Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dear Gwen Month Ninety-Nine

Dear Gwen,

Today you are ninety-nine months old.

Summer is in full swing and we have had a lot of adventures, with more on the way. You kicked off your summer vacation with your Gramma Karen and Grandpa Keith, who picked you up on the last day of school and took you for a sleepover and a day of fun in Nanoose and Parksville, including a game of mini-golf where you got a hole in one! As always with your grandparents, you had a great time. The day after that was Canada Day, for which we drove down to Chemainus and took in the festivities there. The weather wasn’t great, but you had a wonderful time: you got your face painted and then had a caricature drawn of you, rode a pony and danced onstage with a terrific band. 

Most of your summer will be spent at the Girls Get Active summer camp, which is a good fit for you. When they say “active”, they mean it! A typical day might include field games, a craft, and an out-trip of some kind. They keep all the kids very busy with a wide range of activities, and you come home tired and ready to relax for the rest of the evening. (Yesterday, you came home and read for a straight hour while you waited for dinner to be ready, even turning down an invitation from a friend to meet at the playground because “I’ve had enough of outside for today”.) I’ve also noticed that you are eating a lot more, at least during the day while you’re at camp. I usually pack just four items in your school lunch, but in your camp lunch you will happily eat six or eight! I’m not sure if this is purely because you’re using so much more energy, or if the fact that you have more than fifteen minutes to eat has something to do with it – but either way, I’m glad you’re getting those calories in.


Your end-of-year report card was terrific, which is no surprise. One example is that you started the year with a “2” (Approaching Expectations – they used to call it Needs Improvement in my day) in “Works and plays cooperatively with others”. You ended the year with a “4” (Exceeding Expectations). That’s huge progress! You also got 4s in Reading (duh), Oral Language, Mathematics, Self-Confidence, and Independent Work. That’s amazing! I think you tend to believe that your ADHD brain holds you back a lot more than it actually does. We had a great time looking through your “Special Work” folder for the year, seeing all the awesome examples of your work. Your diagram of “How to Have a Good Day at School” was especially great, and it amused me enormously to see “Read other books by Gwen B!” on the back of a story you’d written.

Left: If You Give an Octopus Some Oatmeal, by Gwen.
Right: Read more books by Gwen B.! If You Give a Meerkat Some Milk
If You Give a Butterfly a Burger
It’s wonderful to see that you are more willing to write than you have been in the past. You’ve always had loads of wonderful ideas and stories to share, but were frustrated by the process of writing them down. I don’t know what’s caused the shift, but I’m happy about it! You are participating in the library’s summer reading club, as usual, and in addition this year I have put YOU in charge of writing down the books you read in your book log. No one else needs to read the log, so it’s entirely appropriate to be self-monitored; and you read more than one book a day, so you never lack for something to write down, and have no temptation to “cheat”. (In fact I doubt that idea would even occur to you.) For the past two weeks, you and I have made a Sunday afternoon trip to the library to load up with books and stamp your book log – your reading continues to be an enormous part of your life, and we are finally at the point where you choose to read chapter books more often than storybooks. Most joyously of all, you and I have started reading the Chronicles of Narnia as our bedtime story. We just finished the first in the series, The Magician’s Nephew, which ends with a number of elements that link to the most famous one in the series, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. You have seen the movie of that second book, and even read at least part of it in school last year; it was AMAZING to watch your realizations about how the stories link, and are all part of a bigger story, as we finished the Magician’s Nephew. I’m so excited to continue reading these books with you!  

For the second year in a row, you got to participate in Grandkids University, this time with my mom, your Grannie Maureen. The two of you signed up for “Creating, Baking, and Tasting …. Oh My!”, otherwise known as “Baking”, for your major. You made blueberry-cranberry-lemon loaf, almond crescent cookies that I was COMPLETELY unable to stop eating, burger buns on which you got to eat burgers for lunch on the second day, and a lemon meringue pie. You also got to participate in the fun afternoon activities, such as getting your hair coloured by the Hairdressing students, playing in the gym with the other kids, and eating pizza and chips. It was a very successful and fun two days - Grandkids U is such a cool, unique program, and I’m pretty proud of our institution for putting it on every year!

One of the fun summer activities I had planned for us turned into a flop. We were all looking forward to the big-screen outdoor movie event put on every summer by Coastal Community Credit Union. We’ve gone to one of these every year, seeing The Croods, Rio, Big Hero Six, The Lego Movie … this year, they were showing The Jungle Book in Nanaimo, which I thought would be too scary for you, so we decided to drive to Duncan to see Zootopia. Well, who could have predicted that we would have to quickly exit the park, in the pitch-black, picking our way through the “rows” of lawn chairs and air mattresses, about half an hour before the movie’s end, because you were too terrified to watch any more? I guess now that we’ve had to leave big-screen Disney movies more than once, we are going to have to start pre-screening them for you. Your dad is quick to point out that the environment – the enormous screen, the outdoor park, the being surrounded by strangers – may have added more fear to a sequence about jungle animals going “savage” and attacking other animals than you may have experienced if we’d watched it at home. This makes sense, but I will never be able to wrap my mind around the fact that you would happily watch 9 and The Nightmare Before Christmas on a daily basis, while other films and TV shows that seem totally innocuous cause you to freak right the heck out. I’m reminded of that one episode of Arthur the Aardvark, and that other episode of Peg + Cat, as well as the most recent outing to Zootopia.

One more thing I must write about before ending this newsletter – a couple of weekends ago, we went as a family to a barbecue hosted at a friend’s house for the entire department of Dad’s coworkers. You know a few of them, because they are our friends – Johnny and Tami, Eric and Arwen – but mostly they are all strangers. And most importantly, there are a lot of them, and they are all adults, and because of the weather everyone was hanging out inside instead of out in the yard, so it was an intense and crowded situation for anyone, not just a kid. I figured we would stay for an hour, then you and I would go home, letting Dad stick around to hang out with his colleagues as long as he liked. Well, you surprised us. We brought along one of your favourite activities, the sketchbook and stencil set where you get to design clothes, hairstyles, and makeup for the figures already drawn on the pages. You quite happily sat at the table in the middle of this loud, enormous crowd, and entertained yourself with it for nearly two hours. Not only that – after dinner, when dessert was served, you were quite confident to work your way through the crowd and fetch your own dessert, turning down my offer of help. We ended up staying at the party for nearly three hours in total: you tried new foods, interacted appropriately with those around you, and seemed happy and content to be there. We have NEVER seen you display that kind of comfort and confidence in that environment before – it was amazing!

Well, that’s it for this month, my Gwen. As always, I love you a million, billion, kajillion, and EIGHT, and I’m looking forward to the rest of our summer adventures together!



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