Monday, January 28, 2013

How Good? Pretty Darn Good....

OK it's been a while... Of course that means that this post will be long -- horribly long and only a occasionally witty. On long posts, my material starts running slim, and Elaine already vetoed a few of my more choice insights. What can I say? I like to work blue.
 
By the way, thanks very much to the Mustache-a-Thon 2012 donors for their generosity!
 
Now on with the show... While the blog was on hiatus Milo and Maddy did a fair bit of growing. As of mid-January, Milo weighed in at a still lean 34 lbs (14th percentile) and is 40.5" tall (21st percentile). Maddy tipped the scale at 37 lbs (45th percentile) and towers over her brother at 41.5" (53rd percentile). Health for both the kiddos has been good overall, though Milo will be headed in for an eye operation in February to correct his strabismus. You may recall from other posts that Milo was wearing an eye patch on his right eye for an hour everyday in hopes that his left eye would get stronger. Unfortunately, no such luck.   

Instead, let's take a look at a brief video of Maddy's first ballet recital back in August. See if you can guess which one is Maddy. Here's a hint - she's a maniac, maniac...

video

One funny side note, I didn't start shooting this video until she had had already been spinning for about 20 seconds (really!). No wonder she's dizzy at the end. 


Above: Maddy limbers up for the grand dance. I'd love to say that the class went perfectly, but Maddy was definitely a bit too enthusiastic at times. The ballet school was a very traditional one (think Russians), and it was believed perfectly normal (some how) for the other girls her age to sit quietly with their legs folded for 10 minutes at a time. I had no idea such a thing was even possible for kids that age absent the use of some kind of narcotic. As you might have guessed, with Dad's blood flowing through her veins, Maddy was far more fidgety than the average kid. Still, she'd have won the spirit award for sure -- if they'd had one that is. 


I finally made good on my promise to buy a whitewater raft. I picked up this sweet ride in late August (on sale of course). Unfortunately this is the most action it's seen so far, but now that kids are getting to be decent swimmers, we'll head out for a few class II trips once the weather warms up a bit.


The kids were also excited for a visit with their talented Uncle Armin. They were particularly impressed that -- unlike their dad -- he played more than just the first four bars of "Stairway to Heaven" and "Crazy Train."


Another big development, Maddy can swim now. Milo seems to believe that he can also swim, and if you try to help him in the pool, he'll scream in protest. Unfortunately, the moment you let him go, he plummets to the bottom of the pool. At least he did back in September - he's gotten better of late. Both kids continue with weekly swim lessons and are making good progress. Milo hasn't advanced as quickly as Maddy, but that's mostly because he still has a tube in his left ear and he hates putting his head underwater. Not surprisingly, a willingness to submerge your head is fairly imperative to success in swimming.


In September, M&M attended their 4th NICU reunion picnic at Alta Bates in Berkeley. As a NICU Family Advisory Council member, I put in a plug for Cowboy Jared to play the gig. Everything was going great until the old man who lived a block away showed up and yelled at us for being too loud. The old codger then called the police on us. So much for Berkeley's hippie lineage. Luckily, the police were very nice and were not about to shut down a show for a bunch of NICU graduates. I'll make sure we get a sound permit this year when we book the AC/DC cover band.


Cowboy Jared made another appearance a week later at a birthday party for another set of twins M&M are buddies with at preschool. Given the chance, the kids would gladly buy an old VW micro bus and follow him around to all his gigs. As you saw above, Maddy is definitely a spinner.


In October, the family hopped in the car and headed north for some apple picking in Petaluma. Other than completely different geography and temperatures hovering in the mid-90s, it was almost exactly apple picking back in New England. Luckily, it was a dry heat.




This fall the kids did a fair bit of hiking here in the Bay Area. This fine autumn day we were strolling in Tilden Park in the Berkeley Hills. If you look back at some old posts, you may notice the kids climbing on the same bench. Having said that, I took a quick look and couldn't spot one but I'm sure it's in there somewhere. This picture does a nice job of conveying the kids genuine affection for each other. Their relationship isn't so much like twins, but more like regular siblings born about a year apart. Maddy acts a bit like a bossy older sister, and naturally Milo gets irritated with her trying to push her will on him all the time. But in the end, they are their most significant and devoted playmates.


Another birthday for M&M's buddy Nicola. This shin-dig was held in October at Ruby's Tumbling here in Alameda, the same place where the kids take gymnastics lessons. 

 
Halloween was another hit this year for M&M. Months and months in advance Milo made clear he wanted to be a giraffe and pretty much reminded us each day of that fact. Maddy was just as fixated on being Tinkerbell. She wore the little green costume with wings around the house nearly everyday for a week leading up to the 31st.  Then, just before we were ready to head out for trick-or-treating, she wanted to switch to Cinderella (same costume as last year). It was actually pretty chilly out, so that worked just fine.  

 
Milo rocks out - November 2012. Having grown up a drummer with less than enthusiastic parents, I've been committed to allowing the kids to rock out at high volumes on a variety of instruments. Milo seems to be developing a decent sense of rhythm, and obviously he's got all the showmanship he needs. Really glad both kids love music. Today I walked by the bathroom and Maddy was sitting on the throne; when she saw me, she yelled, "rock-n-roll will never die!" I nearly teared up.

 
And speaking of showmanship... There are two good things about rain in the Bay Area. First, the rain that falls here will fall as snow in the Sierras. Second, the kids get to go outside and stomp in puddles -- a prime source of cheap entertainment.

 
Another key purchase, this past fall I managed to pick up a couple used Trail-a-Bikes off Craigslist. By the way, never ever buy these things new. I bought two of them used for less than the cost of one new one, and they were in great shape. Kids love em' and it's been nice to get them out for bike rides at a reasonable pace. We managed to take them for a 10 miler the other day, and we didn't hear any complaints. They especially love to go fast and off road. It's also helped rekindle their interest in learning to ride their own bikes. 

 
 

This past December 2012 included a few major firsts. (Above) the kids went ice skating for the first time on a warm, 70 degree day here in Alameda. Both kids loved it and after a while they ditched the plastic seals and tried skating on their own. Maddy did miss her triple Lutz, and the French judge was unreasonably harsh on Milo.
  


 ~~~~~ And Now For A Brief Intermission ~~~~
(Please go freshen your drink)
 
I told you this thing is long...
 
 
The biggest event of all in recent months was M&M's first ski trip. We took the kids up to Lake Tahoe and got in a day of skiing at Sugar Bowl. They had a two hour lesson, and by the time we picked them up they were successfully snowplowing down the bunny hill. Maddy was committed to perfecting her form, while Milo just basically wanted to go really fast (too fast considering he's pretty bad at stopping). If there were an all out kamikaze event held on a bunny slope for novice skiers (and of course there should be), Milo would win the 4-5 age class hands down.   
 
 
Above: Sugar Bowl Ski Area, December 18, 2012. Bound to be our Christmas card for next year...


 
 
And speaking of Christmas... Above, Maddy and Milo get the tree ready.



A visit from the big guy on the Niles Canyon Rail Road Christmas Train.

 
Grandpa also paid a visit over the holidays. He came along for the railroad trip and was also very excited to see Santa. 


Maddy helps out with making Christmas cookies.

 
The kids leave out some treat for Santa and the reindeer.


 
Christmas morning, 2012.

 
Milo was thrilled to get a new pair of boots and a guitar (from Nana) to help him in following in the footsteps of Cowboy Jared.

 
The kids also got new scooters, which they love. It took some practice, but they are zipping around at ludicrous speed now. Pretty impressive. 

 
Post holidays, the family Stiles headed off to Pt. Reyes National Sea Shore for a rare, fair weather day. Typically it's pea soup fog or gusting winds. We caught the perfect blend of weather. 

 
 

 
M&M were troopers on the 300-and-something step climb back up from the lighthouse. It was nice not to have to carry them -- along with a diaper bag loaded with two changes of clothes, changing pad, snacks, wipes, etc. We were joined by our friends Jim and Gretchen and their one-year-old baby Dylen, so it was a reminder of how far the kids had come. Pretty soon they'll be carrying me, right? 
 
 
Jim, Gretchen & Dylen - January 2013
 
One side note: Maddy has become quite the observant blurter. She is hyper aware of everything around her, and anything that is unusual becomes an immediate topic of conversation. For example, while at Pt. Reyes, we were sitting quietly next to a nice older man waiting for the bus. After exchanging pleasantries, Maddy was enough kind blurt out to him, "Hey! You have great big yellow teeth!" Yes, he did -- the guy's mouth was straight out of the Big Book of British Smiles. (Sorry Helen and Jenny.) Still, he probably didn't to hear it from a 4.5-year-old girl. The same goes for the poor people who Maddy noticed were tall, smelly, pregnant, etc. 
 
Wow is this thing long. I'm sure I'm leaving valuable stuff out.
 
We also brought the kids on their first outing to Yosemite in mid-January. We spent three days hanging out there enjoying the sites and skiing at the little area in the park called Badger Pass. I was a long drive, but worth it.


M&M playing in the great meadow at the base of Yosemite Falls. The snow was actually pretty dry and not so good for making snowmen. Nevertheless, the kids found this guy already made and decided they needed to rescue him.

 
Elaine, Milo & Maddy at the base of Yosemite falls around sunset.

 
One of my favorite pictures. Maddy with Dad on her very first ride on a chair lift. Milo rode the lift with me once at Sugar Bowl, but this was Maddy's first try. By mid day, she was getting off all by herself, but she still needed a little help getting on. 

 
Milo was also a big fan of the lifts and we took quite a few lift rides together during the two days at Badger. One of the side consequences of getting the kids into skiing was that I had to get back on snow skis for the first time in 17 years -- that's how long ago I switched over to snowboarding. You just can't help kids nearly as much on a snowboard as you can on skis. This particularly important for Milo who whips down the slopes at hyper speed, with no real concern for the fact that he's terrible at stopping. On one run he came just a few yards away from putting a sizable dent in a poor, innocent snowmobile that was parked quietly at the side of the slope.

 
Another reason to love California skiing. This is a scene you will never, ever see in New England in January or any other moth for that matter.  If there is snow on the ground in New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maine chances are it's below 20 and windy.

 
Maddy making a run down the bunny slope at Badger Pass.

video
 
Here's a fun video of Milo dancing at a Latin jazz performance here in Alameda.  It's completely out of sequence, since it's from back in August. It's entertaining though. That kid is gonna' do fine with the ladies. 


The parting shot: M&M hiking at Joaquin Miller Park in the Oakland hills with their buddies Sierra and Mason.

Look for the next post much sooner.