Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Smoke and Pins

Northern California is burning. With over 800 fires reported across the state, the air is filled with an orange throat burning haze. Most of the fires were started by dry lightening. We haven't seen rain in months. One little spark is all it takes to send all that dry fuel ablaze. The hills where we took our beautifully green Easter pictures are nothing more than a sea of gold, sparsely dotted with an oak tree here or there. I saw it coming. As I lay in the gym's wading pool on Saturday night, trying to cool off in the ninety five degree heat and convince Ben that the water was his friend, I mentioned to Paul that I smelled smoke. When we drove home we saw the first plumes of smoke. By the time I got home from the grocery store 30 minutes later the plume was massive. I had overheard a firefighter mention a "huge fire in Napa". Well that huge fire is still burning and is maybe 15 miles from my house. Every time I step outside I am reminded with a smack of smoke and haze directly in the throat and eyes. Sunday was spent inside pouting about the condition but Monday we had enough. We had to get out and do something!

We thought maybe Six Flags would work since it was on the other side of the fire and by the bay. A call from a friend in that area quickly smashed those dreams. Smoky over there too. Where wasn't it smoky? Indoors. And that was were we were forced to play today. We wanted to do something new. Out of the ordinary. Close enough to make it back for a quick nap before Ben's physical therapy appointment. And then the idea struck Paul- Bowling! We live maybe two miles from THE entertainment destination in Vacaville. Stars! Stars is the kind of place that thrives in a town with no night life. It has a really nice bowling alley, laser tag, arcade, and a bar for all the townies to hang in on a Friday night. Monday afternoon it was filled with families enjoying their summer vacations. So after a delightful lunch at Fresh Choice (our dining destination as of late strictly because it is so dang easy with kids) we headed on over to let the games begin.

At first the not so bright lady behind the front counter put us between two families. This lasted for about 2 seconds before Paul protested this stupidity (can you imagine trying to keep two toddlers out of the way of bowlers on either side? Impossible!)and we got a lane with nobody on either side at the other end of the bowling alley. Perfect. And even more perfect was that we didn't have to rent the kids those oh so fashionable bowling shoes since they would just be pushing the ball down a bumper lane on one of those bowling ramps for little ones. Score. That saves $3 a person. Paul and I opted out of bowling our own games this time and decided to focus on helping the kids even though we have all our own equipment (we ARE that geeky). So I went to the front counter and asked where they kept their lightest balls. Ms. Personality turned around, searched her lazy susan of bowling wonders and produced a ball. I brought it down to our lane and turned right back around to get another. She had seen that we had twins. Why just one ball? Hmmm. Now I was starting to understand why she was not busy performing brain surgery that afternoon. As requested, she silently produced another ball, her face as cold as a statue. I profusely thanked her for her kindness finally producing a slight grin and a whimper of a "your welcome". Someone needs to give that girl some happy juice. But enough about Ms Vacaville 2008- lets bowl!

The kids were absolutely fascinated by the ball return. They could push the balls around in that thing and wait for another amazing appearance of another ball from the "mystery hole". And the topper- the sucker blew out of a little vent that was oh so fun to play with. In all honesty the ball return may have been entertainment enough but we were there for a bigger purpose.

Mari stepped up first. After fowling about three times we convinced her to stand behind the ball ramp and give the sucker a push. She let out a "whee" as the ball sped down the ramp toward the pins.

We cheered as she knocked down and few and a big smile filled her face. She was ready to go again. Paul helped Mari perfect her technique while I tried to convince Ben to step away from the ball return and try his own hand at bowling. After some coaxing (and dragging) I got him to the ball ramp and showed him how to give the ball a push. We had another convert!

They were ready to bowl. We spent the remainder of the first game trying to get our kids used to taking turns and perfecting the angle in which to direct the ramp. Game two consisted of Paul and I in competition against each other trying to figure out the best way to direct the ball with our respective children (Mari and Paul were one team and me and Ben another) pushing the ball down the ramp. Competition was fierce. No strikes were had because the ball just wasn't moving with enough force to knock them all down but we did have a few spares. Mari's ball tended to have alot of spin on it which helped her pick up a split in one instance.

Moments earlier my sarcastic trash talking butt spewed out a "If she picks up this spare I am quitting." Well I ate my words but I didn't quit for the good of my son. Another highlight was when I set up the ramp in hopes Ben would pick up a spare. He decided the ramp was in the incorrect spot, moved it considerably and then sent that ball rolling towards the pins. Mr. Ben got his own spare.

Shows what Mommy knows. Around frame 8 the kids decided it was more fun to run in circles around the ball return or down the alley towards the arcade. We decided to wrap things up. Two games are alot for the average 21 month old. We let the kids run around the arcade a little bit. Mari favored the Dance Dance Revolution machine (one of these days she is going to realise it is more fun if you stick a couple quarters in it)and pretending to steer one of the driving video games.

Ben, of course, went for the balls. He watched people play air hockey in awe and then went over to a machine that had a basketball inside it and started repeating "ball" over and over like those sea gulls in Finding Nemo.

That was our cue to head on home for a quick nap before therapy. I was very satisfied. Our first family bowling date was a success. Everyone had a great time and it seemed like something we could do again in the future and have a great time. I expect to see Mari and Ben kicking some fat guy butt in the PBA about 20 years from now.

If you would like to take your family bowling here are some of my tips:
1. If your kids are too little to roll the ball down the lane by themselves then get one of those bowling ramps. The kids love pushing the ball down the ramp and seeing the results.
2. Get bumper lanes for little ones. Nobody want to see a big fat zero up on the scoreboard.
3. Don't expect things to move at more than a snails pace and don't get upset if the kids are more entertained by their surroundings. Bowling alleys are filled with people and lights. So much for a little one to take in.
4. If you have older children get them their own lane. A 10 year old doesn't want to have to put up with a toddler messing up their game. They probably also don't want bumpers up when they are trying to perfect their bowling skills.
5. Go at a time when you know the alley won't be full. Nobody wants their child running in front of another person's frame. Request a lane with nobody on either side. Your fellow bowlers will appreciate it and it will save you the stress of keeping your kids out of the way.
6. Have fun!

PS- I was supposed to have this post up last night but as I was typing around 5:30 the power went out. And it stayed out until about 9:00! It came on about 15 minutes after Paul got back from getting ice at the store in attempts to keep our perishables cool. Figures. By then it was hot (we didn't want to open the windows and let the smoke in) and I was ready to lay in bed and watch some Ice Road Truckers. So there you go. My official excuse.


debi9kids said...

You never cease to amaze me! The things you do with those kids! I would never have thought to take them bowling! What the heck do I know???
What a GREAT idea!
ps So sorry you are breathing in that lovely smoke. UGH!!!!!

Terri said...

Bowling! huh! I would have never thought of that one! I will put it away for a rainy day and try it out! Both Chris and Jess love bowling. Delaney has only been once. Thanks for the tips!

Stay safe with the smoke!

The Romero-Schroeder said...

I love all the pictures!!! that looks like so much fun, can you believe that i have never gone bowling!!!