Tennis player

Posted in Leah, Sports on November 13th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Leah continues to be a serious tennis player. She got invited to step up from the regular recreational classes to the Academy classes back in June, and has been doing that since then. While the weather was nice, she even got to play on clay courts every week. Now she’s back inside avoiding the elements, but still loving it.

She participated in a Tournevent (somewhat less competitive than a tournament, geared towards smaller kids) and had a great time. Here are some of the kids at the end.


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).


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.


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.


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.

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

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.


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.


Still dancing

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


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.


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

New tennis dress

Posted in Leah, Sewing, Sports on May 6th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Leah has been asking about getting a tennis dress, not skirts like she currently owns. So, Jen decided to upcycle one of her t-shirts and make a new tennis dress for Leah.

New tennis dress

Tennis is fun when you have on a new tennis dress.

Loving tennis

Follow the ball

Nice form

Keep your eye on the ball

She loves tennis (just like me)!

Board breaking

Posted in Molly, Sports on April 30th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Last night, Molly had a belt test at karate (and earned her green stripe on her blue belt). During it, she got the chance to break a board for the first time. She did it on the first try.

She also earned her green stripe on her blue belt. Sorry that you can’t see her green strip on her belt; it’s behind her elbow.

Board breaking

Great job, Molly!

Tennis lessons continue

Posted in Leah, Sports on April 18th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but Leah continues to enjoy tennis lessons. She’s moved up from Level 7 to Level 6 now. And best of all, she has gotten to be in the same class with her best friend Everett.

Tennis lessons continue

Here’s our little tennis player after her lesson. She’s happy to be in short sleeves now that it’s warmed up.

Tennis player

Leah says she wants to be a tennis player on TV when she grows up. I’ve told her it’s very hard to do that, and she’d have to practice a lot to do so. She says that sounds good to her. In fact, we went and played Sunday afternoon, and she stayed on the court practicing for more than 2 hours. Molly joined us as well, but she alternated between tennis and riding her scooter rather than playing tennis the whole time.

Blue belt test

Posted in Extracurriculars, Molly, Sports on December 19th, 2015 by c-had – Be the first to comment

It’s test time at karate again, and Molly is going for her blue belt. This is a big step, as it will mean she moves out of the beginner class and into the advanced one. It also means she gets a to train with.

Here she is having her core strength tested.

Karate test

There was no surprise who Molly would choose to spar when she had a choice.


Nice punch!

Sparring advanced belts

Sensei sat on Molly in push up position to test her strength.

Supporting Sensei

Molly got her blue belt!

Got her blue belt

Congratulations Molly on your blue belt!


First karate tournament

Posted in Molly, Sports on December 14th, 2015 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Molly competed in her first karate tournament on Saturday. Her dojo was holding a tournament, so it was an easy way to try it out. There ended up being girls from lots of other karate schools there (which meant the place was packed). Molly elected to compete in both Forms (katas) and Sparring.

Here she is doing her kata. It was good enough to tie for first place in her division with a score of 7.47.

She lost the tie breaker, but was still very excited about winning the silver medal. Congratulations, Molly!

First karate tournament

In sparring, she had a tough opponent to start.

Tough fight

You get 1 point for a punch, 2 points for a kick, first to 5 points wins. There are 3 judges, which are all sensei’s from different schools. Scoring a point requires confirmation from 2 of the 3 judges.

Nice block

Kick block

It was a very tight fight. Towards the end, Molly was losing 4 to 3, and her opponent came close to scoring several times. But then Molly landed an excellent kick, giving her the 5-4 win.


In the gold medal fight, Molly faced another tough opponent with an excellent kick.

High kick

She fought well, but ultimately lost.

Higher kick

Molly won the silver medal!

Another silver medal

Molly’s a happy champion, even if her smile looks odd with her mouthguard in.

Happy champion

I couldn’t get a picture of her with both her medals there since it was so crowed, but here she is right after we got home.


Congratulations, Molly!

Water skiing

Posted in Sports, Trip on August 7th, 2015 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Despite my knee problems, I was determined to ski for the first time in 12 years. I managed to remember how to do it pretty well, though my muscles were not a fan. In the end, my knee may have preferred if I’d stuck to two skis, but a single slalom ski is so much more fun.

Water skiing

Jen also remembered how to ski.

Jen on skis

It’s much faster out wide around the turns.

Out wide

Jen finished her run, then nonchalantly discarded the rope as she glided toward the dock.

All done

Skiing was a lot of fun. I had hoped to ski and then head over to the courts for some tennis. Unfortunately, the wait for skiing was too long, and I didn’t have time to hit the courts. That said, I was so sore after a few minutes of skiing that it was probably good to get a little rest.

Table of Contents for Callaway Gardens 2015