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Start Of Something Good

one-cmI was not that mum. You know, the one who was pulled over by the police for smoking a celebratory the kids are back in school joint? Oh, no. I was the exact opposite: mum in a puddle as she drove around singing, “One is the loneliest number…”

Today Miss C started kindergarten. She spent a whopping 105 minutes in elementary school, 9:00 – 10:45am, shorter than she ever spent at preschool, even still, my husband suggested I needed a towel instead of Kleenex.

I’m told it gets easier, so perhaps tomorrow I’ll downgrade to a hand towel, and by Monday, it will be a facecloth.

As for Miss C?  She got sick of everyone asking her if she was excited for kindergarten.Her emotions have ranged from, annoyance, to flashing a sideways thumb, to flat out overwhelmed tears.

Thanks to her ups and downs and in-betweens, my own feelings on the subject have been silenced. Selling this amazing opportunity, has forced me to change the words I use around her.

Of course I’d love for her to continue to be my fearless adventurer, shopping consultant, duet partner for the rest of my life. But in the words of Phil Keoghan, “the world is waiting,” so I suppose it’s time for my cub to start her race… but only for 358 minutes a day, Monday to Friday. Sorry, world, I’ve got her on weekends.

Just as her sisters before her, Miss C has morphed into an inquisitive, too smart for her own good, little girl. This summer we’ve covered everything from why people don’t throw dead bodies into the garbage when they die, to, “It just looks like Prince William and Princess Catherine are going to jail,” when a motorcade passed us on the highway and I told her the police were most likely practicing for the royal visit later this month.

I’ve always said Miss C’s the type of kid who likes a newspaper and cup of coffee in the morning. And watching her shop with her fun money on Wednesday served to confirm how mature her thought process is at 4.5.

She bought nail polish. The first of my girls to ever wander a toy store for forty-five minutes and come out with a, “My sissies won’t ever want to wear this because it’s too sparkly,” bottle of polish. At least it’s functional.

Oh and she now wants a unicorn head mask for her birthday, so at night she can poke her head up from the bottom bunk and scare Miss Q, who sleeps on the top.

Today, with my three girls at the same school, grades four, two and kindergarten, my world has just shifted. I’ve known this moment’s been coming ever since I started having babies. People often told me how amazing it would be, I’d finally get to go back to work full-time, write, workout… In short: have my pre-kid life back.

But the thing is, I never needed any of that. Raising my girls through each of their first five years has been my most favourite thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt so whole as a person as when I was trucking off for an adventure with my three girls in tow.

And now, for the first time in 9.5 years, there isn’t a baby to nurse, child to entertain, hand to wipe – okay there was, my husband’s.

After we dropped the littles off, he put his bike together and then asked if I had a baby wipe. “You’re not who they were meant for,” I accused, handing him the package.

So the question remains, now that my littles are on track to leave their marks on the world, what am I going to do?

Once again, as it was ten years ago, the possibilities are endless, though I’ve been told by many a wise been there, done that mama, to keep working part-time as long as I can. Apparently I’ll feel needed again when my girls become teenagers.

Miss C, for the record, let us leave her in her new classroom with zero issues.  She reported school was “good” and when asked for details said, “I forgot.”

How quickly they learn.

nails

Pretty nails for first day are a must for all kindergarteners.

Boiled and Squished

In our family, the first case of a mother murdering her child’s pet was recorded in the late 80s when my mother boiled my brother’s (Uncle G’s) pet shrimp. Before you side with my mum on the tastiness of her crime, know this: my brother had caught his friends with a net off the dock our sailboat was moored at for the night.

He had lovingly cradled each shrimp as he slipped him or her into the seawater pool he’d made out of an ice cream bucket.

They had names.

Uncle G had naively trusted our mother when her hooks hands took his catch and rested them beside her freshly lit alcohol stove. But if he had stopped and looked at our mum, really studied her, he would have seen her eyes had turned from brown to black and a singular strand of drool threatened to drop from the corner of her upturned lips.

Of course, if Uncle G had told his mother they weren’t for consumption, his high-pitched scream harmonizing with the shrimp as they were unceremoniously plunged into the boiling water wouldn’t be seared into my brain.

The second case of peticide happened yesterday. In the hot parking lot. We were walking up to our car after a refreshing swim when I noticed a little lizard speeding away from us on the edge of the yellow curb.

The girls ooh’d and awed at the little fella. When he or she stopped, the girls got up close and personal with him. The cuteness of the moment was not lost on anyone.

Suddenly, their new friend turned. He went rogue. Charging off the curbed away from the trio and the manicured lawn, he came straight at me.

Visions of the lizard running up my leg and into my shorts filled my brain. I danced a silly dance; trying to show my daughters I was cool with the moment their pet went berserk – he didn’t scare me.

But I wasn’t cool nor at peace. I gave the Lords A Leaping a leap for their money. He was out for blood. Not my bare toes. Not on my watch.

“Where did he go?” I asked, quickly feeling my shorts for a stowaway.

“You squished him,” Miss Q said.

“I did not.”

“Yes, you did. You actually squished him,” Miss S replied.

Their faces were long and solemn.

“I didn’t.” I spun around and lifted up my foot. There, under the sole of my cork Birkenstock was the lizard, his soul no longer contained by his scales. “Shoot,” I said.

My girls crouched around their deceased pet. “Poor lizard.”

“Why did you step on him?”

“I wasn’t trying to – I didn’t mean – he ran at me.” Anything I came up with sounded lame. Thirty seconds before that wild animal had been poised to attack – both he and I knew it.

“Sorry, Dudes.” I crouched down with them. He wasn’t moving, or breathing but his head and upper body still looked whole. “Guess he’ll make a crow happy now,” I said, trying to lighten the mood; illustrate the circle of life, but knowing all the while I was going down in their books, like my mother before me, as a pet murderer.

Summer Interruption

IMG_2565This summer vacation has been interrupted by the arrival of three boxes of school supplies.

School supplies.

If it weren’t the middle of summer, the arrival of brand new boxes of crayons, pencils and felts would fill me with joy – there’s nothing like a fresh box of pencil crayons. But all the boxes do now is remind me that this phenomenal summer will be over before any of us are ready.

Don’t get me wrong. Education is important. One has to only peek across the border at the American election to realize that.

The fact there are three school supply boxes sitting in my basement, signals my official graduation from preschool.

Yes, after six consecutive years of co-op preschool, I will be starting this next school year all in at elementary school.

Co-op preschool often gets a bad rap amongst parents. Over the last six years I’ve heard it all: too much work, too much fundraising, parents are too intense. I have to admit at one time or another, all of that was true.

Parents of preschoolers are some of the hardest working people I know. Anything added to their already overflowing plates can be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, tips over the cocktail, sends them running for the hills.

But if you look for it, there is a quiet, almost beautiful co-op preschool existence below the jagged noise.

Thanks to co-op preschool, my husband and I became better parents. We learned to trust other people with the care of our children, which believe you me, was not a small feat for this mama. We learned not to sweat the small stuff and how to separate kid problems from adult ones – though I admit, we still get suckered into kid arguments over who has rights to a toy… annnd, like clockwork, three seconds after we’ve put our parental foot down, everyone is playing harmoniously with the offending toy.

On the flip side, our children learned at ages three and four, that they are important, and that there are adults, who aren’t their parents, whom they can trust and celebrate paintings, friendships, and washing their hands for snack with.

I never thought I’d be so quick to miss our preschool years, but as there are now three school supply boxes in my basement; the calendar has flipped to August 1st; and Miss C is catapulting towards kindergarten, I am more aware than ever how precious the preschool bubble was; how our children will never again be surrounded by unconditional love and safety the way they were when they walked through the gate to their preschool.

Thankfully, the school supplies will not be opened for at least another 36 days, and this mama doesn’t have to do what she did last year. Instead, our August will be filled with salt air, tall trees and ice cream, so when November comes, we’ll have something to fuel our daydreams.

danI’m hard pressed to say who was the perfect age for our trip. Everyone found moments of inspiration and places of great content.

Our girls were pushed out of their rather sanitized existence, and urged, guided and, er, forced to try everything.

They rose to the challenge; falling in love with rides they never thought they’d like, and finding inner strength for ones they couldn’t wait to get off of.

One such ride was Splash Mountain.

Miss S declared Splash Mountain her favourite, before riding it. Annnnd the minute the log moved, she crumbled.

This is how, in yet another priceless mothering moment, I found myself reaching forward, hugging my shrieking six-year-old with all my might, as our log teetered on the edge of the 50ft drop.

You do not want to be leaning forward as your log nose-dives into the brambles. You do not want to choose between somersaulting out of said log, or letting go of your petrified child.

Fortunately, the photographic evidence taken 1/3 of the way down our plunge reveals I chose both: one arm around Miss S, one arm bracing the plastic log. Fewf.

Miss Q and Miss C, on the other hand, loved Splash Mountain.

It is interesting to note that Splash Mountain, with all the warnings of the 50ft drop, has no seatbelts; but The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, a 60 second, one-level meander, and I do mean meander, through Pooh’s daydream has a safety bar.

Thankfully, Miss C had either an uncle or father to act as her seatbelt on her multiple voyages with Briar Rabbit, but still.

Incidentally, Pooh’s ride was one of Miss C and Miss S’ favourites. Mad props to Grandma, who took one for the team, agreeing over, and over, and over again to ride with them.

Mini cheer for Uncle G who also indulged my daughters’ multiple requests for him to be their responsible plus one.

Team building continued at It’s A Small World. Let’s be honest: once through is great, cheerful, joyous and, yes, I’ll say it: pleasant. Two, three, four times?Its

I lost count of how many times Miss S and Miss C rode the 20-minute ride, but Grandma was definitely a good sport.

Historical side note: my mum and her family went on the ride when it debut in the New York World’s Fair in 1964 at the UNICEF pavilion under the name: Children of the World.

In the no rhyme or reason category, a ride Miss S enjoyed, but her sisters did not, was the Haunted Mansion. She ain’t afraid of no ghosts… unless they’re in our basement.

aAutopia was our pint-sized Danica Patricks’ absolute favourite. Even though she was a hair too short to work both the gas and the wheel, it was the only ride Miss S wanted to do on our last day.

We tried twice, once in the early morning, and once at dusk, and both times after waiting 20 and 40 minutes, the ride was closed because a “wild animal was on the tracks.”

Ironically, Disney’s “wild animal” was – wait for it – a Canada goose.

Apparently it’s not Disney’s policy to run them over.

However, because we’d been goosed twice, we were able to walk straight to the front of the line at 10pm.

Watching Miss Q drive off, alone, into the full-moon Saturday night gave me pause, or rather, a reason to step on the gas. This move reignited Miss S’s cackles of glee as she held the wheel and expertly steered after her sister.

Nine more years, Mr. Toad, nine more years.

A side note about Autopia: it stinks. The fumes from the “gas powered by Honda” cars are plentiful, and possibly the reason Disney has tucked a smoking pit next door. Hopefully Honda will soon take a cue from the fact the ride is in Tomorrowland, and splurge for those new-fangled electric cars everyone is talking about.

In four-year-old land, Miss C started her vacation by telling me she did not like Disneyland. “I’m not going to like any of the rides you know.” She punctuated this by crossing her arms and frowning.

Her displeasure with Disney melted like Olaf in summer on the Dumbo ride. She loved that big-eared elephant so much she bought herself a stuffed baby Dumbo and now thinks I’m crazy for thinking she said she didn’t like Disneyland.

Seeing Disney through the eyes of a nine, six and four year old was enough for this mum. In my dreams, the trip was never as grand as what it became.

We couldn’t have created this reality without a massive boost from my mum-in-law, and for that we are eternally grateful.

The chorus of the diamond celebration parade is When can we do this again?

And, my friends, I’m not sure we ever could.

lin

60Seven miles. This is the minimum distance we walked while in Disneyland and California Adventure. Yes, that says miles.

While most families were getting an early start to the park, leaving at lunch and returning after dinner, this family arrived around 9:30am, and staying long after dusk. No siestas. No meltdowns. No strollers. No wheelchairs. Nothing. Nada.

On our last day my Fitbit tracked 10.6 miles. We came in at 7:00am, Miss C, my husband and his mum left after the parade, while and Miss Q, Miss S and I stayed until 11pm.

Indulge me for a wee moment: we have the most amazing kids ever.

Of course it’s easy when you’re in the happiest place on earth, and everywhere you turn there’s something around every corner for your kids to do, eat or see.

We had five-day passes. This meant we picked which park we wanted to go into and stayed there all day. It worked out really well, and my only regret was not upgrading to an annual pass so we could return tomorrow.

We were in Disneyland on Tuesday, May 17th, Wednesday, May 18th and Saturday, May 21st.

The crowds were light on Tuesday and Wednesday and heavy on Saturday, thanks to the grads, combining with the usual weekend busy. But overall we never felt squashed or deprived.

Like any good mum, before we left, I tried to research all the ins and outs of Disneyland: where to go, what to see, how to be the master of FastPasses. But in the end, I had to stop. All the tips and tricks were hurting my head. There are many, many, many different ways to see Disney. For this mama, figuring it out as we meandered through the park was the only way to go.

Having said that, we used four FastPasses: twice for Splash Mountain, once for Soaring Over California and once for Radiator Springs Racers.

Though I wouldn’t plan days around them, I would say it was a lot of fun passing the line of people who’d been waiting for the same ride for over an hour.

A lot of fun.cc

Revisiting the food situation, we went to Target almost directly after we arrived and bought bottled water, boxes of tea, and some snacks for the week.

It costs $10 one-way to Target by taxi from the Best Western Park Place and though it was nice to have the bottled water, really nice, you can also get free ice water from the snack places in Disneyland, so this trip may have been excessive.  But we had tea, and probably should have bought carrots.

Every day we went into the park my husband’s backpack was filled with five bottles of water, and bagels and cream cheese from the hotel’s continental breakfast. Security didn’t seem to mind his extra cargo; in fact, it was yours truly who kept getting asked to step out of line and stroll through the metal detector.

On our last day, I found the source to the containers of grapes I’d seen people snacking upon: Main Street Starbucks. For $4.99US you could purchase containers of real-live produce.

I felt like the Oprah of red jewels as I doled out containers of fruit to outstretched hands. You get grapes, and you get grapes, and you get grapes.

Souvenir wise, the sweatshirts we got the girls pretty much sums up their experiences: Miss C got Elsa, Miss S got Belle and Miss Q got Chewbacca.

All I wanted were silhouettes of the girls from Silhouette Studios on Main Street. Not to sound like a used car salesman, but they were a super deal: $9US for two copies of the portrait. For $23US more you can have them framed in a Disney frame that has 24 hidden Mickey’s in it.

I may have said ‘no’ to the frame, returned to my hotel room, instantly regretted that ‘no’ and sped-walked through the parade crowds to the store to buy the frames at 10pm.

Every time I pass the silhouettes on the wall, I am thankful I had that burst of crazy. They are lovely.

To make them, the girls took turns sitting in a wooden chair and staring at the wall. The woman who did the silhouettes sat in her chair, looked at the girls’ profiles and snip-snip-snip was done. Skeptical Sally might wonder if they actually looked like the girls and I will confirm: we have three different silhouettes that look exactly like our girls.

Have I mentioned we all want to go back?  But, Miss S tells me we need to wait until she turns ten. Not sure why, ten, but we’ve got three years to save.

disney

Mum Travelling Tip:

  • Pack clean Ziplock bags. I don’t know why I tossed them into my suitcase in the first place, but they were very handy for holding bagels.

JediIt’s a proud day when your youngling signs up for Jedi Academy. Prouder still when she is green lightsaber to red lightsaber with the one and only: Darth Vader.

We used our one-day-only, early entry to the park (7am) to beat the Saturday morning crowds and sign Miss Q up for the Trials of the Temple show in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.

This free experience was for kids 4 -12, which left at least two disappointed adults in the crowd. Miss S and Miss C were given the option, but chose to cheer from the safety of the audience.Jedi 3

Before showtime, my husband dropped Miss Q off with the Jedi’s, while I staked out our front row seats, hoping the Jedi’s wouldn’t lose my child.

Grandma and Miss C chose to sit under the umbrella covered tables, which was smart, as sitting for 30 minutes on the cement was a toasty experience.

At 10:30 sharp, the Star Wars fanfare began.

Music certainly likes to call the lump to my throat, as that, combined with the rows of future Jedi’s cloaked in brown and green robes parading onto the stage threatened to release the mama tears.

Jedi1Hood on, Miss Q walked in front of us and took her spot as the main actors started their script: Now that the Empire has driven the Jedi to the distant corners of the galaxy, the training must proceed in secret at ancient Jedi temples.

Miss Q received a green light saber. She learned how to block, duck, and strike. They then used the Force to lift the stage. Smoke billowed and the ground rumbled as it rose. It was quite the visual.

Jedi2Suddenly out strode Darth Vader. Like the real Darth Vader. Like he looked as though he’d just walked out of the movie, Darth Vader.

I waited for my little padawan to shrink, but she looked amused.

The Seventh Sister followed Vader out of the lair. She swung her red lightsaber skillfully and menacingly at the audience.

After some conversation, the Seventh Sister took her spot on the cement in front of us, while Vader took centre stage. The Jedi younglings split into two groups and used their new knowledge to fight the villains one at a time.

VaderMiss Q went sneaker to boot with Darth Vader in the centre of the stage. She masterfully blocked his attack. Each time he swung his lightsaber it sounded like, well, a lightsaber. Within 30 seconds the battle between good and evil was over. Good prevailed. Miss Q took her spot off stage.

Regrouping after their individual fights, the Jedi younglings used the force to push Vader and the Seventh Sister back to whence they came.

But the battle wasn’t over as the actor Jedi Knight in training still needed to learn how to calm her mind. Out of a cloud of smoke jumped Kylo Ren who tried to tempt her to the Dark Side.Kylo

Together, the younglings helped her use the Force to push Kylo out of her mind and seal up the den.

Victory. All of the Jedi younglings received a pin for their efforts and were released back to their adults.

Pin or no pin, Miss Q was pretty pleased with the entire experience.

Sorry, Vader, it appears the Force is strong with this one.

Ariel’s Grotto

Before we left Victoria, I made reservations for lunch at Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure. Like everything on this trip, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was Ariel’s Grotto was the only spot in both theme parks where one could meet Ariel, and dine with her princess friends.

It sounded like an amazing experience for our girls, so I ignored the $$$ symbols beside the restaurant reviews and booked it Dan-o.

Food seemed to be the hardest thing to conquer our entire trip. Our hotel’s continental breakfast was efficient, and allowed us to take bagels and cream cheese into the theme parks for our girls to snack on, but eight days of choosing from the same eggs pressed into circles, cereal and baked goods wore thin.

In the theme parks themselves, the food was decent, but other than Mickey and Miss S’ approved meal: a bag of goldfish crackers, a bag of carrots, a bag of apple slices, a banana, one yoghurt drink and a container of milk for $5.99US, our vegetable intake was few and far between.

The only tip I’d read about Ariel’s Grotto was everyone attending the restaurant had to line-up and meet Ariel before going to their seats. So when our pager went off, I told my husband take everyone to the spiral staircase while I checked in. This little action put us ahead of about ten families, and apparently didn’t matter as it was assigned seating, but still: small victories.

To be honest, I expected Ariel to be in full tail sitting on a rock, so when I saw her with sea legs, in her blue gown in front of a curtain, it felt like a missed opportunity for Disney, but the girls didn’t care. They happily made small talk, smiled for the photographer and followed our host to our table; where they were given paper crowns, jewel stickers and the requisite crayons.

With such a bounty of children’s activities bestowed upon us, we were tricked into thinking this was a leisurely lunch, and were puzzled when the waiter approached our table three times in the span of five minutes to take our order.

It quickly became clear our waiter was just trying to help us help ourselves, as we were the only table without the first course when the squire announced Belle’s arrival. Yes, we were on the experience’s timeline, not ours.

Miss S didn’t care about the food, she was in princess heaven watching her favourite princess swirl to the front, curtsy, then dance with the squire.  As Belle twirled off to greet her luncheon guests, we quickly scanned our menus and placed our orders.

It is worth mentioning that no prices were listed, but when in Grotto…right?

The food was delicious: three courses of yum that included our first real servings of vegetables in five days. I had salad, beef, mashed potatoes, and gave Uncle G my asparagus: my taste buds were in heaven.

Miss S became our table’s head princess greeter. Between bites of her plain noodles, she leapt to hug each princess as they checked in.

Prince Charming – er – Uncle G worked his magic with the ladies in costume, kindly volunteering his services to act as the buffer between them and Miss C. By the time the fourth princess, Tiana, came out, Miss C had joined Miss S in a cautious princess heaven.

Miss Q reminded me of Prince John from Robin Hood with her crooked crown and sideways applause as if to say: amuse me princesses.

Desert was a three-plate sampler. For the kids: blue Jello, a cookie and chocolate dipped strawberry. For the adults: s’mores, crème brulee, and a chocolate dipped strawberry.

Then the bill arrived.

All I could do was laugh, after my minor heart attack.

If I had known in advance that it was $40 a plate for the adults and $24 a plate for the kids? Oh heck, we probably would have still given the girls the experience, but like the wand, paying $328.51US ($433.63 Canadian) was a major sticker shock. However, there were seven people eating, we were on vacation, and the girls enjoyed themselves.

What more could you ask for?

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