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...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Time Capsule: Lunches

Leaving this as a time capsule in case Alice every wonders what she ate for lunch when she was a kid.

Alice's standard lunch during 2nd grade hasn't changed much from late 1st grade.  I make two individual sandwiches using Hawaiian sweet rolls, hard salami, cheese (muenster, american or Swiss), and some mayo.  These are 2nd grade Alice's favorite sandwich.  Along with that she gets 2 cookies or 2 candies and a small portion of chips.

There is nothing at the cafeteria she much cares for but sometimes she eats there if it makes sense socially (lunch source determines seating opportunities).

Lastly, she is in the habit of sharing her snacks with special friends, that is why there is always two pieces of whatever packed for her.  She has just started to mention food trading which I don't discourage, even though its against rules.

Completely Unwarranted Parental Aside:  I see this as a Spartan situation, where breaking the rules to make a mutually advantageous trade is the optimal lesson she could learn.  She must endure whatever punishment she receives but will get none from me.  I just expect good trade and a good reaction to being punished.  Those seem like important lessons too.  She has ample opportunity to learn how to obey, life is rife with them.  Other lessons must be learned - society does not thrive on obedience alone.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Random Entry

Just wanted to record some observations regarding 2nd grade Alice, off the top of my head, this morning before they slip away with so many others.

Alice has a couple new pairs of PJs that she loves.  They are both winter heavy and soft, with the built in feet.  One is an Owl and the other is a kitty.  They are very warm so she often needs to sleep with the fan all the way up and only a sheet; that is how much she likes these PJs :-)

Lately Alice often worries about Cupcake and his perceived persecution from his newly adopted sister puppy.  She will lift him up onto chairs, which Pepper is still too small to reach.  Or she'll take him back to her room for music videos, leaving little sister in the kitchen with Dad.  She is really good with Pepper though and is practicing good training techniques, and does her best.

She is exploring her boundaries a bit with after school homework.  Our default program is to complete any school assigned homework first, then depending on whether Dad thinks the school assigned enough home work or not, more will be added ;-)  Usually the additional homework consists of a math quiz or the exploration and discussion of a specific topic, which takes more prep so its usually a math quiz.  She has suggested lately to make a graph of pop star genre popularity which was a fine suggestion so we did that.  Lately she is suggesting we do math quizzes using Khan Academy so we are doing that.

Alice loves to make up silly dances.  There is something the Teacher does in Spanish class where a child can make up a dance and everyone else has to mimic it.  Alice enjoys doing this.  There is a girl that doesn't like to dance for some reason, too tough or something and Alice gets a second-grade-mischievous pleasure from making the dances extra silly and goofy so that they annoy this girl even more.

Lastly, she recently hates the word "proper".  She bristles anytime it comes up.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Happy National 'Talk like a Pirate Day'

September 19th is National Talk like a Pirate Day.
The day started off with the end of a friend sleeping over the night before.
Then we attended a Birthday party for another friend at a Skating Rink. (Alice's first time to roller skate)
Then we top if off with dressing Alice up like a pirate and getting a free dozen donut from Krispy Kreme. wheeeeeeee

Sunday, August 30, 2015

First Performance

Alice is an aspiring pop star.  She has been taking voice and guitar (to a lesser extent) lessons since the beginning of the year.  Alice participated in her first recital with the school. She was nervous but excited. Didi and Pop came down from Dallas to watch.

With Her teacher Ms Tracy accompanying her on guitar, Alice rocked the house singing Taylor Swifts Shake It Off.  There was a small snafu in the performance where Ms Tracy stopped the song short of the rap.....the most fun part of the song. Alice turned to her and let her know she was not finished and her Dad almost jumped up to cry out 'what about the rap!' Ms Tracy laughed and accepted her mistake and the song continued this time with audience clapping. This seemed to relax Alice and she nailed the rap and end of the song.

I think the recital got Alice more excited about performing. She said she has already picked her next song and began practicing it the same weekend.

Love my little performer!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

1st Day of 2nd Grade

Alice has Mrs Jackson for her second grade teacher, room 413.  Her new class room looks really nice and has more natural sunlight than her last class room did.

Maybe a little nervous inside, but not showing it - she makes it look easy.

(Cristy and Alice spent much time curling and coloring hair this morning, lots of kisses, and lots of time with her puppies, of course.)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Adventure Ridge

All the mountains have at least 1 lift running in the summer, but only Vail had adventure activities up at the ridge. There are multiple activities on top, but Alice picked the tubing and zip line. Alice gave the tubing 2 thumbs up and a 10 as her overall favorite activity. 

The zip line was bit more complex. Alice has been talking about riding a zip line for a while now, but she has never ridden a real zip line. When we went up to the top, and Alice saw the kids zip line and the bigger zip line, she announced she could do the big one. I was excited because I wanted to do the zip line, and now we could do it together.  There was a glitch in our we finished tubing, we went and signed up for a time for the zip line.  We were in the 2:00 slot, but just before our turn they shut the mountain activities down due to impending rain. We had the option of getting our new back, or waiting to see if the mountain opened back up after the clouds passed.  We decided to wait and took a few pictures and had a few coffee drinks.
The mountain finally did open back up, and we geared up and rode the people mover up to the zip line. 

Once we were hooked in and getting instructions, Alice began to question her resolve.
The only real instructions were to tilt your head back as you came in for the landing.  Alice was scared when they opened up the gates and we went flying.
Alice did not yell or scream.....I believe she was in shock as we flew down the line. I barely remember the ride because I was so concerned about Alice and helping her remember to tilt her head back. As we neared the end of the line, yelled for her to look up and back. Alice says she did, but she also wanted to look at what was coming.  Even with my superior weight, somehow Alice made it to the end before me, and as I swept in, I heard Alice crying.  The attendant couldn't get me down fast enough to get to Alice.
Alice had hit her chin on the landing and bit her lip. She was bleeding a little, but no long term damage was done. Alice took deep breaths and got her tears under control. She is a trooper and I was so proud of her.

After it was all over, we asked if she liked the zip.....we got a sideways thumb, meaning a 5. Not bad for an experience that ended in blood and crying.  Alice has decided that maybe she should wait a few more years before attempting the zip line again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Glenwood Caverns and Adventure Park

Our family likes to visit caves, at least Larry and I do....Alice just comes along 😄
When we decided to vacation in Colorado, I wondered if there were any caves. I found Glenwood Caverns and Adventure Park. Who knew there would be a theme park with caves located on top of a mountain? But that's exactly what is it.  I highly recommend it for kids 5-10 and child like adults of any age.
You arrive in Glenwood Springs, yes they have actual springs here you can swim in, and park at the base of the mountain. You ride a gondola to the top of the mountain to the Park. I was excited about the Alpine Coaster ride, but Alice's favorite was the Canyon Flier which is a standard dual seat swing, but it slings you out over the Canyon. The experience and the views are breathtaking! There are a few other rides, such as a kids roller coaster and a roller coaster for slightly bigger kids, a zip line, of sorts, a few small kiddy rides, and the 2 caves you can tour.  I cajoled Alice into touring both, although she was ready to stop at one.

Towards the end of the day, Alice asked to have an Old Time Picture taken.  She had seen this upon entry and this was my bargaining chip to see both Caves.  Alice always enjoys dress up, so now Alice is already planning the next time she can do an Old Time Photo....but this time without her mom 😕.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Horse Riding in Vail

I had researched online for area stables for our trip. Vail stables had great reviews and several different trail rides to choose from. We actually ended up scheduling 2 rides with Vail Stables because we had such a great time on our first ride.
Our first ride ended up being a private tour for me and Alice. Our trail leader was Avery and she was great. She was good with Alice and gave lots of interesting facts about the area, trees and wildlife.
Alice rode a horse named Bandit and I rode in Smoky and the Bandit 😄

Our second ride was with a large group of 12. There were 2 trail leaders, one at the front and one in the middle to keep tabs in the group. I was glad we had prior experience since we didn't get individual attention on this ride.  For this one, we were the 'experienced' riders. Alice did a great time handling her horse on the longer ride. Alice's horse for this ride was named Clint and I rode Habinaro. Both horses were gentle and took directions well. On our last leg down the trail, it began to rain. We got wet, but not soaked.

We highly recommend Vail Stables and will go back on our next trip :-)

Summer Vacation

Instead of going to the Texas Gulf coast for our annual summer vacation, we decided to take my parent time share condo in Avon Colorado, close to Beaver Creek and Vail. This was going to be our longest road trip to date. 15 hours drive time and Alice was not looking forward to it.
We left on a Friday morning and drove 12 hours to Raton New Mexico. It was a long and exhausting day, but we all made it in good spirits. Alice mostly sang the whole way to Kids Bop and the new Taylor Swift album 1989 :-)

Saturday morning we headed out towards Colorado. We had lunch in Denver and was in Avon by 3:00 that afternoon. We did a little exploring, but mostly just rested in the condo and went swimming.

The condo we stayed at was called The Christie Lodge. It is an older lodge, but we found it quite comfy. Our room was a 1 bed / 1 bath with 1/2 kitchen (meaning no cooktop or stove). We ate out quite a lot, but did have some meals in or ate leftovers from our outings. The bedroom had a queen size bed and a little (and kinda odd) raised cot/bunk bed.  Alice immediately claimed this as hers and began to set up her space with all the toys she brought. They Lodge also has games and puzzles you can check out to play which we took advantage of when we had down time and needed an activity.

The scenery was beautiful and the weather phenomenal. Mornings were cold and chilly, afternoons were warm without ever getting too hot. We all got a slight sunburn our first day exploring the mountain. After that, we all began to wear sunblock.

I had been planning this trip for a while and had several activities lined up.  First on the list was real horseback riding....not a lead pony ride. Second was a trip to Glenwood Caverns and Adventure Park. Third was Adventure Ridge activities up on top on Vail mountain....this included tubing and zip lines. This left a few days to relax and do other stuff as we wanted and kept the trip from being too packed.
One day we went up the gondola to Beaver Creek and had lunch and took pictures. Another day we had lunch in Vail Village. 

Alice's other favorite vacation activity is watching cable TV. Since we do not have cable at home, Alice will watch hours of the Disney channel. We have all certainly gotten our fill of Jessie, Austin and Allie, Dog with a Blog and Casey Undercover to name a few.  We let the bedroom TV be Alice's domain for watching shows while we are back in the condo so mom and dad have full reign of the living room/kitchen.

We stayed a full week. Alice missed Cupcake a lot and is looking forward to her reunion with her pet. We are all looking forward to getting home and back in our comfy beds.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ever after high collection

Alice has 9 ever after High dolls in her collection.

click to see full image

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

First trip out of the country

Alice's first trip out of the country was to Cancun. 
Mom and Alice were jonesing for a beach trip so we decided to take a vacation in Mexico.

In preparation, we had to get a passport for our sugar bear. Plus, it was only the second time on a plane for her.  After a rough start of a few delays (lots of raining and weather going on) we finally made it on the plane and to Cancun.

We stayed at an all inclusive resort with a nice pool which we spent many hours by and in each morning. We even got Alice's dad down by the pool for relaxation time and to watch her swim. Alice did a great job practicing her swimming. 

Our last day at the resort, it rained so Alice went to the kids club. They made bracelets, played games, and went down to the beach for a short sand castle competition. Alice made a new friend and enjoyed the activities.

We all had a relaxing time unplugging from our devices and spending time together.
Can't end the post without sharing some additional pictures of the beautiful beach.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sleep Over Breakfast

Alice had a 1st grade friend over last night.  They were up early this morning to get the play started, interrupted only for some homemade kolaches.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First trip to the ER

Alice loves to swing so, on a Wednesday evening after dinner Alice asks if she can go outside to swing for a few minutes before bed. We say, of course. Dad goes outside with her and mom stayed inside to listen for the cookies in the oven. 
Not long after they go outside, I hear a commotion. At first I'm not sure if it is them playing around or what. It quickly escalates and I realize Alice is crying. I head outside and dad has her in his arms and is carrying her into the house. The final story I will eventually get is that Alice was goofing around on the swing and somehow fell off backward. I asked what hurts and she indicates her hand. I quickly get ice and we get her settled on the rocker with the ice with still much crying.  After a few minutes, I pull the ice away to look at the hand, and I see a bent finger. Larry comes and looks at it and announces, gets your clothes back on ..... We are heading to the ER! 
We head for one of those new 24 hour emergency clinics. There is only 1 other case there besides us.
They get us in quickly, give her some Motrin, and get an X-ray done.  Yep, it's a broken finger, and the doctor decides he needs to go ahead and set it.....which means 2 shots at the base of her finger. Alice is brave, just a little scared. Once the shots are administered, she relaxes immensely.  

Alice begins to liken herself to Buffy for being brave.  Dad tells her " your brave like Buffy, smart like Willow and silly like Xander." Alice likes the comparison.  After 2 hours in the ER, we head home to finally eat those cookies that were cooking when it all happened. 

Next day Alice got to stay home from school. The doctor told us to make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to follow up, so I called that morning. They saw her X-ray and decided to see her that day. They took another X-ray to verify the set was good, which it was, and gave her a more permanent splint. Now Alice is rockin the look and playing it for all its worth.

I do feel quite lucky that up until this point, we have avoided the ER. Mom did get a nominal concession from Alice saying 'next time mom warns me about a possible danger, I should probably listen'.....we see.