Eliana’s New Class

27 02 2007

Recently, Eliana has been having a little bit of a hard time at school (daycare). I knew this not because she told me, but because I could see her actions when I dropped her off, and via the web cam peeking in on her at various times of the day. The last time I dropped her off, I did not know any of the kids in her class. All of them were smaller, and surprisingly, all the kids had diapers. This was a strong signal to me that Eliana needed to move on to the next level. Besides, I felt bad that she didn’t know any of the kids in the class. All her friends had moved on to the next class; I know how that feels.

So, it was with great joy that I didn’t see Eliana in her classroom webcam yesterday and to find out that she had moved on to the next class and rejoined her friends. When I picked her up that first day, she was very excited and extremely happy. I was glad to see her literally jumping with joy that she was able to play with Maddy again.

Now, I know that the next level classroom has higher expectations of the kids. I heard they already have homework. I never intended, nor will I ever intend, to push my kids to the next level so that they excel academically. More so, I know Eliana is a smart kid, and I know that she can handle it. And this time, I just wanted her to be happy and with her friends. Because friends are a huge factor in her growth as a little person.

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Guitar (Hero) Lessons

26 02 2007

Like most people, music defines a large part of my life. For a long time as a kid, I played cello, and was in the whole classical music scene. One day, I’d like to get that going again. But since then, my interests have spread. And, I think my classical roots have defined many of my favorite genres of music. I still listen to some of the heavy death metal, from time to time, of course. But my favorite remains Progressive Rock.  I’ve always wanted to be able to pick up a guitar and play riffs from my favorite songs, these songs. But, my efforts have always gone awry, and I was never able to put my finger as to why I have been so unable to learn something as an adult that I so easily learned as a kid.  I think I finally found out…

Recently, I purchased a Playstation 2, 2 wireless guitars, and Guitar Hero I and II. It was somewhat of an impulse buy, but still, I had been thinking about getting the whole setup for a while. I had gotten my first glimpse of Guitar Hero last year sometime, when a coworker let me borrow his setup for a weekend. I was glued to the game for the majority of the weekend, at the expense of my family’s time.  Despite this, I still bought my own. At least this time, the system would be mine, and I wouldn’t have to hurry to get as much time in it before I had to give it back.

So, anyways, I finally have my own PS2, and I’ve been playing Guitar Hero on and off for the past 2-3 months.
At first, I started with career mode on Medium. I beat that pretty quick as it only needed 4 buttons. No shifting on the fret board meant it was rather simple to get going. I would miss notes, and the hardest songs were difficult, and a few took a couple tries to beat. But, my technique was flawed, and it showed when I got to the Hard setting. On Hard, I was having the most difficult time, at first, getting the shifting down on many songs. Or getting some double note combinations. Or even getting some high speed solo down good enough.  Slowly, but surely, I progressed through the Harder of the Hard songs, and found a technique that worked for me. My shifting became cleaner, I could read the notes faster, and I could hit several, but not all high speed combos.  This is where I’m at now, even at the expert level.

This is a video game, after all, and beating levels is nothing special, people do it all the time. Heck, I’m sure there are people who are way better at Guitar Hero than I am (I’m still improving). But, as I look on my abilities  to “play” the game now, and the techniques I employ in order to hit certain fingering patterns, I am intrigued at how I came to this point.  If you took out the fact that it is a game, and there are only five buttons, you would see that the same fundamental learning techniques and patterns are at work here as they are on a real guitar. I mean, you have to know when to shift, how to keep a beat, when to strum. You have to hit some notes fast, and others hard, and still others fast AND hard. I find it amazing that I hold the Guitar Hero guitar in a similar manner as I’ve been told to for other instruments. I’m sure it’s no mistake, as this was not a concious effort. What was conscious was the effort in getting certain shifts and fingerings to work for me and play the song “properly”.

Where am I going with this little rant? Well, I just want to shout out that I’m amazed that with only about an hour or so a day, every other day, on average, I have gotten my fingers to learn how to play a toy guitar controller with 5 “notes”. And have fun doing it.  What I want to try to figure out is how to translate this to a real guitar. I have one, and I have tried to learn, but failed in the past because I couldn’t keep with it. I think these past two months with a video game have tought me more about learning a new instrument than the last few years of on-again, off-again guitar lessons:

  • practice every day, for only about an hour
  • Try to make progress, learn something new
  • don’t be afraid to make mistakes
  • and, most importantly, Have fun

With a real instrument, it does take a little more motivation than a fake one, but I think that I’m not the only person in the world who is now more inspired to learn to play a real guitar after becoming somewhat proficient at Guitar Hero.

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Annabelle’s Second Day

23 02 2007

Yesterday, was Annabelle’s second day at school (daycare, really). While I can’t speak for very many of the things that happened in class during the day over the last couple of days (I heard she cried quite a bit), there were a couple of interesting and funny things that happened when I picked her up.

When I arrived, I was in a bit of a hurry, so I just peaked into her classroom and looked for her. Yesterday, she was in someones arms.  I guess she was crying again, and that was the only way to get her to stop. She seemed fine through the window to just sit in the person’s arms. So, I rushed in the door, with a Kramer-like entrance, and perhaps surprised her a little.  Surprise or not, the instant she saw me, she balled her eyes out crying.  I immediately grabbed her, and she put her head on my shoulder, and grabbed me herself with her tiny little arms. It was obvious she missed me, but it was as if I had punished her, and she was apologizing.

While I picked her and her sister up, I was able to chat with our new family friends, the McSweeney’s. Only Maddy’s mom was there, so I talked to her for a few minutes while holding Annabelle in my arms. Eventually, it came time to head over and get her sister. So as we did, Annabelle was starting to say something.  She is pretty quiet, so I had to listen pretty hard.  But I know Maddy’s mom heard what she said next: “Ma – D”.  Maddy was in the room, and she was sort of pointing to her, so I knew she was referring to Eliana’s friend. Next, I heard another small squeak from Annabelle: “Ben-E”.  Ben is Maddy’s brother. Annabelle knows both of them! I was flabbergasted. It’s awesome that Annabelle knows people other than mommy and daddy and sister. I knew she was able to recognize faces at her age, but I didn’t know that she knew names.  Maddy’s mom and I were both befuddled in amazement over Annabelle for quite a while.

I truely have two smart little girls on my hands. I know they will continue to amaze me even as I share my knowledge and wisdom with them over the course of their lives. I look forward to being amazed on a regular basis.

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First Day

20 02 2007

Tomorrow will mark a special day. It is a day that hasn’t happened yet, but will happen nevertheless.  Tomorrow, Annabelle will join Eliana in her daily morning routine and follow Eliana to school.  That is, Annabelle is finally going to daycare with her sister.  While this will cost some extra cash on our part, our sanity (most my wife’s) depends on this particular happening.

I remember when we first tried to put Eliana in a daycare.  I had just been hired by Intel and was living basically alone in Phoenix while Eliana and her mom stayed in Tucson together. That was a rough time in that I didn’t get to see Eliana as much as I would have liked, but also, Eliana was just tough to handle while her mom tried to rest or work. They have never seen eye to eye, and I doubt they ever will. So, we had found a daycare near our house in Tucson, and gave it a try.  Eliana didn’t seem to like it very much as she would always fight her mom when she went to drop her off. I thought it was just her way of countering her mom, and didn’t think much of it. But, over the next couple of weeks, we didn’t see any improvement, and frankly didn’t seem to find many positive things about the kids nor the teachers. It really was not a great place for Eliana, even though it was close by.

So, when the family moved up to Phoenix the next year, it was with much reluctance that we searched for another daycare for Eliana. This time it was not a matter getting some time off, her mom was physically unable to handle two kids, as Annabelle had just been born.  For the first two weeks of Annabelle’s short time with the family, I had been home, handling the kids. Mostly I felt bored, that I wasn’t doing anything productive, and actually wanted to get to work to do something to enlighten my brain. However, once the day finally came, I was unable to even make it out the door. It seemed that I was some sort of mystical glue that kept the sanity in the family.  As I tried to leave, the kids started to cry, and became extra fussy. I don’t even remember making it to the car when I went to go inside to take care of the kids.  This time, a daycare was required, or else there was no way I could even make it to work.

The search for a daycare center was tough, especially at the last minute. We look at all the places we could find that we knew about, without much luck.  All were either full, or just not good. We saw one particular place in the phonebook that seemed appealing, and went to visit.  They said they were full also, but we still wanted a look around to see if we wanted to be on a waiting list.  As luck would have it (or just the fact that they wanted to enroll more kids), Eliana was able to get a spot in the 2 year old class. We were saved. 

Eliana has had some ups and downs with school. When she first started going, she would cry if I did not come to pick her up before the other kids. I felt so bad making her cry. But, nowadays, she doesn’t want to leave. She has friends, and good teachers. And she has a schedule, that helps. And now, it’s her sister’s turn.

Annabelle will benefit greatly from Eliana trials and tribulations in that she will start at a school (daycare) that we trust. She will have a big sister to lean on if she needs a familiar face. She will have great teachers.  But, benefits are also on our end. As parents, we know Annabelle’s social needs will be met on a daily basis by meeting other kids her age.  Her mom will also get some much needed alone time. I’ve tried my best to do this at night, but that is not nearly enough.  But the biggest benefit may be on the weekends as their mom can get her work done during the day and have time and energy at night to take care of everyone’s needs (I’m not just talking about laundry).

I truely hope this will be a win-win scenario for all of us. But, even so, I’m sure we will see some extra crying over these next few days as Annabelle adjusts to her new schedule. Eliana just loves that Annabelle will now go with her to school every morning.

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Good Girl Marks

17 02 2007

Eliana has become very mature over the last couple of weeks.  Two weeks ago, both my wife and I came down with some type of cold, and we were both having a hard time just to play with the kids and get everything else done that needed to be done. Eliana was very helpful during this time by listening to our requests, and not pushing our limits while we were sick. She helped with the little things she could help with, and thing went well.  She is still almost 3, so there were a couple of tense moments.  However, the whole time I was sick, I just kept thinking “We have the most awesome kids in the world”.

Now that Eliana is able to comprehend the whole idea of Good Girl vs. Bad Girl, and the consequences that come with each, I have decided to follow a slightly modified reqeard strategy.  I want Eliana to know that I keep track of how often she is a Good Girl, as opposed to a Bad Girl.  So, to do this in an easy to see way, I simply started a little chart on a white board with her name, and two sections: Good and Bad.  When I started this today, she seemed to pick up on it immediately.  I guess it helped that I told her that if she got enough good girl marks, she would get a prize.  What the prize is, I haven’t figured out yet.  I’m not sure if ice cream will cut it, but that’ll be the first try.  If not, I’ll have to start getting a little more creative.  But so far, it has done the job it was meant to do: remind her that we are keeping track of when she is good or bad.  All I’ve had to do is remind her that the actions she is taking will get her a bad girl mark, and she stops her tantrum.  Sometimes I can see that she really wants to be a good girl, so I give her the opportunity by giving her an option.  For example, she has always asked me to help her go to the bathroom.  I told her that she can get a good girl mark if she can go by herself, without my help.  Today, she chose to do just that. 

I’ve seen this technique on the various nanny and parenting shows, and was curious to see if it would work.  So far, it does, but like any power, you must use it wisely. Over use it, and it will lose its meaning. If you don’t use it enough, then it will also lose its effectiveness.  And, if you don’t have some reward, then you will also lose your child’s trust.  I aim never to lose her trust.

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On Valentine’s Day

13 02 2007

Valentine’s Day, a day that seems to have been conjured up to greeting card companies and chocolate vendors to sell more cards and candy. And actually, if you look up Valentine’s Day in wikipedia it appears that in early America, the tradition of  the valentine may have been imported by the Brittish, only to have Esther Howland, whose father operated a book and stationary store, popularize this with her own unique creations. The problem that I see that has evolved is that back in those days, things were hand made (mostly) and there was time to think about what to give the one they love on a day (supposedly) designated for lovers. In 2007, things happen so fast, no one has time to think about these things, and ends up project managing their valentine gift and having flowers delivered, a card pre-printed, and a shrink-wrapped box of candies delivered as well.

Indeed, we are bombarded by advertisements that say that we are lesser men if we do not give our wives or girl-friends a) a romantic card b) a box of candy c) a little teddy bear d) a dozen red roses e) a romantic night out.

Now, I don’t want to seem to cynical, but I can’t help but complain about the obvious exploitation of something that was classically a grand tradition that had meaning to those to chose to partake in it, and turn it into something that can rake in a few bucks. Sound familiar? That the way most holidays are in this era we live.  I choose to not celebrate my holidays this way.

If I do decide to celebrate one of these holidays with my family, I try my best to add a personal touch. So, for Valentine’s day this year, we are doing nothing.

Now, let me expain. We are both sick. Our kids have full attention, and we have a lot on our plates. I could blow $100 on some roses that will die in a few days, but that money can be better spent on baby stuff that is more pertinent.  Also, being as this is a day to express love, nothing says I love you more than taking care of her when she is sick, and helping out with all the duties that she does every day and make everyday easier for her. My way to show my love is to make her time with her family as fun as possible. Sometimes I don’t always achieve that, but that is the goal.

This Valentine’s Day, do something special..but don’t buy it from the store.

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Milestone: Walking

11 02 2007

It was not long ago that the only way Annabelle could get around the house was by scurrying on all fours across the floor. we always enjoyed watching Annabelle crawl because we it was so unique to us. Eliana’s crawl was unique also; she would push herself backwards on the floor. But when she went forward, she would use her knees. Annabelle, on the other hand, has used all fours in an attempt to walk and crawl at the same time. The result is a baby that crawls almost like a spider. It was especially fun to watch when she learned to crawl in this manner rather quickly. She could scurry across the room in a couple seconds. Much quicker than crawling.

Around the time of her first birthday party, Annabelle started taking steps on her own. On her actual birthday (the party was a week early), she took three or four steps forward, unassisted. These were her first steps. Eliana took her first steps a 14 months. Annabelle at 12. Now, I’m not comparing both of them to say one is better than the other, but developmentally, Annabelle may have had more motivation to start walking. She had the desire to walk at nearly six months of age.

It has now been a couple of weeks, and Annabelle has just now started to walk on her own more than crawling on all fours. It’s only a short time before she is a full fledged toddler like Eliana is now. By then, Eliana will have moved on to whatever the 4’s are. These are definately the fun years. It’s too bad they can’t stay this small forever.