The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Tom Lavis

April 8, 2012

Tom Lavis | California girls melt northeners' hearts

Crawling around on the floor was never a problem when I was younger. But things change.

I was reminded of that while visiting with our two granddaughters in California.

Trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with a 3- and 1-year-old is difficult.

To make the most of our time there, my wife and I tried to get to know the tykes.

Experience has taught me some secrets about getting kids to warm up to me.

One-year-old Elle was easy. Giving her treats, making faces and playing peekaboo sealed the deal.

But cracking the armor of 3-year-old Lily was challenging.

I started out with the old high-five ploy.

I put up my hand and asked for a high five.

When she went to hit it, I jerked my hand away and told her to try again.

As I moved my hand a little higher, I allowed her to hit it and she giggled with delight.

I got a funny look from her when I asked her what color is a burp?

To keep her occupied, her mother put a DVD into the Blu-ray and we watched tales of princesses and mermaids for about an hour.

I didn’t want to show my weariness associated with a fairy princess battling an army of mean bumblebees, so when the episode ended, I quickly asked Lily what she liked to do?

That broke the ice.

“Come to my room, we’ll play Dream Castle,” she said.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I got a little nervous when I heard my son say, “Now you’ve done it.”

“This is great,” I thought as Lily placed her tiny hand in mine and pulled me from the living room.

She led me to a bedroom that was undeniably a girl’s room.

The colors pink, powder blue and yellow were prominent throughout the room.

Nestled beneath a window was a gigantic 3-foot tall castle, complete with four parapets, clock tower and a balcony for a princess doll to survey her kingdom.

Lily told me I could be the king and she would be Cinderella.

I wasn’t too comfortable playing with dolls.

I’m not talking about dressing and undressing Disney’s dolls such as Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Ariel, Snow White, Jasmine and Tiana.

My discomfort came from sitting cross-legged on the bedroom floor while conducting my kingly duties.

It didn’t take Lily too long to see that I was an amateur when it came to playing with dolls.

After about 45 minutes and two leg cramps, she told me I no longer could be king.

She ascended the thrown as queen and I became the court jester in her eyes.

We played on each of the three stories of the castle.

We gave Ariel a bath in her seashell tub and made Snow White even more beautiful as she sat at her vanity.

Honestly, two weeks ago I had no clue that Ariel was a mermaid and Jasmine (“Aladdin”) had a flying carpet.

I felt like a dinosaur as Lily peppered me with questions or offered her own opinion.

My wife enjoyed bath time with the girls and offered to read bedtime stories.

It was a great first day.

Little did I know that each day of our stay, I would spend the bulk of my afternoons at the Dream Castle.

I sifted through dozens of accessories in dressing each princess and trying my best to put a tiny glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot.

If it had been up to me, Cinderella would have never found her prince because I didn’t have a shoe horn.

I saw that the castle was appropriate for children ages 3 and up.

I’m way beyond up, but I had an unforgettable bonding experience with my Left Coast grand-daughters.

By the way, if you don’t know the color of a burp, it’s burple.

Well, Lily laughed at it.

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