Snow Day – Sort Of

snow

I’d made a pretty firm commitment to myself this year to give the kids a chance to play in the snow. More than that, I’d made a pretty firm commitment to them along those lines, and I really wanted to keep it. Too often I know that their expectations are disappointed, and not always because the expectations were unreasonable — when life gets rearranged or I run out to patience/energy/sense of humor, guess who generally gets the short end of the stick?

So when I saw a report that Mt. Hood was finally due to get some snow last week, I thought I’d found my opportunity. I would take advantage of homeschooling to skip the weekend and instead go up on a Monday, and check out the White River West Sno-Park with the kids. The online images showed a lovely slope of snow with a brook running through it, and the web site said it had 25 inches at the end of December. I wished we owned some sort of sled, and reluctantly abandoned ideas of trying to acquire one Monday morning.

It’s a long drive up, but I didn’t become worried until we passed Skibowl (where Dave and I skied occasionally, before kids) and found it completely bare. Not patchy, but pure bare dirt. Just a few miles from the Sno-Park, we were still only seeing traces on the ground. “I’m a little worried that there’s so little snow,” I told the kids, trying to prepare them, and trying frantically to think of a backup plan. Mica was already done with driving; there’s no way we could head back down the mountain without finding something fun to do.

I needn’t have worried. I pulled into the parking lot to discover that it was empty, and for good reason — other than some leftover plow piles around the edges of the lot, and patches under trees, there was no snow. Fortunately I kept my mouth shut, because a moment later I was reminded that my kids’ expectations are not the same as mine. “There’s snow!” they kept saying. “Look over there! There’s more snow!”

So I bit off every comment I wanted to make and instead got people out and bundled. And sure, there was absolutely bare ground in the official Sno-Park area, but in the forest there were still patches of packed and crusty white stuff — sometimes even six or eight inches deep. “Thank you so much for bringing us here!” Ryan said as we headed off into the woods. “Yeah, this is amazing!” said Nathan. “I’m loving it!” Never underestimate the charm of simply being outdoors, especially in unusual circumstances; nor the charm of a happy baby who thinks having her belly pelted with bits of snow is the funniest thing ever. (Her snow suit kept her very warm and cozy, but also didn’t let her move very freely. I felt sometimes like I was carrying around a large sea-green teddy bear.)

It was not at all what I’d envisioned, but it was a good day.

New Things – Violin

violin

Ryan came to me last month and asked if we could get a violin. I’m not entirely certain what piqued his interest — extracting useful and accurate information from him is not always trivial — but I gather it had something to do with a commercial he saw where a guy was playing a violin. And dancing. Maybe.

In any case, it turns out there is a music lesson place near us which has the added bonus of keeping rental violins in stock. Nathan, Ryan and I tried out violins together a couple weeks ago while Mica entertained herself on the floor, and at the end of half an hour, Ryan was still interested. (And me, of course. Nathan wasn’t, but he’s waffling a bit now that he knows his alternative is to spend our half-hour lesson in the lobby. We have him set to try a piano next week.)

The second lesson was also fun and Ryan and I now have rental violins for practicing at home. Will his interest last? I haven’t the faintest idea; I can never tell with these guys. But right now it’s great fun, and I suspect that even a few music lessons represent a win at this age.

Just A Picture

swing

Spring

quince

Today I’m taking the kids to the park. It’s sunny and 60+ degrees out, and even though it’s the middle of February, the park just seems like the right thing to do.

The downside of all this sunshine is that there’s little snow in the mountains, which is expected to have a significant impact on the coming fire season and farming. More immediately and personally, the Village Free School snow tubing expedition has been cancelled, and it’s quite possible that despite all my collecting of snow clothes and scheming, another winter will go by without the boys playing in snow.

OMSI Classes

The Village Free School rents space from OMSI; they are located across the street and no more than half a block down from OMSI’s main entrance. It is therefore no big deal for the Free School to take advantage of the classes that OMSI makes available. Since these tend to be scheduled for roughly the beginning of the school day (i.e., about 10am), I’ve been tagging along on those excursions that Nathan and Ryan have chosen to join in on. So far this year:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Robot: This class involved a “robot” (person in a shiny lab coat) being programmed to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was a fun exercise in how stupid computers can be (the robot, when told to put peanut butter on the bread, would pick up the peanut butter jar and plunk it down on the bag of bread) and touched lightly on a bunch of programming concepts, going as far as loops. The kids had to throw out all the ideas although the staff member helped guide them occasionally.

Fossils: There were a variety of fossils available to play with and inspect, a quick discussion of what fossils are (though less of that than I personally was interested in; then again, I’m not the target audience), and then some hands-on exercises using actual fossilized material. The kids could dig through peat from Southern Oregon looking for fossilized seeds, scrape soft stone off a triceratops bone with dental picks, and drill harder stone away from other bone fragments. I was impressed that all the samples were genuine, if obviously not that crucial to the progress of science.

Paper Circuits: I missed this one, being a bit under the weather, but Nathan went to it. Apparently they used conductive tape, along with LED lights and batteries, to lay out working electrical circuits. Unfortunately Nathan’s ability to generate concise and pertinent descriptions, while better than Ryan’s, was still not up to the task of describing the experience in any more detail. Nor have I yet been able to convince him to bring things like circuits and artwork home with him so we can see them.

In addition to the OMSI classes the kids have walked to a nearby beach on the Willamette River and gone to an art studio called Art A La Carte for some crafting. Coming up this month are such excursions as snow tubing on Mt. Hood and a production of The Jungle Book on stage.

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Learning Curve

sitting

We’ve been parents a while now. It no longer comes as a surprise that babies follow the classic sigmoid curve when learning things. Thus when Mica spent months with no sitting control at all, then finally gained a tiny amount of core stability, and within a week was sitting long enough to allow me to make the boys’ beds, it didn’t surprise me. Sitting is a canonical six-month skill anyway, and she is six months old, so there you have it.

kneeling

I was a little surprised when she simultaneously developed the skill of going from a seated position to her hands and knees and back again, but perhaps I’m just not remembering our previous babies very clearly. I’d thought that tended to be a separate skill… But in any case, babies are all different, and it’s certainly a convenient ability.

This, coming a bare week later, is what surprised me.

crawling

Yes, that is crawling. Actual, intentional crawling, with consistent forward motion, the sort that allows her to throw herself face-first off the bed. (Dave has caught her by the ankle multiple times.) Not fast motion as of yet, but given the above-mentioned learning curve, we expect her to pick up speed rapidly.

This is tremendously exciting to the boys and somewhat exciting to Dave and me as well. Our more lukewarm response is only due to the fact that mobile babies are a bit less convenient than non-mobile ones.

learning

Water Baby, Water Boys

Lately I’ve been dragging the kids to the pool once or twice a month. Ostensibly this is for Mica, and she does love it — when I set her down next to the gentle ramp down into the water (for this particular pool is well designed for little children), and take her hands to let her walk, she charges immediately into the water, making her little excited baby sounds. When she gets too deep I pick up her and float her along on her belly, drifting her gently whichever way she looks, while she kicks and splashes and occasionally tries to taste the water.

pool1

But if I’m completely honest, while I do love getting her into the water, she also functions as a convenient excuse to get the boys into the water. They have no objection to playing in water per se, but it’s infrequent enough in their lives that they haven’t seemed to love it the way I did as a kid. They have developed a fear of putting their faces in the water which I admit I’ve had trouble working around, since I don’t actually remember struggling with that myself. For a while I tried coaxing them to actually do things like blow bubbles; Ryan still hasn’t quite managed it, and Nathan did it once, clearly under duress, and then refused to get into the pool at all the next two times we went.

pool2

But I am still hopeful that repeated exposure might get them past the worst of their disinclination. There’s actually an advantage to me holding Mica — being unable to play much with the boys while I manage her forces them to get creative. Last time we were there Ryan began playing with one of the floating mats, and I noticed that his head got plenty wet without him complaining about it. Nathan, too, finally joined in on it, and for the first time I had to coax them out of the pool, on the grounds that Mica was exhausted and just generally done.

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