Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Big Move - Frisco, Colorado

Main Street, Frisco, Colorado

The Old Schoolhouse, Frisco, Colorado

Episcopal Church, Breckenridge, Colorado

Well, we did it!  At the end of October we moved from busy Bucharest, Romania to friendly Frisco, Colorado..... mainly for me to look for work.  (Hint, if anybody wants some watercolors, sketches, or architectural design work, send me a message).  Here we are for the winter, to enjoy the snow and skiing, and have fun, and get ready for a busy Spring.  

At 3am at the end of October, with about 10 suitcases, various sundry bags, stroller, dog, baby, baby bags, dog crate, coats and hats, we headed to the airport in 3 unmarked cars (just regular cars).  We had planned our trip with only one layover... easier for the baby and for the dog.  We were one of the first in line at the check-in.  With our small group watching, we disgorged ourselves of most of our luggage and got my dog underway on her long journey (quickly through the security and off she went in her crate!   Whoosh!)  Left with the stroller, our carry-ons, and the baby bag, we headed through security, waved goodbye to family, and Whoosh!   on the way to the gate.  A coffee later (dang!, should have gotten the coffee in the machine for half price), we were on the plane, baby and all.  Amazingly the baby slept almost from the minute of takeoff to our landing.  

6 hours in the airport.
Wide awake from his beautiful nap in the plane, the baby had a great time in the airport, for all 6 hours.  We watched a concrete truck pour concrete for 30 minutes, said hello to all the women walking by with mops and brooms, and checked out every book and toy shop possible.  We even looked for the supposed playgrounds in the airport, but never did find them.  And 3-4 hours at the chairs with Nicholas playing hide and seek, and going from window to window to sit on the sill and look at the planes, talk to all the children possible, and stare at all the people busily sipping their coffee and looking distracted.  Time to board.

10 hours in a flying sardine can.
After 6 hours in the airport, Nicholas was EXHAUSTED.  Fortunately, the plane crew forgot to take tickets for the flight, so just when we were getting ready to prepare Nicholas' milk for his takeoff (to help him adjust with the pressure change and FALL ASLEEP at takeoff), the crew announced we'd be sitting on the tarmac for 30-40 minutes so they could go around the plane and collect tickets.  As this was happening, the couple in front of us must have realized their seats (already much to close to us.... I think the airline recently "compacted" their seats to get a few extra rows)...... realized their seats were able to recline even further than normal... and proceeded to put their seats WAY BACK.... until they were about 12" from our faces.  This level of closeness combined with Nicholas' already tired mood started a chain reaction in Nicholas that made him more agitated and impossible to fall asleep.  Nicholas would have nothing to do with staying in this confined prison of a seat.  Eventually, we got into the air.  

We found the only way to pacify Nicholas was to walk him, so we started walking him and exploring the cabin.  Not only was he amazed by all the gadgets, telephones, buttons, little windows, and all the other passengers, but by the TOILETS ON THE DOWNSTAIRS LEVEL.  Once he had discovered this, all he wanted was to walk up and down the stairs and look in all the toilet rooms.  Weighing now about 20 lbs, a real joy can be found in walking up and down steep stairs carrying a 20 lb. bag of potatoes, wiggling and pointing at everything.  Not to mention the tiny toilet rooms full of all kinds of buttons and gadgets.  Wow!  I think we enjoyed this olympic safari for probably 2-3 hours of the flight.  

Finally, back in our seats, with Mr. and Mrs. Close Sitter there,  Nicholas finally fell asleep.... on Diana's lap, pinning her there for the duration of the nap (3 hours).  Unable to move, my job became to help her eat, and try to keep her comfortable.  The food and beverage service arriving, the stewardess proceeded to ask us so that we could hear, "would you like something to drink?"   I said no.  Again, "WOULD YOU LIKE SOMETHING TO DRINK?"  I responded, Shsssssss!  Nooooo!   Seeing Nicholas asleep, she said "I'M SORRY!" and moved on to the next victim.  Thankful that Nicholas hadn't woken up, we settled in and waited and tried to eat in a space smaller than half a telephone booth, unable to move our arms, and able to only put down one tray.  

After 3 hours, and with about 5 hours left, Nicholas awoke, and our 3 hour adventure began again.  Eventually, another nap for a few hours, and there we were at our destination.  Easy as pie.  

We had family there to greet us, so we collected all our 10 suitcases, sundry bags, stroller, baby, dog, crate, coats and hats, through security, made our hellos! and headed for the car.  Amazing that we could fit everything in the car, but we did.  Nicholas even slept the entire way home.  

2 weeks later.
So, it took a week, but Nicholas eventually adjusted to the 9-hour time zone change... only to be hit again by a 1-hour daylight savings time.  But now he's adjusted to that as well.  Febe adjusted as well.  Her food is a different brand, but we continued the practice of adding "improvements" to her food, so she had no problem adjusting to her new menu.  We made it here just in time for Halloween, so Nicholas had an amazingly cute Lion costume..... I guess a subject for a future retrospective blogpost.  Today was the first real snow of the winter, but we're finding that Nicholas is enjoying the snow, rocks, trees, sticks, and dirt here just as much as he did over the summer in the country in Romania (another subject for a future retrospective blogpost).  We found a gym class for babies in the local area, so Nicholas already is developing some friends and making us proud of his athletic prowess.  Another superstar for sure.  Febe is meeting her friends, Diana is discovering a small group of other expats, and John is doing his best to look for work.  One day, One day!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Springtime - age 10 months

In the last few weeks, Nicholas started standing up in the living room at the edge of furniture, and maneuvering around the living room, and discovering the joy of crawling.  We had to put up some blockades at the kitchen to keep him from crawling in and getting into something there.  Also at the bookcase and in strategic corners.  In the last few days, he's started to let go of the furniture for a few seconds and balance standing up.  Now one of his biggest adventures is to explore the living room.

Also, we started taking Nicholas to the playground now that the weather is warmer.  Helping him on the slide (even the big slide), swinging with him on my lap on the swing, putting him on the baby swings, trying all of the toys in the playground as much as we can.  Now when we go to the park, when we get to where Nicholas can see the playground ahead and hear the kids, he gets really excited.  When we get to where the path turns to go to the playground,   Nicholas instinctively turns his head, knowing exactly where the playground is.  In fact knowing exactly where all of the playgrounds are.

I started showing Nicholas the trees and leaves and pine cones and green things in the playgrounds.  At first he seemed to be revolted by the idea of touching the tree bark.  he would really recoil and look away.  He had no problem with the pine cones.... hmmm.... some very interesting little things..... but tree bark  ..... EEEHHHHH!!   Now he's a little more interested to touch the tree bark (pine tree).

Happy Easter! - age 9 months

In April (last month), Nicholas started standing up in his crib.  Then learning how to maneuver around his crib.  Since then he's come a long way.... more adventurous every day.  But I wanted to show some of the cute pictures from April.  We have some of the "crazy workbench toys".... a little workbench, a little "zoo" with a moveable monkey, a little drum set.  In April we were able to set those up at the edge of the crib, and Nicholas would work on his stuff there for a while, play with things in his crib, and go back to his workbenches.  Up-down-up-down, around, around.  By now (May), he's able to actually lift one of these "workbenches" up over his head with one arm and throw it down in his crib (a hazard in case he were to fall), so now we keep it limited to just the one workbench that is too wide to lift past the crib rail.  But now Nicholas has "other adventures" on his mind than the workbench.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cartierul Cotroceni, Bucuresti

One of the most interesting neighborhoods in the city, for the architecture of the houses, is Cartierul Cotroceni.  There are a number of great architectural styles to be seen there, including Art Deco, Picturesque, Classical Revival, contemporary Modern, Rustic, Romanian (a version of Brancovean), international style modernist, and communist.  The styles are all adjacent to each other on the many small streets.   One of the interesting streets in this small architectural gem is Strada Lister, which connects Piata Operei (with the Opera, Parcul Eroilor, the statue at Operei, and one of the main bridges over the river) with an intimate little neighborhood park built onto the side of a hill - a great place to sit and have a cup of coffee and enjoy the trees.  Along Strada Lister, large oak trees arch over the street.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Game of the month: Moving

In the past few weeks, Nicholas started getting more and more into the crawling position.  He's moved from mastering the sitting position to deliberately moving toward an object, or at least reaching toward an object.  And, spending time developing his arms with baby push-ups.  Not only in the push up position, but crawling up on pillows to try to reach higher objects next to the couch, or pulling himself up on his knees in his crib by grabbing onto the side rail, to try to see what's going on.

Babies do an amazing amount of calesthenics activity and moving, that for an adult would be difficult, spending significant amounts of time doing leg lifts, moving their legs, push-ups, and sit-ups.  The other month, I started doing some calesthenics with Nicholas when he's in his jumper chair.  I figured if Nicholas can spend 4-6 hours per day in his chair, in his crib, or on the couch doing leg lifts, sit-ups, mini-squats, and push-ups, I can surely spend 30 minutes a day.  So far, I've lost 4 cm (1-1/2 inches) around my belly, and gained 5 pounds.  We call it Club Nicholas.... Vibe FM with DJ Nicholas.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Valentines - age 7 months

My parents sent Nicholas a Russel Stover heart valentine box for his first Valentines.  Not that you can't find chocolate heart boxes in Romania, but you cant find Russel Stover heart boxes that I know of.  My family had a tradition to give a big heart box on the first Valentines, and to mark the year at the edge on the back.  And every Valentines, to reuse the box and refill it with candy or other things, and to continue around the edge marking the years.  With Nicholas, we started marking the year and the place.  So, here's Nicholas with is his Valentines' heart box.  This year it's marked "Feb. 14, 2010, Bucharest, Romania."

Nicholas is a bit young for chocolate, so my wife and her sister (and I... but not so much I) tried the chocolate, one by one.  I think the favorite was the one with the chocolately chocolate cream inside.  Diana and her sister both agreed they should make a box just with that.

My parents also sent some little red plastic hearts filled with M&Ms for Diana and me.  After we washed the chocolate dust from the plastic, we gave one to Nicholas, which he is thoroughly enjoying with his new teeth.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Games of the month: sitting

Nicholas started sitting more independently this week.  Playing with some toys, he can stay pretty content, especially in the mornings around breakfast.

This sitting business also coincided with him getting a few new teeth.  The latest one or two, just coming through, are the upper front teeth.  Now when he chews on things, he can leave little teeth marks.

I'm proud to see him sitting there playing contentedly... I cant wait until he's old enough for crayons and paper, to see him doodling away, or going on sketch trips with me.  For now, he's a good model.

One of his favorite sitting games is "pick it up and put it down".  With a little blue ball or stuffed animal, he'll do this pretty endlessly, practicing his ever sharpening hand-arm-balance skills.  We started trying to modify this with him to a "give and take" game, but this might be another month or two away.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Toys of the month: gravity

Nicholas suddenly figured out the other day or week that if he drops something, then it makes a noise when it hits the floor.  He is FASCINATED by this.

As I'm posting, Nicholas is continuing with his scientific experiments in the physics and acoustics of gravity.  Very interesting stuff there.  Really.  The stuff of real science.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Toys of the month: Rings and things

Of all the crazy toys... buttons, shakers, rattles, colors, moving parts... one of Nicholas' favorite toys is the simple rings.

We received one of those playmats for kids, with the arches for hanging things. We rig up any number of toys, or sometimes conglomerations of toys. Earlier this month or last, he suddenly discovered shaking things. If I hang a series of rings with something attached to make noise, one of his favorite things is to grab the rings, and just shake them to hear the noise. When he discovered he could make a noise, then he would start to shake just about anything to see if it makes noise. Anyway, he loves the rings, because he can grab them with both hands, chew on them, pull them, and shake them, and they're easy to grab.

He also has been practicing for the past few months on the pacifier.... removing it, looking at it, replacing it.... So, while he studies his other toys, sometimes he'll just sit and contemplate the pacifier for a while. Also one of his favorite toys.

Subjects for upcoming posts:
Gravity: In the past few weeks, Nicholas started a deep scientific study of gravity and acoustics, involving some toy disks he has, a desk, and the floor. Still under investigation
Hands and Fingers: My wife just told me that today Nicholas was studying his fingers when they suddenly BENT. Fascinating....

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Toys of the month: the phone cord

Favorite game: see how fast he can whip the phone cord back and forth to see if it will rattle.
It's just so tempting, this funny cord that dangles in front of him, so stretchy, so curvy.

On the second sketch, Nicholas was moving around like an excited little monkey, and Diana was struggling to have a nice conversation with her mom, hold onto the squirmy critter attacking the phone cord, hold onto the phone as he was pulling on it, and somehow try to stay in a position for a few minutes while I did my sketch. By the time I got to focusing on her, there was no more patience left, and she didnt come out too "frumoasa"... beautiful.

So, I tried to do a better job with Diana in the next sketch. But then after a minute focusing on Diana, Nicholas was really squirmy squirmy and was a challenge to catch him semi-still....

In the second sketch, Nicholas was a bit "out of proportion".... something like one of those old medieval paintings or icons, where the child is drawn smaller than reality and with adult proportions. Probably a result of focusing on one subject, then focusing on the other, but not on the composition as a whole.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Toys of the month: Johnny Jump-Up

Nicholas loves the Johnny Jump-Up. We have to be super careful when putting him in, but once he's in there he is free to move, and loves to move his legs and spin around. Combined with the "surprise" of seeing a face again, this is amazingly FUN for him. We have these knit argyle socks with little rubbery stuff on the bottom... we call them his spiderman shoes.... we put these on him so he'll stick to the floor. No good to have the little legs going, going, but no traction. With the spiderman shoes, he spins around 360 or more, catches himself, does some dancing, and spins again.

We received this little car (ages 3+) (the ever-critical "M" which makes perfect sense in english, makes no sense in Romaneste, for which the word for months is "luni", so they thought "...'3+', perfect, 3 months); anyway, it has these crazy blinking lights, sings a blaring song endlessly, and spins around and makes little movements... it will absolutely scratch the brain. Nicholas LOVES it. He could watch it for an hour I think. At first I thought, "3+... no way for a 6 month old" (he was 3-4 months when he received it), but the minute we turned it on and he saw it spinning around, blinking, and blaring, he was FASCINATED. Now, I think that along with all the "educational" toys "designed for learning", blah blah blah, a few good old crazy nonsense toys that just blink and flash and carry on and spin around and entertain are good to have around to kind of balance things out and keep things fun.

So combine the Johnny Jump-Up with the Crazy Car, and Nicholas is HAPPY. Nicholas will watch the car, and when the car spins around, Nicholas will spin around sometimes.

These are two toys that work.

Nicholas inspecting the grain on the door

Another toy that works (Hardwood Doors). He's at the stage where he's trying to grab the shapes he sees in the grain on the door.