Owl Always Love You

This February Miss Q’s greatest wish is for an owl to fly up to her classroom window and rap at the glass with its beak. In Miss Q’s daydream, her teacher opens the window and the owl flies in, dropping a note on Miss Q’s desk before flying off.

I’m there with her.  It would be ah-mazing.  As a mum who tries to think the impossible isn’t always impossible, I pondered phoning around to wildlife centres, to see if they knew of any owls for rent – real or stuffed – I’m sure I could MacGyver a pulley system; I was in Girl Guides.  I contemplated flying in the rescue owl my brother’s company used for their Christmas greeting , and, in an even wilder moment, I considered capturing one.  Hope For Wildlife makes it look easy well, we own puncture proof gloves…  But alas, you can’t get everything you want in life, and the daydream is probably better than reality. Lord knows what might happen to the poor owl in a classroom of 24 grade twos.

It’s safe to say, Miss Q love owls. Loves them. We’ve only seen a live one in our fir tree once, but that doesn’t stop her from looking; reading about them; and sending me owl mail: rolled up scrolls attached to her stuffed owls.

At the end of the day, Miss Q’s schoolbag is filled with pictures of owls that she’s drawn and cut out, owl nests that she’s crafted out of scrap paper, and pop-up owl cards that say Owl Always Love You.

Her teacher really encourages Miss Q with her art and storytelling, something we’re indebted to her for. “Miss Q was finished her work early, so I asked her to write me a story,” her teacher told me at student lead conferences two weeks ago. She handed me the one-paged story Miss Q had written about an owl going crazy in a small town.

Some may say encouraging a child to dream about something that will never happen is setting them up for failure.  But I am inclined to think imagination is a precious quality to have. Without wild daydreams, hope fades and life becomes less exciting.

Miss Q will be just fine if an owl never raps at her classroom window.  She understands Harry Potter is fiction and owls live in the forest where they hunt and hoot.  But, if an owl decides to deliver mail in the middle of a school day, Miss Q is ready.

Q owl CM

Owls Miss Q, C and S made with their Grandma.


Island Mermaids

Three towels, three changes of clothes and I’m the one who needed dry pants.

Before the jump, I fancied myself Michael Jordan – Air Mama – vertical, hanging mid-stride over the creek, tongue out, before gracefully descending onto the soft sand. Then the bank gave way. At least my faceplant made everyone laugh.

“You should have come this way,” Miss Q said. She was deftly scaling a slippery log with her plastic boots. The slick wood threatening to buck her off at any moment, but she made it across with dry pants and dignity in tact.

All my kids are mountain goats. They get that from their mama. Watching them navigate the rocky shores around the island is both nerve wracking and nostalgic.

When I was their ages my family owned a sailboat. Exploring the rocks and tidal pools was my favourite thing to do once we’d anchored in a cove. Even as a teenager, my friends and I would climb on the rocks, finding secret places to swim or watch the sea roll in as we discussed life.

Like their mama, the girls didn’t stay dry for long. We have yet to leave the beach, any beach, in the last eight years with dry children. The ocean pulls them in, no matter how inclement the weather is. They are true island mermaids, my girls.

Wearing their winter jackets, waterproof pants (Miss S and Miss C) and boots, they trudged in and out of the waterline until the water crept over the top of their boots.  Seal broken, they raced along the water, stumbling in on purpose, and daring each other to do faceplants in the ocean.  Miss S took to lying on her back, half in the water, half out, doing mermaid angels.

All three were soaked, laughing and making their fellow beach goers – the ones bundled against the cold February morning – smirk and shake their heads.

Because seawater warms when in a boot, they didn’t notice the cold; only how much water was collecting between their socks and the plastic.

While she waited for her turn to change in the van, Miss Q squeezed her sopping pants into her boots for extra effect. She squealed happily when it was her turn to change and half the ocean poured out.

Pink skin, sand stuck here and there, wearing dry sweats and munching cookies, they sat in their seats; tired and glowing.

Off the coast, freighters slipped behind smaller islands, the seas were calm, the beach returned to its civilized state: dog walkers, runners, coffee drinkers.

Call them wild, call them crazy, but these spunky girls of mine are what life’s all about.

Minute by minute, hour by hour, Miss C is at my side. Her three-feet-off-the-ground colour commentary begins before my eyes are open and doesn’t end until her eyes close.

“We heard foghorns at Butchart Gardens when we were there.”

“Yes, we did. How do you remember that?”

“I just did.”

I’m tempted to ask why.  Why can you remember a detail like that?  The foghorns were months, if not over half-a-year ago.  But then I realize the question is more of a how, not a why – she is much better at this why stage than I.

Yes, we are here.  Why? Because she is three. I must choose daily between easy, or the intricate truth. I like to mix it up. Wondering, as I did this morning, if she really understands money and finances and making family choices; or, if I should have just renewed my museum pass.

As we step about our day, there’s a comfort in hearing the clomp of her boots as she tries to keep up.  There’s also a heaviness in my body when she stops cold and whines, “Pick me up.”

“Why?” I ask her.

“Because my legs are too tired.”

Dare I point out she has only taken seven steps since getting out of the van?

But I’m there. There to pick her up. There to have my fingers squeezed so hard they turn white, then purple when I drop her off.

Since returning to preschool in January, Miss C no longer pulls my pants down. However, you can see her brain processing, then ordering how exactly drop-off will go, “You come in with me. I’ll take off my boots with Teacher V and you wait inside, okay?” Her voice rises and the world stops as it hangs on the high-note expectantly.

“Absolutely,” I say, watching her exhale as I inhale at the slight warble in her lip.

On this day where my friends are registering their children for kindergarten; children one year older than Miss C, I am reminded how quickly time passes.  Even though we have 1.5 years left until Miss C enters elementary school, if I blink I will suddenly find myself standing next to Miss C in the school yard surveying the class of 2029.

Luckily my girl and I still have plenty of time left to explore.  Luckier still, after months of being shut-out, I was granted permission to sing Frozen – that is, for once she didn’t tell me not to sing.  So as I quietly add harmony to this Disney classic, and Miss C’s voice nimbly ran up and down the octaves, I answered: Why is Anna sad? and Why is she happy now that she can open up the windows?  

“Because she wants to play with her sister.  Because she can now have friends visit her castle.”

“Yeah.  That’s right.”

Test passed, I park the van and unbuckle my shadow.  Friends are waiting, there’s a beach to explore and the best part is: we’re together.

It is either brilliant or an epic mum-fail. This morning as I opened and closed cupboards, and opened and closed the same cupboards, I came to the slow realization that there was literally nothing substantial to put in Miss S and Miss Q’s lunch.

I had the dipped granola bars for recess, and the obligatory vegetables: cherry tomatoes for Miss Q and cucumber for Miss S. But after that, there was nothing. Not a cracker, a pretzel, a leftover pork chop, or piece of bread.

With the hands of the clock moving closer to the opening bell, there was no time to make rice, soup (not that Miss S would eat it), or run to the grocery store.

“Do any kids come home for lunch in your school?” I asked Miss S, closing the breadbox.

I used to go home for lunch when I was in elementary school. I still remember the slices of open-faced cheese toast piled on a plate in the middle of the table; the tuna, or hot dogs, mixed with Kraft dinner. Though sometimes I wished I could stay at school for lunch, it was always a nice break in the middle of the day to feel the warmth of my house and see my mum and brothers. Now it feels like a lost art.

Miss S paused, her spoon mid-air, “I think some do… No. Everyone stays in our class.”

Thoughts of swinging by the school at lunch with take-out for my hungry raccoons alternated with driving them home, and filling them up with bunny pasta. Was there enough time? I could also just take them out for lunch then drop them back to school. Or they could eat in the van…

Then I saw them. Tucked on the top shelf amidst the baking supplies: ice cream cones.

“What do you want in your cone, Miss Q?” I asked scooping Nutella into Miss S’s.  There’s never any question, the spread that’s said to be the nutritional equivalent of icing is Miss S’s current favorite.

“I want a Nutella cone in my lunch,” Miss C chirped.

“You can have one after preschool.” Thankfully her nut-free preschool only requires a light snack, so I could stop at blueberries and a granola bar.

“Okay. After preschool.” She nodded in agreement.

Miss Q walked into the kitchen, looked at the Nutella cone I’d just made, and shrugged her shoulders. “Cream cheese?”

Day two of the school week begins tomorrow – we had a professional development on Monday – plenty of time to make bread and get our school lunch game-face on.

Cone CM

Almost looks like cheesecake.

Cone CM1

Chances are Miss S will be hooked and request this delicious looking treat tomorrow… wouldn’t you?!



The Bingers

“Never fear, Kimmy Gibbler is here,” Miss Q chants from her top bunk. From the kitchen. In the car. “I think I actually sounded like her that time,” she occasionally adds.

I’m sure that’s my cue to cut her off; to hide the box sets, but I can’t. We’re too far in; too invested in seeing how the seasons progress; how the series ends.

Okay, I confess, I know how it ends.  20 years ago, I watched as Michelle recovered from her amnesia and the curtains fell on this heartwarming T.G.I.F comedy.

I’m not sure a woman of 37 and-three-quarters should admit to knowing all the ins and outs about Full House, but here it is: I’m pretty well versed. I was in grade five when the show started and graduated grade twelve the year it ended. Though I didn’t see all the shows in succession, thanks to re-runs, I think I’m caught up.

The littles aren’t. Full House is a new experience for them. It is hilarious watching them chortle at the sisters’ antics, Stephanie’s catch phrase, and squirm at all the kissing. Have mercy and cover your eyes kids.

Our ever-so-logical Miss Q often beats the tender music, pointing out who’s really to blame before the characters hug.  “It’s not Stephanie’s fault she drove the car into the kitchen.  Joey left the keys in the car.”  Meanwhile, our blond-haired, blue-eyed Miss C gets mad and tells us her name is not Michelle – even if we don’t make the comparison.  And Miss S can’t decide who she likes more: Stephanie, Michelle, DJ, or the funny uncle.  None of them pick Danny when they discuss the characters – maybe it’s the dust buster.

When you have 22 shows per season at your finger tips, and time, it’s easy to power through the DVDs. While on one hand I’m happy we aren’t being subjected to commercials – over Christmas we were watching the original Annie and a scantily clad lady of the night advertising a chat line flicked on the screen;  I do wonder about over-powering their senses. There’s something to be said about the old adage of too much of a good thing.

Insert a snappy comment from my husband about the quality TV I’m subjecting our girls to.  How rude.

There’s also that niggly worry that I’m laying the groundwork during the littles’ tender years to something bigger; more sinister. Binge watching just wasn’t vogue in the 80s and 90s- well, it was, I guess, but we called them marathons and you had to get to the video store pretty early to make sure you got all the Police Academy tapes.

But then again, sometimes you need to go full boar and that’s okay, writes the mum who just finished binge-listening to a podcast called Serial. Forty-ish hours dissecting true crime crammed into five days = pure gold.  My husband just shook his head when he found me curled up in bed with my iPad, listening to the episodes.

Of course I’d love to dog pile on the couch; hunker from dawn till the end of season 4 (that’s the current end of my box sets) but could you imagine the orangutaning my husband and I would be subjected to after all that inactivity? Oh my lanta.

So, attempting to teach moderation, I close my ears to their pleads for just-one-more-episode, fight my inner child who also itches to keep Wake Up San Francisco on air, and turn off the TV.

The Oldest Sister

Miss Q has taken the role of oldest and run with it. She is adventurous, mischievous, and smart beyond her years.

Currently, her sense of humour is equivalent to that of a Hallmark card – every card in the aisle tickles her funny bone. It is hilarious listening to her chortle and snicker as she reads the punch line of each greeting. “Get it? It says, ‘Happy Howl-oween. And there’s a picture of a dog.”

Her imagination knows no bounds. For example, last night she popped out of her bed to tell us she wanted to do another Hogwarts themed birthday party, but instead of combining a bunch of books, we have to follow book three. She patiently explained to her puzzled parents that the stairwell could be the whomping willow because it leads to our basement, which reminds her of the creepy shrieking shack.

Stab my husband in the heart – he’s only been working on cheering up our basement for the better part of the fall. Never mind the fact her birthday isn’t until February, or that we just barely finished Christmas.

Naturally, Miss Q’s energy and zest for life causes her younger sisters to gravitate towards her. She loves it when they buy in to her hijinks. Yesterday, as Miss Q raced in and out of the water at Willow’s Beach, Miss C and Miss S followed suit– they couldn’t help themselves, Miss Q was making the icy water look like the tropics. By the time Miss C tripped forward into a wave, all the sisters were soaked and I was left wondering why I hadn’t thought to bring towels.

Because Miss Q’s parents often lump her into the raccoon pile with her younger sisters, it’s easy to forget how much a seven, almost eight-year-old is capable of.

Until she designs and sews this:


And you realize this person whom you have loved on and sheltered for the better part of your thirties is a genius, or at the very least has an eye for art. And you wonder what other talents she is hiding; what she has yet to unlock from her soul.

And while you vow to nurture whatever else tumbles out, you also hope her talents will overcome the days you say no, or blow the ask off because it wasn’t the right time for you, or you didn’t want to deal with the mess.

And you wonder if, perhaps, one of your resolutions should be to say ‘yes’ more; then remember what saying ‘yes’ means when you have three kids, and think better of it.

Instead, you wonder if it’s time she learned how to use the stove or build a campfire. Just little life-steps towards independence – nothing too crazy. After all, she may be the oldest, but she’s still required to hold your hand once in a while.

What is the deal with kindergarten? Miss S has been sick with a fever since Saturday afternoon; Miss Q fell late last night. After missing a week and a day of school (Miss Q) and three days of school (Miss S) two weeks ago, thanks to quarantine, I thought we were home free. Apparently not.

As they say: life happens while you’re busy making plans. Naturally, my Christmas plans didn’t include sleeping on the couch, with one eye on Miss S all Saturday night; or, being woken at 4:45 Monday morning by Miss Q saying she felt dizzy, only to find Miss S sitting in pee, shivering in the living room. My heart aches thinking about how long she was sitting there wet and alone in the dark.

Even though I enjoyed our days of quarantine two weeks ago, I could do without this latest round. Last time I just had to keep everyone away from the general public. This time my husband and I actually have to work – and I’m not just talking laundry and disinfectant.

To start, we aren’t a drug your child type of family. Every time someone comes down with a fever, it seems that whatever medicine we bought the last time is half full and, expired, so off to the drugstore we go.

Though there are some merits for the riding out method sans drugs, just fluids and solitary good times, knowing that something has been invented that can take the heat away from your shaking child makes a teaspoon or two of Advil, Tylenol – pick your poison – all the more lucrative.

The challenge begins in the aisle of the drugstore. There are so many flavours to go with the dye-free pill vs liquid option. The secondary challenge is having three different personalities to appease: one only likes grape flavoured liquid, one changes her mind each illness, and one just plain old hates it all – including the naturopathic stuff.

In fact, on this latest round of illness, Miss S has given us a run for our money – literally and figuratively.

Before this weekend, I thought we’d tried everything in the quest to get medicine into our child: taking it straight-up, chewing it, mixing it with juice, milk and chocolate milk, hiding it in pudding, logic, doctor’s orders, bribery: I’ll give you a chocolate to chase the taste away. Even when we went with natural remedies, I always felt like the witch in Hansel and Gretel.

And now, on day three of Miss S’s fever, and with miniscule, we’re talking traces of medicine going over her lips and through her gums, I’ve hit rock bottom. Of course, I’m also fresh off a 7:30 a.m. lecture from the clinic doctor who told me if I didn’t get medicine into her, Miss S wasn’t going to feel any better; and have I tried masking Advil in chocolate milk? Fools children every time, according to her friend the paediatrician.

Not to poke holes in her theory, but (a) tried that, (b) failed on all 3 girls, and (c) the patient you’re asking me to trick is lying on your paper covered bed with a mask over her face taking in this entire conversation. Arg.

So what does one do when faced with a picky 5-yr-old who has felt and looked miserable for three days? You go against all your senses; turn off the alarm in the back of your brain that worries that she’ll be scarred for the rest of her life remembering the giant dealio that was her fever; and once Jiminy Cricket is properly silenced, you look at Miss S, then at the TV and then back at Miss S. “How ‘bout every time you see a minon you take a sip?”

Miss S didn’t like the drinking game either.

Maybe she knows of which she speaks. Maybe at the ripe old age of five she’s onto something. After all, the business of being sick is just that: a business.

I am certain the pennies-a-glass hot lemon and honey drink I made, and that she’s also refusing, would do just as much for her, as the $10 bottle of bubble gum flavoured Advil we purchased in the wee hours of this morning… maybe more; but none of that matters if your child declares them both yucky.

This round, I’ve spent $26 on a virus that doesn’t care about laced chocolate milk or plain reduced salt potato chips. Merry Christmas, Littles, you’re getting a fast-track Strep Throat test, and a fridge-sized carton of ginger ale to go with your potato chips and Advil. Hope you didn’t want a pony.

And so, I’m throwing in the towel. Miss S wins; my wallet loses. The last 72-hours have been filled with creative negotiation, but what makes me feel good isn’t making Miss S feel good. So we wait, continue to keep her hydrated, and hope that something breaks – either Miss S’s stubbornness or the fever.

Smart money’s on the fever.Sick - CM



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