Friday, June 26, 2009

Bigger Every Day

We seem to be wading through a fairly large transition - Daniel's mental shift towards seeing himself as a "big boy" capable of handling more responsibility. This shift has resulted in a lot of changes in the way daily life happens... there is more interaction, more freedom of choice, and more flexibility.

There is more responsibility all around, too - for us, we are realizing what a critical phase this is for helping Daniel form the basis of a strong character. And for Daniel, chores have become a reality. We have slowly added to the amount of household work we've been assigning him. He now responds well to complex requests: "Daniel, please take off your shoes, open the closet, put the shoes inside, close the door and come back over here."

He demands independence when it isn't offered, even in the mundane routines. He wants the option to pick between items (snacks, books, toys) - but often withholds declaring his selection, just because he can. What's interesting is in these cases, he will revert to intentional gibberish as a way to not say his answer. He is answering - but defiantly. In a way that he knows we can't understand.

He absorbs more information than we gave him credit for. His memory is amazing, especially for his age. Weeks after seeing Ice Age 3, his first full movie in a theater, he asked us randomly, "Mommy, Daddy... remember the big elephants running? And remember the tiger on the ground? And remember Sid finding the three eggs?"

A recent "too good to be true" moment occurred when spontaneously, Daniel pointed to the piano and asked to play it. We climbed up onto the piano bench together, opened the cover and began playing around on first the black then the white keys. I started in on the chord progression from Heart & Soul (Daniel's recent favorite bedtime song) and he recognized it immediately. I started singing it while playing, and Daniel banged keys enthusiastically while singing loudly to the parts he knew... smiling broadly up at me in between verses. It was one of those magical moments I could live happily in forever.

He loves to wrestle. He screams if you tickle him, but if you stop, he lifts his shirt and says "more?!" He invents games. If you invent a game, he memorized it and repeats it until you wish you hadn't invented it. He dances to songs. He laughs at everything and says "that's funny". He knows his friends by name, and can tell you who he played with that day. He loves eating and is constantly hungry. He loves being chased, and chasing us: "I'm gonna get you...!" He is very affectionate with us - more so than he's ever been. He understands "tomorrow" and "yesterday". He is very quickly mastering the alphabet too, but out of memory, can "read" us many of his books, verbatim. He finds animal shapes in the clouds, pointing out alligators and rhinos at random times.

The differences between having a baby and a toddler are big... but the differences between a toddler and this new "man child" phase are mind-numbing. Sometimes I look at Daniel and don't recognize him - seemingly overnight, a lanky, tall chatterbox replaced my tragically cherubic baby.

Luckily, I don't have time to feel sad. I'm too busy having fun with the new Daniel :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We Danced. We Sang. We Stole Things.

Like that album title, for example.

Desperately in need of clearing our heads for a few days, we skipped town last week and headed north to our favorite getaway: Sedona. New each time, and never disappointing.

Each vacation must have a soundtrack (Amaro Family Rule #48) and this time, tracks #2 and #3 off Jason Mraz's latest piece of work were the (only) songs on our playlist. By day 3, Daniel was singing along. No joke.

Who would have guessed that those quirky, over-played top-40 hits would turn out to be our family's love songs? Those two opening chords to "I'm Yours" relaxed us more than a massage or martini ever could. (It's so fun to make drinking jokes when you don't drink...)

This mini-vacation was exactly what we needed. We ate homemade breakfast on the patio. We went creek-stomping in our backyard. We soaked in a jacuzzi under a billion stars. We played in warm fountains and breathtakingly cold creeks. I'll spare you the exhaustive list of luxuries, but suffice it to say that by the end of day three, the tension had melted away. In it's place were easier smiles, sillier songs and more family hugs.

In a perfectly magical moment near the end of the trip, Daniel and I danced barefoot on the red rock patio to the antequated guitar stylings of a local musician. Puffy white clouds drifted lazily through an impossibly blue sky. The day practically sparkled with perfection... or maybe it was just the misters. Either way. I could live happily forever in that moment.

This trip was less about Daniel and more about his parents. But Daniel, as you read this later, understand this: The right priorities in a family don't always happen automatically. You have to work for them. And fight for each other. And make a concerted effort not to let each other get lost in the day-to-day shuffle.

And sometimes, that kind of clarity can only be achieved with a roadtrip and some cold creek water.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Buttered Popcorn and Apple Juice

Last weekend, we reached a huge milestone. Well, huge for us. The three of us went to our very first family movie in a theater. We saw "Up", the newest Pixar movie. Despite Daniel's total and complete inability to control the level of his voice, we had a blast!

Daniel kept waiting for deafeningly silent moments to point and yell at the top of those little lungs: "Look at DEEZ!" He loved the balloons ("bee-oons") and the Snipe ("duckie") and asked for them each and every minute they were not on the screen. Loudly. At one point, Daniel got down from his seat and turned around. He had apparently not realized there were other people there, and with glee, he pointed and yelled "Look at all the friends!!" I believe we entertained/annoyed some strangers that day.

My favorite moment might have been when I glanced down and saw Fernando and Daniel, both absent-mindedly reaching in for more popcorn without removing their eyes from the big screen. Like father, like son. Fernando's love of the theater is legendary, passed down from his father. Now that he can share it with his own boy, he's one happy camper.

On the way home, Daniel recited all of his favorite parts of the movie. We frequently ask him if he had fun at school, so he gazed out the window and asked himself questions all the way home:

"Have fun with the bee-oons? Have fun with the duckie? Have fun with the doggies? Have fun with the house high-up-in-da-ky? Have fun with mommy and daddy? Have fun with the moo-mie? Want see more moo-mie please?"

Life is good.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I Never Want To Forget

You're probably tired of reading it... honestly, I'm tired of writing it... but I swear it's true: I have never loved him more.

Time is racing by at an unfathomable rate. I wish it would stop. Or pause. Or at least slow down for two seconds.

I hope I never forget...

- The way he says "hold me hand".
- How he always wants to see/play with the "poo". (Pool. Don't worry.)
- His obsession with jumping. He's good. Really good.
- Up high in the sky. (Hup - in - da -kye).
- How he likes to mime "Itsy Bitsy Spider" at the dinner table.
- How he likes to mime clapping for himself after miming the song.
- His love of bathtime, so long as there are matchbox cars to splash in mixing bowls.
- The logic he uses. "First, then..."
- How Fernando taught him the "let me see..." game, with his finger on his chin.
- How suddenly he began saying "oh my goodness!"
- His preference for Penny (the dog) over anyone else... Mema, Papa, TK or Quito.
- How his little musical voice never stops... He. Is. Always. Talking.
- How he absent-mindedly plays with my hair while I'm holding him.
- How the phrase "I love you" now happens spontaneously, without prompting.
- His love of movies. The latest: "Ahhhs Age" and "Mad-e-car". He likes to move it, move it.
- The recent increase in politeness. Me: "How do you ask?" Him: "Mommy... more milk please!"
- His lack of inhibition. Particularly when imitating our rowdy Mexican yells during "Camisa Negra".
- How everything is more fun in the closet, in the dark.
- The reluctant bravery he's developing in the water - it increases each time we swim.
- How incredibly fast that perfect little mop of hair grows.
- The way my heart melts each night when he says (in his sleepiest voice), "Mama stay here".
- How he sings along when I sing "Heart & Soul". (glaaaaaaaadly.....)
- The way he sings "Baby Bumblebee" to himself when he thinks he's alone.
- How he counts crib bars for entertainment. And can go up to 14. But still prefers the number 8.
- How he is always hungry. We'll hear "Oh hungry eat?" on the way home from dinner.
- His tendency to obsess over relatively minor characters in a movie. The "bad fishies" in Ice Age, or the Snipe in UP.
- His increasingly physical displays of affection... sometimes he'll run from one to the other parent, just hugging us and saying "I love you."

Right back at ya, kid.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Shark Bite

Daniel has always loved animals, but he goes through specific phases. We've been through an alligator phase, a butterfly phase, a fish phase, a bird phase, and others.

Last week, we officially entered the shark phase.

In a specific scene from Madagascar 2, a giant shark chases after a tiny lemur. When the scene started, my husband and I rushed to get the remote and fast forward to the next scene... we thought it would scare Daniel. We were too late, but Daniel wasn't scared. In fact, he clapped with joy and asked repeatedly for "more shark!"

At Target last week, I picked up a thin paperback book on sharks. Even though it was written for much older kids, Daniel loves the photos and learning the names of the sharks. (He knows Mako Shark, Hammerhead, and ... Shamu. Ok, so one of the photos looks like a Killer Whale... I don't have the heart to correct him just yet.)

At the end of the book is a photo of a surfer with only one arm - she had survived a shark attack. We glossed over this the first few times, but curiosity eventually got the better of me.

Me: "Daniel, what happened to her arm??"
Daniel: "It fall down?"
Me: "No, it didn't fall down... what happened to her arm?"
Daniel: "It go bye-bye?"
Me: "Yes... Daniel, a shark bit her arm and ate it."
Daniel: (concentrating hard, staring at the picture with a concerned look on his face)... "It's ok... come here... I got you... I got you..."

He consoled the photo. He felt sad for her. How precious is THAT!?

It didn't last long. Now he turns to that page with glee and says "Shark eat the arm... go CHOMP!" And laughs.

I may have created a monster.

A quick update: Yesterday I asked him what happened to his arm (he has a bite scar from two months ago that we frequently discuss) and he started to say his routine "Troy bit me"... but stopped and said "Shark bite arm! CHOMP!"