Life When You’re Six

The teeth are flying in grade one this year, but Miss S’ grill is still in tact. She’s trying hard to keep up with her friends though, one of whom lost a tooth at our house during a playdate and fainted after seeing the blood, but Miss S’ roots are firmly cemented to her gums.

Molars? Well there’s a different story. She’s getting a full set: all four at once. “I guess that’s why my mouth’s been sore,” she told me after inspecting her new chompers.

Grade One feels like it’s come in like a lion. There has been excitement over the first days of school one week, and then the lows of not wanting to go to school the next.

Last Thursday we hit rock bottom with a full-blown tear-fest that followed me into the cloakroom and stayed for 10 minutes until I had her settled at her desk with her pencil in hand and bottom lip threatening another you’re the worst mum for leaving me here flood. This was followed by lip quivering on both Friday and Monday.

There was some comfort in knowing that my friends had been there, done that, when their children were in grade one. But it still sucked. Royally.

It also made me question how many activities Miss S was in vs. sleep vs. teeth vs. anything else I could rationalize for her sudden irrational behaviour.

Of course, as I’m ready to pull the plug on everything – clearly the rational thing to do when faced with adversity. Miss S jumped out of class, bursting. “Guess what language I’m learning?”

“French? I learned how to speak French when I was in kindergarten,” Miss Q answered.

“No. Not French,” Miss S sang.

“English?” I asked.




“Okay, I give up. Monkey?”

“Nope. Not monkey.” Miss S grinned wider than a jack o’lantern. “Coast Salish. My teacher is Coast Salish and she’s teaching us how to speak her language.”

When I told her how cool that was and that she was learning a language that no one in her family had ever learned, even Miss Q, she flew over the moon.

That night she made Mason jar candles in Sparks. Yesterday she made Coast Salish canoes. She got to check out two books in library. Her teacher sang Happy Birthday in Coast Salish.   The Terry Fox run is today.

Even though I’m still holding my breath through our morning routine, and groaning at the lice alert we just received, Miss S’s world has gone from zero to hero in a matter of hours. Now if only she can lose a tooth at school so she can march down to the office and receive the coveted tooth treasure box.


Miss S’s Coast Salish canoe. 

Change Partners and Dance

Our fall schedule was beautiful in August. If you could have seen the pristine, white paper – yes paper – wall calendar, you would have seen the words ‘soccer’, ‘highland dance’, ‘Brownies’ and ‘Sparks’ embossed in colorful ink betwixt the squares.

I was proud of my carefully balanced schedule; so very proud of my organizational skills.

First of all, we’d actually gotten our act together and registered early for soccer, saving ourselves some shekels – though two girls still cost us $425 for the season (Sept to May). We’d been able to satisfy nostalgia and tradition by registering for Brownies and Sparks. And the minute registration opened for highland dancing, Miss Q and Miss S were top of the list… yes, I was THAT mum.

Not to be left out, Miss C was number four for her preschool tap, jazz and ballet.

But above all that, I was excited that they had such diverse programs to explore while having lots of unstructured playtime to create and daydream.

Then September hit.

Soccer was the first to ruin my schedule. Miss Q’s practice day depended on which team she ended up on.  Of the two possible days given, one collided with her Brownies and the other, Miss S’s Sparks. As the weeks marched on with no decision, the narrower the window for a Girl Guides of Canada refund.

Patience was not my strong suit.

It ate me up that Miss Q, at the age of eight, was being forced to narrow her scope. Why couldn’t she do both? Our whole goal as parents was to give them a taste of everything life has to offer.

Around and around I went until I couldn’t take it any more.  I asked Miss Q what she would choose: Brownies or soccer. Without blinking or missing a beat, she said, “Soccer.”

“Even if Miss S gets to wear her uniform to school and you don’t?”

“I’m not Miss S,” was her reply.

Point for Miss Q.

The calendar did a doe-see-doe: Brownies erased; soccer practice replaced.

But our soccer woes continued as Miss S’s team practice was scheduled for an hour before Sparks. Now, there is a chance it can change, but if it doesn’t, things will get murky for our six-year-old. Again, I say, she’s six – are we really forcing them to specialize at six?

Then, in the last 24-hours, my calendar has gone from doing the tango to doing the jitterbug.

Miss Q started school cross-country and choir and is super excited about both of them – even with the early cross-country mornings.  Hooray for being in grade three.

It is here that I wonder when I’m supposed to work, and how I can squeeze in a mother/daughter pottery class. You’d like to think I was kidding.

So, 17 days into September and my beautiful mum calendar looks like a dog’s breakfast. Looking forward to when Miss C gets to elementary school, I may have to invest in a Harry Potter clock that tells me where everyone is as they move about the city; or just talk to the air traffic controllers about buying one of their systems.

It goes without saying, watching our girls expand their repertoires and discover what they like and don’t like is one of the best things about being a parent. My hope is they’ll continue to attack new activities head on, even if it’s at the expense of my beautifully crafted calendar.

Surprisingly, this blog post about the first days of grade one and three is not full of sap, mistiness, and all ‘round nostalgia. Though my pride for these amazing girls and, their enthusiasm for life, overflows like a reservoir in November, the surprise we received after school today has trumped everything that has happened in the last two days.

Tomorrow Miss Q will be handed a bag of candy and driven to grade three in a limousine.

The Ocean 98.5, a local radio station, held a contest called ‘This Carpool Rocks’ just before Labour Day weekend. All this week they are driving the lucky winners and five of their friends to school in a limo (LA Limousine). Miss Q’s friend won and picked Miss Q as one of the lucky six.

Details are still hazy on the actual deets other than Miss Q needs to be at her friend’s house at 7:30 a.m. Note: this would be the actual time I start getting everyone ready for school. Tomorrow is going to be earrrrrly.

Of course there’s been soul searching. There is always soul searching when ones child is about to have a big adventure. The big question of the night has been whether we’re comfortable with Miss Q cruising around town in a limo with her peers, the radio personality and driver. The mum of the winner told us tonight that if she goes, she would take the place of a child –odd, but like I said details are still coming in.

Even though the premise of accepting a ride from a stranger offering candy DEFINITELY sends alarm bells ringing in this mum’s brain, and goes against EVERYTHING we’ve been trying to teach our girls, we’ve stamped this adventure with a cautious ‘OKAY’… there may or may not be a grey-blue minivan in the professional driver’s rearview mirror.

The flipside are the pictures of today’s lucky winner’s trip: the kids are all buckled, and delivered at the school on time; the principal of Miss Q’s school knows it’s going on; and Mel Z (the radio personality) should be giving updates on the radio. So all that, weirdly, adds a layer of comfort.

Taking the experience at face value, there is no wonder why my eight-and-a-half-year-old was giddy as all heck. Her fanciest outfit, complete with necklace and hairpiece has been picked, a second more comfortable outfit for school has been packed and she has managed to fall asleep.

‘Tis the season of letting our children fly, even for briefest of moments. I suppose the bonus of this flight is Miss Q might actually beat the bell tomorrow.

Yes, I was that mum, talking to herself in the aisles Friday afternoon. And while the lowest price might be the law, it wasn’t easy to hit the red button and buy school supplies in a timely fashion.

Two-and-a-half hours. Two different stores, with a return to the first to make a return – one lowly pencil sharpener: $3.15 back onto debit.

True, $3.15 was nary a dent in the $100 I just shelled out for grade one and grade three combined, but I considered it a victory for the planet. The last thing we need is more plasticy waste in the world. That blue sharpener with container attached will be very happy with a different family.

Last year school supply shopping was a cinch. I wrote a cheque to the PAC and voilà, school supplies magically appeared in September.

But this year our PAC didn’t set it up, so we parents were left to consult one another in the crowded aisles about what constituted primary scissors; left to rummage through bins hoping against hope shopping on the second to last Friday before school wasn’t for not and the holy grail of Crayola would appear: 1 box of 8 (8 only please) thick felts (Crayola originals).

Buying school supplies is both a lesson in economics and reading comprehension. Sure, you just saw that felts were $3.00 at the last store, but you ain’t going back so the new store’s price is a great deal. And, the grade three list states Miss Q needs 4 interlined exercise books (no key tabs); key phrase: ‘no key tabs’. So after reading the line seven times at two different stores and finding no alternatives, you take the plunge and buy the small dark blue Hilroys.

Of course, the books could be returned if they aren’t the right ones, the last thing I want is for Miss Q to live through the mortal embarrassment like I did when in grade six when my mum sent me to school with small, lined books, and everyone in my class had the large ones with key tabs. I am certain that was the reason my teacher thought my creative writing stories were fantastically long – I was using more pages than the rest of the class because they were smaller…  Yeah, that’s right.

I did try to save the world this school supply season by emptying the duo tangs Miss Q and Miss S brought home last year and setting them aside. We have 10, possibly 11 pristine tangs that could handedly be sent back to school to be filled again. I was even going to buy stickers to cover the labels stuck on by last year’s teachers… until I saw the price of the stickers, $4.89, vs. the price of the new duo tangs, $0.05. Why is saving the world so expensive??

But I’m not deterred. Even though I purchased 12 new duo tangs at 5 cents apiece, I will spend next year scouring the earth for cheaper duo tang stickers and then, then watch me reuse.

Speaking of reusing, thanks to the teachers who returned Miss Q’s unused supplies at the end of each year, we are the proud owners of 42 sharpened HB pencils. Neither child will need new ones, even with the suspected typo on Miss S’s grade one list: 2 Mirando, Venus pencils (pre-sharpened).

Two pencils for the entire year? I think not. Miss Q needs 24. I’m sure that line on Miss S’s list is missing the word ‘boxes’ as in 2 boxes. I’m also sure, after turning to the Internet, that Mirando, Venus pencils don’t exist, so an ‘or’ must also be missing.

Of course, not every child is like Miss Q: responsible with her supplies. I know there are kids out there who, like beavers, will devour entire boxes of pencils before their first week is over. Erasers will be lost, drawn on, riddled with lead holes. Rulers will be snapped in half. Markers will be confiscated. Parents will be crying as they return to the aisles they recently shook their heads in, swore in, wanted to tackle people in.

Side note: if you are going to go school supply shopping: leave your children at home, and buy a luxury item for yourself before you start. In my case venti English Breakfast, so you can wander the aisles in tranquility, while you hunt for bloody white Staedler erasers and 2 black white board markers that don’t come in packs of four.

My hope is one day the trend of everything old is new again will hit our schools. Children will be sent to school with chalk and a slate. They’ll carry their lunches in milking pails, and the only thing churning will be butter, not corporate back to school. Elmer’s School Glue much?

For now, I stare into the sea of what needs to be labeled, even though the lists specifically say not to, bold and underlined.

I do respect the plight of the teacher, honestly I do. My mum was one, and my dad was a principal, my husband still pays his dues. I know parents, like students, and nuts, are a mixed bag. Some, like me, are conscientious, while others couldn’t care less. I don’t mind sending boxes of Kleenex and any other random supplies needed throughout the school year. I don’t mind the pooling of classroom supplies either. The reason I ignore the no label request is because these supplies are expensive. If I can reduce the waste, and reuse for future years, I will.

So here’s to the school supplies. Thank you for making me feel like a bonafide adult; may you help Miss S and Miss Q create amazing things next year.


Time to buy stocks in Crayola people.

Middle Childhood

She walks in beauty, like the night                                                                                                                                           Of cloudless climes and starry skies…

Lord Byron could have written his glimpse of pure beauty about our Miss Q.

At 8.5 she carries herself with so much grace that I find myself telling her, it’s okay to be a kid.

“I know, Mum,” she replies – without rolling her eyes, for now.

At 8.5 we have reached the middle childhood. Miss Q is firmly planted between the early years and teens; too old to request Sesame Street; too young to watch Young and The Restless.

In half a year she can take the Home Alone course. In four years she’ll be old enough to babysit. In eight years she can learn how to drive. But it’s ten years from now, that really shows how cruel the sands of the hourglass can be: in 10 years Miss Q could be planning a backpacking trip, or heading to university…without me.

I suppose, before I start breathing into a brown paper lunch bag, I’ll focus on the here and now. 2025 is a long time from now; especially when you write the year like a science fiction author.

It’s a fine balance when you’re the parent of an eight-year-old. We’re her cheerleaders from the sidelines, handing her knives and telling her to spread her own jam, giving her permission to go on fieldtrips, nudging her slowly towards independence. Meanwhile the outside world threatens to make her grow up, like, tomorrow, and I find myself screaming into the wind, “She’s only eight.”

Pierced ears, makeup, high heels, sleepovers, even training bras, are all inching their way closer, but for now, Miss Q is content with the knowledge we’ll talk when she’s 10.

Ten was a good minimum five years ago.  Now that it’s two years away, I’ll resist an increase to 30.

So unconcerned with popular opinion is she, that when invited to a friend’s sleepover birthday party, she declined, telling me, “I’ll save that surprise of what a sleepover’s like for when I’m 10.”

It was I who had to hold my peer-pressuring tongue; gulping back the “are you sures” and “you can always call us at 2 ams…”

But her mind was made up. She went to the party, and when the movie was over, my husband went and got her. She still had a great time.

As mature and cerebral some of her decisions are: she’s only eight. I am reminded of this when I watch her dump sand out of her shoes inside our house; when she wanders out of her bed for the fiftieth time to tell me she can’t sleep; when she dresses her stuffed animals up for movie night; and when she cackles at the mischief she’s created with her sisters.

Eight is a complex, innocent, beautiful age to be, and I am glad we’re here.

No surprise. I am not counting down school’s arrival. In fact, if I could put the breaks on these Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer, thanks Hans Carste and Charles Tobias, I would.

How can it be August 8th? Seriously. I feel like I’ve dreamed big, planned large, and accomplished nothing. But then again, maybe that’s the point: by lying low, we are relaxed, happy even.

So, to remind myself of what we have done, and to help the littles when, and if, they have to journal what they did this summer, here is our list (so far) in semi-chronological order:


I don’t think swimming has ever ended, but the summer fun swim bonanza started with a visit to Panorama in the wee hours of the morning of June 27, after dropping my husband at the ferry so he could visit his bestie in Vancouver.  It was so much fun, if we’re ever up that early again, you’ll find us in the pool.

Present day: we are now entering our fourth consecutive week of Red Cross swimming lessons, which is the real reason I’m feeling like our summer has ground to a halt. However, in the name of life skills, and the simple fact the girls love, love, swimming lessons, I have put my feelings aside and journey to my pool twice a day – once for morning lessons, and once for work.


We’ve been to Cadboro Bay, Willows, Parker Park and Elk Lake this summer. Some of our trips have been simple: three girls, and hats and away we go, others have made me thankful for my husband, the packhorse.

After finding out our minivan is not roof rack friendly – thanks, Toyota – my husband has found harmony with my 11.4 ft paddleboard, a kid’s kayak, two paddles, three lifejackets, towels, snacks, and, yes, the kids.


I forced Miss Q to go for a walk with Madame N and me one night. It was more of a mission to see if we could run into any of her friends from school than exercising the dog.  I was nostalgic for the days of my childhood when friends were always close by.

In the words of Hannibal from the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.” We not only ran into two of her friends, but she was invited over to play the next weekend. Now Miss Q and her friend are using the phone (within earshot of adults) to set up their own playdates.  Sniff, another milestone.

North Saanich Bike Park

A summer staple. Though we’ve only made it out once, due to it’s late opening, once swimming lessons are over, we’ll be back. Miss Q and Miss C love exploring the runs. Miss S prefers the flats.


Tofino. Need I say more?

Royal BC Museum

Fascinating Fact: woolly mammoths roamed right off the coast of Victoria back in the day.  Old Woolly is a fan favourite, and we have been known to pop in to say hello to him/her then leave – a perk of a season’s pass.

My favourite two exhibits are the Living Languages and Old Town. The littles still need coaxing to wander Old Town and will not go near the First Nation masks. They say everything’s haunted. One day they’ll learn that’s probably true.

Symphony Splash

Sun setting, the Victoria Symphony playing on a barge in the inner harbour, good food – though not as tasty as some of the wine and cheese platters we saw on the picnic blankets around us– and girls rolling around on the Empress lawn. Pure awesomeness.


Strolling through the aisles of Russell Books with the girlies and my mum. Leaving with armloads of books. Grabbing a snack at the Dutch Bakery. Heaven.

Blue Mooning

Miss S and I had a date with the blue moon on July 31st. Her sisters were recovering from a random summer fever so she got to stay up late and watch the moon rise over the waters of Oak Bay. She and I had so much fun on our night date – taking selfies, driving by the golf course to see if the ghost was there, checking out the blazing lights of the cruise ships and nightlife of downtown – that we have a date with the full moon at the end of the month.


The truth be told, because I leave for work the minute my husband comes home in the afternoon, Monday to Thursday at 1:00 is designated movie time. The girls have worked their way through Monster High (minus the one that’s about relationships) and scared themselves silly with Scoobie Doo.

Miss C appeared in the kitchen on Friday wearing sunglasses. “Hi Mum,” she said. “I’m Velma and Miss S is Daphne. You can be Fred.” Did anyone ever want to be Velma… or Fred for that matter?

“Why am I Fred?”

“Daddy was Fred, but he wasn’t very good,” Velma replied. “He just sat on the couch and watched sports.”

My Fred wasn’t much better.  I morphed into a ghost and spritzed them with perfume.  Next time I’ll find an ascot.

So, okay, we’ve done stuff, my hand is off the panic button. The best news is Act Two, August, is just beginning. Here’s to wine on the balcony, and kids running into the night with glow-sticks. Here’s to family, and here’s to these the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.


Kept Miss Q busy for about two weeks.

Forest Fire Sky

Forest Fire Sky.


Dilly beans. Next is blackberry bourbon jam.

“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!


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