Saturday, April 18, 2009

At Play

We have had some days in a row at home this week. Our normally busy calendar has slowed down a bit, especially with Dad and David up in San Francisco/Berkeley and Mom sewing drapery for the new house. Of course we have chores and things that keep us constantly busy around our home, but we also focus on playtime enrichment for Kate.

When we're not out and about, I try to do at least one big outdoor session for Kate per day with another little one squeezed in somewhere if I can. After breakfast, we usually go for a big walk. We stop and talk about flowers and anything that catches our eye. We talk constantly and my walk time with Kate is precious because we get to be together appreciating nature and because it is the perfect time to saturate her with language and new vocabulary. We love our walks, and she likes them even better in the umbrella stroller because she has more access to her environment that way---she is more a part of the action than in the baby stroller.

We always end our walk with time at the park. We play and talk and sing and I recite Mother Goose and other silly rhymes while we dig. When we return home, I usually make lunch. We've both been having apple slices, cheese, and crackers. Then we read. While she naps, I get some more exercise on the bike and also lift my weights.

On Friday, Grandma came for a visit and we had fun with her at the park, too.

We were amazed to see dozens of ladybugs all throughout the grass at the park. What luck!!! Of course we proceeded to have a ladybug hunt. Kate caught on quickly and had amazing powers of detection. I think it is genetic, because Grandma used to search for them when she was a girl, and I am skilled at spotting them, too. Life is so good, so generous with the beauties of nature and with filling every nook and cranny with entertainment. We spend lots of time examining the dirt in our own yard---whole worlds exist in dirt, neverending magic if you look.

Looking for ladybugs....It was pretty hot yesterday, so we didn't stay out too long...

Grandma took this one of us playing. I am going to miss this little park when we move. But if there is one thing I know, it is that magic and memories can be made anywhere your heart goes.

Have I mentioned that Kate loves Meerkat? ;-) Hello, Meerkat! We are starting a tradition that any new toys that come home always are welcomed to the family the first night by joining our time in the cozy reading chair. Everyone in our house is expected to be a reader, I guess you could say. It is the toys' initiation into our home culture. Even bouncy balls join us. Nothing is too oddly shaped, big, hard, etc. Then, each night, Kate picks some toys to sit with us. She really likes this. Although sometimes Mommy has very little room for her arms! ;-) Anyway, it turned out that Meerkat LOVES to read. He likes to ask questions and make comments about what we're reading.

A few days ago we built a fort in our family room, and of course we are leaving it up awhile. Kate loves, loves, loves to be in it. We read in there and we spend time organizing our treasures. It has pillows and even secret "rooms" depending on how you reposition one of the blanket flaps. The fort is pretty cozy, I must say. As soon as Grandma arrived, Kate wanted to take her into the fort.

This picture is from a few days ago at the park. We took one of the smaller bouncy balls with us. I love this picture because Kate has just thrown the ball and we captured it in mid-bounce.

Where do you want to go next, Kate? To the slide? Okay!

She looks at me as if to say, "Let's go, Mommy!" I love how purposefully she strides. I love my happy girl.

Wild Animal Park and Butterlies

Last week Kate and I gave Grandma one of our guest passes to the Wild Animal Park, because we all three wanted to go see the butterflies in the temporary exhibit. Grandma was the first to learn that the park was hatching butterflies, and so we wanted to take her with us. It was another beautiful day at the park. With the annual pass, I can arrive after Kate has breakfast and leave as soon as she starts napping---without feeling like I have to rush to see everything or as though we can't return soon. I can definitely see the appeal of the annual pass concept now.

Pictures from our day:

We had to trek a ways, but we finally found the elephants after cutting through the Conifer Forest. There was a baby elephant following her mother around, which was really cute to watch.

This is the balloon Kate adores. It actually has bigger appeal than some of the animals for Kate. It can be seen from all of the lower park, so it can be a bit distracting. We ate our packed lunches on a bench right by it so Kate could enjoy it more. She loves to wave and say "hi" to it.

I could seriously watch the gorillas all the livelong day. They were a bit more active on this visit. And we could definitely identify the Alpha.

We are observing giraffes. Looking at these pictures is making me want to return right now...

Katie June is looking upward for more butterflies. Butterflies with wings of gossamer white. Butterflies of the most vibrant iridescent blue. Birds of teal and lime green... It was magical...

Butterflies were flying overhead. Pretty pretty butterflies. We were so lucky to see them.

There is actually a butterfly on that plant. Can you see it? Kate seemed to delight in spotting them...particularly the one that landed on one man's behind. She actually was so amused that she laughed.

Kate fell asleep soon after the buttefly exhibit, the thing of dreams. She cuddled with Meerkat, a present from Grandma.

Good night, wild animals!

Catching Up: A Magical Easter

With Easter almost one week past, I am a bit behind on my blogging. So we step back in time...

This past Easter was absolutely the best Easter I have ever had...and one of the best days in life, all told.
I had stayed up late the night before getting things ready for the Easter Bunny to visit us, but when I woke up I was so excited for the day to begin and to share it all with Kate. When we came into the family room, we found a note from the Easter Bunny! And apparently he had played with all of Katie's blocks...
Kate loved her in-house egg hunt and really took to it quickly, searching high and low. She loved arranging and rearranging her candy on our hassock and eventually put all of her eggs there, too. She also received a basket from the Easter Bunny, and she loved the bendable bunny, the kitty stickers, crayons, and little car.
We then made some orange rolls for breakfast and then Kate and I got dressed. Grandma and Grandpa came to pick us up to take us to Aunt Diane and Uncle Brad's. Easter isn't really Bill's thing, so he stayed home...but it sure is my thing, especially being surrounded by family and sharing happy moments with people I love.
When we arrived, Kate and I played in the flowers for awhile and greeted everyone before settling into Uncle Brad's cheery office for a storytime and nap. While Kate slept, I helped a little with dinner; then we moved her outside onto some lawn chairs while we ate a scrumptious feast. I have never been a big fan of lamb, but the Easter lamb was PERFECTLY cooked and I loved it. We also had ham, wild rice, salads, rolls...the feast was endless.
After awhile, Kate woke up and ate some ambrosia salad with Grandma. Then many of us decided to take a walk to the beach (they live in Oceanside about 1.5 miles from the beach). We traversed our way down the seaside cliffs into a little cove-like area. We could see the lighthouse in the distance and possibly the pier, far away. The sand was wet and glorious and the sun---just beginning its descension---cast golden light on the wave crests.
Kate had never been in the ocean before, and so this would be a memory forever... The beauty was so immense, I could feel my heart fill up. Even though we take so many pictures of her, we didn't take a camera on our walk. But I do not need a picture of that moment, because it will stay with me forever. Everything I love about living was in that moment, and I got to share it with my daughter.
First we drew in the sand: hearts, balloons, smileys, our names... Kate watched the tide rise and then recede for several moments. We sang, and we looked closely at seaweed. The water came up and touched us... For Kate, it was love at first feel...
She knew to hold onto my hands, and yet she wanted to venture out. So fearless, so ready to embrace life. This last quality I hope we always share. We let the water bathe our feet, wash the hem of her dress. She had on a beautiful white dress from her Nana, a dress that danced about her legs in the wind, a dress sandy and beachy. We could smell the salt in the air. The water, while cold at first, felt like an extension of our bodies after a time. We watched the sun dip further to the horizon as we chased the water in and out and splashed and held hands tight.
When we walked home, we crossed back over the train tracks and saw TWO trains come by, hoo-hooing. A perfect time...

Even before she found the note, Kate spotted an egg right away and knew the game was on...

He hid one behind their picture together!

Collecting candy and eggs...

The note and the castle of all blocks, with an egg in the middle...

A blurred action shot: Kate runs to the egg!

There's another one!

Kate searches high...and low...

The flowers at the Lamberts' house...

Happy Easter!

A full length view of her Easter dress from Nana

Mommy and Katie June

Easter with my daughter

Almost Summer

Kate and I went outside for a spell after finishing up the breakfast dishes (we made waffles and scrambled eggs). We took her hula hoop, ball, bubbles, and Meerkat---thinking we would have an early recess before the weather became overbearingly hot. She showed Meerkat all over the yard---she loves her Meerkat---but after about twenty minutes, we were both quite warm and could feel the heat-laze set in as we watched the bees and roly polies.

I took her back inside for a cool down, but then I had an idea: today was perfect for a sprinkler-fest! I changed Kate into her brown polka dot suit and put on some board shorts of my own. We have never played in the sprinklers together before, and it was so much fun:

We prepare the sprinklers and hoses...

Kate getting sprinkled...

Running through the sprinklers...

Kate laughs at the hose...

What a fun moment!

Once we were dry again, we colored for a little bit, had lunch, read some books, and now Kate is napping and I just finished exercising.

A lovely day...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Weekend

For the first time in many years, this coming Easter is full of meaning for me. Renewal. Hope. Life. Return. Everything in the universe feels different with a little Katerpotamus running around! I want to give her a sense of how magical and meaningful life can be...

Our Easter celebrations gained momentum early last week on a shopping trip to the mall to buy baby shower gifts for our friend Lauren and her soon-to-be baby girl, nicknamed affectionately for the moment as Bump. On our way to Janie and Jack, Katie and I saw the Easter Bunny walking around---probably returning from having some carrots for midmorning snack. Then on our way back from Williams-Sonoma, we saw the Easter Bunny sitting on a bench in his forest. Kate and I pulled off to the side to watch him. Recalling the infamous stories about my appalled reaction to the Easter Bunny when I was Kate's age, I didn't suppose for a moment that she would want to sit with him. Yet, when we started to roll away in the stroller, she said, "More more!" I wheeled her back to face him and asked her if she would like to sit with him like the other children were doing. At this, she gave her sign for "yes" very enthusiastically...and so we got in line.

Kate was so excited when it was her turn! She popped out of her stroller and was ready to walk over to him without Mommy. When I put her on his furry knee, she was so proud and happy she could have burst. She got her "excited hands" (little clenched fists by her side) and a contented little smile. After the pictures, she didn't want to leave him, and, in fact, she cried when she realized she couldn't sit with him anymore. But I told her that we would be getting copies of a picture to take home and we would frame it and she could always remember her visit. Sure enough, she has been carrying around that picture off and on for days.

Last night we decorated our Easter eggs. I love being able to share that with Kate. Her first job was to drop the colored tablets into the vinegar to dissolve. She loved that! After the dyes were ready, we put our eggs in to marinate. Kate helped me baste the eggs and then supervised the rest of the job as she ate some dinner from her high chair. She loves her eggs. We played with them after bath, and then again this morning after our dance party. She has learned how to be gentle with them.

This morning we went to an egg hunt in Vintage Hills. I had explained to Kate last night how it worked, and sure enough, she seemed to understand as the hunt began. She put all of her own eggs into her basket, sometimes double-handing two of them very efficiently! Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny were also on hand at the park, and once again, Kate loved being near them. We took our picture with them as soon as we arrived, and then later she wanted to show them her basket of eggs and then simply wanted to sit near them on the concrete. Cute! I told her that because she had been so nice to the Easter Bunny and been friends, that he was going to visit her tonight while she was sleeping and leave her a gift. I bet he will hide some of her eggs, too, and maybe even leave a note.

We collected every bunny in the house yesterday and made a small "classroom" of them in the family room and read The Tale of Peter Rabbit to them (and to Kate). We should make this a tradition.

Kate is napping at the moment, and when she wakes up, I will have her help me make the lemon cakes for tomorrow. Lemon cakes are going to be our Easter tradition, I've decided. I have made them for Easter in the past, but now I have plans to make them every year. I think it is important to have strong traditional structures in place to commemorate each year and childhood.

I was very proud of Kate today---and always am, for so many reasons---because she didn't step foot on the egg hunt field until we were given the "Go!" even when so many other toddlers did and started putting eggs in baskets (and were allowed to, by their---ahem---cheater parents). She really had a respect for the event and behaved with decorum. Afterwards, she was so proud with her basket...sometimes she definitely seems older than 17.5 months.

Here are some pics:

Kate is excited about our egg project

We color the eggs together

Kate and her eggs after bath

So pretty

She held up this egg when I asked, "Which one is your favorite?"

Collecting eggs

Kate's treasures after the hunt

Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny

Kate shows the bunnies her basket of eggs. Note the surprised look of Mrs. Bunny as Kate drops it there! ;-)

Kate loves them and wants to sit near them.

Kate opens Grandma and Grandpa's Easter basket early

A new springtime dress!

A chocolate bunny!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wild Animal Park Adventure

A few days ago Bill and I took Katie to the Wild Animal Park for the first time. She LOVED
seeing all of the animals, and I loved watching her react and process and savor. At each enclosure, she would say "hi" to the animals and then invariably would attempt to climb into their habitat. Particularly enamored of the meerkats, the gorillas, and the giraffes, Kate also watched the flamingos for awhile, was pointing to the rhinos from the tram, and enjoyed scouting the birds. The "wild animal" of the day, though, had to be the tethered hot air balloon that gave rides over by the lions. She kept waving and talking to it and could spot it from various locations all over the park.

By lunchtime, her new word was "animal" pronounced, "a-mal." Cute. Very cute. She was saying it all day, and I loved how quickly she seemed to internalize the experience. She fell asleep shortly after our later lunch as I walked into one of the stores to gift her a book. We thought about waiting her out so we could take her to see the elephants and condors and so on, but we decided to make it a half day. She loved the park so much---and it was so easy to take her---that we decided to pay a little extra as we left for the annual membership, which also extends to the San Diego Zoo. I have never had annual passes to any place, but this seems right. Just watching her eyes light up, her brain engage... We have a couple of free guest passes, so I am hoping to use one of them to take Mom to see the butterfly exhibit with us later this month. Mom deserves to go since she has been working hard on the new house and since she told us about the butterflies to begin with. But Bill and I are definitely eager to return with Kate...

I feel like I have discovered the Wild Animal Park for the first time, though I have been before. When we went, it wasn't crowded at all and most of the people there were moms with strollers. It is really toddler-friendly and I can't wait to go back. It is about as close as the mall, so I can hop over there with Kate anytime.

I just can't wait to take her back to see what else she learns...

Here are Katie and Daddy watching the lions.

See the lions on the rock!
When we got home, she wanted to draw the animals she saw with me and then she got all of her Little People animals from her barn and her Noah's Ark and brought them over to the table with the blocks. I asked her if she wanted to build an animal park for her animals, and she enthusiastically gave her sign for "yes." We spent a long time building and talking about what we saw and remembered. Teaching Kate is so rewarding, and I love to watch her interest in life develop.


Katie and I love to be at the park together. We usually start with the swings, and we sing our "Katie and Mommy" song:

It's Katie and Mommy,
And Mommy and Katie,
And we always swing together
Wherever we go.

I love you more than measure,
And we'll always be together.
I love you, little Katie,
I love love you so.

We go backward and forward,
And forward and backward.
You are my perfect lady,
My little Baby Kate.

And so on...I make up more verses as we go.

After the swings, we walk across the grass to the sand and the slides. Kate loves to dig, and recently I found some sea creature toys in our garage that I had kept at the end of the year when one of the seniors did not pick up a final project. It didn't make much sense to throw away good toys, so I just took them home. I figure that if she ever contacts me about wanting her toys back, I will have them...but that seems unlikely. So now we take a whale, an octopus, Flounder and Sebastian (from The Little Mermaid), a Mommy Shark, and a Baby Shark with us to the park.

Anyway, Kate and I created a new game about a week and a half ago. I bury her sea creatures in the sand with some of their parts sticking out. We call this game "Archaeologist." After I get all of them buried, Kate tries to find them and to unearth them.

She is digging for Flounder; the game has begun!

Kate gets really proud when she finds one!

I see a that the octopus?

Look what I have found!

We have fun with "Archaeologist." It helps to hone her powers of extrapolation and hypothesis-testing. She keeps getting better at it, which is always a joy to see.