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A Month Of Lasts

June 1st marked the start of the last month of Miss Q’s elementary school career and now the lasts are beginning to build: last whole-school concert, last track meet and, perhaps the most important last, at least to this mama, the last time the sisters will ever be at the same school as a trio.

The ends of the school year are always tinged in bittersweet and wrapped in hope as our girls level up in their lives. This year, I want to press pause, and hold the final notes of the year in the palm of my hand a little while longer.

Come June 29th, my girls will navigate the education system as individuals or in pairs: Miss S and Miss C first, then Miss Q and Miss S, Miss S and Miss C, Miss Q and Miss S, Miss S and Miss C, but never Miss Q and Miss C. It’s a tag game that will last a decade.

How are they feeling about it? Oh, just fine, thank you very much. Last week they piled out of school complaining about each other.

Miss Q: We had to go outside and cheer on (the middle school) on their 5km walk and Miss S wouldn’t stop staring at me.

Miss S: Miss C dumped my snack at recess.

Me: I’m sure it was an accident.

Miss C: It was!

Me: Did you share your snack with Miss S?

Miss C: Only because she came up to me and said I had to.

When I was in grades five, six and seven, all three of my brothers and I attended elementary school together. I don’t remember being sad when I started high school without them.

Oldest child to oldest child, I know Miss Q will be the same. This is her time. Her excitement is building about going to school with an art room, strings orchestra, and sports.

I have a short video from the afternoon Miss Q came home from her first day of kindergarten. She’s wearing a paper raccoon hat and her sisters, who clearly missed her, are clamoring for her affection.

The ten-month-old baby throwing herself at Miss Q, is now six and lost one of her top front teeth last week. She has a gap the size of Canada in her tiny mouth. Like any self-respecting mother, I’m encouraging her to wiggle the other top tooth harder.

This is my last chance to have a child who’s missing her two front teeth. My last chance to annoy one of my children by singing that famous Christmas song. My last chance at childhood firsts with a child who is rapidly leaving her early primary years in the dust.

The three-year-old in the video is now eight. She’s determined to be in the lead when we’re riding bikes, and satisfyingly spacey when it comes to the bad behaviour and words flying around her grade three classroom. “Miss A (her best friend) told me the f-word was in the music video (her lunch monitor) put on for us, and I don’t even know what the f-word is.”

How long will she hold onto this golden innocence? Should I lock her in a tower now?  What about Miss C? It’s probably not too late for Miss Q to head on up there either.

For the record, the school dealt with the f-word issue lickety-split.

Sigh.  Lasts. I should be more embracing of them. Change my thinking. Retrain my brain not to see them as misty-water-coloured memories, but rather exciting milestones. Whoo-hoo.

After all, like the tide, as the lasts run themselves out, the firsts start to build: first day of summer vacation, first day of middle school, first day of being the oldest sister in the school…

Don’t sell your stocks in Kleenex just yet. Whether they’re lasts or firsts, this mama’s eyes are equal opportunity leakers.

So bring on the hotdog days, the field trips, the assemblies and the rituals of saying good-bye. We’ll finish the year strong, and see you on a beach in July.

CM

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41 Candles

The morning of my birthday, I burned all twelve slices of double smoked bacon that cost $8.99 a pound. The girls needed rugby forms signed and hotdog money paid. I only had a loonie in my wallet, so I broke into Miss C’s piggybank and wrote her an I.O.U. for the remainder.

Window-shopping in Oak Bay Village turned into new shoes for my husband and a quiet whisper for me, “Sometimes when our feet are hot, they swell,” the saleswoman hissed.

“No, my feet are naturally wide,” I said, using my regular voice.

foreAfter school, we took the girls golfing for the first time. In the middle of the third hole a drunk man walked up and said it was his turn to play. Proper golfing etiquette states you can’t use your iron to flatten fellow golfers, so we left our balls on the green and let the wannabe human and his gal pal play through.

Some days you have to wonder.

But through the wonder, there’s always good.

Sweet to salty.

Kind to crappy.

Turns out, potential carcinogens don’t bother my husband. Robbing a piggy bank meant three less lunches to make this Wednesday. My mum met us for birthday lunch and the waitress presented me with the tastiest key lime cheesecake I never would have ordered.

The girls want to return to the links.

We had both sweet and sour pork and pepperoni pizza for dinner.

tulipsI found a gorgeous bouquet of tulips tucked inside my front door, along with a scratch ‘n win that won $10.

There were well wishes, exclamation marks and heart emojies.

It was a day where the small gestures meant the most. Where a song on my answering machine from my niece and nephew made me laugh. Where my children’s handmade cards and presents shone. Where plans of birthday bingo, birthday happy hour and a birthday barbecue gave promise to a weekend of new discoveries, nostalgic laughter and parents who gave up their symphony tickets to cook me food.

As the day that marked my 41st loop around the sun came to the end, I sat, squashed on our couch surrounded by my four favourite people, watching Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events.

Belly full.

Heart content.

Focused on the peace of the here and now.

ocean

Eleven

The letters arrived by the hundreds. Falling down the sooty walls of our chimney. Sticking to the glass doors on our fireplace. Pouring out across the hearth. Spilling onto the living room floor.

“Dear Miss Q, We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts…” the mysterious letters, addressed to our house in green ink began.

cakeSausage sizzled, hot tea steeped. A sticky chocolate cake was produced – though it looked as though it had been carried in the pocket of a giant someone while they rode a motorcycle through the sky. ‘Happy Birthday Q’ was written in green icing across the top.

Though her parents were prepared for this day, having shopped in Diagon Alley for all the necessary first year books before hand, it turns out our Hermione had read everything we bought, even though her wish list said otherwise. So after a quick game of quidditch soccer, we found ourselves back in the bookshop.

Books

Wandering the aisles and aisles of books stacked floor to ceiling, Miss Q was in her happy place. Fantasy, magic, warrior kittens, worlds of adventure, friendship; quest after quest filled her arms.

As she was now eleven, Miss Q was granted her wish of a sleepover birthday party. Two weeks later, four friends huddled under our porch light with their parents, three came with sleeping bags and pillows in hand, one smartly decided to abstain from the night of no slumber.

A visit to Honeydukes and then potion’s class before bed? It wouldn’t be a proper party without tempting fate.  Besides, they did have a class on the care of magical creatures and a movie (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) to break up the sugar rush.Junk food

In between eleven and seven were shrieks, giggles, yelps and the occasional shuddering of walls.

You never know what kind of sleepover mother you’ll be until you find yourself sitting in the living room listening to restless tweens at midnight. First, there’s the unspoken pressure of the other children’s parents… what would they think if their daughter didn’t get forty winks? Would they silently judge you or worse, ban their kid from your house? The flip-side is the girls are contained, in a room, safe and free to be themselves.

In my day sleepovers were a rite of passage. If my friends actually slept over (you know who you are) they were filled of immaturity, hilarity and good times all around. Having a parent open the door and say ‘go to sleep’ just made things funnier.

I chose to let it ride. No expectations of sleep. No expectations of what Sunday would look like. Livin’ la Vida Loca. Around two o’clock I came down to tell them to keep the shrieks to a minimum before tucking myself into bed. I believe it was about 3am when I heard the last round of laughter.

magical creaturesIn the morning, during divination class, they had to decipher the shape of their pancakes while I told their fortunes. “The next car that drives by will be your future car.” Cue the police SUV. Will that girl end up becoming a police officer, or wind up in jail? Time will tell if Professor Trelawney’s prediction comes true.

Last year, JK Rowling tweeted, “All these people saying they never got their Hogwarts letter: you got the letter. You went to Hogwarts. We were all there together.”

Rowling, of course, is correct. Miss Q was pleased to read, in a follow up to her acceptance letter, that if she couldn’t make it to Kings Cross by September 1st, she could find a portkey to Hogwarts by opening any Harry Potter book and having a read.

However, all the imagination in the world couldn’t have predicted what we found in our real mailbox on Miss Q’s real birthday.  There lay a real acceptance letter addressed to Miss Q from the real school board.

“Miss Q is registered at (insert name) Middle School in the English program for the 2018/2019 school year.”

Not as flowery as Minerva McGonagall’s letter. Not hand delivered to a stormy island by Hagrid. Not from Miss Q’s first choice of wizarding schools.

But it’s good to know magic still exists.

Spotty

Miss Q donated half of her birthday money to saving the spotted owls with the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

Just Like Jane

I once thought I would never take my children out of school.

Then we went to Osoyoos for Easter and catching the Thursday ferry was easier than fighting the crowds at the terminal on Good Friday.

I once thought I would only take my children out of school to catch the Thursday before Easter ferry.

Then there was Disneyland. Then there was my brother’s wedding. Then there was an offer to test drive a car in Hawaii.

I once thought I would only take my children out of school for a once in a lifetime event, and the Thursday before Easter ferry.

Then there was a movie. A sure it may pop up on Netflix in a year, movie, or we might find it in Victoria’s last video store, movie, but what happens if it doesn’t or we don’t movie.

The movie was about Jane Goodall and her early years in Gombe simply titled Jane’ but it could very well have been titled ‘Miss S’s Calling’.

Yes, at eight, our middle daughter is still smitten with primates. She is still certain that when she’s older she will move to Africa and study them alongside Jane.

When I gently pointed out that Jane might not be alive by the time she finishes school, without skipping a beat, Miss S said, “I’ll have to find someone who knew her to teach me then.”

Her sisters have helpfully pointed out there are snakes and spiders in the jungle, but that has never worried Miss S. Like Jane, it turns out, she believes they won’t bother her. Guess that leaves her dear old mum wearing that worrying bag.

“If I don’t work in Africa, then I’m going to work at Monkey World in England. If I don’t get to work at Monkey World in England, then I’ll probably work at Tim Hortons. And if I don’t work at Tim Hortons, I guess I’ll work at your pool,” Miss S outlined in January.

It should be noted that the reason she wants to work at Tim Hortons is so she can eat as many toasted bagels with cream cheese as she wants. Yes, we’ve all told her she won’t be able to find bagels in the middle of the jungle.

One guess on her reply.

A house in the jungle.

Chimpanzees peaking through the windows.

Being alone.

Just like Jane.

20180202_163813

This is why I pulled Miss S out of school at lunch one Friday and took her to the movies.

“I think I’m the youngest one here,” she whispered rather loudly as we sat in the dimly lit theater.

She was also the only one on the edge of her seat as the house lights faded to dark.

Miss S was captivated. Everything she’s ever read about Jane was confirmed and everything she didn’t know about Jane was like a firework exploding in her brain.

“Jane washed her hair in a river in the middle of the jungle.”

“Jane didn’t even go to university.”

“Jane said she would work with chimpanzees until the day she dies, so I will probably get to learn from her.”

Swept up in the romanticism of my middle child’s delight, I forgot that chimpanzees have needs. I toyed with clamping my hand over Miss S’s eyes as we watched what seemed like hours of footage, but was probably only two minutes, of male chimp after male chimp having s-e-x with Flo, their matriarch. while present day Jane narrated, “It was here we realized chimpanzees had more than one mate.”

It was all very scientific – Miss S didn’t even flinch. By contrast, in December she was horrified (as was I) when she looked over my shoulder and saw a post from TMZ. “Why would someone post a picture of their naked butt?” she exclaimed. Thanks for both our #lifelessons Twitter.

When Jane was first sent to Gombe she needed a companion to go with her so she took her mother, Margaret. Later, Margaret helped raise Grub, Jane’s son in England while she, Jane, continued her work.

Tanzanian jungles, movies, traveling, Thursday before Easter ferries… Maybe the real lesson in all this is as a parent you never know what you’ll end up saying ‘yes’ to, or where in the world your children will take you.

The 29th Tooth

ToothMiss C lost her first tooth!

On January 7th.

Siiiiigh. Such is life when you’re the third child, and the biggest thing to happen to you since being allowed to stay up to ring in the new year has taken your mum fourteen days to announce.

This tooth, Miss C’s first, is the 29th tooth to be lost in our house. Miss Q has been sporting her full set of adult chompers for the better part of the last two years, while Miss S is holding strong with eight permanents and no wigglies in sight.

Let me be the first to tell you, the 29th Tooth Fairy visit is JUST as stressful as her previous stopovers.

First of all, there’s the expectation that the loss of a tooth will coincide with exact change. Heaven forbid the Tooth Fairy slips a twenty under the pillow when the other sisters have faithfully collected quarters.

Don’t even get me started on the power of suggestion as the excited child prepares the perfect tooth collecting spot. “It’s pretty dark in that corner. Do you think the Tooth Fairy will be scared to fly across your unicorns?  They could snatch her out of the air and gobble her up.”  “What’s wrong with placing the tooth under my pillow?”

Then there’s timing. Sure, Miss C’s usually in a deep slumber by 8:30, but her sisters’ full moons still shine back at you long into the evening.

Never mind the moves one has to make to grab the tooth, make the exchange, and fling glitter. I feel like a Cirque du Soleil ninja acrobat. Would it be too obvious to add ‘clean your floor’ to the tooth fairy legend?

princess_and_the_frog_mama_odie-t2Also never mind, that I feel like Mama Odie in the Frog Princess with my tooth collection. It’s been asked before, but what the heck do you do with the lost teeth? Hot glue them into a puppet’s mouth? Send the teeth to a mad-scientist for cloning? Is there any way to make my money back on these puppies?

The reward, of course, is the joy on Miss C’s face as she runs into the kitchen holding her shiny coin. She made it! It only took her a month of wiggling the stubborn incisor to gain membership into the club.

By my calculations, we have 31 Tooth Fairy visits waiting in the wings. Thirty-one more times to experience the myclonic jerk. You know the one: you’re under the covers of your bed, the day’s events are slipping from your consciousness, your eyes have just closed, and suddenly two words blast into your brain: TOOTH FAIRY.

Ack.

Thankfully for Miss C she won’t have to wait very long for her next fairy visit. She bit into a chocolate lolly this afternoon and felt a seismic shift in her second, bottom, front, baby tooth.

Here we go again!

 

You know the The Christmas Story? Where Ralphie wants at Red Ryder BB gun and everyone says he’ll shoot his eye out?

Here’s our family’s modern version of that classic tale:

The trio received Nerf Elite XD Crossbolts from their grandfather and his son, my husband, this Christmas.

Even though I had suggested a Nerf gun for Miss Q’s present, the gentlemen in our family didn’t think it was fair that only one of our three girls was armed and dangerous.

Of course I simultaneously rolled my eyes and laughed at the shock and awe of three girls racing around our house firing darts at walls, bongo drums and stuffies.

Of course there were quickly formed rules about what they could and couldn’t shoot. There were rules about how to properly care for the guns. Rules about never looking into the barrels whether they thought they were loaded or not. Rules, rules, rules…

Of course I thought this gift was nostalgic. Nerf had filled my childhood with everything from footballs to arrows, thanks to my three younger brothers. I’m not sure my parents gave them as many rules as we gave our daughters, but then again, my brothers’ Nerf guns couldn’t force darts up to 90ft (27m).

Fast forward to Wednesday, December 27th.  The clock struck twelve and a cry from the living room sent a lightning bolt straight into this mama’s heart.

Miss S shot her eye out.

Okay, not literally, the eye is still there and intact. BUT she was looking directly into the barrel when she accidentally pulled the trigger. The 1/2 inch, in circumference, rounded dart went directly into her right eye.

Now, on the other side of a five-hour wait in emergency, Miss S is for the most part, unscathed. She says her eye is sore when she tries to focus in on things. Bright green Christmas lights are also a minor issue. But the good news is her lens, cornea and all the other important eye bits are in tact according to the ER doctor.

Happy with his assessment, but still feeling the need for a second, deeper, opinion, this mama bear feels caged as she waits for our family optometrist’s office to re-open on January 2nd.

As for the fate of our out of the box (for our family) Christmas presents? The irrational side of me wants to throw the guns in the trash. The rational side of me wants to donate them. The in-between sliver is grateful for my husband who researched eye protection. New rule kids: goggles.

And so, switching channels from what has become the all too real Christmas Story, to my favourite Christmas movie of all time White Christmas, I’ll heed Bing’s soothing advice and count my blessings instead of sheep tonight.

Art

Miss S’s ER drawing on a Tim Hortons bag.  Hasn’t lost her sense of humour. ♥

 

One Day In December

We went swimming on Sunday. This in itself isn’t news worthy. With two parents who work in aquatics, it could be considered one of our favourite pastimes… or obligations.

What is news worthy was the feeling of being found without knowing I was lost that washed over me as I drove out to the pool.

This is what we used to do. We used to be adventurers. We used to do things on Sunday mornings. Yes, we used to.

This fall has been a whirlwind. New teachers. New grades. New routines. Our children are the same, but they’ve leveled up in life once again.

In grade five, Miss Q has had assignment after assignment. Suddenly she needs our computers. She’s making slides. She’s doing research without a safety net, under the watchful eyes of a parent, on the Internet.

Why were whales hunted? Why is the government ending the grizzly hunt? The new BC curriculum is all about making connections and suddenly my opinions are under the microscope: My mum used to watch Whale Wars and says the Japanese still hunt whales for food under the guise of science, she wrote without my knowledge on one project. Yet, she refused to write: my mum says the NDP gave the complete ban on grizzly bear hunting to the Greens to make them happy about Site C. Pffft… fickle ten-year-olds.

Meanwhile, over in grade three and one, Miss S and Miss C always have spelling/sight words and reading, sometimes math.

With soccer on Saturdays, Sundays have become our catch up day, a day for baking cookies and homework.

Each week, I give myself a solid ‘meeting expectations’ as the school agendas are signed and returned to the backpacks, the next week’s school lunch snack cools on the wire racks and the girls return to romping through our house, the weight of homework momentarily off their shoulders.

I’ll give myself a solid ‘L’ for lazy when the thought of doing anything Sunday afternoon comes up. And truth be told, adventuring hasn’t crossed my mind in ages.

To homework or not to homework is the eternal question. Some years we’ve had teachers refuse to send anything home, other years it’s been only what our girls didn’t do in class time.

It goes without saying, the girls are much happier when they play school with each other, or spontaneously challenge each other to spelling tests, than when it’s prescribed.

It also goes without saying, reading every night is important. It’s something we’ve built into our lives since the girls were babies. Our home library is large and ever expanding. Reading shouldn’t feel like homework, but it does when you have kids who are just starting out, so what can you do? They need to learn.

Which brings us back to swimming. The freedom of the water. The girls laughing with each other as they swirled around the river pool. The awakening of this mama one rainy day in December.

There will always be homework. Sometimes you just have to dive in to life and live.

beach

After school December beach adventure. 

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