Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dear Gwen: Thirty-Five Months

Dear Gwen:
Today, you are thirty-five months old.

Your Terrible Twos are very nearly at an end, and right behind them is your third birthday. I’ve heard that Three is even worse than Two: same inability to control emotions, coupled with an even stronger willpower and expanded height, strength, imagination and ability to get into trouble. Time will tell, but in the meantime there are definitely some positive changes.

You are getting ever more competent at daily routine tasks, and at following instructions. You have always loved to “help Mama” bake and cook – I put “help” in quotations because really, a two-year-old’s assistance is generally the opposite of help – but in the past couple of weeks, you’ve actually become helpful. You spill less, you keep your hands to yourself when instructed, you are happy to do whatever little chore I assign you no matter how mundane. The balance has finally tipped and now, I actually prefer to cook or bake with your help instead of without.

We’re also encouraging you to become more independent. Now that you are potty-trained, it seems natural that you should learn how to dress and undress yourself. A conversation with a good friend helped me realize that you probably view these tasks as things that are done to you or for you, not things you should co-operate with and eventually do yourself. We are trying to encourage your participation and assistance with these things, and I think it’s working. You are even – hallelujah, cue the fireworks – starting to play independently for short periods. This is new and it’s VERY welcome, as you are generally a pretty intense kid. You still prefer me or Dad to be in the room with you while you play, and if we get up to leave your independent play collapses as you ask to come with us. But still, it’s a start, and I’m really glad.

You are crazy about music these days, especially the CD-DVD set that Uncle Mikey bought you for Christmas, “Here Come the ABCs”. You know an astounding amount of lyrics to these songs, including “The Alphabet of Nations”, which begins: “Algeria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Dominica, Egypt, France, The Gambia, Hungary, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Libya and Mongolia…” It’s kind of incredible to listen to these giant words (most of which must be completely meaningless to you) coming out of your mouth. You love these songs and insist that we sing them repeatedly, especially at bedtime. Which means that Dad and I have to learn all those crazy complex lyrics, too.
Speaking of bedtime, you have started to push your boundaries pretty steadily. For a couple of nights we were locked in a spiraling cry-fest where you refused to sleep in your own bed and got hysterical when we insisted that you do so, thus being unable to hear our calm assurances that you could snuggle in the big bed the next morning. It got to the point where you would just say “I want to snuggle in the big bed,” over and over and over, in response to absolutely anything that we said. I’ve heard of “not taking ‘no’ for an answer,” Gwen, but I had no idea that it was an option to just refuse to acknowledge ‘no’ as a concept, which is what you seem to do:
Gwen: I want to snuggle in the big bed.
Mama: I know you do, sweetheart, but it’s not time for that now.
Gwen: I want to snuggle in the big bed.
Mama: No, Gwen, we can snuggle in the big bed tomorrow morning. Please go to bed.
Gwen: I want to snuggle in the big bed.
Mama: No, Gwen. Go to bed, now. Gwen: I want to snuggle in the big bed.
Mama: Gwen, I said no.
Gwen: I want to snuggle in the big bed.

Repeat until one or both parties are hysterical.

When we do manage to get you into bed, often as not you are up again a few minutes later with requests for a drink of water or a trip to the potty. I don’t think I’d mind these quite so much if you didn’t insist on being tucked in again after each exodus. If you’re big enough to get out of bed and walk to the door by yourself, I think you’re big enough to tuck yourself back in after Mama’s one-tuck-in-per-night quota has been reached.

You are a really active kid, and often scare the heck out of me with your near-miss accidents and injuries. You take off at a run (indoors or out) without the slightest attention paid towards your destination or any obstacles that might lie in between. It’s kind of a miracle you still have both your eyes, as I’ve seen you nearly topple into the corner of our hutch more times than I can count. Growing up, I was always told I was “accident-prone,” and I actually thought that was a real thing, like having asthma or freckles. Turns out, it just means not watching where your fool self is going. And it’s hereditary.

In addition to wondering if you have some kind of inner-ear disorder, I also wonder about your endearing little speech impediment. I know most children have difficulty with the letter R, but the difficulty you have is not the typical “W for R” sound, i.e., “wascally wabbit”. No, you are good at pronouncing Rs, but in any word with an R, the vowels around the R become … strange. For example:
Horse = hearse
Store = stir
Car = cur
Door = dur
And so on. I’m sure you’ll grow out of it in time. For the moment, it doesn’t prevent us from understanding you, so it’s pretty harmless. Or hermless.

One final thing I will brag about, and then I’ll end this letter. A couple of weeks ago, we were reading a book together before bed. It was about shapes, and as usual you were pointing to various shapes and identifying them: rectangle, triangle, circle, and so on. Then, you paused. You pointed to the letters underneath the rectangle and asked, “Mama, does that say ‘rectangle’?” “Yes it does, honey,” I replied. You then pointed to each letter in turn and identified it: “R – E – C- T – A – N – G – L – E.” “That’s right, honey!” I crowed. “That spells ‘rectangle’. Well done! What a good reader you are.” I was so proud that my heart felt physically full, and I was sort of tearful as well. Just think – this was your first dawning realization that the letters of the alphabet can be grouped together into words, and that those words relate to objects around us. In this case, you made the association that the picture – a shape of a rectangle – and the letters – the word ‘rectangle’ – were two different ways of expressing the same thing. Gwen, that is HUGE! You may not know it right now, but you are on the verge of a breakthrough into the world of reading, and it’s going to open all kinds of wonderful doors for you.

In all, it’s been a pretty neat month for you and it's really fun to see all the ways in which you are growing and changin. As always, I’m so glad that I get to be your Mama. I love you a million billion kajillion and two, and can’t wait to see what your next month will bring.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


This year, for the first time in quite a while, I decided to give something up for Lent. At first I thought, "junk food", but then I realized I would lose my will to live if I had to go 47 days without any empty calories. So I settled on just half the junk food equation: sweets. Note that I did not give up sugar because honestly, sugar is in everything: ketchup, potato chips, bread, yogurt, mayonnaise, etc. And yes, I could - and have - given up sugar entirely in the past, and purchased sugar-free versions of the aforementioned goods. But that was not my goal. My goal was to eradicate foods that were sweet for the sake of being sweet, not those that happened to have incidental sugar. FURTHERMORE, I am not eating any sugar-free chocolates or ice cream either.

So, things I will not be eating during Lent:
Candy, chocolate, ice cream, cookies, brownies, pastries, whipping cream, pie, and cake.

Things I have not given up during Lent:
Nachos, perogies, cheese buns, bagels, crackers, peanut butter, french fries, poutine, popcorn, and trail mix (the kind without Smarties).

Not exactly a model of restraint, am I.

Also, I kind of fudged things a teensy bit. Usually, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. But my daughter is turning three (THREE!!!!) on Easter Sunday, so I'm going to throw her a birthday party the day before, and I am darn well going to eat cake that day. So I started my 47-day sweet-free existence a day early, so I can end it a bit early. Behold, for I am bending religion-based self-deprivation exercises to fit my will.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Checking In

It's been about six weeks since we changed Gwen's daycare arrangements. Previously, she went to daycare 3-4 days a week and spent one day with Gramma. Now, she spends 2 days at daycare, 1 day with Gramma, and 2 days at home with Chris. (Chris was smart, too: he chose to have Gwen at home for Monday & Friday, which means that Gwen's intense at-home time is Friday through Monday; since I am home on the weekends, it means Chris gets a break instead of having a four-day stretch on his own.) Chris commented to me recently that he feels more tired now than he ever did when he worked full time. Perhaps more surprisingly, I feel exhausted too. I don't think I've ever felt the "second shift" workload as keenly as I have for the past six weeks.

When I get home from work, I'm tired - both mentally and physically - and need a rest. However, Chris is tired too, and he needs a break from Gwen. Most compellingly, Gwen misses me and needs my attention - my active attention, as in "Get up and dance with me, Mama," - right away. I've been reflecting that from Gwen's perspective, she doesn't really notice that she spends less time with her caregiver and more time at home. But I know she notices that she is home more than I am, now, which has got to be pretty weird for her. Previously, when I left for work she would go to daycare. Now, I go to work and leave her at home to wonder why I keep leaving her. So while I am apart from Gwen the same amount of time that I was before, I think she experiences that absence in a different way. This is reflected in her response when I say things like, "Tomorrow, you get to go to the pool with Dada!" and she says, "And Mama too?" Naturally, this shreds my heart. However, I've talked to Chris and he confirms that she doesn't talk about me all that much during the day, so it's not like she spends that eight hours pining for my presence.

Another way the single-income lifestyle is impacting Gwen is that we are now a one-car family. This means that all three of us get into the car in the morning so that I can be dropped off at work, before Chris and Gwen turn around and head back home. Last week I had a hair appointment right after work. Now, if I had my own car still, I would have just driven straight from work to the appointment. But instead, Gwen and Chris came to pick me up at the office, then we all drove home together and got out of the car, and then I said good-bye to them and got into the driver's seat to go to the salon. When I said good-bye to Gwen, she looked so confused. It was the exact look I get when someone is trying to explain physics to me. I could see she was trying SO HARD to understand, but it just didn't make sense. Carefully and slowly, she said, "But ... we just picked up you." So true. Poor kid.

I feel a little self-conscious when I mention things like hair appointments and yoga classes, because wait a minute - all those things cost money! I imagine that whomever is hearing/reading these comments gets all suspicious, like why is this whiny blogger trying to engender our sympathy, obviously her life is not all that bad. And let me say: my life is not all that bad. Part of the reason it's not all that bad is because I have worked out some private deals with my yoga teacher and my hairdresser, such as work exchange, so that I am able to continue doing these things that I actually can't afford to do. I am really grateful to these people for their flexibility and graciousness.

And again I repeat: my life is not all that bad. This can't go on forever, and it won't. In the meantime, I think the only thing we are living without that I consider a necessity, rather than a luxury, is our monthly contribution to RRSPs and Gwen's RESP. This includes a Home Buyer's Loan payback as we took money out of our RRSPs to buy our house four years ago. We are living without a lot of other stuff right now but that is the one that nags at me. Unfortunately, I don't think our financial advisor/Revenue Canada is interested in any kind of work exchange regarding those funds.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Need a Tissue!

I found a little video clip illustrating Gwen's imaginary play fixation, "I need a tissue," which I wrote about in her recent newsletter. Even better, this clip demonstrates her consistently high-pitched voice, something I recently ranted to a friend about via email:

"Sound is coming out of her mouth, nonstop, for the 12(ish) hours of every day that she is awake. IT. NEVER. STOPS. And even when it is cheerful, sing-songy noise, it is still NOISE, usually high-pitched and irritating, and sometimes I can't take it! Especially when I have to somehow cut into that nonstop noise and try to get her to focus on whatever I'm trying to get her to do: put on her jacket, brush her teeth, clean up her toys, wash her hands, hold still, hold still, hold still, HOLD STILL. It's maddening."

My favourite thing about this clip, though, is how Gwen's friend Claire is totally dumbfounded by the tissue fixation and refuses to play along.


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