A warm welcome home

Earlier today I made it home after my first work travel since January 2020. It’s been a long time since I’ve been away from my family like this, and I’ve never been away from Ezra like this. It was awesome to get to see my team in person. Most of who I hadn’t met in real life yet. But it was also very hard being away.

It felt weird getting on a plane after so long. I still love the actual act of flying, I still don’t like airports and the rest of the process that it takes to get to that point.

We traveled to Orlando and had a big place to ourselves. There were some Disney-themed rooms, a pool, a pool table, other games, and a theatre room. We didn’t leave the place much at all. We ordered groceries and made breakfasts and lunches, and then usually ordered in for dinner. Probably the healthiest I’ve eaten on a meet-up yet. I really think the in-person time is going to help our team be closer and work even better together.

We had one activity day that we spent at Animal Kingdom. It was again strange to be there without my family and kids, but we still had a good time. The Avatar ride there was, and confirmed this visit, as my favourite ride I’ve ever been on. I wish I could have done it multiple times. I guess I could of, but I didn’t feel like wasting all my time waiting in hour-plus long lines.

The trip home which started yesterday wasn’t as uneventful as the trip there. I had a connection in Neward which arrive on time, and all seemed good right up until it was time to board for our 12:35pm flight. There were a couple short delays and then just canceled. We were all put on a flight for the next morning. After a bunch of confusion and lots of waiting we finally received some vouchers for a close by hotel and instructions to walk to a bus, to get to a train, which would take us to a shuttle, to get us to the hotel. The shuttle held about 15 people, and we were a plane full, so it took a while for us to all get there.

Once we started to fill the lobby more fun. The vouchers weren’t working. There was no payment information attached, so the hotel couldn’t check any of us in. The lobby kept filling with more people and frustration. People tried to call the airline, people talked to the hotel managers and for a long time no one was able to help. This is already long past the time when we should have already landed at home. Many of us had been up for long hours. Some people gave up and decided just to book rooms at their own cost, almost $400 a night. Thankfully the hotel really stepped up and offered us all the rate they would have charged the airline $95 a night with the hopes that once they received payment from the airline they would refund us.

Come morning others in our group said that the hotel received payment from the airline so hopefully I really see a refund come through within a few days like they said. Back at the airport and then some more delays, but we eventually took off and I made it home about a full 24 hours later than I should have.

Ezra has had an imaginary friend for a while now. He has the creative name “Little Guy”. Jen has told me that apparently, Little Guy was on the trip with me he was even sad yesterday because his flight was canceled. Upon finally arriving home today I could hear Noah as I walked in the door asking Ezra, “Who’s home, who’s home?”. He came around the corner and looked at me, then looked to the side and yelled very excitedly “Little Guy!”

Division 2 Champions

Years of hard work paid off today for our basketball team the Valley Spartans. The young men captured the Division 2 Championship today for our Metro League basketball season. We finished the regular season in second place having lost to the first-place team twice.

We had two tough games today where we first played a team that we beat during our league play, but lost two games to them just recently in exhibition games. It was a battle today and our boys just didn’t give up or let off. They played some excellent defense, the shots were falling, and we ended up winning 77-66. That took us to the championship game against the first-place team. They are a great team and I always enjoy our games against them. We practice hard and expect a lot, it all came out in this game and we won 60-46.

For some of this team, I’ve been helping coach them for seven years. Almost half their lives. They’ve grown from boys into confident, hard-working, dedicated young men and I couldn’t be prouder of how they handle themselves. We’ve had this Spartans team for about five years. There have been some changes in players along the way, but a lot have been consistent the whole time. While I think these boys have gotten a lot out of this program I know I have gained a lot from being a part of this group myself.

I’ve Learned a lot about basketball, and coaching, but have also gained friends with the other coaches and parents. It’s a true community. We come together for fundraising and occasional fun as well. Everyone has the best interest of the boys in mind, and it’s just so nice to be a part of it.

Earlier this week I went and got a little tribute to this team. My second tattoo is our team logo. One of the parents owns Everlasting Ink, he had given me my first one and did a great job on this as well. I’m so happy with it.

Valley Spartans logo tattoo

I’ll be sad when our time with this team comes to an end, but there’s still lots of basketball left this year, and I know regardless of what happens a lot of these guys will be playing basketball together for years to come.

Lazy Sunday morning

Sandy's Photo Blog

Though it isn’t this way all day there have already been a few lazy moments to today. They day started off with my three year old bit waking up I till a quarter past seven. What a lovely treat to just lay in bed after waking up and ease into things.

But then things got a bit busy with morning routine and off to get pictures with Santa. That didn’t take too long even with an uncertain little one not knowing what to think of this man in red.

When we got home I was able to sit up with a coffee while he was playing. The dog took advantage of a bit of quiet time as well, even if it was in my preferred seat.

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Starting back

Tomorrow morning I’m starting back to work after the second part of an extended parental leave. I’m so thankful that I was able to have this time to spend with my family.

Throughout the leave my emotions ran across the spectrum really. Especially in the beginning it was all great. Jen was still off on leave for some of it as well and it was summer so the kids were out of school. We were able to explore and travel a bit, just more flexibility.

Once the kids were back in school the monotony of days and routine settled in some. Get woken up early by Ezra, try to keep him quiet but entertained so the rest of the kids can sleep a bit more before they have to get up for school. Get him and I some breakfast and dressed and hustle out the door to get the kids to school. Most days someone either goes in late or gets off early so it’s multiple trips to the schools throughout the day. Some times it felt like a lot of just hurry up and wait for the next errand that needed to be done. There were times where it just felt like I needed some kind of adventure to break things up, but there wasn’t much adventure to be had.

There were all kinds of great things though. Really getting to bond with Ezra and see him grow and learn what seems like new things every day.

I was able to get back into a good exercise routine. I’m much fitter again and exercising regularly. I’ve dropped about 30lbs. Was able to include both Ezra and Noah some too. Ezra has come on bike rides and runs with me. We would work in trips to playgrounds as part of it. Noah started running with me as well. He is much better then me and enjoys it. So much that he joined the cross country team with his school.

Ella and I ended up spending a lot of time together driving to and from school and to and from dance. I love our drives together. She’s so funny and such a loving person. The way she is with Ezra is something incredibly special s well.

Caile is so very self sufficient. She graduated and is taking this year off. She’s still running her baking business and taking some online courses to prepare her for what she wants next. So driven. She also just contributes so much to our home. Trying to take on things to make it easier for others, sometimes to a fault. I love when she needs my help in understanding or figuring out parts of what she’s learning.

Looking back tonight I love that our family loves to spend time together. Even if it is just sitting around in the evening to watch TV together. Despite my desire for adventure it doesn’t matter what we do, being together is what really matters.

Photo blog

A few weeks back I started challenge for myself. I wanted to take more pictures mostly as a way to force myself to pay attention to the things around me a bit more. Sort of like stop and smell the roses. So I started a new photo blog where I’ve been posting one photo that I took that day, every day.

I may change my own rule and some days post a picture taken in the past, but I’ll try to keep it from the day I’m posting.

As I mentioned before I’ve been into black and white photos lately so a lot of the ones I’ve posted so far have fit that. With fall upon us now here though and the changing colours in the trees that’s likely to change for a bit, like todays picture.

Sunset at the shore

One of the things we do with our friends and family that I love is having evening fires at the shore. We have a great group so the company is good no matter what and being at the shore it’s always so peaceful. Put those good people together at the shore and it just makes for a nice time.

Tonight seemed even nicer than usual. It was a spot on the shore that I had never been to yet, it was cooler autumn feeling weather, and there was a gorgeous sunset. Great way to spend a Saturday night.

Color vs black and white

I’m far from a photographer but I take photos often from my iPhone when we’re out and about enjoying nature.

For a long time I’ve found I really like black and white photos instead of color. I’m not sure if it has to do with me being color blind and not seeing color as they should be. Even in my clothes I keep things pretty basic with a lot of blacks and greys.

When ever we are choosing colors for things in the house I always leave it up to Jen because color don’t matter much to me and they do to her.

Here’s a sampling of some resent pictures in both color and black and white. I like the black and white best in all except the sunsets.

First Camping Trip

For the past couple of years I’ve been slowly buying some supplies for camping. Lots of our friends and family love to camp and have been trying to get us to join them.

We’ve been doing day trips to meet up with them and do the fun things without having to set up, tear down, or go through the night in a sleeping bag. Last year we had a few nights booked but ended up canceling because of weather. We did spend one night in our friends backyard, but that’s not really camping.

This year we booked two nights at Kejimkujik National Park, or Keji for short. Sunday the whole family came down and spent the day. We did some hikes and got our camp site all set up. We also got a good swim before supper.

After supper everyone else left except for Noah and I. We got a good bike ride in during the evening before having a game of flashlight tag.

Sleep was rough. This was the part Noah was dreading. It was not comfortable, just all the little noises like people, wind, and critters, kept us a wake for a while, and it was really warm. We were then up good and early as well. We started off with some coffee for me and hot chocolate for Noah and that got us going. Camp fire pancakes thanks to friends helped too.

Our crew went and raided the equipment rentals taking 11 kayaks and a canoe out for the morning into the afternoon. We paddled over to a bit of a sand bar clearing area where we had our packed lunches and a swim before heading back.

Before supper three of us went out on a great ride through some of the trails and back to the camp ground. There were some parts which felt rough, and maybe more then what my poor hybrid bike should have gone through, but it was a lot of fun. The trails along the Mercey River especially were beautiful. I was pretty sore at the end of it all though.

After supper all the kids and a couple brave adults played a game of capture the flag. This ended our camping trip a bit early. Noah took a bad fall and scrapped himself up pretty good and hurt his wrist. We went back to the camp site and iced it to see if it would start to feel better all all, but pretty quickly it was clear it wasn’t going to. Everyone helped me quickly pack up our site and him and I headed home.

By the time we got back he just wanted to get cleaned up and get some sleep so that’s what we did. This morning I took him to the hospital to have it checked out.

Broken wrist will likely slow down the rest of summer. He may get really good with his left hand for basketball though.

Introducing Spartan Stats

Spartan Stats is my first real open source project that I’m releasing. It is a web app which allows you to track a basketball teams stats in real time and has a live view for authorized visitors to see game stats and scores.

This was an idea that came about near the beginning of Covid. Once things started to start up again my sons basketball team which I help coach was allowed to have games, but there were no spectators.

We tried live streaming some games and that worked ok but internet wasn’t always good and other challenges. Around the same time one of the coaches started keeping track of our players stats during games on a sheet of paper. I thought it would be great to have a solution which we could use to capture stats and show people who couldn’t be at the game what was happening.

It wasn’t until this past December though that I finally started to work on it. I had been going through some career changes and life changes all at the same time so never felt like I had the time to dedicate to a side project. When I went on Parental leave it felt like a perfect time. I felt more comfortable in my new role at work, things were settling down at home, and I had some more time.

Things were slow at first as I was learning new things to set things up. After talking with some people I decided to use Google Firebase as the database as it includes a lot of what I was looking for. After I had a decent start I ended up not working on it again for a while, or just slowly making little additions or changes. More recently I spent some more time at night and on weekends getting most of the main functionality working.

This past weekend Noah’s team had our Provincial Tournament it felt like a great time to try things out and see how it works in its intended use. For the first two games I didn’t share with anyone except my wife Jen and that helped uncover some bugs, but for the most part things worked well and my stats matched what the other coach had on paper. So the next day I shared the link with our parent group and some of them were able to follow along as the game was happening.

It’s a private system so people need to sign up and then be approved before they can see anything. Most people end up with the role of Visitor. Some like coaches who will be entering stats can have the role of Statistician. There is also an Admin role to approve new users and manage peoples roles.

Once signed in visitors can see a list of seasons and then the games recorded for those seasons. Each game has the game score, box score with the player and team average stats, and a play by play view that has a timeline of events that took place during the game.

Entering stats is pretty easy. Players are listed out, you click on the one who did something and then click a button for what they did.

If any one is interested there is also a limited functionality demo version set up at https://demo.spartanstats.com you can log in with the email stats@spartanstats.com and password X9s2!dvxrpiVNslU

You can view and download the code used from spartanstats.com

There is still work to be done but the basics are there. I’m excited about this and it will be something I can be continually working on to add or improve things and learn along the way.

I hope that along the way it is also maybe helpful to other people. I found it hard to find good examples of using some of the features of Firebase, like setting up a role based authentication system. I may post some follow up posts explaining my approach and code to make this all work.

I’d be really interested in hearing from people who find this useful either in using it or just as an example Firebase app.

Good and busy weekend

As luck would have it most of our weekends have worked out really well to not have both basketball tournaments and dance competitions falling at the same time. This weekend was the exception.

Thankfully the basketball tournament is one that we hosted ourselves, so not far from home. The dance competition was in Halifax so a little over an hour away, but close enough that though it required some late nights, it can be driven back and forth without the need for a hotel.

We have a lot of great people around us who helped make the weekend a success and possible. The group of coaches we have for Noah’s basketball team are just the best, together with the other families they made sure the tournament ran smoothly.

We had friends and family who joined us in celebrating our kids and their accomplishments by coming and cheering them on at both basketball and dance. We also had friends who helped make it possible for me to make it to all of Noahs’ basketball games by coming and taking care of Ezra. Caile stayed home on Saturday night so I could go in and catch one of Ellas’ dances as well. I really am so grateful for everyone.

Our team did well in the tournament. They fought hard and won the first three games to put us in the finals, but met our match there to come in second.

Noah had a really good tournament personally with some of the best all-around basketball I’ve seen him play. I think some of it came from a bit of a grudge. A couple of weekends ago we were at another tournament where we split a pair of games against a team. One of his friends ended up showing him a TikTok video that one of the players from the other team posted that had him hitting a three-pointer over top of Noah. Noah had played well those games too including hitting three three-pointers in one game and four in the other. But he was glad we were able to meet this team again in the semi-finals of our tournament. He ended up getting Player of the Game for that one.

We live in rural Nova Scotia Canada. We’ve only ever had two people from our province play in the NBA, Lindell Wigginton who is with the Bucks right now, and Nate Darling who played some with the Hornets on a two-way and had a good season playing for the Clippers G-League team this year.

Nate showed up Saturday morning because we were playing his little brother’s team. Noah hit a couple good threes and guarded his brother a lot through the game. We ended up winning by one point.

Nate congratulated Noah and told him he was a good shooter. Really made his day and boosted his confidence.

The tournament ended on a bit of a downer with the loss, but also in the first few minutes of the game Noah took a charge and ended up hitting his head pretty hard. He didn’t end up going back into the game after that. He’s feeling fine now besides being tired.

Here are a few short Noah highlight videos from the semi-finals game.

Noah grabs a defensive rebound and takes it all the way to the other end but misses a layup, we get the rebound and it swings back around to Noah who takes his man but misses a floater. We get another rebound that makes it back out to Noah again where he hits a three.
Early into the game Noah is left pretty open and drains a three.
Noah catches a steal and takes it back the other way for a layup
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