bike rides

Twice weekly Zara attends Pixar’s exclusive school in Berkeley and I have the honor of shepherding her there & back. As I ride my bicycle to work every day it feels only natural to include Zara in the routine and she loves our commute to & from school, asking each night before bed “Is tomorrow a school day? Can we ride the bicycle?”



The morning starts with a quick weather forecast then I pack her snacks & dinner, spare clothes, hat & a drink bottle in the pannier. My bike has a modular rack which allows me to (tool-free) swap my regular cargo crate for her deluxe bicycle seat in just a few seconds.



Applying shoes, helmet, jacket & a second-breakfast of chestnuts or blueberries we’re finally on our way around 9am, bouncing down the bumpy streets of the Berkeley hills past deer, turkeys & squirrels. Second-breakfast is usually consumed by the time we round the university campus a couple of miles from home. From that point onward we’ve only our voices to amuse us & the myriad of games we play spotting lightning bugs (VW beetles), garbage-trucks, concrete mixers and drivers who fail to indicate before turning.



We pick a route that’s friendly to bicycles, sometimes we ride past the ACME bakery for a fresh croissant, sometimes we detour past an ATM to deposit a cheque or a post-box to mail a letter. Although the school detour is only an extra couple of miles compared to my regular weekday commute the journey each way is extended by 35 minutes & I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve ridden almost 4000kms together already and it’s a beautiful, nourishing ritual we share. Arriving at school Zara’s chariot is always the center of attention. Her teachers & classmates are duly impressed by our ride.



The journey home is equally sacred and typically consumes an hour. I usually collect Zara shortly after 5pm and she eats dinner while I pedal through the streets of Berkeley. We spot halloween pumpkins, eccentric houses, planes and of course more lightning bugs. Dinner in-transit tonight included quail eggs, grapes, apple slices, a cucumber, pita bread, milk, carrots, homegrown-popcorn and a sachet of fruit & sweet potato. The various courses are issued in ziploc bags to “her highness” & returned empty to my waiting hand as we commence the steep climb at the 8 kilometer mark & head for the home stretch and the final ~750ft elevation.

Around this time, when I’m shortest of breath Zara usually requests a series of her favourite songs. Puffing & sweating between verses I haul the bike inside after we check the mailbox at the bottom of our steep driveway, then it’s time for some final nibbles, a bath & the bed-time routine.

Before Zara outgrows her seat, I’d love to extend my bike to carry both girls simultaneously. This past weekend I wrangled an offspring handover with Zoe, depositing Bix & collecting Zara from a friend’s house in Berkeley.



Beatrix absolutely loved her first bike ride!

-D

zara-isms

Despite some modest foliage burn (notably the precious sungold tomato seedlings) our garden has bounced back from Berkeley’s uncharacteristic snow and we’re reaping the bountiful rewards of the growing season.



Zara is harvesting ripe, juicy strawberries daily, radishes, carrots, plus a few blackberries & blueberries. We’re making great meals of rainbow chard, bok choi, mixed lettuce and greens with similar frequency.
Plenty of zucchini, squash, herbs, kale, beans etc. Corn (sweet & strawberry) is thriving again this year & hopefully we’ll have gooseberries in abundance any day now.

Zara absolutely adores her garden and rarely misses a day foraging amongst the plants, flowers and bugs.



She loves engaging in pretend play, directing encounters between her various toys, often resulting in them being tucked into “bed” in various configurations, spread throughout the living areas of the house.
She loves drawing, cutting, sticking, glueing and of course reading books. She’s eager to identify the letters in words she hears and can string letters together to discern a written word if we assist atomizing phonemes.



She also loves directing Beatrix & pushing the boundaries of what might be considered “gentle” play. Hugs are given & accepted freely as are kisses on the nose. She’s fascinated with her body & its ability to heal (bruises, scrapes & splinters are ever-present on her knees due to her reckless physical abandon).

Daddy my graze is healed .... good job blood!

She loves making herself dizzy, running, galloping, sliding, tumbling, bouncing and swinging. She’s light as a feather but can deliver a solid knee to your kidney like a pro streetfighter if you’re lying (or sleeping for that matter) at ground level.

Zara eats everything, though rarely in abundance. She prefers discrete ingredients (tomatoes, onions, garlic, beef, carrots, pasta) rather than complex dishes (eg. bolognese). Her favourite foods are fish eyes and octopus heads though quail eggs, cheese, kidney and olives more readily top the favourites list.



She loves replicating the various parenting mechanics she undergoes on her plush toys. Putting them to bed, bathing, reading them stories. She’s a proud & protective big sister, looking out for Beatrix & ensuring she doesn’t eat or tumble-over things-forbidden. Zara is astute and perceptive, able to predict & deduce outcomes from theory & observation alone.

Daddy I have butt-knees!
(her deduced label for buttocks)

She loves inventing languages & “speaking in tongues”, often carrying on lyrical conversations with her toys in fabricated lexicons. She also loves inventing songs, either complete with music or just substituting lyrics with familiar melodies.



At story time, every player receives a name ..... “Phhmnk” is a valid (& popular) choice.

Zara has the most infectious giggle & finds every possible reason to spread it around.



I love you so much bubby.

-D

Zara turns three

Happy Birthday Three You!



“Daddy is Beatrix part of my family?”

Yes bubby.

“Daddy, is she the side part or the bottom part?”



Happy birthday beautiful girl.

milestones

Beatrix started talking today. Some time this afternoon, around 4pm ... something just snapped & she began determinedly shaking her head to decline verbal offers. About 30 mins later she was saying “Up”, “Cat” & a few other words. She’s been working on “mum” & “dad” for a couple of weeks now & while she’s been able to associate & mimic our non-verbal calling of the cat with a clicking of the tongue “tsk tsk tsk”, today was the first time she repeated the word “cat”.

She’s (naturally) super-stoked that we can finally understand her most efficient communications & she spent the rest of the evening practicing on us & experimenting with new permutations.



Of course, her vocabulary is probably incomprehensible to a stranger (Zara’s comprehension has been ahead of ours for a few days I suspect) ... but it’s phenomenal to witness (or rather, comprehend) Beatrix vocalizing new associations/observations at such an accelerated rate. She gets thoroughly excited when the feedback loop is closed & her experiments are validated.



It’s evident to me that in her mind, we are the ones to have recently mastered a new skill - to finally comprehend the lucid & coherent statements she’s been delivering for these past nine months! It’s also evident that she’s very proud of us.

Fun times....

snow in Berkeley

While riding home tonight a curious phenomenon greeted me as I rounded the University campus on my way up the hill. It has been raining fairly heavily all day & in the darkness it took me a while to realize that each of the parked cars I passed had wet slush surrounding it... pedaling further up the hill the slush became more pronounced until I reached the 4 mile mark (behind UC Berkeley campus).



Although the temperature was extremely comfortable (well above zero) through the still foggy air, lit by my super bright bike headlights it became apparent that the road was covered in soft, white snow. With hardly any traffic on our quiet streets the snow remained pristine all the way up to our house (& well beyond I'm sure).



When I carried my bike inside the house Zara was in the shower & hadn't realized it had been snowing outside. After wrapping her in her fuzzy pajamas we donned boots & a snow jacket/mitts & headed out into our very own private snow field (deck) before hurrying back inside for warm milk, a couple of books & a bed-time story.



magic!

seasons change

We’re through the worst of the drizzly, soggy season and headed straight for the beautiful, comfortable sunny days that persist for most of the year here in Berkeley. Seeds have been sown, slugs & weeds are making their presence known but Zara is on their case & we’re again spending copious time in the garden as the weather permits.



Our gravenstein apple trees are unfurling their buds (the pink lady hasn’t caught up yet) and the large plum tree on the corner of our property is showering passers-by (and the resident humming birds) with beautiful petals.



Rather than spray herbicides & other poisons around the garden to manage some of the more aggressive weeds, I acquired a “flame weeder” .... it’s basically a modest propane flamethrower which singes, steams & burns weeds & their seeds on contact without harming the surrounding foliage. More reports on its success will be forthcoming, presuming I don’t incinerate the property this weekend.



Our favourite sungold tomatoes are getting established & we’ve sown a handful of watermelon seeds, radishes, carrots & lettuce. Lemon-cucumbers will be germinated indoors and I’m keen to repeat our successes of last year with small plantings of zucchini & corn for Zara. Garlic chives (augmenting a scrumptious mee siam last week), parsley, rosemary & thyme are always handy year-round, but we’ll have to replant a few basil varieties to keep the kitchen stocked. Every couple of weeks we’ve been harvesting arm-fulls of fresh kale to crisp in the oven with olive oil and cumin. Zara still loves kale chips!



Uncle Jeffrey (Zoe’s elder brother) was in San Francisco for a conference & came to visit us on the weekends which was really lovely. Zara was completely glued to Jeff throughout his visit & we’ve all been spoiled by abundance of food treats from Singapore, spicy prawn rolls, pineapple tarts (Zara’s favourite after-dinner treat), chilli-crab & laksa premixes.



At 7 months Beatrix is adept at grasping, holding & biting all manner of yummy morsels with her 4 teeth. The commando crawl is still her favoured (only) mode of transport, she’s sitting & playing for extended periods, exploring her surrounds and for the last couple of weeks she’s been sleeping in Zara’s room overnight. Warm fuzzy feelings abound.



Work is busy & exciting for both of us. Pixar is ramping into the heavyweight image finessing that concludes the production process on each of our films (this time it’s Cars2). I’m traveling to LA every couple of weeks for a day at a time, sometimes to review as little as 90 seconds of film. Next month I’ll be in New York to speak at a film festival & visit the Kodak facilities in Rochester. Zoe is about to start a new job here in San Francisco, working with some really inspiring folks including our favourite author. More on that soon!



We’re really looking forward to a visit from Alex later this month as he makes his way to New York from Japan albeit a brief rendezvous, and there’s a chance we’ll see some other familiar faces from around the world here in Berkeley before too long.

Stay tuned for updates on all the little things that we grow.
-D

snow

We’ve just returned from a short snow vacation with the girls at lake tahoe. A four hour drive plus a stop in Sacramento for yummy sustenance & we found ourselves in a beautiful modern house with eight bedrooms to share amongst the families of Zoe’s mothers group who have been together since Zara was only a few months old.



The house is fronted by a golf course and backs onto a private beach overlooking the lake & the snow capped peaks beyond. This time of year the golf course is blanketed in soft fluffy snow and was just perfect for sledding, snowballs, snowmen and chasing wild geese.



Absolutely perfect T-shirt weather meant we spent nearly every daylight moment on the shore of the lake, blowing bubbles on the deck or frolicking in the snow.



After exhausting the girls & setting them down to bed each night we even managed some hours of vacation ourselves with good friends, food & conversation in front of the cozy fireplace.



Zara’s first snow was a blast.



With any luck we’ll return next year and hit the slopes with the girls Happy