Monday, April 24, 2017

Dear Gwen: Month One Hundred and Eight

Dear Gwen,

Today you are nine years old.

Just like I feel every year on your birthday, I'm so proud of you and love you so much that it's hard to articulate just how glad I am to be your mom. These days, I don't love you just because you're my kid - I love you because you're an excellent person in her own right!

Your desire for responsibility and independence is growing in really cool ways. Sometimes you are very resistant to our encouragement in this area (for example, you HATE buttering your own bagels or waffles in the morning), but at other times you take the initiative and get things done without a lot of fuss. For example, you've recently gotten on board with the idea of choosing your own clothes, as well as putting them on in the morning. This habit probably took longer to take hold with you than it does with other kids, but that's okay. You've got it now. And it's pretty fun to see the outfits you put together - you've got a great sense of style.

I didn't write your newsletter last month, because you were away in Powell River with your grandparents, and it was hard to write an accurate update when you weren't with me. So I have lots to share this month! In early March, we got to visit your school for a special event. It was Literacy Day, so the kids were encouraged to dress as book characters; you chose Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (because why should it matter that Arthur is a man and you are a girl?). Your class has been working hard on creating a researched book project on the school's iPads, and we got to look at your book, hear about your research process, and read your self-evaluation. It was so cool! You are very enthusiastic about school, especially any creativity-based subjects such as art and writing.

Spring Break brought lots of adventures your way. I drove with you up to Comox one sunny afternoon to meet your grandparents at the Little River ferry terminal; we had lunch together and then you walked back onto the ferry with them to go to Powell River. You were a little nervous about being on the ferry with them, as that's a new experience, but you settled in quickly and didn't have any homesickness at all. Grannie took you to Vancouver, where you got to go to Chuck E. Cheese with your girl cousins and Great Auntie Liz, and Playdium with your cousin Andrew. Then, on the way back to Powell River, you dropped off Andrew and picked up Scotty, so you got to spend time with him at Grannie's house. What fun! I love that you have such strong bonds with all your cousins. In all, you were away from home for five nights, and apparently you weren't homesick at all.

I travelled up to Powell River myself at the end of that week so that we could attend Grandpa's CD Release Party. It was a terrific show! We had listened to the CD a few times in the car, so you knew the songs and were an enthusiastic audience member. I love that you have some favourite songs, and that you were engaged and interested in hearing and watching the band play. At one point, Grandpa Ron was introducing the next song, and mentioned that he'd be playing a cigar box guitar, just like the blues musicians used to play many years ago when they couldn't afford real guitars. "And my OTHER grandpa MADE that guitar!" you called out cheerfully. "That's right, Gwen!" Grandpa answered from the stage. "My granddaughter's other grandpa made this guitar for me!" The audience thought that was pretty charming, and so did Grandpa! (And your other grandpa was glad you gave him credit!)

I mentioned in your last newsletter that we sold your bunk bed/desk combination and ordered you a new, double-size bedframe and mattress. Unfortunately, the bedframe order has had all kinds of difficulties and frustrations, and so you've had no bed for two months. For the first week or so, you were sleeping on an air mattress; then, your mattress arrived (in a cool vacuum-sealed box) and since then you've been sleeping on that mattress on the floor. It's not exactly the big girl bedroom suite we had in mind, especially since many of your possessions have been displaced in the meantime and are just randomly scattered around the room. Hopefully the bed will arrive soon (we're now ordering  from a different vendor) and we can get your room put back together. I will say, though, that you have been a champ through this process, and have never complained about either the chaos in your room or the fact that we've been promising you a new bed for months and have not yet delivered! Thank you for being so patient and understanding!

The approach of your ninth birthday has not done anything to damper your affection and need for closeness (thank goodness!). You are both verbally and physically affectionate, often telling me that I am the best mom ever and that you love me so so so so so so SO much. I soak it all up! I know you won't always want cuddles from me at night, so I try to get them while I can. We even got to have a sleepover one night, on your new mattress! We have finished reading the Chronicles of Narnia, and now you like to just read your own book at bedtime, but you love it when I come and snuggle with you before bed. Sometimes we'll snuggle together and quietly read our own books, and sometimes we'll talk about our day or other things we're thinking about. I really treasure these times.

We've had our dog Pixel for two months now, and your enthusiasm for him is still high. You dote on him and are always happy to give him pets and attention, and encourage him to play with you (he doesn't play much yet, but I'm sure his playfulness will increase as time goes on). At first, you didn't join us on the twice-daily walks, but now as the weather is starting to improve we've found a compromise; you come along on the evening dog walk with your scooter, and you get to scoot around and enjoy the sunshine while Pixel gets his exercise (and his daily sniffing quota) too. You're starting to participate more in our dog training classes, too, and I am glad for this. Before you went away on Spring Break, Pixel growled at you a few times - we realized that this was because he didn't know you were above him in our pack hierarchy. So we had to make sure that he knew you, like Mom and Dad, are also a boss of him. Feeding him, walking him, and practicing commands with him are all good ways to do this. While these things may not be as fun as playing with him, they are just as important when it comes to bonding - and I think you are starting to understand that. I can't wait to see how you and Pixel bond over the coming months and years.

Last week there was a meeting in our neighbourhood park space with a representative from the City, so that we could learn about how to turn the space into an actual park. I was really pleased with how you participated in the conversation - after all, when building a park one wants input from neighbourhood children! - as well as interacting really kindly and gently with several other small children who were in attendance. I could see that someday, you are going to be a lovely babysitter.

 Your birthday weekend was a lot of fun. We started with a birthday party at the Romper Room, the local rock climbing gym. Your dad and I used to go there often, before we became parents, and it was amusing to see how little has changed. We both felt quite nostalgic! You and your friends had a great time climbing for two hours. Some of you were fearless and went all the way to the top on numerous routes; others were very timid and didn't climb high at all. But you all had fun and were supportive and encouraging to one another, which made me happy to see. After climbing, there were snacks, cake, and presents in the party room.

The next day, all four of your grandparents came over for dinner. The adults ate slow cooker beef stew, and you ate a hot dog. Oh well, at least I've finally figured out a compromise between wanting to have people over for dinner and wanting you not to dramatically refuse to eat anything worthy of serving to company. We all enjoyed our dinner and some leftover ice cream cake, and then played a game of "Betrayal at House on the Hill". It was funny to see that with our recent foray into watching episodes of TableTop and playing complex board games as a family, you were way more competent and engaged with the game than your grandparents were! I love that we can enjoy board games a little bit more interesting than Clue and The Game of Life!

Well, I guess that's it for this month, Gwen. It's pretty great to celebrate nine years of you (three thousand, two hundred, and eighty-five days!) and I can't wait to see what's next.

Love always,



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