Sunday, November 23, 2014

Leaf Party 2014 Photos


Roseann Maikis and her son, Jordan.


My sister, Tracy Hearn, and her daughter, Kaitlyn.


Meemaw, getting kisses from her grandchildren, Kaitlyn and Matthew.


Scout Baines and her mother, Cyndi.


Jude and Joe.


Jude, Joe, J.P. and me.


Finn and J.P.


Hurricane Baines.

World Famous Leaf Party 2014

It really is a tradition unlike any other.  The World Famous Leaf Party.



It began 10 or so years ago, as a party in honor of our friends, Troy and Cyndi Baines, who had recently moved back home to Florida.  Jude and I convinced them to return with the kids (Wolf and Scout) to Nashville for a weekend in the fall.  We thought it would be cool to host a party at our house while they were here and invite a lot of their (and our) friends to attend.  We also thought it would be fund for the kids to have a chance to play in the leaves that had fallen from the beautiful, stately maple tree in our front yard.

And just like that, the World Famous Leaf Party was born.

We've hosted the Leaf Party every year since then.  The faces of the attendees have changed over the years, as some kids have aged out or families have moved away.  Year in and year out, though, Troy, Cyndi, Wolf, Scout and Finn have continued to pile in the car and drive to Nashville, then pile in our house for the weekend.  It's chaotic and a bit crazy and I wouldn't have it any other way.

We've watched Wolf and Scout grow from toddlers, really, wearing Halloween costumes and playing in the leaves to teenagers (Wolf) and pre-teenagers (Scout) texting on their iPhones.  We've watched with unbridled joy as our son, J.P., and Finn played together developed a real friendship.  And for the last couple years, we've watched Joe toddle along behind all of them.

Every year, we look forward to "Hurricane Baines" arrival, then we're sad when the weekend is over all too soon.  And this year was no different.

_____________________________________

Friday, much to my chagrin, I got stuck mediating a case at work and didn't finish until almost 9 p.m.  The Baines' clan arrived Friday afternoon, so I missed dinner.  When I got home, everyone was already in bed.  I unloaded my Yukon and packed the coolers with beer and ice while everyone slept.  I got to bed about midnight, looking forward to the Leaf Party the next morning.

Saturday morning, J.P. and Finn awoke early from their sleeping spot on the floor at the foot of J.P.'s bed, cuddled up in sleeping bags laid on top of quilts and blankets.  It looked terribly uncomfortable to me, but they didn't mind a bit.  We ate breakfast, then drove to J.P.'s basketball game at First Presbyterian Church.  It was cool for him to have a such a big cheering section, as my sister, Tracy, and her kids, Kaitlyn and Matthew, came to the game, along with Jude's folks and the Baines.  

After the game, we beat feet home to start the party.  Duane Pierce, who has done our yard work for years, had blown the leaves up in a giant pile in the middle of the front yard.  Guests began arriving right at 11 a.m., including several members of J.P.'s basketball team and their parents.  As always, the kids loved, loved, loved playing in the leaves.  While the parents socialized on the front porch, the kids ran, danced and wrestled in the leaves, laughing the entire time.  In our back yard, some of the younger kids played in the sandbox.  It was damn near a perfect day.

After the party wound down in the mid-afternoon and it was time for Joe's (and Jude's) nap, I went for a walk with Wolf, Scout, Finn and J.P.  It's a tradition Wolf, Scout and I started years ago, one we dubbed "the secret walk," as we used to walk to Bongo Java through alleys, pretending we were spies hiding from the enemy all the way there and back.  It's always been special to me, because it's my time to spend with the kids alone and catch up on how they're doing.

This time, we talked to Bongo Java, where we ordered hot chocolate and, of course, a Mood Elevator for me, then sat upstairs in my "annex office," while we drank our drinks.  Next, we walked down to an apartment complex on Belmont Blvd. that has a large swath of green space out front.  We threw the frisbee, then played a spirited game of touch football.  Wolf, Finn and J.P. scored late to beat Scout and me.  It was pretty awesome.  

We walked through Belmont U. on the way home, then pretended we were hiding from "alley zombies" as dusk turned to darkness and we walked down the alleys toward home.  Finn and J.P. squealed every time Wolf jumped out from behind a garbage can or tree in an alley and pretended to be a zombie.  

Last night, Troy and I picked up pizzas from Mellow Mushroom, and the gang watched UT lose to Missouri before we turned in early.

This morning, Cyndi went for an early morning run.  We met her at Bongo Java for a family breakfast. Fortunately, Bongo Java wasn't crowded and we all sat around the big table and drank coffee, ate, talked and laughed.  J.P. and Finn sat next to us at "the kids' table."  

Then, it was back home, where Wolf had to climb over over our privacy fence and use our ladder to reach our bathroom window, so he could climb through and let us in the side door.  The lock on our front door was broken, so Wolf saved the day, for sure.  

A little while later, the Baines packed, loaded the car and drove down Elliott Avenue, on the way home to Neptune Beach, FL.  Jude, J.P., Joe and I waved as they pulled away, another Leaf Party weekend in the books.

2 or 3 times today, as we watched football and hung around the house, J.P. said, "I'm kind of sad the weekend is over and the Baines are gone."  

Yep, me too. 




Thursday, October 30, 2014

Surreality

I'm sitting on the porch at Bongo Java, taking a mental health day off of work and enjoying a breathtaking beautiful fall afternoon before I pick up J.P. at school.


When I "googled" the blog to get started with his post, I was directed to an old post from March 28, 2010, J.P.'s  2nd birthday.  I read the post and was instantly and somewhat nostalgically transported back in time. 


The link is here:  http://thestorkstopshere.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html.


When I read the post form 4 + years ago, the first thing I noticed was I listening to John Coltrane when I was writing it.  As I sit here now, I'm listening to John Coltrane.


Surreal.


The other night, I asked J.P. to recycle a plastic bottle of water for me.  To entice him and half-kidding, I added, "I'll be your best friend."


J.P. took the plastic bottle out of my hand, looked at me quizzically, and said, "Daddy, you already are my best friend."


I looked away, so he couldn't see the tears in my eyes.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Major League Soccer (Sort Of)

As the family Sports Czar, I decided to play J.P. up a division in the fall soccer league at First Presbyterian Church.  He wanted to play with one of his friends, Jack, who is 7.  At 6 1/2, J.P. is one of the younger players in the 7-8 year old league.  Overall, his team (the Yellow Bombs) is young, so they have struggled so far and are winless on the year.

Nonetheless, J.P. has had a blast.  Today was his second to last game for the fall soccer season.  Since Jude and I will miss the season finale next weekend, I took my camera to today's game and took some photos.







J.P. Meets His Hero

J.P. is a huge Vanderbilt fan, much to my chagrin.  When Vanderbilt's baseball team, led by coach extraordinaire Tim Corbin, won the College World Series J.P. was excited beyond belief.

One of the highlights of J.P.'s summer was attending Coach Corbin's baseball camp at Hawkins Field at Vanderbilt.  With 11 different fielding, hitting and pitching stations manned by Vanderbilt players, it was heaven on earth for J.P. and 250 other boys, ages 5-12.

Perhaps the best part of the day was after clinic, when J.P. got to meet his idol, freshman left fielder Brian Reynolds.  I've known Brian in passing since he was a boy, having played law league softball with his father, Greg, for several years.  When I re-introduced myself to Brian and introduced him to J.P., he smiled, kneeled down and put his arm around J.P. while he talked to him.  J.P. was awestruck.

J.P. and Vanderbilt left fielder and SEC All-Freshmen, Brian Reynolds, after Coach Tim Corbin's youth baseball clinic.

Friday, September 12, 2014

World Cup '14

Soccer was the first sport J.P. played.  As a 4 year old, we played in a league at the Brentwood YMCA, a mile or so from the house where I grew up.  We played in that league for a couple of seasons and it was fine, but it never really clicked for Jude and me.

Last fall, J.P. played in a soccer league at First Presbyterian Church on a team with one of his buddies, Jack McDaniel.  I helped Jack's dad and my friend, Thomas, coach the team.  We had a blast and agreed to play in the same league this fall.  A few of our boys (and parents) are back from last fall and we have some new boys whose parents Jude and I already knew.  It's been great so far, two games into the season.

Prior to this season, soccer hasn't really been J.P.'s sport, although he enjoyed playing.  During games, he mostly ran around the field, kicking the ball only if it came right to him.  He didn't like to "mix it up" at all and, generally, he managed to stay just out of the crowd of boys around the ball.

At our first practice this year, though, I immediately noticed something different about the way J.P. was playing.  He was more aggressive, had no problem trying hard to kick the ball in crowd of boys and played with more intensity and determination.  When he got knocked down, he popped right back up and chased after the ball.

At our second or third practice, during an intrasquad scrimmage, he hammered a ball toward the goal, hitting our goalie dead on in the face in the process.  I was ecstatic at the strength of his kick, because I'm always telling him to kick the ball hard.  I did feel bad, though, when our goalie, Logan, fell onto the ground crying.  A little bad, anyway, but mostly proud of J.P.

Last week, trailing 7-2 late in the game, J.P. got the ball and took off up the right side of the field.  He broke toward the middle of the field and goal, then stopped and kicked the shit out of the ball with his right foot.  It sailed past the goalie's head into the back of the net for his first career goal.

After he realized he had scored, J.P. threw back his head, roared, and raised his arms in triumph.  As a teammate hugged him, I laughed an beamed with pride.  I wasn't sure who to hug first.  It was just an awesome moment, one I had to write about before out next game, which is tomorrow.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Football Time in Tennessee

I'm sitting at Martin's BBQ Joint on Belmont Boulevard, drinking a Yazoo Hefewiezen and watching Alabama-West Virginia on the big screen above the bar.  College football season is finally, at long last, upon us and I am so ready for it.  There's just something about college football in the South that makes it really, really special.  Pro football is popular here, but college football just seems to be on a different level.

For me, the start of college football season means fall is just around the corner - my favorite season.  It also means summer is almost over - my least favortite season.

In the South, people plan their weekends around college football.  This week, I actually was able tos settle a case in large part because one party wanted to be able to watch their favorite SEC team's home opener with the children.  With Jude, J.P. and Joe in Neptune Beach with the Baines' clan, I've planned my entire weekend around watching UT-Utah State with my buddy, Mike Matteson (or "Mr. Mike," as J.P. calls him).

Yep, it's football time in Tennessee!