Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Days

Just after Zoe’s 2nd birthday, Daniel and I finally bit the bullet and had a fence installed around the pool in our backyard. After nearly nineteen months in this house we decided it was time. Zoe is one active little girl and we weren’t able to take full advantage of having such a lovely and large yard because we were constantly in fear of her running or falling straight into the pool. Zoe had grown tall enough to reach the doorknob and the thought of our daughter being in danger when there was something we could do about it was almost too much to bear for any longer than we already had. So we said goodbye to $2200 and have not regretted it once.

In the last month we enjoyed many evenings as a family. Nothing wears out a toddler better than running around like a wild child, playing with her dogs and breathing in some fresh air. Ahem. Well, two out of three isn’t bad…

We had some uncharacteristically lovely weather in the last month: moderate temperatures, slight breezes. Each night after dinner, we’d open the backdoor and Zoe would go running with her arms stretched out to her sides like she was flying. The dogs would follow quickly behind; times like these are what they have been eagerly waiting for since we brought the little monkey home. I would follow after them, calling out to all of them to play nice and Daniel would bring Finnegan’s bouncer out into the middle of the yard so he could see all the action. Daniel and I pulled a couple chairs off the patio and placed them on either side of our son so we could sit and watch Zoe run and play, but we never stayed seated for long.

Seeing Zoe have so much fun was infectious. We ran, chased, danced, and sang with her. We blew bubbles, spinned her in the air and Daniel gave her piggyback rides. She would explore: touching the trees, plants and flowers. She would bring me the occasional snail, but get nervous if a fly or bee buzzed too close to her. Most nights I would snap pictures, either with my iPhone or camera. Daniel would make Zoe swords from palm fronds. She would swish her “sword”, cutting through the sky one moment, singing “Everybody was Kung Fu fighting! Ya! Ya!” And then it would become her magic wand. Daniel taught her to say, “Bipitty Bobbity Boo!” as she pointed it at the dogs, me, her little brother.

Finnegan would just take it all in from his seat. Content to watch his parents and sister play. I’d catch him smiling at the sky and wonder what it was he saw through his big, inquisitive eyes. Where I see his sister as this entertainer, I see in him a thoughtful, old soul. But I could be completely wrong. He could be biding his time, waiting for the day when his Daddy builds him a sword so he can join in the adventure.

The dogs usually grow tired of all the activity fairly quickly. It’s hard work keeping up with a toddler, I know. Eventually they come back to the chairs we have set up so they can get some scratches behind their ears, shelter from the wild child, and maybe even to guard the little boy they have both grown to adore in the last six months.

Me? When I’m not playing with Zoe, I’m taking it all in. Daniel and I have learned to take shifts until Miss Independent decides it’s time for her to explore on her own. I enjoy sitting and watching Daniel play with our daughter. Their mutual love and admiration for each other is easy to see, to feel. When it’s my turn to play, I can’t help but glance over at my boys by the chairs. I imagine they are communicating – that they share some secret language that only fathers and sons that share a birthday can have. It is true what everyone has said since Finnegan was born, I see so much of Daniel in him now… his eyes, his smile, his thoughtful and serious expressions.

The weather has quickly turned hot. Finally, we are experiencing the summer we’ve been bracing ourselves for… the summer we were happy to get a brief reprieve from. We haven’t had one of our “Family Evening’s” outside for a few days and I miss it. But I am so happy to have those memories and the photos I took. They will tide me over until the weather cools again. And then I imagine I will miss the activities I’ve thought up for us to do as we try to beat the heat and entertain our little monkey.

The other night, as Daniel and I sat in our chairs with Finnegan and Zoe ran around, I had this overwhelming feeling of happiness. I remember thinking that these are the moments that I want to remember always. These are the days that I hope my children will remember, too. It was a good feeling to be able to sit back and know without any doubt that this is the life I always wanted and to get to appreciate every single moment as it unfolded. There are goals I still want to accomplish, places I want to get to visit, explore and live… but at that moment there was no place else I would have rather been. I’m pretty sure I sighed with that contentment, that knowledge. Life is good. No, life is incredible.

backyard Shenanigans

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dance in her heart

A couple months ago, Daniel and I signed Zoe up for her first dance class. We thought it would be good for her to have a fun activity for the summer that would allow her to make new friends and take advantage of her love of performing. We were also hoping that a dance class might teach her to follow directions a little bit better and instill as much discipline and focus as possible for a 2 year old. We didn't have huge expectations - humble ones, actually. I figured at worst, there's nothing cuter than a kid in a tutu, prancing around to music... and multiply that by infinity when it's your kid.

So we prepared her. We talked about how she was going to get to take a dance class. We read her a book about ballerinas. We got her a couple leotards with tutu's, tap shoes, ballet shoes, and a special "monkey ballerina" dance bag. She was excited. We were excited.

After weeks of hyping up the dance class, I got butterflies this morning as we got Zoe ready. Would she be afraid? Would she cry? Would she make friends? Would she run around like a maniac and ignore any and all directions? As she pranced around in her little outfit, I told myself: Maybe, maybe, probably and definitely. I was 50% correct.

Here's a breakdown of the class, for the grandparents especially:

Daniel, Zoe and I got to the studio a few minutes early and parked in a very special parking spot.

Princess Parking

When we got inside, she sat quietly next to her Daddy observing all the other little 2 and 3 year olds.

Watching the other kids

After a bit she stood up, grabbed my hand and walked me across the room to a crowded spot. She wanted to be in the center of things, but she didn't want me far either. She smiled at the little kids around her but played shy for a bit. Just as she was inching towards a little boy and letting go of my hand, the teachers came out and read out loud who would be in which class and then they invited the parents to watch the first lesson in the classroom - for the remaining classes we'll have to sit in the waiting room and watch on the televisions.

Zoe loved the sound of her tap shoes on the floor. She danced all around and laughed and had a great time by herself while other little girls clung to their parents and cried because they were nervous. Not our girl! Soon after this pic was taken, Miss Jennifer told Zoe she had "dancing in her heart."

Tap Tap!

The teacher asked the girls to sit down and Zoe listened!

1st Dance Class

But then, when it was time to get up and dance, Zoe wouldn't budge. This photo was taken right about when Miss Jennifer told Zoe should couldn't dance on her bottom, but my kid tried proving her wrong.

This....

Then it was time for ballet shoes. Zoe didn't want to take her tap shoes off, but she got over that quickly and really let lose. I can tell already, my girl is going to be a bit of a class clown.

Class Clown

She got really comfortable:

Getting Comfortable

And made a new friend.

Making Friends

But kept us in her sights frequently.

Looking for Daddy

She did some tumbling.

Tumbling

And when class was finished, she waited patiently - sort of - for a special ballerina stamp on her hand. And look! Already she has learned to stand in line... on her tippy toes!

Waiting in line for a stamp on her hand

All in all, her first class was a success. Daniel and I were delighted to see her enjoying herself so much and we were relieved that she was not at all afraid. There was a brief moment when she pushed her shoulder up to her ear waiting for her teacher to look at her, but that was the only sign of insecurity and it was fleeting. I think this is going to be a great experience for her and I'm especially looking forward to her recital in August.