Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Weekend w/Auntie Mel & Uncle Todd

The gang stopping to observe something Ronan spotted in the grass... for this stoppage it was a beetle

Ronan and Nieve were in for a treat this past weekend - Auntie Mel and Uncle Todd came up for a visit. It was a few days filled with lots of fun, plenty of smiles, and even some hugs and kisses. Ronan and Nieve were able to show off some of their newly learned skills (bicycle riding and furniture climbing, for example) as well as some of their favorite places to play.

Ronan, the merry leader of the march through the preserve

Arastradero Preserve is always popular with Ronan and Nieve so we did a little walk on one of our favorite trails. Now that Ronan is fully capable of walking several miles he typically picks the route that we take.

My little tulip crashed in the backpack... but she refused to let go of the slender stalk of grass (zoom in and you can see it clutched in her little hand)

A nice place for a hike

Although we had a sprinkling of rain the views were great and the low clouds made for some spectacular skies (at least spectacular for Paolo Alto in May). Nieve slept most the trip but Ronan was an attentive tour guide for Auntie Mel and Uncle Todd, pointing out fun things like birds and horse poop.

Kayaks and Ronan, all patiently waiting to be put into the water

The following day we decided a little water play would be fun but did not want to make the long trek out to Pescadero to enjoy the beach. Instead we put the kayaks on the minivan and did the short drive to Foothills Park to paddle around the small but cute reservoir perfect for beginner boaters.

Nieve was fascinated by ducks & ducklings, more so than epic sea battles

Nieve didn't want to spend too much time in the kayak - following ducks were a highlight for her but as soon as they moved on she was ready to do the same. Ronan, on the other hand, loved being the passenger (captain?) on Uncle T's boat and made him circumnavigate the lake.

Tracking down the scurvy dogs. At least the location was picturesque

What started out as fun exploration soon turned into a battle on the high seas - Auntie Mel set off in her pirate ship to go and loot treasure from Ronan and Uncle T. Ronan loved this... he would load his canons and yell, "FIRE!" to which Uncle T would send some water flying towards Mel the pirate with his oar.

Sure, she looks all nice and sweet, but Auntie Mel, who prefers the title 'privateer' to pirate, is setting out after Ronan and Uncle T on a quest for for their treasure

Ronan & Uncle T - plotting what to pillage next

What cracked me up the most was that Ronan wanted to be a pirate too, because, I suppose, pirates are cool. Instead of having one hook on his hand, he had two ghastly claws, which he held out in front of him to scare Auntie Mel away from his treasure.

"Hooks out!" Ronan showing his terrifying pirate claws

The pirate battles were such a hit with Ronan that he is still talking about it, several days later. It's clear he misses Aunti Mel & Uncle Todd - he still asks after them from time to time. Nieve too had a blast impressing (and manipulating) her aunt and uncle - it was fun to see Nieve giving both of them hugs whenever she was in need of a snuggle. Thanks Auntie Mel and Uncle T for a great weekend!

Pirates need to power up - it's always fun to end the time at the park with lunch on the dock

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday @ Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Kelp Forest Exhibit. It's impressive - kind of like diving except you wear jeans and can still push around a stroller.

Both Mom and I took yesterday off to spend a little time with the kids. We've been meaning to go back to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for more than a year and we figured it would be wise to go before schools let out for the summer. Besides, the kids new favorite CD is Linda Arnold's Splash Zone, an album celebrating the ocean creatures housed at the aquarium.

Ronan's new SCUBA diving biologist buddy. I need to see if there is a minimum age to get NAUI certified. And yes, that acrylic is thick - seven inches thick.

It was fun to watch what captivated the kids - for Ronan it was the SCUBA divers in the enormous kelp forest tank that were cleaning the rocks and feeding the fish. One diver had a mask that allowed him to talk via a wireless microphone to a docent that was fielding questions from visitors that had gathered into a sizable audience. Tuesday was field-trip day for one lucky local school - we were surrounded by 60 1st graders all equally enthralled by the diver talking to them. They would ask fun questions like, "what's your favorite sea animal?" or, "have you ever been bitten?". Ronan, of course had a question of his own, and he insisted on asking it - he was fortunate the docent called on him. Ronan's question was, "are there any machines in there with you?" The startled diver responded, "Well, yes, there are - they pump water into and out of the tank. We have to turn them off, though, when we get into the tank for safety reasons." There were machines in the tank - Ronan was satisfied.

Sometimes I call Nieve my little dragon... it's fitting that she was enthralled by these leafy sea dragons

At the Kelp Forest exhibit Nieve just loved the fish - in fact she was crazy for them. Her favorite, hands-down, were the leopard sharks that would glide effortlessly by. And leopard sharks are remarkably beautiful - she already has an eye for style. In another exhibit the giant octopuses grabbed her attention as well as some colorful, playful prawns. She found both the anchovy and sardine exhibits fun - she most likely was in awe of the hundres of little flashing sliver bodies moving quickly in unison. The seahorse exhibit is always a hit - Nieve spent the most time cooing at the leafy sea dragons that would gracefully drift by in front of her.

This is motherhood. Clearly not glamorous and you look like an urban sherpa, but on the upside it's filled with love.

Lunchtime outside on the concrete patio was also a success, not because of the venue, or the pb&j sandwiches, but the pigeons. It's hard to explain but the kids just loved shooing them when they came too close to their food. Once they realized these were bold pigeons, both Ronan and Nieve would chase after them with broad grins on their faces. After watching the two of them run after the birds with glee, we started planning a pigeon chasing trip to the financial district of San Francisco.

Highlight of going to one of the world's premiere aquariums? Chasing pigeons outside during lunch.

Pigeons. Now that we have email, what are they good for? Chasing, that's what.

After lunch we headed inside to the aquarium's version of a petting zoo - called 'touch pools' - and let the kids handle things like abalone, sea stars, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and kelp. Ronan really wanted to touch a bat ray but they unfortunately kept their distance.

Nieve loved getting her hands wet- she was also interested in the bumpy textures of the sea stars

We also noticed the increased amount of interaction between Nieve and Ronan, especially when they were given the freedom to follow their curiosity without one of us parents 'hovering' over their exploration. In particular they both loved a half hemisphere window that was accessible from the patio - they spent a good amount of time exploring it together. Nieve talked to Ronan as if he could understand whatever noises came out of her mouth and Ronan kept reassuring her with, "That's right Evie."

Nieve scheming with Ronan on how to best catch the fish

The two little ones seemed to play well together at the aquarium... perhaps we need a fish tank at home?

Of course both kids loved watching the penguins dart around the water, but again Ronan seemed more captivated by the cannery exhibit than most of the sea life. Nieve also spent a fair amount of time point and grunting at inanimate objects - though those happened to be the replica orcas and porpoises hanging from the rafters. She also barely made it back to the car before she fell asleep - the aquarium tuckered both kids out to the point that they slept the entire way home.

Ronan - the only child in the entire aquarium who was more interested in the cannery machines than the sea life

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Road Work

"Woah. Now *that's* a machine."

Ronan loves heavy machinery so when some impressive road paving equipment was parked in our neighborhood last weekend Ronan insisted that we thoroughly investigate.

Something out of Austin Powers... Ronan and his roller

It was no surprise that Ronan went straight for the giant drums on the rollers. Given his newfound bicycle piloting ability but sub-optimal braking skills he rode directly *into* a giant drum on the rollers (he was fine... he did it intentionally). Once stopped he parked his bike in one of the roller's drums.

As good a place as any to park your bicycle

What was surprising is how much time he spent on/around/under the asphalt paver. He seems to know the top level functionality pretty well - hot asphalt gets poured into the hopper up front, a conveyor moves the asphalt to the back, an auger distributes the asphalt to roughly the right width, and the screed levels and compacts the asphalt onto the roadway.

Ronan happily saying, "Cheese!" on his new favorite machine - an asphalt paver

Pavers are large, messy machines so my job was to follow Ronan closely and instruct incessantly, "Don't touch that. No, don't touch that either. Careful! Do you see all of the oil? Don't touch any of that. Ronan, not in the grease. Watch your elbow. Don't stand there, it's dangerous. Careful. Don't touch that. No, not there. Away from the edge! Just don't touch anything that isn't painted bright purple. If it's purple, you can touch it, otherwise, don't touch."

Ronan sez, "Come on up Nieve... this thing has two steering wheels!"

Nieve like the machines fine but was more interested in the fact that Ronan was climbing up on top of something tall. She was certainly a little jealous and threw a fit when we wouldn't let her climb on the asphalt splattered paver. And the machines themselves did pretty good work - we now have a much improved street surface!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Diaper Box Surfing

Not terrible surfing form, though it would be nice to see both feet on the centerline... and why the snarl?

Nieve's quite a spirited little thing - she's now working on her climbing skills which means the need for even more vigilance from Mom and me. For example, last week Mom had left an empty diaper box out for Ronan and Nieve to play with. The first thing Nieve did was stand the box up on it's end, scramble on top of it, stand up, and start box surfing. Of course, being a responsible father, before taking her off of the box and admonishing her for the dangerous display of defiance, I found the camera and snapped a photo.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Modern Boy

A happy boy on video chat. And he's doing it on a CR-48... he's a little young to be a beta tester!

A week ago Grammy took the kids to a local park that was filled with children and their parents playing. While there Nieve lost her little stuffed toy (a llama... we call it "llama drama" in reference to Nieve's personality), so Ronan and Grammy spent the next fifteen minutes searching the park for it. A lady there joined in, and commented, "I'll let you know if I find it."

To which Ronan replied, "OK. Just email me."

A seasoned pro... he even has the toe-turn-up-laptop-stabilizer technique down

And earlier this evening Ronan was playing out in front of our neighbor's house where there are fantastic swings hanging from a 200+ year old white oak. Ronan has a soft spot for Tom, who lives in the house, because he's "a builder" and is always creating something interesting. Ronan invited Tom (who is now retired) over to our house to play with his machines on the weekend. He asked Tom to, "Let me know if you want to come over. Just email me. Or, if you want, you can video chat me."

Yes, Ronan is taking to technology. I'm sure he'll be the IT manager for our household machines by the time he turns five.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Happy Mother's Day

Where do all of those smiles on Nieve's face come from? Mom, that's where.

There is no amount of recognition nor words of appreciation that could adequately compensate mothers for all that they do for their children. Everytime I see Nieve flap her arms at the sight of Mom, or watch the broad smile race across Ronan's face when he catches the sound of Mom's voice, I am reminded just how lucky my children are to have her as their mother.

And I'm comforted knowing that in billions of other households all over the world similar stories are taking place. It is the power and grace of the mother; life giver, nurturer, councilor. So, to all Moms - you quite simply amaze us. Thank you, we love you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spring in Full Swing

A year ago Mom in a summer dress was the most beautiful thing ever. Not anymore. Sorry Mom.

Warm weather arrived this week so Nieve decided to start wearing fun summer dresses. Today's dress was pink and I think she looked pretty and perfect - my darling little daisy in her matching moccasins celebrating the end of the cold.

Sure, it tastes like plastic but in the backyard reception is better.

But don't let a little showing of leg distract you - she's still Nieve and in her mind anything you can do she can do better, only now she'll do it while wearing a cute dress. Climb stairs? Check. Yell at her broker on Auntie She's mobile phone to change the asset allocation in her 529? Done (sort of). Sit on her director's chair and rattle off incomprehensible commands/observations/possibly something else? Oui. Jump on a trampoline? Why not.

"Mnn... Ymmnguhaatinuh!" So there.

"Ready with that camera Daddy? You're about to get my good side."

This girl can do it all, and look pretty all the while. I'm looking forward to more warm days to welcome Nieve's cute little outfits.

"See? No pants, no problem!"

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reckless Ronan

Ronan may have mastered the basics of bicycle riding but at times he still shows suspect judgement. Here's a video demonstrating why I'm concerned that Ronan has the capability to stay upright on a bike long enough to get out of reach. Thankfully in this video he is on foot, in the grass, and coming towards me.

Ronan's way of saying, "I'm happy and wanted to tell you!" There is no explanation, it's just how he is sometimes. Note: No Ronans were harmed in the making of this video.