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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Duckpin Fever 

Back on a cold winter day, I decided bowling might be a fun afternoon for Celeste and Quinn. One of our local lanes is a duckpin outfit (duckpins being a native Maryland variant* of traditional bowling), which I thought would be good for the girls given that the balls are smaller — about the size of a softball and easier to manage with little hands &mdash and the pins shorter and squatter.

That first trip to the bowling alley was deemed a success even though the girls only threw a few balls each. The second trip was similarly short. The third trip quickly became a disaster when Celeste tripped the foul line buzzer on her second ball and the resulting noise led her to shut down for the rest of the time there. They turned off the buzzer (it is typically on only for league matches) for us, but Celeste refused to roll another ball. I don’t think we bowled a full game between the three of us on any of those occasions.

Last week, when I picked the girls up from nursery school, Celeste talked about wanting to go bowling, but I didn't think we'd have enough time to go and make it to the farmer's market (despite past history), so I begged off until this week. It turned out to be the right call.

Originally, I was figuring we'd all go to the pool this afternoon, but given today's unstable weather an indoor activity seemed to be the best bet. We talked about the College Park Aviation Museum, but once bowling was on the table, the girls were only interested in duckpins.

After getting shoes, the bumpers in place and assurances that the foul-line buzzer was off, Quinn was up first. I pointed out another kid about her age bowling and she watched her roll the ball, walked to the line, and managed to roll the ball too softly. It made it about 90 percent of the way down the lane and then started to roll back toward us. I stopped about two-thirds down the lane and just stayed there, until we asked the attendant to go get the ball. I don't know if it was embarrassment or what, but after that Quinn didn't want another turn bowling.

Celeste, however, was more than game. She kept rolling ball after ball, not always hitting pins, but making it down the lane almost every roll. Twice, however, she did manage to get the ball to the pins, but it ended up dropping into the gutter just beyond the bumper and then starting to roll back toward us. I tried to roll a ball or two down the gutter to clear the lane, but the physics seemed to work against me. We had to ask the attendant to walk down the lane again.

As Celeste and I bowled a few frames, Quinn was happy just pressing the reset and deadwood buttons — and the dry hands air button ... she loved the dry hands air button — but I kept asking her to help me. Eventually, Quinn moved from helping me line up my shots to helping push my hand to roll the ball to, eventually, getting a ball and rolling it herself.

About the time Quinn got excited about bowling again, Celeste got interested in the pencil and the scoring sheet. I hadn't bothered keeping score; I figure at this point just getting them interested in the basics of rolling the ball down the lane and hitting pins was way more important than scoring. She writes big, so it was difficult getting her to mark each roll's pins small and then the total for the frame large, but Celeste gave it a go as Quinn and I bowled a few frames. What was really exciting was that Celeste very quickly got the hang of adding three numbers together (in duckpin bowling you get three rolls per frame, instead of the two rolls you get with tenpin).

I had to help walk her through the first one: "Quinn knocked down six, so write a small six here. Then she knocked down one, so a small one here. Then put a one in then next box. What's 6 +1 +1?" "Seven. Eight!" (Sidenote: Quinn actually was doing pretty well; I think she had a five-roll streak where she got down at least one pin on each roll.) Celeste also was good about recording and adding zeroes. "Daddy! You missed all the pins, that's zero for you!"

All in all, I think we were there for a least an hour and a half and we threw a number of balls equivalent to a few games, so I made sure to sign up the girls for the Kids Bowl Free summer promotion (two free games per day for each kid ... not a bad deal even if shoe rental isn't included).

After bowling we ran over to Bladensburg Waterfront Park to see how high the river was running given all the rain ... and I promptly locked my keys in the car. While waiting for Evelin to rescue us, we threw a few sticks in the very high water and saw a few great blue herons (Ardea herodias), mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), and other birds.

*There is a question as to whether or not duckpin bowling originated in Baltimore, Maryland, or Lowell, Massachusetts; however, since Massachusetts already has candlepin bowling I'm going to be a Maryland chauvinist on this one ...

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