Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Dada got her hair cut for only the second time, sitting in the chair like a big girl. All we did was trim her bangs. Her stylist, Brittany, has been cutting our hair since we moved to Austin over 12 years ago.


Gymnastics Class and Helicopters

We've been meaning to get Dada into a gymnastics program for a while, recognizing her strength, fearlessnes, and love of being upside down, but had been waiting for the fall programs to start. Well I finally got it together enough this weekend to go visit a couple of studios near us and arrange trial classes. Last night we went to The Little Gym (a franchise that is ubiquitous) to try their "Super Beast" class for kids between 18 months and three years. The Little Gym specializes in gymnastics for little kids.

Dada loved it. The class is mostly just undirected play on the equipment with some basic "follow the leader" kind of warm up exercises but it was still a lot of fun. They have mats everywhere and parallel bars and balance beams and whatnot. I would have liked a little bit more directed activity but I do understand that these are two-year olds who don't always take direction.

Dada did not want to leave, with cries of "more. More jim-agtics class. More".

On Thursday we will try a class at a more serious gymnastics facility, the Star Center Gymnastics and Dance studio and see how it compares to The Little Gym and then make a decision about which one to use. Julie seems to be a little concerned about the cheerleading activities at Star Center, but I say we can't protect our child from such things forever so we might as well address it head on. I think I have this fantasy that the instructors there will immediately recognize Dada as a prodigy and accellerate her training. This despite the fact that I know that Dada will be too big to ever actually compete as a gymnast. This is just about helping her develop her general physical abilities and confidence. [But at the class last night she did demonstrate the ability to kick a ball hard and straight so maybe there's a future in soccer....]

I'm working really hard not to be one of those "we got us one a' them genius Chinese babies" parents but I'm really starting to wonder. Remember that Dada is just over 2 1/2 years old. According to the What to Expect Toddler Years your child "may even be able to build a tower of 7 blocks". Given that, here's what happened on Saturday when Dada and I were playing with her legos (Duplos, which are halfway between the giant toddler legos and the regular legos):

At her request I had made her a helicopter, which consisted of a straight body with a stack of two blocks that then had four flat blocks representing the rotors. I had not bothered to do anything to represent the tail rotor. Dada looked at it and said "it needs a tail", grabbed a square block and deftly put it at the end of the body where the tail rotor would go. I sat there on the floor in rather stunned amazement as I realized that this indicated not only a clear ability to abstract from individual helicopters to the idea of helicopters to a stylized representation of them but the ability to then conceptualize and execute on that stylization (within the limits of her manual dexterity, which is sufficient to add a block to a complex lego structure). I can't help but come to the conclusion that the child is advanced.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sandbox and Slumlords

Here is a picture of Dada in her sandbox, newly relocated from our old house to the new house in anticipation of renting the old house, which we've done. We are now officially slumlords, having secured a tenant. I was able to find a property manager who was in turn able to manage getting the old house repainted, cleaned up, fixed up, and recarpeted and found a tenant all within about two weeks. The lease officially started Monday.

CIMG3894We won't be making money off the rent but we'll be losing less than we would have if we had sold it and had had to pay the commisions to the realestate agents. We're betting that either we'll be able to raise the rent to cover the costs, refinance to lower our cash outflow, or sell it in a year or so at enough of a profit to recoup our investment. We'll see. But at least we've staunched the flow. And it means we don't have to worry about the old house any more. It was really hard for me to move the last few things out--I guess I didn't quite want to let go.

It's been pretty busy--we've started going to the pool almost every day, which is pretty tiring but Dada really enjoys it and it's one of the few things we can do outside in this heat.

Last night we ended up not going to the pool until after dinner and Dada and I happened to be coming home via Congress avenue about 7:30 only to discover that the bats were emerging from the bridge in huge numbers. Normally the bats don't emerge until closer to sundown, but I guess because it's been so hot and dry, they are coming out earlier and in a bigger rush. We drove up and back a couple of times, slowing down to watch, and then at Dada's insistence we stopped and went up on the bridge to finish watching. [Note: this picture was taken by Flickr user HiWattAmp, not by me.]

CIMG3909Tonight we went to the pool earlier but Dada fell asleep on the way (she hadn't had a nap) and we ended up napping in the car at the pool until 6:30. About 7:00 Dada said "I go see bats, Daddy. Go see bats", so we swung back by the house and picked up Julie (who had stayed home to have a little adult conversation with Jay and Kay). We got to the bat viewing area at about 7:25. There was no sign of bat activity (usually they circle around by the bridge for a good 10 minutes or more before they fly off to wherever they fly off to). At 7:35 it was like somebody threw a switch and the bats erupted out of the bridge. By 7:45 the first wave was out and there were just a few bats flying. By that time we had gone up on the bridge to watch. By 8:00, as we were leaving, the second wave was emerging.

We'll probably go back again tommorrow.

CIMG3922The chickens continue to thrive and to roost on the porch. The other night we found them perching on the clothesline, which stretches across the back porch. You don't usually think of chickens as birds that perch on thin wires, but they were doing it.

And I finally finished up the landscape timber border around the playscape. Peggy visited over the weekend which made it possible for me to do some projects that I otherwise can't do because I'm busy watching Dada or because Dada is asleep. Now all I have to do is move the rest of the gravel...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Dada Picture of the Week

Originally uploaded by drmacro.
Turns out there was a recent picture of Data. Here she is in a box full of styrofoam peanuts that had held a doll sent by Aunt Catherine. Of course the box held more immediate interest....

Chicken update

The chickens continue to thrive. We're still giving them the run of the yard as we haven't had time, energy, or opportunity to build a more complete chicken enclosure and I really like having them running about (although they have now ventured as far as beyond the fence on the far side of our next door neighbors (there's no fence between us and them). Our neighbor across the creek who also had chickens moved out and took her chickens, so now we don't have those chickens as decoys for varmints going down the creek. We kind of miss the (distant) rooster crows as well. So we're still a little worried about predators.

They were roosting under the pew on the back porch so I made a little more formal setup for them using boxes and put down some bedding but apparently it didn't suit because last night they roosted on the back of the pew all night. Here they are starting their day:

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Day in the Life

Part of our bedtime ritual with Dada is reviewing the events of the day (sandwiched between stories and songs). It occured to me that it might be interesting, or at least blogish, to recount a typical summer Sunday.

Let's see, what did we do today? We got up and had some breakfast and Daddy made bacon and eggs for breakfast. Then we took the dogs to the dog park [as we do every Sunday]. At the dog park we saw Grace [another girl from China] and her mom but Grace wasn't feeling very well. "Grace crying" (or "cry-ning" as Dada says). Grace let you look at her book about princeses [total gender role propaganda of the worst sort]. Then we went home and Daddy ran an errand and you and Mommy read books and watched a little Chicken Run and had some lunch and then it was Quiet Time. We had a nice quiet time and then it was time to go to the pool and Auntie Joanna came over and we went to the pool but it was starting to rain when we got there and we couldn't go in the pool. That was sad because you wanted to go in the pool ("I go in pool, Daddy, I go in pool."). So we came home and Mommy went and got pizza and we played and then Joanna went home and and we watched Simpsons. Then we went outside and watched the chickens for a little while and then it was Bath Night. We had a bath and then it was time for Tooth Brushing and Vitamins and then it was time for Stories.

That pretty much sums it up. Some days we go shopping or to the Children's Museum (Monday is toddler day). Any day we can this time of year we go to the pool, either Deep Eddy (our favorite) or the East Side Y where they have the big slide. Dada really likes the pool.

What else is happening with Dada? She just went through a growth spurt, as indicated by the slight crankiness, the voracious appetite, and the extra sleep. She grew at least 3/4 inch from the end of June to now. Her toilet learning is coming along well--fewer accidents and demonstrated ability to hold it long enough to get to a toilet, even if Mommy has to go to three different stores before she finds one that works.

She's demonstrating remarkable Lego skills, able to build multiple towers with identical color patterns and block arrangements, using both the big toddler Legos and the medium-sized Duplos. Today she demonstrated that she can draw recognizable faces consisting of dots for eyes and straight lines for mouth, hair, and ears. Full mastery of her color names (underwear color seems to be a particular focus). She knows which way her shoes go (left from right) although I'm not 100% sure she actually understands the terms "left" and "right", but I think she does. She can put on her sandals, including putting the little velcro strap through the little buckle. She makes "airplanes" out of anything (three plastic knives, for example). She is facinated by tools and loves to use her scissors. She desperately wants to touch a chicken (but they tend to just peck at her outstretched hand). She loves to slide down the slide on her playscape. She also likes to play on the as-yet-still-unmoved pile of gravel at the front of the house (now about 8 tons down from 16 originally delivered). She likes spicy stuff (at lunch the other day she was pouring some medium spicy hotsauce onto her plate and licking it off her fingers). She picks up new vocabulary very quickly and has an amazing memory for small things, like what Julie and Uncle Jay were going to get at the Farmer's Market ("Eggs, tomatos, and bacon"). So it's clear that she pays close attention to whats' going on around her. She seems to be genuinely empathetic and able to correctly read the emotional states of others. We like to play at making different emotional faces in the mirror. She has a great mad face. She's starting to be able to sing songs more accurately and completely. She is not interested in wearing dresses (although she did wear a skirt the other day) but loves to pretend she is wearing a sarong ("like Daddy's"). She loves to read books and has started trying to "read" to us (she did that tonight at bed time, reading Goodnight Moon to us, which would have been really cute except that we were both really really tired and just wanted to get the damn books read already so we could move on to songs and get the child in bed). She's still a two-year-old and does her share of acting out when she's not getting full attention and still has poor impulse control but she does seem to be gaining a truer understanding of what is and isn't acceptable and appropriate. We've worked really hard on setting firm and consistent rules and consequences and we're starting to be a bit less forgiving when she does stuff that we know she knows is wrong. And mostly she is just an angel--she wakes up beaming and usually goes to bed happy and is mostly happy and charming for all the time inbetween. We thank our lucky stars every day because we know just how fortunate we are to have such an easy-going child.

Solar Update

As of today, two months after the solar system was turned on, we have collected about 1030 kilowatt hours of electricity from the sun (that is energy measured by the A/C meter from the solar system to the house). This is just about the amount of power that the average home in Austin consumes. It represents about 1/3 of what we've used these last two months, which were also above average hot. The city's meter shows we've only sold back about 67 kWh so that means we've used most of what we collected to run the house, which mostly means to run the A/C, which is really the main goal: to offest the heaviest draw during peak usage hours. So the far the house itself has performed very well. We keep the A/C set at between 78 and 80 upstairs and down but the house always feels cool and comfortable, even on these 100+ degree days. Our bills are comparable to what we paid at our old house even though we have more than twice as much space to cool. Our only real issue is humidity (because the A/C doesn't run enough to pull the humidity down very much), so we run a dehumidifier in the hall. I'm really curious to see how we do during the fall and spring when we will need very little cooling but the solar panels will be running at close to peak efficiency (they are most efficient when they are at about 75 degrees F, so they should collect more power than they do during the summer).