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Vomit, A Love Story

There’s nothing quite like a sick child at 4:01 a.m. to bring a family together.

It began with a wild dream, which I would have remembered if I hadn’t felt Miss Q shake our bed and say, “Miss S is throwing up. I heard her gagging and then: throw up.”

Cue the: my-eyes-are-still-closed-but-my-body-is-standing, Frankenstein shuffle-walk to their bedroom. There I found Miss S as described by her sister. “You can go sleep in my room.” I told Miss Q; knowing instantly I wouldn’t be slipping between the flannel sheets for at least another 18-hours.

Goooooood morning, Vic-tor-eee-ahhh.

There was a moment, a heartbeat really, where I was transported back to Miss S’s babyhood: hall light casting light into the girls’ darkened room, me and my girl against the world as fed, changed and burped, she screamed on my shoulder and I hoped against hope my husband’s sleep would not be disturbed.

I filled my lungs to sigh a mournful sigh as I stared at my six-year-old and her sheets. But before a noise could leave my lips, my husband was beside me. Without a word, I took Miss S. He took the bed. This is the romance of parenting.

Showered, unsure how she felt but armed with a bucket, just to be safe, Miss S snuggled under her blanket on the well protected couch.

I walked back to the girls’ bedroom to find Miss C propped up in her bed, drinking from her water bottle like she was having high tea. “Daddy took all the sheets off.”

“He’s washing them,” I replied. “You need to go back to sleep.” I tucked her back in and left the room.

“Your bed’s cozy,” Miss Q said when I checked in on her.

“I know. Goodnight.”

Settling on the couch across from Miss S, my husband threw me a blanket. We agreed that the incident was probably caused by her cough and phlegm, not thankfully, the flu, but the morning was still young.

“Four, one, nine,” Miss S said. “Does that mean it’s morning?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Very early morning.”

One by one, 3/5 of our family returned to slumber. I sat on the couch listening to the washing machine hum, and the rain plunk outside; grateful, once again, for electricity, the shingles on the roof, and my partner in health and in sickness: my husband.

Keep Dancing

And here we are. Another form filled out. Another box checked.

Miss C is officially registered for kindergarten, and by the honour and virtue bestowed upon her, by the fact her two older sisters already attend the school, the secretary proudly told us Miss C would have a place to hang her backpack come September.

Cue… Tears? Joy? Hope? Bliss? Melancholy?

Tucking Miss C’s giant, colourful, glossy, doesn’t-fit-properly-anywhere birth certificate into my purse, hand-in-hand, we walked out of the school.

Miss C drank her celebratory orange juice through a dangerously high, about to flick out of the box, straw, and I wondered if I should have added the following in the margins of the double-sided form:

With my signature, I am handing over my youngest child to you this September. She is a lover of all things cozy, an independent thinker, and will change the world, whilst living in her parents’ house. She says she’s never leaving.

With my signature, you have permission to guide my child through social situations and routines. You have permission to fill her with knowledge and introduce her to new facts and theories that will most likely send me crosschecking with Google late at night, so I don’t look like a complete dummy at the breakfast table.

With my signature, I promise not to be a lawn-mowing, helicopter parent, or whatever the trending name is for a parent who doesn’t know how to cheer from the sidelines and support, without meddling, as their child navigates life.

With my signature, I reserve the right to play the parent card in the case her sprit becomes broken or safety is compromised. I pray we never go there.

With my signature, I am trusting this will be an amazing six years of growth for both her and I.

I buckled Miss C into her seat and said, “Can you believe all we had to do was fill out one piece of paper and you’re registered for kindergarten?”

Miss C handed me her juice box. “I’m only going to be excited for my new backpack.”

All those days of trying to pretend this day wasn’t coming, all those hours spent prepping Miss C for this next step, all those minutes dreaming about pulling everyone out of the rat-race to become the next Swiss Family Robinson, and here, on the other side of this administration moment, I was left feeling like Peggy Lee as I drove towards Miss C’s preschool:

Is that all there is?

Is that all there is?

If that’s all there is my friends,

Then let’s keep dancing.

 

 

Miss Q went swimming by herself today… and lived.

Well, at least I think she did. My husband hasn’t called to say his guards had to rescue her; and as far as I know, all roads between the pool and school are void of accidents. Oh, and, the milk carton people haven’t called looking for her most recent picture.

I have to admit, as first times go, this one was pretty perfect: the classes are coming to a place I’ve worked for 21.5 years, being taught by instructors I helped hire, and are guarded by lifeguards my husband hired. Couldn’t be better… right?

Weeeeelllll…

It wasn’t the actual swimming I was worried about. Sure, water can be dangerous – 9% of drownings in Canada occur in bathtubs, according to the Lifesaving Society’s 2015 Drowning Report. And though there were 62 preventable water-related deaths in 2014 in BC, most, if not all, occurred in lakes, rivers and streams, not supervised swimming pools.

What was giving this mama pause was the reality her never-been-to-daycamp daughter would be put in a situation where she suddenly had to use a change room by herself and – gulp- dress herself without – ick- dropping her clothes on the floor.

Not going to lie, the possibility of her clothes falling on the floor was what gave this mama the most heartfelt of palpitations – who was going to be there to tell her to stand on the bench and not let her feet touch the floor?

Okay, so she’s eight, almost nine, and perfectly capable of dressing herself in an orderly fashion, and using a locker key without pricking her finger. Heck, she could have also independently showered with both shampoo and conditioner, if there wasn’t a bus to catch.

Don’t get me wrong, a little controlled freedom is important. Which is why my husband and I peered at the classes from afar: through the glass window in our office door.

Once things settled, we made our way to the viewing area for a quick wave and a, “Swim faster,” heckle.

After receiving a, “You can go now,” when I was helping with special foods day back in December… the 11th if you must know, I’ve started approaching school events like a cautious cat.

P.S. The day is seared into my brain as the day things began to shift.

Though I still get a kiss and hug at school drop-offs and pick-ups, there have to be other parents going to events to make it okay that her own parents are attending. I suppose it’s the natural order of things, but I assumed distancing ones self from parents started in high school.

The truth in this whole tale is Miss Q’s shaking out her wings and this mama has to accept her bubble of control has developed a leak.

Still, walking out of the building, I mentally willed Miss Q to stay where she felt comfortable, and not to listen to her friends when it came to the free-swim. Deep down, I knew she would. She’s that kind of child: smarter than smart, respectful, and thoughtful.  She’s also a teensy bit cautious… wonder where she gets that from.

Happy Sweet 20(16)

Reflection seems to be the order of the week as 2015 draws to a close. As years go, 2015 was full of love, laughter and mischief making of one kind or another.

Admittedly, we as a family could have taken more vacations, and, le sigh, had a better Fall at the elementary school, but we are ending the year strong: there’s a roof over our head, oil in the furnace, and, food in our bellies.

Looking ahead, 2016 feels like it’s going to be a big year, and not just because of the major life change travelling towards us at the speed of light.

Miss C, is slated to start kindergarten in September, which means for the first time in nine years of raising children, I’ll be on my own, pretending they’re beside me… or so Fontine sings in Les Mis – don’t worry, I’ll find a better song to belt out through the Kleenex in September.

New years resolutions? I have three that are more like fortunes from a cookie than resolutions: happiness, health, and selling more of my writing. Okay, the latter is more of a goal than a fortune or resolution.

This past year, Miss Q, Miss S and Miss C turned 8, 6 and 4; stepping stones in both ages and heights.

The girls remind me daily that there is wonder to be found on this planet: fluorescent orange fungus when hiking, baby starfish when flipping rocks at the beach, ghosts in our basement.

They also remind me what is important: good imaginations, good friends, and fresh air.

So as plans begin anew for what will be Miss Q’s ninth (eek) birthday, in less than five weeks, here is a look back on the birthday cakes I created for them this year.

Happy sweet (20)16 everyone. Whether near or far, love is what binds us all.

Mother Earth’s intelligence test started with gentle shaking. “Is that an earthquake?” I asked my husband as our walls started to vibrate.

Seconds later, the rumbles grew to growls and our house shook violently. It was as though a thousand Jack’s from The Shining were trying to bash through our 1950s plaster, “Heeeeere’s Quaky.”

“Should we duck and cover?” I asked my husband, starting for the doorframe.

My husband grabbed my right arm. “Stay here.”

Not sure if he was trying to save my life by preventing me from moving, or if he was hoping life insurance would kick in if he held me in place under our swaying ceiling fan.

The minute the shaking stopped, we waited. Had that been the Big One? Was the Big One coming? Would we suddenly have waterfront property?

I threw on proper clothes – don’t want Anderson Cooper to film me crawling out of the rubble in my pjs.

My husband, the rational one, said it could have also been a large truck colliding with something. While he looked out our front windows, I grabbed my iPad.

We said simultaneously:

“The wires aren’t moving.”

“It was an earthquake”

“It’s on the internet already?” my husband asked.

“It’s on Twitter.” My fingers couldn’t move fast enough. Facebook, Twitter; Victoria was officially awake. Information changed with every swipe. “5.1 North of Seattle.” I reported, wondering what was north of Seattle.

“Any tsunami alerts?”

“No.”

“Okay, I’m going back to bed then.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes, I’ll read about it tomorrow.”

How he could go back to bed when my heart was about to fly out of my chest?

“Now they’re saying it’s west of Tacoma. What’s west of Tacoma?”

He was already in the bedroom.

For the next hour I was glued to my computer, watching the reports come in. Finally the magnitude was agreed upon: a 4.8 off of Sidney Spit.

In Canadian waters.

Down the highway.

20 km away.

Holy bleep-ity bleep.

Oh right, the kids. Don’t worry they slept through it. This is (a) good, as my wide-eyes didn’t need sidekicks; and (b) worrisome, if the biggest earthquake I’ve ever felt in Victoria didn’t wake them, what will? Which brings us to (c) do they really need their innocence shattered?

Hopefully they’ll have plenty of time to hear about our impending doom. After all, we have 1/3 of a chance of getting a magnitude 9 in the next 50 years, and 100% chance of being reminded by the experts for the next 50 years.

I’m not slagging the experts. Seriously, I’m not. I come from training that implores you, my gentle readers, to buy an earthquake kit, and a jug or two of water. Sure you can drink the water from the back of your toilet, but wouldn’t it be nicer to save that stuff for watering your earthquake herb garden?

My husband, being in an earthquaky way, thanks to one of his roles at work, has made sure our family is prepared, and with more than just a can opener placed strategically amongst the canned goods.

So while we could always use more food and a boat – you know, to sail to Fiji while Victoria sorts itself out, our family could sustain itself for a healthy 72-hours, even if you omit my plan to run to 7-11 for Slurpees – hopefully the machines are securely attached to the wall.

Being 38 and living on an island on the edge of the Ring Of Fire, has added an element of earthquake invincibility to my soul. The ‘Big One’ has been just around the corner since I was in elementary school. The quakes that ripple through the city have been too quick to duck and cover for, and too small to upset a wine glass – though a picture fell off my parents’ shelf last night. We will rebuild.

Living in the shadow of a quake has become a way of life. The bank wouldn’t allow us to buy our house unless we purchased earthquake insurance. I refused to buy a home perched on a large hill. And my eyes almost always search for the best possible duck and cover nook when I enter a room.

We prepare and practice even though it might be for naught, but without practice or prep, we would be lost should the ‘Big One’ finally come.

Since last night was startling proof that Mother Nature hasn’t forgotten us here in lotus land, I suppose it’s time to sharpen the can opener.

 

One More Sleep

It’s Christmas Eve!

The girls are, well, excited.

For me, this Christmas is bitter sweet as it may be the last year Miss Q completely and fully believes in the big guy. At least I think she still does, after all, unprompted, she wrote a letter to him while at school. If the seams are beginning to show, she hasn’t let on.

On the commercial magic side of things, Miss Q has only asked for two items: Star Lily the Fur Real Unicorn and Book Seven of the Wings of Fire Series.

When we first saw Star Lily, it was August and she cost $99. In October, she increased her value to $137. November had her priced at $150.

It is here, gentle readers, that I dug in my heels and refused to purchase a large, robotic unicorn, who in my opinion would just sit in the corner collecting dust after the holidays. Though as my heart shrank three sizes, there was a small tug reminding me that it was probably her last pure request. How could we not honour that?

Fortunately my puzzler puzzled an amazing solution: blow Miss Q’s mind with a hamster on Christmas morn. Yes, the ol’ bait and switch. The only problem was I had to convince my husband I was responsible enough to look after the hamster.

Though they’re cute, I’m wary of the creatures, especially after my youngest brother’s hamster, G.P., lost all it’s fur and then lived forever, or when I hamster sat for a friend and became a 10 year-old murderer. No one told me hamsters could catch pneumonia if they got wet in their exercise ball.

Out out damn spot.

Miss Q would have ADORED a panda bear hamster.

I say would have, because we decided to go with the unicorn. Don’t have to feed it, or clean the cage.  Unfortunately by the time we decided, the robot was sold out across Canada, and, cost between $220 and $400 on Amazon.

Plan ‘B’ was buying a stuffed dragon and the book.

Currently Miss Q’s sitting across from me frantically re-reading book six of the Wings Of Fire, so she’s ready to go if Santa brings her book seven. Funny how the perfect gifts are the simplest.

Miss S is literally the best age for Christmas. At six, she knows exactly what we’re supposed to do, and when we’re supposed to do it. Cookies for Santa, carrots for the reindeer, check and check.

She asked for a Maplelea Doll this year. In my opinion it was a left-field request, and once again, I found myself having long grinchy talks with my husband about the merit of spending $100 on a doll, when the girl owns a monkey farm.

For the record: our children don’t ask for anything when we walk through toy stores. Seriously, they don’t. This proves a problem when Christmas comes along, I feel like I have to show them catalogues and drag them to toy stores just to get them to make lists – which just feels like I’m petting a cat backwards.

So when it came to Miss S’s desire for a Maplelea doll, thanks Chirp Magazine for including the Maplelea catalogue with your September issue, I started casually showing Miss S cheaper, local options, for 18” dolls, but she didn’t take the bait.

This is why the most beautifully presented doll that I have ever seen, complete with a hairnet to protect her locks, sits wrapped under our tree. If I had received this doll when I was six, I wouldn’t have cared what trinkets Santa bestowed upon my friends. Miss S is right, she is perfect and I cannot wait to see Miss S’ face tomorrow morning – maybe she’ll even let me play with her.

Which brings us to Miss C, who would move to the South Pole to put distance between her and Santa if she could.

Oh, but don’t worry, she will welcome his gift of a pink tent. She wants to be able to sleep by herself in our back yard. “If I need to pee, I’ll just get up, put on my boots and walk over to your tent and tell you I’m going to the bathroom.”

We took Miss C to the Santa parade at the end of November. She knew what the parade was about. She knew she’d see Santa. However, as Santa came down the street, Miss C started glaring at me. “I told you I didn’t want to see him.”

“Who?” I said.

“Santa,” she replied.

Miss S spun around said, “I know it’s just a man dressed up in a red suit.” I’m not 100% on her next sentence as I was looking around to see who was listening, but I believe the gist was the real Santa was in the North Pole.

The whole way back to our car, Miss C’s bottom lip was out and she couldn’t get over the fact her rotten parents had taken her to see Santa.

Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.

Fast forward. The mall. A week later.

In an attempt to desensitize my four-year-old from the Santa hate, I bought Miss C a drink and we sat on the bench at the mall watching Santa take pictures with kids.

After about 30-minutes of watching, we made it to the white fence used to cage Santa. Using a Christmas tree as our cover, we spied on him as he spoke to his assistants. I willed the elf with the camera to turn around and snap a pic of Miss C, in her red Christmas Minon sweater, peaking around my back.

Of course, Miss C had just started to relax, when Santa came to say hello.

Thankfully my arm stayed in its socket as Miss C tried to pull me back to the Food Court in order to get away from the red coat villain.

After that episode, I haven’t pushed Santa on my youngest. She is not happy that he can see her when she’s sleeping and knows when she’s awake. She says he’s a stranger and doesn’t know why other kids want to sit on his lap.

Point for Miss C.

Some people tell their children the truth about Santa from day one, but even with all the ups and downs and cloak ‘n daggering, I can’t bring myself to ruin the story.

Play, and imagination are so important in childhood; we owe it to them as parents to sprinkle magic where we can.

One of the most heart warming Santa moments this season was when Miss C and I volunteered in the Santa Shop at the elementary school.  Watching the children come in with their money, sort out who they were buying for and what that person would like gave me such hope.

Which got me thinking: would we have so much goodness in the world this time of year without the legend of Santa?

From my family to yours, have a peaceful and merry Christmas.

 

Splash And Crash

Last Sunday night, Miss C’s arm fell into the toilet at the exact moment Miss S came into the bathroom and said, “Something bad has happened in the living room.” She was followed by Miss Q, who was holding her arm out in front of her, a speck of white stuck to her wrist.

What to choose…what to choose: the covered in pee four-year-old in front of me, or the sheepish looking six and eight-year-olds in the doorway…

Curiosity got the better of me. I left my husband with Miss C and strode into the living room.

Water and faux snow dripped off the coffee table and pooled onto the new area rug. In the centre of the table, surrounded by shards of glass, was the porcelain Christmas train. The clear globe that sat atop the train was shattered.

After the required, “What the heck happened?” Followed by a hazy explanation from Miss Q and Miss S that they’d been raccooning and bumped it, I went back to survey the scene of the crime: glass, water, glitter, faux snow and the train that used to have an intact globe.

The train hadn’t moved an inch from where I’d placed it less than 24-hours before. It was upright. It was heavy. Miss Q’s hand was soaking wet.

I strode back into the bathroom, ready to make my guess for this real-life game of Clue: Miss Q with the snow globe in the living room. “I think her hand went through the snow globe,” I said to my husband. “Did your hand go through the snow globe?” I asked Miss Q.

She nodded. My husband and I inspected her hand. It was red, but there wasn’t a scratch or cut to be seen. I do not write this lightly: it was a true Christmas miracle. I still cannot believe she came out of that unscathed.

The new carpet, however was sopping. When my husband said I needed to get the shop-vac I knew it was time to swap. I’m much better at cleaning children than carpets.

Thankfully, Miss C, now clean, was also unharmed, but she was not impressed. “You know your Uncle A’s arm fell down the toilet once,” I said as the gentle shop-vac music played in the background. “We were on our boat and he needed to go to the bathroom so he went down, into the cockpit. Then we hit a wave and his arm went into the toilet.” I left out the fact we were actually sailing at night, in a storm. “And your sister, Miss Q, once fell in the toilet because Daddy forgot to put the seat down.”

The Full House moment worked. Miss C was happy to know she had a kindred toilet arm spirit in the family, and wanted to know why Daddy had forgotten such a crucial step.

And so, Sunday came to a close with three happy girls, two squeaky clean arms, and one less snow globe in the world.

sg

 

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