Spring Break - Florida (4/10/2010)
Ready for a break from competitions, school, and the routines of daily life, we flew off to Florida to get some sun.

The walk to the beach was still quite a hike, so beach trips usually lasted the entire day. We reapplied sunscreen religiously and went through many bottles during the trip. We once again went to the South Florida Science Museum and to the Zoo. But this year there were a few new things to add to our itinerary.

One night as we came home from the beach, there was an “Evening on the Avenue” going on in front of the Lake Worth Library. Amidst the booths of crafts and food, a band played on a stage and a woman who teaches hula hooping brought a bunch of hula hoops for people to play with. Kids and adults danced around and tried to hula hoop. They laughed at their own ineptitudes and while Dante and Izabela were really shy at first, the casual atmosphere finally broke down their defenses and they began to dance and play with the hoops. Izabela responded to the music and, too small to do much with the hoops themselves, soon lost herself in her own little dance world. Dante quickly incorporated (good) gymnastics into his (not so good) hula hooping and caused quite stir. The hula hooping teacher later came up to me and remarked that Dante was headed for Cirque du Soleil. She also apparently spoke later with Baba Yaga about how good of a little dancer Izabela was.

The hula hooping event was quite fortuitous in that it gave both children an opportunity to lose their shyness. The very next day, when we arrived at the Lake Worth Easter Celebration, there were throngs of people there, and the kids immediately got to the important business of hunting for candy-filled eggs. During a quick bathroom break by the amphitheater, a woman mentioned that Izabela was adorable and that it was unfortunate that we missed the “cute outfit” contest. She then remarked that there was still a dance contest ahead. Curious, we strolled over to the stage and watched the dance contest for the 0-3 year olds. While we watched, I asked Izabela if she wanted to dance. She asked me if I would clap for her and, somewhat conflicted about my tiger mom tendencies, I said I would clap for her if she danced well. I was pleasantly surprised that this encouraged rather than discouraged her, and Dante and I cheered her on when she trotted out onto the big stage amidst a sea of rather cute 4-6 year olds.

From the moment the music started, Izabela stood out. The other kids seemed to think dancing was about bobbing up and down and shaking their booties while standing in place. But Izabela has been taking ballet with Ms. Rachel, watching Dante dance, and watching plenty of So You Think You Can Dance. And she had a "dress rehearsal" the night before at the hula hooping event, so the curtain of shyness disappeared. She sailed across the stage in lyrical fashion, and though the hip hop music was a bit “harder”, she was just the cutest thing doing her ballet arm movements and badly turned-in tendus in between some butt wiggles and little hip hop motions. And then there was her winning smile which was a striking contrast to the frozen expressions of confusion and terror on the other kids' faces. Her spirit moved her, and it was just beautiful to watch. I know, you are thinking I am biased. Well, I am. I had eyes only for her. But apparently I wasn't the only one, because when the music finished, Izabela was declared the winner of the 4-6 year old category! She won her very own $5 bill.

Thinking we were done, we started walking away when they suddenly announced that they were also going to do a 7-9 year old category. So I turned and basically thrust Dante onto the stage and told him to dance too! Finding himself among about 20 kids, Dante tutted, hip hopped, helicoptered, two-stepped, did handstands and presses and generally wowed everyone on the open air stage at Bryant Park in Lake Worth. Instead of just announcing a winner like in the last two batches of kids, there was much discussion amongst the judges, who decided to have a dance off between the top 4 kids (2 girls and 2 boys) but it was said by someone nearby in the audience that they did this "just to see that boy dance some more". After the dance-off, which was accompanied by much cheering and general hoopla, the announcer began “and I’m sure it is no surprise to anyone who the winner of our 7-9 age category is" (lots of cheering while Dante, completely unassuming, stood looking around for who this obvious winner might be). When he didn't step forward immediately, the announcer tried again, "The gentleman in the fiery swim trunks over THERE”. She waved yet another $5 bill in Dante's direction, and he very happily accepted his prize.

Unfortunately because all of this was so very impromptu, I didn’t have my camera, and Baba Yaga was still sitting on the other side of the park wondering what was taking our quick bathroom trip so long! You can imagine her surprise when both kids ran to her waving $5 bills in her face.

This year we also decided to visit the Water Rapids Park for the first time. Extremely well organized, with attractions for a wide variety of ages and gradually "scarier" rides, Izabela had a blast with the younger crowd and Baba. In the meantime I ran around with Dante trying all the rides for which he was eligible, having just achieved 48 inches in height. Every once in while we would rejoin Izabela and Baba to splash around together in the younger areas, and Dante would take Izabela on slightly bigger slides which she was uncomfortable trying completely on her own.

The water park was definitely their favorite place, and they both knew that they wanted to come back the following year.

While our spirits were high, I had inopportunely contracted bronchitis during our stay. Just goes to show you don't need to be cold to get sick. But we left for the airport happy and exhilarated.