Monday, January 19, 2009

Snow Day

Last night was one of those beautiful mid-winter nights that close gently and quietly, after seeing Dear Alex, then Beautiful Wife off to bed I got to stay up and think about "the question" and write a post about it and go about my business in this quiet house in the snow. As I looked out, it was snowing gently, an impossibly fine snowfall so light that it seemed that the flakes weren't really falling, so much as suspended like little bits of light. Lovely night and it made me think to check the weather - a call for a dusting to half an inch or so of accumulation overnight. Nothing to get too excited about, so I went to bed.
In the middle of the night, sometime after easy sleep and well before it was time to wake, Dear Alex had a bit of an accident in her bed - this weekend was our first attempt at letting her sleep in underwear for the whole night, instead of those nasty pull-up diapers - a welcome change for all of us, and it's clear that Dear Alex is ready for the change. The first night went just fine, but last night, she didn't quite make it - and it truly upset her terribly. There was a flurry of damage control activity, with me searching the room and her closet for something approximating a sheet to replace the one I'd hastily removed and, of course looking for dry PJs to change her into - all while reassuring her that "it was okay and that accidents happen, and that next time you'll get up sooner and find the potty, and you're such a big girl that you'll be just fine" all while wrapping her in a dry blanket and hugging her because she was so pathetically sad and cold and obviously dejected at her failure. I really felt for her, and tried to make all okay. We got cleaned up and dressed and it occurred to me how grateful I am for how simple it can be to simply take care to make someone, in this case Dear Alex, so much better.

This morning we were up before dawn, and as I was making coffee and heating water for Dear Alex's cup of tea I looked outside and noticed that it was still snowing, and that measly half-inch had turned magically into at least another six inches of fresh snow, and it was still coming down - today was a perfect "snow day" - and we're staying in the country 'til tomorrow. The kid and I went to the hardware store to play with her new car in the snow so that we could get cookie sheets to bake cookies and some screws for me to put up some shelves, and ended up with another sled - so that we could all play outside for the rest of the day on the amazing sled run that I've been building, and we did. We sledded. We baked cookies. We took a long walk in the snow on the frozen lake and had hot chocolate. At the moment, the car is stuck in the driveway (Beautiful Wife will take care of that in the morning - she's good like that) and Dear Alex is sleeping and all is right with the world.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Big Question

After bedtime tonight, and I'm hanging out with Dear Alex to have our usual wrap-up of the day, and Dear Alex asks: "Daddy, where do we come from?" I'm thinking that I'm going to get off easy on this one, so I answer "mommies. we all come form mommies. everybody has a mommy." Easy.
Dear Alex asks again: "No, where do we come from?" I answer "We are people and we all come from mommies and daddies and we come from love." There - a definitive and right-sounding answer that gives credit to everyone, and adds the magic of love, but that's not what she's looking for. "No, no daddy where do we come from... who made us, who made us?" Oh, that's a different question. A spiritual, cosmological, how-did-we-get-here kind of question. "well," I say, "That's something that a lot of people have a lot of different ideas about, and I don't really know. A lot of people believe that there is a creator, and a lot of people believe that we evolved, but there's a higher power that makes it all work, and some people that believe we just are. That's something called religion, that you kind of sort yourself out by what you believe about that." Alex: "But who made us?" Daddy: "well mommy and daddy made you, and our mommies and daddies made us, so people made us." "Oh," says Dear Alex, "But where did we come from?" (she's not going to give this up)"we just are." I say, "but this is something we can talk about when you get to be a bigger girl, because it's a very good question, and we can talk about it a lot." She asked, I danced, she asked again, and I danced some more - it's a great question, and the directness of her asking it repeatedly was something kind of startling to me - I haven't thought about life and existence from that direct a perspective in a long, long time, and I'm truly not one to dwell on the spiritual - but oh yeah, "Who made us?". I have to give her credit for asking an obvious question that'll make me think for a little while - I haven't really thought about what I believe beyond "we just are" for a very long time. For both of us, I guess it's something to sleep on.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rite of passé

A little running around to shake off the pre-performance jitters.
I love her confidence in this picture.

No caption necessary, really.

A moment of repose during the performance, Dear Alex is the one in the middle.

Five years ago, if someone had told me that someday in the hazy future I'd be going to a ballet recital - my own daughter's ballet recital on a cold day in January, I'd have probably gently changed the subject to something about motorcycles or airplanes or the weather.
It is sort of a rite of passage, I guess, for any father of a daughter - both the ballet classes and the inevitable performance of what they've learned. I know Dear Alex really enjoys her ballet class, she's surprised me many times with her dance vocabulary and impromptu performances at home of various moves and leaps accompanied by shouts of "sautée!" (jump up in the air) and "relevé!" (stand on your tippy-toes, arms up) all done with the approximate grace of a forklift - not that I'd do any better. It seems that Dear Alex has inherited my dance gene, or should I say, my lack of one. Not that it matters, of course, and I was relieved to see that she wasn't the only little girl that was - uh, movement-challenged. It's a three-year-old thing, I guess. The mind and the heart yearn for what the body can't yet do, but for some reason, there's real satisfaction in the attempt.
The group of five girls in the class (including Dear Alex) was easily the most disciplined group of toddler/pre-schooler's I've ever seen - they sat quietly, performed on cue with little direction, and stayed pretty well focused on the task at hand. There was a real charm in the collective performance today, the unselfconscious artlessness of the little ballerinas and their clearly heartfelt desire to get it right - it gave me a funny feeling. I think it might be pride for all of them.
Ballet is definitely not my thing, and I don't really think that it's going to be Dear Alex's thing either, but for now it's giving her discipline, a new vocabulary*, and something to be proud of - I saw that in her smile and confidence today, and it's one more thing to add to her list, my firefighter pirate princess ballerina. She may not be the picture of grace, but she's got a lot of heart.

*A lot of very fancy words like allegro and adagio and jete and passé, that I'm learning to love - Dear Alex is learning and using "terms of art". I love that.

King Daddy

I was talking to Dear Alex this afternoon, and she let me know that if I wanted to, I could call her Princess Alex. I think I will for a while, just to see how it goes. Shortly after BW and I put her to bed, Dear Alex called "daddy" back in for another goodnight hug. She reminded me that I could call her Princess Alex, so I said "Goodnight Princess Alex" and she said "Goodnight King Daddy". I'm still smiling.

The very next day

Watching The Little Mermaid for the 37th time

The Tickle Monster's next victim

She actually asked me to take her picture -
probably to prove to mommy that I let her take her hat off...

Sunshine and fresh snow and princess sunglasses

Screaming and spinning all the way down

It snowed all day on Saturday, a fine light snow from a heavy gray sky that made it the perfect kind of winter day to do nothing; We played "tickle monster" and "lump", We looked out the windows and watched the snow fall, and Beautiful Wife and Dear Alex spent a lot of quality time on the couch under blankets, watching "The Little Mermaid".
BW insists that this is an important part of her acculturation, and I'm inclined to agree, though I feel obliged to protest. All the kids are doing it, and if it weren't for mommy's support and guidance, Dear Alex would be hearing about princesses on the street or from her friends at school. It's something that we can be supportive about, and let her make her own choices... Dear Alex and I have had quite a few conversations around what I'll call the taxonomy of princesses, and deep conversations about her favorites, and which princess I like better and why. Dear Alex prefers Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) because she has "yellow hair", while daddy likes Princess Jasmine (Aladdin) because she's kind of spunky and has long black hair like mommy. Dear Alex is a little mixed about Princess Ariel (Little Mermaid) because of her red hair and "big eyes". But she likes all the princesses, just "Sleeping Beauty" best. I can't wait to throw Pocahantas (because she's the spittin' image of BW) and Mulan into the mix.

We did manage to go outside and get all wet and cold, and try out the sled, which was a lot of fun for both of us. Sunday turned out to be a perfect cold clear after-the-snow day, so we spent a lot of time making and using a sled run from the driveway towards the lake - hilarious to hear the girl sliding down the hill giggling to the bottom, only to say "again!" as soon as she got there. I did the daddy thing, and made the run longer, which just made the giggling and screaming go on longer - until Dear Alex decided it was time to go inside. Perfect, her red cheeks, snot running down her face and a smile that wouldn't quit.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Beautiful night

We tried to leave the city early today, to get a head start on a weekend away at the house in the country, a constant antidote to the mid-winter grimness that seems to have settled in to New York to stay for a while.

There's a promise of snow, real snow this weekend for Dear Alex to see and play in, something that both Beautiful Wife and myself love and encourage, probably for reasons of a certain nostalgia too deeply buried to name. I know I loved snow, snowy days, and the real warmth of returning inside after hours of play, numb and red-cheeked and soaked.

It started off with a good plan, but devolved into a bit of a struggle that ended with a late departure and meeting Dear Alex and Nanny J. uptown at a 'playdate'. Beautiful Wife went in to collect Dear Alex, and returned a few minutes later - we bundled the girl into the carseat, loaded up and set off to get out of town only to come up against that late-Friday-afternoon traffic of others fleeing the city. A few minutes into the drive, BW noted that she might have stepped in dog-poop somewhere along the way, and almost instantly I caught the first whiff of that mournful smell of regret. A great conversation with Dear Alex ensued about the nature of dog poop and it's disposal, and how silly it was that it was on mommy's shoe, and more importantly how mommy should always look out for dog-poopie and you should step over it and not in it. The kid can be really funny. She was in a great and happy mood to be traveling tonight with us, and stayed awake long enough to see and comment on a beautiful full moon on the rise, chasing us as we headed west across the George Washington Bridge and into the night.

This post is about nothing, really, but the beauty of this night and a way to ease myself back into trying to write more regularly and clearly and well about the life and times of Dear Alex, to take notes on her quirks and my various fascinations with them.

Tonight, I wish I could wake her up and show her the biggest full moon of 2009, and take her outside to feel the dead cold and see the magic of this night as bright as day, with the trees sparkling in their coating of ice from the storm of last week. I would say "shhh - listen" and we could share the deep subsonic booming sounds of the frozen lake settling in for the rest of the winter, and the loud crackling of the deer walking through a neighbor's frozen backyard.

For now, Dear Alex sleeps, probably dreaming of princesses and bunnies. We'll get outside and enjoy the snow and the world tomorrow.