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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