Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rope Swinging in Falmouth

Our children have never met a swing they didn't want to try.  Add a deep pond, a sharp cliff and a warm, sunny day to that swing, and my children are down-right giddy.  

When the suggestion was made to visit the local swimming hole in Falmouth (which boasts a pretty impressive cliff and rope swing), the Children Elliot did not need to be asked twice.

We've visited that location before and we knew it was F.U.N.

Henry wore his Go Pro camera and got some pretty amazing footage.  You can see the video he put together here:

I thought the video was great.

I was standing on the side of the swing, in a small alcove of the pond and while I got some good photos, I think Henry's perspective was much more fun.

I might have stood behind the jumpers to get such great photos, but steep cliffs and I aren't really friends.

The older children (Henry, Josie, Ethan, Reed and Reed's friend, Mark) jumped for a solid hour and then they came over to our shallow alcove and swam with us and Lauren.

I feel like every photo I post on Instagram has the hashtag "I love summer" and that's because I do.  What's not to love when the weather is so perfect and the company so fun.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Our Day Trip Summer: Falmouth

I am so loving this Day-Trip summer of ours.  Especially when it means spending a wonderful day with our great friends Kathy, Ethan, Reed & Lauren in Falmouth, MA.  

There's so much to do in Falmouth - and we did a lot during our time there - but the trip was really incredibly relaxing and being able to spend the day with our friends was the best part.

Josie loved playing on the beach with Lauren.

And then there was the hot tub...

... and we went to an art fair in the town of Falmouth where the kids pigged out on Strawberry Shortcake,

... and fried fair food...

The conversation never ended, the laughter never stopped and I guess that the kids had fun together, too.  


Thanks for the great times, K family!  We were sorry to say good-bye!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Roller Disco

The weather has been so nice for the past week that it's inspired me to take some evening walks.  I always try to recruit as many family members as I can get for my strolls and on one occasion, Josie and Georgia agreed to join Gordy and I as long as they were allowed to wear their roller blades.  

Josie needed some help putting on her skates, so she got a preview of our trip in the entryway of our house.  

I guess I have become the sort of homeowner who no longer worries about her floors.

Josie loves to skate - both ice and land.  While she's all serious business while on ice, on land, Josie's skating takes on a more 1970s Disco Vibe.  

Josie would fit right in with the roller skaters of Central Park.

Henry didn't join us on our walk, but he was outside, enjoying the beautiful evening, too.

Georgia took a little bit longer to get ready.  She hasn't done much skating this year.

She did a few practice runs on our driveway before we began.  The roller blade brakes seemed difficult to both girls and we have a lot of steep hills in our neighborhood.  It seemed smart to take our time.

I'm hoping that this was the first of many evening strolls/skates.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

España (Part 2): Guest Post By Gordy

When I last left off, the girls had just suffered their first defeat in the Donosti Cup in Spain and were anxious to get back on the field and prove themselves.

Day 6: Surfing Lessons, Laundry and Soccer Dramatics
Wednesday's game was again scheduled for the evening, so the girls took advantage of the free time and went to the beach for a surfing lesson.  I didn't go along, but Georgia said it was hard and even though she never fully stood up, she had a good time.

(photos by parents other than Gordy ... and Gordy)

My confidence in my Spanish was growing, so I took advantage of the opportunity to venture out and do our laundry.  I was pleased that I was able to successfully ask the front desk for directions to the nearest lavanderia, navigate my way there and ask the woman behind the counter how long I should put my clothes in the oven.  OK, not perfect, but I think my high school Spanish teacher, Mr. Schrump, wouldn't be too disgusted with my performance.

On Wednesday they played a local team from San Sebastian, who had beaten Aragon, the team that had beaten us badly.  This represented the last game in "group play" in the tournament and not only did we need to win, but because of cumulative goal differential, we had to win by at least 2 goals to avoid heading to the consolation bracket.

Although the San Sebastian team was more talented than the Aragon team that had defeated us the previous day, this was a better match-up since they played a more skill-focused game than a physical one.  We got off to a good start, getting the first goal 15 minutes in and continuing to create chances.

Our girls were playing great and controlling the game, but couldn't convert the much-needed second goal.  It was starting to look like it wasn't going to happen, when, with about 4 minutes left, Georgia's good friend, Ally, burst through an opening in the defense and put a shot past their goalie.  It caused a lot of excitement because all of the players and parents knew that without that goal we would be left playing weaker teams the rest of the way.  I love this picture of some girls mobbing Ally, while Georgia is running up from her position at fullback (arms outstretched) to join the party.

The girls from the English school, San Patricio, had played before our game and most of them stayed to cheer on the team, chanting, "USA, USA, USA."  It was pretty cool.  After the game, the girls from both teams hung out and socialized for 45 minutes, exchanging e-mail and Instagram addresses.  It was a lot of fun to watch and we all agreed that stuff like that was what we were hoping for when we signed our daughters up for the trip.  They all posed for a group photo before leaving.

Day 7: A Day Off
With the 2-0 win on Wednesday, they not only advanced, but won their division and got a bye in the first round of the play-offs, which were played on Thursday.  This left a day without a game.  Most families took a bus trip to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim Museum, but Georgia and I elected to stay in San Sebastian and have a day together.

We climbed to the top of a hill that overlooked the town and featured an old fort, Castillo de la Mota.  A very pretty view.  We went swimming (briefly, it was cold and a little rainy) and then went looking for souvenirs for Martha, Josie, Henry and for ourselves.  Oh, and of course we found a place to get some more gelato for Georgia.

Day 8: Semi-Finals and.....
Friday was another reasonably sunny day and the girls' semi-final game against Tolosa, Spain didn't start until 4:30pm, so they got in a bit more beach time before resting for the game.

We had watched Tolosa the previous evening in their quarterfinal win over a team from Madrid and they looked very strong, so we were a bit surprised when our girls came out and dominated the match, winning 3-1.  Everyone was excited to be heading to the finals, but also wary because they would now face a team called "Mindset." Mindset was made up of girls from four different club teams in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and had been tearing through their competition at the tournament, never winning by less than 4 goals.

In his many visits to the Donosti Cup, coach Tom said he had never seen a US team win a division.  With an all US final, that would definitely change and we hoped it would be us to break that streak. There wasn't too much time to think about it, as the finals began about 2 1/2 hours after the semi-finals ended.

On paper, this was a mismatch, as we draw from only club and the majority of our girls are only 11 years old.  The picture below shows what type of size disparity our girls (in white) faced.

The game started well, with our girls controlling the play for the first 10 minutes, but Mindset was just too strong and pulled ahead 1-0 at the half.  That trend continued in the 2nd half and we ultimately lost 2-0.  After the game, the girls were tired, but not too disappointed.  They had given their all, but were just outgunned this time.

They were cheered up further by the realization that the girls from San Patricio had come to the game to cheer for them again, as had players from the Aragon team who had defeated them earlier in the tournament.  It was really amazing to hear this whole group of girls chanting throughout the game, "New England!  New England!" (they figured out that "USA!" didn't really work for this match-up).  After the game, our girls showed their appreciation to their new friends by giving them some practice jerseys and in some cases game jerseys to remember them by.  Some who stuck around joined a photo with the runner-up trophy.

When it was all over and we were headed back to the hotel, Georgia got a little sad.  Partially because of exhaustion (she had played every minute of the semi-finals and the finals and had run a lot), but also because she realized our trip was nearing its end.  It had been a great experience.  She had seen new places, had a lot of fun with her old friends, met some new friends, played some very competitive soccer and eaten a ton of gelato.  

She also may have been sad because she remembered that this was the end of the line for her with coach Tom.  Georgia has been coached by Tom for the past 4 years and although he can be very tough on the girls, his style suits Georgia and we've seen her develop tremendously under his tutelage.  Unfortunately, he announced this spring that he has accepted a job to coach at a different club next year and he is moving to Virginia.  Georgia, Martha and I will all miss Tom and we hope that we are able to keep in touch with him.  He's had an amazing influence on these girls.

Day 9: Closing Time
The next morning most of the group flew back to Madrid, where we spent two days before flying back to the US.  The rest stayed behind and did some European family travel.  At some point, I will write Part 3 of this post, detailing what we did in Madrid, but it wasn't nearly as interesting or memorable as the amazing time we had in San Sebastian.

Now that we're back, there's already talk of the "next trip" in 2016 or 2017.  Look out Sweden!  I doubt it will be able to top this one, but I'm sure we'll try..... Adios!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

España! (Part 1): Guest Post By Gordy

(Photos by M. Harris, J. Degnan and Gordy)

Georgia has been playing with the same club soccer team for a few years.  While she has enjoyed the friendships she's built, we've enjoyed getting to know many of the other parents and watching this group of girls develop as soccer players under the guidance of some great coaches.

At the end of the 2013 season, talk started of the potential for a trip to Spain.  Over his years of coaching, Tom, the head coach, had taken several teams to a large tournament, The Donosti Cup, held every summer in San Sebastian, Spain.  Although our girls would be a year young for the youngest age division, he felt they could be competitive.

In spite of the expense, many families jumped at the opportunity and by the end of last summer, there was a group of 12 players and 20 parents and siblings committed to making the trip.   Since Josie and Henry would have things to do at home, Martha and I agreed that only one of us could go.  As someone who took 7 years of Spanish without ever having traveled to a place where it is spoken, I was more than eager to go.  Below is a summary of our time in Spain, written as a guest post from me.

Day 1: We Leave Town
Like most patriotic Americans, we celebrated July 4th this year by taking an overnight flight to Madrid. All but one family, who was doing some traveling beforehand and was meeting us there, flew together. I had big plans to make sure Georgia and I would sleep on the plane, but they failed miserably and neither of us got more than 45 minutes of sleep during the flight.

Day 2: More Travel and Some Practice
We needed a 2nd flight to get to San Sebastian, but not before a 6 hour layover in the Madrid airport.  Evidently very few in our party had much luck sleeping because the waiting area was full of bleary-eyed 11-year-old girls and their parents.

Georgia finally succumbed to her exhaustion and crashed.  

She was not alone.  The whole place looked like a boneless chicken ranch.

Eventually, we took the 90 minute flight from Madrid to San Sebastian and were taken by bus to our hotel.  It was a nice looking room, but there wasn't much time to sit.  The girls had to go to Tournament Headquarters to check-in and have their ages verified.

The check-in took place at Anoeta Stadium, home of the local professional team, Real Sociedad.  More about this place later, but here's a picture of the full team, with the field in the background.

Time for rest??? Nope.  Coach Tom's view is that the best way to beat jet-lag is to stay awake and get some exercise, so he scheduled a practice at a nearby field.  Meanwhile, many of the parents, myself included, went for a run.

Day 3: Scrimmage and True Spanish Dining
The girls had a scrimmage scheduled for Sunday morning in a nearby town.  The opponent wasn't very strong, but it was good to knock off some rust and we were all impressed by their facilities and their hospitality.  The field was far superior to what we're used to seeing in the US.  Along with an immaculate surface, it had locker rooms for the players and a snack bar serving real food, beer, mixed drinks and fancy coffees.  The stadium also doubled as sort of a community center, with a clubhouse where the home team hosted our girls for a snack of nuts, olives and a traditional dish called "Tortilla," which looks a bit like an omelet.  None of our girls speak any Spanish and our hosts spoke little English, but they managed some limited interaction.  Fortunately, there was far more of this later on in the trip.

After the scrimmage, we all traveled by bus to a town called Hondarribia, where we walked around, explored and experienced something truly Spanish.... a 3 hour lunch.  It wasn't that the service was bad, they just weren't in any hurry to move us along.  It may have been the jet-lag talking, but the girls didn't get antsy until we were over 2 1/2 hours into the meal.

In any case, it was a beautiful little town and I think everyone started to appreciate that they were somewhere other than home.

Day 4: Group Play Begins, Biarritz and Opening Ceremonies
The girls were finally ready to start the tournament, so after a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we headed out by bus for the first "real" match against San Patricio, an English school in Madrid.

This was not the most challenging game and our girls prevailed 9-0. Their opponents were not great soccer players, but we would soon learn that they were very nice people.

After the game, we scampered home and got ready for our first excursion, a day trip to Biarritz, France.  San Sebastian is in the North of Spain, very near the French border, so it took us only an hour to travel to this tourist mecca.  Like Biarritz, San Sebastian, is also beautiful town on the Bay of Biscay, but we had experienced a lot of rain to that point, so we were ready to try something different.

Biarritz was everything we hoped.  It was sunny, had some beautiful beaches and narrow streets with interesting shops and restaurants.  The girls all swam and tried Crepes.  Georgia also had her first European gelato experience, getting a cone of Caramel gelato, which she still ranks as one of the highlights of her trip.

This would be a busy day, as we still had the Opening Ceremonies in front of us.  Fortunately (I guess), they didn't begin until around 10pm, so we had some time to get back to the hotel, rest and prepare.

I wasn't prepared for the magnitude of the opening ceremonies.  I knew that this was a big tournament, with more than 400 teams, but I hadn't considered that this would mean about 6,000 players and their families, most of whom would be at the opening ceremonies.

The event was held at Anoeta Stadium and after some dance performances and speeches, the teams paraded around the field and onto the podium, similar to the Olympic opening ceremonies.  Given the number of teams, this took quite a bit of time.  As you'll see below, I tried to capture our team's turn on video, but we were sitting pretty far away, so any shaking of my hand was really magnified.  The event concluded with a fabulous fireworks show and then it was finally time for bed.

Day 5: Beach Time and Wake-Up Call
Tuesday morning started out sunny, so with their next game not until the afternoon many of the girls finally went to the beach for the first time in San Sebastian.  The water was cold, but they had a good time and got out just before the rain returned.

In the afternoon, they played a team from Aragon, Spain and got a bit of a wake-up call.  To that point, our girls had faced some pretty weak competition and we were all starting to wonder when they would face someone tough.  The Aragon team wasn't particularly talented, but they were bigger and stronger and used that to their advantage, ultimately defeating our girls, 4-1.  Afterward, the team was frustrated because they knew they could play better, but they managed to forget the defeat pretty quickly.

Martha says that's enough for this one, so watch for the 2nd half of the trip soon.....

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Our Day-Trip Summer: The Mystic Aquarium

The day after the less-than-successful trip to Good Harbor Beach, I drove the children down to Connecticut to revisit the Mystic Aquarium.  

As we waited in line at the ticket window,  I began to regret my decision to leave the comfortable confines of my couch.  Henry was in a teasing mood and Josie was in no mood to be teased.  

It started with Henry taking Josie's hat ...

... and then not giving it back to her....

... and it ended with some angry words and a nice, big scene in front of the good people in Connecticut.

Maybe it's time for some blog honesty.  It's not all fun and games around here.

Things picked up after we entered the Aquarium.  We said hello to our favorite Baby Beluga:

and we found peace communing with the animals.

With a face like this:

How could you not?

Our favorite part had to be the tadpole bog:

Can you find the frog?  

There were hundreds of tadpoles and frogs and it was fascinating to see them all and to listen to their noises.  We probably spent more time walking through that exhibit than we did inside looking at the fish.

Although the fish were pretty great, too.

After Henry's year of Marine Biology, he was able to explain what we were seeing and to give us additional information about many of the creatures and marine life.  I was really impressed with how much Henry knew.

After we had touched all we could touch and seen all we could see, we left the Mystic Aquarium and headed in the town of Mystic for lunch and a little shop.

Ours was not the longest trip ever, but it was fun.

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