Call us crazy, but we let Aaron invite 11 boys to his 11th birthday party. Yikes! Then dad asks how are we going to get them all to church and us, too? That requires 16 seatbelts, and we only have 12! Well, things worked out. Some boys couldn’t come, some were picked up early, and we borrowed a neighbor’s minivan(Gabby’s mom). At least three of the parents told us it was cool that we were taking their kids to church. Here’s a picture before things got out of hand.
The party was interesting. Aaron told us he was careful to invite friends that would get along, and the house got pretty noisy as all the kids ‘got along’. Two rooms were set up with video games, and maybe half the kids brought their Nintendo DSs. As if that was not enough to keep them busy, they also played PC games on the upstrairs computer. Dinner was very noisy as was the gift opening. Then singing happy birthday was noisiest of all, with all the kids shouting at the top of their lungs. In our house and with the more or less common group of friends that Adam and Aaron share, they actually sing a different song “Yellow Llama to You!”. Read on…
Cyndi and Adam wrote a Mad Lib for Aaron, a tradition we started for Adam’s birthday this year(this is where Yellow Llama comes from). Mad Libs, if you don’t know, is a story with missing words, and a scribe asks the audience for the missing words without telling anyone what the story is until he is finished. Then he reads the story aloud, and the results are usually pretty funny because of the very strange context the missing words are given. Anyhow, the Mad Lib was a riot of a success.
Bed time was another adventure. Eddie went to bed relatively early, and Cyndi stayed up while one group watched a movie and another played video games. Eventually, they all ‘went to bed’, but at 2:30am(!), Eddie got woken up with the shenanigans and read them them the ‘never wake up the Dad’ riot act. By morning, all was well, and the guests helped cleanup all the popcorn that littered the floor, couches, chairs, bookshelves, toilet…
and we took a total of 6 friends to church.
Saturday after junior practice, Adam got a new set of clipless pedals at a very nice club discount at the bike store that sponsors the cycling club. They are Shimano 105s, pretty light and very slim, so he can corner steeply while still pedaling. During practice, one of the coaches remarked that while Adam is still learning to ride closely behind another rider’s wheel, he is very strong breaking through the wind by himself. “He would be great in a time trial,” coach said.
Sunday’s training race found Adam competing against 10 other riders, what a great turnout for a nice day. It was warm(about 80 F) and slightly breezy. For the time trial, Adam rode a 3:55sec, 20 seconds better than last week. This still put him in the first group(biggest headstart) for the race, but he felt really confident and comfortable. The race this week was 5 laps, but they were caught after 3 by both the third group(fastest) and then a little later by the second group(second fastest). Adam then elected to leave his group and chase the first two all alone, and was rewarded with 7th place, highest from his group. Sure enough, Adam was riding by himself between the second and third groups when he crossed the finish line.
Adam says “I should have broken off from my group when we got passed by the first group. I probably could have ended up in third or fourth if I’d done that. The pedals are excellent because with the biking shoes, my foot feels like a giant pedal.”
Aaron is now 11 years old. Here he is with some of his loot. So far he’s received a book called “The Gamemaker’s Apprentice” about computer game development, a cool duffel bag made by Grandma Lou (Aaron calls it the bag version of his quilt), some money and a GameStop gift card. Not bad!
In case you are wondering, the face is my strange idea for gift wrapping, the nose is actually a pencil sharpener I found. (Yeah, you stick the pencil up the nose to sharpen it. Classy, eh?) So I drew the face and stuck the nose on in the middle.
For the traditional birthday dinner out, Aaron chose Max and Erma’s. This is a frequent choice because of the make-your-own sundae bar.
Adam entered his first race today and got second place! This is the same series he participated in two weeks ago, when he crashed. He worked very hard to get over the fear of riding in a pack again, and the effort paid off.
The series is called the Spring Training Series
, run by Quick Release Promotions
. If you click on the first link, you will see Adam’s times posted. This is a small circuit, known as a criterium, maybe half a mile to a mile in length, and is run on small industrial loop on Sundays when none of the businesses on the loop is open, so there are no cars. Adam is on the junior team(under 18 yrs), which gets a lot of support in the club. Yesterday, they gave him a new helmet! The coaches take the juniors around for a few fast laps and teach them how to ride close together and become comfortable with that. The key technique is to form a paceline and take turns riding in front. The cooperation allows them to ride faster than they could alone.
After these laps, each rider rides an individual time trial. The weather was very breezy today and cold, but Adam rode two laps of the course in 4:15sec. Two weeks ago, he rode it in 4:10, but in calm conditions. After comparing times, the riders with similar times are paired up and given a headstart according to those times. The faster riders start later, and the idea is that everyone should finish at the same time. The competitiveveness follows naturally: the rider in front try not to get caught, and the riders in the back try to catch them. Each group has to cooperate to achieve their goal.
The race was four laps, but at end of three laps, Adam’s partner(who was faster in the time trial) tried to drop him and go for the win, quickly building a five bike length lead. During the postrace interview, Adam says “(the other rider) made his move on the downhill portion of the course into the wind, so I relaxed, then when the wind was at our backs, I caught up to him while he was tired. When we turned back into the wind it got hard again and I got really tired.” Adam’s quick grasp of race tactics kept in him “in contact” (racing lingo) with his partner, and resulted in a losing margin of only one or two bike lengths. “I’m intelligent,” he says. If Adam hadn’t rested, he would have lost by more and probably been caught by the second group. He enjoyed riding with someone as fast as he is, and together, they held off the second group. Here is a picture of Adam in his racing apparel.
Today was a day we spent with some neighborhood friends of ours. The picture on the left is Arianna with Gabby, who is six years old. They have just dressed up Arianna’s Barbies and posed them on the Barbie House. The picture on the right shows the boys playing with Mason, from another family, who is nine years old. They love to play video games together, and basketball with the improving weather(hey, someday it will be spring here). Shortly after this picture was taken, we had lunch, then joined the parents at Zap Zone for a round of glow in the dark putt-putt golf and a game of Laser Tag. Both families are within walking distance of our house, which is nice. We’ve been hanging out with Mason’s family for about 2 years, and Gabby’s family only recently. We’re ashamed to admit they’ve been in the neighborhood for longer than this, but during the winter and with our busy schedule, it is hard to get around the block. Now that we’ve met them, they are part of our daily business.
Earlier this year, Cyndi discovered an event at the Detroit Institute of Arts(DIA) called Friday nights at the DIA , where there is live music and special events for kids, like crafts. One night, they had artists and materials available for people to make their own sketches of various exhibits on display. The artists were there for guidance and advice. Aaron and Cyndi did some impressive sketches that drew little criticism from the artist and some “wow, you’re good at this” comments instead.
Sketching at the DIA is now a favorite activity for Aaron and Cyndi. So far, Aaron has chosen to makes sketches of 3 dimensional sculptures instead of copying paintings. Tonight, Aaron built a new web page for this work called Aaron’s Sketches , where three sketches are now posted. I hope you’re as impressed as I am, particularly when you remember that this kid is only in fifth grade. His art teacher in school told us two weeks ago that Aaron has a natural gift for this.
So this week is spring break, and Cyndi and I have taken various days off work so we can be home with the kids. Monday, we had a general day at home. Tuesday, we went to the Ann Arbor Science Museum , always a favorite. This year, they had a theme of diet/foods, giving demonstrations of how much sugar is in various drinks, how to find the different areas of taste on your tongue. Aaron spent a lot of time in the video green room, making himself disappear on TV.
Wednesday, we went downtown to the Detroit Institute of Arts and did some seeing, lunching and sketching. They had an exhibit we wanted to see of Ansel Adams, which everyone in the family enjoyed. I’ll try to post the sketches that Cyndi, Aaron and Arianna did. Adam and I spent time critiqueing all the art that we classify as “3 year old-ism”. We all know this kind of art, which looks like a 3 year old painted, yet was bought at some exhorbitant price and intrepreted as “evoking life’s tension between good and evil, illustrating the futility in the struggle between man and nature.” We are convinced the artist would simply argue, “Hey, look, I just kind of threw some paint on the wall and it was a lot of fun to make, and I needed to pay the rent, you know?”
Thursday, we slept in and I made breakfast, then we went bowling with a neighborhood friend, Mason. Arianna and the Mason bowled in the bumper lanes, while Dad, Adam and Aaron took our chances with genuine gutter balls. Dad started out with two strikes and three spares, then started thinking about what he was doing and destroyed his game. Everyone else got one strike, including Arianna(her first strike), probably the worlds slowest strike ever, because it took maybe ten seconds for all the pins to fall over as the little 6lb pound ball wandered around in all directions among them. And she didn’t hit the bumpers on the way down the lane, so it was a real strike.
By now you’ve figured out that we forgot to take the camera with us and document all this activity, so I coaxed Aaron into fabricating an animation that captures the spirit of the day. I hope it animates on this blog.
Okay, I finally designed Arianna’s page and posted it online. Her’s has the most pictures, and the web geeks will notice I caved in and designed it using Cascaded Style Sheets. For the non-geeks, nevermind, just enjoy the page. Arianna takes fun pictures, doesn’t she? Now only Mom is left, and she’s strongly considering outsourcing this task to Aaron…
Random postings from our family life