Saturday, February 28, 2009
With the passing of the cool front, P and I were ready for an all day outdoor adventure on Thursday. We meandered about the property, just 'xplorin' :) After ball tossing, tackling and ditch jumping, we played on the porch swing, P turning it into his personal jungle gym.
As we rounded the side of the house, P looked sooo old to me. His hands stuffed into his pockets, his cap pulled low to shade his baby blues, his favorite converse high-tops . When I see him next to an adult I'm always shocked that he is still a child, and such a small child at that, because when we're out, just the two of us, he often seems so old.
In the grass, P discovered an oblong shaped acorn and was sure it was a Totoro acorn. (In "My Neighbor Totoro" by Hayao Miyazaki, the forest creatures drop acorns of oblong shape. This detail escaped me during viewing, until P pointed out that our acorns are typically round and capped, while Totoro acorns are longer and shinier.) So that was that, we were on a Totoro hunt...
We crept through fences and followed tracks. We heard things move in the underbrush. We gathered more acorns and looked for a solid Totoro Trail to follow. I pulled out my camera to document the adorable search and discovered - it was broken :( Of all days to be without a camera! This, for me, is like hiking with one leg...
But back to the creeping. After lots of fence hopping, P discovered a "trail." Truth be told, I would have called it a dry creak bed bordered by a horse path, but Totoro trail it was that day! And as we wandered it we came upon... a tree, surrounded by oblong acorns, nestled beside a den in the trunk! (This vague description would usually be buoyed by a picture here but...) P stuck sticks in the hole and called out to the Totoros he was just sure resided there. He stuck in his leg, but found he was just Too Big. Then, following a long pause, he reminded me that he really is just four.
P: Mama, are we able to shrink?
Me: Umm, I don't think so P...
P: Well, let's try, Mama.
Grunting from us both.
P: Is it working?
Me: What do you think P?
He turns to me, a woman standing down in a ditch, created by the pre-mentioned dry creek bed, and squeals :)
P: Mama! Its working! You're shrinking! Look how much shorter you are than usual! I come clear up to here on you!!!
A phone photo from the following day, same spot:
Heehee :) After a while, with no more shrinking in sight, we gave up on that tree and followed the horse path, er, Totoro Trail, further through the pasture into a clump of shady trees. Here we found another trunk den and more half eaten acorns. Receiving no response to his Totoro entreaties, P climbed the tree to get a better look, sweet-talking me up too. We clambered about and chatted and then both turned towards the back fence line at the same moment. And froze. There, on the ground, standing about 10 inches high, was a fuzzy white creature like nothing I'd ever seen. I have to admit, I was so deeply ensconced in P's imaginary world that it took me quite by surprise :)
Insert amazing Totoro picture here. Oh, wait. My camera broke and my phone was at the house.... Insert massive head slap, here:
We discussed our options and slowly slid out of the tree. The fuzzy white thing didn't move. For those who haven't watched Totoro, a little Japanese girl, roughly P's age, finds a fluffy white creature while she wanders the woods. It stood about 12 inches high and was a seemingly footless blob.
(See white blob at far right:)
As we walked towards something that struck a surprising similarity to this footless blob, I expected said blob to scamper. Nothing. We crept closer and P reached for my hand and asked if I was scared, wanting to know how he should feel right then :) Then he asked if it was dead. Good question. It wasn't moving and we were getting pretty close. As we came within 10 feet, we could tell it was breathing, but still no quick escape. As we got even closer, the tiny beak came into focus and I realized it was some strange baby bird. It was truly exquisite, its soft white baby feathers mostly covering its enormous claws, eyes closed (thus the vague blob appearance). It was Sleeping.
Its huge peepers flicked open and it made adorably dependent noises and tried to shuffle forward, only to fall flat on its face. Despite its prodigious size, it was obviously Just Hatched. My heart was breaking as I realized its fate and I told P I thought we should conjure a rescue plan. Downbeat. "No thanks, Mama. Don't you remember - I was hunting acorns?"
If he hadn't been so amazingly empathetic when my camera broke, I'd have worried about the child right then :)
I mentioned it was important to me to at least Try to help the bird and then we could acorn hunt again and he agreed, saying he was pretty sure it was secretly a Totoro :)
The bird was rescued and relaxed the night away at a Wildlife Refuge. It returned the next day with a professional "Tree Climber." Armed with my phone (and cussing my camera), P, Grams and I accompanied the climber to the tree clump. He explained that the blob was a Barred Owl, his first fallen one of the season.
We were placed on dive duty, since the parents are often offended by the tree climber, and dutifully took our places in the pasture. Eagle Eye Grams quickly located a watchful parent and we fixed ourselves on the head turner. Meanwhile, P was riveted to Kevin The Tree Climber's side. He silently watched the man don his tree scaling spikes and work his way up through the brittle branches:
Kevin found the nest in tact and dinner already delivered (yumm! squirrel!) The nearby Mama did dive at Kevin, but turned at the last minute and alighted in a nearby tree. Carefully, very carefully, Kevin hauled the baby up in a pillowcase and deposited it home. By the time the scaling spikes reached the ground, the Mama had cuddled up to her baby and all was right as rain. Had I only had a zoom...
This was, of course, a pat-on-the-back homeschooling moment. I'd have been devastated if my kid was whiling away his hours at a desk with crayolas instead of watching the wildlife hero save a Totoro :)
Squishing and cutting have long been two P favorites. I think the child is well suited to being an undertaker, to be truthful. He's often asked me to let him cut me or chop me, just to see what happens. So when he found a Smooshing Machine in Grams' kitchen he was immediately inspired. We juiced oranges and grapefruit and limes. Unsatiated, he juiced BB, requested juicing me, and then turned to dry goods. Oats, rice, plastic. They were all too contained. He spied the glass jar of pretzels on the counter and said Ahah! The crunching sounds, the breaking pieces, were supremely satisfying and he squished to his heart's content. And yes, he has a Very Sweet grandmother :)
Thinking P might be ready for a full day at Disney, we drove to a close-by motel the night before our planned day of amusement. The combo of enormous excitement and missing black-out-blinds led P to wake up at the crack of dawn. This put us at Disney's front gates before the park officially opened! An unprecedented occurrence in our family (I think my mother's car was the last to grace Disney's lot last year...)
We missed the Peter Pan ride on our previous trip due to the Spring Break crowds, so P was poised to fly first thing. The brief line and the sky sailing ship thrilled the little man so much that we hopped off our boat and right back into line :) Its a Small World, and Buzz Lightyear quickly followed. It was so much fun to watch P take it all in. After that we stopped for a brief snack (as a quick aside, there are No healthy snacks at Disney World. The grapes were beyond questionable and the pickle had food coloring in it (WHY???) that P's tush greatly regretted the next day.)
P takes aim at Zurg
P is miffed about the little girl entering Zurg's cage :)
I'm gonna drive THAT, Mama...
Next came car racing. P was Amazed that He could drive a race car. He patiently waded through the loooong line with BB, chattering to him about his upcoming race. When he climbed in his car I had the camera ready and he performed his first Camera Ready smile:
It was a little weird to see him cop a smile as if on cue (he'd heard lots of parents crying "cheese" all day and must have absorbed it into his little psyche (along with gawd knows what else that day!)) His toes wouldn't reach the pedal but he was perfectly poised to steer. Thank goodness the wheels travel above a metal railing preventing the million crashes we would have encountered. Can you say whiplash? The kid is fairly graceful driving the Ranger and his Vespa but this was a whole 'nuther story :) I think he was too distracted with his enormous grin to really concentrate :)
P and E, loosing steam:
We searched in vain for a decent lunch after which P promptly zonked. We weaved through the Pirates of the Caribbean line while P snoozed, but the line moved faster than planned and we had to wake a sleepy P so he wouldn't miss the show. When he saw we were in a dungeon, surrounded by skeletons and treasure chests his reaction was markedly different than the little 6 year old clinging to her father's shoulders in front of us. It was pretty dark, so I double-checked that he was still interested in a "spooky" ride (the sweet thing ahead of us was requesting a timely exit) and he practically squealed with excitement, so... :)
The ride was Amazing. As our ship drifted through the dark we sailed past a life sized pirate ship full of animatronic pirates shooting canon balls at the ship on the Other side of us. The cannons "landed" near us and splashed us with water. P was beyond mesmerized. We turned a dark corner and it became even darker. Then the tell tale "click click click" started and my internal "oh shit" meter started gonging like it always does when I'm talked into a roller coaster. Nah, I thought to myself, this is a kid's ride, they wouldn't.... Ahhhhhhhhhh! Splash.
Ethan was laughing like a madman at the surprise of it all and Phoenix's body was tensed tight - but he claimed he was happy:)
This new ride exits right into a toy store (sneaky Disney bastards!) and P was sure he needed a pirate kit. After our purchase he said he was ready to head home! We'd been there all of 7 hours :) Heading towards the exit we decided to ride one more ride. The pirate patch combined with stabbing BB and yelling "ARRR" got us through the long line. The jungle cruise isn't like the flashy new rides, but it was P's first time to experience anything like it and he enjoyed the animatronic wildlife.
It felt strange to leave the park so early, but we were all ready to rest (E's crowd quotient was certainly filled) so we happily headed to the car for the long drive home. P swiped his swords the whole way:)
Friday, February 27, 2009
We're currently visiting my folks in Florida and enjoying all things tropical. I'm behind on trip posts, but here's a start...
The weather has been unseasonably chilly, leaving the pool less than warm. Undeterred, P's ventured in to swim, buoyed by goosebumps:) He was visibly nervous when he jumped in the cold water the first time, apparently the skills he acquired last summer have been mostly forgotten. Plunging on, he decided the raft was comfy and proceeded to paddle about for the afternoon. We brought his old, lumpy BB (now coined "wet BB") so P could have a swimming pal, yet maintain the fuzzy softness of his new(ish) BB. (Interestingly enough, imaginary BB often trumps Wet, Little or Big BB lately.)
In addition to water, Florida also provides P access to his favorite things: sharks and alligators. Our first day here, Gramps took P exploring on the Ranger to find alligators - real, live alligators (they found one!). Shortly after that, Grams showed P her shark's teeth. You can imagine P's immense satisfaction. He showed BB the sharp scariness and then P realized he could insert his face into the jaw, thereby approximating a real shark.
The only downfall to playing with real shark's teeth is that they are, well, real shark's teeth. It was only a matter of time before P's foot and both of my hands had been accidentally "bitten":)
As if water, shark's teeth and alligators aren't enough, there is also.... the dog door. Yup. In Brooklyn, P's independence ends at our front door. In Kansas, he has more room to roam, but the pool lays open and waiting, therefore adding a little hitch to his independent outdoor wanderings. Here, with the pool safely separated, he is the master of his universe. And he Loves it.
The first two days we were here, the flapping of the dog door constantly rang through the house. He needs no shoes, no chaperone, no coat, no nothin'. And so he would wander off whenever the idea struck him. It was really amazing to watch this independence bloom, especially since last week he wouldn't always wander as far as our playroom by himself :) Feeling "So Big," he became happily obsessed with shell seeking. The dirt drive from the house to the barn is made of typical, shell-laden Florida gravel and P was thrilled there were so many free treasures to be had. Equipped with a little garden shovel, he came and went by himself, filling his pockets, and eventually a bucket, with sand covered beauties. And if the journey down the drive wasn't far enough to fulfill his newfound wanderlust, he would happily skip all the way over to the guest house and return giggling with discoveries from there.
Then E flew in to join us for a few days. Yay!!!
He and P enjoyed the hot tub (infinitely warmer than the pool!) and we all shell hunted for yages. P adorably (and very seriously) explained to me that there used to be an ancient ocean covering everything, even Florida, and that's why there are shells here :) Gramps was impressed with P's devotion to digging shells out of the dirt drive and suggested we try an old quarry he knew of. So off we went!
P loves the option of riding on the Ranger around the farms here instead of "being trapped" in a car seat. The speed and the wind usually finds Ethan yipping a "yee-haw, " so its a fun adventure all around. We spent the afternoon hunting around the old quarry, eventually finding the mother-load of all shell piles:
P scrambled up the mountain and discovered an enormous conch. He was in Heaven. After our bag was full and P's patented thorough-cleaning-process was complete, he carried his bag of shells around for four days straight... all the way until he found a box of snakes that interested him more :)
In addition to all of these fun Florida options there is, of course, Grams and Gramps, the real stars of the trip. P is soooo thrilled to follow Grams around again chatting and playing. Unfortunately, I hadn't captured any photos of the fun and games between these three before my camera. just. broke. Yup. It just stopped. Fortunately, it died after we'd gone to Disney with E, so I'll post some pics of that and a few other adventures. B ut all other stories from this trip will be accompanied by sad little shots from my phone :( Ah, well... At least we found my phone after I lost it in the quarry the other day!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
So, you got P a Solstice or Christmas gift and you're wondering.... Did he get it? Did he like it? Does his mother have Any Sense of social customs and propriety??? Yah, yah, yah, I know. My guilt is monstrously large, but my hands are tied here...
The week after the holidays I started to buy some thank-you cards, explaining to P I wanted to thank everyone that had given him gifts. He seemed offended that I would even consider it. He explained to me that He wanted to thank everyone. And, he wanted to Make All of the Cards. Great! Sounds like fun. So we pulled out some craft supplies only to find that actually, he was in the mood to paint landscapes right then :)
So the weeks passed and I offered to help set him up occasionally. But pressuring him wasn't really what I was interested in, because, honestly, isn't a heartfelt, handmade card from a truly thankful four year old worth the wait? Anybody can pump out a coerced battery of thank you's.... or so I assuaged my rising guilt.
And then the day came that he was infinitely inspired. He requested his paints and made about 20 Valentines and a slew of thank you's.
The day turned dark and still he folded, pasted, painted, designed and dictated (all the winding prose you will read is straight from P). Then he was hot to deliver, mail man style. He plopped BB and all of the valentines (gracefully signed with a large, silver "P") into his shopping cart and told me he was ready to go. Ummm, where? It was 9 at night in February, cold and dark. He said he was ready to give his Valentines to all of the neighbors :)
So we trotted off, him happily humming his way down the street, delivering homemade hearts to people he doesn't even know. I hope they brought smiles to some. Once they were all dispersed he wanted to return home to paint more, but the bed called to us and it all was set aside by the following afternoon. So, that's to say, long story short, chances are your card is setting on our table at home, awaiting proper postage... while P and I have fun in Florida visiting Grams and Gramps.... Can guilt cause ulcers?
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
After P's appointment with the opthamologist, he was set for an adventure and already positioned on the Upper West Side. This all coincided with the most lovely weather we've had this winter, so he chose rock climbing and exploring in Central Park and off we scooted. As we veered around a bend, P looked up and saw Belvedere Castle. He just knew this was a new, exciting castle to explore and wondered how, oh How, could we get to it (we were far below on a separate path)? Just ahead was a towering tunnel, burrowed right into the rock. He gleefully explained the situation to BB and then crept forward as if nearing a troll's cave. Once in the tunnel, he put on his best perplexed look, (see hand on hip and attempted scowl) and postulated how such a space could be created:
The tunnel led us to a stairway that looked menacing to P. He was sure safe passage through this dark space would lead us to the castle, but wasn't positive it was worth the scary possibilities he envisioned in his head (an enormous iron gate in the rock wall, locked with an amazing padlock, hadn't help quell his theory that we were somewhere Ominous).
After achieving castledom, P was ready to skip on to the next adventure. We headed through the Ramble, where he was thrilled with the rock climbing possibilities. He scaled an unusually large boulder, over and over, channelling Uncle Ian, using different techniques each time.
Then he discovered the far side of the rock made a perfect personal slide and scaled and slid, over and over:
Onward he explored and found an even taller rock to master. First he climbed a tree to get a good start and bouldered the rest of the way up. Then he shimmied down to try another route and practically had a spiritual experience when he found huge, rappel like roots to aid his ascent (see enormous smile that could not be contained):
This activity went on for ages. We merrily moved from one rock outcropping to another, P's esteem sailing as he scaled scary heights and towered over the world below. It was just what a kid who had lost all autonomy to a metal speck needed.
Finally finished with the rocks, he requested we head to his favorite playground. We meandered that direction, enjoying the warmth and the sights:
P was unusually at peace on the playground. He played independently quite a bit, just reveling in the feeling of the sand. And, just in case the climbing quotient wasn't filled for the day, he hung out on the red ropes trying tricks, giving the nannies heart-attacks :)
Pre-eye trauma, we had a fabulous weekend with family. NYC Parks Department threw a Winter Jam Festival. Previously held in Central Park, we were imagining wide open spaces surrounding the snowboarding and sledding, despite its new location on the East River. So after a yummy brunch with Seth and Alicia, we excitedly headed to our destination.
Everyone checks out a sculpture garden on the way, Lower East Side style:
Upon arrival, we realized the location was much smaller this year and the crowd was overwhelming - I thought E would pass out :) Surprisingly enough, P seemed unfazed! He was too busy being mesmerized by the snowboarders hurling themselves at mach speeds...
E, not sure we should venture into the Jam after all...
After watching a few daredevils dive downhill, we headed through the throngs and watched some trampoline stunts.
But P had no interest "watching" anything. He informed us he wanted to "DO" something. No problem, P, whachya wanna do? He wanted to snowboard down the hill :) D'oh.
So we walked to the base of the snowboard station and found out P was a little too small :) Undeterred for action, he said he wanted to go to the rock climbing section. There too, we were informed he was to small... He was disappointed there were no adventures for "lil guys" and E and Seth needed to move into their new office - so I suggested we go Monster Hunting at the new building and P was off in a flash.... But having seen a little lost girl crying in the crowds (we helped her find her Papa) he was Not Losing Seth or Alicia.
P, with his death grip on his Very Sweet Aunt and Uncle:
As the brothers packed their boxes we needed to busy P ... First he explored with Alicia for a bit and then he and I set off for another "adventure, Mama!" We followed a stairway down to another level and around a few turns until we found exactly what we needed.... a mini golf course. I kid you not. Someone with a lovely sense of humor had added some astroturf and three holes below a huge window overlooking the city.
P screeched "jackpot!" and we settled in to play. After a few rounds he was still too psyched about his find and decided he just Must show Aunt Alicia. Fetching her back to the seemingly deserted floor, P chuckled happily and finished his supreme surprise with a "Ta-Da!!!"
The course was a little worse for wear, so Alicia and P set to setting the place up right. They bravely stuck their arms into the dark holes to fetch balls and such:
And then P settled in to play a few rounds for his captive audience (one of Alicia's friends had joined us too). He was as happy as a clam. And apparently had a sticky hand... And we wonder why we're sick so often :)