Saturday, May 17, 2008

On a Swing and a Prayer

Every once in a while, I get to play Super Dad with Faith. Mom leaves the house and we're left to entertain ourselves. Unfortunately, most of the things I like to entertain myself with, such as watching sports, is off limits to Faith for the time being. However, she loves to go to the park and has become the pied piper of the neighborhood parks.

If Faith is going to the park, little girls up and down the street want to join her. I don't really get this phenomenon, to be honest. What makes 4- and 5-year-old girls want to tag along with Faith to the park? Who knows? But then there are those days when Faith just wants to ask everyone to go with her ... like this morning.

Her friend Grace was gone, so she had to see if our neighbors Ella and Claire wanted to go with her. The result was entertaining enough for both me and Faith.

Someone was raring to go once we arrived at the park.

Ella gives Faith a shove to get up onto the jungle gym.

Hey, look! There goes Claire down the tube slide!

Whoo! It's hot! Time for a water break. Claire has a "gigantic water bottle" but it's only for big people.

Only for "big people", huh? I'll show you I'm a big people, too!

Everybody wants to give me a push!

Who am I going to push?

Higher, Ella! Higher!

Everybody's swinging!

Whew! What a day! Ella makes sure I make it home safely.

When we came home, Faith and I ate lunch. Faith was a little confused since she loves to hold hands and say the blessing with both of us--but when there was no mommy to hold hands with, what was she to do? Hold both hands with daddy? That did the trick and got a giant "AMEN!" at the end of the prayer.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

And They're Off ...

I made my first trip to a horse track when I was a freshman in college while traveling to a Georgia football game in Lexington. It was the final weekend of racing at Keeneland and the late autumn day with temperatures in the mid 60s and an array of colors on display in the wooded backdrop made for a spectacular setting.

Being the poor college student that I was with a solid Baptist background, there was no way I was going to be broke and destitute after a day of gambling on horse racing ... so I only bet $5 ... once. I chose a horse named "Can't Lose." Since I've always been a sucker for trite phrases, I thought, "Why not?"

"Can't Lose" placed (finished second) and I won $25 bucks. My dad's major area of concern with my new gambling habit was if I was going to tithe on my winnings. Of course, I answered in the affirmative (and later followed through on my intentions).

So, when we moved to Idaho and I discovered there was a race track five blocks from my office, I couldn't wait to take Faith and experience this fun sport up close. There would be no gambling, but there sure would be a gorgeous backdrop for watching streamlined thoroughbreds race at blazing speeds around a track. When I first took her a week ago, we treated it like the Kentucky Derby for Faith, getting her all dolled up. What I didn't realize is the drastic approach to the sport people in Idaho take versus the high society Kentuckians.

For most of the people at the track, it was just a step above a tractor pull. Attire consisting of cut off t-shirts, leather pants, and cigarettes in rolled up sleeves indicated to me that gambling was the main purpose of the track. I couldn't even find mint juleps! There was one woman with a funky hat on who came stumbling by us near the paddock. I remarked that she must have been the winner in the track's "Kentucky Derby Hat Contest." She assured me she was indeed the contest winner, more than likely, I assumed, because the only other hats I saw were do-rags.

One of the highlights for me was watching Faith pick up on the track customs, such as screaming your head off for a horse you have absolutely no emotional tie to except for the $10 bucks you just wagered on it. With programs rolled up and tightly clasped in clenched fists, people yell, "Go! Go! Go!" for their horse, shaking their programs in the air. After one race, Faith had this down and was joining the chorus of "Go! Go!" chanters as the horses streaked past us at the finish line. However, Faith has now incorporated that language into her everyday vocabulary, using it whenever she wants to go somewhere fast and would appreciate her parents joining her. It makes me giggle every time she does it, especially when she pumps her fist just like the fans at the track.

We went again as a family this weekend and here are some of the pictures to document our outing.

The No. 5 horse, "Checkher," in the paddock. After finishing next to last, maybe they should rename her "Slowher." Janel's horse, "Streakin' Cherry Cola", showed (finished third), while my horse, "JC a Special Spirit," finished sixth.

Faith patiently awaits the horses to be loaded into the starting gate.

... and still waiting.

Finally loaded ...

... and they're off! These quarter horses look kind of scrawny, but they can still move fast.

Faith passes the time in between races with a little thumb-sucking action ...

and posing for a photo op with Janel ... and her little sister to be.

Janel and Faith got ready for the final race (of our short trip to the track). Janel went with Snazzy Special Lead, while I chose Iona Corona. Janel outguessed me again, as her horse placed, while mine showed. Janel picked her second favorite horse for Faith, which was Bectello, who came in out of the money at sixth.

This isn't exactly the photo finish it appears to be ... it's actually those loser horses legging it out for next to last. But it shows the speed at which these beautiful animals can move.

As excited as Faith gets when we go to the track, who knows? Maybe she'll be a little horse jockey one day.