormous anticipation waiting to see my boys for the first time.  It was less then 24 hours since I had seen them, although it felt like days.  I was nervous about how they slept in the barracks and how they felt and all the mom things to worry about.  But I also was so excited for my little men to be experiencing Cooperstown, and especially together.  I knew Jack would look out for Ben and that Ben would be there for Jack if needed.

My first glimpse of the boys' faces came when I went to the top of the stadium near the entrance and caught them holding their banner, waiting to enter the stadium. They were team 103 out of 104!

I was so excited to see my boys' faces and they looked genuinely happy to be there.

After all the teams were announced there were skills competitions in four areas: a team throwing drill called Around the Horn, accuracy throwing called the Golden Arm, homerun derby called King of Swat and a running competition called the Road Runner. Each player had one area to compete. Jack was the team Golden Arm guy and Ben was the Road Runner. Ben had to wait for 102 guys to go in front of him and then did his thing.  I'm sure he was so nervous but I was so proud of him.

Jack gave his best at the Golden Arm but didn't hit the target.  He said it was much harder than it looked.

After the skills competition we went home for the night. We would play 6 games in the next three days and then start playoffs.  The very first game was against a team from NJ called Wall Force. We would learn later that this team would end up seeded 10/104 in the tournament. They were big and they were good and took us 11-3.  We had some surprise visitors for the game and we were happy to see their faces!

It turned out that we had a very challenging bracked. We played against some of the top seeded teams. Our team ended up 4-2 after regular play and a 72 seed in tournament play. That didn't change the fact that the kids were having a great time. I felt like they were little celebrities I was taken back when my boys would come walking to the field ready to play. They looked so handsome in their uniforms and Jack particularly looked so grown up with his new brace-less smile. Overall the photo ops weren't great because of where we were allowed to sit. The coaches blocked most of the batting and catching shots from where they stood.  


The Dreams Park really was everything I heard it was. Immaculately clean, beautifully maintained and extremely organized.  The players really enjoyed themselves too and their only complaint was the food was pretty bad. After each game the boys were completely starved and we would have to feed them food or snacks at the snack shacks. I don't think any of us minded, though, because it was the only time we could really spend with the boys during the day.



And despite the week for the little brothers and sisters consisted of watching baseball, eating park food and trading pins, they were happy as pie! The pin trading was so much more than I expected. It was so interesting listening to the kids convincing themselves and others that certain pins were "rare".  The little ones were so into the pin trading that one afternoon we had a good size break between games and told them we were going to go to a brewery for lunch. They begged and cried to stay and trade so I volunteer to stay with them. I didn't mind, actually, because it gave me a chance to take some photos and soak up the sun and beautiful surroundings! Who would have thought that the little siblings would have a total blast hanging out at a baseball park for a week? The key here was their best buddies and lots of pins to trade! And the pin trading certainly taught them the concept of supply and demand!


The boys came to stay at our house with us on Monday night. We did go out to a nice dinner one night and then went to town to the Baseball Hall of Fame with the team another night. Prior to the HOF we went to see the famous Doubleday Field. There were some teams playing and it was such a beautiful night.  

On Wednesday morning we had our first tournament game and sadly lost 6-2. Jack pitched and did a great job under pressure. I was so proud of him.  After the game he was pretty emotional, I think knowing his play was over.


The kids packed up their stuff and came to the rental house to spend the last two nights with us.  Thursday we were back at the field for the Closing Ceremonies. Again, the teams all came together through Little Majors Stadium. Each player was announced by name and was given his ring.  It was a wonderful ending to a wonderful week. 


I was so proud of my boys for how they played, how they behaved for their coaches, how they took care of themselves and each other in the barracks with no issue and their team spirit.  We will be heading back in 2013 for another week with Ben and Jack will be a spectator with the rest of the family. He is as excited to go back as we a Cooperstown Dreams Park Hall of Famer!