Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Croquet...the gentleman's sport?

Since we moved to a new place in a new town with a new yard, which does not feature the ability to use the hose or have any playground equipment, we have had to become creative in our outside time.  Especially since it's hotter than hell out here in Walla Walla. 
One thing our new place does have is a pretty, thick, luscious lawn in a decent size yard.  So we got some Splash Bombs that we use with a bucket of water.  We found the kid pool at the park that only charges a buck per kid for four hours a day and lets parents in for free.  We found shaded parks with awesome playground equipment.  And after living here and whining about it for a month straight, I wore Aiden down and we got a croquet set.  (He's the budget-monger and I am the spender.  It's what happens.  I like to buy things.  He likes to throw things out.  We balance pretty well.)
Soooo, I brought home our new croquet set and we played it that very night.  All the kiddos did alright but Aiden really stomped all of us by winning when the next closest person was only halfway done with the course.  Once I got over my major loss (because, really, it's all about me), we played again.  This time we started to notice a couple of things.  First, the grass here is SO long and healthy that the croquet balls get stuck in holes and it sometimes takes several good whacks with the mallet to get the ball to even move out of it's home. 
Annie-inspired "Inspirational" Poster
Annie's attempts look a little like a lumberjack aiming for a tree.  I can see that we may go through several sets of croquet mallets by the time she learns to not "high stick" them anymore.  The fourteen hundred practice swings are always slow and careful and exact.  And are always followed by the actual hit which has a 20% rate of contact with the ball.  When those contacts actually take place, she is more likely to hit the ball and send it 45 degrees off-course than to get it anywhere near where she wants it to go.  We have tried to coach her through this by having her stop the golfer's stance and try the position that resembles the granny bowling stance.  Then we watch her go through another round of wind-ups and misses, reposition her feet CLOSER to the ball (because the whole pendulum effect is clearly lost on Annie) and she still misses. 
In a moment of clarity tonight, she realized she was still on the second wicket while the rest of the family was almost done with the game and she took her turn by taking the granny stance and hitting the ball blind-backward-and accurately!  Only my child could find better success without looking at what she's doing and by doing it backwards than to be conventional and actually control her movements!
In all fairness, the both Aiden and I, besides being adults and having the thinking skills required to hit the ball hard but not too hard and with aim, grew up playing croquet.  Alex is horrible at the game, but he has a great time being awful.  He keeps saying "This game hates me!" so finally I suggested, with all the love a mother can proffer, that maybe it's because he sucks so bad at it.  (This is how it is in our house, we are not flowers and sunshine and unicorns.  Just the rainbows, if you please!)  Luckily, he just laughed and laughed.  This is because we giggle and tease a lot in our house.
Ashley got a little further than Annie but I think this owes to her figuring out that she can sort of shuffle-board/sweep the ball where she wants it to go.  This begins with turning the mallet sideways and then sweeping it along.  But at least she gets contact with the ball, unlike Annie.  Unless she does it like a backwards old woman.

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