Saturday, October 18, 2014

first touch wrap-up.

This morning was Harper's last day of First Touch soccer. She was a trooper throughout the "season" and did seem to enjoy the experience - although she noted that she didn't want to play soccer again in the future. She didn't have a bad time (at all) - but it just wasn't something that she loved. We plan on asking her next summer if she wants to play again - and we shall see what she says (my guess is that she will say that she doesn't want to do soccer again). Harper just knows what she wants and what she doesn't want, what she likes and doesn't like, and that's about all there is to it.

At the First Touch classes, Harper never did exactly what she was supposed to do. She didn't want to run down the field when they were supposed to. Instead, she would mosey on down the field and get to the destination on her own time - doing things the way she wanted to do them. There were certain drills that she wouldn't do, because she wasn't interested in doing them. As for the scrimmaging, she never really got the hang of it. She would kick the ball (rarely), but then when others would get near her and the ball, she would step away from the action and defer to the other participants.

Over the past month, her ball handling did improve significantly though and she grew quite a bit in terms of her soccer skills and abilities. In general, she was engaged with the classes and instructors and did have a positive experience - as you can see below (despite her reservations and assertion that she won't be doing soccer again):

One thing - or rather person - that contributed to Harper's enjoyment of First Touch Soccer was one of the coaches - Coach Mackenzie. Harper was drawn to her and would only scrimmage with her. Harper would hold her hand and stay close to her most of the time. Coach Mackenzie was very kind and attentive to Harper and it was very sweet to watch their interactions. There was a definite connection there.

Below are some pictures of Harper engaging with Coach Mackenzie. Very sweet stuff.

Suffice it to say, Harper's first soccer experience was a success. She might not be a soccer star (and she may very well never play soccer again), but she had a good time - and that is what matters.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

jury duty.

Back in July, I received a 'Notice for Jury Service' from the United States District Court. It was supposed to start August 25th. Subsequent to that, I received a notice letting letting me know there had been a change in the court calendar and that my date to report for federal jury duty had been delayed. I then received a letter notifying me of my new start date, followed by another letter notifying me of a change in court calendar. That same sequence of letters happened again. I then received a 4th Notice for Jury Service. Honestly, I expected to receive another letter notifying me that there had been a change in the court calendar and that I wouldn't end up having to appear. I was wrong.

This past Monday, October 6th at 8am I reported for federal jury duty. There were 40 prospective jurors. We were each given name tags with numbers - our names were to remain confidential. We then hung around for nearly an hour. Then shortly after 9am, we went into the courtroom. There were lawyers in the courtroom for both the state and the two defendants. There were also a few staff members in the courtroom. After about 30-45 minutes, the judge entered the courtroom and the whole jury selection process began. Over the course of about 2 hours, we were asked questions by both the judge and the lawyers. We were told that the trial we would be involved with was a Criminal Case with the indictment being Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and that the trial should last 2-3 days.

The judge  - Judge Brooks - ended up dismissing 1 juror who had a sick child who might need to be hospitalized and another potential juror who had a work trip. Then numbers were drawn in order to rank us. I was number 10. I knew that unless one of the lawyers requested that I be dismissed from the jury that I would be a member.

We then left the courtroom for about 30 minutes and returned to hear who was selected. The judge read 13 numbers, coinciding with the 12 members of the jury and 1 alternate. My number was the 4th number called. I had made the cut so to speak. Interestingly jurors who had been up to the 26th number originally called, made the jury. There had been a lot of cuts!

The jury consisted of only 1 man. Poor guy! Preemptively, we were told not to discuss the case with anyone and also not to do any research regarding the case or any parties involved in the case until after the case was over. By this time, it was about 12:30pm and we were told to take a lunch break and return at 1:15pm to begin hearing the case.

To summarize the case, it involved 2 men from Mountain Home, Arkansas - Charles Elliott and Nicholas Krug - who stole money from people. This specific case involved a woman from California who had wired $500,000 to them in 2007 under the assumption that they were going to invest the money and that she would be receiving a large (a ridiculously, impossibly large) return on her investment. They did not invest her money though and she ended up only getting back $60,000. They were running a Ponzi/pyramid scheme and it fell apart.

There were about 7 people who ended up testifying - including 3 FBI agents as well as the woman from California. The defendants chose not to testify. The trial took 2 days and we deliberated for about an hour regarding our decisions. In the end, the decisions weren't hard to make. We found both men guilty of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud.

The judge is now responsible for sentencing them - which apparently won't happen for at least 60 days.

The whole experience was very interesting. I learned a lot not only about the judicial process, but also about wire fraud. It was also very draining. Lots of sitting. Lots of information. Lots of thinking. I felt flooded and inundated with words and knowledge. I was very engaged and attentive, and took the job of juror seriously. I ended up writing 15 pages worth of notes - which are now shredded.

Despite the fact that I found myself exhausted from my work as a juror, I did enjoy it. With my educational background - Psychology, Criminal Justice, and Social Work - being part of a jury is something I've always wanted to do (which I realize sounds ridiculous to most people). Put simply, it's an experience I've always wanted to have. And honestly, I would like to do it again. Just not today!

I did find out that there are only about 12 trials a year at this particular Federal Courthouse and that the vast majority of those cases are civil in nature. Apparently last year less than 3% of the criminal federal cases in this district went to trial, with about 20% of the civil cases going to trial. Most cases get settled or dismissed.

Also, after the trial was over I went online and did a little research on the defendants in the trial. It turns out that both of them had been in trouble before for similar crimes. I'm not sure if there are other charges against them or if they have served time before. I don't know the whole picture - which is something that bothers me. I want to know everything (about everything). I want to know the backstory. I want to know why they weren't charged with Wire Fraud. I want to know what is going to happen next. I want to know it all. I don't think I will and I have to be okay with that.

That was one thing I struggled with regarding the trial and deliberation. I never got all the information I wanted. Despite getting enough information to make a verdict, I still wanted more. But you only get what you can and you take what you get and do your job - and I did.  My service is complete.

Friday, September 26, 2014

big pinky.

For the past year, Harper has been inextricably connected to a certain blanket - Big Pinky. 

She loves this blanket in a way that is both amusing and adorable. She has now come to think of herself as Big Pinky's mommy. She has anthropomorphized this blanket - giving her feelings, thoughts, and a personality.

She has to carry Big Pinky because "Big Pinky doesn't have legs." Sometimes Big Pinky's favorite color is pink and sometimes it's red. Sometimes Big Pinky is scared. A few of her fears are heights, rock climbing, and spiders. Harper comforts her though and takes very good care of her. Harper is very conscientious of Big Pinky and her wants and needs. After all, she is her mommy. She even knows her by scent and frequently smells her. I think Big Pinky's scent is comforting for her - almost therapeutic. She will take a big whiff of her when she is feeling sad or upset and also tends to smell her at night when she is going to sleep.

Big Pinky goes almost everywhere with Harper because as Harper has noted - Big Pinky misses her when she is gone. That being said, sometimes it's best for Big Pinky to stay home or in the car. Harper is good about leaving her behind when needed - because Big Pinky wouldn't want to get wet, dirty, or lost.

Big Pinky also likes to have her picture taken and to see pictures of herself, so it was easy to convince Harper (and Big Pinky) to have a little photo session the other day. As you can see from the pictures below, Big Pinky is very photogenic.

You may have noticed this blanket in photos I have posted in the past year - or maybe not. Regardless, here is a sampling of Harper/Big Pinky photos from last year:

The picture below was taken prior to Harper's obsession/connection with Big Pinky back in September of 2012 when Harper was only 18-months-old. Obviously the two of them go way back...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

braces for the boys.

Hayden has an anterior crossbite, Basically he has an underbite that is also crooked. In order to "fix" his bite, it had become apparent that he would need braces. We weren't sure when or how it would work, but we knew it would happen.

A few weeks ago, we took him to get a consultation. We were told that we could go ahead and treat the situation now - meaning he could get braces now. The treatment would "only" take 6-8 months (which in my opinion isn't all that long) and would only require him having braces on his upper teeth.

Prior to Hayden getting his consultation, Randy had his own consultation. His lower teeth are "crowded" and he wanted to fix it. To treat his condition would also take 6-8 months and he would only need braces on his bottom teeth.

After talking about things, it was decided that both Randy and Hayden would get braces at the same time - and that day was yesterday.

Before the boys got their braces, I took some pictures:

After the boys got their braces (at Pediatric Dental Associates), they took this picture:

Then this morning I took these pictures:

As for how the boys are doing, Hayden is doing much better than Randy. His friends at school were very complimentary regarding the braces. Everyone wanted to see them so he went around and showed off his teeth to all his friends. They seem to think it's cool - which makes Hayden feel more confident about himself and the braces. No one in his grade has braces. As a Second Grader, it's not the norm and that made him feel like something was wrong with him. I don't think he feels that way anymore - and instead is feeling special and neat. The attention is positive in nature and he definitely likes attention.

Oddly, he isn't experiencing any pain or discomfort - which is great. I think the main negative of the braces at this point in time is the food restrictions and not being able to eat certain food that he likes (mainly fruit roll ups). He will be fine though and in the end, it will definitely be worth it.

Randy on the other hand is experiencing quite a bit of discomfort and is not enjoying having the foreign stuff in his mouth. It hurts to eat - chewing is painful. He wants to rip out the braces and is questioning why he ever wanted to do this to himself. Basically, he feels like he is being tortured. That is how I remember feeling when I had braces (when I was a teenager). I hated them. They hurt and were annoying. I thought of them as a necessary evil. For Randy, the pain will certainly be worth it in the end - but at this point in time he is not a fan of his braces (to say the least!). Hopefully he will get used to them soon. It's really hard seeing him so miserable. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

first touch soccer and harper (with a little throwback to hayden).

Harper had her first real soccer experience this past Monday. She is participating in 'First Touch Soccer' - which is a soccer program for kids born between August 2010 and July 2011. With Harper's birthday being May 5th, just a month shy of the cutoff date - she is definitely one of the youngest participants. 

She did pretty well though and seemed to have a good time. She enjoyed kicking the ball down the field and seemed especially pleased with her bright "pinkish red" soccer ball. When running from one end of the field to the other, it was obvious that she didn't like coming in last (or even near the rear). She wanted to be first. When going from one end of the field to the other while playing "red-light, green-light," she would keep going on red-light in order to get ahead of the pack - then she would stop.

Oftentimes before kicking the ball, she would use her hands to move the ball in order to get it into a more preferable position. That was amusing to watch. She seemed to want to get the ball in just the right spot. When she would touch the ball, the instructors would kindly remind her not to use her hands. She didn't seem to appreciate the critique and would just stand there looking a little annoyed and miffed. I imagine that in time she will use her hands less. She certainly doesn't like to be admonished or told that she is doing anything wrong, so I think that she will do whatever she needs to do (meaning not use her hands) in order to not be corrected or critiqued.

When it came time to scrimmage, it was a bit of a mess. Most of the kids - including Harper - had no idea what to do and didn't understand what was going on. At that point, she started to bite/chew on her nails (which is a habit that I do). Biting/chewing/playing with her fingers seemed to give her something to focus on and do in a situation that was foreign and confusing. It was a welcomed distraction. Hopefully as she continues to participate, she will come to understand the whole scrimmage concept and her nail-biting habit will subside. We shall see!

At the end of the class, I asked her if she had fun and she said, "yes." Even more pointedly, I asked her if she wanted to do it again and she again said, "yes." For me (and Randy) that is a success. 

As for her brother, Hayden, he seemed nervous and stressed throughout most of the class. He was worried that Harper wasn't doing well or that she wasn't the "best." She didn't make a goal and that seemed to bother him. He really wanted her to do well and be "good." 

His Perfectionism in regards to sports was definitely evident! We had a little chat with him about how it really is all about having fun and that whether or not Harper makes a goal is not important - as long as Harper is happy, then she is doing well. 

He doesn't need to worry about her or her performance - and while it is sweet that he is concerned about his sister and cares so much about her, we certainly don't want him to experience stress in this situation. In addition, we don't want him to impress upon Harper that she is only doing well if she makes a goal or performs in a certain way. Again, the only thing that matters is that Harper has fun and enjoys herself. 

I sincerely hope that he understands. I also reiterated that the same notion applies to him - when he is doing sports (or really most things), the only thing that matters is that he has fun and enjoys himself. I know that's not what he feels or believes. I wish it was, but he is extremely hard on himself when it comes to certain things and sports (specifically Baseball) is one of those things. He feels compelled to be perfect and his expectations are often unrealistic - and then when he doesn't meet those impossible expectations then he feels like a failure. It's something we are working on with him, but it's obvious that it needs quite a bit more work! (Unfortunately, I am pretty much the same way - a hard-core Perfectionist. It's something I am constantly working on: not being so hard on myself and being okay with "good enough.")

As for Harper and First Touch, I hope she continues to enjoy the experience and have fun! The pictures I took from Monday night's class show a lot of fun. Definitely a Happy Harper!

Trapping the ball (as demonstrated above) was not as easy as it seems. Balancing your foot on a ball wearing cleats is a little tricky for a 3-year-old.

Water break - it's important to stay hydrated.

The picture below was taken prior to heading to soccer at a local Mexican Restaurant where we had dinner. I thought it was too cute not to include in the post.

With Harper starting soccer, I felt compelled to look back and reminisce about Hayden's first soccer experience. Below are pictures of Hayden from when he did 'First Touch' soccer. The first photo was taken prior to leaving for his first soccer "class" and the other photos were taken a few weeks after he started.

As far as Hayden and his experience with First Touch soccer, he wasn't much of a competitor and tended to just meander around the field. He enjoyed warming up and doing the drills, but when it came time to scrimmage he checked out and just wandered around. He had no desire to make a goal or even get near the ball. He would watch what was happening but was content to not get involved. He didn't want to "work." Also, he wanted and needed either Randy or myself to be and stay near him during most of that first class - Harper didn't express that need at all. Our presence wasn't needed - she participated in the class independently of us.

It will be interesting to see how Harper does with soccer and how her experience compares to Hayden's. I imagine in some ways their experiences will be similar - yet in other ways it will be different and unique to them. I certainly plan on following up on this post after her soccer season has concluded - noting how her experience went and whatnot. So stay tuned for Part 2 of Harper's First Touch Soccer Experience - an update will be forthcoming (in a little over a month).