Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sunny Day at the Dog Park

Last Sunday the sun came out after many tedious days of cold and wet so we all went to the dog park. I took the camera and snapped away. Here are a few choice shots from that session:
Julie had succeeded in getting Dada to let Juile braid her hair:

Icy Fun

Last week we had a winter blast, reported on earlier. Here at last are some pictures of Dada playing in the "snow" (which by this point was really a thin crust of ice on everything. This was the first time Dada had seen snow since we left Beijing almost two years ago.

Here's another cute one:


There are a number of Dada pictures that need to be blogged but this morning when I went out to feed the chickens I discovered that the mystery trash tree just behind our back fence was full to brimming with cedar waxwings in town to feast on berries. So I rushed back inside to grab my fancy new camera and see what it could do by way of nature photography.

Turns out it did pretty well, even with the basic lens. This picture, and the other three on Flickr are all cropped out of the full shots. The pictures are remarkably sharp even though the lighting conditions were poor (it's grey and overcast this morning).

I got these shots by using Dada's playscape as a blind and a camera rest, which worked pretty well. I tried the flash but the results were too washed out. What I couldn't capture was the noise of the birds and the whoosh when they all left the tree at once.

Here's another, more dynamic shot:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Real 'Puter Daddy?

I have finally put together a computer just for Dada. She had started using our laptops to practice spelling words and it seemed like she was ready to learn how to use a mouse. I had given her an old dead laptop to play with but she was disappointed that it was only a pretend 'puter. When I started putting the real one together she was very earnestly confirming that "it's a real 'puter, Daddy? A real 'puter?"

As it happened I was able to take home an old desktop PC from work last week (we were moving our offices to new space and cleaning out all the old, dead, redundant, and obsolete hardware lying about). It wouldn't turn on but I was able to restore it to operation by scavenging parts from another old desktop I had lying about.

I set it up with the open-source Edubuntu operating system, which is a distribution of Linux specifically configured for educational use. It comes with a number of educational games and applications appropriate for very young children, including a paint program that Dada can also use to practice spelling words.

It was incredibly easy to set up--once I got the hardware working, I just downloaded the Edubuntu playable CD image, burned it to a disk, and booted from it. From there I chose the "install" option and it installed itself with minimal input from me. Everything just worked (which used to be a big problem with Linux).

Dada really enjoys it, and while she's still not completely able to control the mouse (one of my colleagues suggested getting a track ball) she's getting better every day. She spends a lot of time "drawing" with the paint program and typing letters. There's also a little keyboard trainer where letters fall down the screen and you have to type them before they hit the bottom--she seems to like that one too.

As you can see I've set it up in the livingroom so we can monitor her usage and help her as needed. The only real problem is that the fans on the computer make a lot of noise but I'm too cheap to actually spend the money needed to build a quiet PC.

The machine is connected to the network but we don't think Dada's quite yet ready for her own email address, but it won't be long now, I shouldn't think.


We have so far survived the arctic blast of winter weather with nothing worse than a severe case of cabin fever. Here is a picture of Julie and Dada inspecting the ice. Dada has so far refused to wear pants at any time (although she is wearing a little blanket as a sarong).

Yesterday we had a little flury of real snow that then turned to sleet and freezing rain. Today all the flyovers and overpasses are closed and we haven't even considered leaving the house.

We (by which I mean Julie) have been baking lots of things (muffins, scones, biscuits) and hanging out with our neighbors who are equally cabin feverish.

The chickens seem to be coping OK--we've put up extra wind blocks on their coop and chicken house.

The weather should warm up above freezing some time today and everything should be back to normal by tomorrow (Thursday).

I have posted a number of pictures of the various ice formations and "snow" on the ground on Flickr.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hard Rain Gonna Fall

We've been hit by the strong weather system that is moving across the Midwest. It has dumped over 6" of rain since about midnight (13 Jan 2007). This picture is of Little Bouldin Creek, the creek that runs behind our house. This view is looking upstream from Cumberland, which is just downstream of our house. Our house is on the left (high) side of the creek. Normally the creek has at most a trickle.

There is no danger of us flooding (the houses on the other side would all have to be under about 4 feet of water before we would be in any danger) but this is as high as we've seen the creek since we bought the property a couple of years ago.

IMG0031This picture is the downstream side of the culverts under Cumberland.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Now We Are Three

Dada turned three years old this last Friday, celebrating quietly at home with her parents, opening a few presents and playing with her new toys (some Legos, a Brio train, a top that hums, a vintage all-metal Tonka toy, magnetic building toy). Full photo spread on Flickr (friends and family only).

On Saturday we threw a proper birthday party with a couple of friends (Haley Jane and Jane). The girls had a great time, although none of them actually ate the cake, which was a little disappointing given that we had formulated it specifically to appeal to Dada's love of chocolate. Oh well. The adults had a nice time talking and eating pizza (the take-and-bake pizzas from Costco are remarkably good) and cake and ice cream (which Julie had made using her new ice cream maker attachment for her mixer) and watching the girls run around like crazy. Full photo record on Flickr (friends and family only).

The party ended about 6:00 and everyone got a gift bag, in which we had impulsively included candy necklaces that we'd had lying about. We had just settled down to watch a couple of cartoons when Macie, the granddaughter of some of our neighbors, came by with her Grandmother. We invited them in and offered cake (which Macie didn't eat either, although she had just had her dinner). She and Dada played more. Dada had also received a gift bag and decided she wanted to eat all of her candy necklace Right Now, so she cut the string and put all the candy beads in a bowl and then ate them with all dispatch. Dada and Macie then did more running around like fiends for about an hour. Dada also pestered Macie to share more of her candy necklace, about which Macie was remarkably generous. We tried to explain that Macie was under no obligation to share but Dada was clearly in the grip of a serious sugar jones and was not really listening.

Finally our guests went home and we were able to get Dada calmed down enough to prepare for bed, where Dada went out like a light once we finally got her into her bed and the requisite three stories read and three songs sung.

Here is the roundup of developmental milestones:
  • As of 29 Dec 2006 Dada measured approximately 36 1/4 inches
  • She can build things out of regular legos
  • She can spell her name and write more or less recognizable Ds, As, Ms, and Os and almost Ys (she is still confusing T and Y)
  • She knows all her colors
  • She has started asking "Do you remember {person's name}?" as though she was introducing you to someone you may have met in the past (although she hasn't gotten the "not used for people you obviously know well" subtlety).
  • She can tie an overhand knot