Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Forty-Seven

Dear Gwen,

Today you are forty-seven months old.

For the most part it's been a really fun and fascinating month. You are getting more and more fun to hang out with and it's so cool to hear you express your own unique view of the world. Your sense of humour is also growing in leaps and bounds, and you have a new, flawlessly-told joke to prove it.

Gwen: Guess what I am.
Unwitting straight person: A duck?
Gwen: Nope, a duck with a mustache.

This joke is made even more hilarious when you occasionally put your finger in the wrong spot, above your nose instead of below it. (Duck with a monobrow?)

You say plenty of other hilarious things that you don't intend to be hilarious. For example, a few weeks ago you were reciting some lines from one of your very favourite movies, The Nightmare Before Christmas (known in our house as "The Jack Show"). I piped up with my best imitation of one of the characters, and you burst out laughing. "Mama, I didn't know you could speak Halloween!" you shrieked joyfully. Then it was my turn to burst out laughing. Another funny incident was when I served nachos for dinner one night. You don't like ground beef, so I tried to pick out nachos that had the least amount of beef possible to put on your plate. However, upon finding some beef hiding in between the nacho and the blanket of melted cheese, you declared, "Well! That was unexpected."

I think spending so much time at home with me has had some influence on you. Since my weekends and evenings are full of chores, laundry, and errands, in addition to entertaining you, you have learned a few things. A week or so ago, I was making dinner and had put your lunch box on the counter to remind myself to make your lunch for preschool the next day. You decided that you were going to make your own lunch. I agreed to the plan, thinking you would likely pack half a dozen cookies and three yogurts or some other silly concoction, and planning to repack it myself later. But no. You packed exactly what I would have packed: a yogurt, a piece of fruit, a cookie, and a sandwich. All of which you fetched and packed yourself. You even made the sandwich. The only thing I did was open the jar of peanut butter for you. I was suitably impressed! I think it was in the same week that I was loading the dishwasher and asked you if you wanted to put the soap in. You added the soap, closed the door, locked it, and turned the dial to start the wash cycle. Wow! I was very proud of my self-sufficient child!

On the other hand, there is another side to your personality that sometimes has me shaking my head in confusion. For such a smart kid, you can also be a real goofball! You were eating blueberries recently and started to gag and hack. I rushed to your side, helped you to bend over, and encouraged you to keep coughing, meanwhile wondering if further intervention would be necessary. You suddenly coughed up a perfectly round and unchewed blueberry. After you recovered from the incident, you told me that you wanted to know what it would be like to sing with a blueberry in your throat - yes, you'd intentionally swallowed the blueberry whole. I was really glad the berry wasn't any bigger than it was, as the story could have had a much scarier ending. In any case, hopefully you now understand what the word "choke" means and why Mom and Dad are always warning you about it.
We went to a local elementary school's open house recently in preparation for you to attend kindergarten next fall (2013). I thought the event was oriented towards parents choosing the right school for their children, but in fact it turned out to be more about school administrators and aides (i.e. speech therapists) having a chance to observe the kids and offer any early intervention in regards to speech or developmental delays. That said, it was a fun event, and gave me a really great perspective on your development in the form of a handout titled "Kindergarten Readiness Checklist". In the presentation, the speech therapist made great efforts to assure parents that if their four-year-olds did not yet speak in five- or six-word sentences, they should not panic, as there were resources available to help. Your dad and I exchanged glances, wordlessly reflecting on the fact that you have probably been speaking in five- or six-word sentences since you were two and a half. But examining the "readiness" checklist gave us a bunch of other stuff that is not, to put it mildly, your particular talent:

- Listen without interrupting
- Understand actions have both causes and effects
- Be able to recognize authority
- Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks

Hahahahahahahaaaa. Ahem. No. But while you are interrupting me and defying my authority by paying no attention to the task I am directing you to do, demonstrating your failure to understand that the effect of this behaviour is being late for school, you are speaking in marvellously complex sentences of more than five words. So, there's that.

In fact, the checklist splits easily right down the middle. Anything that's about literacy, numeracy, or hand-eye co-ordination - anything that's about being smart - you have nailed. It's the social side, listening to an authority figure and participating as a member of a group, that you are not very interested in. Can't blame you for that. As my very wise friend Janice told me recently, kids develop so very many skills between birth and age five, and they all develop different skills and different times ... and not always in the order their parents might wish for them. So while I might like to trade some of those extra-long sentences for a little dose of Listens to Mom and Dad, it doesn't seem that I get a choice on that. I will try to rest assured that you will get there in the end, and hope I don't lose my mind too often in the meantime.

Mostly you are having a lot of fun these days. You are very into crafting, and getting better at it all the time. You still love to help me cook as well. Regrettably, you are becoming a bit of a picky eater, and the "kids always eat what they make" proverb does not always prove true in your case... but at least we have fun cooking.

I can't believe your 4th birthday is right around the corner, but I'll save the weeping over how fast time flies for next month. In the meantime, I love you a million, billion, kajillion and three, and am so glad you're my daughter. Rock on, Adventure Girl!


Friday, March 9, 2012

My Inscrutable Child

These two incidents happened in the exact same day and serve to illustrate how children's brains work really differently from ours, and how very weird parenting is.

Incident 1:
I am driving Gwen to preschool, using the same route we use every time (two days of preschool every week = four times a week on this route). She suddenly says, "Hey! That's the park where we were in a race." I have no idea what she's talking about, so I try to get her to tell me more. After a few more little clues, it turns out she is remembering being in an egg race (you know, where you hold an egg on a spoon and try not to drop it) back in June of last year. She is entirely correct that this is, indeed, the same park.

I am quite impressed by her ability to recall this event, nine months later.

Incident 2:
Gwen is using the bathroom at home. She has been potty trained for ~15 months, so I could estimate that she has used the bathroom approximately 2,281 times since then. I go into the bathroom to see how she is doing; she has stood up from the toilet but not flushed, which allows me to see the disappointing absence of a used wipe floating therein. "Did you remember to wipe?" I ask. "No! I forgot," she says. "How come you forget to wipe sometimes?" I ask. "Sometimes I just forget stuff like that," she responds.

Too busy reminiscing about egg races, I guess.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Valentine Boxes

I don't know why I do these things, have no idea why I am so likely to listen to the tiny voice in my head that says HEY! Forget free time, let's spend the six weeks after Christmas preparing a totally over-the-top craft project for NO REAL REASON. But I do. And I took photos. So here it is! My journey to Craft-Addicted Preschool Mom.

I set myself a couple of goals for this project: 1) I couldn't work on it at any time that could conceivably be spent doing schoolwork, and 2) I couldn't spend any additional money on the project because I spend enough money on craft supplies as it is. As a result of the first rule, it took me several weeks to do what could probably be done in a weekend. (And if you opted to spend your weekend doing this, Congratulations! You are just as crazy as me. Come over, we should hang out.)

First, I borrowed a plastic template from my friend Tami. I traced it onto pretty much every piece of 12x12" cardstock that I had in the appropriate colours. After cutting, scoring, folding, and gluing, I had 25 of these treat boxes. This took me 4-6 hours in total.

After the tracing and cutting and scoring, but before the folding and gluing, I decorated the boxes-to-be with stamps and punched hearts and stickers and so on. I printed several pages worth of "Happy Valentine's Day! Love from Gwen" and then punched these out so they were heart-shaped too. That took about 2 hours.

I had a LARGE stack of these boxes when Phase 2 started. Phase 2, of course, was CUPCAKES.

I baked a lot of cupcakes, because once you start baking cupcakes it's hard to stop. This was probably another 2 hours, plus 2 hours to cool after baking. I don't know how many cupcakes we ended up with; there were probably about 30 full-size ones and at least as many miniature ones, from 2 boxes of Duncan Hines cake mix (yes, a slight violation of rule #2, but they were ON SALE and also they do not count as craft supplies).

My cousin Mandie, whose hobbies include cake decorating, came over with her fancy cake stuff and helped us make BRIGHT PINK icing. I really wish I'd gotten a picture of Gwen's face when she added the colouring and saw the dramatic PINKNESS take effect. Highly recommend Wilton cake decorating gel for !!!extreme!!! colours.

Here are Mandie and Gwen, putting the piping bag together so we can ice the cupcakes.

The full-size cupcakes got a complete coating of icing, while the mini cupcakes got a cute rosette.

And then it was time for SPRINKLES. I had bought this contraption earlier in the year with the intention of giving it to Gwen for her birthday, but I decided it would be fun to break it in now with this project. This is called a Topping Tornado and it is sure to delight the 3-6 year old in your life. You put the sprinkles in the 5 little dispensers up top and place the cupcake in the center of the cylinder. Then you press a button to get the spinny thing spinning around and then RELEASE THE SPRINKLES and they fly all around and land an a delightful and random fashion on your cupcake.

Given the volume of our project, it soon became obvious that the Topping Tornado's set-up and processing time was going to be a hindrance, so we probably decorated fewer than 6 cupcakes in this fashion, switching quickly to the "put cupcake in a bowl and pour sprinkles over it" method. Here, Gwen takes advantage of some leftover sprinkles.

And now the finished products. Beautifully decorated cupcake:

Cupcake fitting perfectly into the treat box:

Sealed treat boxes ready for delivery to Gwen's preschool for Valentine's Day:


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