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.