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“Is Santa a myth?” Miss C asked.

The pencil crayon Miss Q held dangled over the birthday card.

The sleeves of the shirt Miss S rolled flopped towards the carpet.

Three pairs of eyes bore holes through my skull.

My brain jolted from nostalgia (Miss S was packing for Brownie camp) to stress-level midnight.

“Why do you ask?” I replied nonchalantly, frantically trying to recall what other mums had done or said. There were stories on the internet, good stories of ways to transition believers to helpers without crushing the magic. Do you think I could remember any of those stories at 8:30 in the morning in the middle of June?

I should have just said, yes, he’s a myth, like Bigfoot and fairies, but my mouth wouldn’t form the words; couldn’t form the words.

“Well, I know the mall Santas aren’t real,” Miss C continued.

“Why do you think that?” I asked. Maybe I could keep deflecting her questions with questions.

“They’re Santa’s helpers,” Miss Q said. “Santa’s too busy to be in the malls.”

“Yeah, they’re elves that help Santa,” Miss S chimed in.

Miss S was clearly a believer, but Miss Q was harder to read. At ten, I got the sense she was trying to help me out, but I didn’t want to assume.

“The Santas at the mall are creepy,” Miss C said. “They don’t look old, and Santa’s supposed to be old. And they all look different. I don’t want to sit on their laps.”

Had she been chewing on that for the past 24 weeks? She’s always flat out refused to go near anyone dressed up, so we never press the issue. Her closest encounter with a mall Santa was when one hung a candy cane from her pigtail.

“You don’t ever have to sit on Santa’s lap, you know that, right?”

“Yes.”

Had she just rolled her eyes?

“Well the reindeers aren’t real either,” she stated.

“Them too?” I exclaimed. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to Miss C that wouldn’t destroy the magic for Miss S and, possibly, Miss Q. How could my five-year-old be leading this charge?

“The reindeers eat the carrots we leave out and there’s no mess,” Miss C explained.

“Have you ever seen a horse eat?” I rebutted, unsure where my brain was going.

“Yes. If you put food in your hand: no mess. If you leave food on the ground: mess.” Miss C shrugged.

“What about Mrs. Claus?” Miss Q asked. “Do you think she’s real?”

“Well I don’t know,” Miss C said. “If Santa’s real, then she is. If he’s not, she’s not.”

“Do you believe in magic?” Miss Q asked.

“No,” Miss C replied.

“You don’t believe in magic?” Miss S asked incredulously.

“What about fairies?” Miss Q pressed. “Do you believe in them?”

“Yes,” Miss C said.

The adult should say something. Or maybe the adult shouldn’t. Maybe the adult should slink out of the room and wait out the eight hours till her husband comes home…

According to Miss C: Santa is large with no wings, therefore he can’t possibly fly like the fairies, and there is fault with his sleigh design. In her opinion, Santa would need reindeer at the front and the back to keep it from tipping… or add an engine like in a space ship.

…Have you ever found yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole?

“I think Santa’s Daddy,” Miss C concluded.

This suggestion ignited the room. Plans were made to tie my husband to the bed on Christmas Eve. As the last one up on Christmas morning, I am not a suspect.

“Maybe you should write Santa a letter,” I suggested. Letters are the civilized answer to every problem… at least this one.

An hour later, Miss C spoke to her grandma in Osoyoos:

Grandma: What are you doing?

Miss C: Writing a letter to Santa.

Grandma: What are you asking for?

Miss C: Nothing. I’m asking him if he’s real.

Yes, Miss C, there is a Santa Claus, I wanted to say when we were alone in the car eleven hours after our conversation had begun. Instead, I told her about the love and happiness Santa brings at Christmas, and how people want to share that love with others.

Predictably, Miss C wrinkled her nose. “I don’t feel like that at Christmas.”

“Oh? How do you feel?”

“Regular. Like I do right now in the summer. Just, you know, normal.”

My suggestion that she might change her mind as she gets older, was met with an exasperated, “Can we mail my letter now?”

“What happens if he writes back saying he’s a myth?” I asked.

“Then I’ll know. And if he never replies, I’ll know he was either too busy, didn’t get my letter, or dead.”

“Sounds about right,” I said.

It’s been a week since this conversation first happened. Miss C asks me almost daily if we can mail her letter that sits on our kitchen table. I always say, “Sure.”  But in a very Canadian twist, I feel a pang of guilt for passing the buck to the Canada Post employee tasked with answering Santa letters.

Would it have been so wrong to decisively blurt: No there isn’t a Santa. Deal with it? Probably not. Alas, I’m a selfish parent who enjoys this magical tale, so now I must reap what I sow.

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At Field Hockey

Today I sit across the field. For the first time, watching from the steel bleachers and soaking in the sun usually reserved for other parents. Parents who have brought lawn chairs and coffee mugs. Parents who casually check their phones and discuss world-views while their daughters breezily follow the directions of the coach.

I’ve brought a lawn chair too. For two seasons, it has waited patiently; hopeful one day I’ll take comfort in its canvass.

Today I watch my youngest step away. For the first time, she steps from the safety of the net. Goalies, she says, don’t have to run. Yet today, she suddenly has confidence to join her teammates at midfield. She walks shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Watches the multi-colour ball slide past their sticks. Fishes the multi-coloured ball out of the net. Starts anew.

She’s growing. Last year, her stick was as long as my forearm. Her shin pads would have protected my big toe. This year her yellow shirt hangs just above her knees. Her stick is as long as half my leg. Her mouthguard doesn’t consume her entire face.

She is learning. My youngest. Last year, she refused to participate in anything unless I was on the field with her.  At 4.5 years old, she was not ready for concepts of ‘team’ and ‘sport’.

This year, she still refuses to play tag, but likes drills and tolerates games as long as, excluding today, I stay within arms reach.

For the past eight weeks, I’ve questioned my desire for her to try sport VS. her desire to watch her sisters’ practices and games from the sidelines while snuggled in my lap.

When is she old enough to decide for herself what she does and doesn’t do? How will she learn what she likes and doesn’t like if she doesn’t try? What happens if she hates everything?

Then she ran. For the first time today, she had wind in her hair. Her legs rose to 90 degrees, and stretched to the edges of her balance.

My five-year-old has wheels.

Her hat flew off her head.

She stopped running.

“Maybe I didn’t feel like running anymore,” she says when I offer to hold her hat. And I kick myself for giving it to her, because if it wasn’t there to distract her she may have continued her sprints, but you can’t second guess a five-year-old.

Time is a funny fella. With the addition of 365 days, here I am: watching instead of running. Silently cheering instead of cajoling. But what I did this week to inspire her fingers to let go and legs to churn is mystifying.

Maybe it wasn’t me.

Maybe it was her.

Maybe this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship between my youngest and sport.

Maybe… maybe!

After practice, my youngest looks up. Her legs crossed, shin pads off, pink socks slouched. Instead of talking to me about field hockey, she states, “I’m going to need a feather and some ink so I can write properly,” then opens her notebook.

Maybe… maybe.

Maybe I should wait and see what happens next week before taking the bag off the lawn chair and brushing up on my world views.

FH

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Bustle

Life has stepped up its game.

This morning we had to get three bikes, three helmets, twelve lemon raspberry muffins, six quarters separated into three equal piles, two permission forms – one with a Twoonie attached, and one ‘my favourite fruit’ show ‘n tell to school.

All this on top of the usual, wake, feed, dress, hair and lunch making times three. Oh and Miss Q had track practice at eight, which is a full forty-six minutes earlier than Miss S and Miss C needed to be at school.

Thankfully the earth to my wind and fire baked the muffins, packed the car and took Miss Q to school so our other two moons and I could accomplish the rest.

Back on the kitchen table, two school projects hang above my head like mini guillotines. Though they’re 100% Miss Q and Miss S’ responsibilities, I know when they’re due, and can’t stop my internal clock from ticking.

Miss S has a diorama to make of an ecosystem.  She’s chosen, wait for it: the jungle.

Miss Q is still working on a journal of her four-day trip to Hawaii that she took two weeks ago.

When Miss Q’s teacher sent home the empty workbook, she probably figured Miss Q would tape in some memorabilia and write a few sentences on how amazing Hawaii was.

Wrong.

My detailed, artsy-fartsy daughter is currently on track to fill all 68 pages. (Look away. She’s not my mini-me.)

The plus side is it will look fabulous when it’s done, and will be a beautiful keepsake. The negative is Miss Q’s teacher has probably labeled us: slacker parents. You know, those parents who didn’t enforce the homework the teacher took time out of her life to get ready? Those parents.

In a world hungry for blame, we could blame this upturn in my household’s activity on the fact we have three school-aged children, or on the teachers.

I mean, really? Bike Rodeo? Bake Sale? Track Meet? Field Trip? Fun?  Parents are tired. How dare my daughters’ teachers continue to assign projects? How dare they expect my darlings to read daily when the sun’s out and the backyard’s calling? Don’t they know summer is five weeks away?

Oh, I’m sure they do.

But here’s the thing, with 24 days left, if our children’s teachers weren’t instructing, there would be pandemonium in the streets. Pandemonium and its trendy cousin: Internet troll.

So, if in May, Miss S’s teacher has her grade twos researching the challenges facing their chosen eco system, good. Great, even.

The end of the school year is just as important as the beginning. Like any race, you want to find your second wind, and finish strong.

Come June 29th at 2:44pm, this mama will gratefully slow her orbit. Until then, it’s onwards and upwards to Special Food Day, Bell Choir, Spring Fair, Beach Day…

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Soon.

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Family Snapshot

Remember picture day at school?  I didn’t. (more…)

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IMG_5974Sunday morning as the sun rose over the Victoria International Airport, I stood at the end of the runway, waving and sobbing, praying and cheering as Alaska Air flight 2385 sped down the runway, carrying the most precious of cargos any plane has ever carried.

Never has a moment stretched my heart more than the moment the plane blended with the blue sky and I realized I was still on the ground.

Poor Miss C didn’t know what to do with her sniffling mum. “Your mum’s just a big crybaby,” I told her.  “These are happy sad excited tears.”

Like a true daughter, she laughed. “Do you want to see my video?”

“Sure,” I said, pressing play to replay the Mama Bear moment.

“Awesome,” Miss C’s voice chirped. The camera focused on the chain link fence and then at the maroon and white turboprop. “This is the plane that Daddy, Miss Q, and Miss S are on. Bye-bye plane,” she sang as the plane’s engine drowned out my unapologetic blubber.IMG_5982

This was the trip of a lifetime for three-fifths of my family. Four days as Honda’s guest at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort, joining my uncle (Wheelbase Media) to help test-drive the new 2018 Honda Odyssey, all expenses paid, mini excursions… it was as if they’d won a Show Case Show Down on the Price Is Right.

When I told Miss S the car she was going to drive around in most likely had a TV for the back seat she grinned from ear to ear. “I’m going to say I loved the TV, because kids love TV,” she exclaimed.

Even though the thought of my kids plugged into electronics while lush Hawaiian scenery zipped by seemed so very wrong, the opportunity to drive in a car that had such space aged technology wasn’t going to come around any time soon for our poor deprived children.

Unfortunately, the ideal age for this family trip was set at seven and older, and with the cost of plane tickets being what they are, Miss C and I stayed behind to keep the home fires lit.

But don’t cry for me Canada, this trip was made for my husband who has an odd love for Hawaiian shirts, yet has never actually set foot on Hawaiian sand. He loves the shirts so much that Thursday you can find him sporting a Hawaiian shirt for what he has dubbed ‘Hawaiian Thursdays’.  In fact, Hawaiian shirts have become so synonymous with my husband that when office mates have gone to Hawaii, they have returned with gifts of authentic Hawaiian shirts for him to include in his wardrobe.

As for Miss Q and Miss S, I was over the moon excited for them. Never mind getting to test passenger a minivan that’s never been released to the public, or staying in a resort with dolphins and canal boats, the fact they would get to run into an ocean that wouldn’t instantly lower their body temperature was worth every minute of travel.

We had two weeks to prep for the trip. It was the easiest packing I’ve ever done. I bought an underwater camera, and made sure Miss Q and Miss C’s bathing suits and rashguards fit, but other than that, I left what went into the suitcase to my husband. All I cared about was they took pictures. Lots of pictures. My husband reassured me by saying he wouldn’t.

Team Dad and Daughters made it from Victoria to Seattle and then Seattle to Kona safe and sound. Miss Q found the plane trip long and Miss S said the take off was creepy but overall reviews were positive and no one got lost. Kona was close to 30 degrees when they deplaned which was a shock to their Pacific Northwest skin.

IMG_1017Meanwhile back in Victoria, Miss C and I went for pedicures. Oddly, though she’s never had one before, it was the only thing she wanted to do while her sisters were away. “I liked it when they massaged my feet,” Miss C said, making plans for a weekly return trip.  Hopefully she doesn’t get too used to this single-child kind of life.

 

 

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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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