Sunday, July 26, 2015

♪ ♫ ♪ Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jacks (and Pom Poms and Cotton Candy) ♪ ♫ ♪

A friend gave me a couple of tickets to the Rockies game a few days ago.  My oldest, Avery, had always had interest in the Rockies so I decided to take her for a daddy-daughter date.    The Rockies were playing against the team I had watched before the Rockies inception so I was very excited to watch the game and excited to share it with Avery.  

Per Jacobson tradition, we were running late and even needed to get my sister involved with ticket pick-up.  We parked the car, grabbed the tickets from my sister in an intersection in front of the stadium and walked inside just after the national anthem.  My daughter's face was glowing as we walked in.  I miss that sense of wonder when walking into a stadium.  To her, the long lines and crowded walkways are part of the experience not the nuisances that grown-ups see them as.  You could see her processing all of the information, her eyes bounced from sight to sight, like my mother in a row of slot machines.  After a few minutes her eyes trained on a snack stand.

"Daddy, I'm hungry." 

We waited in a line that seemed forever but the conversation was great.  She talked about her favorite player, Troy Tulowitzki, and wondered about the likelihood of him hitting a homerun that game.  I said that he probably would, not fully believing it.  She had never been to a Rockies game where he hadn't hit at least one.  I quietly hoped he would keep the streak alive.  

We got to where we would order and I asked her what she wanted.  After a brief discussion that cotton candy was not dinner, she settled on an unattractive slice of pizza and we found our seats.  We missed the Rangers half of the first but got sat down in time to watch the Rockies take a quick lead and Avery seemed to be getting onto the game.  The Rockies continued scoring in the second and Avery and I discussed why Tulowitzki was her favorite player.  To my chagrin it was because he had Justin Beiber's "Baby, baby, baby" as his theme music, but at least she was cheering, right?  As if I planned it, Tulo came up to bat as we were having the discussion (with different theme music) and he promptly put a ball over the left field fence.  He put the Rockies up 7-0 in the second inning.  Avery shot out of her seat cheering.  I'm sure that my smile would be tough to duplicate.  I was in bliss.  

But then it changed, just a couple of inning in, she was ready for another snack.  We went and got her some Dippin' Dots and she asked if we could go look at the kids area.  She ate her snack and spent an inning in the kids zone.  After that she asked if she could get a souvenir. 

"Of course, sweetheart." I responded wanting to see what was going on with the game.  By the time we got the overpriced pom-pom into her hand the Rangers had begun to chip away at the Rockies lead and I hadn't seen a moment of it.  My phone rang.  It was my buddy Dave who had seats behind home plate.  He was offering us a couple of innings in the seats.  We went to meet him and I was excited about the prospect of using the seats.  Dave made his way up the steps and he was grinning ear to ear.  He had just caught a foul ball.  The white whale to many a baseball fan.  As excited as he was, the prospect of sitting anyplace a ball could actually land scared Avery and I begrudgingly let Dave know that he could have his seat back.  

After that Avery wanted to see how long it would take to walk the entire concourse of Coors Field.  Incidentally, it takes the exact amount of time that it takes the Rangers to make a 7-0 game into a 7-6 game.  I, I begged that we go back to our seats to finish watching the game.  She responded by letting me know that the cotton candy, Sprite, Dippin' Dots and pizza had left her feeling "icky" and that she would like to go home.   I didn't like it but the prospect of an ill child forced me to acquiesce to her demands.  We left the stadium and made the long walk back to the car.  I could hear the stadium erupt from time to time and somewhere deep down, I was down about having to leave.  

When we got back to the car I unlocked the doors and held hers as to keep her from banging the car next to us.  She started into the car but then turned and hugged my leg.  

"That was the most fun ever!" she said into my navel.  It was one of those moments that melt you.  I hugged her hard and climbed into my seat.  She was asleep before we left the parking lot.

I listened to the rest of the game on the way home.  The Rockies won 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth.  The takeaway I had from this is simple: the thing that kept her from wanting to sit in her seat for the game was the same thing that made her able to look past the crowds and long lines.  It is the sense of wonder that I envied in her.   It's the fact that going to the game with her was about far more then the score at the end of the game, it's about the cotton candy and the overpriced baubles.  It's about Tulo keeping our streak alive and the play zone and walking the entire stadium and trying to find Dinger.  At the end of the day, I've been watching the game all wrong.  Thank you, Avery.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Coach C or not Coach C...That is the Question

I coached my middle daughters soccer team the last few seasons and it has been a joy for the most part.  This season, however, was a little more challenging than most, not because of the kids, or the parents or anything dealing with the on the field activities, but because of new demands at work and ever increasing demands on the wallet.  I knew that the last game I coached Macy this season was the last I would coach her but I had decided that it would also be my last coaching altogether.   I figured that this would allow me a few more hours of work a week and every little bit helps. If I were completely honest with myself I would have seen that my heart wasn't completely into it either. 

The problem with this is that my youngest, Darby, had already made the decision that I would be coaching her as she began her soccer career.  I knew this so I consulted with my wife and her advice was that we would find a way to make ends meet and that I would surely appreciate the experience again as I watched Darby grow into her own as a player.  It was sound advice.  It made sense.  But like so much good advice I have received in my life, I chose to go another direction.  

Over the dinner table in our household, we have a daily talking point; "what was your worst thing that happened?" and then "what was your favorite thing that happened?".  It's a means of exposing the good and bad of our kids days.  Over one of these sessions we found out about a bully in our eldest daughters school (turns out the bully was just a little girl that lacked self control and "bullied' all of the kids and actually really liked Avery) and we always find out about hidden joys that struck our girls fancy (such as toe nail painting).  One evening I had made the decision that my "least favorite thing" would be the decision to hang up my whistle.   I had figured that it would be a way to open a discussion with my wife, and more importantly my youngest, that I wouldn't be coaching this upcoming season.   I geared up and searched for the words.  As luck would have it, there would be a preemptive strike.  

 For the last two years, when asked what her least favorite thing was, Darby would respond "Elmo".  I don't know why that is but she is nothing if not consistent.  This day she didn't answer with the name of a red muppet instead stating that her worst thing is that "Macy doesn't have daddy to coach her anymore".  It  was sweet.  It seemed to genuinely bother her that Macy would have a new coach.  Then the bomb dropped.  What was her favorite thing?  She answered, "that daddy would be my coach".  

I'm no monster, despite what Avery thinks when we discuss the topic of cell phones and earrings.  Of course I am coaching her.  The take away from this girls?  All of us will struggle.  There will be times when you can't make ends meet.  There will be times when it seems easier to give up than give your best.  There will be times when you can justify disappointing those you care the most for.  Truthfully, all of that is okay...for a little while.  Then you need to gather yourself up.  You need to figure out what makes you happy, be it your children, your wife, or even watching four-year-olds run in circles on a soccer field.  And when you figure that out, it makes it tougher to give up than to give your best. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Good-Bye Mister Fleischman, Hello New Kitten?

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were charged with the unenviable task of putting one of our pets down due to a variety of illnesses associated with age.  Mister Fleischman had been a member of the family for nearly two decades and his departure will leave a hole in the family dynamic for a while.  While I’ll miss my buddy, the point of this blog is not to bid adieu to my amigo.   

In addition to the task of helping Fleischman on his way, we also had to have a discussion with the girls that this would be happening.  The reaction of each was more different than could have been expected.  We sat on the couch and let the girls know that we had news.  Macy sat on my wife’s lap as she would be taking it the hardest, Avery sat next to her and Darby, our youngest, bounced from my lap to the floor to the dog to my lap.  We explained to the girls that the vet had informed us that Fleischman was very ill and wouldn’t make it more than a couple of weeks and that they should make his life as great as possible with the time he had left.  The reaction was varied to say the least. 

DARBY- age Noticed for a moment that her sisters were crying.  This confused her because the dog was wiggling around on his back and wearing a huge smile.  He seemed to be begging for a “frog splash” from her and she obliged.  She dove on his belly and he jumped up and dashed out of the room.  Not to be outdone she chased after him.  I’m sure her sisters envied her innocence for at least a moment. 

MACY – Age She is our “horse whisperer”.  Since she was born she has had some communion with animals.  It is one of the prettiest things you will see.  She is delicate and sweet with every animal she comes across.  Generally speaking, it serves her well, that day, not so much.  She was shattered.  I watched my daughter cry in a way that I hadn’t seen before.  When she experienced loss in the past, she had questions.  In the past she had been too young to comprehend the depth of what was happening.  She wasn’t too young that morning.   She knew what it meant and it hurt.  The sound that came out of her cut deep.  It made me wish we never had pets.  Her reaction was what we expected and more.   

AVERY – Age I guess the best sentiment towards her reaction would be “caring but practical”.  She wailed the same way as Macy did.  Her eyes were red and tears streamed.  We all hugged and tried to dry tears to varying degrees of success.   As the situation began to calm, Avery sputtered, “Does that mean we can get a kitten?”.  Opportunistic, sure.  Appropriate, probably not.  Successful, not in the least.  She should have realized that seeing Macy in her condition made me feel that I should never buy them a pet again.  Nice try anyway, sweetheart.   

The lesson for the girls is this.  It may feel like you can love too much.  You may even envy someone who doesn’t seem to feel as deeply or hurt as much.   Truth be told, losing someone close to you is the worst thing that can happen.  It hurts in ways you don’t even understand.  But here’s the catch.  It hurts that way because of the love you put into it and the love you got back.  The fact is that the kinder you are, the better you treat people (and animals), the more you will feel this and here’s the part that is hard to grasp: it’s totally worth it.  So love like you always have regardless of the consequences and no, you can’t have a kitten.