Comfort Reading

Cleaning out the basement doesn’t yield much discovery these days.  Though we’ve lived in our house for coming on nine years this November, I’m proud to report more items have made their way out than in; even with three girls underfoot.

The boxes my husband and I just can’t get rid of - text books from university- are slowly making their way to recycling.  But it’s hard to part ways with monoliths from biology classes that cost upwards of $100 when you bought them new in the 90s, or a library of Shakespearian plays with your prized notes written in the columns.

Even though I know, like the plays themselves, my notes are timeless and will help future thespians through high school litit’s time to face the music: if I’m not going to crack open Word Carving, Great Stories from the Prairies, or anything that involves dissecting plays, as in theatrical productions, what makes me think someone else under this roof will?

The same can be said for the myriad of tennis, gymnastics and biology textbooks belonging to a certain male member of our household.

Betcha can’t guess what our majors were.

The box I unearthed this afternoon was filled with novels from my teen years. And though none of my girls understood how delicious it was to hold up books written by Eric Wilson, Christopher Pike, and Brian Doyle, they were curious to know what a Choose Your Own Adventure book was like, and were keen to listen to chapter one, book #2, of The Babysitter’s Club: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls.


Side note: I always related the most to Claudia, the artist, who liked to eat red licorice while she read Nancy Drew mysteries.  Like Claudia, I too drooled over a boy or two in grade seven, so we might wait another year or so before Miss Q dives into the series.

Same with Sweet Valley High, for now way beyond the trio’s scope, but one day I hope they sit with Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield for a summer or two.

And while on the subject of books, there has been a great metamorphosis in our house this summer: Miss Q has turned into a bonafide bookworm.  She’s always enjoyed being read to, but now she’s taking it to an all new level and curling up with a book – alone.

The amazing part isn’t that she’s inhaling books, it’s that she’s comprehending what she’s reading.  “Do you want to hear something hilarious?” she begins, then without waiting for a response, out rolls a detailed description of the plot and crazy characters she’s stumbled upon.

Currently she’s reading the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home Series, specifically: Bruno; but she’s also into the Rescue Princesses and anything with adventure, friendship, magic and mystery.

My husband is re-reading her book two of Harry Potter at bedtime.  They’ve gone up to book four, and now they’re doing it all again.  He doesn’t mind.  Whatever the girls bring him, he reads with little complaint, he’s amazing like that.

Other children’s books on our July radar are:

Meanwhile in adult-land:

My husband is currently working his way through book five of Harry Potter, and has now deemed Harry too angry for Miss Q’s ears, at least this summer.  He really wants to sink his teeth into book two and three of the Gentlemen Bastard Series by Scott Lynch, but had started Harry Potter before he received them, so now he must read quickly.

As for me, I haven’t had much time for reading, not because of the stereotypical obvious; but because after nine years, three babies, and two major re-writes at the suggestion of editors, one of the novels I’ve been chipping away at is complete.

Maybe in August as I’m waiting for a publisher to bite, I’ll have added something more than P.B. Bear to my summer reading list.

What are you reading?











The list of places I can take the girls where they are free as birds and I am not on red-alert: eyes darting for cloaked strangers, four-wheel steel speeders, and poisonous frogs, is short.  So short, that until two weeks ago I didn’t even have a list.

Every where I have taken the girls for the last seven years has had an element of unrest, either because of the environment or their ages.  Nothing like a relaxing trip to the beach in December, and watching your toddler wade head first into the ocean; or being swarmed by well meaning tourists at Butchart Gardens, because they just want to take pictures of your blond-haired- blue-eyed children.

Two weeks ago, spurred on by a conversation I had with friends, my husband and I loaded the car with three bikes, three helmets, three girls, and headed to the bike park.  I’d heard it was an awesome place for kids to learn to ride.  I’d heard it was chill.  I’d heard it was a secret spot.  (Yes, by blogging about this I realize the spot won’t be so secret, so just do me a favour: don’t go when we’re there.)

We arrived at the North Saanich Bike Park after swimming lessons.  There was one more thing I knew about this park: my brother, Uncle A, had been contracted to build the Rotary Pump Bike track two years ago.  The girls and I had ventured out to see him and his crew, brought them donuts and admired the mud.

You’d think in the last two years we would have visited his work.  But with all things child like, if they’re not at the right stage, these cool places aren’t cool, they’re just more work for, well, me.

I brought my husband for physical support.  Miss Q loves to ride, so she wasn’t my worry.  It was Miss S, the sometimes peddler, and Miss C, the scoot biker, who I worried the park would eat up and spit out.

It didn’t.  Far from it.  The girls had a blast.  They were over the moon with the different trails, and fun of flying down the small mounds.  I was over the moon by how quiet it was.  Even when we returned this week, there was enough space for the Bettys to shred gnarly corners (yes?) and the bike camp from the local recenter to run.  The riders were all very respectful of the littles, even though their bikes were pink with streamers and- er- baskets.

I lost Miss Q to the pump bike track her uncle had sculpted.   For the first time in her life, the reigns were loosened and she was racing through the forrest up and down the hills, out of sight, lost in her own world.

Miss S and Miss C gained independence too.  Though watching their front wheels wobble stopped my heart, there was no fear on their faces as they sometimes slid to a halt; bikes on their sides; plume of dust in the air.

Okay, so the bike park still has an element of danger, blood, disfigurement, gruesome gore, but for some reason, as I stood amidst the firs, blue sky above, picking out the pink helmets as they bobbed up and down their individual paths, all I could think was freedom.

So you say a streamer caught in the plastic crank  protector isn't a "normal" accident for this place?

So you say a streamer caught in the plastic crank protector isn’t a typical accident for this place?



Sudden Stop

Two weeks ago, June 10 at 9:23 a.m. to be exact, I was driving up the crescent on-ramp to the Pat Bay Highway when I noticed an unmarked police car parked in the opposite lane.

In the time it took me to glance at the police car, the woman driving the silver car in front of me came to a dead stop. Not a gentle, you-have-warning-that-I’m-breaking-stop, I mean: a complete, tires no longer rolling on the asphalt, STOP.

Both hands on the wheel, horn blasting, anti-lock brakes click-click-clicking, mind racing: We’re not going to stop in time. Why aren’t we stopping?  Yet, somehow, the far-reaching corners of my brain found my Young Driver’s crash avoidance training, and I started looking for a way out.

The silver car, sensing a Toyota Sienna was moments from landing in her backseat, turned ever-so-slowly towards the right shoulder.

We stopped a foot from her bumper.

The silence in our van was palpable.

My fingers were slow to unclench. I believe, but can’t confirm, “Ohmy@#$!god.” was the first sentence out of my mouth.

Squealing tires snapped my eyes to my rearview mirror. The hood ornament of a Dodge Ram Pickup reflected back at me.

Angels were certainly at work.

Once the Dodge stopped, my brain went into overdrive: were the kids okay? Yes. Was I okay? Yes. Were the cars behind the Dodge stopping? Yes. Yes and yes.

Then something moved in front of me. Huddled against the cement median was a family of ducks.

“Ducks? She stopped for @$#&% ducks?” I exclaimed. My poised, Carol Brady take on motherhood, crumbled as a string of sentences containing expletives rolled off my tongue in front of wide-eyed Marcia, Jan and Cindy.

The ducks pressed against the median, until they were sure they had everyone’s attention. Then, one at a time, they followed their mum across the lane.

Make Way for Ducklings or not, the silver car had had ample room to swerve without ruffling a single feather. Instead the choice was made to stop in the middle of a lane, just as her fellow drivers were starting to think about accelerating to highway speeds.

“What did the sucky woman do?” Miss C chirped from her five-point harness behind me.

“She stopped for – er – ducks,” I replied, feeling hysterical. “We could have died.” Yes, another uncensored, hope-they-don’t-remember, mothering sentence. “But we didn’t,” I added feebly.

Until June 10th, I was the woman who drove my husband bananas whenever we crossed paths with wildlife.

“What are you doing!” he’d say, grasping the armrest as I swerved to allow the little grey friend safe passage.

“That was a squirrel.”

“Just run them over.”

“I can’t do that!”

“You have to. It’s either them or you.”

Never. I silently declared. How horrible would it be to feel Thumper under your wheels or know you were the reason Slappy didn’t make it home?

But, now, in light of the fading headlines in the Emma Czornobaj verdict, and my own moment with a driver who focused on an animal’s mortality rather than her own, or the lives of those in cars behind her, I am a changed driver.

I can’t say concretely I won’t ever slow down for an errant deer or squirrel darting across the road; it’s human nature to tap the brakes when startled. But I can say concretely: that given the choice, I will never choose wildlife over the safety of my children.

In the aftermath of the sudden stop, and once those lucky ducks were safely across, I maneuvered around the silver car and merged onto the highway as if nothing happened, though a large part of me wanted the woman in the silver car to know how much she’d scared me.

While I drove, Miss S described in great detail how her foot had hit the back of the co-pilot seat when I stopped. That’s why you’re wearing a seatbelt.

Miss Q was silent.

And Miss C continued to chant, “Why did the sucky lady stop for the ducks?”  Thankfully ‘sucky’ was the only word she had added to her vocabulary.

The list was simple:

  • Mail letters (Yes, I still love sending handwritten letters through the mail.)
  • Pick up Pottery (From a Paint Your Own Pottery girls night.)
  • Buy Chocolate Frogs (Miss S wants to give her teachers Harry Potter Chocolate Frogs as a going away/thank you gift.)
  • Grocery Shop (Eggs!)

Four tasks for a Thursday morning, what could go wrong?


Miss C refused to get dressed. After numerous attempts at getting her to buy into the whole, “You need clothes for shopping” thing, I found her lying under the covers of her bed: naked.  I had two choices:

  1. Leave her, calling the whole errand thing off.
  2. Grab clothes, pick her up and haul her out of the house.

I chose option #2, stopping at the bathroom for an angry-racoon pee-check before marching her out the door.  Please give me props for getting her shirt on before the hissing got too crazy.

The pottery store was the most interesting, so I pointed the car south and started driving.

It was a terrible drive, every street in Victoria seems to be dug up.  Also, a tiny spider was crawling on the roof of our van, either making a web or just wanting to antagonize the littles.  He/she, after making the appropriate stir, ended up escaping out an open window.  Thank you, Miss Q.

We arrived at the pottery studio to find it opened at 11:00.  It was 10:18.  Two more choices:

  1. Buy Chocolate Frogs at the candy store in Sidney (45 mins away).
  2. Buy Chocolate Frogs at downtown candy store (15 mins away).

I chose option #2.

More construction.  Annoying construction.  Construction that made me zig and zag along residential streets until I heard an ominous *pop*.

After parking the car and inspecting the tires I was relieved to see that none of them were flat; however, I was grouchy to see something that looked like a spent bullet (thanks C.S.I.) lodged in my front driver’s side tire.

As I dug at the object with my key, I paused to wonder if the tire would suddenly explode once I got the object out.  The tires were filled with nitrogen.  I weighed my options:

  1. Keep on driving; take my chances.
  2. Drive it back home and play helpless female – i.e. wait till my husband came home from work.
  3. Drive to Kal Tire and have them help me.

I chose #1.

“You’re going to hear a clicking sound as I drive, but it’s okay,” I told my young passengers as I started the engine.

We made it downtown.  Instead of exploding it, the extra driving had pushed the brass coloured object further into the tire.

“Stay in the car until I get the ticket,” I told the littles, reaching behind me to unbuckle Miss C.  “Oh, hold on, let’s get your clothes on.”  I grabbed the green pants off the passenger seat and twisted around so I could slide them over her legs.

Unlike at our house, there were no alligator death rolls; the raccoon had mellowed.  She simply stuck out her feet and allowed me to clothe the bottom half of her body.  “Where are your shoes?”

“You didn’t bring them for me,” Miss C accused.

“What?  I didn’t -” Crap.  I didn’t grab her shoes.  Crappity-crap.  “Miss Q, is the stroller in the back?”  I knew the answer before she replied.  No, no it wasn’t.  We had taken the stroller out yesterday so my parents could use it with Miss C.  Crap.

Three choices:

  1. Abort mission, drive home, #epicfail.
  2. Carry Miss C through the streets of downtown and then where ever we went after taking the car to Kal Tire.
  3. Purchase shoes or an umbrella stroller for Miss C.

I chose #3.

“You see what happens when you throw a tantrum, Miss C?” I asked as we rode the escalator at Hudson’s Bay.

“You get new shoes!” Miss Q replied.

“That’s not the lesson I’m trying to teach her.”

“But you are.” Miss Q beamed.  “Miss C, you’re getting new shoes because you threw a tantrum,” she cooed.

“Thank you, Miss Q.”  Seriously, when did she become so, so seven?!

After cruising The Bay for footwear (no children’s shoes in 5 floors of stuff), we stumbled upon Payless Shoes, which, quite frankly I am not a fan of because of their cheap shoes, but was a fan of today because of their cheap shoes.

$15.00 later, Miss C had the sparkliest shoes on the block.  She was happy, so happy that she didn’t want to be picked up at all.  Ah-mazing.

Chocolate frogs purchased.  Back in the car cruising to Kal Tire.  Tire hasn’t exploded. Back on track.

The first buddy at Kal Tire said it was no problem, they could fit us in, our car would be ready at 3:30 – 4:00.  It was 11:38.  The second, who I left our key with, gave me hope for a speedier turn around, as he ushered us into the waiting room.

Stale popcorn, water, TV, we were set.  But that motherly-niggly feeling that three girls surrounded by tires would only last so long.

Three choices:

  1. Take a taxi home.
  2. Go out for lunch.
  3. Wait.

I chose #2.  It just so happened we were close to a family restaurant, and while my food lacked luster, the girls were wined and dined.  Miss S wouldn’t stop raving over her plain cheese quesadilla, and Miss Q’s end of meal kid’s sundae was as big as her head, topped with hot fudge, whipped cream, peanuts and a strawberry on top… standard, apparently.

Upon returning to the tire store, we found our van up on the lift.  Miss C’s stuffed Hello Kitty had been left in the car and the littles surmised she was having a blast being up so high.

The man working on our tire jogged over and informed us it would be another hour.

Three choices:

  1. Take him up on the popcorn and TV.
  2. Walk to the mall.
  3. Take taxi home.

I chose #2. I hadn’t bought those sparkly shoes for nothing.

Miss C walked all the way to the mall and through three stores before calling it quits. So I:

  1. Picked her up and called a taxi.
  2. Picked her up and walked back to Kal Tire.
  3. Picked her up and got one of those mall strollers.

Yes, #3.  This, of course, made Miss S green with envy.  She spent the remainder of our mall walk giving Miss C nudges, or “helping” her steer the fake steering wheel.  Should have picked out the double, but I was already feeling trashy for pushing the single around.

The level of excitement over being in the mall was over-the-top-ridiculous.  Miss Q and Miss S wandered the racks asking if things were in their size or telling Miss C it would fit her.  They oohed and ahhed over cute pieces and were genuinely overwhelmed by all that was around them.  I suppose this means:

  1. We’re in trouble.
  2. We’re in trouble.
  3. I need to keep my job.

Surprisingly, I did find a pretty dress for myself, but then remembered the surgical extraction being performed on my tire, and, the added bonus of an overdue wheel alignment and stepped away from being frivolous… for now.

We were happy to see our car back in the parking lot.  With the brass “thingy” (their technical term, not mine) out of the wheel and the toes once again pointed in the right direction, we were off.

Sure, the day could have been zestier, Miss Q dubbed it an un-fun, but not all days are going to zing.  Some days are going to make you feel like you’re in a gigantic Choose Your Own Adventure book; and as long as the adventure includes my trio and we don’t choose a route that leads us to man-eating alligators, that’s just fine with me.


Sparkliest shoes we could find.

Sparkliest shoes we could find.




Drop the needle on the record player, shout from the rooftops, Miss S has graduated preschool.

Audible sniffles and furtive tear wiping accompanied Raffi’s I Wonder If I’m Growing, as Miss S and her classmates walked into the room, proudly sporting paper graduation caps squarely on their heads.

This was my fourth time watching the pomp and circumstance.  Miss S’s ceremony was just as special, just as unique and just as personalized as her sister, Miss Q’s was in 2012 and the two I volunteered as a parent helper for were in 2011 and 2013.

All the credit goes to Miss S’s preschool teacher.  Not only does she change the theme of grad every year, but she goes above and beyond with all the details of the day.  This year’s theme was princesses and princes.  Behind the children’s chairs was a stone facade complete with a tower and hand made Rapunzel looking down at the audience. Raggety Ann and Andy sat in small chairs in the book-loft and watched the ceremony like Statler and Waldorf.  We also received personalized memory books, and a handprint on a tile.

Miss S’s teacher called the children one at a time to the front where she read what they wanted to be when they grew up and handed them a certificate.  Miss S wants to be a hair designer and study monkeys in the jungle.

Miss S loves monkeys.  Especially her now broken necked, mute, stuffed monkey Flower.  (Letter is out to Hasbro.) Miss S has told us she wants to study monkeys in the jungle before.  The declaration, however, gets under Miss Q’s skin, “No one will come visit you in the jungle,” she often retorts.

“Mummy will,” I tell Miss S.  I will have great air miles if I’m flying between Miss S’s jungle and Miss Q’s farm… the jury’s still out on Miss C’s future aspirations.

However, it won’t be all jungle monkey-business.  Miss S also plans on having 100 children (one father) and having Miss Q help her look after them.  I can see it.

The twist to this year’s graduation was the open mic.  Miss S’s classmates performed duets, solos and group songs for their parents.  Miss S even got in on the action by singing – wait for it – Let It Go.  

I wasn’t surprised at her ability to belt out Frozen.  She has the arms and the wrist flicks down to a science.  But just as Topol sings in the song Sunrise Sunset, this little girl I carried, forever, in the Ergo; carried out of ballet crying – her, not me; who never seemed to speak in preschool was suddenly shoulder to shoulder with her classmates, singing for an audience.  She was also racing in the school yard with them and chatting easily during the strawberry tea (held after the ceremony).

And now, as we wait for the second wave of mum-tears: the start of kindergarten in September, I can only think how proud I am of our girl.  She has blossomed into a hilarious, caring, silently-stubborn four-and-a-half year old, who is always up for a crazy pair of socks and wild outfit.

There’s no question, Miss S, yes, you’re growing, it’s not hard for me to see.


Today I feel an emotion I never thought I’d feel about Miss Q’s school career: sad.

I should be happy my baby is being returned to me at 2:44 p.m. on Friday. I should be happy she gets an extra two weeks tacked on to her summer holiday, which will probably morph into a month extra come September. And parts of me are singing Hallelujah, the beach awaits.

But other parts, the deeper parts, are misty for her loss.   The loss of end of year rituals: red and white day; fun day; saying a proper, good feeling fare-thee-well to her classmates and teacher who is leaving the school.

It’s all been expedited, squashed into 48-hours. Come Friday, Miss Q’s grade one year is over.

But don’t worry, she’s taking it in stride, like a typical kid she responded, “Really? Yayayaya!!” when I broke the news to her this morning. “Instead of 12 days left, we have two!”

The adult side of me understands. There is a need to stand up for what is right; to fight for what needs to be fixed. I don’t begrudge the teachers for anything they are doing or will do.

I’m not sure how I feel about the actions of the current government. I understand the need to keep a budget and not to go hog-wild or Rich Uncle Moneybags from Monopoly on the whole process.  Whether you’re running the Province or a household, the premise is the same. But unlike my budget that bends when things aren’t working, it doesn’t seem like the current government subscribes to that model. But then again, teachers and nurses aren’t in the business of making the province money like, say, a pipeline or a dam.

Below the level of excitement over a shortened school year, and speaking as a parent who has no childcare woes, I wonder about the families who are now scrambling.

Sure the recreation centres have opened their doors, and provided programs for the now latch key children. But what about the families who can’t afford to pay for the programs? What about the kids who rely on breakfast programs? How many children will be left to their own devices over the next weeks because there simply is no other option?

True, summer is just around the corner and those problems would be present whether the strike happened or not. But this definitely puts pressure where it once wasn’t.

I guess perspective is the take-away lesson from this school year. Because despite the labour unrest, there is nothing about this school year that Miss Q would change.

After a steady diet of jellybeans for being good, and a win of VIP seating at an assembly: cushy chair, box of popcorn mixed with more jellybeans, grade one has been declared: “Awesome,” and sometimes, “Hilarious.”

So, despite my adult angst over her teacher who placed adult problems of class size, noise level, and dirt squarely on the shoulders of those sponges she was teaching; and who is currently getting the kids to pack up her classroom – right down to picking the staples off the boards, “Next week we get to pack her books in boxes, Mum!” I’m glad I didn’t storm into the principal’s office and demanded change… mostly because I can now save that card for another year.

See? I’m learning too. Learning that children see the world of teachers so very differently than adults. Learning to be an observer rather than a bull in a china shop. Learning that with a little time and the right questions, the answers will come from my seven-year-old vault, who, incidentally, is very sad to see her teacher leave the school.

“You’ll never know what went on in that classroom this year between Miss Q and her teacher,” my mum told me the other day.

Completely annoying for this need to know mama; but, sigh, completely true.

After all, my own mum didn’t know that my grade four teacher, Mrs. L, who was dubbed ‘prim’ and ‘prissy’ by parents, stood in front of our class, palm of her hand facing outwards, describing how her fingerprints wouldn’t be the same today as they were when she was born because she’d sliced them off on a lawn mower blade in her twenties.

Nor had my mum heard that this same teacher pulled me aside, on the day of my grandpa’s funeral, waited for the whole class to leave for music, then told me she too had lost her grandpa when she was ten, and knew how sad I must be feeling.

By stark contrast, Mr. T, my grade six teacher, lit up a cigarette every time he drove us to a sporting event, forcing my friends and I to roll our windows down, stick our heads out of his station wagon and cough as loud as we could.

Mr. T also threatened to cut my friend’s and my bangs if we continued to blow them off our faces while he taught. So, I got mine trimmed at a salon, while my friend got hers trimmed after school by Mr. T.

As outraged as my mum would have been had she heard those stories in the moment, it wouldn’t have changed my perspective on him.

Mr. T, to this day is one of my favourite teachers. He was funny, he played the guitar; he treated us like humans… never mind the second hand smoke in our still forming lungs…

I could go on. But Mum’s point’s been made. I’ll never get to be a fly on the wall, observing the ins and outs of Miss Q’s day. That’s something between her, the teacher, and, since we live in BC, 23 of her varied-ability-13-aren’t-supported classmates.

All I can do is drop her off, and wonder if she will ever have a teacher like Mr. R, who taught me grade seven, and drove his favourites down to 7-11 to get slurpees named ‘pee in the grass’; who showed up hung-over and declared the morning silent reading; who drew an apple, an hourglass and a pear on the chalkboard, circled the hourglass and said this was the most desired body type for a woman to have.

Or, if she’ll be graced with a homeroom teacher who tells her on her last day of grade twelve that the world needed more people like her in it.

It’s still early days, and even though I was never was privy to a convertible ride to Slurpeetown, I hope Miss Q continues to collect stories like these of her very own. Yes, right down to that crazy chalkboard Sex Ed lesson.

So as the adults continue to write the next chapter on education in our province, the current chapter of Miss Q’s year of the jellybean has come to an abrupt end, and though I’m a tad misty, she’s excited to start sleeping in.

Perspective, it appears, is everything.

After painting every square inch of our kitchen this week, and with touch-ups still lurking, the last thing I want to do is blog about paint.  But last week we had some sisterly bonding that needs to be documented, even if it does involve that permanent coloured stuff.

Purple, turquoise, and pink: fashionable for the under 5 set.

Purple, turquoise, and pink: fashionable for the under 5 set.


Miss S asked me to paint her nails last Thursday.  I was in the middle of cleaning up after lunch so I gave her the standard mum reply, “As soon as I’m finished cleaning, I will.”

“Can I paint Miss C’s nails?” Miss S asked.



“Sure.”  Let the record show I was fully aware of what I’d agreed to.  Part of me was relieved – I was off the hook; part of me was bemused; and another part was excited for the opportunity for Miss S to stretch her independence; flaunt her individual style.

Milliseconds after my casual, “sure,” Miss S and Miss C tore into the bathroom, grabbed three bottles of Piggy Paint (a non-toxic child friendly nail polish) and appeared back in the kitchen.

It goes without saying, the whole nail painting moment was over the top adorable.  Miss C sat with her hand out, silently watching her pre-selected colours being applied; Miss S, tongue out, concentrating as she worked.

I didn’t say a word, even when the paint started showing up on their clothes, the floor and yellow table.  Instead I re-directed my hot air to their fingers and toes, helping them to blow the paint dry.  Let’s just say, some spots took longer than others.

Not bad for Miss S's first time as an esthetician, don't you think?

Not bad for Miss S’s first time as an esthetician, don’t you think?




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