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Sleeping Beauty

My husband and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary this weekend. “Under the ‘B’ legs eleven; one-one,” the BINGO caller at my elementary school would say.

Time, as usual, plays tricks with years.  Eleven doesn’t sound long, but when you start counting the moments within the years it creates a small hill.  In eleven short years, my partner in crime and I have lived Life, with a capital ‘L’.

As I watched Say Yes to the Dress, and tried to convince my husband it was suitable anniversary viewing, I was overcome with thanks that weddings hadn’t really come into their own eleven years ago.

CM Sleeping Beauty

Will she dance again?

My wedding dress cost $750… roughly 1/4 of what the low-end dresses cost on the show – crazy.  I don’t know if it chose me, but it was the first dress I saw in the store and the only dress I kept returning to, so I said, ‘yes’.

Now, like sleeping beauty, my dress rests in a box.  It cost me $400 to have it dry cleaned and entombed aprés wedding.  It looks so peaceful behind the plastic viewing window, but, every so often I itch to rip it out of solitary confinement, put it on and twirl around the room.

What does one do with an eleven-year-old wedding dress?  Wearing it to other weddings is still considered a faux pas; and, I don’t want to shred or gore it up for Hallowe’en or a zombie walk.

It deserves to be worn again, to be best supporting actress in the roll of a beautiful medieval style dress.

My daughters are curious.  They ask if they can see it, if I’ll bring it out of the box.  One of my friends recently posted pictures of her three daughters wearing her wedding dress.  It was so something I would do – the trying on part, NOT, the posting their pictures part – but the fact I paid to have my dress boxed away nags at my sensibilities of cracking the seal for what would most-likely be thirty minutes of entertainment.

Also nagging at my sensibilities is the wonder if any of my girlies will want to wear my dress again.  I didn’t wear my mum’s dress, and none of my friends wore their mum’s dresses at their weddings, so why would I presume my littles would want to wear mine?

Clearly this is the mark of a disposable society.  UGH.

With intentions of an up-cycle, I could turn it into pillows, doll clothes, or buy a mannequin and display the dress in our front window.

I could also sell it.  It has good vibes; good karma would definitely come to the next bride who wears it. Or, since it looks a little medieval, it could make a Live Action Role Player or a theatre happy.

As the dress waits in limbo, it serves as a concrete reminder of an amazing day eleven years ago: pumpkins, fall leaves, twinkle lights, full moon, good food, fun family and friends.  I would recreate that day in a heartbeat.  I would marry my husband all over again, if he’d let me.  Apparently trendy vow renewals are out of the question in his books.  We’ll see…

Eleven years, legs eleven.  No matter how you announce it, life’s been better than good to us, and we can’t wait for eleven more.

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There Was One

Listening to Let it Go as I drove away from the elementary school this morning probably wasn’t the best choice in music.  But there we were: Miss C sitting in the back singing, better yet, allowing me to sing along with her, while Miss Q started her fourth official day of grade two, and Miss S started her first official day of kindergarten. And, as soon as we arrived at the preschool, and dropped Miss C off, the minivan would be empty for the first time in seven years.  Oi, this mama was leak-ing.

These days it isn’t hard to make this mama leak.  My pride swells like the flood tides every time my littles accomplish something, and these days milestones seem to be around every corner.

Kindergarten, for Miss S, took forever to come.  Nothing like being asked by everyone you meet if you’re ready for kindergarten and then being told you’ve got to wait, maybe next week, maybe October.

But it’s September.  Officially autumn.  Miss S now sits among her peers in a kindergarten classroom, ready to take on the world.  Class of 2027 here she comes, even though yesterday she decided to wear only her bathingsuit while we shopped because she really wanted to go swimming.

Miss S has always had a sense of style: monkey socks, ruffled skirts, leggings, gold shirts and Olaf effortlessly swirl together, she never bemoans she has nothing to wear.

Today for her first official day she wore a red frilly dress, brown leggings and reindeer socks.  Once she’d slipped on her hot pink indoor shoes, I kissed her good-bye and she was off: swallowed whole by the classroom.

Of course any parent will tell you five years passes like *that*.  Poof: Miss S has morphed from an infant strapped to my chest in an Ergo to a monkey loving five-year-old who finds humour in practically everything she touches.

Tonight as I drove her home from highland dance she sang Monkey Frozen.  As the CD played, again, she changed every noun to the word ‘monkey’ giggling ferociously as she sang.

Another one  of my favourite moments with Miss S was when we were bike riding this summer.  A hill caught her by surprise.  Instead of frapping, she rode it out, peddling furiously.  All Miss Q and I could hear was her laughing with glee as she speed down the hill on two wheels.

Magical.

This afternoon as I waited for the bell to release my littles back to me, I took comfort in knowing Miss S and Miss Q were at the same school.  Even though I don’t remember ever hanging around my brothers at recess or lunch, and I had three of them there with me, I figured Miss Q and Miss S would delight in seeing each other.

Apparently it wasn’t a complete raccoon love-fest like I’d imagined.  “Well I saw Miss S on the playground at recess and lunch but she didn’t look lonely.”  So Miss Q decided to play with her own friends leaving Miss S all alone for her first recess ever on the monkey bars.

Miss S didn’t mind. She said she almost figured out the rings by herself and she played with one of Miss Q’s old friends at lunch.  Also there was a gingerbread hunt that took them through the school and ended with them eating gingerbread cookies in the morning and music class. The stories kept coming.

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.  And truly, though the lump in my throat threatens my grin, today is one of pride, of overwhelming joy, of celebration.  All those sleepless nights, diapers, tummy time frets, how small should we cut her grapes worries, everything preschool, and everything in between, happened so that this spunky, beautiful girl with a laughing heart could walk into kindergarten and be a-okay.  And you know what?  She absolutely was.

 

 

 

 

 

Dead In A Pirate Ship

So here it is: the number 20. I have been working at the same place, for twenty years. Two decades. Twenty. Two. Zero.

The year was 1994. It was September 13th. The first thing I did, when I got the phone call was to ask for permission to use my mum’s car, then race to the pool to fill out the paperwork. I didn’t want the opportunity to pass me by; didn’t want my new supervisor to change her mind.

I still remember running down my parents’ gold shag carpeted stairs and leaping out the door into the late afternoon sunshine. My new supervisor ribbed me for my promptness.

Today, September 14, 2014, I sit on my blue-jean couch in my living room, next to my husband while our three girls snooze in the next room. Our minivan sits on the driveway; our dog guards the backyard from rats, raccoons and other nefarious creatures. The number twenty spins and swirls through my head playing peek-a-boo with memories like a wisp from my daughters’ fairytales.

Three weeks before September 13th, 1994: I lay dead in the pirate ship of the largest, newest, most overwhelming pool I’d ever seen. The builder said you could easily fit a 747 with a space shuttle attached within its walls, and there I lay: dead.

It was a simulation that had gone deliciously wrong when my fellow lifeguard-in-training ignored me. Winner of best actress in the role of a fake heart attack victim: me. Then I was ordered by our instructor to die.

Naturally when I croaked I made sure to scrunch my body in the darkest corner of the ship, posing my limbs in what I thought would give the police a good chuckle when outlining my body.

The lifeguard found me, exclaimed some exclamations then set to work trying to revive me, but it was too late. I was dead. Gone. Kaput. Set up the next lifeguard-training scenario; solidify a 20-year friendship.

When the number 20 gets tossed around I begin to feel like the old woman of the sea. I’m old enough to be the parent of any of my teenaged staff and I’ve been told 80’s Nite has been replaced by 90’s Night down at the bars.

But what really makes me feel old is technology. I’m still the last one on earth (aside from my husband) without a cellphone… are they just called phones now? And it’s hard not to show any amusement when I walk into a full staffroom and everyone’s glued to their phones not conversing.

P.S. to all that: How happy, oh so happy, am I that i-anything wasn’t in vogue back when I had a nightlife that didn’t include TV and my blue-jean couch? Dodged that bullet.

I fell into my first job for the municipality: lifeguard and swim instructor. Turned down by the folks at the yacht club, I was told I was better suited for lifeguarding over sailing instruction, so I switched gears.

Naturally, the people I was surrounded by made my early years at the pool. But slowly, like cheese, as I aged, I found inspiration in active communities as well. There’s something about being in a building where everyone has a common goal of movement.

Of course, 20 years of being a working girl hasn’t been all roses. Like anything you’ve grown up with there have been moments. Some public, some internal, some so crazy no one would ever believe. Ever. Believe. But because I still need to work, my tell-all is shelved.

Municipal recreation has been my steady partner, faithfully funding my dreams for the last twenty years.   As I lay dead in the pirate ship, I never imagined this gig would turn into a career, but I suppose it quietly has.

This wasn’t how today was supposed to go. Six months ago I had a vision of a misty drop off (me, not her) and then a glorious workout – a whole hour and fifteen minutes to myself – maybe capped off with a celebratory drink. (Sans alcohol.)

Yes, today was supposed to be a good kind of misty. The kind of misty one looks back on years later and says: Hey, we both did good kid.

But the first flicker of ‘me’ time has been snuffed.

Pinched by an on-going labour dispute, Miss Q and Miss S are my chaperones this morning. The pallbearers, holding the Kleenex; the clowns, gleeful their baby sis is going to school. How fast can they push her out of the minivan?

Even my husband appears to have conspired against me today. First he forgot to ask permission to duck out of work; second, he scheduled a new employee orientation and then is tied up with interviews all day. He’ll be there next Tuesday for her official-official – the entire class will be there – first day.  A decent consolation prize.  Perhaps by then Miss C will have her own lunch kit – oops.

Naturally, Miss C doesn’t notice my plan has gone sideways.   She’s helped me pack her snack, her extra change of clothes and her indoor shoes. Earthquake Bear is already tucked in her earthquake kit and waiting for her at the school should an earthquake occur. (Knock on wood.) She’s wearing her favourite Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles hooded t-shirt, frilliest hot pink skirt, complete with Elmo socks, and is bouncing around the house, excited for the day to begin.

Life happens while you’re busy making plans, seems an appropriate quote to live by on this momentous day.  So:

Happy first day of school, Miss C, may you come home covered in paint, bubbling with stories and eager to return next Tuesday.

In an ironic twist, the only one in our family who may be going to school this September is Miss C.  Ironic because of all our girls and preschool, I was the most hesitant on whether I was enrolling Miss C, or not.

It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the preschool we’d chosen; I love it, and won’t consider any other for my girls.

Both Miss Q and Miss S attended, had a great time, met lovely friends, and most importantly, those friends had lovely parents; a trifecta.

But, however wonderful it was for the older two, when it came to re-committing to a 5th and 6th consecutive year of co-op preschool, this mama had to pause and balance her time vs. money vs. the benefits for Miss C.

For the last year, I’ve been an annoying broken record. The ebb and flow of should we/shouldn’t we preschool sucked me up and down the fiord too many times to count.

If it was simply about picking an awesome program and teachers, the decision would be a cinch; however, this preschool is parent participation, meaning we parents run the non-profit school and get to spend at least two days a month with our littles in class.

I don’t mind the model. It’s just that with all things over the last thirty years, it’s become more complicated.

What started as a grass-roots program: mums being isolated while raising their kids, hey let’s start a play based preschool, has turned into a full-fledged business with fundraising, marketing, budgets, job binders, contracts and all the in-between. Sprinkle in a mix of keener parents and non-keener parents, stay at home parents with working parents and well, you get the picture.

Sure, I’m probably classed as a keener, being in charge of the fundraising department for the second year in a row (if you want to make a charitable donation email me – lol) but the truth is, I feel more like a realistic, sometimes snarky, mother of three compared to my zesty counterparts.

The easy route would be not to put Miss C in anything, to let her sample from the school of life, being towed around town in a bike trailer, dining at the local coffee shops and living a beach bum existence.

Even as I type, with our decision cemented, I feel the familiar tug back down the channel, option ‘easy’ sounds good to this no longer perky mama.

But then there’s Miss C. At 2.75, she is excited at the prospect of packing her backpack with a snack, doing art and playing with the dolls in the preschool.

So with my selfish time is money philosophy out the window; I eventually came to the realization that Miss C needed to be immersed in age-appropriate activities for the first time in her young life. Sorry Monster High, Barbie, Harry Potter and everything else her big sisters have exposed her to.

I literally wrote on Miss C’s registration forms that all Teacher G had to do was give her a newspaper and cup of coffee at 9 a.m. and she’d be good to go. Of course, I embellished, sub the newspaper for Young and the Restless; coffee for hot chocolate, add an fried egg, and you get a tidy snapshot of what our lives were like in the mornings last year.

Just Mama and Miss C.

Well in November this might be true. Come November I’ll be misty at the prospect of having all my girlies tucked away in school, leaving me by my lonesome for four hours each week for the first time in seven years.

When I mentioned packing Kleenex in my purse for her first day, Miss C replied, “Don’t cry Mama, because then you won’t be happy. Preschool is a happy thing.”

Clearly if my little Zen master is ready, I am too.

Last Monday in August

On the last Monday in August, a father and daughter tried something they’d never done before: stand up paddle boarding in Brentwood Bay.

Some people, my husband, my mum, the boat captain for Butchart Gardens, said it would be cold, that our ankles would hurt, that we would come out of the lesson frozen and whiny.

Before you try to match the comment to the person, let the record show: paddle boarding was ah-mazing… once I got over my fear of falling into the dark greeny/blue, a killer whale might be lurking, abyss.

Don’t worry, my dad and I overcame that falling hurdle early and simultaneously – done in by the Brentwood Bay ferry as it made it’s last run to the dock. Even though both of us had our boards pointed with the wake, the space between the trough and crests, coupled with our wobbly sea legs, proved our undoing.

Surprisingly, the water was refreshing, not frigid. In Brentwood the water can be up to 15 degrees warmer than it’s counterpart over in Oak Bay. Sure, I’d read that somewhere, but didn’t believe it until I was completely submerged.

Buoyed by the lifejacket, I lay on my back in the water, looking up at the blue sky, head on my board, feet on my dad’s, waiting for him to swim over.

Our instructor held my board as I slid up it like an ungraceful sea lion. Once I’d regained my balance, I felt my whole body relax into the experience – as refreshing as the dunk was, I had to remind myself not to get too complacent.

It was peaceful out in the bay: the water flat, sun setting, and seals spying. The only disturbance was my dad stepping back on his board, causing the second, and last, splash of the evening.

As we paddled back to the dock in the twilight, the air was so still it felt like we were in another world.

It reminded me of another space and time, back when I was thirteen, when my dad and I made a midnight run in our sailboat from Sidney Spit to the town of Sidney to drop one of my friends off to her parents at the dock.

The moon was full that night, the water calm. My twin brothers slept below as I kept watch for my dad as he steered us back to where my mum, brother and his friend waited. “One day you’ll want to be out here on a night like this with someone other than your dear-ol’ dad,” he said as the moon’s reflection rippled in our wake.

I didn’t really understand what he meant at the time. But now that I finally have someone other than my dad to share moonlit cruises with, we don’t have a boat and, it turns out, the salt water doesn’t run deep in my husband’s desert lungs.

Needless to say my husband has been forewarned and the boat fund has been resurrected.

Though it will be at least another outing before I feel comfortable plunking Miss C on the front of my board and taking her for a spin, getting to paddle tonight when nature was in harmony with itself was pure magic. And, just as it was when I was thirteen, sharing the moment with my dear ol’ dad was all right too.

Camp S

balloons2Miss S wanted an inside out party this year.  Inside out to her meant her friends would play both inside and outside – “I am sick of just outside birthdays,” she told us with a hint of a teenaged groan.

Fair enough, but summer birthdays itch to be held outside.  There’s the slip ‘n slide, water balloons, shaving cream… riiiight, it’s her birthday, not her mum’s, who, given the choice, would like the messy fun to stay outside; however, let the record show: food colouring, glue, sparkles, you name it, it’s all welcome in my house.

This year, Miss S turned five.  Five.  FIVE.  As my second child, this number hits a little harder than the first.  Of course there’s the obligatory, “Where did the time go?”  But with Miss S, I’ve been all too aware of time slipping from my fingers like sands from the hour glass and the number looming on the horizon.

Second children give you perspective on how fleeting every stage is.  Sure, you think you’re stuck in h-e-double hockey sticks when your newborn isn’t breastfeeding properly, or your toddler isn’t sleeping through the night, or, or, or, but the thing to meditate on, tattoo on your forehead, spray paint on the nursery wall, is This too shall pass, because it does.

Second children allow you to sink farther into the stages, enjoy them more because you know in a few short years they’ll be standing on the cusp of independence, of someone else’s influence, of full-day kindergarten, of new friends who you haven’t had a hand at picking.

This doesn’t mean you’re completely zen with it all.  Just writing the last sentence gave me heart palpitations.  Thankfully, here in BC school might not start until the middle of October, and this mama’s okay with that.

Being five to Miss S meant a party.  Like any child worth their card carrying membership, Miss S is excited to be growing up.  She can’t wait to return to swimming so she can do cannonballs with her instructor; skating so she can be in a different level.  And she takes great delight in the fact she comes up to Grandma S’s chest when they stand back to back…er, Grandma’s chest is where you’d expect it to be, in the front, but, well, you get the picture.

Present wise, Miss S had her eye on a Monster High doll.  Sure she wanted other things, or at least we, her parents, made her think she wanted other things, useful things, like a bike, jacket for school, backpack, money for an activity, all of which she welcomed enthusiastically.  But her eyes were locked on a Monster High doll.  Thankfully she has an aunt who turned a blind eye to the commercialization of childhood and surprised her with one.

Her party was small and surprisingly quiet.  Four friends from preschool came to our house with brightly coloured present bags filled with art supplies, bubbles, a board game and dolls. They started inside, as per the birthday girl’s specifications, but after lantern making, ventured outside on their own free will, baited by balloons, a tent, and  boxes of fun cereal.

A camping theme ran loosely through the party, so my husband dressed up like a werewolf/cat/bear, and the girls defended their fortress by pummelling him with water balloons.  Some weren’t too sure when he launched an unpopped balloon back at them and it soaked their feet.  Daddy.

Olaf made an appearance, but because it was summer when he came out, he melted.  We sang happy birthday to Miss S as Olaf’s eyeballs, hair and carrot nose floated around in a bowl of water.

Here’s the great thing about being five: you aren’t quite sure if your parents are joking and the Olaf cake you remember seeing in the kitchen still exists or if he really did melt.

I hope five stays with us for a while.  As I’ve typed this out, I’ve been asked to snap arms back into the Monster Highs, found construction paper and twisted caps off glitter glue.  You couldn’t pay me to be somewhere else.

So here’s to our sweet and spunky, sometimes bossy, always up for adventure, beautiful Miss S!  May five be the year you spread your wings while keeping your feet firmly in the nest.

Lanterns before.

Lanterns before.

After, with a battery operated tealight.

Lanterns after, with a battery operated tealight.

Camping cereal.

Camping cereal.  The easiest birthday party snack food we’ve had to date.

 

Olaf cake.

Dear Disney Animators, Could you please pause before creating the next big thing, and  think about the parents who have to re-create in batter and icing your vision for their attention to details littles?  Sincerely Cautious Mum

 

 

 

 

 

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