Dante Month 21 and 22 (11/21/2004)
You’ve probably noticed this update is later than usual. Dante and I just came back from two weeks in New York (NYC)! We had a very full and exciting two months and what with Halloween on the last day of October, I simply did not have the opportunity to get things ready for DanteWeb before we left.

But we should begin at the beginning. After years of somehow missing the Evergreen State Fair, we finally made the trip, in part due to Annie’s involvement (and her beautiful prize winning handywork) as well as Marzena and Misia’s desire to go. Dante napped during the first half of the day while Misia tried out all the rides. Sufficiently rested, Dante woke up and had to see everything. Astounded at the number of different chickens in the barn, he declared them “yum yum!”. Thrilled with the kittens, we barely managed to escape without adopting any more. The sheep and goats were all amusing, but what truly changed everything was the cow barn. Upon entering, Dante stood transfixed as his eyes went from cow to cow. He lifted a finger and with great deliberation pronounced “Cow”. The little finger moved to the next cow. “Cow,” he said. As he pointed from one cow to the next, his face began to turn bright pink and all the veins began to stand out on his little neck. “Cow, Cow, Cow, Cow, COW, COW, COW, COOOOW”, he yelled. From that day on, when Old McDante had a farm, on this farm he had… a COW! We also went on all the age appropriate rides and discovered Dante’s weakness for snow cones, most especially the colorful ones that leave dye on your hands and face for days

Daddy’s birthday involved another stay at Grandpa Chuck’s and Grandma Sandy’s for Dante while Mommy and Daddy went to see the movie Hero (highly recommended).

At the end of September, Grandpa Pawel (aka Dziadzi) came for a visit. Upon arrival at midnight, the first order of business was to try out the new piano. Apparently, the piano was deemed at least marginally acceptable since the starving and exhausted Dziadzi (who hadn't eaten in hours or slept in days) could not be lured away from the ivories either by the sandman or by Pacific Northwestern alder-smoked king salmon being waved under his nose. His visit was short but intense, and we subjected him to all the activities of our lives. Grandma Bozena told us to “remember that Dziadzi was old” and not to “tire him out too much”, but I had little sympathy and got some revenge for all those missed opportunities from my own childhood. Dziadzi survived Dante Boot Camp and discovered that the one major thing that he had in common with his grandson was their taste in women. Starting at Misia's birthday party, and thereafter at every conceivable occasion, Dante and Dziadzi exhibited interest in the same ladies. Dante flirted shamelessly and was quite the charmer while Dziadzi looked on with approval.

The beginning of October was a sad week, as Sophia’s grandmother, Mimi, passed away. Dante and I attended the cremation and Dante tried to keep Sophia’s spirits up with his antics, which included things like constantly stealing all of the tissues from all of the tissue boxes at the funeral home.

The rest of our time during these two months was filled with Kindermusik; Gymboree; Redmond Toddler Group; Move to the Music classes at the YMCA at Redmond Ridge; swimming at the Redmond pool; another haircut (this time with no tears!); a potluck lunch where Dante played with his new friend, Xander; a visit to the Children’s Museum in Seattle with Misia and Marzena; a couple visits to Anya and her new baby Matthew; several visits to Annie, whom he adores; and probably a bunch of things I can’t remember any more due to lack of sleep.

Dante has been developing a clear sense of his own identity and frequently requests to do things alone and refuses help by saying “self”. While in the previous two months we saw a huge burst in sign language acquisition and use, these last two (and a half) months, and especially the last couple of weeks, have been marked by an explosion of verbal communication. While we had been mildly concerned that Dante’s use of sign language might delay his speech (beyond the expected delay caused by having both Polish and English to contend with), we found the opposite to be true. All of the words for which Dante knows signs, he has suddenly started saying while he is signing. In addition, on Daddy’s birthday, Dante spoke his first sentence: “Eat ice!” And yes, he loves to eat ice.

Language use has grown exponentially since then. Three word sentences are now pretty common. Dante can say his own name, though he has a bit of trouble pronouncing it and it sometimes sounds like “Daddy”. He can (spontaneously and frequently) count objects such as cars, stars, books, etc up to 20 (!) in English and not quite as well up to 10 in Polish. He understands and uses plurals in English, though plurals in Polish baffle him (as they do even me). He understands and uses possessives. He can say the alphabet with prompting and points out letters and numbers constantly on cereal boxes, street signs, etc. At this point, Dante is a regular chatterbox, as every action comes with an editorial comment. His Royal Highness has got his imperatives down pat and frequently orders “Mommy, sit down!” His Polish verbalization is definitely lagging behind his English, though his understanding is not. He is also at the point where he repeats almost everything which is said with any enthusiasm to him in any language, so we have to be very careful what we say and spelling out words is becoming Standard Operating Procedure. But I have a feeling that by the time we're finally adept at automatically spelling out everthing we don't want Dante to know... he'll already know how to spell.

Physically, Dante has continued to improve his coordination and increase his incredible strength. He is showing more and more right-handed tendencies, to our great relief, though he still tends to eat with his left hand. He enjoys running, climbing, throwing balls (and everything else he’s not supposed to throw) moving furniture and bringing in groceries from the car that are too heavy for him. Eager to be Mommy and Daddy’s helper, he happily sorts and puts away Mommy and Daddy’s socks and undies, Daddy’s watch and wallet (when he’s not removing money and credit cards and putting them into his own wallet!) He mops, vacuums, brings dishes, and in general has a good heart and a desire to be useful. It takes a great deal of patience to deal with his helpfulness, which occasionally results in even bigger messes than we began with, but hopefully the effort will reward us in the end.

Due to Dante's sudden interest in cows, when I saw a cow outfit on the Micronews for $5, I wasn’t even about to haggle the price down. Thanks to a black turtleneck I accidentally bought at the Old Navy for $1, 10 cent black sweatpants (from that amazing garage sale purchase during the summer), $1 black shoes and splurging on brand new black Gymboree socks (for a whole $2.50!!!), the costume was nearly complete. Topping it off with Annie’s priceless authentic cow bell made Dante’s Halloween costume a big hit. We showed it off at Kindermusik on Thursday, RTG and MSFT on Friday, Redmond Ridge on Saturday, and Trick-or-Treating at Annie’s on Sunday. Quite a bit of mileage for $9.60.

Enjoy the pictures from September and October. Coming soon: The trip to NYC