A chip off the old block…

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I played a lot of soccer when I was younger, and for a little while I even made a living playing it. I’ve been involved in the game all my life, though at my age now, all I can really do is coach. Currently I coach the local high school boys team, and although resigned to the sidelines, every now and then when I’m feeling adventurous I jump out onto the field and show those young’uns what it’s all about! Jack loves all sports, and as parents we have always wanted him to explore a variety of interests, so we haven’t pushed him hard in any one direction. He’s 9 years old now though, and since it’s fall, that means another parks and rec soccer season. Jack has been asking about playing a higher level of soccer… more than parks and rec (which is a great program for kids). Lori and I told him that we’d do parks and rec one more time this fall, and if at the end of the season he has any interest in getting more serious about soccer, then we’d jump “all in” and support that path. I’d love to coach him and help grow that obvious love of the game that he already has… here he is… a chip off the old block.

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Another first day of school

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Boy do these days come around fast. It seems like yesterday that Jack was going to school for the very first time. I can remember that day vividly, though in what seems like the blink of an eye, here we are starting fourth grade already. Fourth grade means a change of school for Jack, and I’m pleased to report that he’s settling in to his new surroundings quite nicely. There’s a big adjustment to be made, with an increase in homework, and lots of after-school activity choices to be made. Life’s getting just a tad more complicated for Jack these days, but what better way to send him off to school than a big hug from the O-Dog!

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Sleep-over

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We have puppy-proofed the whole of the downstairs, and we use a baby gate to keep him from wandering where he’s not supposed to go. Oliver isn’t allowed upstairs yet, but lately he’s been more and more curious about where it is that we go when we close the gate behind us at night. Our biggest concern with allowing him upstairs is all of Jack’s toys, especially the piles of Lego, strewn all over his bedroom floor. Probably like most dogs his age, Oliver hasn’t met a sock, sneaker, or stray piece of clothing that he doesn’t want to chew, so that’s another reason to corral him downstairs.

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Though we did the whole crate-training thing, he doesn’t sleep in his crate at night any more… we let him have the run of the downstairs (except for the living room), and to date we haven’t had any problems… he’s a good sleeper. Still, we sometimes feel bad about leaving him downstairs on his own at night, so we have a family sleepover in the living room every other weekend. I think he truly appreciates us being close to him, he sleeps through the night like a champ, and he is incredibly well-behaved as he cuddles in beside us in our sleeping bags.

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Favorites of mine…

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These photographs of Jack on the golf course have become favorites of mine… not hard to see why, eh? This was hole #4 on the Kelly Nine at Bangor Municipal Golf Course, the last hole we played on Jack’s first time ever out on a course. Jack did an awesome job, and as you can see, he has pretty good form as a golfer. These were both shot with my iPhone camera using the HDR option, and then converted to black and white using Nik’s Silver Efex. HDR stands for high dynamic range, and when you choose that option, the camera basically takes a series of images, each with a different exposure from darkest to lightest. The HDR software automatically combines the best bits of the three overexposed, underexposed, and evenly exposed shots to create one photograph with shadows and highlights that are usually better balanced. This doesn’t work for every scene, and really not so well if you are shooting a moving subject, but in this case… I liked the effect.

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We call them the “red” tees….

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…and not the “ladies” tees as some might.

Lately, Jack and I have been hitting the driving range and the putting green maybe three times each week, and as you might imagine, the little guy has been getting better and better. He has a very natural, long and smooth swing, and all he needs are a few lessons to get his grip and stance etc. squared away correctly to begin with. We’ve signed him up for lessons at The First Tee golf camp this summer, but there’s no holding him back at the moment.

He wants to go to the course every day after school, and needless to say he has been itching to get out onto the real golf course. Up until this evening, I’d been stressing the need to practice so that he would be ready when we did eventually tee off. While I love hitting balls and putting (and I think he does too), I could sense that he was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to play real golf. We’ve hit plenty of range balls, we’ve worked on our short game and putting, and we’ve even eaten in the clubhouse grill… I don’t think there’s anything he doesn’t like about hanging out at the course! So, understanding his desire to hit the links, I promised him that the next evening it wasn’t raining, I’d take him out to play. Here he is teeing off for the very first time… and yes, he hit an absolute rope down the fairway.

Every evening I take Oliver for a walk on the golf course right around when the sun goes down. Anyone who’s still playing on the course is usually somewhere on the back nine and certainly nowhere near the first six holes or so. We have the place all to ourselves, and Oliver has himself a grand time running and chasing the tennis ball. Even after the sun sets, there’s usually another 45 minutes or so before it gets really dark, and as I was wandering the empty course one evening, I realized that this would be the perfect time to bring Jack out to play golf. While he’s still learning, what better way to enjoy the course… with no-one in front of or behind us, we could take our time and not have to worry about how long we took to play, or how many shots we made. I asked in the pro shop if we could pay for nine holes each and split it over two visits, and they were more than happy for us to do that. Nine holes of golf would probably have been too much for him in one shot, so we set out to tackle holes 1 – 4 of the Kelly Nine.

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I needn’t have worried at all about him making the transition from the range to the course. He hit the ball superbly, and totally understood the concept of keeping score in an honorable way. We talked about how he wasn’t competing against me, but rather against himself and the course, and how he would continue to get even better with more practice. We talked about being aware of certain aspects of etiquette such as not talking while someone was swinging, how to decide whose turn it was to hit, and why, if you swing and miss, it still counts. He was fastidious about replacing his divots, especially after I explained to him that those who replace their divots get favorable bounces of trees. He used all of the clubs in his bag at some point, and once he got up around the greens, he displayed a deft touch for someone who had never been on a golf course before. We both had a blast, and I can’t wait to hit the course again with my new golfing buddy.

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Fore!

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I’ve spent so much time walking the golf course with Oliver this winter, it feels as if I now know every inch of the landscape intimately. This winter we hiked just about every fairway from tee to green, and although there was often a foot of snow on the ground and golf season seemed an eternity away, it still felt good to explore the course. I used to play a lot of golf when I was younger, but these past few years there just doesn’t seem to have been time. That’s all going to change though, since we bought Jack his own set of golf clubs for his ninth birthday, and he and I are planning to spend some time playing together.

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On a sunny, but distinctly cool, late April afternoon, (don’t let his Adam Scott inspired purposefully chosen but woefully under-dressed for the weather attire fool you) we made our first trip to the course to try out his new clubs. He’s a smart little guy, and it didn’t take long for him to start exploring the intricacies of the game of golf. On the putting green, he quickly and intuitively made adjustments to the line and length of his putts, and on the driving range he demonstrated a naturally free and loose swing that is destined to get better with instruction and practice. We only live about a quarter of a mile from the local course, so I can already imagine him walking down to the course and spending time on the driving range and putting green improving his game. Can’t say I’m not excited about having the opportunity to play more golf, and what better way to enjoy it than with my little guy!

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A Sandy Beach in Maine

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Best place on earth… before the tourists arrive! Sand Beach is one of my favorite places to spend time, especially during the off-season before the park gets swamped with people from away. There aren’t many sandy beaches this far up the Maine coast, so as you might imagine, during the summer months this is a very popular place. This time of year though, it’s pretty quiet, and it’s also pretty special. The photograph at the top of this post is from a few years back. It was made at the far end of Sand Beach looking back toward the Beehive – I was perched on a rock in the shade of Great Head as a wave washed in and around the rocks. Keeping the shutter open for a relatively long time rendered the moving water with the misty effect.

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Fast forward a few years to today… and despite the reluctant temperatures over the Easter weekend, the sun actually felt warm on your face, and as you can see, two of our boys had themselves a grand old time. Oliver just turned six months of age, and he’s already becoming a little more mature. He walks on the leash really politely, and he’s learning how to be much more calm when approaching people and other dogs. He’s still a silly puppy at times, but he’s definitely starting to get it. Sand Beach is full of wonder for Oliver – the texture of the sand between his toes, the smell (and taste) of beached seaweed, and the ability to wade into the cold water – all things he seems to love, and in the last photograph he’s enjoying a classic Acadia view…

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