Hello sweet sleeping girl, and Happy 49 months! You, my traveling superstar, are sound asleep upstairs, exhausted after a day at the Portland Zoo and suffering from a wee bit of jet lag. We are in Oregon visiting our good friends Anna, Jason and Elliot, and your body clock is out of whack, but it’s worth it. We spent out first day here watching animals at the zoo with Elliot and her cousin Xander, complete with a visit to the zoo’s awesome dinosaur exhibit. I wondered if you’d be scared of the near-life-sized animatronic dinos that move and hiss and growl, but you delighted in every one. When a dilophosaurus sprayed us with water, you thought it was hilarious. “I have dinosaur spit all over me!” you said. I’m looking forward to what our next few days here will bring.
We have managed to pack this summer full of trips, both long and short ones. We took you on your second camping trip this summer, spending two nights at Enota again enjoying the trampolines, hiking trails and farm. I love these two pictures of you and a goat – it looks like you’re playing tag. I’m not sure who is winning.
The farm animals weren’t the only animals you got to see on our camping trip. Both nights, right around bedtime, a black bear would wander down a hillside and hang out by the campground dumpster.
No, not that one! That’s one of your toy bears we brought for the trip! This one:
It was very cool seeing a bear that close, but a little unnerving too. I tried to use the teachable moment to instruct you about not approaching wild animals. You attempted to reassure me by saying. “I wouldn’t touch that bear! I would only touch baby bears!” So I had to include a lesson about the fierceness of mama bears too.
My favorite part of our camping trip was a hike we took up to a wonderfully cool waterfall with a swimming hole. We waded around in the chilly water, enjoying glimpses of rainbows in the cold mist churned up by the falls. But the hike may have been your least favorite part of the trip because of terrifying FACE ROCK.
There was a huge rock jutting out into the trail, and as we approached it your Daddy said, “It almost looks like a face!” Little did we know, his simple statement would send you into hysterics.
We managed to get this picture before you started fully freaking out, but on the way back down the trail you wouldn’t even keep your eyes open when we neared the rock. I refused to carry you just on principle (I mean, it was a rock! You weren’t even remotely scared of a bear, but a rock?), so you held my hand and groped your way past the rock with your eyes clamped shut and sobbing. I have no idea why that rock scared you so much, but it did! Your Daddy and I didn’t know if we should be aggravated, feel sorry for you or laugh, so we did a little of them all.
Scary Face Rock aside, I hope your Daddy and I are teaching you to love and appreciate your natural world, from the mountains to the coast. We’ve continued to enjoy boating this summer with you, our Chief Dolphin Observer. We all love looking for wildlife, but your favorite activity by far is swimming in the rivers.
At first, I refused. The saltwater rivers snaking through our marshes are teeming with life, but so murky that you can’t see what lies beneath. But I sure can imagine it. I can imagine it nipping at my toes, or worse. But as the weather got hotter and hotter, I finally decided we would enter the aquatic food chain or else roast on the deck of the boat.
The water feels great, and so far the worst thing that’s happened is that a dead fish touched my neck. It was pretty gross, but better than being touched by whatever took the chunk out of that fish. You still won’t get your face wet so you don’t swim so much as bob in your life jacket, but you’re in heaven as long as you’re in the water. You’ll float out there all afternoon, happy as a clam. And as long as I don’t think about sharks or jellyfish, I’m very happy to float right there with you.
This month we had to decide whether or not to sign you up for another year of dance classes, and you were on the fence. You said you wanted another dance recital, but didn’t want to go to class. So I thought we’d explore other options, and took advantage of a trial gymnastics class.
One thing that’s very different about the class (compared with dance) is that I get to watch from a balcony. I was afraid that during the first class you might spend the whole time looking for me if you were feeling insecure, but I needn’t have worried. As soon as you saw all the gym equipment and the TRAMPOLINE, you were hooked.
It was so fun watching you enjoy the class, seeing you enthusiastically tackling every task the teacher put before you. I watched you struggle with a skill, then work hard and master it by the end of that class. I watched you glow. You looked for me once or twice, but not out of insecurity. You waved and yelled, “Hi Mom!” with a big grin on your face.
So we signed you up for a session, and when we walked into the gym last week you said, “I’m so glad we’re not going to dance class!” Guess I had my answer, so we’re done with dance class for a while. And that’s fine with me, because I’m having so much fun watching my budding gymnast!
This next month is going to be a really, really big one for you, and I have to confess that I’m kind of freaking out about it. In less than two weeks, you will say goodbye to your preschool and hello to pre-kindergarten. While you’re not unfamiliar with the concept of school, this feels so different to me. First of all, you’ll go every weekday for a full day, just like the big kids do. I am really going to miss our Tuesdays and Thursdays together, and feel heartbroken every time I think about it. Secondly, you’ll be at an elementary school, and it is so much bigger than your little montessori preschool and I worry it will swallow you whole. And finally – here comes the melodrama – once you start your school career, things will never be like this again. Sure, it’s only pre-k, but it’s the beginning of a 14-year educational track that likely ends with you leaving our house and going away to college. I know, I know, we still have 14 years before your Daddy and I have to endure that, but still, this is a major transitional moment in all our lives.
Someone said the other day that when they looked at their four-year-old, she looked somehow so big and so little all at the same time. I have to agree. Sometimes I look at you and think that you’re way too little for all this elementary school business. But at other times, I look at you and see a girl who is far from a toddler, a girl who wants to test her independence, a girl who probably needs to get out from under my wing a bit. I may be a little sad for me, but I’m excited for you as you prepare
for this new adventure. My hope is that you love school, that you make great friends, that you enjoy learning and experience success. And as you begin this new chapter, I promise to be your biggest cheerleader
(or maybe I’ll have to share that spot with your Daddy). I think you have
the two proudest parents in the universe, and I hope you feel the strength of our love everywhere you go, every single day. Thank you for another great month, Bear. We love you so much.