Thursday, August 25, 2016

3rd Grade: Day 1

Alice was "nerv-cited" for her first day of third grade.  She had her outfit planned ahead of time.  Her shirt says something approximating only needing love, lattes and free wifi.  Below she is showing her Harry Potter backpack.

Our known milestones for this year are letter grades, and her first male teacher, Mr. Jackson.  3rd Graders are also promoted out of the "front" playground and now take recess on the "back" playground.

This picture by the tree in our front yard is a family tradition now.  We do it every year.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer 2016 Music Recital

Alice's Music School has three recitals a year, they are optional and relaxed, she loves them and participates in every one.  We love going and often her grandparents make it too.  The Meadows made it down for this one.

Alice selected a funny and interesting song for the recital, Dumb ways to die.  Its a great video, and with slightly different origins than her usual selections.  This song is part of an Australian public service announcement campaign by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, to promote rail safety (wiki).  She did a great job, was really confident, got laughs from the crowd, and I think everyone had fun.  Cristy and I are really super proud of her.

Alice also performed a duet with another student.  Luckily the other student was singing a song Alice had done for the school talent show, traveling solider by the Dixie Chicks, so she was able help out.  After a couple of late night practice sessions the girls were ready and sang well together.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Padre 2016

So I've lost count of how many times we have gone to Padre, but it has been at least 2 years since we last came. We have decided that - yes, Padre is the best beach in Texas. We did some of our favorite activites such as "poop castles" on the beach, and swimming in the condo pools, breakfast at Pier 19 and dinner at Pirates Landing, but we actually found a few new things to try this time around.

We came at the right time for turtle hatching season, and made it to an early morning public release during our stay. Apparently it is a highly attended event, so Alice had to climb up on her daddy's shoulders to see. This gave her the best view and she took our photos for this event.

Another new experience for us was climbing the Port Isabelle lighthouse. We all had legs achy for days after this morning :-)

The last new experience was sailing The Black Dragon pirate ship. We have seen this ship each year we have gone to Padre, but have avoided it because of either hot weather or crowds. This year Alice saw it and emphatically said she wanted to go.
We decided to go on the last cruise of the day which at this time of the year included watching fireworks - yeah! Alice really enjoyed participating in the pirate events, and mom had a few pina coladas and got attacked with water guns. Alice got to participate in a sword fight and go on a treasure hunt. I was quite impressed with their ability to keep the kids entertained, and the adults too.

We had a fantastic time (again) and hope to return again in the future :-)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Spring Break 2016

This year the family went to Devils Den State Park in Arkansas.
We broke the trip into 2 days and stayed the night in Dallas with Didi and Pop and had dinner with Gammy and Papa. The next morning we got up and continued our trip to Devils Den. It was about a 5 hour drive from Dallas, so not too bad......UNTIL we got within 5 miles of the park.
GPS and advice from locals had us taking State Hwy 220 the last few miles to the park.  We were told there is some construction on Hwy 220, but it was open - so with that advice we continued our drive.
I don't know what State Hwy 220 looked like before they started construction, but I can tell you what it looked like when we drove down it!

Our little Prius was not made for 'mud doggin' and there were a few times I thought we were going to get stuck. There was no cell service along this route and Mom was close to tears by the time we got to the park. 

It may had been a bad start to our vacation, but the bad luck stopped there.  Our cabin was nice - full kitchen, AC, cable TV, jacuzzi tub....a lot like the cabin we had a few years back in Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. The family, including the pups made the cabin home for 4 days in relative luxury (minus cell and wifi) which turned out to make the trip more relaxing.

There were many beautiful trails to hike and a clear stream running through the Park. For the most part it was quiet, and Alice and I spent a lot of time hanging together in a hammock outside our cabin in the relative coolness listening to birds and talking and each night we took a bath in the jacuzzi tub. These were Alice's two favorite activities at the park.

Dad enjoyed the hikes, seeing the scenic outlooks, and finding treasure (animal skull). The dogs enjoyed walks and sniffing new stuff, and we all enjoyed the great weather. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Happy 8th Birthday Sugar-bear!

Alice's birthday took 3 diffent events to celebrate.
On January 1st, Mom and Dad surprised Alice with a trip to Houston's America Girl to get the brand new Girl of the Year. Alice has been talking about going to AM on New Years day for months, but we never committed, so it was a surprise when we woke her up and loaded her into the car. We stood in line and waited for our turn to enter the store and see the new girl. Her name is Lea Clark.

The second event was her birthday party on the Saturday before her birthday. The theme was Pancakes and Pajamas ( and mustaches too :-). The girls (20 2nd graders) came for breakfast in their PJ's. Dad was the  pancake chef and the girls topped them with syrup, sprinkles, chocolate chips,sugar sprinkles and whip cream. While the girls ate, a balloon artist made them animals, crowns, etc....  Next the girls decorated pillow cases with fabric paints and lastly, we played musical chairs. I'm pretty sure everyone had fun.

The last birthday event was a small intimate affair at home. On her birthday Alice got to pick what she wanted for dinner. The gourmet meal she selected was........McDonalds - cheeseburger, fries and a shake. Afterward we had red velvet cake.  Happy Birthday sugar-bear!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas 2015

As usual, the Austin Bickel family traveled to Dallas to spend the Christmas holidays with the family. It was a rough start..... We got to Didi and Pops house to find out there was a water leak in the attic and the water was turned off. It would be 1.5 days without water. We flushed toilets with water leaking from the attic and washed dishes with boiled hot water.  A real Little House on the Prarie experience. Luckily the water was back on my the time we returned from our annual girls trip to Neimans on Christmas Eve.

We arrived at Neimans around 10:00 and the line to see Santa was about an hour long..... Not too bad to see the REAL Santa - not some helper fake :-). Alice was a champ about waiting in line. She played games on her iPad and listened to music on Spotify.

Our lunch reservations was not until 1:00 so we spent some time exploring the store and taking pictures with the displays - a new tradition started by Alice last year.

Christmas Eve before bed Alice, set out cookies and milk for Santa. The cookies were hand decorated by Alice and myself....although ones selected for Santa were all done by Alice.

Alice had a hard time sleeping that night. She woke mom up at 12:00, 2:00 and 4:00 wanting to know if it was time to get up. Morning finally arrived and Alice got to open her presents. Her favorite present from Santa was a net canopy for her bed. Her favorite present from her parents was a new iPad mini.

Alice saw her cousins the day after Christmas for another family gathering and of course, more presents :-)

After our second Christmas, we decided to head back to Austin. We could be home before 9:00 and sleep in our own beds....sigh!!!!!  Not long into our trip, it started raining and then a warning came over the phone.....tornado watch.  Lots of lightening, lots of wind....but not too much rain.  However, within an hour of driving we were out of the bad weather and made it home in less than 4 hours, not bad.

The next morning, we found out that within the hour after we left, several tornados tore through the exact same area, and hit the city adjacent to where our families live.  Luckily our families were spared, but very sad for many families who lost homes and a few who lost lives. 

Definitely a memorable holiday. Here's to a Happy New Year!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Finished 2nd Grade Math before the end of 1 half of 2nd grade!

beware, parental bias potentially in effect

We switched Alice's after-school math exercise to Khan Academy this year.  Its an improvement over the quizzes I was making for her and introduces her to many more styles of questioning.   Khan Academy has a well organized and high quality math learning program.  She took to it right away and began to prefer it for her daily exercises.

She gets incentives for her math exercises.  She gets a "point" for doing her homework each day and if she does math each day she gets a random shopkin toy on Fridays.  This proved to be sufficient incentive but just barely (especially on hard or long days), so in order to increase her motivation and properly communicate the value we placed on the effort, we told her that if she finished 2nd grade math, before the end of her second grade year, she should could pick out a toy at Toys-R-Us.

minor narrative digression
Not long after, early November, she walked up to me and said:
Her:  "Dad I bet you, I can finish 2nd grade math before the end of November."
Me:  "What's the bet?"
Her:  "One dollar."
Me:  "If you take too long, you won't cry and you'll give up the dollar, for real?"
Her:  "Yep."  (firm look on face)

return to main narrative
She finished 2nd grade math last night!  As soon as Cristy got home we went to Toys-r-us and shopped, then we went wherever she wanted to go for dinner, her choice.  She chose Which-Which :-).  She was so excited and proud of herself.  I don't think I'll ever forget how wonderful last night was.  I loved seeing her expansive excitement.  She felt proud and confident and was talking non-stop.

minor narrative digression
She probably put about six hours into math homework this week.  She was really pushing herself.  I had to make her take a break on two occasions and watch a show to rest a bit.  She really pushed through this week.  I'm officially impressed with the tenacity and drive I saw come through

return to main narrative
Her:  "Where's my dollar?"
Me:  "Let me get it!"  (smile on face)

I jumped up and quickly got her dollar; most effective dollar ever.  She took her dollar and put it in her charity jar.  Then we played with puppies until Cristy came home and we started celebrating.

I'll come up with a code for her to break today, time for a math break.

Next target:  3rd grade math...