I can only take so much

30 11 2006

I have always considered myself a patient man. I realize the virtue in waiting for things.  I also believe I am quite understanding of others as I try to put myself in others shoes when others are doing things that are odd to me. However, only two people have I ever met have pushed me beyond all reason. The first was my first college roommate. He was a weird guy; an only child that was balding at 19, and had a couple of rich parents almost dump his off at school 2000 miles from home. They came to visit, but I only saw them once (expected, I suppose).  This guy would turn on this heavy death grind metal while I was 1) watching TV 2) trying to study 3) trying to sleep.  Needless to say, I moved out of that room at the end of the semester and roomed with the best roomate I ever had…but that’s another blog post.

The second person to have ever pushed my buttons beyond all reason is my daughter, Annabelle. Tonite, in combination with her sister, Eliana, their crying almost lead me to a breakdown. I guess it didn’t help that I spent about 3 and a half hours driving today.  I wasn’t in a bad mood when I got home, just a little warn out. After a semi-peaceful dinner, the kids just let me have it.  Almost instantly, Annabelle started crying because she was sleepy.  Then Eliana was not listening to her mother, and had to be sent to bed early. This involved more crying.  It got to the point where I was carrying both Eliana and Annabelle upstairs myself.  Two crying kids, one in each arm, both screaming their heads off because … well, I’m still not sure why. Annabelle always crys when she’s sleepy, but today, she would not stop. Eliana was just having a bad day (I guess she can’t be the perfect 2 year old everyday), and just needed to be reminded who was in charge.  Each reminder is answered with more crying.

This went on for a few minutes, but when I made it to the top of the stairs, both children were put in their beds (or crib) and I left them there to cry it out for a while.  I didn’t want to let their crying push me totally overboard and do something I would later regret.  After about 20 minutes, they were still crying. After I had a few minutes to cool off, and get a break from the crying, I went and tried to get Annabelle to sleep again.  She did, after some more crying. Eliana, well, eventually, we got her pajamas on, and got her ready for bed. She stayed with her mom for a bit before getting to bed.

After nearly 3 years of parenting, I think the only thing that I really cannot take is the crying. It drives me crazy; as I’m sure it drives everyone crazy.  I mentioned I always feel I am quite understanding, and I try to be with our children’s crying.  When Eliana was a newborn, I hated that she cried, but I knew that was her only means of communication. After I took care of her problem, she quieted down rather quickly, and we went on with our merry life.  But, Annabelle’s crying seems to be almost a habit. It’s tough to take, especially after a year of constant torture. I long for the days when both can sleep on their own, by themselves in their own room so we can have a little peace and quiet at least at night.

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29 11 2006

Annabelle is far more sensative a child to little noises than Eliana ever was. On a typical evening, after dinner, Annabelle gets cranky and is ready for a pre-bedtime nap (she has the most odd sleeping schedule). Lately, I have been tasked with letting her cry on my shoulder for a few minutes (she used to cry for 30 minutes) before finally realizing that my should is indeed a comfortable place for a few winks. Since I am mostly immobile at this point, I typically catch a game on TV or find the one show I like to keep up with, if it is on at all.

A couple weeks ago, when I did this, Annabelle had been asleep for about 5 minutes, when I had something in my nose or throat, and I I had to cough a little to losen it out. I did not put her down and let out a big honking cough, but just a small little one, and it was still enough to wake her up.  What strikes me as odd is that the TV is still on at a normal volume, and I would say that while my throat was closer, it could not have been much louder than the TV. It took another 10 minutes or so to get her back to her napping state.

But, she is getting better. Tonite, she fell asleep on my should with little effort. I made some noise, and she didn’t budge for an hour until she woke herself up. But, now the problem is that everytime she wakes up from one of these naps, she starts crying like crazy because she wants her mom (probably to feed her).  I just hope one of these days she will go to bed on her own, and not rely on us so much. It’s for her own good (what a fatherly thing to say).

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No Swimming Class Today

26 11 2006

Today was normally Eliana’s swim lesson. She looks forward to her 30 minutes in the pool with her swim instructor, Beth. All we in the morning, she say “I’m going swimming tomorrow”. We have to remind her that she goes swimming on saturdays, and sometimes that is still a few days away.  Even though she has a hard time to communicate it, I think she has a little understanding of the passing of time, and that days come and go with a certain frequency.

Two weeks ago, her regular teacher was unable to attend class and had a substitute set up. I never realized how much the teacher mattered in Eliana’s enjoyment of her class until she realized that her normal teacher wasn’t calling for her. It didn’t help that the teacher was a male, instead of a female. I think Eliana is comfortable with other girls more than guys (except for me, of course). She slowly made her way up to the pool entrance, not sure what to expect. I think she may have thought that perhaps this guy was just going to take her to her normal teacher. It wasn’t until he picked her up, and they went in the water together that she realized just want the day’s lesson had in store. At that instant, Eliana started crying. It was kind of humerous in the way she was crying, but I still found her dilemma sad. I know just how she felt: she liked her teacher, she was comfortable with her regular teacher because she has been in her class for about five months. That’s a long time in kid time.  Her substitue teacher knew what Eliana’s current swimming abilities were, and did his best to proceed along those lines. Through nearly every request the teacher made of Eliana, she let out a big cry, but still listened to the teacher. I think she still wanted to swim, and she was doing a really good job with her kicking and floating. She cried nearly to the end of the lesson when she realized (I think) that her time was almost up, and she wasn’t going to see her normal teacher. And, that she was just starting to get used to the new guy.

Last week, we were unable to attend Eliana’s normal swim lesson because of my big ride in El Tour de Tucson. So, when it was time to head to this week’s lesson, I was just as eager as Eliana because I wanted her to have a good time swimming. I knew she would have fun with her previous teacher, and she was only going to be out that one week.  After the normal running around we do prior to departing for the swim school, we arrived just on time.  The first thing I noticed that was different was there were no cars in the parking lot. Then, I pulled up and saw the sign that the school was closed for Thanksgiving.  How was I going to tell Eliana? I had sort of hyped it up all morning, not to mention that we just went through quite a bit of two-year-old resistance just to get out the door.

As soon as we pulled away, she wanted me to stop: “My go swimming today, Apa”. All I could do was say “Sorry, we’ll go swimming next week. They’re closed”.  I was so sad giving her the bad news. I wanted her to go swimming just as bad as she did, but was powerless to change the situation for her. I wanted to make it up to her, so for lunch, we went to a place that served free ice cream. I think she still would have been better off with the swim class, but at least today she learned what the word “Closed” meant. As we passed by other places that were empty or had few people near them, they were also “closed”.

El Tour de Tucson XXIV

19 11 2006

The largest cycling event in Arizona, is without a doubt El Tour de Tucson. Nearly 9000 people paid for the right to ride their bicycles around the perimeter of Tucson knowing that they get priority over traffic signals for a day. A $12 million boost to the Tucson economy, this is not your average Sunday ride, but in order to do well, you should ride for 12 sundays prior to the event. This is something I was unable to do this year with any regularity, and my result showed this lack of physical preparation.

As is the case every year, I was excited to right in the premeire event of the city and state. I have managed to improve my time every year since I started. Here is a short list of my times:

XX – #2722/3146 – 8 hours 45 minutes 26 seconds – 12.6 mph
XXI – #1466/3131 – 6 hours 46 minutes 40 seconds – 16.1 mph
XXII – #953/3543 – 5 hours 52 minutes 23 seconds – 18.8 mph
XXIII – #418/4018 – 4 hours 58 minutes 18 seconds – 22 mph

Many stats and trends can be gleamed from these results, but the most obvious trend is the one going upward in the speed category. Nearly doubling my original speed last year, I was able to finish just inside the platinum finishing time. I had a lot to live up to this year.

My 5th official trek around Tucson as not as fun as last year’s record event, however, it was still a good time with humorous tidbits strewn about the course:

I arrived in Tucson Friday afternoon in an effort to avoid the Friday evening registration rush. I was only coming from the Phoenix area, so I also wanted to avoid any rush hour type traffic. Registration was breeze, and I quickly moved to the tables with the free give-aways. The best one this year was the bike tube offered by Specialized bikes. I stopped by the ABRA table where Don Melhado was manning the booth to promote track racing, USA cycling and the ABRA. He mentioned to me that a member of the Saguaro Velo team was going to be handing out bottles on the top of Snyder hill. I had thought about asking them for one in the back of my mind, but I did not want to ask for too much as I was no longer a member of the team. Being the great people they are, Nancy Ellis mentioned that there was indeed going to be an extra bottle or two, and that I would be welcome to one as long as I made it to the hill before 10am. I did not know how much I was going to need that bottle.

The night before the ride was possibly my most memorable part of the ride. Me and the other travelers from Phoenix were planning to have dinner at Oregano’s, but were soon faced with the wait line it’s reputation has created. I quickly thought of a similar alternative that was nearby: Sauce. Since Jose and I were required to attend the platinum meeting in order to get our well deserved platinum pass (well deserved last year, in my case) we were not able to get to the restaurant until a little later. Once I arrived, I was surprised to see some old neightborhood friends sitting at the table with my wife and kids. It was great to see everyone eating together sharing stories of parenting, cycling and other crazy events. This is what El Tour is about, bringing people together.

With that said, I still wanted to post a respectable time even though I had not been able to traing to my fullest capacity all year. My strategy was to follow the lead group as far as I did last year, or close to it. That way, if I get dropped, or rather, when I get dropped, I still have many people to follow all the way to the finish line.

Jose and I arrived downtown and parked at about 6:30am. The starting time was 7am. I figured we were cutting it close. Once we arrived, things happened rather fast. We preped out gear, pumped up our tires, and moved our bikes to the platinum area. upon arrival, we were uprepared for the mob scene that awaited us. There was a crazy line just to get into the platinum area and people were everywhere. Somehow, we got out bikes in the gate, and quickly found out that the only room was at the back of the area. We were essentially starting in the same place we had last year. The only difference was that we didn’t have to get there at 4:45am (but that was a fun experience too).

The starting gun went off, and the ride began. Having never started in the actual platinum group before, I was unprepared for the massive bust of speed these guys are capable of. I was trying my hardest just to keep up with everyone at the start. I looked down at my speedometer and saw some pretty huge numbers, 28,29, 30 mph. It was nuts. There was no way I could keep that pace up so quickly, or for 109 miles. I quickly fatugued, and slowed to a pace I could maintain for a while; it was somewhere around 24 mph. Still not shabby for a weekend warrior like myself.

As I rode down Mission road, passing Ajo, I knew the first river crossing was coming up quicky. I was already tired, and just wanted to get past the river so I can recover a bit on the other side. Still speeding around the bend half way to Irvington road, a large group was ahead of me. I was trying to catch them to get a decent draft, when I noticed a massive decelaration. I then saw some head drop. As I got closer, I heard many bikes crashing into each other. I slowed, quickly, called out to slow down, veered to the right, making sure I was not cutting off other people who were still upright, and pedaled past the accident. All these noises and sensations occured within about 2 seconds. I feel bad passing crashes, but yet, I also knew, help would be on the way quickly, and there was really nothing I could do to help except clear the way so others could pass as well.

Just before the first river crossing is a left turn onto Drexel road. I took this at a reasonable speed, but I felt a slight bump in my rear wheel. I think I rolled over one of the many pits in the old sun-damaged road and caused my rear wheel to bounce and land on its side. This cause a pinch flat, as my rear wheel suddenly started to feel soft. I called out that I had a flat, and slowly made my way to the sideway. At this point, there was no way I was going to catch the lead guys, so I semi-leasurely changed my rear wheel. This was an odd experience. I had never flatted this early although I have seen others flat ever earlier. The wave of riders never stopped for the duration that I changed my rear tire. This was about 10 minutes. I’m glad that I was prepared for a flat, and that I stopped to purchase some CO2 cartridge refills. Changing the tube took 9.5 minutes, and inflating took less than 10 seconds. It was the only good part about flatting. I remounted and in another mile, I crossed the Santa Cruz River (with no free Krispy Kreme donuts awaiting us on the other side this year).

Old Nogalas Highway had a slight headwind that slowed many people down. I think I was riding with people who were more or less at my similar ability because they weren’t hammering as much as the lead group, and most were having trouble with the headwind. Being a stubborn and determined man, I still wanted to try to finish in a respectable time even though I knew even at this point, 5 hours was out of the question. I lowered my body down a bit, and just kept pedaling. I passed seveal people. At one point, many were following me. I eventually made it up to a lady in a purplish jersey and passed her. I had dropped the previous set of people, and she grabbed onto my draft.

Still pushing, I barreled my way to Los Reales road, but not before I saw another guy go down on the pavent. As I wheeled past, I saw blood coming from his chin, and heard people asking for cell phones. Someone else volunteered theirs, and I was off to continue my ride again.

The roads in Tucson are not very well maintained. Along the way to Los Reales road, I started to hear some serious rattling coming from my bike. I looked down and noticed that the bottle cage was loose. Great, it really wasn’t going to be my day. I really didn’t want to lose this bottle change either beceause it went so well with my bike, and it cost $30. Not to mention that if someone ran over it at the right speed, it would most certainly end their day. Since I had no tools, I thought the best way to deal with it was to take out the bottle so that it didn’t rattle so much. Eventually, I left the bottle in, empty so that the screw would not wiggle out the other side and fall out. This strategy ended up working as the bottle cage made it though the trip to the end.

Before getting onto Kolb road, I looked back to see who was in my draft so that if I needed to move, I could do so and either give warning, or move in another direction. I noticed a lady in a purplish jersey, not recognising her at first. She then said

“Hi, I’m Diane. I’ve been following your wheel for the last 10 miles. I hope that’s OK.”

Well, considering that there really isn’t anything I can do to have her not follow me, aside from putting do the hammer (energy which was most certainly not available to me), I figured it was a good time to strike up a short conversation. We both mentioned how crappy the roads are, and eventually, I wore down as I had been pushing without a draft for quite some time.

Kolb road is always fun because the surface is fairly decent (well after Valencia) and it feels like you’re going downhill, right up until the end.  I whizzed as fast as I could to reach the gradual uphill that is Irvington road. Turning onto Houghton, the menacing Houghton hill approached quickly. I was amazed at how far back the cars were backed up after that left turn. I see it every year, of course, but for some reason, it seemed longer here. I made my way to the left side of the road so that other riders wouldn’t slow me down and rouine my rhythm as so frequently happens on these short sprint climbs.

On the way to Freeman road, and the nice 3,4 or 5 mile downhill run (I’m not sure exactly how long it is), a girl next to me mentioned that the climbing was easier here because they normally ride in a higher altitude. I mentioned that we were fast approaching 3000 feet above sea level. She was from Flagstaff, and said she had never been to Tucson before. As a goodwill ambassador to my home town, I welcomed her, and made sure I told her than she needs to hug a cactus before she left town.  That always gets a reaction. Hers was a little shock, and amusement at the idea.

We reached Freeman road, and I ran across another Saguaro Velo member. He was a junior rider I had ridden with on a training ride earlier in the month. I wished him well, and proceeded to bomb on the downhill that is Freeman road. As in the recent Cochise County Cycling Classic, there was nearly no need to pedal on this downhill on my new bike. It was awesome. I passed several people without doing anything excepting keeping a decent aerotuck. These parts were my favorite of El Tour.

After crossing the Sabino Creek crossing, I headed up over Snyder hill. Gratefully, and with as much energy as I had after such a steep climb, grabbed a water bottle from Nancy Ellis. Now, I had a dilemma, I had two bottles in my bike cages (one still rattling around), and I had another in my rear pocket, I had no room left.  So, doing what any cyclist would do, I dumped one bottle. But, trying to do so in a responsible manner, I did not want to dump it where no one would pick it up, I gently tossed it to some people who were there to watch the event. I only hope they grabbed it and either kept it, or at least picked it up off the ground.

After several miles of rolling hills, the turn toward Oracle came up. I slowed up a little as this is an uphill gradual climb that turns into a fairly nasty climb in only a few short miles. As I slowed up and gasped for some air, I heard someone say

“Hello, again”.

It was Diane, catching up to me, and passing me.

“It’s good to see you again”

Well, sort of. I wasn’t happy being passed, but still it was nice to see a familar face on the road.

I eventually made it back to Downtown, I finished the ride. Between the finish and the point where I saw Diane again, I spent the majority of time without any protection from the wind. I was able to keep with with a group along Tangerine road and we hurled down at about 30 mph (but I had turned off my speedometer earlier, some I am only guessing).

Silverbell road is also usually the huge mental block for most people. It’s long, uphill, usually in a head wind, and the road is very harsh. This road also teases you because at various points along the way, you can see downtown, and it doesn’t seem to grow in size.  I think I had prepared mentally for this section of road more than any other on the route because it is the road leading to the finish line. This section of road was tiring, but did not feel as long as it used to, in part ot my mental training. If only I had trained for the whole event like I had trained for this section of road.

Upon reaching the finish line, I looked for my daughter who was with a couple family friends. It’s tough to spot anyone with so many people there, but I saw a wave out the right corner of my eye and tried to get Eliana’s attention. I don’t think she saw me cross the finish line until my back was to her. She was my motivation for those last 20 miles, and I’m glad she was there, even if she missed me. She’s not even 3 yet.

I was tired. My lack of training and preparation had left me tired and dehydrated. And adding insult to injury, my time for this years ride was no where near the personal best last year’s time was. At 6 hours,  20 minutes and 48 seconds, this year was only good enough for a silver medal. I was tired, and couldn’t make the walk over to the medal tent. My wife didn’t event want to get it because I have so many, and it was only a silver. I never did go pick it up, but I will have it mailed if I can. This medal will probably be more important that any of the others as it will be a reminder of the things that happen if you are not prepared.

As for El Tour, in general, this is absolutly the best ride in the country. There are people of all ages and skill levels participating. This much is evident in the number of crashes (I saw a total of 4 ambulances, each loading people on stretchers as I passed by). But, if you prepare and train well, there is no reason anyone can’t achieve their own personal goals. My goal is to return to my level of fitness from last year, and surpass my personal best time.

Back on track to legitamite Platinum status.

My Day as a Kindergarten Teacher

17 11 2006

Today, I was a Kindergarten teacher. I taught a class of 21 bright kids at Frank Elementary School in Guadalupe, Arizona (near Tempe). I volunteered with a group of individuals from work to partner with the local Junior Achievement office. Junior Achievement strives to teach economics in an age appropriate manner. This was my first time ever presenting anything to a class longer than 1 hour, and as such, my day was filled with many first time experiences. I decided to volunteer for this event because I have always been fond of children. I truly enjoy spending time with children, and trying my best to be a positive influence. I would love it if one day, 15 years from now, one of the children found me and said “I remember the day you came to my kindergarten class. It was fun”.A few days before setting foot on school grounds, I prepared the lesson plans I was given by the event organizers. Basically, I reviewed what I was going to teach, as well as prepare some name tags and certificates of completion. The simple act of filling out each certificate 21 times showed me that there is a lot to teaching that I had never seen in my childhood classrooms. I was in for a new world of experiences.

First thing in the morning, all the volunteers met in the school library for a good homemade breakfast. There were many Spanish dishes, as well as the obligatory bagel and cream cheese. Here, my kindergarten teacher found me, and introduced herself. Mrs. Wait was an older woman, probably old enough to be my mother. In fact, there were many resemblances. Mrs. Wait also mentioned that she would never teach any other level of children, as she enjoys it so much. She told about the kids, and the joys and challenges she faces everyday. I was warned about the few who would disrupt class no matter what. I had no idea what was in store for me that day.

At about 8:55 am, a strange noise sounded on the classroom PAs. That was the tone to go get the kids from the playground. I entered this strange world with curiosity. As we walked out to the playground, I thought about my daughters, and how they would soon be entering this new world of public schools. We made our way to a spot between a tree and a cement bench. There, we were greeted by several rows of children, 2 rows of which would follow us back to the classroom. I made my way to the back of the line, and followed the 2 lines, one boys, and one girls, into the classroom.

Upon entering the classroom, the metal door had magents with each students name on it. I hadn’t noticed earlier, but there were also stickers above and below the bar to open the door that read “In” and “Out”. As each child entered the class, they moved their name from “Out” to “in”. Throughout the day, I also noticed that as kids went to the bathroom, they would move their name from “In” to “Bathroom”.

Once in the class, the teacher gave them a quick assignment. It seemed to be one of those things to prepare the children for the rest of the day, and that playtime is over. After the quick assignment, it was my turn, as this was to be my class for the majority of the day. Mrs. Wait explained to the class that I was the special visitor for the day, and as more of a note to me, informed the class that I was going to tell them about who I am and about my job. I started out OK, telling them my name, and asking them if they had heard of Intel before. I tried to explain in simple terms that Intel makes computer parts. And then, I couldn’t think of anything good to tell them. I knew I was losing the kids fast. Lucky for me, the teacher went into her routine and got the kids announcements going by turning on the closed circuit television. The class missed saying the Pledge of Allegiance. But we caught many announcements, one being that her class was one of the many with perfect attendance for the previous day. I thought that was a sign of a class with good parents who care about their kids’ education. Later that day, I would also find out, that the class had achieved perfect attendance for my visit as well.

So, catching a break, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get mentally prepared for the teaching that was upcoming. I sort of jumped the gun and was ready to get down to business and read the stories. But, luckily the teacher reminded me that I had prepared table tents for every child in the class. To get off on the right foot, I scrambled up the names so they weren’t in alphabetical order, and announced each child’s name to come up to me to receive their name plate. With each name I read, it was as if each child had won an award because the whole class clapped. Many of the names were hispanic in origin, so I tried my best to pronounce them correctly. It’s especially important for me, a Hispanic role model for these kids, to get at least a little pronunciation correct.

It took a little while, but after I handed out all the names, we regrouped at the carpet, and I read the first story. The kids, it seemed, loved story time. I think they also loved having a new visitor come to class to read the stories to them. As I was sitting down, all the children crowded around me eager to listen to what I had to say. I was flabbergasted. I immediately thought back to my own childhood and tried to remember what it was like in their shoes, excited, eager to learn, and full of kid energy. I didn’t want to let them down. I remembered as a child that the worst part about story time was that I never got to see the pictures when the book was read aloud. I tried my best to show everyone every picture, but alas, a rookie like me couldn’t quite get the job done. When we finished the story, I was impressed with the ease of getting the kids back to their desks so they could complete the accompanying activity to the story I had just read.

The activity was to draw your favorite animal. I saw many drawings that didn’t resemble animals, but being a positive role model, I tried to keep things upbeat. If I was unable to figure out what was drawn, I just asked. They would tell me right away. Kids at this age are completely honest. The kids were done with the activity quicker than I had expected, and as such, I was unprepared for the next step. Trying to not lose the kids focus, I quickly asked the teacher for a little activity to keep them focused while I jogged my memory as to the next lesson’s activities. The quick break involved reciting many things from posters on the walls; sort of reinforcing what was already in their active minds. The last thing they recited was all the numbers from 1 to 100. They would jump after every tenth number, and for each one, they were supposed to raise and lower their hands. After a quick glance at the lesson place, I rejoined the kids while they were on 35 (or there-abouts). Trying to fit in, and show my humorous side, I started doing the hand raising and lowering with them. Then jumped. Then, I started being silly doing different things while still raising and lowering my hands, and then jumping in a funny manner. Good thing they were only 5 and 6 year olds, these antics would not have amused the older kids. Needless to say, I made a few more friends after this as after every jump, I heard more and more laughs.

The next story was much like the first, but when we sat down, the boys wanted to get closer to me, and one sat next to me. I was sitting cross-legged, ready to begin the second story, when I looked down, and his head was on my knee. He was smelling my pants. He looked up at me, and said “You smell good”. I guess this was something you only get in kindergarten. I couldn’t think of anything good to respond with, other than, “Thanks”. Still a little shocked, I read the story, and completed the next activity.

Next, was a short trip to the library. Everyone lined up at the door in their designated positions, and off they went. While entering the library, one boy decided to deviate from the class order and sit go around a bookshelf in order to sit with his peers. I politely reminded him to go with everyone else. He refused. In swept the teacher to give him a private talking to. It was awkward for me because a little later, we would come back with one of those I-not-really-sorry apologies.

After the third story (there were still 2 more to be completed), we went to lunch. I had decided that I would spend lunch with the kids and had prepared a peanut butter sandwich. I did have the option to not spend lunch with the kids, so, I asked the kids.

“Do you want me to go to lunch with you guys?”.


And so it was; I brought up the rear and followed the children to the cafeteria/gym. I shoved myself into the small table, moving it backward about 3 feet in the processes, and getting a few laughs for it. I tried to sit where I would be in the middle of the kids; I wanted to just try to observe, and interact as they wanted me to. This is sort of what I do with my own daughter, and it usually works out to some humorous episode. This time, we just talked. There were no life pondering questions. Just “What are you drinking?” (Green Tea). “What did you bring for lunch?” (Peanut Butter and Jelly). It was good to spend time with them. While sitting with the kids at lunch, I met the class grandpa. He came to visit every lunchtime as his granddaughter was in the class.

The eating part of lunch was over all too quickly, as most children were not even half done with their food when the cafeteria monitor came up and said they could go outside. Most were ready to leave, and nicely picked up what they hadn’t finished and made for the exit. I was expected to be done by now as well (I wasn’t), and several children waited for me. I walked out with them to the playground because after lunch was recess. On the way out, I held one girls’ hand. I thought back to my daughters again.

I tried to play a little, but as there were many adults not playing, I didn’t want to confuse the kids. I sat out there and watched in the shade with grandpa. He was there to read a story to the kids, but wasn’t told about my visit. We would leave a little earlier than normal, but stuck around because he liked to be with the kids everyday.

After lunch, I noticed the kids heading back to the same spot from which they had been picked up earlier that same morning. I headed over there to be picked up myself. As I was walking, one of the girls ran up, and grabbed my hand. We walked together, hand-in-hand back to the line. This, too, caught me by surprise, and I tried to keep my composure, as if it happens all the time.

The afternoon went better than the morning as I became more accustomed to the kids, and they to me. I read the remaining stories, and we completed the activities. I did my best to be positive in everything I said and did. I also tried to give everyone the attention they craved. All the kids wanted me to see what they drew, so this was not as easy a task as it sounds. As the day drew to a close, the kids became a little unruly, which I suppose is understandable. Before they left, i told them about the certificates they each received, and handed out some Intel goodies. They were excited to receive an Intel football. I also handed out an Intel mouse pad. I thought it was odd that the web site on the mouse pads was not to the Intel homepage, but to the Intel jobs board. And then, as quickly as the kids entered the room, they lined up, and headed to their pre-arraigned method home (either bus, waiting for pickup or walking home). There were no hugs, or kisses, just a quick wave goodbye. I was there for only one day, after all.

As they left, I headed back to the library, trying to download my day. I returned to find that the rest of the volunteers were as equally overloaded as me. We decompressed as much as possible, headed to the school sign and snapped a group picture. And the day was done.

Where’s her diaper?

14 11 2006

Annabelle sleeps in our bed right now, and her typical sleeping pattern is to slowly go from lying parallel to us, to more of a perpendicular position. And, somehow, she always seems to manange to point her feet at my head, while her head points toward her mom. While the feet in my direction isn’t neccessarily a bad thing, I am on the short end of the stick (wrong end of the baby?) when she starts flailing her legs about. After the first couple of kicks, I tend to grab her legs and point her back into a parallel pattern, which she then readjusts back to her preferred position.

Yesterday, I was sound asleep in my bed, when I felt the all too normal kick in the head from my youngest daughter. I slowly awoke, and there she was with her 10 month old grin, smiling at me. I have to admit, that is such a great sight to wake up to. However, I needed just a few more minutes of rest, so I shut my eye again. Her mother wasn’t there to watch her, as she was downstairs preparing Eliana’s school lunch. As I wasn’t watching either, Annabelle was free to roam the bed. A few months ago, we would have been paranoid of her falling on her own, and that would be enough to get me out of bed. But, after a couple of accidental falls already, I think she know what happens when she gets too close to the edge of the bed.

Back to get my extra five minute snooze. I could hear Annabelle crawling around, and I could feel her grabbing my face, a baby’s attempt to wake up a sleeping adult, I’m sure. It had little effect, but I knew that I still had a few minutes to snooze, and it was fun to let her paw at me (at least she couldn’t poke my eyes). But, after a couple of minutes, I didn’t hear too much commotion from her. Then, her mom walked into the room, and I opened my eyes. Then, I noticed something odd. It was a rolled up diaper. Then I noticed that Annabelle was missing her diaper. I immediately questioned her mom: “Did you take off her diaper?” As she had just walked into the room, her answer was no. So the only other person who could have taken off the diaper was Annabelle. It was really odd that she kind of rolled it up like we do when we change her diaper. Her mom checked the diaper, and it was indeed full, so I am sure Annabelle knew it needed changing. And, she was ready for a new one, because she moved to her back, and was ready to get it strapped on when a clean diaper arrived. But, I think she wanted her mother to put it on, because I had the hardest time to get the diaper on her; she kept wiggling around, not letting me fasten the rear velcro straps to the front of the diaper.

Eliana, as far as I know, did not take off her diaper on her own at this age, or any age, so this little even was quite fascinating for both of us. It shows me that our kids are brilliant and learn everything we do, whether we teach them or not. We need to make sure they pick up our good habits, because the bad ones will most definitely be the hardest to correct.

Other Languages

8 11 2006

In my neverending quest to better myself, I have tried several times to learn a new language. In college, I completed 2 years of Chinese, and previously in high school, I completed 2 years of Spanish.  I’m not very close to being fluent in either of these languages because I never use them. I’m such a white boy 😦

However, with the recent wave of podcasts on the net (I listen to lots of them, mostly from http://www.twit.tv) , I found a couple that will let me at least keep up with what few foreign language abilities I have, and hopefully acquire a few more. I have been quite hesitant to play these files in the car because of Eliana. Not that she wouldn’t understand them, but rather I would be a little embarrassed in learning in front of her.

But, now that I think about it, there are many more reasons for me to play these files and practice these languages in front of her.  For one, I look stupid to her in many more ways than just blindly repeating some foreign phrases. I am her father, after all. And second, hearing a second, or third or fourth language at her age will only benefit her abilities in the long run. She will learn the new language much faster than me (because her brain is still in a constant state of building new neural connections), and she may be my practice buddy in the near future.  What a concept! And, she can also motivate and harass me when I don’t play the daily lesson and help me to stay on track.

Above all, my realization lately has been that the only reason I don’t learn something is because I make my own excuses.  While I realized this a while ago (when I started riding my bike), I have had trouble staying motivated for many things. If my kids aren’t reason enough to stay motivated, then nothing is…