Christmas Eve Mission in Woodstock

“Your mission, if you choose to accept it…” was how the letter started. JoJo, Henry and Ruby’s cousin, was reading aloud a handwritten letter (by me) to her cousins and sister as we all stood in front of a country store on the main street of Woodstock, Vermont. Their mission, the letter continued, was to spend the twenty dollar bill they each had found in their respective envelopes they’d just been handed. Later, over hot chocolate, they were to report back to the group what they had purchased and why they had purchased it.

We are spending our Christmas vacation in Vermont with our favorite Brooklyn family. We planned to attend Christmas Eve mass in Woodstock, and we had a few hours to kill; so we decided to mess with the kids bit. We’d told them we would be spending the afternoon in the Woodstock public library reading books before mass. To our surprise, they weren’t entirely dreading it. Henry was maybe even a little excited.

After parking the car and walking through downtown Woodstock toward the library, I stopped abruptly on the sidewalk and asked the kids to gather round. That’s when we distributed their envelopes that included crisp twenty dollar bills and the handwritten letter that JoJo read aloud. Forty five minutes later, we all emerged from the country store, each with a bag containing something valued at twenty dollars. The kids all underspent, so they pooled their change to buy candy.

From there we proceeded to the Woodstock Inn, where over hot cocoa and dessert, we unveiled our purchases – youngest to oldest. All three girls bought ginger bread house kits. Henry bought a model locomotive. Kristine went with a spiral vegetable slicer. Jesse bought her favorite home remedy – apple cider vinegar, and Brian got some hot pads. I opted for backgammon to add to the Eiting board game collection.

I’m not sure if this will become a new family tradition, but it was a fun way to spend some quality family time on Christmas Eve in Woodstock.


Henry Takes Tacoma

Six months of tournaments culminated this weekend with Henry’s participation in the 2017 Washington State Chess Championship Tournament at the Tacoma Convention Center. To qualify, Henry had to win at least 3 games in at least one qualifying tournament this year. He managed to do that in all six tournaments in which he played. He had to turn it up a notch for Tacoma, though, as every kid there had won at least as many games as he had; and most had been playing for several years. H-man took it all in stride, winning two out of his five games in the state tournament. We’re so proud of you, Henry!

Check Mate 

“Would the parent of Henry Fry please report to the judges’ table?” That’s one of the last things you want to hear while at your son’s chess tournament; but this is the announcement that greeted me as I entered the gymnasium after getting some fresh air at Henry’s very first Chess4Life chess tournament on Saturday. “Do you know where your son is?” asked the judge when I identified myself. I had to admit that I didn’t, although I assumed he was watching one of his friend’s chess games.

The judges were trying to clear up a scoring mistake. After five games, Henry had won three. The opponent he’d beaten in his last match noticed that the standings posted on the wall indicated that Henry had lost that game. This boy wanted to make sure the judges knew that Henry actually won. I was impressed with his honesty. I was also relieved, because, with three wins, Henry would get a medal and qualify for the state chess tournament. With two, he’d get nothing.

I was still relieved as the awards ceremony started at the end of the day. Several kids received medals for three wins before the trophies for the top six finishers – with four wins each – were handed out. My sense of relief soon turned to worry as the last medal recipient was called. Henry’s name was not among them. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew exactly what was going through Henry’s mind. Uggh. Then the trophies were handed out. When they got to 3rd place, Henry’s name was called. He knew something wasn’t right as he sheepishly walked up to receive the big trophy that he didn’t deserve. I wasn’t looking forward to straightening out the mess with the judges, because I knew there was a disappointed kid somewhere in the crowd who should have recieved a trophy but didn’t.

After the ceremony, Henry and I approached the lead judge to explain that Henry shouldn’t have received that trophy. Another dad and son were standing next to us, presumably to explain the same thing. The judges quickly caught their mistake, realizing that the other boy had a record of 4-1, with Henry at 3-2. And then the realization hit the judges that this mistake had a ripple effect throughout the entire population of chess players, most of whom had already left with their hardware. All of the results, including final team standings, were probably wrong. Nobody wanted to deal with that kind of cluster.

Before much else was said, I quickly handed the 3rd place trophy to the other little boy, congratulating him and giving his medal to Henry – hoping to avoid a protracted discussion. The trophy winner started to protest, suggesting that he might not have finished that high in the standings. His dad cut him off and said, “sometimes it’s best to just say ‘thank you,’ son,” as he and I gave each other knowing glances. I grabbed Henry’s hand and headed toward the door.

The discussion during the drive home was interesting. I was thankful for the day’s life lessons for Henry: Honesty is the best policy; adults make mistakes too; and sometimes it’s best not to borrow trouble.  As we prepare for Thanksgiving, if members of the Fry Lodge Faithful are looking for role models, they need look no further than the grade school chess clubs of Whatcom County.


The Comeback Kid

It’s baseball season on Lopez Island. Both Henry and Ruby have started practicing. Ruby is playing t-ball. Henry has moved up to the Minor league, after a year in the Rookies, a team that only plays games against themselves. Over the past few weeks, Henry has struggled with whether to go back to Rookies or stay on the Minor team; most of the kids are bigger, older and more experienced than he is. Translation: not much playing time, and stuck in right field. Henry’s decided to stick it out. Saturday was his first game – against Orcas Island.

With that as background, you can understand why there was a bit more anxiety associated with Henry’s first game of the season. He got up to bat in the 4thinning. I watched with anticipation as Henry walked up to the plate and got into his batter’s stance.  The first pitch hit him in the arm, as he crumbled to the dirt in pain. So much for easing his anxiety. He took his base, but then had to have somebody run for him, as his arm was in a lot of pain.

I wasn’t sure if the coach would put him back in, but he did. In the top of the 6th inning (of a 6 inning game), Henry again was up to bat. Lopez was down 3 to 4. Two outs. A runner on first. So much for easing him back into the game. If Henry got a hit, Lopez would stay alive, with chance of a tie or maybe a win. If he got out, the game would be over.


Henry courageously walked up to the batter’s box, pounded home plate twice with his bat, and got ready for the pitch.  The first pitch was a ball. Phew. Henry connected with the second pitch, but it was a foul ball. The count was 1 and 1. On the next pitch he hit a grounder and outran the throw to first base! The ball was overthrown, so Henry ran to second. A double!

I couldn’t have been more proud of Henry. He’d made the tough choice to stay with the Minors, despite lesser ability. He kept a stiff upper lip when hit with a wild pitch on his first at-bat. Then he came back and hit a double. Way to go Henry.

Side note: Yours truly was operating the electronic scoreboard. It was actually only the 5th inning, not the 6th, so the stakes weren’t as high as I’d apparently made them.


Ultimately, Lopez ended up losing to Orcas 3 to 4. But all the kids came off the field smiling. Henry’s smile might have been the biggest.


Los Lobos

The Fry Lodge Faithful will recall last weekend’s rained out soccer game on Orcas Island. The sun also came out for this weekend’s game, and the Orcas Vikings made the inter-island trip to take on the Lopez Lobos on their home field on Saturday. Henry, being one of the youngest (definitely the smallest) players on a 2nd through 5th grade team, wasn’t supposed to play (a post-game scrimmage had been scheduled for the young players). But, after the Lobos went up 2-0, the coach put Henry in. He was so excited. And he played very well – kicking the ball up and down the field. He’s come a long way since his indoor soccer days in the West Village. Go Henry. Go Lobos!


Ferry Games

The Fry Family Quartet is headed to Seattle for a long weekend, which means coming up with new activities to pass the time on the ferry. It’s always interesting to see what the kids come up with. Based on these first few games of hangman, I’m not sure how much I’m looking forward to the next few hours in the car.