Friday, September 8, 2017

Theo's Journal

Theo has moved up to the "Big Room" this year which contains the second and third grade classes. I suppose that makes him a second grader although I never internalized him as being in first grade last year, so this comes as a surprise to me.

The big room writes in their journals. Every day, it seems like.

Here are Theo's entries for this week.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Vivian Turns 5!

Vivian celebrated her fifth birthday in style - with a party at the swimming pool for the third year in a row! She loves swimming and water. She's very coordinated and just learned to ride her bike without training wheels in early May during bike to school month. Guess all the extra practice paid off!


She invited her entire class of four other kids as well as pretty much every kid from her preschool to party with her. We had a great gathering although Vivian was disappointed none of her teachers could make it. We scheduled her party for the weekend after her birthday, so she'd already had lots of birthday excitement.

She picked the spaghetti factory for her birthday meal out, but sadly the one she prefers had closed. The other one we tried was also closed, so we went to Panera across the street instead and came back later in the week. 

Vivian got an assortment of pink and green shiny balloons, all of which are her favorite color. She loves horses and hockey, even though she hasn't gotten to play since fall due to scheduling conflicts with ski lessons. She's very good at anything athletic and has a great start on reading as well. Her artwork has jumped by leaps and bounds. The school had to institute a two pieces of easel art per day rule due to Vivian's high production levels. They've existed for more than 12 years and never needed an art limit before she arrived. She goes to school for half a day (three hours to Theo's six) but comes home with four or five times as much art in her portfolio. She's really developed a knack for it, too.

Vivian also loves clothes, so those featured largely in her gifts this year. She likes to wear matching outfits, so I managed to score a few similar if not exactly identical items for us to wear together. She also got several dresses I thought she might like, and boy was I right.

The other main theme in her gifts was horses. Theo picked out the same set of horses Xavier did for her, so instead he got her a sparkly tiara craft set. She loved both those presents best. She also got a backpack with a camelbak she had been eyeing since November from REI, as well as a camp chair in "rainbow." To celebrate the actual day, we went biking at a local park with a beach where the kids enjoyed digging in the sand when not riding bikes.

Vivian is also a great caretaker. She's bonded with the new chihuahua mix dog, Chika, and takes excellent care of her. She's very attentive and helpful with both Xavier and Theo and me as well. I can count on her to give me a hand anytime something needs to get done. She loves babies and couldn't get enough of her newest cousin. She's content to just watch him but also loves to help in any way with babies.

She has several baby dolls now, including a new one that makes noise and came with a complete wardrobe crafted by grandma. Her favorite doll by far doesn't even belong to her. It's a hard plastic doll that looks like a newborn with movable arms and legs that lives at school - when it's not at our house as a reward for good behavior.

Vivian wanted to go shopping for her birthday so we took her to the mall. She spent all her money on three candy bottles (with sugar powder inside), an assortment of Godiva chocolates, and a blanket and pillow set from build a bear. She really wanted a horse bag she saw at the very first shop but it costs all her money and we convinced her to at least look at her other options before blowing her savings. She'd like to go back for more shopping. 

Vivian's favorite foods are pasta and bagels with cream cheese. She likes to decorate her bagel with berries or fruit or peas and carrots. She barely drinks anything at all despite my efforts and sometimes gets what we suspect is heartburn as a result.

She's growing, though she's still definitely petite. She rang in at 41 inches at her five year check up, tipping the scales at 34 lbs, which lands her pretty squarely in the 11th percentile for weight no matter which scale you use. She wears the same size shoes as Xavier, who's almost 2.5 years younger. She can still wear 3T clothes but has cleaned them all out because she isn't three anymore. Boys 4T fit her well and she wears 4 or 5T in girls' sizes. She loves outfits and puts together the best combinations that it would never occur to me to combine. When we get bags of clothes, she's first in line and everything fits regardless of size. That's how she has so many pairs of rain boots and rain coats and other outerwear. She wears it all so well I can't really complain. Her pajamas drawer is overflowing with options, and she likes to sleep in swim clothes more often than not. 

She's a night owl. Left up her own devices when's she's not sharing a room with Theo - aka the energizer bunny - she will fall asleep around 8 something and get up around 8 or later the following morning. She no longer needs naps but occasionally falls asleep in the car. If she naps more than one day in a row, she has a flesh eating infection from refusing to wear socks and rubbing a blister on her ankle.  Or phytophotosynthesis, both of which happened recently.

Overall, Vivian is a complete joy and I've loved our special time together doing projects and other activities in the afternoons.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Theo at 6.5

Theo is officially six and a half and boy is he excited to join the half club in our house. (Both Vivian and Xavier have reached their half birthday marks already.)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse

Monday, August 21, 2017: a total solar eclipse passing through just south of Portland, Oregon. A mere 4 hour drive south of Seattle. Naturally we went: due to forecast traffic we drove to Vancouver, WA on Saturday morning, spent one night there, then Sunday night at 2am woke up and drove down to Weathers Street Park in Salem. We didn't want to take any chances and miss the "totality": being in the path of the total eclipse. Traffic was light for both drives. It took about an hour to get to Salem, where the city had opened all of the city parks to free tent camping. We didn't know this when we formulated the plan -- we planned to do this all along. We set up a tent and threw the kids in, set up a cot and a hammock and slept under the stars. Amazingly everyone went back to sleep and slept until the usual wake up time of 7am.

The eclipse started just after 9am, with the total eclipse lasting one minute and fifty two seconds. I set up my digital SLR on a tripod taking a photo every minute then every 2 seconds, then every 5 seconds. I wasn't confident of the sun's path, and I knew I didn't want a big wide-angle shot since I wanted more of a closeup of the sun, so I had to periodically go back and re-adjust. I stitched these images together into a video which turned out really rather nicely especially given how little I paid attention to the setup.

About 15 minutes prior to the totality I also kicked off a live stream on Facebook from my iPad which was viewed live by 44 people, with more subsequent views. In the chaos that followed I neglected to upload nor save locally the HD version of the video -- a missed opportunity but I think the video is actually most interesting for the reaction of the crowd when the sun is completely eclipsed.

Finally I used my iPhone to record a very short (about 44 second) video during the midst of the totality. It truly was frantic: I wanted to capture the kids' reactions, and capture the birds, and the sky, and the crowd, all the while also trying to take in the experience myself. This XKCD comic puts it best: a total solar eclipse is so, so, so much more amazing that a partial eclipse.

I shared a lot of stuff on Facebook already; there's a collection of all the content on Google Photos as usual. For this event, however, I went a step further: I assembled all three videos linked above into a single video. The DSLR stitched photos isn't actually real time -- it's sped up dramatically then I repeat the same couple bits over and over until the end of the totality where it speeds up dramatically again -- but I got pretty close to syncing the start of the total eclipse with the Facebook live feed video. The live feed video plus the 44 second clip both have audio which made it possible to play both videos in sync with each other. So I assembled a montage of all three videos: you can see what the sun is doing at the same time as you hear the crowd, then you get a glimpse of on-the-ground action in the middle of it all.

A couple of quick notes: the FB live stream video has been trimmed significantly for the clip from its original length, and when the short clip swings over to the left you can see the DSLR that's taking the photos, and to its right you can see a pillar supporting the roof of the picnic area -- you might be able to just barely make out the iPad leaning up against it (in case you wanted an idea of where each video originates).


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Xavier at 2.5 years

Xavier loves chickens. He can distinguish between a rooster, a hen, and a chick. He loves picking up the eggs from our chickens and can carry them in and put them in the container in the fridge.

Xavier also loves balls. Any kind of ball will do. He sleeps with his favorite basketball but also with a wide selection of other balls. He really enjoys hitting the plastic baseballs off his tee with his bat. And he's good at it. He's happy to just hold and snuggle a ball but likes to play catch and see pictures of balls and read about them as well. 

He sleeps with his lovie which is a little Taggie blanket he's been loving since he was old enough to have items in his crib. It's the one thing that he needs to sleep though he often requests something to drink as well.

Xavier loves reading books. Because he's seen his siblings reading to me, he has several of his favorite books memorized and can "read" them to me. We read 6-10 books every morning, usually after his brother and sister have gone to school and I'm having breakfast. 

Xavier loves to eat. He will refuse something based on the wrong person (i.e. not mama) bringing it to him or because he has the wrong color spoon. But when it comes to actual food, he likes to eat. He spends most of the morning grazing after his breakfast at 7 something. He likes to have a bit of whatever I'm packing in the big kids' lunches. Then he usually has a snack and juice while we are out on our walk or running errands. He eats lunch around 11:15 because otherwise we don't have time for him to sit for 20-30 minutes eating because he needs to nap between 12 and 3 (pick up times for his sister and brother respectively). 

He sometimes has an afternoon snack, but eating really slows down after nap. He's generally good to go for dinner around 6 regardless of any afternoon snacks though. 

 His favorite most requested foods are cheese quesadillas and macaroni and cheese. At restaurants he almost always pick macaroni and cheese if that's an option. He loves chocolate milk but generally prefers juice of any kind or even water to milk. And he adores hot cocoa, which he's had plenty of this winter with our abnormally cold and snowy weather.

Xavier naps about an hour each day, though once a week or so he has a longer nap, around 2 or 2.5 hours. He goes to sleep around 7:30 or 8 most nights because the kids spend half an hour or more after their 7 pm bedtime playing and talking. He will wake up about 11.5 hours after he goes to sleep when left to his own schedule, but often his older brother or sister wake him up when they get up. 

Xavier is wearing underwear which is big news! He's been sitting on the potty since last August and able to pee or poop every time he sits down but he was also still going in his diapers or pull ups. I finally bit the bullet in February and switched him to underwear. He's almost 1.5 years younger than when either of his siblings started using the potty so he's definitely had more accidents. But it's rare. Most days he goes when he wakes up, around noon, once in the afternoon, and at bedtime. He will tell you he needs to go any other times and can hold it until we get there. But I still have him in a diaper at night, mostly because I'm lazy. He wakes up with a dry diaper nine days out of ten but the tenth day he just can't make it and it's a lot of pee! He also has most of his accidents during his nap (see this weekend), so he's still figuring that part out.

3C566A59-2E53-405A-AF35-26A8214B3CF8Xavier is quite happy to play on his own at home when his siblings are at school. He enjoys vehicles, especially his matchbox type cars, as well as trains and his dump truck. He cooks in the play kitchen regularly and often pretends to be a puppy dog. He likes to play with his baby doll but does that less on his own than when his sister is around. He loves to play with both siblings and is super excited when Vivian comes home. He almost always gives her big hugs and they now sit beside each other rear facing in the third row of the car because they like to be together. Vivian holds his hand walking up the stairs and they play together for the few minutes he has after she comes home before he has to go for his nap. 

He likes imitating Theo as well and wants to do or eat or say whatever the other two are doing, eating, or saying. He's a great climber and has already mastered most of our child locks with his dexterity. He can even open the baby gate if there's enough room to squeeze his finger in. 

Xavier has the frustrations of a two year old who wants to do everything for himself combined with the vocabulary of a six year old. It's not the best combination though it's nice he has so many words to use. Luckily we seem to be over the worst of the "I hate you!" phase, so I no longer hear that twenty times a day. He's picked up the phrase "so much" as in I hate you so much or I like that so much. He also says things like "that's weird" (and they are) and "it's spooky" when the lights are off and it's dark in his room. I find myself shaking my head in wonder at some of his adult phrases especially because he uses them correctly.

Xavier keeps a running monologue going pretty much constantly but doesn't require responses. He gets fewer words and more frustration when his siblings are home. 

"Don't say that!! DON'T SAY THAT!" Or "Don't put your hands in the air." followed immediately by "3..2..1..Hands in the air!"
We love him so much and are excited to see him grow and learn even more.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Vivian's FOURTH Birthday

I wrote down a nice summary of Vivian at four years old, but clearly failed to ever post it. So now, almost a year later, here's the update. (Might as well make way for me to get the five year update done late, too, right?)
Vivian has hit the big four-oh - four years and zero months that is. I'm in denial, as usual, that our sweet little girl is already four years old. Where does the time go?!?

Vivian loves her baby brother and her baby doll pretty much in that order. Here's what I wrote on this year's birthday party invitation: Vivian loves diggers, horses, biking, and the colors pink and green. That pretty much sums her up nicely.

She choose to have a pool party at the community pool again this year and invited all her friends. The local spray park also opened right around her birthday, so we spent some of her birthday weekend there. Neither Theo nor Vivian seemed to mind playing in cool water while wearing fleeces because it was only 60 something degrees outside.

In the biggest news, Vivian finally potty trained back in November. I can't remember if that was before or after her half year update, but it's big news around here. We are down to one child in diapers. And boy how she loves diapers. She loves to help change her brother and all the kids at school. Speaking of school, she is enrolled in her last summer session at her preschool and will graduate in August. During the summer, kids are mixed ages, unlike the stricter age range during the school year. So the kids range from brand new two year olds to the over four almost graduates like herself. She loves the you get kids wearing diapers ("we changed nine diapers today!").

She not only loves to help change diapers, but loves being a big helper in just about anyway. If you ask for a helper, she's first in line. I can also frame things so that she's helping me and she gets right to it. Otherwise, though, she hates being told what to do. She also hates Theo's commands, which are a regular occurrence in our house.

She loves, however, playing school and bed and time out. Her favorite activity during Katie's month long visit with us was to put her in jail. Katie didn't seem to mind, especially if she had a book. I personally prefer the bed game, though it never lasts nearly long enough.

Vivian also likes to speak "in Polish", ie she makes up words and says she's talking in Polish. I find that irresistably cute.

At her four year check up, Vivian measured 30 lbs and 8 ounces, which means she topped 30 pounds for the first time! Way to grow Vivian! That puts her solidly in the 13th percentile for weight, whether you ask the WHO or CDC for stats. She is 39 inches tall (34th percentile for CDC, 19th for WHO) and they don't measure her head anymore. She got several vaccines, but remained completely stoic for that experience, which is a pleasant change from her sibling's drama.

Vivian likes "reading", where she finds words she recognizes and reads them to me. I pay a penny per word, which started as part of Theo's school read-a-thon, but of course Vivian is the one who's completely taken to it. She also loves spending her money. She took her Easter money and bought a pink stuffed rabbit (on clearance after the fact) called Easter buns, a Helly Kitty toothbrush that came with a keychain, and a small bumpy pink light up ball, plus a lollipop for her older brother so he wouldn't "be sad."

Her favorite foods are shells and cheese or any pasta really. For her birthday lunch, we took her to the
Spaghetti factory.

At her birthday party, she had a cake with ponies, ponies, and more ponies, and they featured prominently in her balloons as well. We got her a pink backpack which she adores.

In the last few weeks, she's dropped her nap. She's definitely not a morning person, which she comes by naturally. If we are at home, she has quiet time in the afternoons followed by half an hour with her Kindle. At night, she's in bed around 7:30 most nights. For her birthday, she got her very own "big boy" bed, which is a loft bed built custom (it had to be, to fit in the room with Theo's). She got to the choose the paint colors and went with pink for the bed with a green ladder. That also freed up a crib for Xavier to move into the kids' room, which Vivian mostly loves. She's not a huge fan of the crying but loves having him close by otherwise.

Vivian's gotten very good at riding her bike, both the balance bike and her new bike with training wheels, which she won as the grand prize at the Easter egg hunt at our local grocery store. She's so pleased with it, and can really go. She writes very nicely for her age, and enjoys any and all art projects, like writing, coloring, and dot to dots.

Overall, she's a sweet fun loving girl and we couldn't be happier with her! For all the photos, go here.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

St. Louis

We just returned from a whirlwind four day trip to St. Louis. I haven't set foot in the city since I graduated so there was lots to see and do. We arrived Tuesday evening and settled into an AirBNB on the south side. We ended up splitting activities into two per day, and we kept the kids on pacific time so they were on a 9am wakeup / 9pm bedtime routine.

We started our journey on an 88-degree day with a visit to the Museum of Transportation. It was mostly focused on trains which was very much to Theo and Xavier's liking. The visit started with a 20-minute ride on a train followed by exploring a lot of the train cars and locomotives on display.

The afternoon consisted of a visit to Forest Park, with a stop at the Jewel Box, a fancy conservatory built for the World's Fair in 1904 (it was closed when we got there) and a visit to the playground.

After the kids were in bed, Sarah and I snuck off to Ted Drewes for some frozen custard.

We got word that the Gateway Arch tram opened on Wednesday (it had been closed since November for renovations) and we hightailed it to the arch.

In the afternoon we left Xavier with the grandparents for his nap and took Theo and Vivian to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour, which had a special photo-op with a Clydesdale horse for an hour at 3:30pm. Vivian particularly enjoyed it, and we got to see the stables on our tour.

A final free sample in the biergarten and we were all done with Bud!

It's important to note Sarah's birthday which of course we celebrated.

Finally we wrapped up the evening with a game of freeze tag in a nearby park.

And I snuck out to WashU to take a look around:

Friday morning we set out for the City Museum, which was overwhelming to most adults (who left immediately) and also to Xavier (who left with the rest of us but I took Theo and Vivian back during Xavier's nap). It's mostly a giant playground (for teenagers if you ask Sarah).

That evening I had my first official reunion event, "Cocktails with Classmates". Ironically it took place in the law school building where I'd never set foot, and had beer and wine instead of cocktails. Go figure!

Saturday morning Sarah's family left to make the journey back to Atlanta. We took a family photo and then we headed to Thurtene Carnival. Afterwards I took the kids to the Alumni BBQ which was moved inside the athletic complex due to "inclement weather" consisting of 55 degrees and overcast skies, while Sarah took a walk. The balloon artist was phenomenal!

One final stop at the STL airport playground and we're off back to Seattle!