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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

This Is Six

Part One.

Miss C turned six at the end of October. For her birthday she wanted a pedicure. Yes, a pedicure. As a mum who didn’t get her first pedicure until her twenties, I was both torn and tickled with this birthday request. Sure, foot care is essential, but what message were we sending? On one hand it was decadent, but on the other,it was her birthday and not a stuffy or plastic… So we caved and bought the gift certificate.

Then, because life is all about balance, we also bought her a fuzzy unicorn diary and concert tickets to the children’s troubadour, Raffi.

On the weekend of the concert, Miss C and I went to the mall where the ladies at the salon properly fussed and mussed over her.

She picked out a gentle pinky orange for her nails, but was swayed by the woman who was about to de-stress her feet, when she suggested, with a tap of her finger, that Miss C go for the brighter, more fluorescent coral orange entitled “Pool Day”. It goes without saying there was a gold glitter topcoat.

A crystal chandelier hung over our heads as Miss C waited patiently for the polish to dry. “We should get that for our house,” she declared, pointing at the beautiful six-foot work of art.

“It might not go with the décor,” I replied, wondering if I’d ever live in a house that would support such opulence.

Miss C flipped and flopped her way through the mall afterwards, looking proudly at her toes and munching a chocolate lollipop from Purdy’s. This is six.

 

Part Two.

Miss C quietly sat cross-legged in seat L 15 staring up at the empty stage. Her grade one best listening ears were in play while children around us cried, wiggled, kicked and jiggled excitedly as they waited for Raffi.

A preschool-aged boy sat beside me dressed as a beluga whale. Later, he would shed this costume and proceed to bounce, with his back to the stage, rattling my seat.

Across the aisle an angelic girl snuggled with her dad. Later her light-up shoes would blind me as she boogied in the aisle.

Ahhhh children’s concerts.

Miss Q and Miss S’s preschool years were full of music and dancing. Fred Penner, Sharon Lois and Bram, Charlotte Diamond, Raffi, we know them well. But somewhere along the way Stuart McLean on Sundays, musical stories on CD, and the radio, until both the news and the disc jockeys became too crass, shoved the preschool music aside. Our poor Miss C, being the youngest, got the short end of the age appropriate music stick.

Raffi’s 40th Anniversary Concert was just as much a birthday present for Miss C as it was a trip down memory lane for her nostalgic mum.

Raffi calls us parents, who have grown up with him, Beluga Grads. It’s a cliché to type ‘lump in my throat’ but that’s what I had as I watched Miss C sing and clap along to songs I sang and clapped along to with my own mother and brothers. It was a touching moment to see life come full circle.

After a standing ovation brought Raffi back on stage, he addressed us Beluga Grads, asking through a song in the tune of Baby Beluga, to continue to spread messages of peace. You had me at ‘beluga’, Raffi.

While one could argue we, the parents of young children, were not the ones to advertise $10 a day to support a child for his Child Honouring project, at least word got out. And as for ticket prices: $48.25 for main floor? A tad steep for an hour-long children’s concert. However, the heart of Raffi didn’t disappoint.

Miss C stood up and told me not to forget my jacket as the house lights came on.  She took my hand and we walked up the aisle.

Just like Miss C’s flip-flops the day before, I flipped my thoughts about this being my last opportunity to hear Raffi in concert, and vowed to take my kids back to their early years as often as the opportunity presented itself. Even if ‘take’ turns into ‘drag’.

 

Unicorn

Miss C wanted a unicorn sparkle rainbow party. Glitter was the order of the day. 

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Future Day

I wrote this for a contest last February, 2017. It wasn’t short-listed. The girls are now in grades one, three and five and haven’t changed their ideas about their futures. Enjoy. ♥

 

Last week they wore pink shirts with the message: In a world where you can be anything, be kind. This week they dressed up as their future selves. Today is Future Day at my daughters’ elementary school.

This morning the classrooms were filled with Red and Pink Riding Hoods, Batmen, Batgirls, photographers, dinosaur doctors, YouTubers and a lone Pokémon. These, my friends, are your leaders of tomorrow.

In a world where only I think I’m funny, my suggestions to my daughters of going as dust, microchips and Buck Rogers were nixed before I even finished the sentence.

“I’m going as Jane Goodall,” Miss S, our seven-year-old, who has loved monkeys since she was old enough to eat mashed bananas, said.

“Awesome, you can wear Daddy’s old lab coat,” I replied.

Miss S shook her head and said, “She studies primates in the jungle.”

“You could wear a vest,” I offered, hoping she wasn’t going to ask me to conjure mosquito netting and snake boots an hour before bedtime. “And then you could tie your hair back in a ponytail.”

“And you could wear a monkey around your neck,” my husband added.

“Really?” Miss S squealed as she inhaled.

“Yes,” my husband replied. He may as well of given her permission to have a chimpanzee as a pet for all the excitement he incited.

“Just make sure your monkey doesn’t get you into trouble at school.” Apparently I should go as a wet blanket.

“If she starts to, I’ll probably stuff her into my backpack,” Miss S solemnly promised.

Maybe if The Man With The Yellow Hat had threatened Curious George with being stuffed in a backpack, he wouldn’t have wrecked dinosaur displays, flew kites without permission, or called the fire department when there wasn’t a fire.

Shelving visions of Miss S’s leggy monkey, Joanne, screeching and dancing on the desks of grade two, I asked our oldest daughter, Miss Q, who her future self was.

“I was thinking maybe an artist or a writer? Something like that.”

My heart simultaneously soared and sunk for our resident Renaissance woman. She wanted to write! Oh good lord, she wanted to write. Should I wish her well now? Firm handshake and good luck with finding the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow?

Of course, maybe the grasshopper would supersede the master, and become the next Judy Bloom, JK Rowling, or Tui T. Sutherland, the author of her current favourite series, Wings of Fire. One could only hope.

“You could wear my ‘Keep Calm and Write On’ shirt,” I said, trying to be nonchalant.

Ten-year-olds can be finicky: too much exuberance and they think you’re crazy, too little and they might doubt how wonderful their ideas are.

“If you really want to look like a writer, you could wear pajamas bottoms and a shirt with holes in it,” said my husband, the comedian.

Ignoring the hilarity going on around her, Miss Q said, “I want to be someone who draws and writes.”

“Then you can wear comfy clothes and a beret.” I made a face at my husband.

“Why would I wear a beret?”

“Artist use it to keep paint out of their hair,” I said.

“That’s weird,” Miss Q replied. “And I want to draw, not paint.”

“Well, think about it,” I said, knowing the seed had been planted.

“I want to be what you are right now,” our youngest, Miss C, blurted.

“A mum?” I asked.

“No, what you are right now,” she said. Her five-year-old blue eyes implored me to remember who I am.

“A preschool programmer?” Miss S asked, returning with fuzzy Joanne draped around her neck.

“A municipal worker?” I said, trying to hide my amusement. Who aspires to that lofty goal?

“Yes. That.” Miss C held up her hands and made air-quotes, “A preschool programmer.”

Apparently Miss C had missed the many days and nights where I swore a million times over that my life was bigger than my current job, that I was not going to die a servant to the civilians of the municipality.

“Okay,” I said suspiciously. How were we going to pull this outfit off? Bags under eyes, grande cinnamon dolce latte in hand, phone nicknamed ‘albatross’ shoved in purse?

“I’m going to need a scarf and a sweater, because you wear that,” Miss C stated. “And black pants that aren’t too short. And a nametag. Don’t you wear a nametag?”

“I do,” I said. Hadn’t she been listening to my tired heart? The stories of preschool parents outraged over StarWars Valentines because the light sabers depicted war, parents demanding I call other parents on their poor parenting choices, parents angry because their child’s rain pants were still missing?

First world problems aside, what was the glamour, the allure in my job that had hooked my youngest daughter? What had happened to her sparkly pink princess desires? As far as I knew, Prince George wasn’t yet spoken for.

But, I was flattered. Who wouldn’t be? Maybe she was listening when I said my job was funding my dreams. Or she likes the fact I only work while she and her sisters are at school. My job also pays the bills, namely the television and Netflix subscriptions, which helps with someone’s Paw Patrol obsession.

Or maybe she just loves me. Often she’ll whisper, “Mama, I’m never going to leave you.”

This is sometimes followed up with, “And when you’re old and dead, I’m going to live in this house.”

“I don’t need to be dead for you to live in this house,” I tell her.

“I know,” she says with a giggle that thankfully resembles a hyena not the grim reaper. “I just want to.”

As my daughters wandered around our house gathering the supplies they needed for their futuristic costumes, I realized the future I’d never allowed myself to dream was here.

For ten years, we’d been cruising steadily towards the second star to the right and straight on till morning. Neverland was in our crosshairs. My life was diapers, protecting treasured knickknacks from grabbing hands, and Goldfish crackers.

But we’ve tacked a hard left. My oldest is in grade four, my youngest is in kindergarten, instead of being Peter Pan leading them like Lost Boys through adventures with pirates and fairies, I’m now Nana, the dog.

I thought I’d be mistier at this revelation. Instead, I feel buoyed. Look at what my husband and I have created in ten short years: three humans that think and speak for themselves. We did it. We survived the trenches of the early years with only a few fading scars from old Hook.

This isn’t to say we’re releasing our children to the wild, kicking them out of the nursery with a pinch of pixie dust. Miss Q still has two more years until she’s allowed to sit in the front seat of our car, while Miss S has eleven before she can hop a plane to the jungle. And wee Miss C still has to hold my hand, not only for safety, but because she’s the youngest and her five-year-old hand fits perfectly in mine.

But they’re moving forward. They have dreams. They want to contribute to society when they’re older.

A primatologist, an artist and a recreation programmer, even if they don’t keep these professions, at least they are seeking out career paths that make them happy.

Perhaps this is the true revelation of Future Day: happiness. As we adults grin at the adorable imagination of a child who wants to grow up and be a future YouTube Star, bat dancer, fashion designer, and, yes, Pokémon, maybe the joke is on us.

Maybe the children of today know they won’t need money in the future. Our houses will serve as their base from which they can jump in and out of as they nurture their true identities.  The man will be working for them.

In Peter Pan, JM Barrie wrote, “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”

So, here’s to our children never losing their future day dreams.

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wave

The sun shone.

The surf sparkled.

Miss S’s soul sang.

Saturday, October 8th, we stood on South Chesterman Beach watching, cheering and basking in the radiant orb that was Miss S as she caught her first, second and then, quickly, her twentieth wave.

Her cheeks were cold and red. Her blue eyes sparkled. At one point, she hopped off her board and came over to give me a giant hug before running back through the surf to her instructor.

I will never forget her joy as long as I live.

Miss S’s desire to surf started randomly last March. It wasn’t influenced by videos of monster waves on the North Shore, or Frankie and Annette Beach Party movies. I’m not sure she’s even listened to Surfing USA; however, surfing continued to be in the top three when listing activities she wanted to try.

One day, I’d reply, masking how hard the cogs in my brain whirred. For our family, it seemed like a wild but simple request. After all we live on the west coast – some of the best surfing in the world is in our backyard. But how and where we’d create the opportunity for her, in a family of five moving parts, was the true challenge.

Finally, I type, feeling like we waited ages, but the reality was it took less than six months for Miss S’s fairy godmother to grant her wish, so, ha, finally, the stars aligned.

It was August.

Determined to use my vacation time this year for actual vacations, I booked our family in to the Bella Pacifica campground in Tofino for the Thanksgiving long weekend.

Miss S received a collective gift of $180 to buy a 2.5-hour private lesson with Surf Sister for her eighth birthday.

Then we waited for October.

Miss S’s surf instructor, Ms L, was so genuine and encouraging. She made Miss S help her carry the board from the van to the beach, and back, filled Miss S’s head with tips and tricks of wetsuit life, and taught her the anatomy of a surfboard.
Surf

The mercury danced around 17 degrees Celsius on land, while mighty Pacific hovered around 11 degrees.

Miss S was toasty in her wetsuit, booties, gloves and hoodie. Never once did she complain of cold, or discomfort – even when I put her wetsuit on backwards. (Insert palm over my red face.)

Ms L not only kept our girl safe while waves crashed around them, in picture after picture, Ms L has her hands raised in cheer as our surf monkey deftly cruised to shore.

And now Miss S talks about going back to Tofino.

And now Miss S says Santa will buy her a wetsuit and surfboard.

And now the cogs in my brain are whirring once again.

sunset

Sunset from our campsite on MacKenzie Beach at Bella Pacifica.

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Starting September

IMG_1375The duvets came out last night. This morning, Tuesday, everyone wanted to sleep in; snuggle under their covers, shut their eyes to the rain and dampness.

Day nineteen of September, and summer feels like it’s being sucked into fall faster than slurpees between my lips.

We’ve made it through the first weeks of school. All my mama tears of pride for how old and wise my children have suddenly become, and sadness for how empty my house suddenly is, have dried – for now.

This is the last year all three girls will be in the same school together. Come next September, they’ll move through the school system both alone and in pairs but never again as a trio.

At grade five, this is Miss Q’s last year of elementary school. Lunch monitoring and patrol have been added to her resume. Of course she doesn’t see why her mum needed to take so many pictures of her standing in the centre of a crosswalk, holding a stop sign with a reflective vest on, but what else was I supposed to do? Make a music video?

When my father was in patrol, his partner hit him over the head with his metal stop sign. When I was in patrol, my partner and I got soaked while purposefully ignoring the lunch bell. I had to wear a male teacher’s extra pair of wool socks, which he pulled from his file cabinet, for the rest of the afternoon while my shoes dried over a heater.

Which brings me to the two main differences between my experience and Miss Q’s:

  1. Lunch hour patrol is a thing of the past as no one seems to go home for lunch anymore.
  2. There is an adult assigned to each crosswalk making all the decisions.

Thankfully, thus far, Miss Q’s partner hasn’t felt like hitting her over the head with her sign.

Grades five, three, and one.

After a shaky start for Miss C, who came out overwhelmed on her first 2.5 hour day because her chocolate dipped granola bar snack had been vetoed by her temporary – waiting for the classes to be sorted – teacher, all three girls have soared.

This is the year everything opens up for Miss S. Cross-country, track and field, and choir are just a few biggies on the horizon.

Miss S was very happy to report she ended up in a grade three/four class. Apparently, had she ended up in a two/three split she would have had to set an example for the younger kids and that would have been horrible.

This is the same child who used a giant Ziploc bag as her pencil case all last year because she told the teacher she didn’t have one.

“Miss S, you could have told us you needed a pencil case,” I exclaimed, horrified. “We would have bought you something.”

“Mum, school isn’t supposed to be fancy,” she breezily volleyed back.

Meanwhile, over in grade one, and fully recovered from chocolate-gate, Miss C has pulled the rug out from under my feet.

It was only this past June when she wanted me to stay forever in her classroom at drop-off, and now in September… drum roll…

She gives me a massive hug on the playground.

She joins her line.

She walks inside her school.

She doesn’t look back.

And the milestones keep coming. This weekend she ditched her five-point harness car seat for a more sophisticated booster.

One would argue that she still fit in her five-point harness, and that it is safer, but one’s voice of reason and logic was drowned by the excitement of both Miss C and her father moments after the scales revealed Miss C had made the weight restriction.

“You’re just holding back because she’s your baby,” my husband chided.

“Of course I am,” I replied.

They’re all my babies. And this year, more than last, they’re leaping to infinity and beyond faster than a speeding bullet.

So as the wise mamas have done before me, I’ll take my place, and cheer them on from the sidelines.

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JarThe jar of sprinkles used to be full.

For a moment they bounced and rolled across the table. For a moment they shone in swirls of purple, blue and pink on the tips of my children’s fingers. For a moment they danced atop liquid before sinking to the bottom of glasses and bowls. For a moment my floor was clean.

 

The lesson at Mape (Monkey Ape) Academy was potions.

Of course I gave my oldest full reign of the kitchen. Of course I sat back on the couch and watched TV, caught up on my emails and kept a half eye on the operation. Of course I didn’t care what ingredients they used. Of course, I blamed Professor Snape.

The song running through my head was Hard Knock Life.

While Miss S crawled on her hands and knees, vacuuming with the dust buster. While Miss C stood on a kitchen chair and reached with all her stretch into a farm sink to wash dishes. While Miss Q tried to wipe the sprinkles off the table without chasing more to the hardwood. While I deep cleaned all the floors in our house that were probably long overdue for deep cleaning.

Today is Thursday.

Miss C is wearing doll clothes my Granny knit for my Cabbage Patch Kids: Felicity Lucile and Melissa Chiquita. Miss S is daydreaming about looking after the chimps at the Tchimpounga sanctuary in the Republic of Congo. Miss Q is expertly setting up Teen Titans on Netflix.

And I am ever aware of time.

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In Like A Lion

20170729_204654_resizedIt’s August. Ack. This feels like the shortest summer on record. What began as a slow, relieved climb out of school on June 29th has me now teetering on the tippy top of a summer mountain that’s threatening to slide me straight through the next four weeks to September without so much as a ‘watch your step’.

What have we done this summer? If you ask me: lots. If you ask the kids: Daddy still owes them Dairy Queen.

In July, I gathered the girls around the kitchen table and got them to write out their summer wish list. No surprise, it mostly consisted of ‘eat s’mores’ and watch Mum and Dad play Mario.

Every kid in our house knows this will parlay into them playing Mario with Mum as she loves those famous plumbers more than Daddy.  Hmmm… I mean, Mum loves PLAYING with those famous plumbers more than Daddy.  Er, um, Mum loves – oh, never mind: Mario is more fun for Mum than it is Dad.

In July, I made a decision: the girls were going to resume swimming lessons. It had been a year since they’d last been in, and with the threat of a big earthquake triggering a tsunami off our coast in the next 50 years; it was probably time to brush up on this life skill.

We started with two-week every day lessons: Monday to Friday at 10am. This way the littles and I could leisurely pad our way through morning routines with little impact to our cicada rhythms.

I have to say it was a well crafted two weeks. Home, pool, home, then back to pool in the afternoon for paid work. The downside?  No time to visit friends, beaches, water parks, or to laze around all day. That was what the rest of the summer was for right? Wrong.

Apparently this mama got a teensy-tiny over zealous when her youngest declared, “I love swimming,” on her second day of her 30-minute lesson.

Let’s be clear: Miss C has NEVER said, “I love” to any sport. So, naturally, this mother needed to strike while the iron was hot. Love you say? Love? Done. Two more weeks of swimming for you. Whatever baby wants baby gets.

So in a couple of weeks, we’re heading back to the pool for happy daughters, a new book for Mama, and no life outside of the recreation centre.

Take note, friends.  This is what good parenting is all about: killing the fun with way too much of a good thing. Stay tuned.

As for you, August? You’ve come in like a true Leo: hot and smoky from the forest fires around our province, and a little intimidating. My cells are playing whack-a-mole with the ‘s’ word as it stealthily creeps.  I grimace at the thought of dimes rushing out of my sailboat fund, like air in a punctured lung, thanks to haircuts, pencil crayons and running shoes times three…

But all is not lost, August.  By my count you have 27 days left, plus 4.  We have thirty-one days to squeeze every last grain of sand, and UV ray out of this summer.  I think we’ll start… NOW.

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We left for Osoyoos on the 8am ferry on July 16th. Our mission was to surprise my husband’s mum (Grandma) for her birthday.

At 6pm that night, Miss S burst into her house with a can of silly string and unloaded the entire contents in the foyer.

Check! Mission accomplished.

We spent four nights and three days in Osoyoos swimming in the lake, visiting The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory and playing on the WIBIT in Penticton.

Yes, my friends, this is the closest to a working vacation that I’ll probably ever have.

W1

The WIBIT manufacturer’s guide clearly states: no under sixes, however, Miss C (5) was given the green light provided an adult accompanied her. Miss S (7) also needed an adult companion. This meant that we only – ha – paid $75 for the three girls to play all day. Adult companions were, thankfully, free.

It was windy and the water was rough in Lake Okanagan. I’d like to think the Ogopogo was angry, or just swimming laps, but I kept those thoughts internal as the five of us swam out.

Once on the inflatable, the trick was to keep your balance. The whitecaps rolling down the lake towards Penticton had a knack for lifting the pieces, twisting them, and making the adults in our party seasick.

Miss C, because of the jolting movement, and the number of big kids scrambling around, wanted nothing to do with the obstacle course the moment she stepped on the ramp.

After a tense swim back to shore with Miss C on my back, threatening to cut off my air supply, we found Grandma. Miss C instantly snuggled her way back to happiness on the beach for the rest of the day.

Miss S and Miss Q, on the other hand, didn’t want to leave. They loved the challenge of the WIBIT pieces. They climbed, slid, were bounced (on purpose) and swung across the obstacle course like monkeys. The rough water and kids didn’t faze them.

The only anchor in their lives was their dear ol’ mum who wasn’t dexterous enough to pull herself up and onto some of the pieces when she fell off… It’s hard with a lifejacket on… oh, who am I kidding? Upper body strength fail.

Also, old age notice number 999: I have learned I’m no longer into running with wild abandon along things that will most likely make me fall. So as Miss Q and Miss S played with wild abandon, I followed behind and perched on the green plastic like Cleopatra would have if she had a seven-year-old she had to keep within arms reach.

There were two lifeguards out on the WIBIT, but they were only helping people out of tight spots, not enforcing any rules. I would say this would be the pit of our visit as watching your seven-year-old being smoked in the chest by a older boy’s feet as he slides purposefully down the on-ramp isn’t wonderful. Nor is watching a teenaged girl jump into the water without looking and land on a younger teenaged boy’s head, sending him and his lifejacket under the water for a prolonged period of time.

Both appeared to be none the worse for wear, but former lifeguards bring your blinders.

Aside from the Wild West feeling, the WIBIT was a fun stop on our trip. I would like to return when the water is flat, the wind non-existent and test it out then. Though at $25 per person is we might wait a couple of years… unless my husband surprises me with a childless lake date next time we’re in the Okanagan.

The flipside of the $25 is I know how expensive the pieces are and how time consuming upkeep is, so if you have kids over the age of seven who can last over three hours on this watery obstacle course, it’s completely worth it.

w3

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