Newsletter: month thirty-four

Dear Ladybug,

On Monday you turned 34 months old, and I’d have to say that this month has been the most fun by far.   I’m not sure exactly why.   Maybe it’s because you’re at a point where you’re mature enough to talk and play but still immature enough to be cute and cuddly.   Maybe it’s because this month has coincided with winter break, so that you and I and mommy have had uninterrupted time to spend together.   But whatever it is, there’s no denying you’re a fun little goofball.

IMG_4494 by komplexify.

If I were to summarize this past month in one sentence, that sentence would be “Do you want to play?”   And that’s pretty much all we’ve done since Christmas morning is play and play and play.   For example, this month you’ve developed an unhealthy preoccupation with tea parties, owing in part the large number of “domestic goddess”-themed toys you racked up from your grandparents.   Interestingly enough, although you call it a tea party, it’s more like “Tea Starbucks,” in that to play properly, one must first buy the ingredients for one’s tea (a task that can be conveniently transacted with your new toy cash register), then prepare the ingredients for tea making (made possible with your new toy cutting board and dissectible plastic fruits and veggies), and then heat the tea (using your new toy microwave) before finally getting to sit back an enjoy.   In fact, you are less a party hostess than a pushy barista, for no sooner than I start to sip my lovingly crafted eggplant-and-strawberry tea than you are ready to ring up another purchase of greens for future use, like a junior Howard Schultz.   You got a great future in food services, kid.

IMG_4770 by komplexify.

You’ve also become addicted to arts and crafts this month.   You earned a collection of Disney Princess and Tinker Bell coloring books for Christmas, and we’ve spent many evenings lying on our bellies in the living room coloring ornate renditions of royal balls and pixie palaces with Crayolas.   You’ve yet to embrace the concept of “within the lines,” instead using them only as minor suggestions as to the location of color.   I’m particularly fascinated by your special brand of multimedia artwork: you frequently color parts of a picture with crayons, and then color another portion of the picture with markers before finally decorating the entire assemblage with twenty to thirty stickers from your mammoth Disney Princess sticker album.   The flip side of this, of course, this that you manage to cover yourself with stabs of technicolor marker and sticker remnants, and it is often difficult to tell where your artwork ends and you begin.

IMG_4828 by komplexify.

You are also fond of making your own pictures, although your current artistic proclivities tend almost exclusively to two themes: (1) lovingly crafted colored tracings of hands and feet, and (2) ever wilder forms of line art that you refer to as “your signature,” two forms of expression that suggest that you’re less likely to grow up into a studio artist than an orthopedic surgeon.

DSCN0898 by komplexify.

More recently we experimented with constructive arts and crafts, using colored paper and glue sticks to create a(n admittedly Pixar-inspired) menagerie of undersea creatures, including a clownfish (a Nemo), a royal tang (a Dory), a great white shark (a Bruce), and a sea turtle (a Crush).   These projects consisted of me cutting out various ichthyomorhpic shapes of construction paper  of which  you glue stripes and teeth and flippers and googly eyes with a glue stick in patterns inspired less by Darwin than Picasso.

IMG_4919 by komplexify.

Another frequent activity has been the Ladybug Game, a charming board game in which players (as ladybugs) must navigate past a grumpy preying mantis and collect aphids for a gaggle of lazy ants before making it home to their rose garden.   Besides Hungry Hungry Hippos, its the only game you’re willing to sit down and play, partly because you enjoy the ladybug-inspired game pieces and kid-friendly play (at one point, you get to shout Bug off, mantis!), but mostly because you seem to win every frickin’ time we play.   Admittedly, the first several times we played, I purposefully gave you “help” — sharing my aphids with you, for example — so that you could come in first and feel the pride of victory; but now I’ve stopped helping and yet you still win.

IMG_4787 by komplexify.

Oddly enough, your perfect record hasn’t tempered your usual devious play style, and I’ll frequently find you sneaking an extra aphid or two into your pile, or counting really long numbers (oooooooonnnnnneeeeee… ttttwwwwwwoooooo… ) as you sneakily slide your game token forward to a bonus square on which you’re in no way supposed to land.   To be honest, this cracks me up, but the first time you did this with your mother playing nearly got you sent to Catholic school. Better watch it, little lady.

IMG_4797 by komplexify.

Actually, your mother thought that your growing fascination with subtle super-villainy was developing a bit too fast, so she decided to introduce you to more challenging past times in an attempt to inject some humility into you.   First on the docket was ice skating, which I’ve mentioned already.   Your first day was spent mainly clinging to the metal walker while your mother dragged you around the rink over and over.   (I, of course, was unable to help, spending most of my time educating myself on the physics of frictionless surfaces… face first.)   A day later mommy took you back to the ice rink, and within minutes you were chugging along the ice under your own power.   In fact, you’re a better ice skater than I am, right now.   Well, actually, I think we’re about on par, skill wise, except you seem to bounce back from your falls much more quickly, owing to your lower center of gravity and lessened degree of osteoporosis.

DSCN0954 by komplexify.

It turns out that th ice rink is right next door to a massive indoor pool, and the swim center there was having a Happy Hypothermia discount on swim lessons, and so she signed you up.   You’re in a class with four little boys, and during your first lesson with your teacher Miss Sarah you demonstrated none of the kamikaze gusto that usually accompanied your attempts at swimming.   Of course, this completely reasonable sense of self-preservation was only momentary, and by Lesson Two you were throwing yourself into the pool with reckless abandon, (almost) mastering the back-float and the wall-kick-off in the process.   Indeed, just last week you were not only dunking your head and swimming on your back unassisted, you were actually trying to swipe the swim toys from behind Miss Sarah’s back to play with while you waited.   I can’t decide whether I’m more proud of your fearlessness or embarrassed by your kleptomania.

DSCN1479 by komplexify.

We also went out miniature golfing this month for my birthday.   Well, owing to the sub-artic temperatures of the past month, we actually went midnight miniature golfing: fluorescent indoor golfing under black lights.   Your initial reaction was pure delight: not only were you in a wondrous technicolor world of oversized drum sets and undersized VW Bugs, but you were actually permitted to thwak around a little ball with stick!   Indoors!   Crazy awesome.   It’s worth noting, however, that while you grasped the basic concept of the game, you utterly failed to comprehend its basic mechanics.   Rather than move the ball into the cup through a sequences of distinct swings of the club, you sort of corralled it there through a zig-zagging path of continuous contact, so that your version of the sport more resembled pee-wee field hockey than anything else.   Of course, this, coupled with your natural affinity for ice skating and aggressive play leads me to believe that if the orthopedic surgeon thing doesn’t work out, you’ve got a promising future in ice hockey.

IMG_4900 by komplexify.

Of course, my favorite activity this month: weekend ballroom dancing.   At some point each weekend you sneak away into your room, only to re-emerge dressed as a princess in  a flowing pink ball gown with  matching pink heels, topped with a sparkling tiara.   You then find a copy of Steven Curtis Chapman’s Cinderella to put in the CD player and, once its loaded, walk over to me, curtsy ever so slightly, and ask me to dance.   And for the next four minutes and thirty seconds the world just fades away, leaving only  you and I spinning around a ballroom, hand-in-hand, laughing and giggling, listening to words that express so much how fast you’re growing and how special our times together are.   It’s one of those special moments of life imitating art imitating life:

Princess12.2008 by komplexify.

Cinderella

She spins and she sways to whatever song plays,
Without a care in the world.
And I’m sittin’ here wearin’ the weight of the world on my shoulders.
It’s been a long day and there’s still work to do,
She’s pulling at me saying “Dad I need you!
There’s a ball at the castle and I’ve been invited and I need to practice my dancin'”
“Oh please, daddy, please!”

So I dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew:
Oh I dance with Cinderella.
I don’t wanna miss even one song,
Because all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone.

She says he’s a nice guy and I’d be impressed
She wants to know if I approve of the dress
She says “Dad, the prom is just one week away,
And I need to practice my dancin'”
“Oh please, daddy, please!”

So I dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew:
Oh I dance with Cinderella.
I don’t wanna miss even one song,
Because all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone.

Well, she came home today
With a ring on her hand
Just glowin’ and tellin’ us all they had planned
She says “Dad, the wedding’s still six months away
but I need to practice my dancin'”
“Oh please, daddy please!”

So I dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew:
Oh I dance with Cinderella.
I don’t wanna miss even one song,
Because all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone.

I love you, little princess. Now let’s go play.

Ba ba

Photo album

See more pictures from your thirty-fourth month over at Flickr.

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