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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

IMG_2095On Thursday, Miss S was bouncing along the Strait of Juan de Fuca in a catamaran, searching for whales. Her class was chosen for a Salish Sea Project, that included whale watching.

After a solid decade of volunteering in the trio’s classrooms, this is the field trip they didn’t need parent volunteers for?!

Let me tell you, gentle readers, we’ve come a long way from Voyage of the Mimi: a thirteen-episode series about humpback whale researchers, starring a young Ben Affleck. My grade four teacher used this fictitious VHS to teach us about humpbacks in the wild. Never once was the connection made between Ben Affleck’s humpbacks and the humpbacks cruising five nautical miles offshore – within view of my friend’s house, and a brisk 30 minute walk from the elementary school, but it was 1986, not 2019.

Thirty-three years later, Miss S is in grade five, on a floating classroom, spotting California, branded and stellar sea lions, elephant and harbour seals, and Race Rocks’ local legend the only true sea otter in our area: Ollie. She says they could smell a minke whale but couldn’t find him. What a life.

Meanwhile, in grade seven, Miss Q was picked for WE Day, a one-day event in Vancouver for 18,000 tweens, teens and their chaperones, celebrating making a difference in the world. The lump of pride in my throat made my eyes leak, especially when she came home and said of everyone who sang and spoke, the Doctor Without Borders doctor was her favourite.

This trip to Vancouver, with her school, was her first trip off the island without one or both of her parents, first time ordering and paying for food by herself. Nothing like realizing how little you’ve prepared your twelve-year-old for life. Miss Q didn’t even own a wallet.

Dropping her off with her friend at 5:30am, I was struck with how trusting other parents were. Most were leaving their children before the adult supervision arrived. Don’t worry, I made sure to lock eyes with Miss Q’s teacher and snap a photo so I could tell the police what Miss Q was wearing for her baby book.

Fast forward to tonight. Miss Q is up island with her basketball team: in a hotel, being driven up and back in a strange minivan, responsible for buying her own food. My girl. Living the sporting dream. But CRAP. Should I have taught her how to change a tire, in case they run into trouble on the road? Slipped her a thou? Told her to stay away from hotel’s hot tub for fear Legionnaire’s? At least she now owns a wallet.

Sure, sure, there are Girl Guide camps that take my girls away for an occasional weekend, but his month both girls applied for a camp that will take them away for nine days, if accepted.

I get it, November, my girls are independent, say ‘yes’ to adventure type creatures. You have stretched my mum brain left, right and sideways. You have pushed me out of my comfort zone, greyed my hairs, drained my bank account.

I wasn’t ready to worry, as a water safety professional, that my ten-year-old was going on a three-hour tour, with a company that had “an excellent safety record”, “high railings”, and that the trip was “sanctioned by the school district”, so, no, they didn’t need lifejackets unless the parents insisted. P.S. I hate onus-on-the-parent peer pressure.

Naturally Miss S balked at the suggestion she’d be warmer with a lifejacket on, so away she went with multiple layers of clothing, to weigh her down should she fall in, and a mariner’s prayer.

But seriously, November… Even though the opportunities presented in the last thirty days have taken my girls out of binocular range, and there might be a teensy-tiny argument made for me needing that nudge, but a larger argument for me owning a hovercraft, I would like to send a GIANT thank you to all the adults dazzling my children with, and donating their time to, real-life situations not found on a VHS tape. After all, “Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.” ― Danny Kaye

 

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October 2019

Our house was decked out in macabre décor. I’d traversed a corn maze, ridden a crazy train, watched Halloween movies and been overwhelmed by ideas at the fabric store.

My husband and I had dressed up as a creature from the deep and her fisherman prom date for our friend’s ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’ party – ooh la la.

So, what was left? Pumpkin carving, roasting pumpkin seeds, deciding if it was corporately appropriate to go to work dressed as a mail order bride – the theme this year was lumberjack.

Yes, another successful October was coming to a close.

Then Miss C and I went to a cemetery with her class, and she came back with a demon. Our sparkly witch shape shifted to Linda Blair from the Exorcist, and then to Sleeping Beauty.

My costume morphed overnight from mail order bride to blogging mum, which is halfway to VSCO girl, but hydro flasks are expensive and probably not dishwasher safe.

For the second time in Miss C’s life, she missed out on trick or treating. The first was when she was three days old.

Other than missing the merriment of dressing up and hunting for the unicorn humans who hand out full-sized chocolate bars and cans of pop, Miss C was just fine hanging out with her father, who got to live his own Halloween dream of watching sports and pilfering Snickers bars from the candy stash at the door.

Meanwhile, Miss Q, Miss S and I went back to my old stomping grounds to have a nostalgic house-to-house trick or treat with my tiger-clad nephew for his first Halloween.

Miss Q was a garden gnome. Sarcastic Sam said it was a ‘safe’ costume: she could deconstruct it should she start feeling out of place amongst her peers. Hilarious Hippo reports it was a hit, especially since she tied her hair across her chin to make a beard. Unlike Rumpelstiltskin, she was pleased when people guessed who she was, and thankfully no one gave her a hard time about trick or treating at the ripe old age of twelve and five-foot-seven and counting.

For the record, I trick or treated with a friend until we were eighteen and nineteen. Yes, we dressed up. No, we weren’t out blowing up pumpkins, hosting Roman candle wars, or drinking peach schnapps on the beach.

Halloween night has always been magical: candy and costumes, visiting old neighbours, spying on cute boys’ houses we used to haunt. Now-a-days, Halloween night has the added bonus of running into old friends trick or treating with their kids.

Another bonus of present-day Halloween is me searching Pinterest to figure out how to do my child’s hair and make-up. This year Miss S wanted to be a rogue: a silent hunter who sneaks up behind people and kills them. Totally natural to jump from Jane Goodall to assassin, right?

The highlight of the night for the sisters was when they went to a house and the woman, whom we know, dumped two handfuls of mini chocolate bars into their bags. Upon hearing Miss C was sick, the woman then poured a quarter of her candy bowl into Miss S’s bag and a quarter into Miss Q’s, telling them to share with Miss C. You don’t get stories like this by going to a mall.

Here on the other side of October, life suddenly seems slower. Reflective. Mellow. The salmon have returned to the rivers. Poppies have returned to our lapels. Like the bears, we are stocking up for winter, though our berries are Swedish, and our honeycombs look more like bubbly mini Aero bars.

So, here’s to everyone who strategically planted their corn, created costumes, and dove into the recesses of their wild minds to entertain the masses. Here’s also to the makers of acetaminophen and ginger ale. We couldn’t have done October without you.

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September Again

With thanks to White Snake, “Here I am again on my own…”

It was the first day of school on Tuesday, which meant 2.5 hours of morning television for this mama while I waited between drop off and pick up. Don’t worry, I kept my melancholy in check as I flipped past Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and realized I had no one to watch it with.

This year, back to school was set up by my husband. I was in my cave for three days prior, trying to write the next great Canadian novella for the International 3-Day Novel Contest.

I rejoined the living, freshly showered, to find our children awake and charging through their morning routines, right down to styling their own coifs.

For the first time in nine years, 2010 to present day, I had nothing to do, though Miss C assured me, if she remembered, I could do her hair next time.

Pity from a seven-year-old. This is what my life’s become.

Mr. Mum, or simply: Dad, as we call him, had baked cinnamon buns, and chocolate chip cookies for the girls. He had shopped for the school supplies we were missing and provided a wide array of food options that rivaled a breakfast buffet.

I think I’ll keep him.

The 2019/2020 school roster is as follows: Miss C, grade three – her last year of primary; Miss S, grade five – her last year of elementary school; and Miss Q, grade seven – the middle of middle school.

Here in the eye of the golden age of childhood, Miss C joined her friends in her old line-up as if the last nine weeks of summer hadn’t happened, while Miss S prowled around the yard looking for her friends. Line-ups are passé when you rule the school; her Pink Lady jacket is on its way.

I sent Miss Q to check on Miss C as the bell rang. “She was walking into the school, so I didn’t do anything,” Miss Q reported when she returned.

“Okay, I guess we’re walking then,” I said, holding up my phone, pretending to take a video of my girl.

“Don’t be creepy,” she replied, clearly not impressed her friends weren’t around to save her.

Last year, the walk to Miss Q’s middle school was a regular party: four adults and four children.

This year, I assured Miss Q that if she ran into any of her friends, she could ditch me. Blessedly, we didn’t. It was just me, my eldest, and the blue sky up above.

Confident, happy, excited to be back, Miss Q had no problem leaving me on the edge of the school field. Of course, I worried for her safety as she navigated the freshly cut blades of grass and gaggle of Canadian geese. Should I have armed her with bear spray or given her a cattle prod? Was it too late for the ninja gym? Where did twelve years go?

I forced myself to walk away before she got to the building, trusting the school would call if she got beaked.

And so continues the journey: one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. The calendar is filling. The school forms are piling.

Here’s to all of you, setting sail on another year. We’ve totally got this, and if we don’t, there’s always the beach.

Beach CM

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Comfort and Joy

The start of summer has come in like a quilt, muffling our calendars and soothing our souls. We linger getting out of bed and over breakfast. We return to old routines of adventuring in the morning and movies in the afternoon. We plan our days according to weather and desire.

The cherries, plums and apricots have returned to our grocery cart. The laundry has returned to the line between rain showers. The beach towels have returned to the trunk of our car, though Miss S has accidentally tumbled more than once into a January ocean, so maybe they should’ve never left.

Yes, comfort has found us this summer.

It arrived from the east with a visit from a cherished old friend and her family. In her renditions of ‘G’ rated stories to our girls of life before husbands: the time I locked her out of my car and tossed bread over her head to the seagulls; kidnapping a friend’s cat for an hour, and many other dastardly deeds worthy of grade ‘B’ movie villainy.

Comfort was present and accounted for in the stories my parents retold of Canadian road trips, in their use of foreign words like ‘slides’ as in camera film, and old phrases like ‘ashtrays on dashboards’. Anyone else amazed that Canada was a country back then? Hardy, har har har.

I have always wondered, albeit fatalistically, what my girls would remember from their formative years, Afterall, my own mother would tell you I remember too much from my days living with her on this planet… But short of waiting for my littles’ tell-alls, it’s hard to read what’s sticking and what isn’t.

Then I was gifted a boxed set of CDs at the end of June. Yes, CDs. Video won’t kill this radio star. I was surprised by the excitement that oozed from Miss S and Miss Q when they saw the gift.

“We used to listen to Stuart McLean every Sunday at lunchtime, but then we stopped.”

“We stopped because he died.”

“We did? Who’s Stuart McLean?”

While Miss C was present and accounted for in the kitchen on Sundays at noon, she was only five when he passed away. Listening to her sisters bring her up to speed on why the CD audience, and all of us in the car, leaned forward expectantly when Stuart reported Dave’s house was the best place on the block to keep the defibrillator, I realized how grounding Stuart had been to our family.

His voice, the characters of his fictional town, the shared humour, the routine, we stopped it all cold turkey when he passed. We were forced to, as per his wishes, but I never thought to find a replacement, or go back to the beginning and start his stories again.

It’s amazing how quickly you forget what you used to do.

It’s good to be reminded.

The rain we missed in June has found us this July. It is as if the world knew we needed to say ‘hush’ to the quotes and motivational cross-stitches that say you shouldn’t be comfortable, rather, you should strive to thrive, challenge and seek, influence, sell, and above all, hustle, hustle, hustle…

Rest assured gentle readers, our family will re-start our bid to take over the world in September, but for now, we’re wearing Gortex at the beach, catching up on our CDs, and taking comfort in the slow pace of summer.

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Before the rains came: Miss Q’s S’more. Recipe: 1 graham cracker, 2 squares of milk chocolate, 1 fried egg gummy, 1 slightly charred marshmallow, and, the piece de resistance, 1 Cheeto.

 

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I’ve finally become a fence mum. In the morning, if we’re not late, and thanks to middle school’s early start, our record is improving, it’s just me and the elementary school fence: chain link and a bit of rust as the school bell rings.

It’s been a long road to get to this milestone of motherhood. On good days, I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with other parents and bid my children farewell. On not so good days, I’ve weathered morning meltdowns, and children needing extra hugs. There have been days where my children have put on a brave face until they’re face to face with a substitute teacher, and children who are flat out done with school.

Throughout it all, I have brushed my teeth, secured my drawstring, and given extra encouragement. I’ve walked my girls to their classrooms. I’ve enlisted teachers’ help. I’ve distracted. I’ve visualized. I’ve weighed the pros and cons of taking the child in question home vs. wrestling them into their class.

Then, two months ago, the droopy faces and dragging feet stopped. The girls were happy to jump out of the car and leave me standing between the brake lights and chain link fence. They joined their line-ups and went inside the school without looking back.

Badda bing, badda boom? Perhaps? I’m still suspicious that the other shoe will drop, and truthfully, there have been a few dips, but as time marches on, I find myself leaning against the fence more often than my kids need to lean on me.

So, what’s the reward for a mother who reaches this milestone? Getting to work earlier? Being able to watch the opening of Live with Kelly and Ryan? A participation ribbon? Anything?

At least two weekends ago, when I had a mini milestone with Miss Q: traveling for a Field Hockey BC festival, I got to eat candy in a hotel bed while watching The Simpsons. Consider that sporting tradition passed.

As I leaned against the poky fence this morning, waiting for the bell, and hoping my work clothes weren’t getting rusty, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the milestones our girls have checked off this year. Everything from leaving a message on my phone with exactly what they need in clear voices, to learning new instruments, to camping overnight without their parents.

Even though their determination to jump feet first into life overwhelms my calendar, challenges my psyche and gives my husband and I a gold star in marital communication, I couldn’t be prouder of who they are at seven-and-a-half, nine-weeks away from ten, and four-months past twelve.

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I swear Miss Q actually played field hockey two weekends ago in Burnaby.

 

 

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On The Road Again

We returned from Easter in Canada’s only desert with tales of a near miss, a black eye and pneumonia. We won’t even talk about the police officer who let me off with a lecture and hard stare after I missed the playground sign in front of, well a playground.

Don’t worry, Miss S was daydreaming in the back seat, and didn’t even realize I was in trouble until I was. Thankfully the police officer sensed my horror and rookie law breaking status, so in the spirit of Easter Sunday afternoon, he let me go. I had to stop myself from dropping a box of cookies off at the RCMP office as a guilty but thankful thank you.

Oh, the weather was pleasant, glad you asked. Lovely. Warm, sunny, sometimes windy, the kind of weather one dreams about when on vacation.

In the vineyards, grapevines lapped up turkey manure being spread by farmers wearing white masks and driving tractors up and down the even rows, while in the orchards, cherry trees blossomed brilliant pinks and whites.

Easter coincided with my birthday this year, so like a true poolie, we went swimming at Penticton’s municipal pool and had 5 o’clock ice cream at Tickleberries, in O.K. Falls.

My husband took me to the Diamond Steak House where everything is bathed in butter, including the carrots which I ate, thank you very much.

Moments after our food was served, my husband interrupted my drool-fest with a calm, “Hold on, that man behind you is choking.”

Cue the Baywatch theme song, me grabbing my red rescue can, and slow jogging to the older adult in the chair behind me, who indeed was choking on his food.

Long story short, the paramedics came, the man recovered, and we all returned to the butter.

The rest of the weekend was crammed with chocolate, crafts, family, and shopping. Miss Q would probably like the record to show she was the only one perturbed with her parents’ lackadaisical attitude towards how long our vacation was going to last. She loves school, and her friends, and was miffed when we decided to wait out the long weekend ferry traffic and come home on Tuesday.

We should have left Monday.

Tuesday morning found Miss S’s temple on the wrong end of Miss Q’s deodorant after Miss Q lobbed her deodorant across the room and it accidentally smacked Miss S upside the head. Though the side of her head was sore and bruised for the better part of a week, Miss S enjoyed telling people the story.

Because we’re from the Island, and desperate for boxes of build it ourselves wood at a relatively cheap price, we stopped at Ikea on the way home and achieved the trifecta of annoyed girls. One day they’ll remember these trips with nostalgia when they inherit our Billy Bookcase and try to figure out where to hang the voxnan. But for this trip, admittedly, we stayed too long and ended up on the 9 o’clock ferry home.

At first we blamed the late night, but then, because my husband was home and I wanted to torture him with a doctor’s waiting room visit, we decided to take Miss C to the doctor to check out her husky cough and schlumpy demeanor. Lo and behold she came home with antibiotics, a refill on a long-forgotten puffer, and the diagnosis of pneumonia.

Thankfully she’s on the road to better health now.

To keep the vacation vibes going, and to live in denial of what life looks like for the next six weeks, I’ve begun sourcing summer shenanigans for our clan. Of course, there will be water, and ice cream, but we’ll try to keep our distance from emergency vehicles.

 

 

 

 

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Madame N

We had to say good-bye to our faithful hound, Madame N, last Saturday morning as the sun shone and the birds flitted through our cedars.

Though we knew we were living on borrowed time, she was 14, a medium breed, and had blown out her knee chasing her arch nemesis: the grey squirrel in our backyard three years ago, the fact she couldn’t carry on with us came as a shock.

No one tells you how hard it’s going to be to make the decision to say good-bye to an animal you’ve raised since she was eight-weeks old. She was our first child, the one who was supposed to tell us what we’d be like as parents to fur-less babies. The one who was supposed to break us in. Except raising Madame N was nothing like raising our girls.

Madame N was the best member of our family, always present, always watching, and, yes, sometimes judging. Though she was picky about what she accepted table scrap wise, she was always game for old meat or pizza. She also never complained. Not when her sisters came. Not when their shrieks threatened to break glass. Not when they forgot she was underfoot, sometimes missing her by what felt like millimeters.

Sun, rain, snow, she was happy to venture out. Happy to jump into lakes or the ocean to cool off. Happy to be in any car moving forward.

Even in these last years when her body was slowing down. When we had to pause over her bed to see if she was actually breathing. When her leg wouldn’t let her run. She never complained, never let us know how much pain she was in.

The vet confirmed what we feared/thought. Our 98-year-old dog had severe nerve damage in her hind quarters. There may have been a mass growing but only a CT scan could show us for sure.

With or without the CT scan, our options were grim: a wheelchair, euthanasia.

We’d always said quality of life, age and money would guide us in Madame N’s care. Logic didn’t make our decision any easier.

Of course, and only in my world, seconds after I broke the news to our girls that Madame N wasn’t coming home, I spotted a couple walking towards our house.

Now, if you’ve seen the distance between our front door and the giant picture window that looks into our living room, you will know that there is nowhere to hide.

It was 10:45am. We’d been up since 6:30, in and out of our backyard, fighting denial and summoning reason. I hadn’t thought to change out of my pajama pants and white long-sleeved shirt; hadn’t thought to brush my hair, wash my face or, hey, put on a bra.

I answered the door as our girls scampered to the safety of the kitchen.

“Hi, we’re you’re new neighbours,” the perky couple announced.

Channeling Mr. Rogers, I said nothing of Madame N, but welcomed them to the neighbourhood.

“That’s life reminding us there is humour to be found everywhere,” I told the girls after our visitors left.

Fifteen minutes later my husband pointed out my shirt had coffee drips down the front. Humour indeed.

The hole Madame N has left in our lives is palpable. We find ourselves looking for her when we have a scrap of chicken that needs eating. We stop ourselves from calling good-bye before we walk out the door. We listen for her uneven clomping up the sundeck steps and brace for her persistent ‘woofs’ to get back in.

She trained us well.

N

♥ December 9, 2004 – March 16, 2019 ♥ 

 

 

 

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