“What if someone takes our house when we’re gone?” Miss C.

“Does Tofino have sasquatches?” Miss S.

“What if it rains the entire time we’re here?” Me.

But being hearty west coasters, we were prepared. An extra tarp had been purchased and we’d packed their gumboots.

What we weren’t prepared for was how wet our daughters would get. Oh. My. Word. They are true aquaphiles.

The water at Mackenzie Beach called to them as it crashed across rocks; carved paths through the sand; filled tidal pools. They couldn’t resist – even in the pouring rain.

Fun fact: clothes won’t dry, hanging under a tarp for four days. The clothes the littles were wearing in the ocean on Saturday came home on Tuesday filled with sand and surf – so did the ones worn on Sunday and Monday.

It’s their parents’ fault, really. All those days and months spent dreaming of camping beside the beach and neither my husband nor I thought about reality.

When we go to the beach in Victoria, the littles race into the water, make sand angels, construct boats out of driftwood and come out soaked. Most days they’re transported home naked – a towel separating them from their car seats.

At Bella Pacifica, the girls ran to the ocean, splashed, and came out needing new clothes for fear of hypothermia as night fell. By Tuesday we were scraping the bottom of the bags for outfits.

As for life at the campsite, it was relaxing. Yes, camping with three kids ages 8, 5 and 3; a dog and a mum with strep throat was relaxing… Right, I had strep throat; that was awful.

Because I was sick, my husband did all the work: cooking, dishes, trench digging to redirect the much-needed rain away from our tent… Even though I went from zero to better over the weekend, his willingness to do everything was the reason the trip was a success.

Our campsite was large. It fit a four-man tent (we’ll need an upgrade soon) minivan, picnic table and fire pit. Though we couldn’t see the ocean thanks to the foliage surrounding our site, if we looked diagonally through campsite #4 beside us, we had a great view.

The girls enjoyed walking the path through our bushes to the beach and giving us reports on where the tide was or who was out there. They loved playing in the tent and climbing the rocks like mountain goats.

In what might be an unpopular statement, the town of Tofino itself isn’t kid friendly. Sure there were coffee shops, restaurants and kitschy stores where you could purchase I Love Tofino sweatshirts for $39 – Miss C told us firmly, “I don’t love Tofino, I love my sisters.” Insert collective awe.  However, unless you were there to surf, whale watch or visit the hot springs, the real magic was found on the beach. Where else can you watch eagles be harassed by crows, or walk the tide line and find the tiniest of jellyfish?

Four days was the perfect amount of time to rough it seaside. On our way back down the island we found an amazing restaurant in Port Alberni called Pescadores, and stopped to check in on the 800-year-old tree in Cathedral Grove. Magical.

Magical still that the rain stopped on day three, Sasquatch was nowhere to be found and our house was exactly where we left it on our return. As I unlocked our front door, and my husband unloaded the van, plans for our next vacation were in the works.

The view of the beach looking diagonally through our neighbour's site.

The view of the beach looking diagonally through our neighbour’s site.

What the tide brought in.

What the tide brought in.

Miss S counted 22, I counted 21.  Whatever the number, these were the stairs from our site to the washrooms.  We definitely got our exercise.

Miss S counted 22, I counted 21. Whatever the number, these were the stairs from our site to the washrooms. We definitely got our exercise.

Time to go back!

Time to go back!

The last thing you want to hear the day before a road trip is, “Do you have a will?” Yet, that was exactly the question, my husband and I got as we sat across from a financial advisor. He followed up with, “Let me tell you how it’s going to go down in Canada: your husband and you are driving together in the car. You get in an accident. You die on scene; your husband dies on the way to the hospital 15-minutes later. His brother or sister get the children; they aren’t going to grandparents. Let me reverse that scenario. Your husband dies at the scene. You die 15-minutes later on the way to the hospital. One of your siblings get the children; it won’t be the grandparents.”

Awful. Hard hitting.  And, of course, in front of our children. Not that any of them looked like they were listening. Miss Q was curled up with a book; Miss S was drawing and Miss C jumped from lap to lap. Needless to say, make a will was pushed up the list – right behind immortality.

We left for Tofino last Saturday. I tried to push the conversation from the day before out of my head, after all, how often are my husband and I in the car together? Oh right.

Back in February, when I booked the campsite at Bella Pacifica, visions of campfires and sunny beach days danced in my head. Every time I looked ahead in my day planner, the word “Tofino” with my sunshine doodles reminded me of what I was working towards.

Fast forward five months and July 11th was finally here: a fire rating of extreme; a province wide campfire ban; and smoke from a near-by Sproat Lake forest fire hanging in the air.

BC needed rain, and lots of it. Naturally, the liquid sunshine that hadn’t been on the radar for weeks, started on the drive, and stayed with us for the next two days. But, what can you do?  We live in a rainforest.

The highlight of the drive to Tofino was a bear sighting by Miss Q, which was confirmed by my husband and bemoaned by Miss C, “I can’t see anything.” She was definitely packed in tight in the third row: surrounded by sleeping bags, jackets and boogie boards.

Road tripping with our family recalls the days of yester-year, in a land before personal DVDS, iPhones and music. We drive in silence, not because we have a code, but because we just end up talking and time starts flying. At least it does for the adults. The wee ones seem to be, for the time being, content to look at the scenery and eavesdrop. Our theory, for right now, is if we don’t start the electronic expectation, they’ll learn how to entertain themselves. So far it’s working.

Of course, there still were mandatory food breaks, and multiple rest breaks that made us wish we’d brought a pee-bucket. We also had to tell Miss S she wasn’t allowed to ask if we were in Tofino after she asked abut 30 times in a row – an hour away from home. But we made it: rainy Victoria to rainy Tofino in a little under 6.5 hours.  Let the camping begin!

At the top of Mount Doug, I lay on my stomach, beneath an arbutus tree, pointing out landmarks. The girls hovered, munching cake, feeling the refrigerator tree’s cool bark, and drinking from the water bottle my husband passed around. Our houndie recovered in the tall, dry grass. Today our Canada Day tradition was born… at least I think it was born. Will confirm in the years to come.

Mount Doug and I are old friends. The landmark has been framed in the picture windows of my parents’ house since the 70s. My friends and I used to climb it for fun on the weekends. And semi-recently I added it to my mum’s birthday itinerary. “It’s only 225 metres,” I told her.

Halfway up, she brought to light my mathematical error: it was 225 metres… above sea level.   Happy Birthday.

Today, I wanted to try a route I’d never strolled. I parked on Glendenning, and we started walking along the ‘green’ (easy) trail.

Improvements to the mountain now have the main routes mapped. Turns out my old mountain goat route has been labeled ‘black’: difficult. I would have labeled it ‘Indiana Jones’ as garter snakes like to sun themselves on the boulders.

Today when we came to a new choose-your-own-adventure fork in the road: blue (moderate) or black, I declared, “Let’s just do it,” picking the advanced route.

“Alright.” My husband looked skeptical. “Up the path, girls.”

I resisted singing Climb Every Mountain from Sound of Music as we began the vertical climb. Dust, loose rocks and exposed roots threatened at every step. But slow and steady was my motto, until I realized only Miss C was with me. My husband, Miss Q and Miss S had left us, well, in the dust.

Climbing with Miss C was amazing. She never once complained about the dirt, the slippery rocks or the grass that was taller than her.

There were times Miss C was literally crawling up the mountain; her pink size seven runners buried themselves in the dirt as she pulled herself along. Under her pink hat her face was covered in dust, but her blue eyes shone. As we broke through the tree line, she declared, “I see the snowy snowy mountains!”

Thanks to the lack of rain in these parts, the Olympic Mountains aren’t very snowy, but they were there, across the strait. “Keep going,” I encouraged.

The sisters, dog and I descended Mount Doug via Churchill Road. It’s closed to cars until noon. My husband retraced our original steps to get our car. Neither of us thought it wise to hike the girls back down the slope.

Miss S and Miss Q could have descended with my husband.  They were still skipping and marvelling at the fact Uncle M won (multiple times) King of the Hill- a race from our high school to and up Mt. Doug.  Thankfully I had graduated before it’s invention.

I ended up piggybacking Miss C 1.25 km to our rendezvous spot after she took two steps on the pavement and declared she couldn’t walk.  I didn’t blame her.

There are no selfies and no scenic pics from our adventure. You will have to imagine forest green cascading into sparkling dark blue; three girls, each one a head taller than the next, covered in dust, absolutely loving life.

June 25th

It’s June 25th.  While other people are humming Alice Cooper, Miss C and I are listening to the Grinch – only six more months till Christmas.

At 2:44 this afternoon, Miss Q and Miss S returned to the nest. Needless to say this mama is content. The raccoons now have 10 glorious weeks to romp together before grade three, grade one and four-year-old preschool.

The day was an odd one for Miss Q. She and her friend were walking through the oak trees during recess when a crow fell off a branch and landed at their feet. Miss Q said the crow was bleeding from its beak and sort of breathing at first, but she didn’t know if it made it through the day once the janitor put it in a box. Chances are it didn’t.

I’m not sure what, if anything, one should read into a deceased crow falling out of a tree at an eight-year-old’s feet. But I can report: Miss Q wasn’t too happy about the experience. She said she was sad at first, forgot about it during the Fun Day events, and then remembered again when I was getting ready to mow the lawn this evening.

I gave her a hug and turned my attention back to the lawn – hey, people are all over blogs saying children should live like it’s 1970, I was taking it back to 1950. Actually, during my moment, my husband jumped in with a scientific explanation on why the bird appeared to be breathing when actually it was probably dead. No sarcasm: thank goodness for his biology degree.

Miss S saw the bird too, and said there was a lot of blood. Because Hope For Wildlife is one of their staple shows, the incident didn’t bother Miss S; she went to play with her friend on the monkey bars.

Miss S’s day started with a surprise announcement at 8:00 saying parents were supposed to come to school, decorate cupcakes and have a cup of coffee.

Okay, so I had read the note, but thought it was for the afternoon. A quick call to Granny, to see if she’d watch a feverish Miss C, and all was a-okay again. Granny dumped her freshly made pot of tea and umbrellaed over a-la-Mary Poppins in less than 30 minutes.

Reading books and hanging out with Miss S on her last day of kindergarten was a perfect way to end the year. Awesomer still because she won a book when her name was drawn during the morning announcements: Junie B. Jones.

Even though the attendance portion of their report cards teaches me we could improve upon our punctuality, this year can go down in the books as a complete success.

Miss Q found a kindred spirit in her teacher who, like Miss Q, loves art and animals. Miss Q has never been encouraged to draw so many pictures, write so many stories; or had anyone write so many nice things about her.

Miss S, too, had an amazingly supportive teacher who had the wisdom early on to give Miss S space to quietly figure out kindergarten. Because of her guiding hand, Miss S blossomed into a confident, spunky, ready to take on the world five-and-a-half year old.

So now the summer stretches in front of us, with camping and swimming lessons on the horizon.  Other than remembering to pack snacks for regular feedings, the trio and I are ready for everything!

Mum vs. Moth

It all began, as it usually does, the moment my husband retired to the den, leaving me upstairs with the trio who were supposed to be dreaming of sugarplums.

Cue the moth.  Mothman, actually.  When the first calls for help were transmitted, I did what any mum who was sinking into the first kid-free moments of the evening would do: called back, “You guys need to go to sleep now.”

“There actually is a giant bug in there.”  Miss S was suddenly by my side, back against the living room wall, looking sideways at the dark hall.

Putting down my tea I lumbered off the couch.  “Seriously?”

“Yes!” declared the Greek chorus.

“Okay, just stay on your beds, where is it?”

“It’s a giant moth.”

All thoughts of playing catch and release flew out the window when I saw the dark oval shape perched on their white curtain. They were right, the moth was massive; at least as long as the key to our van, and thick. “Why didn’t Daddy deal with this?”  He had been in their room no more than five-minutes before. Mothman looked like he’d been hanging out for five-hours.

“We told him, but he didn’t believe us,” Miss Q replied.

Convenient, I thought sizing up this latest motherhood challenge.  Deciding this was no time to be faint of heart, I opted for a combo trap: barehand + mug. Fast, simple, and I’d be back on the couch lickety-split.

I didn’t factor in wingspan.  The moment I dumped Miss Q’s bottle cap collection out of the mug, the lepidopteran took flight. Right at my head.

Survivor’s instinct made me duck… and yelp.

Two-thirds of the trio screamed from their beds.  The other third screamed from the hall closet.

With the option of trapping the fuzzy night flyer quickly evaporating, I went for the big guns: the fly swatter.  If I could momentarily stun it and then toss it out the window to a passing owl, the circle of life would be complete.

Predictably, my departure from the bedroom was met with panic.  Three escorts flanked me, as I strode to the kitchen. “Remember when we bought that for Daddy?” Miss C asked.

The inaugural swat and where was he?  Oh yeah, blissfully unaware that the three girls he’d left snug in their beds were now enjoying ring-side seats to Mum vs. Moth.

Back in the bedroom, Monsieur Moth was now resting comfortably on the wall above Miss Q’s bed.  She climbed her ladder.  “Hi Mothy,” she said.

The phrase Say good-bye to your little friend, seemed a tad harsh for the moment, but when, once again, the glowing eyed creature flew at my head, the game was on.

Waiving the flyswatter like Zorro falling off his horse, I found myself being simultaneously pushed out the door by two girls, fleeing like they were in the middle of a ‘B’ movie.

The last time I saw him, Mothman was flying through the whirring fan blades, dipping once, then regaining altitude; his wings pumping madly.

After collecting ourselves, the uninvited, now, missing guest became a teachable moment.  “If you didn’t have piles of stuff on your shelves, the moth would be easier to see…”

“Maybe it’s in my hair.” Miss Q laughed.

“Your hair is light brown, that moth was dark brown, we’d see it,” Miss S informed her.  Once her bed had been given the all clear, she’d emerged from her cocoon in the closet.

“I thought you didn’t like him?” I asked my perky eight-year-old.

“I was only scared once you started screaming and ran.”

“Yeah.” The ancient Greek chorus was back.

A final sweep of the dollhouse and I was almost convinced he’d been a hologram.  “Okay, sorry pals, I don’t know where he is.  Goodnight.”

“Mama I’m scared,” Miss S declared, as I left the room.

“Of the moth?”

“No Big Foot.”

“Big Foots don’t live in Victoria.”

“But they live in Tofino.”

“No they don’t.”

“You can’t say that for sure because you don’t know.”  And there it was: Miss Q, upping her mental game.

Clearly the fact her mother had just fought a mythical moth and lost was, well, lost on my little realist.  Immature Mum wanted to retort, “You’d have a better chance of having a bear walk through your campsite than a Big Foot in Tofino,” but thankfully she held her tongue and sang, “Goodnight.”

Suffice to say, camping next month will be interesting.

Miss C’s Songbook

The minute I start the engine, the sing-offs begin.  Lately it’s been Miss C vs Madonna.  The song?  Borderline.  Though I can’t hit my buzzer and spin around in my chair, Miss C definitely holds her own to Madge – there’s no constraining her lungs with a five-point harness.

Couldn’t be more perfect.  Except Miss C is three.  She doesn’t own a cone bra, but she knows most of the lyrics to Boom Clap, Everything is Awesome and What Does the Fox Say? – the latter is encouraged by a book.

Sure it’s darn cute to have my personal ghetto blaster belt,”Cuz you keep on pushing my love over the borderline…” as I shop the aisles of Costco.  But all I can think of is: how far we’ve strayed from Fred Penner, Sharon, Lois & Bram, Raffi, and Charlotte Diamond.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s comforting to be reminded that this blonde haired, blue-eyed beauty is this brown haired, hazel-eyed mother’s daughter.  Yes, it’s true, I have been known to let my inner songstress loose.  Like her mother, Miss C picks up songs really fast.  Unlike her mother, once she gets an earworm, she needs to let the whole world hear… maybe she and Barry Manilow should collaborate.

Though we’ve strayed, Fred, Sharon, Lois, Bram, Raffi and Charlotte aren’t forgotten.  Last Canada Day we sat on the lawn of the legislature and watched Charlotte Diamond, the Canada Day before it was Fred Penner.  We all saw Raffi in concert.  But now I feel like I’m defending the nostalgic music of childhood, when really, I should be saying I’ve dropped the age-appropriate music ball.

I have.  Poof.  Call it third child syndrome, or call it mama trying to keep up with the outside world, but somewhere between Miss Q and Miss C, I became sloppy.

Of course, the moment I let my guard down, and start listening to Top 40 in the morning, I have a child who is a natural songbird.

And while Miss C starts spreading the news, her sisters, are there to flash their jazz hands.  Unlike their father who turns off the radio the minute the song hints of country, they haven’t met a genre they didn’t like.  Full disclosure: I haven’t introduced them to punk or heavy metal, but they were dancing to Chicago’s rock ballads last night.

As with everything in childhood, there’s always room for some good ol’ fashioned toilet humor.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Miss S has relabeled Uptown Funk: Uptown Monkey Butt.

This morning she looked up from her toast and asked, “Is he saying ‘sexy pony’?”

“No, it’s ‘if you’re sexy than flaunt it’.”

“Oh, sexy pony,” she cackled.

For the record: life in our house hasn’t deteriorated so much that my five-year-old knows what ‘sexy’ means.

So what’s the remedy for a house divided: 1/3 preschool; 2/3 elementary school?  Keep it clean, but introduce them to a little of everything, I suppose.

Yesterday, as I drove them all home, I popped in Charlotte Diamond.  Miss Q’s grade two class sang Each Of Us Is A Flower in the spring concert, so she was excited to hear the CD again.  When La Bamba started to play there was silence, then giggling as they all chortled, “La bum ba.”

Is nothing sacred?

And so, I have to reconcile, once more, that Miss C is not getting the same childhood as her sisters.  But then again nothing stays the same, and if it did, we’d all miss out on: Uptown monkey butt, uptown monkey butt.  Uptown monkey butt, uptown monkey butt


One More Month

Okay Littles, it’s June. Let’s finish the school year strong.

I know, I know, finding a different outfit for five consecutive days in June turns you into Goldilocks: too hot, too tight, and too butt-cracky. But I promise, come July you can wear pajamas or stare into your clothes drawer for the entire day if you want. Pinky swear, you can – I won’t say a word.

You know what else you can do? Here, I’ve jotted down some measurable and achievable ideas:

1) We will not “accidentally” push our sister off the stepstool while brushing our teeth.

Even when I stagger your brush times, like baby raccoons you end up seeking each other out. Cute, until there’s blood.

2) We will wake like Snow White.

Does she hide in her cozy covers trying to block out the light or growl at the animals?

3) We will eat like Garfield.

He never flops his head onto the table and moans, “I just don’t know what I want to eat.”

4) We will skip out of the house like Wally and the Beaver. Too ancient a reference? How about we just hold doors open for our fellow sister?

I’m not saying your dear ol’ mum’s innocent in this morning melee. Getting out of bed before 7:30 might help; so would not rewarding you with Paw Patrol on days we’re ready early – I don’t know how you squeaked by without late-slips this morning.

Then there’s the business of packing decent lunches. Sure there was some tough navigation when you found ice cream cones filled with Nutella back in January, but in my defense, compiling 2 lunches and three snacks (depending on the day) five days a week for ten months is like an Abbot and Costello routine: Who’s getting the last granola bar? What’s going to happen if I don’t give you a vegetable/fruit? I don’t know if we have any bread.

I also promise to do less with your hair. If Toddlers and Tiaras has taught me anything, it’s knowing that when your kids are choking on hairspray, it’s time to quit. But fair warning: if the lice notices return, so do the updos.

In case you haven’t noticed, and for the record, I’m more of a natural consequences gal. I’m also a life happens kind of mum. So I’ll forgive the untimely bathroom breaks that leave us standing at the door, backpacks, shoes on; and you won’t find me yelling like a fishmonger because it takes you 30 minutes to put on a shirt.  But please know: being late is a terrible habit. It shows disrespect; that you think you’re more important than the person waiting for you.

So for the month of June, let’s keep our game faces on, our eyes on the 10 week summer prize and hold the late-slips at zero. We can do it.


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