The consequences of three feet of snow are more insidious than the obvious inconveniences of being severed from civilization and dealing with unsafe driving conditions. After all, as soon as the snow begins to melt, the resulting water has to go somewhere...
And thus 2009 began with The Great Melt. All four rivers in the area rose and rose. Dante’s Birthday was scheduled for January 11th, but on January 7th it took Mommy over 2 hours to get home from Kirkland as she found road after road impassable. Over the next few days the Hays family found itself cut off from civilization yet again and anxiously monitored the cresting waters via webcams in the area. With great relief, they all cheered when on the evening of January 10th the Woodinville-Duvall bridge reopened, making it possible for Dante to celebrate his birthday after all.
And what a celebration it was...
Dante had identified his theme months before, and Mommy struggled to find a way to make his dream of having an Egyptian Birthday Party come true. In the end they settled on a Dance Party at Duvall Performing Arts. Thanks to the artistry of Ms. Monica (who decorated the room and even made a camel for the occasion), the magical talents of Ms. Rachel, Baba Yaga’s sewing, and Mommy and Daddy’s usual enthusiastic over-planning, not to mention the help of several older DPA students, the party was a huge success.
The affair began with some crafts. Children stamped hieroglyphs onto bracelets. Some attempted to spell out their names. Others, like Izabela, just liked the interesting designs. Then they made their pharaoh collars, which Baba Yaga had prepared by painstakingly cutting out yellow felt templates and then sewing on Egyptian-looking borders. Mommy had spent an inordinate amount of time researching “jewels” and had found some very authentic-looking acrylic “turquoise” and “red coral” in various sizes and shapes. Each child glued on a variety of these semi-precious gemstones to make their collar truly unique.
Mommy was somewhat anxious that the invited boys would cringe at the thought of a dance party. But Ms. Rachel managed to convince even the most skeptical and originally unwilling participants that learning how to dance “Like an Egyptian” and be “King Tut” was not just ok for boys, but actually ultra-cool. Izabela, who was initially a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of people and saddened by the lack of attention being paid to her, happily danced as well and made everyone laugh with her goofy time-delayed imitations of all of the motions.
Dancing was followed by a food break, and then by the cooperative building of a giant pyramid made out of rolls of toilet paper. Upon its completion the structure was taken apart so that each child had a roll of toilet paper to use in the Mummy Wrapping Contest. Everyone truly enjoyed this activity and even Izabela and Baba Yaga were properly mummified. Everyone “won” a prize in the form of an Egyptian Dover Little Activity book. And then it was time to eat the Mummy Cake (once again the amazingly beautiful and tasty work of Cathy Porter) and get goody bags (each child received a pyramid plaster “dig” kit containing an Egyptian chachka that they would have to work hard to excavate from within).
My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who worked so hard to make this a truly memorable birthday for Dante. As for his gifts, he might be done opening everything by the time his next birthday rolls around.
Grandma and Grandpa took Dante on a special trip to pick out a skateboard and helmet as his present. He returned home not with the cheery cartoon-filled board which Mommy was eagerly awaiting, but with a gruesome skull-adorned skateboard that is “really cool”. And of course that meant it had to be broken in with a trip to the Bellevue Skateboard Park with Evan.
The last remaining important event of January was the Bellevue PTSA Council Reflections Award Ceremony, in which Dante was presented with an “Award of Excellence” for his “Where in the World?” photograph. He was also honored for the award at the Bellevue Children’s Academy Family Night at Bellevue Skate King, which renewed Dante’s interest in roller skating.
Izabela, who had been watching roller skating from the sidelines in the past, suddenly piped up that “Izabela do it too”. Mommy was surprised, but as Dante was completely independent on his skates and was occupied with Evan, Mommy decided to give Izabela the opportunity to try. However, she was worried by the thought that a single fall could put Izabela off of the sport completely for an unnecessarily long period of time.
Izabela was given fairly tight-rolling skates, which she found reasonably easy to control and within her first hour of skating she began to try moving without holding on to Mommy. Her tenacity was quite remarkable. She fell a few times but when Mommy pointed out that Dante fell all the time and didn’t cry, she stifled a few sniffles and kept going. Very uncharacteristic for our little Drama Queen, but it showed she really was interested in the sport. Unfortunately Mommy did not photograph any of these early attempts, but altogether Izabela skated about 4 sessions during the months of January and February.
It seemed that we were only given a few weeks of respite from the weather and early February gave Dante another opportunity to play in the snow. But this time there were no long-tern repercussions and the landscape healed itself quickly, which meant that Mommy and Baba Yaga began the arduous task of winter cleaning in the garden. A project that would essentially never end but merely transform into Spring Cleaning and then into Summer Cleaning, it made both of them happy to spend time together doing things that neither of them ever imagined that they would share together.
On the days that Izabela was not at Kindermusik or Gymboree, she wandered around the garden with Mommy and Baba Yaga, a bit too eager to “help” and asking non-stop questions. She eventually grew to enjoy raking rocks in (and out of) the driveway, digging and transferring dirt in (and out of) the flower and vegetable beds, dragging branches (and losing half of them) to the burn pile, and bringing bits and pieces (one stick or leaf at a time) of plants and branches to Baba Yaga or Mommy for proper planting or disposal. In general she looked on at the older women with consternation and constantly asked “why?” She was never quite satisfied with any of the answers.
While the garden was being reclaimed from neglect and the damages caused by so many inches of snow, Dante was at school. And although he was usually occupied after school, he occasionally aided (and abetted) our garden frolic by attempting to earn some money (and in typical male fashion being overpaid for work that was frequently completed by women). Unfulfilled with the tasks being given to him, he sought his own challenges, the most memorable of which was climbing about 20 feet up into a cedar tree and nearly giving Baba Yaga a heart attack when she saw him.
This year’s BCA Science Fair was considerably earlier in the year than last year. Dante continued to be enamored with roller coasters, marble activities, and basic physics. He decided that, like any good academic researcher, he would take what he learned from last year and build upon it, taking it to a more exciting level. For Dante, as far as marbles and tracks are concerned, what could be more exciting than loops? So this time his marble run contraption (after a great amount of Daddy-ensured simplification so as to contain only a single loop and to remove unnecessary variables) barely fit into the car on the way to school. Dante once again chose to explore momentum transfer, but this time he introduced the concept of heavier (metal) and lighter (glass) marbles. He set a light or heavy marble at the bottom of the loop, and then took a second light or heavy marble and started it rolling from the top of the ramp. Sometimes the marble at the bottom of the loop would have enough energy transferred from the rolling marble that it would go around the loop. Other times it would not. The weights of the marbles seemed to matter. Dante quickly learned that heavier marbles seemed to have more energy to transfer, but that they were also harder to get around the loop from a still position. All in all, while the math still eludes him, some basic principles and their associated vocabulary are becoming ingrained in his mind.
To compensate for all the left-brained thinking of the science fair, BCA also featured its annual Musical Performance in February. Dante sang with all his heart as Mommy, Daddy and Izabela watched and occasionally hummed to some of the familiar tunes.
Dante and Mommy continued humming, this time with Baba Yaga, to some less familiar tunes at the Paramount Theater’s musical production of the Lion King. Aside from enjoying the music, dancing, singing, and spectacular costumes and sets, Dante thought long and hard about Mustafa’s lesson that being brave did not mean rushing headfirst into dangerous situations.
In mid-March, one of Dante’s coaches at Northwest Aerials, Michael, informed him that he would be competing at the Washington State Men’s Gymnastics Championships in Auburn (although he coaches at NWA, he is on the Cascade Elite team). Dante, having been to the Cold Turkey Invitational in December, was once again interested in observing. Mommy, who as you know is not fond of driving long distances to places she doesn’t know, found herself leaving the house at 6:30 AM on a Saturday morning for the hour+ long drive to Auburn. Although they initially thought they might stay only for a few hours, an all-day pass (adults $14, kids $7) wasn’t much more than the price of a single session. The first session (Level 5) was from 8:00 to 12:30. After lunch at a nearby International House of Pancakes, Dante insisted on returning for the second session (Level 6 and 7) from 1:30 to 4:30.
Dante watched the first and session with great enthusiasm. It was hard to know what to watch as all 6 events were going on at the same time. And a lot of time was spent in between actual routines dealing with scores and just waiting around. During the lulls, Dante would read one of his A to Z Mysteries out loud to Mommy. He read over 50 pages that day.
During the second session, Dante managed to con Mommy into buying 5 raffle tickets. To Mommy’s surprise and Dante’s great delight, he managed to win the raffle basket he wanted which contained, among other mostly useless things, a rather cool Transformer toy and a T-shirt.
They then took another break for some food in the car and a few pages of music homework. When they returned to the gym at 5:45, Dante’s goal was to follow Michael around from event to event. Mommy feared they might be too distracting for poor Michael, but it turned out her fears were unfounded, for he went on to win 4 medals, including the all-around gold medal for his level and age group.
Right before the medal ceremony, Dante once again requested some raffle tickets for a basket containing a gym bag, basketball and miscellaneous other goodies. Since most other people at the meet had their own team gym bags and few were probably interested in basketballs, he had little competition for the prize and managed to win it.
Dante and Mommy arrived at home at 10:45 PM, full of exciting stories to tell Daddy, but thoroughly exhausted. The next day, Dante attended another Back Handspring Clinic at Northwest Aerials. Inspired by the previous day’s activities, he shocked Ms. Mandi by not only doing a decent Round-Off Back Handspring (on the trampoline), but he also managed to do four (almost decent) back handsprings in a row. She later spoke with Mommy and indicated that it was high time for Dante to begin looking into being on a real team. And so, behind the scenes, Mommy began to “look around” a bit more seriously.
In the meantime, Izabela had turned three on March 12th, but since the weather was still rainy and always threatening to snow again, everyone had agreed to wait a bit longer to celebrate her birthday. Various events, including the upcoming spring vacation in Florida with Baba Yaga and the funeral of Grandma Sandy’s father meant that the best day for her birthday celebration would be the last weekend in March. Baba Yaga was unable to attend, however, since unfortunately Pra-Dziadzi suddenly died on March 23rd and she found herself flying to Poland for the funeral.
Izabela’s birthday was celebrated at home, but this time with some help. As Izabela was completely enamored with Dora the Explorer, Mommy arranged for Cathy Porter to make a Dora cake. Chocolate, of course. And then she discovered that it was actually possible for Dora to come to her party. Dora did magic tricks, made balloon animals, did the fastest (well done) face painting in the West, and made everyone happy. Izabela was slightly shy during most of the celebration and didn’t really “come to life” until after the throngs of guests had left, but she had clearly enjoyed the experience and kept talking about her “Dora birthday party” for months to come.
Turning three was a big milestone for our little girl. Izabela now fully delights in running and jumping and galloping and spinning and climbing and doing somersaults. She loves to scribble and color and tries (with marginal success) to write letters, stick stickers on things, use glue by herself, and to paint. She has gotten quite good at doing wooden puzzles and is particularly fond of alphabet puzzles (which has helped her to master the uppercase letters – she’s just now starting on lowercase). Izabela has finally begun to say her name correctly (with the z sound instead of an s). She loves counting things, having a little trouble keeping track of what she’s counted already but enjoying it thoroughly. She has a good sense of rhythm and likes to sing and dance and play various musical instruments. She enjoys play-doh and books as well, insisting on Mommy or Daddy reading to her multiple times a day. Over the last couple of months she has also begun requesting Dante to read to her before going to bed, and she attempts to negotiate exactly how many he must read to her before she will sleep.
At Gymboree Art, she is now being left alone with Ms. Meghan for two and a half hours at a time, and is socializing with the other children. She has “friends” in her gymnastics, Kindermusik, and Gymboree classes whom she asks about when they are not around, and she has attended several of their birthday parties. Her social universe has expanded and she seems to be ready for a more structured learning environment. Which is a good thing, because after much research, tours of various pre-schools, and family discussions, Izabela will be going to The Shyne School 3 days a week starting in the fall