Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

It was a family space theme for Halloween this year

This year Mom outdid herself with Ronan's Halloween costume - she sewed him an astronaut suit complete with a NASA patch, an oxygen tank/plumbing, and a space helmet (the cover to an egg cooker fastened to a construction hard hat). Ronan was "Niel Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon", yet seemed more interested in getting candy than telling stories of his space adventures.

Space helmet, radio, and oxygen supply line all were a part of Ronan's costume

Nieve, Mom and I were all accessories to Mr. Armstrong. Nieve was a cute but wily alien who would grab candy by the handfull from our neighbors even when she knew she was only supposed to take a single piece. Mom was a dashing 60's astronaut wife while I was mission control for Apollo 11.

Ronan and space dog Yenta!

We had a great time trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. There were lots of kids out and about, thoroughly enjoying all of the houses decked out in spooky themes. Ronan was great as he collected his candy - he was always polite and only took an appropriate amount when offered. When we got home he ate a small pack of Skittles and didn't complain much when we said he's limited to a single candy per day.

It's a long clip, but it shows Nieve's disposition while sorting out her loot

Nieve, on the other hand, was in rare form. She can barely talk yet after a few houses she could say, "Trick or Treat!" perfectly. She would take as much candy as she could grab and it was impossible to get her to let go of her loot-filled pumpkin. When we got home, she sat for 20 minutes sorting through her catch of the day and would bark at anyone who would try to take even a single piece of candy from her. I imagine we will see many more Halloweens like this to come!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thomas the Tank Engine @ Roaring Camp

Admiring the Sonora Shay, engine #7

Just north of Santa Cruz in a little town called Felton there is a great little place for train lovers called Roaring Camp Railroads. There you can ride a steam train running on old narrow gauge tracks used long ago for the logging industry.

"All aboard!" and ready to go

My favorite part - the redwoods were magnificent

Every year Roaring Camp Railroads hosts a Thomas the Tank Engine event where they dress up one of their trains in a Thomas facade and ferry passengers through redwood forests. Children are mad about Thomas, so you can imagine the reaction of hundreds of little kids who see a life-sized Thomas puffing and pulling passenger cars from the station.

Passing over a bridge is always interesting... and a challenge to keep Ronan inside the car

The obligatory Thomas photo op... we had to wait in line for this

In addition to taking a ride the festival has lots of other activities set up for little Thomas acolytes. Nieve's favorite was the instant tattoo of Thomas characters - she got Rosie on her right bicep and was very proud of it. She was so proud, in fact, that when she saw a big, burley biker covered with tats in the grocery store she got his attention, pointed to her arm while grunting, and showed him that she too was 'legit' with her train tat. He even cracked a smile at her pluck.

"See this? Yeah, that's Rosie. Don't mix it up."

The kids playing with one of the props

Ronan was clearly ensorcelled by the large engines - he was less impressed with Thomas than he was with the steaming and greasy Sonoma Shay. He astutely observed the elevated water tank and let me know that it was used to fill the boiler of the steam engines. The loud hissing was a bit much for his sensitive ears but he covered them with his hands and kept enjoying the big engine.

Yeah, these machines are a bit loud

Grammy and Poppa came with us, so Ronan's other favorite activity of the day was laying down toy railroad tracks with Poppa. Poppa also treated Ronan to a new toy engine (Toby) so Ronan was able to run it over the route the two of them designed and built.

Poppa and Ronan engineering

"Thanks for joining us Grammy & Pappa!"

Nieve preferred to hang with Grammy, making her serve as a steady hand for Nieve's rock hopping adventures. Mom and I loved watching Nieve keep trying to mastering climbing the rocks while poor Grammy was stooped over, patient as she always is with her grandchildren.

Stone hopping! Lots of fun for Nieve, tiring for Grammy

The kids had a blast - it was a great way to spend a day and we're already planning a trip back (even if Thomas is not featured). For those with little ones who love trains this is an event not to be missed!
A happy but worn out family

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Head, Take Three

Now we know who Ronan gets his dashing good looks from...

One annual ritual our family enjoys is the autumn trip to the coast to pick out our pumpkins for Halloween. Normally we head to San Gregorio but this year we took advantage of a weekend we spent in Santa Cruz to get our gourds.

Nieve knows the best way to inspect pumpkins is to be right there in the wagon with them

The new patch was an interesting little farm with lots of ghoulish props that kept us entertained. Having our friends along for pumpkin picking made it even more fun, with Ronan an Nieve excitedly exploring the grounds with Else and Linnea. At one point Linnea and Nieve held hands as they walked down a path to visit a horse... it was very cute to see the two of them enjoying the stroll and each other.

Holding hands on a stroll...

As expected, Ronan was most intrigued by the spooky mannequins that were operating machinery and he spend a bunch of time making friends with the werewolf that was driving an old rusty tractor. When he tired of the Halloween monsters Ronan walked up the path to the horse and geese that were eager to greet visitors.

Werewolves are great for scaring people but not so hot at piloting tractors

In the end we found a few acceptable pumpkins in a variety of colors. More deliciously, the farm had a u-pick berry patch, so the kids picked fresh raspberries and strawberries that were excellent for lunch!


One last hurrah - Ronan sports the Linda Walter's Pumpkin Hat before giving it to Nieve

The infamous Pumpkin Hat has been passed on!

For more pictures, view an album of photos from our day at the farm.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

College Football with Grandpa

Ronan's ready for some football!

Grandpa, a big college football fan, wanted to treat Ronan and me to a game up here at Stanford this season. Our schedules finally aligned this weekend so Grandpa made the trip up from Cambria on a day that boasted perfect football weather.

Grandpa and Ronan enjoying some college football

The entire afternoon was a blast, starting with a bicycle ride over to Masters Grove for a tailgate party thrown by some friends. Ronan enjoyed learning how to play catch with an older boy while Grandpa talked college football with those who really knew the game. We headed over to the stadium just before kickoff and found that even our 'cheap seats' provided an excellent vantage point to watch the action.

The sun setting at Stanford Stadium

Sitting quietly is not Ronan's forte, so after a few drives by both schools we decided to explore the stadium. Ronan found one of the four winches used to control the Skycam and we chatted with one of the technicians about how it worked. Ronan was impressed that the cable was made of kevlar and included fiber optics in the center of it. Ronan also seemed to be socializing with just about anyone in red that would look at him - during one of our walks his gregariousness got us invited to sit with a family down at field level (which Ronan declined as he just wanted to talk, not sit).

It was dark by halftime

After a Stanford Dog for dinner and another stint watching football (or, more accurately, watching fans that seem to be more active than the players) Ronan wanted to explore some more. The sun had set and it had grown dark; Ronan noticed moths congregating at one of the path lights. At first when a moth bumped into him Ronan would jump away and exclaim, "He tickled me! He tickled me!" but eventually Ronan settled down and was able to 'catch' moths by gently placing his hand in a position that the moth would climb to. He was very proud that he caught his little flying friend and even chased a security guard around with it (she was tough on people but terrified of bugs... she literally started running from Ronan).

To catch a moth...

A happy boy and his fuzzy winged friend

By the beginning of the fourth quarter Ronan was showing signs of fatigue, and, given the mile or so bike ride home that awaited us, we decided to call it an evening (Stanford was up 48-14... not much uncertainty left at that point). On the dark ride home Ronan seemed to revel in scaring pedestrians by sneaking up from behind and ringing his little bell. He would literally hunt for students walking in groups, ride up on the sidewalk behind them, ring his bell, and laugh manically as he darted past. No amount of admonishment would stop him.

Thank you Grandpa!

By the time we got home Ronan was thoroughly exhausted but a very happy little boy. Many thanks to Grandpa for a great idea and a wonderful day - we look forward to doing it again next year!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bathtub Styling

Rockin' the 'hawk

Ronan likes to play in the tub and an activity that is always fun is crazy hair styling. It's been a bath time tradition and he's come al long way since his first attempts at the punk-inspired 'do.

A more sophisticated, dapper Ronan

His favorite coiffure is a mohawk but on occasion we can convince him to try something new. This evening he fashioned a formal, slicked-back look departing from his normally shaggy, tussled hair. Unfortunately it remains a struggle to get him to run a comb through his hair when he's getting dressed in the morning.

Sometimes even tough guys can flash a sweet smile

Needless to say we are waiting for his playfulness at bath time to translate into proper grooming habits!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tom Chapin @ Aptos Farmer's Market

Tom Chapin singing, "Together Tomorrow"

Right now Ronan and Nieve's favorite singer/songwriter is Tom Chapin - just about every day they ask to listen to his music. Mom found that he was going to do a morning performance at the Celebrating Schools Food Festival in Aptos this weekend (at the farmer's market) so we made a little trip of it.

Ronan and Nieve took it upon themselves to dance together

Tom was an excellent live performer - in addition to playing and singing well he was effective in engaging the audience to participate in the songs. Ronan and Nieve got up and danced together (unprompted from us) and sang along when they could.

More dance action

At the end of the show Ronan told Tom, "When I grow up I'm going to play guitar with you."

To which Tom responded, "If you practice and learn, you very well may!"


The always resourceful Ronan found a way to get a picture with his favorite musician