Monday, December 26, 2016

Dear Gwen: It's Christmas

Dear Gwen,
Merry Christmas!

I haven't written here in a while. On November 24th your Dad and I were in Mexico for a much-deserved holiday, and December 24th is always a challenging time to sit down and write. So today I'm throwing out my usual 24th-of-the-month schedule and writing to you on Boxing Day. In no particular order, here are several stories and memories of the last two months.

Christmas has been amazing. More than once, you've told us that this has been "the best Christmas ever" and I think this is not only because of the enormous quantity and quality of gifts you've received, but because you are at such a wonderful stage right now: old enough to appreciate all you've been given, and young enough to revel in the pure joy without inhibition. On Christmas Eve morning, Gramma and Grandpa joined us for brunch and we exchanged gifts with them. You received a gigantic (1400-piece) Lego Friends amusement park set. Not only did you display the requisite excitement and gratitude when you received it, but to everyone's amusement (and amazement), you spent the next five or six hours single-mindedly assembling it. No assistance. No lunch break. No meltdowns. I couldn't help thinking this was a great way to make Christmas Eve day fly by!

Your pronouncements about the best Christmas ever are not very surprising. Hardly a day goes by when we are not snuggled lovingly and told that we are awesome parents. It's wonderfully nice to hear! Of course, there are still in between times when you're furious at us and tell us we are terrible parents (although you did tell me recently that even when you're mad at us, you still love us).

Leaving you for six nights in November was really hard. Your dad and I really wanted to spend some time together to celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary, so we planned a trip to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. We'd never been on that type of trip before, so we were nervous, and we were also unsure how you would do for such a long stretch without us. We arranged for your Auntie Sara to come for a few days, and then your Gramma Karen for a few days, and we hoped that breaking the time up into chunks like this would help the days pass quickly. Also, we reminded them both not to mention us at all; not to even say encouraging things like "Mom and Dad will be home in three days," because any reminders of our existence could set off a powerful vibe of missing us that was impossible to overcome. Pretending we never existed seems to work the best, and other than one night when you felt a little sad (but then got over it), everything seems to have gone well. I'm really grateful to Sara and Karen for taking such good care of you while we were away!

As usual, you had lots of fun on Halloween. You wore a zombie bride costume to the school Halloween dance, and then dressed as Captain Phasma from Star Wars for trick or treating. This year, you were still in the middle of dinner when the first trick-or-treater knocked on our door, and you rushed to answer it and give them candy. You enjoyed this experience so much, gushing over their costumes and wishing them a Happy Halloween, that I thought you might actually opt to skip trick or treating yourself and stay home to hand out candy with me! You did eventually decide to head out with Dad, but you weren't gone very long - you'd been so excited about Halloween that you'd woken up way too early that morning, and were very tired. You were gone long enough to collect two gigantic bags of candy, though, so it was a successful evening.

There has been a lot of snowfall in Nanaimo recently. I have to smile as I reflect that last year, you complained bitterly about the lack of snow, prompting me to plan a daytrip to go snowshoeing on Mount Washington so you could have the snow experience you craved. This year, there's more snow than there's ever been here in your lifetime - and you couldn't care less. You are over it! Lots of other parents are posting pictures of their kids sledding, building snowpeople, etcetera - you are content to hang out inside and watch movies. Which works FINE for me, because it means I don't have to go out in the snow either! Pass the popcorn!

One awesome thing we got to do in the snow, though, is have our pictures taken. Our amazing photographer-friend, Brooke, did a mini-session one day in a snowy playground, purely to give families the opportunity to have something we never get here: awesome family photos in the snow! I am so pleased with the shots we got, in only a few minutes (that was all anyone could stand, in the bitter cold!). 

For the past few months, you've been rehearsing twice a week with Headliners Performing Arts in their production of "Elf: The Musical". Those rehearsals finally came to fruition and the show opened on December 9th with a daytime performance for several local school classes. Even this day was not without its glitches, though; we had bought tickets for the evening performance, but it was cancelled due to snow and the closure of the VIU Nanaimo campus. I was glad you got to have your school show, since I think all the kids would have been terribly let down if all that build-up had come to nothing on that particular day. And I was secretly kind of glad that you got to have some rest, since you'd spent the previous two days with a full day of school and then a four-hour tech rehearsal. The next day's matinee show went off fine, and then the Friday night show was rescheduled for the following week, so we all came to see you on what should have been opening night but turned out to be closing night. Because of the rescheduling, you ended up doing a double-header performance: your piano recital at 4pm, then rushing to the VIU theatre for a 5pm call for that night's Elf performance (again, after a full school day). This photo tells the whole story of how you were feeling at that point:

Nevertheless, you didn't complain. You got your job done and the show(s) went on! Gramma, Grandpa, Dad and I, and our friends Shannon, Graham, and Dave B all came to see the play, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. You said your line clearly and enthusiastically, and I loved seeing how you sang and danced through all the big group numbers. You worked hard and you knew your part well - we were really proud of you. Still, we're glad to have this behind us so you can have a break from that demanding rehearsal schedule!

Just a few days after we returned from Mexico, it was time to head to Vancouver for the annual family get-together, English Family Christmas. You were so excited to see your cousins! This past year on Spring Break you and your Grannie joined your "girl cousins" for their annual trip to Chuck E. Cheese, and this excursion has strengthened your bond with them considerably, which is wonderful. You are always excited to see Andrew and Scotty, but it's wonderful to see you connecting with your second cousins as well. We all had a wonderful time celebrating and spending time together, and loved seeing all the kids playing together with the various toys and games they received.

One more week of school before Christmas break arrived. The last week of school featured your class's performance at the winter concert: Queen's "We Will Rock You". You auditioned to play the drums and were SO excited to find out you got the part! We were thrilled with your performance: you were so confident and steady, and kept the beat flawlessly. What a champion! We filmed the whole thing, but unfortunately the lighting in the gym was so bad that you're not really visible. We can hear your awesome drumming though! You ROCKED it!

You also shared with us two stories about your school life that made us feel good about how you are interacting with your schoolmates. The first story was that you and a friend were singing a Christmas song at recess, and another kid told you to stop because "it's not Christmas yet." You firmly told him that "I can sing Christmas carols at Halloween if I want to," and carried on. The second story was that you were on the swings, and another girl was saving a swing for a friend. "That's against the rules - there's no saving swings," you told her (which is true, a rule that has bitten you more than once). The other girl got mad and said, "You're going to get coal in your stocking because you're so naughty!" You didn't say anything to her, but said to yourself, "We'll just see about that!" and carried on with your swinging. To me these stories show your confidence and self-possession: not needing anyone's approval or validation, just doing your thing and not letting other people get to you. Not all your stories are like this, so these ones make me very happy and proud.

After all your performances were over, we got to go be audience members at Nanaimo Theatre Group's annual Christmas pantomime. This year, they produced "Aladdin and the Pirates". It was a very funny and enjoyable show, and you even got your photos taken with some of your favourite characters (which you don't usually consent to do) because you loved the show so much.

Well my girl, that's it for this month! I love you a million, billion, kajillion, and eight-and-three-quarters. Looking forward to what 2017 has in store for us!



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