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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

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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20180824_213138It’s official, Miss Q is a muggle. September 1st came and went, and now our eleven-year-old must start muggle middle school with her muggle friends.

Are we ready for grades two, four and six? YES. Let activities fill our calendar. Let baked goods fly out of our oven. Let us remember in the middle of November that the ocean is fifteen minutes from our doorstep.

The end of summer vacation doesn’t mean the end to adventure. Starting tomorrow, we switch gears from external adventures to internal adventures. New schools. Old schools. New friends. Old friends. New PACs. Old PACs… Oh right, it’s not about me.

Which brings us to the most humbling of lessons I learned late this summer: it’s not about me.

Two weeks ago, I was sashaying through sea foam, sprinting through sunflowers, and slithering across hot rocks. I was living in the moment, completely focused on giving the girls an amazing summer full of beaches, bike parks, and bongos. (Miss S went to a week-long half-day drum camp.)

While my littles were very content to sleep in, play whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, and align their bedtimes with the rise of the Big Dipper, thanks to a healthy dose of educational morning television’s back-to-school commercials, they were acutely aware of the coming school year, and very much wondering when the heck their mother would get her act together and get their school supplies.

Oh, come on, you know I would have gotten around to discussing routines, shopping, and figuring out how our days would look. I’m not a flake. I knew September was coming, I just chose to twirl about my castle, drink from my enchanted teapot, and throw snowballs at Beast a while longer.

Who knew my live-in-the-moment attitude was stressing them out? I thought we were on the same page. I thought they didn’t want to think about school until maybe Labour Day. I didn’t want to be responsible for dulling the edges of their summer with reality.

Turns out thinking about school, prepping for school, and buying for school are all intricate parts of the end of summer. They don’t make summer sun shine less, rather, they are an expected routine. And besides, who doesn’t like new pens? Not this family. So, two Saturdays ago, we canceled a daytrip and went shopping.

Our buckets filled with duo-tangs, a zippered binder and felts. This year Miss C is the only one who needs crayons (sniff) and Miss Q needs a protractor (good luck).

The girls came out of that Saturday, confident their mum wasn’t going to forget to send them to school, and, with 1150 sheets of lined loose-leaf paper.

I rebooted my ego.

It’s not about me.

This is their time. They’re the ones who must figure out new teachers and sit in classes with twenty-plus different personalities and learn.

It’s my job to make sure they go in with both mental and physical tools to ensure a hope of success.

I’ll miss them.

But they’re ready.

Simple as that.

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We’ve crossed over.

Into August with the feel of summer and the gravitational pull of September.

Twenty-five, twenty-four hour days stretch in front of us, waiting to sizzle our skin, show off the planets, and wrap our fingers in marshmallows, but my eyes scan the horizon.

I can hear the hooves echoing on the brown grass. Wisps of dust are sucked skyward. The vibrations begin to buzz my toes.

Sleepy mornings are slipping.

The empty calendar is filling.

Freedom is falling.

And yet, there are twenty-five days between us, and the hot breath of the beast.

So we waste the minutes with cartoon mornings. We agree to attend birthday parties. We attempt to live in the moment with glue guns and sparkles.

We ignore September’s pokes and prods.

The emails about soccer tryouts. The ads about school supplies. The questions about start times, end times and how it will all be accomplished.

There are still ice cream cones to be licked.

Seaweed to slip on.

Ghostly walks to take.

Play on summer, you’re not over yet.

sky cm

sea CM

July’s Sky to Sea Adventure.  We hiked up and down Mount Tolmie and then played at Gyro Park.

 

 

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Good-Bye Grade 5

I’m sure schools in the 90210 zip code provide their parents with free botox before emotional assemblies. Jackie Taylor would never be caught dead sobbing into a hankie while watching Kelly level up in the world. While Mrs. Walsh, being from Minnesota, would have declined, at least for the first few years, but eventually the pressure from Brenda for her mum to stop being embarrassing and conform would’ve sent her right to the beauty doctor.

Yesterday morning was an exercise in crying pretty. Botox in my tear ducts would’ve helped. Same with Kleenex. My husband and I were the only ones around us without a hankie to hide the dam as it broke.

Why do we have to celebrate our children? Why do they fill us with so much pride that it leaks and runs down our faces? Why do their teachers care so much that they too get verklempt when wishing our children well on their travels?

Why world, why?

Because we’ve been there for them. All of us. We might not live in remote huts in the middle of the rainforest, but it still takes a village to raise a child, yes, even for those of us who are checked in to our children’s lives.

Miss Q’s been at her elementary school for six years: kindergarten to grade five.

It was a leap of faith for my husband and I to send her to the neighbourhood school, instead of following friends to the preschool’s elementary school, but we had one goal for our child: consistency.

We wanted Miss Q to stay at one school from start to finish, to make friends, and to find a community. We wanted her to feel stable and be as confident as the Pink Ladies in Grease and “rule the school.”

Six years later, ironically, few staff members have seen Miss Q through her elementary school career, but the building and her friends have remained the same, so like Hannibal from ‘A-Team’, not ‘Silence of the Lambs’, says, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Over the years, Miss Q’s had teachers who sparked her creativity, and teachers who nurtured her artistic side. She had a teacher who fostered her budding interest in botany, and ghost hunting, and a teacher who believed in her sprinting skills long before I did.

She had a teacher who told us that there were no more books left to challenge Miss Q, so she spent her middle elementary school years drawing.

We found out belatedly, that there was a teacher who plied six-year-old Miss Q with up to 15 jellybeans a day for the entire school year just for behaving in class.

A teacher who told us Miss Q would be bullied in middle school because she didn’t speak up in class and wouldn’t look the teacher in the eye.

Teachers who refused to let us in, and teachers who welcomed us with open arms.

Teachers who taught Miss Q, and teachers who taught us, her parents.

Teachers who instantly ‘got’ Miss Q, and teachers who took longer to figure her out.

It’s no surprise, Miss Q has rolled with it all, and she hates jellybeans.

She is the kid who buries her nose in a book to avoid the crazy whirling around her classroom. She is the kid who’d rather shine the light on someone else than have it shine on her. She secretly enjoys it when the grade ones find her on the playground and when the kindies whisper to their parents, “That’s my lunch monitor” when we’re in Starbucks.

She is kind. She is mischievous. She is athletic and smart.

She is the reason I needed botox yesterday.

Hair down for the first time in her life at school (she’d better not get lice), wearing a t-shirt dress and comfortable shoes, she looked every bit a tween on her way to grapple with a combination lock, art classes, and sports where, maybe, hopefully, everyone doesn’t have to win?

She’s worked hard. She’s given back. She pauses at the garbage and asks what parts she can recycle.

My husband and I have worked hard too. We’ve made lunches. We’ve kept tabs on library books. We’ve signed contracts not to sell our minivan so we can continue to drive half the class on field trips.

These grade fives are the kids of tomorrow. Our future, and they’re completely oblivious of their place in society. There is an easy-breezy spirit about them. They still do cannonballs into swimming pools, and shriek across their desks at each other. They get paranoid when playing ‘Cheat’. They eat pizza and drink soda pop. They look after each other.

They care.

We care. So much it pours down our faces at assemblies.

But even if they contain ‘then and now’ slideshows, year end assemblies are necessary life markers. They’re the payout: six years of good citizenship, six years of getting up in the morning, homework done, ready for the day. Six years of playing the game. They did it.

Their teachers did it.

We did it.

Let the village rejoice as the eleven year olds march down the dusty road to find their next adventure.

potluck

One day, using your dad’s Hawaiian shirts for decoration will be embarrassing.

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