Sunday, April 24, 2011

Turning Three Means "Big Boy Bike" Time

And so it begins...

Ronan has been asking to ride a 'big boy bike' for months now - we've told him that when he turns three we'll start teaching him on a bicycle with pedals. We knew that balance wouldn't be too difficult for him to master given he's shown excellent stability (and an appropriate amount of courage) on his push bike.

Try number 1

I was adamant about not using training wheels - every time Ronan tries a bike with them on he crashes clumsily (either catches a training wheel or cuts turns too sharply). I've also seen too many kids struggle to re-learn how to ride after their training wheels come off. That's why we kept Ronan on his push bike for an entire year rather than start him on a pedal bicycle with training wheels. We assumed that once we started teaching Ronan on a training-wheel-less bike it would take a month or more for him to get the knack of pedaling and coaster braking.

Learning to lean, and the art of turning

It turns out that it took Ronan four minutes to be riding on his own. He must have been doing some training at school on the tricycles because his pedaling seemed just fine for a newbie. Ronan's braking is still a bit awkward (he likes to try and skid the rear wheel) and stopping-without-falling-over is an issue as the seat is not low enough for him to touch the ground with both feet. He still falls half of the time he stops but he's getting more used to it.

Happy about making Mom work for it

The real doozy is getting started. When he's clever, he knows to point the bike downhill as he needs just a bit of speed to get enough stability to jump on and start riding. Sometimes he even positions the pedals so as to get the necessary torque for takeoff. A couple of times he just improvises- we dropped off a loaf of bread at a friends house and Ronan simply stopped his bike by riding up to and (sort of) gently leaning against her concrete garden wall. This meant he could stop without tipping over and he was able to start back up again without assistance.

Getting the hang of it

The bike he's learning on is an ~12 years-old hand-me-down from a work colleague so it's both heavy (sturdy!) and has a fair amount of slop in the pedaling. It's a perfect little thing to learn on and Ronan seems to love it. After watching how quickly Ronan picked up riding a bicycle I cannot say enough good things about push bikes being a great place for toddlers to start.

Becoming more stable

Ronan is terribly proud of himself (and he should be)... he rides around telling people he's, "on a big boy bike" and rings his bell at pedestrians to say, "Hi!" If there are other cyclists in coming down the road toward him he'll yell, "Hey! I'm just like you!" My biggest worry is Ronan's focus on people he tries to engage rather than objects in the road (e.g. parked cars).

Ronan's patented "go straight, look to the left" riding style

Mom and I (Nieve too!) are also terribly proud of Ronan - as much as we want to pat ourselves on the back for being wise councilors on his road to riding, we know it was all Ronan's determination and courage that got him riding. Chapeau, Ronan!

Pedaling off... happy riding!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Birthday Girl - Celebrating One Year

"I declare myself to be one!" (Note: this is why little Nieve is known as 'top knot' or 'fountain head'... left unconstrained her hair goes nuts)

Nieve is now a year old and Mom and I are still trying to recall where that year has gone. Nieve celebrated her big day with Ronan on Saturday with a combined big party in our backyard. Nieve had fun playing the socialite, showing off her cute little dress and flashing her gregarious smile whenever someone would look her way.

An apropos hair clip (thanks Auntie Ala!) and orange ballon make for a festive birthday

It's funny how different Nieve and Ronan were during their first year. First, Nieve's hair is a thing all of it's own. Certainly worth being the theme of many past and future blog posts. She is also much shorter than Ronan was at her age - two inches to be exact. She now stands at 29.75" tall (just about average for a one-year-old girl). She has more (and imposing) teeth, she has amazing finger dexterity, and she's far less reckless with her body. She's also weathered four times the number of sick days Ronan had during his first year, though we hope that this means a less-sickly year two.

Our pretty girl being the social butterfly at her party... the pretty dress gave her confidence.

Nieve has been a better sleeper so far (especially when not ill) and doesn't seem to mind car rides. She is crazy limber and adept and directing people to do her bidding. Her toes are stinkier. Both Nieve and Ronan were good eaters at the age of one though Nieve is insistant that she gets the food she wants rather than what's just in front of her. Her hands-down favorite food is fresh raspberries.

Nieve's favorite part of her whipped cream cake? The raspberries. She loves her raspberries.

A little whipped cream and some fresh raspberries make for a happy girl

There are differences between our kids that seem to fall along stereotypical gender lines - Nieve loves dresses & shoes (I'm not kidding) while Ronan is crazy about heavy machinery. Nieve is now attached to a doll (a recent birthday present) while Ronan is infatuated by lug nuts. Nieve has superior grooming habits (brushing hair/teeth, bathing) and she's carful with what she does and how she does it. Nieve goes crazy for flowers - she'll sit and pick them, or force you to stop walking to enjoy them, while Ronan much prefers jumping on rebar at construction sites. Both kids like pink though Ronan is starting to favor the color green.

Weeds are no fun for us but great fun for Nieve

We shall see what is in store for year two, but for now we're delighted to have a healthy little one bringing even more love into our home. Happy birthday, my Principessa!

A portrait during one of our cherry blossom walks... Nieve always wants to hold a flower during the stroll

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ronan Turns 3

The wish is made... now it's time to make sure it comes true

Ronan celebrated this third birthday by partying the afternoon away with close family and friends. He had a blast - great food, better company, a horde of presents, and of course a beautiful "Bob the Builder" cake courtesy of Grammy. A very big thank you to all of you who came and made the day special!

A happy boy with his lovely cake, including Bob and his trusty backhoe loader Scoop

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Mischief Man

The raised eyebrow - a sure sign that something he's not supposed to do is about to be done

As Ronan grows older it's becoming apparent that he's genetically programmed to be a mischief maker. He delights in teasing Mom and me and seems to gravitate to things (and activities) that he knows he should not be doing. His current favorite gag? A whoopie-cushion. Auntie She is to thank for that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Bad Dad

I try to fashion myself as a 'Super Dad'... you know, the typical annoying new-age father that talks incessantly about his kids, calls his children's scribbles 'artwork', posts mundane snippets on a blog, and is entirely blind to any fault in either his children or more so his parenting ability/style.

Weebles wobble but don't... rats. So much for that theory.

But really, that's not entirely true. I do see some of my parenting faults. The video above is proof.

Here's why. When filming that video, I watched Nieve list dangerously to the side - a 'good father' would have dropped the camera and lunged in a heroic attempt to save his principessa from the impact with the ground. Note no lunge from me, not even a wobble in the film.

A 'good father' would have at least issued a panicked cry, trying to warn his little buttercup that she was close to the edge of her chair and about to fall. Not a trace of panic can be heard in my voice - only a monotone narration of, "whoah... dunk."

Yes, "dunk." The sound of sweet Nieve's face-plant into the muddy grass.

What's even worse - when I watch that video, I laugh. I do. I cannot explain it - I do not wish harm on anyone, especially my little girl, but yet I chuckle when she falls. Yes, I'm terrible, I'm cruel, I know.

So that's the kind of father I am. Poor Ronan and Nieve. I hope the addage "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" is true... I'd hate to think their suffering will result in no benefit. I have a feeling, though, that if they watch the video, they will chuckle too. Well, at least Ronan did.

Monday, April 4, 2011

This is for Mom (and Grammy, and Bhavesh Kaka, and...)

This smile makes me almost a Giants fan. Almost.

Mom's most beloved university is U.C. Davis (she is an esteemed alum) and her hands-down favorite sports team is the S.F. Giants. In the spirit of hometown bragging rights Mom and I made a bet near the end of last baseball season - the N.L. West club, either the Padres or the Giants, that had the better record would be the logo that adorns Ronan's first baseball hat.

In October the San Francisco Giants became World Champs so that means Ronan now has a fancy black-and-orange baseball hat (which he loves to wear). I'm sure that this will make many of our friends and family happy, given how Giants-crazy people have gone here. Hopefully one of you can take him to a ball game this year so he can experience, first hand, just how silly being a Giants fan really is.

Yeah, that's what Dad thinks of the Giants as well

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nieve's First Chariot Ride

Not exactly delighted. Neither of them.

Not a chariot in the Ben Hur sense, rather the Chariot brand kiddie trailer that Ronan has been using for the past couple of years. Given that Nieve will be one year old in a couple of weeks we decided that she's big enough to use it as well.

Nieve's helmet (which used to be Ronan's old one) is perhaps a tad too big

Nieve's first impressions of this new mode of transport received mixed reviews - she wasn't wild about the helmet and was generally unimpressed by the tight quarters, especially when waiting around. Once moving, however, her attitude changed. She went from mildly grumpy to smiling as we gained speed. On a small downhill, where we really got moving, Nieve was outright laughing. For our kids it appears that speed equals fun.

Reading books make boring photo shoots less tiresome

Some of my favorite times with Ronan have been riding around our neighborhood/Stanford campus looking for fun spots to explore. I'm hoping that the three of us (and Mom too, joining on her bicycle) will be able to create some similar memories this year!