"Mommy, we should probably make a trip to Safeway this afernoon."
"Why is that, Sweetie?"
"Because we're fresh out of bananas."
Monday, March 24, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
We've become instant hockey fans here at Steingruebl World Enterprises after seeing the Sharks play live and in person just up the street. What with them making the playoffs and all, tickets are prohibitively expensive so we've been watching mostly on TV.
Wednesday night, we saw one of the worst sporting injuries I've ever seen. (I don't watch a lot of sports, really, so maybe this isn't saying much.) In a racing attempt to beat an icing call, one of the Sharks bumped Kurtis Foster of the Minnesota Wild and he went crashing into the boards. It took 20 minutes to extract him from the ice on a stretcher. And the guy is now in the hospital up the street with a rod in his leg to stabilize the displaced fracture in his femur. I'm sure that's every bit as horrible as it sounds. It's being reported as a season ending injury (duh!) but I don't think it's going to do great things for Foster's career either.
The thing that gets me is that this was preventable. I'm still learning hockey rules, but apparently the NHL allows icing to be waved off if one of the offending team's players touches the puck first. This means some serious races across big stretches of ice, terminating at those unforgiving boards behind the goal. Other leagues automatically call icing (and stop play) when the puck crosses the goal line. After what I saw Wednesday, I have to say I'm all for automatic icing. The rest of the game was excruciating for me to watch. Foster's leg broke, but it could just as easily have been his neck and I can't justify seeing anyone get hurt like that strictly for my entertainment. The game really is exciting enough without subjecting the players to needless risk of injury.
Last night, we watched the Sharks play the Mighty Ducks. Wow. Not only was there some incredible hockey being played, but the Sharks won! And there was of course some excellent fighting that included blood. I'm starting to realize that the playoffs won't be quite as suitable for the young audience that is Elise as some of the earlier games have been. Andy and I may be watching the rest of the season while the kiddo is in bed. (Yay, TiVo!)
At any rate, if you'd like to learn more about icing, a simple description of the rules is here. You can also read a description of the incident that made me question my newfound love of this sport here. I disagree with the writer that Mitchell should face suspension for needless shoving before the crash that broke Foster's leg. We've seen bigger shoves and harder hits all over the ice that merit only the 2 minutes for tripping that Mitchell got on this one. The difference here was the speed and proximity of the boards. None of which would have been there if the NHL adopted no-touch icing. I hope they get it together soon, because as a fan I can't handle more injuries like that one.
Easter is everywhere. It's my least favorite of the various religious celebrations around, largely because it introduces a freaky element to the beautiful season that is spring. People here in the Bay Area seem unusually excited about it, and can't wait to get to the next egg hunt with their kids. Even storytime at the library was filled with eggs and bunnies. This of course beats the heck out of crucifixes everywhere, but I have a hard time viewing the Easter Bunny with the same good grace as Santa. While I don't imagine egg hunts to be a gateway activity that eventually leads to sacrificing goats on the kitchen table, I would prefer slightly less social pressure to conform to this "traditional" celebration while I look for ways to mark the spring more meaningfully for myself and my family.
Tonight, I've got coffee & coughing kid induced insomnia, so I thought I'd share my own version of the Easter Story.
Every year at Easter, Jesus the King of the Undead walks the earth to feast on the braaaaaaiiiiiiins of local fertility goddesses everywhere. You know he's coming when rabbits get so scared that their droppings become brightly colored and the size of chicken eggs. (A few of the bolder rabbits produce only jelly beans, for which we are thankful.) Bunnies must be very careful at this time of the year, for one look into the eyes of their zombie overlord will turn them into a lump of chocolate. Those whose brains He harvests become hollow and fix the world with a vacant stare forevermore.
This is not just idle fantasy. Australia's rabbit problem stems entirely from the fact that it's autumn there when Easter arrives rather than spring. Why a loving deity would invent axial tilt just to mess with Australia is beyond me, but I'm neither omnipotent nor omniscient so I have to assume there's some nuance to this that I'm missing.
Of course, this little story has nothing on David Sedaris, the true master of the holiday.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Well, wouldn't you know it, real life got in the way of my virtual life this week and I did not have a chance to sit down with our mighty pile of library books yesterday. And now I have about 20 minutes until my cold-suffering kiddo wakes up and discovers that Roomba ate most of her pompom collection last night. Ugh. So, this week's review is going to be a bit short...
A New Beginning, Celebrating the Spring Equinox
by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Linda Bleck
I love spring. It's my favorite season. This book takes a look at how people have been celebrating the spring for thousands of years, including that relative upstart called "Easter." Since we don't "do" Easter here but our babysitter does, I wanted to give Elise a little heads up about the various traditions around the northern hemisphere. It also clearly illustrates and describes our axial tilt, which of course appeals to the astronomer in me. Celebrations covered include: Chinese New Year, No Ruz, Holi, the Maya people and their El Castillo pyramid, Maslenitsa, Cree Native American tradition, Passover, festival of Eostre, & Easter
Carlo Likes Reading
by Jessica Spanyol
Carlo, a giraffe, likes to read. Everything in his life has a clearly written tag. Some of the things are obvious, others are easy to guess. Elise first proved she could sound-out words by doing so with some of the least obvious words. I am now in love with this book for obvious reasons.
Pop! Went Another Balloon
by Keith Faulkner, illustrated by Rory Tyger
Elise picked this one and couldn't put it down all week. Bright illustrations, balloons, a birthday and counting down from 10 are all prominently featured. And of course the main characters are turtles so what's not to love?
The Mixed-Up Chameleon
by Eric Carle
Another Elise pick for the week. It's Eric Carle. There's a Chameleon. She likes seeing how mixed up one little critter can get.
Big Truck and Little Truck
by Jan Carr, illustrated by Ivan Bates
I include this book not so much for how much Elise liked it this week but how much she liked it months ago. She saw it sitting on the shelf and had to have it this time around. I stifled a groan because even the finest story wears a little thin after 10000000000000 readings. In this one, a big truck teaches a little truck all about how to do its work. And then the big truck breaks down and the little truck is forced to put all of that teaching to the test. This is a nice departure from dippy little animals in human situations.
And there we have it-our library week in review. Stuff on my Cat is due back this week and I'm anticipating a bit of a fight over handing that one in. Wish us luck!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Thank heaven for sub-prime mortgage crises
For little sub-prime mortgage crises grow bigger every day...
-Learner & Lowe, updated
The townhome across from ours is in foreclosure. The person who "bought" the place originally apparently couldn't afford it, and now their lender is stuck trying to unload it. As a renter here, I have the luxury of watching this unfold without much personal angst.
It's an entirely different story for my neighbors. The bank's agent has the vacant property listed at a full $100k less than what most people here figure their places are worth. I've heard tell of concerned neighbors cornering the agent and asking him to please, please, bump the price just a bit higher so that the neighborhood doesn't look so bad. Unfortunately, even at this low, low price there isn't anyone rushing to buy. We're going to be neighborless for awhile.
I'll say right up front that I don't think it's great to see anyone facing financial ruin, and I know that there are a lot of decent (if gullible) people who are out on the street because of a bad home-buying move. There are also a lot of lemmings who bought the biggest and best because that's what everyone else was doing, and stupid as it is it's sad to see them suffer.
But, my natural-born compassion doesn't absolve anyone of their responsibilities. All of the crazy talk of bailouts is disgusting to me. If a few people make poor choices they're on their own. If "everybody's doing it" we suddenly have a crisis and oh those poor people and hadn't we better see about all of this suffering. It's one thing to gratefully accept a helping hand when you've screwed up, but it's another thing entirely to demand one.
We here at Steingruebl World Enterprises considered home ownership back at the turn of the century, and decided it was too risky. We looked over the cost of payments, possible tax benefits, what we'd need for a down payment, and how crazily the property would have to appreciate for us to come out even in between 5 and 10 years. We even visited a mortgage broker (whose firm is now under scrutiny for nefarious lending practices) and secured ourselves pre-approval for a humongous loan. Putting the pieces together, we decided that we were better off renting. The urge to buy our very own shiny new condo was strong, but our sense of fiscal responsibility won out and we stayed renters.
And, in return for a sound decision we're not ruined financially. That's not such a bad place to be until you start to realize that there's a bit of a chance that our taxes will be going to pay for other people's houses. Not fair. I realize that everyone has some complaints about where their taxes go (welfare mothers, bridges to nowhere, interest payments on the mind-bogglingly huge national debt), but I'm making this my special complaint. I don't want to reward the "me first" jerks who have used neighborhoods all over the country as their personal frat houses. And it's not just the idiot borrowers who've done this, as demonstrated in this most excellent cartoon. There's a lot of blame to go around. But strangely there doesn't seem to be much responsibility going around. And in the mean time, the place across from us sits empty and drags the neighbors' home values down with it.
It was nice to come across an editorial today that calls a bailout what it is-unjust.
Monday, March 17, 2008
It's going to be tough for this week to compare to last week, but we'll do our best.
Last week, Elise
began writing letters and words all by herself
started sounding out words
tried new foods and was willing to eat them a second time
discovered that she loves taking showers
went on her first school field-trip
started learning the names of some San Jose Sharks
Like I say, hard to top. I like weeks like that.
Friday, March 14, 2008
by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon
Ugly Fish reminds me a lot of some of the fish I've kept over time, except with a more pronounced underbite. The big problem with keeping anything other than goldfish is that violent death is likely to enter the picture at some point. This book is good preparation for that. And, for whatever reason it's not all that scary.
by Betsy Everitt
Elise picked this one randomly off the shelf, and it has proven a very good read. Horace is having a lousy day, and his mom knows just what to do. I can see us making some mean soup of our own one of these days.
You're Somebody Special, Walliwigs!
by Joan Rankin
Through a series of unfortunate events, Walliwigs gets separated from his biological mother and ends up being raised by a chicken. It's a great story, and I hope I'm as good at being a mom as Martha the chicken. We reviewed Scaredy Cat a few weeks ago, and this is a similarly quirky but warm story. I like this author!
I'm Not Cute!
by Jonathan Allen
There are few things more annoying to a little one than constantly being called cute and adorable and having one's cheeks pinched etc. The poor little owl in this story has a hard time getting the grown-ups in his life to appreciate his point of view. Luckily, his mom knows what's what. I love this story, but it loses points for having the little owl go to bed at night.
Stuff On My Cat
by Mario Garza
This is a collection of pictures of cats with silly things on them. I saw a picture of Leta reading this on dooce one day and thought we'd give it a try given that Elise and Leta are of similar temperament and Elise loves all things cat these days. She has had endless fun looking through the pages and making up stories about the cats.
And in a complete departure from the norm, I'd like to mention what I read this past week.
The Final Confession of Mabel Stark
by Robert Hough
I've never been that excited by the circus, so it was odd to have Elise point to this on the shelf and for me to say "okay" and give it a try. Mabel Stark was a real-live tiger trainer back in the teens and twenties. Reputedly the best in the business, in fact. She got married a lot and mauled a lot and there aren't a lot of details known about her life other than that. Hough has quite the imagination and there were some parts of the book that I thought were a little too descriptive. But I love the idea of this tough old lady who trained tigers into her 80s.
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency & The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul
by Douglas Adams
I last read these two books in high school, and had a sudden hankering for them. This past Tuesday would have been Adams' 56th birthday, which should serve as a reminder to us all to look after our heart health. Anyway, I like Dirk Gently, and I like the silliness of these stories.
Monday, March 10, 2008
This was a fantastic weekend for us here at Steingruebl World Enterprises. Andy and I had a date night on Friday (which distracted from the horrible fact that the Sharks game wasn't on TV), we all went to see some big trees on Saturday, and Elise and Andy got some quality daddy/daughter time on Sunday. Absolutely fabulous.
In spite of the fact that I completely forgot the camera on our Saturday outing, I'm here to report that the Henry Cowell State Park is fantastic. We stuck to the little trail near the picnic area and visitor center which turned out to be just perfect for us. We wandered along the trail, checked out the amazing trees and generally enjoyed ourselves. I even found a banana slug sliming along! Andy discovered a puddle in a tree trunk that was full of some sort of larvae which we reported at the visitor center just in case they happened to be mosquitoes. Next time, in addition to remembering the camera we'll bring binoculars because the birds were fantastic to hear and might be good to see as well.
The best part of the whole thing for me was lunch. Before we left on our adventure, Andy and Elise snuck off to the grocery store for picnic fixins while I was in the shower. I have no idea why the thing that would be ho-hum at home is fantastic on a picnic, but it sure is!
As spring sets in, I hope we have a lot more great weekends like this.
Andy asked me this evening why I go to various neighborhood planning meetings when they frustrate me so hugely. It's a reasonable question with many reasonable answers. At the heart of it, I'm a busybody and I like to know what's going on in my community. I have learned over time that the things that have the biggest direct effect on my daily life are issues of zoning, traffic, special use permits and the other minutia that can put you into a coma if you're not careful. Feel free to leave off reading this rant at any point if you start to drool or otherwise show signs of fading...
Tonight's meeting was called by a developer who wants an amendment to a building permit. Normally, such get-togethers are held in community centers or church basements or meeting rooms at city hall. I thought it showed such flair that they invited us all to the trendy/spendy restaurant up the street instead, and ordered appetizers. I am a little surprised that this sort of venue is considered acceptable by the city, but maybe it doesn't count as a "bribe the community" attempt if they don't serve booze. Which they didn't. Which would have been pretty funny, now that I think of it.
Anyway, fully half of the attendees were involved in the proposed development. They were all very friendly and very invested in the project which was nice to see. I was impressed by the amount of work they'd done to spruce up the traffic flow and ensure that the number of parking spaces they promised would actually be delivered.
A quick word about "little" design changes to proposed developments. They are never little, and they probably would have been part of the original plan if they thought they could get it by the zoning board and the planning department. The details of this particular case muddy the waters a bit, but that's the gist.
Tonight's presentation so closely mirrors what I heard in my old neighborhood (with horrible results, I might add) that I'd like to describe the presentation in broad details as a caution to anyone else who might be faced with permit/zoning changes in the future.
The developer starts by saying that they are excited by the project, but felt it could be improved over their old design. Problems with the old plan were such that they went to great expense to hire architects to re-draw plans that are oh so much better. See how this full-color representation is so superior to the old black line drawings? We've planned so much better than before, and think you'll agree that this new design would be an exciting addition to our neighborhood. (And do you notice that they've gone from being "the developer" to being one of your neighbors in about 2 minutes?)
Unfortunately, due to events beyond our control (setback requirements, existing infrastructure, these fabulous new designs that we all love so much more) this means that a mixed-use development with retail on the ground floor is no longer an option. It's not a particularly good location for this sort of retail space anyway. As long as we're going to be building something, how about we make it this wonderful new design that we all like so much? If pushed, your friendly neighbor/developer will allow that, yes, they can make better profits on residential than retail, but don't let that sway you because of course we've redesigned (at our own expense!) to make this a better development for you.
I'm uncertain if this is a scheme hit upon by developers (and maybe salespersons?) everywhere, or if each one is the result of someone puzzling out the best way to present the case. Regardless, this is a pattern I've seen at least twice for sure in different parts of the country. And it annoys me.
Nobody present tonight changed my opinion about residential units on the first floor of a development on a busy street. They're ugly, stupid, a waste, and an invitation to ghettofication. (It's like gentrification, except the other way around. Feel free to use this new, trendy term as much as you'd like.)
To directly address the potential developers of 777 Park Avenue in San Jose, I say this:
1. Thank you for designing a better building. You'll sell more units at better prices with this one.
2. It's only "class c" retail space because it would be the first classy thing on the block. You are envisioning profit before neighborhood which does not incline me to support a change in your permit.
In closing, I was genuinely surprised by how "on board" the representative from the Department of Planning was with this whole thing. She loves the new building design, thinks the thing is fabulous, and we wouldn't have a leg to stand on if we tried to deny this great developer a little change in their permit. I am not making this up. She seemed to think that the current zoning, and even the current permit, were up for interpretation and the city really has no control over what's done with the property.
If that is the case, we should all be up in arms that the planning department is so clearly slacking. Higher density development is on the agenda as Silicon Valley continues to attract population, so it strikes me as odd indeed that an area that is otherwise so well planned has no serious zoning in place to address walkability and livability directly adjacent to a major transit hub.
I know of at least one budding urban planner out there who might still be reading this rant... Please let me know your thoughts!
Friday, March 7, 2008
Last night, there was a little, informal, get-together at Elise's school about preparing for kindergarten. That's more than a year away for us given a late birthday and all, but I figure it's a good idea to start collecting info sooner rather than later.
Well, I'm here to tell you that I'm waaaaaay too relaxed, and probably negligent. That's right. We have been figuring on public school, and even our neighborhood school. It's decent and getting better all of the time. We are working on making sure Elise has the skills and mindset necessary to succeed when she gets to elementary school. We'll check out the school and the classrooms as the time approaches, get involved with the school and volunteer for stuff and I figure that's a pretty good start. Such slackers. Feel free to exclaim your dismay that we are so negligent.
As a dear friend pointed out, these sorts of meetings tend to self-select for the neurotic so I feel mildly better. Nearly everyone in the room was agonized about the idea of their precious snowflake walking down a hall to a bathroom with only a buddy for company. And how will they get in all of their extracurriculars? There sure are a lot of schools to tour, so get in there quick since there are waiting lists for the best ones. Because anyone in their right mind would gladly pay $26K/year to be confident that their progeny are getting the very best. Of course, we're all too clever to really think that an expensive school would be the ticket, but if we could afford it we'd be there in a heartbeat...
I am pretty confident in our approach of "letting" Elise be a kid and our commitment to public education. But every now and then I wonder if I am a complete slacker for not letting it keep me up nights. I can't help but think that so many people can't be happy unless they're in a panic. I also can't help but think that the discussion would have been vastly different at a lower-end childcare center. This place isn't the most expensive by a long shot, but it's not the cheapest ever. Spending time among people who are newly accustomed to having some surplus money almost always leaves me feeling like I'm unambitious or at the very least not trying hard enough.
Is it possible to be educated, value intelligence and intellectual challenge, make a decent living and not be a nutjob? So far, in The Valley of Hearts Delight I've found two moms who lead me to conclude that the answer is yes. And more than I care to count who prove the very opposite with every fiber of their beings. Forget the whole business of beating each other up for either going to work or staying home-the next battleground of motherhood is a race to a nervous breakdown. Whoever gets there first wins, apparently.
Oh, and speaking of the home/work battle... One of the moms was worried about how to get her little darling to all of the little outside of school classes they like so much what with aftercare and all. I piped up and suggested making friends with a stay-at-home mom and saving a bit on the childcare bill while giving the kids a chance to play together. Collectively, the room sniggered. Seriously. A few comments about Stepford Wives, and the idea was dismissed as if it had never been uttered. My take on this is that many of the women these working moms identify with economically are wealthy to the point of stupid and are probably not approachable or desirable as friends to share in childcare. Fair enough.
However, it annoys me to no end that these people have spent months and maybe years of their lives agonizing over the education of their kids, but won't even consider spending some of that same time and effort to be part of a community, except in a superficial way. Get to know another family with a mom who'd take my kid after school?! Perish the thought! I'd rather just leave 'em at aftercare and gripe about the cost of it and the lack of wholesome stimulation! From my perspective, it's the Ronco Oven method of childrearing-set it and forget it. At the end of the day, it feels better to pay a fee, know where you are in the pecking order, and not actually interact with anyone. Sure, it can be tricky to negotiate friendships and all, but exactly what is it that people are trying to accomplish with this strange form of independence? It's all rationalized with not wanting to impose, but the real sentiment is more on the order of not wanting to feel indebted.
And it feels so good to be able to reject an entire lifestyle out of hand, because that immediately validates one's own life choices. I see this both with at-home moms and at-work moms, and it's just plain stupid. If nothing else, it serves to keep focus squarely on parents where it belongs, rather than on those pesky ornaments/accessories known as kids. All of which takes me right back to the beginning of this little rant. The "best" parents are the ones who can demonstrate the most neurosis surrounding every aspect of their kids' lives.
So, let's hoist a glass of that Old Janx Spirit to these winning parents. For those interested in a little friendly competition, I should warn you that, like Zaphod Beeblebrox, I usually play to lose.
In spite of the fact that we brought home a gargantuan pile of books this week (even making a nice midweek trip to pick up books on hold that came in), it's only a moderately inspiring list. As a percentage, the mediocre far outpaced the good ones, but the ones we liked were really well-loved.
Houndsley and Catina and the Birthday Surprise
by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
My aunt recommended the first of these books which we'd read and loved previously, so I went looking for them this week. Surprise! There's a new one about birthdays. These two critters are so gentle with one another, not to mention thoughtful. Elise especially likes how Houndsley remembers rainbow sprinkles even though they're not his favorite. The very essence of friendship, that.
No Kiss for Grandpa
by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Emilie Boon
It's no secret that we expect kids to love being with their extended families. Even when they don't know them well or see them often. In this story, Louie gets to spend an afternoon with his grandpa and isn't too pleased. Grandpa plays along anyway, and by the end of the afternoon Louie warms up enough to give him a kiss goodbye. When we read this, we watch Louie's facial expressions go from grouchy to happy. I like the way the story portrays the building of a relationship.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert
This may well be one of my least favorite alphabet books of all time. This probably has more to do with my distaste for the gal who introduced me to it than the book itself, so I stifled my groans when Elise grabbed it enthusiastically. It's bright, it's vivid, it's got a cool rhyme scheme. I have now read it a million times and still don't care for it that much, but on this one I defer to Elise since it's really a kid book, after all.
by Judy Schachner
I put this one on reserve, and when it came it Elise and I made a special mid-week trip to the library to check it out. There's so much going on in this book that I don't actually mind reading it over and over again as we must with all favorites around here. Elise likes the story because it's a cat and it's long, but I don't think she's old enough to really get most of it. The PC part of my brain really dislikes some of the stuff that stereotypical of a cowboy movie set in Old Mexico, but by and large I think it's pretty harmless. I do think that this book is suited for a slightly older audience, however.
Me and My Cat?
by Satoshi Kitamura
In this story, a boy and his cat trade places for a day. The classic "mind in another body" storyline. Elise likes the idea of a kid in a cat's body, and it opens up some interesting play ideas and options. For me, the story is a little bald but ohmygosh the illustrations are hilarious! I could seriously just stare at the pictures for hours. Clearly, someone has been studying cat faces and postures.
Eat Your Peas
by Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt
Daisy doesn't like peas, but her mom tells her to eat them anyway. Then, her mom tries to bribe her into eating them. The bribes get crazy, which tends to provoke giggles here, even as Daisy stands her ground. It should be noted that there are some vegetables that moms don't like as well. We like speculating about what could have happened between the penultimate and ultimate pages of this book.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Still more linking to interesting things. Check out this nifty cardboard furniture! Given that it's done by a designer, I'll bet that we still wouldn't want the cat to tear into it with her claws. Knowing our luck, Flapjack would probably just pee on it...
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Okay, at some point I will stop just posting links to funny things I've seen online. This is not that point.
For the religious among us, I recommend a perusal of the following tacky gifts on display (with clever commentary).
You'll be glad you looked. Sort of.
I think that I may have mentioned this before, but we are headed to Maine to see our good friend Job get married to his lovely Sarah this June.
They've chosen a place on the Bay of Fundy, and I'm pretty excited to be going there. This place has the highest tides around, and we're going to get to see them up close! Here's a little preview I found on a Bay of Fundy Blog that I enjoy reading.
Cool, right? All of this seawater going in and out causes some spectacular erosion, so there will be fossils to look for as well. It's going to be a fun vacation!
So, I ran into this game over at Joe's Big Blog and thought I'd play too. Rules are as follows:
1. Pick up the nearest book with more than 123 pages.
2. Go to page 123 in the book.
3. Find the first 5 sentences.
4. Post the NEXT 3 sentences.
5. Tag 5 people.
I'm hip to all but the tagging 5 people part, so consider yourself tagged if you so desire. :)
The book: The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer
As well, science energetically corrects itself. If a finding is misleading, say due to methodological error, other scientists will discover that and set things straight. Every year a new batch of scientists graduates, and many of them take dead aim--as they were trained to do--on the scientific Establishment.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
On Friday afternoon, we went outside with Elise's friend Liem to ride bikes. I was a bit hesitant, since Elise has been mostly disinterested in the new bike since we brought it home. Sure, there are tassels on the handlebars and there's a basket for collecting rocks, but you have to wear a helmet to ride it!
To make a long story short, after getting to the park under mommy power, Elise just started pedaling. All on her own. So, now our girl can ride a bike. Still working on steering, of course, but she can pedal! And she likes to do it! We're very proud.