Zoe has become a singer! Her repertoire includes “Twinkle Twinkle,” “The Alphabet Song,” “Happy Birthday” (a favorite), “Ring Around the Rosie,” “Jingle Bells,” and the first line or chorus of “Peace Like a River” and “Little Red Caboose.” For a few weeks she was just belting out every song she could think of at the top of her voice. We had read that little kids do not sing on pitch when they first learn to sing so did not immediately jump to the conclusion that Zoe had inherited her mother’s vocal gene that had to be overcome with voice lessons. But in recent days Zoe has modified her singing somewhat, occasionally singing falsetto and sometimes singing in key, which is fun. She loves to sing to herself, to sing to us and with us, and for us to sing to her. At bedtime she favors “Amazing Grace” as an encore and surprised me the other night by singing along with me, at least for the first verse. Randy tried to sing “Amazing Grace” one night and didn’t remember all the words so afterward Zoe called him on it. “Daddy, you don’t know that song.” Sometimes she says to him “Daddy, can you sing better?” which I have tried to reassure him probably means that he’s not singing something the way she is used to hearing it, not that she’s commenting on his vocal quality. When I sing “Amazing Grace” I say “soul” instead of “wretch” because I learned that version a few years ago and like it better. One night when Randy was singing to Zoe he said “wretch” and she quickly corrected him, “NO Daddy, it’s SOUL!” I had no idea she was paying such close attention.

After a few bumpy weeks we’ve finally settled into a new bedtime routine with the big girl bed. We read stories in the rocking chair, then move into the bed for singing with the lights out. Sometimes Zoe wants to read a book to herself, and she will take a book and recite the story pretty well, sometimes trying to trick us into reading it by asking us what’s happening. But we’re too clever for that! And we ask her what’s happening, and she tells us. Sometimes she has to read a story to one of her friends in the bed, or we have to. Or I will ask her what song she wants and she says she doesn’t want a song, but Tallulah does, or Ralph does, or Alexa or Meg or Noel or the sea lion or whoever happens to be in bed that night. We have to be sure to give hugs and kisses and appropriate attention to all her friends or else they will cry. As we try to edge our way out of the bedroom, Zoe is quick to remind us of things. “But you forgot to give me another hug! You forgot to sing another song! You forgot to make Tallulah feel better!”

She is acutely aware of people’s feelings. And the feelings of non-people. One of her favorite things to say when we’re driving is “That car is sad.” We ask “Why is that car sad, Zoe?” “It’s sad because it doesn’t have its Mommy and Daddy.” This is ALWAYS why the cars are sad. We are not clear what it is about the cars that indicates to Zoe they are sad. Sometimes we ask where the cars’ mommies and daddies are. That answer varies. Once the car’s mommy and daddy were “at church singing with the choir.” Once they were “in North Carolina where FG lives.”

This past weekend Zoe went on her first camping trip, to Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park. I am not a natural-born camper, but Randy has more of the camping gene, and I wanted to make use of the equipment I bought for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer last month. So we reserved a campsite, borrowed a tent from our friends Liz and Annette, and headed down Skyline Drive. Zoe was a great traveler. She enjoyed our picnic and playing with a ball after lunch. She enjoyed spotting deer throughout the park. “Do you see the deer, Zoe?” “There’s a mommy deer and a baby deer and a daddy deer.” No matter the size or shape of the deer or what we said about them, every pair of deer to Zoe was a mommy and baby deer. When we were setting up the tent Zoe asked if she could help. We tried to find things for her to do. When we finished setting it up and she climbed in she exclaimed “I’m going to like camping!” In the afternoon when we were exploring the park and stopped by a camp store Zoe requested vanilla ice cream. While Randy was paying for our treats Zoe suggested “Can we go outside and sit on benches and eat our ice cream now?” We thought that was a good idea.