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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.

IMG_3637

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:

Swimming

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.

Beach

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.

Friends

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.

Camping

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.

Books

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.

Movies

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.

Books

Kept Miss Q busy for about two weeks.

Forest Fire Sky

Forest Fire Sky.

Canning

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!

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!

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