Monday, December 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Fifty-Six

Dear Gwen,

Today you are fifty-six months old. 

You are changing and maturing a lot, but it's hard to put these changes into words.  A few months ago when preschool started for the year, I felt awed by the fact that you would be in kindergarten in only a year - I wondered if you would be ready.  Now, I know that you will be.  You are becoming more independent and more socially competent, understanding what is expected of you and also able to stand up for yourself and express your needs.  A couple of weeks ago at preschool, when I dropped you off in the morning a playmate repeatedly told you, "You can't sit there, Gwen," when you attempted to join her at the art table.  Not only did you NOT become angry and aggressive towards her, but you remained calm and used your words: "The art table is for everyone, we have to share."  A teacher soon came to back you up and defuse the situation, and sure enough you joined the friends at the art table.  But I was so impressed with how you handled that situation, that I knew you would do well in kindergarten.

You are also getting better at telling stories of your day.  It's not usually something I can prompt you to do, but once in a while you open up and say, "You know what?" and actually follow this up with a fairly lengthy, interesting, cohesive story of events at school.  These stories always provide a totally fascinating glimpse into your day, and I am proud that you are getting better at putting these events into words.  What a neat skill.
 Speaking of proud, one of the highlights of this past month and possibly of our whole year was your piano recital on December 7.   You have been taking weekly group piano lessons since early September, and you enjoy them and are learning a lot.  To prepare for the recital, your teacher brought a microphone to class and encouraged all the kids to get up and talk into the microphone, introducing themselves by name.  Though some of the kids were very hesitant about this, you were SO ready, and needed a lot of encouragement to be patient and wait for your turn.  When your turn came, you burst out of my arms and dashed to the microphone.  "Hello, my name is Gwen and I'm going to play Jingle Bells."  The teacher and I exchanged looks of awe and surprise.  Not only did you understand *exactly* what was expected before a recital performance, but ... well ... as the teacher said, "Do you know how to play Jingle Bells?!"  You walked confidently to the piano, then turned and confessed, "Well, I actually only know how to sing it."  So you sang it.  And the class applauded as you took a proud bow.

"Jingle Bells" turned out to be a bit beyond your skills just yet for the actual recital, but I chose another piece called "Christmas Time" that was within your reach.  When recital night came, once again you were chomping at the bit to get up on stage and do your piece.  Luckily, Mrs. H. knows that little kids are less patient than big kids, and she had scheduled the performance program accordingly.  Your piece was the fourth one played.  Once again, you got up to the microphone and said in a loud, clear voice, "Hello, my name is Gwen and I'm going to play Christmas Time."  I helped you climb up on the bench and push it in so you could reach the keys on the grand piano.  I put your music book on the piano and asked you if you could see the key you needed to start with ("Critter C").  When you nodded yes, I moved to the side and, just like we do at home, counted you in and then pointed at each note in turn.  You played it perfectly!  Nice and loud, steady rhythm, and correct fingering technique.  Sure, it was a very simple piece that only included two notes, but that's not the point - you got up on stage and performed effectively and accurately.  What a grand start to your musical career!
 The very next day was the last session of your Musical Dance Theatre class, and this allowed your dad and me to see the vast difference that an engaged, experienced, knowledgeable teacher makes.  Whereas your usual dance class doesn't allow the parents to stay, as it is distracting to the kids, the last session is "parent watch day" where we get to stick around and see all the things you've learned over the weeks.  In stark contrast to the recital the night before, this class was an utter gong show.  You and your classmates ran repeatedly from one end of the room to the other, mostly ignoring the teacher's instructions but having one heck of a fun time.  At one point, the teacher was trying to gather the 5-6 girls together in a circle to sing a song.  You had decided instead to sit down in your own spot about eight feet away.  One by one, the girls that had been sitting with the teacher got up and came to sit down with you.  When your circle got bigger than the teacher's circle, she warned, "You have to be sitting over here to sing our song!", at which point you just started singing your own song.  Most of the parents found this utterly hilarious.  I hid my face in my jacket.

In any case, it seems really clear to me that you are a kid who needs preparation and rehearsal.  You need the teacher to bring in the microphone prior to recital day and tell you what she expects you to say, then give you a chance to practice it.  You need the teacher (or parent) to walk you through these things and make sure you are ready, that all your questions and concerns are addressed.  Mrs. H. is an experienced teacher who has done dozens of recitals and she is used to this process.  Your dance teacher, a young woman who is about to start university, just doesn't have that experience yet.  And that's okay, because it was still pretty funny to watch.

I have been off work lately, and this has allowed me to participate in some of your preschool Christmas events that I wouldn't normally get to be part of.  A few weeks ago was the big bus trip, a huge highlight of the school year where all the kids and teachers walk to the bus stop and catch the city bus to a nearby shopping mall.  The group takes the presents and toys they've been collecting over the previous weeks to the Giving Tree, where they will then be passed on to kids whose parents can't afford to buy gifts - a wonderful, valuable lesson in generosity and gratitude.  Then the kids all walk down to see Santa Claus and have a group picture taken.  If Santa isn't too busy at the time, the kids get to sing him some Christmas songs - Up on the Rooftop and Must Be Santa are perennial favourites.  Finally, the whole group walk across the parking lot to Swiss Chalet for a pre-ordered lunch.  This year, I met your school group at the mall and walked with you to the Giving Tree, Santa, and then to the restaurant, where I said goodbye and let you enjoy the rest of the day with your school friends.  It was a real treat to watch you participate in this event, and I also got a kick out of being with the other kids, some of whom I have gotten to know well in the past 18 months.  A few days later was another big event: Santa came to your preschool to visit and hand out presents!  Every child got a chance to sit on Santa's lap and say what they wanted for Christmas.  Though you are still quite shy of Santa, you did bravely sit on his lap, though I'm not sure you uttered a single word to him!  Again, I got to be there for this special time, and I was really grateful for that.  At one point, I had three happy kids on MY lap!

These events, and the collection of pictures in your preschool memory book that your teachers put together, has led me to reflect on how much you have grown and changed in the past year and a half.  Specifically, I was thinking about how you were one of the younger kids when you first came to preschool, but now you are one of the older ones with many younger ones having joined this year and many older ones going off to kindergarten.  I guess you won't have that experience again, to be in the same program for two years.  But something tells me you will be showing other kids the ropes by the second week of kindergarten, whether you know what you're talking about or not.

As I wrote last month, we took you to see Rise of the Guardians, which you call the Jack Frost movie.  You loved it, predictably, and were very excited when you received a Jack Frost toy at a McDonald's birthday party a few days later.  A week or so ago, you found this toy hanging on the Christmas tree.

Gwen: Mom, this is a toy, not an ornament!
Me: Well, I didn't put it there. Maybe he flew there by himself.
Gwen (gasping): Did he come to LIFE?
Me: I don't know, what do you think?
Gwen: Jack Frost, can I please, please, please see you come to life?
Gwen (in a lower voice): I would be delighted.

What an imaginative, hilarious, and entertaining girl you are!

Well I think that's about it for this month, Gwen.  You are really growing up and I am so proud of you and so excited to celebrate Christmas with you.  I love you a million, billion, kajillion and four!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Fifty-Five

Dear Gwen,
Today you are fifty-five months old.

You continue to grow and change in fascinating ways, and are becoming ever more competent and capable.  While mornings continue to be a struggle, you are generally good as gold when we get home from school, knowing immediately what tasks are expected (take off boots and jacket, put them away; take containers out of lunch kit and put in dishwasher; put away lunch kit) without any reminders.  In general, you are excited and proud to show me that you have done these tasks.  A few days ago, as you unpacked your lunch kit, you commented, “Mom, the dishwasher’s pretty full now, but it doesn’t have any soap.”  “Well, would you like to put the soap in?” I asked, and you certainly did.  It was one of those moments, Gwen, when I looked at you and took a mental picture – I felt so glad that I was raising an observant, competent person, I felt like a good mom for guiding you to this point, and I caught a glimpse of who you are turning into.  It was a lovely moment.

(And just in case anyone is wondering, I would ABSOLUTELY expect the same domestic helpfulness from a son.  The generation(s) of men who have been raised without these skills, in addition to being pretty helpless on their own, make pretty crappy partners.  Mothers of sons, you’re not going to let that happen to the next generation, right?)

 You are still a very emotional and intense little girl, but you are finally starting to learn how to regulate your emotions a little more.  Recently, when you have become overwrought with anger or sadness, you have demonstrated that you know exactly how to soothe yourself so that you are ready to let go of that emotion.  Where previously you looked to me to soothe you, you can now recognize and say, “I want to rest,” or “I want to be by myself,” and go do that for a few minutes until you are calm.  This is pretty huge.  For you to begin to understand, at four and a half years old, that your emotions are your own responsibility, AND that you have the tools to deal with them … well, let’s just say I know one or two adults who are still struggling to learn that lesson.  And on some occasions, you do still look to me for comfort and cuddles, and I am all too happy to provide them.  It’s pretty fascinating to watch you realize that you have different options for different problems, and to choose the one you want in each situation.

There has been a lot of talk of movies in our house, this past month.  Around Halloween, I took you to see a special showing of Casper at the movie theatre – a fundraiser for a good cause that only cost us $2 each.  I’d never seen the movie before, but as you’ve been watching and thoroughly adoring The Nightmare Before Christmas since the age of two, I generally feel that you are pretty capable of dealing with scares – so I wasn’t too worried, even with a PG rating.  And sure enough, you managed just fine – no problems during the film; you watched the entire thing; and there were no nightmares following. 

A few days later, I decided I’d had it up to here with watching cartoons and wanted to watch something with real people in it.  So I put on Charlie and the ChocolateFactory, which like your beloved Nightmare Before Christmas is directed by Tim Burton, and also rated PG.  Well, this was a mistake.  I believe that you were put off right away by the eerie, discordant music in the film, but you hung in there … until about 30 minutes in, when Augustus Gloop fell into the chocolate river and was sucked up a large Plexiglas pipe.  That put an immediate, shrieking end to our Chocolate Factory experience.  Why did this frighten you so, while watching a child pull a shrunken head out of a Christmas box just makes you laugh?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s the fact that Augustus was played by a real actor, while the shrunken head recipient is an animated character and thus not ‘real’.  In any case, I felt pretty bad for causing you such fright, and promised you that you would never have to watch that movie again.  (I also told you that if we HAD watched a few more minutes, we would have seen Augustus climb out of the pipe in another room, have a nice bath to get all cleaned up, and then go home with his mom and a lifetime’s supply of chocolate.  Anyone who tells you differently will have ME to reckon with!)

 Anyway, we then watched The Wizard of Oz which you immediately adored.  This movie seems to have gotten into your brain somehow, and you are thinking about it, singing songs from it, and asking questions from it often.  For example: “What are poppies, and why do they make you go to sleep?”  “What is courage?”  and “Why doesn’t this movie have any colours?”  (Fortunately, that one was rectified fairly quickly … but it is kind of hard to explain to a little girl born in the age of smartphones and internet that movies used to NOT be in colour!)

From what I can remember, Casper is the first full-length non-animated movie that you’ve seen, and I’m looking forward to exposing you to more, especially more musicals.  In the meantime, another movie milestone is that for the first time, you are anticipating seeing a movie at the theatre.  When we saw Brave this summer, we saw a preview for Rise of theGuardians, which you call “the Jack Frost movie”.  For the first time, you understood that this was a preview for another movie, and that you could go see that movie at a later date (though the ‘later’ part, and all the waiting for the release date, has been harder to grasp).  All that time, you have waited and looked forward to the movie.  When we went to the theatre for Casper, there were posters up, and you were hopeful that this meant we could go see “Jack Frost” that day too – but the movie wasn’t released until just this week.  The waiting is almost over and I’m really looking forward to taking you to this movie, as soon as our schedule allows!

By the way, Gwen, if it seems like I’m pretty focused on movies this month, well … I’m a movie lover, and so is your dad.  In fact, the first time we met we spent a lot of time quoting movies at each other and testing each other’s movie knowledge, as a way of testing each other’s tastes.  We played the same game at our wedding dinner.  So, the fact that you are now at an age to enjoy movies that we enjoy, to anticipate the excitement of seeing a new film for the first time, to love as much as we do the experience of going to the theatre … yeah, it’s a pretty big deal for me.  I look forward to enjoying a LOT of movies with you as you grow!

As always, Gwen, I love you a million billion kajillion and four, and am so glad you’re my daughter.  There are so many exciting things coming up next month: your first music recital, Christmas and the children’s pageant at church, and of course the Jack Frost show.  I can’t wait to share them all with you!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Fifty-Four

Dear Gwen,
Today you are fifty-four months old: officially four and a half.
You are really growing up and becoming more of a child than a toddler. It’s amazing to witness. You are very sharp and observant and curious, and are asking really interesting questions about the world around you. It’s kind of astounding to see how you think so deeply about things, even as you continue to be a very busy, chatty, active little girl. A week ago, you asked me the big question: “How come I don’t have a little sister?”

I always thought I would be upset when you asked that question, but that wasn’t the case. You weren’t upset either – just very matter-of-fact – so I matched your mood and responded, “Some people have two kids or one kid or no kids. Some people have three kids or five kids.” “Or a HUNDRED kids!” you joined gleefully, as that is the number of kids you tell me you plan to have someday (50 boys and 50 girls. The girls are named Princess and the boys are named King.) “That’s right,” I agreed. “Mommy and Daddy only wanted to have one kid. And we are SO GLAD it’s you!” You accepted this quite easily and went on with whatever you were doing.

An example of a sharp observation you made recently came when we were listening to a Raffi CD in the car. Raffi was singing about how a great variety of people were being sat upon by an elephant. He named lots of people, including Dennis and Bonnie and many others. After a moment, you told me that Sharon (your preschool teacher) would probably be pretty mad if an elephant sat on her husband Dennis and her dog Bonnie! I was pretty impressed with how you put that all together.

You are going through kind of a sensitive phase right now (at least, I really hope it’s a phase). I’ve written here often of how dawdly you are, especially in the mornings, and how it takes a lot of effort to move you through your daily routines. Well, we have to be careful how we prompt you on this, because even an utterance of your name in a firm or raised voice can cause you to burst into tears and flee the scene – thus putting us even more behind schedule. Recently, you responded to my admonishment of “Gwen!” by hiding under my desk crying. When I came to find you, you said, “I don’t think anyone loves me right now.” It was heartbreaking! I explained to you that Mom and Dad will always love you, no matter what, but that it is frustrating for us when you don’t listen to us and get your morning (or evening) jobs done. It makes me really sad that one word would be enough to make you feel unloved – the rest of the day, I really do try to fill up your love tank, bottomless though it may seem.

Many of our fall activities have begun and more are starting soon. You have been in piano lessons now for over a month, and mostly seem to enjoy them, although the practice at home can be a challenge. I have chosen ‘right before dinner’ as our practice time, which is good in that we are almost always home for dinner and it’s a very consistent time, but bad in that it’s the end of your day and your behaviour is not always great (nor is my patience). There are certain concepts in your music learning that you catch on to incredibly fast. For example, the curriculum uses various animals and characters to teach the notes: “Creepy Crawling Critter” is C, “Dancing Dinosaur” is D, and “Elegant Edyth the Elk” is E. You take these in very quickly and then seem to have no further use for them: You know where C is, with or without the cutesy name. Also, your firm grasp on high notes and low notes, and your quick understanding of which end of the piano produces what pitch, has led to your finally being able to tell the difference between your left and right. The usual “left-hand-makes-an-L-shape” is pretty confusing to a pre-literate kid, after all, but my improvised sing-song that “right hand makes high notes” (because right and high kind of rhyme) and “left hand makes low notes” (because left and low begin with the same letter) has sunk in quite effectively. You are able to identify your left [body part] or right [body part] on demand, very quickly, even when not sitting in front of the piano. Hooray!

Our other activity is Kingdom Kids, which I am grateful is only every second week since I am the leader of this club! I am finding it very challenging to balance my role as your mom with my role as the club leader – not necessarily during the club meeting, when I get to be with all the kids and do craft time, story time, and so on, but before and after the meetings, when it’s only you and me on hand and I am really busy rearranging the entire room (and then putting it all back), setting up all the supplies (and then putting them all back in my car), and all the other set-up and take-down activities. You are largely ignored during this time and it’s really unfair, especially after club is over when we really need to get home, and you are tired and hungry and so completely done, and your mom is moving 35 chairs back to position and you are SO OVER IT. Other than these logistics, you are really enjoying KK club, and I think you like that your mom is the teacher and that you get to be in the loop on what we are doing before the other kids. And I was so proud of you when we were on our way to our second club meeting and I mentioned how last time, you had gotten to find the special message from our puppet. You picked up your cue right away and told me that “Tonight, I’m going to let someone else have a turn.” And you did! You are the best!

Now here’s an odd thing. A few days ago you plunked yourself down on the couch, peeled off your sock, and stuck your big toe in your mouth. It’s not so much the toe in the mouth that is odd, actually – it’s the matter-of-fact way in which you performed this task. When I casually asked you what you were doing, your response was even more interesting: “I don’t know if you want to know, Mommy.” Well naturally this made me even more curious, but I kept it low-key as I replied that actually, I really did want to know. You showed me your toe and asked me to feel its texture: it was ‘stripey’ and ‘polka-dotty’ and ‘funner’ (your words). Apparently you engage in this behaviour quite often in bed, before you go to sleep. Well, your dad had noticed for the past few months that the skin on your big toes was shredded and raw, and had wondered if you had some kind of fungus. Nope. It’s just you, chewing your foot for some reason. I asked if it hurt your toe when you chewed on it, but you said it didn’t. Whether this is the result of some kind of anxiety (which seems to run in our family) or whether you are simply enjoying the physical stimulation, I don’t know, and I don’t think you have the language to express either without me putting words in your mouth. Either way, we will have to figure out a way to help you stop this, as it’s not a healthy habit. Eventually, you won’t be able to put your foot in your mouth, but if you’ve already built a habit of chewing/picking by then, you’ll just find something else to fill that need. I still find it quite interesting that you chose to demonstrate this habit to me, and I told you at the time how glad I was that you told me about it. 
Well, I think that’s it for this month, Gwen. As always you are awesome and hilarious and smart and fascinating and wonderful and crazy. I love you a million, billion, kajillion and four and a half.


Friday, September 28, 2012

More Signs of How Fast She's Growing Up

Gwen is starting to have an interest in money and the value of money. I have always been pretty upfront with her when she asks for things – whether it’s at the grocery store or in reference to a new toy – saying, “we don’t have money for that right now.” Recently she has started to catch on that certain outings cost money – Jumpin’ Jiminy’s, the pool – while others don’t – the playground, the waterpark. And certainly she has noticed my preference for the ones that are free. Earlier this week, after hearing about her two friends’ recent trip to Disneyland, she put all of her thoughts together and, as usual, came up with a “great idea” – “Mom, you don’t have to worry about enough money for Disneyland, because I have money IN MY PIGGYBANK!”

She found her piggybank and took out all the money. We sorted the different coins into piles (do all four-year-olds love sorting as much as Gwen does?), and then I talked a little about the value of the different coins. After counting them all up, we had a grand total of fifteen dollars. I then dropped the bomb that a family trip to Disneyland would probably cost about five thousand dollars. I thought briefly of trying to visually show her the amount of five thousand as compared to fifteen, but decided we’d had enough didactic learning for one day, and besides, no need to depress the poor child. Anyway, lest you think that money anxieties plague her mind, I did tell her that when the time was right we would DEFINITELY go to Disneyland, and she happily went back to sorting and counting and general merriment.

The coda to the story is that a few days later, she asked how much it would cost to go to Jumpin’ Jiminy’s. “I think it’s about … seven dollars?” I guessed. “SEVEN! I have more than seven dollars … so WE CAN GO TO JUMPIN’ JIMINY’S! HOORAY!” So now I’ll have to find some other excuse not to go there …

A related ‘real-world’ conversation we’ve been having recently is about playdates and Gwen’s constant need for stimulation. Just about every day as we are on our way home from school, she asks for one friend or another to come over and visit. I have recently begun explaining that it’s a whole lot easier for Moms and Dads and even kids, if we organize playdates for a day that isn’t a school day or work day. We went back to her trusty weekly calendar (which has largely fallen out of use now that her weekday activities are more consistent) and I showed her how two of the days begin with an S. “Those are good days for playdates,” I told her. “Those are days that Mom doesn’t go to work, and you don’t go to school, and your friends don’t go to school, so there’s lots of time for playing. On a school and work day, we only have time for a little bit of playing; mostly we do our put-away chores, we get dinner ready, we play music, and have just a bit of time for playing before dinner and getting ready for bed. It’s too rushed to have friends over. But on the days that begins with S, we have ALL DAY to do fun things! Those are good days for playdates.” She seemed to understand and take this in. Naturally, the next day when she woke up she asked me if it was an S day. This whole concept is really a lot to take in!

The put-away chores are another example of Gwen’s growing maturity. When we get home from school, she knows that it is her job to take off and put away her shoes, hat, and jacket, then take out the Tupperware from her lunch kit and put it in the dishwasher and put her lunch kit away in the pantry. I’m generally doing much the same thing with my own lunch kit and work stuff. She has taken this on very smoothly and without any fuss – in fact, she seems very happy and proud to do it. One day when I happened to put her things away because she’d gotten swept up in something else, she became very upset when she realized a few minutes later that she had been cheated out of the chance to do her chores. I think pretty soon I am going to add a couple more things to this list; for example, I’d like her to clear her own dishes after a meal, and wipe the table (and floor if needed). This might also have the bonus of encouraging her to be a less messy eater, since she will be the one dealing with the consequences! Eventually I’d also like her to start making her bed in the mornings, but mornings are already so challenging that I’m not going to add anything else to the mix just yet.

Her willingness to do chores and her interest in money have me thinking about some kind of allowance. I think five is a reasonable age to start receiving some kind of stipend. I haven’t done any formal research into this recently, but surveying my own thoughts/beliefs on the subject has led me to a few conclusions:
- I think kids need to be given money in order to learn how to handle money
- I think kids need both guidance and autonomy in how they spend their money
- I think that at least some portion of the allowance should have no connection to chores
- I think most of the chores should have no connection to money

My sister, whose kids are older than Gwen, has already tried a method or two. One idea she used made a lot of sense to me: that her older son Andrew could earn 25 cents a night setting the table for dinner, but only if he did it without being asked. Similarly, if the kids are ready for school on time without being nagged, they get some kind of reward that can then be cashed in for monetary or other rewards at the end of the week. Either way, they still have to get ready for school. But if they do it without giving their mom a lot of grief, they’re rewarded for it.

This method neatly avoids one of the pitfalls that has me a little concerned. I don’t want Gwen’s natural agreeableness and willingness to help stifled by the expectation of receiving money for the usual jobs and assistance that she needs to do in order to keep our house and family running smoothly. There is a certain level of helpfulness I expect from her just because she is a member of our family - our team - and we all work together. There are extra things that I may ask of her in the future, which may be worthy of pay. For example, when I was a teenager my father paid me $5.00 a week to wash the car or mow the lawn – larger chores that he would have had to do himself if he hadn’t had me to help. To me, that’s in a different category from tidying up after oneself, contributing to family meals, and so on.

The flip side is, whether or not she helps with her put-away chores and other jobs, I think she needs to receive a regular sum of money on a regular basis so that she can learn how to handle money. I know there are special piggy banks available that encourage kids to start the fundamentals of budgeting – allocate some money to savings, some to share (charity donations), and some for spending. I’m pretty sure Gwen is going to find one of those under the Christmas tree this year, with a note that she will be receiving a weekly allowance from then on.

What are your experiences with chores/allowance – as a child, and if applicable, a parent? What has worked or not worked in your family? What ideas have I not thought of?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month 53

Dear Gwen,

Today you are fifty-three months old.

Your personality is becoming more and more evident and in general, that personality is fascinating.  You are energetic, happy, creative, funny, exuberant, loving, curious, and brave.  Just about every day, I get to hear you say some variation of "Mom, I have a GREAT idea."  Life with you is many things ... but it is not dull.

A few days ago we were snuggling in the big bed before starting our day, and I warned that, "At the end of this song, we will have to get up and do our morning jobs."
You asked, "How many people will have to get up and do morning jobs?"
I responded, "Three people will have to get up and do morning jobs!"
So you asked, "Will it be Mom, and Dad, and Mooey (stuffed animal)?"

Ha!  What a great example of both your sense of humour and your distaste for mornings.  I know plenty of parents whose kids get up way too early in the morning, and I have nothing but sympathy for them.  On the other hand, it's not easy at the other end of the spectrum, either: dragging an unwilling child through the routine tasks of the morning - go potty, get dressed, have breakfast, wash hands, brush hair, get shoes - when every single component of that routine is an ENORMOUS battle.  Still, if I had to choose between a child who starts her day at 5:30am and one that would, if I let her, probably sleep till 9, I think I'm going to stick with the morning dawdler.  At least I get to have the battles after getting a full night of sleep.

We have made some changes to our routines now that (pre) school has started again.  For one thing, we recently implemented the rule that you don't get to watch any TV in the mornings.  You were really getting into the habit of watching an episode of Dora or Diego or whatever else we had on DVD every morning, which caused your breakfast-ingestion process to lengthen out to about 25 minutes.  Which would be fine, if all the other steps in the morning routine were completed quickly.  But as mentioned above, THEY ARE NOT.  We don't have 25 minutes to spend on breakfast.  And then immediately when the show was finished, you would want another one, and then we would be fighting about that instead of washing-hands-brushing-hair-getting-shoes-on-getting-out-the-door.  Solution?  No TV in the mornings.  You can thank your Auntie Sara for suggesting that rule, and I have to say you have not had a lot of difficulty accepting it.

On the flip side, you are now watching TV more often after school (again, just a 30-minute episode).  You seem to come home from school pretty worn out and need that downtime to process your day and then be ready to interact with others again.  This works out pretty well as it gives me time to put away our work/school things, get dinner going, and so on.

In general, I think you are really enjoying being at school 4 days a week (as opposed to last year which was only 2 days a week).  Last year's routine was preschool on Monday, Gramma on Tuesdays, daycare on Wednesdays, preschool on Thursdays, daycare on Fridays.  A lot of shifting around from one place to another, and you did well with it, but I can absolutely feel the relief you are experiencing as a result of not having to deal with that this year.  Now you are four days at preschool and one day at Gramma's.  In addition to having more consistency, I think you are happy to build stronger friendships with your teachers and friends at school.  I know last year the teachers would mention some event that was coming up tomorrow or later in the week, and you wouldn't always be there for that event, so that led to a lot of disappointment and frustration.  Now that has almost completely been eliminated, and you are definitely more comfortable with the more consistent routine.  And just think, in less than a year you will be in kindergarten, FIVE days a week.
You've attended two piano lessons so far, and you are really enjoying them.  Your class is part of the Music for Young Children program, an internationally-acclaimed program that is taught in a group setting.  I'm a little disappointed that the classes were scheduled during my work day so I can't attend with you, but at least they happen to fall on Dad's day off so he can take you.  And after all, it's probably really good that the two of you have something special that you do together, even if I am a little jealous.  The classes at this stage are focussing on tempo (not too fast, not too slow), loud vs soft, and dinosaur dens - these are the two black keys on either side of the D key.  When Dinosaur wants to play, I'm told, he comes out of his den and plays on his patio.  In addition to actually playing the keyboard, there is lots of colouring, paper-cutting, puppet-making, and other very interactive activities to support your lessons.  I must confess that I am just starting to get into the habit of making time in our day to complete your MYC homework, but that's a typical symptom of a busy September transition, I think!

You are growing increasingly affectionate and want to be physically touching me all the time.  You often ask me, "Can I hug you forever?" to which, obviously, the answer is YES.  I can't believe how lucky I am to get so many hugs from you!

At the same time, however, you are getting very big and very strong and very, well, boney, and having you clamber all over my body is not always very pleasant.  You love to be in physical contact, but this is not a "sit still and snuggle up to Mom" type event.  It's more of a "I have a hard time telling the difference between Mom and a jungle gym" sort of thing.  I've been trying to persuade you lately that actually, all the parts of my body have feelings, and those feelings include pain when they are being stepped on, elbowed, kicked, head-butted, etc.  You are not quite buying it.

It seems that your favourite word these days is "actually".  You use this word mainly to correct the other people in your world about how they are not meeting your stringent requirements.  For example:

Gramma: Let's tidy up your toys and then have some dinner.
Gwen: Actually, I have a better idea.  Why don't I keep playing, and you go make dinner.

Mom: I made spaghetti for dinner.
Gwen: Actually, I wanted hot dogs for dinner.

Dad: It's time for your bath!
Gwen: Actually, I don't want to have a bath.

You say "actually" so often that it's kind of become a running joke between your parents and grandparents.  You say it with such authority and intention that it's hard to argue with you.  It's also hard not to find it hilarious.

Well, that's it for this month's newsletter, Gwen.  As always, I love you a million, billion, kajillion and four ... and yes, you can hug me forever.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Fifty-Two

Dear Gwen,

Today you are 52 months old.

The main event this past month was our trip to the lake. We got to spend almost a week there, with Grandpa, Grannie, Auntie Sara and your cousins, and various other day-visitors. It was a really excellent trip. I was a little worried (okay, kind of terrified) that your recent spate of accident-proneness would carry forward to the lake, where tiny mishaps such as falling down can actually lead to major injuries or fatal drowning, but NO! You fared just fine, with not even ONE incident of falling in the lake. I have to take some credit for this, since I devoted some time and energy before the trip into devising a few simple rules that I knew would work for you:

- Visual reminders on both doors of the cabin to help you remember to put your lifejacket on when going outside
- Using painter’s tape to mark boundaries which you were not to cross without a grown-up accompanying you

These both worked really well, and you were quite well-behaved and stuck to the rules, which in no way prevented you from having an excellent time at the lake. You were in swimming nearly every day, and apart from your inflexible need to have me get in the water to help YOU get in the water, you really had no need of my assistance or presence once you were in. You spent a lot of time “rescuing” toy boats or other floating items that you asked people to throw in the lake for you (yes, basically a glorified game of Fetch). I was very proud and happy to see how comfortable you were in the water and how much you enjoyed it. I have many years of happy memories of my own ‘water-baby’ days at the cabin, so it’s pretty neat to watch you experience the same thing.
You also spent a lot of time in various paddle boats and row boats with your cousins. Andrew is now 9 and Scott 6, so they are old enough to take these boats out (in our sheltered area) without a grown-up, and most of the time they were happy to take you along. This was wonderful for you as you got to spend time with your big cousins, and wonderful for me as I got to sit on the deck and have a break! You really are much happier when there are other kids around to play with, even if they aren’t exactly your age. If we get into camping or other family vacations in the future, I’ll have to remember that tidbit.
There is one area where your behaviour was not exactly flawless, and it was in the area of dinner consumption. The saga of Gwen and Desserts at the Cabin will no doubt become family lore, so let me share it here with you. The first night we were all at the cabin, we had hamburgers for dinner. You have happily eaten hamburgers in the past, but this night you were having none of it. Perhaps you were just too excited to be with your cousins, perhaps you’d eaten too many snacks throughout the day, perhaps you were just being your incredibly stubborn and unpredictable self – whatever the reason, I advised you that if you did not eat (a good portion of) your dinner, you would not get dessert. Sure enough, you didn’t eat. An hour or so later when dessert was served, you asked me if you could have some. When I responded that you could not – well, I’d heard the phrase “her face broke” before, but now I really know what it means. You were devastated. Most tellingly, while you almost always come to me for comfort when upset, this time you shunned me and ran to the room we were sharing, shut the curtain, flung yourself on the bed and wept as if your little heart was breaking.

Meanwhile, the three other adults in the cabin tried to persuade me that I was being too harsh. “It’s the cabin!” “She’s on vacation!” “We didn’t think you were SERIOUS about not giving her dessert!” But serious I was, and I didn’t waver for an instant. “If I hadn’t specifically told her she couldn’t have dessert without eating dinner, MAYBE I could give her some, but now that I’ve said it I can’t go back on it,” I told them, and left the room full of disapproving clucks and sighs to go comfort you.

Well, next thing I knew your two cousins were in the room too. “Don’t worry, Gwen, we won’t have dessert either,” they said in an amazing show of solidarity. My sister cut up some apple slices for the kids to share, Gwen sniffled her way back into the common room, and there was no further mention of dessert.

The next night we had chicken fajitas. Not a food you’ve had before, but made of ingredients – chicken, salsa, cheese, tortillas – that you like. Once again, you refused to eat even one bite. Once again, I made the threat about dessert and it fell on deaf ears. This time I got a little bit wiser, and I put your plate aside when all the others were tidied up after the meal. When dessert time came around, you asked for your share, and this time I had a backup plan – I told you that if you ate your (now cold) dinner, you could have dessert. Well, what do you know – you sat down and ate it! The other adults, now having a much better picture of your day-to-day eating habits, were much more sympathetic to me this time, and the other kids made no heroic offers to sacrifice their desserts on your behalf.

This post is already plenty long but I have to add one more note, which is that I am starting to get a glimpse of the older, more mature Gwen and it sometimes takes my breath away.  It's not so hard to believe that you will be off to kindergarten in only one year.  You are sometimes so independent, so capable, so reasonable and so pleasant to be with that I am in awe of the person you are becoming.  Those moments when we can be together as two people, rather than as caregiver and child, are so precious and amazing.  I look forward to more and more of them as you continue to grow, and hope that I will keep your trust and earn your willingness to confide in me.  I love you so much, and am so proud of you!


Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Funny

I just found this in the draft folder and thought I'd share it.

Gwen: You can iron this later.  You're a genius at ironing.
Me: Am I?  What does 'genius' mean?
Gwen: It means you're a star of it.
Me: Oh, so I'm really good at it?
Gwen: Yeah.
Me: What other things am I a star of?
Gwen: Well, you're a star of making cupcakes and cookies with me.  You love to do that.
Me: Yeah, I am pretty good at that.  That's true.  What else?
Gwen: Um, you're good at driving me to school.  And picking me up.
Me: Yes, yes I am.  Anything else?
Gwen: You're a star of playing with me.
Me: Yeah, I'm good at that.  Wow, I'm a star of some good things.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


When I was a kid, I was accident-prone.  I know because I was told so all the time, and frequently heard my mother say it to other people about me.  I actually thought this was a real thing, like being asthmatic or allergic.  "Oh, of course she got hurt.  She's accident-prone."  Now that I have my own kid, I am starting to think that "accident-prone" is just a fancy way of saying "has no damn sense".  Here is a round-up of what our Gwen managed to do in one week.
July 19, we went to the neighbourhood park (actually a closed elementary school) after dinner to play with a friend.  Said friend was complaining to his dad that he didn't want to wear shoes, and dad was insisting that he wouldn't be safe without them.  Meanwhile, Gwen was playing some distance away, waiting for the argument to be over so she and her friend could go play on the swings.  She started fussing and carrying on and as I walked towards her, she was trying to take off her shoe.  I thought, Oh, she's got a rock in her shoe or something.  When I reached her, she did report that there was something in her shoe, hurting her.  I took the shoe off and looked inside.  I could see something sticking up into her shoe but couldn't tell what it was, so I flipped the shoe over.  It was a large triangle of glass that had poked all the way through her running shoe and into her foot, puncturing her big toe right at the crease where it joins the foot.  I have never seen anything like it, a piece of glass going all the way through the shoe like that!

Once Gwen saw the blood she REALLY started to freak out, and of course I had nothing with me in the way of first aid supplies, not even a Kleenex to wipe up the blood.  Fortunately I did have a water bottle and so I poured water onto the cut to clean it up and assess how bad it was.  Though at first it looked like a significant gash, it turned out to be more of a small (though fairly deep) puncture.  Right away I knew no trip to the hospital was needed, as there would be no need to stitch up such a small wound.  So I carried her home (with a brief trip to the swings to cheer her up) and got her bandaged and into bed.

The interesting coda to this story is that Chris suggested I call the City and/or the School District to let them know there was glass at the park.  I did so, and the School District parks maintenance people took the complaint quite seriously, asking me exactly what area the injury happened in, and giving me an after-hours number to call if I ever saw anything untoward happening in that or any other school playground (we suspect the reason for the glass is that teenagers use the park for after-hours partying).  I was quite impressed with their follow up.  Oh, and I feel pretty confident that neither Gwen nor her friend will ever ask to go barefoot at the park again.

July 24, we went next door to play with our friend Lily.  Gwen was running from the back yard to the front when she tripped on their small dog and went flying across the pavement.  I was just coming around the corner, and could hear the scccccrrrraaaappppppe of her knees on the cement.  Sure enough both her knees were a total mess.  Lily's mom brought us a wet cloth and some My Little Pony bandaids, which were a hit.  Gwen is definitely one of those kids who freaks out at the sight of blood, and I kept encouraging her to look at something other than her poor sad knees while I cleaned them up.  Do you remember how an injury would always hurt worse when you were looking at it?  No?  Maybe just me, then.

The very next day, Gwen and I went out to the park again after work/daycare.  Astoundingly, Gwen climbed all the way to the top of the jungle-gym-dome-thingy, TWICE, without help and without incident.  But a few minutes later, she found this chain barrier strung across a gap in the fence that likely used to be a gate, and decided to sit and swing on it.  This did not work out so well. She fell straight back and smacked her head on the gravel.  She started to run toward me, then suddenly she (fell? dropped? lay down?) flat on the grass on her stomach and just stayed there, crying, as I came towards her.  That is not like her, and that one action scared me enough to wonder if she might be seriously injured.  I knew she hadn't hurt her spine, as she had been up and running, but I was worried about a head injury.  She did report that her head really hurt, and as she pointed to the source of the pain, I saw that the back of her head was bleeding.  I'd always heard that scalp lacerations bleed excessively, but this one didn't actually bleed much more than her skinned knees the previous day.  I did still wonder about a concussion, though, so I tried to assess her for dizzyness, blurred vision, or other problems.  All she wanted to do was cuddle me (of course), which made it hard to tell if she was tired - which could be a sign of a problem - or just upset, rightly so, after being hurt.

I called Chris at work and he was unequivocal - take her to the hospital.  I was 98% sure she was fine, but figured it wouldn't hurt to have a doctor's confirmation of this.  I carried Gwen home so I could pick up my wallet with her Care Card, and off we went to the ER.  The wait was minimal, and the doctor who saw us - Dr. Wigham - was absolutely awesome.  He put Gwen at ease right away by making her laugh a little, and I very much appreciated his efforts to do this, since he was exactly the sort of physical figure - tall, male, stranger, authority - that makes Gwen very shy and nervous.  Once he got Gwen talking to him, he asked her if he could look at her owie, which she showed him, and after asking us a few questions, he felt very confident that she did not have a concussion.  He put some cleaning solution on her head, after showing it to her first and telling her what he was going to do.  I was so grateful and impressed with his respect towards her, as in many cases another adult might just choose to speak to me and treat her as if she wasn't there, or not a real person who might want to know what he's doing to the back of her head.

So off we went home, with me feeling glad that Gwen's first of what is likely to be many ER experiences had gone so smoothly. I am well aware that we will be back, and so I feel glad that next time we need to go Gwen will hopefully feel less anxious/worried about what it will be like, since she had such a positive experience the first time. 

Maybe because Chris has not been there to witness any of these incidents, he seems more worried about it than I am.  "You've got to stop taking that kid out of the house!" he told me, in a joking-but-not-really way.  But really, what are you going to do?  Keep her home, never go outside, lock her in a protective bubble?  I think minor injuries and ER adventures are all part of being a kid (of course, I would think that - I was an accident-prone kid, remember?).  But honestly, even if we never left the house she'd find some way to injure herself.  Might as well get some fresh air while you're at it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Fifty-One

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

The main thing that's different about you, these days, is that you're kind of bossy.  You heartily refuse to accept the reality that Mom and Dad are the actual bosses, as you would really like to run everything yourself.  Sometimes this is cute or funny, sometimes it's breathtakingly rude, and we never know how it's going to look or what other lucky friends, family, or even perfect strangers are going to be treated to a healthy dose of Gwen Attitude.  What I find challenging about this is that I'm not sure if I'm supposed to (figuratively) beat this behaviour out of you, or whether time will smooth out the edges and I merely have to duck and cover and make sure we all survive that long.  I really hope it's the latter, because your alpha female personality + my alpha female personality = some real humdinger fights!
One example of your newfound desire for authority is that you have started to threaten me and Dad, except you don't actually understand how this works.  I say things to you like, "Gwen, if you don't get your shoes on, you can't go outside."  And your translation of this, when you want me to do your bidding, is: "Mama, if you say no to me one more time, I'm going to go to sleep and not talk to you anymore."  Um ... OKAY!  Interestingly, you don't get too angry or frustrated when your threats don't have the desired effects.  Thank goodness!

Another 'charming' new habit is that you like to blow raspberries at me when you don't like what I'm saying to you.  I understand that you get mad or frustrated with people or events, and that you want to express those feelings, but I'm trying to help you understand that some expressions are not appropriate.  Of course, it's hard to get this message across to you when you are already angry - and when you're not angry, you have no interest in discussing it.  A couple of weeks ago, you had been rude to me two or three times over the course of the morning as we prepared to go spend the day at the beach with a friend.  Finally, the bag was packed, the beach toys chosen, the picnic prepared, and it was time to go.  The only thing that needed to happen was for you to put your shoes on.  Unfortunately, you and I disagreed about which shoes were appropriate for you, and you blew a big raspberry in my face.  I felt I had no choice but to send you to your room and cancel our beach outing - I just couldn't condone that behaviour.  On the other hand, I regretted leaving our friends in the lurch, and I was disappointed both for myself and for you that we weren't going to spend an enjoyable day at the beach.  Looking back on it now, I still have no further wisdom to add and no idea how I could have handled the situation differently.  It's frustrating for both of us.

On the other hand, I do have some good new tools that I really like, thanks to a parenting course I've been taking and some conversations with my friend Heather, whose nephew is very close to your age.  Heather has given me the gem of "Are you asking me or telling me?", which is used like this:

Gwen: I want a piggy back ride!
Me: Are you asking me or telling me?
Gwen: Asking.
Me: Let's hear it.
Gwen: Can I have a piggy back ride, please Mom?

From the parenting course, I learned to frame every instance of discipline in a relational way, that is, to tell you how your words or actions affect those around you.  Instead of just saying, "Don't jump on the couch," I can say, "Don't jump on the couch, because it could break and I don't have money to buy a new one."  Or instead of saying, "Don't blow raspberries at me," I say, "Don't blow raspberries at me because it's really rude, it hurts my feelings and makes me not want to be around you."  The other brilliant tool is that after a time-out or other discipline, I say, "You know I love you no matter what, but please try to remember that we don't (yell at people) because (it hurts their feelings)."
I have noticed a couple of new awesome habits, too, that are just starting to pop up sometimes.  In general - and much like me - you like to get your own way.  There are many times that this is just impossible, for example when you tell me you want a sandwich but forget to tell me that it should be cut in rectangles instead of triangles, and the problem only becomes apparent after the sandwich is cut.  Most of the time this is cause for great weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  However, a few times lately similar events have happened and you have just ... rolled with it.  A couple of days ago we were visiting Uncle Mikey and I had brought along a colouring book and a selection of crayons you had picked out.  You wanted black, but hadn't brought it, and I braced myself for the storm.  Then you decided, "Oh well, I will just use blue instead."  I was stunned!  Naturally I praised you for your flexibility and resourcefulness.  Hopefully this trend will continue!

You are often in your own little world and it can be very hard to get through to you to get you to do the 4,715 million things we need to do each day.  Often, I will give you an instruction such as "Go get your shoes on," and you will rush to the front hall, then forget what I've asked (or perhaps you stopped listening after the word 'go'?) and instead spend 15-20 minutes playing with whatever objects strike your fancy, making up silly songs, you know, DAWDLING.  Then all those minutes pass and I happen by and am stunned that you haven't managed to get your shoes on.  But an awesome new thing has happened a couple of times, and I sure hope it starts to happen more.  Recently, I asked you to bring your dishes from the dinner table to the dishwasher.  You rushed off in your usual frenetic fashion to the table, then stopped short and said, "...Mom? I don't remember what you asked me."  WOW!  I was all too happy to remind you, and again praised you sky-high for your honesty and effort to stay on task.  Perhaps there's hope for us after all.

Other than that, you continue to careen through life at full speed, once in a while even paying attention to what direction you're rushing off in.  You are still crazy, creative, hilarious, and full of joy.  You love picnics, ponies, butterflies, rainbows, unicorns, and the colours pink and purple.  You think green is yucky and plaid is too handsome for you to wear.  You adore fruit, especially watermelon, and are enjoying the great variety available at this time of year.  Your dislike of protein infrequently abates and we even managed to get you to eat a hamburger recently!

As always I love you a million billion kajillion and four ... no matter what.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Lots of Things Happened!

It's been a shamefully long time since I updated, so please bear with me while I blather on about a great many things.

1. I graduated! I have now officially finished my degree, after nearly ten years of distance education, and can merrily call myself a BA (English). This has had little effect on my day to day life as I still work full-time at my boring and often very menial day job. However, I am trying to launch a freelance editing business on the side, and have had a couple customers so far. I really enjoy editing, working through written material to correct not only the mechanical stuff (grammar, punctuation, spelling, word usage) but the more esoteric task of ensuring the words flow as smoothly as possible and the meaning comes across crystal clear to the intended audience. Yes - I am a word geek. And I love it.


2. I celebrated! Since I didn't actually drive to Athabasca (2 hours outside of Edmonton, Alberta) to attend convocation, I wanted to do some other stuff to mark the occasion of graduation. My friends helped me throw the most amazing grad party, with costumes and charades and great amounts of silliness and fun. I asked everyone to dress up as a favourite literary character, which was actually supposed to be really easy, but turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. I was absolutely tickled to see what kinds of fantastic costumes my friends came up with, and it was so much fun to try and guess what characters they were - it really got everyone mingling. For added fun, my parents and sister attended the party as well. I was a little worried about how that might work (would my parents think my friends were hooligans? would my friends think my parents were squares?) but it went awesomely, with both groups gushing to me the next day about how much fun the other group was.

3. The Big Moment! Prior to the party, I told my friends that I wanted a Moment, a moment when I went from being plain old Laura to being Laura, B.A. I didn't know exactly how to create this, but Tami and Arwen were all over it. Tami had already advised me months ago that when my degree arrived in the mail, I shouldn't open it, but should save it for the party - which I did. Arwen took it about seven steps further, because that is what she is good at. We picked out a graduation cap from the party store, a really cool one that everyone could sign, and she had me put it on at the party and walk across the room after she made a really nice speech about me. (I had to be reminded to move my tassel from one side to the other!) Then everyone counted down from 10 to 1 - like on New Year's Eve - and I opened my degree. That was my official moment, and although it was a completely random time on an arbitrarily chosen date, it felt tremendously real to me. I am absolutely overjoyed that I got to share that moment with many friends and family, instead of being alone on a stage with a bunch of strangers.

4. The Purchase! It turns out that when you graduate, people give you money! My parents, grandpa, in-laws, and a few other people gave me cash on the big day, and it turned out to be enough not only to defray the costs of the party, but to buy something I have wanted for a long time - a proper sofabed for friends and family to sleep on when they come to visit. I spotted it in Costco when I went shopping for the party food, and had to come back the next day with my parents and sister to get their opinion. I was texting Chris with pictures from my phone to get his approval, as well (since he was at work). Approval was gained and the next day my gracious in-laws met me at Costco with their truck to pick it up. I LOOOOOOOVE this new couch. Another thing that I have wanted for a long long time is a recliner, and while we don't have room for it in our current living room, this couch has an extended seat on one side that I have claimed forever as mine own, and it serves a similar purpose. The only person who has actually slept on the sofabed part, so far, is Gwen (when she wasn't feeling well a week or so ago), so consider this an invitation to my faraway friends and family - come visit and try it out!

5. I auditioned! I promised myself that when I finished school, I would add singing back into my life - I haven't done any performance singing since before Gwen was born, and I really miss it. I've thought a lot about what kind of setting would be a good fit for me; I was immensely spoiled in my Powell River days by being a member of a very exclusive vocal jazz ensemble, and being in a 100-member, mediocre-standards choir just does not do it for me. I tried out two singing groups here on the Island prior to having Gwen, and they were both enjoyable, but not quite right, for different reasons. So I decided a good fit might be to audition for a musical. We are guaranteed to actually perform (lack of performances was an issue for me in one of the groups I tried), and the period of commitment is well-defined: audition, rehearsal, performance, done. If I don't like the songs or the people or the situation, well, it'll be over in a few months. As it happens, though, I am pretty optimistic about the play I auditioned for. It's Alice in Pantoland, the Christmas pantomime (British humour) put on by the Nanaimo Theatre Group. I have taken Gwen to these shows for the past two years and we have both LOVED them. And now I might get to be in one! The audition itself was a blast - it turned out that the musical director was the director for one of the vocal groups I've already been in, so he knows me and thinks well of me. He tried to convince the rest of the audition folks (no idea who they are or what their roles are, since they didn't introduce themselves) that I didn't really need to sing, because he already knew what I was capable of, but they still wanted to hear me and of course I didn't mind at all - that's what I came to do. I had prepared a song from Cabaret, but it turned out there was no accompanist, so I switched gears and used my go-to a capella song, "Smile". It's sweet and schmaltzy and slow and gives me lots of opportunity to play and show my range. After I finished, the musical director asked me if I could please try something really bizarre: "Sing the first part of that song again, but sing it REALLY ANGRY." Well, "Smile" is not the sort of song that you usually sing angry, so that was a new experience! I was really making it up as I went along, pacing across the stage and gesturing sarcastically with a bitter smile twisting my face. Everyone was laughing - it was really fun. I should hear back next week about the results!

6. Adventures with Gwen! I know or have heard of a few parents who made it a habit to not let their new baby interrupt their lives in any way, who let their infants snooze in their carseats while Mom and Dad played with their softball team, and so on. That was never my experience. Gwen was not the sort of baby who would have tolerated that, and to be honest I don't think I could have multi-tasked to that extent either. But now she is four, and I have a husband who works weekends, and I still want to have a life, and I've become the mom who brings her kid everywhere. I brought her to the above-mentioned audition, for example, making friends with a teenager in the waiting room so she would hang out with Gwen when I was called in. I brought her to a (grown-up) friend's birthday barbecue the same weekend. I brought her along to my fancy graduation lunch and she will also be attending a "YAY IT'S SUMMER" outing on a certain rooftop patio with two of my best girlfriends this weekend. She's my plus-one, and she is old enough to behave well (for a limited time at least), and I am experienced enough to bring along the props and distractions to make this work. (An iPhone with a goodly number of kids' apps is a lifesaver in this situation.)
7. Adventures with Gwen, Part Two! Yes, we also go on lots of Gwen-centric outings. Summer means playdates on the beach or at water parks, and the excellent Free Outdoor Movies events are starting this month as well. We also took in a free kids' concert in the park, Shelley Bean and the Duckety Muds, which was terrifically entertaining! It was not a "sit still and listen" kind of concert, but one where the kids were openly invited to get up on stage, dance, do actions, and let their personalities shine out. Well, it will not surprise you to note that this is the kind of environment where Gwen thrives (pretty sure she will also be auditioning for the Christmas panto in a year or two). She spent pretty much the whole time dancing along on stage, and I have some great pictures and video to prove it.

That's all I can think of for now.  Hope you all have a great weekend!


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