The Hall Family

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Blog #6



Merry Christmas!



   Although Joan does virtually everything to prepare our family for Christmas, I am always quite relieved when it has passed.  We did, however, have a lovely traditional, low-key Christmas.



   The big news today is that Annika pulled herself into a standing position for the first time ever.  I was very surprised.  She has always had plenty of arm and leg strength, but has never really shown any real understanding of balance.  When she starts to tip she will often step the opposite direction or even into fifth position (ballet).  Annika got a large activity cube for Christmas.  The top has metal loops that have shaped beads that can be pushed around.  She got a good grip on the loops and pulled herself up.  It took all of her strength in her arm and legs to maintain herself upright, but I don't think that I've ever seen her more proud.  I managed to take a movie clip, which should be on our movie page after I publish this blog entry.


   I keep our digital pictures very well organized on our newer PC, but have never separated or edited our movie clips (taken with our regular pocket Canon digital still camera).   Friday night I sifted through about seven gigabytes of folders and separated the pictures from the movies.  I also put about a dozen of the better clips online.  I don't take many movies because I'm always concerned about their massive file sizes, but I'm starting to appreciate their value and regret not taking more.  I've also added a few things to our Archived Pictures and Stories page.  Be sure to check out the "Out of Bounds in Alaska" entry; I had a bit of fun editing some older pictures.


   Last year we had some pretty big snowfalls and I attempted to skate ski on the roads.  The problem was that the roads never got a good snow pack.  I hit pavement too often and damaged my skis a bit.  The street maintenance crews are pretty good at clearing the roads before they get icy.  About this time last year we had several inches of good snow.  The snow had a very thick hard crust and would support cross country skiing.  I had a few weeks of skate skiing across the six backyards on our block.  I could skate about 600 feet each direction and would get in up to five miles a day on my very beaten path.  (See a movie clip here.)  Such conditions occur very rarely naturally, however.  Joan found a great place an hour and fifteen minutes north of here that has trails groomed for skate skiing.  I managed to ski there last year about three times before Joan was put on bed rest and our priorities changed greatly. 


   I've really been slacking aerobically since the lakes froze over, which has made rowing and kayaking impossible.  The ski conditions lately have been less than ideal.  Our part of Ohio just does not have the weather to support a good regular cross country ski season.  A week ago we had about four inches of good snow on the ground.  I've been thinking about how trails are groomed at cross country facilities and if I could replicate it at home.  I pulled the riding mower out of the shed and tied my homemade toboggan behind it.  With the girls on the sled I beat down a 13' wide oval track around the house.  It took about an hour.  Our lot is 100' by 262'; I would guess that the outside of my track was about 100' by 180'.  Although the snow was fairly well compressed, it was still loose and would not support an edged skate ski.  I figured that it would naturally firm up after a slight warm spell followed by a freeze, but I wanted to see if I could force the matter.  A direct stream of water would probably do more damage than good, but a mist would probably help bond the snow together once it froze.  Pressure washers make a fine mist, so in the dark, at night, I sprayed down about a third of the track.  I wonder if my neighbors wonder about me...  The next day things had firmed up pretty well and some of the track was good enough to ski on, but it was very spotty.  I gave it another night and it looked even better in the morning.  By the afternoon, however, we were well on our way towards a total thaw.


   I'm discouraged that I didn't get to ski, but also encouraged that I can groom my own ski track.  I don't know why I never thought of it before.  My concern is that if we get more than four inches of snow at a time that the mower won't be able to pack it down without getting stuck.  Our Ford Aerostar van is all wheel drive; I may try it when we get our next snowfall.  I've researched building a snow-making machine, it would be fairly doable.  I've also looked on Ebay recently for a cheap beater snowmobile, just for the purpose of packing any depth of snow.  I'd be more than willing to spend a two or three hundred dollars on one, but I really want to see if a 100' by 180' oval is worth skating on.  An 85' radius is a bit tight for skate skiing and the straights are pretty short to get into a good rhythm. 


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Blog #5



Svea Does 100


   Svea just did 100 push-ups, for fun.  When we started this new form of punishment I never considered that the girls would ever actually enjoy doing sit-ups and push-ups.  "I'm doing punishment for fun." she exclaimed and then set a goal of 100 push-ups.  It wasn't exactly a non-stop set, but she didn't stop for more than a few seconds at a time.  I wonder if she's smart enough to be using reverse psychology on me (your punishment won't work because I really enjoy it.)  I wouldn't put it past her.  I figured that eventually I'd be dishing out sets of 100 push-ups or sit-ups when they get to be so strong that 10 would seem like nothing.  They both are much stronger than I realized.


   Brigitta had her four year old check-up today.  She's ever so slightly far sighted but it's too early to predict if it will be a problem.  She weighs 32 pounds and is 40 and 1/2 inches tall.  That puts her in the 60th percentile for height and 25th percentile for weight.


   The "Help Me Grow" nurses just visited Annika for her monthly evaluation.  She now is 9 and 1/2 months old.  Her adjusted age is 6 and 1/2 months.  Being an extreme preemie puts Annika at a high risk for all kinds of developmental problems.  She seems to be avoiding then all very nicely.  She can sit up for long periods of time, but can't get into a sitting position by herself.  She says, "Dada", "Papa", "Hi Dada" and "Hi Papa" at appropriate times and when she babbles.  She loves to stand but cannot balance by herself.  She is beginning to pull herself up to her knees; we probably need to swap our mini crib for the full sized one soon.  We have yet to see any teeth.  The one area that she seems to be lagging behind is rolling over.  She actually was better at rolling over two months ago than she is now. 


Packages just arrived from Alaska.  I think my brother Mark is the reincarnation of Saint Nick.


Joan just fired the kiln for the second time this week and it's only Monday.  She has really taken to ceramics and does a lot of projects with the girls.


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Blog #-1


Solid Ice

   Last Saturday we went to watch a group of visiting German youth ice skaters perform.  Afterwards the ice rink was open for free skating.  The girls had a blast.  Svea figured out how to spin before learning to truly skate and Brigitta was fearless in spite of making head to ice contact.

   I schemed on the way home and had a pretty good plan for building a backyard ice rink.  We had about 50 feet of leftover perforated four inch flexible drainage hose.  I picked a spot in front of the swing and coiled it into an eighteen foot diameter circle, draped and tucked a clear Visqueen tarp over the hose and filled it with water.  It was completely frozen by Wednesday morning but we have had slushy snow and warm spells that have resulted in very bumpy or soft ice.  Last night I swept off a half inch of new snow and resurfaced the ice with water, a push broom and an bladed ice pick.  Svea and Brigitta finally got to test the ice this morning.  The rink looks small without the kids on it, but Brigitta takes about forty skate steps and one fall to cross it.  I think its size is about right.  Forecasts predict cold weather for the next week so the girls should get several opportunities to skate.


   Annika slept while Joan took Svea and Brigitta to the Cuyahoga Youth Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker (second act only).  This gave me a bit more time to work on our website and blog.  I'm working in Microsoft FrontPage.  It's a bit frustrating because there are many things that I can do with MS Word webpage tables that I can't figure out in FrontPage.  The html code is much cleaner and FrontPage includes a very easy and reliable file transfer protocol (FTP).  For now the site and blog will remain primer gray until I get Joan's input on a color scheme. 


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Blog #-2




Happy Birthday Brigitta!


   We celebrated Brigitta's birthday with the family on Wednesday (pictured above) and on Friday we invited a few of her neighborhood friends over for a little party.  The theme was "Little People".  Little People is a toy line from Fisher Price that are promoted by their clay & toy animation videos.  They are tolerable until Aaron Nevil sings the theme song; I think that Barney has more testosterone than him.  I just hope that Britta outgrows them before Annika shows an interest.  I suppose that as my future is destine to be full of schmarm.  


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Blog #-3




Brigitta the Push-Up Champ

   We've adopted a new form of discipline and punishment.  Less than desirable behavior is rewarded with push-ups and sit ups.  I figure that if the Marines can straighten out rugged soldiers by making them do push-ups, then a couple of little girls could learn not to whine, pout, dawdle or misbehave in order to avoid such punishment.  I'm really amazed with the immediate effectiveness of our new approach.  Issues often are resolved very quickly and the girls really seem to be shaping up.


   A typical episode might sound like this:

   Girls (Shouting, crying and whining mode on): "She won't give me a turn!"

   Dad: "Stop fighting and yelling and do 10 sit-ups, both of you now."

   Svea: "But Brigitta didn't..."

   Dad: "That makes it twelve sit-ups."

   Svea: "Waaa!"

   Dad: "Fourteen"

   (Both girls begin their sit-ups)


   The day before Brigitta's fourth birthday Joan made a very nice Viennese Chicken dish.  Brigitta took one look at the serving dish and exclaimed that she didn't like tomatoes.  I told her that we already knew that but she would have to eat it anyway and told her that she would do two push-ups for rudely complaining about the meal.  I added that every time she complained I would add two push-ups and if we hit ten she would hit the carpet immediately and do her ten push-ups.  She stopped complaining but refused to eat.  I encouraged her to eat and started counting slowly.  I hit ten and she hit the carpet.  When she returned to the table I once again encouraged her to eat and started counting at a faster rate.  By her forth set of ten I really expected her break but she was popping off her push-ups like a Marine.  She does most of her push-ups like the little girl that she is but she managed to snap some up with a straight back.  Clearly this was a test of wills.  Brigitta is pretty stubborn and strong willed but then again I can count pretty high and she has little sticks for arms.  She was sitting at the table, crying, having completed seven sets of ten.  As my count hit nine of the next ten she picked up her fork and began to eat.  ILast March, Svea had a similar standoff involving oatmeal; that one lasted six hours.  I really think the push ups sped things along.


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Blog #-4





Wilsterman Ammonia Cookie Decorating Weekend




Joan's brother John, his wife Jean, daughter Kira and son Luke came north from Atlanta to visit for the weekend.  We went ice skating and decorated Wilsterman traditional German ammonia cookies.

Ammonia is a leavening agent that was used in Europe before the advent of baking powder.  This powder is made from the antlers of the deer, but it has the smell of a household cleaner.  The odor evaporates as the cookies cook, but the first whiff as the oven door opens will truly clear your sinuses.  These German cookies are a Christmas tradition passed down through Joan's paternal grandmother. 

Ammonia cookie recipe

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