Life with Heather

I have a habit of making up little songs that I sing to Heather.  They're not impressive in any way, but she likes them (usually).  The most often criticism I get from her is to "make them more rock-starry."  I don't really know where she got the concept, but she then is happy if I give the song a more rock-and-roll style.

Because of her regular insistence on my songs being more "rock-starry," on Saturday I told her I was going to put on a song for her that I thought she'd like.  I told her it was a song I associate with Grandpa (her Grandpa, my Dad) playing on Saturday mornings for some reason.

Dickerson kids should now make a guess about the song, we'll see if we developed a similar association.

I played "I'm gonna be (500 miles)" by The Proclaimers and she thinks it's awesome.  We listened to it a few times and she can sing along with some parts.  During the chorus she got her stroller and would strut around in circles pushing it along.

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Now for something completely different.

One of the kids from Heather's preschool class had a birthday party this week.  It was Monday evening and Corinne was going to need to be going to sleep, so I took Heather to the party.  It was at a party place in town that has a room with big inflatable play structures and a rock-climbing wall and some other rooms for eating and such.  We arrived and I told Heather she should find the birthday girl and say, "Hello" and wish her happy birthday.  But Heather didn't want to leave my side.

She was a little overwhelmed by the noise of the fans on the inflatable things and by the number of adults milling about.  So we walked around the room getting a feel for the place and she started to relax.  I asked her if she recognized the kids.  She said they were the kids from preschool (with that tone of voice that says, "obviously").  I asked her if she could tell me their names.  So she started rattling off the names of the kids in her class.  I interrupted her and asked if she could tell me who particular kids were, "Who's this girl who came over and said 'hi'?"  But she didn't know.  We did this a few more times and she didn't seem to know the names of any of the girls.  Then a couple of boys ran by and she did know their names.

At school they do a game where they say a kid's name and toss them a ball.  When they do this they're all wearing name tags.  Heather has no problem with names during this game.

We think she's reading the name tags (probably not completely, but recognizing enough letters to then pick the right name from her memorized list) during the game.

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I think she must have the same issue that I have with recognizing faces.  I can learn to recognize a face, but it seems to be harder for me than it is for other people.  Especially if I run across someone outside of the usual context--it can be incredibly hard.  Often times I will be able to recognize that I know the person, but have no idea how or why or who they are.  Heather seems to be the same way.  At the party she definitely recognized the kids, but couldn't connect them with their name, but she knew all their names.

I find it really interesting.  It took a long time for me to realize that I took a lot longer to learn names and faces of people.  I don't think it was until I was in college that I really figured it out.  Which probably has something to do with growing up in a town where the entire grade was the same ~100 kids from kindergarten through graduation.  I would have learned all the kids eventually and then they didn't change much.  Whereas in college there was little consistency.

Taking her to that party and watching her in a full-blown social situation where I don't know anybody and can't really help things along made me realize how much of my personality she has.  Jess says she sees a lot of her own (Jess') personality in Heather as well.

We know she does play with other kids in a very normal way, but we also, at times, see her play less with the other kids and more in-the-vicinity-of the other kids a lot too.  And she will, not-uncommonly, just go off by herself to play.

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At the party, when it was time to sit down and eat, she went in and carefully sat at the corner seat furthest from where the other kids were already sitting.  The table then filled in around her.  During the time they were all sitting at the table she only lightly interacted with any of the kids.  I recognized that I was displaying the exact same behavior.  I didn't really interact with any of the other parents.  I tried to stay to the outside of the room so that Heather would be more likely to interact with the other kids and less likely to just interact with me, but I suppose I wasn't being a good example of pro-social behavior.  At one point she wanted to tell me knock-knock jokes. I redirected her to tell them to the other kids at the table which she did just fine.  She wasn't unhappy at all--just not really interested in the other kids.

This makes me feel a little torn.  I fully recognize the benefit of developing the ability to have smooth social interactions, but I also recognize that it probably doesn't bother her (in the same way that it didn't bother me at all that I wasn't interacting with the other parents at the party).

In some ways its feeling like I've acquired all this understanding about the world and now have to decide would I have done anything different in my own life growing up that I should now encourage Heather to do.

Christmas 2015

After our Thanksgiving traveling, Christmas was a simpler affair.  We stayed in Livermore and decided to buy our tree from a lot, shipped from Oregon, rather than driving out to cut it ourselves.

In contrast to our cut-it-yourself adventures of the past, though, we did get a very nice tree.  We looked for a Douglas Fir at the tree lot, but the largest they had was barely 5 feet tall.  So instead we got this massive Grand Fir.  It's very full, very green, and the needles are fairly soft.  But I don't think it has as much pine smell as a Douglas Fir.  Economics and specialization being what they are, it was cheaper for someone to grow, cut, and ship this tree to us than it would be for someone to grow a tree here and for us to go cut it down ourselves.  I'm having a hard time selling the cut-your-own-tree Dickerson tradition.

Great Big Grand Fir
Great Big Grand Fir

I got the lights up on the house and added some more above the eave over the garage and wrapped around one of the trellis columns.  I had to more-than-double the number of lights we had inside on the tree to get this massive tree properly lit.

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Soon enough it was Christmas Eve.  The Badger family invited us to their house for Christmas Eve.  We stayed there for a few hours, ate snacks (including l'il smokies and wassail), and hung out.  Then it was back home to get to bed and wait for Santa.

After Santa's visit
After Santa's visit
The bear was dressed up again this year
The bear was dressed up again this year

Last year Heather awoke to find various stuffed animals dressed up and sitting on the couch.  She seemed to get a kick out of that and this year she discovered the bear wearing this fairy costume.  Heather came trundling in to our room at about 7:15 am carrying this bear and being concerned / excited about the bear wearing this costume.  She insisted that she wear it instead.  So we put it on her and then headed out to the living room.

Dickerson Family - Christmas 2015
Dickerson Family - Christmas 2015

I set up my off-camera flash on a stand with a white umbrella in front of it.  In general it made the pictures all come out much better lit this year.

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Heather received this booklet (thanks Erin!) which has layers of material on each page.  When the top layer gets wet it allows the colors behind it to pass through.  So it's "coloring" with water.  Heather had played with similar toys at friends' houses and was enthralled.  She ignored everything else and played with this for the next 48 hours straight (minus eating and sleeping).

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Thanksgiving Road Trip 2015

For Thanksgiving this year we drove down to Texas to visit with Jess' family.  Christopher & Jenny and their kids were going to be down from Colorado and Cameron was home from school.  Chance & Rachel and their kids live in the general area as well as Colton; so it was a pseudo-family-reunion kind of thing.

2015 - Texas - Travel Map

We had originally intended to leave Livermore the morning of November 19, but Heather's preschool had their Thanksgiving Feast that day around noon.  So we stayed for that and left immediately after.

Heather made the front-page of our local paper when the kids were singing the songs they've been learning:

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Oatman

Once the feast was over we loaded up in the van and drove to Needles, CA for the night.  On Friday we loaded up and drove into Oatman, AZ to see the burros.  Heather was a little apprehensive, but it was still a good way to get out of the car and stretch for a bit.

Petting the Burros in Oatman, AZ
Petting the Burros in Oatman, AZ
Grabbing some ice-cream at the Oatman Hotel
Grabbing some ice-cream at the Oatman Hotel

Lowell Observatory

From Oatman it was on to Flagstaff, AZ.  We grabbed dinner (at Chick-Fil-A) and then headed up to the Lowell Observatory.  They have public viewing and talks each evening.  We got to see the moon up close through their largest telescope and we saw Uranus as well (even with a building-mounted telescope it still only looks like a fuzzy blue dot).

Moonlight hitting Heather's eye through the Clark Telescope at Lowell Observatory
Moonlight hitting Heather's eye through the Clark Telescope at Lowell Observatory
Heather with the Clark Telescope behind her.
Heather with the Clark Telescope behind her.

We also listened to a talk about Pluto.  The Lowell Observatory is where Pluto was discovered.  In July of this year the New Horizons Probe completed it's 9.5 year journey to flyby Pluto and take the best pictures of it the world has ever seen.  Heather was actually somewhat interested in the talk, but she really wanted to interrupt every few minutes to ask unrelated questions or make statements.  They were always still space related though.  I had to threaten to leave if she didn't wait to ask her questions at the end.  She reluctantly agreed to do so.  Then she asked the presenter what hit Uranus to tip it sideways.

Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki

The next day we drove North to see Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments.  Sunset Crater is one out of a string of dormant cinder cone volcanoes in Northern Arizona.  North of the volcano a ways is an old pueblo from the 1100's.

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Heather playing in the dirt in the sports arena at Wupatki
Heather playing in the dirt in the sports arena at Wupatki

By the time we finished at the National Monuments and headed back out the East side of Flagstaff the sun was already setting.  We drove to Albuquerque, NM and stayed the night there and then drove straight on to Frisco, TX.  I had more stops planned, but by Albuquerque we were already almost a full day behind schedule, so we skipped the remaining stops.

Thanksgiving in Frisco

We spent November 22 through November 29 in Frisco.  We went to the Zoo with Christopher & Jenny and kids on Wednesday, but mostly just hung out.

Dr. Christopher reads "Human Body Theater" to kiddos
Dr. Christopher reads "Human Body Theater" to kiddos
At the Dallas Zoo
At the Dallas Zoo
Cameron and Christina made adobo for dinner one night.  Here it looks like there's a problem.
Cameron and Christina made adobo for dinner one night. Here it looks like there's a problem.
The kids' table for Thanksgiving Dinner
The kids' table for Thanksgiving Dinner
Christopher apparently said something humorous
Christopher apparently said something humorous
Jess is happy
Jess is happy

We did get Johnson Family pictures taken while we were there and one of just our little family as well:

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Capulin Volcano

When our week in Frisco was up we began our long trip back home.  Weather looked clear so we opted for the Northern route up through Colorado and across Utah and Nevada.  We stayed the first night in Amarillo, TX and then angled up across the corner of New Mexico.  We passed by Capulin Volcano National Monument on the way.  We had to drive down a snow-covered road to get to it, but the park entrance had been plowed by the personnel running the monument.

Unfortunately, they hadn't plowed the road that runs up to and around the rim of the (dormant) volcano so we couldn't go up and have a look around.

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Colorado Springs

Our destination that evening was Christopher & Jenny's house in Colorado Springs, CO.  We stayed a couple of nights there and gave Heather the chance to play in snow.

Our mini snowman
Our mini snowman
Sliding chunks of ice down the slide
Sliding chunks of ice down the slide

Arches National Park

We drove out the West side of Colorado and spent the night in Moab, UT.  The next morning we drove through the first third or so of Arches National Park before continuing on our way to Lehi, UT.

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We bought a kangaroo rat stuffed animal for Corinne at the gift shop
We bought a kangaroo rat stuffed animal for Corinne at the gift shop
Getting in and out constantly was annoying, so I started making use of the moon roof
Getting in and out constantly was annoying, so I started making use of the moon roof
La Sal Mountains looking South from Arches
La Sal Mountains looking South from Arches

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Heading up to Double Arch
Heading up to Double Arch

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From Arches we drove up to Lehi, UT to spend a night at the house of some friends from college.  Then it was on to Winnemucca, NV and home the day after that.

It was a lot of driving which was made bearable by having the Raspberry Pi running Kodi and hooked in to the van's entertainment system.  We had movies and TV shows to watch to keep Heather occupied as we drove across hundreds of miles of nothingness.  I caught up on all my podcasts which could be played through the front speakers using Bluetooth while Heather watched stuff in the back with headphones.  I'm not sure how my family growing up survived driving across the country from Connecticut to Utah and back without such conveniences.