Vernon Volumes text

Vernon Volumes text

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Four Seasons fun with Anna, Charlie, and Owen

After our late night at Disney, we slept in quite late on Saturday morning. Once we were all up, we went down to the pool area at the hotel and did some rock climbing, played in the hideout game room, jumped in the pool with the football, and went on the lazy river. We at lunch at PB&G's and relaxed in our comfy chairs. We took Andrea, carefully, around the lazy river a few times. It was a little stressful because we were trying hard to keep her hair dry.

Anna and her boys were gone most of the early part of the day and we met up with them a little after 3pm. The kids played for a bit, I turned in to a shark and threw them and chased them around the big pool for a while, then the kids floated on the lazy river together. Around six we headed back to the room and then got ready for dinner and ate at the lobby bar. For dessert, the kids did the scavenger hunt together and got their gelato reward at Lickety Split's. It was fun for Andrea and I to have another adult to chat with, and the kids got along well and had fun goofing off together.

Disney with friends - Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

On Friday night we went to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. This year was extra fun because we met up with some friends at the park. Anna and her boys met us in Orlando and we traveled to the park together and started out with them. We arrived as the park was closing for regular guests and during the overlap with the Halloween Party guests it was a little crowded and pretty hot in the sun. We started out riding some of the shady and indoor rides like the Haunted Mansion and Belle's Enchanted Tales.

It was fun to have Anna's boys Charlie and Owen with us so our kids could ride some of the things that we tend to avoid like the barf inducing teacup ride. The kids really got it spinning, the adults were thankful we didn't have to ride it with them.

We ate dinner fairly early and then rode a bunch of rides and got lots of candy.

Anna and her boys couldn't stay very late since Charlie was competing in a USTA tennis tournament early in the morning, so we said goodnight to them and they left fairly early in the evening. We then met up with the Carroll family (Casey, Keagan, Kevin and Karen), and we rode Thunder Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean together and did some trick-or-treating as well. Unfortunately it was super dark by the point we got together and we didn't think to snap any pics.

We were lucky that the weather was nice, no rain, and nice and cool once the sun set. It was an awesome night at Disney and it was extra fun to share our night with friends.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Connor catching the football in the pool

So maybe I'm a bit biased, but I think Connor has some incredible hands. Part of me would love to see Connor try out for the football team at school, but the rational part of me would rather see him grow up without injuries and brain damage. We still enjoy throwing the football around at the house. We play out in the front yard most of the time and Connor loves to catch ridiculously difficult passes on the sideline and it's surprising how well he can control his body out in space and tap his toes in-bounds while reeling in my poorly thrown passes. We also like to play in the pool and Connor loves to stretch out and crash in to the pool while catching the ball. I took a video of him on Saturday catching a few passes.

Paige's first USTA team match

This year, Paige is on her first tennis team! Our friend Gina is the captain and her kids Zoey and Ethan are on the team, along with Paige and a few other kids from our club. Paige played in her first match on Friday and she played a practice singles match and she played doubles with Zoey. 

Paige practices with regular balls as well as orange balls, and the matches are with orange balls, which can be a difficult adjustment with the littler balls and smaller courts. Paige played well and did a good job with her serve and hitting consistently throughout her matches. We are proud of her for having a great attitude and it's fun to see her put everything together and play in real matches. Great job sis!

Connor's first USTA team match of the season

Connor's team played their first team match of the season on Friday at Palencia. I drove with Connor and Quinn to the match and it was a little bit of a challenge since a few of the boys were attending a climate change strike in St. Augustine, so the team was a bit shorthanded. We had five boys that were available, so Connor played line 1 singles and line 1 doubles as well with Quinn. Connor and Quinn both won their singles and doubles matches, however the other lines lost so the matches were split 3-3. Since Connor's team lost more games overall, they technically lost, which is a bummer. Connor played well and although he was losing at times during his matches, he made some smart adjustments and found a way to win. Very proud of our little tennis star.

Donuts with Dads

This Friday at Paige's school they had their annual "Donuts with Dads" event. The new principal spoke briefly and all the kids and dads ate some donuts, drank some OJ, and chatted for a little while before school started. It was a good opportunity for me to see some of Paige's friends and I also met some of our new neighbors that moved in recently. The kids both have such awesome schools and I'm glad my job is flexible enough that I can spend these kinds of moments together with the kids.

Early mornings

Adjusting to the school schedule has bee a little rough. We all enjoyed sleeping in all summer every day, but school schedule means Connor is up around 6am every day and Paige is up by 6:40. It's usually pretty dark when Connor goes to the bus stop, and it's barely light by the time Paige is going out. Once the kids have breakfast and are all ready for school, we sit together for a little bit and chill out before going to the bus stop. I snapped a quick pic of Sissy this past week while we were relaxing together.

Paige at the park

Both kids are growing up so fast, and although Connor hasn't been interested in the park for a while, Paige still loves to go. This past week the weather's been a little cooler, so Paige and I rode our bikes to the park to have some fun together. Paige went through the "Ninja Warrior" obstacle course, we played on the swings for a bit, and of course did the "zipline" together. I'm sure Paige is going to be too big for the park soon, so I'm trying to enjoy these times together while they last.

Middle school homework

Connor is getting in to the swing of things with 7th grade and it's been quite a lot of work already. There have been multiple tests in Civics and Math and some quizzes in Spanish and Science. The first few tests/quizzes were a little rough, but we're getting in to a better routine about studying and homework and Connor's grades are pretty good so far.

The biggest struggle this year has been math. I'm not sure if the teacher's strategy in math class is clicking with the kids and it sounds like some have not been scoring well. The notes have also been somewhat confusing at times, so when Andrea is trying to help Connor with the math homework it's been difficult. Andrea and Connor have spent a lot of time on the material so far and Andrea has been working with him many hours already this school year. She will go over each question in detail, create practice quizzes for him, and make sure he has a good grasp on the concepts before the tests. It has paid off already and the last few quizzes, Connor has gotten some of the highest scores in the class. I'm proud of both of them for taking the time and effort to build a strong foundation for Connor. I snapped a pic of them studying this past week together.

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.