Saturday, August 05, 2006

Heck – I see that it has been almost 6 months since I managed an update. I think I had one going more recently but perhaps lost it… no matter! The kids and I are well into our summer break. Aidan was out of school June 15 or so and Quincy finished up just after 4th July – and we took a 12 day trip to Idaho in between. Aidan did a couple of drop-in days at the preschool. Both kids seem to find that acceptable and it is somewhat cheap babysitting ($20 for 3 – 4 hrs). They mostly just played with each other on those days from what I could tell. Not a surprise but a bit disappointing somehow. I imagined we would set up a lot of playdates to get thru the summer. Not at all the case as it turns out. The 3 of us have had no problems living in our own little world. The kids mostly play really well together when they aren’t otherwise stressed (over booked with school and activities or on a trip say). Pete has been commuting off to Houston most weeks – off on the “red-eye” Sunday and back late Thursday. The kids have structured activities Tues/Thurs – karate usually at 10.30 (they are in the same “Little Ninjas” class for now) and Quincy has speech at 2. I signed them up for a 2 week swim session in July – every day Mon – Thurs for 2 weeks for 1/2 hr each day. Aidan was promoted to Minnow (he gets to add breaststroke to his repertoire) and Quincy FINALLY made it out of Pike (beginner class) to Eel. That means at long last he was willing to put his head under water. We started classes last July as I recall. We haven’t done them continuously, but it took Aidan about 2 months to get going and Quincy 9 or 10 months. We took a 2 week break then I have them currently in the middle of another 2 week session. Aidan was sometimes in tears in the last session but has been a pretty happy camper this time out. Last time his teacher mostly just had them doing laps in the big pool – esp of freestyle, his least favorite stroke. This session he has had 3 classes by himself and only 1 with one other kid – last session he was the youngest (by far) and the 2nd smallest (by far). This session has been all about technique and hardly any laps. He is quite liking it. Quincy on the other hand has had an amazing change. We took Pete to the pool yesterday for some “swimming for fun”. He couldn’t believe this was the same boy he had seen just a week or so before. Quincy has now decided that hanging out underwater is way more fun than being above the surface. He spends most of the class with his head underwater when he is just supposed to be hanging out of the steps waiting his turn with the teacher. He has also figured out how to actually propel himself forward in the water – ie swim! He doesn’t know how to pop up for breathing yet, but with a little help that will come I am sure. This week both kids were frantic to go “swim for fun” in addition to their lessons. We managed to go twice on swimming days and also on Friday. Quincy now LOVES picking up the rings from the bottom of the pool (how it started for Aidan too) and he also started swimming under my legs and can even turn somersaults in the water! Aidan has mastered front and back rolls including tucked and open back ones. Seeing Quincy all of a sudden (so it seems) completely comfortable in / under water just amazes us. I would not be surprised if he gets approved to move up a class after this session – although I could also see them wanting him to take it one more time as the pre-req for next classes is true swimming (albeit short distances).

Karate has been interesting. Aidan seems to have a real aptitude for it – somewhat to my surprise. He is very coordinated and has excelled in all the sports activities he has undertaken, but he is a bit sloppy in Acrosports (gym) classes as to body position etc. Karate is all about precise body position. Turns out he can be really precise when he wants to be. Karate is very expensive IMO esp as you have to by the “uniform” etc and also sign up for a certain # months ahead of time (with decreasing per month cost of course to suck you in). The Little Ninjas is set up on an 8 wk rotation. Each week is a different theme – so far they did Control, Balance, Memory, Discipline. Guess that means they have done 4 weeks. The professor (sir!) started them off with a combination of running, lion push ups, and cat sit ups (who knew 4 yr olds could do push ups?!). Then a brief time of sitting “Japanese style” (on their heels) with eyes closed “meditating” then usually some discussion about the theme. Somehow Discipline translated into personal hygiene and diet – fish and chicken are good for you, meat only once a week at best… Then some more fun or karate related stuff or games, then a closing where they are back sitting Japanese style and the teacher hands out stickers for their belt (one for each theme) and “merit badges”. Now I have pretty mixed feelings about these merit badges. They are little rectangles that say things like memory, balance, fitness, best job on them. Both kids got a “control” one both classes 1st week (I didn’t manage to sew them onto their uniform right away so the teacher didn’t realize they already had one). The 2nd week the kids were both in afternoon classes as they had zoo camp in the morning (well Aidan did anyway) and the afternoon class is over 20 kids (and 2 or 3 instructors) vs the morning class which has been 5 to 8 kids. The age range is 4 – 6 I think. Aidan has gotten a merit badge EVERY SINGLE class. He is old, he is well behaved, he listens and he tries. Quincy did not get a badge the 2nd week. He was really sad at first and I asked the professor to talk to him about it. IMO it just isn’t fair to Q to be up against his brother in this regard. He obviously won’t be as good at balance exercises. He won’t have as good a memory. That said, he has started to collect badges again in the morning class (whose instructor seems much more liberal in his distribution). I also have to sew the darned things on all the time. Not my favorite thing. Quincy actually yawns during class. I think he finds it a bit boring. We are committed for 3 months after which I suspect I’ll let him drop it. We prefer the gym class for him (and his teacher just told Pete last week that he should go into the Tumblestar class – for kids who excel – his brother is in it now – Quincy actually doesn’t make the 5 yr age requirement). Aidan is really ready to move into the “real” karate classes IMO. The guy said he should do the 8 wks of Little Ninjas then move on so that is what we’ll do. Aidan goes to a Japanese focused school and several of his classmates have been practicing karate including his 2 best friends who are perhaps yellow and orange belts (the 2 belts that come after starter white belt that my kids have).

Aidan requested Acrosports for the summer. That unfortunately didn’t last long after I got him in the class. His class is 1 ½ hrs long compared to his brother’s 1 hr. He has also (loudly) stated (or whined) that he doesn’t like all the running (or exercise) in the beginning followed by the stretching. Ditto for the running/sit-ups/push-ups in karate (although that is for a much shorter time period). I have been trying to tell him how good it is for his body… I do have to say tho that his class is not as fun seeming as Quincy’s – much longer periods of just drilling on one skill. Today they did handstands, backbends, and some forward roll work. For about an hour. He has actually gone in in tears a couple of times – although once in the class he seems to do fine and actually smiles… He did Tumblestar a year ago and that class seemed a bit more fun – more running around. It seems to depend on the teacher and the kids in each class I guess.

Both kids are signed up on soccer teams in the fall. Quincy did a bit of a soccer class in the spring and mostly enjoyed it especially “making goals”. Aidan was also on a team in the spring although between rain outs and our trip to San Diego he didn’t get much playing in. It is called SF United and was the team that most of his Eureka class had been on in the fall. We had had to form our own team “Dribbling Dragons” with Aidan and Ava from his class – and then a bunch of kids from Q’s school (mostly who had just started kindergarten). Funny enough Aidan and Ava were the only 2 from the Eureka bunch to want to play in the spring other than the twins whose mom formed the team and another pair of twins from our team joined too. In the fall yet another of our old team Erica will be joining them and her brother will play on Q’s team (instead of poorly playing on the older team like last fall). Of course we may well have conflicting games and they are held across the city from one another. I am working with Nina (Erica and Cy’s mom) to arrange swapping of kids and carpools should we need it. So games will happen sometime between 9 and 4 on Saturdays and they will each have a practice TBD on another day. Karate will be twice a week for 40 or 50 minutes and the kids will have back to back classes starting late September. Quincy has made great strides with his speech but still needs to continue on with that for a while – although I have asked the clinic if we can consider cutting back to once a week. I am not thinking that continuing with swimming would be really good – I did promise them (mainly Aidan) that they could take a break, but they forget so fast! Quincy would like to continue he has told me. Swimming is scheduled either twice a week after school or once a week on Sat. mornings. Quincy enjoys Acrosports and I know would be happy to continue, but I just got the schedule and don’t think any classes will work very well for us so a break from that is probably in order – something has to give! Quincy will be starting full days at school – 9 – 3 and Aidan goes 9.30 – 3.20. We don’t end up with much afternoon for free time. At least we don’t have to get up early and they usually have time to play a little.

Quincy just started with an allowance – to some extent at Aidan’s urging “wouldn’t you like to have an allowance so that you can buy things?” Of course what he didn’t know is that I generally bought him stuff that was worth about what Aidan got. If Aidan saved up and bought a Lego knight – well Quincy got one too… Aidan saved up $55 or $60 (at $3 a week) and had planned on buying a Playmobil airport with it, but instead bought 2 other toys – one had a Rescue boat and a Raft and the other had a Rescue Helicopter and Raft. The kids have had great fun playing with them in the tub. The boat actually has a working pump to shoot water. We also now have 3 working propeller motors to go on various vehicles (Q already had a police boat). And they still aren’t satisfied… Q wants a gardening set up (which I totally don’t get) and really really wants a construction crane – which he has wanted for a very long time. It retails at $82 in our local store (yikes!) or about $60 on-line (still yikes but better). The kids get half their age in allowance per week. I also started a sticker chart for extra $. Aidan was getting 25 cents (one sticker) for reading a book. He started reading around his 6th birthday – back in October. I have collected a variety of books for him. He actually can read just about anything now – although he tells me “I don’t know how to read”. He gets intimidated if there are too many words on the page. I had to change the reward system to more of a time based one – 15 to 20 min of reading to me. Some of the books he can now be done with in just 3 minutes or so. Quincy since getting an allowance decided that he too should get stickers for “reading”. So he comes in and “reads” Brown Bear, Brown Bear to me. Cute but not really equitable. So now I have incentive for him to actually practice speech with me (he was getting pretty resistant to any work at home). I am really pleased at Aidan’s reading abilities now. He did make the observation this week “it’s easier to read than to spell things right”. So true with this crazy language of ours. Lots of memorization ahead kiddo.

Quincy is such a nice easy lovable kid. Never any problems going to his various classes – except sometimes if he is deep in playing mode and doesn’t want to leave. You ask him to do something – say clean up. Aidan will throw a very dramatic fit. Q will just get started. Of course in clean up mode he is exasperatingly slow – he has to drive all the toys, or ferry them along using some container, then line them up, then put them somewhere one by one. Of course along the way he forgets that clean up was the end goal… He is still full of kisses. While waiting for Aidan to finish up today at the gym he kissed my arm up and down several time. Very very cuddly kid.

Last week the kids were both frantic to ride bikes (and they got in an hour of that today). Aidan moved up to his biggest bike. Pete bought it for him on Craigslist last year but we then realized it was really too big for him. Quincy could easily move up to his bike but we will probably wait a bit – perhaps see if he looses the training wheels first. I know that having a really small bike was advantageous in learning to ride w/out training wheels for A. Aidan has also gotten really fast on his razor scooter. He hasn’t crashed yet but he has gotten just a bit out of control a few times. A crash seems likely in the near future. A is a baby over anything involving blood too. Tiny scrapes have him very concerned. He managed to open a door over Q’s toe this week – breaking back part of the nail although it is still clinging on on one side. Blood gushing out. Then oozing. Q was a total trooper tho after the initial pain. Let me wash it. Later on let me put antibiotic goop and bandage. Didn’t think twice about going in the pool with it. It still doesn’t look great and he says it hurts if you touch it but he completely ignores it otherwise. Aidan would still be obsessing over it and would not have been willing to go in the pool.

While Pete has been out of town the kids and I have enjoyed watching “Reading Rainbow” over dinner. I really like the shows. Each one has some story that is read that becomes the theme for the show. We have learned a lot of different things from how signs are made, to shells and creatures on Florida shores, to how a book is made, to various animals. Near the end 3 additional books are “reviewed” by children. I can tell how much they like the show by how many books Quincy asks “can we get that one?” at he library. We have started heading down to the main public library on the muni train every other week or so. Quincy ended up with some books he just fell in love with (I may have to add them to our personal library) and I finally returned them (w/out his permission) after a couple months… There was one show about airplanes that turned us onto some great plane books – and we found some great train books alongside (Q is still nutty about trains – he and A talk about when he is a train engineer when he grows up).

We had a great time on our vacation to Idaho. Pete drove the trip and did all the arrangements and all the research into activities. Uncle Chuck and granddad Pop joined us. They are both very easy and fun travel companions. As Pete said Idaho “exceeds expectations”. I think both Pete and I were somewhat evaluating whether or not we’d like to live there (not sure why – we are always just trying to figure out where to go after SF – and his job is a bit uncertain at present). Boise surprised me with how cosmopolitan the dining establishments seemed – and how many there were. We had a great Tapas meal 1st nite at Estrella. We’d have happy gone back except on our return back thru it was closed for the holiday. We loved Maggie Moos ice creamery. There was another restaurant whose name escapes me that had very nice food at in Boise. Everyone except the kids and I flew out early on July 5th. We had an afternoon flight. We had breakfast at Goldy’s. It was one of the best breakfasts I have eaten. It had the prettiest (and really tasty) fruit cup I have ever had. There was the largest variety of fruit I think I had ever had in a cup before and the apples were thinly sliced and fanned out like wings or something. So pretty and so yummy. And I recall it costing around $3 if that. My mocha or hot chocolate came with the drizzle of chocolate syrup then hand swirled into a pretty pattern. Aidan’s waffles were “malted” (grains are toasted before being ground into the mix). Scrumptious. Q had a kids meal I remember being very impressed by. The meals outside the city were fine but not particularly memorable. We rented places we could cook our own meal for many of the nights. We had a very large “cabin” near McCall – it could sleep 22! Had 2 refrigerators, 2 dishwashers, 2 washing machines etc. Had foozball, ping pong and pool tables. Had a cabinet that contained a couple of puzzles we did plus some kids books and even some wooden trains and tracks to amuse Quincy! We saw a fox out the window one eve and deer pretty much every day. We really enjoyed touring the McCall Smokejumpers headquarters. We even got to go on one of their planes. One of the smoke jumpers take you around and shows you their gear, where they test & fix their parachutes etc. Not a job I would ever ever want! Remarkable people who do the job. We took a class 2 & 3 white water raft trip. Quincy was NOT happy about it. The waves were really big and we did get a LOT of water flying overboard, but no one went over board who didn’t want to. The temp in Boise was mid-90s and up during the day (although the late afternoon thunder storms really cooled it off!). Rafting was probably around 90 too but the water was snow melt and really chilly. Q & A both had waterproof jackets that they provided. Seemed almost silly when we got them but the kids really needed them – Q def got cold. The grown ups and Aidan all loved the ride. It was the 6 of us plus the guide. Highly recommend it! We had a train ride along the river. It was an old steam train, the scenery was delightful, and we had a staged hold-up to boot. A fun way to spend an afternoon. Pete made a long trek back along the tracks to find Aidan’s new Phillies hat (complements of Uncle Chuck) that had blown off a few miles before the end of the line. It was HOT and he didn’t have any water. We weren’t sure how he was going to make out. But we saw him an hour or 2 later, hat in hand, ready for some serious thirst quenching. We tried out the lake at McCall from a little beach at a state park. Nice but cold, and also a beach from downtown. (Still cold). We then headed off to Stanley. Chuck and I rated it the best stop. The Sawtooth mountains were right there – and still had a lot of snow on them to make a tremendous back drop. We stayed in a cabin – really a cabin – tiny this time – on a working farm. The size difference set us back at first but we did really like the cabin and esp the grounds at the Arrow A Ranch. We checked out a couple of different lakes. At Redfish Lake we rented a 10 horsepower put-put boat and Chuck and I split a 2 man kayak. Chuck dumped it when climbing in off the dock so he walked the boat over to the beach and we tried again. I hadn’t put on my suit so I didn’t really want to get dunked. Stanley was also by far the coolest place on the trip – really delightful with highs perhaps closing in on 80. We all had fun in our respective vehicles. We also rented a raft and an inflatable kayak to float down the river in Stanley. We had a very nice time – it was pretty calm but fast moving. The kids got turns in the kayak and Chuck was kind enough to let Pete and me take turns as well. We drove thru Sun Valley and Ketchum. I had hoped we would spend a night there during the planning phase but Pete said he couldn’t come up with any good lodging for our group. Sun Valley was clearly a one resort town. Nice but glad we didn’t stay there. No scenery particularly either. Ketchum cozied up against a ski mountain – but no snow so not nearly as pretty as Stanley IMO. Was fine about Pete’s decision to just have dinner there. We ended up back in Boise after some really pretty scenery on the drive. We managed to fit in another float ride down the river that runs thru town. They had only just opened the river to floats since it was running so high. It was a mob scene and we were lucky to get a raft. It was almost bumper cars out there and there were a few decent sized wave areas to float thru. There were a lot of people in inner tubes. I can NOT imagine. Way too cold!! We got on river at about 2 on a day that was close to 100 degrees but then it clouded over and that water was COLD. A thunderstorm did roll in but was kind enough to wait until we were off the river. It really cooled things off and the rain didn’t really quite end. Too bad as it was the 4th. They hold their parade around 6.30 in the eve. a few blocks from our very nicely situated hotel downtown. We stood under an awning and avoided most of the rain. The parade was mostly vehicles – very few marching band (we saw one – bagpipers). It was fun. There was a lot of hanging out of candy, cookies, popsicles… and at the end of the parade were several water squirting type vehicles. Kids lined the way armed with such things as supersoakers – they were way overmatched! Fortunately the trucks only squirted on people who wanted it. We had a bit of trouble finding an open restaurant afterwards but a packed PF Changs worked out well for our last dinner. While in Boise we also took in the old Penitentiary which was enlivened with a pretty good tour – we were the only ones in the group which was nice. Our first day in Boise (before Chuck arrived) we took a ride on one of those little pretend trains. It was actually pretty good for orientation around the town and some historical background. Apparently most of the original homes along the main street were heated by the thermal springs. We tried out a few hot springs in Stanley. This area is on top of a major hot spot – it is essentially right next to Yellow Stone. We also did a little paddle boat ride in the park. Quincy is desperate to ride every type of convenience he can find. All in all a very good trip.

I thought I was done (didn't you hope?!) but realized I forgot to add that among his many pursuits Aidan tried T-ball this spring. He was easily (IMO) the best player on his team (altho his hitting got more tentative as it went on - I think he would have done much better without a T). He could catch and throw. He realized after a few weeks that it was BORING. Altho he wasn't able to tell me why he didn't like it of course. Way too much standing around in that game. I think we can cross it off for next year. The one nice thing about both basketball and T-ball was that they were with teams that for the most part was comprised of the kids from the other kindergarten class - so he definitely will know almost all kids in his 1st grade class from the beginning.

I forgot to mention one of my favorite things about Boise - the cottonwood trees. Boise (french for trees - apparently only 2 varieties were native and both at the river's edge - but boy were those trappers thankful to see them! Boise has planted a heck of alot of trees and wants to be known as the city of trees - perhaps a bit wishful thinking). What was great about them (a species I was not particularly familiar with) was that the "cotton" blossoms or seed thing or whatever continually gently drifted down with the wind, resembling nothing so much as snow. A very relaxing image on a 100 degree day.

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