Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Tale of Toys: Toy Story 3

We've been preparing for Toy Story 3 for quite a while. In anticipation of the opening, Fernando bought the first and second movies hoping that Daniel would get to know the characters and be excited for the third movie.

His plan worked.

By the time we hit the theaters for round three of Buzz and Woody, "Buzz and Woody" had become household terms.

The movie itself was fun - a little more intense/scary at parts than I had expected. Had we known, we probably would have waited a bit. But it was a fun experience for the whole family - Violet came too and ate her body weight in popcorn.

But more impactful than the actual movie is the new stage of childhood Daniel slipped into without us really noticing. He entered into that magical little boy world where action figures come alive and movie scenes are recited and acted out.

Daniel: "You wanna be Zurg or Buzz?"
Fernando: "I'll be Buzz today."
Daniel: "Ok." (grabbing the sword he made by linking markers together...) "We meet again Buzz Lightyear... for the last time."
Fernando: "Not today Zurg!"
(shooting sound effects ensue... Buzz gets knocked over...
Daniel: (evil laugh)
Fernando: "You killed my father!"
Fernando: "Nooooo!"

So maybe we combined a few scenes. But you get the idea.

Fernando is beyond excited that Daniel has reached this stage. In fact, he has to restrain himself from buying out the "Action figure" aisle at every store he's in. I think he's been waiting for this stage for a while. The little Buzz dude that Daniel "gave Fernando" for Father's Day gets played with hard - every day.

Anyway. This is just another snippet of daily life around here. Buzz just happens to be part of the household now.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Project: Oil Spill

I was recently introduced to a very cool blog of a mom/photographer who educated her young kiddos about the BP oil spill in a way that was age-appropriate, hands on and ultimately even helped the rescue effort. (Blog: - thanks for the link, CB!)

This afternoon, we re-created Ashley's project with great success. Daniel is an animal lover and currently is (very) infatuated with sea animals. He is sensitive, so I was worried about this affecting him too deeply. But his interest in "playing doctor" kicked in as well, and he really got into the project. We just used some of his current favorite toys (two turtles and a shark), a couple plastic food storage containers and whipped up makeshift oil from soy sauce and vegetable oil.

First we talked about where the oil spill was located and as always, he loved looking at the globe. I told him that lots of animals were sick because of dirty water and I was impressed and surprised by his immediate response: "Mommy! I can help them! I can go there and clean the animals! I have an idea - those towels can help us!" I hadn't even launched into our plan of attack for helping the animals. Pretty darn cool, little man.

Next I showed him a few photos and brief video clips of affected animals and the rescue efforts to save them. He responded surprisingly well, staying very serious and focused and continually talking about how the animals are all "so sick and so dirty" and need our help.

Then the fun part... we put our animals in a container of clean water, made our "oil" mix, poured it in, and Daniel actually was upset that his animals were sick now. And even though he just turned three, he actually seemed to grasp the concept that there were REAL turtles who were sick like this.

He picked up each animal, lovingly telling it, "It's ok - I will clean you and you can go back to your Mommy". He scrubbed it with clean water and patted it dry.

We busted out the markers and paper and together drew a thank you card picturing a turtle telling the rescue workers "thank you" (Daniel's idea!). We'll head to the post office on Monday to drop off our package of wash clothes for the Craft Hope project that inspired all of this.

I love that Daniel is at an age where his little brain can wrap around concepts bigger than himself - this opens up a whole new world of projects, causes and fun.

The options are endless - my brain is on overload!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Elephants & Puzzles

Another seemingly small (yet actually very impressive) milestone was reached yesterday: Daniel said the word "Elephant" correctly. After years of "Epetent"... I have to admit I got teary-eyed. His words are crisper and clearer than ever.

With the increase in vocabulary comes the continual (adorable) mis-use of some words. His new favorite words to "just throw in there" are: Maybe, Just, But, Because, Kind of, Almost, Like, So, Sure. For example. "I want to watch Dora... she's kind of just my favorite."

He also says in a perfect little sing-song voice, "I no think so!" when he doesn't want to do what you've asked. (It's almost cute enough not to get him in trouble for saying "no" to us. Almost.)

In other news, he has officially done his first real jigsaw puzzles - and loved them. We have two for him: a zebra and a car. They are pretty tough but he loves the challenge, and I love helping him. It's a family tradition on my side and it's beyond fun to watch it developing into yet another generation.

The Summer days are passing too quickly. We are squeezing in every possible minute of water fun, play and family time before we blink and it's gone. My eyeballs are starting to hurt from NOT blinking. (I can try, right?!)

Story Time

Daniel's imagination is running wild. And right now, he loves nothing more than being told stories at bedtime.

Sadly, I am a horrendous story teller. Writing fiction never did come easily. I do my best and have mustered up three or four stories to tell him that I'd be positively mortified to share with anyone else.

Fortunately for all involved, Daddy is a bonified expert. Their repertoire is quickly building, but Daniel's all time favorite is "The Elephant & The Ant". He has it memorized and acts it out through the day, enlisting us as different characters.

Daddy and Mommy have had to collaborate on their story endeavors because Daniel will make specific requests (Can I hear the one about the green rhino?) and the requests are sometimes for the OTHER parent's story. And trust me... Daniel expresses himself when you have messed up a story. Very clearly.

Occasionally, we're so tired that as we're telling the stories, we drift in and out of sleep. And believe me... those stories get really interesting really quickly. Suddenly you hear bizarre things coming out of your own mouth and wonder what's going on. Daniel is usually quick to correct us, unless he's already asleep. And then he's fine if the zebra and rhino are eating pasta on the moon. Really... it's ok.

Sometimes I can persuade Daniel to tell ME stories at night, and he will produce a jumbled combination of a few different story lines. And each time, I wish I had something handy to record him.

But typically when I ask him, he'll just lay down lazily and say, "I no think so, Mommy. But I'm just a little too tired. You tell me one, please?" And good-story-teller or not, there's not a person alive who could resist him at that moment.

"Once upon a time... there was a tiny little ant..."

Week One: Update

Well, after five days of swimming lessons, I absolutely could not be happier with Daniel's progress. (I suppose I'd be happier if he was doing backflips off the high dive, but let's try and stay focused here, shall we?)

He only cried twice all week, and both times were fairly minor. He is strong in the water, a natural floater, and a very fast learner. He is already opening his eyes (constantly) under water, kicking to move himself forward, pulling himself up and almost out of the water, floating on his own, and just enjoying himself thoroughly. He does everything with a huge smile on his face continually echoing, "I want to do it again!"

Daniel talks about his accomplishments all day long - even when he cried when Ms. Tammy made him open his eyes underwater, the rest of the day I'll hear, "Mommy! I go underwater and open my eyes!" And the next day he doesn't protest a bit during lessons.

His self-confidence seems boosted in other areas as well. I can't be sure that it's because of the lessons, but the timing is pretty coincidental. He even helped me vaccum the living room the other day (and used to run to the farthest corner of the house the second I brought it out of the closet). This may sound like no big deal, but for Daniel, it's huge. His confidence is growing.

In honor of him learning to "float like a starfish", we made Jell-O starfish jigglers (each, accidentally, with it's own facial emotion. My favorite is "angry starfish".) They were red... but some details are just lost on black and white photography.

This is only week one of six... that high dive goal might be achievable after all.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Have Confidence In Spring Time

Ah yes, Julie Andrews.

But I digress. Where confidence is concerned, Daniel is blossoming. He's making huge developmental milestones, both mental and physical.

With the start of swimming lessons, his confidence in other areas of life seems to be boosted. His fears are lessening and his playfulness is increasing. (I wrote more about this in another post.)

He has been dry after naptime for a while, and suddenly he decided to kick the pull-up habit altogether - he is dry overnight too. And he's proud of this fact, constantly telling us and himself that he doesn't have any more accidents - he simply beams.

He is enjoying our company more than ever, constantly asking for kisses and hugs or just crawling into our laps for no reason whatsoever. It's precious though - instead of asking for hugs, he'll loudly declare, "Mommy, you can have a hug!" His self-awareness is growing - he is granting us permission to hug, kiss, and tickle his body. It's like he realizes that it's his choice to make. Subtle shift, I know, but definitely a shift. (And a good one, too.)

The "I love you's" are free-flowing around here, mostly coming from him towards us and Violet. And when he REALLY loves you, he says, "I love you to the sun!" (We have a little routine now. D: "I love you to the sun." Me: "I love you to the moon." D: "I love you to the sun." Me: "I love you to the stars." D: "I love you to the humpback whale and all the animals in the bottom of the ocean." And then we free form.)

Every morning he wakes me up by climbing in bed and laying with (or usually on) me. Talk about pure joy. Forget the alarm clock... this is always how I want to wake up.

Somehow this post shifted from confidence to affection, but I suppose they are related. With the increase in confidence has come a huge increase in affection. Maybe the old adage is true: One must first love himself to truly love others.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Gramma's Toy

Maybe I should have titled this "Daniel's Toy"... but either way, Gramma and Daniel have a new favorite play thing: Each other!

From the second he spotted her at the airport, he had his target marked and he didn't let her out of his sight for seven solid days, save trips to the bathroom (thankfully).

If he woke up before her, he could hardly stand her being asleep. More than once we intercepted him crouched over her soundly sleeping face, whispering (loudly), "GRAMMA! ARE YOU AWAKE?!"

She indulged his world of imaginary play, happily becoming whatever toy animal he handed to her. "Hello Mr. Octopus!" "Hello little Fishie!" "How are you?" "Hungry!" She even bought him some sea animal toys he still plays with daily when we went to the aquarium.

I'm so happy that she was able to be a part of his life during this stage. She was able to witness him playing with his best friends and begin a new adventure for the Summer: Swimming lessons.

And as is to be expected, Daniel tested his limits with her. But aside from a few minor altercations, she was regaled all week with his latest mantra: "Excuse me, Gramma? Excuse me, Gramma?"

A few days after she had gone back to Texas, Daniel woke up early and crawled into my lap. He looked towards where she had slept during her stay here. He said, "Mommy, where's Gramma?" I told him she had gone home. He said, "Mommy, I'm sad."

August come quickly!

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Start of Something New

Daniel's first swimming lesson was this morning. Cue 6 weeks of no apples, pears, no other swimming outside the lesson, daily 10 minute lessons and (my personal favorite), documenting every time he sleeps, eats, poops or pees on a form. I kid you not.

These lessons are not traditional - they aren't "backstroke" and "butterfly" type lessons. These are "how to save myself if I fall in a pool" lessons. Infant Swimming Resource is our weapon of choice, and so far, I'm pleased.

Today we arrived (late) and got our paperwork done, including our "BUDS" sheet where we'll track all of Daniel's... bodily functions... with excruciating detail. (There is something in me that loves doing this kind of tracking - it's rewarding in some twisted way.) Apparently there are some signs of trouble during the lessons that will surface on the BUDS sheet routines and it will help keep Daniel out of any potential intestinal pain during the lessons.

Today he met Ms. Tammy and they spent their 10 minutes in the pool getting to know each other. He took right to her, showing her his imaginary octopus and star fish immediately. She worked on teaching him to reach for the bar/exit in their pool, releasing him from various angles and distances and he successfully lifted himself up each time.

He only went underwater once today - I imagine this will change dramatically starting tomorrow. One of the first skills he'll need to master during lessons is holding his breath underwater with his eyes open - something he absolutely cannot/will not do currently.

It was oddly refreshing to sit back at watch someone else work with my child. Parents are strongly encouraged NOT to give their kids any direction during the lesson and at first it was hard to bite my disciplinarian tongue when Daniel just kept telling Ms. Tammy that he didn't want to go underwater. But she handled it beautifully, winning both his respect and his affection in just minutes.

Anyway. This was only day one of thirty and already his confidence and skills have improved a bit. Hopefully the crazy crying stage I keep hearing about will be short-lived or (please!) non-existant altogether.

A mom can dream, right?

Now if you'll excuse me. Daniel just went #2 and I need to document it on the BUDS sheet.