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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

If you aren’t from the island
You won’t understand
Why a snowflake sends us over the edge
And we slip thin gloves over our cold hands.

Every kid who’s grown up here
Starts listening real close
To the winter weather forecasts
Will a layer of white blanket the coast?

We’ve been disappointed
Year after year our dreams are crushed
When we wake on Christmas morning
And our lawns are still lush.

If you aren’t from the island
You won’t understand
Our longing for a good blizzard
Or any of Mother Nature’s angry commands.

We hear the message of Canada
Every winter on repeat:
Frozen canals, outdoor rinks and Nor’easters
While Victoria’s gardening stores sell peat.

Being axed out of the Great White North
Well, that’s not really our fault
The mighty Pacific we worship
Kills our dreams with her breaths of salt.

If you aren’t from the island
You won’t understand
When the snow we’ve been wishing for
Actually, and, finally covers the land.

The morning after a promised snowfall
We don’t even want to look at the grass
But then we see a layer of white stuff?
Out the door in our pajamas we dash!

Then every kid who’s grown up here
Crosses their fingers with hope
That the school districts will have mercy
And the answer to, ‘snow day?’ won’t be ‘nope’.

If you aren’t from the island
Then you won’t understand
Why our sleds are laundry baskets
And our shovels aren’t your usual brand.

We don’t buy snow tires
Chains or the like
Three-hundred and sixty days around here
It’s so balmy we get around by bike.

We build snowmen and women
With leaves and turf sticking out
Our hummingbird feeders freeze
This is what winter in Victoria’s about.

If you aren’t from the island
You won’t understand
The urgency to soak it all in
Before the rains swab the streets like a deckhand.

There’s always a threat
That the temperature will rise
And the snow will turn to slush
Signalling the mass uncovering of our thighs.

“It’s not dry snow like on the Prairies.”
“In Ontario we’d forge on.”
You could move back, dear people
But after three days our snow will be gone.

If you aren’t from the island
If from here you weren’t born
Let us have our fifteen minutes
Snow’s a treat we’ll never mourn.

Here are some shots from our second Snow Day. 

Top to bottom: Gumboots with rainpants (winter staple), ghostly faces (scary), M+S tires (almost at snowtire status) snow angels that look more like crime scene chalk outlines, and Jello flavoured snow (surprisingly gross). Not shown: the ramp we made for our kayak – the girls have started practicing for their Olympic bobsledding debut in 2022.

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Dear Diary

diaryI let Miss Q read my diary. The one I got for my 10th birthday that spans grades five, six and seven, NOT the one I started in high school that’s riddled with unrequited love.
I don’t believe in burning books, but every diary I wrote in after grade seven probably has a date with a moon ceremony and bonfire.

It was the week after Christmas, and Miss Q was looking lost. She missed her friends but didn’t want to call anyone to come over. She craved the routine of school, but was happy to be on vacation.

I don’t know why granting her access to a world from thirty years gone by, specifically my world from thirty years gone by struck me as a good idea, but there I was, standing in my bedroom, rattling off directions like a curator at a museum. “Don’t flip the pages with your fingers. Better yet, don’t touch the pages. That’s old pencil, it will smudge.”

“Okay.” She tried to tug the red book from my fingers.

I released my grip, lamenting that I hadn’t laminated the pages or give her white gloves. “Be careful,” I said, watching my history walk out the door.

When I was in grade six, my days were filled with school, Guides, tenor saxophone, sports and papers. Every Wednesday I delivered the Saanich News, a weekly paper filled with local stories, flyers and the odd free sample.

Thirty years later, Miss Q’s life is pretty much the same, minus the paper route. She’s in Guides, plays clarinet in band, violin in strings and just added intramural volleyball to her sports roster.

Her teacher is lovely and likes to stop Miss Q before she leaves at the end of the day to tell her how much she is appreciated. Can we get a collective ‘awe’?

In Victoria, in the late 80s, the word ‘tween’ hadn’t been coined, or maybe it had, and no one ever thought to brand us. Most of the elementary schools in town went from kindergarten to grade seven, so we spent our tween years nestled in the protective bosom of mother grade school.

We didn’t have lockers to fight with. We didn’t have a company come in to talk to us about Internet safety. We didn’t have discussions on suicide, drugs or sex trafficking. The biggest social messages were ‘Just Do It’ (Nike) and ‘Just say No’ (Nancy Regan).

Nowadays the game is afoot. The children seem fiercer, misguided, lost. Miss Q sits next to a boy who has a mouth like a trashcan. I am forever the broken record telling my daughter to get her nose out of her book once in a while. Not because she’s missing instruction, but because she’s missing such gems as to why her classroom’s being evacuated or how the fights start.

The thing is, amidst all the crap, and it is crap, not a cute poo emoji, middle school is exactly what Miss Q needed in her life. When she finished her woodworking exploratory, she went back into the workshop during her lunch hours and crafted a spatula for her dad. She loves the library and is itching for the day she gets to enter the art room. She’s happily adding new friends to her circle.

When she finished reading my diary, with it’s tantalizing entries such as:

Dear Diary, I hate the weatherman here it is January 2 and still no SNOW!!!!!

Doing Papers is murderous.

and,

Today we were at Telegraph Bay. The woman in the boat beside us was hairspraying her hair and someone yelled, “What’s the matter, hair lice?”

Miss Q unceremoniously passed my red book back to me and said, “You were a weird child.”

I’ll take that as a compliment.

diary too

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The year was 2015 and my children were 4, 6 and 8.  Miss C (then 4) was not having any of Santa. Miss S (then 6) was fully submerged in the man the myth and the legend.  Miss Q (then 8) was on the cusp – did she believe, or didn’t she? You can read all about that time by clicking this link: One More Sleep

Three years later, not much has changed.  Miss Q (now 11) is still holding the needle of her believing barometer close to her chest. She happily wrote the jolly elf a letter, and allowed her parents to geek out at the North Pole mailbox. But, is she only humouring us?  Keeping the magic alive for her sisters? Our Mona Lisa will never tell – not that we’re in a rush to ask.

Miss S (now 9) hasn’t lost her logical brain, or monkey farm. Spoiler alert: her farm will grow by one at the stroke of midnight. She remains the hardest of all the girls to buy for, though I know if we told her we were going to Hawaii or the Tchimpounga Sanctuary in the Republic of Congo, her eyes would be all a glow.

Miss C (now 7) still hates, yes, hates, seeing Santa. At the parade this year, she covered my mouth when he passed so I wouldn’t alert him to her whereabouts. I didn’t dare point out that if he sees her when she was sleeping, he’d know when she was on the side of the road.

CookiesYet, for all the red suit angst, she can recite his rider without blinking: cookies, milk and carrots for the reindeer – heaven forbid we forget a single thing, or suggest we capture him with an elaborate boobie trap.

“He’ll just tap his nose and disappear out of anything you build.”

“Even if I cut off his nose?” My husband says I’ve watched too much Teen Titans.

“He’ll touch the spot where his nose was and disappear.”

She has the Care Bear stare down pat, though instead of hearts, she sends me daggers: if I cross Santa, I cross her. I don’t dare cross our youngest.

The one thing that has changed in three years is our community – as in the realization that we’re actually part of one. This revelation struck me as I watched the elementary school Christmas concert two weeks ago. Co-op preschool, elementary school, middle school, Girl Guides, soccer, field hockey, work, family, friends, acquaintances, annoying acquaintances… the list of people we’re connected to grows every year.

Now, let me tell you with my own daggered Miss C stare, community was something I never thought I needed when raising children. Villages just got in the way of living for this lone mama wolf.

But here it is, almost twelve years into raising of our children and, well, it looks like we’re part of one.

So, with a nod to Dr. Seuss, and with love to the community we’re suddenly surrounded by:

Thank you for coming without tags.

Thank you for coming without packages, boxes or bags.

Whether you’re near or far away,

Happiest of Christmas wishes to you I say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let Them Eat Cereal

20181123_113241I know, I know, my expectations as a mother are too high. How dare I ask my child to put the cereal away and expect the bag to be placed inside the box? How could I even think little hands could possibly carry a box from the table to the cupboard? Just call me Miss. Hannigan while I pour bathtub gin and sing about all the little girls I’m dripping with, as they respond with Hard Knock Life.

Teaching independence is exhausting, but don’t worry, I’m not giving up. One day my cubs will be pushed out of the cave with the sacred knowledge of how a cereal box works. Human kind will be saved, or at least my girls will be, from the nagging of a future spouse or roommate. “How many times do I have to tell you the bag goes inside the box, and then the box goes in the cupboard?”

Maybe, before they move out, I should sew a tags in their collars that say, “Will put this away if you sing the clean up song.” That way the person that they’re living with just has to belt out, “Clean up, Clean up, Everybody everywhere,” and my forty-four-year-old child will obediently march around the house picking up after themselves.

Let’s face it, this age of parenting that we’re living in is exhausting. Along with independence, we’re supposed to nurture a growth mindset, fight bullying with bubble wrapped words not a bare knuckle to the face, and tiptoe through the tulips of political correctness?

I’m sorry, but where does Mum eating bonbons and watching Young and The Restless factor into all this? And now it’s trendy to tap into the ‘hive mind’ to get answers for your child’s kid problems? No thank you.

The other day the Education Assistant in charge of the playground at recess pulled me aside to say that Miss C had a rough day. Her happy trio of friends wasn’t happy anymore, nor was it a trio. Miss C was now the outsider looking in.

Like the modern mama bear that I am, I waited until we got home, discussed strategies with Miss C, and then introduced her to Wilson Phillips.

Sometimes as a parent you’ve also got to hold on for one more day.

Which brings us back to the Rice Krispies. Let’s celebrate the small stuff. My girls have enough strength in their arms to pour themselves a bowl. They have great hand-eye coordination – the small grains of puffed rice hit the target, as did the milk. And, they can feed themselves. Take that nurture: they didn’t breastfeed forever.

Cereal-gate won’t last forever either. One day Snap Crackle and Pop will cease to be all-day dining room accoutrements. One day I’ll find success by sixty as I cruise the world in my ocean liner, buoyed by the knowledge I have three contributing adults roaming the world.

Until then, I’m going out for coffee dates with my friends, getting my steps in and embracing the crazy that is life with three active, awesome, albeit little girls.

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Never Cry Wolf?

Two Friday nights ago, my husband and I sat around a fire, gazing up at the sparkly heavens. Every star in the Milky Way visible, every twinkling airplane, and fast-moving spy-satellite on display. The ocean, churned by large tides and moon, crashed onto the long, compact sandy beach, metres from our campsite.

Our return to Mackenzie Beach, in Tofino, for Thanksgiving weekend had begun.

Like a true Mama Bear, I’d made sure my cubs had bed socks, sleeping toques and blankets. I’d even smuggled an extra blanket into our van, despite my husband’s insistence we didn’t have room.

Everyone was well prepared for fall camping, except me, who’s own Mama Bear was half-way around the world on the Danube, clearly skirting her responsibility to remind me to bring my bed toque into the tent.

A notch above the 49th Parallel, on the edge of the Pacific Rim, I woke shivering. I have never been so cold in all my life. I couldn’t stop my body from shaking. I sat up, hugging my knees, trying to regulate my breath. My family lay like sausages, oblivious to my plight.

Just go to the van. Take your sleeping bag and sit in the passenger seat, my brain commanded. But I couldn’t move. The van held my toque, and our 13-year-old dog. It was warm. But I couldn’t. stop. shivering.

Miss C sat up.

“Go back to sleep,” I chattered. Thirty steps up a wooden staircase to the toilets in the middle of the night was one thing, dealing with the onesie she was wearing was another.

I passed Miss C’s toque to her. She put it on and obediently snuggled down.

You can do this. I pushed myself up. Just get to the van.

The lawn chairs we’d left beside the fire pit slid apart. The sound of metal scraping hard ground made me pause.

I held my body still, not daring to move. Listening deep into the darkness, past the crashing waves, the night was still.

Adrenaline jolted my shivers. Had I imagined it?

Someone started peeing long and hard beside our tent.

Had one of the men camping beside us decided against hiking the thirty steps?

The couple beside us were staying in a van, their companion, a single man, was sleeping in a tent encased by a heavy blue tarp.

The door had neither opened nor closed. The tarp hadn’t ruffled.

The pee continued. One long, unbreakable stream, like a garden hose had been left on full blast. How much boxed wine had they drank?

Preferring privacy over peering, I pulled Miss C in beside me, and wrapped the extra blanket that was under her, over me. My shivering officially stopped thanks to my six-year-old hot water bottle.

“Hey. Wolf! Get out of here.” A man’s deep shouts snapped me straight out of my sleeping bag. The voice was close, but down the beach a few sites. “Get out. Leave! Get out of here!”

A wolf? Cool. For a moment I considered waking my husband, but it was better to let sleeping dogs lie. Don’t worry, I kept my head tucked inside our tent.

My earliest memories of wolves was the naked researcher in the movie Never Cry Wolf, jogging around the perimeter of his camp peeing. I’m sure my blasé attitude towards the canis lupus stems from this movie. I’m more worried about a cougar jumping on my head while hiking than a wild canine gnawing on my leg while I sleep. Even though in Tofino wolves have killed dogs, and, well, we were warned about them when we checked into the campsite.

If it was really a wolf who came into our site, and I’m convinced it was, one attraction might have been our dog’s empty food dish that was left under the picnic table. However, even with the food dish locked in our car for the remainder of our stay, we found fresh wolf tracks in the sand every morning.

Thankfully I earned the tracking badge in Girl Guides and have watched Bigfoot documentaries, so we can conclude my findings below are 100% scientific.

LN

Fun-sized cereal box (for size comparison) + our 13 year-old collie-x’s front paw print.                   She is a medium sized dog about 35 – 40 pounds.

Wolf 1

Fun-sized cereal box + wolf’s paw print.  Clearly heavier than our canine.                                                                   Sadly all our plaster was back at Bigfoot HQ.

Wolf

Here’s our wolfie’s paw print on Mackenzie Beach. Check out the prints at gray wolf outreach project and compare. 

 

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In The Middle Of The Night

There’s nothing like staring into the fully dilated pupils of your six-year-old at 11:38pm and wondering if she’s looking at you or through you.

Miss C has had a handful of night terrors in her six-years on this earth. She never remembers them in the morning, but in the moment they are the most horrendous things to watch. Thrashing. Crying. Snot. Inconsolable awfulness that kills me as I sit and wait for the episode to pass.

You can’t wake them, or shouldn’t. My internet research on the subject says as much. In spite of this, my mother’s heart has sung to her, whispered to her and stroked her forehead. I’ve also carried her out of the room so she doesn’t wake her sisters.

Last night I was summoned to her room by sobs. After taking her to the bathroom, which is always a good idea when a child wakes in the middle of the night for no reason, and changing her night gown, because I dropped the hem of her original night gown into the toilet, I tucked her back into bed.

She immediately started thrashing and crying. I settled in beside her and waited. My internet research has also told me these moments don’t last more than 1-5 minutes. Where oh where would we be without doctor internet?

“Does your neck hurt?” I asked Miss C when she’d calmed. She kinked her neck on Tuesday and has been in significant, but decreasing, pain ever since.

“No,” she said.

“Are you awake?” I asked. Her pupils were really dilated.

“Yes,” she said, taking the Kleenex from me and wiping her nose.

Cue a battery of questions, only an inquisitive mum, foolishly trying to get to the root of the sleep issue at midnight can ask.

“No,” she repeated earnestly to every question.

“Do you want me to stay with you a while?” I asked.

“No.”

No. No? I stared down at the sweet child of mine.  No?  This was the girl who jumps, nay, leaps at any opportunity for me to crawl into her bed for a snuggle.

I stared through the darkness into her eyes. Was she actually asleep? When one of my friends was five, he woke in the middle of the night and an old woman gave him a glass of water. He didn’t know who she was. I had to ask, even thought I feared and relished her answer, “Can you see anyone in the room?”

Miss C’s eyes didn’t blink or search the darkness behind me. In one fluid motion, her arm lifted off her duvet as her head and shoulders rose off her pillow. “I can see you,” she said in a slow, even voice, pointing at my face.

Have I watched too many horror movies? Yes, yes, I have.

“How do I know you’re awake?” I pressed as she lay back down and continued to stare at me, or through me.

With crocodile smile, Miss C waved with the tips of her fingers.

“Okay, well get some sleep then,” I said. “I’ll be in bed if you need me.” I kissed her and prayed I didn’t wake to find her silently staring at me through her long unkempt hair with her wide unblinking eyes.

The rest of the night was uneventful, and, true to my internet research, Miss C didn’t remember a thing this morning. She and her sisters found it hilarious that she and I were talking in her sleep.

Joke’s on them. While I hope this is Miss C’s last night terror, sleep conversations could come in very handy during the teenaged years.

sleeping-beauty-painting

 

 

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One

Last week one child came home from middle school with a list. She’d joined soccer, cross-country, strings, band, and choir. Need I mention this child is signed up for soccer, Guides and volunteers outside school? Need I mention this child is also an avid reader, lover of free play and all things video games (thank you, husband)? Need I mention my mama’s heart was a jumble of emotions?

Shock.

Pride.

Glee.

Joy.

Anticipation.

Relief.

Laughter. Lots of laughter, she is her mother’s daughter.

Could we do this? Would we do this? Should we do this?

Yes, I was that mum, grilling the band director at her school during the welcome barbecue.

Practice commitment = 100 minutes a week total for both instruments. Pish, 100? In my day, it was 210 painful practice minutes.

Oh, did I fail to mention she wants to play two instruments? Violin in strings, and we’ll find out in band. Her 1st choice is flute, 2nd clarinet and 3rd trombone. Apparently she couldn’t make band easier by lugging my dear old tenor sax back and forth.

Nothing conflicts.

What’s a parent to do?

My husband and I had many a discussion: should we let her try her proposed schedule? Should we nip it in the butt? Should we? Could we? Would we?

We looped her into our fears about burn out. We got her to map out her proposed schedule. We gave her the tools, then questioned if we should save her from herself and take the tools away. She is only eleven. Eleven. What are other eleven year olds doing around the world? Don’t answer that. She’s got a good life. Freedom. Love. Support.

The thing is, as most of you know, we have three children. Miss Q, Miss S and Miss C. A week before school started I thought I was so organized: Miss Q had the aforementioned outside of school list, Guides and soccer, Miss S had Guides and soccer and Miss C had Brownies and soccer. My calendar was a glowing orb of mostly blank squares.

Then we foolishly sent our girls back to school. Miss Q came home with her list. Miss S came home buzzing about choir and the potential for cross-country. Miss C came home with home reading.

Stay six forever, Miss C.

We knew this day would come. We knew one day our calendars would be full, and we’d be tugged in three directions. It was always a vague thought, something we absent-mindedly acknowledged with every turn of the clock, but foolishly ignored.

Middle school, like a rogue wave, blindsided us with opportunity.

We had no idea how full one child could make herself.

However, on Friday, a dove dropped an olive branch at my feet.

“I think I’m not going to do cross-country,” Miss Q told me after school.

“Really?” I replied. “Why?”

“It’s my least favourite of everything right now.”

“Okay, sounds good.” I knew eleven-year-olds could make wise choices.

“And basketball starts pretty soon.” She grinned.

Beach

Two weeks before my calendar exploded.

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