Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dear Gwen: Month Eighty-One

 Dear Gwen,

Today you are eighty-one months old - six and three-quarters.

It's been a very busy month. Right after your last newsletter, of course, was Christmas, with all its attendant gift-opening and chocolate-eating and general glee-making. It was great. I'm sure it goes without saying that you got a bajillion presents, and you were gracious and thankful for all of them, which is pretty great. I think the hit of the holiday was the Nintendo DS, which we scored on the online Swap and Shop with about 25 games. You had no idea that was coming your way. You were also ridiculously pleased with the backscratcher you received, which you had specifically asked for. It's a toss-up which one of these items is getting more use ... you use the backscratcher more often, but certainly not for as long a period as the DS.

On Boxing Day, I took you to the Winter Wonderland skate at the arena. This was the first time that my presence at this event was completely extraneous. I ended up just hanging out at the side, taking photos or video of you when you went by. It didn't all turn out great, because the lighting was very low, but it's still a neat memento. I love watching your confidence grow!

For the first time ever, we spent New Year's Eve all together as a family (usually we leave you with a babysitter and go out to party with our friends, and when we say 'party' we mean 'play board games and stuff ourselves with appies' because we are nerds, not goofballs). We went to the "Family Finale" at Beban Park, where they provide tons of entertainment and activities for families - well, let's be honest, it's all aimed at kids, and the parents are just hanging around. It's not like *we* went on the bouncy castle or made jellyfish out of paper plates. But nonetheless, the live entertainment was really fun, and I think we all had a good time. Best of all? The countdown was at 8pm, and then we boogied on home to bed. Yes, non-parents, getting home to bed before 10pm is a wonderful exciting thing when you have kids. Just trust me.

Very early in the new year, I had to be the most hardass mom I've ever had to be one Saturday when I discovered that instead of going to sleep the night before, you had been drawing pictures in one of your storybooks. I was incredibly disappointed that you would treat a book this way. There was no question of your knowing that you were out of line; you have always understood that storybooks are for reading, and activity or colouring books are for drawing. Even as a toddler you never drew on your books (or on the walls or anything else for that matter). You freely admitted that you understood what you had done was wrong. Well, obviously I had to punish you, something that does not come naturally to me.

Also? Some of your drawings were really creative, meaning I didn't know whether to punish you or give you a high-five. Damn it!

When your dad came home and we discussed it, we agreed on two consequences for your behaviour. First, you would have to choose several of your books to be donated to Literacy Nanaimo. Second, you would have to write lines. Yes! Lines, that terrible awful boring punishment that is usually given out to grade school kids (at least, it was when I was a grade school kid). Technically you now ARE a grade school kid, so it seemed appropriate, and I thought that writing lines - two to five lines a day, I'm not a monster - might help the lesson of "I will not write in my story books" fresh in your mind.* I had you count how many pages of your book you had drawn on, and assigned that number of lines to you.

*Sidebar: When I was in elementary school, the punishment for forgetting one's gym strip was to write over and over, "I will not forget my gym strip". The punishment for remembering one's gym strip was to participate in gym. I very quickly made up my mind about which one of these worked better for me.

The big news this month is that you are on medication for your ADHD. It's a very low dose, and you started it only two weeks ago, so it's hard to know what the outcome will be. Unlike every other ADHD med ever, this one is not a stimulant. In fact, you take it before bed and it can cause drowsiness. It also lowers your blood pressure slightly, which causes some kids to have dizziness/light-headedness or even faint when standing up from sitting. So far, none of those things have happened, which is good because it sounds scary! You were certainly tired the first few days taking the meds, but now you have adjusted and the bedtime drowsiness is gone - which is a shame. You have always had trouble getting to sleep, but in the past we could give you a little melatonin. Now we can't because it is contra-indicated with your medicine, so you just lie in your bed for hours waiting to fall asleep. In the morning you are so exhausted that you can't dress yourself.

As far as the positive effects, it's hard to say definitively, but there have certainly been lots of positive moments - transitions, in particular, seem to be easier for you now. One particular moment leaps to mind, when I was calling to you from another room to put down the iPad and come do your piano practice. Now, what kid is possibly going to take that order well!? I'm happy to report that you did. "Okay, Mom," came your cheerful voice, soon followed by your cheerful face as you came to practice the piano. WOW! Your teacher reports you are doing well at school, too, getting all your work done and having fewer outbursts. We'll be going back to the pediatrician in a couple of weeks to report all this, and see how we can adjust things to get you a better sleep.

In writing all this, I confess, I'm not really talking to you, Gwen. I'm talking to every other parent out there who might stumble across this (admittedly very low-profile) blog while they're looking for info about ADHD and medication. I will never forget how it made me feel the first time I stumbled across a blog whose author wrote, with great vulnerability and raw honesty, about how hard it was for her to breastfeed. I was having a TERRIBLE time breastfeeding you, had never achieved what I thought was "successful" breastfeeding, and everyone around me kept telling me that it was supposed to be easy and natural and painless and most of all, that I should enjoy doing it and somehow be grateful for the opportunity. Nowhere around me did I see my own feelings of inadequacy and frustration mirrored, until I saw this blog. So if I have the chance to be that mirror for one other person, to share my own experiences with another parent who is wondering (as I think we all do) whether we are doing the right things for our kids, that is why I write these intimate details.  The quickest and most straightforward way I can explain my choice to try medication is that while I was trying to teach you all the social and organizational and sequencing and attention and focus skills that you need to succeed, all the cognitive behavioural strategies that are going to improve your life, it felt like that Bible verse where the seed falls on the rocky ground. It can't take root and grow, because your brain is not ready to take in any information. I needed your brain to be softer and more open, to give you a baseline where you could start to learn these strategies.

Okay, enough seriousness! What other fun stuff has been going on? Well, you had a playdate with your friend Gracie and introduced her to the joy of frozen blueberries.


You also had a super fun playdate at Jumpin' Jiminy's with your friend Rhyan, but I don't have any pictures of that, because you both were just blurs of colour zooming by me.

One of your new charming habits is that you are finally saying your own bedtime prayers. I have always said prayers with you as part of your bedtime routine, and encouraged you to participate, but until recently you felt very shy or embarrassed about this and wouldn't say anything. I guess a few weeks ago at Sunday School the activity was to make a "prayer list", and you came home with a very colourful sheet of paper detailing some things you love (Mom, Dad, Me, You (meaning God)) and things you wish (to have a 'kitn', to be a 'butrfli'). Since then, you will often pray for these things - and others - at bedtime. It's pretty cute. Tonight when I tucked you in, you prayed for all the people you love to have a good day tomorrow, for us to afford a new house, and for Dad to "get way way way way better with kittens so I can have one." 

This is also the month you invented a new dessert: Whipped Ice (originally called "Ripped Ice" before I foolishly corrected you on the pronunciation of whipped cream, a key ingredient).
You'll need:
Bottle of whipped (or ripped) cream
Bucket of ice cream
Cup of berries (three kinds recommended)
Secret ingredient: sprinkles!

How to do it:
Spray whipped cream into the cup
Pour berries into the cup
Put ice cream in the cup
Add sprinkles, done!

I love how the drawings on the right side clearly show whipped cream being sprayed into a cup, and berries being poured in. Nice action shots, kiddo! And oh yeah - it is delicious!

Well, that's it for this month, Gwen. As always, I love you like crazy, and am so happy I get to be your mom. Keep being awesome, my girl!



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