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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

After waking at dawn and packing the car.

After eating breakfast in the ferry line-up and driving onto the nine.

After an hour-and-a-half crossing and a two-hour drive.

After eating lunch in Chilliwack, and filling up with gas, my husband asked a question no parent on an Easter road trip wants to hear: Did that black bag get packed?

Did that black bag get packed…

Did he mean the black bag that contained all our clothes? Or the black bag that held all the Easter Bunny treats?

You guessed it: he was asking about the latter.  The black bag that I had pointed to and whispered, “This bag has to go too.” The black bag that I had hidden so well, he’d completely forgot about it while packing the car.  The black bag that was now 190.7 km away from where it should be.

“What’s so funny?” the eagle-eared girls in the backseat asked.

“Just a little adult joke,” I replied, shaking my head.  The speedometer climbed to 100kmh as we merged east towards the coastal mountains.

Of course, one can get chocolate anywhere. It wasn’t like Osoyoos, home of my husband’s childhood was void of this product.  During Easter the town is flush with festivities that include two egg hunts hours apart: one at the school field, the other in the Home Hardware.  We could live without the bag, if it weren’t for the two, maybe three, believers in the back seat.

In order to keep the magic alive, I ended up buying replacement chocolate during a side-trip to Penticton. Not going to lie, it broke my heart a little, thinking of the carefully chosen chocolate bunnies sitting in a dark bag in a corner of our computer room back home.

Perhaps the sting was greater because this was the year I’d branched out. In a surprise twist, even to me, I’d turned to toys as the piece d’ resistance, the plastic grand finale. There were three Littlest Pet Shop animals and three Troll Doll eggs amongst the delectable edibles.

Guess now they’ll make great stocking stuffers.

But the missing bag and subsequent $80 spent on two rounds of chocolate ended up being a humorous footnote on what was a glorious long weekend.

The girls savoured every moment with their grandparents.  They baked, sewed and waded up to their shoulders in icy Lake Osoyoos.  They made plans, surely not encouraged by said grandparents, to come back in the summer.

At least we’ll have chocolate driving snacks for our next road trip.

Otown

View of Osoyoos from Anarchist Mountain (looking west).

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No No No

No you can’t have a kitten. No you can’t eat only chocolate chips for breakfast. No you can’t wear shorts in the snow. Sometimes saying ‘no’ is easy-peasy when you’re a parent.

Sometimes it’s not.

In February, a Tae Kwon Do company came to Miss S’s elementary school and ran a gym class. The kids got to punch, break boards, and kick paddles.

However you feel about a company coming into a public school to peddle their services, Miss S was hooked. “My favourite part is the punching,” she said.

There was a flyer in her backpack: $39.99 for six weeks worth of twice a week lessons. Miss S wanted to start right away.

Being parents who want to give their girls the opportunity to sample as many sports as possible before they’re funnelled into a specialty, we said yes, then took two weeks to sign her up.

It is at the dojo that the other shoe dropped. Once the steal of a deal, six-week price ended, the real cost would kick in: $150 per month, with a three-month cancelation policy. Which means unless we get a doctor’s note saying she needs out immediately, the company automatically gets $450 while we wait out our three months.

Toto, I don’t think we’re in community recreation anymore.

Of course, we would love to indulge Miss S. She never complains about going to class. She giggles through sit-ups, laughs while punching as hard as she can for 30 seconds and refuses to quit when she’s timed for frog jumps.

Individual sport looks good on Miss S. She can go at her own pace, and it’s different than anything her sisters have ever done.

But spending $1800 a year on one child’s activities when you have a total of three children is not in the cards for our family. At least not when the child in question is seven. Talk to us again when they’re all teenagers. Then the $5400 a year it will cost for all three girls’ to do specialized sports might be worth losing a vacation over.

Somehow saying no to seven-year-old Miss Q’s horse dreams was easier.

Everyone knows how expensive horses are, so, “no” is more socially acceptable, even if the horse is being given away for a steal of a deal at $1.00.

But Tae Kwon Do? It’s martial arts: no travel, no hotels, no fundraising. The uniform is free. Belt testing costs $10. How could you say no?

With extreme difficulty. My brain is in constant war with my heart. But as parents, we always have to look at the bigger picture.

Miss S is seven. She wants to continue with Brownies, swim, skate, play field hockey and return to soccer next fall. She talks about going to Hawaii to learn how to surf, and hasn’t even discovered baseball, basketball, or bobsledding yet.

So, at least for now, maybe our parental ‘no’ is really code for: if you love something set it free, if it comes back it was meant to be.  And while we wait, you can bet we’ll be saving our nickels and hoping our children ask us easier yes/no questions.

Belt

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February

I’m not sure we could have fit anything else into the shortest month of the year. Odysseo by Cavalia, Miss Q’s 10th birthday, my youngest brother’s wedding, dog sitting, an evil illness that took down 3/5 of our family, sports, school, writing, work, Family Day, 100 Day and Valentine’s Day: what a life!

Horsey, Horsey On Your Way

When we were gifted tickets to Cavalia at Christmas, we should have looked at them closer, and been more thankful.

The night before we were due to attend the show, my husband and I realized we were in possession of five VIP tickets. This meant that not only were we seated front row centre for the show, we were fed dinner with drinks before it started, came back for dessert and coffee during intermission, and then toured the stables after.

Watching the girls with their VIP lanyards hanging around their necks, marveling at the stunts riders, horses and acrobats were performing was enough for this mum.

Add in the fact this equestrian show is performed entirely in Italian and Susu (a language from West Africa) and no one questioned what was happening, is a true testament to the power of the production.

Sure, there were moments of the show where I may have cut down on the singing and humans swinging above our heads, and it was annoying watching adults blatantly ignore the announcer asking us not to touch or feed the famous geldings. But we stumbled back to our hotel at midnight, brains and bellies full, feeling like our trip could end right then and there and we’d still be content.

A Birthday For Miss Q

SnowIt snowed on Miss Q’s 10th birthday. Like really snowed. It never snows on the west coast, let alone unleashes a snowstorm in February. But there we were, waking on the fourth floor of Richmond’s Pacific Gateway Hotel, to snow.

It’s a mushy moment to realize your child is never again going to be in the single digits, mushier still, when you stop to reflect on the last ten years of your lives.

The montage of parent and tot programs, first days, tooth fairy visits, lazy movie afternoons, ruckus water fights and everything in between create misty water coloured memories of the way we were. Thanks, Babs.

A decade has never moved so slowly, or so quickly. Been so full of tears, newness and wonderment. Or has stretched both my body and mind past its outer limits. But here is my oldest: 10.

For Miss Q’s party, which we held the week before her actual birthday, we played archery at a local recreation centre. Even though she told us her friends weren’t sporty, all twelve girls, Miss Q, and Miss S included, declared they wanted to join an archery class after the party ended.

I hope they find something, because the alternative, i.e. the current occupation of some of these budding tweens is both mystifying and horrifying.

In conversations heard around the pizza table, the girls laughed about unmonitored computer chats that started with the moon and end with the sun and older siblings who were paying off the younger siblings with hush candy.

Is it too late to rewind the clock to when Miss Q was five? Please tell me this isn’t the life of tween girls. If so, consider this mum’s game upped for the next decade.

For her actual birthday, Miss Q wanted to go to IHop (we don’t have one on the island) and the Vancouver Aquarium. So through the snow we drove, hoping our all weather tires would live up to their name.

It cost our family of five $138 to visit the aquarium.

There are no whales, no penguins, no seals, just a lonely false killer whale, a sea lion, otters and a penguin that came out of a pet carrier for a fifteen-minute show.

The sarcastic side of me thinks the admission fee should reflect the lack of flashy mammals, but if you aren’t a regular visitor to the ocean, coupled with the fact it’s a research and rehab facility, I’ll consider it a donation. After all, when else can you touch a variety of rays without meeting the same fate as The Crocodile Hunter?  Ray

The girls loved their time there. When Miss S rounded the corner in the Amazon exhibit to see a cage full of monkeys, I think her head almost exploded. I am so going to lose my middle child to the jungle after high school.

Miss Q’s friend party was called a ‘high five’ party: five dollars for Miss Q and five dollars for an animal. After a lot of debate – she wants to save every animal – Miss Q decided to rescue an otter at the aquarium.

Even though I wanted to buy her the entire aquarium gift shop, all she wanted was the stuffed otter that came with the adoption package. Apparently ten is when she becomes more mature than her dear old mum.

We dashed from the aquarium through the snow to my brother’s wedding rehearsal where Miss Q was a junior bridesmaid, and Miss C and Miss S, along with their cousin, Miss O were flower girls. They all took their roles very seriously and on the day of the wedding, their outward beauty matched their everyday radiance.

Birthday CakeWe ended Miss Q’s birthday by driving around Richmond in the snowstorm, looking for a place to have cake. Finding nothing, we bought chocolate bars and ordered cake from the hotel to eat in our room.

 

 

 

Wedding Bells Are Ringing

HairThe next morning we woke to more snow. Taxis were running an hour late, and the running family joke was our Ontario and New Brunswick relatives had brought the snow with them.

The girls and I left my husband to have a leisurely breakfast, and headed out by taxi to my about to be new sister-in-law’s parents’ house.

It was so snowy that the taxi ended up reversing backwards down a long hill because he couldn’t make it up, and a tree branch fell, missing Miss O’s mum’s car by millimetres while it was parked in front of the house.

One of my favourite moments of the day was when the bride and her entourage walked to the limo.  Giant snowflakes fell on the quiet street while the bride’s father stood on the snowy sidewalk, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt, playing ‘Here Comes The Bride’ on his bagpipes.  As the last note floated into the silent snowglobe, the neighbours broke into cheers and applause.

There is still some debate in our house on whether Uncle G actually got married, as Miss S swears she didn’t see his and Aunt A’s lips physically touch when they kissed.

And Miss C, who didn’t want her uncle to get married at all, still wishes they’d followed through on their sisterly plot to place hollowed out eggs filled with sleeping powder, into their flower girl pails, and then chuck them at Uncle G, as they walked down the aisle. Once he was asleep, they would push him into the limo and send him away before his big moment.

Where oh where do they get their imaginations…

At 11:30pm the groomsmen entered the party, carrying boxes of McDonalds.

Our children have never eaten McDonalds. This is a fact that has amused, us, their parents, for a few years now. Of course, we weren’t naive to think they’d never taste it, so apparently, and oddly, Uncle G’s wedding was what broke the seal.

Who knew my husband and mother would work in tandem to sneak walk plates of cheeseburgers and fries down to our waiting daughters. But after all the hype, it turns out the girls weren’t that impressed.  Go figure.

Surprisingly, the one thing lacking of the evening are pictures. Turns out everyone in our immediate family chose to live in the moment, instead of seeing it through a lens. Perhaps this is what made it a great night: the stress of getting a perfect shot was lifted.

As the clock struck twelve, we hitched a ride back with relatives who had smartly secured a limo.  Thank you, dear uncles!

I’d write, let’s do it again, but maybe that’s a phrase better spoken to a different brother.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel Let Down Your Tail

We ended the weekend by rescuing the bride and groom’s rotty-lab cross from her life on the sixteenth floor of their downtown apartment.

In Victoria, she learned balconies have stairs to grass, chewed on every stick she could find, and got upchucked on by Miss Q – welcome to the family, Lady B!

Now that her parents are back from their honeymoon, I’m sure she’s very happy to be back in a house where she’s the one and only child.

March

fireThis past Friday, we celebrated the start of sunshine with a cookout on our balcony.

With Spring Break around the corner, this mum can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

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In Kindergarten

“I’m going to give back the friendship bracelet.” Miss C’s blue eyes stared at me, wide, unblinking, no tears, just a matter of fact look that defied her age.

“Why have you decided that?” I asked, more as a nosy mum, than Captain Problem Solver.

“She’s not being a very good friend to me.” Her five-year-old mind was made up. Fish or cut bait.

“Alright,” I replied. Miss C was right, of course. The girl in her class was being a little snot. How dare she tell Miss C’s best friend that Miss C didn’t like her any more and that they were breaking up?

Chop that friendship bracelet into itty-bitty pieces and lay it on the liar’s pillow a la the horse’s head in The Godfather.

But I’ve learned in almost ten years of parenting, to let kid problems be kid problems. So I hold my tongue. Miss C said she would talk to her teacher if this kid continued to spew her manipulative venom. I believe her.

When an older boy told Miss C she was cute and that her friend was ugly. Miss C didn’t like how that made her friend feel, so she told her teacher, who gave the friend snuggles after lunch.

It is worth mentioning that Miss S was present for this interaction on the playground and when she was asked why she didn’t tell the boy leave them alone, Miss S replied, “What? Miss C is cute.” Sisters.

But while I’m watching the ins and outs of five-year-old friendship from the sidelines, I have empathy for the other girl. Her parents are going through a divorce. And she probably feels excluded, or threatened. And I hope that Miss C and her friend are being inclusive instead of exclusive. And that the teacher will step in if she notices it getting out of hand. And, and, and…

No more eye-for-an-eye, now it’s eye for rational multi-level analysis and internal reflection. Was my cherub’s halo crooked? Was she being kind? Was the other girl hangry when she tried to break up the band? It was lunchtime.

Modern parenting. Pftt. Listen to us. No, really listen: Are you in control of your body right now? You’re not being very safe. Make sure you’re making wise choices.

Surely beneath the serene faces of mothers uttering these phrases lies a thin-lipped serpent who itches to flick a Because I said so off their tongues.

Recently, I overheard a mum hiss to her three-year-old, “You’re really pissing me off right now.”

Her tone and her words literally made me stop typing as I cast a judgy ear in her direction. A pit formed in my stomach. I felt bad for her child.

But the truth was, only an hour before preschool pickup, I had been wrestling her son into his yellow rain pants. He’d been rolling somersaults into my shins, and almost kicked me in the face with his size eight socked feet. Even though he had a grin that would melt Olaf, if I were in a different decade, my response to his blatant defiance might have been a little less sunny, than, “What’s your favourite thing about going outside?”

As I turned my attention back to the emails in front of me, I wondered if I should offer chocolates to the parents to help regulate their dopamine levels upon pick up. Transitions are hard.

As for my five-year-old, who’s transitioning from prescribed mum playdates to seeking out friends without a safety net?  The friendship bracelet is lost, so she can’t return it. And this week the girl’s been nicer.  And I try not to look amused when Miss C says, “If she’s mean again, she will only have one chance left.  After that…” She shrugs.  And I love that friendship is so cut and dry right now.  And I know this is only the beginning.  And I hope after all our gentle words and talk of kindness Miss C’s generation is more evolved when it comes to loving each other. And, and, and…

love

A bracelet I made Miss C.

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As the clock struck midnight on this, the most promising of years, the world is filled with more exploration, less guilt, more naps, less procrastinating, more chocolate, less sugar… more and less have never meant more or less.

Yet, after all the fireworks, kisses, and laughter, I woke and had to fill the dishwasher.

My husband, the long time loyal reader of this column, would probably like me to add there is at least two loads of laundry waiting downstairs for him.

Happy New Year, from our family chores to yours.

We allowed, let, awe, heck it was a last minute science experiment to have the girls stay up and greet 2017. In the past, we’ve tried to wake them in time for the ball drop in New York, but they’re hard to rouse, and the reality is some years, we were so tired, the saying: let sleeping dogs lie was the one we honoured…what would happen if they didn’t go back to sleep after singing Auld Lang Syne?

This year, though, at 9, 7 and 5, the girls said they were ready… and we believed them.

So, throwing caution for what January 1st at 5pm might look like to the wind, the girls showered, found their spots in the living room, and patiently waited for me to find something suitable on TV.  Miss Q observed, “We need to get more late night kid friendly channels.”

Even with the trappings of blankets, and pillows, the girls’ eyes stayed open as they watched episodes of Little House on the Prairie. My husband purposefully fell asleep. Yes, we know how to party.

I broke out the tea and chocolate around 9:30. Miss Q continued dispensing her almost 10-year-old wisdom, “This is the best night ever because I’m wearing my new warm and cozy pajamas. I’m lying on a soft couch under a warm blanket, in a living room with the heat on.”

Mama Bear’s updated New Year’s resolution: more listening to how her cubs see their worlds.

My husband woke at 11 – in time to watch what he proclaims is my New Year’s tradition: the flipping back and forth between the channels as I try to soak in all the New Year’s happenings.

With the lights off, we watched Rick Mercer “live” from Ottawa ring in Canada’s 150th birthday year. Flashlights and the glow of the Christmas tree illuminated our living room as I swooped in on the loves of my life, to dole out midnight smooches.

At 12:01 Miss S revealed the answer to the age-old math question:

over tired + sugar + seven-year-old = ??

At one point she was standing on a footstool in the middle of our living room, dancing with her flashlight to Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the Ceiling; a moment punctuated by the fact she was wearing only a toque and monkey nightgown.

After generous offers of, “You can go to bed if you want,” Miss C was all too eager to hit the hay. New Years for her was anticlimactic, but she was glad to be present and accounted for.

We woke in Victoria, this first day of January 2017, to a dusting of snow. Most days, most every snow day, the first flakes are greeted with clanging and banging of pots and pans, kids shouting for joy, and the local radio announcer warning of icy road conditions.

This snowy day our house was silent. All was calm, and our futures so very bright.

 

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Winter Camp

On a weekend that found our youngest with pneumonia and my husband with a concussion, our middle child, Miss S went to Brownie camp for the very first time.

Friday, as I sipped re-warmed tea out of my Yoda mug and ironed labels on size seven sweats, I couldn’t imagine a camp scenario where I wasn’t summoned by a 4am phone call.

On Miss S’ camp forms I’d written four different phone numbers, a note to say she was a picky eater, please don’t force the issue annnnd a special p.s.: if they couldn’t distract or reason with her to call. We wanted to keep the layer of trust, so she’d leap at future camps as enthusiastically as she did this one.

Did I mention this was the very first time a child of mine was sleeping away from us, her parents? And not for one, but two, count ‘em, two whole nights?

Miss S charged into this camp with all the joy of Olaf in summer. She couldn’t wait to sleep on the bottom bunk, couldn’t wait to hike; couldn’t wait to earn camp badges. There was no time for me to be melancholy, weepy or pouty, she was ready and raring to go.

My husband whacked his head on the frame of our van’s trunk Friday afternoon as we were picking the girls up from school. Miss Q’s seatbelt was stuck, it was raining, he had his hood on, and couldn’t see properly as he jumped into the trunk to help her.

We were in the middle of buying Miss S’ indoor hard-soled slippers when he said he didn’t think he was in any shape to go to drop-off.  It was evident he needed medical aid, so it was up to me, and the sisters to give a proper fare well to our Miss S.

The road to camp was dark, twisty and wet. It always feels like we’re going miles out of the city, even though it’s only 15 minutes. “These are Bigfoot woods,” our resident back-seat nine-year-old comedian announced.

“Miss Q!” I exclaimed as a lightning bolt froze my soul. In the dark, I couldn’t see Miss S’s face.

Thankfully, and as if by magic, my headlights illuminated a “watch for turtles” sign, that sent everyone peering out their windows for midnight turtles.

Two of the rules of Brownie Camp were:

  1. Miss S had to pack her backpack by herself so she’d know where everything was. Apparently her monkey, Indigo, got to be her bedtime buddy, not her mother.
  2. She had to carry everything by herself. Miss S’ backpack was 2/3 her size. Watching her wiggle in and out of it was a lesson in contortion.  I wondered what her old chiropractor would say.

Her sisters and I were more verklempt than Miss S. Actually, come to think of it, I was the only one who was verklempt, but in my defence, it was heavily laced with nostalgia.

How could 32 years have passed since I was a Brownie going to camp? Excited for bunk beds, disgusted at the congealed spaghetti, giggling at our leaders’ campfire skits?

My mum was one of my Brownie leaders, so for my first years of camping, the umbilical cord was firmly intact.

Miss S’s first camp found me on the other side of the gate. Her backpack on her back, flashlight at the ready, giant grin on her face.

When I got home, I told my husband that she hadn’t wavered; like her mum she was diving headfirst into adventure, which would probably mean there would be a “what have I done moment” by bedtime. But overall she must be ready for this. My husband replied, “Just like when she’d talked herself into Splash Mountain.”

I’d like to blame the concussion, but that’s my husband.

It goes without saying: I slept with one eye on the telephone all weekend. But the longer it didn’t ring, the more the nagging layer of worry morphed into pride.

She was actually staying! She was actually camping. I hoped it meant she was having a good time.

Driving to camp on Sunday morning, I envisioned two Hollywood endings:

  1. She ran up the hill, saw me, dropped her pack and ran into my arms sobbing saying she’d never leave me again.
  2. She ran up the hill, saw me, dropped her pack and ran into my arms saying she had fun, but she’d never leave me again.

Needless to say, there was a third ending, one where Miss S hiked up to the gate with her friends and leaders, backpack on her back, giant grin on her face. She gave me a hug, said she had ice cream and Rice Krispies for breakfast and no, she didn’t miss me.

cmDaggers.

Ignoring seven-year-old speak, for what I was sure meant I missed you so much, I don’t want to say it in front of everyone, my heart burst with pride at all she’d accomplished.

The most beautiful part is she didn’t have one bad thing to say about the weekend. Even when she started a story with, “My worst night was the first one…” the reason was: she couldn’t get comfortable, and ended up trying to sleep with her feet on her pillow.

Clearly Miss S was among supportive leaders who’d planned a dynamite camp, and allowed Miss S’s confidence to sparkle. But above all: Miss S was truly ready.

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Judy Blume, Karolyn Keene, Beverley Cleary, and Francine Pascal were some of the authors I read when I was in elementary school.

Fast forward thirty years and you’ll find my mini-me, Miss Q, reading Tui T. Sutherland, Erin Hunter, Dan Jolley, Chris Colfer and J.K. Rowling to name only five in her massive library.

The difference between me at nine and Miss Q at nine? Genre.

Where my cherished couldn’t-wait-to-read books were close to real life fiction: friendship, mystery, and twin sisters trying to navigate high school.  Miss Q’s cherished must reads centre on fantasy. From the dragons of Wings of Fire, to the cats in the Warrior series, she is hooked. So hooked, I’m contemplating filling a wheelbarrow with books and leaving it under the Christmas tree.

I’ve always wanted my girls to love literature. Always followed my mum’s prescription of as long as they’re reading I don’t care what they read. So it makes me very happy to see Miss Q curled up with a book.

But I never considered my favourites wouldn’t be her favourites.

Enter my husband, the original D ‘n D (Dungeons & Dragon). Like me, he’s held onto a stack of books from his childhood. Like me, he’s always thought one day his children might want to read them.

Well guess what? When it comes to our eldest daughter, he was right.

Currently, Miss Q is plowing her way through Lord Of The Rings after finishing the Hobbit last week.

I still haven’t finished the Lord Of The Rings trilogy after starting it, oh, fifteen years ago.

Psychologists say after year one, fathers are the most important influencers on a child’s life. While this statement feels like a slight to me, the woman who birthed, nursed and hung out in the wee hours of the morning with our offspring, as I watch Miss Q and her father interact, sigh, I know it’s true: at the core of their twinned dragon hearts live souls of elf warriors.

Better luck next child, Nancy Drew, Super Fudge, and Anne with an ‘e’.

But even though Miss Q hasn’t bought into what I would have chosen for her, I really can’t grumble. I was the one who introduced her to Harry Potter, the portkey into the fantastical worlds now calling to her.

My nine-year-old’s eyes dance as she describes the inner workings of plots I’ve never dreamed of writing and my husband nods fondly, encouraging her to go on.  I listen, trying not to be the third wheel in their love language of orcs, healers and rangers, finding comfort in this quote by George R. R. Martin:

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.

So read on, Miss Q. Read on. Don’t let anyone, especially your mother’s nostalgia, hold you back.

gHere is Miss Q’s current must-have reading list in no particular order:

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