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The Beginning

We aren’t the type of parents to pull our kids out of school for a vacation. At least I always presumed we would be parents who followed the school calendar as though it was gospel. After all, my own parents never let us miss a day.  In order to miss even a minute we had to prove we were sick with brain melting fevers, deadly bleeding or lost limbs. So, naturally, if I wasn’t allowed to miss a day, then gosh-darn-it, my children wouldn’t be allowed either.

Right?

Wrong.

Turns out my husband and I are totally the type of parents to yank their children out of school.

Which is why on Saturday, May 14, I sat, tucked into a puffy hotel bed at 7:39pm, telling myself I should be an adult and turn off the movie so my girls could make the 3am wake up call, and 6am flight.  However, the novelty of having a TV in the same room as beds proved too delicious for words.

We were going to Disneyland!

chainFifty days before May 14, on Easter weekend, we surprised the littles with news of the trip. My husband cut three pictures into puzzles and gave one to each girl. Miss C got Mickey Mouse in an airplane; Miss S got Harry Potter; and Miss Q got an airplane.

Miss S kept saying to Miss C, “You have Mickey Mouse, and I have Harry Potter.  You have Mickey Mouse, and I have Harry Potter…”

It was cute.  They were excited. The video would not have gone viral.  I had made a paper chain so they could count down the days.  I thought it had 50 links on it, it had 46, so they had to wait until after Easter to start counting.

Surprisingly, it didn’t turn into fifty days of torture; no barrage of Are we going todays? Or I wish we were going to Disneyland right now. Okay, there were a few of the latter, mostly uttered by me, but ultimately, there was so much going on in our lives that the big D folded into a fun thing to think about but it was a way, way off into the future sort of thought.

But that Saturday in the hotel room, it was a mere 24-hours away, and real – as in they didn’t know what to expect sort of way. Real as in they were over the moon about being in a hotel room in Vancouver and that in itself could have been the entire vacation.

I have to give them some slack as I didn’t know what to expect either.  Of course, it was a given that I expected to get emotional when we walked through the gates of both Disneyland and Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. I also expected that my children’s joy would bring me joy; and that their sorrow, would send me dragging them to It’s A Small World, so joy could be drilled into their heads over and over and over.

Preparing for our trip was an exercise in denial. After I booked the travel, flight, hotel and theme parks, I returned to chill mum mode.  Job done. Done until one of my friends pointed out I couldn’t just pop Gravol, purchase a glass of wine and check out on the flight. Riiight. The kids. They needed clothes, shoes, entertainment, and food… probably a little water as well for good measure. Even with the knowledge I needed to step up, the fire under my butt refused to fully ignite.

Of course, as my ant husband scurried around doing laundry and satisfying his need to prepare weeks if not months in advance, his grasshopper wife decided to wait until the morning we were leaving to have a pout when she learned the shoes (wrapped in plastic) were going to share a bag with the toiletries. Note for next time: if you’re going to suddenly care what goes in which bag, care sooner.

Don’t worry, I remembered to pack the passports.

The girls were up to their usual brand of hilariousness. On the ferry we took to get to the mainland, Miss Q decided to fill her glass with straight cream and asked us if we thought it was milk, while Miss S became hooked on macaroons – possibly the first time we’ve made our money on Miss S at a buffet.

Miss C was content to go along with whatever her sisters were doing, including happily watching the first movie we found on the hotel TV: Octopussy. I’m sure she’ll be requesting her future vanilla steamed milks to be shaken, not stirred.

So there we were, sitting on the cusp of the biggest adventure our family had taken to date, and like the little kid in the old Disney commercials, I was, “Too excited to sleep.”

 

Here I Am 39

On a day in April, when Victorians were wearing shorts and trading their fancy coffees for slushies, I turned 39. It was a more muted affair this year, sprawling over a weekend rather than a month. But the sentiment was the same: I felt loved.

Of course, there was a humorous dash of: Holy crap, how could it have been 20 years since I was 19 and being taken to a bar for the first time?

Yes, gentle readers; this girl was a rebel without a cause only after the provincial government proclaimed it was legal for her to be said rebel without a cause.

How my life has changed over 20 years, and how I will proclaim again: I am so very happy that selfies weren’t invented in 1996.

The weekend before my birthday, Miss S decided our date would be to the museum. We spent the morning exploring the First People’s Gallery and interacting with the Our Living Languages exhibit, which along with ol’ Woolly (Mammoth) are Miss S’s current favs.

Naturally, we topped our trip up with a visit to Murchies for tea and a chocolate croissant the size of Miss S’s head.

Later, Miss Q met her mothership at paint your own pottery. I began to wonder who’s birthday-gras it was as Miss Q’s eyes gleamed at all the choices in front of her. We spent many peaceful hours designing and decorating a gnome (me) and a beaver (Miss Q).

It is important to note, for when she reads this blog post, that Miss C didn’t get a Saturday date, and was quite okay with this. She and I have regular romps through town, and I sheepishly report she may be addicted to Vanilla Steamed Milks…

Conscious absolved, we can now move on.

The world was exuding love my birthday week. My mother pulled a turkey out of her bottomless freezer and cooked a full thanksgiving feast in my honour… though I suspect she was also trying to use up the turkey.

My brother’s family sang me happy birthday on my answering machine and baked me cupcakes.

My husband took me out for a night on the town.

I got to watch adult TV (adult as in not Paw Patrol), had a pedicure and dinner with a childhood friend, and wandered up and down my favourite beach.

The day of my birthday I was taken out for breakfast, mid-morning snacks, and dinner at Fisherman’s Warf.

Not only did I eat my way through my 14,247th day, I got to top it off with an impromptu water taxi ride through the inner harbour. Can you believe that none of the girls, or my husband, protested this plot twist? Not only was this a birthday miracle, the girls want to go again, and, I also think I found my next gig: water taxi captain. Water + boat + tourists = could happen.

In these, the early days of my 39th year, I find my perspective on life shifting.   I am pickier, less willing to settle for things like bad restaurants, and more into quality experiences; and working on my passions.

Suddenly and, finally, at 39th I am beginning to realize that my time means something, and not just because I have three littles who I’m hopelessly devoted to, but because I realize how quickly something you don’t enjoy doing can eat up your day.

At 39, I feel older, but not decrepit. I feel wiser but am still a student. The impulsive Aries in me still feels like anything is possible. The lazy Aries in me wishes she could snap her fingers and not have to do the behind the scenes work.

One of my friends pointed out that this will be the last year we have a 3 in front of our age. Since it’s too late to be a Vulcan or C3PO, I will take comfort in the fact TV shows I watched as a three-year-old, the ones that are still on the air, are celebrating 40 year anniversaries and Punky Brewster now has four kids of her own.

Driving home on the first night of my 39th year, we passed a man playing guitar on a hill and another playing cello in a field. People were out running, walking and socializing under cherry blossoms and in sidewalk cafes. My family was content, and drooling over the promised night cap: birthday Nanaimo Bars.

Life at 39 is good.

love

This Is Why We Go

Our Easter road trip took us from sea to desert in ten hours: a record for us, since having children.

The reward for waking at 5 a.m. was the sight of an orca swimming in the Strait of Georgia twenty minutes before the ferry docked. So, I suppose we got our money’s worth: whale watching vessels charge $110 per person, round-trip; BC ferries charge $105 for three kids, two adults, and a car one-way.

Leaving the ferry, we drove across the developed delta, counted train cars and marvelled at the giant eagles perched in farmer’s fields.

Our route took us up the Coastal Mountain Range to the Hope Slide where my husband threatened to leave me in the swirling snow as I recited the story of the two earthquakes that triggered the slide that killed four people on that fateful day in January 1965.

Up on Allison Pass, at the Manning Park Resort, like snow deprived misfits, we hucked icy snowballs at each other, and sunk up to our knees in snow drifts.

Down the mine hill into Princeton we stopped for snacks at the Chevron and decided to push it for the next ninety minutes – no stops- till we got to Osoyoos.

As we passed Hedley I may have told my children to stop whistling because they’d summon the ghosts of the abandoned gold mine. A fact my four-year-old questioned at great length both times we passed through the town.

At night, on the Hope-Princeton, the sky is blacker than ink and full of stars – if you had a ladle, you could scoop them out of the Milky Way.

In the daylight, the trees grow every-which-way: up to the atmosphere, out to the horizon and down to the bottom of the valley in a carpet of, well, forest green. It is here, away from the constant barrage of movement in the city, that you really appreciate how peaceful nature is and how much space we have in this province.

True to every single one of our family road trips, we drive without electronics. No cd’s playing, no radio, no dvd’s – nothing. I’m not sure how much longer these device free trips will continue, but since the girls don’t expect, they don’t ask.

What they do ask is the stereotypical Are we there yet?

This trip, Miss C asked it so often, every minute at one point, that I pointed to the green clock on the dashboard and told her when it got to five-zero-zero, we would be there. It was ten-three-zero at the time.  It sort of worked.

Two of the secrets to our harmonious car trips are small bladder honouring, and snack planning. We make frequent stops to unload and refuel.

Perhaps the worst/best decision was on the way home when we gave into a request at the Princeton’s Chevron and allowed our 4, 6 and 9 year-old to have their own bags of Cheetos, Doritos and Doritos at 10:00 in the morning.

“Are we going to let them eat their entire bags?” I asked my husband.

He shrugged, popped a beef jerky in his mouth and said, “Why not?”

Thankfully, we made it without incident, down steep grades, past slow moving flashing freight trucks, and around ‘s’ curves that went this way, then that.

St. Augustine once said, “The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page.”  Even though my husband can make this trip with his eyes closed – the reason I let him drive – it is important for our girls to learn about their corner of the world.  And though I know at 9, 6 and 4, their time spent looking out the window is not spent dreaming of ways they can preserve this planet, I’d like to think that one day they’ll reflect upon our time together in the cone of electrical silence and be motivated to explore new corners of our earth.

This is why we go, my friends, This is why we go.

 

There was lots of warning. Weeks, if not months of alerts: I think my tooth is wiggly. Feel my front teeth: they’re wiggly. Do you think my tooth is loose?

You’d think with so much lead time I would have gathered the glitter, made the tooth pillow, searched the couches for change.

I didn’t. Neither did my husband.

Friday afternoon found me snuggling with Miss C, when Miss S strode in. “Look what my tooth can do,” she said.

All I could see were fingers and tongue. “Open your mouth some more,” I said.

Miss S complied.  Her front, bottom baby tooth was horizontal, attached to her gums by a single root.

“Pull it out. Pull it out,” I chanted, attempting to capture the moment on video.

She tried but her fingers were too slippery. “I can’t.”

“Get a Kleenex,” I told her. “It’ll help you grab it better.”

Miss S grabbed the Kleenex, put it against her tooth and POP out it came.

“It’s so little,” she cooed as her sisters gathered to peer into her palm.

The tooth that had once looked so big in her mouth, now looked like it belonged to a Hobbit.

“Now I definitely need a tooth pillow.”

“You sure do.”

If Miss S had been our first child, the night would have been simple. We could have slipped a nickel or raisin under her pillow and called it a success.

But she’s our second.

Over the last three years, Miss S has watched the Tooth Fairy trade her older sister’s teeth for quarters.  She knows the Tooth Fairy sprinkles healthy doses of glitter around the room and sometimes leaves a note.

Raisins are out of the question.

But then, my deep thinker asked, “What if Miss Q’s Tooth Fairy is different than mine?” and launched into her idea of how each of us could have different tooth fairies that do different things for us, like the fairies in her fairy books.

It is beautiful to be six.

Her question stuck with me as I walked the aisles of Michaels.  What would happen if Miss S’s Tooth Fairy brought her a doll instead of a coin, or didn’t sprinkle glitter? I eyed the brightly coloured crafts in front of me…

The mum in me knew exactly what would happen.

I bought the glitter.

Three weeks ago, when my husband asked which one of us was going into the girls’ darkened room to swap out a quarter for Miss Q’s canine, I immediately pointed at him. Being Miss Q’s Tooth Fairy feels more like Fear Factor instead of Candy Land. I’m so afraid she’s going to open her eyes and say, ‘gotcha’; pull a – well, me, circa 1988 when I pretended to sleep and then opened my eyes, saying ‘boo’ as my mum slipped her hand under my pillow.

However, with Miss S, even though the ritual is the same, I trust my wings won’t be pinched.

In the morning, Miss S and Miss C ran into the living room to show off the quarter, tiny, almost illegible note, and all.the.glitter.

I’d forgotten how messy the Tooth Fairy was.

Though she’s very happy to sleep in for another week, Miss S cannot wait to return to school, show her teacher and friends the gap between her teeth, and, more importantly, gain the coveted tooth sticker for her name tag.

One down, Miss S, nineteen more to go!

When grade threes smile for the camera, their front teeth look the same: giant, with bumpy ridges at the tips. Barely two or three years old, their adult central incisors have yet to be worn down by steaks and stress, and look out of place among the remaining baby lateral incisors, cuspids and molars.

Too old for Sesame Street, too young for most TV after 8pm, the girls giggle and snort, trying to one-up each other as they make origami with their napkins and pop mini-eggs into their root beer cans.

Free-flowing root beer is a definite sign this is a nine-year-old’s party.

Gone are their parent handlers who used to proclaim, “Oh! Um, well, they’ve never had a whole juice box before….” as their toddler’s tiny hands stretched and wide eyes drooled over the forbidden concentrated fruit.

Five years later, Jiminy Cricket has been silenced and sugars are gleefully mixed: icing, white, and corn.

Miss Q wanted a dragon party at a local art studio for her ninth birthday. She’s never had anything but good old fashion home parties, so this request left me, well, lost.

Every time I found a cool, dragon-esq accoutrement, either my husband or Miss Q would remind me the studio was taking care of everything. I didn’t need to think up dragon games, or dragon décor.

Fare-thee-well Pinteresty ideas: dragon tears trapped in vials, dragon eyes made out of marbles, and fire breathing toilet paper rolls.

Sure, I got to make a cake, but after that, nothing. All I had to do was pay and buy the root beer.

Le sigh.

However, the flip side to my pinched creativity was a relaxing afternoon spent with Miss Q, her sisters, grandparents and friends creating dragons out of modeling clay and painting dragon watercolours.

And let me tell you, these girls were serious about their art. When it came time to making their dragons unique, out came the fangs, horns, and spots – you could cut the creative silence with a wire loop.

It’s an amazing world out there when you’re nine. There are soccer bowling parties, and fiddle recitals to attend; and there are unicorns and dragons to care for.  Every day at school is “fun” and every day there isn’t school is “awesome”.

Miss Q has grown from a three-year-old who liked to pretend she was a cat and meow at adults instead of answering their questions, to a self-assured nine-year-old who answers adults by looking them in the eyes and uses words they don’t need a cat-translator for.

I have loved and been humbled by the last nine-years of Miss Q’s life and cannot wait to continue my supporting role as the wind beneath her wings while she adventures on… even if she’s now only a foot shorter than me.

Dragon Cake CM

Your dragon wish is my command, Miss Q.

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.

 

 

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