Friday, July 18, 2014

Shorts from Nieve's School

(Set to the theme music from TopGun)
me: Well, if you were directly behind her, how could she appear upside down?
Nieve: Because I was inverted

Occasionally Nieve's teachers send us short emails that give a brief but treasured glimpse into the going-ons at preschool. Today we got the photo above with this text from Nieve's teacher, "I was walking by and Nieve asks, "Why are you walking on the roof?" I turn around and I see her hanging upside down, giggling. =)"


And yesterday we received a video with above with the title Nieve completes a sudoku puzzle. The kid-friendly sudoku puzzles are fun, engaging, and a brainchild of a parent of Nieve's classmate - you can order these at the Stickers Soduko site.

A big thank you to Nieve's teachers for sharing these moments!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ronan Loses His First Tooth

It's out!

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye! That is what Ronan said to his lower right incisor today, his first milk tooth to come out.

Ronan wondered if having a missing tooth made him more horrifying. I suppose it does, at least a little bit.

It has been loose for several weeks now, but apparently it was the apple he was eating this afternoon that was the final stroke.

He was proud to reach yet another childhood milestone... I'm not so sure that it makes me as happy

Ronan's gap looks a bit funny but at least he's having fun with it. While brushing his teeth this evening he tried spitting the rise water out of the gap. It was messy, but mostly successful.

Ronan's note to the tooth fairy

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fresh Veggies & Fruit at Pie Ranch

Farmer Ronan patrolling the strawberry field

Nieve's preschool organized a trip to Pie Ranch, a small organic farm south of Pescadero that happens to share a property line with our annual favorite Rancho Siempre Verde Christmas tree farm. The trip was a hands-on introduction to small-scale food production using organic & sustainable practices.

Yes, there are also a few pigs at Pie Ranch

The event started with a demonstration of goat milking; Ronan and Nieve were surprised that it's customary to apply iodine to the teat to reduce the amount of live bacteria that makes it's way into the milk. They also thought it humorous when the goat refused to cooperate and ended up kicking over the pail.

The crowd gathers for a goat milking demonstration - Ronan cracks up at the goat kicking over the pail

Next came collecting eggs from the henhouse. Ronan has always seemed well-suited to farm life; he likes to work hard and be outdoors, is indifferent about getting dirty, and has a natural comfort around all types of animals. It did not occur to him to be concerned about getting the eggs from under the chickens. He simply reached in and took his allotted amount.

Ronan looks for some hens

Ronan, arm-deep in collecting fresh eggs

Nieve was a different story. To say that she does not like messy things is an understatement (she'll complain loudly if she gets a small splash of water on her clothes) and she approaches new animals with a hefty amount of suspicion. Her response to the chickens was no different. But to her credit, she did collect her eggs, albeit with a large amount of protest and help from Mom. Predictably, once finished, she immediately demanded sanitary wipes.

Nieve reluctantly gets an egg

Nieve's look sums up her thoughts on collecting eggs

The kids also got a chance to pick some strawberries; unfortunately, due to the drought, we were limited to just a couple berries per child. The berries they did harvest did not last more than a few moments - the kids consumed them as they were picked. Even Nieve, who is lukewarm on strawberries (she likes blackberries, olallieberries, and blueberries) devoured her collection.

Strawberry inspection and picking

The strawberries were delicious

Less tasty but perhaps more fun was harvesting kale and chard. There was plenty for the kids to pick and they delighted in twisting off the leaves. They also helped to get two heads of delicious fresh red leaf and butterhead lettuce.

Nieve and her bunch of fresh chard

When we finished with our 'work', the Pie Ranch staff hosted a buffet lunch that included many self-grown ingredients. Ronan and Nieve enjoyed the fresh spread (especially the cornbread) and of course the meal was paired with pie for dessert (strawberry rhubarb... very tasty). Perhaps best of all, our time at Pie Ranch was fun and has sparked Ronan and Nieve's interest in fresh, local food.

Enjoying the pie at Pie Ranch

On the way home the kids saw the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and demanded that we stop to explore the area. Ronan learned about fresnel lenses and the use of heavy weights to make the light source 'flash'. Nieve simply enjoyed the views and liked watching the waves surge back and forth along the shore.

The Pigeon Point Lighthouse is showing it's age but remains an interesting landmark
Nieve squinting from the sun at a remarkably beautiful spot on the coast

It was a fun (and tasty) way to spend a Saturday; next time we'll include a stop at the beach for some time in the sand and surf!

Nieve and Ronan pose for a photo on top of the bluffs

Ronan looks out over the Pacific

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ronan's Last Day of Kindergarden

The obligatory last day of school photo. Note Ronan is wearing the same sweatshirt he had on the first day of class.

Today Ronan finished his first year of elementary school. Recalling last day of school memories from our childhoods, we had anticipated great whooping and celebration out of Ronan at breakfast. We assumed that he'd be bursting with excitement, salivating for the freedom of summer that lies ahead. Instead, Ronan was a little sad, a little worried, but mostly uncharacteristically reserved.

Every day Ronan looks a little bit older

Neither of us parents could relate to his state of mind. Looking back at his first day of Kindergarten, it seems that Ronan's demeanor for both the opening and closing of his kinder year was the opposite of what we predicted.

Finally, a ghost of a smile came out on Ronan's face

But I suppose his less than jubilant reaction makes sense, given the past nine and a half months. Ronan enjoyed a fantastic school year full of new friends, learning, and personal growth. He adored his teacher SeƱora Nicole, loved learning a second language, and gained confidence in approaching the world around him on his terms. His creative side blossomed and he has learned the importance of patience and persistence when learning new skills.

Ronan on his big boy bike. He outgrew the previous one.

And let's be honest, this was kindergarten. Great kids, fantastic teachers, lax academics, less expectations, half days, involved-but-not-too-demanding parents: In short, no real responsibilities whatsoever. How can you not love kindergarten?

Off to finish off the school year

Perhaps Ronan's wiser than we give him credit for. He should be a little sad that that this magical chapter of kindergarten has closed. Here's hoping he can continue his streak of luck and enjoy 1st grade (almost) as much!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sometimes It's the Little Things

A proud little girl and her happy father

Yesterday we enjoyed a lazy Sunday around the neighborhood, playing on bikes, in parks, and around the house. Nieve found a patch of small flowers in the front yard, sat amongst them, and started picking. Mom and I loved watching her busily going about flower inspection and plucking.

When she had finished her work, she walked over, handed me the flowers, and said, "Daddy, I picked this bouquet for you."

She was sincere, sweet, and after seeing our reaction to her words, proud of herself. Sometimes it's these short moments of simple kindness that I treasure most about parenthood.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Nieve Loves Her Gymnastics

Step 1: Bring foot to bar

Nieve's friend had a birthday party at a children's gym yesterday, and it was clear that Nieve has both love and aptitude for gymnastics.

Step 2: Bring other foot to bar

I chuckled at how excited she was to show me some of her moves on the various devices. She zipped across balance beams, turned somersaults on large padded mats, and danced with colorful hoops.

Step 3: Hook legs over bar, hang until your face turns red

Her favorite aparatus, though, was the bar (the lower bar of the uneven parallel bars, that is). Nieve showed me how should could grab the bar with her hand and then bring her foot all the way up to meet her hands.

Step 4: Swing yourself out and down!

She would swing up her other foot until she was hanging upside down, holding on with her hands. From there Nieve tucked her legs up over the bar so she could hang without using her hands.

Once she was done with hanging upside down, Nieve would kick forward and flip over (completing the rotation). She finished her complicated move with a strong landing, a self-assured smile, and a, "Did you see that Daddy?"

Step 5: Go eat cake

Yes, I saw it Sweetheart. I'm duly impressed. Just don't kill yourself, please.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Halloween, 2013 [Catching Up on Old Photos]

Little Vampirina Ballerina Spider Bat Girl and her assistant (and maker of the costumes) The "Poof" Bat

One of Mom's favorite holidays is Halloween. Every year she insists on spending countless hours creating fun, creative, personalized costumes for herself and the kids (and many years, me).

"Why yes, I did choose my scale colors to match my eyes"

2013 was no different - starting in April Mom was quizzing Ronan and Nieve, "What do you think you want to be for Halloween this year?" It got to the point that every time we read a new story, or saw a new movie, or play with a new toy one of the kids would remark, "I want to be [insert protagonist here] for Halloween!"

"Vampirina Ballerina", the book

At first I thought Mom was mad. Given the attention span of three and five year-olds, logic leads one to conclude that hundreds of different costume ideas would be nominated, analyzed, and the replaced by whatever new princess/hero/personified object the Disney/Pixar machine put out that week.

A Deadly Nader, done by Dreamworks

A Deadly Nader, done by Mom & Ronan

An impressive and dangerous tail

Gradually, I started to witness the benefits of Mom's method. Over a longer period of time (months) it was clear which costumes had staying power - and thus a lower probability of an eve-of-Halloween costume change of heart. During the repeated, "what do you want to be for Halloween" questioning, Ronan and Nieve would try new options, "I want to be a singing scallop!" but eventually revert to the more interesting costumes once a shinny-new-idea lost it's luster.

Big Bird and Vampirina were happy to see each other...

...while the Deadly Nader and the creepy guy from Scream just seemed bored

So that is how costumes were chosen. Nieve's favorite book for most of the year was Vampirina Ballerina
(thanks Nana!), and a vampire ballerina easily won decision attrition of the costume contest. Once decided, it took Mom and Nieve less than a week to plan out all the necessary touches to make that choice perfect.

Vampirina Ballerina and the Deadly Nader, pre trick-or-treat...

...and the two of them post tick-or-treat with a very creepy Auntie She dressed as a garden gnome (troll). Yes, Ronan had to go to the bathroom, but we made him pose for photos anyway. #parentsoftheyear

Ronan knew that he wanted something to do with, How to Train your Dragon but was undecided between a viking or a dragon. Surprisingly (and much to Mom's chagrin) he chose the dragon - specifically a 'Deadly Nader' - as his fire-breathing, flying-worm of choice.

Taking inventory of the loot collected on Halloween. It's always fun to line up your candy.

Both of the costumes turned out beautifully. Yes, Mom put in several weeks worth of work into the planning, making & applying the costumes for the kids, but in the end she believes it was worth it. Ronan and Nieve agree, and I'm sure they will be doing something equally extravagant next year!