Vernon Volumes

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Connor plays (and wins!) 14U Grand Prix tournament

Yesterday, Connor played in the Grand Prix tournament in our neighborhood. In April 2018, he played in the tournament at the 12U level-green dot and it was a difficult experience for him ( This year Andrea signed him up for the 14U division so he would play with regular yellow balls, although we knew it would be stiff competition since he could be matched up with boys two years older than him. The matches were setup with no-ad scoring and the boys played one set where the first player to five games won. It was designed to keep the matches moving, although the entire match started late and as the day went on the match schedule got farther and farther behind. Connor was originally supposed to start at 1:30, but we were told to come at 3:00 and his first match didn't start until almost 4:00. The day was a little cloudy at least, but it was the hottest time of the day to play.

I honestly didn't expect Connor to have much of a shot and when I saw all the boys standing together to receive their initial court assignments. Connor was one of the smallest boys there and some of the boys were a full head and shoulders taller than him. Connor gets plenty of coaching with lessons, clinics and the tennis academy, however I decided to give him one tip and I encouraged him to drive the ball and force his opponents to play to his pace rather than let them dictate the pace of the match. I figured he didn't really have a shot at winning so it would be good practice. Connor has a tendency to get a feel for his opponent's game and then play just a bit better than them to win versus just going for it and playing to his own ability.

In Connor's first match, he lost the first game and had a few misses where he was trying to swing hard. I was starting to worry I'd given terrible advice, but thankfully Connor either disregarded what I said or he just dialed everything in because he went on to win the first match 5-1. The boys all played four matches to qualify for the playoff round and Connor won all four of his matches 5-1, 5-0, 5-1, 5-0. The initial matches had some close games and some good players, but Connor was hitting well and played solidly and consistently.

Three boys finished the early rounds with 4-0 records. Coach Max decided the fairest way to determine a winner was to have the boys each play each other to see who would be the tournament champion. Connor played in the first match against a high school freshman that he's played once before on hardcourt and Connor lost their last matchup. This time around Connor fell behind 1-3 at one point but he dug in, won a couple of key points, and ended up winning the match 5-3.

Connor had the choice whether to play the remaining boy next or have the other competitors play each other first. Connor decided he wanted to get it done with and started his final match immediately. Connor's last challenger has played against him twice previously and their matches are always crazy, physical, and close. Connor is at least a full head shorter and they both are incredible at covering the court and getting balls back in play that most people wouldn't even touch. It was getting dark, the lights were on, and unfortunately I didn't get any videos during their match. There were some incredible points and Connor was working harder than I've ever seen. Although it's not technically the best form, Connor was swinging so hard that he was leaving his feet and going airborne as he jumped in to his shots, using every ounce of his body to generate power. He was trying so hard and it was fun watching him competing and doing his best. Connor got up to a 4-1 lead but then started to slow down. He was clearly super tired and all of the exertion was catching up with him. Connor lost the next game, but managed to close out the match the following game and won it 5-2.

Some of Connor's matches were on courts that didn't allow positioning a camera to video the action, but I did take videos during two of them and put together a short video showcasing some of the good points. In retrospect, I should have gotten off my butt and recorded the final match, but I was worried I'd distract him and was frankly pretty tired as I'd been back and forth to the tennis courts from 8am to 8pm with the kids. That said, I'm sure Connor was even more exhausted after six matches and I should have just taken some videos.

Following Connor's victory, Coach Max presented Connor with his trophy and we snapped a picture of them together. Connor's been taking some lessons with him lately, but unfortunately for us Coach Max accepted a head coaching position at another tennis club so we won't be able to continue with him going forwards. We are all so proud of Connor and what he accomplished on Saturday. He has been improving steadily and it was neat to see it all come together. All we asked of him was to try hard and do his best, and it's a big bonus that his best was enough to get him a tournament win.

Congratulations Connor!

Paige's first tennis tournament and tennis matches

Yesterday, Paige played in her first tournament and actually played her first matches as well. The Grand Prix tournament format consisted of round robin play and the kids play one-set matches where the first player to win five games wins the match. There is no-ad scoring and whoever gets five games first wins, so there's no win by two. The format is supposed to keep things moving quickly. The tournament was in our neighborhood, so it was nice and convenient. Unfortunately, it rained early in the morning and the courts were all still soaking wet at 8:00 when we arrived. Since it was in our neighborhood so we were able to go home, wait an hour and half, and then return.

Paige has been going to clinics, taking lessons, and practicing tennis for quite some time; however she has never played a full match where she had to keep score, serve, and do everything on her own.  Paige played 10U Orange ball tennis, which means the ball is less bouncy and the courts are slightly smaller. Extra lines were drawn in to the clay with a tool that scrapes the clay, and they are definitely a little harder to see, especially as the day went on and they got scuffed up and stepped on.

Even at Paige's age, the parents are instructed to stay off the court and stay out of the match discussion. This is very hard, especially when balls are clearly called incorrectly, children are serving from the wrong side, or in Paige's first match when she accidentally kept the score wrong and gave a game to her opponent. When Paige was winning a game 40-30, she said the score was 40-15. She served the ball and won the point, so she should have won the game regardless. Paige got confused and went on to serve another point and said the score was 40-30 before she served. When she lost that point she thought she'd lost the game and it was very hard to keep silent as Paige's opponent was happy to take the gifted game and move her score marker up. Paige ended up losing that match 5-3, although the match score should have been 4-4. It was a close match and I wish Paige had a shot to play that 9th game, she would have had a good shot at winning it.

Overall, the girls that Paige played against were fair and you could tell they were all trying hard and it's definitely difficult to keep track of who's serving, what the score is, and what is going on. It was a learning experience for Paige and between matches we stayed positive and encouraged her to keep doing her best. Paige played a total of four matches. She won two and lost two and we are so proud of her for getting out there on a hot and humid day and putting everything together that she's been practicing.

I put together a video with some good points from each of Paige's matches.

Music Club

Paige got the good news that she was accepted in to Music Club at school! Paige has always had a love for music and enjoys singing so we were all hoping that she would be accepted to the club. The music club has a limited number of spots available so we had to submit an application for Paige to be considered. The club meets every other week and so far they've met once and started rehearsing their songs. They're working on a holiday program and we are excited to see it later this year.

Paige’s Music Club Application - 4th grade

Hi my name is Paige Vernon and I hope to be picked for the music club. I have a passion for music and I love to sing, but I’ve never been in a club or band yet. I always love to sing along with music on the radio and on my phone, and recently I’ve been interested in learning to play the piano as well. I enjoy music apps on my phone and singing with friends.

My family has a love of music as well. My grandfather was a band director for a high school and my uncle is a choir director. Both of my parents were in band when they were in school, and I am hoping to sing with my school friends and learn about music with a teacher that can help me improve my singing.

Chemotherapy Treatment #3 - TNBC/IDC/BRCA2

On September 10th, 2019, Andrea had her third of four chemotherapy treatments.

We are getting used to the process now, however it seems like every session starts late. The first time it was an insurance authorization that almost delayed the treatment completely, the second time it was delayed since they didn't have the Paxman unit ready and switched on. This time it was Andrea's hard-to-find veins in her right arm. Since Andrea had some lymph nodes removed on the left side, it's recommended for her to have the IV on the right side. It's usually a little difficult for them to get the needle in properly, but this time was very hard for some reason. They had three different nurses try it and they stuck her at least four or five times before they got it in place. Since we put the Paxman cap on before the IV, it meant that Andrea had an extra hour of her head being frozen. The entire treatment is scheduled for 4 hours and it took 6.5 hours on Tuesday.

Three down, one to go!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Breakers Palm Beach for 15th Anniversary

This weekend, Andrea and I drove down to Palm Beach to The Breakers for 3 nights to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. Our actual anniversary was June 18th, but with Andrea's cancer treatment we'd canceled all of our summer plans. Andrea actually hasn't been on a fun vacation or trip since our trip to Kansas City in May,  so it was about time we got her out of the house. It was definitely time to get out and do something fun since we had to cancel our Orlando plans over Labor Day weekend as well and had been cooped up in the house for days waiting on a hurricane to pass by. It was definitely a good weekend for some relaxation and celebration. Grandpa Rick and Grandma Alice were awesome to agree to watch Paige and Connor on short notice as well since we had to throw this vacation together quickly once the storm was no longer a threat and we knew we could make plans for the weekend.

The drive down to Palm Beach was not too bad, and was the first road trip in our Tesla. The autopilot was interesting to use on the highway, although we're still not super comfortable with it yet. Especially when it stays in the absolute center of the lane while a gigantic truck or something scary is right next to us. We tend to keep our distance a little better from other vehicles, but the autopilot is happy to stay in the middle of the lane regardless. We had to stop once for about 20 minutes to charge, but otherwise it was much like a typical drive.

The Breakers was one of our favorite hotels we've visited lately. It was closed for Hurricane Dorian and opened at 3pm just as we arrived. For the first part of our stay there weren't many people around, which made it nice and quiet. The rates per night were also less than half what the normal price, probably due to all the cancellations for the hurricane.

We played in the 9am clinic twice at the tennis center. It was not cheap at $65 per person, but we enjoyed starting our days off with some exercise. We typically don't eat breakfasts, but since it was included with our stay we ate breakfast at the hotel after our tennis.

In the afternoons we went to the pool and it was the first time Andrea's been able to swim since her chemo. We mostly just relaxed by the pool and sat in the water and did some people watching. Andrea is trying to baby her hair, so we avoided getting it wet with the pool water.

On Saturday after tennis we watched the US Open finals match between Serena Williams and Andreescu, then we did a little shopping nearby for some clothes for Connor. For dinner we ate at the HMF restaurant and had some tapas and bread pudding for dessert.

It's been a nice getaway for us and we are thankful for so many things. Thankful for the 15 years of marriage we've shared together, thankful for our children and our families, thankful that Andrea's halfway through her chemotherapy and on a road to recovery, thankful for our health, thankful the hurricane went past without damaging our home, and thankful for each other. I love you Andrea!

Hurricane Dorian

This past week and a half has been all about Hurricane Dorian. A couple of weeks ago I'd seen there was a tropical depression in the Atlantic that had a possibility of strengthening. As it moved through the Caribbean it was slowly gaining strength and getting more attention as it neared the US. Initially, it was predicted to move through Haiti and weaken and turn from a tropical storm to a disorganized tropical depression. Instead, it went to the East of Puerto Rico and gained strength as it moved in to warmer waters. Within a couple of days it had become a major hurricane and all the initial predictions showed it would make landfall right in the middle of Florida on the East coast.

We had plans to go to Orlando the weekend of Labor Day, however the storm was forecast to hit Florida just East of Orlando between Saturday and Sunday, so as the storm approached we canceled our plans. Hurricane Dorian had other plans though. It gained strength, becoming a category 5 hurricane and then it parked itself over the Bahamas. It sat still for over a day and then slowly started crawling towards Florida at 1 mile per hour. It was a tedious and stressful process. The storm was large and powerful, but thankfully as the days went by the winds changed and the hurricane followed the Gulf stream up the coast of Florida and in to the Carolinas.

The storm was supposed to hit Florida originally on Saturday or Sunday and it actually passed by Jacksonville on Wednesday. It was a long week of waiting and watching as Dorian wandered around Florida. We did a bit of preparation at the house, bringing out sandbags around the exterior doors, but as the forecasts evolved we realized the storm would pass us by well out to sea. We went to our friend's house a couple of evenings and barbecued and chatted while the weather channel played in the background. Grandpa Rick and Grandma Alice told us we were welcome at their house. We planned to go over once the storm got close, but by Tuesday the forecasts looked favorable. Although an evacuation was ordered, Dorian's winds only reached tropical storm force in our area and the bridges across the marsh never even got shut down this time. We made the decision to stay and it worked out for us. School was cancelled Tuesday-Thursday.

As the storm passed by, bands of clouds and wind hit us from the north and east. It was rainy and windy, but not much worse than a normal thunderstorm. Once the storm had passed, high tide brought a lot of water to the marsh. The ponds had been pumped down lower than normal in anticipation of the storm, but the marsh overflowed the banks and filled up the pond behind our house. The water flowed in to the street and intersection by our home, but with this storm it didn't appear to get in any neighbor's homes that we could see and it didn't come within a couple feet of our pool area. Thankfully it wasn't too bad in our area. We didn't even lose power.

A couple of the early forecast models and some screenshots of how close the storm came are included for future reference.

Tennis lessons at Marsh Landing

The kids are still doing tennis lessons in the neighborhood. They looked cute this last week when I took them so I snapped a few pics. We are planning to put them in some tournaments soon, so we're focusing Paige on keeping score and hopefully she'll be ready for her first real matches soon.