The Georgetown Loop Railroad

QQ likes trains. Or at least, she likes trains in theory....since she had never met one in person. So when my mum came to town, we figured it was time to give the Q a ride on a real train.
In fact, Colorado is still a train state, even in the present day. It has that much of the wild west still left in it. Denver still builds around some of its trainyards, and at night (thank heaven!) the city still echoes with the forlorn and thrilling call of train whistles. This is one of the things I love most about our city. I love to wake up in the middle of the night, secure in my bed, and hear the moan and cry of trains carrying through the twilit air...in fact, I can hear them even as I write this!
The Georgetown loop is an old railway between mining towns (hence the word "argentine" in the photo above). Today, it runs a loop route between Georgetown and the "living ghost town" of Silver Plume, and serves as a popular tour for families and school groups. There is a lot of history to be learned, if you care to listen to the conductor. If not, the views alone are worth the ride.
Colorado is still very close to its own history, which is another thing that I dearly love about it.
Even the interiors of the train cars are beautiful.
A school group occupying the car behind us. Is it just me, or do you love watching kids? I love it. It makes me feel alive and present in the world. It reminds me of the grandness, scope and sheer vividness of life.
History extant.
This portion of the I-70 corridor through the Rockies is particularly wild and woolly to begin with (you can often see mountain goats grazing on the cliffs overhead...or even right on the verge of the highway. They're very savvy and are seldom hit by cars) but the rivers and creeks are particularly raging and tumultuous this summer, thanks to spring runoff from the mountain peaks combined with unusually wet and turbulent summer weather.
At each station, the engine makes a tour around the train in order to turn it back in the opposite direction. Here, Daddy waves to mommy and Q during the "intermission", and a conducter waves to the crowd on the platform as the switch is made.
Wildflowers and wildwater.
It was a long and eventful trip for QQ, complete with wild, sudden thunderstorms, sporadic high winds, and raging rapids below the many precarious train bridges.
By the final third of the trip (at least two hours late for her nap) she was both hyperactive and fading fast.
The big crash...safe in Daddy's loving arms, with the waters of Clear Creek raging 100 feet below.
The trip finished with a skin-strafing thunderstrike followed instantly by a torrential rainfall (this is real Rocky Mountain weather). It was still raining hard as we exited the train, and Mommy and LaoLao hid out in the depot while Daddy ran for the car... but the Q slept soundly through the whole thing.


Miss Congeniality

QQ has always known how to attract attention. It was clearly her skill, even from the first photos we saw of her, months before meeting her in person. We were even concerned that, with that sort of institutional skill, we might have a little bit of trouble in the attachment process, teaching her that we were her family, and not just anyone who happened to walk by and be lured in by her smile. As it turned out, we needn't have worried. Our initial attachment phase was as smooth as clarified butter. We could not have asked for better.
In fact, these days, Q has a public routine. First, she turns on the charm and reaches out to any and every person she passes in the street - young, old, professional, vagrant. She is utterly without prejudice. Once she has caught the attention of said passer-by, she immediately points to me (or her father) and says "Mama!" very loudly and unequivocally. Once they have acknowledged that, indeed, they understand that I am her mama, then she goes on to interact with them...wave, babble, giggle, bat her eyes, give high-fives, etc.

What troubles her is those people who do not respond to her initiation, those people too busy, or too wary, or too shy, or too mistrusting to open up to a charming child. Those are the people that trouble her, and they trouble her deeply. She will frown, pout, repeat her effort at initiating contact...sometimes she will even attempt to chase them down (draggin us in her wake), unable to believe that they don't want and need to know her.
But as you can imagine, it is only the coldest and hardest heart that can pass by Q without stopping to smile and coo over her. Times like this, in fact, she draws a crowd without even trying.
QQ is a clever one. She is quick, happy, coordinated, talented, charming and adept. She's also almost two, which means that she's starting to get ornery. She has learned to say "no", and uses it liberally. However, her "no" is so cute that it's more charming than annoying. She can't pronounce "oh" yet, since the scar on her lip is still quite tight, so it comes out "Neh!", accompanied by a firm and unequivocal shake of the head. But because she is such a happy and humorous soul, she also can't help smiling each time she says it, so it comes out more joke than denial. As soon as she pronounces the word, the corners of her mouth turn up in that mischeivous little dolphin-smile of hers, and our hearts just melt.
Her communication level has also skyrocketed. She is still very shy of pronouncing sounds she isn't sure of, so her words are increasing only very slowly. Those words she's on the verge of pronouncing, like "ball", "LaoLao" (my mother), "bird", "flag", "please", etc, come out as a husky whisper. But while her language is still only beginning to form, her sign language is going off the charts. She is now creating elaborate signs, many of which we can't understand. Those signs which she initially did in a sort of baby shorthand, she has now perfected and honed so that they are ASL-perfect. Our speech therapist was astounded to hear that she is now "speaking" almost exclusively in two, three and even four-word sentences in sign language. This is apparently rare, since speaking children are only expected to link two words together by the age of two, and Q has not yet reached her second birthday.

That said, she is going to have some tough work ahead of her in order to learn to use her new upper lip to pronounce sounds that another child her age would already be using. Also, she is above all an athlete, and a very active child. She is able to focus intently on sporting activities, and practices throwing and catching balls in her crib (by bouncing them off the slats to herself), shooting baskets, tossing, kicking and bouncing them around the house. She also still practices yoga moves in her crib and on the livingroom rug. She recently acquired a trike, and is working hard at learning to pedal. Hula hoop is the latest activity she's taken on, and she's very close to mastering it. When it comes to quieter activities like reading, stacking, drawing, etc. her attention span is much shorter, and she has a harder time focusing.
Her very best skill is matching, and she is an absolute master. She seems to have a near photographic memory, and can see a picture in a book, album or online, and match it to its real-life counterpart instantly. She can remember new words, signs and objects on the first try. We have gone from simple picture books to complex picture books to comprehensive picture books, and she can accurately identify almost any object on any page. If I write a word on her drawing slate, she can often identify it correctly the very next time I write it for her, even if it's a day or two later.

Needless to say, I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Yes, she is showing signs of the onset of the terrible twos. She has learned, for instance, to whine...something that no one looks forward to. She has also recently mastered the "fake cry", and uses it much more often than we'd like these days. Nevertheless, she is a loving, joyful and infinitely pleasant child. And we still feel like we've dodged a whole minefield of troubles with this kiddo thus far. I just hope that all the delightful and free-flowing childhood doesn't come back to haunt me when she turns 13...or 3. ;)

Spicyface Picklepants

Well, you've seen a re-enactment on video, but here's the original QQ spicy-face in action.
QQ is actually quite the gourmet with a broad, subtle and open-minded palate (in this family, she would have to be!) She will surprise you with what she decides to eat without batting an eye. I've seen her stuff herself eagerly on a spicy Thai curry, complete with cilantro, beansprouts and fresh lime, without so much as wrinkling her nose. Every now and then, however, she decides to make a show of it...
And what a show it is! Ooooooooooh.......aaaaaaaaaaauuuuuggggghhhhhhhh.........eechchhhhhhhhh!
Here, she continues with the theaterics even after daddy has pressed a soothing bottle of juice on her.
But here's the instant smile that tells you that it was all (or almost all) a good piece of theater, performed entirely for the audience's benefit.

Yesterday, however, she accidentally turned the tables on herself. We had ordered several dishes from our favorite authentic Asian restaurant, including waterfall beef (not for the faint of palate), spicy lemongrass beans with red chili, and a crispy fish with a sweetish raw-chili dipping sauce that, if taken in indiscreet portions, will blow the top of your head off.

QQ had eaten her share of orange chicken, vietnamese eggrolls and rice, and had asked to be released to play with her balls while the rest of us finished gorging ourselves (this is really, really good food!) In the process, without any of us noticing, she had snatched the plastic lid from the raw-chili sauce, and was teething on it while she played.

First, I noticed a faint coughing, followed quickly by the "spicy face". But there was something different about it. A curious air of...authenticity. I knew we were in trouble when her face started to turn a deep, purply beet-red. Then she began to sweat around the temples and forehead, followed by a telltale watering around the outer corners of her eyes.
Poor kid.
We grownups could not stop laughing.
Anyone reminded of "the boy who cried wolf"?


A good day to be a kid (of any age).

On our second day in Vail, we stopped in to the Beaver Creek rodeo to give Q her first real taste of the "wild west".
OK, Beaver Creek is very far from "wild", and is only "west" by way of geography...but, you get the idea. Ahem. In any case...don't you love this gorgeous redhead with her flashy red-headed mount?
Rodeo princesses showing off.
A well-groomed pinto listening to the National Anthem.
Q taking in the scene. This is her "absorbed" face.
Cowboys trying to hold their hats over their hearts while preparing for the bronc chutes (no easy task!)
A girl pining for popcorn.
Meanwhile, Q checks out her first teepee (her daddy is proudly 1/26th Creek indian...or is it 1/67th Kree? I can never remember. He's a card-carrying member of the nation, in any case, thanks to his own proud mama).
The real rodeo started, however, when we met a pony named Mr. T. .. a pony with a very soft black-velvet muzzle, and a heart to match...
....a pony who would become QQ's very first mount.
Now, QQ's mommy was once a pretty good equestrienne in her own right, as was her LaoLao before her...
...so it seems only fitting that the Q felt at ease on her mount within only a few seconds of first setting seat to saddle.
Look at that smile! Look at that eager posture!
If she had a thought bubble over her head, it would say, "Does this thing go any faster?"
How at-ease she looks atop that pony.
At first, we weren't sure she was old enough for the pony-ride pen. Then, we feared she would be too small for the smallest mount. But as it turned out, I think Mr. T was exactly the right size for her, no? She's a long, tall 22-month-old (actually, she was still 21 mos when this photo was taken. She just turned 22 mos yesterday!)
Finishing out her ride. By this time, she felt much too comfortable to hold on to the saddle horn...hence mommy's peremptory grip on her tiny hand, making sure she doesn't do anything too crazy...like stand up in the saddle and yell "Ha-yaaaaaaaah!" Which I'm quite sure is what she wanted to do.
Is there anything more indicative of summer (even on a stormy highcountry afternoon) than a snowcone stand? I have to photograph them every time I see them.
Chased up-valley by an iron-grey bank of storm clouds and a pelting of fat raindrops, we high-tailed it up to Vail village, where we stopped into what is probably the most fabulous of all the fabulous playgrounds in the Vail Valley.
QQ could hardly wait to get out of the car, and it was all we could do to beat her up the ladders to the highest part of the play structures.
Kudos to whomsoever designed this park.
It's just plain gorgeous!

Not long after discovering the park, QQ was approached by an absolutely adorable little girl named Lynn (three and a half) and her two-year-old brother, both of whom were total daredevils, and perfectly suited to Q's personality. Lynn took to QQ right away, and made it her business to show Q the ropes (both literally and metaphorically).
The Q is used to being the instigator when it comes to social contact, so at first she was a little taken aback by Lynn's determination to make a friend of her. She quickly warmed to the relationship, however, and was soon allowing Lynn to lead her around the more advanced areas of the playground.
We have erred on the conservative side with Q when it comes to slides, so she has thus far been confined to the tamer ones. Lynn and her brother were of the school that believes in launching onesself face-first down the highest, fastest and most twisty slide in the park, and they were determined to initiate the Q into their club. They would stand at the bottom of every tall slide, and shout Qq's name until she came down. All the while, they'd both be standing at the bottom, waiting to ease her fall.
They told us they had it covered...that we needn't bother ourselves with spotting...but as nervous parents, we couldn't help pitching in.
It is 100% thanks to Lynn and her brother, however, that Q has now conquered the scariest, highest, fastest, and most dangerous slides in the park.
After a few initiation rituals, Lynn gave QQ the unparalelled honor of asking Q to be her best friend.
The Q was not quite sure to make of this invitation, but Lynn was adamant, and in the end, she conceded. In the last picture, Lynn requested the her mother take a photo of her with her new BFF.
Fast friends.