Dante Month 34, 35 and 36 (1/15/2006)
It is already halfway through January and you are all asking, where is the next update? Well, first of all, Mommy and Daddy decided to celebrate Dante’s birthday on January 8th this year and the update simply had to include his birthday. Secondly, Dante refused to open more than a few presents a day as he preferred to enjoy each before opening another, and Mommy had to include pictures of him playing with some of his gifts. Thirdly, Mommy has had no time whatsoever to select DanteWeb Candidate Pictures over the last three months, so she had to do it all at once, which was no easy task.

Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! Those of you with some Polish background were probably surprised to receive Holiday cards this year. Do not expect a repeat performance! Daddy was less than pleased by this sudden addition of more Christmas-related chaos, but Mommy couldn’t resist sending out the professionally done “Antiquities” photos of Dante in a traditional Polish Mountaineer outfit in sepia tones.

But let’s go back to the beginning. October contained Bianca’s Birthday, lots of playdates with Misia and Agnieszka, a visit with Ciocia Anya and Baby Matthew at the new Childs Play Café, a visit from Baby Sean who isn’t a baby anymore, playdates with Bobby (with whom Dante had Gymboree classes ages ago) while Mommy attempted to get Mary Kay facials from Bobby’s Mommy (Jean), MOPS, Kindermusik, and of course lots of Halloween-related activites.

Mommy found a rather large pumpkin and for the first time in years, it didn’t sit on her window sill uncarved til March of the following year, when it would traditionally begin to mold. Dante dutifully helped take out all the seeds and then tasked Mommy with the carving of… an alien! As for costumes, Dante was a dinosaur for the school Halloween party (which worked well since they had recently finished their Dinosaur curriculum), and then after school he went to Daddy’s work and prowled through the hallways of Microsoft as a “Friendly Lion”. This year Dante was considerably more interested in trick-or-treating. While at first he was disappointed that he was only allowed to take one candy (and say Thank You) from the batch of candy in front of the office door at which he started, he was surprised when three steps away, there was yet another batch. Soon he realized that there were in fact 3 floors of such batches and he became very adept at the ritual. He was allowed to only collect as much candy as he could carry himself in his pumpkin. Imagine a very determined toddler dragging around a plastic pumpkin across the floor from office to office, not sure whether he is actually happy to see more candy or not...

In November, Dante began to attend school full time on Mondays from 9 to 3, and a half day on Wednesday in order to let Mommy deal with her weekly housekeeping in relative peace. He is the youngest in his school and is enjoying his status as such. He has all the “older women” wrapped around his little fingers and refers to them as “His Girls”. Those he has a particular affinity for he refers to as “My Best Girl” (he has several!). He aso had playdates with some new friends: Radha and Taya.

As a result of his change in school attendance, Mommy began to look for another activity. Thanks to her friends at MOPS, Mommy discovered the newly opened Duvall Performing Arts Center. Dante has always loved to dance, so he is now attending a combination ballet and tap class with beloved Ms. Rachel. Eager to dance, but not eager to be left alone in class, it has been a challenge to keep him from constantly running out to share his experience with Mommy.

Thanksgiving was at Grandma and Grandpa’s, where Dante began to learn how to play pinball, and for the first time the whole family was able to play board games together (Lucky Ducks, Hi Ho Cherry Oh, Candyland, and other similar classics). Dante has a very rule-based approach to life, but he doesn’t always accept other people’s rules. He frequently will agree to play a game the right way once, but then insists that everyone play with “Dante rules” in which he completely changes the rules of the game, nevertheless retaining a turn-based, goal-oriented paradigm.

The following week it snowed, and Mommy and Daddy took off for Whistler for Daddy’s SQL Server 2005 release ship party and Dante stayed with Grandma and Grandpa for 3 nights! Mommy and Daddy missed him terribly, but were glad to have some time alone and to go Snowmobiling! Dante does not get to see Grandma frequently, so he was thrilled to have her to torture, er, play with, that is. Mommy was highly amused that Grandma concluded that Dante requires interaction “like 100% of the time”. Independent play is definitely not one of Dante’s strengths.

Aside from more playdates with the usual suspects, Agnieszka's Birthday, and a reunion with Bobo and Viktorina, who have changed their schedule so it has been difficult to get together the last few months, Dante went to several interesting events in November and December. These included Disney’s Nemo on Ice, Dora’s Pirate Adventure at the Paramount Theater, a ride on the Santa Train, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker.

Christmas Day was spent with Grandma and Grandpa, Great Grandma Donna and Great Grandpa Lee, and a whole bunch of Grandma’s relatives. Dante attempted to play with 2.5 yr old Adam a bit, whose vocabulary mostly consisted of “FOOTBALL!” but found his (very pregnant) first cousin once removed Kristie to be his “best friend” that day and somehow managed to finagle her into playing chase with him.

Mommy and Daddy didn’t want to confuse Dante with multiple birthday dates, so they never mentioned to Dante that it was his birthday on December 30th. But they decided to celebrate after a fashion and find a use for Baba Yaga’s Christmas present despite the lack of snow near the house. So they spent the day sledding at the Hyak Sno-Park near Snoqualmie Pass. Dante was overwhelmed with the experience, which included sledding down small hills and big hills, eating snow, building a snowman, and even going into the forest to “pee like a man” with Daddy. The day would have been perfect if not for the fact that as they left, they discovered that I-90 was closed in both directions and had to sit in traffic for almost 2 hours before they could get on the freeway. Dante thankfully decided to nap during that time so things were not as bad as they could have been.

Dante requested a “GREEN” birthday party. Mommy and Daddy were hard pressed to come up with things that would fit such a theme, but everyone agreed that the end result was successful. Aside from green invitations, green decorations, and a very green dragon cake, all of the food at the party was green: spinach tortellini with green alfredo sauce or with pesto, caesar salad with Ciocia Marzena's award-winning home-made Caesar dressing, green grapes, green apples, kiwis, honeydew melon, celery filled with green cream cheese with chives, guacamole chips with guacamole dip, green jello jigglers, and green punch with lime sorbet. Then there were the green activities: a green dinosaur-egg hunt with 5 flavors of green jelly bellies, a musical chair-like game using green lily-pads in which the kids were frogs jumping to music, tropical limbo, a green ball toss, and a green parrot piñata. It was a lot of work to put together, but it was a lot of fun for everyone. In attendance were: Agnieszka and Ciocia Tina, Misia and Ciocia Marzena, Bobo, Viktorina and their parents Lucia and Paul, Bobby and his parents Jean and Bill, Nova and her mom Jaqueline, Taya and her mom Dana, Bianca and her parents Annette and Philip, Sean and his parents Steve and Elizabeth, and of course Annie, Sophia and Grandma and Grandpa. Many thanks to everyone for coming and for the gifts. In lieu of Thank You notes to those who have email accounts, Mommy recorded short movies of Dante saying Thank You to each person while playing with that person's gift.

Sometime in December Mommy came to the conclusion that her “good little boy” was essentially gone and had been replaced by a completely self-centered stranger unwilling to obey, capable of finding the smallest loop hole in any argument, and grumpier than even Daddy has been known to be at times. Thoroughly devastated, Mommy sought solace everywhere she could, and was kindly reassured that every Mom was going through just about the same thing at this time, if she hadn’t gone through it already in the last few months. Hopeful, but nevertheless feeling somewhat deflated, Mommy has begun a new campaign of discipline.

This has been especially difficult and draining on Mommy because in general Dante is an incredibly loving child but is so bright that he is capable of using anything against you. He continues to develop verbally in astounding leaps and bounds. Able to count to 100 now with some help (he gets stuck after 20, and then again at 59, 79, and 89 and insists 11 is after 20, and fifty-ten is after 59, etc), he began to show a clear desire to start reading his books some time in October. By now he has conquered almost all phonetically spelled 3, 4 and even a few 5 letter words, and he knows a few harder words like “the” and “little” and has learned that “oo” can be pronounced as in “zoo”, or “moo”, or as in “book” and “look”. He is reading using both phonetics and memorized patterns. For example, he never bothers to sound out words such as “and”, “the, “Dante”, “on”, “in”, “up”, “down”, “stop”, “mommy”, “daddy” (and many others) but simply reads them all at once when he sees them. The first full sentence that he read in one of his books was “I am not a cow”.

Dante’s interest in art projects has always been belowr-average according to Mommy. She concluded this was because he was never able to be proud of his artwork and see it after it was completed for any length of time. Daddy decided this situation could be remedied with a couple coats of magnetic spray paint. Unfortunately, the project turned into 2 days, 9 coats, and a whole quart of Rustoleum magnetic paint, but now Dante has an Art Wall upon which to display his work and upon which to play with magnetic letters (the fridge is not magnetic). The reaction was just what Mommy and Daddy had been hoping for, and now Dante instigates “doing art” on his own, determines whether it is “good enough” for the Art Wall, and decides which previous art must come down to make space for his latest piece de resistance.

Somewhat bored of Blue's Clues and Dora episodes by now, Dante has found a few new favorites: "Little Einsteins", "Go Diego, Go", and the "Babar the Elephant" movie. Like in Little Einsteins, Dante keeps asking Mommy and Daddy what his next mission is. He also recently told Mommy she was going too slow and that she should "accelerando"! From Go Diego Go, Dante has learned all about various uncommon animals including three-toed sloths, chinchillas, humpback whales, and his favorite: armadillos. He also now requests that Mommy "RESCUE ME" or "SAVE ME" from Daddy tickling. He still refuses to watch episodes of Clifford or Bob the Builder, but will happily read books about them and play their computer games.

Physically, Dante has grown stronger and continues to invent bizarre contortionist motions, which he considers to be dance moves or gymnastics positions. He discovered how to do somersaults over Mommy’s shoulder, and independently taught himself how to do a head stand on the couch so that his body is held up by the back of the couch. His preferred positions are almost always upside down (like the Yoga downward facing dog position).

Finally capable of almost carrying a tune, Dante’s song repertoire has been growing exponentially mostly thanks to Grandpa’s CD compilations and to learning songs at school. He continues to love music, though he shows only mild interest in melodic instruments (his favorite continues to be the harmonica) and prefers percussion of any type. Recently he discovered he could record himself on his Groovy Tunes Piano and now he insists on “recording all my songs”.

So amidst some “normal” frustrations, Dante is making great progress. Since the beginning of the year he is at school two full days a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. He is working on “listening” and Mommy is working on being quicker to demand compliance. There is some hope for both of those. Daddy is working on being able to think while Dante is around, but everyone suspects that will never happen. In any event, Mommy can see the gears turning in Dante’s little mind and she begins to understand herself and her own childhood more each day.

“You never know what it is like to be a child, even as a child.
You have to have one of your own, and then it comes to you.
You understand for the first time.” – Darwin’s Children, Greg Bear

This year updates will occur once every 4 months, so see you at the beginning of May!