Thursday, February 28, 2008

mo' better bikes

Erin's bicycle learning has been decidedly slow, but steady. Her bike was really cheap and really heavy and she usually peddled so slowly that she never really even got the bike properly balanced. Mostly, she'd lean to one side as she rode and her training wheels kept her from falling over. She did that so much that the training wheel on the favored side started bending, and finally it bent so much that it was useless and I had to remove it, but she wasn't close to being able to ride her bike without training wheels either.

I decided that, instead of getting replacement training wheels for this bike that was chosen entirely for the Princess Barbie adornments rather than function, Erin needed a better quality bike. Lighter certainly. And you only get lighter with better. Yes, I know other kids get cheap bikes and learn to ride them just fine but Erin is struggling and her bike really is very heavy, heavy than my or John's mountain bikes, so if we can help things along with something better, why not.

So we went to a local, nice, large, family cycle store with the girls to examine some good bikes made by name-brand american bike companies instead of the probably lead-based paint decorated, made by Bangladeshi children type bikes like Santa brought her a year ago. Bad, bad Santa.

While we were there, sizing up Erin and trying to convince her that even though these bikes weren't pink and lacked sparkles and princesses, they would still be fun to ride, Kate and Allison were all over the little 12" demo bikes. K & A haven't had an outdoor ride-on sort of anything of their own yet. We told them this was going to be a purchase for Erin but they were so, so excited to see and try bikes that were just their size. So, we decided to get a smaller bike for the twins to "share" knowing full well that this concept may never get off the ground and we might be back for a third bike in the very near future. Yes, we were suckers. Erin's bike can be passed down to them at least. But this bike, well, it is a Trek, so we can probably sell it when they have outgrown it.

Stupid, or evil, parents that we are, we made this whole bike store trip and purchase on a rainy day so when we loaded the bikes into the car and drove home we had to squash all of the girls' enthusiasm for bike riding that day.

A couple of days later it was clear skies and while Erin was at school I took the twins out front to finally do some riding.

Allison kinda got the hang of peddling, for brief periods. But she watched her feet most of the time and didn't seem to grasp steering at all so she would drive herself straight into the curbs over and over.

Kate also watched her feet almost all the time, but she understood peddling even less than Allison and, ever the contrarian, persisted in trying to peddle backwards and would just not be convinced to try the other direction. So that first day she went no where, ever. After pushing her and letting her feel the correct foot motion she immediately returned to peddling backwards, thus stopping, as soon as I let go.

Riding lesson for the day concluded.

Today I took all 3 girls out after school. Erin took off like a champ. The enormously lighter bike was quite a bit easier for her to deal with.

"See, Erin, it's those high-maintenance, heavy princesses who were weighing your bike down before. I'm sure glad we got rid of them!"

No, I didn't really say that, but I wanted to.

Allison did even better with peddling but she still didn't have any of the whole watching the road ahead and steering concept yet. Kate only tried backpedaling a mere 70% of the time. I think that third bike is going to be necessary sooner than later. Which ever twin wasn't riding was pouting and whining full-time, and often, very helpfully, standing right in the way of the one who was on the bike. If only they could peddle better, and faster, and steer, that inclination could be cured pretty quickly.

cute weekend photos

We were at Grandma and Poppy's house on sunday, along with nephew Andrew from Portland(John's older sister's oldest son, age 22). He and his family had just joined us for skiing in Oregon but he was now passing through our area on his way down south. Everyone, but mainly Erin, seemed to be feeling pretty photogenic that evening and luckily I had my camera with me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

oregon has too many trees

We spent several days in oregon for our annual president's day holiday extended family ski trip. John's two sisters and their families joined us for several wonderful days in the mountains. Because of all the gear we need we drove there and it was a manageable drive with the only real difficulties along the way coming from Allison. Let me tell you, nine miles to the next rest stop doesn't normally seem like a terribly long distance, unless the inside of your car smelled like ours did at that moment. It was the longest and slowest nine miles I can remember, ever.

And on the way home she positively exploded at one point. Everywhere. We spent 1/2 hour cleaning up the best we could but we lacked the bleach and hazmat suits to really do the job properly. John and I are now suffering from a bit of PTSD.

The girls enjoyed playing with their 2 year-old cousin Lucy in the snow.

Erin got plenty more ski experience, doing two full days of ski school and in the off day between ski school days she asked to go skiing again, so she did a few runs with John that morning. She's really doing well and there is a gigantic difference in her skill and confidence compared to last year, and she really enjoys it. She is now skiing at a level 4, with level 9 being the highest. Not bad at all for a 5 year-old! Next year we'll get the twins on skis too.

Here's Erin in her ski class:

That morning Erin skied with John I waited at the base of the mountain with the twins, who busied themselves climbing up and sliding down a gigantic snow mound, about 15 feet high. "Kate and Allison's Everest" is the way I'd describe it. It was a bit of work getting up there but they were thrilled and very proud of themselves when they made it each time, often taking a celebratory look around and pose at the top before sliding back down.

The conditions up there were quite a bit different that our last ski trip, last month. There were bright sunny skies and moderate temperatures every day but it had not snowed in at least 10 days so the snow was packed down and hard and fast. The views from everywhere were spectacular.

And a first for Erin--ice skating in the village with Uncle Randy. She had these great double-blade skates on for added stability. In the pictures it looks like she wasn't really moving, and in reality she wasn't really moving, much. She shuffled her feet along very modestly and fell once or twice but didn't seemed to bothered by that. Despite her lack of momentum she really enjoyed skating and was disappointed when we had to leave.

There were a few miles through the forest to drive in between the ski resort and the rental home every day. On our usual drives that take us outside of our home town, the girls like spotting grazing domestic animals on grassy hillsides. One day as I was driving this forest route back to the ski house Erin asked, "Why are there so MANY trees in Oregon?"
"There's TOO many trees!" Allison added, "I can't see any sheep or cows!"

Sunday, February 10, 2008

warm winter days

Nice weather this weekend--not simply dry for a change but actually clear sunny skies as well. Saturday I took the kids to the park because it's been ages since we had such nice weather.

Kate spent quite a lot of time picking and gathering little flowers. In a park full of kids Erin, strangley, used her play time to make friends with a 3 year-old little boy and lead him around, showing him infinitely more patience than she does the 3 year-olds she normally spends time with.

Allison climbed UP the slides over and over again, forcing me to rescue smaller children who foolishly thought that slides are meant to be used WITH gravity and found themselves underfoot.

Saturday evening was a surprise family dinner gathering for John's mom at a large chinese resturant. John's older sister Terri flew here for the occasion and his younger sister was supposed to be here too, but both she and her 2 year-old are sick and they decided not to fly. Dora was quite surprised to see everyone, especially Terri.

Dinner was delicious, but an adventure, with Erin providing a lot of the humor and the twins providing a lot of the volume. And all three of them confused the floor around the giant, round, single table which seated all of us for an indoor running track.

We had a room in the resturant reserved which meant our kids were contained and separated from the other diners, and that was certainly a good thing, for them. This was the first time our girls had chinese food. I love chinese food but I never thought Erin especially would be adventurous enough to eat much of it. Well, as luck would have it this past week was Chinese New Year and given that her teacher and about 70% of her classmates (and her school) are chinese they had a school celebration just recently. That afternoon when I picked her up and she proudly showed me the "Gung Hay Fat Choy" dragon she'd made, she announced, "We should have Chinese food tonight for dinner!"

"Well, not tonight, but this saturday we will go to a chinese restaurant for Grandma's birthday AND chinese new year's. How about that?"
And as excited as she was to know that her suggestion was being fulfilled, when dinner was served she was very suspicious about everything.
"What's that? I don't think I'll like that."
"Sure you will, that's chinese pork."
"And that's chinese chicken."
"And that's a chinese dumpling."

"This rice has peas in it, and....eggs?"
"That's chinese rice, it's really good."

"And is this chinese water?" she asked.

In the next, much larger, reserved room a family was hosting a very grand birthday party, complete with DJ and dance floor. We could hear the music very well at our table at after dessert Erin edged herself to the doorway of our room and, as she looked into the party next door, started dancing. Several teenagers from that party apparently encouraged Sydney and Max to join them and so they took Erin in with them for a look around. Erin headed right to the dance floor and had a great time out there for a little while, until we needed to leave.

Today we stopped by Grandma and Poppy's house to visit with them and Terri.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

erin's theatrical debut

Hollywood walk of fame still have room for another star? Maybe I should reserve a space now.

Last night, Erin's village (at her school, three kinder/1st grade classrooms are grouped together in a 'village'--they are open to each other and kids change classrooms for certain subjects throughout the day) put on their first play, a musical rendition of several of Aesop's Fables.

It was cute. Really cute. Much cuter than that really. And even better, it was really very clever. Instead of the kids reading the lines of the fables they sang funny, borderline smart-assed songs about them, changing certain parts of the stories to enhance comedic value while preserving the violence. The public school PC police clearly haven't made it to Erin's school yet. Thumbs up.

Each fable featured several different kids from the village.

I thought the funniest story and song was about "The Boy Who Cried 'Walf'. We all know the story of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' but in this version the little shepherd boy cried, "Walf," "Wilf," and "Welf," because he hadn't paid enough attention in school to learn his vowel sounds, and thus the villagers totally ignored him because they didn't know what the hell he was talking about. And then the wolves ate his sheep.

Erin's part was playing one half of the "AE" dove in the story of the dove and the ant. The storyteller (a kindergartner in a toga) reads the basic story of each fable first, then the kids begin their song. It's hard to understand the storyteller in the video, so here is the story:

Once there was a Dove named AE. AE saw an ant who had fallen into the river. AE dropped a twig in the water for the ant to climb on. Later that day, the ant saw a hunter about to shoot the dove. The ant bit the hunter on the neck, causing the hunter to miss and AE flew off safely. AE asked the ant why he had saved him, and the ant told him,
"AE I,"
"AE I O U,"
"I owe you a thing or two."
"A way to say thank you,"
"AE I O U."

Editor's Warning: if you are not a grandparent, you may find these videos terribly unpalatable. If you are a grandparent, you may find these videos slightly better than terribly unpalatable.

And the whole village sings their Aesop's Fable song at the end:

Kate and Allison sat on our laps and were totally engrossed. They were naturally antsy as we sat in the auditorium for 25 minutes before the show but they were also very intrigued by the idea that they were going to watch Erin! In a big show! I had Allison on my lap and once the show started she barely moved for the entire 45 minutes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

don't mess with pirate allison

This past weekend Erin attended a small (6th!) birthday party for her friend Gabriel, held at the local gymnastics facility where she and the twins used to take classes. What a great party idea--Gabriel and his younger brother and about 8 friends got to do a class by themselves, then have cake and play other party games.

Erin had been looking forward to this party for a couple of weeks but when we arrived she suddenly decided that she didn't want to do gymnastics after all. So she sat and watched from the sidelines for about 15 minutes as all of the other kids dove right in and were having a great time. But, eventually, she wandered over and joined the class and she ended up having such fun. I don't know what that hesitation was about.

Here she is sitting between the birthday boy (striped shirt) and her other friend, Rylan.

After some snacks and cake the kids played musical chairs. Erin got knocked out about mid-way through the first round but later made it to the final three.

Today I took the twins with me to do some errands, including voting, and the girls were doing their usual cute, smiling, sweet, charming act which they always do for the first 3 or 4 minutes around strangers, then they revert back to their usual loud, chaotic, unruly selves. The place was empty though so I was done with the whole thing in about 3 minutes and thus "cute and sweet" was all the poll workers got to see.

After giving me one of those typical "I Voted" flag stickers they gave one to each of the girls too. "That's.....AMERICA!" Allison shouted as she studied the flag on the sticker and we walked back to the car.

Then we went to the allergist's office for my shot. Kate and Allison like to sit and play at a wall-mounted kiddie game they have there which has a steering wheel, among other things.
"Let's be pirates!" Allison decided as she grabbed the wheel, "I'm Pirate Allison!"
"I'm Captain Kate!"
"I'm Pirate Allison!" she repeated, just to make sure it was well understood, I guess.
"I'm the Captain, now you listen to me!" warned Kate as she tried taking the wheel.
"I'm Pirate Allison, I don't listen to ANYBODY!"