Friday, December 27, 2013

Dear Gwen – Month Sixty-Eight

Dear Gwen,

This is the first newsletter I’ve ever been late with, and those who know me well will know how annoyed I am with myself for missing my self-imposed deadline and be not at all surprised that in nearly seventy months, this is the first time I’ve ever slipped.  I’m not even going to give you any excuses, just dive right into the news – but I couldn’t just start the newsletter without acknowledging the lateness.

Being December, this month has been incredibly busy and full.  The month started off with an outing to see “Cirque de la Symphonie,” an event at the Port Theatre featuring the Vancouver Island Symphony and a team of European acrobats.  Since you have been asking for years to go to the circus, and I have promised to take you if the circus were ever nearby, I just had to keep my word.  As luck would have it, Grannie and Grandpa got to join us, too.  We had front-row seats and you were completely enthralled with the entire event!  You loved spotting the different instruments and were enraptured with the acrobatic feats – and there was no complaining about the absence of elephants and lions you might have been expecting.  In fact, you loved the show so much that at one point you identified a young boy contortionist as a good candidate for fathering your future children!  We all loved the show and felt that you were now ready to experience a Cirque du Soleil show when the opportunity presented itself – since then, we have purchased tickets to see their next show in Vancouver, in June.  Something wonderful to look forward to!
The very next day, I was very busy preparing a Christmas dinner for 19 people while you had your own jam-packed social schedule: you went to your friend Lily’s birthday party and then went to perform in your Christmas piano recital.  You were all set to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and were wearing a beautiful, brand-new sparkly dress for the occasion. Your dad was on a tight schedule to go pick you up from the party and bring you directly to the recital, so imagine his shock when he arrived at the birthday girl’s house to find you in the midst of having your face painted – and not just a tiny butterfly on one cheek, but a full-face, professional stage makeup type jobby wherein you looked (from close up) like a cat, and (from far away) like the drummer from KISS.  With no time to scrub it off, he took you to the recital where you played flawlessly and no one seemed to blink about the strange makeup, perhaps thinking it was all part of your performance.

The following weekend was also crammed full of Christmas family activities.  We went out to Milner Gardens to see their Winter Wonderland light display, and went to the movie theatre to see “Arthur Christmas”.  We had never seen this movie before, but it has become our new favourite Christmas movie – not only because the child lead is named Gwen, but that doesn’t hurt!  Finally, we went to Parksville to experience the immersive “Bethlehem Walk”.  You and I had been before, but Dad had never been, so it was really fun to share that with him, and to look at all the amazing displays and performances.  With all these events in one weekend, we definitely felt like we were in the Christmas spirit!

Still, however, there was something missing.  Since your first Christmas, at eight months old, we have always had your picture taken with Santa.  You have never enjoyed this proceeding, but I have never given you a choice.  This year, before I could consider my wording, I asked, “Would you like to take your picture with Santa?” and quick as a wink, you answered “No thank you.”  Now I was stuck!  I wanted to respect your wishes, but of course I still wanted a Christmas picture of you.  I started making backup plans to just take a picture of you in front of our Christmas tree, but Dad also suggested just taking you to the mall and walking by Santa’s photo area, to see if you would be tempted.  Our luck being what it is, we happened to arrive for this excursion when Santa was on his lunch break, so there was absolutely nothing to hold your interest.  We gave up and went home.  The next day, however, you and I were set to go to a fundraising event called “Breakfast with Santa” where there were many activities to enjoy: a delicious pancake breakfast, of course, as well as horse-drawn wagon rides, a kids-only toonie store where you could choose presents for your friends and family (and even have them wrapped!), an incredibly well-stocked silent auction, and, naturally, photos with Santa.  We arrived at the event and immediately saw Santa on stage, waiting for children.  I innocently asked, “Would you like to get your photo with Santa today?” and you immediately responded, “YES!”  I wasn’t sure if you would be bold enough to follow through, but you did, and the result is probably the best photo with Santa you’ve ever had.  I guess giving you a choice in the matter worked out well, after all.

The Christmas fun was still not over!  Next came your Christmas concert at school, a new milestone for you.  I was aggravated to see that really only the first two or three rows of seats had any chance of actually being able to have a decent view of the stage, and nearly enraged when the final number of the show – the one you’d been practicing at home for weeks – had the smallest kids in the school ON THE FLOOR in front of the stage, making you completely invisible from where I sat.  How frustrating!  On the other hand, I was charmed to find out that the cliché of children looking for their parents in the audience so they could wave to them and call, “Hi, Mom!” was actually true.  I enjoyed what I could see of your concert, and I think you enjoyed performing – especially after you’d caught sight of your parents and grandparents who’d come to see the show.

We went to the theatre again the following weekend to see the movie “Frozen”, the new Disney feature.  We’d all been looking forward to this film, you because, well, Disney princesses, and Mom and Dad because of the buzz that this film was smarter and more feminist-friendly than many of the previous Disney princess films (more in the line of “Brave” and perhaps signifying a new and modern direction for children’s films).  We were all really enjoying the movie, but about two-thirds of the way through a drama-filled crisis scene caused you to burst into tears and insist on going home.  I took you out of the theatre and calmed you down, then suggested that the worst was over and that we should go back in to watch the rest of the movie, which would no doubt include resolutions and happily ever afters.  But no – you were DONE with that movie and wanted nothing but home.  I have never seen you so upset at a movie before, and you are very fond of some movies I think of as pretty dark and scary – you have always loved The Nightmare Before Christmas, for example, which isn’t so shocking for a five-year-old, but you’ve been a huge fan of that movie since the age of two.  You also love 9, which I think is super creepy.  I think what upset you in this movie is that the snow queen, Elsa, was not in control of her actions, and was hurting people (including her beloved sister) without meaning to.  That is a scary concept.  All you could articulate about it is that it scared you “when the queen be’d mean,” but that is my own pet theory about why that pushed you over the edge.  Dad noted that while we were out of the theatre, before I went back in to tell him we were leaving for good, that the movie actually got even darker, so maybe it’s good that we left when we did – however, though we won’t show it to you again, both your Dad and I would really like to watch the rest of the movie and see if the reviews are correct!

The Sunday before Christmas, you participated in our church’s Sunday School pageant – you were proud to tell anyone who would listen that you played the angel Gabriel.  Not just a nondescript angel, you got to deliver the important news to Mary that she was going to have a child, and that she should not be afraid.  Your dad came along to watch the show, and when you danced down the aisle to talk to Mary, he worried that you were just being your usual goofy self.  “It’s okay,” I told him.  “She was specifically asked to dance!  She is doing just what she is supposed to do.”  You were well-cast as a dancing angel, and did a terrific job.

Then it was time for Christmas at your Gramma and Grandpa’s.  You got loads of presents, including a Furby Boom, which is what you had asked for.  You were immediately smitten and it was funny to watch your grandparents, who had not been sure why this not-very-interesting stuffed animal was such a big deal, understand that the big deal was the Furby’s computer and the way it interacts and learns from its ‘owner’.  You paid little attention to the rest of us for the rest of the evening, interacting instead with your new pet, “Bee-Tah”.  This was a nice rest since you typically demand constant attention from those around you!

The next day we headed to Powell River to have Christmas with that side of the family.  For the first time in your life, we had Christmas morning with your cousins, which was pretty terrific.  We all went to church on Christmas Eve, where your grandfather and cousins participated in the pageant, but you (fair enough!) were performed-out.  Unfortunately, we had a very rough sleep on Christmas Eve, and when we woke up on Christmas morning, you were sick and even threw up.  What a sad way to start your day!  You were very upset and needed lots of comfort.  Meanwhile, everyone else was ready to move into the living room and start opening their stockings.  After a few minutes, we decided to set up a comfy little bed-throne for you in the living room, so you could rest and still be part of the fun.  As the morning passed, so did the sickness, and you were soon yourself again.  We all got completely spoiled at Christmas, especially you, receiving (among other things) a LeapPad tablet.  Mom and Dad got Apple TV, a Netflix Account, and a portable DVD player, so it’s fair to say we are all well-equipped with technology and media entertainment for the foreseeable future!

We just arrived home from Powell River last night, and now we have a week or so more of Christmas break to enjoy both relaxing leisure activities and the tasks of finding homes for all our new presents.  As I write this you are happily playing with your tablet and practicing writing letters with the stylus.  We are so blessed to have had such a wonderful Christmas, spending time with so much of our family and receiving so many fun and useful gifts.

Merry Christmas, my girl!

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