Sunday, January 31, 2010


Some friends suggested that we meet them at a local park which has a region called "rock city" which is popular with kids and families. We didn't know what kind of weather we'd find ourselves in, since the forecast was the always useless "partly cloudy" and we'd be up at about 1000 feet elevation. I told the girls to grab a sweatshirt and I brought light jackets for them as well. They all decided to wear their school sweatshirts so we looked like we had our own class field trip in tow.

We were meeting Erin's best friend from Kindergarten, Maia, whose family moved to another school district late in their Kindergarten school year, but we've kept in touch. After they arrived and we had a picnic lunch and set off on our hike, which consisted of making our way from one big cluster of boulders to the next, stopping at each while the girls climbed all over and explored each one.

The rocks are made of sandstone, which made their surface slippery because of their loose, sandy texture, and soft enough that many people carved into them and they showed a lot of wear just from all the walking and climbing over the years. The ones near the beginning of the trail are really pretty used-looking. Here is a slide that has been worn into the side of one of them:

Our friends advised us that the hike would take at least 2 hours, which is about 1 hour and 50 minutes longer than my estimated "Mom, I'm tired of walking" point for the twins. But we were committed, and fortunately, the rocks and caves were endlessly fascinating and there wasn't any complaining, even though there were lots of falls and slides and bumps and bruises from slipping on the sandy rocks.

Erin was feeling especially photogenic. "Take a picture of me sitting right here." "Did you get that photo of me climbing there?" Sure, Erin. Uh huh.

I mentioned the obvious wear and tear. Check this out:

The fog was rolling in and out of our area so at times we could see almost nothing in the distance and other times we had some really beautiful views, though it was never clear enough for us to see down the valley below.

The girls especially liked being hoisted up into this high cave and looking down at us through the cave window.

The two hours passed by amazingly quickly and we were back to our starting point, where we had a snack together and the girls had energy to spare and continued to climb on nearby rocks. But on way home fatigue finally set in and they all fell asleep. What a fun day.

the reading girls

It seems that the light bulb has come on for Kate and Allison and their reading has really been improving lately. Since I'm in their classes every week, I've noticed some short, 6-8 page books called Phonics Library that many of the kindergartners read. I thought it would be good to have some of them at home so I looked online and ordered a few, but I apparently misread the description on one of the books because what was sent to me wasn't what I expecting. It was intended for teachers, perhaps, since it was a large sort of workbook where the pages for individual stories needed to be torn out and assembled together and stapled. The pictures weren't in color either.

I considered returning this book but instead I put together several of the stories and brought them to the twins and I told them that when they finished reading one of the books they could then color the pictures. They started competing with each other, reading and coloring as quickly as they could but after a while they became bored with the coloring and just opted to skip it so they could move on to the next book more quickly.

Maybe I ordered the wrong thing, and my reading/coloring idea fizzled out, but they're reading now and enjoying it, and it's fun to see their progress.

an afternoon with boys

I arranged a playdate for Allison and Kate with a friend from school. Jake is in the twin's village and also attends the afterschool program with them. The 3 had a great time playing all kinds of games together.

In order to keep Erin occupied and out of the 5 year-olds' hair, I asked another friend to drop off her second grade son as well. Gabriel and Erin are old friends but they don't spend a lot of time together anymore since they attend different schools. "Gabriel really likes snap circuits. I bet he can show you some new projects," I advised her before he arrived. Though that was a really huge understatement. Erin got these snap circuits for Christmas and has made a few projects with them, but Gabriel has had them for a couple of years and plays with them for hours at a time, his mom has reported.

Sometimes you see a kid throw a ball well or paint a nice picture and you might wonder if they are showing some early talent that will end up being a huge talent or even their future career. Maybe I only do this. I swear that Gabriel is a future electrical or mechanical engineer. I've known him virtually his whole life and as soon as he was old enough to show an interest in anything he's been absolutely fascinated with numbers, math, and electronics and he understands them much better than I do, though John will tell you that isn't saying much. Having him over was a great change of pace for Erin, and I think we should have him over again sometime soon. Maybe next time as a playmate for John.

Friday, January 22, 2010

a bit about bowling

A new, fancy, modern bowling alley opened up near us recently and suddenly bowling, which previously wasn't an activity I generally had on my radar screen, was becoming a frequent topic of conversation with friends around town and friends around the school. The girls' cousins, Jake and Brayden, have been bowling several times at this new alley and one weekend afternoon last summer they asked us join them.

This was the twins first time bowling, but Erin had been to a bowling birthday party a couple of years before this new place opened. The new bowling alley is pretty cool indeed. It's always got black light inside, loud music, lights along the lanes and the bumpers, giant TV's all along the back wall, a sleek cartoon video game-ish type automatic scoring system, and colorful, glowing bowling balls. Of course the coolest thing remains the funky shoes.

Smaller kids can use ramps for the balls instead of throwing them. Kate and Allison used these a lot this first time out.

Erin usually tried throwing but was never as good as striking a pose after releasing as her cousin Jake was.

A month or so after their first bowling outing, Erin's girl scout troop went bowling together one day after school. Erin had become pretty confident at throwing the ball, and pretty fiercely serious about it.

She also carefully watched her score after each turn and her rank among the other girls playing in her lane.

Kate and Allison and I bowled on our own lane near the girl scouts. Over these first two bowling outings, Allison was having trouble deciding whether she was a ramp bowler,

or a thrower, or a roller.

And she usually doesn't finish any game. After 7 or 8 frames she'd report being too tired to go on and Kate or I finished her frames for her. Kate really enjoyed playing and frequently celebrated whether her ball hit 1 pin or 10. Gutter balls don't happen for them because they always play with the bumpers up, so the game becomes a sort of bowling/pinball amalgam.

On sunday after Thanksgiving, three of our five house guests departed for home in the morning but Terri and our oldest nephew, Andrew, had afternoon flights. And guess what family activity we found to occupy a few hours.

There are a few things I've learned about bowling over these past many months. First off, it's like impossible to get any good photos. The ones in this post are the best of the best of dozens that I took, while experimenting with all kinds of settings on my camera. I think the neighboring bowlers really enjoyed my camera flash going on all the time too. But in the end, it's an action shot in low light and your subject is facing always away from you. Second, despite my having bowled easily several dozen times in my life, I suck at it. There aren't too many things that I've tried as often yet continued to appear as if I've never done them before. Bowling is definitely on that short list, which also includes ice skating. And just like ice skating but generally uncharacteristically, I don't care that I suck. Third, bowling is REALLY expensive and I'm not sure when this phenomenon occurred. It wasn't an expensive activity when I was a kid. My friends and I walked the two miles to our local alley several times each summer and enjoyed a few hours of bowling and air conditioning. And it wasn't expensive in college either. But now it costs about $125 for the five of us to rent shoes and bowl two games.

"That's nothing compared to what it must cost for the five of you to go skiing," a friend at work commented as I was relaying this story today. Sure, good point, except that we're talking about spending a lot of money on a silly, frivolous non-sport with no worthy objective. Skiing is important. Skiing is all day, skiing is in a beautiful setting, skiing is....SKIING. There just isn't any comparison. They aren't in the same universe. Duh. Someone's priorities are waaaay out of whack.

On a rainy weekend day last week we decided to bowl again with the cousins and because of the cost John suggested we go to the older, simpler alley in our area instead of the new fancy one. "It's kind down," I warned him. "It's supposed to be, it's a BOWLING ALLEY," he countered. I agreed that at least it must be cheaper. They didn't have lighted lanes, lighted bumpers, a scoring system that was very fancy, a bunch of TV's, or even a pin setter that would consistently set up 10 pins (at once). But the cost was the same as the other place.

In the end though, it's something close and fun that we suck at together, and it never fails to make Kate the Contrarian this happy:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"say hello to my little friend"

Another present from John (per my request for xmas), Roomba, or Mr. Roomba as Kate calls it. I have it programmed to clean every day after we leave in the morning. It goes around the house and cleans really remarkably well, then redocks itself in its charging station until the next day.

Today though I was just kind of trying it out. The twins didn't know quite what to make of "him", as they have decided he is.

I know, the only thing lamer than taking the time to video a little vacuuming machine is taking the time to post it on my blog, thus taking your time as well. Suddenly my blog has become a consumer report about neat little electronic gadgets more than anything else, but I don't think it's a trend that will last (much longer).

On the upside, the area of floor underneath the kids' beds have never been so clean. On the downside, Kate thinks it's fun to "feed the robot" potato chips.