Sunday, August 19, 2007

What A Wonderful Day

What A Wonderful Day
by Tyra D.

The wind is whistling.
The birds are singing.
The crickets chirping.
What a wonderful day.

Feel the wind.
Isn't it cool.
It is not a hot day
But what a wonderful Day.


Tyra Zanne Draper
Age 8

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Chess Tournament

For the last two years, whenever I have suggested playing chess with Thomas, he has adamantly proclaimed, "No way! Chess is boring!" However, this summer when we were visiting with family in Utah, Thomas' uncle Brian convinced him to play a game of chess with him. Once Thomas started playing, he latched onto Chess with typical Thomas tenacity. He asks to play chess almost daily and he commonly wants to play many times in a single day. After we returned, I took Thomas to the local chess club that meets biweekly. It is currently sadly under attended. Both times we went, there were only one or two other children there, and these "children" were teenagers. Thomas still enjoyed playing, even though he was thoroughly routed. The chess instructor told me that there was an upcoming chess tournament and he thought Thomas should play. He said they were going to divide into two groups for the competition, K-4 and grades 5-9. Thomas was willing, so we decided to give it a shot.

The day of the tournament came. Tyra wanted to watch, but refused to participate, even though she certainly has the talent. At least she only says, "I don't like chess." instead of "I'm not good at chess.", since the second statement is definitely false.

We arrived and there were only 14 children registered, so the director made the decision to run the competition with everyone together, K-9. I had already prepped Thomas on the way down saying that the most important thing in this tournament was for him to have fun. He may have thumped on his friends who barely know the rules to chess, but he was now playing with other children who also loved and played a lot of chess. Now things seemed worse than I had anticipated. There was one ninth grader, one eighth grader, one six grader, four fifth graders, two fourth graders, Thomas and another second grader, and three younger children.

So before the tournament, I reiterated my advice to Thomas, "Have fun. Think carefully before you move." The initial opponents were selected randomly. Before things could get started, one of the very young children, a small sweet girl, simply refused to sit down against her older opponent. Eventually, it was clear that she wasn't going to play at all. So her opponent was to get a bye the first found and the field was reduced to 13.

Mr. Fagan, the tournament director then announced that the games could begin, and it wasn't 15 seconds before the next interruption. The other second grader raised his hand and said, "What should I do?" Mr. Fagan walked over and asked, "What do you mean?" The second grader clarified, "How do I move?" Mr. Fagan credulously responded, "Do you know how to play chess?" "No." "Have you ever played chess?" "No." "Do you know any of the rules of chess?" "No." Mr. Fagan paused about 10 seconds and then carefully said, "It will be very difficult for you to participate in the tournament today if you don't know how to move." He quietly took the second grader aside and asked for the parent. The boy turned out to be the brother of the younger girl who refused to play. Evidently, their mother didn't really understand that this was a tournament and not a lesson. Mr. Fagan kindly took her aside and praised her for having an interest in chess and told her when the regular club meetings were. The field was reduced to 12, with only two children younger than Thomas.

The other games were moving along rapidly, and Thomas' game was the first to finish. I went over to check it out and it wasn't pretty. He was down a queen, a rook and two minors by the time he was checkmated. This fifth grader had just obliterated him. Thomas said, "Good game." and shook his hand. Tyra had her arm around Thomas and was speaking comfort to him, but his face was stoic. I asked him if he had fun. He said, "Yes." "Do you want to keep playing?" "Yes." "Will you do me one favor?" "What?" "Will you take at least 10 seconds before you move each time." "Why?" "I think you will see more." "What about on my very first move when I know that I am doing the King's Indian?" "You don't have to wait then." "What about my second move?" "I don't know, but I think you will enjoy the game more if you make yourself wait a little before moving." "Okay dad."

I took Thomas and Tyra outside to run around a little bit. When we game back in, only one game was still going. It involved another one of the younger children. He was in check, but didn't see the move to get out of check. According to tournament rules, no one could assist, and clocks would come out only after 30 minutes had expired. And then the child had to wait for his time to run out before losing. So the two children sat at the table not moving for 40 minutes before the one finally lost on time. It was time for round two.

This was a typical ladder style tournament. The means that the winners play the winners and the losers play the losers. Each win moves you up the ladder and your next game is against a more difficult opponent. If you lose, the opposite happens. Again I moved to the far end of the room, wanting to give Thomas his space. He was going to play another fifth grader. Tyra stayed close to observe. Shortly, I saw Tyra jumping up and down smothering Thomas with hugs and kisses. He had won his second game. He walked over to me again. His face was still stoic, but with a small crack of a smile as the sides of his lips. I asked him if he had fun. He said, "Yes."

Thomas' next opponent was going to be better, given his win, but he seemed to be getting in his groove. We repeated the pattern of running around outside, talk a little bit, and play chess, and Thomas kept on winning. Along the way Thomas had made friends with Jack, a fourth grader. Between each round they would discuss their games and other topics mostly of interest to boys. Tyra had also made friends with Jack's sister, who was also just watching the tournament. In the final round of the day, two undefeated players were playing at Table 1. The winner would take first, the loser second. At table 2, it was announced that Jack would be playing Thomas. They had each lost only one game, and the winner would take third place. Tyra and Jack's sister kept going on about "Friend against friend!" They didn't know who to root for.

Thomas and Jack wished each other luck and the final round began. They were playing fairly even, until Thomas pulled a surprise checkmate out in the middle of the game. None of his pieces were within 4 squares of Jack's King. Jack searched for a way out, but couldn't find it. He called the tournament director over to verify that is was indeed a checkmate. It was. They shook hands and said, "Good game." It had been a long day, but as it turns out, it wasn't over.

At table 1, there was a mighty battle. The game was very close, but eventually one boy turned his two pawn advantage into a two queen advantage and prevailed. The winner of the entire tournament was the same boy that trounced Thomas the first game. Mr. Fagan said that since Thomas and Rick, the loser at table one, had the same win-loss record and their only loss came against the same person, the tournament champion, they were tied for second. There would be a one game playoff for second place.

Tyra was jumping around nervously repeating, "Oh Thomas. Oh Thomas." Knowing how handily the champion had beat Thomas and how close the final game was, I didn't want to get Thomas' hopes up to much. I could overhear the other dad saying, "...remember to attack queenside first..." and some other suggestions. I told Thomas I was already proud of him, and that I would never have believed that he could do so well in first tournament. "Just move carefully and have fun."

The game began. Thomas started out patiently and Rick attacked vigorously. Thomas met the attack deftly and was soon up two minor pieces. I started to be optimistic. Thomas would have a fairly easy victory by just trading pieces now. Rick was worried. He started to withdraw, and Thomas in his haste to pursue, chased with pawns that were best suited to protect his king. Rick saw the new weakness and was able to isolate Thomas' king with a sacrifice and then move in for checkmate with his queen and rook. Thomas looked the board over and extended his hand, "Good game."

Thomas received his third place trophy in the ceremony that followed. We were all smiles coming home. Thomas was already talking about next time...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Middle Age?!

Now, when I say this, everyone jumps in and says "No, oh no, not till 40, 45, 50, 55" depending on how old they themselves are. But ever since I was a preteen I always have thought as 35 as the epitome of middle age, if not the zenith. I think it is related to the bible saying we should expect to live to 72. But then that would make it 36, wouldn't it, math friends. It's probably more likely I just read it in a book or something. Or maybe my mom was that age when I was putting it into my conscious mind.

Whatever the reason, I've looked forward to 35 for quite a while. I was hoping for 2 possible outcomes: a camping trip or a multi-dessert party with all my friends. But due to Tom's chronic fatigue of the previous month, my lack of planning, and my general laziness, (I KNOW Dad, I'm FINE, I'm not really lazy... etc!) we opted instead for a 3rd outcome, which turned out just great: Pancake breakfast at the Lambert's all morning, then errands with Tyra in the afternoon (including sharing a salad and chocolate dipped ice cream bar at Costco) Then there was Chevy's as a family. --Can I just say? That is the best restaurant to take 4 kids. Not only do they have the regular crayons and coloring menu, but you get balloons, a hunk of tortilla dough to play with, the tortilla making machine to look at, and chips and salsa to keep them happy till the food comes. Plus for only $4 the kids get fries and fresh fruit and ice cream along with the main thing they order. And finally, they put a hat on the head of the b-day person and sing, which is fun for the kids (if not so much for the Mom)-- And we came home and did our candles on the Costco Cheesecake that no one really ate because we were too full. I just love how we are our own party wherever we go, whatever we're doing now. Very much the way it felt as a kid with 6 siblings. And to end the day Tom and I put up our feet on our new reclining sofas and watched Freedom Writers.

So this first picture is of my present from Tyra. I just laughed. Maybe when we put Tyra in charge of camping it will happen! She made me a campground with a tent and fire :)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tom's Volleyball Team...

...goes to the championship playoffs. This was Tom's second year of playing volleyball with Don Baggett from work and some other friends. They do a great job and win almost all of their games. So when they were playing their final games Tom invited all the fam to come watch. Well, I was amazed at how well the kids stayed focused watching and cheering and keeping tabs on the score throughout the first game. With all that energy coming their way Tom's team won. (Along with his excellent serving, setting, and blocking skills) Then we said "hi" (we slipped in right as it started) and let the kids get a drink from the drinking fountain and it was all downhill from there. I spent the next 2 games of the set bringing kids back from the drinking fountain and trying to get them to come read books, eat snacks, or anything I could think of rather than running around and laughing loudly. Well, I like to think that the kids were not too distracting to Tom's team, but I think the lack of our collective cheering had something to do with them losing the next 2 games. But they played great and it was really fun to see my honey in "his element" (one of his many...) He also plays raquetball and has been nursing quite the fat lip for the last week since he got hit by the racket of his "friend" :) That's my man!