Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dear Gwen: Month Ninety-One

Dear Gwen,

Today, you are ninety-one months old. 

This past month has been full of adventure, starting with Halloween and all the associated shenanigans. For the third year in a row, we went to the NS3 Science Spooktacular Challenge, and you wore your astronaut costume – not because that’s what you were planning to wear for Halloween, but because you thought you should wear “something sciencey” to a science-themed race. You were very disappointed that none of the other kids had that same thought pattern. You did spot one other kid in an astronaut costume, and tried to befriend her, but she didn’t quite know what to make of you, my charming and quirky girl. In any case, the race was fun as always and we enjoyed the uncharacteristically bright sunny day.

The next big event was a classmate’s birthday party – the first one since you started your new school. While waiting outside the school that evening to be let into the gym for the party, the kids – including you – were running around like as only wound-up children can do. As you and your friend Brenna cruised by me, I told you to stop and to stand with me until the door was open. Fourteen seconds later, and entirely predictably, you took off running again and then – also entirely predictably – the sound of anguished wailing came thundering forth from where you laid crumpled on the ground, having fallen and hurt yourself. It was very, VERY hard to be sympathetic for you. Fortunately, the birthday boy’s grandmother was on hand and had a first aid kit in her car, so she bandaged you up and off you went to the party.

Halloween, of course, was a big event. The night before Halloween, we went to the Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan and rode the Halloween Train. What a hoot that was! You loved seeing all the spooky-scary stuff, and had a great time discovering all the displays. On Halloween, you and your dad carved pumpkins, then met Brenna and her dad and the four of you went trick or treating together. You dressed up as a ninja puppy. Trick or treating lasted for over two hours! You had a lot of fun exploring our new neighbourhood, and very proudly went to “the haunted house” (actually just a very well-decorated residence) to get your trick-or-treating dues.

 Another fun adventure we had recently was going geocaching, for the first time in quite a long time and the first time in our new neighbourhood. It was fun to explore with you! You’re not usually interested in going for a walk, but if there is a promise of treasure-hunting – even without an actual treasure – you’re usually game. I’m happy to re-start this activity with you.

You’ve continued in gymnastics this year, and you seem to be a little bit more dedicated and conscientious about your time there than you have been in the past, which is nice to see. You are also pretty good with your piano practice. This is the first year that you are able to understand, the skills and techniques you are learning in your lessons can be applied to music that you actually want to play and are excited about playing. You are currently practicing “Jack’s Lament” from The Nightmare Before Christmas for your Christmas recital piece. You figured this out (with a little help from me) by ear, and can now play it well enough that you can do it with your eyes closed! I could not be prouder! It’s really cool to see the realization dawn that THIS is why we learn music!

Your teacher had us download a cool new app called “Class Dojo” where she checks in throughout the day and awards points (or removes them) for certain behaviours. I can look at your avatar on my phone or iPad and know what you’ve gotten points for that day. It’s pretty neat! I can get an idea of how your day is going before I even get to see you. My favourite part is that I can use these points to start a conversation in the evening – since, like most kids, it’s hard to get you to talk about your day with an open-ended question. If I instead say, “I see you showed someone respect today! How did that feel?”, I might actually get an answer.

You’ve also been matched with a Big Sister at school (through Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada). Her name is Christina and you ADORE her. You get to spend one-on-one time with her every week at school, doing art or playing games or just reading together. You were not happy about this idea when your teacher suggested it, but now you are enthralled with the lovely and friendly Christina and can’t wait to see her each week.

On the whole, you are definitely doing better. You are still struggling socially and have a hard time making friends, but I feel optimistic that this will continue to improve as you adjust to the new social culture at your school. The skills you learned last year in Friendship Group are still with you, and you are a friendly and outgoing child. You just haven’t quite learned where you fit within the new structure. However, you are doing so much better at self-regulating and keeping your temper in check. You seem so much less angry and miserable than you did a few months ago. At the end of the summer, you were having multiple outbursts every day. Now, you have one every couple of weeks or so. That’s an enormous shift, and we are so glad to be living in a calmer house!

It’s harder to pinpoint exactly what has helped you make that shift, though. Is it the time you’ve spent with your counsellor, role-playing and discussing your emotions? Is it the dietary changes I’ve implemented, drastically reducing your wheat intake? Or is it just that you’ve started to feel safe and happy in our new home and are calmer as a result? Who knows! Parenting is crazy!

 Well, that's it for this month, Gwen. As always, I am super-duper proud of you and love you a million, billion, kajillion, and seven.



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