Sunday, February 26, 2012

Snow Days 2012

Ronan, already armed for a snowball fight

February of last year we vacationed at Lake Tahoe and were greeted by an over-abundance of harsh, snowy, cold weather. This year the conditions couldn't have been more different - we had bright, sunny skies, minimal snow (for Tahoe), and temperatures in the mid-sixties during the days.

The men on a chairlift

We timed our trip to meet some old friends (who also have a daughter who is a few months younger than Nieve) that were traveling to California from the east coast. Ronan and Nieve had plenty of friendly faces to accompany the warm weather - all of the kids had a blast.

I wish I had the same natural feel for skiing that Ronan does

Nieve and Ronan seemed to enjoy different activities during the trip. Ronan was able to try skiing (for a second time - last year he got about an hour's worth of skiing in during the blizzard conditions) and seems to be a natural on the boards. He seems to have an intuitive feel for the snow and with a minimal amount of coaching he made remarkable progress in just a couple of hours. I was both amazed and afraid at how quickly he picked it up - it's impressive how easy it is for children to learn new skills that we adults find challenging. I was afraid because by the end of the second day he skied with confidence and speed yet still had the judgement of an almost-four-year-old.

Hard at work constructing a snowman

Ronan also seemed to enjoy sledding and even 'surfed' the toboggan one afternoon (once with a nice little wipeout at the end of the run). He also loved building a mostly-recognizable snowman with Mom.

This is what coastal boys do when they have the opportunity...

Snowball fights were also high on his "like" list, but his hands-down favorite thing to do with snow was to eat it. Not skiing, not sledding, not snowball fights - Ronan went crazy for eating snow. Baffling, but true.

An all too common event - Ronan eating snow at the slopes

No matter where we were, if there was snow, Ronan was eating it

Nieve, on the other hand, barely tried eating snow (she's not a fan of the cold) and did not get a chance to ski (she's too young). However she did get some sledding in and that was one of a very few snow activities that put a big smile on her face.

It's always fun to hitch a tow to the top

Not as crazy as Ronan but at least Nieve enjoyed it

Nieve trying out a faster driver for her sled

Other than that, she wanted nothing to do with the snow or cold - her favorite part was visiting our friends who were staying next door at their Aunt & Uncle's beautiful house. Nieve loved playing their baby grand piano, hugging their amazing pug Cisco, and socializing with new faces. Another Nieve highlight was trying Nutella for the first time, reading stories by a roaring fire, and enjoying hot chocolate during the evening.

Yes, that's Nieve putting Nutella in her belly button

In all it was a great trip - we're already starting to plan our snowy getaway for next year!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lambs, Chickens, and Creek Walks

Mom and the kids conversing with a sheep

The weather was agreeable this weekend (especially for mid-February), and the kids were up for a small adventure, so we decided to visit Hidden Villa in the Los Altos Hills. Being a working farm things change with the seasons - earlier this week brought the arrival of some tiny lambs to the sheep stable.

A newborn... so clumsy, so cute

"Oooh... soooo sooooft"

Nieve was interested in the lambs but no more so than the other sheep; she was simply interested in the awkward, noisy creatures on the other side of the gate. Ronan, on the other hand, thought the little lambs irresistibly cute and even talked to them in his gentle, cutsie 'soothe the baby' voice that he typically keeps for Nieve when she's crying.

Nieve the climber - I stopped to snap this shot before I caught her en route to clearing the top of the fence

What Nieve didn't appreciate was the pecks that the chickens gave her. Ronan didn't even notice it but Nieve threw a little fit after a hen pecked at her hand. I spend a good 15 minutes both laughing and consoling her as she would yell at the chickens, "No chicken! No bite on Nieve's hand! No chicken!"

Nieve eyeing the very chickens that she would soon scold

Yelling at chickens must be exhausting because Nieve barely made it through lunch before she wanted (demanded) to be taken to the car. Mom humored her which meant I was the fortunate parent who got to join Ronan on one of his 'creek walks', a rambling exploration of whatever running water is nearby. It was fun to watch him explore and at the same time try to accommodate my, "don't wade any deeper than your mid-boot" rule. On his walk he found leaves, sticks, rocks, eddies, moss, ducks and a 'keep out' sign.

Tromping up a stream

Ronan found something he could throw

After exploring all that he could (the 'keep out' sign, stretched across the stream, put a boundary on what would otherwise take days to walk) we headed back to the car to make sure Mom had survived Nieve's critique of the outing. We found both of them in better spirits, reading happily in the warmth of the car.

Yes, some of the best things in life come naturally to little children

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nieve on a Swing

Like Ronan, Nieve has taken to swinging with great enthusiasm, and her motto is, 'the higher, the better'. She loves playful games on the swings as well as picking up as much speed and g-forces as she can. Below are a couple of photos of her enjoying this standard childhood ritual.

Mom getting Nieve up to an enjoyable height...

...from where Nieve can really pick up some speed...

...that will light up her face with a smile...

...and with swings much of that energy (fun!) is recaptured for the cycle to begin again!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Go Climb a Tree

From up on his perch Ronan watches Nieve start to climb

One skill Mom has been teaching Ronan and Nieve is how to properly climb a tree. At a local park there are a couple of low growing pine trees that have shallow sloping lower branches, a convenient starting place to develop climbing skills.

Thinking about going higher

Thankfully Ronan has become wise to the annoyance of pine sap; as he makes his way to a resting spot on a limb he avoids any shinny resin he finds. He also seems to understand that falling from 6-7 feet would result in a painful landing so he is careful to hold on tightly and call for help when he needs it.

Ronan found a secure spot up in the tree... he spent the next 10 mins banging higher branches with a stick (we have no idea why, other than him just being a boy)

Nieve is a bit less concerned about falling (she has yet to experience a real fall) and a bit more self assured with her climbing prowess, so she's less diligent about making smart hand/foot placements. She's also a bit more headstrong, continually instructing, "Self! Self!" whenever Mom or I would try to help her.

Nieve's a happy girl when she gets to climb

Given Nieve's love of and aptitude for climbing (not to mention her determination) we're guessing in a couple of years that she'll be a good climbing partner for Ronan. He's always (mostly) sweet and accommodating to her; even if there is a skill gap, Ronan will likely make sure the two of them reach great heights together.

Perhaps the makings of a good climbing tandem