Dante Month 28, 29 and 30 (7/10/2005)
First of all, I just wanted to let you know that in my opinion, the best way to view the pictures on this site is to take this window and put it on the left side of your screen, covering about half of your screen left to right and all the way up and down (you can resize it). When you click on the gallery and open up your first picture, a new browser window appears. Take it and put it on the right side of your screen and resize it to fit the rest of the screen. If you have a halfway decently sized monitor and screen resolution, the pictures should all fit just fine and this way you don't have to close the picture each time to get back to the captions. I've showed this method to several of you, who immediately said "oh, that works so well", so I figured I'd let the rest of you know the secret. I just don't have the time to deal with making thumbnails or a million html pages to put each picture into one browser, so you will have to bear with this format for a few more years :-) Each month takes up 2 full CDs, so a 3 month update means I have to go through 4.2 GB of pictures!!!! Hard to pick just 30 out of several thousand. My "DanteWeb Candidates" folder usually starts out with at least 100 and pruning to the final set is usually a very painful experience.

Anyhow, another 3 months have gone by and it is time for another update! Once again, Dante has lived through many new experiences which he has absorbed and processed in his own Dante-like fashion.

Immediately after the last update, shortly after Easter, Dante woke up at 4 AM one morning and rather than running downstairs to jump into bed with Mommy and Daddy, he seemed to be playing quietly by himself. Both parents were relieved at not being required to participate and slept on. In their sleepy delirium they forgot the cardinal rule that a "too quiet" Dante usually means some trouble is brewing. Later that morning after Daddy left for work and Mommy was attempting to become conscious with a cup of coffee, she gingerly began sitting on the couch, only to discover that she was about to sit upon... an egg! Dante apparently decided that this day HE was going to play the part of the Easter Bunny. Mommy discovered over a dozen of Annie's fresh chicken and duck eggs hidden all over the kitchen and living room, under couch cushions, behind toys, in play dough containers, etc. One ended up as cat food, probably due to the help of a cat pushing it off a cat tree ledge.

Dante was growing increasingly frustrated with Redmond Toddler Group classes. While he liked the kids and Ms. Ginny, he was not enjoying the classes themselves. The last few weeks of the Winter semester were a real chore to get him to go and he kept insisting he only liked Toby School "a little bit", and it would always be at the bottom of his comparison-of-activities list. He insisted the kids come outside to the slideswings with him or come "play with toys at Dante's home". So Mommy decided to not re-enroll in the class for the Spring semester. Terrified that he was now no longer getting enough social interaction with others his age on a regular basis, Mommy decided to enroll Dante for 7 weeks of gymnastics classes at Skyvalley Gymnastics in Monroe (she had a coupon for a free month, so how could she resist?) Spring Break included a week of swimming lessons at the Redmond Pool (Dante can now hold his head under water for 5-6 seconds at a time and loves diving under water in the bathtub) and a visit to the Imagine Children's Museum in Everett with Misia and Agnieszka. Unfortunately, whether it was the pool or the museum, the huge number of children present inevitably caused Dante to catch something. This time it was pink eye (viral conjunctivitis). Mommy had never had pink eye before, so this was a new experience for her, and as soon as Dante was over it, she promptly caught it herself.

Gymnastics proved to be an interesting experiment; Dante felt all the equipment belonged to him, refused to listen or pay attention to the teacher, and rather than wait in line for his turn, preferred to find equipment that was currently unoccupied. While a smart strategy in general, this was not condusive to actually socializing and getting the point of the class. Thus, Mommy decided not to renew the enrollment, feeling that Dante was still a bit too young for the discipline required. The last two weeks of class, however, Dante fell in love with 12 year old Alyssa, who decided to come help her Mom teach the toddler class and for some reason he obeyed her every wish. As a result, the last two classes were absolutely amazing to Mommy, who watched her little terror suddenly comply and do every activity to the best of his ability, including waiting his turn, holding his hands out to balance on the high balance beam, hold his hands up after every activity to "finish" like a little gymnast, jump into the foam block pit repeatedly, jump on the dreaded trampoline, do all sorts of interesting obstacle courses, and of course his favorite, hang on the uneven bars. Still more comfortable in his familiar Gymboree environment, Dante continues to practice his gymnastics skills there, especially on the monkey bars, when he's not flirting with Gymbo Erin, Gymbo Mehgan, or Gymbo Eileen.

After Gymnastics classes Dante and Mommy frequently visited with Trish (and thus with Angela and Kelsie), who recently acquired some new agility equipment for practising with their Papillons. Intrigued, Dante proceeded to conquer the tunnels, teeter-totters, ramps, and balance beams with puppy-like enthusiasm as Kelsie encouraged him and Robin and Jolie looked on wondering why on earth this little person was doing their tricks. Dante quickly caught on that the dogs received treats for doing each activity and came to the conclusion that so should he. After playing with the puppies, Dante's attention would turn to the newly red-headed Angela, who seems to have caught his fancy, and together they composed what Mommy refers to as "Piano Wars" on and off over the weeks. Only 6 of 9 movements were composed.

Gymnastics ended, and Mommy was beginning to feel the need to enhance Dante's artistic abilities. As it turns out, Gymbo Mehgan also teaches Gymboree Art classes, and Dante is now an avid art student. At first he was very hesitant to participate in any of the messy activities (and he still rushes to wash his hands every time he gets a bit of paint on them). He found it more interesting to watch the older kids and see what they were doing. He has definitely warmed up to the activities now, and eagerly awaits the next week's theme, projects, and painting. The class also opened up a new world of imaginative play for him via the dress-up time and other childrens' insistence that their particular green blob of paint was a frog. Now Dante describes his lines, wooshes and whirls with pride and often elaborate storytelling. This big developmental step has sprouted a storyteller of epic proportions as Dante can (like his Mommy and Baba Yaga) talk for hours without taking a breath, it seems. He does this in all sorts of situations, such as while "cooking" multi-course meals for Mommy or Daddy and telling them how he is putting things in the oven, how hot things are and to be careful and not spill. Clearly something is getting through... He plays with his Little People in fairly elaborate scenes and drives his cars around everywhere, filling up at his gas station using one of his many credit cards, and going through car washes. All in all, Mommy thinks this is the biggest developmental change in Dante over the last 3 months.

Dante's verbal negotiation abilities have always struck Mommy and Daddy as rather remarkable. Now, it is almost entirely impossible to get anything done without a long discussion (kind of like with Daddy). He gets very focused on things he wants or doesn't want, and then beats them over the head until Mommy can stand it no longer. For example, on May 19th, Mommy and Dante shared this conversation:

Dante: “Dante want to go to Poppa’s and Grandma’s house today.”
Mommy: “Not today. Maybe next week.”
Dante: “Dante want to go to Poppa’s house tomorrow?”
Mommy: “Grandpa has to go to school tomorrow.”
Dante: “Dante go to school with Grandpa tomorrow.”
Mommy: “You have gymnastics tomorrow.”
Dante: “Grandpa go to gymnastics first with Dante. Then Dante go to school with Grandpa.”
Mommy: “How about we get dressed so you can go see Ms. Allison today?”
Dante:“Grandpa come see Ms. Allison and come play pianos and guitars with Dante.”

And yes, Dante almost always refers to himself in third person, to no end of amusement from other adults.

Another example of Dante's "mindscape": On May 26th, while wandering about the Cascara Circle at Redmond Ridge, Dante found someone's brown Fisher Price rubber horsey. He was very disturbed that "some little boy lost horsey". It was covered in grass cuttings so it was probably there at least a few days. First, he insisted that Mommy put it on the ledge of an announcement corkboard. Later he came back for it and surprised Mommy by saying "Dante take horsey home. Horsey all alone. Horsey cry. Mommy send email to boy's Mommy. Dante give back horsey to boy." Is it amazing, funny, or sad that Dante knows that Mommy "checks email" all the time to talk to people?

To digress a bit, when Dante was just a few weeks old, Daddy was attempting to communicate with him via stories and nursery rhymes, but Dante simply stared at him with a somewhat doubtful expression. So Daddy came to the conclusion that there was no point in exercising his own brain cells too much so early on and instead decided to spout random multi-syllabic words at Dante. Word after word received no reaction, until Daddy uttered "bioluminescence". Suddenly, the infant Dante began blinking his eyes and opening his mouth. Daddy found that over the next few months, Dante would always react to this one word. After a while he forgot about this since Dante was reacting to pretty much everything around him. Then, a couple months ago, Dante began trying to repeat every word he heard. Daddy decided it was finally time to reintroduce "baby Dante's favorite word". Dante, thrilled, quickly learned to say it and asked what it means. So now he can be heard yelling "BI-O-LUM-I-NES-CENCE... That means animals glow" at the playground. Daddy showed Dante a number of interesting bioluminescent creatures on the Internet, and occasionally he asks Mommy to show them to him while Daddy is at work.

Along with email and bioluminescent creatures, computers have become even more attractive to Dante now that he has enough coordination to use his Dora (one button) mouse! And Mommy and Daddy didn't think that would happen for at least another year! Mommy used Freecycle to gather every educational computer game she could get her hands on. Dante can now install software on his own computer with a little bit of help, and has started enough games that he can spell his name on the keyboard by himself. He has discovered a technique for dealing with the mouse when he runs out of mouse-pad. He picks up the mouse (all the way up above his head), and then puts it down on the pad in a different location. This is of course hilarious to watch, but is effective. Hopefully he will learn to be a bit more efficient with his motions soon enough. At this point he will calmly stand in front of the computer (sitting isn't as comfortable) and play games by himself while Mommy checks email and writes blogs. Usually. Unless he really wants Mommy to play with him. Which consists of sitting there and watching him play, because, after all, "Dante do it by self, Mommy watch!" His favorites include various Barney games, My Personal Tutor, Blue's Clues games, Leap Ahead games, Dora games, Dr. Seuss' ABCs, Bailey's Book House, Putt-Putt and a variety of other pieces of software by Humungous Entertainment, Edmark, the Learning Company, and Disney.

Despite Mommy's great efforts to encourage television viewing of a variety of educational programs, Dante does not tolerate television unless it is an episode of Blue's Clues. Even Dora is no longer on the approved list. And even then, Dante must be doing something else besides watching. Mommy frequently finds him with a book in his lap "reading" very intently while Steve or Joe are trying to teach something halfway across the room. But just try to turn off the TV...

Dante has continued going to see his beloved Ms. Allison for Kindermusik until just last week when the summer session ended. Mommy is not sure how he will survive the summer without Ms. Allison, whose lap he considers his own private property. Inspired by streamers in class (and Mommy's luck at buying an identical streamer at a garage sale), Dante now frequently uses the 400 CD changer to find a song he likes and dances around the living room in a flurry of colorful ribbons. He has also begun naming pieces of music he doesn't recognize based upon their tempo and character. Grandpa Chuck spent many days downloading and burning a myriad of songs of all genres for Dante, who asks for "Grandpa CDs" almost all the time in Mommy's car. In Daddy's car, which he knows how to start with the key (in Daddy's lap), he prefers the radio and cycles through all the pre-programmed stations until he finds something that appeals to him (Daddy is not allowed to drive until Dante has found music suitable for his own listening pleasure). Since Dante travels a lot to and from classes, parks and various playdates and activities, he listens to a lot of music. As such, he has learned the lyrics to many many songs... and complains when Mommy doesn't know the words by saying "Mommy only know meh-do-lee"

Other experiences these last 3 months included a trip to the Pacific Science Center with Daniel, Alina, Jacob and Avi, who came up from the Bay Area to visit, a day with Sean, who is getting bigger faster than Dante is outgrowing his clothing, going climbing at Arena Sports with Bobo and Victorina, going on more pony rides at Kelsey Creek Park and Remlinger Farms and attending the Duvall Days Festival. On Mother's Day Dante went on his first hike down to Snoqualmie Falls. He walked both ways on his own despite (or perhaps because) of the fact that Daddy had brought the Baby Backpack. The walk turned out to be a good warm-up for his July 4th hike for Mommy and Daddy's 13th wedding anniversary. Thinking they were going for a picnic at Wallace Falls Park, Mommy and Daddy were a bit unnerved to discover that viewing the Falls actually required a multi-mile hike (and they had not brought the backpack). Dante was not excited about hiking in the hot sun under the crackling high voltage power lines for the first quarter mile. Mommy and Daddy didn't think they'd get very far at all, as Dante preferred sitting down in the gravel in the middle of the road and finding "good rocks". Daddy had to invent the "catch Daddy to put a rock in his pocket" game to get Dante to move 30 ft at a time. Thankfully, when Dante entered the forest, he suddenly took off and Mommy and Daddy spent the next several hours saying "slow down" at least once in every other sentence. Dante decided he likes hiking and everyone on the way commented upon what a great little hiker he was. He was the youngest non-carried child they saw. Dante saw several waterfalls of varying sizes that day, read many maps (thank you, Dora!), and counted out 50 huckleberries all by himself as Mommy and Daddy picked them for him and handed them to him one by one. The walk back was a bit more difficult, as the munchkin was clearly tired during that last mile. But Daddy kept him going from bench to bench with the promise of a gummy fruit chew at each rest stop. 4.2 miles and 5 hours after they began, the hike culminated in going to the restrooms at the trailhead where Dante used the public potty all by himself (he wouldn't even let Mommy in the stall with him).

Speaking of potties, it is no longer a big deal when Dante properly uses a potty, at home or elsewhere. He does, however, have preferences for certain potties and dislikes toilets that flush loudly or bathrooms that are not sparkling clean. While not yet wearing underwear, since he spends so much time away from home and Mommy is not interested in dealing with potential accidents, he is very close to being self sufficient. His moments of intense concentration while reading or playing may make accidents more likely, so Mommy isn't pushing. Dante decided to basically train himself one weekend by running around the house naked and using the potty whenever he needed to.

As usual, enjoy the pictures!