The biggest event of April was Spring Break. A one week break from our normal routine, Mommy, Dante and Izabela were joined by Baba Yaga in a whirlwind of sightseeing. They visited the Children’s Museum in Everett on Monday, the Museum of Flight on Tuesday, the Pacific Science Center on Wednesday, the Seattle Aquarium on Thursday, and ended the week with Ciocia Marzena’s Birthday and a session of roller skating at Bellevue Skate King.
Although Dante had been to most of these places before, it had been a long time, and this time he experienced them through the eyes of a 5 year old. The Museum of Flight was new to him, however, and he enjoyed himself tremendously, especially going upside down in the flight simulator. He was able to “pilot” several aircraft, including an SR-71 Blackbird. But his favorite was the car-plane, which he thought we could definitely use at home. Roller skating had become somewhat of a passion after the BCA party, and he basically wanted to go once every week or two.
Izabela missed her naps during all of spring break, so was rather tired out, but each new place was definitely an eye opening experience for her. She loved the water play area at the Children’s Museum. She was entranced by being able to sit inside of various planes. She went on her first pony ride at the Pacific Science Center and saw her first butterfly house. Every fish at the aquarium elicited an “eeba eeba” (“attempt at saying “ryba”, which is the word for “fish” in Polish”). She loved playing with her toys, running around the skating rink “talking” to parents and smaller siblings of those skating, blowing Dante kisses at each lap, and doing the hokey pokey with Baba Yaga while Dante danced it in the middle of the rink with Mommy there to keep him from falling too many times. Izabela absorbed a great deal in that week, despite her lack of sleep.
For some reason we chose the hottest weekend of April to take Baba Yaga car shopping. Daddy, the clever negotiator, dressed the kids in overalls and over the course of the long and hot afternoon managed to haggle until he was satisfied that Baba Yaga was getting a deal she couldn’t possibly beat on a cute Toyota Scion. As no one else was shopping on such a gorgeous day, the car salesmen were clearly at a disadvantage. Dante and Izabela watched all of Aladdin and were fed candy by the other bored salespeople while Mommy ingested coffee and kept watch over the munchkins as Daddy and Baba Yaga test drove various cars and worked on the salesman. In the end, one of the other salesmen in the office told Daddy that he’d like to take him along next time HE’D be getting a car.
After an 80 degree weekend, you can imagine everyone’s surprise when it started snowing again the next week. Mommy’s already blooming garden was frozen, much to her distress, as she and Baba Yaga had been working very hard together during Izabela’s naptimes to clean, weed, dig, mulch, and plant everything in it.
April also marked another transition for Dante, as he was graduated from Beginning to Intermediate Boys’ gymnastics class. This posed a problem because these one and a half hour classes were extremely late at night for a 5 year old (from 6 to 7:30). Fortunately, another class was opened on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7, which also allowed Izabela to take a half hour Wiggle Worms class at the same time. Izabela took to the class with great enthusiasm, if not skill. Unfortunately, Dante’s new young teacher was an excellent gymnast, but had little experience teaching. The kids spent way too much time waiting around, not watching and learning, but fooling around, while the focus was on only one child at a time. Dante became frustrated that he didn’t get to “do as much stuff” as he’d like. And Mommy became frustrated that Dante was clearly not respecting or paying attention to his teacher.
When an opportunity presented itself for Dante to take a gymnastics make up class in May, Mommy suggested he try the other (later) boys’ class. Dante was extremely pleased with the new class, which inspired him greatly, kept him focused, and was actually quite competitive. About half the height of most of the boys in the class, he nevertheless rose to the challenge and discovered he was perfectly capable of doing things he had not had any motivation to do before, such as climb to the top of the (2 story) rope. Mommy was thrilled that Dante was once again paying attention and learning new skills. Only Izabela was unhappy as there was no Wiggle Worms class for her at the new time. But since the class was so late, she frequently got to stay with Baba Yaga (“Baba Yaga fun!”) until Daddy picked her up instead.
Evan finally turned 5 and Dante was invited to his Star Wars birthday party. Realizing that we could no longer “protect” Dante from popular culture, we prepared him by allowing him to watch the first (Episode IV) Star Wars movie multiple times. Dante asked very astute questions and really wanted to know what was going on and why. Deeply affected by Darth Vader, he requested a Darth Vader costume for Evan’s party, and Daddy spent a whole evening scouring the Internet for just the right get-up.
As soon as the snow from the end of April cleared, Paul came to do some more work on the Hays front yard. He planted 280 baby evergreen trees (a mix of red western cedar, Douglas fir, sitka spruce and giant sequoia). Mommy and Baba Yaga acquired a bunch of ferns on freecycle from a woman who was in the process of bulldozing a mountainside in order to have room for her new house and planted the ferns in between the baby trees as ground cover. Paul then began the task of leveling a 40’ x 30’ area for the play structure we were planning on installing. Unfortunately, after the work was completed and Izabela came to inspect it, it quickly became apparent that the area would need to be fenced due to its height and it would be some time before the actual play structure would be installed.
Mommy, whose knee had been doing just fine, suddenly found herself in pain again. First, Dante accidentally kicked her in the knee, causing her leg to hyperextend backwards suddenly. The doctor felt the injury was to soft tissue and told her to take it easy. A couple weeks later, the day Dante, Mommy and Baba Yaga went to see the Cirque du Soleil, Mommy squatted and thought she would never get up again. Several hours and numerous hot and cold treatments later she was able to mostly walk and drove to the circus extravaganza. Dante’s favorite acts were the trampoline beds in the first act and the square high bars at the end. Baba Yaga was feeling very sick and probably has no memory of the event.
Two days later, Mommy realized that not only was her calf still rock hard and swollen, but the swelling was now all the way down to her ankle, which was twice the size it normally is. After a visit to her primary care physician the next day, she had an appointment for an ultrasound, as the doctor was worried that she had a blood clot in her leg. The following day the ultrasound revealed no DVT (deep vein thrombosis otherwise known as a blood clot), but instead showed a cyst of heterogeneous material (fluid and tissue mixture). The surprising thing was that the cyst was approximately 8 cm long by 3 cm wide, 2 cm under the skin. The results were supposed to be sent back immediately, but unsurprisingly were not, so when Mommy called the doctor 2 days later, nobody knew anything about it, and when she told her doctor the size, he was so surprised that he thought Mommy must have misheard and that the size was actually in millimeters instead of centimeters. After confirming that Mommy had not misheard and was not crazy, the doctor recommended she see a general surgeon. Mommy managed to make an appointment for that afternoon, but after explaining the situation, the surgeon claimed he didn’t really understand why she was there and sent Mommy back to her knee surgeon. Unfortunately, this was the Friday before Memorial Day and all the doctors at the Orthopedic Center were already on their vacations. Mommy was in serious pain and still very swollen. A nurse made an “emergency” appointment for her for the following Tuesday during the doctor’s lunch break and gave her a prescription for Vicodin. Thankfully Dante spent the weekend with Grandma and Grandpa, so Mommy was bed ridden with an elevated leg while Daddy entertained Izabela. Mommy discovered Vicodin made her completely hyper and kept her up til 5 in the morning from Friday to Saturday. But icing, elevation, and staying off the leg made the swelling go down significantly.
On Tuesday when she arrived for her appointment, Mommy was told there was no appointment for her. But the nurse from Friday was found and Mommy was able to go see the doctor, who had been told what was going on, but who still had not seen the ultrasound results and was also skeptical as to Mommy’s ability to know the difference between a millimeter and a centimeter. When the ultrasound results were faxed in he frowned and ordered an MRI to be done as soon as possible so that he could see her on Thursday before going on a camping trip with his sons on Friday. So Mommy arrived for her MRI at 7 AM while Daddy took Dante to school and Izabela to work with him.
Mommy chose to listen to the soundtrack from the Phantom of the Opera and settled down for what she was told would be a 20 minute procedure, as it had been for her knee surgery. After a while she realized that she had listened to over half of the soundtrack and that she could no longer feel her extremities. When the MRI technician finally came to get her, she jokingly said “was that really 20 minutes”? He apologized profusely and said “No, that was an hour and 20 minutes”. When she asked him why, he said “Because I couldn’t find the end of it!” Apparently the cyst was actually 12 cm long with a maximal diameter of 4 cm. So either, like all the doctors had said, “ultrasound results are unreliable”, or it had grown quite a bit in a week.
The next day the doctor admitted he wasn’t exactly sure what it was. But he surmised that Mommy had probably torn a muscle. That tear had caused a significant amount of bleeding and the torn tissue and blood was too much for the body to reabsorb quickly, so her body had created a cyst in order to protect itself from the out of place material. He did not think putting a needle into it would be useful as there was no indication of infection, and any sort of biopsy might actually increase the chances of infection. So his solution was to put Mommy’s leg into a giant medical “boot” for the next 3-4 weeks and to let her body reabsorb the blood at its own pace. The boot did turn out to be a great idea, as it took most of the tension away from Mommy’s calf. Daddy is still waiting to find out, 3 years from now, that the cyst is actually Mommy’s second appendix (some of you may remember Mommy’s appendix saga from several years back).
Anyhow, most of May was spent anticipating the end of year Duvall Performing Arts dance recital, titled “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, which was essentially a Wizard of Oz variety show. Dante received the honor of being Toto and was actually billed as a main character! He had a solo/duet that he danced with Emma, “The Big Dorothy” in addition to his class dance. This year Ms. Rachel’s mom also made him an awesome costume, which Baba Yaga had to alter several times in order to get it to fit properly, and Ms. Amber did a beautiful job with his makeup. Unfortunately, Baba Yaga had to miss the performance due to a trip to Israel she had planned over a year before.
The actual performance was a bit flustering. In the dress rehearsal there had been a lot of time for Dante to finish his class dance and get positioned for his solo in his basket on the other side of the stage. Ms. Rachel had taken his red ball from him. At the performance Dante was given no time to scurry to the basket and had no idea what to do with the ball as a result, so he started the dance with the ball. He impressed the audience by doing a cartwheel with the ball in his hand, but then he sought to get rid of it somehow. In the confusion he lost several bars of music. He managed to find himself, however, and proceeded to do a helicopter Breakdance move which gained him a ton of applause from the audience.
Several days later Dante did the Toto dance again at the BCA Pre-K Talent Show. This time he danced with Sonya, Ms. Yana’s daughter. They basically stole the show, in Mommy’s somewhat biased opinion.
And then it was time for Duvall Days. This year the weather was not cooperating so there were no bouncy houses set up for the kids. But there was a stage and various local groups were putting on shows for the town. Ms. Rachel asked Dante if he’d like to be Toto one last time, and Dante actually agreed to give up his beloved back-handspring and trampoline clinics at gymnastics in order to perform one more time. He and Emma took to the miniscule stage and had a great time even though the music was playing 20% slower than they were used to. This time, Baba Yaga got to see it. After the show, Toto took off his ears and decided to volunteer to learn about the art of fencing with several other boys. As Daddy has been teaching him the rules of swordplay using wrapping-paper tubes, upgrading, albeit briefly, to a real epee was quite fulfilling.
The following week was graduation, complete with blue hats and diplomas, which Mommy and Daddy just found too funny since whoever heard of “graduating” from pre-school? On the last day of school Dante brought home his final report card, in which one of his teachers wrote “Dante continues to impress me with his natural abilities. His zest for life and learning has made it a joy to have him as a student this year.”
While Dante had no school, Izabela was still taking Gymboree and Kindermusik classes, so Dante had some time to visit with Baba Yaga and start learning some piano exercises.
Dante’s favorite day of the month was no doubt the day he spent with Mommy, Izabela, Evan and Evan’s Dad, Shawn, at Remlinger Farms. Dante had been waiting for it to open and was thrilled to be able to go there with his best friend. The two boys behaved admirably well! Dante was excited about showing Remlinger farms to both Evan, who didn’t remember being there, and to Izabela, who had never been there. And he was extremely pleased when he discovered that Izabela’s favorite ride, unbelievably, was the roller coaster! She happily sat next to him, and though she allowed Evan to sit next to her a few times she had a definite preference for Dante, and went on the roller coaster dozens of times as the park was not very busy and there were virtually no lines for any of the activities.
And then there was Father’s Day. After opening presents at home that Dante and Izabela had made for Daddy, including concrete stepping stones decorated with handprints, gems and paint, everyone got into the car and drove off to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Even Dante did not have a clue as to what was afoot. Daddy surprised both Grandpa Chuck and Dante with tickets to a Mariners game! So the boys went off to the ballpark, while Mommy, Izabela and Grandma Sandy had a girls’ afternoon together and made home made pizzas with all the vegetable toppings that the boys don’t like. Unfortunately, the Mariners lost, but Dante came home with an Ichiro baseball cap, and continued chanting “I-CHI-RO, I-CHI-RO” for the rest of the evening.
The last week of June was a ton of fun as Dante attended Jedi Training Camp at Duvall Performing Arts and became 1 of 19 Paduwan. He was trained in the basic principles of using The Force, made solar system models, grew Borax crystals, made gakk, learned to do sit ups on a yoga ball, went through different types of obstacle courses and learned some combat moves using his light saber. At the final ceremony he and all his comrades went up against Darth Vader one by one. Unfortunately, during camp he discovered most of the other participants had already seen all 6 movies despite their tender age and thus he learned a few spoilers. So Mommy and Daddy finally decided he was ready to see Episode V, which had to be paused every 3 minutes for explanations and which was so scary to him that the poor thing was shivering and clinging to Mommy during the second half of the movie.
Developmentally, Izabela is still somewhat “behind” with respect to Dante’s milestones, but actually finally falls within the norm. She had a lot of catching up to do, but has risen to the challenge and is progressing nicely. Her early life trauma has a visible impact on her emotionally. She is shy and quiet in unfamiliar surroundings. She had to learn how to hug, kiss, and smile. She is camera shy and frequently looks like a deer in headlights when Mommy tries to take pictures of her, but she is warming up and will even attempt to smile if told to do so. She is very analytical by nature and you can see her take stock of the reactions that her actions generate. In that sense she is not spontaneous, unlike Dante who oozes spontaneity out of every pore. Yet there are occasions when she is completely comfortable and unaware of herself when you can see and experience the incredibly adorable and sweet little girl beneath the shell of her still tarnished exterior. She basically only drops her shield when alone with either Mommy or Daddy, though recent “family tickling/wrestling sessions” have created some wonderfully sweet, warm and memorable moments for the entire foursome.
Mommy speaks pretty much exclusively Polish to Izabela when they are alone, though with Dante around now that school is out she is hearing mostly English. Baba Yaga also frequently speaks to her in English. She knows the whole alphabet, numbers and most of her colors in English. Most of her spoken language is in English, barring a few favorites that she clings to in Polish, and her vocabulary is blossoming. She has begun combining obvious words in 2 and 3 word sentences and occasionally surprises everyone with her trans-lingual combination of concepts. She still has difficulty mimicking phonemes she is not used to using and she often slurs her speech to make it come out faster. But she has progressed from calling herself Beya to Eeeyabeyah and recently Eeeyabella. And instead of calling Dante what basically sounded like “Daddy” she has finally learned how to say “Dante”, much to his great delight and pride. Perhaps we will consider speech therapy in the fall. For now the best therapy appears to be talking with Dante and singing songs together (“more EIEIO please!”).
Izabela can climb stairs by herself and is finally not afraid to step up or down curbs without something to hold on to. She has even managed to get both feet off the ground when “jumping” on occasion. Her nightly ritual stretching exercises have greatly benefited her flexibility and her weekly visits to the chiropractor have significantly helped her back and pelvic strength and balance. Her allergies appear to have magically disappeared and she seems to find fewer foods objectionable! Izabela loves to draw and she continues to be very good at occupying herself on her own despite her realization that getting attention is quite nice. She can feed herself, though when Daddy comes home and sits by her at dinner she suddenly becomes quite helpless and pretends that he simply must feed her or she will starve. She adores Dante, looks up to him and mimics his behavior and outrageous noises, though at times she can’t figure out if he is coming up to her to wrestle her to the ground, to tickle her, or to hug or kiss her, so she is having trouble trusting him. Dante is slowly learning that he has to be more consistent in order to gain her trust. There are days when Mommy looks at the two of them and is terrified that they will always be like strangers to each other. And then there are the days when they play together, take care of one another, and make each other smile and laugh. Izabela now frequently looks at Mommy and says “Dante funny” with a giggle.
One of their favorite games is now the “Yes/No game”. Mommy was forewarned that siblings often resort to quibbling about some unknown topic resulting in an endless, forever escalating, argument without reasons or resolutions in which child A says something, child B says “No”, child A says “Yes”, and then it just goes on back and forth with everyone getting upset even after they’ve forgotten what they were saying Yes or No about. After a few such episodes, which probably frustrated Mommy more than either of the children, Mommy pointed out to Dante that Izabela was just “playing with him”; that she probably had no idea what he was asserting and simply wanted to be heard. So Mommy suggested to Dante that when he found himself in such a pattern, in order to determine if Izabela was actually contradicting his opinion or just being contrary for the sake of contrariness, he should try to “trick” her by simply changing his “Yes” to a “No” or vice versa. Izabela immediately caught on to the game and they now happily keep each other amused with endless Yes/No/Yes/No/No/Yes/No/Yes/No/Yes/Yes/No patterns which now instead of tears bring forth joyous laughter.
Daddy is less than amused by all this cacophony at times when his work schedule precludes him from being home as much as he’d like to be. But all in all, he is doing amazingly well balancing the chaos of an additional child with the chaos of work. Mommy is pretty much going (has gone?) insane, but a happy insane.
And now you may return to hopefully more regularly scheduled updates.