Archive for the ‘Family News’ Category

First Day of School!

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Written on Monday, day of many techno troubles. That’s why it’s not getting posted til now. And because I’ve been swamped.

Today is the first of many firsts… first day of school for this year, Eragon’s first day of school, period (he’s starting Kindergarten), Emma’s first day of Middle School (she’s in 6th grade), and my first time to have all 4 kids actually enrolled in a school at home program (K, 2nd, 4th & 6th). Whew!

We love our online school, Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA), which uses the K12 curriculum. Since we are starting our fourth year with COVA, I feel like I know the ropes a little bit, having learned lots of new things each year, even though we have added a new element each year. One thing I’ve learned is balance in the beginning. We’ve gone from gung-ho, full-barrell school from the very start to not really starting when the rest of the school starts and having to play catch-up for the rest of the year. This year the key is balance. I had planned to ease into school this year, especially this week, but to actually complete several lessons with each child each day this week. But every year holds its surprises and challenges, and this year the name of the game seems to be technical glitches. So we may fall short of our goal of completing several lessons for each student today, but the main thing I’ve learned in my years with COVA is not to get too stressed about it, do the best we can, and keep plugging along.

Sweet Kindergartener working at his desk!

Meanwhile, first day of school at home means trying to stay on track and not be distracted. The kids, by each other, their toys, Eragon’s antics (he’s in Kinder, how much can we expect from him?). Me, by housework and the temptation to exercise. Yes, the only time I feel motivated to clean my house is when I need to be doing something else. And last year I worked out mid-morning, once everyone was working on something for school, but this year I want us all to stay on task, so I’m trying to exercise before school, not during. So far, so good!

Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

The kids and I had a very fun and informative field trip this morning. Last weekend when we were camping at Eleven Mile Reservoir we attended several sessions with a park naturalist named Amanda, and Emma ended up earning her Jr. Ranger badge by completing a number of activities in the park, including picking up trash, hiking, kayaking, and observing nature. Amanda told us about a bird banding program held near our house and invited us to participate.

This morning we headed down to the Audubon Center at Chatfield State Park and hiked a short way into the park where the “Banding Station” (picnic table) was located. When we arrived, the volunteers had just caught a house wren, which was a bird Amanda had pointed out to us at Eleven Mile.

We watched as the volunteers banded, measured, and weighed the bird, and made observations and notes about the bird, which our friend Amanda recorded in a notebook.

The kids were allowed to gently pet the wren before it was set free.

We headed out with the volunteers to check the nets again. They are hard to see as they are black and very fine. Eragon spotted a large hole in one of the nets, which Amanda told us was probably caused by a deer running through it (they can’t see the nets well either).

Emma and Amanda discovered a beautiful yellow bird in one of the nets, a male yellow warbler. After untangling it from the net, Amanda allowed Emma to carry the bird in a bag back to the Birding Station. After the weighing a measuring and recording of observations, Emma and Atticus were allowed to set the little guy free.

The last catch of the day was a Dusky Flycatcher, which was very interesting because it had whiskers, of all things. It also had a much different beak and was larger. Emma and Atticus were also allowed to hold this bird until it flew away, but it rested contentedly in their hands until the volunteer prompted it to take flight.

Where was Aramis during all this? He was at school, for his last day of Kindergarten. Poor guy missed all the fun! But we’ll go back again.

We also spotted a Great Blue Heron and a huge turtle on a log while checking the nets, but the heron flew away before I could get a good shot.

The Big Day!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

This was it, the big day, the event we’ve been planning since we were dumbstruck by the idea that Emma would be turning 10 this year (this happened to us last May, when she turned 9 and we were dumbstruck by the idea that she was halfway to graduating from high school and heading off to college — what can I say? We’re easily dumbstruck.). Today is Emma’s birthday, and it was a day to remember for everyone.

We started the day at the American Girl Boutique and Bistro, and began with a pampering treatment (cleaning) for Emma’s doll Josefina. This included 4 sheets of “toenail polish” (stickers), and Emma chose the purple ones for today since her own toes are polished lavender with sparkly flowers. Then Josefina’s hair was brushed and untangled and braided by a professional, looking just as good as new. Even better than new, because Emma chose a flip-through braid which looks quite fetching and a little fancier than the plain braid.

Next we finally participated in the activity which most people go to a mall for in the first place, and which we have been putting off since our arrival… we SHOPPED! Emma had a gift certificate, and we gave her a spending limit and let her have a bit of a spree. First she chose an item she’d been eyeing since we first cruised through the store, Josefina’s fancy holiday outfit. Next she said she’d like to get Molly’s birthday outfit. Then she felt that since she had bought something for both Josefina and Molly, she should get something special for Felicity too, so she chose the outfit Felicity wears to the holiday dance. She was so cute, trying to be fair to her three dolls, making sure that none of them were left out.

It was around this time that Aramis approached me, looked up at me with his angelic face, and said, in all seriousness (I promise I’m not making this up), “Mommy, I can’t stay in this store much longer. It’s giving me the sickness.” First I cracked up, then I called to Dave to tell him what our funny boy had said. Dave laughed too and questioned Aramis about “the sickness,” and Aramis explained that there was too much girly stuff in the store and it was giving him pains. We have laughed about that all day. Leave it to Aramis to say something hysterical in all sincerity.

After shopping for her dolls, we headed upstairs to find an outfit Emma liked enough to get for herself with a matching set for one of her dolls to wear. Eragon was excited about a yoga ensemble, crying, “Mommy! They’re doing yoga!” Atticus’s interest was sparked by a baseball outfit for dolls, although they didn’t have the girl-sized version. Dave liked the snowboarder outfit for dolls, but we all agreed Emma would prefer a skier ensemble. Finally Emma chose a lovely lilac spring dress, with a matching doll-sized set. We headed to the dressing room for her to try it on, and I grabbed a couple of t-shirts for both of us to try.

I must say here that I did have one complaint about the store, although this isn’t the store’s fault, it comes from the company — there are no Mommy-sized clothes. I told several of the store salespeople that they should have Mommy/daughter/doll outfits. They agreed that it was a good idea, but they couldn’t help me out today. I did find some incredibly cute t-shirts that are bright pink with a sparkly butterfly that says “Mall of America” in small letters at the top on one side and “American Girl Boutique and Bistro” in small letters at the bottom on the other side. I thought the shirts were darling, and I talked Emma into getting one even though she dislikes pink, claiming we could match! Okay, I know I said I’d try and tone things down, but I couldn’t contain my excitement over the idea that my daughter and I could wear cute matching t-shirts advertising my new favorite place in the world! So after she tried on her lovely lilac dress, we tried on our shirts, and I pulled off the tags, insisting we’d wear them for our lunch in the Bistro and for the rest of the day! She was slightly mortified, but went along with my plan, and seemed relieved when she heard me explain what we were doing to our saleslady.

During our lunch at the Bistro, I further embarrassed her by taking pictures of everything in sight, including her, our appetizers, her, our entrees, her, the view of the amusement park out the window, her, the entrees, her, the cake and the singing people who brought the cake (yes, we had people sing to her to make sure and cement her embarrassment)… We enjoyed a super-scrumptious lunch, and Josefina joined us in a booster seat attached to the table. The waitress brought Josefina a small cup of pink lemonade and a mini-fruit cup with the fruit cut up into tiny doll-sized bites. Everything was wonderful, and the staff really made Emma feel special. The whole experience was delightful. The lady who had worked on Josefina’s hair had ascertained that it was Emma’s birthday, so she gave her a sticker that said “It’s my birthday!” and every employee we encountered thereafter was sure to wish Emma a sweet and sincere “Happy Birthday!” I’m telling you, Disneyland for AG fans!!! Only better, with personal touches!

When we were finally done at the Boutique and Bistro we asked Emma “What next?” and she said “Movie!” So we headed to the theater on the 4th floor to see Disney’s Earth, which was wonderful. Gruesome and realistic, but wonderful and beautiful. But we had arrived a bit early, so to pass the time before the movie we visited the Apple store. Something for everyone here! The kids played video computer games while Dave browsed. Then we saw the movie, and after that asked “What next?” and Emma said “Miniature golf!” So we headed to the Moose Mountain Miniature Golf Course on the 3rd floor and played a round of 18 holes. By then it was time for an event at the Lego store where the kids could make a little Lego flower in a flower pot and take it home for free! Emma had been anticipating this event since our arrival, so we couldn’t miss. This was also the perfect opportunity for the boys to pick out their “party favors.” I had told them that they would each be allowed to pick out a toy from the Lego store at some point on the trip. This turned out to be a great plan, because I think it kept them from feeling too resentful of Emma despite her receiving so much attention and being put so completely in charge of so many things. Of course they are used to her calling the shots a lot of the time, but we usually try to balance things out and give everyone a turn to be in charge. In any case, the boys were both happy to get to pick out a Star Wars Lego set for themselves from this magnificent Lego store, and we continued our day of shopping at the Mall.

After the Lego store we wanted to pick up some souvenirs, so we found two of the Minnesota themed stores in the Mall. This was also partly to kill time before our final destination of the day, The Rainforest Cafe. This was where Emma wanted to have her birthday dinner, and this stop had been on the itinerary since the early planning stages. We all enjoyed yummy dinners (Dave’s pasta-laya, like jambalaya but with pasta, was particularly delicious) and fruity drinks (Atticus loved his pineapple juice), and Emma endured MORE loud singing which accompanied the family dessert, a volcano cake complete with burning sparkler to give it the appearance of erupting. Even with the whole family pitching in we couldn’t finish the massive thing, and we headed back toward our hotel, stuffed, exhausted, and finally laden with shopping bags! What a day!

Once back in the room all the kids got a second wind. Emma sorted through her treasures and dressed Josefina in her new outfit. The boys pored over the pictures on the boxes of their Lego sets (we decided they shouldn’t open them until we get back home) and the Lego magazines (catalogs) we had acquired while in the store. Eragon began playing with his Little People (he had picked out a Diego backpack for his party favor, so he didn’t have anything new to play with, but it had been a couple of days since he’d spent time with his Little People). At 9:21 pm (the official time of her birth, although in a different time zone) we sang “Happy Birthday to Emma,” and shortly thereafter sent the kids to bed. They are still giggling and fussing with each other and trying to keep Eragon in bed and quiet, having trouble settling down after a big day full of fun. Who can blame them?

Happy Birthday to Emma!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

It’s May 5th, 2009, and our baby Emma is turning 10 years old today!!! It’s hard to believe how quickly the last 10 years have flown by, and how grown up our first baby is now! We’re having a blast on her birthday trip, here’s what we’ve done so far…

We arrived at our hotel around 10 am on Sunday. We were 5 hours too early to check in, so the hotel stored our bags for us, offered us breakfast at their complimentary buffet, and pointed us in the direction of the Mall of America (across the street) to kill the time before we could get into our room. We helped ourselves to the breakfast and made a recon visit to the Mall, since we would be spending all of our time there in the next 3 days.

The Mall of America is ENORMOUS! We entered on the South side, and when you first walk in, it looks just like any mall entrance. As you move forward, the ceiling opens up and you enter an area where the ceiling soars up to 4 stories high. We came upon the Lego store first in this open area, and it is stunning. The store itself is an open design, right in the middle of the mall aisle, like a large kiosk, a very large kiosk, with some glass panels and class cubes to separate it from the mall a little. The merchandise is all on the ground level, but the Lego sculptures are arranged vertically to the top of the 4-story high ceiling! There are lots of dinosaurs, large ones, made from Legos, there is an underwater display, a space display, a pirate display, and a 4 story working clock tower, all made entirely from Legos! There are several “imagination stations” where kids can build race cars from Legos and race then down two tracks, and other stations where kids can just put together Legos in any form they like. There’s even a Duplo station for the younger kids, although Eragon liked building and racing the cars. We spent a good while playing with Legos before proceeding further. And while the kids were busy with Legos, I was scoping out what was just behind us, the indoor amusement park!

Nickelodeon Universe is an entire amusement park located in the center of the Mall. It has about 40 rides, just about anything you would find at any major amusement park, located right in the hub of the mall. It’s amazing how they have the rides packed in there, and it makes this the most accessible amusement park I’ve ever been to. Even if you want to go to a ride all the way across the park, it’s not as far away as we walk from the Mall to our hotel! But there is PLENTY to ride! We spent our entire Monday here, riding rides from 10 am to 9:30, when they shut the last rides down. By some miracle, Eragon managed to stay awake for the whole entire day, walking when he wasn’t riding rides, and as we were leaving he was saying, in a small, plaintive voice, “I’m want to ride rides!” He didn’t want to stop. But I’ve skipped ahead… back to Sunday. When the kids had had their fill of Legos for the time being, we passed through Nickelodeon Universe to get to the reason we had come to the MOA in the first place, the Holy Grail, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the American Girl Store.

The American Girl Store is on one of the corners looking out over the amusement park. It is two stories high with big windows and it is less than a year old so it GLEAMS! After shopping out of American Girl catalogs for years, I felt like I had fallen into one. It is a beautiful and sparkling store, even the yellow paint on the escalator steps was shiny! Emma told me that she thinks I’m almost more excited about the store than she is because I kept saying “Oh isn’t that so cute!” and other things like that to the point of embarrassing her. I’ll try to keep it more low key from now on… But it’s hard NOT to ooh and aah, the store is incredible. On the sprawling ground floor they have the American Girl dolls. They have many, many displays of the historical dolls (like Emma has) in various outfits and with assorted accessories. So if you’ve read the books you are seeing for the first time, for example, Kaya’s pet dog, Lone Wolf. Or Felicity’s beloved horse, Penny. Or Josefina in her striking Christmas outfit with her own doll, Nina. It’s really like Disneyland for any American Girl fan. And many of the displays have matching outfits for the girls. Completing the wonder of the first floor is the Salon, where the dolls sit in doll sized chairs just like those found in a real hair salon and have their hair done. Girls can either request that the doll’s hair be restored to its original style, or choose from a menu of hairstyles. Emma’s Josefina doll will be getting a makeover this morning in the salon!

Upstairs they have the Just Like Me dolls, which are custom made to look like your daughter, and they have their own outfits and accessories, which also fit the American Girl dolls, and which include matching outfits for the girls in some cases too. This is also where you find the American Girl Bistro, which is where we will be having lunch today, on Emma’s big day. The Bistro has available doll booster seats and place settings, so your girl’s doll can join you at the table for the celebration. And the menu looks pretty scrumptious. Emma and I popped into the bathroom while in the store, and they have doll hangers on the walls of the stalls so you can hang your doll on the wall while you use the facilities rather than putting her on the floor. Although the floor is so clean I’d lie down on it myself with no qualms. It really is like Disneyland!

After we visited the American Girl store on Sunday we decided to have lunch, and by then we were wearing down, since we had been up at 3 am to catch our plane. We headed to a restaurant called Kokomo’s, dining with an island flair. Emma had fettucini alfredo with shrimp, I had fish tacos, Dave had some kind of chicken sandwich with island seasonings, and the boys had macs and cheese. By this time Eragon had given out, so he slept through lunch. We dallied as long as we could since by now we were just killing time before checking in at the hotel, then we headed back to the Lego store for some more race-car building. The kids built and raced cars until 2:30, because we estimated it would take us around 30 minutes to get out of the mall and across the street, but we arrived in the hotel lobby at 2:40. It’s really, really close. Luckily our room was ready, so we checked in and Dave and I crashed and the kids mildly crashed although I don’t think any of them slept. Emma woke me up some time after 5 and we all got dressed to go swimming. After a while in the pools and hot tubs we cleaned up and headed over to IHOP for dinner. There are two restaurants connected to our hotel, an IHOP and a TGIFridays. By the time we got back to the room the kids really were ready to crash. Dave and I stayed up and watched a movie, then crashed again.

The kids woke up at 9 am Monday, ready to hit the breakfast buffet and take on the theme park, so we did just that. We started out with the family rides, including a nice long log ride and a Dora-themed ferris wheel. Then we split up into two groups, one parent with Eragon, riding the rest of the Dora and Diego themed rides, one parent with the rest of the kids, riding slightly faster rides. After covering about half the rides in the park, we headed to the food court for lunch. We had been eyeing the scariest rides with trepidation and vows that none of us would be caught on either of the two most frightful looking rides, including a coaster that starts out taking you straight up, at a 90 degree angle, to the glass ceiling above the park, over a small arc, then STRAIGHT DOWN, at a 90 degree angle, before looping upside-down and all around for a one minute and 15 second thrill ride to end all thrill rides. But some time after lunch, when we had covered most of the rides in the park, and had closely watched the people entering and exiting the scariest rides with no apparent casualties, we committed to riding EVERY ride in the park, no matter how scary, and Emma, Atticus and I volunteered to take on the 90-up, 90-down coaster, officially called the Spongebob Squarepants Rock Bottom Plunge.

I should mention here that there were NO lines for ANY of the rides. It’s a Monday during the school year, and while there are other visitors, there are enough rides to disperse them throughout the park and mall, and we never have to wait more than one ride cycle to get on any given ride. The only down side is that they are running a schedule where some of the rides are only open the first half hour of any hour, some are only open the second half hour of the hour, and some are open all the time. It takes us a little while to figure out the schedule, but once we do, we waste little time between rides! Also, Dave mentioned about halfway through the day that his favorite thing about this park is that it since the park is indoors, it’s AIR-CONDITIONED! It is covered by a glass ceiling, so it can get warm if you are in a sunny spot, but there are trees for shade, and if you really feel warm, you can step out into the mall surrounding the park and cool off quickly! I’ve never been much of a shopper or a big mall lover, but this place is Nirvana!

So Emma, Atticus and I rode the scariest-looking ride and it was AWESOME! It was never really that scary and it was over so quick that it really just took your breath away. Big fun, so we rode it again! Shortly after that we marked the last two remaining rides off our list and then just blitzed all our favorite rides over and over until we closed the place down at 9:30 pm. As I mentioned earlier, Eragon was reluctant to leave, but the rest of us were BEAT. We headed back across the street for dinner at Friday’s (yes, we even skipped dinner in favor of riding more rides!) and had an incredibly delicious dinner with possibly the best, friendliest waitress we’ve ever encountered. She was an older Asian lady and she called every single one of us lovely terms of endearment like Honey and Sweetheart and she pampered us and doted on us as if she knew that we had spent the last 12 hours being wrung out on amusement park rides of every conceivable kind. I also had the most delicious margarita I’ve ever had in my life, a blue raspberry concoction. Mmmmm.

We stumbled the short distance left to our room, crashed again, and now it’s the Big Day, the reason for the trip, the pinnacle of the celebration. Time to rally the troops and take on the Mall of America again! We plan to spend the first part of the day getting lost in the American Girl store (officially called the American Girl Boutique and Bistro), having Josefina’s hair done and letting Emma have a little shopping spree. Then lunch at the Bistro, then more shopping if necesssary, then the Lego store, then who knows what (possibly the Aquarium, which is also located in the Mall) until time for dinner at The Rainforest Cafe). We may also catch a movie today or tomorrow at the Mall’s theater, we’re planning to see Planet Earth. We’ve also talked about taking the light rail into downtown Minneapolis tomorrow if time permits. Whatever we end up doing, it should be fun! I’ll add pictures as soon as I can, but Emma and Atticus are both up now so I think it’s time to seize the day!!!

Double-Black Diamonds

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

We got a surprise dump of over a foot of fresh powder on our last day at Breckenridge. We hadn’t been planning on skiing the last day, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ski in the fresh snow. The boys didn’t want to ski, so Emma and I took to the slopes by ourselves to do some “fast skiing.” The powder was deep, especially towards the top of Peak 10 (coming way up over my boots in many places and over knee high for Emma). Since we didn’t have the boys slowing us down, Emma wanted to step it up a notch and try some black runs. We did a bunch of blue/black and black runs on Peak 9 and 10 and then talked about finishing up the day on a double-black diamond* run.

Emma was very excited to do her very first double-black diamond run. So we headed up to the top of Peak 10 and started down the double-black diamond run Dark Rider (it borders a blue/black run so there would be a way to jump off if it got too scary). She handled it fine, so when it split into the double-black diamond run Blackhawk (no just jumping off this run!), we took Blackhawk. Emma did great! It was steep and thick powder, but being on the steep slope your legs would often go down through the powder to the icy base. Not an easy run by any means. In fact, towards the bottom we ended up on a part of the trail that had been visited by few (I could see only two snowboard tracks that had ventured there that day). Emma fell only two times. (And I only somersaulted once.) We didn’t go down particularly fast but, most importantly, Emma did the two double-black diamond runs without any fear. She was quite proud of her accomplishment once we reached the end. It was a great way to wrap up our ski season.

* For those who are not familiar with how snow trails are designated, here’s a quick primer:

green circle – The easiest trails, often flat and smooth.

blue square – Trails of medium difficulty; these may be steeper or narrower than green circles, or they may be left in a natural state rather than machine-groomed.

black diamond – The most difficult trails; these are steeper than a blue square and often involve challenging terrain such as moguls, narrow passes, unmarked obstacles, double fall lines, or gladed sections.

double-black diamond – For experts only; these trails are steep, rarely groomed and often left in a completely natural state.

The Last Ski Trip

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

So we’ve made the most of this year’s ski season, especially given that Eragon was not able to ski until only recently. But we’ve spent the last three days in Breckenridge for an end-of-the-ski-season vacation, and we’ve taken advantage of this late-season skiing to get Eragon out on the slopes a little bit.

We started off our first day in Breckenridge. Nothing too eventful, but we did get Eragon out on skis on a little bunny hill. He also rode his first lift right off the bat since there wasn’t a good area at the bottom to practice on. I used his harness to hold him as he skied next to me, and we made a couple of runs down the easy hill. The snow was very packed and icy in most places, so it wasn’t the best conditions to learn to ski in.

On the second day we went to Vail. Since this was our first time to Vail, we really had no clue as to the best way to navigate the parking, shuttles, and village. We ended up making things way harder on ourselves walking through the village instead of utilizing the shuttle. But we eventually found our way to the little beginner hill and had a very fun day just hanging out there. The skies were clear and sunny, and we shed our coats and gloves for most of the day. There was a tiny sledding hill that we used to teach Eragon how to ski on his own. After he conquered that, I took him up on the lift and let him come down using the harness and straps to keep him from going too fast. He really liked it and kept asking to do it again. We had to wait for Mom to show up as she had been off skiing with the older kids. When she got back, we went up again and Eragon showed her how he skied down. He was very excited to be skiing. Aramis, meanwhile, during some of the down time started to learn how to ski with ski poles, and we did several runs where he, Emma, and Atticus all skied with poles so he could get a good feel for how and when to use them. The snow at Vail was better than at Breckenridge, but still “spring conditions.” Not so much icy as just very slushy. At least it was soft!





Eragon skiing at Vail

On the third day we went back to Breckenridge. In the morning and early afternoon we were treated to a light snowfall which improved conditions a bit. Eragon got his first exposure to riding a “magic carpet.” While Christy helped him practice on the magic carpet, I took the older kids off skiing on some blue and blue/black runs. We then had lunch, after which Christy took the older kids out to ski down Springmeier (blue/green). At the end of the day, I took Emma and Atticus out to do some “blues AND blacks!” They did their first real, honest-to-goodness black diamond run … and without any trepidation. Emma kept saying things like “this is totally wicked!” and “this is awesome!” Atticus started out confidently, but by about the halfway point down the run he was ready to be off of it. But he persevered and made it. They both did the whole run without falling down a single time. I was really proud of them, even more so given that the runs were extremely icy. They were hard for me! Aramis also skied his first blue/black run here (Spruce) and did so without any qualms or hesitation. He just snowplowed straight down it and often shot way ahead of his older siblings.



Eragon hanging out at the lodge at Breckenridge

We ended up the day doing a few more runs when a thunderstorm started moving in. There were several large thunderclaps and a few lightning strikes, and that was enough for us. We rushed down as quickly as possible. By this point, the snow had turned from just snow to a mix of falling snow and ice pellets. The ice pellets gave a pretty good sting on our cheeks as we zipped down to the base. When we finally got to the bottom, they had shut down all of the lifts and gondola due to the lightning, so we had to take the shuttle back down to town.

All in all, it was a memorable and fun ski vacation. Eragon got his first taste of skiing and liked it. Aramis learned how to use ski poles and skied his first blue/black run. And Emma and Atticus tackled their first challenging black diamond.

We have one more day of vacation left in Breck and then next season can’t come soon enough!

Imogene Dodd Tribute

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

This is something interesting that Raye found and sent to me. It was a touching radio tribute that was made to our grandmother, Imogene Dodd, who died during childbirth when our mom was born. Her twin brother was lost as well.

The tribute is by “W. Lee O’Daniel,” who went on to become the 34th Governor of Texas and then a U.S. Senator according to his Wikipedia page (and also the guy that the “Pappy” O’Daniel character in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” was loosely based on!):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Lee_O’Daniel

Along with the tribute, Raye also had a copy of the radio program schedule for “W. Lee O’Daniel and His Hillbilly Boys,” so we know that it is the same person as mentioned in the Wikipedia article.

Skiing with Hilaramis

Friday, February 13th, 2009

One of our nicknames for Aramis is Hilaramis, because he is always saying or doing the funniest things. This week’s ski trip has been no exception. Here are some of the highlights:

We watched “The Sound of Music” last week and the kids have been singing the songs ever since. One night we were driving around Avon and Aramis was singing with great force “When… you… know… the… notes… to… sing…, you… can… sing… most… an-y-thing!” Only he wasn’t hitting the notes. Any of them. But what he lacks in tonality he makes up for with enthusiasm. The effect was hysterical and Dave and I shared a good chuckle over it.

We’ve worked out a great system on this trip where I ski with the three older kids for a few hours in the morning, then Dave skis fast and furious on his own for a couple of hours, then Dave and Emma and sometimes Atticus ski together the last couple of hours ’til it’s quittin’ time. Aramis and I ski at approximately the same level, only he likes going faster than I do, except in the flat parts where he needs to go fast. We have been working on a slingshot move where, when he gets stopped or is going too slow in a flat part, I ski up beside him, stick one of my poles in his belly, he grabs on and I sling him forward while he yells “Slingshot!” This works out great most of the time, but today we tried the move on our last run with surprising results. I had taken the straps off my poles to help Aramis up from a tumble in the powder and decided not to put them back on since we were almost done, and when he was stuck a short while later, I attempted the slingshot move, but I was going a little fast and the pole came out of my hand. The result was that I kept going and Aramis stayed standing still, each up us holding one of my poles and looking bewildered. This had us laughing for a good while. It’s a bit of the blind leading the blind when I’m in charge.

It snowed last night so today was our first good powder day. But when you’re 5 years old good powder can have its drawbacks. Like it comes up to your knees and makes it harder to ski and easier to fall. But Aramis didn’t seem to mind, in fact he found it amusing that his skis kept getting “dirty” (piled high with snow). He did fall more, but he took it with his usual good humor, and even expressed a preference for skiing in the deeper stuff. We were on one trail where we passed a snow cat on its way up grooming the trails and I pointed out to the kids that we now had the choice between the fresh powder and the freshly groomed trail. Emma shouted, “We want powder!” and Aramis echoed her sentiment with gusto. On one such trail he lost his balance and pitched forward, but managed to catch himself and was skiing for a few moments bent over, hands on skis, helmet gliding along in the snow, and then righted himself without falling over or even slowing down. We laughed all day about Aramis skiing on his head.

One of Aramis’s spills took place in a spot where the rest of us had made a sharp turn, so Emma and I were a bit ahead of and below Aramis, and Atticus was even further ahead of us. Aramis lost a ski in this particular fall, so we were all waiting a good while for him to get going again. He finally gave up and decided to come to us. He picked up his ski and half skied, half walked down to where Emma and I were watching him. The site of him trudging/skiing while carrying his ski was enough to start us giggling. We cleaned off his boot and got him put back together, and the moment his boot snapped into his binding he gave Emma a little wave and said, “Out of my way, Emma!” He was ready to go!

Aramis has always been a chatty kid, very talkative, even to himself. He is also very expressive when talking, he makes lots of hand gestures. Anyone who has spent a lot time with him knows this. I realized this week that he talks while skiing. Nonstop. I think he has taken to skiing so intuitively that he’s not really thinking about what he’s doing, he’s just entertaining himself. I first realized he was talking because I kept hearing his voice, but then it struck me that he was doing it without ceasing because he kept gesturing and bobbing his head from side to side. Who knows what kinds of conversations that kid is having all the way down the mountain? I’m sure they are amusing, as just knowing that he’s doing it is amusing in itself.

Emma is officially the second best skier in our family, closing fast on Dave. She leads the pack most of the time when I’m skiing with the kids, she loves jumps and skiing through trees and going very fast. She gets a little bored and frustrated when skiing with Aramis and me because we slow her down, but she’s a trooper as always, and is quick to help anyone out who gets into trouble.

Atticus is slightly behind Emma in skill, but he makes up for it with a daredevil’s spirit. He likes jumps too, but he can rarely see where he’s going to come out, and he doesn’t seem to worry too much about it. I’ve seen him shoot out right in front of an approaching snowmobile, and with Dave and Emma he took a jump which landed him about 6 feet straight down, right under a boundary rope. When he gets bored with the slower pace I see him doing nutty stuff like skiing on one foot, with the other lifted out to the side. Crazy kid!

One thing is for sure, we are having a lot of laughs!

That boy sure is a walkin’ fool!

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Eragon’s doctor had informed us that it might take several weeks before he would start walking again, but that one day something will click and he will just start walking all the time. Well, we’ve hit that point and, boy, is he walking. It started a couple of days ago, as Christy mentioned in her earlier post, but today he took it to a whole new level. While the older kids were tubing today, I took Eragon over to the patio seating of the nearby cafe. He then proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes or so rearranging the chairs. He pushed them all over the place. Then he started getting cold and wanted a drink, so I told him we’d go get some hot chocolate. The Starbucks was only about 100 ft. away, but he walked all the way there. When Christy and the other kids showed up later on, he was raring to go outside walking again. So I bundled him up and we went walking outside while the rest of the kids finished their hot chocolates.

Christy and the older kids all decided to go ice skating again. As they were skating around the rink, he decided he wanted to see the Lego car again that was on display. So we walked down to the end of the courtyard to see it. On the way back, he asked “Can I walk backwards?” I had to have him repeat the question to make sure I actually understood, and as soon as I said yes he turned around and started walking backwards!!! He enjoyed walking backwards so much that he did it several more times.

He reminds me of the scene from Forrest Gump where the old men on the corner say of Forrest, “That boy sure is a runnin’ fool!” Well, we have our own walkin’ fool, and it is a good sight to behold.

A Well-Oiled Machine

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Today was the third day of our annual February weeklong ski vacation, this one at Beaver Creek, and we have had BIG fun! We are staying in a condo a short drive from the slopes, and our routine today worked out like this…

The 3 older kids and I started skiing in the morning, Dave dropped us off just a few feet from the lift and returned to the condo to play with Eragon. We took the first lift from the drop-off point to a second lift which took us to the top of the mountain. The first lift goes up and down over ridges and roads and feels a bit like a roller coaster. On the first steep descent we were all yelling “aaaaaahhhhh!” in mock terror and when we stopped Aramis (who looks amusingly like young Anakin from Episode I) yelled, “Now THIS is pod racing!” That kid couldn’t be funnier if he tried!

We had a blast skiing for a couple of hours. Emma was in the lead because she knows the place better than any of us at this point. She took us on some fun and beautiful runs, and we had a great time doing small jumps, skiing through sparse trees, even tackling a couple of blues. We were headed down to the bottom to ride the roller-coaster lift once more before calling Dave to pick us up when Atticus had a big wipeout in which he bent one of his ski poles. By the time we got to the bottom he wanted to take a break, so we called Dave and he came and picked up Atticus and Aramis. Emma and I decided to stay and ski some more and agreed to meet Dave at 12:30. Once more Emma took the lead and we really had some fun, her skiing fast and doing lots of jumps and trees, and me trying my best to keep up with her. She did get me on one blue that was pretty steep, but in all we just cruised along. Beaver Creek has some neat wooden bridges that you ski over and under, a unique feature in my ski travels so far.

We met Dave at 12:30 and switched places–he took off to ski for a while on his own while I took the kids back to the condo for lunch. We agreed to meet again at 2 pm when Emma would rejoin him for the last runs of the day. When I dropped Emma off again, I told Dave that there would be freshly baked chocolate chip cookies served at the base of one of the lifts at 3 pm, and we agreed that we’d all meet up at around 4 pm for the kids to do some tubing which the resort sets up a couple of times a week. Dave and Emma explored some new areas of the mountain, took advantage of the complimentary cookies, and at the end of the day Dave declared that Emma is a real pro skier now.

The kids loved the tubing, each taking 3 runs, and then we set out to explore the village. We stopped at a Starbucks for the most exorbitantly priced warm drinks we’ve ever had, then Dave showed us a full-sized Lego car he had spotted on his first trip to BC. The village is gorgeous, all soaring stone and wood buildings, filled with trees covered in lights. It is magical. The kids spotted an ice skating rink and asked if we could try it out, so the big kids and I rented skates and started spinning around the rink. Well, not really. Emma has skated a handful of times in her life, mostly when we’ve been on ski trips, and she’s still pretty unsteady. Atticus took to it well, but he fell quite a bit. Aramis mostly pulled himself around the rink along the rail, and I skated around and around to each of them in turn, helping how I could. I’m not much of an ice skater, but I was pretty good on roller skates in Jr. High and I’ve rollerbladed quite a bit since college, so that makes me the most qualified instructor in our family. Despite their lack of proficiency, the kids really enjoyed it and didn’t want to leave, so I expect we’ll return again this week. I mentioned the possibility of taking ice skating lessons when we return home and they were all pretty excited about that idea.

It was a very full and fun day for all of us. Eragon has been spending his time at the condo working on walking, and he’s getting around very well. He has even resumed one of his favorite old games–when I fill up his sippy cup with milk he likes to grab the lid and run away with it and laugh and hide from me. He is doing this now in the condo, and he can get away from me pretty fast! He’s still a little stiff, but he’s doing great. And he’s insisting on walking all by himself as much as he can while we’re out. It’s wonderful to see him mobile again!