Today, you are one hundred months old.
We have had a really excellent summer together. I tell you, there is nothing to make one appreciate summer like spending one entire summer moving house, like we did last year. By comparison, this summer seems absolutely heavenly!
The barbecue itself was hectic and fun. You played with your cousins throughout - I barely saw you. It's pretty great that you kids are all of an age to just play together without drama and without adult intervention. Grandpa and some of his musician friends played some music, which I enjoyed listening to, and I visited with many people both familiar and new. Your grandparents Keith and Karen even made the trip over on the ferry to enjoy the barbecue party!
The next day, we got up very early in an attempt to, if not "beat" the holiday rush, at least stay competitive with it as we battled for position in the ferry lineups on the next leg of our journey, to the Lower Mainland. We were all prepared for a long day, but it didn't end up to be as awful as we'd feared; yes, there was a one-sailing wait at Langdale, but the next sailing was only an hour later. Hooray to BC Ferries for effective planning! We made our way from Horseshoe Bay to Burnaby, where we stopped at Lougheed Mall for a quick play on their excellent indoor playground and Dad did some shopping. Then it was on to our friends Shawn and Nicole's home, where we visited with them and enjoyed a delicious dinner. You also enjoyed a swim in their complex's outdoor pool, and spent a lot of time colouring in a borrowed colouring book. At last, we drove to Coquitlam where my cousin Mike, wife Robyn, and daughters Kiera and Hannah welcomed us and put us up in their spare room for two days. If you're keeping track, you'll notice that by this point in our holiday, we've now visited with all your BC extended family members, which is pretty cool!!
Our next adventure was Flying over Canada, which we all really enjoyed. I wasn't totally sure how you would fare with the immersive movie experience, but it went really well and I saw no sign that you felt unsafe or anxious about it. Yay! Next, we met our friends Sally and Rachel at Science World for a few hours. You and Rachel always get along quite well, which is amazing given the difference in your ages. I appreciated that the two of you had totally different ways of "taking in" the exhibits, and this sometimes led to frustration, but overall it went well and the adults got a chance to visit as we followed you around.
The next day, we went to Playland. Unlike our trip there last year, in 30-degree heat, this was perfect Playland weather: overcast, gray, almost hinting at rain (but never actually raining). I was grateful to not have to worry about sunscreen, sunstroke, hydration, and so on. Furthermore, the lineups were minimal! At most, we waited one ride cycle before getting on any ride. When we arrived at the park, we discovered that you have grown out of the "junior" playpass and are now 52" tall - tall enough for pretty much any ride. We encouraged you to try some of the "grownup" rides with us, like the Music Express, the Scrambler, and Breakdance. You enjoyed some of these (not the Scrambler). Moreover, for those rides you didn't want to try, we were able to trust you to sit on a nearby bench with your book for a few minutes while Dad and I rode. This was wonderful, as it meant Dad and I got to have a fun day and get our money's worth too. I don't know if we would have felt as safe doing this if the park were more crowded and the lineups longer (meaning we were away from you for a longer period), so I feel lucky that it worked out this way.
That was the end of Vacation Adventure #1! We caught the ferry home that night, and actually went to work the next day (you spent the day with a friend). That night, and the next day, was our very short window to prep for the next round of Vacation Adventure - camping! You've been requesting for some time that we add camping to our summer fun repertoire, but I had one condition: I did not want to sleep on the ground. I explored a few options before finding a campsite in Qualicum Beach that would rent us a "wooden tent": a small cabin with a double-size bunk bed. The price was only slightly more than it would cost for us to rent a campsite and pitch a tent, so it was easy to say yes. The cabin also came with a mini-fridge, a microwave, a table, and some shelves for food - highly civilized, and perhaps somewhat out of the realm of what could reasonably be called "camping". However, we still had to leave our cabin to go use the bathroom or brush our teeth, so that's camping to me! After loading up the car to the absolute limit, the three of us piled in and drove to Qualicum Beach, which turned out to be a longer drive than I thought. We quickly settled into the cabin and set out to explore the site. There is a large, man-made lake for swimming; a playground; a games room; a TV room where movies are shown every second night; a waterslide; a horse corral, whose occupants give rides for a fee on the weekends; a laundry room; and a dishwashing station with running water (no need to haul and heat your own water!!). Across the street, if one cares to venture, is the beach - nearby is a grocery store, ice cream shop, and restaurant for when camp food becomes boring. All in all, we thought, a pretty great setup! We'd only booked for two nights this time, thinking we would test it all out and perhaps book for a longer stay in the future; given the nearby amenities and conveniences, I think we could easily camp there for five nights.
We enjoyed our weekend there, with lots of sitting, relaxing, and reading. The weather was still quite overcast, so swimming was not high on the list, but you did go in for a brief swim the afternoon before we left the site. You also got to enjoy the typical camp kid experience of meeting a friend and running free with her for most of the day, checking in with us every once in a while so that we knew when you changed locations (games room, playground, her campsite, etc.). This kind of freedom is new for all of us, but for myself I found it less nerve-wracking than I thought. It's exciting to think of the way you are growing in responsibility and trustworthiness.
One hilarious dialogue took place in the evening when I informed you that you were to accompany me to the dishwashing station to wash up our dishes from the day. We gathered the dishes, the soap, the cloths and towels, and set out for the clubhouse. "So," you said, "Where are the dishwashers?" Oh, sweet child of convenient living! I smiled and told you, "We ARE the dishwashers!" I told you about how the last time we went camping (when you were three), we had to heat the water in our tiny pot on our tiny stove, over and over and over again until our tiny sink was full, and then wash the dishes with crappy soap that never actually sudsed up or cleaned anything, and it took hours. "At this campsite, they have a SINK! With running water! So we're getting off pretty easy!" It didn't take long for us to get the dishes done, and you were good-natured and helpful, so even that was fun.
There was also the obligatory trip to the library, wherein you got a medal for completing your book log. We didn't tell them that in fact, you'd completed your whole book log in less than a month. The librarian tried to give you another log "so that you keep reading", but in fact I'm well aware that you will keep reading without any need for a log. I'm really happy with the fact that the log kept you WRITING throughout the summer, though. And to that end, we happened to see a really cool item in the grocery store recently that you insisted on buying, and which I hope you actually end up using: a book journal. Each page has a detachable bookmark - which is a HUGE benefit because you NEVER seem to have a bookmark on hand - and a list of prompts to fill in information about the book you're reading: date started, date finished, title, author, plot, favourite character, etc. What a great way to get kids (especially kids like you who are already reading voraciously) to give a little bit more thought and reflection to what they are reading!
AND, we went to the orthodontist. Somehow, you have grown up without any fear of the dentist, and when on your last visit Dr. Sandy recommended you see an orthodontist for your crowded teeth, you simply decided not to be afraid of that, either. As a grownup, I know that orthodontists mean tooth-pulling, braces, pain, blood, and social ostracism, but as far as you are concerned, orthodontists are just like dentists, only with super-powers. And apparently, braces and retainers are COOL and socially desirable among kids and teens these days. If you'd told me that twenty-five years ago when I had them, I would probably laugh at you. And then cry, because laughing makes your teeth hurt when you have braces. (I am hopeful that orthodontistry has improved in the last twenty-five years.) Anyway, we went to the orthodontist and we were both suitably impressed, for different reasons. I liked how the office was set up to be very kid- and teen-friendly, and that the staff were enormously respectful of you and spoke to your level (not dumbing things down, but in a way that was engaging for you). You liked that it was fun and there were video games in the waiting room. As I expected, he recommended some extractions to take place in the short term, and confirmed that you will absolutely need braces by age 12. We will be scheduling the extractions at your regular dentist office soon (which may be the end of your positive attitude towards dentistry), and checking back in with the ortho in a year.
The next few weeks will see a few more outings as we try to squeeze every last bit of fun out of the summer, and then the start of Grade Three, as well as the startup of your fall extracurricular activities - piano and musical theatre. I am feeling confident that this September will be smoother and easier than last year, and that life is going to keep getting better as the months go by. I love you, my Gwen!