Thursday, February 24, 2011

Androidify the Kids

Little Nieve...

... and Ronan

Androidify, a fun little application for Android smartphones, lets the user design & publish stylized robots in just a few minutes. The link has a video to show how it works - it's simple, fast, and fun. It took about 5 minutes to do Nieve and Ronan. Try it for yourself!

Bonus robots of Mom...

...and me

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nieve, Master of Misdirection

What Nieve does when she no longer wants to eat her food...

This past week we noticed Nieve's high-chair accumulated a greater-than-normal amount of food during mealtimes. Specifically we found cheerios, bits of broccoli, cubes of meat - even bits of her Mum-Mums, all on the right hand side of her chair.

Yesterday we discovered where this cache of food was coming from. Towards the end of a meal, if there were still bits of food on her tray, Nieve would take these bits and put them under her leg. When we admonished this behavior, she tried an illusionist approach; she would fake dropping the food on the floor (with the added flair of a flutter of fingers) and then quickly put it under leg. The first couple of times it worked. We played the unwitting parents, hunched over looking for the fallen food while she was able to add her her secret horde.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tahoe Ski Trip, 2011

Ronan resting on 'il serpente' after a long hike uphill in the snow at Donner Ski Ranch

Earlier this week Ronan and Nieve got their fist exposure to snow during our family trip up to the Lake Tahoe area. Unfortunately our trip coincided with a notable storm that arrived a few hours after we did and was still churning when we left. The storm brought 30 mph sustained winds (gusts up to 80 mph) and almost three feet of snow over the four days we were there. The winds prompted several ski resort to close but we still managed to spend some time playing outside.

Even closed lifts couldn't keep Ronan from enjoying the slopes

The audio is mostly deafening wind noise, but you get the point

Ronan loved just about everything we tried - sledding, snow hiking, snowball fights, drift jumping, snowman construction, and digging out the car. He delighted in the presence of snow moving equipment - snow plows, large front loaders with snow chains, snowmobiles, snowcats, and even an excavator. As long as he was properly bundled he did not mind the howling wind or blowing snow.

Mom was happy to be outside in the brisk weather - Nieve, not so much

A not-so-happy Nieve

Nieve was less impressed with the wind, snow, and freezing temperatures. The only time she cracked a smile when outside was when she tried eating the snow. Other than that, she keep her 'scowl face' present whenever we took her outside. That said, Nieve loved the condo we rented, reveling in carpeted stairs, a warm franklin stove, and various bear themed decorations (she thought they were dogs, and kept panting at them). She was also notably compliant while in the car, perhaps knowing if she complained she'd be taken out into the elements. Better to be warm and bored, I suppose, than to be frozen to death.

Nieve's much cuter inside where it's warm

Ronan's showing he has the right attitude to excel at skiing

What impressed me the most during the trip was Ronan's first attempt at skiing. On the second to last day we finally got to Sugar Bowl (a beloved resort to me, as I skied there frequently during college), rented him some skis, and hit the slopes. I assumed all he'd be able to do is fall down, giggle, and get tangled in the clunky ski gear.

Ronan's favorite crash position - on his head

He did, of course, do all of that, but he was also uncharacteristically focused on his skis. Mom and I have learned time and again to never question Ronan's gross motor skills or agility (he's remarkable at doing complicated things like accurately kicking a soccer ball that is still moving) and his balance and strength became apparent (especially to instructors who were watching us) when we were on the slopes.

Amazingly Ronan paid attention and followed directions on the moving carpet

Ronan mustered the patience to ride the moving carpet (basically a rubber conveyer belt, not unlike the moving walkways found at airports) without incident (even when it stopped suddenly, then lurched back to a start). On the way down his favorite part was crashing (the faster the better), but he listened well, was able to make a few turns, and by the end of our couple hours Ronan could ski the whole run with only a couple of falls.

Trying to keep the boards parallel

The end of this video was me falling down... running backwards in soft snow while keeping Ronan in the video was more complicated than I could manage

Like me Ronan's incapable of snow plowing properly (I kept pleading with him to, "make a slice of pizza!") but he grasped that bent knees and hands out in front gave him control. Although he didn't quite understand weighting the different skis to initiate turns, Ronan was able control his direction and purposefully change course.

Enjoying a snack at the Sugar Bowl lodge during lunch time

Most importantly, Ronan seemed to have a blast on the slopes, and so did I. Our time at Sugar Bowl was probably the most laughter filled three hours we have spent together (as measured in total laughter minutes weighted by chuckle intensity). He loves being physically challenged and having nice soft snow to pad his 'fun' crashes removes the element of pain. I hope he continues to enjoy skiing - if he keeps at it he'll ski circles around us by the time he turns five!

"Apres ski" Ronan reviews the runs he conquered on the Sugar Bowl Trail Map

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ronan the Barbarian or the Contrarian?

Yeah, that's very sweet. Nothing says, "I know nurturing" like queuing up the aquabouncer and reading the Big Book of Almost Everything. Ronan is better at parenting than we are.

Most people who know Ronan would classified hin as a "boy's boy" - physical, a bit impulsive, noisy, and loving of all things dirt and machinery. If he comes across a stick, he'll pick it up and start whacking things (anything) with it. If he's standing somewhere high, his first impulse is to spit. Peeing on trees (or other things) is a favorite activity. He's best known by his classmates as the one who walks around asking, "Do you want to roughhouse? Do you want to roughhouse? And you? Do you want to roughhouse?" To his credit, he asks.

Now *that* is some love

But the other night our little Visigoth noticed that Happy (his beloved plush toy) wasn't 'feeling well'. Against our expectations, Ronan put Happy in the Ocean Wonders bouncer (this thing is way stronger than Valium as a sedative... seriously) and started to read him a story. He stayed with it for many minutes, long enough for me to finish some work, find my camera, and take some snaps. Kind and gentle looked pretty cute on him... here's hoping we see more of it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Rock Clicking

Feeling the cool water fall down the side of the fountain

A few months ago Ronan and I installed a small, basalt columnar fountain in the backyard. Ronan's proud of the work we did (going to the garden store to get the materials, digging a large hole, wiring for electricity, setting up the pump, installing a 100 kg rock + 50 kgs of pebbles at the base, etc) and all of us enjoy the pleasant bubbling sound the fountain makes when it's on.

Everyone making sure the fountain is in working order

Ronan of course likes to get soaking wet while playing with the fountain - we usually put him in full rain gear & galoshes before we let him near it. Nieve too enjoys the flowing water but she spends most of her time sorting through and playing with the smooth pebbles.

Hold the stones just right, a few inches apart...

... snap them together and 'click!'

Earlier today she was doing exactly that when she started clicking two of the small pebbles together. The noise made her giggle and she kept at it for many laugh filled minutes. Of course it degraded into her inevitable game of, "Daddy, I'm going to put this in my mouth!" but at least we had some sanitary fun before it.

"Check it Dad... the rock is in my mouth... you've been pwned."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Picnic by a Stream

Mom's, "Ronan, that truck has batteries and electronics in it" did not seem to get the desired effect. Next lesson plan for Ronan - corrosion.

A small stream runs along the border of one of our favorite local hangouts, Bol Park. During the winter, when the poison oak is dormant, access to the stream is easy and usually free from too many other visitors. Last weekend we took advantage of the warm weather to do a quick picnic by the water.

This is what Nieve wants to do just about all of the time - try to walk

Mom wanted this photo of her and Nieve's feet by the creek - it was much cuter live than it turned out in pixels.

Ronan brought some machinery with him to move around the gravel and river rocks. Mom was wise enough to bring his galoshes, which came in handy when Ronan decided to try his hand at 'creek walking' (one of Mom's favorite childhood pastimes). Predictably his tall galoshes came up a bit short and by the end of his adventure Ronan's pants and socks were soaked.

The shirt says it all, and it will be an appropriate hand-me-down to 'lil sister Nieve

Mom addressing the 'water leak'

While Ronan splashed about Nieve enjoyed playing, "Hey Dad! Try to stop me from eating this rock!". The game is self explanatory, but I was amazed at how much joy Nieve derived from teasing me. She was literally laughing out loud while doing it, and, true to her age, the repetitive, "No, Nieve, not in the mouth" admonishing I gave never seemed to get old (to her). Yes, we're aware that we're in trouble as she gets older.

"Hey Daddy... see this rock? I'm going to eat it! I am! Try to stop me!"

Funny girl. After she actually tried a bite Nieve never let the rock get back into her mouth, but she loved faking as if she were going to.

It was a beautiful way to spend a warm lunchtime, and after all of the fun the kids slept like angels during nap time (a rarity).

This is how Nieve rolls... a crazy hat and bent ear all in a metal framed backpack.