July and August (8/31/2010)
The past grows more and more distant with each passing of the sun, and yet I find myself pleasantly surprised at what the mind is capable of, and of what jewels of memory lie within, which surface when called upon or triggered by the images before me. And so I attempt to immortalize yet another tiny slice of our existence and imprison it within these words. Perhaps someone will one day read them again and realize the love and time that went into chronicling these events.

Captain Grumpypants developed pneumonia immediately after Dante's Pirate Birthday Party. He refused to abandon ship, however, and continued to try to help with transport duties. Finally, as his first mate, I sent him to the medic, and after chest x-rays, antibiotics and orders to go below deck, I relieved him of duty. Matters were made more difficult by chaos with the continuing basement remodeling. We picked paint colors, carpeting, tile, the shop epoxy floor color, etc. It seemed the details were endless, and each decision required countless hours of research online or of me driving to places to bring back samples to try out. Highlights of the process included performing “cat hair rubbing experiments” on the carpet samples, which had amazingly bad results for the supposedly better quality carpets!

Driving was inconvenienced by the fact that someone ran into my (mostly new) car while it was parked behind Duvall Performing Arts and I was inside for about 20 minutes. AND THEY DIDN'T EVEN LEAVE A NOTE! This was the first time I had been exposed to such behavior in this neck of the woods. It was truly shocking to me, and if not for the fact that I had experienced the trials and tribulations of growing up in New York City, I would have seriously been traumatized. So I guess big city living prepares you for small town living in some ways, anyhow.

Now although Dante's school year ended, Izabela continued going to Shyne School three days a week throughout the summer. We were concerned that if she stopped going to school, the transition to Pre-K at Bellevue Children's Academy would be too abrupt. As such, her school days were filled with joyous laughter in the woods behind her school, where she deftly sought out and collected scattered beads and brought her "jewels" home to share. She went on a field trip with her little class, via the ferry, to the beach in Kingston, where she collected shells and explored tide pools with her friends. She learned and relearned songs and animal sounds and numbers and letters with them, and then again at home. The process was laborious, and her lack of retention was frustrating for all. And yet we persevered.

And despite the difficulties in all things academic, Izabela began to exhibit, more and more, an aptitude for making astute comments about the world, punctuated by typical Dante-isms. Since it was summer, they had more opportunities to interact and the juxtaposition of the verbalization of their personalities made life interesting. I will never forget Izabela looking forlornly at my carrots, which refused to grow anywhere but up and declaring solemnly in her squeaky little voice, "Mommy, you should grow things that grow, and not grow things that don't grow!" This seeming tautology was immediately followed by Dante, who informed his little sister with his usual competitive spirit, "But then there'd be no challenge!"

As with typical siblings, when not making proclamations unintentionally beyond their years and experiences, they were frequently at odds, especially when it came to Izabela's growing need for independence, which she simultaneously battled with her need for help. Dante tried to be cooperative, but resented Izabela's lack of coordination and strength and so his comments were not always kind. Izabela resented his comments and his physical superiority and thus occasionally attempted to do things beyond her means. Usually, her choices resulted in tears and grumbling and eventual help, but one such occasion proved to be disastrous.

Izabela was still too small to easily get into my car on her own. She required assistance, and as I was frequently burdened with shuttling the baggage associated with having two very active children to and from the car, the task occasionally fell to Dante. As he did every other time, Dante held the door for her so she could steady herself as she tried to climb the oh so very great distance to the floor of the car. Izabela suddenly decided she really wanted to hold the door herself and pushed the door against Dante with a sudden movement. Dante frowned and told her to stop pushing because she would fall. But she persisted whining, so Dante decided that if she didn't want his help, he would oblige. So he let go of the door. Izabela did not expect his acquiescence and could not compensate for the weight shift. And down she fell. Down to the concrete, where she hit her forehead.

The resulting goose egg was colossal. It took over almost two months to heal completely, and went through various colorful stages. Thankfully, her bangs hid a great deal of it from the world, except when she was swimming, when it was truly horrifying. The experience was memorable, however, for when asked how she got her boo boo, she replied, "I didn't listen to my brother".

The boo boo made taking pictures difficult and I had to be very creative with lighting and angles, especially when we went on our family camping trips to Lake Chelan and Lake Wenatchee for the week following the 4th of July. The Lake Chelan campsite was nice and private, we had never been there before, there was a water park in the area, and the kids were excited to have a new place to explore.

Lake Wenatchee continued to be a favorite camping spot for our family. Unfortunately, this year it swarmed with mosquitoes, which relentlessly dined on Izabela in the evenings. The daytime was filled with excitement and adventures, as we brought with us a new toy: an inflatable boat. It proved to be enormously useful as the water level was very high and Dante could not have swum across on his own like he did the year before. With the help of the boat and our old "pink thing", Daddy and I transported the munchkins across the current from our beach to Chive Island.

Chive Island was but a fraction of the size it was the previous year. The chives were drowning in the water and our Island Walkabout was considerably shorter and more difficult. Nevertheless, rocks had to be turned into sand, tree stumps had to be climbed and examined, and many pictures had to be taken.

Our normal lakeside explorations went beyond following hiking trails, as we officially became a Geocaching Family that summer. Every opportunity we had, we searched for Geocaches. We used a handheld GPS unit, so prior to leaving the house we had to print out the coordinates, details of the caches and hints. The GPS unit frequently took a long time to update our location, so some of our searches were quite frustrating. Our first cache search led us back and forth over the fence bordering Lake Chelan State Park, with the path "just over the fence" requiring a multi-mile drive and hikes up and down steep non-trails in blistering 90 degree heat. I didn't think the kids would stand for any more geocaches after that one, but I was wrong. Overall, the kids loved having a "goal" for a hike and they squealed with pleasure whenever they found a trinket that pleased them. And since every time you take something, you have to leave something behind, we finally found a use for all those little toys that clutter up the house. We even went Geocaching for my birthday at Lord Hill Park! In the rain!

Dante's regular gymnastics schedule was supplemented with team bonding activities, including a day at Wild Waves water park, and an overnight yurt camping trip at Tolt McDonald Park on the Tolt River. While I supervised water park behavior, Chris monitored the more dangerous river-related protocols. Izabela was treated to a play date with Grandma and Grandpa while the boys team was at Wild Waves, and then to a movie night with Mommy in which they watched "The Secret Garden" while Daddy and the team hiked and swam and floated in the river. The only misfortune occurred when in the morning the boys awoke to discover that someone had made off with our inflatable boat.

Amidst exciting activities such as visiting the Kangaroo Zoo and kissing the Llamas, swimming at Lake Tye with Baba Yaga, staying the night with Grandma and Grandpa, and finding Remlinger Farms still fascinating, the more mundane days of the summer were spent on gymnastics for Dante, Shyne School for Izabela, swimming lessons at Gold's Gym for both, and 3 weeks of Pacific Northwest Ballet's summer session for Dante.

PNB proved to be a motivating experience. Dante suddenly found himself in a "professional" dance studio surrounded by both girls and boys who took ballet VERY seriously. The ballet was supplemented with Character Dance classes and even a Music class. There was no talking, no giggling, no slouching, no yawning, etc. And yet Dante found himself strangely at home in this environment, though he did complain that Ms. Rachel's classes "had greater variety" and were thus "more challenging". The teachers used him to demonstrate proper technique and smiled at me in the hallways.

While all the other dance moms speculated if their offspring would get a PNB acceptance letter for the fall, I was fully convinced that Dante would remain at DPA. Yet when his acceptance letter arrived, we agonized over what to do. We did not respond immediately to "the honor", so after several weeks the director of the school called me personally to inform me of Dante's considerable talent and of their desire to be as accommodating as possible with regard to his gymnastics schedule if only he would be willing to take a boys class on Saturday mornings in Seattle. He also assured me that wherever he was currently getting his dance instruction, he was absolutely getting a GREAT dance education and basically he just did not want to see Dante stop dancing. With a 9 hour a week gymnastics schedule planned for the fall with meets frequently falling on Saturdays, we were reluctant to add more travel time and chaos to the mix. But Dante seemed intrigued by the fact that he could experience dance among an entire group of boys and led by a male teacher, which was not an experience he could have in Duvall. So instead of doing the smart thing and picking one or the other, we decided (ok, Dante and I decided, and Chris humored us) we would do both PNB and DPA in the fall.

Grandpa Chuck's Birthday served multiple purposes. After celebrating, Chris and I left both munchkins with Grandma and Grandpa for a few hours to go see the movie "Inception". This was our first "date" in quite some time.

The end of August brought with it another first for me. Dante wanted to attend the 3 and a half day Northwest Training Camp at the Oregon Gymnastics Academy in Beaverton, OR. It didn't make sense to bring along Izabela and Chris, so I made the drive to Oregon by myself! Dante's teammate Bacon also wanted to attend, but his parents had to work, so I offered to bring Bacon along with me. The added responsibility of having yet another life in the car was initially quite stressful for me, but I had a feeling that driving to Portland would need to become commonplace, so I was determined to conquer my fears. Bacon was a joy to have along and he kept Dante occupied so I could concentrate on driving!

The rest of the EGA boys decided to make family trips out of the camp and stayed at the Jantzen Beach RV Park. Dante, Bacon and I stayed at the Fairfield Inn right next to the gym, which was quite convenient in the mornings. But the team wanted to get together after their 6 hours of gymnastics, so I had to brave the Portland traffic to Hayden Island. The traffic was absolutely ridiculous, but what could I do?

Dante had a great time at the camp, where they had some different training equipment (tunnel in the ground) conducive towards learning how to do his high bar kip. The apparatus enabled him to practice on his own until he figured it out without needing to wait for a coach to spot him for each turn. At EGA the kip is a "rite of passage" skill. If you can do it 3 times in a row with the coach watching, you earn your high bar grips. On August 30th, just a few days after returning from camp, Dante earned his grips. He was so thrilled he slept with them the first night!

I'll end this chapter of my story with a Dante-ism. During a discussion about paychecks/taxes/tuition/money allocation and general finances, I summed up Daddy's long explanation with "… So, little things add up in a hurry". Dante immediately summed it up even better: "And bigger things add up in a bigger hurry!" At least he is not likely to be penny wise and pound foolish…