Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Coach D

I am now coaching Scott's first basketball team. 10 boys all aged 9-10 (Scott is only 8 and technically too young, but we wanted uniforms and refs, rather than the Learn-To-Play thing). We have had 4 practices and 4 games so far. We were short players in the first practice so I played on one team and a dad played on the other for scrimmage. I mostly just made plays, but at one point I couldn't resist a weak pass near half court and I stole it and then did a double-pump reverse dunk on the other end. The kids loved it.

Our games have just been short 22-minute running time seeding games to see if we are in the right division (we are in division 6 out of 8 for our age group).

The first game we were actually winning and then lost at the buzzer when we turned it over at half and one of my guys fouled their guy on the shot, which is an automatic 1 point in these games. I should have called a time out. Coach's fault. The final scores were as follows:

L 11 – 12
W 7 – 4
W 27 – 19
W 43 – 4

As you can see, the kids have caught on to my "run and gun" offensive scheme. To this point, my offensive coaching has been "as soon as you get a defensive rebound or a steal, turn and go the other way as fast as you can." I didn't come with that -- that's what they taught me in the coach's clinic I went to. The boys are catching on. In the last game, a league official came over to our bench and told me that if we got ahead by 40, they would have to call the game. For the last 3 minutes I told the boys not to shoot anymore. Only passes. They mostly followed my orders, but they still scored 4 more points.

Coaching basketball is pretty much the most fun ever. I can see how people get into this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Katie Calling

Katie has learned how to use the cordless phone. She only knows two numbers. One of them is mine. She calls me all the time to chat. The first time, R was helping her make the call, and they got my voicemail. I could hear R coaching her in the background on what to say, and then Katie would repeat it. At the end, R told Katie to hang up, and Katie repeated that too. "Hang up," she told me on the message. So adorable.

Another time, a few days later, she called me at work and told me about her day. She had a play date with a friend. She went to school. They did roller-blading in the gym. She told me she was the 2nd-fastest one in her class at roller-blading. She also explained the names of the techniques to stand up and start off safely. There was something about how to hold your hands, and something about a duck stance. Very informative. She pauses to try to figure out how to describe complicated things to me, without being able to use her hands to help point them out.

At first, she would call me several times a day, even if I was sitting across the room. She would let out huge peals of laughter when I answered and pretended to be surprised that it was Katie. That girl loves to laugh.

I wish there was a way that I could bottle up the way it makes me feel to listen to her chatter away on the phone to me. I wish I could bottle it all up. All the words. All the laughs. She is so full of joy.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jewell Bay: First Backcountry Camp for the Kids

[Sep 12 2015]

This was our 5th and final family camping trip of the year, so we went big. We went backcountry camping on bikes to the north shore of Barrier Lake in Kananaskis. At some point during the course of the 5km trip to the site, I ended up carrying each item of gear, every bike and almost every person (except Scott) in various combinations -- including all of them at once.

Each camp this year has been a preparatory step towards this trip-

1. Beaver Flat: Classic car camping, except that we had to haul armfuls of gear down a short pathway.
2. Gooseberry: Sleeping bags, foamies & clothing were carried down short path in Dad-sized backpacks. Roasted eclairs. Abandoned ship at 5am. Cattle grate camp.
3. Little Elbow: Backpacks again. First pocket knives. Kids heated their own water. Introduction of oatmeal. Deer visitors.
4. Little Elbow: New backpack for Scott. Tried trail-riding bikes with backpacks on (Katie abstained) in camp and around pond. With friends. New camp pillows.
5. Jewell Bay: Backpacks for both. 5km ride/run to the campsite. Headlamps for all. First time chopping wood. Introduction to Tang and freeze-dried mac&cheese.

We were all smiles when we got to the parking lot at Barrier Lake. This time I had been very thorough and I was pretty sure I hadn't forgotten anything. One final pit-stop and we were on our way down the trail. Katie thought the outhouse was gross (it was actually a pretty nice one) and preferred to go in the bushes. She is getting very comfortable with nature.

We slung our packs on and mounted our bikes to depart. Katie's pack weighed 6 pounds. Scott's pack weighed 10 pounds. They each carried their own sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camp pillow, clothes, headlamp, pocket knife, camp mug and spork. Apparently, that was still too cumbersome for Katie -- at least, given condition of the trail. The first part of the trail is atop a hydro dam across the Kananaskis River which creates the lake, and that trail is wide but the gravel is composed of very large stones that were pretty bumpy for a little bike like Katie's. I suggested that I could take her backpack from her, to help her balance better. She tried again, but she still didn't like it. Holding the backpack in one hand, I used the other hand to help push and steer her handlebars. That helped stabilize the forks, but it threw the balance off for the rest of the bike. She still didn't like it. She had started to cry at this point. Through her tears, she said, "I want to ride my bike but I don't want to ride it on this trail!" I tried to explain to her that there wasn't a better option available at this moment, and that the trail would improve once we got over to the base of the hill, but she was already starting to get a bit hysterical. I considered whether we should just pull the chute and bail out on the whole endeavour, but then I noticed that she was saying she was still okay to try riding, just not here.

So I offered to take her bike, and she was fine with that. Scott rode on ahead on his bike, while Katie and I trotted along behind. I still had her 6-pound backpack in one hand and her 14-pound bike in the other (this is where the more expensive aluminum bike proved its worth), in addition to my own 36-pound pack on my back. Katie's tears didn't stop immediately, but she was a trooper and she pressed on.

We finally got off the bad gravel and onto the good path where Katie could ride again, but then it started climbing up a hill and I took the bike back again. It was a pretty big hill, and before we got to the top, Katie said her knees were starting to ache. So I lifted her up on my shoulders. I already had 60 pounds of gear, so what's another 40 pounds, right? At the top of that hill we encountered some other hikers coming the other way. I told them that if they were tired they could also climb on my back.

At the top of that hill I also saw a sign that said, "DANGER, BEAR IN AREA." I did not read the sign to Katie because I didn't want to alarm her. Scott read it her instead. So much for that.

I remember going on a backcountry hiking camp with my Dad when we were kids and we came across a dead deer that a bear had partially buried so it could come back later and eat it. If anybody knows stuff about bears, it is my Dad (his first job our of university was tracking and counting bears and other wildlife in northern Alberta), so when he used a steady, quiet voice to tell us to get out of there in a hurry, we did exactly what he said, and hiked many kilometers in the other direction before setting up camp for the night. That night I couldn't look anywhere but at the campfire, because every shadow looked just like a bear to me. I didn't want to do that to the kids, so I didn't make a big deal about the bear spray that I had strapped to my hip belt. But I kept a very careful watch. We saw 2 more of those signs later on along the trail. Spooky.

Once we got past that hill, the trail still undulated up and down a bit, but there were good sections where both kids would ride their bikes and I would lope along behind with Katie's backpack in hand. If it was too steep down or up then Katie would hop off and I would take her bike again. We got into a pretty good rhythm and started making good time. However, there was one hill that was quite steep and quite long. By the time we got to the top of that one, not only did I have Katie on my shoulders again, I had transferred her bike & pack to one hand so that I could wheel Scott's bike up the hill with the other hand. That was a bad hill. We decided that on the way back we would try the hiking trail that detoured lower down along the lake shore and skip that hill.

Scott held up pretty well the whole time, but near the end his pack was starting to get uncomfortable. Rather than stop again so close to the finish, I just took his pack from him and let him loose to ride on ahead. Since I already had a pack on my back, I strapped his pack on the front of my body. I should have had him climb on my shoulders at least once, just so I could say that I carried everything. Oh well. You can't have it all.

The campsite was amazing. Jewell Bay is about half-way down the north shore of the lake and the site that we picked let us perch our tent on a ledge that overlooked the bay and then the whole length of the lake stretching all the way back to our starting point. There were hours of daylight left, but the bay was already in the shadow of the mountains. Still the sun was shining on the north end of the lake, creating a beautiful backdrop for the photos that I took. We were the only ones at the campground for most of the evening, and we built a fire with the huge stack of firewood that was provided. The kids tried their hand at chopping wood with the big, heavy axe chained to the ground (after thorough safety training from Dad).

We roasted hot dogs (ketchup packets courtesy of Wendy's) and the kids tried their first freeze-dried backpacker meals. They liked the mac & cheese quite a lot, but they were lukewarm towards the corn chowder (which was lukewarm). They tried Tang orange drink for the first time ever -- a family camping tradition when I grew up. I should have brought more of that. It was a big hit. We drank it cold, but next time we can do Hot Tang.

This was our first experience storing our food in bear bins. Normally, we can just stow our stuff in the truck. The kids thought it was fun to climb in and hide in the bear bins. All this talk of bears didn't seem to make them too nervous. However, after we bedded down for the night, we heard a noise outside that sounded like something splashing through the water, and Scott asked me what it was. I could see the shadows of flashlights shining through the trees towards our tent, and I told him that it was probably the other campers washing their dishes in the water. He was relieved. He had thought it might be a bear. I guess all the bear signs and bear bins had finally gotten to him. Once he relaxed, he had what he called his best sleep ever on a camp. He usually complains that he gets cold, which didn't make much sense to me, since he's usually in a -5C sleeping bag on a +9C night, but I realized that he usually starts seeping out of his bag during the night and cools off. This time, I had him slide way down to the bottom of his bag and he pulled the bag right over his head. He said it was very nice and toasty. Aside from Katie's nosebleed emergency, it was a wonderful night in the tent.

I awoke in the morning to a beautiful view out the window of a red sky lighting up the water and silhouetting Mount Baldy to the East. I had a fire going before the kids awoke, and we warmed up with hot mugs of oatmeal and some toasted bagels with peanut butter (peanut butter packets courtesy of TJ's Healthy Choices in the food court near work). I also introduced them to instant breakfast milkshakes. I had powdered milk and the instant breakfast packets and we shook those up in a water bottle. Another big hit.

The return trip back took us only 45 minutes -- much better than the 1hr10 minutes it took us to get in. That was partly because we had already refined our technique, and partly because we took the detour and cut off 1 km of total distance (4km instead of 5). Katie was once again a real trooper, jogging behind Scott whenever she was off of her bike, and Scott took pride in making it the whole way without needing any help with his bike or his pack (I helped nudge his bike up one steep & bumpy section, but the judges determined that he could have done it on his own if necessary, so my help doesn't count against his score).

Another camp in the books. This one was the best by far. So beautiful. Such a challenge. I asked Katie what her favourite part was. She said, "THE BIKING!"
I am always surprised how they perceive things.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dad's Surprise 70th Birthday Party

Dad decided to turn 70 this year, so we decided that we should all come and celebrate with him. However, instead of showing up for the big day, we decided we should all converge on his office in the back of the tire store unannounced the day AFTER his birthday. The day of his actual birthday, most of us were driving/flying from remote locales, so it was tricky to call him up and wish him well. In fact, I had checked into an ultra-sketchy motel in Helena, Montana, and the kids were heading off to bed right then, so I went and sat in the car and called him up. He said afterwards that he was somewhat underwhelmed by the felicitations he received on the day from his children.

We made up for it the next day. When we marched into the store he just stared at us in shocked silence. You could almost hear the gears in his brain as he tried to compute what he was seeing. Mom was in on it, and she had booked off his afternoon with a phony round of golf, so he was able to head back to the house with us for the rest of the day.

Joel and fam were able to join us the following day, but Cam & fam were landlocked in Montana because he had been diagnosed with heart problems just a few days previous. He had gone to the doctor complaining about chest pains, and during the diagnostics, they had determined that he also had an early stage of Type II Diabetes, which prompted him to joke with the doctor about getting two major illnesses for the price of one. He said that the doctor had looked at him closely to see if perhaps he was losing his sanity under the stress of the news, because he doesn't know Cam's medical history like we do -- that Cam's sense of humour has plagued him (and us) since birth. Apparently, Dad had wanted to rush out to Montana to help out when he heard the news, but Mom had managed to convince him to stay put for a few days, giving the rest of us the chance to follow through on our surprise plans. When we stormed the store, we had Cam on speaker phone, so that was something.

On Friday we went boating and then we visited Gma Gloy's house in Aberdeen and had cake and ice cream while we waited for Joel & fam to arrive. Allyson and I waxed nostalgic for the good old days when we used to make epic road trips in the station wagon, where the seats were covered with bedsheets to protect from puke and we passed around the shallow lid from the big blue & white water jug. Whatever water you managed not to spill as it was passed back could help you wash down the Styrofoam cup full of dry cereal that you got to eat as a snack. One time Mom branched out and brought puffed wheat squares in an ice cream pail. Unfortunately, I puked into the ice cream pail, thus fulfilling my destiny to ruin every good snack ever (ie: spilling Sprite on the plate of Oreos on successive New Year's Eves).

Saturday we went to the park and enjoyed a picnic and were introduced to the game of Kubb, where you basically throw sticks around and have oodles of fun.

Naturally, any gathering at Gpa's house involves shooting. The kids lined up and shot arrows for quarters for hours and hours. It's a good thing we got him 70 quarters for his birthday, but I still don't think that was enough to fund all the shooting that was going on. At one point, Katie got a bit tired of pulling the string back on the bow and asked Gpa when she could shoot some guns. I think he was very proud. I know I was. He told her that there were too many kids running around to shoot guns, and she seemed okay with that.

Saturday night was the official birthday party, over at the chapel. Gramma Gloy and uncle Chris joined us for that one, and aunt Margo and cousin Charise made the trip from Boise to meet up with us all. It wasn't some massive dance competition or anything. It was a nice little family gathering to show Dad that we love him. I think it was just right for him. Charity made it extra special by hosting a game of Jeopardy with trivia about Dad. I think Chris knew more answers than anyone. At the end, it was awesome to hear from Dad, as he wiped a tear and thanked us all for being the people that we are. He said, "You make my life so great."