US Open trip

Posted in Family outings, Sports, Trip on September 13th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For many years, I’ve wanted to go up to New York to the US Open, but I’ve never actually made it happen. It’s usually the first two weeks of school, and there’s a lot going on around home. Not to mention that it’s expensive. But this year was going to be different. Since Leah has now really gotten into tennis, I figured I had at least one other person who’d be really excited about it. So, I decided I was going to make it happen this year. Or at least try really hard.

Because of school, the only time we could go was Labor Day weekend (the middle weekend of the tournament). This is the worst time to go, as it’s the most crowded and the tickets are more expensive (supply and demand). I’m a USTA member, which meant I could get early access to ticket sales. But, the day they became available, there were already very few tickets available and they were very expensive. Hotels were also expensive. So I waited and kept checking. Things did not improve.

Eventually I came up with an alternate plan - just go for one day. That would mean only buying tickets for one day, and no hotel stay. And, in reality, I’m not sure the rest of the family would be up for multiple full days at the tournament. I also decided to wait till the last minute to purchase tickets in the hopes that prices would drop as sellers tried to unload them.

My plan ended up working well. I bought tickets from Ticket Liquidator on Saturday to see the tournament on Sunday. They were even tickets with reserved seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium, not just grounds passes. Then we woke up early and left our house at 7:45 to drive up to New York. It took a bit under four hours of driving, then an hour to get parked, shuttled, and in the tournament.

Our first stop was to see Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad (unseeded Americans) play doubles against Tímea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova (the number 3 seed). They were playing on court 11, which is a great court. We sat in the stands, though we later returned to court 11 for a different match and sat on the other side right next to the court.

US Open

The Americans lost the first set 6-0, but came back to win the next two sets 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Townsend forehand

We then found our seats in the giant Arthur Ashe Stadium to see American Madison Keys (#9 in the world) play former #1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Arthur Ashe Stadium

Madison's serve

The girls loved being in the stadium, despite the fact that our seats were way up high.

Tennis girls

Madison Keys lost sadly. The next match up on Ashe was the headline match of the afternoon featuring Raphael Nadal. The girls wanted to stay and watch it, but I really wanted to explore the grounds a bit. I assured them that we had plenty of time to see Nadal play, though, as his matches lasted forever. So, we exited the stadium to see if we could catch some tennis action a bit closer up.

When wandering around the grounds, Jen saw this couch made of tennis balls. She knew we had to get a picture on it.

Tennis ball couch

We then headed back to court 11 to see Bethany Mattek-Sands and Lucie Šafářová take on Karolína Plíšková and Julia Görges. This time, we sat on the opposite side right next to the court. I joked with Molly that we could reach out and grab their racquets we were so close (we did not do that, though).

Courtside

Lucie Šafářová gets seriously high in the air on this forehand.

Safarova forehand

It felt like Bethany Mattek-Sands might run into me as she ran for this backhand.

Incoming

Bethany Mattek-Sands ripped this forehand.

Mattek-Sands forehand

They pulled off the comeback upset, winning 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 and advancing to the quarterfinals where they faced the other Americans we had seen earlier in the day. Mattel-Sands and Šafářová won that as well, and ended up winning the whole tournament. They were awesome to watch, and I was glad to see them have so much success.

They won!

We then headed back to our seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where Raphael Nadal was playing Lucas Pouille. Despite being out of the stadium for almost two hours, we only missed the first set of that match. As Nadal often has epic matches, I was sure there would be more more to see. He did not disappoint us.

Epic match

Lucas Pouille really impressed me (and the rest of the world). He’s now my favorite up-and-coming player. He had a ton of heart, and never gave up. It also helps that his playing style is quite similar to mine, and he plays with the same racquet as me. It makes it easy to identify with him.

Pouille serve

Here’s Nadal’s famous forehand.

Nadal forehand

This match lasted a long time, but the stadium remained mostly packed throughout despite that. This panorama also gives you an idea of just how high up our seats were.

Packed stadium

Here, Nadal is about to serve the final point, and the match clock stands at 4 hours and 7 minutes. It was a seriously long match (the longest of the tournament). During the 5th set, Molly and Jen were ready to leave and beat traffic. Leah and I, however, would not consider leaving such a great match before it finished.

Really long match

Pouille pulled off an incredible upset, defeating Nadal 8-6 in the fifth set tie-breaker. Sadly, he went on to lose his next match to fellow Frenchman Gaël Monfils.

Upset

Then we bought some T-shirts and headed to our car. Thanks to folks arriving for the evening session, folks leaving from the day session, and folks arriving for a New York Mets game (the stadium is next door), getting out of the parking lot was a pain. It took us about an hour, and then we drove home. Leah was asleep before we got out of the parking lot, but Molly stayed awake until we were on the New Jersey Turnpike. We ended up getting home at 1:22am, ending a very long and very fun day. I’m tired again just writing about it.

First day of school

Posted in Leah, Molly, School on September 9th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Last week brought with it the start of school. Here Molly and Leah are, ready for their first day.

First day of school

Leah’s very excited about her first day of first grade.

First day of first grade

Hard to believe Molly’s a fourth grader now. After school, she made sure to tell us she only had two years before she was in middle school.

Fourth grader

Jen asked the girls what they wanted her to make them for the first day of school, and they immediately said they wanted hi-low skirts. They each picked out the fabric for their skirt.

Hi-low skirt

And here’s Molly’s hi-low skirt that Jen made. Molly’s ready to do some modeling with her fancy pose here (no coaching added, this was just how she chose to stand).

Molly's skirt

Our usual neighborhood kids picture on the walk to school.

Neighborhood kids

The Wildcat was waiting at school to greet the kids.

Wildcat greeter

Both girls had a great first day (and first week). We’re looking forward to a great year.

Green belt test

Posted in Molly, Sports on September 8th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Molly’s now been doing karate for two full years, moving steadily up the belt ranks. For her green belt test, she had to do her first bo staff kata. As you can tell, she’s so good she doesn’t need to open her eyes (kidding).

Green belt test

She broke a board for the second time at her green belt test as well. Apparently that doesn’t require her to open her eyes either.

Board breaking

She did it!

Green belt

Here she is with her new green belt on, with her old blue belt in one hand and her bo staff in the other.

Wearing it

Sneak-a-peek

Posted in Leah, Molly, School on September 7th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Last week was the first week of school, and the Friday before that was again time for meeting teachers at sneak-a-peek. Here’s Leah with her new first grade teacher.

Sneak-a-peek

And here’s Molly with her 4th grade teacher. And yes, she and her best friend Jordan are in the same class for the fourth year in a row.

Fourth grade peek

Our little worship leader

Posted in Church, Molly on September 6th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

During Family Worship Month (August) at church, kids took part in the service. Molly got picked to be worship leader, and she did a great job!

First Washington Kastles match

Posted in Family outings, Sports on September 5th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

A few weeks ago (the day after Molly got back from camp), we took the girls to their first professional sporting event. We went to see a Washington Kastles match.

If you are not familiar with the Kastles, they are a World Team Tennis team. While most of professional tennis revolves around individual performances in the ATP and WTA, World Team Tennis offers pros and fans a team format and a lot of fun.

We went to see the Kastles on Family Day. That meant they had a USTA Play Day in the stadium for kids a few hours before the match. Both Molly and Leah took part.

USTA Family Day

Not only did the kids get to play on the court, but Nick Kyrgios (currently #16 in the world) came out to play with the kids. He started with the court next to the girls, but got interrupted when our kids lost their ball and Leah ran onto his court to get it.

Nick Kyrgios interruption

Then Nick made it onto their court. Yes, that’s Molly playing tennis with Nick Kyrgios.

Playing with Nick

Leah knows to stand in ready position when Nick Kyrgios is hitting the ball to you.

Ready position

Nick then moved on to the next court, and our kids kept playing. Here’s Molly winning a ball balancing competition.

Winner

They had a DJ playing music, which meant Molly spent a lot of time dancing on the tennis court. Most of the adults running things thought she was great.

Dancing

Still dancing

Nick Kyrgios showed the kids how an overhead smash is done.

Smash

This is apparently the face you make when you hit a forehand. And you stand on one leg.

Forehand face

Smiling player

Molly still has her tongue out as she reaches for this ball.

Tongue out

The obligatory group picture with Nick before he headed out.

Group picture

Here’s the whole Play Day. They had 4 mini courts set up for the kids.

The whole Play Day

After the kids were done playing, the Kastles had a pizza party for them, as well as some arts and crafts stations to make signs. We also got to see the Kastles warm up. Here’s the entire mostly empty stadium, with Nick Kyrgios and Sam Groth warming up.

Kastles Stadium

Warm up

And their serves in action.

Groth Serve

Kyrgios Serve

In addition to the pizza and crafts, they had a tennis-themed juggler put on an act. I don’t know if he’s always tennis-themed, or just for this event, but he was quite good.

Juggler

Once we got to our seats (front row of the upper deck), the girls got a picture with the tennis ball man. I proceeded to tweet this picture, which was picked as the Kastles’s favorite tweet, winning us a prize bag (more on that later).

Tennis ball man

In our seats, with our signs.

In our seats

The girls got to go on the court to form the tunnel that the players ran out through. They were very excited to high five the players on the court, even the players from the other team.

Then, they got to stay on court for the national anthem.

National anthem

Then we got to actually watch the Kastles play. Here’s Nick Kyrgios and Andreja Klepac playing against Scott Lipsky and Alla Kudryavtseva from the Orange County Breakers.

The match

During breaks, they would show interviews and other quick spots on the big screen. They did one about Family Day, and wanted some kids in the spot. Since we were sitting on the front row of the upper deck, we were in the perfect spot for them to find us.

On camera

Here’s what they looked like on the big screen during the spot.

On the big screen

The match was a lot of fun of course, but I have fewer pictures of it. But here are a couple of serves. First, Nick Kyrgios serving in Men’s Doubles.

Kyrgios serve

And here’s Madison Brengle serving in Women’s Doubles.

Brengle serve

It ended up going into extended play, but the Kastles won! Here’s Nick rushing to his teammates after winning the final point.

Kastles win!

The match was so much fun, and we hope to go back next year. And I can’t forget to tell you about all our loot. We got so much free and cheap stuff at the Kastles match. It included:

  • A free Mylan World Team Tennis shirt for each of the girls from the USTA Play Day
  • A free Washington Kastles shirt for each of the girls for being part of the run-out tunnel
  • A free tennis racquet and tennis ball for each of the girls, which all kids under 12 in attendance received
  • A free long-sleeve Nike Dri-Fit shirt, hat, wristband, and a Pinstripes gift certificate to for my winning tweet I mentioned above
  • A free wristband that was thrown by the players into the stands that we caught
  • A free tennis ball that was hit by the opposing team’s coach into the stands
  • 2 youth hats and 1 very nice adult T-shirt that were $10 each
  • Miscellaneous other small free items they gave out

Quite the haul, especially since the tickets were only $12 each in the first place.

Our loot

Manidokan Fun!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27th, 2016 by molly – 1 Comment

Hi, it's Molly.

Camp drop off

I had a great time at camp. My parents dropped me off on Sunday, August 7, 2016. I had a fun time after that. On Monday, I went to the Flying Squirrel. Here’s a picture of me doing it.

Flying Squirrel

After the Flying Squirrel, I had lunch. Then, I went to the pool. At the pool I jumped off the diving board. Then, I had store time. At the camp store, I bought 2 snacks and a drink. After store time, I had some time in my Lodge. Then, I had dinner. After dinner, I had a camp fire, where we sang songs. Then, I went to bed.

On Tuesday, I went to Harpers Ferry. It was my first time walking from state to state. I walked from Maryland to West Virginia. It was a long walk there. When I was almost there, I saw the results and learned that a man was painting an ad for a company on a mountain. But to pay for the paint stuff, he cheated on his wife, he used his wife’s money! So when he was painting on the mountain, held up by a rope, his wife cut his rope, he fell, and he died. When I was at Harpers Ferry, I went to an ice cream shop and a candy shop. Then, I had a long walk back to camp.

Harpers Ferry hike

On Wednesday, I went on the hard and easy tall climbing walls. I was the first to go on the hard climbing wall. The hard wall was hard because at the top there was an angle (looking from the side, the angle looked like this: / ), and then another angle (from the side, the angle looked like this: \ ). When you got to the top, you rang a bell. For my evening activity, I did Mission Manidokan. That is when we talk about our mission for camp. To learn about it, we made cardboard houses to see what it would be like to live in the house if we were homeless.

On Thursday, I went on a river trip. I rode on the Potomac River in an inflatable raft. I paddled for like an hour or so and then I had lunch. After lunch, I swam in the river. I jumped off of a jumping rock a lot. Then, I got back in my boat . I paddled for thirty minutes to an hour and then I swam in the river again. Then, I got back in my boat and paddled to our destination (where we were going to be picked up). During the time we were getting to our destination, my boat (and the other 2 boats) crew leaders had to get out, and pull the boat since there was a nice breeze that pushed the boat back some.

On Friday, I went on a trail called Sawmill. I swam in a part of a river next to Sawmill. I jumped off a jumping rock, it was 10-12 feet above the water. I jumped off the jumping rock 2 times. I had a lot of fun in the water. Then, I went back to camp. When I got back to camp, I had lunch. After lunch, I packed up my stuff l brought to camp. Then, I watched a movie. The movie was called Tangled. Part way through the movie some kids (like me) went to the pool, the other kids finished the movie. Then, I had store time. Then, Lodge time. Then, I had dinner. After that, my parents came, and we sang some songs to finish off camp.

Camp pick up

Closing ceremonies

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 13th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Sunday we had some relaxing time in the lake house before cleaning up and heading to the airport. Naturally, the girls organized a coronation. Here come the princesses.

Coronation

Queen Molly and King Rhino crowned the two princesses.

Coronation

The entire royal family, including Great Queen G’Mom and Prince JJ as well.

Royal family

Later, we had some family music time. Here’s Uncle J on guitar, Emmie on violin, Leah on bongos, Jen and Molly on shakers, and JJ on harmonica.

Family music

And then we headed home to Maryland. Thanks for all the water fun!

Last day of water fun

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 12th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Saturday was our last full day to enjoy the water, so we made sure to take advantage. But first, some dry fun - Bingo!

Bingo

And then we were back on the tube. JJ showed that he didn’t need to use his hands.

No hands

After riding with JJ, Uncle J got to ride on the tube with Leah as well.

With Uncle J

Leah caught some air.

Flying around

Hold on tight.

In the span of 3 days, Emmie went from fear to fun on the tube. Two days before this I never would have thought she’d have such a grin. And yes, Uncle J got to ride for a third time in a row, ensuring maximum tiredness.

Big grin

Then it was Molly’s turn to get sprayed in the face with water.

Splash

No hands!

No hands

Not sure if she’s sticking her tongue out at me or tasting the lake water (yuck).

Tongue out

The kids started practicing rolling off the side at the end of their ride. Here goes Molly.

Roll off

G’Mom even got on the tube. She had a great time.

G'Mom too

No hands

Fun tubing

It wasn’t all grins; sometimes things got serious.

Serious tuber

We then had our second great uncle/aunt visit. Great Uncle Rick and Great Aunt Roxanne dropped in to hang out.

Another great visit

Saturday afternoon when we went to get in the ski boat, the kids noticed a snake in the fishing boat. None of us were sure if it was dangerous or what to do about it. Uncle J went and got his hunting rifle (not sure what he was going to do with it). Then our neighbor walked over and picked it up. He said it wasn’t poisonous, and he clearly knew how to handle snakes properly. The kids even all petted it once he had it. It’s good to have someone around who knows about snakes.

Snake in a boat

Saturday afternoon we took the boat out to some swimming destinations. Here are the four of us having fun in the water. We also checked out the rope swing, though it was too high for any of our kids at this point.

Swimming

We also went to swim at the rock. There’s a very high (maybe 30 feet) ledge, and a somewhat lower (10-12 feet) ledge. We figured we’d just watch, but then Emmie surprised us all and started climbing up. Molly quickly followed behind. After seeing another adult climb up to assist a kid who got scared, Uncle J and I figured we’d be climbing up soon. But we were wrong. They jumped on their own and loved it. Then they climbed up to do it again, this time joined by Leah. All 3 girls jumped a bunch of times.

The rock

We all slept well that night.

Skis, tubes, and sweet treats

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 11th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Friday afternoon at the lake gave me the opportunity to have some water sport fun. The kids sacrificed a few minutes of tubing so I could ski. First, though, we had to make preparations. It’s important to put weight in the front of the boat when it’s pulling someone, especially an adult man on a single slalom ski.

Front of the boat

I wasn’t sure how I’d do, but I managed to get up on 1 ski easily, and felt right at home.

Skiing

Out wide

Cutting across the wake

Then it was back to the tube. Molly picked up right where she left off.

Still having fun

And she caught some air.

Catching some air

In the air

Most people might close their mouth when the spray is hitting them in the face, but not Molly. She can’t stop smiling.

Fun spray

I joined Leah on the tube again.

Me and Leah

Emmie was warming to the idea of tubing, especially since she got to go with her dad.

Again

And she even smiled.

Smiling

Uncle J taught JJ some tubing moves.

Hands up

After tubing, we got some visitors. Great Uncle Ted and Great Aunt Jeannie joined us for a bit.

Great visit

And after dinner it was time for some sweet treats. Uncle J made a fire so we could make s’mores.

S'mores

They were shockingly good.

Shockingly good

Emmie preferred the technique where you light your marshmallow on fire, then blow it out after the outside is nicely blackened.

Crispy

Roasting

I like this picture of Molly, Uncle J, and the fire. So serene.

Roasting marshmallows

JJ liked the picture too, and decided to insert himself into it.

Photobomb

Photobombs are hilarious

Photobomb face