Thursday, September 03, 2009

3 Fun Outings in Austin, and a Baby's First Poem

I had three fun outings last weekend with the grandbaby, Ty, now almost 3, who was with me when her daycare was closed on Friday and then quite a bit over the weekend.

On Friday, she and I went to Zilker Park and Ty enjoyed the wonderful converted fire truck that they've transformed into a platform for slides and monkey bars. She also loved the huge statutes of seals, which are usually fountains, though she was disappointed that (thanks to Stage 2 drought restrictions) they had the water turned off. And as always, we spent a loooooong time on the swingset, where she would happily be swung as high as you can push her for as long as you're willing.

Quite a few other kids were there, maybe 9-10 or so, all supervised by Moms; I was the only man there with a child. One youngster turned out to be from our neighborhood; her mother recognized Ty from playing at a neighborhood park up the street.

After an hour or so on the playground, we got a (much anticipated) snow cone at the snack stand and purchased tickets to ride on the kiddie train, which Ty adored. She wanted to sit at the very front (in my lap) and waved to everyone remotely nearby as the train meandered through the park. (Later, recounting the story to Kathy, she told her she'd waved to her "friend with the guitar" as we rode along, by which she referred to a long-haired fellow who was playing the guitar by the tracks who waved back to her, smiling as we passed.)

Ty was thrilled when the train went through the tunnel at the very end of the trek, holding her breath and squeezing my neck as we went through, then announcing excitedly when we came out the other side, "It's not scary, I wasn't scared!" Throughout the rest of the weekend she kept bringing up that tunnel, which apparently made an impression on her.

After her Mom took Ty for the afternoon, she came back to spend the night with us, and the next morning after breakfast I took her to hear children's books read on the second floor of Book People's downtown Austin store. This was her first time there and the outing was a big hit.

The reader had chosen books about magic - one about a witch who turns her dog different colors, another about a little girl who uses a magic wand to create a menagerie of friends while alone in her room. Afterward, they passed out paper, crayons, and supplied tape and ribbon to create a "magic wand."

This was a clever trick. First the kids colored whatever they wanted all over the paper. Then you'd roll it up corner to corner, taping it together in the middle so that the coloring shows somewhat randomly on the outside. Then they twisted together one ed and tied on red and white ribbon, which gave the "wand" a pointy feel and a sense of magic as the far end whipped through the air. This cheap, homemade toy was the source of big fun for two solid days after the event.

Just as fun for Ty was running around underneath the bleachers that constitute Book People's little kiddie amphitheatre. She thought that was pretty cool.

On Sunday we had Ty while her Mom went to church (she's just a little too fidgety to sit through a worship service), so Kathy and I took her over to Rosewood Park hoping for a swim. Unfortunately, the main pool was closed (again, presumably because of drought), but surprisingly their lovely kiddie area had all nine fountains going full blast (they're designed for kids to splash and play, not as decoration). On what turned out to be a scalding hot day, that was the perfect way to cool off.

I'm glad Austin has some fun, cool places to take young kids.

A final baby story: Ty recited her first poem on Sunday, at one month shy of three years, I kid you not! :) It's from the wonderful "Book of Hours" - a book of translated Mexican poetry I frequently read to her by the painter Alfredo CastaƱeda. The one she honed in on (though she knows shreds of many of his other poems) is about Little Red Riding Hood. The short poem is illustrated by CastaƱeda with his wife's face in a red hood, with a menacing wolf's eyes and ears vaguely but recognizably imaged in her cape behind her. I can't make Blogger properly indent the last two lines, but the poem reads:

Is your fear like mine, friend wolf?
Mine is growing beneath my clothes
beneath my hair
beneath the color of my name

She recited it without prodding upon seeing the accompanying picture, which has always fascinated her (we've read these poems together over and over). I think it was that picture and her love of the Red Riding Hood story that made her latch on to these words, though admittedly they sound a little odd coming out of the mouth of a toddler. Perhaps somebody read her the story at daycare, but Ty has no books with the Red Riding Hood story in it and I've only ever told it to her subsequent to questions about this poem. Still, she knows the tale inside and out and it's a remarkably frequent reference for her.

I'm going to get a Red Riding Hood book next time we're at Book People for storytime, but I suspect Ty will always associate the story in some way with that picture and her first poem.