Monday, March 24, 2014

Dear Gwen: Month Seventy-One

Dear Gwen,
Today, you are seventy-one months old.

When you were younger, every once in a while I'd read something online or seek advice from a friend about your incredibly strong preference for one parent (that'd be me) over the other. And everything I read and heard from other parents said that eventually, you'd switch to the other parent.  Before long, Conventional Wisdom said, you'd be wearing out Dad and rejecting me cruelly, and then switching it up again a few weeks or months later.  Eventually, I stopped thinking about it.  But on the eve of your sixth birthday, I have this to say to the Conventional Wisdom:


In six entire years, your preferred parent has never wavered. You, Gwen, are all about Mom.  While I am absolutely thrilled to see how much your relationship with Dad has improved since he quit his retail job and started participating in your childhood in a way that involved his physical presence, it is clear that Being With Mom is still Number One in your book.  You have even started to phrase this recently, telling me, "Mom, I want to be with you ALL DAY," and being somewhat disappointed when I tell you that sadly, I have to go to work.  On the weekends, when I am doing boring chores around the house, you tag along after me and ask if you can help.  Which led to you forming a mild fascination for Allen keys, after helping me tighten the bolts on our kitchen chairs.  Which will probably, in turn, lead to you being addicted to Ikea furniture in your future life.

Rest assured, though, you and your Dad have a pretty awesome bond.  You went to The Lego Movie together a few weeks ago and had a terrific time.  Even better, the very next day your grandparents gave you a great gift: a bin of Lego that used to belong to your dad.  Your very first Lego!  We brought it home and for the next several days, it was strewn about the floor in various combinations, with you, your Dad, or both of you always tinkering and building with it.  It was pretty cool!  The Lego fixation has continued (though the Lego isn't taking up our whole living room floor anymore) and we are happy to encourage that love of building and creating.  In addition, just like every other kid who saw the movie, you are endlessly singing that accursed earworm, "Everything is Awesome". 

Your second report card came home recently, and it was pretty terrific.  After a somewhat bumpy start to the year, I was counting on the second report card to be a more accurate picture of what you are capable of in school, and I was not disappointed.  Your teacher noted "excellent growth in academic skills" and congratulated you on being a reader.  Every single graded measure either improved or stayed the same, and you got your first "Exceeded Expectations" - in Science.  "Well, YEAH she knows all the planets!" your dad chortled with pride.  "That's my girl!"

Speaking of which, one morning you greeted me with a sleepy smile and asked, "Guess how much I love you, Mom?  Bigger than SPACE."  Sleepy morning Gwen is the very sweetest and loving Gwen!

To celebrate your skills in science and International Pi-Day, we watched the first episode of the new Cosmos series.  The show was excellent, but we were kind of unprepared for watching an animated character get burned at the stake for his insistence that the Earth was not the center of the universe.  This may come up in therapy later, so here you go - yup, that traumatic image was our fault, and it was in the name of science. 

Your creative impulse seems to have ramped up a notch lately, and you are creating loads and loads of artwork (particularly in the form of cards and drawings) every week.  Your cards follow a particular theme: they all open on the left instead of the right, and either the front or the back (often both) looks like this:

As you become more interested in reading and writing, you are adding words to your cards, usually just "Mom" or "Dad" but sometimes the relevant occasion as well, such as St. Patrick's Day or Valentine's Day.  Speaking of St. Paddy's, you sure were disappointed last week when you told me, "I notice it's not very St. Patricksy in here."  I guess these non-holiday holidays are made much of in school and daycare programs, so it's somehow shocking to find out that to us grownups, it's just another day: no time off work, no exchange of gifts, no themed decorations in the house, no special treasure hunts or baked goods.  Man, being a grown-up is boring, hey?  At this writing, you are completely convinced that the leprechaun trap your class set up before Spring Break is going to yield great riches, perhaps even enough to buy a new house.  I'm not sure how your teacher is going to handle the inevitable letdown ahead, but I guess that's up to her...!

Piano class continues to be a challenge and I am already working to find you a private teacher for the fall.  I'm trying to change things up so that it works better for you in the meantime, as we have a couple more months left before the end-of-year recital.  Even with your difficulties, it's clear you have no lack of musical skills, and you still enjoy piano.  It's just that the classroom setting is too distracting and overstimulating for you to be successful there, and this stresses you out.  In my attempt to change things up at home and keep it engaging for you, sometimes I encourage you to "be the teacher" and I will be the student.  It was pretty funny last week when I suggested this, and you took the role-playing to a whole new level: walking around the "class" talking to each student in turn (all of them except me, of course, being imaginary) and calling each of them by name (the names of the other kids in your actual class).  You offered lots of encouragement and relevant comments to these imaginary students, which makes me think that you must hear and see your teacher doing these things, even when you are so frustrated and distracted that you don't seem to be taking anything in.  Your brain is sure interesting.


You seem to be eating more lately, which is fantastic.  Your most recent check-up had you in the 90th percentile for height and the 10th percentile for weight.  We don't worry about these things the way we did when you were a baby, but oh my word, it is nice to see you eat!  It's especially wonderful that your appetite seems to be broadening somewhat, and you will actually consent to eating beef sometimes instead of the endless repertoire of chicken.  In the past month, you have willingly eaten chili, hamburger casserole, tacos, and hamburger soup!  And one glorious night, you ate PASTA WITH SAUCE (white sauce with chicken, but still, SAUCE).  Hooray!

One day I asked you to tidy up your table spot as I tidied up the kitchen.  "Could you tidy up your spot, please?"  "No, thank you," was your somewhat surprising response.  More fool me for not phrasing that request properly - so I quickly rephrased: "Please tidy up your spot."  Just as quickly, you responded: "Mom, is it an option?"  Hee hee!  Obviously I use that phrase often enough that you can not only use it, but use it correctly: I say, "Gwen, this is not an option," or "You have two options".  In this case, I told you it was NOT an option, and you carried on and tidied up while I made a mental note to be sure and record this story.

I've known you nearly six years now, and you are still the most amazing kid I know.  I recently had the opportunity to write an answer to the question, "What are Gwen's strengths?" and that was the funnest writing I have done in quite a while.  Here's what I wrote:

Gwen has a vivacious and charismatic personality that others are drawn to. She is a very bright girl with a curious nature. She is a loyal, caring, and incredibly generous friend. She loves to laugh and to make others laugh, and has a bubbly, joyful approach to life. She is creative and loves to undertake a great variety of projects. Gwen is a very loving and affectionate child who craves physical touch and attention. In some areas she shows a lot of determination and persistence in practicing skills so that she can master them. She is a willing problem-solver although she often needs some assistance to work through problems.

I am so lucky to be your mom!  I love you more than SPACE, my amazing girl!


Monday, February 24, 2014

Dear Gwen: Month Seventy

Dear Gwen, 
Today you are seventy months old. It’s only two months until your sixth birthday, and I have to admit, that concept is causing me a fair amount of difficulty. Six years old? I just can’t fathom it, honestly. Five years old was amazing, a milestone to be sure, but six is a real departure – a genuine transition from child to big kid. I am not ready to be the mom of a six-year-old. But of course, I get no say in the matter.

You continue to enjoy school a lot, and it seems you are getting fewer time-outs now, which is wonderful.  You recently told us of a play your class was doing in Music/Drama class: “Green Cheese Pie,” wherein a group of astronauts travel to the moon to see if it is really made out of green cheese, meet the Moonkins who live there, and then eat green cheese pie with the Man in the Moon.  You were one of the astronauts.  You also told us about a day when, at centre time, your teacher got out the Play-Doh for the first time, and while all the other kids rushed to play with the Play-Doh, you leisurely made your way through each of the other centres, enjoying the fact that you had each centre all to yourself.  Your dad and I laughed so much when we heard about this, because it is EXACTLY what we would have done!  For some reason, this prompted your teacher to name you “Queen of the Centres”, a title that we understand has never been bestowed previously.  You are, of course, pretty stoked about this!

We have added a new hobby to our list recently – geocaching.  After trying this out with our friend Ryan and his mom a few months ago, I decided to download the app and try it ourselves.  The first time I suggested this as a weekend activity, you went crazy with joy and COULD NOT WAIT to try it.  You and I ended up going out to one geocache at a local playground, which coincided with a playdate we had there with a friend – and then when the playdate was finished, we headed home to pick up Dad and went wandering in our own neighbourhood to find two more caches.  Three successful caches in one day!  It was pretty fun, and of course you were crazy about the concept of treasure hunting.  I think we will be doing more of this in the future.


Our friend Val gave you a bit of a sewing lesson this month.  I had posted on Facebook that I wanted to buy a remote control holder, because we now have FIVE various remote controls and without some way to corral them all, they end up being strewn about in countless random locations throughout the house and THAT DRIVES ME CRAZY I JUST WANT TO WATCH TV WHERE IS THE BLASTED REMOTE.  Anyway, Val responded that it would be really easy to sew one myself, and I responded that it might be easy for her but it wouldn’t be easy for me, and she insisted that it was so easy my five-year-old could do it, and I said, “GREAT, I will bring her by on Thursday.”  And so it was that you and I showed up at the church’s quilting night, wherein various people bring their sewing and quilting projects and get to use the giant tables in the church hall to spread out their work.  We brought Timbits to bribe Val for her help – she provided the fabric (pre-cut!), the thread, the sewing machine, and the plan.  You and Val worked the sewing machine while I sat nearby and did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to contribute to this project.

Eventually – and unsurprisingly, as it was the end of a long day and SEWING IS BORING – you lost interest in the project and ended up playing on my phone while Val finished sewing.  Val would be very annoyed if I did not mention that I ironed some of the fabric in between all the sewing, but that was my sole contribution to the project – you and she did everything else.  The finished product looks and functions great, and I am so pleased with it!  You seemed to have fun with sewing (until you got bored of it), and hopefully you will try it again someday.  I am glad to have people like Val around to teach you these skills that you will NEVER learn from me.  Also, because I can’t possibly let a teachable moment pass me by, I pointed out to you that I had tried sewing a lot of times and was still absolutely no good at it, and that in life you would be really good at some things, pretty good at lots of things, and absolutely terrible at other things – that you would not get to be super awesomely good at every single thing you tried, and that that was perfectly okay.  (This may have been because I had just watched the “Beginner Pottery” episode of Community).

You are starting to be able to read, and it’s pretty amazing.  I suspect you can actually read more than you think you can, but I have to be pretty crafty about the moments I choose to push and the moments I don’t.  You can get quite resistant to the process and I definitely don’t want reading to be unpleasant for you, or for you to feel that once you can read by yourself, Mom and Dad won’t read to you anymore.  So I always try to let you have a good mix.  Sometimes you get on quite a roll and it is really something to see – I think you even surprise yourself with it.  I see a similar process happening with piano – you are more capable than you think you are, but somehow not as capable as you feel you should be, so this stresses you out and sometimes prevents you from trying at all.  I have to work hard to keep the experience light and fun and positive for you, but in both cases I feel it is completely worth these efforts and that your confidence will improve with time.

Here is a page you read to me a few days ago:

This is not something I want to talk about in your newsletter, Gwen, but I have to.  A couple of weeks ago, our house was broken into and several valuable things were taken from us.  Dozens of pieces of jewelry – some cheap, some expensive, many irreplaceable, all sentimental – are gone.  Our Playstation, which we used as a DVD and Blu-Ray player, is gone.  And most devastatingly, the computer which had your entire life documented in photos and videos is gone.  I feel absolutely heartsick over that loss, and so angry at the people who took those precious memories from us.  This blog is so closely linked with those photos: I include photos here with every post, and each year I put together a lengthy musical slide show on your birthday.  This means, on the one hand, that I can download the photos I’ve previously posted here back to a computer – they are not lost, as hundreds and thousands of others are.  But on the other hand, it means that I don’t have much to post here that I haven’t already posted.  The photos for this year’s slideshow are going to be much more scarce, and that makes me really sad.  I try to tell myself that your dad and I grew up without having hundreds of gigabytes of digital evidence of our adorableness, but that doesn’t take away all the sadness of this loss.

But, just so this post doesn’t end on a down note, here is a video I still have (because it’s still on my phone): the video of you singing, “Canada in My Pocket”.


I love you to the moon and back, my Gwen, and I’m so glad you’re my daughter.  Thanks for bringing us so much joy and laughter, even in the midst of difficult times.  I hope you know how proud we are of you, today and every day.  





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